Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

There Are Now More Free Apps For Android Than For The iPhone: Distimo

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:40 AM PDT

App store analytics provider Distimo today published its latest report, once again zooming in on the pricing of mobile applications across a variety of platforms. We got an exclusive early look at the new report.

According to Distimo, Google’s Android Market currently offers 134,342 free applications for download, while Apple’s App Store for iPhone offers 121,845 free applications.

The number of paid applications available in Android Market, in contrast, is about one-third of the total number of paid applications available in the Apple App Store for iPhone.

According to Distimo’s data, the App Store for iPhone remains the largest store in terms of all applications available, although it was among the slowest growing mobile applications stores in terms of relative growth in March 2011.

The Apple App Store for iPad grew by 12 percent last month to 75,755 applications, of which 34,120 are designated for iPad only. The total number of available iOS applications now equals – a whopping – 367,334.

Distimo observes that applications for the iPad have become more expensive over time, while other application stores have trended in the opposite direction. The proportion of applications featuring in-app purchases has apparently decreased over time as well.

Interestingly, Distimo expects Android Market to become the largest store in terms of number of applications in about five months from now, provided current grow rates across all different application stores are somewhat maintained.

When that happens – not if – Android Market will trump the App Store for iPhone and iPad, Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, BlackBerry App World and Nokia Ovi Store in size (in that order).

Distimo also forecasts RIM’s BlackBerry App World to double in size over a six-month period and likely surpass Nokia’s Ovi Store in size by the end of May 2011. A couple of months later, even Windows Phone 7 Marketplace will be bigger than the Ovi Store, the company adds.



Android Gets A (Sort Of) Native Google Docs App

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:33 AM PDT

If you’re a heavy user of Google Docs and are sporting an Android device, Google has some very good news: it’s just launched a new ‘Docs’ application that gives you quicker access to your cloud-based collection of documents. You can download the free app right here.

Fire up the app and you’ll see a slick-looking interface that lets you jump to your documents, images, starred items, and collections (you can also use filters to toggle between all items in your account and just those that are ‘owned’ by you). There’s also a very nifty feature: take a snapshot of a document, and Google Docs can immediately turn it into a text document using OCR (the original photo is presented in the document as well).

The one quirky thing that I noticed is that when you go to edit a document, it looks like the native application actually loads the web-based Google Docs mobile editor that was launched in November. This means that the app requires an internet connection — you can’t edit documents where there’s no service and sync your changes later. Then again, given that one of the most compelling features of Google Docs is real-time collaboration with coworkers (which gets messy with offline syncing), this isn’t all that surprising.



White Label App Platform Appia Launches Pay-Per-Download Service For Developers

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:22 AM PDT

With Apple clamping down on incentivized downloads, white-label mobile app platform Appia (formerly PocketGear) has launched a new performance based advertising network for app developers to increase app downloads and only pay for results.

In case you aren’t familiar, Appia powers a white-label content and commerce platform for everyone and anyone who needs a mobile app store. The company now powers mobile app storefronts for more than 40 partners, including four of the world’s top five handset manufacturers (Samsung, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless). The bonus of using Appia's white-label offering is that it enables its partners to deliver apps to more than 3,200 different mobile device makes and models. Via its partnerships, Appia currently powers more than 500,000 downloads a day from a catalog of 140,000 apps with projections to double by mid-2011.

Appia’s ad network allows developers to access a pay-per-download service that allows developers to promote their apps by targeting ads by country and platform (Android, iOS, Java, Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Palm). Developers only pay for actual downloads of their apps.

Developers will now be able to target consumers across Appia's distribution network, which delivered 22 million downloads in March. The network now reaches more than 200 million mobile subscribers in over 200 countries. Appia's performance based advertising network is directly integrated into the Appia Developer Program. Once an application has been uploaded to the the Appia developer portal, the developer simply sets the bid price they want to pay per download, chooses the geographies they want to target, and select a payment method. Appia’s online reporting shows campaign activity broken down by platform, device and geography; giving developers insight into where their campaign is driving app downloads.

Prior to today's launch, Appia's performance based advertising service has been in private beta since February but has already delivered high value sponsored downloads to trial partners including Flirtomatic and Blue Lion.

While Appia’s app platform doesn’t have the same scale as the Apple App Store, it certainly is an outlet for developers to advertise and profit. And the company’s reach is steadily increasing. Appia recently announced partnerships with Opera Software, to power the Opera Mobile Store for more than 100 million users, as well as with Telcel, Mexico's largest operator, to power the Ideas Appstore for Telcel's 64 million subscribers. Incentivized downloads have become a big business, and it should be interesting if developers expand to Appia’s platform to capitalize on this.



The Realtime Web: RealTidbits Teams With Echo To Breathe New Life Into Forums

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 09:00 AM PDT

RealTidbits, a San Diego-based product development company, today announces the release of its RealTime Forum, an embeddable widget that allows you to add a dynamic stream and to build a realtime community on your company’s website.

RealTidbits is a spinoff of 3ones, a product development company for hire, and is a launch-partner of Echo, which recently launched its StreamServer, a realtime database and suite of services equivalent to that of Amazon Web Services. But in realtime, of course.

Those familiar with AWS (which you may have heard recently suffered from some downtime) might know that Amazon’s cloud platform allows developers to build and scale online services without the high costs typically associated with infrastructure management. In Echo’s case, the service does the computing required to capture and manage the activity of the realtime Web, which brands and publishers can then use as a service to build their own white-label applications and tie-in various social platforms, like Twitter. In essence, it’s RaaS, or realtime-as-a-service.

Echo allows companies to virtualize their data through its realtime database, and to build realtime tools and products on top of its cloud. The goal of Echo, then, is to encourage startups to rely on its StreamServer for all their realtime components — just as they might rely on AWS for cloud storage and processing.

Enter RealTidbits. RealTidbits President Kelly Abbott told me that, because Echo alleviates the startup’s infrastructure and scaling concerns — and, at the same time, enables its clients to leverage their existing partnerships with media companies, like Sports Illustrated, NBC, and Reuters — his team was able to simply focus on building a product.

In turn, Abbott said that he is a big believer in the realtime web, so the best place to prove the viability of Echo’s services and RealTidbits’ vision would be to attack an area with high activity that is also a well-known entity by most Web users. So, he decided to focus on forums, a medium that has been around since the dawn of the Web, as one of the original communication spaces for specialized communities that date back more than a decade.

Of course, all in all, forums have remained pretty much the same since they appeared on the Web landscape. As other communication media have sprouted to offered groups better ways to connect and share, some of the conversation moved elsewhere, and those that didn’t seemed content with the forum template. Yet, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, users still continue to flock to forums, and Abbott said that Vanilla Forums has over 400K forums, for example.

So, with the rise of realtime commenting platforms like Disqus and those created by Echo, among others, it seemed only natural that forums should become transportable, easy-to-use, and incorporate those interactive, realtime elements as well.

Thus, RealTidbits has built its RealTime Forum to enable brands and businesses to engage their communities in a realtime forum system that is both customizable, embeddable, and platform agnostic. It is enterprise-capable for sites with high traffic volume, but also works for smaller businesses. The service offers infinite hierarchy, and allows users to customize the look and feel of each category, as well as the ability to filter spam and naught language. Users can log in and share with their choice of social network, or use the administrator’s own proprietary log in.

It integrates a tidbit of game mechanics, in that you can track user behavior, reward desirable actions, and you can view analytics to see your top contributors or biggest pests, rewarding or penalizing them accordingly. And you can moderate your forum.

RealTidbits has already attracted Universal Music Group to its service, and Abbott tells me that they are soon to close a deal with another large business pulling in millions of page views a month.

The base-level product is free, with the price grade increasing depending on your site’s level of traffic. If your site is pulling in up to 200K pageviews per month, the service costs $20 a month.

From my experience, RealTidbits’ product works smoothly, and the price shouldn’t be too much of a barrier for entry — at least for larger businesses. But its success of course depends on user adoption and its ability to scale. But you should test it out for yourself. To see it in action, click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.



Visa Makes A Strategic Investment In Disruptive Mobile Payments Startup Square

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:53 AM PDT

There is no doubt that mobile payments company Square is on a roll. The company just landed a lucrative deal selling its credit card readers in Apple’s retail stores and is growing at a fast clip. And now the company has just received a strategic investment from a giant in the credit card industry—Visa.

For background, Square offers iPhone, Android and an iPad app which allows merchants to process and manage credit card transactions with a handy little credit card swiping device that plugs into the headset/microphone jack. The device and service is the brainchild of Twitter co-founder and recently appointed product lead Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey, and recently raised $27.5 million in new funding. In Q1, Square did $66 million in payment volume (the company expected $40 million) and plans to triple that in the second quarter of 2011.

So clearly, Square probably doesn’t need the cash (Square declined to reveal how much Visa invested). This is a strategic investment, and one that gives Square major clout as a payments product. Simply put, it’s a huge stamp of approval for the startup.

COO Keith Rabois tells us that the investment will not only help accelerate the business, but the partnership with Visa will help spread the word about Square to small businesses. In fact, there are currently 27 million U.S. small businesses that don’t accept credit cards currently. “The best way to grow a small business is to accept credit cards,” he explains, “Square allows these businesses to accept credit cards in minutes with minimal effort.”

He tells me that as part of the investment, a Visa executive will become an advisor to the company. Square will also be adding an exec from bank J.P. Morgan Chase (J.P. Morgan participated in Square’s Series B round) as an advisor.

So why Visa? Rabois says that while Visa is one of the giants in the industry based on reputation alone, roughly two-thirds of transactions using Square’s payments service are through Visa credit cards. He adds that over time, the partnership means that Square can work on making the payments experience better for Visa customers.

For Visa, the investment gives the company access into the innovations taking place within the company and the mobile payments industry. In February, Visa published a glowing post, praising the startup’s product as a "big deal." Back then, it was thought that Visa could be looking to partner with the startup or even acquire it. And on Square’s homepage, the company depicts a user swiping a credit card on Square’s mobile reader using a Visa Signature card. It is telling that Square chose to feature Visa, when the reader accepts MasterCard, American Express and Discover, which are all widely used across the globe.

Visa has been steadily trying to ramp up innovation within its own payments network, launching a PayPal like payments service, and buying virtual goods monetization startup PlaySpan.

But Visa hasn’t made many investments in companies in its history (the company invested in mobile commerce security and development company Ecrio back in 2007). Mobile payments is a business that a number of players are looking to profit from, including VeriFone and Intuit, and through the investment, Visa is able to gain insight into this emerging market.

Another important angle to note in this transaction is that with the investment, Visa is standing by Square’s security as a credit card reader. Two months ago, VeriFone, which makes a competing card reader, wrote an open letter to consumers and the industry, warning users of a "gaping security hole" in mobile payments startup (and competitor) Square's hardware. Dorsey shot back, vehemently denying the security flaw and calling out the apparent flaws in VeriFone’s argument.

Still, being charged with putting consumer card information at risk is a serious accusation and certainly not one that Square wants associated with its name. Visa’s investment in the startup certainly validates the fact that there’s no credit card fraud taking place via flaws in Square’s devices and system.

This has certainly been an eventful first half of the year for Square. Not only has the company signed a retail deal with one of the most well-known retailers in the world, but it has raised funding from a group of marquis investors, dropped the $0.15 per transaction charge for businesses using the mobile payments service, debuted a massive billboard in Times Square, and now has a strategic partner in one of the biggest credit card giants in the world, Visa.

So what’s next for Square? “Our product can get better,” says Rabois and he along with the rest of his staff will be doubling down on development. In fact, Square is looking to double or triple its engineering and design teams. “Reinventing payments is a difficult experience,” Rabois says. “But we have a lot of things in the works in the coming year.”



Zynga Continues International Expansion; Acqhires UK Mobile Gaming Studio Wonderland Software

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 08:52 AM PDT

Another day, another “acqhire” for social gaming giant Zynga. The company is announcing the acquisition of UK-based Wonderland Software, the social gaming studio behind the hit iOS game GodFinger. Zynga is acquiring the team and select IP from Wonderland but not GodFinger the game. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Wonderland Software will become Zynga Mobile UK and will be based near Guildford, a famous game development center in the UK. This marks Zynga's first studio in the UK, a market that Zynga says is important for the company. Wonderland Software CEO Matthew Wiggins immediately assumes the role of General Manager, Zynga Mobile UK, reporting to Zynga Mobile Chief David Ko.

Founded in 2009, Wonderland Software spawned from former staff members of Fable series developer Lionhead. The company’s most popular game GodFinger has been voted by Apple has one of the best iOS4 apps.

The company says that Zynga Mobile UK will use Wonderland’s talent and technology to focus on creating new mobile social titles that build on and expand Zynga's current mobile portfolio of games. This is also the fourth acquisition that represents Zynga’s expansion to a country outside of the U.S. Currently Zynga has studios in Tokyo, Beijing and Frankfurt (and has operations in Bangalore, India).

Zynga’s prior acquisitions in 2011 include JamLegend, MarketZero, Floodgate, social browser Flock, and New York’s Area/Code.



Sparkfly Raises $2.5 Million For Its Mobile Engagement Platform SparkQuest

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 07:57 AM PDT

Atlanta, GA-based Sparkfly has landed $2.5 million in funding for its mobile engagement platform, SparkQuest, which aims to connect consumer deal redemption with merchant point-of-sale technology.

This capability basically enables consumers to get instant and repeat rewards at the merchants they frequent most (merchant list here), as well as ‘experiences’ that are tailored to their personal interests.

SparkQuest also features interactive, game-like quests that are connected to merchant deals and rewards and allow consumers to engage with their friends and social networks.

Facts of Groupon’s and LivingSocial’s stunningly fast and continued growth notwithstanding, Sparkfly founder and CEO Catherine Tabor posits that consumers have ‘burned out on one-hit, mass-marketed daily deals’.

The company, founded in 2001, says it has dedicated several years to developing the technology that ‘fills that gap’, backed with a portfolio of more than 20 issued patents.



Nintendo Can’t Sell The 3DS And It’s Your Fault

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 07:51 AM PDT


The 3DS isn’t selling well and it’s your fault – at least that’s what Nintendo is suggesting. According to Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, most people don’t know what the heck to do with the thing. Jeez! CVG points to this quote:

The value of 3D images without the need for special glasses is hard to be understood through the existing media. However, we have found that people cannot feel it just by trying out a device, rather, some might even misestimate it when experiencing the images in an improper fashion.

Read more…



Sittercity Raises $22.6 Million To Connect Families With Caregivers

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 07:07 AM PDT

Chicago-based startup SitterCity has raised $22.6 million in funding led by New World Ventures and Baird Venture Partners, with Apex Venture Partners, I2A, and Point Judith Capital participating in the round. This brings SitterCity’s total funding to $30 million. Benedict Rocchio, BVP partner and Adam Koopersmith, partner with New World Ventures, will join the company’s Board of Directors.

SitterCity goes beyond just connecting families with child care. The site also offers access to caregivers for pet care, eldercare, home care and tutoring. Sittercity guides clients through an in-depth screening process of potential caregivers, which includes background checks, references and parent reviews.

To date, Sittercity has more than 2 million caregiver profiles across the nation, and has helped connect hundreds of thousands of parents find an in-home caregiver.

Sittercity has also built out a corporate program, where organizations and companies offer a branded Sittercity portal as a benefit to their employees. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense uses Sittercity to help military families, including active duty, reserve and guard, across the nation find in-home care. The Department of Defense actually provides these families with a paid membership to Sittercity. Other corporate clients include MasterCard, Avon, Sega, Fox and Northwestern.

The new funding will be used to develop additional corporate partnerships as well as for expanding the site’s services internationally.

Sittercity isn’t the first Chicago startup to raise a large venture round this year. GrubHub just landed $20 million in new funding.



Openstack-based Midostack Lets Companies Scale And Manage Flexible Virtual Networks With Commodity Hardware

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 07:03 AM PDT

In July last year, Rackspace caused quite a splash in the cloud computing world when it decided to opensource the software behind its cloud storage and computing platforms to create Openstack, an Iaas-based cloud platform (more on that from the Scobleizer). Fast forward 9 months, and we are seeing over 60 companies worldwide (Dell, Cisco, Intel, NTT Data to name just a few) developing solutions based on Openstack.

Tokyo-based Midokura is currently working to solve a hard problem that has barely been tackled before: flexibly virtualizing networks. Midokura’s key technology is called Midonet, a network virtualization platform that creates a control layer on top of the physical network. The company says it’s the only one to have “a true virtual network model” in a cloud stack.

According to Midokura, Midonet can be deployed on top of any existing IP network. Users are able to create virtual layer 2 switches, load balancers, routers, and firewalls with the click of a button (or by programmatically using an API call). Virtual machines can be moved around a physical infrastructure, with the virtual network following automatically. (In other words, the virtual network topology is completely independent from the physical layer.)

In addition, Midonet components are supposedly fault tolerant (Midokura CEO Tatsuya Kato promises there will be no single point of failure in the system), and scale out: the virtualization platform runs on commodity hardware, which means infrastructure costs could go down drastically (adding a Midonet-powered server to the stack is enough, the platform will take care of the rest).

Midonet can be used by integrating the platform into existing products, as a standalone solution, via a NaaS model, or through Midostack, Midokura’s own cloud (IaaS/EC2) distribution of Openstack (basically the delivery mechanism for Midonet and the company’s main product).

Midokura has started accepting a limited number of people into the beta testing phase (for pilot projects, for example) for Midostack.

The Tokyo-based company is currently expanding aggressively to further develop and market Midostack worldwide. An office in Europe is already in place, with Midokura actively hiring developers and business managers both there and for its office in San Francisco that will be opened this summer (possibly followed by another one in Singapore later this year).

Midokura, which tells me they seek a series A this year, just raised $1.3 million in a seed-funding round from a number of big-name investors, including Japan’s biggest telco NTT, the country’s leading independent IDC Bit-Isle and major software vendor 1st Holdings.



We Translate Apple’s Q&A On Location Data So You Don’t Have To

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 06:55 AM PDT

1. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?

Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

We don’t know where you take your iPhone.

We’re not Google evil.

2. Then why is everyone so concerned about this?

Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.

We’re mildly sorry we confused you there for a second. Now please calm down, and sorry for not asking you to calm down before there was any reason for you to have to calm down.

3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?

The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

We don’t log your location, merely the location you and others connect to the Web or send an SMS or whatever. It helps us calculate your location next time you connect more rapidly and stuff. We don’t even really want to know where you hang out.

4. Is this crowd-sourced database stored on the iPhone?

The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone's location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).

We don’t store all the data we gather on your phone, but we do back part of it up on your computer. It’s innocent data, we swear, but we’ll stop backing it up soon anyway.

5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

Why would we even want to know you regularly go shopping at the local WalMart – or one of those Microsoft retail stores they ripped off from us?

6. People have identified up to a year's worth of location data being stored on the iPhone. Why does my iPhone need so much data in order to assist it in finding my location today?

This data is not the iPhone's location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location. The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data.

Ok, we admit we kept location data that could potentially determine your whereabouts for a long time, but that was a bug. We already fired some engineers over it so it’s not really a problem anymore. And we’ll cut the time we keep the data down to a week, mmkay?

7. When I turn off Location Services, why does my iPhone sometimes continue updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple's crowd-sourced database?

It shouldn't. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).

Whoops! You got us there. Look the other way while we fix the glitch.

8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

Before some researcher does some researching again and you start whining about their findings, yes we collect other types of location data, but we’ll use it to build a truly magical service by the time you forget this whole location tracking ordeal ever took place.

9. Does Apple currently provide any data collected from iPhones to third parties?

We provide anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps. Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad (for example, to request the ad locate the Target store nearest them).

We haven’t identified any bugs that automatically forward all your location data to your mom, wife or employer. Yet.

10. Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?

Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.

Since you asked; we love you and mean you no harm. We were first to mean you no harm, too.

Software Update

Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:

- reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
- ceases backing up this cache, and
- deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.

Again, we’re not evil. But we’ll fix some bugs that were uncovered by people other than us just to make sure you will forever remember we aren’t evil. The best part of it? We’re not even going to charge you for it. Look, shiny white iPhones underway!



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

RIM Acquires Social Calendaring Application Tungle.Me

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 06:19 AM PDT

RIM has picked up another company today—social calendaring application Tungle.Me. The startup taps into your social graph and simplifies the process of finding and connecting with friends and colleagues.

Tungle.me, which we’ve previously written about here, offers users a free web-based application that lets you share calendars across companies and platforms, schedule meetings with individuals or groups inside or outside their company and propose multiple meeting times in invitations. The service currently syncs with a number of calendar applications, including Outlook, Google Calendar, and Apple iCal.

Since Tungle’s launch in 2009, the company’s scheduling offering was being used at 800 Universities around the world, by 40% of Fortune 1000 companies, and users from over 150 countries.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but on Tungle’s website, the company states that entire Tungle team is joining the ranks of RIM. Tungle.Me has raised $6.36 million in funding.

RIM has been making a number of acquisitions in the past few months, including HTML5 mobile developer TinyHippos, professional contact manager Gist, and UI development team The Astonishing Tribe.



LinkedIn Takes A Data Dive To Examine What’s In A Professional Name

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 06:00 AM PDT

There have been many studies examining the most popular and ideal names for CEOs and professionals. But what’s better than examining the actual data from over 100 million professionals from around the globe? Professional social network LinkedIn has done a deep data dive on the top CEO names, and most popular names by industry and country.

LinkedIn contrasted CEOs with the average LinkedIn professional to find the top names that are over-represented among CEOs. The top CEO names found on the network, in order, are: Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce, Fred, Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia, and Carolyn. One trend LinkedIn highlights is that the most over-indexed CEO names for males tend to be either short or shortened versions of popular first names. Female CEOs, on the other hand, use their full name to project a more professional image, reports the network.

In terms of name length by industry, short, four-letter names are even more popular in sales (Chip, Trey, Todd) but not in engineering (Rajesh, Jeremy, Andrew) or the restaurant industry, where the top over-represented names are Thierry, Philippe and Laurent.

By country, Howard took the top CEO name in the U.S., Ray won in Canada, Charles for the U.K., Tony for Ireland, Gilles for France, Wolfgang for Germany, Guido for Italy, Xavier for Spain, Rajiv for India, Mike for New Zealand, Bruce for Australia and Roberto for Brazil.

Of course, it’s important to note that these names correlate with members who indicated they are CEO positions at companies around the world on their LinkedIn profiles.



PapayaMobile Raises $18 Million For Mobile Social Gaming Network

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 05:45 AM PDT

PapayaMobile, the developer of a plug and play technology that incorporates social gaming elements into iOS and Android games, has secured $18 million in Series B funding led by Chinese venture firm Keytone Ventures and DCM. This brings Papaya’s total funding to $22 million.

PapayaMobile hosts mobile games on its social network, which is comprised of over 15 million users and offers mobile developers the tools to build social gaming apps on Android and iOS. Since launching the gaming platform last year, 350 applications have integrated PapayaMobile. PapayaMobile has experienced over 375% growth in its user base since opening its social gaming network in June of 2010.

And Papaya has placed a big bet on the Android platform specifically. The company was one of the first developers to integrate Google Android's in-app billing on its social gaming network to enable microtransactions.

The new funding will be used to help expand PapayaMobile’s developer ecosystem in both the U.S. and Europe and to improve serve infrastructure so that the company can scale. Papaya is also looking to expand its platform to the Chinese market.

Joe Zhou, founder and managing partner of Keytone Ventures said in a statement: Android growth in China over the next 2 years will be staggering…Couple this growth with the monetization potential of mobile games in China and we believe PapayaMobile is well positioned to be the leader in social gaming platforms for the largest mobile market in the world.



The White iPhone Is Official, Available April 28

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 05:39 AM PDT

Apple has just announced the availability of the white iPhone. Unlike the black iPhone, it is able to reflect all colors of the visible spectrum, thereby making it white. It will be available tomorrow at Apple retail stores, AT&T, and Verizon wireless. It will also be available in the following countries on Thursday, April 28:

White models of iPhone 4 will be available in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Macau, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK and the US

Standard pricing. Our long national nightmare is over.

Read more…



Apple Responds To Location Tracking Kerfuffle, Says It’s Innocent, Blames Bugs

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 05:34 AM PDT

Apple aims to – finally – set the record straight about the gathering and use of location information by iOS devices. The entire Q&A can be found below.

Apple starts off by stating that it has never tracked, and will never track the location of a customer’s iPhone. The company goes on to say it’s partly to blame for any ‘confusion’ about it, though, because users haven’t been ‘educated’ to fully understand the technical issues with providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information.

That said, the company did identify several ‘bugs’ which it says it will fix shortly.

As we posited earlier, Apple says it’s merely maintaining a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending geo-tagged locations, both anonymously and encrypted.

According to the Cupertino company, the location data that researchers spotted on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone's location, which it adds can be more than one hundred miles away from the device in question.

Apple says it simply can not identify the source of this data (i.e. your location).

Nevertheless, the company says it will release a free iOS software update sometime in the next few weeks that reduces the size of the Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone, start encrypting and refrain from backing up this cache and delete it entirely when Location Services is turned off by the user.

Apple admits that this storing the cache for such a long time was a bug that will be fixed, ultimately recognizing that this was a valid source for concern. Another bug resulted in the iPhone continually updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple's crowd-sourced database even after the user turned off Location Services on his phone.

Earlier this week, a class action suit was filed, accusing Apple of invasion of privacy and computer fraud and of “secretly recording movements of iPhone and iPad users.”

French, German, Italian and South Korean regulators had also started investigating the alleged location collection feature on Apple devices following publication of the researchers report.

Does Apple’s response sound credible to you?

Apple Q&A on Location Data:

1. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?

Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

2. Then why is everyone so concerned about this?

Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.

3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?

The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

4. Is this crowd-sourced database stored on the iPhone?

The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone's location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).

5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

6. People have identified up to a year's worth of location data being stored on the iPhone. Why does my iPhone need so much data in order to assist it in finding my location today?

This data is not the iPhone's location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location. The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data.

7. When I turn off Location Services, why does my iPhone sometimes continue updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple's crowd-sourced database?

It shouldn't. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).

8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

9. Does Apple currently provide any data collected from iPhones to third parties?

We provide anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps. Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad (for example, to request the ad locate the Target store nearest them).

10. Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?

Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.

Software Update

Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:

- reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
- ceases backing up this cache, and
- deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.



AdSense For Images Pixazza Surpasses 100M Unique Monthly Visitors; Hires CFO

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 05:30 AM PDT

Pixazza, a Google Ventures-backed photo tagging service that has been compared to an "AdSense for Images," has hired a new executive officer today, appointing Terry Murphy has Chief Financial Officer. The company has also surpassed 100 million unique visitors per month, which is up from 70 million unique visitors per month in March.

Murphy joins Pixazza from Risemart, where he was CFO. Previously, Murphy was the senior vice president of finance for virtual call center company LiveOps. In his six years at LiveOps, he helped led the company’s financial operations during a period of explosive growth as annual revenues increased from $18 million to $140 million. In his new role, he will direct Pixazza's finance, accounting, human resources, facilities and legal functions.

As we’ve written in the past, Pixazza allows publishers to identify, tag and match products found within online images on their sites and then link them back to the inventories of Pixazza's network of advertisers. The service, which can be integrated in a site by adding a single line of code, allows consumers to browse the photos featured on a site and mouse over it to reveal information and pricing about similar products, and if desired, click to purchase.

Through the company’s network of publishers, Pixazza now reaches more than 100 million unique users per month, a 45% increase in just one month. Pixazza currently works with thousands of publishers, including US Weekly and Access Hollywood. The startup, which has raised nearly $20 million in funding, faces competition from Image Space Media, GumGum and others.



CloudPassage Raises $6.5 Million For Cloud Server Security Software

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 05:00 AM PDT

CloudPassage, the developer of cloud server security software, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding led by led by Benchmark Capital.

CloudPassage offers a server security and compliance product specifically built for elastic, dynamic cloud environments. While companies are able to deploy security firewalls around content stored in data centers, as companies move to the cloud for servers, they face a security challenge of securing a dynamic, scalable environment.

CloudPassage specializes in providing security in cloud hosting environments where consistent physical location, network control and perimeter security are not guaranteed. The company's product includes high-accuracy server security configuration and vulnerability management and centralized management of host-based firewalls.

One of the key components to CloudPassage’s SaaS is the Halo architecture, which automates multiple
server security functions and allows companies to deploy security in public cloud environments. Halo combines an ultra-lightweight guest VM software component with an elastic compute grid optimized for security operations.

Although the company only recently launched its software, it is already being used by well-known clients. For example, Foursquare is using CloudPassage for security of its cloud servers. Other clients include those who host SaaS applications, with dynamic server needs.



Viewdle Releases SocialCamera For Android: Instant Photo Tagging, Sharing

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 04:55 AM PDT

Visual analysis company Viewdle this morning launched an Android app called SocialCamera that allows users to instantly tag photos, add captions and share them on Flickr or Facebook, by email or MMS. The demo video below explains how the app works in more detail.

The Android application, which is still in beta and not to be confused with Justin.TV’s Socialcam app, is free of charge and should be available through Android Market today.

The first time you use the app, you’ll notice you’ll have to identify your Facebook friends. After that, however, the app will be able to detect and tag persons automatically, which is of course far more appealing an offer.

Also worth noting: you’ll need a device running Android 2.x with a 1GHz – or faster – processor to run the app. I tested it on an HTC Desire HD phone and it worked like a charm.

Viewdle was founded back in 2007 and last October raised $10 million in Series B funding from a group of investors including Best Buy, BlackBerry Partners Fund and Qualcomm.

On a sidenote: I organized my first Plugg conference back in March 2008, and the fledgling company took home the top prize at the startup competition that year (it later went on to win the one at Le Web, too).



My Dinner Date With The White iPhone

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 03:55 AM PDT

There it was. Like the White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver. It was 15 feet away from me. The white iPhone.

Tonight I was at dinner with a couple of friends when something caught my eye. I cut into our conversation. “Look at the table next to ours. Is that the white iPhone?” Both of my friends, geeks like me, got excited. Yep.

A man at the next table in his 20s or 30s sitting with a female companion kept picking up the device and then setting it back down on the table. But it was as if he was setting it down in the perfect place on the table to show it off to all those with a line of sight. He wanted people to see what he had.

I tried to subtlety take a couple pictures with my own iPhone. A black one. But we were just out of range and the restaurant was just a little too dark to get a good shot. Then one of my friends abruptly stood up and walked over to the man with the mythical device.

“Is that the white iPhone?”

“Um… Yeah.”

The man quickly shoves the phone into his pocket.

“Is it the real one or a custom one?”

“Real.”

My friend comes back to relay the conversation to us. “It’s real.”

Within two minutes the man and woman are up and gone from that restaurant. We spooked them. Who was he? Apple employee? Apple Store manager? Professional unicorn tamer? I have no clue.

I tweeted about the close encounter. Within 15 minutes, I had a few emails from employees at various stores around the U.S. (Apple and otherwise) saying that they’re definitely in their backrooms ready to roll. “It’s just a matter of the big boss announcing it,” one writes.

Will that be tomorrow (like we suggested a few weeks ago)? Probably.

Just about 11 (strange) months after I first held one, I’ll be able to walk into an Apple Store and marvel at the white iPhone again. A fanboy’s dream finally fulfilled.

I’m sort of disappointed Apple didn’t send a review unit our way. I had the perfect review set up:

Read this. It’s just like that. But white.

Boom. What a night.

(These last two pictures are from my first encounter in the hands on area after the iPhone 4 unveiling in June 2010.)



CenturyLink Buys IT Infrastructure Services Company Savvis In $2.5B Deal

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 03:43 AM PDT

CenturyLink this morning announced that it will acquire all outstanding shares of Savvis common stock in a cash and stock merger valued at $40 per share, or a total of approximately $2.5 billion, plus net debt of approximately $0.7 billion which will be assumed or refinanced at close. Under the terms of the transaction, Savvis stockholders will receive $30 per share in cash and $10 in shares of CenturyLink common stock. The consideration represents an 11 percent premium over Savvis' closing stock price as of the close of trading on April 26, 2011.


Hey BT, We Put A Countdown Clock On Your Ineptitude

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 02:55 AM PDT

We recently brought your attention to the scandalous delays BT Openreach is capable of when being asked, in simple terms, to connect a central London building up to a fibre broadband connection. At the same time the UK government – and the local Greater London Authority – has been convening meeting after meeting to try to work out how to help the emerging technology cluster in East London, we have, in effect, a monopoly lumbering on, blind or just plain stupid when it comes to the level of service most modern businesses expect of each-other.



Facebook, It’s Time For An iPad App

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 02:29 AM PDT

The other day I was browsing through the App Store on my iPad when I noticed something: both the top free and top paid applications for the device were apps for accessing Facebook. And as I kept going down the top apps lists, I kept seeing Facebook apps. In fact, of the top 40 apps (free and paid combined), a full 7 of them were ways to use Facebook on the iPad.

In other words, nearly 20 percent of the top apps being downloaded for the iPad are apps that allow you to use Facebook on the device. And not one of them is actually made by Facebook. Because they refuse to make their own iPad app for some seemingly illogical reason.

Facebook, it’s time.

Facebook not having their own iPad app is strange for a few reasons. First of all, they’ve been making an iPhone app since day one of the App Store. And in fact, it’s the most downloaded app of all time in the App Store. And they regularly update it and use it to release new features that aren’t available on the site yet (like event check-ins recently).

So it’s not like they hate iOS. Nor do they hate native applications. They also make apps for Android, Windows Phone, and other devices.

And it’s very clear that there’s a huge demand for a native Facebook iPad app. See: the information up top.

What’s crazy is that Facebook is letting other developers not affiliated with the company own this space. That’s great for those developers, but it’s potentially bad for Facebook. Most of the apps that promise a “native” iPad Facebook experience are simply Facebook’s touch-optimized site wrapped in skins. And most of them are mediocre — not to mention very ugly. And many of them even charge customers for those experiences!

That’s the way thousands (if not millions) of users are experiencing Facebook on a daily basis. These developers effectively own the Facebook brand on the device. In fact, many of them use “Facebook” in the title of their apps, which just leads to further confusion that they may be official apps. (I wonder how many customers think they’re paying Facebook money for these apps?)

Facebook has come down on this type of brand-jacking in the past in the App Store. But it keeps happening because there is so much demand for a Facebook iPad app. A search for “Facebook” in the App Store on the iPad brings up 989 results. Some are simply apps that use Facebook Connect and have it in their descriptions, but many of them are apps designed solely to give users a native app Facebook experience. And many do subtle things to try and trick users into thinking that they’re official apps.

It has been over a year and Facebook still has not gotten out in front of this problem.

Contrast this with Twitter which is proactively trying to take control of their user experience across platforms by telling third-party developers not to focus on making new Twitter clients. Obviously, that has caused some controversy since Twitter has long thrived on such community-built clients. But it also makes sense: Twitter wants to control the way users experience their product. It’s just hard to believe that Facebook doesn’t.

Or do they?

Even though Facebook has indicated time and time again that they’re not too interested in building a native iPad app, there are no shortage of whispers that (at least) one such app has been in testing for quite some time. Facebook CTO Bret Taylor has indicated that the iPad was an unfortunate casualty in the way Facebook’s device teams were broken up until recently. At the same time, he would only commit to the company being at work on a better tablet-optimized experience — not necessarily a native application.

In fact, Taylor and Facebook have been talking up the HTML5 benefits in recent months, as opposed to native app development. On paper, that sounds great. But Facebook has to realize that native applications are still going to be far superior to anything done with HTML5 for at least a few years. Even Facebook employee (and the guy who built Facebook’s iPhone app) Joe Hewitt clearly understands this.

Facebook’s actual website works pretty well on the iPad in the Safari browser, but it lacks key features such as new message notifications when you’re away because it’s not native. And there’s no way to upload media. And it can’t access some of the powerful APIs that native apps can access. And Facebook’s single sign-on aspect won’t work without a native app.

Again, Facebook needs an iPad app. And if I had to bet on it, I’d bet that despite their stubbornness on the issue, we will eventually see one. Some are projecting Apple to sell upwards of 45 million iPads this year. Facebook simply cannot ignore that. Imagine Friendly or one of the other popular Facebook iPad apps making up a sizable chunk of visitors. I can’t see Facebook allowing that to continue happening.

Finally, with a native iPad app, Facebook can actually innovate in the space. Just like Twitter pushed new ideas forward with their iPad app (which pointed towards the work they would eventually unveil for New Twitter), Facebook can play around with new types of touch interfaces and interactions on the platform.

A Facebook-built iPad app would be the most popular app on the device without question. It would be installed on nearly every device out there. It’s time for Facebook to stop playing around and build the damn thing.



Nokia To Cut 4,000 Jobs Worldwide, Transfer 3,000 Symbian Jobs To Accenture

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 01:31 AM PDT

It was inevitable. Nokia this morning announced plans to ‘align its global workforce and consolidate site operations’. That means significant layoffs and reorganizations across the board, of course, so here are the details:

First off, Nokia will be cutting its workforce by roughly 4,000 employees by the end of 2012.

The majority of job cuts will be in the company’s home country Finland, as well as Denmark and the UK. Discussions with employee representatives started today, Nokia says.

The giant phone manufacturer has partnered with Accenture to transfer all its Symbian software activites, including about 3,000 employees, to the latter company.

Accenture will, in turn, provide mobility software services to Nokia for future smartphones.

On March 31, 2011, Nokia says it employed a total of 130,951 people (of which 5,642 were employed by NAVTEQ and 66,229 were employed by Nokia Siemens Networks).

Nokia employs about 12,000 people in Finland alone – 1,400 of those will be cut.

All employees affected by the reduction plans can opt to remain on the Nokia payroll through the end of 2011. The company says it expects cuts to occur in phases until the end of next year, linked to the roll-out of its planned product and services portfolio.

Nokia aims to reduce its Devices & Services operating expenses by 1 billion euros for the full year 2013 in comparison to the full year 2010, as previously announced.

Update: The Register obtained an internal memo.

Nokia says it intends to ramp up its capacity for the development of smartphones based on the Windows Phone platform – the deal with Microsoft was signed last week on Thursday.

Nokia adds that it plans to “consolidate the company’s research and product development sites so that each site has a clear role and mission”. This will result in the contraction or closure of some sites, although the company leaves the door open for expansion of other sites.

Nokia has long been struggling to come up with a solid answer to Apple’s iPhone and the steamroll that is Android in the global smartphone segment, which is the main reason for its continued decline. Question is if it will ever be able to make a comeback.

Said Stephen Elop, Nokia president and CEO:

“At Nokia, we have new clarity around our path forward, which is focused on our leadership across smart devices, mobile phones and future disruptions.

However, with this new focus, we also will face reductions in our workforce. This is a difficult reality, and we are working closely with our employees and partners to identify long-term re-employment programs for the talented people of Nokia.”

Accenture and Nokia have been working together since 1994. In October 2009, Accenture acquired Nokia’s professional services unit that provides engineering and support of the Symbian operating system to mobile device manufacturers and service providers, and which then served as a ‘key building block’ in Accenture’s Mobility services portfolio.

Nokia last week reported its earnings for the first quarter of 2011. Profit declined 1.4 percent year-over-year, and the company offered a bleak outlook for the second quarter of 2011: Nokia said it expects operating margins from its handset business to slip in Q2.

(Hat tip to Tim Weber)

Also read:

Nokia heading to Silicon Valley? And the 'Standing on a burning platform' memo
Nokia Microsoft is like Yahoo Bing – Nokia's days as innovator are over



Google Realtime Search Quietly Adds Quora, Gowalla, Others

Posted: 27 Apr 2011 12:44 AM PDT

Google Realtime Search is nothing new. For months it has existed as its own area within the search engine’s navigation to search for things happening in realtime. But up until now, that has meant mainly Twitter (thanks to Google’s data deal with that company). But earlier today, it appears Google flipped the switch to make Realtime Search a lot more useful. Namely, they’ve added results from services like Quora, Gowalla, and a range of others.

As pointed out in this Quora thread, it looks like Google flipped the switch to include the data from the services listed above (as well as others) this afternoon. The fact that Quora co-founder Adam D’Angelo and CFO Marc Bodnick voted up this Quora posting suggests this did in fact just happen today.

As the Quora user notes, “Google Realtime Search is indexing Quora activity such as asking Questions, adding Answers, upvoting Answers, and submitting Posts.” And that’s great news for Quora. But it’s equally great for the other services now included in the realtime feed Google surfaces — namely because they also sometimes surface these results on the main Google.com as well.

We’ve known for sometime that Google was working with Quora to generate better social results. Gowalla is interesting in the fact that this data is public. For example, I just searched for myself and found my own check-in this evening (it’s public on Gowalla.com as well — unlike Foursquare, which only shows this location data when you connect with someone).

Also included is Facebook data. But it would seem that this data has been included for some time even though the timeline graphs indicate it’s new.

Update: We previously stated that Buzz and Facebook data was new, but it looks like it has been there for a bit, even though the timeline graphs suggest they’re new. Quora, Gowalla, and some of the others definitely do appear to be new additions though.



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