12 April, 2012



Intel may debut powerful Ivy Bridge processors April 23

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 08:58 AM PDT


Intel will likely debut its much-anticipated Ivy Bridge processors — which promote energy efficiency while still being powerful — on April 23, according to a Digitimes report.

The report contradicts news we heard in February that Intel would push back the debut of Ivy Bridge until June. It’s possible that Intel has changed its timeline to make way for a staggered rollout that will start this month and go wide in June.

PC manufacturers including Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Dell, Sony, Toshiba and HP will likely incorporate Ivy Bridge processors into their second-generation ultrabook laptops starting in May. And there’s word that Apple will be soon release a new version of the MacBook Pro, which could incorporate Ivy Bridge chips as well. Apple’s iMac computers will almost certainly get Ivy Bridge added in as well.

On top of energy-efficiency, Ivy Bridge prioritizes strong graphics and multimedia processing. It’s also the first Intel chip to support USB 3.0 and incorporate 3D transistors.

Processor image: iDesign/Shutterstock

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Nest fights back: taps former Apple patent chief to take on Honeywell

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 07:49 AM PDT


It’s become a tired pattern these days: create an innovative product, then sit back and watch the patent lawsuits pile up. That’s what happened to the smart thermostat maker Nest, which wowed the world with its gorgeous web-connected device in October, but later faced a patent infringement lawsuit from Honeywell.

Today, Nest officially denied Honeywell’s claims (PDF filing), and made it clear it wasn’t going to let up without a fight. The company has brought on former Apple chief patent counsel Richard Lutton Jr. as a vice president and general counsel, who has been advising it for several months.

Nest Labs is no ordinary startup — it was founded by Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, two people who were instrumental in developing Apple’s iPod, and it has the investor backing of Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, and other heavyweights. Fadell tells the Verge that investors are “totally behind us,” which means Nest is better equipped than most small companies to take on industry heavyweights like Honeywell.

“This lawsuit is a bald effort by Honeywell to inhibit competition from a promising new company and product in a field that Honeywell has dominated from decades,” Nest wrote in today’s court filing. “Instead of countering product innovation with  its own new products, Honeywell has a track record of responding to innovation with lawsuits and overextended claims of intellectual property violations.”

Honeywell claims Nest is infringing on seven of its patents, but Nest refutes that in today’s filing. The company points out that many of the patents require a mechanical hardware like a potentiometer, which the Nest doesn’t have, and it says many of Honeywells patents are invalid since they were never disclosed to the Patent Office.

“We’d be more than happy to have a professional discussion with Honeywell to understand what their issues really are” Fadell tells the Verge, adding that Nest is open to multiple options “if there’s something that makes business sense to our investors, our employees, and our consumers.”


Filed under: green, VentureBeat

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The Echo Nest supercharges its music platform with data from JamBase, SongMeanings

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 07:30 AM PDT

The Echo Nest, music

The Echo Nest is adding lyrics data and concert/tour information to its music intelligence platform, courtesy of new partnerships announced today with lyric-deciphering community SongMeanings and concert schedule aggregation site JamBase.

What does that actually mean for listeners? Essentially, it’ll enhance the user experience for a ton of music applications, which will now have access to new information about songs and artists.

The Echo Nest’s music intelligence platform is responsible for powering over 250 music applications, including Spotify radio and many of Spotify’s third-party apps.The platform provides specific data points related to music — such as listener behavior, song reviews, a song’s beats, similar songs, listener demographics, and more –  that can be used by developers to optimize a person’s listening experience. The company said it has a total of more than 5 billion data points on over 30 million songs.

The company points out that its music platform will now give developers the ability to: include accurate tour information from JamBase, lyrical interpretations from SongMeanings users, song lyrics from LyricFind, music from both Spotify & Rdio, concert tickets information from Seatwave, and social media integration with Twitter and Facebook. All of this is part of The Echo Nest’s

Founded in 2005, the Somerville, Mass.-based startup has raised a total of $8.3 million in funding from Matrix Partners and Commonwealth Capital Ventures, Argos Management and three co-founders of MIT Media Lab.

Musical notes image via VikaSuh/Shutterstock

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Amazon to challenge Google with AWS CloudSearch

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 07:24 AM PDT


In a clear shot at Google, Amazon has launched a new service called CloudSearch that Amazon Web Services (AWS) users can embed into their applications and websites, the company announced today.

CloudSearch’s technology is based on the same tech that powers search for Amazon.com, and aims to make life easier for web developers who want to integrate search into their AWS-hosted sites. Using the tool, developers can create a search domain and then upload any data they want searchable. CloudSearch then automates the process of allocating resources and indexes that are needed to process searches.

"For many organizations, search plays a major role in how their customers experience their product or service – businesses need a sophisticated search capability to help their customers find the right information quickly. Implementing rich search functionality has traditionally been very expensive and time consuming due to the complexity of the technology required," said AWS BVP Adam Selipsky, in a statement. "Amazon CloudSearch frees customers from worrying about all of these complexities so they can easily launch powerful search functionality and pay only for the resources they use."

It appears CloudSearch wants to steal some of Google’s thunder in internal site search. Ideally, Amazon wants its AWS customers to use this tool instead of Google for customized searches on their sites rather than Google or Bing. Amazon makes setting up and managing CloudSearch easy by making it accessibly through the AWS Management Console and offering CloudSearch APIs.

However, the cost of using CloudSearch could cause some small-time developers to question deploying it. CloudSearch users are billed on a monthly basis for search instances. Instance types come in small, large and extra large, and cost 12 cents, 48 cents, or 68 cents per hour. In a pricing example, Amazon said if you host a paltry 100MB of data in your search domain, the minimum you’d pay for small instance use would be $86.94 per month. Now imagine if you start storing large data sets with “extra large” instances and you can imagine the costs adding up.

Amazon Web Services users can check out the CloudSearch beta now.

Photo credit: rangizzz/Shutterstock

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Developers cry foul after Google+ redesign breaks their apps and extensions

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 07:21 AM PDT

One of the most valuable resource for a social network looking to attract new users is a robust market of apps that extend the platform’s functionality and increase engagement. So when the redesign for Google+ broke a number of apps and extensions built for the search giant’s social network, developers cried foul, asking why Google hadn’t given them fair warning.

“Change is good, but you know what is even better? Relationship with your third party developer community who technically spend hundreds of hours building on top of this platform for free. Where the hell is the transition period?,” asked Mohamed Mansour, an Ottowa based developer who created custom tools to help users share from Google+ across other social networks and see all the Google+ hangouts happening in their network. “My extensions and apps were downloaded way over two millions times from the last 10 months. Look at my GitHub page, I loved this platform so much that I spent my personal and free time evangelizing for it to make the experience better and more enjoyable. Why didn’t you reach out to the developers and tell them major change is coming? Didn’t we support this platform enough to know things will break? Now hundreds of thousands of machines who are visiting Google+ have a broken experience, many errors will be shown, many popups will be alerted, our thousands of hours of hard work down the drain.”

Google’s responsed that it hasn’t officially released an API to allow developers on the platform, so it can’t be expected to support this work. DeWitt Clinton, a software engineer at Google, responded on Hacker News. ”All of us sincerely appreciate developers building on the Google+ platform, and we’re excited to continue to develop and support our official API over at https://developers.google.com/+. Please do join us over there, and let us know what you’d like us to add or improve. That said, we obviously can’t support applications built on undocumented, unofficial and internal surfaces, including those based on reverse-engineering or scraping the Google+ user interface. Since we believe that’s the case here, we’ve reached out to the author and hope to clear the situation up quickly.”

Does it make sense for Google to slow down the development of their social network to protect the work being done by third party developers working off an unofficial API? That depends on how important you think they are to users and to the growth of Google+. Letting third party developers sandbox changes to Google+ would also mean trusting them not to leak details to the press. It seems like Google has decided to go it alone until there is an official API in place. Time will tell if those burned bridges come back to haunt them.

Filed under: dev, social

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Connotate raises $7M to help companies monitor and collect big data in real time

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 05:05 AM PDT

You’ve heard it before so we’ll say it again, big data is the new black. New Jersey based Connotate helps companies like AP, Reuters and Dow Jones to scour and analyze unstructured data from thousands of web sites in real time. Last month it made its first acquisition, competitor Fetch Technologies, and added a new CEO. Today announced a $7 million series B led by Castille Ventures, Prism VentureWorks, and .406 Ventures.

Connotate is going after the much hyped big data market, pulling in massive volumes of information and combing through it to spit out a the few nuggets of valuable data. Thompson Reuters, for example, has a team of more than 100 analysts using Connotate to pull in real time data in over 50 languages that they can use to break news and update their market perspective.

"Connotate's unique and differentiated technology has positioned it to capitalize on the explosion of Big Data and enterprises' growing appreciation of the value that highly scalable data monitoring and collection can bring," said Nina Saberi, Founder & Managing Partner of Castile Ventures.

Part of the appeal of Connotate’s technology is the wide array of industries that can put it to use. It can be used to create a database of physicians, mine property listing for real estate deals, extract automobile details from classifieds for car dealers, and monitor breaking court websites for breaking news. As the volume of information produced each day on the web continues to skyrocket, it seems like investors appetite for big data firms is keeping pace.

Here’s a look back at our coverage of Connotate’s $5.25 million series A round in 2010. And for all your Turnpike travelers out there, not only is the company based in Jersey, but its built on top of technology developed at the local Rutgers University.

Filed under: deals, enterprise

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At 2.5B games played a month, King.com reaps benefits from its casual Saga titles on Facebook

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 05:00 AM PDT

London-based King.com is launching Candy Crush Saga on Facebook today as part of its bid to capitalize on the shift in audience tastes toward increasingly casual games. Since debuting its first social network title last fall, King.com has become the fourth-largest publisher on Facebook.

In the past, players have been in love with Zynga’s simulation games such as FarmVille and CityVille. While those appeal to casual audiences, they often consume an increasingly large amount of time as players create their dream farms or cities. King.com, on the other hand, has launched six Saga titles that are appealing because they can be played in a minute or two. The trend is so strong that now King.com’s Facebook users are playing 2.5 billion matches a month. A year ago, that was just 300 million on King.com’s web site.

Candy Crush Saga is a candy-themed match-three switcher game like PopCap’s Bejeweled, where you line up three corresponding colored jewels within a larger patchwork puzzle. One of King.com's most popular to date, it has 65 levels and provides several modes for players to test their skills against time, limited moves, collecting objects, and removing jellies. Your goal is to help Mr. Toffee and his daughter Tiffi to travel the world, meet fun characters, and get around “blockers.”

Candy Crush Saga competes with Berlin-based rival Wooga’s top game, Diamond Dash. King.com has 36.7 million monthly active users on Facebook, making it the fourth-largest on the social networking site. But in daily active users, King.com has just edged out Electronic Arts with 9.44 million compared to EA’s 9.40 million. That makes King.com the third-largest developer on Facebook in this measure. That is a big change from a year ago, when King.com wasn’t even on Facebook.

Both King.com and Wooga are out to prove that Zynga does not in fact own the entire market on Facebook and that the market is a lot more competitive than others would have you believe. They are both jumping on the casual trend. Back in January 2010, there were no casual titles where play time was focused on a minute or so on Facebook’s top ten list. In January 2011, there was one title. And in January 2012, there were five titles, said Alex Dale, chief marketing officer at King.com, in an interview with GamesBeat.

Founded in 2003, King.com has had big advantages because it has had long experience running its own casual games website. Only recently has it adapted its strategy to cross over to Facebook. It started last September with the launch of Bubble Witch Saga, King.com’s most popular casual title. Now, King.com has a total of eight games on Facebook, and each one is generating more usage through strong cross-promotion, Dale said.

Compared to Wooga, King.com’s business model is a lot different. At its main website, King.com has tournament games where players put some real money down to enter. Its games monetize through both competition fees and advertising whereas Wooga’s title monetize mainly through virtual goods sales, said Dale. But King.com also monetizes through virtual goods sales, so it has more ways to make money.

“Our engagement numbers are high in both the U.S. and Europe,” Dale said. “We’re very bullish on Facebook.”

Riccardo Zacconi, chief executive of King.com, said in an interview with GamesBeat earlier this year that the company’s rollout on Facebook has been slow and deliberate. Now. Zacconi is rolling out more and more of King.com’s 150 titles, and in the past nine months, King.com has doubled its workforce to more than 200 people. It is hiring more than 100 people this year and will likely expand to mobile as well. It has already expanded to Google+.

“We had a disadvantage at the beginning because we had to figure out Facebook,” Zacconi said. “But now we understand it, and we can bring our assets from 150 games in eight languages to bear.”

Zacconi will speak at our upcoming GamesBeat 2012 conference in a case study on the crossover strategy of moving from the web to Facebook.

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, social, VentureBeat

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Website navigation startup WalkMe nabs $1M investment

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

WalkMe demo screen

WalkMe, a startup that provides a step-by-step walk-through service for websites, has nabbed $1 million in funding, the company announced today.

WalkMe’s service helps users navigate a site by placing pop-up bubbles in certain locations to lead the user through each logical step. For instance, a banking website’s sign-up/login field might have a pop-up, followed by a bubble over a button that leads to that person’s checking account activity page. It’s more or less a GPS for websites that requires no integration or modification to the site itself.

For companies that have a website with bad user-interface design and no budget to create a new site from scratch, WalkMe could definitely help out.

WalkMe said it plans to use the new funding to broaden its marketing efforts and accelerate growth.

The Tel Aviv-based startup, which publicly launched earlier this month, has attracted more than 1,000 registered users. The new investment comes from Mangrove Capital Partners.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Livestream steps into hardware, simplifies streaming in the field with Broadcaster

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Livestream broadcaster

While it’s easier than ever to stream video from our phone these days, setting up a professional-looking video stream at an event is still overly cumbersome. The biggest problem is encoding video and getting it on the web, something that usually requires expensive encoders and direct access to a nearby computer.

Livestream aims to change all that today with its first hardware device today, the Livestream Broadcaster.

The $495 encoding box can plug into professional cameras and push high-definition video to the web via Wi-Fi, as well as 3G and 4G modems. The Broadcaster works together with the New Livestream Platform, which lets you broadcast an unlimited amount of video without ads for $45 a month. (In a wise move, the company includes three months of its streaming service when you buy a Broadcaster.)

It may seem expensive, but the company tells me that traditional live broadcasting setups could run upwards of $5,000, and they’d certainly be more than a mere $500. You also gain peace of mind by having a single device that integrates directly with Livestream’s service, instead of the hodgepodge of equipment you’d have to coordinate otherwise. The Broadcaster can also be used as a desktop encoder when connected to a video production switcher.

“Our goal isn’t to become a hardware company, our goal is to break the barriers of entry to make sure more people can live stream on our service,” Livestream CEO Max Haot told VentureBeat in an interview yesterday. “We don’t care if we make any money on the hardware.”

Haot tells me that the Broadcaster hardware is slightly subsidized, and his dream is to eventually give the device away for free. While the device will be sold online through the Livestream store for now, Haot said the next step is to get the Broadcaster into the sprawling B&H electronics store in New York City. Eventually, he hopes to get the encoder into Best Buy stores.

Getting the Broadcaster into stores isn’t just about shipping more units, it’ll also be a compelling way to make consumers aware of Livestream’s service, aside from word of mouth and online ads.

The Livestream Broadcaster plugs into video cameras via a HDMI port, and sits atop them using the accessory screw slot. It supports 1080i and 720p high-definition video resolutions (as well as 480i), and broadcasts 720p H.264 video with AAC audio at 2.3 megabits per second. That won’t be as sharp as a Blu-ray, but for streaming video it should look plenty professional. The device can be controlled directly, via an iPhone app, or through the Livestream website.

Haot tells me the Broadcaster was an objective for the past three years, but it was tough going since the company didn’t have any hardware experience. After finding an unnamed OEM partner more familiar with hardware, the company finally began to focus on creating the device at the end of 2011. The OEM took charge of the Broadcaster’s board and manufacturing (Haot said it was made in the U.S.), while Livestream developed the design, specifications, software, and remote app.

New York City-based Livestream has raised $12.5 million in funding so far and currently boasts over 30 million monthly viewers. Haot will be demonstrating the Livestream Broadcaster at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next week.

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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LinkedIn challenger Viadeo raises $32M to take over China

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 10:00 PM PDT

Viadeo CEO

Dan Serfaty, CEO Viadeo

Proving that second place doesn’t always equate to being the first loser, the world’s number two social network for professionals, Viadeo, (LinkedIn is number one), is getting $32 million in fresh financing.

The $32 million round, Viadeo’s fourth institutional round, was pooled from the French Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Fonds Stratégique d'Investissement, existing shareholders, and a crop of new investors. The Paris-based company will use this stockpile to push deeper into China as well expand its presence in Russia, India, and Africa.

“We are a really local player with huge momentum and traction,” chief strategy and development officer Olivier Fecherolle told VentureBeat. “We think now is the moment to invest in China.”

Founded in 2004, Viadeo targets non-English-speaking businesspeople and has swelled to 45 million members across the globe, with an especially dominant presence in Europe, Latin America, and China. Viadeo is profitable and currently adds about 1 million new members to its service each month, the company said.

In China, Viadeo operates Tianji, the top professional network of that country (fun fact: CEO Dan Serfaty moved to Beijing in September). The localized Viadeo offshoot has 10 million members and is adding 500,000 new members each month, said Fecherolle. “In China, it’s our market to lose.”

LinkedIn, for comparison, has more than 150 million members, albeit with a small presence in China. The company went public nearly a year ago in a successful initial offering and is now valued at $10 billion.

Just as LinkedIn was making its public debut, Viadeo shelved its own plans for an offering. At the time, Serfaty told Reuters that, despite frothy levels of interest from investors and bankers, the company wanted to focus on growing the business.

Nearly 12 months later, Viadeo’s plans to go public remain on the distant horizon. Fecherolle referred to the $32 million round as pre-IPO financing and said that a public offering is still a target, just likely one that is several months out. Profitable since September 2009, the company makes or 50 percent of its revenue from premium accounts, earns 30 percent from hiring and recruiting tools, and brings in 20 percent from targeted advertising.

Viadeo, which employees 400 people across offices in Europe, China, India, Africa, Mexico, China, and Russia, has raised more than $52 million in funding to date.

Filed under: deals, social

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Intel announces Centerton micro server platform for energy-efficient data centers

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 07:00 PM PDT

Intel announced today that it will create a low-cost, low-power “micro-server” platform dubbed Centerton, aimed to deliver energy-efficient computing.

The move is a reaction to Advanced Micro Device’s acquisition of micro-server startup Sea Micro for $334 million in February.

Sea Micro used Intel’s cheap, low-power, low-compute Atom chips to build dense servers with lots of energy-efficient chips. It consolidated a lot of functions into its chip sets so that it could make tiny server boards. Sea Micro’s computers used a third of the power and a third of the space of normal Intel Xeon chip servers, but they had a 150 percent improvement in compute density, or the amount of computing power packed in a given space.

That woke Intel up, and it began refashioning its Atom chip line-up to cater to micro-server platforms. Now its Centerton platform will focus on taking micro servers to a new level using Intel chips, while AMD will likely put its own chips into Sea Micro’s future platforms. The world’s biggest chip maker made the announcement at the Intel Developer Forum event in Beijing today.

Intel isn’t acknowledging that it is reacting to a rival, of course, and it continues to minimize the importance of micro servers. It says the micro-server market could be 10 percent of the whole server market by 2015.

Even so, it acknowledges that the workloads for servers are diverse, from web hosting (serving web pages) to mission-critical computing (running stock markets). The industry has responded by expanding the choices for data centers, with rack, tower, and blade servers. Since 2009, when Sea Micro appeared, the micro-server category has been growing fast in data centers where compute density and electricity savings are critical, Intel said. Today, Intel’s server chips range from 15 to 45 watts.

Diane Bryant, vice president of data center computing at Intel, said that in the second quarter, Intel will launch a new 22-nanometer Tri-gate family of Xeon processors dubbed the E3 product family. It will then launch the Centerton chips, which can operate on six watts, later this year. Centerton will have two 32-nanometer cores, or computing brains and will have error-correction code memory and 64-bit support. It also does hyper-visor-based virtualization, which ARM-based rival chips are not expected to be able to do, when they show up on the market.

Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said, “This is a clear indication that Intel is raising their game in micro servers, even though they still think it comprises 10 percent of all servers in 2015.” He thinks that Intel will win on raw compute performance per processor, compared to AMD’s chips and expects the overall Intel solution to be competitive, but a full comparison will only be possible once the servers can be tested side by side.

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OneID tries to kill passwords, gets $7M from Khosla Ventures

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 06:03 PM PDT


Security company OneID is helping to eliminate one of the weakest links on the internet: the password. The company received $7 million in its first round of funding today, led by Khosla Ventures.

OneID says that to make accounts more secure, we need to change the way we think of our identities online. Currently, most people use “shared secrets” to verify their identity. That is, you choose a username and a password that only you and the website where your account lives know. That combination becomes your identity on the internet, allowing you access wherever you set up accounts. But passwords are very easy to crack, particularly because people create passwords they can easily remember, and often use one password for many different accounts.

Instead of using passwords, OneID founder Steve Kirsch believes we need to use “public key cryptography”. Kirsch explained public key cryptography to VentureBeat as, “I can prove to you that I know a secret without telling you the secret.”

Kirsch’s OneID works by downloading “cryptographic secrets” to your devices. These secrets then create digital signatures that the website you want to access reads. The website never gets hold of your cryptographic secrets, as it is only reading the digital signatures. When you use the “shared secret” or password method, you’re trusting the website not to accidentally blab your secret if it’s hacked. In the case of public keys, your secret is never shared and thus can’t be accessed if a website’s server is hacked.

It could, however, be stolen if a criminal gets access to your device, malware infiltrates the device, or the secrets are phished out of you.

It works similarly to Facebook Connect in that the website you want to access must support OneID logins, and you must have a OneID identity. But why not just use Facebook Connect? Many websites do, as it is touted as a secure verification option, given Facebook has its own security team to watch these points of entry. But OneID founder Steve Kirsch says even these aren’t safe enough. There’s still a username and password involved, and even further, Kirsch says, “you shouldn’t be trusting Facebook with anything.”

According to Kirsch, not even OneID knows the cryptographic secrets that it downloads to your device, whereas Facebook knows your password and could be hacked.

The company was founded in 2011 and has brought on PGP co-founder and Khosla Ventures entrepreneur in residence Alex Doll as chief executive officer. Investors include Khosla Ventures, and North Bridge Venture Partners.

Cryptex image via Shutterstock

Filed under: security

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Here’s the reality: Silicon Valley drama is too hot for TV

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 06:00 PM PDT

Drama in Silicon Valley

A clip lasting just seconds was enough to put the real people of Silicon Valley in a tizzy over a Bravo reality television show tentatively titled “Silicon Valley.”

The show, still in development, will chronicle the lives of five relative unknowns “on the path to becoming Silicon Valley's next great success stories.”

Echoing a grievance germinating across Google+ Circles, Facebook Timelines, and Twitter updates, Pete Cashmore, Mashable’s CEO and my former boss, berated the very premise of the show. Boring, he says.

“Its brief preview showcases the glamorous life of a tech startup founder: Lots of parties, alcohol, attractive women, and a social scene that is like ‘high school, but it’s only the smart kids,’” Cashmore writes. “The problem: The tech industry isn’t like that at all.”

I beg to differ. To say that Silicon Valley is too boring for television is to gloss over the (sad?) reality of the culture of technology circles.

Sex. Drugs. Lies. Scandal. These things are as much a part of the Silicon Valley milieu as the entrepreneurial spirit — because when 20-somethings jockey for power and giant paydays, shit goes down.

The Bay Area is an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of launch parties, private dinners, exclusive clubs, and celebrity investors, where brilliance and extravagance combine to create scenes more entertaining than fiction. Here, technology’s brightest minds are celebrated as heroes — often worshiped. But lives, personal and professional, hang in the balance with each failed product release.

Turn a corner in San Francisco’s SOMA district, and you’ll find drama waiting in the wings. Whispers of mammoth financing rounds and talks of even bigger buyouts heard underneath awnings and in elevators.

Drama thrives in Silicon Valley and the broader Bay Area. The co-founder of the hottest social site on the planet mysteriously departs his company. Drama. Master product guy Blake Irving leaves Yahoo amidst a company restructuring and patent war with Facebook. Drama. Instagram sells for a $1 billion and its founder becomes an overnight $400-million man. Drama. PR people cozy up to tech reporters and tech reporters get close to their sources. Drama. A rapper shares a joint on stage with techies at a private party. Drama.

Let’s also not forget that, years ago, a certain someone was tossed from a competitor’s party in a mini web scandal that screamed must-watch television.

Maybe Bravo’s reality series won’t showcase the most heartwarming side of entrepreneurship, and maybe the world really doesn’t care about the gritty, ins and outs of what it takes to build a great company. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Because hovering around the hard-at-work entrepreneurs are the vultures and the leeches. That makes for great television, folks.

And we’ve barely even touched on the parties. The best party you’ve never been to is the one that Sean Parker held in conjunction with Spotify, financed last September after Facebook’s developer conference. Oversized tequila bottles welcomed guests before The Killers, Jane’s Addiction, and finally Snoop Dogg took the stage. You weren’t invited, but “Silicon Valley” star Hermione Way was there.

Sure, what you’ll see on TV may be a hyperbolical version of the truth that involves characters of little significance, but rest assured that drama is very much alive and well in Silicon Valley.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Funding daily: mobile payments, charitable giving, and flower delivery

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 05:09 PM PDT

Flower delivery funding news

At VentureBeat, we come across a lot of funding news every day. In order to bring you the most information possible, we're rounding up the quick-and-dirty details about the funding deals of the day and serving them up here in our "Funding daily" column.

CloudPassage lands $14M

Cloud security startup CloudPassage has raised $14 million in second-round funding Wednesday. CloudPassage helps companies such as Foursquare store sensitive data in the cloud securely. The new round of funding was led by Tenaya Capital, with participation from previous investors Benchmark Capital and Musea Ventures.

KULA Causes grabs $1.1M

Charitable giving e-commerce service KULA Causes announced it has raised $1.1 million in funding from an undisclosed investor. KULA has created its own currency that people can convert loyalty points, rebates, and gift cards into KULA currency, which is then given to a charity.

Isolation Network files a $6.6 million form D

Isolation Network Inc., the parent company of INgrooves, raised $6.6 million in a second round of funding according to a Securities and Exchanges Commission filing. INgrooves is a digital music and video distribution, marketing, and promotion services company that counts Universal Music Group and MTV as clients. Isolation Networks raised a $5 million round in March 2012.

H. Bloom blossoms with $10 million

Subscription-based flower-delivery service H. Bloom has raised $10 million in funding, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filling. The company delivers "luxurious" bouquets for consumers and commercial customers. The round was led by Shasta Ventures with participation from existing investors.

ABB invests in water monitoring startup TaKaDu

Electricity infrastructure provider ABB just led $6 million investment in water infrastructure monitoring startup TaKaDu. TaKaDu offers water infrastructure monitoring as a service. The company's software links to existing sensors in the water network like flow meters, quality sensors and pressure meters.

Khosla Ventures puts $7 million into password killer OneID

Security company OneID is helping to eliminate one of the weakest links on the internet: the password. It uses public key cryptography to eliminate the need for the password and hopes to change the way people think about their identities on the Internet. The company received $7 million in its first round of funding today, led by Khosla Ventures.

Beamit raises seed funding

Beamit, a mobile payment service, raised $2.4 million in seed funding, reports TechCrunch. The company specializes in processing international remittances, which is when a person working in another country sends money to his home country. Founder's Co-op with the round, with Bezos Expeditions and TomorrowVentures participating.

Condé Nast buys Ziplist

Magazine publisher Condé Nast purchased mobile shopping-list and recipe organizing app Ziplist Wednesday, All Things D reported. The purchase price wasn’t confirmed, but is said to be $14 million. Ziplist originally raised $4.5 million from Softbank Capital and Martha Stewart.

Flowers image via Flickr user Sweet.Eventide

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Apple testing screen sharing tool in Brazilian online store

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:16 PM PDT

Apple store screen sharing feature

Apple customers who want to see more of a product before they buy online may get that chance. A tool that allows customer service representatives to share their screens and walk a customer through a product page may be in testing.

Apple screen share featureThe screen share tool has been spotted in Brazil, according to Apple Insider. Currently, you can chat live with an Apple employee if you have questions about a product you’re viewing in the online store using its “Ask Now” button. Being able to screen share allows the customer service rep to walk you through features of the product, as well as potentially up sell you on accessories.

The feature shows an image of the customer service representative that you are speaking with on top of a chat box. That representative will get your permission prior to initiating a screen share, and is available by phone to walk you through the demonstration as it appears on your screen. Even if you say yes to a screen share over the chat, you still have to click a “yes” or “no thanks” button that appears in a black box at the bottom of your chat screen to actually execute the share.

The feature was first spotted by Brazil website MacMagazine.

Apple also recently alerted customers of its education program that they will be getting an entirely new online store. With the new e-commerce store, educators will be able to create and view proposals, as well as access order statuses online.

hat tip Apple Insider; First image via MacMagazine; second image via Apple Insider

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Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 is the best $250 tablet yet (first look)

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:10 PM PDT


With Android 4.0 software, a sturdy build, and an eye-popping price, Samsung’s just-announced 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 has just become the best $250 Android tablet on the market.

Samsung was the first manufacturer to take a stab at releasing a legitimate Android-based iPad competitor when it debuted the first 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab in September 2010. But that device was, at best, an experimental half-baked product that inspired others to make Android tablets. The first Tab used Android software that wasn’t optimized for tablets and cost an embarrassingly high $600 without a wireless contract.

A year later, Samsung did a much better job with the Tab’s 7-inch successor, the Tab 7.0 Plus. That model included Android 3.2 Honeycomb (which actually worked for tablets), a faster 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, and a more reasonable $400 price. But with the iPad costing only $100 more, many serious-minded tablet buyers ponied up for the iPad because its apps were far and away better than Android tablet apps.

But now, Samsung’s third serious try at the 7-inch tablet has succeeded in a big way. The Tab 2 7.0 shows that Samsung has learned the most important lesson: price wins. With consumers going crazy for those crappy $99 HP TouchPads in last summer’s fire sale and then Amazon’s seemingly successful introduction of the $199 Kindle Fire during the holidays, it was clear consumers love cheap tablets. They like the iPad more, but they see the $500 base price as too much. Now you can get the iPad 2 for $400, but that’s still a tad high for a device that can’t completely replace your computer. (Sorry Harry.)

So does the $250 device feel cheap, you ask. Actually, no. The Tab 2 feels great in the hand if you like the feel of 7-inch tablets. I’m more partial to 10-inch models, but I’ve met some users (mostly women) who prefer the 7-inch form factor because it’s lighter and feels good in horizontal use. The construction of the device, like many Samsung products, is excellent with a hard plastic back. It feels much more expensive than, say, the Kindle Fire.

On the inside, the device includes 8GB of internal storage, a 1-GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, an IR blaster, a VGA front-facing camera, and a 3-megapixel back camera. If you need additional storage for media, there is a microSD card slot that takes up to a 32GB card. The device is Wi-Fi only, so no hopping on 3G or 4G networks, but it had to be Wi-Fi-only to keep the price down.

The display is easily the weakest link on the Tab 2 7.0. Now that the iPad has a Retina Display, looking at screens without that kind of clarity hurts a bit. But if you’re fine with a passable 1024-by-600 resolution screen for watching videos and surfing the web, you’ll like it.

Preinstalled apps on the Tab 2 7.0 include Netflix, Smart Remote, YouTube, ChatOn, and various other Google services. You also get 50GB of Dropbox cloud storage free for one year, and after that, it drops to 5GB free forever. The Tab 2 includes a link to the Android Market, but that automatically turns into the new Google Play store when accessed. Play, much like iTunes, gives you links to all kinds of music, movie, book, and app downloads.

Finally, you’re wondering, is the device a better buy than the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, the best of the cheap tablet bunch? On first impression, my gut says yes, this is the best cheap Android tablet. The Kindle Fire is $50 less, but the hardware feels cheap, and it only has access to Amazon’s Android apps rather than the much better Google Play. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) gives you more features and makes the device more fully realized as well. And I prefer using a more traditional Android build (Samsung uses the TouchWiz skin) over the Fire and Nook’s interfaces. If you’re tied to Amazon or Barnes & Noble content, you can just download their Android apps through Google Play and use the Tab 2 like an e-reader.

Pre-orders on the Tab 2 7.0 start tomorrow. It will be available in stores and online on April 22.

Check out more photos of the device below:

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 photos: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Patch Editor-in-Chief leaving AOL

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:10 PM PDT

Patch Editor in Chief leaves

Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham announced today he is leaving the network of hyper-local news and its parent-company AOL. The news was revealed in an all-company call and Farnham let it all hang out on the Patch Blog.

“It turns out I really love creating things from scratch, and while Patch is in a continual process of truly fascinating evolution and only a toddler of a company, it has definitely left “scratch” in the dust,” says Farnham. “So I’m heading off to explore some other startup opportunities.”

Brian Farnham, Patch Editor in Chief

Brian Farnham, outgoin Patch editor-in-chief

While Aol maintains it was Farnham’s decision to leave, Patch recently hired Rachel Feddersen as the chief content officer.

The news does not bode well for Aol, which has been struggling to keep its online media business alive. In December 2011, major Aol shareholder Starboard Value LP warned Chief Executive Tim Armstrong that his media strategy wasn’t paying off. After Aol’s dial-up Internet service became outdated, the company shifted its focus towards media and advertising, purchasing TechCrunch for $25 million and The Huffington Post for $315 million along the way.

The move towards media hurt Aol’s business. In 2011, the company recorded $500 million annual losses and 70 percent decline in stock price. Patch was responsible for some of that downturn, losing $160 million in 2011.

AOL also has history of problems holding on to key people. In the beginning of 2012, AOL lost Chief Technology Officer Alex Gounares, Huffington Post Media Group head engineer Tim Dierks, and TechCrunch’s executive editor Erick Schonfeld. In March 2012, news emerged that more AOL executives were heading out the door.

All the attention on Aol’s business model took its toll on Farnham, as he outlined it in his post:

I’ve never worked for a company that has been as scrutinized, criticized, and coal-raked as this one. As Jon likes to say, you’d think we were creating toxic waste, instead of, you know, free useful information. We have critics on Wall Street, critics in the media, local critics, national critics, the business press, the journalism reviews, bloggers, etc. There are so many that I’ve come to think of them as a single large, screechy, off-key band called BI and the Haters. It’s music to kill yourself by.

For those not familiar with it, Patch is an online news community for local areas. Professional editors posts news stories and people who belong to Patch can update their community’s page with photos and announcements.

Farnham came to Aol from Time Out New York and previously worked for Details and New York Magazine.
AOL Chart

Patch of grass image via Shutterstock

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Samsung announces new 7- and 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2s

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:00 PM PDT


Samsung will soon launch updated versions of its 7- and 10-inch Galaxy Tab devices with better specs and the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, the company announced Wednesday evening.

While Samsung’s tablet efforts have not been anywhere near as successful as Apple’s, it continues to make all manner of Android devices from small phones to its 10.1-inch tablets. In a meeting earlier this week, Travis Merrill, the director of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab division, told me that it continues to release so many types of Android phones, tablets, and media players because the company is committed to “consumer choice” and “differentiation.” Basically, the company has the resources to build every possible phone and tablet size and hopes the spread will help consumers find the perfect fit for them.

The Tab 2 7.0 includes a 7-inch screen with 1024-by-600 resolution, 8GB internal storage, microSD slot for adding storage, 1-GHz dual-core processor, VGA front-facing camera, and 3-megapixel back camera. The device will retail for $250, with pre-orders starting tomorrow. It will be available in-store and online on April 22. From early impressions of the device, this appears to be a great buy for $250, especially compared to the $200 Kindle Fire and $250 Nook Tablet.

And if you’re in need of a larger screen, the Tab 2 10.1 may be more up your alley. It features a 10.1-inch screen with 1280-by-800 resolution, 16GB internal storage, microSD slot for extra storage, 1-GHz dual-core processor, VGA front-facing camera, and 3-megapixel back camera. The price and wait for the Tab 2 10.1 are both bigger than the 7.0. The 10.1 will retail for $400, can be pre-ordered starting May 4, and will be on sale May 13. In terms of competition, this will sit side-by-side with the now-cheaper $400 iPad 2.

Both editions of the Tab 2 will include a nice extra: one year’s worth of free 50GB cloud storage with Dropbox. The Tab 2 devices also run Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung’s TouchWiz Android skin and include Samsung’s custom apps for getting new content like Media Hub, Reader Hub, and Game Hub. One very cool app included on the Tab 2s is called Smart Remote, which lets you scan what shows are currently airing and using IR inputs can automatically change the channel on your set-top box to the show you want.

Merrill indicated that the company was still determining its marketing strategy for these new products, but TV ads are likely not in the works. Instead the tablets and player will receive a “strong” digital campaign.

The company also said it hasn’t forgotten about the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet that was announced at Mobile World Congress, but said it wouldn’t reveal any new information at this time regarding timing or availability for the U.S. market. Our own Devindra Hardawar noted at that show that the Note 10.1 looks a lot like the Tab 10.1, but it adds in support for the company's S Pen stylus, something that could help differentiate it from the iPad.

See more photos of the devices here:

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Samsung debuts two new media players, still have nothing on the iPod touch

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:00 PM PDT


On top of unveiling its new versions of the Galaxy Tab, Samsung also has added 3.6- and 4.2-inch models to its Player lineup meant for listening to music, watching videos, and playing Android games and apps.

While Samsung offers the Player as an Android-based iPod touch competitor, the company has not done a good job of marketing the device in the States and many people I asked had no idea such a product line existed. Apple’s iPod line has 78 percent of the digital music player market, with 300 million iPods sold since its launch more than a decade ago. With Apple having such a dominant foothold, Samsung’s introduction of more Players is perplexing, especially when smartphones are increasingly becoming people’s default media players.

First up, there’s the Player 3.6, which most closely resembles the iPod touch with its 3.5-inch screen. For software, it’s running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). It includes 8GB of storage, microSD slot for additional storage, 2-megapixel rear camera, and VGA front facing camera. The device is on sale now for $150, which undercuts the iPod touch by $50.

And of course, there’s also the 4.2-inch Player, which has basically identical specs outside of its larger screen size. The Player 4.2 goes on sale May 13 for $200. For extras, both of the new Player devices have several free games pre-loaded, including Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, FIFA 2012, and Angry Birds.

While these two devices are seemingly nice devices and eschew Samsung’s idea of manufacturing every possible device size (there are now four sizes for the Player line), it will have an incredibly hard time overcoming the iPod, the standard-bearer for mobile media consumption outside of a smartphone. Apple created a legion of young and old users that learned how to use their iPod with iTunes, and that influence can’t be overcome no matter how many devices you put out. And now that people are dumping their iPods for smartphones, it seems futile to even play in the media player space in the U.S. market.

The iPod touch provides a superior experience because it, along with iTunes, has deep roots in media, whereas the Player is tapping into the recently launched Google Play market. Google Play, which combined the Android Market with other Google media purchases in one store, was created to simplify Google purchases and combat iTunes. But iTunes is still a much richer place to buy media, if only because it’s been around for so much longer.

You can view more photos of the Player models below:

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Verizon could save $1 billion with new $30 upgrade fee

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 02:55 PM PDT

Verizon guy with crowd

Verizon has been the last holdout on charging upgrade fees for some time now, but this morning it caved and announced existing customers would have to pay a $30 fee when moving to a new phone subsidized by a two-year contract.

It's not a huge fee, but it could save Verizon around $1 billion annually before interest, taxes, and depreciation, reports BTIG Research. The firm reached the figure by estimating that Verizon would sell 33 million phones to existing customers over the next year. Some Verizon customers won’t upgrade to subsidized phones, so they won’t have to pay the $30 fee, but they will be paying a significantly higher unsubsidized price for their next device.

"We do not expect this to be the last move by Verizon (which still charges a lower fee than AT&T and Sprint) or other operators," writes BTIG's Walter Piecyk. "Could it be long before smartphones get their own additional upgrade "surcharge"?"

In comparison, AT&T and Sprint charge upgrade fees of $36, while T-Mobile (no surprise) charges the lowest fee at $18. Just like the unlimited data plans, which Verizon killed off last June, the company's free upgrades were too good to last forever. The fee is small enough that customers won't throw a fit, but it could still help the carrier recoup some of the costs it swallows when offering subsidized smartphones.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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New Nook Simple Touch with “GlowLight” lit screen might be on the way

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:50 PM PDT

nook, glowlight

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLightBarnes & Noble could be preparing to launch a new version of its Nook Simple Touch e-reader tablet with a fully lit screen, according to signage allegedly produced by the company.

Earlier today, The Digital Reader posted a photo (pictured right) of a B&N promotional poster that reads “Introducing the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.” The current Nook Simple Touch is the company’s low-cost e-ink reader, which doesn’t include additional lighting support for reading in the dark.

If true, the news would indicate that B&N is trying to get a leg up on its main competitor Amazon, which of course produces its own low-cost e-ink reader, the Kindle. The Verge points out that Amazon is planning to launch its own updated Kindle with a lit-screen. But if you’re imaging a few standard tiny lights embedded into the rim of the reader’s screen, then think again. The technology for both devices are said to have a thin layer that covers the entire screen and evenly distributes light across it.

While most of the attention usually goes to devices like the iPad, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire, a low-cost e-ink reader with a lit-screen could have a significant impact on converting people to digital books rather than dead-tree editions.

Photo via The Digital Reader

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Facebook goes back to college, releases Groups for Schools

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 01:32 PM PDT

It’s back to school time for the world’s largest social network.

Partially returning to its roots as a locked-down site just for college kids, Facebook has launched Groups for Schools, or university-centric Facebook communities restricted to active faculty and students with .edu email accounts.

“You can join a group for your major to discuss classes, for your sorority to plan upcoming events, or for your dorm to share photos,” Facebook engineer Michael Novati said of the new product.

Groups for Schools, unique to each college, house all student and staff-created groups in a directory-like fashion, and offer up functionality similar to that of Facebook’s existing Groups product — except with one important addition. Group members can upload and share files, up to 25 MB in size, to exchange notes, assignments, and so forth with their college cohorts.

Facebook is managing the rollout of Groups for Schools, meaning that the collegiate sub-portals are not yet available at all schools, but once a university is available, active students and staff can start creating and joining groups for cross-campus communication or private exchanges. Groups for Schools is available at 100 universities, and the full rollout will take a couple days, a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat.

“Facebook will continue to iterate on Groups for Schools as the feature is rolled out to more schools. College students are some of our most avid users and provide a lot of useful feedback in order to help us iterate quickly,” the spokesperson added.

The addition of semi-private channels for student and college-specific exchanges is an interesting development. The maneuver could be seen as a defensive tactic meant to protect the ready-to-IPO Facebook from emerging private social network competitors. The college communities could also further insulate its most influential members and keep them hooked on Facebook-phonics.

Photo credit: drjazz76

Filed under: social

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UK-based startup game company reaches one million players…and counting

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 12:17 PM PDT

Fight My Monster

The makers of child-aimed social trading-card game Fight My Monster have just announced that they have reached their one millionth player. It’s aimed at boys aged between 3 and 11, but the average-aged player is 10 years old (10.4 to be precise).

According to the makers, the under-13 crowd is a tough sell in the gaming world. Keeping them engaged is even tougher. Fight My Monster has managed to do both so far. The challenge, the creators say, is getting the word out. Children under 13 may not always be granted access to social networking sites (like Facebook and Twitter) or personal email accounts.

They also claim four times the engagement of Moshi Monsters (a monster-based online world for kids) and almost twice that of Facebook among children in the UK.

Dylan Collins for Fight My Monster spoke with GamesBeat about the title and its growth, saying that they are the “fastest growing online game for boys in the UK.” Players have generated more than six million cards to date, and Fight My Monster has seen more than 32 million battles.

According to him, companies like Activision, Jakks Pacific, and Nickelodeon have each spent somewhere in the realm of $35 to $50 million to create titles such as Skylanders and Monkey Quest to cater to young boys. “We’ve done it with what they spend on a good night out,” says Collins, “$150k, to be exact.”

They’ve managed to raise $2.1 million in funding and have already gathered major investing from big names such as Greycroft Partners, eVentures, and some well-known angel investors. However, they’ve yet to touch that money. Those aren’t bad numbers for a company that just hired its fifth employee.

He adds that Fight My Monster is seeing “runaway playground growth” and has gathered “significant interest from the licensing world,” such as a TV production deal with BrownBag Films (which is behind Disney’s Doc McStuffins).

Collins thinks that some of the success comes from the fact that Fight My Monster is actually a trading-card game, “I think the reason we’ve grown so fast is that we’re not a virtual world. We’re an online trading-card game. Most of our direct competition is very much the former or a clone of the former.”

Check out the nice little infographic they put together: Fight My Monster Reaches 1 Million

More info at: Fight My Monster.

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.

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16 states file lawsuits against Apple, joining DOJ’s antitrust fight

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 12:07 PM PDT


Sixteen states have piled lawsuits on top of Apple, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon and Schuster, four companies which were served with an antitrust lawsuit this morning by the Department of Justice.

The suit is led by Texas and Connecticut, which, unlike the DOJ, are demanding financial damages be paid. Other states include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The Department of Justice sued Apple and publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin this morning for its new “agency pricing” model. Apple previously had a flat rate for e-books in iTunes, similar to how it charges a flat $1.29 for most songs in the marketplace. With this new model, publishers are allowed to set their own prices on e-books in iTunes, and give Apple a 30 percent cut of the revenue. In general, this is actually positive for the publishers, but it went a step further. The publishers have been accused of conspiring with Apple to agree to not sell their e-books at a lower price anywhere else. That is to say, if the e-book is listed on iTunes as $13, it can’t be sold on Amazon for $10.

This lowers competition between online marketplaces, and it’s competition that drives prices down for consumers.

Thus far Hachette, Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster are said to have agreed to settle the case with the Department of Justice. Hachette and Harper Collins are the only two to have settled with the states thus far, offering a restitution to consumers. Macmillian, however, says it will follow the cases to court.

“The terms the DOJ demanded were too onerous. After careful consideration, we came to the conclusion that the terms could have allowed Amazon to recover the monopoly position it had been building before our switch to the agency model,” said Macmillan chief executive John Sargent in a letter today, “We made the change to support an open and competitive market for the future, and it worked.”

Court Documents from the Department of Justice

hat tip PaidContent; Justice image via Shutterstock

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Yammer buys OneDrum for Microsoft Office social integration

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 12:00 PM PDT


Business-focused social network Yammer has acquired document collaboration startup OneDrum, the companies jointly announced today. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Yammer provides companies with their own private social network that employees use to quickly communicate and update their activity throughout the day. (Disclosure: VentureBeat writers use Yammer to communicate on the job.) And while Yammer currently offers some document storage, the OneDrum software will allow businesses to share, sync, and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents in real-time.

“It’s impossible to separate the conversation from the content,” said Yammer CTO Adam Pisoni in an interview with VentureBeat. “But, there is no end-all solution right now where you can create, discover, collaborate, and share content without going between a bunch of different applications.”

Yammer plans to launch a OneDrum document-sync desktop application this summer. The app will have a folder for each Yammer group users create under the broader Yammer account, and will sync documents immediately upon saving. Later on the company plans to add tools that will let people search for anything within the shared documents without having to leave Yammer. It’ll also allow people to view shared documents on multiple platforms, such as the Web, smartphones, and tablets.

But perhaps the biggest addition OneDrum offers is the ability to transform your Microsoft Office docs into a collaboration tool that rivals search giant Google’s Google Docs web app. Users can view changes to a document in a real-time, and much like Google Docs, color-coded cursors identify different users collaborating in the document.

“Most companies use Microsoft Office every day, so adding a social layer through Yammer makes a lot of sense,” Yammer CEO David Sacks told VentureBeat.

U.K.-based OneDrum is the first acquisition for Yammer, which recently closed a $85 million round of funding. OneDrum previously raised a total of $1.62 million in funding. It will bring all 10 employees to Yammer, with CEO Jasper Westaway leading the integration of the two products.

We’ve embedded a demo video from Yammer showing off some of the new integrated social document sharing.

Filed under: cloud, enterprise, social

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Now pinning: Vimeo videos on Pinterest

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 11:27 AM PDT

Today, the people of Pinterest have a new way to express themselves: through Vimeo videos.

The third most popular social network, known for its arts, crafts, and food-enthusiast members, has expanded the functionality of its popular “pin it” bookmarklet to support “pinning” Vimeo videos.

Pinterest, first launched in 2010, is where millions of web denizens go to discover new treasures and inspire their friends. The site hinges around digital pin-boards, and members pluck pictures from across the web to fill out collections for any purpose.

Starting today, Pinterest users can click the “pin it” button to fetch Vimeo videos embedded anywhere on the web and add them to their boards for a little extra oomph. Previously, the bookmarklet only supported the pinning of YouTube videos.

The new feature is the third update from the startup in less than month, and follows the release of new profile pages and customizable board covers.

Realistically, the Vimeo pinning functionality will do more for the video service, which also appeals to connoisseurs of design, than for Pinterest. The inspiration focused social network has earned a reputation for driving tons of traffic (and purchases on e-commerce sites).

However, as Pinterest expands the purpose of its bookmarklet, it’s feasible that the slew of the new users joining each month will come up with fresh ideas for how to make their boards come to life, meaning that the startup could continue to push beyond its arts-and-crafts origins for even broader appeal.

Photo credit: Nate Hofer/Flickr

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Map of the Dead helps you survive a zombie attack

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 11:14 AM PDT

Imagine the zombie apocalypse has finally hit and you’re scrambling to find shelter, food, and a sawed-off. In between shooting zombies in the head, you can grab a computer and go to Map of the Dead, a website that turns Google Maps into a zombie survival map.

I had a roommate in college who planned out what she would do if zombies attacked. I was not as prepared. While she was plotting ways to make it to the marina, commandeer a boat, and sail into the Pacific Ocean (because zombies can’t swim apparently), I was concentrating on more important things, like nachos and baseball. Should an 28 Days Later situation arise, I would need Map of the Dead to survive.

This helpful website overlays Google Maps with “Danger Zones,” areas with man-made structures where zombies could easily attack you. In San Francisco, that’s pretty much the entire city, save for Golden Gate Park. And because escaping hoard of brain-hungry zombies is only half the battle, the map outlines grocery stores, gun stores, airports, harbors, and other places where you can get supplies to fight the uprising.

Since you can bet the Internet will go down in the wake of a zombie attack, print out the map ahead of time, laminate it, and save it in your zombie survival kit right next to your shotgun. As long as you’re doing advanced prep, brush up on the CDC’s zombie preparedness guidelines.

Advertising agency Doejo released the map, hoping to help us all when there is no hope left. I don’t know you about you, but I feel safer now.

Filed under: offBeat

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F-Secure releases automated Mac tool to clean up the Flashback Trojan

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 11:08 AM PDT

Flashback Removal Tool

Security company F-Secure released a tool today to automate the detection and clean-up of the Flashback Trojan. The virus has been infecting Mac computers, which are generally mistaken as impervious to viruses.

The tool can be downloaded from F-Secure’s website and comes as a zipped file. Once downloaded, a user must unzip the file, and follow instructions to find the virus. If the trojan exists on the computer, the tool will isolate it in a password protected file in your “Home” file. The password to this file is “infected.” It will also save a log file of all its activities on your computer. The tool will also give instructions for how to clean your system up.

F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen pointed out in a blog post that Apple hasn’t built in a way to detect the Flashback Trojan in its Xprotect OS X antivirus tool. Apple has also failed to patch the JavaScript hole in OS X versions 10.5 and earlier, which Hypponen says accounts for 16 percent of Macs, though the majority of Apple computers have been protected.

The Flashback Trojan entered Mac computers by exploiting a hole in Apple’s version of JavaScript. The company does not use the publicly available version of JavaScript. A victim is exposed to the virus by visiting an infected website, which prompts the user to download and install a browser plugin (such as Flash) to view content on the site. Soon after the Flashback Trojan was discovered, Apple released a patch to its customized JavaScript. At the same time, F-Secure provided instructions on how to find and get rid of the virus by inputting a few commands into the “terminal” program on Macs. Today’s tool eliminates the need to manually enter these commands.

Filed under: security

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Tablets a TV friend: 85 percent of tablet owners use the device while watching shows

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 10:39 AM PDT

tablet movies

The tablet’s ability to deliver content has been considered a threat to PC and cable companies, but new data shows 85 percent of people using their tablets while watching the television, according to a report by Forrester.

The tablet is replacing laptops as second-screen devices, since we can do many of same tasks on tablets that we do on computers, including buying things, reading the news, and checking e-mail. Apple chief executive Tim Cook recently said the tablet will eventually cannibalize the PC. Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester, agreed and called tablets “couch computers” in her report. Given the many different avenues for streaming video, the natural conclusion is that tablets will eventually kill off the TV too, but Epps says tablets actually complement the TV watching experience.

As mentioned, 85 percent of tablet owners use the device while watching TV. Nielsen also says that 30 percent of tablet use happens while watching the television. TV companies are creating companion applications to engage viewers on a deeper level during their favorite shows. Even cable companies are creating their own video-streaming apps in an effort to get in front of the cord cutting trend — severing ties with cable operators in favor of services like Hulu Plus. Comcast’s Xfinity app is an example of this.

But tablets may still eat into part of the TV market. According to Epps, people are replacing smaller TVs with tablets in rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom. Thirty-two percent of tablet owners will not buy a 24-inch TV or smaller since purchasing their new, mobile device. But the same does not go for larger televisions.

“The reality is that consumers with tablets think their tablets are even smarter, and at least some of the time prefer to watch the content from their small device on the big screen,” said Epps.

Girl watching movie image via Shutterstock

Filed under: media, mobile

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