23 May, 2012



Matt Marshall to speak at beLAUNCH, Korea’s first global startup event

Posted: 23 May 2012 09:30 AM PDT

Next month in June, Korean tech blog beSUCCESS is hosting the beLAUNCH conference to showcase the coolest and most disruptive startups from South Korea and other Asian countries. VentureBeat Founder & Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall and writer Meghan Kelly are participating in the event, judging startups, and reporting on the new technology they see.

Speakers at beLAUNCH include representatives fromTwitter, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and more. You can get a peak at the full agenda here (click English on the top right). The event takes place June 13 and 14, 2012 at the atCenter in Seoul, South Korea.

In addition to fireside chats and speaker panels, there will be a startup competition called the “beLAUNCH Start-up Battle.” Twenty startup finalists will compete for cash, the opportunity to attend the DEMO Fall 2012 conference, and other prizes.

A sampling of the Korean companies participating in the event include:

Nexon – A Japanese-based Korean gaming company that uses a free-to-play and virtual goods business model, similar to and bigger in market cap than Zygna.

Coupang – South Korea-based daily deals site, similar to Groupon. The company ranks number one in Korean social commerce.

Ticketmonster – Acquired by LivingSocial, this is the second most popular social commerce site in Korea behind Coupang.

Kakaotalk —  This Korean company has built a free Android messaging app that boasts 46 million users

Daum — South Korea’s top internet portal


VentureBeat readers use code VB2012 for a 30% discount on beLAUNCH tickets. You can register here.

Seoul skyline image via Shutterstock

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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Facebook shareholders sue company and its bankers over fishy IPO

Posted: 23 May 2012 09:20 AM PDT

Zuckerberg rings the opening bell on the first day of Facebook trading on the NASDAQ

Facebook shareholders have filed a class action lawsuit against the social network, as well as underwriter banks including Morgan Stanley, over its first-day trading slide, the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd announced this morning.

The suit alleges that Facebook hid “a severe and pronounced  reduction” in revenue forecasts from its investors, due to a more widespread use of Facebook via mobile devices. Yesterday, Reuters reported that some investors were shocked when lead underwriter Morgan Stanley reduced its revenue forecasts of the company shortly before Facebook’s IPO, supposedly following an amendment to its S-1 filing on May 9 over increased mobile risk.

Even more scandalous, Business Insider’s Henry Blodget reported last night that a Facebook executive actually told the underwriter banks to cut their estimates, but didn’t share that information with smaller investors. If true, Facebook could be on the hook for violating securities laws.

The suit was filed in in a Manhattan U.S. District Court this morning, and it comes on the heels of a suit filed yesterday in California. We’ve asked Facebook for further comment and will report when we hear back.

From the lawyer’s release today:

The complaint alleges that the Registration Statement and Prospectus issued in connection with the IPO were false and misleading in violation of the Securities Act. The complaint asserts that defendants failed to disclose that because Facebook was experiencing a pronounced reduction in revenue growth due to an increase of users of its Facebook app or website through mobile devices rather than traditional PCs, at the time of the IPO the Company had told the lead underwriters to reduce their 2012 performance estimates for Facebook. These revisions were material information which was not shared with all investors, but rather, was selectively disclosed by defendants to certain preferred investors and omitted from the Registration Statement and/or Prospectus.

Via Reuters; Photo via Facebook

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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TextMe turns your iPod into a phone with today’s launch (exclusive)

Posted: 23 May 2012 09:03 AM PDT


Given the chance, you would probably turn your iPod Touch into a fully working iPhone, right? TextMe is launching in the U.S. today with an app that will get you close to that dream.

“The real vision is to deliver a full feature communication set to any connected device,” said TextMe co-founder Christophe Bach.

Bach explained that right now, people who want free communications on their Internet-connected devices will generally turn to apps like Pinger for text messaging, Tango for video calls, and Skype for voice calling. TextMe puts all three of those functions together in a single app.

San Francisco based TextMe was originally launched in March 2011 as a free, texting-only application, competing with the likes of Pinger. Thus far, the company has seen more than 5 million downloads, with 750,000 active users. The app was made for people who owned an iPod Touch, but wanted to be able to text — in other words, cheapskates or students who don’t want the $2,000 commitment involved in a typical 2-year smartphone contract. TextMe gave them a phone number for texting and turned what was originally an MP3 player into a communications device.

With today’s new features, however, TextMe now lets you make calls from that iPod Touch to any kind of device, turning the iPod into a phone. The other user doesn’t need to have the app installed, and can be on an ordinary phone line, similar to Google Voice. TextMe can make calls over voice-over-IP connections, carrier connections, and data connections. Video calls can only be made when the recipient already has the app installed, however, over Wi-Fi.

I asked Bach if he was using Twilio to perform some of these functions, but he said the team built their own intermediary between the carriers and the app. He noted that Twilio was expensive, but still an impressive service. His team simply had to the know-how to do it themselves.

The app itself is free, and only available on iOS, but you will need to earn minutes to use it. You can earn minutes by watching advertisements, or by signing up for different promotions. I like this part of the app because it’s very clearly marked what promotions will later cost you money, how many minutes you will earn by signing up (or watching an ad), and it’s easy to compare effort to gain.

Bach says his original texting app is still profitable, and the company remains bootstrapped to this day.

TextMe FacebookFollowing an industry trend, TextMe is moving away from using UDID, or the personal identification number associated with every phone, for advertising. Recently, Apple made a move to ban the use of UDID in applications across its app store, as a move to show the company cares about privacy. UDID, however, provides a lot of valuable information about a user, which ad networks use to price how much they’ll pay per impression. Bach explained that around half of the ad networks TextMe is working with now use UDID, but that the general sense amongst mobile developers is to get off the system.

The subject of UDID has been a point of contention for many developers, however. MoPub, a company helping developers monetize their apps, believes that without the use of UDID, the worth of an advertising impression is reduced significantly. In fact, the company projects that developers could lose 24 percent in ad revenue just because without UDID, advertisers will pay less for each CPM (or cost per mille). Bach, however, expects ad networks to switch from using UDID to other sources of data soon.

“They’ve been pretty fast providing an alternative,” he said. “I’d say within weeks or months it will be a solved issue.”

The company executed a soft release in Canada last Friday, the same day as Facebook became a publicly traded company in the U.S. The app flew up in Apple’s Canadian app store, bumping Facebook itself out of the top spot among social apps. That said, Facebook shares aren’t being sold in the Canadian market, but it’s still an impressive claim given the hype around the IPO.

“Facebook is from the past,” Bach laughed, “It’s TextMe now!”

iPod image via Titanas/Flickr

Filed under: mobile

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Adrian Grenier and his beer startup Churchkey crack open morning brews

Posted: 23 May 2012 08:37 AM PDT


It’s fairly common for drinks to be had at tech conferences, but this morning beer startup Churchkey got things started a little earlier than usual by cracking open brews on-stage at 10:30 a.m.

Churchkey Can Co. was started by actor Adrian Grenier and former Nike designer Justin Hawkins after the two talked at a dinner party about the old way beer used to be cracked open — by using a “churchkey” to tap a fully sealed can. Now the two are taking their beer to the public with backing from the tech community.

The two spoke today on-stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York. CrunchFund partner and former TechCrunch editor-in-chief Michael Arrington came out and prompted audience members to come up and try the beer. Naturally, no one complained about getting a free beer to get their days going.

While it’s not inherently tech, Churchkey is a startup and finds an easy relationship with tech-heads, many of who have come up with brilliant ideas over drinks. It’s also getting attention because it has a celebrity in tow, and Grenier has fans from his many seasons on HBO’s Entourage and a few other projects. Grenier could make more money acting, but he loves the idea of creating something.

“A lot of tech isn’t in the real world, but this is a human interaction. It’s a human experience,” Greiner said on stage. “This is something you can pause and enjoy and take time with.”

The company did not clearly spell out its investors, but CrunchFund has at least provided some funding. We will check with the company today to see if we can get the full list of investors.

Churchkey beer is starting with availability in Pacific Northwest with Seattle and Portland stores, but it will try to spread out to several other markets in the coming months. Its next city will be San Francisco, and it will try to launch there in the next month. Other key cities it plans to hit are Austin, New York, and Los Angeles.

Photo credit: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: VentureBeat

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IBM welcomes your iPhone, but leave Siri at home

Posted: 23 May 2012 08:20 AM PDT

iPhone 4S Siri

The iPhone may be becoming more popular among business users. But Siri? She’s not so welcome.

IBM has turned off Apple’s voice assistant service on employee phones over concerns that queries could be stored on servers, IBM CTO Jeanette Horan told Technology Review.

That concern, of course, is entirely justified, as storing queries is built into the very structure of Siri: It’s how the software creates better answers.

But Siri is just one part of the problem. Like most companies, IBM has in recent years allowed employees to bring their own devices to work instead of forcing them to use ones IBM specifies. This has created a veritable Pandora’s Box of new responsibilities: A greater variety of devices inevitably means more work for an organization’s IT department.

IBM, which has 400,000 employees, only dishes out company devices to 40,000 of them, leaving the 80,000 of them floating around with who knows what running on their phones.

That’s chaos for an IT department. Alongside Siri, IBM has blocked employees from using services like Dropbox and iCloud, both of which the company believes could leave sensitive data unwittingly exposed.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Oracle buys social marketing startup Vitrue for $300M

Posted: 23 May 2012 08:07 AM PDT

Oracle Vitrue

Technology giant Oracle has acquired social media marketing software startup Vitrue, the company announced today.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, however TechCrunch is reporting that Vitrue sold for $300 million.

Vitrue offers big (as in global) brands a service that helps them manage all the social media activity on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and several others. Using these tracking tools, Vitrue’s clients can build campaigns to drive revenue all the way down to the local level. Some of Vitrue’s big-name clients include Kellogg's, McDonald's, and Disney. The company recently started providing tools to manage YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

As part of the acquisition deal, Oracle will work with Vitrue to further develop a comprehensive social relationship platform that can both track social media behavior as well as provide analytics to show a return on investment.

Founded in 2006, the Atlanta, Ga.-based company had recently raise a $17 million round of funding from Scale Venture Partners and Advent Venture Partners to open new domestic offices around the country as well as expand into international markets. Vitrue has raise a total of $33 million to date.

Filed under: deals, social

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Airtime nabs $25M weeks before launch, snaps up social experience startup Erly

Posted: 23 May 2012 08:02 AM PDT

Airtime's main page

Sean Parker’s mystery video startup AirTime is set to debut on June 5th, but that’s not stopping the company from making news today.

AirTime has received $25 million in second round funding led by Kleiner Perkins, and it has acquired the social experience company Erly, TechCrunch reported last night. The company later acknowledged the news on its blog (but didn’t reveal the funding amount). Other investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Google Ventures, and Social + Capital.

Erly was founded by former Hulu CTO Eric Feng, who could potentially bring much to the much-hyped AirTime. Beta testers have reported that Airtime is like Chatroulette with a layer of interest mapping, and with his experience building Hulu Feng could help the company to scale and build a robust community.

“Erly brings demonstrated consumer products expertise, video experience, and technical leadership to Airtime, and we couldn't be more proud to welcome the newest members of our family,” Airtime wrote on its company blog.

Parker joined up with his Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning to create Airtime, which previously raised $8.3 million in funding.

Filed under: deals, media, VentureBeat

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Qwiki takes its multimedia presentation technology to the newsroom

Posted: 23 May 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Startup Qwiki wants to change the way we experience information, and today it’s releasing a news reporting tool that brings its technology to publishers.

Qwiki Creator, launched today in partnership with ABC News, merges web video and content for interactive presentations that offer audiences something between a broadcast and print experience. To mark the launch, ABC News is releasing 25 of its own custom Qwikis, which are embedded in on-site news stories and also running on Qwiki.com.

“Since launch, thousands of content creators — amateurs, professionals, even many large media companies like ABC — have contacted Qwiki and asked to turn their content into our format. The Qwiki Creator is the culmination of that desire,” Qwiki co-founder and CEO Doug Imbruce told VentureBeat.

Qwiki is a New York-based startup that weaves together web data sources in near real-time to create interactive, animated presentations on reference topics. The company first launched its web product in January 2011, and followed up with an iPad application a few months later. Qwiki has received $10.5 million in funding from investors (including Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin), but has also been criticized for doing little more than creating a talking version of Wikipedia.

Qwiki’s new goal is to help media companies create more engaging news stories. With Qwiki Creator, reporters can self-narrate interactive stories and pull in web content in the form of URLs, Flickr images, YouTube and Vimeo videos, Google maps, tweets, and the like. Qwiki plans to add mobile and tablet playback by the summer, and the Creator tool will support additional animations and content sources in future updates.

“The Creator is designed to let content creators produce multimedia, interactive content quickly — without the aid of a video production unit or rich media programmers,” Imbruce said.

Wednesday’s Quick Creator release is the start of a private testing phase, but additional launch partners include StyleCaster, Cheyenne Meets Chanel, and Beauty Sweet Spot. The new tool even brings with it the promise of revenue.

“From a business strategy perspective, the partnership with ABC News — and more media companies in the future — is an exciting next step, especially where monetization is concerned,” Imbruce said. “We’re able to help democratize content creation inside organizations, and make it more efficient to create higher quality content, and thus higher quality advertising inventory, which we will participate in via a revenue share.”

The publisher tool, as I see it, represents a shift in direction for Qwiki and suggests the startup’s original consumer web and mobile reference play was about as stimulating as a forced trip to the library. But Imbruce insists otherwise. There’s no strategy overhaul here, he said. “It is the culmination of our strategy. The vision for the company has always been to create a human method for information consumption.”

So why haven’t we heard from Qwiki in a year? “We prefer to show our products, not just talk about them,” Imbruce said. “Creating a robust yet easy-to-use publishing platform was always our highest priority.”

Next up, Qwiki plans to release an API so that large scale content producers can mass produce Qwikis, Imbruce said.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Filed under: media

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Seagate agrees to acquire LaCie for at least $186M

Posted: 23 May 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Seagate said it plans to acquire a controlling stake in Paris-based storage making LaCie for at least $186 million.

Seagate, already one of the world’s largest hard drive makers, will buy the French maker of high-end storage equipment for consumers. Seagate will buy a 64.5 percent stake from LaCie’s founder, Philippe Spruch, for 4.05 euros per share, minus the cash and debt position of LaCie as the deal closes. Then Seagate will buy the rest of the company’s shares via a tender offer. The entire value of LaCie is expected to be about $186 million, including $65 million in cash.

The deal will close in the third calendar quarter, subject to regulatory reviews. The price is a premium of 29 percent to the company’s average closing stock price over the last 30 days.

“We see it as an opportunity to get good software talent,” said Seagate vice president of marketing Scott Horn in an interview with VentureBeat.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Seagate is also adding new geographic coverage in the consumer market and adds to its product offering. LaCie’s products include mobile cloud offerings, high-end business storage, and Porsche-branded hard drives for consumers. LaCie has several hundred employees.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Matt Pinfield explains how Skype, Spotify & Kickstarter are changing the music industry

Posted: 23 May 2012 07:11 AM PDT

Matt Pinfield

One of the good things to come out of MTV before devolving into a cable network of crappy reality TV shows is 120 Minutes host Matt Pinfield — a man who knows his music as well as he knows the music industry.

“New technology is taking music, the music business, and artists in all different directions,” Pinfield said in a recent interview with VentureBeat . “People used to be so resistant to it.”

The former Columbia Records VP said he remembers that for a long time the music labels were thinking tech would just go away, which obviously hasn’t happened. Today there are a number of streaming music and discovery services such as Pandora, MOG, Rdio, Shazam, Songza, and of course Spotify, which is leading the pack with 3 million paying subscribers.

“Sharing (music online) is going to happen no matter what,” Pinfield said. “Once you’ve let the digital genie out of the bottle, that’s just the way things go. Its going to keep evolving.”

Pinfield said he’s noticing more bands using things like Skype’s group video chat feature to collaborate regardless of location, thus allowing them to write songs and brainstorm in a way that wasn’t really possible in the past. Things like this are what led him to his latest project.

Pinfield is teaming up with Skype on a new promotional contest, Say it with Skype. The contest is basically asking emerging bands to upload a song or music video to be judged by Pinfield, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, all of whom will subsequently act as mentors to the winning band. The winners also get an all expenses paid recording session.

“It’s hard enough for bands to get a leg up these days because of shows like American Idol, The Voice, Duets that are basically karaoke of other people’s songs. It dominates not only the pop world but also television,” Pinfield said. “This (Skype contest) is a way to use what’s great about social networking to have emerging bands upload their songs and gain attention.”

In addition to Skype and the new contest, Pinfield also told me about his positive experiences with Spotify. Having recently put together a playlist as part of a tribute article he wrote for The Hollywood Reporter on the late Adam Yauch, he said he’s embraced the service.

“It’s (Spotify) better for the new emerging artists,” he said. “If somebody puts a new band on a playlist, others can discover it and look deeper into them.” Pinfield added that, while live performances is still very important for up-and-coming bands, it’s also becoming just as important to make their music available online via services like YouTube.

Pinfield also commented on the recent success some artist are having with crowdfunding their albums, saying “Kickstarter is great” in reference to the crowdfunded projects platform. Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls is the first big example of Kickstarter success, raising over $800,000 for her record release campaign.

“It’s really great for bands that the record companies don’t want to invest in anymore because they’re only interested in what’s new, fresh,” he said. “There are bands out there with enough fans that are making more money through Kickstarter than they ever made when they couldn’t control the marketing money that was used to promote the record.”

Photo via Matt Pinfield/Facebook

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Windows 8 boots so fast you can’t interrupt it — Microsoft unveils a modern alternative

Posted: 23 May 2012 06:54 AM PDT

Experienced Windows troubleshooters have grown used to hitting the F8 key to jump into a variety of boot options when starting up the OS. But with Windows 8 running on a speedy solid-state drive (SSD), the process is so fast that it’s practically impossible to hit any keys before it finally loads.

To solve this, Microsoft has developed an entirely new boot menu that’s more easily accessible, Windows head Steven Sinofsky divulged yesterday on the Building Windows 8 blog.

It’s not just about hitting the F8 key either — Windows 8 now boots so fast (under seven seconds) on an SSD that you also don’t have time to hit F2 to enter your BIOS’s setup, or any other keys that interrupt the OS’s boot sequence. Microsoft’s hand was basically forced to come up with a more elegant solution, because boot times will only get smaller as Windows 8 and hardware improves.

The fix? Microsoft has developed a unified boot menu that pops up whenever Windows doesn’t load properly, allowing even novice users will be able to fix Windows 8 issues. The menu is also accessible from within the Advanced Startup section within Windows 8, or by holding down shift as you restart the OS. From there you can can choose a variety of different ways to boot the OS, as well as to boot from an external device like a USB flash drive.

“The hardware and software improvements in Windows 8 have collapsed the slice of time that remains for Windows to read and respond to the F8 keystroke,” Sinofsky wrote. “We have SSD-based UEFI systems where the "F8 window" is always less than 200 milliseconds. No matter how fast your fingers are, there is no way to reliably catch a 200 millisecond event. So you tap. I remember walking the halls and hearing people frantically trying to catch the F8 window – "tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap" – only to watch them reboot several times until they managed to finally get a tap inside the F8 window. We did an informal study and determined that top performers could, at best, sustain repeated tapping at about a 250ms frequency. Even in this best case, catching a 200 millisecond window still depends somewhat on randomness. And even if you eventually manage to catch this short window of time, you still have to contend with sore fingers, wasted time, and just how ridiculous people look when they are frantically jamming on their keyboard.”

Microsoft is expecting big things with Windows 8 (and so are we). CEO Steve Ballmer predicted yesterday that there will be up to 500 million Windows 8 users by next year.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

Filed under: VentureBeat

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BodyMedia’s weight-loss gadget analyzes your body temperature to keep you healthy

Posted: 23 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

BodyMedia raises $12M

Weight loss gadgets have evolved far beyond simple pedometers. We now have Up bands, Fitbits, and FuelBands that track our fitness levels (and make us look like athletes even when we’re not). One of these devices is BodyMedia’s FIT, a series of armbands that use medical-grade sensors to track health metrics.

Wednesday, BodyMedia announced a $12 million funding round led by Comcast Ventures. The company plans to develop devices geared towards diabetes management, sleep disorder treatment, and elderly care assistance.

The FDA-approved medical/fitness device comes in three models and tracks movement, skin temperature, sweat, and heat dissipation to give an overall picture of your health and daily fitness levels. It won’t track individual workouts, but it will help you monitor your overall daily activity, log meals, and keep track of your sleep patterns. FIT is mainly for people who want to set specific weight-loss goals, not just get off their butt more often.

FIT competes with the other health tech gadgets I mentioned above. Jawbone’s Up band, the Fitbit, and the Nike+ FuelBand all tracks sleeping patterns and daily movement — such as steps taken or stairs climbed — and come with health-tracking software. The multiple health sensors on the FIT have earned it the FDA Class II medical device label and help it stand out from the rest.

Existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ePlanet, Draper Triangle Ventures, Ascension Health Ventures, and InCube Ventures joined Comcast Ventures in the funding round.

Founded in 1999, BodyMedia has raised a total of $49 million in funding. The company’s headquarters are in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Filed under: deals

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Wondering why Google’s homepage is a working synthesizer today?

Posted: 23 May 2012 01:10 AM PDT

Moog Google

Google is celebrating the birthdate of Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. How? Oh nothing major, they just converted the logo on the most-used search engine in the universe into a working synthesizer. Users can record their creations to their Google+ pages for public sharing, similar to last year’s Les Paul tribute.

Robert Moog

Robert Moog

The interactive Google Doodle was created by “Chief Doodler” Ryan Germick and Google Engineer Joey Hurst, and took nearly four months of development. Hurst spent his free time (where Google allows its employees to do whatever they want) building the synthesizer, but it wasn’t until the recent Web Audio API was added to Google Chrome that the project finally reached its full potential. The API allows for high-quality low-latency audio in a web browser (Chrome, to be specific). And that’s a necessity here, as the Google synthesizer has over 20 functioning keys, knobs, doodads, and doohickeys from which your auditory masterpieces can be birthed.

Moog Music Inc. will be donating 50 percent of online sales today to the Bob Moog Foundation. Also in celebration of Robert Moog’s accomplishments, the Animoog app (normally $10) is on sale for a dollar on iTunes. The iPad version (normally $30) is on sale for $10.

As a diehard fan of chiptunes and electronica, I plan to record a few beats of my own to honor Moog. Unfortunately, most of the music I make causes dogs to howl several blocks away, but whatever. Happy birthday, Moog!

Below is a guide to using the Google Moog synthesizer (click for full size). Come back and link us to your tunes if you make anything cool. We are partial to Super Mario remixes and 80′s cartoon themes. 

Moog Doodle Guide

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Precog launches easy big-data service, pulls in $2M funding (exclusive)

Posted: 22 May 2012 11:59 PM PDT

Analyzing big data doesn’t have to be an expensive and drawn out affair. A company called Precog has launched a simple, drop-in app developers can use to collect and analyze vast amounts of data for product features like recommendations, reporting, predictions, and real-time decision-making.

Precog launched at the Strata Conference in February, and developers across a variety of verticals are already using the beta version. Eli Portnoy, CEO of ThinkNear, which offers hyper-local mobile display ads within 100m of any location, is using Precog’s beta to capture thousands of interactions per second, and then surface targeted insights to advertisers.

Kirill Sheynkman, senior director of RTP Ventures, which led a $2 million funding round announced today, said there has been an investor frenzy around big data, but Precog is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the exploding market.

Importantly, Precog can analyze the growing amount of unstructured and semi-structured data like texts, tweets, and emails that offer a potential gold mine for application vendors.

“For an investor who spent 20 years building data-centric infrastructure businesses, seeing something shiny in big data’s murky waters was an epiphany,” said Sheynkman, who will join the board of directors alongside SendGrid CEO, Jim Franklin.

Precog chief executive John De Goes built the company to create the world’s first data intelligence-as-a-service offering. Application developers (ISVs) are becoming more savvy about leveraging data, but it can take months, or even years, to build a full infrastructure in-house.

He said the company aspires to be the Twilio of the space, referencing a company known for its dead-simple APIs. “We provide application vendors with the ability to solve any problem in data analysis without having to write piles of code,” he said.

De Goes has come a long way since being selected for the Boulder class of TechStars in 2011. Shortly after graduating from the startup accelerator, De Goes closed a seed round for ReportGrid, which provides SaaS vendors with nifty data visualization tools.

In addition to RTP Ventures, Resonate Venture Partners and TechStars‘ founder David Cohen also participated in Boulder-based Precog’s new funding round.

Filed under: dev, enterprise, VentureBeat

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Top four global tech brands now worth almost $500B

Posted: 22 May 2012 08:46 PM PDT

Four out of five of the top brands in the world are technology brands, according to a review of the top global brands released Tuesday. The report valued the Apple, IBM, Google, and Microsoft brands at a combined half-trillion dollars.

Apple tops the list – compiled by MillwardBrown – of top global brands overall, as well as top technology brands. The Apple brand is valued at a staggering $183 billion. That’s about $500 for every one of the more than 350 million iOS devices sold to date worldwide.

IBM (remember that company?) takes second place with a brand value surpassing $115 billion, and Google takes third at $108 billion. After McDonald’s, the only non-technology company to hit the top five, Microsoft rounds out the top five global brands with a $77 billion valuation. That’s almost half a trillion dollars between the tech giants, and almost $200 billion more than the top four non-technology brands.

Technology companies generally have done well in recent brand rankings. The most interesting data, however, concerns which companies are winning. This year, old-fashioned WalMart outpaced Amazon for the first time in years. Amazon’s brand is worth $34 billion, a nine percent decline from last year; WalMart is $400 million ahead.

And while two years ago Google was the number one global brand, this year it sinks to number three, surpassed again by Apple, and for the first time by IBM. Google lost three percent of its global brand value in the past year, while IBM gained 15 percent.

Microsoft, another technology giant, has traditionally been high in global brand rankings but suffered a two percent drop in the past year. Any significant drops in the coming year will result in Microsoft falling out of the top five, below a surging McDonald’s. In 2012 McDonald’s gained 17 percent in brand value to rank fourth at $95 billion.

Technology winners include Facebook, which gained a huge 74% in global brand value. Facebook was the fastest rising brand among the global 100 leaders, reaching $33 billion. And another technology notable was Baidu, the Chinese search engine which, despite being essentially a single-country service, reached number 25 with a brand valued at $24 billion.

The study highlighted the strategic importance of branding in stark terms: cold hard cash. In a press release accompanying the results, MillwardBrown stated: “While the total return on investment (ROI) for all companies in the S&P500 index was just 2.3%, the BrandZ Portfolio provided a 36.3% ROI, proving that companies with strong brands are able to deliver better value to their shareholders.”

Here’s a visual representation of the global brand data:

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Car2Go could radically transform urban transportation

Posted: 22 May 2012 06:36 PM PDT

It’s incredibly rare that I run across a technology that could improve economic efficiency, better the environment, and improve quality of life for many. Car2Go hits that trifecta.

For urban areas, individual ownership of cars is wasteful. Most cars sit around all day, delivering no economic value to their owners. Surface parking is full of cars that don’t move. Streets are clogged with people circling neighborhoods while searching for parking. This is bad for the environment and bad for the quality of life of drivers, pedestrians, and residents.

A micro-sharing model like Car2Go could fundamentally change that. You would only pay for what you use. Cars wouldn’t be sitting around for most of every day, fewer cars would be parked on streets, and fewer cars would be circling looking for parking.

Car2Go is a new spin on the car sharing model popularized by Zipcar. It has a few important differences:

- You can pick up and drop off a car nearly anywhere in a city; there are no fixed locations.

-  You don’t need to pre-plan or make a reservation.

- You can use a car for one-way rentals. Need to get from the subway station to the office? Take a car at the train station and then park it at the office and tag out.

- Usage is billed in minute increments, making short one-way trips very cheap. For most cities, it’s 35 cents per minute, $12.99 per hour or $63.99 per day.

- Rentals include free parking.

- There are no late fees for holding a car too long.

Car2Go makes use of the Smart for two micro car. I tried Car2Go last week while I was in D.C. (The company provided a car for review purposes.)  In the U.S, Car2Go is available in D.C., Portland, Austin and San Diego.

A typical rental is 8 to 10 miles and takes less than 30 minutes, according to Katie Stafford, a spokeswoman for Car2G0.

The process is simple: Open up an app and find a nearby car. Tap the RFID card against the reader and the car unlocks. The keys are in a dedicated slot on the dashboard. (The car was smart enough to know that I still had the keys in my pocket when I tried to end my rental.)

One of the the most frustrating aspects of city driving is the  most magical element of Car2Go: parking. The company did a deal with the city to allow parking at many meters and in residential zoned areas for free. Just park the car and walk away. The cars aren’t subject to meter time limits. If it’s a 2 hour meter, you can leave it all day. I was staying at a hotel a couple of blocks from the White House and I always found a parking spot within two blocks. (The hotel’s valet charges $50 a day.) I drove the car to a Washington Nationals game and parked — for free — a block away from the stadium in a neighborhood zone. The car’s tiny footprint opens up some spaces that couldn’t fit the typical car. (Car2Go paid DC $578,000 for the right to parking carte blanche, a fact dug up by Discovery’s Rob Pegoraro.)

In a shocking departure from previous industry practice, where GM executives killed the all-electric EV1, this innovation is brought to us by another car company: Daimler. (Daimler also manufactures the Smart cars.)

“You have these really densely populated urban areas that are just continuing to grow, so you need to think about the way people are going to get around and still have a great quality of life, have less congestion and have less emissions,” Stafford said. “Daimler is thinking about those things. Cities are thinking about those things. How are cities going to solve those three things? … Car2Go is one of the ways that you can do that.”

The environment is definitely on the mind of the system’s designers. My car had an EcoScore app that showed how efficient my driving was. As I drove, trees grew and squirrels and birds appeared when I was doing the right things. The trees died as I braked hard or gunned the engine. Stafford suggested that high scores might eventually result in free driving credits.

The most glaring weakness wasn’t the car or the business model. It was a navigation system that is more useless than the one in my 2005 Acura. You can’t search by a business name or category; you have to put in an address. There are no visual indicators for the next street you have to turn on. The audio cues are played at a lower volume than the radio, making them nearly inaudible. I ended up resorting to Google Maps on my cell phone.

Car2Go isn’t for everyone or every use case. Zipcar has a wide range of vehicles, allowing users to rent a convertible for a trip to wine country and an SUV for a trip to the Home Depot. You certainly won’t be hauling much in the Smart. The ride is best described as spartan. You feel every pothole and manhole cover. I certainly wouldn’t want to take Car2Go for a long trip.

Technology offers a number of ways to deliver a personalized experience with Car2Go in the future. It would be great if, as soon as you tap into the car, the radio station presets change to your tastes, your frequent destinations are loaded in the navigation system, and your phone’s Bluetooth pairing settings are also loaded. Making these elements seamless would introduce some of the benefits of individual car ownership into a more economically efficient model.

A model like Car2Go’s is highly dependent on density. For me to be comfortable letting go of a car, I have to be confident that I’ll be able to get another one when I’m ready to make the return trip. In my time in DC, I saw three other Car2Go vehicles on the street. (The company says there are currently 200 cars in DC.) I also checked the mobile app periodically and didn’t see many cars within a short walk. Although it’s too soon to have reliable statistics on DC, Stafford says that in Austin, she is typically within a 5 minute walk of a car.

If a city were to dedicate one parking spot on each block to car-sharing services like Car2Go, it would fundamentally transform urban transportation.

Perhaps the biggest weakness in Car2Go is that it’s not available in San Francisco. I would sell my car tomorrow if it were.

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Kleiner Perkins hit with sexual harassment allegations, partner sues for discrimination

Posted: 22 May 2012 05:13 PM PDT

Ellen Pao

Leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers got hit with a sexual harassment and gender discrimination suit earlier this month, rocking a firm that has been known for bringing women into the venture capital industry.

The complaint (below), filed May 10 in superior court in San Francisco, reads like a melodrama. Ellen Pao, who is currently an investment partner with the firm, alleges that in 2006, fellow partner Ajit Nazre pressed Pao to have sex with him on a trip to Germany. Nazre, who had been at the company for two years longer than Pao was managing her trip to Germany. After refusing and returning home, Pao alleges that Nazre continued his advances until she acquiesced and began a personal relationship with him later in 2006.

After ending the relationship after three intimate encounters, Pao says Nazre (pictured right) launched a five-year campaign of retaliation against her, the complaint claims. This included convincing a chief executive she was courting for a seat on one of her company’s boards to join one of Nazre’s boards instead. VentureBeat has identified that company as RPX Corporation, a patent litigation management company.

Pao’s complaint also alleges that KPCB partner Randy Komisar gave her a book by Leonard Cohen, “The Book of Longing,” that contained graphic sexual imagery, and invited her to dinner on Saturday night when his wife was away, a combination that Pao felt was “inappropriate in the workplace.”

Her complaint also alleges that the firm as a whole did not respond adequately when she brought the harassment to the attention of senior partners, including John Doerr, Ted Schlein, and Ray Lane.

TechCrunch broke the news earlier today.

Pao’s lawyers declined to comment when contacted by VentureBeat. KPCB provided a statement, which we’re including below.

Ajit NazreNeedless to say, KPCB is feeling some heat from the issue. Some are saying that the company should have informed the limited partners associated with the venture firm. Melinda S. Riechert, an employment lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (which is not involved in the case), thinks this would have been a mistake on Kleiner’s part.

“It’s exceedingly difficult to deal with a case by a current employee, because people have privacy rights. You try to keep these things on a need-to-know basis,” Riechert told VentureBeat. “The more people who know about small suits and claims… the more people who can be accused of retaliating.”

Kleiner is likely to argue that Pao turned to a harassment case after she began to receive poor performance reviews, as a way of deflecting responsibility. Pao’s lawyers, of course, will argue that this gets things backwards, and that the poor reviews were part of the harassment.

Why would Pao stay at a firm for years, given the negative climate? Riechert puts it into perspective:

“She obviously has the right to [keep her job at Kleiner], and I have many cases that I handle that are brought by current employees… It’s difficult, it’s not easy for everybody, but they have the right to stay employed and we make sure that rules and law are followed.”

Kleiner has been otherwise well-known in the venture industry for bringing on female partners. The venture firm has 12 female partners at the firm, of which nine are active investors. A number of these female partners have names well known in Silicon Valley, including Mary Meeker, who has invested in Twitter and Groupon, and Aileen Lee, who recently decided to create her own seed fund. However, its newest fund, KP15, only includes one woman among its 10 managing partners.

Here’s the full text of Pao’s complaint.

Here’s the statement from Kleiner:

In response to a discrimination complaint filed in the Superior Court of San Francisco by Ellen Pao, Christina Lee, a Kleiner Perkins spokesperson, stated the Firm regrets that the situation is being litigated publicly and had hoped the two parties could have reached resolution, particularly given Pao’s 7-year history with the firm. Following a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the firm believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter. The Firm has been a diversity pioneer in its industry and was one of the first venture capital firms to hire women as partners. The number of women partners at the firm is one of the highest within the venture capital arena and the firm has actively supported women in all respects.

Photo of Ellen Pao via KPCB; photo of Ajit Nazre via djevents/Flickr

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Faceporn wins battle against Facebook, a victory for all company names starting with “face”

Posted: 22 May 2012 05:09 PM PDT

Facebook is learning that money and fame cannot buy you everything. The social network has been thwarted in its aggressive pursuit to sue any company that uses "book" or "face" in its domain name, most recently against a porn site in Norway.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled against Facebook in a case first filed in 2010 against Norway-based adult social network Faceporn. Facebook requested full ownership of the domain name along with "an award of attorney's fees and costs."

Judge White felt Facebook was left without a leg to stand on, stating the social network "has failed to show that defendants, both residents of Norway, purposefully directed their conduct at California.” The judge recommended the motion be denied and the action dismissed for “lack of personal jurisdiction.”

This is not the first time Facebook has gotten in other companies’ faces. It has come after other sites with "face" or "book" in their names, including Shagbook, Teachbook, and Lamebook. So far, all of the lawsuits have been dead ends except for Lamebook, which ended with a settlement with Lamebook that left the parody site standing.

According to the report, Facebook currently owns ten trademarks with another seventeen pending approval. The social network even owns a trademark for the word "wall." The company plans to continue its lawsuit against Faceporn in Norway, which could lead to a "likelihood of confusion" test.

Thumbnail image of blank face via ShutterStock

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Massachusetts’ Secretary of Commonwealth subpoenas Morgan Stanley over Facebook

Posted: 22 May 2012 03:27 PM PDT

William Galvin, Secretary of Commonwealth for Massachusetts, is subpoenaing Facebook investor Morgan Stanley, Reuters reports.

“The Securities Division has put out a subpoena to Morgan Stanley in connection with the analyst’s discussion with certain institutional investors about the revenue prospects for Facebook,” a spokesman for Galvin’s office told Reuters.

Allegedly, Facebook and Morgan Stanley had talks leading up to the IPO about the strength of Facebook’s business. The bank told investors just before the IPO that Facebook’s business wasn’t as strong as expected. However, this news never made it to the general public.

Reports indicate that the information may have only reached large clients, not everyone who underwrote Facebook, The Boston Herald reports. If that’s true, it could be a violation of securities law. Analysts may even have been told by a Facebook exec to reduce their business revenue estimates, Business Insider reported. This seems to have caused a domino effect that hurt Facebook’s trading value.

Morgan Stanley’s revision of Facebook’s business prospects followed an amended S-1 from the social network. Facebook wrote that its business would suffer if users continued to use its mobile services instead of the Facebook main site. The social network has struggled to make money off mobile users because of the lack of advertising.

Facebook’s stock ended the day on Tuesday at $31, a drop of nine percent. The social network hasn’t been growing on the stock market since it made its debut Friday at $38 per share.

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Researchers find a way of storing data in DNA

Posted: 22 May 2012 02:59 PM PDT

It’s the ultimate floppy disk, with the ultimate information density. Bioengineers at Stanford University have discovered a way to encode, erase, and rewrite data within the strands of life itself: DNA.

Researchers have previously been able to write data in DNA, but only once. Once written, the information was read-only. Now researchers are able to write and rewrite data. They’ve only done one bit at a time, but that’s an essential component of computation, and an important step forward in the potential creation of a biological computer.

“Now we can bring logic and computation inside a cell itself,” Jerome Bonnet, one of the scientists behind the innovation, said in a statement to Science News.

In early tests, the scientists essentially created a traffic light out of an Escherichia coli bacterium. The goal was to flip a sequence of its DNA back and forth: a way of storing information comparable to storing a zero or a one in a conventional computing bit of data. They choose a segment of the bacterium’s DNA that impacts color, so they could visually determine the experiment’s success or failure. Then, by flipping a small sequence of its DNA, they caused the bacterium’s cells to fluoresce in green. Switching it back, they caused it to shine red: visual proof that they were both rewriting DNA and storing information.

DNA has long been known to be an almost unbelievably efficient information storage medium. With 3.2 million base pairs in a strand of 20-25,000 genes, your DNA stores 800 gigabytes of data in a literally microscopic amount of space. Compare that with 50 gigabytes for your average Blu-Ray disc, or perhaps a terabyte for the hard disk in your computer — neither of which are microscopic — and you can see the appeal of learning to read and write DNA.

The scientists are calling it RAD, Recombinant Addressable Data, and have successfully saved data even during cell reproduction. The abstract of the paper detailing the innovation states: ”Our core RAD memory element is capable of passive information storage … for over 100 cell divisions.”

Even more importantly, the data can be re-written multiple times with no performance or integrity degradation. That’s critical for their long-term objectives: “extending computing and control methods to the study and engineering of many biological systems.”

While it’s unlikely that you’ll see numbers representing gigabytes of RAD data on your next computer purchase alongside RAM and ROM, future uses include potential monitoring and treatment of cancer. That’s something to get even more excited about than a multi-gigabyte RAD array.

Top image credit: Micahb37 via Flickr

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Google+ wants to be your new Flickr

Posted: 22 May 2012 02:31 PM PDT

Bradley Horowitz Google+

Google+ is succeeding in small bursts, feature by feature. As a social network competing with Facebook it’s a flop, but its video-chat tool Hangouts is a winner. Now photo sharing is poised to be the service’s next breakout hit, thanks to an enthusiastic community of photographers who like the focus on attractive full-size images, Google+’s new photo-centric iPhone app, and a uniquely Google passion for metadata.

In fact, Google+ is pushing hard on the photography front and is in a great position to dominate the floundering Flickr.

The Google+ team teamed up with Kelby Training for a two-day Google+ Photographers Conference in San Francisco, or as it was adorably called, a HIRL — Hangout in Real Life. Vice president of product for Google+ Bradley Horowitz (pictured above), who led Yahoo’s purchase of Flickr in 2005, kicked off the event Tuesday by talking about the future of photography, how Flickr changed his outlook, and whether ads will ever make an appearance in Google+.

A camera that records your blood pressure

“I feel photos are the lifeblood of our service,” said Horowitz. “They are the way we can most immediately and viscerally connect as human beings.”

For the past four-plus years, Horowitz has pushed his passion for “social computing” at Google: combining photos, algorithms, and human interaction. While some of us may see the rising flood of images and data — from camera settings to GPS location — as overwhelming, Horowitz sees it as an opportunity. He thinks the future lies in capturing even more data, sharing more information, having more sensors, and recording more dimensions.

For example, we generate so much information that going through it to find gems is becoming more and more difficult. Ironically, even more data can be used to bring order to overload.

“I want to know everything I can about the environment,” said Horowitz. “I would like to know more detailed information about the roll, pitch, yaw of the camera. About the lens optics, about even the blood pressure of person whose hand is on the camera, even the galvanic skin response.” These biological markers can be used to identify the special and meaningful moments in your life worth remembering, such as the happiness you felt seeing your kid take her first steps.

Tools like Google’s own Google Glass could be a great start for capturing all of this information, but of course there are a few kinks to be worked out first.

“I never know whether Vic is listening to me or not,” said Horowitz of Google’s Vic Gundotra, who sometimes sports the augmented reality glasses during meetings.

We are capable of so much more than Instagram

Capturing pixels is just the beginning of a photo. How it’s processed and used after it’s on a computer is becoming even more important. Google has multiple properties that dabble in photos, including Picasa, Google+, Drive, and even email. The next step is to combine those tools together, something Horowitz admits is still an issue.

“Ultimately the brand distinction between those needs to go away… we’re working hard to erase the seams between these experiences,” said Horowitz in response to a question about the difference between Picasa and Google+. “The fact that you have to ask it is a failing on our part.”

Eventually Google aims to blur the line between the device and the cloud, so all the data you generate is automatically backed up, archived, and secured in a nice non-obtrusive manner. Automating this synthesizing stage would free up time for photographers to focus on the more enjoyable process of manipulating the data.

Horowitz wants to increase the power its own post-processing tools, making image editors scalable so that an amateur can use them as easily as a professional photographer. Replacing the very segmented image editing market and creating a tool that is equal parts Instagram, Lightroom, and Photoshop is an especially ambitious (perhaps naive) idea.

Google wants you to think of ads as little presents

The absence of ads in Google+’s lightbox, the tool that shows your images, is part of what appeals to the many photographers who use the service. But certainly it’s only a beta perk, right? After all, a whopping 96 percent of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. Google’s philosophy when it comes to ads is that they can be a very useful part of the user experience (as they are in search results). However, it doesn’t want to serve them where or when they don’t belong and won’t be the most effective.

“We don’t think of ads as punishments the users must endure, we think of ads done well as something that users would cry over if we took them away,” Horowitz said.

The company has not yet found a way to make ads useful in the lightbox. If a Google+ user is looking at photos of their family, says Horowitz, “the last thing you want to do is stick an ad between that intimate moment and intimate interaction.” Instead, Google leans more towards collecting data and delivering it when the context and time are right.

For example, say you review a restaurant. Google will tuck that information away and deliver it when it is relevant, perhaps six months later when one of your friends looks for a restaurant recommendation in the same area. “That’s a gift from me to that person facilitated by Google.”

And it all started with Flickr

Horowitz has a background in photography, like many others on the Google+ team (“We are geeks, and photographer geeks are a sub-flavor of geeks.”) As a grad student, Horowitz worked on some of the earliest image-processing programs and algorithms that analyzed images.

Eventually he landed at Yahoo as the head of multimedia search, which is where he met the founders of Flickr, a “fascinating, tiny little company in Canada.” They asked why, instead of writing complex algorithms to analyze images, he didn’t just ask people to volunteer their knowledge, à la Flickr’s tagging? People can just look at an image and say if it’s a dog, a person, or even if its funny or snarky.

“I realized my algorithms were so far from having a snarky detector that this was a better approach,” said Horowitz. “A little bit of social engineering was better than all the algorithmic approach… it introduced the concept of bringing people and community into the equation.”

Horowitz went on to oversee Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr, and eventually moved on from the company. But now, many years later, the idea of social computing that Flickr planted in his head is being used to turn Google+ into real Flickr competitor.

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The 2012 Webbys: Patton Oswalt saves a show that desperately needs to die

Posted: 22 May 2012 02:16 PM PDT

Patton Oswalt at the 2012 Webby Awards

So I went to the Webbys last night and was compelled to write a scathing critique calling for its death. It was bloody and brutal — and then two hours in, WordPress ate my post (yes, I saved, shut up).

So here’s a condensed version: Host Patton Oswalt was great, as always, but the Webbys were as irrelevant as ever. It felt like a fever dream where people actually used Google+ (a major sponsor), and not at all an accurate representation of digital culture.

But, hey, at least they had a decent Steve Jobs memorial, led by Richard Dreyfuss (who had a few choice words for Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin regarding user privacy), with video appearances by Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore.

It was fun to watch Oswalt juggle the insanity of the ceremony. “Interactive advertising, really?! This is like Sad Men,” he quipped when introducing the ad-related awards.

The big problem with the Webbys is that you have to pay to be considered for an award — effectively making the nominees advertisers. It doesn’t matter how good your website or app is, if you don’t pay the entry fees (which ranges between $150 and $495) you’re not even a contender.

It seems completely antithetical to the open nature of the web, and it’s also backwards compared to the way other industry awards are considered. (If you want the full story, Wired’s Andy Baio has a great takedown of the Webby’s model.)

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Facebook settles ‘Sponsored Stories’ lawsuit, likely avoiding huge damages

Posted: 22 May 2012 01:59 PM PDT

Facebook has settled a lawsuit concerned “Sponsored Stories” that could have cost the company billions if the plaintiffs had won, according to a Reuters report.

In light of Facebook’s team taking the company public last Friday, it will have to start making more careful decisions on financial matters. Facebook’s shares on the Nasdaq exchange disappointingly closed at $31 on Tuesday.

The proposed class-action lawsuit was brought to federal court in San Jose, Calif. by five users who were upset at Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories.” That type of ad showed a product and noted which of your friends “liked” that advertiser. Reuters said the users alleged that the “Sponsored Stories” feature violated their right to publicity under California law.

The terms of the settlement were not listed, but it will almost certainly be less expensive to settle than to drag the case through court. If it had become a class-action suit, it could have included the nearly one-third of the U.S. that is on Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg photo: Jim Merithew/Wired

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Take-Two disappoints Wall Street with larger-than-expected loss

Posted: 22 May 2012 01:32 PM PDT

Take-Two Interactive, one of the biggest U.S. video game publishers, reported earnings that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for their fourth fiscal quarter which ended on March 31.

But revenues were higher than expected and the company said it shipped about 3 million copies of Max Payne 3, the third-person shooter game that launched on May 15, after the period of the earnings. Wall Street was evidently prepared for worse news, since the stock has risen 5.7 percent to $11.80 a share in after-hours trading.

For the fourth fiscal quarter which ended March 31, New York-based Take-Two reported revenue of $148.1 million, down from $182.3 million a year earlier. The GAAP net loss was $66 million, or 78 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $22.4 million, or 27 cents a share, a year earlier. On a non-GAAP basis, the net loss was $50.9 million, or 60 cents a share, compared with a loss of $14.4 million, or 18 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a loss of 55 cents a share on a non-GAAP basis and revenues of $140 million.

Overall, the absence of a big Grand Theft Auto hit game made a big difference in the company’s performance in the last year. Take-Two reported a loss of $107.7 million, or $1.30 a share, compared with net income of $53.8 million, or 62 cents a share a year earlier. Non-GAAP net loss was $59.4 million, or 71 cents a share, compared to net income of $94.3 million, or $1.02 a share for the prior year. L.A. Noire was a big hit, but Duke Nukem Forever disappointed and the hits paled in comparison to titles such as Red Dead Redemption, the big game of 2010.

The contributors to revenue in the fourth fiscal quarter were NBA 2K12, Major League Baseball 2K12, and The Darkness II. Digital revenue was 19 percent of sales, compared to 15 percent a year ago.

“Fiscal 2012 was a year of creative, operational, and strategic achievement by our Company,” said Strauss Zelnick, chairman and chief executive of Take-Two. “We delivered groundbreaking titles, including L.A. Noire and NBA 2K12, which set new standards for excellence; grew our revenue from digitally delivered content and mobile offerings; made substantial progress on our online gaming initiatives; and bolstered our already strong liquidity through a convertible notes offering. While our financial results were disappointing, the decisions we made position Take-Two for growth and profitability both this year and over the long-term.”

He added, “Fiscal 2013 kicked off with the successful launch of Max Payne 3, which received outstanding reviews and promises to be another hit for Rockstar Games. We have a fantastic lineup of upcoming releases for the balance of the year and the strongest development pipeline in the Company’s history.”

Take-Two’s stock was hurt earlier in the month after it announced that BioShock Infinite, a highly anticipated game from the company’s Irrational Games division, was delayed until 2013. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto V is expected to ship later this year. Take-Two had guided investors to expect fourth fiscal quarter revenue of $112 million to $162 million and a loss of 50 cents to 65 cents a share.

Take-Two expects revenue for the coming fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 to be $1.75 billion to $1.85 billion, with non-GAAP net income of $2 a share to $2.25 a share. Analysts were expecting earnings per share of $2.76 a share on revenue of $1.8 billion.

For the first fiscal quarter ending June 30, Take-Two said it expects to generate between $225 million and $275 million in sales. Non-GAAP losses per share are expected to between 75 cents and 60 cents per share.

In November, Take-Two raised $250 million in new convertible loans. So far, the company hasn’t said when it will release Grand Theft Auto V, which could be the biggest game of the year…whenever it ships.

NBA 2K13 will be out on Sept. 4. The previous game sold 5 million-plus units.

XCOM, another shooter under development at 2K Marin, is expected to ship during the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2014. Sid Meier’s Civilization V: Gods & Kings, a new expansion for the 2010 game, will ship on June 19. On June 26, Spec-Ops: The Line will launch in the military shooter genre. Borderlands 2, based on a wasteland shooter that sold 6 million units in its first version, will debut on Sept. 18. And XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a strategy title, will debut on Oct. 9.

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Apple shipped the most mobile PCs in the world, thanks to the iPad

Posted: 22 May 2012 01:20 PM PDT

iPad shipped

Apple shipped 17.2 million mobile PCs in the first quarter of 2012, leading the world in units shipped by 22.5 percent, according to a study by NPD DisplaySearch.

You would think the market would be saturated by now, but Apple is still shipping tablets and laptops by the millions — and with new releases like the latest iPad, interest will continue to grow. Compared to the same quarter last year, Apple shipped 118 percent more mobile PCs, eighty percent of which were iPads. That accounts for 162 percent growth year over year.

The latest iPad launch, which occurred in March 2012, was an obvious and major contributor to Apple’s share of voice in the mobile PC market. The company sold three million iPads in its debut weekend alone, and began to roll the tablet out to a number of countries thereafter. A lot of its popularity stemmed from an improved screen, which quadrupled the amount of pixels available in the display, along with 4G connectivity.

The iPad accounted for so much mobile PC growth, that Apple didn’t even show up on the list of companies who shipped the most notebook units. HP won that game. But the amount of iPads shipped was enough to raise Apple up over its competitors in the overall market.

Hp followed Apple in overall mobile PC shipments with 8.9 million unit shipped. Acer came next with 6.9 units ships, Lenovo with 5.9 units shipped and Dell brought up the rear with 5.6 units shipped.

via NPD DisplaySearch, Image via Grant_Robertson/Flickr

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SAP plops down a whopping $4.3B for cloud commerce player Ariba

Posted: 22 May 2012 01:20 PM PDT


German business software titan SAP has agreed to acquire Sunnyvale, Calif.-based e-commerce business Ariba for an astounding $4.3 billion, the company announced today.

SAP will pay $45 per share for Ariba, a nearly 20 percent premium over its May 21 closing price. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2012.

Many businesses (including SAP competitors) use Ariba’s cloud-based marketplace for goods and services to run everyday operations, which will make even more business depend on SAP solutions. The deal will also give SAP more leverage in the cloud space, following its huge $3.4 billion acquisition of human capital management player SuccessFactors this past December.

"The cloud has profoundly changed the way people interact,” said SAP Co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, in a statement. “The impact will be even greater as enterprises connect and collaborate in new ways with their global networks of customers and partners. Cloud-based collaboration is redefining business network innovation, and we are catching this wave in the early stage of its evolution. The addition of Ariba will create the business network of the future, deliver immediate value to our customers and provide another solid engine for driving SAP's growth in the cloud."

Photo credit: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

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CAD in the cloud: Sunglass launches a collaborative editor for 3D design

Posted: 22 May 2012 01:03 PM PDT

Like a Google Docs for computer-automated design (CAD), Sunglass is launching a cloud-based way to create, edit, and share 3D designs today — offering consumers an easier and cheaper alternative to traditional software like AutoCAD.

Sunglass co-founder Nitin Rao presented on-stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City today, where he discussed how the company could potentially revolutionize the $10 billion CAD industry.

“There are 10 million designers just like us looking to engage with each other in a flat world,” co-founder and CEO Kaustuv DeBiswas said in a statement today. “Products are now built for global consumption so why can’t they be designed via global collaboration?”

It used to be that only powerful desktops could run CAD software, and collaboration was a nightmare. But with Sunglass you could collaborate with just about anyone right from your web browser. All of the heavy-duty processing work happens on the company’s servers. It’s also compatible with over 40 file formats, so stubborn designers can still open up your projects in their preferred programs.

During his demonstration today, Rao showed off how you can design a bike using Sunglass (over conference Wi-Fi!), and the interface appeared to be silky smooth. There were also collaborators from India editing the bike at the same time. Using a broadcast feature, we were able to see a design a collaborator was working on after about 20 seconds of render time.

Since Sunglass is cloud-based, you also don’t need to wait for lengthy renders before showing off your 3D designs. You can plug a Sunglass embed code into any web page, which allows others to manipulate your designs without Adobe Flash (Sunglass is powered by WebGL and HTML5). The service also sports Dropbox integration for storing 3D files.

San Francisco-based Sunglass is also building an API to let designers share their most useful tools with others. The company is building the world’s first 3D app store to offer the tools. Previously, designers would have to buy entire software suites to gain access to a single tool. The company has developed its own tool for cloud-based streaming that can render 3D objects in about 45 seconds, proving the power of its API.

sunglass 3d design cad

Filed under: cloud, VentureBeat

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Microsoft launches its second Azure accelerator, this one in India

Posted: 22 May 2012 12:29 PM PDT


Microsoft has launched its second accelerator for cloud-related startups, the company announced today. This one is located in emerging tech startup hotbed Bangalore, India.

Ten startups will be selected and will start Sept. 3, 2012. For four months, they will get resources and have their shot to build a smart cloud product.

The new location comes just two months after Microsoft’s first-ever startup accelerator at Israel. Just like its Israeli endeavor, Microsoft’s Indian outpost will not offer straight up cash to its startups. Instead, they will get $60,000 in Windows Azure credit, space to work in, and access to mentors.

“Through this unique initiative, Microsoft is partnering with leading industry mentors to provide startups with the much-needed support they need to innovate and become successful businesses,” said Amit Chatterjee, Managing Director of Microsoft India R&D, in a statement. “We are not only providing them technical and business guidance and mentoring, but also connecting them to prospective VCs and investors. The success of this program will be measured by the success of these startups. Microsoft will have no stake in these companies."

Any India-based startup that wants to take part in the accelerator can apply here.

Photo credit: Microsoft

Filed under: cloud

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Sprint murders its 5GB tethering plan, replaces it with more expensive options

Posted: 22 May 2012 12:20 PM PDT

sprint store

Sprint will no longer offer its hotspot customers a 5GB for $30 per month data plan, a move that’s undoubtedly based on the influx of iPhone users loading down its network.

The company is now giving subscribers two new, more expensive options to choose from: a 2GB per month plan for $20 and a 6GB per month plan for $50. Under the old plan, you were spending about $6 per GB, and now the same data will cost you either $10 or $8.33 per GB (depending on your plan). Either way, you’re getting charged more for the same amounts of data.

Previously Sprint has offered unlimited 3G/4G data plans for its mobile smartphone customers, with few restrictions on how you use that data. That said, Sprint customers can get around the system by downloading third-parting tethering apps that essentially transform a smartphone into a mobile hotspot.

In addition to the new tethering plans, Sprint will also notify its hotspot customers when they’re within 75, 90, and 100 percent of their allotted data cap. For those with an unlimited data plan on their smartphone, the real question is how Sprint defines when the tethering option is turned on.

As Gigaom notes, Sprint is counting data from smartphones as well as other hotspot services, which might mean the free ride is over for unlimited data  customers.

Image via The Consumerist

Filed under: mobile

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Activision reacts to fan response to Call of Duty: Black Ops II (video interview)

Posted: 22 May 2012 12:00 PM PDT

Call of Duty fans have voiced a lot of concern about the daring leap to the future that Activision is taking with the 2025 time setting for the next version of the series.

When Activision released the official reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II three weeks ago, it was a little like a religious event among first-person shooter fans. More than 20 million people viewed the trailer, and “likes” outnumbered “dislikes” by 2-to-1 on YouTube. But the crazy thing was that the game isn’t merely about assault rifles and snipers anymore. It’s about drones, robots, and guns that can shoot through cement.

We caught up with Daniel Suarez (pictured above), vice president of production at Activision, for a video interview about how these changes are going down with fans. Blowing up robots, some fans said, made the series more like a sci-fi game than a modern combat shooter. It isn’t as crazy as it all seems, Suarez argued, because of the deep research the team did.

Eric Hirshberg, chief executive of Activision Publishing, boasted that this could be the “most ambitious Call of Duty ever” because it has drastic changes to the game in terms of multiplayer, single-player setting, and zombie-shooting fests. The move to the near-future setting “could be as transformative as the move from World War II to the modern era.”

He said that sales of the game are “not just a great honor but also a massive responsibility.” Hirshberg said that the point behind Black Ops II is to bring meaningful innovation while staying true to the core of the franchise, which includes “epic realism, the ultimate adrenaline rush, easy to play but hard to master, and 60 frames per second.”

Mark Lamia, head of the Activision-owned Treyarch studio that is creating the game, said that the team wanted to create a different kind of sequel that took the series into the future but was rooted in the reality of today.

But Suarez agreed that the core of Call of Duty is the gritty infantry combat: gun against gun and soldier against soldier. The writers crafted a true human villain, Raul Menendez, a “monster” whose hatred was shaped in the Cold War and who orchestrates the hijacking of the American drone fleet.

“The main villain is not a robot,” Suarez said. “The main villain is not a drone. The main villain is a human.”

GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat's fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry's latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your early-bird tickets here.

Filed under: games

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