TechSummit Rewind 160

Intel buying Mobileye for $15.3B, Yahoo CEO Mayer to get $23M in severance, & Pandora Premium prepares for launch

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Intel buying Mobileye for $15.3B

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Intel is buying Israeli computer vision company Mobileye for $15.3 billion, per Mobileye.

Intel is offering $63.54/share in cash for the company.

“This acquisition is a great step forward for our shareholders, the automotive industry, and consumers. Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving, including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers.”

-Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO

The new unit will include Mobileye and Intel’s Automated Driving Group and will be headed by Mobileye co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua from Israel. The transaction is expected to close within the next nine months.

“By pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry.”

-Ziv Aviram, Mobileye co-founder and CEO

Yahoo CEO Mayer to get $23M severance package after Verizon deal closes

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Marissa Mayer, who is set to lose her job as Yahoo’s CEO after the closing of Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo’s operating businesses, will get a golden parachute package worth around $23 million, per a Yahoo regulatory filing.

Per the company, former IAC CFO Thomas McInerney will take over as CEO of the company after the Verizon deal closing, which is expected sometime in Q2. At that point, the company will change its name to Altaba Inc., with its major assets including its shares of Alibaba.

In addition, CFO Ken Goldman will be replaced by Yahoo VP and global controller Alexi Wellman.

When she’s terminated as CEO, Mayer will receive $3 million in cash, $20 million in equity, and $25,000 in medical-coverage benefits, per a Yahoo SEC filing.

Under their severance agreements, chief revenue officer Lisa Utzschneider would receive $16.5 million (including $14.7 million in equity) and Goldman would receive $9.5 million (including $7.8 million in equity).

Pandora Premium’s ready for prime time

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Just three months after announcing its plans, Pandora is ready to launch its full-fledged Premium on-demand music service.

For the most part, it’s everything you’d expect it to be: a $10/month subscription with millions of songs that you can listen to and save offline whenever you want. There are workout and driving mixes and – naturally – a  radio feature. However, Pandora has added a slew of personalization features and a simple experience that can be more approachable than Apple Music and Spotify.

“Today it’s just 30 million songs in a search box, essentially. I think that can be appealing to a small segment of the population, but for most people that’s just overwhelming; it’s hard work.”

-Tim Westergren, Pandora CEO

The first thing you’ll notice in Pandora Premium is that it takes less clicks to start playing music compared to Apple Music and Spotify. The app launches into My Music, which features a carousel of recently played albums and stations that can be played with one tap (that command requires multiple taps on Apple Music and Spotify).

Below the carousel is a list of all your saved music, sorted in reverse chronological order. You can also sort between album, artist, and song lists if you want, but the option’s hidden in a drop-down menu.

Simplicity is a key focus on Premium, with huge influence coming from Rdio, whose assets were purchased by Pandora just over 15 months ago. There’s big album artwork and a minimalistic look with clean, white lines that combine to form an intuitive design that will make it easy for new and current Pandora users to pick up quickly.

Pandora is also handling its catalog differently than other streaming services. While it has access to the same over 40 million song catalog as Apple Music and Spotify, it is curating the catalog to get rid of karaoke, tributes, and duplicate tracks to help improve search.

However, there are also a few quirks to get used to. Pandora Premium doesn’t have pre-generated playlists, instead relying heavily on its radio stations without restrictions.

To fix the inevitable issue of creating playlists from radio stations with four or fly songs, Premium introduces an “add similar songs” feature that will add three to seven songs to your playlist at the click of a button. The algorithm will determine a handful of songs you’d enjoy based on the current content of your playlist.

Pandora has taken the musical analysis and data science that powers its radio stations and used it to cluster songs that work well together and combine with your musical taste to offer a small collection of songs every time you tap the magic wand.

“Sequencing is such an important part. It’s not just grabbing the right music to put into a playlist for you, it’s also organizing it and sequencing it so it flows. Those are really important qualities when you want to have a listening experience that just works. Just grabbing a bunch of recommendations of songs and throwing it in front of you still requires you as the user to do work. Our whole aim was to do it for you.”

-Chris Phillips, Pandora chief product officer

The best part is that it learns your preferences as you keep or remove the songs it adds.

“If you delete all four [recommendations] but leave one in there, that’s a pretty strong signal that you like that one song. There’s a lot of really delicate constant learning going on around how you feel about those recommendations. If you delete it, we will learn right away.”

-Chris Phillips

Other features aimed at novices include a toggle to hide explicit music on radio stations and in search, a New Music section tailored to your tastes, Ticketfly integration for buying tickets to your favorite acts, and a My Thumbs Up playlist that includes every song you’ve ever liked.

However, gaps remain. There’s no way to edit the “up next” queue. There won’t be a desktop or iPad app at launch (a web app is in the pipeline). Echo support is coming, but it’s not there yet.

“We’re really going to be just maniacally focused on what really enhances the experience for everything. There will be power user capabilities. Will video appear on Pandora? That’s been on our list for a long time. But it’s more about what are the right things to do next and in what order, to make the product better and keep it simple. That’s our guiding philosophy.”

-Tim Westergren

The company hopes to become the very best – like no one ever was – with around 6-9 million Premium subscribers by the end of the year.

“We have very grand ambitions for what this can be. If we look around at the space right now, we just don’t think that there’s a product that’s done it right. No one has solved the ease of use and personalization part of the on-demand world. I don’t think there’s really a true premium product out there yet… we think we’re bringing something really different here.”

-Tim Westergren

Pandora has opted for a staggered rollout plan for Premium on iOS and Android. Existing Pandora free can test out Premium free for two months, with invites to the trial beginning to roll out tomorrow (Mar. 15). Pandora Plus users can try out Premium free for six months. Non-Pandora users can have access to the two-month free trial by signing up here, with invitations rolling out in mid-April.

Facebook tells developers not to use data for surveillance

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In response to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change and the Center for Media Justice, Facebook announced that it will clarify its developer policy to explicitly prohibit the use of Facebook or Instagram data in surveillance tools.

The ACLU has revealed several instances of developers using information gleaned from Facebook’s APIs to create surveillance tools for law enforcement, and each time, Facebook has decided to revoke access to its data.

Facebook has contended that this kind of surveillance is already against its policies, but its policy was revamped today to state that developers can’t “use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.”

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit. Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

-Rob Sherman, Facebook deputy chief privacy officer

Facebook has cut ties with a few developers that make surveillance tools, and has worked with several others to bring their apps into compliance with the policy.

“We commend Facebook and Instagram for this step and call on all companies who claim to value diversity and justice to also stand up and do what’s needed to limit invasive social media surveillance from being used to target black and brown people in low-income communities.”

-Brandi Collins, Color of Change campaign director

However, just because Facebook says surveillance is banned doesn’t mean that developers will listen.

According to the ACLU, Color of Change, and the Center for Media Justice, the next step is for Facebook to proactively enforce the policy, something Facebook argues it is already doing.

“Facebook and Instagram should institute both human and technical auditing mechanisms designed to effectively identify potential violations of company policies, both by developers and their end users, and take swift action for violations.”

-The coalition, in a letter to Facebook

Google’s Area 120 startup incubator reveals Uptime video sharing app

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Google’s Area 120 startup incubator has released Uptime, a group video messaging app that lets you watch and share videos with your friend.

As of now, Uptime is only available for iPhone as an invite-only app. Once you log in with your Google account, you’re greeted with an introductory video explaining how everything works. You watch a video, and your profile picture travels along a progress bar that wraps around the screen. If there are other people watching, their icons will also travel along. You can also react to what you’re seeing on screen by typing comments or touching the screen in real time.

However, there are some limits. There’s no way to record video or to stream live: you can only share YouTube clips. The app is also best oriented for portrait-recorded videos, rather than landscape. You can watch and comment on something like a movie trailer, but if you rotate your phone 90 degrees, it won’t let you type text or add reactions.

There’s also no readily apparent way to search for specific people, and the Find Friends button only lets you invite new people to the platform.

Vertu sells for $61M to exiled Turkish businessman

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British luxury phone maker Vertu has been bought for the first time since Nokia spun it off in 2012. According to the Telegraph, the company’s been purchase for $61 million by an investment vehicle funded by Turkish exile Hakan Uzan.

“Vertu is a powerful brand with an acknowledged market niche. I look forward to working with the team and providing the investment to enable Vertu to realize its full potential.”

-Hakan Uzan, Vertu owner

 

Yahoo’s Alibaba stake takes heat off weak forecast

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo’s core online advertising business continued to struggle in the third quarter but its valuable investment in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba was enough to keep Wall Street satisfied.

Shares of Yahoo were up nearly one percent at $33.70 in after-hours trading on Tuesday, as investors looked past ongoing pricing pressure and a weaker-than-expected financial outlook to focus on a revised agreement it struck with Alibaba.

Yahoo, which owns a 24 percent stake in Alibaba, said it would sell fewer shares than originally agreed when Alibaba goes public.

Yahoo’s core business of selling online and search advertising remained soft in the third quarter, as the company faced fierce competition from Facebook and Google.

Prices for Yahoo’s display ads declined seven percent year-over-year, while the number of display ads sold increased roughly 1 percent, Yahoo said.

Revenue from search advertising, which accounts for 39 percent of total revenue, was up 3 percent year-over-year, excluding certain costs.

Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer pointed to improvements in user traffic to the company’s various Web destinations and said the increasing usage would start to show up in Yahoo’s revenue growth in the coming year.

She noted that users of Yahoo’s mobile products increased 15 percent from the previous quarter, for a total of 390 million users, while traffic to a revamped version of Yahoo’s sports website doubled.

“We are in this to win and to win big,” Mayer said during a post-earnings video conference that was streamed live on the company’s website.

She said new “native” ad formats that Yahoo had begun experimenting with had encouraging results that could help Yahoo boost revenue on its mobile products, which she described as “under-monetized.”

Yahoo said it earned $297 million in net income in the third quarter, or 28 cents a share, compared to $3.6 billion, or $2.64 a share in the third quarter of 2012, when Yahoo’s results included a $2.8 billion gain from the sale of a portion of its stake in Alibaba.

Excluding certain items, Yahoo reported earnings of 34 cents per share.

Yahoo’s stock price has more than doubled since Mayer took the reins in July 2012.

Yahoo included Alibaba’s second-quarter financial results in its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday.

Alibaba grew revenue 61 percent to $1.74 billion in the April to June period, while net income rose 159 percent to $707 million. That pace of revenue growth is down from 71 percent in the first quarter.

Yahoo took down its own forecast for the full 2013 year, trimming the midpoint of its net revenue guidance from $4.5 billion to $4.425 billion. The company also said its adjusted operating income would be lower than it previously projected.

Mayer, a former Google executive, has focused on revamping Yahoo’s Web products since joining the company in July 2012.

The Web portal reported $1.081 billion in net revenue, which excludes fees paid to third-party websites, in the three months ending September 30, compared with $1.089 billion a year ago.

Source: Reuters

Yahoo won’t restrict porn on Tumblr

During Yahoo’s Flickr press event, CEO Marissa Mayer responded to a question about restricted content on Tumblr, and confirmed that Yahoo has no plans to cull controversial material — meaning Tumblr’s porn is safe. “It’s the nature of user-generated content,” Mayer said, answering one of the most pressing questions for many users of the service since rumors of the $1.1 billion acquisition began to swirl. However, Mayer promoted Tumblr’s existing “NSFW” (not safe for work) tools to label controversial content on the network; “It’s really important to have great community tools like ‘NSFW’ that Tumblr already has in place,” she said.

Mayer’s comments specifically answer a question that was merely suggested this morning, when she wrote about the acquisition in the Yahoo blog. “Tumblr is incredible special and has a great thing going,” Mayer wrote. “We promise not to screw it up.”

[Source: The Verge]

Flickr launches redesigned Android app for smartphones and tablets

After launching an all-new app for iOS last December, Flickr is finally giving its Android offering a similar overhaul. Announced on stage at Yahoo’s New York City event, the revamped Flickr for Android is available today for both phones and tablets. “The new Flickr for Android maintains your photos’ original quality, so every image you take, edit, share, or view on your phone or tablet looks spectacular,” wrote CEO Marissa Mayer in a Tumblr post announcing the update. The new-and-improved Flickr for Android includes support for 10 languages and is available in the Google Play Store now.

[Source: The Verge]

Yahoo unveils the new Flickr with one terabyte of free space

Yahoo has just announced a complete redesign of Flickr at its New York City event — the new site is live now and it comes with one terabyte of free photo space. Yahoo SVP Adam Cahan just made the announcement and said that “Flickr had become about words, little images, blue links. It was not about the photo anymore.” But the new photostream changes that, will full-resolution images and a clean homepage with all the emphasis on images — it looks a lot like the Instagram web profile header.

In short, Flickr’s done away with nearly all of the white space on Flickr, across every page you visit. Other new features include iPhoto-style slideshows (complete with music), full-bleed photos with significantly-reduced UI elements, and extensive sharing options — you can push photos out to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest. I’s a massive redesign, and it came together pretty fast — Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said that the company talked about this project in March and “rallied as a full company” to get the project done in this quarter.

However, the big news is the free space — “we want all of your images,” said Cahan. He said it was 70 times bigger than what other sites offer, and said it could store 537,731 photos in “full quality.” Yahoo directly mentioned the 15GB of storage space “other” companies offer, and it was a pretty direct shot at Google — a company that has made no secret recently about making photos a key part of its services.

Yahoo also announced a new Android Flickr app, which matches the capabilities of the recently-updated iOS app. “Upload once, send to any device, any screen, any friend, any follower, on any service, and make it absolutely beautiful,” said Cahan. Along with this new service, Flickr is revamping its Flickr Pro service. Previously, free Flickr users could only display 200 photos at a time, while paid users had unlimited storage and display capabilities as well as analytical data about your  photos. However, Yahoo introduced a few new paid options — for $49.99 a year, all ads on the site will be removed, and you’ll get access to the standard set of Flickr analytics. For $499.99, you can double your storage space to 2TB. All in all, it looks like a long overdue and hugely-needed update — but now Flickr has an arsenal of new tools to take on sites like Facebook and Google.

[Source: The Verge]

Yahoo acquires Tumblr in $1.1 billion cash deal, promises ‘not to screw it up’

Yahoo has officially announced that it will acquire Tumblr in a $1.1 billion cash deal expected to close in the second half of the year, and will keep Tumblr’s David Karp on as CEO. “Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up,” Yahoo says in its press release, “Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business.” In one of its first acts of business, Yahoo has moved its official blog to yahoo.tumblr.com.

“Tumblr is redefining creative expression online,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said in the announcement. “On many levels, Tumblr and Yahoo couldn’t be more different, but, at the same time, they couldn’t be more complimentary. Yahoo is the internet’s original media network. Tumblr is the internet’s fastest-growing media frenzy.” In a blog post discussing the change, Mayer insisted that Yahoo won’t “screw up” Tumblr, and that it will operate independently. “The product roadmap, their team, their wit and irreverence will all remain the same,” Mayer wrote.

Yahoo estimates that the deal will grow its audience by 50 percent, and its overall traffic by 20 percent. The company plans to infuse Tumblr with its personalization and search technology, and to fold Tumblr’s massive collection of blogs into its own network. “We think there’s a very compelling search story inside Tumblr,” Mayer said to investors today on a conference call. “We think that there is an opportunity to grow our search business through integration with Tumblr.”

And, of course, the companies will work together on “seamless” advertising opportunities. In today’s call regarding the acquisition, Mayer noted that new ads may appear in Tumblr’s dashboard, saying “we feel we can monetize in ways that are meaningful and add to user experience” — though she said that any dashboard ads would be “light.”

Tumblr CEO David Karp also expressed a “stand pat” attitude, saying that the company will remain the same under Yahoo’s ownership. “We’re elated to have the support of Yahoo and their team who share our dream to make the internet the ultimate creative canvas,” Karp said. “Tumblr gets better faster with more resources to draw from.” In his own blog post announcing the deal, Karp writes that “we’re not turning purple,” and that “simply, Tumblr gets better faster.”

The announcement follows days of speculation that culminated in Yahoo’s board reportedly approving the deal last Sunday. While various initial reactions to the rumors suggested public skepticism of Yahoo’s ability to improve Tumblr, some are optimistic about the deal. Speaking to the BBC, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales said “one of the interesting things about Yahoo is that it’s traditionally been viewed in the industry… as a very marketing led organization — not a great place for technologists.” But Wales had positive things to say about Yahoo’s new leadership, saying that “I think they have a good chance for the first time to integrate the talent from these acquisitions and actually not screw it all up. People in the industry respect Marissa as a technologist and that’s a big shift for Yahoo.”

The $1.1 billion buyout is considered a benefit for both parties, with Yahoo receiving Tumblr’s huge community of young users, and Tumblr’s investors reaping a sizable pile of cash.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p>First ever acquisition announced by animated gif 🙂 @<a href=”https://twitter.com/yahoo”>yahoo</a&gt; is acquiring @<a href=”https://twitter.com/tumblr”>tumblr</a&gt;. <a href=”http://t.co/QzvhAzLLx5&#8243; title=”http://finance.yahoo.com/news/yahoo-acquire-tumblr-120000116.html”>finance.yahoo.com/news/yahoo-acq…</a><a href=”https://twitter.com/search/%23keepcalmandcarryon”>#keepcalmandcarryon</a></p>&mdash; marissamayer (@marissamayer) <a href=”https://twitter.com/marissamayer/status/336453536298717184″>May 20, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

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[Source: The Verge]

Yahoo snags executive rights to Saturday Night Live’s archives starting September 1st

Yahoo may have failed in its bid to acquire Hulu last year, but CEO Marissa Mayer announced it’s snagged rights to show something the streaming site has been known for: Saturday Night LiveThe deal with Broadway Video will give Yahoo exclusive online access to archived SNL content from 1975 through 2013 including show clips, “select” musical performances, behind the scenes and dress rehearsal clips. Yahoo will also have non-exclusive access to show current season Saturday Night Live clips in the US and a license for the distribution of library show clips internationally. Beginning September 1st, those archived clips will be pulled from other internet video platforms (presumably Hulu and Netflix) for one year. The press release indicates Broadway and Yahoo will celebrate the partnership at Yahoo!’s Digital Content NewFront event on the 29th, we’ll wait and see if we learn more about its media strategy then.

[Source: Engadget]

Awkward! Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer Speaks at Great Place to Work Conference

Does it get more ironic than this? Apparently the Great Place to Work conference in Los Angeles last week had a really fascinating choice of guest speaker: Marissa Mayer. if you recall, the Yahoo chief drew fire for killing the company’s telecommuting privileges a couple of months ago. Workplace flexibility advocates and other pundits called the move backward and antiquated, which are bracing words considering the company’s in the tech business.

Turns out, Mayer was booked for the HR conference long before that decision came to light. But you’ve got to give it to her for at least one thing — guts. A lot of execs would’ve found some excuse to miss the conference, but not Mayer. She showed up, hit the stage and addressed a room full of likely detractors. And instead of sidestepping the issue, she tackled it head on in what could only be called a showstopper.

The CEO began waxing poetic about company’s “already vibrant” work environment and culture, but then stopped herself short. Then she changed gears, saying, “i need to talk about the elephant in the room.” Next thing you know, a purple elephant popped onto the big screen emblazoned with three big white letters: “WFH” (for “work from home”).

Now that’s cheeky, but it wasn’t an admission that the company goofed. On the contrary, Mayer stuck to her guns that day.