Friday, August 12, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Friday Time-Waster: Play DOS Games In Your Chrome Browser

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:47 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-12 at 11.37.11 AM

NaClBox (get it?) is a port of DOSBox that allows DOS games to be played right in your browser. Right now you can play titles like Star Wars Tie Fighter complete with multi-voice MIDI sound and hot hot VGA graphics. It works on Macs, PCs, and Linux machines and runs under Chrome 13.

To play the games, you have to turn on the Chrome Native Client (Na Cl, hence the pun):

In the Chrome address bar, type:


Find the section titled “Native Client”

Click “Enable” and restart Chrome.

The game downloads and you’re ready to play a moment later. The most interesting thing to note is that this is how games will probably be played under ChromeOS – right in the browser with almost no lag. If this is better or worse than services like Steam I’m not willing to argue, but it does point to some very interesting upcoming features for the OS.

The site has been around for a while but they’ve added some new games and I suspect I just made a few folks’ days with this delightful Hackernews discovery.

Project Page

Launch Date:
25/8/2004, NASDAQ:GOOG

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of...

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W3i Launches New Service for iOS Game Developers

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:32 AM PDT


Monetization and distribution network for app developers, W3i, is today announcing a program specifically for iOS Game Developers. The new service, now in beta, is simply being called “Games Platform,” the company says. And its goal will be to solve the challenges facing game developers such as server set-up, maintenance, security, storefronts and analytics.

The idea for the service was sparked by a number of interviews with mobile game developers, conducted by W3i over recent weeks. The most common headaches, especially for small-time or hobbyist developers, was dealing with the setup of the infrastructure needed to support their applications, the company found. Most developers would rather focus on actually developing their game – not server set up and maintenance.

In addition, the new service will also help freemium developers create and maintain a virtual goods storefront which is easily re-usable across multiple games. Plus, the included analytics service will detail the breakdown of revenue by item within this storefront, which is a feature several competing analytics services don’t currently offer.

W3i is now inviting interested developers to sign up for the beta service and give feedback. In return for testing the service, those developers will receive access at no charge. There will be a limited number of spots available during the beta period. No official public launch date or pricing information has been announced at this time.

You can learn more about the new program here.

Launch Date:

W3i increases revenue, distribution, and engagement for consumer desktop applications, browser add-ons and mobile applications. On the desktop app side, app publishers get paid for recommending relevant applications...

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Samsung To Finally Debut The Galaxy S II In The U.S On August 29th

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:19 AM PDT


It’s coming! It’s finally, finally coming!

After nearly four months of traveling around just about everywhere but the US, the Galaxy S II is finally set to make its stateside debut. Samsung will be holding a press event on August 29th to spill all the details.

Just last month, Samsung’s President of Mobile Shin Jong-Kyun predicted that the US S II would launch sometime in August. As long as they’ve got things prepped to hit the shelves somewhat shortly after the press conference, it looks like he won’t be too far off.

If the rumor mill’s whispers from waaaaay back in May are still holding true, the S II will likely launch as the Galaxy S 2 Attain (on AT&T), S 2 Function (on Verizon), and S 2 Within (on Sprint).

Need a refresher on what’s inside? It may vary a bit from carrier to carrier, but here are The Galaxy S II Specs:

  • 1.2 Ghz Dual Core CPU
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage (with a microSD slot)
  • 4.27″ WVGA Super AMOLED Plus Display
  • 8 Megapixel rear camera (Capable of 1080p video at 30FPS)
  • 2 megapixel front camera
  • NFC Support
  • 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, and can support certain USB devices (mice, external hard drives) through the USB-On-The-Go protocol

Launch Date:

Samsung is one of the largest super-multinational companies in the world. It’s possibly best known for it’s subsidiary, Samsung Electronics, the largest electronics company in the world.

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The Battle Continues: Samsung To Appeal Apple’s European Injunction

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:11 AM PDT


As expected, Samsung has decided to fight back against Apple's preliminary injunction to ban sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 across the European Union (excluding the Netherlands). On August 25, the rumble continues, as Samsung will go to court in Dusseldorf, Germany to appeal the court's decision, reports the Wall Street Journal.

It's been a long and bloody fight so far, with both sides losing quite a bit of ground. In Samsung's case, the European injunction is by far the greatest setback. But the GalTab has also been put on hold in Australia, with decisions pending here in the U.S. That's a pretty big hunk of the global market to lose, and if these preliminary import bans become permanent ones, it could change the tablet game considerably.

The GalTab is widely regarded as the strongest competitor to the iPad, and Apple's widespread control of the tablet market is certainly threatened by this new Samsung slate. But what's worse is that Apple's reputation is also at stake. While there are innumerable complexities to consider going into these patent brawls, the majority of the general public doesn't really have access to the nitty gritty details of the court proceedings (details on the trade-dress violations, the in's and out's of this extremely complex legal process across multiple court systems, etc.).

I whole-heartedly believe that Apple has every right to defend its trade dress, and I also believe that some of Samsung's new products (the GalTab 10.1 and Galaxy S II smartphone, included) very closely resemble the look and feel that Apple has spent so much time establishing. The appearance of Apple products is just as important as what they do, and Apple knows this.

At the same time, Apple tends to overreach. Once the complaints start moving into the software arena, things get really blurry. Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7 all share quite a few different features, yet the patents related to software are so general and broad that it hardly seems fair. Every time Apple pushes hard against Android, whether it be with Samsung's smartphones or HTC's, Apple ends up looking entitled and desperate to premptively squash competition.

In any case, we're the ones with the most to lose. Apple and Samsung will both survive this fight, albeit with a few bumps and bruises. But end-users are getting screwed out of fun new toys, and that's what hurts the most.

Launch Date:

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer,...

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Banjo Now Lets You Stalk Locations, And the People There

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:52 AM PDT


Six-week old mobile application Banjo has been updated with a new feature that lets users virtually stalk locations, and the people there, in real-time. Banjo, for those unaware, is a new social discovery service which reveals the social network present at any given location at a particular time. To be clear, it’s not another social network, it’s a layer on top of social networks. With Banjo, you don’t have to create a profile, add friends or collect followers, or perform any of the other typical social networking behaviors.

Instead, to use Banjo, you simply launch the app to see what the people around you are saying and doing right now. The app pulls its data from social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, TwitPic and Instagram, accessing both the publicly available check-ins and the geotags that accompany status updates and posts.

When Banjo first launched, it offered a “Map” feature which let you pick a point on the included Google Maps interface to virtually travel to that location, and see who was there. However, the feature was cumbersome to use because you weren’t able to type in a search box, specifying an actual location – you had to drag-and-drop the map to reposition it.

Virtual Tourist, Virtual Location Stalker

But now, you can enter in any address supported by Google Maps in order to discover that location’s hidden social network, whether the location you seek is a city, a street address or even the name of a local business.

There are certainly some use cases for this feature that will appeal to mainstream users – perhaps you’re curious what people think of tonight’s concert, for example, or what people at a conference are posting pictures of or are tweeting about.

However, as an online journalist, the immediate appeal of the search feature comes from the possibilities it presents for enhancing the reporting process. Imagine being able to virtually visit the streets of London during last weekend’s riots and seeing the streams of information arising from popular social networking services in real-time.

The benefit is not only the ease with which you can view this sort of public data, it’s that you can confirm those people are really there. With services like Twitter, anyone from anywhere can post an update using a hashtag (a keyword preceded by a # sign, e.g. #londonriots) to join the public conversation about that topic. But in some cases, it’s critical to know that a person is actually there when they’re posting an update – a feature which would allow journalists to then reach out to those immediately at the site an event’s occurrence, in the midst of the action. Banjo makes this possible, as it only looks at updates that have geo-coordinates attached.

Public Information is Easily Discoverable

The fact that it’s now so easy to reveal this sort of data should be a reminder to you that what you post publicly the Internet is indeed public.

And Banjo is not the only app that’s making easier to uncover this kind of information. Its nearest competitor, Sonar, a TechCrunch Disrupt startup, has a similar take on location-based social networking, except that it ranks the people at a given location by how many friends you have in common. In other words, instead of revealing a location’s hidden social network, it’s showing you your own expanded social network at a given location.

Coming Soon: More Apps, More Features, More Social Networks

Banjo plans to add a dozen more social networks in the next couple of weeks, and has added or is in the process of adding dozens of new features, including the ability to save photos, share them via social networks, email, or SMS, plus performance and speed improvements.

Banjo is currently available on iPhone and Android, but is expanding to other platforms in the future.

Launch Date:

Banjo is a social discovery service that helps people explore social updates across multiple social networks. Connecting real people in real time, Banjo harnesses publicly-available information and delivers it...

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Today Is Cheap Nintendo 3DS Day

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:41 AM PDT


Just a reminder: today is cheap Nintendo 3DS day and, sadly, it is the end of availability for Nintendo’s unusual “ambassador” program. The device is now available for $169 – down from its launch price of $249 – and they will be launching the 3DS in “Flame” aka “Mario” Red this September.

Why, then, is this news? Well, as is the case with many recent price reductions, Nintendo overshot. Although, in theory, the 3DS technology is wildly superior to previous portable consoles, the fact remained that those selfsame consoles were just fine for playing the vast majority of DS games. 3D was – and still is – a gimmick and although I found the console fascinating I suspect, at launch, parents were balking at paying another two and a half clams for another Nintendo console.

At $169 the device is considerably cheaper and considerably more accessible. However, I worry that the dip will create a negative perception in the market. Console-makers traditionally have been very aggressive and stalwart in their pricing. Console prices don’t drop until sales are well beyond sales plateau that happens during a console launch. Forced shortages, grey market aftersales, and general chatter all combine to create a perfect revenue storm and only when that storm dies down do we see any major price reductions.

In the end I’m sure Nintendo will do just fine on the 3DS. They’re aiming at an older, more nostalgic market and they understand kids are happy with a new Pokemon title every few years. However, for them to reduce prices so early is a negative sign in almost every respect except one – the price reduction means more people will be willing to try out Nintendo’s vision of the future of handheld gaming.


Nintendo, a technology company widely known for its line of game consoles, was actually founded in 1889 by Fusajiro Yamauchi. It began as a Card Game company and evolved...

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1DollarScan Scans And Digitizes Your Books For You “For A Dollar”

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:18 AM PDT


Having old media digitized to get more space in the house, preserve them or simply make them portable isn’t exactly a new trend. But some startups, like Peggybank in the case of videos and photos, still find ways to stand out. And now a new company called 1DollarScan tries to do the same for books, documents, pictures and just about anything that’s printed on paper – through pricing.

1DollarScan is the US equivalent of a service in Japan called Bookscan, which is the largest of its kind in that country and hit several millions of US dollars in revenue within a year, according to the namesake company (in fact, the service is so successful that some customers in Japan currently have to wait for months to get their material digitized).

1DollarScan works in the same way as Bookscan: after receiving physical books or other printed material from customers, the company scans the papers, and converts them into PDFs or DVDs. That’s what similar services do, too, but as 1DollarScan’s company name suggests, prices start at just $1 (for ten photos or 100 pages in a book, for example).

The obvious idea here is to address a bigger market than competitors by making mass-scanning and digitizing more affordable. 1DollarScan tells me they are building on their experience in Japan and “radically” apply Toyota’s kaizen method to perfect operation and keep costs down in their “factory” in the US market.

Launched last week in the US, it’s too early to tell if 1DollarScan can deliver in terms of quality as well, but if it’s any indication, the Japanese parent company already filed for a patent to protect its (actually pretty impressive) device-specific resolution adjustment method (here‘s a video in Japanese that shows the scanning process). On its website, 1DollarScan says that digitized content can be viewed on all Android phones and tablets, essentially all iOS devices, the Kindle 3, Sony’s PRS-650, and the Nook.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Coming In 2012 To Revive The Aging, But Still Awesome, Franchise

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 07:14 AM PDT


And for today’s news out of the left field, Valve is working on a new Counter-Strike game. Yep, the venerable shooter might soon get an update. Details aren’t exactly flowing at the moment, but it seems and feels as if this incarnation is going to be a niche game, aimed at the competitive gaming community. Still, it’s a new Counter-Strike game! Get excited!

Counter-Strike was released as a Half-Life mod 12 long years ago. It has since went onto be its own game and the most played title on Valve’s Steam gaming distribution service. It is and always has been, in a word, popular. A whole generation of gamers grew up on CS. Before Internet gaming blew up, Counter-Strike was the LAN party game. (and Starcraft) I had to retake a MSCE course because my time was spent tearing up Dust2 rather than studying. This was the FPS that defined team-based shooters. It was the Modern Warfare before Modern Warfare. The game never exactly disappeared. It took Valve making Team Fortress 2 free-to-play for the game to lose its top spot. But it’s time for a refresh.

Pro-gamers are the ones that spun-up the rumor mill after tweeting that they actually played the game at Valve’s HQ. The game is reportedly due out in Q1 of 2012 and like mentioned before, it’s not exactly clear if CS: Global Offensive is an update of CS: Source or if it’s a totally new game. It’s said to be built around a new Source engine, meaning the graphics should be from 2012 (or at least 2011). Dedicated servers, classic maps, and classic weapons are all said to be included within the new release. There will also be new weapons, gernades and modes. The matches are apparently 5v5 and designed for the eSport scene.

Valve is said to release a statement concerning the upcoming title sometime today.

Japan To Invest $1.3 Billion In New Supercomputer

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 06:55 AM PDT

fujitsu k

There is a list of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers, and the last time it was updated, back in June this year, Fujitsu’s “K” (pictured) came out on top, taking the No. 1 spot from Tianhe-1A (a supercomputer from China).

It was the first time since 2004 for Japan to get to claim those bragging rights, and now the country’s largest business newspaper The Nikkei reports that the government is already thinking about what will happen in 2020: by then, the plan is to develop a computer that handles exascale computing or, in other words, one million trillion operations per second (that computer would be 100 times more powerful than K).

Japan’s Science Ministry MEXT is estimating that costs could amount to $1.3 billion and has already roped in NEC, Fujitsu and government agency RIKEN to discuss details of the project. The goal is to make sure Japan stays on top in the supercomputer race as other countries are investing, too. In February, the US government, for example, set aside $126 million for the development of exascale supercomputing in the budget for fiscal 2012.

Supercomputers are being used for predicting earthquakes and other natural disasters, analyzing climate change, exploring outer space etc.

Google Videos Brings Movie Rentals to Android Phones

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 06:42 AM PDT


Google’s Videos app, the official video player for Android Market movie rentals, has been updated to work on Android smartphones. Previously, the app was only supported on Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), the Android tablet operating system.

The latest update is not compatible with all Android phones, however, only those running the two latest versions of Android for smartphones: Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).

Once the app is installed on your Android phone, you will have access to both your own rentals from the Android Market as well as any personal videos stored on your phone. In my case, as I don’t currently have any rentals on my device, the “My Rentals” section included a list of “Top Rentals” instead.

It appears that this app is designed to work with the updated version of the Android Market. When you’re in Google Videos, a tap on the small Market icon on the top right on the main screen automatically opens up the Movies section within the full Android Market app, assuming you have the newest version. This version has not made it to all Android phones as of yet, we hear. (For what it’s worth, I got the update via a standalone APK via the XDA Developers forum sometime ago. Another reason why I love Android!).

If you don’t have the updated Market app yet, and you don’t want to dig around for a hacked APK file, you can just rent videos from the online version of the Android Market instead.

As it did on tablets, the updated smartphone app lets you stream movies over Wi-Fi or “pin” them, which allows you download the movie to your handset for offline viewing. Movie rentals are good for 30 days, but once you start playing the rental, you only have 24 hours to finish it.

Windows Phone VP Debunks Mango’s Sept. 1 Release, We’re Still Not Convinced

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 06:20 AM PDT

Mango tweet

If you’re keeping up with Windows Phone Mango (which you totally should be because it looks pretty awesome), you’ll remember that we reported on a possible September 1 release for the update. Trusted, yet unnamed, Pocket-Lint sources had confirmed the rumor. Well, here’s the thing. We were totally right. We’re just not sure which part we were right about yet — that its a rumor, or that we’ll see Mango on September 1.

Microsoft VP of Windows Phone Joe Belfiore sent out a tweet debunking the September 1 claims. “#mango Sept 1? Just a rumor,” he tweeted. We want to believe you, Joe. Really we do. But Pocket-Lint tends to be pretty solid with their rumors and the timing couldn’t be more perfect, with IFA the next day. IFA is the largest gadget show in Europe, and Windows Phone also happens to be incredibly popular in Europe. Connecting the dots?

Companies often walk an awkward line between teasing out secrets and keeping them closely guarded. They want us to know that something totally amazing is going to go down, but they don’t want us to know the where, when, or what of the situation. In this case, it would be pretty shocking if Microsoft didn’t use IFA to show off its latest and greatest OS. But it’s pretty understandable that Belfiore wants to get the cat back in the bag, at least for now.

Launch Date:
13/3/1986, NASDAQ:MSFT

Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of...

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Go Try It On Raises $3M, Brings Gap And Sephora Personal Stylists To The Masses

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 05:53 AM PDT


Go Try It On, a startup that allows users to share photos of themselves and get opinions on their looks, has raised $3 million in funding from SPA Investments, Index Ventures and others.

On Go Try It On, you can upload a photo of yourself, add descriptions of the brands you are wearing and include context around the choice of the outfit (i.e. concert, holiday party). The site's community can then comment on the site and provide feedback on fellow members' outfits. Users can choose to ask the greater Go Try It On community, just share with their friends on Facebook, or ask a brand for advice. The site’s iPhone app allows you to access your looks and reviews from the app, as well as upload and share looks directly from app. You can also highlight your location, and share your look with your contact book.

The startup is also launching a professional Personal Stylist Network, which allows members are to upload wardrobe and make-up looks and receive advice from experts at Gap and Sephora who work as "Personal Stylists.”

In the future, Go Try It On plans to give members personalized analysis of what to wear, sort of like a Google Analytics for style and fashion based on outfit metrics. The company plans to generate revenue by allowing brands to offer customize suggestions based on these results.

Go Try It On faces competition from Weardrobe, Polyvore, and Fashism.

Acer Iconia Tab A100: Dual-Core, Honeycomb, Starts At $329

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 05:00 AM PDT


If Acer’s previous tablet effort was a bit too weighty for you, then consider this: Acer has just announced that their 7-inch WiFi-only Iconia Tab A100 is launching today at retail stores across the country.

It’s the first 7-inch tablet to sport the latest version of Honeycomb (Android 3.2, if you’re keeping track), and it weighs in at a hair under 1 pound. The A100 comes bearing your typical complement of ports: MicroUSB and Micro HDMI (with support for mirroring) mean that this tiny tab works just as well plugged into your television as it does with your computer.

Like its big brother, the A100 also supports media streaming through Acer’s service, allowing users to connect and wirelessly share media between DLNA-compatible devices. Meanwhile, the 5 megapixel camera around the back makes sure you’ll always have a cache of embarassing photos ready to share.

The A100 is no slouch when it comes to horsepower either: there’s an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM running the show. Hopefully that power helps with Flash’s often lackluster Android performance, as Flash 10.3 comes pre-installed.

Two models will be available at launch: $329 nets you 8 GB of onboard storage, while $349 bumps you up to 16 GB. The media hoarders among you may scoff, but both tablets can accept MicroSD cards up to 32 GB — have fun filling it all up.

No Facebook Music Yet? No Problem! Meet The Wonderful +Music Chrome Extension

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 03:55 AM PDT


Facebook is working with a number of partners to prepare for the launch of a music service – possibly called ‘Vibes’ – inside the astoundingly popular social networking site. While you wait, I advise you to check out the amazing +Music extension for Google Chrome (here’s a direct link to the extension).

It’s pretty cool. Once installed, you’ll find a new icon in the Chrome toolbar that lets you quickly search for an artist, stream music and discover links to the artist’s profiles on Facebook, Rdio, Wikipedia, and whatnot. The music gets fetched from Blog MP3s or Rdio (subscription required) and you can click the icon to play and pause music mixes, jump to the next track or queue songs.

On any web page you visit, you can now highlight the name of an artist, right-click, and instantly play or queue a mix of songs from said artist. The video below shows you how that works.

Now that’s all really nice, but here’s where it gets interesting. +Music integrates deeply with Facebook and allows you to share full songs with friends, even if they don’t have the extension installed.

It also adds a layer of usefulness on top of Facebook, so when you visit the social network you’ll see a number of enhancements that will enable you to enjoy music with a mere click of the mouse.

For one, on top of Facebook you’ll see a mini-player that lets you play, pause and skip tracks, so no more need to open the +Music dialog box by clicking the icon in the toolbar.

In the ‘Share’ section, you’ll also see a ‘Music’ option that lets you search for an artist, album or track where you’d normally post a status update. You can use it to share YouTube videos or instantly streamable songs or even full albums (MP3s found on blogs Web-wide, or from Rdio).

The screenshot below gives you an idea of what it looks like.

To achieve the above, the add-on uses Facebook’s Open Graph protocol to embed streamable music when you share a track – no authentication required – while the website acts as a home for any content shared via +Music (with more to come, developer Peter Watts tells me).

It doesn’t stop there. The +Music extension also spruces up artist or band pages, adding a button for instant music streaming or queuing next to their name. In addition, the extension shows you similar artists or bands in the left column of their Facebook page. Again, see screenshot below.

Much of the technology behind the +Music extension is powered by The Echo Nest.

If you’re interested in other nifty music apps, be sure to give and a whirl.

Millennial: Android Grabs 53 Percent Of Ad Impressions In Q2; iOS Takes 27 Percent Share

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 02:50 AM PDT


The largest remaining independent mobile ad network Millennial Media has released its 50th report today, and to commemorate this, revealed a number of statistics comparing the growth of manufacturers and OS over the past few years.

For example, in March 2010 iOS had 70 percent of mobile ad impression share on Millennial’s network compared to Android’s 6 percent at the time. Fast forward over a year, and in June 2011, Android had over taken iOS, with 54 percent of ad impression share, with iOS taking 26 percent. RIM pretty much had the same share (14 percent in 2010 vs. 15 percent in 2011) over the time period.

Smartphone share also increased, from 45 percent in March 2010, to 65 percent in June 2011. Feature phones, on the other hand, decreased from 34 percent share in 2010 to 17 percent in 2011.

Another stat worth noting from the report—60 percent of the devices on the Millennial network use a touch screen as the input device whereas only 27% of the devices were touch screen in 2009.

While Android is growing like gangbusters, Apple saw the biggest increase in terms of manufacturers on Millennial’s network. Since 2009, Apple has increased their market share as top manufacturer by almost 20 percentage points (going from 11 percent to 30 percent). Samsung was previously the top manufacturer.

Millennial also took a look at growth on the network in the second quarter of 2011. In Q2 of 2011, Smartphones grew 8 percent quarter-over-quarter and led the Smartphone, Feature Phone & Connected Device mix with 67 percent of impressions. Connected Devices experienced a 13 percent growth quarter-over-quarter and accounted for 17 percent of the Smartphone, Feature Phone & Connected Device mix in Q2.

Android maintained its position as the leading Smartphone OS Impression Mix on Millennial’s network in Q2, with 53% of impressions. iOS actually grew 4% quarter-over-quarter and represented 27% of the Smartphone OS Impression Mix in Q2. This could jump significantly if the iPhone 5 is released in the coming year.

Launch Date:

Millennial Media is the leading independent mobile advertising and data company. Millennial Media commands an impressive share of the mobile display advertising market. The company's technology, tools and services...

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Daily Crunch: Mouse And Rat

Posted: 12 Aug 2011 01:00 AM PDT

U.S. Judge Slaps Around Brazilian Court In Zynga v. Vostu

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:53 PM PDT


Ah, litigation. Nothing ever really gets done, but the lawyers get paid, and there’s always drama. The Vostu v. Zynga case exemplifies all of this. And it just got weird to boot. Today a U.S. judge just told a Brazilian court that they can’t shut down a Brazilian startup. That’s definitely a new one for me.

Background: On June 16 Zynga sued Brazilian clone Vostu in California for stealing Zynga’s games. Vostu’s initial press response was to (1) point out that the two companies have overlapping investors, and (2) make note of Zynga’s less than pristine past when it comes to respecting others’ intellectual property. I called that the “I know you are but what am I defense.”

That’s always a crowd pleaser, but courts often hold themselves to a higher standard. So last month Vostu filed a response to Zynga’s lawsuit. That response also brings up another defense – that the lawsuit is retribution by Zynga over a failed attempt by Zynga to create a “strategic relationship” with Vostu. That should have been the end of the news cycle for a while – U.S. courts never really decide anything, so a year could go by before we heard about this case again.

Everything above is standard lawsuit behavior. But Zynga’s next move was a good one. They filed another lawsuit, this time on Vostu’s home court – Brazil. They also sued Google for distributing the games (notably they did not sue Facebook, their golden goose). A Brazilian judge quickly granted Zynga’s request for an injunction. Vostu had to shut down its games in 48 hours.

A Brazilian judge siding with a U.S. company against a local startup? No one saw that coming.

But wait…there’s more. Today U.S. District Judge Edward Davila issued an order restraining Zynga from enforcing the Brazilian decision.

Despite the fact that “Brazil has an important interest in enforcing its copyright laws,” says Judge Davila, they don’t get to do so. “Zynga—which chose the U.S. forum first—now seeks to enforce an injunction it obtained abroad that would paralyze this Court's ability to decide this case.”

So which argument wins? Davila’s opinion is that his court’s desire to retain the ability to decide the case outweighs Brazil’s right to enforce its copyright laws. His words, neatly spliced and moved around of course, but not mine.

With this decision, I’m officially no longer really interested in the merits of the case. What I’m fascinated with is how these two courts are going to thrash out who gets to decide what. I sort of agree that this Brazilian court may have acted rashly in giving Vostu 48 hours to shut down. But they definitely get points for being awake and making decisions quickly, just days after the Brazilian lawsuit was filed.

U.S. courts would never move that fast. Unless, apparently, someone’s trying to usurp their jurisdiction.

My favorite part is near the end where Judge Davila, after trashing the Brazilian court’s decision, then goes on about how this isn’t meant to cast doubt or express opinion about the wisdom of the Brazilian court.

It deserves strong emphasis that a TRO would not enjoin the Brazilian court at all. Nor does a TRO from this Court cast doubt on or express any opinion about the wisdom of the Brazilian proceedings. Rather, a TRO would enjoin Zynga…from flouting this Court's jurisdiction. The fact that the flouting mechanism involves foreign courts is incidental.

It’s just such a wonderful way to rub it all in. No offense, Brazil. We’re not doing this to make you look bad. That’s just “incidental.”

The full order is below.

Launch Date:

Zynga was founded in July 2007 by Mark Pincus and is named for his late American Bulldog, Zinga. Loyal and spirited, Zinga's name is a nod to a legendary...

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Launch Date:

Vostu is a social gaming company which was launched in May 2007. Initially a social network for Latin America with a strong presence in Brazil, the company developed and launched...

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Chill, Yes THAT Chill, Is A For Videos

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:50 PM PDT


Imagine innocently launching your Facebook app one night and waking up to a bevy of emails saying that Mark Zuckerberg thinks the thing that you built is spamming up HIS precious platform. And let’s say that your app is like a DJ interface for videos, like a for YouTube. And did I mention that it’s also a pivot for your startup (Namesake), much like was a pivot from Stickybits.

Add an investment offer from Michael Arrington and a chat with said Zuckerberg and you get today in the life of Chill founders Dan Gould and Brian Norgard, who, because of a stray autopost to former Facebook Platform manager Dave Morin’s Facebook Wall, were so bombarded by user demand this morning that they had to close the gates to their product, which is now just an email sign-in page. Gould and Norgard plan on letting in Chill users slowly this time (those interested can sign up here), they’ve learned their lesson the hard way.

An outgrowth of the synchronous video viewing activity the founders were seeing on discussion aggregator Namesake, Gould and Norgard decided to build out the Chill product five weeks ago. Users sign up with Facebook Connect (sans spammy message this time) and are immediately given the option to start a Lounge or hang out in an already existing Lounge. Lounges are the equivalent of DJ rooms in Turntable.

Once in a Chill Lounge you can find videos to add to your queue by searching Vimeo or YouTube or plopping in a direct link in the Find Videos tab on your right. Once in a queue a video will have to wait its turn among the other videos in line in order to get played. Again like Turntable you can thumb up and thumb down a video selection and chat with other users. An admin feature will eventually be added so that users who create the room have some say in which videos get played or skipped.

Sure there are other places to watch videos with friends online; Socialcam lets you do it with your Facebook Friends and Google Plus, if it would ever work, lets you share YouTube videos with randoms and people in your circles.

But, while Chill is buggy and basically a direct analogue of Turntable, it is the only app I’ve seen thus far that offers an extended and open synchronous viewing experience, a social layer for video watching where anybody can join and become a DJ. Fifteen minutes in the Alexiatown Chill room and I wanted to stay there all day, gorging on videos like “Cutest Bear Attack Ever” and “2CHELLOS Cover Nirvana Classic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I was actually making delight noises, by myself, in our office.

"We've built a culture around sharing links to YouTube videos. How many times have you been looking at a video on your laptop and spun it around and said 'Hey you've got to check this out?’,” Norgard says, describing the appeal of Chill. The act of sharing a YouTube link is essentially isolating, in that the receiver must go off for a period of 3-4 minutes to consume the content on their own. With Chill you have a peanut gallery.

Norgard and Gould’s future plans include “fixing everything that’s not working” as well as including an option to build private rooms. Norgard tells me that they’re still trying to figure it out, “The interesting thing about the consumer Internet space is that it happens so fast. You only learn the mistakes when you're in the game. Pivot can be used as a pejorative but for us this is keeping our heads on a swivel.”

Note: As noted above, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is investing in Chill. You can read more about his investment policy here.

Launch Date:

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It...

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Google Unleashes Native Client Into Chrome, Next-Gen Web Apps To Follow?

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:34 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-11 at 8.33.37 PM

For well over a year now, Google has been hyping up something called Native Client. It’s an open source technology that allows a web browser to run compiled native code. In other words, it’s a potential missing link between native apps and web apps. And now it’s finally getting baked into Chrome.

As Google notes on their Chrome Blog blog today, the latest beta version of Chrome (version 14) has Native Client built-in. Their implementation allows for C and C++ code to be executed inside of the browser while maintaining the security that a web technology like JavaScript offers.

Writes Google:

Native Client apps use Pepper, a set of interfaces that provide C and C++ bindings to the capabilities of HTML5. As a result, developers can now leverage their native code libraries and expertise to deliver portable, high performance web apps.

This work has been a long time coming. It was in May 2010, that Google first started talking about the potential of Native Client at their Google I/O conference. This past February, Google noted that Native Client was getting close to reality when they announced a new SDK for developers to play around with. At this year’s I/O, the company reiterated their hope that it would be ready to go this year, ushering in the future of Chrome.

While Native Client is an open source project, it has been heavily driven by Google. Not only have they done much of the Native Client work themselves, but they’ve done much of the work on the Pepper Plugin API (PPAPI), which is an evolution of the Netscape Plugin API (NPAPI) which most current web browsers use (except IE, which naturally has their own technology). PPAPI offers better performance than NPAPI, which is key to making Native Client work.

All of this could add up to the next generation of web apps, if developers take advantage of Native Client. Intensive code will now be able to be run on a local machine (with native code) while being accessed in real-time by the browser. This should lead to better web-based gaming, media, etc.

Google also notes that Web Audio API is a part of Chrome 14 beta as well. This too will help with the development of immersive gaming done through the browser.

Launch Date:
25/8/2004, NASDAQ:GOOG

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Google Chrome is an based on the open source web browser Chromium which is based on Webkit. It was accidentally announced prematurely on September 1, 2008 and slated...

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Apple Patents Hint At Multi-Part Gestures, Touchable OS X

Posted: 11 Aug 2011 05:23 PM PDT


Designing a user interface for touch isn’t an easy thing to do. At least, it isn’t easy to do well. The great number and variety of gestures possible when four fingers and a thumb hit a touchscreen may well cause development and design paralysis. Yet the gestures we see implemented often seem so simple and intuitive that as soon as we perform them once, we wonder how anyone would have trouble coming up with it.

Apple’s early success with the simple and intuitive gestures on the iPhone has actually worked against it in a way, as adding gestures over-complicates a UI known for accessibility. On the other hand, it has prevented them from providing richer gestures like drawing shapes, creating spontaneous UI items, and so on. But I doubt they ever stopped looking into it. Some newly published patent applications, while questionable as far as patentable ideas go, is chock-full of interesting ideas and promising new UI concepts.

Patent 20110197153 was found by IP sniffers Patently Apple. The patent, filed in February 2011, covers a number of multi-part gestures in which a gesture is done to create or invoke a certain UI element, and then a second action using that element is enabled.

For instance, “digging a hole.” In this case, you’d tap or “scratch” the screen a few times to create a “hole,” which you could then drag files into, either to delete, hide, or what have you. The hole would presumably fill itself in, or a second gesture could be used to do this.

Another example: opening a portal, trap door, or window by drawing a rectangle. This is a similar “drag and drop” concept, but as the gesture and the graphic would be different, it can fulfill a different purpose: creating a folder or archive, or adding an attachment to an email.

A more involved gesture described in a second patent application (20110193788) has the user drawing a circle or blob around a set of files, which would then be enclosed in a graphical bubble. The device could then be physically tipped and the bubbled data “poured” into a second device.

I know what you’re thinking. How can Apple expect to patent gestures that have been used in games, applications, and other UIs (using a mouse, for instance), in similar fashions, for years? I have to imagine that somewhere in the hundred thousand games there are for iOS, there’s one where you have to dig a hole by scratching the screen. If not on iOS, then on the 3DS, a platform saturated with interesting touch-based UIs. And we even had a demo of data being “poured” from one device to another at Disrupt in New York.

To be honest, I really don’t know. The patent really does claim the “digging a hole and then dragging an item over it to be processed” method, as well as the others, and it doesn’t restrict it to anything as specific as managing file representations or app icons. Apple seems to want a patent on digging virtual holes and putting things in them.

There are examples of these UI elements going back a long, long time, and even with the permissive patent system we have in place, I can’t imagine Apple’s approach will be deemed sufficiently different just because it’s done on a touchscreen. Drawing an X on something to delete it? Is it even possible that they could let that fly? I certainly hope not.

Patent worries aside, the gestures are very interesting from a user point of view. I’ve always advocated rich touch interaction in tablets, and have been disappointed by the refusal of tablet OS makers to implement things that are only possible with a touch interface. Games have done a much better job of exploring the possibilities than OS developers. It’s nice to see someone going beyond clicking and dragging. Given Apple’s focus on the trackpad and touchscreen, it was always a good bet that they’d be among the first to integrate rich gestures, even if they aren’t even close to the first to create them.

Interestingly, the patent application uses very OS X-esque images in its tablet illustrations. This doesn’t have to mean anything; the patent writer might have just felt the explanation worked better with a more traditional desktop interface. But there’s more to it than that. Lassoing files, transferring them to nearby devices, hiding and deleting files and windows — these aren’t things you do on Apple tablets. They’re things you do in OS X.

The portal? Sending a window to your other desktop — on the other “side” of the tablet, perhaps, where iOS lives? The “trap door” is a great metaphor for passing things between two distinct areas. Or is it for saving things for later — like the reading list in Safari?

What about X-ing out items? There isn’t room for that in many places on iOS — you delete listed items by swiping, and icons by long-pressing and bringing up their little x boxes. Besides, how would you make an X without swiping over to another screen? A quick flick is interpreted as a directional swipe, not a stroke on a touch canvas. The X gesture itself demands a single-screen desktop, where there is dead space that isn’t interacted with. The same can be said for the “pinch” gesture, which requires negative space on all sides of an item. There is very little such space on iOS — but your OS X desktop is covered with it.

Sharing files from one device to another close by? Sounds familiar — oh right, it’s a marquee feature of Lion. Creating a bubble on an unlocked device is a tacit approval for a file transfer, without going into any menus or selecting a network. Bubble up some files on the other device, the devices pair, and when you pour, it transfers.

These are desktop concepts, not iOS concepts. Or are they both? Lion brought iOS-like interface elements to OS X, and half the world thought we’d have convertible, touchscreen MacBooks right now. No — Apple is bringing OS X to the tablet, though not completely, of course. But I can imagine a second “face” to the iPad, for file management and sharing, with a more familiar desktop metaphor, updated with gestures like these. Apple seems to be imagining something along these lines as well, and while there’s still a good chance this patent is more a “just to be safe” collection of interesting ideas not actually being implemented, you have to admit it’s compelling to think about how they might apply if they were actually executed.

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