Sony Writes Off $1.5B From Its Mobile Division As It Cuts Smartphone Sales Target Again

TechCrunch

Sony replaced the head of its mobile division yesterday, and today its latest earnings report gave a clearer indication of why. Sony’s mobile unit increased its revenue in the last quarter (its fiscal Q2 2014) by 1.2 percent to $2.83 billion, but the company wrote down the valuation of the business by a whopping $1.59 billion.

That line item contributed to a $1.58 billion loss for Sony Mobile Communications, which weighed down the corporate company’s financial performance. Overall, Sony Group reported a loss of $785 million despite notching a 7.2 percent increase in company-wide revenue, which came in at $17.45 billion.

There were bright points in other parts of the Japanese giant’s business. Sony’s gaming unit saw its revenue jump 83 percent person year-on-year thanks to the introduction of the PlayStation 4; while its devices business — which sells semiconductors and camera lenses to smartphone makers — reported revenue of $271 million, a 187 percent…

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First Look At 3D Camera App 3DAround

TechCrunch

What if you could shoot those cool 360-degree, swivel-around photos you see on ecommerce sites or in The Matrix with just your smartphone? Then you’d be using the 3DAround camera app that launches next month from Dacuda, which gave TechCrunch an early peek. Simply hit record, revolve your camera phone or tablet around an object, and 3DAround stitches together all the photos into a 3D image the viewer can spin at will.

3DAroundDacuda is famous for its PocketScan app that lets you wave your camera over a document to get a digital image of it without a bulky scanner. Now Dacuda’s 25-person team and 5 years of experience are combining to make your phone a 3D scanner that always gets the perfect angle…because it gets every angle. For starters, it’s going to add some 360-spice to a ubiquitous but often boring type of photography: food porn.

“It’s a really good…

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New Wearables Incubator Claims To Be A First In Europe

TechCrunch

Wearable World, best known as the San Francisco-based conference and media site, is to launch what it claims is the first ever purely wearable technology accelerator and incubator programme in Europe.

The Labs will be headed up by Marcus Sandberg, a co-founder of Proleads (and a former member of the Swedish Special Forces). Sandberg will lead a team of 5 at the incubator, which launches on 22 of October during its first London-based GLAZEDcon event next week.

Redg Snodgrass, CEO and co-founder of Wearable World, said the reason for establishing the accelerator was obvious given that “over 30 per cent of the companies in our current programme are from outside the US” and the often difficult funding environment for wearables in Europe.

Wearable World Labs claims that its success rate in its U.S. operation is a “90 per cent fund rate and a 100 percent crowd funding rate”…

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Facebook Launches Hyper-Local Ads Targeted To People Within A Mile Of A Business

TechCrunch

Facebook’s mobile ubiquity and push for always-on location sharing came to fruition today with the launch of hyper-local advertising that could convince people to visit stores they’re nearby. Soon, brick-and-mortar businesses will be able to target ads to anyone who lives or was recently within a specific distance of their store. Advertisers can set a radius as small as a mile and the ads will show up on people’s phones or web browsers. These new Local Awareness ads will be available for US business owners in a few weeks, and around the globe in the next several months.

Hyper-local advertising has been a long time coming for Facebook. Way back in January 2011 it acquired Rel8tion, which did this kind of ad targeting. Then in June 2012, VP Carolyn Everson hinted that location-aware phones could one day power hyper-local Facebook ads, and I wrote about how they could work…

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Zapp mobile payments system gets boost in UK as major retailers come on board

Gigaom

Zapp, a British mobile payments outfit that partnered with several major banks earlier this year, has announced a raft of major retailers that will accept payments through its service both in-store and online.

On Wednesday, [company]Zapp[/company] said that from 2015 Asda ([company]Walmart[/company]’s U.K. subsidiary), [company]Sainsbury’s[/company], House of Fraser and catalog firm Shop Direct would all accept payments through Zapp, as would others including Spar, Clarks, [company]Thomas Cook[/company], Best Western hotels, and utilities such as Anglian Water and Bristol & Wessex Water. Some charities, such as Oxfam, have already signed up.

What’s more, point-of-sale systems providers such as the ubiquitous [company]Verifone[/company], as well as online payments processors such as [company]Klarna[/company], have also said they will work with Zapp.

This really does seem to represent broad retail industry support for Zapp in the U.K. — an unsurprising development in many ways, seeing as it’s a subsidiary of VocaLink, one of the largest…

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So Many Platforms, So Few Developers

TechCrunch

As I walked around the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon today, I talked to a lot of vendors who decided to set up tables at the event for one reason: to lure developers to use their APIs and build applications on top of their platforms.

In fact, I spoke to almost a dozen vendors including Evernote, Twitter, Microsoft Azure, The Weather Underground, Pearson (the book publisher), GoGo InFlight and many others.  I even spoke to a hospital representative who was there because they had built an open source hospital management platform, and you guessed it, they were hoping to lure developers to join them and build applications on top of it.

With so many platform plays out there though, it’s exceedingly difficult for them all to achieve the necessary critical mass to get the developer attention they crave. The old chestnut holds of course. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. In fact…

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The next step for intelligent virtual assistants: It’s time to consolidate

Gigaom

When we talk about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), the discussion often focuses on the advancements and capabilities of the technology, or even the risks and opportunities inherent in the potential cultural implications. What we frequently overlook, however, is the future of AI as a business.

[company]IBM[/company] Watson’s recent acquisition and deployment of [company]Cognea[/company] signals an important shift in the AI and intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) market, and offers an indication of both of the potentials of AI as a business and the areas where the market still needs development.

The AI business is about to be transformed by consolidation. Consolidation carries real risks, but it is generally a sign of technological maturation. And it’s about time, as AI is no longer simply a side project, or an R&D euphemism. AI is finally center stage.

IBM, for all its investment in the Watson platform, was still missing, among other…

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