- Nokia Revamps Product Naming Guidelines
- ‘Inventors’ Claim FarmVille And Other Zynga Games Infringe On Patent
- University Of Southern Mississippi Hooks Up Honors Students With Samsung Galaxy Tabs
- Sprint Offers Phone Connect Service To Small Businesses
- Twitter Takes Extra Measures To Protect Its Confidential Documents
- Windows Phone Logo Refresh Fits A Square Peg In A Round Hole
- No Galaxy Tab 10.1 For The Outback Until The Apple-Samsung War Cools Down
- Autodesk Acquires DIY Community Instructables
- Amazon Takes Gilt Groupe-Competitor MyHabit Mobile With New iPhone App
- IncrediMail Buys Online Photo Album And Slideshow Creator Smilebox For Up To $40 Million
- Kids Educational Products Retailer BabbaCo Raises $1.2M From Lightbank And SV Angel
- Kimbia Raises $4M For Online Fundraising And Event Management Software
- The Smartphone Salad Days Are Over
- Nintendo Calling Early 3DS Buyers “Ambassadors,” Will Give Them Special Perks
- rome2rio Adds Carbon Neutral Travel Feature With Offset Options Partnership
- Foxconn Planning To Hire 1 Million Robots
- Gadgets Week In Review: Storm Photographer
- Best Buy Releases Insignia TV With Built-In TiVo
- YouTube’s Creator Playbook: Your Guide To Achieving Internet Fame*
- BigCommerce Raises $15 Million To Help Retailers Manage E-Commerce
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 09:07 AM PDT
Riding high from the release of the (admittedly) mid-range Nokia 500, the folks over at the Nokia Conversations blog have just released something else they seem very proud of: new product naming guidelines!
Starting with the 500, Nokia is returning to their numerical roots for all of their future handsets. This feels like a step backward, but Nokia promises that they have applied a bit of logic to their nomenclature.
The range will start from 100 (the most basic devices) and top out at 900 (the fanciest, most feature-laden), with the next digits being unique identifiers for individual devices. It gives Nokia a bit of room to play around in for sure, but I'm personally not looking forward to the day when someone asks me the difference between a Nokia 437 and a Nokia 412.
I know, I know, you’re just thrilled about the news. To be fair, they make some interesting arguments about Nokia's naming scheme, and the issues inherent to it. For a while there, Nokia was all about arbitrary letter classifications: the X series were "entertainment devices" while E series phones were meant for business. As they point out though, those forced classifications didn't always match up well to people’s actual needs and usage. On top of that, differentiation of devices got to be a bit of pain between series. Phil from Nokia Conversations makes a great point to this effect:
Nokia was aiming to be different with this change, and for better or worse, they’ve certainly set themselves apart. I remain a skeptic, but it may well work out exactly the way they want. All I can say is that Nokia needs to release some real 900 series devices before they start sweating the small stuff again.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 08:59 AM PDT
Zynga has been slapped with patent lawsuit from a Segan LLC, which alleges that the social gaming giant has infringed on a patent titled “System for Viewing Content Over A Network and Method Thenrfor.” You can access the complaint here.
According to the document, the technology was developed and patented by Marc Segan and Gene Lewin in 2006 for a system and method for viewing content over the Internet wherein a user accesses a service provider server to view a character icon provided by the service provider to a user interface device.
From the actual patent, The user will select web site addresses of subscriber target sites where the user can access enhancement content for the character icon to provide functionality to the character icon such as for animating the character icon on the user device. Addresses for such web sites may be provided to the user based on a particular character icon selection which may, in and of itself, signify interests and/or demographic information of the user. Access to enhancement content will be provided by accessing authorization codes present at the target sites. In a preferred embodiment, only certain enhancement content will be operable on certain character icons, thus requiring the user to locate enhancement content that is compatible with the user’s character icon.
The patent itself is confusing but it appears that the technology focuses around associating a user to a character icon and how to manage updates to the character.
Segan alleges that Zynga infringed on this patent with the development and operation of its social games on Facebook like CityVille, FarmVille and others. Segan is seeking damages and royalty payments for the technology.
It’s unclear who Segan is, as the LLC doesn’t seem to have a web presence. The company isn’t a developer of social games, and could just be another organization that holds patents and makes money from going after companies that come close to or infringe on these patents.
This isn’t the first patent lawsuit for Zynga. The company was sued earlier this year by Walker Digital, the "invention company" founded by Priceline.com co-inventor Jay S. Walker, over a gaming technology. Zynga is also embroiled in a lawsuit with Vostu.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 08:14 AM PDT
The classic "my dog ate my homework" excuse just got a lot harder to pull off for students at the University of Southern Mississippi. The University today announced plans to hook up its Honors College students with the inedible Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to extend access to educational content.
The pilot program will launch with up to 1,000 Galaxy Tabs, which will be distributed to selected Honors College, McNair Scholars, Southern Style and Gulf Coast students. Not sure what Southern Style or Gulf Coast students are, but if you're one of them, congratulations on your new GalTab.
The slates will come loaded with Blackboard Mobile, giving students access to the course syllabi, content, e-texbooks, grades, schedules, and emergency notifications. With students and professors both on the same OS with the same hardware, sharing of video, audio and other content will be that much easier. Plus, the trees are really excited about being left alone.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 08:04 AM PDT
If there's one thing I've learned from dealing with wireless carriers for years, it's that everyone takes ideas from everyone else.
Sometimes it signals a real benefit for customers (AT&T now offers a "mobile to any mobile" feature that seems suspiciously like Sprint's), and sometimes… well, sometimes it doesn't. Case in point: AT&T's appropriation of T-Mobile's arguably spurious definition of "4G."
Fortunately, today's example falls into the former category. Taking a page from T-Mobile's playbook, Sprint has announced their new Phone Connect service, which allows customers to plug landline phones into a nifty little adapter that connects to Sprint's network.
Customers can port their existing home or office numbers to Sprint's service, with a caveat: unlike wireless-to-wireless transfers, which generally port within 3 days max, home-to-wireless transfers often take up to 7 days to complete.
It may sound similar to the T-Mobile @ Home service of years past, but Sprint has a different target in mind for their attempt: small business owners.
As part of their Sprint Biz 360 initiative, Sprint is positioning Phone Connect as a complete replacement for existing (and often pricey) landline phone solutions. They remain mum on plan pricing, so it's difficult to tell exactly how much customers can expect to save by switching. Launching on August 11, Phone Connect is a bold move by Sprint, considering their smaller network footprint. It works out to their advantage, considering the devices themselves won’t be moving around, but one thing seems clear at this early juncture. If all goes well, you'd better believe Sprint will milk their "Most Reliable Network" tag line even more going forward.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 07:53 AM PDT
Brainloop offers an online platform that helps companies such as Twitter but also clients like BMW and Nokia protect confidential documents and automatically apply the necessary security policies to files that they’d like to shield from outsiders.
Needless to say, we’re not too happy with this recent development.
The news of the partnership between Twitter and Brainloop comes less than two weeks after reports surfaced about the former raising $800 million in financing in part to help investors and employees to cash out prior to an eventual sale or IPO.
Twitter declined to comment on said reports.
In a statement, Twitter VP of Finance Luca Baratta said the company is “excited” to be working with Brainloop and that the company’s protected online workspace solution will help Twitter as it “expands its global footprint”. Brainloop CEO Peter Weger explains what his company does, in a nutshell:
In short: Brainloop will help Twitter prevent sensitive information from leaking out to people like us.
Some of the features available in the company’s document compliance management solution include ‘anywhere, anytime’ web-based access, document sharing with versioning, user access controls, two-factor authentication via SMS PINs, 256-bit encryption and integration with Microsoft and Adobe Rights Management to prevent unauthorized forwarding, printing and saving of documents.
Further details of the deal between Brainloop and Twitter were not leaked.
Brainloop is headquartered in Munich, Germany and has an office in Boston, Massachusetts (Unites States). The company has raised 2 million euros in funding to date.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 07:40 AM PDT
Well, what is this we have popping up all over the place? It's pretty familiar with that Windows logo in the center, but shouldn't it be bundled nicely in a circle? Nope. Not anymore. According to Japanese Windows Phone evangelist Takahashi, that little glowing Windows Phone circle is no more — the revolutionary and innovative shape called "square" will now represent Windows Phone 7 OS.
This is an interesting move by Microsoft. While we tend to remain unaware of it, people don't quite realize just how much a brand image or logo shapes their perception of a company and its products. That circular Windows logo is completely attached to Microsoft and Windows in a fundamental way.
For the new smartphone user, seeing a circular Windows logo pop up on the boot screen means something familiar is coming. It means that user doesn't have to be intimidated by their shiny new smartphone because their old friend Windows will be there to help. Of course, the old logo will only encourage fully satisfied Windows PC users who are noobs to the smartphone game.
For those of us who have ever used or owned a Windows-powered phone, a refreshed logo is a welcome change. Up until now, the Windows Phone platform has been under-developed, and just plain not good enough to stand up to the competition. Mango stands to change all that, and reminding us of the old, half-baked OS will only bring up unhappy memories.
A square is sharp. It's the shape through which Windows Phone will be presented to us, and it also happens to be the prominent shape of Mango's live tile UI. In my opinion, a square only makes sense to propel the Windows Phone platform into the center ring with the likes of Android and iOS. What do you prefer, circle or square?
[Images via Nanapho]
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 07:30 AM PDT
G'day, mates. At least, it's a good Monday for us. Australians, on the other hand, have just been excluded from all the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 fun as a result of the continuing patent battle between Samsung and Apple. During a break in the hearing, both parties reached an agreement whereby Samsung would stop advertising the Tab 10.1 in Australia and not sell the device until Samsung wins court approval or the lawsuit itself comes to a conclusion.
One of Apple's lawyers, Steven Burley, claimed that Samsung's newest 10-inch tablet infringes on 10 Apple patents related to the iPad, concerning both the external design and certain facets of the touchscreen technology. Of course, if a judge rules in favor of Samsung on this one, then Apple has agreed to pay unspecified damages for time wasted and profits forfeited, reports Bloomberg.
The Outback isn’t the only place where Samsung may face trouble. Though the Cupertino-based company has not divulged all the details, it's clear that Apple will try to seek import bans in countries other than Australia. And before you go getting all angry with Apple, know that Samsung started it. At least when it comes to the import bans.
Samsung filed with the United States International Trade Commission at the end of June asking to ban imports of iStuff. An official decision has yet to be reached. Then again, neither company would be in this mess at all if Apple hadn't come after Samsung in the first place, crying copycat and patent infringement all the way to the courtroom.
The patent-infringing Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the version meant to be distributed in the U.S. According to Samsung's lawyers, the Australian version of the tablet is different, and Apple will have a chance to review three units of the Aussie's Galaxy Tab 10.1 at least a week before Samsung plans to launch the device.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 06:35 AM PDT
In its third acquisition this year, Autodesk, maker of design, engineering and entertainment software, has acquired San Francisco-based Instructables, a popular online community where people can upload, discuss, rate and collaborate on a wide variety of do-it-yourself projects.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Whether the DIY community that makes Instructables tick will be equally enthusiastic about this acquisition remains to be seen. You can stay abreast of its members’ opinions via the previous link and on the forum post announcing the acquisition (which you can find here).
For what it’s worth, Autodesk intends to retain the Instructables brand and says it will continue to operate Instructables.com while preserving its authenticity. This is Wilhelm’s take on the matter:
While members of the MIT Media Lab, Wilhelm and Saul Griffith founded Squid Labs, an engineering and technology company specializing in design and consulting. Instructables started as an internal Squid Labs project, and Wilhelm later spun it out as an independent company.
Instructables subsequently raised funding from O'Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures and Baseline Ventures, among other investors, although I haven’t been able to pin down how much.
Update: according to this recent Xconomy profile, Instructables raised “just shy of $2 million”.
The article also teaches us that Instructables currently boasts more than 2 million registered users and a collection of 55,000 how-to articles authored by more than 20,000 contributors.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 06:35 AM PDT
As we wrote earlier this year, Amazon joined the flash sales market with the launch of MyHabit, a private sales site for discounted items from designers and boutique brands. Similar to Gilt, Ideeli and others; MyHabit holds daily events featuring up to 60 percent off a selection of styles. In Amazon-like style, the flash sales site also includes free four-day shipping shipping. Today, Amazon is launching a companion iPhone app for MyHabit.
The MyHabit app includes all of the functionality a the website, and allows users to view detailed product pages, videos and images, and purchase items directly from their phones In addition, customers can preview the week's calendar of events and receive start of sale reminders from specific brands before they sell out.
M-commerce is a growing segment of the business for Amazon, and many other e-retailers like eBay. In fact, Forrester estimates that mobile commerce in the U.S. will reach $31 billion by 2016.
As we’ve seen with other flash sales sites, mobile offerings are particularly popular because of the short time-frame in sales. Other recently launched Amazon mobile apps include barcode scanning app Price Check, shopping iPad app Window Shop, and a Gold Box deals app.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 06:18 AM PDT
Nasdaq-listed IncrediMail, which develops and markets email and other desktop software products, is to acquire Smilebox, a U.S. company that develops consumer-focused photo sharing and scrapbook creation tools.
Under the terms of the agreement, IncrediMail will pay $25 million, mostly in cash, with additional payments of up to $15 million in earn-out fees if certain milestones and performance based conditions are met. The company says approximately 10 percent of the acquisition consideration will be held in escrow for 18 months.
According to its CrunchBase profile, Smilebox raised $14 million in funding since its inception.
IncrediMail CEO Josef Mandelbaum in a statement says buying Smilebox allows the company to diversify its product portfolio and increase its premium subscription base. IncrediMail offers a desktop-based email program and a range of add-ons like a browser toolbar and an instant messaging tool.
The company also markets PhotoJoy, a free application that let users create personal wallpapers and screensavers using his or her own digital photos.
Smilebox, which was founded in 2005 by Andrew Wright, also offers a desktop application that allows users to use personal photos and videos to build ecards, invitations, slideshows, scrapbooks, photo albums and whatnot (see also Animoto, Muvee and Photobucket).
Smilebox says more than 15 million people have installed the software since the service was launched in June 2006.
IncrediMail says it expects its new asset to generate cash sales in excess of $15 million in 2012 and be EBITDA accretive in the second half of 2012.
After closing, Smilebox will continue to operate from its Redmond-based offices, which currently employs roughly 50 people.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 05:00 AM PDT
BabbaCo, a startup that develops products that make parenting easier, has raised $1.2 million in funding led by Lightbank with SV Angel participating in the round. BabbaCo is actually one of the first collaborative investments between Lightbank and SV Angel.
Founded by entrepreneur Jessica Kim, BabbaCo essentially creates and sells unique, educational products for children. The company’s soon to be released BabbaBox is similar to Foodzie’s tasting box, except tailored for parents with kids. BabbaBox is a monthly subscription box that includes an educational experience for children to engage in. It helps parents create, explore, story-tell and teach in an interactive and enriching way.
Each BabbaBox focuses on creating, learning and story telling. For example, one month’s activity could be learning about insects. The BabbaBox would include clay and instructions to sculp an ant, along with an instructional video or story to teach kids the different parts of an ant. The box would also come with an insect catcher and a magnifying glass for kids to actually find real insects.
The boxes are available for specific ages (3, 4, 5 years old) and cost $29.99 per month. Kim says she thought of the idea as a way for parents to do something fun and educational with their kids besides watching TV. Kim says that it can be challenging for parents to provide educational experiences that are engaging and fun for kids.
This isn’t Kim’s first startup. As a college student, Kim actually found Jessica's Wonders, a brand of premium baked goods. She founded the company out of her dorm room and raised $1 million in start-up capital from angel investors. Jessica's Wonders then grew to three outsourced manufacturers, thirteen employees, and full distribution launch in the largest chain of supermarkets in New England. Within two years, Jessica's Wonders grew to $3 million in sales.
In terms of the model, BabbaCo is adding a new twist to the whole monthly boxed subscription service. Foodzie pioneered this, and others like BirchBox and BeachMint (another Lightbank investment) have taken the model and applied the e-commerce angle to other areas, like makeup.
Babbaco seems to provide a compelling way for busy parents who don’t necessarily have the time to cobble together the components for arts ad crafts or other educational, but fun experiences. And there is an element of surprise added with the monthly box subscription service.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 04:59 AM PDT
Kimbia provides fundraisers, event organizers and social advocates with a Web-based ‘control panel’ they can use to set up and distribute online credit card donation and registration forms.
Founded in 2007, the company says its platform is currently used by more than 1,100 customers, including non-profit organizations and political candidates.
Earlier investors include Kimbia CEO Daniel Gillett and angel investors from Austin and Houston.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 04:18 AM PDT
Horace Dediu notes that Nokia and RIM are on a precipitous decline and that it is now, in short, a two horse race: Apple v. Android. The age of the smartphone – an era where anyone with a keyboard and some apps could make it in the world marketplace – is over.
I’d call this, now, the Age of Fragmentation – new devices are overlapping each other from both sides of the fence as users wait for new iPhones and swear that the next HTC, Samsung, or Motorola Android phone will be better than an undifferentiated predecessor. As a result, sales are fairly solid for each of those manufacturers but not amazing and the manufacturers who aren’t part of the game are losing market share.
In general, there are two players, and, barring amazing performance by Windows Phone, not much will change in the next year or so.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 03:27 AM PDT
While many would call buyers of the 3DS who picked up their console prior to the $80 price cut expected on August 12 “suckers,” Nintendo is calling them “Ambassadors” and they’e offering them special updates to upcoming downloadable titles. These updates will include multi-player support and improved gameplay.
While no one is quite clear on everything Ambassadors will get, Nintendo has said that early adopters will receive certain perks including updated versions of the games they downloaded after August 12. Which games? Well, in conjunction with the price cut, early adopters would get twenty free NES and GBA games, arguably cold comfort for those who would rather have four Hamiltons in their pocket.
Here’s a quote from the press release:
If this sounds confusing, fear not: even IGN had no idea what was up and they’re paid to write about gaming all day long.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 02:47 AM PDT
This allows users to compare the carbon footprint of every travel option available, thus factoring in the impact on the planet as well as their wallet. They get a real-time calculation of their chosen route's carbon footprint and a range ofcarbon offset project choices to pay for, and thus make their trip carbon neutral. And buy trees in the Amazon, or whatever these things do.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 01:15 AM PDT
Foxconn is planning on replacing many of it’s hard-working human manufacturers with about 1 million robots, a number that, if you think about it, is a very telling comment on the current state of electronics manufacturing.
There are apparently 10,000 robots at the factory now and that number will increase by 300,000 next year. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou plans another million robots by 2014. The company currently employs 1.2 million humans.
The most important thing to note here is that most of the repetitive tasks associated with manufacturing – placing components, closing cases, applying decals and paint, and testing – are all done by hand. Although we imagine that the manufacturing industry is run by huge, Transformer-like robots that plop out fully formed iPads in a wicked silicon satire of human reproduction, there are actual people involved in almost every step of the process. We are literally not far off from the Industrial Revolution here.
Where will those hands who once snapped our plastic geegaws together go once the robots arrive? Probably to the unemployment line, which is another matter entirely. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that, but any time serious labor savings have been applied to mass manufacturing it hasn’t ended well. Just ask Detroit.
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 01:00 AM PDT
Here are some of the past week’s stories on TechCrunch Gadgets:
Posted: 01 Aug 2011 12:10 AM PDT
Insignia, Best Buy’s in-house tech brand, has just released a TV with TiVo UI built-in. Why? I suppose people didn’t want to have a separate TiVo on their CE shelves. Two great tastes that taste great together, right?
The 32-inch model sells for $499 while the 42-inch sells for $699. It’s a 1080p/120Hz LED screen with a network features as well as support for something called Rocketboost that works with Best Buy’s own sound peripherals. It’s basically a method of upsell and lock-in.
Big deal? Nah, but a $499 32-incher with TiVo (no DVR) built-in isn’t too bad and if you’re hard up for cash you can save a little money by sticking getting a TV and media player in one. You’ll note that Yahoo! also has something called Connected TV, but they’re Yahoo! so who cares? Available now, presumably in time for Back-To-School.
Posted: 31 Jul 2011 09:16 PM PDT
Looking to turn yourself (or your show) into a YouTube star but don’t know where to begin? YouTube’s looking to help — the video portal has launched a comprehensive guide outlining how content producers should be approaching the platform and which features they can take advantage of. The 70 page guide has a fitting title: The Creator Playbook.
The new document was discussed today at the VidCon conference in Los Angeles, and is part of YouTube’s broader goal to help creators produce high quality content (YouTube’s recent acquisition Next New Networks is the driving force behind this mission).
Of course, YouTube is quick to clarify that while this should be a useful guide, there isn’t anything that’s guaranteed. It’s really just a well thought-out set of best practices — if your content isn’t any good, optimizing the first five seconds of your video isn’t going to be much help. From the first page:
The document is a hefty 70 pages long but isn’t as daunting as you’d think. YouTube has broken each of its miniguides into three sections: Programming & Producing, Publishing & Optimization, Community & Social Media. And each tip within a section gives an at-a-glance overview of how long it will take to implement (the easy ones are five minutes, the harder ones a day or more), which metrics the tip will impact, and how much of an effect content creators should expect.
Some of the topics will be obvious to TechCrunch readers (use Facebook and Twitter a lot!) but it’s unlikely that you’ll already know everything in there. The sections outlining how video metadata can impact your search result rankings is particularly useful — and there’s a checklist at the end you can run through each time you upload a video.
Note that while there’s an entire section dedicated to thumbnail optimization, there’s nothing in there about using a woman’s cleavage as your thumbnail photo, which seems to be a curiously popular strategy on the site.
Posted: 31 Jul 2011 09:00 PM PDT
BigCommerce, a company that provides e-commerce software to online retailers and merchants, has raised $15 Million in Series A funding from General Catalyst Partners.
Launched in 2009, BigCommerce provides a comprehensive SaaS for retailers and merchants to manage e-commerce online. BigCommerce helps small businesses power anything and everything related to an online storefront from search to inventory to online payments to marketing and SEO. And the price for the software is affordable for small businesses, with basic plans starting at $25 per month.
Features include multi-channel retailing, automated email marketing, inventory control, an online storefront, and more. The company, which has 20,000 clients and is profitable, also launched an application for merchants to list inventory on Facebook.
The company has $200 million in total transactions via its SaaS and is adding 1,000 clients per month. The new funding would be used to expand the company's headcount in Sydney and Austin, Texas operations, sales and marketing initiatives and more.
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