10 May, 2012



Apple, Foxconn to split costs of improving factory working conditions

Posted: 10 May 2012 09:34 AM PDT

Apple CEO Tim Cook tours a Foxconn factory in March, 2012
Know what’s expensive? Improving the working conditions of weary Chinese factory employees.

Fortunately, Apple and supplier Foxconn have a solution: split the costs. The two companies plan to share the initial costs of improving the conditions of Foxconn’s factories, Reuters reports.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou made the announcement on Thursday. However, he did not reveal the total costs of the efforts or whether Apple and Foxconn would be splitting the costs equally.

Gou called the effort “a competitive strength,” though it’s likely that that strength will be mostly an improvement to the public images of both Apple and Foxconn. (The remarks were made during the opening of a new headquarters in Shanghi, after all.)

That Foxconn would enter into such an agreement with Apple isn’t the biggest surprise.

Foxconn announced in February that it planed to raise the pay of its workers, many of whom were working over 60 hours per week and still unable to meet their living costs. In connection with the raises, Foxconn also worked with Apple to hire new workers to handle the significant demands of creating Apple’s products.

This, predictably, led to Foxconn’s profit margins sliding to 4 percent in the first quarter of this year from 7.25 percent during the same period in 2011. Foxconn couldn’t have been happy with that, and it’s why sharing costs with the cash-flush Apple seems like such an ideal (and expected) outcome.

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Drawbridge comes out of stealth with targeted mobile ads

Posted: 10 May 2012 09:30 AM PDT

Drawbridge raises $6.5MSpend two minutes on Facebook and you’ll see how targeted ads work — they pick up on the links you click on and search terms you use to serve you relevant ads. Search for breakup songs in Google? You’ll probably get an ad for ice cream on Facebook. Mobile ads aren’t as sophisticated, which is something a young startup called Drawbridge is hoping to change.

Drawbridge has just exited stealth mode, and it announced a first-round $6.5 million investment today. The company wants to make mobile ads as sophisticated and targeted as their desktop counterparts.

The company hails from ex-Googler and first female engineer at AdMob Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan. While my eyes tend to glaze over at the mention of a new advertising company, Sivaramakrishnan may be on to something with her idea to improve mobile ads. As more and more people are becoming glued to their iPhones, advertisers can’t afford to miss out on those eyeballs.

“Today, targeting in mobile display advertising is more about the device than the audience behind it," said Sivaramakrishnan in a statement. "Consumers now have multiple touch points across various screens. The Drawbridge platform makes it possible to understand behavior on any device and use those insights to effectively reach mobile audiences."

Drawbridge isn’t alone in its quest to cash in on mobile ads. InMobi offers targeted mobile ad services, Samsung is planning to launch its own ad network, Apple has iAd, and Google’s got its head in the mobile ad game. Sivaramakrishnan is relying on her ad technology to rival competitors, a tactic that’s grabbed the attention of big-name investors.

Using machine learning tactics, Drawbridge aims to create highly personalized ads to work across Android, Windows,  Blackberry, and iOS phones. The goal is to capture better audience information so advertisers can produce relevant ads.

Prominent firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital led the round. The two-year old company will use the money to launch its first ad services.

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Intel expands in all directions where computing can be found

Posted: 10 May 2012 09:07 AM PDT

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini addressed Wall Street analysts this morning with the message that Intel isn’t a dinosaur clinging to the PC chip market, but a fleet competitor expanding in all directions where computing can be found.

The world’s biggest chip maker is not only making faster chips. It is also making them more power efficient, and that is allowing Intel chips to move into mobile devices where low power usages yields longer battery life. It is also moving deeper into the data center and communications infrastructure. And it moving into cars and retail kiosks. For competitors, there is nowhere to hide.

“We’re delivering experiences across the compute continuum,” Otellini said.

In particular, Intel sees growth in thin laptops known as Ultrabooks, mobile devices, and data center chips. The annual Intel analyst day is good for providing perspective on Intel’s operations. Last year, Intel generated $54 billion in revenue, up from $35 billion two years ago. Its operating income was $17.5 billion, up from $5.7 billin two years ago. Otellini noted that Intel now gives a dividend of 90 cents a share each quarter. Over the past 10 years, Intel has given back $80 billion to shareholders. And while Intel focused on a 100-million unit PC market in 1995, it now focuses on a broader computing market with the potential for billions of units.

Web-connected data centers are creating huge demand for Intel’s server chips. One of the inexorable trends helping Intel is the huge growth of data that is uploaded to the cloud. Seven exabytes of data are created every day, Otellini said. That’s equal to 17,000 high-definition movies uploaded every second. In one minute, 60 hours of data are uploaded to YouTube.

The tectonic plates are changing around computing. In 2011, the U.S. was the No. 1 market for PCs, followed by China, Germany, Japan and Brazil. In 2011, China surpassed the U.S. and Brazil passed Germany and Japan. By 2016, the top five will be China, the U.S., Brazil, Russia and India.

Otellini noted how fast Intel has moved on Ultrabooks, or the high-performance, thin laptops that resemble Apple’s MacBook Air. In the middle of last year, Intel set up a $300 million investment fund for Ultrabooks. It is now kicking into high gear shipping chips based on its code-named Ivy Bridge design, which combines graphics and a microprocessor in the same chip.

Those 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge chips are the heart of the new Ultrabooks and enable them to operate on low-power levels that give the laptops all-day battery life. Intel is expecting 110 Ultrabook designs coming to the market by the end of 2011.

“We are on track to meet our goal of 40 percent of the consumer notebooks this fall being Ultrabooks,”

The Ivy Bridge chips will be shipping at 2 million chips a week by the end of this quarter. Ivy Bridge chips will exceed the predecessor Sandy Bridge chips by the end of this year.

Otellini said in mobile that “we’re just getting started here.” Intel has been criticized for failing in mobile device chips before, leaving the market to ARM-based rivals.

Intel’s first chip for the new generation of smartphones, the Intel Atom Z2460, is getting good reviews. Intel partnered with Google last fall on Android. Then Intel followed up with deals with Orange, Lenovo, ZTE, and Motorola. All of those partners will use Intel’s chips, and Intel has a mobile payments deal in place with Visa. Otellini said that Intel-based tablets will take off with the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system this fall.

Over time, Intel will move at twice the rate of Moore’s Law (the idea that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every couple of years or so) as it improves its Atom chips. It will move further with miniaturization of its Atom chips as it does with all of its product lines, but it will also move them from older manufacturing processes to the most advanced ones. By 2014, Intel will move to 14 nanometer chips where the circuits are 14 nanometers apart (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter).

Moore’s Law, articulated by Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore in 1965, has delivered chips that are 4,000 times more powerful than Intel’s first 4004 microprocessor in 1971. The chips use 5,000 times less energy per transistor and are 50,000 times cheaper per transistor. Meanwhile, the cost of factories are skyrocketing. With 200 millimeter wafers (the pizza-dish-size disks that are processed and then sliced into chips), factories cost $1 billion. Now they cost $5 billion. By the time the industry shifts to 450 millimeter wafers, they will cost $10 billion.

With the costs rising, inventions for new ways of making chips are becoming more important. Intel launched such an innovation with “tri-gate” transistors that make use of vertical space. Otellini argues that its rivals will become less competitive as a result in the ability to manufacture chips with economic and volume scale. Otellini foresees a “golden age” for companies that can afford to make their own chips.

Otellini said that chips that are embedded in kiosks or robots or terminals will become smarter, so Intel is labeling this $2 billion a year business as “intelligent systems.” Intel is moving its chips into cars with dashboard entertainment systems, retail kiosks, and communications infrastructure. In the latter, Intel has deals with Huawei, China Telecom and Verizon.

“The world is moving to client-aware computing,” where the network understands the computing device and exploits it if it is based on Intel architecture, Otellini said.

Intel’s acquisition of McAfee and Wind River have contributed about $4 billion a year in revenues. McAfee is now embedding its security functions inside Intel chips.

“We’ll continue to deliver shareholder value through” chip manufacturing, architecture, and new markets, Otellini said.

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Model Christy Turlington joins Silicon Valley heavyweights to launch new art business (photo gallery)

Posted: 10 May 2012 09:06 AM PDT

Christy Turlington, Jeremy Stoppelman, and Mariam Naficy chat at Minted's art opening

Minted founder and chief executive Mariam Naficy knows how to fill a room.

Some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful executives showed up, together with supermodel Christy Turlington, for the launch of Minted‘s new art prints business, in Naficy’s San Francisco home last night. There was Yelp CEO and co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman, Google vice president Marissa Mayer, former Revision 3 chief executive and current SimpleGeo chief Jay Adelson, and serial entrepreneur and current Benchmark entrepreneur-in-residence Nirav Tolia. (And those were just the faces I recognized. You can see them all in the photo gallery below.)

Not bad for a company that until recently was known mostly for selling customizable stationery with designs created by independent artists.

The company officially launches its art prints business today, moving from stationery into the larger world of art you can hang on your wall. As part of the launch, Minted has teamed up with Turlington’s nonprofit, Every Mother Counts, which seeks to raise awareness of maternal mortality around the world. For the months of May and December this year, Minted will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of children's and nursery art to Every Mother Counts, and will be donating an unspecified additional amount the remaining months of 2012.

To kick off the new line of business, Minted invited Turlington, Stoppelman, Mayer, and others to select their favorite art prints from Minted’s collection, which were then displayed on the walls of Naficy’s home, art gallery-style.

Naficy and Turlington met in October at Fortune magazine’s “Most Powerful Women” conference, and they hit it off, Naficy told me. “Minted is very centered around women,” she said, with an all-female executive team, a customer base that is primarily women, and a community of designers who are mostly women. “Every Mother Counts really resonated with me, so we thought, ‘Let’s jump in and do it.’”

“I like the synergy of putting these together,” Turlington said.

This is Minted’s first foray outside the world of stationery, Naficy said, but it’s consistent with the company’s mission of providing a platform for designers and artists to sell their work.

“For us it’s not a change of direction, it’s an unfolding from our core, which is a design community first and foremost,” Naficy said.

That message was echoed by Namrata Patel, the company’s director of product strategy.

“What we realized is that our community is not just a community of stationery designers, but one of painters, illustrators, any kind of creative artists,” Patel said. “We’re giving them an outlet for their creativity. It’s a broader community of artists.”

Most of the prints are limited-edition art prints on archival paper, and sell for $500 or less. The company thinks that’s a sweet spot in the market, just right for people who want something nicer than a poster on their walls but don’t want to spend big dollars for original art or huge paintings. For now, the prints are sold unframed, but Minted will be offering framing as an option in about two months.

Top photo: Christy Turlington, Jeremy Stoppelman, and Mariam Naficy chat at Minted’s art opening. Photos by Dylan Tweney/VentureBeat

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My role in the Groupon story

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:55 AM PDT

Recently, people have questioned my motivations around writing about Groupon. They have tried to insinuate that I’m writing about Groupon for personal financial gain.

Anyone who believes that doesn’t know the first thing about how financial markets work. I have largely acted against my own personal financial interests when it comes to Groupon.

The first rule of financial markets when you discover an anomaly that other people haven’t discovered: Don’t talk about it! If you have an informational advantage, it’s best to shut up and rake in the profits.

Here are several ways I could have made more money based on my analysis of Groupon:

  • Not written about it and shorted it the moment I could get my hands on it. At the time Groupon’s S-1 came out, bankers were talking about $30-35 billion valuations for the company. That was dramatically reduced, in part due to my writings. If I were trying to maximize my own gains, I wouldn’t have written about Groupon. That way, Groupon’s valuation would have been higher and I would have had more room to profit from the collapse I knew was coming. Last summer, I spoke at a conference of professional money managers. Several of them agreed that Groupon was a terrible company. But they asked me to stop writing about it because they wanted to maximize their gains when they shorted it.
  • If I were an evil genius, I would have spent last summer touting Groupon. $35 billion? That’s crazy low! Groupon should easily be worth $70 billion! It’s a fantastic company! Look at all the crazy revenue growth! That would have given me even more room for the stock to fall, and I would have made even more money than with the first strategy.
  • Sold my analysis to hedge funds. Hedge funds pay a lot better than media.
  • I could have taken advantage of my knowledge of holes in Groupon’s product lines and built a mediocre technology company to fill a hole. Groupon Scheduler was based on an acquisition. A semi-decent programmer could build a product like that in a few weeks. By filling such a hole, I could have easily cleared $10-$20 million. As far as I can tell, Groupon management is so desperate to look like a technology company instead of a sales company that it will buy anything that remotely looks like one.
As long as I intend to continue to buy puts against Groupon, it’s actually in my financial interests for Groupon’s stock price to go up. The higher Groupon’s stock price is, the cheaper $6 Groupon puts are.

I did none of those things. Instead, I shouted from my platforms in the blogosphere, Twitter, and television that Groupon is a terrible company that is doomed to fail.

There’s only one way in which I’ve paid attention to my incentives: In the midst of all of TechCrunch’s drama, I never wrote about why I don’t write for TechCrunch anymore. There are some people you just don’t mess with in Silicon Valley.


So why didn’t I do the things that were best for me financially? Why did I take all the personal attacks about my competence and motivations? Those are questions I’ve asked myself many times when I’ve been up at 4 a.m. writing a piece about Groupon. I knew I would’ve made a lot more money and incurred a lot less stress if I had just shut up.

Part of the answer is in an email I received yesterday afternoon from a small business asking for advice:

I am a merchant that ran several deals with Groupon and now regret that decision due to the issues I’ve experienced with Grouponers. And these deals resulted in revenue loss in our company.

It is sad to say but we are on the verge of shutting down.

I hear these stories all the time. And it pisses me off that a lot of people at Groupon got rich by screwing over small businesses. (Despite my general negative view of Groupon, I also say nice things when warranted and point out cases where it makes sense for small businesses. I want small businesses to succeed and, in a limited set of circumstances, Groupon is actually a good strategy.)

I’m also concerned about the ecosystem effects of Groupon. It is poisoning the well among small businesses for startups that are trying to do local the right way. Companies like GrubHub, Savored, and HotelTonight are doing the right things. (I have no financial interest in any of them.) Among bigger companies, I believe that Facebook, Twitter, Google, and AmEx can build the products that deliver great value to small businesses. (Disclosure: I have a very tiny stake in AmEx.)

I want these companies to be able to succeed. I was talking to an executive at a company in the local space shortly after Groupon’s earnings restatement. I told him that the folks in Chicago kept pissing in his pool. He responded, “That’s not piss I just saw floating by.”

In any market cycle, whether it is a bubble or a bust, there are good companies and bad companies. Groupon is a spectacularly bad company.

I would hate for other companies that are trying to IPO to be painted with the Groupon brush. On an appearance on CNBC, I was asked what Groupon’s decline means for Facebook’s IPO. I responded that I hoped it meant nothing, because Facebook is a very different company.

In the same interview, I predicted that without fundamental changes to its business model, Groupon’s stock price is going to zero. That was before I held any interest in Groupon. If I were playing to my financial interests, I would have bought puts against Groupon before that appearance.

Although Groupon is the company I’m most closely associated with, I write about plenty of other topics, including many companies in which I have no financial interests. My criteria for what I write about is simple: It has to be interesting to me and it has to be a story where my experience or viewpoint adds value.


I’m passionate about disclosure. Since I started trading in Groupon stock, I’ve disclosed every single trade I’ve made on Twitter. These disclosures are made in near real time. I get the confirmation page from Fidelity and I cut-and-paste the relevant information into Twitter. Periodically, I update this list on my blog. The post with the disclosures is deliberately pinned to the front page of my blog.

When I first started trading in Groupon, I noted this in stories on VentureBeat. That disclosure even prompted a fascinating discussion on Quora about the ethics of my trading in Groupon stock. Ironically, the question was asked by a former Groupon employee who stands to gain financially from getting me to shut up about Groupon.

I soon drifted to other topics and when I returned to Groupon, we forgot to add the disclosures back. That’s a mistake and I apologize for that. We’ll ensure that all posts I do in the future have the disclosures.

My goal is to provide the highest level of disclosure possible. If there were a way for me to post a link that would show my portfolios in real time, I would happily do it. I even disclose my positions in companies that I don’t generally write about. (I currently have short positions in Jive Software, Best Buy, and Shutterfly. I am long Microsoft from my time as an employee there.) I disclose silly bets I have with friends including Semil Shah, Paul Kedrosky, and Felix Salmon.

I haven’t disclosed the number of shares in each trade. Those amounts only make sense if you know my overall net worth. If, hypothetically, I were to say that I made $10,000 buying puts on Groupon stock, it means something completely different if my net worth is $50,000 than if my net worth is $10 million.

If you look back through my writings and media appearances, you’ll see that I’ve generally argued for more disclosure from everybody. I want patent applications to be available instantly and reviewed by the community. I want management Q&A during the roadshow for investors to be made public. I want the quiet period rules eliminated or drastically modified.

The irony for me is that the questions about whether I was being ethical in my writings about Groupon only became an issue because I disclosed what I was doing. No one went digging into my financial records and discovered something I was trying to hide. I put it all out there.

Before I started trading in Groupon, I had critics telling me to put my money where my mouth is. “Put up or shut up.” So I did.

To those people, I have one thing to say: “Thank you!” Buying puts against Groupon has been a fantastic bet.

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Digg starts dismantling: 15 engineers join Washington Post’s SocialCode

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:42 AM PDT


The Washington Post’s social advertising firm SocialCode has hired 15 engineers from Digg today, confirming rumors last week that the community news site was due for a shakeup.

Digg entered into serious negotiations with the Washington Post about selling the entire company nearly a month ago, as VentureBeat previously reported. However, it looks like the post was only interested in the site’s talent, leaving its brand name and underlying social news aggregation technology still available for a sale. Digg was also reportedly pitching the sale of the company to other big news publications, such as CNN.

The SocialCode firm is dedicated to helping advertisers create communities out of their social media following — something the Digg engineers are quite familiar with. As part of the talent deal, the former Digg employees will assume leadership roles at SocialCode. The company’s VP of Ad products Alan Lippman will assume the position of chief scientist at SocialCode, while software dev Will Larson will become SocialCode’s director of engineering.

It’s worth noting that the Washington Post didn’t poach Digg’s staff. The move was endorsed this morning by the startup’s CEO Matt Williams in a blog post, which means Digg is on its way to getting completely dismantled. Without engineers, we probably won’t be seeing any new features on the site or integration with other services. Essentially, Digg’s days are numbered.

Image illustration by Tom Cheredar

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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3D Systems CEO: We want 3D printing to be as big as the iPad

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:41 AM PDT

3D Systems CEO Abe Reichental

“3D printing will be the canvas of the 21st century.”

That’s the prediction being made by Abe Reichental, the CEO of 3D Systems and biggest cheerleader of the Cube, his company’s first 3D printer built with the mass market consumer in mind.

While 3D Systems more or less created the industrial side of the 3D printing business, the Cube is its foray into a more fledging, uncertain side of the industry.

Reichental, however, is certain of his goal: To democratize creativity. “My assertion is that everyone can be creative if you remove all the friction and intimidation,” Reichental told VentureBeat at a press event in New York City.

That friction comes in two forms. One form, of course, is price, which is a problem for any emerging industry. The Cube, for example, will run for $1299 when it’s released this month, and rival MarkerBot’s Replicator already runs for $1700. Those aren’t nearly mass market prices, which is a reality Reichental seems to recognize.

“The prices will come down. It’s inevitable that in the next year or year-and-a-half prices will be half of what they are today, and then come down again,” the CEO said.

That, of course, is a given. Prices always decrease as industries mature and manufacturing ramps up. But Reichental’s notion of democratization is more than just lowering prices. He also aims to make it vastly easier for users to create objects and share them with others.

“There are very few artists around the world that can start painting on a blank canvas, but there are millions of people who can use a coloring book,” he said.

And it’s that very same coloring book experience that 3D Systems aims to replicate with the Cube and Cubify, its online portal where users can upload and share their creations.

So are we seeing a potential market on the scale of the microwave? “Yes, absolutely,” says Reichental, who compares his efforts to what Apple’s iPad did for the tablet market: Make the experience easy and affordable and consumers will notice and respond. And that they’ve done. Users have already created objects as varied as belts, shoes, and cell phone covers — among much, much more.

Reichental, too, has had a hand at the creation process. During our interview he wore on his wrist an iPod Nano encased in a yellow 3D printed-strap. “I thought people would do toys and collectibles,  but what I see is that most people are doing things like what I’m doing” he said,” pointing to his wrist. “They’re accessorizing.”

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Pebble smartwatch sells out with 85K orders, 66K backers, & $10M raised

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:21 AM PDT

pebble smartwatch

The team behind the much-talked-about Pebble smartwatch has finished taking orders on Kickstarter, with 85,000 orders placed for the device and $10.1 million raised thus far.

While there are eight days still to go on the Kickstarter countdown, people can only donate $1 now that the 85,000 order limit has been reached. A $1 donation will get you “exclusive updates” about Pebble going forward.

Pebble integrates with your smartphone via Bluetooth, and uses an E-Ink display to show information like call data, calendar entries, and social media updates. After more than a few terrible attempts at creating a decent smartwatch, it looks like Pebble has found the right elements with an elegant design and customizable app experience.

More than 66,000 people have donated to Pebble’s Kickstarter thus far. To fulfill its side of the deal, the Pebble team has about five months to build and ship all of the watches people have ordered. People who pledged to Pebble paid between $99 to $125 for a watch, whereas the device will retail for $150 after it gets off the ground.

Pebble has already begun grabbing app partners, with Runkeeper — a popular app for measuring and tracking your fitness — being announced as the first official app for Pebble.

The Pebble story and a few other standouts like Double Fine Adventures are indicative of the new wave of user-powered funding. Crowdfunding contributed an estimated $1.5 billion to new ventures in 2011 and that number will likely double by the end of the year.

Filed under: mobile

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Sony’s worst year ever: reports $5.7B annual loss for 2011

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:17 AM PDT

2011 was a dark year for electronics giant Sony: a slew of natural disasters, terrible TV business, and slow sales all around, pushed Sony to its worst annual earnings ever, with a loss of $5.7 billion for 2011.

On the bright side, that was lower than the $6.5 billion loss the company previously predicted (mostly due to a tax hit) — but it’s still the lowest point in the company’s 66-year history. For the fourth quarter ending in March, the company reported its fifth straight quarterly loss of  $3.2 billion.

Sony pointed to supplier and factory damage in Japan — a result of last year’s earthquake and tsunami — as a big reason for its poor year. The company was also impacted by the floods in Thailand last year, which affected its production suppliers.

“This year remains crucial for a recovery in our electronics business,” Sony chief financial officer Masaru Kato said, who also noted the company was on track to turn around its struggling TV business. “A fifth straight year of losses should never be tolerated.”

Sony has high hopes for 2012 though, with projected profits of $375 million on revenues of $2.2 billion.

It seems that this year will be a major transition period for Sony, as it tries to correct the mistakes of the past. The company tapped Kazuo Hirai as its new CEO back in February, who quickly laid out a plan to save Sony. Hirai unveiled his new One Sony restructuring last month, which aims to streamline the company's innovation and focus it on gaming, mobile devices, and digital imaging. The company is pouring $1 billion into the restructuring effort, even as it just laid off 10,000 employees.

It's unclear how Sony will combat Samsung's new lead in HDTVs, as the Korean competitor has focused heavily on creating quality displays and building the connected experience in its sets. Sony is looking to streamline its display efforts, but its Google TV partnership could lead to some interesting sets in the next year.

Via AP, Sony (PDF)

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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For aviation buffs, Checkpoint Studios launches AviNation social game on Facebook (exclusive)

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Many game developers have moaned about the lack of quality and real gameplay in Facebook games. Checkpoint Studios was founded to do something about that, and the company is launching a high-end flight history simulation game today dubbed AviNation.

Inspired by Japanese titles where you can play as an airline manager or air traffic controller, AviNation lets players build an aviation empire through key decades of flight history from the 1930s onward. The game has rich 3D graphics and runs on the Unity 3D engine, giving it a leg up on other Facebook titles in graphics quality. And it’s the kind of game that hardcore player Brian Wiklem, co-founder and chief executive of Checkpoint, always wanted to play. AviNation will launch in June.

Your goal is to become a modern-day airline mogul. You manage your flight crew, run daily operations at the airport, and control air traffic by directing planes in and out of gates. You can open a network of friendly airports to increase your passenger traffic or ship freight. If you do your job right, the population of your town will grow, and you’ll earn achievements for completing quests.

“We’ve seen a lot of games that were flat and linear, ” Wiklem said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We were bored with point-and-click gameplay and virtual chores. They’re glorified activities, not games. You are led from one activity to the next, with no sense of discovery.”

Simulation games are still the biggest category on Facebook thanks to titles such as Zynga’s FarmVille and CityVille. But the airline genre is a fresher concept. It takes skill to run your airline and master the included minigames, Wiklem said.

The whole point is to move the industry forward from Social Games 1.0 to Social Games 2.0. That should increase engagement and lead to more loyal fans. The game is social because you can send flights to friends within your social network in real-world locations.

The 3D cartoon-style world has changing weather and day-to-night effects. The characters are cartoonish yet customizable and detailed. You can adjust the camera angle to zoom in close or get a bird’s-eye view.

The game has 250 aircraft, including authentic historic and modern aircraft that are licensed from Boeing and others. Other features coming include the ability to play any time, anywhere on smartphones and tablets. And Wiklem says the game has an innovative feature where spectators who watch messages from the game in a Facebook activity stream can click on the messages and actually help out. Such peer-to-peer interaction can happen even if your friends aren’t currently playing. Checkpoint has actually filed for patents on its cross-platform strategy.

The Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company was founded in 2011, and it has 30 employees. Rivals include Kixeye, Idol Games, 6waves, and Kabam. Larger rivals are Zynga, EA, and Disney-Playdom. Checkpoint’s investor is Marvelous AQL, a Tokyo, Japan-based publisher headed by Haruki Nakayama, former chief executive of Sega. Checkpoint has raised $5 million.

Wiklem said that he always remembered the answer that Pixar’s founders gave when they were asked why they made movies for children. They said they didn’t. Rather, they said they made movies that they wanted to see. By the same token, Wiklem said that social games don’t have to be crappy.

“I set out to change that,” he said.

Wiklem formerly worked at THQ’s Heavy Iron Studios and at Shiny Entertainment. He managed teams of 80 or more developers. He also spent eight years at Sony working on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games. He’s a commercial aviation enthusiast and founder of Jet-X-Models, a maker of die-cast model airplanes. He is joined by Todd Morgan, executive producer and head of studio operations (formerly of Obsidian Entertainment, Super Villain Studios, and Shiny Entertainment); Chris Masterton, chief technology officer (formerly of Heavy Iron Studios); and Chris Naves, art director (formerly of Foundation 9 and Shiny Entertainment).

Game industry veterans David Perry and David Jaffe both liked Wiklem’s idea but told him he wouldn’t get funding unless he made a Facebook game. So Wiklem reworked what he had into an idea that could be executed on Facebook. He happened to know a friend who knew Nakayama. He made the pitch and after a 15-minute pitch that turned into two hours, he sold Nakayama on the idea.

Check out the art gallery below.

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: dev, games, gbunfiltered, social, VentureBeat

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Mixpanel serves up unique mobile analytics, nabs $10M investment

Posted: 10 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Mixpanel raises $10M for mobile analyticsY Combinator startup Mixpanel dives deep into pageview and visitor engagement analytics, offering real-time “micro” stats. And it’s just raised its first institutional round of funding.

The company is making a big push for mobile analytics, an area it feels its competition, mainly Adobe’s Omniture and Google Analytics, isn’t addressing. Mixpanel has created tools to track how people use mobile apps and which features are ignored.

App developers and websites such as Facebook don’t have much use for pageview counts, Mixpanel cofounder Suhail Doshi told VentureBeat in an interview, so the company had to come up with other ways to measure engagement. These metrics include time spent using an app, number of return visitors, and tracking which features are used consistently.

Doshi used Viddy, one of Mixpanel’s customers, as an example of how its services cater to non-traditional analytics needs. For Viddy, Mixpanel tracks engagement by the number of people watching a specific video and by monitoring which users are coming back to watch more videos, Doshi told me. Since Google Analytics and Omniture focus on pageview tracking, Mixpanel feels its versatility gives it an edge over its competitors.

Mixpanel’s current round of $10 million comes more than two years after the company raised $500,000 in seed money. Andreessen Horowitz led the round and additional angel investors, including PayPal Co-founder Max Levchin, Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff, and Yammer chief executive David Sacks, participated.

“Mixpanel has been cashflow positive for awhile, so we weren’t in a hurry to raise funding,” said Doshi, “We plan to spoil the first one hundred people we hire with the funding.”

Mixpanel was founded in 2009 after going through the Y Combinator incubator program.

Mobile analytics image via Shutterstock and Flickr user mkandlez

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Flash storage mania — EMC buys XtremIO, eyes turn toward Violin

Posted: 10 May 2012 07:19 AM PDT

flash storage emc

EMC said today it has acquired flash-memory storage company XtremIO, following reports two weeks ago that the deal was in the works. VentureBeat confirmed at the time that the value of the deal is around $400 million.

EMC did not release terms of the deal, saying only that it was an all-cash transaction that did not have material impact for its earnings. It said more details will be presented at EMC World May 21-24 (see press release below).

As reported two weeks ago, the deal is the latest sign that the flash storage market is hot, and it could spur other deals as other big players, such as NetApp, are pressured to make their own plays.

Flash storage is big because it's where all large enterprises are moving to store their massive amounts of data — because of its superior performance at lower prices. And big players like EMC have older generation products that don’t perform as well as newer, well, flashier products like XtremIOs. NetApp is another large company, competing with EMC, that is almost certainly looking to acquire a similar player.

In our previous report, we highlighted that Fusion-io might be the next target. The company is a relatively young, but fast-growing publicly traded company that has qualities similar to XtremIO. It plays at the high-end of the market, offering extremely fast performance. However, Fusion-io’s market value is now significant, and the company appears to be ready to hold out for a higher price, given its momentum. We’re now thinking Violin Memory might be an easier target. That company plays in the same top end of the market, but is still private, and so more easily acquired. Just ten days ago, Violin said it had finished raising $80 million in its latest round, putting its private valuation at over $800 million. A third company in this segment is Kaminario, which raised a $15 million third round of capital last year from Sequoia and other backers.

In some ways, though, the market for these products can be considered analogous to that of the sports car — a wonderful, beautiful machine that does zero to 60 in a few seconds, and handles corners with ease. Not everyone needs it, but people who cherish performance do. Banks and other institutions with massive amounts of data and requiring speed and precision are the customers in this segment.

Most companies run web sites and infrastructure that don’t require such speed. Carrying the auto industry analogy further, the biggest chunk of the market — the one accommodating most web sites — is served by storage companies that can be considered sedans or SUVs. And that’s where a host of other storage players now operate, according Kieran Harty, CEO of Tintri, who says his company is like a “higher end sedan.” And in this mid-market, the leading vendors are also using virtualization technology and that’s what is creating so much disruption, Harty said.

So while $400M is a great deal for XtremIo, Harty says he’s looking to build Tintri into a “multi-billion dollar” company.



The EMC-XtremIO acquisition press release is below:

  • EMC acquires Flash storage pioneer XtremIO
  • XtremIO’s all-Flash, scale-out, enterprise storage architecture was designed to leverage Flash memory.
  • XtremIO technology to complement the range of EMC Flash-based systems and software stemming from EMC’s early entry into the Flash storage market.
  • The all-cash transaction is not expected to have a material impact to EMC GAAP or non-GAAP EPS for the full 2012 fiscal year.
  • Additional details will be presented at EMC World

Full Story:

EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC) today announced that it has acquired privately held XtremIO. Widely regarded as one of the world’s premier Flash storage architecture pioneers, Herzliya, Israel-based XtremIO provides an added dimension as EMC® continues to enhance and broaden its world-leading Flash storage portfolio. The all-cash transaction is not expected to have a material impact to EMC GAAP or non-GAAP EPS for the full 2012 fiscal year.

XtremIO’s all-Flash, scale-out, enterprise storage architecture was designed to leverage the speed and unique abilities of Flash memory. The addition of XtremIO extends EMC’s lead in developing and delivering networked storage infrastructures that are dynamically optimized for performance, intelligence, and protection for both physical and virtualized cloud environments.

Additional details will be provided at EMC World, which is being held May 21-24 at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

EMC Flash Leadership

The addition of XtremIO complements the range of EMC Flash-based systems and software stemming from EMC’s early entry into the Flash storage market in 2008 when it became the first to integrate Flash drives into enterprise storage arrays.  In 2011, EMC shipped to customers over 24 PBs of Flash drive capacity.

Flash drives in the EMC VMAX , VMAXe , VNX, VNXe and Isilon storage arrays now enable customers to achieve an order of magnitude better performance than 15K HDDs  for those applications and data sets requiring the additional performance.  Placing Flash technology in the server on a PCIe card, as evidenced by EMC VFCache, can accelerate performance up to another order of magnitude than 15K HDDs. EMC has also announced “Project Thunder,” optimized for high-frequency, low-latency read/write workloads. Project Thunder will build upon the advanced PCIe technology delivered in VFCache to leverage the power of Flash through a dedicated Server Networked Flash-based appliance. EMC FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) software  enables customers to automatically move high-performance—or “hot”—data to enterprise Flash drives to improve application and storage system performance, and automatically move less-active data to SAS/FC and NL-SAS/ SATA storage tiers to reduce costs.

EMC Executive Quote

Pat Gelsinger, President and Chief Operating Officer, EMC Information Infrastructure Products

“XtremIO brings to EMC amazing technology with a fantastic team that’s captured praise from early-view customers and many of the industry’s foremost thinkers. We fully expect XtremIO technology, once introduced to market, to have a tremendous impact on our customer’s ability to leverage the unique advantages of all-Flash storage across many of their most demanding applications.”

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T-Mobile loses 510K subscribers in Q1, but profits are finally on the rise

Posted: 10 May 2012 06:30 AM PDT

t-mobile redesigned store

T-Mobile is still bleeding subscribers — parent company Deutsche Telekom announced this morning that it lost 510,000 subscribers in the first quarter — but the fourth-place wireless carrier is finally seeing profits once again.

T-Mobile earnings were up 7.2 percent from last year, reaching $1.3 billion for the quarter, even though revenues fell 2.5 percent at $5 billion. CEO Philip Humm credits the profit jump to an increase in average revenue per user (ARPU), a healthy addition of new customers, and perhaps most importantly, a more streamlined T-Mobile operation after significant layoffs and call center closures.

After its last earnings report in February, T-Mobile announced a $4 billion "Challenger Strategy" to roll out 4G LTE in 2013 — which seemed too little, too late for the struggling carrier. But Humm says the carrier has made great strides with the new strategy, including opening new stores and redesigning existing ones, redefining its brand image with an edgier ad campaign, and nabbing spectrum from Leap Wireless and AT&T (as part of its breakup deal from its failed merger). This week at CTIA, T-Mobile announced that it has tapped Ericsson and Nokia Siemens to help build out its LTE network.

T-Mobile added 249,000 prepaid customers in Q1, compared to prepaid losses of 82,000 a year ago. The prepaid customers helped to offsite the loss in subscribers, though ultimately they’re not worth as much to T-Mobile. Overall, T-Mobile saw 187,000 net customer additions, compared to net customer losses of 99,000 last year. And while losing 510,000 contracted subscribers sounds bad, it’s actually an 11 percent improvement from a year ago (and a 28 percent improvement from last quarter, when it lost 706,000 subscribers).

While things are improving for T-Mobile, it’s going to be tough for the carrier to stem subscriber losses without the iPhone and a legit 4G LTE network in 2012. Deutsche Telekom is reportedly eyeing a merger with MetroPCS, the fifth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., which could birth a new company that could better take on AT&T and Verizon.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Coupa lands $22M to keep your crazy expense reports in check

Posted: 10 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Coupa helps manage the entire spending process for businesses, from purchasing supplies to reimbursing employees for expense reports.

Mere months after closing a $12 million investment, Coupa has closed it’s fifth round of funding for $22 million. The company did not disclosed its valuation.

The company’s software can track any payroll-related spending and procurement. It handles invoicing, inventory, budgets, and expense reporting. Its services also include analytics and reporting to show if companies are wasting money by ordering too many supplies or sending people on too many wild business trips. If an employee submits an exorbitant expense report from a Vegas trip, the software will warn them that their spending got out of control.

New investor Crosslink Capital led the round. Existing investors Battery Ventures, BlueRun Ventures, El Dorado Ventures, and Mohr Davidow Ventures participated.

Competitors in this space include Hubwoo, Spendmap, and Capterra, which all offer procurement and expense management software.

Coupa’s customers include Subway, Toyota, SalesForce, and Nvidia. Founded in 2006, the company has raised a total of $49 million including this recent round. Coupa is based in San Mateo, Calif.

Young woman shopping image via Shutterstock 

Filed under: deals

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Citrix makes surprise $100K awards to ScriptRock and AppEnsure

Posted: 09 May 2012 07:44 PM PDT

Synergy-2012Citrix, the big virtualization and cloud company, awarded a $100,000 check each to startups ScriptRock and AppEnsure as part of a start-up competition held today in San Francisco. The move was a surprise because Citrix had planned to write only one check.

ScriptRock is an Australian company that automates checks of applications and other infrastructure for large companies to make those resources run correctly. It tests file systems, file integrity, configuration files, database hosted configuration, and so on. It already serves four of the largest financial institutions in Australia, including ANZ, Bankwest, and OnePath.


AppEnsure CEO Colin Macnab

AppEnsure, meanwhile, provides IT managers a single, integrated view of all the applications and infrastructure running in their company. The AppEnsure appliances perform root cause analysis of those resources, allowing managers to keep them running more smoothly. The company said its product is 85 percent complete and that its first release would be ready within six months. Judges voted for the company in part because of its market potential. The company said there’s a $12 billion market for its product in 2012, increasing to $16.3 billion in 2015.

Citrix made the cash awards to the companies on the spot, after a panel of judges, including VentureBeat Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall, voted on which startups they liked the most. The vote was close, and while Citrix had planned to write only one check of $100K to the winner of five finalists (out of 80 applicants), the company’s executives decided to award two checks after ScriptRock and AppEnsure tied in the judges’ final vote. In addition, early in the vote, judge Jason Calacanis said he’d cough up $25,000 more for ScriptRock. It wasn’t clear whether he is also giving cash to AppEnsure.

The judges gave ScriptRock high marks based on the progress the company has already made. Scriptrock said Australian bank ANZ, for example, could soon be spending $1.6M annually for ScriptRock’s service. Not just servers but desktops, too, can run the ScriptRock service, which could mean additional business. The company is looking to close a $650K seed round in the near future.

The competition was held in San Francisco at the Citrix Startup.Synergy event.

Citrix will also include the winners in its next accelerator class, which can include up to $250K in seed investment, an office in Silicon Valley, and help from Citrix with customer development.

Other finalists included the following:

Hey Maya – The company offers a service that lets you delegate boring stuff to a virtual admin. It lets you do everything from managing your contacts to filling out expense reports to finding the best flight and hotel information for travel.

CumuLogic — The platform-as-a-service company offers a way for companies to switch between private and public clouds. It hopes to launch next month.

BuildAR — The company offers a new kind of augmented reality technology, building much of the technology directly into the browser, and building on top of HTML5. Some of the judges thought it offered the coolest technology of the competition, but they questioned whether the market is ready for it.

[Disclosure: Citrix sponsored DEMO, a conference co-produced by VentureBeat. As part of that sponsorship relationship, VentureBeat agreed to partner with Citrix on the event, including having Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall moderate an investor panel. He also helped judge the competition.]

Below is a video of how ScriptRock works:

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Urban Airship has delivered 20B push notifications, doubling in just 4 months (exclusive)

Posted: 09 May 2012 05:49 PM PDT


Mobile marketing and messaging leader Urban Airship has served more than 20 billion push notifications through iOS, Android, and other platforms, the company revealed today.

Urban Airship currently is helping more than 65,000 companies — including ESPN, Groupon, and other big names — with app notifications, a challenging but ultimately rewarding aspect to apps. You don’t want to annoy your customers with constant pop-ups, but there’s an incredible opportunity to having your brand appear on people’s home screens often. For instance, adding notifications from Urban Airship helped data-compression utility Onavo increase awareness by 75 percent and boost customer satisfaction 50 percent.

Now the company has enabled 20 billion push notifications, a new milestone that it reached on Sunday. That’s according to chief marketing officer Brent Hieggelke, who I met with today at the CTIA Wireless conference in New Orleans. Hieggelke said the milestone was a surprise because the company took two and a half years to reach 10 billion notifications, a milestone it hit in January. Then, just four months later, Urban Airship doubled that number.

“Every month we set new records for growth,” Hieggelke told me. “But we were all surprised by the shape of that curve.”

The company has been spotlighted by both the tech press and the mobile industry for enabling a powerful new level of marketing. Just today, the company won first place at CTIA’s Emerging Technology Awards in the Mobile Marketing & Advertising category.

Next up on the company’s agenda is sign more customers and educate marketers with its “Good Push” campaign. “We want to explain to people how to maximize the value of notifications,” Hieggelke said.

Portland, Ore.-based Urban Airship has raised $21.6 million to date, with backers including Salesforce, Verizon Wireless, Foundry Group, and True Ventures. Its last round in November totaled $15.1 million.

Photo illustration: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat
Airship photo: ER_09/Shutterstock
Arrow image: Umberto Shtanzman/Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Apple updates OS X Lion, fixes password-exposing bug

Posted: 09 May 2012 05:09 PM PDT

OS X Lion

Apple issued its latest update to Mac OS X Lion today. The update, 10.7.4, fixes a number of issues, including the security vulnerability that exposed passwords.

The update also fixes a few minor issues, including the “reopen windows when logging back in” setting, which was stuck on “always enabled.” It also adds to existing capability with British third-party USB keyboards. The update also bolsters the computer’s ability to save and copy files to a server.

The security bug, however, was an issue with FileVault, an encryption program that protected all the files in the home folder. This bug allows the Mac’s password to be kept in a plain text file, leaving it very vulnerable if a computer is ever compromised. Now that Macs have come into much more popularity, hackers are finding profit in attacking the machines. Most recently the Flashback Trojan infiltrated Mac computers as part of a scheme that stole advertising revenue from Google.

We can expect to see more malware being created for Macs as we get deeper into the year, meaning Apple and Apple users need to step up security. V

You can find the update under the Software Update tab in your Apple menu. You should backup your computer before making any updates.

hat tip Engadget; Lion image via Shutterstock

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Why Groupon Now won’t work

Posted: 09 May 2012 04:57 PM PDT

Disclaimer: Rocky Agrawal holds a variety of short positions in Groupon. You can find a full list of his disclosures here and in his author bio. 

In Andrew Mason’s recent letter to shareholders and in a press release touting 1.5 million Groupon Now deals sold, Groupon has been highlighting the product as an example of innovation and a potential positive for the beleaguered company.

Groupon shareholders should hope that the company has more interesting things up its sleeves, because Groupon Now isn’t going to save this company.

Groupon’s external enthusiasm for Groupon Now seems to conflict with some internal views.

“They moved a bunch of low performing sales people to Now! a few months before it launched and they hired a bunch of people too,” a former Groupon salesperson told me. “I believe as Now! proved to make no money, they moved back a bunch of people to regular Groupon (G1), laid off a bunch of people and kept a very small few on Groupon Now!”

LivingSocial, which pioneered the real-time offers space, recently abandoned it. On the whole, I consider LivingSocial’s management much sharper than Groupon’s. If they’re abandoning the space, it’s probably for good reason.

“We saw a better opportunity in takeout and delivery,” said LivingSocial spokesman Andrew Weinstein.

Here are some of the issues I have with the real-time deals space. Even two or three of these would be deadly for a business; Groupon Now has all nine.

Liquidity. When you intersect local and real-time, you need thousands or tens of thousands of offers in order for it to be meaningful. Even hundreds of offers in a market won’t provide enough data to generate enough real offers for a consumer.

Groupon’s app is not a destination. People use Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps on a daily basis. Facebook has nearly 500 million mobile users. Groupon would be lucky to have 10% of that. People are already engaged on those apps. The lack of liquidity compounds this problem. If I look at Groupon’s app and don’t see any relevant offers, I might give it two or three more chances. I certainly am not going to keep looking if there’s nothing there. Products like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are the right place to insert offers because people are already there. Groupon will likely have to pay for continued advertising to reach users in those apps.

Poor user experience. Groupon Now requires that users purchase a voucher through their phone, then use that voucher to pay for their transaction. Then they have to use a separate payment method to cover any remaining balance. This is asking a lot of consumers and the merchants who have to handle the transactions.

Poor economics for the merchant. Like many Groupon products, the economics don’t work for merchants. When I look at the economics of Groupon Now for restaurants, I come to the conclusion that it is better for restaurants to leave tables empty than run Groupon Now. The service does make sense for businesses like museums that have no incremental cost for serving a new customer. It also makes sense if, for example, you’re a bakery and you’ve already made cupcakes. If you were going to throw them out anyway, by all means, run a Groupon Now.

Poor policing of offers. Merchants can enter Groupon Now offers directly. This means they don’t go through the same vetting process that Groupon’s daily deals do. Although I’ve heard many complaints about fictitious reference pricing in Groupon’s daily deals, at least there is some editorial oversight. In one case, I saw an offer for a $10 Indian buffet at Naan -N- Curry, a mediocre Indian restaurant in San Francisco. The “retail” price was $13. I called the restaurant directly. The walk-in price was $8. You paid more if you bought the Groupon Now. Experiences like this will hurt both the retailer and the Groupon brand in the long term.

Competition. Merchants can use Twitter and Facebook to run offers for free. Better marketers often offer deals or promotions through their Twitter feeds.

Self-serve hasn’t worked for small business. In general, merchants have not taken to self-serve. Groupon’s rocket rise in the daily deals business was fueled by high-pressure sales tactics and a boiler room operation with an army of thousands of people. With the low volumes in the Groupon Now business, Groupon can’t profitably deploy salespeople against it.

Category mix. Groupon overall has been drifting toward a mix heavy in services like laser hair removal, spa treatments, winery tours, and teeth whitening. These are not often impulse purchases.

Cheating. Merchants have an incentive to game the system. Because Groupon only gets paid when a customer clicks the buy button, merchants have an incentive to tell them not to buy it but just give them the offer directly. I would tell all of my repeat customers that they should just show me the Groupon Now offer and not bother to buy it through Groupon. This is also a better user experience. As a consumer, I don’t have to worry about pre-paying for something.

I agree with Groupon that yield management is something that is important for small businesses. But Groupon is trying to make something that’s relatively simple sound extremely technical and complicated to goose its valuation. Small businesses have been doing yield management for a long time. Happy hours are a form of yield management; get pints for $3 instead of $5 if you come in when no one comes in. One of my favorite local search apps is GoTime, which finds nearby happy hours. They list all of the happy hours for free.

Even Floyd’s Coffee, the coffee shop where I wrote my first analysis of Groupon’s S-1, is doing yield management. I stayed there until near closing time. They were offering 50% off pastries as they were closing. I bought an extra cookie on my way out. The guy next to me was a Floyd’s regular. They gave him his cookies for free.

So they understand loyalty, too.

[Image credit:  Petr Jilek/Shutterstock]

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Watch out, investors: Facebook says mobile users could hurt revenue

Posted: 09 May 2012 04:14 PM PDT

Just days into Facebook’s investor roadshow and a little over a week before its rumored market debut, the social network has amended its prospectus to warn potential investors that mobile is an even bigger risk than originally disclosed.

In amendment six to its S-1, Facebook said that increased mobile usage is the reason its daily active users (DAUs) are increasing more rapidly than the number of ads it delivers. Essentially, more users are accessing Facebook from their mobile device and seeing fewer ads as a result.

The filing mentions the correlation between increased DAUs and decreased ads delivered in three different sections. The first mention comes on page 14 in a section about how mobile growth may negatively affect the company’s earnings: “We believe this increased usage of Facebook on mobile devices has contributed to the recent trend of our daily active users (DAUs) increasing more rapidly than the increase in the number of ads delivered.”

On page 17, Facebook added that the potentially troubling connection between more mobile users and fewer ads “is due in part to certain pages having fewer ads per page as a result of these kinds of product decisions.”

Later in the document, on page 57, the social network added that it has “only recently begun showing an immaterial number of sponsored stories in News Feed,” on mobile.

The revised mobile warning seems especially pertinent after Facebook reported a disappointing first quarter. Facebook made $205 million in net income on $1.06 billion in revenue in Q1 2012. The revenue figure was six percent lower than in the previous quarter, and the income number means that Facebook made $28 million less than it did in the same quarter last year.

“Mobile was underscored very highly in the first version of Facebook’s S-1 — and for good reason,” Altimeter Group digital advertising and media analyst Rebecca Lieb told VentureBeat. “Facebook is challenged in this area.”

But Lieb was also quick to point out that Facebook’s mobile challenges — delivering ads to users across a variety of operating systems and devices — are ones that all ad-supported companies share. “I think it’s great that a company of Facebook’s size … will be committed and obligated to devote energy to solve these problems,” she said.

Lieb also said investors should be unfazed by today’s S-1 amendments and called the new statements around mobile risk “part and particle to due diligence.”

Facebook is expected to make its public market debut as soon as May 18. Last week, the social network set its opening range at $28 to $35 share for an offering that could value the company as high as $96 billion. The company is currently on the road courting investors and trying to show that its business is bigger than the hype.

Photo credit: Andrew Feinberg/Flickr

Filed under: deals, social

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Samsung buys streaming startup mSpot to take on iCloud and Google Play

Posted: 09 May 2012 04:06 PM PDT


Electronics giant Samsung has purchased streaming media startup mSpot, the companies announced today. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the deal is rumored to be worth an estimated $8.8 million, according to South Korean news site Mael Business.

MSpot’s service functions similarly to Google Music or Amazon’s Cloud Player. Users can upload the digital media (music, movies, TV shows) stored on their computers into the cloud via an mSpot app. That media is then accessible on a handful of smart devices through mSpot’s app, which is available on iPhone, iPad, Android, and Google TV. Users get 5GB of storage for their media for free. The mSpot streaming music service also offers users a Pandora-style smart-radio functionality, while the video service is geared more towards making new movie purchases.

As part of the acquisition deal, Samsung will feature the mSpot app on its devices, including smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. Strategically speaking, Samsung will likely develop the mSpot service as a way to compete more evenly with Apple, which offers a digital media store as well as plenty of streaming functionality via its iCloud service.

The move will also allow Samsung to steal attention away from the Google Play Store, which is easily integrated into Samsung devices running Google’s Android operating system. It will be interesting to see if Galaxy smartphones and tablet owners use the mSpot service instead of Google Play — and to see how Samsung plans to draw users away from Google Play to the mSpot service.

Founded in 2004, mSpot has previously raised $2.3 million from Trinity Ventures.

Filed under: cloud, media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Android grudge match: Samsung Galaxy S III wins on features, HTC One X owns design

Posted: 09 May 2012 03:49 PM PDT


Despite the hype, it turns out Samsung’s Galaxy S III doesn’t quite dazzle as bright as a supernova.

Last night I finally got my hands on Samsung’s hyped Galaxy S III superphone at the CTIA Wireless conference. While the features like S Voice, eye-tracking, and TouchWiz tweaks stood out, all I could think of was how it compared to the HTC One X, the other Android superphone that’s turning heads these days.

From a short demo where a Samsung PR representative walked me through the phone’s features, and from playing around with the speedy device myself, I liked what I saw. The screen is beautiful, the performance sizzled, and Flipboard for Android was fun to play around with. I was a big fan of the Samsung Galaxy S II and now Samsung has taken that phone to a new level here.

Both the Galaxy S III and HTC One X are huge: The Galaxy has a 4.8-inch screen, while the One has a 4.7-inch screen. (If you have small hands, these phones aren’t your friend.) And both phones have blazing performance and great cameras that could please the most discerning perfectionists.

But if you look at the Galaxy S III and HTC One X side by side (see the slideshows below), it’s clear that HTC has won on the design front, with a curved polycarbonate body, while Samsung has opted for a somewhat cheap-feeling plastic body.

Samsung, however, wins when it comes to features. Both phones have Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), but the phones’ respective Android skins offer different experiences. Samsung’s latest TouchWiz tweaks with S Voice, S Beam, Direct Call, and additional multitasking features. HTC offers high-quality Beats Audio and crazy good ImageSense tech for its camera, but that’s not enough to compensate for the phone’s inferior Sense skin.

The One X is available on AT&T now and will soon arrive on Sprint branded as the Evo 4G LTE. Samsung’s Galaxy S III will start showing up in stores around the world on May 29, but it will not hit the United States until some time in June.

Check out our full slideshow below to see more of the Galaxy S III in white and dark blue cases:

And check out our HTC One X gallery for comparison:

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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T-Mobile’s next big hope: A potential merger with MetroPCS

Posted: 09 May 2012 03:16 PM PDT

HTC One S for T-Mobile

T-Mobile is acting tough with its edgy new marketing campaigns, but the fourth-place U.S. wireless carrier is still in a vulnerable position after its acquisition by AT&T fell apart, and it’s losing subscribers like crazy.

So what is T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom, to do? Apparently, it’s considering merging T-Mobile with MetroPCS, America’s fifth-largest carrier, according to a Bloomberg report.

The deal would potentially be a stock-swap transaction, sources tell Bloomberg, that would leave Deutsche Telekom in charge of the combined company. But it seems other options are on the table for T-Mobile, including an IPO or sale of T-Mobile as it is, the sources said.

Not surprisingly, neither T-Mobile nor Deutsche Telekom are commenting on the news.

Deutsche Telekom is announcing its quarterly earnings tomorrow, and it’s projected to report a loss of 470,000 T-Mobile subscribers. That’s on top of a steady drop in subscribers over the last several quarters. After its last earnings report in February, T-Mobile announced a $4 billion “Challenger Strategy” to roll out LTE in 2013 — which seemed too little, too late for the struggling carrier.

DT would have an easier time passing a merger between T-Mobile and MetroPCS past U.S. regulators, who surprised industry watchers by squashing the $39 billion AT&T deal. As the fourth and fifth-place U.S. wireless carriers, a merger wouldn’t have the monopoly concerns that the AT&T deal did (which would have made AT&T the largest carrier in the U.S.).

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Who is the best Avenger? (infographic)

Posted: 09 May 2012 03:02 PM PDT

The Avengers movie poster, Hulk punch Thor

Marvel’s The Avengers film is officially a success, not just at the global box office but also with fans and non-fans alike. That’s what happens when you hire Joss Whedon instead of [insert the name of any guy who directed Resident Evil, Max Payne, Resident Evil 2, Catwoman, Resident Evil 3, etc.] to make an entertaining flick that doesn’t compromise everything the franchise stands for.

Naturally, it’s time for us nerds to fight over who is the best Avenger. A quick survey of Facebook friend statuses shows Hulk is ahead due to a couple of particularly funny moments in the movie, but here at GamesBeat, we decided to use math and science to determine a true victor. Below is an infographic from the fine folks at Statista, breaking down each of the four main Avengers by their video game track record (according to Metacritic).

Who is the best Avenger? The Avengers

As you can see, comic book video games are largely garbage, with Sega and Activision contributing to some of the least-polished turds in gaming history. The Hulk once against smashes all competition…but not by much. The not-so-jolly green giant edges out Captain America by a mere four points, due in large part to Radical Entertainment’s The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Radical Entertainment is now the studio behind the Prototype series, which heavily builds upon the great foundation established by Ultimate Destruction.

What this infographic really shows, however, is that we need better video games based on comics. When the company that ran Tony Hawk, Guitar Hero, and soon, Call of Duty, into the ground is the leader in this genre, you know something’s gotta change. Comic book films are finally starting to get taken seriously and be *gasp* good — even “great”, in the case of The Avengers, X-Men: First Class, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman — so hopefully that will eventually be true of the game adaptations as well. Respect the medium, respect the property, and most importantly, respect the fans.

Infographic via Statista

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Netflix brings Fox TV shows and movies to Latin America

Posted: 09 May 2012 02:47 PM PDT


Netflix has reached an agreement with Twentieth Century Fox that will bring a ton of popular TV shows and movies to subscribers in Latin America, the company announced today.

The move is part of Netflix’s effort to drive its streaming video service into new international markets by leveraging its revenue from its domestic subscriptions. Netflix’s Latin America service, which launched back in September 2011, has seen slower than expected growth, according to the company’s Q1 2012 earnings report. That slow growth has caused it to rethink its expansion efforts to focus on markets with a solid broadband Internet infrastructure already in place.

Netflix is hoping this new (likely expensive) deal with Fox’s TV distribution unit will boost those subscription numbers heading into the second quarter.

The deal will bring Latin American subscribers all past seasons of 24, Prison Break, The X-Files, and Arrested Development as well as both current and past seasons of How I Met Your Mother, Glee, and Bones. The deal also includes streaming agreements for plenty of popular movies, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Wall Street, Office Space, and others.

The Fox content will begin rolling out July 1, with additional TV series and movies being added over the next few years.

Image via Fox

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Bold and beautiful, Google+ for iPhone begs to be touched

Posted: 09 May 2012 01:42 PM PDT

Channeling the design aesthetic of today’s hit mobile app makers, Google has released a bold, new version of its Google+ iPhone application that’s a beauty to behold.

“We're embracing the sensor-rich smartphone (with its touchable screen and high-density display), and transforming Google+ into something more intimate, and more expressive,” Google senior vice president Vic Gundotra said.

What’s new? A smattering of updates including larger profile pictures, crisper fonts, +1 image overlays, and other user interface and visual elements that should make the experience feel more fluid and more enjoyable.

But those niceties are all secondary and supplementary to the new Google+ for iPhone look, a dramatic, image- and video-centric design rich with color. The design offers a content consumption experience ripe with personality. Status updates look more like art and flow on to the screen in a smooth and soothing fashion.

In the most flowery of terms, it’s “Content so immersive it remakes your mobile device into a rich carousel of beloved memories and breaking news,” as Gundotra said.

And Android owners fear not, a similar Android version with a “few extra surprises” is said to be coming in a few weeks.

The application looks and feels like a whole new Google+ — just not a whole new social network. In fact, it seems to encapsulate much of the elements of today’s contemporary mobile social applications. It especially echoes the photo-centric qualities of private social network Path and social news app Flipboard, and we’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t mention the overlap between this app and the storytelling, visual, and emotional aspects of Facebook’s Timeline.

Borrowed or not, Google+ for iPhone, and soon Android, is certainly a radical departure from the previous design and the typical Google aesthetic. Even the just-redesigned Google+ web experience feels plain in comparison.

Let’s call this what this is: a window-dressing with important implications for a social network that still lacks a unique purpose. In a flash, Google+, at least in mobile form, has gone from drab to fab and just begs to be touched — repeatedly.

Is it enough to draw application users into the mix and encourage them to engage and share more? We’ll let you be the judge of that.

Filed under: mobile, social

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Facebook is getting its own app store for all devices, all platforms, all prices

Posted: 09 May 2012 01:30 PM PDT

Facebook is launching a new App Center, “a place to find social web, desktop, and mobile apps” — and not just Facebook apps.

The App Center will bring Facebook’s 900 million users all the best in iOS apps, Android apps, web apps, mobile web apps, and even desktop apps. “The goal is to solve the app discovery problem… based on what you and your friends enjoy,” a Facebook rep told VentureBeat in a phone chat today.

You won’t just find free apps here, either. Facebook is also introducing paid apps. The company stated it expects in-app purchases to be developers’ primary money-makers for the time being; however, making paid apps available through the Facebook platform is the beginning of a very interesting business opportunity, both for devs and for Facebook.

Not only will Facebook’s App Center apps be personalized (as only Facebook, with its huge social graph, can personalize); it will also feature an iTunes App Store-like focus on quality. Each app will have star ratings gathered from users, and Facebook will also be collecting data on how often users come back to the app and how long they stay on it. Those scores will be combined to determine an application’s overall quality.

The scoring data will also be viewable by app developers, who can then use the information to tweak and perfect their creations.

App developers are today being asked to go to Facebook and create an “app detail” page with descriptions and screenshots, just like they’d do for Google Play or the iTunes App Store. Creating these pages is a requirement for being listed in the App Center.

App distribution and helping developers grow their apps has been a big concern for Facebook lately. The company has been highlighting Timeline-based growth for lifestyle, video, and media apps over the past several months. For apps such as Goodreads, that Facebook-linked growth has been truly phenomenal and has earned its own nickname: the Facebook Timeline bump.

Basically, as we’re sure Facebook would eagerly point out, when you have a captive audience of one billion people, distribution opportunities are through the roof. And as Facebook mobile web guru James Pearce told us in a recent meeting at Facebook HQ, the company is keen to become a top distribution destination for developers, especially for mobile web applications.

Facebook tells us it is not competing directly with Apple or Google. The App Center will send traffic to both the iOS and Android platforms. If, for example, you’re browsing Facebook’s App Center on your Android and you click a link for a plant/zombie game, you’ll be taken to that app’s Google Play page to install it.

So what does Facebook get out of the deal?

In following the money, you see quickly that Facebook has an advantage in terms of numbers. Being a platform-neutral party, it can distribute any kinds of apps on any kinds of devices. And it has the Mechanical Turk-style combination of human intelligence (in the form of star ratings) and machine intelligence (in the form of app performance and usage data) to render better scores of quality than just about any other distribution channel.

As a developer, you’d naturally see a lot of opportunity from integrating with Facebook. You might get more users, you might get better data. And eventually, you might see Facebook paid apps and Facebook Credits as a nice path to monetization, as well. And when developers monetize via Credits, Facebook wins to the tune of 30 percent.

We’ll wait and see how App Center works out for user-seeking developers. For now, here are some sneak peeks of what the App Center will look like when it comes out of its developer-only preview:

One of Facebook’s risk factors as stated in its IPO documents was a weakness in mobile technology. We’re sure this App Center is part of the company’s bid to show investors it does, in fact, “get” mobile.

Facebook already has an app directory; however, it’s barely functional compared to what the company is rolling out today and does not include the ratings element or focus on quality. The app directory also launched in 2009 and was more than overdue for a refresh. Facebook began phasing out the app directory almost one-year ago, likely in preparation for the new hotness, a.k.a. the App Center.

Developers, if you’re interested, you can read more over at the Facebook Developers Blog.

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Call of Duty, Skylanders lead Activision Blizzard to beat analysts’ expectations

Posted: 09 May 2012 01:12 PM PDT

Activision Blizzard beat expectations for the first-fiscal-quarter earnings today. The results, coming two days after Electronic Arts posted better-than-expected earnings, could be interpreted as good news for the larger game industry.

Activision Blizzard is the largest independent publisher of traditional video games, and its results are a bellwether for the PC and console game business. Of course, how the stock fares today will depend on how investors interpret the company’s signals about its future earnings. On that front, the company guided estimates slightly upward for 2012. It expects non-GAAP revenues for the current year to be $4.5 billion and earnings per share to be 95 cents, compared to previous estimates of 94 cents to 97 cents a share.

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.

Analysts expected to see non-GAAP revenues for the quarter of $555 million and an earnings per share of 4 cents. The company actually did slightly better: On a non-GAAP basis, Activision Blizzard reported first fiscal quarter revenue of $587 million and net income of 6 cents a share.

In a conference call, Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick said that “building a billion dollar business” with new game franchises requires a huge up-front investment. Looking beyond 2012, he said he sees big “mega franchises” coming, with a new massively multiplayer online game from Blizzard and another project from Bungie.

Kotick said preorders for Diablo III, which debuts May 15 after nine years of development, have been the biggest in history. In a statement, Kotick said, “Our better-than-expected first-quarter performance was driven by global consumer demand for Activision Publishing’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Skylanders Spyro’s Adventures, as well as Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft which remains the No. 1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world.”

A year ago, the company reported net income of $156 million, or 13 cents a share, on revenue of $755 million. Sales were driven by titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (pictured above), which was the fastest-selling video game in history. Analysts focus more on non-GAAP revenue. In the second fiscal quarter, Activision expects revenue of $805 million and EPS of 10 cents a share.

During the first quarter, Activision Blizzard published Prototype 2. During the second quarter, the company is publishing Battleship on May 15 and The Amazing Spider-Man on June 26.

Since the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in November, gamers have logged more than 1.6 billion hours playing the game. Game sessions have topped 2 billion, up 19 percent from Call of Duty: Black Ops a year earlier. The company said its social network for shooter fans, Call of Duty Elite, has reached more than 2 million premium members, while the number of registered users, which includes free members, is more than 10 million.

Beyond solid Call of Duty sales, Activision Blizzard said it sold more than 30 million Skylanders hybrid toys to date since the launch last fall. Kotick said that was more than the number of Star Wars toys sold in the first quarter. Sales of Skylanders were above $100 million in the quarter, above the 2011 revenues for Rovio, publisher of Angry Birds.

Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities has worried about 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 first-person-shooter (FPS) franchise, while Blizzard focuses more on the upcoming Diablo III, Starcraft II expansions, and its successful MMO. In addition, while the futuristic Black Ops II game should help the Call of Duty franchise maintain its market share, it could well succumb to FPS fatigue as the market continues to become saturated with similar titles.

Additional success could come from the multiple releases by Blizzard, if Call of Duty packaged goods do better than expected at retail, and if the upcoming Skylanders expansion, Giants, outperforms the original game. Eric Hirshberg, president of Activision Publishing, said on the call that more than 850,000 multiplayer clans have been formed.

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 it is generating $1.2 billion a year in revenues and it has spent a lot of time learning lessons.

Those new markets represent the big expansion opportunities in the games 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.

Activision Blizzard can, and has, argued that it has the most important digital gaming business in World of Warcraft. But the online game has shown weakness in recent quarters, dropping to 10.2 million paying subscribers in the fourth calendar quarter compared to past highs of around 12 million. World of Warcraft numbers were flat at 10.2 million in the first qurater.

Star Wars: The Old Republic may has gained 1.3 million subscribers in the past four months. 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.

Dennis Durkin, a former Microsoft executive, has joined Activision Blizzard as chief financial officer, replacing Thomas Tippl, who was serving both as chief operating officer and CFO. Tippl remains COO.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which is set in the near future with weapons such as drones and robots, is “hands-down our most ambitious Call of Duty game to date” and it pushes the edge on a number of fronts, Hirshberg said. The game debuts on Nov. 13. Early consumer response has been big, and the initial trailer for the game was viewed by 82 percent more people than those who viewed the trailer for Modern Warfare 3.

“We believe that Black Ops II could be the best Call of Duty we’ve ever made,” Hirshberg said. “It’s the biggest step for the franchise since leaving World War II and entering the modern era.”

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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Google Maps for Android gets indoor directions. Because walking indoors is hard, y’all

Posted: 09 May 2012 12:46 PM PDT

Walking around indoors is a top-priority problem for techsters, so Google Maps for Android brings with its latest update indoor walking directions.

The app will also give you 360-degree interior photos of businesses, because if there’s anything harder than walking indoors, it’s looking around indoors.

As we read on the company blog, “Since we launched indoor maps in the U.S. and Japan in Google Maps for Android last November, business owners have been adding their floor plans to our maps with Google Maps Floor Plans. Today, we are launching indoor walking directions for participating venues in these countries. This will help you get directions not only to a building's front door, but also through those doors to the places where you want to go inside.”

Hooray! God forbid we should have to look at signage or speak to a sales associate-style human being. This is why we created technology, folks: To completely eliminate our ability to complete the simplest, most basic functions of modern life without a smartphone.

The app update also features “Offers near you,” which is what it sounds like: daily-deals-type coupons for businesses nearby. Which is great, except that daily deals in general can be kind of bad for local businesses.

Here’s a video showing the Offers-near-you magic at work. We’re going to go yell at those damn kids to get off our lawn.

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Ustream is pissed about DDOS attack, may launch Russian site tomorrow

Posted: 09 May 2012 12:25 PM PDT

Ustream Brad Hunstable

Ustream is undergoing what chief executive Brad Hunstable says is the “largest and most coordinated DDOS attack Ustream has ever seen” today, and the team is pissed. The attack is rumored to be an attempt to censor a Russian citizen journalist reporting on protests in the county.

“We’re a business, we lost a lot money today,” said Hunstable (pictured above) in an interview with VentureBeat. “This was on a scale that I’m not sure many websites would be able to fight off. This was one of the biggest denial of service attacks on the Internet.”

Ustream Russian Protest live video

Live video of protests in Russia on Ustream’s homepage

A denial of service attack is when an individual or group of individuals attempt to access a website at hyper speeds, clogging up the network and eventually bringing the tired website down. Hunstable and his Ustream team have dealt with two previous denial of service attacks pertaining to citizen journalists streaming video of protests in Russia since the reelection of President Vladimir Putin. The first two DDOS attacks, which occurred on December 6th 2011 and January 6th 2012, were not at the scale of today’s.

Hunstable is not taking this lying down, however. Within the last hour (since the writing of this post) Ustream finally got back up and the team is squarely featuring the Russian citizen journalist, ReggaMortis1, on its homepage. It’s a veritable “don’t mess with my users” move, which Hunstable (who mentioned he was a West Point graduate) said could turn into a full fledged Russian website tomorrow.

“We’re going to huddle up late tonight and take a step back and figure out what we can do differently,” Hunstable said. “I told my guys, I want us to roll out a Russian Ustream tomorrow.”

The team got a tip-off from a Russian user who revealed two names of suspected attackers. Riots have broken out across Russia. Putin, who was recently reelected to Russia’s leadership was inaugurated this past Monday.

“We may not agree with what [all our users] have to say, but in my opinion everyone has the right to speak,” Hustable told us. “Today you could summarize that there was an attack on Internet freedom.”

Update: Ustream had made good on its threat, and its first go at a Russian channel, with localized and translated content, is now live and can be found at ustream.tv/russia.

Brad Hunstable image via PoliticalActivityLaw.com/Flickr

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NextGen Conference May 19th – new batch of tickets released!

Posted: 09 May 2012 12:23 PM PDT

nextgenThis sponsored post is produced by the NextGen Conference.

The NextGen Conference takes place on May 19th at the Parc 55 Hotel in Downtown San Francisco. This conference brings together young aspiring entrepreneurs and young rock star entrepreneurs with more experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Cory Levy, co-founder of One (http://bit.ly/pLyhvm) and the NextGen Conference, has previously planned three sold out events in Palo Alto, Stanford University and UCLA. This past conference in Palo Alto was sold out with 250 attendees and a 60+ person waiting list. Previous speakers and attendees at the NextGen Conference include: Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal and member of Facebook's board of directors), Keith Rabois (COO of Square), Mark Suster (GRP Partners), Travis Kalanick (CEO of Uber), Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager), and more. Ashton Kutcher showed up as an attendee at the last NextGen Conference in July.

Speakers at this year's event include: Tony Conrad (founder of About.me and True Ventures), Keith Rabois (COO of Square), Josh Elman (Greylock), Sahil Lavingia (founding team of Pinterest and founder of Gumroad), and more!

For 20% off, register now using promo code "VentureBeat".

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, VentureBeat

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