26 October, 2011

PayPal co-founder launches Breakout Labs to fund early-stage science and tech research

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 09:23 AM PDT
Peter ThielPayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has launched a new program called Breakout Labs that will fund early-stage science and technology research ideas, the entrepreneur said Tuesday during at speech at Standford University.
Breakout Labs, which will operate under Thiel’s non-profit organization the Thiel Foundation, will focus its investment efforts on research proposals that are either too early stage or radical to obtain funding from venture capital firms or grants. Breakout Labs will consider all types of scientific projects for support. Funding will range from $50,000 to $350,000 per proposal.
"Venture capital firms look for research that can be brought to market within five to seven years, and major funders like the National Institutes of Health have a low tolerance for radical ideas,” said Lindy Fishburne, who will serve as Breakout Labs' executive director. “At Breakout Labs, we're looking for ideas that are too ahead of their time for traditional funding sources, but represent the first step toward something that, if successful, would be groundbreaking."
The Thiel Foundation said it’s already started evaluating proposals. Breakout Labs expects to announce the first awards by December 2011.

Filed under: deals, offBeat, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 09:16 AM PDT
For too long, Android has been the ugly cousin to Apple’s iOS in terms of design. But with the release of Android 4.0, a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich, all that is changing.
For perhaps the first time, “The way things look and make people feel are just as important as the speed and features," said Matias Duarte, the Chilean-American designer who currently serves as Google’s director of Android user experience, in an interview with VentureBeat.
“Every time I unlock the phone and I see how it’s been transformed, it really makes me smile,” he continued.
“In previous generations, when I look back, they look dated, like a Windows 3.1 machine you found in your parents’ garage.”
Duarte took some time yesterday to dive deep into the new design language of Ice Cream Sandwich, which is a radical departure from the utilitarian Android UI many consumers are used to seeing.
Duarte came to Google about a year and a half ago, shortly before the release of Android 2.3, a.k.a. Gingerbread. The designer has a lot of mobile experience, having worked at Palm, where he was VP of user experience and helped to create the webOS platform, at Helio as VP of design, and at and Danger, the startup that created the Sidekick and was acquired by Microsoft.

The “ugly cousin” stigma

Coming into Google, Apple’s main competitor in the world of smartphones, Duarte said he was well aware that Android had been cast in the public imagination as an ugly cousin for years. But whether that perception was true or pure FUD, Duarte knew it needed to be aggressively countered.
"Ugly cousin, country bumpkin — we’re intimately aware of that characterization, and it’s something we wanted to tackle head-on with this release,” said Duarte.
“We did a lot of foundational research on people’s perceptions of Android… Hearing it in the words of everyday people helped tell the story of why we needed to make a change and how big a statement we wanted to make.”
He said that most consumers have some sense that Android was “utilitarian, a tool, a task, associated with burdens, complications and additional effort… We weren’t hearing the kind of joy and thanksgiving that we wanted to hear."
To get to that point, Duarte saw a need to shift how Google thought about and communicated about mobile design. He said the company’s goal is now “to make Android respected as a design leader.
“There is a PR problem there. There is a perception, however ill-founded, that Google doesn’t care about or understand design and that Android is a place where design isn’t valued.
We’re trying to show that’s no longer the case.”
However, much of the Android-related marketing from carriers and OEMs still glorifies the utilitarian, technical aspect of the Android OS while downplaying its new, rich aesthetics. Particularly with the Verizon-powered line of Droids, you see commercials featuring post-apocalyptic scenes featuring robotic arms, lasers and female models who could kick Lara Croft’s ass — hardly in line the user-friendly design language Google is trying to project these days.
“There’s clearly a market segment that revels in the joy of tech,” said Duarte. “They want to be Tony Stark, and that’s great.
“But what I really want to see as well (and I hope Ice Cream Sandwich enables this) is that it’s easier to make more kinds of products with a broader, emotional appeal, and we’ll see that reflected in [OEM and carrier] marketing and customization.”

Ice Cream Sandwich’s new design language

Beautiful design is one of the three core tenets of the new Android philosophy — or at least, the new Android marketing for Ice Cream Sandwich. And getting from the engineering-focused principles of the original open-source mobile OS to this new, Apple-competitive, consumer-friendly, multimedia-rich interface took a lot of work.
We talked to Duarte about how the design language evolved and the kinds of decisions he and his team had to make to get a beautiful smartphone design out of a hacker’s UI.
"With Honeycomb, we started the move away from the illustration style of fake wood, fake leather, fake buttons,” he said. “But it was still very technical, very cold. It reveled in its digital roots.”
When it came to Ice Cream Sandwich, Duarte said the team continued to get away from the faux-materials aesthetic, which he called encumbrances, and also got away from a lot of the structure of previous Android iterations.
“We removed dividing elements, bevels, unnecessary UI junk,” he said. “We started using more white space and a variety of visual elements to create clear structures.”
Another big change with Ice Cream Sandwich is the color. “We expanded our palette, so there’s quite a range of light and dark,” Duarte said.
“We’ve introduced two types of palettes that are based on the kind of content you’re consuming. The media content retains a lot of the dark palette that Android used in the past,” he said, noting that the darker colors are still great for videos, photos and other content where you want a visual pop.
“Our other palette is light,” he continued. “Gmail, Google Talk, text messaging — all of these have a lighter color pallette that’s more closely aligned with what Google is doing with the web itself. It’s easier to read text on and is simply more approachable.”
Overall, the guiding principle was glossy magazine design, an approach that placed more emphasis on beautiful, large images.
“We look at each screen and think about the primary experience, then lay it out like a beautiful magazine cover with big pictures, big headlines,” said Duarte. “We make each screen custom so the pages speak to that individual use case.”
Duarte said that the new look and feel of Android also involves more transparency in the UI in general. That is, not philosophical transparency, but being able to literally see through various design elements to get a glimpse of the photo or other content behind it. “Very little of the UI imposes a theme on your homescreen,” Duarte concluded.

An iOS killer?

While Duarte acknowledged early on that Apple’s iOS was the product to beat in terms of design, he also didn’t have that constant competition in mind while creating a new look and feel for Android.
"We ask ourselves, when we come to design, how much are we setting ourselves against the competition?” Duarte said. He went on to tell us that question had to be silenced initially.
“We put that out of our heads, understand what our design goals are, and aggressively pursue those."
Another reason Duarte isn’t obsessing over iOS is because he feels better mobile design, even from competing companies, lifts all the boats in the harbor and creates better experiences for everyone.
“I don’t want to measure us against the competition because there’s so much great work out there… There’s a lot of terrific options for consumers,” he said.
“And I’m thrilled that the industry as a whole is taking design so seriously. They get it. That’s great for designers and great for customers.”
In the end, Duarte said, “I’m really proud of what the entire team has accomplished. When I look at the history of Android, we set out to turn a corner with Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s a significant milestone where a new look and feel has been introduced.”
Stay tuned later this week for a deep dive into Roboto, Ice Cream Sandwich’s new typeface.

Filed under: dev, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 09:07 AM PDT
Electric motorcycle maker Brammo has raised $28 million in a new funding round led by Polaris Industries, the company announced today.
“We are excited to add Polaris Industries as a valued strategic partner. Brammo and its partners are combining forces to gain dominance in the EV powersports market,”said Brammo founder and chief executive officer Craig Bramscher, in a statement. Alpine Energy also participated in the round.
Polaris makes a wide variety of vehicles for outdoor recreation, such as golf carts, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. Polaris also makes light-duty electric vehicles, such as the Gem.
Based in Ashland, Ore., Brammo is the maker of all-electric motorcycles, such as Encite, the Empulse, Engage and  the Enertia (pictured).
Brammo previously raised $10 million Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and  Best Buy Venture Capital
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Filed under: green

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT
IDA — the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore — has teamed up with VentureBeat to explore Singapore's potential as an Asian launchpad in a series of posts that will culminate in a live video webinar. This post is part of that series. To read the full series and sign up for the webinar, go here. This article was written by Mohammed Khan, President of VIVOtech.
In Singapore, the future is nowI had the good fortune to attend a conference earlier this year in Singapore. It’s a futuristic city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, whose wild skyscrapers and love and adoption of new technology makes me think of the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons every time I'm there.
Even though I've been doing business in Singapore for over two decades, this last visit brought home why ViVOtech opened its first international office there, and why we continue to grow and treasure our Singapore presence and partnership.
At the GSMA Mobile Money conference, one demonstration that most impressed me showcased an application presented by Infocomm Development Authority (iDA) that let shoppers tap an iPhone on products' price tags. Instantly, the screen would display item details, buyer reviews, and any special discounts. The customer could then add items to an electronic shopping cart as they walked down the store isles, and decide whether they wanted to take the items home with them, or order their purchases delivered on a specified date and time.
The same app allowed the shopper to choose which credit card to make the payment with via the digital wallet. What's more, loyalty points and discount coupons would be added automatically. Finished shopping? The application also prompts a taxi-booking feature just in case the shopper needs a ride home from the store.
For ViVOtech, a young Silicon Valley-based software and systems company, the prospect and pitfalls of expanding internationally were daunting in 2003. Our business is enabling rich mobile commerce solutions for in-store payment, loyalty, marketing, and merchandising, and we knew we wanted to expand into Asia.
We considered Hong Kong and other logical alternatives at the time. But Singapore quickly became the obvious choice, hands-down. Besides being the global technology hub for Asia, Singapore is where the entire payments ecosystem has established regional headquarters, making business and partnerships for ViVOtech throughout Asia extremely easy with the likes of MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Citi and others.
Singapore’s English-speaking, tech-savvy workforce has also proven invaluable. Over the past six years we have grown from just one to more than a dozen full-time staff working in product development, sales and professional services.
Meanwhile, the government and its agencies make it extremely easy to do business. For example, iDA Singapore offers incentive programs that allow young technology companies to quickly start development centers. From a financial perspective, Singapore offers world-class opportunities from firms such as EDBI investing to drive growth within the knowledge and innovation-intensive sectors of Biomedical Sciences, Clean Technologies, Internet & Digital Media and other strategic industry clusters with commercial potential.
But perhaps most important of all is Singapore's deep-rooted cultural affinity for new technologies.
Today, ViVOtech is busy preparing its customers for commercial launches starting in early 2012. Our rollout will include a new NFC mobile commerce service that allows owners of NFC-equipped phones to tap on smart posters in shopping malls to collect coupons, then redeem them with purchases made using a debit card downloaded to the digital wallet in their phones.
In many other countries, these real-world mobile commerce applications are still a few years away from mass adoption. But in Singapore, the future is now.
About ViVOtech:
VIVOtechViVOtech, the near field communication (NFC) software and systems company, enables rich mobile commerce solutions for in-store payment, loyalty, marketing, and merchandising. Merchant, payment, mobile, web and advertising companies use ViVOtech's digital wallet and trusted service manager (TSM) software, smart applications, and point of sale systems to enhance customer experience and grow their business. Join the NFC revolution at http://www.ViVOtech.com.

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:30 AM PDT
Condé Nast’s weekly digital subscription sales increased 268 percent since Apple launched its Newsstand feature on iOS 5 earlier this month, the company revealed Tuesday.
Newsstand is essentially a collection of iOS applications from print publications. Newsstand appears as a separate folder on the iOS 5 home screen that houses each publication’s app. The app automatically downloads new content and sends users a notification when it’s available. Some of the 295 publications participating in Newsstand include the New York Times, Popular Science and National Geographic.
Nine of Condé Nast‘s publications — Allure, Brides Glamour, Self, GQ, Golf Digest, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired — are available through Newsstand. And while total digital sales are up, so are single issues sales, which have increased by 142 percent compared to the previous eight weeks, the company said.
Based on the current success, Condé Nast is planning to launch another three titles through the app store in early 2012. Those titles are Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit and Vogue.
For Apple this marks a definitive success without exerting much effort. It seems that the only thing holding back the transition of digital magazines and newspaper subscriptions was the lack of visibility. However, with iOS 5, this issue has been resolved. Users cannot “hide” the Newsstands app in another folder, and thus, are forced to acknowledge it (and possibly even use it).
Have you used Apple’s Newsstand to buy a digital newspaper or magazine?

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:21 AM PDT
nokia-lumia-800Nokia finally let its wildcat out of the bag on Wednesday morning with the announcement of its Lumia 800 and 710 smartphones, its first phones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 operating system.
Nokia has a lot to prove with the new devices, and it needs to recapture the fanbase it once had around the world. Although a little bit of thunder was stolen from the company by a major leak yesterday, these phones pose a lot of interesting questions. Can Nokia bring itself back from the brink? What can it do to differentiate its Windows Phones from the likes of Samsung and HTC?
I got my hands on its two new smartphones and gave them a spin to see how they perform and if they could lead Nokia’s way back to being a mobile powerhouse.
First up is the Lumia 800, Nokia’s first flagship device running Windows Phone Mango, otherwise known as Windows Phone 7.5. You can see the device as pictured to the left, and what you can’t see is that it feels really well made and solid in the hand. Nokia has a history of smart, decidedly European industrial design and the Lumia 800 shines in that regard.
Coming in black, cyan, and magenta (pictured), the Lumia 800 exudes a lot of charm, but less power than what Apple and major Android manufacturers are peddling. The Lumia 800′s screen measures 3.7 inches and while its AMOLED display doesn’t have the oomph of a Samsung Super AMOLED Plus screen, it still looks nice and worked well even in bright natural lighting. (Also take a look at the side-by-side photos of the Lumia 800 next to an iPhone 4S to get a better feel for its design and size.)
Running on Windows Phone Mango makes the device so much better than if it was running clunky, outdated Symbian software (which pretty much killed Nokia’s N8 last year). As much as I liked Symbian pre-iPhone and pre-Android, it never evolved to match the needs of consumers who grew to love simple and touchscreen-ready mobile OS operating systems.
Mango makes the Lumia 800 experience smooth and friendly, even if the power under the hood isn’t top notch. Inside, the Lumia 800 has a 1.4-GHz single-core processor, 16GB of internal storage and an 8-megapixel camera with 720p high-def video capture. While we couldn’t sit down and analyze the picture quality, I’ve been generally impressed with Nokia’s Carl Zeiss lenses and it’s nice to have a hardware button to push down for capturing photos.
Now let’s look at the Lumia 710, the less expensive (and less equipped) cousin of the 800. The Lumia 710 doesn’t have as nice of style and feel as the 800, but that’s what you get for it being a cheaper device. The 710 is an obvious play at being a cheaper Windows Phone that may end up selling for $99 or less on a 2-year contract, whenever Nokia brings the devices stateside in 2012.
For hardware, the 710 also has a 3.7-inch screen and 1.4-GHz CPU, but it offers less storage with 8GB and a 5-megapixel camera. It’s battery is also a bit smaller and rated for less talk time. In the design area, the 710 brings back Nokia’s play with mixing and matching colors. The 710′s backplate is interchangeable with black, white, fuchsia, cyan and yellow cases. A Nokia rep told me the 710 owners will be able to purchase additional back covers online.
Overall, both the Lumia 800 and 710 smartphones feel exactly as expected — Nokia’s smart design mixed with Windows Phone 7′s convenient and smooth operating system. If you’re looking forward to getting one, I’d pony up more for the Lumia 800, as it promises the best possible experience.
Both the Lumia 800 and 710 are expected for release in the U.S. in early 2012. Take a look at the photos below for an even closer look at the designs of the Lumia 800 and 710.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:18 AM PDT
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse
Things may be shaping up for Sprint.
The third-place US carrier reported losses of $301 million for the third quarter on $8.3 billion in revenue, but that was about half of what Wall Street expected the company to lose.
Additionally, the company confirmed that the iPhone 4S launch on October 14 (which doesn’t count towards its third quarter), was its best ever day of sales.
Sprint added 1.3 million subscribers during the quarter, consisting of 485,000 prepaid subscribers and 304,000 more lucrative postpaid (contracted) customers. The company also reported wholesale and affiliate subscriptions of 835,000. Overall, Sprint had 53 million subscribers at the end of the quarter, 32.9 million of which were postpaid.
The carrier reported $6.8 billion in wireless revenue, up 7 percent from last year. Sprint says it now has $4 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments on hand, along with $1 billion not yet drawn from its revolving bank credit facility.
Speaking about the iPhone 4S’s launch — the first iPhone launch on the carrier — CEO Dan Hesse said (as transcribed by ZDNet):
Our early results of selling the iPhone for an iPhone 4S have confirmed the iPhone's ability to attract new customers. What one hopes to see from the device is a high percentage of gross adds, new customers and the revenue to Sprint. The time we have been selling this device is very short, the early results indicate the iPhone is breaking the previous Sprint record held by the Evo in terms of percentage of device buyers who are gross adds or new to Sprint in the weeks following the launch.
We believe two weeks in the March is not enough time to constantly estimate gross add percentages but we plan to provide you with the estimate after the full fourth-quarter results are in. But, early indications are extremely encouraging.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
The Indian government thinks the $35 Aakash Android tablet has the power to change the world. After testing one out, we’d tend to agree.
An Aakash tablet was brought to the VentureBeat office on Tuesday by Vivek Wadhwa, a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkley and Duke. Wadhwa, who is researching the Indian education system, was given the tablet by Kapil Sabil, the Indian minister of human resources and development, who has been the driving force behind the tablet project. The device (whose name means “Sky” in Hindi) was produced entirely in India — a point of pride for the Indian government.
The 7-inch Android-based device will be distributed at a government subsidized price of $35, making it the world's cheapest Android device. The general retail price will be $60, which is still remarkably cheap for such a powerful device. A contract between the Indian government and Canadian development partner DataWind, should put between 10 and 12 million devices in the hands of students across India by the end of 2012, according to Computer World.
Aakash stats at-a-glance
Screen: 7-inches; 800-by-400 pixels; Resistive touchscreen
Operating system: Android 2.2, Froyo
Processor: 366 MHz Connexant; HD Video co-processor (both with graphics accelerators)
Memory: 256MB RAM (internal); 2GB Flash (external)
Storage: 2GB card included, expandable up to 32GB
Ports: Two USB 2.0; 3.5mm audio out jack; 3.5mm audio in jack (No built-in speakers)
Connectivity: GPRS; Wi-Fi 802.11 a,b,g
Power: Up to 180 minutes on battery; AC adapter, 200-240 volt
Weight: 350 grams
We tested the Aakash, surfing the web, using apps, typing text documents, plugging in peripherals and playing Bollywood videos. Here’s our exclusive first look at what a $35 tablet can really do. (See a video of the Aakash in action at the end of the article.)

Hands on with the Aakash

Jugaad is a Indian word which means "to make-do." The Aakash tablet is a Jugaad in a very high tech way. The components inside the Aakash tablet are cheap, and easily sourced. For example, the Aakash tablet has a headphone jack and an audio-in jack, but no external speakers — an obvious cost-savings measure. However, with the addition of a cheap headphones, and an equally cheap microphone, the owner can make calls on Skype, and has the potential to communicate with people around the world.
The screen is pressure sensitive (also called resistive touch) and responds somewhat slowly to gestures. It's definitely not as dazzling as the high-end tablets familiar to Western audiences, such as the capacitive touchscreen iPad, or even the HP Touchpad.
The Aakash is running Android 2.2, Froyo, with the UniSurfer browser installed. Made by DataWind, UniSurfer is supposed to make webpages process faster, probably to compensate for the slower processor and connection speeds. However, while browsing the Internet and testing out apps, we couldn’t help but notice that the reaction time seemed very slow. Scrolling, for example, is a swipe-and-wait affair. However, the speed is going to be quite sufficient for someone who has never in his or her life had a smartphone or computer. It’s all relative after all. Compared with the iPhone 4s, the iPhone 3G is a “slow” smartphone, only because speedier alternatives are available. Even in a context where the market is full of smart devices, like in the U.S., speed helps us make decisions incrementally faster, but rarely are these issues of genuine consequence.
And given how slow navigating the user interface is, watching videos on the device was incredibly impressive. We used YouTube to watch a clip from a Bollywood film, and the video came through fast and clear, with no hiccups.
The Aakash has both GPRS and Wi-Fi capabilities. Its battery power is limited to 180 minutes of use on a full charge, but it comes with an AC adapter. What’s important isn’t that the tablet can run off of the battery for long periods of time, but that it will still be able to work and surf the net when the power goes out.
Weighing in at less than double a handheld smart phone (350 grams), the device itself feels a bit like a toy. A goofy plastic cover protects the screen, slowing down the touch response considerably. It might remind you of the conference call controller in a corporate boardroom. Though its design is minimalistic, absent are any Apple-like design flourishes that might evoke the word "magic."
Unlike the XO, the low-cost laptop produced by One Laptop Per Child for the world’s poorest children, with help from Frog Design, The Aakash tablet is not going to win any beauty pageants. This is certainly one of its strengths. A big problem with the XO is it was seen as relatively arcane technologically by the time it was actually available.
What makes the Aakash tablet different is that its creators didn't strive for perfection. Instead, the emphasis was on getting the product into the market quickly so it could be adopted, tinkered with, and improved over time. As Wadhwa said, “to get the cost down, you have to make some compromises”
The unmistakable impression we all got from using the Aakash tablet was that it is built for performance. Every design choice that might seem like a negative reveals three, four, five — or more — net benefits.
Why does it have two USB ports? So you can plug in a keyboard, of course, and still have a free slot for an external hard drive, or some other device. What about that screen cover that seems like it’s made from laminating material? If the tablet is meant for educational use, it’s probably going to have to contend with some pretty rough handling, dirt, dust and moisture. Better that it should withstand damage, than look the extra bit nicer.

Seeing the tablet’s potential

The Aakash Tablet is an example of a "leapfrog technology," a concept where the latest innovations jump directly into areas where legacy technologies never penetrated.  Tens of millions of people throughout India who never had access to a land line phone now walk around with cell phones in their pocket. Many of those likely to use or own the the Aakash Tablet will never have used a desktop computer, and it's possible they never will.
Now imagine the educational potential of the world's lowest-cost tablet being unleashed to hundreds of millions Indians eager to join the world economy. At the heart of the Aakash tablet is an HD video co-processor that will connect viewers to one of the largest educational libraries ever assembled: YouTube. When the Aakash tablet reaches villages across India, an entire generation will have instant access to rich educational content such as the Khan Academy, and anything else their hearts desire.
And with the Aakash tablet in hand, students across India will be free to do what their global counterparts do — or should do — with their computers. There are the educational basics such as creating documents and spreadsheets, and browsing the web for research materials. But as with anything, young people will probably spend a fair amount of time playing games online and chatting with their friends.
India’s history with affordable tech
India, which has a population of nearly 1.2 billion and houses 40 percent of the world’s poor people, has experience parring down high-end technology and making it affordable and accessible.
A similarly transformative Indian-created product is the Tata Nano car, a revolution in automobile design built to give mobility to millions of low-t0-mid-income Indians. When it came out in 2009, the Tata Nano was heralded as the world's cheapest car. But while the Tata Nano is ultimately a destructive force — adding drivers to the congested roads and vehicle exhaust into the air — the Aakash tablet will be used to educate hundreds millions of children.
The Hole in the Wall initiative is another example. It put a computer kiosk in several rural villages throughout India, giving thousands of children and adults their first access to a computer and the Internet. The organizers compared it to the village well, where the community could come together to exchange knowledge and learn from each other. In this case, however, the well was connected to the world's deepest reservoir of knowledge, the Internet.
And next month, the first Aakash tablets will go on sale throughout India, and millions of children will be able to join the tablet revolution that is transforming education, communication and entertainment across the world.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
When does half a billion plus half a billion equal zero?
That’s the question that is on my mind this week, as Nokia has just unveiled news about its upcoming Windows Phone lineup at the annual Nokia World conference in London.
(Check out our hands-on with the Nokia Lumia 800 and Lumia 710.)
Nokia and Microsoft are in an unusual position: They are both enormous giants that dominate their respective industries, but are largely regarded as dying dinosaurs by tech industry insiders.
Nokia shipped almost half a billion phones last year (453 million in 2010, to be exact).
And Microsoft has sold almost half a billion copies of Windows 7 (450 million as of September 13, 2011).
But neither company’s success seems to position it very well for their joint challenge: Establishing a beachhead in the smartphone world. Nokia’s expertise has been in selling cheap feature phones, and indeed, that’s where the brightest spots in its recent lackluster earnings have come from.
As we reported recently (with an informative infographic), three out of every five people on planet Earth use SMS text messaging, or a massive 4.2 billion people. There’s no doubt that for a huge chunk of this population, Nokia phones are the devices that give them access to news, mobile banking, government services and even healthcare.
The problem for Nokia is that its phones have been saddled for years with an outdated, clunky operating system, which meant that the touchscreen smartphone revolution, kicked off by Apple’s iPhone and now dominated by Google’s Android operating system, has almost completely passed the company by. That’s a problem, because no one really wants feature phones any more. (Well, I would, but only if it was also a Wi-Fi hotspot that I could use to give internet access to a tablet and a notebook computer. But I’m an odd bird.) I’m sure that even in Nigeria, people would choose smartphones over feature phones if they had a choice.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s dominance is in a market that, while huge, is already obsolete: PCs. I couldn’t find reliable numbers on how many Windows PCs there are in the world, but it’s almost certainly over a billion.
While that generates plenty of cash for Microsoft today, it’s not clear how well the company will be able to transition to a more smartphone- and tablet-centric world. Microsoft is aiming for tablets with its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, but it’s too soon to tell whether the company will pull it off.
Microsoft’s mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, is an impressive piece of work, with an excellent interface and a well-thought-out architecture that integrates phone data (contacts, social media, music, calendars and more) in a smart way. The problem is that there are no apps. Compared to the 600,000 iOS apps and the 500,000 apps in the Android Market, the “thousands” of apps in the Windows Phone 7 marketplace are nearly negligible. Since apps are the main selling point for smartphones, that’s a big problem.
Meanwhile, time’s wasting: Apple has been consolidating its position as the phone market’s technology and design leader by releasing a small but well-targeted series of smartphones, and by forming partnerships with an increasing number of carriers.
Google has continued to see success with Android, which now ships on the majority of smartphones from an impressive array of manufacturers, making Android the somewhat less-expensive, great-variety and more-ubiquitous alternative to Apple’s premium brand.
Nokia and Microsoft’s partnership won’t bear fruit until late this year at the earliest. It’s more likely that, in the U.S. at least, we won’t see Windows-based Nokia smartphones until sometime in 2012.
The longer these companies delay, the harder it will be for them to secure a foothold in the competitive smartphone and tablet market.
Nokia and Microsoft are far from dead, with billions of dollars in sales to sustain them for the coming years. The question is whether they can crack the new market together and transform their old businesses into a new growth opportunity.
It may already be too late.
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Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 06:52 AM PDT
Stealth startup Nextdoor believes it has cracked the social/local code, and is today launching a digital platform  that brings together  your real-world neighbors.
Nextdoor is creating the “neighborhood graph” by combining the best of  Web 2.0 sites like  Yelp and Facebook, with the features of early Web tools such as Craigslist and Yahoo! Groups to reconnect neighborhoods and re-establish a sense of community, on and offline.
Nextdoor has the look and feel of Facebook, with an activity feed, and tabbed navigation, where you’re able to look for a babysitter, and check out recommendations left by your neighbors. Anyone who has used the Internet during the last decade will feel right at home.
Nextdoor has gone to great lengths to create an experience that is authentic, and where trust and identity are the operative words, says co-founder and chief executive officer Nirav Tolia.
There are four mechanisms for verifying your address, all of which inject significant friction into the sign-up process, he says. You can request postcards with a unique code; your home phone number attached to your home address can be called with a code; you can can enter your credit card for verification; or you can be invited by a verified neighbor.
“The amount of friction is directly correlated to the value you derive from being in an environment is where everyone is verified,” says Tolia.
Of course there’s a business model somewhere in all of this. It could be merchant services, it could be deals, or something else. Though he wouldn’t specify, he said there are lots of potential opportunities around connecting businesses with customers who live and shop in the area, once they’ve nailed the product, and have grown the user base. ”As we've done with everything else, we'll follow what the users ask for,” says Tolia.
It cost the company $60,000 to buy the domain name, said Tolia, but he thinks it’s definitely worth it. He pointed out that all the most powerful tech companies have two “o’s” in the name. Facebook, Yahoo! Google, — even Microsoft. “And now Nextdoor,” says Tolia.
Nextdoor is backed by Benchmark Capital and Shasta Ventures.

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Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 05:21 AM PDT
Hello Nokia, we’ve missed you.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced its flagship Windows Phone device, the Lumia 800, during his Nokia World keynote earlier this morning. The Finnish phone maker also announced a lower-end option, the Lumia 710, as well as several low end phones running its aging Series 40 software. Unfortunately, neither device will hit the US this year.
Details about the Lumia phones leaked yesterday, which sort of put a damper on Nokia’s big reveal. Still, it’s nice to see Nokia actually deliver new devices after rocking the mobile world in February with the news that it would be moving to Windows Phone, thereby abandoning the company’s creaky Symbian software and more ambitious MeeGo plans. (Nokia later announced the N9 MeeGo phone, which seems to have been released as a sort of curiosity.)
As a Nokia fan who has been disappointed by the company’s trajectory over the last few years, the Lumia 800 seems like a breath of fresh air. It exudes the company’s hardware expertise (it actually looks about the same as the N9, which can’t be faulted for its style), while also finally pairing a Nokia smartphone with powerful and modern touchscreen software. The Lumia 800 is stylish enough to make Nokia a hip brand once again, and it just may help to push Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform beyond its current also-ran status.
The Lumia 800′s official specs differ from those that were leaked yesterday. It sports a 1.4 gigahertz single-core CPU (dual-core Windows Phones are expected next year, Microsoft says), 3.7-inch AMOLED display, 16 gigabytes of storage, and an 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p high-definition video. The phone weighs just five ounces and is 12.1 millimeters thick, and Nokia rates its 3G talk time at 9.5 hours. And of course, it’ll run Windows Phone Mango, also known as Windows Phone 7.5.
nokia lumia 710
The Lumia 710
Not content to offer just one new Windows Phone device, Nokia also unveiled the Lumia 710, a cheaper alternative to the flagship Lumia 800. It also features a 3.7-inch display and 1.4 gigahertz CPU, but it packs in less storage (8 gigabytes), a lower-quality 5 megapixel camera, and slightly less battery life (6.9 hours of 3G talk time).
Nokia is aiming for lots of color with both of its new Lumia phones. The 800 will be available in black, cyan, and magenta, while the 710 will feature those colors along with yellow and white. The 710′s rear covers will also be swappable, allowing you to mix and match your color scheme.
In addition to its Windows Phone lineup, Nokia also showed off four new inexpensive Asha phones, running its Series 40 feature phone software. While none of those phones will ever be mistaken for a high-end smartphone, it’s still nice to see Nokia innovating at the low-end, a market that it needs to win back from cheaper Asian handsets.
“I'm left with many questions after the announcements,” said Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. “How do the new devices fit into a diverse environment in an enterprise setting? Where are the enterprise tools to deploy, activate secure and manage them? What is the Nokia Value Add on top of plane Windows Phone? What did they do to enhance the Windows Phone platform beyond what Microsoft offers? Nokia seemed to show once again that they understand how to make appealing hardware, but fell short in service offerings that could differentiate them in the market, especially with the important business user.”
The Lumia 800 will retail for  €420 (around $580), and you can pre-order it now for a November shipment in the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The  €270 (around $375) Lumia 710 will hit Asia before Europe, and will be available in India, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, and Taiwan by the end of the year.
The company hasn’t mentioned a US release for the devices specifically, but it did say that it’s planning a “portfolio of products” in the US in early 2012, reports This is my next. Nokia also promises to support LTE and CDMA technology with its US phones (the company has stubbornly refused to make CDMA phones for year, which hurt its US prospects).

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 08:17 PM PDT
atlassian-cloudEnterprise software startup Atlassian announced Tuesday that is moving its collaboration and development products, including JIRA and Confluence, to the cloud with an innovative pricing structure.
Atlassian‘s products, especially bug-and-issue tracker JIRA, are important to enterprise and small clients alike. The company currently serves 26,000 customers, including Cisco, Citigroup, Netflix, Facebook, Zynga and Adobe. But now even more companies will have access to Atlassian products because there’s no need to set up a server to run the software.
Called Atlassian OnDemand, Atlassian’s new cloud products feature a clever a la carte approach to dishing out cloud services. Whereas per-month scalability of cloud products is usually designated for infrastructure, Atlassian is using the per-month model on the customer end. With OnDemand, Atlassian customers will be able to increase or decrease the number of users and the level of features needed every month depending on the customer’s needs.
Atlassian OnDemand software options include JIRA, Confluence, GreenHopper, Team Calendars, Bonfire, FishEye, Crucible and Bamboo. Pricing for OnDemand starts at $10 per month for 10 users. That sort of pricing and flexibility will especially be good for small businesses and startups that don’t have the capital of major enterprise players.
Along with remodeling its service structure, the company also took the opportunity to redesign its website. The company’s logo and branding has been re-purposed as well with a more modern flair to go along with its new emphasis on up-to-date cloud offerings.
Atlassian was founded in Sydney, Australia in 2002 and was self-funded until July 2010, when it took a massive $60 million first round of funding from Accel Partners. The company has recently moved into new offices in San Francisco and earlier this month acquired SourceTree to help expand its software development offerings.

Filed under: cloud, enterprise

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 07:28 PM PDT
IBM CEOsIBM named its new president and chief executive today, Virginia Rometty, who will also serve on the company’s board of directors.
Sam Palmisano (pictured right with Rometty), the current chief executive, will be stepping down as Virginia, who goes by Ginni, takes the position on Jan. 1, 2012. Rometty currently serves as senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy and joined IBM as a systems engineer in 1981.
“But she is more than a superb operational executive,” said Palmisano in a statement. “She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive, and passion for IBMers and the company's future. I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century.”
Rometty acts as the first female chief executive to run IBM, and as many have noticed, she isn’t alone as a technology leader. Meg Whitman, former chief executive of eBay, recently rose to the top at Hewlett-Packard and announced she is joining hot eCommerce startup Zaarly’s board of directors.
“There is no greater privilege in business than to be asked to lead IBM, especially at this moment,” said Rometty in a statement. She was referring to following in Palmisano’s footsteps, but “this moment” could also refer to the fact that a new wave of leadership has swept through some of the biggest technology companies in the world.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 06:26 PM PDT
pinglio twitterPatrick Bisch, founder of Pinglio.com, was on his Twitter earlier today when he noticed something different. His timeline, or stream of tweets, suddenly had new features including a button to expand tweets.
Thus far, Twitter’s timeline has been fairly cut and dry. There are the tweets themselves, a time stamp and the name of the source the tweet came from. A slider opens on the right side of the Twitter page to show media and a section of replies or photos and videos. Nothing much more fancy is needed for a 140 character conversation. But it seems Twitter may be streamlining the look of its stream.
Bisch, who wrote about the changes on Pinglio, found that his retweet, reply and favorite buttons had been moved to the top of his tweet, as opposed to living on the bottom as per usual. When he hovered over the buttons, the time stamp, which usually appears at the top right of the tweet, read “open.”
When clicked, the open button does just that, it isolates the tweet in the timeline and also shows any replies to the conversation associated with that tweet. Similarly, you can open multimedia tweets to view photos — photo uploader agnostic — and potentially videos. If a tweet in this new timeline has been retweeted, the open function will show a horizontal list of all those who retweeted.
To view a specific Twitter handle, the profile appears floating over the rest of the Twitter stream, as opposed to on the right hand side of the webpage. It still only shows the last three tweets made by that handle.
Why these showed up in Bisch’s stream is unknown. We’ve reached out to Twitter for comment and will update upon hearing back.
Check out the video from Bisch below:

[Photo courtesy of Pinglio]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:59 PM PDT
Google has released a report on how governments and police agencies are accessing information about web users.
By showing how many requests Google gets for user information — and exactly how many users and accounts are under some kind of surveillance — the company hopes to have a positive effect on public policies around government access to citizens’ online activities.
“All too often, policy that affects how information flows on the Internet is created in the absence of empirical data,” writes Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou on the company blog.
“By showing traffic patterns and disruptions to our services, and by sharing how many government requests for content removal and user data we receive from around the world, we hope to offer up some metrics to contribute to a public conversation about the laws that influence how people communicate online.”
During the first half of 2011, Google received a total of 5,950 government and/or police requests in the U.S. for information about 11,057 unique accounts, and it fully or partially complied with 93 percent of those requests.
Around the globe, Google received 15,506 data requests for 25,440 accounts and complied with about half of the requests, on average.
Generally speaking, these requests are made through appropriate legal, police and bureaucratic channels to get vital information about possible criminal or even terrorist activity. However, Google’s Transparency Report also shows interruptions to its services from various governments.
For example, the company kept track of the February 18 and March 3 blackouts of all Google services by the Libyan government and the five-day blackout of all Google services during the Egyptian Internet shutdown that began on January 27.
“By illustrating outages, this tool visualizes disruptions in the free flow of information, whether it’s a government blocking information or a cable being cut,” the company noted in the report.
And while Google does comply with lawful and justified requests to remove content or turn over user data, it sometimes pushes back against the governments making the requests.
For example, in India this year, Google fielded requests from police and government agencies to take down several YouTube clips showing protests against local leaders or using strong language to refer to religious leaders. “We declined the majority of these requests and only locally restricted videos that appeared to violate local laws prohibiting speech that could incite enmity between communities,” said the company.
In another case, Google denied a local police request to remove 236 Orkut communities and profiles. The content displayed there was critical of a local politician, but Google said, “We did not comply with this request, since the content did not violate our Community Standards or local law.”
In other cases, Google does not turn over user data for a variety of reasons. For user data requests from Russian and Turkish authorities, no data was given out, in fact.
Notably, in the United States, Google refused to remove YouTube clips showing police brutality. In these cases in particular, we are seeing how relatively neutral platforms such as YouTube can have great social impact depending on the intentions of the person posting the content and the integrity of the content host in keeping that content online.

Filed under: security, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:36 PM PDT
Gaming startup PlayJam has raised a new $5 million round of funding to bring games to smart TVs and set-top boxes, the company announced Tuesday.
PlayJam is known for producing games on internet-connected TV platforms from Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic. The company says it’s seen over 6 billion game downloads on those platforms alone.
However, with the increase in devices that give televisions web connectivity — like Blu-ray players, game consoles and set-top boxes — PlayJam has the opportunity to start producing games that are independent of any one distribution platform, especially now that it has money in the bank.
The Smart TV gaming market is just getting started, but PlayJam is poised to become the market leader. The company said half of  customers that download and play free games eventually buy a premium game. Also, its consumers spend an average of 23 minutes per session. (I’m guessing that session is the time it takes someone to start and then stop playing a game without any pauses or breaks.)
The new round, PlayJam’s first, includes participation by GameStop Digital Ventures, Adobe Ventures, Endeavour Ventures, London Venture Partners and others. Founded in 1999, the London-based startup has over 550 games in its library to date.

Filed under: deals, games, media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:32 PM PDT
Leonardo DiCaprioMobli, a photo sharing application, said today Leonardo DiCaprio will be advising the company and also participated in a $4 million first round of funding, along with other private investors.
The technology sector has seen a recent onslaught of celebrity investors such as DiCaprio, Will.I.Am, Lady Gaga and Ashton Kutcher, who is now playing an internet tycoon on CBS’ sitcom Two and a Half Men. But many have to wonder, do these people actually have the tech know-how to advise a technology company? For Mobli chief exectuive Moshiko Hogeg, however, it’s not about the technology knowledge:
“[DiCaprio] has zero tech background,” he explained in an interview with VentureBeat. “It’s about him knowing and understanding branding and marketing.”
Mobli colors itself a way to look at the world through another person’s eyes, as well as a way to get in touch with celebrities and others who aren’t readily accessible. Currently the site is host to celebrity accounts such as DiCaprio’s, David Arquette’s and Paris Hilton’s. The app lets you search for photo and video content through different verticals, such as food, music, fashion and sports. According to the company’s blog post, Mobli is seeing over 10,000 new users a day.
In his advisor role, DiCaprio will help the company work with its image.
“[There are] obvious reasons [to work with DiCaprio] such as he’s a major high profile celebrity, which can open a lot of doors,” said Hogeg.
Hogeg wants to make Mobli the same type of brand for mobile videos and photos as YouTube is for online videos. Currently, the company’s biggest vertical is not celebrities or sports, but news. For example, when Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed this week, people flocked to Mobli to find related content.
Overall, Hogeg is excited about the future with DiCaprio.
“These people are business people too,” he explained, “They invest in real estate and the stock market and no one says anything.”

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:20 PM PDT
soundhound-iphoneMusic discovery application SoundHound has hit an impressive 4 million searches per day to help its more than 50 million users find songs, the company announced today.
SoundHound has a lot of similarities to rival Shazam: Its iOS and Android apps analyze particular sounds to determine the name of a song playing. Users can also hum or sing a song to get a result. The app also provides lyrics, song previews and YouTube videos connected to particular songs.
SoundHound has had a nice couple of months. On top of a recent iOS app update that integrated SoundHound with Apple’s iCloud service, the company announced in late August that it had partnered with streaming music startup Spotify to give European users access to Spotify’s catalog of more than 15 million tracks.
In terms of traffic, SoundHound also looks strong. In the 30-day period between Sept. 21 and Oct. 20, SoundHound registered up to 30 million hits per day with peak traffic at more than 2 million hits per hour. "This first peek at our usage metrics reveals some impressive numbers, but the story behind the numbers is just as big a deal," said Keyvan Mohajer, CEO of SoundHound, in a statement.
SoundHound is currently available on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices. The free version of the app is ad-supported, while the paid version costs $6.99 on iOS and $4.99 on Android and gives users many more features and no ads.
San Jose, Calif.-based SoundHound was founded in 2005 and has received funding from the likes of Global Catalyst Partners, TransLink Capital, Walden Venture Capital and others.

Filed under: media, mobile

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 02:19 PM PDT
Amazon today released its 3rd Quarter earnings, turning in a per-share performance of just 14 cents, missing Wall Street expectations of 25 cents per share by a wide margin. The ecommerce giant saw revenue decrease by 73 percent, to just $63 million, which is likely to further punish the stock price.
Amazon‘s Q3 earnings in 2010 were $231 million, or 51 cents per share. Overall revenue for the quarter rose 44 percent, to $10.88 billion.
"September 28th was the biggest order day ever for Kindle, even bigger than previous holiday peak days — we introduced Kindle Fire for $199, Kndle Touch 3G for $149, Kindle Touch for $99, and our all new Kindle for only $79," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, in a statement included with the earnings report. "In the three weeks since launch, orders for electronic ink Kindles are double the previous launch. And based on what we’re seeing with Kindle Fire pre-orders, we’re increasing capacity and building millions more than we’d already planned."
While pre-order numbers have been encouraging, the release of the Kindle Fire is also likely to super-charge digital revenue through the purchase of apps, as well as new subscribers joining Amazon Prime for access to streaming movies, TV shows and other digital content. As many as 5 million Kindle Fire units could be sold during the holiday season according to analysts’ predictions.

Filed under: enterprise, media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 01:23 PM PDT
HTML5 development platform-maker Particle Code has been
acquired by Appecelerator for an undisclosed sum, the company announced Monday. The deal brings together the business side of the house, as well as deep tech, says Particle Code chief executive officer Galia Benartzi.
Particle Code, which was a DEMO 2010 DEMOgod winner, allows developers to create a unified web experience across devices. Appcelerator is known for its Titanium tool, which is used by clients such as NBC, Zipcar, eBay and others, to power their mobile apps.
“The real story here is they were weak where we were strong, and they were strong where we were weak, so it's a really good match,” says Benartzi.
The Particle Code-Appcelerator tie-up is happening amidst a flurry of activity on the HTML5 platform development platform front. Today, Sencha announced a $15 million investment round to boost its platform, which creates native app functionality on mobile devices such as the iPad.
“It's a really interesting time, and I'm glad we're part of that story, and the excitement in that space,” says Benartzi. Particle Code was launched at DEMO 2010, and Benartzi says after a transition period with Appcelerator, she’s probably going to launch her third startup, “If she can help it.”
Particle Code had previously received $3 million from Benhamou Global Ventures.

Filed under: deals, dev

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 01:10 PM PDT
nokia-windows-phone-lumia-leakSeveral photos that give away key details about Nokia’s new Windows Phone devices have hit the web today, less than 24 hours before Nokia is set to unveil the smartphones in London.
There is much anticipation by the mobile world and Nokia followers about what the company has come up with after CEO Stephen Elop bet the company on the Windows Phone 7 operating system early this year. Nokia will be entering a crowded landscape that has already seen fierce competition between Apple’s iPhone and a mass of Google’s Android devices made by the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG. But Windows Phone 7 may pick up traction in the next few years as a solid third option.
First up, a batch of photos from a kiosk have surfaced on WinRumors (one photo is shown above). From what we can glean from the leaked photos, the two phones aren’t too crazy when it comes to specs. The Nokia Lumia 800 (previously known as Sea Ray), measures 116.5-by-61.2-by-12.1 mm and weighs 142 grams. The battery appears to offer 5 hours of 3G talk time, and it has 512MB of RAM but no microSD slot for extra storage.
The Nokia Lumia 710 (previously known as Sabre) appears to be a lower-end device, with very few specs listed in the leaked photos. At the moment, all we know is it measures 119-by-62.4-by-12.5 mm and carries 8GB internal storage with no microSD slot.
On top of early details about the Lumia 800 and 710, The Nokia Blog has what it claims is a copy of specs for the about-to-be-unvieled Nokia 900 smartphone, which was previously known as Ace. The 900 appears to be Nokia’s stab a top-of-the-line Windows Phone running the new Mango OS. The 900 appears to include a 1.4-GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB of internal memory, a 1800 mAh battery and Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities.
If Nokia does indeed introduce the 900 tomorrow, it will likely be the company’s flagship Windows Phone, with the other phones acting as less expensive or possibly even free-with-contract models. Several outlets have reported that Nokia’s Windows Phones will arrive in European markets in November and then show up in North America in the following months.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 12:44 PM PDT
I've been a corporate lawyer for more than 17 years, and there are certain fundamental legal mistakes that I've seen startups repeatedly make (many of which surface when investors are conducting their due-diligence investigation).
Accordingly, I thought it would be helpful to provide a simple checklist for startups that includes links to indepth posts for a more detailed discussion.

Startup checklist:

1. Form a corporation, not an LLC (see post here) or a partnership (see post here).
2. Incorporate in Delaware and qualify the company to do business in the state in which its principal office is located (see #2 here).
3. Set-up vesting schedules for the founders (see post here) and file 83(b) elections with the IRS (see #3 here).
4. Button-down IP ownership and assignment issues (see post here).
5. Split the equity based on prior contributions and expectations going forward, not necessarily equally (see post here).
6. If you hire any employees, make sure you don't misclassify them as an independent contractor or fail to pay them at least the minimum wage (see post here).
7. Only raise funds from "accredited investors" (see post here) and don't pay anyone a commission for raising funds for you unless they are a registered broker-dealer (see post here).
8. Put proper privacy policies in place and make sure you adhere to them (see post here).
9. Don't issue stock options unless a proper option plan is in place and a valuation has been done in compliance with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (see post here).
10. Regarding lawyers, don't give them equity (see post here); don't use your investors' lawyers (see post here); and there are ways of cutting legal fees in half (see post here).
None of this is rocket science.  But as the late, great super-lawyer and VC Craig Johnson wrote in the book, The Silicon Valley Edge: A Habitat for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, "Starting companies is a lot like launching rockets: if you're a tenth of a degree off at launch, you may be a thousand miles off downrange."
Scott Edward Walker is the founder and CEO of Walker Corporate Law Group, PLLC, a law firm specializing in the representation of entrepreneurs.
[Image via Yes Man/Shutterstock]

Filed under: Entrepreneur Corner, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 12:28 PM PDT
ipad-tablet-useA new Pew Research Center study shows that the behavior of tablet owners is changing significantly when it comes to consuming news, for good and bad.
Several studies have already shown that tablets create a higher level of engagement than a desktop or laptop, most likely because of the physical interaction with content and media. A popular video floating around the web even highlights tablet interactivity versus traditional print media using a baby as a barometer for engagement. But in this Pew study, we see how this tablet engagement translates specifically to news consumption.
The Pew study shows that 11 percent of U.S. adults now own tablets like the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab or Nook Color. Seventy seven percent of these tablet owners use their devices daily, and the average tablet user spends 1 hour and 35 minutes on their device every day. The most popular activity for these users is reading email, with 54 percent checking daily. Surprisingly, reading news comes in a very close second place with 53 percent of users reading headlines and in-depth features daily. The third place activity is checking social networks like Facebook and Twitter at 39 percent.
The majority of tablet users, according to the survey, are employed full-time, affluent with family income totaling more than $75,000 per year and educated, with most users have college degrees. The Pew Research Survey collected the data in the summer and early fall of this year, questioning 1,159 tablet users over the telephone.
When it comes specifically to news consumption, the results are a mixed bag for media outlets. Yes, tablet owners love consuming news and they gobble it up on the browser and news applications. But, much like the hordes of regular Internet users, tablet owners don’t want to pay for the news they consume on their iPads and Android tablets. A disappointing 14 percent of tablet owners surveyed have paid for news specifically for the tablet. Among those who haven’t already put money down, 21 percent said they would consider paying $5 a month for news while 10% said they would pay $10 a month for news on the tablet.
A breakdown of specifics on tablet and news habits can be viewed below:
tablet-news-pewAre you willing to pay for news on your tablet?

Filed under: media, mobile

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 12:07 PM PDT
SenchaSencha, provider of HTML 5 tools for web and mobile developers, received $15 million in a second round of funding led by Jafco Ventures.
HTML 5 applications can make beautiful, interactive experiences on PCs and mobile devices. But there are some drawbacks to using HTML 5 that have held the marketplace from rushing the field. These apps are unable to connect to a device’s own native apps and data. For example, an HTML5 app running on an iPhone wouldn’t be able to access the camera or address book, because those live within the mobile operating system, which HTML 5 exists apart from. But, aside from these drawbacks, there are many pros to developing with it
“The future is a multi-device world,” said Michael Mullany, chief executive of Sencha, in an interview with VentureBeat. “The web is really the only platform that can span [many different devices] … you’re not going to have a native platform that is going to talk to all of those.”
Mullany feels it would be an arduous task to creative native applications with the same user experience across multiple operating systems and devices. Because HTML 5 apps are web-based, they can provide a cohesive experience across those devices, including your tablet, phone, computer and even television.
“People are going to expect that user experiences across these devices will be shared experiences,” he said.
In addition to delivering on this expectation, Sencha plans to use the funding for more product announcements, small technology acquisitions and expanding developers’ abilities. In fact, the company announced a new cloud product yesterday, Sencha.io, which allows developers to create HTML 5 web apps without having to deal with sever-side coding and hosting their web app.
Sencha is located in Redwood City, Calif. and was founded in 2010. The company received a $14 million first round of funding led by Sequoia Capital in June 2010. Both Sequoia Capital and Radar Partners participated in this round.

Filed under: deals, dev, mobile

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 11:19 AM PDT
Groupon is taking its show on the road this week to pitch wary investors on its stock. Can the company prove it will be profitable in the long term even though it’s posting nothing but losses so far?
“If you look at the company’s prospectus, they say they expect to see losses for the foreseeable future,” said Dun & Bradstreet tech specialist Lee Simmons in a call with VentureBeat this morning.
At the end of the summer, Groupon announced that in spite of revenue gains, it was still showing staggering net losses of $102.7 million for both the first and second quarter of 2011, a figure that was nearly three times the $36 million loss from Q2 2010.
Groupon will be offering just 5 percent of its total shares for public trading starting November 4 and will likely offer more within the next 12 months.
Saying that he, himself, would not buy Groupon stock out of the gate, Simmons countered, “Hate ‘em or love ‘em, they’re a market leader in this e-coupon market segment.
“The bigger question is, how is this company going to carve a path to sustainability and profitability? Are they going to rely solely on coupons? What is their strategy for real growth?”
Simmons said that to inspire investor confidence, “They need to show that they are getting their overhead under control. In many ways, they’ve begun to show evidence of this by getting their marketing expenses under control and narrowing their losses.”
Still, he said, “They’ve pulled in the reins, and they’re not going to get the valuation they would have even three months ago.”
In fact, the startup’s valuation among analysts, investors and spectators has wobbled precariously between such extremes as $30 billion and $3 billion. Before last week, the valuation was suspected to be between $15 billion and $20 billion; however, the company is now pitching investors on a $16 to $18 share price that will value the company closer to $11.4 billion.
“I suspect that they are going to get as much as $540 million on November 4, which would put them at an $11.5B valuation,” said Simmons. “I don’t think they will have much trouble generating that.”
The tech IPO expert did say that giving an initial public offering before a company achieves profitability was not uncommon, particularly among tech companies, but that it was reminiscent of dotcom behaviors.
“You saw the same phenomenon in the late ’90s and early 2000s,” said Simmons. Now, he said, “A lot of investors are pinning their hopes on Web 2.0 … their knight in shining armor for the IPO market.”
Some are also concerned about the timing for this particular IPO. LinkedIn’s IPO in May, which Simmons cited as an example of rosier market conditions, saw splashy trading and pushed the company to a market value of more than $8 billion, nearly doubling its value overnight.
However, between August’s general market dip, the international debt crisis, U.S. unemployment concerns and the Occupy movement, quite a pall has been cast over public financial activity overall, leading many analysts to wonder whether the IPO window has closed for now.
“It may be a smart move to get something out the door before the end of the year,” said Simmons. “Better than waiting until Q1 or Q2 and seeing the market tank even further … There are lingering fears of a double dip.
“It’s going to be tough going in the months ahead, and a lot eyes are going to be on this IPO.”

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 11:04 AM PDT
ABI Research
Out of all mobile app downloads in the third quarter of 2011, 44 percent were Android apps, making Android the market share leader over iOS’ 31 percent, according to data from ABI Research.
The research firm attributed the large shipment of phones running Google’s Android operating system as the reason for the high market share. The total number of Android devices activated worldwide has now reached 190 million (or an estimated 600,000 per day), according to Google.
By comparison, growth in iPhone shipments fell for the second straight quarter — from 15 percent in the first quarter 2011 to nine percent in the second. Meanwhile Android’s shipment growth rose from 20 percent in the first quarter to 36 percent in the following quarter.
Also worth noting from the research firm’s data is that Android’s installed base (the number of phones running Android) is 2.4 to 1 over devices running iOS. ABI said that ratio will reach a stunning 3 to 1 by 2016.
But number of downloads doesn’t necessarily mean Android is besting Apple. According to ABI, Apple is leading in the number of downloads per person. People download two iOS apps for every one Android app. Also, Apple’s strategy toward monetizing applications is more attractive to innovative developers, as more users on iOS are willing to pay for applications.
Finally, ABI reports that the total number of mobile app downloads ever will reach 29 billion by the end of 2011. Comparatively, people only downloaded nine billion apps worldwide in 2010.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 10:27 AM PDT

Rockstar Games surprised just about everyone this morning by confirming the existence of Grand Theft Auto V, the latest in the company’s hit series of open-world games.
Rockstar announced the game by replacing its website with the GTA V logo, as well as the news that a trailer would be released next week on November 2. That’s it. On its Twitter account, the company posted a tweet that just pointed back to its website with no additional commentary.
Gamers have been eagerly anticipating GTA V for some time. Plenty of rumors emerged over the past year, including suspicious domains and casting calls, pointing to the game’s development. But today’s announcement is the first time Rockstar has acknowledged the game exists.
While I can appreciate the unique way Rockstar announced the game, I’m still left a bit cold by the company’s refusal to offer any additional details. Rockstar may have been better off just debuting the trailer and leaving gamers with their jaws open instead of hyping up the trailer for next week. Now expectations have been set, and Rockstar has an even more difficult task ahead to impress gamers.
Since Rockstar is being mum on the game, many are already trying to interpret what the GTA V logo represents. Some theories point out that the “V” in the logo resembles a $5 bill, which could hint that the game will take place in a city resembling Washington, DC.
Grand Theft Auto IV was a critical and commercial success for Rockstar and its publisher, Take-Two Interactive, selling over 22 million copies since its 2008 release.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Posted: 25 Oct 2011 09:45 AM PDT
CloudBeat 2011 Innovation ShowdownWe’re thrilled to announce that all 10 finalists in the CloudBeat 2011 Innovation Showdown will be invited to attend a special Bootcamp session hosted by Sequoia Capital. The session will take place at Sequoia’s offices in Palo Alto on November 11, a few weeks before the event.
As will be the case live at CloudBeat 2011, each company will have four minutes to showcase their cloud product or service. After each presentation, a mix of leading Sequoia Capital cloud experts, VentureBeat staff and speaking coaches will provide thorough and actionable feedback (both on the content and the presentation). This is an amazing opportunity to foster relationships with Sequoia Capital and receive expert advice on honing your pitch. And this is all before the event!
The submission deadline for the Innovation Showdown is next Monday, October 31 at 5pm PT. So if you know of anyone with a cool and disruptive cloud product or service, have them apply here.
To recap, we’re looking for companies that are leveraging the cloud and changing how businesses serve customers, empower employees and deliver tangible value to investors. From startups to established companies with brilliant new ideas, we're looking for the products and services that will revolutionize the enterprise. And we're giving special consideration to products that are new, or that haven't been widely publicized yet. Full details can be found here.
In addition to the Sequoia Bootcamp session, finalists will have four minutes to showcase their innovative cloud technologies live at CloudBeat 2011 in front of 500 industry executives and press. Our team of sages — made up of cloud experts, venture capitalists and actual enterprise customers — will provide feedback, recap the highlights and determine the winner.
The Showdown winner will be announced onstage at CloudBeat 2011 and will receive a VentureBeat editorial profile, introductions to additional investors and/or relevant potential customers in our network, and other prizes yet to be announced.
Again, the submission deadline is October 31. For all Showdown details and to apply, go here.
We’re looking forward to a great event!

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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