05 March, 2012



Numecent emerges from stealth with “revolutionary cloudpaging technology” for digital delivery

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 09:00 AM PST

Cloud startup Numecent is releasing details today of what it calls a “revolutionary cloudpaging technology” and it is also spinning out cloud-gaming startup Approxy.

Osman Kent (pictured below), co-founder of graphics firm 3DLabs and chief executive of Numecent, said in an interview that the technology can reduce the time it takes for digital delivery of any online software by 20 times to 100 times. If it works as advertised, the technology could tilt the balance in favor of cloud computing solutions in comparison to local, disk-based software delivery. And that would disrupt many different technology markets, from gaming to enterprise software.

Pioneers such as OnLive, Gaikai and Otoy are each pursuing their own version of cloud gaming. Those companies have figured out how to be more efficient using compression technology. But gaming is just one of multiple applications for the cloud technology, said Kent. And he says that Numecent’s technology is a lot more efficient — it won’t force you to upgrade your data plan for broadband connections.

To date, cloud computing has been more efficient than local-based computing. But it requires a big capital investment in servers in web-connected data centers. But Kent says that the Numecent technology is so much more efficient that it vastly reduces the amount of server capacity a company requires in order to run cloud applications. Also, turning an application into a cloud-like service can be done, but it often takes a lot of custom programming. With Numecent, that isn’t necessary, Kent said.

“We can automatically codify applications,” he said. “Digital delivery of software is broken today because it can take you all day to do a download.”

Numecent has created and patented cloudpaging technology, which “virtualizes the assets delivered. Cloudpaging divides software into small fragments dubbed pages on the servers in a data center. When that fragment is needed by the user, Numecent sends only that fragment on an on-demand basis over a secure connection. The fragment then starts running immediately — in a protected, or sandboxed way — without the need for installation. In customer trials, the company can start deploying a 66-gigabyte virtual machine by fetching only 900 megabytes of data — a 60 times reduction in time.

“It’s pure freaking magic,” said Jon Peddie, an analyst at Jon Peddie Associates and an expert on graphics technology. “The company has developed a way to quickly download just the necessary parts of a program for it to run, on whatever you are currently working on.”

You can only download software for which you have a license. With a game (Approxy’s domain), the technology would download what you need for opening play. Then, as you progress through the game, those parts, or “pages,” will be downloaded and others removed. When you are finished and close the game, it is no longer stored on your machine and leaves no trace, Peddie said. It can work on a wide variety of devices, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

“It uses very little memory, just what is needed for where you are, and so it loads very fast,” Peddie said. “The demos I’ve seen are very impressive. It gives you access to any software anywhere in the world there is an internet connection. It’s one of the most exciting technologies to be introduced in over a decade.”

Kent said the gratification is instant.

“You click,” he said. “Your game starts running on the machine you are using. Our software looks up your licenses and runs the game if you have permission. The time to gratification is hugely reduced. When you leave the machine, you have not installed anything and have not degraded the machine.”

Roy Illsley, an analyst at tech market analysis firm Ovum, worried that the technology may be “too advanced for many organizations today.” He said that service providers and mature companies will likely adopt it first, but the uptake could be slow if the customer does not understand it. That’s why it will be important for Numecent to come up with case studies that spell out the value.

The technology has been in development for over 12 years and it has taken $50 million in investment, stemming originally from a grant from the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Kent previously served as co-founder of 3D Labs, which was sold to Creative Labs. Kent became a music producer and piano player. But when he was pitched on the Numecent technology about 18 months ago, he decided to come out of tech industry retirement and became its CEO.

“I thought this could be much bigger than 3D Labs,” he said.

He said that Numecent has many patents on the technology.

"In modern computer architectures a memory management unit is used to virtualize RAM to reduce the memory footprint of an application,” said Art Hitomi, chief technology officer of Numecent. “By deploying a Virtual MMU in the communication path, we are in essence reducing the network footprint of the deliverable.”

The technology is also able to track a user’s progress with a software program and figure out if the user is stalling at a particular point in the program or game. That may signal a bug or a design problem.

Kent acknowledges that other cloud technology providers haven’t delivered on their promises, resulting in some skepticism among potential customers and users. But he says his company has taken a comprehensive approach.

“We want to be to software what Dropbox is to data,” he said.

Numecent plans on licensing its technology to software companies, aggregators, service providers, small businesses and enterprises. All of them need rapid software delivery, deployment and provisioning across a number of devices. Numecent has a partnership with Red Hat to deliver Red Hat’s software to virtual desktops. Most aspects of cloudpaging are already being shipped to customers in Numecent’s Application Jukebox product line, which can cloudify all Microsoft Windows applications.

The Approxy game spin-out is the first startup that was incubated inside Numecent, and Kent said there will be more in different vertical markets.

“Cloudpaging is a very broad and fundamental technology foundation with far-reaching applications,” he said.

Kent said the company has raised $2 million in a first-round of funding from strategic corporate investors. This is in addition to the $7.5 million it received from inception via Endeavour Ventures. Numecent is in the process of raising another $3 million round.

While the technology has been in development for a long time, Numecent was founded in 2009 and has 27 employees. Rivals include virtual desktop technology from Citrix, OnLive, Microsoft, and Gaikai. Microsoft and Citrix have licensed some of 10 major patents that Numecent has.

Filed under: cloud, games

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Numecent spins out Approxy cloud-gaming startup

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 09:00 AM PST

Numecent, a startup with an interesting new cloud technology for digital delivery, is spinning out Approxy as a new cloud-gaming startup. While Numecent will focus on the larger cloud computing opportunity, Approxy will focus on delivering instant-play high-definition games delivered to users from the cloud, or web-connected data centers.

Irvine, Calif.-based Approxy will offer a white-label service for game developers and publishers, allowing them to publish their games as cloud titles. Such games are executed in the cloud and deliver “pages,” or fragments, that run on the user’s computer or smartphone or tablet on a just-in-time basis. This so-called cloudpaging technology reduces the data sent over a broadband connection by 20 times to 100 times. That enables high-end games to be played on just about any device. It is the same kind of benefit that cloud-gaming service OnLive offers, but Numecent claims that its technology is much more efficient than what rivals offer.

Approxy places a virtual memory management unit on a client machine and fetches fragments from the server on demand via an http/s (secure) connection. The game executes inside a virtual console, without requiring installation. This can reduce the time to play from ten times to 50 times for a large game. Subsequent access to previously fetched pages are locally cached, so the experience remains as good as a game that is locally installed. The game can be played offline, without a network connection.

Approxy engineers have extended cloudpaging to make the experience better for gamers by pushing small fragments of games, dubbed partials, to a user’s virtual console. This makes the very first interaction with the game instantaneous for the gamer. The games perform at native, full performance, with no delays, the company says.

Some big games can take as long as a day to transfer more than 10 gigabytes of data to users, said Yavuz Ahiska, chief executive of Approxy.

“Cloud gaming represents a tremendous global opportunity for the industry, but we need to make it ‘friction free” for both users and publishers alike,” he said. “We believe cloudpaging with the Approxy extensions is the right technology platform to make this happen.”

Ahiska is a serial entrepreneur, who, with Numecent CEO Osman Kent, co-founded 3DLabs, a graphics chip maker. Approxy is raising a first round of funding now.

The virtualized games can run on a tablet using “gesture virtualization.” That allows a mouse-based game to be used on a touchscreen device. OnLive does a lot of this too, but in a different way, said Ross Rubin, an analyst at market researcher NPD.

OnLive sends a video of the application to an OnLive client and uses low-latency connections and compression for responsiveness. Approxy streams a compressed portion of the application and does the processing on the client device in a virtual machine. That allows it to run a cached version on the client machine without an internet connection, Rubin said. But unlike OnLive, the speed of the native device will affect the speed of applications using Approxy.

Kent said in an interview that the game industry is moving away from disk-based products to online delivery. But big games with multiple gigabytes of data are a pain for users to download, resulting in lots of failed downloads and lost sales. For users, it’s a poor experience waiting for the downloads to finish. OnLive has introduced cloud gaming to making the online-delivered games instantly playable, but the quality isn’t quite good enough for the most hardcore gamers. It also costs a lot of money to set up servers to handle the cloud gaming load. Gamers also can’t play offline.

By contrast, Approxy tries to balance the load between the cloud and the client with cloudpaging. Some services try to speed up the download process by launching a “progressive download,” where a game can begin playing almost instantly while the rest of the game is downloaded in the background. But that can also be a slow process and an inefficient use of the network.By contrast, a single Approxy server can service 10,000 users. Approxy says you won’t exceed a data cap by using its service.

With cloudpaging, Approxy fetches the software instructions on demand from the cloud. Games can also run instantly without any installation when only 5 percent to 10 percent is buffered. Licenses are tracked automatically and the delivery is secure. Games can be instantly patched. Games can be played offline and with full peripheral support. Publishers can learn exactly where the users stop playing a game and check that section for bugs or design problems. Approxy has seven employees.

The technology has been in development for over 12 years and it has taken $50 million in investment, stemming originally from a grant from the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Approxy has exclusive licenses to the technology in gaming and consumer applications such as set-top boxes, consoles, virtual consoles, PCs and smart TVs. Approxy says it has the rights for 18 Numecent patents. Approxy’s service is in beta testing now and version 2.0 will be in testing in the second quarter.

In a video, the company showed Unreal Tournament, an older first-person shooter game, running from the cloud to an intermediary PC and then to a tablet. The game is shifted from the PC to the tablet via WiFi. None of the devices have the game installed, and the local PC is being used as a proxy graphics processing unit server. See the video below. More demos are on the Approxy site.

Filed under: cloud, deals, dev, games

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Apple’s iOS runs HTML5 games three times faster than Android

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 09:00 AM PST

HTML5 is the new lingua franca of the internet, but games that are written in the format tend to run too slow.

The platforms that run HTML5 faster are likely to have an advantage in running a whole new wave of applications and games. So Spaceport.io, the cross-platform mobile game development tool maker, ran a study to find out whether iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) is faster than Android at running HTML5 games. Hands-down, iOS won.

If HTML5 games run sufficiently fast, then a lot of benefits accrue. For instance, a game could be written in HTML5 for one platform and then work perfectly fine in another.

iOS performed three times better at running HTML5 games than Android, according to the new study. Spaceport.io created a benchmark dubbed PerfMarks to test performance at running HTML5 code.

The benchmark tested a device’s ability to animate image movement — a key measure of game performance. The report measures the number of moving images on a screen at 30 frames per second (FPS), a frame rate which provides a near-native user experience.

Repeated tests show that iOS performed far better at running animations than Android. The newest iPhone 4S scored 252 PerfMarks and the iPad 2 score 327. That compares to just 53 for the iPhone 3GS from 2009. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone scored 147 and the Kindle Fire scored only 25.

The iPad 2 beat every single Android device tested. The newly released Android Galaxy Nexus was the only Android smartphone that could handle images at 30 frames per second.

Some Android tablets performed poorly despite their powerful hardware. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 scored 65.

Both iOS 5.0 and Android 4.0 (the latest iterations) have registered massive improvements – about 100 percent – in running HTML5 games.  Android has become a much more viable environment for HTML5 development with Ice Cream Sandwich. But all Android 3.0 devices and under were unable to perform adequately under these tests.

“HTML5 is getting faster over time, as seen in the latest OS updates across Android and iOS. Although this is a welcome trend, there is still a long way to go," said Spaceport.io founder Ben Savage. "We hope the spaceport.io PerfMarks report will act as a bellwether for mobile browser and operating system creators who hope to better serve the HTML5 game development community."

The next PerfMarks report will be available at the second annual HTML5 Game Developer Conference to be held on May 21 in San Francisco.

Filed under: games, mobile

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ESPN’s new developer center strikes out with programmers

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 07:57 AM PST

ESPN launched its Developer Center today, declaring that it was making a wide array of editorial content, scores and sports data accessible to third party developers. But the early reviews from the coding community are negative, calling out the high costs and multiple restrictions.

“APIs are for nerds (nerds who build freaking awesome sports stuff)” reads the headline when you arrive at the developer center website. There is a showcase of integrations with premium partners that mixes ESPN data with high profile apps like Foursquare, Pulse and Flipboard.

But these are big time apps with an independent business to support them. What about the third party developer hoping to build some new and exciting with this sports data? As several developer pointed out, ESPN’s terms of service restrict the business possibilities:

“Branding. All Apps must include an approved ESPN trademark, logo or other intellectual property (each, an “ESPN Mark”). Advertising. No advertising or sponsorship of any kind may appear on or be associated with any App (unless included in the Content made available by ESPN). No Charge. All Apps must be offered free of charge to download or otherwise access and may not contain any in-App purchase features.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong – but they’ve made it impossible to monetize my effort, correct? I don’t see how this will go anywhere if that is the case. It seems like they just want developers to build extra ESPN apps for them, and then give them all away for free. Ugh.” writes Hacker News user hopsdamn

There are also heavy restrictions on the publicly available data. To get scores or team information from ESPN, developers need to be a premium partner. There is no information on how to become a premium parter outside a link inviting developers to contact ESPN. And basic users are limited to 1 API call per second and 2,500 per day, meaning any app that becomes even a little successful is quickly going to get rate limited.

A similar developer platform launched by CBS in January allowed access to a wealth of scores and stats. That’s a much richer set of data to play with than Headlines, which is all ESPN currently offers to basic third party developers.

“Good job ESPN. I was excited about this until I registered and realized I could only use headline data. This thing is completely useless without giving everyone access to at least two more data streams. (No scores?!) FAIL. Nice try though,” wrote Hacker News user methoddk.


Filed under: dev, media

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Pass the CRM: Posiq lets restaurants track what you eat (exclusive)

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 07:30 AM PST

Posiq, a customer relationship manager for restaurants, launched its first product Monday.

Over the last few years, Salesforce has made CRMs popular for more than just the sales industry. Posiq is hoping to bring a customer relationship management platform to the restaurant industry with its point-of-sale integrated CRM.

“Businesses get data to see their customers spending habits and see how marketing efforts are paying off,” Posiq chief executive Richard Onyon told VentureBeat in an interview. “Posiq delivers reports to restaurants to tell them how business is doing, which marketing efforts are affective, and helps them analyze offers to see what’s working.”

Instead of focusing on sales leads like Salesforce, Posiq aims to help restaurants draw more customers in and keep them coming back. Posiq can help restaurants develop marketing strategies, promote coupons and offers through print and online marketing, and track how well the marketing efforts worked with analytics.

For example, restaurant owners can create a LivingSocial deal, then track how many people purchased the deal, how many redeem the deal, and how many of those customers visit the restaurant again. Posiq can also create text-message based deals for customer who don’t want to use a third-party service. The system works with several major point of sale systems that restaurants use to process sales.

Once you use a deal at a restaurant using Posiq, the restaurant can track what you’ve eaten, how many times you come back, and what you order consistently. While the information tracking might make you feel queasy, according to Onyon only your phone number is stored unless you provide the CRM with more personal information, such as your birthday or gender. Posiq also acts as a governor for restaurants to prevent them from blasting your phone with unwanted offers.

“Our model is to give restaurants the customer data to grow their business and all the data belongs to restaurant, isn’t ours,” said Onyon, “People want that old-fashioned feeling that restaurant owners to know them, our software helps that happen.”

The biggest competitor for Posiq now is Facebook’s recently announced Offers, which Onyon acknowledges will make deals much more social. Though, he’s quick to point out that Facebook Offers sends an email to you to redeem a deal, where as Posiq is entirely mobile-based. However, Facebook Offers will likely gain much faster traction for consumers given the social network’s massive user base and the familiarity that brands have with its marketing features.

Posiq was founded in 2010 and has been operating in stealth until now. The company is currently seeking seed funding from venture capital firms.

Filed under: cloud

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Samsung denies Galaxy S III April release, but says stay tuned

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 06:54 AM PST

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung this morning officially denied a report that said its upcoming Galaxy S III smartphone would launch in April, but the company said it would reveal eventually announce the launch date on Twitter.

The denial came from the Korean Samsung Tomorrow Twitter account, which makes sense since the rumors surrounding the April launch data began at ZDNet’s Korean arm. The company reiterated that the Galaxy S III is still on track for launch in the first half of this year, in a statement to The Verge.

It’s likely that an April release for the Galaxy S III was in the works for Samsung, but the company didn’t want to pigeonhole itself into that month. The company could be waiting to finalize a quad-core version of its Exynos processor for the Galaxy S III.

Most recently, we’ve heard that the Galaxy S III could sport a huge 4.8-inch screen (bigger than Google’s flagship Galaxy Nexus) as well as a ceramic case. The phone could be as thin a 7 millimeters, and is expected to feature updated cameras as well. By this point, it’s a given that it’ll sport Android 4.0 and LTE connectivity.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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iSwifter makes iPad game streaming available to all PC game companies (exclusive)

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 06:00 AM PST

iSwifter found a niche for its cloud streaming service by enabling Flash games to run on the iPad. Now it is extending its platform so that a wider swatch of PC game companies can stream their games to Apple’s tablet.

This means that PC game makers will be able to take games from their older library of games and, without much effort, get them running on an iPad. As you can see from the picture above, iSwifter has been able to adapt Blizzard Entertainment’s original StarCraft game. As such, iSwifter can make it easy for game publishers to find a new source of revenue from their older games by adapting them to new platforms where users are plentiful.

“We are bridging the applications of the PC era with the devices of the mobile era,” said Rajat Gupta, chief executive of iSwifter, in an exclusive interview with VentureBeat.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based iSwifter takes advantage of the cloud, or web-connected data centers. It runs a game, such as a Flash-based Facebook game, in the cloud. Then it streams video of the games at high speeds to a mobile device like an iPad. The interaction over a broadband connection is fast enough so that the user doesn’t notice that the game isn’t actually stored or computed on the iPad. The service operates functionally much like Onlive’s or Gaikai’s cloud gaming services.

Since Adobe gave up on running Flash on mobile devices, it has created a big problem for developers who have a lot of content on the social networks or the web and want to move it to the iPad. But it’s hard for them to do this if it means rewriting a lot of code. iSwifter handles the conversion and makes it possible to run the exact same Flash game on an iPad.Users can download iSwifter’s browsing app and play it free for 30 minutes; after that, it costs $4.99. The games run smoothly as if they were running in a native format.

While OnLive and Gaikai are using streaming to reproduce a high-end 3D graphics experience on lesser hardware, iSwifter isn’t going that far. it is taking games with medium-quality graphics and getting them to run on new devices.

“Now we’re ready to apply this technology in a broader way,” said Peter Relan, chairman of the YouWeb incubator that spawned iSwifter in 2010. iSwifter has since spun off and become its own company with 30 employee. According to Relan, “We want to license it to PC makers who want their games streamed to iOS and Android mobile devices.”

Relan said that iSwifter was growing at a $10 million annual run rate. The company has already licensed its iSwifter technology to an unnamed large game publisher that plans to convert a library of PC games to run on iSwifter on the iPad. That company and a couple of other licensees are likely to launch games in the second quarter.

Over time, iSwifter will like be expanded so that it can handle multiple applications, not just games. It could do productivity apps, much like OnLive does with its Office-capable OnLive Desktop service. iSwifter has also launched its Rover browser for educational purposes. As iSwifter expands into other territory, it will compete head-on with OnLive, which has also moved into iSwifter’s market on the iPad.

“This can be expanded to bring rich interactive apps to any mobile devices,” Relan said. “It opens up a whole new world of business.”

Gupta said the company will try to recruit more licensees at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Filed under: games, mobile, VentureBeat

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“Many tens of thousands” $35 Raspberry Pi computers have been ordered (interview)

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 06:00 AM PST

Apple and Blackberry aren’t the only fruit-flavored brands that can cause a stir with new hardware releases. The UK-developed Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized, bare-bones computer selling in two variations for $25 and $35 respectively — slightly less than an iPad 2 plastic cover.

After the Raspberry Pi’s pre-order launch through two resellers caused temporary website crashes, VentureBeat caught up with Eben Upton, Director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. He is thrilled that “demand has been absolutely enormous.”

The Pi is available internationally through outlets Premier Farnell and RS Components. There are no plans to increase the number of distributors for the foreseeable future as “these companies are in a position to build a very large number of devices,” adds Upton. He believes that the backlog of “many, many tens of thousands” orders will be addressed by late April.

That’s a lot of excitement for a new hardware platform from a non-profit organization. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity that wants to foster programming skills among students and promote the study of computer science.

Eben Upton clarifies: “Remember that our priority goal isn’t to build computers. Our priority goal is to encourage people to learn to program. Building computers is like a side effect. We have to do it because we don’t believe there’s a good platform for teaching available. It’s a necessary step — and a good source of money to help us to achieve that goal.”

Upton assures us that North Americans ordering a Raspberry Pi don’t have to feel bad about taking something away from British school children. “To be honest, I think our first orders will mostly go to middle-aged guys, because these are the people who already know about computers and are in a position to make use of what is currently a very bare-bones platform.” Upton is counting on “the hackers” to support the new platform with software that will help the Pi become a good classroom product.

Both Raspberry Pi models are equipped with 256MB RAM, an 700MHz ARM processor and a VideoCore IV GPU capable of Blu-ray quality (1080p) video playback. The hardware architecture is not too different from smartphones, which should help software developers: “It has a lot of graphical performance. It is a really good platform to port iOS or Android apps onto,” says Upton. “We already have some early developers out there who have taken apps from a mobile device [to the Raspberry Pi], and found it performs very well.” So does the Foundation have any plans for an app platform? “That’s an interesting question. I think we would like to do something in that area, but we haven’t had a chance to do it.”

Regarding additions to the product portfolio, Upton responded, “I have no comment about future products. Read into that what you will”.  And even if the Raspberry grows into a big computer brand, he doesn’t envision the charity turning into a regular corporation: “It’s nice to be free of the pressure that comes with running a commercially funded startup. There’s always pressure to do things because they make money rather than they’re the right things to do. [The Raspberry Pi Foundation] will make money, but that money goes back into supporting what our primary goals are.”

In his day job Eben Upton is a technical director at semiconductor company Broadcom. His employer is very supportive: “Broadcom has a long track record of supporting initiatives in science, technology and engineering education. So it’s a good alignment between what Broadcom likes and what the [Raspberry Pi] Foundation is trying to do.”

Broadcom also supplies the BCM2835 system on a chip for the Raspberry Pi boards. Although the non-profit status makes it easier for the Foundation to negotiate discounts with parts suppliers, Upton emphasizes that his employer is not cutting Raspberry a sweetheart deal: “Broadcom is making money. All of the components are purchased on commercial terms, we’re not subsidized.”

This also means that the Foundation is not receiving any money from the British government, though it has been cultivating a fanbase in high places: “Senior levels of government in the UK are aware of what we’re doing and I understand that they are very enthusiastic about it. Education secretary [Michael Grove] in the UK is a fan, he mentions us a lot. My understanding is that George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is also aware of what we’re working on. So we certainly have a certain amount of passive support,” says Upton.

We couldn’t help asking Eben Upton whether fellow Foundation trustee David Braben is secretly working on a Raspberry Pi version of his landmark space game Elite. “I see him maybe every few weeks at trustee meetings and haven’t had a chance to ask him whether he would be interested in doing that,” replied Upton, “He’s like a local hero [in Cambridge], we’re very lucky to have him involved. We were extremely pleased when he agreed to join the trustee board; he’s obviously an extremely well-connected guy. He can add a lot of value to the project even without writing a version of Elite.”

[Photo credits: Raspberry Pi]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Redpoint eVentures launches to help budding Brazilian tech industry

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 05:00 AM PST

Redpoint Ventures and BV Capital eVentures announced today that they are teaming up to launch the oh-so-cleverly named Redpoint eVentures, a new venture capital fund for Brazil’s tech industry.

The firm is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil and will back Brazilian Internet companies with a focus on e-commerce, mobile, and cloud services. Founding partners Yann de Vries and Anderson Thees hope to bring their Silicon Valley expertise to Brazil and offer guidance, financing, and partnerships to startups in Brazil.

Redpoint eVentures has already funded three startups, Viajanet, a travel site; Grupo Xango, a cloud computing service; and Shoes4you, a women’s fashion and footwear site.

Starting a company in Brazil can be a huge undertaking. There is a lot of bureaucratic red tape to cut throughm and the process of founding a business can take months. Startups and the VCs that invest in them don’t have a ton of professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, to rely on, because the country is lacking them.

Despite the tough entrepreneurial conditions, Brazil is becoming a burgeoning tech startup hot spot. Its economy is large and the population of Internet users is growing. Startups are popping up quickly and gaining a lot of traction. In fact, Peixe Urbano, a daily deals site out of Brazil, won a 2011 Crunchies Award for Best International startup. The company has millions of users and raised several rounds of funding from Benchmark Capital, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, and other VCs.

Redpoint and BV Capital eVentures’ portfolios include well-known Silicon Valley tech companies such as Groupon, Angie's List, and Netflix. This is eVentures’ fourth international fund, following funds for Europe, Russia, and Asia.

Filed under: deals

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Article One Partners raises $7M to check patent validity

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 05:00 AM PST

Article One Partners (AOP), a patent research firm that works with the U.S. patent office, announced today it has closed its second round of funding for $7 million.

Patent lawsuits are more common than product launches these days, especially thanks to litigation from Apple, Samsung, and Motorola that has happened over the last year. But because so many patents are being issued to huge companies that are in fierce competition, there isn’t a lot of research that goes into whether a patent is valid or not. Instead of feeding the squabble over whether one company’s technology infringes upon another company’s patent, AOP determines whether the patent was ever valid in the first place.

“We are part of the patent process, helping companies like Microsoft who have an interest in acting proactively against patent litigation,” AOP chief executive Cheryl Milone (pictured above) told VentureBeat.

AOP debuted at a DEMO event in 2009 and since then its mission has been to research patents to figure out how valid they are and whether the patented technology or process was already invented by someone else. The company uses crowd-sourced research to find “prior art” evidence for patents.

“We enlist our community to add evidence to patents, allowing the industry to remove inefficiencies, such as unnecessary litigation,” said Milone.

The company enlists the help of a community to hunt down evidence that a patent is valid. Community members that take on research projects are paid for their efforts, earning up to $50,000 per project. The community is made up of experts in certain industries, professional researchers, and “creative types” that, according to AOP, can offer various research perspectives.

AOP faces some competition from CrowdIPR, an intellectual property search community that pays people to find prior art evidence. That company just came on the scene in the United Kingdom. Though CrowdIPR is still in beta, both companies question the validity of patents on an international level.

Article One Partners will use the funding to grow its community and pay its researchers.

The company was founded in 2008 and has raised $14 million to date from Alleghany Capital, which led this round of funding and has previously invested in the company. AOP is based in New York, New York, and has fewer than 20 employees.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Facing limits of traditional PR, Original9 Media will arm companies with content

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 05:00 AM PST


What happens when a public relations firm sobers up and realizes it actually has limits? When it realizes clients could benefit from content it doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide? This is a serious question that plagued the founders of San Francisco-based PR firm LaunchSquad, and instead of trying to create a new content division, it decided to make a new company instead.

Enter Original9 Media, a new venture that will focus entirely on content creation and occasionally hook up with LaunchSquad on projects. Original9 will be focused on managing blogs, writing blog posts, creating videos, making infographics, and developing mobile apps.

LaunchSquad co-founder and Original9 adviser Jesse Odell (pictured) told us that the current structure of his PR firm didn’t allow for enough content to be made. He said, in many cases, providing content like viral videos and engaging blog posts will work much better for some clients than the traditional PR approach of pitching news and hoping journalists bite.

“To do this well, you have to create high-quality content and do it at a high frequency,” Odell told VentureBeat. “LaunchSquad will do its own content for clients, but it may bring in Original9 to work on other kinds of content.”

Original9 will be led by Jeffrey Davis, a former journalist who worked at Business 2.0, BNET, and Bizmore. Davis has been senior VP and editorial director at LaunchSquad since August 2010, but he will now run Original9 with his instincts for how media thinks.

“This is an amazing time in the world of online media and we see an opportunity to build a company dedicated to providing high-quality content married with distribution and analysis,” Davis said in a statement. “Our goal is to help our clients connect and engage with specific target audiences through great content no matter where that audience is living online.”

At VentureBeat, we’ve been pitched by LaunchSquad many times on behalf of great companies like Evernote, Marketo, and Dolphin. But in those dealings, it’s easy to see where the pitch could fall short. Sometimes it takes a funny video, a well-worded blog post, or striking infographic to grab our attention when so many amazing companies are pitching us news every day. This is a reality that LaunchSquad has woken up to, and from what we’ve seen, this seems like a good move from a marketing perspective.

Even if VentureBeat or other tech blogs don’t cover a deserving company, it now might grab attention from consumers through social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. And sometimes, when a company begins gaining traction like that, then the journalists start paying attention too. And then the circle is complete.

Jesse Odell photo courtesy of Launchsquad

Filed under: media

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Github community in turmoil after hacker exposes massive security flaw

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 04:07 AM PST

Github, the service that many professional programmers use to store their work and collaborate on coding, was hacked over the weekend. A young Russian named Egor Homakov showcased a loophole in Github that would allow anyone to commit to the master copy of a project, meaning they could alter or delete the source code. But when his account was suspended by Github, a furious argument broke among developers out about his intentions. Was he doing the community a service by exposing the flaw or taking things too far with a very public hack?

It seems that four days ago Homakov tried to alert the folks behind Rails, one of the most popular programming languages, and the one used to create Github itself, about the security flaw. There was some back and forth for a day, and eventually the powers that be decided to close the thread, writing that “There was a proposal about changing that flag in #4062 and the consensus is the pros of the default configuration outweigh the pros of the alternative.”

But Homakov was’t going to go down without a fight. Since he couldn’t get things fixed through the proper channels, he decided to use the exploit himself. He used the loophole to give himself access to Ruby on Rails code repository and left a message confirming that any project on Github was indeed vunerable. He didn’t change any code or do anything malicious.

When Github saw what happened, they suspended Homakov’s account, which created a firestorm of protest. A blog post entitled, Github, You Have Let Us All Down shot to the top of Hacker News, the world’s biggest news board for programmers. Github users threatened to pack up their projects and head to alternative services, claiming they felt vulnerable to hackers and betrayed by the response.

In the end, Github restored Homakov’s account and issued a public apology. It was a reminder that Github, which has become the defacto platform for collaborative coding, needs to take security very seriously. Software engineers often use their Github accounts as resumes when applying for jobs, so they have to feel their work is safe from tampering.

It was also an example of when the wisdom of the crowd got things wrong. Github exemplifies the benefits of open, collaboration. In this case, though, the wisdom of the crowds got things wrong, and it took a single contrarian, willing to work by any means to necessary, to show the community the danger they were in.

Filed under: dev, security

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Globalfoundries goes independent, buying out AMD ownership

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 10:38 PM PST

Globalfoundries marked its third year as a chip manufacturing foundry by buying out the shares owned by Advanced Micro Devices. That fulfills the company’s goal of becoming an independent foundry, or contract chip manufacturer.

The deal will trigger a $703 million charge for AMD, which separated from Globalfoundries three years ago to focus on designing and selling microprocessors. AMD will pay $425 million to Globalfoundries over two years and give up its 8.8 percent stake in the foundry. In return, AMD re-negotiated chip pricing with Globalfoundries and it will not have to make a $430 million payment during 2012.

AMD will also no longer give Globalfoundries exclusivity in manufacturing AMD’s 28-nanometer accelerated processing units (APUs). That will give AMD more flexibility in sourcing its chips.

Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalfoundries will still have AMD as primary customer, but Globalfoundries will now be wholly owned by the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), the investment arm of Abu Dhabi.

"Today marks the start of a new era for Globalfoundries as it becomes a truly independent foundry," said Globalfoundries chief executive Ajit Manocha.  "Globalfoundries has a clear vision to be the leading semiconductor foundry partner to AMD and one of the world's top technology companies. We continue to execute on our strategy to propel ATIC's long-term investment philosophy into true value creation for our shareholder and customers."

Globalfoundries showed an 80 percent increase in the number of 32-nanometer microprocessors shipped to AMD in the fourth quarter, compared to the third quarter. In January, Globalfoundries said it would spend more than $3 billion in 2012 to expand its chip factories in Singapore, Germany (pictured above), and New York. The company is building a new 300-millimeter-wafer manufacturing plant in New York as part of a plan to make chips for IBM.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD said that its gross profit margin guidance remains unchanged as a result of the deal.

Filed under: deals

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Square launches new iPad app to help merchants ditch the cash register

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 10:36 PM PST


Mobile payments startup Square has launched a new iPad application called Register that aims to help merchants ditch traditional cash registers, the company announced early Monday morning.

Square has done a lot in the way of transforming the way small businesses run by making it easy and relatively cheap to process credit cards on iPhone and Android devices. It recently launched its Card Case app, which makes it possible for a customer to get a transaction processed without even pulling out his or her wallet. Now with Register, the company is moving its focus back to merchants to help them modernize point-of-sale devices.

The Register app acts much like a cash register and offers a smarter way to track how payments happened. The app accepts cash and all major credit cards, can track a customer’s purchase history, and even allows for analytics to see which times are the busiest and what days aren’t performing up to snuff. The app also allows for employee permissions, tipping, and smart receipts.

Register will work on all iPads with iOS 5.0 and up, and it can be downloaded now.

Square also announced that the company had reached $4 billion in annual mobile payments. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the company said it was doing $2 billion in mobile payments annually, so it appears to have doubled its payment processing in a single quarter.

Check out a few more screenshots of the Register app below:

You can also view a short video that lays out Register below:

Filed under: mobile

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Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai leaving the company

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 04:00 PM PST


Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai will be leaving the company this month, but it’s unclear what his next move will be, according to blog post by Selvadurai.

Selvadurai writes:

After three years, I feel I've done all I can do and I'm moving on. [CEO] Dennis [Crowley] and I have been discussing timing for a while, and we decided that now, on this anniversary, it feels right to begin the transition. So this will be my last month working at foursquare. Over the course of the next few weeks, I'm going to be taking a step back as my final projects near their release.

Selvadurai has worked in several roles at Foursquare in his time at the company, including product management, engineering, and evangelizing. One moment in his career we enjoyed was a panel discussion he participated in at last year’s SXSW conference. Selvadurai made the case that data overload was becoming a serious issue, but companies like Foursquare could help make it manageable by creating “better interfaces and better algorithms” to better filter and deliver data.

In his departure blog post, Selvadurai did not indicate what he would be doing next. “I’m not sure about my exact next steps, but I'll probably get back to what I love most — being an entrepreneur, learning, and building new things,” he wrote.

We expect he will soon land elsewhere or start a new company himself.

If you know where he’s headed or have more details about what happened behind the scenes, drop me a line at sean@venturebeat.com.

Naveen Selvadurai photo: Beth Kanter/Flickr

Filed under: social

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Meet your new addiction: Pingram, a mashup of Pinterest & Instagram

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 03:28 PM PST


Pinterest and Instagram are two of the hottest social media services running today, so imagine my head explosion when I came across Pingram, a site that mashes aspects of the two services together in one interface.

Pingram is a recently launched site by Italian developer and proclaimed ex-hacker Gennaro Varriale. The site essentially allows you browse your Instagram feed (and other popular Instagram photos) as if you were doing it on Pinterest.

“I made this project to share my Instagram photos with a design similar to Pinterest,” Varriale writes on the site’s About page. “So, I decided to give you the same opportunity.”

People seem to be crazy about viewing photos and products using the wide Pinterest layout, so much so that fashion and beauty site StyleCaster borrowed from it for its new design. The layout makes it easy to consume a lot of content quickly, but now with Pingram, you’ll be browsing Instagram.

Another cool thing the site lets you do is “pin” photos from Pingram users to your Pinterest profile. Unfortunately, if you are not a Pingram user and your Instagram photo shows up on Pingram, the pinned photo only shows up as a thumbnail when another Pinterest user pins it. It appears Varriale has chosen to disable the ability to pin non-Pingram users’ photos in the name of privacy, which is probably a smart move considering criticisms about copyright Pinterest has faced.

Ideally, if many Instagram users sign up for Pingram, they could see their work circulated much wider than it is now thanks to Pinterest. We’re sure the opportunity would be attractive to the many iPhone photographers out there.

We’ve contacted Varriale to ask him if he has further plans and ideas for the new site. Let us know in the comments below what you would like to see from Pingram and if you like the site.

Hat tip: The Next Web

Pingram screenshot: Pingram homepage

Filed under: social

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iPad 3 constructed from parts gives a preview for Wednesday’s launch (video)

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 01:08 PM PST


Ahead of a much-anticipated launch on Wednesday, a Chinese blog has constructed a partial Apple iPad 3 from supplier parts and learned a few new tidbits about the upcoming device.

Apple's iPad 3 event on Wednesday promises to be a much-watched event for the company. The rumor mill has been in full force concerning the new device, with reports suggesting the iPad 3 will be slightly thicker and will include a higher-resolution Retina Display, better cameras, and the inclusion of LTE 4G chips. Other rumors suggest the unit will offer a new quad-core A6 processor to replace the iPad 2′s dual-core A5 chip, which will make processing high-end games and apps much smoother.

Now several of those rumors appear verified somewhat by a new report and video by M.I.C. Gadget. This Chinese blog has partially constructed an iPad 3 with what it claims are authentic supplier parts, including front glass, rear shell, and plastic cases.

While some speculation had indicated there would be no home button, the front glass on this iPad 3 still has a button. The blog also suggests that the iPad 3 will be a bit thicker than the iPad 2, but there are tapered edges in place that will help make it feel like it isn’t thicker.

M.I.C. Gadget also claims, along with 9to5Mac, that Apple will be releasing 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models of the iPad, just like other releases. This would contradict an earlier report by Digitimes that there would only be 16GB and 32GB models. The blog also indicated that the pricing will stay the same:

“Readers will also be pleased to know that the price has not increased either,” Steve Lo at M.I.C. Gadget wrote. “We at M.I.C. feel that this is because the rumored LTE will not be integrated. As indicated in our previous in-depth article to Apple's mobile strategy, we said there was a very limited market for LTE at this time. Also, the LTE chipset adds an extra cost to each unit, which the normal Qualcomm 3G chipset does not incur. We also feel that it will most likely be added to the next model, as opposed to this one. Our sources concur with us on this as well.”

Watch the full M.I.C. hands-on video with iPad 3 parts below:

iPad 3 case screenshot: M.I.C. YouTube video

Filed under: mobile

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Mass Effect 3 leaked online

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 12:30 PM PST

Pirates have struck the Normandy again. Just two days before Mass Effect 3 is due to land in shops in the U.S., Electronic Arts’ game has leaked via a number of torrent sites.

Both the Xbox 360 and PC version of the much-anticipated release are now available, although a crack is needed to play the latter. If true, the crack could be a serious financial problem for the company, as Mass Effect 3 is expected to be one of the biggest blockbuster games of the year.

Similar problems plagued the arrival of Mass Effect 2, but Piratebay user Matterman says, "EA has seriously stepped up their game" when dealing with the threat of pirates. Obviously, the publisher still has some way to go.

We’ve contacted EA for a response to this matter, and will update the story when we learn more. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the game were on the torrents already. The same thing has happened to many other games, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops. However, the pirates often spread the game either through pirated disks, as happened with those previous games, or by sharing them online, as appears to be happening in this case. Those Call of Duty games went on to be bestselling titles. But they probably could have generated even more revenues if they had not been pirated.

Filed under: games

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Who won? First-week sales of PS Vita vs. PSP vs. 3DS vs. DS (infographic)

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 11:00 AM PST

You Europeans sure love your Sony-branded products.

In two of the three major video game markets (Japan and the U.S.), Nintendo has come out on top in first-week sales of handheld gaming systems with its DS and 3DS consoles. But Sony has performed better in Europe, where the last-generation PlayStation Portable and the recently released PlayStation Vita have outperformed both DS devices.

Sony Computer Entertainment recently announced that it has sold over 1.2 million units of the PS Vita worldwide, and those numbers coincide with the ones our friends at research firm Statista have come up with. Check the infographic below to see how these four portables fared in first-week sales across the three territories, and for comparison’s sake, see how eight major handheld platforms have sold in their lifetimes. It looks like the Vita will have no problem beating the Sega Nomad or the NeoGeo Pocket Color, though it still has a little ways before it catches up to the Sega Game Gear….

To learn more about the Vita and its games, go to our comprehensive PlayStation Vita hub.

Filed under: games, mobile

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Apple’s App Store still scorching hot, surpasses 25B downloads

Posted: 04 Mar 2012 10:07 AM PST


Apple’s popular iOS App Store has now topped 25 billion downloads, a sign that mobile device owners are still hungry for well-built native applications.

On Apple’s site, the company has highlighted the achievement with a page that says: “A billion thanks. 25 times over.” The company had been promoting a contest where the person who broke the new milestone would win a $10,000 iTunes gift card. The milestone was broken some time in the past few days. Apple held a similar contest in Jan. 2011 when the company hit 10 billion App Store downloads.

While there have been persistent arguments about how well native mobile applications would fare against surging HTML5 development, at least when it comes to Apple, consumers are still plainly in love with native apps. Social networking apps like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are especially popular for iOS, as well as casual games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and Where’s My Water?.

VentureBeat contributor and CBS Interactive CTO Peter Yared recently summed up the current state of the conflict between native and HTML5 well, saying: “While HTML5 has come a long way, it is still not up to par with the native app experience. Some publishers, such as the Financial Times and Playboy, have come close to native app functionality by investing heavily in HTML5 in order to bypass Apple's 30 percent app store subscription fee. However, there are no turnkey JavaScript libraries that provide functionality such as efficient swiping and offline reading.”

What apps for the App Store have you been enjoying most lately?

Filed under: mobile

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