18 October, 2011

Unlocking multi-channel marketing success

Posted: 18 Oct 2011 09:30 AM PDT
TrumpiaThis post is sponsored by Trumpia.
Everyone knows that the days of hoping to reach the majority of customers with a TV commercial during prime-time are long gone.
With the advent of social media and SMS texts, marketers across every industry are now embarking on a new journey – one that uses ever-expanding channels of communication to win attention from distracted, multitasking consumers.
Marketers used to hope for a half-percent response rate from email or online banner campaigns. But reaching everyone while they are online is also a thing of the past. People are always on the go. Millenials would rather text than talk. Baby boomers still love email. Some others can't get off the phone. And it seems that more and more people are becoming social media junkies.
The ability to master multi-channel marketing is becoming increasingly vital for companies that are determined to be lead players in the new economy, according to global management consultancy McKinsey & Company. McKinsey indicates that within two to three years, over 50 percent of customers – and typically the highest value customers – will be using multiple channels for shopping and purchasing.
The new rules of marketing now require brands to reach out to people through their "preferred" communication channel and orchestrate a coordinated marketing campaign. The new marketing discipline is taking a sharp new turn at breakneck speed and professional marketers are working hard to keep up.
As many agree, conducting a well-orchestrated campaign across multiple marketing channels has always been the secret to success when it comes to generating demand, building a brand and boosting revenues.
Unfortunately, tools like Facebook, Twitter, mobile text marketing, IM, email and even voice messaging have made the marketing mix increasingly fragmented. As each element of the mix became available over time, marketers started to implement each one of these in a piece meal fashion. They forgot how important it is to create an integrated, cross-channel messaging strategy.
That is why Trumpia created an innovative All-In-One Marketing platform that businesses can use to orchestrate new media campaigns. Instead of managing and paying for solutions from multiple vendors, marketers can use Trumpia to integrate SMS and MMS text, email, IM, voice broadcast and social media into a single user interface, campaign and database. Trumpia provides a competitive advantage because it offers a highly effective and affordable way to unleash true cross-channel marketing strategies.
Most importantly, with new media orchestration, businesses can enjoy open rates of more than 90 percent and response rates that are 10 times greater than those of traditional advertising, direct mail and email campaigns. This media orchestration, or cross-channel marketing, for which Trumpia is specifically designed, delivers dual benefits. It allows marketers to reach 100 percent of their audience via diverse channels and raise consumer awareness for their brands or promotional messages via multiple touch points, albeit repeating messages in various formats and time frames.
Companies have always coordinated their traditional media campaigns. But the multitude of communication channels that now exist make it challenging for small businesses to efficiently launch integrated new media campaigns. Now by using Trumpia, even smaller businesses can achieve the same results as companies with million-dollar advertising budgets. For a monthly price that is comparable to the cost of other ordinary single-channel campaign services, Trumpia elevates marketing to reach everyone on all popular channels including mobile SMS text, MMS, email, voice, IM, Facebook and Twitter. Simply put, Trumpia delivers All-in-One value for an All-in-One price.
By stepping up from single-channel campaigns, businesses can turn leads into sales conversions more easily and quickly than ever before.
For more information, contact Trumpia at 1-888-255-4611 or visit www.trumpia.com. If you sign-up for your 30-day free trial and mention VentureBeat, you will be able to take advantage of 500 credits — a bonus of 475 additional messages.

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 09:11 AM PDT
Yahoo CTO Raymie Stata has stepped down from his role as the leader and shaper of the company’s technology strategy.
The company’s new technology chief is Ash Munshi
Stata will remain an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) at Yahoo, a title usually reserved for serial entrepreneurs advising multiple startups at VC firms or incubators.
Stata served in the CTO role for a year and five months; he has been at the company since 2004 and has served in various roles related to architecture.
Of the new CTO, a Yahoo spokesperson said, “Ash has a well-established career managing successful global technology organizations at the most senior levels with a laser focus on meeting and exceeding customer needs."
Around the time of his appointment to the C-suite, Stata spoke extensively on the relationship between editorial content and technological infrastructure at the company.
"Our goal is to create a personally relevant experience for our users," he said at an event in June 2010. "Our technical focus is centered around that goal."
The executive churn rate at Yahoo has given pundits pause over the past year or so. Particularly since the board fired former CEO Carol Bartz last month, the company has been perceived as being in a state of flux and instability.
Yahoo stock took a marked dip this morning and is down 1.43 percent as of this writing.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 09:05 AM PDT
Livefyre LogoCommenting platform Livefyre has raised a new $4.5 million round of funding, the company announced today.
Livefyre is a social commenting tool for publishers that turns commenting into a live conversation. It also adds support for push notifications and integration with many social networks. Over 14,000 websites are using Livefyre, including The Sun, Sugar Media, The Next Web and MIT Tech Review.
Livefyre ScreenshotThe company said it plans to use the new funding to hire additional engineers and salespeople as well as expand its products.
The new round comes on the heels of an upgrade of Livefyre's platform, which includes a new set of social features called SocialSync. Much like competitor Disqus, the new SocialSync features allow commenters to share directly with friends on Facebook and Twitter and invite them to join in the discussion. Publishers can also add relevant comments from those social networks.
Founded in December 2009, the San Francisco-based startup has 28 employees. The new round was led by Greycroft, with participation from Cue Ball, HillsVen Groupe and ff Venture Capital. Livefyre has raised a total of $5.3 million to date.

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 07:23 AM PDT
waze 3.0There’s no stopping Waze, the crowdsourced app that offers free GPS navigation. The company announced today that it has raised another $30 million in growth funding, led by Horizon Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Waze also confirmed that it has topped over 7 million users, thanks to its aggressive global expansion.
The news comes on the heels of Waze’s recently launched 3.0 version, which boasts a revamped design, search integration, and more. The company's free app, which is available on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian phones, offers free turn-by-turn directions. Waze's claim to fame is the generous amount of live traffic data it has access to, which is powered completely by user contributions.
The company says it will use the additional funding to support its growing user base, as well as help bring its service to China. “Expanding to China, the world's fastest growing automotive and smartphone market, is an obvious next move for us," Waze CEO Noam Bordin said in a statement today.
Along with the funding, Waze is adding to its board John Malloy, managing partner at Blue Run Ventures, and Jason Wong from Horizon Ventures. Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker is also joining as a strategic advisor and board observer, and she’s joined by Josh Silverman, former Skype CEO and currently president of American Express’s US consumer division.
Palo Alto, California-based Waze previously raised $25 million in funding last December.

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 07:19 AM PDT
MoneyCloud storage startup Dropbox has secured a new $250 million dollar round of funding, the company announce today.
Dropbox’s service lets people store their documents, photos, video and other files in a personal folder. The files are easy to share and accessible no matter your location. The company has over 45 million users in 175 countries that save upwards of a billion files every three days. The service is on track to triple its user base in 2011, according to Dropbox.
The company said it plans to use the additional capital to accelerate growth, make acquisitions, pursue strategic partnerships and grow its team of employees.
The new round was led by Index Ventures, with additional funding Benchmark Capital, Goldman Sachs, Greylock Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, RIT Capital Partners, and Valiant Capital Partners as well as early investors, including Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners and Hadi and Ali Partovi.
VentureBeat first reported that Dropbox was seeking to raise a $200 million -$300 million round at an estimated $5 billion valuation.
Founded in 2007, the San Francisco-based startup has received a total of $257.2 million in funding.
Image via BaseNow

Filed under: cloud, deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
Sean Parker began his tour in the Internet spotlight by blowing up the music industry, and it apparently became sort of a hobby for the serial entrepreneur.
He co-founded Napster in 1999; a decade and change later, he’s taking on the industry from a new angle as an investor in and board member at Spotify.
Ever since music changed from a physical medium to a digital medium, Parker has been disrupting the space and trying to figure out what shape the record industry might take next. In the past, Parker has said that what Spotify has become lives up to his original vision for Napster.
“I think we’re all trying to figure out what is the ‘next’ music industry, and I think the guys at the record labels are just as confused about that as the rest of us,” Parker told the audience at Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco yesterday.

A new kind of record label

In the good old days of physical music — LPs, 7-inch singles and cassette tapes — manufacturing, distributing and retailing music took a lot of planning, time and money, Parker noted. With the advent of digital distribution, he said, “Suddenly, one of the primary limitations on the ability to release an unlimited number of artists in a year goes away.”
Distribution isn’t the only roadblock that’s melted away over the past few years. “Look at the fact that promotional methods [such as radio] were extremely limited,” said Parker. “Then, you look at MTV — even more limited… The record labels hated it, because it controlled their destiny.”
However, in today’s brave new world, where kids run around with MP3 players instead of transistor radios, even promoting and collecting music has changed.
“Because of platforms like Spotify, you can consume music, share music, build a collection, without ever having bought the music,” said Parker, whose forays into that territory terrified, enraged and panicked the music industry back in the late 1990s and early 200s.
“You can sample on an unlimited basis. It costs nothing to make each additional copy. And you find out about music primarily through your friends.”
As for finding new music, Parker places a lot of emphasis on Facebook. While he said that Spotify was and is a neutral platform and has the same terms with Facebook as it has with its other digital media partners, he also noted, “Facebook has always been a great promulgator of information… you saw this with video from YouTube, spreading virally. But because of copyright issues, there was no way to enable that same kind of virality for music.
“So the dream with Spotify was to integrate with Facebook so that viral distribution could be brought to the music industry.”
Of course, with digitzation and the onset of Internet culture, facets of the business from promotion to A&R (that’s artists and repertoire, the process of finding new bands to sign) have also undergone huge changes. “All of these historic limitations that basically created and defined the dynamics of the record business no longer exist, so all the departments within a record label don’t make sense anymore,” Parker told the crowd.

A new kind of band

On the flip side of that coin, bands these days have a drastically different experience.
Rather than gigging around town and hoping an A&R rep catches and loves your show, musicians are building up grassroots fanbases online, making and selling their own merchandise and generally finding ways to promote their music with or without help from the music-selling machines within a record label.
Parker equated the old way of picking and promoting “star” acts to pulling back and snapping a rubber band; the intial investment took some time, but once it was released, it flew.
“You could take an artist from zero to number one pretty reliably with a high rate of predictability, and you could do it over and over. Now, it takes a lot to make it,” he said.
“There’s a different process, a different set of rules.”
And for many bands, Parker said that getting things done for yourself is a big part of the new paradigm.
“There’s this DIY, indie notion that you’re the master of your own destiny,” he said. “If you’re not in dire straits and you’re a functional person with a day job, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

Is disruptive online TV coming next?

Parker said that he spends his time time these days pretty evenly between Spotify and Airtime, a stealth project he’s working on with Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning.
Airtime has received an initial $8.3 million round of institutional funding from major Silicon Valley VC firms and big-name angels. Given the provenance of its co-founders, we’re hardly surprised.
"We can’t talk about what the product does or will do," said Parker to Web 2.0 Summit attendees.
However, it has been suggested by the local rumor mill that the startup will have something to do with video content. Parker did say, “It’s so annoying that even on-demand TV is so screwed up,” but he didn’t specifically link this statement to his intentions with Airtime.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
MoonToast LogoFor musicians, celebrities and other entities with a strong following on social networks, it’s difficult to determine the value of a million Facebook fans, or two million Twitter followers.
With that in mind, Nashville-based startup MoonToast set out to create a commerce platform that would leverage the vast reserve of social media fans. It’s premiere product, the MoonToast Distributed Store, can be embedded and shared on a plethora of different affiliate websites, social news feeds (Twitter, Facebook), email and more.
An early client to take advantage of MoonToast’s services was country artist Reba McEntire, who has 2,488,348 Facebook fans and commerce deals on a handful of affiliate sites. The store that’s accessible in Facebook is basically the same as the one embedded into another website (like Target or Walmart). All the data from purchases gets filtered into MoonToast’s analytics tools (see screenshot below) so the client can adjust orders and determine things like the best time to pitch Facebook and Twitter fans on a new digital download or t-shirt.
By optimizing a client’s store enables them to get the most out of their social fan bases on networks like Facebook, according to MoonToast CTO Marcus Whitney, who spoke about his company during a session at the BarCamp Nashville event Oct. 15.
“Our model is that social is very dynamic and not static. As a result of that, if you just put a store on a Facebook tab, it will not work,” Whitney said, noting that the real influence comes in a person’s news feed.
According to MoonToast’s research, about half of all engagement on a post happens in the first 80 minutes. After 24 hours engagement falls to almost zero. “So you have to post on a very regular basis and you have to incorporate it (your commerce) into social media to be successful,” Whitney said, adding that the company has achieved $10,000 in a single hour multiple times.
MoonToast’s Distributed Store gave way to a specialized Facebook app called Impulse, which allows Facebook fans to purchase physical goods, listen to music and buy digital downloads — all without having to leave the site. MoonToast clients actually see a boost in fans after integrating commerce into their social media efforts, according to Whitney.
MoonToast has competitors, but each of them focuses on a specific segment of the social commerce market. While there aren’t many companies dealing with celebrity social commerce, TopSpin competes in music/music artists and 8thBridge is a popular competitor among retail brands.
Founded in 2008, MoonToast originally began as a social knowledge base that allowed “Experts” within their specialized field to turn a profit by performing various services. The company pivoted in 2010 and brought on interim CEO Stephen Collins, formerly of DoubleClick. The startup has upwards of $3 million in investments to date. Its early investors include country music artists such as co-founder Bucky Barnes, Wynona Judd, Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Kip Winger.

MoonToast Analytics Dashboard
Screenshots via MoonToast

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
Hopefully, the days are long gone when a U.S. Senator could get away with saying the internet “is a series of tubes.” Ron Wyden, the Democratic U.S. Senator from Oregon, tried to put that image behind him as he became the first politician to talk on stage at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Monday.
John Heileman, a writer for New York magazine and author of the bestselling book Game Change on the 2008 presidential campaign, introduced Wyden as a “devoted member of the internet caucus” and, in 1995, when he was in the House of Representatives, the lone politician who was able to carve out a safe harbor for “user-generated content” in the once-feared, censorship-friendly Communications Decency Act. He got a round of applause from the room for that. Essentially, Wyden is a champion of privacy, liberty, and innovation at a time when fear is driving limitations on these matters.
Does Washington get it?
“Things have changed tremendously” in Washington D.C., when it comes to politicians knowing something about the internet, Wyden said. “If you want to keep up with your kids, you have to know about tweeting and smartphones. We have issues to deal with. Members of Congress are now much more reluctant to speak out in informal settings because they worry someone will hold out a cellphone and record everything they have to say.”
“Certainly, things have changed,” he said. “You can no longer call the internet a series of tubes and expect not to be mocked.”
Heileman asserted that money from certain industries, such as the content industry, influences the way politicians vote in ways that restrict innovation.
“One of the reasons I wanted to come today is that social media needs to understand what the threat is with some of these policies,” he said. “We’re going to have to fight back.”
Content versus innovation
Wyden said the Protect IP bill proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is a big threat to the innovation sector.
“It is a question whether one part of our economy, content, can use government as a club to go after another part of our economy, which is the innovation sector and everything the internet represents,” he said. “It’s about whether you will have arbitrary seizure of domains, whether you will have vague standards that let you go in and seize domains, and ceding a significant portion of the authority over the internet to private companies. I have put a hold on this resolution.”
Wyden said the legislation would put restrictions on freedom and innovation, and that shouldn’t happen during tough times. Wyden also shot down an anti-counterfeiting bill last year, the proposed COICA bill, for Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.
“This would have set off a cluster bomb when you should use a laser, and the collateral damage to innovation and freedom” would have been bad, he said. ” It would have even hurt the ability to link from one item to another and put even good hackers in jeopardy for doing experiments.
“I see the internet as the shipping lane of the 21st century,” he said. “I will do everything I can to fight off efforts to wall off the internet. That’s the net neutrality issue,” a reference to whether internet service providers or governments can restrict consumers’ access to networks that connect to the internet. He wants a free and open architecture to enable innovation.
Net neutrality
Wyden said that he wished that the Obama administration could have gone further with its net neutrality solution, which left out mobile networks. He suggested the tech industry fight back.
“By and large, folks in tech pretty much view politics as root canal work,” he said. “People do not like getting involved in the nuts and bolts of politics. The future of social media is involved.”
Wyden admitted, “I’m at the point in technology where I know what I don’t know. That is why I have a team of Cracker Jack 24-year-olds and 25-year-olds to help me through this.” But he said the decisions that Congress made in protecting intermediaries 15 years ago with the Communications Decency Act enabled the growth of the internet in the U.S.
“I don’t want to see us lose that,” he said.
Stopping geo-tracking
Wyden and U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) have also proposed the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, which makes it illegal to track the location of people without first getting their permission or a search warrant.
“Most Americans don’t know that governments and companies can track them without any rules of the road,” he said. “We are saying let’s start with something simple, applying the Fourth Amendment to protect people from unreasonable search and seizures.” He said such a bill requiring warrants before doing such tracking is long overdue.
Wyden has also been critical of the Administration’s secret interpretation of the Patriot Act law regarding warrantless wiretapping. That interpretation is classified, and Wyden, who serves on the intelligence committee in the Senate, said that information should be available to the public.
“It is the secret interpretation that the executive branch uses to offer up their belief about the interpretation of the Patriot Act” and whether it allows the government to conduct wiretapping without a warrant. The New York times has sued to get that interpretation de-classified.
Too often, the government says that you can’t have both privacy and security at the same time.
“I don’t buy that at all,” Wyden said. “I do not think these are mutually exclusive.”
Other issues
Regarding concerns about entrepreneurship being in decline, Wyden said he is worried about that and that the government should focus on fixing this problem in order to attack the structural unemployment in the economy.
“Right at the heart is what we do to promote legislation,” he said.
He wants to extend tax havens for internet companies to digital goods in order to promote innovation. He said it remains important to revise immigration laws to allow people who are studying technology or creating companies should be allowed to come to the country and get on the path toward citizenship.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT
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The iPhone 4S is a quietly revolutionary mobile device, even though it looks exactly the same as last year's iPhone 4. The big pull this time around isn't the hardware — though the faster processor and revamped camera are certainly welcome — it's the integrated virtual assistant Siri.
More than a smarter version of the iPhone's previous voice command feature, Siri represents the first step towards widespread adoption of consumer artificial intelligence (AI). It's the beginning of something that will fundamentally change the way we live with our computing devices over the coming years. Modern touchscreen smartphones already seem futuristic compared to the clunkier handsets that came before, but Siri feels like something straight out of science fiction.
But is Siri enough to allay disappointed fans hoping for a completely redesigned iPhone 5? Read on to find out.

Hardware: Same design, more horsepower

iPhone 4S ifixit teardown
iPhone 4S teardown, via iFixit
If you've seen the iPhone 4, there's nothing truly remarkable about the iPhone 4S at first glance. Just like the iPhone 3GS, the 4S sports the same design as its predecessor. That's a good thing, since the iPhone 4's unusual aesthetic — two glass surfaces connected by a metal band — remains unrivaled. (It's still prone to screen cracks though, since there's twice as much glass to worry about compared to typical smartphones.) But if you didn't care for the iPhone 4's look, there's nothing about the 4S’s design to sway you to the new model.
An unfortunate side effect of sticking with last year’s design is that the 4S retains the traditional 3.5-inch display size. By this point, flagship phones from competitors never dare to dip below 4-inch screens. Apple still holds the title for the highest screen pixel density, thanks to its high-resolution 326 pixels per inch Retina Display. Other phone makers have matched the Retina Display's resolution over the past year, but since they use bigger screens, those displays don't look nearly as sharp. (Personally, I'd sacrifice some pixel density for a 4-inch screen.)
While it may not look different, the iPhone 4S is a much changed beast under the hood. It sports Apple's new dual-core A5 chip, which first appeared in the iPad 2, and is said to be twice as fast as the A4 chip in the iPhone 4. The A5 also features a dual-core graphics processor, which Apple says is seven times faster than the A4.
In regular usage, the A5 chip definitely gives the iPhone 4S an added kick. Launching new apps and switching between them is noticeably speedier than on the iPhone 4, and the A5 chip obliterates load times and lag from graphics-heavy games like Epic's Infinity Blade. The iPhone 4S will certainly be appealing to gamers — new titles like Galaxy on Fire 2 will only run on the 4S and iPad 2, and more games will certainly follow suit.
iPhone 4S camera test
iPhone 4S camera test
The iPhone 4's 5-megapixel camera was already one of the best out there, but Apple made it even better this time around with a new 8-megapixel shooter that will give many point-and-shoot cameras a run for their money. The new camera also includes a five element lens (compared to the four in the iPhone 4) and a larger f/2.4 aperture, which serve to make photos sharper and easier to take in low-light conditions.
As you can see from the picture to the right, the iPhone 4S takes some mighty fine photos. It's tough to tell much of a difference over the iPhone 4, but the improved optics are noticeable in situations where there's a lot of fine detail to cover, like capturing the many leaves on a tree.
The new camera can also record 1080p high-definition video, a pretty big leap over the iPhone 4's 720p HD video. Additionally, Apple has included image stabilization and noise reduction software capabilities. I'm still not convinced cellphones really need 1080p video recording (the larger file sizes don't seem worth it, especially on storage-strapped phones), but thanks to the improved camera hardware, the video still looks much better when recorded at 720p. (You'll need additional apps to record at lower resolutions since Apple only lets you record at 1080p.)

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Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT
After two years of development, Lookout Mobile Security is launching a security app to protect iPhones. The app doesn’t protect against malware, since Apple has handled that task pretty well. But it does protect users from other bad things that can happen to their iPhones.
For instance, the app warns users when they are using unprotected WiFi wireless networks and instructs them not to send their usernames and passwords over the network while they’re on it.
“We’re providing security protection so that you know your data is safe,” said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer at Lookout Mobile Security in Mountain View, Calif. “We took a while to make this, but we wanted to make sure we provided a worthwhile product. Historically, malware has not been a problem on the iPhone. But we found some areas where consumers need protection.”
The app also provides backup for the user’s contact list. It doesn’t yet provide protection for photos or videos, but that might come in future versions. The app also protects users against lost phones by helping them locate their phone if it is lost or stolen. Lookout also tells you if there are updates to be downloaded; often, such updates improve the device’s security.
Lookout noted that about 52 percent of iPhone users say they conduct mobile banking on their iPhones. About 93 percent of iPhone users said they are concerned about the security of the data stored on their iPhones. And about four of 10 iPhone users say they are unsure about the security of public WiFi networks. Lastly, more than a third of users don’t update their devices.
Mahaffey said that Apple has had much better security on its iPhones because it curates the App Store, making sure that any apps with malware don’t make it through testing. Google, by contrast, allows anyone to upload apps to the Android Market. Users are informed if the apps are using parts of the phones that have sensitive data, such as contacts. That’s why Lookout Mobile Security created its first smartphone app to protect Android phones from malware.
The reality is that there are still ways for iPhones to be compromised. That’s not good because smartphones are becoming security risks and are as important as some users’ personal computers when it comes to holding personal information.
When you look for a missing device with the Lookout app, it can locate it on a Google map or sound an alarm, even if the device is in silent or vibrate mode. (It can’t sound an alarm if the device is turned off).
The system advisor on the app tells you if your settings could put your privacy at risk or if your software is out of date. It also lets you know if your iPhone has been “Jailbroken,” or had Apple’s security circumvented. The service also tells you if your apps are using any location services that give away your location.
“People have heard a lot of stories about jailbroken phones and they need to be reassured about that,” Mahaffey said.
The backup and restore function will let you back your data up over the air. It will also restore your data to the same iPhone, a different iPhone, or an iPad.
Lookout already protects more than 12 million users with its Android app. Those users are on 400 networks in 170 countries. The app is available on Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile phones. Right now, the app is free. It’s possible the company may issue an app with premium features in the future.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Gamification, or the use of game-like mechanics to make non-game apps more fun, is hitting the big time. Pepsi is announcing today it has created a gamified social network around the hit TV show The X Factor, which is Simon Cowell’s new American Idol-style talent show.
In the past three weeks, Pepsi created two social media platforms to get people more excited about the show, whose winner will appear in a Pepsi spot to be aired at the Super Bowl. The Pepsi Pulse is a web site that shows off tweets that mention the show in real-time. It shows the actual tweets of people who are watching the show and it shows how many people have retweeted them, giving users a sense of the buzz around the show.
“It replicates the water-cooler conversation that happens as the show is happening,” Andrea Harrison, director of digital engagement at PepsiCo, said in a press call.
Meanwhile, the Pepsi Sound Off Platform allows X Factor fans to connect with each other on the web. The site allows fans to see what others are talking about on Pepsi’s own social network.
Harrison said that Facebook or Twitter themselves aren’t idea for fans to have an intense conversation about the show, since non-fans would be annoyed by all of the traffic. So the Pepsi Sound Off Platform is a place where fans can communicate with each, as if they were tweeting. Fans can vote for the best post and the most popular posts rise to the top of the Sound Off site. They are featured and the top users have a chance to be mentioned on the show itself.
The platform is also gamified. It uses a new platform from Gigya, a gamification startup, that provides features such as leaderboards, leveling up, and user rewards. Harrison said she hopes that the two apps will create a new level of fan loyalty. Users can level up from Rookie all the way up to the rank of Ambassador.
Patrick Salyer, chief executive of Gigya, said in an interview, “The thing that is exciting for us is that it gives us a high level of visibility. They are using pretty much every feature we have in a very big way. This is the first of many different Pepsi properties we will be launching with.”
Gigya has more than 400 customers now. It competes with rivals such as Badgeville, Big Door, and Bunchball.
Pepsi plans to promote usage of the new apps with a commercial starring Kevin McHale, a star of the TV show Glee. The commercial was shot last Saturday and will air on the show. That shows how quickly Pepsi is moving to set up better social media for the X Factor show.
“It’s like recreating the living room couch in social media,” Harrison said. “We can use this in other pop culture events that Pepsi is involved in.”

Filed under: games, media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 05:05 AM PDT
Currently, United States-based developers outscore their competitors in China when tested on common programming languages. However, the U.S. devs lag behind in math and logic.
A new study from Gild, a service for creating and comparing developers’ skill profiles, Chinese developers outscore U.S. developers on math and logic by 20 percent.
"Software development remains a bright spot for the U.S., with American programmers the best in the world, but is it sustainable?” ask the Gild researchers.
“To ensure this leadership for more than a generation, we urgently need to improve the quality of math skills in our schools. In fact, America should embrace and support this leadership position and introduce programming into schools."
Gild’s study took into consideration the skill sets and levels of almost half a million developers. Altogether, the group being studied was put through more than one million tests.
For most mainstream programming languages, the American developers tested better than did the Chinese developers.
Specifically, for C, U.S. developers scored an average of 22 percent better than did the Chinese developers. For C#, the American group scored 26 percent higher; for C++, 19 percent. In Java and Oracle programming tests, the U.S.-based devs did 24 percent better on the tests than the Chinese developers did.
While it’s good for those of us living in the States that our ladies and gentlemen of a coding persuasion are keeping ahead of China, perhaps the world’s largest national workforce, in programming language knowledge, it’s disturbing to know that we’re falling behind in math and logic, two of the fundamental foundations for truly beautiful code.
“With debate raging around the need for improved focus on math and science in American high schools — a comment most recently from President Obama in his press conference last week — this data seems to support the active challenge to America’s global technology leadership,” wrote a Gild spokesperson in an email to VentureBeat.
At an education level, Americans have long known that our science and math skills are nationally not up to snuff.
In 2003, the Program for International Student Assessment, an international test, showed that 15-year-old students in the U.S. lagged behind students in other nations when it came to math and science. In 2006, the National Academies publicly raised concerns about a marked decline in U.S. students’ knowledge of science, technology, math and engineering. Currently, American students rank low for math and science skills, coming in 25th in math and 21st in science compared to students in 30 industrialized countries.
So after a decade of apparently ineffective education, it’s not too surprising that today’s workforce of American engineers still trails their international counterparts in subjects like science, math and logic.
"America must invest in education to stay ahead,” said the Gild researchers in a statement. “Developing nations such as China are clearly putting an immense focus on core skills, particularly math. While nothing can replace creativity and ingenuity the United States cannot afford to ignore the fundamentals."
Image courtesy of hygienematters.
DevBeatCheck out DevBeat, VentureBeat’s brand new channel specifically for developers. The channel will break relevant news and provide insightful commentary aimed to assist developers. DevBeat is sponsored by the Intel AppUp developer program.

Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 05:00 AM PDT
Genevieve Bell leads a group of anthropologists at Intel who have become famous for their insights into how people use technology. At the Web 2.0 Summit on Monday, Bell gave one of the most interesting and amusing talks about what would happen if “data were a person.”
Her talk, entitled “The Secret Life of Data,” focused on the secrets that exist in data. It fit well with the theme of the conference, dubbed the “dataframe,” or how the huge explosion of data and the marshaling of it is changing our world.
For instance, some people in India appear to be enormous consumers of content. That’s because they are data brokers. They download data to their phones and then sell them in a shop to other consumers who buy them for much less money than the initial. On the network, the brokers look like they’re crazy. In fact, they’re a gateway for spreading content to hundreds of millions of people who otherwise could not afford it.
“This is what happens when data is intermediated,” Bell said in her Australian accent and knee-high black boots. “It looks suspiciously social.”
Bell reminded us that data often needs its context to be understood. She noted that “data has a country.” To make the point, she noted that Intel is currently studying what people keep in their cars. In the U.S., the picture at the right would suggest that the person who owns these car items might be a serial killer, based on American horror movies with long knives and chainsaws. But in Australia, people would recognize that the contents of the car belong to a volunteer firefighter.
She noted that 100 percent of Americans admit that they lie in their dating profiles. She noted that only 60 percent of Britons admitted the same. So she took that to mean that 40 percent of Britons were lying about how they lied on their social network dating profiles.
Bell said, “We are always trying to present data in a way that makes ourselves look best….The lies we tell are almost as interesting as the truths.”
She asked what would happen if we designed for data if it were alive, with intentionality, beyond what we normally think about.
Bell closed by saying it was sad that she was the only woman who had been up on stage so far. Battelle said he tried, then he joked, “I could tell you all the stories of women who turned me down.”
Here’s a video of most of Bell’s talk at the Web 2.0 event. Don’t miss the boots.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat, video

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 04:00 AM PDT
Hope springs eternal for new social game companies. Row Sham Bow, a social game company based in Orlando, Fla., is launching its new social game Woodland Heroes today.
Four years after the founding of Zynga, social game makers are still breaking ground on new titles and venture capitalists are giving them money. The hope is that the social game revolution is still in its beginning stages and that any group of talented game developers can steal a march on the industry leaders with a little bit of creativity.
Woodland Heroes is a story-based strategy battle game where cute and not-so-cute animals battle each other. I’ve tried it out and the game has an original approach to strategy and it works well in the asynchronous, or one turn at a time, style. As with Angry Birds, you can toss stuff via catapults and cannon at the enemy, but the game is played from an isometric, or slightly askew overhead view.
It is just one of many Facebook games. In spite of the presence of big rivals such as Zynga and Electronic Arts, Row Sham Bow’s founders believe they can succeed by targeting an under-served niche within the Facebook gaming market. And this isn’t a pure shot in the dark; Row Sham Bow’s founders spent many years at Electronic Arts sports game studio in Florida.
The company was started by Philip Holt, chief executive and former EA manager, and Nick Gonzales, chief technology officer and former EA Sports software architect. They’ve hired a number of former EA, Disney, and Cartoon Network employees. Their aim is to take their console experience and break into free-to-play games, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods.
“We feel like we have the opportunity to take a lot more creative risk,” Holt said in an interview. “I feel like we’ve seen more creativity in this part of the industry in the last two years than we have seen in the last 15 years in consoles.”
Observers such as Facebook’s game partnership chief Sean Ryan have noted that there are plenty of game genres that haven’t been popularized on Facebook yet.
Holt said his company looked for funding on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif., but found that investors weren’t interested in funding a faraway company that hasn’t proven itself yet. So The company raised $3.5 million in funding from Intersouth Partners, a venture firm in Durham, N.C. The company was founded in March and it was funded in April. Six months later, it has its first game ready for Facebook. The company has 23 employees and contractors.
Woodland Heroes has intricate two-dimensional art with a cartoon style that goes over well on social networks such as Facebook, which draw a more mainstream game audience than the hardcore gamers on the consoles. The company believes its target market is males and females ages 13 to 24.
The player has to defend the forest from an invasion of bears and other creatures. Players lead woodland creatures to freedom and discover the truth behind the disappearance of the hero’s father. The game pits the heroic creatures against the King Bear and his army of evil forest predators. The adventure takes place across 56 locations in six distinct regions, from lush lowland forests to swampy and barren bogs. You have to use strategy to take out your enemies and race them to find the best weapons on the map.
The game starts with a couple of easy levels that are accompanied by a tutorial that teaches you how to play the game. You shoot live pigs at the bears via catapults, always trying to locate the bears’ secret weapon before they locate your own forces.
“We felt like the games in the social market were a little lacking in game play,” Holt said. “We were disappointed and felt we could do better.”
He said the current games are “souless,” or not very fun, even though they are carefully tested and based on detailed analytics.
“We wanted to make the game fun and have consequences for getting things wrong,” Holt said. “We want the player to make decisions that matter. We want an emotional connection to characters in the game and the story. We want people to be attracted to the game because of its core mechanic.”

Filed under: games

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 03:22 AM PDT
Research shop The CleanTech Group just announced its companies of the year, in addition to 100 companies to watch on the Global Cleantech 100 list.
North America’s winner is smart meter communications company SilverSpring Networks which went public a few months ago. Silver Spring sells wireless networks that transmit energy consumption data between meters, consumers and utilities. The company also provides a web-based energy management portal to consumers, which takes the data from its relay points.
TaKaDu, which monitors water pipes for utilities, won for Europe and Israel. The company doubled the length of the water mains it monitors for leaks and other problems since the start of the year. Cities in the developed world lose on average 10 to 30 percent of their drinking water, and the associated revenue, though leaks.
TaKaDu’s VP of Marketing Guy Horowitz told me that high-profile cleantech failures like Solyndra, “have reduced the appetite for new stuff” among investors and are also steering them towards non-capital plays likes software. “The only way for startups to get noticed is to completely change how the sector in which you are operating works,” said Horowitz. “Don’t just build a better mousetrap.” Water utilities traditionally make minimal usage of IT and are slow to innovate but TaKaDu’s system is now in use in 10 countries. According to Horowitz, “Analysts are saying that what happened in the smartgrid space could happen in the water space.”
Asia’s Company of the year is LanzaTech, which coverts waste gasses into cheap ethanol. Its process traps the gases emitted by steel manufacturing — particularly carbon monoxide — and then ferments them with specially engineered microbes to produce ethanol. As previously reported by VentureBeat, Lenzatech has a partnership with China's major iron and steel maker Baosteel. China, now hyper-conscious of air pollution following the criticism it drew during the smog-choked Olympics hosted in Beijing, has taken a special interest in technologies that reduce emissions from industrial plants.
The Global CleanTech 100 list, produced in association with the Guardian newspaper, also contains many names which have appeared Greenbeat’s pages including trash-to-fuel firm Enerkem, Ice Energy‘s ice-based energy storage and  plant-based plastic makers Avantium.
Cleantech investment may be down, but interest in cleantech is still on the rise, not least among potential employees. “People who would be flocking to Google or Facebook, ” says TaKaDu’s Horowitz, “are going to TaKaDu. For a cleantech startup, that’s a big feat.”

Filed under: green, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 12:01 AM PDT
Contrary to Doc Brown’s famous lines in Back to the Future II, the next version of the DeLorean still needs roads  — but it doesn’t need gasoline.
The DMC Delorean, the iconic time-traveling car with gull-winged doors that was made popular due to the 80′s Back to the Future film Trilogy, is scheduled to go back into production 2013 with a new electric motor, reports Digital Trends.
Texas-based motor company is teaming up with startup Epic EV for the new line. The car’s V6 engine will be replaced with an electric motor  — made by a battery systems company named Flux Power (yes, that’s really the company’s name) — that has 260 hp and a range of 70 to 100 miles. The car will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph.
I have no idea what a car like this would retail for, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I want one.

Filed under: green, offBeat, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 10:43 PM PDT
A convincing photo and spec list of the about-to-launch Motorola Droid RAZR leaked online today just ahead of a major Motorola mobile event tomorrow.
Motorola just launched the stunning Motorola Droid Bionic on Verizon Wireless last month. But Motorola likely wants to keep its momentum going because Samsung will also be debuting a major device tomorrow as well, the long-awaited Nexus Prime featuring Android Ice Cream Sandwich. All three phones will be on Verizon.
The attractive leaked photo of the Motorola RAZR (or possibly Droid HD) seen above was first posted by Droid Life early on Monday, while several other websites recently confirmed the Droid RAZR’s powerful specification list that should make it one of the most powerful phones ever released.
The phone will almost certainly feature a 4.3-inch 960×540 display coated in Gorilla Glass, a dual-core 1.2-GHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor and 1GB of RAM. On top of that, it will have a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera that can take 1080p HD video and blazing-fast Verizon 4G LTE.
While the Apple iPhone 4S collected record sales this past weekend, one of the most missed features on the device was the lack of true 4G speeds using LTE or WiMAX technology. For those who weren’t happy enough with Apple’s hyped offering, perhaps the Motorola RAZR or Samsung Nexus Prime could be your ticket to smartphone happiness.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 09:20 PM PDT
blackberry bold 9900After the worst service outage in its history last week, Research in Motion said Monday that it will try to appease its BlackBerry users by giving them free apps worth more than $100.
The BlackBerry brand has struggled to keep pace in the past few years with the influx of Apple’s flashy iOS phones and the swelling number of powerful Google Android devices. Add in a considerable outage that left tens of millions of BlackBerry owners without access to e-mail, web and messaging abilities and the company may be looking at a mass exodus.
RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis apologized via video for the horrific service disruption that spanned the globe last week, saying “We’ve let many of you down.” Lazaridis and RIM followed up on those comments Monday by saying the company would give all of its users free apps and give its valuable enterprise customers a free month of high-level technical support.
RIM’s other CEO Jim Balsillie told the Associated Press that the company is taking the outage very seriously and stressed the company’s customers would be shown their appreciation by the free applications.
"This is something we would like to offer as our form of thanks,” Balsillie said. “It's a $100 worth of premium apps. It's a substantial offer to our 70 million users around the world."
The applications RIM plans to give away will appear in BlackBerry App World during the coming weeks, and the offer stands until the end of the year. The free apps include The Sims 3, N.O.V.A., iSpeech Translator, Bejeweled and Texas Hold'em Poker 2.
RIM will be holding a BlackBerry developer’s conference tomorrow in San Francisco, where the company is expected to introduce a major software update to its flailing tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook. On top of that, the company will likely show off a prototype or two of its next-generation BlackBerry device that will run the new QNX operating system.
Even with a free application giveaway, the company is up against a strong tide of change. If RIM doesn’t wow its developer base — usually the most ardent of fans and critics — it will be hard for the company to recover its stance as a reliable and steady mobile manufacturer.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 09:01 PM PDT
Tidemark is coming out of stealth today and launching its enterprise performance management apps for the cloud. That means the company is creating applications that can decipher a ton of enterprise data and extract information that is critical for managers to judge the performance of the business.
The applications can run in the cloud, or web-connected data centers, so that employees can access them from anywhere and use them to make better-informed decisions when running the business. The applications deliver information for managers in real-time with risk-adjusted metrics. It is useful for strategists, financial executives, operations planners, and forecasters. It helps businesses model their profit outlooks and otherwise make use of a treasure trove of company data.
Redwood City, Calif.-based Tidemark is also disclosing today that it has raised $11 million in two rounds of funding. Investors include Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz and Dave Duffield, co-founder and co-CEO of Workday and founder of PeopleSoft. Peter Currie, president of Currie Capital, and Phil Wilmington, former co-president of PeopleSoft and CEO of OutlookSoft, have joined Tidemark’s board of directors. Tidemark was previously known as Proferi.
The company is seizing an opportunity because the world of business intelligence hasn’t kept up with the advances in the cloud, said Christian Gheorghe, chief executive of Tidemark, in an interview.
Gheorghe said that business intelligence applications run on enterprise platforms and often can only be accessed with work computers. But managers need to access the data 24 hours a day, and too often the data analytics are delivered to late to be actionable. Tidemark’s applications enable enterprises to extrack immediate information for decision-making from large amounts of comlex and dynamic data — at a cost that is lower than existing solutions.
“This means that businesses no longer have to be reactive when it comes to data,” Gheorghe said. “A new type of app is needed in this day and age.”
Businesses have to be able to react to real-time data, such as opinions about a company that come in live via Twitter or Facebook updates. Legacy apps can’t handle that kind of volatile business environment, Gheorghe said.
The company aims to disrupt the likes of Oracle, SAP and other companies that make enterprise applications. Tidemark’s three major applications include Metrics Management and Management Reporting, which suggests what managers should do about real-time data reports. It also includes Enterprise Planning, aimed at strategic, financial and operational planners. It helps managers create budgets, forecasts and analysis. And it is launching Profitability Modeling, which lets users produce full profit-and-loss documents. All of the apps are accessible via the cloud and use an HTML5 web format interface.
The company says it has had great success with early customers such as Acosta Sales & Marketing. Tidemark is also partnering with web-based services companies SnapLogic, Cloudera, and VMware. The service will be based on a pay-as-you-go basis. The company has 30 employees.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 06:52 PM PDT
Matt EwingMatt Ewing, founder of green tech company Rewire Labs, decided on Tuesday the Occupy Wall Street movement needed a technology boost. So he held a San Francisco Hackathon Friday night, aptly named “Occupy the Web, hacking for the 99 percent.”
Occupy movements targeting corporate corruption have spread outside of the its Occupy Wall Street origins. Indeed, the day of Ewing’s hackathon over 4,000 people marched in San Francisco under the same Occupy flag. Many have accused the protesters of having no core vales, no unity, but the developers that gathered Friday night disagreed.
“We’re used to seeing manufactured politics — you have the RNC [Republican National Convention] saying, ‘Okay we’re going to have rallies with a clearly defined structure,’” said Ewing in an interview with VentureBeat. “That’s not really what movements look like. Movements are organic.”
For Ewing, technology is both the roadblock and the savior of protesters in today’s age. It engages people, helps people to connect, but is used off of the front-lines and can present a less than banded-together exterior.
“[Protesters] can move faster [because of technology], but they can easily look disjointed. This is what a 21st century movement is like,” he said.
Instead of disjointed, Ewing likes to call the movement “distributed,” which turned out to be true of the hackathon as well. After coordinating his event on social networks, Ewing found not only was San Francisco thinking along the hacking lines, but New York and Washington DC were holding their own hackathons. The three decided to band together for “Occupy the Web” with two goals in mind: To support local “occupations” and to expand the movement.
In San Francisco, hackers gathered at The Hub, a temporary workspace, after responding to an Eventbright invitation Ewing sent out on Tuesday. By Friday, the start of the event, 65 people had already signed up. 24-hours later, at 6pm on Saturday evening, six groups presented their hacks. The hackers chose their projects based on a poll presented to those involved in Occupy movements across the web. It addressed what was the protesters needed most from technology.
Here are a few of our favorites:

Occupy the Hub

Occupy the HubThe developers behind Occupy the Hub were focused on support. “You need to see and you need to feel the support, even if you can’t be in these physical locations,” said Kyle Kesterson, co-founder of games company Giant Thinkwell Inc.
Today, support comes in more forms than just a chin chuck or a pat on the back. For occupiers, it can be a tweet, a Facebook like, or a video coming through Livestream. Kesterson and his team put the three together on one website, which will act as a “hub” for supportive content. The bottom of the site shows a number of avatars, which hold signs that populate with real-time tweets. Visitors can tweet directly from the page, with your local Occupy hashtag pre-populated, watch Livestream videos which appear in the middle of the page and soon the team will add a Facebook like button. The hope is as people like the page, an avatar for them will appear at the bottom of the screen and will hold signs for their tweets associated with Occupy.


OccupySMSAlex Levinson, a security engineer with a popular gaming startup, participated in some of the smaller protests outside of the big cities and realized what we often forget: not everyone has a smartphone or access to a laptop. Dumb phones need love too, and so he created OccupySMS, which allows you to join a group chat executed over text messaging.
“I envisioned it being important for people who don't know each others’ phone numbers to get in communication easily," said Levinson.
He used Twilio to allow users to remain anonymous and currently hosts it on his own server. Because Twilio costs one cent per text, OccupySMS will allow you to fund the effort through SMS, in the future. Levinson hopes in the future people will be able to create satellite group chats for specific locations and efforts.


OccupyDesignPhotos of people holding up cardboard signs with various messages for the Occupy protests are concerning for many protesters.  For the media, it’s an opportunity to show what many people believe: these people are not organized.
"Our basic goal was to create a common visual language for the protest," said Jake, who presented the idea.
To take on this challenge, the OccupyDesign team created a website for people to print out and tape together unified and graphical images represented the core mission of this protest. The idea is to not just say "Wall Street is screwing me," but to show data conveying said screwing. Designers on the street can upload their own ideas as well, which may continue the trend of a disconnected message, but it’s also a channel for people to download signage with the same visual appeal.
Jake said it best, “This is the first protest that has had Adobe Illustrator and Flash..why aren't we using these tools?"


Similarly to OccupyDesign, the OccupyAds team feels there is a unified message from within the Occupy movement, but admits the media has not yet grasped it. Indeed, many are wondering where the protests will go from here. Stirring propaganda is needed to empower and educate not only potential protestors, but the protestors already involved.
Following along the recent trend to “crowdsource” content, OccupyAds created a website where people can upload videos to be set as creative commons, or allowing anyone to use and edit that content. Then, those with video editing skills can use the built-in YouTube editor to splice 30 and 60 second advertisements of the movement. From there, viewers can pledge money to see the video as an actual advertisement. Once the pledges reach $1000, the ad is sent to GoogleTV and pushed out to various ad networks.

Ewing explained the inspiration for his hackathon was a poignant tweet by writer Clay Shirky. It read, “The message of [Occupy Wall Street] is not “Here’s is our 9-point plan.” The message of [Occupy Wall Street] is “This is not a livable compromise.”

Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 05:07 PM PDT
Localytics iOS 5Since iOS 5′s debut on October 12, 31 percent of devices able to support the operating system have downloaded the upgrade, according to a study by Localytics.
iOS 5 has a large number of features compatible with older Apple builds making this one an enticing upgrade. These include iMessage, a real-time messaging service between iOS devices, Reminders, a new mail app, and more. The main feature reserved only for the iPhone 4S is the voice assistant app Siri. Even this was recently successfully ported to an iPhone 4 with iOS 5 installed.
Localytics, a software company analyzing applications, studied iOS device usage between the iOS 5 release date and October 17. Without considering iPhone 4S devices, which comes preloaded with iOS 5, nearly 1 in 3 devices with the option to upgrade did in just one week. Of that 31 percent, 36 percent were not iPhone users at all. In fact, they were iPad 2 users, soon followed by iPhone 4′s. The iPod Touch 4G brought up the rear at 17 percent.
In all, the iOS 5 upgrade is available to the iPad 2, the original iPad, 3GS and 4G iPod touches, and iPhone 3G’s and 4′s.
According to Localytics, app developers should be paying attention to the speed at which people adopt the new operating system. The company believes that with the increased amount of upgrades, we should be seeing app developers submitting their own iOS 5 compatible apps soon.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 04:58 PM PDT
Intel executive Kirk Skaugen said today that his company expects 15 billion devices will be connected to the internet in the coming years. Speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Skaugen said that the growth of data on the internet is racing ahead and data center computing is being pulled along with it.
Skaugen spoke because his boss Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, was sick. He said that Moore’s Law, the prediction made by Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore back in 1965 that the number of transistors on a chip would double every two years, is expected to hold up in the next few years.
Because chip technology continues to advance, the servers that use those chips can handle more and more traffic in data centers. As a result, users are able to upload 48 hours of video to YouTube every minute. Users can also send tweets about 200 million times a day. The internet now supports more than 4 billion connected devices today, and about 7.5 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook each month.
In the past, the number of processors in data centers grew two-fold in ten years, from 2000 to 2010. Skaugen believes we’ll see another doubling in five years. The average price per server has dropped in that time from $58,000 to $3,800.
Virtualization, or software that helps spread processing loads across more processors, will be so popular by 2015 that about three fourths of the time you will get a virtual server when you order a new server. Skaugen said we generated 245 exabytes of data last year and we are spending $450 billion on data centers each year. During 2011, we’ll generate 300 exabytes of data.
The data and the processors will be needed in the future to make increasingly accurate weather predictions. Skaugen said that servers will become 125 times more powerful by 2018 and they will consume about twice as much power. At that point, weather forecasters will be able to predict the landfall locations for hurricanes within a 100-mile radius. Eventually, forecasters should be able to predict the exact zip code where a hurricane will hit, days ahead of time.
While there are concerns that power limits will curtail Moore’s Law, Skaugen said, “Moore’s Law is alive and well.” He said that Intel is working on several generations of chips now that will enable faster processing for the next few years that stays on the pace demanded by Moore’s Law.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 04:46 PM PDT

If you were starting your own web service, would you make people sign up for an account linked to their real-world names and faces, or would you allow them to post anonymously?
This is a debate that has raged online for a while, with strong advocates on both sides. Perhaps no one is more informed about the effects of online anonymity than Chris Poole, a.k.a. moot, the founder of anonymity-fueled community 4chan.
Poole took the stage at Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today to talk about identity and anonymity, two seemingly opposed forces shaping how we represent and (if we’re lucky) discover ourselves online. The young founder, who is now pouring more energy into Canv.as, an image sharing site, was passionate and eloquent in making his case.
“I don’t see myself as an advocate for anonymity any more than an advocate for identity,” he told the audience. “But I do like having choices. It’s disturbing to me that our options are being eroded by the big players in the identity space.”
The entrepreneur came down particularly hard on Google and Facebook for foisting what he called “a fast-food version of identity” on all their users.
“Google and Facebook would have you believe that you’re a mirror,” said Poole, “but we’re actually more like diamonds. Look from a different angle, and you see something completely different… Facebook is consolidating identity by making us more simple than we truly are.
“We all have multiple identities. It’s part of being human. We’re all multi-faceted people.”
Poole said he was moot, the rabble-rousing hacker. But, he noted, he’s also a son, a friend, and hopes someday to be a spouse and parent. And that portrait is a lot more complex than anonymous or identified, “real life” or “cyberspace.”
“The portrait of identity online is often painted in black and white,” he said. Facebook says you have one identity; anonymity represents something chaotic online… But you can incorporate identity without asking users to make sacrifices.”
Poole says each user represents something unique to each group he connects with online, and sometimes, it’s important to choose an appropriate representation for the part of yourself you’re expressing in a particular forum.
“Picking my AOL screen name when I was a kid took four hours… it was a representation of who I was. If you go to any hacker con and ask someone what their nae is, they give you a handle. That’s the name they identity with — the name they chose themselves.”
Poole says Twitter does a great job of handling anonymity, identity and all the shades of gray between. “There’s a rich form of communication that takes place because the stream is interest-driven, not identity-driven,” he said. “And its apps support multiple accounts. Personal, business, and the whole spectrum between.”
By contrast, Poole said of Google+, “I think [Google] missed a huge opportunity to innovate by following the same principles that Facebook set up.”
He said in the past, he had told some Facebook staff that their company “sets the bar in terms of identity and privacy online, and everybody follows suit.” However, Poole now thinks differently about that.
We set the bar as users of the web,” he told the audience at Web 2.0 Summit, “and we’re quickly approaching this fork in the road. We’re about to sacrifice something valuable and special.”
Finally, Poole challenged both creators and users of web services to consider the following each time they make a new product or sign up for one: “Facebook and Google do identity wrong, Twitter does it better, and I wonder what the web would look like if we did it right.”

Filed under: social

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 04:26 PM PDT
Chikodi Chima and Meghan Kelly
VentureBeat is proud to announce the two newest members of our writing staff: Meghan Kelly and Chikodi Chima.
Meghan joins our team after a stellar four-month internship in our San Francisco office, where she helped cover new funding announcements as well as write up news about Demo alumni. A new reporter, Meghan has absorbed VentureBeat’s ethic of aggressive, fact-driven reporting and speed. After doing the job of a reporter for several months, it was an easy decision to promote her into that job officially.
Meghan is a southern belle from Yonkers, New York. She’s a graduate of George Washington University, and is the caretaker of VentureBeat’s office cactus, aka PlantBeat.
At VentureBeat, she’ll be covering startups, security and “telling the story of awesome from coast-to-coast.” She’s interested in learning more about how people’s brains tick in relation to the things (and companies) they’ve created. Follow her on Twitter @meghankel, or email her at meghan.kelly@venturebeat.com.
Chikodi comes to VentureBeat after a stint at The Next Web. He’s also contributed to a green tech news startup, helped out with TED India, traveled to Brazil (from where he first wrote a freelance piece for VentureBeat), and is involved in the production of a documentary film.
Chikodi is a multitalented multimedia reporter (check out his short video on beards in Philadelphia), and impressed us with his eagerness to cover Silicon Valley and startup culture.
He’ll cover emerging technologies, startups, investing, cleantech and online communities for VentureBeat. He once hitchhiked from San Francisco to Seattle, and has sold alarm systems for a living.
He received his M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in digital media. Follow him on Twitter @chikodi or email him at chikodi@venturebeat.com.
We’re not done hiring yet, either. We’re looking for talented reporters in San Francisco and New York. And we’ll be looking for a new intern, too, since we just promoted ours. We need someone hungry to break the news, eager to find needles in haystacks of emails and financial reports, and willing to learn the ropes at a fast-paced, fact-based news startup. Is that you? Write to us.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 03:11 PM PDT
John Donahoe, eBay chief executive, thinks the line between offline and online shopping is blurring, and his company plans to serve consumers as they move back and forth between them.
Speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit today in San Francisco, Donahoe said his company has set up an open commerce platform so that eBay can essentially become an operating system for commerce. That means that eBay will assist consumers as the lines blur. For instance, Donahoe said that half of all retail purchases are made after consumers consult the web for prices and other information. Increasingly, they’re checking the web on smartphones while they are shopping in stores.
eBay has made acquisitions of a number of companies such as Milo (a $75 million deal) that help consumers look at products in stores and get the best prices. You can take a picture of an object at a friend’s house and search for the nearest store to buy that item. You can order and then pick it up at the store, using eBay software.
Retailers can tap into the eBay commerce platform and use it to set up better relationships with their consumers. eBay can provide this kind of help to retailers, Donahoe said, because eBay doesn’t compete directly with them, in contrast to Amazon. Donahoe said more than 50 million people are using eBay’s mobile app.
“The wall between etail and retail is crumbling stunningly fast,” Donahoe said. “Enormous change is coming to retail. They realize and we realize that we can’t do it all ourselves. We are not a retailer and never will be.”
Donahoe said that Facebook looks more like a partner while Google is a competitor, but Donahoe said he believes such web-based companies will remain focused on their core business, and won’t necessarily change to change to become arch competitors to eBay.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 02:58 PM PDT
One of the founders of Skype and Rdio has decided to make a run at Netflix and Hulu with a mysterious new video service called Vdio, according to a GigaOM report.
Janus Friis, the co-creator of Skype, Kazaa, Joost and Rdio, has kept Vdio a secret for as long as two years and received $5.6 million in funding in Oct. 2010 while the company was listed under the name Project WBS. At present, Vdio.com is simply a splash page featuring high-quality animations from many movie and TV properties, including shows like Breaking Bad (pictured), Mad Men and Justified, as well as movies like Enter the Dragon and A Few Good Men. If you are the in the U.S. like I am, the screen says the service is only available in the U.K. If you are in the U.K., the splash page says “Coming soon to the UK.”
Since the startup has only collected $5.6 million in funding, I find it hard to believe this will act as a serious competitor to Netflix’s streaming service out the gate. But if Vdio’s model uses advertising paired with partner-provided content, it could be dangerous to Hulu. And if given the opportunity to grow and collect more funds under a subscription model, it could be a threat to Netflix, especially because Netflix has done nothing but agitate users this year with price bumps and a botched plan to move physical DVD rentals to another website.
We still don’t know much about Vdio, but I think it’s safe to make a few assumptions. Since the company comes from the people behind the excellent music streaming service Rdio, this new venture will likely be primarily subscription-based and highly social, with integration from Facebook and Twitter. Instead of streaming music, Vdio will probably streaming TV and movies, based on what we see on the Vdio splash pages.
Rdio recently launched a free element to its music subscription service as well, which gives users some free access to the huge Rdio catalog without ever needing to offer a credit card. Vdio might take this approach as well as a way to get users interested in the service.
Joost, a previous Friis venture, also dealt with video. It was a web TV service founded in 2006 that originally centered around peer-to-peer video technology. Now the site is a simple (and bland) YouTube-like hub for content like movie trailers and short TV clips.
Do you think the guys originally behind Skype and Rdio have a chance to make a dent in online videos with Vdio?
Update: The story originally indicated that Vdio was a venture by both of the Skype and Rdio founders. The company was in fact founded by only one of the Skype founders, Janus Friis.

Filed under: media

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 01:21 PM PDT
ClickableAdvertising service Clickable has secured a new $12 million round of funding, the company announced today.
Clickable’s focus is making it easier for clients to manage their online campaigns. Its service collects data from various advertising and social campaigns, such as those done on Google Adwords, Facebook and Microsoft adCenter. It then takes that data and helps client optimize each of those campaigns to make ad dollars go further.
The company said it plans to use the additional capital to speed up product innovation and add to its portfolio of online products.
The new round of funding was led by American Express and includes additional investment from existing investors, including Union Square Ventures, Founders Fund and FirstMark Capital.
Founded in 2006, the New York-based Clickable has received $32.5 million total funding to date.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 11:48 AM PDT
Foundation, a new framework for web design, helps you make beautiful, consistent experiences across all kinds of personal computers, TVs and mobile devices, including tablets and a range of smartphones.
Seeing Framework’s magic in action is, well, a bit magical. As the screen resolution (or browser window size) changes, links become buttons. Images automatically resize. Layouts morph.
Try it out yourself; go to one of the many sites built on Foundation, then manipulate the size of the browser window. Take it down to a tablet size, then a smartphone size, and watch the site change fluidly along with you.
The benefit of Foundation is that you, the designer, don’t have to customize each layout on a device-by-device basis.
“The framework does all the work,” said Dmitry Dragilev, lead marketer at design shop Zurb, which created Foundation. “People don’t need to worry about this stuff anymore.”
User experience these days lives on mobile as much as on the web. That’s why Foundation, a new building and prototyping framework for front ends, works across all platforms. Better still, it’s open source software; you can check it out on Github.
In some ways, the framework is a lot like Twitter’s open-source front-end framework, Bootstrap.
But Zurb representative Dmitry Dragilev says Zurb’s framework is superior because of its emphasis on multi-device scaling. “Bootstrap just works for desktop apps. The one we’re releasing is designed to work on any kind of device, mobile or not, and that’s crucial now that mobile web use has started to overtake desktop use.”
The basis of Foundation is the Grid, a layout framework that seamlessly scales your content across all form factors, including mobile devices, small screens, large desktops and even huge screens, such as Internet-connected TVs. The Grid is a twelve-column, semi-liquid “grid of awesomeness that you’re gonna love,” Zurb claims.
In addition to the Grid, Foundation includes a slew of tools for rapid web and mobile prototyping, including typography, tabs, buttons, image grids, pagination, forms and more. “We also included some of our most popular JavaScript plugins, Orbit and Reveal, so you can handle image and content sliders and modals,” stated Zurb in a company blog post.
Finally, Foundation prototypes can be built into full sites for maximum developer/designer efficiency.
Dragilev said Dictionary.com already uses Foundation (check it out on their Word Dynamo app), as do a number of other sites and apps. Also, Zurb is presenting today at Mozilla’s WebFWD initiative for open web solutions.
Next, Zurb will be further refining the framework (squashing bugs and fixing edge cases), as well as adding templates, site generation, more common elements and even better mobile support.
Image courtesy of Juri Pozzi.
DevBeatCheck out DevBeat, VentureBeat’s brand new channel specifically for developers. The channel will break relevant news and provide insightful commentary aimed to assist developers. DevBeat is sponsored by the Intel AppUp developer program.

Filed under: dev

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 10:31 AM PDT
YouTube Merch StoreYouTube is going to let musicians sell merchandise, tickets and more on the site, the company announced on its blog yesterday.
Giving fans the ability to purchase things via the YouTube platform transforms the site from being just a place to watch videos to a real destination that will get much more attention. The site gets some 800 million unique visitors per month.
The site’s new “Merch Store” feature. The new feature lets YouTube partners offer their fans T-shirts, digital downloads, concert tickets and other items directly on their YouTube Channel page.
YouTube is partnering with a few different companies to help power the new Merch Store. Direct-to-fan marketing enabler Topspin will handle the physical merchandise sales, while concert organizer SongKick will handle all digital ticket sales for concerts and shows. Both iTunes and Amazon will power digital music downloads, according to YouTube.
It’s unknown what the financial terms of Merch Store deals will be, but YouTube is probably looking at this new feature as a way to grow interest in the platform — meaning the site probably isn’t worried about making a huge killing on merchandise sales.
YouTube is planning to roll out the new Merch Store feature to all of its music partners in the near future.

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 17 Oct 2011 10:25 AM PDT
UberMedia CEO Bill Gross isn’t dodging the fact that his latest app, Chime.in, is a patchwork of other successful apps.
“It’s an amalgam of blogging and Reddit and Facebook — there’s aspects of each in there,” he told VentureBeat in a phone interview last week.
“We’re definitely borrowing those good ideas. But this is a deeper dive into their interests and intelligent conversations around [users'] passions.”
The Chime.in site will launch tomorrow, but the app is available now in the iTunes App Store.
As Gross mentioned, it has a lot in common with other social media tools. It gives users and brand-oriented publishers a public, online forum for sharing text and picture updates, just like Twitter. You can also share videos and polls, just like on Facebook.
Posts themselves can be upvoted to surface interesting and relevant content, and each post has a comment section with threading and upvoting, just like Reddit and Digg. And like you would on those two sites, you follow topics and interests more than people on Chime.in, and you can sort items by topic, by popularity (upvotes) or by freshness.
But Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Digg already exist. Why would anyone want to create yet another online identity for sharing and reading similar information? In other words, does Chime.in have a truly compelling mechanism for user acquisition?
“The way we get new users is through the interests and how those are related to the publishers we’re inviting to the platform,” Gross told us. “We’re in Los Angeles, so we have a lot of entertainment properties interested.” So far, the list of initial partners includes E! Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Bravo TV and Disney.
UberMedia is based in Pasadena, CA. The company is responsible for Twitter clients Twidroyd and Uber Twitter. However, with Twitter increasing its focus on the consumer experience, the long-term viability of pure-play Twitter clients is in question.
Gross said his company will continue to have “a Twitter apps division that’s focused on those. And separately, we have this new division to focus on the Chime.in platform.”
“I don’t think they will drop their audiences elsewhere,” said Gross. But he sounded confident that publishers and brands would want to invest the time and effort in creating new audiences on Chime.in.
“On Twitter, you have to get people to follow a link to another page … The brands we’re talking to are frustrated that they don’t have the real estate to do what they want to do.”
In the end, the biggest difference between Chime.in and all the rest, says Gross, is the fact that the app has a built-in money making mechanism. Users can choose to run content-related ads on their pages and split revenue with UberMedia starting in 2012.
As a bid to save UberMedia from obsolescence once Twitter’s domination over the consumer experience is complete, we’d say Chime.in falls a bit short. It borrows a lot and innovates mighty little.
But if a powerhouse like Bill Gross (a lifelong entrepreneur who heads up the Idealab incubator and founded Picasa and Overture, among other companies) is willing to put himself behind the idea, we’ll wait and see just what brands bring to the table and just how enticing that is to the all-important end users.
Here are some mockups of the site sent to us by UberMedia:
Image courtesy of thecolourmill.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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