16 March, 2012



Yikes: Sprint terminates its 15-year agreement with LightSquared

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 08:33 AM PDT


The country’s third largest wireless carrier, Sprint Nextel, has terminated its 15-year agreement with wholesale wireless startup LightSquared.

Back in July, LightSquared signed a $9 billion 15-year agreement with Sprint to build and host its LTE network, which is crucial for the company to reach the targeted launch date of its wireless network. Now, however, Sprint ending that agreement and returning $65 million in prepayments, the company announced today.

Sprint isn’t the first company to back down from prior contracts with LightSquared.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected LightSquared's plans to launch its LTE network due to concerns that it would interfere with both commercial and military GPS technology. Because of this development, major LightSquared client Leap Wireless has decided to buy future LTE connectivity for its Cricket prepaid service from Clearwire, another troubled wireless company (of which Sprint is the largest stakeholder). And earlier this year, LightSquared client FreedomPop also decided to go with Clearwire as well.

Without Sprint helping to build LightSquared’s network, the startup may have trouble gaining additional clients. Yet, the company has hired a high-profile legal team to fight the FCC’s decision to reject its LTE network from launching. If successful, it could buy LightSquared some time.

Via Wall Street Journal

Filed under: deals, mobile

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New Pinterest profile pages are now live

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 08:04 AM PDT


Hot-as-heck startup Pinterest has just introduced brand-new profile pages, its first major design change since its major rise in popularity in the last six months.

Pinterest launched in 2010, but recently it has seen astronomical growth and counts as one of the top 10 social networks on the web. According to recent comScore data, Pinterest users spend an average of 89 minutes per month on the site, which easily bests Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Only Facebook users spend more time than Pinterest users, with an average of 405 minutes spend there per month.

With all this hubbub, you can see why even a relatively small change like profile page design might be a big deal for users. The new profile pages make it easy to see each person or brand’s boards and pins, with pictures easily sorted for viewing. Clicking on a board opens up the layout most Pinterest members are already accustomed to. Previously, the profile showed up as a vertical column on the left-hand side.

Next up for Pinterest will likely be an iPad app and open API for developers. It also will add the ability to pin content from sites like Hulu, Vimeo, and Netflix.

Let us know in the comments if you like the new design changes.

Pinterest profile screenshot: Kathy Myers’ board

Filed under: social

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Kixeye quietly makes big bucks on hardcore Facebook games

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 08:00 AM PDT

At first glance, Kixeye looks puny as a social gaming company on Facebook. It has only 4.6 million users compared to Zynga‘s more than 240 million monthly active users.

But the San Francisco company has become a financial juggernaut because it has the right users. Kixeye creates well-designed free-to-play games that generate a lot of revenue from sales of virtual goods. It is an example of a game company that has adapted to the new social world while remaining focused on the hardcore audience that is willing to pay real money for games. If all goes as planned, it will be the next Electronic Arts or Nexon.

“Our games monetize very well,” chief executive Will Harbin told VentureBeat. “Just having half a million users in a game is enough. And we’ve done that without making sacrifices, like offering special deals every day to our users.”

If that sounds like a jab at rivals such as Zynga or Kabam, it is. Harbin doesn’t mind talking tough when it comes to giving his honest opinion on rivals or bad games.

“It’s easy for others to lose their focus on quality,” he said. “That’s where we are laser-focused.”

One thing that Kabam and Kixeye have in common is they’ve both discovered the hardcore audience on Facebook is in the millions of users and that those users are gravitating to the platform in part because it is “hyper accessible.”

By that, Harbin means that games should be simple to pick up, even for the hardcore. You shouldn’t have to buy a disc to put in an expensive console or wait hours for a download to finish. Kixeye focuses on browser-based games that are distributed to Facebook’s 845 million users. If you think of Facebook as a casino, Kixeye targets the high rollers. And casinos make it really easy, not hard, for high rollers to play games and spend their money.

And now the company is investing heavily to create a next-generation experience on the social network. Facebook’s platform is still slow and clunky when it comes to real-time gaming and high-quality 3D graphics. To the extent that a game relies on Facebook’s services, such as pop-up screens for friend requests, it just won’t run very fast.

But technology is in the offing (such as Adobe Flash 11.2 running Unity or Unreal Engine 3 games) that will enable web-based games to take advantage of 3D hardware in computers, allowing a big mass market of PC users to enjoy Facebook games with good 3D graphics. Once that happens, Harbin believes, more gamers will opt for real-time strategy and other hardcore games rather than the simple 2D fare that Zynga offers.

Harbin doesn’t think that technology is the limiter at all anymore in terms of doing outstanding games on Facebook. At the Facebook keynote at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Harbin showed a sneak peak of an animation from an upcoming Kixeye game with cool 3D graphics. The tech can run fine on a four-year old Mac.

So far, the company’s games have been big hits. Its original founders, Paul Preece and David Scott, had created games such as Desktop Tower Defense and Flash Element TD. They started making more of them when they formed Casual Collective as a web gaming firm in 2007. They changed they name to Kixeye a year ago.

Now Kixeye has launched one big hardcore hit after another: Backyard Monsters (pictured near top), Battle Pirates (pictured above), and War Commander (pictured below). Each one of them is getting prettier in terms of graphics, but the experience still falls short of a full console game experience. In these games, players make strategic choices and watch the consequences unfold.

These games exist as services, with continuous updates. And, like Zynga, Kixeye leans on the science of analytics to understand its users, and it tweaks its games constantly.

But Harbin says there is a difference between how Zynga uses analytics and how Kixeye uses them. Rather than use them to improve monetization, Kixeye focuses on how to make the user experience more fun. (Ouch, take that, Zynga).

“If users are more engaged, they naturally spend more money,” he said.

Harbin isn’t just full of bluster. At the GDC, he said the company’s audience is 97 percent male, the average session is 30 minutes, retention is seven months or more, and there are millions of player-versus-player attacks a day. Kixeye doesn't sell decorative items as virtual goods; it sells speed-ups, which account for 85 percent of revenue.

The company has been profitable for two years. It grew revenues 11x in 2010, and will do nine figures in revenue in 2012. Harbin believes that Kixeye’s retention is five times longer than other popular social games. The average revenue per daily active user for social games is 4 cents, but Kixeye’s total is 20 times that amount. About 8 percent of the users of Battle Pirates spend money, compared to 2 – 3 percent of Zynga’s users.

The team has grown remarkably fast, from 15 people a year ago to 140 today, and no one has quit. It is adding 10 to 15 a month and may be at 300 employees by year-end. Harbin is looking at opening Kixeye’s first studio outside of San Francisco. All of that is very impressive, considering the games with outstanding graphics haven’t launched yet.

Kixeye hasn’t done as much to annoy its users as other game companies have. It doesn’t sell decorations for games and try to milk gamers for all they’re worth, and it doesn’t sell advanced weaponry that will allow rich gamers to wipe out poor gamers. But it does allow users to accelerate time in the game. Rather than wait for something to be developed, a user can pay to accelerate the build time for units.

“We don’t throw the ecosystem out of whack,” Harbin said. ” A free player who spends a lot of time in the game has as much chance as a whale who spends a lot of money.”

And there is no limit on how much a user can pay for virtual goods. The so-called whales — who spend huge sums on virtual goods — are very important to Kixeye, as they help pay for a lot of free players. But the free players are also important because the whales wouldn’t be there if there weren’t a lot of other players.

“It’s all a balance ecosystem,” Harbin said.

Over time, Kixeye will expand beyond strategy games. It has an action role-playing game in the works and has shown off the title with 3D game characters. While the games may have little in common, Harbin believes that users will play them because they know the Kixeye brand means quality gaming.

In the meantime, there is plenty of competition. San Francisco-based Kabam has more than 450 employees focused on hardcore social games and has raised $130 million, or several times more than Kixeye.

Harbin is openly critical of Kabam, saying he is disappointed that they haven’t accomplished more with their resources. He thinks Kabam spent “recklessly” on advertising to acquire users on Facebook, driving its users to 13 million monthly actives on Facebook in August before that figure collapsed to about 2 million today. And he said that one of Kabam’s games, Edgeworld, was a thinly disguised copycat of Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters.

Kabam, for its part, says it is focused on high-quality hardcore games and is putting less emphasis for future growth on Facebook. Kabam has expanded to half a dozen different game distribution platforms, while Kixeye remains entirely focused on Facebook. Kabam has spread out its risk, while Kixeye hasn’t. But Harbin doesn’t feel pressure to move faster.

“It’s totally not a race,” he said. “It’s about quality. We are building a good brand. We’ve been frugal. We started with something that was sustainable, and then we scaled it up.”

Other potential rivals include Activision Blizzard, which hasn’t been active on Facebook, and Electronic Arts, which has been. But EA’s focus in social has been in taking on Zynga with games such as The Sims Social. For hardcore games, it has released titles for the web, such as Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances.

Harbin says he was totally inspired by Command & Conquer in the early days of real-time strategy disc-based games. But, you guessed it, Harbin thinks EA’s modern web-based games aren’t of great quality. His company has picked up the mantle for doing real-time strategy massively multiplayer online games on Facebook.

On the other hand, Harbin admires Tencent’s Riot Games for its big hit League of Legends, a hardcore online game that has more than 35 million users. As for Facebook, Harbin says it is still the most efficient platform for acquiring users, particularly if you have a good game.

“We’re the tallest midget right now, but the whole industry has to get better,” Harbin said. “Nothing else is that compelling. You have to have the basic elements that make a game fun. It’s not about recreating the console experience. We want a fun experience in the browser that captures what makes a game fun.”

But the company has faced challenges. It had to turn off the entire territory of Vietnam because the users didn’t monetize well. If Kixeye embraced advertising, it could monetize such territories, but the ads might offend hardcore users. If the company can navigate these challenges, “this is a multibillion-dollar business,” Harbin said.

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat

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The DeanBeat: The top 12 trends from the GDC

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Too often, I flit from one conference to another like a wayward butterfly, trying to catch up with all the news. But the Game Developers Conference is one of my favorite events of the year because it places such a high value on creativity in the game industry. It is fitting to dwell upon it and to figure out what this year’s conference in San Francisco, which ended Friday March 9, was all about.

It’s presumptuous to say that I could spot every trend, given my limited experience of the five-day event with more than 400 sessions. But here are some things I noticed.

The Gold Rush continues

This year, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) drew more than 22,500 attendees, up 17 percent from a year ago. That’s much better than the heart of the economic downturn in 2009, when attendance fell from 18,000 the year before to 17,000. The attendance boom is no surprise given the growth of the industry in 2011, which saw two mega-IPOs for Nexon and Zynga. Billions of dollars are being tossed at the game geeks who were once ostracized for having too many pimples. Last year, investments in game companies grew 96 percent to $2 billion in 152 deals. Game acquisitions grew 160 percent to $3.4 billion, according to Digi-Capital.

John Schappert, chief operating officer of Zynga, disagrees with those who say we’re in the Dark Ages of video games. In his GDC speech, he argued that we are living through another golden age, when play, the essential activity behind gaming, will reach a billion people. Such optimism is contagious in an age full of growth in the online, social, and mobile sectors, where new companies are sprouting every week. There are, Schappert said, “more ways to play, more players, more opportunities.”

The impact of this was visible on sidewalks clogged with recruitment hawkers on the sidewalks (pictured), and in the clogged career hall and the plentiful (and occasionally offensive) parties that took over all of the bars of San Francisco. There were huge numbers of indie-game developers. Against that backdrop, Schappert’s speech was believable.

Kickstarter blossoms

In keeping with our first trend, Double Fine Productions’ Tim Schafer has drawn huge attention to crowdfunding through Kickstarter by raising nearly $3 million from game fans for a new project. Schafer plans to make an adventure game with the money, as long as he doesn’t squander it all first. Kickstarter’s Cindy Au told GDC attendees how to get crowdfunding for their own projects.

The core retreats

Not everyone is benefiting from the Gold Rush. In the midst of the GDC, the NPD Group reported that core U.S. video game sales fell 20 percent in February, following a 34 percent drop in January. 3D artists in particular seemed to be losing their jobs at core console game companies, while 2D artists were in demand at the casual social game companies and mobile game firms. That may change as social and mobile games grow up. But it could be hard for some people in the industry to jump from a faltering horse to a faster one. A misstep can be costly. I ran into an acquaintance who was laid off from THQ, a struggling core game maker that is expanding into the new game industry. THQ has $47 million in cash, but its market cap has fallen to $41 million.

The iPad rules

This year, Apple crashed the party again. Last year, Nintendo’s chief executive Satoru Iwata gave a GDC speech at the very same time that Apple launched its Apple 2. Guess which company got overshadowed? This year, there were no GDC major keynote speeches, so Apple had the spotlight to itself as it launched the new iPad down the street. The reaction from game developers was positive. Not only is this a threat to gaming portables such as the ill-timed PlayStation Vita, it is also a threat to the consoles themselves. Accidental or not, Apple is winning over game developers and gamers alike. “The center of gravity has clearly shifted to mobile,” wrote Raph Koster, a seasoned game developer.


Free-to-play, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods, is taking over as the business model for the whole game industry. Virtual goods revenues are at $9 billion and are the fastest-growing part of the $49 billion game industry. PopCap Games’ Giordano Bruno Contestabile discussed the lessons of moving Bejeweled Blitz to a free-to-play model at the GDC.

“The social/free-to-play model is clearly not just winning but dominant,” wrote Koster. But you have to do it ethically, without milking your users.

Mobile and social games go 3D

Browser-based game graphics have been mostly lame for a long time. That’s because it’s technically hard to run sophisticated 3D game animation through a browser without doing a big download first. But Adobe’s upcoming Flash 11.2 will enable Flash-based browser games to tap 3D graphics hardware in a computer as needed. Even Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 will work inside the new Flash, as announced by Epic’s Mark Rein (pictured). Other 3D-capable technologies such as Google’s Native Client for Chrome browsers and Unity Technologies Unity 3D engine are also coming into their own.

Game jams

Game jams are creative gatherings where creators work furiously to create a game in a short time and share it with the crowd. These events have been around forever, but they’re starting to yield interesting fruit. Last year, Double Fine Productions held a game jam that led to the creation of Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. It’s no surprise that just about everyone held a game jam at this year’s conference, and one session headed by Austin Montville of Tagged zeroed in on how to do it.

Retro rules

The GDC continued its waltz through yesteryear as top game developers reminisced about the games that inspired them. John Romero credited Pac-Man for inspiring the corridor warfare of Doom and Quake, while Sid Meier lauded Dani Bunten’s The Seven Cities of Gold for inspiring Civilization, and Will Wright was inspired by Pinball Construction Set before he built SimCity (which also got a second life). Romero spent $200 a month playing Pac-Man.

Ed Logg talked about creating Gauntlet. That was relevant because the classic games of the golden age of video games has returned, only this time to the platform of smartphones and tablets. Those devices are the ideal vessels for the creativity of designers like Logg, who has joined Innovative Leisure, a collection of Atari veterans and youngsters intent on making well-designed mobile games.

Emotion and love

The wrong end of a gun has inspired much of the emotion in video games. But a session on making love, not war, in video games proved to be popular with both male and female game developers. Moderated by Jane McGonigal (pictured at podium) and Jane Pinckard, the session focused on “how designing for love can change the world.” Michael Molinari, an indie game maker, talked about how he and Chelsea Howe created a game called The End of Us about two comets that fall in love and then deal with the death of one of them. Making love games is not a trend, given 5,000 years of violent games have preceded this panel. But the organizers hope it will be a turning point.

Casino game bandwagon

Big Fish Games joined the casino game wars as it acquired Self Aware Games, a maker of mobile casino titles. Big game companies are positioning themselves for the day when online gambling is legalized across the country, and casino games can become real gambling platforms. The trouble with casino games is that they aren’t necessarily that creative, and game developers get bored making them. Alisa Chumachenko, chief executive of Russian game publisher Game Insight, sighed with frustration at the mere mention of revival of casino games.

Copycats are evil

It’s one thing to be inspired by another’s work, but another thing to copy it. Even as creativity is celebrated among the indie developers making apps, its evil nemesis copycatting has become worse than ever in mobile and social games. Even the New York Times weighed in on the subject, which we discussed with Zynga chief executive Mark Pincus in early February. (Yes, indeed, they must have copied our story!).

The best way to counter copycats is to double down on creativity. Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, said, “There are very original ideas, and sometimes the best ideas are iterations on the old ideas. Sometimes people are just too early with their ideas. People iterate on that idea and do something better.”

Waiting for next gen?

Lots of people wanted to hear the latest rumors about the next-generation video game consoles. There were plenty of those to go around, including one that suggested the next Xbox would have no disk drive and would be entirely online. Alas, the confirmations just aren’t coming yet.

GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat's fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry's latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your early-bird tickets here.

[Photo credits: Dean Takahashi]

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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The best Retina Display apps to show off your new iPad

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 07:25 AM PDT

So you’ve got a shiny new iPad — now what? Given that the most significant upgrade this time around is its new Retina Display, we suggest diving into apps that will best show off the high-resolution screen.

Apple has wisely collected some choice apps optimized for the new iPad in iTunes, but there are still some glaring omissions from that list. We’ve collected some of our favorite apps, as well as the ones that we think will look best when upgraded to the new iPad’s 2048 by 1536 pixel resolution.

Infinity Blade II

Epic’s sequel to its smash-hit Infinity Blade has been one of the best-looking apps on the iPad since it was first released. Now with its update for the new iPad, Epic’s graphical prowess has even more of a chance to shine. Infinity Blade II shows how the new iPad can seriously be considered a competitor to existing consoles. — $6.99

Solar Walk

Amateur astronomy junkies rejoice, the best space app on the iPad is now even better. Solar Walk contains a ton of information about our solar system, as well as detailed 3D models that really take advantage of the iPad’s Retina Display. — $2.99


Apple has finally ported its popular photo editing and management app to iOS. While it’s a bit late to the party, iPhoto still has a lot to offer some consumers thanks to its effects, multi-touch editing, and browsing features. — $4.99

Amazon Kindle

With the strongest e-book library around, Amazon made sure that its Kindle app was ready for the new iPad. In particular, the Kindle app will show how the new iPad makes text look extra-sharp (Apple says its sharper than reading a newspaper). The Retina Display may be good enough to tempt some consumers from purchasing Amazon’s e-ink Kindles. — Free

Roambi Flow

Business data never looked this pretty. Mellmo launched its iPad app Roambi Flow last May, in an attempt to bring the stodgy and boring world of business information into the stylish tablet era. While it was attractive from the start, on the new iPad Roambi Flow will make your business data seem downright sexy. — Free (Viewer)


There are plenty of news reading apps on iOS, but Reeder is by far the best. Now you’ll be able to keep track of all of your RSS feds (including Google Reader), with text that looks better than any of your other displays. — $4.99

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Protesters at iPad launch want Apple to ‘think different’ on worker treatment

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 06:30 AM PDT


Among the crowds at New York’s flagship 5th Avenue store for the new iPad were a few people who were decidedly out-of-place: protestors who wanted to remind the crowds about “unethical” working conditions of Chinese laborers who make Apple’s products.

Apple has attracted criticisms for treatment of workers at Foxconn plants that manufacture iPads, iPhones, and other popular items. Workers receive little pay and work very long hours to make these products. Foxconn and Apple opened their factory doors to ABC News, but the report felt lightweight in its treatment.

In her first time protesting at an Apple launch, change.org protestor Charlene Carruthers told VentureBeat that Apple CEO Tim Cook has not done enough to address the alleged hardships of Chinese laborers.

"We want Apple to release a clear strategy on how they plan to treat workers," Carruthers told VentureBeat. "Apple is based around innovation, so in this case we want them to 'think differently' about how they treat workers."

Carruthers and a few others held up a large sign (see above) and attracted interviews from several media outlets. The petition she was there to support now has more than 250,000 signatures.

While the protesting could be viewed as commendable, ultimately it felt minor next to the clamor of Apple fans and opportunists who were clamoring for a new iPad.

You can see more photos of today’s iPad launch in the gallery below:

Protestors photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: VentureBeat

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DramaFever, a fast growing Asian Hulu, raises $4.5M from YouTube veterans

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 06:01 AM PDT

Ever heard of Drama Fever? Cool, me neither. Turns out the New York startup has 1.5 million viewers, three times what they had in March of 2011. Each month these folks spend many hours and up to $10 a pop to get the best in East Asian drama and boy bands streamed to them in high-def.

That’s why YouTube co-founder Steven Chen and Google Exec Benjamin Ling are backing the company to the tune of $4.5 million, along with Spreecast founder Jeff Fluhr in a round led by MK Capital.

“We started out as four guys in an apartment,” said co-founder Seung Bak, who chatted with VentureBeat by phone. “We grew up watching Japanese soap operas and Korean dramas, so we knew there was a problem getting high quality version that were translated and subtitled well.”

Drama Fever has around 400 series from South Asia, mostly Korea, totaling over 10,000 hours of content, which is watched by an audience that is, surprisingly, 75% non-Asian and 60 percent caucasian. “This is great TV. It’s like the Desperate Housewives of Asia,” said Bak. “We’re offering them a window into another world.”

The plan for the funding is to double the size of the engineering team and replicate the success Drama Fever has had with other international markets. “With broadband spreading to most homes, the world is getting flatter,” said Seung. “We think there is a lot of potential to bring the 80-90% of great content created outside Hollywood, in Latin America telenovelas or Bollywood movies, and bring that to a high quality web service with top notch translation.”

Right now Drama Fever has a freemium business model, with about 15,000 paying subscribers who spend $10 a month and the rest watching ad-supported content backed by blue chip names like Toyota and Wells Fargo.

"DramaFever has found the way to create highly-engaging, sticky viewer experiences and new cross-border revenue streams for international media partners," says Mark Terbeek, partner at MK Capital. "Given how fast and strong the company has grown despite the economic downturn, we're excited to see what will happen next, especially as more people are flipping on their computers to discover new and better sources for entertainment."

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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iPad launch draws fans and protesters across the U.S. (gallery)

Posted: 16 Mar 2012 05:38 AM PDT

Apple’s third-generation iPad drew the expected crowds for its big public debut on Friday. The hubbub started a minute after midnight, when select Best Buy and Walmart locations opened their doors to customers. There were lines at some third-party resellers, but the bigger throngs of diehards went straight to the mother ship, the Apple Store, which started selling iPads at 8am local time.

Protesters from Change.org also made their presence known at the launch lines, after reaching over 250,000 signatures in their online petition demanding ethical treatment for Apple workers. VentureBeat’s Sean Ludwig caught sight of some protesters holding a large sign (see gallery) at the flagship 5th Avenue Apple Store in New York City. Protestor Charlene Carruthers told VentureBeat she wanted Apple to ‘think different’ about worker treatment.

Some customers camped out the night before, though, as always, a few cheaters paid stand-ins to handle the tedious waiting part. At the front of the 5th Avenue store line was Greg Packer, a retired New Yorker who was in line since noon on Monday. Packer told us he was sponsored by the company Buy Back World to stand in line and wore a T-shirt for that company.

“I’ve been sleeping here in a chair since Monday,” Packer said. “I’m most excited about the new iPad’s MiFi abilities and better pictures.”

The new iPad isn’t a radical departure from its predecessor, the iPad 2, but it is solid upgrade that’s getting great reviews. The form factor is almost the same, thought the new iPad is slightly thicker and heavier. The device’s big selling point is a stunning new Retina display, which packs in four-times as many pixels as the iPad 2 (for 3.1 million pixels total). The device has a new dual-core A5X processor to keep up with the heavier graphics processing, and an improved 5 megapixel back-facing camera. Customers who opt for the Wi-Fi + 4G version will enjoy zippier 4G LTE speeds on Verizon or AT&T.

Here are some photos of iPad lines from VentureBeat’s outposts in New York City and Nashville, Tennessee:

Photos and additional reporting by Sean Ludwig, Tom Cheredar

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Happy iPad-launch eve! What you need to know before lining up

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 06:51 PM PDT

Apple Store

On Friday, stores around the world will be opening their doors to crowds of Apple fans, eager to be the first to swipe their frozen, grimy fingers across the glorious new iPad Retina display. The lines aren’t necessary, you can buy the devices online, but they’re an admirable feat of branding and marketing, and a display of just how hungry Apple fans are to have the latest gadget before anyone else.

If you’re planning on getting a new iPad tomorrow, here’s a guide to help you navigate the madness. The Apple Store isn’t the only game in town. Certified Apple Resellers will also have some units in stock, but the selection and inventory aren’t as dependable. I’d suggest calling ahead to find out how many units your reseller has before getting in line, but all stores (Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Verizon, AT&T, and Radio Shack) say they’re not allowed to share that information. Some won’t even receive shipments until tomorrow, including many smaller outlets such as college campus stores.

Pick your model (and your second choice, maybe third)

Before lining up, decide which iPad you plan on buying. Then, consider what features you’re flexible on since there’s a high chance that your dream configuration will be sold-out.

Color: It’s available in black or white — like anyone is admiring the back of your Retina-display iPad.

Size: New iPads are available in three memory sizes, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB.

Price tag: Prices start at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model and go all the way up to $829 for the 64GB with 4G model (data plan not included).

Connectivity: The new iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G LTE will be available on Verizon or AT&T. You don’t have to sign up for a data plan when you buy, but you do need to pick what company you’ll be using since each iPad is pre-configured to work with just one of them. If you know which carrier you want, you can go directly to one of its stores and avoid the longer Apple lines.

Trade-in: If you already have an old iPad, you can trade it in when you buy your new model at some sellers. Exact trade-in offers can vary a bit, but for the most part they seem to be competitive. Verizon, Target, and (as of Wednesday) Apple each have trade-in programs for iPads. eBay’s Instant Sale option is another way to sell your old iPad, and the site tells you how much the device is going for at auction. There are other reselling sites like Gazelle, or you can donate it to worthy organizations like Teach for America.

Location, location, location

Even though Apple Stores get all the attention, iPads are actually available at a variety of certified Apple Resellers in the U.S. Sure, the line outside of the Norman, Okla. Target won’t have the same exciting rock-concert feel, but it might be much shorter. On the other hand, small stores get shafted in the selection department — many don’t know what they’re getting or how many until the iPads arrive. Here are your options:

The Apple Store

Apple stores open at 8:00am local time, but people are already lined up. You can order online anytime, but there’s already a 2-3 week wait. Apple recently added iPads to its buy-back program, which pays with an Apple gift card. The estimated price for a 64GB iPad 2 with 3G is $320. You can calculate the price for your model on Apple’s site.

If you’re considering camping out overnight for an iPad instead of just buying it online, chances are you’re in it for the experience or are really hard-up for something to brag about. Apple Retail stores are the place to spend a few chilly hours stretching in place, drinking free coffee, being marketed to by clever companies who couldn’t pass up a captive crowd, and having sleepy conversations with interesting characters (pictured) and like-minded Apple fans.

If you want to be in line when the doors open but don’t want to do all that boring waiting, you can pay someone to wait in line for you. There are offers on eBay and Craigslist, like this person charging $100 for his spot in line at the Los Gatos Apple store (Steve Wozniak’s favorite location).

There are benefits to buying your new iPad in an Apple store. The lines are longest, but the stock is going to be much larger there than at other stores. The staff is also better trained on the product and will be extra knowledgeable and helpful. Apple says each in-store customer will receive a “personal setup” service — a nice addition for those who need extra assistance migrating from an old iPad or setting up their email and apps on an iPad for the first time.

The new iPad will be available at all Apple retail stores in 10 countries. From left to right: Canada, U.S., UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan.

Find your nearest Apple store.


Stores open at 8:00am local time, but online sales begin at 3:01am Eastern Time. Verizon only sells 4G LTE iPad models that work on the Verizon network, but you can buy an iPad without immediately signing up for a plan. Verizon accepts trade-ins, and offers $325 for a working iPad 2, 64GB with 3G.

Locate a local Verizon store.


Stores open at 8am local time. AT&T is only selling 4G LTE iPad models that work on the AT&T network. The wireless carrier is requiring customers to purchase the minimum data plan, which is $25, along with the iPad. AT&T is not accepting trade-ins.

Find an AT&T location near you.

Best Buy

Making the most of the excitement, some 24-hour Best Buy locations will start selling the iPad at midnight. The New York City, Union Square location will begin handing out tickets to people in line at 10pm.

Like the other stores, Best Buy would not divulge how many units it had in stock. However, at least one Florida location has 2,000 iPads, which an armed store employee and accomplice attempted to steal Thursday, along with other Apple products totaling $1.3 million. The pair’s plan was thwarted when they were caught in the parking lot by an off-duty deputy.

Locate the Best Buy nearest you.


Also beating Apple Retail to the punch, Walmart is opening its doors at 12:01am local time at its 24-hour locations. Walmart does offer a trade-in program online through Gazelle, but you’d have to wait for the gift card in the mail. You might as well just buy your iPad online.

Find the closest Walmart for some midnight madness.


Stores open at 8am local time. Target may not be opening at midnight, but the company is rolling out the red carpet for iPad buyers. They’re offering a 5 percent discount to shoppers who use the Target credit card, and are accepting trade-ins on the spot. They’ve said a top-of-the-line iPad 2 can get as much as $350 towards a new iPad, which is about $20 more than most other locations. Exact inventory is, of course, unknown.

Use the Target store locator to find one in your area.

Radio Shack

Stores open at 8:00am, but pre-sales have already been available for weeks at some locations (they weren’t advertised). The most overlooked of the iPad retailers, Radio Shacks are supposed to have iPads in stock, but some have already pre-sold all of their units. The lines will be shortest here, but keep in mind that most Radio Shacks typically have a very limited numbers of iPads to begin with. For example, all locations in San Francisco had one shipment of just 50 to share, according to one Radio Shack employee.

Find a Radio Shack and hope nobody else thought of the same thing.

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Netflix adding TEDTalks to its streaming library

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 06:37 PM PDT


Netflix announced today that TEDTalks are being added to its library of streaming content.

TED is a conference that takes place all around the world, known for attracting speakers who give thought-provoking, big-picture speeches about a range of subjects. The motto of the conference is, “Ideas Worth Spreading” and talks run anywhere from three minutes to a half hour, hopefully packed with insight. Netflix is aggregating these talks into two and a half hour segments called TEDTalk Shows, and divvying them up into 14 different categories, such as space, beauty, and sex.

As The Next Web points out, TED is an expensive conference to go to. It can run $7,500 to see the talks in person, and unless you live in Long Beach, Calif., you’re going to pay travel expenses as well. A streaming instant-video subscription with Netflix, on the other hand, costs $7.99 a month. The TEDTalks Shows are available to Netflix customers in the U.S., UK, Canada, Latin America, and Ireland.

The announcement came soon after Amazon announced a new partnership with the Discovery Channel for its own streaming service. Amazon has quickly turned itself into a Netflix competitor, offering streaming content through Prime Instant Video. The model is slightly different from Netflix, as Amazon Prime costs $79 a year for the program which also offers perks within its broader e-commerce website (such as free 2-day shipping). But the company faces similar challenges to Netflix in creating production-studio partnerships.

The secured deal with Discovery boosted Amazon’s total video offerings count to 17,000. Netflix, which is having a harder time keeping partnerships, is still fighting at 13,855 titles, according to Instant Watcher.

Check out the video below. It isn’t actually a TED talk, but was posted on the TED website, and is an example of the awesomeness that is TED:

hat tip The Next Web; Ted image via whiteafrican/Flickr

Filed under: media

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People want their next phone to have a big-a** screen, survey says

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 04:51 PM PDT

Turns out all those phone-tablet hybrids are actually a hit with consumers. A survey released Thursday from Strategy Analytics found that people want their next phone to have a large screen.

The research organization showed American and British research participants several prototype phones with small and large screen sizes and different thicknesses. A vast majority, 90 percent, preferred phones with bigger screen sizes than their current smartphones.

So what’s the magic screen size? Strategy Analytics says between four and four and half inches diagonal was the most popular choice in the survey. But screen size isn’t all that matters; people want large phones that are also thin. It seems Motorola already knew this when it released the Droid RAZR last fall, a smartphone measuring only 0.28 inches thick with a 4.3-inch screen.

Samsung and LG are also perhaps feeding this trend with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note and the LG Optimus 4X HD and Optimus Vue. The Note and the Optimus Vue both have five-inch screens, and the Optimus 4X HD’s screen is just shy of five inches at 4.7 inches diagonal.

The survey found that cellphone owners want phones that they can use to easily browse the Internet and watch video, hence the desire for a large size. The survey does beg the question, do people want bigger screens because manufacturers have been making them, or are manufacturers responding to consumer desire for more screen space? What do you think?

Filed under: mobile

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Paypal faces a lot of competition in mobile payments (infographic)

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 04:46 PM PDT

Excerpt from Visual.ly graphic on mobile payment wars

PayPal announced today that it would be entering the mobile payment market with its own smartphone dongle, PayPal Here.

It’s a triangular widget that plugs into the headphone jack of your phone, similar to the rectangular dongle (pictured above) of prominent mobile payments startup Square.

PayPal’s entrance into this market is no surprise, but the Dunder Mifflin-like nature of today’s press conference was a little awkward. Still, as VentureBeat contributor Rocky Agrawal explains, PayPal Here is a credible competitor to Square.

Still there are already many ways for merchants to take your money on the go:

  • wireless point-of-sale systems like Square (you swipe your card through a card reader attached to the merchant’s smartphone or tablet),
  • contactless payment systems like Google Wallet and Isis (your smartphone becomes your wallet, and you tap it on the merchant’s reader),
  • carrier billing solutions like Zong (you give the merchant your phone number, and the charge appears on your cell phone bill)
  • online wallets like Paypal, Google Checkout, and Amazon Payments (you pay for stuff by clicking on a button on a website).

Check out this infographic from Visual.ly for an explanation of each of these approaches to mobile payments.

Infographic from Visual.ly showing a variety of facts about mobile payments

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Google Flight Search takes off around the world

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 02:08 PM PDT


Google’s Flight Search app has gone global with new support to check out and compare flights from the U.S. to destinations including Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, and Venice.

Google debuted its flight search tool in September and starting placing flight search results at the top of regular searches in December. The flight results also pop up when you type a query like “flights from New York to San Francisco.” And now you can search for cities around the world too, as long as you start in the U.S.

“Since we launched Flight Search, we've heard from many globetrotters eager to use the feature to search for destinations outside the U.S.,” Google said in a company blog post. “Starting today, you can find flights, including international destinations, from the U.S. quickly and conveniently.”

Flight and travel search competitors such as Expedia, Priceline, and Kayak have expressed frustration with Google Flight Search. Since travel sites rely on Google for some of their traffic, any time Google places its results at the top, it's likely taking traffic and sales away from those sites.

Take a look at Flight Search below with its new support for flights from the U.S. to Amsterdam.


Plane taking off photo: MO:SES/Shutterstock

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Thumb is so hot, it’s twice as addictive as Pinterest (exclusive)

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 02:01 PM PDT

Just a few months after the mobile Q&A company Opinionaided rebranded itself as Thumb, it’s already seeing significant engagement gains — so much so that its users are twice as addicted as Pinterest’s.

Thumb is on such a tear that it has managed to tempt one of its own investors away from the cushy life of venture capital. Hadley Harris (below), former head of business at Vlingo (which was recently acquired by Nuance) and a founding partner in NYC’s ENIAC Ventures (the initial seed investor in Thumb), is now joining the company in the newly created role of chief business development officer.

“I think [Thumb has] the opportunity to build something special here … it was a unique opportunity to join,” Harris told VentureBeat in an interview last week.

Harris told me that Thumb’s users are now spending an average of 3 hours and 50 minutes on its mobile app every month, up from three and a half hours back in December. That’s engagement second only to Facebook. Pinterest, the much-hyped online image-sharing site, meanwhile only sees around 97.8 minutes of engagement per month, according to figures from ComScore.

The Thumb app allows you to ask questions and get instant responses from the company's highly engaged user base. You can also give your opinion on questions from others. Back in December, users were seeing around 70 responses on average to their questions, a number that’s likely higher now.

It’s simple, but addictive, and that seems to be the key to Thumb’s success.

It was Thumb’s crazy amount of user interaction that sparked Harris’s interest. After he led Vlingo to 10 million users and a “huge exit,” he stepped down from the company and was planning to settle down into the life of a VC, focusing on mobile apps and services. But after serving as an adviser to Thumb (back when it was known as Opinionaided) for years and seeing their massive engagement numbers, he couldn’t help but climb aboard.

“This can scale and become a full-blown social network,” he told VentureBeat, echoing what we heard from CEO Dan Kurani in December. "Opinions are more valuable than interest," Kurani said at the time, referring to Facebook's emphasis on user interest.

As head of biz dev, Harris will focus on growing Thumb’s user base. He’ll also be working on strategic partnerships. Brands, for example, could be interested in getting a rush of instant opinions from consumers.

Thumb is based in New York City and has raised around $5.5 million across two rounds of funding.

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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How PayPal Here aims to be a full-service financial product for small businesses

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 01:49 PM PDT

PayPal’s Here mobile payments products represent a direct assault on Square, and the company adds in a few features that would take some effort for Square to replicate.

The new product also provides some invoicing and tracking functionality that could be good enough for some businesses that were considering Intuit’s Quickbooks software.

Among the significant features from the Here launch:

  • Immediate funds availability for credit card and PayPal transactions. Once a business has processed a transaction, the money can be spent using PayPal’s debit card or withdrawn from an ATM. For cash-strapped businesses, this could be important. Square isn’t exactly a slouch at making money available — money from a transaction I processed on a Saturday night was available at my bank the following Monday — but it’s not immediate.
  • Ability to accept checks. Businesses can take a picture of a check and deposit it into their PayPal account. (This money is not immediately available.) This has an added benefit in that businesses may choose to use PayPal in place of a bank account. That means lower credit card fees for PayPal because that money can be re-spent without hitting the credit card networks.
  • International availability. PayPal Here will also be available in Canada, Hong Kong and Australia.

Here’s fee structure is essentially the same as Square’s. Instead of Square’s 2.75 percent, Here charges 2.7 percent. That difference isn’t meaningful. If a business has enough volume that they’re worried about a 5-basis point difference, they shouldn’t be using either Square or Here.

In the presentation, PayPal claimed that if a business uses the PayPal debit card, which offers 1 percent cash back, that the effective rate is 1.7 percent. That’s a ridiculous claim. I take money that I get from Square and deposit it in my bank account. Then I use my Starwood American Express card to spend it. I value those points at 2.5 percent. So using PayPal’s logic, my effective rate on Square is 0.25 percent.

Like Square, PayPal charges 3.5 percent plus 15 cents per transaction for credit card sales where the number is manually entered. PayPal also offers the option of taking a picture of a credit card, but those transactions are charged at the higher rate. This is mostly a gimmick — image recognition technology isn’t good enough for this to be more efficient than typing in a number.

PayPal also competes with Square’s Card Case product, allowing consumers to use the PayPal app to let a business know they are approaching and just pay by name and picture. Unlike Square, PayPal will not be immediately offering an iPad app.

PayPal didn’t announce a distribution strategy, but eBay CEO John Donahoe told CNBC’s Jon Fortt that the goal is to use word-of-mouth among “millions” of existing PayPal merchants. By contrast, Square is available at more than 11,000 retail locations in the U.S., including Apple stores, Target and Best Buy.

“Neighborhood retail locations are an important resource for small business owners to discover new opportunities and technologies that can help them grow,” said Katie Baynes, a spokeswoman for Square. “About 85 percent of the U.S. population is no more than 15 minutes away from a Square card reader.”

Here addresses two concerns about Square’s hardware: encryption and spinning. As I noted yesterday, other competitors have made an issue of the fact that Square’s reader doesn’t encrypt credit card numbers. The reader isn’t compliant with the industry’s PCI standards, but more secure than Square. I don’t consider it a meaningful risk, but that might spook some. The bigger concern is that Square’s reader spins, making it difficult to get a swipe to go through. Sometimes, I have to swipe 7 or 8 times before it takes. (Square has a video on its site explaining how to swipe properly.)

The biggest — and most important — unknown is how elegant the user interface is. That’s an area where Square excels.

But based on the initial announcement, PayPal Here is a credible product that plays to PayPal’s strengths. The good news for Square is that PayPal didn’t go for the jugular and compete aggressively on fees.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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What’s the true cost of piracy? (infographic)

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 01:48 PM PDT


The debate over the true impact of piracy is likely to intensify between now and this summer, as several of the country’s largest Internet service providers inch closer to voluntarily implementing anti-piracy policies from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Both the RIAA and MPAA met with several ISPs last July to discuss voluntary policies to discourage internet subscribers from illegally downloading music, movies, video games, and other software. The ISPs participating in the anti-piracy measures — Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon FiOS, Time Warner Cable and others — should be ready to implement the new policies by July 2012, said RIAA Chief Executive Cary Sherman at an event in New York yesterday.

“Each ISP has to develop their infrastructure for automating the system … (necessary) for establishing the database so they can keep track of repeat infringers” Sherman said. “Every ISP has to do it differently depending on the architecture of its particular network. Some are nearing completion and others are a little further from completion.”

Many people believe that turning ISPs into piracy police will infringe on their right to privacy. The ISPs do have access to everything a person browses on the internet, but they are legally unable to share that information with third-parties without explicit consent from users. Others point out that this is less about wanting to stop digital piracy and more about big media companies’ failure to innovate. On the other side of the fence, copyright holders claim that they’re losing millions of dollars due to piracy.

Piracy does cost content makers a lot of money. In addition to the alleged lost sales, efforts to stop piracy are also costly, as you can see in the infographic below. (Click image to enlarge.)

Infographic via Background Check Blog

Cost of Piracy Infographic

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Five common fears of the cloud

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 01:13 PM PDT


Cloud adoption is trending massively up and to the right. Yet many managers and CFOs are still wary about becoming heavily dependent on cloud technologies, mostly due to questions around cost, security, and the challenge of managing many disparate accounts.

Fears of the cloud are not unfounded. Take a horror story shared by John Boutelle of Slideshare. One day, the company was testing prototype code on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and had fired up over 50 servers to speed the testing. Suddenly Slideshare’s main site went down due to a glitch and all the engineers shifted their focus to that. The 50 instances ran through the weekend before anyone realized it, and Slideshare ended up with a bill $5,000 over budget.

Recently, we had the pleasure of joining other cloud experts on a webinar about concerns facing cloudaphobes. It was a lively discussion between industry veterans including Boutelle of Slideshare, Ben Kepes of Rackspace CloudU, Jesse Anderson of Intuit, and Luke Kanies of PuppetLabs, and Mat Ellis of Cloudability.

Below is a recap of five big areas of concern that were posed by moderator Adrian Cockcroft of Netflix.

Cost barriers

Problems around spend come down to organizational discipline, and reining in rogue IT. There's often a lack of clear visibility between the IT department and accounting. Cloud computing can become a problem when you have multiple developers turning on accounts and servers that management may not know about until they show up as expense claims.

Resist the instinct to make it more difficult for employees to use the cloud: you risk losing the number one benefit of the cloud—agility. Offer them training on internal cloud use and tools to make cloud accounts easy to track and manage. Try consolidating your cloud accounts into a centralized account and take advantage of discounts and deals on your total spend. The more you spend, the cheaper it is, and consolidation also allows you to track all accounts across your organization.

Showing ROI

Be realistic about cloud use within the organization (yes, it's happening) and what your employees need to get the job done. The cloud can save time and money, including infrastructure costs, recruiting, training and other business considerations. Break expenses down by cost-per-unit. Consider the cost savings on the cloud in the way of quality of service, the quality of the servers you can access, and scalability.

Spot market vs. reserved instances

Spot instances can lower costs by up to 60% in many cases. However, they can be taken away at any time, which is the main reason they are so much cheaper. To protect yourself, take a portfolio approach, and ensure you have a few instances reserved ahead of time for when the spot market goes crazy.

Reserved instances generally have better availability, allowing you to scale on demand even when there are short-term capacity constraints. Go for larger reservations, which are generally better value than several smaller reservations. Despite the upfront outlay, reserved instances can actually improve medium- and long-term cash flow thanks to their lower unit pricing.

On-premise vs on-cloud

Whether you should go with on-premise or on-cloud services depends on your operations team. Do you want access to infrastructure services through the likes of Amazon, Rackspace, or SoftLayer? Or are you more attracted to platform services like the hosted PHP, Java, or Node.js services that AppFog, Heroku, or DotCloud offer?

With the right operations team you can handle heavy automation in-house. But most companies don't have awesome development and tech-ops teams and prefer building applications over infrastructure. It can take up a lot of precious bandwidth recruiting and retaining operations engineers that could be used to hire more people to improve your own products.

On-premise cloud hybridization

In most companies there will be a significant amount of on-premise infrastructure for the foreseeable future. So what's the best course to plot?

Think about how to make your systems, your code, and your applications more efficient. Start by doing a few minor projects on the cloud. Once you have demonstrated the value of the cloud, use the natural upgrade cycle of existing apps in the course of normal business to move services to cloud compatible architectures even if they remain on your on-premise infrastructure.

Traditional cost models may not apply the same way as in-house hardware operations, but over time most companies will easily see the value of moving select services to the cloud within 3 to 6 months.


Don't abandon your internal infrastructure completely, but keep in mind that the cloud can offer a level of quality and scalability that you may not have access to on your own. Know how much cloud use is actually happening within your company — you may be surprised. Manage cloud use by making it easier for your employees to use the cloud, thereby making it easier for you to manage accounts and instances, reduce cost and improve security throughout your organization.

Once companies have a clear view of cost, cloud computing — or some hybrid model of it — will generally show maximized ROI over the long term.

J.R. Storment (@stormental) is Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Cloudability, where he leads the company's product marketing and customer initiatives. He has more than 12 years experience in product management, web development, and go-to-market strategy for startups.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Startup shootout: Travel sites still struggle on mobile devices

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 12:51 PM PDT

This chart shows home page load times on desktop, iPhone, and iPad browsers for a variety of travel startups

Here’s the scenario: You’ve arrived at the airport only to discover that the airline canceled your flight and — oops — forgot to notify you.

But when you pull up a travel site on your phone to book a new reservation, it takes ages for the site to load.

That experience is all too common, according to Keynote Systems, whose Startup Shootout Index profiles the speed and responsiveness of web sites for various startups. This month, Keynote’s index found that in the travel category, there’s often a big discrepancy between how fast a site is on the desktop and how fast it is on an iPhone or iPad.

For instance, Kayak and TripAdvisor both have very snappy desktop and iPhone websites, loading their respective home pages in just a few seconds. But their tablet sites lag way behind, with 17- and 25-second response times, respectively.

“For a traveler on the go, 17 and 25 seconds can seem like an eternity and lead to a lot of frustration,” said Tim Murphy, a marketing manager at Keynote Systems.

Keynote Systems‘ Startup Shootout Index provides some insight into the three-screen challenge now facing anyone with a web presence. It's the first website performance index to measure load times and completion percentages on desktops, smartphones, and tablets simultaneously.

Check out the full complement of startup speed tests in six different categories below.

To do the test, Keynote used its network of PCs to simulate desktop web traffic to selected startup websites from a variety of locations around the U.S. Additionally, Keynote simulated traffic from iPhone 4 and iPad 2 users in four locations: Chicago, Dallas, New York, and San Francisco. Tests were done over a period of weeks and the results averaged into scores for each website. In addition, Keynote created an index score for each category, which represents the average of all the websites in that category.

VentureBeat is Keynote’s exclusive media partner, so we’ll be bringing you a fresh set of data from Keynote every month. And lest you think we don’t take this stuff seriously, we asked Keynote to add our own homepage to its tests, so we’re now listed in its desktop news site index as well as its smartphone news site index. As you can see, we have a lot of room for improvement ourselves.

Note that the test measures home page response times, not the time to complete a transaction or do other activities on these sites. It’s an important measure of responsiveness and has a significant impact on these startups’ brands. Keep that in mind the next time you’re trying to load a website on your iPhone.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Amazon’s Kindle iOS app now ready for the new iPad’s Retina Display

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 12:45 PM PDT

Amazon has released a major update to its Kindle iOS app today that will let it take advantage of the new iPad’s Retina Display, fixing an issue some reviewers brought up regarding blurry text on earlier versions of the app.

The Kindle version 3.0 app for iOS also offers a new “cloud view,” which will allow you to easily see all of your Kindle content in the cloud on a single screen. From there, you can download books from the cloud to your device (previously, finding your archived Kindle items was a lot clunkier).

Amazon was wise to update its Kindle app so quickly — the company needs to retain a great reading experience on its apps, otherwise consumers may be tempted to jump over to e-books from iTunes. The new iPad’s ultra-sharp display will make reading text on the tablet practically indistinguishable from reading text on paper (aside from that darn backlight).

You can expect plenty of big iOS apps to see updates over the next few days, thanks to the launch of the new iPad on Friday. I’m personally excited to see Netflix and Hulu make the jump to HD video on the iPad — something that wasn’t possible before because of the low resolution screens of past iPads.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Hulu refreshes its website with a 55% larger video player

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 12:34 PM PDT

Hulu's bigger video player

Hulu rolled out a huge update to its website user interface today, increasing the size of its video player by 55 percent.

The updated look makes a lot of sense since Hulu’s number one draw is current season TV shows from major broadcast networks like ABC, NBC, Fox, and the CW. The company seems to understand that plugging other videos and shows isn’t going to get people to watch more videos on Hulu, which is why you only see the “related videos” links at the end of a program.

In addition to the larger size player, the site also implemented a number of design changes to emphasize the content. All the details — like the name of the show, episode title, running time, etc. — have been moved underneath the video player. It seems odd at first but I’m guessing the majority of people won’t even notice once their show starts playing. Also, the background surrounding the video player is much darker.

Hulu has apparently removed some viewing features with its refreshed UI design. Users can no longer “dim the lights”, which basically made everything on the screen darken except for the player. Initially, I thought Hulu had also removed the ability to pop out the video player into its own window, but it’s actually just been moved to the “more” button (next to the sharing options).

One thing I did notice about the new player is that the video picture was getting cut off on the right and left side when I tried to watch Community via Firefox. Not only that but some of the control buttons also get cut off.  Apparently I’m not the only one, as a handful of other people commented about the problem in Hulu’s official blog post. The problem didn’t happen when I switched to Google’s Chrome browser.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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The rise of the hack

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 11:09 AM PDT

I didn’t know it could be someone’s job to attend hackathons. I hadn’t heard of a developer evangelist before, so a year ago when I stumbled across an opportunity to become one, I was drawn by its novelty.

The mission was to build a developer community from the bottom up by saturating the hackathon scene, gaining allegiance from the early-adopters, the enthusiasts, the hackers. The kind of people who geek out over a new JavaScript library, smother their MacBook Airs with stickers, and maintain wardrobes consisting primarily of startup t-shirts.

If the goal is to build a business on an API, were hackathons the place to start? I wasn’t sure. The tactic seemed so niche. But hey, if someone wanted to pay me to travel and build weekend hacks, that sounded fun to me.

My first hackathon surprised me. I expected it to be quiet and secluded, consisting of the most die-hard geeks, an exclusive community disconnected from the outside world.

But it wasn’t. It was inviting. It was cool. It was a spot for anyone with an entrepreneurial itch to try something new, from bankers to artists to lawyers, all sprinkled amongst designers and developers of all skill levels.

I expected it to feel underground, but it didn’t. Microsoft and Amazon, among other high-profile sponsors, pitched their tools, platforms, and APIs to an eclectic group of would-be world-changers.

I realized after that first event that my weekend calendar was not going to be free for a while. There was no shortage of events to attend or companies wanting to throw sponsorship dollars at those events.

I travelled to hackathons in Dallas, Portland, Boulder, Chicago, Las Vegas, Seattle, DC, and Boston, among others. Every city I went, I asked them the same question: what’s the tech scene like here?

Every time I got the same response: It’s growing.

Everywhere I went, people told me that their tech community was thriving, that their city was going to be the next big tech hub. A year ago there was nothing. Now there were incubators, investors, meetups, and new hackathons popping up every month.

It quickly became clear to me that hackathons are not an outlandish trend, popular only among techies in Silicon Valley and NYC. They are a national phenomenon.

So I asked 150 hackathon attendees, hosts, and sponsors from across the country what they thought about the rise in hackathons. I found some interesting things:

  • Why they go: Learning (85 percent) and networking (81 percent) were the top two reasons, followed by changing the world (38 percent) and winning prizes (28 percent). More people are interested in the tech scene and want to learn to code but this community has many people who really have big, ofter altruistic visions. Hackathons offer newbies an environment to learn from experienced coders while building something tangible. Some of those hacks have turned into real businesses, like GroupMe, Launchrock, Zaarly, and Foodspotting.
  • APIs are a core strategy: 78 percent of event attendees said APIs are becoming an increasingly integral part of their business strategy. They attend hackathons to increase awareness (56 percent), partner with other cool brands with APIs (75 percent), and build a showcase of apps using their API (56 percent). Since hackers are driven to go to these events, hackathons are a good place to get in front of early adopters, get feedback, and gain enthusiasts for a new API.
  • Women are underrepresented: While this is true in many areas of the technology and startup worlds, it was interesting to note that only one in 10 attendees at hackathons are women.
  • So many hackathons: The combination of more people wanting to hack on new projects, and more companies wanting to get their APIs consumed has stimulated a surge in hackathons. The top three reasons why attendees believed there are more and more hackathons going on were: an increased awareness of APIs (46 percent); an increased general interest in tech (40 percent); and an increase in the number of hackers (39 percent).

It will be interesting to see if these findings change over time. Perhaps my company will run the survey again next year. But for now, we compiled our findings into a nice infographic to provide a bit of a peek into what really goes on at those hackathon events.

Jon Mumm is a developer evangelist for TokBox, a San Francisco-based startup that provides an API for live video chat. Follow his hackathon adventures on Twitter @jonmumm.

Top image courtesy of lenetstan, Shutterstock

Filed under: dev

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iFixit tears down the new iPad, finds Samsung LCD

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:55 AM PDT

ifixit new ipad a5x chip

Those glorious geeks at iFixit have gotten their hands on Apple’s new iPad, and are currently in the midst of tearing it apart to reveal its lovely innards.

So far, the site has confirmed that the new iPad is rocking a Samsung LCD, judging by its model number (a sign that we could see similarly high-res screens in Samsung’s devices soon).

Don’t be surprised if you have trouble accessing iFixit right now though, as the site’s live teardown is also tearing apart its servers. On Twitter, iFixit said: “We have never received anywhere close to this much traffic before; we’re adding servers like crazy.”

Thus far, the site has managed to take off the iPad’s screen and has found its way into the tablet’s logic board, revealing the Apple A5X processor above. Just like its predecessors, the A5X was manufactured by Samsung. The site also found that the chip was manufactured in the first week of 2012.

This is where teardowns get really interesting, because we may learn something new from one of the many chips on the logic board.

Other notable chips include the Broadcom BCM4330, which handles Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the Qualcomm RTR8600 for LTE, and the Broadcom BCM5973 I/O controller (which Apple has used previously in A4 and A5 devices).

We’ll be updating this post as iFixit’s teardown continues, check back for updates.

Via The Verge

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Businesses need to embrace the “social revolution,” says Salesforce’s Benioff

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:50 AM PDT

Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff delivered the keynote at the Cloudforce Social Enterprise Tour, the company’s cloud technology event, Thursday in San Francisco. Salesforce is tackling the “social enterprise,” trying to make businesses become more social to keep up with customers’ increasingly social lives.

In keeping with the theme of social enterprise, Salesforce unveiled two new products at the event, Salesforce Rypple and Salesforce Site.com. Rypple, which was acquired by Salesforce in December 2011, is a social network and employee feedback system for businesses. Site.com is meant to help marketers update company Facebook pages and maintain a consistent “social brand,” meaning how a company presents itself on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites.

Benioff discussed the shift from mainframe computing in the 60s to cloud computing in the 90s, all the way to 2011′s “social revolution,” which he says businesses need to embrace to be successful. Benioff argues that the social revolution is “bleeding into our society,” through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. He cites the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street as “key moments of transformation” for social networks, demonstrating how powerful social media has become. Salesforce has obviously recognized these events and is pushing for businesses to use social media for profit.

Salesforce pushed the importance of its employee social network Chatter, which Beinoff said is important for large companies that need workers to stay connected. He highlighted in his keynote that Chatter has reduced employee emails by 30 percent.

George Hu, Salesforce’s chief operating officer, unveiled the re-branded Rypple to the crowd, likening it to playing a game such as Zygna’s Cityville. Hu highlighted LivingSocial, of Rypple’s customers, which has been using the service.

Burberry, LivingSocial, Activision, and HP were used as Salesforce case studies in the presentations, to highlight how each company uses its services and to show off its new products, Site.com and Rypple.

Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s chief executive rallied Salesforce’s next step saying, "If you don't have a social enterprise, I don't know what your business model is in five years.”

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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PayPal Here: A direct — and triangular — competitor with Square (video)

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:37 AM PDT

PayPal Here

PayPal is officially a direct competitor with Square. The payments company announced a new, triangular dongle today, which will process mobile payments for small businesses internationally.

“One, this product is better…Two, this product will be backed by PayPal, which means it will go global fast…Three, PayPal can now offer merchants…everything they need to compete in this new commerce environment, online, mobile and now offline,” said eBay chief executive John Donahoe at a press conference in San Francisco.

The dongle is called PayPal Here, and it takes a jab at Square with its triangular shape. Vice president of mobile David Marcus presented the device and first called out its design. PayPal made a point to avoid instability in the audio jack itself, so the triangle comes with a brace. We asked Marcus if the triangular shape, which PayPal is calling the “arrow,” is a passive aggressive message to Square, to which he laughed and said it was just a design choice. But why not another square or a rectangle like Intuit’s GoPayment?

“Rectangles are boring, you don’t make a design statement with a rectangle,” he said in the interview with VentureBeat. “We are big believers of the wallet in the cloud and the arrow points the cloud.”

The Square has already become such a well-known symbol that during a video segment, even the eBay CEO accidentally referred to the “arrow” as a “square.” He quickly corrected himself.

The app is what really matters, however. It’s fairly similar in design to Square. It allows small business owners to show the customer the total, as well as sign for the purchase using a finger. It also shows the store’s inventory for what it hopes will be a speedy checkout process.

PayPal HereThe real differentiation is the ability to take checks. If a small business owner forgets the card dongle, or even loses it, the application comes with a scan card feature. This feature goes beyond the credit card, to allow people to scan checks. It will also track cash purchases and send electronic invoices to your customer.

Small businesses and one-person companies have thus far flocked to Square, which launched in 2010. It is already processing $4 billion in transactions each year, and it takes 2.75 percent for transaction fees.

Those who sign up with PayPal Here will receive a PayPal debit card. This card is PayPal’s key to lowering transaction fees. It gives one percent back for purchases made using the card. With that one percent back, PayPal says its transaction fee will be 1.7 percent. If a merchant doesn’t make use of the debit card, the transaction fee will be 2.7 percent, .05 percentage points less than Square.

PayPal also announced updates to its application today, with a product called “local” — a direct competitor to Square’s “Card Case” app. After you put your financial information in the app, you can let merchants know when you’re headed their way. The merchant’s application will ping her that you’re coming and let her know when you arrive using a geo-fence (a virtual perimeter around a real-world location).

Being such a major player, PayPal can easily pour money and energy into its efforts to take on Square, but the company is also beset with issues of its own. Complaints about poor customer service and a clunky online user interface have allowed smaller companies like Square to swoop in on what was an untouched area of the payments market. Marcus explained that PayPal has heard these criticisms and is attempting to renew its design focus.

“When you think about PayPal two years ago, the first thing you think about is not design. We want to change that,” he said. “We want to go down to the last little pixel and make sure the UI is perfect.”

As VentureBeat contributor Rocky Agrawal points out, however, PayPal has a lot of potential to woo businesses. It is an international company, and can use its reach to gain worldwide popularity. Indeed, PayPal already has 17 million users using its mobile application. As of today, PayPal Here is available in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. Marcus believes that this will be a big factor in PayPal’s success, as it gives the company the opportunity to move farther than its competitors.

It’s obvious that PayPal didn’t want to be left out of the offline payments game, particularly since it launched its offline program in Home Depot stores. The true test will be if the application can hold up in real world scenarios and continue to be a smooth experience.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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AOL acquires mobile photo-sharing app Hipster

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:34 AM PDT


AOL will try to add some cool to its mobile team with the just-announced acquisition of iOS and Android photo-sharing app Hipster.

Hipster was launched in 2011 and is probably best known as the startup that offered a year's worth of PBR to two of its new hires. Its applications and website allow more than 100,000 users to create postcards from photos taken on iPhone and Android devices. The postcards become attached to the locations they were sent from so it can be easier to document memories.

“We’ll be spending part of our time on Hipster and part of our time on other AOL projects like Patch and Play,” Hipster CEO Doug Ludlow told VentureBeat.

Five Hipster employees, including Ludlow, will join the AOL team under mobile director Sol Lipman. Ludlow said that during the next few weeks, thanks to AOL’s help, the team will release a new version of its iOS app, some updates to its Android app, and “significant tweaks” to the website.

“We’re thrilled to be part of AOL because it will give us new resources,” Ludlow said. “This will give us more breathing room and access to some very smart people.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ludlow said “guesses and tweets around the web have all been wrong so far.”

Hipster photo: Hipster homepage

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Wait, did Google just hire Kevin Rose?

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:32 AM PDT

At VentureBeat HQ, we’re twiddling our thumbs as we wait for official confirmation from Google that the search behemoth did, in fact, just hire Kevin Rose of Digg fame.

Our good pal Liz Gannes of AllThingsD reports that Rose and a few of his current co-workers will now be working for Google. Rose already has a good relationship with the company due a previous investment; since the vehicle of that investment has been shut down, Rose going over to the mothership isn’t too far-fetched.

A Googler writes to VentureBeat, “We don’t have anything to share at the moment.” In other words, Google can’t yet confirm the report, which is quite a different matter from a blanket denial.

Rose, who previously founded link-sharing site Digg, had more recently moved on to start Milk, an incubator he founded in 2011.

Milk’s sole product was Oink, which was unceremoniously shuttered just yesterday. Oink, a less-than-successful iPhone app for tagging and rating real-life objects, had only launched last November.

Late last year, Google Ventures poured $1.5 million into Milk as a vote of confidence in Rose’s ability to create compelling products.

"It's been nice to able to ping them when we have certain questions, and to tap into the vast amount of experience they've had when building out Google," Rose previously told VentureBeat of that deal. "Like with any good investor, they're sitting there on the sidelines, and they're there when you need them," he concluded.

In addition to the investment from Google Ventures, Milk also took $1.5 million from an A-list group of angel investors, including Menlo Ventures’ Shervin Pishevar, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, and former Facebooker and current Path co-founder Dave Morin.

As Rose’s initial startup, Digg, began to show signs of decline, Rose himself had become more involved in the world of startup investment. His investments include Twitter, Zynga, and Facebook, as well as smaller startups such as Coffee & Power, Fab.com, and Path.

Rose’s other entrepreneurial adventures included co-founder roles at Pownce, Revision3, and WeFollow.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Apple shares break $600 for the first time

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:21 AM PDT

For a moment this morning, each share of Apple stock was worth as much as a new 32GB third-generation iPad. Apple shares broke the $600 mark for the first time ever Thursday morning, hitting $600.01 before falling back a bit in morning trading.

The milestone price leap was propelled by excitement for tomorrow’s new iPad launch and the first round of glowing iPad reviews that hit the Internet this morning. Other factors include the company’s push to expand overseas, particularity into giant markets China and Brazil, and anticipation for the year’s remaining product launches.

Just over one month ago on February 13, Apple shares broke $500 for the first time ever. Apple is still holding onto its title as most valuable company, putting space between it and second place Exxon. At $600 a share, Apple’s market cap would be $550 billion.

Analysts seem certain the rise will continue. This morning Piper Jaffray raised it’s target for the stock to $718 and on Tuesday Perter Misek at Jeffries raised his target to $699.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Partnering with the Enterprise: Visa, CocaCola, CBS, and LivePerson

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:00 AM PDT


This sponsored post is produced by Under the Radar.

Last year, billions where spent on deals between the enterprise and emerging companies.  Visa invested in Square, Jive partnered with SalesCrunch, Salesforce acquired Rypple and the list goes on and on.  Partnerships, investments, and acquisitions seem rampant when you read the tech blogs, however, startups will tell you it’s not exactly reality. Finding the right guy and getting the meeting is tough, you usually have to enter through multiple touch points just to find the right person.

If you do your homework and know who to target, it can be easier. You have to leverage your network, search Linkedin and start “dialing for dollars”. If you find the right person, you’ll need to get their attention, this takes a good biz dev guy who knows how to ask the right questions and build relationships.

To be engaged in a conversation with an enterprise, there's a lot that needs to go right.  The first roadblock comes when startups can’t articulate their offering. Sometimes they are not asking the right questions and end up talking to the wrong people.  There's strategic value in knowing what a company and each unique team is looking for.  For example, Vitaly Gordon, Big Data Scientist at LivePerson says he wants to partner with, "technology that is a game changer versus just a little better/faster/smarter."  Alan Boehme, Chief of Enterprise Architecture, from The Coca-Cola Company is looking for companies working on, "security, analytics, and social."  Paul Payton, Chief Systems Engineer at Visa says the number one thing he looks for in a partnership is, “Maturity in technology.”  Knowing what someone is looking for on a basic level, will help the startup begin the right conversation with the right team.

If you land that first conversation, Peter Yared, CTO of CBS Interactive advises, "Tell me what business you’re in, how much it costs, and how I can get it – within 5 minutes."   Gordon of Live Person agrees, "Sell me on value instead of hype or features."

Information is power, listening and asking good questions are mandatory to vet and qualify on both sides of a call.  If you’re interested in talking to Gordon, Boehme, Payton, and/or Yared in person to learn more, they will be at the Under the Radar Conference on April 26th to talk to prospective companies and share their wish list of needs with you.

We’ve secured a $100 off your ticket price, using promo code, "VBEAT."  http://www.undertheradarblog.com/

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, VentureBeat

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Taking VideoDNA across the Pacific Ocean

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 10:00 AM PDT

From the heights of Singapore's colossal downtown structures, it feels as though one can see the entire continent of Asia—the perfect vantage point for companies like ours that keep a firm grip on the tech trends of this rapidly evolving region. Singapore's technical prowess, strategic geographic location and cosmopolitan environment have provided us with a perspective afforded by no other location in Asia. And today, the world's most innovative, competitive, and business-friendly city-state is clearly focused on meeting the needs of a rapidly developing, techno-centric Asia.

Featuring a world-class ecosystem and support structure, companies around the globe select Singapore as a springboard from which to tap into Asian markets, and we, at Vobile Inc, have aspired to exploit this opportunity to its fullest potential.

Started in 2005 in the US, Vobile has since grown to become a leading provider of video content identification and management products and services in the digital content value chain and across all platforms including mobile. In 2010, our Asian client base was growing rapidly and we were searching for a suitable location to better serve our existing clients and from which to foster new Asian relationships. We eventually picked Singapore as a location to establish our regional headquarters given the country's connectivity to major markets in this region and its pool of talent.

To quickly expand our business footprint and accelerate our revenue growth in Asia, we worked closely with EDBI, our investor, and a leading global investment firm headquartered in Singapore. EDBI's deep Asian network and knowledge of the industry and the region, together with their active interest in working with us on our Asian expansion, enabled us to ramp up our operations very quickly, get connected to many Asian business partners as well as obtain support from the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), a Singapore government agency, for the development of our next-generation digital media technologies.

Today, Vobile's VDNA® technology is recognized as a leader in online video content identification services in Asia and around the world. The ability to accurately identify and automatically track digital content usage online helps rights holders to unlock huge revenue potential inside today's emerging new media platforms.

A foothold in Asia presents us with significant new opportunities in digital media distribution and consumption due to the region's advanced broadband and wireless infrastructure. Singapore’s inherent attributes and robust intellectual property protection regime means Vobile is well-positioned to tap into the new business opportunities of the digital age, and enjoy the growth of an increasingly strategic Asia market.

IDA — the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore — has teamed up with VentureBeat to explore Singapore's potential as an Asian launchpad in a series of posts that will culminate in a live video webinar. This post is part of that series. To read the full series and sign up for the webinar, go here

About Vobile:
Vobile is the leading provider of video content identification and management services. Its core VDNA technology enables fully automated identification, tracking and management of any video and audio content with high performance, accuracy and scalability. Vobile operates the VDNA Database (VDDB), which is the most comprehensive database of authorized video fingerprints, metadata and business rules from major movie studios, television networks and record labels. Founded in 2005, the company is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, with additional offices in China, Japan and Singapore. For more information, please visit http://www.vobileinc.com

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Why are ad agencies so cautious about mobile advertising?

Posted: 15 Mar 2012 09:52 AM PDT

Like cautious children learning to swim or ride a bicycle without training wheels, an astounding number of agencies have done little more than dip their collective toes into mobile waters.

Rather than develop ad campaigns tailored specifically for smartphone users, many are content or are resigned to posting staid print and broadcast copy on company websites when they should be creating dynamic and interactive copy targeted at savvy, often prosperous mobile app users.

Not only are these agencies failing to fully engage the exploding mobile market — that market's exponential growth threatens to soon render ad industry laggards irrelevant. If you think my point of view is extreme, consider this: Manufacturers are already shipping more smartphones than PCs, and a Google study shows that in several of the world’s most significant markets, mobile phone usage currently outstrips PC usage.

And that’s not the only statistic that should give ad agencies good reason to shake things up:

  • Truthdive reports that 700,000 Android smartphones are activated daily;
  • Mobile searches, according to Google, increased by 400 percent in 2011;
  • digitalbuzz reports that half of all Internet searches are conducted on mobile devices;
  • Fifty-eight percent of mobile shoppers are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to a study from Millenial Media;
  • and, most amazingly, Spyder Trap shows that 70 percent of mobile searches result in action within one hour.

So why do agencies hesitate going after this low-hanging, golden fruit?

As with aspiring young swimmers and bicyclists, the simple answer is fear — not of drowning or falling, but fear of being stymied by technology and saddled with added expenses.

Such fears are unfounded. Mobile technology, while advancing, is actually becoming simpler, not only for smartphone users, but also more importantly (as it relates to this article) for agencies. Agencies should see the value in crafting ad strategies and campaigns geared specifically for this burgeoning market.

Also, agencies no longer need to create mobile campaigns in a vacuum.

A growing number of third-party developers have formulated customizable systems to enable creative firms to quickly and easily build both branded content for websites and specialized apps complete with such bells and whistles as buttons, fonts, headers, and video images, all from scratch. Much like enterprise data center operations, many of these companies assume full responsibility for managing back-end architecture allowing agencies to do what they do best: create copy and devise memorable campaigns.

Third-party vendors also perform such services as optimizing video for mobile screens, ensuring proper dimensions for optimal mobile viewing. Still other website consulting and marketing firms offer solutions that provide easy-to-use platforms that agencies can use to create their own in-house mobile ads without the need for complex technical or coding expertise.

As simple to use as a word processing program, these platforms feature self-editing features for fast text and image content changes for changing marketing or sales tactics virtually and in real time. Some also enable the integration of Twitter and Facebook feeds for social media campaigns as well as the importation of data from Google Analytics and APIs from similar programs and applications.

Given existing growth figures, which are guaranteed only to become even stronger for the foreseeable future, reticent agencies assuredly have not willfully resisted formulating campaigns specifically geared for the mobile market. Fear of the technology and added costs are the only factors that have so far kept them on the sidelines.

The emergence of third-party developers and inexpensive, easy-to-use platforms should effectively topple these final remaining hindering dominoes.

Alex Kutsishin is a co-founder and the “chief excitement officer” of fiddlefly, a platform for creating mobile web apps.

Filed under: mobile

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