Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Ning And Ustream Launch In-Depth Integration To Allow Creators To Stream Live Video

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 09:45 AM PDT

Ning and live stream video company Ustream are announcing an integrated partnership today that allows Ning network creators to broadcast live video and audio on their website at anytime, complete with live chat capabilities and more.

With the integration, live video content can easily be embedded networks hosted by Ning, allowing users to broadcast via Ustream. Not only can users embed Ustream channels into Ning websites, but creators can also add an indicator to the site to alert visitors of a live broadcast. In addition, the integration allows for live chats during streaming.

Ustream is available to all Ning Plus and Pro subscribers, and also includes automatic access to previously uploaded Ustream files, directly from the site management screens.It’s important to note that Ustream creators could previously add Ustream live video streams through an OpenSocial plugin, but this integration is a deeply integrated, native experience for creators that adds new functionality such as live chat and more.

A number of Ning Creators will begin live-streaming video to their members today including band Weezer, which will be streaming a Q&A and Pre-Show Warm-up from a concert in Austin.



Exclusive: Microsofties Debut Local Q&A Site LOCQL (Ahead Of Hipster)

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 09:31 AM PDT

I don’t know if combining one relatively new trend (location-based services) with one that has been around for long but still leaves much to be desired (Q&A) makes perfect business sense, but a growing number of startups sure seems to think it does.

You’ve heard about Hipster, the yet-to-launch local Q&A service that recently raised $1 million from Silicon Valley elite, or perhaps about some of its competitors Loqly, Gootip, Loqize.me or Localmind. As from this week, you can consider LOCQL a new contender.

The concept behind LOCQL’s take on local Q&A is fairly straightforward. Users sign up through Facebook Connect and are then encouraged to share as much information about a given place that could be useful to other people, whether they are visitors or residents.

LOCQL users can vote on answers based on their quality and interact with other community members. Eventually, LOCQL should become collaborative community building an extensive database of answers about places, local businesses and whatnot, on a global scale.

The startup’s co-founder, Haitao Li, tells me they consider the key problem in local search today to not be the data set but the missing link between user queries and location information. LOCQL aims to leverage users’ existing social graphs as well as game mechanics to try and change that.

Li was previously a Senior Software Development Engineer at Microsoft. LOCQL’s other co-founder is Robert Mao, SDE at Microsoft Research and the company’s FUSE labs.

An early prototype of LOCQL was actually created during a Startup weekend event in Seattle.

The company is at present self-funded but Li says they’ve already been approached by quite some VCs despite keeping a relatively low profile.

Worth noting: Li and Mao still work at Microsoft – they’re moonlighting.

As a matter of fact, LOCQL actually runs on Google App Engine.



Citi Analyst: Kindle Will Be 10 Percent Of Amazon Sales In 2012

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 09:30 AM PDT

As books goes digital, Amazon is managing the transition nicely with the Kindle. Amazon now sells more Kindle books than print books, and offers nearly a million ebook titles. In a research note that just went out this morning, citi analyst Mark Mahaney estimates that sales of Kindle devices and digital books will account for 10 percent of Amazon’s revenues in 2012.

Thanks to the Kindle, Amazon’s U.S. book business is growing faster than at any point in the last ten years. So far in 2011, Amazon has sold three times as many Kindle books as during the same period last year.

Mahaney estimates that total Kindle revenues last year were $2.5 billion, or 7.2 percent of Amazon’s total. He thinks that total Kindle revenues will hit $3.8 billion this year (8.0 percent of revenues), and $6.1 billion in 2012 (9.9 percent). He breaks that down between device sales and ebook sales (see his model below). For instance, he just increased his estimate of how many Kindle devices Amazon will sell this year from 16.5 million to 17.5 million units, and he expects another 26 million Kindles to be sold in 2012.

The number of Kindle books sold this year will increase to an estimated 314 million, from 124 million in 2010. And Mahaney expects that number to grow another 140 percent in 2012 to 752 million.

Digital book revenues should surpass device revenues in 2012, when Mahaney estimates that Amazon will make $2.4 billion from device sales and another $3.7 billion from Kindle book sales.

Now Amazon just has to figure out how to transition its sales of physical CDs and DVDs in music and movies as effectively as it is doing for books. HD Kindle Movie Player anyone?



Live From Nintendo’s E3 2011 Keynote! It’s New Wii Time!

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 09:05 AM PDT

We’re here at Nokia Theater right by the LA Convention Center for Nintendo’s E3 Day One keynote. We expect a number of reveals, including updates on Zelda: Skyward Sword, a brand new Mario for the 3DS, and most importantly, the successor to the Wii, code-named “Project Cafe.” While we don’t expect a playable console (it may arrive by the holidays, but even that may be optimistic), we’ll get to see the mythical mega-controller with the 6-inch screen, dual cameras, and who knows, maybe a vitality sensor. We’re entering now and should be getting the news flowing in just a few minutes here.

Read the rest at CrunchGear >>



Rally Lands $20M For Agile Application Lifecycle Management Solutions

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 08:32 AM PDT

Rally Software, a specialist in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions, this morning announced that it has raised $20 million in funding led by Meritech Capital Partners (an investor in companies like Facebook, NetSuite and Salesforce.com). The funding will be used for growth and to accelerate adoption of Rally's platform for Agile development.


Fusion-io Ups Price Of IPO To $16 To $18 Per Share; Now Valued At $1.4 Billion

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 07:40 AM PDT

The technology IPO rush continues this week as Fusion-IO, the developer of flash- memory technology for companies, increased the price of its IPO to $16 to $18 per share. The company had previously priced its shares at $13 to $15 per share, which valued the company at as much as $1.17 billion. The increase announced today puts Fusion-io’s total value at $1.4 billion.

Fusion-io's enterprise flash-based drives help store data in smaller devices and is known for being an incredibly fast data storage solution. Facebook is a client of Fusion-io, which has raised $110 million from Meritech Capital Partners, Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz and Triangle Peak Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Fusion-io is planning to sell 10,755,607 shares in the offering; and current stockholders will be offering 1,544,393 shares as well. The company plans to raise as much as $254.6 million (up from $212 million a few weeks ago), and will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "FIO."

Investors are keeping a close watch on Fusion-io, which is expected to begin trading this Thursday. In the nine months that ended March 31 (its fiscal year ends June 30), revenue quintupled to $125.5 million and gross profit quadrupled to $65.7 million. But as Dow Jones notes, 10 clients account for 91% of the company’s revenue and Facebook alone generated 47% of Fusion-io’s revenue in the past nine months.



Electronics Manufacturing Company PCH International Raises $30 Million

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 07:17 AM PDT

We’ve written quite a bit about PCH International, a China-based supply chain solutions company and a leader in the accessories market for e-readers, tablets and smartphones. Most recently, we covered the launch of their business accelerator program, which was presented on stage at Disrupt NYC.

The company just announced that it has raised a new round of funding, to the tune of $30 million. Two new investors (Northbrooks Investments and J. Christopher Burch) participated in the round alongside existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Triangle Peak Partners, Cross Creek Capital and Fung Capital.

The company basically designs, produces and packages electronics and accessories in partnership with major gadget brands.

See Michael Arrington’s coverage of PCH’s past funding rounds:

PCH International, Gadget Maker Extraordinaire, Raises Another $26 Million (Feb 2011)

$21 Million For Mr. China (Sept 2008)



Wih 3.2 Million Downloads Under Its Belt, Fotopedia Launches National Geographic Photo App

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 06:48 AM PDT

It was almost a year ago when Fotopedia launched its first iPad photo app which brings together 20,000 gorgeous images of World Heritage sites around the world. Since then, it’s launched three more (Fotopedia Paris, Fotopedia National Parks, and Memory of Colors).

All together, Fotopedia’s photo apps have been downloaded 3.2 million times. And today it is going to launch its fifth app called “Dreams of Burma” in partnership with National Geographic.

Dreams Of Burma brings together more than 1,000 images of the people and landscapes of Burma from Fotopedia photographers. The collection was both created and curated by the Fotopedia community, and then vetted by Fotopedia’s own photo editors and the editor of National Geographic Traveler. Like Fotopedia’s other iPad “photo books,” you can explore the images tags, swiping through, or shuffling for a random selection.

Every photo is geo-tagged and linked to a Wikipedia entry which you can call up in the app. And just like the Paris app, if you see a picture of a place you want to visit, you can see where it is on a map and add it to your itinerary. Other photos taken nearby will also appear as pins on the map.

There are no photos from National Geographic itself, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the images, which are all stunning. Although, it seems like a missed opportunity for National Geographic to showcase some of their photographers as well. But there are licensing issues, since all the Fotopedia photos are Creative Commons by default. “We want to drive this industry to get to a new model better for the mobile space,” says CEO Jean-Marie Huillot. “We have to start with something simple.”

After experimenting with both paid and free apps, Huillot is leaning towards making future apps free with sponsorships. “People who take this space today will be the kings tomorrow,” he says hopefully. “You have to find a way to get the biggest audience you can.”

Huillot shared some more stats with me on how his apps are doing. Of the 3.2 million people who have downloaded a Fotopedia app, half are active on a monthly basis. The average time per session is 18 minutes. And the audience is truly international, with only 30 percent of downloads coming from the U.S., 40 percent from Europe, and 25 percent from Asia.

The two most popular apps are Fotopedia Paris and Fotopedia Heritage. Huillot wants to put out a new app every 5 or 6 weeks, which keeps driving adoption. One of his next apps will be a Fotopedia Cities app modeled on the Paris app, but with many more cities.



Yellow Pages Teams Up With Foursquare For “Venue Harmonization Project”

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 06:47 AM PDT

Canada's Yellow Pages Group has inked a deal with NYC location-based social networking startup Foursquare in a move to participate in the latter’s “venue harmonization project”, an effort to improve the accuracy of business locations in the Foursquare database.

Foursquare breaks out venues into a dedicated API to help developers with their own location-based apps. As part of the agreement, Yellow Pages will be rendering 1.5 million Canadian business listings and information accessible to the social networking site through YellowAPI.com, the company's own open platform application programming interface.

The deal will also allow the hundreds of developers using YellowAPI.com today to integrate Foursquare functionality into their apps.

YPG is the first Canadian business to participate in Foursquare’s project.

Other partners include The New York Times, New York Magazine, Thrillist, and MenuPages.



Juniper: NFC Payments To Reach $50 Billion Worldwide By 2014

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 06:00 AM PDT

We know Google has made a big bet on near field communications (NFC) as a payments system with the launch of Google Wallet, but does the technology have the potential to be the future of how money is transacted? Juniper Research seems to think so. The company is releasing a new report that forecasts that global NFC mobile contactless payment transactions will reach nearly $50 billion worldwide by 2014.

Juniper says that NFC is steadily gaining traction, and because of the latest rollout of the technology both in the U.S. and outside the U.S., 2011 and 2012 are expected to be “banner years for NFC service rollouts.”

For background, NFC enables people to make transactions, exchange digital content and connect electronic devices with a simple touch. As we’ve seen with Google, Android phones such as the Nexus S are being built with NFC chips, making your cell phone a mobile wallet. It’s unclear if Apple will add NFC technology to the iPhone 5.

Of course, NFC has gained traction in international markets before the U.S. Orange Mobile is using the technology, and Starbucks is set to sign on to use the technology to enable payments in the U.K.

Juniper says that in the next 18 months, we will see implementations of the technology in up to 20 countries. In fact, Juniper is forecasting that North America and Western Europe together will exceed the Far East region in under three years based on transaction value. North America and Western Europe will account for 50% of NFC payments market by value in 2014.

As we’ve written in the past, there are a number of barriers that could prevent NFC technology from becoming a mainstream technology, so it’s not a sure thing that NFC will reach the sort of scale that Juniper is forecasting.

Photo via MacRumors



A New CEO And $22 Million For Liquid Robotics, Makers Of Wave-Powered, Unmanned Marine Vehicles

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 05:48 AM PDT

Liquid Robotics has raised a $22 million series d investment, led by VantagePoint Capital Partners. Based in Hawaii and California, the company makes wave-powered, marine drones that are remote controlled by satellite, and capable of roaming the seas unmanned to gather environmental and defense-related data.

Liquid Robotics also announced the appointment of a new chief executive officer today, Bill Vass, previously the president and chief of operations at Sun Microsystems Federal.

VPCP’s cleantech portfolio includes: the now-public Solazyme, makers of algae-based chemicals and fuels; Tesla Motors the electric vehicle pioneers; a designer and builder of large-scale solar power plants, BrightSource Energy; and Ostara, a company with technology that removes phosphorous and other nutrients out of the ocean (where in too high concentration, they can harm marine life) and recycles these into sustainable fertilizers.

Oilfield services provider Schlumberger also contributed to the series d round in Liquid Robotics. The company’s vehicles are used today in oil field exploration and monitoring.



Exclusive: Salesforce Invests In Video Messaging Startup (And Skype Rival) VSee

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 05:34 AM PDT

VSee, a video collaboration service provider, has received a capital injection from Salesforce, TechCrunch has learned. The amount was not disclosed, but we’ve been informed that the investment amounted to ‘multiple millions of dollars’.

Coinciding with the investment announcement, the company today announced the upcoming release of ‘One-Click Collaboration’, which it calls a ‘no install experience’ that instantly starts a rich video collaboration session between distributed users.

VSee offers a service that supports multiparty video calling, application/desktop sharing and file transfers over the Web. See video below for a demo.

The startup’s CEO, Milton Chen, says this concept of ‘One-click Collaboration’ combines the scalability and performance of p2p approaches such as Skype with the no-install simplicity of web technologies like Flash, overcoming the limitations of both.

The service will be released for general availability in July 2011.

The company says it already provides services to more than 6,000 enterprises worldwide, including Shell, Intel, Primerica, U.S. Navy SEALs and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

It currently only runs on Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

VSee was founded in 2008 following Chen’s human-computer interaction PhD research at Stanford University. Aside from Salesforce, In-Q-Tel has invested in the business.

Also worth noting: Chen is one of the authors of the XMPP video standard.

Earlier this year, Salesforce announced that it had acquired DimDim, a web conferencing service, for $31 million in cash.



Social Lending Marketplace Prosper Raises $17.2M From Eric Schmidt, DFJ, Others

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 05:10 AM PDT

Prosper.com, a social lending marketplace that connects borrowers with individual and institutional investors, this morning announced that it has raised $17.2 million in funding from new investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Crosslink Capital.

Existing investors Accel Partners, CompuCredit, Omidyar Network, Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures and Volition Capital also participated in the round.

Prosper also announced that Tim Draper, founder and managing director of DFJ, and Jerome Contro, general partner and COO of Crosslink Capital, will join the company’s board of directors.

According to its website, Prosper’s peer-to-peer lending marketplace currently boasts more than 1,080,000 members and over $236,000,000 in funded loans.

Prosper has raised close to $75 million to date. Its closest competitor, Lending Club, has secured $52.7 million in venture capital.



Facebook Teams Up With BrightEdge To Help Brands Better Manage Social SEO Of Pages

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 04:59 AM PDT

As we wrote a few months ago, SEO firm BrightEdge released a study showing that the majority of brands are doing little to optimize their Twitter or Facebook pages to make them more discoverable in search results. And because of this many high-profile brands’ Facebook pages are buried in search results. Well, Facebook took note and decided to team up with the firm to co-author a white paper educating brands on social SEO.

Titled ‘Facebook for Social SEO,‘ the document gives brands and companies tips on the best practices to drive organic search performance for Facebook pages. We’ve embedded the white paper below. And the two companies will also conduct a webinar this month designed to get top brands better educated on improving rank of their pages.

Tips for brands to improve SEO for Pages include SEO friendly subtitles and descriptions on the social media pages, adding links to a brand’s website from the Facebook or Twitter page, using Brand names in posts on the Page and more. BrightEdge is also extending its enterprise SEO platform to include a more comprehensive offering for Brands who need help with optimizing their Facebook Pages.

Social SEO is a real problem for brands. Over 70 percent of major brands that BrightEdge studied had Facebook Pages that did not appear in the top 20 results of a search for the specific brand name.

It makes sense for Facebook to help Brands mitigate this issue, and it’s definitely a big vote of confidence for BrightEdge that the social network has tapped the startup to help educate brands on the platform.



Sun Co-Founder Scott McNealy Raises $6.4 Million For Stealth Startup WayIn

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 04:33 AM PDT

Scott McNealy, who famously co-founded Sun Microsystems, has raised close to $6.4 million in financing for one of his new ventures, stealth startup WayIn, an SEC filing reveals.

Visitors to the WayIn website are informed that they are keeping quiet for now, but are advised to follow McNealy on Twitter for updates. Judging by its logo, it’ll most probably have something to do with the cloud.

I know, I’m awesome at analyzing logos of stealth startups.

The SEC filing reveals some other interesting names involved in WayIn. For example, the filing was signed by Damien Eastwood, former VP of Legal at Sun Microsystems.

Also mentioned are Sun’s former Chief Human Resources Officer, Bill MacGowan; investor Scott Johnston; former Sharks president and CEO Greg Jamison and Silicon Valley lawyer Larry Sonsini, among others.

McNealy co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982 along with Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, and Andy Bechtolsheim. He led the company for roughly 22 years after stepping down as CEO back in April 2006. He remained as chairman of the board after that but resigned in January 2010.

His Twitter bio currently reads:

“Founder, Curriki.org, Chairman + Commissioner of AGA (www.flogton.com), Chairman of WayIn, JrSharks Hockey Advisory Board, free coach, husband, dad of 4 boys.”



eWise Raises $14 Million For Online Payments Technology

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 04:00 AM PDT

Online payments company eWise has raised $14 million in new funding led by Wellington Partners with Balderton Capital, TTV Capital,, and Patagorang participating in the round. This brings eWise’s total funding to over $26 million.

eWise develops a payments technology, called Secure Vault Payment, that allows users to automatically deduct a payment from their bank account without disclosing their personal information to online businesses. Payments are processed via a login and password to the bank’s site.

eWise expects that this payments technology could reach 400 million uses within 5 years. Clients include Citibank and First Direct (part of HSBC) in the UK, Ping An in China, Westpac in Australia and USBank in the U.S. The company plans to use the funding to expand further to the U.S. as well as for the development of a new mobile payments technology.



Skype Goes Down (Again), Users Inexplicably Blaming Microsoft On Twitter

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 03:59 AM PDT

Skype appears to be down, or at the very least it is for a whole lot of users throughout Europe who are tweeting in a ton of different languages about their inability to connect. Many blame Microsoft, and even founder Bill Gates for the downtime, which is sort of strange because the multi-billion dollar acquisition of Skype hasn’t even closed yet.

Anyway, let’s pray that this isn’t a repeat of the Great Skype Outage of December 2010, when the apocalypse appeared nigher than ever.

Funnily enough, a bug in the Microsoft Windows client was to blame for that one.

If you’re affected by the downtime, you’d be well advised to monitor Skype Heartbeat (although it claims things are all working normal at the time of publication) and @Skype.

I’ll be one of those watching closely, because it’s down for me too. Damn you, Microsoft!

Update: around 7 AM Eastern time, the Skype team tweeted that “a small number” of users may be having trouble connecting indeed, and that it’s investigating the cause.

Companies always say only a small subset of users experience problems when they occur.

I have no clue why they insist on pointing that out like it makes a difference.

Update 2: and a Heartbeat blog post for good measure, saying the same.

Update 3: Skype slowly crawling back up for me (7:40 AM Eastern time)

Update 4: Skype now says a configuration problem caused the glitch (8:15 AM Eastern time). The company adds that now that is has identified the cause of the problem, they have begun to address it. The client should reconnect automatically as soon as it’s able to do so.

Update 5: Skype now says the situation is improving. Well good.

Update 6: Skype says: “Today’s problems have stabilised, and recovery is ongoing. Skype should return to normal soon.” (12:20 PM Eastern Time)



Exclusive: MyHeritage Acquires Poland’s Bliscy.pl, Now 760 Million Profiles Strong

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 03:47 AM PDT

MyHeritage.com, a relatively heavily-funded Israeli startup operating a huge family-based social network, has moved to acquire Bliscy.pl from Poland's Internet publishing company Wirtualna Polska to solidify its position in the Polish family history market. The acquisition translates to growth of MyHeritage's family network to 56 million registered users and roughly 760 million profiles.


Concur Acquires UK Company GlobalExpense For Up To $23 Million

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 03:16 AM PDT

Concur, a provider of integrated travel and expense management solutions and recent purchaser of TripIt, has acquired London-based GlobalExpense, a company that specializes in Web-based expense management solutions. Concur has agreed to cough up £12 million ($19.7 million) for the acquisition of the privately held company, plus a performance-based earn-out of up to £2 million ($3.3 million).


EDITD Scores $1.6M To Help Fashion Industry Mine The Social Web And More Big Data

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 02:49 AM PDT

EDITD, the London-based startup that offers a retail monitoring and analytics platform for the fashion industry, has raised a $1.6 million "seed round" led by Index Ventures. Alex Zubillaga, Atlas Venture, High Line Venture Partners, Sylvie Gabriel and Joanne Wilson have also participated. The new funding will be used to further develop EDITD's product offering, including increasing the amount of data being analysed, along with entering new markets and expanding the team "globally". Robin Klein of Index will also join the company's board as chairman.


The Best Overlooked Numbers And Subtle Features From WWDC 2011

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 01:37 AM PDT

In case you weren’t following our WWDC keynote coverage live earlier today, you missed — well, a lot. The event — which ran about two hours — was packed with information. Thousands of articles have already been written covering some of the bigger numbers and features. So I thought I’d highlight some of the smaller (or quickly mentioned) things you may have missed from the keynote.

Warning: if you’re all Apple’d out, you will absolutely hate this post. (So just skip to the comment section and talk gibberish about why Android is so great.) The rest, read on:

  • There are now 54 million active Mac users.
  • 73 percent of those Mac users are now using notebooks instead of desktops
  • Photo Booth in OS X Lion has face tracking for targeted facial enhancements (like big eyes, or birds over your head)
  • The Mac App Store is already now the number one channel for buying software (beating Best Buy)
  • Starting with OS X Lion, Mac App Store apps can gain Push Notifications and In-App purchases
  • Updates will also now be delta updates — meaning you’ll only have to download what’s new, not the entire app
  • OS X Lion will only be available in the Mac App Store. Want a disc? Too bad, they’re extinct.
  • OS X Lion will weigh in at a svelte 4 gigabytes (not much bigger than an HD movie)
  • 25 million iPads have been sold in just 14 months
  • 15 billion songs have been sold through iTunes now
  • Apple has 18 million songs in their total iTunes Store library
  • 130 million iBooks have been downloaded in a little over a year
  • There are now over 425,000 apps in the App Store — 90,000 of them are built for the iPad
  • 14 billion apps have been downloaded in less than 3 years. (Yes, that will very soon surpass total song downloads.)
  • Apple has paid out $2.5 billion to third-party app developers — that’s up $1.5 billion from a year ago.
  • There are 225 million iTunes accounts (with credit cards attached and ready to spend)
  • 100 billion Push Notifications have been sent
  • With Newsstand, magazine and newspaper apps can now download new content in the background when your device is inactive
  • With the Twitter integration deal, it’s now a bit more clear why Scott Forstall has an account. He appeared to use it on stage during a demo, but he didn’t actually. Still 0 tweets and still only following Conan.
  • The Twitter integration can update your contacts’ photos with their avatars in your Address Book.
  • 2/3rds of all mobile web browsing is done through mobile Safari
  • Apple brought the Reader feature from Safari in OS X to the iOS version
  • iOS 5 Safari for iPad has tabbed browsing
  • The new Reminders app allows you to set a geo fence to send a notification when you enter or leave a place
  • The iPhone 4 is about to become the most camera overall on Flickr (we pointed this out weeks ago)
  • Double-clicking the Home button on the lock screen now brings up a camera icon to jump right to that app
  • That feature even bypasses an iPhone lock code, but you’ll only be able to take and view new pictures that way
  • The volume-up button has been reworked to act as a shutter button when in camera mode
  • There is now a way to enhance photos on the phone with one tap
  • You can now flag messages in the new email app (does that mean Gmail starring too?)
  • When reading email on the iPad in portrait mode, you can now swipe from the left to bring up your list of messages (instead of the pop-over)
  • The iBooks built-in dictionary now works system-wide
  • The iPad keyboard can now “rip” into two so you can more easily type with your thumbs
  • Software updates will now come over the air, and they too will be delta updates (much smaller)
  • The iPhone iPod app has been broken into Music and Videos apps (just like the iPod touch)
  • The iPad Music app has been entirely redone
  • After just 9 months, there are 50 million Game Center users (Xbox Live has gotten 30 million in 8 years)
  • Turn-based games (like Scrabble) are now fully supported in Game Center (previously developers had to do a lot of work to make these function)
  • iMessages has an option for “read receipts” — you can see that a person has read your message and at what time (sort of creepy)
  • iMessages work over WiFi and 3G (the carriers may be pissed off about that)
  • iMessages was built on the Push Notification infrastructure.
  • iOS Weather can now get hourly updates
  • Stock updates now come in real time (and both of these are widgets in the Notification pull-down)
  • The LED flash on the iPhone 4 can be set to visually show you when you have a message or call
  • You can now wirelessly mirror the iPad 2 to your TV (previously you needed an HDMI adapter for this)
  • WiFi sync is finally here for iTunes (this will backup your device as well)
  • There is a new gesture in iOS 5 to flick between open apps
  • Developers are also being granted access to the LED flash on the iPhone 4
  • Developers are also now able to change the backlight setting (like iBooks — apps like Instapaper previously made their own solutions)
  • With iCloud, there will be shared, collaborative calendars
  • Email will feature “no ads” (a shot at you-know-who)
  • You can wirelessly back up your devices to iCloud. This happens once a day automatically when you’re connected to WiFi
  • Documents in the Cloud even remembers what slide you were last looking at when you open it elsewhere
  • iCloud will have storage APIs that developers can use
  • This will work for Mac and PC apps too for seamless integration
  • Photo Stream is built into existing apps (Photos in iOS, iPhoto in OS X)
  • Photo Stream is also coming to Apple TV
  • Up to 10 devices can be used with iTunes in the Cloud
  • Apple provides 5 gigabytes of storage in iCloud for free. This can be used for backups, documents, and email. Purchased music and Photo Stream do not count towards this limit.
  • You will be able to purchase more storage if you need it. (Details aren’t yet set.)
  • If iTunes Match can’t find your music on the iTunes server, they will upload it for you
  • All songs found using iTunes Match will be automatically upgraded to 256 kbps quality AAC



FT Bypasses Apple’s iTunes, Launches HTML5 Web App (Free Access First Week)

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 01:02 AM PDT

The Financial Times would rather not have Apple take a 30 percent cut of in-app subscriptions for its iOS publications, and has launched a HTML5 Web app that enables readers to access content across tablets and smartphones.

As part of the Web app’s debut, FT will provide free access during launch week.

In a thinly veiled jab at Apple, Financial Times CEO John Ridding comments:

"The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism."

The browser app enables readers to access content when offline by saving a shortcut to articles, receive automatic updates without the need to download new versions of the app and access content exclusively made for tablets.

An upcoming feature is ‘Clippings’, a service that will allow users to read articles later, either on their tablet or on their desktop PC. Sound familiar? (look for ‘reading list’)

FT acknowledges that the Web app has been initially optimized for the iPhone and the iPad, but says it will also be adapted for Android-based devices and the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Accessing FT content is free for up to ten articles per month, if you register.

In a few weeks, Apple will start charging publishers 30 percent of revenues while trying to enforce a rule that their content subscribers must sign up through the iTunes App Store rather than directly with them.

FT in a Q&A about the new app says there are benefits to a Web app, for one because developing multiple native apps for various products is “logistically and financially unmanageable” and because it allows users too see new changes and features immediately.

FT also points out that with a Web app, there is no extended release process through an app store and also offers technical advantages such as access to hardware APIs.

The publisher also notes the challenges with creating the HTML5 app:

The breadth of tools and documentation available for native apps and even desktop HTML5 development is just not there for mobile-based web app development. In addition the usual testing tools for both functional and performance testing do not exist, so we had to invent our own systems and processes to make sure the app worked effectively.

Be sure to read analyst Benedict Evans’ take on the news.



XYDO Raises $1.25 Million For A More Personalized Social News Experience

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 01:01 AM PDT

More and more, news consumption is happening online and on mobile devices. But there’s so much news on the Web today, many have turned to filters and aggregators to concentrate the fire hose of information. Whether we rely on social mechanisms like Twitter and Facebook or RSS feeds, we’re looking for an enhanced, social, and refined way to consume content from the sites we love, while discovering news that matters to us via sites we may not check as regularly.

XYDO, a startup that launched last month, is getting in on the social news game by combining parts of the visual interface and user experience of Digg and Hacker News to create a full-blown social network for news. But what XYDO is focusing on most intently, which makes it a bit different from other services out there, is offering a news feed that prioritizes the content that matters to you.

Today, it’s important for sites of this ilk not just to be news aggregators, but social services that serve you with content that is based on your interests and preferences, curating and categorizing news from your social networks. They have to be ever-refreshing, pulling news from myriad sources, but remain relevant, and allow for discovery of broad news as well as socially relevant topics recommended by friends and peers. Easier said than done.

To build a news aggregating network that is more 3.0 than 2.0, XYDO gathers news from tens of thousands of online sources, along with news being shared within the XYDO community, and allows users to authenticate their Facebook and Twitter accounts so that the site can track the articles being shared on these social networks by your friends and peers. Those stories are displayed on your personal news feed and are then scored, prioritized, and organized in groups based on your likes and interests.

The goal is an important one in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, and in practice, XYDO’s design is intuitive and familiar. But, as it goes, without some financial support, the service becomes just another social news aggregator. So, today, the company announced that it has raised a $1.25 million round of seed funding led by led by EPIC Ventures, with contributions from angel investors in San Francisco, New York, and Salt Lake City. XYDO will use its funds to create and launch mobile apps, productize, and expand its Utah-based team.

XYDO, which was co-founded by Eric Roach (who founded Lombard Brokerage and was previously CEO of Elance.com) and Cameron Brain (founder of ProDeal and Open Box Technologies), is currently processing more than 1.1M Twitter and Facebook user feeds in realtime and has more than 1M contributors curating articles each day.

The combination of not only providing users with a prioritized view of articles, editorials, blogs and other news from their social graphs, but also enabling easy tracking of broad global news trends and specialized domain-specific trends, with verticals ranging from startups and Wikileaks to The Onion, is killer. But it will take scaling, a truly simple user interface, and a smooth mobile experience to set it apart from the competition.

For a quick rundown of XYDO, check out the video below:



Japanese Online Retail Giant Rakuten Buys Brazilian E-Commerce Company Ikeda

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 12:40 AM PDT

Japanese online retail juggernaut Rakuten is expanding its reach to South America with the acquisition of a 75% stake in Ikeda, a provider of e-commerce services to many of Brazil's largest retailers.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 1996 and headquartered in São Paulo, Ikeda provides retailers with a SaaS e-commerce platform, enabling its customers to help build their desired features and provides advisory services to support their online retail operations.

Ikeda currently provides services to over 100 major retailers located all over Brazil.

Forrester forecasts the e-commerce industry in Brazil to grow at 18% annually, with total sales expected to reach approximately $22 billion by 2016.

For Rakuten, it’s a way to expand into South America rapidly. Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Tokyo, Rakuten provides a variety of consumer and business-focused services including e-commerce, travel, banking, securities, credit card and e-money solutions.

Rakuten boasts operations throughout Asia, Western Europe and North America and has over 10,000 employees worldwide.

The company recently teamed up with Baidu to invest $50 million in an online 'B2B2C' shopping mall for Chinese Internet users, acquired Buy.com for $250 million and subsequently spent the exact same amount purchasing France's PriceMinister.



What @RepWeiner Can Teach Us About Online Life

Posted: 06 Jun 2011 09:00 PM PDT

If you talked to anyone over the age of 50 after Twitter announced its photo-sharing service last week, there was most likely one Twitter photo-sharing story on their lips and it wasn't the launch of pics.twitter.com.

Since his mass-publicized confession that he actually did send an explicit Direct Message to a college coed today, we are perhaps the last online news organization to cover the tale of one fateful failed DM and New York Congressional Representative Anthony Weiner.

I mean, even Twitter employees were high fiving themselves about it earlier.

Techies are fascinated by the #Weiner story because it is the latest train wreck (and cautionary tale) of online communication. Sure most of you aren't going around sending pictures of your crotches to people, but you've probably sent at least one DM or Facebook message or email or text or whatever today that you'd prefer the world didn't see, because private communication is by definition meant to be private.

Unfortunately this is increasingly not the case.

With their unintuitive "d" syntax, Twitter Direct Messages are slippery — Especially for the less tech savvy. And there are countless tales of DM fails before this one. Perhaps you've even failed at DMing someone yourself and quickly deleted it, hoping no one would notice.

And maybe they didn't notice that time, but, as those who leave their party events set "public" on Facebook will discover, what happens online can be magnified a millionfold.

Weiner functions as some sort of a modern day Bill Clinton. "”I know for a fact that my account was hacked" is the new "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Except nowadays you don't need a Linda Tripp covertly recording your intern to get caught, all you need is a slip of the keyboard and an innocent "d" turns into the scandalous "@" taking down your reputation down with it. Or someone forwards one of your IM chats, and so on and so forth.

There's a certain naivety bubble in taking photos you don't want the world to see and posting them to Yfrog, or putting something on YouTube or setting an update to public and then being surprised when your life turns into a meme or a media frenzy.

Gennette Cordoba, the woman who Weiner accidently sent the DM to, describes her experience as such:

"This is the reality of sharing information online in the 21st century. Things that I never imagined people would care about are now being plastered all over blog sites, including pictures of me from when I was 17 and tweets that have been taken completely out of context."

Social media giveth and social media taketh away.

What does technology change exactly? Well first of all technology makes it easier to connect people, dredging up the six (!) women Weiner had inappropriate relationships with via Facebook or Twitter.  But it also changes the margin for error among communication distribution. What happened to Gennette could easily happen to you if your name started with a G and you made the mistake of following @RepWeiner on Twitter (the DM was actually meant for someone named Ginger).

The more we communicate online, the greater the chances are someone will see something not so flattering about us, because we all make mistakes. And if someone compiled all your private communications with others in an effort to embarrass you it would surely embarrass you, even if you weren't going around sharing crotch shots.

Giving that this is the case, perhaps Eric Schmidt's unsettling maxim, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place" is proving to be the golden rule of online discourse in the 21st century?

Or at least until Twitter foolproofs DMs?



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