25 April, 2012



People search engine Ark grabs a $2.4M seed round

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 09:18 AM PDT

Ark people search raises $2.4m seedLess than a month after the company took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day, people search engine Ark has raised an impressive $2.4 million seed round of funding.

Ark works by crawling the major social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, RenRen, LinkedIn, and more, to find out all it can about you. Then, when someone is looking for a 20-something gal who lives in San Francisco, likes to bake, and used to work for Macy’s, it will find everyone who matches that criteria.

The startup got the idea for a people search engine when it found that 30 percent of searches were for people. It felt it could swoop in and fill a gap between Facebook and Google, as a way to find people in a central location.

As of March 2012, Ark had indexed more than a billion people from their social network data, roughly 14 percent of the world's human population.

The $2.4 million seed round is the largest that any Y Combinator company has ever received. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, Greylock Partners, Intel Capital, SV Angel, Atlas Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Expansion Venture Capital, Felicis Ventures, and angels from Facebook, Salesforce, Qualcomm, and Microsoft.

The funding will be used to grow the twenty person team to add more mobile and search engineering teams.

Ark was developed through incubator Y Combinator’s Winter Program.

Filed under: deals

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Facebook phone from HTC due this summer, sources say

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 09:10 AM PDT

With Google and Samsung’s partnership on the Nexus line of devices taking up most of the search giant’s time, former handset partner HTC is apparently working with Facebook on a brand new smartphone, according to a Digitimes report that cites unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Rumors of a Facebook phone first resurfaced back in November. The device was loosely being referred to as the “Buffy” phone, which would run a heavily modified version of Android featuring support for apps developed in HTML5. The device was also rumored to be due out in 18 months. Today’s report by Digitimes would mean that the phone is ahead of schedule, with a retail launch date during the third quarter of 2012.

There are a few reasons why this news, if true, would make sense for both Facebook and HTC. First of all HTC previously launched two Facebook-enabled handsets, the Salsa and Chacha, so it’s definitely proven it has somewhat of a vision for how it would develop a true “Facebook Phone.”

Another big reason this partnership might actually happen has to do with the Facebook’s huge mobile risk associated with the giant social network as it prepares to make an initial public offering. Even if they phone sucks, it would probably still sell pretty well, and it would give Facebook some concrete footing when it comes to its ability to generate revenue on mobile devices.

Image via Gizmodo

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

CTIA conference highlights innovators in New Orleans

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 09:07 AM PDT

CTIA 2011 Innovation showcase pavilionThis Sponsored Post is produced by the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley.

Innovative companies are increasingly important to the telecom industry. With some startup exits topping a billion dollars, interest is at a fever pitch. And at the upcoming CTIA Wireless 2012 conference, May 8 – 10 in New Orleans, many startups and solution providers will gather to present their wares. And to ease conference attendees’ access, many startups will be concentrated into an easy-to-visit pavilion focused on the innovators in wireless telecommunications. In a joint effort with The Telecom Council of Silicon Valley (the Council), the CTIA show floor will feature an "Innovation Showcase" where 25 young companies will be exhibiting their latest products and services.

"We want to facilitate relationships between the startups, and the investors and bigger companies.", said Council President Liz Kerton. "This Pavilion offers something important to both sides: for those seeking the entrepreneurs, we've gathered them together in a densely packed area. For the innovators, the Pavilion helps them get the word out efficiently and meet the next round of funding and partnerships."

Pavilions have emerged as a great way to organize a trade show, both for visitors and exhibitors. This earlier article explained how startups can simplify their workload and maximize ROI from pavilions. But good, themed pavilions are also a time-saver for conference-goers hoping to see a specific category of exhibitor. If the conference organizer already categorizes the show floor, you can save painful footsteps and costly time.

The innovation pavilion will be most appealing to wireless telecom carriers, MVNOs, large network solution providers, and equipment vendors. On display are:

  • Location-based, local and payment services
  • Accessory devices
  • Driver safety
  • SON and network equipment
  • Mobile Health
  • Data Tsunami mitigation
  • Sound shaping
  • Mobile video technologies
  • Network Operations
  • Connected Home
  • Applications
  • Device UI, voice UI
  • …and more

The 24 companies in the Innovation Pavilion were selected from a pool of over 100 companies by members of the Council, including HTC, Qualcomm, Sprint, Vodafone, BT, Ericsson, nVidia, China Mobile, Translink Capital, Norwest VP, Docomo Capital, PARC, Plug and Play Tech Center, and more. The bases of qualification were: innovation, momentum, viability, and management.

You can see all the early-stage companies at the Pavilion located at Booth 4251, or as they present on the main stage on 5/8 3-4:15pm and 5/9 12:30-1:30pm.

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company, which is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact garrett@venturebeat.com.

Filed under: Entrepreneur, mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Facebook takes a bite out of cybercrime with new Antivirus Marketplace

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 09:02 AM PDT

Facebook has just announced the launch of its all-new Antivirus Marketplace.

The social network has partnered with Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec to improve security for Facebook users around the world. The new marketplace offers downloads, information on current threats, tips for users, a Facebook security guide, and more.

"Now that Facebook is a primary platform for communication, whether you're nine or ninety-nine, it's only become a bigger target for cybercriminals," said Carol Carpenter, general manager of Trend Micro’s consumer division, in a release.

Security has long been a top priority for Facebook. The company has a vigilant corps of white-hat pros working to eliminate phishing attacks, spam, scams, and other forms of “evil” Facebook activities from those who are up to no good.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who use Facebook and the security of their data,” a Facebooker writes in a blog post this morning. “Now, all of Facebook's more than 845 million users will be protected by the combined intelligence of these industry leaders.”

In the Antivirus Marketplace, Facebook users will be able to grab free downloads from the aforementioned partners. “We believe that arming our users with anti-virus software will help empower them to stay safe no matter where they are on the web,” the blog post reads.

Users will receive free six-month licenses for full versions of anti-virus software, offering protection from both current and future viruses.

In a recent meeting with Facebook security professionals, VentureBeat learned just how much time and effort the company puts into security, from the simply annoying facts of life of the Internet (such as “game spam” from friends) to the truly malevolent (such as phishing for bank and other personal details).

"With spam on Facebook, we’re a victim of our own success," said Facebook security team member Frederic Wollens. In email, for example, users are fairly aware of what spam looks and feels like, and we’ve trained ourselves to ignore it. But on Facebook, spam coming from friends is more likely to be trusted — hence, more likely to be successful in its aims.

“Protecting each other against the bad guys requires cooperation and today's announcement represents the shared commitment by leaders of the security community to defend everyone against existing threats, anticipating new ones, and arming people with the tools they need to protect themselves,” the team concludes.

Symantec also worked with Facebook on a joint whitepaper about scams and spam on the social network. The report, available as a PDF, goes into detail on the newest types of nefarious Facebook schemes, from likejacking to self-XSS attacks. And while Facebook has told VentureBeat that some types of Facebook security threats, such as large-scale phishing attacks, have been “largely solved,” the bad guys keep hatching new ways to infiltrate Facebook users’ computers and identities for their own profit.

In the end, the Facebook security team told us, user education is the company’s biggest gun in its ongoing war on cybercrime. And today’s launch is a little bit of help in the form of software and a whole lot of education.

Filed under: security, social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

YouWeb and StartEngine incubators to hold Double Demo Day for 20 startups

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 09:00 AM PDT

When it comes to startup demos, more is better. So incubators YouWeb and StartEngine are combining their efforts to host a joint demo day for 20 startups funded by the two.

The event, dubbed Double Demo Day, brings together a couple of the most interesting personalities in tech funding: Peter Relan (pictured right), chairman of YouWeb, and Howard Marks (pictured below), founder of Los Angeles-based StartEngine.

Relan made his mark in social gaming by spinning out or starting companies such as OpenFeint, Sibblingz (now Spaceport.io), CrowdStar, and iSwifter. Marks, the former chief executive of Activision, was an executive at Playdom and served as CEO at Acclaim Games and eMind.

The demos will take place on May 1 at YouWeb’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The invite-only event will feature presentations from a variety of startups, including a number that are in stealth mode. The companies hail from industries including mobile, social, gaming, education, entertainment, and e-commerce.

"This is Hollywood and Silicon Valley actually working together," said YouWeb Chairman Peter Relan. "We think that StartEngine taps into a different eco-system that complements ours here in Silicon Valley. In fact, our event is a vanguard of the inevitable convergence of technology, education, entertainment, and gaming."

Relan said he believes that education, entertainment, and gaming will all converge soon, and that’s another reason for the alliance.

YouWeb was founded in 2007 and focuses on gaming, education, and entertainment ventures. It sold OpenFeint to Japan’s Gree for $104 million.

[Photo credits: Dean Takahashi and Liz H. Kelly]

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: deals, dev, games, gbunfiltered, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

New study finds small startups typically overspend on Amazon web services by 50% or more

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 08:54 AM PDT

One of the big changes in the startup world over the last half-decade was the rise of Amazon Web Services. It allowed a small team with limited capital to quickly and easily build a web company that could operate at a fairly large scale by letting them rely on servers in the cloud.

Newvem, an Israeli startup we wrote about recently, aims to help startups by showing them exactly how they are using AWS and where they can save money. So take with a grain of salt their new study which shows rampant inefficiencies among the average AWS user.

Looking at dozens of customers running Newvem, the company found that small startups, the ones for whom cash is typically a big priority, are spending money on Amazon that they don’t need.

For customers with a monthly budget of less than $1,000 on Amazon Web Services, NewVem found that more than 50 percent of their rented servers were idle. This might make sense, since small startups are more likely to see big spikes in traffic and usage relative to their daily norms.

Companies who are spending more money tend to be more efficient, which is counter-intuitive in some ways . NewVem says the big chasm is around the $3,000, when companies graduate to a much bigger spend, and in this study

Filed under: cloud, dev, Entrepreneur

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Apple sets WWDC for June 11-15, but don’t expect the iPhone 5 there

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 08:32 AM PDT


Apple has announced that its Worldwide Developers Conference has been set for June 11-15 and will take place at San Francisco's Moscone West, the company said today.

Some speculation has suggested that Apple could move back to its original schedule of launching the iPhone in the summer at WWDC. But based on tempered expectations for the current quarter with earnings of $8.68 a share and revenue of $34 billion, it’s unlikely the company would plan for an iPhone release this summer and will almost certainly shoot for a fall release.

Instead, we expect WWDC to be a lot like last year, where software is in the spotlight. Specifically, we expect Apple to update iOS to version 6.0 and the launch of the Mountain Lion OS for Mac.

"We have a great WWDC planned this year and can't wait to share the latest news about iOS and OS X Mountain Lion with developers," said Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of Marketing, in a statement. "The iOS platform has created an entirely new industry with fantastic opportunities for developers across the country and around the world."

Activities at WWDC 2012 will include:

-more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers on a wide range of technology-specific topics for developing, deploying and integrating the latest iOS and OS X technologies;

-100 hands-on labs staffed by more than 1,000 Apple engineers providing developers with code-level assistance, insight into optimal development techniques and guidance on how they can make the most of iOS and OS X technologies in their apps;

-the opportunity to connect with thousands of fellow iOS and OS X developers from around the world—last year more than 60 countries were represented;

-engaging and inspirational lunchtime sessions with leading minds and influencers from the worlds of technology, science and entertainment;

-Apple Design Awards which recognize iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps that demonstrate technical excellence, innovation and outstanding design.

Tickets for WWDC 2012 sold out just a few hours after the announcement this morning. Apple has barred the re-sale of tickets. Developers who are unable to attend will be able watch all of Apple’s technical sessions free on its developers video page.

Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Sprint takes $863M loss in Q1, but adds 263K net subscribers and sells 1.5M iPhones

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 07:29 AM PDT

sprint store

Number three wireless carrier Sprint posted mixed results with it first quarter financials with a $863 million net loss but it also gained 263,000 subscribers, the company announced this morning.

Sprint earned $8.7 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 5 percent gain over the year-ago quarter. However, it posted an operating loss of $255 million versus operating income of $259 million in the first quarter of 2011.

While those numbers weren’t impressive, its subscriber additions looked chipper. The company added 263,000 postpaid net subscribers, 870,000 prepaid net subscribers, and 785,000 wholesale and affiliate net subscribers.

In regards to the company-saving iPhone, the company sold 1.5 million units, with 44 percent going to new customers. In the previous quarter, the company sold 1.8 million iPhones.

"The continuing revenue growth on the Sprint platform, which represents the future of our company, driven by record ARPU improvement and strong net subscriber growth, contributed to our Adjusted OIBDA* performance of $1.2 billion," said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO. "The value and simplicity of our unlimited data, talk and text plans, combined with an unsurpassed customer experience and our increasingly robust device portfolio make for a strong combination."

Investors were surprisingly upbeat on Sprint’s quarter, with the company’s stock on the NYSE up about 2 percent at time of this writing.

Sprint store photo: Consumerist/Flickr

Filed under: mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

ER Accelerator’s next round of startups graduate in NYC (live)

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 07:10 AM PDT

new york city

Today’s a big day for ten of New York City’s most interesting startups. Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator is having its demo day today, and for the ten companies in its second cohort, it means they’ll have to show just how much they’ve learned in their three months at ERA.

Charles Kemper, co-founder and managing director at ERA, said that all of the companies demonstrating today have users and are actively in the market with products. Even more impressive, 60 percent already have revenue coming in.

ERA provides companies with $25,000 in seed financing, three months of free co-working space its Times Square office, and access to an impressive network of advisors in New York City. Entrepreneurs Roundtable initially started out as an educational organization for New York startups in 2007, but after seeing how much the city’s tech scene grew, it launched the accelerator last year.

Here are the ten companies that demonstrated today:

Appy Couple

It seems there’s an app for everything these days, even weddings. Appy Couple offers newlyweds their own personal wedding apps, which guests can use to take pictures, find directions, and otherwise socialize at the wedding.

After sending out 200 private beta invites last month, Appy Couple ended up being used for 150 weddings. Since then, the app has seen viral growth, powering 3,000 weddings so far. The company makes money by charging a 4 to 11 percent commission for purchases within the app, which can include things like hotel bookings.

Funding: Raising $1.5 million, $500,000 committed so far


Wizpert has created a platform to connect experts with advice seekers (check out our coverage from earlier today). Basically, you can think of it like a help desk for life. The company announced today that it has signed up over 1,000 experts, or “Wizperts,” after several weeks in private beta testing.

Funding: Raising $800,000, with $220,000 committed so far


LetsWombat helps brands connect to consumers with targeted, traceable, and scalable product sampling. The company has 10 brands signed up so far, and it says that 90 percent of the companies it talked to jumped aboard. VitaCoco, one of its current customers, is a big fan of the company’s analytics reporting. LetsWombat charges companies a base fee, plus additional fees based on audience targeting and geographic targeting.


What if you could create your own Amazing Race? StrayBoots lets you do just that by turning urban exploration into a game. The company lets you buy fun and interactive guided tours of cities. The company already has over 40,000 customers, who’ve paid between $6 and $12 for its tours — and that was just with a text-message based platform.

With the StrayBoots 2.0 app, the company will ramp up the media in tours and offer a better exploration experience. The company’s iPhone app is in private beta testing right now, and it will hit the iTunes store later this Spring. StrayBoots is now in 15 cities in the U.S. and UK, and it expects to reach 30 cities by next year. Setup for a game costs around $2,000, and for an entire city it can cost between $50,000 and $100,000. The company says typical cities can earn over $1 million in revenue annual

Funding: Raising $1.2 million, with $200,000 already committed. The company expects to make over $1 million in revenue this year.


TapFame helps developers drive mobile engagement and increase user retention. The company’s platform enables devs to reach inactive users, giving them a second or third chance with consumers, through flash contests within their apps. With just three apps using its platform so far, TapFame now reaches 100,000 users, and its customers are seeing a 50% lift in engagement.

Funding: Raising $500,000


Stylyt lets consumers create their own custom products for big-name fashion brands, in the process making them more engaged and committed to those brands. Based on partnerships with two brands and over 1,000 signups, the company has seen 21 percent of users submit content, while 62 percent voted and shared entries.

Stylyt says it helps with demand forecasting, so brands aren’t left with unused inventory. The company announced today that it has signed on popular fashion brands Nicole Miller and Rebecca Minkoff.

Funding: Raising $800,000


LocalBonus lets consumers use their existing credit cards for retailer loyalty programs, and it uses game mechanics to encourage consumers to buy more. The company works in conjunction with existing card rewards programs, and it promises “bank grade” security.

In its New York City pilot program, over half of LocalBonus users made purchases at its 70 participating retailers. The company announced yesterday that it has expanded to five cities, with the addition of Denver, Seattle, Portland, and Sacramento. It now has over 800 merchants on-board, and it’s on pace for over 1,500 merchants this year across 12 cities. The company has over 200,000 customers so far.


Taking social shopping to new heights, Dibsie has launched a platform to let your friends curate your shopping experience (check out our existing coverage). The company users activity from your friends to increase product awareness and drive engagement. So far, its users spend around 15 minutes on the site daily and have driven over 1 million product impressions.

Impressively, Dibsie has managed to grow purchases from 4 percent to 16 percent simply by making friend curation visible. The company’s platform can also be integrated on other sites, and it’s working to partner directly with brands and retailers. Licensing the Dibsie platform is one of the companies biggest goals right now.

Funding: Raising $500,000, after already receiving $275,000 in seed funding


Pictorious crosses social gaming with photo sharing by letting users create fun photo-based challenges. It’s not just about sharing photos with filters like Instagram — instead, you can create photo contests for your friends to participate and vote on. The company says its platform is a great way for brands to increase engagement.

In a beta test with more than 1,000 users, 33 percent of Pictorious users created photo challenges, and overall they generated 2,000 photos and 30,000 views.

Funding: Raising $500,000

Triple Lift

Founded by ad technology veterans, Triple Lift offers an enterprise marketing platform for Pinterest. The company’s platform focuses on helping brands increase user engagement, track Pinterest analytics, and help with media buying. Triple Lift can also power more interactive ads, allowing consumers to pin specific items and fashions from brand ads.

Funding: Raising $1.25 million

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Japan’s DeNA signs up Kabam and Nimblebit

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Japan’s DeNA mobile social gaming network has signed up a couple of key American game partners as it expands in the U.S.

Ngmoco, the U.S. division of DeNA, said that hardcore social gaming firm Kabam has agreed to publish games on the Android platform using DeNA’s Mobage social gaming network.

DeNA made the announcement at the Mobage forum in Tokyo, Japan, where more than 1,000 developers are attending to learn how to make games for the social network, which has tens of millions of users worldwide. The first title from San Francisco-based Kabam, which has launched on mobile and is aggressively expanding beyond Facebook, will appear on Mobage this summer. Kabam’s first mobile game, Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, has drawn more than 1 million users on the iPhone.

“A lot of our work is coming to fruition,” said Clive Downie, vice president at Ngmoco, in an interview with GamesBeat. “Kabam is one of the leading hardcore game companies on social, and they will bring their titles to mobile over a period of time.”

Another new developer that has signed up to make games for Mobage is NimbleBit, the San Francisco-based company that has made big iPhone hits such as Tiny Tower and Pocket Frogs. The group will now make Android games such as Pocket Planes, an airline simulation, for Mobage.

Mobage currently has more than 50 third-party developers in the West that are making titles for the platform. One of the successes on the Western version of Mobage is Rage of Bahamut by Cygames, which has hit the top spot on Google Play’s Top Grossing Android Apps list this week. Cygames took its original Japanese game, Shingeki-No-Bahamut, and launched it in the West as a fantasy-adventure game.

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

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Box revamps API for easier development, adds 15 OneCloud mobile apps

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT


Joining this week’s parade of cloud news from Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox, business cloud storage startup Box has revamped its API for developers and signed 15 new partners for its striking OneCloud program, the company announced today.

While Box had no idea Google would be dropping its Drive cloud storage bomb yesterday, talk of the product and how it would disrupt the market has dominated recent tech news. But while Google playing up its strengths to both consumers and businesses, Box is mostly focused on businesses because it knows that’s where the money is. And frankly, with Google being cozy with so many consumers with Gmail, it’s starting to look like Box could have much more longevity than Dropbox.

As a player for businesses who need cloud storage, Box has done what it can to be available across platforms and made its service available on PCs, Macs, and most smartphones and tablets. Since 2008, developers who wanted to tap the company’s API for applications have used basically the same one. But with today, the company has launched a new API that will make the process of integration more streamlined.

“This update is dedicated to our developer friends, who are extremely important to us,” Box VP of platform Chris Yeh told VentureBeat.

With its API streamlining, Box is introducing a new feature called Instant Mode. This features makes it possible for sites to embed Box features even if a user doesn’t have a Box account. Users simply type in their e-mail address and get access to Box storage. If that user ever signs up on Box with that same e-mail, they then can access files stored on that other site. In a theoretical example, Yeh said LinkedIn could offer a Box-branded storage section where users could store resumes and cover letters, but you don’t have to own a Box account to take advantage of it.

In a related development, Box also announced that it has signed up 15 more partners for its OneCloud program, which helps keep files synchronized even when using third-party smartphone apps. New partners include the very cool CloudOn, Handshake, iAnnotate, and Breezly.

Along with streamlining its API, Box will make is making OneCloud easier to use as well. Yeh said that the company has made it so users will have less clicks to access and upload files to the cloud.

Check out the new partners below:


To celebrate the launch of its new API and OneCloud successes, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is hosting a party tonight in New York City. The company wants to put its foot down in NYC and make sure New York businesses know what Box can do for them. To help get the word out about Box and influence the NY tech scene, Box is partnering with General Assembly and TechStars organizations. All of TechStars’ startups will get a free 500GB Box account to work with, and it will provide mentoring for both orgs.

“This is a statement that we want to be here in New York,” Yeh said. “We will be here consistently going forward and building inroads.”

Box now has 10 million users globally and serves more than 120,000 businesses. The company claims 82 percent of the Fortune 500 use its service in some form. The company has raised about $159 million thus far and counts Andreessen Horowitz, Salesforce, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Emergence Capital Partners, New Enterprise Associates, and others as investors.

Check out Box’s new API announcement video below:

Filed under: cloud, dev

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Spoof-proof location authentication to help legitimize mobile gambling

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

As states move to legalize mobile gambling in the U.S., verifying exactly where someone is located will become crucial. You can place a bet on a football game if you’re in the state of Nevada, for example, but not if you’re outside of it.

That will change as more states authorize sports betting. But for now, mobile gambling entities have to rely on companies such as Locaid, which is announcing today that it will provide “unspoofable” location authentication for Cantor Gaming, the mobile sports-wagering arm of Cantor Fitzgerald. The Locaid technology is a critical part of the ecosystem that can support online gambling, which is expected to be a huge industry in the U.S. in the not-so-distant future.

Rip Gerber, chief executive at Miami- and San Francisco-based Locaid, said in a panel at the Global iGaming Summit yesterday that hackers have learned how to spoof, or fake, their locations. That’s because it is easy to circumvent the security in global positioning systems (GPS) and Wi-Fi-based location authentication methods. But Locaid works with the carriers to fix a mobile user’s location based on the phone’s interaction with cellphone towers.

Gerber said that Locaid’s “geo-fencing” method meets the requirements of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. You need carrier verification to show that a mobile device is inside a state’s borders, and Locaid’s applications programming interface gives developers the ability to integrate location into their apps. Thus, it helps companies such as Cantor Gaming extend gambling beyond the casino floor. The market for mobile wagering in Nevada may seem like a small one now, but it is expected to expand over time as more states authorize online gambling in order to cash in on much-needed tax revenues.

"To comply with state law, it was critical to ensure a mobile user's location for mobile gaming and safeguard against today's sophisticated spoofing technologies; Locaid enabled us to meet this challenge," said Paul Williams, chief technology officer of Cantor Gaming. "Locaid is the only compliant network location-based solution for mobile sports betting in Nevada, and their services allow us to extend our reach of mobile gaming to the entire state."

The Cantor Gaming app is available on Android.

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, gbunfiltered, mobile, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Hot shot VC firm Andreessen Horowitz says it has nearly returned its first fund

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 05:24 AM PDT

Critics made a lot of hay over Andreessen Horowtiz’s decision not to re-invest in Instagram. As our own Dylan Tweney pointed out, this made a $78 million win seem like a big mistake.

Andreessen Horowitz defended itself, saying that it made the decision to avoid a conflict of interest in its portfolio. Then it went even further, pointing out that is has returned $288 million of its first $300 million fund, minted back in 2009.

This fund included big wins like Instagram, Fusion.io, and Skype. It also includes shares in Zynga which the fund has yet to sell and shares in Facebook at a $33 billion valuation which should be worth at least three times that when the social network goes public.

It won’t be as easy for AZ to keep up the stellar returns. Its second fund was over $600 million dollars and its third, which it raised just a year later, was over $1 billion. Investors expect at least a three fold return on their investment, which means AZ will need to find several more Instagrams and Facebook’s in the next decade.

“We have a lot to prove and we know that,” Margit Wennmachers, a partner at AZ told PE Hub. “Nearly returning a [$300 million] fund in nearly three years through three deals is not too shabby. Dig around. See if you find similar results anywhere else.”

Filed under: deals

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Like a help desk for life: Wizpert puts you in touch with experts instantly

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Wizpert expert advice

You can find the answer to plenty of questions online, but sometimes it’s helpful to chat with a particularly knowledgeable human. New York City-based Wizpert aims to simplify the process of finding and chatting with experts instantly — and in the process, the startup is moving one step ahead of hot Q&A outfits like Quora.

You can think of Wizpert as an IT help desk for life. The company recruits knowledgeable bloggers, which it calls “Wizperts,” across topics like exercise, health/wellness, and parenting. Advice seekers can connect to Wizperts via their blogs or the service’s website, and most importantly, they can begin a conservation within seconds.

The company is part of NYC-based Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator’s second class of startups, and it’s presenting later today at ERA’s Demo Day.

Wizpert is a win-win for experts and advice-seekers alike. Bloggers will be able to monetize by offering advice in their free time (Wizpert takes a 25 percent cut), and consumers will be able to instantly get the help they need from approved experts. Founder and CEO Michael Weinberg tells me that the company is particularly careful with how it vets experts — they start out offering advice for free, and they only become Wizperts after being well-reviewed.

Weinberg and co-founder/CTO Stefan D’Heedene left lucrative Merrill Lynch jobs to pursue Wizpert in 2011, after realizing that expertise needed to be more accessible. Weinberg previously held strategy and management roles in Merrill Lynch’s advisory platform, while D’Heedene built the firm’s platform for customized hedge fund portfolio advice.

Q&A sites have so far resembled glorified message boards, so it’ll be interesting to see if Wizpert takes off by letting people instantly tap experts for help. The company is currently focusing on general advice, but there’s potential for even further specialization in the future. Weinberg tells me Wizpert now has “hundreds” of experts, and as the service expands, I suspect many bloggers will jump at the chance to be labeled Wizperts.

Wizpert has received $25,000 in seed financing from ERA (along with co-working space and access to advisors) and has additional backing from Welltech Funding.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

AOL starts building its own TV network with newly launched video site ‘AOL On’

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

AOL On screenshot

We’ve known for a while now that AOL has aspirations of transforming its media empire into a fully fledged TV network built for the web. It announced a new live streaming video channel for the HuffingtonPost web publication back in February, but now it’s web video channel plans appear to be much more expansive.

Yesterday the company launched a new video site called AOL On Network, which will bring all of the company’s video offerings (HuffingtonPost, TechCrunch, Engadget, AOL.com, and others) under one umbrella. The video content will play across 14 content channels, including food, business, entertainment, style, tech, travel, and health. The AOL On Network will reach an audience of 57 million US consumers on a variety of internet-connected devices, according to a comScore report of video viewing behavior for March 2012.

The site itself is based on technology from AOL’s $65 million purchase of video syndication startup 5min. Through AOL On’s video hub, users will be able to surface the most relevant videos in real time from a library of over 320,000 high-quality, short-form videos created by over 1,000 third-party publishers as well as AOL.

AOL On LogoI know what most people are probably thinking — that there’s no way AOL is going to produce enough compelling content to rival the efforts of Hulu, YouTube, Revision3, and others. But the company has announced six entirely original programs produced by some high-profile names in the entertainment world (full list of shows pasted below). It’s also signing up celebrities like Heidi Klum and Adrian Grenier to curate video content throughout the day for people to watch. Compelled to tune in yet?

The new site promises not to be a YouTube clone, with curious singing kitties doing humorous things or brutal gang brawls that end in epic lightsaber battles. Those two examples may seem extremely entertaining (because they are), but it’s not the kind of thing AOL is striving for.

What AOL  wants is ongoing ad revenue of Star-Wars-opening-box-office-weekend proportions. Online video ad spending is expected to reach $7 billion by 2015, according to an eMarketer report released in February. AOL wants a large chunk of that video ad growth, and as one of the top 10 most popular destinations for video content on the web, the company has a decent chance of achieving those goals.

But, the biggest factor in that success is in delivering video content that people actually want to see — meaning people don’t mind sitting through a few commercials or pre-roll ads during a video.

Below is a description of the six original programs that will appear on the AOL On Network. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Via the AOL On press release:

  • Digital Justice– Live today on AOL On Tech and HuffPost Crime, Digital Justice is a weekly reality show that follows digital forensic investigators as they solve cyber crimes. The series deep dives into fascinating crime prevention units that are using the latest digital technology.
  • Fetching–Written by Sex and the City’s Amy Harris, Fetching is set against the backdrop of New York City and stars Liza – a young woman who quit her job as a lawyer and ended her engagement in the same week-in hopes of pursuing her dreams of opening her own business, a doggy daycare store called “Fetching.”
  • Little Women Big Cars– Debuting on May 7, the web series is centered around four soccer moms struggling to balance their busy schedules, family lives and sanity.
  • Next Door Hero– Anew, unscripted series that features everyday Americans with extraordinary stories. This new series will put an action-filled spotlight on America’s bravest everyday heroes.
  • Nina Garcia– Whether you’re embarking on a new relationship, just starting a new career or have a new baby, two things just happened: you found a new life and you lost your groove. The swag, thrill and the mojo of your look is totally gone and there’s only one woman who can help you get it back: Nina Garcia.
  • Tiger Beat Entertainment–A deeper, more thoughtful lifestyle and entertainment show for and by teens and young adults covering a wide variety of pop culture and lifestyle categories with a genuine point of view.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Symform raises $11M to store your data on someone else’s hard drive

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 03:00 AM PDT

collaborative cloud hard drivesAlternative cloud storage startup Symform has raised $11 million to store your files in tiny fragments on hard drives all over the world.

“Traditional cloud storage is fundamentally broken,” said Symform co-founder Praerit Garg in an interview with VentureBeat. ”Local storage is cheaper. You can buy a two terabyte hard drive for $80, but [cloud storage services] charge 50 cents per gigabyte, which can add up to over $500 per month. Cloud storage [has] to match the prices of local storage to reach its peak.”

Unlike Dropbox, Box, or the new Google Drive, which all store data on servers in massive data centers, Symform uses many different local hard drives to act as a collaborative data center. The files you upload to Symform are chopped up into tiny pieces, encrypted, and sent to at least 96 different hard drives.

Similar to Dropbox, you download a piece of software onto your computer. The software processes files you want to store in the cloud and allows your hard drive to receive others’ data. For every gigabyte of data your give up on your hard drive, you get one gigabyte of cloud storage. You can get up to 200 gigabytes of storage for free by opening up your hard drive and inviting others to the service. Beyond that, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee, which starts at $3.50 per month.

Despite the fact that it’s cheaper in the long run to store all of your files locally, Symform says its service  helps reduce the severity of disasters such as hard drive failure, theft, or fires. Since you aren’t placing all your data eggs in one basket, you cut down on the risk of your files disappearing forever.

But the practice of placing encrypted fragmented pieces of data on multiple hard drives does raise some security concerns. Instead of your file ending up in a secure data center that would be laborious to break into, part of a highly sensitive document could end up on an untrustworthy person’s hard drive. The company claims its encryption process, which involves including redundant fragments of data, makes the data very hard to hack. However, it’s not fail-safe.

Storing certain types of data on someone else’s hard drive may also have legal ramifications. A similar company to Symform, SpaceMonkey sells dedicated hard drives to store fragmented data. SpaceMonkey debuted its technology at the Launch conference in March 2012, and one judge at the event brought up the issue of someone uploading illegal content, such as child pornography, to collaborative cloud drive systems.

WestRiver Capital led this new round, with participation from existing investors OVP and Longworth Venture Partners. The investment will be used to grow Symform’s engineering, marketing, and customer support teams.

Seattle-based Symform presented at the DEMO Fall 2009 conference. The company was founded in 2007 and has raised $20 million in funding so far.

Open hard drives image via Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, deals, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

PixyKids launches 3D-animated characters for kids social network

Posted: 25 Apr 2012 02:00 AM PDT

PixyKids, which has created a social network for kids ages 6 to 12, announced today it plans to allow children to create their own highly realistic 3D-animated avatars. The avatars are part of the company’s plan to become a Facebook for kids.

Like the avatar, or virtual character, pictured above, the PixyKids avatars will be able to reflect kids’ authentic styles, personalities, and interests. PixyKids is creating the avatar platform in partnership with Frima Studio, a Quebec, Canada-based digital design and game studio. They are revealing a PixyKids 3D Avatar App today at the Digital Kids Conference in Los Angeles. Kids can use the app to create their own custom avatars.

“We are thrilled about our partnership with Frima Studio and are excited to introduce the PixyKids 3D Avatar App for the first time,” said Rajul Kadakia, chief executive and co-founder of PixyKids in Menlo Park, Calif. "The partnership pairs our vision to enable personalization as a digital expression of kids' personalities, individual styles, and interests with Frima's originality and expertise in creating engaging and realistic digital experiences.”

Frima, founded in 2003, has a lot of experience making game content for companies such as Electronic Arts and Activision. We wrote about PixyKids in March when it announced it had raised $3 million in funding from ATA Ventures and other investors. The company is trying to create a social network where kids can show off their achievements and express themselves through text chat, video chat, emails, and a community wall.

The goal is to transform family interaction online and to allow kids to express themselves in a safe, family-friendly environment. John Rizzo, former chief executive of Zeebo and current chief marketing officer at Jive Software, recently joined PixyKids’ board.

PixyKids has nine employees and was founded in December 2010. Rivals include Disney’s Club Penguin, Webkinz, and Moshi Monsters. PixyKids hasn’t yet disclosed what its mobile strategy will be, but the 3D avatars will be available on its web-based social network.

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, gbunfiltered, social, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Tablet sales to top 760M worldwide by 2016, and a third will be iPads

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:41 PM PDT

According to Forrester Research, tablets are rapidly becoming the primary device of choice for millions of people around the world. Sales of tablet computers in 2016 are predicted to hit 375 million, and 760 million tablets could be in use worldwide. Compared to the 56 million tablets purchased worldwide in 2011, that's a compound annual-growth rate of 46 percent.

According to the report, Apple’s iPad, which notably created the tablet market just two years ago, will represent one-third of all tablet purchases by 2016. Meanwhile, Google’s Android operating system will actually see a net decline in market share due to the launch of Microsoft Windows 8. However, according to Forrester, Microsoft's new tablet OS won't really start taking off until 2014 because Microsoft will need time to create a fully captivating Windows Metro experience for its users.

So what will happen to all those PCs? Frank Gillett from Forrester had the following to say about desktops and laptops:

Our casual estimate is that there will be 2 billion PCs in use by 2016, despite growing tablet sales. That's because tablets only partially cannibalize PCs. Eventually tablets will slow laptop sales but increase sales of desktop PCs. That's because many people, especially information workers, will still need conventional PCs for any intensely creative work at a desk that requires a large display or significant processing power.

In order to address the lack of processing power in tablets, Forrester predicts a new consumer electronics device its calling a “Frame,” which is essentially a docking station for your tablet. These frames will give tablets increased power and more features, such as the ability to link up to TVs and other devices around the house.

Forrester also predicts that the majority of tablets have a three-year lifespan for most consumers, which will help fuel tablet sales starting in 2014. Of the 760 million tablets in use globally by 2016, one-third of them will be purchased by businesses, and 40 percent of sales will come from emerging markets.

Top image via dcmetroblogger/Flickr

Filed under: enterprise, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Report: Amazon pulling ahead of iTunes in average revenue per user

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 04:40 PM PDT

Amazon’s app store is beginning to push ahead of Apple’s iTunes, according to a new report from TinyCo. The mobile developer recently tracked how well its game Tiny Village did across iOS, Google Play (Android), and Amazon markets in an effort to evaluate each platform’s revenue share. The results show that the Amazon store (for the Kindle Fire) is earning more revenue per user than iTunes, but both markets are much more profitable than Google Play.

“We were once in the same situation that most developers find themselves in,” wrote TinyCo’s director of business development, Jennifer Lu, in her report on Tiny Village. “80-90 percent of our time and resource was focused on iOS leaving little for Android, our games worked perfectly on iOS but crashed on Android, and our Android version lacked many of the features found on iOS. Furthermore, with the complexity of Android’s device fragmentation, we needed to be spending even more time on our Android version than our iOS version in order to maintain the same game quality and performance, which we clearly were not doing.”

Tiny Village infographic

App analytics and traffic acquisitions company Flurry released a similar report earlier in the year that also showed Amazon gaining traction as a viable app platform, but its data on Google Play’s average revenue per paying user (ARPU) was much lower than TinyCo’s.

Where Flurry represents Google Play at 23 percent of the iTunes store’s ARPU, TinyCo’s results showed the marketplace at 65 percent of iTunes total ARPU. This percentage combines all Android and iOS devices, but if the field is narrowed to only look at the revenue produced by smartphones, Google Play leaps to a whopping 82 percent.

TinyCo’s and Flurry’s reports both agree that the Amazon marketplace is steadily gaining momentum. If the iOS app store is still used as a revenue benchmark, TinyCo’s report shows that Amazon’s ARPU is actually 180 percent, 80 percent higher than Apple’s. Flurry’s results showed Amazon at a modest 89 percent, but the dramatic difference between it and Google Play hints at a rise in the Amazon market’s profitability.

TinyCo was able to collect their data by observing trends on all three platforms. Tiny Village was released simultaneously in each marketplace and is currently a top-grossing app across the board.

Filed under: games, mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Instagram grew U.S. uniques by 19 percent in March

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:44 PM PDT

Mobile photo-sharing phenom Instagram didn’t need an Android application or any help from Facebook to post remarkable gains in unique web traffic in March.

Instagram, the Facebook-purchased photo-sharing app with little web presence to speak of, actually landed on analytics firm comScore’s March list of top 10 gaining properties by percent change in U.S. unique visitors.

comscore top gaining web properties march

click to enlarge

The Instagram iPhone app pushed enough click-throughs to web-hosted versions of photos to net the startup the number nine spot on comScore’s list, with 19 percent growth in U.S. uniques between February and March. Instagram attracted 8.2 million unique U.S. visitors in March, according to comScore’s calculations.

What’s this boil down to? Essentially, that the Instagram network effect — users post photos in the app and push them out to other social networks where folks click to view the image on the web — was alive and well before Facebook came calling.

comScore’s report reflects traffic to Instagram’s web site for March only, which means the gains in uniques don’t include the post-acquisition frenzy or even factor in the likely uptick in uniques from the Android application, released in early April. And keep in mind that these are web-only traffic figures and don’t account for mobile activity, which is Instagram’s bread and butter.

When the April numbers do roll in, the month will likely go down as a record-breaker for Instagram. For starters, we already know that the Android application and the Facebook buy helped Instagram sign up roughly 10 million new members in 10 days.

Photo credit: bourguiboeuf/Flickr

Filed under: social

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Funding daily: Halting the hackers and online dating meets job searching

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:42 PM PDT

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

Shape Security $5.6M of $5.58M round SEC

According to an SEC form D, Shape Security has raised $5.6 million from a total $5.8 million round. Still in stealth mode, the company is trying to stop hacking once and for all.

DataPop $7M funding

Targeted-advertising company DataPop garnered $7 million in funding from MK Capital, Rincon Venture Partners, IA Ventures, Momentum Ventures, and Accelerator Ventures. The company claims to use science and natural language generation to create targeted ads that people are more likely to click on.

"eHarmony for jobs" Path.to launches with $1.5M in the bank

Path.to launched today with a $1.5 million equity investment. The company works as a matchmaking service, not for lovers, but jobs. Potential job candidates connect their social media accounts and Path.to pools relevant information about the person to create a job compatibility ranking. HR company Adecco led the round.

BDC issued $6 million in convertible notes FounderFuel graduates

The venture capital arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada announced today it is pledging $6 million in convertible notes to the graduates of Canadian incubator FounderFuel. Forty startups will get $150,000 when they successfully complete the FounderFuel program. FounderFuel and the BDC will determine which startups are “venture-ready” and those that are will receive the convertible notes at FounderFuel’s Demo Day in May.

Fast Lane Ventures gets a $18M investment

VTB Capital Venture Business has led a third round investment for Fast Lane Ventures to help the venture capital invest in Russian startups. The money will go towards Fast Lane Ventures’ current portfolio companies and help invest in new Internet companies based in Russia.

$2M goes to Jelastic

Almaz Venture Partners and Foresight Ventures have invested $2 million Jelastic, a company that hosts Java applications in the cloud. The company competes with Google App Engine, Heroku, and Windows Azure.

DoubleDutch grabs $2M

Mobile app builder DoubleDutch announced a $2 million funding round late Tuesday. The company builds geo-social mobile apps for companies, including VentureBeat. Bullpen, Floodgate, Aaron Patzer of Mint, Jawed Karim of YouTube, and other private investors participated.

Chirpify gets cash for turning tweets into transactions

Chirpify has secured $1.3 million from social media executives and angels in its first formal round of funding. Chirpify is a payment system that integrates with PayPal to allow individuals and businesses to transact on Twitter. 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.

Citrus Lane receives $5.1M for mommy care packages

Care package service for new moms and their babies, Citrus Lane grabbed $5.1 million in funding. The company hand picks baby items and recommends them to new moms based on their baby’s needs. GGV Capital and Greylock Partners led the round.

Terascala raises $14M

Boston-based cloud data storage company Terascala has raised $14 million in second round funding for its parallel storage appliances. Ascent Venture Partners and undisclosed investors completed the investment, which is a combination of $10.6 million in equity and $3.4 million in escrow.

Hacker image via Shutterstock

Filed under: deals

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Firefox 12 launches with ‘ninja’ updates for Windows, numbered page source lines

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:36 PM PDT

Firefox browser art

Mozilla has released a new update of its popular open-source web browser Firefox today, which packs a handful of changes, bug fixes, new features, and a brand new version number.

Firefox 12 has two notable additions to its feature set. The first is the appearance of Page Source lines that are numbered, an exciting development but something most people probably aren’t super excited about. The second addition is the availability of (ninja) silent updates for Windows, which bypass the User Account Control prompt so you have one less screen bothering you.

One thing that isn’t available in this version is the experimental feature that allows you to toggle web browser plugins on and off to help speed up page load times, cut down on data usage, or whatever the reason may be. You actually have to “opt-in” to the plugins before they begin working on the page. This functionality, is of course, already available through third-party Firefox add-ons. So if you really have your heart set on opt-in plugin support, you can make that happen.

We’ve listed Mozilla’s overview of changes in the new version below.

  • New – Windows: Firefox is now easier to update with one less prompt (User Account Control)
  • New – Page Source now has line numbers
  • Changed – Line breaks are now supported in the title attribute
  • Changed – Improvements to “Find in Page” to center search result
  • Changed – URLs pasted into the download manager window are now automatically downloaded
  • Developer – Support for the text-align-last CSS property has been added
  • Developer – Experimental support for ECMAScript 6 Map and Set objects has been implemented
  • Fixed – Various security fixes
  • Fixed – Some TinyMCE-based editors failed to load (739141)
  • Fixed – OS X: WebGL performance may be degraded on some hardware (713305)
  • The full list of changes in version 12.0 is available on Mozilla’s official site.

Firefox art via Studio Jon Garza

Filed under: dev, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

iCloud has 125M users, but is it making any money off them?

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 03:11 PM PDT

itunes-match-icloudApple’s iCloud service has 125 million users, the company announced today on its second-quarter earnings call. That number is up from the 100 million users Tim Cook said the service had on February 14 during a Goldman Sachs call.

The number shows growth in new users for the service, but when asked about storage sales, Apple sounded less optimistic, hedging without giving exact numbers. Peter Oppenheimer said “pick up on storage is occurring” and dropped back on the 125 million new users statistic.

“Our real desire here was not about selling more storage,” said Oppenheimer. “We just really wanted to increase the customer delight with the whole ecosystem and platform.”

That’s right, Apple isn’t in iCloud for the money. It just wants you to be happy and keep buying computers, iOS devices, and media from the iTunes store.

Signing up for the iCloud service is free for the first five gigabytes of storage. That space can be used to store music, movies, apps, books, and photos, which can then be accessed from any of your Apple devices. If you hit that 5GB cap, you will need to upgrade to a paid iCloud plan. Ten additional gigabytes cost $20 a year, 20GB cost $40 a year, and 50GB cost $100 a year.

The service has only been out for a little over five months, and Cook says customer satisfaction is “off the charts, they’re loving it.”

The bump from free to paid users may just be a matter of time, as people slowly move more of their documents and media to the cloud service. Consumer cloud storage is a crowded field, and Apple is going up against existing powerhouses such as Dropbox, and will face another huge challenger in Google’s Drive service, which launched today.

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Here’s the list of third-party apps already integrated with Google Drive

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 02:53 PM PDT


With the launch of Google Drive today, many of the rumors and leaks surrounding the new service have been dispelled, and instead replaced with (mostly) concrete answers. One of the leaks concerning third-party integration turned out to be true, with Google courting a number of partners behind-the-scenes in time for the Drive launch.

Overall, 18 services have modified their applications to work with Google Drive in some fashion. One of our favorite up-and-coming cloud companies — and former DEMOGod winnerWeVideo, has even joined the party to bring its collaborative video editing to Drive. Another cool Drive integration partner is HelloFax, which promises free online faxing and document signing.

This is a great start for the service, but development options are quite limited. For now, Drive’s SDK and APIs are only available to Web apps, which people must install on their Google Drive account through the Chrome Web Store. As the service becomes more pervasive, I have no doubt other apps will join the party, thus opening the APIs to include mobile apps.

Here’s the list of the 18 services that have integrated with Drive from Day 1:

  • AutoCad WS – Creative Tools – Open AutoCAD files (dwg) from Google Drive.
  • Aviary – Creative Tools – Simple image editor for images stored in Google Drive
  • Balsamiq Mockups – Creative Tools – Create mockups and user interface sketches. Open and share mockups using Google Drive.
  • Desmos – Productivity – An HTML5 social graphing calculator. Create and store graphs in Google Drive.
  • DocuSign – Productivity – Get signatures on documents stored in Google Drive and save signed documents back to Drive.
  • Floorplanner – Creative Tools – Create and edit floorplans from your browser. Render floorplans as 3D models and save images back to Google Drive.
  • Gantter – Productivity – Manage complex projects on the web. Create, open, and save project plans back to Google Drive. Gantter also works with Microsoft Project files.
  • HelloFax – Productivity – Sign and fax documents from your Google Drive. Signed and faxed documents are saved to Drive for easy reference.
  • Lucidchart – Productivity – Online diagramming and flowchart tool. Create, open, and save Lucidchart drawings from Google Drive. Lucidchart also works with Visio diagrams
  • Lulu – Productivity – Publish print and eBooks from documents in your Google Drive.
  • MindMeister – Productivity – Create and edit mind maps. Share mind maps from Google Drive and collaborate in real-time.
  • Nivio – Productivity – Open and edit Microsoft Office files in their native application from the web browser.
  • Pixlr Editor & Pixlr Express – Creative Tools – Open and edit images from Google Drive from your browser
  • Pixorial – Video – Open and share media files, edit videos, and share projects from Google Drive
  • Revisu – Productivity – Collaborative markup and feedback for the creative review process. Open files with Revisu and collaborate and share with Google Drive.
  • SlideRocket – Productivity – Create and edit presentations from the browser. Import PowerPoint or PDF files.
  • Smartsheet – Productivity – Manage and collaborate on projects. Create and open Smartsheets from Google Drive, and attach files from Drive to projects. Smartsheet also works with Microsoft Project and Excel files and Google spreadsheets.
  • WeVideo – Video – Open, edit, produce HD video from Google Drive.

Filed under: cloud

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Google+ gets its very own share button for your websites and blogs

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 02:49 PM PDT

As if Google hasn’t launched enough stuff already today, the company has just announced the Google+ share button.

This new tool can be embedded on your website or blog and will allow you and your visitors to easily share content from anywhere on the web directly to Google+.

This new button is distinct from the +1 button, which at this point seems like a drop in the proverbial bucket that is the larger Google+ social system.

The Google+ share button is the same kind of button most of us content creators already use for Facebook and Twitter sharing. The thing that makes the Google+ share button (and Google+ itself) so different is that you can click to share multiple times with a variety of people and audiences.

Here’s what the Google+ share button will look like before you click on it:

As you can see, there’s a share count along with some highlighted friends who have already shared the same page. Once you click the button, you’ll be able to specify how you want your share to go down. You can share the same page multiple times, if you like.

Interested parties can go grab the code right now.

The bigger question is, after getting quite excited about and making large investments in Google Buzz (may it rest in peace), will publishers be as quick to jump on the Google+ bandwagon? Remember, the now-extinct Google Buzz share button came onto the scene a mere two years ago.

Still, VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar sees significant differences between the Buzz of yore and the Google+ of now. “The company opted to make everything about Google+ opt-in — from activating the service, to adding friends — so users won't be surprised to find a new service in their inbox like they were with Buzz,” he wrote in a post last summer. “And unlike Wave, it's much clearer what Plus is offering to users (and even if you don't quite get it, you can still use it to share pictures and do group video chats).”

Filed under: social

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Facebook sets up its own Android app distribution center

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 02:14 PM PDT

Facebook has just issued a new version of its Android app, but this update brings a lot more than shinier buttons and snappier features. In fact, the new Facebook for Android is set up to act as a distribution channel for all kinds of other Android apps.

“With the latest update to Facebook for Android, we are bringing social app discovery channels to native Android apps,” writes Facebooker Alex Wu on the company’s developer blog.

“Users can now discover native apps directly from Facebook for Android using the same social channels, such as Requests, Bookmarks, and News Feed, that are available on other platforms.”

Wu notes that the Facebook app for iOS already includes such capabilities, and that the Facebook Android app allows for discovery of mobile web apps as well.

In recent conversations with Facebook’s mobile-developer relations team members, VentureBeat learned that Facebook wants to become an important distribution mechanism for developers — mobile web developers, iOS developers, Android developers, everybody who makes apps for phones and tablets.

“Whether I’m reading a newspaper article or eating a particular type of food… those types of stories are driving engagement,” said Facebook employee James Pierce in one such recent chat at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

“Now on mobile, of course, we allow developers to configure how the user clicks that story, where that’s going to land. Is it going to launch a mobile web app, or the native app already installed on that device? Or to the marketplace where they can download that app?"

Facebook is, in a nutshell, giving developers as many options as possible to get more distribution and more traffic through Facebook’s own ecosystem — and shoring up its stature in the mobile world isn’t hurting as the company walks (slowly) up to its IPO later this year.

Filed under: mobile, social

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Apple sells 11.8M iPads, showing number of pixels does matter

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 02:00 PM PDT

New iPad

Apple announced it has sold 11.8 million iPads since the company debuted the tablet in early March. The number reflects a 151 percent increase over iPad sales during the same quarter a year ago.

The company released its third version of the iPad this quarter, staring the new Retina Display (2048-by-1536 resolution), which quadruples the amount of pixels packed into the iPad screen. The display was a huge draw for consumers, who purchased over 3 million new iPads during the product’s opening weekend alone. The upgraded tablet also featured a faster A5X chip, a better camera, LTE network capabilities, and updates to the company’s iLife and iWork app suites, which included the long-awaited debut of an iPad version of the iPhoto image-editing software.

Peter Oppenheimer, chief financial officer at Apple, said there were $6.6 billion in sales of iPads and related accessories in this quarter, a 22 percent increase over the same quarter last year. Oppenheimer said the iPad is making big progress in some non-traditional markets, starting with education. Apple has sold two iPads to every one Mac to its U.S. K-12 education customers

“iPads continue to open doors to new customer with whom apple previously had no relationship,” said Oppenheimer. Getting new users young might be what makes education a particularly appealing area for Apple.

Businesses and governments are also fertile areas for iPad sales. The U.S. Air Force has purchased thousands of iPads to act as electronic flight bags for its pilots, and the majority of Fortune 500 companies are members of the iOS developer enterprise program.

“The new iPad is on fire and we’re selling them as fast as we can make them,” said Oppenheimer.

When it was released, the new iPad struck a chord with VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar, who after testing the tablet out said, “Apple finally has a tablet that excites me.” Again, most of this was attributed to its new Retina Display. But despite its new hardware, the iPad was met with some criticism, particularly about overheating and battery life. It was said that the new iPad actually runs about 10 degrees warmer than the iPad 2 did. Apple has been known for having products that run warm, but the degree change isn’t really enough to pose a danger to users.

The battery charger for the new iPad has also been called out for charging the machine too slowly. It seems the Retina display demands more juice, and thus the tablet needs more time plugged in.

However, as usual, the complaints did not seem to have much of an impact on Apple’s ability to move the device.

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Apple’s enormous Q2 earnings by the numbers: 35.1M iPhones sold, $11.6B profit

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:43 PM PDT

Apple Q2 2012 earnings by the numbers

Apple had another humongous quarter in Q2 buoyed by the sale of the new iPad, with results that once again beat high Wall Street expectations. Apple earned a record profit of $11.6 billion on revenue of $39.2 billion and sold 11.8 million iPads.

The company followed an already strong Q1, which also beat expectations. In that quarter, the company sold a record 37 million iPhone units with revenue of $46.33 billion.

Here's a brief look at Apple's big Q2 numbers:

Revenue: $39.2 billion, compared to $24.7 billion in the year-ago quarter

Net income: $11.6 billion, compared to $6.0 billion in the year-ago quarter

Earnings per diluted share: $12.30 per share, compared to $6.40 per share in the year-ago quarter

Cash reserves: $110 billion, up from $81.5 billion six months ago

iPhone sales: 35.1 million units, an 88 percent growth over the year-ago quarter

iPad sales: 11.8 million units, a 151 percent growth over the year-ago quarter

Mac sales: 4 million units, a 7 percent growth over the year-ago quarter

iPod sales: 7.7 million units, a 15 percent decline from the year-ago quarter

iCloud customers: 125 million

Apple store revenues: $4.4 billion, up 38 percent from last year

Apple with money photo: Serg64/Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Apple beats estimates a second time at $39.2 billion in revenue

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:37 PM PDT

Apple announced its second quarter earnings Tuesday at $39.2 billion in revenue, beating analyst estimates of $36.8 billion in revenue.

The company raked in $11.6 billion in net income. Year over year, Apple’s net profit increased 94 percent. Last quarter, Apple announced $13.06 billion in net profit, blowing Wall Street estimates out of the water.

As of the time of this post, Apple stock was up around 7.5 percent in after-hours trading, bringing the stock back up past its $600 a share milestone again. At market close, Apple’s stock was trading around $560.

Apple has had a number of successes this quarter, including the release of its third-generation iPad. After launching the new device in March, Apple sold 3 million units in the tablet’s first weekend alone. Now, Apple is reporting 11.8 million units sold during the second quarter 2012. Though this is slightly down from the previous quarter when Apple sold 15.4 million units, Apple did mention that the iPad supply chain was still constrained.

“I think the iPad [is] a profound product. The breadth of it is incredible and the appeal of it is universal, so I could not be happier with being in the market,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook in a conference call today.

The company also announced it has sold 35.1 million iPhones, after selling 37 million last quarter which followed the October launch of the iPhone 4S. Overall this quarter, Apple sold 365 million iOS devices around the world. The app store also hit its 25 billionth downloaded app in March.

When asked about the various patent cases going on, Cook explained that Apple depends on its developers and doesn’t want to be the only company developing for its customers.

“It’s very important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff,” he said.

Also in March, Apple announced its first dividend since the 1990s of $2.65 per share. More details on its distribution are scheduled to come out in the next quarter’s earnings, according to chief finance officer Peter Oppenheimer.

Apple is the largest company in the world, having hit a $600 billion market cap in April, but recently its stock has been slipping. The company has been entrenched in regularly scheduled drama, including numberous back-and-forth patent lawsuits and a lawsuit with China’s Proview, which claims to own the trademark for “iPad.” Today it was announced that China may rule in favor of Proview, leaving Apple to either get rid of the iPad trademark on its products in China, or buy the trademark for whatever price Proview sets.The two companies could, however, settle the suit.

The company also faced its audit from the Fair Labor Association, which outright said Apple was in violation of Chinese law. Though, the company along with its manufacturing factory Foxconn have agreed to make the necessary changes to fall back in line with FLA standards, and the law.

Filed under: VentureBeat

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Terascala raises $14M for “fast data” storage

Posted: 24 Apr 2012 01:11 PM PDT


Boston-based cloud data storage company Terascala has raised $14 million in second-round funding for its parallel storage appliances.

Terascala’s main product, called Terascala Integrated Storage Information System (TISIS), helps businesses process and store huge amounts of data more effectively using the Lustre file system. Lustre is a file system used in computer clusters and supercomputers to process petabytes of data. TISIS also provides analytics such as bandwidth usage, capacity consumption, client node access, and specific job resource usage, according to the company’s website.

The company has collaborated with Dell to create open storage options for Linux clusters, which are used by universities and research institutions, and for software development.

Competitors to Terascala include Panasas, which offers parallel file-storage appliances similar to Terascala’s.

Ascent Venture Partners and undisclosed investors completed the investment, which is a combination of $10.6 million in equity and $3.4 million in escrow, Mass High Tech reported.

Terascala is based in Avon, Mass. and has raised a total of $16.8 million, including this new investment. The company was founded in 2005.

Server room image via Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, deals

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now