19 October, 2011

Now you can tell Siri to Remember the Milk on the iPhone 4S

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Task management service Remember the Milk has unveiled a method to let users add tasks with the iPhone 4S’s Siri virtual assistant — a first for a third-party service.
Siri currently works with data from Yelp and the knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha, but developers are eagerly anticipating the chance to make their own services Siri compatible.
It appears that RTM is using a simple workaround to take advantage of Siri: It involves creating a new CalDav calendar on your iPhone 4S and making it your default reminders calendar. So now when you ask Siri to make a reminder for a certain point in time, it will get added to Remember the Milk instead of showing up in the iPhone’s “Reminders” app. That means you’ll have to rely on the RTM app to keep track of your reminders, instead of Apple’s built-in app.
By making Siri work with RTM, you’re also disabling iOS 5′s normal reminder notifications. I tried creating a RTM event using Siri and it successfully made its way to the service, but my iPhone never reminded me on time because I don’t have the RTM app installed. For heavy Remember the Milk users, this shouldn’t be a problem, but I think the company would do well to remind users of the way it changes the iPhone’s built-in reminder service, as well as the fact that an RTM app is necessary.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT
Video game console owners are purchasing more and more downloadable content, according to a survey by market analyst firm EER.
More than 51 percent of owners of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have purchased downloadable content (DLC), or games such as expansion packs or indie games that can be downloaded in digital form over the internet to a console, in the past 12 months. That compares to 40 percent in 2010 and 34 percent in 2009.
EEDAR, based in Carlsbad, Calif., estimates that downloadable content will generate more than $875 million in revenue in North America in 2011. Jesse Divnich, analyst at EEDAR, also predicts that North American DLC revenue will top $1 billion in 2012.
Users are downloading more content because of factors such as better broadband speeds and an increase in DLC marketing. Among those who don’t download DLC, privacy remains the No. 1 concern. Privacy was cited by 47 percent of gamers who said they do not purchase DLC. About 11 percent of the non-purchasers cited poor quality as the reason they don’t buy. Other barriers include a no-return policy, high costs, no demo, and a lack of free content. To overcome these impediments, EEDAR says publishers, developers and console manufacturers should work together.
If those non-purchasers actually bought something, that would generate $600 million more in revenue in North America each year.

Filed under: games

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT
Berlin’s Crowdpark is announcing today it has raised $6 million for its social betting games business. Crowdpark takes prediction markets and turns them into a social game where you can bet virtual currency on the prediction you believe will come true.
Will Netflix’s CEO get fired? Will the economy tank in 2012? Will Mitt Romney snag the Republican presidential nomination? All of these topics are fair game for Crowdpark’s “dynamic betting” platform, where you can make wagers on just about anything.
“It basically works like a stock market, and we think it’s a game changer,” said Ingo Hinterding, co-founder and chief product officer at Crowdpark, in an interview. “It’s all in real-time and based on real-life events. Whatever happens in real life, you can bet on it.”
The business seems like gambling, but it isn’t. You wager virtual currency that you purchase with real money. But you can’t cash out of the game. Rather, you get status and reward points for your skillful predictions. Users can compete against each other in betting events. They can bet on real-life events in sports, entertainment, news, technology and other topics. Players can make a bet and change it at any time. They can also craft their own personal bets and share them with friends.
The company’s first game, Bet Tycoon, has about 500,000 active users on Facebook. (It was 1 million users before Facebook changed the way it counts gamers). The game launched in February and it is popular in a number of countries.
The Crowdpark Social Betting Index represents the collective wisdom of Crowdpark’s users and it shows how users collectively feel about top-trending predictions. The index will give observers a sense of where public sentiment lies on major questions, like whether Mubarak will get the death penalty in Egypt.
The funding comes from European investors Target Partners and Earlybird Venture Capital. Waldemar Jantz at Target Partners will join the company’s board.
Hinterding said that the company has defined an entirely new genre of games on Facebook.
Crowdpark plans to hire new people with the money and develop new products. The company has already opened an office in San Francisco. Hinterding said the company is exploring related games such as casino games and taking the game to other platforms.
Christian Nagel, partner at Earlybird Venture Capital, said in an interview that Crowdpark brings together social, mobile gaming, and online betting — three huge markets.
To date, the company has raised $8 million. Crowdpark was founded in 2009 and it is led by Hinterding, Martin Frindt and Christoph Jenke. Both Jantz and Nagel said that Berlin in particular is a great city for game investments because of its low costs, good talent, and wealth of other game companies. The company is one of more than 130 game developers, publishers and service providers in Berlin.
Crowdpark has 20 employees. Rivals on a broad level include Zynga, but there are no direct competitors on Facebook.While prediction markets are similar, they usually aren’t real-time in nature.

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:55 AM PDT
Google-Music-BetaGoogle has been in talks to offer its own MP3 music store for some time, but Android head Andy Rubin shed a little more light on the upcoming service today at the AsiaD conference, saying the service was “close” to launching.
Google couldn’t launch a full-service music offering earlier, so it launched a music locker that lets users listen to their music from the cloud. The record labels weren’t happy with that move, but Google has been persistent in wanting its own MP3 music offering to challenge established players like Apple and Amazon and willing to do whatever it takes.
Android boss Rubin didn’t reveal too much about the upcoming service outside of the fact that the service was “close” to launch. But he did indicate the service would be a little different from Apple and Amazon by offering “a little twist – it will have a little Google in it. It won't just be selling 99 cent tracks."
Google is in an increasingly challenging position because now Apple has iCloud for music storage and will soon have iTunes Match, a $25 a year service that lets people legally access almost any song in their iTunes library. And then there’s Amazon, which already has a strong MP3 sales catalog, its Amazon Cloud Drive for music storage and the upcoming Amazon Kindle Fire tablet that will have an emphasis on media consumption.
While Google launched Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich last night, we’re not sure at this point if the major software update will help the music experience. There’s no doubt Google will try to take advantage of the number of Android devices used around the world in selling music. But until Google can complete deals with the major music labels, we’ll have to wait and see what Google launches.
Would you like to use a native Google MP3 store on your Android phone or tablet?

Filed under: media

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
Mary Meeker knows how to pack a lot of facts into a 66-slide PowerPoint deck. Fortunately, she’s also quite good at decipering what all of those facts mean for our mobile computing future.
At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday, Meeker returned to talk about internet trends at a pace that was faster than I could type. So I recorded her entire talk on video so you could get a sense for Meeker’s rapid-fire delivery. Her first two trend ideas — globality and mobility — were pretty much the same as last year. We’ve got a big global tech business with lots of mobile growth, and Meeker believes the mobile revolution is just in its infancy.
The growth of the internet and mobile computing are two major trends in technology that have happened faster than the adoption of radio and television. While there are 835 million smartphone users now, the potential for growth is huge, since there are 5.6 billion mobile phone users.
Meeker said that iPods, iPads, and iPhones are selling at tremendous rates, but Android phones have grwon even faster than the iPhone. Consequently, mobile search, mobile ads, mobile commerce, mobile apps and mobile usage are all skyrocketing.
Meeker believes that touchscreens have arrived and user interfaces will move to sound (with Apple’s Siri) and motion-sensing as well (with Microsoft’s Kinect). She believes that internet commerce has become so fast, easy, fun and efficient that it will become more important than ever. She notes that digital commerce is only about 8 percent of the commerce market so far.
Meeker said that just a few years ago, the U.S. looked weak in mobile technology. But now it is the undisputed leader thanks to the rise of Apple and Google and the decline of Nokia. U.S.-made operating systems now command 64 percent of the smartphone market, compaed to 5 percent just five years ago. Facebook, Amazon, eBay are among 14 major leading companies from the U.S. that are in the ranks of the top 25 “mega-leaders.” It’s worth noting that 81 percent of the users of the top internet properties are outside the U.S.
China is seeing tremendous growth in mobile users, hitting 459 mobile internet users in 2010, compared to 244 million in the U.S. A total of 11 other countries have users who spend more average hours on social networks than users in the U.S.
She believes that things like the Arab Spring signal the empowerment of people via connected mobile devices. The weak economy presents considerable uncertainty. Consumer confidence is weaker than usual, the stock market is more volatile, and gross domestic product forecasts are all being revised downward for 2011 and 2012.
Here’s Meeker’s slides and the full presentation and Q&A in three videos.

KPCB Internet Trends (2011)http://www.scribd.com/embeds/69309864/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list

Filed under: mobile, video

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
Investments in game companies have accelerated once again, according to a study of third quarter game investments and acquisitions by Digi-Capital, a boutique game investment bank in London. If the current trend continues, the amount raised by game startups could double in 2011 compared to 2010.
“As we expected at the start of the year, games investment and M&A have accelerated again,” said Tim Merel, managing director at Digi-Capital. “Even though Q3 2011 has just finished, global games investment so far this year is pushing towards double that of 2010, and global games mergers and acquisitions are more than double the level of 2010.”
The quarter included blockbuster transactions such as Electronic Arts’ $750 million-plus purchase of PopCap Games. But there have been many smaller deals as well across the social, mobile, online, and cloud gaming markets. There was also significant activity originating in China, Japan and South Korea, as well as other emerging markets.
It is interesting that Zynga is still trying to go public for a valuation of $10 billion to $20 billion. The company filed in June, but a volatile market (and presumably questions from the Securities and Exchange Commission) have kept the company from going public. By comparison, consider the third-quarter valuations of these market leaders.
Merel’s data includes interesting measures of the value of game companies. Activision Blizzard was worth $13.8 billion on Oct. 4. If you subtract $2.9 billion in debut, then the enterprise value was $10.8 billion. The enterprise value of Electronic Arts was $4.8 billion. GameStop was worth $3.3 billion. Take-Two Interactive was worth $1 billion. Nintendo was worth $7.5 billion. Ubisoft was worth $293 million. Japan’s DeNA was worth $5.7 billion. Gameloft, a major iPhone game maker, was worth $294 million, while Japan’s Gree was worth $6.9 billion.
“While the macro-environment remains challenging, the fundamental growth in online/mobile games continues to drive games investment and M&A forward,” Merel said. “We still believe that now is a great time for the strongest independent online/mobile games companies to either invest for growth, or take advantage of the market to look for strategic exits.”

Filed under: deals, games

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:56 AM PDT
JK Shin, Andy Rubin debuting Galaxy Nexus
JK Shin, Andy Rubin debuting the Galaxy Nexus
If I were Samsung, I’d be tired of Apple’s patent complaints too. Samsung mobile head JK Shin has admitted that with its new Galaxy Nexus Android phone, the company took great pains to avoid more legal attacks from Apple, Yonhap News reports.
“Now we will avoid everything we can and take patents very seriously,” he told reporters last night, seemingly hinting that Samsung was a bit carefree with intellectual property concerns previously. “We will see if (the Galaxy Nexus) will be 100 percent free [from Apple suits],” he later added.
Samsung has been embroiled in a legal battle with Apple since April, which started in the US, but has now spread internationally to several countries. Apple claimed that Samsung “slavishly” copied its designs with the Galaxy Tab tablets and Galaxy S series of phones, both of which bear similarities to the iPhone and iPad. Apple has managed to block Galaxy Tab sales in some countries, like Australia and Germany, and a US judge recently found that Samsung does infringe on Apple’s patents (though Apple is being asked to prove the validity of its design patents).
So it makes sense for Samsung to avoid that legal mess entirely with the Galaxy Nexus, which debuted last night at a Hong Kong press event, and is the latest in Google’s flagship Nexus line of Android phones.
On the current suits, which now span 30 cases across 10 countries, Shin said, “I think it is just a start and (the lawsuits) will last for a considerable time… I don’t think there is much gain (from lawsuits against Apple). What we are losing is the pride in our brand.”
Samsung isn’t just taking blows from Apple, the company is now trying to block iPhone 4S sales in Australia, Japan, and parts of Europe. Shin says he’s added more bodies to Samsung’s legal team and plans to hire more lawyers to better take on Apple in court.
Photo via This is my next

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:46 AM PDT
York-News-TimesWhile it’s no surprise that business for many local newspapers is teeter on the edge of death, web publishing service OwnLocal doesn’t think they’ll be seeing the bright light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon.
OwnLocal, which offers traditional dead-tree newspapers a variety of white-label software services to boost their advertising revenue, has secured new funding led by WordPress developer Automattic, with participation from 500 Startups, Justin Kitch and other angel investors.
OwnLocal’s target clients are small-town newspapers with a circulation of 4,000 to 5,000 as well as a preexisting sales team that has solid relationships with local businesses. OwnLocal helps train each sales team about the white-label products and how to sell them.
The startup’s products include its Local Hero business directory, a daily deals tool, a web building tool, a print-to-web advertisement conversion tool and a game creation tool (which uses game mechanics to engage newspaper customers). The white-label service’s don’t require a newspaper to alter its website, Although, OwnLocal does require a unique URL from the newspaper’s web domain name (e.g. dailybugle.com/smythe-pest-control), it doesn’t require the paper to make any alterations to its website in most cases.
Because the areas where local newspapers are small, OwnLocal can accurately predict how much additional revenue a newspaper can expect to bring in when using the startup’s software services, OwnLocal Founder and CEO Lloyd Armbrust told VentureBeat.
“We actually scout out the areas where each newspaper is located and create a comprehensive list of local business types. Then, using our past research data, we can crunch numbers on all the types of business [e.g. 10 percent of doctors will utilize our services through the newspaper, three percent of mechanics, etc.] to get a pretty accurate reading of how much revenue we can bring them,” Armbrust said.
On average, OwnLocal doubles a newspaper’s annual online revenue, which is typically about $60,000 per year, Armbrust said. One of the company’s most successful clients New York, Nebraska-based publication the York News-Times. Although the small Nebraska town only has a population 1,500, the local paper managed to bring in $120,000 in revenue last year. So, if you think about the startup’s business model in relation to slightly bigger cities, you can clearly understand why investors like Automattic and 500 Startups have taken an interest in OwnLocal.
While the amount of funding wasn’t disclosed, the new round does bring the company’s total investment to $2 million to date. However, OwnLocal’s list of past and new investors are arguably just as valuable as the total funding.
Since founding in 2010, OwnLocal has previously secured funding from a handful of very noteworthy investors, including Y Combinator, Gmail creator Paul Beccheit, Delicious creator Joshua Schachter and an estimated $100,000 from Knight Enterprise Fund for media innovation.
The investment from the Knight Enterprise Fund is particularly interesting because OwnLocal is its first for-profit early-stage investment. The relatively new $10 million venture fund is affiliated with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is primarily focused on strengthening the field of journalism. The Knight Foundation also sponsors the Knight News Challenge, which awards funding (up to $5 million per year) for innovative digital news-focused ideas.
OwnLocal has over 100 publications in 35 markets using its services, which power the web presence for nearly 1,000 local businesses, according to Armbrust.
As part of the new round, 500 Startups mentor Paul Singh will join OwnLocal as an adviser. The Austin, Texas-based startup has 20 employees. It faces indirect competition from Local.com and Matchbin.

Filed under: deals, media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT
Dolphin-Browser-WebzineMobotap’s Dolphin Browser has updated its powerful Android app to version 7.0 with new features that let users sync settings and bookmarks as well as give better access to frequently visited sites with its Webzine feature.
The Dolphin Browser recently made headlines by finally making its way over to the iPhone and iPad, but it humbly started as a faster and better functioning alternative to the Android browser. And while the stock Android browser has greatly improved since the first Dolphin release, Dolphin keeps swimming along with more enhancements and features that help define it as a strong competitor.
The update to version 7.0 on Android adds Dolphin’s first ever cloud-based functionality with ability to sync browsing preferences, bookmarks and custom gestures across multiple Android smartphones and tablets. It also updated its still-new Webzine feature that offers channels to popular websites, with the update showcasing the Dolphin community’s 16 most popular sites. The company also said an update to its iOS version of the browser was “on the way.”
Other cool features that help Dolphin stand out on Android and iOS include smart tabbed browsing, custom gestures for navigation, a sidebar for accessing bookmarks, a desktop mode option for switching between desktop and mobile site views, and a smart address bar that better predicts your URL.
The new version of the Android app is available to download now and will exclusively be available from the GetJar app store until Sunday, Oct. 23. After that date, the app will go live in the Android Marketplace.
Dolphin developer MoboTap recently raised $10 million in a first-round funding from Sequoia Capital with participation from Matrix Partners.
Have you tried the Dolphin Browser?

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 19 Oct 2011 04:00 AM PDT
LinkedIn Talent PipelineLinkedIn, the social network for professionals is launching a new service called Talent Pipeline that focuses on helping job recruiters find and place job seekers, the company announced Tuesday at its Talent Connect customer event in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The recruitment process used by many recruiters of major companies involves watching several social media activity feeds for talent leads, gathering resumes from multiple job board services and communicating with potential hires. The idea behind Talent Pipeline is to streamline all the job recruiting elements into a single database of information, which can be searched, organized and monitored.
The service lets recruiters import leads and resumes from any source (message boards, job postings, personal referrals and more), which can then be organized using tags, sources, status updates and custom search reports. Since Talent Pipeline matches all recruiting data within LinkedIn’s database of profiles, it makes the process of monitoring potential hires much easier as well. This also helps adds more passive job seekers to the mixed based on their qualifications rather than the need to find employment.
In addition to grabbing talent from outside the company, recruiters can use Talent Pipeline to fill positions in-house (people currently employed by the company) as well as making it easier for current employees to discover new promotion opportunities, according to LinkedIn. The company is working with recruiters from several large businesses — such as PepsiCo, Pfizer, Red Hat, First Citizens Bank and Netflix — to develop the new service.
At first glance, Pipeline seems like an excellent way for larger companies to optimize their hiring processes, but it could alienate recruiting firms and headhunting services. LinkedIn, however, benefits regardless because it increases the need for job seekers to create and maintain a profile on its social network.
The pro social network has good reason for growing its Hiring Solutions business, which brought in $58.6 million in revenue in the second quarter of 2011 and 48 percent of LinkedIn’s total revenue. According to a New York Times report, the company considers the recruiting industry as a fragmented global market worth $85 billion.
This is also not the first step the company has made in growing its presence in the Hiring Solutions market. In June, LinkedIn released a new plug-in allowing job seekers to apply for available positions directly on an employer's website.
Talent Pipeline will be available in the first half of 2012, according to LinkedIn. The company has yet to release information about the cost of the service.
Check out LinkedIn’s video pitch for Talent Pipeline embedded below.

Filed under: enterprise, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 08:03 PM PDT
Tonight, we bring you exciting live news from Google’s Android event in Hong Kong.
The latest version of Android, called Ice Cream Sandwich, brings beautiful design, longed-for features and brag-worthy technological advances, and we’ve got all the details below.
For all the awesome one-OS-for-all-devices information we knew about six months ago, check out our primer on Ice Cream Sandwich and how it’s going to end Android fragmentation, especially for mobile app developers.
(If you’re pressed for time, the gist of it is that Ice Cream Sandwich will work on tablets, TVs, smartphones, e-readers — basically, any Android device — and apps will scale automatically for any form factor.)

What’s new for Ice Cream Sandwich

This is the “live” part of the post, where we give you a thrilling play-by-play of events as they unfold inside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Galaxy Nexus launches

7:00 pm, Pacific Time: First up, we have an announcement from Samsung and Google. Head of Samsung’s mobile business, JK Shin, takes the stage.
“2011 has been a very strong year for Android… the most popular platform in the world,” he began. “The harmony between the best hardware from Samsung and the best software from Google creates the best consumer experience in the mobile world… Today, Samsung and Google unveil the first Ice Cream Sandwich phone.”
The phone will be the Galaxy Nexus; here’s our breakout post on this new hardware.
7:10 pm, Pacific Time: Google’s Andy Rubin is now on the stage to talk about the next-gen Nexus phone and Android 4.0.
“We measure ourselves by three defining terms: Simplicity… beauty… and going beyond smart,” he said, alluding to massive amounts of cloud-based data and services being part of Android’s apps and platform.

A Samsung executive next explains a few talking points about the new phone. He emphasizes features such as the speed of LTE connectivity and the devices huge honkin’ 4.65-inch screen. “It’s like having a movie theater in your hands,” said the Samsung rep.
And it’s not just big — remember, these things have to compete with Apple’s Retina displays. “HD Super AMOLED is recognized as the best display in the industry,” the exec says. “And it’s very energy efficient, so your battery will take you farther.”
You can get the specs and more phone porn in our post on the Galaxy Nexus.

Android’s new design and UX

7:20 pm, Pacific Time: Now, Google’s Matias Duarte is onstage in a suit that can only be described as pimptastic talking about whether machines have souls and how Android 4.0 saw a big shift in Android’s design language.
“While people like Android and need Android, they didn’t love Android,” he said. “We saw this as an opportunity.”
He said Google now wants us consumers to think of Android as enchanting, easy, something that makes you feel powerful and smart. (Sounds like the perfect trophy wife, but we’ll take a smartphone, too.)

Tasteless jokes aside, Android’s new fonts (the typeface is Roboto), animations and gestural interactions will get your heart racing if you’re any kind of gadget geek at all. You can bet we’ll get going in-depth on Ice Cream Sandwich’s new user experience soon. Probably not tonight; more likely later this week when Googlers are available to dive into detail on how the new OS improves on the old.

Ice Cream Sandwich’s new consumer features

7:30 pm, Pacific Time: One cool new customization feature is folders, which can be organized and moved into the bottom navigation bar for easy access to specific contacts, apps and more.
And good night, nurse: Android finally has screen capture features. Finally you don’t have to download the SDK and tether your phone to get a simple screenshot. And all the fandroids said, “Hallelujah.”
The virtual keyboard also got a major facelift, with consistent copy/paste features, spellcheck and more. Talk-to-type features are also getting some improvements.
7:35 pm, Pacific Time: Remember when we told you that Google was cooking up some crazy facial recognition tech for Android 4.0? That’s part of screen unlock features now.
Hugo Barra is the director of product, onstage now to talk about core apps, photos and people.

He is introducing some cool new web browsing features (seeing the desktop version of a site, saving pages for later) as well as some new Gmail features (a new “action bar” at the bottom for common actions, “chips” with names and avatars for your contacts).
Android 4.0 also gives users charts, projections and warning notifications for data usage, possibly preempting similar but marketing-based notifications from mobile carriers. In fact, you can choose to cut off your data access if you (or that pesky teenager on your plan) go over a certain data threshold.

New ways to take pictures & talk to people

7:45 pm, Pacific Time: Now, we’re talking about photos. Barra references the common wisdom, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”
In the demo (which was done with the new Samsung Galxy Nexus device), the camera app was noticeably faster to load and capture images.
But the speed isn’t the exciting part; Android is now out to dominate the photo editing space, too. “We like making our photos perfect, said Barra. “In Ice Cream Sandwich, we’ve added a powerful set of photo-editing tools so you can do just that.”
Barra then showed off what he called “hipster filters” (intended to give Market apps like PicSay and Vignette a run for their users’ money) and panorama features.

The new OS is also adding some good video capabilities, too, including time lapse, zoom while recording and more.
7:50 pm, Pacific Time: Next, Barra introduces the new People app, “the evolution of Contacts.” The People app features a magazine-like interface as well as integration with social services. Anytime you tap on a contact, you’ll have a range of options for getting in touch with him or her, assuming you’re connected via multiple channels (e.g., phone, SMS, Facebook and LinkedIn).
And when you do call someone, a full-screen image of that person will consume your screen.
“It’s not just a database of names and numbers; it’s a window into your social world,” said Barra.

Sharing everything & the kitchen sink with NFC

7:55 pm, Pacific Time: Now, Barra is ready to talk NFC.
“Android Beam makes it easy to share any content between Android devices in a simple, secure way,” he says.
Using the Bump-like Beam, you can share web pages, maps, games, apps, group chats — the limits haven’t really been explored. “We’re really looking forward to seeing what developers will do with this technology,” Barra concluded.

8:00 pm, Pacific Time:
The event is over, and we’re in an Android-induced tizzy. We can’t wait to talk to Googlers about more design and feature details, and we definitely can’t wait to get our hands on a 4.0-running phone… or tablet.
The SDK is available now. Devs, feel free to go play.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 07:17 PM PDT
As if to purposefully make new iPhone 4S owners feel screen size envy, Samsung and Google today finally announced the long-awaited Galaxy Nexus, a mammoth 4.65-inch smartphone running Android 4.0.
Yes I said phone — not tablet. The Galaxy Nexus is the latest in Google’s flagship Nexus lineup of phones, which have traditionally set the pace for all other high-end Android phones to follow for the next year. Judging from the Galaxy Nexus’s specifications, the competition is going to have a hard time keeping up.
First, the screen: The Galaxy Nexus sports a 4.65-inch display running at a jaw-dropping 1280 by 720 resolution, or the exact same resolution as 720p high-definition video. It’s the first smartphone ever to feature such a large screen and resolution. Google says that Android 4.0 was built specifically for 1280 by 720 displays in mind, which means we’ll likely see many other large-screened Android phones over the next year.
Under the hood, the Galaxy Nexus is powered by a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM. It’s the first phone to sport Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, the latest version of Google’s mobile OS, which the company describes as a total makeover. (VentureBeat’s Jolie O’Dell has more details on Android 4.0.)
The Galaxy Nexus features a 5-megapixel rear camera that can shoot 1080p high-definition video (fairly commonplace for most new phones) and a 1.3MP front-facing camera for video conference. Sensor wise, the phone includes the usual accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope. But it also includes NFC capabilities, a proximity sensor, and a barometer (we’re not quite sure about the uses for this yet).
Not surprisingly, the phone will support 4G LTE networks, but Google says it’s also going to offer a HSPA+ version, that will work on faster networks from T-Mobile and AT&T.
For hardcore Android fans, the Galaxy Nexus appears to be a must-have phone. For people with small hands, as well as more general users, its large size could be off-putting. It’s also strange that once again, Google’s newest Nexus phone seems to be behind the curve when it comes to camera technology. Last year’s Nexus S couldn’t shoot 720p HD video, when most other smartphones back then could. Now with the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung for some reason has included a 5-megapixel camera when competitors, including the iPhone 4S, are sporting 8MP shooters.
Ultimately though, the Galaxy Nexus’s camera megapixel deficiency may not mean much. Google showed off some photos and video from the phone during its unveiling event tonight, and the video looked ab0ut as good as other HD footage from the Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S.
The Galaxy Nexus will be available worldwide in November. Google says that it’s launching on Verizon Wireless in the US and NTT Docomo in Japan. No pricing details have been announced yet.

Filed under: enterprise, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:54 PM PDT
Internet radio service Pandora is getting so big across the globe that it can now challenge broadcast radio stations in a number of local markets, said Tim Westergren, chief executive of Pandora.
Pandora now has more than 37 million active users, Westergren said in an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
“We are large enough as a company with our reach to be attractive to a huge pallet of advertisers,” Westergren said. “Now we are large enough in smaller markets to attract the interest of local advertisers. That is traditionally the large source of revenue for broadcast radio.”
Pandora enables personalized radio, where you can select a channel for music from a catalog of 900,000 songs. That channel plays for you, interrupted occasionally by ads, unless you are a paying subscriber. About 95 percent of the 900,000 songs get played in a given month, Westergren said. That offers far more choice than a typical broadcast radio station.
Beyond expanding into local markets, Pandora is also expanding from the desktop computer to cars, living rooms and handheld devices. One of the biggest tectonic shifts going on, Westergren said, is the change from broadcast to personalized radio, he said. One fact working in Pandora’s favor is that it pays artists a licensing fee for every song that it plys, in contrast to broadcast radio, which doesn’t.
Pandora has been around for 11 years, but it really took off after users began listening to it on the iPhone starting a couple of years ago. Now, in certain cities, the Pandora audience is larger than the broadcast radio audience, Westergren said. Pandora is also hiring local salespeople to generate local ads now. Pandora does know the zip codes of its users, so it can run ads on a localized basis.
For the most part, Pandora competes with broadcast radio, which historically has commanded 80 percent of the 16 hours of listening time for music each week. Only about 20 percent of listening time is dedicated to music that people buy, such as CDs or subscription services or fee-based music such as iTunes.
Advertisers aren’t all that easy to deal with when you’re small. They may pay you $1 to reach a user one time, but they won’t pay $2 to reach the same user twice, Westergren said. Users can pay subscription fees to Pandora, to get rid of the ads and have higher-fidelity audio. Pandora has also branched out into comedy radio, and that is going well, Westergren said. But showing videos to users isn’t necessarily going to happen, he said, as an extended service. At some point in the future, talk radio or sports news might be added, since that commands about 15 percent of the radio audience.
[photo credit: Chikodi Chima]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:48 PM PDT

Speaking at the Web 2.o Summit today Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that the Kinect, the motion-sensitive camera for the Xbox 360 game console, is going to be at heart of rush of innovation.
“You’re going to see a range of important innovation that will be coming to Kinect on the XBox this holiday season,” said Ballmer. Today Microsoft announced a partnership with Sesame Street to use the Kinect to engage young television viewers, and the innovation and community involvement is going to continue apace.
The Kinect is going to be an increasingly open platform for developers to highlight the motion control functionality. Within days of being released to the public, the Kinect was hacked, and Microsoft has embraced the community interest. Ballmer said Microsoft would have opened up Kinect anyway, but it had to do so faster after the hack.
And when asked why someone should buy a Windows phone, versus an Apple or an Android, he said that Microsoft devices are just as beautiful as the competitors before taking a shot at rival smartphone platform Android, saying that you don’t need to be a computer scientist to use Windows Phone, but it seems like you do need to be in order to use Android.
Next year, Microsoft will launch its Windows 8 operating system. That will include a Metro interface, a touchscreen interface with large tiles that you can touch. You can interact with those titles by swiping on a  touchscreen. The Metro interface will run across PCs, tablets, smartphones and the Xbox Live online gaming service.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:43 PM PDT
Google Infinite BookcaseGoogle introduced the newest form of bookcase to your browsers today — what it calls an “Infinite Digital Bookcase,” and damn does it look cool.
The company announced the bookcase in an official blog post.
With tablets and eReaders offering a number of new ways to experience books, the browser has been relatively ignored. However, not a lot of people consider getting into a bubble bath with their nice glass of wine and a laptop book to wind down the day, but you never know. To that end, the virtual bookcase may not be a competitor to the Kindle, but rather to the book discovery service overall. It could also simply be a way to funnel people toward purchasing Google Books, but it’s still pretty cool.
Google created the bookcase to act as an infinite loop of reading options. You can use your mouse to scroll through shelves of over 10,000 books available on Google Books that coil like Trajan’s Column. The column spins left, right, up and down. It uses WebGL, or a web-based graphics library, which interacts with Javascript programming language to allow for interactivity. WebGL can be found on most updated browsers.
Books on these shelves are separated into 28 different categories, bestsellers, and free books, which when clicked on, act as a virtual librarian taking you to the right section of the bookcase. It almost feels like something out of Harry Potter, being magically taken to your section on the column that seemingly goes on forever. The interactive bookcase also uses the Google Books API (application programming interface) to show title, author and a short synopsis of specified books.
Choosing a book is also visually tasty. Once you click on a book, it bounces similarly to how an icon bounces on an Apple Mac application dock. After loading, a 3D version of the book pops off the shelf and opens to show you the above content. In order to read the book you have the option to purchase it from Google Books or take a picture of the QR code with your mobile device to read it on the go.
The bookcase is available now to interested readers with an updated browser, but is still a little buggy given it is in experiment mode. Check it out here.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:33 PM PDT

Months after it was officially announced at Google I/O this spring, Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest iteration of the Android operating system, is having its launch event tonight in Hong Kong.
Yes, as the sun sets on Mountain View, California, and the Google campus’s brand-new Ice Cream Sandwich statue, Google executives are gearing up for a press event at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (pictured above; giant Android added for dramatic effect).
And not only Google executives are involved this time. Twitter co-creator and current employee Jack Dorsey himself was en route to the convention center one hour ago, tweeting a photo of Stonecutter’s Bridge, which lies between the airport and the Android event (thanks, Google Maps!).
Unless idle curiosity has brought the Twitter co-founder to the other side of the world, five will get you ten we’ll be seeing an interesting Android-Twitter integration at this announcement. (Update: While no Twitter-specific features were announced, Android 4.0 has a new People app that features heavy social integration, including data from Twitter. So we were about 75 percent correct this time.)
But there’s already a lot we do know about Ice Cream Sandwich. In fact, those whose memories go back six months or longer may recall that most of the important stuff, especially where developers are concerned, was laid out in great detail back in May. For example, we know to expect some cool new features for facial recognition and voice recognition with Ice Cream Sandwich.
Stay tuned for news from the launch event, which we’ll be covering in detail tonight, and in the meantime, here’s a primer on Ice Cream Sandwich for your mental refreshment.

The delicious core of the Ice Cream Sandwich OS

If there’s one specter that’s hounded Android practically since its public launch, it’s the same specter that Ice Cream Sandwich is out to ghostbust: fragmentation.
The universe of OS versions, carriers and devices has been, for some (especially consumers), a refreshing detour from the monolithic one-carrier-one-device-one-app-store approach that Apple, Google’s main mobile rival, held for years.
However, for mobile developers, the fact of having to build for a market of many operating system versions was intimidating and sometimes painful. As a result, the Android Market is full of apps that might work on just one or two models and one or two OS versions. And let’s not even get started on Android tablet apps.
Ice Cream Sandwich is the OS that’s supposed to put a damper on all that fragmentation talk. The OS will support both tablets and smartphones, so the 2.X OS for phones and the 3.X OS for tablets will give way to the 4.X OS for all Android devices.
Back in May at I/O, we were told by Google that developers building on Ice Cream Sandwich would be creating one app to function across all platforms, including smartphones, TVs, e-readers, tablets and any other devices running on Android. Apps will scale for all the form factors, and the OS will be (unlike Honeycomb), completely open-sourced.
Now, just for fun, here’s some footage of the huge Ice Cream Sandwich statue being delivered to the Google campus. Come back around 7:15 Pacific Time for more updates from Google’s live launch event.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:19 PM PDT
Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, said in a very loud conversation with co-host John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit that his company has made a big bet on social through both Skype and Xbox Live. Ballmer used his signature booming voice to hammer home his points in a comical conversation.
Microsoft hasn’t launched what some people expected it to do: a social network that competes with the likes of Facebook or Twitter. Ballmer was mum about any such possibility. But he said that the company has made its mark in social in the more broadly defined meaning of the word.
Asked if Microsoft had decided to “punt on social,” Ballmer said that the company has more than 50 million gamers on Xbox Live and those players are being very social as they play with each other. He also said that the Skype acquisition is also a big bet on social, since that represents a way for people to talk to the people who are closest to them.
“There are a variety of things that fall under the social banner,” he said. “We have picked our play. We are adding connectivity for people. We will continue to push with the acquisition of Skype….We don’t have to take on every battle here. We take on unique opportunities to innovate.”
Asked if “hangouts” in Google+ is a threat to Skype, Ballmer said, “If you want to hang around with people, we have a way to support that” in Skype.
He said that Bing search is growing its market share in competition with Google, grabbing about 15 percent of the U.S. search market. Through its partnership with Yahoo, it has grown market share from a couple of years ago. Asked if he was glad he didn’t buy Yahoo in 2008 for $44 billion (the market value is now at $19 billion), Ballmer said, “You can ask any CEO about the market falling apart in 2008. If Yahoo had accepted our bid, we would have closed post-Lehman Bros. (falling apart).”
He paused and then boomed, “Sometimes you’re lucky!”
As for the cloud, Ballmer said, “All in baby!”

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 06:05 PM PDT
EverymeY Combinator alumni Everyme is making sure you’re never missing information from your address book again. In order to do this, the company closed a $1.5 million round of funding from a slew of big name investors including Andreessen-Horowitz, CrunchFund, Greylock Partners, Tencent, SV Angel, and others.
Mobile address books are a little cumbersome. You have to input or upload a lot of information, but it never really feels fleshed out. Some contacts don’t have full names, others are missing e-mails, or pictures. Contact information and salient details about friends are often spread thin between address books, social networks, e-mails, and more.
According to TechCrunch, Everyme plans to release an iPhone app in November aimed at changing how you keep your contacts. It starts by uploading your contacts to the app and connecting your various social networks to Everyme. The app then takes the contact information and pairs it with whatever it can spider across the social networks. Thus, your address book will soon be plentifully populated with birthdays, full first and last names, e-mails, phone numbers, places of work, pictures, hometowns, and much more. You can even access information that isn’t usually associated with an address book such as events and relationship statuses.
The funding also marks another investment for Michael Arrington’s CrunchFund, which was recently formed in early September.
The app is not currently available, but the company is accepting early signups.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 04:55 PM PDT
Jack Tretton, head of Sony’s U.S. game business, announced today that Sony will ship its PlayStation Vita handheld gaming device on Feb. 22 in the U.S.
Speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Tretton said that the PlayStation Vita is Sony’s latest push in mobile gaming and an attempt to compete with the likes of smartphones such as the Apple iPhone. The Vita will feature some spectacular games such as Uncharted Golden Abyss, which looks very console-like in its graphics and can be controlled with a swipe of your finger on the touchscreen.
Sony will also launch the Vita on Feb. 22 in Canada, Europe and Latin America. It will sell for $299 for a WiFi/3G model, and $249 for WiFi only.
The Vita will debut in Japan in December, and now Tretton has spilled the beans on the U.S. as part of a conversation with author Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken, a book on video games and how they can save lives.
Tretton said that Sony’s game consoles have been able to get into a quarter of homes, but you could look at that as a “glass half empty,” Tretton said, since three out of four homes still don’t have a gaming device. The Vita represents an attempt to reach a lot more consumers, partly by being much more social.
The new Vita will have built-in integration with a number of sharing networks. You can, for instance, capture a scene from a game and upload it directly to YouTube from the Vita, which can be connected to wireless networks, without leaving a game. You can do the same with Twitter, Skype and Facebook.
The Vita will allow new kinds of marketing promotions as well. You can go to a Subway sandwich store, for instance, and wirelessly pick up digital goods or rewards that you can use in your games.
Tretton said that Sony has 17 million gamer fans on Facebook and it has 24 million users on its PlayStation Home social network on the PS 3.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 04:41 PM PDT
Ben Horowitz, a co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, says he and his famous partner Marc Andreessen hope to carve out a different path in creating a new kind of venture capital firm.
They hope to capitalize on their fame going back to the days of the founding of Netscape, their startup successes, and their love for technical CEOs to beat other venture capital firms to the best new startups. Horowitz also said he hoped to be more transparent about his firm’s approach by telling entrepreneurs what his company is doing.
Horowitz reflected on what it was like to start Netscape, which went public in 1994, just 15 months after its founding by Andreessen. He said that kind of accelerated growth, which is not so uncommon anymore, is tough on founders who have to learn how to run a big operation under the public limelight. Back in the old days, it was common for venture capital firms to bring in professional CEOs to run a company after the founders got it off the ground.
But based on their experience, Andreessen and Horowitz say they don’t want to push founders out of companies.
“Today it would be nuts to replace guys like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), Dennis Crowley (founder of Foursquare), and Mark Pincus (founder of Zynga,” Horowitz said in a conversation with journalist John Heileman at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today.
“We wanted to design a venture firm to help technical founders become CEOs rather than replace them,” Horowitz said.
Founders can make good CEOs because theyknow every decision the company has made, they understand customer feedback, and have the “moral authority to make decisions,” Horowitz said.
If there are mistakes to learn from, the founding CEOs are the best ones to recognize them, Horowitz said. The founding CEOs also have a clear commitment for the long term, not the quarterly view.
“That is hard for a professional CEO to do, and having the moral authority can be very powerful,” he said.
Founders aren’t perfect, but Horowitz felt that venture capitalists developed a bias against founders as CEOs. Offering advice to founders about how to avoid pitfalls as CEOs is something that helps distinguish Andreessen Horowitz, according to Horowitz.
“Entrepreneurs come to because, if you take money from us, the engineers you hire have heard of the investor,” Horowitz said. “That makes them more comfortable about taking a job.”
That matters these days when the ability hire good engineers is becoming harder in places like Silicon Valley, were certain kinds of talent are in short supply, despite the recession.
As for major trends, the “giant trend” is the shift from early web-based businesses, or Web 2.0, to a new kind of business. These businesses use cloud computing in the back-end data centers and mobile computing on the front-end.
“It’s the biggest change since we moved from mainframe computers to PCs,” Horowitz said. “It is changing the way that networks are being built.”
Heileman got Horowitz to make comments about some of the fund’s investments. Horowitz said he felt like Facebook is one of the best-run technologies companies. He said Groupon is the fastest-growing company in the history of business. He said Instagram is very innovative. Rockmelt has a great team with a great idea. Twitter is changing the world. He loves Zynga.
As for Steve Jobs, Horowitz said, “It’s spectacular what he did for the world and his life. People have compared him to Thomas Edison. That’s right in terms of the importance of the impact he has had on the world.”
[photo credit: Chikodi Chima]

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 03:13 PM PDT
Sit down. Take a deep breath. Apple may have missed Wall Street’s mark this quarter — especially for iPhone sales — but given the rate of iPhone 4S sales so far, the company is poised to make us completely forget about this “disappointing” quarter come its next earnings report.
Apple sold 17.07 million iPhones during its fourth quarter — a 21 percent jump from a year ago, but well below the near 20 million units some analysts were expecting. But those numbers didn’t include the more than 4 million iPhone 4S units Apple sold over its launch weekend, which will be counted towards the next quarter.
Based on early iPhone 4S estimates, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted earlier this month that Apple could sell 25 million iPhones for its holiday quarter. But that estimate came before we saw the iPhone 4S’s smashing performance, which means Apple could end up selling well beyond that.
And don’t forget that the iPhone 4S is now on three US carriers for the first time, which will certainly lead to a significant sales bump.
So what was the cause of the slower than expected iPhone sales this quarter? Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer blames pervasive iPhone rumors over the past few months, which kept many consumers from buying the iPhone 4, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Kelly Evans. I could certainly see how that could be true — many iPhone rumors over the past year have been both confusing and contradictory, which likely led to the initial disappointment gadget enthusiasts had when the iPhone 4S was announced.
But the more likely reason sales slowed down was because consumers have been trained to expect a new iPhone during the summer, not at the beginning of fall. Savvy consumers likely held off on upgrading their older iPhones until they saw the new model. And once they did, they jumped on it like hungry wolves.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 03:09 PM PDT
tim cookApple reported big earnings today with its fourth quarter results, but it unfortunately missed Wall Street’s expectations. That considerably hurt Apple’s stock, which tanked 6 percent in after hours trading as of this posting.
Apple is in a transition mode of sorts after the death of former CEO and technology seer Steve Jobs. New CEO Tim Cook has done his best to keep momentum on Apple’s best-selling products. The new iPhone 4S sold a record-setting number of units this past weekend, but those 4S sales weren’t included in the numbers for this quarter. (We’re sure Apple would have liked those sales to boost its Q4 totals.)
Here’s a brief look at Apple’s numbers from the fourth quarter:
Revenue: $28.27 billion, compared to $20.34 billion in the year-ago quarter
Net income: $6.62 billion, compared to $4.31 billion in the year-ago quarter
Earnings per diluted share: $7.05, compared to $4.64 in the year-ago quarter
iPhone sales: 17.07 million units, a 21 percent growth over the year-ago quarter
iPad sales: 11.12 million units, a 166 percent growth over the year-ago quarter
Mac sales: 4.89 million units, a 26 percent growth over the year-ago quarter
iPod sales: 6.62 million units, a 27 percent decline from the year-ago quarter. Half of the units sold were iPod touches.
OS X Lion sales: 6 million downloads. Lion is newly released so there are no quarter over quarter comparisons.
iBook downloads: 180 million iBooks downloaded from the iBookstore
Apple Store revenue: Average Apple Store location earned $10.7 million in revenue
Apple store visitors: 77.5 million visitors in the fourth quarter
Cash on hand: $81.6 billion, with cash flow from operations totaling $10.4 billion

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 03:01 PM PDT
Last downYahoo announced its third quarter earnings today, with with both revenue and revenue costs down due to a search agreement Yahoo made with Microsoft. The company tallied $1.217 million in GAAP revenue, down 24 percent year over year.
Yahoo recently fired its chief executive officer, Carol Bartz, and though it was not reflected in this quarter’s earnings, the rocky road that Yahoo has faced is evident. The company is trying to bounce back, however, by beefing up its product offerings, including its recent Facebook app that allows Facebook users to access Yahoo content directly from withing the social network.
“We have a better product planning process in cycle,” said interim chief executive Tim Morse.
Here are some highlights from the call:
  • Revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs was $1,072 million, down 5 percent from the third quarter in 2010, which tapped out at $1,124 million.
  • GAAP Revenue was $1.217 million, down 24 percent from $1.601 million in Q3 of 2010.
  • Income from operations was $177 million, down six percent from $189 million in the same quarter last year.
  • Net earnings were $293 million, down 26 percent from $396 million in Q3 2010.
  • Net earnings per diluted share were .23 cents, down 21 percent from .29 cents in Q3 2010.
In Yahoo’s search agreement with Microsoft, the company will be reimbursed the same operating costs Yahoo incurs under the alliance. This quarter’s earnings reflect a $4 million reimbursement from Microsoft. The total costs on Yahoo’s end were more $150 million, exceeding the cap on reimbursements set by the deal.
[Photo courtesy of Kalim/Shutterstock]

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 02:29 PM PDT

“We want to build tools that change the way all the people in this room experience the real world,” said Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley at the Web 2.0 Summit today, as he described his company’s retreat from the game mechanics that first made the check-in service a success.
With more than 10 million downloads, Foursquare is the category leader for location services, even as it moves away from its initial offering. Crowley said Foursquare is about much more than check-ins, and features such as Foursquare Radar and Foursquare Explorer are going to power even stronger user adoption in the future.
When Foursquare launched, there were already a variety of location-based services on the iPhone, such as Loopt. Since then, Foursquare has survived the onslaught of location service launches from juggernauts such as Facebook Places and Google Latitude, while also fending off rivals such as Gowalla.
Foursquare’s biggest strength in these battles was its singular focus on real-world experiences, while its larger and better-funded competitors had to cater to a wide set of use cases, such as Facebook’s vast developers ecosystem.
“We have a very narrow focus on building features that help people experience the real world,” Crowley said. “How we were able to survive the Facebook onslaught — that was a big motivating factor for the entire company.”
In spite of banner user adoption, Crowley said he can identify with newcomers who are still struggling to understand why they should use a check-in service at all. Crowley said when he first downloaded Twitter, it was 18 months before he really understood why the product was worth using, because he hadn’t discovered that “thing” which made it special.
He sees Foursquare the same way. One of its biggest hurdles is that people have to think about using Foursquare, and then make the effort to take out their phones and check in at locations. With Apple’s recent iOS 5 mobile operating system update, iPhone and iPad users have a much lower barrier to entry, which Crowley thinks will “juice” the experience.
Crowley also said that serving the needs of merchants alongside users has been instrumental in creating the Foursquare experience. And as any regular Foursquare user knows, beyond the bragging rights you get as “mayor,” an increasing number of businesses offer discounts or other physical rewards, such as t-shirts or branded bottle openers, for users who check in at their location.
“Merchants have been around for the ride from the beginning,” said Crowley, adding that for every three user features his team launches, there’s one new feature created for merchants. Crowley also said there’s a whole subset of people who no longer use Foursquare for the game dynamics and check-ins, but to stay on top of deals and special offers from favorite local businesses.
In spite of the change of direction, Foursquare is not abandoning game mechanics entirely. As the company continues to improve its recommendation engine and build out features for the next three years of growth, there will likely be time to revisit the checking-in game that made Foursquare such a hit.
“I’m a big believer in game mechanics to push people to do new things in real life,” says Crowley.

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 02:08 PM PDT
IntelIncreases in microchip sales for notebook PCs and data servers contributed to Intel’s sixth consecutive quarter of record-breaking revenues and a double-digit increase in net income, the company reported in its third quarter 2011 earnings report today.
Intel reported $14.2 billion in revenue for the third quarter 2011, up $3.1 billion compared to a year ago — a 28 percent increase. McAfee and Intel Mobile Communications contributed $1.1 billion in revenue to the company's top line in the quarter. The numbers beat analysts’ $13.9 billion prediction for the quarter.
Its net income for the third quarter 2011 was $3.47 billion (or 65 cents per share), up from 2.96 billion (or 52 cents per share) from a year ago — a 17 percent increase.
"Intel delivered record-setting results again in Q3, surpassing $14 billion in revenue for the first time, driven largely by double-digit unit growth in notebook PCs," said Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif. "We also saw continued strength in the data center fueled by the ongoing growth of mobile and cloud computing."
Revenue from Intel’s low-powered Atom CPU and associated chipsets — found in many low-power netbooks and some tablets — continued its downward trend. Third quarter 2011 revenue for the Atom was $269 million, down 32 percent compared to a year ago.
Intel predicts it will make between $14.2 billion to $15.2 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2011.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 01:53 PM PDT
sad macApple was probably cheering this weekend with a record-breaking number of iPhone 4S units sold, but we’re certain the company isn’t happy today with fourth quarter earnings that didn’t meet Wall Street’s hefty expectations. Apple hasn’t missed Street targets in a very long while.
Apple’s long-term viability was questioned when long-time CEO and tech visionary Steve Jobs passed away a few weeks ago. But Jobs left a strong team in place led by new CEO Tim Cook that plans to do their damnedest to make Jobs proud.
FactSet’s average of major analyst expectations thought Apple would earn $29.5 billion in revenue along with $7.22 per share.
But Apple ended Q4 with $28.27 billion in revenues and $7.05 per diluted share. Its quarterly net profit stood at $6.62 billion for the quarter. That equals out to a 54 percent gain in net income, but it still hurts to miss financial targets.
Let’s look at individual sales for the quarter:
  • 17.07 million iPhones, a 21 percent growth over the year-ago quarter
  • 11.12 million iPads, a 166 percent growth over the year-ago quarter
  • 4.89 million Macs, a 26 percent growth over the year-ago quarter
  • 6.62 million iPods, a 27 percent decline from the year-ago quarter
The brightest spot on the sales list is iPads, which continue to stand out as the number one selling tablet device in the world. The iPod, on the other hand, may be slowing dying as people don’t need to update those units each year or they simply use their iPhones/other smartphones to listen to music.
Apple’s stock closed at $422.24 at the end of trading today, near its all-time high of $426.70. But the stock took a dive in after-hours trading as investors reacted to the missed expectations. At the time of this post, Apple’s stock was trading around $395.

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 01:49 PM PDT
DEMOIf you’re based in the New York area and have a great, disruptive business idea, we want to hear from you.
Members of the VentureBeat staff and I will be in Manhattan next week. We’d like to spend our time meeting with the great brains devising and building tomorrow’s incredible technology.
We’re in town for two reasons. First, we’re looking for awesome stories to cover in VentureBeat.
Second, we organize the big launch conference DEMO. And after a very successful DEMO Fall in Santa Clara, Calif., we’re back on tour, scouting out the companies and ideas that promise to change the world.
So we’re inviting 10 potential DEMO-ers to give a two-minute pitch on stage at the Katra Lounge  on October 25th from 6-7:30pm.
The next DEMO conference, to be held in Santa Clara, Calif. in April 2012, is an opportunity for you to show off your product or service to an elite crowd of media, venture capitalists, and other entrepreneurs. Presenters are given six minutes to tell us everything we need to know about your product.
DEMO also provides a high caliber lineup of speakers and sages to critique your work and give advice. Check out our speakers from DEMO Fall.
With this scouting trip to New York, however, we’re skipping the rigamarole of lanyards and name tags. This is a casual opportunity to talk about your passion and your idea. In the end, you may earn yourself a spot in our Spring DEMO showcase. You’ll also get the chance to receive some in-person feedback from the VentureBeat staff.
If interested please fill out this form by Friday, October 21.
[Photo courtesy of The DEMO Conference/Flickr]

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 01:36 PM PDT
google presentations Google is rolling out a suite of new changes to its Google Docs service, including 50 new features for Presentations, according to an official blog post today.
The company has its eye on collaboration features and has been including them in many of its latest products, including social network Google+. For Google+, it was the ability to share screens and docs in Hangout, the video chatting feature. Google Docs has always allowed users to edit simultaneously, see who is typing and where, chat in the built-in instant messenger, and check prior revisions.
Now, Google has turned its focus toward making Presentations more than a lackluster alternative to PowerPoint. The company tackled the aesthetic usability of Presentations with this latest slew of 50 updates, which include transitions for more entertaining movement between slides, animations, new themes, drawings for adding elements such as flow charts, and rich tables to add graphic elements to your data.
In order to try out the other 45 features Google is unveiling, go to your documents, select settings, click the Editing tab and check the “New Version of Google presentations” box. The changes are only compatible with more recent versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Ubuntu, so make sure you browser is updated before diving in.
Check out this beauty we made with the new Presentations:
Okay, that was just blatant self-promotion.
CloudBeat 2011CloudBeat 2011 takes place November 30 – December 1 in Redwood City, CA. Unlike other cloud events, we’ll be focusing on 12 case studies to dissect the most disruptive instances of enterprise adoption of the cloud. Using a customer-centric approach, these case studies will highlight the core components of the cloud revolution: security, collaboration, analytics, mobile usage, increased productivity, and integration. Join over 500 executives for two days packed with actionable lessons and networking opportunities as we define the key processes and architectures that companies must put in place in order to survive and prosper. Register now and save 25%.

Filed under: cloud

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 12:45 PM PDT
billguardPersonal finance startup BillGuard has raised $10 million in second-round financing, and it’s using it to expand its service that helps protect accounts from fraudulent activity, the company said Tuesday.
BillGuard protects users by registering their credit and debit cards and keeping an eye out for questionable and fraudulent charges. The company uses a crowdsourced approach to identifying unauthorized charges, by not only providing its own detection but also incorporating users’ billing complaints to track and analyze payments.
BillGuard’s big second round of funding comes from a powerhouse group, including Khosla Ventures, Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.
“At Khosla Ventures we love entrepreneurs who dare to tackle large problems with disruptive, bottom-up methods,” said Vinod Khosla, founding partner of Khosla Ventures, in a statement.
At present, BillGuard is free to use for anyone who wants to sign up. So how is it going to make money? The company is talking to large banks that could act as partners and incorporate BillGuard on a per-customer basis for a small fee. BillGuard is also exploring the idea of a merchant certification program that would let merchants have access to some its data, and follow up with customers who end up with fraudulent or questionable charges.
New York-based BillGuard previously raised $3 million in its first round of funding from Bessemer Venture Partners and IA Ventures. BillGuard made its public debut on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in May 2011.

Filed under: deals

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Posted: 18 Oct 2011 12:09 PM PDT
“I’m the guy you don’t want to meet and frankly I don’t want to meet you either.” That’s how the Federal Trade Commission‘s David Vladeck opened his talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today.
The line was met with laughter, but the subject is serious. Vladeck said the government agency is paying attention to invasions of privacy that companies engage in, either deliberately or by accident.
According to Vladeck, more and more companies are getting into hot water because they are making apps for children but aren’t paying attention to the federal law that is aimed at protecting kids. The FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits websites or any online service from collecting information from children under 13.
“We see developers of apps aimed at children pulling down geolocation data and emails, and the law forbids them from doing that,” Vladeck said. The FTC recently settled a case with mobile app developer W3 Innovations for COPPA violation.
The problem is so severe that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has proposed a “do not track” bill that would make it illegal to collect geolocation data without a search warrant. Vladeck said, “Don’t collect information that you don’t know what you are going to use it for. You need to be transparent about what you are going to do.” Sears got into hot water for doing just that.
Vladeck also said that the FTC is seeing more cases where companies have failed to protect the privacy of users because of lapses in data security.
“We’re not making much progress here,” he said. “Even big companies are not protecting with the vigilance that is required. The social contract says that if you store my data, you have to take reasonable measures to keep the information secure. If you want to steer clear of the Federal Trade Commission, the easiest way is to read our educational materials.
“A trick to keep me at bay is to pay attention to data security,” he said. “It should not be relegated to the back burner. It should be foremost in your mind at all times. We have plenty to do. We don’t want to see you. You don’t want to see us. “

Filed under: VentureBeat

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