27 October, 2011

MoPub’s Marketplace brings real-time trading to mobile ads

Posted: 27 Oct 2011 08:09 AM PDT
Mobile ad startup MoPub aims to put a fresh spin on mobile ads today with the launch of MoPub Marketplace, a real-time bidding service for mobile ads that allows publishers to take full control over the ads on their apps.
Founded by former Google and AdMob employees, MoPub launched late last year with the goal of letting mobile app publishers serve ads directly, rather than going through an ad network. Now with MoPub Marketplace, the startup is attempting to demystify the process of choosing and managing ads, while also opening up new sources of revenue to publishers by connecting them directly to ad buyers.
"Until today, publishers have had to operate their mobile ads through a black box: blindly trusting ad networks, without knowing which ads are effective and with no control over the type of ads consumers receive,” MoPub CEO and co-founder Jim Payne said in a statement today. “This matters considerably to the top tier publishers we are working with who are concerned with brand protection as well as ad performance.”
MoPub calls itself an “ad server”, not an ad network. In addition to the Marketplace, MoPub also offers direct sold ads (something more suited for bigger publishers), and ad network mediation (letting publishers juggle multiple ad networks using its technology).
The company touts that the Marketplace offers “unprecedented control” for mobile ads. You can easily view the performance of all of your ads (see the dashboard above), set price floors and frequency caps, and even hide the name of your app, which can help to preserve your brand. The service also lets you easily block ads with one click (meant to help you avoid ads that could hurt your brand), and create block lists, which can include competitors and specific advertisers.
MoPub currently has over 650 publishers on board with its existing service. The company is going head-to-head with mobile advertising heavyweights like InMobi, who just recently raised over $200 million, and Millennial Media.
San Francisco-based MoPub has raised over $6.5 million from Accell Partners and Harrison Metal Capital.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 27 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t come out until Nov. 8. But one of the most-anticipated video games of the year has already been obtained by pirates, VentureBeat has learned.
The PC version of the game, or at least part of it, has been circulating around the U.S. among pirates, who illegally copy and share the game without paying Activision Blizzard or its retailers. That’s a big problem as Activision Blizzard is expected to sell more than 20 million copies of the game in 2011 alone, according to Arcadia Research. That amounts to more than $1.2 billion in sales at retail.
Piracy has always been a problem with video games, especially for PC titles. But the pirates go after Call of Duty because it’s the big prize. Every year, a cat-and-mouse game ensues. Activision Blizzard closely monitors manufacturing in the weeks leading up shipment, since it only takes one stolen disk to set off the viral spread of pirated copies. But it’s hard to stop inside jobs.
Evidently pirated discs began to spread quickly after an employee at a shipping warehouse in Fresno, Calif., stole one disc. It’s not clear how many full copies spread this way, as the disc that was stolen was apparently Disc 2 of a two-disk set for the PC. Security may have been too tight for the thief to steal the other disc.
The same course of events happened before last year’s launch of Call of Duty Black Ops and the year before that with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. But sales of the franchise keep climbing higher.
Investigators are using the same tactics as last year, knocking on doors around the country asking people nicely to turn over and delete their pirated copies of Modern Warfare 3. Rather than face fines, many complied.
A Modern Warfare pirate who was caught posted the following message (below) yesterday  on Craigslist. In it, the person warns others not to buy MW3 before the release date because “they will come get you.” The post says “you will be fined $5,000″ and it could result in permanent banning from online play. Then the person adds, “I already went through it.”

Filed under: games

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Posted: 27 Oct 2011 07:54 AM PDT
Facebook data center Lulea
Social network giant Facebook has chosen the northern Swedish town of Lulea as the site of its first data center outside the U.S., reports Reuters.
The data center, which will cost an initial $121 million to build, will be the largest of its kind in Europe. The facility will consist of three server buildings, each with an area of 300,000 square ft. each.
Despite its remote location (over 600 miles north of Swedish capital Stockholm), Facebook chose Lulea because of its icy climate, which will help to cool the tens of thousands of servers in the facility. It will also serve more than 800 million European Facebook users.
Unlike Facebook’s Oregon and North Carolina data centers that rely on utility (coal) power, the Lulea data center will be powered by renewable energy.
The first of the three server buildings is expected to be operational within a year, while the entire facility is scheduled to be ready by 2014, according to Facebook. It will require about 300 full-time positions during the first three years, the company added.
Image via Data Center Knowledge

Filed under: green, social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 27 Oct 2011 07:30 AM PDT
Today, Facebook announced it is opening up its fancy, redesigned data centers for hardware hackers to learn from and improve on their designs.
The Open Compute Foundation, announced today, will allow anyone to access the designs and specifications for Facebook’s homebrewed and highly efficient data center hardware and will provide structure for the project.
To join, hardware designers and hackers need to sign an agreement on the Foundation’s site, find an aspect to work on and sign an open licensing agreement to do that work. Designs will be voted into the official project based on merit.
The goals are to make data center energy usage more efficient, to make server repairs faster and fewer and to figure out better ways to serve data at massive scale, e.g., billions of users, what is known as “human scale.”
“This is not going to be a community that’s going to write wish-lists,” said Frank Frankovsky, one of the founders of the Open Compute project at a summit in New York City this morning. “We’re publishing not only specifications but also source files.”
“When we first launched this project back in April, people thought we were crazy,” said Frankovsky.
Now, however, Facebook’s groundbreaking work in data center efficiency and server redesign will be open for all to hack on and improve. For example, Frankovsky mentioned Facebook’s newest data center in Sweden, a hydropowered facility that he said is “our greenest yet.” That design will be open sourced, its specs published and available for anyone to manipulate and possibly enhance.
Right now, you can go to the Foundation website, login with your Facebook and Github accounts, and start checking out the components that make up Facebook’s data centers, from the motherboards to the chassis — even Facebook’s completely redesigned power supplies.
“Let’s build this together,” said Frankovsky. “If we start sharing our ideas, the pace of innovation is going to increase rapidly… Let’s start focusing on the environment and the efficiency of this.”
Asus, Intel and AMD are involved as partners and are involved in publishing specs and source files, which hackers will then be allowed to modify and submit back to the project. Dell is also a major partner for the project.
Facebook’s Open Compute project has inspired the interest of the hardware hacker and open-source communities, individuals and groups that Facebook said “are passionate about making strong technical contributions to defining and delivering the most efficient server, storage and data center designs.”
Open source is a huge part of Facebook’s culture. Pretty much since its inception, the company has both used and created or contributed to open-source software projects. In a recent conversation with Facebook open-source software lead David Recordon, we talked about how open-source is simply part of Facebook’s DNA in a way that’s rare for a Silicon Valley startup.
"I think it's pretty clear there's no question about whether companies should be using open-source software or not," said Recordon to VentureBeat back in August. "That was answered over the past decade. The question now is about open hardware. Many of the things that we have today for OSS we don't have for hardware and standards.
Stay tuned for more news on open-source hardware as the Open Compute Foundation begins accepting new projects from new contributors outside Facebook.
DevBeatCheck out DevBeat, VentureBeat’s brand new channel specifically for developers. The channel will break relevant news and provide insightful commentary aimed to assist developers. DevBeat is sponsored by the Intel AppUp developer program.

Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

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Posted: 27 Oct 2011 07:04 AM PDT
Sony is moving forward with its long-rumored plans to buy out Ericsson from its joint mobile venture, in a bid to wrangle control of its future smartphones.
The deal, worth some 1.05 billion euros (or $1.5 billion), is a significant move for Sony. By taking full control over its mobile outfit, Sony has the potential to develop even more innovative smartphones and tie all of its devices more smoothly into its content ecosystem. Basically, Sony is trying to become more like Apple.
“Its the beginning of something which I think is quite magical,” Sony Chairman Howard Stringer said at a news conference in London this morning. “We can more rapidly and more widely offer consumers smartphones, laptops, tablets and televisions that seamlessly connect with one another and open up new worlds of online entertainment.”
Previously, the development of Sony’s phones was handled separately from tablets and other devices.
Formerly the world's sixth largest cellular phone manufacturer, Sony Ericsson was a 50:50 joint venture between the companies. The venture was responsible for some innovative cellphones, such as Walkmen-branded music phones and Cybershot camera phones. But Nokia ended up dominating the market for lower-end phones, and Apple quickly made the iPhone the standard for all high-end smartphones.
As analyst Pete Cunningham of Canalys tells Reuters, Japanese companies have historically had a difficult time taking over Western firms. He adds though that he “would not say it cannot be done.”

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 27 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT
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Battlefield 3 is easily the most important holiday release for Electronic Arts. All year the publisher has aggressively hyped the DICE-developed sequel as a Call of Duty-killer, and with Modern Warfare 3 still two weeks from release, EA has the vital first-to-market advantage. Although EA seems to have bet the farm on this title, analysts still expect Modern Warfare 3 to outperform Battlefield 3 by a 2:1 margin. Last year’s Call of Duty game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, generated over $1 billion in revenuewithin its first six weeks on the market.
Unfortunately, a host of technical shortcomings and a disappointing overall package make Battlefield 3 not only one of the biggest blunders of 2011, but it also positions rival Activision Blizzard's upcoming blockbuster to be the clear winner of the first-person-shooter fight that, ironically, EA picked.
The game debuted on Oct. 25, on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. This review is for the Xbox 360 version.

Single-player offers tons of expletives, not much else

I'm not going to spend too much time on the single-player portion of the game, since obviously the developer didn't either. One of the most common things you'll be hearing (or saying, if you're a rabid Battlefield apologist) is that Battlefield 3 didn't need single-player, and that it's all about the multiplayer anyway. I find it hard to swallow that a seasoned triple-A developer such as DICE (Mirror's Edge, Battlefield series–including the story-driven Bad Company spin-offs) should not be expected to deliver single-player campaign in their biggest release yet just because they're not good at it. It's like saying Anna Kournikova doesn’t need to play well to be a great pro tennis player simply because she looks good on the court. Battlefield 3's campaign is mercifully brief, clocking in at an average of five hours, even on the hardest difficulty setting. I have no problem with the brevity of games like this. I actually prefer shorter games, so long as they're engaging and entertaining, and eschew the endless room-clearing, wave-spawning nonsense that most games implement to artificially increase the playtime listed on the back of the box.
While Battlefield 3's campaign isn't particularly horrible, it is soulless. Regardless of how good a level looked (assuming the HD texture pack is installed), I always had this nagging familiarity as if I had already been there in one or more of the hundreds of shooters to come before it. At least it should be fun to blow stuff up, right? After all, the upgraded Frostbite 2 engine is the leader in physics-based destructible environments in the industry, according to EA. Sadly, any meaningful destruction is few and far between, and it's all scripted. Likewise, the few dynamic destructible walls or environments are very limited, and look like a piece of hard candy that's been snapped in half, rather than an actual building that's been eviscerated by a rocket.

Who the hell are these characters, and what are they going on about?

DICE decided to copy Infinity Ward's (Call of Duty Modern Warfare developer) multi-character narrative, yet forget to duplicate their superior story-telling and tension-building. Some of the playable main characters talk, some of them are inexplicably mute. It is completely asinine for a fighter jet co-pilot to not speak during take-off, when spoken to, or during an actual dogfight with enemy targets. The supporting characters all talk, but in-between F-bombs they don't really have anything interesting to say, nor are they fleshed out the same way the cast was in Battlefield Bad Company. And don't you dare take cover where your artificial intelligence (AI) comrades are scripted to go, lest you literally be pushed out into enemy fire by your selfish and invulnerable squadmates.
The game is also lacking that "epic factor" that even the shooter games Crysis and Homefront were able to capture to some extent, and that the Call of Duty series is so well-known for. In addition to all the aforementioned reasons, the musical score straddles the line between underwhelming and non-existent. Am I the only person who noticed that they seemed to outright lift their new "theme" from the Terminator: Salvation trailer?

The single-player campaign begins and ends in a sitting, and there are a few decent moments interspersed throughout, but it's all just so hollow. I will give credit to DICE for creating what I feel is the best dogfight sequence in any game to date. I've struggled for years to enjoy games like Ace Combat and HAWX, and I'm grateful that I've finally gotten it out of my system, even if I did so on-rails, where your pathway is pre-determined. The last stage is also the game's most unique and exciting sequence (though also the most implausible as any New Yorker will know). It's just unfortunate they couldn't extend that level of energy and urgency to the rest of the game.
There’s also a handful of co-op missions, though these are essentially variants of the single-player content for you and a friend to suffer through together. Like any disappointing Hollywood blockbuster, if you've seen the Battlefield 3 trailer, you've already derived about as much enjoyment out of the single-player as this game has to offer.

Next page: Multiplayer offers few surprises

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Filed under: games

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Posted: 27 Oct 2011 05:14 AM PDT
The well-dressed dairy farmer may soon be sporting a new gadget clipped on to his wellington boot – the Grassometer – which just landed 50,000 EUR ($70,000) in funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund. The Grassometer uses ultrasound to take up to 200 measurements of the length of grass in a field as the farmer walks around it. The measurements are triggered by an accelerometer, mapped with GPS and sent the farmer’s smartphone using Bluetooth.
Farmers currently measure grass length just by eyeballing a field or occasionally using an instrument called a rising plate meter and entering the data manually into a software program.
Accurately gauging the length of grass in a field is important for a number of reasons. Dairy farmers move cows between fields depending on the grass level. Grass of length 4-12 mm contains the most sugar and is therefore most efficient for feeding. Farmers also cut excess grass to dry as silage and store it to feed cattle when they are indoors during the winter. Finally, if the grass is below the expected level in a particular field (farmers call this the demand line) it may need fertiliser or other attention to promote growth. Farming organisation Teagasc estimates that measuring grass length accurately is worth about 120 EUR per cow.
Founder Steven Lock thinks that the real value in Grassometer will come from the data it gathers. Dairy cooperatives know the output of their individual farmers but often have no idea of the differences between the practices of their best and worse performing farmers. The market is in countries like Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand where cattle graze outside.
The Grassometer will be available in time for the grass to start growing again in Spring 2012. The company was founded in 2011, is based in Wicklow, Ireland and has received 50,000 EUR ($70000) in funding from Enterprise Ireland.

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:40 PM PDT
Cleversense today released a powerful update to its robotic concierge app, Alfred: group recommendations. Alfred is the public face of a very brawny recommendation algorithm, perfected over three years by cofounders Babak Pahlavan and Nima Asgarbhegi.
Understanding context is vital to Alfred’s function. Unlike many web apps that rely on data, Alfred learns your tastes by discovering patterns. By connecting those patterns to places in its database, Alfred starts to develop a picture of the real world through your eyes. And once you’ve taught Alfred about yourself by answering as few as four questions, these patterns travel with you whether you’re in San Francisco, New York or Seattle.
The Cleversense team would like you to think of Alfred as “Pandora for the real world.” The first use case is for restaurants and venues, but there’s a whole world of information out there ready to be sifted. Pahlavan says he foresees a day when people will use Alfred to search for products and other physical objects they may like based on what they’ve already told the app about themselves.
Group recommendations are particularly challenging from a technical standpoint. The algorithm must take into account the preferences of several people and find a happy medium. But Pahlavan says that once the app is loaded on everyone’s phones, the education process takes as little as a minute, and then Alfred’s ready to make recommendations.
Using Alfred together with the new Siri voice assistant in Apple’s iOS 5 devices seems especially promising. While Siri makes sense of what you’re saying and builds queries around it, Alfred considers everything you’ve said.
To become profitable, Cleversense hopes to offer an API to third-party developers and serve as the business brain for a wide variety of applications. “Generally speaking, people want curated content,” says Pahlavan. “We have the capability to do it for everyone.”
Alfred was downloaded more than 100,000 times in its first month, launched in the iTunes App store in September, and the user base is growing by 20 percent per month, says Pahlavan. The company has raised $1.6 million in angel funding from Bobby Yazdani, of Saba Corporation.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:24 PM PDT
DiscovrAustralian mobile music startup Filter Squad hit one million downloads for its iOS app Discovr today, released a version of the app for Macs and closed a $1.1 million seed round of funding.
Discovr lets you find music by entering an artist you like in the search field. Based on that artist, the app will show you an interactive map of potential songs and artists you would enjoy. And believe it or not, the company is seeing the most traction from neither Australia, nor the US. It’s coming from Japan.
“[The Japanese] are technophiles. They love technology and they have a strong musical love as well,” explained Filter Squad founder and chief executive David McKinney in an interview with VentureBeat. “There is a really great intersection of different [technology] cultures in Japan. [Discovr is] music meets apps meets mobile, and they seem to be gobbling it up.”
The Mac app is Discovr’s third version. “People use desktops in a different way than mobile devices,” said David McKinney, founder and chief executive of Filter Squad, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We’ve had a lot of people asking for the desktop app. We tried to satisfy.”
Yuuwa Capital saw something in the company’s traction and decided to inject another seed round into Filter Squad. The company originally received a $200,000 seed round from Yuuwa in January. Filter Squad plans to use the money to make more hires and focus on product development. Currently, the company is halfway through coding its first Android version of Discovr.
There has been a recent push to enrich the Australian technology scene, which McKinney says is not very big at this point. According to him, many Australian companies look to the United States to stay in the tech-know. Investing in Australia, however, has seemed to pick up, with Filter Squad as the latest example. (Design outsourcing company 99 Designs recently decided to double its Australian team to solidify itself in the country’s burgeoning tech culture.)
Currently, Discovr is a number one app in 28 countries. Filter Squad was founded in January 2011 and has four employees. Check out how it works in the video below:

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 06:24 PM PDT

Battlefield 3 players eager to tear into the game’s multiplayer offering have been hit by a wave of server outages. Though disconnects and lag had been a problem for a portion of players, the EA Online servers went completely offline, preventing players from accessing the multiplayer portion of the game entirely, including the much-touted Battlelog feature.
Outages seems to have affected all three platforms, with the Xbox 360 being covered prominently by the gaming media. The PlayStation 3 and PC versions are also suffering similar issues. DICE’s Global Battlefield Community Manager Daniel Matros took to Twitter to respond to angry customers, announcing at one point that server “maintenance” would be done in 20 minutes, only to announce that it was taking longer than expected. Twice. The outages (I mean, maintenance) have left no shortage of angry Battlefield players in their wake, with one GameFAQs user deeming Battlefield 3 a “day-one return.”
Electronic Arts’ blockbuster sequel released on October 25 to surprisingly low review numbers. Currently sporting a Metacritic average of 82 for the Xbox 360 and 86 for the PlayStation 3 version, the game’s uninspired single-player and glitchy multiplayer has been at the root of the critical consensus. The PC version, which runs faster, has a score of 92. While mid-80′s are not bad, they are undoubtedly short of the 90+ scores EA was banking on for their self-proclaimed Call of Duty-killer. Modern Warfare 1 and 2 currently both hold a 94 on Metacritic (Xbox 360).
Battlefield 3's launch issues and underwhelming reviews are an undeniable embarrassment for EA, especially outspoken CEO John Riccitiello, who has aggressively been picking a fight with rival Activision Blizzard by stating, “We have the superior game engine, a superior development studio, and a flat out superior game.”
I imagine Riccitiello and the Netflix guy who announced Qwikster are hiding under the same rock right about now. Modern Warfare 3 may or may not end up being a great game, but all it has to do to beat Battlefield is work.Earlier this month Core Gameplay Designer Alan Kertz commented on the reasoning behind including the controversial Online Pass required to play multiplayer by saying that "servers cost money."
With EA eagerly reporting an estimated three million in pre-orders, why were they not prepared? This is not their first rodeo, and DICE has had this problem countless times before, most recently with Battlefield: Bad Company 2. There's absolutely no excuse for the game to flat-out not work, especially after releasing a seemingly pointless beta. Riccitiello has gone on the record saying EA would be spending upwards of $100 million marketing Battlefield 3, so perhaps some of that money should have been directed towards ensuring the actual game functions as intended.We have contacted EA for an official comment. We will update the story if they choose to respond.

Filed under: games

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 05:59 PM PDT
A class action lawsuit was filed today against Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry, after a massive, three-day service outage affected millions of its subscribers worldwide in October.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Quebec Superior Court by a Montreal law firm, "on behalf of individuals who have BlackBerry smartphones and who pay for a monthly data plan but were unable to access their email, BlackBerry Messenger service (BBM), and/or Internet for the period of October 11 to 14, 2011," the court filing says.
“When RIM's system went down — and the backup system failed to kick in — it caused a chain reaction that caused messages that saw a backlog of messages build up in other network centres around the world, which started a chain reaction, causing message delays around the world,” according today’s report in the The Financial Post.
The company has apologized repeatedly, and CEO Mike Lazaridis issued a mea culpa in a video (see below.) RIM also tried to make amends for the outage by offering $100 worth of free premium apps to affected users. Apparently, user are having none of it.
While iOS and Android devices are eating the BlackBerry’s lunch in business communications, RIM is still one of the top handset makers for enterprise communications, due to its emphasis on security. However, handsets from Apple and those running Android are starting to erode any market position that RIM may have.

via: BGR
[Gavel image via Andrey Eremin/Shuttershock]

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 05:33 PM PDT
Google acquisitions Google paid $151 million in cash for restaurant review company Zagat, only one of the 54 acquisitions the company made in the first nine months of 2011.
The numbers were revealed in a quarterly report submitted by the company to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In order to become more vertical, Google snaps up relevant companies around it, often supplementing programs or products already in the Google roster. Most recently, Google purchased German site DailyDeal for its Google Offers program, along with Motorola for its Android and mobile programs. The company acquired Zagat in September, immediately integrating assets from the company into Google Maps to enhance reviews on its business pages. At the time of the announcement, terms were not disclosed.
According to the quarterly report, DailyDeal was purchased for $114 million in mid September. Google bought the company after a rejection from Groupon, which Google offered $6 billion in late 2010 to be absorbed. Though Google had its own deals program, Google Offers, acquiring DailyDeal meant reaching international grounds since DailyDeal served Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Motorola was picked up for approximately $12.5 billion in an obvious effort to introduce hardware to the Android system. Introducing Motorola to the Android game makes Google more able to control the entire mobile ecosystem, similar to Apple, which created its own mobile operating system, mobile app marketplace and phone hardware from the very beginning.
In total, Google’s 54 acquisitions in the first 9 months of 2011 cost roughly $502 million in cash. The Motorola deal is still subject to closing conditions. If Google fails to meet certain regulatory requirements and is forced to terminate the merger deal, it will have to pay Motorola a fee of $2.5 billion. The company expects to complete the deal by the end of 2011 or early 2012.
[Image via of mayamaya/Shutterstock]

Filed under: deals

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 04:23 PM PDT
Netflix again leads the pack as North America’s largest consumer of Internet bandwidth, creating 32 percent of peak downstream traffic, according to the 2011 Sandvine Internet Phenomena Report, which was released today.
The top four largest Internet services in North America account for 64.4 percent of all network traffic, according to the report. They are Netflix, HTTP, YouTube and BitTorrent, according to the report’s executive summary.
The video-streaming component of Netflix is responsible for nearly 28 percent of all bandwidth usage nationally. Real-time entertainment services are the primary drivers of traffic, with especially heavy bandwidth consumption for music and video content.
The report also highlighted the rapid shift of Internet traffic away from desktop devices such as PCs, to all other forms of net-connected devices, such as set-top boxes, game consoles like the Xbox 360, the Playstation 3, smart phones and tablet devices. Only 45 percent of Internet traffic on fixed networks now goes to laptops or desktop computers, according to the report.
"The fact that more video traffic is going to devices other than a PC should be a wake-up call that counting bytes is no longer sufficient for network planning” said Dave Caputo chief executive officer of Sandvine. “Communications Service Providers need to have detailed business intelligence on not only the devices being used but also the quality and length of the videos being watched so they can engineer for a high subscriber quality of experience and not simply adding capacity through continuous capital investment."
In spite of its prodigious consumption of North America’s broadband Internet resources, things have not been rose for the company with delightful red envelope. Netflix lost 800,000 customers during the 3rd Quarter, and Bloomberg reported today that the company has laid off 15 of its staff, mostly in human resources.
[Image Credit: EDHAR/ShutterStock]

Filed under: cloud, enterprise

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 03:17 PM PDT
During a wobbly late summer and early fall in the general financial market, more investors than ever used secondary markets to pin their hopes (and dollars) to a few rising stars in the startup world.
SecondMarket is one such venue. On that community’s Private Company Market, you can buy equity in startups that are not yet publicly traded, such as Facebook, Twitter and Zynga.
The company says it saw more trading of shares in privately held startups in Q3 2011 than at any time in the past.
“[SecondMarket] had its best quarter to date in Q3, completing over $167 million in private stock transactions last quarter,” reads a recent report from the company.
“Year-to-date, SecondMarket has completed $435 million in private company stock transactions, a 75 percent year-over-year increase from Q3 2010, when year-to-date transactions totaled $251 million.”
Social media and consumer web products made up the bulk of trades, similar to the activity represented in a lot of institutional funding data from recent quarters, where consumer and social products have been a bright spot.
On the buyer side, trading activity was split pretty evenly between individual investors and financial groups or managers; 51.8 percent of transactions completed and 63 percent of dollars invested in the third quarter were purchases of shares by individual accredited investors. The remaining 48.2 percent of transactions and 37 percent of dollars were made up of deals with asset managers, hedge funds, VC funds, secondary funds and broker-dealers.
On the seller side, ex-employees were the majority group, comprising 64.5 percent of equity sales. Current employees completed around 17 percent of transactions; investors accounted for 8.4 percent; founders made up less than 4 percent of transactions.
On SecondMarket, users often “watch” companies to track shares’ movement. Among venture-backed, privately held companies, Facebook was the most watched company, followed by Twitter, Groupon, Zynga and Foursquare.
However, when it comes to newer companies that gained the greatest number of watchers in the past quarter, Turntable.fm generated the most interest, followed by Jetsetter, Klout and Kickstarter.
Pinterest also stood out as a company that had fewer than 10 watchers at the beginning of the quarter but started gaining traction by the end of September. (Interestingly, the startup raised a $27 million second institutional round at the beginning of October.)
Here’s a look at some of the stats unearthed by SecondMarket in its report:

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 03:09 PM PDT
StumbleUpon has released new information about the level of activity that’s added to a link when shared through its content discovery service.
StumbleUpon's service lets people discover and share new web content based on a broad spectrum of categories. Users click a "stumble" button to discover new content, and then have the option of voting and commenting on the selection.
On average, the company said a link shared through StumbleUpon gets 83 percent more “likes” on Facebook than if shared on Facebook alone — which only yields five percent higher likes. Also, a link's half-life (the point in time where it accrues half of its total engagement) is 400 hours on StumbleUpon but only 3.2 hours on Facebook, according to the company’s research.
For referral traffic, StumbleUpon beats all other link sharing services like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Digg and LinkedIn, according to data from StatCounter.
“The thing about StumbleUpon that I’ve always noticed is how many really regular, everyday people from all walks of life use it,” said Amy Vernon, VP of strategy and alliances for Hasai. Her company helps advise other businesses and brands about how to boost their social profiles. “My mother-in-law once spent 2.5 hours hitting the stumble button and loved it.”
Vernon said the reach StumbleUpon has is more akin to Facebook than what you see on smaller, more specialized site such as Twitter, Reddit or Digg. However, unlike Facebook, StumbleUpon is “the gift that keeps on giving” in terms of referrals, she added.
“You stumble something, it gets a few hundred or a few thousand views. Great. Six months later, someone else randomly gives that post a thumb up and you find another stream of traffic coming in. That can happen multiple times,” Vernon said.
The below infographic from StumbleUpon shows some of the service’s other statistics.
StumbleUpon was acquired by eBay in 2007, only to be sold back two years later by original founders Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith and Ram Shriram, as well as Accel Partners and August Capital. StumbleUpon now operates as an independent company. The company closed a $17 million round of funding in May 2011 and has raised $18.5 million total funding to date.
[Disclosure: Hasai does contracted marketing work for VentureBeat.]

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 03:09 PM PDT
mint-for-ipadIntuit-owned personal finance service Mint.com has finally launched an application for Apple’s iPad, which will help users who prefer the interactivity of tablets for tracking and analyzing their spending habits.
It’s strange that Mint.com has taken so long to launch on the iPad since the company has been generally fastidious about mobile development. Mint launched its iPhone app in late 2008, and moseyed its way to Android in May 2010. Regardless of how long it has taken, we’re sure iPad-owning Mint users will appreciate the effort.
Mint.com for iPad naturally shares a lot of similarities with the iPhone app and the website, and at times it seems to be a cross between the two. The app allows you track all of your personal finance accounts from one dashboard, including credit cards, debit cards, student loans, personal loans and investment portfolios.
Besides tracking the accounts to see your overall wealth, the iPad app delivers things like account alerts, bill reminders and advice. It also allows you to allocate certain types of spending, as well as and look at pretty graphs showing you how much money you owe or have in the bank.
Mint currently has 7 million users and was acquired by Intuit for $170 million back in September 2009. With Mint taking more a year between major mobile releases, perhaps that Intiuit acquisition has made the once timely Mint a slow beast with many burdens.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 01:13 PM PDT
sad-blackberry-playbookIf BlackBerry fans weren’t already angry at Research in Motion (RIM) for the recent worldwide BlackBerry outage, they’re going to be peeved today. RIM has said it is delaying the release of a much-needed software update for the PlayBook tablet until February.
“As much as we’d love to have it in your hands today, we’ve made the difficult decision to wait to launch BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 until we are confident we have fully met the expectations of our developers, enterprise customers, and end-users,” the company said on its official blog.
Research in Motion has struggled to keep up with its mobile device peers, especially Apple and Google’s Android manufacturing partners. The company has said repeatedly that its PlayBook tablet and a new smartphone OS, called BBX, would help lead the company to a new phase of innovation, but a 4-month update delay makes those promises seem far-fetched. RIM shareholders must be wondering how much longer the company will hold out because even much-maligned Nokia is getting its act together and releasing slick-looking Windows Phones.
On top of delaying the OS update to the BlackBerry PlayBook, RIM said the update still won’t include an application for BlackBerry Messenger, one of the most popular apps RIM has ever offered. Messenger only works between two BlackBerry users, much like Apple’s new iMessage program, and it does not charge a user for text message.
“We are committed to developing a seamless BBM solution that fully delivers on the powerful, push based messaging capabilities recognized today by BlackBerry users around the world and we're still working on it,” RIM said. “In the meantime, BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to continue to use BlackBerry Bridge to securely access BlackBerry Messenger on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet's high resolution display.”
Without any top-tier competitor to smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or a compelling tablet update to help the PlayBook compete with the iPad or Kindle Fire, RIM is looking at a bleak holiday season. Maybe RIM’s shareholders should ask Santa for new management.

Filed under: enterprise, mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 12:13 PM PDT
The Nexus One, the first Google-branded Android phone, won’t be getting an upgrade when Android 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich) is released to the public, Google confirmed today.
The Nexus One debuted in January 2010 as one of the first phones to run pure Android — meaning, a version of Android that didn’t feature any add-ons from the hardware manufacturer. Google also had a degree of influence over the hardware inside the device to make sure it was powerful enough to run the operating system.
Android Product Management lead Hugo Barra said the Nexus One’s hardware is too old to support the latest version for the latest version of Android, according to a Telegraph report. The Nexus One’s hardware doesn’t support video calling (because it lacks a front-facing camera) and uses an older 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which are probably a few of the reasons Google chose to block the update.
The decision to block the Android update on older phones isn’t unreasonable — especially if the overall experience is harmed because the phone can’t handle the software. Apple has traditionally done the same with its older line of iPhones. For instance, the iPhone 3G is still running iOS 4.2.1, while newer models can now upgrade to iOS 5.
And while it’s not much of a surprise, Barra also said Ice Cream Sandwich will be delivered as a free upgrade to Google’s most recent “Google-branded” Samsung Nexus S phone within the next few weeks.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 11:29 AM PDT
Google Interior ViewGoogle is taking its Street View feature indoors. The company announced last May it would be taking interior shots of stores, but now it is moving out of its pilot phase with more 360 degree interiors cropping up online.
Street View on Google Maps has provided many hours of novel entertainment in looking up houses, friends’ houses, your elementary school, that park you fell asleep in that one time. But satisfying a small bit of voyeurism is not all Street View can accomplish. Now Google is using these images as a marketing tool for businesses that want to show off their interiors.
In order to have your businesses’ interior photographed, you must fill out an application with Google. If chosen, you will be contacted by Google’s photographers to set up a time for the shoot. Google owns all rights to the photos, including the right to keep one up, even if you object to it. In order to have an image removed, you must submit a request for it to be taken down. Google asks that you tell customers and those in the area you are holding the shoot on the day it happens. If people are in any of the shots, Google will blur their faces or simply not put the photo up.
According to a Google spokesperson, the company has already worked with thousands of businesses to shoot these 360 degree interior views. Photos will be available both on your Google business page as well as the Google Maps Street View.
Seemingly, this is not a “privacy” risk because you are consenting on behalf of the business to the photographs. However, as a commenter on Hacker News points out, there is potential for criminals to use the interior shots as a way to “case the place,” or find out information before robbing it.
“This one’s my business,” said Nathan Kurz, chief executive of Scream Sorbet, shown in the photo above, “They came to shoot the interior as a perk for participating in a “Google Offer”. I think this is how they are rolling it out, at least in the Bay Area. To me, the results came out fine, although I worry that it now makes ‘casing the joint’ a little easier.
This could be a non-issue as anyone can walk into a store and look around, but having 360 degree shots on Google does make the information more readily available.
“It would only become a problem if all businesses had [interior photos] and then you could go down the block [on Google Maps] and see who doesn’t have an alarm,” Kurz said in an interview with VentureBeat.
This is a step forward for marketing purposes, but what if homes were next, would you let Google in?

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 11:00 AM PDT
nokia-lumia-800Nokia has bet the house on the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, and the first fruits of Nokia’s relationship with Microsoft were finally shown today with unveiling of the new Lumia 800 and 710 smartphones.
Between the two, the Lumia 800 is the flagship device with the better design and internals. Its design looks and feels expensive with a solid body that decidedly European. The Lumia 800 features a 3.7-inch AMOLED screen, 1.4-GHz single-core processor, 16GB of internal storage and an 8-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture. Microsoft also provides owners with an additional 25GB of free cloud storage using its SkyDrive service.
The Lumia 800 and 710 are also some of the first devices to run Mango, the latest version of the Windows Phone 7 OS. Mango adds more than 500 new features, including direct social networking integration, contact groups, live tile notifications, Xbox Live improvements, Bing indoor maps, and an Internet Explorer 9 browser that's the same as the desktop version rather than a mobile version. Those features, along with Nokia-specific apps like Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, help make the Lumia 800 feel like the best phone Nokia has manufactured in many years.
Take a look at the lengthy video below that shows off many of the best things the Lumia 800 has to offer.

Filed under: mobile, video

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 10:40 AM PDT
Apple is beginning construction on the “Project Dolphin Solar Farm” for its data center in Catawba County, North Carolina.
The tech giant has been granted a permit to start preparing around 171 acres of land for a solar energy farm, the Charlotte Observer reports.
The facility will be adjacent to the company’s $1 billion data center, codenamed Project Dolphin.
Currently, Apple’s local data center runs on electricity from Duke Energy, a utility powered mostly by coal and nuclear technologies.
The North Carolina center will join a slew of the company’s other facilities that are powered by renewable energy. Currently, the company’s outposts in Austin, Texas; Sacramento, California; and Cork, Ireland, run entirely on green energy sources.
Apple’s requests for county and town building permits have not yet surfaced but are expected to provide more information about the company’s plans for sustainable energy for the data center, including just how much of the 171 acre lot will be used for solar power.
Currently, Apple’s plans show the property will have multiple gravel roads to give technicians access to solar panels as well as a way of preventing soil erosion and runoff.
Early last year, Apple ranked ninth on Greenpeace’s list of environmentally conscious companies, beating out Microsoft, Google and Facebook.
On the consumer side, Apple has been granted a patent for incorporating solar panels on devices like the iPod and other small consumer electronics.

Filed under: green, VentureBeat

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Posted: 26 Oct 2011 10:21 AM PDT
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a private equity fund, is looking to raise $6 billion to establish a new pool for Asian startups.
Reuters reports that the new funding will be raised during the beginning of 2012 and that the firm had originally planned to raise $4 billion but will now be aiming as high as $6 billion.
Already, KKR represents the largest Asian-focused fund from a private equity firm. The firm maintains a $4 billion fund raised in 2007 to support Asian investments as well as a $1 billion China growth fund. The former is currently 70 percent invested, sources told Reuters, which has prompted the new fundraising efforts.
KKR now has investments in China, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan.
According to recent reports from KKR, it expects less volatility in markets like China where the government debt load is lower. “Both Europe and the U.S. are likely to face increased political unrest and social discord as they try to stimulate growth and reduce debt at the same time,” the firm stated in its statements on global macroeconomic trends.
Analysts at the firm also pegged Asia (with the exception of Japan) as a key point of global economic growth but also cited Chinese inflation as a point of concern.
As we’ve noted in recent months, a shaky market in the U.S. as well as distinct advantages in the pan-Asian arena are making the region more and more interesting to investors. Singapore in particular is a hotbed, with a tech-savvy workforce and startup-friendly government regulation.

Filed under: deals

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