17 October, 2011

VEVO hires editorial director to bolster music videos with news and features

Posted: 17 Oct 2011 09:11 AM PDT

VEVO, the music video site jointly created by YouTube and music labels, is eyeing a new editorial focus with the hire of veteran journalist Jim Macnie as its editorial director.
Macnie, who previously served as managing editor of VH1.com for nearly a decade, will help maintain a consistent editorial voice on all of VEVO’s offerings, including its website, mobile apps, and connected TV apps. VEVO boasts that it has a catalog over 45,000 music videos and original programming.
The news marks a new direction for VEVO, which initially began as a way for YouTube to offer high-quality music videos legitimately.
Macnie will report to Scott Reich, VP of Original Content and Programming at VEVO.
Developing, refresh for updates.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 08:32 AM PDT
booksAfter years of turning the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore business on its head, online retail giant Amazon is now taking aim at the publishing business — more specifically, getting writers to ditch their publishers in favor of Amazon.
The company is scheduled to publish 122 books this fall in both print and e-book form, according to a report from the New York Times. The move puts Amazon in more direct competition with some of its largest book publishing suppliers, like Penguin, Random House and MacMillan.
Amazon’s publishing arm is definitely not a side project either. The company hired publishing veteran Laurence Kirshbaum in May, and it paid actress/director Penny Marshall (of Laverne & Shirley fame) $800,000 for her memoir, according to the NYT report. Last week, the company even signed a book deal with self-help book guru Tim Ferris.
However, it’s unknown just how many editors the company employes, nor the number of books it has under contract.
Amazon is able to sway authors to its cause because it’s becoming increasingly good at offer them the kinds of services typically offered by publishers, like access to fans, sales data and analytics and more.
Photo via Michael Coté

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 08:17 AM PDT
iphone-4s-blockedAfter declaring its intention to block sales of the iPhone 4S in parts of Europe two weeks ago, Samsung said Monday that it now seeks to stop sales of the hyped device in Australia and Japan as well.
Apple and Samsung have been sparring in courts around the world since April, when Apple sued Samsung in the U.S. for "slavishly" copying the designs of the iPhone and iPad. Samsung filed a counter-suit against Apple in the U.S. that didn’t do much, but the battle also extended to the U.S. International Trade Commission, which can block the importation of devices into the U.S.
Apple most recently struck a blow on Samsung in U.S. courts on Friday when a judge declared that Samsung infringes on Apple’s patents with its Galaxy tablets and smartphones. If Apple can prove the validity of its patents to the courts, some of Samsung’s most popular products would be blocked from sale in the U.S. Both Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA opposed Apple’s request because stopping sales of Samsung’s Android devices could severely hurt holiday sales.
In context, Samsung’s decision to fight back with its own patents to block iPhone 4S sales is not surprising. But preventing Apple from selling the new iPhone in several countries, even if it’s just temporary, could hurt the iPhone 4S’ worldwide momentum. The iPhone 4S set new sales records this weekend with more than 4 million units sold in the U.S., and Apple will want to continue that enthusiasm as it launches the 4S around the world in the coming weeks.
Samsung filed for preliminary injunctions in the Tokyo, Japan and New South Wales, Australia. The Korean company asked to stop the sale of the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 as well, but since those devices have been in the market for much longer, a ban on the 4S would be much more damaging.
The relationship between Samsung and Apple is complicated, as the Apple still purchases mass quantities of chips and other components manufactured by Samsung. Samsung COO and President Lee Jae-yong reportedly attended Steve Jobs’ memorial service on Sunday and said he would use the opportunity to talk briefly to new Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“I will have a chance to meet Cook, but I’m not going there for business purposes. I’m going to pay tribute to Steve Jobs, and I don’t know what I will talk about with Cook,” Mr. Lee told Korean media before leaving the country for Steve Jobs’ service.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 07:30 AM PDT
Good news for the hordes of students hopelessly addicted to Facebook and Farmville.
Grockit, a company that applies social networking and gaming mechanics to studying, just closed another $7 million round of financing to fuel its international growth.
The round was led by existing backer Atlas Ventures, but included two new heavy-hitters in the education-technology world: NewSchools Venture Fund and Michael Moe from GSV Capital. Benchmark Capital and Integral Capital also participated in the round.
Grockit, which lets students work on sample test problems together and rewards them with points and badges to boost motivation, has been on a bit of tear recently. After launching in 2008, as a social-study platform for the test-prep market, it expanded into the k-12 market over the last two years. Since the beginning of September, the company integrated with Facebook's Open Graph API to give students access from within Facebook, introduced a one-for-one program called "Grockit for Good" that matches each account purchased with one-year of free access for under-served students, added a VP of engineering, and teamed up with the Gates Foundation and the Kauffman foundation to launch Startup Weekend EDU series.
Grockit has seen a lot of adoption in India—the team tells us 25% of students in India who took the GMAT used Grockit to study—and they plan to use a good portion of the new funds to fuel growth in new markets. They'll also continue to develop social and gaming mechanics to fuel user engagement.
One potential challenge for the company is creating enough high-quality content to achieve the same educational rigor as traditional study programs. Grockit seems to be expanding into virtually every k-18 subject, and will increasingly do battle with big text-book publishers and test-prep companies slowly getting into the digital game, not to mention other edtech startups like Knewton. Grockit licenses much of its content from other publishers, but also allows their partners to author original content. Eventually, founder Farb Nivi tells us, partners will be able to attach Creative Commons licenses to their original content. That paired with some smart distributed editing (see Grockit's guest post on Mechanical Turk for how they manage low-level copy-editing) could facilitate a growing base of quality questions to rival competitors.
The company has raised a total of $24.7 million in angel and VC investment. It's early angel investors included Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga and Reid Hoffman.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 06:50 AM PDT
With every new iPhone launch, Apple has managed to surpass the previous year’s records. This year is no different, as the company announced today that the iPhone 4S has sold over 4 million units in its first three days on sale.
Additionally, Apple’s new iCloud service, which offers free cloud storage for iOS devices and Mac computers, has seen more than 20 million signups.
The iPhone 4S sales numbers doubles last year’s sales for the iPhone 4 in its first weekend. It’s a clear indicator that, despite some enthusiast disappointment about the phone, most consumers found it to be a compelling device.
This is also the first iPhone launch across multiple carriers, which certainly helped to improve first weekend sales. Both AT&T and Sprint have said that the iPhone 4S launch last Friday smashed their previous sales records. AT&T also said that it was on track to double its previous single-day activation record (which was set by the iPhone 4).
Apple’s iCloud signup numbers don’t come as much of a surprise, as the prospect of free cloud storage was likely very tempting to plenty of Mac users and those upgrading to iOS 5.
Apple says that the iPhone 4S, which is currently available in seven countries, will be available in 22 more countries on October 22. By the end of the year, the iPhone 4S will be available in more than 70 countries.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 05:00 AM PDT
Hackers spent about 25 percent of their time in forums educating other hackers about beginner tips, according to a survey by cyber security firm Imperva.
Hackers devote a lot of time to hacking tutorials, which means there is a strong and steady interest in content related to learning the tricks of the trade. About 22 percent of the discussions related to hacking tools and programs, while 21 percent related to web site and forum hacking.
This kind of analysis gives everybody a bird’s-eye view of where hacking is going and the topics that are in the forefront of the minds of hackers — and therefore should be in the forefront of the minds of security professionals.
The hackers talk about attacks commonly, and the No. 1 type of attack they discuss is related distributed denial of service (when hackers use lots of traffic to shut down a site, about 22 percent of the discussions), followed by SQL Injection (19 percent), spam (16 percent), brute force (12 percent), and shell code (12 percent).
Over four years, attack discussions have growth 157 percent. Mobile hacking has also seen very strong growth, with interest in hacking the iPhone leading the way.
A lot of the training is technical, but there is also a lot of nontechnical training. Hackers, for instance, have long tutorials on “social engineering,” or manipulating a person to accomplished goals that may not be in the person’s best interests, such as giving out passwords to a web site. There are also tutorials on how to escape law enforcement.
Hackers use forums to communicate with each other, brag about their exploits, engage in a kind of black market commerce, and socialize with other hackers. But law enforcement officers frequently observe hacker forums as well.
The survey focused on a major hacker forum with a total of 250,000 members. Imperva applied its content analysis capability to analyze chat sessions by topic, using specific keywords.

Filed under: security

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 12:57 AM PDT
The technology industry’s top luminaries paid tribute to Steve Jobs at a memorial service at Stanford University on Sunday night.
The attendees bid farewell to Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, in the same Memorial Church where David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, was memorialized in 1996. It’s almost like the kind of ceremony you see when one king dies and another is crowned. Except in this case, it seems like there is no transition to a new king of technology.
Those in attendence included Google chief executive Larry Page, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, former Vice President Al Gore, angel investor Ron Conway, lawyer Larry Sonsini, Intuit chairman Bill Campbell, Adobe co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, actor Tim Allen and others.
The San Jose Mercury News said that dozesn of dark-suited security men with ear pieces guarded the university’s Cantor Art Center and walled off the rear entrance to the church. The church was built by Jane Stanford to memorialize her husband, Leland. Waves of onlookers were cleared out of the university’s main quad and relegated to the main street leading into the school. Jobs’ service was held on what Gov. Jerry Brown had designated as Steve Jobs Day. Apple employees will have their own memorial on Oct. 19.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 16 Oct 2011 10:35 PM PDT
Vidyo announced today it has launched high-quality video conferencing on the Apple iPhone 4S.
The Hackensack, N.J.-based company creates telepresence software that allows people to hold high-quality video conferences even if some members of the video conference are using portable hardware to participate in the conference.
The company is now launching VidyoMobile app for the iPhone 4S and it has demoed a video conference with four users sharing content on Apple’s latest smartphone. Vidyo taps the stronger A5 processor of the iPhone 4S to deliver high-quality video imagery, just as it does on the iPad 2. With the app, you can enlarge an image of a given participant via pinch and zoom controls on the touchscreen.
The new app “enables mobile workers to hold a true enterprise video conference system in the palms of their hands,” said Ofer Shapiro, chief executive of Vidyo.
This means that users can participate in a video conference even if they’re on the road or working remotely. The app is now available in the App Store. VidyoMobile allows users to participate in conferences with more than 100 users, with the ability to display four participants on the phone screen at any given time on the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S.
Vidyo has raised a lot of money recently, including a $22.5 million fourth round of funding in September.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 16 Oct 2011 09:01 PM PDT
Kids will get a big kick out of Apple’s Siri voice-driven personal assistant for the iPhone 4S. Not only does it provide useful information when you need it, Siri is also entertaining. We tried it out on some kids during a camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains this weekend.
With a robotic voice that replies to your questions, Siri gives some funny answers. And that’s turning out to be one of the things that is helping to spread awareness of the main feature of the iPhone 4S to the larger audience of possible iPhone customers.
Siri didn’t work so well up in the mountains, nor does it recognize requests when there is a lot of noise. It either fails to recognize what you’ve asked it, or it just takes a long time to fetch an answer. You need decent reception to get timely answers from Siri. But sometimes you don’t mind, like when you’re driving in a car.
On the way to the mountains, for instance, Siri understood my requests to get directions from Google Maps to the camp site. In a task like that, it doesn’t matter that it takes 30 seconds or so because it’s going to be the fastest way to get the answer without using my hands. Siri is good at giving stock prices, getting the weather, and setting alarms — even if you ask in different ways using natural language. You can even ask it to remind you to call your wife when you get to the camp site.
But Siri also makes a pretty good digital babysitter. After I got the driving directions, I handed it back to my kid in the backseat, who promptly started asking all sorts of questions. Throughout the weekend, Siri proved to be quite entertaining, at least when it wasn’t having network connection problems.
Siri, spawned by research institute SRI and bought by Apple last year, uses artificial intelligence and multiple databases — including searching the wider internet — to give answers to your questions. Siri can understand questions based on natural language, regardless of which person is saying the words. And it understands when you are trying to illicit a funny answer from it.
Others have pointed out Siri’s adult-oriented humor, like when you ask it to “open the pod bay doors.” Siri understands the reference to Hal 9000, the rogue computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and says, “I’m sorry Joshua, I’m afraid I can’t do that (the line from the movie). Are you happy now?” If you ask for drugs, Siri recommends addiction treatment centers near you. If you want a “happy ending,” it shows you the nearest massage places.
I can only imagine how the Apple engineers planned for these answers. Did Steve Jobs ask them to put these words in Siri’s mouth? Anyway, here’s some dialogue between some kids and Siri.
Question: You’re a poop.
Siri: I guess you’re not happy
Q: Not at all
Siri: Sorry. I don’t understand. not at all.
Q: Find Kona’s pet food.
Siri: I found 15 pet stores. Thirteen of them are fairly close to you.
Q: Happy birthday Siri.
Siri: It’s my birthday?
Q: What is the tallest mountain in the U.S.?
Siri: Mount Mckinley.
Q: Who is the tallest person in the world.
Siri: Checking on that for you. Do you want me to search the web for you?
Q: What are you?
Siri: I’m just a humble virtual assistant.
Q: You’re weird.
Siri: If you insist.
Q: What are you doing?
Siri: Waiting for something to do.
Q: You’re cool.
Siri: That is correct. I use advanced heat dissipation techniques.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 16 Oct 2011 12:33 PM PDT
Owners of last year’s third-generation Kindle don’t need to buy a new model to take advantage of some nifty new cloud features.
Amazon has just released the latest update for the third-gen Kindle which will let you keep your personal documents in the cloud and easily access them from any Kindle app or newer devices. For many Kindle users, it’s a fairly major update that takes advantage of Amazon’s cloud prowess and provides yet another feature that other e-readers like the Nook and Sony Reader don’t offer.
The company first announced that it would be storing your personal files in the cloud when it unveiled the new $79 fourth-gen Kindle, Kindle Touch, and the Kindle Fire tablet. Amazon will also be keeping the third-gen Kindle around, except it’s now called the Kindle Keyboard.
Previously, personal files via your Kindle e-mail address, which can include text documents, pictures, and PDF files, were delivered directly to your Kindle device, but weren’t archived anywhere. Now your personal documents will be treated just like Kindle e-books. Amazon’s Whispersync technology will also synchronize your last page read, annotations, and bookmarks for personal documents. Unfortunately, Amazon says PDF files won’t be compatible with the Whispersync features.
Once in Amazon’s cloud, your personal documents can be re-downloaded on the new Kindle Touch and fourth-gen Kindle. That’ll make upgrading to one of the newer models even more painless. Amazon says it’s working on bringing the personal file synchronization feature to the Kindle Fire and Kindle apps “in the coming months.” The new features won’t be available on older Kindle models at all, which doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.
The fourth-gen Kindle is available for purchase now, and you can pre-order the $99 Kindle Touch, which will start shipping on November 21. The $199 Kindle Fire tablet is also available for pre-order now and will be released on November 15.
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Filed under: cloud, media, mobile, VentureBeat

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