Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Motorola Xoom LTE “Pilot” Program Underway

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 09:21 AM PDT

motorola-xoom_1lte

Quite a while ago, Verizon promised that its Motorola Xoom tablet would get an update allowing the slate to run on the carrier’s 4G LTE network by the Spring. If you’re somehow surviving under a rock and don’t know what that means, it’s a big deal. The increase in speed adds incalculable value to the tablet since, ya’ know, time is money. The only thing is that Spring came and went, and then Summer did the same. Still no update.

But alas, a letter has been sent out to… business and government Xoom owners? Um. Ok. So apparently employees of the government and other business types will be “piloting” the LTE Xoom before everyone else, according to Droid-Life. Definitely odd, but we don’t really care as long as the update is coming for real this time. Our pilot testers will get the update next week, so we common folk will have a bit longer to go.

You’ll know it’s time when you get an email from Motorola with instructions on how to get the ball rolling. Motorola suggests a quick back-up before getting started as this is a pretty major update and could wipe the device. Motorola also says to be prepared to go without the Xoom for at least three days after you ship it in for the upgrade.

Here’s a copy of the letter from Motorola:



Company:
MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS, INC.
Launch Date:
1928

Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) is a data communications and telecommunications equipment provider that succeeded Motorola Inc. following the spin-off of the mobile phones division into Motorola Mobility Holdings,...

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Company:
VERIZON
IPO:
VZ

Verizon Communications Inc. delivers broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America’s largest wireless network that...

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Steve Jobs Begins Godfather Duties

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 09:00 AM PDT

podfather_small

Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. This, of course, means that the company has had its spirit broken, its intellect blunted, its worth gutted. Except it doesn’t, quite. The Steve didn’t nurture this company from near-collapse to global powerhouse with snap decisions and daily briefings. No, he and his immensely capable team did it with design, forethought, and consistently staying a step or two ahead of the other guy. That’s not something that changes overnight.

He may be leaving the office, but he’s not leaving the company. Apple still belongs to Jobs — and we’ll know it when that’s no longer the case. And while he may be turning over the operational reins to his protégé, I have the feeling he’ll be making it clear who the Don is.

Realistically speaking, this is a fairly standard step-down, of course, and many former CEOs take up a leadership position on boards and advisory committees after they’ve taken their turn at the helm. Jobs is stepping down because he is no longer capable of meeting his “duties and expectations.” It turns out that being CEO of one of the world’s largest and most influential companies is a difficult job, and may not mix well with his other, more personal responsibilities. What those responsibilities are, whether it’s sickness as rumored, or simply a desire to spend more time with his family, isn’t exactly material. He’s no longer able to be the CEO, so he’s leaving. We can safely leave it at that.

What duties, then, can he be expected to fulfill? To be honest, it’s likely he’ll be able to fulfill all his important ones, while leaving the day-to-day stresses and management decisions to the capable Tim Cook.

Steve can’t make it in to briefings, but he can still advise on designs. He can’t travel for business, but he can still drop by the Mothership to see the latest prototype. He can’t fiddle with the PCB design, but he can hold the device and tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. He can’t jockey with OEMs for manufacturing share, but he can still tell his team to fold or draw. He can’t write a month-by-month prospectus, but he can still tell them where they should be a year from now. He can’t fire up the audience on stage, but he can still galvanize his closest colleagues with his vision.

It sounds to me like the man has reduced his job the parts he loves the most, and was always the best at, and outsourced all the stressful stuff to an eager successor. Don Corleone, Obi-Wan Kenobe, and the Kwisatz Haderach all rolled into one.

Not only this, but consider how companies as large as Apple work when it comes to product — especially when you’re leading the sector. Sony and Microsoft have been girding themselves for years for a console battle unlikely to occur until at least 2013. Intel has R&D projects reaching out to 2018, if not farther. Companies working on major real-life items like nuclear power research have decades mapped out. And while certainly the future is fluid, companies thrive when their leaders demonstrate both vision and flexibility. Jobs has both, and he leaves behind him for execution a roadmap stretching out five years or more. Whether he’s around for those five years may or may not be up to him, but you better believe he wouldn’t leave the ship without setting a course and making damn sure everyone on board knew it.

So while we can and should mourn the symbolic passing of the Jobs era of Apple, it’s going to be a while before his presence ceases to be felt there. He has shaped the thing and set it in motion; now he retires to enjoy his family and his fortune, while retaining the ability to sweep in strike down bad design like an avenging angel of good taste. It’s a good deal for him, a good deal for us, and still a good time for Apple.




Facebook Announces f8 Developer Conference: September 22

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:57 AM PDT

f8feat

Facebook has just started sending out invitations to f8, its semi-regular developer conference during which it typically rolls out its most important features.

This year’s event will take place on September 22 in San Francisco and will take place at the San Francisco Design Center. The event’s official page is right here.

A post on Facebook’s developer blog says that we can expect there to be “some exciting product announcements that enable a new class of social apps”, as well as Q&A and sessions on building social apps.

The last f8, which took place in April 2010, was absolutely huge: it featured the launch of Facebook’s Open Graph API and the now-ubiquitous Like button, as well as several of Facebook’s social widgets.

It also saw the launch of Instant Personalization — a bold feature that allowed select third party sites to access some of your Facebook data as soon as you landed on them (the opt-out nature of the feature drew plenty of criticism).

We expect to see similarly major announcements at this event.

This is the fourth f8 (Facebook had its first in 2007, but didn’t have one at all in 2009). Facebook had previously confirmed that it would be holding an f8 this year, but hadn’t previously announced the date.

Here’s the description from the invite:

This all day event with Facebook engineers and product teams will feature keynotes and session tracks that highlight our new tools along with best practices for developers and partners building the next generation of social experiences.



Company:
FACEBOOK
Launch Date:
1/2/2004
Funding:
$2.34B

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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Account Chooser: A Better Way To Log In To The Web?

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:55 AM PDT

accountchooser

The OpenID Foundation will open the doors to the third OpenID Summit on Monday, September 12, 2011, noonish. Of course, you won’t be there, because you’ll be attending or livestreaming the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be interesting.

The event, which is co-sponsored by Microsoft and will be held at its Research Campus in Mountain View, will be used as the launch platform for Account Chooser, which is billed on the accompanying website as an “open standard and user interface guidelines for the next generation of web sign in”.

The Account Chooser website, which went live rather quietly, was first spotted by Fusible.

As Fusible notes, the domain name was registered by Eric Sachs, a longtime Product Manager at Google, and is actually owned by the company as a simple WHOIS search reveals. However, the project is clearly an OpenID Foundation one, as you can tell from the copyright notice at the bottom of the Account Chooser website (Sachs is also a board member of the organization).

That said, some quick digging shows that Sachs / Google has been publicly talking about and working on Account Chooser since at least June 2011.

Essentially, Account Chooser appears to be a way for website owners and publishers to alter their traditional username/password-based login systems to one that supports multiple identity providers.

Such a system would also allow people to easily switch between accounts.

For a website owner or publisher, the system could increase sign-up and login rates, as well as reduce costs from hijacked accounts and users who have trouble logging into their account for whatever reason. To deploy Account Chooser, they can use a SaaS vendor such as the Google Identity Toolkit and Janrain Login Helper – or simply build their own.

According to the website, Account Chooser is designed to be protocol-agnostic:

“There are many technical protocols support by identity providers (OpenID v2, SAML, OAuth2, OpenIDConnect, etc.) The Account Chooser is not specific to the protocol, and the website can even use different protocols to support different identity providers.”

A lot more information is available here and here, for both end users, website operators and companies who would like to become identity providers.

Google has been experimenting with the Account Chooser system already for its own sign-in flow, as well as previewing a new design here and there.

There are a few other websites where you can experiment with the system, such as this sample e-commerce site is also available that uses an account chooser and a test site which lets you manually reconfigure your account after you login.

See the video below if the system isn’t clear to you yet.



Company:
OPENID FOUNDATION

The OpenID Foundation is a non-profit organization that manages the efforts to increase adoption of the OpenID standard across the web. By using the service, internet users can...

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Diffbot Sees The Web Like People Do, Now Free For Developers

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:41 AM PDT

diffbot-logo

Diffbot is a geeky and incredibly interesting technology that uses bots, algorithms, computer vision and artificial intelligence to process the content on the Web the way a human being can. “The entire Internet can be broken down into 30 different page types” explains Co-founder Mike Tung, also known as “Diffbot Mike,” and “Diffbot can identify them all.” Diffbot knows the difference between a social network profile, a blog post, a site’s front page, a product page, an event page and dozens more.

Today, Diffbot is releasing its first set of APIs, now open to all developers for free. The launch has the potential to dramatically impact the types of applications developers can build, and for consumers, it means a whole host of intelligent applications are about to emerge.

The New APIs: On-Demand & Follow

With the two API’s available now, developers can build apps that automatically extract meaning from pages, apps that understand what’s trending and who’s talking about it, apps that provide RSS feeds where none were available before and apps that read just the relevant parts of webpages aloud, ignoring ads, header and footer copy.

And that’s just for starters. Future API’s will enable developers to automatically turn event pages into calendar appointments, social network profiles into vCards or automatically extract shipping prices or reviews from product pages, among other things. While Diffbot doesn’t have a set roadmap, it expects to launch these additional API’s over the new few months.

Today, the first 2 API’s available are:

  • On-Demand API: This API is divided into page types “Frontpage” and “Article.” The former is used to analyze site homepages and index pages using common layout markers like headlines, bylines, images, articles, ads, etc. The Article API extracts clean article text, pictures and tags. (For example, see Readably.)
  • Follow API: This is used to track the changes or updates made to any webpage. Diffbot automatically determines the part of the page that the developer wants to follow and extracts metadata like title, images, text summary and more, then segments the page into meaningful sections (See above photo).

What Can Diffbot Actually Do? 

These same APIs are already being used by companies like speech recognition system maker Nuance, AOL (disclaimer: TechCrunch is owned by AOL), social media monitoring firm SocMetrics, and others.

AOL uses Diffbot to extract the title, author, image, text, videos, topics and other metadata for its new iPad mag, AOL Editions. Nuance uses the technology to improve its natural language processing in a product for doctors, which requires comprehension of complex medical terminology. SocMetrics sends bit.ly shortened links to Diffbot to get the full article text and topics, so it can determine which social media users are talking about which topics the most.

These are just a few big-name examples. There are smaller, but just as innovative use cases out there, too. Like Hacker News Radio, for example, which reads Hacker News and comments to you. Or FeedBeater, which makes it easy to turn any URL into an RSS feed automatically (one of Diffbot’s first creations). Or this Diffbot-generated Twitter feed, which tracks changes to the webpage for the city of São Paulo, Brazil (as it lacks RSS), and tweets the updates.

The new self-serve platform for developers is free up to 50,000 API calls per month. The cloud plan provides 100,000 calls for free, then is $0.002/call afterwards. The Managed plan for Enterprise requires custom pricing.

Diffbot was founded by Mike Tung and Leith Abdulla, both Stanford PhD students on a leave of absence to build the company. The idea sprung from Tung’s desire to automatically track new assignments on the class website automatically, through the use of technology. Diffbot was also the first startup funded by Stanford’s incubator program, now called StartX (formerly SSE Labs).



Company:
DIFFBOT
Launch Date:
2006

Diffbot, founded in 2008 by two Stanford students, applies computer vision techniques in order to extract the semantic structure of webpages. Diffbot analyzes documents much like a human would, using...

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Jumio Comes To WordPress, Turns Blog Readers’ Webcams Into Credit Card Readers

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:37 AM PDT

jumio-logo

Jumio, the new technology that turns webcams into credit card readers, is now offering a plugin for WordPress websites. The new Jumio Netswipe add-on allows website visitors to pay for products or make donations quickly and easily, just by holding up their credit card to their computer’s webcam.

For WordPress publishers, adding Netswipe to their site is simple – just download, install and activate like any other WordPress plugin.

With the new plugin, WordPress site owners get a “Netswipe PayMe” button which can be placed anywhere on their website. All the payments are managed through your Jumio account, which is free of charge after registration.

After downloading the WordPress Plugin here, just unzip it and upload the folder 'Wordpress_Jumio_Payment_Plugin' to the '/wp-content/plugins/' directory. Then activate the plugin through the “Plugins” menu in WordPress. You can then configure your options in WordPress’s “Settings” menu. (More detailed instructions are here).

Jumio launched last month, introducing its seamless, one-stop solution for merchants and developers with the intention of disrupting the payments industry. Not only is the technology easy to use, it also adds a layer of security to digital transactions since the physical card has to be present in order for Jumio’s webcam solution to work.

Initially, the technology is only available for desktop websites, but, later this year, a two-part mobile solution will become available. This part of the Jumio’s system will include a mobile app and developer library. Jumio’s mobile developer tools are the aspect of the solution that’s most like Card.io, which offers a similar toolkit.

Jumio received $6.5 million in funding from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and other investors back in March.



Company:
JUMIO
Launch Date:
5/1/2010
Funding:
$6.5M

Jumio offers an advanced technology that increases security and ease of use for online credit card payments. Jumio is the inventor of Netswipe, a patent pending solution that turns...

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The 7 Iconic Patents That Define Steve Jobs

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:24 AM PDT

4738418088_95e490015f_z

Steve Jobs is a man who lives in the minutiae of details. He, with his loyal staff, perfects what others would pass off as perfect. He has 313 patents to his name, which range from the Apple III to the iPod’s acrylic packaging. Almost all of them are notable but only a few are iconic.

The original all-in-one, the Mac 128K


Patent number D285,687 wasn’t Steve’s first patent, but it is, if you will, the one that started it all. The patent lays claim to the design of the original Macintosh 128K introduced by the now classic Ridley Scott commercial. The patent doesn’t talk of its graphical user interface, just the simple, desktop-friendly all-in-one computer design that will be re-visited 14 years later for Macintosh’s revival.

A blue iMac for everyone

Steve Jobs found himself back at the helm of Apple after the purchase of his start-up NeXT in 1996. Jobs subsequently killed many projects including the Newton tablet. Then, in 1998, the translucent Bondi Blue iMac (patent D413,105) hit sans standard equipment like SCSI, ADB and a floppy drive. In their place were two (relatively new) USB ports and a CD-ROM drive. It was widely different from anything in the PC space. But it also sold 800,000 units in 139 days and showed the Apple faithful and a whole new generation of fanboys the true soul of Apple.

The iMac Puck

Not every Steve Jobs patent prints a steady stream of cash for Apple. Patent D418,125 is for a cursor control device. But not just any mouse. Nope: this one bears Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive’s name and it is for the notorious iMac puck that should, if it’s not already, be considered the worst mouse in the history of personal computing. But it shows the growing pains of a company trying to rebuild by making a name for itself through innovative design. Although it looked great next to the curvy iMac, it just wasn’t fit for human hands.

iPod, a thousand songs in your pocket

The iMac revived the Mac; the iPod was something entirely different. Apple’s MP3 player technically launched late in the game as there were already major players in the MP3 player scene. However, the iPod, with its “this is how it works” commercials, showed the public that all they needed to do is plug the device into a Mac’s Firewire port and iTunes did the rest. Many of Steve’s patents involve the original iPod design and the follow-ups. These wide-ranging patents protected the classic click wheel design and provided Apple with an entirely new revenue stream during it’s pre-iPhone build-up.

Even power adapters can be perfect


Patent D478,310 was granted in 2001 and Apple still ships a similar power adapter with every Mac today. Any Mac owner (read: not necessarily a fanboy) will profess that it’s the epitome of attention to detail. The dual-mode, travel-friendly adapter has yet to be copied by any Windows PC maker, which is rather confusing seeing their obsession with cloning the MacBook Pro.

The many iPhone patents

The iPhone’s success cannot be better demonstrated then by the number of imitators that popped up following its 2007 launch. Sure, Apple has since sold millions on millions of units, but the iPhone’s success spawned literally a countless number of clones trying to replicate the breakaway success through similar hardware and software. Patents D558,756, D558,757, and D580,387 filed on January 5, 2007, just four days before the original iPhone announcement, laid the foundation for dozens more protecting the iPhone’s style and appearance.

Glass staircase


Apple just didn’t disrupt tablets, cell phones, MP3 players or the personal computer, the Apple Store is retail done right and Steve Jobs holds two patents regarding the glass staircase. Patent D478,999 from 2003 grants the ornamental design to Steve Jobs and others. A trip to major Apple locations will in fact allow you to walk on one of Steve’s most iconic ideas.


Top image credit goes to tsevis who also has a dozen more fantastic Steve Jobs portraits.



Company:
APPLE
Launch Date:
1/4/1976
IPO:
1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

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,...

Learn more


Android Users Finally Get Full Qik Premium Experience

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:24 AM PDT

qik_logo

Android-toting Qik fans will have reason to smile today: the Skype-owned company has announced that their Premium service for Android devices has finally been fleshed out with new functionality and services for the discerning mobile videophile.

For $4.99/month, Qik Premium users are now treated to unlimited storage of video content on Qik.com, where basic users are limited to a scant 25. Video management from a PC is also in play with a desktop app that allows for wireless syncing. Owners of 3D capable smartphones are now in luck too, as Qik Premium now supports the sharing of recorded 3D content, in addition to HD quality video.

These new features are in addition to Qik Premium’s original toolkit, which already includes unlimited video mail and the ability to take pictures while recording video. Priority support is also available to Premium members, which means all of your app-related gripes will get their much-deserved attention. All said, Qik Premium is shaping up to be a compelling little package for videographers on the go.

Qik’s Premium service isn’t exactly new news (their premium efforts first went live in the Ovi Store, of all places), but the addition of nifty new capabilities are always welcome. Support for Premium service has been folded into the Qik application, so current users are only a quick update away.



Company:
QIK
Website:
http://qik.com
Funding:
$14.8M

Qik was founded in 2006 to enable mobile phone users to share live video with their friends, family and communities on the web and on their phones. The first...

Learn more


Tim Cook’s Letter to Apple Staff

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 07:46 AM PDT

cook_hero20110204

Tim Cook, new Apple CEO, has sent out the following memo to Apple staff, according to a source at Ars Technica. Cook says he shares “Steve’s optimism for Apple’s bright future,” and that Apple will continue to be “the magical place that it is.”

Whew!

Full text of the letter is below.

Team:

I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve’s optimism for Apple’s bright future.

Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve’s ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.

Tim

Ars Technica confirms the source is trusted and headers have been verified, but we have not yet independently confirmed this ourselves. Let us know if you can help with that.



Company:
APPLE
Launch Date:
1/4/1976
IPO:
1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

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,...

Learn more

Person:
TIM COOK
Website:
Companies
Apple, Nike

Timothy D. Cook is Apple's CEO, who took over from Steve Jobs on 25 August 2011. In his previous position as COO, Cook was responsible for all of the...

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Spotted: Uber Testing Its Disruptive Car Service In Chicago

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 07:27 AM PDT

uber

Uber appears to be continuing its national expansion today, with the soft-launch of the disruptive car service in Chicago. Pandora’s CTO Tom Conrad just Tweeted about using the new service in the Windy City.

In case you aren’t familiar with Uber, the service allows you to order a black car to come to your location on the mobile app, You can actually track your car as it comes to your location as the app tracks the car via GPS. Payments are handled automatically by charging the card you have on file (no swiping necessary), and it costs at least 50% more than a taxi.

The service has a loyal following in San Francisco, debuted in New York and Seattle recently and appears to also be eying Boston and D.C. as potential markets.

It’s unclear if pricing will be different in Chicago, compared to other cities. Uber says that during this test, the service will have limited supply of cars and low availability. As we saw with Seattle, Uber pricing is less because of the general cost of living in the city compared to New York and San Francisco. The company is also testing reduced pricing in San Francisco.




Monetate Gives Control Of Consumer Experience Back To Marketers With New Testing And Targeting Tools

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 07:22 AM PDT

040811112223monetate

Earlier this month, Monetate, the platform that provides marketers with testing and targeting services for their websites, announced that it had closed a $15 million series B funding round, led by OpenView Venture Partners, which added to the $5.1 million series A round the company raised back in December from First Round Capital and FLOODGATE. With over $20 million in the bank, Monetate has been developing a new platform that gives marketers greater control over messaging and promotions on their websites as well as testing, targeting, and personalization tools.

As we reported a few weeks ago, the coolest part about Monetate’s platform is that it can be installed using a single line of code. The startup’s newest version of its cloud-based platform enables marketers to integrate customized content and features between the eCommerce server and the site visitor’s browser.

“One of the unfulfilled promises from the early days of eCommerce was that marketers would be able to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time”, says Monetate CEO David Brussin. “With Monetate, we have inserted a new level of agility into the eCommerce marketing experience, providing marketers with the ability to make educated campaign decisions that will directly contribute to increased conversion”.

What’s more, as marketers and marketing teams are so often on the go, Monetate 11 allows its customers to test, target, and personalize their websites on the iPad, giving users that extra layer of mobile functionality. Another bonus: All current Monetate users will be automatically upgraded to the new version of its platform.

Monetate 11, like its predecessors, aims to cut out the IT middleman by giving control of creating and measuring marketing campaigns and serving customized user experiences back to marketers. They simply enter the “who, what, when, why” of the campaign into the Monetate dashboard, and the platform takes care of the rest, offering users the ability to take advantage of campaign cloning, tagging, and filtering.

Marketers will also be able to do automatic A/B testing against a control group, tracking the results in realtime, so that marketers can quickly see the impact their new campaigns will have. Users will also have the added benefit of new targeting options, including geotargeting to tailor messages and promotions to a visitor’s specific location, weather-based targeting, and behavioral targeting.

Monetate customers will also now be able to test and deploy their own HTML and JavaScript, target recommendations based on complex business rules, and access all the data they need about traffic segments and purchasing patterns to make informed decisions about the promotions, messages, and other content they deliver to consumers through its analytics and reporting features.

Monetate is really a no-brainer for eTailers and eCommerce marketers. It’s a great solution, and along with an infusion of new capital, the startup’s new version may very well have legs. After all, its platform has already attracted brands like Petco, Urban Outfitters, Sports Authority, QVC, Casual Male, Dick's Sporting Goods, to use its targeting and testing services on their eCommerce platforms — and Brussin told us that the company has added hundreds of millions in collective revenue to these businesses, removing the need for businesses to hire specialized teams and decrease bounce rates and shopping cart abandonment.




Scandy: Yet Another Pointless Smartphone Stand

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 07:11 AM PDT

SCANDY

We’re big fans of Kickstarter around here, but for every good project that gets its much deserved funding, there are innumerable lesser ideas trapped in financial limbo. Today’s case in point: the Scandy, a telescoping clamp that promises to turn your smartphone into a scanner.

The idea behind the Scandy is that since your smartphone has a fairly decent camera mounted on its rear end, it would make a half-decent scanner if you managed to hold it just right. Rather than leave that onus on the user, the Scandy clamps onto the nearest table and allows you to adjust its height to get the entire document in view.

This, in short, is completely ridiculous. The time necessary to whip out a Scandy, bolt it onto a desk and adjust the height would completely eclipse the time it would take to snap a few pictures and pick out the best one. Maybe there’s some untapped market out there that really wants to lug around a $40 set of plastic tubes in order to take pictures of paperwork, but with only 13 backers at time of writing, to call it a niche market would be an understatement.

John says it could be useful for library researchers who don’t want to spend 10 cents a copy at the old biblioteca, but seriously? Plus, wouldn’t this ruin the reading table’s finish?

Alas, I could be completely wrong (note: I’m not), and this could be the next must-have accessory for the road warrior in your life. The Scandy is compatible with all smartphones, mostly because you’re expected to just rest your phone on top of it and get snapping. If the $40 base model doesn’t strike your fancy, the limited edition model (plus capacitive stylus!) can be yours if you pledge $100, and a $500 donation nabs you the laser-engraved Signature Edition.




Merriam-Webster Dictionary Now Includes ‘Tweet’, ‘Social Media’, ‘Crowdsourcing’ And More

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 07:10 AM PDT

tweet

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has been updated to include 150 new words and definitions this year, its publisher announced this morning.

Four technology-related additions are ‘tweet’, ‘social media’, ‘crowdsourcing’ and ‘m-commerce’, words that should have been familiar to readers of this blog for years now.

In fact, according to Merriam-Webster, the first known use for the word ‘tweet’ dates back to the year 1768. Clearly, Jack Dorsey’s forefathers were true visionaries.

In all seriousness, I can’t help but wonder what took the publisher so long to add the above words to the dictionary. Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s Editor at Large, explains in a statement:

“We’ve been tracking words like social media and tweet for years, of course, and now we feel their meanings have stabilized enough to include them in the dictionary.”

Other new words that have had their meaning stabilized sufficiently according to the company include bromance (“a close nonsexual friendship between men”), fist bump (with thanks to Barack Obama), cougar (“a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man”) and helicopter parent (“a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child”).

Retweet, lulz, trollface, pedobear and philosoraptor haven’t made the cut yet.




The Olympus PEN PEN E-PM1 Shipping In September For $500

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 07:08 AM PDT

Olympus-PEN-E-PM1

Olympus has just announced the US availability in September of the PEN E-PM1, the “mini” version of the PEN line. This camera is the smallest micro 4/3s shooter available and is compatible with all of Olympus’ current M4/3 lenses.

I’ll be testing the E-PL3 this week for review next week but I can’t wait to get ahold of the E-PM1. The size, compatibility, and lens quality have thus far been very impressive on the rest of the models and this is a definite move in the right direction for the platform.

From the PR:

PROFESSIONAL IMAGE QUALITY
The new 12.3 megapixel sensor is the same size as those used in pro quality DSLRs. Olympus' in-body image stabilization technology makes it possible to use any compatible lens from wide-angle to telephoto, for perfectly clear, crisp photos no matter what the shooting situation, even in low light. New Face Detection Auto Focus adjusts focus automatically on the subject’s eyes for the best shot every time. You no longer need to worry about subjects appearing too dark against a light background with the PEN E-PM1′s Advanced Shadow Adjustment Technology.

CREATIVE FREEDOM
Shoot up to 29 minutes of full 1080i HD video with Dolby Digital stereo sound using the direct HD Movie Button. Add more flair to your photos and videos with six in-camera Art Filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama and Dramatic Tone). Every Art Filter can be used in all shooting modes, including HD movie mode. Art Filters can achieve dramatic results on the go without the need for a computer or editing software, so you can spend more time shooting and less time computing. A variety of interchangeable lenses, accessories and flashes are compatible with the Olympus PEN E-PM1 to support all different photography needs. High-precision engineering and an improved internal focusing mechanism have enabled the Olympus MSC (Movie+Still Compatible) lenses to autofocus quickly, smoothly and silently; perfect for stills and HD movies in stereo with amazing clarity. In any mode, from close up to landscape, 3D technology brings your images to another dimension. The 3D data is processed in-camera for easy display on 3D televisions or laptops.

LOW-LIGHT PERFORMANCE
Capture the life of the party with the PEN E-PM1's super luminosity AF Illuminator LED beam, which allows the camera to focus faster in low-light. Stunning night-time photos are a click away with a maximum sensitivity of 12,800 ISO. Additionally, the "PEN Mini" provides the flexibility of an optional slide-on flash included with camera.

BLAZING SPEED
The Olympus PEN E-PM1 offers fast sequential shooting, enabling you to take up to five photos per second. Capture that perfect shot, even when your subject is moving. The new FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF System is able to focus at an incredible speed and offers 35 separate focus areas that are spread over nearly the entire sensor, which makes it possible for pin-point accurate focusing on small subjects wherever they appear in the frame. The TruePic VI image processor has been designed specifically for the Olympus PEN series, with two (dual core) processing engines for superb color and clarity.




Ustream Partners With Telestream To Bring Live Video Production Tools To Broadcasters Of All Stripes

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:38 AM PDT

tc_image2

Last month, Ustream launched its video streaming service on the iPad. As Jason reported at the time, the app allows users to view live and recorded content streaming through the Web and even to stream their own footage directly from their iPad 2s.

The move was a big step forward for live, streaming video on tablet devices, especially in that the latter feature allows users to be couch videographers. Of course, since last year, Ustream has been working on a series of apps that give users the added benefit of video editing features that can turn couch videographers into pro video creators.

Today, Ustream is announcing a partnership with Telestream, the maker of digital media tools and workflow solutions, which will bring Telestream Wirecast live video production technology to all Ustream subscribers and add yet another layer to Ustream’s video editing solutions.

Last year, Ustream launched the first product in its “Producer Studio” line, which aims to turn a user’s PC into a live video production studio with video editing tools that add a professional look to a user’s streams. Since its initial launch in 2010, Ustream Producer products have attracted over 600,000 downloads. Today, Ustream and Telestream are launching a jointly-developed version 2.0 of its family of desktop streaming media applications, which adds a bunch of updates to all Producer products and sees the suite expanding to a total of three flavors.

The triage now includes Ustream Producer, which can be used by any users for free, Ustream Producer Pro, a more advanced application available for $199, and the new Producer Studio, an app for pros starting at $549.

Each version of Ustream Producer will include a newly remodeled “Desktop Presenter”, which enables users to screencast desktops of any computer within their local network in broadcasts. Version 2.0 also adds audio capabilities, which allows Desktop Presenter, for example, to serve as a Skype client for web talk shows, which will likely be of particular interest to those participating in the growing gamecasting space.

Producer also takes advantage of the new H.264 codec by MainConcept, as well as a built-in bandwidth meter that works to ensure that broadcasts remain in high video quality. In addition, some cool new features of the new Ustream Producer Studio include an audio mixer with sync delay, built-in support for HDV and IP cameras, integrated scoreboards for sports fans that can be viewed during live broadcast, and a new catalog of lower-thirds to help make broadcasts a little more professional looking.

The best part is that now both amateur and professional videographers will be able to take advantage of streaming content that incorporates music, image transitions, and picture-in-picture capability with a few clicks. Incorporating Telestream’s Wirecast architecture into Ustream’s products will now allow users to benefit from scalable, high-quality video production tools on both Mac and PC — and to create custom productions, regardless of one’s level of expertise.

For more on Ustream Producer, visit the Producer Demo here, or check out the live demo below:




Lenovo COO Jumps Ship To Become President And CEO At Chip Maker AMD

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:32 AM PDT

rory

Chip manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has named Rory P. Read its new president, CEO and board member, effective today. Read joins AMD from PC maker Lenovo, where he worked for five years and most recently served as president and COO.

Thomas Seifert, who served as AMD’s interim CEO since January 2011, will return to his role as SVP, Chief Financial Officer.

Seifert replaced Dirk Meyer, who led the team that designed and developed the Athlon processor and went on to become CEO at AMD until he was ousted in January 2011, following a dispute with the board about AMD's direction.

The search for a new CEO took AMD, which rivals Intel, took over half a year but has now finally come to an end with the appointment of Read.

At Lenovo, Rory P. Read worked his way up to the role of president and COO in 2009, and helped turn Lenovo into the world’s fastest growing major PC manufacturer. Prior to Lenovo, Read spent 23 years at IBM, where he held a range of management positions.

According to Lenovo’s website, Read was “responsible for driving growth, execution, profitability and performance across a global $16 billion enterprise encompasing (sic) 160+ countries”.

AMD has not brought to market microprocessors designed for modern-day smartphones and few for tablet computers, focusing instead on desktop PCs, laptop, server, game console and graphics chips. We’re curious to see where AMD will be heading under its new leadership.

AMD will host a conference call today at 9:15 AM PST regarding the hire.

AMD shares are up almost 5% on the news in early trading.



Company:
AMD
Launch Date:
1969

AMD is an American semiconductor company that develops computer processors and related technologies for both commercial and consumer markets. They produce primarily microprocessors, motherboard chipsets, embedded processors, and...

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Company:
LENOVO
Launch Date:
1984
IPO:
LNVGY

Lenovo Group Limited, an investment holding company, engages manufacture and distribution of IT products and services. It offers laptops, desktops, workstations, servers, batteries and power, docks and port replicators,...

Learn more


Webs.com Adds Mobile Site Syncing To Its DIY Site Builder

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:18 AM PDT

elmntfitness mobile screenshot

Webs.com, a popular DIY website creation service, is announcing a new mobile site builder today that automatically keeps a smartphone-friendly website in sync with your main website. Previously, mobile application creation was an option only available in the company’s App Store, which provides additional enhancements for site owners. But as of now, this product has been fully integrated into the Webs.com Site Builder.

As with Webs.com’s full website building service, the idea behind the mobile site option is to keep things as simple as possible for small business owners and others who want to design professional sites easily, without having to code the sites themselves.

The mobile feature will include a variety of themes, colors and images, the option to password-protect pages, optional mobile apps like a calendar, FAQ, testimonials and members app, and additional editing features including the ability to adjust the size of the main logo or remove the header title.

The mobile sites are also now compatible with more versions of Samsung, LG, Symbian, Nokia, Playstation and Nintendo DS devices, in addition to iOS, Android and BlackBerry.

For current Webs.com site owners with custom domains, mobile sites will be available at m.yourcompany.com.

If this type of service sounds familiar, it’s because Webs.com partner, DudaMobile, which provides the backend functionality for this new feature, recently launched its own self-serve platform that does much of the same thing. Several of DudaMobile’s partners are now integrating similar options into their website building tools as well, including Yahoo and Logoworks by HP.



Company:
WEBS
Launch Date:
1/6/2001
Funding:
$12M

Webs is a website creation service that lets users make fully functioning sites complete with several apps including blogs, photo albums, video galleries, calendars, and discussion forums. Users...

Learn more


RIM Launches Inexplicable BBM Music App

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 06:04 AM PDT

bbm-music-2

Though Slacker and Pandora have made the migration, the BlackBerry App World’s selection of music apps is pretty limited compared to competing platforms. In fact, the App World is found wanting in a couple different categories. But that doesn’t mean RIM isn’t open to improvement, albeit incremental improvement. That said, RIM today announced its BBM Music app.

It’s basically a subscription music app with a strong social element. For $4.99 monthly, you can have 50 different songs on what RIM is calling your BBM Music profile. From there, it really all depends on popularity. You have access to all of the music on each of your friends’ BBM Music profiles, so theoretically your selection could extend way past the original 50 songs. It could also remain at 50 songs if you can’t learn to play nice with others. Oddly enough, you can only swap out 25 of your songs a month.

In other words, it’s a VD-like music service except that the more you spread it, the more popular you are.

Since it’s all going down BBM-style, BBM will of course be a part of the mix. While in BBM Music, you’ll be able to message your friends through BBM as well as sharing songs. Users can also check out their friends’ music activity in a timeline to get truly stalkerish about it.

In truth, the bang you’ll be getting per buck isn’t all that great, especially if you’re lacking in the social department. But you have to applaud RIM for testing out the musical waters this way. They’re basically forcing users to invite and add friends because the more friends you have, the more music you can access.

RIM expects the app to roll out later this year, but the Beta is ready to roll in the U.S., U.K., and Canada right now. You must download BlackBerry 6 first to get in on the fun. More information is available at the BlackBerry Blog.




Skype Launches Third-Party App Directory

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 05:45 AM PDT

skype

Skype appears to have launched a new app directory in the cloud, allowing users to access all the third-party apps for both consumers and businesses built on top of Skype’s API.

The site is fairly simple in functionality for now, but Skype has sorted both consumer apps and business into groups by genre (call recording, video, desktop sharing etc.), and featured the top downloaded free and paid apps, top rated apps and the newest apps across the board and by genre. For example, Skype recording app VodBurner is the most downloaded app across all categories.

For each app, Skype provides a landing page that gives more information about the application, release date, star rating and comments, features, requirements, screenshots and more. You can choose to download the app, and Skype will take you to the developer’s landing page. Skype users can also search for apps by cost, language, keywords, OS and more.

Ash Valeski, Skype’s head of global web stores, says that the VoIP company is putting a lot of emphasis on its SkypeKit next generation SDK, and wanted to put together a proper distribution channel for developers who are building off the platform. He notes that this is the soft-launch of the directory and many more features will be added in the future. At launch, Skype has 23 apps featured as soft-launch partners.

Valeski says that in the future it would make sense to allow users to purchase apps using Skype Credits and actually integrate an iTunes-like e-commerce platform where Skype is actually selling the apps. Currently, the directory passes visitors to the developer sites for purchase of apps.

As VodBurner CEO and founder Jeremy Hague tells us, giving Skype users the ability to rate apps, comment about apps, is totally new to Skype and will really help app developers get their apps out to the massive Skype community…having a directory makes live easier for us. He says until now there hasn’t really been a great way to publicize third-party apps.

Another helpful feature of the directory is that Skype is ‘surfacing’ the apps within the Skype client. So in the newest version of Skype for Windows, you can access the app directory under Tools. The directory will be added to the Mac client in the future. And developers can also manage their own listings.

It’s good to see Skype providing features like an app directory so third-party developers can showcase their apps that make Skype better. Skype hasn’t had the best history with developers in the past, but this seems to be a step forward. Perhaps the influence of soon-to-be parent company Microsoft is helping steer things in a developer-friendly direction.



Company:
SKYPE
Launch Date:
1/8/2003
Funding:
$68.8M

Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice and video calls and chats over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free,...

Learn more


Vizibility Raises $1.3M, Makes You Look Good When People Google You

Posted: 25 Aug 2011 05:34 AM PDT

vizi

Vizibility, provider of a personal branding platform for individuals and companies, this morning announced it has raised $1.3 million in seed funding, more than its $1 million target.

Launchpad Venture Group of Boston led the round and was joined by additional investors from Boston Harbor Angels, New York Angels and TiE Angels as well as a number of independent investors from the Northeast and Europe. Earlier backers also participated in the round.

Vizibility was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Manhattan, New York.

The company offers an online identity management platform for individuals and companies that enables them to curate and share their online identities, including personalized Google search results, professional profiles, contact information and more.

The company’s SearchMe buttons, links and QR codes can be shared and placed on websites, blogs, business cards, marketing material and whatnot. Its services are primarily distributed as an integrated feature of social networking sites, including job search, online reputation management and executive profile hubs as well as dating sites.



Company:
VIZIBILITY
Launch Date:
7/2009
Funding:
$2.58M

Vizibility is like a "Google Me" button for career professionals. Through a simple wizard, the Vizibility service enables people to quickly create the optimal Google search for themselves based on...

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