The British company that made £11,000 jewel-encrusted smartphones is shutting down


Ignacio Germade and Zhang Zhen at a Vertu launch event in China.
Ignacio
Germade and Zhang Zhen at a Vertu launch event in
China.

Getty Images
Entertainment


Vertu, the British smartphone manufacturer that produced luxury
smartphones, is closing after a failed attempt by its owner to
save it from liquidation.


The Financial Times reports
that Vertu Corporation
Limited will close, causing the loss of up to 200 staff members.

Vertu produced its luxury smartphones from a manufacturing
facility in Hampshire. Its smartphones featured details like
embedded rubies and sapphires, 18 carat gold, and alligator
leather.

Prices for the company’s Signature phones ranged from £11,100 for
the stainless steel black leather model up to £39,100 for
the Clous De Paris Red Gold model.


Vertu phone
The
Vertu Signature Clous De Paris Red Gold sold for
£39,100.


Vertu


The company’s smartphones included a 24-hour concierge service
that could be accessed via a dedicated button on its phones.
Vertu’s website
says
that “we have taken the difficult decision to suspend
our current Vertu services and focus on developing a completely
new, next generation suite of services, exclusively for our
customers.”

“We plan to launch these new services from September 2017 and
update this page closer to the launch with further information,”
the site reads. Business Insider attempted to contact Vertu for
comment but the company’s global press office did not have any
working email addresses.


Vertu was acquired by Turkish exile Hakan Uzan
for £50
million earlier this year. The company’s filings from 2014 showed
that it made a loss of £53 million on sales of £110 million.
Staff at Vertu’s Hampshire factory
claimed in June
that their wages were overdue

Reggie – more Switch announcements to come, Animal Crossing mobile talk, lack of indies at E3, shutting down AM2R, more

Yet another interview with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime was posted today. This time, Waypoint published its own conversation with the executive. While the two sides were speaking, Reggie touched on Switch’s lineup and somewhat teased future announcements, Animal Crossing for mobile, why indies weren’t showcased at E3, shutting down AM2R, and more.

We’ve shared some of the comments from Reggie below. Waypoint has the full interview here.

On E3 announcements and Switch lineup…

Reggie Fils-Aimé: The response to what we’ve showcased, and it really is just a small tip for 2018, has been exceptionally positive. You’ve got fans seeing Metroid Prime 4, hearing that Mr. Tanabe, who’s been involved in all of the Metroid Prime games, is going to be at the helm of that, the fans are tremendously excited. To hear that there’s going to be a core Pokémon RPG experience on the Nintendo Switch, the fans are incredibly excited. To see a traditional Kirby experience, with him inhaling enemies and copying abilities, fans are excited about that. And then the Yoshi game that we showcased, with that unique, you know, motion to go “behind-the-scenes,” so to speak, has people really intrigued. So just by showcasing those four games, and giving a little bit of a taste, yeah there’s a lot of excitement to what 2018 can hold.

But to be clear, we look at E3 in the here and now. Our focus is on games that are largely going to be available between now and the end of the holiday season. And when you look at that lineup, there’s a strong game coming literally every month, starting tomorrow with Arms, and then Splatoon 2, then in August is the Mario + Rabbids game, September, October with Super Mario Odyssey. We’ve got that great pace of content, and I can tell you there’s more to be announced.

On Switch shortages..

So, again, to unpack this, for March we had publicly committed that we would sell-in 2 million units. Where actually, we sold-through, so not even sell-in, sold-through 2.7 million units.

So, clearly that’s a signal that we are aggressively producing the hardware. You look at what we’ve now committed for the next twelve month time frame, 10 million units, what’s interesting is if you look at that roughly 54 week time frame, that includes just one holiday season, that means that we will have sold into retail roughly, roughly 13 million units. That’s about the same as what we did for the Wii, to put it in perspective. So, we’re talking large significant numbers that we are producing, that we are flowing into retail. So it’s not a situation where we’ve somehow under called the production or had some issue. It really is a situation where the demand is extremely strong and we’re working hard to catch up.

On third-party games for Switch…

You know, the conversations we have with external partners really is more about, “How do you bring your current best and brightest content to the platform?” Because again, that’s a different situation. There weren’t many third-party exclusive games for the Wii U, and more what we want is certainly yes, a Mario + Rabbids type of experience that’s new and fresh, but also what we want are the best current games, like a FIFA 18, to come on the platform.

On Animal Crossing for mobile…

So, specifically now, Animal Crossing. Animal Crossing development continues quite strongly, the teams are very excited about what they have. It’s an application that is going to launch this year, as we’ve committed. And we’ll be sharing more information in due course. We believe, just as we’ve seen with Pokémon Go, just as we’ve seen with Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes, we believe that the application will help broaden the user base for Animal Crossing, and it’s going to end up having a positive impact on our dedicated video game business of Animal Crossing.

On indies…

Well, I actually disagree with the comment. And here’s why, and again, it’s all about the setting, and where we do these activities. For the last three years, we’ve done major activity prior to PAX, showcasing indie content, big events. And so, we very much are, not just welcoming to the independent developer community, but we’ve made it a priority to showcase that content.

And I’ll give you a very specific example, I met with the team from Nicalis, outside these doors, and they were talking about how excited they are about the sell-through that they’re having on our platform, and how excited they are on the content that’s coming on Nintendo Switch. And so, from our perspective, if the issue or the concern is “Boy, why weren’t we part of the Spotlight?” OK, I hear the point. But, boy, please don’t generalize that we’re not supporting the independent developer and the Nindie developer, because we’re supporting them at a very strong level.

On indies who want to see their contribution to the platform included when trying to sell the platform to an audience…

And again, you know, I think it comes down to the specifics. This is not an independent developer game, but let’s take our own Snipperclips. Digital-only content, that we featured strongly, and has an exceptionally strong attach rate to the hardware. And so, to me what it demonstrates is: we believe in digital-only content, our marketing approach is strong, whether it’s on device or off device, in terms of Nintendo.com and all the other ways that we support digital-only content. And for us, we want, again, the very best of that content available on our platform. And when it’s there, we think we do a great job driving it forward.

On whether Nintendo may pursue something like Snipperclips again…

Absolutely, and again, we have a history of this. Not exactly the same execution, but look at Shovel Knight. That’s something that our team saw very early. I think Yacht Club Games at that point was a three person studio versus a six person studio, but it’s something that we saw very early on. We were excited about it, we helped them—and, let’s be clear, they created a fantastic game—and what it was able to do with the Amiibo and moving into package as well, it’s been great.

So, yes, we’ve got a dedicated team that helps, not only from a technical standpoint with independent developers, but help from all of the different ways that we can help guide a project to make it as good as it can be.

On AM2R and fan projects…

So, I think there needs to be clarity in what the line is, and, in our view, the line is when an initiative crosses from being an homage to something that is monetizing our IP. We allow homages to exist in a variety of different ways. And, for me personally, as a fan before I was an executive, I understand the attraction that you could have to our IP. But, when it transitions to something that… now, you’re trying to monetize, you’re trying to sell, you’re trying to profit off of, that is what broaches or breaks through that line for us, where we have to claim our IP protection.

But again, to differentiate this, we have had conversations with entities that started as fans and became more of a business partner. Those conversations happen all the time, but again, when something transitions to a commercial product, and that’s what [AM2R] was—there wasn’t a charge, but it was now a commercial product.

Well, again, it’s all about… How do we protect our intellectual property? How do our creators, like Mr. Sakamoto, who created Metroid, and Nintendo control that intellectual property so that we can drive where it’s going, versus someone else driving where it’s going.

That’s where the line is very clear for us. And again, we could go on to YouTube and a variety of different places and see fans doing interesting things with our IP. But when it turns to driving the direction of the IP, or somehow monetizing or becoming a commercial project, that’s where for us, the line has been crossed.

‘Grand Theft Auto V’ Taking Heat For Shutting Down Hacking Systems

Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive are learning the hard way just how dedicated the Grand Theft Auto V community truly is after making one of the best/worst decisions they possibly could against their fanbase. Earlier this week, Take-Two forced Open IV to shut down, which if you haven’t used it, it’s essentially a modding tool used on GTAV (as well as GTA4) to create single-player mods for the game using the software behind the game. Apparently, some people found a way to hack Shark Cards, which moderate the in-game currency, which also determines how much money the company makes off microtransactions. As gamers should know by now, the minute you start screwing with a company’s income, they come down on you hard.

After the system was shut down, Grand Theft Auto V players flocked to Steam to rate the game negatively. As of when we’re writing this, the Steam page for the game has received nearly 32k ratings for “Overwhelmingly Negative.” And those reviews probably aren’t going to stop, since today PC Gamer revealed that Take-Two is also going after Force-Hax, who have shut down their services as well. While the game itself isn’t going to be affected much by protests and petitions (especially since it was recently ranked as one of the best-selling games of all time), there’s a really good chance that all this ill-will toward the community could screw over Red Dead Redemption 2. The company has already shut down a few attempts by designers to create modded versions of RDR‘s landscape using GTAV tools, which didn’t earn them any brownie points in the fans eyes either.

If Take-Two continues to shut down organizations who’s communities are primarily made up of fellow developers who are just experimenting with the system for harmless fun, there’s a really good chance that community won’t buy into the next game to come along. Depending on which website you go to for finer hacking details and numbers, the current system of active players who use mods is somewhere between 30-60%. Those are hardcore fans still playing the game years later. Even if you’re a company like Disney or Nintendo, that’s a huge chunk of cash you can’t afford to lose based simply on disapproval. We won’t know for a while what the long-term effects are, but I can’t imagine anything positive coming from this besides Take-Two protecting their own investments.

(Last Updated June 17, 2017 7:33 pm )

‘Grand Theft Auto V’ Taking Heat For Shutting Down Hacking Systems

Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive are learning the hard way just how dedicated the Grand Theft Auto V community truly is after making one of the best/worst decisions they possibly could against their fanbase. Earlier this week, Take-Two forced Open IV to shut down, which if you haven’t used it, it’s essentially a modding tool used on GTAV (as well as GTA4) to create single-player mods for the game using the software behind the game. Apparently, some people found a way to hack Shark Cards, which moderate the in-game currency, which also determines how much money the company makes off microtransactions. As gamers should know by now, the minute you start screwing with a company’s income, they come down on you hard.

After the system was shut down, Grand Theft Auto V players flocked to Steam to rate the game negatively. As of when we’re writing this, the Steam page for the game has received nearly 32k ratings for “Overwhelmingly Negative.” And those reviews probably aren’t going to stop, since today PC Gamer revealed that Take-Two is also going after Force-Hax, who have shut down their services as well. While the game itself isn’t going to be affected much by protests and petitions (especially since it was recently ranked as one of the best-selling games of all time), there’s a really good chance that all this ill-will toward the community could screw over Red Dead Redemption 2. The company has already shut down a few attempts by designers to create modded versions of RDR‘s landscape using GTAV tools, which didn’t earn them any brownie points in the fans eyes either.

If Take-Two continues to shut down organizations who’s communities are primarily made up of fellow developers who are just experimenting with the system for harmless fun, there’s a really good chance that community won’t buy into the next game to come along. Depending on which website you go to for finer hacking details and numbers, the current system of active players who use mods is somewhere between 30-60%. Those are hardcore fans still playing the game years later. Even if you’re a company like Disney or Nintendo, that’s a huge chunk of cash you can’t afford to lose based simply on disapproval. We won’t know for a while what the long-term effects are, but I can’t imagine anything positive coming from this besides Take-Two protecting their own investments.

(Last Updated June 17, 2017 7:33 pm )

Amazon is shutting down its ‘Underground Actually Free’ program that gives away free Android apps


Late on Friday, Amazon announced it will be shutting down its “Underground Actually Free” program, which offers customers free versions of Android apps that would typically cost money, including those that relied on in-app purchases but were otherwise free downloads. Though it promised long-term support when it debuted back in August 2015, Amazon today says the “Actually Free” program will be fully discontinued in 2019.

Well, to be fair, in the tech world, four years is a long time.

At launch, the lineup then included several well-known gaming titles, like Frozen Free Fall, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Looney Tunes Dash! and others. There are now more than 20,000 apps and games in Underground, the website now claims.

The larger idea with the program was to lure consumers over to Amazon’s own hardware, the Kindle Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets, where the Underground apps were available through Amazon’s built-in Android app store. However, the company also made its Underground apps available to other Android devices through a separate download of an Underground mobile app.

Of course, this app had to be downloaded directly from Amazon’s website, as Google doesn’t allow competing app store apps to be published to its app marketplace, Google Play.

Amazon then footed the bill for these “actually free” apps, but had come up with a novel way of compensating developers. Instead of directly eating the cost of the paid download, or paying for whichever in-game items a customer ended up using, Amazon would pay developers based on how long people used a certain app.

That’s a compensation scheme Amazon had tried before, with its Kindle Unlimited subscription service, which paid royalties to writers based on how many pages people read.

At the time of the initial launch, Amazon said the “Actually Free” program wasn’t a “one-off” promotion, and the company was committed to the program “long-term.”

Today, however, that story has changed.

In a blog post, Amazon says it has since enabled new ways for developers to make money for their apps, including through the use of its virtual currency Amazon Coins, and by selling t-shirts featuring their games’ characters and imagery through Merch by Amazon. Beyond the support for these additional revenue streams, the company didn’t give any solid reasons as to why the program needed to be shut down.

“Actually Free” will be shuttered in stages, Amazon says. As of May 31, 2017, the company will no longer accept app submissions to the program, but existing participants will continue to be paid per their developer agreement.

Amazon will then end access to the Underground Actually Free store through its Appstore for Android app in summer 2017. The app itself will continue to function on Android devices, allowing customers to shop for physical goods, watch Prime Video and use their previously installed free apps. (The app was meant to serve as a combination app store and main app for shopping Amazon.)

Fire tablet customers also will be able to use their Underground apps and access the Actually Free store until the program ends in 2019; however, neither the program nor the app will arrive on any new devices beyond those already supported.

Participating developers will still be able to submit app updates, and will still receive royalty payments until the program is discontinued in 2019.

Finally, customers will not lose access to the free apps they already downloaded, though it’s not clear if those freebies will transfer over to newer devices if they choose to upgrade their hardware at a later point.

More details and a way to contact Amazon with further questions is available in a FAQ published here.

Instagram cracks down on fake accounts by shutting down Instagress


s8 vs iphone screen instagramAntonio Villas-Boas/Business
Insider

Instagram is cracking down on fake account activity with the
closing of Instagress, a popular third-party service that
advertised itself as an automated way to “get real
Instagram followers and become incredibly
popular.”

Instagress said it was forced to shut down its
service, which let people pay to have their accounts
automatically like and comment on other
photos,
 “by request of Instagram” on
Thursday. The tool is “like creating a small robot clone of
yourself with the same interests and style, and then letting it
work for you on Instagram” to gain followers, according to the
now-shuttered Instagress website.

The move signals that Facebook-owned Instagram is starting
to address the proliferation of so-called bot activity on its
platform. 
An Instagram spokesperson told Business
Insider on Thursday that “we don’t comment on specific apps” and
shared a link to Instagram’s
developer policy
, which prohibits the selling of
Instagram data by third parties.

In
a recent post on PetaPixel
, a photographer named Calder
Wilson described how he used Instagress for two years to like
thousands of photos and make thousands of comments per month. “In
an environment where we equate more likes and followers with
better photos and better photographers, for many think it’s a
no-brainer to bot their account,” he wrote.

It’s unclear how many users paid for Instagress, which had
cost $10 per month, but the service had been operational for
at least three years before shutting down on Thursday. A 2015
research study estimated
that around 8% of all Instagram
accounts were likely automated spam accounts, and that hundreds
of third-party services sold fake followers or fraudulent
activity on the platform.

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Remember Spaces, The Group Messaging And Content Sharing App? Well, Google Is Shutting It Down : TECH : Tech Times

Google is shuttering its experimental group messaging app slash content-sharing platform Spaces on April, the Alphabet-owned company has now confirmed.

Google Spaces

It’s safe to say that a large number of people haven’t even heard of it or stopped using the service altogether — otherwise it wouldn’t be headed for a shutdown. Google is known to create a number of messaging apps across a number of platforms, and it can easily get confusing, Spaces, however, was slightly nuanced.

What Was Spaces For?

Spaces was a slight cut above the rest in the way it focused on small groups of people who wanted to discuss specific topics, letting them have a “space” to share photos, links, and other content. A user can set a topic, invite people over, and ensue conversations. The predominant feature was the ability to pull Google searches, images, YouTube videos, and so on.

John Kilcline, a Google product manager, confirmed the shutdown on Google+, saying that the company has decided cut the service off and taking what it’s learned and integrating it into other products. One of those products seems to be Allo, the company’s messaging platform complete with Assistant features.

“As we focus our efforts, we’ve decided to take what we learned with Spaces, and apply it to our existing products,” said Kilcline. “We want to thank all of the Spaces users who tried out the app and shared their feedback. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

How To Save Your Content Before The Service Ends

For the rare ones who treated Spaces as a part of their everyday productivity tool, here are a few important details to keep in mind: all content posted on the service will start being read-only on March 3, which means no new spaces, comments, posts can be created starting that day. New invitations will also be disabled, and new members will be barred from further entering spaces.

Before the service shuts down, which happens on April 17, users of Spaces can see, save, or print content; delete any spaces left, leave spaces joined, or remove people from spaces; report abuse in Spaces, or block other Spaces users.

After April 17, Spaces will officially be killed a la Google Wave. Poof, nada. All contents will be deleted. It’s still uncertain when exactly Google plans to subsume features from Spaces into its other messaging apps, although with Allo potentially heading to desktop, that integration might come sooner than later.

Google isn’t a stranger to killing some of its apps, although the shutdown of Spaces came too soon, just less than a year, as noted by VentureBeat. Last month Google killed the classic Google+ outfit following a redesigned experience. That style dates back 2012.

For dedicated Spaces users who find it particularly displeasing that the service is ending, feel free to sound off in the comments section below! For those who haven’t even heard about it can move along.

Good riddance, Spaces. ‘Twas fun while it lasted.




© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Oculus’ No Good Year Continues With Hundreds of Demo Stations Shutting Down

Photo: Getty

Demo Stations Close as Oculus Struggles to Make Anyone Care About the Rift

It’s been a rocky start for virtual reality manufacturers in general. But Oculus—the company that made people believe in VR again—may be having the hardest time of all. It’s been a year of sluggish sales, PR nightmares and one big time defeat in court. Now, Best Buy is pulling hundreds of demo stations from its sales floors.

Back in 2014, Facebook convinced the world that this VR thing was for real when it placed a massive bet by snatching up Oculus for what it said at the time was $2 billion. Established tech giants like Sony and HTC quickly jumped in to cut off Oculus before it could corner the market on the next big boom.

At the time, its founder, Palmer Luckey was a 22-year-old kid that was more obsessed with bringing the “experience” of VR to life than selling units. Luckey hit the jackpot when he was able to bring in John Carmack to legitimize his business. As for professionalizing the company with big money backing, Luckey told Smithsonian Magazine, “It wasn’t like I was handing off my baby to someone. It’s more like I was handing off changing the diapers to someone, and I still get the baby.”

Today’s disclosure that Best Buy will remove approximately 200 of its 500 sales floor demo stations isn’t exactly apocalyptic for Oculus but the details aren’t good. Business Insider reports that it obtained an internal memo that attributes the nixing of Rift demos to “store performance.” Specifically, no one’s trying to use the thing. According to the report:

Multiple “Oculus Ambassador” workers BI spoke with said that, at most, they would sell a few Oculus headsets per week during the holiday season, and that foot traffic to their pop-ups decreased drastically after Christmas.

“There’d be some days where I wouldn’t give a demo at all because people didn’t want to,” said one worker at a Best Buy in Texas who asked to remain anonymous. Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

We reached out to Facebook for comment and an Oculus spokesperson informed us that this was part of some “seasonal changes” and that the company is “prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets.” It’s odd that demo stations for successful devices like the Playstation 4 never seem to go out of season.

Aside from the signal that Oculus sales aren’t great, the loss of demo opportunities is a major blow because the company spokesperson even acknowledges live demos are, “the best way to learn about VR.” That’s not good. I can tell you from personal experience that standing around in public, strapping a unit to your face and looking like a fool is not pleasant.

What exactly are those sales numbers anyway? We don’t really know. According to a Superdata research report from November, Oculus was expected to finish out the year with just 355,088 units sold. Compare that to Playstation VR, which was estimated to sell 2,602,307 units in 2016 and it seems safe to say the Rift is lagging behind its competition. And if you want to use Mark Zuckerberg’s metrics, he said Oculus will need to sell 50-100 million units to be considered an “important platform.” That was two years ago and he hedged at the time that those kinds of figures will take “a bunch of years.”

Until last month, we didn’t even know the real price that Facebook had paid for Oculus. Zuckerberg revealed in a Texas courtroom that initial $2 billion number was actually closer to $3 billion. The CEO was on the stand battling an intellectual property lawsuit brought by John Carmack’s former employer Zenimax. The court ruled in Zenimax’s favor and ordered a $500 million judgment.

With no killer app, a steep entry fee for early adopters, nothing to do but play video games, the ongoing problem of making people sick, and now fewer opportunities to show itself off, it’s starting to look like Facebook’s big bet won’t be paying off. At least not for “a bunch of years.”

[Business Insider]

Multiple Simply Mac Stores Shutting Down Across the U.S.

Simply Mac, a well-known Apple Authorized Reseller and Service Provider owned by GameStop, is shutting down a number of its brick and mortar stores across the United States.

Locations in North Carolina, North Dakota, Montana, Texas, Illinois, and more, are closing this week.

simplymac

Image via the Billings Gazette


Notices at some of the locations have suggested Simply Mac is being shut down because Apple is ending its agreement with the retail chain, and several local newspapers are reporting the same news, but on Twitter, Simply Mac says that is not true.

A notice sent out by the West Acres Mall in Fargo, North Dakota:

We wanted to reach out to you with news of another change at West Acres. As of today, Simply Mac has closed. Simply Mac opened at West Acres in August 2014 and we’ve enjoyed having them as part of the West Acres family.

The closure is due to the Apple Corporation ending its national agreement with Simply Mac to sell them Apple product, making it impossible for them to continue. They will be onsite for a few days to help with customers who have repaired items to pick up.

A GameStop spokesperson who spoke to the Midland-Reporter Telegram in Texas and the Billings Gazette in Montana said the closure of the Simply Mac store in that location was done as part of a business transformation plan that involves closing non-productive store locations.

“As GameStop announced in its holiday sales release, the company continues to focus on the execution of our business transformation plan, which includes growing our non-gaming businesses and right-sizing our global store portfolio across all our retail brands. This involves evaluating and closing non-productive locations. The closure of this Simply Mac store is part of that strategy.”

It is not clear why there is mixed information being shared about the store closures, but it appears that only a select number of stores are being shuttered at this time. We’ve reached out to GameStop for a full list of the locations that are disappearing.

The closure of several Simply Mac stores comes as GameStop faces flagging sales. Earlier this month, GameStop announced that its holiday sales fell 16.4 percent compared to 2015.