Hangouts Meet can now call US and Canadian phone numbers for free

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Hangouts Meet is Google’s voice/video conferencing software for business use, and it comes as part of G Suite. There’s even purpose-built hardware for it that was updated last month. Like similar services, it allows you to create and share a code that can then be used by employees to connect to meetings. The dial-in feature is great for staff on the move, and now that’s being extended further.

Before it was only possible for team members to dial into a meeting from their phone number, but now it’s also possible to dial out from Hangouts Meet to any US or Canadian number.

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Meet Barry McCarthy, the man behind Spotify’s daring public offering

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Spotify’s CFO pushed for this week’s direct listing, which could change life for Wall Street and for big tech startups.

When Spotify goes public Tuesday, the spotlight will shine on 35-year-old CEO Daniel Ek, who has built a $ 20 billion company and helped revive the music industry along the way.

But if Spotify’s unusual “direct listing” offering — done without the traditional assistance from investment banks — is successful, credit will go to a Spotify executive thirty years Ek’s senior, who doesn’t want any attention: Barry McCarthy, the company’s chief financial officer, who is acknowledged as the architect of the unorthodox, and to some, controversial public offering.

If the direct listing works, it could pave the way for other tech startups to follow suit. That could potentially cut out Wall Street banks and their clients from a lucrative revenue stream, and would roil the financial services industry.

But people who know McCarthy say he does not care about the broader implications of his plan — he isn’t motivated by some ideological crusade to stick it to Wall Street, nor by some high-minded attempt to chart a new future for the technology sector.

“I don’t think it’s a middle finger to Wall Street because he comes from Wall Street,” says Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, where McCarthy was its CFO for eight years. “He’s as Wall Street as it gets.”

In a traditional offering, a startup hires bankers to find investors to buy its stock, a pre-qualified group willing to take the risk of taking on shares in a company that hasn’t trade openly. The bankers sort out the right price for these shares by wrangling and haggling with these investors, who then sell those shares the following day on an open exchange like the NASDAQ or the NYSE.

In the direct listing that Spotify is attempting, there will be no bankers to find qualified pre-buyers and set a price for the initial stock sale. The shares of SPOT will just open on the NYSE exchange on Tuesday.

Some spurned bankers are quietly rooting for Spotify and McCarthy to fail. Their argument: The strategy has real risk, because they haven’t been able to help the company guarantee an appetite for its shares, and they won’t step in to stabilize the stock if something goes wrong. Its stock value could swing frantically.

So if Spotify stock trades wildly in its opening days, or tanks in its opening months, McCarthy could end up as the poster child for Silicon Valley arrogance. Some bankers will see it as comeuppance for an executive who tried to fix a system that in their eyes wasn’t broken.

McCarthy first joined Spotify in 2014 as a member of its board, and moved to the CFO role a year later. As the company started edging toward a long-awaited IPO, he started selling Ek on the direct listing.

McCarthy presented the entrepreneur and his board with a clinical, “brutally logical” diagnosis of why Spotify shouldn’t sell shares to institutional investors right before trading begins.

Spotify, he argued, could avoid the regulations, fees and distractions since it didn’t need to raise money, already had a well-known consumer brand and had a good idea of how much it was worth from all the private trades done for years by existing investors.

“It’s not like Barry’s wanted to do this forever and this was the opportunity,” said one person close to the company. “Barry does not care about how history remembers him or doesn’t remember him.”

McCarthy is an unlikely iconoclast. He started his career at Credit Suisse First Boston in the 1980s, trading mortgage-backed securities when that industry first took off. He headed to his first CFO role at a different music company, Music Choice. And then at Netflix, he executed a traditional IPO under Hastings.

McCarthy helped Hastings create a fast-growing DVD-by-mail business, with a high-flying stock price — and then helped Hastings pull the company back from the abyss in 2011, when a bungled price hike, a disastrous plan to split the company into two, and the loss of crucial content from two Hollywood studios pushed the company’s stock down 77 percent in four months.

But as Hastings recalled, McCarthy wanted to be a CEO or a COO. It took him three years after leaving Netflix to find it, but he did — at Clinkle, a much-hyped payments company that raised money from A-list backers and then flamed out in spectacular fashion.

McCarthy lasted six months as COO, but avoided career disaster.

“It’s the classic tension: You can get the bigger job at the smaller company, like a Clinkle kind of thing,” Hastings said, adding with some understatement: “I’m sure he’s found Spotify much more satisfying than Clinkle.”

But his time at Netflix made him well-suited to serve as Ek’s de facto Sheryl Sandberg or Eric Schmidt — a voice of experience that carries a lot of weight for the young chief executive. Though in this case, it is the older wise man pushing the more radical idea.

His Netflix pedigree, coupled with Spotify’s Netflix-like grow-fast-now, worry-about-profits later strategy, conveys an implicit promise to would-be Spotify investors: This is another consumer growth rocket ship.

McCarthy made that connection explicit at Spotify’s Investor Day last month.

“This reminds me of my first ten years of Netflix,” he told investors, in what he said was his first public speaking event in eight years.

McCarthy isn’t cutting out banks entirely from Spotify’s public offering. The company will spend up to $ 50 million in advisory and other fees — an out-of-pocket expense it will pay for immediately. (If Spotify had done a traditional IPO, its bankers would have made most of their money by reselling an allotment of Spotify equity.)

That’s real money, even for banks the size of Goldman Sachs. David Solomon, Goldman’s CEO heir apparent, made a personal plea in Goldman’s pitch to Spotify, playing up his now well-publicized side-job as DJ D-Sol, according to two people with knowledge of the pitch. It worked.

Spotify has considered other alternative paths to going public. Ek and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya had some very early conversations about using Social Capital Hedosophia, Palihapitiya’s planned special purpose acquisition vehicle, to acquire Spotify and “back in” to public status that way, according to multiple people with knowledge of the conversations. Social Capital declined to comment.

And even once a direct listing was chosen as the play, the company confronted hiccups.

Spotify had to spend months walking regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission through the details of the plan. And late last year, Spotify had to hammer out a way to mollify a pair of investors who had issued debt to Spotify that would only convert to equity when the company officially IPO’d. McCarthy and Ek found a way to soothe what at one point appeared to be a sticking point in the negotiations.

That has all led to to Tuesday, when Spotify shares will trade freely for the first time. It will be a big deal for Spotify, and it may be a big deal for future startups and the bankers who want to work with them.

Good luck getting McCarthy to say it’s a big deal to him. “I don’t think he’s trying to be the hero,” said one person close to the process. “He’s not an evangelist. He’s not really trying to change the world.”

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Meet the new guy: Stephen Schenck

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What’s crackalackin’, fellow mobile-tech aficionados? I’m Stephen, your resident News Editor and latest addition to the Android Police crew. I’m here to keep that sweet, sweet, Android info flowing, and make sure you stay at the head of the curve with the freshest news about your favorite mobile platform.


Walking in as the new guy always has the potential to be a harrowing experience, and considering the deep pool of talent Android Police is working with, that can leave you with a lot to prove.

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Zoosk relaunches dating app Lively as a way to meet new people while playing trivia games

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Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of trivia applications like HQ Trivia, dating app maker Zoosk has just released an experimental app that combines trivia with the potential for meeting someone new. The app is a relaunch and complete makeover of Zoosk’s Lively, which first debuted in July 2016 as a dating app that used video to tell stories, instead of static profile images.

The new version of Lively is nothing like its former namesake.

As Zoosk explains, the previous version of Lively’s group video chat app was fun, but people didn’t know how to connect and relate to one another using the video format. It felt awkward to start conversations, with no reason to be there besides wanting to date.

The company went back to the drawing board, so to speak, to think about what sort of experiences could bring people together. Trivia, naturally, came to mind.

Lively aims to reproduce the feeling that comes with competing at a bar trivia night. When you join, you’re placed in a group video chat team of two to four people. Together, the team works to answer a series of 12 questions while discussing the answers over video in real-time. When they finish the questions, they’ll be able to see how their scores compared with other teams.

The “dating” component to the app isn’t quite what you would expect. In fact, it’s less of a way to find a date for a night out, than it is to just make new friends. After the game wraps, you’ll have the option to continue chatting with the other players, if you choose. You can also add people as a friend, if you hit it off.

And when trivia isn’t in session – the games run twice daily at 3 PM and 7 PM PST – you can group video chat with others on Lively.

Because you’re not added to a team with nearby players, your ability to make friends who are also possible real-life dating prospects is decidedly limited. That’s something that Lively could change to support in time, if it’s able to grow its user base. But for now, it needs to match users with any live players in order to fill out its teams.

It’s understandable why it went this route, but it doesn’t lend itself well to meeting someone special – unless you’re open to meeting people anywhere (which some are), or are fine with just making new friends and seeing where that leads.

Unlike HQ Trivia, which features live streams with a host, Lively is just group video chat with a trivia component. That means it won’t be as challenging for Zoosk to operate, as it doesn’t have to worry with bandwidth issues and other costs of putting on a live game show. Also, because there are no prizes or payouts, you can join anytime during the 30-minute gaming session to be placed into a team and play along.

Lively is not the first app to support a group video chat interface where gameplay is an option. A number of video chat apps over the years have integrated games into their experience, including older apps like Tango or Google+ Hangouts, Line, and more recently, Facebook Messenger. But none have integrated games for the purpose of facilitating new relationships.

Zoosk today has 38 million members, but wanted to find a way to reach a younger demographic, which is why it originally launched Lively. The app was the first product to emerge from Zoosk’s in-house incubator, Zoosk Labs, where the company experiments with new ideas to expand its core business.

Whether or not Zoosk can turn trivia players into love connections remains to be seen, but it’s interesting how HQ Trivia’s success has led to this wider market full of knock-offs (e.g. Genius, Joyride, Cash Show, The Q, TopBuzz, Live Quiz, Live.me, Halftime Live!, Jam Music, etc.) and other tweaks that follow its idea of live trivia games.

Lively is available on iOS only for now.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Meet the First American to Sell Her Home Using Blockchain

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On February 20, Vermonter Katherine Purcell did something extraordinary: She sold her home. And yes, people sell their homes every year—scores of them. But Purcell’s sale was fundamentally different: There’s a record of it on a blockchain.

In 2017, the city of South Burlington, Vermont, agreed to begin recording real estate transactions on the Ethereum blockchain as part of a pilot program with Propy, a real estate platform developed by a San Francisco-based startup. The idea behind Propy: it allows anyone to buy or sell real estate, anywhere, completely online. Propy’s blockchain records each step in the transaction, from expressing interest in a property to signing agreements to title transfers.

This makes the process more secure than sales conducted through traditional methods. A person couldn’t say they didn’t receive a payment or never signed a document, nor could they alter public records by hacking the city’s server. There’s an immutable record of every action on a virtually unhackable ledger.

As South Burlington City Clerk Donna Kinville told Government Technology in February, the pilot program consists of four levels, with the integration of Propy’s system increasing at each level. Purcell’s sale presumably falls under level one, in which the city’s processes remain unchanged. The only difference is that the paper title sent to the city included the location of the title transfer in Propy’s blockchain. If the project reaches level four, Propy will completely replace the software South Burlington currently uses to manage land records.

As for Purcell’s sale itself, logistically speaking, it wasn’t much different from any other. However, as Propy noted in a blog post, it was one of the very first government-sanctioned uses of blockchain for a public service.

“This first deal makes it much easier for the rest of the 49 states to iterate the process,” a source from Propy told Zero Hedge, a financial blog that posted screenshots of Purcell’s paperwork. “In fact, Arizona and Colorado are next.”

Ultimately, this single transaction could mark a turning point in the use of blockchain by government offices. Others could choose to give Propy a try, and blockchain startups focused on industries beyond real estate even have a better shot at convincing officials to take a chance on the technology now.

The post Meet the First American to Sell Her Home Using Blockchain appeared first on Futurism.

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Meet The Makers: The man who gets millions of Xperia owners out of bed everyday

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No one likes being woken up in the morning, so if you are going to be torn from the sweet embrace of sleep, it needs to be by something that doesn’t make you want to throw your smartphone out of the window.

Did you ever stop to think that it’s actually someone’s job to compose the alarm music that wakes you up? Well, it is and the experts at Xperia have been working on making the process of getting up that little more bearable.

To learn more, we dropped in on Jun-ichi Nagahara who has worked for Sony in Tokyo for 27 years and is a Sound and User Interface Designer, AKA the mastermind behind the music that starts your day, every day.

First off, how does it feel to wake up Xperia users every morning?

It’s an immense responsibility; millions of Xperia users are relying on us to ensure they get out of bed. It’s a job we take very seriously.

What makes a good piece of music to wake up to?

It has to have a good melody-line, it’s the morning so it needs to be quite gentle with a simple arrangement and of course it has to be specially mastered to suit a phone alarm.

How did you decide on the default Xperia alarm tone?

We did lots of ‘Shingi’ (deliberation, discussion) to decide, and, of course, lots and lots of testing.

How have alarms and ringtones developed alongside the progression of smartphones?

For each Xperia generation, there are total design concepts for each new product. We need to consider the new design concept and make sure the sounds fit – all aspects of the phone have to work in harmony, even the alarms.

What alarm tone wakes you up in the morning?

Personally, I use the Xperia default alarm on the Z3 Compact, I use it alongside the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app (available via the Google Play Store, an intelligent alarm clock that analyses your sleep and wakes you in the lightest sleep phase.)

Finally, what’s the trick to avoiding the snooze button?

I find putting the phone as far away from the bed as possible does the trick, the other side of the room for example, it just means you have to get up to turn it off. I also like to think that we make good alarm-music that people want to wake up and listen to!

So there you have it, the next time you get aggravated by your alarm, think about how much more annoying if it would be if it wasn’t for the tireless work of Jun-ichi Nagahara to make it that much more bearable.

The post Meet The Makers: The man who gets millions of Xperia owners out of bed everyday appeared first on Sony Xperia Blog.

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Video game industry says it will meet with Trump this week to discuss violence

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The Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying arm of the video game industry that also oversees the medium’s content ratings system, confirmed today that it will in fact meet with President Donald Trump this week, according to Rolling Stone. The meeting, which will involve discussions of violent games and real-world gun violence, will take place on Thursday, March 8th. It may include representatives from the world’s largest video game publishers and developers.

The ESA, which contends that there is no scientifically proven link between video games and violent crime or behavior, includes representation from Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Ubisoft, among others. It…

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Trump will meet video game execs to discuss school violence

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A variety of potential actions have been discussed to limit school violence in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL last month, from the uninspired option of raising the minimum age of potential gun-buyers…
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Losant secures $5.2 million in Series A financing to meet surging IoT solutions demand

Losant, a US-based startup that helps enterprises build IoT solutions, prepares itself to meet the surging demand for next generation connected solutions by securing a sum of $ 5.2 million in a Series A financing round.

Securing the amount, Charlie Key, CEO of Losant, said: “We’re excited to see our platform power intelligent solutions across a gamut of industries and use-cases. Our customers are pushing new boundaries in industrial equipment monitoring, asset tracking, smart buildings, and more. With endless possibilities, Losant is uniquely positioned to help thousands of companies in their IoT journey.”

The round was led by CincyTech. Revolution’s new Rise of the Rest seed fund, TechNexus, and Vine Street Ventures also took part.

Mike Venerable, CEO of CincyTech, said: “Connected experiences are going to transform business and personal experiences for all of us in the next decade. Billions, not millions, of connected devices are being deployed across all domains. Losant's reliable and scalable platform for IoT is being used in an accelerating number of scenarios that represent the connected future.”

JD Vance, Rise of the Rest seed fund managing partner, said: “Losant’s use of next generation IoT solutions has the potential to change every industry and business and the fact that it’s a promising Ohio-grown startup makes it that much more exciting. We are thrilled to invest in Losant alongside CincyTech, who has been helping entrepreneurs build successful technology companies in southwest Ohio for a decade.”

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