New app helping Venezuelans find scarce items

Phone app to combat supply shortages in Venezuela

Harried Venezuelans who devote hours scouring supermarkets for increasingly scarce food basics and toilet paper have just received some digital help thanks to a young software developer.

A free application for mobile devices written by Jose Augusto Montiel lets people notify one another where flour, sugar, milk, cooking oil and toilet paper are for sale. It has been downloaded more than 12,000 times.

The app, known as Abasteceme, or Supply Me, is Android-based and relies on Google Maps for geolocation. It leverages what is known in the tech world as crowdsourcing, with users notifying one another where a certain product is for sale.

Basic items such as wheat flour and butter have gone missing on store shelves throughout Venezuela. Economists blame government-imposed price controls, while President Nicolas Maduro says greedy merchants are hoarding goods.

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“From what I’ve seen so far it’s mostly toilet paper, followed by flour,” Montiel said about what gets posted most.

The 21-year-old chemical engineering student in the western city of Maracaibo said most of Abasteceme’s users were in Caracas when he first made the app available on the Google Play website on May 29.

“But now it has spread all over the country,” he said.

He said it’s been overwhelming keeping the server that hosts the application from crashing and attending to users, who he says are clamoring for him to include more products.

“People are asking for chicken, butter and soap above all,” he said.

Montiel said he also deletes a lot of entries when people notify him that supplies of a certain product have sold out.

The program is designed to automatically erase notifications in two hours, he said.

Montiel said he has no help beyond his sister, who assists with the program’s aesthetics.

“I’m also working to develop it for the Blackberry as a lot of people have them in Venezuela,” he said.

He said he wants to work on an iPhone version but can’t afford a Mac to do that. He said he’s earning just enough to cover costs.

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Google snaps up Waze to add to mapping service

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Google is buying online mapping service Waze in a $1.03 billion deal that keeps a potentially valuable tool away from its rivals while allowing it to gain technology that could improve the accuracy and usefulness of its own popular navigation system.

The acquisition announced Tuesday ends several months of speculation as Waze flirted with potential buyers interested in its rapidly growing service. Waze blends elements of a social network into its maps to produce more precise directions and more reliable information about local traffic conditions.

Google Inc. is believed to have trumped two of its fiercest foes, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc., in the bidding for Waze, which is based in Israel but also maintains a Palo Alto, Calif., office near all three of the Silicon Valley giants.

“We evaluated many options and believe Google is the best partner,” Waze CEO Noam Bardin wrote in a Tuesday blog post.

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Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but The Associated Press confirmed the sale price with a person familiar with the negotiations. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to discuss the matter. Google isn’t expected to disclose the price until it discusses the transaction in a formal regulatory filing.

Waze ranks as the fourth most expensive acquisition among the more than 240 deals that Google has completed in its nearly 15-year history. The only bigger purchases are Motorola Mobility Holdings for $12.4 billion last year, DoubleClick for $3.2 billion in 2008 and YouTube for $1.76 billion in 2006.

The price underscores the increasing importance of digital maps as people frequently check navigation services on their smartphones and tablet computers to help steer them in the right direction. The reliance on mobile maps creates more opportunities to show money-making ads, particularly those from local merchants. Google can also link the navigation systems to other applications to help generate more revenue.

Forrester Research analyst Julie Ask expects maps to become a main gateway on mobile devices, much like Internet search engines have been on personal computers for the past decade. “A growing percentage of time will be spent discovering, accessing and engaging content within maps,” Ask predicted.

Google is the leader in the field, but both Apple and Facebook would like a bigger piece of the market.

Those ambitions are likely a key reason Google scooped up Waze, said University of Notre Dame management professor Brian Proffitt, who specializes in technology issues. “If Facebook had gotten Waze, they clearly would do something in the mobile market with it,” Proffitt said. “Getting Waze is like a billion-dollar remedy to a potential headache for Google.”

Apple also has been trying to improve the quality of its maps since the debut of its own navigation system last year. The maps, which replaced Google’s technology as the built-in app to get directions on the iPhone and iPad, misplaced landmarks and misguided users, prompting a public apology from Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with vow to get better.

In a blog post, Google said the Waze deal had already closed. The deal didn’t require government approval before it could be completed because of Waze’s relatively small size. Although Waze doesn’t disclose revenue, it only has about 100 employees.

But Waze has been gaining a foothold in the digital mapping market. Waze says nearly 50 million drivers in 190 countries use its mapping app to avoid traffic jams and find the fastest way to their jobs and other destinations. The service figures out the most efficient routes by drawing upon real-time information shared by about 70,000 members who help edit the maps and even provide other helpful tips, such as where to find the best gasoline prices.

In an interview during an April technology conference presented by All Things D, Waze’s Bardin described his service as “the only reasonable competition” to Google in mobile maps.

Even though Google already has assumed ownership of Waze, government regulators could still review the deal to assess its effects on the mapping market.

None of Google’s previous acquisitions have been blocked by regulators, although a few underwent reviews that lasted nine to 12 months.

Most of the previous regulatory inquiries have centered on Google’s dominance in Internet search _ a service closely linked to maps _ and online advertising.

For now, Google will allow Waze to operate independently and maintain its main offices in Israel. Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., is taking the same tack with Motorola Mobility, which operates autonomously in Illinois.

“We’re excited about the prospect of enhancing Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and enhancing Waze with Google’s search capabilities,” Brian McClendon, a Google vice president who oversees maps, wrote in the company’s blog post.

Waze’s sharing tools also could help Google improve its own 2-year-old social networking service, called Plus, as it tries to lure traffic away from Facebook.

In his blog post, Bardin said Waze decided it made more sense to tap into Google’s vast resources instead staying on its own and eventually facing the distractions of an initial public offering.

“Choosing the path of an IPO often shifts attention to bankers, lawyers and the happiness of Wall Street, and we decided we’d rather spend our time with you, the Waze community,” Bardin wrote.

Google’s stock shed $10.41, or about 1 percent, to closed Tuesday at $879.81. That decline was roughly in line with the broader markets.

Waze, which started five years ago, is the latest mobile startup to blossom into a billion-dollar baby. Last month, Yahoo Inc. agreed to buy Tumblr, a blogging service started in 2008, for $1.1 billion.

The acquisition also could help Israel’s efforts to stamp the country as a wellspring of innovation.

Faced with limited natural resources, Israel has excelled in technology and fostered a vibrant high-tech culture. The country is a popular destination for global venture capital funds seeking to capitalize on Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit, as well as expertise honed in universities and advanced technology units of the Israeli army.

Technology is now viewed as Israel’s main economic engine, accounting for roughly half the country’s exports. Israel is even promoting itself as “startup nation.”

The Waze buyout ranks among the largest company sales in Israeli history. Chromatis Networks was sold to Lucent Technologies for $4.5 billion at the height of the dot-com bubble in 2000. Lucent wound up closing Chromatis a year later. Last year, computer networking gear maker Cisco Systems snapped up Israeli video software company NDS Group for $5 billion.

Waze sale signals new growth for Israeli high tech

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Google Inc.’s $1.03 billion purchase of Israeli navigation software maker Waze marks an important milestone for the country that affectionately calls itself “Start-Up Nation.”

The acquisition is not only among the largest-ever purchase prices for an Israeli start-up. It also cements a recent push by the local high-tech industry into the fast-growing consumer market.

“I think it’s a big step forward,” said Erel Margalit, a leading Israeli entrepreneur and opposition lawmaker in parliament. “Israel is no longer just a R&D center. It’s a creative hub.”

Waze’s popular smartphone application combines GPS navigation software with social networking features, allowing users to improve the service’s directions and traffic reports with their own data. This crowd-sourcing aspect enables the service to adapt to changing road conditions, such as accidents and speed traps, in real time.

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After rumors of sales to both Facebook and Apple surfaced in recent months, Google, already an established leader in Internet mapping, beat out its rivals for Waze and its base of nearly 50 million users.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Waze CEO Noam Bardin to congratulate him. “You reached the destination,” Netanyahu said. “You have again put Israeli technology on the world stage.”

Faced with limited natural resources, Israel has fostered a vibrant high-tech culture in recent decades. The country is a popular destination for global venture capital funds seeking to capitalize on Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit, as well as expertise honed in universities and advanced technology units of the Israeli army.

Israel boasts one of the largest collections of companies traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The world’s leading technology giants, including Microsoft, Google and Intel, all have large research and development operations in the country. Israel’s celebrated high-tech creations include cell phone technology, wi-fi internet, instant messaging, and USB thumb drives.

According to the Central Bureau for Statistics, Israel’s official source of economic data, the tech sector accounts for just over a quarter of the country’s exports. The bureau uses an internationally recognized definition of high-tech that excludes both biotechnology and Internet companies. When those are included, technology firms account for roughly half of Israel’s exports, a key reason why Israel’s standard of living is now on par with, and in some cases above, many European nations.

The Waze buyout is among the largest private company sales in Israeli history. In 2000, at the height of the high-tech bubble, Israeli start-up Chromatis Networks was bought out by Lucent Technologies for $4.5 billion. Lucent closed the firm a year later. More recently, networking giant Cisco last year purchased Israeli video software company NDS for $5 billion.

Margalit, a mastermind of the Chromatis deal, said that until recently, Israeli tech firms focused heavily on developing innovations for major telecom firms and other international tech giants. The large acquisition of a consumer-focused app like Waze shows that Israel’s start-up culture is “alive and well,” he said.

“When Israel is also involved in building the major applications for consumers, it means other disciplines of creativity are entering the game,” he said. Today, Israeli start-ups employ not only engineers, but also game designers, animators, graphic artists and writers.

One criticism of Israeli technology companies is that entrepreneurs have frequently looked to cash out quickly by selling their technology to larger companies. The result, say critics, is a big payout for company founders that creates few jobs and little broader economic benefit. The push into the consumer sector could bring a wider range of jobs to Israel and help foster more sustainable businesses.

Israeli media has reported that Waze’s deal with Facebook fell apart because of Waze’s insistence that it keep its R&D operations in Israel. The Haaretz daily said Google agreed to leave Waze’s operations in Israel for three years.

Israeli tech investor Yossi Vardi said such arrangements are a common feature to prevent companies from losing talent while relocating. Vardi is a dean of the Israeli technology world who, among other things, helped launch ICQ, a forerunner to today’s instant messaging services.

Vardi said that Waze’s app embodied the kind of creativity increasingly seen in the evolving Israeli tech scene.

“It’s very sticky, very addictive,” he said. “I cannot leave home without opening Waze.”

But while the app has quickly attracted users around the world, Vardi said, the company’s ability to monetize that user base has lagged behind. He predicted that the sale to Google would give Waze greater ability to earn money from its service. In turn, Waze should generate new innovations for Google in navigation software, allowing it to retain its lead over rivals like Apple.

“I’m sure this is going to be a very important property for Google,” Vardi said. “It’s just the beginning of this space.”

Highlights from Apple’s developers conference

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The software running Apple’s iPhones and iPads is getting a new look and several new features. The Mac is borrowing more functionality from mobile devices. New MacBook Airs are out, and a new Internet radio service will be coming this fall.

Apple announced these offerings and more during a keynote address Monday to open its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Here are the highlights.

NEW MOBILE SOFTWARE

Apple announced iOS 7, the next version of its operating system for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.

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The biggest change comes in the new system’s design: Instead of app icons that try to mimic real-world counterparts, Apple is favoring simplicity and consistency from app to app. The company’s design chief, Jony Ive, said the new structure is meant to bring order to complexity. The redesign includes subtle motion. It shows thunder on a weather app when a thunderstorm is forecast, for instance.

The new software will expand a device’s ability to run multiple apps at once. It’ll be easier for users to switch from app to app by swiping across the display screen. Apple’s software will figure out which apps you tend to use and make sure content for those apps is updated regularly.

With iOS 7, you’ll be able to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access a control center, for such functions as turning on airplane mode and adjusting brightness. It’s similar to a feature available on rival devices running Android.

The calendar has been cleaned up and looks more streamlined. You can also get to your contacts list quickly while reading messages by swiping from the left of the screen. A featured called AirDrop will let people share content with other Apple devices.

There’s also better organization of photos you take on iPhones. Instead of the endless streams of the past, pictures will be organized into moments _ such as “home” or “trip to San Francisco.”

The Siri virtual assistant is getting refreshed, too. Siri’s voice will sound less robotic than before, and you’ll be able to choose a male voice, not just a female one as is currently the case. You can ask Siri what people are saying on Twitter, or ask for information from Microsoft’s Bing search engine. You can also command Siri to adjust the phone’s brightness or play the last voice mail. Siri will be available in French and German, too, with more languages to come.

Apple said iOS 7 will be available on the iPhone 4 and later, the iPad 2 and later and the iPad Mini. A test version was made available to developers starting Monday. It will be available for everyone else this fall. That’s also when Apple is likely to introduce a new iPhone. A version of the new iOS will also be built into cars.

MAC UPDATES

Apple has traditionally named its Mac operating systems after big cats, such as 2012’s Mountain Lion. It’s running out of animals, so it will now pay homage to the geography of its home state. This fall, it will release Mavericks, named after an undersea rock formation that produces big waves near Half Moon Bay, Calif., not far from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

The new operating system will support tagging to help you find files more easily. Simply assign one or more tags such as “important” or “movies” to a particular document as you save it.

Mavericks will also work better with multiple monitors, with docks and menus going across the various display screens. A TV connected via Apple’s AirPlay can serve as one of those displays.

The new system also promises better battery life.

An updated Safari Web browser will make it easier to bookmark favorite sites with just one click. Safari will also have a new scrolling feature. When you get to the end of an article on your list of links to read, it will automatically pull up the next item as you continue to scroll downward. There’s no need to stop what you’re doing to click on another link.

Through the iCloud online syncing service, you will be able to keep track of all your passwords _ encrypted for security _ across your various devices. And when you’re shopping, it will automatically suggest credit card numbers you’ve used in the past. You will still have to enter the security code on the back of your card, however.

Apple is bringing its mapping service to desktop and laptop computers, challenging Google Maps and others. The company introduced it on the iPhone last year. The Mac is also getting the iBooks app previously available on iPhones and iPads.

It’s the latest evidence that Apple’s software for mobile devices and traditional computers is converging. Still, Apple has said it prefers to keep the two separate because the Mac software is designed for non-touchscreen devices such as desktops and laptops.

Apple announced battery-life improvements to its line of MacBook Airs, which are thinner and lighter than traditional laptops. The 11-inch model will have nine hours of battery life instead of five, while the 13-inch model will have 12 hours, instead of seven. The new MacBook Airs went on sale Monday: The 11-inch one starting at $999 and the 13-inch model starting at $1,099.

The company also said a new Mac Pro will come this year. It will be assembled in the United States, consistent with Apple’s previous pledge to move manufacturing of one of its existing lines of Mac computers to the U.S.

MUSIC

Apple unveiled a streaming music service, iTunes Radio. The service will personalize listeners’ music based on what they’ve listened to and what they’ve purchased on iTunes. If you like a song, you can buy it through iTunes with one click.

The service will be built into iOS 7 and work on Apple’s mobile devices. It will also work with Apple’s iTunes software on Mac and Windows computers. Apple said it will be free with ads, though subscribers of Apple’s $25-a-year iTunes Match service will get it ad-free. It will be available this fall in the U.S.

WORK

Apple also announced a long-overdue upgrade to its iWork suite of productivity software. The new version will tap iCloud and let you run the programs from a Web browser, similar to Google Docs. The suite includes Pages for word processing and Numbers for spreadsheets.

The iWork package is cheaper than Microsoft’s Office, but has worked only on Apple devices. Because the new version works on a Web browser, you’ll be able to use it on a Windows computer, too. The last major upgrade to iWork came in 2009. The new edition is called iWork for iCloud and will be available this fall. Apple didn’t provide details on pricing.

 

AT&T extends wait for new phone to 2 years

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AT&T is extending from 20 months to 24 months the time it takes for customers on contract-based plans to earn a fully subsidized upgrade to a new phone.

The move announced Sunday follows an identical one by Verizon Wireless in April. AT&T Inc.’s new policy applies to any customer whose contract expires in March 2014 or later.

Extending the time between phone upgrades saves the phone companies money, since they subsidize each new phone by hundreds of dollars to make it available to customers for $199 or less. AT&T executives had said they planned to rein in spending on phone upgrades this year.

The change reflects the growing popularity of expensive phones. Verizon subsidized upgrades after just 13 months until January 2011, just before it introduced the iPhone, one of the most expensive phones on a wholesale basis. Carriers pay Apple over $600 for it.

 

Dallas-based AT&T is the country’s second-largest cellphone carrier. It activated 6 million smartphones in the first three months of this year.

AT&T shares rose 55 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $36 in morning trading. The shares hit a five-year high of $39 in April.

Breaking with industry practices, No. 4 wireless carrier T-Mobile USA ditched its service contracts and phone-upgrade waiting periods in March. It now sells phones on installment plans, giving customers more flexibility on the timing of their phone upgrades.

Ref Cam makes debut in Mercury-Fever broadcast

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The WNBA debuted a new camera Saturday worn by official Lamont Simpson during the Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever game that was nationally televised. The camera was mounted above the ear on the right side of a device that looked like a pair of glasses. Simpson said it took a little while to get used to it.

“The first half, it took some adjusting to, especially when you started running and actually broke a sweat,” the veteran official said. “The goggles started to loosen up and the sweat around the band started to loosen up. The first half was pretty much just adjusting the headset.”

By the second half, Simpson said he barely noticed he was wearing it.

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“It was fun. We made some adjustments at halftime and the second half it was almost like it wasn’t there,” he said.

It drew rave reviews from WNBA players.

“I think it’s hilarious when I’m not on it,” Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker said before her game Saturday night. “I think that’s a very interesting addition to the cameras.”

Parker, who quickly tweeted about the new innovation while she was watching the Mercury’s 82-67 victory, was surprised by the view when the cam was first used.

“I thought they were really close to the camera when I first saw it on television. I was like, `Why are they that close to the camera? Why are they yelling at the camera?'” she said.

The cam definitely got the fans a different view. While some of the images with Simpson running were a little shaky at first. It was much more solid when he wasn’t moving. ABC showed the angle during free throws and the cam even happened to catch Simpson giving the Mercury’s Candice Dupree a technical foul in the second quarter of Phoenix’s 82-67 win.

“Today’s broadcast was a great opportunity to be at the forefront in terms of providing viewers with unique perspectives on our game,” WNBA President Laurel Richie said. “The use of Ref Cam certainly offered a previously unseen point of view that really brought viewers into the action, adding a whole new visual and audio component to the experience.”

Broadcast Sports Inc. developed the camera and general manager Peter Larsson said that the idea came from two other projects.

“We were working on onboard cameras for NASCAR and also with the X Games and married the two of them together to come up with the perfect size for referees.”

Larsson said they had a number of different options for officials ranging from a hat to a strap that fits around the head like a headband. They finally settled on the glasses which didn’t have lenses, but seemed like the best option for a basketball official.

“It was good,” he said of the debut. “The whole concept is to get the viewer down on the court, get them as close as you can. Technology isn’t there to get the size down to put it on the player. So this was the next best bet.”

Larsson said that the camera has also been used in a European rugby game as well as an MLS reserve league contest. It might be a while before they can have it ready for a sport like baseball or football.

“We’re another generation or two away,” he said. “That’s on our developmental road map.”

For now it will just stay in the WNBA and Simpson said he’d be up for wearing it again.

“I’d like to see it done again,” he said. “I would gladly do it again. Seriously, I think it’s something they should really consider.”

ESPN, which broadcasts the league, and the WNBA will jointly decide when the cam will be used moving forward.

“The Ref Cam is the latest effort in keeping with our tradition of innovation,” said ESPN senior vice president and executive producer Mark Gross. “We are always looking for new ways to provide fans different angles and a feel for the game they may not have gotten in the past.”

Cable operators buff up guides for Internet age

 

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After years of making money providing Internet service, cable TV companies are now tapping the power of the Internet to improve clunky program guides that are a relic of the 1990s.

Over the past year or so, Comcast Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp. and other cable providers have introduced new program guides on television set-top boxes. These improved guides act more like websites, making it easier to find movies, live TV shows and on-demand video.

It’s important progress for cable TV companies, which are often criticized for providing hundreds of channels that customers don’t watch. Making shows easier to find helps them justify all those channels. And that could help stave off defections to satellite and telephone companies, which have lured cable customers away with cut-rate TV services that use fancier interfaces.

Retaining and winning back those subscribers _ while defending against a new batch of Web video challengers such as Netflix and Hulu _ will be the focus of the industry’s annual gathering, The Cable Show, which started in Washington on Monday and runs through Wednesday.

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Although using the Internet might seem like a no-brainer to the billions who use it worldwide, cable TV operators have been slow to adapt. For years, guides used the old X-Y axis, with channels on the left and times across the top. These were installed directly onto the set-top box. There was no way to change the format without replacing the box, which could take a year or more for all customers.

By using Internet programming language and other tools common to the Web, newer boxes are far more flexible.

These guides can now access software running on more powerful machines located elsewhere. They can make recommendations rather than simply show reams of show titles. Faster keyword searches are possible, and cover art brings life to what once were text-only program listings. The use of Internet programming language means smartphones and tablets can also be used to control the box.

As important, updates can be done from afar and redesigns are as easy as changing a website. That means new features can be created and popular ones given more prominence. Comcast says it has already updated its guide 1,200 times since introducing its X1 set-top box in May 2012.

Marcien Jenckes, general manager for Comcast’s cable TV services, says the difference between the old box and the new one is like the difference between an old IBM computer that ran on a text-based DOS system and today’s Google Chromebook, a laptop computer that gains most of its functionality from being able to access services online.

“The prior boxes were limited by what they could carry on them,” he says. “The current boxes are essentially limitless in terms of what they can access remotely.”

Since the X1 came out, Comcast says viewing time for video on demand has increased nearly 20 percent among users who have it, partly because it’s easier to find things to watch. Comcast says customers are watching more channels and discovering more shows. Comcast isn’t saying how many subscribers now have the new X1 boxes, but it did say that half of its 21.9 million TV subscribers are eligible, with the rest expected by the end of the year.

Although the company still lost a net 359,000 TV subscribers in the 12 months through March, according to the latest figures, Jenckes says that when more customers are more engaged with their TV service, they should stick around longer.

“It’s still early but every indication is positive,” he says.

Time Warner Cable Inc., the second-largest cable TV provider behind Comcast with 12.1 million subscribers, is also planning to unveil an improved guide this year through new set-top boxes that also use Internet tools to make them more versatile and adaptable.

“Traditionally each box generates its own guide and navigation,” says Mike Angus, Time Warner Cable’s senior vice president for video. “That’s been one of the shortcomings of the native guide technology.”

In November, Cox Communications Inc. updated its Internet-enabled Trio guide to include personalized recommendations for up to eight members of a household. The service adds diamonds to programs in the channel guide that individual users might like, based on which movies and shows they’ve watched in the past and whether they clicked to “like” or “dislike” them. Another screen shows recommended videos, whether they are offered on demand or live. Some past episodes can be viewed right away, while viewers can choose to record future ones when they air.

The company says that more than half of the 400,000-plus subscribers now using the guide say they became aware of content they didn’t realize was there before. Nearly a third of users say they enjoy watching TV more. Cox plans to offer the improved guide to more of its subscribers, estimated at around 4.5 million.

“They’re asking for the experience to be much more personalized,” says Len Barlik, executive vice president of product development at Cox Cable. “This is focused on attracting new customers but also retaining the base.”

Customer retention is seen as increasingly important for the cable TV industry, which has lost about 10 million TV subscribers over the last decade _ down to 56.4 million in 2012, from 66.9 million in 2001, according to research firm SNL Kagan. Most of them have switched to satellite companies such as DirecTV or Dish, or gone with TV services from phone companies including Verizon and AT&T. Overall, the number of pay TV subscribers across all providers is unchanged at about 100 million homes.

A small proportion have “cut the cord,” or dropped pay TV service entirely, though about 50 million homes rely on cable companies for high-speed Internet service, a figure that is growing.

The Nielsen Co. says about 5 million U.S. households had a TV but didn’t hook it up with a traditional pay TV provider or even an antenna last year. Those households are opting instead for Web video from Netflix and other providers. Nielsen calls these homes “Zero TV” households. Although online viewing generates advertising revenue on services such as Hulu, cable TV providers will lose TV subscription revenues if this group grows in size.

In a saturated market that’s not expanding, the best strategy for cable TV providers is to hold onto its paying customers for as long as possible, says Bruce Leichtman, a TV consultant and head of Leichtman Research Group.

“Retention becomes very important,” Leichtman says. “That’s really what Comcast and the other operators are looking at _ adding value to subscribers in order to retain them.”

Many cable TV companies also offer hundreds of live TV signals and on-demand programs over mobile devices using Internet technology. These apps _ such as Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV, Comcast’s Xfinity, and Cablevision’s Optimum _ turn mobile devices connected to home networks into virtual TV sets on smaller screens. But customers have to be home to use these most of these services, and many aren’t aware of them.

Brett Sappington, director of research at Parks Associates, says the lack of awareness could be caused by the failure of cable TV operators to advertise such services, known as TV Everywhere. After all, such services do not generate extra revenue, as they are part of a monthly subscription.

Sappington says the people who make use of TV Everywhere are also video lovers who already tend to be higher-spending, loyal customers anyway.

That’s partly what makes improved program guides more important. One key strategy in preventing customers from dropping service is having a greater breadth of programming, an advantage that isn’t apparent when guides are difficult to use, he says.

“Pay TV has been trying to compete on the premium end forever with more content and more first-run content,” he says. “The problem is if you can’t find it, you might as well not have it.”