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Uber and Lyft return to Austin after Texas law kills the city’s fingerprint rule

Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, which left Texas’ tech-savvy capital city a year ago over local fingerprint requirements for drivers, have returned after state lawmakers intervened.

Both companies began rolling on Austin’s streets again Monday, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that puts the state — not local governments — in charge of regulating the ride-hailing industry.

Local leaders in Austin, the conservative state’s most liberal city, argued unsuccessfully that its tech-driven economy was uniquely positioned to launch capable alternatives that could fill the gap.

“Austin is an incubator for technology and entrepreneurship, and we are excited to be back in the mix,” Uber spokesman Travis Considine said Thursday. “ We know that we have a lot of work to do in the city, but we couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead.”

Uber and Lyft — which are both based in San Francisco — fled Austin after losing a bruising and expensive fight to replace an Austin ordinance that required fingerprint-based background checks of drivers, a variety of data reporting and other requirements.

Advocates for fingerprinting say it’s the best way to weed out drivers with criminal records. Uber and Lyft have argued their background checks suffice and that fingerprint databases can be out of date. Fingerprinting can also slow down the process of adding new drivers.  Read More

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Galaxy Note 8.0 Announced: The Just-Right Size for Samsung’s Pen-Equipped Tablet?

PHOTO: Samsung's Galaxy Note 8.0 has an 8-inch screen and a stylus.

Feb. 23, 2013

 

The 10.1-inch Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet too big? The 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2 too small to be your tablet but too big to be your phone?

The Galaxy Note 8.0 might be just right. Or at least that’s what Samsung is hoping. The company has announced its new 8-inch, Android tablet today at Mobile World Congress, a large mobile tradeshow in Barcelona, and it hopes its new software features and the portable size will make it standout, especially against Apple’s iPad Mini.

A Notebook Size 
The tablet is slightly wider than the 7-inch tablets on the market, including Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7, and is meant to be easier to operate in one hand.

“We have seen through consumer research people like the one-handed experience,” Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung’s director of Product Planning, told ABC News. “The Note 10.1 is more of a lean back experience and this is really about the lean forward, you are actively engaged with your notepad and the content you are editing.”

Samsung’s first Android tablet introduced in 2010 — the Galaxy Tab — had a 7-inch display and the company has since made tablets with various different screen sizes. Apple introduced a smaller, 7.9-inch version of the iPad — the iPad Mini — in late 2012. Shoneel and other Samsung executives stressed to ABC News that it had smaller tablets long before Apple came out with the Mini.  Read More

Zynga at a Crossroads in Mobile Quest

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 Zynga has been on a monumental losing streak. Hits have been rare, profits nonexistent and crucial employees are fleeing.

The story of the company, which developed the notion of social gaming and persuaded tens of millions of people to try it out on Facebook, illustrates how suddenly the fortunes of hot Internet companies can shift. Two years ago, as Zynga was first being talked about for a public offering, it was said to be worth $20 billion.

By the time the offering took place, a little over a year ago, it was for about $7 billion. And Zynga has spent most of the time since then sliding downhill. The value of the company Tuesday, as it released mediocre but nevertheless better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, was about $2 billion.

In the next few months, Zynga faces a critical test that will determine if even that sum is excessive: can it successfully put its most popular Web games, starting with Farmville, on mobile devices?

“Do I wish that we would have gone all-in on mobile and made a bigger commitment to it earlier?” Mark Pincus, Zynga’s founder and chief executive, said in an interview after the earnings release. “Yes.”

Mr. Pincus called 2013 “a year of investment and transition.”

“While we are excited about the long-term growth opportunity on mobile, and the opportunity to make games even more accessible to people in more parts of their day, we need to build a compelling network around it,” he said.

That is because social gaming on mobile is not necessarily social.

“It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?” Mr. Pincus said. “You’re holding a phone, an inherently social device. Yet the experience we have is a more fragmented one.”

The pain accompanying Zynga’s transition to mobile was evident in the earnings report. Revenue was $311 million, flat with the year before. Daily users of the games were down 6 percent from the third quarter, a clear measure of flagging interest. More casual users dropped as well.  Read More

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