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Here is the context:

The network has geographically distributed upload endpoints, featuring end-to-end encryption as well as patent-pending routing and optimization technology, letting Box process uploads at a speed up to 10 times faster than currently possible.

"From an end user perspective, this is moving the needle," said Jeff Queisser, vice president of technical operations at Box.

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I've not come across the usage, but I assume Queisser means the figurative meter needle from the end user's point of view (i.e. - he really notices the speed increase, just as he would notice his car's speedometer registering 700mph) – FumbleFingers Sep 18 '12 at 3:21
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I believe this is a reference to the old analog Vu meter used in audio recording. Vu stood for Volume Units. When recording, some audio sources were not even loud enough to make the needle move off the bottom- in other words it was too faint to be of much use to record.

So saying that something is moving the needle means that it is enough to register or make a difference to the user- enough for the user to take note ofPicture of a Vu meter

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+1 for the piccie – Andrew Sep 18 '12 at 14:38
    
Of course, this does not simply apply to VU meters, but any sort of meter -- a voltmeter, a pressure meter, etc. – Hot Licks Jun 19 at 12:12

Make a significant difference. This would be referring to the needle of a measurement instrument; moving the needle would be really showing up on the measurement scale.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_move_the_needle_mean

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I understand the context of the phrase "moving the needle" as a expression of metrics, particularly econometrics.

As a phrase, it can be used to simply express that measurable statistics will change as a result of actions.

I've been involved in social entrepreneurship, and when I talk about them, I often say my projects "truly move the needle".

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