Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Apple’s Lawyers Used To Be Samsung’s, And Samsung Doesn’t Like It

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 09:43 AM PDT

Perhaps Apple is trying to pull a fast one, or maybe Samsung is grasping at straws, but either way: Samsung has requested that Apple's outside legal team be removed from the case, citing a conflict of interest.

In a nutshell, Apple's outside counsel, a group of attorneys from the firm Bridges & Mavrakakis, have worked closely with Samsung in the past. Of course, that doesn't sit well with the South Korea-based company, who believes that the B & M lawyers have "privileged and confidential" information about Samsung's patent strategy and products, which could easily be used in Apple's favor during their ongoing copycat suit.

With a client like Apple on the books, the Bridges & Mavrakakis team has made a real effort to quell concerns. The team claims that technology evolves so quickly that the time spent on Samsung's side of the battle line is basically irrelevant now, and that "prior representation of Samsung was not substantially related to the current matter." Samsung argues that the "prior representation" Bridges & Mavrakakis is referring to was actually early 2011. Back then, Samsung was in the trenches with Sony Ericsson over a patent that has since been added to the Apple countersuit. Bridges & Mavrakakis lawyers investigated said patent.

Here's what Samsung had to say in its motion:
"Samsung is confronted with the incredulous situation of now finding these former trusted counsel working on behalf of Apple. Over the years, these attorneys not only provided Samsung with in-depth legal advice regarding global litigation strategy, but also detailed technical analysis of Samsung mobile devices. Their work included preparing and overseeing claim construction charts, working with experts, coordinating with Samsung's in-house and business teams to craft strategy and develop facts relating to patent litigation about Samsung's mobile devices, including fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory term ('FRAND') arguments, analyzing Samsung's patent portfolio relating to mobile technology, and reviewing technical specifications and other documents, including privileged documents relating to Samsung's mobile technology patents. Through their representation of Samsung, these attorneys obtained unfettered access and insights into Samsung's approach to patent litigation."

Along with dumping the Bridge & Mavrakakis crew, Samsung wants Apple's other outside counsel to get the ax, too. If the B & M lawyers were working on a team with other outside counsel, from firms such as Morrison & Foerster and Wilmer Hale, then of course whatever "privileged and confidential" information Bridge & Mavrakakis was privy to will be shared knowledge across Apple's whole team. There's no telling how Apple will respond to this, although our guess would be a full-on fight to keep the team around.

[via FOSS Patents]



Kontagent Expands Beyond Facebook To Offer Analytics To Web And Mobile Apps

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 09:03 AM PDT

For the past few years, Kontagent, an fbFund winner and social analytics platform, has offered user analytics for developers of Facebook apps and games. Today, the company is moving beyond the social network to web and mobile apps that have not been built off the Facebook platform.

As we’ve written in the past, Kontagent’s real-time platform gives Facebook app developers, game studios and publishers detailed data of demographics based on geographic location, age groups, gender, user engagement times, social event interaction and other variables. The new version allows developers to track and optimize advertising efforts, user virality, in-app mechanics, virtual goods, currency monetization, and more.

Called kSuite, Kontagent’s data analysis platform can now identify usage patterns on social and mobile apps in real time. The platform measures data by event and custom inputs, and examines how virality of an application or website.

Kontagent has been able to scale its analytics platform on Facebook, so it should be interesting to see how the startup performs outside of the social network. Kontagent tracks over 100 million monthly active users and over 15 billion messages per month on Facebook. Its monthly active user base has increased by over 300% in the past 12 months and counts a number of well known game developers as clients, including EA, Sony, Ubisoft, Take2, THQ, Konami, Perfect World, Gaia and Tencent.



Y Combinator Alum MemSQL Raises $2.1 Million From Ashton Kutcher, SV Angel And More

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 09:00 AM PDT

MemSQL may not have the sexiest name or, as a database management software startup, live in the sexiest industry, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t appealing to investors. The Y Combinator Winter 2011 grad is announcing today that it has raised $2.1 million in seed funding, led by an impressive list of angels and VCs. The stalwart list includes venture backing from First Rounds Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Start Fund, SV Angel, and Y Combinator — as well as angel participation from celeb tech investor Ashton Kutcher, early Google employee and FriendFeed Co-founder Paul Bucheit, Loopt Founder Sam Altman, Guy Oseary, and several others.

MemSQL will be using this infusion of capital to complete its movie into new offices in downtown San Francisco as well as adding to its current team of six.

But just what is it about this young startup that has investors fired up? MemSQL is a scalable in-memory database that, according to co-founder and CEO Eric Frenkiel, is up to 30-times faster than relational databases on disk. The database primarily focuses on online transaction processing (OLTP) workloads, and aims to deliver speed and through-put advantages, while retaining SQL and ACID compliance without resorting to NoSQL or caching technologies.

While online transaction processing software may be unknown to some, it helps manage transaction-oriented applications in data entry and retrieval, work that is integral to a number of industries, including banking, airlines, supermarkets, and manufacturers. As such, it’s a space that is poised to grow from $20 billion to $60 billion in value over the next five years, Frenkiel said. This is largely due to the fact that the size of data sets being employed by major web companies is doubling every 18 months.

Today, memory is cheap and abundant, and these large data sets can finally fit into memory systems. So, while input/output remains sluggish in the cloud, so companies that want to optimize their data sets and achieve performance in the cloud is to go into memory. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and more, already have their datasets living in memory and backed-up on disk.

MemSQL has built a database from the ground up to allow applications to read and write at the same time, run analytics in realtime — all in an effort to provide a faster alternative to MySQL on disk — 30 times faster, according to the team. Plus, MemSQL’s software “speaks MySQL protocol”, so, according to Frenkiel, that means that there is no need for a code change for applications that talk to MySQL databases.

“If you want to achieve real performance in the cloud, you need to take the database into memory, and all the better if you can use SQL to access it”, Frenkiel says.

It’s also likely that MemSQL won over investors based on the credentials of its team, counting former Facebook, Oracle, and SQL server engineers among its ranks. It also helps that Frenkiel’s co-founder, Nikita Shamgunov, spent 6 years as a senior database engineer at Microsoft, holds a masters and PhD in computer science, has several patents to his name, and is a world medalist in computing machinery contests.

Not to mention, MemSQL’s first customer is fellow Y Combinator Winter 2011 alum, LikeALittle, which hit 20 million pageviews within 6 weeks of its launch and raised a round of seed funding from an equally impressive list of investors (several of whom also invested in MemSQL). LikeALittle has since raised another $5 million from Andreessen-Horowitz, among others.

Seeing as LikeALittle is already being valued at $35 million, the fact that MemSQL is providing much of the technology that has allowed its fellow startup to scale and perform well in spite of a huge influx of traffic (and resulting data), the $2.1 million investment seems a sound one, to say the least.

To get invitations to MemSQL’s private beta, visit their homepage here. And they’re also hiring, so for developers looking for a startup with a hacker-centric culture (and former Facebook talent), click here.



Evoz Lets You Monitor Your Babies From Anywhere In The World, Now In Open Beta

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:59 AM PDT

When I first wrote about Evoz‘s take on modern baby monitoring systems, many thought it was a hoax (which I suspect may have had something to do with the fact that I posted it on April Fools Day). But it’s real, and I’ve actually tested it quite a few times since becoming a first-time dad three months ago.

In short, Evoz lets parents use their iOS device and the Evoz baby monitoring service to monitor their babies from anywhere, with the touch of a button. Evoz has virtually unlimited range and can send alerts (call, text, or email) whenever your baby starts crying.

Backed by Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, the company’s broad vision is to enable active parents to monitor the health and wellbeing of their babies even when they’re on the go.

In order to use Evoz, you will need to install Evoz on two iOS devices (get the app here). One will be the receiver and the second needs to connect to WiFi in order to be the monitor.

In the future, more mobile platforms will be supported and the company is understandably also going to offer a monitoring device of their own.

Once the system is set up, parents who are out working, traveling, dining or partying can proactively receive texts, emails or phone calls when their baby is crying, giving them the opportunity to contact whoever is taking care of the child at that particular moment – or go home.

Evoz also captures data in an effort to collect sufficient information to let parents better understand the health of their children. In addition, the app enables parents to easily get in touch with a network of baby health experts or sleep consultants if they have any questions or concerns.

The company was founded in 2010 by Avishai Shoham (CEO), Ruwan Welaratna (CTO) and Yasmin Lukatz (COO).

Beta participants will receive two free weeks of the premium service, including unlimited streaming anywhere in the world, unlimited email and texts, data collection and an exclusive look at new features. After the two-week period, the premium service will cost $7.99 per month, although Evoz says you'll still be able to listen from anywhere for 30 minutes a day at no charge.



Google+ Estimated To Surge Past 10 Million Users (Chart)

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:48 AM PDT

It’s only been two weeks since the launch of Google+ , but already there are “millions” of users, according to chairman Eric Schmidt. Beyond that ballpark figure, Google has not disclosed any user or usage numbers.

But Ancestry.com founder Paul Allen has been publishing his own estimates of the growth of Google+ (on Google+ itself). His latest estimate is that Google+ will surpass 10 million users today, only two weeks after its launch. That estimate is up from 4.5 million on July 9 and 1.7 million on July 4. I’ve charted the growth above, with Allen’s numbers.

If these numbers are anywhere near accurate, Google+ could very well become the fastest growing product in the history of the Web. Then again, Google is simply turning on the product for the hundreds of millions of users it already has once they get an invite and sign up.

How did Allen calculate his user number? Leaning on his knowledge of demographics, he used a clever technique comparing a sample of a few hundred surnames from Google+ and comparing them to how representative those names are in the general population (based on U.S. Census Bureau data). He made some assumptions about the proportion of U.S. to international users and came up with his estimate. It’s unlikely that his estimate is completely accurate, but he should at lest be capturing the growth trajectory.



AT&T Improves International Data Plans, But They Still Cost Way, Way Too Much

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:42 AM PDT

Traveling over seas? Bringing your phone?

You’ve got at least two things to remember:

  • Put a password on it, and take off all the personal stuff (read: those drunken nudie pics? Yeah, they should probably go.) Getting your phone back after its been misplaced or pick-pocketed is a lot harder when you’re on the roam.
  • Figure out how you’re handling your international data, or you’re gonna come home to the nice surprise of a 70 billion dollar phone bill.

Looking to make their International Data plans a bit more enticing, AT&T has just bumped the allotment of data for each plan. Unfortunately, any of the reasonably big allotments still cost an arm and a leg. Hell, more like multiple arms and legs. I don’t know, how much do arms and legs go for these days? Can I use Wolfram Alpha for this?

The new International Data Plans:

  • $24.99 gets you 50MB (used to get you 20MB)
  • $49.99 gets you 125MB (used to get you 50MB)
  • $99.99 gets you 275MB (used to get you 100MB)
  • $199.99 gets you 800MB (used to get you 200MB)
  • Every 10 megabytes you use over your plan will cost you $10

At over double the value of the old plans, the new plans are certainly an improvement — but you’d have to be pretty crazy to use them. Pro tip: in almost all tourist-friendly countries, you can rent a SIM with unlimited data for a few bucks a day.



MobileApps.com Wants To Be The Adsense For Mobile Apps

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:35 AM PDT

Many mobile app developers share a significant problem: getting their products discovered among the hundreds of thousands of apps i.e. the App Store or the Android Market currently boast. According to a recent report by Nielsen, just 58% of smartphone users actually use the stores on their handsets to search for new apps.

Enter MobileApps.com, which officially launched today and describes itself as an advertising, discovery and distribution network with three distinct value propositions for end users, developers, and publishers.

For end users, the MobileApps.com serves as a destination that currently lists 500,000 apps (around 2,000 are hosted on the site) for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and other platform in a collected setting (this so-called marketplace works much like GetJar and similar sites).

With every download, developers are pocketing 95% of the price in the case of non-Apple apps (MobileApps.com takes the rest). Developers can import their own apps from other stores to claim and publish them on the site “in 60 seconds”.

Probably the most interesting element of MobileApps.com is that it’s an advertising network for mobile apps: the site is offering “smart widgets” that showcase specific apps to publishers: website owners, for example, can incorporate those widgets into their pages and customize them (based on different countries, keywords, categories etc.).

Example widgets:

The idea here is that these “mini app stores” are targeted to people visiting these websites, making the apps on offer more relevant (and less intrusive) to users – apart from boosting sales. That way a travel site, for example, would offer just travel-related apps within the widget.

Much like Adwords/Adsense, the position on the widget is determined on a bidding basis through a self-service tool. And just as Google, MobileApps.com gets 38% of the amount the advertisers (developers, branded app owners) pay for the position (click here for more information on how the advertising system works).

MobileApps.com is incorporated in Singapore and just received US$400,000 in funding from Tokyo-based mobile company I-FREEK [JP]. The company’s main competitor is US-based AppTap.



A Mid-Summer Trip To The Apple Rumor Mill

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:21 AM PDT

It’s almost that time of year again, friends. New movies are terrible, kids are sucking down popsicles, and my office is like a moist toaster oven. It’s nearly back to school time!

That means in our trivial world that it’s time for new gadgets and the Internet rumor mill is lining up quite a big show from Apple. It’s always this way. The rumors state Apple will do no less than reverse the rotation of the Earth and then Steve Jobs simply introduces a new high-speed interface. But let’s dance anyway.

A few rumors broke weeks back concerning new Mac Pros and Mac Minis. They stated that Apple was going to release new desktops powered by Intel’s latest CPUs of the Sandy Bridge variety. 9to5mac sort of confirmed that at least new Mac Pros are on their way and posted what they claim to be the SKUs. Unsurprisingly after the Xserver’s retirement, the new SKUs talk of a Mac Pro Server, which will likely feature a rack mountable case.


9to5mac also posted SKUs for what are supposed to be new 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs. These models, if they really do exist, are likely also powered by Sandy Bridge architecture, which mean second generation Core CPUs and probably even Thunderbolt connectivity. Then just today, a new rumor hit that places a backlit keyboard in the MacBook Air. [image via zanoii]

Of course the new Mac Pros and MacBook Airs will rock the latest OS X release. Lion is set to debut this month although Apple has yet to announce the exact date. We’re expecting July 14, but what do we know?

There’s no word on a refreshed Mac Mini but the time frame is right for a new model. The current model debuted last June with a Core 2 Duo CPU; Apple still sells the year-old model. (Fun fact: Search for Core 2 Duo on BestBuy.com and seven out of the nine computers still using the Core 2 Duo are from Apple) Apple will likely bring its whole desktop line to the latest architecture relatively soon and that includes the low-cost Mac Mini.


The Back To School releases might also include a 3G-enabled iPod touch. A rumor broke last week that stated the fifth generation touch will feature a swapable SIM card for data services — like an iPad. The thought is that users will be able to use the iPod with VoIP and streaming services. The same rumor stated that the new model was going to drop this September, but it might come sooner. [Mock-up via iPhoneDownloadBlog]

This time of year is big for computer makers and even more so for slow but steady companies like Apple. The computers released in the second and third quarter are the systems that will carry them through the lucrative fourth quarter. Expect big things.



Omek Raises $7 Million From Intel, Aims To Challenge Microsoft’s Kinect

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:21 AM PDT

Exclusive - Omek Interactive, a provider of tools that enables companies to incorporate gesture recognition and full body tracking into their applications and devices, has secured $7 million in financing in a round led by Intel Capital, TechCrunch has learned. The Series C round brings the company’s total funding raised to nearly $14 million.

Omek's Beckon technology converts the raw depth map data from most major 3D cameras into an awareness of people and their movements or positions in front of the camera, enabling them to be converted into commands that control hardware or software.

The technology lets companies, ranging from consumer electronics and computer manufacturers, games and application developers, ad agencies and digital signage companies to videoconferencing and telepresence providers, create gesture and body tracking interfaces (often called NUIs) like the ones popularized by Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation Move.

Omek says it will use the investment to expand its product and technology teams, develop new products for specific target markets, and extend its business development and technical support presence in key customer regions.

The company’s partners include Lenovo’s Eedoo (Omek provides the software that powers the company’s brand new game console), PMD and Panasonic, among others.



Tandem Launches Mobile Incubator; Will Invest $200K In Each Startup

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:00 AM PDT

Tandem Entrepreneurs, an incubator and capital fund founded in 2007, invests both money and time in early-stage startups, but founders Doug Renert and Sunil Bhargava don’t consider themselves VCs. Instead, they’re just a group of entrepreneurs with decades of startup experience between them that have turned their focus to providing resources to their fellow entrepreneurs and startup founders. And today they’re announcing the creation of a new incubator, targeted specifically at early-stage startups in the mobile space. Of course, what’s an incubator without cool digs? Tandem will be establishing the new incubator’s headquarters in a newly-renovated Victorian home in Burlingame, CA, with its doors officially set to open on August 3rd.

Tandem will be accepting applications from mobile startups beginning today, and plans to select eight teams to participate in its fall program, which will continue annually thereafter. (Applications are due by September 1st.) The program will take place over a six-month time frame with Tandem providing a mix of both support and cash investment. This means that the Tandem team will be working hand-in-hand with founders to assist in strategy, product design, architecture, user acquisition, employee recruiting, etc., and each company will receive $200,000 in a convertible note in exchange for 10 percent common equity.

As such, Tandem is looking to find a middle ground between Y Combinator, TechStars, and Sequoia, in an effort to provide start-to-finish experiential guidance for their startups along with a chunk of capital that can really help a product or service get off the ground. Just as Paul Graham of Y Combinator has said that he often chooses to invest in people rather than ideas, the company said that its search will prioritize entrepreneurs with product skills and overall vision — that the passion of candidates is more important than market traction.

Eight of Tandem’s last nine portfolio companies have received positive liquidity or additional funding at stepped-up valuations while working with the incubator. Among those were Attassa’s acquisition by YouSendIt, FlightCaster’s acquisition by Next Jump, and ZumoDrive’s acquisition by Motorola.

Tandem has also incubated both PlayHaven and Juice in the City, the latter of which raised $6 million in June.

While high quality incubators and accelerators are to be found across the U.S., Tandem hopes to distinguish itself from the pack not only by focusing its efforts on the exploding mobile space but by offering highly-involved guidance from strategic down to field tactics. It also helps that the incubator will be offering its eight startups ten times the average investment Y Combinator makes in its startups, though that does come at a price of 10 percent equity.

Check it out, and let us know what you think. For more on Tandem entrepreneurs, click here.



IMDb Brings ‘Everywhere App’ To Android Tablets; Crosses 21M Mobile App Installs

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 08:00 AM PDT

Amazon’s IMDb is launching a Honeycomb-optimized Android Tablet app today, adding to its existing native iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone 7 and Android apps. You can download the new app here. In total, IMDB says that its apps have seen 21 million downloads.

The Android tablet app includes much of the functionality of its cousins, featuring the latest trailers of movies, and updated entertainment news from hundreds of media outlets. You can access international movie showtimes for 13 countries including USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, New Zealand Argentina and Chile. And you can log-in to apps with Facebook Connect and share updates on both Facebook and Twitter from within apps.

Today, IMDb is also releasing the next version of its Android phone app, which has been installed by 7.5 million users worldwide. New features include the ability to rate movies, create and maintain a Watchlist to track and manage movies and TV shows that you want to watch, in-depth showtime search and more.



Accel And Others Put $19M In Female-Focused Personal Finance Guide LearnVest

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 07:30 AM PDT

Exclusive-Personal finance site for women LearnVest has raised $19 million in Series B funding from Accel Partners and other existing investors including, Richmond Management, Rose Tech Ventures, Circle Financial Group and PKS Capital. We’re told two additional financial parties participated in the round but these names are not being disclosed at this time. To date, LearnVest has raised $24.5 million.

LearnVest, which launched at TechCrunch50 in 2009, has a simple goal: to help women organize their finances and learn how to become financially savvy. It's kind of like an online version of financial planner Suze Orman blended with personal finance site Mint.com.

Founded by entrepreneur Alexa Von Tobel, the startup aims to fill a big hole in terms of providing an online destination that is catered towards educating women about finance. Von Tobel tells us that the company will use the funding to continue to build better products for its users.

What makes LearnVest unique is that it goes beyond just aggregating your financial information and actually helps women become more educated about personal finance. For example, the startup launched three online programs last year, called ‘bootcamps,’ to educate women on various financial subjects, including a Financial Basics Bootcamp, Cut Your Costs Bootcamp, and Investing Bootcamp. The company also sends users a daily email with financial tips and information called the LearnVest Daily.

The Investing Bootcamp teaches women how to make smart investing decisions and properly allocate their portfolios. For three weeks, women will receive daily emails with advice and actionable items that they can perform on LearnVest, making the newsletter interactive. For example, for the Financial Basics bootcamp, one of the daily actionable items is 'Get Your Credit Score.' Cut Your Costs Bootcamp topic range from Bootcamp topics range from ways to save on energy bills to exactly how to negotiate a lower cable bill. Learnvest incorporates all of the information users complete and input in bootcamps into their LearnVest account.

Currently, LearnVest’s Bootcamp Programs are the focus of a $150,000 study by the Financial Literacy Center, a joint center of the RAND Corporation, Dartmouth College, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. LearnVest is also adding two new advisors to its board, including Greg Waldorf, former CEO of eHarmony; and Greg Coleman, former President and Chief Revenue Officer of The Huffington Post, and the current President of Criteo.



Printable Solar Cells Could Lead To A More Robust Energy Supply

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 07:29 AM PDT

MIT professors Karen Gleason and Vladimir Bulovic, along with a team of students, have created a printed solar sell that can “print” solar cells onto paper or fabric, thereby allowing for foldable and rollable cells that do not lose their conductivity.

Building solar cells used to require high temperatures and precluded the use of paper and fabric. Now, however, sub-120 degree Celsius temperatures and vapor-based printing techniques mean that you could place the material on almost anything. Rather than having a substrate of glass or other material, this method allows for manufacturers to reduce materials costs and resource use. This also reduces installation costs as you could, feasibly, lay this on a flat surface like a roof and connect to the mains.

Sadly, these solar cells aren’t yet particularly efficient, topping out at about 1%. Plans are in the works to improve this technology considerably over the next few years.

via BostonInnovation



Kleiner-Backed Lockerz Acquires Social Sharing Platform AddToAny

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 06:59 AM PDT

Exclusive-Social commerce network Lockerz has acquired social sharing platform AddToAny. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

AddToAny, which has never raised any outside financing and is profitable, allows users to share and bookmark online content with social networks, news aggregators, email services, and instant messengers. The company was one of the first to offer a social sharing and bookmarking widget for website publishers and currently reaches 500 million unique users per month.

For monetization, AddToAny sells anonymous aggregate sharing data, which is used by clients to increase the relevancy of their ads. Revenue projections for 2012 ranged in the seven figures. To date, AddToAny's WordPress plugin has been downloaded over 1.8 million times, and their Drupal module is actively installed on over 14,000 websites.

As wee’ve reported in the past, Lockerz revolves around the idea that influencers within a social network can become brand and content advocates and affect the behavior of their friends. The network, which says it is seeing 45 million monthly uniques, is primarily targeted towards men and women ages 13 to 30, attempting to build a community of trendsetters and tastemakers who love to shop, play and connect on the Web. Users can earn points and discounts on brands by sharing content on the site. Founded by Kathy Savitt, a former Amazon and American Eagle Outfitters exec; Lockerz eventually wants to be the go-to commerce homepage for teens and young adults.

Currently, 53 percent of the site’s users are college-aged; explains Savitt. And she sys that the site is seeing 15 minutes of engagement per member, compared to five minutes per member 6 months ago.

With the AddToAny acquisition, Lockerz expands its online sharing platform, which serves more than 1 billion photos per month via Lockers Photos and to date has issued nearly 200 million Decalz (akin to badges). And Savitt says that AddToAny’s founder Pat Diven II is a huge talent win for Lockerz.

Savitt says to that AddToAny will continue uninterrupted for both publishers and users but Lockerz will invite AddToAny users to become Lockerz members and begin earning rewards, or PTZ, for sharing content on the web. Over time, Lockerz and AddToAny plan to add additional features to the sharing widget while expanding Lockerz's network of services.

For Lockerz, this is the second major acquisition in a matter of months. In January, Lockerz acquired photo sharing app Plixi as a way to boost photo sharing on its platform. The deal was reportedly between $10 million and $15 million.

And the company just closed on an major investment round, which Savitt confirmed. She says the round is significantly north of $30 million and the deal has added new investors. The company previously raised $30 million from Kleiner Perkins, Liberty Media and the CEO of Liberty Greg Maffei.



Thieves Make Off With Horde Of Leica Gear In Moscow

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 06:53 AM PDT

In what could amount to a very hefty haul, Moscow thieves took a sledge to metal security shutters and then a glass case to grab twenty items including a Leica Pro Set with three lenses. Interestingly, they left a $32,000 Leica S2 on the shelf and, not surprisingly, focused mainly on lenses and the familiar standard M9s.

Serial numbers are after the jump if you ever spot these in the wild.

A translation from Leica Russia:

"Today, July 9 at 3:00 am, two masked men in scrap metal shutters kicked the glass door with a sledgehammer and broke into the shop Leica on Leninsky Prospekt. After breaking all the windows, they stole part of the technique, which was in the store. Thieves stayed for fifteen minutes."

1. Objects Leica Elmar 18/3.8 ASPH., S / N 4084590 

2. Leica Pro Set c 3 lens (35 / 1.4, 70-180/2.8, 35-70/2.8) 
_Leica, S / N 2927341 
_Obektiv APO-Elmarit 70-180mm / f 2.8, S / N 03905538 
_Obektiv Vario-Elmarit 35-70mm / f 2.8, S / N 3419566 
_Obektiv Summilux 35mm / f 1.4 

3. Digital Camera Leica (color – black), S / N 3104330 

4. Digital Camera Leica (color – white), S / N 3111065 

5. Lens Leica Summicron R jm, 90mm / f 2.0, S / N 2463461 

6. Lens Leica Macro-Elmar M 90mm / f 4.0, S / N 3975976 

7. Lens APO-TELYT-M 135mm / f 3.4, S / N 3722933 

8. Leica, S / N 1748472 

9. Objects Leica Elmarit 21mm / f 2.8 for film cameras 

10. Objects Summilux 50mm / f 1.4 Titanium Edition (Pre-ASPH), S / N 3675659 

11. Objects Summicron 50mm / f 2.0, S / N 3706945 

12. Leica SF 20 flash 

13. Leica, S / N 3469118 

14. Lens Summicron 50mm / f 2.0, S / N 3997354 

15. Leica (color – white), S / N 3821473 

16. Leica (color – black), S / N 3983517 

17. Leica, 2 pcs., S / N 4149352, S / N 4141590 

18. Leica (color – black), 2 pcs., S / N 3922466, S / N 3913056 

19. Leica (color – black), S / N 3748336 

20. Leica (color – black), S / N 4201224

via DigitalJournalOfPhotography



Ustream’s New Android App Is A Sweet Addition To Honeycomb

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 06:43 AM PDT

If you’ve used an Android Honeycomb-equipped tablet for any length of time, you’ve probably run into a serious issue: there just aren’t that many good applications that have been optimized for the tablet form factor (or at least, they’re impossible to find). Sure, there are some phone apps with minor tweaks that scale up nicely, but in terms of apps that feel like they were built with Honeycomb in mind, the pickings are slim.

Well today, Honeycomb is getting a very nice addition its app catalog, complements of Ustream. The popular video service, which lets users stream their content live to the web, for free, has just launched a version of its Android app. It’s available right here.

The app is pretty much what you’d expect, and it’s done well. You can watch both live and archived content, and, in a feature that may lead to a major influx of mobile streams, you can upload live from your tablet as well (cue hundreds of people uploading couch-side reflections on the TV shows they’ve just watched). The service’s social features are also baked in — you can view a real-time stream of comments and run polls directly from the app. These features are all available on supported phones, too.

All in all it’s a solid app (and it makes me wish more apps on Honeycomb felt like this). Oh, and don’t worry iPad fans — a new tablet app will be coming your way in the near future as well.



The Backpack Scooter Lets You Walk Then Ride

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 06:26 AM PDT

This is the Bergm̦nch Рthe Mountain Monk Рa scooter that folds into a backpack, thereby allowing the brave to ride down the hills the climb up at breakneck speed. There are no pedals Рjust a pair of disc brakes Рand it costs $1,880.

The kit weighs about 20 pounds and, while I admit I’m no mountaineer, looks pretty rugged. I would only worry that the scooter handlebars would stab you in the back at some point or you’d fall on the wheel and get impaled by a spoke, but I supposed all that doesn’t matter when you’re Matterhorning down a mountain yelling “Trollolololol” while pushing yourself along on a portable scooter.

Product Page via Wired via OhGizmo



Nikon Goes Prime With The Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Lens

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 06:10 AM PDT

A prime lens should be in every shooter’s bag and Nikon just announced a new 40mm DX kit. The f/2.8G lens should be perfect as a walk-around lens and weighs just nine ounces. Sure, it lacks zoom, but you’ll live. The lens features a minium focusing distance of just 6.4 inches and a 1:1 reproduction ratio when used with HD video. The lens, being one of Nikon’s latest, features Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor technology, which will keep the lens nearly silent during operation. Don’t want to bother that bumblebee during its closeup, do ya?

Expect to see the the new 40mm next month at an MSRP of $279.

Get Closer To Clarity: The New Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Brings Fast Macro Ability To DX-Format Shooters
Images Packed with Stunning Detail and Amazing Sharpness Have Never Been So Near

MELVILLE, N.Y. (July 12, 2011) – Nikon Inc. today introduced the new lightweight and versatile AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G lens to provide Nikon DX-format shooters macro capabilities at an affordable price point. Ideal for intimate details or general portraiture, the new AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G lens has a minimum focusing distance of just 0.53 feet (6.4 inches) to allow users to capture extreme close-up photographs and High Definition (HD) video with a life-size 1:1 reproduction ratio.

"This new NIKKOR lens is an ideal accessory lens for those who are ready to explore a totally new perspective, whether it's extreme close-up detail or general still images and movies with flattering out of focus elements," said Lisa Osorio, general manager of marketing at Nikon Inc. The new Micro NIKKOR lens delivers new and added versatility to the Nikon DX-format digital SLR system and provides DX-format shooters with compact optics that deliver excellent color reproduction and stunning sharpness."

Weighing in at approximately nine ounces, the extremely compact and lightweight lens is an ideal "next" lens to complement any DX-format shooter's growing D-SLR kit. The natural focal length (60mm, FX equivalent) and large f/2.8 aperture are ideal for a wide variety of applications, whether capturing close-up details in flowers and insects or shooting flattering portraiture with a pleasing bokeh.

For fast and whisper quiet autofocus operation, the new Nikon 40mm Micro lens also features Nikon's exclusive Silent Wave Motor technology, which allows photographers to get even closer without disturbing a subject. For complete control, the AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm offers users both manual-priority autofocus (M/A) and manual focus (M) modes to quickly and easily switch focus modes on the fly. To help ensure amazing lens performance at close distances, this new lens employs Nikon's Close-Range Correction System. With this system, the lens elements are configured in a “floating" design wherein each lens group moves independently to help achieve critical focus. Additionally, Nikon's Super Integrated Coatings are applied to help reduce instances of lens flare and ghosting. The seven blade diaphragm also helps to create a more natural out of focus component.

The versatile and compact nature of the AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G lens combined with its affordability make it a great travel companion for any DX-format D-SLR, including the new Nikon D5100 and popular D3100.

Price and Availability
The versatile AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G will be available in August for an estimated selling price* of $279.95. For more information, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

*Estimated selling price listed only as a suggestion. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time



Accel Leads $6.5 Million Round In MoPub, The DoubleClick For Mobile

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 06:00 AM PDT

MoPub, a mobile advertising startup founded by ex-AdMob and Google employees, has raised $6.5 million in new funding led by Accel Partners with participating from Harrison Metal Capital. Both firms invested seed funding in the startup last December. Accel Partner Rich Wong will be joining MoPub’s board.

MoPub, which part of the first AngelPad class, develops a self-serve ad serving platform for mobile applications and websites that allows mobile publishers to serve direct-sold rich media banner and interstitial ads in addition to optimizing their remnant inventory with networks like AdMob, Jumptap, and Millennial Media. It is essentially a DoubleClick for mobile ads.

With mobile advertising expected to grow to a $20 billion market by 2015, publishers and advertisers are increasingly looking to mobile for serving campaigns and earning money. MoPub itself compares its offering as a mobile analogue to DoubleClick for Publishers and AdMeld, which was recently purchased by Google for $400 million. It allows publishers to book and manage mobile rich media interstitials, banners and custom formats, whether on a direct sold basis or brokered through a network. MoPub is open to any mobile publisher and serves ads across Android, iOS and mobile web platforms.

Often large-scale publishers will broker direct deals with advertisers and agencies for campaigns. MoPub allows publishers to manage and serve these advertisements on mobile apps and sites as well as fill the rest of their inventory with ads from networks. The company’s real-time optimization will detect whether an ad is performing well and will automatically switch low-performing ads across another network.

Although MoPub only launched in February, the startup recently crossed the 1 billion monthly ads mark in June. MoPub currently has over 250 active publishers and is now doubling that number every quarter.CEO Jim Payne tells us that the site aims to be a one stop shop for developers to turn apps into actual businesses, allowing them to manage all their mobile campaigns and ads.

And Wong, who was Accel’s lead investor in AdMob, is bullish on where the startup is heading. he says, “MoPub is part of a new wave of mobile ads companies that are moving the industry forward very rapidly. In a short time, they have put together a widely used product and an incredible team that I believe can build the next big mobile monetization company."

As for what’s next for MoPub, Payne believes the future of mobile advertising is around realtime bidding, and creating a realtime way to connect the demand side with the buy side. Payne says that Google is done a great job with this model for display but there isn’t one company that has captured the same market share as Google in the mobile advertising world. And while Google integrated mobile ads into DoubleClick, Payne says that this offering is more oriented for mobile web and doesn’t handle rich media campaigns or is optimized for device fragmentation.

Payne says the new funding will be used to double the company’s engineers and to bolster the infrastructure of the startup’s technology.



Intellectual Ventures Sues A Slew Of Firms, Including HP And Dell, Over Patent Infringement

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:59 AM PDT

Intellectual Ventures is (again) suing a host of companies, including HP, Dell, Acer, Logitech, Kingston Technology, Best Buy and Walmart, over patent infringement.

The firm, which has amassed a huge trove of technology patents since it was founded back in 2000, sued nine other tech companies, including Check Point Software, McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro in December last year.

It marked the first time Intellectual Ventures, which is headed by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, directly sued over patent infringement, and it was viewed by many as a sign that the firm would be taking an increasingly aggressive stance over its (acquired) intellectual property.

The new lawsuit confirms this, and you can expect the move to draw attention from legal departments at numerous technology companies from around the globe.

The suit targets Hynix Semiconductor of Korea and Elpida Memory of Japan, saying that they have declined repeated efforts to pay royalties on computer-chip technology. The other defendants make or sell products that have Hynix or Elpida chips.

The full list of defendants (documents embedded below):

Hynix Semiconductor, Elpida Memory, Acer, Adata Technology, Asustek Computer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Kingston Technology, Logitech International, Pantech, Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

The patents-in-suit:

5,963,481: "Embedded enhanced DRAM, and associated method"
5,654,932: "Memory devices with selectable access type and methods using the same"
5,982,696: "Memories with programmable address decoding and systems and methods using the same"
5,500,819: "Circuits, systems and methods for improving page accesses and block transfers in a memory system"
5,687,132: "Multiple-bank memory architecture and systems and methods using the same"

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks unspecified damages.

In the lawsuit documents, the firm claims that it has purchased more than 30,000 assets to date, and in the process has paid individual inventors “hundreds of millions of dollars” for their inventions. Intellectual Ventures also says it has earned nearly $2 billion by licensing these patents, but is also quick to point out it creates inventions of its own.

Intellectual Ventures recently reached licensing agreements with the likes of SAP, Research In Motion, Micron and BlueCat Networks.


Complaint _55_


HTC Fires Back At Apple’s New Legal Head

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:52 AM PDT

The patent tussle between HTC and Apple looks like its shaping up to be a doozy, as HTC has released a formal response to the matter. Meanwhile, Apple's legal team is facing the very recent loss of its chief patent counsel, as an HP attorney takes his spot. Just yesterday, Apple's second ITC complaint against Apple surfaced on the ITC website, stirring a pot of what 'til then had been a rather quiet legal battle. The complaints were with regards to "portable electronic devices and related software."

HTC has held strong though, and today's statement is no different. Sent direct from Taipei, here's what HTC general counsel Grace Lei had to say: "HTC is dismayed that Apple has resorted to competition in the courts rather than the market place. HTC continues to vehemently deny all of Apple's past and present claims against it and will continue to protect and defend its own intellectual property as it has already done this year."

Both of Apple's complaints are pending, and HTC has yet to back down and settle. Meanwhile, this isn't the only issue on Apple's plate — the Cupertino-based company is also in the midst of much more large-scale patent war with Samsung, and has been since April. It was just this year that the company's legal beef with Nokia ended, settling a suit that lasted years. And we can't forget about Amazon, which Apple has targeted for use of the term "app store."

But Apple's strategy may be changing with the entrance of a new legal boss: BJ Watrous from HP. Mr. Watrous will be replacing Richard "Chip" Lutton Junior, who has taken responsibility for Apple's patent portfolio, according to Reuters. Watrous' new title reads "Vice President & Chief IP Counsel," at least on LinkedIn. We have yet to get a peek at his name plate.

[via MocoNews]



Pandora Crosses 100M Users, Seeing 36M Monthly Active Users

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:31 AM PDT

Pandora announced a significant redesign this morning, and paired with this announcement comes a number of user milestones for the music streaming and personalized radio service. The company now has 100 million registered users and 36 million monthly active users across its platform.

The company is announcing these stats at its first Analyst Day, a month after the company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “P”. As we initially reported, Pandora got a strong start in the public markets but shares quickly fell to below the company’s initial pricing of $16 per share. But Pandora’s stock was able to rebound recently, and closed at $19.26 yesterday afternoon.

Pandora says that it ended 2010 with 2.3 percent market share of all radio listening in the United States, and has increased its market share to 3.6 percent of all radio listening in the United States.

It’s not surprising that Pandora is growing rapidly, especially following the IPO. Debuting in the public markets is a marketing campaign in itself, and because Pandora was one of the heavily hyped IPOs toe debut this year, the company got a ton of press.

In terms of financials, revenue numbers are increasing but the company has yet to make a profit. Now that it has more cash to play with, it should be interesting to see how Pandora will begin to monetize off of its products.



Citrix Buys Cloud.com for More Than $200 Million; Redpoint Is on a Roll

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:30 AM PDT

TechCrunch has learned that Citrix Systems is buying Cloud.com for between $200 million and $250 million. The deal should be announced within the hour. Cloud.com gives companies their own private EC2-like infrastructure. The team has built the company in just a few years, boasting massive clients with demanding infrastructure needs like Zynga, Tata, and other huge undisclosed tech names. Cloud.com was funded by Redpoint Ventures, Nexus Capital and Index Ventures.

Of course the big question is with things going so well, why would Cloud sell? In a Valley where companies are either huge and take forever to build or wind up being a quick flip worth less than $100 million, deals this size have become rare. And closing one just two years after its first venture round having raised just $20 million in funding is even rarer. Perhaps the offer was just too life changing for the entrepreneurs to pass up. Who are we to judge that?

This is another exit for Redpoint Ventures who was the first money in and is having quite a year. Clearwell was bought by Symantec for $390 million. Qihoo went public and is now boasting a $2.5 billion market capitalization. Home Away went public too; it’s now worth $3.3 billion, and Redpoint owns 26% of it. Responsys also went public and is valued at $760 million. Redpoint was the first money in Cloud.com, so although the purchase price isn’t as big, it’s still a nice multiple.



Hashable Turns Inward With A Quiet Redesign

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:30 AM PDT

Some people like to broadcast every moment of their lives, but when you are dealing with business contacts that tends to be more of a private activity. Mobile startup Hashable is learning that helping people over-share is not always the right way to go.

The company pushed out a significantly redesigned app for both iPhone and Android which changes the focus to more of a personal mobile CRM app for professionals. You can still use Hashable as a digital replacement for business cards, but instead of encouraging users to broadcast each meeting, the default is now private.

The hash button is now front and center, enticing you to record your meetings. Some of the new features include the ability to add private notes about contacts and set up reminders for yourself that populates your calendar. The address book, which brings in contacts from both email and Twitter, now lists people in reverse chronological order based on your last interactions with them. It also is easier to send follow-up emails or Tweets right from the app.

“The service has really morphed into a mobile CRM,” says CEO Michael Yavonditte. “Our heaviest users preferred more privacy, less broadcasting.”

Despite pushing hard and growing steadily, Hashable only has about 60,000 active users. (Chief marketing officer Emily Hickey recently left the company). The redesign should appeal more to hardcore networkers and other serious users. And now the company plans to make a big push with its Android app (which lets you bump phones to exchange contact information via an NFC chip).

The focus now is very much on helping people manage their business lives rather than boasting about who they #justmet.



Video: Home Security System Uses Radio Signals To Detect Intruders

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:25 AM PDT

Video and infra-red were yesterday: Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, the NICT, is working on a home security and monitoring system that’s entirely based on radio signals. The main advantage of the so-called “RAdio-wave Mesh for Intruder Detection System” (RAMIDS) is that there are no blind spots in the areas screened anymore.

The system consists of a transmitter and antennas that detect changes from the signal’s amplitude and phase. Depending on a threshold value set beforehand, an alarm is triggered every time an event in the room is monitored and causes a change (for example, when a window is being opened).

What’s interesting is that RAMIDS can also be used in aged care. In rest rooms, for example (where video cameras can’t be installed for obvious reasons), the system could detect unusual behavior, i.e. when people who have entered the rest room stop moving for a certain period of time.

This video, shot by Diginfonews in Tokyo, shows RAMIDS in action:



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