Amazon Will Give Free Advertising to App Developers in New Program

Free ad impressions and better placement in the Amazon Appstore are some of the benefits Amazon is promising app developers who participate in its new Developer Select program, announced today. To qualify, developers’ apps will have to meet several requirements, including compatibility with Amazon’s latest line of tablets, and usage of Amazon services to power features such as in-app purchases.

A Morbid Carpe Diem: Tikker Watch Counts Down Wearer’s Life Expectancy

We write a lot about smartwatches that count steps and measure heart rates. But here’s one that quantifies the biggest life metric of them all - time.

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The Tikker, which is currently raising funding on Kickstarter (it’s more than two-thirds of the way to $25,000), is a watch that displays your own personal life expectancy, as deduced by a basic medical survey. Then the countdown begins. It also tells normal time.

The point is to remind yourself to make the most of your life, said Fredrik Colting, the L.A.-based creator of Tikker, who has priced the first batch at $39.

"It’s been called a ‘death watch’ by some, but I really see it more as a happiness watch," Colting said.

Colting said he has received a full range of responses, including one from a moderator of a large Buddhist organization who said it resonated well with their view of life and death. “Some think it’s a horrible and morbid idea, while others really see the positive message of Tikker, that it’s your time, and that you should value it as much as possible,” he said.

Of course, Tikker is unlikely to be terribly accurate, and on a daily basis, its life-expectancy display won’t change much. But the seconds are always ticking down.

"Tikker isn’t really about the technology, because what it is, in its most basic form, is an advanced egg timer," Colting said.

"But the point we are trying to make is that the wearer should in some way be conscious of their own expiration, and that in turn will make you better appreciate life. Like people who’ve had near-death experiences, or lived through diseases."

TripAdvisor Becomes Latest Digital Platform to Host Special Deals for American Express Customers

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Following in the footsteps of its deals with Foursquare and Twitter, American Express is lettings its cardholders in the U.S., U.K. and Australia link their accounts with TripAdvisor profiles to access exclusive travel content and get deals from a handful of merchants.

Cardholders get three benefits in total from linking their card with TripAdvisor, American Express execs said in an interview.

First, any reviews they write will be labeled as being from a Cardmember if they have used their AmEx card to pay for something at the hotel or restaurant they are reviewing. Perhaps this will be attractive to a small segment of reviewers, but there’s probably more value in this for readers of reviews who can trust that these labeled opinions come from real people who have actually visited an establishment.

Cardholders will also be able to view custom lists of popular destinations based on aggregate spend from American Express cardholders.

The main attraction for AmEx card members, though, will likely be deals from businesses on TripAdvisor that can be loaded into a cardholder’s account by clicking on an offer on TripAdvisor.com - no voucher print-outs needed.

At launch, the handful of businesses offering deals through TripAdvisor to American Express cardholders will include The Palm steakhouse and Maggiano’s Little Italy.

To jump-start the program, American Express will offer a $5 statement credit to customers who link their card with TripAdvisor and write a review for a business at which they recently paid using their credit card.

The TripAdvisor deal is just the latest in a series of partnerships between American Express and large digital platforms.

More than two years ago, American Express started allowing its customers to link their accounts to Foursquare to get statement credits when they checked in and paid with their credit card at participating businesses. The credit card company also worked with Twitter to let cardholders make purchases by linking their card with the social network and then tweeting a specific hashtag.

Leslie Berland, SVP for digital partnerships and development at American Express, hinted that American Express may ink similar deals with other large content sites.

An Open Spectrum Auction Is Best for Consumers and Public Safety

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Image copyright Pavel Ignatov

The Federal Communications Commission will soon release guidelines for an incentive auction for wireless spectrum. Spectrum is the invisible pathway that allows nearly all communications to travel to us. Television and radio broadcasters and mobile devices all use spectrum.

The incentive auction that the FCC is currently designing will be unlike any prior auction for spectrum. The current owners of the spectrum (in this case, broadcasters) will offer spectrum for sale. However, like the auction of a piece of fine art, the sellers set the minimum price they are willing to accept for it. If the bidders (in this case, wireless carriers) do not meet the broadcasters’ price, the spectrum goes unsold, and the auction fails.

If conducted properly, the Incentive Auction could bring tremendous benefits by enhancing wireless Internet and mobile phone capacity, raising billions of dollars in revenue for the U.S. Treasury, and funding a dedicated public safety and first response network, which Congress established as a priority use for the proceeds of this auction.

But T-Mobile and Sprint argue that their primary competitors, Verizon and AT&T, should be restricted in this auction. T-Mobile and Sprint claim that more small companies will participate in the auction if Verizon and AT&T aren’t allowed to bid for what they want, and that the small companies will place higher bids than what Verizon and AT&T would have bid. This flies in the face of common sense; the empirical results from other government auctions for offshore oil leases, timber and spectrum; and everything eBay has taught us. (It also begs the question of whether T-Mobile and Sprint are chiefly concerned with the welfare of their smaller competitors or whether they just want to bar Verizon and AT&T from bidding so they can buy the spectrum for less.)

The spectrum to be auctioned has been estimated to be worth as much as $36 billion to wireless companies if it is sold in a fair, transparent and inclusive auction. But in this two-sided auction, the money raised from wireless carriers needs to pay for the broadcasters to give up their spectrum. If the FCC restricts Verizon and AT&T from bidding, the auction probably won’t raise as much money. Fewer broadcasters will sell less spectrum at lower prices with less new spectrum for mobile broadband and with less cash left over for the government.

I conducted an economic analysis - commissioned by Verizon but conducted independently - simulating past auctions and asking what would have happened if Verizon and AT&T were barred from bidding in those auctions. My results: Such restrictions in a 2008 auction of 700 MHz spectrum would have led to a 45 percent decrease in revenue or almost $9 billion in lost revenue; and in a 2006 auction would have led to a 16 percent decrease in revenue.

Looking ahead to the Incentive Auction, my analysis demonstrates that imposing restrictions on Verizon and AT&T could result in billions of dollars of lost revenue. In fact, if revenue falls below a certain level, the Incentive Auction could fail because there wouldn’t be enough money to pay the broadcasters to give up a useful amount of spectrum.

The Incentive Auction’s success is important for a number of reasons. First, it will help realize the promise of our wireless world. As more people and businesses rely on more devices, the spectrum superhighway is becoming more congested. By getting more licensed spectrum into the pipeline for commercial wireless use, consumers will be able to enjoy innovative applications and technologies like intelligent cars, remote health monitoring systems and additional e-commerce.

And second, since 9/11 there has been a strong push to build a public safety communications network that would allow first responders to communicate with each other without interference or risk of downed operations. We’ve seen communications systems sputter and slow down during high-volume incidents like national emergencies.

That big companies like Sprint and T-Mobile - which are not currently experiencing spectrum-constrained networks - want an advantage in obtaining more spectrum, at a discount, by having their toughest competitors barred from the auction, is understandable. But considering the needs of consumers across the country and our nation’s interest in public safety, it makes little sense to anyone else.

Leslie Marx, PhD, is Robert A. Bandeen Professor of Economics, Duke University and former Chief Economist, Federal Communications Commission.

Fitbit Force Steps It Up With Built-in Altimeter, iOS 7 Phone Notifications

After last week’s leak, it’s not much of a surprise, but today, Fitbit officially announced its latest activity-tracking wristband, the Fitbit Force.

The Fitbit Force offers all of the same features of the company’s first wristband, the Fitbit Flex, which was released only six months ago, and adds a built-in altimeter to record how many floors you’ve climbed each day. It also has a new “Active Minutes” feature that tracks moderate or high-intensity cardio exercise. And it now doubles as a watch.

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The design is very similar to the Fitbit Flex, but it’s about a tenth of an inch wider, and has a slightly larger OLED display and a physical button to help cycle through your various stats. The Fitbit Force costs $129.95, and will be available in three to four weeks at various retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy and Target.

According to Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park, all of the new features are things customers asked for, but there’s one function that the company added on its own.

Soon after launch, Fitbit will release a software update that will allow iPhone users running iOS 7 to receive notifications about incoming calls (name and phone number) on the Force’s display. The wristband can also vibrate to alert you to a call.

Including this feature is sort of an experiment for Fitbit to gauge people’s interest in getting these types of alerts on a fitness-tracking device. Based on the reaction, the company will then decide whether adding other notifications for things like new text messages and email makes sense.

"For us, the challenge has been to not include a lot of stuff in our devices," Park said in an interview with AllThingsD. “It’s always a tough discipline to do that, but I think we’re happy with what’s in the device today.”

Park added that Fitbit’s core mission remains providing customers with simple-to-use products to help them get healthier, and that this singular focus is what differentiates the company’s products from smartwatches and competitors like Jawbone. (My colleague Lauren Goode has a good comparison of many different fitness trackers here.)

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He also said that giving customers a choice in design is important because wearable technology is not a “one size fits all” business. In addition to wristbands, the company offers the Fitbit One and Fitbit Flex, both of which can clip onto your clothes.

When I asked him if Fitbit was exploring any other form factors, Park declined to comment, but said he finds the glasses category really interesting. He also added that there’s an opportunity to do more with the data collected by wearable devices.

"We probably have one of the largest personal biometric databases in the world around health and fitness, but we’re very careful about people’s privacy, so it definitely limits us in terms of what we can do with the data," said Park. "But I think there’s a lot of opportunity to develop sophisticated analytics on top of it that really give people insight into how they spend their day and how they can improve their health, so we have a pretty big R&D team that’s looking at that stuff."

Fitbit recently received $43 million in Series D funding, and said it would use the money to hire more people and build additional products.

Dropcam Pro Upgrades Quality, Adds Bluetooth LE, Sounds Awfully Like Dave Eggers’s Dystopian Future

In Dave Eggers’s new dystopian technology industry book, “The Circle,” the pinnacle of progress is described as a small, cheap, high-quality personal streaming-video camera.

He was holding a small device in his hand, the shape and size of a lollipop.

"This is a video camera, and this is the precise model that’s getting this incredible image quality. Image quality that holds up to this kind of magnification. So that’s the first great thing. We can now get high-def-quality resolution in a camera the size of a thumb. Well, a very big thumb. The second great thing is that, as you can see, this camera needs no wires. It’s transmitting this image via satellite."

A round of applause shook the room.

"Wait. Did I say it runs on a lithium battery that lasts two years? No? Well it does. And we’re a year away from an entirely solar-powered model, too. And it’s waterproof, sandproof, windproof, animalproof, insectproof, everything-proof."

In “The Circle,” Eggers calls the device SeeChange, and says it extends his fictional tech giant’s mission: “All that happens must be known.”

Eggers has said he did not do much research for the novel, so as to keep his perspective unblemished, but the device he described is really quite similar to something that already exists: Dropcam, the slick and popular personal home video monitor.

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Dropcam is not yet windproof, and it doesn’t officially support battery charging, but the new version launching today, Dropcam Pro, has higher-quality video, with a 130-degree field of view that’s zoomable and performs much better at night.

Users watching the live feed on a touchscreen device can pinch to zoom at eight times the resolution. They can also identify recurring activity patterns so they can get an alert when something happens on the feed.

Video is transmitted through dual-band Wi-Fi, and with improved compression, the new device uses only 10 percent more bandwidth than the last version of Dropcam. It will cost $199, and will be sold on Amazon and Dropcam.com, and soon at retail stores.

Just like the last version, Dropcam users will have the option to upgrade to pay a monthly fee to access older footage, which about 40 percent of buyers choose to do.

As for Eggers’s vision, Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy allowed that it was surprisingly close to home. But he said, “With Dropcam, it’s the individual who chooses to share. That helps keep it from being weird and dystopian.”

One new feature that Duffy is particularly excited about is the addition of Bluetooth LE, the near-range, low-power wireless signal that’s included in Dropcam Pro. That will allow the cameras to be linked with other connected household devices. Those sorts of things are just starting to arrive on the market and on Kickstarter.

As Duffy described it, “We think that this is the way the connected home is actually going to happen. Dropcam is a product that sells well on its own, and it’s a product that lets you see what’s going on, so it’s a very logical tie-in to all these sensors and control devices. If a wireless connected light toggles on and off on your iPhone, but nobody sees it … it’s the lamest demo ever. You don’t even realize this until you try to demo it. And then you say to the person, this isn’t cool at all. But with a camera, you can see it.”

What’s next for Dropcam? Duffy said the company is working to reduce audio delays, so the devices - which include both a microphone and a speaker - can seem more like a videoconferencing system and less like an intercom.

Dropcam also wants to make an outdoor version, eventually. “When we put things out, we want them to be 100-percent solutions,” Duffy said. “When we looked at outdoor, we want it to survive the Texas summer heat, thunderstorms, bugs. The existing competitors don’t have enough power, robustness, weatherproofing - none of them solve those problems. We think we have a solution, but it’s not ready yet.”

Amazon Will Acquire EdTech Startup TenMarks to Create Educational Apps for Kindles

Amazon said on Thursday that it had reached an agreement to purchase TenMarks, a four-year-old education startup that makes online educational tools focused on mathematics. “Together, Amazon and TenMarks intend to develop rich educational content and applications, across multiple platforms, that we think teachers, parents and students will love,” Amazon Kindle VP Dave Limp said in a statement. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, were not disclosed.

Domo CEO Josh James Is Keeping Quiet About His Company. Deal With It.

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After raising $125 million in venture capital funding in two rounds, at a valuation of more than $300 million, you’d think that CEO Josh James would want to start talking about how the company is humming along, or at least start sharing specifics.

But that’s not how James rolls. He’d rather keep his cards close to his chest and surprise his competitors later. While he’s quick to brag that Domo, the cloud-based business intelligence service he launched two years ago, is growing fast, he’s not ready - at least not yet - to start sharing specifics. Like who his customers are.

Josh is the founder and former CEO of Omniture who sold that company to Adobe for $1.8 billion in 2009. It wasn’t long before he was raising money - lots of it, in fact - for the new venture that ultimately became Domo.

I caught up with James in Park City, Utah, today where he was speaking at the Venture Capital In the Rockies Fall conference. We chatted for about 10 minutes before his speech. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

AllThingsD: So how are things at Domo?

James: They’re going pretty good. We’re selling as fast as we want to sell. The sales teams are hitting their quotas and you can’t ask for any more than that.

So the perception that’s going around is that Domo is a company that has raised a lot of money, but hasn’t quite shown a lot for it. You’ve been kind of quiet after raising all that money. But what I’m hearing from competitors is that they’re not worried about you.

That’s perfect.

Why is that?

We’ve got 300 enterprise customers and we’re growing like crazy. We’re installing it as fast as we can sell it. We’ve got several Fortune 100 customers, and I showed a customer slide to my board the other day that’s pretty freaking impressive. Back in my days at Omniture, we didn’t have a slide with that quality of names on it until the last year before we went public.

So who’s on it?

I’m not ready to tell you yet. (He grins.) They’re like travel, financial, media, top five customers in each of those verticals.

When will we starting hearing about who they are?

In the next six months or so.

What are you waiting for?

We can’t take any more customers than we have right now. Attention from customers hasn’t been a problem. We want to make sure that when we have an onslaught of new customers that we can address them. We’re already growing at a pace of 25 to 50 percent quarter over quarter, so we’re already doubling every year. And that is what we did at Omniture every year, we doubled seven years in a row. Fortunately there is a lot of attention that can come our way. When it does we have to make sure we don’t fail. Creating leads and attention, this time, that’s not going to be a problem.

So you’re deliberately keeping kind of quiet?

Absolutely. And deliberately letting people think incorrect things about us.

Like what?

That we’re just about big data and analytics and visualization.

But you kind of are in those boxes. If you’re not in those boxes, then describe for me what kind of box you fit in.

I will come and have that conversation with you. Those are parts of it. We’re surprising our customers. I had one person at one of our customers say to me that for 40 years he had been trained not to ask the kind of questions about the state of his business that he was suddenly getting answered using our product. We had another a few days ago, at a big financial institution, who three minutes into the demo stopped us and said he’d been looking for something like this for the last 20 years. We had a top-five airline last week call it the Holy Grail of big data and business intelligence. That’s not how I would categorize us, but if that’s what you want to think of the substance of what we’re doing, I’m glad to let you think that.

After all that money you’ve raised, do you think you’re going to have to raise any more?

I think we’ll probably do one more round before we go public. We don’t need to. The model shows us breaking even before we need to raise any more money.

When do you think you’d go public? Maybe 2015?

I have no clue yet.

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