08 November, 2011



Customization moves retail forward

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 09:05 AM PST

This sponsored message is brought to you by Johnston & Murphy.

Johnston & MurphyMass customization is a growing trend in e-commerce. Online jewelers are letting customers design their own jewelry, T-shirt retailers are letting customers create their own prints, and shoe makers like Johnston & Murphy, which runs an online customization offering — Johnston & Murphy's Custom Select — are letting customers design their own shoes. Johnston & Murphy's offering lets customers choose from nine styles, three colors (black, chestnut brown, and burgundy), and a wide selection of sizes and widths. It even lets you inscribe your name in the insoles.

Nike launched a shoe-customization offering in 2010 and saw it's online sales increase by about 25%. Johnston & Murphy's dress shoes are extremely high-end, retailing at $425, so it's no surprise the company has added a high level of personalization to the process and that it ships a number of shoe-maintenance products along with the shoes. They have a Custom Select specialist contact customers to confirm their order once it's placed.

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Online game firm Nexon could raise $1.3B in IPO

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 09:02 AM PST

South Korean online game publisher Nexon could raised nearly $1.3 billion in an initial public offering on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, according to Reuters and the Nikkei business daily.

Nexon, which was started in South Korea and moved its official headquarters to Japan, is one of Asia’s mighty online game publishers, with games including MapleStory, Mabinogi, Vindictus, Combat Arms, Dragon Nest and Dungeon Fighter Online.

The company plans to raise more than 100 billion yen, or $1.28 billion, in a debut on the exchange in mid-December. The move would be the biggest IPO in Japan in 2011 and the largest one since Otsuka Holdings raised $2.05 billion in December, 2010.

Nexon has filed its listing application and it is expected to be approved this week, the Nikkei said. Nexon hopes to raise funds from investors around the globe. Nomura Securities, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs are lead investment managers. After the IPO, Nexon could have a market value of about $7.69 billion to $8.97 billion. That compares to $8.32 billion for mobile social game network Gree in Japan and $7.93 billion for Electronic Arts.

More recently, the company has been expanding in the U.S., launching a Facebook version of MapleStory and investing in mobile social games. It also invested in social game maker 6waves Lolapps.



Filed under: games

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Square announces Sir Richard Branson to its lineup of storied investors

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:54 AM PST

Sir Richard BransonMobile payments company Square, announced Sir Richard Branson as an investor today, after a Form D filed with the SEC recently confirmed its $100 million round of funding.

“I'm very passionate about helping people start and grow successful businesses, and Square is an incredible technology that inspires and empowers everyone to be an entrepreneur," said Sir Richard Branson (pictured left) in a statement.

Branson is best known for his Virgin Group conglomerate that houses companies ranging from music to an airline to space travel. According to the statement released by Square, Branson was most interested in its free hardware, along with the mobile payments frontier. The $100 million round was otherwise led by venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

With this latest round, Square’s valuation is rumored to be over $1 billion, huge growth for a company launched in 2010. Square also processes over $2 billion payments annually and is looking to expand outside of the United States. This wild growth, securing Square as a Silicon Valley tech darling, is said to be another reason for Branson’s interest and investment.

Square was founded in 2009 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and has shipped over 800,000 of its mobile card readers to businesses across the country. Other investors include Vinod Khosla, former Obama chief advisor Larry Summers, and Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

[Photo via Fran Monks/Flickr]

Filed under: deals, mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Oregon to use iPads in election today

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:47 AM PST

Some Oregon residents will have the option of voting via iPad in today’s election.

The state is giving disabled and visually impaired citizens in five counties the option of voting using Apple’s iconic touchscreen tablets.

For those who might experience difficulties in filling out a traditional ballot, county election workers are providing iPads and portable printers to elderly and disabled voters at a range of locations, including parks, nursing homes and community centers.

For voters using the iPad, picking a candidate is as simple as taping the screen. Font sizes and display colors can be adjusted for the visually impaired. The iPad can also read candidates names and information from the voter pamphlet. Voters who do not have enough use of their hands to touch the screen can attach SNP devices to make their selections using just their breathing.

“It’s a lot simpler for me,” said Lewis Crews, a 75-year-old Oregonian who suffers from arthritis, to the Associated Press.

“I think it’s a great setup they got… Now that I’ve seen how it works, I’m confident I can do it on my own.”

Election workers are able to assist in the process as well as to read back a voter’s selections once a paper ballot has been printed out. Once the paper ballot has been checked, it is sealed, signed and delivered via regular mail or an official ballot box.

Today, the state is having a special primary to replace a U.S. House of Representatives member who was forced to resign due to a sex scandal. Former Rep. David Wu is set to be replaced by one of eight Democratic candidates or five Republican hopefuls.

State officials will be using the same iPads-plus-printers system for the special election in January. If successful, the new system may be used across the entire state in future elections.

Image courtesy of Mushroom Princess.

Filed under: mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Why I’m excited about CloudBeat 2011: It’s not just another vendor-centric event

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:45 AM PST

photo of a cloudI tend to be a little jaded about cloud technology events. I’ve attended a few dozen high-profile events a year over the past handful of years, making me a bit of a veteran. The amount of cloud-washing I've seen, and the number of events that rapidly descend into a battleground of highly technical minutiae, have left me frustrated many times.

Which is where CloudBeat 2011 comes in. My role in all of this cloud "stuff" is to find ways to articulate what cloud really is, and the value it brings to organizations, in language that connects with business folks.

Sure, I spend a lot of time with technical folks, and I acknowledge that there would be no cloud without them, but as I've written before on numerous occasions, all the technology in the world means nothing unless real world users are able to understand what that technology actually means for them.

It's a topic that I've spoken with many times before with Professor Terri Griffiths, noted management academic and author of the recent book "The Plugged-In Manager". Terri totally understands the need to find connections between technologists and real world business folks – for this reason I'm excited to be involved in a panel with Terri looking at this very topic.

In another role, I spend my time building programs and communities that aim to fill this gap between technology and end users. Indeed, the entire CloudU program is built upon the premise that, were business people fully aware of the potential benefits that cloud can bring, many of the barriers to adoption would rapidly dissipate.

Which brings me to another session I'm excited about. I'll be moderating a fireside chat with Byron Sebastian, head of platforms for Salesforce. Byron is someone I've spent some time with before (see video below) and, as CloudBeat marks the first anniversary of the acquisition of Heroku by salesforce, it's an ideal opportunity to reflect upon the value that these two different platforms are bringing to real organizations today. Not tomorrow, not some time in the future, but today.


So all in all, I'm pumped about CloudBeat 2011. It's going to be an awesome event with some awesome talks, presentations and case studies.

In fact, one of the major parts of the event is a showcase of 12 of the best cloud case studies we can find. The fact that the showcase will be presented by cloud customers, not cloud vendors, is a measure of how this conference differs from all the others. We are laser-focused on creating an event that isn't just another chance for vendors to push their wares.

ben-kepesCloudBeat is going to be awesome, I'm looking forward to seeing some of you there. Come say howdy, and if you can't attend, feel free to get in touch with me.

Ben Kepes is a content adviser for CloudBeat. He is a cloud computing blogger and analyst and can be found either in the rural back blocks of New Zealand, or on Twitter.

Photo of a cloud by Kevin Dooley/Flickr

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Gilt plans to bring its designer deals to over 90 countries

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:32 AM PST

Soon, the rest of the world will be able to take advantage of Gilt.com’s discounted designer wares.

Gilt Groupe announced today that its online flash sales site will soon be available in over 90 countries outside of the US.

The news is yet another sign of growth for Gilt, which helped to popularize the members only flash sales trend when it launched in 2007. The company also recently purchased the luxury daily deals site BuyWithMe, the third-place daily deals site behind Groupon and LivingSocial. With global ambitions, Gilt’s audience, as well as its list of participating designers (it’s already working with over 6,000 designer brands), will surely skyrocket.

Gilt will offer free shipping to international customers for a limited time. Users outside of the US will be able to make purchases thorough its mobile website and apps, including iPhone, iPad, and Android, starting next month. The company is working together with global commerce company FiftyOne to manage international currency conversion, transactions, and delivery.

Gilt Groupe’s recent $138 million funding round valued the company at $1 billion. The company had 3.5 million members as of May.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

How iOS 5 devices can take panoramic photos

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:17 AM PST

If you’ve got a jailbroken iOS 5-running iPhone or iPad, get ready to unleash some serious majesty: We’re going to show you how to enable panorama mode on your phone’s camera.

While Apple has made jailbreaking difficult with iOS 5, but it can be done.

In addition to a jailbroken iOS 5 device with a built-in gyroscope, you’ll need iFile, a file manager and viewer app.

The device’s camera has a hidden panorama mode that you can enable with FireBreak, a jailbreak tweak specifically for enabling panorama mode.

Both iFile and FireBreak are available from Cydia, a directory of applications for jailbroken devices. iFile will set you back $4, and you’ll find FireBreak in Cydia’s BigBoss repository.

If any of this sounds confusing to you and you’re overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of hacking on your beautiful, shiny iPad2 or iPhone 4S, just sit tight and wait for Apple to roll out panorama mode for general availability. We don’t yet know if or when that’s going to happen, though.

If you’re still enthusiastic about forging ahead, here’s a video tutorial to walk you through the steps of getting panorama mode up and running and then taking panoramic images with your iOS 5 device:

Your results might be sketchy the first time around, but keep tinkering to get better images out of your device. We’re guessing Apple is holding off on a general release until panoramic images are more consistently high in quality.

[via iDownloadBlog]

Image courtesy of sicoactiva.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Mindbloom’s new app is healthy living through mobile notifications

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:14 AM PST

Bloom splash pageMindbloom launched its Bloom iPhone application today to help us remember the important parts of life in the midst of all these check-in, food finding, and picture taking apps.

Having a healthy mind, body and soul is not a new desire for humans. While we have a green initiative to keep our planet healthy, so too have we taken our green initiative personally. A particular wave has hit the United States with our Yoga and Pilates trends, all-raw or vegan diets to get us away from the grease, and a push to get our kids our from behind the television screen and into the yard. Even popular children’s channels such as Disney and Nickelodeon slip in commercial-style prompts, reminding kids to turn of the TV for an hour and go play.

The Bloom applications is intended to do the same for adults in our daily lives.

The application allows you to create “blooms” or little files of electronic inspiration made up of photos, videos, messages, music and even your own voice. They are meant to take you out of your day, interrupt you, and remind you of what’s important to your life as defined by you. Notifications can remind the user to drink water every hour, call your Mom, or to get out of the office for a 2pm walk.

“Bloom is for anybody who actively wants to improve their lives, and the key here is the emotional connection to why it is we want to improve,” said Mindbloom co-founder Chris Hewett in an interview with VentureBeat. “We all say we want to lose weight…what bloom is all about it is keeping that true motivation at the top of your mind.”

This is the magic of the mobile phone, and the indicator of our country-wide, if not global inability to focus. To speak to the latter, we are constantly inundated with e-mails, meetings, deadlines, remembering that train schedule, family tasks, friends meetups, eating healthy, changing course because you missed the train, and more that we can barely remember to have a sip of water or eat breakfast. We are becoming our own little industrialized bullet trains racing from home to work to grocery store and back.

Call Mom BloomSmartphone magic, however, particularly apps like Mindbloom, can interject and reel us home. People with smartphones don’t leave them around. In a study performed by Ericsson, a company providing technology to the world’s mobile operators, 69 percent of smartphone users use their data plans on the go. That’s not even counting how many people use their voice plans, meaning a huge percentage of smartphone-wielding people have a device on their person at any given time. This makes a perfect environment for notifications reminding you to, in effect, stop and smell the roses.

“A lot of it is that our busy lives get in the way, but being able to leverage the notification system of these mobile devices, it reminds you why it is you want to do this,” said Hewett, who was an executive producer for gaming company Monolith productions, developer behind TRON 2.0 before Mindbloom.

If it weren’t for this notifications feature, the app would be just another way to look at pretty things. The accompanying music and photos are nice, but we need more than just something sweet to experience for a moment, we need something actionable. The notifications allow us to integrate both the motivating photos and music as well as give us something to perform that moment. The challenge fits into Mindbloom’s most recently released product: a game.

Released in late September, the game rewards people for performing tasks programmed in by the user. For instance, for every time you do the dishes, you keep a tree on the screen alive and well. The bloom mobile app is also connected to your life game, so every time you complete the task mentioned in your notification, you can send the completion back to the game and water your tree.

Mindbloom is a Seattle based company, found in 2008. The company has over 15,000 registered users. The Bloom applications is free and available for download on the iPhone. Mindbloom plans to release and iPad app in the future, along with other mobile initiatives.

Filed under: mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Retro World game revives dead celebrities for older gamers

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 08:00 AM PST

Elvis lives. So does Marilyn Monroe. And other dead celebrities may come back to life thanks to Retro World, a new game launching today on Facebook  from Entertainment Games.

The title is hoping to cash in on the nostalgia factor that people over 40 have for the old Hollywood legends, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Belushi, Dick Clark, and other stars.

The Langhorne, Pa.-based game company has built a unique engine to create photo or image-based games where you can explore a retro world by pointing and clicking on the people or objects in a two-dimensional scene.

One by one, Entertainment Games is cutting deals with famous Hollywood figures to license their images and names for use in upcoming games. So far, it has deals with Elvis Presley Enterprises, CMG Worldwide (which owns Jim Belushi’s images), and Dick Clark Productions.

In these games, the characters won’t play themselves. Rather, they’ll play roles of characters within the games. The company is targeting Facebook first because its demographics are a good fit for all things retro, said Gene Mauro (pictured), president of the company.

“We think it is a massive market that hasn’t been addressed,” Mauro said in an interview. “We think there are a lot of people who want more realistic imagery in a game and a deeper story.”

Many of the games will focus on the 1950s to the 1980s. Overall, the 40-plus demographic accounts for 60 percent of all internet users, according to Pew Research. It is one of the fastest-growing demographics on Facebook. PopCap games did a recent survey that showed that 50 percent of people 40 and over are now playing games.

The title is expected to debut on platforms such as Goolge+ and tablets as well.

The company was founded in 1992 and trades on the pink sheets under the symbol EGAM. Jerry Klein is chief executive and has served in that role since 1998. F. J. Lennon, who has 25 years of experience in video games, is chief creative officer, and Jeff Kesselman is chief technology officer.

Back in June, it acquired Heyday Games to develop social games specific to the older crowd. Heyday figured out how to deliver archived linear content in a new interactive format, sort of like hidden object games on casual game sites, where you click all of over an image in hoping of finding treasures.  The platform takes licensed images from image catalogs such as Spiegel, Corbis and Getty to create a series of interactive scenes. The company has around 22 employees.

Heyday creates a game scene by building its own background and inserting images of people into it. You click on a picture and a piece of the story unfolds. You might, for instance, get a clue to visit a hotel room. When you get there, Marilyn Monroe might be there dressed in a towel. You can pan around the scene in Ken Burns-style documentary effects, where the camera creates a sense of motion by moving across a still photograph. The games have dialogue and mini games, which allow you to play with friends and unlock new experiences.

Games such as CityVille, FarmVille and The Sims Social — all major hits on Facebook, cater to an older, mostly female crowd on social networks. But those titles all use “cartoony” imagery, Mauro said.

The first title casts Marilyn Monroe as a spy in “Owl Files,” a 1960s story. Presley serves as a doctor in another title in the series. The stars can keep appearing as characters in multiple games over time.

The game is free-to-play, where users play for free but can purchase virtual goods with real money in small transactions. The company hopes to make money by selling custom avatars for players to explore the world.

Mauro believes the company can come up with new episodes in the series every 30 to 45 days. Over time, Mauro said the company plans to license even more images of iconic actors. Hollywood studios have responded aggressively.

“We’re bringing back to life all of these iconic characters,” Mauro said.

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Google exec: “We won’t favor Motorola Mobility.” Rest of the world: “Suuuuure.”

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 07:45 AM PST

Google chairman Eric Schmidt (pictured) stated today that Google would not give favorable treatment to Motorola Mobility on Android matters, even after the acquisition deal between the two entities is complete.

“In general, with all of our partners, we told them that the Motorola deal will close and we will run it sufficiently and independently, that it will not violate the openness of Android,” said Schmidt to a group of reporters.

“We’re not going to change in any material way the way we operate.”

However, contradictory statements have already surfaced in some of the Android-related lawsuits brought against Google.

In a legal bombshell dropped in September 2011, Google documents show the company worked to give Motorola and Verizon early access to new versions of Android — and a significant time-to-market advantage along with it.

A key document from the currently pending Oracle suit against Google reads that part of Google’s plan for Android, and how to profit from a free operating system, included the following:

Do not develop in the open. Instead, make source code available after innovation is complete.

Give early access to the software partners who build and distribute devices to our specification (i.e., Motorola and Verizon). They get non-contractual time to market advantage, and in return they align to our standard.

Google first announced it intended to buy Motorola Mobility back in August.

Citing Motorola’s “total commitment” to the Android operating system, Google co-founder Larry Page wrote at that time, "Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers everywhere."

Motorola has shown signs of concern that the deal won’t go through.

Also, the acquisition is under some pressure from Microsoft, which has its own lineup of lawsuits against both Google and Motorola.

"Investing in a broad and truly open mobile ecosystem is important for the industry and consumers alike, and Windows Phone is now the only platform that does so with equal opportunity for all partners," said Windows Mobile president Andy Lees to VentureBeat in a recent email about the Android/Motorola relationship.

We’ve contacted Google to get more meaning on Schmidt’s statements and will update this post if more information becomes available.

Image courtesy of Jolie O’Dell.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Windows Phone team steals away Samsung VP Kim

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 07:20 AM PST

samsung-windows-phone-gavin-kimSamsung’s VP of consumer and enterprise services Gavin Kim has been poached by Microsoft and will now serve as general manager of the Windows Phone team, a move that will improve visibility and direction for the fledgling phone platform.

"I will be responsible to help set the future direction for the Windows Phone platform and to accelerate Microsoft's trajectory to win the hearts and minds of consumers, carriers, device manufacturers, developers and partners," Kim told BGR yesterday.

Kim has been instrumental in launching several of the popular recent Samsung Galaxy S products, including the Galaxy S II phones and Galaxy Tab 8.9 tablet. Kim took on a larger role in debuting products to American audiences after Samsung mobile product lead Omar Khan departed for Citigroup back in July. But now he’ll be using his focus to help Microsoft improve its brand visibility with Windows Phone 7.

And what good timing for Kim. Windows Phone 7 is set to blossom in 2012 thanks to Nokia’s new flagship phones, better software with Mango, less-expensive hardware options, LTE 4G connectivity and NFC for mobile payments. With all of these factors, 2012 could be a strong year for Widows Phone growth. And several research firms, including Gartner and IDC, have predicted the Windows Phone 7 platform will be the No. 2 overall smartphone platform in the world by 2015.

Kim told BGR that he intends to make Windows Phone 7 devices a top choice when consumers go phone shopping, and thinks the OS update to Mango will be a big help.

“Each time a consumer goes to buy a smartphone from a carrier or retail store, Windows Phone has to be on their short list,” Kim said. “And, with the Windows Phone 7.5 release, I think Microsoft is closing the gap rapidly and removing all doubt about their place in mobile."

Filed under: mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Republic Wireless relies on Wi-Fi for dirt cheap $19 mobile service

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 07:16 AM PST

Spinning the notion of what makes a wireless carrier on its head, Republic Wireless today announced its “Hybrid Calling” network, which offers no-contract talk, text, and web access for just $19 a month.

The company likens its network to hybrid cars — instead of relying entirely on expensive cellular bandwidth, Republic Wireless has built its phones to utilize Wi-Fi networks whenever possible.

Most of us are surrounded by Wi-Fi connectivity at work and home, so it makes sense to rely on those cheaper (and much faster) networks. Once you leave a Wi-Fi network, the company’s phones switch to traditional cellular access (relying on Sprint’s network).

"Wi-Fi is ubiquitous and cheap," Republic general manager Brian Dally said in a statement today. "Cellular spectrum, by contrast, is expensive and controlled by the few. So we inverted the status quo, routing everything over Wi-Fi whenever possible and relegating cellular to its proper place – when we are outside of the home, office, or hotspots."

The company says it won’t charge overage or roaming fees when subscribers are on the cellular network. You’ll have to pay $199 to sign up for Republic’s service, which provides you with an LG Optimus Android smartphone and a month of free service. After that, you only have to pay $19 a month, with no contract or termination fees to worry about.

As part of Republic’s fair use policy, each subscriber will need to open up a Wi-Fi network of their own for use by other subscribers. It seems the company’s aim is to create a patchwork network of Wi-Fi hotspots, which over time could reduce the amount of cellular data its subscribers use.

Hybrid Calling is an interesting solution to the industry-wide problem of scarce cellular bandwidth, but it remains to be seen if the company can stay afloat with its uber-cheap plans.

Republic Wireless is a subsidiary of the Internet phone and services company Bandwidth.com.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Amex throws $100M at its biggest problem: suiting up for the digital revolution

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 07:15 AM PST

American Express has just earmarked a $100 million fund to “identify and develop innovative technologies that will help… accelerate the company's digital transformation.”

The company, which was founded in 1849, is now establishing a Silicon Valley office to stay on top of the latest developments in mobile and finance technologies.

The new office and fund will be led by Harshul Sanghi, the former head of Motorola Mobility Ventures.

"As we enter the next chapter in our history, we recognize the need to work with emerging technology companies to inspire change, encourage innovation, and ultimately deliver the best products and services to our customers," said the company’s group president for enterprise growth, Dan Schulman, in a release.

American Express has for sometime been hip to the jive of tech scenesters and mobile-minded whippersnappers. The company has thrown its weight into new initiatives from almost every front-running social network and mobile payments platform for the past year or so.

Over this past summer alone, Amex partnered with Facebook for a deals program and with Foursquare for checkin discounts. The company also got in bed with Isis, a mobile payment network started by three of the four big mobile carriers, during this time.

American Express also had a busy fall, courting new users for Serve, another mobile payment system, at a San Francisco rock festival in August; acquiring Sometrics, a social gaming and virtual currency company, in September; and hopping on the Google Wallet bandwagon in October.

If we didn’t know better, we’d say American Express was employing the tried-and-true “spray and pray tactic”, aiming its vast resources at every buzz-laden startup and platform it can see on the technological scene and praying that one of its bets will shape up to be a real winner in the mass market.

The American Express fund will invest in such verticals as loyalty and rewards programs, mobile and online payment platforms, security, fraud detection and data analysis.

We’ll be keeping an eye on Amex’s Silicon Valley funding and acquisition activity from our perch in San Francisco’s Financial District, so stay tuned for more.

Image courtesy of whiteafrican.

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Bitzer Mobile nabs $4.7M to secure native and HTML5 mobile enterprise apps

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 06:00 AM PST

bitzer-mobile-shutterstockEnterprise mobility startup Bitzer Mobile has raised $4.75 million in its first round of funding, with a goal of helping enterprises securely deploy mobile applications across almost every smartphone and tablet.

Bitzer offers what it calls a “secure container” that can be downloaded from most app stores that lets enterprise clients securely run native and HTML5 apps on their mobile devices, including iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 devices. In addition to the secure container, Bitzer provides corporate employees a platform that allows enterprises to transfer all sorts of apps into the container, including custom and legacy apps.

Bitzer’s software allows for isolation of enterprise apps so parent companies can remote wipe or change data without affecting any personal assets. As of now, customers in the health care, energy, construction and technology sectors use Bitzer’s solutions.

"Employees want to have the choice of running apps as HTML5 or native on any device,” Bitzer Mobile CEO Naeem Zafar said in a statement. “We fulfill our vision to enable mobile employees' productivity with secure access on the device of their choice."

The funding round was led by New York-based Acero Capital with participation from Chevron Technology Ventures, Chevron’s venture capital branch.

“We've taken an exhaustive look at the enterprise mobility market and found Bitzer's platform to be the most comprehensive solution for enterprise mobility needs," said Rami Elkhatib, general partner at Acero Capital, in a statement. "End users expect two major features when they use their personal mobile device for enterprise access. The first expectation is that of simplicity as experienced in native app usability, and the second expectation is that of zero intrusion on personal data such as pictures, mail, and apps on their device.”

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Bitzer Mobile was founded in mid-2010 and has 25 full-time employees. Zafar said the new funding will help expand the company’s customer support, product development and sales teams.

Businessman photo via Shutterstock

Filed under: enterprise, mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Salesforce debuts Do.com, a smart social productivity app for small teams

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PST

Do.com-logoSalesforce has revealed a new web-based application called Do.com that combines task management with social features to create a smart way to get things done on your own and in groups.

Several other companies have tried and failed to make task management successful (there’s fresh competition from former Facebook staffers with Asana), so it’s telling to see Salesforce, which is known for its enterprise apps, trying to take a stab in this space. This suggests companies continue to believe there’s a huge market in helping people manage online tasks — and that no one has cracked the nut yet.

Do.com captures the laid-back style of an upstart web application with a simple interface and intelligent HTML5 deployment, but it’s also built with Salesforce’s emphasis on reliability, accessibility and security. It was built on top of Heroku’s cloud app platform and programmed in Ruby on Rails, offers an open API for developers, and has received input from some of Salesforce’s brightest team members.

“Even though Do.com is owned by Salesforce, we think of ourselves like a startup,” Salesforce Senior VP Sean Whiteley told VentureBeat. “We’re a separate team of 14 people, we have our own code base and we’re even in a different building.”

Do.com is an anomaly inside of the Salesforce family for another reason — it’s the first non-enterprise offering the company has ever released. Unlike Chatter, Salesforce’s enterprise social networking product, Do.com app is meant to be used by small businesses and small groups who need to collaborate. By having several people see uncompleted tasks and projects, there’s more pressure to get the work done in a timely fashion.

Because Do.com was programmed using HTML5, it runs in any browser and works just fine on the Flash-less Apple iPad as well as Android tablets like Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. For smartphones, the Do.com team has created a native iPhone app, but it does not yet have an Android app. The team expects an Android app to be ready some time next year.


Do.com is based on popular social productivity app Manymoon, an app Salesforce.com acquired back in February. Outside of emulating Manymoon’s interface, Do.com also followed its predecessor by including a Gmail gadget that makes it easy to assign tasks through e-mail. For example, send a short e-mail to task@do.com and it will automatically detect your address and add an entry. Outside of Gmail functions, Do.com has been programmed to work with Google Apps, Salesforce and Dropbox to make tasks jive with tools your team already knows.

“The goal was to create an app that fits into the applications you already use,” Whiteley said.

Do.com has been in private beta testing thus far, but now the team wants to open its beta to more participants. It has extended an invitation for the first 200 VentureBeat readers that sign up using a select link to give it a spin. Go to the link https://www.do.com/users/sign_up and enter the code “DONKISCHESPOZ” to take part. Those who get in will also get 5 invites of their own so they can bring other people into the app.

“It’s meant to be used with other people,” Whiteley said. “Many times it’s more about fostering a conversation instead of just checking things off a list.”

Do.com will be more widely available in the coming months after it launches publicly. The app is available in several app stores, including the Apple App Store, Android Marketplace, Chrome Web Store, Salesforce AppExchange and LinkedIn Applications. It is currently free, but it will add premium paid features next year. Whiteley said elements like changing the way it looks, adding new fields and deeper administration tools are being explored as potential premium features.

More photos of Do.com’s interface on iPad, in browser and on the iPhone can be viewed below:

CloudBeat 2011CloudBeat 2011 takes place November 30 – December 1 at Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, CA. Unlike any other cloud events, we’ll be focusing on 12 case studies where we’ll dissect the most disruptive instances of enterprise adoption of the cloud. These case studies will highlight the core components of the cloud revolution: security, collaboration, analytics, mobile usage, increased productivity, and integration. Join over 500 executives for two days packed with actionable lessons and networking opportunities as we define the key processes and architectures that companies must put in place in order to survive and prosper. Register here. Tickets are limited!

Filed under: cloud, mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Interview: Infinity Ward producer talks Modern Warfare Zombies… and aliens

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PST

Pages: 1 2

In the second of our trilogy of Modern Warfare 3 launch interviews, VentureBeat sat down with Mark Rubin, executive producer at Infinity Ward, to look back at the recent Call of Duty XP fan event, discuss the possibility of Modern Warfare Zombies, and more.  (See our first interview with Bret Robbins of Sledgehammer Games here).

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 just debuetd last night as the latest first-person-shooter blockbuster from Activision Blizzard. The game will go head-to-head against Battlefield 3, which saw a mammoth five million sales in its first week. Now it’s time to see if Rubin’s team and the other developers at Activision Blizzard can outdo Battlefield 3 and top $1 billion in sales once again.

VentureBeat: Is Activision planning to position Call of Duty XP as the BlizzCon of Call of Duty games?

MR: Ah… Maybe? That’s a hard one. The timing is basically… We do our multiplayer reveal, we have this big multiplayer reveal that we do for our games when we launch. We’ve been kicking around the idea of making it bigger, making it a bigger event, doing something cool like this. Something fun. It’s pure fan appreciation, it doesn’t get us anything from a… All the ticket sales go to charity, you know. It’s purely something cool for the fans. So the real purpose of it was a multiplayer reveal. And it’s become… XP is this giant cool… Get a bunch of fans together, play the game. Instead of just revealing the game to the public, the public are coming in and actually playing the game.

VB: And getting a free copy, which is always nice.

MR: Yeah, a free copy of the game.

VB: With the comparison to BlizzCon, it’s not just a thing for the fans, but also it’s a way for the developers to get that involvement. Instead of just reading forums or angry GameFAQs users or whatever, you get to see people enjoying the game, cheering at the keynote, etc.. But I have to ask, why did you let Robert Bowling take the stage instead of being out there yourself?

MR: [laughs] That’s what we hired him for.

VB: He gets to enjoy all the face-time with the fans though…

MR: Yeah, that’s all he does, he has to go up there and be the fodder for all the good and the hate. It’s one of those things for us… Like I said, this is the first time we’ve done it. There’s probably a lot more we can get out of this kind of event, and more stuff that we’re going to learn and do better next time. But yeah, he got to go out on stage. That’s his arena. He likes the attention of being on stage.

VB: Speaking of next time, can we expect it to be an annual thing?

MR: Ah… I don’t have an actual answer. I think so? I hope so. We’re always going to do a multiplayer reveal, so I think… There’s going to be more stuff to show. I think it will be something that we do more. I think it’s turned out to be a huge success, honestly.

VB: Speaking of that, I’m sure you have plenty of analysis going on after the show’s done with, but what is some of the primary feedback you’ve already had?

MR: Maybe we need a bigger space? We invited a lot of people, but a lot of other… We may have invited too many people. We may need a bigger space, more stuff. Like you were talking about, the Jeep experience, the zipline, the paintball, there’s tons of stuff…

VB: Sumo wrestling.

MR: Sumo wrestling. Playing the game. People get to come play MW3 for the first time. There [were] some 500 or something stations out there? So I think…

VB: All sponsored by Microsoft…

MR: [chuckles] Well done.

VB: I did it for you.

MR: [laughs] Thanks. I think the thing is, we realized… We had no idea what people would think of the show. If people would want to do something like this. I think, from the reaction at the keynote and from the reaction of just the people on the floor, coming back for 12-hour days and playing. They’re standing in some pretty brutal lines. I think if we can alleviate that some and actually grow out the facility more, I think that’s where we’d have a big win.

VB: Right. So we’re going to move on to some Treyarch… Some Infinity Ward business now.

MR: Did you just say Treyarch?

VB: I know, I know. Are you mad already?

MR: [chuckles]

Pages: 1 2

Filed under: games

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Infographic: the history of the Call of Duty vs. Battlefield grudge match

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PST

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 are two of the biggest games coming out this fall, all part of a grudge match that is certain to delight gamers around the world.

Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3 came out on Oct. 25, while Activision Blizzard’s Modern Warfare 3 debuted in stores last night at midnight.

Just how long have these two franchises been dueling? The timeline at the right, created by Visual.ly, illustrates the journey these games have made since 2002 and the sales that each title has racked up along the way. All told, billions of dollars have been spent, and that doesn’t even include the money spent on EA’s other big shooting franchise, Medal of Honor.

The time starts with Battlefield 1942 in 2002 and Call of Duty in 2003. So far, Battlefield 3 has sold more than 5 million units in its first week of sales. But Modern Warfare 3 is expected to clear more than 20 million units when all is said and done. If it does so, it could beat the previous highest-selling game of all time: last year’s Call of Duty Black Ops.

Filed under: games

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Cloudwords partners with GlobalEnglish to expand cloud translation (exclusive)

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 04:59 AM PST

cloudwordsCloud translation startup Cloudwords has partnered with major translation provider GlobalEnglish to greatly expand the reach of cloud translation network and bring its services to some of the world’s biggest brands, the company announced today.

Cloudwords helps more than 60 small to mid-size companies expand their global presence by finding them a translation service that best matches their needs. It provides lists of partnering translators who will translate various kinds of content, including websites, marketing materials and customer requests. Cloudwords customers are currently translating their content into more than 100 languages across 50 countries.

Having GlobalEnglish as a partner is big win for Cloudwords, and it will be one of its biggest clients alongside LivingSocial and SuccessFactors. GlobalEnglish serves more than 500 clients around the globe including Cisco and Citigroup with the aim of helping big businesses better communicate in English. It uses a variety of products, including on-demand-support-manager Edge and collaboration-platform-with-translation-assistance Bloom, to train and make business flow faster by making everyone speak the same language. With Cloudwords as a partner, GlobalEnglish has even further reach.

"From the moment we engaged with Cloudwords to assist with our corporate communications translation needs, we saw how its innovative solution delivered the time and cost savings we were looking for," GlobalEnglish President Tom Kahl said in a statement. "With Cloudwords, we are driving better efficiencies in communicating to our own customers in their native languages.”

San Francisco-based Cloudwords was launched in mid-February and thus far has raised $3 million in funding from individuals including Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, founding Salesforce CTO Dave Moellenhoff, current Salesforce CTO Craig Weissman, and Todd McKinnon, the CEO of Okta.

A short video explaining Cloudwords’ service can be viewed below:

Filed under: cloud

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Accel Partners announces $100M Big Data Fund — to invest in Hadoop, NoSQL and other cool stuff

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 04:58 AM PST

Venture firm Accel Partners has carved out a $100 million “big data” fund to invest in companies focused on building new IT infrastructure or on applications than run on that new infrastructure.

Accel, based in Palo Alto, Calif., at the heart of Silicon Valley’s venture capital community, has invested in companies like Facebook, Dropbox, Cloudera and Etsy.

As such, the firm has seen how companies like Facebook have been forced to exploit new technologies to store and analyze their huge amounts of data more efficiently. In Facebook’s case, it has used open source project Hadoop to help it process the billions of messages it receives each day. NoSQL database technology is another way companies have become more efficient in storing data.

All big Web companies, including Google, Yahoo and Twitter, and increasingly large enterprise companies, are building applications on these platforms.

Ping Li, the partner at Accel (pictured right) who has led the firm’s investments in in companies such as Cloudera — which commercialized the Hadoop technology — said the new fund will be invested in two types of companies: (1) companies building out the new infrastructure, including in storage, security and management; and (2) companies building applications on top of that infrastructure (spanning, for example, business intelligence, collaboration, mobile and vertical apps).

He said these companies will span just about every sector, from enterprise to gaming — all of which will require new kinds of data-intensive platforms, he said. Investments will be made globally, he added.

Over the last 30 years, legacy data platforms, including relational databases, drove the emergence of significant companies like Oracle, SAP and Symantec, Li said. Likewise, big data will usher in a new era of multi-billion software companies, Li says.

The firm has carved out the $100 million from its existing funds, so this does not represent a fresh dollop of cash, Li said.

Accel also plans to host a “big data” conference in Spring, 2012, to drive discussion on technology trends in the sector, Li said.

CloudBeat 2011Coincidentally, these “big data” technology companies will be a focus at our CloudBeat 2011 conference, which takes place November 30 – December 1 at Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, CA. We’ll be focusing on 12 of the most disruptive instances of enterprise adoption of the cloud. Join over 500 executives for two days packed with actionable lessons and networking opportunities as we define the key processes and architectures that companies must put in place in order to survive and prosper. Register here. Tickets are limited!

Filed under: cloud, deals, dev, enterprise, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Luluvise lands $1 million for “girl time, all the time” (Exclusive)

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 04:44 AM PST

Pre-launch startup Luluvise aims to recreate online the experience of private chats with your girlfriends. The company just landed $1 million in funding from Passion Capital, ProFouders Capital and various angel investors.

Two years ago, founder Alexandra Chong had a great Valentine’s Day story to share with her girlfriends but didn’t feel comfortable about posting it on Facebook. Three telephone calls, seven text messages and two Skype calls later, she wondered, "Why can't I tell this story to all of my friends at once?"  and Luluvise was born. Chong, a former member of Jamaica’s Olympic tennis team, developed the idea with co-founder Alison Schwartz, before quitting her day job to work on it full-time in 2010. Luluvise will launch in private beta on November 14th.

The target users are young women aged 18-35. A Luluvise user first creates an “inner circle”, a private, secure space accessible only to the friends she trusts the most and with whom she is comfortable sharing private details. The scoops feature let’s her share news, dilemmas and gossip in 4 formats: text scoop, photo scoop, poll scoop and the Wikidate scoop.

The Wikidate scoop, likely to strike fear into the heart of many a male Facebook user, is a pre-set quiz that lets a user review any guy with a public Facebook profile and tell the inner circle what she really thinks of him. “We take the score from your review and average it with the scores from other Luluvisers who have already reviewed the gentleman in question,” explains Chong. “Your score contributes to Luluvise's ever-growing database of dudes.” The final score is made public but the details (specific comments of users) of the review are only available to those with access to the scoop.

The majority of Facebook activity is generated by women. Most of my own time on Facebook is spent communicating with close female friends but sharing more private thoughts on social networks without your ex-colleagues and relatives hearing about it too, is a consistent problem. You can use messaging, lists, circles and other tools but they are frankly a hassle and quite clunky.

“Best friends are essential to health and happiness for young women and Luluvise facilitates friendship-on-the-go,” says Chong. “Even when life (work, school, family and other obligations) gets in the way, your girlfriends are always at your fingertips… and you're always available for them when they need you.” Chong told me that while other online spaces try to satisfy women’s communication needs, none of them have the express goal of facilitating “girl time” with a user's closest friends.

Luluvise’s business model is not yet clear. The company will initially concentrate on building up the user base. E-commerce in the form of group buying, offers, lead generation and even virtual goods as well as sponsorship are among the options being considered for generating revenue.

I asked Chong about the potential conflict between Facebook’s drive towards ever more public sharing  and Luluvise’s emphasis on privacy. She told me that “Luluvise only uses Facebook to make registration easier. We do not post to walls or make Luluvise information public anywhere or to other Facebook users.”

Luluvise was founded in 2010, is based in London and has 10 employees.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Review: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 packs enough action for 10 war movies

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 12:01 AM PST

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Editor’s note: This review contains some story spoilers.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 delivers what it promises for gamers. It’s an epic first-person shooter combat game with all of the drama and action of a Hollywood war movie. Because the developers solidly executed their mission for the third time running, this game will likely be one of the biggest-selling titles of the year. I’ve played it through and it didn’t disappoint me. To me, it’s one of the contenders alongside Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for the best game of the year.

Activision Blizzard has mastered the very difficult job of giving Call of Duty fans a new blockbuster game every November, with plenty of multiplayer play to keep them busy for much of the year. Modern Warfare is the crown jewel property within the Call of Duty series; it focuses on first-person combat in the modern era. In the first-person shooter genre, this game is as big as it gets. At the current rate, Call of Duty games are generating more than $1 billion in revenues for parent company Activision Blizzard. Analysts expect this title to sell more than 20 million units, beating last year’s record-setting Call of Duty Black Ops.

The grudge match with Battlefield 3

Modern Warfare 3 is going head-to-head this fall against Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3. While Battlefield 3 sold 5 million units in its first week, the analysts expect that Modern Warfare 3 could outsell it by 2 to 1.

I played Battlefield 3 all the way through and I did so while heavily medicated. Indeed, what started as the flu turned into walking pneumonia for me. I wasn’t supposed to be doing anything but rest. But there was no way I wasn’t going to play both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 all the way through as soon as possible. That’s what gamers do as a kind of self-sacrifice for the greater cause.

I didn’t think the overall Battlefield 3 experience was quite as bad as our reviewer, Sebastian Haley, described. He definitely nailed the first-day server issues as inexcusable. And Sebastian was right on the money about what was weak about Battlefield 3: weak characters, a so-so story, and poor storytelling when it comes to drama and tension. Sebastian is tough, but he’s got keen insights.

I had fun playing infantry, tank, and air battles in Battlefield 3 because they weren’t the same as Call of Duty. I can see EA’s path of improvement with its first-person shooters. But in the end, I had to favor Modern Warfare 3. Battlefield 3 may be more realistic, but it just isn’t nearly as fun to play as Modern Warfare 3.

That latter statement is my opinion; I fully expect a lot of fans will see it the other way around. I’m actually glad that these two games have come out so close to each other, as they will provide sharp comparisons and contrasts for gamers on the different roads that developers can take in making these kinds of games. When one game’s servers are down, gamers will have the option of jumping to the other one. Competition is a good thing, and I think both of these games are better for it. I suspect a lot of people will be like me and play both games all the way through.

The single-player campaign for Modern Warfare 3 wraps up a story that began in 2007 with the first in the Modern Warfare series, Call of Duty Modern Warfare. That game took the series out of World War II and brought it to a whole new level of serious single-player and multiplayer modern-day combat. That move completed the game’s shift to “epic realism,” which Activision chief Eric Hirshberg says is striking a balance between real world authenticity “where this could be happening” with the unbelievable, Hollywood style epic moments that seem like they’re out of the movies.

Hirshberg also says that Call of Duty games are unique in delivering an “ultimate adrenaline rush.” You play it with white-knuckles and it shakes you up. The games are also easy to learn and hard to master. And Call of Duty games are primed to run at a first-person speed, or 60 frames per second, Hirshberg said. For the most part, he’s right. The game stands apart based on those claims.

Battlefield 3′s console versions ran at the slower speed of 30 frames per second, and the difference was noticeable. While Call of Duty’s physical effects, such as destructible environments, aren’t as good as Battlefield 3′s, the graphics are really quite good and playable. Only Battlefield 3′s graphical quality on the PC stands far above Modern Warfare 3′s. Still, I usually keep an eye out for graphics flaws, and I didn’t see anything horribly out of place in Modern Warfare 3.

Controversy comes again

It seems like it is pretty hard to make a game about modern warfare without being controversial. New Yorkers will certainly cringe at seeing their skyline in ruins in the game, and Parisians will bemoan the flames on the Eiffel Tower. Londoners in particular will be quite upset with this game.

The new game has controversial elements in it, just as the prior games had. In this title, you can choose whether to see them or not, just as you could (after a patch was installed) on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Two years ago, Modern Warfare 2 drew widespread criticism because the user could participate in a civilian massacre at a Russian airport. This time, the disturbing scene isn’t so interactive and it is much shorter. In it, you see a child and her tourist parents killed after a truck stops nearby, explodes, and spreads poison gas throughout London. Movies have scenes like this all of the time to drive the emotion of war and violence home. But Activision Blizzard catch hell for including the scene, particularly from the mass media that doesn’t play games. For hardcore gamers, this scene fits with the disturbing portrait of war in the age of terrorism that the game series paints so well.

This year’s game is the third installment in the Modern Warfare series with the Call of Duty Brand. The first, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, debuted in 2007 with an unrelenting focus on the horrors and action of modern combat. The second title debuted in 2009 with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, which at the time became the best-selling game of all time. That title was succeeded by Call of Duty Black Ops (set in the 1960s onward), which sold more than 20 million units and also became the biggest seller of all time. Analysts are predicting that Modern Warfare 3 will be the biggest title yet.

Thankfully, the gutting of Infinity Ward with the departure of its founders (in an ongoing dispute with the parent company) didn’t hurt this game. Infighting over royalties tore the team apart and nearly pushed the game off schedule, but Activision Blizzard pulled in the reinforcements, enlisting developers from Infinity Ward (more than half the staff stayed to work on it), Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch, Beachhhead Studios (which worked on the Call of Duty Elite social network) and Raven Software. With more than 500 developers to tap, the team finished the title on time for today’s launch. By using multiple studios and staggering their work across multiple years, Activision Blizzard can feed rabid fans a new major game every year, without sacrificing quality. Activision Blizzard may well have put off some future projects, but it managed to finish Modern Warfare 3 — without major glitches.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

With $1.5 million investment Google Ventures thinks Milk will make a splash

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 11:23 PM PST

Google Ventures has invested $1.5 million into mobile application development studio Milk, the new project from Digg co-founder Kevin Rose. The investment is both strategic and pragmatic, and will help the startup to build out its team with top talent — an area where Google has always been strong.

“It’s been nice to able to ping them when we have certain questions, and to tap into the vast amount of experience they’ve had when building out Google,” Milk Founder Kevin Rose told VentureBeat.

Last week Milk Studios released its first app, Oink, an iPhone app that combines features of popular tools such as Foursquare, Instagram and Yelp to let users rank and compare everything around them.

Because Oink relies on location data to tag user recommendations to places, and is built on top of Google Maps, deeper integration with the company makes a lot of sense. But Google has its own mobile operating system, Android, and Oink is currently available only for the iPhone. Rose says he doesn’t foresee this as a source of conflict.

“If we’re happy with the traction that Oink is receiving in the next few months, then we’re ready to hop on board with an Android app,”  Rose says.

Part of the draw was Google Ventures operates independently from other parts of the company, and can make its own decisions. “Like with any good investor, they’re sitting there on the sidelines, and they’re there when you need them,” says Rose.

Beyond the money and recruiting heft, another area where Google can be a valuable partner is in helping Milk scale apps like Oink, and any others that may follow.

Prior to bringing Google Ventures on board as an investor, Milk had raised $1.5 million from a high profile list of angel investors, including Shervin Pishevar, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Dave Morin.

[Milk image via ShutterStock]

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Midnight is for Modern Warfare 3

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 09:18 PM PST

At the stroke of midnight Nov. 8, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 went on sale around the world. As midnight came in each time zone, the midnight madness started with long lines and combat dress-up.

For a lot of gamers, launches of their favorite games aren’t just fun. They’re cultural events that are tied up in their sense of who they are. It reminds us of the launches of Apple’s iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, with crowds lined up around the world at Apple Stores.

Bobby Kotick, chief executive of game publisher Activision Blizzard, said in an interview with USA Today that he is hopeful the game will continue the record-setting pace of previous games. Analysts are predicting the game could sell more than 20 million units and beat last year’s title, which was the best-selling game of all time.

“It seems like this will be an incredibly successful launch. Pre-orders are well, well ahead of (last year’s Call of Duty) Black Ops,” Kotick said.

A bunch of stores broke the midnight sales launch time and started selling their games early. The Guardian reported that games were on sale 48 hous ahead of the midnight deadline at the Computer eXchange store in London. And some K-Mart stores in the U.S. evidently started selling ahead of the sales time as well. copies of Modern Warfare 3 were selling on eBay for more than the $59.99 sticker price on the game. Some of the listings were removed. Best Buy was offering a free smartphone with a Modern Warfare 3 purchase.

As I went on the multiplayer version of Modern Warfare 3, the indicator map show green dots where people were already playing across the globe. The map showed big swaths of green in Australia, Western Europe, and the East Coast of the United States. And more than 100,000 players were already ranked in the Call of Duty Elite Leaderboard.

For those who don’t get a Modern Warfare 3 copy, there’s still Battlefield 3 from rival Electronic Arts. That game sold more than 5 million units in the first week after it went on sale on Oct. 25.

In Australia, tens of thousands of people lined up to buy Modern Warfare 3. In the United Kingdom, more than 500 stores opened at midnight.

[picture credit: Atomicmpc: EB Games store in Wetherill Park, Australia]

Filed under: games

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Google spices up search queries with experimental ‘Sources’ feature

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 07:12 PM PST

rihannaGoogle is testing a new features to its search product that fills up the page with more information based on the query, reports SearchEngineLand.

The new feature, called Sources, displays additional content in a right column of the search results. As you can see in the screenshot below, typing “Rihanna” pulls up a photo of the pop star, a brief description of who she is from Wikipedia and lots of biographical details (birth date, real name, etc.). Below that info is a list of her songs and some links to “similar artists”. Apparently, Sources will do the same with businesses and/or organizations like Twitter.

If you’re wondering when you can expect to start seeing Sources in search queries, you’re not alone. Google said Sources is an experimental feature, but didn’t offer any additional information about who the company is specifically rolling it out to or when/if others can expect to see it in the future, according to the report.

Sources definitely seems like something that would be useful to the majority of very specific search terms — especially if Google ever decides to integrate it with the data in your Google+ account.

Google was unavailable for immediate comment about the Sources feature.

google sources

[Screenshot via Cyrus Shepard]

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

iOS developer finds security flaw, gets kicked out of Apple dev program

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:47 PM PST

Charlie MillerA newly discovered bug for Apple devices both allows hackers to execute unapproved code, and helped one developer get quickly kicked out of the iOS developer program.

Apple devices have been notoriously hard on its security measures, particularly with iOS devices. The series of products have been relatively safe from malicious intrusion, because Apple demands it approves all code, or codesigning, before allowing an application into its marketplace. Approved code can only perform functions allowed within the iOS ecosystem, under Apple’s rule. But Charlie Miller, a developer and security researcher with Accuvant, found a way to circumvent Apple’s tight review process by poking a to-be-released bug, connecting the app to the web browser.

Exploiting this hole, Miller wired his app to check in with his computer at home when opened. If the app received code from Miller’s computer, it would start to run the associated actions such as pulling up a YouTube video, vibrating, making noise, and even lets Miller download the entire address book or photos to his computer. See a video below for Miller’s demonstration (also see Miller Rick Roll himself).

“Codesigning is important because that’s the way that the iPhone protects you from malware,” said Miller in his video. “The flaw I found allows apps that are in the app store to download new code and run it even if its not signed.”

The app, InstaStock, was quickly taken down from the App Store after Miller posted his video. Miller was also removed from the Apple developer program, to which he tweeted, “OMG, Apple just kicked me out of the iOS Developer program. That’s so rude!”

Charlie Miller tweetUsually people clue a vulnerable company in to the found flaw or bug before going public with the news. Whether Miller did this or not, is unclear, but he does follow up his tweet with, “First they give researcher’s access to developer programs, (although I paid for mine) then they kick them out.. for doing research. Me angry.”

Some security analysts and researchers are paid to find holes in their systems, to help secure anything overlooked. Indeed, even past hackers such as Kevin Mitnick, famed phone phreaker who spent years in jail for his hacking escapades, are hired on to perform these tasks, using an expertise considered illegal to execute otherwise.

For now, Miller is not releasing exactly the bug allowing him to give Apple’s security measure the go-around, but says he will present it at both the Syscan and Infiltrate security conferences in the coming weeks.

Filed under: mobile, security

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Zynga said to eye post-Thanksgiving IPO window

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:33 PM PST

Zynga may float its initial public offering after the Nov. 24 Thanksgiving holiday, according to two sources close to the matter who spoke with Bloomberg.

The social game maker, responsible for titles such as Farmville and Empires & Allies, filed its S-1 on July 1, and many expected the company to list itself on the NASDAQ exchange by this time. Zynga is hoping to raise $1 billion in its IPO.

A representative from Zynga told VentureBeat, “We’re not commenting.”

The Zynga IPO would follow closely on the heels of Groupon, which listed itself this past Friday at $20 per share, and may augur in a new wave of tech IPOs. Zynga games are played inside social networking platforms such as Facebook, and have been minting money for the San Francisco company.  Zynga recently amended its S-1 filing to show that the company has 6.7 million paying subscribers, up significantly from 5.1 million one year ago.

The question that will be on many people’s minds will be how soon Facebook will follow suit.

Filed under: deals, games

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Panasonic launches rugged Toughpad tablets, calls all others toys

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:20 PM PST

Is the world ready for extreme tablets that can take a licking and keep on ticking? Panasonic is betting on it.

The company officially announced its Toughpad lineup of rugged tablets today, the 10-inch A1 and 7-inch B1, which are built for heavy-duty usage scenarios like military deployment, construction sites, and unruly kindergarten classrooms.

Panasonic has been offering the occasional tidbit of information about the slates since June, but today is the first time it has completely lifted the veil with specifications and release details. The tablets will be close cousins to Panasonic’s long-running line of Toughbook laptop computers.

At first glance, it's clear that Panasonic's goal isn't to have the thinnest and prettiest tablets on the block. The tablets sport a rubberized case, which helps guard against dust and spills while making it easier to hold. Panasonic also saw fit to include a matte screen, which reduces glare and makes them easier to use outdoors. They’ll also include a stylus so that you can capture signatures in the field.

The A1, which will be available first, is powered by a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor and Android 3.2 “Honeycomb.” It packs in 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16GB of storage (expandable with SD cards up to 32GB), and ten hours of battery life. 4G support, including LTE and WiMax, is optional.

The A1 weighs in at a hefty 2.13 pounds (in comparison, the iPad 2 weighs 1.3 pounds), but that’s to be expected since it’s heavily protected. The tablet has a 4-foot drop rating, as well as protection ratings for dust and water resistance.

As the company previously hinted, the Toughpads will sport enterprise-class security features, which should make it well suited for government and highly classified corporate work. The tablets feature embedded security hardware, as well as encryption and enhanced VPN. Panasonic says the tablets should meet security standards like FIPS 140-2 for government use, and HIPAA for medical use.

The Toughpads also include custom device management controls which should make them easy for IT administrators to deploy. Panasonic will also make it easy to find enterprise apps via its Business AppPortal.

The Toughpad A1 will be available in spring 2012 starting around $1,299 (clearly, these aren’t aimed at typical consumers). The B1 will be released sometime later next year.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

New partnerships make Twitter more valuable for media companies

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:03 PM PST

Twitter has granted access of the more than 250 million tweets sent daily to two firms — Mass Relevance and Crimson Hexagon, the company announced Monday. The firms will now be able to work directly on creating and maintaining partnerships with media firms (like television networks) without Twitter’s involvement.

Real-time reactions are proving to be an invaluable source of information television networks, which is why Twitter’s latest partnerships with two Twitter data firms is a big deal. In turn, the move is also a big deal for Twitter because the additional visibility on these major TV programs is helping to drive growth for the social network.

Over the past year, several TV shows have started integrating Twitter into its live programming as a way to interact with viewers. For instance, Fox’s high-school musical show Glee and PBS documentary-style Nova have both started directing viewers to use Twitter while watching. Others, like NBC’s The Voice have even started airing Tweets during the program. Think of it as the next evolution in people calling into radio stations to hear their voices on air.

The Twitter data firms will work with media companies to determine new means of connecting and gathering information about a particular show’s audience. Crimson Hexagon, for example, previously worked with CNN during the 2010 U.S. mid-term elections to determine the reasons Twitter users were voting for their particular candidates.

Mass Relevance, on the other hand, will work with media companies that are interested in displaying relevant tweets on websites, on air broadcast or even in a real-world venue. The firm is the first of several partners officially licensed to re-syndicate Twitter content for display in this way, according to Twitter.

Allowing other companies to access the backlog of Tweet messages is a smart move on Twitter’s part. It allows the microblogging service to concentrate on development and growth while letting other firms drive the value in new ways, (like providing audience feedback for media companies).

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Pandav releases mass transit navigation iPhone app for London (exclusive)

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 05:13 PM PST

London commuters have something new to cheer now that their city is the latest to get a free route-planner iPhone app from Pandav. The app, called Ride London Tube, lets users plan trips on mass transit with a deceptively simple touch interface.

“This is our first international release. And we’re going to take London very seriously,” Pandav co-founder David Hodge told VentureBeat in an interview. The app launched last week.

Pandav apps have offline navigation and arrival times, so users can find the ideal route to their destination in the widest variety of circumstances. Realtime updates are another key feature available on Pandav’s navigation apps, so when users have a data connection, they can be alerted to track construction and other possible delays, and plan accordingly.

The London app offers the same touchscreen navigation as the developer’s other apps, but will soon be able to alert riders to the availability of so-called “Boris Bikes” at their destinations — Boris Bikes are the citywide bike-sharing program spearheaded by London Mayor Boris Johnson. The hope is that the app will be used by locals and tourists alike.

“Definitely the biggest thing we learned was that there are many people who are comfortable enough with transit systems but didn’t even realize how much of their time they wasted without our app,” says Hodge. “With that in mind, we honed trip planning and made sure we could provide people with good delay/reroute information.”

San Francisco-based Pandav thinks it has a winner should it start selling location-based deals, because when people are in transit, they’re neither at home or at work, and are most receptive to location-based offers. As a opposed to a location service like Foursquare that knows where you are when you check in, Pandav knows where you’re going to be, because the app is helping you make better public transportation decisions.

With their first $3,000 the Pandav team was able to roll out iBart, the transit app for Bay Area commuters, and chalk up more than half a million users. Today Pandav apps are available for transit riders in New York City (MTA, Metro-North, Long Island Railroad) Chicago (Metra  and CTA, aka the L), and the Washington D.C. Metro, as well as the newly-launched London Tube map. Hodge says he’s seeing 1.4 million sessions per month, and they’re growing by 25 percent month-to-month.

With the 2012 Summer Olympics just around the corner in London, the Pandav team expects that tens of thousands of people may be using this app during the games to get around the city. “We aim to be able to help tourists get to specific events easily and help locals avoid the madness as much as possible. So that means specific event listings with built-in directions,” said Hodge. “It sounds straightforward on the surface, but it get’s pretty involved.”

Pandav has three full-time employees and part-time designer, and has received unattributed funding.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

WordPress’ new notifications look very familiar if you were recently on Google+

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 04:59 PM PST

WordPress notificationsThink you’re seeing your Google+ notifications bar on WordPress? Nope, not a browser glitch, the blogging platform has integrated the same look and feel for users logged into the WordPress site.

The company announced the new notifications today in a blog post, suggesting they act as the “pulse” to your “living and breathing” blog. These notifications give you access to an “activity stream.” Here, you can see if someone likes your post within the WordPress system, or follows your blog entirely. These activities can be found after clicking an icon displayed in a black bar at the top of the WordPress website. A little box shows you the number of notifications you have, next to your avatar and blog controls, as well as a search button.

This is remarkably like Google+’s notifications which also show a drop down activity stream, with avatars for the active people. These are so similar, that you could argue the bar’s color scheme is the only differentiating factor, as noted by ReadWriteWeb.

“We're launching notifications in the toolbar because it just makes so much sense to have them available, right there and across WordPress.com. Google came to the same conclusion before us, and we like their implementation a lot,” said Joen Asmussen, “design wrangler” of WordPress parent company Automattic in a comment on the official blog post.

In the future, WordPress will provide a place for you to view all of your notifications, as well as adding new notifications such as comments.

WordPress notifications open

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now