Notes of Note from John F. Ince

Archive for July, 2013

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Paul Kemp-Robertson: Bitcoin. Sweat. Tide. Meet the future of branded currency.

Currency — the bills and coins you carry in your wallet and in your bank account — is founded on marketing, on the belief that banks and governments are trustworthy. Now, Paul Kemp-Robertson walks us through a new generation of currency, supported by that same marketing … but on behalf of a private brand. From Nike Sweat Points to bottles of Tide (which are finding an unexpected use in illegal markets), meet the non-bank future of currencies.

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Mobile Payment At U.S. Starbucks Locations Crosses 10% As More Stores Get Wireless Charging | TechCrunch

Starbucks is seeing impressive adoption of mobile payments in its U.S.-based store locations, the company revealed during its quarterly earnings conference call last night (via WSJ). Mobile payments crossed the 10 percent mark in the U.S. as a percentage of in-store purchases, indicating efforts like the Starbucks mobile app, Apple’s Passbook and Square Wallet are popular among users.

The coffee franchise is pushing forward with more mobile-focused initiatives, including the installation of wireless charging mats in select locations. The Powermat-supplied wireless charging initiative follows a trial of 17 locations in Boston, and will roll-out in Silicon Valley throughout August. The standard it uses is the Power Matters Alliance variety, which unfortunately doesn’t work with phones that use the Qi standard like the Google Nexus 4. Still, a growing number of companies are joining up with PMA’s standard, and Starbucks’s continued support should help it appear in more devices.

The lesson here is that Starbucks is putting a lot of weight behind its mobile digital initiatives, and those efforts are bearing fruit. Starbucks Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman said on the call that its “various digital initiatives have added demonstrable impact to our U.S. business in the third quarter” and promises to do even more for the company with continued investment.

via Mobile Payment At U.S. Starbucks Locations Crosses 10% As More Stores Get Wireless Charging | TechCrunch.

Google floods market with hardware

In what was likely an accident, Best Buy revealed the specs and images of the new Nexus 7 tablet early Wednesday morning, only hours before Google’s own announcement about the device. The tablet was made available for pre-order but was later not available for purchase and instead labeled “Coming Soon.” By then, tech sites all over the Web were saturated with details about the new tablet: It would have a 7-inch screen with the capacity for input from 10 fingers at a time and a crystal clear resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels; a 5-megapixel camera; a long-lasting (9-hour) battery; an incredibly thin 8.65 mm body, and a starting price of $229 for the 16 GB model. That’s $30 more than the price of the last Nexus tablet, but still a whole $100 less than Apple’s comparable iPad Mini. In fact, the new Nexus 7 will have a higher screen resolution and weigh less than the iPad Mini.

Adding to the fervor about Google’s new hardware, the company also unveiled a new device called Chromecast, a $35 HDMI stick that will allow computers or tablets to stream TV, videos, photos, or really any content to a monitor. At the San Francisco unveiling event for the new device, titled “Breakfast With Sundar Pichai” (Pichai is the head of Android and Chrome at Google), the executives said that only 15% of people know how to send content from the Internet, tablets, or computers to a TV screen. The Chromecast is designed to address that need at a reasonable price.

via Google floods market with hardware.

David Verrill: SEC Rules Will Clip the Wings of Angel Investors – WSJ.com

By DAVID VERRILL

Following through on a key provision of last year’s JOBS Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission has ended the ban on the general solicitation of capital for privately offered securities. The agency’s action is being hailed as a boon that will open the door for vast stores of money that entrepreneurs can use to start up new businesses and hire workers. More likely, the SEC’s move could slam the door shut.

That is because the agency’s new rules end the decades-old practice of letting individuals self-certify that they meet the legal rules that allow them to risk their money in a new venture that was not a “public offering.” The SEC has replaced self-certification with a verification scheme that would require most individuals who want to be considered as “accredited investors” to provide detailed personal financial information to entrepreneurs.

This is a huge step backward. Today, more than 200,000 accredited “angel” investors currently put up more than $23 billion per year to fund startups—a sum that amounts to 90% of the equity these startups get from sources other than the entrepreneurs themselves. If these investors are required to give tax documents to entrepreneurs or third parties who act as a “verifying agent,” they will flee rather than agree to this invasion of their privacy.

Under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, the SEC was tasked with allowing general solicitation of capital for non-publicly traded corporations, provided that the issuer takes “reasonable steps to verify” that the investors are “accredited.” Under current rules, an accredited investor is someone with an annual income exceeding $200,000 or a net worth (excluding a primary residence) above $1 million. About 8.7 million U.S. households would qualify.

via David Verrill: SEC Rules Will Clip the Wings of Angel Investors – WSJ.com.

Why Chromecast is such a big deal for Google

Google officially launched its next big idea for the living room Wednesday, and the cast of people presenting the new product dubbed Chromecast at the company’s breakfast event in San Francisco looked awfully familiar: The product was introduced by Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz, and demonstrated by Director of Product Management Rishi Chandra. Both executives have been heading Google TV — that other foray into the living room that didn’t fare so well. So why should things be different this time around?

Chromecast wasn’t just demoed by Queiroz and Chandra. The product has been developed by the very same people who have been working on Google TV for the past few years. But it looks like they have learned from their mistakes, and radically simplified the experience. Gone are the attempts to integrate existing pay TV offerings, recruit app developers for yet another medium and ship devices with hideous, complicated remote controls.

Like Google TV’s better-looking cousin

Instead, Chromecast is pure simplicity: Search and discovery of video content is happening on the mobile device or laptop, and all Chromecast does is stream media from the cloud. Add to that the ability to turn on your TV simply by starting video playback on your tablet, and you’ve got something that looks a bit like the anti-Google TV.

via Why Chromecast is such a big deal for Google.

How PayPal Almost Erased the National Debt and Ruined the Global Economy – NationalJournal.com

A PR executive from Pennsylvania became the world’s first quadrillionaire. The executive, Chris Reynolds, learned he was the richest man alive when he opened his June PayPal statement and found that he had been credited more than $92 quadrillion. We imagine it felt a lot like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of an old winter coat. Four quadrillion times.

Unfortunately for Reynolds, though, PayPal realized that it had made a mistake and quickly changed his balance back to zero. But Reynolds isn’t the only one who lost out: so did America.

That’s because Chris Reynolds, when asked by CNN what he would have done with his newfound wealth, said that he “would probably have paid down the national debt.” The gross debt of the United States is now over $16 trillion. That’s a pretty big number. But for Reynolds, it would’ve amounted to little more than pocket change. Think of it this way: Bill Gates is worth $67 billion. You could make 1,373,234 people as wealthy as Bill Gates with $92 quadrillion.

What would Reynolds have done with his remaining fortune? Buy the Philadelphia Phillies, he told the New York Daily News. Also, invest.

Although, of course, PayPal would’ve had something of a problem coming up with the money: According to the Federal Reserve, there is only $1.2 trillion in circulation at the moment. By the Federal Reserve’s M2 measure—the broadest money aggregate the Fed tracks, which includes notes and coins in circulation, traveler’s checks and nonbank notes, demand deposits, other checkable deposits, savings deposits, and time deposits—there was $10,598,100,000,000 out there in June 2013. That is still, obviously, way less than even $1 quadrillion.

So PayPal, and the whole global economy, dodged one hell of a bullet in being able to simply erase the accounting error. And the American debt can continue to grow another day.

via How PayPal Almost Erased the National Debt and Ruined the Global Economy – NationalJournal.com.

My Palestinian Idol, Is More Popular Than His President

Palestinians have been losing for a long time; losing land, losing freedoms, and losing patience. But that is precisely what makes 23-year old Mohammed Assaf’s victory on “Arab Idol” all the more profound.

With his winsome smile and powerhouse voice, the 23-year-old Palestinian wedding singer from Khan Younis, refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, has become a modern-day hero to millions across the world. Count me among them.

Assaf not only became the first Palestinian to win the singing competition, but he also became the first in decades to prompt such a visceral outpouring of emotion, uniting Palestinians of all walks of life, political affiliations and generations in a winning moment – a rarity, to say the least.

For too long, Palestinians, disillusioned with corrupt and divisive political representatives, have been looking for a non-political Palestinian to remind them of their shared struggle for freedom and dignity, coaxing them to put aside their differences.

On this weekend’s “Arab Idol” finale, Assaf, who lives in Hamas-ruled Gaza, became just that.

For months, Mohammed Assaf has been reminding Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora, as well as those living inside Israel’s borders, that the struggle for freedom and dignity is shared – based on a cultural and collective national identity.

Celebrations erupted in Nazareth, Ramallah, Gaza, and across the diaspora. Both terms #Assaf and #Gaza were trending on Twitter. In Boston, My mother and I watched online on Skype with her 83 year-old aunt who, like my mom, fled Palestine in 1967. Each one of us overwhelmed and overjoyed, a welcome respite from the usual despair. Assaf’s win is a reminder to Palestinians that winning is possible; that after decades of destruction, evictions and losses, justice remains possible.

via Ahmed Shihab-Eldin: Mohammed Assaf, My Palestinian Idol, Is More Popular Than His President.