22 October, 2011

Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich confirmed for Verizon this year Posted: 21 Oct 2011 08:17 PM PDT

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 08:17 PM PDT
galaxy-nexus-verizonVerizon Wireless plans to offer the powerful Samsung Galaxy Nexus running the next generation of Android software “this year,” the company said late Friday.
Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus is notable not only because it is the first smartphone to run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but also because it features a monster 4.65-inch screen with 1280 x 720 resolution that is capable of HD video playback. The Verizon Wireless version of the phone will offer Verizon’s blazing 4G LTE data speeds, which only sweeten the deal.
On top of this, the Galaxy Nexus includes a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. For sensors, there’s NFC capabilities for mobile payments, a proximity sensor and a barometer. The Ice Cream Sandwich software running on the Galaxy Nexus ups the power of Android with a revamped interface, features like facial recognition, and touch-only buttons in place of normal physical buttons under the screen.
The Galaxy Nexus will join the Motorola’s Droid Razr on Verizon Wireless, and the two will likely be tough competitors with each other and the iPhone 4S this holiday season. The Droid Razr features a still-huge 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen, a dual-core 1.2-GHz processor, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of total internal storage. The Droid Razr will also get Ice Cream Sandwich in the first half of 2012.
Will you be buying a Galaxy Nexus or is the Droid Razr more to your liking?

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 04:47 PM PDT
Sprint is no longer offering unlimited 4G data consumption for most mobile devices on its network, the company announced Thursday.
Previously, Sprint only put a 5 gigabyte limit on data consumed over its 3G wireless network, while 4G data consumption was unlimited. But as of November, the company will treat all data consumption the same.
The devices affected by Sprint’s data rate change include tablets, netbooks, notebooks, USB cards and Mobile Hotspot devices. And while smartphones will continue to have unlimited 4G data allowances, it doesn’t apply to their Wi-Fi hotspot features — meaning whenever you use your phone to connect to your laptop, the meter is running.
Devices that go over their 5GB allotment of data will get charged $0.05 per megabyte on Sprint’s network and $0.25 per MB for off-network roaming.
Eliminating the unlimited 4G data for most devices except smartphones is probably a strategic move by Sprint to keep its wireless network from lagging due to the increased activity from the iPhone. Also, Sprint’s network has the smallest coverage area and the weakest performance compared to other U.S. carriers, as VentureBeat previously reported.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 04:42 PM PDT
Blizzard Entertainment has announced the fourth World of Warcraft expansion, titled Mists of Pandaria.
Speaking today at the sold-out BlizzCon fan event in Anaheim, Calif., Blizzard’s vice president of creative development Chris Metzen revealed the upcoming expansion set to deafening applause. Each new expansion is financially a big deal for Blizzard, which generates a billion dollars a year in World of Warcraft revenues.
Whenever the company starts to lose subscribers, it pumps up the user base with a new expansion. These days, such changes are happening more frequently as Blizzard tries to fend of competition from new rivals such as Trion Worlds’ Rift as well as a horde of new free-to-play games, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. Blizzard responded earlier this year by making the first set of levels free in World of Warcraft, and now it is responding again with a new expansion.
As longtime Warcraft fans already know, the pandaren race of panda-like warriors originally began as an April Fool’s Joke inspired by Blizzard artist Samwise Didier’s fascination with drawing pandas, according to Metzen. Due to an impressive response from fans, a pandaren character appeared in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, technically making the “joke characters” part of the official Warcraft lore.

Long-rumored to be a playable race in World of Warcraft (and confirmed by Metzen as originally planned for the second expansion, The Burning Crusade), the pandaren now have an entire expansion set based around them.
The pandaren will be unique to World of Warcraft’s roster of playable races in that they are faction neutral, at first. Players will eventually be able to decide if their pandaren character will join the Horde or Alliance. The Mists of Pandaria expansion takes place in the lost continent of Pandaria, the pandaren’s mystical homeland.
Other notable features include a level cap increase to 90, a new Monk class, and a pet battle system that seems eerily reminiscent of Nintendo’s Pokemon.
From the official press release:
  • New Playable Race — Pandaren: Adventure through Azeroth as World of Warcraft’s first neutral race and decide whether to side with the Alliance or the Horde.
  • New Playable Class — Monk: Unlock the secrets of pandaren martial arts and do battle as a damage dealer, healer, or tank.
  • Level Cap Increased to 90: Learn potent new spells and abilities while exploring uncharted zones and taking on challenging new content.
  • New Zones: Explore the lush Jade Forest, treacherous Kun-Lai Summit, and other exotic areas of Pandaria designed for high-level characters, and uncover the mystery of the Wandering Isle.
  • Scenarios: Join up with some friends to achieve a common goal, such as mounting a defense against invading monsters, in a flexible new type of PvE challenge.
  • Dungeon "Challenge" Modes: Master the ultimate five-player time trial to earn prestige rewards in a new dungeon mode that will put your resolve and coordination to the test.
  • Pet Battles: Challenge other players' companion pets with your own collection in a new tactical mini-game, and find out who’s king or queen of the pint-sized battlefield.
  • New Talent System: Customize your character to suit your play style with the newly overhauled and improved talent system.
The World of Warcraft Annual Pass was also announced, and includes a free copy of Diablo III for all subscribers.

It’s interesting to note that Mists of Pandaria is the first World of Warcraft expansion to not focus on a main antagonist. In fact, Deathwing the Destroyer, the primary villain responsible for the events of previous expansion, Cataclysm, has yet to be included as a boss character, though that opportunity will finally be included in the upcoming Patch 4.3.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is expected to be released during holiday 2012.

Filed under: games

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 04:38 PM PDT
AnonymousAnonymous, a hacker collective that has aligned itself with the Occupy Wall Street protests, leaked information it stole from four police and government websites today.
More than 600 MB of data from the International Association of Chief of Police, or IACP, (website still down) was released, according to a press release from Anonymous. It included internal documents, membership rosters, home addresses, passwords, social security numbers and more.
Along with the IACP data, Anonymous revealed 1000 names and passwords from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association; 1000 names, ranks, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers from the Alabama law enforcement systems; and the full contact database Matrix Group, a web development agency serving government websites.
Anonymous said it wanted to attack the police directly because they act as a protector of “the one percent,” or what OWS protesters describe as the fortunate few who hold the majority of the wealth that would otherwise benefit the remaining “99 percent.” Anonymous has attacked police in the past in an effort to expose corruption and brutality. The hack actually falls on the International Day of Action Against Police Brutality.
“We have no problem targeting police and releasing their information even if it puts them at risk because we want them to experience just a taste of the brutality and misery they serve us on an everyday basis,” reads the press release.
Today’s action is just one day before IACP’s annual conference, though the press release from Anonymous is dated Oct. 22 and says the drop was to come day one of the conference. Perhaps it was leaked.
Of the Matrix Group, Anonymous wrote, “We intentionally excluded the unions and other unrelated sites on their servers because, unlike the police and those who support them, we will never betray our working class comrades.”
In the video below, you can hear a hacker call the Baldwin country sheriff’s office to say “your website has been defaced,” and admit to the hack. The conversation was uploaded to YouTube. The call, made over Skype, comes from a British man who claims he hacked the website because he was bored, which goes against the wording of Anonymous’ press release. Yet another example of how the collective is relatively disjointed.

[via Gawker]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 04:31 PM PDT
ipadIt’s no secret enterprises have begun to adopt tablets with the same fervor of consumers. Since the debut of Apple’s iPad in Jan. 2010, the integration of tablet devices into our lives and work has progressed rapidly — so fast that it’s sometimes hard to put in perspective how quickly got here.
The exclusively obtained infographic below breaks down how far workforce adoption of tablet technology has come — and where it’s headed. (The graphic was sponsored by Lenovo and Qualcomm.)
In overall world market share for tablets, the iPad clobbers all others. The iPad accounted for nearly 80 percent of worldwide tablet sales during the past 12 months, but Android is slowly gaining ground, thanks to a wide variety of devices and prices. On the higher end, there are devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9, and on the lower end there’s the upcoming Amazon Kindle Fire and already well-established Nook Color.
Enterprise adoption is quite different from total adoption. A just-released survey from Good suggests the iPad and iPad 2 were responsible for 96 percent of tablet activations in the enterprise in the third quarter of 2011. With just 4 percent of activations being Android-based, Apple has a clear lead with the enterprise crowd.
Business users have different needs with their tablets, chief among them are strong and versatile applications that keep the mobile workforce connected. The iPad has a clear lead in this area with more than 136,000 iPad-optimized apps while Google won’t reveal how many apps are actually optimized for Honeycomb-based tablets. (Some estimates guess it is under 1,000 at present.) One of the most promising enterprise applications we’ve seen recently is Polycom’s video-conferencing app that works for both iPad and Android tablets.
It’s unclear at this point if Android will be able to take away much of the share the iPad has secured with enterprise users, especially in Bring-Your-Own-Device workplaces. But we’ll be watching to see what happens in this exciting space and let you know the latest.

Filed under: enterprise, mobile

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 04:01 PM PDT
Apple television mockup by VentureBeat
Apple is planning an easy-to-use, advanced television, according to comments made by the late Apple founder Steve Jobs to his biographer.
“I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud,” Jobs reportedly told the biographer, Walter Isaacson.
“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”
The comments, made to author Walter Isaacson prior to Jobs’ death, are included in the authorized biography, Steve Jobs, which will hit bookshelves and e-bookstores on Monday, October 24. The comments were reported by the Washington Post, which got an early copy of the book.
An Apple television has been a persistent Silicon Valley rumor for years. Jobs himself referred to the company’s current television product, a set-top box called Apple TV, as a “hobby.” However, VentureBeat reported earlier this year that signs were pointing towards a 2012 launch for a full-blown television set with Apple software built in.
An iOS-based television could enable Apple to transform the television into something that doesn't just show videos, but also plays games, runs apps, lets you check your schedule and tweet about what YouTube movie you happen to watching at that moment.
And it could tie seamlessly into other Apple devices, like the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, giving the company an enviable full-circle consumer product line. As Jobs mentioned, iCloud could become the thread connecting all of these products together, delivering your content (videos, music and more) to whichever device you want.
Of course, given Apple’s design chops it will probably look much better than the quick illustration we mocked up at the top of this story.
Illustration: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat
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Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 03:37 PM PDT
Subscribers to World of Warcraft’s annual pass will get a free digital copy of Diablo III, one of the hottest blockbusters coming in 2012.
Mike Morhaime, head of Blizzard Entertainment, made the announcement today at the 2011 BlizzCon fan event in Anaheim, Calif. This move is one that only a company like Blizzard, which rests comfortably upon millions upon millions of dollars in revenue a month on World of Warcraft subscriptions alone, can offer.
In addition to Diablo III, annual subscribers will receive an exclusive, in-game World of Warcraft flying mount named Tyrael’s Charger, inspired by the Diablo franchise’s Archangel of Justice, Tyrael. All annual passholders will receive a guaranteed spot in the beta test for the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria, which was also announced today.
Earlier this year World of Warcraft’s active monthly players were reported as taking a notable dip, and Blizzard seemingly countered the drop in users by extending the World of Warcraft free trial from 14 days to include all level 20 content and below. The newly announced Annual Pass could be seen as another attempt to prevent the juggernaut massively multiplayer game from the inevitable decline, but Blizzard Chief Operating Officer Paul Sams, speaking exclusively to VentureBeat, explained it was more about “showing gratitude” to the millions of fans who have supported Blizzard over the years.
Other studios often offer older games long since beyond their sales apex as an incentive when releasing a new title, but to give away one of the most anticipated PC games of the current generation entirely free is an unprecedented move in the gaming industry.
The annual pass itself is not particularly new or innovative, as console games such as Mortal Kombat, Gears of War 3, and this week’s Batman: Arkham City have started releasing similar offers to boost downloadable content (DLC) purchases and prevent secondhand sales.
The annual pass can be billed monthly or in a single lump sum, yet requires players to have registered a full version of World of Warcraft on or before October 18th. The offer is listed as “limited time only” on the official Blizzard site, so you may want to act fast before they change their mind.

Filed under: games

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:57 PM PDT
Early-bird pricing for CloudBeat 2011 ends today at 5pm Pacific. This is your last chance to save 25 percent on VentureBeat’s new cloud event, taking place November 30 to December 1 in Redwood City, CA.
To recap, we’re differentiating ourselves from all other other cloud events by honing in on 12 revolutionary cases of enterprise cloud adoption.
These customer case studies will highlight core issues such as security, collaboration, analytics, mobile usage, increased productivity, and integration. The goal is to uncover and analyze real solutions that are changing the way businesses serve customers, empower employees, and deliver tangible value to investors.
Still not convinced? We’re happy to announce that we’ve just added the following speakers to the lineup:
CloudBeat 2011 speakers
Check out the full list here.
CloudBeat 2011 will bring together more than 500 executives — from the hottest cloud startups and leading cloud providers to Fortune 500 companies — with a mix of CEO's, CIO's, CTO's, VP's of Product Development, analysts, investors, press, and more.
Join us for an information-packed two days that will offer 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.
Grab a ticket by 5pm PT and save 25 percent! We’re looking forward to a great event.

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:49 PM PDT
Pre-orders for the iPhone 4S are available in 22 more countries today, giving a huge new batch of customers their first opportunity to get their hands on the highly-anticipated device.
More than 3 million iPhone 4s pre-orders were processed in the U.S. during the first week, and the first-week the device was available, actual sales topped 4 million.
Apple’s senior vice president, Phillip Schiller, said in a statement this week, "iPhone 4S is a hit with customers around the world, and together with iOS 5 and iCloud, is the best iPhone ever."
When Apple CEO Tim Cook first announced the iPhone 4S, he said the internationalization of the device would also be the fastest in the company’s history.
Pre-orders of unlocked and SIM-free iPhone 4S units are now available in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, according to SlashGear.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:00 PM PDT
Pages: 1 2 3
Kevin Mitnick was once labeled the world’s most wanted hacker. Back in 1992, he tangled with a mystery hacker named Eric, setting off a duel that led to a chain of events that spun out of control.
After a FBI manhunt, he was caught in 1995 with the help of security expert Tsutomu Shimomura, who wrote about the experience with New York Times writer John Markoff. Mitnick spent five years in jail, including eight months in solitary confinement.
At first, Mitnick wasn’t allowed to tell his side of the story, thanks to a gag order. Now he has penned a book on about his life on the run, co-written with author William L. Simon.  Called “Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker,” the title has stayed on the New York Times Bestseller list for several weeks.
After getting out of prison, Mitnick pulled his life together as a “white hat” hacker, or one who helps companies by testing the security of their networks via Mitnick Security Consulting. Now he frequently talks about how to protect yourself from wily cyber attacks.
Here’s an excerpt from the book. And below is an edited transcript of our interview with Mitnick.
VB: Hi Kevin. We’ve talked before when you published your books, The Art of Intrusion and The Art of Deception. At the time, you had a gag order that did not allow you to write about your arrest and the events leading up to it. Now that it has expired, you’ve revisited those memories. Why?
KM: I had a deal with the government for about, for seven years after I was released from custody. So it expired around Jan. 21, 2007.  After that, we decided to work on my memoir, Ghost in The Wires. That was finally published on August 15. The other two books mentioned my life on the run, but they were really about the lessons I learned with social engineering and how organizations could mitigate the risk of falling victim to it. That book was The Art of Deception. Art of Intrusion was really kind of just talking about the stories of other hackers that were in the news and some where the perpetrators were never identified.
So what I like about the best of all these three is my life story Ghost in The Wires because it's kind of like a Catch Me If You Can version for a computer hacker. What is unique about it that it is a true story. People really seem to like it.
VB: Yeah I noticed you tweeted about how it's still on the New York Times online bestseller list.
KM: Well this week it was 23 last week it was 12 the week before that it was 15, the week before that it was 16. So I have been on the New York Times best seller list a month so far.
VB: Congratulations. Why do people want to read it?
KM: Thank you so much. I never expected it but I guess it's a great story and it's written very well. So people are interested in it and I guess I'm the cyber version of Frank Abagnale.
VB: It's probably only fair since there were other bestsellers that were written about you.
KM: I don't think any of them actually made the bestsellers list. John Markoff’s book, [Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, America's Most Wanted Computer Outlaw, By the Man Who Did It], never made it the bestsellers list.
VB: Oh it didn't?
KM: As far as I am aware, the only hacking book that made the bestseller list was a book called The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll. The Takedown book never made it to the list and in fact it was a very poorly reviewed book.
VB: Did you ever figure out why the government had such an unusual gag order in place here because that seems pretty rare?
KM: Well one of the things was they wanted to profit off my story and they wanted to keep everything under a protect order meaning that I was essentially forbidden to talk about it. So I had to be very careful because there is still stuff that is still under protective order that I couldn't reveal. And so I had to be very careful to still tread around that restriction. The seven-year restriction was to prevent me from earning any revenue from my free public expression. They learned that from cases like the (murderer) Son of Sam.
So they had to do it that way because there are laws that are usually applied to violent crime cases to prevent people from profiting by telling the story. But it's a prior restraint on free speech, so the Supreme Court has since struck down those laws. That was how the federal government dealt with it back then. It was part of the plea agreement.
VB: So what really drove you to write this new book after the gag order lifted and you were free?
KM: To get the story out. It wasn't really about making money. I mean I make money from my security business and my public speaking career because I go around in the world doing a lot of public speeches, keynoting at conferences. I make plenty of money doing that. So it wasn't really about the money it was about getting my side of the story out. I thought it was a great story to tell that people would enjoy it. And I want to really to focus on the chase because my story is kind of a cat-and-mouse game with the federal government.
Pages: 1 2 3

Filed under: security

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:54 PM PDT
After revolutionizing the digital music business, smartphones and tablets, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was planning to take on an unlikely project: textbooks.
Jobs apparently wanted to hire textbook writers to create interactive digital versions of their books for the iPad, the New York Times is reporting based on information from the upcoming Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.
The Times was one of many news organizations that got its hands on the biography last night, which goes on sale Monday, Oct. 24. The book sheds light on several stories about Jobs, like the fact that he refused potentially life-saving cancer treatment early on.
Jobs held meetings with publishers about working together with Apple on the new digital textbooks. He proposed the idea of giving away the books for free on the iPad, which would have allowed publishers to get around state certifications for textbooks. (Not being too familiar with the textbook business myself, I’m not sure what the advantage would be for publishers.)
Jobs believed that states would be facing a weak economy over the next decade, and that Apple could offer them a way to save money by circumventing the certification process.
Apple would have had plenty of company from others companies looking to revolutionize the textbook industry, including Kno, which launched an iPad app for textbooks earlier this year after dropping plans for its own tablet. There’s also digital textbook creator Inkling, which aims to create interactive tablet textbooks with social features.
Photo by Matt Yohe

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:34 PM PDT
You’re as likely to get cancer from using your cell phone as from drinking coffee. Say what? That’s right, cell phone radiation is not dangerous.
The results of a an 18-year study by researchers in Denmark, tracked the incidence of certain cancers among cell phone users, and found that cell phone owners, and those who did not own cell phones were equally likely to get cancer.
The study, which was led by the Danish Center for Cancer and Epidemiology, had the following conclusions:
Of the 358,403 mobile phone owners looked at, 356 gliomas (a type of brain cancer) and 846 cancers of the central nervous system were seen – both in line with incidence rates among those who did not own a mobile.
Even among those who had had mobiles the longest – 13 years or more – the risk was no higher, the researchers concluded.
The World Health Organization put cell phone usage in the same category as coffee, which cannot be positively linked to incidence of cancer, but cannot be disproven either.
In the U.S., cell phone radiation is measured in the Specific Absorption Ration, or SAR, which tracks the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using the handset. CNET recently published a list of the 20 best and worst phones available in the U.S. for their radiation output, with the Motorola Bravo as the worst offender, and the Samsung Blue Earth emitting the least radiation.
That doesn’t mean that cell phones can’t be deadly. While the link between cell phone usage and cancer looks increasingly unlikely, a study about cell phone usage and deaths behind the wheel would likely have a very grim conclusion.
[Image: Minerva Studio/ Shutterstock]

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:15 PM PDT
The Android Market has published more than 500,000 mobile applications — though the powers that be have removed around 37 percent of published apps.
By contrast, Apple’s App Store for its iOS devices has published 600,000 apps; around 24 percent of those applications were later removed.
These stats are current as of the end of September. Published apps are constantly being culled for a number of reasons, including quality, unaddressed bugs and incompatibility with the latest mobile operating system updates.
According to data from mobile analysis firm research2guidance, more than 78 percent of the apps that were removed from the Android Market were free. Research2guidance speculates, “Publishers [may] put more effort into the applications they place with the pay-per-download business model, thus ensuring that it is kept longer in store.”
According to data published earlier this year, the Android Market is actually set to contain more apps than the App Store by mid-2012. Between August 2010 and February 2011, the Android Market grew 127 percent (in number of apps alone); for the same period of time, the Apple App Store grew around 44 percent.
Also, Android users are expected to be downloading more apps collectively than do their Apple-lovin’ counterparts by summer 2012. Both should reach a monthly figure of 3.2 billion downloads per month by next June, and after that, Android Market downloads are expected to quickly eclipse App Store downloads.
But let’s not turn this into an app-measuring contest between Apple and Android. There’s more to a mobile ecosystem than apps, and both companies are releasing exciting innovations with their latest operating systems and hardware.
In the end, do a few thousand more games involving avian projectiles really make that much of a difference in ecosystem quality?

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:00 PM PDT
CrowdStar has built its reputation on Facebook by making casual games that appeal to females, from Happy Aquarium to It Girl. But the company is trying a tack today with the launch of its first hardcore strategy game, Wasteland Empires.
The game is available now as a beta test on Facebook. The social network has hundreds of millions of largely female casual gamers, but game publishers are recognizing that the Facebook also has plenty of hardcore gaming fans who are an under-served demographic on the social network.
In targeting hardcore gamers, Burlingame, Calif.-based CrowdStar joins battle with Kabam and Kixeye, which have both carved out a niche by creating games that appeal to gamers who normally like console entertainment.
Wasteland Empires takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the player controls bands of nomads. The gamer has to direct the nomads as they fight for survival by building villages and fighting rivals. This kind of setting is typical in recent hardcore games and is reminiscent of Fallout 3 and Rage.
The game isn’t to surprise to me in one sense. Jeffrey Tseng, co-founder of CrowdStar, had his roots in hardcore console games. He worked for Sega and his own independent hardcore game studio, Secret Level. While CrowdStar has been making casual games since its founding in 2007, Tseng has probably been waiting for this day when he could return to hardcore gaming.
The game focuses on high-quality graphics and advanced character interactions, but it is aimed at social gamers, rather than loners. The Information Study Group recently reported that more console gamers are now playing on Facebook, and these hardcore social gamers play for longer periods of time than other social gamers. CrowdStar build Wasteland Empires to target these young male gamers.
The game has good music and voice acting. But it’s not like a console action game or role-playing game in that it has a lot of still images where characters convey the story to you in text. You start out building a defensive perimeter around your village and get attacked by enemies that move across the screen, until your towers nail them. The game isn’t particularly fast moving, like most Facebook games. When you attack your rivals, your soldiers move across the enemy’s camp, taking out one building at a time, sort of like with StarCraft, but at a slower pace. In this respect, the game is like Kabam’s Edgeworld or Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters or War Commander. There are some quite satisfying sounds when you take down an enemy building. The building element of the game resemble’s Civilization World on Facebook.
CrowdStar’s It Girl is aimed at fans of popularity contests while Top Girl is a simulation of a model’s life on mobile phones. CrowdStar is now taking those games into a worldwide market. Since the company doubled its headcount in 2011, it has the ability to branch out and make news games as well.
"We believe role-playing and strategy games offer a big opportunity in social gaming compared to casual games, which other developers are focusing on," said Peter Relan, CEO of CrowdStar. "With our games, It Girl and Top Girl, we went into role-playing games. Wasteland is the next step in the direction of strategy based social games."
While other hardcore games look like spreadsheets (according to CrowdStar) Wasteland Empires uses real-time animation to give players a more dynamic game play experience.
Unlike other hardcore social game developers which utilize a spreadsheet-style gameplay dynamic, Wasteland Empires uses realtime animation to give players a more dynamic gameplay experience.
“We think Wasteland Empires is a true innovation in this genre of gaming,” said Tseng. “The game is the first of its kind to combine real-time combat with ranked and skill-based competition. Wasteland also has an extensive and engaging storyline that will involve gamers on a deeper level.”

Filed under: games

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:50 AM PDT
James StavridisNATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Admiral James Stavridis, called for the end of the Libyan war on his Facebook and Twitter today, showing just how important social media is becoming in times of conflict.
Social media has gained footing in political and wartime communications. When the revolution in Egypt first broke out, that country’s now ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak, tried to shut down the Internet to prevent citizens from organizing against him on social media. When American enemy number one Osama Bin Laden was killed, a bystander tweeted the sounds of helicopters without knowing how important his tweets would be. Syria, Bahrain and Lybia also attempted to shut down the Internet when protesters filled their streets. Now Stavridis has used the medium to communicate the end of a war, before any official statements went out.
Stavridis posted to his Facebook fan page wall, “An extraordinary 24 hours in Libya. As SACEUR, I will be recommending conclusion of this mission to the North Atlantic Council of NATO in a few hours. A good day for NATO. A great day for the people of Libya.”
He then tweeted the same message with a link back to the Facebook post.
James Stavridis Stavridis and Lybia are not the only ones using social media to communicate about the war. Google recently held a workshop in conjunction with Tunisian news startup Tunisia Live to educate politicians on how to use Google products and social networks to spread their own messages. Google was inspired to help Tunisia because of its road to democracy and its first “free election” slated to take place this Sunday, October 23. Leaders from over 40 new political coalitions attended.
For many, the lift on YouTube and the opening of Tunisia Live’s own channel Tunisia Talks was a defining moment.
No official word on the end of the Libyan war has been released, but for Stavridis and his social following, the message is already out.
[via Wired]

Filed under: social

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:41 AM PDT
Have you ever considered how a simple, free technology such as YouTube videos could drastically improve a global problem such as education?
Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, is something of an expert on the topic. In this video, he talks about the future of higher education in the U.S. and how to increase access to and quality of education. The remarks were made to education influencers from around the world, including university heads, state governors and other policy makers, at the Future of State Universities conference last week.
For ages, home-schoolers and kids in rural areas have been using videos to learn; however, educational YouTube videos are now also being used in traditional classrooms to “supercharge” the educational experience.
Khan, founder of the somewhat loftily named Khan Academy, has pioneered the concept of free, on-demand video instruction for K-12 education, especially in tougher subjects such as science in math. In 2006, Khan was working in the world of hedge funds. To help his young cousins who were struggling with science and math concepts in grade school, he started tutoring them remotely via a series of YouTube videos.
At this conference, he talked about how his YouTube channel has introduced a new model for education at all levels.
With 30 kids to a classroom, opportunities for feedback and interaction are scarce; Khan says this kind of environment is a dehumanizing experience. In that kind of situation, technology can, ironically enough, bring more interaction and individual instruction back into the mix.
Next, Khan would love to see this general line of thinking (simple tech solving tough problems) applied to topics such as healthcare or democracy. Read his thoughts on that subject in our recent exclusive interview with him.
Other speakers at the conference included Jeb Bush, Tony Blair, Arne Duncan and Clay Christensen.
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Filed under: media, VentureBeat, video

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:22 AM PDT

“What a pistol!” was the universal sentiment voiced around the office after we shot this video with Penny Herscher.
Herscher is a tech CEO (FirstRain is her company); she and I first came into contact on Twitter when I was bemoaning the state of female entrepreneurship. I thought lady founders were wasting their talents on dating- and fashion-related startups, while Herscher contended that more women founders was better than the alternative, regardless of the startup’s vertical.
While Penny and I agree to disagree on the kinds of startups women (and men, too) should be focusing their attention on, she brings a fresh perspective to how women should approach science, technology, engineering and math.
With both parents working in the STEM fields, both Herscher and her sister ended up choosing STEM majors in college; liberal arts education and careers, she said, were out of the question. Herscher calls this attitude “intellectual snobbery,” but it’s one she has chosen to pass on to her own children and the young women she mentors.
To find out why she would espouse such a controversial line of thinking, watch the video, and feel free to voice your own opinion in the comments.

Filed under: video

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:18 AM PDT
siri-iphone-4s-adApple has begun airing its first television ad for the hyped iPhone 4S, but instead of focusing on improved hardware, the ad’s emphasis is all about Siri, the phone’s handy “personal assistant.”
The iPhone 4S has been a smashing success in the sales department, with more than 4 million units sold in the U.S. in its first three days of availability. Apple’s big three selling points for the new device are the 8-megapixel camera that could viably replace your point-and-shoot, the dual-core A5 processor that speeds it up and the Siri personal assistant. In VentureBeat’s review of the device, Devindra Hardawar noted Siri was easily the most noticeable addition.
The 30-second ad, called “Assistant,” is simple, effective, and maybe most importantly, cool. It runs through several people talking to Siri on their iPhones with various questions and problems. Examples include one woman saying “We have a flat tire,” a man asking “How do I tie a bow tie again?” and a woman asking “Do I need an umbrella in New York this weekend?” Finally, the ad demonstrates Siri helping a woman find telephone numbers for a locksmith after being locked out. And of course it wouldn’t be an Apple ad without a narrator calling the iPhone 4S “the most amazing iPhone yet.”
It’s curious why this ad wasn’t launched even earlier, as Apple usually has a great ad on hand when it launches a new iPhone or iPad. Maybe the company didn’t realize how well-liked and how talked about Siri was going to be when it introduced the software. I know that Siri is the first thing I usually show people when I show off my iPhone 4S, and I’ve even heard people on the street talking to Siri as if it (or perhaps she) is a real person.
Watch the full iPhone 4S commercial with Siri below:

Filed under: media, mobile

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Posted: 21 Oct 2011 09:35 AM PDT
Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings admits that his company screwed up many times over the last few months. He made the statement in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday.
In July, the video rental company decided to raise subscription rates by 60 percent on its DVD-by-mail service, which caused a huge uproar among its 25 million monthly subscribers. In September, Hastings announced that the company was spinning off its DVD-by-mail business into a separate company called Qwikster — a move that caused an even bigger customer backlash.
After plenty of negative criticism and a significant dip to its stock price, Netflix decided to cancel its plans for Qwikster.
“We simply moved too quickly, and that's where you get those missed execution details. It's causing, as you would expect, an internal reflectiveness,” Hastings said in the interview. “We know that we need to do better going forward. We need to take a few deep breaths and not move quite as quickly. But we also don't want to overcorrect and start moving stodgily.”
Hastings said the mistakes were the product of underestimating the depth of emotional attachment to Netflix. Still, it’s unfair to judge the company solely on the actions of the past few months, he added.
Netflix went public nearly a decade ago, opening with a stock price of $7.50 per share. At the time, the company had under a million subscribers. Today, Netflix has over 25 million subscribers and a much higher stock price.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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