04 February, 2012



European Playstation Network store broken following maintenance

Posted: 04 Feb 2012 08:55 AM PST

Following scheduled maintenance last week, the Playstation Network store in Europe, Australia and New Zealand is no longer working for many users. The problem, reported widely across the European Playstation forums, is that no content can be downloaded from the store, and download lists of previously purchased content are inaccessible.

With so many games requiring online passes to activate multiplayer content, or even to unlock single player elements, this lack of store functionality is a big issue. If the problems with the store continue, this is likely to impact a lot of gamers over the weekend in the affected regions.

While the digital storefront is still usable, and items can be purchased, they can not be downloaded. When attempting to look at their download history, many users are simply receiving the error code 80023102, along with the message “No content was found”.

Community Moderator SuperFastZombie responded to the first reports of this issue on 3 Feb, saying, "This is an issue we are aware of following the PSN maintenance last night. We are currently working on a fix, there should be nothing you have to do your end so please bear with us and I will update this thread as soon as its sorted."

Reports of this problem have come in from many countries across European, including the UK, France, Spain and The Netherlands. It is also affecting accounts held in Australia and New Zealand. The problem does not seem to be affecting all European Playstation Network accounts, with some users reporting that they can still download store content. The North American store appears to be working normally.

A second update from SuperFastZombie was provided a few hours ago, but it gives no clue as to when the situation is likely to be resolved:

“Update – As of this morning I can confirm that we are still working to resolve this issue.  For those of you worried about losing content I can assure you that this is not the case.  Your download lists and purchase history have not been affected, the problem is the ability to access them from your console.

Once this is fixed all your content will be available as before. I will keep you updated even if there is no update, if that makes sense?”

We will update this post if we hear any further news.

Filed under: games

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VBWeekly: IPO, IP-Schmo.

Posted: 04 Feb 2012 08:44 AM PST

This week we talk about the IPO heard ’round the world, that of Dutch antivirus outfit AVG.

Wait, that’s the IPO y’all were talking about, right?

Of course, we get into some of the nitty gritty gossip around the Facebook IPO, from what the MySpace CEO had to say about it to how Mr. Mark Zuckerberg used some clever contractual maneuvers to maintain control of the company and its board.

And what would VB Weekly be without a little fun and games? We chat about our Dean Takahashi’s recent exclusive interview with game creator Lord British, a.k.a. Richard Garriott, who says he’ll be writing his next video from space. No kidding.

Filed under: video

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GamesBeat weekly news roundup

Posted: 04 Feb 2012 08:00 AM PST

Here’s some of the stories that ran only on GamesBeat this week. We’re running more stories exclusively on the GamesBeat section of VentureBeat now, particularly when the stories are mainly of interest to game readers. The broader interest stories are running on VentureBeat as well. And please visit the GamesBeat section to catch up on game news. We're ramping up our game coverage, so you'll find more and more news at GamesBeat.

Here’s some of the stories that appeared exclusively on GamesBeat:

Hardcore social game firm Kabam moves its headquarters to San Francisco

Gene Simmons says a KISS Angry Birds game is coming

PSN to get new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 maps on Feb. 28

Ubisoft server transition will make always-on DRM games unplayable

Trion Worlds announces Rift Lite, offers first 20 levels of online game for free

PlayStation Network to be down for maintenance most of Thursday

Online Warmongers' founder on building a balanced free-to-play shooter (interview)

100 year old gamer uses Nintendo DS to keep her mind active

Tips and Tricks: The Final Fantasy XIII-2 game guide

Classic online game EverQuest celebrates 13th birthday with switch to free to play business model

Speech recognition trial uses DS consoles to help children with hearing difficulties

And don’t miss some of our bigger stories in gaming this week. We had some great exclusives

The DeanBeat: Billionaire Mark Pincus breaks out of quiet period (exclusive interview)

Review: How Final Fantasy XIII-2 saves the franchise…for now

Curt Schilling anxiously awaits his "opening day for games" (interview)

Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley launches mobile-game startup with Atari arcade veterans

THQ CEO admits confidence was "misplaced" on children's video games

Elite game group recruits board members from the new guard at Nexon and Zynga

Richard "Lord British" Garriott in space: "I might just sit up in my window in orbit and write the next game" (interview)

Zynga CEO: We aren't the copycats on Bingo social game (exclusive interview)

Buffalo Studios blasts Zynga for copying Bingo Blitz social game

Spry Fox sues 6waves Lolapps for copying Triple Town game



Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Anonymous defaces Haditha Massacre lawfirm website, releases e-mails

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 07:08 PM PST

Puckett Faraj websiteAnonymous defaced the website of law firm Puckett Faraj this morning and leaked e-mails concerning the sergeant accused of handling 2005′s Haditha Massacre in Iraq.

Sergeant Frank Wuterich was charged with a 2005 US Marine raid in Iraq, which killed 24 unarmed civilians. Wuterich was convicted of negligent dereliction, ending his wait for a homicide trial in a plea bargain. Anonymous released 3GB of e-mails regarding the case and the massacre itself. The group published these e-mails first on a Darknet website, or a site intended to be used when anonymity is desired, as well as to The Pirate Bay. The group also defaced the lawfirm’s website, which is still down for us.

The website deface read, “As part of our ongoing efforts to expose the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of US imperialism, we want to bring attention to USMC SSgt Frank Wuterich who along with his squad murdered dozens of unarmed civilians during the Iraqi Occupation. Can you believe this scumbag had his charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter and got away with only a pay cut?”

Earlier today, the group announced that they had hacked into an FBI conversation with Scotland Yard. The two organizations were discussing a pair of British suspects, accused of acting as a part of Anonymous, as well as how to make more arrests. After the news came out about the call, Sabu, a Twitter personality for Anonymous, tweeted that there was more to come.

“You think we’re done? Fuck no. Sit back and prepare for the next release coming in mere minutes my brothers and sisters,” Sabu said in regards to the Puckett hack.

Shortly after, another Anonymous Twitter bullhorn, @AnonymousIRC, tweeted that the defacement went live and linked to the website.

“Puckett-Faraj lawyers in case Haditha-Wuterich OWND HARD by #AntiSec http://www.puckettfaraj.com/ #Anonymous #OWS.”

According to Gawker, some of the e-mails contain congratulatory messages to Puckett for the settlement. In one of the e-mails Neal Puckett, Wuterich’s lawyer, tells a woman who congratulated him to “Google me!” Anonymous also promised detailed transcripts, donation records and case evidence in the 3GBs of e-mails.

via Gawker

Filed under: security

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Facebook worth $94B, private market says

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 04:30 PM PST

Now that Facebook is fast on its way to becoming a public company, and its financials have been laid bare, there’s just one question that remains unanswered: What is Facebook actually worth?

A private market transaction completed Thursday may provide us with best the answer yet.

One hundred thousand Class B common stock shares were sold for $40 a pop on SharesPost, according to information obtained by Bloomberg News and confirmed by the private capital market. The sale, factoring in a fully diluted total share count of 2.35 billion, values the social network at $94 billion.

Facebook filed to become a public company Wednesday, and it hopes to raise $5 billion in its initial public offering later this year. The company, which touts 845 million monthly active users and an extremely profitable advertising business, could be valued between $75 and $100 billion on its stock market debut.

But the $100 billion figure is fairly optimistic, says one Internet IPO expert.

“The $100 billion number that has been circulated so widely … is all based on 5 percent of the shares being worth potentially $5 billion,” Peter Adriaens, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, said in an interview with VentureBeat yesterday. “You can’t just apply a multiplier using 5 percent of the shares.”

Of course, speculation as to what the social networking company is actually worth will continue to run rampant leading up to and even following its IPO, especially considering that Facebook has veiled the important particulars behind its prized money-maker.

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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What’s Google up to? Search giant is testing an “entertainment device”

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 03:16 PM PST

Google has asked the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for permission to use an undisclosed new “entertainment device” in four major cities over the next six months.

The information came from a FCC application Google submitted in December, which was uncovered by Gigaom. The mystery device will connect to the Internet over a home Wi-Fi network and then sync up with other (probably mobile) devices via Bluetooth.

While details of what the actual device is aren’t included in the application, it almost certainly has something to do with Google TV. Using the data transfer process described in the application, the device could be a way for people to grab video content from the Internet and distribute it to all the other mobile devices. The benefit of transferring content in this way would be that people wouldn’t be exhausting their broadband Internet connections, meaning it wouldn’t slow down the connection for anyone else on the network. Also, people with wireless plans wouldn’t have to worry about hitting data caps just because they wanted to download a few episodes of a TV show once or twice a week.

The application indicates that over 250 devices will be used in Mountain View, Calif.; New York City; Los Angeles Calif.; and Cambridge, Mass.

We’ve pasted the full description from the FCC application below. Let us know your theories in the comments section.

Testing throughput and stability of home WiFi networks using an entertainment device. Testing will include functional testing of all subsystems, including WiFi and Bluetooth radio. Users will connect their device to home WiFi networks and use Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment. This line of testing will reveal real world engineering issues and reliability of networks. The device utilizes a standard WiFi/Bluetooth module, and the planned testing is not directed at evaluating the radio frequency characteristics of the module (which are known), but rather at the throughput and stability of the home WiFi networks that will support the device, as well as the basic functionality of the device. From this testing we hope to modify the design in order to maximize product robustness and user experience. Utilizing the requested number of units will allow testing of real world network performance and its impact on applications running on the device, so that any problems can be discovered and addressed promptly. All devices will be used by and registered to specific individuals (all Google employees), and Google will maintain a record of each device, so that they can be easily recalled at any time during testing and when testing is complete. The devices will be tested at Google facilities and within employees residences in the following areas: Mountain View, CA: 37.421265 N, -122.085314 W; Los Angeles, CA: 33.995388 N, -118.477035 W; Cambridge, MA: 42.362754 N, -71.088023 W; and New York, NY: 40.741872 N, -74.004579 W.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Ouch: Panasonic forecasts staggering $10B annual loss

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 02:14 PM PST

shutterstock-money-drain-panasonicJapanese electronics manufacturer Panasonic is projecting it will lose a record $10.2 billion (780 billion yen) in 2012 as it tries to fix its struggling TV business, the company said Friday.

Panasonic will join Japanese rivals Sony and Sharp in trying to revamp and restructure its business to achieve profitability again. Together, those three companies expect to lose around $17 billion. That loss highlights just how battered Japan’s electronics businesses have been by South Korea’s Samsung and LG.

One of the biggest issues exacerbating the loss is a 250 billion yen write-down from the 2009 acquisition of rival manufacturer Sanyo. The company also said it will spend 514 billion yen in restructuring costs related to the Sanyo buy.

Panasonic President Fumio Ohtsubo apologized for the expected loss, saying “I feel the responsibility for the huge amount,” according to Reuters. “We will accelerate our profit structure reform and make sure we achieve a V-shaped performance improvement in the next business year.”

Panasonic will continue to manufacture TVs, DVD players, cameras, camcorders, home telephones, and appliances, and it plans to create even more products that can attract a “global audience.”

Sony is also seriously struggling and the company reported a net loss of $2.09 billion for the final quarter of 2011, a far cry from the nearly billion in profit it managed to end 2010 with. The company officially appointed Kazuo Hirai as its new president and chief executive effective April 1, and he has vowed to get the company back in shape.

Money down the drain photo: James E. Knopf/Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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AMD aims to undercut Intel Ultrabook chips on price and shred them on performance

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 02:07 PM PST

Intel will be a formidable competitor this year as it launches new processors and a huge marketing campaign aimed at driving the adoption of thin and powerful computers known as Ultrabooks.

Advanced Micro Devices will compete with the world’s biggest chip maker by coming out with high-performance laptop chips that are a lot less expensive for consumers.

“We like the idea of Ultrabooks as thin and powerful computers, but we think they should be for everybody,” said Rory Read, chief executive of AMD, in comments made to VentureBeat after Thursday’s analyst meeting.

Lisa Su, senior vice president for global products at AMD, said in an interview that a number of the Ultrabooks — some 7o to 75 models are coming out this year — are going to be priced at around $900.

But Su said that thin laptops based on AMD’s upcoming chips will likely hit the market priced as low as $599. AMD plans to introduce a series of chips code-named Trinity, which will be its second generation of accelerated processing units, or APUs. The APUs combine a microprocessor and graphics processor on a single chip, much like Intel does with its Sandy Bridge chips. But Su said AMD has loaded its combo chips with much more graphics capability than Intel does. So the AMD-based $599 laptops may actually perform as well as or better than many of the Ultrabooks.

Intel, of course, begs to differ. And it plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars starting in the spring promoting all of the great things people will be able to do with its Ultrabooks, which are no more than 18 millimeters thick, can be turned on instantly, and have enough processing power to run full-fledged PC applications. There is no reason that these Ultrabooks have to carry a higher price, and Intel says it fully intends to get Ultrabooks in the hands of everyone.

When Intel last launched a major advertising campaign in 2003, it sold consumers on its Centrino chips, which made it easier for laptops to get on the Internet. Intel also designed low-power chips and captured a much larger market share in laptops than it had in the general market. Now it wants to steamroll the market again.

“We have to play our playbook,” Su said. “We think you’ll see $600, $700, $800 AMD-based laptops, and they will be under the comparable Intel prices.”

The Ultrabook campaign thus represents a big threat to AMD, even if AMD’s chips might be better. Su believes that computer makers will be able to discern the true performance of the upcoming chips and create superior, low-cost laptops for consumers that don’t have the Ultrabook prices.

“I’d expect AMD to message better graphics performance, better battery life, good enough general compute, at a lower price enabled by lower priced silicon,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, and a former AMD executive. “By leveraging Intel’s investment in thin chassis and Windows 8 fast start, they have a chance of getting some business. One element AMD has not addressed yet is advanced security, a feature that Intel has invested in heavily. This play is a reasonably simple one which AMD has run before with a twist.”

Su said that the timing of Trinity is good for the summer, since Microsoft will be launching the Windows 8 operating system later in the year and computer makers will be launching a huge number of new computers later this year.

“We’re going to a lot better on power and performance trade-offs,” Su said.

Phone credit: Dean Takahashi

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Review: How Final Fantasy XIII-2 saves the franchise…for now

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 02:01 PM PST

2010's Final Fantasy XIII may have sold well enough, but the perplexingly bad design decisions quickly made the title a bitter disappointment for many fans. Coupled with the disastrous launch of Final Fantasy XIV, and even publisher/developer Square Enix admitted that its legendary role-playing brand had been severely damaged.

Rather than develop an entirely new game that would typically release in 5-6 years, Square Enix sought to make use of their existing engine and team with a direct sequel. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was developed in just two years, and released in Japan in December of 2011, where it scored perfect reviews from major media outlets such as Famitsu. So far, sales have been lackluster, especially compared to XIII's launch numbers.

With Square Enix looking to release a new Final Fantasy title every year, similar to the Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed franchises, there's a lot riding on XIII-2's success. But is the game's reputation already too far gone?

It's important you know from the onset that Final Fantasy XIII essentially killed the Final Fantasy series for me.

Like most gamers, my fondest memories of the franchise were shaped by the epic struggle between Cloud and Sephiroth, the angsty love story between Squall and Rinoa, and all the groundbreaking CG cinematics, monster-hunting, and mesmerizing music a kid could handle. I spent countless hours mastering materia, collecting all the Tetra Master cards, and maxing out my summons–and I still get goose bumps whenever I watch the opening of Final Fantasy VIII.

Final Fantasy releases were more than just games; they were life events. They were compelling, awe-inspiring, wholly imaginative worlds to get lost in for days, weeks, or even months on end. They weren't always perfect, but nonetheless, there was something special about them that no other franchise managed to capture.

Then that all changed.

Publisher Square Enix shifted its release schedule from a painful-but-worthwhile trickle to a full-blown assault on fans' wallets, manufacturing poorly produced spin-offs, mobile side stories, prequels, and god-awful movies. The once-sacred Final Fantasy VII universe had been bankrupted of all integrity as if Bobby Kotick himself was at the helm, rolling in the money of confused gamers as the pristine reputation of the franchise was slowly but surely tarnished.

When Final Fantasy XIII was first revealed in 2006, it was instantly a PlayStation 3 system-seller due to the dynamic battle system, phenomenal visuals, and the fact that it was the one game you could almost be sure Square Enix wouldn't find a way to work Sephiroth into. And three long years later, when it was finally released, it sold very well. But then people actually got home and started playing it. This was not the Final Fantasy we all knew and expected, which in a way I applauded. Square Enix was trying something new, and that worked very well for them with Final Fantasy XII, but not every experiment is a success, and Final Fantasy's case, they tend to be spectacular failures.

So to say that Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a lot working against it is an understatement. It also doesn't help that Final Fantasy X-2, the only other proper sequel in the history of the franchise, was half Saturday morning cartoon and half J-pop music video. And half all the "talking scenes" from Charlie's Angels.

A fresh beginning
The limited few willing to defend Final Fantasy XIII will inevitably say, "You just have to play it for 20 hours and then it gets good," as if that's some kind of acceptable excuse. From the moment the game begins, Final Fantasy XIII-2 grabs a hold of you and assures you that you're going to enjoy yourself, whether you planned on it or not. The opening sequence in XIII-2 is easily on par with the best cinematic of the original game, yet it's all in-game and interactive, a new standard that continues until the end credits roll. The epic confrontation between Lightning, now a badass knight of Valhalla, and a mysterious antagonist, sets the stage for the controversial new story.

Filed under: games

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Sequoia takes root in Evernote as early investor gets big exit

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 01:35 PM PST

In a head-scratching private-market barter, illustrious venture firm Sequoia Capital has managed to secure an even larger chunk of up-and-coming Silicon Valley startup Evernote.

Russian firm Troika Ventures, Evernote’s first institutional investor, sold its stake in the note-taking and note-sharing company at more than ten times its investment.

Troika led a $4.5 million raise in Evernote in January 2009 (the round closed later in the year at $6.5 million), and quickly piled on with new investors in Evernote’s $10 million Series B offering.

Sequoia Capital was founded in 1972 and has invested in many companies including Apple, Google, PayPal, and LinkedIn. It’s estimated that 19 percent of the NASDAQ’s value is made up of companies Sequoia has funded. The firm is also already deeply rooted in Evernote; it led both Evernote’s $20 million Series C round and its $50 million Series D round.

The cash-for-more-land-grab exchange strikes us as a bit odd. Evernote, which purports to now have more than 20 million users, has seen substantial growth since Troika’s first investment, and has gone on to raise $95.5 million in total funding. Clearly, this is a startup that industry insiders think has a shot at a sizable exit, whether that be an acquisition or an IPO (and we know CEO Phil Libin is leaning toward the latter).

And therein lies the problem. The only obvious reason Troika would divest its stake now is because Evernote appears to be in no hurry to make its debut on the public market.

A statement from the company supports this reasoning. “The exit, at over ten times our original commitment, was a difficult decision for Troika and for me personally, but we ultimately decided to provide liquidity to our investors at a multiple return on their investment rather than await the next exit opportunity,” firm head Artyom Yukhin said.

Evernote did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photo credit: micamica/Flickr

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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No ads here: Tumblr now charging $1 to “highlight” blog posts

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 12:15 PM PST

Highlighted post from user Tyler Coates

Tumblr founder David Karp has always dismissed the idea that Tumblr might put ads on its platform. See here, here, and just about every interview the young founder has ever given. But today, Tumblr rolled out highlighted posts, which allow people to pay Tumblr $1 to attach a digital sticker to their posts.

When pestered about a business model in the past, Karp has always said that Tumblr would find a way to generate revenue while staying true to its roots as a tool for creative expression. Talking recently with The Guardian, Karp’s hatred of advertising spilled over.

“The only real tools for expression these days are YouTube, which turns my stomach,” Karp said. “They take your creative works – your film that you poured hours and hours of energy into – and they put ads on top of it. They make it as gross an experience to watch your film as possible. I’m sure it will contribute to Google’s bottom line; I’m not sure it will inspire any creators.”

The new stickered posts are not advertising, they’re highlighting. Right…

The distinction wears pretty thin when you check out the section for Products, which includes $1 stickers for “Sale!” “On sale now” “Limited run!” “Last Chance!” “New Stuff!” and “Buy This!”

Just like Twitter has sponsored tweets and Facebook sponsored stories, Tumblr is trying to inject the potential for promotion on its site but avoid the temptation to just start slapping ad units across the banner.

Plenty of sites are already having fun subverting the PG rated choices Tumblr offer for highlight stickers.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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VentureBeat’s 2012 Mobile Summit: Great minds tackle 5 key mobile issues

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 12:03 PM PST

Mobile SummitVentureBeat is proud to announce our second annual Mobile Summit, where we are once again inviting 180 top mobile executives, investors, and policymakers to discuss five significant issues facing the mobile industry.

The event will be held at the beautiful Cavallo Point Resort (just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) on April 2-3. The Mobile Summit is an invitation only event, but you can request an invite here.

We decided to host the Mobile Summit last year after realizing that there aren’t many places for mobile leaders to sit down and have a conversation. There are plenty of mobile conferences out there, including our own annual MobileBeat conference, but those events can often be crowded, and don’t allow for the same sort of intimate discussions that our Mobile Summit fosters.

This year we’re discussing five new issues facing the industry:

1. Platform Wars: Size matters, but what else will dictate who wins among iOS, Android, Amazon and Microsoft?
Four titans, iOS, Android, Amazon and Microsoft, are now duking it out on the global stage to become the biggest mobile "platform" upon which users — and the mobile industry — will standardize. But what will really determine the winner?

2. The mobile shopping revolution: Where billions can be made with location, targeting, and the mobile web.
The adoption of mobile commerce is poised to create a massive, multi-billion dollar opportunity. With smartphones becoming smart wallets, as well as instant research tools that are able to communicate specific tastes anywhere people go, what technologies and what companies will help improve the way people discover and pay for items? Who will be the biggest winners from this trend?

3. Mobile disruption of the enterprise: What are the new types of apps and services that will spur productivity and competitiveness?
Employees are choosing to bring their own devices to work — iPhones, iPads, Android phones and more — and enterprises are using the cloud to adapt. Given the new enterprise cloud, what are the next disruptive apps or services that will dramatically improve productivity and competitiveness?

4. The media revolution: What forms of content will survive and thrive in mobile?
With mobile devices evolving in 2012, and millions of new consumers buying them, who are the most successful publishers of new mobile media, what are the factors driving their success, and what is the impact of that success on the mobile industry?

5. User Acquisition in 2012: What lessons will the mobile gaming industry show the rest of us?
In terms of models of user acquisition, the games industry has led the way. What are the next steps game companies must make to stay compelling and innovative on user acquisition strategies (advertising, offers, etc.) now that better broadband, better OS's, better interfaces, and better devices (including tablets) have arrived. What can the rest of us learn from that?

Just as we did last year, we plan to take the results of conversations from the Mobile Summit and make them an integral part of our MobileBeat conference, which will be held together with our GamesBeat conference taking place July 10-11.

We already have some great participants lined up for this year’s Mobile Summit, including Jason Spero, Google’s head of mobile; Mihir Shah, President and CEO of TapJoy; Jim Goetz, General Partner at Sequoia Capital; and Simon Khalaf, President and CEO of Flurry.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Micron chief executive Steve Appleton dies in experimental-airplane crash

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 12:03 PM PST

Micron chief executive Steve Appleton has been killed in the crash of an experimental airplane. Appleton has long been a stunt plane pilot and has had close calls before.

The plane crashed at the Boise, Idaho airport. It was a single-engine fixed-wing experimental aircraft. The incident is sure to raise alarms about CEOs who engage in risky behavior.

Appleton, 51, built Micron from one of the also-ran memory chip makers into one of the world’s largest producers of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which is used as main memory in PCs and stores data in a wide variety of electronic equipment.

Appleton started out as a production worker on the factory line and received a series of promotions. He became a statesman of the industry and an active leader as he advocated free trade in competition with Japanese rivals. Back in the 1980s, the Japanese all but took over the memory chip industry, partly due to a practice known as dumping, or selling chips below costs.

Appleton and other executives in the chip industry got the U.S. government to negotiate a fair trade agreement that put an end to the dumping and enabled the U.S. to hang on to the strategically important industry. But while other memory chip makers went out of business, Micron alone survived and became a huge employer in Idaho.

Micron’s board said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Appleton, Micron Chairman and CEO, passed away this morning in a small plane accident in Boise. He was 51. Our hearts go out to his wife, Dalynn, his children and his family during this tragic time. Steve’s passion and energy left an indelible mark on Micron, the Idaho community and the technology industry at large.”

Appleton was a stunt pilot for many years and he always talked about how he put safety first. I visited him in Boise once at the company’s headquarters and he talked about one incident when the engine of his plane cut out on him. He had a choice of either bailing out or going into a power dive in the hopes of restarting the engine. He chose to dive and the engine restarted.

He actually crashed a plane in 2004 and survived. But today that didn’t happen. It’s a sad day for the entire chip industry and for Appleton’s family. In November, Appleton won the industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce award, for his contributions to the semiconductor business.

"Steve was a visionary and a true leader in our industry. He will be deeply missed by the entire semiconductor community and our prayers and thoughts are with his family,” said Brian Toohey, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

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Small business accounting service Xero raises $16.6M

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 12:00 PM PST

Jamie Sutherland

Xero, an online-accounting service for small businesses, announced today it has received $16.6 million in its latest round of funding. PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel participated in the round.

“Xero was started by a few entrepreneurs who struggled to get the right financial information to make business decisions. They set out to build accounting software that caters to small business and accountants,” said Jamie Sutherland (pictured right), Xero’s President of U.S. Operations in an interview with VentureBeat.

Founded in 2006 in New Zealand, Xero gives business and independent contractors an online dashboard that they can use to manage expenses, invoicing, and bank transactions. The service is for all types of businesses, including small retail stores, one-person operations, and larger companies. Xero also offers tools for professional accountants to run their businesses.

The service emphasizes ease of use and a clean design to help anyone manage their business expenses. Xero gives small businesses and their financial advisers the ability to view the same information at the same time so they can collectively make smart business plans. There are three pricing levels available starting at $19 per month for one-person businesses, and up to $39 per month for larger teams.

Peter Thiel has previously invested in the Xero, and this new round comes from Thiel’s New Zealand venture fund Valar Ventures. Thiel is a well-known tech investor and startup founder who co-founded PayPal and has invested in Facebook, Yelp, Yammer, and LinkedIn.

“This money will be used to accelerate our U.S. growth, and execute our business,” said Sutherland, “We have a team of six in San Francisco and [with the funding] we will be expanding our team.”

Xero was founded in New Zealand in 2006. Globally, Xero has more than 170 employees, including a team of six at its United States office in San Francisco. The company boasts more than 60,000 customers in more than 100 countries. This latest funding round was led by Peter Thiel, Sam Morgan of Fairfax Media, and Craig Winklerthe, former co-founder of MYOB. Since its founding, Xero has raised $70 million.

Filed under: deals

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What the Super Bowl and marketers can learn from socially savvy sports fans

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 11:32 AM PST

While sports fans eagerly await who will win the 2012 Super Bowl and look forward to diving into chips and a Frito Pie or two, marketers are eager to see who the winners (and losers) are on the social media front. Clearly big brands want to make sure their (estimated) $3.5 million investment for a 30-second spot pays off, but how do they go beyond the 100 million audience to cultivate new and engaged fans via social media after February 5th?

Here are a few suggestions on what marketers can learn from the success of sports engagement on social media.

Your fans have shifted to social…Refresh your playbook

Social media is changing how fans cheer on their teams. At the time of the 2006 World Cup, Facebook was still limited only to college and high school students. But then everything changed in 2010. At the South Africa World Cup, where viewing parties, mobile app badges, continual tweets from players, and live streams on social networks inspired a growing community of fans to share with socially-inspired sports fans around the world.

Games were watched worldwide in record numbers (19.4 million people watched the US vs. Ghana game). Twitter reported that the Women's World Cup soccer final scored a new record with 7,196 "tweets per second," the most tweeted moment in Twitter history. And number 2? Brazil's elimination from Copa America! Social vuvuzelas were heard all over the world (and not only on those incredibly annoying vuvuzela mobile apps).

How are you going to adapt your media buying and social strategies to better engage your brand's audience?

Facebook gives you the home field advantage

We know you remember the stat that if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world. (That was initially shared when Facebook hit 500 million users. Now the site has more than 800 million users — as many users as the entire Internet in 2004!) Facebook has fostered a community of like-minded friends and fans. So, cultivate, engage and keep your fans (and their friends) where they already are. Don't redirect them to your Web site.

There's vastly greater value in having your fans share your message with their friends on Facebook, versus engaging them alone on your site. What's your game plan for engaging with fans on Facebook and building new audiences on this important "hub" throughout the coming year?

Marketing needs to closely manage their "Xs and Os"

For the first time ever NBC and the NFL have agreed to live stream the Super Bowl online and on mobile phones. Marketers have a vast list of social and mobile tools or "plays" they can run, and they are tasked daily with the challenge of creating, managing, and maintaining these campaigns both offline and online. As a result, marketers have to think more broadly, and use social to connect online and offline more strategically.

For example, mobile campaigns are a perfect way to bridge online and offline — contextually relevant campaigns bring people in the real world to an online social world. And, using simple QR codes on billboards, product labels, and print ads connect people to communities on Facebook. I'm personally a fan of using a TV ad "jingle" recognition with apps like Shazam, Little Debbie's Airstream, and the Volkswagen Peepster. Are you fully taking advantage of the uniqueness of social, mobile, etc. And, what steps will you be taking steps to better integrate your offline and online experiences?

Capturing Fans Before, During and After the Action

According to a 2011 study by Nielsen, roughly 40% of tablet and smartphone users in the US use their devices daily while watching TV. Technology offers brands a great opportunity to give fans something interesting to do before, during, and after the action. International soccer teams have totally figured this out.

FC Barcelona — with over 25 million fans on Facebook — runs quizzes that allow fans to predict when goals are scored and by whom, with prizes for winners. Manchester United, which has over 20 million fans, has a whole section of their Facebook page devoted to polls — each one regularly getting 20,000 – 40,000 votes each — creating a well of wall content that can be tapped. Real Madrid — with over 23 million fans — gets up to 100,000 comments on every post on their wall.

Major League Baseball is figuring it out too. They ran their "Home Run Derby" in 2011, with athletes tweeting from the field, generating 4,995 tweets per second#. And despite the fact that Super Bowl XLV was the second-most mentioned topic in Facebook in 2011 (after the death of Osama Bin Laden), the official 2012 Super Bowl page has no Facebook connection and no official Facebook community. What a missed opportunity for fan engagement!

What can marketers learn from these highly engaged sports fans?

Social media lets people express an important part of themselves to their friends. It's not just sports teams that reflect a fan's personality. It's also the car they drive, the clothes they wear, the movies they go to, the places they travel, the recipes they love, and the list goes on. We see that fans are perfectly willing to share their love of a brand just as passionately as they do their love of a sports team — if the brand encourages them in just the right way.

After building thousands of campaigns for hundreds of leading international consumer brands, we've learned that socially successful brands don't want another "me too" sweepstakes or contest. They want something unique, interesting, personal and individualized to their brand, with the context appropriate to social, and that allows fans to share their message.

So, take a page out of the sports fan playbook. Go where your fans are having fun. Engage them in what makes them passionate. Build campaigns that involve what they're doing socially — on the sofa or on the sidewalk — with their friends. And that reflects favorably on their personalities. Let fans use your brand to "show off" their knowledge, beauty, and wit. And always, always make sure the campaign is inherently viral.

When you get a fan to tell friends about you, you'll always win. It's the best route to a Facebook page full of MVPs.

Roger Katz is CEO of Friend2Friend, which has hundreds of leading International consumer brands in its roster, including some iconic European soccer teams.

[Super Bowl image via Shutterstock]

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Not total bunk, case of “stolen” Twitter followers moves forward

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 11:32 AM PST

The case of the “stolen” Twitter followers may or may not have merit, but its claims passed a second litmus test this week.

In the matter of PhoneDog versus Noah Kravitz, a U.S. district court judge ruled to allow the plaintiff, mobile review site PhoneDog, to move forward its suit against former employee Noah Kravitz with amended claims.

Kravitz, currently the editor-at-large at TechnoBuffalo, is being sued for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets by changing the password and name of a Twitter account he used while employed by PhoneDog. Kravitz accrued 17,000 followers while working for PhoneDog and the company believes those followers are “akin to a business customer list.” As such, PhoneDog is asking for $340,000, at a valuation of $2.50 per follower per month, in damages.

In November, a judge dismissed two of PhoneDog’s four claims, but the company responded by amending its claims. Kravitz then sought to have the claims dismissed again, but Monday a judge denied Kravitz’s motion to dismiss.

“I understand the judge’s ruling. It doesn’t change my perspective on the matter, and I’m still hoping for a swift and reasonable resolution of the dispute,” Kravitz said to VentureBeat in an interview by phone. “I hope to not take up very much more of the court’s, or anybody else’s, resources on this matter.”

Specially, the judge ruled that PhoneDog properly alleged that “intentional interference with prospective economic advantage” by Kravitz could have taken place. “The Court is able to draw the reasonable inference that PhoneDog had an economic relationship with at least one third-party advertiser that was disrupted by Kravitz's alleged conduct, causing it economic harm,” judge Maria-Elena James stated in her ruling.

“It’s important to remember that there has been no determination about the merits of the case whatsoever,” Kravitz’s lawyer Cary Kletter told VentureBeat. “What this ruling means is … that we attempted to get portions of the case thrown out, but the claims were not so bad that they should be thrown out.”

“No decision has been made on who owns this Twitter account … no one has submitted any evidence,” Kletter added, calling PhoneDog’s valuation of the followers to the Twitter account “illogical.” “We remain confident that [PhoneDog] will not be able to prove that it has an economic relationship with each one of its Twitter followers … we think that [PhoneDog] will not prevail on its claims.”

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling and look forward to proceeding with our case,” a PhoneDog representative said in a statement to VentureBeat. “PhoneDog will continue to take the steps necessary to protect its intellectual property rights.”

Following the latest ruling, parties will move forward to the meditation stage of the case. VentureBeat will be following developments closely.

Depending on the case’s outcome, the California federal court could be the first to set a significant legal precedent around Twitter account ownership and the monetary value assigned to a Twitter follower.

This post was updated with a statement from PhoneDog.

Photo credit: ilse/Flickr

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Hulu adds PBS shows to its TV content library

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 10:25 AM PST

Downtown AbbyStreaming video service Hulu is adding a huge collection of PBS television shows to its content library, the company announced Thursday.

The new content is available with commercials to all Hulu users, while premium subscribers of Hulu Plus can watch it commercial-free. Some of the shows now available include Ken Burns library, the first season of Downton Abbey, NOVA, and American Experience, as well as children’s series including Arthur, Dinosaur Train and Wild Kratts. More shows are expected to debut in the future, according to Hulu.

The funny part about the new Hulu content is that it’s actually available for free on the Public Broadcasting Station’s official website, PBS.org — meaning you don’t have to pay a $9 monthly fee or sit through periodic commercial breaks.

But while a free, uninterrupted service is typically preferred, I see why adding the content would be beneficial to Hulu. First of all Hulu Plus has a strong subscriber base of 1.5 million paying customers, due in large part to its library of current premium television content from ABC, NBC, CW, and Fox. Being able to integrate PBS shows into the service makes it more convenient for people who’ve dropped their cable subscriptions and rely solely on the web for video entertainment.

I’m betting that Hulu is also paying PBS for streaming access to this content, which is always a good thing considering that PBS is a non-profit government-run organization that is severely under funded. (The company did confirm to VentureBeat that it has a licensing agreement in place with PBS, but didn’t elaborate on the details.)

[Downtown Abby image via PBS]

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Anonymous intercepts call between FBI and Scotland Yard discussing Anonymous

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 10:08 AM PST

Anonymous hacker via Flickr commons

It’s the sort of gamesmanship that keeps readers turning the pages in a spy novel. The FBI says that Anonymous, the loose-knit collective of global hackers, intercepted a highly sensitive call between American cybercrime experts and their counterparts at Scotland Yard discussing, what else, Anonymous.

“The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now,” Anonymous teased in a Twitter message.

The 15 minute recording was released on Pastebin and then posted to Youtube. “I’m not sure if we’re the only two on here right now,” says an American agent named Bruce.

“Don’t say anything too bad, I’m on here with Matt,” replied his counterpart from Scotland yard. The group has a chuckle, unaware of the irony.

Anonymous also released an email with the time and password for the conference call, so they may have simply dialed in, rather than using more sophisticated techniques to intercept the conversation.

During the call the investigators discuss how they might proceed against Ryan Cleary and Jake Davis, two British suspects who are set to appear in court as suspected members of Anonymous. Highly sensitive tactics are discussed for when Scotland Yard might move to make further arrests and the evidence they are planning to bring to the trial.

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Curt Schilling anxiously awaits his “opening day for games” (interview)

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 10:00 AM PST

Tuesday is “opening day” for Curt Schilling. The former Boston Red Sox pitcher who won three World Series championships is about to launch his first video game. His game development studio 38 Studios and publisher Electronic Arts are launching the fantasy role-playing game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

Years in the making, the title is an adopted one. Schilling created 38 Studios and hired novelist R. A. Salvatore and Spawn artist Todd McFarlane to create a massively multiplayer online game code-named Copernicus. That title is still in the works and Salvatore has created a 10,000-year history to serve as the back story for a series of games. The whole endeavour is one of the biggest bets in video games and shows that passion counts for a lot in this business.

As you’ll see below, Schilling is a gaming nut, and not such a bad business guy. He pounced on an opportunity to create a new game with a shorter development time. When THQ put its Big Huge Studios team up for sale, 38 Studios bought it. So Schilling got together with role-playing game designer Ken Rolston and challenged his team to create a single-player RPG that fit into the 10,000-year history. They came up with an interesting story that involves a mysterious Well of Souls. The well determines your destiny, but as the player in Reckoning, you are the only person ever born who does not have a fate, as pre-determined by the Soul Weavers. You’re a reborn hero, seeking your killer and hoping to change the fate of the kingdom.

If players like Reckoning, you can bet there will be more games based on the 10,000-year history. A lot is riding on it. Schilling’s team has more than 400 employees in Providence, R.I., and Baltimore, Md. And Schilling is counting the days as if he were going into another World Series. Among the marketing events coming up: Schilling will promote it on talk shows, and gamers will livestream video of their gameplay on opening day. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Schilling.

Gamesbeat: How do you feel about how this whole process is winding up?

Curt Schilling: Well, I’m nervous. This is my first opening day in a new job. Five-plus years is a lot. The challenging part is that I’m kind of powerless, we’re kind of powerless now. The game is going to be in players’ hands on Tuesday, and everything we could possibly do to make it the best we could do, we’re done with. Now it’s just the anticipation.

GB: Tell me about the genesis and how long you guys have worked on it now.

CS: The Reckoning project was started as another project at the Baltimore studio, six or seven years ago. The actual beginning of Reckoning was about two and a half years ago when we acquired the studio from THQ. There have been some people on this game for six, seven years now, which is staggering I think. We launched this company with the MMO as the driver behind what we were doing, we always had this … “product ecosystem” is what we called it. We always had that vision from day one of growing a new intellectual property around an MMO as kind of the sun in the solar system. This opportunity presented itself, and once we felt that ethically, from a philosophical perspective, the two studios were aligned, bringing them onto the team so to speak was a no-brainer. They’d been shopping an RPG around and could not get anybody to bite on the IP, this story that they were selling. It was just a match made in heaven, out of a very fortunate circumstance.

GB: Did it take very long for you guys to fit it into the timeline and the universe of what you’ve been doing?

CS: No. Literally, we sent assets down on a Wednesday evening, and Thursday they flew up here with those assets in their engine running in-game. Which was very powerful to see. The engine is ours, exclusively, proprietary, which is awesome. We have thousands of pages of history. We told them, “Hey, find a place in our timeline where you think you can build an awesome single-player RPG.” Ken Rolston and Ian Frazier and those guys looked around and the Age of Arcana was where they settled. That’s the age that Reckoning comes alive in.

GB: Could you remind us of the storyline?

CS: The overarching storyline is centered on immortality. I know that’s not some new revelation, oh-my-God groundbreaking thing, but … R. A.’s a hardcore MMO player, he’s a fantasy guy obviously, and death was always something in gaming that bothered him. And so the Well of Souls and immortality became one of the focal points of our franchise. In our MMO, 2,000 years after the RPG, the Well of Souls is a defined piece of the story, it’s explained through the story. When you backtrack to Reckoning, you are the first person to ever be successfully resurrected with the Well of Souls. The magical piece of this is, you walk into the world with no fate and no destiny, in a world where every human being in the world has a fate and a destiny. When R. A. starts to ask philosophical questions around that it gets pretty powerful. Yes, there are probably basic, everyday life questions around not having a fate, but there are forces of good and evil who quickly become aware of your presence, and your value to them is obviously diametrically opposed…. But that’s the story. You spend the game trying to figure out what it means, but more importantly for the play experience, what you mean to the world.

GB: It was always an action-focused game, from the start?

CS: Ah…no. It looks that way. But no. Explaining that to people has been the challenge in leading up to the demo and all the marketing. Because it’s hard not to just be visually stunned by the combat and the animation. But there’s a deep, stat-driven, lore-driven, story-driven multi-hundred-hour Baldur’s Gate RPG fantasy game behind this combat. That’s very hard for people to grasp. But yes, the combat is the thing that jumps out at you as what is uniquely different. I think when you see it first, you think God of War or some other combat game. And then you quickly understand when you start playing, there’s a massive, deep, and rich story behind this. It’s hard to imagine that the combat is statistically driven as well, in addition to being a button-masher. That was the challenge, and I think it’s still a challenge. I still think people are hesitant to believe that those two things can coexist, but they do.

GB: What was it like working with folks like Ken?

CS: Oh my gosh. [Apart from] having to introduce him as an internationally celebrated game designer every time I say his name, which is frustrating, it’s been awesome. Ken is what my dad used to call “good people.” He’s genuine, he’s obviously amazingly talented, and he’s got a couple screws loose. That makes it fun. He’s also quietly, deeply involved, in all the good ways. I can think I have good ideas, Bob [Salvatore] can think he has good ideas, and Todd can think he has good ideas. Ken is that guy who can take bigger concepts and make them fun gameplay. I think that was his magic and his touch on all of this. About a month before we went gold, Ken went and played the game for two straight weeks and never accepted a quest. And he wrote up a report about it. When we asked him why, his response was, “Because I wanted to know you could do it in our world.” That’s the depth of the world in this game, and this IP, and everything we do.

GB: You guys seem like you got it out on time. Did it pretty much come in on schedule?

CS: Yep. Well, our initial ship was late last year. We had a chance to look at the competitive window, and another smart decision by EA was to try to move away from that a little bit. I think we found a sweet spot. I think given where we are, given who and what we are, I think this is the best possible time we could have done this. I also think that there’s somewhat of a fallacy around launch windows. I think a lot of people believe game windows to be far longer and bigger than they really are for us as gamers. Outside of an MMO I’m not sure of many games that I don’t beat the crap out of in 30 days. I think it’s a month to month thing. There’s some other games, Plants Vs. Zombies, Railroad Tycoon, Company of Heroes, that I’ll play for years, on and off. But my dedication and commitment to one title and one title only, it’s not as big a window as we sometimes think. But at the end of the day, we finished on time, we finished on budget, and I think we over-delivered in every possible way that anybody outside of the company could have been expecting.

GB: How many hours of gameplay do you think you have here, on the light side or on the heavy side?

CS: I think if you were to go down and play main quest only, and not take anything else or do anything else, I think there’s 40 or 50 hours of gameplay, comfortably. If you are the full completionist, every quest in the world, find everything in the world, craft to max level, I think there’s comfortably 200 to 300 hours of gameplay, maybe more.

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Why I’m so bullish on Facebook

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 09:51 AM PST

Facebook faces some real challenges when it comes to keeping up its growth pace, as I covered yesterday. But I’m still bullish on the company, and here’s why.

Massive audience and social graph

Facebook has a connected audience like no other. Its social graph connects 845 million people around the world through 100 billion connections, according to its S-1.

That’s not an easy thing to replicate, as Google is finding out as it struggles to get traction for Google+. Users won’t switch to a new social network on their own; they need to get the key people in their lives to switch too. My friend Kristin tried using Google+ at my insistence (see my first-use interview with her), but a key barrier for her is that her mom is now on Facebook. She hasn’t posted on Google+ since July.

Less obvious than the explicit friend connections is that Facebook knows the strength of your bonds. People who you interact with a lot show up more frequently; the random ex-girlfriend from high school recedes into the background. You don’t have to do anything explicit to make it happen; the data that Facebook automatically has creates a better experience. Competing services would have a hard time replicating that.

Regular engagement

Not only does Facebook have a lot of users, they use the service a lot. Two weeks ago, Google put out some statistics that could easily be incorrectly interpreted as meaning that 60% of Google+ members use the service daily.

Facebook’s real numbers actually come very close to Google’s deceptive numbers. Facebook is seeing 57% of its users accessing the service on a given day. In December, 42% of users were using Facebook 6 out of 7 days.

Facebook clearly has become habit forming. To the extent that people comment, upload photos, or Like content, they are helping Facebook create a wider moat for keeping competitors out of the space.

Future of advertising

Facebook is the future of advertising.

Note that I didn’t say “future of online advertising.” Over the next decade, we will see a greater migration from traditional advertising like television and print to online advertising. Facebook is well positioned to earn the spend that migrates online.

Historically, two of the largest problems with online advertising have been the lack of scale and the lack of visual impact that television can provide.

The lack of scale problem has essentially been flipped on its head. It’s now easier to reach 40 million people with Facebook than it is with television. A top-rated TV program can’t reach that many people. The Super Bowl is the only event that can reach more people than Facebook can in a day.

The current Facebook product isn’t the best positioned for visual impact because it doesn’t have a video product comparable to YouTube; but that may change over time. Still, you can click to initiate a video interaction.

There are significant structural reasons why the offline to online transition doesn’t happen faster. But some of those barriers are crumbling.

Proctor & Gamble, the biggest advertising spender in the United States, made headlines recently when it announced it was cutting marketing spend.

According to P&G’s CEO:

In the digital space, with things like Facebook and Google and others, we find that the return on investment of the advertising, when properly designed, when the big idea is there, can be much more efficient.

This transition will help both Google and Facebook. And both companies will become even more competitive with each other.

Facebook’s enormous reach and high-quality data on users also allows it to scale downward.

When I went to Chicago to talk to Groupon, I also wanted to speak with Groupon employees. So I ran a Facebook ad targeted at Groupon employees living in Chicago.

It took me less than 10 minutes to set up. Within a couple of days, my ad reached about 650 Groupon employees and resulted in several meetings. There is no other ad product out there that can deliver that kind of reach and targeting so quickly.

That may sound like a ridiculous edge case. But as consumers and small businesses understand the power of Facebook’s ad platform, I expect we’ll see more such ads. (I thought about running a campaign opposing SOPA targeted at people who lived in Washington, D.C. and worked in Congress, for example.)

Founder control

Much has been made in the past few days of the voting power that Mark Zuckerberg will have. With control of more than 57% of the votes, Zuckerberg will have virtually unchecked decision-making authority at Facebook.

The discussion has focused on how this is a bad thing and flies in the face of good corporate governance, making the company less responsive to its public shareholders.

I lived the other side of that at AOL. During my time there, the company was overly responsive to the market and aggressively managed quarterly numbers. The AIM buddy list was the original social graph. We built and patented a news feed. I specced out a mechanism for sharing the buddy list with third-party sites two years before Facebook Connect launched.

But we could never get support from management to go deep on social. As my boss later told me, “I was running a $500 million business with 90% margins and senior leadership wouldn’t let me spend $1 on innovation.” The money was needed to make the quarter.

AOL’s value has dropped from $20 billion in 2005 to less than $2 billion today.

If that’s what you get when you listen to the market, I’d much rather have a product visionary like Zuckerberg making the calls. Having the flexibility to ignore quarterly ups and downs is critical to innovation.

To believe or not to believe

In the months leading up to Facebook’s first tick, the debates about whether Facebook is worth its valuation will rage on.

If you were to base your assessment solely on historical growth rates and trends of Facebook’s existing businesses, it’s incredibly hard to justify a valuation of $75 billion to $100 billion. You have to fundamentally believe that Facebook will change industries and create new markets.

What I’m excited about is what Facebook can do with the users and the network they’ve created. I can think of at least six adjacent multibillion-dollar businesses that Facebook would do well at.

Here’s a quick test: Read Zuckerberg’s letter to potential investors in Facebook’s S-1. Do you think it’s just a bunch of marketing and PR fluff? Or do you believe that it really is his vision for the future and that Facebook can execute on it?

I believe.

Rocky Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social, and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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GFACE unveils its new cloud based social gaming network

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 09:27 AM PST

Crytek, the developer behind Crysis and Far Cry, is backing a new social gaming network called GFACE. Created by a “small team with big ideas”, GFACE promises to deliver high quality free to play multiplayer games directly to your browser, while also offering Facebook-like social network features.

Crytek chief executive officer Cevat Yerli is a director of GFACE, and says, "GFACE enables its users to discover and experience entertainment together in real time. We want everybody to play everywhere for free." With Facebook already offering its users a multitude of gaming opportunites, GFACE looks to be setting itself apart by focusing on providing quality multiplayer games first, and then building its social network around them.

According to the GFACE website, it will be providing a range of gaming experiences, from casual 2D games right up to console quality 'core' 3D games. Crytek's first person shooter Warface is featured heavily on the site, and looks set to be one of the banner titles for the service. Warface is powered by CryENGINE3, the same game engine used for Crysis, Crysis 2, and the upcoming Homefront 2. It promises to deliver visuals that are "without equal" in the free-to-play arena.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the GFACE service is that all the games will be delivered via cloud-based streaming technology, much like OnLive or Gaikai. This means that hardware limitations won't stop users from accessing any of the GFACE games. It also looks set to allow smartphone and tablet users to join in with large scale multiplayer games. A promotional image for the service shows three players with different devices teaming up on a multiplayer first person shooter, with each player taking on a different role.

The GFACE website states, “Because GFACE runs in your browser and is designed for live cross platform fun; it is independent of hardware and operating systems, so you can play with everyone, anytime, anywhere.”

GFACE's social networking features will allow users to create groups, share links and media, and watch live videos together. The service will also include video chat facilities. While none of these features are unique, having them all in one place, alongside a streaming free-to-play gaming service, makes GFACE a very interesting proposition.

GFACE has just entered its closed beta testing phase. You can register your interest in joining the beta at the official website.

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