- Created on 16 May 2013
Apple will give the lucky downloader a $10,000 iTunes gift card. The next 50 people to download an app after that will each receive a $500 gift card.
There was no immediate word from Apple on who won. Apple had a live countdown ticker on its iTunes Web page.
The promotion is yet another reminder of the massive success of Apple's App Store, which opened in 2008, added to the appeal of the iPhone and spawned many bad "there's an app for that" headlines. It also inspired online app stores by Google, BlackBerry and other companies.
The contest was open to entrants 13 or older in a country where the App Store is available. People also could enter without downloading an app by filling out an online form.
This marks the second time in three months that Apple has celebrated an iTunes milestone. In February, Phillip Lupke of Germany received a 10,000 euro (about $13,528) iTunes gift card for downloading the 25 billionth song.
How massive a number is 50 billion? According to Apple, counting to 50 billion would take a person 1,600 years.
- Created on 16 May 2013
(CNN) -- Google is working hard to make you love Google+, its growing but still often-overlooked social network.
How hard? The tech titan introduced 41 new Google+ features Wednesday, including a spiffy design, a Hangouts mobile chat feature and more tools for editing your photo library.
With some 360 million active users, Google+ has surpassed Twitter to become the world's second-most popular social network, after Facebook.
Here's a closer look at the updates, which were announced by Vic Gundotra, senior vice president and Google+ manager, at the company's I/O conference.
Google as photo assistant
Google+ has added automated photo-editing features that, depending on how well they work, could save amateur photographers huge amounts of time.
Given an unedited batch of photos from a recent family vacation, Google+ can narrow the images down to what it determines are the best shots. "I don't have time to pick them out (myself) because my vacation is over," said Gundotra.
The process begins with elimination, culling images that are blurry, duplicates or poorly exposed. It recognizes and includes landmarks and people in its final selections. Google's algorithms have been learning what people find beautiful in a photograph and uses that information to identify shots that are aesthetically pleasing.
It also uses facial detection to identify who appears in your photos to find people to whom you are close, such as family members.
Once the best shots are isolated, the next step is making them even better. Many people now rely on the auto-enhance button found in photo editing apps, from iPhoto to Instagram. Google+ has added its take on the auto button, which dabbles in white balance, skin softening, vignettes, sharpening and taking out red eye.
Finally, Google+ is adding something called Auto Awesome that does kicky things with photos such as turning them into small collages and turning multiple images into everyone's new favorite image format, the animated GIF.
Hangouts turns into a chat client
Hangouts, the free group video-calling service that's become one of the more popular Google+ features, is getting into the mobile chat business.
Google is rolling out a standalone app version of Hangouts that combines text, photos and live video. The feature will work across Android and iOS devices and can include multiple people.
Users of the app will now be able to save logs of chats if they want to swipe back in time to recall conversations.
The idea, according to Gundotra, is to offer a communication tool that can be used on any device, regardless of the platform.
"Why should OSes matter? People matter," said Gundotra. "Frankly even Google's own services have been fragmented and confused at times,"
A new G+ look
The new Google+ layout emphasizes multiple streams, or columns, of posts, athough the number you see will change to fit the device you're using, whether it's a giant desktop screen or a small smartphone.
Images are front and center in the new design, and photos and videos can fill the entire width of the stream. In other words, Google+ will look more like Pinterest.
- Created on 15 May 2013
Single-family rental properties have attracted more than $10 billion from equity firms, hedge funds, REITs and institutional investors. According to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., this market may attract a total of $2.8 trillion in capital investments in the not so distant future. The government’s encouragement of this new housing market is fraught with potential societal and economic risks to the long-term health of our neighborhoods and our nation.
Private-equity firms, hedge funds and other Wall Street investors are seeking to develop a Real Estate Owned (REO)– to- Rent Securitization Market with the blessing of the FED and FHFA. A year ago, the Federal Reserve Board issued a policy statement on rental of REO owned by the banks they supervise and allowed the banks to rent REO properties without requiring them to demonstrate continuous efforts to market the properties. Last fall, FHFA initiated a “pilot” REO bulk sale program in urban markets across the nation. This munificence by the federal regulators will change the course of America’s future and signals the abandonment of homeownership as a pathway to prosperity.
As a fair housing professional, I am concerned that this allows the Wall Street predators to once again prey upon urban and inner-ring suburban communities across the country. These new investors in the rental housing market may not be aware that they are covered under Section 805 of the Federal Fair Housing Act and its implementing regulations.
As a homeowner, I am concerned that there may be homes on my block or in my community that are owned by Wall Street firms that have shown no accountability for maintaining the properties they have acquired. A judge recently denied Deutsche Bank AG’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles, accusing it of letting hundreds of foreclosed properties fall into disrepair and illegally evicting low-income tenants. According to a 2011 civil enforcement action filed by the city of Los Angeles, Deutsche Bank and its subsidiaries held title to more than 2,000 properties in Los Angeles.
According to news reports private equity behemoth Blackstone has acquired more than 25,000 properties across the country, including 1,400 in Atlanta and with a $2.1 billion line of credit from Deutsche Bank, is preparing to greatly expand its holdings.
This is bad news for our communities; homeowners bring stability to neighborhoods and are more engaged in local civic affairs. Homeownership and locally based landlords contribute to the social cohesion of our communities with shared values, commitment to the common good and bound by desire for economic prosperity for all.
The nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to lead FHFA is an opportunity for positive systemic change. In a properly regulated housing market, homeownership does not pose a risk to households or investors. I hope that this nomination signals a recommitment by this administration to homeownership. I believe strongly that the effective enforcement of existing laws and regulations coupled with the underwriting of safe, sustainable and affordable loans is a leveraged path to financial stability, and the social mobility that is the essence of the American Dream.
Stella J. Adams is a housing policy expert and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition in Washington, D.C.
- Created on 16 May 2013
(CNN) -- Google Maps are getting personal. The next version of the widely used maps tool, previewed on Wednesday at the Google i/o conference in San Francisco, will soon have a different look and some splashy new features including displays of real-time accidents and personalized recommendations.
Each click subtly alters the map so it displays the most relevant information, highlighting things that are relevant specifically to the person searching and what they're looking for. Click on a sandwich shop and a box appears showing details such as reviews from Zagat and your friends. Related eateries nearby pop up on the map.
Using your search history, reviews and network of friends, Google makes recommendations of places it thinks you will enjoy. The more you use the map, the more data it collects for these types of recommendations. Google is also adding offers for companies like Starbucks, so when you look up where the nearest coffee shop is you can stumble into a coupon for $2 off your next Frappuccino.
Navigation has always been one of Google Maps' strong points, particularly when it comes to alternative forms of transportation like public transit and biking. A collection of navigation improvements focus on finding the best, speediest route to a destination in real time.
Not sure if you should bike, drive or take a train? Maps has a new schedule viewer that lines up all the options to help you decide. It will no longer be necessary to do a search for a start or end address, you can click on the map and instantly see the driving routes.
Car accidents will appear on the map in real time. Live updates on road conditions have been popular with drivers, as we've seen Waze, a popular navigation app that crowd sources road information. Google will also add dynamic rerouting, automatically finding an alternate route that avoids traffic-slowing incidents.
The redesigned Maps will let Google's sleek-looking maps and vast library of photos shine. Text takes a back seat in this version. Images from street view, user-submitted photos and fun Google projects like underwater view and interior 3-D tours are all highlighted, while map itself fills the page.
The final, neatest new feature is also the least practical. Zoom all the way out on Google Maps and you'll see the Earth floating in space against a backdrop of stars. The cloud cover moving over the planet, as well as the stars and sun position, are all shown as they are in real time.
Google Maps has clients that pay to use the maps data in their own products like mobile apps and websites, often designing and creating their own unique offerings. The updates, along with other under the hood improvements, will be available to these more than 1 million products that use Google Maps data over the next few months.
The new Maps is only in beta, but people interested in testing it can sign up for an invitation at google.com/maps/preview.
- Created on 14 May 2013
Blackberry announced the latest addition to its hardware series to follow the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem, the BlackBerry Q5, Tuesday during the company's annual confab in Orlando. No price has been set for the new device, but according to Heins, the Q5 will be a low priced device that will target emerging markets.
The announcement came during a keynote speech by Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins.
"We're building for those mobile-first customers and businesses worldwide," Heins said. "We are the original mobile-first company."
For most Blackberry users, the mobile device has become their primary computer, both for personal use and for work. Thus far, it has been revealed that the Q5 will come in four colors: red, black, white, and pink.