Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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(Founder Stories) Mike Lazerow: Facebook’s Brilliance? “Knowing Who They Were Very Early On”

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 08:50 AM PDT

Mike Lazerow co-founder and CEO of Buddy Media was hooked on Facebook immediately after logging onto Zuckerburg’s social media site during Facebook’s early days.

In this episode of Founder Stories with host Chris Dixon, Lazerow discusses Buddy Media’s growth and how it coincided with Facebook launching fan pages for companies and brands. Lazerow’s team thought “companies [were] going to have to control content and need analytics behind that content … so we launched … the Facebook Page Management System.” Their idea turned out to be a goldmine.

In March of 2009 Facebook Fan pages went live. A month later, Buddy Media launched its technology, and by the end of 2010 Buddy Media “just exploded” says Lazerow.

Continuing on the topic of Facebook in the video below Dixon notes Facebook allows others to build on its platform while Google develops products internally. Dixon wonders if Facebook will follow Google’s playbook and if so, does this concern Lazerow?

Lazerow tells Dixon that Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all offer growth opportunities for Buddy Media so “we are beyond Facebook, we are Facebook plus.” In addition, Lazerow doesn’t think Facebook will devote its resources to creating a brand management system. It’s just not in Facebook’s DNA, he argues. “Facebook is in the business of delivering audiences and selling ads, we really take care of how do you set up a presence on Facebook and manage a community on Facebook” explains Lazerow.

Before wrapping the interview, Lazerow concludes by saying that Facebook’s brilliance lies in “knowing who they were very early on.” That is something all startups should strive for from the very beginning.

Part III of Dixon’s interview with Lazerow is coming up, but until then make sure to watch Part I and past episodes of Founder Stories here.

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The Buddy Media Platform is the social media management software of choice for eight of the world's top ten global advertisers. With its scalable, secure architecture and straightforward administrative...

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Michael is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded four successful internet-based media companies. He has a passion for creating, managing and growing companies from the ground up. Michael's first foray...

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Chris Dixon currently works as the CEO and Co-founder of Hunch. He is also a contributing writer for TechCrunch. He previously was the CEO and Co-founder of SiteAdvisor, which...

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NASA MMO Gets Kickstarter Funding, Beta In 2012

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 08:47 AM PDT


The concept of a NASA-backed MMO about space is one that’s been floating around for years, and thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the project is making its first steps to becoming a reality.

A bit of background: in 2009, developers Project Whitecard, Wisdom Tools, and Virtual Heroes beat out 20 other competitors in a contest sponsored by NASA’s Learning Technologies division.

The prize? A commercial license for creating an MMO called “Astronaut: Moon, Mars, and Beyond” that will inspire new generation of players to look to the stars and pursue a career in the sciences.

Under the terms of the agreement, the developers would have to pony up the funding necessary to create and sustain the game. A Kickstarter campaign kicked off on August 15, and over 500 backers have carried the project over the $25,000 funding goal in just two weeks. If they manage to reach $50,000, development of the PC and iPad versions of the game will start, with a beta release expected for 2012. In exchange, the developers get a government tax credit that will match the full amount of donations up to $700,000.

It sounds just a tad on the dry side as far as content is concerned, but the Kickstarter pitch paints a picture that’s more World of Warcraft than EVE Online. Players will assume the role of an aspiring astronaut at the Arthur C. Clarke Astronaut Academy Station in the year 2035, and can choose from such compelling character classes as Astrobiologist and Engineer.

While the game will take players to the surface of the red planet and into the outer reaches of the solar system, players will also have to deal with a looming threat to civilization we know it. The game only exists as concept art for now, but it is expected to be developed using the Unreal Engine, so the end result should be pretty easy on the eyes.

Cheesy sci-fi plot points aside, this could be exactly what NASA needs to turn people’s attentions skyward again. In providing a compelling vision for the future of space exploration, NASA is positioning itself to young, smart gamers as the way to help make it real.

Intel Forms ‘Federal’ Business Unit To Sell Supercomputing Services To The U.S. Government

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 08:17 AM PDT


Intel is forming a brand new business unit today, called Intel Federal, to ‘better address new opportunities in working with the U.S. government.’ The new subsidiary will focus exclusively on selling and advising on computing services in the government.

Initially, Intel says Intel Federal will focus on the High Performance Computing segment, including work on exascale computing with the U.S. Department of Energy and other agencies. Over time, the subsidiary will work with all branches of the government.

Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's Datacenter and Connected Systems Group says this of the new subsidiary: "The creation of Intel Federal demonstrates the strategic importance of these programs and will give us the ability to establish and maintain the unique processes, procedures and controls needed to develop and manage programs with the government…Reaching supercomputer performance levels of a hundred times more powerful than today by 2018 will require the combined efforts of both industry and government…We look forward to collaborating more closely with the U.S. government on future supercomputing challenges.”

Dave Patterson, the former president and CEO of Siemens Government Services, will lead Intel Federal, which will have offices in Oregon, California and the Washington, D.C. area.

The government services area can be a huge money maker for IT and technology companies and it makes sense for Intel to actively target government agencies who are looking to adopt new, more advanced technologies. Amazon recently launched the GovCloud to provide a secure cloud computing environment for government agencies.

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Intel is best known for producing the microprocessors found in many personal computers. The company also makes a range of other hardware including network cards, motherboards, and graphics chips....

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Gaypon Is The Gay Groupon

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 08:17 AM PDT


A new daily deals site catering to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LBGT) and allied communities has just launched, and it’s called Gaypon. The site provides its subscribers with daily offers from local and regional businesses  - but only those businesses known to be gay-friendly.

In addition, Gaypon says a portion of its proceeds will be donated to local and national LGBT organizations and charities.

Initially, you might imagine this site is just the latest to jump on the daily deals bandwagon. But in actuality, it’s introducing a new take on the Groupon model: daily deals for a cause. Gaypon is a valid attempt at creating a groundswell of community support for local businesses that have demonstrated a desire for equality in all their business practices by rewarding them with new customers.

Before becoming a Gaypon merchant, businesses are put through a background check of sorts, where they are investigated for any bad marks, like complaints of discrimination from customers and employees, poor hiring practices, etc. Gaypon says it also uses various tools, like the Human Rights Campaign’s “Corporate Equality Index” that rates American workplaces on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.

Gaypon plans to donate a portion of proceeds to charitable organizations, and those that support the gay community, like The Trevor Project, which focuses on crisis and suicide prevention amongst LGBTQ youth, and Affirmations, which is one of the largest LGBT community centers in the United States. The exact percentage of those donations, however, is unclear.

The site promises that your personal data is kept private, too. It’s never sold or handed over to the merchant (unless shipping is involved) and purchases on your credit card appear only as “deal purchase.” That last bit alone proves that we still have far to go as a society in terms of acceptance and tolerance for others. After all, why else would you need to hide that you’re supporting a gay-friendly company?

By the way, Gaypon isn’t just for the LGBT and Allied communities – it’s for anyone who wants to support local businesses that stand up for equality.

Gaypon was founded by Robert Graham, formerly of Clear Channel Radio, and Jason Buszta. It’s based in West Bloomfield, Michigan.


Gaypon offers deals, discounts, coupons & special offers from gay friendly businesses that support the LGBT community. Gaypon often features deals from online merchants and donates proceeds to charities...

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Epson Brings Its iPrint App To Android

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:59 AM PDT


Though the digital world seems to be swallowing print alive, there are still some documents that you just want to hold in your hand. But with the speed and ease at which we share information these days, it’s hard for printing to keep up as far as convenience goes. Epson’s tried to find a way to make printing as quick and painless as possible with its iPrint app, which has today extended to the Android platform.

iPrint lets you automatically print to any wireless all-in-one Epson printer, whether it be photos, documents, or web pages. It also works in reverse: You can scan and save to your device from the printer, or send documents in an email. Plus, the app supports Box.net, Dropbox, and Evernote.

Epson’s iPrint brings most of the functionality of the phone right into the app. For example, Epson put a built-in browser into iPrint so that you don’t have to switch back and forth from your phone browser to the app when you want to print a web page. However, that will only be a time-saver if you use iPrint as your default browser (read: probably not going to happen). Still, it’s a smart move if you know the page you want to print, and will certainly make things easier.

The app lets you do just about anything you could do if you were standing in front of your printer: check status and ink levels, choose paper size and type, configure the number of copies and page range, etc. Plus, there are a handful of advanced features if your printing job happens to be a bit more complicated usual. Users can choose and print multiple photos from their device, choose to print with or without borders, switch between color and black and white, and you can even buy ink or other printing supplies straight from the app.

The app is available now as a free download from both the Android Market and the Apple App Store.

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Epson America, Inc. designs, manufactures, and sells image capture and image output products for consumer, business, photography, and graphic arts markets. It provides ink jet printers, compact photo printers,...

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Gartner: Social CRM Market Will Reach $1B In Revenue By 2012

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:54 AM PDT


There’s more good news for the growth of the social enterprise. Gartner is reporting today that the social customer relationship management (CRM) market is forecast to reach over $1 billion in revenue by year-end 2012, up from approximately $625 million in 2010. Worldwide social CRM is projected to total $820 million in 2011.

Gartner says that spending by buyers on social software for marketing, customer service and sales has increased by 40 percent in 2010, but social CRM remained less than 5 percent of the total CRM application market. And more than 100 vendors have social CRM offerings, but most are not profitable and generate annual revenue of less than $1 million.

While the market is clearly competitive, Gartner says that certain factors can help differentiate Social CRM offerings, including interoperation between public social networks and internal collaborative communities, integration with established CRM products, analytics and more.

There’s no doubt that there is growth in the social enterprise in general. And there’s a lot of movement already taking place in the space. Jive just filed for a $100 million IPO, and Salesforce is making big bets on the space with Chatter.

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Gartner Consulting provides fact-based consulting services that help their clients use and manage IT to enable business performance. Gartner’s 1,200 analysts and resarchers offer consulting services and advice to...

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Onavo – The Must-Have Data Shrinking iOS App – Comes To Android

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:50 AM PDT


It’s one thing to hear praise for an app from geeks, it’s another when you hear it from ‘normal folks’. Onavo falls in this category.

The free data-shrinking app which we’ve praised in the past runs quietly in the background and dramatically reduces data consumption. I myself keep it running all the time, and on a recent trip abroad to San Francisco it helped me save in the neighborhood of 75% of my potential data consumption. Seeing as I was running on a roaming plan, this meant I could email, tweet, and use mapping apps with far greater freedom.

Today, Onavo is announcing it’s first venture into the Android waters. Now before you get all excited, Onavo for Android is actually a ‘Lite’ version. It’s not data-shrinking ready quite yet, but it does however give users impressive visibility and control over app data consumption on Android devices.

I sat down with Guy Rosen, CEO, who explained that unlike with iOS, it’s pretty much a wild-west in terms of app data consumption on Android. It seems that apps can launch in the background and run tasks, such as updating, on their own accord, without having being launched by the user.

With Onavo Lite, Android users are alerted when an app suddenly consumes data at a disproportionate rate, or at improper timing, for example when traveling. Onavo makes it easy to block particular apps from running on 3G, or disable 3G completely at certain data consumption caps.

A really neat feature, taken from Soluto’s play book, is advanced warning on data-hogs. This is a crowd-sourced feature that provides users information about the data consumption characteristics of an app, as soon as it’s installed.

Just like for iOS predecessor, Onavo Lite is free and can be downloaded here.


Onavo empowers smartphone and tablet users to regain control of their mobile data usage, by providing a service that makes mobile data consumption efficient, transparent and manageable. Onavo's app saves...

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B&N Reports Improved Losses, Massive Nook Growth

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:39 AM PDT


Barnes & Noble took to the wires this morning to announced its 2012 first quarter sales and earnings. It’s mostly good news with sales in the first quarter hitting $1.4 billion, an increase of 2% over last year. Online sales increased 37% to $198 million while brick and mortar sales decreased 3% to $1 billion. The big news, however, is B&N’s Nook business increased a whooping 140% to reach $277 million, on a comparable sales basis.

Our NOOK eReaders and applications continue to be cited as the finest digital reading products on the market, with the new NOOK Simple Touch Reader recently rated as the best eReader," says CEO William Lynch. "The company is encouraged by the progress achieved against our strategy and believes in our plan to continue to appropriately invest in the massive digital opportunity, while delivering strong EBITDA growth this year.

The large uptick now means the Nook is accounts for more sales than B&N’s entire online storefront. Over the last quarter B&N launched the awesome Nook Simple Touch Reader and continued to support the hacker-friendly Nook Color Android tablet. Despite the upcoming Amazon assault, B&N expects big things from the Nook division and stated that the year over year sales should double and reach $1.8 billion this year versus last year’s record of $880 million.

The company’s earnings improved 24% this last quarter from a loss of $30.7 million to $23.6 million. This accounts for a consolidated net loss of $57 million, or $0.99 a share. The company expects the full year losses per share to be in a range of $0.10 to $0.50 no doubt thanks to the upcoming holiday spending spree and the Nook’s explosive growth.

The street clearly likes this news as Barnes & Noble’s stock shot up and is currently at a 2 week high.


The nook is an electronic book reader produced by Barnes & Noble and runs on the Android platform. The nook will compete with the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and...

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InsideView Debuts CRM+ To Bring Social Intelligence To Business Operations

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:30 AM PDT


InsideView, a service that mashes up social data for enterprises to increase sales productivity, is launching a new product today—CRM+.

InsideView, which has raised $37 million in funding, crawls through more than 20,000 web sites, social networks and databases including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Hoovers, Reuters, and SEC filings, to give businesses sales intelligence and information that will aid sales operations with helping develop and maintain leads and clients.

InsideView's CRM+ basically brings all this social intelligence to the CRM, within workers' process flow in their existing CRM platform. It basically brings social data to all CRM users (marketing, operations, customer service, etc.), not just sales.

As Gartner reported this morning, the social CRM market is expected to reach $1 billion by year-end 2012, so clearly there is increasing demand for CRM products that leverage social actions and data.

Social Contacts App Twezr Shuts Down, Company Pivots To Photo-Sharing

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:11 AM PDT


So long, Twezr, it’s been fun. The mobile social contacts application Twezr is being shut down after having a fairly well-received launch back in November 2010. The app, for those unaware, was based on a great idea: it was a social address book. It aggregated all the activity from your phone’s contacts (e.g., phone calls, SMS’s, voicemails) alongside their social networking activity (e.g., Facebook and Twitter updates)

Now the company is removing its app from the iTunes App Store and working to build a new location-based photo sharing app called Spotpix instead.

Says the company, Spotpix “has a great potential to solve some real world problems.” That’s probably a bit much, considering that the app seems to just involve geo-tagging photos so you can remember the places you’ve been. Yep, never seen that before.

Sadly, Twezr was actually the more promising of the two concepts. By combining a contact’s phone-based activity alongside social updates, it could function as sort of a social CRM for everyday users.

So what went wrong? Well, for starters, at launch, the app didn’t use OAuth standards to gain access to your social services, and actually asked users for their Gmail, Facebook and Twitter passwords. That’s a big no-no. Also, from personal experience, the app struggled to load large address books. It crashed, too.

Maybe solving the real, ”real world problem” of building the next great social address book (I’ve yet to find an app that really shines here, although Friends came close), was too much for a small team. Photo-sharing may be more Twezr’s speed.

Here’s the letter Twezer emailed its users:

Dear Twezr User, 

Over the past few months we’ve been developing Spotpix, a very interesting location based photo sharing app. Spotpix has a great potential to solve some real world problems. As we’re a small startup with limited resources, we’ve decided to focus on Spotpix and withdraw Twezr from the app store and shut down Twezr service over the next few days. We regret the inconvenience. We hope you’ll find another personal organizer app that closely matches your needs to replace Twezr or switch back to the native apps. 

We hope you’ll try out Spotpix when we launch. You can sign up for early access (http://spotpix.me) and also follow Spotpix on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/spotpixapp) to stay tuned. 


Team Twezr 


Twezr is a personal organizer – the best way to stay in sync with close friends and co-workers. Twezr organizes all the contacts and all the content they've shared...

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HP Could Revive The TouchPad, Says Former webOS VP

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 07:01 AM PDT

touchpad fry

Hold on to something tight, webOS geeks. Your favorite tablet, which I can only assume is the TouchPad, might not be the last webOS tablet incarnation from HP. An HP executive and former webOS VP recently stated that the company could resurrect the TouchPad stating to Reuters, “tablet computing is a segment of the market that’s relevant, absolutely.” But let’s hope that HP’s Personal Systems Group head Todd Bradley remembers the TouchPad’s rough path to success.

Bradley is currently touring China where he’s likely putting on no less than a small circus trying to convince partners, suppliers and HP sympathizers that the company’s high revenue, high margin PC business will continue to be the top-selling brand. HP’s CEO Leo Apotheker announced earlier this month that they were considering leaving the consumer PC marketplace. This may be done by either selling or spinning off the business. Bradley dismissed claims in his Reuters interview that someone like Acer, who just reported a downturn in the second quarter of 2011, could buy the massive business. Instead, HP might spin the consumer side off into a new company.

This would require, what Bradley called, “unwinding [of] the integration” of PCs within HP and would require this new company to stand tall amid tough competition and not rely on big daddy HP during tough sales quarters. In fact resurrecting the TouchPad and expecting the same sort of buzz generated over the last couple weeks would be tough for a new company.

The TouchPad launched on July 1st but was killed just seven weeks later. We praised the tablet and the webOS operating system, but couldn’t find a reason to recommend the tablet at its $500 MSRP. That’s what an iPad costs, we said and pointed out that with Apple’s tablet you get a massive app ecosystem. The TouchPad then dropped down to $399, which didn’t exactly breed confidence in the product and we still couldn’t recommend it. But then HP canceled the TouchPad and put it on a $99 fire sale. We said Buy! Buy! Buy!

The TouchPad went from zero to hero literally overnight. Early reports place the TouchPad as currently the second best-selling tablet. Best Buy stores nationwide had people lined up to snag the $99 tablet. This came less than a week after the WSJ reported Best Buy was sitting on a massive oversupply of TouchPads. Consumers passed on the tablet when it was $400 or more. They ate it up when it dropped to less than the cost of a Kindle.

As the company stands today, HP likely has the deep pockets able to support selling a next-gen TouchPad at a slight loss where a spun-off company wouldn’t have that luxury. Selling the tablet at $99 is simply unsustainable, but with the right mixture of lower-end hardware, cloud storage, and revenue-producing content distribution, HP could potentially undercut the iPad and hit the sweet spot of $250. That’s what Amazon is primed to do with its tablet.

People like the TouchPad — read the recent online reviews — but the $99 is a big part of the judgement. It’s by far the best value tablet on the market today and hopefully HP will make another round available at the current price. But it’s not the best tablet. That title falls squarely on the $500 iPad, which dominates that price-point. If HP wants to bring back the TouchPad — even with its new-found army of foot soldiers — HP first needs to learn its lesson: Don’t go toe-to-toe with Apple. The path to victory is to win the hearts of the villages.

HTML5 Mobile App Framework PhoneGap Adds Facebook Connect Plugin

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 06:39 AM PDT


Nitobi, creators of the HTML5-based mobile app framework PhoneGap, have today launched the PhoneGap Facebook Connect plugin. The addition of the plugin means that developers building apps using Web technologies like HTML and JavaScript can now simplify the log in process for their apps by allowing users to login with their Facebook credentials.

To enable third parties the ability to integrate the Facebook Connect technology, Facebook provides a JavaScript software development kit (SDK) to developers.

However, Nitobi says that using the Facebook SDK was a challenge because it requires the use of the OAuth 2.0 standard, an open standard for authorization. This sign on process doesn’t always translate gracefully for the PhoneGap developers’ apps, the company found. Typically, a login box pops up on the user’s screen because their Facebook username and password credentials aren’t likely stored on the device.

“We got working on a Facebook plugin because we're user experience advocates," Dave Johnson, CTO at Nitobi Inc. says. "The OAuth authentication workflow for a mobile app isn't ideal so we created the PhoneGap Facebook Connect plugin as a way to streamline that process and improve the experience for the end user."

The new plugin uses the same API (application programming interface) as Facebook’s own SDK, but instead of replicating the same workflow you would see on the Web using a desktop browser, it works with the native Facebook application installed on users’ own devices. The end result is a less cumbersome log in process for an app’s end users.

The plugin is now available for download from Gitub here.

Nitobi, which is now seeing over 40,000 PhoneGap downloads per month, says it expects this new plugin to be popular.


PhoneGap is a developer package by Nitobi Software that enables developers to create mobile web applications.

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Nitobi Software creates rich web applications and developer toolkits in Ajax and Javascript.

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Motorola’s Rugged DEFY+ Is UK-Bound, Landing In September

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 06:36 AM PDT


Motorola‘s super-sturdy DEFY+ handset was officially revealed in a press release only a few weeks ago, but a recent announcement confirms that the device will make its UK debut early this fall.

Forgot what the DEFY+ was capable of? Here’s a quick recap: the rugged Android handset packs a 1 GHz processor (a 20% improvement in speed over the proc found in the original DEFY), a 3.7-inch touchscreen display that’s covered by a plate of Corning’s Gorilla Glass, and a water-resistant, dust proof body. A 5 megapixel camera peeks out of the back, and the device comes with 2 GB of onboard storage and a 2 GB MicroSD card.

The DEFY+ runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and comes preloaded with apps like CardioTrainer for your outdoorsy types and the Zinio magazine reader. An interesting mix, yes, but one that aptly shows that the beefy device is equal parts work and play.

In typical Motorola fashion, you won’t find the stock Gingerbread interface here: Motorola’s chosen to cover it all with a big helping of MOTOBLUR. It has a tendency to rub people the wrong way because of how it attempts to shoehorn as much social networking content onto a homescreen as possible, but someone out there must enjoy it because it just won’t die.

Motorola’s announcement was unfortunately light on specifics: they’ve remained mum on pricing or carrier compatibility, but the DEFY+ is being prepped for a September release.

Samsung Introduces A Trio Of Bada-Powered Wave Smartphones

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 06:35 AM PDT


Today is a big day for Samsung. If you haven't heard, the phone maker is unveiling the U.S. variants of its flagship handset, the Galaxy S II, tonight in New York (and you can bet we’ll be in attendance). But if that weren't enough, Samsung also announced three new Bada-powered smartphones today, and each brings something special to the table.

The star of the bunch would be Samsung's Wave 3, which has pretty respectable specs although it can't really compare with the beastly Galaxy S II (that I can't stop talking about). All three come with Samsung's new BBM-style cross-platform messaging service, ChatOn, and we're even seeing some NFC action.

The Wave 3 is meant to be the Bada flagship, which is probably why we've already heard some details about it. Meanwhile the Wave M, albeit a mid-range device, comes in as a close second with support for NFC. Rounding out the trio, the Wave Y is an entry-level smartphone with somewhat limited specs, but we're expecting a pretty attractive price tag on the little guy.

Here's a quick specs run-down:

Samsung Wave 3:

  • Bada 2.0
  • 4-inch Super AMOLED display
  • 1.4 GHz processor
  • 9.9mm brushed-metal build
  • Social Hub, Music Hub, and ChatOn
  • 5-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
  • VGA front-facing camera for video chat

Samsung Wave M:

  • Bada 2.0
  • 3.65 HVGA 320×480 display
  • 832 MHz processor
  • NFC capabilities
  • Social Hub and ChatOn
  • 5-megapixel rear camera with LED flash
  • VGA front-facing camera for video chat

Samsung Wave Y:

  • Bada 2.0
  • 3.2-inch HVGA 320×480 display
  • ChatOn
  • 2-megapixel rear camera with LED flash

While the Wave 3 and Wave M can certainly hold their own, these probably aren’t a great fit for a smartphone junkie. Bada is a rather smart OS, and we will definitely give credit where credit is due. But Android and iOS have some hardware out there that you just can’t beat.

On the other hand, these handsets will get the job done and probably at a pretty reasonable price. Obviously, it all depends on what you’re looking for. With the GSII announcement tonight and these Wave handsets on the way, you’ll have plenty to choose from.

Sequoia-Backed Dolphin Brings Its Popular Browser To The iPhone

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 06:16 AM PDT


One of Android’s biggest success stories so far has been the Dolphin Browser, a third-party browser that includes plenty of niceties that Android’s stock browser doesn’t: things like gestures, handy sidebars to access menus, user agent spoofing, and add-ons (which are basically extensions). Dolphin’s recently raised $10 million from top-tier VC Sequoia, and the app just passed 9 million total downloads.

And that’s just on Android. Today, the app is coming to the iPhone. It went live late last night, and you can download it right here.

As with other browsers on the iPhone, Dolphin uses the core Safari renderer to display content (in other words, Dolphin hasn’t built a new browser from the ground up — it’s adding a new layer of features on top of Apple’s browser). But it does bring some handy features, including multiple tab support, easy sharing to Facebook and Twitter, its sidebar shortcuts, and Webzine, a Flipboard-esque way to browse your favorite sites. Dolphin also says that this is the first browser on the iPhone to feature gestures: you can draw simple patterns to quickly jump to your favorite websites, or to access navigation options like ‘Back’ and your Bookmarks. They take a few minutes to get used to, but they’re quite handy.

One thing this app doesn’t have: the add-ons, which let Android users tweak their browsing experience with new features. Dolphin says this is because of a technical limitation with the iPhone, which doesn’t allow for native application add-ons. However, it does sound like JavaScript-based add-ons may be on the way.

Dolphin is far from the only third-party browser on the iPhone — competitors include Opera, iLegendSoft’s Mercury Web Browser, and SkyFire. I’m curious to see if Dolphin will be able to get the same kind of traction here as it has on Android; it’s a bit late to the game on iOS (though this is still early days for the platform), and Apple doesn’t give developers as much flexibility to differentiate their browsers as they have on Android.

Tween Virtual World Maker Woozworld Raises $6M; Former Disney Exec Joins Board

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 05:01 AM PDT


Exclusive - Woozworld, a developer of a social game / virtual world for tweens (kids aged 9-14, more specifically), has raised $6 million in new funding from Telesystem and iNovia Capital along with unnamed angel investors. In addition, Bernard Gershon, former general manager and senior vice president of Disney, has joined the startup’s board.

The capital will be used to expand Woozworld’s services to include mobile platforms and boost its marketing efforts to grow reach.

Woozworld essentially offers an online, user-generated social platform, where tweens build entire worlds to engage with their peers, build virtual businesses or set up restaurants, hotels and games as they choose.

To date, the company has registered more than 7 million avatars, and more than 14 million virtual spaces were created in 18 months. Woozworld is growing liked a weed, too: its user base has more than tripled over the last six months.

Woozworld says it currently receives more than 15 million monthly unique visitors from over 180 countries, and logs more than 76 million monthly page views

Gershon, who is joining Woozworld’s board of advisors, is considered a pioneer of streaming media and currently the president of GershonMedia, a digital media strategy practice.

He was also the Senior Vice President and General Manager, Corporate Strategy, Business Development and Technology, atThe Walt Disney Company.

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Woozworld, Inc. develops and operates gaming website. The company was founded in 2009 and is based in Montreal, Canada.

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E La Carte Raises $4M From Groupon Co-Founders To Bring Tablets To Restaurant Tables

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:57 AM PDT


E la Carte, a company that develops a tableside tablet for the restaurant and related hospitality industries, has raised $4 million in funding from Lightbank, the venture fund created by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. The Y Combinator-backed startup previously raised more than $1 million from angel investors including SV Angel, Dave McClure, Joshua Schachter, Roy Rodenstein, and Skip Sack, a former board member and SVP at Applebee's chain of restaurants.

As we’ve written in the past, E la Carte launched ‘Presto,’ earlier this year to bring user-friendly tablets to restaurants to bring efficiency to the tableside and ordering experience. The 7-inch tablet includes a digital menu that lets you sift through the restaurant’s food and drink selection via photos and detailed descriptions using a touch-screen interface. There’s also a section for Games, including trivia and a drawing app. And, finally, there’s a tab for paying.

Presto tablets have a full-day battery life, a credit card reader and sit comfortably and on restaurant tables. The tablets have also been designed for the tableside experience, and are more rugged than iPads.

Similar to shopping for items in an online store, the Menu feature of Presto lets eaters pick which items they’d like to order and uses a shopping cart system so you can order multiple things at once. You can also filter menus by eating preferences (vegetarian, chicken-only, food allergy) and you can also manually type in food instructions. And Presto shows nutritional information for each dish.

Once you click ‘order’ on the tablet, your selections will wirelessly sent to the kitchen (E la Carte integrates with the major POS systems) — and it will even give you an estimate on how long you’ll have to wait for your food. In the mean time you can start playing games or talk with your friends, which is especially useful when you are with children at a restaurant.

Once it comes time to pay, E la Carte’s software allows uses to split the tab, pay for certain items and more. The tablet comes with a card swiper, so you simply swipe your card, enter how much of a tip you want to leave (there are buttons for 15%, 20%, and so on), and Presto will actually email you your receipt.

Founder Rajat Suri tells us that since the launch in April, E La Carte has signed up close to 100 eateries with a waiting list of another 150. Early E la Carte-installed restaurants have enjoyed a sales increase of nearly 12 percent with national chain customers like Pizzeria Venti and Umami Burger already on board. And the startup has other high-profile deals in the works.

Suri says that E la Carte isn’t aiming to replace the waiter but simple make the whole experience more efficient and to fill in the gaps in tableside service at a restaurant. Suri says that installations (which take around a week) can cost as low as $200 per restaurant, or has hight $600 to $700 depending on the number of tables. He adds that Presto fits the mold of casual dining, and perhaps is not as well suited for ‘white table cloth’ restaurants.

As for why E la Carte didn’t just create an iPad app with similar functionality, Suri says that the device just wasn’t optimal for the company’s goals of creating a smaller, more lightweight, hearty device for tableside dining. Anecdotally, the startup actually exchanged emails with Steve Jobs when deciding whether to go iPad or build the hardware, and unsurprisingly Jobs advised them to build off the iPad and iOS platform.

Lightbank partner Paul Lee says of E la Carte: "This team from MIT embraces the exact type of product innovation we are seeking to partner wit…E la Carte is already receiving rave reviews so we are excited for an opportunity to help scale their commercialization."

The new funding will be used to scale the product, for product development, and for sales and marketing support.


E la Carte develops tablets for restaurant tables so guests can order, pay and play games from their seats

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DG Buys Limelight’s Rich Media Ad Unit EyeWonder For $66M In Cash

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:18 AM PDT


Publicly-listed DG, which provides digital media solutions and tech to the advertising and entertainment industries, has agreed to take over Limelight Networks’ video and rich media advertising unit, EyeWonder, for roughly $66 million in cash.

For the record: Limelight had acquired EyeWonder in 2009 for up to $110 million (in cash and stock).

Limelight this morning also announced a share repurchase program as well as updated its third quarter 2011 financial guidance as a result of the EyeWonder transaction.

Founded in 1999, EyeWonder provides a range of interactive ad products and services, including online video and rich media solutions, to Fortune 1000 companies and marketers worldwide.

DG – formerly DG FastChannel – says it expects EyeWonder to generate revenues of approximately $36 million to $37 million for full year 2011.

The transaction, which is subject to customary closing terms and conditions, is expected to close on September 1, 2011.

DG serves more than 5,000 advertisers and agencies through a media distribution network of more than 28,000 radio, television and print publishing destinations throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. DG’s internet division now comprises MediaMind, EyeWonder and Unicast.

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EyeWonder, Inc. provides interactive digital advertising products and services in the United States. The company also provides online video and rich media advertising solutions. Its ad formats include in-page...

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Limelight Networks, Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW) is a content delivery partner enabling the next wave of Internet business and entertainment. Many of the world's most innovative Internet, entertainment, software, and...

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DG Systems was a pioneer in the use of satellite technology for advertising content distribution. As the dust was still settling after the VHS vs. Beta debate, engineers from...

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PayNearMe Now Lets You Pay Your Utility Bill At The Local 7-Eleven Store

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:00 AM PDT


PayNearMe, an alternative payments product from the company formerly known as Kwedit, provides a compelling way for the ‘unbanked’ to use cash payments for online goods. The “unbanked” refers to consumers who don't have traditional bank accounts or cannot qualify for credit cards. PayNearMe allows people who don’t have or don’t want to use credit or debit cards to purchase products, pay for bills and more with cash at thousands of 7-Eleven stores in the continental U.S. And today, PayNearMe is announcing it’s first implementation of its utility bill product the City of Fairfield, Calif.

Here’s how PayNearMe works. With participating partners, e-commerce or merchant sites, consumers can use the PayNearMe option to pay for purchases or debts owed. You simply place your order with PayNearMe and print out the given receipt. You then take that receipt into a 7-Eleven and they scan it and you pay in cash. Once you pay, your order with the retailer or merchant will be fulfilled.

With the utility bill payments, PayNearMe partners with Fairfield billing service provider InfoSend to us PayNearMe's Embedded Barcode Remittance (EBR) technology. With the technology InfoSend prints a unique barcode directly onto each City of Fairfield utility bill. Upon receipt of the bill, customers can go to any local 7-Eleven where their bar code is scanned at register. They complete the transaction by paying in cash. The funds immediately post to customers' accounts, and they receive detailed receipts for proof of payment.

PayNearMe says that because 7-Eleven stores are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Fairfield customers gain greater flexibility in how and when they pay their utility bills. And InfoSend works with 200 other utility partners, and PayNearMe plans to provide this cash payment option to these cities as well.

PayNearMe has steadily expanded the use cases for the cash payments product, recently announcing the ability for consumers to pay bills, transfer money, and even pay for a bus ticket using its payment option. And the startup says that 60 million consumers in the U.S. don’t have debit or credit cards, which is a huge market to serve.

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PayNearMe is the cash transaction network that enables consumers to pay with cash easily for a wide range of good and services. Consumers go to a local store, beginning...

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Sequoia Leads $9.5 Million Round In Interactive Video Advertising Startup Innovid

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 03:55 AM PDT

Innovid - In-video Spaces-1

Innovid, a video advertising startup, has raised $9.5 million round led by Sequoia Capital with Genesis Partners and T-Ventures (Deutsche Telecom) participating in the round. As part of the funding round, Sequoia partner Gili Raanan will join Innovid's Board of Directors. This investment brings Innovid’s total funding to $17 million.

Innovid' develops an interactive pre-roll advertising product, called iRoll, that allows advertisers to turn any existing pre-roll video ad into an interactive one. And users are encouraged to click and perform mouse gestures with the interactive ads to gain further information.

The company also offers an ad server and analytics platform Dynamo, which provides video serving and deeper analytics for brands. Innovid’s platform has been integrated across hundreds of the video publishers and every major video ad network, according to the company.

Founder and CEO Zvika Netter tells me that iRoll is seeing CTRs of 5 percent, which is fairly high in the video advertising industry. He adds that the company is growing 100 percent each quarter.

Innovid has integrated iRoll in campaigns for a number of high-profile brands including Kraft, Buick, Hyundai, Disney Pictures, and Sony. And the startup’s publishers include 80% of the web's top video publishers including partnerships with NBC, MTV, Fox, and Tremor Media.

Raanan says this of Sequoia’s investment in Innovid: The growth in online video consumption and advertising is staggering. We identified Innovid as a true technology leader in the industry with unparalleled integration into the distribution channels of video publishers & ad networks.

The new funding will uses towards product development and international expansion (the startup plans to open an office in London later this year).

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Innovid is the standard in interactive Pre-Roll. Innovid developed the groundbreaking iRoll, which embeds interactive elements in pre-roll video ads making them dynamic and engaging without forcing audiences away from...

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