TIME Smartphones

Why Microsoft Would Invest in an Android Startup

The Latest Mobile Apps At The App World Multi-Platform Developer Show
A logo for Google Inc.'s Android operating system is displayed on an advertising sign during the Apps World Multi-Platform Developer Show in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The potential investment hints at a larger battle to grab real estate on your phone's homescreen

Microsoft is reportedly set to invest in a startup building its own version of the Google-owned Android mobile operating system.

Microsoft will hold a minority stake in Cyanogen, which rewrites Android’s open-source code and offers it as a souped-up alternative to Google’s version of the platform, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some 50 million devices currently run Cyanogen’s Android, while CEO Kirt McMaster says his army of 9,000 volunteer programmers are reshaping the software into a superior product.

“We’re going to take Android away from Google,” McMaster told the Journal.

That raises a few intriguing question about Microsoft’s investment — such as:

Why should Microsoft care about this startup?

Google currently dominates the mobile market. Roughly 84% of the world’s phones come pre-installed with Android, according to estimates from IDC. That means a vast majority of phones come pre-packaged with Google apps. Unbox the phone, and there they are the home screen. The user can always download rival apps, but who’s going to take the time to download Microsoft’s apps when Google’s are already there?

How did Google come to dominate the home screen?

Google gives away Android’s source code for free, even to rival device manufacturers. But the giveaway comes with a few strings attached. If device makers want access to Google’s most popular apps, such as Search and the Google Play store, they have historically had to sign agreements to place those apps “immediately adjacent” to the home screen, according to signed contracts reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Cyanogen’s version of Android, however, would release device makers from those contractual obligations. That would mean if Microsoft made hardware running Cyanogen’s Android, it would be freed up to put its on apps front and center.

Can’t Microsoft just puts its apps on the phones it already makes?

Sure, but Microsoft’s Windows Phones comprise only 3% of the global market. That’s why Microsoft has recently unleashed its flagship apps for iPhone and Android phones. Apple iPhone and iMac users have already downloaded Word, Powerpoint and Excel more than 80 million times to date. Now that its apps are in a polygamous relationship with rival devices, Microsoft might want to ensure they get front and center on all devices.

Will Google let that happen?

Probably not without a fight. The whole purpose of the free Android giveaway is to route as many users as possible to its search pages, where it gets millions of eyeballs on its advertisements — and Google’s ad business, especially on mobile, is already showing weaknesses.

TIME Sports

How Advertisers Conquered the Super Bowl

Super Bowl II - Green Bay Packers vs Oakland Raiders - January 14, 1968
Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica (3) rolls out of the pocket during Super Bowl II, a 33-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 14, 1968, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. Fred Roe—NFL/Getty Images

Advertisers are not just buying time between the plays, but also influence over the entire event

Perhaps the earliest recorded gripe about a Super Bowl commercial ran in TIME Magazine in 1968, shortly after 70 million Americans had tuned into Super Bowl II.

“One ‘promo’ actually ran right through a kickoff,” wrote TIME’s critic. “Paid commercials also got in the way—but it was easy to see why. Commercial time for the Super Bowl telecast sold for an unprecedented $150,000 a minute.”

Cue the gasps.

By 1977, commercial time sold for $250,000 a minute. It cleared the $1 million mark by 1985. Today the going rate is $9 million. At these astronomical sums, advertisers are not just buying time between the plays, but also influence over the entire event. TIME’s earliest Super Bowl critic may have spotted their clout early on, but really he had no idea what was to come.

Advertisers have nudged the game’s location, kick-off times and duration in their favor. Pontiac, Mich., might have seemed like an unlikely location for Super Bowl XVI in 1982. “The Midwestern city (pop. 76,000) is a near disaster area,” wrote a reporter for TIME, but the city had powerful backers; a “full roster of ad-firm chieftains” from Michigan’s automotive sector. They reminded the Super Bowl Committee of their “dedication” to the game, a not so subtle reference to their $1 billion outpouring of ad revenue. “It was like whacking a donkey with a two-by-four,” one Detroit-based ad executive told TIME. “It got their attention.”

By 1986, NBC would pay homage to advertisers with a moment of silence. Halfway through the pre-game show of Super Bowl XX, at 4 p.m., the talking heads would fall silent. “As a clock onscreen ticks off the seconds, viewers will be able to race to the refrigerator or bathroom without missing any of the action — or the commercials,” wrote TIME.

“The medium that once simply covered America’s favorite sports has virtually taken them over,” TIME had opined by 1990. By then, the fusion of sports and commerce was unmistakable. “As the money keeps growing, so does TV’s determination to get the most from its investment by orchestrating the show for maximum viewer appeal…Starting next season, pro football will add two more teams to the play-offs and, by the fall of 1992, two more weeks to the season. That will probably push the Super Bowl into February, which just happens to be a ratings ’sweeps’ period.”

Before long, the commercialization of the Super Bowl had become received wisdom, barely worth arguing. TIME’s writers turned their attention to the commercials themselves as cultural events. The classic Mac ad, in which a woman hurls a sledgehammer through a big screen TV broadcast of a barking dictator, “established the Super Bowl as the unofficial high holiday of capitalism,” wrote TIME’s TV critic James Poniewozik in 2000, “the launch pad for baroque, high-profile ads that today generate more excitement than the game.”

Commercials even launched careers and cottage industries. The original 1970’s choristers who sang Coca-Cola’s blockbuster anthem, ”I’d like to teach the world to sing,” for a $50 fee, reprised their roles at the 1990 Super Bowl. They brought their children in tow, and this time demanded residuals.

Spuds MacKenzie, Budweiser’s canine mascot, spawned a mini craze for bull terriers. Some specimens fetched prices upwards of $1,200. “Inquiries are up 75% at Jerry’s Perfect Pet Shop in Dallas,” TIME reported in 1987. “Customers in St. Louis are so bullish that Petland had to put the dogs on back order.”

TIME’s Jay Chiat imagined the future of advertising for Super Bowl LIV, in 2020, where advertising suffuses every inch of the screen. “The Microsoft Mustangs are playing the GM Generals at Cisco Stadium in a town called Ciscoville–formerly known as Philadelphia,” he wrote. “Corporations will pay big money for the right to digitize logos onto the T shirts of the fans in the stands.”

It may sound far-fetched, but then consider how far commercials have come since TIME’s original 1968 complaint that commercials “got in the way.” Two decades later Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche would urge his team, shortly before they took the field at Super Bowl XXIII, ”Go for that shaving-cream commercial you’ve always wanted.”

TIME How-To

Here’s How to Send Money Over Gmail

Didn't notice that little dollar sign at the bottom of every Gmail message? You're not alone

Gmail users in the United Kingdom may notice a new attachment icon today shaped like a British pound sign which does exactly what it suggests: attaches money to an email.

American users need not be envious. Google already released the feature this side of the pond more than a year ago, even if it was easy to overlook that mysterious little dollar sign at the bottom of every message.

Here’s a refresher on how it works:

1) Open a new message in Gmail and click on the dollar sign icon beneath the text box.

2) A pop-up window will appear prompting the user to link an existing credit or debit card to Google Wallet. Already have Google Wallet? Skip ahead to step 3. Otherwise, grab your credit card and fill out the billing information to set up an account.

3) Type in the amount you want to send to the recipient, hit “send,” and it will land as an attachment in the recipient’s inbox, regardless of whether they’re using Gmail or an alternative email service.

4) Here’s the rub: Recipients also need an existing Google Wallet account to receive the payment. The money automatically uploads to their Google Wallet balance, or it can be transferred directly into a banking account.

5) Swallow the fee. Google tacks on an extra 2.9% fee for credit or debit card payments, but the user can avoid the fee by sending money directly from a banking account or by living in the UK, where no fees apply. The receiver gets off scot free.

That’s it, an incredibly handy feature which is only limited by the number of users on Google Wallet and their keen eye for mysterious icons.

TIME apps

iPhone and Android Finally Have a Full-Featured Outlook App

It's Microsoft's latest move to make cross-platform apps

Microsoft freed Outlook email from the confines of the office PC on Thursday, releasing for the first time fully-featured Outlook apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

The new Outlook apps are now available for download through Apple’s iTunes and the Google Play store. While Microsoft previously offered versions of Outlook for iOS and Android, neither had the power of this new software.

Outlook for iOS and Android Microsoft

Microsoft’s move comes on the heels of its decision to release a motherlode of its flagship software from Word to Excel as mobile-friendly apps that work across a range of devices.

“To date, we’ve seen more than 80 million downloads of Office on iPhone and iPad worldwide,” Microsoft said in a public statement. “We have received tremendous customer request for Outlook across all devices, so we are thrilled to fulfill this for our customers.”

The new Outlook mobile app includes familiar features, such as swipe gestures for rapid archiving and machine learning algorithms that learn which emails the user is most likely to read and pushes them to the top of the inbox. What sets the app apart is a built-in calendar, enabling the user to schedule an appointment within the app, rather than laboriously copy and paste event details in a second, calendar app.

Microsoft on Thursday also released new versions of its Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for Android tablets.

TIME legal

Why Keeping Drones Out of No-Fly Zones Is Harder Than You Think

Preview Of The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show
A DJI Innovations Phantom remote-controlled drone hovers above attendees during the CES Unveiled press event prior to the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

One drone maker is taking new steps after a White House incursion

Two days after a small drone crash-landed on the White House lawn Monday, its manufacturer, DJI, vowed to erect an electronic fence around downtown Washington, D.C. Any DJI drone that gets a new software update, the company says, won’t be able to enter this new no-fly zone.

But DJI’s so-called “geofencing” technology isn’t new. The company began developing the feature as early as 2012, when drone fever flared out from hardcore hobbyists to a growing number of more casual users. Market research firm CEA Research estimates shoppers will purchase 400,000 small drones this year. That means there are lots of new flyers out there unfamiliar with the rules of the sky.

“It’s moving from a more niche space to a consumer product where you have a lot of people who may not necessarily know what the rules are,” says DJI spokesman Michael Perry.

So rather than send drone hobbyists a packet of federal aviation regulations, DJI set off to build a few basic rules into its software. Airports, for instance, have a 5-mile Federal Aviation Administration flight restriction, so DJI nabbed a list of more than 10,000 of them and began building digital fences around their coordinates. When DJI erects its fence around Washington, D.C. in the coming days, it will roll out similar barriers around those airports, too.

For DJI, the move might help prevent one of its drones from being involved in something unsafe or outright catastrophic. “We are pushing this out a bit earlier to lead in encouraging responsible flight,” Perry said.

But that still leaves a raft of aviation regulations out of the picture. Flights over military bases, national parks, international borders and crowded stadiums are all verboten. Then there’s the FAA’s constantly-changing list of temporary no-fly zones around stuff like passing presidential motorcades. Drone flyers in Corpus Christi, Texas, for instance, may not have gotten Wednesday’s memo about a flight-restricted swath of their city. And even outside of these FAA rules, there are tort laws governing privacy and personal injury issues. A flight by a camera-equipped drone outside a neighbor’s bedroom window could be legally murky airspace, for instance. This list of moving and abstract targets makes it nearly impossible for drone makers to hard-wire a fool-proof flight path for their customers.

“There really is not a good comprehensive source of places where the FAA is saying not to fly,” says Brendan M. Schulman, a special counsel who specializes in drone casework for law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.

That’s problematic for drone pilots, too. Getting acquainted with all the dos and don’ts of flying, Schulman says, “is really asking a lot of people who are really just flying toys in their backyard.”

Even an obvious rule, such as steering clear of airports, may not be so apparent to amateur flyers. “You can just go on YouTube and see that they’re flying into areas where there’d be a restriction,” says Colin Snow, CEO of trade blog Drone Analyst. One enthusiast flying a drone through downtown San Jose, Snow says, clearly didn’t realize the San Jose airport was less than a 3-mile cruise away.

In other words, there’s no quick, technological fix for wayward drones, short of education and common sense. Schulman is quick to point out that for the most part, the recreational drone community seems to be a responsible lot, a few headline grabbing cases notwithstanding. He says among hundreds of thousands of flyers, he’s aware of only a handful of pending cases by the FAA.

Aviation enthusiast groups, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, are also working to teach their swelling ranks how to fly their new drones safely. Richard Hanson, the AMA’s government and regulatory affairs director, praises geofencing, but he also worries too many flyers might think they’re just fine sticking to autopilot: “[Geofencing] sets a mindset within the user that says, ‘I don’t have to worry about that because the manufacturer has taken care of that.”

TIME Security

Feds Want Super Bowl to Be a ‘No Drone Zone’

"Don't spoil the game, leave your drone at home."

The Federal Aviation Administration ordering this Sunday’s Super Bowl game a “no drone zone” in a YouTube video that urges recreational drone users within flying distance of the Glendale, Arizona stadium to “leave your drone at home.”

The FAA posted the public service announcement on YouTube Wednesday, kicking off a social media campaign under the Twitter handle #NoDroneZone

The FAA highlighted an existing ban on flying drones over professional and college level sporting events that take place in stadiums with more than 30,000 seats.

“Besides possibly landing a violator in jail, flying an unmanned aircraft over a crowded stadium could result in an FAA civil penalty for ‘careless and reckless’ operation of an aircraft,” the FAA warned in a public statement.

The announcement comes only two days after a wayward drone crashed in a secure area outside of the White House, raising questions about the government’s preparedness to prevent drones from trespassing over sensitive areas.

TIME Television

Here’s Why David Letterman ‘Can’t Wait’ for Retirement

Even if he has "no idea" what he'll do after he steps down from the "Late Show" on May 20

David Letterman “can’t wait” for retirement, the Late Show host revealed during a Tuesday interview with Regis Philbin, but not out of exhaustion from 33 years on the job.

Really, he said, it’s the exhaustion of explaining what comes next.

The gap-toothed late night mainstay will host the Late Show for the last time on May 20, after which former Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert will settle into the host’s chair.

Read more: James Poniewozik on David Letterman and late night’s ‘greatest run’

 

TIME Drones

Drone Maker Disables Flights Over Washington DC After White House Crash

US-TECHNOLOGY-DRONE
Staff from aerial imaging company DJI, demonstrate a remote control aircraft during a press conference by the Small UAV Coalition January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

DJI will disable all of its devices within a 15.5-mile radius of the capital's downtown area

Drone manufacturer DJI will disable all of its devices within a 15.5-mile radius of downtown Washington D.C., following the crash landing of one its drones in the White House compound on Monday.

The company said it would release what it called a mandatory update for its drone operating system in the coming days. The update would automatically disable drone flights over Washington D.C. and fence off no-fly zones around than 10,000 airports across the country. However, owners of most DJI drones won’t be forced to download the update — those who choose not to install it would just miss out on new features down the road.

“We are pushing this out a bit earlier to lead in encouraging responsible flight,” said DJI spokesperson Michael Perry. “With the unmanned aerial systems community growing on a daily basis, we feel it is important to provide pilots additional tools to help them fly safely and responsibly.”

A Secret Service officer “heard and observed” a drone believed to be a DJI Phantom flying at a low altitude early Monday morning, before it crashed on the southeast side of the White House. The pilot, a government employee, had reportedly been drinking.

TIME Iraq

Angelina Jolie Left ‘Speechless’ After Visit to Iraqi Refugee Camp

'I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,' she writes in the New York Times

Angelina Jolie has written a searing account of her visit to an Iraqi refugee camp earlier this week, urging world leaders in a Tuesday op-ed to scale up relief efforts and do more to broker a ceasefire agreement in Syria.

“I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,” Jolie wrote in the New York Times. The accounts by displaced people from Iraq and Syria of rape, abductions and kidnappings left her “speechless,” Jolie wrote.

She goes on to recount individual stories of abuse that she said exceeded the brutality of accounts she had heard heard on four previous visits to Iraq as the special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems,” she wrote. “Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.”

Read more at the New York Times.

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