Delta Air Lines is equipping its 11,000 pilots with Microsoft's latest Surface 2 tablet. The move had been rumored and means that pilots will access electronic documents, charts, checklists, and navigational aids from the Surface 2 running Windows RT 8.1. The airline's primary motivation for a Surface 2 rollout appears to be reduced carbon emissions. The airline will eliminate the use of 7.5 million sheets of paper every year and reduce its emissions by 1.2 million fewer gallons of fuel.
Microsoft and Delta have previously partnered to supply 19,000 flight attendants with Nokia's Lumia 820 Windows Phone handsets. Reports suggested that Delta was also planning to select Nokia's upcoming Windows RT tablet, but switched to Microsoft's Surface 2 one instead. It's not clear why the plans changed, but the Windows tablet addition is clearly a natural follow to the existing Windows Phone rollout. Delta now plans to equip pilots of its Boeing 757 and 767 fleets later this year, with all cockpits switching to Surface 2 by the end of 2014.
Chemists have long known what a hydrogen bond should look like, but until last week, most hadn't actually seen an image of one. Now, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have been able to visualize a hydrogen bond using atomic force microscopy, a technique that can deliver higher resolution than even a scanning tunneling microscope. The Royal Society of Chemistry reports that the imaging technique involved oscillating a probe over the molecules at the resonant frequency of the surface beneath them. By measuring the difference in frequencies between the surface alone and the one with the molecule, the researchers were able to create a highly precise image of the bond.
Left: images of the compound "8-Hydroxyquinoline." Right: the images' respective representations.
A similar imaging method was used just this May, when a separate group of researchers was able to capture atoms forming a covalent bond for the first time ever. This new work expands upon that with its exploration of hydrogen bonds specifically, and was first detailed last Thursday in a paper published in Science.
New York City is increasingly playing host to a number of successful startups, and Mayor Bloomberg wants to keep it that way. The city today announced a plan to bring free Wi-Fi connectivity to neighborhoods across the five boroughs. These networks, set to launch in December, will be open to the public and have strategically been placed in booming commercial districts. In Brooklyn, Wi-Fi will be available in the Fulton Street corridor, BAM Cultural District, Brownsville, and "downtown Brooklyn." In Manhattan, free connectivity will reach the Flatiron District — home to local success stories like Tumblr and Spotify's US headquarters. Wi-Fi also extends to areas in lower Manhattan, Harlem, Queens, and the Bronx.
"If New York City is going remain competitive in the global economy, we must find ways to support the entrepreneurs who are driving technological advances and creating jobs,” said Mayor Bloomberg. Simultaneously, the city announced a new initiative called WiredNYC, a rating platform that's meant to evaluate broadband connectivity and infrastructure within office buildings. With the transparent measure, officials are hoping to speed up deployment of the latest high-speed broadband. Businesses will be able to see detailed data about a building’s available connectivity, and real estate landlords with the latest infrastructure will gain bragging rights when pitching their buildings to startups.
Nokia is expected to launch a new flagship Windows Phone on Verizon shortly. WPcentral claims Verizon will launch the Lumia 929, which is expected to replace the existing Lumia 928 that the carrier currently offers. The Lumia 929 has been previously pictured as a large-screen Windows Phone, possibly around 5 inches, with a 1080p display and a 20-megapixel camera. The handset is a variant of Nokia's upcoming 6-inch Lumia 1520 that the company is expected to unveil next month.
Nokia is also preparing a Lumia 525 handset, codenamed Glee, for release before the end of the year. Twitter account Evleaks revealed the name today, but offered no details on the appearance of the device or its specifications. Sources familiar with Nokia's plans have revealed to The Verge that the Lumia 525 will act as a Lumia 520 replacement that's focused on music. Nokia may bundle special headphones with the Lumia 525, and it's expected to market its Nokia Music service alongside the handset.
Lumia 525 important for Windows Phone market share
Nokia's latest low-end handset will likely feature in the six devices that the company is planning to unveil next month, alongside a Windows RT tablet and a 6-inch Windows Phone. Although the Lumia 525 will be a low-end device, the Lumia 520 is currently the most popular Windows Phone that's driving market share increases for Microsoft's mobile OS. It will be an important device for Microsoft to further improve its share of the mobile market.
Time hasn't been kind to Zynga. Once the largest game developer on Facebook, the company has since endured a series of mistakes and poor decisions that have forced it to shed both jobs and users, while its profits have dwindled. This past July, Zynga revealed that its daily active user base had shrunk to 39 million players across its entire lineup of games, down from 72 million in 2012. FarmVille turned the company into a household name, but subsequent releases haven’t resonated with players in quite the same way. After filing for an IPO, shares of Zynga began trading on the NASDAQ on December 16th, 2011 -- and there's been little good news to report for the company since that time.
Candy Crush Saga developer King appears to be in a similar situation: it’s known primarily for one massively successful game, which has grown by leaps and bounds in a short period of time. So it comes as little surprise that King, which will reportedly be filing for an IPO as well, has drawn plenty of comparisons to Zynga. However, while the two share many similarities, King has built its fortune by acting like an anti-Zynga; a cautious company adept at staying on top of industry trends. And this could help it avoid the same fate as the FarmVille creator.
King could avoid the same fate as Zynga
Founded in 2003, King began its life as a web game portal. (For nearly five years it also employed none other than Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson.) In August of that year, the company launched Midasplayer.com, a site that focused on skill-based multiplayer games and offered cash prizes as an incentive to play. By 2005 the site had attracted more than 15 million players, and in November its name was changed to King.com, a portal focusing on the more casual games the company is known for today. Since then the company has steadily and successfully moved from one platform to the next: Candy Crush first hit the web in 2001, followed by Candy Crush Saga on Facebook in April 2012, while that same November saw the release of a mobile version. Today the title is the most popular game on Facebook, ranking higher than both FarmVille and its sequel, while the mobile versions regularly rank as the top-grossing apps in both the iTunes App Store and Google Play.
Over that time the company experienced massive user growth, and according to King it has more than 92 million daily active players across all of its titles as of this June. But during that time King has showed a kind of restraint not typically seen amongst rapidly growing web companies. It has made no major acquisitions, and outside of new studios in London and Barcelona, both launched in 2012, its internal growth appears to be minimal. Currently King has a relatively small stable of around 550 employees — in contrast, Zynga's most recent round of layoffs saw 520 people lose their jobs, and it’s currently home to more than 2,300 workers. This restrained growth also extends to King's lineup of games. The developer currently only has a handful of active titles, all of which are successful. It's second most popular game, Pet Rescue Saga, is currently the third-biggest game on Facebook and is regularly hovering around the top 10 grossing apps in the App Store and Google Play.
King has also shown an uncanny ability to keep up with market trends, successfully transitioning its games to multiple platforms. As web games gave way to Facebook, so did King. It made a similar transition as gamers moved to smartphones and tablets. King’s games aren’t exactly unique — Candy Crush is simply another match-three game in the mold of Bejeweled, while its next mobile release, Papa Pear Saga, is essentially a Peggle clone. But the games feature a degree of polish and care not typically seen in the free-to-play space, as well as cross-platform features that can actually make them more appealing than their obvious inspirations. Progress in Candy Crush Saga can be synced across multiple devices, making it easy for players to sneak in quick bouts of sweet-matching.
Zynga, meanwhile, has struggled to make much headway outside of Facebook, the platform that helped it rise to prominence. The company's web portal, Zynga.com, had just 4.2 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2013, a staggeringly small number and less than one tenth of the number of players Candy Crush Saga has on Facebook alone. Meanwhile, in an attempt to tap into the burgeoning and lucrative mobile market, Zynga has focused mainly on acquisitions, a strategy that has largely failed. Last year the company paid $180 million for Draw Something developer OMGPOP, only to shut the studio down one year later. A sequel was released that failed to reach the incredible popularity of the original game.
A small lineup of games lets King focus on what matters most
As Zynga's own properties like FarmVille and CityVille fail to gain traction on mobile, acquisitions have been the company's main tool for cracking that market — OMGPOP is just the most expensive example. In January 2011, for example, the company acquired Drop7 developer Area/Code, rebranding it Zynga New York. The studio was shuttered in June of this year, in a round of layoffs that accounted for 18 percent of Zynga's workforce. Likewise, in 2010 Zynga attempted to piggyback on the success of Words With Friends by acquiring its developer, Newtoy, which is still operating under the Zynga With Friends banner, but has yet to have a breakout hit since becoming part of the social gaming company. As part of this strategy Zynga has released a huge number of games. Currently the company has 26 active titles on Google Play, for instance. King has just three.
This smaller lineup of games allows King to focus its resources on what matters most: keeping its players happy by regularly updating its games, and ensuring that they're available on the most popular platforms. And this slow but steady approach seems to be working: according to The Telegraph, which broke the news of King's impending IPO, the company could be valued at more than $5 billion. (King has yet to make a statement on the topic.) King has also reportedly been profitable since 2005, just two years after it was first formed. When it comes to game design, King and Zynga may not be all that far apart. But as far as businesses go, the company behind that candy-matching game is crushing its competition.
A new leak published by The Guardian reveals more details about the NSA's Marina metadata program, including the program's ability to look back at a full year of metadata for millions of web users, regardless of whether the users are the target of an investigation. The metadata can include anything from browsing history to more detailed account activity in the case of web-based email, including contact lists and potentially even account passwords.
The Marina program had been mentioned in previous leaks, but the new revelations, pulled from an NSA training document, show how the data was centrally stored and managed. Much of the data is coming from previously reported programs, like PRISM's bulk FISA orders or GHCQ's undersea cable-tapping operations. Once collected, the data is put to build detailed graphs of a person's known associates and social activity, a process referred to in the document as "pattern-of-life development."
Last night the television series Breaking Bad came to an end, and the numbers prove the show had become a true cultural phenomenon in its last months. According to network AMC, 10.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the end of Walter White's story, a record high for the program, and an increase of more than 300 percent over the season finale last year. "Breaking Bad is simply unique," AMC president Charlie Collier said in a statement. "It all starts with Vince Gilligan who really only ever asked for one thing — the opportunity to end the show on his own terms."
Better than 'Dexter,' shy of 'The Sopranos'
It's a staggering number that demonstrates just how much momentum the show has gained. By way of comparison, only 6.1 million viewers tuned in for Showtime's Dexter finale earlier this month, and the Breaking Bad numbers even crept near the ratings for the finale of HBO's former heavyweight The Sopranos. 11.9 million people watched the controversial finale to David Chase's mafia drama in 2007. For a broader, broadcast network reference point, ABC's Lost finale had 13.5 million viewers three years ago.
The cultural conversation was in full swing on Twitter as well. According to AMC, 1.24 million tweets from over 601,000 different users referenced the show while the finale was broadcast on the east and west coasts of the US. The activity hit a peak of 22,373 tweets per minute just as the first showing began, with series star Bryan Cranston's thank you to fans retweeted over 52,000 times.
Well, this is it. The last episode ever of Breaking Bad. Thank you for sharing this ride with me. Without you we never would have lasted.
— Bryan Cranston (@BryanCranston) September 29, 2013
Viewers watching Breaking Bad through illegitimate means also wasted no time in viewing the finale. According to TorrentFreak, the episode was downloaded by more than 500,000 people in the first 12 hours after it aired, with 18 percent of downloads originating in Australia. The United States and the UK rounded out the top three countries pirating the show. While the number was a record for Vince Gilligan's show, it proved no match for Game of Thrones, which had its season premiere downloaded over a million times in less than a day.
All told, it's a tremendously successful conclusion to the series, and a reminder yet again that amazing things are possible if unique shows are given time to develop. For AMC, however, the question now turns to how it's going to replicate that kind of success. The spin-off series Better Call Saul won't likely garner the same kind of rabid following as the original Breaking Bad, but the network already has plenty of promising projects in development.