24 April, 2012



Entrepreneurs: What the JOBS Act means for you right now

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 09:00 AM PDT

By now, you've probably heard that the JOBS Act passed. The "Jumpstart Our Business Startups," or JOBS Act, will allow entrepreneurs to crowdfund online to fund small businesses and startups. Plus, entrepreneurs can raise funds from non-accredited investors. The catch: The regulations aren't in place until the SEC review period is up in January 2013.

While the bill itself is effective immediately, still pending are how the sections that fall under the SEC scope will be regulated. The SEC has 270 days to focus on how to regulate the offerings targeting non-accredited investors. In the meantime, entrepreneurs will be able to crowdfund only to accredited investors beginning July 4, 2012.

So what does the JOBS Act mean for entrepreneurs right now – and how can entrepreneurs make the most of this time?

1. Gather the necessary documents

For starters, entrepreneurs who want to move forward with crowdfunding can begin to gather all the important documents needed to launch a campaign. These include:

I. Financial status of the company or project, including:

  • Information explaining if there is debt (including the amount) and the reason for the debt
  • Information on other rounds of financing or capital that the company has raised already explaining the method used (personal, friends & family, angel investors, VC, bank loan, etc.)
  • Incorporation documents that should include the total number of shares in the company, the amount of equity being sold, and the valuation of the company

II. Financial statements certified by an officer in the company stating that all documents are accurate if the total amount to be raised is under $100,000. If the amount is over $100,000 but under $500,000, then the financial statements should be certified by an independent public accountant. If the amount to be raised is over $500,000, then the financial statements must be audited.

III. Company's tax return for the most recent year

IV. Business plan including executive summary, financial forecasts, etc.

V. Capital structure explaining who owns what percentage of the company

2. Prepare a great pitch

After gathering the documents, the best thing to do while waiting for the SEC grace period to end is to prepare a convincing pitch. Pledging campaigns differ greatly from investment campaigns, and it is important to keep in mind what motivates contributors in each case.

Pledging comes down to three things:

  • People connect with the message and reason for the project
  • People connect with the unique way in which the sponsor is trying to raise funding
  • People connect with some physical aspect of the project such as the gifts they get from pledging

When creating a pledging campaign, it is important to pull at the emotional heartstrings of potential contributors and to plan your pitch accordingly.

Investments, however, are more of a strategic decision than an emotional one, so with investment campaigns, it is important to present the business case professionally and fully by:

  • Having all the required paperwork handy for viewers to access
  • Having an attractive business proposition
  • Establishing credibility and trust of the executive team through well written bios, references, etc.

3. Plan the marketing campaign of your pitch

One of the most important factors in a crowdfunding campaign is marketing the campaign. You may have the best cause or business idea, but if nobody knows about you, the money simply will not flow in. By marketing through leveraging your networks and reaching out to people within your circle of friends, family, colleagues, and possibly customers, your campaign will have a much greater chance of success.

In order to reach out to people, try:

  • Linking your fundraising post to all social media pages, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • Linking to the company's website
  • Providing constant updates and being very responsive to all questions (trust me — you will have a lot of questions)
  • Creating a YouTube and Vimeo video that showcases the team and any other details you can share. Transparency is key here!
  • Reaching out to the media to try to get coverage of your story — remember to reach out to blogs and established outlets
  • Making sure that all messages exchanged, whether via email, social media, snail mail, etc, have a signature containing information on how to get in touch with you

Just because some JOBS Act regulation won't be in place until 2013 doesn't mean you can't get a head start on the competition — and crowdfunding — by gathering your documents, preparing your pitch, and outlining your campaign in the meantime. Note that you will be able to equity crowdfund for potential investment of accredited investors starting July 4, 2012.

Tanya Prive is the co-founder of Rock The Post, a crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are seeking funding through pledges or equity based crowdfunding. 

Filed under: deals, Entrepreneur

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Google now selling unlocked Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ phone for $399

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:57 AM PDT


After Google’s failed attempt to sell the Nexus One smartphone a few years back, the search giant is attempting to sell hardware once more with the unlocked Galaxy Nexus HSPA+, now available in the Google Play store.

Selling the Galaxy Nexus is a curious turn for Google following the Nexus One, but perhaps Google has learned lessons from that flop. Google likely wants to sell this device to give Android fans another option for buying one of the best Android phones on the market. Although most U.S. consumers opt for a 2-year contract and a subsidized smartphone, there’s still a segment that appreciates the ability to buy a phone for an upfront price and not be tied to a contract.

The unlocked Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ retails for $399 and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks here in the U.S. and 200 GSM providers worldwide. For specs, the device has a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED screen with 1280 x 720 resolution, 16GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, 5-megapixel camera, 1080p HD video recording, and a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor. The phone runs pure Android 4.04 Ice Cream Sandwich software.

The $399 price tag, frankly, is unbeatable considering all the features and the fact that you don’t have to sign a 2-year contract. The phone is also available from Verizon and Sprint (which have CDMA networks) with a contract.

Filed under: mobile

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Rubin’s last stand: Android founder testifies again to save Android from Oracle

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:40 AM PDT

Android is on trial today in San Francisco, and its founder, Googler Andy Rubin, is stepping into the witness stand to save it from a slow death by patent litigation.

The crux of Rubin’s testimony today revolved around the greatest of all Android buzzwords: fragmentation.

Google is being sued by Oracle for copyright violation and patent infringement. Oracle-owned Java, an open-source programming language, is used in the Google-owned Android mobile operating system. An Oracle victory in the case could be enough to strangle Android, which doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay for software licensing.

Yesterday, Rubin dropped a bit of a bomb in court. In 2006, while Android was in early stages of development, Rubin sent a series of emails seemingly acknowledging the Java APIs as copyrighted and subject to licensing or permission from Java’s owner (then Sun Microsystems).

When asked in court whether he thought in 2006 that he needed Sun’s permission to use the java.lang API and whether he thought the java.lang API was copyrighted, Rubin responded, “Yes.”

However, the following year, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote a public blog post congratulating the Android team on its progress. Far from claiming Android was damaging Java’s rights-holders, Schwartz said the mobile OS had “strapped another set of rockets to the community's momentum.”

These statements from Schwartz, whose company then owned Java, would seem to negate Oracle’s claims of infringement and damage and instead point to Sun’s approval of Google’s use of Java in Android.

Today’s statements from Rubin, however, showed another side of the Sun/Google relationship. While Schwartz was publicly enthusiastic about Android, private emails showed concerns on both sides about fragmentation.

In April 2006, a Googler on the Android project wrote to Rubin “We need to provide an alternative to MSFT, and we need to do it in such a way as we don’t fragment 3rd party developers… Java has very little fragmentation.”

Rubin and the Oracle attorney went back and forth over whose definition of “fragmentation” meant what, then the Oracle lawyer brought up another email. In late 2007, a Sun SVP emailed Rubin to express the company’s concerns about Google’s Java work in Android leading to “a fractured environment” for developers.

Again, Rubin dickered over whether he and Sun and all Googlers had the same definition of “fractured,” but it was clear that Rubin was tap-dancing a bit and that there was, in fact, at least some friction over whether Sun was totally in love with Google’s implementation of Java in Android.

However, outside the courtroom, we heard from Peter Yared, currently CTO for CBS Interactive and formerly Sun’s CTO of the Application Server Division. On Twitter, Yared told VentureBeat, “As one of the few peeps at Sun advocating open sourcing java back in the day, we definitely knew people would fork the code.” And yes, he clarified, forking would mean fragmentation, which Sun understood.

“We felt that the Java technology compatibility kits would prevent frag[mentation] & maintain revenue. Ironically, now companies like Amazon are forking Android, and devs are complaining about Android fragmentation.”

Google’s attorneys will question Rubin themselves later during their portion of the trial. Next up, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is taking the stand, so stay tuned for details on his testimony.

VentureBeat is reporting live from the courthouse today; all quotations are direct from the named sources.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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How a 5-year-old blog post might turn the tide in Oracle v. Google Android case

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 08:05 AM PDT

A blog post written by former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz (pictured) has come into play in a tense courtroom this morning.

In Oracle’s ongoing lawsuit against Google, Judge William Alsup has allowed Google to use as evidence a particularly telling post from 2007 — a post that Oracle had already carefully scrubbed off the Internet and tried to exclude from the trial.

Oracle is suing Google over Android, claiming that Google had no right or permission to use the Oracle/Sun-owned Java programming language in the Google-owned Android operating system.

However, as Android was launching many years ago, Schwartz (who ed Sun before it was acquired by Oracle in 2010), wrote an extremely positive blog post about Java’s use in Android.

The post, which you can only read now via the Internet Archive, reads in part:

We’ve obviously done a ton of work to support developers on all Java based platforms, and were pleased to add Google’s Android to the list…

Needless to say, Google and the Open Handset Alliance just strapped another set of rockets to the community’s momentum – and to the vision defining opportunity across our (and other) planets.

Today is an incredible day for the open source community, and a massive endorsement of two of the industry’s most prolific free software communities, Java and Linux.

Yesterday, Android founder Andy Rubin admitted that in 2006, he thought that key Java APIs were copyrighted and subject to permission from Sun. However, a later and very public congratulatory post from Sun’s CEO would give Google some important ammunition in this trial.

Oracle’s attorneys objected to the post’s being admitted as evidence in the case. But this morning, Alsup said the post was important to the trial.

“It seems to be part of a pattern that acquiescence or tolerance of what Google was doing,” Alsup said. “It was only [two] years later that Oracle acquired the company and things changed.”

Alsup continued to say that although Oracle now accuses Google of patent and copyright violations, “At this time, Sun seemed to be enthusiastic about what Google was doing… It may be that no particular [Google] witness can recall reading this and that they relied on it, [but] I think that ought to come into evidence.”

In fact, Alsup said, “If Sun itself thought that Android was going to strap some rockets [to Java]… then how can Oracle can say its been damage? There ought to be a counterclaim for unjust enrichment,” a quip that brought a ripple of laughter to the courtroom.

“I can see this being a legitimate item of evidence,” Alsup concluded. “This is fair game. The motion to exclude is overruled.”

Image courtesy of JD Lasica, Flickr

VentureBeat is reporting live from the courthouse today; all quotations are direct from the named sources.

Filed under: mobile

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Near-complete Windows 8 build coming in June, no word on release date

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:57 AM PDT

Microsoft is scheduled to make a “release preview” version of its highly anticipated new operating system Windows 8 available in early June, according to Windows unit President Steven Sinofsky, who spoke at a company event in Japan today.

Windows 8 is part of Microsoft's strategy to integrate both personal computers with tablets and other mobile devices — much in the same way Apple has done with its OS X operating system and its iOS mobile OS. The new version of Windows features Microsoft's Metro theme, which is already seen on the company’s Xbox gaming console as well as its Windows Phone 7 OS. The user Metro user interface is also radically different, with the company yanking familiar staples like the start button.

The company has already released two versions of the OS, with the latest being the Consumer Preview in February. We still don’t know how long Microsoft is planning to wait before pushing out the final version to retail shelves. Earlier reports have indicated that the final release date could be as far out at October — something I found a bit odd considering how much ground Microsoft has already lost to Apple and Google in the way of PC-to-mobile integrated services.

Much like previous releases, Microsoft is releasing a consumer (standard) and pro version of Windows 8. There will also be a RT version for devices that use low-powered ARM processors.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Google Docs storage bumped from 1GB to 5GB before Drive launch

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:10 AM PDT


Just as we found out yesterday that much-anticipated Google Drive might replace Google Docs, the search giant has increased Google Docs storage to 5GB from 1GB, indicating an imminent Drive launch with answers to all our questions.

Drive has been in the making since 2007, when now-CEO Larry Page worked internally with other Googlers to launch a service called "G Drive." The project was indefinitely postponed. Since that time, players like Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive have emerged with their own cloud storage services targeting consumers and businesses. The already crowded field means Google will want to make a big splash, but even if Drive isn’t flashy, competitors should be seriously worried.


As you can see from the screenshot I took above, my Google e-mail account now has 5GB of storage. There was no notification that it happened. Google is rolling out 5GB of storage to Docs in a staggered manner, but most of the people in our organization already have the update. Based on the storage increase, Drive could launch as soon as today.

On Monday, both Dropbox and Microsoft released new solutions that will help keep them in the public eye even as Google launches Drive. Dropbox added new ways to share files and folders through links. Microsoft, on the other hand, added new Windows and Mac desktop client options and paid storage options.

Cloud storage photo: Shutterstock

Google Docs screenshot: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: cloud

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Asana will now take your money, Mr. Enterprise Fat Cat

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Asana, the white-hot task management app from a team of web wunderkinds, is going into business in earnest with its new product launch today.

Formerly free, the Asana product will now come in paid versions with fancy features for larger teams. Asana workgroups, as teams using the product collaboratively are called, had been limited to 30 people. Now, they can be much larger, from 50 people to hundreds, based on a sliding monthly subscription scale.

Asana is also bringing priority support, cross-workgroup collaboration features, and advanced permissions settings to the paid versions of the product.

The software in question was created by former Facebookers Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein. This will be their first crack at selling a product to enterprise-level clients rather than making web-based freebies for the masses, but they’ve been developing the application since their Facebook days. In fact, Rosenstein said during a call with Moscovitz and VentureBeat yesterday, Facebook still uses an older version of the software that became Asana.

“Trying to get everyone on the same page is really, really hard,” said Rosenstein. While a project manager at Google and also during his Facebook tenure, Rosenstein said, he had a lot of frustration over coordination on goals and projects. "We spent a huge amount of time not doing work, but doing ‘work about work.’"

Some of the biggest names in the web startup ecosystem are using Asana — Airbnb, Twitter, and Foursquare, just to name a few. With his company taking off like a rocket, not just throughout the startup ghetto but also in mainstream industries, Rosenstein said he task-management software an unappealing pursuit. “The idea of people accomplishing their goals — it’s hard to imagine anything sexier than that," he said.

Nevertheless, when we think of software built for businesses, we think of painful, bloated, difficult, and ugly programs that are force-fed to us by middle managers.

"Everyone has the same reaction: ‘I’m being forced to use this. This is crap. This is annoying.’ They end up running back to email and Google Docs,” Rosenstein told us. “That other stuff isn’t getting used in practice."

Still, there’s a glut of project management software on the market, due in no small part to the fact that it’s such a lucrative niche, “A lot of people are realizing this is an exciting opportunity,” said Rosenstein. “The leader is likely to be the next $100 billion company."

What Asana is doing differently, the team explained in our call, is making the design friendlier and the technology more elegant than any other comparable product “so you can sync your thoughts with the computer incredibly fast,” said Rosenstein. “It’s actually faster than Notepad."

Second, the team is focusing on flexibility, making a product that’s simple enough to be used in a huge range of tasks across an organization, from CRM in the customer service department to bug-tracking in IT to traditional project management.

The flexibility is key, because it’s Asana’s not-so-secret plan for infiltrating organizations with tens of thousands of members and earning those enterprise-grade monthly checks. You see, rather than pitching Asana to executives, the startup is hoping the product will get picked up by smaller team managers within the organization, slowly trickling up little by little until it gains a cult following throughout the company.

And as that happens, Asana will build out more features, for example, to allow the IT department’s workgroup to accept bug reports from the customer service workgroup.

Of course, in the heady highlands of the enterprise, Asana will be facing the usual competitors — Basecamp, Yammer, Google Docs, and email — but also custom-built software and legacy systems. We’ll see if the startup’s cult status and web-genius cachet pay off.

Asana officially launched in November 2011 and currently has “tens of thousands of teams” using the product. Altogether, Asana users have created 10 million tasks and have completed about 4 million tasks.

Image courtesy of Seanika, Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Valve’s new pricing will charge players based on how much of a jerk they are

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:57 AM PDT

The folks over at Valve have cooked up a novel pricing model for the upcoming Defense of the Ancients 2. Managing director Gabe Newell says that players will be charged based on what they bring to the community. Team players might get a free ride whereas jerks are going to have to pay cold hard cash.

“The issue that we’re struggling with quite a bit is something I’ve kind of talked about before, which is how do you properly value people’s contributions to a community?” Newell told Develop magazine.

If you are the kind of player who helps newbies find their footing, releases cool mods, and reports bugs in a timely manner, you might find yourself playing for free. If you’re a troll who picks on new players, exploits flaws in the game mechanics, and generally makes things less fun for everyone else, expect to pony up quite a bit.

“So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get Defense of the Ancients 2 for free because of past behaviour in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone; they can still play, but a game is full price, and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice,” Newell told Develop.

[Photo credit: SamBoyy]

Filed under: games, social

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AT&T’s Q1 profits actually rose because it sold fewer iPhones

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:10 AM PDT

AT&T 4G for Q1 2012 earnings

AT&T made a huge recovery in the first quarter from its last earnings report, where it reported a $6.7 billion net loss (mainly due to fees associated with the T-Mobile merger breakup). The company today reported revenues of $31.8 million, up 1.8 percent from last year, with profit of $3.58 billion, thanks mostly to a 41.6 percent increase in wireless margins.

Notably, the company solder fewer iPhones than last quarter — 4.3 million versus 7.6 million — which actually seemed to help wireless profits since it didn’t have to shell out expensive subsidies. (The iPhone 4S launched during the  last quarter, which also included a bump from holiday sales.) AT&T sold 1 million more iPhones than Verizon reported for the quarter, an its iPhone sales accounted for 78 percent of the 5.5 million smartphones. Wireless data revenue increased by more than $1 billion compared to last year, with 19.9 percent growth.

The company reported a net increase of 726,000 wireless subscribers, reaching a total of 103.9 million. Unfortunately, only 187,000 of those were postpaid wireless customers — well below Verizon’s 501,000 postpaid additions. AT&T also reported record “branded computing” sales (tablets, tethering plans, and the like) of 460,000, for a total of 5.8 million subscribers (up nearly 70 percent from last year).

As far as wireline service goes, AT&T reports that it now has 6 million U-Verse subscribers (which includes TV and Internet service), and 4 million U-Verse TV subscribers. Wireline revenues were $14.9 billion, down 0.8 percent compared to last year.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Skype brings video calls to PlayStation Vita

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

PlayStation Vita users will be able to make video calls for the first time thanks to the addition of Skype video communication.

For Sony, the deal will help the company demonstrate the non-gaming virtues of the Vita, which has been struggling to gain wide appeal beyond hardcore gamers.

Sony and Microsoft’s Skype division are announcing today that they are expanding Skype video calling to a portable gaming device for the first time, enabling video and voice calls on both the Wi-Fi and 3G/Wi-Fi versions of the PS Vita. Users can download the Skype app for free from the PlayStation Store later today.

"Our users appreciate being able to access Skype features wherever and whenever they choose," said Manrique Brenes, senior director of consumer electronics group at Skype, said in statement. "With the launch of Skype for PS Vita, we are taking another step toward our ultimate goal of making Skype video calling available on every platform, all over the world, and meeting the demands of existing PlayStation users to offer video on a gaming console."

It’s interesting that Sony and Microsoft, which bought Skype for  $8.5 billion last year, are cooperating even though they are rivals in the game business. But then, they have bigger enemies to fight, such as Apple, which has the Face Time video call service on its iOS devices.

Skype on PS Vita runs in "background mode" for users while gaming or using other applications. Users can pause a game, answer a call, and then return to the game. PS Vitas feature both front and rear cameras, so users can switch back and forth between them during a Skype call.

Twelve-time world champion video game player Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendell was one of the first users to test-drive the application.

"As a gaming enthusiast, I am always in search for a next big thing," said Fatal1ty. "When I heard Skype was going to be featured on PS Vita, my first thought was this was going to be the device that sets the bar for all new gaming consoles — connecting with family and friends while playing your favorite game."

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, VentureBeat

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With 5M corporate users, Yammer adds integration with SharePoint, Salesforce, & more

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Yammer new features and integration

Business-focused social network Yammer is making good on its promise to all aspects of work software more social. Today the startup announced a slew of new features, including a new Universal Search tool, Premium Yammer Groups, more advanced content sharing options, and lots of new integration with third-party enterprise software platforms.

For those who aren’t familiar with the service, Yammer provides companies with their own private social network that employees use to quickly communicate and update their activity throughout the day. (Disclosure: VentureBeat writers use Yammer to communicate on the job.) A company's Yammer network is closed off from public view and is only accessible to people who have a company email address. More than 200,000 businesses are now using Yammer's social service, including 7-Eleven, Red Robin, Ford, General Electric, Shell, and Penn State University.

Yammer, which now has five million corporate users, said the new features and functionality its rolling out for spring will help the company reach its goal of hitting 8 to 10 million corporate users by the end of 2012. Yammer’s platform looks a lot like Facebook’s open graph, except optimized for a professional business communication client.

One of the most easily recognizable new features due out this spring is the new Universal Search, which allows business data from nearly any enterprise application (including Salesforce.com, SAP, and Microsoft SharePoint) to be accessed in Yammer's search engine. All activity from those applications will also appear in Yammer’s Activity ticker feed, which functions a lot like Facebook’s news ticker.

The basic idea behind Universal Search is to provide one tool for people to search across all their business data, Yammer CTO and co-founder Adam Pisoni told VentureBeat in an interview. “Most enterprise applications have a slow search tool that crawls and indexes all the information behind a firewall,” he said, adding that those tools require login screens that obviously don’t play nice with cloud applications. And much of the communication people have through social networks lives in the cloud, so this is obviously something Yammer wants to fix.

Pisoni said the search results will appear within separate tabs for each integrated program, and search results will be based on each individual user’s behavior.

Yammer is also giving all users access to “Yammer Embed,” which was previously in private beta testing and only available by request. Yammer Embed is basically a widget that can be added to any business application to enhance its social profile.

New group pricing and external sharing

Integration isn’t the only thing Yammer is focused on. The company is also rolling out a new Premium Groups option, which is tailored to specific department of a business that may want to jump into using Yammer before others. For $79 per month, Premium Groups offers unlimited users, increased file storage limits, and advanced admin controls. Think of it as a way for Yammer to get its foot in the door for companies who don’t yet see the appeal of adding a social network-like tool to their office communication arsenal.

Yammer also wants to make it easier to share between groups on the same network, and its rolling out a new tool that allows groups to cross-post files, conversations, and pages. This could come in handy for larger companies that can’t resort to using the “All networks” communication feed.

The other big change to sharing that Yammer is implementing is a way to communicate with the outside world. As such, it’s setting up a new “Email File” button that enables employees to send messages third-parties (like contracted workers, company partners, outside firms, etc.) a one-time URL to view a file or Page. Viewing rights can be revoked at any time, and the Yammer network admin can turn this functionality off if necessary.

Pisoni told me this particular method of sharing is more secure than regular email communication, and less cumbersome than the large file-sending services like YouSendIt.

Founded in September 2008, the San Francisco-based startup has raised a total of $142 million in funding to date.

Image via Peshkova /Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, enterprise, social, VentureBeat

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AMD takes a swing at Intel and Nvidia with new mobile graphics chips

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 05:00 AM PDT

A day after Intel launched its Ivy Bridge combo graphics-microprocessor chips, Advanced Micro Devices is launching a new series of fast and power-efficient graphics processing units (GPU) for notebook computers.

The new AMD Radeon HD 7900M, 7800M, and 7700M series are aimed at both high-end gamer laptops as well as thin media-rich laptops. The products are aimed at beating back competition from both Intel and Nvidia.

The new AMD GPUs use the “Graphics Core Next” architecture introduced last fall with the 40-nanometer 7000 series chips. But the new ones are more advanced and power efficient because they use a 28-nanometer manufacturing process; i.e., the circuits are a mere 28 nanometers apart. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.)

The improvements in the manufacturing process and design that come with the new GPUs will enable video game graphics that run much faster than the previous generation of mobile graphics chips. AMD says that the HD7970M can run Deus Ex: Human Revolution 16 percent faster than Nvidia’s GTX675M. That’s not much. But it also says that it can run Aliens vs. Predator (2010) as much as 76 percent faster than the Nvidia chip based on benchmarks provided by AMD.

They also feature AMD App Acceleration, which means that non-graphics computer applications will be able to run faster. And they are more power efficient thanks to features such as AMD Enduro technology, AMD Powergate, and AMD ZeroCore technology.

“We’re bringing a lot of innovation to notebook computers,” said Ogi Brkic, an AMD product manager.

The high-end 7900M graphics chip has 1,280 components known as stream processors. It runs at 850 megahertz and can compute 2,176 gigaflops (a measure of math-intensive performance). The chip can power as many as six displays. The 7900M is shipping now. The 7800M graphics chip has 640 stream processors, runs at 800 megahertz, and can compute at 864 gigaflops. And the low-end 7700M graphics chip has 512 stream processors, runs at 675 megahertz, and can compute 589 gigaflops.

The AMD Enduro technology is like Nvidia’s Optimus. It switches between the processor’s integrated graphics or a discrete graphics chip, depending on the graphics task at hand. The AMD Powergate technology shuts down parts of the graphics chip when they are not in use, reducing static screen power by 34 percent. The ZeroCore technology turns off a lot of functions in the graphics chip when the core is idle. It also controls additional graphics chips in the system and consumes less power as needed. ZeroCore reduces idle power consumption by 86 percent.

Intel launched its Ivy Bridge microprocessors on Monday, and computer makers are announcing a bunch of systems that combine Ivy Bridge and graphics chips from AMD’s arch rival, Nvidia. Toshiba and Alienware have combined both Nvidia GeForce 600M graphics chips and Intel Ivy Bridge processors in new systems. Both of those systems were built from the ground up for performance and power efficiency. Alienware has announced a new laptop with the AMD chips, and more are expected soon.

Nvidia says it expects to garner the lion's share of Intel Ivy Bridge notebooks with discrete graphics chips. Of course, some computer makers will simply use Ivy Bridge chips, which combine decent graphics and a microprocessor on the same chip, as the only major computing chip in stripped-down laptops or Ultrabooks. In that kind of scenario, both AMD graphics and Nvidia lose out.

AMD is now ramping up its production of its code-named Trinity processors, which are expected to compete head-on with Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips. As you can see, the competition has become multi-dimensional in the processor-graphics market.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, VentureBeat

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Did Facebook mistime its IPO? Profit and revenue fall on seasonal ad slide

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:51 AM PDT

Facebook is king of the social networks, but when it comes to its business model, it looks a lot like a traditional media company. 15 percent of its revenue comes from games like Zynga, but the rest is advertising, purchased in large part by the same blue chip brands who shop at Conde Nast or the New York Times.

So when Facebook released its amended S-1 yesterday to reflect its first quarter financials, it showed that Facebook's net income, or profit, actually dipped by $28 million from the first quarter of 2011. Also of note, Facebook made $1.13 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011, meaning that it made 6 percent less in total revenue in Q1 2012, a notable difference the company attributes to seasonal trends in advertising spend.

Perhaps Wall Street won’t mind this small hiccup in Facebook’s business, but it certainly shows how mortal the social network is only a few weeks before its $104 billion IPO. Sure, everyone in the old media business has the same problem, but Facebook is supposed to be a new breed. You know who’s ad revenue didn’t decline between 2011 and the start of 2012? Google.

The company’s new approach to advertising, focusing on the Timeline and creative content in place of traditional ads, has given a big boost to the price Facebook can charge for its advertising, boosting it 41% according to a report from TGM.

Facebook can now claims 900 million users and is still bringing in only $1-2 billion in profit a year. Where do you go from there? China has a lot of the unclaimed names, but it’s off limits for now. Facebook admits as much in its S-1. “Historically, our user growth has been a primary driver of growth in our revenue. We expect that our user growth and revenue growth rates will decline as the size of our active user base increases and as we achieve higher market penetration rates.”

If ever there was a case of analog dollars and digital dimes, it’s got to be Facebook.

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

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Twitter commerce platform Chirpify raises $1.3M from social media execs

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

By turning tweets into transactions, startup Chirpify has secured an important transaction of its own.

The young, Portland-based company has raised $1.3 million from social media executives and angels in its first formal round of funding. Voyager Capital, angel investor Geoff Entress, BuddyTV CEO Andy Liu, former Facebook executive Rudy Gadre, HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes, and TiE Oregon Angels all participated in the round.

Chirpify is a payment system that integrates with PayPal to allow individuals and businesses to transact on Twitter. The company, which debuted last year as Sell Simply before relaunching in February, counts Hewlett Packard, Nestle, and PowerBar as clients, and claims to be profitable.

“The concept of Chirpify began when I noticed individuals and brands listing their items on various marketplaces only to go to Twitter to tweet about the items,” Chirpify founder and CEO Chris Teso told VentureBeat. “Users then had to be taken off Twitter through a five-step checkout process before they could even transact. I decided to combine all aspects of that, remove a lot of steps, and let both listing and transaction occur in stream with one tweet.”

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, Chirpify expanded its offering with support for digital content, meaning musicians and bands can now sell content such as music or concert tickets directly to fans on Twitter.

Here’s how this works: An artist uploads content to the Chirpify dashboard, sets a price, attaches an optional photo, and pens the tweet text. When the content-for-sale tweet is published to Twitter, the listing is live and Twitterers, after first authorizing Chirpify to make a connection between their Twitter and PayPal accounts, can simply reply to the tweet to buy the content in question.

“We see a giant opportunity in the music space enabling bands and musicians to control their own distribution and sell directly to their fans on the same platform they spend so much time and energy gaining and engaging their followers,” Teso said. “The potential for concert tickets and music distribution is large.”

The modest round of funding is a small vote of confidence from investors, some of whom are operating successful social media businesses of their own. The round signals that Chirpify may have hit on a unique revenue stream that Twitter has not yet tapped. But history tells us that building a business on top of Twitter’s platform is risky. The information network has demonstrated it has no qualms about bulldozing over competition from third-party developers, and it’s currently on a big push to monetize its service.

No worries, Teso said. “We’ve had very encouraging discussions with Twitter Business and they love what we’re doing. They’re focused on their ad platform and have conveyed they have no intention to move into commerce in the way that we’ve enabled any time soon.”

Chirpify is a product of the Upstart Labs accelerator in Portland, Oregon. Upstart Labs provided the startup with $50,000 in the form of a convertible note.

Photo credit: id-iom/Flickr

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Yup, Planetary Resources is all about asteroid mining — and it’s not as crazy as it seems

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 09:06 PM PDT

When first we heard about Planetary Resourcesthe mysterious space company launching tomorrow with the backing of big tech names — we had an inkling that the company was actually an asteroid mining outfit, specifically focusing on platinum mining.

Now, the company has revealed its true purpose, and yes, it’s totally focused on extracting precious resources from asteroids, including platinum. Wired’s Adam Mann had the privilege to talk with the folks behind Planetary Resources ahead of tomorrow’s launch event, and in addition to confirming its sci-fi sounding plans, he also revealed some interesting details about the mysterious company.

"The resources of Earth pale in comparison to the wealth of the solar system," Eric Anderson, co-founder of Planetary Resources and founder of the space tourism company Space Adventures, told Wired. Anderson started the company together with Peter Diamandis, the X Prize founder who previously argued for space mining in a TED talk.

According to a press release sent out last week, they’ll be joined by former NASA Mars mission head Chris Lewicki and former astronaut and planetary scientist Tom Jones,  at the launch event tomorrow. The company is notably backed by an impressive group of names, including Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker (and explorer) James Cameron, and Ross Perot, Jr.

Planetary Resources’ mission will certainly be tough-going, but the rewards could be astronomical. According to Wired, the company “hopes to go after the platinum-group metals — which include platinum, palladium, osmium, and iridium — highly valuable commodities used in medical devices, renewable energy products, catalytic converters, and potentially in automotive fuel cells.”

As we pointed out in our story over the weekend, a relatively small asteroid is worth about "20 trillion dollars in the platinum group metal marketplace," Diamandis has said in past talks. Moreover, in a speech just six months ago, Diamandis said he planned to finance his space activities by buying "puts" in the platinum markets, and then announcing his ambitious plans — although he may have been half-joking.

With platinum now worth around $23,000 a pound, the company could mine around $6 billion of the stuff from the top feet of a typical half-mile wide asteroid (around 130 tons). But given that the company will have to spend tens of millions simply to scope out worthwhile asteroids, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by the potential returns.

So where does Planetary Resources go from here? According to Wired, the company will launch two to five space-based telescopes in the next 18 to 24 months. And within five to seven years, Planetary Resources will send out a “swarm” of similar spacecraft to take a closer look at the asteroids (this alone could cost between $25 and $30 million).

The company isn’t yet revealing how it will mine, possibly refine, and deliver the ore to Earth. A video the company provided to Wired shows how robots could be used to dig up the precious minerals.

It’ll be some time before we see the results of Planetary Resources’ endeavor, and it could fail completely. But if the company even has a small chance of success, it would be worth exploring the possibilities of asteroid mining and figuring out the big problems with the process now.

We’ll be live at the company’s announcement tomorrow in Seattle, so stay tuned for more details.

Asteroid mining concept image via NASA/Denise Watt

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More evidence that Google Drive could replace Google Docs

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 08:41 PM PDT

More evidence that Google Drive will be just like Google DocsGoogle’s long-anticipated file-sharing service, Google Drive, may have a lot in common with Google Docs, and might even have the same features.

A sharp-eyed observer, Piers Dillon Scott, noticed today that drive.google.com hosts a robots.txt file that’s very similar to the one at docs.google.com, differing only by three or four lines. You can check them both out right now: robots.txt on drive.google.com and robots.txt on docs.google.com. By contrast, the robots.txt file for Gmail is far longer and more complicated.

Robots.txt is a standard file that website owners post to let search engines know which directories are OK to search and which to exclude from indexing. The similarity of the two sites’ files suggests that they will have nearly identical directory structures.

While the drive.google.com website is not online yet (it returns a 404 error), Google owns that domain name, and it will likely be the address of Google Drive. The fact that it has a robots.txt file that’s so similar to the one for Google Docs is not a definitive piece of evidence, but it certainly is suggestive that Drive will offer many of the same features (such as the ability to view presentations, documents, files, and drawings) that Google Docs does. That would make sense, since you can already upload files of any type to Google Drive, using it as a de facto online hard drive.

So if Google is going to create a Google Drive that has the same features, but with the addition of offline syncing and other file-sharing options, why not simply merge Google Docs into the newer product?

Previous reports have shown a Google Drive web interface that looks an awful lot like Google Docs (see screenshot above). The service will likely offer 5GB of free storage and present a serious competitive threat to other online storage services. But Box.net chief executive Aaron Levie isn’t scared, and for its part, Dropbox has made it even easier to share files through simple URLs.

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My wasted day on Capitol Hill

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 07:51 PM PDT

With the economy still in the doldrums, our political leaders are desperate to find ways to boost economic growth. Innovation and entrepreneurship are among the most obvious pathways to a solution. Both were the subject of a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship chaired by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Wednesday. I was asked to participate in the discussion with other academics, government officials and entrepreneurs.

I left the hearing feeling depressed.

Government leaders — at least some of those present — actually seemed to believe they could, through legislation and spending, increase entrepreneurship and innovation. They asked questions such as: What legislation can we enact to build innovation ecosystems, facilitate mentorship, and teach entrepreneurship? They didn't seem to understand that these are things entrepreneurs do—not governments.

Governments routinely build science parks, provide subsidies to chosen industries and set up investment funds — all in an effort to spark economic growth. But hardly any of these efforts bear fruit. After the recent financial meltdown, our government also bailed out banks in the hope that the massive subsidies would trickle down to small businesses. But that didn't happen either.

During the hearing, Landrieu made some insightful comments about the importance of mentorship. When entrepreneurs have good mentors, their odds of success are greatly improved, if only because they can learn from the experiences of others. But she then went on to ask how the government could facilitate mentoring and how it can provide incentives for people to help others, ultimately turning more small businesses into big businesses.

If only things were this simple.

All mentors are not created equal. Entrepreneurs don't need help from just anyone that comes along. They need to find others that complement their skills, understand their markets and their challenges and are willing to help them. How can the government possibly do this type of matchmaking?

Instead, government should streamline the laws and significantly reduce the red tape which holds small businesses back. They must provide rule of law with clear regulations and the freedom to take risks and innovate. They must create a healthy financial system so that risk financing is available for startups. They need to ensure that the workforce is highly educated, keeps its skills current and that businesses can hire the workers they need.

As Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) pointed out, there is a global war for talent underway, which the U.S. is at risk of losing. He also mentioned that, with the current tax laws inhibiting the repatriation of money earned abroad, companies are keeping large amounts of cash overseas. These factors, combined, add up to a double loss for the economy.

"It seems to me to be perhaps the most important issue we face in being able to grow our economy," said Moran of the global talent war. He went on, saying, "We get caught in this immigration…all-encompassing kind of conversation and the politics never seem to allow us to do what, at least I think, the vast majority of policy makers in Washington, D.C. either know we should do or, if told the facts, would easily reach the conclusion that we need to do this."

Landrieu responded saying, "There's also an issue of people being educated in the United States themselves — born in the United States, educated in the United States — and giving them an equal opportunity to compete against those born elsewhere."

Her response left me stunned. Instead of providing unqualified support for skilled immigration, she seemed to hedge, echoing the protectionist sentiments that are preventing a political compromise on skilled immigration. The most effective and least expensive boost our government could give our economy is to fix the problem of skilled immigration and to let foreign entrepreneurs start their businesses in the U.S. If the Senate committee was indeed serious about boosting entrepreneurship and helping American businesses, it would resolve this issue and not dance around it.

In short, government should do what it does best: govern. Let's have our political leaders spend their energy on fixing the constipated political system, strengthen infrastructure and education, and enact legislation to boost skilled immigration. It should let entrepreneurs build their own networks and teach each other about entrepreneurship. If it does, I have no doubt that the economic recovery we are longing for will follow.

Washington Post columnist Vivek Wadhwa is a visiting scholar at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, director of research for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and senior research associate for the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

Copyright 2012, WashingtonPost

Capitol Building image via ShutterStock

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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Iran shuts down oil infrastructure after cyber attack

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 06:48 PM PDT

Oil systems Iran

Iran shut down Internet access to its oil terminals today following a cyber attack that is said to have begun on Sunday afternoon.

The Oil Ministry shut down Internet access to all of its oil facilities, operations, and rigs soon after finding the virus, dubbed “wiper”, according to an anonymous Oil Ministry employee who spoke with The New York Times. According to this individual, Iran’s oil production and exports were not affected.

The virus was responsible for some wiped hard drives within the ministry, appropriately earning its name. Related websites such as the National Iranian Oil Company and the National Iranian Gas Company were also shut down, according to the Times, though whether they were shut down by the virus or the Ministry remains unclear.

This virus isn’t the first of its kind to hit Iranian infrastructure. In 2010, a virus called Stuxnet affected Iran’s nuclear program by attacking its control system called SCADA or supervisory control and data acquisition. The SCADA system controls various processes (both hardware and software oriented) within the nuclear program, including those responsible for creating fuel for potential nuclear weapons.

"Attacks on critical infrastructure are more common than many think,” said McAfee security director Brian Contos in an e-mail to VentureBeat, “Because of a lack of disclosure in these industries, many incidents ranging from sabotage and intellectual property theft to extortion go unreported.”

Other SCADA systems, including those on U.S. soil are flagged as being vulnerable to cyber attack. John Strauchs, who owns a security consulting firm, flagged prison doors controlled by SCADA systems as a potential target. He came to the conclusion soon after receiving a call about a prison’s death-row doors popping open. In that case, the doors were triggered by a faulty wire.

via The New York Times; Oil pump image via Shutterstock

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Struggling RIM hires a law firm to assist with restructuring

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 05:25 PM PDT

Research In Motion, the company behind the ailing Blackberry platform, has hired a law firm to help it with a company-wide restructuring plan aimed at making the company profitable again. The plan could include selling off resources, seeking joint ventures, or licensing its patents.

After losing a significant portion of its market share to Apple’s iPhone and smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, RIM has been looking for ways to boost revenue. Previously, RIM had been in talks with major cell phone carriers to include some of its network services, such as the popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), on competitors’ devices. However, this plan was being spearheaded by Jim Balsillie, RIM’s recently ousted co-CEO. Since January, RIM has been under the direction of new CEO Thorsten Heins and it’s uncertain if Heins or the company’s restructuring will continue along the path set out by Balsillie.

“This is a very mature strategy and RIM was very far down the road with a lot of those discussions with carriers,” a source told Thomson Reuters.

For RIM, its latest restructuring efforts can’t come quick enough, as it’s losing large sums of cash fast. In its most recent quarter, RIM posted a $125 million dollar loss, and before that it took an even larger hit due to its underwhelming sales of the PlayBook tablet computer. RIM’s stock has dropped 75 percent in the last year.

According to the source at Thomson Reuters, an abundance of investment banks have approached RIM during the past few months all advocating to fill the role as RIM’s financial adviser. However RIM is not expected to hire any bankers until it has decided to sell off any major company assets or gets a bid for takeover interest in the company. The law firm contracted to consult on the restructuring is Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.

Rebuilding image via ShutterStock

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EMC’s buy of XtremIO for $400M could spur M&A rush in flash storage

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 05:07 PM PDT

EMC Corp is in the final stages of buying flash-memory storage company XtremIO for $400 million, a VentureBeat source has confirmed. The deal is the latest sign that the flash storage market is red hot, and it could spur other deals as other big players rush to bolster their own offerings.

Flash storage is big because it’s where all large enterprises are moving to store their massive amounts of data — because of its superior performance and lower price.

The EMC-XtremIO talks were first reported earlier today by the Israel-based tech publication, Globes. Our source said late Monday that the deal is not signed yet, but it is in “final stages of paper.”

XtremeIO is based in Herzliya, Israel, and has offices in San Jose, Calif., and talks have been building since EMC CEO Joseph Tucci went to Israel in December, the Globes reported. The two companies have ties in part because XtremeIO co-founder Shuki Bruck sold his previous company Rainfinity to EMC.

One rival company in this area is Fusion-io, a relatively young, but fast-growing publicly traded company that launched a new flash storage platform just last week. At the DEMO conference (which VentureBeat co-produces), the company announced a software development kit (SDK) to provide software developers with native access to its ioMemory flash platform, a first in the industry. However, Fusion-io is very small (valued at just $2.36 billion) compared to the bigger players in the industry, and may be more acquisition bait than the other way around.

Big competitors, including NetApp, H-P, Dell, IBM, and Hitachi Data Systems may feel pressured to get in the game and look for such companies to acquire, reports Derrick Harris. Indeed, NetApp was reportedly also trying to make a bid for XtremIO.

The all-flash array of the type XtremeIO offers will give EMC faster performance across both virtualized and big data environments, meaning it will also help EMC’s subsidiary VMWare, which focuses on virtualization. “Combined with EMC's server-side PCI flash product called Project Lightning, which keeps hot data in an SSD cache sitting alongside the processor, that's one powerful hardware platform for tomorrow's applications,” Harris reports.

Another target could be Violin Memory, a Silicon Valley startup, that recently raised $4o million in a fourth round of funding at a reported value of $800M. Nimbus Data Systems, Kaminario, Virident, Pure Storage, Tintri, and Nimble Storage are also names being thrown around.

XtremIO has raised $25 million in two rounds from Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and Giza Venture Capital, which each apparently hold 20-30 percent of the startup. Other investors include Battery Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures.

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Retracing where it all went wrong for Research in Motion

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 04:45 PM PDT

Blackberry phone

Research in Motion is a really forward-thinking, technologically-advanced smartphone creator, said no one recently.

The company is in a downward spiral, and a look at its timeline shows just how the company progressed from innovator to struggling dinosaur.

The Canadian company started out with a bang in 1999, after releasing the Blackberry 850 pager, equipped with QWERTY keyboard. Revenue climbed as RIM released more phones with wireless data connections and users got used to the ease of checking e-mail on their phones. Soon after, the company introduced the popular Blackberry Messenger application.

But as soon as iPhone and Android smartphones hit the market, RIM seemingly lost its ability to compete. Today, RIM is restructuring and even hired a law firm to help it get organized. This could involve selling off assets, licensing patents, and more. So while the timeline below suggests RIM’s impending doom, the company may be able to sell off enough limbs to stay relevant.

Check out RIM’s timeline thus far below:

Death of RIM
Infographic created by MBAOnline.com

Blackberry image via Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile

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E3: Early registration ends today

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 04:39 PM PDT

E3This sponsored post is produced by E3.

Early registration for E3 2012 closes today – April 23rd.

E3 is the world’s most important event for the video game industry. It takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 5th to 7th. From industry giants to emerging game developers, E3 2012 has the companies you want to see and the industry leaders you want to meet.

Register for E3 2012 today using code IMNOTWAITING. Only qualified industry professionals may attend.

To receive complimentary admission you must be part of the interactive entertainment industry and you must be able to provide two forms of documentation demonstrating your direct and current professional affiliation to this industry.

You can follow E3 on Twitter at @E3Expo or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/E3Expo.

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Funding daily: One social API to rule them all

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 04:37 PM PDT

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

Singly snagged $7M for a simpler social API

form D tipped us off to the news that Singly has raised $7 million in funding. Singly helps people build apps that integrate with social networks, such as Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook, without multiple application processing interfaces (APIs). The company’s services are still in private alpha and Singly is hosting hackathons to improve its offerings. A blog post from the Foundry Group confirmed the venture capital firm’s participation in the funding round.

ScienceLogic grabs $15M from Intel Capital

IT cloud services startup ScienceLogic has raised a $15 million round of funding. The startup provides a variety of data center and cloud services that can work with outdated in-house IT systems. Intel Capital led the round, with participation from previous investor New Enterprise Associates.

Moat raises $12M for advertising analytics

Ad tech startup Moat attracted $12 million in its second round of funding. In addition to advertising analytics services, the company has a display ad search, which shows where ads are being placed and how well they do on certain websites. Mayfield Fund led the round, with participation from prior investors including SV Angel, Founders Fund, Lerer Ventures, Vast Ventures, Founder Collective, and First Round Capital.

If you’ve got funding news for us, send it to tips@venturebeat.com.

Social circle in hands image via Shutterstock

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Gamers: Get the most out of your Android device

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 04:10 PM PDT

Android games and apps for gamers

It’s pretty old at this point, the notion that iOS has all of the games while Android’s Play Store (recently changed from the Market) wallows in a ghetto. No one denies that Apple’s app ecosystem is more robust in its offerings, but that fact alone doesn’t really matter to people who only have an Android device. It’s pointless to tell someone with the Galaxy Nexus, Android’s latest flagship handset, that the iPhone 4S has Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, and the Nexus doesn’t. That’s about as helpful as teasing a diabetic about the best donuts at Krispy Kreme. Not that owning an Android should be compared to losing the ability to process sugar….

Google’s mobile platform has a lot to offer people who love games. Pinball Arcade and Angry Birds Space are great, but the operating system also has excellent supplemental apps for game-distribution service Steam, rental program GameFly, and news. So no more teasing, just straightforward advice to help everyone squeeze the most out of their Android phones or tablets:

10 must-have Android games:

Let’s start here. After installing Facebook and Twitter, a lot of people are going to look into downloading something fun. Well here’s 10 of them to get you started.

Scramble with Friends for Android10. Scramble with Friends

This is Zynga’s take on the classic word game Boggle. The company applied its own Words with Friends treatment to create another excellent asynchronous multiplayer experience. Only unlike that Scrabble-clone, Scramble doesn’t suffer from an epidemic of cheaters. Special moves that freeze the clock or twist the playing field help maintain parity between differently skilled players. Scramble with Friends is available for free or an ad-free version for $.99. (download)

9. ChuChu Rocket!

The old Sega Dreamcast puzzler lives on with touch controls. Direct your mice to their rocket ships (it makes less sense today then it did then) by placing arrow markers on the map with a swipe of your finger. Setting up a perfectly arranged path of arrows and watching the level unfurl exactly as predicted is always satisfying. It has all the content it did back then with hundreds of different levels and several modes. ChuChu Rocket! is available for $.99. (download)

8. Triple Town

This addictive spin on the match-three puzzle game slows things down to a more strategic pace. Instead of manipulating pieces falling from the sky, the player can choose what to introduce onto the field on a turn-by-turn basis. Oh, and it has dead bears that turn into churches. Can’t argue with that science. Triple Town is available for free. (download)

7. Zookeeper DX

Bejeweled clones are plentiful, so choosing between them comes down to taste. For me, the colorful Zookeeper DX is tops. It has two different modes designed around combining three monkeys or hippos or pandas, and yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds. Zookeeper DX is available for $.99. (download)

6. Epic Astro Story

Developer Kairosoft has made a fortune developing its Story lineup of games, but Epic Astro Story is one of its best. It’s a game all about colonizing space with characters like James Turk and Jean Vicard. It probably could have earned this spot simply with its Star Trek references, but this digital crack will eat up two days of your life and make it feel like five minutes. Epic Astro Story is available in a Lite version for free while the full version is $4.99. (download)

Epic Astro Story Android

5. World of Goo

This indie-gaming favorite has gotten around. Developer 2D Boy has released a version of its weird bridge-building simulator for PC, Mac, Wii, iOS, and now Android. The structure-building mechanics work beautifully with the touch-screen controls, and the gorgeous visuals didn’t lose a pixel in the translation to the smaller screen. It’s also one of those titles that is best experienced with headphones thanks to the exquisite soundtrack. A World of Goo demo is available for free while the full version will run you $4.99. (download)

4. Temple Run

Temple Run adds some complexity to the endless-running style of game (think Canabalt) while maintaining a simple control mechanic. Instead of tapping, players swipe left or right to turn, up to jump, and down to slide. The game also utilizes the gyroscope so that players can swerve while running and collect coins. Plus it gets really intense thanks to the gang of apes chasing you to the beats of ceaselessly thumping drums. Temple Run is available for free. (download)

Pinball Arcade for Android3. Peggle

The hit pachinko knockoff from PopCap is fun and easy to play, which makes it perfect for your phone. Shooting a tiny ball into a sea of pegs and watching it bounce around is satisfying. Although, everyone who’s played it knows that few things are as exhilarating as hitting the 100,000 point bonus at the end of each stage while Ode to Joy plays you off. Peggle is available for $2.99. (download)

2. Pinball Arcade

Farsight Studios combined accurate real-world physics with officially licensed pinball machines to create a worthy collection of digital tables. This package is filled with machines that you probably only vaguely remember from smoke-filled bars in the ’90s. Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Ye Olde Medieval Madness, and Theater of Magic are just some of playable licensed games in Pinball Arcade. Of course, who cares about pinball if you can’t brag about your high score to friends? Wisely, the leaderboard is tied to your Facebook account, so you can keep tabs on your friends who’re playing on iOS or Xbox Live Arcade as well. Pinball Arcade is available for free. The first pack of four tables costs $9.99 while the second, which comes with two tables, costs $4.99. Alternatively, each table can be purchased individually for $2.99. (download)

1. Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap’s tower-defense game teaches an important skill: gardening in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Players must utilize a variety of offensive and defensive plants in the course of fighting off wave after wave of zombies. It’s a ridiculous premise but a charming one. And when a game is this much fun, it can be about whatever it wants. The PC controls have obviously translated well to the touch screen, and the game just got an update with some bonus content. (download)

Streaming PC games to your Android with OnLive

Peggle on a phone is cute, but what if you could play current-generation hits like Rockstar’s L.A. Noire or THQ’s Darksiders with no loss in graphical quality? OnLive is the service that streams full-featured games to less-powerful hardware using a similar technology to Netflix. It works well most of the time, although latency can sometimes dampen the experience.

Filed under: games, mobile

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Mr. Page goes to Washington: Google lobbying tripled in Q1

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 03:33 PM PDT


If its lobbying spend is any indication, Google is trying to woo the government. The search giant spent triple what it did a year ago on lobbying efforts in Washington, according to The Hill.

Google’s spending in Washington, D.C. has increased as government agencies continue to scrutinize the company’s data privacy practices. Just last week, the FCC fined Google a paltry $25,000 for “deliberately impeding” investigations into its “accidental” snooping of Wi-Fi networks. And earlier this year, Google attracted a ton of attention for completely revamping its privacy policies.

The company’s main concerns in D.C. have been privacy legislation, including rules on online tracking, and cyber security legislation, including the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) bill. CISPA could enable companies to share private user information with the government to help it fight and prevent cyber security attacks. Google has not taken a position one way or the other on CISPA, so it’s hard to tell which side it’s playing.

Getting down to specifics, Google spent $5.03 million on lobbying from January to March, which is a 240 percent increase over the $1.48 million it spent in the first quarter of 2011. That’s not much compared to the $10.6 billion in revenue it cleared in Q1 2012, but every bit helps in Washington. Google CEO Larry Page used that earnings call to announce a Google stock split, something else it could be lobbying about.

Photo credit: Vasilevich Aliaksandr/Shutterstock

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With Ivy Bridge, Intel poses a new threat to Nvidia and other graphics chip makers

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 02:53 PM PDT

Intel versus Nvidia

Intel’s just-unveiled Ivy Bridge processor family promises faster processing power and better graphics, thanks to a massively-enhanced integrated graphics system. The news has prompted some analysts to say that Ivy Bridge could mean doom for manufacturers of dedicated graphics cards, such as Nvidia and AMD, because Ivy Bridge is just that good.

“Intel has been hammered for their graphics performance, and they did much better in Sandy Bridge, but Ivy Bridge has two times the graphics performance and that’s a pretty significant difference,” said analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates in an interview with VentureBeat.

Graphics card manufacturers Nvidia and AMD have cause for concern over Intel’s announcement, according to Gold. The small market of people seeking out high-performance graphics cards is made up of mostly hardcore gamers who often build their own desktops. But Ivy Bridge’s improved graphics will likely be enough for the average consumer, which could mean that Nvidia’s already-struggling graphics card business could get hit hard.

“Ivy Bridge is continuing a downward spiral for graphics card manufacturers that has been going on for a while now,” said Gold. “Extreme gamers who want very powerful graphics cards are in a niche market already, and it’s shrinking. That doesn’t bode well for Nvidia, because their graphics chip market is falling off faster than their mobile chip market. For 95 percent of the folks out there, integrated graphics will be what they want.”

AMD might not be as affected by Ivy Bridge, says Gold, because its processor manufacturing business is doing fine and it will continue to manufacture chips for laptops and desktops.

Nvidia corporate communications representative Ken Brown responded to Gold’s comments, saying that there are many gamers who rely on graphics cards. Brown noted that integrated graphics have struggled and the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who make most PCs are still choosing to put graphics processors in their laptops and desktops.

“Some people are assuming that everyone will have the latest [and fastest] flavor of Ivy Bridge and that’s a false assumption,” said Brown in an interview. “We’ve found in the past that about half the latest games don’t play effectively on integrated graphics, especially in the case of Sandy Bridge. Ivy Bridge seems to have improved, but there may still be issues with big games like Battlefield 3.”

Analyst Patrick Moorhead also believe that Nvidia and AMD will still have a place in an Ivy Bridge world, because the Intel chip’s integrated graphic processing unit can only provide so much performance.

“There will still be a big need for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards because game graphics are getting better, but [Ivy Bridge] will make the graphics experience better at certain levels,” noted Moorhead in an interview with VentureBeat.

Both Moorhead and Gold agree that Ivy Bridge is a big step for faster processors, which will pave the way for high performance ultrabooks. These super thin, portable computers need to maintain strong battery life without sacrificing too much performance, which Ivy Bridge can provide.

“I think Ivy Bridge will really help the experience of Ultrabooks and Apple’s new products because it offers even better performance than before. I fully expect Ivy Bridge to be in Apple products,” said Moorhead.

Both agree that Intel’s tri-gate architecture is a big improvement for performance and battery life. Tri-gate allows Intel to tweak Ivy Bridge chips to run at either very high performance levels or at lower power levels.

“Tri-gate lets you be a lot more flexible with power. You can have higher performance at the same amount of power, or less power with same experience, which means better battery life,” Moorhead said.

There is no doubt that hardcore gamers will still flock to Nvidia for graphics cards to play Battlefield 3. However, Ivy Bridge may be the answer to the graphics problems that the average consumer and business user is looking to solve.

Image credit: Sarah Mitroff/VentureBeat

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Android founder testimony in Google/Oracle trial: Java APIs are copyrighted

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 02:15 PM PDT

Taking the witness stand today in an ongoing legal battle royale, Android co-founder Andy Rubin may have given Oracle some heavy artillery in its lawsuit against Google.

Rubin, who began working on building Android in 2003, said in court today that while Android was being developed, he was under the impression that key Java APIs were protected by copyright and that Google would need to work with Sun Microsystems or license the technology from Sun in order to make Java for Android work.

However, when Oracle bought Sun in a strategic acquisition in early 2010, no such arrangement had been reached. Oracle was quick to file a lawsuit for patent violation and copyright infringement.

Oracle lead attorney David Boies asked Rubin specifically if Rubin thought Google needed Sun’s permission to use the java.lang APIs, and Rubin answered in the affirmative.

Whether or not a programming language can be copyrighted has become a cornerstone of this lawsuit. Android has been using (at least parts of) Java, an open-source language, for the better part of a decade. Oracle argues that Google 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.

Currently, Google’s position is that an open-source programming language is not copyrightable — a position that Rubin seemed to contradict today.

The testimony as it stands could end up being something of a smoking gun, but Rubin’s turn in the witness stand ended with Oracle’s questions. Tomorrow, Rubin will be in the stand again with Google’s attorneys questioning him to get another side of the story. VentureBeat will be in the courtroom at that time, so stay tuned for live reporting.

The Google/Oracle trial began last Monday and is expected to stretch through the summer.

Filed under: dev, mobile

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Netflix hits target Q1 subscriber growth of 23.4M, but stock may not get a boost

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 01:28 PM PDT


Video streaming service Netflix hit its estimate of domestic streaming subscribers, with 23.4 million for the first quarter of 2012 — an increase of 1.7 million subscribers compared to the previous quarter, the company said in its latest quarterly earnings report.

Netflix added three million streaming subscribers globally, for a total of 26 million subscriptions.

For Netflix, this is important for a number of reasons, including its credibility regarding future profitability. The company reported a loss of $0.08 per share on revenue of $870 million for the quarter, which is better than analysts’ estimates of $855 million (-$0.27 per share). However, the company anticipates returning to global profitability in the second quarter of 2012.

Netflix had a tough 2011, with a 60 percent price hike on combined streaming-and-DVD rental plans and a failed plan of splitting Netflix into two companies. The company was punished with a loss of more than half of its stock price. The stock appeared to have rebounded slightly in the last quarter with a better-than-expected subscriber growth boost. Now we’ll have to see if that trend continues.

Essentially, Netflix is trying to leverage the success of its domestic streaming business to grow other areas of the company. The company is dropping its focus on growing the DVD-by-mail rental portion of the business, and using the majority of its money to pay for streaming content deals and expand into foreign markets. And if subscriber growth was down, the stock may have dropped to a historic low.

“We are constantly improving our service with better personalization, better user-interfaces, better streaming, and more content,” Netflix stated in the earnings report. “As a result, per-member viewing hours set new records in Q1 and are on track to do so again in Q2, on a year-over-year basis.”

But just because streaming subscriber growth hit its targets for the second consecutive quarter, that doesn’t mean investors will be entirely satisfied. Earlier in the month, Barclays Capital Analyst Anthony DiClemente downgraded Netflix’s stock, cited rising costs and a number of emerging competitors as the main reasons.

We should hear more about the company’s future strategy after the earnings call later this afternoon. For now, check out the numbers from the Q1 report below or read the full report (PDF).

Netflix Q1 2012


Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Facebook made $205M on $1.06B in revenue in Q1

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 12:44 PM PDT

Social networking powerhouse Facebook has updated its prospectus to include financial information from the first quarter of 2012, revealing to investors and the world that it made $205 million in net income on $1.06 billion in revenue during the first three months of the year.

The $1.06 billion revenue figure represents 45 percent year-over-year growth, but Facebook’s net income, or profit, actually dipped by $28 million from the first quarter of 2011. Also of note, Facebook made $1.13 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011, meaning that it made 6 percent less in total revenue in Q1 2012, a notable difference the company attributes to seasonal trends in advertising spend.

In the amended S-1, Facebook said it made 82 percent of revenue for Q1 2012 from its advertising business, spelling out that it made $872 million from ads and $186 million from its payments business. The former business, though still the company’s primary source of income, is showing a downward trend, while the latter business is booming thanks to forced adoption.

“Payments and other fees revenue in the first quarter of 2012 increased to $186 million, or 98%, compared to the first quarter of 2011,” the company said. “Facebook Payments became mandatory for all game developers accepting payments on the Facebook Platform with limited exceptions on July 1, 2011. Accordingly, comparisons of Payments and other fees revenue to periods before this date may not be meaningful.”

Casual game-maker Zynga, still a major contributor to Facebook’s bottom line, directly and indirectly accounted for roughly 15 percent of revenue combined across payments processing fees (11 percent) and display ads (4 percent) for the first quarter of 2012.

Facebook shared another interesting figure with investors: The company has calculated the average revenue per user (ARPU) at $1.21 for the first quarter of the year, which is up 6 percent from a year ago but down 12 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011.

But the takeaway is that Facebook’s quarterly revenue fell sequentially for the first time, Sam Hamedeh, CEO of financial data company PrivCo, told VentureBeat. Hamadeh characterized the quarterly earnings as “awful.”

“[Earnings are] worse than the worst case scenario of at least flat sequential revenues with Q4,” Hamadeh said. “And on top of pulling out all the stops to window dress this quarter with Facebook Timeline, up to seven ads per page, larger ad formats, and sponsored news feeds.”

Facebook, for its part, defended the decline in revenue as normal for its business. “We believe that this seasonality in advertising spending affects our quarterly results, which generally reflect strong growth in advertising revenue between the third and fourth quarters and slower growth, and for certain years a decline, in advertising spending between the fourth and subsequent first quarters,” the company said. “The rapid growth in our business may have partially masked these seasonal trends to date and the seasonal impacts may be more pronounced in the future.”

In the prospectus, the social network also updated figures on activity levels, indicating that it now has 901 million monthly active users and sees 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook each day. Members generated 3.2 billion “likes” and comments per day during the first quarter of 2012, Facebook said.

Last year, Facebook made $1 billion on $3.7 billion in total revenue.

Filed under: social

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Facebook has surpassed 900M users, with the 1B mark right around the corner

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 12:37 PM PDT

Facebook’s amended SEC documents today revealed the social network is bigger than ever — 901 million monthly active users, to be exact.

At this rate of acceleration (we were quoted 845 million MAUs just a couple weeks ago), Facebook will be one billion monthly active users strong before you know it.

The eight-year-old startup stated in its amended S1 that it sees around 526 million daily active users and 488 MAUs on mobile devices.

“We believe that we are at the forefront of enabling faster, easier, and richer communication between people and that Facebook has become an integral part of many of our users' daily lives,” the filing reads. “We have experienced rapid growth in the number of users and their engagement.”

The 901 million mark was reached officially at the end of March 2012. This figure represents a 33 percent year-over-year growth from the 680 million MAUs the social network saw as of March 31, 2011. DAUs were up 41 percent, with 372 million DAUs posted in March 2011.

Other social stats show booming activity on the network itself: the company claims a whopping 125 billion friend connections on Facebook as of March 31, 2012 and around 3.2 billion “likes” and comments every single day during the first three months of 2012.

Here are some more interesting Facebook factoids we’ve gathered during the company’s IPO process:

  • 80 percent of all Internet users in Chile, Turkey, and Venezuela are on Facebook.
  • 60 percent of all Internet users in the U.S. and U.K. are on Facebook.
  • 20-30 percent of all Internet users in Brazil, Germany, and India are on Facebook.
  • 15 percent of all Internet users in Japan, Russia, and South Korea are on Facebook.
  • Unsurprisingly, zero percent penetration in countries that restrict Facebook (like China).

Filed under: social

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