17 April, 2012



Nokia’s Lumia line ‘not good enough’ to battle iOS and Android, say carriers

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 08:58 AM PDT


While Nokia has faced an uphill battle in the U.S. with its new Lumia Windows Phones, early signs suggested it would fare better in Europe. But European carriers are apparently now pessimistic of its chances to compete against iPhone and Android devices, according to Reuters.

Nokia’s Lumia 900 “superphone” has had a peculiar launch in the U.S. over the past few weeks. First it launched on Easter Sunday when many AT&T stores were closed. Then Nokia realized the device shipped with a debilitating software bug, prompting it to give the Lumia 900 away for free until April 21. Nokia used to have dominance in the U.S. market but next-to-none of the smartphone sales here belong to Nokia.

Europe was supposed to be another story for the company because Nokia smartphones actually did sell decently there, thus people may be willing to give a Nokia-branded Windows Phone a chance. Unfortunately, Reuters’ report says four the major telecoms in Europe that the Lumia-brand smartphones were “not good enough” to compete with iOS and Android. The Lumia 800 and 710 models have been available in Europe since November. With most of the sales coming from Europe, Nokia was able to see 2 million of these phones in the past quarter. Apple, by comparison, sold 37 million iPhones worldwide last quarter.

One of the biggest problems Nokia has outside of its limited number of hardware choices is awareness.

“No one comes into the store and asks for a Windows phone,” an anonymous European mobile executive told Reuters. “Nokia have given themselves a double challenge: to restore their credibility in terms of making hardware smartphones and succeed with the Microsoft Windows operating system, which lags in the market.”

Nokia will likely continue to struggle when it comes to re-building its brand. At least for the time being, we think the company is playing it right by offering Lumia 900, which has 4G LTE networking, in the U.S. for free (at least for a few more days). If more people out in the market own Windows Phones and show it to their friends, it will have a better chance of finding an audience that doesn’t fully connect with iOS or Android.

Nokia Lumia 900 photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Crowd computing taps artificial intelligence to revolutionize the power of our collective brains

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 08:22 AM PDT

The two hundred people packed into a small screening room in Midtown Manhattan on a recent Tuesday night made quite a throng. Engineers, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs sipped Sam Adams and nibbled bits from a fruit plate. They were there to learn about CrowdControl, a New York startup that is melding human workers with artificial intelligence to create the next paradigm for global labor: crowd computing.

The crowd filtered into the theater, and Kirill Shenykman, a venture capitalist who had recently led a $2 million investment in CrowdControl, took the stage. "What we are trying to do is to transform human labor into something that scales like software," he explained. "We're trying to take people and make them into bits."

A few, dark chuckles went through the crowd. With his deep voice, slight Russian accent, and coiffed silver hair, Shenykman seemed like a bit of a James Bond villain describing a master plan for world domination. "I don't mean that in a negative way, a diminutive way," Shenykman said, waving his hand. "But just as Amazon can provide computing power on demand to a growing startup, we want to be able to offer an elastic marketplace for human labor."

CrowdControl takes large complex jobs and breaks them into tiny pieces, then sources the piecework out to millions of micro-task workers around the world.

The company's founder, Max Yankelevich, joined Shenykman onstage. "What we are doing is tapping into the world's cognitive surplus," he said, referencing a concept first laid out by digital intellectual Clay Shirky. "When you stop to think about the amount of brain power we have on demand, it's kind of staggering. If we wanted to, with all the available excess on hand, we could recreate Wikipedia from scratch in a single day."

- – -

The star of the show that night was Mechanical Turk, a service Amazon initially created in 1995 to deal with its own problems sorting its massive inventory.

"We came at it programmatically from every angle we could think of, but it wasn't working," said Heidi Bretz, a business development manager at Amazon. "We would have a pair of red shoes listed on the site, with a description for a red sofa, priced like a different pair of rouge shoes. It was a mess."

Eventually the company conceded that there is some work that humans are simply better at doing than machines. So Amazon decided to offer the work up to its customer base. They would post a job to their site — sorting the color of shoes or types of chandeliers — and web users from around the world picked up the work, often for just a few pennies per chore. The result was such a success that Amazon decided to open up the marketplace to other companies. "When things work internally, we like to turn around and sell them as a tool," said Bretz.

The name for this platform came from The Turk, a chess-playing automaton which cut a swathe through the ranks of 18th century gamers in Europe and America. It was only decades later that this brilliant thinking machine was later revealed as a hoax: a chess master hidden inside a box. Amazon's system attempts a similar sleight of hand, organizing people from across the globe to work as efficiently as a giant machine.

"The idea is you might sit down to a computer, log onto the web, order up a task, just as you would with any other piece of software," says Prof. Rob Miller, who works on crowd computing at MIT. "You get the data back, all without ever realizing there was a human being on the other end of that transaction."

Anyone can put a HIT — human intelligence task — onto Mechanical Turk, and anybody else can do the work. But the complexity in this kind of system was limited. "They should call them SHITs," Shenykman, the investor. "Stupid Human Intelligence Tasks. With CrowdControl, we're going to go much further."

Filed under: cloud, enterprise, VentureBeat

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Gigya helps Boyd Gaming casino firm gamify its loyalty program (exclusive)

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Casino companies know how to treat their high rollers right, but it’s about time they started giving rewards and achievements to their players as well. That’s why Boyd Gaming Corporation of Las Vegas is teaming up with Gigya, which will “gamify” Boyd’s online platform.

As part of the larger trend of gamification, or the application of game design techniques in non-game contexts, Mountain View, Calif.-based Gigya offers tools that gamify websites with social and real-world rewards. Boyd Gaming, one of the nation’s largest casino companies that operates Las Vegas hotels such as Fremont and Gold Coast, is launching a new version of its “B Connected Social” loyalty program that will use Gigya’s gamification platform for the corporation’s online clientele.

B Connected Social links together 13 casinos in five states. It encourages users to earn rewards for behavior, such as booking hotel rooms or sharing offers on social networks. Users accrue “social points” and badges, gaining standing in the online community, said Brian Best, vice president of e-commerce at Boyd Gaming, in an interview with VentureBeat. Users can cash in rewards for entries into regular giveaways.

“They can get everything from gifts for the casino, iPads, and other free items,” Best said.

Gigya says that the implementation of B Connected Social is the first time a national casino rewards program has been integrated with gamification. It ties physical and virtual prizes together to create behavior feedback loops: rewards drive engagement and vice versa. Gigya’s platform includes sending alerts about reward chances, such as ticket sales. Gigya’s other clients include ABC, Pepsi, and Verizon. It has more than 500 enterprise users of its gamification platform.

Filed under: games

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Appcelerator gives devs a gateway to mobile cloud services with Titanium 2.0

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 08:00 AM PDT


Appcelerator is doing more than just letting you build mobile apps with the latest version of its mobile development framework, Titanium 2.0. Now the company is also providing an easy way to implement cloud services in your mobile apps — even if you’re not building your apps with Titanium.

Appcelerator Cloud Services opens the company up to an entirely new audience, Appcelerator CTO and co-founder Nolan Wright told VentureBeat in an interview last week. It’s driven by the company’s acquisition of Cocoafish in February. The ultimate goal for the company, not surprisingly, is to build a completely new type of mobile platform — one in which Appcelerator can provide services to all devs, even if they’re not using its platform.

“As a developer, you can consume these services easily with no additional setup,” Wright said. “In one environment, you can create both the mobile and cloud aspects of your app.”

Typically for cloud services, developers have to set up, write code, and manage a cl0ud server instance on Amazon, or some other provider. While that’s easier than the days of actually managing a physical server, it’s still too complicated for smaller developers, who just want to focus on building their apps.

Appcelerator Cloud Services is the next logical step in cloud offerings, Wright says. It allows devs to plug in cloud-powered feature like user management, photo storing and sharing, check-ins and other location services, social integration, and more. Wisely, the company is offering the cloud services to developers using Objective-C, Java, HTML5, and other publishing platforms — devs who typically wouldn’t have a reason to use Titanium.

Wright tells me that the company is offering the cloud services with a freemium model, which will scale depending on how much the cloud services are accessed. He believes that the cloud platform is strong enough to power mobile apps even as they get incredibly popular. Wright points out that other companies like Stackmob offer similar cloud services, but Appcelerator is the first to start with its own app development framework.

Given just how much of a lifesaver Appcelerator Cloud Services will be to devs, I asked Wright if the company is considering opening it up to non-mobile web apps. He said that plenty of the services could easily be applicable to desktop web apps, but the company hasn’t yet made any decisions for supporting apps outside of mobile.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Appcelerator has raised around $47 million in funding from Storm Ventures, Sierra Ventures, Mayfield Fund, and others.

Cloud phone photo via Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, dev, mobile, VentureBeat

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Too legit to quit? Megaupload was headed for billion dollar IPO before Feds shut it down

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 07:16 AM PDT

kim dotcom at megaupload headquartersApparently Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is under the impression that when companies go public, it means they are a legitimate business (see Enron, Groupon, etc). Pirate news site TorrentFreak reports that before it was shut down by U.S. authorities, Megaupload was preparing for a billion dollar IPO, and had contacted major accounting firms to have its business audited.

Why is anyone pointing this out? Well, the thinking goes, if Megaupload really was a major criminal enterprise, it never would have invited reputable accounting firms to audit every aspect of its business.

TorrentFreak sources their information to Robert Lim, a Hong Kong-based corporate advisor brought on by Megaupload to advise on the IPO process:

"Objectively speaking, for the criminal case it brings up the question if there really was a so-called 'Mega-Conspiracy' among Megaupload management. It is clear Megaupload management was seriously exploring options for taking the company to public listing," Lim told us.

"They also knew full well that it would require a lot of scrutiny, due diligence and review of the operations, financials and overall business model of Megaupload not only by the auditors / accountants, lawyers for regulatory filings and IPO underwriters, but also the various regulatory agencies which govern the stock exchanges and public markets."

"This does not fit with the 'Mega-Conspiracy' concept that Megaupload management is accused of, including that they knowingly and secretly conspired to do and hide criminal activities in Megaupload," Lim adds.

Well, yes and no. There was plenty of legitimate business being done on Megaupload. There was also plenty of illegal file sharing being done by users that Megaupload could have claimed protection against under the safe harbor of the DMCA. As to a conspiracy by the founder to upload certain files for profit, it’s not clear at all that this kind of activity, arranged by email, phone or in person, would have come to light during an audit of their financials.

It certainly adds a new wrinkle to the company’s defense for the upcoming case and a blockbuster what if? for all those bankers making beaucoup bucks off the current wave of tech IPOs.

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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Notion Capital raises $100 million for Euro cloud companies

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 07:14 AM PDT

Cloud network image for Notion Capital's new cloud fundLondon’s Notion Capital  just raised a $100m new fund focused on cloud computing and SaaS (software as a service) startups in Europe. The fund is expected to reach $150 million by the time it closes in the next few months, and it will mainly make  investments in the $2-5 million range.

Investments from Notion’s previous fund included on-demand business services supplier Star and “Skype for invoicing” Tradeshiftwhich also received seed funding from Paypal. Tradeshift is already valued at $137 million after 2 years in business.

Notion Capital was started by the founders of cloud-based anti-virus firm MessageLabs, which sold to Symantec for $700 million in 2008. One of MessageLabs and Notion’s founders, Jos White, was profiled in the Sunday Times last year in the catchily (or cattily) titled “Rich, Bored and ready to lend a hand.”

"B2B is less sexy, ” he told the Wall Street Journal when describing Notion Capital’s remit. “We quite like that, because there is less competition and also their models tend to be more financially valued and driven, whereas consumer models tend to be hype-driven."

The new fund is backed by the UK government and the European Investment Fund. "We have a bias towards Europe, ” said Stephen Chandler, Managing Partner and co-founder of Notion Capital, “because we believe there are tremendous opportunities here and the market is under-supplied with high quality funds. "

The new fund provides a welcome boost to Europe’s funding ecosystem. A couple of weeks ago Berlin’s EarlyBird Ventures also raised $100 million for a new fund.

Filed under: cloud, deals, VentureBeat

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Read It Later gets a makeover with a new name and redesigned apps

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Read It Later is now Pocket

See you later, Read It Later. The bookmarking app for web, Android, and iOS just changed its name to Pocket and launched redesigned versions of its apps.

Read It Later was originally designed to save articles on websites and social media sites to read later, hence the name. I’ve used the app for ages to save articles that I find at work, so I can read them in bed on my iPad or on my public transit ride home.

Despite its original intentions, Read It Later founder Nate Weiner discovered that 40 percent of the content saved with his service consists of videos, recipes, and webpages.

“We are embracing what our users are already doing with the app. People aren’t just saving articles and they don’t need a separate app for watch it later and buy it later,” Weiner told VentureBeat in an interview.

The company wanted to send a clear message that its service isn’t just for saving articles. The name Pocket is meant to convey that you can save anything for later, put it on your mobile device, and take in with you in your pocket. The “Read It Later” buttons in many social and content apps will be renamed “save to Pocket,” which to me just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

To go along with the name change, Read It Later is updating its apps with a different look. Instead of the black and yellow motif I’ve grown used to, Pocket has a beige theme with sea-foam green, teal, coral, and tangerine accents. And like nearly everything these days, the app adopts a Pinterest-like tile view option, which shows pictures from the content you save, if available.

Read It Later’s old interface was hardly problematic, but the new version is smooth and easy to use. You can favorite posts to find them later and bulk-archive posts, two new features. The company also did away with free and paid versions and is offering one free app for Android, iOS, and the Amazon Kindle Fire.

Read It Later and now Pocket, competes with Instapaper, a very similar content bookmarking service. Both Instapaper and Read It Later let you read saved content on your phone or tablet without an Internet connection. Apple’s Safari browser has the Reading List function, which also bookmarks articles and webpages to read later.

The service has gained significant traction, recording 200 million items saved as of March 2012. Weiner threw out the stat that five items were saved every second during our interview. And analytics from the company claim that it’s the second most popular share destination on content curation app Zite, beating out social networks Twitter and Facebook, and its competitor Instapaper.

Founded in 2007, San Francisco-based Read It Later has raised $2.5 million from Foundation Capital, Baseline Ventures, Founder Collective, and Google Ventures. The company has five employees.

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Pew: 65% of experts say most people will adopt mobile payments by 2020

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Shopper checking out with mobile payments

There’s no doubt that mobile payments are generating plenty of hype among the tech community, but how long will it be until they go mainstream?

65 percent of experts surveyed by the Pew Research Center agreed with a statement that said mobile payments would take off by 2020, according a new report released today, “The future of money: Smartphone swiping in the digital age.” 33 percent of experts agreed with a more negative statement, which said that consumers wouldn’t trust mobile payments to replace cash and credit cards by 2020.

It’s worth noting that those surveyed only had two scenarios to choose from, so there’s additional complexity to consider from the experts. Most of those who said mobile payments will take off, for example, also said that cash and credit cards won’t disappear entirely. Consumers hoping for anonymity, or those simply refuse to change, will likely stick with current methods. But among young and well-off consumers, the convenience of mobile payments will make it the ideal choice.

"For many of these experts, 'mobile money' represents more than just existing processes adapted to a new, more portable form factor," Janna Anderson, director of Elon's Imagining the Internet Center and a co-author of the study, said in a statement today. "They see this as an opportunity to implement security measures that are lacking in our current financial systems, to offer consumers more control over their spending, and to even reinvent the way we think about the concept of 'money'. Top people from Microsoft, Nokia and Netflix were among the many who said it is up to those who control transaction systems to set the timetable for adoption."

Most experts also agreed that, even if mobile payments take off by 2020, it will still be in a transition period that time. Paying by phone isn’t a foreign concept in African and Asian countries, so we’ll likely see those areas continue to innovate with mobile payments before the U.S. and other countries. Some experts also expressed concern that entrenched payment companies would delay the rollout of mobile payments in the U.S.

"When credit cards arrived, checks did not disappear, and neither did money,” said Amber Case, CEO of Geoloqi. “Although in some places  either cash or cards are accepted, there are three main methods of payment. If another  method of payment is added, we will likely have four methods of payment and retailers and  businesses must accept another form of payment. Some systems may emerge that use  completely smart payments, but there will still be other forms of payment available."

Photo via Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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InXile raises nearly $3M via Kickstarter for Wasteland 2

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 06:42 AM PDT

It took about 24 years, but Brian Fargo finally has the cash to create the sequel to his beloved Wasteland game. Thanks to a successful campaign on Kickstarter, Fargo’s InXile Entertainment has raised nearly $3 million via the crowdfunding site.

More than 60,000 people have pledged to help fund the game, which will be a follow-up to the post-apocalyptic survival title that Fargo created in 1988. The title is the second major game to get funding through Kickstarter's crowdfunding site, following a Double Fine Productions campaign that raised more than $3.3 million from more than 87,000 donors.

“I’m on cloud nine here,” Fargo said. “What an amazing ride. Never have I felt more pressure to deliver, but the fans will help guide the way.”

Fargo, the chief executive of InXile Entertainment and a veteran game-maker, was inspired by Double Fine's Tim Schafer to come up with a slick and funny video pitching Wasteland 2. Now it looks like he'll have more than enough money to fund the title, with $2,933,197 pledged versus a goal of $900,000.

Traditional publishers shied away from funding Wasteland 2. The original game was a single-player title with lots of characters. After it came out, Fargo's former company, Interplay, switched over to making Fallout games. But Fargo has wanted to make an online multiplayer version of Wasteland for the Internet, where large parties can come together and play.

Pledges were for $15 or more. Fargo said in his Kickstarter video that Wasteland was made in the golden age of games when creativity was at its peak. As envisioned, Wasteland 2 is a turn-based, top-down, role-playing, party game set in a Fallout-like post-apocalypse game.

"This really might be a last chance for a Wasteland 2," Fargo said in the video.

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, VentureBeat

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MokaFive launches app to secure iPads and iPhones for work

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

mokafive's app will secure your iphone, ipad

Yes, we’ve all been hearing for some time that the iPad is invading the workplace, but many IT managers are still concerned about its introduction for security reasons. MokaFive‘s just-announced app for enterprise security on iOS hopes to ease to those fears.

MokaFive is best known for making it possible to have workers securely use Macs in the enterprise. Now it can also help the enterprise more comfortably use those darn iPads and iPhones the kids like these days.

"Businesses can no longer ignore the BYOD [bring your own device] demand, as each day more and more personal devices – specifically iPhones and iPads – are entering the work place,” MokaFive CEO Dale Fuller told VentureBeat via e-mail. “We've announced MokaFive for iOS to address this very need – enabling employees the flexibility of using their iPads and iPhones on the job, while satisfying the IT admin with an easy and secure way to managing and protecting corporate data."

In a similar vein to Bitzer Mobile, the MokaFive app creates an encrypted container that gives access to company data securely. The encrypted data container in this case is called “LiveData” and users see it as an iOS app. Fuller says that it offers “secure access to sanctioned corporate network resources and fileshares. They can view files, and even cache them locally for offline use.”

LiveData makes it possible to remotely wipe the machine’s information with a single click. The data from the company is isolated in a “bubble” from other user data and apps, so if a business wants to lay off a worker, it can wipe the company data without screwing up personal info.

IT managers will also be pleased to hear that MokaFive on iOS is customizable with dozens of policies and security settings. “Don’t want users to e-mail documents to themselves, or copy and paste content from their corporate data container to their personal files?” the company explained in a blog post today. “IT can control all of that. This infinite customizability makes the product incredibly versatile.”

MokaFive for iOS runs $40 per user per year. It can be deployed in conjunction with MokaFive Suite for a company’s desktops and laptops.

Redwood City, Calif.-based MokaFive has raised $38 million in three rounds from Fuller, Vinod Khosla, Highland Capital, Khosla Ventures, and NGEN. Rivals include Citrix, VMware, Virtual Computer, and Wanova.

Tablet safe photo: Daniilantiq/Shutterstock

Filed under: enterprise, mobile, security, VentureBeat

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Zynga’s got $1.8 billion in cash and is aggressively looking for the next OMGPOP

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 04:50 AM PDT

Let us make you an offer you can't refuse

Good news for all you mobile game developers out there: Zynga, now a public company, has a big chunk of available cash on hand and says it’s aggressively looking for the next big thing to spend part of its $1.8 billion on.

Zynga chief executive Mark Pincus, along with mergers and acquisitions chief Barry Cottle, told Bloomberg News that they are on the hunt for the next OMGPOP and plan to do several deals of that size in the coming years.

"We love finding great, accomplished teams that share our mission and vision," Pincus told Bloomberg. "If we ever see breakout opportunities that massively accelerate social gaming at Zynga, we'll aggressively pursue those, too."

Cottle was the first sign of that relentless hunger. He was poached away from Electronic Arts, where he helped expand EA’s mobile gaming with the acquisition of Playfish, by a very generous $25 million package from Zynga.

Zynga has an on-the-ground fixer who works with newly purchased teams to bring them up to speed on seemingly everything, including game testing and changing over their health insurance. The fact that Zynga can offer liquid stock in a public company doesn’t hurt either.

CEO Mark Pincus is apparently dispatched personally when a startup needs to be convinced that Zynga is a friendly place to work. As our own Dean Takahashi has reported, Zynga has had a hard time shaking its “evil” image. Then again, most everyone has a price.

Filed under: deals, games, social

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Sony to launch “nasne,” a networked recorder and media storage device

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 12:14 AM PDT

Sony’s game division plans to launch a new networked video recorder and media storage device by the bizarre name “nasne.”

The new home gadget will be available in Japan on July 19 for 16,980 yen, or $211. The device has a 500-gigabyte hard disk drive and will have both digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasting tuners. It’s the sort of tool that Sony’s new chief executive, Kaz Hirai, wants to launch to prove that the Japanese consumer electronics giant hasn’t lost its mojo. You could probably think of nasne as the ultimate convergence device.

The nasne will connect to a home network, enabling users to watch and record TV shows through dedicated applications, such as “torne” for PlayStation 3 and “Vaio TV with nasne” for Sony brand personal computers. Users can also access content from a PlayStation Vita, Sony tablet, and Sony Xperia smartphone. The nasne will be able to stream live or recorded television programs simultaneously onto two supported Sony products. That allows multiple people to view the same content within the same home network.

Nasne will also link to a television web guide service for the PC and smartphones from So-net Entertainment. Users can use that guide to schedule recordings of TV programs on the go from their PS Vita, PC, tablets, and smartphones.

Nasne also functions as a storage device for media such as movies, photos, and music. Any Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)-compatible device on the home network can access that content.

“We are offering a seamless and unique Sony experience through nasne, which serves as a home entertainment hub that connects to Sony’s various network products,” said Hirai in a statement. “Nasne will give users more freedom to enjoy television in new ways by enabling them to watch programs on various Sony products through dedicated applications. We will continue to offer attractive products and services that inspire customers around the world and spark their curiosity by further enhancing collaboration within Sony groups.”

PS3 users will be able to watch and record content through a LAN connection by installing an app that comes with nasne. PS Vita users will be able to watch and record shows through an app by accessing the home network via a Wi-Fi connection. Vaio PC users can also access nasne content through LAN or Wi-Fi connections. TV shows on nasne can be copied to Blu-ray discs and DVDs or transferred to a Vaio PC.

The black nasne device measures 43 millimeters in width, 189 millimeters in length, and 136 millimeters in height. It weighs 460 grams.

Filed under: games

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Quantenna raises astounding $79M round so you can have wire-like wireless networks

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 12:01 AM PDT

Based on conventional wisdom, Quantenna shouldn’t exist as a startup maker of Wi-fi chips. It has huge competitors among chipmakers Broadcom, Marvell, and Qualcomm-Atheros. But Quantenna is announcing a gargantuan $79 million funding round today because it has figured out how to do Wi-Fi chips that are faster and have greater range than its rivals.

Normally, the big semiconductor companies would use their engineering and financial resources to crush small chip startups. But Fremont, Calif.-based Quantenna came up with a disruptive technology dubbed 4×4 MIMO 802.11n Wi-Fi chip sets, which it describes as so fast at transferring data that the experience is “wire-like” for the user. That is, you can view high-definition video streams on mobile devices with Quantenna Wi-Fi that matches the speed of wired broadband connections in the home.

Wi-Fi is becoming the lingua franca for wireless networking, with the expected marketing growing from 1 billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices in 2010 to more than 3 billion in 2015, according to market researcher Gartner. Video traffic is expected to be about 90 percent of global traffic, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Forecast. But ordinary Wi-Fi isn’t capable of carrying multiple HD video streams at once. Quantenna can do four streams at once, said Sam Heidari, chief executive of the startup, in an interview with VentureBeat.

“We can broaden this market in many directions,” Heidari said.

Heidari said his company can transfer data four times the distance as other wireless chip providers and hit speeds of 180 megabits per second. One of the big uses for Quantenna’s Wi-Fi chips is to transfer video wirelessly in a reliable manner anywhere in the home, allowing family members to watch their own shows on TVs in different rooms of the house at the same time.

He said the company will use the money to expand its engineering and production teams so that it can scale up while still providing support for the major service providers who are using the company’s technology.

Rusano (which focuses on investments in the Russian tech industry) and Sequoia Capital led the sixth round of funding for Quantenna, while new investor Bright Capital invested new money. The startup will use the money to set itself up as a fabless semiconductor company, or one that designs chips that are fabricated by contract chip manufacturers known as foundries. Rusano is putting in $40 million of the money, while Sequoia is contributing $20 million.

Prior to this round, Quantenna raised $90 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, Venrock, Sigma Partners, Southern Cross Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Swisscom Ventures, Grazia Equity, and Telefónica Digital. All of those investors participated in the new round.

Key customers include AirTies, Amper, Datasat Technologies, Gemtek, Motorola, Netgear, Sagecom, Sigma Designs, Swisscom, Technicolor and Telefónica, among others.

“A number of major service providers say they are going to use us in the upcoming generation,” Heidari said.

A faster generation of Wi-Fi chips, dubbed 802.11ac, is coming either late this year or next year. Heidari said his company will be able to handle that new standard protocol and do it faster than its rivals can, roughly doubling its speed to 360 megabits per second.

Rusano’s managing director, George Kolpachev, will become a member of Quantenna's board of directors, and Rusano investment manager Vladislav Tropko will become a board observer.  Quantenna will also open a Russian subsidiary. Quantenna’s claim to fame is that it was the first to introduce a commercially available, standards-based 802.11n 4×4 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) chipset. It also does dynamic digital beamforming, low-density parity check, mesh networking, and channel optimization. That means it can do fancy things — like using math calculations to figure out how to cancel noise in a wireless channel — to speed the transfer of wireless signals. The company has worked on its technology since its founding in 2006 and it has 120 employees.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Secrets of Facebook’s success: Virality

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 08:25 PM PDT

As Facebook gets ready for its monster IPO, which will likely value the company at more than $100 billion, I thought it would be valuable to take a look at some of the critical product decisions that have led to its success.

In this third installment of a four-part series on what Facebook has done differently from most companies, I’m focusing on virality (see links to the rest of the series below).

Social media is fundamentally changing marketing, and Facebook understands that. A key driver of the company’s growth is the people-tagging feature in Facebook. Even though Flickr was a better product than Facebook Photos for many years, the virality of people-tagging rocketed Facebook to the top of the photo-sharing pack. People-tagging served both to increase user acquisition and drive repeat usage.

For those who have been offline for the last five years, here’s how people-tagging works: You can click on a face in a picture and assign a name to it. This can be a link to a person already on Facebook or someone not on Facebook. If you tag someone who’s not on Facebook, you can tag her by name and email address.

If someone isn’t on Facebook already, they get an email saying that someone has tagged them on Facebook. Who doesn’t want to open an email from a friend that promises a (potentially embarrassing) picture of them?

For people already on Facebook, it serves as a mechanism for re-engaging with the platform. Although both of these drivers are less relevant now than they were five years ago because people now live on Facebook, it’s an important lesson for startups on increasing engagement.

The days of generic advertising targeted at the masses are dwindling. Marketing in the future will need to be personally relevant. Online products must have marketing built into them. Unfortunately, too many companies erect walls between product and marketing.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed at a large Internet company to run marketing for a number of products, including a finance product. It’s a very good product and one that I use nearly every day. The job description claimed that the person in the role would be “challenged to think beyond the obvious, creating and executing cutting-edge strategy for one of the world's most recognized brands.” One of the interviewers was a senior leader in the company’s product organization. He asked me how I would market the finance product.

I said I would create a widget that bloggers could put on their blogs. The widget would scan the page for the names of public companies and automatically insert a module with live quotes for any companies mentioned in the story. This was a win all the way around:

  • Readers would get value from the experience. Instead of a silly banner ad that just said “Try our finance product,” it would show the value that the product delivers in a context the reader cares about.
  • Bloggers would get value by providing live quotes for their readers, something they might not be able to do on their own.
  • The company would get value with a non-standard placement that readers would pay attention to.

The interviewer’s response: “That’s a product idea, give me a marketing idea.”

It’s a product and marketing idea. Sure, I could tell you to go buy banner ads on CNBC.com or Bloomberg. But I know from experience that personal finance inventory is among the most expensive ad inventory on the Web. (Brokerages can afford to spend a lot of money!)

Google, with Google+, doesn’t understand the very basics of acquisition marketing and user engagement. I just invited a friend (actually an imaginary friend, Paul Paulson) to join Google+. Paul joined Google+ immediately.

Here’s what should happen next:

  • Paul should automatically be connected to me. Paul acted based on my recommendation; there’s a very high likelihood he’ll want to be connected. It would also give Paul content that would be relevant to him because he knows me.
  • As soon as Paul joined, I should have received a message saying, “Hey, your buddy Paul just joined Google+! Drop in and say hello.” I would likely have been a lapsed user because none of my real friends were on Google+. Knowing that at least one person I know was on the platform might get me to re-engage. It would also create a better experience for Paul, because it would provide some social proof that people he knows are using Google+.

Google+ does neither of these.

Google+ even biffs basic things like updating the URL field when viewing posts to make it easy to share content.

I can’t guarantee that doing these things would save Google+. But I can guarantee that they would be much more effective and a lot cheaper than running generic TV commercials.

In 2012, the best creative isn’t the one with the finest photography or the highest production values. It’s the one that speaks directly and personally to each user.

Be sure to check out the other stories in this series:

Instagram understands a secret of Facebook’s success: Visuals

Secrets to Facebook’s success: Identity

[Image credit: jokerpro/Shutterstock]

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Here are the flavors of Windows 8 to confuse you

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 08:14 PM PDT

Microsoft has finally shed some light on the different versions of Windows 8 we’ll see upon release, and thankfully, things are much simpler than past versions.

This time around, there are only three flavors Microsoft is pushing heavily: Windows 8, the version geared towards most consumers; Windows 8 Pro, for enterprise and enthusiast users; and Windows RT, which is the new name for Windows on low-power ARM processors (previously called WOA).

And fret not, IT workers. Microsoft says another version of the OS, Windows 8 Enterprise, will be available to organizations with Software Assurance agreements. It’s basically an offshoot of Windows 8 Pro, since it contains all of the features of that version plus an increased IT-management feature.

Notably, Windows RT will only be available pre-installed on ARM-powered devices like tablets and ultraportable laptops, so you’ll only have to worry about the other two versions of Windows 8 when deciding to upgrade your current computer. (For Media Center fans, Microsoft says it will be available as an “economical add-on pack” for Windows 8 Pro.)

The standard version of Windows 8 will include all of the great features we’ve already seen in the OS, including the new tablet-friendly Metro interface, updated Windows Explorer, and support for new Metro apps. Windows 8 Pro will add encryption, virtualization, PC management, and domain connection features, according Windows Communication Manager Brandon LeBlanc.

As we’ve covered previously, Windows RT will include touch-optimized Office apps. Explaining the Windows RT name, LeBlanc said the focus of the OS is on the new Windows runtime, which “forms the foundation of a new generation of cloud-enabled, touch-enabled, web-connected apps of all kinds.”

Below, check out a comparison chart between the three versions of Windows 8.

Feature name Windows 8 Windows 8 Pro Windows RT
Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium



Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate x
Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles x x x
Windows Store x x x
Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video) x x x
Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) x
Internet Explorer 10 x x x
Device encryption x
Connected standby x x x
Microsoft account x x x
Desktop x x x
Installation of x86/64 and desktop software x x
Updated Windows Explorer x x x
Windows Defender x x x
SmartScreen x x x
Windows Update x x x
Enhanced Task Manager x x x
Switch languages on the fly (Language Packs) x x x
Better multiple monitor support x x x
Storage Spaces x x
Windows Media Player x x
Exchange ActiveSync x x x
File history x x x
ISO / VHD mount x x x
Mobile broadband features x x x
Picture password x x x
Play To x x x
Remote Desktop (client) x x x
Reset and refresh your PC x x x
Snap x x x
Touch and Thumb keyboard x x x
Trusted boot x x x
VPN client x x x
BitLocker and BitLocker To Go x
Boot from VHD x
Client Hyper-V x
Domain Join x
Encrypting File System x
Group Policy x
Remote Desktop (host) x

Photo via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Kleiner Perkins’ new fund will bring new faces to the fore

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 07:15 PM PDT

Ray Lane of KPCB

Ray Lane is not a general partner in KP15, but don't count him out

As Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers raises its 15th fund, there are signs the venerable VC firm is getting ready for a changing of the guard.

Longtime general partners Brook Byers, Ray Lane, and Bill Joy will not be general partners in the new fund, as Fortune’s Dan Primack reported earlier today.

That doesn’t mean the eminent trio are being shuffled off to the wings, said a source close to the firm. All three retain offices and assistants at KP and will be working there daily. They will continue to have “great influence” at the firm. However, they’ll be focused on the roughly 30 companies on whose boards they collectively sit, rather than on new investments.

Additionally, the firm is shifting the way it organizes its investments, from three big categories to four. Essentially, the “digital” category is being split into two parts, one enterprise-focused and one consumer-focused. That’s a reflection of the growing importance of enterprise tech to the industry. (KP alone has invested more than $100 million in enterprise startups in the past year, our source tells us.)

KP’s greentech and life sciences practices will remain.

The new fund, called KP 15, will have 10 general partners:

  • Mike Abbott
  • Chi-Hua Chien
  • Amol Deshpande
  • John Doerr
  • Bing Gordon
  • Wen Hsieh
  • Randy Komisar
  • Matt Murphy
  • Ted Schlein
  • Beth Seidenberg

This fund represents only part of KPCB’s many investment activities, so other partners (for instance on the firm’s growth fund) will not be directly affected by the changes in KP 15.

Photo: Ray Lane with his new Fiskar Karma, in 2011. Photo by Matthew Lynley/VentureBeat.

Filed under: deals

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Funzio looking to raise $50M at $350M valuation for mobile games

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 02:32 PM PDT

Funzio raising $50M at $350 valuation

Don’t say mobile games aren’t gritty. Funzio, the mobile gaming company behind popular iOS games Crime City and Modern War, is looking to raise a fat $50 million funding round at $350 million pre-money valuation, but anonymous sources familiar with the deal told TechCrunch.

Funzio makes free addicting games with paid downloadable content. Once a player gets hooked on a game, they are likely to fork out small amounts of cash to enrich their playing experience by buying credits, power-ups, and weapons.

The game-company’s team has a pretty good track record, which might making raising cash not all that hard. Chief executive Ken Chiu has already sold a startup to Zygna called “My Heroes Ability” in 2008 and worked for the company for around a year. He was also behind a successful Android gaming company called Storm8.

The $350 million pre-money valuation is comparable to Rovio, which last year raised $42 million at a $200 million valuation. It would make the company worth more than OMGPOP, the game company Zynga purchased for $180 million in March 2012.

So far, Funzio has raised $20 million from IDG Ventures, IDG Capital Partners, and Rick Thompson. The company is based in San Francisco, Calif.

Filed under: deals, games

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Ohio Anonymous hacker in court for Utah police website hacks

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 02:15 PM PDT


Ohio resident John Anthony Borell III is being tried today for two counts of felony computer intrusion after hacking into Utah law enforcement websites in January.

Borell was recently arrested after Federal Bureau of Investigations agents found him using Twitter and Internet Relay Chat logs. The investigation was spurred by two tips sent in to tips.fbi.gov and ic3.gov that stated Borell was a member of hacking collective Anonymous. It also provided a number of pseudonyms he was associated with including Kahuna, TehTiger, and anonJB.

The indictment states that Borell used the SQL Injection technique to access and take down the websites utahchiefs.org and slcpd.com (Salt Lake City Police Department). The FBI found Twitter direct messages and tweets in which Borell admitted to taking down the websites. Further proof of his identity was found when the FBI looked through chat logs in IRC. There, Borell explained that his father was an attorney and was advising him against talking to the FBI. Agents searched Ohio-based attorneys and found two local attorneys named “John Anthony Borell Esq.”

He had also been in contact with Sabu, Anonymous’s once bullhorn, turned FBI informant.

Borell hacked these websites in order to make a statement about copyright infringement and the current Megaupload case. After hacking utahchiefs.org, Borell tweeted, “Whoever removed the Megaupload image from http://utahchiefs.org and replaced it with their nick when I hacked it for a purpose. Fuck OFF.”

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Borell has pleaded not guilty to the two charges. But a guilty conviction could put him in jail for 20 years, and hit him with a fine of $500,000. A trial is tentatively scheduled for June 25.

Indictment and Complaint against "Anonymous" hackerhttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/89670544/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list

Anonymous image via Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Twitter snaps up social media analytics startup Hotspots.io

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 01:45 PM PDT

Twitter purchased social-media analytics company and YCombinator alumn Hotspots.io for an unknown amount of money on Monday, according to Hotspots.io’s website. According to the company, Twitter’s revenue-engineering team will gain Hotspots.io’s employees.

There’s not much information on Hotspots.io — the company’s website seems to still be in a beta mode and lacks product details. However, it offers a demo of how the company measures the social-media influence of SuperBowl ads. For the ads, the company examined the amount of Twitter mentions, overall social reach, and the amount of money spent on advertising from big name companies such as Coca-Cola, H&M, and Anheuser-Busch to see if their marketing efforts paid off.

It seems the deal was more of an acqui-hire, as Twitter is apparently bringing on Hotspot.io founders Alexander Spicer, Ashutosh Singhal, and Matt Huang as employees. All three have changed their bio on Twitter to reflect their new jobs at the micro-blogging site.

There is no word on whether Hotspots.io will continue as a separate product. VentureBeat has reached out to the team for comment and will update if we get a response. Below is what Hotspots.io wrote on its website about the news.

We’re incredibly excited to announce that Twitter has acquired the Hotspots.io team!

Starting today, we’ll be joining up with Twitter’s revenue engineering team where our focus will be on developing analytics tools for Twitter’s advertising and publishing partners.

We founded Hotspots.io with the vision of helping companies and individuals maximize their social media ROI through actionable and accessible analytics, and we’re thrilled to be able to continue that work on a much larger scale at Twitter.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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12 angry consumers: The Oracle/Google trial for Android now has a jury

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 01:25 PM PDT

After months and months of mediation talks, Google and Oracle are heading to a trial over Android, and the jury is selected and ready to go.

Reuters reporter Dan Levine took to Twitter today to give juicy tidbits about the jury selection process.

The final jury includes five men and seven women from a diverse range of professions. The decision makers for this landmark case on programming language copyright include a plumber, a nurse, a retired photographer, a store designer for Gap, a city bus driver, and a postal worker.

A few folks, including engineers from HP and Cisco and two lawyers, were dismissed as potential jurors. Levine also noted that Judge William Alsup told jurors “that if they buy an Android phone during the trial he’ll probably have to have evidentiary hearing. Lotsa laughs.”

Alsup also told jurors that if they read a single word from the mainstream or tech press regarding the trial, “There will be an evidentiary hearing and possible contempt of court,” Levine said.

The whole dispute started with Java, the open-source programming language that has been owned by Oracle ever since a strategic acquisition in early 2010. Google has used Java for Android since before Android’s public debut in 2008. However, Oracle argues that the Android maker is violating several patents and copyrights with Android and is demanding a per-device licensing fee — which might be enough to ruin Android’s already small revenues.

This is an extremely complicated matter coming into the courtroom — one that involves the intricacies of patent law, the mind-boggling complexities of mobile programming, the quagmire that is open-source software litigation, and the he-said-she-said nature of any discussion about and between two tech companies. The naiveté of the jurors in such matters might strike some as a disadvantage to all parties involved, but these San Franciscans are bring something better than sophistication and experience to their deliberations: fresh eyes and (hopefully) common sense.

So, what happens to Android in a worst-case scenario? "From a consumer standpoint, consumers should not be concerned about losing their Android phone,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat in a recent phone chat. “There's no indication that Android is under threat… We're actively pushing back on Oracle to preserve choice in the marketplace in the long term.”

The jury is hearing opening statements from Oracle and Google attorneys as we prepare to publish this post. Stay tuned for more from the thrilling and complicated trial that will decide the fate of Android.

Filed under: mobile

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Advertising to predictable old men just got easier: Twitter brings ads to BlackBerry

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 01:24 PM PDT

Hank Hill,

If your company’s target audience is average, middle-aged men who don’t like change (e.g. Hank from King of the Hill), then Twitter just did you a huge favor.

The microblogging social network announced today it is extending the ability of advertisers to target BlackBerry devices with mobile ad spots and Promoted Tweets.

The Promoted Tweets on BlackBerry devices are advertisements that double as Tweets and that are displayed near the top of a user’s timeline. Much like the experience on Twitter’s main website, the Promoted Tweets only appear once and can be dismissed.

Twitter first started rolling out the ad targeting functionality to advertisers back in February. In addition to BlackBerry, advertisers can also choose to target iOS devices, Android devices, desktops/laptops, and mobile-optimized web apps.

“Promoted Tweets on BlackBerry and the ability to target campaigns to specific devices and platforms will help brands more easily connect to Twitter users —anywhere, anytime,” Twitter said in a statement on the company blog.

Research In Motion (RIM), which produces BlackBerry devices, is currently experiencing a downward spiral due to increased competition from iPhones and Android phones. Because of this, we had assumed Twitter was intentionally leaving BlackBerry devices out of its ad targeting platform when it launched. However, this is clearly not the case.

While BlackBerry devices might not have the growth they once did, advertisers undoubtedly see BlackBerry owners as a valuable demographic composed of enterprise users, government employees, and many international consumers.

Image courtesy of Fox Network

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Facebook’s ad business booming as advertisers clamor to pay more for less

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 01:24 PM PDT

Here’s some news Wall Street is sure to “like.” Facebook’s major money-maker is looking sexier than ever to advertisers despite higher costs and drop-offs in performance, according to newly published research.

The social network’s advertising business, which contributed $3.1 billion to the social network’s bottom line last year, is booming. Facebook’s CPM (cost per thousand impressions) rate has ballooned by 41 percent in the past year, according to a report from social agency TBG Digital.

TBG Digital, which analyzed 372 billion impressions for 235 of its clients between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, found that the average CPM has increased by 15 percent. Cost per click (CPC) prices have leapt 23 percent in the last quarter alone, meaning that the value of Facebook’s ad units are rising with each passing quarter as demand outweighs supply.

For advertisers choosing to fork over more for their social initiatives, the measured success of their Facebook ad buys was a mixed bag in the last quarter. The average click-through rate (CTR), or the rate at which users actually click on ads, dropped by 8 percent in the first quarter of this year for U.S.-based Facebook users. Advertisers in the news category, however, showed massive gains in the click-through department. In fact, the CTR skyrocketed by 196 percent between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 for those in the news sector.

On the whole, advertisers are finding it far costlier to recruit a Facebook fan, TBG Digital found. The average cost per fan, or the amount an advertiser spends to get a “like” for their Facebook Page, rose by 43 percent in the first quarter of this year. “This is no great surprise with increased ad costs, reducing click through-rates, and an increase in competition,” TPG concluded. “Brands will have to work harder to be heard.”

Ultimately, regardless of the higher costs and questionable performance, retailers are still quite keen on Facebook advertising right now. Advertisements from retailers accounted for 23 percent of all ad impressions during the first quarter, making the retail category, which added roughly 10 percent share in one quarter, the most served ad type on the popular platform.

What do all these statistics mean? Facebook ads are commanding high premiums and demand is at an all-time high, even as units are delivering less engagement. Perhaps the latter troubling fact will catch up to Facebook in the long-term. But for now, the social network is sitting pretty as it prepares to go public.

Photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Filed under: social

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Finally shipping: The $35 Raspberry Pi computer that can play Quake 3 Arena

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 01:12 PM PDT

The first Raspberry Pi computer, which costs just $35, is finally shipping after a long wait.

Engineer Eben Upton and programmer David Braben began talking about their stripped-down computer, which can play Quake 3 Arena, last May. At the time, it was the size of a flash drive, but was still able to run the Linux open-source OS with its 700-MHz ARM processor and 128MB of RAM. Since then, it became larger in size and split off into two versions — the $25 Model A and $35 Model B. The devices have seen huge demand via pre-orders.

RS Components and Allied Electronics have begun to mail the computers to those who pre-ordered them. The Model B is now available in the U.K. for £31.86 or in the U.S. for $35.

However, only the Model B started shipping today. The Model A is heading into production in the next few weeks.

The $35 Model B is about the size of a credit card, measuring 85.6mm x 53.98mm x 17mm. It features a Broadcom 700-MHz ARM11 processor, 256MB of RAM, Ethernet port, HDMI port, USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm audio jack, and runs Linux operating system off an SD card. It can play 1080p HD video and run Quake 3 Arena.

Orders for the Model B were taken through Premier Farnell and RS Components, but those sites have since changed pre-order forms to just be forms letting the companies know you're interested in the product.

Filed under: games

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Huffington Post brings home the blogosphere’s first ever Pulitzer

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 12:56 PM PDT

Screenshot of the Huffington Post's Pulitzer-winning series on wounded veterans

The Huffington Post has just made history as the first blog to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.

Only in the past two years have digital media outlets made the Pulitzer cut. ProPublica, an independent nonprofit journalism outfit that syndicates content to traditional news organizations, was the first online entity to earn a Pulitzer Prize, which it did two years running, in 2010 and 2011.

However, the Huffington Post is a blog, pure and simple, and it’s the first one to be so honored for its journalism.

While many of us click on HuffPo links for an entirely different set of reasons, the blog won its Pulitzer fair and square due to the remarkable work of Huffington Post senior military correspondent David Wood. As we read today on HuffPo, Wood, 66, took home the Pulitzer for Beyond the Battlefield, a ten-part series on wounded veterans.

This was not your typical blogger fare. For the series, Wood conducted in-depth interviews with severely wounded veterans over an eight-month period. The publication definitely invested the time and resources (Wood is a veteran journo who has spent more than three decades doing war reporting) in this series, and the recognition is well deserved.

On her publication this afternoon, the blog’s famous founder, Arianna Huffington, made the following statement:

We are delighted and deeply honored by the award, which recognizes both David's exemplary piece of purposeful journalism and HuffPost's commitment to original reporting that affects both the national conversation and the lives of real people. From the beginning, one of the core pillars of HuffPost's editorial philosophy has been to use narrative and storytelling to put flesh and blood on data and statistics, and to help bear witness to the struggles faced by millions of Americans. We are very grateful to have won for this series, the culmination of David Wood’s long career as a military correspondent, and an affirmation that great journalism is thriving on the web.

This huge win for HuffPo is, in a small way, a win for all blogs of quality. As long as blog-based reporters are doing great work, getting original stories, spending time with their sources, and telling those stories well, the writers and editors of the Internet will continue to give traditional media a run for its money — as well as promoting the world-changing innovation that’s changing the media industry moment by moment.

The Huffington Post was founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005. It is owned by AOL, which acquired the blog last year for $315 million. Last year, the site announced it had achieved the landmark of one billion pageviews in a single month, with 37 million unique visitors.

Filed under: media

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Exploring the future of digital privacy, identity and reputation

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 12:44 PM PDT

pii2012This sponsored post is produced by the Privacy Identity Innovation conference.

Is data the new oil? If you're not paying for the product, are you the product?

Pick your meme — the debate about how companies are using personal information has grown intense over the past few months, and it's likely to heat up even more.

The White House has even recommended a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, and the European Union is weeks away from requiring companies to get consent from website visitors before storing advertising cookies. What's needed is a candid look at how companies can protect sensitive information users while enabling emerging business models and technologies.

Taking place May 14-16 in downtown Seattle, the 3rd annual Privacy Identity Innovation conference (pii2012) explores where innovation is heading in areas like big data, digital advertising, mobile apps, facial recognition and social networking – and how to build trust with users.

Join a diverse audience of 300 industry executives, developers, investors, marketing professionals, consumer advocates and policy experts at pii2012. Previous speakers include execs from Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Microsoft, Intuit, Personal, Face.com, Intelius, Evidon and other companies, along with investors from Intel Capital, FLOODGATE, Union Square Ventures and Elevation Partners.

Register at PrivacyIdentityInnovation.com and you save 20% with discount code VB2012.

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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Google+ gets a conference all its own, and it’s all about pictures

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 12:39 PM PDT

Google+ is an interesting place for photographers to share their art, according to many photogs we’ve spoken with. So it seems fitting that the first Google+ focused conference would be all about photography.

“There is no more vibrant online community for photographers right now than the one we have on Google+,” said Ivan S. Makarov, photographer and pioneer of the philanthropic Plus One Collection.

“Flickr and Facebook both have groups, and photographers usually spend time in smaller communities, inside those groups. Google+ does not yet have groups, so the community itself is bigger,” Makarov said in a recent interview with VentureBeat.

And now, that photography community will be getting a lot more exposure, thanks to a conference organized by Photoshop User magazine editor Scott Kelby. The first ever Google+ Photographers’ Conference is set to take place next month in San Francisco, and it will be all about the power of images plus the power of community.

While the conference isn’t produced by Google, it has the full support of the Google+ team, including Google VP Bradley Horowitz, who will be speaking at the conference. Other luminaries slated to speak include photo-blogger Trey Ratcliff, tech personality Guy Kawasaki, Google+ community manager Brian Rose, and a number of others.

Content will include sessions on best practices for Hangouts, how to build a brand on Google+, what kinds of content and posts perform best, and photography-specific sessions on shooting portraits and sports photography. The schedule also includes several photo walks in scenic San Francisco locations with conference speakers and photographers.

Makarov’s Plus One Collection is one of the more interesting photographic-related uses of the Google+ platform. It aims to be a photography book for charity, with all proceeds going to Kiva, the micro-lending startup for the developing world. So far, the project includes the work of 516 photographers — something that Makarov attributes to the Google+ community and tools.

“The online photography world is very fast-moving, with the river of images flowing in front of us every day. It’s so easy to forget what impressed us because there’s an overload of information,” he said. “The Google+ tools for sharing and discussing topics are… very powerful. For example, in the first hour we posted the news about our book release, our website got 5,000 unique visitors, as people kept sharing the news about the project to their streams. It’s very easy to spread the word on Google+, as long as one has an interesting message others feel is worth sharing.”

The Google+ Photographers’ Conference is taking place May 22 and May 23 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco. Registration is open now, and tickets are $300.

Image courtesy of olly, Shutterstock

Filed under: social

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Apple agrees to another audit, this time for the environment

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 12:25 PM PDT

Apple environmentLooks like there are more audits are in Apple’s future, this time exploring its environmental cost. The company has teamed up with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) to audit one of its Chinese circuit-board factories.

IPE, which is based in Beijing, will look into one of Apple’s printed circuit-board factories to measure pollutants and their effect on the environment. The current audit is only a pilot, however, and is not an indication of further joint investigations between Apple and IPE. The organization will post the results of the audit on its website, and hopes they will open the door to further audits with other Apple suppliers.

This is not the first time IPE has looked into Apple. In late 2011, the organization released a series of reports called, “The Other Side of Apple,” (PDF) detailing a few of Apple’s suppliers and their offenses against the environment.

Recently, Apple allowed the Fair Labor Association to audit its Foxconn factories in China. Foxconn had been accused of providing poor working conditions to its factory workers. Many employees complained about long hours, little pay for overtime, and small dormitories. A rash of recent worker suicides (related to Microsoft’s Xbox assembly lines) that prompted Foxconn to install suicide nets on its buildings drew additional scrutiny. The FLA performed a thorough audit in January 2012, concluding that Apple was, in fact, violating some of the FLA’s standards, as well as Chinese law. Apple and Foxconn have since agreed to make necessary changes.

via Macworld; Apple tree photo via Shutterstock

Filed under: green

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Dibsie goes public with a shopping catalog that learns from your social network

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 11:56 AM PDT

We’ve been tracking the progress of Dibsie, an New York based e-commerce company that learns your tastes from your social network and displays items in the form of a dynamic shopping catalog. Today the site is coming out of beta and launching to the public.

The team behind Dibsie — Garren Givens, Scott Poniewaz and Dylan Fareed — met at college and created a daily deals site focused on Universities called Campus Dibs. They have been working on social commerce for a while now, and the sector is really heating up.

“We're not a blog, a social wish-list, or bookmarking site where people are grabbing things from all over the web, only some of which you can buy,” said Givens during a phone call with VentureBeat. “We curate products from thousands of brands and surface the things you are mostly likely to be interested in based on your taste and social graph.”

Fifty thousand visitors have browsed merchandise on Dibsie over the last two months, as the company went through the Entrepreneur’s Roundtable Accelerator. “Our beta partners have seen a 400 percent lift in purchase intent for items people found while browsing Dibise,” said Givens.

That kind of positive feedback has helped Dibsie get talks with some of the biggest magazine publishers in New York, although no deals are finalized yet. It is also weighing its options for raising a new round of funding.

Givens says the technology behind Dibsie could be used as white label platform, allowing fashion magazines to easily turn on a compelling, highly social shopping experience for their sites without having to do any heavy lifting.

Image from Flickr user Roger Price

Filed under: Entrepreneur, social

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MGM deal brings 600 new rental titles to YouTube and Google Play

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 11:38 AM PDT

MGM-youtube-google-playGoogle has signed a deal to bring more than 600 new rental titles from the MGM movie studio to YouTube and Google Play, the company announced Monday in a blog post.

YouTube began offering movie rentals through a dedicated store front in April 2010. Since that time, it has signed deals with studios to keep adding to the library of rentals. Google Play, a newly created media hub that combines many of Google’s media services, adds to part of Google’s media strategy in covering the mobile side of things. With MGM in the mix, both YouTube and Play will have even more options.

“For nearly 90 years, MGM has brought some of the best and most memorable films to the silver screen,” Jonathan Zepp, Manager of TV/Film Content Partnerships for YouTube, said in the blog post. “MGM joins five of the six major studios and over ten independent movie studios, currently offering movies for rent on YouTube and Google Play.”

The deal will make well-known MGM titles such as “Terminator,” “Robocop,” “Rocky,” “West Side Story,” “Moonstruck,” and “Rain Man” available to rent. Let’s hope they add in some newer titles as well.

Previously, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Universal, Lionsgate, Entertainment One, Metrodome, and Revolver Entertainment all announced partnerships with YouTube on movie rentals. The biggest holdout of the bunch has been Fox.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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