06 March, 2012



Media publishers finally fight Apple’s evil subscription empire

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 08:00 AM PST

When I think of Apple's Subscription Service, I immediately think of the villainous superweapon from The Star Wars universe: it's powerful, built out of arrogance and with two purposes: destruction and control.

A year ago almost to the day, Apple launched its subscription service and almost annihilated traditional journalism as we know it. It's as if a million journalists cried out and were suddenly … well, very quiet. Apple's model forces publishers to use one subscription-pricing model to engage with customers. It gives papers no way to bundle physical and digital goods. It severely limits the ad revenue from tablet editions of magazines and newspapers and tethers content to a device, making cross-platform content a thing of science fiction. And most importantly, Apple still controls the customer data: the lifeblood of a publisher's business mode.

But to quote Princess Leia, “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through fingers."

And, indeed, we’re seeing signs of a bold resistance. First, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times ditched iTunes in favor of their own apps. Then, The New York Times showed it still had some fight left in it and launched its successful (if somewhat confusing) subscription plan. Despite the projected $25 million it cost the NYTimes to build its subscription service, MediaPost reported that paid digital subscribers to digital subscription packages, e-readers, and replica editions of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune totaled approximately 390,000 as of the end of the fourth quarter, which amounted to an increase of nearly 20% quarter-over-quarter.

Just in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen signs that the dam is breaking and the pockets of resistance are becoming a full-fledged rebellion. A second wave of publishers has joined the fight for a free, independent media in the online world. Pearson, Gannet, and The Los Angeles Times all announced their own plans for subscription services. [Full disclosure: I certainly have a vested interest in this fight as head of a company that offers subscription management services.]

This is just the beginning. The business model is there. The customers are there. Media icons like The New York Times, Pearson, and Gannet are leading the charge. As this motley crew of rebels have demonstrated, there is another way to save the fourth estate. And the time to act is now.

One year ago the iPad 2 and Apple Subscription Service launches were supposedly the death knell for publishers. We're on the eve of the iPad 3. Publishers who stand by and watch as their content is given away for free aren't going to survive. One year from now, many of the publishers who failed to act will be nothing but Alderaans — that is to say, dust.

Speed and efficiency is critical. It took the New York Times $25 million dollars and more than a year to build its paywall. That won't cut it for the rest of the world.

And media companies need subscription models that are flexible, scalable, and adjustable. They can't depend on Apple, Google, or Yahoo for this. The LA Times shouldn't use the same model as Spin Magazine or The Alameda Sun. Newspapers and magazines need a similarly flexible platform to create the right bundles for the right customers, and recognize that a "one-size -fits-all approach" won't maximize revenue. Publishers shouldn't be tempted by the lore of the darkside or the iPad: You need to build your own online subscription strategy, one that allows for lots of different ways to package up your content and sell it.

I humbly implore all media companies who read this — downtrodden newspaper editors, heads of publishing houses, and CEOs of media businesses: don't listen to Apple, Google, or Yahoo. Join the Rebellion. Help us save journalism.

As Yoda would say "Time to act, now is." Follow the lead of the media rebels — now is the time to invest in a paywall and join the Rebellion.

Tien Tzuo is a Star Wars fan and CEO of subscription services company Zuora, which doesn’t just target print publishers but many kinds of membership services, streamed offerings, cloud services, and SaaS vendors. Tzou was previously one of the original members of the Salesforce.com team and built that company’s original billing system.

[Top image c/o StarWars.com]

Filed under: cloud, media, mobile

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Unit 13 for the PS Vita is the epitome of flawed fun (review)

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 08:00 AM PST

The Vita launch hype settled down quick, didn’t it? With the first batch of games out of the way, Unit 13 rocks up to the show with a surprising amount of confidence.

So far, most Vita games force touchscreen controls into every nook and cranny. Zipper Interactive doesn’t bow to peer pressure. Instead, the developer opts to showcase how effective tightly-woven gunplay and smartly designed levels are on the new handheld. Refreshingly, you won’t be hacking opponents to death with a flick of the screen. That is SO last week.


Thoughtful, challenging missions

Instead of long, grueling levels, this title includes over 50 missions for those who want to pick up and play in spare time. Each objective typically lasts anywhere up to half an hour, but most clock in at around the 10 minute mark. The developer understands time is precious, and strives to ensure tasks aren’t soiled by unfair difficulty. You’ll quickly learn that, if you prematurely die in Unit 13, you’ve definitely done something wrong.

Each successful mission is rewarded with a final score, which is then posted to an online leaderboard. For those who like to get competitive, eradicating minor mistakes is the key to racking up the points. Is there anything worse than speeding through a mission, only to cause a disturbance at the last minute? Well yes, a bullet between the eyes trumps that. You can only take one or two shots before hitting the floor, so those who want to come out with a 5-star rating must prepare the correct weapons for each situation.

Plenty of options and replay value

The vast amount of character classes, weapons and add-ons make this game an entirely personal one. The briefing for each mission indicates who is best suited to the job, but you don’t need to stick to this loose set of rules. If you prefer unleashing a heavy gunner on a stealth mission, the assault rifle awaits your companionship. Completing each mission levels up the successful character class and weapons within it, meaning you quickly put your stamp on what scopes, silencers and extra guns become available.

I urge you to try a handful of missions with each character class. Whether you opt for a stealthy approach or love to throw hot potatoes into a crowd of enemies, this game does an excellent job of making each of your selections feel unique. Tactics must be slightly altered to encompass the strength of each class, meaning your offense is continually evolving in order to suit your needs.

Intelligent gunplay and cover system

No matter what mission you undertake, the use of cover should quickly drill itself into your every thought. Ducking and diving behind walls, tables, and crates is often implemented by developers, but Unit 13 puts a greater importance on such simple actions. While behind cover, the opportunity to scope out any potential danger arises. Areas can be quietly observed, giving you a massive advantage. Enemy patterns are easy to memorize, as they typically trundle back and forth in robotic fashion.

A life-saving picture is steadily built of your surroundings. Without ever stepping foot into the main firing zone, you’ll be able to eliminate those who stray from the pack. Cover offers a sanctuary between each execution, giving you the chance to plan ahead and approach with a pop-and-drop style.

Unit 13′s dynamic gunplay becomes the foundation for success. The default third-person viewpoint is easily shifted to first-person, a switch that allows precision shooting. Like most console games, the shoulder buttons are used to aim and fire. This feels entirely natural, and in the tougher missions, is an absolute life-saver.. Instead of shooting from the hip, peering down the site allows a lethal mix of speed and accuracy. Whether your cover is blown, or your enemy is unaware of your position, such efficiency makes each of Unit 13′s challenging objectives enjoyable, despite some lazy drawbacks.


Problematic A.I.

Unfortunately, Zipper Interactive shoots itself in the foot with dire A.I. Sometimes, you have to wonder how certain parts of a game makes it past the testing stage. While enemy soldiers often quip humorously to their allies, the jovial spirit soon turns to embarrassment when observing their behavior.

To start, your opposition suffers from short-term memory loss. Expect them to shoot at your position when spotted, then lose sight of your whereabouts a few seconds later. The barrage of bullets is often stopped by moving sideways. Occasionally, a brave soul will rush your position while the rest of his compatriots freeze in position. Although you can’t afford to take much damage, the opposition’s threat is predictable.

Many times I was able to kill one soldier, and wait for his buddies to inspect the corpse. Without altering my aim, they enter the cross hairs too. Combine the enemy’s ability to queue for death alongside their persistent forgetfulness, and the phrase "shooting fish in a barrel" comes to mind.

The uselessness of your foes doesn’t stop there. Guards often get stuck on scenery, making a mockery of the mission. Bodies stutter as the animation struggles to free those who imprison themselves on any protruding walls. Unit 13 builds itself on carefully designed levels, but the intelligence of the inhabitants suffers from neglect. When you realize these kind of occurrences are on repeat, the product doesn’t feel entirely finished.

General dullness

Locations also suffer from repetition. Through the use of warehouses, terrorist hideouts, and bases, Zipper Interactive underline this as one of Vita’s most generic titles so far. Each location does the job, but it would have been great to witness a smattering of imagination from the developer. The color palette only pushes beyond grays and browns for levels set in a nightclub, paling in comparison to the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss.


Despite the awful A.I and dull locations, this game offers an enjoyable challenge. Each mission is so finely poised that pre-planning and scouting ahead is an absolute must. Expansive options for the evolution of character classes and weapons make this an addictive shooter that continues to beg for your attention. Without a doubt, this game’s most impressive feat is the seamless inclusion of a first-person viewpoint. Zipper Interactive highlights Vita’s potential in this area, providing the best gunplay on the handheld to date. If you can overlook the annoyances, Unit 13 is worth signing up for.

Score: 72/100

Unit 13 will be released for the PlayStation Vita on March 6, 2012. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of the review.

Filed under: games

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Apple TV out of stock in 98% of U.S. Apple stores — prepare for something new

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 07:47 AM PST

Apple TV

You’ll be hard pressed to find an Apple TV in stock at an Apple Store today — 98 percent of the company’s retail locations now report that the media set-top box isn’t available for immediate pickup when placing an online order, reports MacRumors.

The shortage lends credence to a report from last week that suggested Apple would unveil a new Apple TV at its iPad HD event on Wednesday. With new Apple TV model numbers already popping up, as well as the fact that the current Apple TV was first unveiled back in September 2010, it makes sense that Apple would deliver a new model tomorrow.

In New York City, only the SoHo Apple Store has the Apple TV in stock, according to the online Apple Store. All other local stores, including the flagship Fifth Ave. and new Grand Central locations, are showing availability of March 9. The Apple TV is still in stock on the Apple Store if you choose to ship it to your home.

So what would a new Apple TV mean for you? For one, it’ll likely offer support for 1080p high-definition video and include a faster processor (we’re assuming whatever the iPad HD will use, possibly the A5X). It will also be the perfect companion to the iPad HD, which will likely sport a new high-resolution display capable of running 1080p video.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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LulzSec leader Sabu turns FBI snitch, reportedly gives up five top hackers

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 07:37 AM PST


The head of the hacker group LulzSec has reportedly given up give five members of his own organization, which has strong ties to prominent hacking collective Anonymous.

LulzSec came to prominence in mid-2011, with online attacks targeting the U.S. Senate, the CIA, Arizona police, Brazilian government sites, and online games like Minecraft and EVE Online. The group supposedly disbanded in late June, but members of LulzSec were also tied to Anonymous, which continues to release confidential data and launch DDoS attacks on organizations it doesn’t like.

Fox News reports that Sabu, the leader of LulzSec and a higher-up with Anonymous, actually goes by the name Hector Xavier Monsegur (pictured), an unemployed 28-year-old with two children.

“This is devastating to the organization,” an FBI official told Fox News. “We're chopping off the head of LulzSec.”

Monsegur reportedly launched attacks from his home in public housing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The report indicates that the FBI figured out Monsegur’s identity last June (when LulzSec disbanded) and since then he has been cooperating with the Feds. Monsegur’s Twitter feed under the name Sabu threw off the scent that he was working for the government.

“The federal government is run by a bunch of f*cking cowards,” The Real Sabu wrote on Monday. “Don’t give in to these people. Fight back. Stay strong.”

After being taken into custody, Monsegur pleaded guilty on Aug. 15 to 12 charges related to his hacking activities. Giving information to the government presumably will lighten his sentence.

The five LulzSec hackers Monsegur reportedly gave up include: Jake Davis (“Topiary”) and Ryan Ackroyd ("Kayla") of London; Darren Martyn ("pwnsauce") and Donncha O'Cearrbhail ("palladium”) of Ireland; and Jeremy Hammond ("Anarchaos") of Chicago. On Aug. 1, Davis was notably charged in the U.K. for his hacking activities, which lines up with the reported timeline of Monsegur’s capture.

Hector Xavier Monsegur photo: Fox News

Filed under: security

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Casino wars: Big Fish Games acquires mobile casino game maker Self Aware Games

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 07:05 AM PST

The ante in the casino game market is getting bigger and bigger. Big Fish Games is announcing today it has acquire mobile casino game developer Self Aware Games and its parent company Social Concepts.

Seattle-based Big Fish is girding itself for a battle in the casual casino gaming market, where the combatants include Zynga (which is launching a number of casino games such as Zynga Slingo and Zynga Bingo to supplement its Zynga Poker game) and International Game Technology, which paid $500 million for Facebook casino game maker Double Down Interactive.Electronic Arts’ PopCap Games division also entered the fray with its Lucky Gem Casino collection of games.

Self Aware’s 23 employees will join Big Fish Games’ more than 500 employees. The value of the deal wasn’t disclosed. Bill Lee is the founder of Social Concepts, and Self Aware’s founders are Colin Liotta and Seppo Helava. Oakland, Calif.-based Self Aware is the creator of Card Ace: Casino (pictured at top). the No. 1 grossing casino game on the App Store. The newly acquired studio will remain where it is and will become the first outpost of Big Fish Games in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Self Aware Games is working on a new location-based mobile online game platform. Its initial iPad title is called Fleck Touch. Self Aware is focused on free-to-play mobile games, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods.

"We are delighted to integrate one of the most talented mobile social game development teams, and to extend our mainstream consumer reach to include the booming market of casino games," said Paul Thelen, founder and chief strategy officer of Big Fish Games. He said the company plans to take Card Ace: Casino to Facebook. Self Aware Games is making an HTML5 version of Card: Ace Casino for launch in the second quarter.

The unspoken part is that the game publishers are also positioning themselves for an opportunity in online gambling. Interest in the topic has been brewing since the Obama administration's Justice Department ruled in December that online gambling was legal, as long as it was not sports-related, which was specifically prohibited in prior law.

The ruling reversed a long-standing position that said the 1961 federal gambling law extended to Internet gambling; now the Justice Department has given states the green light to create intrastate online gambling systems that don't include sports betting. And states, such as Nevada, are starting to take steps to explicitly legalize online poker and possibly other games. That gives online gambling companies the right to set up poker games for players in Nevada, but the states need to create interstate agreements to allow gambling across state lines. The ball is rolling on that front, but there may be a patchwork of states for a while where online poker gambling is legal. So there is some renewed hope among the companies eyeing this market that country-wide online gambling might happen at some point in the future.

That was enough to lift Zynga’s stock price in January, and the company’s stock price closed on Monday at $13.97 a share, up from its IPO price of $10 a share. Zynga has said that it is in active conversations with potential partners to better understand and explore the new opportunity.

Big Fish Games was founde din 2002 and it saw organic growth of 30 percent in 2011, which was its ninth consecutive year of record revenue. The company has more than 2,500 games across PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets.

Filed under: games

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Rep. Darrell Issa opens up secretive intellectual property “treaty”, ACTA, to the public

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 06:59 AM PST

While Americans were busy fighting the SOPA and PIPA bills at home, nations around the globe, including the United States, were signing on to ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which many in the world of technology feel is as bad or worse than the home grown piracy legislation. "ACTA represents as great a threat to an open Internet as SOPA and PIPA and wasdrafted with even less transparency and input from digital citizens," said California Congressman Darrell Issa. That’s why Rep. Issa is opening up ACTA to the public using an online platform called Madison, part of the #OPEN act introduced in January.

"This agreement was negotiated in secret and many of its vague provisions would clearly increase economic uncertainty, while imposing onerous new regulations on job creators, Internet service providers, innovators and individual Americans,” Rep. Issa said in a statement emailed to VentureBeat this morning. “Opening ACTA to taxpayers and stakeholder in Madison will help gather crucial input, while delivering the transparency they deserve."

Negotiations around ACTA actually began four years ago, but the Obama administration only signed on in October of 2011, joined by nations like Canada, Japan, Korea and Australia. As Rep. Issa sees it, this is both an issue of intellectual property and legislative process:

No Transparency: ACTA is a multilateral intellectual property agreement that was negotiated in secret, excluding American taxpayers and key stakeholders who would be impacted by it. Despite the fact that ACTA has huge implications for the public, until now few steps have been taken to give the public input into this process.

Circumvents Congress & the Constitution: While ACTA carries several provisions that directly affect U.S. trade and intellectual property law, the Bush and Obama Administrations appear to have violated Congress' constitutional authority over policymaking in these areas. Adding insult to constitutional injury, the Administration refuses to even classify ACTA as a treaty, which would then require ratification by the U.S. Senate. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) raised these troubling issues in an October 12, 2011 letter to President Obama.

Vague & Far-Reaching: Like it's domestic counterparts SOPA and PIPA, much of ACTA is vague, with consequences for individuals and stakeholders that could reach far beyond the agreement's original intent. ACTA also contains no safeguards against wrongful cases of intellectual property rights infringement.

We’ve embedded the document below so that you can go over the fine print yourself. Section 5 beginning on page 15 covers enforcement of intellectual property rights in the digital environment. A few highlights we came across:

  • Each Party shall provide that, in civil judicial proceedings concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights, its judicial authorities have the authority to issue an order against a party to desist from an infringementEach Party shall provide that, in civil judicial proceedings concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights, its judicial authorities have the authority to order the infringer who, knowingly or with reasonable grounds to know, engaged in infringing activity to pay the right holder damages adequate to compensate for the injury the right holder has suffered as a result of the infringement. In determining the amount of damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, a Party's judicial authorities shall have the authority to consider, inter alia, any legitimate measure of value the right holder submits, which may include lost profits, the value of the infringed goods or services measured by the market price, or the suggested retail price.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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No surprise: Nokia’s 41MP 808 PureView won’t be headed to North America

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 06:54 AM PST

Once again, North Americans are missing out on one of Nokia’s experimental new smartphones. Last year it was the intriguing N9, this year it’s the Nokia 808 PureView, which wowed crowds at Mobile World Congress last week with its phenomenal 41 megapixel camera.

On Nokia’s developer site, the 808 PureView is listed as having a global release — except in North America. It’s likely that Nokia hasn’t landed any carrier partnerships for the phone yet, without which North American consumers won’t touch it.

This doesn’t mean the 808 PureView will never see an official North American release, instead it’s just not on the horizon yet for Nokia. As always, gadget hounds can import the PureView from other countries for use in North America — though it will likely come at a high price.

Aside from its astounding camera, the 808 PureView likely doesn’t have much appeal for North American carriers because it’s running Nokia’s Symbian Belle OS. The company has said it will eventually bring its PureView camera technology to future phones, so we can expect it in a Lumia Windows Phone within the next few years.

The Nokia 808 PureView was awarded the best mobile device at the Mobile World Congress last week. We also chatted with a Nokia engineer who demonstrated the phone’s shooting capabilities and explained the technology behind it.

Via Engadget

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Smartphone stolen or broken? Protect Your Bubble will replace it in a day

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 05:00 AM PST


As the owner of an iPhone 4S and a New Yorker who travels around town every day, I’m constantly worried about my phone breaking in an accident or getting stolen. I bought Applecare+ the day I got the phone, but even that better-than-average warranty doesn’t cover theft or loss.

Enter the just-launched Protect Your Bubble, a company selling gadget insurance in an age where people carry around some of the most expensive items they own at all times. With individual policies for smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras, and more, the company aims to give paranoid folks like me a little peace of mind.

“This is about protecting what’s important in your life,” Steven Ebbett, Director of Protect Your Bubble, told VentureBeat. “We’re trying to educate consumers about the value of what’s in their hands. Replacing a lost iPhone is extremely expensive and many consumers don’t realize just how costly it is.”

Protect Your Bubble has been operating in the U.K. since late 2008, and it currently insures 400,000 people with its finely-tuned policies. The company covers just about any gadget you can think of, while also offering coverage for pets and travel. On the gadget side, the company has set up different policy pricing based on how people use their gadgets and the likelihood of it getting lost. An iPhone 4S, for example, runs $8 per month while a digital camera costs $3 a month.

While speaking with Ebbett, I pointed out that many home and renter’s insurance policies could take care of a phone, camera, tablet or laptop that has been broken or stolen. Ebbett responded by saying that if you are not at home and say, forgot your phone at a bar, the insurance policy isn’t going to cover your loss.

Another thing Ebbett added: Traditional insurance providers are awfully slow to fill claims and it could take weeks to get a new phone. Upon filing your claim, Protect Your Bubble will replace your stolen phone the next day. Since our phones are so frighteningly important to us, having next-day replacement available probably would comfort some people.

The service, as of today, is available to anyone the U.S. It might seem like a hassle, but hey, when you drop your Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the toilet or your Nikon DSLR gets smacked against a cobblestone while getting that perfect shot of the running of the bulls, you’d be glad to have it.

Would you consider getting gadget insurance on your smartphone, camera, or laptop?

Phone being stolen photo: Adrian Britton/Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile

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Dollar Shave Club’s blades are “so f*cking great” they just raised a round for ‘em

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 04:30 AM PST

Dollar Shave Club, another startup from L.A.-based incubator Science, begins with a simple premise: They send all the dandy shave-oholics out there who love the idea of a close shave but hate the idea of spending a horrendous amount each month, a basket of high-quality disposable razors.

We know, we know — it sounds silly. But investors didn’t think it was so silly.

In fact, Silicon Valley fat cats at Kleiner Perkins, Andreesen Horowitz, Shasta Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, and a handful of well known individuals have contributed to a $1 million dollar first round of funding.

Science companies are, more often than not, based on the very simple but very real concept of finding gaps in a marketplace. The incubator first launched Eventup, a site that helps you find cool and unique event venues. Its next launches were Wittlebee, a mom-commerce subscription service, and Dog Vacay, an Airbnb for dogs whose “parents” need to get out of town.

None of these are incredibly high-tech ideas. But for Science co-founders Mike Jones (MySpace’s former CEO) and Peter Pham (who co-founded Color), tech is almost beside the point. They’re looking for opportunities to profit, and a great idea beautifully executed is, for them, like apples of gold in pictures of silver. It fits their idea of an L.A. startup’s hustle-heavy business model.

So, for Dollar Shave Club, Science is again investing in subscription commerce for an item a lot of people need to use (and usually need to throw away and buy over and over again). We’ve seen a ton of subscription commerce models, and this is one that makes a ton of sense.

Here’s founder Michael Dubin explaining why it makes sense to him in an Old Spice Guy-reminiscent commercial spot that’s way more entertaining than most startup demo videos (hint: our headline came from this video, in case you were beginning to speculate that we just enjoy being randomly offensive around here):

"The shave game has gotten totally out of control, and it's time someone brought sanity back to the price and the process,” said Dubin in a statement released today.

DSC’s prices are rock-bottom low. As a non-hairy-legged-type lady, I can vouch for that; it’s not uncommon to drop between $8 and $20 per month on razors, depending on how fancy one is feeling.

DSC packages, on the other hand, start at just $1 per month plus $2 for shipping charges. That’ll get you “The Humble Twin,” a package that includes a standard two-blade razor. The “4x” package will get you a four-blade razor, and “The Executive” is the monster truck of razors: six blades and lubricating strips with aloe, Vitamin E, and lavender. The latter packages are $6 and $9 per month respectively. Each package includes a compatible handle (heads can be swapped out), and all the heads pivot.

You can cancel your subscription or upgrade or downgrade your preferred razor package at any time.

If we have one beef with Dollar Shave Club, it’s the site’s unrelenting manliness. C’mon Dubin et al.: Guys usually just shave their faces. Most ladies, on the other hand, have so much more real estate to cover. Should your checkin button really read “real men click” when ladies have a lot more shavin’ (and household shopping) going on?

Other than that, it’s a gorgeous design and a simple plan — and DSC helps us understand more and more the DNA of a Science company.

Filed under: deals

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Sonar comes to Android as it prepares for SXSW showdown over ambient awareness

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 04:27 AM PST

Tech journalists have a bad habit of picking a theme each year for SXSW and crafting a drama around which startup will “win” the festival. This year the contest is among the “ambient awareness” apps like Sonar, Banjo, Highlight and Glancee. All try to provide information about friends or relevant strangers who are close by. Sonar, a New York startup, has just released its app on Android and added some new features in time for SXSW.

“We think of ourselves as a technology platform,” says founder and chief executive Brett Martin. “Sonar is the richest source of real time data about who around you is most interesting and relevant. That is very different than opening up your phone and seeing which friends happen to be close by.” Sonar looks at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to find concordance between users.

Sonar has the ability to expose the implicit data in users smartphones and let them know who has recently been in the area without any checking in, something that hot startup Highlight is doing. But Martin isn’t interested in pushing the envelope in terms of privacy quite that far yet. “It’s something we may introduce down the road, but it’s really for the bleeding edge technology types, not for average users.”

For SXSW, Sonar has partnered with Eventbrite to help coordinate their people predictions. “If you register for an event, we’re going to be sending out an email the morning of telling you, ‘Hey, Sonar has identified these people who it makes sense for you to talk with,’” says Martin.

Previously Sonar just listed venues. When a user checked in, it would show them the most relevant people in the same space. But the team noticed that users were trolling through multiple venues way faster than they could have been hopping from place to place in real life. “They wanted to get a feel for the different people they might meet,” says Martin. “So we introduced a people tab which allows Sonar users to browse through the relevant folks around them.”

We got our hands on some invites to the Android beta. The first 250 folks to follow this link get in, using the password VentureBeat.

Filed under: mobile, social

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Wallit lets you leave your digital mark in locations, with an augmented reality twist

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 04:00 AM PST

With Wallit, a free new iOS app launching today, real-world places are finally getting the equivalent of Facebook walls of their own.

The app lets you leave text, photos, video, and audio messages on virtual walls for specific locations — but only if you’re actually there. The virtual walls are also viewable through a slick augmented reality mode, which lets your Wallit contributions appear like digital graffiti layered on a location.

“We are trying to socialize augmented reality experiences,” Wallit founder and CEO Veysel Berk told VentureBeat in an interview. Berk has experience with building social networking platforms, but with Wallit, he wanted to bring a social aspect to real-world locations as well.

Unlike Foursquare, you can actually hold conversations at locations using Wallit. It also differs from location-based chat services like Yobongo and ChatSquare by allowing you to leave lasting messages at specific locations. Wallit’s augmented reality (AR) aspect, accessible by holding your device in a portrait orientation, takes the conversation a step further by having its virtual walls overlayed on top of your phone’s camera feed.

“With location at the center of our system, augmented reaity is just the natural extension of that,” Berk said. Most other AR apps only allow you to view location-based content, Wallit is one of the few to let you literally leave your mark on a location.

While you can only contribute to Wallit’s virtual walls if you’re actually near a specific location, you can still view entries created on any wall from anywhere in the world. You’ll be able to like and rank specific Wallit posts, and Berk tells me that the company will be using some automatic filtering as well to keep junk entries to a minimum.

The company says that an Android version of its app is on the way. It currently has virtual walls in popular locations like New York, San Francisco, and Paris, but it’s adding more continuously. You can also request a specific wall be created through the Wallit app.

Wallit is based in San Francisco, Calif., and has raised $1.2 million in funding so far from investors including Sharmilla Mulligan, OpenTable Japan president Masao Tehima, Storm Ventures, David Kellogg, and others.

VB Mobile SummitVentureBeat is holding its second annual Mobile Summit this April 2-3 in Sausalito, Calif. The invitation-only event will debate the five key business and technology challenges facing the mobile industry today, and participants — 180 mobile executives, investors, and policymakers — will develop concrete, actionable solutions that will shape the future of the mobile industry. You can find out more at our Mobile Summit site.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Alex St. John’s Magi.com launches social gaming hub (exclusive)

Posted: 06 Mar 2012 04:00 AM PST

Alex St. John is back. The former president of social network Hi5 sold off the struggling service to Tagged in December. But now he is starting a new site, Magi.com, that uses many of the same ideas that were meant to boost social games on Hi5.

The new Emeryville, Calif.-based company will enable Facebook games to be effortlessly adapted to Magi.com, where gamers can use their real Facebook identities or play anonymously if they choose. The site will also use some novel tricks to try to draw in gamers. If it works, St. John will revive his dream of creating a rival social gaming destination to Facebook.

It’s a brash plan but one that fits with the style of St. John, who once wrestled a 350-pound Japanese sumo wrestling champion as part of a publicity stunt for Hi5.

“It’s a coincidence that Zynga is becoming a publishing platform, but we are doing this with real and anonymous friends,” said St. John in an interview with VentureBeat. “It does anonymous friend matching, but you can invite real friends and they can see who you are. It also does not sit behind a registration wall like Zynga has.”

St. John said that it didn’t make sense to try to retrofit the social gaming strategy on top of an existing general-purpose social network like Hi5 that was also trying to tout features such as dating and photo sharing. Magi.com can promote gaming to all of its users because it will be a social gaming site from the very beginning.

“It’s smarter to have a pure game site,” he said. “Hi5 was a real identity social network and that was holding us back. Do you want your boss to know you are playing social games all day?”

So while Tagged bought the social network, Magi.com retained rights to new social gaming features. Those include the Mojo Market, a free virtual goods platform that enables players to acquire virtual goods for all of the site’s games.

Magi.com has cloned Facebook’s applications programming interfaces. That means it takes almost no effort to adapt a Facebook game to run on Magi.com.

"We really appreciate the partnership approach the Magi team has taken towards developers. Their platform is trivial to integrate with and their business terms are very developer friendly," said David Whittaker of game developer DJArts.

The Mojo Market has an interesting twist. Players can bid on and win virtual items and cash-valued prizes with the Mojo points they earn from playing games, socializing, and purchasing in-game currrency. The live auction will help gamers set the value of the goods that are being sold.

“It’s like an eBay, where players can bid on goods they win in games,” St. John said. “If you run out of energy in a game, you can buy some more.”

The site is now in beta testing with social games from DJ Arts, HitPoint Studios, and Pixie Games. Those companies will also provide the Mojo Market with the first virtual goods available for auction. Magi.com is now recruiting more developers to publish their games on the new platform. Populating the store with free gift cards (that users can bid for) will be a draw, St. John said.

Magi.com has partnered with InComm, the leading provider of gift cards and prepaid game cards, to support the Mojo Market with virtual store-valued gift cards from partners such as Apple’s iTunes, Playfish, Gaia, Habbo, Perfect World and others.

In addition, Magi.com is the launch partner for InComm’s new Retail Transaction Gateway service, which enables completely electronic sales and fulfillment of gift cards. In other words, players can win codes for gift cards without ever having to obtain a plastic card. If a player wins an auction to buy an iTunes card, Magi.com can simply give the player a code that can be used for redemption in real-time.

Such innovations will help draw gamers. St. John said his approach will be to give gamers a lot of free items in order to attract them. That, in turn, should help lure publishers. But it’s still a daunting matter to compete with a giant game platform such as Facebook.

Magi.com will also offer good terms to developers. For fewer than 25,000 users, developers keep all of the revenue. For more than 25,000 users, developers share 25 percent of the revenue with Magi.com.

Magi.com has 30 employees, many of whom previously worked at Hi5. Now the company has bridge financing from Hi5′s investors, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Crosslink Venture Partners. Later on, St. John expects to raise a round of funding. As for competition with Zynga.com, St. John said, “they are gummed up with Facebook.”

Filed under: games, social

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AMD invests in novel video communications startup Nuvixa

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 09:01 PM PST

Advanced Micro Devices has made an investment in video communications startup Nuvixa.

Sunnyvale Calif.-based AMD’s AMD Ventures division is investing in Nuvixa so that the startup can continue work on its StagePresence video presentation tool, which extracts a human presenter from any background and embeds him or her in a digital desktop or slide presentation. It’s as if the presenter has been pasted into a presentation when viewed via video.

AMD will be able to run the Nuvixa software better on its microprocessors because the software will be optimized to take advantage of the OpenCL standard and AMD’s accelerated processing units, which combine graphics and processing on a single chip.

Champaign, Ill.-based Nuvixa’s StagePresence technology is an example of taking something that was designed for motion-sensing video games and converting it so that it can spice up normally boring presentations, training sessions, educational videos or any other video communications. Nuvixa uses a 3D depth camera, such as that used in Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor, to capture a 3D image of the speaker. Then it inserts the speaker’s image into the presentation.

The company has created a technology that it calls UserExtraction, which snips a person's image out of any background in a kind of virtual "green screen" effect similar to film editing techniques.

Using Z-Definition Technology developed by Nuvixa, you can capture a video of someone speaking and then insert that video into the content or presentation. You can also use it to bring a video conference to life, placing participants in a shared virtual space.

The company was founded in 2009. The founders include Sanjay Patel, former chief technology officer of Ageia Technologies, a physics technology firm that was bought by Nvidia; Minh Do, chief technology officer; computer scientist Dennis Lin; and video expert Quang Nguyen. All are faculty or students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Nuvixa is on the cutting edge of video processing technology and exemplifies why we created AMD Ventures; to foster an ecosystem that enhances the consumer and commercial computing experience," said Manju Hegde (former CEO of Ageia), corporate vice president of content, applications and solutions at AMD. "The uniquely powerful compute capabilities of AMD APUs coupled with software solutions from companies like Nuvixa are bringing gesture-based computing and immersive video experiences beyond the conference room and into today's notebook and desktop PCs, tablets and other consumer electronic devices."

By optimizing Nuvixa’s technology, the company can get 96 percent better performance.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Jumio grabs $25M from Andreessen Horowitz to help merchants take credit cards via webcam

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 09:00 PM PST


Online and mobile payments company Jumio has raised a new $25 million funding round from big dog investors Andreessen Horowitz and has a new product called Netverify that can help retailers confirm a customer’s ID.

Jumio’s main focus is to help retailers process credit card transactions quickly and securely using webcams. Its Netswipe technology lets consumers show their credit card to a webcam to get details instead of typing them in. Jumio can detect what type of material is being scanned, so a photocopy of the credit card will not work.

Similar to its Netswipe solution, Netverify can turn a webcam into a secure ID reader. Netverify lets merchants confirm an ID online without having a customer fax or scan the ID, making the process faster.

CEO Daniel Mattes told us that he has had his credit card details stolen twice and that his experience is not uncommon. Hackers can take credit card numbers you type online, so Jumio can theoretically make the process of buying online safer and quicker.

“We are enabling the [credit card] industry and are partnering with the industry,” Mattes told VentureBeat. “Netswipe and Netverify will make payments online more seamless and accurate.”

Jumio first came on our radar when it raised $6.5 million with backing from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. The company then popped up again at last October’s CTIA conference when Mattes talked on stage about a mobile payments addition to its service.

Along with Andreessen Horowitz leading the new funding round, AH General Partner Scott Weiss will join Jumio's board of directors. “Daniel and the Jumio team understand the challenges facing online merchants when it comes to battling credit card [theft] … and they have encountered the problems that Jumio aims to solve,” Weiss said in a statement. “Jumio's technology is a huge leap forward for online payments with potential to transform even more industries.”

Mountain View, Calif.-based Jumio has raised $32 million to date, including the new funding.

Credit card being scanned via webcam: Jumio

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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Zynga reaches beyond Facebook with Zynga.com

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 06:41 PM PST

Zynga.com just went live. Announced last week, the web site is a new destination for Zynga’s gamers, who have been largely confined to playing games on Facebook.

The San Francisco social gaming giant says the site is aimed at making games more convenient and accessible for the mass market of users who don’t already play games on social networks or other platforms. Zynga executives have not been bashful about their ambition of getting a billion users to play the company’s games.

The system is integrated with Facebook, since it uses Facebook identities to set up networks of friends, and it also uses Facebook Credits to fulfill virtual goods transactions. Now the company’s 240 million monthly active users on Facebook will be able to join a destination site where the users are all gamers, in contrast to Facebook, where a quarter of the people play games.

Zynga is also launching its Zynga Platform for publishing games that are built by external publishers and developers. The new site will give Zynga a measure of independence from Facebook, but the companies are still glued at the hip and working closely with each other.

Zynga chief operating officer John Schappert said in an interview with VentureBeat last week that Zynga will use Facebook Credits as the underlying virtual goods payment system for Zynga.com. Facebook takes a 30 percent tax on every Facebook Credit transaction, and most analysts believed Zynga would move off of Facebook to escape that fee. But by using Facebook Credits as well as Facebook Connect, Zynga is showing its alliance with the social network is still pretty tight. Of course, if relations with Facebook ever get frosty, Zynga could turn on other forms of virtual goods payment.

With the Zynga Platform, Zynga is behaving just like a game console owner does. It publishes its own games as a "first party" on the platform. But it also recruits promising companies to create their own games to run on the platform as third parties.

The third-party developers can get access to promotions that will get their games in front of Zynga's users. They will also get access to the functions and viral channels that help increase social engagement. An example is a Social Stream on the Zynga.com home page, where users can click on objects and directly import them into the game without interrupting game play.

The platform could be very attractive to third-party game developers who also need analytics to drive their understanding of users. Zynga has long used this as a competitive advantage, revising its games on-the-fly to be as user-friendly as possible. Zynga measures social engagement in its games through a metric that looks at a player's "active social network." The number of active neighbors that a player engages with in a game directly impacts how meaningful an experience they have. Those with good numbers are likely to continue playing.

Zynga will also use zCloud, its public-private infrastructure for hosting games at its own data centers. That zCloud will help the games from smaller developers skyrocket based on demand, rather than being held back by weak infrastructure. A number of third-party developers have already signed up to be Zynga Platform partners, including Mob Science and Row Sham Bow. More are expected. With this new business, Zynga is effectively offering its own version of Amazon Web Services.

Many of Zynga's games require a player to get 10 friends to help with a task before the player can progress. With Facebook, the player has a risk of alienating friends if they spam them with such game help requests. But on Zynga.com, all of the members will be game fans, and player profiles will enable them to easily find like-minded gamers. When you inspect a potential friend's record, you can see how often that player helps other players. It's also easier to embark on joint quests with friends in real-time.

Zynga will provide five of its top games on Zynga.com when it launches in early March: CastleVille, Words With Friends, CityVille, Hidden Chronicles and Zynga Poker. More third-party games will also be available soon.

Zynga.com could become a powerful tool for promoting and discovering social games. Not every Facebook gamer will sign up for Zynga.com, but those who do will self-segment themselves into the most loyal fans.

Players can sign up at Zynga.com to create a new game-playing identity for themselves. But players can easily log in with their Facebook identities and play games with existing Facebook friends. Or they can play with their "zFriends."

Because Zynga has engineered the game site for speed, it can run games a lot faster than Facebook does. You don't have to wait for a message to be posted to a news feed or wall — a process that can take many seconds on Facebook — if you just want to announce an achievement to your friends. The Social Stream can also get you access to items in a game without forcing you to leave your game board. You can chat in real-time inside a game, and send gifts or messages without leaving the game.

The play service will be available in 16 languages, including: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Indonesian, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Thai.

The Zynga Platform, first introduced as Project Z in October, the work has been going on for some time. Of the delay, Schappert said, "Development is complicated. We feel it is now in a good state for the masses of consumers."

Filed under: dev, games

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Holy Hand Grenade! Monty Python reborn in new iPad app

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 05:42 PM PST

If you fart in people’s general direction, or sing from the diaphragm a lot, you’ll like this iPad app. It animates the 28-day making of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which comes out on Blu-Ray March 6.

A lot of things can happen in 28 days. An incurable virus can kill almost everyone in the UK, Sandra Bullock can become sober, and a few guys with a production crew can make one of the most memorable comedies in movie history. It was a quick turn around for the 1970′s movie. That in turn inspired Melcher Media to create an app that would unearth the since lost memories of those days.

The cast members contributed their own cheeky quotes to the press release announcing the app.

“How do I get out of this thing so I can check my e-mails?” said John Cleese, referring to the app, in the press release.

The app is separated into two sections, “The Holy Book of Days” and “The Holy Chapters.” The first follows the six main actors in 2012 as they relive each hour of filming. “The Holy Chapters” focuses on interaction with the Blu-Ray disk. It is smart enough to know which scene you’re watching. Based on that scene it will show a chapter from “The Holy Book Of Days” with content specific to what’s happening on the screen.

Each “day” has outtakes, script changes, photos, and a descriptions from favorites such as Graham Chapman and John Cleese. Video segments also show the cast together on scene again, recounting the experience. You can pause and play the movie through the app as well, in case your friend has brought out the Holy Hand Grenade you need to seek shelter.

The iPad app is available on March 6. Check out the gallery for each chapter below:

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Google Apps provider Cloud Sherpas raises $20M, merges with GlobalOne

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 04:49 PM PST

Salesforce partner GlobalOne and Google enterprise partner Cloud Sherpas are merging together to form a new cloud consulting firm.

GlobalOne will take Cloud Sherpas’ name in this marriage, and the newly merged company will offer the same services for both cloud platforms. Cloud Sherpas also announced a new $20 million round of funding from venture capital firm Columbia Capital that it will use to fuel its rapid growth.

Cloud Sherpas helps enterprise businesses move over to Google Apps, the search engine’s enterprise offering for cloud-based services such as Gmail and Calendar. GlobalOne is a Salesforce partner that helps businesses use Salesforce’s customer relationship management service. Both companies acts as consultants, helping businesses choose and implement the right cloud services.

In mid 2011, Cloud Sherpas acquired Omnetic, a west coast cloud consulting competitor. Last fall the company also acquired two Asian-Pacific Google App resellers, WaveAdept and Devnet.

The cloud industry is huge these days, with Amazon and Oracle in on the action as well. Cloud Sherpas faces competition from Cloud Technology Partners, which also helps companies move into the cloud.

The new round of funding adds to the more than $5 million in angel and venture capital investments Cloud Sherpas has racked up since its founding in 2008. All 261 combined employees from both companies will continue with the new company, which will be based in Atlanta. David Northington, GlobalOne’s chief executive will take the reigns of Cloud Sherpas.

Businessman with cloud apps image via Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, deals

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Yelp! Shares slip 14% on second day of trading

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 04:43 PM PST

Wall Street gave Yelp a less-than-perfect review on its second day of trading. The company’s stock slipped more than 14 percent Monday with shares closing at $20.99.

Yelp made a stellar, five-star debut on the New York Stock Exchange Friday. The business and local reviews site, which has around 66 million monthly unique visitors, saw shares skyrocket 63 percent from $15 to $24.52 on opening day. Today’s dip, however, suggests that the pomp-and-circumstance could be fading quickly.

“Yelp’s price action so far certainly reminds me of Groupon’s post IPO price action,” financial expert and PrivCo CEO Sam Hamadeh told VentureBeat. “We think Yelp’s stock price will continue to fall as (with Groupon) IPO investors who aren’t locked up sell and ‘hit bids’ from small retail investors, punishing the stock price.”

Yelp grew revenue 74 percent to $83.3 million in 2011, but lost $16.7 million during the same period. The company’s continued losses and minuscule revenue figures make it an especially risky bet, though investors were eager to at least temporarily jump on the bandwagon for Friday’s public debut.

“I wouldn’t want to have been the person who bought Groupon stock on the first day of trading at $31 [Groupon is now trading at $18]. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one who bought Yelp at $26 on Friday,” Hamadeh said, adding that both companies rely too heavily on sales employees for growth. “Both have ended and will end badly.”

Yelp’s stock has been up and down in after-hours trading Monday, recovering by as much as 8 percent. At $20.99 a share, Yelp has a market cap of $1.26 billion.

Photo credit: KayOne73/Flickr

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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How to design a game for your teenage daughter

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 03:47 PM PST

Game designers Roque Devine (left) and Graeme Devine spoke at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.


Designing games for teenage girls can be a gold mine on the iPhone or Android mobile devices. But it’s also pretty tricky, if you happen to be a male game designer in your 40s.

Fortunately for Graeme Devine, the founder of GRL Games and a well-known developer of hardcore games, he has a captive focus group in his own daughter, Roque, who appeared alongside Devine in a talk at the Game Developers Conference today. Graeme talked about making a game based on ideas that came from Roque (pronounced Rocky, pictured above left).

Devine has earned his chops as a game designer. He co-founded Trilobyte and made the classic CD-ROM hits The 7th Guest and The Eleventh Hour. He also worked on Quake III Arena as a game designer at id Software. He joined Apple in 2009 to help ensure that game developers were making great games for the iPhone, then left in December 2010 to develop his own games.

Devine has been making both simple and complicated games for iOS, such as Solitaire and Word Chat, but he decided to consult Roque for a game design from the ground up. Graeme figured she, a big fan of mobile games and a person in the key demographic market, would be good at envisioning a game that he could build.

Roque said she wanted a dance game and couldn’t find good ones in the App Store. She wanted a game that was both simple (in that it that was easy to learn and play) and complicated (allowing players to go deeper if they wanted to). She thought of games like Paper Toss and Angry Birds as achieving that combination.

Roque said she was influenced in her game design by LMFAO, a comical pop group that has a hit with the song Party Rock Anthem; the old Sega dancing game Space Channel 5; and Temple Run, a simple swiping and running game. The results will be a game called Dance City, targeted to come out on the iPhone in the coming months. The game lets you dance anywhere in a city.

“Observing a teenager doesn’t work,” Graeme noted. “So I found I had to find time to talk with her. But in a different way. She’s the smart one. She has the game design in her head. That is an interesting conversation to have.”

The lessons from the collaboration so far are that you need “obvious navigation” at all times, where there is no point in the game in which you don’t know what to do. The game should also be free to play, Roque said, because teenagers don’t have a lot of money and are careful about what they spend it on. The game should also allow for customization with media outside the app, like where you take a picture and bring it into the game.

The father-daughter development team also found that friends want to play each other in a game on their own schedules. They don’t have time to meet at a particular time to play a game, so they can take their turn one at a time and send the turn back when the time suits them. That asynchronous style of play is easier to accomplish than real-time, peer-to-peer play.

The game should give people a chance to show off their individual achievements via social media. But it shouldn’t force teens to spam each other, because “spam is ignored as evil,” Graeme said.

If game developers don’t have access to a teenage daughter, they should seek teens out in groups by doing things such as visiting a school to give a lecture and then asking the group what they want in a game.

[Photo credits: Dean Takahashi]

Filed under: games

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It’s iPad HD, not iPad 3. Plus, Apple is buying 7.1″ screens for smaller iPads

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 02:21 PM PST

iPad Displays

Apple’s next-generation iPad will be called the iPad HD, not the iPad 3, a reliable source tells VentureBeat. Additionally, we’re hearing that Apple is now buying 7.1-inch screen components in preparation for a smaller iPad release later this year.

Gizmodo reported on the potential iPad HD name last week, citing accessory listings from Belkin and Griffin. Additionally, the Verge (back when it was called “This is my next”), reported on the iPad HD name way back in July. Our source has been accurate about Apple releases in the past, so combined with Gizmodo’s report, it seems like a very strong indication that Apple will be announcing the iPad HD on Wednesday.

Why iPad HD? As I discussed in my rumor roundup, Apple’s next iPad is expected to sport a ridiculously high-resolution display running at 2,048 by 1,536 pixels. By comparison, current iPads feature a much lower resolution 1,024 by 768 display. The higher-resolution display will not only make text and pictures sharper, it'll also make the iPad HD the only tablet to support 1080p high-definition at its full resolution (1,920 by 1,080). Expect Apple to market the hell out of that feature.

Android tablets have been sporting 720p HD displays (1,280 by 720) for some time now, but if the reports are true, the iPad 3′s display will blow Android slates out of the water. (Update: A few 1080p Android tablets were shown at the Mobile World Congress last week from Asus, Acer, and Huawei. Still, the iPad HD would be the first one actually released.)

The iPad HD moniker is also a further sign that the new tablet won’t sport a quad-core A6 CPU, as some rumors have speculated. Instead, it’ll likely ship with an improved version of Apple’s dual-core A5 processor, dubbed the A5X.

Our information on Apple buying up 7.1-inch screen components comes from another source, and it differs slightly from recent Digitimes reports indicating that Apple is working on a 7.85-inch iPad for later in the year. Honestly, an iPad close to 8 inches doesn’t make much sense to me, especially since that’s only two inches smaller than the current 9.7-inch iPad display.

Something closer to 7 inches makes more sense for Apple, since it would be able to compete directly against Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire, which will likely see a significant price reduction this Fall. Our source says Apple is particularly keen on taking back ground from the Kindle Fire, which is estimated to have sold 6 million units over the holidays. Apple is positioning the smaller iPad for launch later this year, but those plans could easily change, our source notes.

VB Mobile SummitVentureBeat is holding its second annual MobileSummit this April 2-3 in Sausalito, Calif. The invitation-only event will debate the five key business and technology challenges facing the mobile industry today, and participants — 180 mobile executives, investors, and policymakers — will develop concrete, actionable solutions that will shape the future of themobile industry. You can find out more at our Mobile Summit site.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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You can now access your Google searches on every mobile device you own

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 02:15 PM PST

Continuing its desire for search domination, Google now lets you access recent local business and place searches across all your browsers and mobile devices. The feature was announced on Google’s Inside Search blog Monday.

All you have to do is log in into your Google account in a desktop browser, make sure you have web history enabled, and search for something local, such as a restaurant, store, museum, and so on. As it does with many search results, Google will likely display the full business details on your search results page, next to a map of the location.

Once you’ve searched for the business or place on your browser, you can go to your phone’s browser, log in to Google with the same account, and on the search engine’s mobile homepage, you’ll see a “Recent” icon that can tap to view your recent searches.

The new feature could be handy for finding your way to a restaurant you looked up earlier in the day. But I have an Android phone and I never go to Google’s mobile homepage on my phone. If I need to search for a business, I use the Maps application or my stock browser’s address bar, which also acts a Google search bar. In addition, I can’t figure out, based on my own research and Google’s post, whether you have to search for a specific place or if you can just type a more general location term such as “McDonalds.”

The feature is available for Android and iPhone, all you have to do is use your preferred mobile browser to go to Google.com. To enable Google web history, click this link or just search “Google Web History” in Google, of course.

Filed under: mobile

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Daily deals inspiring repeat business, study finds

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 02:09 PM PST

Daily deal providers such as Groupon and LivingSocial are often criticized for driving low-quality business to merchants, but these young companies may, in fact, be purveyors of loyal customers.

Ninety-one percent of web shoppers who redeemed a deal said they have gone on to — or plan to go on to — buy again with the merchant in question, according to customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.

ForSee fielded an online survey between November and December 2011 as a follow-up to its spring 2011 study. The study, which includes survey responses from nearly 10,000 visitors to top retail websites, found that deal buyers are far more likely than expected to turn into repeat customers — a mere 3 percent said they don’t plan to make a repeat purchase from the merchant deal provider.

The findings should come as good news for the newly public Groupon, which continues to face criticism around its business model.

Groupon, according to ForeSee’s data, is also showing a slight upward trend in its purchase rate. Fifty percent of respondents said they purchased an offer from Groupon in the previous 90 days, a 3 percent bump from spring 2011. The deals juggernaut also has the largest share of subscribers who exclusively subscribe to deals from Groupon. Forty-four percent of Groupon subscribers only use Groupon services, while just 12 percent of LivingSocial subscribers are exclusive to its site.

The ForeSee study did uncover one troubling tidbit for the entire industry: daily deals subscriptions are down. The research company found that 60 percent of visitors to top retail websites enrolled in at least one daily deal email program during the holiday season, which represents a five percent dip in subscribers from the spring.

Photo credit: Groupon/Flickr

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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The Yetis are coming to you at GDC 2012

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 01:48 PM PST

This sponsored post is produced by YetiZen.

This year at GDC 2012, prepare for a Yeti invasion the likes of which has never been seen before! YetiZen will be bringing you the biggest bash you've ever seen at GDC on Wednesday, March 7 starting at 8pm at Ruby Skye. That's right in the heart of Union Square. Along with a cavalcade of acrobats, contortionists, belly dancers, and painted models… attendees will also enjoy premium complimentary cocktails to satisfy even the most Yeti-sized thirst. Tracer and DJG-Squared will also be there spinning the best beats, and with YetiZen's network of over 6,000 game developers, there will be no shortage of fine and enthusiastic company. And who loves to party more than game developers!  YetiZen has also hired a famous artist to create a gaming mural to be auctioned off, and the proceeds will go to PennyArcade'sChild'sPlaycharity.

And that's not all! YetiZen will also be holding its second annual Get-In-The-Game Pitch Competition earlier in the day between 2-4 pm, judged by some of the biggest names in the games and investment world like Michael Chang (Director of Corporate Development at EA), Terence Fung (Corporate Development at Zynga), Rob Coneybeer (Shasta Ventures), Michael Klein (Canaan partners) and YetiZen's very own Sana Choudary (CEO and all around gaming guru). If you've ever wanted to be a part of the next big wave in mobile and social game development, or if you simply want to connect with an incredible audience of investors, entrepreneurs and game industry CEOs, you won't want to miss this.

Come and marvel at the innovative games on display and cheer for the company you most want to see win a slot in the YetiZen Accelerator Program. We guarantee you'll be amazed by the amazing offerings on display (not to mention the wit and wisdom of our superstar panel of judges)!

Be on the lookout for our strikingly lovely agents who will be in the courtyard at 4th and Howard. Not only will you get free energy drinks but YetiZen will also have console games set up for you to play with your friends for the entire week. So even if you can't make either event, you won't miss out on the opportunity to connect and party with us. Just be prepared to receive a big ol' Yeti-hug from our enthusiastic team!

Keep an eye out for our party fliers all week. For more information on what is sure to be this year's hottest party, please visit http://yetizen.com/images/GDCParty.jpg, and to learn more about this year's pitch competition, check out http://yetizen.com/images/GDC_Pitch_Competition.jpg.

If you haven't heard of us before, rest assured that where YetiZen is, there's fun!

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company, which is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact garrett@venturebeat.com.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Click with care: Pinterest falls prey to phishing scams

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 01:36 PM PST


We knew it wouldn’t be long before Pinterest, the image-based social network, would attract spammers. We spotted a new scam on the site today, luring users to click for coupons to popular stores.

Pinterest is growing rapidly with an estimated 13 million users since its birth in the last 10 months. The site allows you to grab images from the web using the “pin it” bookmark tool, which then publishes the image to your Pinterest “board.” A board is a collection of images associated with a particular theme such as recipes. The pins often entice people to click through to the original website to, for instance, get a recipe or purchase a shirt.

Because Pinterest makes it so easy to post any image, and because the images are linked to outside websites, it is a petri dish for sleazy marketing tactics — one that is just starting to be used.

“I know that users aren’t very familiar with the platform, so they’re more easily scammed,” said Cameron Camp, a security researcher with ESET, in an interview with VentureBeat.

pinterest starbucks While surfing Pinterest last night, I saw the above image, a coupon offer for the Cheesecake Factory. It is set up to look like a promotion exclusively for members of the growing social network, but it doesn’t actually come from the Cheesecake Factory. If you click on it, your browser redirects itself several times and winds up at a survey site.

Many businesses try to entice new customers with customized promotions, but this simply looks scammy. This isn’t the only one: Security company Trend Micro noticed a few of its own fake promos, including Starbucks and Coach handbags. According to Trend Micro, the images lead to a survey site, which first prompts you to re-pin the image to get the coupon code. It is not yet known whether the image downloads any malware to the victim’s computer. This falls more in line with a phishing scam, promising discounts for personal information.

Camp explained that the phishing scam is quite new, appearing only within the last couple weeks. He has also seen e-mail scams that appear to be from Pinterest, but are really spoofed by cyber criminals. But there’s a reason why such similar scams appear across social networks such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

“There’s an entire behind the scenes machine that’s already in place,” said Camp. “They have the ability to flood the market extremely fast … You just plug it in to [the] network and off it goes.”

Cyber criminals are business people as well. They have found a way to quickly and easily distribute their “product” across different networks, with low cost and high proliferation. Camp says he hasn’t heard of Pinterest doing anything to directly stop the scams, though its terms of service do issue a warning about third party services.

According to Pinterest’s terms of service, advertising is not prohibited on the service. In other words, it would be perfectly OK for the Cheesecake Factory to post a legitimate ad like this. But Pinterest’s parent company, Cold Brew Labs, also absolves itself of any responsibility for links that lead to malicious websites:

The Site and Application may contain links to third-party websites or resources. You acknowledge and agree that Cold Brew Labs is not responsible or liable for: (i) the availability or accuracy of such websites or resources; or (ii) the content, products, or services on or available from such websites or resources. … You acknowledge sole responsibility for and assume all risk arising from your use of any such websites or resources.

Pinterest, which has only developed an iOS application, is also the subject of an Android app scam. According to GottaBeMobile, cyber criminals have created a fake Pinterest Android app, which really takes you to a mobile website and serves up annoying advertisements. In reality, Pinterest does not yet have an Android app.

We have reached out to Pinterest and Google for comment and will update the post upon hearing back.

Starbucks screenshot via Trend Micro

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China Mobile gets 15M iPhone users but can’t legally sell the phone

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 12:11 PM PST

Chinese iPhone

Apple‘s mobile products are getting a lot of love from China. The government-owned operator hit 15 million iPhone activations today despite the fact that it is unable to sell the phone legally.

China Mobile says its 3G service is incompatible with the phone’s hardware but hopes this will change after it tests the LGE network in June, according to The Next Web. It seems China Mobile users are jailbreaking their phones to run the operator’s service on the device. They are also having to downgrade to 2G, given the incompatibility. While some may think the move is drastic, T-Mobile users in the U.S. who have to jailbreak their phones to avoid switching carriers can surely relate.

According to a study by Gartner, despite the 1 billion iPhones expected to be sold in China by the end of 2012, Apple has dropped to fifth place in Chinese mobile market share. It was recently beaten out by ZTE. That hasn’t placated the cult-like following Apple has amassed around the world, earning it 25 billion downloaded mobile applications.

Chunli Fu in Qingdao, China downloaded Disney’s “Where’s My Water?” free app yesterday, marking the milestone. He received a $10,000 gift card for being lucky number 25 billion. The amount was amassed over three years since the launch of the iOS app store in 2008. Much of Apple’s bread and butter has come from its mobile devices, along with the App Store. The company sold 37.04 million iPhones and 15.43 million iPads in the first quarter of 2012 alone, which considerably contributed to its $13.06 billion net profit. According to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, China used to pull in a few hundred million dollars for the mobile arm of the company, but last year swelled to $13 billion.

Mac sales have risen 100 percent in China as well, according to Cook. The year-old Mac App Store has generated one hundred million downloads, separate from the much larger numbers produced by the iPhone and iPad. This falls in line with Tim Cook’s prediction that the iPad would far surpass the PC.

"Many of us thought at Apple [when the iPad was being introduced], that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market," Cook said at the Goldman Sachs technology conference. "I feel that stronger today than I did then because I look out and see all these incredible uses for it."

Cook goes on to say that the iPad has “cannibalized” Mac sales, with Mac apps only making up four percent of today’s milestone. Worth noting, however, is the fact that the iPhone only supports apps that are downloaded from the Apple marketplace. Mac personal computers, however, can download applications from all over the Internet and are not as reliant on the Mac store for content.

Google‘s Android App Marketplace, which also launched in 2008, currently boasts 11 billion downloaded apps.

hat tip The Next Web

VB Mobile SummitVentureBeat is holding its second annual Mobile Summit this April 2-3 in Sausalito, Calif. The invitation-only event will debate the five key business and technology challenges facing the mobile industry today, and participants — 180 mobile executives, investors, and policymakers — will develop concrete, actionable solutions that will shape the future of the mobile industry. You can find out more at our Mobile Summit site.

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11 tips for entrepreneurs on dealing with the press

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 12:10 PM PST

Stock photo of a man in a suit being surrounded by journalists with microphonesChris Dixon has one of the best posts I've seen on how startups should deal with the press. I added a few items in his comments, but thought they were worthy of sharing here.

I sit in a weird spot: although many consider me to be press, I also talk to a lot of other media outlets. I'm often quoted in national newspapers and magazines and regularly appear on TV. This happens partly because I have something interesting to stay; it's also partly because I treat people how I like to be treated.

Here are my top tips for dealing with the press (including me):

  1. Learn about the news outlet and the specific person you're approaching. Every outlet has a specific feel and each person with an outlet has their own coverage area, interests, and motivations. Read their stuff and figure it out. Nothing will fall flatter than a bulk email sent to every "tips@" account that begins "Dear reporter." Learn what each person values. In my case, I don't really care that much about being first on a story. I add the most value when I do deep analysis. I'm a data and numbers guy; if you have those, I'm more likely to dig in.
  2. Build relationships before you need them. This is similar to the career advice people get for networking. Follow the people you're interested in on Twitter. If they tweet something where you can help, offer it. Even if it doesn't relate to what you do. Offer them access to your network if you know someone who can answer a question.
  3. Maintain relationships after you have them. Keep in touch with people on an ongoing basis. I don't mean daily or weekly, but keep in touch as appropriate.
  4. Be fast. Reporters are often on tight deadlines. And in the blog world, a lot of people value being first. The faster you return a call or email, the more likely it is that you'll be included in the story.
  5. Be brief. Get to the point. Your pitch shouldn't ramble on for pages.
  6. Be interesting. If you speak in PRese, it's a lot less interesting. Avoid cliches like "We're the leading…" Everyone claims to be the leader — except the real leaders. When I'm preparing for an interview, I'll come up with two or three lines that are interesting, sharp, and brief to make it easier to quote.
  7. Be patient. Depending on the story, somebody might run a piece weeks or months after they talk to you. (I often do this.) In the meantime, it's OK to follow up periodically if there were updates to what you said or things that the reporter should be aware of. I once did a taped segment for Bloomberg that didn't air until weeks later. Better reporters will let you know after they use something if there's been a long delay. (Emily did.)
  8. Don't expect too much. Just because you spent 30 minutes on the phone with a reporter doesn't mean they'll use what you said. Sometimes the news changes and the story isn't relevant anymore; in other cases, they found other people to quote. That's just part of the news business. I do quite a few interviews where I don't get quoted — but it goes back to building relationships. I genuinely want to help people tell better stories.
  9. Realize that journalists talk to each other. Although we compete, we also chat with each other. If you're an ass to someone, it will get around.
  10. Engage with your critics. This is a controversial one, but I wholeheartedly believe this. I regularly write about two companies in the same space and I'm extremely critical of both. One refuses to talk to me; the other responds within minutes. The second one gets to tell its side of the story and influence my opinion. Both the company and the reading public are better served by having the conversation. The company gets better coverage — not because there is a quid pro quo, but because the dialogue leads to better analysis. And because most of the people who cover the space talk to me (see #9), it helps their overall coverage.
  11. Never, ever lie. In order of preference, I want: True, technically true, or no comment. The best PR folks never lie. (And the best management teams don't lie to their PR folks.) If you lie to me and I find out, it creates another story. It also means I won't ever trust anything you say again. See also, #9.

A journalist's job is to bring interesting and informative stories to readers, not to promote your company. If you help them do their job, you'll do much better at your job.

This post originally appeared on Rocky Agrawal’s blog. It is republished here with his permission.

Top photo: Picsfive/Shutterstock

photo of Rocky AgrawalRocky 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: Entrepreneur

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Skype sets record with 35M concurrent users

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 12:05 PM PST

Skype hit a new milestone Monday when 35 million people accessed its audio and video conferencing service at the same time.

The achievement comes just one week after the belated beta release of Skype for Windows Phone.

The Microsoft-owned VoIP product has been impressively growing concurrent user numbers in recent weeks. Skype had 32 million people sign in at the same time for the first time on Feb. 23, a figure that was soon outdated when it hit 34 million concurrent Skypers the following week.

In June, Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion and promised deep integration with its existing products, including the Windows Phone operating system and the Xbox 360 gaming console. The deal closed in October. The expressed commitment from its new owners to improve and expand the popular communications offering is still a promise in the making, but Microsoft’s backing does appear to be giving people more confidence in the service.

Photo credit: spieri_sf/Flickr

Filed under: mobile, social

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What we expect from the iPad 3 (and why Apple should be worried about Windows 8)

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 11:49 AM PST


Apple is almost certainly going to unveil its next iPad at a media event on Wednesday, and by this point it seems like the juiciest upgrade — its incredibly high-resolution screen — is a given.

Still, there are plenty of other rumors about the iPad 3 (which could be called the iPad HD) that we’re keen on seeing confirmed or debunked. And more so than specs, it’ll be particularly interesting to see how Apple will contend with Windows 8, Microsoft’s ballsy attempt to unify tablets and desktops under a single new OS.

The reveal

Apple announced its iPad 3 event in the middle of the Mobile World Congress last week — a shrewd maneuver meant to deflect attention from the conference in Barcelona, and notably from key attendees like Google, Android tablet manufacturers, and Microsoft. The announcement certainly caused a stir at Mobile World Congress, though it didn’t dominate the conversation at the event as Apple fanboys would have you believe.

The invitation above was sent out to journalists, with a clear indication that it’s going to be an iPad-related event. Past Apple invites have hidden clever clues about the upcoming events, but so far nothing has been unearthed about this one. (One possibility might be to closely compare the icons above to the iPad 2, but the image isn’t high-resolution enough to tell us much.)

The not-so-secret high-res screen

When the iPad 1 was released, its 1024 by 768 display was definitely one of its weaker aspects. After all, that was a resolution commonly found in PC displays a full decade ago. Come the iPad 2, which shares the same low resolution, its display was shamed even further when compared to the iPhone 4′s Retina Display, which packs in an astounding 326 pixels per inch with its 960 by 640 pixel resolution.

So at this point, it seems like Apple has no choice but to bump up the iPad 3′s display to something resembling Retina quality. Word is that Apple is planning to include a 2048 by 1536 resolution display in the iPad 3, four times the resolution of the current iPad display.

Rumors surrounding the higher-resolution display, which will likely be dubbed “Retina Display” as well, have been floating around the web for over a year now. But the reports have become even more solid with evidence in Ars Technica’s server logs. MacRumors even took a purported iPad 3 display under a microscope and confirmed plenty of new pixels.

The higher-resolution display will not only make text and pictures sharper, it’ll also make the iPad 3 the only tablet to support 1080p high-definition at its full resolution (1920 by 1080). Android tablets have been sporting 720p HD displays (1280 by 720) for some time now, but if the reports are true, the iPad 3′s display will blow Android slates out of the water.

And as Ars Technica points out, the only readily available display to run such a crazy resolution now is a $5,000 NEC monitor meant for medical usage. It’s also worth noting that that NEC screen is 21.3-inches . At a mere 9.8″, the iPad 3 is squeezing all of those pixels into a much smaller screen, which means it will likely sport the sharpest display we’ve ever seen.

More horsepower under the hood

For the longest while, the rumor mill has been pointing to Apple using a new quad-core chip for the iPad 3, dubbed the A6. But a recent posting on a Chinese forum, which shows an A5X processor on an iPad logic board, says otherwise. The A5X is assumed to be a slight upgrade to the current dual-core A5 chip used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.

I have no doubt that Apple is working on a quad-core A6 right now, as it’ll need such a chip to compete with the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 and upcoming Qualcomm chips. The real question is if the A6 will be ready in time for the iPad 3.

Some have argued that Apple would need a quad-core chip to drive the iPad 3′s high resolution display, but Apple could still manage to eke out enough performance with an A5X chip to take care of that problem, especially if it added more RAM. And of course, it would be cheaper for Apple to produce a chip based on an existing design, rather than start churning out something entirely new.

We’re already seeing quad-core tablets on the Android side, but just like Apple’s choice to stick with its 3.5-inch design for the iPhone 4S in the face of massive Android phones, we don’t expect Apple to leap into the quad-core arena just because Google has.

LTE 4G (which will be a bigger deal than you think)

With LTE 4G service now readily available from Verizon and AT&T across the U.S., it makes sense for Apple to finally move beyond 3G with the iPad 3. And for many consumers, the addition of ultra-fast 4G connectivity on an iPad would be far more appealing than a quad-core CPU. You can feel the speed of 4G instantly, whereas the benefits of a quad-core CPU aren’t nearly as immediate.

The iPad is already a magical device to consumers, but the addition of an always-on 4G network as fast (and in some cases faster) than their home broadband would make it seem downright miraculous.

More so than the 4G smartphones on the market, the iPad 3 could end up being the killer LTE device that AT&T and Verizon have been praying for.

And what of Windows 8?

Photo of a Windows 8 tablet showing the boot screenEven though Microsoft has tried and failed with tablets several times (remember the Ultra-mobile PC fiasco?), it looks like the company has finally figured things out this time around — so much so that I think it can teach Google a thing or two about tablets.

Apple has been slowly trying make Mac OS X more iOS-like, especially in the latest Mountain Lion release, but with Windows 8 Microsoft has the advantage of offering tablets that can do everything a Windows desktop can.

Despite all of its keyboard docks and other accessories, that’s an experience Apple can’t yet offer with the iPad — even with the addition of a nicer screen. You can certainly argue that it’s better for Apple to focus entirely on the mobile experience with the iPad, but it’s clear that there’s a convergence afoot between the mobile and desktop worlds.

Thanks to the rise of smartphones and tablets, we want to touch and swipe all the screens we come across. Windows 8 is ready for a world where laptops and desktops sport touch screen displays, and where the difference between an ultraportable laptop and a tablet are negligible.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet plans could still flame out entirely, but at least it’s looking to where the industry is headed, instead of futilely trying to catch up with the status quo.

Other expected updates

The iPad 3 is expected to launch with the latest iOS release, iOS 5.1. And with a high-resolution screen, it’d make sense for Apple to dramatically improve the iPad 3′s camera. I’m expecting a 5 or 8 megapixel shooter that can record 1080p video on the rear, and an improved front-facing camera capable of 720p HD video.

Tune in on Wednesday for more

VentureBeat will be reporting live from Apple’s iPad 3 event on Wednesday, so keep your eyes peeled for the official announcements and analysis.

VB Mobile SummitVentureBeat is holding its second annual MobileSummit this April 2-3 in Sausalito, Calif. The invitation-only event will debate the five key business and technology challenges facing the mobile industry today, and participants — 180 mobile executives, investors, and policymakers — will develop concrete, actionable solutions that will shape the future of themobile industry. You can find out more at our Mobile Summit site.

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Facebook’s first desktop app for Windows gets its official launch today

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 10:59 AM PST

Facebook is officially launching its first Windows desktop app today.

Facebook Messenger, which allows you to see and respond to Facebook activity, including chat messages, will allow users to keep up with their friends and Facebook activity directly from the desktop.

The app was previewed at the end of last year, but while the previous version was made available after a tech press leak, today’s version is the official release of the product.

“The app was largely built by our engineering team based in Seattle,” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat this morning via email. The Seattle office was opened just shy of two years ago; at the time, Facebooker Ari Steinberg wrote that the site was chosen for its “strong history of innovation and is home to thousands of talented technical people who we want to help us solve the challenges of designing and building the next generation of Facebook.” Clearly, desktop apps were relatively high on the to-do list for this team.

“Our focus is to enable people to access Messenger from the platform of their choice,” the Facebook rep continued. Right now, the app is live for Windows users only, but the team said a Mac app is also in the works. No word on a Linux version yet, my fellow neckbeards. The app is already available for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry mobile devices.

When you turn Messenger on, you’ll start getting Ticker-like notices. Ticker is the lightweight news feed that runs in your sidebar and features likes and other, low-priority updates from your friends. Ticker was announced last fall at Facebook’s f8 developer conference.

Ticker also includes “Actions” activity from apps, including media consumption, gameplay updates, and lifestyle app milestones from your friends.

“You can see the latest updates from your friends in Ticker on Messenger,” said our Facebook spokesperson, “so you will see the items you would see in Ticker — tags, comments and more. The notifications you see are the same you would see when you access Facebook.com and are based on your notification settings.”

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U.S. files for extradition of Megaupload kingpin Kim Dotcom

Posted: 05 Mar 2012 10:42 AM PST

Kim Dotcom

The United States government, as promised, has filed papers with New Zealand to extradite Megaupload founder and alleged mega-pirate Kim Dotcom, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Dotcom (pictured) and several other Megaupload employees were named in a 72-page indictment issued in mid-January. It alleged that Dotcom and his colleagues facilitated $500 million in damages to copyright owners.

Last we heard on the Megaupload front, Dotcom was surprisingly released on bail two weeks ago. Dotcom’s $4.3 million home and other assets were seized earlier, which led a New Zealand judge to believe Dotcom was not a flight risk.

Now the next chapter of the story begins with Dotcom being potentially being sent to the U.S. to face trial here. U.S. government officials had 45 days to file an extradition request after seizing Dotcom’s assets, and now they’ve at least accomplished that. At this rate, the extradition hearing will likely not be held until August, so we’ve got a ways to go before Dotcom would end up facing trial.

Dotcom has said he is innocent of the charges. Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken previously told VentureBeat that the company would "be assembling a worldwide team of top-notch lawyers, intellectual property lawyers and tech lawyers to defend this. There's a good chance Megaupload will prevail in this case."

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