18 November, 2011



Your smartphone is not a tiny computer, & if you treat it like one, you can’t secure it

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:42 AM PST

With organizations from the Fortune 100 and U.S. government struggling to take control of smartphone security, we need to break the mental ties we have comparing it to a PC and remember the evolutionary path it took.

A PC did not give birth to a smartphone; the cellular phone of the 1980s did.

Here’s why this understanding is important to truly comprehending mobile security, especially when it comes to corporate IT and smartphones that do double duty for work and play.

Back in the early 1980s, I used my first personal computer, the Apple II.

The public school I attended purchased one for each classroom. I remember playing a few educational games and even attempting a bit of programming. Later that same year, my parents won a computer in a raffle and gave it to me. It was a Timex Sinclair 1000.

History has already written which of those two computers won, but they both had something very important in common: BASIC Programming. Both of these devices could be easily programed using a simple programming language. Simple enough that a technology-intrigued 6-year-old living in the suburbs of Chicago could learn to write programs to draw graphics and create simple video games.

The personal computer (PC) inspired its users, from age 6 to 96, to write their own software. I remember sitting in front of those computers for hours writing a few lines of code and then typing "RUN" to see what I had created. Even though most users do not write their own code, they still use PCs in a very similar way, sitting at the keyboard in one location.

Around the same time, I used my first cellular phone.

My neighbor, Jerry, was employed by Illinois Bell and was working on a project with Motorola to test cellular phones in cars. The entire trunk of his company-issued car was filled with circuit boards and blinking lights making up the cell phone components you hold in your hand today. Located between the front seats was a handset.

Jerry used to take me and his kids to get ice cream, letting us call our moms from the road. From the very start, cellular phones were meant to be mobile devices.

Both PCs and mobile phones evolved over the next 20 years without much convergence. Along the way, they became less expensive and easier to use, attracting more and more non-technical users. Today we still call the personal computer a PC (or a Mac), but the mobile phone gave birth to an array of sub-categories, with the most popular today known as a smartphone.

Often a smartphone is called a PC in your pocket. I even made that statement during a 2011 DEF CON presentation on smartphone security. The more I think about that statement, though, the more I start to believe that the root of our problems around mobile security is an extension of that incorrect comparison.

What we're dealing with today is the rapid addition of features and a user adoption rate that accelerated faster than anyone anticipated, including organizations' IT security departments.

While these departments were busy upgrading firewalls, installing IDS systems and anti-spam gateways, their users were waiting in lines around the block to spend hundreds of dollars of their own hard-earned cash to get the next generation of smartphone. Within minutes of their purchase, they connected to their corporate email accounts, installed games and other apps, and use the built-in VPN client to access intranet sites — all of this without oversight or control from their IT security department.

Now this same user group makes security mistakes every single day. They read both personal and business email on the same device and open attachments. They click on links they see on Facebook and Twitter. They allow their friends and children to play games on their device without oversight. They navigate to Websites via QR codes they see on the subway.

In order to understand how an organization would let this happen, we need to start at the top.

There likely isn't a single CEO in the world that does not own a smartphone or tablet. When the CEO of the company wants a smartphone for business purposes, they get one, and so do all the CEO's direct reports, and their direct reports, and so on. Pretty soon the entire company has a smartphone connected to the corporate network to access email, calendar, contacts and other information.

This is the moment when the IT security administrator stops reviewing firewall logs and realizes there is a problem, but then immediately thinks a solution already exists. All of these smartphones are really just itty, bitty PCs, right?

The IT security admin has a policy for connecting PCs to the corporate network and it goes something like this:

  • Rule 1: The device must be owned and issued by the company.
  • Rule 2: It must be connected to the corporate domain.
  • Rule 3: It must be running anti-virus software.
  • Rule 4: The user must not have local administrative access.

The IT security admin runs through each rule, quickly realizing none of the rules apply to smartphones, starting with the very first rule. Everyone from the CEO down to the mailroom staff bought their own device. The admin is certainly not in the position to tell his boss and his boss's boss that the company needs to disconnect all smartphones from their network and purchase company-issued devices for all of their employees.

With that, the IT security admin goes back to reviewing firewall logs.

That's the state most organizations are in today. Smartphones have to be categorized as their own class of device and secured via a completely different methodology, using some techniques probably yet to be invented.

There are, however, ways to help mitigate security risks in the interim. Properly defining the organizations support of smartphones, its users and the data they are required to access is fundamental until the devices themselves offer solutions natively or via 3rd party add-ons.

When these devices are treated as their own asset type, and only then, will IT security departments be able to secure the smartphones connected to their environment.

Nicholas J. Percoco is senior vice president and head of Trustwave SpiderLabs.

With more than 14 years of information security experience, Percoco heads Trustwave SpiderLabs, the advanced security and research team at Trustwave, which assists clients when making strategic decisions around security and compliance regimes. Trustwave SpiderLabs has performed more than 1300 computer incident response and forensic investigations globally, run thousands of penetration and application security tests for clients, and conducted security research to improve Trustwave’s products.

Image courtesy of reallyboring.

Filed under: mobile, security

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VBWeekly: Yelp IPO, Google Music, and the history of the Xbox

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:16 AM PST

VentureBeat’s weekly video show returns with a quick discussion of some of the week’s highlights in tech business.

Your hosts, Chris Peri and Dylan Tweney, talk about Yelp’s filing for an initial public offering, news of which just dropped 30 minutes before we started filming. You can be sure we will be following up on that.  We also briefly discussed the difference between iTunes Match and Google Music services, and finally a said a few words about the history of the Xbox, which is 10 years old this week. VentureBeat published a really well-researched and well-written piece by our own Dean Takahashi. It’s a long read but it’s well worth it, as the story is full of drama and intrigue!

And at the start of our show, we also talk about an unexpected event this week: OccupySF invaded Bank of America — on the ground floor of VentureBeat’s headquarters. Once we got past the security guards and police, we took some pictures and shot some interesting photos of the protest.

Filed under: video

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10 free tickets to CloudBeat 2011 (5pm PT deadline)

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:05 AM PST

Free CloudBeat 2011 TicketsWhite label Marketplace-as-a-Service (MaaS) provider AppDirect is inviting all application developers and companies to enter to win 1 of 10 free tickets to CloudBeat 2011 on Nov 30 – Dec 1 at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, CA.

Fueled by its passion for SaaS, AppDirect has built the world’s first fully integrated solution to help businesses discover great web-based software and manage their accounts from one central location. And for app developers, the AppDirect network has become one place to publish products for distribution through multiple white label app marketplaces.

Here’s how this offer will help you take your business to the next level:

CloudBeat 2011 content will be fresh and actionable. Through a series of customer-centric case studies, a mix of industry leaders will uncover the key processes and architectures that companies must put in place in order to survive and prosper.

VentureBeat events have become known for their excellent networking opportunities, and CloudBeat 2011 will bring together 500 executives — from the hottest cloud startups and leading cloud providers to Fortune 500 companies — with a mix of CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, VPs of product development, analysts, investors, press, and more.

It’s a $550 value!

Applying is easy. Send us an email with the name of your company (or your app's website), a one paragraph company (or app) description, and what you hope to get out of attending CloudBeat 2011. We'll give a free ticket to the 10 most promising applicants, and the next 10 will get a special code for 50% off!

Check here for full event details, and be sure to send your response to competition@venturebeat.com by 5pm Pacific Time today!

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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Motorola Mobility shareholders vote yes on a buy-out by Google

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:03 AM PST

Motorola Mobility shareholders voted today to allow Google to buy the mobile company.

With approximately 99 percent of shares voting in favor of the deal at today’s special meeting, this acquisition now must pass U.S. government inspection.

Google announced its intention to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion back in August of this year. The proposed deal has seen its share of twists and turns.

One stipulation of the acquisition was that if the deal didn’t pass muster with regulators, Google would be required to pay Motorola Mobility $2.5 billion. This exorbitant fee indicated to some that Motorola Mobility was concerned the sale might not go through due to antitrust concerns and the distinct competitive advantages Motorola Mobility might gain if given certain privileges over other OEMs.

However, Google is very aware of the fine line it walks between a great acquisition deal with one OEM and a soured relationship with all Android OEMs. The company said it will continue to give OEMs such as HTC and Samsung early access to new Android versions on a turn-taking basis, not favoring Motorola over the OEMs it already works with.

One individual, investor John W. Keating, even went so far as to sue Google over the deal, saying, "The offered consideration does not compensate shareholders for the company's intrinsic value and stand-alone alternatives going forward, nor does it compensate shareholders for the company's value as a strategic asset for Google.”

One major reason for the deal is the acquisition of patents that might help Google support the Android ecosystem in the courts, where manufacturers and the OS itself are under attack from companies like Apple, Microsoft and Oracle.

When the Android patent suits began, Google held fewer than 1,000 patents altogether — a staggeringly low number compared to the 20,000 to 40,000 patents held by some of its more aggressive competitors. However, a Motorola Mobility acquisition would provide Android makers with a great deal of legal firepower: The history of cell phones is filled with Motorola firsts. As a result, the company has a rich vein of patents for Google to mine. Motorola Mobility currently holds around 17,000 patents, with an additional 7,500 patents pending approval.

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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Ultrabooks are the new tablets, 30-50 models expected at CES 2012

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:01 AM PST

Asus Zenbook vs MacBook Air

Tablets were everywhere during CES 2011, following the success of the iPad, but come next year, thin and light Ultrabooks will likely be hogging the spotlight (yes, following the success of the MacBook Air).

Between 30 and 50 different Ultrabooks will be featured on the CES 2012 show floor in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) revealed during a press event in London today.

As PC Pro notes, the news comes as a bit of surprise since we’ve only seen a few manufacturers announce Ultrabooks so far, including Asus, Acer, HP and Toshiba. Other PC manufacturers are expected to be waiting for the new Intel Ivy Bridge 22-nanometer processors, which will be released some time next year, before stepping into the Ultrabook arena.

Intel, not surprisingly, is heavily hyping Ultrabooks, which are pretty much direct rivals to Apple’s MacBook Air. In August, Intel announced that it was creating a $300 million Ultrabook fund to encourage manufacturers to develop the ultrathin laptops.

But if you’re somehow not sick of tablets yet, don’t fret: CEA director of research Shawn DuBravac said there will still be plenty of tablets during this year’s CES. Around 100 (!) tablets were announced at the last CES, and he expects a similar number come January.

Because that’s what the world needs, another 100 look-alike tablets.

Filed under: gadgets, VentureBeat

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iPad has 88% of global tablet web traffic, but Kindle Fire could start eating it

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:01 AM PST

ipad 3To the surprise of absolutely no one who’s been paying attention, the iPad is the clear leader in global tablet web traffic, with an astounding 88%, far greater than all Android tablets and afterthoughts like the BlackBerry PlayBook, according to Pingdom.

But while the iPad has such a sharp lead in tablet web use, almost certainly because it’s the most popular tablet, the upcoming Kindle Fire, which costs $300 less than the iPad and features the powerful Silk web browser, could begin eating away at that stat.

Pingdom’s study admits that the exact figures of tablet web use aren’t readily available, but it was able to extrapolate from a variety of other sources to complete a convincing picture that the iPad owns about 88% of tablet web traffic. StatCounter regularly completes surveys of the percentages of OSes that access the web. When you bring down those OS web access stats to just tablets, iOS has 87.6%, Android takes 10.9%, webOS has 0.7% and BlackBerry OS has 0.7%.

These statistics match up well with sales figures throughout the world, as noted in a post a few months ago by John Gruber. In the U.S. alone, the iPad makes up 83% of tablet sales, and around the world it counts for 73% of tablet sales.

No Android tablet up to this point has been a runway hit – not even Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Motorola’s Xoom, arguably the two slickest premium Android tablets. But the Kindle Fire could change that. It doesn’t look like Android on the surface, but it still is built using Android’s operating system and could greatly help Android’s tablet market share because the $199 price point is so attractive. Microsoft’s Windows 8, which will go live next year, also looks like a viable competing OS that could help bring the iPad down a notch.

Filed under: mobile

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Lights, camera, Klip: Social video startup raises $8.6M

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 09:00 AM PST

As people’s pockets fill with camera-enabled smartphones the rush is on to be the top dog in social video sharing. Palo Alto video startup Klip announced today that it has raised $8.6 million in a second round of funding,  just two months after launching and raising $2 million.

The money will help Klip solidify its position against competitors such as Socialcam, recently launched by Justin.tv, or tools such as Vimessa, which let users share video messages with friends.

Since launching in September, Klip has consistently ranked as the top social video sharing app in the iTunes App store. The company’s team includes former employees from Apple, YouTube, Yahoo and Google.

“From the start, it’s been amazing to see how people have embraced Klip and the product’s many social features,” said Klip chief executive officer and co-founder Alain Rossmann in a statement. “We look forward to building on the incredible momentum generated over the past two months and driving more innovations in the mobile video market in the years to come.” The company also said that the money will go to fuel future product innovation.

There are expected to be more than 1 billion smart phones on the market by 2016, according to a recent Gartner report from April, which means that if a winner emerges, there’s an enormous potential market.

Benchmark Capital led the funding round and was joined by previous investors including Matrix Partners and co-founder Rossmann.

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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Paid DLC for next 3DS update announced; Nintendo joining the future?

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 08:48 AM PST

Nintendo of America chief executive Reggie Fils-Aime recently confirmed that the next 3DS update, which is likely to arrive next month, will finally allow for paid downloadable content (DLC), according to an article by Develop Online.

As it follows through on this promise, Nintendo will be one of the last major companies in the handheld space to move into digital distribution of paid content, competing head-to-head with Sony, Apple, and the Android Market in portable and mobile content.

In his statement to AOL games, Fils-Aime said, “In terms of what the next system update will allow, it will allow developers to sell add-on content, and whether that’s for a physical game or a digitally released game. It’s up to the developer whether they want to make it to buy new levels, new items – all of that is up to their imagination. Essentially, what we’re doing is creating the framework for those transactions to happen.”

Though Fils-Aime expressed doubts over claims that mobiles are dominating the handheld market in another article by Develop Online, it looks like Nintendo has chosen to be safe rather than sorry by finally hopping onto the paid DLC bandwagon. The 3DS itself needs some help and Nintendo’s profits need a boost.

The 3DS launched in March but Nintendo had to slash the price of the system from $249 to $169 in order to help flagging sales, as users didn’t really go wild about glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. This season, with hits like Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo is finally getting some content out that may please 3DS owners. Nintendo warned this summer that it would face an unexpected loss because of the poor 3DS sales.

The research, which was conducted analyst group Flurry, stated that the iOS and the Android control 58 per cent of the portable gaming market – a conclusion derived by comparing the sales revenues between the two platforms with the PSP and Nintendo DS. As was previously reported by VentureBeat, this could possibly be attributed to the fact that packaged software is still one of the dominant means of delivery for Nintendo.

Filed under: games

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The DeanBeat: Building a better GamesBeat

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 08:00 AM PST

For almost four years, we’ve been building out GamesBeat as VentureBeat’s game channel. We have held three annual GamesBeat conferences where the movers and shakers of the industry talk about the latest trends in games. Now we’re expanding to build an even better GamesBeat.

You’ll see a number of changes now and in the near future: New writers, new areas of coverage, more in-depth features, even deeper events coverage and a new scoring system for our reviews.

Over time, you’ll see us add more writers. We’ve already introduced more game reviews and game news stories from a number of talented writers. They include Sebastian Haley, Daniel Crawley, Stefanie Fogel, David Smith, Joe Sinicki, Nate Ahearn, Jacob Lopez, Matt Weinberger, Cassandra Khaw, Jacob Siegal, Rob Wyatt, Heath Hooker and Andrew Webster. Haley has been creating a stir with unflinching critiques of the season’s major blockbusters, but we’ve had some offbeat reviews like Weinberger’s review of the Humble Voxatron Debut indie game bundle too.

More new bylines will appear over time and we hope to expand our coverage of social and mobile games in addition to the expansion we’ve already undertaken with the console games. Our aim is to cover the spectrum of the game industry, from startups to the big companies and all manner of games and game platforms.

You can always see our game coverage at a glance by clicking on VentureBeat’s GamesBeat channel. We’ll run stories on the GamesBeat channel from time to time that won’t run in other sections, as appropriate.

We’ll expand the scope of our coverage in a variety of ways. We come at the topic from VentureBeat’s core focus on technology and business coverage, always looking for innovations in the market. But we’re also providing consumer-oriented coverage, such as our game reviews, as well. The types of stories we’ll cover include game startup fundings, corporate earnings reports, game sales reports, developer and publisher interviews, individual game reviews and previews, top ten lists, hacker attacks, new game technologies, market phenomena, new game frontiers, and industry scoops such as our story on Will Wright’s new game startup, HiveMind. Our goal remains to provide coverage you won’t see elsewhere, like our annual list of the top video game fundings of the year.

I’ve started my own DeanBeat weekly perspective column on games, which you are reading now and can subscribe to at this link. It appears on Thursdays as an email newsletter and shows up on the web site on Fridays. My aim with this column is to look back on events that have happened and add some perspective to them.

We approach the topic of games as journalists. We were proud to write a lengthy retrospective on the making of Microsoft’s Xbox game console, with a decade of perspective. The first part focused on the making of the Xbox from conception to launch. The second part focused on the creation of the Xbox 360 through the launch of Kinect. This was our most extensive story since we wrote about the Red Ring of Death problems in 2009.

Much of that story came from reporting I did for my two books, Opening the Xbox: Inside Microsoft’s Plan to Unleash an Entertainment Revolution (2002), and The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: the Real Story Behind Microsoft’s Next Generation Video Game Console (2006). We hope to turn the two-part series into an eBook that folks can download. That story was particularly satisfying for me to write because I was able to get back in touch with people who I have known and written about for a long time. Since I’ve been covering games for more than 16 years, I enjoy running into the same characters over and over again.

As we go, we’ll take your suggestions on how to improve our coverage and our focus. If you notice that we write about some subjects a lot — such as Zynga versus EA or EA versus Activision — it’s because people have responded well to that coverage in the past. But we hope to bring you plenty of stories that you won’t see anywhere else.

We’ll grow gradually over time and add new categories as we go. We hope to have coverage of topics on a global basis, and hope to add writers in other countries over time. We welcome guest editorials from experts on subjects as well.

We plan to cover the major events of the game industry, from the DICE summit in February to E3 in June. And we’ll see what else we can get to as we add more writers around the world. Our next stop is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in the second week of January.

And we have our own event, too. We have already set our fourth annual GamesBeat 2012 conference for July 10-11 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. I’ll also be  a judge in an upcoming mobile games contest, Get Discovered, sponsored by Trinity Ventures, Hooked Media Group and Best Buy. (More on that later.)

Here’s some recent game reviews that we’ve already done this season. Some review scores have been adjusted to make them consistent with the universal grading scale that we are establishing at GamesBeat. We consider it very important to get the scores correct in terms of the relative comparison among the games, so we are making this one-time adjustment now.

We won’t review every game that comes out, but we’ll focus on the ones that consumers want to play, or, from our perspective, should play. We aim to create fair, thorough, and high-quality reviews that serve you, as a consumer, and help you decide what to buy and play. Please check these reviews out if you haven’t already.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 91
Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception 91
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer 90
Batman Arkham City 89
Dark Souls 89
Forza Motorsport 4 89
Skyrim 89
Gears of War 3 88
Rage 88
Resistance 3 87
Super Mario 3D Land 87
Rayman Origins 87
Halo CE Anniversary 82
Assassin’s Creed Revelations 80
Kinect Disneyland Adventures 70
Battlefield 3 69
LOTR War in the North 60
Kinect Sports Season 2 59
The Humble Voxatron Debut Indie Bundle (not rated)

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Ten great PlayStation Network games for under $5

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 08:00 AM PST

With Apple and Android now dominating the mobile gaming market with their low price model, it is worth noting that there are also some budget priced bargains to be found on the Playstation Network Store. I have been trawling through the store for the past few days, and below you can find my pick of the games that can be grabbed for less than $5. All of these games can be played on PS3 consoles, and some can also be downloaded and played on a Sony PlayStation Portable or a PSPGo, all for the stated price. As you can see, there are some real gems on the list that are definitely worth checking out.

1. Fight Night Champion: Champion Mode – EA Sports – $4.99 (PS3)

This is an interesting move from EA Sports, which has just released the Champion story mode, sliced off from the full retail game as a downloadable product. Featuring a good few hours of solid boxing game play, and a Rocky-style story of redemption and success, presented like a movie, this game represents great value for the money. If you like the story mode, you can also upgrade by purchasing the online and legacy components of the game separately. It is novel to see a publisher taking this approach and I am sure it is something we will see more of in the future.

2. Mini Squadron – Grip Digital – $1.99 (PS3/PSP)

Offering great value for money, at under two dollars, Mini Squadron features eight worlds of dog-fighting action, with a variety of weapons and enemies, and over 50 planes to unlock along the way. It’s a great game to play in short bursts, either lounging on the couch, or on the daily commute. Despite also appearing on the Android and iOS platforms, to my mind Mini Squadron works best on the PS3 and PSP, with the accuracy provided by playing with a real analog stick.

3. Mercury HG – Ignition Entertainment – $4.99 (PS3)

This is a slick and stylish puzzle game, that will bring back memories of Marble Madness, for gamers of a certain age. Presented beautifully, and with very intuitive controls, you must move a blob of mercury through increasingly difficult mazes, simply by using the left analog stick. The high-definition visuals and great soundtrack lend Mercury HG a very polished feel. As an added bonus, you can also choose to listen to your own music files whilst playing the game.

4. DC Universe Online – Sony Online Entertainment – free (PS3)

For those gamers who don't want to spend a single cent on a game, DC Universe Online may well be the title for you. Initially released on a pay-to play basis, this massive multiplayer online superhero game is now completely free to download and play, on the Playstation Network. Create your own superhero or villain, and play alongside other gamers from around the world. There are some benefits to be had by choosing to pay a fee, but for casual users, the non-subscription features should provide more than enough fun. Just make sure you have some room on your hard drive, as the game takes up 18GB of space!

5. A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks – Frima Studio – $1.99 (PS3/PSP)

The numbers for this one are telling. A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks has been downloaded more than 150,000 times from the PSN Store. With a humorous presentation style, and some very challenging old school shooting action, A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks certainly lives up to its title. This game is also available on the iOS and Android platforms, but shines brightest here, with the precision of an analogue stick giving this version the edge over its mobile equivalents.

Filed under: games

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Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders start difficult ocean journey for science

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 07:42 AM PST

Between the bottom of a swimming pool and the surface of Mars is one frontier a robot has never crossed: the Pacific Ocean. While humans and robots have conquered land and space, relatively little is known about our oceans, yet they cover more than 70 percent of the Earth. A Sunnyvale-based startup believes its new fleet of robots could make the ocean a mystery no more

In San Francisco today, a quartet of Liquid Robotics Wave Glider unmanned robots were set afloat in the Pacific. They’re on mission to cross the world’s largest ocean and collect data, break world records, and bridge the gap between the sky and the murky depths below. The missions will be a success when the robots, which are traveling in pairs, arrive in Australia or Japan where their journeys are expected to end 300 days from now.

The Liquid Robotics PacX Challenge will be flying the banner for science, collecting data throughout the journey and making it publicly available on the Internet for anyone who is interested. The PacX Challenge (Crossing the Pacific)  is sponsored by Google Earth and Virgin Oceanic. Liquid Robotics chief of innovative applications Ed Lu said outer space is in some ways easier to explore than the ocean, because it’s predictable, and controllable. The sea is the opposite. And because there’s still so much to learn about the ocean — as little as 5 percent has been explored — getting new data can be tremendously lucrative.

The Wave Glider has been described as the perfect storm of electronics and satellite communication because it can be propelled in perpetuity, harnessing energy from the rise and fall of waves while its solar powered instruments relay data to Iridium satellites.

From above, the Wave Glider looks like a surf board with solar panels. But 22 feet below the surface is where the real action happens. A set of wings swish back and forth to propel the Wave Glider forward, as it rises and falls among the waves. The Wave Glider gets all the energy it needs from tidal motion, of which there is an inexhaustible supply.

There are countless uses for these ingenious robots, such as monitoring marine habitats or tracking the speed of ocean currents. And the data they collect can be profitable. As an example, Liquid Robotics chief executive officer Bill Vass said that for every knot that a tanker ship can save making the trip between China and the coast of the U.S., it will save $200,000 in bunker fuel. A pair of Wave Riders on a research excursion off the coast of Hawaii discovered there was a one knot difference in ocean current within a mile’s distance. Oceanic research satellites suspended in Earth’s orbit are only able to determine this current speed information with an accuracy of 30 to 40 miles.

When Francisco Chavez, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, was in graduate school, oceanographic research was like assembling a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with only 25 pieces, he said. Chavez spoke at the Wave Rider launch event, where was part of a panel discussion about the future of autonomous oceanic research robots. Liquid Robotics chief executive officer Bill Vass also gave a talk at the event.

With the sophisticated instrumentation aboard the Wave Glider we can gather incredible amounts of knowledge about the sea at a fraction of the price of conventional methods, such as buoys and manned research vessels. Ed Lu estimated that collecting data with a Wave Glider is 100 times cheaper than a research ship, and he posited, “What things can we do 100 times better?”

Liquid Robotics has $42 million in venture funding, according to Bloomberg, from investors such as Vantage Point Capital Partners and Schlumberger, a leading oilfield services company with extensive offshore drilling operations. The oil and gas industry is a prime customer for Liquid Robotics, because they spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to charter boats and launch buoys to collect oceanographic data. Weather systems and strong currents are just a few of the factors that can shut down production aboard offshore oil rigs, and these delays can easily cost tens of millions of dollars for a single day.

Filed under: gadgets, VentureBeat

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Apple, Microsoft, and 27 other major companies are implicity supporting SOPA

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 07:25 AM PST

While many tech companies have been vocal about their disdain for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — a bill that is making the rounds on Capitol Hill and that could lead to unforeseen censorship on the web if passed — others like Microsoft and Apple have been mum on the subject.

Now it’s clear why: Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and 26 other tech giants are members of the Business Software Alliance, which has thrown its support behind SOPA, reports the Next Web.

In a news release from October, BSA wrote:

The Business Software Alliance today commended House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) for introducing the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (H.R. 3261) to curb the growing rash of software piracy and other forms of intellectual property theft that are being perpetrated by illicit websites.

We’ve asked Apple and Adobe for further comment on their SOPA stance and will update when we hear back. Microsoft issued a “no comment” response to the Next Web report when asked to elaborate. Other BSA members are Dell, Intel, Intuit, and McAfee; you can see the full list of members at the bottom of this post.

If passed, SOPA would allow the government to block access to any website in the U.S. deemed to contain pirated content. While stopping piracy is certainly a noble goal, SOPA’s broad reach could allow anyone to complain about a website and effectively have it blocked. SOPA would mean the end of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” concept, which is what currently prevents copyright holders from instantly getting sites like YouTube thrown off the web if someone uploads pirated content.

Other tech companies, including Google, Aol, Mozilla, Twitter, and Zynga, are actively fighting SOPA. They recently purchased a full page anti-SOPA ad in the New York Times. Popular short-blogging service Tumblr rallied its users against the bill, which led to 87,834 calls to U.S. representatives.

Here is the full list of Business Software Alliance members:

  • Adobe
  • Apple
  • Autodesk
  • AVG
  • Bentley Systems
  • CA
  • Cadence Design Systems
  • CNC Software – Mastercam
  • Compuware
  • Corel
  • Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation
  • Dell
  • Intel
  • Intuit
  • Kaspersky
  • McAfee
  • Microsoft
  • Minitab
  • Progress Software
  • PTC
  • Quark
  • Quest
  • Rosetta Stone
  • Siemens PLM Software, Inc.
  • Sybase
  • Symantec
  • TechSmith
  • The MathWorks

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Modern Warfare 3 trounces Battlefield 3 in online play time

Posted: 18 Nov 2011 06:00 AM PST

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is blasting away at Battlefield 3 in the number of hours played, according to an analysis and survey of 10 million gamers by the Raptr gamer social network.

Raptr reports that play data collected from its gamer network shows the Call of Duty franchise still dominates the $5 billion first-person shooter market when it comes to online play. Modern Warfare 3 users have logged more total hours in their first week after launch than Battlefield 3 users have logged in the past three weeks.

Modern Warfare 3 users logged about 40 percent more hours played on launch day (6.19 hours on average on Nov. 8) than Battlefield 3 users did (4.45 hours, Oct. 25); although Battlefield 3′s launch was plagued with connectivity problems.

During the first week, Xbox 360 players logged 17 percent more play time, or 20.45 hours, on Modern Warfare 3, compared to 17.37 hours on Battlefield 3.

The news isn’t great for EA, which made a major attempt to unseat Activision Blizzard with Battlefield 3.

On the other hand, four out of five Raptr users said they preferred to play Battlefield 3 over Modern Warfare 3. (They just didn’t follow through on that preference with actual game playing). John Lee, head of marketing at Raptr in Mountain View, Calif., said he sympathized with the hardcore gamers who like the realism, team play, vehicles, and large maps of Battlefield 3.

“We heard some backlash against Call of Duty because it is so dominant,” Lee said. “Still, Call of Duty has much stronger engagement than Battlefield. EA did a good job taking on the No. 1 game, but they didn’t take it down.”

It may be that the hardest core gamers like Battlefield 3, with 92 percent of 6,000 survey respondents saying they thought Battlefield 3 developer DICE is more innovative than Modern Warfare 3 co-developer Infinity Ward. But there are likely more moderate hardcore gamers who like Modern Warfare 3 better and play it more.

Still, it’s clear who is losing users to the rival game. About 53 percent of Battlefield 3 users are playing Modern Warfare 3 on the Xbox 360, compared to just 31 percent of Call of Duty players who are playing Battlefield 3. In the first week of play, Modern Warfare 3 stole more play time from Battlefield 3 than from any other game. About 80 percent of respondents felt that Call of Duty generates more hype through its marketing than Battlefield does.

For the first time ever for any franchise, three Call of Duty games (including last year’s Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2 from two years ago) were in the top 10 play-time charts on Raptr. On average, Call of Duty players play the game for 60 to 70 hours, mostly on multiplayer since the campaign game is five to 10 hours.

This year, Activision is finally trying to monetize those extra hours of play by coming up with its premium subscription for the Call of Duty Elite service.

Raptr tracks actual game play data from its 10 million users. It compared that data with a survey of 6,000 participants in its Battlefield vs. Call of Duty showdown promotion.

[image credit: gamerant.com]

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Rapid7 gets $50 million, protects you from the 369 breaches already recorded this year

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 06:46 PM PST

Rapid7Security services company Rapid7 received $50 million in its third round of funding today, led by Technology Crossover Ventures.

Rapid7′s technology locates security vulnerabilities and rates them based on heightened risk and likelihood an attack will take place. It then offers solutions for how to fix them. The company offers security products for web applications, databases and networks, in addition to “penetration” tests, to see if a program is able to get past the security measures a client already has in place.

"In the security battle, attackers currently have the edge and Rapid7 intends to change this by recruiting the most talented people and organizations to drive innovation,” said Mike Tuchen, Rapid7′s chief executive officer. “We are looking for great people that are passionate about helping customers solve the hard problems they face in security.”

According to research by the Open Security Foundation, 369 attacks have been made on the business, medical, education and government sectors, as of this past July. That’s enough to cover every day of the year and then some, and the attacks have affected over 126 million records.

security breaches by sectorThe company is using this funding round to make hires in more acquisitions following its 2009 grab of Metasploit Framework, open source security software, which Rapid7 now uses as one of its main solutions. The company also plans to expand its presence in the Asia Pacific, European, Middle Eastern and African markets.

The funding has already been used to open offices in Los Angeles and Texas.

Rapid7 was founded in 2000 and has thus far received $59 million in funding from Technology Crossover Ventures and Bain Capital Ventures. Its products have been deployed by over 1700 enterprises in 49 different countries.

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First Groupon, now Yelp: Is the tech IPO window open again?

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:58 PM PST

Groupon went public earlier this month. Angie’s List went public Wednesday and saw its shares surge 25 percent the following day. And on Thursday, Yelp filed for a $100 million IPO. Has the tech IPO window has opened again, and if so, how long it will stay open?

One company that could benefit from the window opening is Zynga, which is expected to go public after Thanksgiving after having waiting for its chance since June. All of a sudden, the IPO window is much more open than it was during the summer, when significant numbers of IPOs were canceled or performed poorly.

After waiting for its chance for months, Groupon reopened the window on Nov. 4 when it raised more than $700 million despite a lot of questions about its business viability.

“When underwritters see a window like this, whether really open or not, they just stuff the IPO channel,” Scott Sweet of research firm IPO Boutique, told Reuters. Sweet said that eight IPOs have already happened or are scheduled for this week, making it one of the busiest weeks since 2010.

Yelp has more than 61 million unique monthly visitors, but it is still losing money on an annual basis, according to its filing. Angie’s List raised $130 million and saw its value close at $801.7 million, or $16.26 a share, on Thursday. The company runs a site for finding and reviewing contractors and service providers. InvenSense, which makes sensor chips for the Nintendo Wii and other devices, went public on Wednesday and saw its price rise 19 percent.

Zynga could be the biggest of the companies waiting in the wings. The social game company reportedly wants to raise $1 billion to $2 billion at a valuation as much as $20 billion. Groupon went out at $20 a share and surged to $28 in first-day trading, valuing the daily deals company at $17.8 billion. Today, Groupon closed at $24.77 a share, or $15.8 billion in value.

There is optimism on the other end of the pipeline as well. Venture capital “up rounds” exceeded “down rounds” 70 percent to 15 percent (with 15 percent flat) in the third quarter, according to a study by Fenwick & West. The average price increase for startups was up 69 percent in the third quarter, slightly down from the 71 percent increase in the second quarter.

Law firm Fenwick & West noted that IPOs decreased dramatically in the third quarter, effectively closing a window, due to Europe’s economic doldrums and the resulting uncertainty on the stock market. During the third quarter, merger and acquisition activity was up.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Sega buys Spiral Knights game developer Three Rings

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:29 PM PST

Sega purchased Three Rings today, the San Francisco game developer that created the Spiral Knights online game.

The acquisition is part of Sega’s “aggressive expansion into the digital space,” though it is entering that market much later than rivals such as Electronic Arts or Activision Blizzard. Currently, Three Rings is working on a TV-related online game, Doctor Who: World’s in Time.

“Three Rings has always been a studio that prides itself on the depth of creativity of our games,” said Daniel James (pictured), chief executive of Three Rings, in a statement. “We are honored to be joining such a legendary team and look forward to collaborating on amazing ideas together.”

James is a well-known fixture in the San Francisco game development community, in part because he enjoys dressing like a pirate. He picked up the habit while company was creating its pioneering casual online game, Puzzle Pirates.

Three Rings, ironically, was named after the three rings of the Elves from the Lord of the Rings lore. But the company hasn’t worked on a Tolkien game yet.

Investors in Three Rings included True Ventures and Amicus Capital. The purchase price wasn’t announced.

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Apple has Cards, Postcard on the Run has Selena Gomez

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 04:18 PM PST

“Ummm im obsessed with the app Postcards on the Run!! I’ve been sending them like crazy lol.”

Selena Gomez, the 19 year-old pop princess, actress and girlfriend of Justin Bieber, tweeted the above approbation for the iPhone application to her 8.3 million followers two weeks ago. Today, she informed the world that she too can play the celebrity investor and advisor part, and participated in Postcard on the Run’s $750,000 round of financing.

Postcard on the Run is a fresh, Los Angeles-based startup with iPhone and Android applications that lets you send real postcards to friends anywhere the world for $0.99 a piece. It has a few hooks including automatic address retrieval and “smell mail,” a feature that lets users add scratch-and-sniff scents to postcards.

The startup, which competes directly with Postagram and Apple’s similarly-purposed Cards app, now has Gomez, a powerful social media socialite — and possibly her even more influential boyfriend by association — in its corner. In addition to her Twitter legions, Gomez has nearly 25 million fans on Facebook. A Facebook update on today’s news nabbed 4,117 likes and 663 comments in four hours. Score one for Postcard on the Run.

The story goes that Gomez found the iPhone application on her own and loved it so much she tracked down founder Josh Brooks in September. The pair continued to chat and talks quickly turned to investment opportunities, Brooks told VentureBeat.

“She’s a fantastic partner for me,” Brooks said. Case in point: A recent tweet from Gomez netted the startup 20,000 downloads in 24 hours, he said.

Gomez joins an ever-expanding circle of celebrity tech investors that includes Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake. Does it also include her super famous underage boyfriend? We asked Brooks if the Biebs was exploring an investment, but we got a “no comment” on that one.

Crosscut Ventures, Mike Jones, Kamran Pourzanjani, Yves Sisteron, Aber Whitcomb, Brian Fitzgerald, Ryan Steelberg, Colin Digiaro, Brian Lee, Chris DeWolfe and Jarl Mohn also participated in the startup’s first round of funding.

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iPad buyers are exactly who you think they are, but with pets (infographic)

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 03:43 PM PST

Although the $199 Kindle Fire hybrid e-reader and tablet has captured a lot of consumer attention in the last few weeks, Apple’s iPad is still the most popular and desired tablet device across the board, especially with kids. With the holiday season coming up, the likelihood of tablet purchases is greatly increased because there are so many unique options at different prices.

But which segment of the public is most likely to actually purchase an iPad this holiday?

Marketing data firm BlueKai has determined the most likely buyers of the iPad are currently wealthy, male, video-game-playing pet owners. (The last one’s a little weird, but adorable.) Another important factor that tells you who’s buying iPads is that 46 percent of tablet-owning households earn more than $100,000 a year. Most likely the average income for tablet owners will decrease as less-expensive tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet to get more popular, but even with those factored in, we’d expect the iPad to remain the king in the tablet space for quite some time.

View the full infographic below to get a better feel for the most likely iPad buyers:


[Thumbnail cat image via Johnny Vulkan/Flickr]

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Salesforce reports $584M revenue in Q3, gearing up for $3B next year

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 03:19 PM PST

Today, Salesforce announced its Q3 earnings, which included a record $584 in revenue — a 36 percent year-over-year increase.

The bulk of that money came from the company’s subscription and support services, which accounted for $549 million. The remainder of the company’s revenue came from its professional services and other sources, and totaled $35 million.

“Salesforce.com is the first enterprise cloud computing company to exceed a $2.3 billion annual revenue run rate,” said Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff (pictured) in a statement.

Benioff also said the company expects to reach $3 billion in annual revenue run rate during its 2013 fiscal year.

For the quarter, Salesforce reported $129 million in cash generated from operations, representing 74 percent year-over-year growth. All told, the company ended the quarter with a stockpile of $1.3 billion in total cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities.

During the fourth quarter, the company expects to earn around $620 million to $624 million in revenue. It expects to end 2011 with $2.255 billion to $2.259 billion in revenue for the full year.

Earlier this month, the company promoted executive vice president George Hu to the role of chief operating officer. Hu is the company’s first COO and shares some responsibility for the results of today’s earnings report.

At the time of Hu’s promotion, Benioff said, “George's leadership over the past nine years has been key to driving Salesforce.com's growth to over a $2 billion run rate. I look forward to seeing his vision and leadership as COO scale our growth toward $10 billion and beyond."

CloudBeat 2011CloudBeat 2011 takes place Nov 30 – Dec 1 at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, CA. Unlike 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. Speakers include: Aaron Levie, Co-Founder & CEO of Box.net; Amit Singh VP of Enterprise at Google; Adrian Cockcroft, Director of Cloud Architecture at Netflix; Byron Sebastian, Senior VP of Platforms at Salesforce; Lew Tucker, VP & CTO of Cloud Computing at Cisco, and many more. Join 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. Spaces are very limited!

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Ford lifts the curtain on five-seater Connect Electric station wagon

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 03:10 PM PST

Ford Motor Company yesterday announced the release of a five-seater electric station wagon developed in partnership with Azure Dynamics. Based on Ford’s Transit Connect van, the five-seater Ford Transit Connect Electric Wagon will be available for sale in North America by early 2012. The announcement comes just in time for the Los Angeles Auto Show, where vehicle makers debut futuristic concept cars as well as new and exciting production models.

The Ford Transit Connect Electric van was chosen as the 2010 Truck of the Year and has been used in delivery fleets of such companies as AT&T, FedEx, Post Norway, and DHL, among others. The partnership with Azure Dynamics has been critical to the production of the electrification of Transit Connect, because the company makes the Force Drive powertrain for the vehicle.

The wagon will have a maximum range of between 55 and 80 miles, depending on how loaded the vehicle is. The vehicle is aimed at businesses more than individual, says GreenCarReports, which makes it slightly different than the van because it will have more seating that is adjustable.

Although no price has been disclosed, GreenCarReports is reporting that the Ford Transit Connect Electric Wagon is expected to qualify for the same electric vehicle credits as the cargo-carrying van upon which is was based.

via CNET

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus now available in UK, but still no word on US launch

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 03:02 PM PST

galaxy-nexus-verizonThe highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first phone running Android Ice Cream Sandwich, went on sale today in the U.K., but U.S. consumers are still out in the cold.

Verizon Wireless announced back in October that the Galaxy Nexus would launch before the end of the year in the U.S., and the Android faithful are tired of waiting. We almost certainly believe a U.S. launch is imminent because Verizon and Samsung will want to capitalize on holiday sales. Verizon did not immediately respond with a request for comment about the launch date.

The phone is notable because it's the first smartphone to run Android 4.0, and for its massive 4.65-inch screen with 1280-by-720 resolution that is capable of 720p HD video playback. The Verizon Wireless version of the phone will also offer Verizon's blazing 4G LTE data speeds, which only sweeten the already tasty deal.

As far as specs, the Galaxy Nexus is top of the line for Android in almost all categories. It includes a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. It has NFC abilities for mobile payments, a proximity sensor and a barometer. The Ice Cream Sandwich software running on the Galaxy Nexus ups the power of Android with a revamped interface, features like facial recognition, and touch-only buttons in place of normal physical buttons under the screen.

On Verizon, the Galaxy Nexus will compete with the Motorola Droid Razr, another great Android phone, and the incredibly popular iPhone 4S. But those wanting top of the line power, 4G data speeds and the latest greatest Android experience, will most likely gravitate to the Galaxy Nexus.

In the U.K., the phone is available exclusively from retailer Phones 4U, which is selling the handset for free with a £36 ($57) per month plan that goes with two-year agreement. The phone will run on the Vodafone and Orange carriers.

Google has also released a hip new commercial touting the Galaxy Nexus and some of Ice Cream Sandwich’s new features. Check it out below:

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Hideo Kojima announces Metal Gear Solid 5 game

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:58 PM PST

Rock star game developer Hideo Kojima’s next game will be Metal Gear Solid 5, he’s announced.

The available information is sketchy, but the latest issue of Official PlayStation Magazine UK says Kojima is talking about his plans for the “past, present, and future of Metal Gear Solid 5,” which include details on Metal Gear Solid 5 and Metal Gear Solid Rising. The magazine is teasing an interview with Kojima, in which he says he has been trying to kill off his key character, Solid Snake, for a decade.

Metal Gear Solid games have been Sony exclusives for a while, but Kojima Productions is working on the Rising title for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The last title, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (published in 2008), sold more than 5 million copies by the end of 2009.

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Roku makes a run for the border, launching in the UK and Canada soon

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:49 PM PST

RokuRoku, the company known for its line of affordable set-top boxes, is planning to expand into U.K. and Canada, the company announced today.

The company’s set-top boxes, which range in price from $49-$99, allow people to access over 350 channels of content from video, music, social and gaming services. The move makes sense for Roku since its largest media partner, Netflix, is already available in Canada and will soon launch in the U.K.

Netflix has been an integral part of Roku’s success since launching in 2008. The partnership helped Roku sell over a million set-top boxes last year. The latest version of Roku’s boxes even feature a Netflix button on the remote. It’s no wonder that the company has waited until now to enter into international markets.

However, many of the other media partners are region specific due to legal issues around streaming video content internationally. This means they won’t necessarily be available in other countries. For instance, Hulu Plus, which offers a variety of ad-supported premium TV content, won’t be crossing the border when Roku debuts in the new markets. It’ll be interesting to see who Roku is able to forge partnerships with when it launches internationally.

Roku is scheduled to begin selling its line of set-boxes in both countries in early 2012, according to the company.

Filed under: gadgets, media, VentureBeat

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Angie’s List IPO leaves company valued at $801M

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:44 PM PST

Angie’s List shares closed today at $3.26 above their $13 starting price, down from an $18.75 peak.

So far, the stock price has risen 25.08 percent in trading during its first day on the public market.

The stock (ticker symbol ANGI) has seen a few ups and downs so far on the NASDAQ, but it’s still trading above the initial price. The company’s initial public offering raised $130 million for the company.

The closing price values Angie’s List at $801.7 million — not bad for a company that got its start with its founder going door-to-door.

The company, which runs a site for finding and reviewing contractors and service providers, “should be pleased with its opening day performance,” said Dun & Bradstreet tech specialist Lee Simmons in a conversation with VentureBeat today.

“Its pop is certainly similar to the opening day boosts that Groupon and LinkedIn saw, where shares rocketed before settling back down above their opening.”

Groupon itself started with a share price of $20 and closed the day of its IPO at $26 per share, down from a $30 peak.

Angie’s List strikes Simmons as a better long-term bet than many other recent tech IPOs.

“Angie's List has real revenue with a real user base,” Simmons points out. “The question will be whether it can sustain itself as an advertising-dependent company, particularly in an economy that's not quite out of the woods… As it can keep overhead costs down, I believe it has a good shot at long-term sustainability.”

Angie’s List hasn’t gotten the same frothy media attention that’s been lavished upon its more tech-scenster brethren, however.

“Groupon and, to a lesser extent, LinkedIn are more ‘disruptive’ types of social networking companies,” said Simmons.

“By that, I mean that they seem to be a more intrinsic part of users' everyday experience. Angie's List by and large is a company that requires an opt-in by the user. You have to go there to get the experience, whereas Groupon delivers the experience directly to you inbox each morning.”

Simmons noted that Angie's List is also quite a bit older than either LinkedIn or Groupon. The company was founded by Angie Hicks in 1995. Hicks originally went door-to-door to collect contractor reviews.

“Consumer reviews may not be as sexy as e-coupons for laser hair removal, so I suppose the buzz factor may be limited in that context as well,” Simmons concluded.

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Jeans too tight? Save some room and use Google Wallet at select Gap stores

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:36 PM PST

What’s in your wallet? If you’ve swapped your fuddy-duddy analog money-toting accessory for Google’s more en vogue mobile wallet then you’ve got a 15 percent off coupon to the Gap hiding inside.

Google Wallet is a mobile payment and loyalty system available to folks with NFC-enabled Android devices. The alternative payment option launched to consumers in September with limited availability, and will soon compete with Isis, the mobile payment network backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.

Gap, Inc. became the latest brand to accept Google Wallet as a tender option Wednesday. The retailer, which also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic, is pre-loading its first promotion on the digital wallet so that users can pay and redeem simultaneously during checkout.

“With Google Wallet you can not only pay for your new pair of Gap jeans, but also find and redeem promotions being offered in our stores while you shop,” said Nick Sheth, senior director of global business development for Gap.

Unfortunately, the fancy tap-to-pay-and-redeem-coupon option is limited to the 65 Gap stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. For the rest of us, there’s still hope that the Gap, a brand hip to the social media times, will offer another juicy Facebook, Foursquare or Groupon deal.

[Image credit Thomas Hawk/Flickr]

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Cloudsourcing your technology to enable today’s “cloud commuter”

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:25 PM PST


Every year there are a few trends with catchy names that make the rounds of the press and analyst circuit. Some are truly important and groundbreaking, others are just passing fads and only time will tell which are of real value. One trend that has bubbled to the top is "consumerization of IT.” Is this a real trend? Yes. But what does it mean?

To most, the consumerization of IT is all about how employees (consumers) are bypassing IT and using their own point solutions (often on personal accounts or personal laptops/phones/tablets) to get their job done. Employees might believe they are doing a good thing by doing their individual jobs better, but in reality, the good of the individual is coming at the cost of the greater good. It is a huge problem we need to fix, and in order to do that we need to address why employees are taking matters into their own hands to begin with.

There are fundamentally two issues at work here. First, users have specific needs that are not being met with their current tool sets and so are using whatever tool they can find to get the job done. They don't typically pay attention to the larger ramifications of its use, or even how it might interwork with their other tools. They have a problem, they find a solution, end of story. It may fix things in the short term, but longer term IT, security and administration issues have not been thought through.

Second, IT's departmental budgets are being cut and they are being asked to do more with less. With only two arms and ten fingers, they are going to have to move to the cloud, whether they like it or not. IT must get users under control, and cloud services, especially those designed with IT and the organization (as opposed to just the end user) in mind will need to be at the top of their lists.

So why is this important? Because 2012 will be the year of “cloud commuting”. As organizations disperse, and telecommuting becomes a permanent reality in companies from small to large, creating an environment where employees always feel like they're working from headquarters is critical to organizational success. Consumerization of IT must be controlled, and cloud and hybrid cloud solutions are going to be the only way to cut costs, control the proliferation of good for the individual/bad for the company point solutions, and ensure survival in these hard economic times.

To hear more of why 2012 will be the year of cloud commuting, come along to my session at CloudBeat 2011.

Vineet Jain is CEO and co-founder of Egnyte. Prior to Egnyte, Vineet founded and successfully built Valdero, a supply chain software solution provider, funded by KPCB, MDV and Trinity Ventures. He has held a rich variety of senior operational positions at companies like KPMG, Bechtel etc. in the past. He has 20 years of experience in building capital-efficient and nimble organizations.

CloudBeat 2011CloudBeat 2011 takes place Nov 30 – Dec 1 at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, CA. Unlike any other cloud event, we'll be focusing on 12 case studies where we'll dissect the most disruptive instances of enterprise adoption of the cloud. Speakers include Aaron Levie, Co-Founder & CEO of Box.net; Amit Singh, VP of Enterprise at Google; Adrian Cockcroft, Director of Cloud Architecture at Netflix; Byron Sebastian, Senior VP of Platforms at Salesforce; Lew Tucker, VP & CTO of Cloud Computing at Cisco, Vineet Jain, CEO and co-founder of Egnyte and many more. Join 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. Spaces are very limited!

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Aol executive Brad Garlinghouse departs as talent stampede continues

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:15 PM PST

Senior Aol executive Brad Garlinghouse has left the company according to multiple sources.

Garlinghouse was in charge of the Applications and Commerce Group and headed up the company’s Silicon Valley operations from its Palo Alto office.

The news of Garlinghouse’s departure comes admist a slew of high-profile defections among Aol’s media properties.

Today, we learned TechCrunch senior editor Heather Harde left the company. Also, TechCrunch senior editor Sarah Lacy left the company this week for unspecified reasons according to Bloomberg.

While employed by Yahoo, Garlinghouse circulated his Peanut Butter Manifesto, a document which did a deep dive into structural problems at the company, and which was published in full by the Wall Street Journal. When Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz was fired in September, Garlinhouse famously tweeted “ding dong the witch is dead.”

Since Aol and The Huffington Post joined forces as part of $315 million cash acquisition that formed the Huffington Post Media Group, the exodus of talent from Aol has been a running theme. The company has had a high turnover rate for journalists in particular, and in March laid off more than 400 full-time writers across its verticals.

Several key members of gadget and technology blog Engadget left in a huff after Arianna Huffington was installed in their boss. They reformed as a new entity, The Verge, while publishing briefly under the site title This Is My Next.

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Facebook takes its hacker army to Washington, DC, for a Congressional hackathon

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:10 PM PST

Facebook is hosting its first-ever Congressional Facebook Developer Hackathon in the Capitol building in three weeks.

Interested developers and other parties can register for the event now.

Attendees of the bi-partisan event will include members of Congress, their staffers, developers and other tech-minded types. These folks will be hacking together for four hours “to explore the potential connections between legislative data, constituent correspondence and social media,” said Facebook today in a release.

On December 7, House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and minority whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will host the event from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm Eastern Time in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C.

Hoyer said in a statement, "Americans have a right to petition government, and new online technologies are giving that right exciting new possibilities.”

Hoyer continued to say that members of Congress should “embrace these technologies to make the legislative process as open and accessible as possible.

“We welcome the help and advice of industry leaders like Facebook, as well as individuals and academics who have innovative ideas on how to do so."

Over the past year, Facebook and Congress have been working at opposite ends of the same problem: using technologies to safely and securely allow more room online for various aspects of the democratic process. While the event itself will be brief and not every interested developer might be able to attend, the hackathon represents the ability of any good hacker with a great idea to have a huge impact on our government and legislation.

“As social media increasingly plays a central role in all areas of our everyday life, it is essential that Congress fully incorporate these platforms into its daily operations,” Cantor said in the same statement.

“Software developers, designers and program engineers have a unique opportunity to help us improve the legislative process resulting in more citizen engagement, and we are very excited about working together and getting started.”

Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

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Yelp IPO by the numbers

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 12:34 PM PST

Yelp filed for an initial public offering today. Here are some of the interesting numbers in the filing.

Net revenue for the first nine months of 2011 was $58.4 million, up 80 percent from a year earlier. About $40 million came from local advertising, $12.6 million from brand ads, and $5.4 million from other.

Yelp is seeking to raise about $100 million. The company has $23 million in cash.

Yelp lost $7.6 million for the nine-month period, compared to a loss of $8.5 million a year earlier.

The company has 22 million reviews on businesses as of Sept. 30, up 66 percent from a year ago. Yelp says there are more than 27 million businesses in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. Those local businesses spent $19.6 billion on online ads and $113.6 billion on traditional offline ads in 2010.

The service has 61 million monthly unique visitors, up 63 percent from a year ago.

Some 529,000 local businesses have claimed their locations on Yelp.

Yelp is in 65 markets around the world, compared to 49 a year ago.

Every second or so, a consumer looks up directions to or calls a local business from a Yelp mobile app.

Yelp recognized revenue from 19,000 active local business accounts for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 75 percent from a year ago.

The average Yelp review has more than 100 words.

During the quarter ended Sept. 30, contributors submitted over 25,000 reviews per day.

About 23 percent of businesses that have been reviewed are restaurants and another 23 percent are shopping locations. About 10 percent are home and local services, 9 percent are beauty and fitness, 8 percent are arts and entertainment and events, 5 percent are health, 4 percent are auto, 4 percent are nightlife and 4 percent are travel and hotel. About 10 percent are other.

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Review this: Yelp files for a $100M IPO

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 12:32 PM PST

Famed review website Yelp filed for a $100 million initial public offering today, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company has not been shy about its plans to IPO. Indeed, it even stated so at VentureBeat’s MobileBeat conference this year. Chief executive officer Jeremy Stoppelman said, "We're venture backed. We're going to go public."

The company began getting its IPO ducks in row with the late July hiring of Yelp chief financial officer Rob Krolik. Over the last two weeks, the company brought on its bankers, solidifying plans completely.

The filing states the company’s proposed maximum aggregate price is $100 million. In the first nine months of 2011, Yelp raked in $58.4 million in net revenue. That’s nearly $26 million more than it’s reported $32.5 million in the first nine months of 2010. The company earns money through local advertising, brand advertising along with other forms such as revenue from Yelp Deals, which the company recently scaled back to improve efficiency. The company also has revenue sharing agreements with OpenTable and Orbitz.

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