02 April, 2012



With stock price tumbling, shareholder lawyers see Groupon as juicy target

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 09:19 AM PDT

Groupon’s stock has been falling since it revealed on Friday that it was revising its first quarter earnings to reflect a larger than expected loss. With its spotty accounting history, Groupon is now a juicy target for shareholder lawyers, who believe the company may be liable for the losses investors have suffered since Firday. The stock is currently down about 12%.

When it filed to go public with the Securities and Exchange Comission, Groupon’s accounting raised some red flags and the company eventually revised its financials with the SEC before its IPO. Considering all the scrutiny, the news on Friday that it’s auditor, Earnst and Young, said the newfound errors revealed  ”material weakness in internal controls” piqued the curiosity of lawyers.

“When you do a registration statement there's extensive due diligence so you would think this was uncovered at the time," Jacob Zamansky of the New York-based law firm Zamansky & Associates, which represents investors, told Deal Journal.

Groupon blamed its new losses on higher than expected returns from the holiday season. But our own Rocky Agrawal argues that the company should have seen this coming a mile away.

Well, for starters, it's not a coupon company nor a marketing company. At its core, Groupon's U.S. business is a receivables factoring business, as I wrote last year. They give loans to small businesses at a very steep rate (the price of the discount plus Groupon's commission). They get the money to fund these loans from credit card companies such as Chase Paymentech. Groupon is essentially a sub-prime lender that does zero risk assessment. And as word continues to spread about what a terrible deal running a Groupon is for many categories of businesses, the ones that will choose to run Groupons are the ones that are the most desperate.

Unfortunately for shareholders, their stock, unlike Groupon’s deals, cannot be so easily refunded.

Filed under: deals

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Samsung spins off unprofitable display biz, will focus on OLED

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 08:54 AM PDT


Samsung has finished the spin-off of its display company to create Samsung Display, the world’s single-largest maker of LCD displays, the company announced today.

The company announced its intention to spin-off its unprofitable LCD display business in mid-February. Despite $20.1 billion in LCD display sales in 2011, Samsung still took a $665 million loss last year, a move that forced it to spin the company off. By moving its LCD business to the side, that will help Samsung’s overall balance sheet and eventually help the display company make the move to OLED screens.

Samsung reportedly said it intends to merge Samsung Display and Samsung Mobile Display, the company’s OLED-making arm, on July 1st. While the company will continue to make both LCD and OLED screens, it will shift to OLED as its main focus after the merger of the two businesses.

"We will make Samsung Display a well-respected company through continuous efforts to supply a wide variety of customized products that provide great value to our customers," said Donggun Park, former head of the Samsung's LCD business and now CEO of Samsung Display. "By continually staying one step ahead of our competitors, we can make our company the very best in the display market."

Samsung TV photo: Jenn Deering Davis/Flickr

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Activist shareholder Third Point launches an entire website to chronicle Yahoo’s long, sad decline

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 08:18 AM PDT

Tech giant Yahoo has struggled to find its way over the last five years, rotating through four CEOs and a series of layoffs. Now, activist shareholder Third Point, which is agitating to add four hand picked members to Yahoo’s board, has launched an entire website, valueyahoo.com, to make its case about what is going wrong at Yahoo’s business, and what can be done to turn it around.

On Value Yahoo, visitors can meet the proposed board members: Third Point CEO Dan Loeb, Michael Wolf, Jeff Zucker and Harry Wilson. Loeb, obviously is the force behind all this, having built up a 5.8 percent stake in Yahoo worth more than $1 billion. Michel Wolf is a former COO at MTV and now runs the boutique digital consulting firm, Activate. Jeff Zucker is the former CEO of NBC and Harry Wilson is a turnaround specialist.

Yahoo said its ok with Wilson, and recently added two east-coast media executives to its board, just not the ones Third Point was suggesting. But its still got a number of long standing board members in place, who, Third Point recently pointed out, are happy to collect an annual salary, but have not purchased any actual Yahoo shares, and in fact have repeatedly sold their stake. As the site asks:

If Yahoo! receives significant cash proceeds from asset sales, do you trust the Legacy Board and Insider Slate to allocate them effectively, including return of capital to shareholders and a prudent approach to M&A?Or do you believe the Shareholder Slate, with over $1 billion of "skin-in-the-game", and extensive capital allocation expertise, can better maximize shareholder value?

This is all part of the ongoing campaign to muster shareholder support for Third Point, who is planning a proxy battle with Yahoo and its new CEO, Scott Thompson. The site has an entire section set up to explain how shareholders can cast their vote.

Filed under: mobile, social

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Consumer Reports gives the new iPad the OK

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 08:01 AM PDT


Consumer Reports counted Apple’s new iPad among the top of the list for tablets, despite its earlier concerns of the devices generating excessive heat.

The non-profit group, which reviews a variety of products to protect consumer interest, initially caused some doubt among would-be buyers after discovering that the new iPad reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit when running a process-intensive application longer than 45 minutes. (For instance, an iPad game played with full brightness for an hour could make your hands quite toasty.)

Consumer Reports praised Apple’s third-generation iPad for its 5-megapixel camera, 8-hour battery life, and 4G connectivity. Of course the biggest selling point of the new iPad, the group found, was its high-resolution Retina Display. The 2048 by 1536 pixel-dense display gives you much richer colors, highly detailed imagery, and the ability to play movies in 1080p quality. The group says the new iPad “achieved the highest score we’ve ever recorded for color accuracy in a tablet.”

In fact, the new display is so good, it pushed the ratings for every other tablet’s screen down a level.

Apple has already sold more than 3 million of its new iPad 3. With the Consumer Reports also recommending the device, as well as dispelling fears about the heat it gives off, I’d expect that number to grow over the next quarter.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Yahoo dives deeper down the Node.js rabbit hole with open-source Mojito

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Today, Yahoo is open-sourcing Mojito, a bit of software that uses JavaScript and Node.js to run a single codebase both on client and server side.

Mojito is one of a few Node-centric projects Yahoo’s been brewing. Collectively called Cocktails, they embrace cutting-edge technologies and platforms in a way that is surprising if you haven’t been following developer news from Yahoo over the past couple years.

Yahoo started dabbling in Cocktails a while ago. Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz is Yahoo's platform vice president, and late last year, he called Cocktails "a bunch of tricks to make web applications feel native."

Today’s release, Mojito, is a first step in that direction.

“There are some JavaScript frameworks out there, and some of them focus on the server side, some run on the client side,” said Fernandez-Ruiz in a recent phone conversation with VentureBeat. “And we’ve been saying for some time that we want people to be able to run the same code on the client side and on the server side.”

From the Yahoo developer blog:

  • Mojito is all JavaScript, that’s good. JavaScript is the single most widely available programming language today, and that’s something worth taking advantage of.
  • Mojito is a true MVC framework, that’s better! MVC is a battle-tested design pattern, having proven its usefulness in desktop apps, in server-side apps, in, today, rich client-side applications. Those who ignore MVC… often reinvent it.
  • But the best part of Mojito is its ability to “blur” the client/server boundary, to let you write you code that runs on the client, or the server. Or both.</li

The reason, he continues, is all about performance and how mobile web pages are rendered for smartphone users. It’s about speed, and it’s also about experience. “The reality is, if you go around looking at websites on an iPhone, you realize that many web pages just don’t work well,” he said. “Things are partially loaded, sometimes you get blank pages. Most of the time, this is because JavaScript that is downloaded never gets to run on the client… On the desktop, you can get away with murder, but on mobile, it’s another story.”

When mobile users are constantly testing the limits of their 3G networks, the exec said, it adds up to a really crappy experience for everyone.

Mojito is part of Yahoo’s concerted effort to help developers work with mobile users and with mobile networks in mind.

Mojito is just one Cocktail. Manhattan is another; it’s a Node.js hosted environment for Mojito. Apps can be wrapped in a native shell and shipped to the iTunes App Store or the Android Market or simply run in a browser, and Manhattan helps to speed up the user experience access across high- and low-speed networks and to run apps on platforms that don't have full HTML5/CSS3 support.

Other Cocktails under development right now include Greyhound and Screwdriver; Yahoo has no official word yet on what those products will do or when they might be available to outside developers.

“We have been approaching some developers… to get feedback about our technology stack,” said Fernandez-Ruiz. “There’s a lot of documentation and support to make it healthy, you can’t just dump the code on Github. We have a good track record of open sourcing things and keeping them alive.”

Manhattan will be opened up for the use of the attendees at this week’s JS Conf. Fernandez-Ruiz said Yahoo plans to gather input and feedback from those devs and use it to determine next steps for Manhattan.

In the meantime, Mojito is now open and available for anyone to use. Fernandez-Ruiz said he hopes devs will take a look a Node, at Mojito, and at their mobile work with new eyes open to the inherent performance benefits these technologies have to offer.

“It’s time to revisit the web, to take a look at mobile networks where people are constrained and where battery life has limits,” he said. “The Node.js is, in a way, like a browser that runs on the server. The browser on the mobile phone isn’t that powerful, so Node.js becomes more important.”

He talks briefly about issues with code duplication and those inefficiencies, then he talks about the seven layers of the OSI stack and the layers of abstraction that exist between applications, networks, devices, and various other technologies.

“If you look at OSI stack, this is like networking stuff, how you get routed,” Fernandez-Ruiz said. “Your objective is to create network servers that are efficient and low profile, very lean, something that lets you work very close to the kernel. For embedded devices that are partially connected — TVs or car devices, too — Node.js is very interesting.”

Filed under: dev

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Dell buys Wyse Technology to move into thin clients

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 07:59 AM PDT

Dell has agreed to acquired thin-client maker Wyse Technology in a strategic move beyond the personal computer.

The enterprise-focused move will enable Dell to offer more solutions to customers besides computers. Wyse makes thin clients and the virtualization software that makes them useful. Used in retail settings or call centers, the thin clients are less functional than PCs but cost a lot less as well.

The clients typically have no hard drives and do not store data on the local machine. Instead, upon booting, the machines fetch programs and data over the cloud, pulling down needed information from the data center. A user logs into the client and then can access his or her data.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Dell expects Wyse to add to its fiscal 2013 earnings.

Dell said Wyse will complement its enterprise portfolio and give it a "cloud client." That will give Dell customers more choice in the enterprise. Dell has been on an acquisition spree and some of its deals are aimed at spreading beyond the PC to become an enterprise technology company.

Rivals include companies such as Citrix in virtualization software and NComputing in thin clients. Wyse is based in San Jose, Calif., and it has more than 3,000 resellers of its thin clients. It has shipped more than 20 million units since it was founded in 1981.

Wyse has more than 500 employees. Tarkan Maner, chief executive of Wyse, said in a conference call that the Dell deal will help Wyse reach a much larger market and get access to a lot of new resources. Wyse has more than 180 patents and its portfolio includes advanced management, desktop virtualization, and cloud software.

Dell is focused on its “end-to-end” data center business and Wyse will help it reach that goal, said Jeff Clarke, president of end user computing solutions at Dell, in the conference call.

Filed under: deals, enterprise

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Tumblr is ready to make nice with developers, recruiting new API lead

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 07:01 AM PDT

Tumblr is a massive site with a very dedicated user base. But so far the company hasn’t built a robust platform for third-party developers. That’s about to change, as the company is hiring a API lead to build relationships with the developer community and actually build a new public-facing API.

There are certainly apps and web extensions that work with Tumblr. But the company has had several public spats with independent developers over the last year. Back in September, Tumblr told Jeremy Cutler, developer of the popular extension The Missing E (get it — tumbler) to stop distributing his software to people, or Tumblr would shut down the personal blog he hosts on the service. Even after Mr. Cutler explained that he stopped relying on the Tumblr API, and was simply working with data available through public web browsing, Tumblr refused to compromise.

In October, Texas-based independent developer Manny Mendez launched FindTumblr.com, a directory that helped people find bloggers based on geography. The site took off, but was promptly shut down by Tumblr, which disconnected it from its API. Mendez has since pivoted the site to a much broader service called BloggingFrom.

A robust ecosystem for third-party apps is one of the bet ways for social networking services to start making money, as Facebook has done with Zynga. With its rocky past dealing with third-party developers, Tumblr has clearly decided it’s time to put its best foot forward.

Filed under: dev, social

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Biometric voice analysis of Trayvon Martin 911 call concludes it was not George Zimmerman’s screams

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 04:48 AM PDT

The controversial killing of teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman has become a national flashpoint for discussions of race and violence. Technology has now entered into the narrative, after an expert in  biometric voice analysis said the screams on the 911 most likely did not belong to Zimmerman.

The test was conducted by Tom Owen, of Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, who was contacted by the Orlando Sentinel. Owen used a software called Easy Voice Biometrics to compare Zimmerman’s voice to the 911 call screams. ”I’ve run it against 300 voices and it was better than 99 percent in all cases,” Owen told MSNBC.

When Owen ran Zimmerman’s voice against the scream on the 911 call he got a 48 percent match. He would have expected a more than 90 percent match if the voice was Zimmerman, as the audio on the call is quite good. Owen said he couldn’t compare the screams to Trayvon Martin’s voice, as he did not have an audio sample of the teenager.

Security firms in the tech world have begun to use voice biometrics as a way to protect sensitive data, requiring an authorized user to speak a command before accessing a certain set of files on a desktop or smartphone.

You can watch of video of Easy Voice Biometrics in action below.

Filed under: security

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2tor brings prestigious university degrees online, raises $26M

Posted: 02 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Online degree program 2tor announced a new $26 million round of funding Monday. The company partners with universities to offer online courses and degree programs.

Getting a degree online has become in-demand in the last decade, as more people want to get an education at a time that’s convenient for them. While colleges such as University of Phoenix have worked their way into the mainstream for online learning, long-standing universities have also tried to get in on the action. But, for colleges that have traditionally catered to offline learners, getting online requires a lot of work and infrastructure. 2tor entered the market hoping to provide “school-as-a-service” tools for top-tier, prestigious colleges to offer online degrees.

2tor has partnered with University of Southern California (USC), Georgetown University, and University of North Carolina (UNC) to offer online degrees. Only a select few Master’s degrees are offered; social work and education at USC; nursing at Georgetown; and government and business at UNC. Instead of having to relocate across the country, you can earn a Master’s degree from one of the schools pretty much anywhere in the world.

The company helps colleges create online courses, provides an online environment where students can access their courses, invests in schools to make their programs work, and supplies schools with infrastructure that handles student sign-up, course registration, and graduation processing. Instead of typical online classes, where lectures are videotaped or assignments are placed on a message board, 2tor uses webcams to connect students with their professors and other students. 2tor even offers mobile apps so students can stay on top of their classes.

2tor competes primarily with EmbanetCompass, which creates similar partnerships with academic institutions and helps colleges provide online degree programs. EmbanetCompass has partnered with 20 universities, including Northwestern, Howard, Wake Forest, and USC.

The fourth institutional round was led by Tondern Capital, an affiliate of Hillman Ventures, with participation from existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Highland Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Novak Biddle Venture Partners, and City Light Capital. The funding will be used for new academic partnerships.

2tor was founded in 2008 and is based in New York City. The company has raised a total of $90.8 million in funding.

Online degree keyboard image via Shutterstock

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Wooga scores 11M downloads for Diamond Dash on iOS

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 11:30 PM PDT

Wooga has come out of nowhere to become the second-largest player on Facebook in social games. Now it is showing great progress in getting downloads on iOS too, with more than 11 million downloads of Diamond Dash in four months.

The Berlin, Germany-based social and mobile game studio that has become Europe's largest social game publisher with more than 46 million monthly active users on Facebook. Diamond Dash debuted in December on iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) and it took off thanks to social features such as synchronized scores between mobile and Flash versions, a real-time leaderboard and the ability to gift friends playing on a desktop computer from a mobile device.

The percentage of users choosing to connect to Facebook via mobile has continued to rise since the game launched, from 28 percent of users in December 2011 to 64 percent of users at the end of March. Users who log in from Facebook are eight times more likely to spend money and spend 50 percent mroe on average. Users were directed to the Diamond Dash app from Facebook more than 18.5 million times. More than 100,000 players are using the new iPad with the better retina display. The iPhone accounts for 51 percent of downloads, 13 percent for the new iPad, 25 percent for the iPhone 4, and 22 percent for the iPhone 4S.

The company was founded in 2009 by Jens Begemann (whom we interviewed at the Game Developers Conference), Philipp Moeser, and Patrick Paulisch with the goal of making games for everyone, including the mass market and not just gaming die hards. Since then, it has only published six of them: Bubble Island, Brain Buddies, Monster World, Happy Hospital, Magic Land, and Diamond Dash. With that portfolio, the developer grew its monthly active users by 185 percent in 2011.

Wooga has raised $24 million in venture capital and has grown to more than 150 employees.  The company now faces a number of strategic decisions, such as doubling down on Facebook or spreading out to platforms such as Google+ or Zynga.com.

Filed under: games, mobile, social, VentureBeat

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IBM takes on a gigantic computing task to find the universe’s origins

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 09:01 PM PDT

Some of the biggest friggin’ computers you’ll ever see are going to help decipher data from the world’s largest telescope as it explores the origins of the universe.

IBM announced today it has won a $42 million contract to work with the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) to research the “exascale” computer systems that are needed for the radio telescope, which is known as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). The project, to be completed in 2024, is perhaps one of the biggest scientific and computing efforts of all time.

IBM plans to investigate high-performance technologies that will be required to read, store, and analyze one exabyte of raw data per day. An exabyte is equal to one quintillion bytes, a “1″ followed by 18 zeroes. That is twice as much data as is produced every day on the world wide web. By the time the entire project is done, about $2 billion will have been spent on it.

The SKA project is backed by an international consortium to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Scientists estimate that the processing power required to operate the telescope will be equal to several millions of today's fastest computers. The telescope will be used to explore evolving galaxies, dark matter, and data from the Big Bang, or the creation of the universe more than 13 billion years ago.

ASTRON and IBM will do fundamental research for the next five years on a collaboration known as Dome, which will explore the high-performance computers that will be needed in the future. Funding comes in part from the Dutch government.

In Drenthe, Netherlands, ASTRON and IBM will look at energy-efficient exascale computing, data transport at light speed, storage processes and streaming analytics technology. All of that will be useful for the general progress of computing, said Ronald Luitjen, an IBM scientist and data motion architect on the project, which involves astronomers from 20 countries.

“To detect the signals, you really need a good antenna,” Luitjen said. “It would be the equivalent of 3 million TV antennae dishes. This will be a unique instrument. Nothing else can do this kind of science.”

Luitjen said he has been working on the project for eight years. Ton Engbersen, a scientist at IBM Research in Zurich, Switzerland, said, “This is Big Data Analytics to the extreme. With Dome we will embark on one of the most data-intensive science projects ever planned, which will eventually have much broader applications beyond radio astronomy research."

ASTRON and IBM will investigate advanced accelerators and 3D stacked chips for more energy-efficient computing. They will also look at novel optical interconnect technologies and nanophotonics to optimize large data transfers, as well as high-performance storage systems based on next-generation tape systems and new phase-change memory technologies. The systems will have to be built with dramatically low power consumption. About 50 people will work on the computing project for the next five years.

The SKA will use a technology for low-frequency array (LOFAR), which serves as a pathfinder telescope for the larger array. The SKA itself will have millions of antennae to collect radio signals, with the collection area itself equivalent to a square kilometer. The surface area will actually span 3,000 kilometers and will be 50 times more sensitive at picking up radio waves than any former device. It will be 10,000 times faster than today’s instruments.

After processing, about 300 to 1,500 petabytes of data need to be stored, compared to 15 petabytes produced by the large Hadron collider at the CERN supercomputing lab in Switzerland. The site for the SKA is expected to be selected this year, with Australia/New Zealand and South Africa in the running, since those regions don’t have a large amount of radio pollution.

[Image credits: IBM]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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No joke: Ashton Kutcher to play Steve Jobs in biopic

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 06:14 PM PDT

Take a moment to digest this news: Ashton Kutcher, he of That ’70s Show, Dude Where’s My Car?, and now Two and a Half Men fame, is reportedly attached to play the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic.

The indie film will simply be titled “Jobs,” according to Variety’s Jeff Sneider, who stresses that the news isn’t an April Fool’s joke. Shortly after Sneider’s scoop, rival pub The Hollywood Reporter posted a similar report, seemingly from its own sources (or at least, without attribution to Variety).

Kutcher has increasingly made his presence known in the tech world via a variety of investments, in particular his wise move to invest early in Airbnb. But despite the obvious resemblance to Jobs, he seems like an odd choice for the role given his relatively weak dramatic chops. (Then again, he’s going against Noah Wyle’s unhinged Jobs performance in The Pirates of Silicon Valley, which had its own issues.)

The film will be directed by Swing Vote helmer Joshua Michael Stern based on a script by Matt Whitely. According to Sneider, the film will “chronicle Steve Jobs from wayward hippie to co-founder of Apple.” Sneider later tweeted that he’s been hearing the film will follow Jobs’ story up until his return to Apple in the ’90s, but won’t focus on his later years. Production is scheduled to begin in May.

Sony is preparing its own Jobs biopic based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography (that one definitely won’t be an indie flick).

Via /Film; Pics via Idolr, SoyaCincau 

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Roundup of the tech and game-related April Fool’s gags

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 03:47 PM PDT

Here’s a roundup of the tech or game-related April Fools jokes of the day. Did any of these trick you?

Conan O’Brien buys Mashable and boots out Pete Cashmore.

Sony comes up with the world’s smallest Ultrabook. Its screen size is three-fourths of an inch by 1.25 inches.

Virgin Volcanic will take you to the center of the Earth. Richard Branson will let you go first.

Google launches Maps 8-bit for Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy.

Reddit introduced Reddit Timeline to let you travel through time and participate in conversations from the old days.

Smashwords Weed service treats common ailments for writers.

Twilio unveiled Twilio Telegram for communication via horse power.

TechCrunch launches TechCrunch Drama channel.

Big Fish Games created a faux game called Mime Something, where you use hand gestures to mime puzzle clues.

And we have Assassin’s Creed for Kinect (pictured at top), where you can dive onto your floor as you pretend you’re descending off a 10-story building.

Notch, the creator of Minecraft, is now working on Mars Effect.

Flickr Dither will recreate your photos with the dot-based look.

The Daily Dot dove into the social-sharing business via CorkMarket in competition with Pinterest.

Nintendo and Hasbro team up to create Super Smash Bronies.

Animoto announced a new video creation service, Animoto for Dogs, where the dogs can tell you how they really feel about you.

And we wish that OMGPOP chief executive Dan Porter’s tweet about his “weakest” employee was just a bad April Fool’s joke. But alas, it was not.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Beyond Siri: What AI means for the future of mobile devices and search

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 02:47 PM PDT

iPhone 4S Siri

Today, we are overwhelmed with content overflow — consuming information about our social networks, our global news, our daily jobs and responsibilities –and, for a growing number of us, all through our mobile devices.

There is a resounding need and desire for data management and analysis to help make our lives more productive and enjoyable. This demand, paired with rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), will encourage the wide-spread adoption of virtual assistants and intelligent automation services. The AI that is emerging will enable us to manage data overload by offering decision automation, reasoning capabilities, reduction of information complexity, deeper personalization and forging these capabilities together with a multitude of sensory inputs from our mobile devices.

Mobile innovation: New interfaces and capabilities

AI will have a huge impact on the mobile user experience in the future. Online services will be increasingly responsible for managing more and more aspects of our daily lives — from alerting important events, advising us on new products to buy, handling our personal information flow to monitoring our health, and more. This new generation of smart services will take into consideration our personal contexts and will provide services for the individual end-user, rather than applying simple, often statistics-based, customer segmentation models widely adopted in e-business today.

In practice this implies a clear move away from typing letters on small mobile keyboards, to the emerging use of touch screens, voice activation, gestures, sensory and other visual and audio interfaces, all of which mimic more human-like ways of communicating. Service providers will begin adopting this multi-modal interface approach to allow for several input and output interfaces to interact with the users, while also keeping in mind that some interfaces won't be effective for particular services.

But offering an extended user interface is clearly not enough to increase value substantially. We are in need of solutions that can handle the information complexity of modern lives. The simplistic behavioral targeting approaches that, for example, keep giving recommendations of children's books just because you bought a few gifts for your children, is frustrating at best. More advanced user interaction makes it possible to express yourself more richly and much more specifically. This means that mobile solutions and apps will have to handle both complex user formulated directives combined with the problem of reducing complexity coming from a huge flow of new information.

It doesn’t stop there. There will be a massive change to the structure of the Internet as people depend more upon smart virtual assistants to manage much of their online presence. The focus is shifting from simple delivery of unstructured data –texts, sound files, images, videos, forum posts and short messages, etc. –to a more comprehensive data analysis and a complimentary set of advanced functions. Therefore, development innovation will primarily focus on various approaches to the smart extraction of usable information in unstructured data –and AI will play a central role in teaching our machines how to understand the data they are processing in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Mass consumer adoption: Smart apps and beyond

For the consumer, a fleet of branded virtual assistants targeted towards virtual shopping, pharmacy, health, exercise, entertainment, messaging, and news are on the way. This is actually a natural extension of the app trends and capabilities we see today — apps will now start embedding a more intelligent service, or 'smart layer' in order to bring more value to end-users. We already see this emerging in apps offering deep news personalization (such as Zite). These apps will remember your personal profile and detailed settings, and will learn your behavior, only becoming smarter over time.

Mobile virtual assistants will help with tasks such as booking, buying, alerting a user when something of interest comes up, or reminding a user of important tasks to complete. These assistants will become increasingly contextually aware by learning a user's environment and behavior to filter the information flow to them. Most importantly, AI powered virtual assistants can handle a lot more complexity. This is essential as it does not matter how good your natural language or gesture interface is unless you can do something useful with the information, such as provide relevant restaurant recommendations or give meaningful health advice.

Many virtual assistants and apps will have their own high precision, subject oriented, search capabilities. Therefore, it's possible that there will be a redistribution of the search industry as we know it. Perhaps instead of the search market being dominated by 2 key players, multiple specialized search engines powered by AI will enter the market. This will radically change advertising and empower a wide range of brands to offer specialized search and decision power.

The future of search

On the horizon of advanced AI, the user will no longer be involved in the majority of search. Our context and behaviors will be measured on lowest possible wireless network protocol levels, or tracked directly on-device. Everything will be captured and analyzed in near real-time, and advanced services will automatically predict and optimize much of our information from live streams of data. Search will mostly become machine-to-machine interaction, distributed among a huge number of highly specialized AI-services.

With enough structured data and interactions, AI will gradually shift towards a broader form of machine intelligence, not limited by the mirroring of human sensory systems and cognition. As a result, there will be amazing acceleration in new types of value building mobile services, spanning over all our daily activities.

Lars Hard is the founder and CEO of the the AI platform Expertmaker. Drawing on his deep experience in  running advanced  AI development teams, both in Europe and North America, Lars founded Expertmaker in 2006. Lars is also a guest lecturer at Lund University in theoretical ecology and genetics and is a frequent speaker at conferences on technology innovation and mobile evolution.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Rovio to launch Angry Birds cartoon series this fall

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 01:59 PM PDT

Rovio is betting that it will be a long time before Angry Birds runs out of steam. This fall, the Finnish company will launch a cartoon series for fans of Angry Birds.

The company has one of the hottest brands of the mobile era thanks to the popularity of its Angry Birds mobile game. Rovio launched a new version, Angry Birds Space (pictured at top) a couple of weeks ago and got more than 10 million downloads in the first three days.

A cartoon series for the TV would be a natural extension of the animated style of the games. Nick Dorra, head of animation at Rovio, said at the MIPTV conference in Cannes, France, that a new animated series will debut this fall as a weekly show.

The company has created 52 episodes that last about three minutes each. An Angry Birds movie is also in the works but won’t be released for a couple of years, Dorra said.

Dorra also confirmed that an Angry Birds movie is the works, but it won’t be released for a couple of years. Rovio bought the animation house Kombo last June to handle the animation production in-house as part of its strategy to expand from a game company to an entertainment company.

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.

Filed under: games, media, mobile, VentureBeat

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There’s a Pinterest for that: A list of niche Pinterest clones

Posted: 01 Apr 2012 11:30 AM PDT

As soon as one startup hits it big, a crop of clones rush to cash in on the excitement. The latest company de jour to mimic is Pinterest, the popular visual-bookmarking site. And, as with Groupon and Airbnb before it, we’ve seen tons of “A Pinterest for ____” PR pitches.

For your entertainment, we compiled this list of our favorite Pinterest knock-offs. There’s a cluster of travel-focused sites, including Trippy, Wanderfly, and Gtrot. Trying to fill the dude-void are Mantersting, Gentlemint, and a Pinterest for Porn, Snatchly.

If you want to make your own Pinterest homage (there is no Pinterest for cats yet, a gross oversight), you can find the code online, pay $199 for PinBoarding Pro from PinterestClones, or try out a custom WordPress theme.

The full list is below. Naturally, we also created a Pinboard of Pinterest clones.

Trippy, a Pinterest for travelers.

Wanderfly, a Pinterest for travel recommendations.

Gtrot, a Pinterest for globetrotters.

Kulisha, a Pinterest for social commentary.

Manteresting, a Pinterest for men.

Gentlemint, a Pinterest for gentlemen.

Snatchly, a Pinterest for porn.

Hunuku, a Pinterest for families.

Everplaces, Pinterest for the real world

Singterest, a Pinterest for Singapore.

TheComplete.Me, a Pinterest for dating.

Discover, a Pinterest for designers.

Pingram, a Pinterest for Instagram.

Reclip.it, a Pinterest for deal lovers (perhaps a Groupon for Pinterest for deals).

Sworly, a Pinterest for music.

Tailored, a Pinterest for weddings.

Chill, a Pinterest for video.

Stylepin, a Pinterest for fashion.

SparkRebel, a Pinterest for fashionistas.

Minglewing, a Pinterest for discussion.

Thinng, a Pinterest for stuff.

GetVega, a Pinterest for compulsive listers.

Pinspire, a Pinterest for Pinterest users.

I Wanna Nom, a Pinterest for recipes.

If we missed a clone, share it in the comments and we’ll add it to the list.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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