Thursday, April 9, 2015

Watch this developer build a Facebook Messenger app for Windows in 3 minutes

fb_messenger_windows
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Facebook launched a standalone Facebook Messenger app for the web yesterday over at messenger.com. Today, app developer Elmer Morales decided to wrap that web app into a dedicated Windows app, and show the world how he did it.

All Morales had to do was create a wrapper for the web app — Facebook had already done almost all the work. In fact, he put a video together to show that it can be done in about three minutes:

Morales admits that it technically took him a bit longer because he had to design the icons and actually record the screencast. Still, it’s a small price to pay if you’re going to show other developers “how easy it is to build apps these days,” he told VentureBeat in an email.

As for why he chose Microsoft’s platform, Morales explained: “I’m a Windows user, and so are most desktop users, I figured a Messenger app for Windows would be helpful to a larger audience. So I built it.”

facebook_messenger_windows_unofficial

Dropbox engineers Rasmus Andersson and Josh Puckett actually beat Morales to the punch yesterday when they released a Facebook Messenger for Mac app in just a few hours. That Mac wrapper had a few more bugs compared to its Windows counterpart when it was released, though giving the time constraints that’s not exactly shocking. Still, there was no video showing off the whole process.

facebook_messneger_mac_unofficial

Either way, both projects are great achievements and show just how excited developers can still get about desktop apps. Hopefully these apps will continue to improve as many Windows and Mac users undoubtedly prefer a dedicated Facebook Messenger app to keeping a browser tab open at all times.

In case you want to build on their work, the source code for both apps is available on GitHub: Windows and Mac.


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Gartner and IDC agree: PC shipments fell at least 5% in Q1 2015 as Windows XP replacement cycle starts to fade

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The PC market is back to its freefalling ways. Both Gartner and IDC agree: PC shipments are down, and the main reason is because the Windows XP replacement cycle is fading.

Gartner estimates worldwide PC shipments dropped 5.2 percent to a 71.7 million units in the first quarter of 2015. The top five vendors were: Lenovo, HP, Dell, Asus, and Acer.

gartner_pc_q1_2015

As you can see in the chart above, Gartner says Lenovo and HP were the only two vendors among the top five that experienced an increase in PC shipments. For the first time in six quarters, Dell experienced a worldwide PC shipment decline compared with a year ago.

IDC meanwhile says worldwide PC shipments dropped 6.7 percent to a 68.5 million units in the first quarter of 2015. The top five vendors were: Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, and Asus.

idc_pc_q1_2015

IDC agrees with Gartner that Lenovo and HP were both up, while Dell and Acer were both down. It estimates Asus grew this past quarter though, effectively tieing Acer for fourth place.

The reason for the drop is simple: the PC market’s small gains in 2014 were just a blip. Windows XP support ended on April 8, 2014. Businesses thus scrambled to buy new computers and upgrade their way to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

This year, while many businesses are still stuck on Windows XP, the big rush has started to fade. In regards to the rest of the year, Gartner’s analysts are, however, a little more positive than IDC’s.

“However, this decline is not necessarily a sign of sluggish overall PC sales long term,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. “Mobile PCs, including notebooks, hybrid and Windows tablets, grew compared with a year ago. The first quarter results support our projection of a moderate decline of PC shipments in 2015, which will lead to a slow, consistent growth stage for the next five years.”

“Although shipments did exceed an already cautious forecast, the market unfortunately remains heavily dependent on pricing being a major driver, with entry SKU volume masking a still tenuous demand for higher priced systems that is needed to sustain a more diverse PC ecosystem,” Jay Chou, senior research analyst at IDC, said in a statement. “Pricing pressure is bringing many premium SKUs into formerly mid-level pricing tiers. As more vendors find it increasingly difficult to compete, we can expect additional consolidation in the PC market.”


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Facebook reportedly sees expanding into Cuba as part of its ‘mission’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
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Facebook wants to connect the world, and, more specifically, wants to bring the ability to share photos, status updates, and videos to everyone.

And now, with tensions between the United States and Cuba cooling, Facebook seems intent on eventually expanding into the island nation just a few dozen miles off the coast of Florida.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fusion today that “eventually expanding into Cuba ‘definitely fits within our mission.'”

However, Zuckerberg did not elaborate.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a VentureBeat request for confirmation of his comment.

Zuckerberg was speaking in Panama, where he said he expects to launch Internet.org, Facebook’s non-profit that’s geared towards bringing connectivity to developing nations, in the “coming weeks and months,” Fusion reported.

Internet.org is currently connecting people in eight countries around the world, including Colombia, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ghana, and India.

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Google announces Chrome Live, an online-only Chrome for Work event on April 22

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Google today announced the first-ever Chrome Live, an online event aimed at showcasing Chrome for Work. Chrome Live will be held between 10:00am PDT and 12:10pm PDT (1:00PM to 3:10PM EDT) on April 22.

Chrome for Work is the company’s suite of tools for deploying and managing its browser for employees. It falls under the larger Google for Work umbrella, which is the company’s initiative for getting its businesses to use its software.

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As you can see in the image above, however, Google will also be talking about Chrome management and Chrome OS in general during the event. There will be two keynotes during the two-hour period.

Amit Singh, President of Google for Work, will talk about how far Chrome for Work has come today and will announce new Chrome for Work products. Rajen Sheth, Director of Product Management for Chrome for Work, will discuss “a few pathways of our top-secret roadmap and may have a few surprises in store,” Google said.

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Zynga’s head of game studios quietly left before CEO change from Mattrick to Pincus

Alex Garden, former head of Zynga Studios.
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Zynga confirmed today that Alex Garden, the head of Zynga Studios, departed from the company in March.

The social and mobile gaming company didn’t announce the departure at the time. But it did publicly announce Garden’s arrival when he joined about a year ago, just as then-CEO Don Mattrick assumed full control of Zynga’s day-to-day operations and founder Mark Pincus stepped back. We just heard about Garden’s departure after Mattrick resigned yesterday and Pincus moved in again as CEO. All these moves take place in an environment in which Zynga continues to find its footing in mobile gaming, a market that could hit $30 billion this year.

Zynga also added two data experts to its leadership team. It’s a move that shows the publisher wants to better understand how its players interact with its games — and better retain them.

A spokesperson for Zynga confirmed the departure and said it was a “mutual decision.” Garden was a high-profile hire, replacing Steven Chiang, who had the job of running the studios before that. The change happened before Pincus became CEO again.

Garden was the founder of Relic Entertainment, maker of landmark strategy games such as Company of Heroes and Homeworld. Just before joining Zynga, he worked with Mattrick as Microsoft’s general manager of Xbox Live, Xbox Music, Video, and Reading. At Microsoft, Garden worked with content partners like HBO, Netflix, and ESPN. He also worked at online publisher Nexon. And at Zynga, he helped usher games out the door such as the new Zynga Poker. But this update didn’t go over well, as many fans preferred the older game. That caused Zynga to bring back Zynga Poker Classic as an alternative game.

At the time that Garden joined the social game publisher, Mattrick said, “Alex Garden is an exciting hire for us as we focus on growing and sustaining our franchises, creating groundbreaking new entertainment experiences, and developing a more creative culture across Zynga. As president of Zynga Studios, Alex will have an integral role on the management team overseeing all of our studios as well as our CTO division. On a personal note, I have known Alex for 25 years and I am confident that he will strengthen our creative and technical capabilities as well as nurture and mentor our existing teams.”

All of Zynga’s game studios reported to Garden. Zynga said it also hired two new people in key roles.

Amy Gershkoff recently joined Zynga as the company’s first chief data officer. Gershkoff was previously at eBay where she built and led the customer analytics and insights team. Her work included creating new data science algorithms to personalize all marketing communications and the customer journey throughout the eBay website.

And Moises Goldszmidt also joined as Zynga’s chief data scientist. An expert in machine learning with 20 years of experience in the field, Moises was previously a principal researcher at Microsoft Research for nine years.

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