21 November, 2011



Shopkick partners with Visa to give customers more incentive to shop at a physical store

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:41 AM PST

Shopkick, VisaMobile rewards startup Shopkick has partnered with credit giant Visa to incentive-ize purchases made within a brick and mortar retail store, the companies announced today.

Basically, customers who shop at a handful of stores now have the ability to accumulate “Kicks” (reward points) when they use their Visa card. To participate, users need to download the Shopkick Android or iPhone app and link it to their Visa accounts. Some of the stores participating include Toys "R" Us, American Eagle Outfitters, Old Navy, Wet Seal and over 250 Simon Malls.

The “Buy and Collect” offers will pop up as notifications through the app on your phone when you enter a participating stores. Also, all eligible purchases that earn you Kicks are logged in the app so you can keep track of how many you have. Once you have enough Kicks, you can redeem them for other deals, coupons, vouchers and such.

“We think that today's news is a big deal, because it makes shopping way more fun and rewarding for consumers during the Holiday season, and it drives results for retailers,”said Shopkick co-founder and CEO Cyriac Roeding in an email to VentureBeat.

True enough, all retailers are looking for a competitive edge over their rivals this holiday season — especially with money tight and people seemingly trying to spend less on unnecessary items. The Shopkick partnership with Visa seems like a smart move because it allows customers and potential customers to participate without having to sign up for yet another rewards card.

Founded in 2009, the Palo Alto, California-based startup has raised a total of $20 million in funding to date.

Check out the video demo below that shows Shopkick in action.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Gree files suit against DeNA citing antitrust law violation

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:31 AM PST

Japanese social games company Gree and telecommunications firm KDDI have filed a joint lawsuit against DeNA, claiming that the social game developer and operator of the Mobage mobile social network is in violation of Japanese antitrust law.

The lawsuit alleges that DeNA failed to list links for games featured on its Japanese social network Mobage Town if the developers behind the games also appeared on Gree’s network. According to Gree, the company filed a cease and desist order against DeNA back on June 9, claiming that this represented unfair business practices as stipulated by the Japanese FTC.

“These illegal acts have not only hampered our business but have had a negative impact on other elements of the internet industry such as social game developers and telephone carriers,” Gree said in a statement. “Considering that this is still impacting many companies, we feel that this is a major barrier to ensuring a fair, competitive business environment.”

DeNA, meanwhile, has denied the allegations.

“It has been reported that Gree and KDDI Corporation have filed a lawsuit against DeNA Co., Ltd. regarding claims that DeNA violated Japan’s antitrust law,” the company said in a statement, “unofficially” translated from the original Japanese. “No contact had been made by the two companies to DeNA regarding the reported matter until today.

“Since DeNA has not received the official statement of complaint, it is unable to confirm its content at this moment. The two companies issued a press release that reads as if DeNA has been violating the antitrust law, but there is no such fact.”

In addition to being two of the largest social games companies in Japan, Gree and DeNA, which is the parent company of San Francisco-based social games company Ngmoco, are both preparing to launch major mobile gaming social networks worldwide, as well.

Filed under: games, mobile, social, VentureBeat

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HP’s earnings this afternoon will determine if Whitman is on right course

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:25 AM PST

Hewlett-Packard will report earnings today for the first quarter since Meg Whitman took over as chief executive of the technology industry giant in September.

Whitman wasn’t CEO for the entire quarter ended Oct. 31, so she won’t be entirely responsible for the company’s earnings performance. Leo Apotheker preceded Whitman in the top job but he was fired in September as the board lost confidence in his ability to communicate HP’s strategy. Analysts expect HP to post non-GAAP adjusted earnings of $1.16 a share on revenue of $32.2 billion, compared to $1.33 a share and revenue of $33.3 billion a year ago.

Since taking over, Whitman reversed Apotheker’s plan to sell or spin out the personal computer division. Whitman is expected to offer some guidance for HP’s expected performance in the coming fiscal year.

For the fiscal year 2012, analysts expected earnings of $4.56 a share on revenue of $127 billion in revenue. Such a performance would still make HP the tech industry’s largest revenue producer. But the stock doesn’t reflect that.

HP’s market capitalization is a weak $5.61 billion these days. By comparison Apple is worth $343.3 billion, Intel is worth $119.7 billion, and Microsoft is worth $210.1 billion.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Raise Cache: New Yorkers strut for Silicon Alley, raise over $100K for HackNY

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:20 AM PST

Raise Cache: Artsicle co-founder Alexis Tryon

On Thursday November 17th, 1,300 plus New York techies descended upon the Lexington Ave Armory to raise over $100,000 for HackNY, a nonprofit organization run out of Columbia and NYU that keeps young engineers off of the “street” (i.e. Wall Street) and in Silicon Alley, the burgeoning New York startup scene.

A combination fashion show and cocktail party, Raise Cache (get it?) showcased the hottest young things in New York tech, from venture capitalists and angels, to startup founders and tech journalists, strutting down the runway, modeling unique attire, much of which was supplied by fashion startups themselves. (Above, Artsicle co-founder Alexis Tryon.) Turntable FM and Dubset curated the music experience while booking NY Tech "celebrity" DJs including Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, Laren Leto of Texts from Last Night, and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare.

Skillshare, the startup democratizing education, helped to raise funds for the event (a little over $20,000) by allowing its teachers to teach and donate the profits from their classes to Raise Cache.

Rebecca Zhou, Kane Sarhan, and Ben Hindman organized the event, all mainstays in the rapidly growing NY Tech scene (Zhou is a 21-year-old computer science major at NYU and also a design advisor for TechStars).

All in all, Raise Cache raised just over $103,000 to date, an impressive feat that might not have been possible a year ago. This money will go to its next class of fellows, young engineers from around the country who will get placed with NY startups next summer for a paid internship and a highly valuable mentoring experience. At the event itself, due to poor acoustics and a bit of an awkward setup, there was some uncertainty as to what HackNY really did, and how it was associated (or not) with fashion…but at the end of the evening, the goal of $100,000 was still achieved.

Most importantly, the event was a testament to the growing NY Tech scene. It would not have been the same in Silicon Valley, where fashion startups are few and far between. NY Tech is distinctly different in that many of the startups evolve around already successful NY industries including fashion, commerce, finance, advertising, and media. And with Mayor Michael Bloomberg focusing on growing the sector by adding an engineering based institution and hiring Chief Digital Officer, it’s clear that events like Raise Cache will continue to influence the city and perhaps eventually the larger global engineering and technology community.

For now, its events like Raise Cache and the various hackathons around the city that continue to motivate a spirit of optimism and ambition in New York Tech. Even against the backdrop of bitter Occupy Wall Street protests, the spirit of New York Tech is continuing to shine, especially in focusing on innovation to solve some of the city’s and country's economic problems. Raise Cache embodied the need for engineers to continue working on disruptive innovation as opposed to flocking to Wall Street, and if this event was a litmus test, then HackNY will continue to be successful.

Raise Cache

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Gap pilots in-store DJ system, lets customers pick and play music

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:13 AM PST

Hey shopper: If you’ve got a problem with that Lady Gaga track playing overhead, why don’t you just whip out your iPhone or Android device and change it? That’s an option one Bay Area Gap store is giving its customers this holiday season.

The Gap has partnered with Berkeley-based startup Roqbot to pilot a new in-store music service at its Chestnut Street location in San Francisco. The store is now streaming music from the upstart’s catalog of more than six million tracks, and giving its customers the ability to select and queue up the songs heard overhead via Roqbot’s social DJ application.

Roqbot started as a jukebox replacement for bars, co-founder Garrett Dodge said, but the six-person company has recently expanded to other types of businesses, including barber shops and gyms. The operation remains small, with just several thousand users and roughly 15 locations in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and New York using its localized mobile and social alternative to the jukebox.

A Gap shopper can use the the Roqbot iPhone or Android application to check in to the location (and view her avatar on one of three in-store big screens), browse the store’s music catalog, play tracks of her choosing and vote on the selections played by other users. The application also hooks into Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare for fast and easy social sharing.

“They were looking for a better way to engage their customers around music,” Dodge told VentureBeat of the Gap’s interest in the startup’s social jukebox.

The pilot program started last week and will run through early 2012. If successful, you could soon find a similar setup in your neighborhood Gap store — and at other retail locations.

The young company now has eyes for the retail space. It has launched, in partnership with Cisco, a version of its service tailored specifically for retailers, aptly named Roqbot for Retail. The package deal comes with in-store digital displays and media players, and lets retailers customize their music catalog.

Roqbot has raised a small undisclosed sum of seed financing and is working on raising a larger round, Dodge said.

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Indie game Minecraft receiving over 240 million logins every month

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:06 AM PST

The indie video game sensation Minecraft is going from strength to strength, as demonstrated by figures unveiled at this weekend's Minecon convention in Las Vegas.

Minecraft has been around since 2009, but only received a formal release last Friday, with the Minecraft 1.0 iteration. Despite this, the game has more than 16 million registered users and has already sold over 4 million copies. Following the release of Minecraft 1.0, Gamefront have reported that logins to the game jumped from 1,000 per second to 4,000 per second.

Minecraft is currently attracting around 241,920,000 logins every single month, from players who have helped it generate an estimated $50 million in revenue since launch. Pretty impressive figures for a game that was initially created by one person, Markus Persson, and has been distributed without the support of a major digital distribution service such as Steam.

Minecraft has recently been pitched against big budget titles such as Battlefield 3 and Portal 2 in the Best PC Game category at this year's Video Game Awards, a move that was met with surprise and delight by Persson, who tweeted: “Wait, we’re up against “Best PC Game” against BF3, Witcher 2 and Portal 2!? Whoaa!”

Both an Android and iOS version of Minecraft have recently been released, and Minecraft developer Jens Bergenstein  revealed last week that these will eventually allow Android and iOS owners to play the game together. With an Xbox 360 Arcade version of the game also slated for release soon, could 2012 be an even bigger year for Minecraft? I certainly wouldn't bet against it.

Filed under: games

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Lawsuit filed against Electronic Arts for failing to keep Battlefield 3 promise

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 09:04 AM PST

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Electronic Arts by disgruntled Playstation 3 owners, unhappy that the company failed to provide the extra content with Battlefield 3 that had been promised. Battlefield 1943, the best-selling Playstation Network title, was supposed to have been included with PS3 copies of Battlefield 3, but it failed to materialize, leaving many gamers frustrated and disappointed.

Many publishers are now bundling copies of earlier games with their most recent titles, in order to help boost sales. THQ recently announced that Saints Row 2 is being made available with purchases of Saints Row The Third, and EA themselves have included extra games with their latest titles on more than one occasion.

In the case of Battlefield 3, Patrick Bach, Executive Producer at DICE, announced at the E3 video game conference in June, that the PS3 version of Battlefield 3 would also include the full Battlefield 1943 game on the Blu-ray disc. Fast forward to the launch of Battlefield 3 in October, however, and this promised PS3 exclusive content was missing, with no formal announcement explaining the omission.

The first acknowledgement of the issue came from the official @Battlefield Twitter account, on October 25, in response to a customer inquiry. The tweet stated that "In lieu of 1943 being available on disk for PS3 customers, EA has made all BF3 expansions available early to PS3 customers", despite the fact that this exclusivity had already been announced back in September. Whilst some customers may have been happy with this explanation, and some may never have known about the Battlefield 1943 offer, others are still feeling aggrieved enough to try and take EA to court over the matter.

The lawsuit, which has been filed by law firm Edelson McGuire, alleges that EA "misled and profited from thousands of their customers by making a promise that they could not, and never intended, to keep." Kotaku  report that the individuals involved in filing the law suit are simply looking to receive the free copy of Battlefield 1943 that they had been promised.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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65% of tablet buyers want the iPad, 22% want Kindle Fire, says survey

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 08:18 AM PST

Amazon’s cheap Kindle Fire is indeed chipping away at the iPad’s dominance among potential tablet buyers — at least, according to one survey.

65 percent of people who said they’re interested in buying a tablet are planning to get Apple’s $499 iPad, while 22 percent are looking forward to the $199 Kindle Fire, according to the latest report from ChangeWave Research.

The company surveyed 3,043 consumers in North America, 14 percent of whom said they planned to buy a tablet within the next 90 days (the above numbers come out of this smaller portion of responses). That’s a big jump over ChangeWave’s data from last year, in which only 4 percent said they wanted to buy a tablet (when the iPad was really the only choice for most consumers). In August, the company found only 6 percent of consumers were interested in getting a tablet.

The cause of the big shift between August and this most recent survey is plain to see: The arrival of the cheap Kindle Fire is pushing many consumers to finally snap up a tablet. JP Morgan has estimated that Amazon could sell up to 5 million Kindle Fire units this year. For the more discerning customer, disappointed by the Kindle Fire’s middling reviews, its release may convince them to bite the bullet and get an iPad.

Among other tablet choices, 4 percent of potential buyers say they want Samsung’s Galaxy Tab (the exact model is unclear). ChangeWave notes that no other manufacturer reached above 1 percent of consumer demand in its survey (sorry, Barnes & Noble).

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Nintendo 3DS bundles featuring Zelda and Mario land Nov. 24

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 08:03 AM PST


Nintendo will launch its first 3DS bundles featuring some of Nintendo’s best-known characters in just a few days, the company announced Monday.

The 3DS handheld has been plagued with troubles since its debut in March 2011 because consumers haven’t shown as much interest in the console as Nintendo and its investors had hoped. Demand for the 3DS has improved since the company dropped the price from $250 to $170 in August. And now that the console has a brand-new game starring Mario and a remake of one of the best Legend of Zelda titles, the device finally has decent software support.

Nintedo will launch two Nintendo 3DS bundles on Nov. 24, one packaged with the excellent Super Mario Land 3D and the other including the classic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. The Mario bundle will include a Mario-red 3DS, but the Zelda bundle has a black 3DS with “Hyrule emblem and gold-colored embellishments.”

The 3DS bundles will sell for $200 (which saves you about $10) and will be available from most major retailers.

Are you interested in picking up a 3DS now that it’s cheaper and features a better selection of games?

Filed under: games

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Bigger Kindle Fires may be coming in 2012

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 07:14 AM PST

Amazon may be launching at least one larger version of the Kindle Fire in the first half of 2012.

According to DigiTimes, the Taiwanese blog with deep connections in manufacturer supply chains, Amazon is preparing to release the device in new 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch screen sizes. The 8.9-inch size is said to be prepping for launch first.

Currently, the Kindle Fire ships with a 7-inch color touchscreen.

Earlier this month, DigiTimes said the 8.9 inch displays would be coming from suppliers Chunghwa Picture Tubes and LG Displays.

Now, the blog’s sources name Samsung as an additional supplier of the 8.9-inch screens and say the larger screen sizes are due to the suppliers’ promotion of those 8.9-inch touchscreen panels.

Supply chain sources also said Amazon was trying to sidestep direct competition with tablet manufacturers releasing products in the 9.7-inch to 10.1-inch range. Such devices would include Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, HP’s Touchpads, Skytex’s Windows tablets and Apple’s iPad.

Supply chain sources are also naming Foxconn as Amazon’s latest ODM (original design manufacturer). Foxconn, which also produces a great deal of Apple merchandise, will join Quanta as a manufacturer of 7-inch Kindle Fires and will begin production of the 8.9-inch models in the spring of 2012.

The 8.9-inch Kindle Fire units may be ready for sale as soon as June 2012.

The original Kindle Fire had its launch event back in September. The device sells at a low $199 price point and started shipping a week ago.

Amazon expects to sell 5 million Kindle Fire units during the holiday shopping season.

The company is also reportedly working on a smartphone, also with Foxconn.

Filed under: gadgets

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Runkeeper scores $10M round to expand its fitness platform

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 07:00 AM PST

RunKeeper founder Jason Jacobs dressed as an iPhoneRunKeeper, a small startup that makes a run- and workout-tracking platform, has raised an impressive $10 million second round of funding.

The money will give the company a shot at its greatest ambition: Becoming a widely-used platform for measuring, tracking and reporting a variety of health and fitness data, including exercise, nutrition, sleep and other factors.

The company started out making an iPhone app that tracks runs, using the GPS built into the phone to log where you run, how fast, and to estimate how many calories you’re burning. It later added Android, Windows Phone 7 and Symbian versions of the app. At the same time, the company built out the reporting and graphing tools on its website. (I’ve been a customer of RunKeeper for several years, using it to log my runs, swims, and occasionally my ride to work.)

In June, RunKeeper decided that the best way to compete against the numerous other fitness-tracking services, like MapMyRun and Nike+, was to make itself into an extensible platform. RunKeeper’s Health Graph opened up RunKeeper’s API to outside developers, enabling it to work with other mobile apps, as well as additional devices, such as the Zeo sleep-tracking device and Polar heart-rate monitors.

Developers have now integrated RunKeeper with more than 40 different apps or devices, and several hundred are in the works, according to CEO and cofounder Jason Jacobs, who somehow still manages to log long runs even though he’s running a startup.

“It isn’t just apps/devices sending us health info, it is also companies building on top of all of this aggregated health data, such as corporate wellness platforms like Limeade, fitness rewards platforms like Earndit, and fitness games like Fitocracy,” Jacobs said in an emailed statement.

“The early success of the Health Graph has showed us that the world is ready for someone to step up and build a consumer health platform that ties together all of this disparate health information across categories.  It also showed us just how much work is left to be done to make this vision a reality.”

The investment, which is RunKeeper’s B round, comes from Spark Capital and Revolution Ventures. Bijan Sabet from Spark Capital is joining the company’s board (along with existing board members Bryce Roberts from OATV, Jacobs, and co-founder Michael Sheeley), while Tige Savage from Revolution will become a board observer.

RunKeeper has 14 employees and hopes to reach 40 by the end of 2012. It is based in Boston, and has raised $1.5M prior to this round.

“We hope that this financing round sends a message that the world is ready for a breakout consumer health platform to emerge, and that we are the one to bet on,” Jacobs said.

Image: RunKeeper founder Jason Jacobs, dressed as his company’s iPhone app.


Filed under: VentureBeat

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A List Games raises $9.3M to market digital games

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 07:00 AM PST

A List Games announced today it has raised $9.3 million in a second round of seed funding so that it can continue to market games via digital distribution.

The funding comes from parent company Ayzenberg Group, a digital marketing company. A List Games’ tries to take the big risks out of traditional video game publishing deals. Many indie game makers are scrappy enough to find their own capital, so A List Games hasn’t focused on funding games; it has focused on marketing them. That's a big difference between what A List will do and what a traditional publisher does. A List Games calls itself a "go to market" company. While it won't fund games, it will fund the marketing plans for the games. In exchange, it negotiates how it can be paid: perhaps by getting a share of royalties or some other way.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based startup, (which goes by the spelling [a]list games), focuses on creative ways to get games discovered, which is one of the major problems now that there are hundreds of thousands of apps appearing on app stores and web sites. A List Games tries to get games noticed and drive up purchase intent in digital game markets.

The company funds and executes advertising, public relations and marketing programs in return for a share of revenue. With new money from Ayzenberg, the company can pursue more partnerships with makers of high-end digital games, particularly in the fast-growing sectors of free-to-play PC, tablet and mobile games. In free-to-play games, users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods.

An example of the way A List Games works is the title pictured above, APB Reloaded. That online game was developed over five years at a cost of more than $80 million. But it launched last year amid poor reviews and the original publisher Realtime Worlds went bankrupt. The monthly subscription game was shut down in September. Then GamersFirst, an operator of free-to-play games, acquired the title and relaunched it using the free-to-play model.

GamersFirst put the title back into development, with about 25 or so of the original APB team members working in a new studio, Reloaded Productions. Realtime Worlds founder and APB creator Dave Jones joined the board. The developers focused on redoing the shooting and driving mechanics, which dragged down the original game. They also revised the customizaiton engine. The game relaunched now it has about 850,000 registered users in the open beta test.

In partnership with GamersFirst’s marketers, A List Games is helping with the marketing of the crime game, which it now markets as “be all that you CAN’T be.” A List is investing in a big online ad campaign, where it can apply marketing tools and techniques based on actual user acquisition data. A List purchases ads on a cost-per-acquisition basis, enabling better return on investment for ads. A List is also promoting different offers for in-game virtual goods.  And A List has a number of affiliate and other types of marketing partnerships as well as sharing programs. The latter focuses on getting existing fans to share aspects of the game with their friends.

A List focuses on the marketing, but it is unlike publishers that often also focus on development oversight and intellectual property ownership.

"There is a major shift in the game industry as developers move from traditional retail games to digital, many of them with a legacy of making hits," said Steve Fowler, general manager of A List Games.  "This is showing a trend towards digital games that rival anything sold in a store in production quality and game play depth.  It's also leading to greater competition to draw bigger audiences."

Market analyst DFC Intelligence recently reported that the worldwide market for digital games last year was $19.3 billion, or about a third of the overall revenue of the game industry. That is expected to nearly double to $37.9 billion by 2013, when digital games will be bigger than console games.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for us to introduce new integrated creative and marketing techniques that draw upon everything we have learned in 18 years of marketing games," said Eric Ayzenberg, chief strategist and chief creative officer of Ayzenberg Group.  "We have proprietary tools built to create campaign transparency and a greater degree of efficiency and trust for our partners, along with more powerful results.”

He added, “They allow us to optimize throughout all marketing stages, just like game makers currently change their games daily to keep the experience fresh. We want to do the same thing during our marketing process to keep our consumer communication entertaining and relevant.”

Fowler said that APB Reloaded is successful as a free-to-play game, and the marketing programs such as traditional ad buys to creative customer acquisition programs are in full force.

Another game that A List Games is marketing is War Inc. Battlezone from Online Warmongers. A List Games was founded in February 2011 with seed money from Ayzenberg. The seasoned staff includes senior marketers from Microsoft, Disney, Activision-Blizzard and Rockstar Games.

A List Games’ advisory board includes David Cole, CEO of DFC Intelligence; Ed Fries, entrepreneur and former creator of Microsoft Game Studios; analyst Michael Pachter, managing director at Wedbush Morgan Securities; Greg Short, President and CEO of market analyst firm EEDAR; Ben Straley, CEO of Meteor Solutions; Alyssa Padia Walles, co-founder of Big Screen Gaming; and Jordan Weisman, founder of Harebrained Schemes.

A List Games has six employees with access to 70 people in Ayzenberg. Its competitors are marketing departments within traditional game publishers.

Filed under: deals, games

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Adobe: Android 4.0 will get Flash by end of 2011, will be last version for Android

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 06:49 AM PST

Adobe may be giving up on mobile Flash, but it’s going to get one more version out for Google’s upcoming Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” before it gives up the ghost.

The company confirmed today that it will release a version of Flash for Android 4.0 before the end of the year (can you imagine that’s little more than a month away?), reports the mobile site Pocket-Lint. But, staying true to its word, Adobe said that will be the last version of Flash for Android, and it will instead only provide bug fixes and critical security updates.

Earlier this month, Adobe announced that it would be stopping development on mobile Flash to focus on HTML5 and mobile apps. “HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively,” Adobe’s Danny Winokur wrote at the time. “This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."

Android device makers have been heavily touting Flash support as a key feature in their products, but Adobe’s dismissal of its own technology will likely put a stop to that in the future. The lack of Flash in future mobile devices will hopefully spur on the adoption of HTML5 for video and interactive site elements — something that, so far, has been driven by Apple’s Flash-free iOS devices.

As I’ve written previously, despite all of Adobe's assurances about Flash's viability on mobile over the past few years, we've yet to see the technology perform on mobile as well as it does on desktops. Flash is still a slow performing battery hog on most devices. While dropping its mobile Flash ambitions is certainly a black eye for Adobe, and a validation of all of the complaints Steve Jobs brought up in his infamous "Thoughts on Flash" missive, the company will be better off in the long run. And for consumers, it means we'll finally get to see some real mobile innovation from Adobe.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Apple’s biggest store ever to be revealed tomorrow in Grand Central Station

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 06:44 AM PST

Apple’s Grand Central store may be revealed as soon as tomorrow morning.

According to 9to5mac, which has been chronicling the construction of the venue, workers will arrive Tuesday and remove black boards that currently obfuscate the store’s facade. At that point, the location will be officially announced as a new Apple store.

When it opens, this new location will be the largest Apple Store in the world.

The store will be the workplace of an estimated 300+ employees, who have been meeting and training to prepare for the store’s Black Friday opening date.

Here’s a walkthrough of the space the store will occupy, shot before construction began:

Currently, Grand Central Station is home to around 79 restaurants, banks and consumer-focused retailers, from Banana Republic to Eata Pita. During the year-end holidays, the area also holds the Holiday Fair, where 72 craftspeople, artisans and importers to peddle their wares in the 12,000-foot Vanderbilt Hall.

Around 750,000 people go through Grand Central Station each day. Demographics skew male, slightly older (the median age is 41) and overwhelmingly college-educated (93 percent of commuters through this station have at least obtained bachelor’s degrees). Grand Central Station passengers are also relatively well off, with 70 percent of them having a household income exceeding $100,000.

In addition to regular commuters, the location also sees an influx of tourists, especially around the holidays, when the station’s number of daily visitors swells to one million people.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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eBay has acquired recommendations service Hunch

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 06:37 AM PST

eBay has acquired recommendations platform Hunch, according to a press release issued Monday morning. The company did not disclose terms of the deal.

Sources told former TechCrunch editor-in-chief and current CrunchFund investor Michael Arrington that the purchase price was around $80 million.

Hunch, founded by serial entrepreneurs Caterina Fake, Chris Dixon and Tom Pinckney, launched in 2009 as a question-and-answer decision engine. The startup later switched gears to focus on building a “taste graph” to connect web users around their affinities. The site uses this data to make predictions about its users and provide them with personalized content recommendations.

“Hunch's technology talent and its deep expertise in areas like machine learning, data mining and predictive modeling are expected to help eBay expand and grow merchandising and relevance capabilities to further improve the shopping and selling experience for eBay customers,” eBay said in a statement. “Hunch will enable eBay to move beyond standard item-to-item recommendations and use a broader variety of members' online tastes and interests to suggest new and interesting items for them to browse and buy on eBay.”

Hunch, a New York-based company, had raised more than $19 million dollars in funding before being acquired.

[Image via Flickr/Rob Blatt]

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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NOLAbound opens applications to lure entrepreneurs to New Orleans

Posted: 21 Nov 2011 06:00 AM PST

The city of New Orleans today is rolling out the social media red carpet for aspiring entrepreneurs, as applications open for NOLABound, with the hopes of spurring a startup scene in the Crescent City. Think of it as a mini-dose of the TechStars meets The Real World New Orleans.

The NOLABound program will provide travel stipends for 25 individuals interested in starting arts-based businesses, those in the biosciences, digital media, and sustainable industries, to spend five days in the city and share their experiences interacting with the New Orleans entrepreneur community on the NOLABound website. Applications will close on Dec. 16, and the program period runs from Mar. 14-Mar. 18, 2012, which partially overlaps with New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The experience of the participants will also be filmed as part of a documentary to highlight the growing stature of New Orleans as a entrepreneurial destination.

NOLABound is being overseen by Idea Village, The Downtown Development District of New Orleans, and Greater New Orleans, Inc., and has received money from the U.S. Department of Commerce‘s Economic Development Administration.

New Orleans was hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Region in August of 2005. A slow recovery effort by the federal government and FEMA left the citizens of this dynamic cultural hub scattered to the winds. Prior to the storm New, Orleans was heavily dependent on oil drilling as well tourism and entertainment for its economic livelihood. With NOLAbound, the city is hoping to make a strong case that the so-called Big Easy is place for work and play alike.

"Innovators and entrepreneurs need to consider NOLA for a unique mix of culture and business that is nurturing the startup community here,” said entrepreneur Patrick Comer, who set up his most recent company, Federated Sample, in New Orleans and was quoted in NOLAbound’s press statement. “The rich vein of creativity is unlike anything else I've seen, and the system of technology development and angel investor tax credits creates immediate return for both investors and startups." Federated Sample is a New Orleans-based online market research company that currently employs 22 people, and has received $2.8 million in investment.

[New Orleans musicians image vis ShutterStock]

Filed under: Entrepreneur Corner, green

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Oracle accuses HP and Intel of secretly keeping dead Itanium chip alive

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 03:21 PM PST

intel-itanium-9300-processorOracle filed court documents late last week contending that Hewlett-Packard and Intel have secretly been keeping the unpopular Itanium server chip alive, even though no one wants to buy it.

“HP has secretly contracted with Intel to keep churning out Itaniums so that HP can maintain the appearance that a dead microprocessor is still alive,” according to a filing obtained by All Things D. “The whole thing is a remake of Weekend at Bernie's."

Oracle and HP have been in a contentious legal battle since June, when HP sued Oracle for ending software support for the Intel Itanium chip. HP is the only major vendor that sells servers with the Itanium chip, but the most popular servers (and software for those servers) run on Intel’s x86-based chips.

HP claims Oracle ended its Itanium support because Oracle acquired Sun Micrososystems and its server business, which use the x86-based chips. HP also has suggested that Oracle wants to convince current and potential Itanium server customers that they should only be interested in x86 servers.

Intel said in a statement, “We are not a party in this litigation and will not comment on litigation where we are not a party.  And, we never comment on confidential agreements between us and other companies.”

And HP’s response to the filing reads:

This filing is just the latest in [Oracle's] ongoing campaign to shore up its failing Sun server business and starve thousands of existing Itanium customers who rely on their Itanium processors for mission-critical activities.

As Oracle well knows, HP and Intel have a contractual commitment to continue to sell mission-critical Itanium processers to our customers through the next two generations of microprocessors, thus ensuring the availability of Itanium through at least the end of the decade. HP is resolved to enforcing Oracle’s commitments to HP and our shared customers and will continue to take actions to protect its customers’ best interests. It is time for Oracle to quit pursuing baseless accusations and honor its commitments to HP and to our shared customers in a timely manner.

Filed under: enterprise

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Windows Phone Marketplace surpasses 40,000 apps

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 02:30 PM PST

windows-phone-appsMicrosoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform now features more than 40,000 apps and games in its Marketplace, according to All About Windows Phone.

While Microsoft’s fledgling smartphone operating system is way behind in adoption compared to iOS and Android, there are signs that Windows Phone is poised to pick up a lot of steam in 2012, and its phones will feature less-expensive hardware options, 4G LTE and NFC capabilities. 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. One thing that will likely help its growth will be Nokia, which has bet the house on Windows Phone 7 and recently debuted its slick-looking Lumia 800 and 710 smartphones.

Back in August, the Windows Marketplace hit the 30,000-app mark and hit the 35,000 mark in October, an indication that developers are beginning to see the value in having a Windows Phone app on top of having one for iOS and Android. Microsoft has been paying the development costs for some high-profile companies to make Windows Phone 7 apps, as well as coaxing webOS developers to move to the Windows Phone platform since HP decided to stop manufacturing webOS devices.

Apple's App Store has more than 500,000 apps while the Google Android Market has more than 300,000 apps. The 40,000 mark may not sound like much compared to those much larger numbers, but it's more impressive when you consider the Windows Phone platform is only about a year old.

To get an even better idea of Windows Phone 7′s app growth, take a look at the graph below:


Filed under: mobile

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Review: Need for Speed: The Run falls miles behind Hot Pursuit

Posted: 20 Nov 2011 10:09 AM PST

Need for Speed: The Run is Electronic Arts' newest installment in the long-running franchise and the next try at restoring the series back to its glory days. After long hours of race after race, and car after car, EA convinced me it is taking a step backwards yet again by providing one of the biggest letdowns of the year.

With hype surrounding the title, gamers are up in arms about EA's new story-driven approach in The Run. Taking the series in an entirely new direction, EA's hope is to return the series to its former self-full of innovation and quality. Hiring Michael Bay, well-known film director of the Transformers films, started the new approach by directing the trailer for the game. Bringing in a big time director for the trailer was supposed to get people's attention. It was a success in doing that, and even brought a little faith and hope to the franchise, however short lived it might be.

From the franchise's introduction in the mid 90's, Need for Speed made a name for itself by providing racers with a huge library of cars, always entertaining tracks and a new, imaginative approach to racers. As the demand for the series skyrocketed, so did the production, but as time passed, EA tried to make too many of the games, and the quality suffered tremendously. As this happened, sales dropped substantially, and a total reboot was in order. The first reboot product was Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, released last year, and critics raved that Need for Speed was back on track.

Now, in an industry full of good, quality racing games such as Forza, Burnout and Gran Turismo, the need to stay on top has never been more present. Need for Speed: The Run was supposed to be the outstanding continuation of the series, but instead, falls short of expectations and it is doubtful that it will match its predecessor's success.

The Story is the Fast and the Furious Gone Wrong 

After seeing the trailer for the first time, I thought the game looked absolutely intense. I was never overly thrilled with the storytelling of Need for Speed games, but this one looked to be the one to change it all. The story revolves around Jack Rourke, who is singled out by the mob. Needing a lot of money to pay them off, he takes a job to race across the U.S. to hopefully change his luck. To me, it sounds like you could do a lot with that premise, and the trailer portrayed the story as nothing short of amazing. Unfortunately, playing the story mode won't give you much more insight than that in regards to the main character and why he races across country for the cash.

Although it does try to present a "story," the cut scenes (movie-like animated sequences) are unexciting and at times downright cliché. The dialogue tries to be dramatic, but ends up being a minimal attempt at something that could have been special. At the end of the day, it was too generic and never goes into any detail about the mob or why Jack owes the money.

Another point of game play implemented in the newest installment is the button mashing cut scenes, which made it even worse. I was thoroughly disappointed with the story and pressing certain buttons at certain times to break away from the cops or run away provided a crushing blow to the game that promised an awe inspiring story with its trailer.


Whew, while playing through the game and now writing this review,  the word, reset, keeps playing over and over in my brain. Need for Speed: The Run has incorporated a new way to keep its games a little less monotonous while also providing a “redo” if something goes wrong. They chose to bring this in, and I'm getting off the fence and walking away from this new "help."

I do welcome any help to the Need for Speed series in changing the restarts. I don't know about the rest of the racing gamers out there, but I thoroughly despise getting to the end of the race, having kept the lead the entire time and then losing in the last second. That forces you to start all over again and have the outcome up in the air every time. The idea of the reset is one of absolute genius. However, the idea on paper isn’t realized well in the game.

The game resets too many times with terrible reasoning. For instance, there is an out of bounds to the racetrack. At times, you can drive a little off the track, and it will reset you to the last checkpoint you crossed. This is extremely frustrating when you have veered off just a little to avoid an obstacle or to pass an opponent, knowing you can easily counteract your mistake and be  fine. Instead, it will reset to a previous time often too far in the past causing curse words to spew out and controllers to be thrown.

It will also reset if you lose the race or wreck the car. For me, it was hard to watch as it reset every time I crashed into something. This is the Need for Speed series, which I thought meant I could use my usual method of crashing into all types of objects and still be able to keep going. I was wrong in this assumption. The reset is all knowing and will not allow crazy driving shenanigans.

Overall, the resetting was too much to handle. If the kinks are worked out, it would be something nice to have as an option, but until then, it should be left out.

Not all of Need for Speed: The Run is wrecked though. The story and some design flaws weigh it down heavily, but EA does reset to a time of quality over quantity in some parts, offering more than meets the eye.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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