Monday, August 15, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Google Is Now The Proud Owner Of

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 09:53 AM PDT


It’s not exactly Googorola-sized news, but I just noticed that Google has very recently gained ownership over the domain (not worth linking as it is currently not in use – yet?).

Now, Google may have simply asked – or forced – the former owner to transfer ownership of the catchy domain name, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to launch a product by that name (besides, they already own so why bother?).

For that and other reasons, I think it’s unlikely Google is planning to make the home for a new service, although I’ve been known to be wrong before. Either way, somewhat interesting.

After all, .me domain names are starting to get in vogue lately. Google worked on the project, for instance, and there are plenty of other examples such as, which was acquired by our parent company AOL, but also,,,,, and, a joint project from and The New York Times).

Then there are startups like Tango, Kiip and Formspring, which also went with .me domain names.

The list goes on: Facebook owns, WordPress owns, Yahoo owns, Microsoft owns, AOL owns, VKontakte owns, and Time Magazine owns

Google should probably have a chat with, by the way, as they own

According to a recent blog post by the .ME Registry, more than 530,000 .me domain names – in 200 countries – have been secured in the three years they’ve been publicly available for registration.

Google was smart enough to register a couple of .me domain names from the get-go, including,,,,,, and

For whatever reason, they missed out on and – but now they’ve solved half of that particular problem.


In July 2005, Google acquired Android, a small startup company based in Palo Alto, CA. Android’s co-founders who went to work at Google included Andy Rubin (co-founder of...

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New Android Malware Hides as Google+ App, Answers Calls for You

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 09:52 AM PDT

Image (1) AndroidEvilplus-300x267.jpg for post 47285

Security researchers at Trend Micro have discovered a new mobile malware application on Android that disguises itself as a Google+ app. The app has the capability to record phone calls, as well as gather the GPS location of the handset, the text messages and the call logs, all of which are sent off to remote servers.

The app installs itself on Android devices under the guise of being a Google+ application, using the Google+ icon to disguise itself in both the Android applications list and the list running services.

The malware is a variant of the previously-discovered ANDROIDOS_NICKISPY.A and .B, as it uses the same code structure found within those applications. This particular variant is being called ANDROIDOS_NICISPY.C.

In addition to recording calls and gathering personal data from the device, the app is also able to receive commands via text message, explains Trend Micro threat analyst Mark Balanza. To do so, it requires the sender to use the predefined “controller” number from the app’s configuration file in order to execute any commands.

But what makes this malware particularly unique, says Balanza, is its ability to record incoming phone calls automatically, something which the other variants did not. In order to answer calls, the phone’s screen must be turned off and the call has to come from a certain phone number in the app’s configuration file. Before answering, the app puts the phone in silent mode and hides the dial pad. And when the phone call is connected, the screen goes blank.

It’s important to note that the “auto-answering” feature of the malware can only affect phones running Android versions 2.2 and below, as the MODIFY_PHONE_STATE permission was disabled in Android 2.3. This, again, is another very good example as to why manufacturers and carriers should not hold back Android OS updates from being pushed down to consumers’ devices.

In this case, at least, it does not appear that the malware is particularly widespread, as it is not listed in the Android Market. The app only appears to be installed on users’ handsets who unknowingly visit a malicious website. And removal is as simple as uninstalling the app.

The Android operating system is increasingly the target for malware such as this, security firm Lookout reported earlier this month. Android users are two-and-a-half times more likely to encounter malware today than just 6 months ago. And half a million to one million users have been affected by Android malware this year alone. While this individual app may only be a minor threat, when combined with all the others over the course of many months, the malware threat is becoming a concern for Android users, developers, carriers and OEMs alike.

$200k Fundraiser Means SETI Can Listen For Aliens Again

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 09:34 AM PDT


Nestled in a field 290 miles northeast of San Francisco, the Allen Telescope Array has been dormant since budget cuts forced the SETI Institute to take the facility offline last April. Instead of continuing the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, the array’s 42 radio telescopes now dot the landscape like strange ruins of a lost civilization.

That was the case, at least, until the SETI Institute announced that thanks to their recent fundraising efforts, the ATA would get a new lease on life next month.

$200,000 was raised through the institute’s SETIStars initiative, with names like Jodie Foster and Apollo astronaut Bill Anders popping up on the donor list. An unspecified amount of money will also be supplied by the U.S. Air Force, ensuring another few month’s worth of E.T. searching should the deal go through.

It’s a promising re-start for SETI, but there’s no guarantee that the array will keep running. The facility costs an average of $1.5 million to operate each year, with most of its funding coming from government sources. The insitute has already shown that it has some friends with deep pockets, but the array’s future seems shaky past 2011.

Fan as I am of all things space-related (and as someone who saw Contact over 12 times), I hope they manage to keep their collective ears to the stars for as long as they can. Searching for extraterrestrial life may seem frivolous to some, but think what a day it would be if those radio telescopes picked up something worth listening to. Unfortunately, the financial reality of the situtation means that dedicated space junkies may have to take what we can get.

Qualcomm Explores A New Market: Finding Your Lost Dog

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 09:21 AM PDT


Qualcomm. You’ve probably heard of them. Hell, chances are pretty solid that you’ve got a bit of Qualcomm in your pocket right now — if you’ve got any recent, popular Android phone in there, at least. More-likely-than-not, it’s running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset.

Qualcomm has been up to all sorts of fun stuff lately: they’ve got an SDK that makes it feasible for just about any developer to build otherwise insurmountable augmented reality projects, they’re doing all sorts of work around location-based peer-to-peer technology, and now they’re… uh.. building rechargeable GPS collars that help you track down your lost dog.

Called the “Tagg”, this thing is being built by one of Qualcomm’s new wholly-owned subsidiaries, Snaptracs.

Here’s how it works:

  • You charge up the Tagg, then strap it to your dog/cat’s existing collar. Qualcomm says it should fit well enough on any dog or cat over 10 pounds. Looks a bit silly on that little Bull Dog up there — but hey, looking silly is better than looking gone-forever.
  • You define “Tagg Zones”, which map out the places the pet frequents most, like your house and the surrounding yard.
  • At any time, you can use your mobile or a browser-based tool to ping the collar for your dog’s current location.
  • Any time your pup roams out of its pre-defined “Tagg Zone”, you’re sent an e-mail and/or text alerting you that Mr. Mittens has decided to go off on an adventure.
  • The rechargeable battery lasts around 30 days (though you’ll probably want to charge it more often. Nothing like losing your dog on day 30.) When the collar starts running low, you’ll be sent a text to remind you that it’s time to juice up.
  • A “trip” button lets you temporarily disable the collar, allowing you to take Snowflake across the fence lines (for, say, a walk) without alerts blowing up your inbox.

Oh, and it’s waterproof. As anyone who’s ever had a lost dog come back covered in what seems to be all of the mud in the world could tell you, that’s probably a good idea.

The collar’s wireless connectivity is all powered over Verizon’s network. Qualcomm says this thing should launch sometime in September, with 200 bucks nabbing you the collar, charger, and one-year of tracking service.

Launch Date:

In July 1985, seven industry veterans came together in the den of Dr. Irwin Jacobs' San Diego home to discuss an idea. Those visionaries—Franklin Antonio, Adelia Coffman, Andrew Cohen,...

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Citi Analyst: Google’s Motorola Move Is “Defensive”

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 08:53 AM PDT

Defensive tower

The market is trying to make sense of Google’s $12.5 billion agreement to buy Motorola Mobility. (Google shares are down 2.8 percent in midday trading to $548, while Motorola shares are up nearly 60 percent.) Citi analyst Mark Mahaney, for one, thinks it is a “defensive” move.

In a research note he put out today after the announcement, Mahaney takes a skeptical view of the all-cash deal. “This may not be a bad use of cash,” he writes. “But is this GOOG's best use of cash?” On the plus side, Google will get over 17,000 patents as part of the deal, a leading mobile handset manufacturer, and a stronger position in the living room with Motorola’s set-top box business.

On the downside, Mahaney worries what the impact might be on the Android ecosystem as a whole. Android has so much momentum already with 150 million handsets worldwide, why risk slowing that down with the distractions of absorbing one of the leading Android manufacturers? Making hardware is “FAR afield from GOOG’s core competencies.” And the regulatory approvals will take at least until the end of the year, if not longer, before the deal is likely to close.

So why is Google going through all the trouble? “The patents may be the key to this deal,” writes Mahaney, “but they also suggest a defensive nature to the deal.” Well, you can’t really blame Google for being defensive on patents when every other major tech company seems to be arrayed against Android.

Photo credit: Francisco Antunes

IAB Calls on ICANN to Withdraw Controversial Plan for New Top-Level Domains

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 08:43 AM PDT


The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) is today calling on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to withdraw its controversial plan for new top-level domains. ICANN’s plan would significantly expand Top-Level Domains, allowing companies and brands to register just about any word they want as a top level domain (TLD).

That means in addition to traditional TLDs like .com, .net, .org and .tv, for example, you could have domains like .techcrunch, .apple, .facebook, .hotel, .newyork, .coke, .cnn, etc.

These domains would come at an extremely high cost to publishers and advertisers, IAB says, and they will also provide the opportunity for cyber squatters to extort money from companies by registering domains in “bad faith.”

“ICANN’s potentially momentous change seems to have been made in a top-down star chamber. There appears to have been no economic impact research, no full and open stakeholder discussions, and little concern for the delicate balance of the Internet ecosystem," said Randall Rothenberg, CEO and President, IAB. "This could be disastrous for the media brand owners we represent and the brand owners with which they work. We hope that ICANN will reconsider both this ill-considered decision and the process by which it was reached.”

ICANN’s board members voted for the new TLD plan earlier this year, with an overwhelming majority in favor of the initiative. The vote was 13 to 1 in favor, with 2 abstaining.  ICANN also previously contracted with ICM Registry to operate the .XXX top-level domain for adult websites.

The IAB isn’t the only one making waves regarding ICANN’s plan. Esther Dyson, the founding chairwoman of ICANN (among other things) spoke out against the new TLDs, in an interview here on TechCrunch back in July.

Her argument was not just focused on the economic impact and trademark issues, however, but also the impact on the Web’s users themselves. People have only so much space in their heads, she said. The new TLDs will sub-divide the little attention people have for brands already.

Google: Buying Friends And Influencing Handsets

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 08:28 AM PDT


Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility is, in the end, a mercenary effort to cement Android’s position in the handset ecosystem and to prop up a stalwart proponent of the platform. That’s fine. Google is a big company and it can now pick and choose – and buy – its own friends without input from the peanut gallery. But what does a Googorola merger mean?

First, we must understand that this is not a merger of equals. Motorola split itself in January after years of lagging phone sales. Motorola’s revenue dropped from a high of $10.6 billion to $4.89 billion in Q3 of 2010. They lost half of their portion of the handset market between 2008 and 2009, thus forcing the split from what is now called Motorola Solutions, a company that does everything except make handsets.

Even with the Xoom and the popular Droid series, Motorola was in a bad place. They did, however, have one buddy in their corner: Google. Grima to Motorola’s Théoden, the company whispered the secrets of Android into the ears of Moto engineers and, in the end, they produced some of the best and most popular Android devices on the market. That claim could be argued considering the current crop of devices available, but, for a time, Motorola looked like the company to beat when it came to Android.

But all was not well at Motorola and Samsung and HTC began eating their lunch. They were lurching along, from one promised device to the next, and in the end it looked like they may be an also-ran… until today.

Motorola is now Google’s skunkworks. They can produce hardware running gold standard builds of Android and, presumably, Motorola Mobility doesn’t need to make a single cent of profit from now until eternity. Google’s rich coffers can pay for R&D, free lunches, and Segways for Motorola’s engineers.

Motorola’s competitors are also pretty happy. They write:

“We welcome today's news, which demonstrates Google's deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”
- J.K. Shin
President, Samsung, Mobile Communications Division
“I welcome Google's commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
- Bert Nordberg
President & CEO, Sony Ericsson
“We welcome the news of today's acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
- Peter Chou
CEO, HTC Corp.
“We welcome Google's commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
- Jong-Seok Park, Ph.D
President & CEO, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company

To be clear, Android needs about as much defending as the Honey Badger although to hear manufacturers (and fanboys) tell it, Android is a delicate flower that requires the utmost care and rabid defense in order to blossom. Google is taking this perception to the bank by buying Motorola in order to become “deeply committed to defending Android.” Why are HTC, Samsung, and LG pleased? Because they know that Motorola is no longer a competitor and they also know that if things get tough they can ask mama Google for a cash infusion.

Google now owns Android “soup to nuts.” But not much will – or can – change. The Nexus line will probably continue unabated and Motorola’s release of future handsets will be slightly curtailed but not halted. Instead, Motorola will be Android’s ambassadors to other engineers, allowing for a sort of safe handset tourism that will ensure that HTC and the like get all the benefits of the platform while still making money. Motorola will let Google show the rest of the world how to make money on Android while, in the process, they make (more) money on Android.

I’m interested, as we all are, to see where Googorola is headed. So don’t think of this as losing a handset manufacturer. Instead, think of this as gaining a Google-sanctioned straw man hardware manufacturer that will, in the end, pull the rest of the Android handsets up to more compelling and exacting standards.

Google / Motorola Deal Doesn’t Guarantee a “Nexus Droid”

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 08:17 AM PDT


One of the burning questions we all have after hearing this morning’s news of Google’s $12.5 billion bid for Motorola Mobility is: what does this mean for the next Nexus device?

Will Google leverage its acquisition to build Android phones that look and function exactly how Google wants them to, a move that would postion the company to compete more directly with Apple? Or will it continue to anoint one handset maker as the temporary “king” of Android devices through the same process it uses now?

According to statements made this morning by Android chief Andy Rubin, it will be the latter. Google doesn’t expect the acquisition to impact the Nexus program and lead device strategy, he said. ”We select, around Christmas-time each year, a manufacturer to release a phone,” explained Rubin. “After the acquisition, Motorola will be a part of that bidding process and lead device process.”

Reading between the lines, it seems Rubin is saying that we shouldn’t expect to see a new Nexus-branded “Droid” any time soon, and especially not this winter when the new Nexus device is chosen.

That statement seems to jibe with the previous rumors regarding which manufacturer will build the new Nexus phone. Motorola hasn’t even been in the running this year, according to various reports. For example, Android-tracking blog AndroidandMe stated in July that the four manufacturers bidding to build the new Nexus device included Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson and LG. There was also a slight possibility of a “surprise” device featuring an Intel CPU.

It’s likely that some or all of the above are indeed being evaluated and considered by Google as the new “Nexus,” which will be the first phone to run Android 4.0, aka “Ice Cream Sandwich.”

Above: Leaked photos of Android 4.o (reportedly) on Samsung device, Source: Rootzwiki

Google Needs to be Careful in Selecting Nexus OEM

Nexus-branded smartphones are Google’s flagship devices for Android, meant to show off the newest version of the mobile operating system (OS), without any tampering from device manufacturers and operators. Even though the phones are free from manufacturers’ tinkering – tinkering which OEMs usually promote as a feature, not a drawback – winning the Nexus bid is seen as badge of honor. The Nexus phone is the Android developers’ preferred device, and that’s a market every OEM wants to claim.

In fact, HTC CEO Peter Chou likes to boast that his company has the largest group of Android developers outside of Google. Getting developers’ attention through a Nexus device means more potential interest in HTC’s own developer-focused initiatives, like its newly launched and OpenSense SDK (a kit that lets developers skin their apps to look like they’re a part of HTC’s own user interface). Other manufacturers have similar interests, like Samsung’s push for more Android tablet apps for its Galaxy Tab devices, or Sony Ericsson’s interest in attracting game developers to build for its Xperia PLAY, for example.

Then there’s the fact that many consumers, too, have grown to love the Nexus phones, which not only offer the full Google experience, but are also first to get updates and new features as they become available. It’s the early adopters’ preferred device, as it enables them to stay on the cutting edge of mobile technology innovation. That’s also a niche any OEM would want.

Making all future Nexus devices Motorola phones could easily anger Google’s Android partners, who will already be nervous about what this acquisition means for them in terms of preferential treatment. Google will have to be careful to not overtly favor Motorola in the Nexus competition, or risk losing its partners to competitors like Microsoft’s Windows Phone, or even HP’s webOS.

However, that doesn’t discount the possibility of a Motorola-built Nexus phone (or tablet!) in the future, it just means that this is one area where Google knows it has to step lightly.

Launch Date:

Motorola is a telecommunications company based in Schaumburg, Illinois. It is a manufacturer of wireless telephone handsets, also designing and selling wireless network infrastructure equipment such as cellular transmission...

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Angry Birds Now Available In Creamy And Not-So-Deadly Moon Pie Form

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 08:17 AM PDT


Yep. Angry Birds are officially in the public consciousness. It’s part of the world’s culture now. Nothing proves that more than these official Angry Birds moon pies. There’s simply no escaping the onslaught of flying birds — even though the game is tired and played-out.

The likely tasty pies are part of Rovio’s new merchandise announced for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. The gaming company also unveiled a Chinese-themed update to Angry Birds Seasons a few weeks back. But who cares about an app, right? Moon pies are the bigger story.

These treats sell in pairs for $38 HKD (around $4.90) and seem to come in a fun tote bag! What a deal! Unfortunately they seem to be sold only at a Angry Birds/Rovio store in China. They might even be only available during the festival. I’m just concerned that these moon pies, since they’re, you know, moon pies, won’t be effective pig killers.


Rovio is one of Europe’s leading independent developers of wireless games with an ever-growing portfolio of award-winning titles spanning many genres from casual to core next-gen console IP. Their...

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Imec: Japanese Company Lets Plants Grow On Thin Films Instead Of Soil (Video)

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:47 AM PDT

imec mebiol

Here’s some amazing tech from Japan: Tokyo-based Mebiol is working on an membrane–based plant cultivation technology called Imec that makes it possible to let plants grow on thin film instead of soil. The film is made of a water-absorbent material called hydrogel and is just “tens of microns” thick.

Mebiol says that tomatoes, radish, cucumber, melons etc. need up to 80% less water to grow when compared with conventional culture and that 1g of SkyGel (that’s the brand name of the hydrogel) absorbs and holds 100ml of water. In contrast to soil, bacteria or viruses have no chance to harm the plants. Another advantage is that SkyGel can be used on various surfaces, including sand, concrete or ice (see this PDF for examples from recent years).

The film can be used to grow plants for 2-3 years before it needs to be replaced, according to the company.

This video, shot by Diginfonews in Tokyo, provides more insight (on both the advantages and the disadvantages of Imec):

The Year Is 1996. Apple Instructs Its Employees How To Use The Netscape Browser.

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:39 AM PDT


Eli Goldberg emails us. He writes:

“If you’re ever having a slow news day, you might be able to do something funny with this.

It’s the instructions I received in summer 1996 when starting at Apple explaining how to employees how use a Netscape web browser to obtain our benefits information, including how to use a web browser’s back button.”

Dear Eli, there’s no such thing as a slow news day. And there’s no chance we’re not posting what you sent us. Below, find Apple’s instructions on how to use Netscape Navigator, the Web browser and flagship product of Netscape Communications Corporation.

My favorite part of the document (along with the phrase “Netscape’s disclaimer when information is sent over the World Wide Web”):

Navigation Links

Navigation links are the underlined words that appear at the bottom of each section. You can move to specific parts of the document by clicking on these underlined words or phrases.

Back Button

The Back button is part of Netscape. It’s the square button in the top left-hand corner of your browser. You can use this button to get back to where you just were. By clicking this button several times, you will be brought through the same path you just took, only backwards.

Through the same path you just took, only backwards!

On an interesting sidenote: according to his LinkedIn profile, Eli Goldberg indeed started working at Apple in June 1996 (right before he started Prometheus Music). He went on to work for companies like Netscape (the irony!), Eazel, Sun, AOL, Flock and is currently employed by Microsoft.

Clearly, the man knows how to click the forward button, too.

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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Pew Survey: Half Of U.S. Mobile Consumers Use Cell Phones For Realtime Info Retrieval

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:32 AM PDT

Image (1) Cell_phone_hands_free_kit.jpg for post 360293

Mobile computing is more realtime than desktop computing. That’s just obvious. Typically when you are on the go, you want to know what is going on right now around you. The Pew Internet research project put out a new survey today that quantifies how many people rely on their mobile phones for realtime information. In the past month, 51 percent of U.S. adult cell phone owners have used their phones to get just-in-time info “they needed right away.”

Another 40 percent used their phones for emergencies. While about as many, 42 percent, use their phones to “stave off boredom.” For 18-29 year-olds, that percentage is 70 percent.

So mobile phones seem to be good for at least two things: realtime information consumption (stop looking at your Facebook feed) and entertainment (mostly games would be my guess). They are also good for avoiding personal contact with other humans. A full 13 percent of survey respondents admitted they have “pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them.”

The survey also dives into smartphone usage specifically. Pew esimates that 35 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. The most popular activities are text messaging and taking pictures (both are tied, with 92 percent of smartphone users saying they do each activity). More smartphone owners send photos (80 percent) than email (76 percent) from their phones. And 84 percent access the Internet. Social networking sites in general are accessed by 59 percent, while 15 percent check Twitter alone.

AT&T Fires Back After Law Firm Tries To Block T-Mobile Deal Through Arbitration

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:31 AM PDT


AT&T's legal team probably didn't have too restful a weekend. On Friday afternoon, the legal firm accidentally posted a partially redacted letter to the FCC revealing the original cost of its planned LTE build-out at $3.8 billion. That's quite a difference from the $39 billion it would cost to achieve the same goal through a T-Mo acquisition, and many found the revelation incredibly suspect, enough so to possibly derail the merger. And if that wasn't enough to start out the weekend, AT&T then had to file eight federal suits to keep a law firm from blocking the deal through arbitration.

According to AllThingsD, Bursor & Fisher law firm has been planning an attack on the merger for quite a while, with a website dedicated to arguing its case and recruiting AT&T customers to join the fight. Citing the Clayton Antitrust Act, the firm argues that individual parties who may be adversely affected by the merger have the right to sue to stop it from happening.

AT&T's terms of service block customers from bringing class-action suits upon the carrier, but arbitration is allowed, and expenses are covered by AT&T. This is where Bursor & Fisher believe they'll win. "If we bring 100 cases and we lose 99 of them we are going to win," attorney Scott Bursor said in an interview. "We just need one arbitrator to say, 'Wait a minute, this merger is going to hurt competition.'"

The firm has filed arbitration cases in eight different U.S. jurisdictions. AT&T has filed back in all eight of them, and responded with a statement citing the arbitration clause in its contract:

"This merger will provide tremendous benefits for customers and unleash billions of dollars in badly needed investment, creating many thousands of well-paying jobs that are vitally needed given our weakened economy — a fact that's been recognized by consumers, public officials, and groups of all types. However, the bottom line here is an arbitrator has no authority to block the merger or affect the merger process in any way. AT&T's arbitration agreement with our customers — recently upheld by the Supreme Court — allows individual relief for individual claims. Bursor & Fisher is seeking class-wide relief wrapped in the guise of individual arbitration proceedings, which is specifically prohibited by AT&T;s arbitration agreement. Accordingly, the claims are completely without merit. We have filed suit in order to stop this abusive action."

So in other words, Bursor & Fisher have rounded up more than 1,000 AT&T customers to fight the deal. Though the firm plans to move forward with each case individually, AT&T has a point when it says that the firm is trying to bring relief to an entire class of people, rather than individuals.

But no matter how this turns out, one thing is very clear: AT&T's fight for T-Mobile is far from over.

Namaste Plans User-generated Gaming Platform, Bags Hansjee As Advisor

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:25 AM PDT


Namaste, a games startup which is poised for launch, is building a platform called StoryBricks to enable casual users to create their own games and share them on social networks. The twist is that it’s not for professional game designers but users who want to create their own games. The company is understood to be be in discussions with several top VCs.

Why is Namaste in a sweet spot? Companies like Zynga still need hit games to survive. Their customer churn is very high – a customer used to last four months in a Zynga game and now it’s just 2 months. That means they lose about 100m users in a month. Anything that produces more games is a good thing.

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Flickr Not Dead, But Losing The Soul Of Photo Sharing

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:25 AM PDT


The buzz in photography circles this past weekend was a post by Thomas Hawk declaring “Flickr is Dead.” It’s not the first time we’ve heard this attention-grabbing headline. By the numbers, it’s hard to call a photo sharing site with more than 5 billion photos “dead” just yet, and Hawk admits it will take time. But, Yahoo-owned Flickr is facing increasing competition and influential photographers are choosing to upload elsewhere.

Hawk, who was an early Flickr evangelist, first asks readers to compare his Flickr page, with its “same view since 2004″ to his infinite scrolling Google+ photo page. But his real moment of realization came last week. Trey Ratcliff, an expert in HDR photos who also runs a popular travel photo blog called “Stuck In Customs“, led a photowalk at Stanford that more than 200 photographers of all skill levels attended. They are still trying to confirm this, but it might have been a “World Record” photowalk turnout.

Hawk writes “What was everybody talking about at the photowalk? Flickr? No. Google+? Yes. Not only was everyone talking about Google, there were tons of people from Google who were there.” The list of Googlers included the Google Photos Community Manager and the guy who build their lightbox.

I attended the very informative walk. It may have been the first Google+ flash mob. At times I thought the event was an official Google company event, but it wasn’t. Everyone was talking about photography and Google+. The group photo (above) was posted to Google+ and many faces tagged. Everyone was invited to add their photos and comments about the walk on Google+.

Hawk recalls “Flickr used to feel like this.” Years ago, he says Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield would attend the Flickr meetups. But, those meetups don’t happen any more. A SF Flickr Meetup Group had only 3 posts this year. He writes Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz doesn’t have a Flickr account, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin posted underwater photos last week to Google+.

There are still many more people putting pictures on Flickr compared to the newcomer Google+. And one photowalk isn’t going to change everything. But, many passionate and influential photographers are switching from Flickr to Google Photos and a host of other photo sharing sites like 500px and Instagram.

Most importantly, in Hawk’s view, Flickr has “lost the soul of photosharing. They’ve lost the spirit of photosharing — the zest and the passion and love — and while they got away with that for a long time due to lack of competition, thanks have now changed.”

Frederick Van Johnson, the host of the popular photography podcast, This Week in Photo (TWiP), agrees. He told me “Flickr’s lack of innovation is a crime that’s punishable by death — and we the jury are voting with where we choose to host our photos.”

In additional to Google Photos, Flickr is facing competition from Instagram, launched just 9 months ago and only available on the iPhone. Instagram just reported its 150 millionth photo. It took Flickr nearly 2 years to reach 100 million photos.

TechCrunch has been reporting on Flickr’s problems for awhile. Earlier this year, Michael Arrington stopped using Flickr. He explained his reasons in a post called “I Won’t Use Flickr Until They Release My Photo Hostages.” Flickr’s head of product, Matthew Rothenberg left in March. The founders, Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield, who created the company in 2004, sold it to Yahoo in 2005, and left in 2008. Alexia Tsotsis wrote about the Flickr designer who publicly criticized Flickr’s design.

Hawk’s article has generated some good discussion on his blog, Hacker News and Google+. Commentors pointed out that Hawk has 60,000 photos in his Flickr photostream which appears to the right of his “Flickr is Dead” post. But that just shows someone like Hawk, who is clearly a power user of Flickr, is not happy. He’s the type of paying “Pro” user Flickr needs to keep.

A commenter named Jolene compared Flickr to an ex-beau. “It’s still out there… you remember how much in love you once were, how you thought it was going to be forever. Eventually, you grew apart.”

In researching this article, I learned from the Flickr blog that its 5 billionth photo was uploaded last September. But on the first page of its welcome tour, it claims just “over 4 billion photos.” In addition to a lack of innovation and updates on the product, Flickr can’t even update the information on its own site to reflect the addition of 1 billion more photos. How many billion more will it get?

Photo Credit: Peter Adams, posted on Google+


Former game designers Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake created Flickr, an online photo sharing network, in 2004. Flickr, which began as a photo-sharing feature of their gaming project,...

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A Google project headed by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, Google+ is designed to be the social extension of Google. Its features focus on making online sharing easy for...

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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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Launch Date:
12/4/1996, Nasdaq:YHOO

Yahoo was founded in 1994 by Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang. It has since evolved into a major internet brand with search, content verticals, and other...

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Jim Zemlin on 20 Years of Linux

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 07:19 AM PDT

Image (1) Jim-Zemlin.jpg for post 152191

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the non-profit Linux Foundation, has been using Linux for about as long as I have, which is roughly half the time that Linux has been around. I recently spoke with Jim about the Linux Foundation’s upcoming LinuxCon, the history of Linux, and what might be in store for the next twenty years.

If you look at the history of computing, we see big established players dominating in their respective spaces, and then slowly wither and in some cases die altogether. 40 years ago computing was all mainframes and UNIX. Then the personal computer era began and desktop operating systems like Microsoft Windows ruled the roost — UNIX and mainframes were still around, but failed to adapt to the sea change in the primary nature of computing. In the last decase, we’ve seen an absolute explosion in mobile computing — Microsoft is still a contender but there’s no denying that they’ve been slow to react to the change in how people use computing devices.

Linux, on the other hand, has thrived across all of these platforms. There are many reasons for this, but the fundamental reason for Linux’s longevity is without a doubt its open source roots. Linus Torvalds released Linux under the GNU Public License, allowing people to use it and extend it as they needed, provided they shared their work with the rest of the world.

Zemlin digs a little deeper into the long-term value of Linux’s open source nature. According to him, it permits self-forming communities to arise to scratch their own itches. The work of these self-forming communities, and the cross-pollination between them, has given rise to unexpected benefits, where work on X has demonstrably benefitted Y. For example, work on power management in the Linux kernel for embedded devices has demonstrably improved mainframe Linux, where power consumption is a primary cost consideration.

In this way, interested parties have been able to build Linux for every conceivable computing platform: from mainframes to desktop computers to telephones to embedded devices inside televisions and automobiles. There may be no incentive for the mainframe Linux folks to work on embedded Linux, but neither is there anything inherent in Linux or its development model that precludes simultaneous development across mulitple hardware platforms.

Zemlin had many ready examples of Linux’s adaptability, all of which help ensure it’s relevance today and into the future. Playing devil’s advocate, I suggested to Zemlin that Linux was largely a reactive effort, responding to needs rather than anticipating them and forging new solutions. Zemlin was quick to counter that Linux’s development is absolutely innovative. One needs only look at the phenomenal work in the High Performance Computing market to see examples. Linux dominates 90% of the HPC market, and researchers are constantly finding new ways to make Linux excel in that space. The same holds true for embedded devices, where Linux is the de facto choice.

Linux users used to joke about “Linux world domination”. There were all manner of clever and ironic poster images of a gigantic Tux the Penguin looming over Microsoft’s corporate headquarters. These days, Linus Torvalds no longer makes those jokes. According to Zemlin, Linux is “an unstoppable force”: so much of every day life is influenced — directly or indirectly — by Linux. As Zemlin puts it, “Unless you’re Microsoft, Appe or RIM, you’re using Linux.” World domination, indeed.

It was suggested that the Linux kernel could be a good predictor of coming technologies. The Linux kernel itself gets new features much more quickly than the various Linux distributions make available. So what’s in the core kernel today will make its way to mainstream distribution in a couple months, as vendors test these new features with the rest of their stack’s components. So if you watch the kernel commits, you’ll get a good idea of where the bulk of Linux computing is headed.

Zemlin joked that he expected a number of visible mid-life crises to be on display at this year’s LinuxCon. After all, many of the major names in the open source community have literally grown up with Linux. The Linux Foundation has been working hard to ensure the next generation of innovators are ready to pick up the mantle. This year’s LinuxCon features a student program, including training scholarships for five lucky winners, allowing students the opportunity to learn development methods adn techniques directly from the major luminaries of the open source world.

More than just a big group hug to celebrate one another’s achievements, LinuxCon is an opportunity to continually advance Linux development. What might take six months of mailing list back-and-forth can be resolved in person with a five minute chat. Folks can meet like-minded developers working on similar problems to expedite problem solving, share experiences, and improve the overall state of the Linux community, which is every bit as important as the work produced by that community.

I’ll be at LinuxCon this year, speaking with developers and executives alike about the past, present and future of Linux. I’ll also be participating in the media panel where other journalists and bloggers will share their perspective on the changing nature of media coverage of Linux over the years.

If you’ll be there — or just live in Vancouver — send an email to to let me know. I’d love to chat with you.

Market Thinks ‘Googorola’ Deal Will Go Through, InterDigital Shares Tank

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 06:58 AM PDT


Google‘s stock price isn’t really going anywhere yet, while the market digests the news that the company is to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in cash (it dropped about 2 percent on market open but actually topped Friday close level for a while afterwards).

Motorola Mobility shares, meanwhile, soared close to 60 percent to $38.30. Google’s offer price is $40 a share, which is a 63 percent premium to Friday close.

The one company really taking a hit today after the news is InterDigital, which holds a good number of wireless patents, after having jumped quite a bit in the past two months.

Google was rumored to be interested in acquiring the mobile phone technology and licensing company – as well Apple, Samsung and others – but Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility makes it far less likely that the company will buying InterDigital for its patent portfolio outright.

According to its website, InterDigital holds approximately 8,800 patents, and has almost 10,000 patent applications in process, worldwide.

InterDigital shares are down almost 22.5 percent to $58.75 at the time of writing.


Motorola is known around the world for innovation in communications and is focused on advancing the way the world connects. From broadband communications infrastructure, enterprise mobility and public safety...

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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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Amazon Launches New iPhone App for College Students

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 06:50 AM PDT


Just in time for back-to-school season, Amazon has launched a new iPhone application targeted towards students. With the “Amazon Student” app, college students can perform instant price checks on textbooks and other items, keep lists of items they want to buy, and post used textbooks, games, movies, or gadgets for trade-in.

The app includes a barcode scanning feature, like Amazon’s main mobile application also does. This allows students to use their smartphone to check prices on books, music, DVDs, electronics, apparel and “just about anything else,” using their phone, says Amazon. Items students want to buy can be added to a “Wish List” or can be immediately purchased. Amazon is also giving students free 2-day shipping on purchases for 6 months, with all the  shipping benefits of Amazon Prime.

The most interesting feature of the app, however, is the new “Trade-in” option, which lets students easily check their items’ trade-in value and choose to sell those items they no longer need to other students, including textbooks, video games, DVDs or other electronics. But instead of receiving cash for trade-ins, students will receive gift cards. Shipping is also provided for free on any of the trade-in items listed.

The trade-in feature appears to be an extension of Amazon’s “Textbook Buyback” program, available at There are now nearly 1 million books eligible for buyback and students can receive up to 70% back when trading them in through this service, says Amazon.

Launch Date:
5/1997, NASDAQ:AMZN Inc. (AMZN) is a leading global Internet company and one of the most trafficked Internet retail destinations worldwide. Amazon is one of the first companies to sell products deep...

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M5 And Bluewolf Partner To Bring Salesforce Into The Texting Era

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 06:00 AM PDT


Considering that current forecasts estimate that as many as 8 trillion text messages will be sent in 2011, and that people are increasingly turning away from landlines in preference to mobile communication, SMS is becoming an increasingly important part of a business’ communication strategies. And this is especially relevant when it comes to customer service.

As businesses move to incorporate SMS into customer service and CRM, they face several challenges, among them the fact that customers often have separate numbers for voice and text and that messages sent from devices or SMS apps outside of the company’s CRM system are tricky to manage and record for quality.

M5, the provider of VoIP and phone services for businesses, is today partnering with Bluewolf (a business consulting firm) to announce a handy tool (called “M5 Business SMS”) aimed at solving these problems by enabling a company’s customers to text from their mobile phone using their business number, saving them the hassle of having to use two different numbers or having to use their personal cell numbers for business communications.

But what’s most noteworthy here is that M5 is partnering with Salesforce to integrate this SMS feautre directly into Salseforce’s CRM software. This means that business users can now send and receive SMS messages using their business telephone number, integrating all text-based communication into Salesforce’s “Service Cloud”, which in turn allows customer service teams to make SMS messaging a measurable service cannel. According to M5, incoming SMS messages will automatically become part of cases, enabling Salesforce clients to track conversations and keep a complete record of customer communications.

And, seeing as a business phone number is used as the channel for SMS, users no longer need to have their own separate phone numbers. For businesses, SMS is a great tool for service issue or order status updates, appointment confirmations, purchase authorizations, to name a few. And as businesses increasingly interact with their customers via text, it becomes of equal importance for these businesses to track and analyze these customer interactions and compare to business data to ensure quality customer care and service.

Not to mention, for those 82,000-plus Salesforce customers, offering the ability to send and receive SMS messages from their business telephone numbers, eliminating the need for a separate texting app or phone number, definitely comes in handy.

For more, check out the M5 Business SMS solution for Salesforce here.

Report: Apple To Build 26 Million iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s called) In The Second Half Of 2011

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 05:56 AM PDT


Apple is gearing up for a big second half of 2011. The computer company is reportedly ramping up iPhone production lines by 12 to 13 percent, which includes orders for the next-gen iPhone, iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4.

Per a supply chain source, industry watchdog DigiTimes is reporting some staggering production numbers. Apparently Apple’s 2H2011 iPhone order is now more than 56 million units, up from 50 million units and 26 just iPhone 5s. Interestingly enough, the time frame for iPhone 5 orders shifted slightly, with the Q3 order decreasing from 7 million units to 5.5 million units while the Q4 order increased from 14 million units to 20 million units. That’s 20 million iPhone 5s. If those are sold at retail, that would eclipses Apple’s blockbuster 2Q2011 sales record when it sold a total of 18.65 million iPhone units.

The massive uptick puts Apple on track to come in just below the 100 million mark for 2011. The company sold 34 million iPhones in the first half of the year and those were technically older models even though the Verizon iPhone did give a little boost. Cloud iPhone or not, Apple is expecting the next iPhone to sell like Betty White’s hotcakes.

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