13 April, 2012



How enterprises can tackle the bring-your-own-tablet challenge

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 08:56 AM PDT

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, bring your own tablets for enterprise

Until recently, talk about BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies has centered on managing the juggernaut of employee smartphones in the workplace. But with tablet sales skyrocketing, a new trend is weaving itself into workplace mobility conversations: BYOT (bring-your-own-tablet).

The BYOT concept poses significant challenges to IT departments. Tablet devices are popular workplace productivity tools, especially in enterprise environments. In fact, many newly released tablet devices and software updates (e.g. Android's Ice Cream Sandwich update, BlackBerry Playbook 2.0 update, and the new iPad) include enterprise-friendly features, making it relatively easy for employees to leverage personal devices for business functions.

So as scores of employees head off to work with an increasingly diverse array of tablet gadgetry, IT departments have to be prepared to manage the full scope of BYOT devices on the market – effectively safeguarding the enterprise environment from malicious applications and the unauthorized use of company data.

Developing an Enterprise BYOT Strategy

The proliferation of tablets in enterprise environments makes the development of a BYOT strategy a fundamental part of a proactive and robust IT agenda. Companies that delay implementing a BYOT strategy place their organizations at significant risk, so it's important to adopt a company-wide standard policy that guides tablet use.

  1. Identify the Tablet Use Case: An effective BYOT strategy begins with the identification of the use case, i.e. determining why employees are bringing their tablets into the enterprise. Tablets and other mobile devices aren't mutually exclusive. In most instances, employees who use tablets also use smartphones for email, contacts and other business functions. But when it comes to apps, tablets rule the corporate roost. So instead of being tied to an email use case, tablets are tied to an app use case (data only) – a focus for IT departments and other stakeholders who are responsible for developing the organization's BYOT policy.
  1. Determine the Scope of Tablet-Based Data Access: It is critical for IT departments to know what is running on the corporate network or risk serious problems down the road. IT departments need to carefully evaluate the types of data employees are accessing via their tablets, and whether the data can be accessed outside of the company network. Since many consumers purchase tablet devices that are Wi-Fi only because they are cheaper and generally as internet accessible, it is very likely this is the case.
  1. Prioritize User Security: At the very least, require tablet passwords. But companies should also go beyond that and encrypt data in the event that tablet passwords are compromised. That’ll help prevent a scenario where unauthorized users access and distribute sensitive corporate information. In the same way that the company's laptop users leverage VPN (Virtual Private Network) access, BYOT users should leverage a VPN or a secure network that allows for secure, remote access to the company's central network.
  1. Standardize Company Application Policies: Since tablets are used primarily for applications, employee use of personal tablets dramatically increases the company's exposure to rogue apps capable of compromising the security of company data and other IT assets. One of the smartest ways to manage the applications that BYOT devices introduce to the company network is to maintain a company app store – a central, virtual location that serves as the only place employees can download apps that are deployed on the company network. Although employees can suggest apps for inclusion in the company store, applications are strictly prohibited from the company network until they have successfully navigated the approval process.
  1. Implement a Device Management Solution: Enterprise Device Management solutions like MobileIron, Boxtone, or BlackBerry give companies and IT departments the ability to manage their BYOT strategy over the long-term. Featuring powerful capabilities designed specifically for enterprise mobility environments, today's leading Device Management solutions can support both tablets and smartphones, offering corporations a cost-efficient way to manage email and data use cases. When you determine the scope of tablet use, a DM solution also gives IT the ability to exert greater control to monitor and manage the tablets on the corporate network.

Corporate employers shouldn't expect the BYOT trend to diminish anytime soon. If anything, tablet devices will become even more ubiquitous in the workplace as manufacturers offer higher quality devices across a wider range of price points.

To ensure the proper utilization of employee-owned tablets in enterprise network environments, IT departments need to emphasize the development of a comprehensive BYOT strategy and policies now, since it's likely that a significant number of employees are already deploying their personal tablets as workplace productivity tools.

don grons, bring your own tablet enterpriseDon Grons is VP of Technology with Mission Critical Wireless, a leading global enterprise mobility management services provider.

Top photo via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Chartbeat begins rolling out radically new UI with emphasis on social traffic

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 08:32 AM PDT


After being announced about a month ago, analytics startup Chartbeat has finally started to roll out its radically different user interface that priortizes social traffic.

As a Chartbeat lover who views the site a few times each hour, I was surprised this morning when I went to visit the site and was bombarded with much more data. The site has clearly prioritized social engagement and added new diagrams that help you see where the majority of your site traffic is coming from. On our site this morning, for example, “social” and “internal” traffic were beating out “search.”

"We want to help companies do more than just track their performance minute to minute,” Lauryn Bennett, Chartbeat's head of brand, told us in early March. “We're trying to real-time expose data in a new way so companies can make informed decisions about where it makes the most sense to invest for the long-term.”


The interface now features five tabs in the top-left corner of the screen: Overview, Content, Social, Traffic Sources, and Geo. This is how Chartbeat describes each tab:

• Overview: A “how I'm doing right now” summary view
• Content: Deep-diveable view into how users are engaging with your content
• Social: Collective view of all your mentions, likes, shares, tweets
• Traffic Sources: View where your traffic is coming from and going to
• Geo: See where in the world people are coming from

Looking across the tabs, some of the new features appeared to be broken, with “desktop vs mobile” and a few other stats not showing up. Regardless of a few first-day snags, we really do like what we’re seeing. My fellow VentureBeat writers Devindra Hardawar and Jolie O’Dell were enthusastic about the changes, with O’Dell even calling it “sexy.”

Charts photo: Dusit/Shutterstock

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The DeanBeat: Losing my way to the top in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 08:00 AM PDT

It took me 154 days, but I finally reached Prestige, the highest level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer. I’m very proud of this achievement, although I have to admit that I lost my way to the top.

You see, even though I’ve invested days of my life in Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer, my rank is a lowly 5,573,021 — although that’s still pretty good considering that maybe 25 million or more have bought the game since its debut on Nov. 8. I figure I’ve got a better record than four out of five players. But the stats also mean that millions of players have invested more time than I did to make it to level 80 — the rank of Commander. Now I can start the whole cycle of leveling up again in Prestige model.

The numbers above show that engagement of Call of Duty players are through the roof, and that tells you why it’s so hard to knock Call of Duty titles out of the position of best-selling video game of all time. Call of Duty Black Ops from last year and this year’s Modern Warfare 3 have generated more than $2 billion in sales in the last two years. Sales are one thing, but the time spent playing the product is another.

One of the attractions of Call of Duty multiplayer is that it’s a very instrumented experience. When I say I lost my way to the top, I know that because the game’s metrics tell me just how terrible I am, one bullet at a time. I can measure the impact of using different weapons or grenades. I can pinpoint the play pattern that best suits my skills.

The metrics tell me I was on the winning team 137 times and lost 195 times. My accuracy rate for shooting was 8.29 percent (yes, they count every bullet). I had 2,356 kills, 677 assists, and 5,580 deaths. My kill-death ratio, therefore, was 0.422. In terms of number of kills, I ranked 6,164,044 of all players. That rank is actually higher than my overall multiplayer rank because I like to play a version of the game called Domination, where you have to capture and defend three flags on a map. Since I can get points for grabbing flags, that improves my overall ranking on multiplayer.

These stats are telling in a few ways. If 5.5 million players have put more time into this game (or have just played better) than I have, those players alone have collectively put more than 245 million hours into it over the past six months. That means multiplayer has significantly extended the amount of time that players are putting into this game. And that means Activision Blizzard is capturing a significant slice of the available game time for millions upon millions of hardcore gamers.

I might have played four other single-player campaign games all the way through, had I not been tied up with Call of Duty multiplayer. The pattern among other gamers is similar, and that’s why you see some games scoring huge on the charts while many other medium-ranked games fall flat. Nobody has time to play mediocre games anymore, because the big hits suck in all of our time. Even now, six months after the game launched, I can log in at midnight on a weekday and find 150,000 other players online. This is why it makes sense for Activision Blizzard to put four or five studios to work on Call of Duty at any given time.

If you look at Zynga’s games on Facebook, where players log in for maybe 10 minutes at a time, the engagement level — the amount of time players spend with a game — doesn’t seem like it’s anywhere near the level in Call of Duty games. As I noted last year, the comparative numbers show that, while casual social games are heavily instrumented and extremely popular, they have a long way to go before they can match the enthusiasm that users have for hardcore online games.

At the same time, things are different from a year ago. League of Legends, the online fighting game from Riot Games, has tens of millions of users who are highly engaged in short online battles. That’s why Tencent bought a majority stake in Riot Games for nearly $400 million. This game and others like it are played year-round.

In recognition of that trend, Activision Blizzard has changed its own game to adapt. It has launched Call of Duty Elite, a hardcore social network for Call of Duty fans. With it, I can get a lot more engaged than I already am. So far, I’ve spent most of my time playing the game and little on the Elite network. But it has some intriguing options for improvement, so I won’t always have to play with a big “L” on my forehead. I can view videos of each map and the best way to fight on it, either as a sniper or a short-range fighter. It has heat maps that show all the deaths on the map in red, based on where players were shot. That tells me where the hot spots on the map are and how to position myself for maximum survival and ambush opportunities.

Elite has a free version and a paid version for $49.99 a year that gives you access to all of the monthly “content drops,” or new maps and other downloadable content (DLC) that is arriving much more frequently than the map packs of the past. In short, Elite is a way for enthusiastic players to sink a lot more time into the game and the Call of Duty culture than they have in the past. And if it can help me feel like I’m a winner, not a loser, then I’ll probably stick around and play the game even more.

Call of Duty, now in its eighth iteration, has held my attention because it’s a lot like a Las Vegas slot machine, where the key is to keep you playing. It's a fast-action combat game in which split-second timing matters. Typical multiplayer matches last about 10 minutes, which is great for when you only have a short amount of time available. The mature-rated game is very violent and bloody, but it isn't exactly realistic in the way it plays and looks. Players can move much faster than they can in real life. The combat is fierce, but not excessively bloody. I can take off and play another game, and then come back to Call of Duty during a lull in the new release schedule, like right now.

At the end of the multiplayer round, you can see how many Call of Duty points and experience points you’ve earned. The experience points allow you to level up. In the early levels, it takes only a few thousand points to move up. But later in the game, it could take 47,000 or more to reach the next level. The top experience level is 80, but once you hit that, you can start over and get up to level 90 again, earning what is called Prestige levels.

But getting back to me as a loser: My kill-to-death ratio with last year’s Black Ops was 0.69. That was partly due to the fact that it was a lot easier for unskilled players to kill veteran players with the remote-controlled RC-XD car bomb. That reward equalized a lot of the combat, but there is no such salve in Modern Warfare 3. My accuracy was better a year ago, at 16 percent. That’s due in part because I’ve been using a less-accurate weapon this year, a submachine gun, to try to get the drop on rivals faster. This year, I’ve enjoyed playing Domination on the short-range maps such as Piazza, Dome, and Hardhat.

Even so, I’ve been able to make more contributions to my team effort in Modern Warfare 3. That’s because Activision’s developers — Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Studios, Raven Software, and others — changed the way weaker players participate in the combat effort. In the past, players could earn “killstreaks,” a reward that let you earn a significant weapon for a short time, such as an RC-XD car or an attack helicopter. To earn those rewards, you had to rack up a lot of kills in a row.

Raptr, the social network for gamers, has collected some interesting data on the usage of Black Ops versus Modern Warfare 3. In the opening months, Black Ops had 19 percent more play time per player at 49 hours versus 41 hours for Modern Warfare 3, according to Raptr. But as of this date, Modern Warfare 3 is performing better than Black Ops. Fewer people are player Black Ops, naturally, as that is an older game.

The average Black Ops player has played 58 percent more than Modern Warfare 3, at 130 hours versus 82 hours, for the entire history. That’s expected, since Black Ops has had an extra year to rack up more hours. In the opening month, average sessions lasted 2.11 hours for Modern Warfare 3 and 2.18 hours for Black Ops. Today, the average session length for Modern Warfare 3 is 1.72 hours, compared to $1.59 hours for Black Ops.

“Overall, every Call of Duty game appears to do a remarkable job of keeping gamers engaged for well over a year, something you don’t seem is many other annually updated gaming series,” said John Lee, vice president of marketing for Raptr. “Even when Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3 are two different storylines, gamers are still playing each Call of Duty game with the same sort of persistent dedication year in and out. The Call of Duty formula of annual updates, alternating between two different stories/dev teams, robust multiplayer support, and a steady infusion of DLC doesn’t appear to result in brand fatigue just yet. Both games are holding rock steady when it comes to playtime behavior. “

This year, the developers made the game play more accessible. You earn “pointstreaks” to get the new weapon rewards even if you’re playing in a support role. If you use the “support” strike package rather than “assault,” you can keep racking up points toward weapon rewards even if you die a lot in between kills. I was able to get the Stealth Bomber award 15 times in my support role, which means I was able to help my teammates and rain bombs on the map, even if I didn’t get a lot of kills in a row. This is a significant design change that makes the game more appealing to less-skilled players. And it’s the kind of thing that Activision Blizzard has to do to keep interest high in the world’s biggest video game. If you’re competing with this game, take note on how to do it right.

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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Instagram surpasses 40M users, adds 10M in 10 days, according to API

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 07:48 AM PDT

instagram union square park

Shortly after launching on Android and making headlines with its $1 billion acquisition by Facebook, the hot mobile photo sharing app Instagram has passed 40 million users, according to the ID count on Instagram’s API. That’s a 10 million user jump from just 10 days ago.

Rakshith Krishnappa, creator of Gramfeed, a site that lets you view Instagram photos on the web, tipped us off about the new milestone. Instagram hasn’t officially confirmed the 40 million user amount (we’ve asked for confirmation), but the number makes sense given that its Android app has already reached the 5 million to 10 million install range on Google Play, and that the company has been in the news quite a bit lately.

It’s also worth noting that you can’t create an Instagram account without downloading the app and going through the setup process. There’s no web setup for Instagram, so for there to be over 40 million users on its API, at least that many people needed to install the app (barring any accounts the company created for testing).

The new milestone hammers home why Facebook was so desperate to purchase Instagram. The photo sharing app may not have a legitimate revenue stream yet, but it has stumbled upon a secret to crazy fast growth. It proves that users are far more valuable than actual revenue. Having a boatload of new mobile users is important to Facebook, as the company pointed to mobile being one of its biggest problems leading up to its IPO.

Instagram photo of Union Square Park via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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Clone king Marc Samwer out as Groupon’s international head following record high advertising violations

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 07:21 AM PDT

Groupon’s business stateside has been embroiled in an accounting scandal that cut the stock price in half. But its international operations are responsible for two thirds of the company’s revenue. Yesterday the company announced that Marc Samwer, who along with his brothers notoriously creates clones of successful American startups, was stepping down as head of their international operations, to be replaced by the Austrian Veit Dengler.

Samwer took over at Groupon’s international operations in 2010, after it bought Citydeal, the Groupon clone he and his brothers created. During his tenure the U.K. arm of Groupon was censured by regulators after it posted a record high 50 violations of that country’s advertising codes, including deals on breast implants that didn’t work and products that simply didn’t exist.

In Germany, where Citydeal was based, Groupon has been accused of harsh labor practices and breach of contract, complaints that echoed those around a class action lawsuit here in America. And while Groupon vowed to improve in the wake of these customer and employee complaints, our own Rocky Argawal found the Groupon Promise isn’t as ironcald as it seems at first.

New head Veit Dengler most recently ran recently ran computer maker Dell’s Eastern European and Russian operations. He will have his work cut out for him as Groupon tries reverse its losses and claw its way to profitability in this next quarter.

Filed under: deals

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RIM’s Jim Balsillie tried to reinvent the company, expand BBM, before he quit

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 07:16 AM PDT

RIM's Jim Balsillie at CTIA 2008

It was a bit of a surprise when former Research in Motion co-chief, Jim Balsillie, resigned from the company at the end of March, but a new report today offers some insight into his departure.

Balsillie was working on radically reinventing RIM by opening up its network and services to carriers and other platforms, including the much-beloved BlackBerry Messenger, Reuters reports. Not surprisingly, new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins, and other high-level execs (including Balsillie’s former partner Mike Lazaridis), vetoed that grand plan. Instead, they chose to focus the company’s energy on its upcoming BlackBerry 10 devices.

Balsillie was courting major carriers in North America and Europe to let them use RIM’s network on non-BlackBerry devices. As Reuter’s Alastair Sharp writes, “The plan would have let the carriers use the RIM network to offer inexpensive data plans, limited to social media and instant messaging, to entice low-tier customers to upgrade from no-frills phones to smartphones.”

Such a move would have been a major change for RIM, which has so far kept its proprietary network locked to its BlackBerry devices. For carriers, it would have given them an inexpensive way to gain customers without saturating their own networks (RIM’s network would have done the heavy lifting). For RIM, it would have separated the company from the business of making and selling BlackBerry devices.

The move would have made plenty of sense, especially since RIM was forced to delay its next-generation BlackBerry 10 devices until the end of this year. But by reinventing itself, RIM would have admitted a slight defeat in the hardware world, something the company likely isn’t prepared to do yet (even though it’s obvious to everyone else).

Notably, Balsillie was also offering to bring RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger service to other platforms as well, something that has been rumored for a while now. The company has already branched out somewhat with its BlackBerry Fusion service, which lets enterprises manage iOS and Android devices with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).

Balsillie’s plan could have been a sweet deal for carriers, but as Reuters rightly points out, some may have been worried about the stability of RIM’s network, which suffered a major crash last year.

Sources tell Reuters Balsillie was chatting with executives from AT&T, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and others about the deal. RIM already offers cheap plans in some countries with social and messaging, and the sources say it had developed a way to bring that service to iOS and Android. Unfortunately for Balsillie, RIM’s new CEO and executive board killed his effort before he could open up the company to other platforms.

Photo via Nan Palmero/Flickr

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Google Drive leak confirms name, shows it will integrate with third-party services

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 06:57 AM PDT


More details keep slowly leaking on Google’s upcoming cloud storage service, with diagramming service Lucidtree accidentally confirming the name Google Drive while also showing it will integrate with third-party services.

We first heard that Google would shortly launch a cloud storage service similar to Dropbox, Box, Microsoft's SkyDrive, and Amazon CloudDrive in early February. At first we thought Drive's offerings will most closely mirror Dropbox, which gives users access to cloud-connected storage on smartphones, tablets, Macs, and PCs. But now it also appears to add in a sprinkle of Box, which has a priority to integrate with many other third-party services.

Lucidtree accidentally posted the above page showing Google Drive integration yesterday, but it quickly got rid of the screen. Notably, Lucidtree CEO Karl Sun worked in a variety of senior roles at Google before he left for Lucidtree, so it’s likely his company was approached by Google pre-launch to add Drive access. We expect Google is approaching lots of third-party services so it can have a whole host of partners when it launches.

GigaOM said that Google Drive might finally arrive the first week of April. That prediction didn’t turn out correct, but now with this leak, Drive’s launch could easily come next week.

Via The Verge

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Ooyala boosts viewer engagement four fold with its new, personalized, video discovery tools

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 05:48 AM PDT

If you’ve been by the websites of big names like ESPN, Rolling Stone or Victoria’s Secret (not guilty) then you’ve probably watched video powered by Ooyala’s white label service. Today the company is rolling out a new set of tools that personalizes that experience for each user, an update the company says has boosted engagement four fold among its beta testers.

“Typically you get to the end of video on a publishers site and what happens, a black box. With Ooyala new discovery tools, publishers can serve up a series of videos that are tailored to each viewers taste,” said Ooyala CTO Sean Knapp during a visit to VentureBeat’s offices yesterday. “We have a huge data set, 200 million viewers, to learn about what people like. But unlike a platform like Youtube, we only serve up the next video from a specific publisher.”

Founded by a group of ex-Googlers and based just down the road in Mountain View, Ooyala doesn’t compete head on with Youtube, because it doesn’t deal in user generated content. It focuses on powering video for premium clients who want to be able to control all the details of the experience and get a ton of data back in return. Ooyala is hoping to ride the big wave of growth in digital video.

Filed under: media, mobile

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Apple denies DOJ’s e-book collusion claims, says it broke Amazon’s “monopolistic grip”

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 05:47 AM PDT

E-books on the iPad's iBookstore

Collusion? What collusion? Apple last night denied the Department of Justice’s antitrust claims that it illegally fixed e-book prices with major publishers, which ultimately made e-books more expensive than they were prior to the launch of Apple’s iBookstore.

Apple is joined by Penguin Group and MacMillan, who are also denying the antitrust claims. HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, on the other hand, settled with the government on Wednesday morning.

Tom Neumary, a spokesman for Apple, released the following statement last night:

The DOJ's accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.

Following the Department of Justice’s suit, 16 states followed up with lawsuits of their own.

At issue is Apple’s use of an “agency model” to set e-book prices, which gave publishers the ability to control the prices. That’s all well and good, but Apple also arranged it so that the publishers couldn’t offer their e-books cheaper anywhere else on the Web. That quickly led to higher e-book prices on Amazon’s Kindle store. Now that this agency structure is being questioned, we’ll likely finally see e-book prices dip in the next few years.

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Apple updates Java again to clean up Mac Flashback Trojan

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 05:01 PM PDT

Flashback Trojan clean up

Apple released a second update to JavaScript today that will clean up “the most common variants” of the Flashback Trojan affecting Mac computers.

The Java update will not only clean up these variants, but will also disable automatic execution of Java applets. You can turn these back on in the preferences tab. If no applets are run in a certain amount of time, however, the Java plug-in will re-disable automatic executive of Java applets. Prior to this update, Apple had patched the hole in JavaScript, but hadn’t yet released a way to get rid of the virus. Get the update here.

Yesterday security company F-Secure released its own tool for cleaning up the Trojan. To use F-Secure’s tool, all you have to do is download a zip file found here, unzip it and follow the instructions. The program will then both identify and quarantine the virus — if it’s present on your machine — into a password protected file. From there, it will give you instructions how to remove the Trojan. F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen noted his surprise that Apple had not created its own cleaner in a blog post on the tool.

The Flashback Trojan enters computers through infected websites. When a user visits the infected website, they are prompted to download a browser plug-in, such as Flash, in order to see more content. When they download the “plug-in,” the malware accesses a hole in Apple’s customized version of JavaScript and thereby gain access to the computer.

Users are easily tricked into downloading the malware because asking people to download a plug-in is common practice on the Internet. It’s hard to decipher between a legitimate request (especially when a website you trust is infected) and malware.

Flashback has reportedly only hit around 600,000 Mac computers, but the surprise comes from those who believed Macs were impervious to the virus. Indeed, Macs are vulnerable to attack, but given the high proliferation of Windows computers, it is more profitable for the hacker to target that mass market.

hat tip MacRumors; Janitors image via Shutterstock

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Barnes & Noble’s new Nook with GlowLight in action (video)

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:52 PM PDT

Nook simple touch with GlowLight hands-on

Barnes & Noble beat out Amazon and Sony today by delivering the first E-Ink device with a built-in light, the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. It may seem like a minor victory, but for E-Ink fanatics, the new Nook is a sign of things to come.

I chatted with Nook head of user experience Michelle Warvel about the new e-reader today at a hip New York City hotel. She demonstrated how the GlowLight feature works, and as you can see in the video below, it makes a big difference in the Nook’s readability in low light.

Warvel told me it took B&N some time to figure out a uniform way to light the screen. The GlowLight feature isn’t a backlight like we see in LCDs. Instead, it’s embedded in the device to light the screen from the top. Thankfully, the light is soft and easy on the eyes (hence the name, GlowLight), and it’s far less harsh than LCD screens.

Unfortunately, Warvel wouldn’t reveal when color E-Ink displays would appear, but she notes that that’s been a top request since the Nook first launched. I didn’t expect an answer, but of course, I had to ask.

The GlowLight-equipped Nook Simple Touch is available for pre-order today for $139 and will be available in early May.

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Social video app Viddy hot on Facebook, adds 300k users in a day

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:50 PM PDT

viddy video
Source: viddy app

Facebook's Sam Lessin using Viddy

Hang on to your seats, kids. An application for shooting and sharing pretty little videos is rocketing through Facebook and picking up new users at whirlwind speed.

Social video app Viddy added 300,000 new users yesterday, bringing its total to more than 4.5 million, the Los Angeles-based company told VentureBeat.

“Following the launch of Viddy's Facebook Timeline app two months ago, we have seen significant growth in web-based usership, and just yesterday [we] surpassed 300,000 sign-ups in less than a 24-hour period, a new record on our one-year anniversary,” co-founder and CEO Brett O'Brien told VentureBeat.

Viddy, one of several video apps vying to reach Instagram-type celebrity with mobile phone owners, offers iPhone users a simple way to shoot, edit, and share video clips. The application has shot up Apple’s App Store charts and currently holds the number nine spot on the top free apps list. It’s also the number two free photo/video app, second only to Instagram.

“Just over a year ago we saw a huge opportunity to help people create, edit, and share videos using the capabilities of smartphones,” O'Brien said. “Then the success of Instagram really got a lot of people thinking about how they could not just make photos more beautiful, but video too. This is how a lot of people found Viddy, we were already there when Instagram really took off.”

But as sexy and sparkly as the Viddy iPhone app is, it owes much of its newfound success to Facebook. The startup enmeshed itself within Facebook’s Open Graph platform two months ago, fully integrating its app with Timeline and Ticker to allow for more seamless sharing, and it’s come out a big winner.

More than 1.7 million people have navigated over from the social network to join Viddy since February, and the startup is now signing up an average of 150,000 new users per day. It has also tabulated well over 15 million interactions with Viddy content on Facebook for the same period.

You’ve heard variations of this “Timeline bump” story before. Viddy joins a smattering of startups and app makers who have seen remarkable — dare I say, mind-blowing — returns following their integration with Facebook’s Open Graph.

In February, one-year-old Viddy closed a $6 million round of funding for a total of $8.2 million to date. From the looks of things, it was money well spent.

Filed under: mobile, social

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Boeing developing a secure Android phone for the U.S. government

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 04:22 PM PDT


Aerospace giant Boeing is hard at work developing a super-secure Android phone that the U.S. government can use for defense and intelligence purposes, the company revealed to National Defense Magazine.

The device, dubbed “the Boeing phone,” will offer a more secure version of the open-source Android OS. Some manufacturers already offer encrypted mobile phones, but those devices cost $15,000 – $20,000. Boeing will bring that price down while still making security for voice and data a serious priority.

"We are going to drive down towards a lower price point, but … not mass-market price point," Boeing VP Brian Palma told National Defense Magazine. "We believe that there is significant interest on the defense side as well as the intelligence side and in the commercial world as well."

Boeing chose Android not only because it could add extra layers of needed security, but also because it wants the device to have a consumer-like feel. If the phone feels more like a consumer device, it will be easier to get government employees to use them over non-secure devices.

The news is probably disheartening for already-hurting Research in Motion, which has tried to convince governments and businesses that it has the most secure platform for mobile devices. The U.S. government does currently issue BlackBerry devices, but Android’s crazy level of flexibility does offer additional ways to boost security in a way that’s competitive.

Boeing’s Android phone will likely launch by late 2012. We’ll let you know when we hear more.

Boeing photo: prayitno/Flickr

Filed under: mobile

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Sneak peek inside Facebook’s new engineering hive in Seattle

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:48 PM PDT

Facebook is showing off glimpses of its newest facility up north. Located in Seattle, the new space will be home to some of the social network’s engineering talent.

We’re guessing the new office will be ideal for capturing restless Microsofties and Amazonians enamored of the ripsticks-and-Zuck culture Facebook has cultivated over the years.

“Just a couple of years ago, the entire Facebook engineering team was in one building in Palo Alto, California,” Facebook engineer Ari Steinberg wrote today on the company blog. In those halcyon days of legend on University Avenue, Steinberg continues, “Everyone was within a 30 second walk of each other. But in early 2010, we got to a point where we knew we needed to look beyond Silicon Valley to keep building Facebook and ship everything we wanted to ship.”

Calling Seattle “the logical choice” for Facebook’s next big satellite, Steinberg noted that Facebook’s Seattle office now holds close to 100 engineers.

So far, the Seattle team has shipped products and features including Desktop Messenger for Windows, video calling, and other projects shared with the Bay Area team.

“Our new building feels like it represents Facebook as well,” Steinberg concludes.

“Everyone sits out in the open with their team, usually just four or five people. There's delicious food, snack stations, free laundry, and four months of parental leave. But there are also a couple of things that are uniquely Seattle: Every Wednesday, we eat lunch together at a local restaurant, and in March, we all headed up to Steven's Pass for a ski trip. Windows wrap around the entire floor, offering panoramic views of the city, Lake Union, the Space Needle, Puget Sound and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.”

Here’s a sneak peek at the Facebook Seattle offices:

Top image courtesy of Jolie O’Dell

Filed under: dev

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Game sales fall 25 percent in March despite hot sales of Mass Effect 3

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:33 PM PDT

Video game sales fell 25 percent in March, with total industry sales falling to $1.10 billion from $1.47 billion a year ago, according to market researcher NPD Group. That happened despite the launch of sci-fi blockbuster Mass Effect 3 from Electronic Arts on March 6.

The poor performance in March was a little better percentage-wise compared to February, when sales fell 20 percent, and January, which was down 34 percent year-over-year. Both January and Feburary had light release schedules for core console games, but March had some big releases this year.

In March, hardware sales were $323.5 million, down 35 percent from $494.5 million a year ago. Software was $553.1 million, down 25 percent from $735.4 million a year ago. Accessory sales were $222.5 million, down 8 percent from $241.4 million a year ago.

The estimated total consumer spending on games includes physical video and retail games, used games, game rentals, subscriptions, full-game digital downloads, social network games, downloadable content, and mobile games. Not counting hardware, sales were $585.1 million, down 26 percent from $790.9 million a year ago. The poor software sales were in line with what a number of analyst firms predicted. Of course, these sales do not reflect the digital side of games, including social, mobile, and online.

NPD is working with research company EEDAR to try to come up with more accurate numbers for global digital and physical game sales worldwide. The top-selling game of the month was Mass Effect 3 (pictured).

Here’s the commentary from Anita Frazier, analyst at NPD:

"While it was a disappointing month, and first quarter, for new physical retail sales of video games hardware, software and accessories, it wasn't entirely unexpected given guidance we've seen from several sources."

"Outside of new physical retail sales, we find that the consumer spend on content on used games, rentals, subscriptions, mobile games, social network games, digital full game downloads, and add-on content accounted for an additional $2.5 billion to $2.7 billion across the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany in Q1 2012."


"Hardware really slowed down this month, and all systems saw a unit sales decline versus last March, and on an average sales per week basis, versus February 2012. That said, the high-definition console systems fared better than many other hardware platforms."

"The Xbox 360 is the best-selling console system for the last 15 [months] and the best-selling hardware platform overall for the past eight."


"High-definition platform unit sales of software were flat [compared] to last year, which is a bright spot in this month's reporting. "

"Mass Effect 3 sold more than twice as much as did Mass Effect 2 during its introductory month in January 2010."

"In a list of the top 10 SKUs for the month (as opposed to top titles as listed here), 3DS Kids Icarus: Uprising would have been among the top selling individual SKUs for the month of March."

"Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure was the 15th best-selling title for the month. The accessory items are selling phenomenally well. The three character pack SKUs were all among the top 10 accessory items for the month of March."


"Accessories were up slightly in unit sales for the month, but down in dollars due to a decline in average retail selling price. Interestingly, among the top ten accessory SKUs for the month, only three were "traditional" accessories, while the remainder were either point or subscription cards or Skylanders character packs."

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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A week after launch, Ustream’s Facebook Timeline brings huge growth (exclusive)

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:14 PM PDT

Ustream Miracle-Gro: Timeline edition

If you want to rapidly grow plants at an alarmingly fast and unnatural rate, you give them Miracle-Gro. But if you want to do the same to digital media services like Ustream, you might just need to integrate with Facebook Timeline.

Just one week after launching a new Facebook Timeline app, live video streaming service Ustream has doubled the number of new user signups per day, from 10,000 to more than 20,000, the company tells VentureBeat.

The new Timeline app allows users to share any live videos they're watching on Ustream within their Facebook Timeline. Provided they have permission, all of your Facebook friends can also watch along in real-time, which is likely to boost the level of conversation about said video in the same way it would for a room full of people crowded around a TV screen.

Ustream confirmed the major social activity increase, telling VentureBeat that it generated more than 10 million impressions of Timeline shares on Facebook during the first week the app was live. Mind you, this is traffic that otherwise didn’t exist prior to launching the Timeline integration. That’s quite an impressive boost, especially considering the higher rate of new users registering for Ustream accounts.

The company said it also plans to integrate the site’s own Social Stream — not just live video — into Facebook Timeline, which should provide an even greater boost of social activity.

And while Ustream is one of the first live video services to offer integration with Facebook’s Timeline, other video sites like Viddy and Vevo have also experienced huge growth, as VentureBeat’s Jolie O’Dell previously reported. In fact, it seems that all kinds of digital content services are experiencing the Timeline bump. Both streaming music startup Spotify and community news sharing site Digg reported rapid growth soon after launching Timeline apps.

Photo illustration: Tom Cheredar/VentureBeat

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

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Are you a cloud company? Join the conversation, and win $100K from Citrix (last call)

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 03:10 PM PDT


VentureBeat has teamed up with Citrix, a major company specialized in networking and virtualization, to lead a discussion on May 9 at Startup.Synergy about the massive opportunities for startups in the cloud sector.

First, if you’re an emerging startup focused on the cloud, this is your last chance to enter a competition to win an immediate $100K investment from Citrix. The winner will be announced after a pitch session to be held on the day of the San Francisco event. Full competition details here. The winner will also be included in the company’s next accelerator class, which can include up to $250K in seed investment, an office in Silicon Valley, and help with customer development.

The Startup.Synergy event will also include an overview of the innovation landscape at Citrix, startup demos from existing Citrix accelerator portfolio companies, and an investor panel. I’ll be moderating the panel, 4:30-5:15pm, titled: “From Silicon Valley to cloud-covered continents: What this means for startups and corporate venturing.”

Panelists include Paul Weinstein (Azure Capital), Jonathan Siegel (RightVentures), Frank Artale (Ignition Partners), and Carl Showalter (Opus Ventures). Topics will include the following:

  • It takes less time and less capital to build meaningful web technologies today; what are the implications?
  • As networked computing capabilities scale and open, code becomes more intuitive and agile, and big data becomes more readily available; what does it mean for startups?
  • What does all this mean for more mature enterprises and for the world we live in?

If you’d like to attend Startup.Synergy, please register for a One Day Pass on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 (regularly $695) using the code 295WEDF to receive the special rate of $295.  Please visit the Synergy registration site to do so.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Filed under: enterprise, VentureBeat

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Meet Sprinklr, the biggest social media management biz you’ve never heard of

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 02:40 PM PDT


Radian6 has done a great job of making itself known in the social media management space, attracting a $326 million acquisition by Salesforce a year ago. But now, it might have to watch its back when it comes to maintaining its largest clients.

Meet Sprinklr, the New York-based social media management startup that’s quietly won over more than 100 top-tier companies, including Samsung, Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, SAP, Target, Nike, and Virgin America.

With so many big companies being represented, you might be wondering why we don’t hear more from Sprinklr. It’s intentional. The company has kept relatively quiet about its major customer acquisitions and strong capabilities because it’s only targeting the biggest companies in the world. CEO Ragy Thomas (pictured) told me last month that Sprinklr turns down at least a few businesses each day because they simply aren’t big enough.

“We’re building the Ferrari of our industry,” Thomas said. “We’re only working with select companies for a reason. With us, you’re not just getting a platform — you’re getting a partner.”

Sprinklr offers its clients a full suite of social media management tools to help them post across social networks, analytics, and measuring engagement. Specifically, it offers what it calls the Social Intent Revelation Engine (SIREn) platform. SIREn has two goals: A) make sure the largest companies can engage at scale with millions of customers and B) make sure clients can speak with the voice of the brand regardless if the interaction occurs on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.


For example, Microsoft (see above) uses Spinklr to maintain, track, and analyze many of its Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels. Dell uses the service in even more ways, tapping into Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, and LinkedIn.

“We believe the world is changing rapidly and the biggest brands have to adapt to social networks,” Thomas said. “We help companies manage all these social relationships.”

Thomas started the company in 2008, and worked hard to launch the software in late 2009. In terms of funding, the company was bootstrapped for several years, but just recently raised a $5 million round from Battery Ventures in early March.

That funding has gone to help the company hire new employees and finally let the world know that it exists with at least a little marketing. Sprinklr has hired more than 40 people since the beginning of the year and intends to do even more throughout 2012. While Thomas wouldn’t reveal financials, he did say the company is “cash-flow positive” and “we’re growing like crazy.”

Just like it has limited its number of clients, Sprinklr has limited the number of members on its board of directors so it can grow responsibly. The board includes Thomas, Sprinklr Senior VP Murali Swaminathan, Battery Ventures General Partner Neeraj Agrawal, and Cisco Senior VP Carlos Dominguez.

Check out some of Sprinklr’s tools below to get a better idea of what it provides for its customers:

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Sony SmartWatch debuts, ugly and late to the party

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 02:21 PM PDT

sony smartwatch

First seen at the Consumer Electronics Show in early 2012, Sony has launched its SmartWatch, an Android-powered watch with its very own apps.

The watch connects with your Android phone and will vibrate when you get a text message, phone call, or email. And don’t bother digging through your purse or pockets for your phone, the watch will even display messages on its tiny 1.42-by-1.42-inch screen.

Sony has priced the device at $150, which is cheaper than the competitors. The watch connects via Bluetooth to your Android phone to get all those must-have updates. You can also download Google Play apps to the watch, though it’d be hard to read Twitter on such a tiny screen. It comes with a default black wrist band, though pink, white, mint, grey and blue bands are available for $20 each.

If this watch-from-the-future looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen something a lot like it before. There is the Pebble for iOS and Android, which just netted $1.17 million in 30 hours on Kickstarter, and the I’m Watch, which also made it big on Kickstarter in late 2011. Watch maker Fossil used the technology from Metawatch to create its own smart watch. Even Apple is in on the game with the sixth generation iPod Nano. The little square MP3 player Apple debuted in 2010, can be placed in a watch band, and of course supports Apple based apps.

As ugly as Sony’s Smartwatch and others like it are, I’d probably wear one. My phone blows up all day long with notifications and while I could just shut them all off, most of them are important. Instead of looking at my phone every time it vibrates, I could glance at my wrist and determine if what happened is worth my attention. Random emails from someone I don’t know would be read later, and calls from my mom would be answered immediately, provided I had a Bluetooth headset handy.

Filed under: mobile

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The Facebook-Instagram deal went down in 48 hours

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 02:16 PM PDT

zuckerberg in charge

The billion-dollar deal that shook the web took just 48 hours from start to finish, according to inside sources.

Monday, Facebook announced that it was acquiring photo-sharing phenom Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock. The deal, reports the New York Times, was championed by none other than power-player CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and pieced together in record time.

“Less than 24 hours after the ink dried on Instagram's latest financing round — an investment that valued it at roughly $500 million — Mr. Zuckerberg placed a call to Kevin Systrom, Instagram's chief executive,” the Times reports.

The story goes that Zuckerberg, Systrom, and their respective companies spent this past weekend ironing out the details before going live with the news Monday morning.

Facebook for its part won’t confirm the insiders’ accounts, but the details match up with an earlier report from Fortune. Sources told the publication that the Facebook-Instagram deal was started only after the beloved photo-sharing startup secured a (still rumored) $50 million round from Seqouia, Thrive, Greylock, and Benchmark.

“I think Facebook panicked,” a person told Fortune. “So it decided to take out the competition before it had a chance to grow even bigger.”

VentureBeat’s friends in the financial community agree. “Facebook's short-term threat, which could eat into their IPO valuation, was Instagram,” Moor Insights and Strategy president and principal analyst Patrick Moorhead told us when the news broke. “They removed that problem.”

For more background on why Facebook was so desperate to snatch up Instagram at such a high price, just have a look at its S-1.

Image courtesy of Jolie O’Dell.

Filed under: deals, social

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In a historical first, Google finally splits its stock

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 01:54 PM PDT

In its quarterly earnings statement today, Google announced it would for the first time in its history be splitting its stock.

“Today, we announce plans to create a new class of non-voting stock,” Google CEO Larry Page (pictured) said Thursday in an investors call.

In the same call, the company announced its Q1 2012 earnings, showing revenues up 24 percent year-over-year to a healthy $10.65 billion.

Emphasizing that the non-voting nature of the new class of stock would not have much of an impact on how the company is controlled, the search-giant co-founder continued, “This proposal will only have an effect on governance in the very long term… We are honored that so many of you have put your trust in us.”

The statement about trust speaks to the voting rights maintained by Google’s founders, who each get ten votes per share of stock they hold. The arrangement is akin to how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arranged to maintain control of his company and board following the social network’s highly anticipated IPO.

And speaking of Facebook, Google is picking a strategic time to split its stock. The social network is Google’s biggest rival — and its strongest competitor for the ad dollars that make up a whopping 96 percent of Google’s revenue. By splitting its stock just weeks (in all likelihood) before Facebook’s IPO, Google is sending a message to potential investors: Bet on us. We’re a sure thing. We’ve been around for eight years, and we’re only getting more valuable over time.

In the past, Google management has stated the company is averse to stock splits, especially as the company’s share prices edged higher and higher over the past decade, making it more difficult for average consumers to consider investing in the company. Page today reiterated that Google’s current dual-class structure’s bias toward stability will be maintained in the new split and that investors would still be betting heavily on the company’s leadership and founders.

In today’s two-for-one split, each current shareholder will get an additional non-voting share for each share of Google stock he or she currently holds. In other words, if I owned 100 shares of Google stock, I would close the day with 200 shares of Google stock.*

These new shares will also be used for equity-based employee compensation.

Google SVP David Drummond gave more details about the stock split, saying that Class C stock will have equivalent rights to Class A and Class B stock, but without voting privileges. Existing shares will continue to trade, and Class C shares will also be publicly listed.

Typically in a two-for-one split, the share price is adjusted accordingly so that Google shares, which are currently trading at around $650 each, will see a dip down to half that amount, roughly $325 per share. But the price will not likely stay that low for long, meaning potential (and less-than-wealthy) investors have a great chance to hop onboard the Google bandwagon before shares become unattainably expensive again.

Google made its initial public offering in 2004 at $85 per share, peaking at $714.87 on December 7, 2007. During 2007, the Google executive team had to consistently douse rumors of a stock split.

Google’s shares have topped tech stocks for some time; in fact, Apple stock prices surpassed Google’s for the first time ever earlier this month — an apparent fluke, as Google’s share price is currently hovering around $36 higher than its rival’s.

GOOG Chart

*Note: This example was for illustrative purposes only. None of the VentureBeat writers, myself included, own technology stock, and we are prohibited from buying tech stock in our company’s ethics statement.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Google made $10.65B in the first three months of 2012

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 01:30 PM PDT

Google today announced its earnings for the first quarter of the year, including revenues of $10.65 billion for the quarter.

That sum is up a tidy 24 percent from Q1 revenues last year, which came in at $8.58 billion. These numbers are also slightly higher than the $10.58 billion in revenue posted during the final quarter of 2011.

In its quarterly call, Google revealed the company would be splitting its stock for the first time in its history. This highly anticipated move has been debated by outside analysts every so often over the past five years, especially as Google’s price per share has crept toward and over $700.

For Q1 2012, Google-owned sites generated revenues of $7.31 billion, or 69 percent (stop snickering, you in the back) of total revenue. Around 27 percent of revenue came from Google's partner sites, accounting for $2.91 billion of revenue totals.

Interestingly, the majority of Google’s revenue came from outside the United States. International revenues totaled $5.77 billion, representing 54 percent of total revenue.

Paid click revenues were up by 39 percent, while cost-per-click revenues were down 12 percent in Q1.

Operating costs for the company were slightly higher year-over-year ($3.47 billion compared to $3.34 billion), but they made up a smaller percentage of revenues (33 percent in Q1 2012 compared to 39 percent in Q1 2011).

Google’s GAAP net income in the first quarter of 2012 was $2.89 billion, compared to $1.80 billion in the first quarter of 2011.

The company now employees 33,077 full-time staff members as of March 31, 2012, an increase from 32,467 full-time employees at the end of 2011.

Currently, GOOG is trading at $651.01, up 2.37 percent from its start today at $641.60.

GOOG Market Cap Chart

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Let there be E-ink light: Barnes & Noble launches Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 01:30 PM PDT

nook simple touch glowlight

It’s kind of shocking to think that E-Ink e-book readers have been around for several years, yet nobody has figured out an integrated way to light up the screens. Until now, that is.

Barnes & Noble today is launching a new $139 version of the Nook Simple Touch with technology it’s calling GlowLight. Basically, it’s a built-in light that illuminates the E-Ink screen from above, which means you can now successfully read in bed without the need for a bright light.

B&N built up this device’s launch with a lot of secrecy among the press, but some of that momentum was blown yesterday when store signage revealed the new Nook Simple Touch’s existence. But even though I knew what to expect, the device is still impressive. Finally, you can get an E-ink reader that can light itself without the need for a special case or external light. B&N isn’t alone in this either, TechCrunch reported last week that Amazon is exploring similar technology for the Kindle.

B&N has been working on the technology for over a year, Nook head of user experience Michelle Warvel told VentureBeat in an interview today.

She walked me through an elaborate setup at a New York City hotel that showed off the new Nook’s strengths. First I saw how it compared in direct sunlight against the iPad and Kindle Fire (this was no contest, E-Ink has always been great in sunlight). The new Nook Simple Touch also includes a built-in glare protector, for even better reading in sunlight.

To replicate the bedroom experience, B&N set up a darkened room in the hotel’s penthouse to show off the new GlowLight display. It’s activated by simply holding down the Nook’s home button, and offers plenty of light even at the lower settings. Warvel tells me that the light isn’t a huge battery drain — you can read for 30 minutes a day for an entire month without needing a recharge.

Surprisingly, Barnes & Noble was also able to make the new Nook Simple Touch lighter than its predecessor. The device is now under seven ounces. Warvel stressed the importance of being first to offer an E-Ink reader with a light, as well as the fact that the Nook team paid special attention to the ergonomics of the device and the look of the fonts on the Nook’s screen.

B&N has never been lacking in hardware expertise — just look at how it managed to work with a noted design team for the Nook Color and Nook Tablet — but the company’s e-book ecosystem is still second to Amazon’s Kindle bookstore, in my opinion. Amazon has a wider selection of books, and you also get access to its rich library of Kindle Singles. There was no mention of how B&N would be shaping up its digital bookstore. The entire focus today was on the new hardware.

The new Nook is a big step for Barnes & Noble, but the real question is if consumers will find GlowLight a worthy enough addition to upgrade or change platforms from the Kindle.

The GlowLight-equipped Nook Simple Touch is available for pre-order today for $139 and will be available in early May.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Pebble, the smartwatch for iPhone, Android owners, fetches $1.17M in 30 hours on Kickstarter

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 01:05 PM PDT

Using Bluetooth, a prototype smartwatch called Pebble will connect to your iPhone or Android device to fetch calendar alerts, show social media updates, display caller ID for incoming calls, and run simple applications.

The watch, currently being showcased on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, is not for sale (yet), but it’s already in hot demand. In just 30 hours, more than 8,500 backers have committed $1.17 million in funds to see the Pebble become a very real thing of connected beauty on their wrists.

There have been other smartwatches. You’ve no doubt heard the rumors that Apple is working on an iOS watch. Well this is different because the watch is not trying to run an OS. By using the phone to do the processing, the watch is basically a semi dumb display that uses your phone to get and process data. However, I say ‘semi’ because you can load simple apps that can execute basic programs, as well as use it as a bike computer, control music on your phone, and create iftt (if this then that) commands to make your own rules for when the phone sends messages to your watch.

Here’s what the makers of Pebble say about the watch:

Apps bring Pebble to life. We’re building some amazing apps for Pebble. Cyclists can use Pebble as a bike computer, accessing the GPS on your smartphone to display speed, distance and pace data. Runners get a similar set of data displayed on their wrist. Use the music control app to play, pause or skip tracks on your phone with the touch of a button. If you’re a golfer, feel free to bring Pebble onto the course. We’re working with Freecaddie to create a great golf rangefinder app for Pebble that works on over 25,000 courses world-wide. Instead of using your phone, view your current distance to the green right on your wrist. These apps will be the first, with more in the works!

Want to code an app yourself? For now you need to write in C, so this not for your amateur coder. But who knows? Perhaps someone will write a Python or PHP layer on top.

The Pebble will retail for $150, but early Kickstarter backers can pledge a bit less to the project and pre-order the smartwatch before it starts shipping.

Interestingly, Sony announced today that it is releasing a similar Sony SmartWatch that connects to Android only. Based on the press release it takes the same approach Pebble is taking, however for $150, on Android only, and not quite as attractive. I’m leaning towards the Pebble.

This edited post originally appeared on Perivision

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Sleep like a pro: Pods given to data center workers for Olympics

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 12:45 PM PDT

Podtime bed

Looks like some London data-center employees are going to have a server slumber-party during the Olympics this summer. Podtime has been brought on to supply “sleeping tubes” so workers can avoid the Olympics traffic.

Traffic on the road is only one of the issues Interxion’s London data centers will face during the games. Online traffic is sure to swell dramatically as tourists, athletes, vendors and more flock to the U.K. capital. But physical traffic could pose an issue as important technicians try to get from their homes to the servers. So, why not just have them sleep over? That’s where Podtime’s sleeping pods come in.

“[The pods are] not something they’re going to live in for the whole period of the [Olympics],” said founder Jon Gray in an interview with VentureBeat. “They’ll probably just go out for a beer, come back and crash in the pod and the next morning they’d already be there.”

Gray started Podtime just over a year ago, inspired by colleagues in the financial district of London who were tired during the day. He started researching the scientific benefits of power naps, which he believes can be very energizing, if done the right way. So he took a look at a number of different options for sleeping in the workplace. It needed to be portable, small, and roomy all at the same time. Japan had already created whole hotels made out of these pods, which he also researched. Eventually, Gray landed on a cylindrical tube, with square doors that can be stacked.

The tubes can be customized per order to include a Temper-pedic bed, shelves, mirrors, LED lights, power outlets, digital radios, televisions, as well as different door and tube colors. Thus far Gray and his team of five have sold 40 pods, but hope to expand across the U.K. and are even looking for distributors in the U.S.

Check out a gallery of the pods below:

via Data Center Knowledge; photos via Podtime

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Oh joy, Facebook is giving you more access to your own data

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 10:57 AM PDT

Facebook data

Facebook added more categories to its “Download Your Information” feature Thursday, which the social network touts as an important part of protecting your own privacy.

Now you’re able to access and download more data than just messages and photos. You’ll be able to access IP addresses you’ve logged in from, friend requests you’ve made (whether they’ve accepted or not), as well as any previous names you may have used in the past.

Download Your Information was first introduced in 2010 as a way for users to download and all the data they’d loaded into Facebook (which is helpful for anyone trying to quit Facebook), similar to Google’s Data Liberation Front. But what Facebook actually allowed you to download was limited to photos, your entire profile (including contact information, interests, quotes), your wall, videos, friends list, notes, events you RSVP’d to, sent and received messages, and comments you and your friends have made on your wall.

Even after Thursday’s new additions, the data you can download from Facebook still isn’t comprehensive. For example, you can’t see the photos that others have added with you in them or comments you’ve made on other people’s posts. Facebook still needs to iron out the potential privacy issues around letting people download data that technically doesn’t belong to them, despite the fact that they’re tagged in or commented on it.

Don’t panic if you don’t have the option to download these new bits of information, though. Facebook says it is gradually rolling out the added data points to users. You can download your content from the Accounts Settings page in Facebook.

Image via Dylan Tweney

Filed under: social

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Sony is dumping nearly $1B into massive layoff and restructuring effort

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 10:44 AM PDT

It’s like they say: You gotta spend money to make money. And in Sony’s case, you apparently have to spend a whole lot of it.

The consumer electronics giant is putting $1 billion into the corporate version of Extreme Home Makeover, which will be heavy on demolition and is expected to lead to a lean, mean, bottom-line-oriented machine known as One Sony.

The demolition is set to include 10,000 pink slips for unlucky (current) Sony employees — that’s around six percent of Sony’s total workforce — and will bring several of the company’s sprawling divisions under some tidy new umbrellas.

All this restructuring is part of the new CEO’s plan to turn the company around after posting a record $6.4 billion in losses for the 2012 fiscal year. With the job cuts and the corporate reorganization, Sony anticipates an operating profit of $2.2 billion for the current fiscal year ending March 2013.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai (pictured) said today at a press conference in Tokyo that the company plans to bolster its TV business while better defining and strengthening its three core device segments: mobile, cameras, and gaming. To that end, the design and development for Vaio, tablets, and smartphones will now all fall under the same division, and R&D time is expected to be cut in half.

On the gaming side, Hirai said the company would be increasing the number of downloadable titles as well as the number of PlayStation Suite devices.

Altogether, the restructuring will cost $926 million. The “One Sony” idea was first announced last month in the wake of massive losses. Hirai, who was only appointed as CEO in February 2012, has been vocal about his desire to restructure and save Sony since his appointment to the position.

"I thought turning around the PlayStation business was going to be the toughest challenge of my career, but I guess not," Hirai told the Wall Street Journal in an interview two months ago. "It's one issue after another. I feel like 'Holy s—, now what?'"

hat tip: Reuters

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Facebook employees give Mark Zuckerberg a 94% approval rating

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 10:36 AM PDT

inside facebook

Apparently, it’s all sunshine, roses, and lollipops inside Facebook.

Employee morale is at an all-time high, and CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg’s approval rating is off the charts, according to rate-your-company startup Glassdoor.

Overall, Facebook staffers are very satisfied with the company they work for. With a 4.7 (out of 5) rating, morale is especially high this year, and employees are generally satisfied (4.4 rating) with their compensation and benefits.

“The company cares about making the world a better place, and takes to heart our version of Disney's famous ‘We don't make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.’ We really believe that,” one Facebooker said.

So far in 2012, Facebook employees are clearly in awe of the man at the top, giving him a 97 percent approval rating. Cumulatively speaking, based on 125 total reviews, Zuckerberg holds a 94 percent approval rating, which puts him two points lower than Apple CEO Tim Cook, according to Glassdoor’s calculations. For some additional perspective, the average CEO approval rating on Glassdoor is just 62 percent.

Interestingly enough, Zuck’s approval rating has jumped by nine percentage points since 2011. We’re going to take a wild guess that staffers are pleased as punch that the IPO is right around the corner.

Okay, so it’s a veritable love fest at Facebook right now (if Glassdoor’s small sample size is representative of Facebook’s 3,000-plus staff). Doesn’t that just warm the heart? Or perhaps it makes you green with envy. Maybe it should.

According to salary information shared by more than 300 Facebook employees, the company’s software engineers are among the highest compensated in the Valley. The social network’s engineers are averaging $110,203 in salary and $14,262 in cash bonuses. Compare that to Google, where software engineers bring in a slightly lower base salary of $103,378, but take home a little extra in cash bonuses ($16,648).

But it’s not all puppies, paydays, and rainbows. One in 10 Facebook staffers complained about the long hours, and 7 percent indicated that their job made it difficult to achieve a good work/life balance.

Filed under: social

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Amazon’s new Prime Expansion team is adding more perks to the platform

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 10:17 AM PDT

Amazon is hiring some new team members to improve and enhance the Amazon Prime membership package.

Currently, an $80-per-year membership gets you free, fast shipping and some media freebies. But if you’re not a die-hard online shopper or streaming media junkie, $80 annually can seem like a lot.

The new employees will be charged with “Prime Expansion” and dreaming up new benefits for Amazon Prime members, as well as marketing the service and pushing it into new geographical regions.

A full listing of Prime-related job listings at Amazon reveals the company is working on “awesome new business opportunities” for digital subscriptions, launching Prime services in Italy and Spain, working with major studios to improve the site’s Instant Video offerings, and creating new designs to get more members onboard.

As we read in a few of these job descriptions:

“We are going through a period of dramatic evolution, working on new benefits and pairing Prime with some of our top strategic marketing initiatives including Amazon Student and Amazon Mom…

The Prime Expansion team is aggressively driving innovations and architectural designs that will allow the program to be easily expanded to allow Prime customers to enjoy benefits on a growing list of Amazon locales and beyond. Our core team mission is to enable the right Prime programs in new places (on and off Amazon) by designing flexible software architectures that will allow for a rapid expansion of the Prime program everywhere!

The Amazon Prime Expansion team is a great place to grow your career. Our roadmap is bursting with opportunity for engineers to bring their best (and then some), solve intriguing challenges, and tangibly impact the customer experience on and off Amazon Come join our team where fun, smart, passionate engineers challenge and support one another in pursuit of goals that have a huge impact on our customers and the company.

Of course, it’s kind of a given that Amazon would want to improve its current offering of virtual products and services; that’s more or less par for the course. What’s interesting is the timing of this rapid acceleration of Prime offerings.

Prime first launched its instant video service as an incentive for new members back in February 2011. However, one year later, Amazon Prime membership was still much lower than anticipated. As Amazon continues to grow in all its other offerings — from its massive Kindle adoption to its cloud hosting services — Prime can’t be allowed to lag behind.

hat tip: All Things D

Image courtesy of Vladimir Gerasimov, Shutterstock

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How IT managers can deal with rapid change

Posted: 12 Apr 2012 10:08 AM PDT

roulette wheel illustrates the risk of uncertainty in the future of technology

This post is brought to you by Xerox. With Xerox driving your non-core business processes, you are free to focus on what matters most. You are ready for real business. As always, VentureBeat is adamant about maintaining editorial objectivity.

Five years ago, you probably didn’t anticipate that a smartphone would be the primary device used to help customers and employees stay connected with your company. Did you imagine that your employees would be using tablets instead of laptops, or that customers would demand custom mobile apps for accessing your company’s services? Did you even think one day you would be able to access your files at anytime, from anywhere in the world, without the need for thumb drives, emails, or CD-ROMs?

While a few futurists anticipated technologies like this, most people have not been prepared for the rapid pace of technological change. Indeed, understanding and responding to the increasing pace and uncertainty of change is one of the greatest challenges for information technology managers today.

Two management gurus can provide some perspective: Geoffrey Moore and Peter F. Drucker.

Drucker wrote that rapid change makes it difficult to anticipate what will happen in the future. Instead, Drucker argued, planning in a time of uncertainty demands that you ask, “What has already happened that will create the future?”

Geoffrey Moore is most famous as the author of Crossing the Chasm, a book that talks about the difficulty companies have in making the leap from early adopters to a larger market of mainstream customers.

In the technological arena, the shift to smartphones has already happened. Mobile tech has “crossed the chasm” to broad adoption. So how will this change, which has already happened, affect the future?

The most immediate impact will be to drive even faster adoption of cloud computing technologies, because people — customers, employees, and partners — will increasingly be using a variety of mobile devices to access information services in “the cloud.”

Right now, cloud computing is still the purview of early adopters, although chances are good that very few companies have been totally untouched by it by now. Still, mass adoption has yet to happen.

But, with the demand created by masses of mobile users, the shift to cloud computing is certain to come.

If your company is behind in this area, it's about time to think about how you can catch up and keep up with the rapid evolution of technology.

Making the move to the cloud

Drucker, who passed away in 2005, may not have anticipated the scope of technological change in the second decade of the 21st century. He once wrote, "all a computer can handle are abstractions, and abstractions can be relied on only if they are constantly checked against the concrete."

Recently, that "abstraction" has become cloud computing. Although the cloud has been around for a few years, 2011 was a time when many companies realized both the risks and benefits of having a company's resources easily accessible over the internet.

Cloud computing, in short, refers to the ability to upload files, resources, software and other sharable information over a trusted data service, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and others. These files can be accessed through a computer, iPad, phone, or whatever device your employees or clients choose to bring. Bottom line: Cloud computing makes applications more accessible, more manageable, and makes it even harder for Joe in marketing to give an excuse as to why his report was turned in late.

It would be wise to begin the process of transitioning into the cloud if you haven't done so already. Look into services such as Google (which offers Docs, Calendar, email, etc.) or Microsoft 365. Dropbox and Box.net offer cloud-based file storage (and there’s a good chance many of your employees are already using these services).

Mobile interaction

If your business cannot be accessed through a mobile app, or at least viewable through a mobile website, you honestly need to catch up … and fast.

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with mobile apps. Apple, and later on Android (purchased by Google), have worked to develop smartphones with the ability to stream news clippings, access company websites, and download almost any type of app in the market.

Mobile phones quickly became mini-computers people carry on their persons at all times. Companies realized this trend and began to figure out ways for their company to become "mobilized."

How do you get started? First, you will need to make sure your company's website can be optimized for any smartphone. You can also choose to have an app for people to purchase, but it all depends on your business.

You will then need to search out a mobile device management system that will help with security, app visualization and statistics of those who visit/interact with your app/website through their mobile device.

While this may sound a bit tedious, it's important for the forward progression of your company.

As economist Florian Ramseger once wrote, “we are at the doorstep of a new era." Keeping up with the rapid evolution of technology will ensure that your employers and business are prepared for the future.

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