King (of Candy Crush) Is Next Big Tech IPO Candidate

Gaming's next big thing, King.com, is hurtling toward an IPO as relentlessly as millions of players swap colored candies in its wildly popular title Candy Crush Saga.

There's no subtle way to put it, judging from the buzz of activity at the company's headquarters [in London] a few weeks ago -- where developers are putting the final touches on new titles amid a hiring binge.

"We're not just one hit," a press-shy King CEO Riccardo Zacconi told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview in early September here. "By the end of the year, we will launch a handful of new titles. We have lots of work to do."

His point was underscored emphatically late last week, when the company he co-founded in 2003 quietly filed an S-1 document with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO, according to a source who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak on behalf of King.

King declined to comment.

King's secretive filing, similar to one that allowed Twitter to keep its IPO confidential, could be worth $5 billion, according to a report in the (London) Daily Telegraph, citing an anonymous source. If there were any doubt about its long-term ambition, King last week hired a chief financial officer, Hope Cochran. She held the same title at Clearwire, which built the first 4G network in the USA and merged with Sprint in 2012.

"It's the IPO that Candy Crush built," says Brian Blau, an analyst at market researcher Gartner.

A Game That Keeps on Giving

King has grabbed the attention of investors and analysts largely because of the worldwide success of Candy Crush Saga. The arcade game has helped King reach nearly 250 million monthly active players and generate a few million dollars a day. It has also redefined how games are designed, monetized and delivered...

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Stop Being So Stupid, Voters Tweet to Congress

The roiling debate over the U.S. government shutdown is extending to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as fed-up Americans turn to social media to register their disgust with federal lawmakers for shutting down the government.

Those posting pulled no punches, calling members of Congress "immature," `'stupid" and "idiots" who need to "grow up." There were a few attaboys, too, by self-described red-state conservatives who cheered on the Republican leadership's unwavering stance against President Barack Obama's health care plan, even if it meant suddenly pulling the paychecks of some 800,000 federal workers and threatening popular federal programs.

But mostly, tweeters said they couldn't understand why a compromise between the two sides seemed so elusive.

"(hash)DearCongress, You should not be getting paid. In fact, you all should be fired!" tweeted Bruce Swedal, a 46-year-old Denver real estate agent who says he is worried about what the shutdown might do to home sales if federally backed loans dry up.

The public outcry playing out on social media sites this week is a new twist. During the last shutdown of government operations, in 1995, angry Americans would have had to look up their congressman's address and sit down and write an old-fashioned letter or email. But with the advent of Twitter, popular hashtags like (hash)governmentshutdown and the "Today" show's (hash)DearCongress let voters log their complaints to all 532 members of Congress at once -- provided they stay within the allotted 140 characters or less.

Voters also weighed in on the more humorous side of things, offering pick-up lines that federal workers could use in bars, some of which were advertising cheap drink specials throughout the day to those furloughed.

"The library is closing, mind if I check you out instead?" one person offered with the hashtag (hash)ShutdownPickupLines.

Added another tweeter: "It's not like we have to go to work tomorrow."

For their part,...

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Silk Road Founder Arrested, Bitcoin Drug Site Shutdown

An online drug -- and potentially murder-for-hire -- market called the Silk Road has been shut down after the FBI arrested its alleged proprietor and seized data from the marketplace. The Silk Road reportedly had millions of dollars in Bitcoin sales.

The Silk Road's owner has been arrested and, as of right now, is being charged with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, soliciting a murder-for-hire and money laundering, according to a complaint unsealed Wednesday. The owner "Dread Pirate Roberts" as Ross Ulbricht called himself, according to law enforcement officials, appears to have been a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

A Go-To Place For Illegal Deals

Ulbricht was incredibly smart when it came to his plan for the Silk Road. Using Bitcoins for the transactions meant the illegal doings were completely untraceable, ensuring that the marketplace's users could not be caught unless someone leaked its user list.

No matter what drug someone was looking for, the Silk Road was able to facilitate deals for cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, etc. This activity reportedly resulted in more than $1 billion worth of Bitcoin transactions and millions in profit for the site's owners.

The Silk Road was only active between 2011 and 2013, but during that time, feds say it racked up 1.2 million sales worth $1.2 billion. Out of that money, Ulbricht and whoever else ran the site reportedly received $80 million in commissions.

Not only were drugs a popular buy on the Silk Road, but there were also other transactions for hacking tools. Keyloggers, password crackers, Trojans, and many other pieces of software and malware were being sold on the marketplace.

Ross Ulbricht

Everything came crashing down this morning when Ulbricht was taken to court before being put into a holding facility. Ulbricht worked with a small team to manage and take in profits from the Silk Road. The FBI...

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Amazon Hiring Big To Ensure Best Customer Experience

E-commerce giant Amazon is hiring -- and hiring big. The company is opening more than 70,000 full-time seasonal positions across its U.S. fulfillment centers this holiday season to meet an increase in customer demand.

Amazon's hiring plans mark a 40 percent rise over 2012's hiring plans. Economists are likely thrilled to see the news considering the e-tailer's 2012 moves.

Last year, Amazon converted thousands of seasonal employees into regular, full-time roles after the holidays. The company said it expects to do the same this year. On average, seasonal employees earn 94 percent of the starting wages of Amazon fulfillment center employees and are eligible for health care benefits.

Amazon Just Keeps Hiring

Since the start of the financial recession in September 2008, Amazon has added more than 40,000 jobs in the U.S. across all parts of the company.

"So far this year, we have converted more than 7,000 temporary employees in the U.S. into full-time, regular roles and we're looking forward to converting thousands more after this holiday season," said Dave Clark, Amazon's vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.

"Each year, seasonal jobs lead to thousands of long-term, full-time roles in our sites -- jobs that offer great pay, benefits starting on day one and the chance for employees to further their education through our Career Choice program," he said.

The Value of Contact Center Agents

Amazon is likely to offer strong training as its customer service reps are essentially brand ambassadors and key to e-commerce success. Too often at other companies, management fails to recognize the importance of contact center reps' function as brand ambassadors.

However, some industry players predict that is about to change, as more and more companies are realizing that the battle to win new customers and maintain existing customers is fought by contact center agents every day.

According to both...

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Apple Fix Coming for iMessage Bug

The list of bugs in Apple's new iOS 7 is growing, including, most recently, one related to the iMessage app. On Wednesday, Apple said it knows about the iMessage issue and is working on a fix.

Posts on various online forums have recounted problems with the updated app in the most recent version of the operating system, such as requiring users to resend messages, not sending free texts and photos over the iMessage Wi-Fi-based platform, or messages marked with an alert indicating they didn't go through.

The technology giant has issued a statement that it is "aware of an issue that affects a fraction of a percent of our iMessage users, and we will have a fix available in an upcoming software update." It added that, "in the meantime," users were encouraged to "reference our troubleshooting documents or contact AppleCare to help resolve their issue."

Workarounds for iMessage

Some users have posted workarounds, such as turning off iMessages, resetting network settings, and turning iMessages on again, or even rebooting the device.

Some users are contending that the iMessage problem began with the newest update, version 7.0.2, which was issued late last month to fix a bug that could allow a user to gain access to the multitasking and other areas of an iPhone without first entering a passcode in the Lock screen.

A user could swipe up on the Lock screen, bring up the control center, gain access to the clock, click on the clock and hold the power button until it brings up "slide to power off," then hit cancel and double click the home button to gain access to the multitasking area.

The iMessage issue is only the latest in a variety of reported bugs. A user named Kevil10, for instance, commented Tuesday on NewsFactor.com that "one flaw still not fixed is...

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Salesforce.com Bets on Social Selling Platform Introhive

You may have never heard of Introhive, but the social selling startup is on Salesforce.com's radar screen. The Washington-based innovator announced that Salesforce is among the investors in its latest round of funding.

Other investors include Build Ventures, CIT GAP, Fortify VC, Growthworks Atlantic and NBIF. Introhive did not disclose the exact amount of the funding, but some news report speculate the CRM giant has pitched in $5 million. Founded in 2012, Introhive raised an initial $1.5 million from Build Ventures in June of this year.

"We think social selling is about effectively leveraging the strength of enterprise relationships and managing them in a practical way that brings results," said Jody Glidden, co-founder and CEO of Introhive. "Our customers are seeing great value from the platform. This investment will help us get it in front of more like-minded companies sooner."

Making Social Selling Real

Introhive positions itself as making social selling "real" for companies. Here's how it works: The software-as-a-service application analyzes a company's employee communications privately and securely. At the same time, the software layers on social connections to create an enterprise-wide view of existing relationships with customers and prospects.

Essentially, the software works to leverage this relationship knowledge to improve sales hiring, prospecting, territory assignment, renewals and lead scoring. The promised result: increased effectiveness within the entire sales process.

Introhive reports that its platform is establishing solid traction with customers that see clear ROI in the social selling product. The company expects the new funding to help it accelerate business growth and expand sales and marketing activities.

Introhive gained some traction as part of the Salesforce AppExchange. The company was also named as a semi-finalist of the CRM Idol awards and to the shortlist for PwC's Vision to Reality awards.

Will Salesforce Buy Introhive?

"When I first heard about this investment I wondered if Salesforce...

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HTC, Qualcomm Race To Prevent U.S. Ban on Phones

Taiwan-based HTC is trying to avoid repercussions of a U.S. ban on its smartphones, following Finnish rival Nokia's preliminary court win in a patent case. HTC's next move will be to work with Qualcomm on ways to alter a component for its flagship HTC One phone and other devices, according to a Wednesday report in The Wall Street Journal. Qualcomm provides the chipsets and modems for the HTC One.

The Journal report said the information on the HTC-Qualcomm workaround was based on "people familiar with the matter." The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling, which was made on September 23, did not mention the HTC One among the HTC older models affected but the HTC One smartphone and other new devices use the same technology.

Come January, when the ITC decides whether to uphold the September ruling or not, any ban on the HTC One would not help smartphone maker HTC, trying to recover from disappointing sales and competition. If the device maker were not to change the designs and if the ITC were to hand another victory to Nokia in January, a number of HTC models could be hit with import bans.

The September ruling from the ITC said that HTC infringed on two Nokia patents dealing with enhanced transmission and reception for calls.

January Countdown

One of the two patents in the ruling describes a "method for attenuating spurious signals and receiver," and the other patent describes a "method and arrangement for transmitting and receiving RF signals through various radio interfaces of communication systems."

The ITC ruling in September was a preliminary ruling. The ITC is expected to reach a full decision in late January 2014. The U.S. International Trade Commission is an American body that determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries, and directs actions against unfair trade practices, such as...

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Why Bill Gates Has a Target on His Back

Steve Jobs was once ousted from Apple, the company he founded -- Apple. Is Bill Gates next? According to news reports, the Microsoft chairman's place at the table may be at risk.

Reuters is reporting that three of the top 20 investors in Microsoft are lobbying the board to press Gates to step down from the software company he co-founded nearly 40 years go. The wire service cites "people familiar with the matter."

If Gates exits, it would mark a radical change in company leadership, given Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's sudden decision to announce his impending retirement. Investors may see now as a strategic time to clean house as the company continues struggling on the mobile front in a post-PC era.

Gates Has Power

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment, and declined to discuss the issue with Reuters. The wire service reports that the three investors hold no more than 5 percent of the company's stock and there is no indication that the board will give way to its desire.

For his part, Gates remains Microsoft's largest individual shareholder with 4.5 percent ownership of the company. The company is currently worth about $277 billion, making it one of the most valuable brands in the world. But some investors are apparently not satisfied.

When Ballmer announced his retirement, which is set to happen sometime in the next 11 months, some suggested that Gates should step in as interim CEO until a suitable replacement emerged. A search is underway, and it does not appear that Gates will resume any day-to-day oversight of the software giant.

The Tablet Flop

We asked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, for his thoughts on the uprising. He told us many shareholders are frustrated with Microsoft's progress and are looking for someone to blame. Typically, the CEO is...

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AOL Founder Looks To Invest Outside Silicon Valley

AOL co-founder Steve Case is looking to finance entrepreneurs who are trying to build technology companies outside Silicon Valley, just like he once did.

The startups will be bankrolled by a $200 million fund that Case's Revolution Ventures announced Monday. The Revolution Ventures fund plans to make investments of up to $10 million each in startups during the next three to four years. Like other venture capitalists, Case's fund will receive stakes in the startups in exchange for the investments.

Although ideas submitted from Silicon Valley won't be excluded, Case expects 90 percent of the money to be funneled to entrepreneurs living outside the San Francisco Bay Area. The national focus is similar to a $450 million fund that Revolution LLC launched two years. The older fund makes slightly larger investments of $30 million to $50 million in more mature companies.

"This is isn't any negative on Silicon Valley. We think Silicon Valley is awesome," Case said in an interview. "But there are also a lot of great entrepreneurs in other parts of the country and there is not as much capital focused on them."

About 40 percent of the venture capital invested in U.S. startups is concentrated in Silicon Valley, based on statistics compiled by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

The newly minted Revolution Ventures fund has already invested undisclosed amounts in four startups scattered around the country. They are: Chicago's BenchPrep, an online service that helps students prepare for academic tests; New York's Booker Software, an online business management service; Washington, D.C.'s Homesnap, the maker of a mobile residential real estate application for mobile devices; and Boston's RunKeeper, the maker of a free health and fitness app for mobile devices.

The Revolution Ventures fund is based in Washington, D.C., not far from the Virginia offices where...

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What Shutdown? Markets Rise Amid U.S. Turmoil

Investors stayed calm on the first day of a partial shutdown of the U.S. government Tuesday and sent the stock market modestly higher.

A long-running dispute in Washington over President Barack Obama's health care law caused a deadlock over the U.S. budget, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending all but essential services. With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate at a stalemate, it was unclear how long a temporary bill needed to finance government activities would be stalled.

Despite the political wrangling, investors didn't push the panic button. That suggests that, at least for now, they aren't anticipating that the stalemate would cause enough disruption in the economy to threaten a gradual U.S. recovery and a four-year bull run in the stock market.

"The trend of the economy appears to be in a positive direction," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group. "Unless this really gets ugly, we think the markets should start to look ahead to what we believe should be better economic data over the next six to 12 months."

In the latest encouraging news on the economy, a private industry group reported Tuesday that U.S. manufacturing expanded at the fastest pace since April 2011 last month on stronger production and hiring.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 62 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,191 as of 12:42 p.m. (1642 GMT). The S&P 500 index gained 13 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,694. The Nasdaq composite rose 39 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3,805.

The gains were led by health care and technology stocks.

Tech stocks were given a boost by Apple. The company's stock rose $10.87, or 2.3 percent, after billionaire investor Carl Icahn told CNBC about his dinner meeting with Apple's CEO Tim Cook. Icahn, who said he has invested $2 billion...

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