04 May, 2012



Silicon Valley needs to end its snobbery about computer science degrees

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:50 AM PDT

I don’t have a computer science degree. There, I said it.

At too many companies around Silicon Valley that would make me unemployable.

I’ve been amused by the scandal surrounding Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s embellishment of his resume to include a computer science degree he didn’t earn. I’ve struggled with Silicon Valley’s obsession over computer science degrees. Lying about credentials is wrong, but Silicon Valley’s snobbery on the issue is short-sighted.

For starters, it’s important to keep in mind that three of the best product and business minds in tech never got computer science degrees: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs.

I am certainly not any of those guys. But I can understand markets. I can design business models. I can negotiate with partners. I can pick apart the tiniest elements of user interface design. I can evangelize good products. (And evangelize against bad products.) I can communicate my message effectively in print, on blogs, and live television. I understand user psychology. I get along great with designers and engineers. I am one of the co-inventors of a patent on news feed and social search (which Facebook may have recently bought from Microsoft).

I’ve gone toe-to-toe with top executives, investors, and technologists. In a 2007 job interview, I told Dustin Moskovitz that eventually Facebook would be the place people went to consume news. He told me I was crazy; people only shared silly news on Facebook. In high school, I pirated software with Larry Page. (Yes, that one.) Back in the day, I taught myself to code. I wrote my first program on a TI 99/4A. The picture above is me PEEKing and POKEing on a Commodore 64.

I bring a lot of valuable skills and experience with me to a company, whether at a startup or a big company.

While I’m disclosing things, I should also disclose that I don’t have an accounting degree. (Unlike Scott Thompson.) I took one accounting class in college. I’m 99.9% sure I got an A in it. (But I don’t have my transcript in front of me, so don’t hold me to that.) I know reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. I’m creative, analytical and dogged. That’s all I needed to pick apart Groupon’s S-1 better than many professional analysts.

For many years, I left my major off my resume. It just said I had a Bachelor’s of Science from Northwestern University. That’s true. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism.

About five years ago, I met with a senior executive from a large Internet company about a role in local. He had sold his company to them and was now in charge of all their local products. We had a great exchange about the space. He’d read my blogs on local. We talked about all of the things I could help them with. I laid out what I thought their roadmap should be for local. He agreed. Anyone who has read my work in the last year knows how passionate I am about local; he saw that passion and he was sold. Then he glanced down at my resume. “What’d you major in?” “Journalism.” “I can’t hire you. HR won’t let me.”

He was a well-respected senior executive who had a candidate he really liked, but he couldn’t hire me because of an arbitrary rule. (Ironically, the same company wouldn’t hire me for a marketing role because I think too much like a product guy.) It didn’t matter that I had run local for AOL or launched some of the first local services in 1995.

In one particularly comical exchange, a hiring manager for a startup chastised me for lying about my degree. “Journalism is an art, not a science. You’re saying you have Bachelor’s of Science.” If I claimed I had a Bachelor’s of Arts, I’d be lying. Northwestern classifies journalism as a science.

I’ve managed to overcome my handicap in the last year through my writing. (That journalism degree was good for something!) Now I get calls from many startups and big companies about joining their team. But all of the exposure has created the opposite problem. I was talking to the hottest company in Silicon Valley right now. The hiring manger said, “I think you’d be a great fit. But I’m worried you’ll be bored. You have this glamorous life writing and being on TV. Why would you want to come here?” The short answer is, I’d rather build great products than criticize bad products other people are building.

Credentials do serve as a valuable signaling mechanism when a candidate is fresh out of college or if you’re filtering through thousands of resumes. If I had to blindly pick between someone who had a computer science degree and someone who didn’t for a product management job, I would pick the C.S. degree, too. But for a more established candidate, the major or where they went to school is irrelevant. I know plenty of smart people without computer science degrees and plenty of not-so-smart people with them.

A similar snobbery applies to schools. For recent grads, whether you went to Stanford or Stonehill College should matter. Thirty years later, this is irrelevant. One of the smartest operations guys I know went to Frostburg State. (He doesn’t put this on his LinkedIn profile.)

I prefer to get to know candidates beyond the resume and their major. Some things are hard to describe on a resume. I don’t even know how to put the most significant accomplishment of the last year on my resume: “Saved investors who listened to me billions of dollars by avoiding one of the worst IPOs ever”?

It comes down to objectives. If your goal is to build a company for a quick acqui-hire, by all means, stock up on people with computer science degrees. That’s what will get you the highest valuations from Google and Facebook.

But if the goal is to build a huge, successful product, you’ll want a more diverse, well-rounded work force. With the rise of mobile and social, it’s critical to have a deep understanding of human behavior on your team. I attribute a lot of Google’s failure in social to its insistence on the importance of computer science degrees.

With the expansion of products into more verticals with entrenched competitors, it’s important to have expertise in those areas. If you’re going into banking, payments, travel, or medicine, you’ll want experts from those areas on your team, even if they don’t have comp sci degrees.

One of the things that drives me nuts about Silicon Valley’s recruiting process is the focus on interview puzzles. Like the 100 100% rational women who have to kill their spouse if they learn that he’s cheated. Although the puzzles test math and logic skills, they’re dangerous because they are based on the assumption that people are 100% rational.

Most people aren’t perfectly rational. Most people make decisions based on incomplete information and emotion. That’s why designing products that appeal to the masses is so much fun.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II beats first-day preorders of Modern Warfare 3 on Amazon

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:39 AM PDT

Call of Duty: Black Ops II preorders for the first day after the announcement of the game have beaten first-day preorders for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Black Ops II has beaten Modern Warfare 3′s preorders on Amazon by 30 percent.

That’s saying a lot since Modern Warfare 3 was the fastest-selling game in history when it went on sale last November, eclipsing sales of the previous record setter, Call of Duty: Black Ops, from 2010. Modern Warfare 3 currently holds the record for the most pre-ordered game of all time and was among the top 20 preorders ever on Amazon.com. Modern Warfare sold more than $1 billion worth of games since it debute.

The new game will be released Nov. 13. Pre-orders are now being on Activision, Steam, Amazon, Best Buy, Gamestop, and Target for $59.99.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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Need new friends? Social network Badoo will help — now 150M strong

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:38 AM PDT

While Facebook has focused on keeping in touch with the boring minutia of your current friends’ lives, social networking competitor Badoo has taken the opposite approach as a platform to make new friends. Badoo announced this morning that it will reach 150 million users today, right on the heels of its U.S. launch in March.

The growth is a 60 percent increase from a year ago, according to ComScore data, and it’s now adding more than 125,000 new users every day. Badoo says it has 35 million active users monthly, and it remains profitable with an annual run rate of $150 million.

Badoo credits strong mobile growth as a big factor in the milestone. Since November of last year, Badoo’s mobile jumped 100 percent, and its mobile revenues more than  doubled. The company also now has more than 8 million users in the U.S., though it already had 6 million users here before its March launch.

Badoo doesn’t really see itself as a Facebook competitor, chief marketing officer Jessica Powell told me at the company’s launch event in New York City. The company invited New Yorkers to a trendy SoHo spot (above) — complete with a hip DJ and hipsters  too cool to speak to you in public — to be photographed by professionals to create the ultimate profile pic. Badoo users voted on the best pictures taken, and those users are now starring in Badoo ads plastered all over New York City.

Powell stressed the inclusive nature of Badoo — it’s not exactly for early adopters, and a brief glance at Badoo profiles in your area reveals a far more diverse selection of users than other social networks. The company was founded in 2006, but as Facebook’s popularity rose, Badoo founder Andrey Andreev pivoted the company into more of a friend-finding tool. Since then, growth has exploded, Powell tells me.

Using Badoo feels a lot like using an online dating service, which could explain its popularity. After creating a profile, you can see other members in your area, chat with them, or even follow them by adding their profiles to your favorites. You can also use Badoo to arrange meetups. Adding to the dating site vibe, pretty much all of the site’s profile pics are from awkward self-shots, and guys for some reason just can’t keep their shirts on.

Still, with Facebook’s emphasis on your existing friends, there’s room for a service like Badoo to shine. It’s becoming a noteworthy online presence in terms of sheer ubiquity, as it’s now available in 180 countries and supports more than 40 languages.

badoo NYC launch

Filed under: mobile, social, VentureBeat

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Nokia facing class-action suit over poor Windows Phone sales and possible fraud

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:32 AM PDT

Nokia shareholders are gearing up for a massive suit against the struggling mobile company, primarily over the company’s big bet on Windows’ mobile operating system.

In documents filed yesterday (whoch we’ve embedded below, you’re welcome), certain shareholders are claiming Nokia “told investors that Nokia's conversion to a Windows platform would halt its deteriorating position in the smartphone market. It did not. This became apparent on April 11, 2012, when Nokia disclosed that its first quarter performance would be worse than expected.”

That might actually be a bit of an understatement. Nokia actually reported a huge $1.7 billion loss for the quarter — a figure so abyssmal the company’s head of sales was forced to resign in disgrace. Ouch.

Then, there was the matter of the $100 rebate for Lumia 900 units due to a glitch in the software. The rebate essentially made the phones free to consumers who had purchased it.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told shareholders much of the loss for Q1 was due to one-time restructuring costs, but apparently, shareholders aren’t having it. The lawsuit states Nokia executives who were making wildly positive assertions about the company’s switch to Microsoft’s mobile OS “had actual knowledge of the misleading nature of the statements they made or acted in reckless disregard of the true information known to them at the time… This artificially inflated the price of Nokia's securities and operated as a fraud or deceit.”

The alleged fraud led to massive losses for shareholders who bought Nokia stock at the time. Here’s a chart we made showing Nokia stock performance from the launch of the company’s first two Windows Phone handsets to today:

NOK Chart

Double ouch.

While neither the above chart nor the lawsuit cast a particularly rosy glow on Nokia, Microsoft is also tarnished by the poor performance of the Lumia line. After all, much was made by both companies of Nokia’s “we’re putting all our eggs in one basket” bet on Windows Phone, and a lot of marketing money was sunk into the phones, the platform, and the partnership. As the flagship devices for Microsoft’s mobile revamp, the Lumia line’s apparent tanking of Nokia stock sends a huge red flag about the future of Windows Phone altogether.

The suit is brought by Robert Chmielinski, a Boston-area attorney who is also a Nokia shareholder. In a brief response, Nokia states, “Nokia is reviewing the allegations contained in the complaint and believes that they are without merit. Nokia will defend itself against the complaint.”

Here’s the full filing:

Top image courtesy of 2jenn, Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile

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Arianna Huffington no longer in charge of all AOL content

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:26 AM PDT

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is taking a step back from her role of directing all content across tech/media company AOL, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Huffington became Editor-In-Chief of all AOL media properties in February 2011 after her Huffington Post news site was purchased by AOL for $315 million. Since then many leaders at AOL’s other publications have expressed negativity for working under her, often leading to talent departures. Engadget, TechCrunch, and Joystiq are among the publications with the heaviest talent losses.

“What I asked for is for us to be more independent, to have technology, marketing and [business development] now into Huffington Post, so that we can accelerate all our growth, and for me to be freed up to just concentrate exclusively on HuffPost,” Huffington said during a startup event Thursday.

While Huffington frames the changes to her authority to something she asked for, some have speculated that it was part of an overlying riff developing between herself and AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong — something she denies.

Huffington’s new role is said to focus her efforts on growing the HuffPost’s international expansion as well as furthering the publication’s push to transform into an Internet TV network.

Photo via Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock

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Museum presses save button on gaming history (interview)

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

At a time when the largest industry in entertainment is focused on the next big thing, it’s easy to forget the past of video games. Who is helping ensure that our gaming heritage is preserved for future generations to enjoy, study and learn from? The answer is Jon-Paul Dyson, director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) at the Strong National Museum of Play. Dyson is leading the charge to protect our past by curating a unique museum that includes an extensive library and archives, over 140 arcade cabinets, 12,000 console video games, every major home console produced since 1972, dozens of personal computers, and more than 200 different handheld electronic game systems. For his efforts, he was recently named in Game Developer Magazine's prestigious 'The Game Developer 50' listing. Jeffrey DiOrio recently interviewed Dyson about the museum and its role. Here’s an edited transcript.

GamesBeat: What is (your) mission?

J.P.Dyson: ICHEG's mission is to explore and preserve the history of video games and their impact in the world, and the way people play but also the way they live, the way they learn, and the way they relate to one another.

GamesBeat: How did ICHEG get its start?

J.P. Dyson: ICHEG itself is a natural outgrowth of the collections of The Strong. The Strong has the most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls and games (in the world), and as we were looking at how play was changing, we realized that video games were having a bigger impact on play than anything else. And not just at play, but so many aspects of human life. So we began collecting video games in 2009, and we launched ICHEG. And since then the collection has grown from a very small collection of about 10,000 games and related artifacts to more than 36,000 games and related artifacts today.

GamesBeat: Did the idea to create a museum dedicated to video and electronic games experience any resistance?

J.P. Dyson: First of all, there's a natural correlation or connection between older forms of play and newer forms of play, such as between a doll house and The Sims, Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft. And any time you get a new form of media or new form of play, there are controversies.  For instance in our exhibit 'American Comic Book Heroes' we explore some of the controversies over comic books. And the ways that people thought comic books were threatening and caused problems.

You see the same issues with the rise of Film and the rise of Television.  So with video games you have some of those same issues.  Worries of 'What are the contents of the material?', 'Are people wasting their time playing it?'.  So we're interested in exploring those issues, not just dismissing them. Issues like violence.  Issues like the educational benefits, or not, of video games.  And so within the broader community of people concerned about play and children there have been sometimes when people have said 'Well, I'm not sure if people should be spending as much time as they do playing video games'.  So I think it's more from that stand point that we've gotten, at times, questions.

But I think, when articulated, even people suspicious of video games still understand the impact they are having.  So once you understand the impact they are having I think that people get the importance of why we need to do this. That if we don't act to preserve a record of video games, there's a chance much of this will be lost.

GamesBeat: So really it's never been a question of the breadth of impact of the video gaming industry and whether that warrants its own center, but really maybe some of the more philosophical questions on whether this (gaming) is a good thing, or not.

J.P. Dyson: Yea, I think so. I mean, I imagine there are probably some people who resist the idea of preserving video games in a museum.  It seems like 'Well, is that what museums are for?’. But I think that we've been able to make a really compelling case that this is what museums need to be preserving.

GamesBeat: How is ICHEG preparing to conserve gaming history at a time when games and gaming content are increasingly distributed digitally?

J.P. Dyson: If I look at the bigger picture of 'how do you preserve a video game', it's a hard problem as you raise some of these issues.  So let me take a step back and talk about our approach. At the moment we are pursuing a 5-fold strategy for preserving video games. The central thing that we've been concentrating on, initially, is collecting the physical copies of games and hardware.

But we recognize that alone is not (enough). The second thing we're collecting are printed materials, or mass manufactured materials without the games. So this would be things like game guides, gaming magazines, ephemera that's produced related to the games, that sort of thing. They give you insights into the games, how the games were played, how they were created, interviews with authors. Preserving those are really key, that's why we've built this collection of over 10,000 video game and computer magazines.

Going further into this, you go from these mass-produced printed materials to the 3rd thing, archival materials. This would include game designer notes, business records, marketing materials, oral histories. These are all important things, such as Will Wright's notebooks or Ralph Baer's notes, those unique archival materials. The 4th thing is doing video capture. So capture a record of the game at play. Now this is not the same as being able to load the game up and play it. But at least it gives you some sense of what the game was like, what was the feel of the game. So historians who wanted to know a game from 20 years ago, they could look at a video record of that. So that's where we have this grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to capture video from about 7,000 games in our collection.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, VentureBeat

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The DeanBeat: Don’t ya wish these fantasy game consoles were coming?

Posted: 04 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

With a month to go before this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo video game trade show (E3), rumors are surfacing about next-generation console announcements. We’re not likely to hear much about what sort of features they’ll have for a while with the exception of Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U, which is launching this fall.

But gamers love to talk about their fantasy consoles. We all have our wish lists. How about a little crowdsourced hardware design? I’m up for it. Here’s what I’m hoping will be in the next-gen systems.

It would be nice to see all of the consoles adopt game streaming from the cloud. If you process and store the game in the cloud as OnLive and Gaikai do, you can stream video of a game to a player, relieving the machine on the receiving end of the need do processing. That means that the console never becomes outdated as you can always just upgrade the hardware in the data center to improve the gamer’s experience at home. Cloud gaming hasn’t taken the world by storm yet, but it seems like an inevitable byproduct of advances of streaming, compression, and better broadband.

One rumor suggested the new consoles won’t have physical media. I won’t miss discs, but it may be a little early to get rid of them entirely. Sure, this thought conflicts with the idea of cloud gaming, so I have mixed feelings about it. But we may not be ready for the next console to be entirely dependent on the cloud. I’d be happy to see Jedi mind tricks with brain wave controls, but I’m not expecting great advances on that front, either.

This is an exercise that anybody can join. Nicole Lazzaro, head of XEO Design, would love to be able to carry her games across all kinds of devices, consoles included. She wants the machine to know her friends and be ready to send demos of games to them. She wants a flexible display that she could roll up in a pen and an easily browsable game catalog.

Todd Hooper of Zipline games wants a console with no discs, 4K 3D graphics, and awesome graphics power. He’s happy to pay $60 for games running on such a console. For him, free-to-play games would simply be a nice option. GamesBeat writer Rob LeFebvre would like to see a great “console convergence,” where each system maker’s games will run on their competitors’ machines. GamesBeat intern Mike Minotti wants to see Mario games running on Xboxes. Those are good wishes, and we never said they had to be realistic.

Mark Deloura, former vice president of technology at THQ, said the biggest question for him is how the consoles remain relevant. He also worries about the physical drive. Will Blu-ray be big enough to store the data from next-gen games? Maybe it is the BDXL specification, which stacks Blu-ray discs on top of each other. The transfer rate from those discs would be 45 megabits per second, so it could take 100 seconds to fill up 4 gigabytes of main memory from a disc. That’s a challenge for the technologists, as it’s no easy thing to change to a new disc format. Deloura would also like to see a more open ecosystem for online titles and stronger support. And the consoles should catch up to social/mobile when it comes to innovative business models.

And here’s some more specific wish lists.

Nintendo. The company has described its Wii U as having high-definition graphics, Wii-like motion sensors, a tablet-like controller with a touchscreen, and near-field communications. I’d like to see Nintendo finally embrace the world of online gaming and digital distribution. How about Steam on a Nintendo console, asks GamesBeat writer Stefanie Fogel. Nintendo has the right idea in embracing tablets as controllers, but it really ought to go all the way and use the iPhone or iPad as the input device.

Everyone is quite worried that the Wii U won’t have much processing power. It will be able to run high-definition content, but it may not be as powerful as the current Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Our preference: faster, faster, faster, of course.

Sony. Sony should return to mass-market pricing. That may mean your PlayStation 4, code-named Orbis, won’t have a chip with 256 cores. But who wants to pay $600 for a next-gen machine for the living room? Sony has said it has no plans to describe its PlayStation 4 at E3. Hooper says that Sony would do better to have a better online strategy that catches up with Microsoft’s. Rolling out updates, for instances, should take far less time than it currently does.

Microsoft. A rumor emerged this week that Microsoft will subsidize its current Xbox 360, offering a $99 price for a console-Kinect bundle if you pay for a two-year subscription at $15 a month. That is marching down the road toward a subscription-based console, like a mobile-phone contract, where the hardware is free and you pay for software or an online subscription. On top of that, free-to-play business models, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual items, have made a big splash on social and mobile platforms, but they could really be disruptive on the consoles.

The next machine is reportedly code-named Durango. It reportedly has 16 processor cores — compared to three in the Xbox 360. It is also rumored to have an Advanced Micro Devices graphics chip that can handle 4K resolution (better than high-definition TV) graphics. Amen to that. Dave Taylor, a veteran programmer, would rather see a Larrabee-like processor with 80 or more cores.

I’d also want Kinect 2 since the original Kinect motion-sensing system isn’t as accurate as I’d like it to be. Of course, it goes without saying that we really want the Star Trek Holodeck, where virtual reality is indistinguishable from the real world. Microsoft has said it has no plans to talk about a new console at E3.

Apple. These guys could easily get into the console business with an Apple-branded television set that runs apps from the App Store. When you can spend 99 cents for decent-quality games on the TV, you may never pay $60 for a console title again. You could use your iPhone or iPad as a controller.

What we don’t want to see

One thing I really don’t want to see in the next-gen consoles is stereoscopic 3D. I think the past few years have shown that it doesn’t add that much to the experience, makes a lot of people dizzy, and still adds cost.

I think that game developers and publisher want to see an end to used game sales, particularly for new games that have just hit the market. GameStop would hate for the next consoles to block used games, though it contends a relatively small portion of used game sales are for the newest games. Gamers, who have viewed used games as a right, would hate it, too. Legal precedent supports them too.

What’s your own wish list? Please vote for your favorites in the poll or add some new desires in the comments.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, mobile

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Yahoo board to review CEO’s resume padding — should he be fired? (poll)

Posted: 04 May 2012 07:47 AM PDT


Yahoo’s board plans to review the apparent resume padding of CEO Scott Thompson after activist shareholder Dan Loeb accused Thompson of lying about his education, the company said late on Thursday.

Under new allegations and mounting evidence that Thompson misrepresented his education, the Yahoo CEO has found himself under more scrutiny than he’s probably ever had in his career. Thompson’s public biography for the past six years says that he has degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College, while he actually just has an accounting degree.

Yahoo confirmed yesterday that Thompson did not have a computer science degree and called listing it on his biography and in SEC filings an “inadvertent error.” Yahoo’s full statement reads:

"Scott Thompson received a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a major in accounting from Stonehill College. There was an inadvertent error that stated Mr. Thompson also holds a degree in computer science. This in no way alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies.

That statement did not sit well with reporters, who noticed that Thompson’s bio as the CTO of PayPal also included the computer science degree listing. That’s added more speculation that Thompson deliberately misrepresented his credentials so he would have more credibility with the tech community.

Plus, in a 2009 radio interview, Thompson did not deny that he had a computer science degree after being asked about it. Late in the interview, the TechNation radio show asked Thompson about his bachelor's degree “in accounting and computer science,” but Thompson did not correct the record.

After all this came to light, Yahoo released a second statement that the board will review the mounting evidence. Yahoo writes:

“In connection with the statement the company made earlier today about Scott Thompson, the Yahoo! board will be reviewing this matter, and upon completion of its review, will make an appropriate disclosure to shareholders.”

All the evidence thus far is quite damning and the best defense Thompson will have is ignorance. Most likely, he will claim he hadn’t looked at his biography for many years, but we will see what happens.

Scott Thompson photo: Yodel Anecdotal/Flickr

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Windows 8 won’t have DVD playback built-in — and that makes total sense

Posted: 04 May 2012 07:08 AM PDT

Hoping to save a few bucks from licensing fees, Microsoft says it won’t be including DVD playback support built-in to Windows 8. Instead, you’ll have to purchase the Windows Media Center upgrade, or use third-party DVD software, to enjoy your movie collection.

Writing on the Building Windows 8 blog yesterday, Microsoft’s Windows head Steven Sinofsky explains the move as a way for the company to avoid royalty costs for decoders, which are required for media playback.

“Globally, DVD sales have declined significantly year over year and Blu-ray on PCs is losing momentum as well,” Sinofsky wrote. “Watching broadcast TV on PCs, while incredibly important for some of you, has also declined steadily. These traditional media playback scenarios, optical media and broadcast TV, require a specialized set of decoders (and hardware) that cost a significant amount in royalties.”

Specifically, the news means that Windows Media Player on Windows 8 won’t be able to play DVDs by default, even though Media Player itself will still be a mainstay in all versions of the OS.

While it may sound a bit shocking at first, the move makes sense since Windows 8 will run on a variety of form factors — including tablets and ultrabooks — that don’t have optical drives to play DVDs. It’s a minor inconvenience for consumers who rely on Windows for watching DVDs, but it looks like upgrading to Media Center won’t be too difficult. Sinofsky says the add-on will be available via the “Add features to Windows 8 Control Panel.”

Media Center isn’t the only way to get DVD playback either. There are tons of third-party DVD clients out there, including some which let you view DVDs for free (likely by skipping out on royalty fees), like VLC.

The news will most likely affect college students who practically live off of their computers. But with the ever-increasing rise of legal streaming and downloadable video options, I have a feeling many consumers won’t even need to figure out a DVD playback solution on Windows 8.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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Activision Blizzard’s quarterly earnings report predicted to shine come Wednesday

Posted: 04 May 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Activision Blizzard will report its first-fiscal-quarter earnings on Wednesday, May 9, after the market close. This will come two days after its arch-rival Electronic Arts reports its earnings, and the two together will paint a better picture of the grudge match between EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and Activision Blizzard’s flagship online game World of Warcraft.

Activision Blizzard will, of course, want to show that its juggernaut money-maker, World of Warcraft, has kept its status as king of the hill in the massively multiplayer online (MMO) space, while also proving that the hit Call of Duty franchise has financial legs with Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops II, and the new Elite multiplayer service.

Wedbush Securities’ analyst Michael Pachter expects Activision to report results at or above its current estimates for revenue, at an estimated $570 million with an earnings per share (EPS) of $0.08. This is higher than the consensus of other analysts, who expect to see revenues of $552 million and EPS of $0.04. Pachter also expects to see a decline in publishing revenue of approximately 30 percent, lower than that of the NPD Group decline of approximately 40 percent.

Pachter notes that this shortfall should be made up for with new Elite subscriptions (an estimated $22 million), the first Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 DLC pack, and $30 million in Skylanders accessories, which are not accounted for by the NPD Group.

Activision Blizzard share valuation dropped a bit on Thursday, closing at $12.66 per share, while remaining valued at approximately $14.31 billion. While this shows the company to be much larger than rival EA (valued at $5.26 billion), there are still factors that can affect even a big company.

Pachter points to an increasing reliance on Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, noting that the Activision arm continues to commit more and more financial resources to the military FPS franchise, while Blizzard focuses more on upcoming Diablo III, Starcraft II expansions, and its successful MMO. In addition, says Pachter, while the futuristic Black Ops II game should help the Call of Duty franchise maintain it’s market share, it could well succumb to FPS fatigue as the market continues to saturate with similar titles.

Activision could, of course, exceed even these measured positive expectations, which Pachter says could come from more than two titles released by Blizzard, that Call of Duty packaged goods do better than expected at retail, and the upcoming Skylanders expansion, Giants, outperforms the original game. Finally, Pachter predicts that Activision Blizzard’s stock price will go as high as $19.00 per share, which is about 16 times the company’s expected 2012 earnings per share.

Traditionally, Activision Blizzard has maintained a strategy of culling its titles ruthlessly to focus its resources on what works. While it maintains a leadership position in online console games, it hasn’t experimented as much as EA in the realm of social, mobile and free-to-play online games. EA hasn’t had huge successes in those areas, but at least it has spent a lot of time learning lessons. Those new markets represent the big expansion opportunities in the game business, while the core console market–where Activision Blizzard focuses most–has been shrinking. How Activision Blizzard and EA manage these industry-wide transitions will determine who comes out on top in the long run.

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has shown weakness in recent quarters, dropping to 10.2 million paying subscribers, compared to past highs of around 12 million. Star Wars may have taken some users away. But other online game worlds such as Trion’s Rift (which is soon bound for China) and En Masse Entertainment’s TERA are also likely to peck away at the big 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.

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eBay’s new East Coast HQ boosts New York tech scene

Posted: 03 May 2012 10:34 PM PDT

Trending in more ways than one, eBay announced it would be the latest Silicon Valley tech giant to expand to New York to explore new opportunities in Big Data.

Hot on the heels of Twitter, the e-commerce and payments company chose a 35,000 square foot space in the Flatiron district for its new technology center of excellence.

The new digs will house more than 200 new employees, including the Hunch team, a recommendations site eBay acquired in November. It comes as no surprise that Chris Dixon, co-founder of Hunch, will head up the new office dedicated to improving eBay's recommendations engine.

Dixon told VentureBeat that the team of developers and data scientists would be focused on machine learning and analytics. In the future, he said this will create new revenue opportunities for eBay, Paypal, and other eBay companies.

According to Dixon, eBay is shopping for local acquisition opportunities to rapidly expand its New York operations. This is further momentum for the city's burgeoning tech scene, which has recently seen an influx of designers, developers, and venture capitalists.

"Google was a pioneer in NYC and now has thousands of developers here," said Dixon. Now, he added, "eBay, Facebook, and other big tech companies are taking NYC seriously."

Google has over 1,000 workers in its office in the Meatpacking District. Twitter's office, located a stone's throw from Facebook's New York headquarters, was opened with much fanfare by Mayor Bloomberg.

eBay’s new Manhattan location

"There's a tipping point right now where the tech scene is increasingly moving to New York," said Tom Loverro, principal of RRE ventures, a local investment firm focused on the fast-growing consumer internet and mobile space.

New Yorkers fear that the growth of these new development shops will lead to a talent crunch. As in Silicon Valley, engineers are in high-demand. “In the short term, eBay’s expansion will make talent even scarcer,” said Lylan Masterman, product lead at fast-growing adtech startup, DoubleVerify.

In the long-run, however, Masterman said eBay’s announcement will draw more talented people to New York. “This city is a strong force in the startup and tech scene that is growing incessantly and that is stealing talent, jobs, and prestige from the Bay Area.”

[Image credit:  Cheon Fong Liew/Flickr]

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Total tablet sales down in first quarter, but iPad market share back up to 68 percent

Posted: 03 May 2012 07:53 PM PDT

Overall tablet sales were down 1.2 million units in the first three months of 2012, but strong iPad sales boosted Apple’s market share to 68 percent, according to market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC).

IDC had estimated sales of close to 18.6 million units, down from the previous Christmas season quarter’s 28.2 million units. A slower post-Christmas quarter is generally expected, but actual sales were 17.4 million units, 1.2 million tablets fewer than predicted.

The bright spot in early 2012? Apple shipments remained strong – almost 12 million iPads sold. Apple sold so many in part due to the same dual price strategy that has served them so well in the mobile phone market: the current model at a premium price, and last year’s model at an industry-competitive price.

The real surprise is in the Android numbers, which are down significantly. While in the holiday season Android-based tablets accounted for almost half of all sales, in 2012 so far Android market share has slipped to 32 percent. The big loser is Amazon, which saw sales of the Kindle Fire dip from a high of almost five million tablets to this quarter’s low of just about a million units.

The real question now: is the dip in Android numbers just a blip? Will Android continue its once seemingly inevitable rise to 50 percent to 60 percent market share?

Perhaps a better question is why Android was so strong in the last few months of 2011. Amazon’s Kindle Fire numbers show what the world’s top online retailer can do to move a market … and if Amazon is willing to absorb low margins and push digital razors out the door now in order to sell electronic blades in the future, Android will certainly recover. Selling the Fire almost at a loss, however, has certainly contributed to Amazon’s traditionally slim margins almost disappearing entirely in 2012.

IDC sees continued growth in the tablet market in 2012 and beyond, with Apple continuing to lead. How long that continues, however, depends on continued innovation from Cupertino – and whether Android manufacturers continue to improve their game.

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Facebook CEO to take home $1B on IPO day

Posted: 03 May 2012 05:39 PM PDT

zuck all dressed up

Buried in Facebook’s amended S-1 is a fun little nugget of information: CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be selling 30.2 million of his shares in the company’s initial public offering, a sale that will net him roughly $1 billion.

In the lead-up to its IPO, Facebook set its opening price range at $28 to $35 a share Thursday — but that could change. Financial data company PrivCo said that underwriters plan to raise the range to $38 to $40 per share prior to the IPO for an initial day price pop.

Depending on the final share price, Zuckerberg will take home between $845 million and $1.2 billion on IPO day. Alas, the $1 billion payout will be largely used for the oh-so-fun activity of paying taxes. Good times.

“Mark Zuckerberg, our founder, Chairman, and CEO, will exercise an outstanding stock option with respect to 60,000,000 shares of Class B common stock and will then offer 30,200,000 of those shares as Class A common stock in our initial public offering,” Facebook said in an amendment to its S-1 Thursday. “We expect that the substantial majority of the net proceeds Mr. Zuckerberg will receive upon such sale will be used to satisfy taxes that he will incur in connection with the option exercise.”

And fear not faithful Facebook subjects, the sale of shares won’t adversely affect Zuckerberg’s control of the board. The social networking company’s founder and CEO will control approximately 57.3 percent of voting power when the company pops up on the public market, according to the revised prospectus.

Photo credit: cattias.photos/Flickr

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Funding Daily: A big round for pre-IPO Evernote

Posted: 03 May 2012 04:54 PM PDT

counting moneyAt 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.

Nirvanix nabs $25M from Khosla Ventures

Enterprise storage startup Nirvanix has raised $25 million in its third round of funding, with the goal of bringing enterprise cloud storage to the largest companies in the world. Nirvanix offers its more than 1,200 customers across the globe access to cloud storage in three forms. These include public, hybrid, and private cloud storage types. The new funding round was led by Khosla Ventures with participation from existing investors Valhalla Partners, Intel Capital, Mission Ventures, and Windward Ventures.

LifeStreet Media nabs $66M

Advertising startup LifeStreet Media has raised $66 million in funding. LifeStreet Media offers an in-app advertising solution for mobile and Facebook apps. Nautic Partners led the round for the previously stealth-mode startup.

Evernote raises $70M in advance of IPO, now worth $1B

Evernote has raised $70 million at a valuation of $1 billion in its fourth round of funding. The round was led by Meritech Capital and CBC Capital. Evernote offers a suite of digital note-taking products with the goal of helping you remember everything.

WePay raises $10M

Payment processing service WePay has raised $10 million in funding, the company announced today. WePay is known for its easy, anyone-can-use-it online payment tools, aimed at individuals and "unsophisticated" online sellers. Ignition Partners led the round, with existing investors Highland Capital Partners and August Capital participating.

Fiverr grabs $15M in seed money

Online “people-for-hire” marketplace  Fiverr has raised $15 million in seed funding from Accel Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. The company lets people list their performance services, such as singing or juggling, on the site and starts the pricing at $5 a gig.

NetPlenish secures $1.9M

Mobile shopping site NetPlenish has raised $1.9 million in seed funding. The company helps you get a deal on everyday products, such as toilet paper or soap, by using smartphone apps. Dave McClure's 500 Startups, Gold Hill Capital, BHV Capital, TEEC Angel Fund, Ludlow Ventures led the round.

Counting money image via Flickr user Mr Jan

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Only 13M people ignore Facebook’s privacy tools. The rest of us know what we’re doing

Posted: 03 May 2012 03:42 PM PDT

Thirteen million people do not use or pay attention to their privacy settings on Facebook, according to a study by Consumer Reports today. And while Consumer Reports is a bit alarmed by Americans’ tendency to over-share on the social network, it’s worth remembering that’s this number is only a whopping 1.4 percent of Facebook’s 900 million active users. Even considering only the 150 million Americans who use Facebook, that’s still just 8.7 percent.

Rather than be alarmed, we should be impressed by how many people actually use Facebook’s privacy settings.

Consumer Reports’ study took a look at Facebook’s privacy settings, how many people actually use them, as well as how people are sharing information. The magazine surveyed 2,002 U.S. households, 1,340 of which are active on Facebook, to find its results, then extrapolated to the entire U.S. population of Facebook. Those results include information on people sharing data more widely than expected, Facebook collecting more data than people realize, and people simply not using Facebook’s privacy controls.

“Consumer Reports completely missed the big issue,” said Jules Polonetsky, Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, in an interview with VentureBeat. “I expected Consumer Reports to focus on things like how useable are the privacy settings on Facebook versus other services, are apps taking more info than they should… It was surprising to see a very generally negative view toward social media.”

The “negative view” Polonetsky is referencing is Consumer Reports’ stance that we are sharing too much, and that social networks have become an arena for Big Brother (it specifically mentions the IRS, insurers and employers) to harvest more information about us. The stat that people seem to be hanging on to, though, is that 13 million Americans don’t even use Facebook’s privacy settings, which could help them protect yourselves from prying eyes.

Of course, “13 million people” isn’t anything to shake a stick at. Those are all individuals, they all have lives, they all can be adversely affected by sharing on social networks. Consumer Reports says these millions either weren’t made aware of Facebook’s privacy settings, or haven’t used them, the latter of which completely makes sense.

Polonetsky brought up the studies of Alan Westin, who researched privacy and the way people share their data in the 1960s and 1970s. Westin concluded that people fall into a few camps: “privacy pragmatists,” those who care about their privacy, and those who don’t.

“Ten to fifteen percent don’t care, won’t care,” said Polonetsky. “These are the people who will let it all hang out.”

It’d be presumptuous to assume all 13 million people who don’t use Facebook’s privacy settings simply don’t pay attention. But, as Polonetsky explained, for years privacy experts tried to convince people to use browser-cookie privacy settings, and even after years many people still can’t be bothered. You’re not going to be able to reach every user.

There are areas of the Consumer Reports study that bring up valid concerns, however. Social sharing is still muddy. When you share with “friends of friends,” people often don’t realize just how far that network stretches. According to the report, 28 percent of Facebook users shared all of the information on their Facebook profiles with more than just friends. You could be sharing a photo of you and a buddy in bikinis with tens of thousands of people.

Fortunately, there’s a simple answer to that: Don’t let your friends’ friends see that photo. Use the tools that Facebook provides to prevent unwanted eyeballs from getting to your content.

The Consumer Reports study also mentions that only 37 percent of individuals say they’ve used Facebook’s app privacy settings. Apps are also a bit unclear. At the top of the apps page, it states that apps overall have default access to your, “name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user ID (account number)… friends list and any information you choose to make public.”

But while you can control the apps you install, there’s no comprehensive list of apps your friends are using that also access your information. Perhaps that’s because the list would be too expansive. Instead, you can control friends’ apps through the “how people bring your info to apps they use” tab.

The point is, there are more important questions to be asked here than “should I put this on Facebook?” Because if you’re asking that question, the answer is always no. Instead, we need to be looking at which social networks give you the best control or how much information apps are taking.

“We believe more than 900 million consumers have voluntarily decided to share and connect on Facebook because we provide them options and tools that place them in control of their information and experience,” said Facebook in an e-mailed statement. “As part of our effort to empower and educate consumers, we always welcome constructive conversations about online privacy and safety.”

Zuckerberg image via Crunchies2009/Flickr

Filed under: security, social

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Facebook’s roadshow video will tug at your heart, wallet

Posted: 03 May 2012 02:43 PM PDT

Facebook roadshow video

Facebook has released its “retail roadshow video,” encouraging a broader public — a public who has used Facebook every day since 2005 — to invest in the company’s initial public offering.

“Your life is an amazing story that a lot of people would be interested in if you told it,” said Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook in the video. “The social graph is something that has always existed as long as there were two people on earth.”

Awww. Where do we sign up?

The retail roadshow video goes on for 30 minutes and features chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, along with chief financial officer David Ebersman, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Cox. In it, the Facebook crew discusses the company’s mission, products, advertising, finance, and the future of Facebook.

Putting these videos out has become common practice, with lots of tech companies, including Groupon, partaking in the new tradition during the days leading up to their IPOs. Zuckerberg and Facebook, however, have executed the video a little differently, tying in a strong dose of nostalgia and Coldplay-esque music. They talk about the beginnings of Facebook, way back in 2005, when the only photo you could upload was a profile picture. The video then details the company’s expansion to photo albums, while displaying pictures of mothers and babies, people in funky sunglasses, and other obvious representatives of Everyman. The company then goes on to talk about Timeline, the platform, advertising, it even includes a cameo of Ben & Jerry’s executives talking about Facebook’s reach.

What’s more heart-warming than ice cream?

The company also includes bits of actual information, such as the fact that Facebook’s members leave comments on the site one billion times a day, and that Facebook has 488 million mobile users. These stats you can also find in Facebook’s prospectus, which was updated today to include Facebook’s “initial public offering range” of $28 to $35 per share, although to get information out of a prospectus you have to be able to read. With a video, by contrast, you could be convinced to buy stock even if you’re illiterate.

Facebook will be selling a total of 337,415,352 shares, which could bring in $9.4 billion to $11.8 billion, depending on the offering price.

Facebook is expected to IPO as soon as May 18.

We can’t embed the roadshow video, but if you don’t want to watch all 30 minutes of it, we’ve included some highlights below.

Pop top image via Camdiluv ♥/Flickr

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Online video biz Brightcove earns $19.9M in Q1, sees bright future ahead

Posted: 03 May 2012 02:25 PM PDT


Online video platform company Brightcove reported $19.9 million in revenue in its first quarter as a public company, the company announced today.

“We are pleased to announce strong financial results, highlighted by 53% revenue growth year-over-year, in our first quarter as a public company,” said Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire, in a statement. “Brightcove continues to expand its market share leadership position, and we believe the company is well positioned at the center of multiple powerful growth trends — video, mobile, cloud and social. … With the proceeds from our IPO, we have greater resources to execute our growth strategy and expand our market leadership position.”

Digging down into the numbers, the quarter looked quite good for Brightcove. Outside of its strong revenue growth in Q1, it earned a gross profit of $13.6 million, compared to $8.7 million in the year-ago quarter. Operating loss decreased from a year ago as well, with the company reporting a loss of $3.2 million for Q1 2012, compared to a loss of $4.4 million in Q1 2011.

Brightcove went public in early February and is listed on the Nasdaq exchange. The company makes it possible for large and small content providers to publish video content to the web completely using HTML5 rather than Adobe Flash. On top of standard video, the company also has live, on-demand, and mobile-specific offerings.

Brightcove has 4,254 customers, as of March 31, 2012, which is up 49 percent year-over-year.

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42Floors’ new “Showroom” turns startup offices into seductive hiring tools

Posted: 03 May 2012 02:22 PM PDT

42Floors emerged from Y Combinator's Winter 2012 class back in March as an office space search and discovery service with the mission of helping companies find their dream office.

The company launched with some strong rhetoric about technologically upending the commercial real estate industry and liberating data from fragmented listing sources; all goals that are still actively pursued.

But after gathering lots of feedback from their users and fellow startupers, it realized that finding a dream office is more than just a real estate transaction: it's also all the work that goes in after the deal closes.

That's why 42Floors is today announcing an extension to their office search site that puts the focus back on companies seeking their dream office: a one-stop, nationwide marketplace called Showroom where companies can get inspired and shop for office products and services from space planning to furniture to catering.

The site is currently limited to a simple showcase of wares and services that can't actually be bought, but the next iteration will allow streamlined purchasing so that a dream office can be ordered and delivered with the same fluidity as buying and downloading an app from the App Store.

I had a chance to talk about the new development with co-founder and chief executive Jason Freedman, a provocative figure in startupland these days—one need look no further than his very public hiring stunts or his unabashed condemnation of "non-technical" startup founders.

But despite all the showboating, Freedman and his company display a keen understanding of what startups in Silicon Valley want and will pay for.

Says Freedman, "We know on a tactical level that we can make an office manager's job a lot easier, but we also know that right now, if you're a CEO, the chief reason to invest in your office is hiring."

Hiring indeed. It's no secret that Silicon Valley is experiencing a fiercly competitive talent crunch that's forced companies to pursue every available avenue to successfully market themselves to potential hires. This includes the physical office space they inhabit, where each piece of furniture or catered meal plays a vital role in communicating the culture of that particular startup. Once compensation levels reach a certain point, factors like culture tend to sway employment decisions.

In terms of market positioning, however, Showroom is an oddity. There's no denying that with all the money chasing deals in the Valley these days, there are a lot more companies that are willing to part with their freshly infused cash for offices with "personality." At the same time, several of 42Floor's own Y Combinator cohorts were acculturated on the "ramen-profitable" philosophy: running a lean operation that looks down upon anything other than shipping and iterating product. Odds are that most of those startups will be fine with their local IKEA offerings.

The current market for Showroom is thus limited to high-growth seed-stage and first-or-second round venture-backed companies. These firms are not bargain hunting: they can afford to allocate toward aggressively marketing their startup to new hires through swanky office space.

The company is aware of the need to be flexible, however. Version 2 is set to debut with an option to view Showroom offerings depending on what company one might be shopping for (ranging from a small two-person startup to, for example, a large financial services company).

No matter the size of the market, Showroom opens a new revenue stream for 42Floors as well. It plans to take a percentage of all transactions that go through the marketplace, adding to the company's existing stream of referral fees from brokers closing deals procured through the main office search site.

42Floors has ambitious plans for the future. Freedman tells me that both iPhone and iPad apps are to be released "soon," with interesting features like crowd-sourced photography of spaces.

The company is also set to announce a large funding round soon, which Freedman says will go toward further refining the product, strengthening ties with brokerages, and expanding to other cities (New York being first on the list).

When I last covered 42Floors, my parting note was that the company had a unique opportunity to use the showcasing of office spaces to drive community-based growth as a startup-for-startups, like what AngelList is for the startup funding process. Showroom is a good starting point that seems to take at least some of this commentary to heart.

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Flipboard for Android will arrive on Galaxy S III first, other devices later

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:48 PM PDT


Awesome news-reading app Flipboard will soon make the jump from iOS to Android, with its first device on Android being the just-announced Samsung Galaxy S III.

It’s unusual for a startup of its kind to launch on just one Android device and then trickle onto others, but Flipboard has at least picked what will no doubt be a blockbuster phone. The Galaxy S III features a monster 4.8-inch screen and tons of cool new features like eye tracking and Siri-like “S Voice.”

Flipboard for Android will hit other Android devices in the coming months, the company says. You can sign up here for more updates.

In a hands-on impressions piece, SlashGear writes that the app on Android functions almost exactly like it does on the iPhone. But in this new version, you’ll be using the incredible-looking Galaxy S III and can use an Android widget to keep up to date.

Photo credit: SlashGear

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Yahoo CEO accused of lying on SEC filings in proxy war (updated)

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:39 PM PDT


Updated 2:00 pacific time with statement from Yahoo.

Yahoo chief executive Scott Thompson is being accused of lying about his education in Yahoo’s SEC filings. He and Dan Loeb, the force behind Yahoo’s greatest outstanding shareholder Third Point, are fighting a proxy war that is quickly turning ugly.

Third Point, an investment advertiser, owns roughly six percent of Yahoo’s shares, valued at more than $1 billion. In March, Loeb strongly recommended that Yahoo hire on four directors of his choosing: former NBC chief Jeff Zucker, former MTV chief operating officer Michael Wolf, expert Harry Wilson, and himself, Dan Loeb. When Thompson instead hired three other candidates, none of whom were Loeb, Loeb said Thompson didn’t take his suggestions seriously and began attacking the media company.

Today, Third Point is questioning Thompson’s integrity after the CEO’s alma mater, Stonehill College, confirmed he did not earn a degree in computer science there (see release below). Thompson’s bio on the Yahoo website and the company’s  Securities and Exchange Commission filings both list him as having “received a bachelor’s in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College.”

“If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo! at this critical juncture,” said Third Point in its release, “Now more than ever Yahoo! investors need a trustworthy CEO.”

Yahoo has since removed the mention in Thompson’s bio and released this statement to VentureBeat:

“Scott Thompson received a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a major in accounting from Stonehill College. There was an inadvertent error that stated Mr. Thompson also holds a degree in computer science. This in no way alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified  executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies. Under Mr. Thompson’s leadership, Yahoo! is moving forward to grow the company and drive shareholder value.”

The release is undoubtedly in response to a letter from Yahoo’s board of directors to shareholders published May 2, which heralded Thompson and revealed that Yahoo attempted to settle the issue with Third Point by offering the company two seats on its board. One of those seats would be for one of Loeb’s suggested candidates and a second for a “mutually agreeable candidate.” Again, neither of which were Loeb.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Loeb declined to end his proxy solicitation on that basis, insisting that there could be no settlement unless he was personally appointed to the board,” said Yahoo in the letter. “The board continues to believe that Mr. Loeb himself does not bring the relevant skill set and experience to the board, particularly in comparison to the candidates selected by the board.”

Check out the Third Point accusation below:

Image photoshop by Tom Cheredar

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LinkedIn delivers, Q1 revenue up 101% to $188.5M

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:37 PM PDT


Expectations were astronomically high for LinkedIn’s first quarter 2012 earnings, and the professional social network more than delivered with $188.5 million in revenue and net income of $5 million.

The revenue figure is up 101 percent from the same quarter last year and represents the seventh straight quarter of greater than 100 percent year-over-year growth for the company. Net income more than doubled, growing from $2.1 million in the first quarter of 2011.

“We saw strength across all key metrics from member signups and engagement to significant revenue growth across our three product lines,” LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said in statement.

Analysts projected that LinkedIn would report earnings of $0.09 a share on revenue of $178.8 million for the quarter. LinkedIn, however, posted Q1 earnings of $0.15 a share on revenue of $188.5 million.

LinkedIn is making a majority of its revenue (54 percent in Q1) from its hiring solutions. The products’ combined revenue for the quarter totalled $102.6 million. The company made $48 million from marketing services and $37.9 million from premium subscriptions in Q1.

In an earnings conference call Thursday afternoon, Weiner said that LinkedIn, which has 161 million members, saw 58 percent year-over-year growth in member sign-ups, and is adding new members at a rate of two per second. More than 60,000 developers are using the company’s APIs, Weiner added.

The professional network said that revenue for the second quarter of 2012 is projected to range between $210 million to $215 million, and also upped its full-year 2012 revenue guidance range to $880 million to $900 million.

Today’s earnings report came on the heels of news that the company would be acquiring presentation-sharing startup SlideShare for $119 million in cash and stock.

LinkedIn’s stock is up nearly 3 percent in after-hours trading. LinkedIn earned $167.7 million in revenue during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Photo credit: nan palmero/Flickr

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WePay hopes to give PayPal a run for its money with new $10M investment

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:36 PM PDT

Payment processing service WePay has raised $10 million in new funding, the company announced Thursday.

Founded in 2008, WePay is known for its easy, anyone-can-use-them payment collection services, aimed at individuals and "unsophisticated" online sellers. The company was originally designed to help friends collect money from each other, and it has since grown to cater to online businesses looking for a cheap way to collect payments.

The company added invoicing support in February, which helps merchants create simple invoices while also collecting payment. As of February 2012, WePay says it has served 25,000 customers — nowhere near PayPal’s millions of users. But that’s not stopping the company from going after its payment processing competitor and this $10 million investment may help it get a leg up.

Ignition Partners led the round, which will be used to expand the team and possibly develop mobile services similar to Square and PayPal. Existing investors Highland Capital Partners and August Capital also participated in the round.

WePay is based in Palo Alto, Calif. and has raised $19.5 millon in total funding.

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Need some inspiration, ladies? Meet the women of Forbes’ Midas List

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:23 PM PDT

Forbes today published its Midas List, an annual recounting of who’s who among the top investors around the globe.

We took a look at the tech sector, and of the top 100 investors chosen to be listed, only five were women.

Giving wide berth to the complicated sociological discussion of why only five women appear on the Midas List for tech investment, let’s take a look at these remarkable ladies and their careers.

Mary Meeker


  • Firm: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
  • Education: MBA, Cornell University; B.A., DePauw University.
  • Position on the Forbes Tech Midas List: 42


Mary Meeker was a Morgan Stanley analyst — and quite a good one — until January 2011, when she came to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. But her Internet street cred stretches back deep into the dotcom era.

Meeker’s claims to fame start with “The Internet Report,” a Morgan Stanley publication from 1995 that became a sort of bible for dotcom investors. Dubbed “Queen of the Net” in 1998 by Barron’s, Meeker was part of the Morgan Stanley team that oversaw Google’s 2004 IPO. In 2006, a writer for Fortune said Meeker was “absolutely first rate when it comes to spotting big-picture trends before they come into focus,” and in 2010, the magazine called her one of the ten smartest people in the technology industry.

Meeker is doubtless one of the strongest and smartest people in tech, but her biggest strength in her career might be her unrelenting focus on data. Her background as an analyst gives her work a no-nonsense focus on numbers. Since, as her research has shown over the decades, around 5 percent of tech companies create around 90 percent of the industry’s wealth, she looks at the balance sheet first, market opportunities second, and management teams third.

Recommended: Text and audio from Meeker’s 2001 speech at her alma mater; The Internet Report that started it all.

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LinkedIn to acquire SlideShare for $119M cash and stock

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:19 PM PDT


Professional social network LinkedIn will acquire presentation-sharing startup SlideShare for $118.75 million in cash and stock, the company announced today at market close.

LinkedIn will dole out approximately 45 percent cash and approximately 55 percent stock in the transaction.

“Presentations are one of the main ways in which professionals capture and share their experiences and knowledge, which in turn helps shape their professional identity,” said LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, in a statement. “These presentations also enable professionals to discover new connections and gain the insights they need to become more productive and successful in their careers, aligning perfectly with LinkedIn’s mission and helping us deliver even more value for our members. We’re very excited to welcome the SlideShare team to LinkedIn.”

SlideShare was founded in Oct. 2006 and “helps professionals discover people through content, and content through people.” The service’s users have uploaded more than nine million presentations during the life of the service. In March, SlideShare had about 29 million unique vistors, according to comScore.

The acquisition makes a ton of sense for LinkedIn, which is by far the largest business-oriented social network, with 161 million members worldwide. Professionals use the service to connect with other business folks, find new hires, and to read professional-focused news and content. Now it will also have an arm for sharing presentations across the web.

As long as regulators approve the move, the acquisition is expected to close during the second quarter of 2012.

Filed under: deals, enterprise, social

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Before you crowdfund, read this

Posted: 03 May 2012 01:00 PM PDT

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was signed into law on April 5, 2012 to help early-stage and emerging companies get easier access to capital.

The legislation, which is sweeping in nature, contains various provisions crafted to ease capital raising for privately-held companies. The provision that has generated perhaps the most buzz is a new securities exemption that allows companies to raise up to $1,000,000 per year from large numbers of investors through funding portals. The ability companies will have to crowdfund equity financing greatly expands their potential sources of capital. But startups will want to think carefully before taking the crowdfunding route.

Crowdfunding comes with some potential pitfalls. So if you are an entrepreneur forming a startup, you will want to map out your near-term and long-term financing strategies before you decide whether to go the more traditional route of friends and family and VC financing or to try crowdfunding. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

1. The crowdfunding provisions of the JOBS Act legislation include various requirements and complexities that your early-stage company must adhere to, including (a) specified disclosure obligations, (b) rules regarding which funding portals and brokers you can use in crowdfunding financings and (c) per-investor caps on investment amounts, which could prove difficult to navigate. The SEC will announce regulations to put the new law into effect in the next several months that could have a significant impact on the utility of the crowdfunding option.

2. It could cost you significant time and expense to do the administrative work associated with record-keeping and potential contractual arrangements with large numbers of stockholders. Further, a greater number of stockholders could translate into a greater number of disgruntled stockholders, further translating to more potential stockholder lawsuits. This in turn could lead to, among other bad things, higher directors liability insurance costs.

3. For the reasons I have described above, you might find it difficult to obtain venture capital once you have taken a round of crowdfunding, so it is likely crowdfunding will become an alternative route, rather than a stepping-stone, to venture capital financing. In short, if you are considering near-term crowdfunding, be aware that the transaction might foreclose venture capital investment down the road.

While venture capital financing is not without its limitations and disadvantages, there are also well-known benefits. Completing venture financing generally provides your company with such benefits as  (a) ready access to future financing from a well-funded and motivated source, (b) benefits of the business expertise and contacts (including with potential commercial lenders) of the venture investor, and (c) validation and credentialling from being financed by a sophisticated investor after it has completed due diligence (which can prove very important as the company moves to an initial public offering or a M&A exit).

More fundamentally, if your company needs money to fund operations greater than the $1,000,000 per year permitted under the JOBS Act crowdfunding law, you would be compelled to pursue the larger amounts available through venture capital.

We will likely see many early-stage companies using the crowdfunding option in the future. For some companies (in particular, those unable to get venture captial whether due to size, business sector, or geography), crowdfunding will make a great deal of sense. But it is less likely that crowdfunding will change the game plan for companies that would otherwise be able to secure venture capital financing.

Mark J. Mihanovic is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery. He heads the firm's California corporate practice and serves as corporate liaison partner in the firm's strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices based in Shanghai. His practice is primarily focused in the areas of corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions, with a particular emphasis on technology, life science, and health care companies.

Filed under: deals

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Facebook sets $28-$35 range, raising up to $11.8B in IPO (updated)

Posted: 03 May 2012 12:16 PM PDT

inside facebook

Facebook set an expected initial public offering price range of $28 to $35 per share today, valuing itself at billions less than originally anticipated.

The social network amended its S-1 prospectus with additional guidance on its offering in the final run-up to an expected May IPO. The company also released its roadshow video today.

“Facebook, Inc. is offering 180,000,000 shares of its Class A common stock and the selling stockholders are offering 157,415,352 shares of Class A common stock,” Facebook said in the amended S-1. “We anticipate that the initial public offering price will be between $28.00 and $35.00 per share.”

Based on the number of shares for sale and the price range provided, Facebook will raise between $9.4 billion and $11.8 billion through the offering. Facebook said net proceeds, assuming an initial public offering price of $31.50 per share, would be approximately $5.6 billion.

Facebook priced shares in the high $20s to mid $30s range, as was predicted earlier in the day by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, which were tipped off to the range prior to the S-1 update.

The price range means that Facebook may be seeking a lower than expected valuation, somewhere between $70.3 billion and $88 billion according to financial data company PrivCo’s calculations. PrivCo pegs fully diluted outstanding shares at 2,513,310,527. The dramatically lower valuation range is perhaps the result of first quarter revenue and profit earnings that didn’t live up to expectations. Previous reports suggested that Facebook would start its market debut with a $100 billion valuation.

But Facebook might hit the $100 billion mark after all. PrivCo says it has confirmed that Facebook’s underwriting team will raise the range to $38 to $40 per share prior to the IPO for a $95.5 billion to $100.5 billion valuation.

“PrivCo believes the low range announced today is due to a weak Q1, to facilitate a re-price above range prior to the IPO, and to guarantee a price pop on the first day of trading,” CEO Sam Hamadeh said.

In the first quarter of 2012, Facebook made $205 million in net income on $1.06 billion in revenue. The revenue figure represents a six percent dip from the previous quarter, and the income number means that Facebook made $28 million less than it did in the same quarter last year. The takeaway, Hamadeh told VentureBeat at the time, was that Facebook's quarterly revenue fell sequentially for the first time, a fact he characterized as “awful” for the pre-IPO company.

Facebook is also expected to kick off its investor roadshow Monday, with initial preparations starting Friday. Sources have said that the company plans to go public on May 18.

Facebook declined to comment on this story.

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Confirmed: Revision3 acquired by Discovery Communications

Posted: 03 May 2012 12:12 PM PDT

One of the Internet’s first big web video networks, Revision3 is being bought by Discovery Communications, the company that owns familiar cable networks such as the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and Science Channel.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but earlier reports estimated Revision3′s worth at around $30 to $40 million.

The web-based TV network, founded in 2005 by Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson, and David Prager,  produces a variety of original shows about technology, comedy, pop culture, video games, music, and more. Some of its most popular shows include EpicMealTime, Scam School, Diggnation, Tekzilla, Destructoid, and Totally Rad Show. The network is available across a plethora of digital platforms (e.g. Roku, Boxee, Zune, Tivo, Google TV, iOS, Android, and an HTML5-optimized video player). The Internet TV network brings in about 100 million monthly video views — with yearly audience numbers comparable to traditional cable TV networks.

Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback and other members of the team will continue their leadership of Revision3 under the new ownership structure, Discovery said.

“We’re going to remain focused on the web … producing content for the web and rallying communities around our shows. And now we can bring all of that to Discovery,”  Louderback said in an interview with VentureBeat. When it comes to content genres, “we’re very complementary to Discovery as far as audience goes. We’re going to be able to expand into new areas, which we were going to do anyways. Discovery is just making it happen much sooner.”

One of the areas Louderback told me he’s been itching to start doing on Revision3 is automotive/cars, saying “Velocity is one of Discovery’s car-focused channels, so I’d imagine we would be involved further down the line on future web projects.”

Rev3 spilling over into Discovery’s cable networks

In addition to incubating new talent and partnering with existing web show talent, Revision3 will also help Discovery figure out how to better use its vast 25-year library of video content, Discovery Chief Digital Officer JB Perrette told VentureBeat.

As for Discovery’s library of content, Perrette said, “We kind of said to Jim, here’s the keys to the vault. Let’s come up with some great ideas making use of some of that (old content).”

Perrette also said it’s likely there will be some spill over between Revision3 talent/shows and its large stable of cable channels, although it hasn’t lined anything up officially yet. For example, some of the more popular Rev3 shows could end up graduating to a cable channel, like Discovery or Science. I asked him if Revision3 could ever take over a time block on one of the existing cable channels — filled with only its own programming. He said that’s not out of the realm of possibility.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, and the parties expect the closing to occur on or before June 1.

Filed under: deals, media

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A Silicon Valley law firm loosens its tie, opens collaborative space in SOMA

Posted: 03 May 2012 12:01 PM PDT

Silicon Valley lawers in SF

Law offices bring to mind power suits, closed-door corner offices, serious conversations, and clients getting billed for every minute of advice. Collaborative work spaces with lounges, foosball tables, communal desks, and fun networking events are the bailiwick of hoodie-filled startups. But what if a law firm started acting like a startup?

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, one of Silicon Valley’s top law firms for startups, is trying to be a bit more like the hip, lean companies it represents by opening a new open and collaborative workspace in San Francisco’s tech-heavy SOMA district.

“One of the goals is for it not to look like an office you’d expect to see us in. Look more like the kind of space our clients are used to working in,” partner Todd Carpenter told VentureBeat.

Partners Mark Reinstra, Rachel Proffitt, and Carpenter (pictured above, left to right) gave us a tour of the raw space ahead of their move-in. The bright ground floor office is mostly one big open space, with large street-facing windows, exposed brick walls and thick wood beams, a spot for the aforementioned foosball table and lounge, and a handful of offices with doors for confidential meetings. It’s in walking distance of many of San Francisco’s big tech players, as well as AT&T Park, the new Lucky Strikes bowling alley, and hipster chicken-and-waffle eatery Little Skillet.

The office will serve some traditional lawyery purposes — clients in the area can come in to meet with their attorneys. But the plan is for it to act more as a community hub where entrepreneurs, lawyers, angel investors, and venture capitalists can mingle and maybe even make deals. It’s not just for clients, but for any lean-startup entrepreneur who could use some advice (a.k.a. potential clients).

“We change as our clients change, and right now they are raising small amounts of money very quickly, from a totally different subset of investors than they were ten, twenty years ago,” said Proffitt. “We need to be in a place to help them.”

More and more startups are doing things on the cheap — getting smaller infusions of capital, working in the cloud and without a pricy central office space. Wilson wants to step in and help these lean startups with facilities for board and client meetings, presentations, or just a place to plop down and get some work done. The partners also plan on hosting bi-monthly events, workshops, office-hours, and other events that are “designed to bring the community together.”

This is the firm’s third Bay Area location, but the tiny satellite office will only house three lawyers full-time to start, with a revolving cast of visiting attorneys from the other offices in Palo Alto and downtown San Francisco, and no non-lawyer staff (that means they’re making their own copies and coffees). It’s a small-scale experiment (they say its in “beta”) for the 50-year-old firm, which has 180 partners total, 1,200 employees, and 11 offices in the U.S., Asia, and Europe.

In a classic startup touch, the partners are in negotiations for a large stuffed grizzly bear for the space.

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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Samsung Galaxy S III owners will get 50GB free storage from Dropbox

Posted: 03 May 2012 11:59 AM PDT


Cloud storage startup Dropbox will provide a generous 50GB of free storage to new owners of the just-announced Samsung Galaxy S III Android smartphone.

The move mimics Dropbox’s prior decision to team up with HTC to give owners of the HTC One X 25GB of free storage. But in this case, Samsung Galaxy S III owners are getting double the space. It’s also comparable to Box’s offer of 50GB free storage to any compatible Android device in a limited promotion, except Box targets businesses while Dropbox is mostly targeting consumers.

S III owners who take advantage of Dropbox’s promotion will get the free 50GB storage for two years, which is often how long many smartphone owners keep a phone before upgrading because of carriers’ two-year contracts.

The Galaxy S III smartphone will begin arriving in stores May 29.

Developing story. Refresh for updates.

Filed under: cloud, mobile

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Disqus overhauls commenting system to improve quality of conversations

Posted: 03 May 2012 11:38 AM PDT


Five-year-old commenting platform Disqus is beginning the release of a dramatically overhauled version of its product today. The new edition aims to improve the quality of online conversations through speed enhancements, comment-voting capabilities, and personalized and community views.

Disqus is the commenting system used by 1.3 million blogs, websites, and news sites (VentureBeat included). It’s designed to help publishers better stimulate community conversations and competes with startups such as Echo and even goes head-to-head with Facebook’s commenting system.

Disqus 2012, as the new version is called, is noticeably different from previous versions in both look and feel, and has been reworked around four themes: frictionless, quality, personalized, and discovery.

On the frictionless front, Disqus 2012 is said to be truly realtime, meaning that conversations should feel faster and more fluid. The startup believes it’s tackling the comment quality problem with the addition of voting and scoring actions, tools that better surface top-notch contributions. A “My Discuss” tab, the new personalization feature, will give commenters a view of their own conversations, and a “Community” view will highlight a website’s hottest threads and most active contributors.

“The new Disqus is nicknamed Disqus 2012 because we're working to make it the platform that we'd personally want to use in today's world,” co-founder and CEO Daniel Ha told VentureBeat. “It's about pairing what already works with new, exciting ideas — but most of all, it's about refining the core Disqus discussion experience that people care about.”

The user experience has been especially designed for driving traffic and commenter participation, and the plug-and-play comment system is now indexable by Google right out of box, Ha said.

The Disqus 2012 update is being released Thursday on a rolling, invitation-only basis before the public launch in June.

Disqus, a Y Combinator alum, has raised $10.5 million in funding to date. The San Francisco-based startup, which has 7.2 million monthly active users, says it measures nearly 700 million uniques per month across the platform for a total of 4.5 billion pageviews.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Filed under: social

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