Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Motorola Triumph’s Camera Issues Are Way Worse Than A Little Screen Flickering

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 09:23 AM PDT

The Motorola Triumph is off to a rough start. A flickering screen issue, while annoying, isn't all that bad when compared with what new Triumph owners are complaining about now: Apparently the handset’s 5-megapixel autofocus camera forgot how to autofocus.

We figured this may be a settings issue, but it seems that most people are experiencing the blurry cam problem right out of the box. Some have even exchanged the faulty unit for a fresh one, only to have the same problem. My gut tells me that this has nothing to do with hardware, since autofocus is generally a software-controlled feature. A similar issue plagued the original Motorola Droid in its early days, with a software patch clearing it up just a few weeks post-launch.

But wait, there’s more! Other Triumph owners are complaining that while their pictures are mostly in focus, they’ve got a nasty yellow/green tint to them. One user reported that they tweaked settings a number of times, and also reset the phone to factory settings, and still couldn't get the green blob out of the pic. (See that box used in the picture up above? Notice the funky green blob in the center? Yeah, that box was completely white.)

The Triumph was Virgin Mobile's summer beast. With solid specs and a $300-off-contract price tag, we expected this pre-paid handset to launch with guns blazing. Unfortunately, these hiccups have caused a not-so-triumphant debut. Having similar issues? Drop a comment below and let us know.

[Thanks, zebramall!]



And Then There Were Ads: Promoted Tweets Appear In Your Main Stream (If You Follow That Brand)

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 09:19 AM PDT

About a month ago, talk began to surface that in-stream ads would soon begin to roll out ads (that is, their Promoted Tweets) in user timelines. The truth is that they’ve been talking about this possibility for a while. And they’ve even tested it with third party partners like Hootsuite. But today comes the true test. Twitter will start placing them on Twitter.com.

To be clear, the sponsored Tweets will only appear in your timeline if you already follow the account that has paid for the spot. If that’s the case, a single Promoted Tweet will appear at (or near) the top of your main timeline when you log in to twitter.com for the first time in any given day. As you get new Tweets, these Promoted Tweets will be pushed down just like regular Tweets. But if you refresh the page, the ad will appear at the top of the timeline again, is our understanding.

These ads will also be clearly marked as “Promoted” with an orange arrow icon below the tweet (this is the way Promoted Tweets and Trends are currently shown on the sidebar or in search). And it will say the full company name of the company that is doing the promotion (just in case their Twitter handle isn’t perfectly clear). These Tweets can also be dismissed from your timeline with one click.

More to come. For now, read more on Twitter’s blog.



Newsbeat Measures The Pulse Of News Sites

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:56 AM PDT

The news never sleeps, which is why news sites like TechCrunch are addicted to realtime information. That addiction extends to the analytical tools news sites use to determine which articles are resonating with people and which ones aren’t. Today, news sites are getting a special flavor of a tool many already use. It’s called Newsbeat. It’s Chartbeat on steroids for news publishers, and it launches in public beta.

Chartbeat is like a realtime Google Analytics for sites that shows you exactly what is happening on your site at any given second. (We swear by it here at TechCrunch, and it even powers the popular posts widget in the sidebar at right). Newsbeat will be familiar to any Chartbeat user, but it is redesigned to break out social traffic from other types and provides an early warning system for stories that are gaining traction or losing steam.

Newsbeat shows the same speed dial that is on Chartbeat which indicates how many people are on your site at any given instant. But now you can see a color-coded traffic chart that lets you see at a glance how much traffic is coming from social sharing like Twitter, Facebook, and emails (purple bars), direct traffic (orange), other sites (blue) and search (green). For the social traffic, which typically shows up as direct traffic in Google Analytics and other tools, Chartbeat figures out algorithmically which landing pages are most likely to be direct traffic (like the home page) versus coming from third party social apps (like an article page with a unique URL).

Below the traffic chart, Newsbeat shows the most popular stories and pages on a news site with how many readers are on that page, the biggest source of traffic (facebook, Twitter), and an arrow that predicts whether or not it is gaining traction. You can filter top stories by referring source, so you can see which ones are most popular among Facebook users versus Twitter, LinkedIn, email, or from a specific referring site.

Newsbeat also lets you drill down by section or author, and shows how each one is doing across different types of readers. There is also a tab that shows just Twitter activity, along with selected Tweets linking to articles. Moreover, access to Newsbeat can be set with different permissions so a section editor can see just their own section or a writer can see just their own stats.

Newsbeat has been in private beta with the Wall Street Journal, Time.com, and Forbes.com, but is now generally available to all news sites and large blogs. Chartbeat will charge $199 a month for access to the service. It is working on other customized versions for e-commerce and gaming sites. The next one will be called Shopbeat.

Chartbeat comes out of betaworks, but now occupies its own offices, employs 18 people, and is on track to bring in revenues in the single-digit millions. It raised $3 million a year ago. The regular Chartbeat service is now tracking 4 million concurrent users across all teh sites that use it, which is up from 2 million just last January.



Verizon Takes J.D. Power Customer Care Crown From T-Mobile

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:53 AM PDT

In recent years, Verizon and T-Mobile have been neck and neck when it comes to customer care performance, a race that I (and surely many other customers) have seen the benefits of firsthand. T-Mobile held on to the top spot a few months back in the first installment of J.D. Power and Associates' Wireless Customer Care Performance Study, but Verizon has managed to take the lead for volume 2.

Despite Verizon's triumphant crowing, it was perhaps a closer race than they were willing to admit. Big Red's Customer Care Index Ranking is in fact the industry leader at 770, but T-Mobile was certainly no slouch at 766. While Verizon was specifically cited for good satisfaction feedback about calls beginning with an automated system and ending with a CSR, T-Mobile excels at pleasing customers who opt for online support.

Meanwhile, Sprint and AT&T retained their third and fourth place positions respectively, and both fall below the industry average score of 762. In their Power Circle rankings, J.D. Power gives them both a 2, effectively branding them as the "other guys" of customer satisfaction.

While I'm glad to see Verizon and T-Mobile being called out for taking care of their customers, reports like this should hopefully be a kick in the pants to all four carriers. Verizon’s 770 sounds pretty good, but J.D. Power’s scale tops out at a whopping 1,000, so everyone has their improvements to make. In all fairness, Sprint certainly seems better than it has in the past, but I foresee the roughest road for AT&T. Should the proposed merger with T-Mobile go through, they'll have to put some major time into not alienating their new customers, considering this is their second showing at dead last. Hopefully, they pick up some of T-Mobile’s friendly DNA in the process, but only time will tell.



Keepsy Showcases Gallery Of Instagram’s Top Photographers

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 08:00 AM PDT


Part of what makes Instagram so compelling is that it allows any amateur photographer to capture visually beautiful photos on the go. Keepsy, a startup that creates photo albums from Instagram and Facebook photos, is launching the a curated gallery of top Instagram photographers.

As Keepsy founder Blake Williams explains, We’ve heard people describe Instagram as ‘Twitter for photos’ but that is really doesn’t do the application justice. It is so much more than that…We’ve been closely watching the photos coming through our system and the quality is simply stunning. Our aim is to create and curate a space that showcases this creative potential for mobile photography.

Keepsy is selecting photographers mainly based on quality of work. In the gallery, people can can discover new artists, hear their stories and techniques using Instagram, as well as buy photo albums of their favorite photographers, including Koci Hernandez, Carli Keine, Kristen Rodriguez, and many others. Another ambition of the gallery is to share some of the life story behind each photographer by giving each artist their own profile page.

At the moment, Keepsy is curating photos from around 20 users but will continue to grow the gallery by taking nominations from Instagram users. Williams says that the focus is on keeping the gallery selective and representative of the ‘best of the best’ that Keepsy and other users can find. The gallery includes Instagram power users such as Richard Koci Hernandez, Inked Fingers, Kristen Rodriguez.



RIM Releases BBM 6 To The Masses With App Integration

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 07:45 AM PDT

The best part of the BlackBerry OS just got a bit better, as RIM today announced the release of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) version 6. What's more, the company plans to offer certain apps featuring BBM integration, so users can feed their texting addiction without having to close an app.

BBM-integrated apps include FourSquare, Score Mobile, Wikitude, and the Huffington Post app, along with a few more that can be found here in the BlackBerry App World. You'll have to install BBM 6 to use any of the new apps. As more and more apps integrate BBM 6, users will then be able to share the content they love in real-time for free, whether its planning to check out a movie or chatting up the latest breaking news.

This should really be a boost to the App World in general now that users will be able to browse friends’ apps on their BBM profiles. But first RIM needs to court developers through what’s looking to be a rather tedious process. From a developer standpoint, you must first use the BBM Social Platform SDK to pull BBM into your app. It shouldn’t be too tough to convince developers into this since many will be adding a social element to their apps for the first time, or at the very least in a new way.

However, RIM is in the middle of a massive transition to the QNX platform, which means that developers who are spending extra time and manpower on hooking up BBM will have to go through the same process again in a few months. That is where RIM will struggle to grow the App World.



Nielsen: Android Takes Top OS Spot, Apple Tops Manufacturers

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 07:15 AM PDT

Nielsen comes bearing good news today for devotees of the little green robot: as of this past June, Android has claimed the top spot in the U.S. smartphone OS market. Figures have it as comprising a full 39% of the market, with its closest competitor Apple a distant second at 28%. Oh, and let's not forget the BlackBerry OS, which is currently dragging its feet at 20%. Bringing up the rear are Windows Phone 7 at 9%, which is a bit of an accomplishment considering the major head start its competitors enjoyed, and WebOS and Symbian (both at 2%).

This strikes me as a bit puzzling, given what seems like the abject lack of Nokia smartphones stateside. The E71x debuted on AT&T two years ago with little fanfare, and even the newish Nokia Astound seems to have been dropped from T-Mobile’s online store. Of course the situation is still in flux; with HP hoping the TouchPad will leverage sales of the Veer 4G and the forthcoming Pre 3, we will likely see a boost in rank next time round. Still, they need to make their next steps very, very carefully.

On the hardware front, Apple makes it known that they’re not ones to settle for second. They have managed to land themselves the title of top manufacturer — an easy victory, to be fair. Considering the top OS finds its way to devices made by HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, Apple was a lock from the beginning. RIM surprisingly finds itself tied with HTC for manufacturing 20% of the smartphones in people’s pockets, which we could probably chalk up to corporate support balancing out HTC consumer advertising campaigns.

These results are all well and good, and I’m sure they’ll be quoted for quite some time, but they come right on the cusp of change. I’m interested to see how the landscape changes once heavy hitters like the Galaxy S II line and the iPhone 4S/5/whatever are released, and we’ll be sure to let you know as it happens.



The Netbook Lives! Asus Launches Product Page For The MeeGo Eee PC X101 Netbook

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 06:21 AM PDT

Asus’s next-gen netbook, the MeeGo-running Eee PC X101, is nearing launch and just earned its very own product page on the company’s website. This notebook, and its slightly more bloated brother, the Windows-ifed X101H, are nearing launch and ready to usher netbooks into a new age of prosperity.

Netbooks aren’t dead. As much as some feel that they hurt the personal computer cause, consumers seemingly have no issue trading computing power for portability. The little notebooks hit the big time several years back and would probably still be a hot ticket if it weren’t for the iPad.

The Asus Eee PC X101 made the rounds at industry tradeshows the last few months. Asus is understandably proud of the slender MeeGo netbook. It’s expected to hit the market sometime this month for only $200 with the Windows version running an extra bill.

Slashgear points out that the X101 runs a 1.5GHz Intel Atom Oak Trail platform that supports 802.11 b/g/n, dual USB ports, and 1GB of RAM. Meego is loaded on a 8GB SSD and runs on a 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 display.

The MeeGo OS should solve the lackluster performance aspect that plagued netbooks previously. The system is built for low-power computing platforms, which should make a difference.

Asus defined the netbook space the first time around and, if the netbook market is going to get a revival, it will come from the Asus tent with the X101 at the podium.



After CBS, Amazon Lands Movie Streaming Deal With NBCUniversal

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 06:18 AM PDT

Following the e-commerce giant’s recent deal with CBS, Amazon has just announced its licensing agreement with NBCUniversal to allow U.S. Amazon Prime customers to stream movies from Universal Pictures’ library of content. Financial terms of the non-exclusive deal were not disclosed.

Amazon Prime customers can now watch a number of older Universal titles (no recent released yet) from its library at no additional cost to their membership. In February, Amazon officially launched the instant streaming service for movies and TV shows for Prime subscribers. Amazon says the deal will bring the total number of Prime instant videos to more than 9,000 movies and TV shows (as opposed to 8,000 previously).

Universal titles available to Prime customers will include movies such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Elizabeth," and "Gosford Park." For the kids, there's "Babe," "Flipper," and "Jetsons – The Movie," as well as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Notting Hill," "Being John Malkovich", "Fletch," and "Billy Elliott."

Amazon has been racking up the Netflix-like formal media partnerships in content streaming. Competitor Netflix has dominated the space because of these licensing deals for massive amounts of content. In fact, Netflix has a similar deal in place with NBCUniversal. But like Netflix, Amazon’s content is older as opposed to new-releases, a market which Apple has been able to corner.



Video: When Roombas And Baby Ducks Mate, A Khepera Swarm Robot Is Born

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 06:17 AM PDT

So, this is cool: The Georgia Robotics and Intelligent Systems lab has built these things called Khepera swarm robots. Though they look like little Roombas, they haven’t quite learned how to pick up crumbs yet. They're actually a part of grad student Edward Macdonald's Masters thesis and just recently learned a couple new tricks.

They're first feat was to spell out the word GRITS (for Georgia Robotics and Intelligent Systems), and now they've moved on to forming a landing pad for a quadrocopter. They grow up so fast, don't they? Anyways, in the video below you can see these little cutie-bots walk in a line behind the leader robot (which reminds me of baby ducks), and create a formation fit to land a quadrocopter on.

Enjoy!

[via Engadget]



Feds Approve $44K Doctor Reimbursement for Using Drchrono’s iPad App

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 06:00 AM PDT

As we’ve written in the past, Drchrono, a startup thatsimplifies the professional lives of doctors by bringing electronic health records and much more to the iPad, has received official government certification. This is will result in doctors receiving $44,000 in incentives when they use drchrono as an electronic medical records platform.

As we’ve written in the past, drchrono’s iPad app allows doctors to schedule patient appointments, dictate notes via audio, take pictures, write prescriptions and send them to pharmacies, enable reminders, take clinical notes, access lab results, and, most importantly input electronic health records.

The electronic medical records element is key because the Obama administration is currently offering incentives for doctors to start moving their health records online. Drchrono will help doctors start, finish and manage this process. Because of this, the startup has been awarded aMeaningful Use certification, which allows doctors to receive up to $44,000 in government incentives for downloading the apps and using it enough to meet the Government's requirement. The drchrono application tracks how much a doctor uses the EHR and automatically gives them key metrics to report to the government in order to get their incentive money for 2011.

The startup says the certification makes drchrono the first native EHR on the iPad to be certified for Meaningful Use.

Drchrono just raised $675,000 in seed funding from General Catalyst, Charles River Ventures, 500 Startups, Gmail creator and FriendFeed cofounder Paul Buchheit, Google's Principal Engineer Matt Cutts, and the Start Fund.



First “Light” iPhone Images Appear

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 05:42 AM PDT

And we’re off: the first photos of a “cheap” iPhone – not specifically of the iPhone 5 but of a light version of the iPhone 4 – are beginning to appear, the latest leak coming from a Vietnamese forum, Tinhte.

We wouldn’t usually fall for this sort of thing but Tinhte has been correct in the past and so it’s at least worth a quick look.

What we’re seeing here is an iPhone 4 without front and back glass panels. Instead, there are two translucent plastic sheets and metal banding around the edge. This would make the iPhone considerably cheaper to build.

We’ve been hearing rumors of the “cheaper” iPhone for most of 2011 and the great prognosticator himself felt that an iPhone “lite” was imminent, potentially priced at pre-paid, developing market levels. After all, Tim Cook said he didn’t want the iPhone to be “just for the rich.”

UPDATE – As iawa2k notes, this could be simply a conversion kit. However, I found the seemingly matte or mottled surface to be the most potentially interesting part of this “leak.” Is it the real one? Who the heck knows, but we’d be remiss not to note potential candidates.

1-1432133578 2-267753601


Snapdeal, India’s Fast-Growing eCommerce Platform, Raises $40 Million From Bessemer And More

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 05:38 AM PDT

As Groupon’s business in India continues to hit snags, a homegrown daily deal company is quickly snatching up market share in the local deal space. New Delhi-based Snapdeal.com, which, like Groupon features daily deal coupons at discounted rates, announced today that it has raised $40 million in series B funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, along with contributions with existing investors Nexus Venture Partners and IndoUS Venture Partners. According to Snapdeal Founder and CEO Kunal Bahl, this is the largest single round of private investment in an internet company in India to date.

Snapdeal’s new round adds to the $12 million it raised back in January from Nexus and IndoUS, bringing total investment to $52 million. To see a sizable series B from existing investors come so soon after closing its series A is somewhat unusual. Of course, when you consider that Snapdeal has grown its 300-person staff to 500 and jumped from 1 million to 8 million members over a matter of six months, one starts to understand why. Snapdeal is scaling quickly, and this new infusion of capital will likely give it the cushion it needs to continue pushing into new markets.

With Snapdeal operations now extending across 50 of India’s largest cities and 10,000 brands and retailer partnering with the daily deal site, prospects are good. What’s more, according to Snapdeal Founder and CEO Kunal Bahl, the startup is currently averaging 1.5 million new members per month.

Part of the reason the site has been able to scale so quickly, Bahl says, is that half of the deals currently featured on Snapdeal are inbound requests from merchants. This has significantly reduced sales cycles for Snapdeal, and with its new capital in tow, Snapdeal plans to continue expanding into hyperlocal markets across the subcontinent.

While the CEO says that it has typically been difficult for Indian companies to scale, due to environmental friction and viscosity as well as low employee loyalty (and just, by and large, skepticism of new, untested companies) — and that Snapdeal, too, has struggled with these obstacles — the team has been able to gain from these experiences and is now seriously considering more international opportunities in the greater India region, like, for example, South Asia and proximate parts of the middle east and southeast Asia.

Another reason for the site’s rapid growth in 2011 comes from its recently launched products deals business, which is similar in scope to that of Gilt Groupe, in which Snapdeal sells branded lifestyle products, like fashion accessories, electronics, apparel, etc. at significant discounts. Since its launch 3 months ago, the products business has been doubling each month and now accounts for 15 percent of Snapdeal’s total business, Bahl said.

Mobile commerce is also proving to be an asset for Snapdeal, as 30 percent of its members access deals on their mobile devices. As the site allows its customers to receive daily text alerts (or emails), many of its customers are accessing deals on the go. And as a result of this rapidly scaling online and mobile customer base, Bahl said that many national and international brands have begun partnering with Snapdeal as a means of accessing new Indian customers. Levi's, Pizza Hut, Nike, Marriott, and Hyatt Hotels, for example, are among those hopping on board.

Bahl says that the company has plans to expand its staff to 800 by the end of the year, but scaling so quickly across a large geographical region and managing on-the-ground operations is no easy feat. It is allocating a good deal of its time to training and grooming its staff in the hopes of building not just a viral company, but a business that has long-term viability — and one in which employee retention is encouraged.

Though Groupon has made the most news in the local deals space, Snapdeal hopes that in offering more than single daily deals and by avoiding minimum thresholds, it can forge an alternative to the Groupon model and distinguish itself from the rest of the daily deals pack. So far, so good. Snapdeal is definitely one to watch. After all, a small village in India just changed its name to “Snapdeal.com Nagar”, after the startup helped install the village’s water pumps.

For more on building a big internet company in India, interested readers should check out Bahl’s post in Business Insider. It’s an interesting read.

Also check out Robin’s interview with the Snapdeal CEO here.



TaskRabbit Drops Its Amazing iPhone App

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 05:30 AM PDT

Taskrabbit, the collaborative consumption service that allows you to post tasks and have other (vetted, background checked) people complete them within in a short amount of time has finally come to iOS (or any mobile app for that matter) this morning. In case you missed it, TaskRabbit is an ideal servide for urban dwellers who are too busy to complete day-to-day tedium like build desks, pick up party platters or fold laundry for example — a perfect market fit for iPhone users, hence.

Previously available only on a mobile site, the TaskRabbit iPhone app is actually innovative, allowing anyone who needs something done fast to post a task quickly by either saying, typing or taking a picture of the task they want completed. With the TaskRabbit iOS app a user can post a task to the site within a couple of clicks, as cliche as that sounds.

Seriously if you’re in the demographic you should try it out, because it’s amazing. Too lazy to type in your credit card number? Users can take advantage of their iPhone camera and take picture of their credit card to pay. Yeah.

Task posters can use the Lazy Susan-esque interface to choose from take categories like Cleaning, Donations, Shopping, Food Delivery, Cleaning, Donations, (Regular) Delivery and the ever-vague Something Else. The app uses location to figure out both pick up and drop off coordinates for tasks and includes an entirely new TaskRabbit feature called “Pricing History” to make task pricing decisions easier for those with little time to decide.

On the other side of the equation, task runners (Rabbits) who want to use the app can select tasks they’d like to complete by using the “Browse tasks around you” feature, using the iPhone's geo-location to find the most relevant tasks.

TaskRabbit recently brought in a $5 million Series A from First Round CapitalBaseline VenturesShasta Ventures and others in order to hire engineers to build um, apps exactly like this one, no? TaskRabbit currently has about 3000 tasks posted each month with an average spend of about $30 per task, taking a %15 cut average. Recently expanded to Los Angeles and Orange County, the company has its sights set on New York next, like everybody else.



Expedia And Zillow Founder Launches Location-Based Mobile Discovery iOS App Trover

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 05:29 AM PDT

The idea of discovering items, products and locations around you is a challenge that a number of startups and companies are trying to solve, including Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and many others. Today, Trover, a start-up that is the brainchild of Expedia and Zillow co-founder Rich Barton, Jason Karas and Andrew Coldham; is launching today as a mobile discovery network where people can share location-specific discoveries of places and things in a visual way. You can download Trover’s iOS app here.

Barton and Karas tell me that the app aims to replicate the feeling of strolling around neighborhood, window shopping, and discovering new things in your location. When you open the app, you can sign in with Facebook, and the app will show you a gris of photographs based on your location.

The first photographs in the grid are those of objects or locations closest to you. The mosaic gives users thumbnails of Instagram-like photos featuring places to see or things to do nearby.

You can snap a picture, create a quick description and Trover automatically tags it with location data. You’ll also be able to see which of your Facebook friends have posted a discovery close to your locations. And you can also follow individuals on the network that fit with your interests (i.e. graffiti spotter, Italian foodie and more). Each discovery has its own profile page where the creator can leave a comment, and location. Obervers can the leave their own observations as well

During a limited spring trial, open to Facebook members only, the Trover community attracted more than 70,000 users in 150 countries. The company says that an Android app is currently in development.

Trover is funded by TravelPost, which raised $9.8 million Series A investment from General Catalyst Partners, Ignition Partners and Benchmark Capital.

The immediate comparison upon using the app is that Trover seems like a Yelp meets Instagram meets Foursquare because the combination of observation, location, as well as high-quality photo content. And with the various social integrations, Trover adds an element of intelligence to the app. While there’s no shortage of discovery apps on the market, Trover may be on to something by combining all these elements into one, visually appealing package.

[crunchbase url="http://www.crunchbase.com/company/travelpost-com" name="TravelPost.com"]



Nokia’s Ovi Store Serving Over 7 Million Downloads A Day

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 04:57 AM PDT

Nokia’s developer relations team would like you to remind you that Symbian has an App Store, called Ovi, and they’ve just surpassed 7.62 million downloads per day, thank you very much.

Their short announcement states that thanks to a recent change in the registration process – namely the removal of account requirements for the downloading of free apps – has sparked interest in the Ovi store. Most downloads are coming from India, making that country “the top country by downloads from the mobile web channel.”

These apps, designed for the Symbian phones Nokia is swiftly obsoleting, include titles like “Psycho Hunter” (“You play the game and we will tell your personality. It is simple game of deer hunt with good personality analysis tool for understanding your behavior and game play techniques. Test your friends for their psycho analysis.”) and something called Angry Birds which apparently involves pigs. Other hits include a few hundred flashlight apps and a Ukelele tuner.

While I am being a bit facetious, isn’t this a strange stat to crow on the eve of Microsoft and Nokia going all in to destroy the Symbian platform?



NEA And Sequoia Put $18M In Brand-Focused Social Media Platform Hearsay Social

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 04:29 AM PDT

Hearsay Social, a SaaS dashboard for national businesses and their local branches to manage Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages, has raised $18 million in new funding led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with existing investor Sequoia Capital participating. In conjunction with the funding, NEA partner Jon Sakoda is joining the Hearsay Social Board of Directors. To date, Hearsay Social has raised $21 million in funding.

Hearsay Social, which launched to the public in February, aims to help big brands who have local branches (i.e. Starbucks, BestBuy), manage Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages. Because of the highly distributed nature of some companies that have local branches, managing social media pages for stores or offices that are still in compliance with a company’s regulation is a challenging process.

Hearsay Social is optimized for “corporate/local” enterprises to allow local representatives, agents, advisors, franchisees or store managers to manage social media pages while ensuring local representatives stay in compliance with brand guidelines, and content regulations. The SaaS application puts compliance, workflow, content management and analytics on top of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The central dashboard for brands features message archiving, keyword flagging and filtering, workflow and approval capabilities. Users can also suggest tailored campaigns to local branches and reps and access analytics on Facebook, Twitter and Facebook pages by region or sub-region.

In terms of the local branch view, Hearsay Social offers branch managers to see suggested content, and a 360-degree view of Facebook fans and friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers. The platform will also allows local branch users to post updates and check if their page updates (i.e. a profanity filter) are in compliance with a chain’s social media policies. The company also inked a deal with LinkedIn to collaborate on sales and marketing efforts, as well as a full integration between Hearsay Social and the LinkedIn messaging API.

Today, Hearsay is also adding a number of new features to its software. An integrated social campaigns feature allows marketing departments to package Facebook tabs, posts, and ads into a campaign that local representatives can launch with a single click. Targeting and timing can also be pre-specified so that companies can stage campaign rollouts that reps can easily run at the local level.

One realization Hearsay Social came to when helping companies manage local stores is that many companies have district managers and regional operations that manage local branches. Because of this, the startup has catered its admin access to the district level with customizable hierarchies, roles, and entitlements.

Additionally, Hearsay Social can now identify rogue social media pages that represent the company's brand but are outside corporate control. Any infractions or correspondence on those pages are also captured by Hearsay.

Hearsay Social was founded by former Google and Salesforce employee Clara Shih and former Microsoft staffer Steve Garrity. Shih says that as she was writing The Facebook Era, she saw that there was a market to better serve corporate-local brands.

Hearsay has convinced some financial services companies already and is being used by State Farm, and Farmers Insurance Group of Companies (as well as fitness chain 24 Hour Fitness). Shih tells us that the new funding will be used to double the company’s head count to 80 employees by the end of the year.

[crunchbase url="http://www.crunchbase.com/company/hearsay-social" name="Hearsay Social"]



OK Go’s Latest Video Lets You Force Band Members To Do Your Evil Bidding

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 03:51 AM PDT

If you’re running Chrome and you like Prince-inflected super-pop with a knob-twister aesthetic, then you’re in luck. The band OK Go teamed up with dance company Pilobolus to create a very unique video for their song “All Is Not Lost.”

The video itself is pretty simple – you’ve got a bunch of people running around in spandex on a clear floor so you can pretty much tell everyone’s religion when they lie down. However, the way the video interacts with chrome – creating dependent windows, kaleidoscopes, and other wild effects – and then placing your own message into the video using a pre-set alphabet of dancing feet – is pretty darn cool.

You can watch/play with the video here. The video was made in conjunction with Google’s Play With Chrome initiative.

Here is my message:

Now I have to get the image of Dan Konopka’s smashed buttocks out of my head.



Google Offers To Re-Write Your Webpages On The Fly, Promising 25% To 60% Speed Improvements

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 03:30 AM PDT

Google has long been obsessed with speed. It’s paramount in pretty much everything they do. Which is why the launch of Google+ with some — gasp — attention paid to design is even more surprising. But a new service Google is launching this evening very much puts the focus back on speed — an obsessive amount of focus, one might say.

Page Speed Service is the latest tool in Google’s arsenal to help speed up the web. This service is also their most ambitious yet. When you sign up and point your site’s DNS entry to Google, they’ll enable the tool which will fetch your content from your servers, rewrite your webpages, and serve them up from Google’s own servers around the world. Yes, you read all of that correctly.

“Your users will continue to access your site just as they did before, only with faster load times,” Google notes. They say that applying web performance best practices across these pages should improve speed by 25 to 60 percent. Google will allow you to test out how much they’ll be able to speed up your site before you commit to it, apparently.

“Now you don't have to worry about concatenating CSS, compressing images, caching, gzipping resources,” Google says. Okay, but isn’t that a little freaky, giving Google the ability to re-write and serve your pages on the fly? Perhaps. But if they really can deliver on the results they’re promising, it may be worth it.

Google says that Page Speed Service will be offered for free to a limited set of testers right now. Eventually, they will charge for it, and pricing will be “competitive”.



Nintendo 3DS To Drop To $170 On August 12, Current Owners Get 20 Free Games

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 03:18 AM PDT

The Nintendo 3DS is dropping $80 – from $249 to $169 – on August 12 in preparation for the launch of the console’s E3 A-List titles including Kid Icarus. This cut is also, presumably, in reaction to slow initial sales of the 3D console.

Current owners of the console will receive ten free NES games along with ten free Game Boy Advance titles on September 1st (provided they’ve logged into the Nintendo eShop before August 12.

As Engadget points out, Nintendo downgraded its expected net profit from ¥110 billion to ¥20 billion – a massive cut – and this move will potentially allow them to sell the estimated 16 million 3DS consoles they’re expecting to push out the door in 2011.

Will they pull it off and will early adopters be pissed that they gave up $80 for the opportunity to snag the original Punch-Out!! for free? I’d wager, at this rate, no and yes.



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