24 May, 2012

MIT’s (T)ether melds virtual and real space, shows the future of collaboration

Posted: 24 May 2012 09:19 AM PDT
Every few months a new innovation in physical interaction with virtual objects comes along and the Minority Report comparisons begin. But (T)ether, a new project by a group of students at the MIT Media lab, is one of the first that actually made me believe it.
After watching their demo video (below), you’ll believe it too.
Briefly, what (T)ether does is allow individuals and groups to interact with virtual objects in real-time, simultaneously, creating a shared virtual space in which to build, create, and edit objects. Sounds simple? The implications are profound.
The (T)ether user interface enables manipulation of virtual objects spatially, with gestures, rather than through actual physical contact with a display device. It’s easier to show than to tell:

That difference is critical, because it enables both interaction with large objects or collections of objects …

… and easy collaboration with other connected devices and users:

And it’s this collaborative aspect that’s most exciting. As the group, composed of Matthew Blackshaw, Dávid Lakatos, Hiroshi Ishii, and Ken Perlin, post on their project page, “multiple people can edit the same virtual environment.”
As you can see around the four-minute mark in the video below, this enables powerful collaboration. Here’s a screen capture of the video showing two of the team members building and editing a virtual architecture together:

Currently the team is using iPads as their windows on the virtual world. However, imagine a Google Glass version, which seamlessly overlays the virtual onto the real via smart glasses, eliminating the need to physically hold up a device.
Go a step farther and envision increased fidelity, resolution, and processing power, and you have a solution that would enable an aircraft mechanic to virtually disassemble an ailing jet engine. Or enable an automotive engineer to visually create a model of how a new engine should fit together. The possibilities are endless.
Here’s the project video in its entirety:

Filed under: dev, offBeat, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 09:05 AM PDT
Just off the heels of one of the biggest DEMO conferences in the event’s 20 year history, we’re starting to gear up for the next one. We already hit New York in the first stop of our DEMO tour, and will have details shortly on more events coming up around the world.  If you’re working on the next big tech product, and will be ready to show it off on the DEMO stage in October, we want to hear from you.
The best part about DEMO, which some of you may not yet realize, is that it’s now completely free for a lot of the companies that launch there. You still get all of the perks as companies that have been paying for years (top-notch coaching, PR support, the best production team in the business), as well as some new ones (free launches at global DEMOs, which currently include Brazil, Kenya, Singapore, and China), but you won’t pay a dime.
This is all part of DEMO’s relatively new scholarship program that will cover the expenses for 20 innovative technology companies that have raised less than $500,000.  If you’d like a scholarship for DEMO Fall, we only ask that you apply by July 6, 2012.  If not, the general deadline is August 17.  All you have to do is fill out this form, and we will get in touch with more details.
In case you missed last month’s DEMO event, check out our coverage here. You should also check out this DEMO recap from our latest People’s Choice Award winner, TouWrist, which walked home with the $1 million IDG media prize.
Now, we want to know who the next big winner will be.  Apply here today to come stand up on the same stage where companies like Netscape, Salesforce, E-Trade, and Fustion-io got their start.
See you at DEMO in October.

Filed under: DEMO

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Posted: 24 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

Metro Last Light, the sequel to the first-person shooter game Metro 2033, is coming out in 2013. Today, THQ released the first video trailer showing the story behind Last Light, and it’s quite well done.
In the trailer, an old man listening to a short-wave radio hears about the onset of nuclear war. He warns people to start moving to the Metro, or the underground subway, in Moscow. No one believes him until the emergency alarms go off. A woman who was singing to her baby runs toward the Metro entrance. Moscow’s own nuclear missiles launch into the air and a panic ensues.
The trailer is set in 2013, and it features an all-Russian cast. Not a word of English is spoken unless you count the prophet of doom screaming, “Armageddon! Armageddon!” But you can understand exactly what is happening. The woman with the baby shouts at a Russian officer guarding the entrance to the subway. She gives him her baby. He takes it, and heads underground. The doors close, and the nuclear bombs go off.
The original Metro 2033 debuted in the spring of 2010. It was based on the post-apocalyptic novel of the same name by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, and it was made by 4A Games, a Russian developer that helped make the shooter Stalker: Shadows of Chernobyl. Metro 2033 features a ragtag group of survivors living underground in the Metro subways of Moscow. They go to the surface to scavenge for materials, but they face horrific mutated monsters that are only too happy to eat humans for a meal. 4A is also making Metro Last Light.
Last Light’s live-action video is really moving, and it establishes the origins and setting for the game quite clearly. It’s an example of video game marketing at its best since it aims to hook the player emotionally into the title’s fiction.
The video closes with a soldier wearing a gas mask and then switches into game art, showing the mass destruction in Moscow 20 years after the attack. Nothing stands except the shells of stone buildings and the facade of the Metro, where survivors live underground. The trailer closes by revealing that the game is coming in 2013, assuming, of course, that the world doesn’t come to an end first.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 08:35 AM PDT

Huddle, the startup that’s bringing simple tools for collaboration to huge companies around the world, has just sealed a sweet deal: $24 million in new venture capital.
This is Huddle’s third round of institutional funding. Jafco Ventures led the round, with participation from DAG Ventures and existing investors Matrix Partners and Eden Ventures.
“This is all about growth — international growth,” said Huddle co-founder and CEO Alastair Mitchell in a call with VentureBeat. “We operate in about 180 countries worldwide, and we’re getting such a huge demand from our customers.”
Outside the enterprise, many folks aren’t too aware of the Huddle brand. However, the company’s products have found homes at more than 100,000 organizations around the world, from NASA to Procter & Gamble. Huddle tells us its client list includes 80 percent of the Fortune 500.
In short, Huddle is going after (and successfully catching) the biggest of the big fish.
Mitchell said part of the $24 million will be used to expand Huddle’s offices in the UK as well as stateside in San Francisco and New York City. The startup plans to be 200 employees strong by the end of this year.
“We’re a pure enterprise platform for collaboration; we have over a million business users using our product — everything from media-type businesses to government organizations,” Mitchell continued.
“It’s driving huge revenue growth for us. If you think about it, you can grow really fast in a big organization, from hundreds of seats to thousands of seats within a year… and across the firewall, outside the organization, as well.”
While much of Huddle’s growth within large organizations has been due to viral, bottom-up adoption by small teams and early adopters, Mitchell said the startup is seeing a top-down adoption effect, particularly over the past two years. “Now, we’re also being pulled in by CIOs who want to change how their executives collaborate,” he said.
Currently, Huddle’s enterprise business is growing five-fold year-over-year.
A couple months ago, the startup launched Huddle Sync, an intelligent file synchronization tool that Mitchell called “a real first.” The tool made special allowances for large, complex teams’ collaboration needs.
“This year, basically, it’s all about the rollout of Huddle to larger and larger organizations and helping them work more seamlessly,” said Mitchell. “It means more platforms, more mobile devices … more easy ability to manage and work with thousands of people.”
This means better tools for more complex team structures, of course, and Mitchell said this will require the Huddle team to focus on the “intelligence engine,” that is, the part of Huddle that “works out what information needs to get to you, and it’s really magic how that works,” he said.
Huddle has raised $40 million in toto since its 2006 launch. “We’ve hit cash flow/break even several times, and this allows us to keep growing,” Mitchell concluded. “We’re driving great revenues at the moment.”
Image courtesy of iofoto, Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, enterprise

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Posted: 24 May 2012 08:33 AM PDT
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the new Apple TV at a press event, March 7, 2012, in San Francisco.
There’s still plenty of buzz surrounding a potential Apple TV set, and now Forrester analyst James McQuivey is offering his own speculation: Apple should avoid taking on the big-screen HDTVs already in our living rooms, and instead offer a complimentary smaller screen
“Apple should sell the world’s first non-TV TV,” McQuivey wrote in a blog post yesterday. While I’ve seen more than  enough Apple television speculation for this lifetime, McQuivey’s report is particularly intriguing to me since it aligns with my predictions from last summer.
“An Apple television would most likely serve as a secondary television set — under 30 inches, and ideal for bedrooms, kitchens and college dorm rooms — instead of elbowing for attention in the living room,” I wrote, based on the fact that it would be easier for Apple to compete in the small TV arena, and that it wouldn’t compete directly with the existing Apple TV set-top box (which remains Apple’s gateway to large TV sets).
Now, McQuivey’s take:
Instead of selling a replacement for the TV you just bought, Apple should convince millions of Apple fans that they need a new screen in their lives. Call it the iHub, a 32-inch screen with touch, gesture, voice, and iPad control that can be hung on the wall wherever the family congregates for planning, talking, or eating — in more and more US homes, that room is the dining room or eat-in kitchen. By pushing developers to create apps that serve as the hub of family life – complete with shared calendars, photo and video viewers, and FaceTime for chatting with grandma – this non-TV TV could take off, ultimately positioning Apple to replace your 60-inch set once it's ready to retire.
While we’ve seen reports pointing to Apple readying some sort of large-screened television, there’s still nothing concrete yet. That’s a good thing, since I still think a big-screen Apple television set would be a huge mistake. With Sony and many other electronics giants bleeding money from their HDTV businesses, it doesn’t make much sense for Apple to jump into that maelstrom.
Photo: Heather Kelly/VentureBeat

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 08:19 AM PDT
Google has updated its Google+ app for Android with beautiful new flourishes and the ability to start a video chat Hangout on the go, the company announced today.
The app update makes a lot of sense in light of Google+'s new photo-centric iPhone app and the service’s focus on wanting to be the next Flickr. Google clearly knows it can’t win directly competing against Facebook on status updates so it will try to get people to use Google+ for other things, namely video chat Hangouts and photo-sharing.
My favorite feature of the bunch is Hangouts and that feature has been nicely updated today by letting you start hangouts directly from your phone. Before, you could attend Hangouts in progress but could not create new ones from your phone. To try it out, tap "Hangout" in the navigation ribbon, add a few folks, and tap "Start."
As for the layout, there is now full-screen media in your river, conversations that fade in, and the ability to +1 content instantly.
The app also adds the following items:
• A navigation ribbon that slides in and out, providing quick access to everything
• The ability to download photos directly from Google+, and turn them into wallpaper
• The chance to edit posts inline, in case you make any mistakes while on the go
The new app can be downloaded now from the Google Play store.
Photos: Google

Filed under: mobile, social

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Posted: 24 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT
Many restaurants have no clue who their customers are, and they often don’t get repeat clientele. Starbates is out to change that.
The Fullerton, Calif.-based company is creating a customizable loyalty program that restaurants can use to track and reward customers. Users can access a mobile app that allows them to check in and earn rewards without having to carry around paper loyalty cards.
"We're replacing the ‘buy 10 get 1 free’ punchcards and working with restaurants to reward their customers faster to keep engaging them to come back more frequently,” said Jean Chong, chief executive and co-founder of Starbates, in an interview with VentureBeat.
Acquiring and retaining customers has been a broken process for restaurants for years, Chong said. Restaurants lose customers every day and they don’t know why. They have no way of reaching people once they walk out the door. But using a mobile-based loyalty program that gives customers meaningful rewards for showing up will enable restaurants to have a pulse on their business. They can mine the customer data to find their best customers and perform analytics on them. The restaurants can sign up for the program in a matter of minutes.
The customer simply scans a QR code (pictured below) at the cash register. The restaurant can recognize the customer and issue a reward on the spot if the customer has earned it. At one Quiznos, Chong said the customer loyalty went up because the chain sandwich shop gave $2 off to each customer for every second visit.
The company uses a QR code system to reward customers and provide data to restaurants. Chong said the company has a leg up in getting distribution because it has exclusive ties to Premier Food Safety, a business-to-business restaurant service company that she founded. That will give Starbates access to as many as 10,000 restaurants. Acquiring a new restaurant will be less than $100. Starbates will offer a free membership at first and then charge anywhere from $50 to $200 a month for subscriptions.
Starbates’ beta test is complete, and restaurants will now be able to sign up on their own. Starbates can offer double rewards — rewards that include movie tickets, cash prizes, and more. The company has iPhone, Android, and web versions of its app live.
The company was founded earlier this year and has five employees. It is looking for a seed round now but has been incubated by StartEngine, the Los Angeles tech startup accelerator. Rivals include LevelUp, Mogl, Stampt, Punchd, FiveStarsCard, and Bellycard. But with Starbates, customers don’t have to link a credit card to their profile. Anyone with a smartphone can participate.

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 24 May 2012 07:59 AM PDT
BlackBerry Messenger
Amid RIM’s seemingly-unending struggles, the company has seen a light: BlackBerry Messenger.
RIM says that use of its proprietary instant message service has spiked from 5.3 to 55 millions users over the past three years, even as the Blackberry’s user base and market share have been eroded by the likes of the iPhone and Android, as The Wall Street Journal reports.
The continued success of BBM gave former RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie an idea: RIM could capitalize on its popularity by licensing the software to competitors.
But the problems with this plan were immediately clear. Letting third-party companies use the service would undoubtedly increase BBM usage numbers, but it would also remove one of the BlackBerry’s most key differentiators.
That argument is a large part of why RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins axed the plan. RIM won’t be doing any licensing deals under his watch.
But where does that leave BBM? Solely in the hands of BlackBerry 10, it’s next-generation OS set for  release later this year. But with competition from Apple’s iMessage and a bevy of other iOS and Android messaging apps at all-time high, RIM is going to have a hard time attracting users back to BBM no matter what operating system its running on.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 07:55 AM PDT
Internet speed
The dream of bringing a gigabit-per-second high-speed broadband internet connection is becoming a reality for at least six university communities in the U.S. — a country that’s known for the speed of producing its hamburgers and french fries, not its internet.
Gigabit Squared, a broadband internet startup, announced Wednesday that it has raised $200 million in funding to build out high-speed internet for these communities. The startup will be partnering with the Gig.U project to determine the universities that will get the new infrastructure, which will be deployed between November and March 2013.
“It’s time for a departure from the strategies of the past, strategies that merely looked at fulfilling current demand,” Gigabit Squared President Mark Ansboury at a recent press conference, reports ComputerWorld.
The new communities will also participate in a brand new program headed up by Gig.U and Gigabit Squared called the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program. The program will essentially use the new super high-speed internet to drive innovation in education, heath care, and other sectors of the community, according to Ansboury.
It’ll be interesting to see how this particular initiative fares in the long run. If it’s extremely successful, it could be used to help rally the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to relax its restrictions on broadband infrastructure.
Image via iQoncept / Shutterstock

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 07:28 AM PDT
Finnish phone maker Nokia has shrunk the size of its usually huge Nokia World event into several small events and moved up the date of the first event by a few weeks, the company announced today in a blog post.
This is a major make-or-break year for Nokia, with its Windows Phone handsets rolling out across the world and trying to break through the iPhone-and-Android landscape. So it’s frustrating that the company would not go big or go home like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have chosen to do. A big Nokia event each year held the promise of new headsets and could keep Nokia fans intrigued. Now it will be a much more subdued affair.
“Instead of a single, large-scale event as we have had in years past, we will run a number of smaller, more intimate events with specific audiences in mind,” Nokia blogger Heidi Lemmetyinen wrote. “Think less CES, more SXSW.”
The Nokia World event was originally scheduled for September 25-26, but now the first “small” event will be held September 5-6. This will be an invitation-only event that “will cater primarily to our operator and retail partners.”
Not only is it disheartening that this is a strict invite-only event over a big affair that attracts Nokia fans the world over, but it also causes a headache for anyone who already bought plane tickets for its previously scheduled times. Nokia, we expect better.
Photo credit: Nokia

Filed under: mobile

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Posted: 24 May 2012 06:57 AM PDT

Tim Cook has yet to launch a revolutionary new product since he took command of Apple last August, but, little by little, he’s been shaping the company in his own way — moving it beyond the idol worship of Steve Jobs, and towards more transparency and efficiency.
In a new magazine piece, Fortune dove into Cook’s Apple and discovered that, even though things are now different from the Jobs era, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Apple.
“In general, Apple has become slightly more open and considerably more corporate,” wrote Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky. “In some cases Cook is taking action that Apple sorely needed and employees badly wanted. It’s almost as if he is working his way through a to-do list of long-overdue repairs the previous occupant (Jobs) refused to address for no reason other than obstinacy.”
For all of his creative genius, Steve Jobs wasn’t always the easiest person to work with. Cook, not being a product guru, is instead taking more time to listen to investors and Apple employees. Fortune recounts how he attended an investor meeting in February: Cook simply listened (without even checking e-mail), and then gave controlled remarks at the end of the session. That’s a stark contrast to Jobs, who rarely attended investor meetings.
Cook is also less of a terrifying presence to Apple employees, according to Fortune he’s taken to dining with random Apple workers in the company’s cafeteria. Like a good shrink, Cook seems to be listening more to Apple investors and employees, though that could mean some changes in the company’s famously engineering and design-oriented approach to building products.
“I’ve been told that any meeting of significance is now always populated by project management and global-supply management,” Max Paley, a former Apple engineering VP, told Fortune. “When I was there, engineering decided what we wanted, and it was the job of product management and supply management to go get it. It shows a shift in priority.”
We likely won’t see just how different Tim Cook’s version of Apple is until the company unveils the iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s called). We’ve heard that Jobs was actively involved with designing the next iPhone, but now it’s entirely up to Cook to make sure that vision becomes a reality.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Bump has done it again. The simple app that lets you “bump” phones together to swap data and files is now letting you do the same thing with your phone and a computer.
Starting today, you can bump photos from your phone to your computer. Just navigate to the Bump URL, gently tap the phone to the computer’s spacebar, and the photos will magically appear on the computer.
“Photo sharing is really popular,” said Bump co-founder and CEO Dave Lieb in a phone call with VentureBeat. “We’ve had, like, 600 million photos shared by our users in the past two years alone.”
And when features are that popular, the Bup team’s goal becomes making the feature as simple as possible. “You don’t want to deal with email or putting them online; you just want to bump them over,” Lieb said.
Would-be Bumpers don’t have to install any new software on the computer. Once the initial “bump” happens, you’ll be able to save the photos to your computer’s hard drive with one click. Or you can get a shortlink to share the pics anywhere you want. Bump will host the images free for an indefinite period of time.
“It’s a really simple product, but from what we’ve heard from our users, it’s something they’re going to really love,” Lieb said.
“When I tell tech people about this feature, they say, ‘Why don’t I just use iCloud or Dropbox?’” he said. “But I’m a technologist, and I don’t even know how to figure iCloud out. People don’t take the time to set up even these automated things… This is a little bit more effort, but it’s just more cognitively simple.”
That kind of simplicity has become a core value for the startup. When Bump relaunched its mobile app back in February, it had pared the whole thing down to just the most two popular features. That bare-bones approach made it easy for the team to focus on making those two features better, prettier, and easier for people to use. The phone-to-desktop bump is an extension of that.
Lieb said that in the future, the Bump team might consider the phone-to-desktop bump for other types of files, such as videos or MP3s. “Certainly, it’s technically possible,” he said. “What we want to focus on is the really big pain points, and moving photos was the biggest one. People were sick of emailing photos to themselves or trying to find their syncing cable.”
And Bump has a lot more waiting in the wings. “A couple things we’re working on now are really cool,” said Lieb, “cooler than some of the things we’ve launched so far.” We can’t wait to find out (and tell you) more soon.
Image courtesy of DaBoost, Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 24 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT
Enterprise cloud storage startup Box has added a slew of updates to its main product, including universal administrator search, more mobile security features for iOS and Android, and multiple e-mail domain support, the company announced Thursday morning.
Box now has more than 11 million users across 120,000 businesses, with penetration in 82 percent of the Fortune 500. Its most recent customer wins include Netflix, Allergan, Avaya, Lennar, MGM Resorts, Stanford University, and Webcor Builders. The latest round of product updates will help the company further separate itself from more consumer-focused cloud storage options like Dropbox, SugarSync, and Google Drive. Box CEO Aaron Levie once even drew me a diagram to show how the company sections itself off versus competitors.
“We want users to be delighted at the same time we want IT to be happy and feel safe,” Box enterprise general manager Whitney Tidmarsh-Bouck told VentureBeat. “That experience is rare.”
The first major update is a new administrator console that offers enterprise-wide search. If you ever need to search across an entire organization for a specific file or folder, you can now do so. There’s also more granular permissions settings you can set as an admin that help set how files are shared inside and outside the company. “When your organization has multiple thousands of users, this is needed,” Tidmarsh-Bouck said.
Second, Box has added more granular mobile security features for Android, with an iOS update “coming soon.” Not only can IT admins add passcode locks for mobile users, but they can also turn offline access permission on and off.
Third, the company now has support for multiple e-mail domains. If you are a large company that owns many small companies, for example, you can now share and collaborate with Box even if your colleague uses a different domain. The company gave me the diagram below to help illustrate a business with multiple domains, saying that now team members who have “@pg.com” and “@crest.com” address can now more seamlessly collaborate.
Finally, Box has pushed out activity notification archiving that will specially target regulated industries like health care and finance. Box administrators can now log things like Box comments and tasks with already established monitoring systems.
Tidmarsh-Bouck said that the company has also modified its enterprise licensing agreement (ELA) to make it more flexible. There’s now pricing options that cover a multi-year contract, which can save an organization money and simplify the process of adding new accounts. If your organization wants to slowly roll out accounts, the new ELA agreement can cover a cheaper overall price per each new account.
Administrator search photo: Box

Filed under: cloud

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Posted: 23 May 2012 09:46 PM PDT
Only weeks after requesting backdoor access to popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, the FBI is in the news again. Now the organization appears to be staffing the elite unit that will create the technologies to tap into Americans’ communications on social networks.
CNet broke the story today, revealing that the unit has now been created. According to the story, the new division will be called the Domestic Communications Assistance Center, and it has already been allocated $54 million in funding by a Senate committee. While the group won’t engage in spying itself, it will create technologies to help state and local police intercept, decrypt, and analyze communications data.
The legal issues here are not entirely clear. While the police and security forces of most nations have had the ability to wiretap telecoms for decades, that capability is less and less valuable as the bulk of  communications moves towards social networks and voice-over-IP solutions like Skype. National and local law enforcement agencies want the ability to tap into new networks as well as old, and an amendment to CALEA, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, is being proposed that would force social networks to give access to law enforcement for surveillance purposes.
What’s far more clear is that the FBI is making these moves as silently and secretly as possible. There is no national debate, very little governmental debate, and almost no public awareness of the capabilities being requested and created. The changes represent what could be very significant privacy intrusions, coming just days after we saw how internal government employees can misuse data that their privileged positions give them access to.
However, developers and hackers looking for jobs can potentially join the new agency, headquartered in Quantico, Va. According to the job posting, you’ll need to have “experience in conducting and/or managing electronic surveillance operations” and “skill in evaluating technical electronic surveillance solutions.” If you do, you could qualify for a salary as high as $136,771.
In my post a few weeks ago, I referenced George Orwell. That was before the name of the new unit was revealed. Calling a spy center a “domestic communications assistance” unit does actually line up quite well with Orwell’s famous phrases: “war is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” and “ignorance is strength.”
Image credit: Thomas Tolkien/Flickr

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 23 May 2012 06:00 PM PDT

Everyone knows it, but few people acknowledge it: Mobile web browsers absolutely suck. Technologists are launching commercial space flights, mapping the human genome, and building flexible computer displays, yet we still haven’t figured out the right way to use a browser on a small device with crap connectivity.
That’s about to change. We’ve seen the next step — and it’s a really awesome, significant step — in mobile browsers, and it was made by none other than Yahoo.
Today, Yahoo launches Axis, a new way of getting around the web, both on mobile and in your typical desktop browser. Axis is available as a standalone web browser on iOS devices now (other platforms such as Windows Phone and Android are coming soon) and as an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Yes, the tech press loves to hound Yahoo about its executive troubles and its oldster status, but the fact remains that the company still employs some of the best, brightest engineers I’ve met, and it is very much focused on creating bigger, better mobile products.
To explain Axis, we have to start with search — something that many have assumed Yahoo had given up. “Far from being outside the search game, we’re very much invested in it,” said Ethan Batraski, Yahoo’s director of product management for search, in a meeting with VentureBeat last week.
Bing has lately powering the Yahoo portal’s web search, but this has freed up Yahoo’s intellectual and engineering workforce “to rethink search… as a human experience in three steps,” said Batraski.
Those three steps — the query, the results, and the destination page — have long been locked in a lather-rinse-repeat loop, with users navigating back to a results page when the destination page is lacking, or refining their queries when the results page seems off.
“No matter how much Google or Bing tries to innovate on that experience, it’s pretty much the same way it’s been for the past decade,” said Batraski. And on small-screened phones and tablets with non-optimal wireless connections, that experience is as painful as a first-world technophile could imagine. Axis does something different, bringing queries closer to the objects they represent and bringing more data onto the results page for quicker, simpler, lower-bandwidth decision-making
Here’s how it works: You enter your search term, and Yahoo does some heavy lifting (not Bing-powered). You have the option of selecting a specific object that your query is related to; for example, if you search for “Roots,” Axis might give you options to refine the search for “Roots” the TV miniseries or “The Roots” the band. In that way, it’s quite similar to Google’s newly launched Knowledge Base. It can also direct you to “instant answers,” kind of like what Bing does these days.
That’s when things get really nifty. Axis serves up thumbnails and page previews as results instead of just a list of links, and the results are still available as you navigate through destination pages. Any time you need to get back to the results, you just pull down on the screen, and a horizontal slider of results from your last query appear at the top.
This is one case where a picture is worth a thousand words, so check out the images below (captured on an iPad) to get a better idea of how the mobile browser navigation works:
You can also see demo videos from Yahoo over here.
The main point is, you don’t have to go back and forth over a painfully slow connection to do normal web search; the results are just a finger-flick away at all times, and they’re stored in a convenient, visual slider that won’t hog the already small screen. It’s brilliant and long overdue.
Naturally, the browser also brings the features you’d expect from a modern app: tabbed browsing, gorgeous image search, bookmarks, social sharing options for every page, etc.
In addition to the usual suspects in mobile devices, keep an eye out for Axis on gaming consoles and smart TVs, where search and web browsing are equally painful for similar reasons.
Batraski said he got the idea while on vacation. “I was sitting in Bermuda on a chair with a margarita, and it dawns on me: There’s no real need for a results page. I’ve never been a big fan of it. So by building it into the browser, it’s the most utilitarian way of getting to content.” Six months later, the apps were built.
On feature of particular note is the desktop-to-mobile sync option for open tabs. Firefox for Android and Chrome for Android also have this feature, but until now, it hasn’t been an option for iPhone and iPad users.
That brings us to our next point: It’s absolutely fascinating to see this innovation in mobile browser tech making its debut on iOS. Mozilla has been blocked from putting its Firefox mobile browser on the iPhone and other Apple devices, and we’re pretty sure Google wouldn’t even have bothered to ask, given Apple’s history with outside mobile browsers. But for some reason, this Yahoo browser is the exception to the rule.
“Yahoo has a really good relationship with Apple,” said Batraski. “We power their weather and finance apps.” Batraski also pointed out that, while Axis for iOS uses the Safari web view API, “it’s a complete different browser, and it runs separately from Safari.”
Of course, techies will be quick to pick up and play with the mobile browser and related extensions, but what about the rest of the world?
“Any time you show something this different, it takes users time to adopt,” said Batraski. “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of traction with tech-forward users, where they really understand this makes the experience a lot more efficient.”
As for the less digitally minded masses, he said, “This is not the first time Yahoo has been in the browser business,” referring to the company’s Yahoo-tools-stuffed Firefox and Internet Explorer bundles, which currently claim “well over 100M users.” Axis will be built into Yahoo’s new browser bundles, and the company expects to see mainstream adoption start there.
Of course, any good idea begets other, eerily similar good ideas from competing companies. Batraski said he won’t be surprised to see Google or Microsoft lift the Axis interface and user experience for their own purposes. “I won’t be pissed off; I almost expect it,” he said.
“When they see it, I think they’re going to be really peeved: ‘Why didn’t I think of that’ It’s likely to cannibalize their search experience, and I don’t think they’re ready for that.”
Another interesting note is the browser’s architecture. Yahoo has been churning out some interesting mobile web-focused, Node.js-based tools called Cocktails, and it’s now clear why: The Axis team needed these tools to build the browser and extensions.
“Axis is the first fully Cocktails app we’re going to launch,” said Batraski. “We run off Manhattan as the app server, and then use the Mojito layer for a number of modular applications.”
Top image courtesy of David Hammonds, Shutterstock

Filed under: dev, mobile

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Posted: 23 May 2012 05:43 PM PDT

The wise carpenter has a simple philosophy: measure twice, cut once. Wolfram, the uber-geek’s software company of choice and organization behind the WolframAlpha “computational knowledge engine,” takes a slightly different tack: test as many times as you want, build once.
Today the Champaign, Illinois company announced SystemModeler. Showing the same charming modesty as founder Steven Wolfram, author of “A New Kind of Science,” the company said this tool ushers in “a new era of integrated design optimization.” What that means, more or less, is that SystemModeler allows you to create complex simulations of actual systems, run them, adjust variables, and then check what impact your changes have made.
It can be used to make models for a huge array of things, including airplanes, spacecraft, cars, ships, this ice breaking propulsion pod, industrial robots, joysticks, energy consumption, and health simulations.
What does that mean, practically? Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you are an engineer designing a new car. Fuel efficiency is critical, and you’ve decided you want to try a different compression ratio in your pistons. You might have an idea what impact that will have on efficiency, but what impact will it have on engine durability, power, gear ratios, and a million other factors? You don’t know … and building a version of the engine to test it might cost millions of dollars per test. So you model the engine — and in fact the entire car — in SystemModeler.
In a statement released to the press, Wolfram director of research Roger Germundsson said: ”Agility to iterate between modeling and engineering phases will be a key driver of tomorrow’s design optimization.” Translated from the geek, this means: the faster you can try stuff virtually before building things in the real world, the better your designs.
The key different between Wolfram’s SystemModeler and competing solutions, according to the company, is complexity and depth of modelling. Jan Brugard, SystemModeler manager, says that most of today’s tools are simplistic: “You wouldn’t build a skyscraper just with stone blocks, so why model your future innovations just with block diagrams?”
The software allows for drag-and-drop modelling once you’ve created predefined components, and allows you to chain models together in order to build complex models out of simpler subcomponents.
SystemModeler is available for Windows and Mac in both 32 and 64-bit versions and costs $3,495 and up, depending on licensing. A $75 student version is also available.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 23 May 2012 05:09 PM PDT
We’ve got you funding news here on this windy-in-San-Francisco Wednesday evening. If you want to stay on top of funding news as it happens, subscribe to our Deals Channel RSS feed either by clicking the red RSS icon at the top of this page or by adding the Deals Channel feed link to your favorite reader. And as always, send funding news our way at tips@venturebeat.com.

BodyMedia grabs $12M to whip you into shape

BodyMedia announced a $12 million funding round led by Comcast Ventures. The company produces the FIT armband, which uses medical grade sensors to track movement and body temperature to help you lose weight. Read more on VentureBeat: BodyMedia's weight-loss gadget analyzes your body temperature to keep you healthy.

Kony offers build-it-once, run-it-everywhere mobile app development

Enterprise-minded company Kony builds mobile apps for business and consumers and encourages the bring-your-own-device movement with an enterprise app store. Wednesday it announced a $15 million third round of funding. Insight Venture Partners led the $15 million round, which will help manage growth and hire new employees. Read more on VentureBeat: Kony grabs funding to build mobile business apps.

Stealth startup Airtime scores funding, then buys Erly

AirTime has received $25 million in second round funding led by Kleiner Perkins. The mystery video startup has also acquired social experience company Erly. Beta testers describe the company as Chatroulette with a layer of interest mapping. Other investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Google Ventures, and Social + Capital. Read more on VentureBeat: Airtime nabs $25M weeks before launch, snaps up social experience startup Erly.

SunRun saves you money with solar panels, raises $60M

Solar company SunRun has raised $60 million in funding, the company announced Wednesday. SunRun installs panels on your roof, and you pay for the electricity you use. You don’t have to spend money on purchasing and installing solar panels, but you don’t own the system either. Madrone Capital Partners led the round, joined by existing investors Accel Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Foundation Capital. Read more on SunRun’s blog: SunRun Closes $60M Equity Investment.
Couple running image via Shutterstock

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Posted: 23 May 2012 05:05 PM PDT

Add the House and the Senate to the growing list of parties with serious questions and concerns about how Facebook, its underwriters, and the NASDAQ handled the most anticipated initial public offering in recent history.
Both the Senate Banking Committee and the House Committee on Financial Services are now officially looking into issues surrounding the Facebook IPO. The committees will be conducting briefings with all involved parties, spokespeople confirmed in statements to Reuters.
The committees have yet to schedule hearings or publicly state what specific issues are under review, but we suspect they’re especially curious about whether Facebook and its underwriters violated securities law in the run-up to its offering, as has been alleged in a shareholder class action lawsuit.
“Effective capital markets require transparency and accountability, not one set of rules for insiders and another for the rest of us,” Senate Banking Committee member Sherrod Brown said in a statement. “There’s a lot that we don’t know about this IPO, but a lot that we do. We know that the SEC must fully investigate and take appropriate action if it discovers any violations.”
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that they will review allegations of impropriety around Facebook’s IPO.
The congressional inquiries follow a tumultuous week for Facebook, which saw its share price plummet on Monday and Tuesday and only rebound slightly on Wednesday to close at $32. To make matters worse, as Wall Street shows signs of uncertainty about the company’s future, Facebook shareholders are more than a little disgruntled about being left out of the revised earnings estimate loop. They’ve filed a class action lawsuit against the social network and its underwriters for allegedly disclosing material information to select investors.
Facebook declined to comment on this story.
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Posted: 23 May 2012 04:39 PM PDT
Six companies battled it out for dominance at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield today, but only one came out in top. That company was UberConference, a promising conference call startup from the creator of Google Voice.
Craig Walker, the inventor of both Google Voice and DialPad, aims to reinvent conference calls with UberConference. The service wants to fix many of the problems that traditional conference calls have, including not knowing who is speaking as well as the often terribly annoying feedback.
Using a variety of tech, UberConference calls show who is talking, mutes lines of people who aren’t speaking, and generally tries to fix any of those weird quirks that plague every conference call you’ve ever participated in. The service is free for now, but in the future it will "offer a premium version of the service with more features and different pricing options." We can’t wait to see more from the service and give it a try in the near future.
Even though UberConference won, there were five other strong competitors (certainly stronger than last year’s underwhelming crop) in the competition. It was hard to guess which one would win because several were highly appealing in their own ways.
Check out the other five below:
gTar might have been one of the coolest startups at the entire Disrupt event, and it rightly was the runner-up of the Startup Battlefield. It was also one of the few companies at the event debuting hardware instead of software.
The five-employee company has developed a “guitar that anyone can play.” Using a combination of iOS software and smart hardware, you can plug an iPhone into a slot on custom-made guitar and have the phone tell you when to play notes. It gets better than that, though: You can pick easy, medium, or hard to help you play in time and learn songs. In easy mode you just need to pluck strings in time, while in hard you have to play notes and frets correctly.
Stunningly, the company has raised more than $188,000 on Kickstarter in just a few days, which shows that gTar has seriously connected with tech enthusiasts and casual fans alike. The first 500 units produced should be in people’s hands within 3 to 4 months. With that fat stack of cash, we expect the startup to fulfill those orders.
The company says its aim is to ultimately create a platform for people making music and those who want to learn how to play songs.
What happens when two PhDs in “search” create a people search engine? Enter Ark, a people search engine that taps Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and others to help you find info on people and connect you. The early applications of the service might be classified as mostly dating and sales, but the company’s founders believe it could change how we use search.
Giving the company extra cred, it claims to have walked away from acquisition talks with Facebook, and has raised $4.2 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, and others.
CrunchFund partner and former TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, who was one of the judges, seemed impressed that the two founders had PhDs in search. He asked fellow judge and Google VP Marissa Mayer if she could boast the same, to which she said she just had a lowly Master’s.
Babelverse offers a crowd-sourced marketplace for translation. People who need translation can tap into the service for per-minute fees. Both amateur and professional interpreters sign up to provide their talents and keep a cut of the pay.
The company’s founder says that automated translation, such as Google Translate, is still not there yet. As suchm they say using a translator is much better experience. We believe the service would certainly come in handy, and if you give automated translation services a few years, Babelverse could dry up in usefulness.
open garden
Open Garden
Open Garden’s service wants to make it possible to crowd-source mobile and Wi-Fi bandwidth like no one has ever seen before. Basically, if people voluntarily pool their bandwidth together, there’s a much better chance of never being without access to data again. The company claims its service has attracted 1 million installs to date with little to no marketing.
Personally, I find it hard to believe a lot of people will want to share their mobile data with strangers, but if enough people who are frustrated with their data want to give Open Garden a shot, it could be a winning product.
Sunglass offers a cloud-based way to create, edit, and share 3D designs, giving consumers an easier and cheaper alternative to traditional software like AutoCAD.
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. That’s a pretty heavy level of disruption for those who need 3D modeling software, and we can easily see this startup taking off.

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Posted: 23 May 2012 04:04 PM PDT
No — not that Kony. Enterprise-minded company Kony builds mobile apps for business and consumers and encourages the bring-your-own-device movement with an enterprise app store. Wednesday it announced a $15 million third round of funding.
Kony’s main platform, KonyOne, allows businesses to write one app that can run on multiple mobile devices. The service also caters to business-to-business and consumer-focused app building needs. The company recently launched pre-built industry-specific apps for industries such as automotive, media, and retail. Kony’s also working on a new platform for release next month, focusing on business-to-employee app building.
The company just finished its fiscal year and boasts a 200 percent growth in business. It also says it has added 30 customers in the last year, including Scottrade and Toyota.
Kony faces competition from other mobile marketing and application development companies, such as Netbiscuits, which counts Siemens and eBay as customers.
Insight Venture Partners led the $15 million round, which will help manage growth and hire new employees.
"FY2012 was another year of record growth for Kony. We made major extensions to our technology platform and application portfolio and won the business of dozens of new enterprise customers.  We also made strategic investments in operational and management infrastructure," said Raj Koneru Kony chief executive in a statement.  ”This funding will help us continue managing the incredible growth we're seeing in our business."
Kony has raised close to $39 million since its launch in 2007. The company is based in Orlando, Florida.
iPhone app image via Flickr user TheMacGirl

Filed under: deals, mobile

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Posted: 23 May 2012 02:59 PM PDT
Advanced positioning technology company Trimble has acquired mobile GPS company Spime, VentureBeat has learned.
Shankar Narayanan, chief executive of Spime, indicated on his LinkedIn page that Spime is now a Trimble company. A Wikipedia entry for him says that as of May 2012, Spime was “acquired by a multi billion dollar United States public Company.”
Spime specializes in GPS software platforms for use by smartphone app developers. Its MapMan LBS Platform integrates social and location services into GPS-enabled apps. Spime also offers a navigation service and map service under the names Northstar Nav and Northstar Map. Spime’s customers include mobile operators, manufacturers, developers, and platform and semiconductor providers, who use its platforms to build location-based apps. Nokia’s Navteq has partnered with Spime for its GPS technology.
On the other hand, Trimble builds GPS hardware for construction, surveying, government, and military uses. Its product offerings range from 3-D laser scanners and military survey systems to embeddable GPS antennas and GPS chipsets. Trimble’s mobile segment makes up a small part of the company, and offers devices for field service management, transportation, and logistics workers, who need to take portable GPS devices into the field.
Trimble may have snatched up Spime to flesh out its mobile business a bit more and take advantage of Spime’s GPS software.
Trimble’s founder, Charles Trimble, started the company after leaving HP in 1978. Since its founding, the company has been responsible for developing GPS technology for commercial and consumer use. In 1999, it became the first GPS to go public. Trimble recorded $1.6 billion in revenue for 2011. The company’s headquarters are in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Spime was founded in 2006 and has raised $3.86 million in funding from undisclosed investors. It recently closed a $3.2 million round in April 2012. The company is based in Newark, Calif. near Silicon Valley.
VentureBeat has reached out to Trimble and Spime for comment and will update when we get a response.
GPS on a map image via Shutterstock

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Posted: 23 May 2012 02:50 PM PDT
Pandora Logo
Pandora gave investors something nice to listen to for its fiscal Q1 earnings report: record increases in revenue, user activity, U.S. radio station market share, and more.
The company reported $80.8 million in revenue (with a net loss of 9 cents per share) for the quarter, up 58 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Those figures beat Wall Street’s estimates of $74.3 million (and an 18 cent per share net loss). Advertising revenue was also up 62 percent year-over-year at $70.6 million.
"Pandora is off to an excellent start, exceeding our first quarter outlook and raising our expectations for the full fiscal year," stated Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy in the report. “Advertisers want to be everywhere their consumers are. They are moving quickly to speak with their target customers across the Pandora platform, with the majority of the top 50 digital advertisers in the U.S. already having bought multiplatform advertising on Pandora.”
In the earnings call, Kennedy said Pandora is “positioning ourselves to take full advantage of political advertising,” which is likely to ramp up as it inches closer to the 2012 elections. Kennedy added that the company has plenty of room to grow as it adds Pandora-ready devices into automobiles.
The company also updated investors on the music service’s total number of active users, which grew 53 percent to 51.9 million. The total number of hours listened to for the quarter hit 3.09 billion. That’s right on track with the 1.06 billion hours reported earlier this month. Pandora also grew its market share among U.S. radio stations, which accounts for a nice chunk of local advertising dollars.
However, Pandora will still have to contend with higher music licensing costs and increased competition from services like Spotify. One thing that could be an issue, but wasn’t discussed in detail, is Pandora’s growing local advertising sales force. I suspect this will become more important as the year progresses.
Summary of Pandora’s Q1 earnings results pasted below:
  • 1Q13 revenue of $80.8 million grew 58% year-over-year
  • Active users reach record 51.9 million growing 53% year-over-year
  • 1Q13 total listener hours of 3.09 billion grew 92% year-over-year
  • Record 71.7% share of top 20 U.S. Internet radio services at the end of 1Q13
  • Record 5.95% share of total U.S. radio listening at the end of 1Q13 grew from 3.11%
  • 1Q12

Filed under: media

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Posted: 23 May 2012 02:49 PM PDT

The bungled handling of Facebook’s initial public offering by NASDAQ may have left the door open for a rival suitor to win over the newest technology company on the market.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is using Facebook’s NASDAQ opening day debacle — trading was delayed by 30 minutes as the NASDAQ’s electronic system faltered under demand — as a potential in with the Menlo Park-based company, according to various reports.
The NYSE has made “soft overtures” behind the scenes in an attempt to get Facebook to change its listing, Fox Business News reporter Charles Gasparino reported Wednesday.
“NYSE makes ‘soft’ pitch to Facebook to switch listing venue,” Gasparino first tweeted. “NYSE confirms FBN report that NYSE has made soft pitch to Fb regarding listing,” he tweeted later.
Several other media outlets, including CNBC, Reuters, and Bloomberg are running similar stories and are suggesting that Facebook may be looking to transfer its listing, though CNBC backpedaled a bit on its original story. “BREAKING NEWS: @BobPisani reports the NYSE has had ‘no discussions with Facebook’ on potential listing switch,” the CNBC Twitter account tweeted.
A jump from one exchange to the other is not wholly unusual on Wall Street, though most companies tend to stay put. The NYSE recently won over TD Ameritrade, which had been listed on the NASDAQ since its 1997 IPO. The dueling exchanges have been known to compete aggressively for significant listings, especially in the technology sector.
In a Fox Business News broadcast Wednesday, Gasparino said that the NYSE knows that its chances of convincing Facebook to move its listing are slim. Gasparino added that the NYSE is more aggressively going after social gaming company Zynga.
After a market thrashing on Monday and Tuesday, Facebook rebounded a smidgen Wednesday to close at $32 a share. The social network opened on the NASDAQ at $42 a share. The company and its underwriters are being sued by shareholders for allegedly passing along severe revised earnings estimates to select investors.
Facebook declined to comment. When reached for comment, a NASDAQ spokesperson did not provide a statement for this story.
Photo credit: Larimdame/Flickr

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Posted: 23 May 2012 02:41 PM PDT

Cornell University’s NYC tech school is taking shape. The school announced today that it has named Greg Pass, former chief technology officer at Twitter and and VP of engineering, as its founding entrepreneurial officer.
Pass, who also graduated with a Computer Science degree from Cornell University in 1997, will be in charge of uniting the new tech school with New York City’s burgeoning tech community, as well as making sure CornellNYC’s academics are actually relevant to the real-world industry needs.
"In the tech industry I’ve experienced first-hand how talented and entrepreneurial engineers are at the heart of productive change," Pass said in a statement today. "Now, I am honored to be joining the Cornell Tech team as we build a new kind of applied science education—one that will better cultivate young engineers for technological innovation and entrepreneurship, and create new value in collaboration with the start-ups and creative companies that are making New York City a world tech leader.”
Pass was also the co-founder and CTO of the real-time search company Summize, which was acquired by Twitter in 2008 for $15 million in cash and stock (boy that sure seems like chump change now). Before that, he created an image search engine called ToFish that was purchased by AOL, where he spent time as a software engineer and later a system architect.
Given his experience both in launching small companies, and working within large corporations, Pass seems like a versatile choice for advising CornellNYC’s students. The first phase of the school’s campus on Roosevelt Island (mock-up above) won’t be ready until 2017, until then Google has donated space to CornellNYC in its massive NYC offices. Classes are scheduled to begin this Fall.

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Posted: 23 May 2012 02:28 PM PDT
Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman said today that consumers are printing fewer photos. That’s why the company’s Imaging and Printing division saw sales drop 10 percent in the quarter.
The reason for that shift is interesting, and it may underscore the changing of the guard in Silicon Valley. Consumers are flocking to Facebook and are uploading billions of photos to the social networking service, where they can share digital images of their lives with their friends. That may mean that users don’t need to print photos and send those copies to their loved ones as often.
It’s ironic since HP is laying off 27,000 employees, while Facebook was able to go public in a $100 billion-plus initial public offering. That means the very first company of Silicon Valley is now being made obsolete in some ways by its latest nouveau riche company.
HP said today that its Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) revenue declined 10 percent from a year ago and operating profit margin was 13 percent. Commercial hardware revenue was down 4 percent and commercial printer unit sales were down 7 percent. Consumer hardware revenue was down 15 percent from a year ago and units sales were down 13 percent.
Predictions of a “paperless office” in the age of digital imaging have never come true. People still print, but the decline was evident enough this quarter for Whitman to mention it in a conference call with analysts. Ink has always been the cash cow of HP’s imaging business, since it sells printers for lower prices and charges a lot of money for ink. Many people don’t like to print because of the high cost of color ink. If people stop printing, then HP’s ink income could be in further trouble.
There are other reasons that HP’s printer business was weak. HP missed a cycle on producing multifunction color laser printers for the enterprise.
To deal with the decline, HP is experimenting. In emerging markets, the company is pricing printers higher and charging less for ink. That is generating more repeat sales of ink. Facebook has more than 900 million users on its social network. Whitman might want to visit Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and ask him to slow that growth down a little.

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Posted: 23 May 2012 01:47 PM PDT
Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman said in a conference call with analysts that she is “cautiously optimistic” that the company’s financial results are stabilizing.
In a call with analysts, Whitman said, “I wouldn’t say we have turned the corner but we are making progress. We did what we said we were going to do” in terms of exceeding earnings and revenue targets in the second fiscal quarter.
HP beat earnings by 7 cents a share and has had good growth in some businesses. It grew 22 percent in software sales, but HP’s Autonony group, which HP bought for $10 billion last year, missed expectations. Autonomy’s founder will leave HP.
“We are creating the process to adapt to innovation and product leadership,” Whitman said. HP will take a $1.8 billion charge and it will reduce its work force by 27,000 jobs by October 2014. That will save $3 billion to $3.5 billion by the end of October 2014.
“We’re going after core cost bucket” by simplifying its marketing and sales practices, among other things, she said. HP will reinvest its savings across the business. But turning around the company will take some time, Whitman said.

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Posted: 23 May 2012 01:37 PM PDT

After launching one year ago, New York City-based Sonar unveiled a major update today that makes it easier than ever to find friends and like-minded people nearby — all with the goal of becoming a “Here-Now” mobile social network.
When it launched, the free Sonar app tapped Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare data to see how you were connected to people checked into specific locations. Today, Sonar is adding a slew of new features to build on its promising start, including “Sonar Presence,” which allows the app to run in the background and automatically alert you of interesting people nearby, and “Sonar Status,” which acts like a tweet just for friends nearby.
You’ll now be able to send private messages to people from within the Sonar app, and the company tells me it will also alert you of when your actual friends are nearby.
All of the new features serve to make Sonar even more compelling, especially compared to overly-hyped people discovery apps like Highlight and Circle.
Whereas Highlight is focused on connecting you to people actually using its app, Sonar does a better job of highlighting people that you’re connected to on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, even if they’re not using the Sonar app. It may just be a personal thing, but Sonar fits far better into how I’d like to approach people discovery. The first time I opened the newly updated Sonar app, I found people I was connected with at some of my favorite haunts. Few apps have proven their usefulness to me so quickly.
Thanks to Sonar Presence, the app is no longer limited to finding people checked into locations. Sonar is also making a bigger push now to connect you to friends, or people you may know via an acquaintance, rather than finding complete strangers. That removes a big creep factor from social discovery, and it opens the door for you to be better organized with people you actually care about.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Posted: 23 May 2012 01:30 PM PDT
Android Verdict
Google scored a legal victory today, as a federal jury has decided that the search giant wasn’t guilty of patent infringement claims made by Oracle.
The two companies have been wrapped up in a legal battle since August 2010, when Oracle accused Google’s mobile operating system Android of violating patents and copyrights related to Java that Oracle owns. The trial is seen as very important because it’d one of the most prominent battles over intellectual property in the software industry. In addition, it could set a precedent for whether or not a programming language can be copyrighted, as VentureBeat’s Jolie O’Dell previously pointed out.
Today’s verdict wraps up the second, patent-oriented phase of the overall trial. The first portion, focused on copyrights held by Oracle, concluded earlier this month, with the jury reaching a mixed verdict — basically finding that Google did infringe on some of the structure, sequence, and organization (SSO) of the 37 Java APIs used in Java.
Google still has yet to be charged with damages related to first phase’s outcome.
In a statement related to the trial, a Google spokesperson said: “Today’s jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle’s patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem.”

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Posted: 23 May 2012 01:28 PM PDT
Fenwick & West Venture Capital Survey Q1 2012The first quarter of 2012 was the best quarter in more than four years for software and Internet company IPOs, according to a new report.
But in the aftermath of Facebook’s much-hyped and problematic IPO, can the momentum continue?
Tech-focused Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West has released a report called “Trends in Terms of Venture Financings in Silicon Valley” for the first quarter of 2012. The report examined 114 companies headquartered in Silicon Valley that reported raising money in the quarter one 2012. It compiles funding and investment information from  Dow Jones VentureSource, Thomson Reuters, the National Venture Capital Association, and Fenwick & West’s Venture Capital Barometer.
By the end of the first quarter 2012, 50 Silicon Valley companies had registered to go public, more than in any quarter since Q4 2007. How many IPOs happened and how much money they raised depends on which source you rely on:
  • VentureSource reported 20 venture-backed IPOs collectively raised $1.4 billion in Q1 2012, compared to 10 IPOs raising $2.4 billion in the Q4 2011.
  • Thomson Reuters and the NVCA reported 19 IPOs raising $1.5 billion in Q1 2012, compared to 12 IPOs raising $2.6 billion in Q4 2011.
During the first quarter, up rounds (a round where a company receives money at a higher valuation than it got during its last round) exceeded down rounds (a round where the company’s valuation decreases) by 65 percent to 22 percent. Thirteen percent of rounds were flat, with no valuation changes. This is slightly down from the fourth quarter of 2011, when up rounds made up 70 percent of funding.

Click to enlarge
Q1 2012 is the eleventh consecutive quarter where up rounds exceeded down rounds, according to the report. That means investors are gaining more confidence in the technology industry, prompting them to invest at higher valuations.
"The first quarter of 2012 was a mixed quarter for the venture capital industry, with venture valuations healthy but venture investment down, M&A valuations up but the number of deals down, venture fundraising mixed but corporate venture investing up, and IPOs and Nasdaq up, but Nasdaq down in the second quarter to date and global financial uncertainty continuing to be a problem", said Fenwick and West partner, and co-author of the report, Michael Patrick.
However, while the number of IPOs was up, the overall amounts of venture capital investments were down in the first quarter:
  • Dow Jones VentureSource reported $6.2 billion in 717 deals in Q1, down 16 percent from 2011′s first quarter.
  • Thomson Reuters and the NVCA reported $5.8 billion of funding in 758 deals in Q1, with a 12 percent decline over last year.
The biggest issues moving forward is venture capital fundraising, according to the report. As VC firms struggle to raise money for their funds, venture capital investments decline. There were conflicting reports on VC fundraising:  Thomson and the NVCA reported a 13 percent decrease from Q4 2011 and Dow Jones reported a 35 percent increase over the same time frame.
Strong first-quarter IPOs may help the market in the near future. Mobile, cloud, security, big data and social media have attracted attention and funding, which according to the report won’t change anytime soon. But the longer-term prospects for IPOs may be hurt if venture capital firms have trouble raising money for their funds, or invest less in the startups that will eventually become future IPOs.
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Posted: 23 May 2012 01:09 PM PDT

In the convoluted case of the botched Facebook IPO, the story goes that the social network’s underwriters, with guidance from a Facebook executive, reduced their 2012 earnings estimates, shared that material information with a few, preferred investors, and let institutional and retail investors take the hit as Facebook’s stock value tanked.
So about those revisions to Facebook’s earnings estimates — just how bad are they? Pretty disconcerting, if you ask financial data company PrivCo CEO Sam Hamadeh. “These are enormously material changes in financial forecasts.”
According to the projected numbers of four banks, as shared with Reuters by an anonymous investor, Facebook could report 5.45 to 7.28 percent less revenue in the second quarter of 2012 and 3.61 to 6.13 percent less revenue for the full year than originally anticipated. The underwriters also reportedly reduced Facebook’s 2013 earnings per share estimates by has much as 7.35 percent.
The reduced figures, as shown in the table below, dramatically change the valuation of the company, Hamadeh said.

“The reduction to Facebook’s forecasts of this magnitude — reducing the revenue growth rate by over 6 percentage points — is so material that it should absolutely have been disclosed in a revised S-1 filing before the IPO pricing,” he said. “The combined net effect for Facebook in this case of both the reduction in the financials and the valuation multiple would have lowered Facebook’s valuation by at least one third.”
Facebook did file a revised S-1 on May 9, which spelled out that mobile was an even greater risk than originally stated. However, that warning, which stated that Facebook’s daily active users (DAUs) on mobile are increasing more rapidly than the number of ads it delivers, did not come with Q2 2012 or full year 2012 earnings estimates.
Morgan Stanley’s original full year 2012 revenue projection for Facebook was $5.036 billion, according to the Reuters report, or 35.74 percent year-over-year growth. By changing its forecast to $4.854 billion, the underwriter is predicting that Facebook will only grow revenue by 30.84 percent this year, which changes the perceived value of the company and the share price at which investors would be comfortable buying Facebook stock.
For comparison, Facebook’s revenue grew 88 percent year-over-year to $3.71 billion in 2011.
Bottom line? The accusation is that Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs shared their revenue revisions with their top investors, but regular institutional investors and retail investors weren’t provided with the additional guidance. Instead, these folks were left with Facebook’s May 9 S-1 amendment, which was woefully short on hard data.
Now, the legal question at hand is whether Facebook hid “a severe and pronounced reduction” in revenue from investors. For its part, Morgan Stanley is standing by its actions. A spokesperson said the following in a statement shared with VentureBeat:
Morgan Stanley followed the same procedures for the Facebook offering that it follows for all IPOs. These procedures are in compliance with all applicable regulations.
After Facebook released a revised S-1 filing on May 9th providing additional guidance with respect to business trends, a copy of the amendment was forwarded to all of MS's institutional and retail investors and the amendment was widely publicized in the press at the time.
In response to the information about business trends, a significant number of research analysts in the syndicate who were participating in investor education reduced their earnings views to reflect their estimate of the impact of the new information. These revised views were taken into account in the pricing of the IPO.
Facebook publicly reported that it made $205 million in net income on $1.06 billion in the first quarter of 2012. The social network’s pre-IPO earnings report was a disappointment considering that it brought in 6 percent less revenue than it did in the previous quarter.
Facebook closed at $32 a share on the NASDAQ Wednesday, which is up from Tuesday’s close but down almost 16 percent from its $38 starting price and nearly 24 percent off its $42 opening.
Facebook declined to comment on this story.