Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

WITN: European Boosterism, And Rules Of Thumb For Pitching Silly Claims To TechCrunch [TCTV]

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 10:11 AM PDT


German VC firm, Earlybird caught some flack last month with their nonsense presentation claiming that European VC was outperforming the US.

Sarah Lacy and Mike Butcher comprehensively dismantled the claims here and then Bessemer Venture Partners’ David Cowan followed up, highlighting the amusing fact that the report was actually based on the work of Earlybird’s summer intern.

Still, the report got a surprising amount of attention on both sides of the Atlantic; perhaps a symptom of Europe’s continuing obsession with beating the Valley, and the Valley’s continued puzzlement as to why Euro entrepreneurs don’t just get on with building killer companies.

In this week’s episode of Why Is This News, Sarah and Paul discuss all of the above, with Paul once again expressing frustration with his fellow Europeans while Sarah gives some advice on how not to look foolish when sending news to TechCrunch. (Sarah’s unborn child remained silent on the issue for now.)

Video below.

Hackers Are Climbing In Your Windows, So Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Files

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 09:47 AM PDT

Shady RAt map

Remember when Google was hacked by Chinese spies about 18 months ago? Well, that just scratched the surface of some of the more serious and persistent hacking operations over the past few years. In a detailed blog post that is both eye-opening and a brilliant piece of marketing, McAfee’s VP of Threat Research Dmitri Alperovitch lays out the details of Operation Shady RAT (Remote Access Tool), an ongoing series of computer system intrusions that began as far back as 2006 and compromised 72 organizations, including the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency, U.S. defense contractors, U.S. federal and state government agencies, a national security think tank, tech companies, and “even an unfortunate computer security firm” (presumably a McAfee competitor).

The scope of the attacks makes things like the recent Sony Playstation or News Corp hacks look like child’s play. The targets point to a “state actor,” possibly China (the McAfee post does not identify which state actor it suspects, but China does have a history here).

Alperovitch writes quite alarmingly:

I am convinced that every company in every conceivable industry with significant size and valuable intellectual property and trade secrets has been compromised (or will be shortly), with the great majority of the victims rarely discovering the intrusion or its impact. In fact, I divide the entire set of Fortune Global 2000 firms into two categories: those that know they've been compromised and those that don't yet know.

. . . What we have witnessed over the past five to six years has been nothing short of a historically unprecedented transfer of wealth — closely guarded national secrets (including from classified government networks), source code, bug databases, email archives, negotiation plans and exploration details for new oil and gas field auctions, document stores, legal contracts, SCADA configurations, design schematics and much more has "fallen off the truck" of numerous, mostly Western companies and disappeared in the ever-growing electronic archives of dogged adversaries.

McAfee learned all of these details by gaining control of a “Command & Control” server directing the exploits. Operation Shady RAT resulted in the long-term harvesting of sensitive information from government agencies, companies, and international organizations. Alperovitch explains how it worked:

The compromises themselves were standard procedure for these types of targeted intrusions: a spear-phishing email containing an exploit is sent to an individual with the right level of access at the company, and the exploit when opened on an unpatched system will trigger a download of the implant malware. That malware will execute and initiate a backdoor communication channel to the Command & Control web server and interpret the instructions encoded in the hidden comments embedded in the webpage code. This will be quickly followed by live intruders jumping on to the infected machine and proceeding to quickly escalate privileges and move laterally within the organization to establish new persistent footholds via additional compromised machines running implant malware, as well as targeting for quick exfiltration the key data they came for.

Are you feeling scared and vulnerable yet? Well, I’m sure McAfee will sell your company a security monitoring service that will make you feel safer. But will you really be any safer if state-sponsored hackers want to gain access to your files? They could be climbing in your windows right now.

American Airlines And Gogo Roll Out In-Flight Personal Device Video Streaming To 767 Fleet

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 09:32 AM PDT

Entertainment On Demand

As we heard earlier this Spring, American Airlines became one of the first North American airlines to begin testing Gogo’s in-flight streaming video to personal devices for passengers. Today, the company is announcing a broader roll out of the new entertainment product to its entire fleet of 767 aircrafts, mainly on routes between New York’s JFK, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

We’ve also learned more details about the entertainment product. The system will wirelessly stream content such as movies and TV shows from an inflight library to select types of Wi-Fi-enabled laptops during flights. ‘Entertainment On Demand’ will be available for $0.99 per TV show and $3.99 per movie. Customers do not have to purchase inflight Wi-Fi to use Entertainment On Demand can just click on the Entertainment On Demand banner on the inflight Wi-Fi homepage, select a movie or TV show, enter the form of payment and click “rent.”

American Airlines says that the platform currently offers 100 movies and TV shows, which will remain accessible for viewing after the customer has landed (movies for 24 hours and TV shows for 72 hours). The goal, says the company, is to roll the in-flight entertainment system out to all wi-fi enabled aircrafts. American Airlines actually only received received FAA certification for the system this month.

In the coming months, in-flight wifi provider Gogo plans to make tablets and other devices available for use with the product. I can imagine many users may want to be able to stream movies to their iPads in flight as opposed to using laptops.

Here’s a video explaining how the service works.

Nissan Leaf Companion App Is Now Available For Android, BlackBerry

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 09:22 AM PDT


Nissan Leaf owners, take note. The Leaf companion app is now available in both Android and BlackBerry flavors. These smartphone apps follow the steps of the iOS version that launched alongside the Leaf earlier this year. All the key features are here: battery level meter, charging schedule, estimated range, and climate control functions.

The apps themselves are free to download, owning a Leaf is not required. But they understandably need a Leaf to properly function. Still, perspective buyers or curious onlookers can download and explore the apps for free.

I looked at the Leaf iOS app during my time with the Leaf. It’s a fine app, granting owners access to the key functions of the Leaf from afar. The only notable missing function is the ability to toggle the car’s locks.

Sources: Storm8 Raising Huge $300 Million Round At $1 Billion Valuation

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 09:16 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-03 at 11.41.06 AM

Storm8 is about to become an even bigger powerhouse in mobile gaming.

We’re hearing from multiple sources that the development shop, which focuses exclusively on mobile games, is raising a massive round in the ballpark of $300 million — at a $1 billion valuation. It’s not totally clear who is investing, but we’re hearing that the deal includes Accel Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures. We’ve also heard that Zynga was bidding hard on the company, but stepped away after the deal got too rich.

Storm8 is the company behind such hits as World War and iMobsters, and its studio TeamLava produced hits like Restaurant Story, Bakery Story, Farm Story, and Fashion Story. Many of the games have hit top apps lists for both iPhone and Android, and between them, we’re hearing the company is on pace to make $100 million in revenue this year. The most impressive part? They haven’t raised any external funding to date.

There’s a good chance you haven’t heard about Storm8 before, as they company hasn’t been talking to the press all that often. But it recently announced that it cracked cracked $1 million revenue in a single day during a special promotion, giving the public a taste of just how much money they’re pulling in. Some other key stats: earlier this month the company announced that it has 210 million downloads, 5 billion total sessions, and 18 billion minutes played across all of its games.

Given these stats today’s news isn’t a huge surprise — several weeks ago Inside Mobile Apps reported that the company was ” open to, if not aggressively pursuing, a sale”, and a funding round seemed another strong possibility.

Mobile is clearly poised to be a massive market for gaming, and many companies (and their investors) and hoping to surge to success the way Zynga has on Facebook. TinoCo recently put $18 million into TinyCo, and Sequoia put $5 million into Pocket Gems. EA’s massive acquisition of PopCap will undoubtedly have a mobile focus as well. Oh, and make no mistake: Zynga has every intention of being the ‘Zynga of mobile’ itself.

iSpeech Launches Free Mobile SDK To Bring Speech Recognition To iOS, Android Apps

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 08:45 AM PDT


iSpeech, the developers behind speech recognition app for text messages, is bringing its text to speech technology to iOS, Android and BlackBerry Apps with the launch of a new SDK.

The new self-service platform allows developers to integrate text to speech and speech recognition into their own apps. And the service is free to all mobile developers with support for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices.

The iSpeech SDKs and APIs provide over 40 text to speech voices with support for more than 25 languages. Premium services are also available, including celebrity and custom text to speech voices, as well as the ability for developers to increase speech recognition performance specific to their use case.

Already, iSpeech has been opening its API to certain partners, including TeleNav, Car and Driver, DailyHoroscope, and more. iSpeech says that to date, 1 billion text to speech and speech recognition conversions made.

Get Satisfaction Gets $10 Million To Grow Its Community Support Network

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 08:03 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 8.04.26 AM

Community support site Get Satisfaction announces today a $10 million Series B funding led by InterWest partners and followed on by Azure, OATV and First Round Capital — InterWest partner Bruce Cleveland  will be joining the board.This new influx of funds will be bringing Get Satisfaction’s total funding to $21 million to date.

In the same space as Lithium or Telligent, Get Satisifaction ambitiously wants to be the first place companies go to online to have conversations with their customers, wherever those customers may be. The company was founded in 2007 by Lane Becker, Thor Muller and Amy Muller who came up with the product after realizing that they needed a platform to provide support for their main project at the time, the hilarious Valleyschwag .

Since then Get Satisfaction has gone through some notable management changes; Co-founder Thor Muller stepped down as CEO in 2009 and Becker stepped down as president in 2010, handing over the keys to Web 2.0 veteran Wendy Lea whose task it was to turn the Get Satisfaction ideals of open community support into a real business .

Get Satisfaction operates under the premise that communications between brands and customers should be open and transparent. Across multiple platforms the basic forum components allow customers to begin discussions in one of four ways, Ask A Question, Share an Idea, Report a Problem or Give Praise. Companies can set up a Get Satisfaction page for free, and pay a monthly fee to claim and moderate the page, starting at $19.00.

Lea tells me that in a post Web 2.0 world, companies should engage with customers across multiple points of contact; For example the Get Satisfaction Facebook Fan page integration reroutes all conversations through the company’s main  hub.

What separates Get Satisfaction from competitors is the fact that all interactions happen in an open environment and are all easily searchable by Google so customers wanting an answer to a question like “Does Mighty Leaf Tea have any fair trade tea?” can find the topic and Mighty Leaf page easily. The company provides value for its enterprise clients is through a direct data line to CRM services like Salesforce and Assistly, allowing brands to take actionable steps on the data unearthed by customer discussion, reducing research and support costs.

Get Satisfaction currently has over 58,000 communities in the network and 2,500 paying customers, running the gamut from giants Proctor and Gamble, to Adobe to startups like Zynga, Spotify, Flipboard and Mint.

Lea is sold on the larger vision of human-powered community, and tells me that Get Satisfaction is essentially the bridge between social systems like Facebook and CRM tools like Salesforce, engaging with customers on what amounts to a pyramid consisting of three levels; the service and support level (base), the idea level (middle) and the community of ideas level (top). Perhaps the most telling evidence of the company’s philosophy is their mascot JarGon, a robot which represents the corporate speak many companies use when communicating with customers, “We want companies to speak in an authentic voice,” Lea says.

Lea plans on using the funding to build out her team even further in order to focus on product innovation and strategic partnerships. The company currently has 39 employees and has made many notable new hires in recent months including star community manager Drew Olanoff. Lea tells me she’s planning on releasing a Get Satisfaction mobile app and new widgets this month and is “very interested” in acquisitions — So stay tuned for even more news here.

eBay’s Instant Sale iOS App Allows You To Exchange Gadgets For Cash On The Go

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 08:00 AM PDT


In October, eBay rolled out its Instant Sale program, which allows you to sell old gadgets to the e-commerce giant. You simply identify the type of device you are looking to sell and its condition, and eBay will offer you a price for your gadget. After eBay receives the package, you’ll receive a payment deposited into your PayPal account. Today, eBay is launching a iOS app for Instant Sale, which allows you to exchange gadgets for cash on the go.

Similar to the Instant Sale web platform, the iPhone app serves as a tool for consumers to sell or recycle old electronics. Within the app, you identify the type of device you wish to sell and describe its condition and you’ll be presented with an offer. If you accept the offered price, eBay will supply you with a free prepaid shipping label for the gadget to be mailed. Your PayPal account will be funded accordingly.

Of course, the app does something nifty with iOS devices you are looking to sell (if you are using the device you want to sell). The app will identify the type of device you are using, and you simply clarify the storage capacity and describe its condition to receive an offer.

eBay says sellers sold more than $133 million in iPhones in 2010 alone (that's more than 435,000 iPhones, nearly 350,000 of which were used or refurbished), so clearly this is a big market. Since the launch of Instant Sale, the top three items sold and their highest sale prices (based on "excellent" item condition) are the Apple iPhone 3G 8GB ($117), the Apple iPhone 3GS 16GB, ($179) and the Motorola Droid A855 ($45.18).

It’s no secret that eBay has been pushing a significant mobile strategy of late, and is building an army of mobile apps. eBay says its mobile apps generated nearly $2 billion in global gross merchandise volume 2010, triple that of 2009. And in 2011, eBay expects to double its mobile GMV again to $4 billion.

Samsung Considers InterDigital’s Patent Trove Along With Apple, Google

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 08:00 AM PDT


Last we heard it was Google who was eyeing out InterDigital's 8,800-strong patent trove.

Now, Google is still in the mix along with Apple, but according to people familiar with the matter, Samsung has also entered into talks with InterDigital. The South Korea based company has expressed interest in possibly placing a bid on this gem of a patent portfolio, reports Bloomberg.

I'm not quite sure how to put this in perspective, but if you aren't caught up with all the patent fights and the Nortel saga, it's necessary that I stress just how crucial this is. InterDigital's patent porfolio eats Nortel's for breakfast. In fact, many believe that Google only tinkered around with Nortel to drive up the price for its competitors while it waited in the wings for something bigger and better.

Well, here it is. Bigger and better has arrived, but there just so happens to be a little competition heating up over this patent treasure chest. Mostly related to the transfer of information over mobile technology, InterDigital's patent portfolio is basically a gold mine in the eyes of these phone makers. And we know a sale is most definitely on its way, as InterDigital recently hired a few bankers to handle the transaction.

If Samsung chooses to move forward with a bid, it could take some or all of the portfolio from Google and Apple. This would be a huge boost to the South Korea-based company who is currently entangled in a massive patent war with Apple. InterDigital's patents cover inventions used in devices like the iPhone, Google's Android OS and even RIM's BlackBerries. Scooping up the rights to that technology has the potential to swing the entire litigation in Samsung's favor.

However, if Apple snags the portfolio, Samsung is in a really risky situation. Though no game-changing legal rulings have been issued, this lawsuit has reached critical mass, with both companies trying to ban imports of the others' products. InterDigital's portfolio will most definitely influence this case, although in whose favor has yet to be decided.

With Record P2P Loan Growth, Lending Club Raises $25 Million Led By Union Square

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 07:39 AM PDT


Peer-to-peer lending sites are hot again among investors of all stripes. Lending Club today announced a new $25 million Series D financing, led by Union Square Ventures (with existing investors participating). The funding comes on the heels of a $17 million round Eric Schmidt and DFJ put into competitor Prosper in June.

The P2P lending industry has recovered from a few years ago when the SEC forced all the major players to shut down for a few months because they weren’t properly registered/. Lending Club was the first to go through that transition, and the first to come out of it.

Fast-forward to today, and Lending Club is originating more loans than its nearest competitor, Prosper. In July, Lending Club generated $20.6 million in new loans, compared to $6 million for Prosper. Both are growing rapidly, however. Lending Club has reached new record loan numbers in 7 of the past 8 months, according to Peter Renton of the Social Lending Network (see chart). P2P lending sites allow individuals to lend to each other. But institutional money has been flowing into these markets, attracted by the higher interest rates.

The latest funding, brings Lending Club’s total capital raised to $78 million, with the last round being at a similar $24.5 million in May of 2010.

Samsung Postpones Australian Galaxy Tab 10.1 Media Launch Event

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 07:26 AM PDT


The drama continues: Samsung has officially postponed the Australian media launch event for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The media launch event was originally scheduled for next week on August 11, 2011. That’s not going to happen and also means the GalTab 10.1 probably won’t launch on that day either.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the tablet itself is canceled, though. Samsung issued a statement yesterday and spoke with Gizmodo Australia in which they stressed the GalTab 10.1 will launch in Australia within “the near future.” But its exact launch date isn’t known at this time.

Via Gizmodo Australia

Postponement of Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1 Media Launch Event
11th August 2011
In light of the current legal proceedings by Apple Inc. against Samsung Electronics Australia, Samsung regrets to announce it will be postponing its media launch event, scheduled for 11th August 2011, for the Samsung GALAXY Tab 10.1.

Samsung will announce a new date for the GALAXY Tab 10.1 media launch event as soon as practicable.

Samsung reached an agreement with Apple where it will not release nor advertise the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 in Australia. But Samsung found a workaround and planned on releasing what they called a variant of the tablet instead. But that might not happen at all now as that move is clearly against the good faith of the agreement. A Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The release concerning the media launch doesn’t state that the event nor the tablet has been completely shelved. It simply states that a new data for the media launch event will be announced as soon as its set. Maybe there was a conflict at the venue. Apple might have booked it for an iPad event.

Time Inc. Announces Plans To Offer Tablet Apps For All Its 21 U.S. Titles In 2011

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 07:00 AM PDT


Time Inc. this morning announced that every one of its 21 U.S. titles, including Entertainment Weekly and Instyle, will be available as tablet editions by the end of this year.

Time Inc. says this will make it the first major U.S. magazine publisher to make its entire portfolio available on all leading tablet platforms, with products designed specifically for this particular category of personal computers.

In addition, the company says it has reached an agreement with Barnes & Noble to sell digital subscriptions and single-copy issues of four of its most popular titles on the NOOK Color starting later this month, with the rest of the portfolio to follow by the end of 2011.

To date, Time Inc. says its digital magazine and other content apps such as Time, Sports Illustrated, People and Fortune have been downloaded more than 11 million times. The publishers says it has also sold more than 600,000 digital single copies of the aforementioned four titles.

Time Inc. offers apps for the iPad, Android tablets, the HP TouchPad and Next Issue Media's store.

Interestingly, each of Time Inc.'s (28 million) print subscribers will have the option to upgrade their subscription to include the digital edition at no additional charge.

The company has introduced such an “All Access” subscription plan for Sports Illustrated in February 2011, and recently for TIME Magazine content.

Lightbank Invests In Location-Based Mobile Social Network WhosHere

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 07:00 AM PDT


After backing Babbaco, Lightbank is making another investment today. The investment firm has funded myRete, the developers of WhosHere,a location-based mobile social network. This is the first outside investment for myRete.

WhosHere is a location-based social networking application (an iOS app for now) that allows you to see who’s in your near location and message people. The app introduces a user to others with whom they have something in common and when a user finds someone they are interested in engaging, they can message the individual. You can chat with people nearby, send free text and image messages, and make free VoIP calls without giving out any personal information. You can also send virtual gifts to other users.

For a bootstrapped company, WhosHere has an impressive user base and is profitable. The iOS app has over four million registered users who have sent over 2 billion text messages in 14 languages. The startup says users sending an average of 10 million messages a day.

MyRete says the new funding will be used for hiring and to expand to other mobile platforms, including Android.

Qualcomm Overhauls The Snapdragon Brand, Ditches The Confusing Chipset Names

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 06:58 AM PDT


If you’ve got any smartphone made in the last year or so that isn’t made by Apple or Samsung, chances are preeeetty good that it’s powered by one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets. Now, as for the chances that you could actually name which Snapdragon chipset it has… yeah, pretty much zilch.

The problem: outside of the overarching “Snapdragon” brand, Qualcomm hasn’t done the best job in differentiating which chipset is which. MSM8260? MSM855T? MSM8930? OMGWTFBBQ? I do this for my job, and I still wouldn’t be able to tell you which one is which without a cheat sheet.

This morning, Qualcomm is announcing a bit of an overhaul involving the Snapdragon brand. It should make things a bit less confusing.

In a nutshell, they’re moving away from the nearly impossible to remember model numbers and toward a tiered system. They’ll have four tiers (or “Systems” as they call them) to begin with: S1, S2, S3, and S4. The higher the number, the better the specs.

S1, for example, is for “Mass Market” phones — things on the lower end of what Qualcomm powers (anything 1Ghz or below). Things like the HTC Status, or the Droid Incredible. S2 is for “High Performance Smart Phones & Tablets” (up to 1.4 Ghz) like the HTC Thunderbolt, while S3 is for the current highest-end stuff (up to 1.5Ghz) like the EVO 3D.

S4 encapsulates everything between 1.6 Ghz and 2.5 Ghz — which, as you may know, doesn’t actually include anything just yet. The first devices in this range won’t start hitting the shelves until next year at the earliest.

Interestingly, Qualcomm notes that an S2 device will always be considered an S2 device — S2 won’t become S1, S3 won’t become S2, etc. As I’m understanding it, it sounds like Qualcomm plans to just keep adding new System tiers as time goes on. Man, S10 is going to be ridiculous.

Qualcomm will almost certainly still have big ol’ ugly model numbers in some way or another for the mega geeks among us to differentiate between similar chipsets — they just won’t expect anyone to actually remember them.

Here’s a look at what’s changed:

Old and Busted:

New Hotness:

Sony Releases Another Nonsense Teaser Video For Its Upcoming Tablets

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 06:57 AM PDT

sony tablets

I mean, come on. These videos show the upcoming Sony S1 and S2 tablets for about 4 seconds total. It’s just more of the Rube Goldberg foolishness shown in previous teaser videos. I want to see the tablets. But if you don’t; if you want to see a silly, but still fun, Rube Goldberg machine, click through for the embedded video.

Weebly Launches Whitelabeled Platform That Caters To Designers

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 06:31 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-03 at 8.55.57 AM

Since its inception, Weebly has been focused on making it as easy as possible to build your own custom website using a WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop interface. And it’s done a good job doing that — CEO David Rusenko says that based on a recent Netcraft‘s survey, Weebly powers around 2% of sites on the web.

But even though Weebly is relatively easy to use, there are still plenty of people who don’t know the first thing about putting together their own website, and who would much rather pay someone to build it for them. Which is why Weebly is launching a new Designer Platform. It’s essentially a whitelabeled version of the service, giving a designers a way to quickly build a client’s site and then to provide a CMS that the client will actually be able to use once the project is completed.

Here’s how it works: first, designers create their own account, uploading custom logos and creating additional accounts for any of their coworkers who will also have access to client pages. Then designers can set about building out their clients’ page — they can use Weebly’s standard drag-and-drop interface as usual, or they can also include custom code if they want to give the page a unique look.

Once the site is nearing completion, the designer can give access to the client (who won’t even realize that the site is running on Weebly, since it’ll be sporting the designer’s own logo). Depending on how the designer how configured the site, the client will be able to make simple tweaks (adjusting colors, fonts, etc.) using the Weebly interface. Then, once the project is complete, the client will be able to add additional content, pages, forms, and other features using Weebly’s CMS.

Pricing plans start at $7.95 per month, which includes hosting costs for the designer’s sites (prices go up the more pages and storage you use). And designers are free to charge their clients more than that.

FinanceAcar Raises Funding For Online Car Marketplace

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 06:26 AM PDT

financeacarWould you even consider buying a car online? FinanceAcar thinks a lot of people actually will, in time, and has built an online car marketplace and price comparison website to cater to their needs. The company today announced that it has raised a round of financing, the size of which was not disclosed, from Anthemis Group and angel investors like Dominic Collins (former Group Director of and currently CEO of Orange Digital) and Christoph Janz, who built one of Europe's first price comparison websites.

Huawei Announces The Vision Smartphone With New 3D User Interface

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 06:10 AM PDT

Huawei Vision 1

Huawei has taken a note from the big boys like Samsung and HTC and decided to build a UI of its own. Unlike TouchWiz or Sense, Huawei’s UI has something different to bring to the table: 3D. Now don’t get too excited, or too peeved either (if you’re an anti-3D kinda fella), because this 3D isn’t all that legit. It’s more the appearance of 3D than it is true flying-at-your-face, make-you-kinda-nauseous 3D. Either way, this new UI will be featured on the freshly announced Huawei Vision smartphone.

Truth is, 3D has never been bigger. Manufacturers are popping it into whatever they can whether it be TVs, phones, tablets… anything. But choosing how to implement 3D technology via mobile can be tricky. Some have taken the more obvious recording and picture-taking aspect of 3D and made it as mobile friendly as possible, like HTC with the Evo 3D. Others, on the other hand, have gotten a bit gimmicky with it, much like this new 3D UI on the Vision.

I’m not quite sure how the 3D interface will pan out since I’ve never tried it. I can’t imagine it’ll be all that revolutionary, and if it is, it might be a bit annoying. Hopefully, it only enhances the user experience with a little beauty and doesn’t clutter or jumble things unnecessarily.

On the other hand, the specs and the design of the Vision tell me that Huawei's got high hopes for this one. Its 1GHz Snapdragon processor is bundled nicely in a unibody contoured design. The phone measures in at .39 inches at its thinnest point and weighs a little over a quarter of a pound (.27 lb). Its 5-megapixel camera is capable of video capture in 720p, although Huawei never mentioned any 3D capabilities for the Vision's playback despite the fact that 3D technology is obviously built in to the phone.

The phone also sports a microUSB 2.0 port, 512MB of RAM, and 2GB of ROM with support for up to a 32GB memory card. The vision will launch in three color flavors: silver, rose gold, and charcoal. In terms of bloatware, you're actually getting some pretty good apps with the Vision — Angry Birds, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Order & Chaos Online, and Guerrilla Bob HD. Huawei wasn't super forthcoming about pricing and availabilty, but we do know the phone will hit shelves sometime in "September."

Livescribe Connect Now Supports Content Sharing With Microsoft OneNote, Google Sites

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 06:01 AM PDT


Livescribe took to the press wires today to announce two big additions to its Livescribe Connect service. Users of the Livescribe Connect for Echo and Pulse smartpens may now share content with Microsoft OneNote and Google Sites. Using one of the company’s smartpens, anything wrote in ink on their special paper can by shared online through various social and productivity services.

Livescribe Connect launched back in May and was a big step towards relevancy for the digital pen as it made sharing content so much easier. The two new services join the already-supported platforms of Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Google Docs and iOS devices and shows that the company is committed to bringing new feature sets to the platform.

As John explained back in May, all a user has to do is physically write anything then drawn an underscore followed by a command like “Twitter” or an email address. Then simply select what content you want to share on the pad of paper, and once the pen is synced with the computer over USB, the pre-selected content is automagically sent to the desired service or address.

OneNote and Google Sites fit well within the Connect’s user base. Livescribe Connect allows users to send and audio recordings direct to OneNote, which was built by Microsoft to be a sort of digital notebook for such content. Google Sites is a collaborative building tool and capable of adding content from other Google services and now Livescribe Connect.

Livescribe Connect is still seemingly limited by the smartpens requirement of a physical link for sharing. It’s a novel idea and ultimately allows for sharing of written content, but a wireless link, even Bluetooth, would broaden its appeal with increased functionality.

The Claptrap Lives! 2K Games And Gearbox Officially Announce Borderlands 2!

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 05:22 AM PDT


Borderlands 2, the appropriately named sequel to Borderlands, is really coming. 2K Games and Gearbox took to the wires this morning to announce that yes, just like the recent rumors stated, Borderlands 2 is in the works. Praise the gaming gods. Borderlands is one of the best PC shooters ever. Let’s just hope it’s not locked down by some nasty DRM scheme.

The release doesn’t lay-out the plot line or tease any tantalizing details, but it does say the game will feature “all-new characters, skills, environments, enemies, weapons and equipment, which come together in an ambitiously crafted story.” They could release a new storyline for the original and I’d be happy.

The original Borderlands is what’s called a role-playing-shooter as it combines the objective gathering and character building aspects of a role-play-game with the point of view and action of a first person shooter. The whole experience is strikingly different from the modern shooter, which tends to have a very linear and scripted path. Where Modern Warfare games feature only one route and storyline for the player, Borderlands allows players to follow dozens of paths through a general storyline. The Internet has been buzzing about a sequel nearly immediately following the original’s release.

The announcement states that the game is slated for a April 1, 2012 release. But as gamers know, that date could be pushed back numerous times. We’re just glad the developer and publisher are toiling away at the sequel.

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