Facebook buys Whatsapp; the figures

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By now, most people will be well aware that Facebook has announced its intention to buy the popular messaging service, Whatsapp. The unprecedented sum of $16 billion comes hot off the heels of the recent Viber purchase by Rakuten for $900 million. Ultimately both buyouts will begin changing the face of social messaging, and what exactly this means for brands and consumers is still unclear.

While the figures may seem astronomical, especially compared to the $1 Billion paid out for Instagram, there’s some interesting stats behind Whatsapp which might make things a little more appealing, especially as Facebook looks to get that investment back.

– Whatsapp has circa 450 million active users per month, a number which easily outstrips even the likes of Twitter or Linkedin

– 70% of these are active on any given day

– Messaging volume is starting to outstrip global SMS with users sending 16 billion messages per day.

– Whatsapp has a small team of around 50 people and while it charges long term users a dollar a year, it has raised $20million previously in fudning.

– The buyout isn’t strictly straight forward, only $4 billion will be in cash, with the other $12 billion being Facebook shares, which I would imagine come with strict contracts to ensure that there’s no selling rush, harming the overall share price.

– The growth of the platform is, frankly, phenomenal – in October 2012, Forbes ran a piece describing it as the most popular network we’ve never heard of, with only 100 million users. A trend of growth that shows no sign of slowing.

Over the next day or so, I’ll look more at what this means for advertising and brands – it will definitely be exciting, particularly as it allows Facebook to capture a new market it singularly failed to with Facebook Messenger.

It also leaves Kik as pretty free to be snapped up by Google, or go down the Snapchat route, potentially becoming a serious competitor as users flee the platform due to the often, negative effects of a buy-out.

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The Nokia N8 that stole my heart.

Everyone remembers Nokia as the handset we all owned, it was the ultimate cool symbol before phones got smart and is still renowned for their solid build and durable nature. In fact, you’ll still see many people wandering around with the old 3210! But while we remember the 3210, Nokia has come on leaps and bounds, launching it’s new flagship smartphone the N8 earlier this year.

Nokia 3210

The Nokia 3210, one of the old reliables

I’ve had the chance to play around with the N8 and I have to say it’s an impressive phone. All that I knew and loved about Nokia came flooding back, the N8 really is a winner and I almost considered swapping my iPhone for it (almost).

Once you pick up the N8 you’re instantly surprised by just how light it feels, weighing less than the iPhone it’s almost featherlight. It is a bit more bulky though, thicker than the iPhone 4 and still again that bit bigger than the 3G. This is mostly from the camera lens on the back, but I’ll get to that soon. On the looks, it’s a real contender. Very sleek and smooth, it looks and feels durable, much more so than any HTC phone or the iPhone. You really do feel like you could chuck it at a wall and pick it up and go on texting.

The Nokia N8

The very solid, very sleek N8!

The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhone, and the difference between the retina display and the N8’s AMOLED capacitive touch screen is noticeable, the N8 display when viewing text heavy websites is not the easiest to read. The screen is responsive though, you can glide around withe relative ease, again it doesn’t feel as smooth as the iPhone but you get used to it and it does feel just as comfortable. You’ll also notice a small feedback vibration at each tap, it’s nice but gets a bit old fast and I haven’t figured out how to switch it off.

The camera is the most impressive piece of this hardware, 12 megapixel it’s truly a monster, the quality is perfect and unmistakeable. Streets ahead of the iPhone, it’s worth the little bit extra bulk on the back. Personally I’m trying to figure out how e camera quality can actually be so good when squeezed into such a light handset, it has some echoes of a Mary Poppins handbag.

The battery is also pretty strong, I’ve been messing around with this for a few days now all on one charge, and it hasn’t made a peep about running even 50% power. WiFi ANC 3G capable with two cameras, one front facing for video calls and 16GB storage natively with room for up to 32GB more using an SD card.

What probably let’s the phone down the most is the software. Sum Ian just never daunt onto the smartphone Market and just couldn’t make the leap over, hence the attempted jump onto Meego with the N9 and the Microsoft deal earlier in the year.

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9, big attempt to refine the N8 design

There’s a lot to like about Symbian ^3, multi-tasking out of the box, a lot of focus given to mobile data with social networks, news feeds and mail all being accessible from the home screen from the moment you switch it on. While it’s a nice operating system, it’s just not as smooth as iOS or Android. There’s a clunkiness you just can’t ignore, and it can feel a little exerting navigating your way around.

The main problem for Symbian is that whereas the other two major OS’s were build from the ground up with smartphones in mind, Symbian is very much an evolution of older systems and seems to be slightly stuck in the days of Nokia’s dominance of the phone Market, before smartphones arrived on the scene. So the whole navigation structure is rigged towards what used to work on button based handsets. Another major gripe I’ve had is a lack of Mac compatibility, which took me a while to work around.

If you’re looking to download apps for your phone, the Ovi Store comes preloaded, and works very similar to the other app stores. The selection isn’t as wide, but it offers everything from apps to themes and ringtones for your phone, and it’s actually pretty easy to get around. There’s no Facebook or Twitter apps, but you can use MySocial, which is preloaded on the phone as a nice alternative.

Nokia Ovi store

The very handy, Nokia Ovi Store with over 1.7 million downloads daily

Overall the N8 is a winning handset. It looks good, feels good and is a joy to use. Mostly let down by the operating system which just doesn’t cut the mustard in the age of the iPhone. If Nokia want to keep ahead, they need to utilise their innovation in software, as it seems to be that the other handsets are using their ideas before they do. NFC Payments on phones are a good example, Nokia patented this ages ago, but there seems to be no plans to implement this on any handsets!

Software 5.5/10 – nice, but not wowed

Hardware 10/10 – solid, sleek and simple

Camera 10/10 – Stunning.

Overall 8.5/10 – great phone, pleasure to use.

Kindle Gets Social with Twitter and Facebook…

It was announced this week that with a new firmware update being brought out for Kindle, Amazon’s popular e-reader, a more social aspect would be introduced in the form of Facebook and Twitter integration.

The move comes as iPad sales continue to rise and challenge Amazon’s dominance in the e-reading market of which it currently has the lion’s share.

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Twit, Twit, Tweetie!!!!!!

Twitter has begun the next phase of it’s expansion into the online and mobile world, with the purchase of Atebits, creators of the third party Twitter iPhone app; Tweetie and it’s desktop counterpart which was surprisingly not mentioned in the buyout details, but it can be assumed is included. The take over of this extremely popular platform is seen as Twitter’s first and long awaited step in expanding itself to be much, much more than its current online presence.

The popular social networking site, which has shot to fame in a short time is the last of the major social sites to release an official app. The news follows on from the announcement of Twitter’s mobile development and ambitious growth plans, announced in January which are part of an over all service redesign.

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Twitter to be set aflutter…

Twitter, the self-professed ‘pulse of the planet’ is set to make big changes over the coming weeks.

Alex Payne, an engineer at Twitter earlier posted the following tweet;

“If you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)”

This comment straight from the company’s mouth, has gotten some third party developers worried. While most users still access tweets and update through the website itself, a large number of tweeters use programs such as Tweetdeck and Twitterfox on their computers, and apps such as Twitterific or Echofon on their smart phones, which are often packed with useful features to tailor the social networking service to their separate platforms.

It’s tough to see what more the popular micro-blogging site can add without risking losing its image as a slimmed down, basic site which has a news-feed and update box and cluttering our interfaces like some other sites. It will be interesting to see what’s added, with some suggesting the possibility of inbuilt geo-location (featured on a lot of third party apps), redesign for the allowance of twitter ads, which are being introduced in the upcoming months – helping to get the site some

iPhone app for twitter

Could we be seeing this in the app store? Is it a feature to look forward to?!

Twitter might also be working on an app of its own, after hiring some UI guru’s straight from Linkedin, who were largely responsible for the social networking site’s app for both the iPhone and other mobile platforms.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter will integrate some of their new features which might be popping along. The site recently got it’s fingers burned after introducing their ‘Retweet’ function which fell foul of users who preferred to use the term ‘RT’.

Many commentators have suggested that this is because users prefer to see Twitter as an entity separate of any corporations, where the people themselves make the site rather than the functions.

We’ll have to wait and see for the upcoming months to reveal what Twitter have up their sleeves, and if we’ll even like it.

Psst, Buzz? Buzz off!

Google Buzz has been getting people talking, and tweeting about what we’re all supposed to do with it; delete it, or keep it? So far the new service which aims to threaten the livelihood of both Facebook and Twitter has been met with mostly negative reviews with people reaching for the disable button, and unsure responses in the form of waiting to see.

buzz google

Not quite as popular as Buzz Lightyear, but Google Buzz might be just as stellar

Straight off a person can see the usefulness of having their emails, Twitter and Facebook all in the one place, in one tab without leaving. The convenience in an ever more microscopic world is brilliant, but Google have forgotten something; I don’t want my inbox anywhere near my friends.

For most people their inbox is a semi-sacred ground, being filled mostly with auto-mails from magazines, websites, mail exchanged with work colleagues or friends, handy links people might think of and send, planning going out etc. What happens when it all gets slightly mixed up with “oh hey, I’m making toast!” ?

Twitter and Facebook are for friends who we like to keep up-to-date with, but might not always chat to regularly, websites for updates on products or queries, newspapers for news, or even just for exchanging our own news with a wider audience. There is a sense that Facebook and Twitter are, public – like our front gardens; the entire world can see them and chat to us at the end of the driveway, but the inbox is the house front door, we don’t let the milkman in for telly and tea!

The inbox is a private retreat for what we might not want others to see, both for work, and play. Yes, I know, Buzz in a different tab and has very little interaction with your inbox – but at the same time, it’s a mental barrier for most people, and I don’t know about many other people but most of my emails are once off affairs to strangers or people I barely know, besides I wouldn’t have nearly the same amount of contacts as on Twitter or Facebook.

To top it all off; years and years of hair pulling, annoyance and money have been spent ridding our emails of spam, only for Google to let it all back in through the back door? Hmmm…

Google has previously attempted to jump on board the social media bandwagon, with Orkut, which failed to make big splashes in the wider online world, but is still one of the highest ranking sites out there, with over 100 million users (it’s big in India). I can’t help but wonder if Google missed the boat with this one, and was beaten to the post by Twitter.

google buzz logo

We'll be seeing this just below the 'inbox' button, but do we want to?

Even though I’m mostly negative about Buzz and the idea of Buzz, I can see the potential. The issues Google needs to overcome are convincing people to open their front door, not long after we hear of Gmail accounts being hacked, and a general distrust of the company from the public stemming from their seemingly endless power as a search monopoly.

As with Wave, it might just be a case of five years too soon, who knows.

Tweet, Tweet, Twe-oh…

Sun Microsystems last ever CEO Jonathan Schwartz created a bit of a stir last week, when he came up with a more novel way of announcing his resignation than a standard envelope-on-desk routine, when he tweeted it in the form of a haiku.

“Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more,” – @OpenJonathan

The tweet came late on Wednesday night, a week after Oracle completed its contested $7.4 billion takeover of Sun, a move which had been scrutinised by the EU competition authorities for over three months.

As old as the cyber hills, just beyond the askjeeves site, lies Sun... but all good things...

Schwartz took over Sun in 2006, replacing the company’s original co-founder Scott McNealy after the company had suffered serious losses since the dot com crash, only to be compounded by the recession in more recent years.

In the past few years Schwartz had brought the company in a new direction by releasing its top software ranges under open source licenses.

Schwartz’s resignation had not come as a surprise to some, Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle had stated in an interview that he had expected this, rather than Schwartz to stay and take a position in the merged company.

One of the biggest questions on people’s minds with the Oracle takeover is whether or not Sun’s popular open source office suite, Open Office, long seen as the struggling under dog to Microsoft Office, would survive.

One of the best open source programs, to date - let's hope it doesn't go the way of Netscape...

Oracle allayed these fears by announcing that the free, popular software would indeed survive and have also suggested a cloud version, possibly to bring the suite into competition with Google Docs, with which it could fare a better chance given that there is less market competition for web based applications, when compared to its more bloated and commercially standard competitor, offline, in Microsoft.

Rumours suggest that Open Office Cloud has been in the works for some time, but had not released any details about possible UI designs or a release date.

Exactly how the cloud system will measure up to Google, or indeed Microsoft Office is yet to be seen, if it is released at all. however its continued existence will keep many freeware users and champions of open source happy for the most part.