13 March, 2012



5 tips for setting up an effective video conferencing policy

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 09:00 AM PDT

This post is sponsored by Citrix® GoToMeeting®. Attend your meetings from anywhere. Try GoToMeeting Today for Free. As always, VentureBeat is adamant about maintaining editorial objectivity.

You have a video conferencing system in the office. You know you should probably get around to actually, you know, using it. But much like the exercise equipment you received for Christmas, it is still in the box. Or perhaps, IT set one up three months ago but your employees are still calling clients long-distance instead of using it for product demonstrations.

So, what’s the best way to get into the habit of adding a video conference to your daily routine? Well, first make sure you’ve got the five tips below covered, and then jump in and start scheduling video conferences. Once you’ve taken care of these basic hurdles, it should be much smooth sailing.

1. Set Up a Dedicated Space: …but embrace mobile opportunities. In the office, find a space to set up the video conferencing system so you can test it thoroughly, train employees on it, and access it easily at any time. However, part of the benefit of video conferencing is that it can be done from anywhere — and will sometimes need to be done from less-than desirable locations (in an airport from a laptop, for example). Make sure your in-house set up is running smoothly, then ensure you have a mobile component in place for traveling employees to dial in.

2. Invest in the Experience: Trying to cut corners on cost here will do you no favors in the long run: Make sure you’re working with solid equipment, from mics and cables to webcams and Internet connections. Likewise, pay attention to audio quality during your test runs: Is the mic too close to a keyboard? Is there a delay before you hear audio? Fine tune the system, upgrading or adjusting as necessary so you can have a good quality experience.

3. Look for Opportunities: Perhaps a member of your team is stuck at home waiting for a repairman, or you’d like to give a product tour to a new client — in Tokyo. Maybe you’d just like to give your system a solid run-through after a new software upgrade. Does your IM program integrate with video? There’s another opportunity to video chat instead. The more you identify places where you can use video conferencing, the more everyone can practice using it and thereby, become more comfortable with it. And practice what you preach: upper management should use video conferencing whenever possible in order to lead by example.

4. Inform the Team: Employees are generally more receptive to ideas when they understand the motivation behind them, so make sure you’re clear on why you’d like to incorporate more video conferencing and how you intend the company — and staff — to benefit. Perhaps you’re trying to cut travel expenses, or have better communication with off-site employees. Additionally, it will help ease anxieties if you are clear about the rules you expect employees to follow while video conferencing i.e. no texting while conferencing, don’t be late, schedule in advance, be prepared, etc.

5. Provide Training: A lot of the hesitation around video conferencing comes from intimidation over complicated conferencing systems that require multiple calls to an IT department to get running. However, with the variety of VoIP services, smart phone apps, and video-based web services, video conferencing is becoming increasingly painless. Providing a clear set of instructions on how to access and run all video conferencing technology (be it hardware or software, or both) can give employees a quick reference while they become accustomed to using the technology. Also, make sure there is someone available should employees have questions or run into difficulties.

Video call image via ShutterStock

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After torturing Galaxy S II owners, Samsung finally begins Android 4.0 rollout

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 08:33 AM PDT

After several false-starts and delays, Samsung has officially begun rolling out an Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” upgrade today for its Galaxy S II smartphones. But those in North America will still have to wait a bit longer.

The Android 4.0 update will begin in European countries, including Hungary, Sweden, and Poland, as well as South Korea. Samsung says that it will “gradually roll out to other markets,” in a blog post today.

The update will breathe some new life into the Galaxy S II lineup, which is currently running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread.” Samsung is also expected to announce the phone’s successor, the Galaxy S III, in the next few months, which is expected to launch with Android 4.0.

Samsung also mentioned that it plans to upgrade other recent devices to Android 4.0 soon, including the Galaxy Note, the LTE version of the Galaxy S II, as well as the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1. Older devices, like the Galaxy S, Galaxy Tab 7, and Galaxy W will also finally receive an upgrade to Android 2.3 in the next few months.


Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Stop freaking out about turning the homeless into hotspots at SxSW

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 08:22 AM PDT

Homeless Hotspots SxSW

A marketing firm is catching heat from the tech community for a project that temporarily turned the city of Austin, Texas’ homeless population into mobile 4G hotspots during the South by Southwest (SxSW) Interactive event this weekend.

Essentially, BBH Labs outfitted 13 volunteers from a homeless shelter with a mobile Wi-Fi device, business cards, and a t-shirt with their name on it that reads “I’m (Name), a 4G Hotspot”. Event attendees are encouraged to donate money if they gain access to the network.

When I first heard about this practice I was a little bit mortified. The idea of turning homeless people into wireless hotspots seemed far too similar to a dancing monkey performing at a royal party for the amusement of the guests. This notion was amplified after reading reactionary stories on a number of websites, including Wired. But having explored the official site for the Homeless Hotspots Project, I have a much different opinion.

The Homeless Hotspot efforts at SxSW aren’t actually all that sinister at all. The Mobile Wi-Fi isn’t being provided courtesy of Sprint, with big company logos all over the person’s clothing. The only person that stands to benefit from this project is the homeless people.

On the site, BBH Labs explains that the project is modeled after the practice of giving homeless people jobs selling news papers on the side of the road. Since “dead tree” newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur and news organizations are moving online, it leaves one less way for the homeless population to make a few bucks legitimately — without having to sit on the side of the road with a cardboard sign and a tin can asking for your change. All proceeds from the project go directly to the person providing the Wi-Fi.

From the website:

As digital media proliferates, these newspapers face increased pressure. Our hope is to create a modern version of this successful model, offering homeless individuals an opportunity to sell a digital service instead of a material commodity. SxSW Interactive attendees can pay what they like to access 4G networks carried by our homeless collaborators. This service is intended to deliver on the demand for better transit connectivity during the conference.

Also worth noting is that this isn’t the first time BBH has implemented its Homeless Hotspot efforts. The project originally started in New York. The current efforts at SxSW were also done in partnership with Front Steps, a charity dedicated to ending homelessness in Austin.

Regardless of how much good the project might be for the individuals involved, some posts just didn’t like the idea of the homeless providing Wi-Fi for rich drunk people at a big party. For instance, Wired’s Tim Carmody described the practice as "something out of a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia."

He’s certainly not wrong. But, that description is more telling of our own society that it is about allowing homeless people to better themselves during a busy time in a big city.

Homeless man photo via Shutterstock/JustASC

Filed under: mobile, security, VentureBeat

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Major League Gaming raises $13M for live game tournaments

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 08:15 AM PDT

Major League Gaming has raised $13 million for its business of running video game tournaments played through the web and at live events.

The company hasn’t announced the news yet but it indicated it was raising the $13 million round in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. So far, it has raised $11.3 million of the total. The deal shows that funding for games is hot and MLG has been able to use its momentum to amass a big audience in the live gaming market.

MLG is the major competitive gaming tournament organizer with tens of millions of gamers participating in its tournaments. It holds more than 750,000 matches each month in online battles. And its live in-person Pro Circuit tournaments are held in cities across the country. The tournaments are streamed to hundreds of thousands of fans in 170 countries.

The filing lists relevant parties: Sundance DiGiovanni, founder; Jarratt Brown; Michael Sepso; Edward Glassmeyer; John Kermath; and Harlan Stone.

Over the last ten years, MLG has set out to create a global, cross-platform competitive gaming business. Over time, the company has acquired business such as Gamebattles and Agora Games, both aimed at building big communities around online games. It previously raised $10 million from Legion Enterprises. Total funding before this deal was $52.5 million.

[Photo credit: MLG]

Filed under: deals, games

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Former Sony game design chief Phil Harrison joins Microsoft

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 08:03 AM PDT

Phil Harrison, most recently a venture capitalist and former game design chief at Sony, has is joining Microsoft Game Studios Europe as its chief.

Harrison, who currently serves as a partner at London Venture Partners, will step into the job vacated by former Lionhead Studios lead Peter Molyneux, who is joining the indie startup 22-Cans, according to GamesIndustry International.

Microsoft is expected to announce the appointment today. Harrison has served as a partner at London Venture Partners for the past two years. Before that, he was head of technology and a board member at Atari. And he is best known as the head of Sony Computer Entertainment’s worldwide game studios.

[Update: Microsoft confirmed that Harrison will be a corporate vice president in the Interactive Entertainment Business division with emphasis on growing the division's European business.

He will run the European game business and set up strategic partnerships in the region and bring "culturally relevant entertainment experiences" to Microsoft platforms. He will bring his market perspective on mobile and social games as well as new business models. And he will oversee the U.K.-based developers Lionhead, Soho Productions and Rare. He will continue as special advisor at London Venture Partners.

"Phil has played an instrumental role in shaping modern console history through his keen insights into both hardware and software strategy," said Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business. "His addition to our leadership team will impact our global business in innumerable ways, as he aligns our studio development and growing portfolio of entertainment experiences in Europe to drive our continued growth worldwide."]

[Photo credit: Sony]

Filed under: games

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Star Wars: The Old Republic was built to thrive in a WoW world

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 08:00 AM PDT

The first step in creating a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game in today’s market is to start with the world’s most popular intellectual property: Star Wars.

So says Dallas Dickinson, director of production for Electronic Arts’ BioWare division. In fact, the public relations folks promoting the company’s  Star Wars: The Old Republic game were told — only half jokingly — to announce the game onstage as, “Star Wars, MMO (massively multiplayer online), BioWare,” and then walk off, says Richard Vogel, the company’s executive producer.

The game plan, when BioWare began developing Star Wars: The Old Republic more than six years ago, was to become a genre leader in the MMO space. The trick, said Dickinson, is to broaden the market, differentiate your game from current market leaders, build enough content to keep players invested, and update constantly. Their goal, for now, is to gain over one million subscribers in the long-term, one they’re apparently well on their way to meeting.

Vogel said that, in addition to competing with a game like Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic is competing with many free-to-play (F2P) MMO options, like DC Universe or Star Trek Online, both with solid intellectual properties themselves.

In order to create a game worth playing, he said, BioWare had to build something that gave players real value for their subscription dollars. That meant careful innovation, building the game on a large scale, and merciless editing in the development cycle.


Companion Chat in a Cantina Screenshot Star Wars The Old RepublicDickinson and Vogel said that BioWare couldn’t recreate the genre just to say they had innovated. Instead, they decided to aim for the core audience of the MMO genre first, then build on that by acquiring new players. Keeping people playing an MMO game is less expensive than acquiring new players, they said.

To focus on what core MMO players want, the production team used concepts from the Bartle Test, which proposes that there are four kinds of players of multiplayer online games: the socializer, the killer, the explorer, and the achiever.

BioWare innovated by meeting the needs of these diverse types of MMO fans. They included individual stories for each class, with family legacies that build over multiple generations, interactive cinematic dialogue with branching storylines, and multiplayer dialogue systems — all innovations in the storytelling realm. The addition of sidekicks brought a new way to add social elements to a genre that only relied on other real-time players in the past. Combat was made to look and feel like the movies, with dodging, connecting lightsabers, and true ranged combat, which Vogel bragged about being a 70+ meters system plus true cover, a genre first.


Huge battle arena warzone with glider in foreground Star Wars The Old RepublicStar Wars: The Old Republic has over 240,000 lines of fully voice acted dialogue, over 4,094 characters, and more than 321 actors. This is, the producers say, six times the amount in Dragon Age, nine times the scale of Mass Effect, and more voice over than all the previous BioWare games combined. Whew! Add in 20 full planets with over 90 unique areas to explore and around 200 hours of gameplay for each of the eight classes, and BioWare had its hands full with scale.

Dickinson said that they won some and lost some in trying to scale up to full production with this kind of scope. He believes they did well in the voice over and writing development cycle, as well as outsourcing of art for both character and environment. Where they didn’t do so well, he said, was in the build pipeline (what gets done and by whom), data tables (tracking), and software scripting.

Both producers talked about needing to be flexible during the process of creating such a large game, though they also said they would be taking these lessons learned to future projects of any size. BioWare began this project using specific management and software strategies, had to change course over the project timeline, and at times had to go back to the original way of doing things. Without that flexibility, they say, the game would not have been as good or as on time.


Sith Jedi Lightsaber Duel Star Wars The Old RepublicFinally, the BioWare production team needed to make sure that it stayed on task, focusing only on the things that would make a great game. One thing that any team of game developers creates, they said, was a “wouldn’t it be cool to have” list. The first thing the team did at every point was to cut these “nice to have” items, which makes the game better, but makes the team sad. Sometimes, a sad team is the price of a better game, said Vogel.

BioWare used the Colonel John Boyd fighter pilot model of decision making, which says that the winner of a dogfight is the one who makes the most decisions the fastest. A development team is like a fighter pilot, said Dickinson, in that good decisions made slowly can impact a project fatally. The team iterated through a method of observing, orienting, deciding, acting, and then observing again (the OODA model) to make super fast decisions, based on the combined experience of the production team. This led to faster decisions over time, and, said the producers, a better game on launch day.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Aereo says people have a legal right to rabbit ears and DVRs, countersues the big TV networks

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 07:59 AM PDT

Aereo, the New York startup that is building a new system for streaming and recoding live TV, is countersuing the big TV networks that filed a lawsuit against it at the beginning of this month. The company, which is backed by local investors like First Round Capital and Barry Diller’ IAC, says that the courts have already ruled in favor of their technology, just not in this innovative new form.

Aereo allows anyone to rent a tiny antenna, about the size of a dime, that captures TV signals out of the air and streams them over the web. It also lets users record those shows and play them back anytime they like on any device. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS and others have sued Aereo, saying that the service is rebroadcasting their programming without paying the appropriate licensing fees.

In a statement emailed to VentureBeat yesterday, Aereo highlights the legal history of the VCR and DVR in arguing its case:

This case involves nothing more than the application of settled law to updated technology — settled law that establishes conclusively that Aereo’s business is entirely lawful. Plantiff’s Complaints fails because Aereo merely provides technology that consumer may use to what they are legall entitled to do: (1) access free and legally accessible over the air television broadcasts using an antenna; (2) create individiual, unique recording of those broadcasts for personal use, see Sony Cor. of America vs Universal Studios, Inc, 464 U.S. 417 (1984); and (3) record and play back those unique recording utilizing a remotely-located digital video recorder (“DVR”) to personal devices, see Cartoon Network L.P. vs CSC Holdings Inc., 536 F.3d 121 (2nd Circ. 2008). 

The big studios have been fighting recording technology for decades, and technology companies, from Sony to Aereo, have been trying to find ways to improve the consumer experience. Barry Diller, who helped create Fox, USA and QVC, is no stranger to the world of television and not shy about getting into it with the traditional media companies. “It’s going to be a great fight,” Diller told the audience during a panel at SXSW.

Filed under: media, mobile

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Google prepping Metro-style Chrome browser for Windows 8

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 07:56 AM PDT


Google is hard at work on a Metro-style version of its Chrome browser for Windows 8, a sign that the company is taking Microsoft’s new touch-friendly OS seriously.

The Windows 8 OS, which will see release later this year, lets companies develop apps for its touch-based Metro interface as well as for a traditional desktop environment. Google’s move follows Mozilla’s decision to produce a new version of Firefox for Windows 8 in mid-February. Mozilla said at the time that building a Metro-style browser requires a different type of coding than the normal desktop app, so it needs time to develop it.

The revelation that Google is working on Windows 8 version of its browser comes from Mashable. A Google representative explained the decision to the outlet: “Our goal is to be able to offer our users a speedy, simple, secure Chrome experience across all platforms, which includes both the desktop and Metro versions of Windows 8. To that end we're in the process of building a Metro version of Chrome along with improving desktop Chrome in Windows 8 such as adding enhanced touch support.”

Chrome and Firefox will compete with Microsoft's pre-installed Internet Explorer 10 for Metro. Apple and Opera — which also make rival web browsers — have thus far not announced creating Metro-enabled browsers for Windows 8.

Google Chrome Japan ad: Junya Ogura/Flickr

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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PayPal likely launching Square competitor on Thursday

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 07:17 AM PDT


Online payments company PayPal will launch a credit card reader for mobile devices that will compete with Square, Intuit, and others at an event Thursday, according to GigaOM.

The conversation about mobile card readers is often dominated by Square, which now has three applications for phones and tablets and is now processing $4 billion in annual mobile payments. But eBay-owned PayPal, which is has a huge hold on online payment processing, has been inching slowly toward mobile payments as well. At Mobile World Congress two weeks ago, PayPal announced the PayPal Carrier Payment Network, which aims to create standards in carrier payments. The company also demonstrated a new “digital wallet” at SXSW Interactive last week.

On Thursday, PayPal is expected to go further than before with a new dongle that can attach to various phones through a standard headphone jack. It will likely be shaped like a triangle, most likely so it won’t be confused with Square’s square-shaped dongle. One place we will likely see the new dongle in action will be Home Depot, which plans to offer PayPal payments at its nearly 2,000 stores in the U.S.

We will see on Thursday if the rumors hold true. Check back with us then to see if PayPal does indeed launch a new card reader and how it will change the mobile payments landscape.

PayPal booth logo: Liz Wise/Flickr

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Feast your eyes on new iPad unboxing porn, benchmarks confirm 1GB RAM (video)

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 07:03 AM PDT

You can feel free to hate the geeks at the Vietnamese site Tinhte.vn, who always seem to get their hands on new Apple products early.

The site has published the first unboxing video for Apple’s new iPad, and while it doesn’t seem all that different from unwrapping past iPads, it’s still fun to live vicariously through the thrill of Tinhte.vn’s crew.

The site also published the first official benchmarks from the new iPad, which confirms that it now sports 1 gigabyte of RAM (double the iPad 2′s amount), while its CPU clock speed remains at 1 gigahertz. The RAM upgrade makes sense when you consider the new iPad's 2048 by 1536 Retina Display — a resolution that will require lots of additional memory to handle games and complex apps.

Even though its CPU speed is the same as the iPad 2, the new iPad features faster quad-core graphics, which makes it better suited for games and apps using computer graphics.

Using the Geekbench benchmarking app, Tinhte.vn found that the new iPad had a Geekbench score of 756. Curiously, running the same benchmark on my iPad 2 landed it a score of 764. Perhaps a future version of Geekbench will be able to show how the new iPad is faster (likely when it comes to games), but it looks like the core processing speed is the same.

Check out the unboxing video below (in Vietnamese).

Via MacRumors

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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EA’s Patrick Soderlund sounds off on Medal of Honor and Battlefield games

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 06:00 AM PDT

As the head of the EA Games label, Patrick Soderlund (pictured) oversees Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor, Battlefield, Need for Speed, Dead Space, and other hardcore gaming properties. That amounts to a huge chunk of the company’s revenues and one of its most competitive segments.

Last week, EA announced its Medal of Honor Warfighter game and new downloadable content (DLC) expansions for Battlefield 3. Both of these are big launches in EA’s ongoing battle with Activision Blizzard, publisher of Call of Duty, in the multibillion-dollar first-person-shooter market. We caught up with Soderlund shortly after the announcement at EA’s Medal of Honor and Battlefield party during the Game Developers Conference. (See our preview of Battlefield 3: Close Quarters). Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: Please tell us about your background.

Patrick Soderlund: I joined EA in 2006, via the acquisition of the DICE studio. At the time I was still running DICE for EA. As time went on, I got a little bit more to do. I started by running a couple of other studios for EA and then moving to oversee all the shooter business and then the driving business. And then eventually, fast forward, today I now oversee the Games label for EA.

GamesBeat: What’s the evolution been like? It seems like the investment in shooters has been going way up.

PS: It has. For me, coming from a single studio working on multiple brands and multiple studios has been exciting. And also being a part of transforming a couple of things inside the company has been rewarding for me.

GamesBeat: That includes the reboots of these two franchises, Medal of Honor and Battlefield?

PS: Absolutely. Battlefield moving to console with the Bad Company series was a big thing for us. It was also the first time we did single-player in the Battlefield franchise. And then fast-forward to Bad Company 2, which was the first real breakout hit for the Battlefield franchise, with a substantial amount of units sold. And then obviously to the even bigger Battlefield 3 that we launched in October.

With Medal of Honor, it’s been interesting. I came in kind of late to the Medal of Honor reboot, the 2010 version. That was interesting because they had moved away from World War II. They had gone modern, and that was interesting for the team. They had to take a different approach in how they designed the product. And now, today, what you’re going to see in Medal of Honor Warfighter is the next step. It’s the most ambitious Medal of Honor product to date, I think it’s the best-looking by a country mile.

GamesBeat: So you’ve had a continuous improvement going on, the ratings for Battlefield 3 were better [though not at GamesBeat], and the sales were a lot better than Medal of Honor as well. How do you make that happen?

PS: Quality will come from many things, in many ways. A lot of people point to Battlefield 3, and they talk about the Frostbite technology. We made a conscious decision to invest in new technology. We realized that technology is going to be the enabler that gets us over the hump, so to speak, into this next generation of products.

We didn’t build tech for the sake of building tech. We looked at it and said, “We need to provide the consumer with a different kind of teamwork experience and to do so we need new technology.” We identified certain areas; we looked at things that break the illusion of reality. For us it was animation. We needed to take a giant leap in animation, and we did that.

We looked at something that a lot of people tend to forget, which is audio. We said, “We need to do a lot better at audio than we have.” We invented what we call the High Dynamic Range audio, which is what you hear in the Frostbite engine. And lastly, we also said, “We need a much higher-fidelity rendering engine and a much better destruction system.”

GamesBeat: So I guess the main competition has one big franchise. You’ve got two. That’s a good thing, right?

PS: Well, we have several. We have Medal of Honor; we have Battlefield; we have Need for Speed. We have Dead Space; we have a bunch of [intellectual properties] in our portfolio, and that’s where I think it’s our responsibility to nurture those and make them better and bigger. And also to bring out new intellectual properties for EA and for the Games label.

GamesBeat: I guess Activision made this leap a while ago — Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed as well — a big franchise coming out every year. Is that what you have in mind, or is that somewhere you want to get to?

PS: Well, right now we’re focused on the Medal of Honor game. That’s coming this year. We shipped Battlefield last year, so that’s one way of looking at it.

GamesBeat: And I take it you’re learning a lot by doing one and applying it to the next across these franchises….

PS: What you’ll also see today is that Medal of Honor is now on the Frostbite tech. That will be visible when you see it. Again, it’s about consistently improving and consistently refining a recipe but also finding that if you take some bold risks, you can come up with some new, innovative ideas.

GamesBeat: What are the fans really asking for, and what are you trying to deliver?

PS: Well, the Games label, which is what I oversee, is actually full of fans. We are the fans. Let’s never forget that we are here to make games that we want to play. And arguably, if we make a game that we think is great and that we want to play — obviously we need to be objective — but if you do that you’re ultimately going to win over the audience. Because we are the audience. That’s one way of looking at it, and that’s the approach that we take. That’s really worked for us.

GamesBeat: Are you really shooting to raise the review scores on the games as well?

PS: Yeah. The people who know me and who work for me will tell you that I’m a hard man to work for when it comes to quality. I push my teams to the extreme to achieve quality. Again, it’s not for the sake of reaching a score. It’s because I want the best possible game in the hands of the consumer. I want them to look at it and say, “Wow, did you see that?”

GamesBeat: How do you look back on the Battlefield 3 launch?

PS: I’m extremely proud of both the team and what EA, frankly, as a company, was able to achieve. We took this thing and we really put everything we had in it, and we launched a game that was not only successful but is one of the most successful games in the history of EA. I’m extremely proud of that, and I think people out there need to understand. We see this as a start. This is where we start, and now we go forward. I think that’s the mentality I have; that’s the mentality the team has. People who have invested in the Battlefield franchise can expect a lot more from us.

GamesBeat: You had some critics, too. Is there anything you’re taking to heart from that quarter?

PS: A part of the quality process is to be very, very self-aware and realize where you have problems. Obviously, talking to others, talking to critics, reading reviews, talking to consumers, which we do all the time, is key to learning and understanding what was great and also what wasn’t so good. And then you take that to heart and change it and go forward.

People out there need to understand that the people who make these games want nothing but to please the people outside. When you have 10 million or more people buying a product, it’s going to be hard to make sure that every single one of them is happy. But the majority of people we listen to. We want to improve, and we want to make a better experience for those people.

GamesBeat: The game’s story and the server access were issues that critics raised.

PS: I wouldn’t actually say server access was that big [a deal]. We had a little bit of a hiccup at the beginning, but overall, we did really well. If you look at all the major games shipping, I know of other games shipping in our industry that had a bunch of problems. When you launch a game of that size, I don’t think it’s acceptable for us to say, OK, we’re going to just accept the problem. We’re always going to strive to have a perfect launch and get it done. But we also have to realize that things may go wrong, and I think it’s how we approach it when it does go wrong that’s the most important thing. Clear communication to the consumers about what may be wrong, that we’re fixing it, and then run as quick as you can and fix the problem.

EA PR rep: For what it’s worth, this crosses from Patrick’s portfolio into Star Wars: The Old Republic. A lot of the lessons that Patrick learned at the Battlefield launch contributed to a successful launch for Star Wars a month later. The point there is that we learned a lot on Battlefield, and you saw that learning come into play on Star Wars.

And that launch fundamentally changed our business. That launch was great for all of us. Having live teams and transitioning our studios to live teams and having an integrated team supporting the launch in that way forever changed things for us.

PS: It’s a mental switch. It’s something that you have to do as a company, where we went from, “Let’s get this thing out, and maybe we’ll patch it” to “OK, we were pregnant, the baby’s out now, and we have to take care of it every single minute.” [Editor's note: EA recently patched Battlefield 3.]

GamesBeat: So Battlefield is effectively, say, moving into a service mode first? And then maybe Medal of Honor will…?

PS: We look at it as a 24/7 service. We have people in Stockholm and North America and other parts of the world that are on this every single hour of every single day. 365 days a year. We have an operations team at DICE to look at telemetry data. How are people playing the game, how can we improve the experience? Are they having problems? Are servers down? Are they up? All that stuff.

GamesBeat: Do you think you’ll eventually get to a subscription type of model? And do you also think you’re going to take down Call of Duty?

PS: I think it’s fair to say that we’re looking at that. Like all other companies, we’re looking at how we can maximize our investment in this and get the most out of our investment and get more people playing this product. That may take us to different places, but we’re not really talking about where that is yet.

When it comes to taking Call of Duty down, you know what? I don’t look at it like that. We are in this business because we want to make the best possible products. Call of Duty is a shooter, but it’s a different shooter. And I think they have a market; we have a market. I’m fine with what I’m doing. I’m going to continue innovating and doing as best as I can with my teams. Hopefully that’s going to lead us to more units [sold] and more happy consumers.

[Photo credit: Dean Takahashi]

Filed under: games

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Here are the 10 patents Yahoo is using to sue Facebook (and what they really mean)

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 05:02 AM PDT

With Facebook getting ready for its IPO, Yahoo has decided to sue over patent infringement. Yahoo used the same tactic against Google in the run up to their IPO, pocketing a helping of the search engine’s pre-IPO shares.

Yahoo’s new CEO, Scott Thompson, is reportedly the one driving this aggressive strategy, with many of the companies long time tech staff opposed to this aggressive use of Yahoo’s patent portfolio.

Prominent thought leaders in the tech world are also upset. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote on his blog this morning, “The patents that Yahoo! is suing Facebook over are a crock of shit. None of them represent unique and new ideas at the time of the filing. I supect they all can be thrown out over prior art if Facebook takes the time and effort to do that.”

We’ve broken out the 10 patents at issue in the lawsuit below, along with our best efforts at a translation into plain english. Lawyers and IP folks, let us know in the comments if we’ve got anything wrong.

US Patent 7599935  Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user's authorization level (Filed 2005, Issued 2009)

Translation: A way to preview the stuff you will be sharing with friends.

Enabling a first user to preview content as it would be seen by a second user, if the second user had a selected user relationship with the first user. The selected user relationship may include a relationship degree, a relationship category, a relationship rating, and/or other form of relationship. In one embodiment, a user interface enables the first user to assign user relationships to portions of content and to other users. The first user selects a user relationship, which is used to access those portions of content that are associated with the first user and assigned the selected user relationship. The corresponding portions of content are used to generate a preview display for the first user, illustrating the portions of content that would be accessible to other users assigned the same user relationship or assigned a closer user relationship. Preview may be generated by a server or a local client.

US Patent 5983227 Dynamic Page Generator  (Filed 1997, Issued 1999)

Translation: A way to produce a customized homepage without to much strain on your servers.

An custom page server is provided with user preferences organized into templates stored in compact data structures and the live data used to fill the templates stored local to the page server which is handing user requests for custom pages. One process is executed on the page server for every request. The process is provided a user template for the user making the request, where the user template is either generated from user preferences or retrieved from a cache of recently used user templates. Each user process is provided access to a large region of shared memory which contains all of the live data needed to fill any user template. Typically, the pages served are news pages, giving the user a custom selection of stock quotes, news headlines, sports scores, weather, and the like. With the live data stored in a local, shared memory, any custom page can be built within the page server, eliminating the need to make requests from other servers for portions of the live data.

US Patent 7454509 Online playback system with community bias  (Filed 2001, Issued 2008)

Translation: A web radio station that learns your friends tastes.

A method for entertaining individuals according to a community having similar tastes. Information derived from user accounts form the basis of a community and collateral preferences allow other subscribing individuals to enjoy the benefit of wider-ranging tastes according to the preferences expressed by the other members of the community. Additionally, assuming that individuals sharing one preference in common may be likely to share others, the present method allows those who choose to listen to the "fan station" the ability to enjoy similar music or other data streams according to preferences expressed by the fan community as a whole.

US Patent 7747648 World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities (Filed 2005, Issued 2010)

Translation: A way to connect different kinds of pages (events, friends, fans) and allow them all to message one another.

Systems and methods for information retrieval and communication employ a world model. The world model is made up of interrelated entity models, each of which corresponds to an entity in the real world, such as a person, place, business, other tangible thing, community, event, or thought. Each entity model provides a communication channel via which a user can contact a real-world person responsible for that entity model. Entity models also provide feedback information, enabling users to easily share their experiences and opinions of the corresponding real-world entity.

US Patent 7406501 System and method for instant messaging using an e-mail protocol (Filed 2003, Issued 2008)

Translation: Sending an instant message. No seriously, that’s it.

Systems and methods allowing an instant messaging user to exchange messages with an e-mail user. To the instant messaging user, the experience is a seamless exchange of instant messages; to the e-mail user, the experience is a seamless exchange of e-mail messages. Conversion of an instant message to an e-mail message includes insertion of a token into the e-mail message, and conversion of an e-mail message to an instant message includes validating a token extracted from the e-mail message.

US Patent 6907566 US Patent 7100111 and US Patent 7373599  Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage (Filed 1999, Issued 2005)

Translation: Customizing the placement of ads based on users behavior.

A method and system for placement of graphical objects on a page to optimize the occurrence of an event associated with such objects. The graphical objects might include, for instance, advertisements on a webpage, and the event would include a user clicking on that ad. The page includes positions for receipt of the object material. Data regarding the past performance of the objects is stored and updated as new data is received. A user requests a page from a server associated with system. The server uses the performance data to derive a prioritized arrangement of the objects on the page. The server performs a calculation regarding the likelihood that an event will occur for a given object, as displayed to a particular user. The objects are arranged according to this calculation and returned to the user on the requested page. The likelihood can also be multiplied by a weighting factor and the objects arranged according to this product

US Patent 7668861 System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network (Filed 2007, Issued 2010)

Translation: A way to assign a value in order to screen for bad behavior or spam.

A system and method are disclosed for classifying a user interaction on a network. A user interaction is identified on a network and user interaction data is collected relating to the user interaction on the network. The user interaction data includes an aggregate measure data and a unique feature data. The user interaction data is processed to generate a value score for the interaction. A classification of the user interaction is determined based on the value score.

US Patent 7269590 Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user(Filed 2004, Issued 2007)

Translation: Setting your profile so that is displays on certain info to certain friends.

A method, apparatus, and system are directed towards managing a view of a social network user's personal information based, in part, on user-defined criteria. The user-defined criteria may be applied towards a user's relationship with each prospective viewer. The user-defined criteria may include degrees of separation between members of the social network, a relationship to the prospective viewer, as well as criteria based, in part, on activities, such as dating, employment, hobbies, and the like. The user-defined criteria may also be based on a group membership, a strength of a relationship, and the like. Such user-defined relationship criteria may then be mapped against various categories of information associated with social network user to provide customized views of the social network user.

h/t Paid Content and CNET

Image via Flickr user Yodel Anecdotal

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Intematix raises $16.2M for next-generation LED lightbulbs

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Intematix announced Tuesday it has raised a new round of funding to make LED lighting for homes, businesses, and other mainstream uses.

Light-emitting diodes (LED) have been making their way into our homes in computers, TVs, and other electronics for several years now, but we are still struggling to replace less energy efficient incandescent bulbs found in most homes with their LED counterparts. Part of the reason is that LEDs have had a price tag far higher than most people are willing pay.

Companies such as Bridgelux, Lighting Science Group, and Dixon Technologies have brought the price down in recent years and made LED bulbs available for residential and business uses. But given their current prices, it could still take almost another decade before people choose LED lightbulbs at their local Home Depot.

That’s a shame, because LED bulbs are more energy efficient than compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL), which have been popular on store shelves ever since they were touted as super long-lasting and better than the traditional bulb.

The other major hurdle to widespread LED lightbulb adoption is the type of light that the diodes produce, which usually has an unflattering and harsh blue tint. Intematix is trying to solve that problem with its phosphor LED coating that creates warmer tones we’ve come to expect from incandescents.

All LEDs use phosphors, a luminescent substance, to emit light. Traditionally, you’d coat the semiconductor that powers the light with a phosphor powder to create a light source. Intematix instead uses phosphor lenses, branded as ChromaLit, that sit above the semiconductor and react to an LED’s blue light to produce light. The result is a LED bulb that emites white light, the type we’re used to seeing from incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. The lenses can also be altered, by using different phosphors, to create other lighting hues, such as red or green.

Because the lens is separated from the semiconductor, lightbulbs can be made in different shapes, such as flat panels or a dome. Intematix’s technology also cuts down on the chance that the LED will overheat and burn out too quickly because there is air between the semiconductor and the lens.

The company plans to use the new round of funding, led by previous investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Crosslink Capital, and an unnamed new investor, to expand its production facilities and develop its technology.

Intematix was founded in 2000 and is based in Fremont, Calif., just east of Silicon Valley. Since its founding, it has raised a total of $63 million.

Filed under: deals, green

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Apperian raises $12.4M to put your company’s apps on your iPad

Posted: 13 Mar 2012 04:30 AM PDT

A startup called Apperian just raised $12.4 million to help businesses build their own apps and access them on tablets and smartphones.

The company developed its Enterprise App Services Environment (EASE) platform to let companies create and deploy apps for their employees to use. Instead of dealing with the approval process to publish an app to the Android Market or the iOS App Store, which can take time and resources, businesses can publish their apps with Apperian.

By logging in with your company’s credentials, you only see the apps for your company, unlike the mainstream app stores. Apps can also be customized based on each employee’s department, so the sales staff can’t access the IT department’s apps and vice versa.

Last fall, Apple reported that 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies have deployed or are testing iPads, and Apperian is hoping to capture a piece of that market. Apperian is also trying to get in on the bring-your-own-device movement, in which more and more employees are bringing their own phones and tablets to use at their jobs.

Apperian competes with SAP, which offers pre-made apps for businesses to do work on phones and tablets.

Apperian is based in Boston and recently opened offices in the United Kingdom and France. This round of funding came from existing investors North Bridge Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers' iFund, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Common Angels. The company has raised $24 million to date. Apperian is available for iOS, Android, and Blackberry.

Business people with tablet image via Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, deals, enterprise, mobile

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Supersize Me’s Morgan Spurlock dishes on partnering with Hulu [video]

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 06:38 PM PDT

Director Morgan Spurlock and Hulu SVP Andy Forssell took a few minutes to chat with VentureBeat today at South By Southwest in Austin.

Topics of conversation included how the Supersize Me creator’s new series, A Day in the Life, is faring with Hulu’s web-connected audience, and how Hulu plans to bring ever more content to screens of all sizes.

Check out the clip, and brace yourself for more interviews from SXSW this week.

Filed under: media, video

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Vox Media raises $17M to fund big-budget news sites

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 06:28 PM PDT

Online media publisher Vox Media — owner of tech news site The Verge, sports blog network SB Nation, and game news site Vox Games — has raised $17 million in a new round of funding.

The company hasn’t announced the funding yet, but The Next Web spotted a Form D filing the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. The round brings Vox Media’s total funding to $40 million.

The company has been hiring a number of famous game editors for its game site, including Chris Grant, former editor-in-chief of Joystiq; Brian Crecente, former editor-in-chief of Kotaku; and Russ Pitts, former editor-in-chief of of The Escapist. Joshua Topolsky, former head of Engadget, runs The Verge.

Vox Media, which is headquartered in Washington D.C., previously raised $23 million in funding from Accel Partners, Comcast Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Allen & Company and Providence Equity Partners. Actor and angel investor Ashton Kutcher is an advisor to the company.

Filed under: games, media

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Tap.me raises $3.2M for in-game mobile ad network

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 05:51 PM PDT

Tap.me, a mobile ad network focused on monetizing games, has raised $3.2 million in funding.

Chicago’s Hyde Park Venture Partners, an early-stage venture fund, led the investment. Other investors include I2A Fund, Western Technology Investment, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Firestarter Fund, and Hyde Park Angels.

Tap.me targets brand advertisers who want to get noticed by gamers without interrupting gameplay sessions. It creates contextual and authentic branded “integration points” within web and mobile games. It does that by getting developers to identify something in a game that can be sponsored, like an ability to jump higher. Tap.me then finds advertisers to sponsor that capability.

Jeffrey Lapin, former chief executive of Atari, has joined Tap.me’s board. Tap.me’s platform is expected to hit 25 million gamers by June. Matt Spiegel (pictured), chief executive of Tap.me, said the round will help give the company more momentum.

Tap.me  said that Edmonton, Canada-based Fluik Entertainment has agreed to integrate Tap.me’s platform into Fluik’s games, including the popular Office Jerk mobile game. Fluik’s games have been downloaded more than 20 million times.

"Fluik is thrilled to partner with Tap.Me, whose platform will help us monetize gameplay in a way that enhances the experience for the gamer, which is of paramount importance to us," said Victor Rubba, co-founder, Fluik. "This is the future of meaningful game and brand integration.”

Additions to Tap.me’s board include Sam Yagan, co-founder of OKCupid and Excelerate Labs, and Stuart Larkins, managing director of I2A. Tap.me was originally founded in 2010 as a game company, but it changed its focus to in-game ads.

[Photo credit: Tap.me]

Filed under: games, mobile

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Facebook discusses new Platform apps at SXSW [video]

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 05:06 PM PDT

We took a moment during South By Southwest in Austin to chat with Facebooker Austin Haugen today.

Now, Mr. Haugen works on Facebook Platform, so he has particular knowledge about Facebook’s big news from earlier today regarding Foursquare and a few other apps hitting Timeline.

Check out the video and stay tuned for much more from VentureBeat at SXSW.

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Kony 2012 video fastest to hit 100M views, draws scrutiny of BBB

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 05:04 PM PDT

Viral video smash hit “KONY 2012” has done what the likes of Susan Boyle, Lady Gaga, and Rebecca Black could not: amass more than 100 million video views in just six days.

Kony 2012, produced by non-profit Invisible Children, is a 30-minute, heart-wrenching documentary film designed to solicit donations and raise awareness for the arrest of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan rebel employing children as soldiers.

Posted to YouTube on the afternoon of Monday, March 5, the Kony video had racked up 112 million views from more than 750 clips on the web as of this morning, making it the fastest viral video campaign to surpass 100 million views, according to video analytics firm Visible Measures.

In light of the video’s instantaneous success (due in part to celebrity endorsements), Invisible Children, the San Diego-based not-for-profit organization behind the viral campaign, is facing scrutiny from critics who are questioning its accounting practices.

Monday, the Better Business Bureau issued a press release indicating that it had sent 18 letters over the course of six years to Invisible Children in an attempt to get the non-profit to cooperate with an official charity review. Those letters have gone unanswered, the Bureau said.

“I don't understand their reluctance to provide basic information,” CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance H. Art Taylor said in a statement. “The whole point of the effort is to shine the light of truth on a terrible atrocity, and yet they seem to be reluctant to turn that light on themselves. It's really unfortunate, because their campaign has the potential to inspire and galvanize millions of young activists and future philanthropists.”

The Invisible Children founders consider themselves, above all else, moviemakers and storytellers, a message CEO Ben Keesey conveyed in a video response to critics.

“When we launched ‘KONY 2012,’ our intention was to share the story of Joseph Kony with new people around the world, but in the process there’s been a lot of questions about us,” Keesey said in the video. “I understand why a lot of people are wondering is this just some slick, fly-by-night, slactivist thing, when actually it’s not at all.”

Keesey said the “program expenses” line item in the company’s financial statements represent the amount of money Invisible Children puts toward its causes. Program expenses in 2011 were 80.5 percent, according to the non-profit.

Financials aside, it’s impossible to argue with one obvious takeaway: Invisible Children has done a remarkable job at distributing the Kony 2012 campaign on the web. Only two other social video ad campaigns, according to Visible Measures, have ever topped 100 million views: Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” and Evian’s “Live Young.”

Invisible Children could not be reached for comment.

Photo credit: Invisible Children/Facebook

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Brits ask Jimmy Wales to help crowdsource government

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 04:07 PM PDT

The British government wants to open up and get the public more involved in policy-making, and it is bringing on Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales as an unpaid advisor on the initiative.

Rohan Silva, a senior aide to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, made the announcement Sunday evening during the “Crowdsourcing Government: Why Access Matters” panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

The news was then promptly announced on Twitter by Tim Kelsey, the British government’s recently appointed executive director for transparency and open data.

“He will advise Government on developing innovative new ways technology can be used to give the public a greater say in the policy-making process,” a British government spokesperson told the Telegraph about Wales’ new gig.

But what would crowdsourcing a government really mean for citizens? In theory, members of the general public could use tools like wikis to make their voices better heard than through mere voting, and they could also actively participate in solving problems. For example, the U.S. runs Challenge.gov, a site that encourages innovation at federal and national agencies through contests. The communication goes both ways: When government data is freely available to the public, citizens can collaborate with the government on projects that benefit everyone, and there is an increased level of transparency for the city or country in question. At least, that’s the plan.

In the UK, the push to embrace technology has been picking up steam. The government is working on turning its main website into a portal for all government services and information. The next step, effectively gathering feedback from the masses and using that information to direct policy, will be tricky. The UK has attempted to crowdsource feedback before, with middling results. And while getting people to speak their minds isn’t difficult, deciding if and how to use that data is tricky. Would a truly crowdsourced government be utopia or “Idiocracy?”

Rakesh Rajani, a founding member of The Open Government Partnership, also participated in the talk. The Open Government Partnership is a project pushing for more government accountability and transparency.

Jimmy Wales image via Wikimedia Israel

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Twitter acquires blogging platform Posterous

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 02:31 PM PDT

Posterous, a blogging platform that embodies Tumblr’s simplicity, if not its stylishness, announced today it has been acquired by microblogging giant Twitter.

Posterous announced the acquisition Monday in a blog post. For now, Posterous will remain the same and the "Spaces," or blogs, you've created will still be active until future notice. Posterous even created a FAQ for current bloggers to navigate the changes that will arise with the acquisition.

The blogging site started out letting you post to your blog via email. Last year, Posterous created Posterous Spaces, personal websites populated with text and photos that you can make as private as you'd like. The concept was born out of the company's iPhone app, designed to share pictures you take on the go.

As is common with these types of deals, no purchase details have been released. Twitter released a statement saying that it will be bringing the Posterous team on board and continue to keep Posterous Spaces alive. There’s no word on why Twitter wanted to buy up the blogging site, but perhaps the company wants to branch out beyond microblogging and get a leg up on Tumblr.

Posterous is backed by Y Combinator, Redpoint Ventures, and Trinity Ventures and raised $15 million as of September 2011. The company was founded in 2008 and is based in San Francisco.

VentureBeat has reached out to Posterous for comment and will update this post if we get a response.

Posterous CEO Sachin Agarwal photo via Sachin/Facebook

Filed under: deals, media

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Yahoo files suit against Facebook for patent infringement

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 01:55 PM PDT

Let the shakedown begin. Yahoo filed suit in a San Jose court Monday against Facebook, alleging the social networking company is guilty of past and ongoing patent infringement.

The lawsuit (seen below), which cites ten different Yahoo patents, claims that without “Yahoo’s achievements, websites such as Facebook would not enjoy repeat visitors or substantial advertising revenue.”

Facebook is not taking the challenge lying down.

“We’re disappointed that Yahoo, a longtime business partner of Facebook and a company that has substantially benefited from its association with Facebook, has decided to resort to litigation,” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat. “Once again, we learned of Yahoo’s decision simultaneously with the media. We will defend ourselves vigorously against these puzzling actions.”

Yahoo alleges Facebook is infringing on four advertising patents, two privacy patents, two customization patents, one social networking patent, and one messaging patent.

“For much of the technology upon which Facebook is based, Yahoo got there first and was therefore granted patents by the United States Patent Office to protect those innovations,” the suit reads. “Prior to adopting Yahoo’s patented social networking technology in 2008, Facebook was considered one of the worst performing Internet sites for advertising.”

According to eMarketer, Facebook’s share of overall U.S. display advertising revenue grew to 14 percent in 2011, while Yahoo’s share slid to 10.8 percent. Back in 2008, that pivotal year Yahoo cited in its suit against Facebook, Yahoo’s share of U.S. display revenue was at 18.4 percent and Facebook had just 2.9 percent share.

Just last week, Facebook amended its S-1 filing with the SEC to reveal that it had expanded its credit facility to $5 billion. The strategic move could give the social network enough financial runway to defend or settle the patent dispute prior to its public debut later this year.

Yahoo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[via AllThingsD]

Photo credit: microwavedboy/Flickr

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New NCAA March Madness app now live on Android and iOS

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 01:47 PM PDT


With the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament schedule set as of last night, it’s time to get ready to watch the action no matter where you are. With NCAA’s brand-new Android app and updated iOS app, you can watch the games even if you’re slaving away at work.

As the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament is one of the most widely watched sporting events of the year, it’s important for the organization to maximize the ways people can see the games. Last year, on-the-go fans could only watch on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. Now many owners of Android phones will also be able to get in on the action.

Streaming only will work on Android phones running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and up for now. Unfortunately, Android tablets aren’t included in this, so only iPad owners will be watching the games via tablet.

For free, you’ll be able to listen to live game radio of all 67 games, fill out your official NCAA Bracket Challenge bracket, track your bracket progress, and post on Facebook and Twitter. However, unlike last year, you’ll have to pay up to watch the games, but the price tag is only $3.99. Thankfully, this will give you access to watch the games on your computer as well.

I’m sure $3.99 is a small price to pay for all the sports fans working office jobs that aren’t allowed to use their computers to stream. Instead, they’ll watch the games on iOS and Android phones at their desks. Don’t tell my bosses, but I’ll probably be streaming my Missouri Tigers on Friday before work lets out.

Will you be paying $3.99 to stream the games to your mobile device and computer?

NCAA basketball photo: Richard Paul Kane/Shutterstock

Filed under: media, mobile

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3,000 Facebook Timeline apps later, Foursquare, The Onion, VEVO and more hit the scene

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 01:01 PM PDT

Coinciding with the South by Southwest festival in Austin, a slew of major companies are finally offering apps for Facebook’s new Timeline.

The new Timeline apps include Foursquare, VEVO, The Onion, Fandango, and others.

The new apps join more than 3,000 Timeline apps that have launched in the past two months, according to Facebook product manager Austin Haugen. Companies like Pinterest, Fab, and others have reported massive growth due to Facebook’s Actions, a way for third-party apps to push their data to your Timeline.

For the most part, the apps seem pretty straightforward: The Foursquare app will let you share your check-ins, badges, and the like on your Timeline, while the Onion app will let you share articles from TheOnion.com directly to your Timeline. The music video site VEVO will also let you log into its website with your Facebook credentials to get access to personalized video playlists, see what your friends like, and post videos.

Other new apps include entries from Viddy, Endomondo, and RootMusic. Viddy’s app will let you collect your short videos you create on the service on your Timeline, Endomondo will help you to share your fitness activities, and RootMusic will let you keep track of your favorite artists and mark future concerts.

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time on my Facebook Timeline since enabling the feature months ago, but it’s nice to see these apps focusing on offering something useful to other Facebook addicts. It seems like we’re moving away from the more spammy and throwaway apps to things that will actually enhance your Facebook experience.

Check out a gallery of screenshots from the new apps below.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Who is the most innovative individual in mobile tech? Get your nominations in now

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 12:48 PM PDT

Graphic image showing a hand holding a smartphone.

Who are the most disruptive people in the mobile industry?

VentureBeat is looking for your nominations. We’ll select one person from the nominations, who will be crowned the Top Mobile Mover at our upcoming Mobile Summit, April 2-3, at Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif.

The Top Mobile Mover will also get a ticket to attend the Mobile Summit. This is an exclusive, invitation-only event that will host just 180 of the top executives and investors in the mobile industry, for intimate discussions, high-level networking, and deal-making. So you definitely want to be there.

How to nominate

Use the form at the bottom of this post to nominate people you think qualify as a “Top Mobile Mover” in 2012.

We’re looking for the individuals — not companies — who have done the most to shake up the mobile industry. These people could be entrepreneurs, executives at larger companies, venture capitalists, inventors, or even scientists. The only limitation is that the people be real, and living.

The deadline to submit nominations is Thursday, March 15, at 5pm Pacific time.

We’ll consider all the nominations we receive and announce a short list of the 10 most disruptive, innovative Mobile Movers on Friday, March 16.

Then we’ll invite your votes on the short list. Sorry, but because it’s so easy to stuff ballot boxes online, we’re not going to make the votes binding, but they will factor into our judges’ decision. We will announce the winner — one lucky individual — at the Mobile Summit.

Nominate yourself, if you’re brazen enough, but make sure you give us a good reason to consider your nomination. Whoever you nominate, please include contact information so we can reach you (and the nominee, if you represent that person).

About the Mobile Summit

Who will be at the Mobile Summit? We’ll have representatives from the major carriers, device makers, investors, developers, analysts, retailers, brands, and the hottest private mobile companies. Some of the companies already confirmed to attend include Google, LinkedIn, Nielsen, Yelp, Motorola, Box, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Nexage, ESPN, Sequoia Capital, Flurry, Ebay, Salesforce, and many more.

It’s a more participatory event than most conferences. Everyone at the Summit will be debating the top trends facing the mobile industry right now, and if last year’s Summit is any indication, those discussions could lead to action.

Featured Mobile Summit participants include the following:

  • Jason Spero, Head of Mobile, Google
  • John Donovan, Sr. Exec. VP, AT&T
  • Bart Decrem, SVP, Disney Mobile
  • Adib Fared, VP Product Development, Sprint
  • Michael Bayle, SVP, ESPN Mobile
  • Peter Yared, CTO, CBS Interactive
  • Jim Goetz, General Partner, Sequoia Capital
  • Matt Murphy, Partner, KPCB
  • Mihir Shah, President & CEO, Tapjoy
  • Rich Wong, Partner, Accel
  • Simon Khalaf, President & CEO, Flurry
  • Alexander Muse, CEO, ShopSavvy
  • Clarence So, SVP, Strategy, Salesforce
  • Steve Yankovich, VP, Ebay Mobile

The room is filling up fast, but there are a few spots left, even if you don’t win the prize of Top Mobile Mover. You can request a Mobile Summit invitation here.

So what are you waiting for? Get your nominations in now!

Image credit: Pixel Embargo/Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Top Chinese video sites Youku and Tudou to merge in $1B deal

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 12:42 PM PDT

The top two online-video sites in China, Youku and Tudou, are merging into one super-company that will be called Youku Tudou Inc. The YouTube-esque companies are traded on the NADSAQ as YOKU and TUDO, and will retain separate brand identities.

The deal, worth around $1 billion, has already caused the two stocks to skyrocket. Tudou‘s stock was up around 155 percent, and Youku was up 28 percent.

Youku, the No. 1 video service in China, and Todou, the No. 2 company, have been battling each other for online-video traffic in China, and recently their weapon of choice has been copyright lawsuits. The companies have been going back and forth, accusing each other of posting the competitor’s content and violating copyright laws. Lawyer fees are just one of the major ways the companies will save money by no longer being in competition. They will be able to combine bandwidth costs.

Online video is a booming market in China, with $234 million in revenue in Q4, PaidContent reports. Youku accounts for 25.3 percent of the space’s revenue and Toudu 14.5 percent.

“When the strategic combination is complete, Tudou will retain its distinct brand identity and platform in Youku Tudou Inc., strengthening and complementing Youku’s video business,” said Youku founder and CEO Victor Koo.

The merger will be a 100 percent stock-for-stock transaction and is expected to be completed by the end of Q3 2012.

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The surprising content category taking over Pinterest

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 12:41 PM PDT

Home and garden, arts and crafts, style and fashion: These are the categories that everyone knows already dominate the red-hot digital pin-board site Pinterest. But the people of Pinterest, according to new data, are less cookie-cutter and more cookie-maker.

In fact, food is the fastest-growing and most viral category on Pinterest, according to e-commerce analytics platform RJMetrics.

The still private-beta Pinterest is where 10 million members, typically branded as arts and crafts enthusiasts, “pin” and “re-pin” (share) products, photos, recipes, clothes, and so forth, usually from other websites. It’s an image-centric site, where pinned images appear on shared collections called boards. Launched in 2010, the social network for pinning has catapulted to a top 10 social site and could be worth as much $500 million.

To better understand the content people are pinning on Pinterest, RJMetrics looked at roughly one million pins spread across thousands of pin-boards from 9,200 different users. As expected, the most popular board categories are home (17.2 percent of boards fall into the home category), arts and crafts (12.4 percent), and style and fashion (11.7 percent). But the analytics company has found one rather unexpected trend: food-related pinning is quickly taking hold of the site.

Accounting for 10.5 percent of boards, food is the fourth most popular category on Pinterest. The food category has climbed the charts over the past year and, when it comes to new boards, is now more popular than the fashion category. Content in the food category is also the most likely to be repinned. Food generates, on average, 50 percent more re-pins than the number two most repinned category, style and fashion.

“I think [this is] reflective of Pinterest picking up a more mass-market user base,” RJMetrics founder and CEO Robert Moore told VentureBeat. “The site started out with a strong following among style and fashion enthusiasts, but that market is only so large. As more of the general population flocks to the site, it’s only natural that more broadly applicable categories (like food) rise to the top.”

Interestingly enough, the products category, while representing just 2.1 percent of boards, is the most likely category to be liked. The propensity for members to publicly pass along their approbation for products should bode well for the young startup as it stabs at commercialization tactics moving forward, RJMetrics concluded.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Anonymous made fraudulent charges worth $700K in Stratfor attack

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 12:22 PM PDT

Anonymous masks

The FBI has revealed that there were $700,000 worth of fraudulent credit card charges after hacktivist group Anonymous stole nearly 200 gigabytes of data, including credit card numbers, from security firm Stratfor.

“At least $700,000 worth of unauthorized charges were made to credit card accounts that were among those stolen during the Stratfor Hack," said Mahil Patel of the FBI to a judge overseeing the Stratfor case.

Stratfor, which has a number of high-profile clients including the Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, and Bank of America, was breached in December. Soon thereafter hacker Jeremy Hammond was arrested for leading the attack.

Anonymous stole a large amount of user names and passwords, in addition to some 60,000 credit card records, after exploiting vulnerabilities to reach Stratfor’s servers. At the time, Anonymous said it would use the credit cards to make charitable donations — money that would obviously never see the hands of the needy. One VentureBeat tipster claimed Anonymous actually charged $300 worth of hooded sweatshirts to an account.

The damages may still be growing, however. The FBI explained that the $700,000 figure did not include any charges on credit card records that have not yet been reviewed. The number Patel offered the judge only referenced records reviewed between December 6 and early February.

In addition to the credit card numbers and other personally identifiable information, Anonymous also stole emails from Stratfor executives, including chief executive George Friedman. These emails were subsequently fed to Wikileaks which, with participation from a number of publications around the world, began publishing the emails in late February. Some emails held what Wikileaks considered damning information, including odd nicknames such as "Hizzies" for members of Hezbollah and "Adogg" for referencing Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

via SecurityWeek

Anonymous image via Shutterstock

Filed under: security, VentureBeat

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pariSoma unveils the revamping of its class program

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 12:05 PM PDT

parisoma 600This sponsored post is produced by pariSoma.

With classes @pariSoma, we brought you 70 classes taught by top-notch instructors on business, design, technology and culture. Feedback from our pool of 700 students and 50 instructors, plus the existing need for a disruptive professional education program in SF has led us to create pariSoma CoLearning.

With pariSoma CoLearning, we want to permit professional adults in the Bay Area to further hone skills needed in their professional and personal lives. Our educational experience includes:

  • Many more business, design, technology and culture classes per month
  • Intimate class setting –19 students or less — to foster more meaningful learning interactions
  • Top-notch Instructors that are both industry leaders and passionate about sharing knowledge
  • Time frame for classes is lunch time and evenings on the weekdays, and mornings and afternoons during the weekends
  • Cheaper ticket prices when class participants buy their class ticket together with friends
  • Complimentary tasty snacks and beverages offered during all of our classes

Sneak peek at some of our classes in March!

Set Up Your Start Up for Legal Success
Mon, March 12 from 6–7:30PM | Instructor: Todd Rumberger
Come understand all there is to founder's equity, capitalization and best legal practices for startups.

Navigating French Culture, Business and Language
Tues, March 13, 20 & 27 from 6-7:30PM | Instructor: D. Bremond
Instructed in English, this class will provide you with insights about French culture, language and biz.

Digital Video for Business
Thurs, March 15 from 12:30-2PM | Instructor: Kieran Farr
This class is a hands-on class on creating a video strategy that drives sales.

Startup Business Model Generation
Sat, March 17 from 9AM-3PM | Instructors: Williams & Lewis
Come get help to build YOUR solid Business Model out of your product ideas and passion.

Community Management: Building a Strong Community
Mon, March 19 from 6-7:30 PM | Instructor: Maria Ogneva
Come learn strategies to help you succeed in making your community central to your business.

Sketchnotes and Infographics: Advanced Edition!
Wed, March 21, 2012 from 6:30-8:30PM | Instructor: Alexis Finch
Aimed for Sketchnoters with a visual arts background or that have taken the beginners’ class.

Cold Calls 101: How to get *ANYONE* on the phone
Mon, March 26 from 6-9PM | Instructor: Taariq Lewis
Come to this 3-hour workshop, where you will learn the tips and tricks of cold calling through role play.

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: Entrepreneur, media, VentureBeat

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Greek entrepreneurs focus on global markets, revenues — but not Greece

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 11:12 AM PDT

Photo of the Acropolis with scaffolding by Stefanos Kofopoulos/FlickrMoney is on the Greek mind. With the country deep in debt and the possibility of the government defaulting on it, that's understandable. It might also be the reason the country's entrepreneurs are building globally-focused startups that have figured out revenue generation up front.

Unlike innovators in Silicon Valley, who have the luxury of rolling out new ideas with no real plan for making money, Greek entrepreneurs are laser-focused on launching businesses that will put them in the black – fast. And they're coming up with unique business models to do it — outside of Greece. Greek entrepreneurs are making money by taking their start-ups to the rest of the world.

Dealingers.com is one such example. An e-commerce site founded by Jacko Carasso and Ilias Pantelakis, Dealingers is sort of a reverse eBay. The items it carries are exclusively brand-new, high-end and luxury goods, such as iPhones, iPads and Louis Vuitton apparel. Unlike the popular auction site that markets products at the lowest possible price that then go up as people compete on bids, items on Dealingers start out at full retail. That's where the "falling price race" begins.

Customers on Dealingers compete to get an item at the lowest possible price, which is in some cases zero, by purchasing clicks. Each click is valued at €1. The minimum packet of clicks a user can buy is €10. The cost of a given item goes down with each click by fifty cents. (The other fifty cents keeps Carasso and Pantelakis in operation.)

"Even if a user is checking the price, they automatically reduce the product's actual price," Pantelakis says. They are also contributing to Dealingers's gross margin.

While Dealingers offers users to compete to get items for free, it also provides the option to purchase an item once it hits half-off. "That's for the people that don't want to gamble too much," Pantelakis says.

Gambling is precisely what the two 25-year old childhood friends are hoping will make Dealingers a hit. Though the platform feeds off of the popularity of on-line shopping and discount sites such as Gilt Groupe and Groupon, it evolves around the success social gaming and gambling have had on the Web. And that has been one of its challenges.

"The legal barriers to this type of a model are really high," Carasso says. Lottery and gaming licensing is expensive and takes months. Not every country will register this type of a platform.

Carasso and Pantelakis aren't willing to roll it out in every country. They're beta testing Dealingers in Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. They're working on bringing their platform, registered in Malta, to the United States later this year. But as for their home country? Not even on the radar at this point.

"We're not considering Greece," the two Greek founders say. Not only is the market too small (11 million), but "Greeks aren't big Internet users and are scared of buying online," Carasso says. The two entrepreneurs are targeting scale. "If we do this right we plan to break even by 2013," he says.

Scale is what StartersFund is also focused on. An equity-based crowdfunding platform, it is another Greek start-up with a unique business model that is already generating revenue. Like Dealingers, StartersFund also uses a credit system to invest in start-ups or start-up ideas from all over the world. Users buy credits, each also valued at €1, then "vote" for listed projects. "Supporters can vote for as many ideas they like or provide multiple votes for a single idea," says co-founder Paulius Uza, a Lithuanian national. His partner is Greek lawyer Constantinos Parissis.

"When an idea has received the targeted number of votes, the votes are converted into shares," Uza says. StartersFund, not the individual, then invests those shares, avoiding the legal and regulatory landmine that plagued equity-based crowdfunding site Profounder, which is now shutting down. StartersFund bears the liability. It does not, however, reap the profits. The company only takes a percentage of funds generated by credit purchases. It gains nothing from any investment, guaranteeing that users are the beneficiaries.

Though it is not, as the company claims, the "first service in the industry that leaves the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) model," (UK-based Crowdcube is already doing this) it is does act as a pseudo-venture capital firm. StartersFund helps start-ups with legal challenges, accounting and hiring talent. "We follow through on what happens after the funding," Uza says, in order to ensure a startup’s success. "We aim to be the Swiss Army Knife in the crowdfunding business," he says, hoping to carve out a mass following that people are confident in. They've rolled it out in Greece and are looking to take it to Europe. "We're watching the U.S. as well, hoping to apply our model once the (crowdfunding) law is passed," Uza says.

Startersfund will be competing with many other crowdfunding platforms eager to break into the U.S. market, where there is no lack of investors to begin with. How it and its highly human capital-intensive model will fare under such circumstances remains to be seen. What is clear is that it, along with Dealingers and a number of other Greek start-ups, is not wasting any time on launching and iterating as it goes along.

As the European Union drags its feet on releasing a bailout package that would prevent the Greek economy from going bankrupt while also requiring the Greek government to implement steep austerity measures, time is against Greek techies. Their government has already cut key loan guarantees and grants that have marginally helped the fledgling start-up scene. Banks are no longer lending.

"If you look at the total revenues of the Greek stock market, we're really aren't in a bull period; there isn't a lot of money flying around here," says Georgios Kasselakis, a partner at the Open Fund, a seed investment fund based in Athens. He says if his country's entrepreneurs are to succeed, they have no choice but to drive revenues from the beginning and think globally.

"They have to come up with business models that generate money immediately because there is no investment community that will give them the slack. No investor in Greece would say, 'Here's a million, do your R&D for a couple of years and we'll talk again,'" Kasselakis says.

In today's Greece, there is little time for talking. The country is racing in a game of survival.

Elmira Bayrasli writes about global entrepreneurship and innovation in her weekly blog, Entreventures, on Forbes. She is writing a book about the obstacles to global entrepreneurship. You can follow her on Twitter @endeavoringE.

Top photo: The Acropolis, by Stefanos Kofopoulos/Flickr

Filed under: Entrepreneur

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