09 April, 2012



Venture capital fundraising falls 35 percent in Q1

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 08:33 AM PDT

Venture capital funds raised $4.9 billion in the first quarter of 2012, down 35 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association.

The trade group said 42 firms raised the money, down 9 percent from the number of funds in the first quarter of 2011, when 46 funds raised $7.6 billion. The top five funds accounted for 75 percent of total fundraising in the quarter.  The number of funds raising money fell to its lowest levels since the third quarter of 2009, when 36 funds raised money. But the trade group said the numbers are not a cause for panic.

"While the first quarter fundraising numbers represent a slower start than last year, venture firms appear to be more optimistic about the fundraising environment in 2012, especially those who have benefitted from the improving exit environment of late which has also been encouraging to our investors," said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA. "Many venture firms are either now officially in the market to raise a fund or will enter in 2012. For these firms, it will be “do or die” – and the collective outcome of their fundraising efforts will lay the groundwork for the amount of venture capital available for investment in entrepreneurial companies the next decade.”

A total of 31 follow-on funds and 11 new funds raised money in the first quarter, a ratio of 2.8-to-1 of follow-on to new funds. The largest new fund was from Boulder, Colo.-based Fraser McCombs Ventures, which raised $16.9 million for the firm’s inaugural fund.

The biggest raise was by Menlo Park, Calif.-based Andreessen Horowitz Fund III, L.P. which raised $1.5 billion, the firm‟s largest fund to date. Canaan Partners and Bain Capital Ventures each raised $600 million during the first quarter of 2012.

[Photo credit: libn.com]

Filed under: deals

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Chris Sacca raising $25M investment fund, according to SEC filing

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 07:31 AM PDT

Notable tech venture capitalist Chris Sacca has raised at least $25 million for new investment fund Lowercase Spur, according to a SEC document filed today.

The new fund comes a little over a year after Sacca’s first investment fund, Lowercase Capital. That fund raised nearly $50 million and invested in plenty of well-known tech startups, such as Turntable.fm, Backupify, BackType, Twillo, Formspring, and Uber. The first fund is reportedly worth about five times as much as its original value, according to a Bloomberg report in March.

The new fund, which was opened in 2011 with Sacca’s own money, will reportedly invest in startups over the next decade — and mostly to put additional money into companies that were initially funded by Lowercase Capital, according to Bloomberg.

We’re reaching out to Sacca for more details and will update the post with any new information.

via TechCrunch

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Sony axing 10K jobs to slash its way back to profitability, says report

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 07:26 AM PDT


Sony plans to cut 10,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce, in a bid to get back to being profitable, according to a report from Nikkei.

The drastic move makes sense for Sony because it has been unprofitable for the past seven years, and it faces heavy competition across device sectors from companies including Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, and LG. On top of that, TV manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic have been hit especially hard in the current climate. In early February, Panasonic forecast a staggering $10.2 billion loss for 2012 because of the TV business.

Layoffs are likely part of new CEO Kazuo Hirai’s plan to turn around the company. Hirai took over as chief executive from Howard Stringer this month and he will give a briefing this Thursday to investors where he is expected to talk about layoffs and other strategies for moving the company into the black.

Previously, Hirai laid out a four-point plan to save Sony that will see it focus on its core business, further streamline its TV business, cut costs, and move forward with innovation. Hirai was one of the key executives who helped make the PlayStation game console a success in North America and it is widely expected that he will leverage his game credentials to help make Sony a success in mobile gaming.

Looking for a job photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Military wants better machine vision for smarter robot cameras

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Computer vision works much better than it once did, and that could enable a diverse range of machines to see and understand their environments. Such machines could be useful in everything from military scouting to self-driving cars.

That’s why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is doing research into vision in a program known as Mind’s Eye. James Donlon (pictured right), program manager for the Mind’s Eye project, said at the recent Embedded Vision Alliance summit in San Jose, Calif., that vision systems being tested now aren’t that bad at recognizing patterns such as a person about to be hit by a car that is backing up. But they still make mistakes that are sometimes comical, like mistaking a stationary object for a person or focusing on the wrong thing in a scene.

The Mind’s Eye research has been going on for about 18 months and is about half-way complete. After three years, the various vision projects will lead to lab prototypes that can eventually be brought to market. The systems being developed will do things like recognize someone walking, touching an object, or taking other actions. If the research pans out, we could see robots and other machines getting much better at the vision-based tasks that humans are best at.

“The difference between how a machine can describe a scene and how a person would describe that scene is quite vast still,” Donlon said. “Solving this is what the Mind’s Eye program is about. So far, humans are still best at this.”

The program has about 15 teams working on various approaches. Donlon spoke to the Embedded Vision Alliance, which has a lot of chip makers as members, because technologists still need to make vision much more computationally feasible. But the task also requires a lot of software smarts aimed at making the hardware smarter. The technology starts with recognition, description, prediction and filling gaps in information, and anomaly detection.

To teach machines how to filter out useless information, the Mind’s Eye researchers are showing all sorts of scenes to the computer-driven machines so that they can understand what is happening. Tracking people moving in a parking lot is doable today.

“What we need to be able to do to make truly robust systems is to enable the systems to recognize anything without advance training,” Donlon said. “I’m absolutely thrilled at the progress we have made, but we are nowhere near where we need to be in the informativeness of the vision analysis or the efficiency of the computing. There are plenty of ludicrous results that go along with the good results.”

In military situations, better vision systems could enable more sensors on a battlefield to interpret meaningful actions, such as an enemy troop movement. Right now, that information is funneled to a command center like the one pictured. But DARPA wants to be able to move the intelligence to the edge of the network, so a camera sensor can send information directly to a soldier that needs it, Donlon said.

Soldiers looking at command screens spend so much time looking at them that they may miss what is important and fail to pass on that information to soldiers in the field.

Right now, the military uses scout robots like those made by iRobot, pictured left, to do reconnaissance ahead of troops so that it can warn them of ambushes or other dangers. The robots have cameras on board, can point at an area, and remain concealed. They can then send back video footage that can be understood by human interpreters. But sending out the right video at the right time is critical.

“This takes some human scouts out of harm’s way and creates more situational awareness,” Donlon said. “It ought to be possible to put the intelligence on the sensors, on the edge. The soldier can then be on the look out for anomalies.”

These kinds of technologies could have both military and civilian applications. You could, for instance, use the vision systems with surveillance cameras for private corporations. Vision could also be useful in car safety. Google is working on a self-driving cars project, for example, in hopes of reducing the more than a million car accidents a year.

“DARPA has a [history] of pioneering technologies that have become important applications,” said Jeff Bier, chief executive of market research firm BDTI and founder of the Embedded Vision Alliance, which has 19 corporate members from Analog Devices to Texas Instruments. “We hope that’s going to happen in this category as well.”

Developers for the Mind’s Eye program include: Carnegie Mellon University, Co57 Systems, Colorado State University, Jet Propulsion Lab/Caltech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, SRI International, SUNY at Buffalo, Netherlands Organization for Applied Sceintific Research, University of Arizona, UC Berkeley, USC, General Dynamics Robotic Systems, iRobot, and Toyon Research.

[Photo credits: DARPA, Dean Takahashi]

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Egnyte brazenly targets Box’s customers with “Box Buster Buyout” program

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT


In an incredibly brazen move, enterprise cloud storage provider Egnyte has introduced the “Box Buster Buyout” program, which is designed to steal away Box‘s customers by essentially paying them to switch to Egnyte.

Egnyte helps businesses with various cloud storage solutions and claims to have superior technology and capabilities than Silicon Valley darling Box. But because Egnyte only has $16 million in VC funding, a tenth of what Box has attracted, it can’t spend the money on marketing the way Box does. This position has made Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain understandably angry and frustrated.

“In marketing, Box outspends us eight to one,” Jain said. “They appear at every conference they can possibly attend, and they are spending money like there’s no tomorrow. But they cast a much larger shadow than the real substance of their product.”

To compensate with the inequity, Egnyte will play David to Box’s Goliath and arm itself with digital stones for throwing at Box’s most obvious weak points. Egnyte claims Box’s biggest weaknesses include inadequate folder permission controls, file-size limitations, and sub-folder syncing abilities. Jain said businesses, including Box customers it has already converted, are being hurt by not getting enough control over their data. Egnyte provided the following comparison chart between it and Box:


Not only will Egnyte be loudly touting Box’s weaknesses and differences, it will put money behind the initiative and pay for companies to migrate their data to Egnyte and pay for the solution for the rest of 2012. Egnyte hopes this approach will add to its customer roster that includes Ikea, Best Buy, Learfield Communications, and many smaller businesses.

Egnyte emphasizes that its hybrid cloud solution, which lets businesses use their own data centers in conjunction with public cloud storage, is superior to Box’s all-cloud approach. We, along with other cloud experts, predicted earlier this year that the hybrid cloud would be a major trend in 2012. Now Egnyte and Box may play out how businesses are responding to the hybrid solution for file management.

“[Box's] products have a lot of sizzle but no steak,” Jain said. “They are being naive to keep saying ‘cloud cloud cloud’ when the hybrid cloud is the real solution companies want. It’s complete bullshit.”

Mountain View, Calif.-based Egnyte was founded 2007. It has raised about $16 million from firms including Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Floodgate Fund, and Polaris Venture Partners. The company recently added many new capabilities to its HybridCloud File Sharing service, including a new HTML5 interface and support for 10,000 concurrent users, a move to attract larger customers.

Los Altos, Calif-based Box, by comparison, was founded in 2005 and has raised nearly $160 million in funding from firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Emergence Capital Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Scale Venture Partners, and New Enterprise Associates. Its most recent product introduction was OneCloud, a solution for syncing application data across third-party smartphone apps. And to be fair, Egnyte does not have a comparable solution.

We have contacted Box for a company response to Egnyte’s new program and will update this post if someone gets back.

Photo illustration: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Original illustration credit: David Grigg/Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud

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How Israeli cloud management startup NewVem is cutting its clients’ Amazon Web Service bills by 25%

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 05:35 AM PDT

There are very few tech startups these days that don’t rely, in whole or in part, on Amazon Web Services. The power of the elastic cloud means small startups with limited resources and employees can scale quickly to great size. Many startups that build on AWS, like Tumblr, continue to use the service when they reach web scale, serving up billions of pageviews each month.

NewVem, an Israeli startup, hopes to tap into this trend by offering a service that lets clients manage and optimize their usage of AWS. “Amazon is really a double edged sword,” Zev Laderman, NewVem’s founder and CEO told me in a phone interview. “It’s a fantastic asset for startups, but many get trapped relying on it without having the tools to really manage it effectively.”

When analyzing a clients AWS, NewVem is looking for several things: underused servers that could be eliminated, overused servers that could hurt performance and security risks that could come back to bite a client down the road.

“We built our entire business on AWS,” said Kobi Haddad, the CEO of LiveDefinition. “It’s a utility, so just like when you use electricity, it’s easy to forget, and leave the lights on when you’re not at home.” NewVem found several servers that LiveDefinition was only using part time, as well as others that were overloaded and increasing latency for clients. “We tried using Amazon’s tools to manage this, but they weren’t very helpful. Thanks to NewVem we’ve rearranged how we deploy AWS, and I think saved about 20 percent each year.”

DoubleVerify, another client, told the same tale. “We started with three servers and now, three years later, we’re using 150,” said Chemi Katz, the head of tech operations at DoubleVerify. “Before NewVem, we didn’t really monitor our AWS usage that closely. The Amazon desktop tool for doing that was impossible to use.”

NewVem not only helped DoubleVerify to monitor which servers were being over and under used, it also helped them decide which colocation nodes it wanted to be on in order to be geographically close to important clients and improve performance for that relationship. “It makes the elastic cloud much more powerful, and saved us about 25 percent of our annual budget, which is no small change,” said Katz.

Amazon recently reported that its elastic cloud business has grow about four fold since 2010. As more and more startups come to rely on it for launching and scaling their business, NewVem sees a massive opportunity to help companies cut costs and avoid the costly overhead of hiring a full time IT staffer to manage the cloud.

Filed under: cloud, dev

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In an effort to goose stock price, AOL sells the majority of its patents to Microsoft for $1B

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 04:39 AM PDT

AOL patentsNews hit the wires this morning that AOL plans to sell 800 of its 1100 patents to Microsoft for $1 billion in cash, money CEO Tim Armstron says will be used to repay AOL shareholders. This one time transaction also grants Microsoft a no-exclusive license to to the 300 remaining patents which cover key technologies like advertising, search, content generation/management, social networking, mapping, multimedia/streaming, and security.

Like Yahoo, AOL is an aging internet giant struggling to produce meaningful technologies and grow its business. Both are looking to unlock value from their vast trove of patents, but while Yahoo has gone down the legal road, suing Facebook, AOL has decided to simply sell. The $1.056 billion it got from Microsoft is pretty much exactly what bankers estimated its patents would be worth.

"The agreement with Microsoft represents the culmination of a robust auction process for our patent portfolio," said Tim Armstrong, AOL's Chairman and CEO, i a statement. "We continue to hold a valuable patent portfolio as highlighted by the license we entered into with Microsoft. The combined sale and licensing arrangement unlocks current dollar value for our shareholders and enables AOL to continue to aggressively execute on our strategy to create long-term shareholder value."

"This is a valuable portfolio that we have been following for years and analyzing in detail for several months," said Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft. "AOL ran a competitive auction and by participating, Microsoft was able to achieve our two primary goals: obtaining a durable license to the full AOL portfolio and ownership of certain patents that complement our existing portfolio."

While it’s true that AOL still retained some patents and will be able to license them to other players, this seems like a one time deal that represents a large portion of the value AOL held in its patents. The emphasis on returning the money to shareholders seems to indicate that AOL is hoping to goose its stagnant stock price with the promise of a payout, giving Armstrong ore breathing room as he looks to turn the media/advertising business around.

Filed under: deals, enterprise

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How much is a tweet worth? About 1/10,000 as much as a Yelp review

Posted: 08 Apr 2012 04:40 PM PDT

Tweets, status updates, pins, check-ins: They may seem trivial to you, but they’re valuable content to social networking companies.

For example: Next time you make an update in Path, consider that you just helped that company make 50 cents in revenue.

Just how much value do you represent to these companies? Backupify, a cloud data backup service, decided to do some quick math. The infographic below gives you a glimpse. Dividing the estimated valuation of the company by the number of users tells you, roughly, how much value each user contributes to the company’s value.

  • Path: $12.50 per user
  • Instagram: $18.52
  • Yelp: $21.21
  • Pinterest: $28.09
  • Foursquare: $40.00
  • Twitter: $71.43
  • Dropbox: $80.00
  • LinkedIn: $104.46
  • Facebook: $118.34

But it’s the value of each individual status update that’s especially interesting. To get this number, Backupify took each company’s estimated annual revenue and divided it by the number of items of content. Here are the results:

  • Tweet: $0.001
  • Facebook share: $0.024
  • LinkedIn search: $0.124
  • FourSquare check-in: $0.40
  • Path update: $0.50
  • Yelp review: $9.13

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to imagine that a simple FourSquare check-in is worth 40 cents — or that there are any Yelp reviews at all that would be worth nearly $10. But that’s market economics for you.

If you want a bigger, clearer PDF of this infographic, we’ve got that for you too.

infographic showing how much users and social media updates are worth, from Backupify

Infographic courtesy Backupify

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Sadly, Apple holds the high ground in electronics manufacturing

Posted: 08 Apr 2012 11:30 AM PDT

Apple CEO Tim Cook tours a Foxconn factory in March, 2012

Apple has been rightly criticized for the labor conditions in the factories that make its iPhones, iPads and Macs.

When Apple joined the Fair Labor Association, the group investigated the factories Apple uses, the most famous of which is Foxconn. The report found cases of excessive overtime, unsafe working conditions, and instances when workers weren’t paid the wages due to them. Apple has vowed to fix those problems.

But other manufacturers have done far less. As I wrote in February, Motorola, Nokia, and many other electronics manufacturers also use the same factories, at Foxconn and elsewhere, but have done nothing publicly regarding working conditions there. Toshiba, HP, Dell, and Sony all use factories the New York Times reports as "bleak." And today, the Times’ Nick Bilton reports on his efforts to get Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Microsoft, Dell, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lenovo to provide statements on the conditions in the factories they employ. Their response can be summed up in two words: No comment.

“Although some technology companies share some information about their audits, none go into detail about the violations they find or what they are doing to fix problems,” Bilton writes. None of them have joined the Fair Labor Association, though some of them said they belong to the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, a group that has made little material difference to the electronics supply chain since its founding in 2004, a source interviewed by Bilton claims.

Actually, the Fair Labor Association, which was formed by shoe and clothing manufacturers to audit alleged sweatshop conditions in their own factories, has been accused of being the same kind of public relations fig leaf. Say what you will about the FLA, though, its report on Foxconn was not sugar-coated. The FLA made the report public and Apple responded publicly, vowing to improve conditions. Apple chief executive Tim Cook even let himself be photographed touring Foxconn in March (see photo above).

For a company that’s famously secretive, that’s an astounding level of openness. Why aren’t other manufacturers following suit?

Read the full story: While Apple Is Criticized for Foxconn, Other Companies Are Silent

Filed under: mobile

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Why Max Payne 3 could be this year’s next big blockbuster video game

Posted: 08 Apr 2012 10:00 AM PDT

Beware the ides of May. Max Payne 3 debuts on May 15, a significant time for gamers that Rockstar Games has pretty much owned for the past few years. The game developer, a division of Take-Two Interactive, wants to repeat history by launching one of the year’s blockbuster games at a time when gamers are have traditionally embraced big games. Now that Electronic Arts/BioWare has released Mass Effect 3, gamers are looking for the next big game, and the next big releases will come in mid-May again.

Last year, Rockstar released the acclaimed LA Noire game in mid-May and sold nearly 5 million copies. In 2010, it released Red Dead Redemption and sold more than 13 million copies. Full told, those games generated more than $1 billion at retail. This year, Max Payne 3 will go up against Blizzard’s Diablo III, a long-awaited PC game that is also releasing on May 15.

Having played a couple of levels of Max Payne 3 hands-on, I’m looking forward to this game — which resembles a John Woo action movie — in a big way. If Max Payne 3 succeeds, it will give a much-needed boost to the hardcore game industry and help both Rockstar and Take-Two further diversify beyond the Grand Theft Auto series.

The good thing about the new Max is that Rockstar has created pent-up demand for it. It has taken its time with development and slow-cooked this piece in a franchise which hasn’t had a sequel since 2003. The game uses the Euphoria engine to deliver outstanding graphics, physics, and artificial intelligence on a plane far above most current-generation titles. The violence and blood are over the top.

Max Payne is a shooter fan’s shooter with Matrix-like bullet time that allows you to choreograph a ballet of death as you fly through the air in slow motion and blast enemies coming at you from multiple directions. The third-person combat is precise as a shooter game in a way that Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, one of the big hits of last season, was not. In Max Payne 3, your main concerns are to move, aim, shoot, and kill. You can precisely and fluidly control how to do that.

You can freeze time with a single button push and then execute a flying-dodge leap where you can target multiple enemies in a split second. As you do so, you can turn 360 degrees and see each bullet whizzing by with precise ballistics. If it hits a thin barrier, it will shatter it and go right into the heart of an enemy. But if you’re hiding behind strong cover such as a cement pillar, the bullets will thud into the pillar harmlessly. If you are hit with a kill shot, the scene shifts into slow motion and you have a second to shoot whoever fired at you. If you hit the enemy in this “last man standing” mechanic, then you are revived on the spot.

The game is also cinematic and told in a graphic novel style that flashes headlines from the narration on the screen and freezes scenes in comic book imagery. You feel like you are immersed in Max Payne, an ex-cop who lost his wife and is now an alcoholic detective. The context-based freeze frames allow game scenes to load without ever presenting you with an annoying loading screen. The movie-like cinematic scenes transition seamlessly into gameplay.

Max Payne 3 takes place several years after the events of Max Payne and Max Payne 2. Max leaves New York for Sao Paolo to serve as the bodyguard for Fabiana, the young wife of Rodrigo Branco, one of the country’s biggest business tycoons. A street gang kidnaps her, and Max has to get her back. In between the onslaughts of action, Max constantly gives Sam Spade, film-noir soliloquies that make you feel like you’re in a movie.

The lead writer is Dan Houser who, along with his brother Sam, is also one of the creative vice-presidents of Rockstar. The original was created by Remedy Entertainment’s Sam Lake, but this game is being built by Rockstar Vancouver in collaboration with studios in New England, London, and Toronto. They have made Max into a world-weary and cynical character whose aim is to find the truth of what is going on in a conspiracy that is much wider than just the kidnapping.

I expect this game to score above the 89 out of 100 and 86 review scores that the first two games got on Metacritic, a review aggregator.

Max feels every bullet that hits him and, in keeping with his character, he has to take tranquilizers to stop the pain. Max is such a bad ass that he could have 20 bullets in him and stop the agony with painkillers. If you run and gun into the open, you’re going to feel a lot of pain. The enemies are very smart in this game, and they have a habit of surrounding you. When you kill the last enemy in a scene, you can see the bullets rip through the thug in slow motion.

In the scenes that I played, Max goes to a soccer stadium to negotiate a ransom drop. It goes wrong, and Max has to battle the street gang while wounded. They steal the ransom money, and Max runs them down throughout the stadium, but a paramilitary group also gets into the middle of the fray. The fighting was tough and full of splattering blood, and the graphics were incredible. I had to fight multiple times to get past many scenes. You have to earn your way to each new painkiller and weapon you find along the way.

The scenes showed off how you can fight with a wide variety of weapons including fists and sniper rifles. The sniper rifle was tough because I had to fire ahead of running enemies to take into account the travel time of the bullet. I couldn’t take my time while shooting because I had to stop enemies from reaching Max’s companion. The character movements were fluid. Nothing looked fake. That’s extremely hard to pull off.

The submachine guns such as the M10 and Micro 9mm are lightweight automatic weapons that can be dual-wielded. You can rapid-fire them but maneuver as if you were holding pistols in your hands.

Rockstar recently showed off video of multiplayer combat which includes bullet-time as well. In multiplayer, a player can click to enter bullet time, and that will affect only players who are in the same field of view. Also in multiplayer, gamers will be able to form their own groups known as Crews that can carry out vendettas against rival groups.

The game was originally scheduled for release in 2009, but it was pushed back repeatedly until it was given its final launch date recently. It’s probably a good thing it was pushed back, since Rockstar’s brand and reputation for quality is so big now that the game will likely reach a much larger audience. Strauss Zelnick, chairman of Take-Two Interactive, said it will be “one of our most exciting releases ever.”

You will be able to play the game on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. It debuts May 15 on the consoles in North America and May 18 in Europe. PC players will see it on May 29 in North America and June 1 in Europe. Meanwhile, the original Max Payne will see release on iOS and Android devices later this month. Rockstar has begun a big marketing campaign that includes painted murals on the side of the Figueroa Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, pictured below. Gamers are getting a preview of the title this weekend at PAX East in Boston.

It will be interesting to see just how big Max Payne 3 will be and how soon Rockstar will follow-up with its next major title, Grand Theft Auto V. It is gratifying to see Rockstar continue to set the pace for innovation in traditional video games.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Should you celebrate the holiday with a Nokia Lumia 900?

Posted: 08 Apr 2012 09:51 AM PDT

Nokia Lumia 900

For reasons known only to AT&T executives, the Nokia Lumia 900 launches in the U.S. today, Easter Sunday.

If you can find an AT&T store that’s open today, you can pick up the Lumia 900 for just $99 plus a two-year data contract (or $450 off contract). Or bop over to the  AT&T Wireless site to order one, if you prefer. The minimum contract is $40 (for 450 minutes) plus $20 for a paltry 300MB monthly data plan or $30 for a more reasonable 3GB. In other words, you’ll be committing to at least $60 per month for the next 24 months. (The early termination fee, should you want out of your contract before then, is $325 minus $10 for each full month that you’ve been on the contract.)

Is this your next phone? There are a lot of reasons to like what Nokia is putting down with this Windows Phone 7-based handset: A big, 4.3-inch screen, an 8 megapixel rear camera and VGA front-facing camera, 4G LTE data capability, and the $99 price. In fact, it may be the cheapest way to get an LTE smartphone right now.

On the other hand, it’s running Windows Phone 7, an operating system that still lacks some of the niceties of more established mobile operating systems. Multitasking is extremely limited compared to iOS and Android, the browser has some limitations, and there are only 70,000 apps or so in the Windows Marketplace, a little more than a tenth that of the Android Market and iPhone App Store.

To help you make up your mind, we’ve rounded up a collection of the internet’s top reviews of the Lumia 900. Of course, you won’t want to miss VentureBeat’s review of the Nokia Lumia 900 on AT&T, by our own Devindra Hardawar.

And, check out the Lumia 900 specs in detail on our smartphone comparison subsite, which will also let you compare it to other smartphones. And now, on to the review roundup.

New York Times:

“The Lumia 900 is fast, beautiful and powerful, inside and out,” David Pogue writes. However, he points out that while Windows Phone 7 has many of the most popular apps, many others are missing:

Many of the essentials are there: movie apps like Netflix, IMDB and Flixster; restaurant apps like Yelp and OpenTable; check-in apps from Delta and American Airlines; popular apps like Groupon, Foursquare, Kindle, Spotify, Twitter and Facebook. A few of my other favorites also made it: RunPee (tells you when during a movie it's safe to leave the theater without missing anything important), Speedtest (measures Internet speed) and FlightTrack (tells you everything about your flight).

And, of course, Angry Birds.

Unfortunately, there's an even longer list of important apps that aren't yet available for WP7 phones: Yahoo Messenger, Dropbox, Pandora, Mint, Bump, Draw Something, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Urbanspoon, Hipstamatic, Instagram, Barnes & Noble Reader, Cut the Rope, Scrabble, Words With Friends, Google Voice, AOL Radio. Bank of America has an app, but Citibank, Chase, HSBC, Capital One, American Express and other big banks don't.

Plenty of my less famous favorites are also unavailable: Line2, Hipmunk, Nest, Word Lens, iStopMotion, Glee, Ocarina, Songify This.

Wall Street Journal:

Writing for the WSJ and AllThingsD, Walt Mossberg says that he like the phone, but concludes that ultimately it doesn’t have enough to recommend it over the iPhone 4 (also $99) or iPhone 4S, or the Android-based Galaxy II Nexus:

If you're looking for a $100, high-end smartphone, or are a Windows Phone fan who has been waiting for better hardware, the Lumia 900 is worth considering. But the phone had just too many drawbacks in my tests to best its chief competitors.

The Verge:

In all, it’s a fantastic piece of technology. It just looks and feels like nothing else on the market. It hits all the right notes for me. A little bit retro, a little bit futuristic, with just a touch of quirky humanity in its otherwise very machined design. This is the Nokia I grew up with, and it’s clear the company hasn’t lost its ability to enchant through hardware.


While we wouldn’t color this AT&T debut as a failure, we wouldn’t call it a crowning achievement either. Apart from a stated preference and dedication to Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, savvy geeks on the cusp of the next best thing won’t necessarily want what the 900 has to offer … Does the Lumia 900 fail to find its place amongst other smartphone hulks? Well, yes. But again, it’s playing in a league of Windows Phone’s single-core own. With the careful cultivation of a cultish, fashion-conscious consumer following, however, this could very well be Nokia’s greatest hit.


The LTE speeds, high-end features, and crazy-reasonable $99 price tag make the Lumia 900 a sure choice for Windows Phone fans looking for a statement piece to help them stand out. It’s also great for people on the fence with Android or iOS who are interested in trying a new operating system, and for people transitioning to their very first smartphone.


Jordan Crook compares the Lumia 900 to the iPhone 4S and concludes with an appeal to consider it, for the sake of a more competitive phone market:

Please just consider Windows Phone. You don't have to buy it — hell, you don't even have to like it — but giving it a chance in your mind will allow for the emergence of a third mobile ecosystem. And as competition grows, our phones will only get better and better.


The Lumia 900 is the best Windows Phone yet, and it's the first phone I've seen to truly unleash the potential of the platform. If you've been at all interested in adopting Windows Phone, it's the only option worth considering at this point.

But while it's nice to finally see a true flagship Windows Phone, the platform still needs plenty of marketing and carrier support to stand a chance. … Perhaps because there's so much at stake for all the companies involved, it feels as if the Lumia 900 is the first true Windows Phone. And I think for many consumers, that'll likely be the case.

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