Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Facebook Also Quietly Rolled Out A Like Button Chrome Extension

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 10:05 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-09-01 at 10.00.50 AM

Yesterday, we noted that Google quietly rolled out their +1 Button Chrome extension a couple days ago. It’s more powerful than it may seem because you can now easily +1 any page you’re browsing on the web regardless of if the owner of that content placed a button on their site. Just imagine if Facebook has such a extension for their Like Button.. Actually, you don’t have to imagine.

Shortly after our post went up, we were pointed to this extension in the Chrome Web Store. Sure enough, it’s a Facebook Like Button extension, that according to Google’s “verified author” service is indeed built by Facebook itself. What’s surprising is hardly anyone knows about this extension, it has just 500 users!

Perhaps Facebook isn’t touting it at all yet because it is kind of weak. When you click the thumbs up icon, you get a drop-down menu asking you to click an actual Like Button in an overlay. So it’s two-clicks to “like” something. But it does also come with the nice ability to leave a comment as you share something (which the +1 Button extension doesn’t do yet). And it adds Facebook share options to your right-click menu items. From here, you can like a page, share a page, or recommend a page.

It’s certainly possible that this was just a quick hackathon project that one developer threw together at Facebook. It may also be related to their tie-in with Rockmelt, the social browser that is built on top of Chromium (a screenshot on the extension page references it). Quite frankly, it’s surprising this extension exists at all, given the heated relationship between the two companies. It looks like it has been live since July.

After yesterday’s story about the +1 Button extension, a number of readers seemed concerned about Google’s ability to track all of your web movements. Obviously, they’ll have the same concerns about Facebook with this button. Here’s what Facebook has to say on the matter:

You do not need to be logged in to Facebook to install this plugin, but to like, share or recommend a page you will need to log in to a current Facebook account, or create a new one. While the plugin is installed, it will display the total number of likes for the page you are viewing. To provide a personalized experience, Facebook will see some technical information such as the URL of the page you are on, your IP address and the date and time you visited the site. All information collected before you log into Facebook is anonymous or aggregated and will not identify you.

All of the information after you log in…

I’d also like to give a shout out to Hrishikesh Kale who created his own Facebook Like extension after our story yesterday, also not realizing that Facebook already made one.

Launch Date:

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

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Google Chrome Celebrates Its Third Birthday By Browsing Down Memory Lane

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 10:04 AM PDT


It’s a little hard to believe, but it’s been three years to the day since Google first launched its Chrome browser in September 2008 (sure, we found out about it a few days early due to a leaked comic book of all things, but September 1 was the first day you could download the Windows beta).

And wow, has Chrome come a long way. Around its first birthday it had reached its third version release and was doing well on Windows, but there was still no Mac or Linux release. By its second birthday, it was up to version six — with support for Mac and Linux.

These days, Chrome is a powerhouse. It’s running on six-week release cycles so new features are getting pushed out at a rapid pace (I’m currently running the version 14 beta). And while the browser continues to add key features like print preview and the nifty ‘Instant Pages’ on Google search, it still feels lightweight and snappy. According to recent stats, Chrome already has around 22% browser marketshare (according to the same report, Firefox has 28% and IE has 42%).

It’s also been a big year for the Chrome ecosystem, with the launch of the Chrome webstore in December and Chromebooks in June. Neither of these has taken off yet, but Google is laying the groundwork for Chrome to become a robust, entirely web-based alternative to traditional operating systems like Windows. The launch of offline Gmail, Calendar and Docs yesterday best underscores the status of these efforts: they’re still early and rough around the edges (offline Gmail doesn’t even support keyboard shortcuts yet), but you can see the potential. Chome’s future success as an OS is hardly a given, but Google is putting a lot of weight behind it.

Google is marking the occasion with a blog post outlining some of Chrome’s biggest improvements over the last year, which include everything from a new UI for the Settings menu to a revamped version of its speedy JavaScript engine. It’s also created a nifty interactive infographic (pictured above) called The Evolution of the Web that lets you browse though screenshots of the browsers of yore.

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

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

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

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Ex-MySpace VP Takes On Postagram With Postcard On The Run

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 10:00 AM PDT


Look out, Postagram: there’s another player embarking on the quest to turn everyone’s smart phone photos into real-world postcards.

This morning, Josh Brooks (previously the VP of Programming and Music at Myspace and Head of Content at Project Playlist) is launching the endeavor he’s spent the last year working on: Postcard On The Run. It’s a quick, easy, and relatively cheap way to free your photos from the digital cage that is your iPhone’s photo library and get them into the mailboxes of your friends and family. They’re also launching as a platform to allow other developers to add photo printing/mailing to their own apps.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t really get the concept at first. Having spent the last many years of my life living too many hours a day online, the idea of printing out a physical photo just to add a few lines of text and ship it across the country seemed a bit… wasteful.

But then I actually gave the app a spin… and within about 30 minutes of creating my first postcard, I’d created another ten. In the age of the digital camera and Facebook, photos have become filler — trivial tidbits that we blindly click through in an effort to be everywhere at once. There’s something kind of magical about taking a digital encapsulation of an experience, making it real and tangible, and sending it to directly someone’s real inbox instead of their virtual equivalent — as if to say “I genuinely, honestly wish you were here.”

The application is about as simple as can be: pick a photo, crop it as desired, add some text to the back, and send it off into meatspace (beginning at 99 cents a pop.) There’s no reason to complicate the process here, and they don’t.

Now, how does Postcard On The Run differ from Postagram and other such services? At it’s core, it’s a very similar idea — and that’s very much okay. In a service space like this, competition is good for everyone: the companies will be pressured to innovate faster and battle to keep costs low, with the added perk that multiple companies can spread and market a concept considerably quicker than one can alone.

With that said, Postcard On The Run does have a few cool tricks up its sleeve:

  • GPS Stamping: Want to rub in the fact that you’re relaxing on the beach in Hawaii? You can add a small map graphic to the back of your postcard showing the location it was sent from, confirming that the toes in the water on the postcard are in fact your toes in the water.
  • Postal Gopher: Seeing as no one really sends each other mail anymore, it’s probably pretty unlikely that you actually have all of your buddies addresses. POTR built a feature they call “Postal Gopher”, which can automatically e-mail or SMS the selected postcard recipient and request their address in your honor. Once it receives a reply, Postal Gopher automatically adds the address to your address book for safe keeping, slaps the details onto the back of your queued up postcard, and sends the card on its way.
  • Coming Soon, they say: Scratch and Sniff (seriously!)

Postcard On The Run is also launching as a B2B service, with an SDK that allows third-party developers to integrate photo printing/shipping services as a means of optimization. They’re currently working out SDK partnerships on a case-by-case basis (even the revenue split is case-by-case; for some partners it’s 70/30, others it’s 50/50), but interested developers can get more information here.

You can find the free Postcard On The Run app for iOS here. Postcards start at 99c each.

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Sprint: AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Would Destroy Jobs, Here’s A Study To Prove It

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 09:35 AM PDT


It’s no surprise whatsoever that Sprint isn’t down with the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, and with good reason. There’s no telling just how severe the effects of this deal may be on Sprint, but we know for sure that it won’t be good. So with no other option, the carrier has campaigned against the merger since day one. We’ve seen statement after statement, release after release… but this time Sprint is taking a new approach. Today Sprint threw their weight behind a study which debunks claims made by AT&T and the Economic Policy Institute that this merger will create “tens of thousands of jobs,” and even goes so far as to say the deal will result in a reduction of American jobs.

The study was commissioned by Sprint (surprise!) and conducted by David Neumark, professor of Economics and director of the Center for Economics and Public Policy at the University of California at Irvine. It focuses mainly on the EPI’s analysis of the merger and their conclusion: that the increased capital investment made by AT&T will, in turn, increase American jobs. Neumark’s issue with this is that the EPI’s conclusion rests solely on increased capital investment, rather than the overall effects of the merger.

AT&T recently promised to bring back 5,000 call center jobs that had previously been outsourced abroad. The company also said the merger will result in no call center job losses, though in the official documents AT&T admits that some “force reductions” would occur.

Neumark also notes that AT&T’s logic behind the job creation claims is based on one figure: $8 billion in increased capital expenditures. The only problem there is that the figure is unclear. AT&T may very well pump an extra $8 billion into its business, which would increase jobs, but that’s only if the investment in capital expenditures T-Mobile would have undertaken are less than $8 billion.

The EPI analysis claiming that the AT&T/T-Mobile merger will create jobs because of increased capital investment is completely unfounded. It is based solely on a claim by AT&T that it will increase its capital expenditures. But it appears to ignore reductions in capital expenditures that T-Mobile would have undertaken, and the strong likelihood that net capital expenditures would decline as a result of the merger. Indeed AT&T has told the federal government and its investors that the merger would lead to reduced capital expenditures. By EPI's own logic, the net reduction in capital expenditures would lead to fewer jobs.

The study concludes that if AT&T/T-Mobile’s net capital investment is reduced by $5 billion, that would result in 34,000 to 60,000 jobs lost.

Neumark also cites AT&T’s history with mergers, and the way those have affected job creation/loss in the past. “Since 2002, AT&T has eliminated over 107,000 jobs relative to the growth in employment that would have occurred from the acquisitions that occurred during that time period. This evidence is consistent with AT&T's past mergers generating job loss,” he writes.

Here’s what AT&T has to say about the study:

Frankly this is a woefully flawed study with no factual underpinnings. For example, it ridiculously assumes T-Mobile will continue to spend and invest at the same levels it did before its parent company, Deutsche Telekom, cut off its funding. We have made firm commitments on jobs, including bringing back 5,000 jobs to the U.S. from overseas, and that wireless call center employees on the payroll at closing will not lose their jobs. This is in addition to the thousands of new jobs from our $8 billion investment to integrate the companies' networks and expand new mobile broadband technology. That's more than Sprint has ever done.

Obviously, there’s much more than job creation to consider when it comes to this deal. Anti-trust issues and the potential stifling of innovation carry just as much weight. The possibility that AT&T’s network will be significantly improved will also play a major role in the decision.

But in the end, the statements made by both sides must be digested with a hefty helping of salt. AT&T stands to gain quite a bit if it wins T-Mobile, and its statements on the matter will be framed accordingly. In the same vein, Sprint stands to lose and the claims made within its commissioned study require an equal amount of scrutiny.

It all comes down to the DOJ and the FCC, and as it stands now, AT&T still has a long battle ahead of them.

Launch Date:

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing,...

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T-Mobile is a mobile telephone operator headquartered in Bonn, Germany. It is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. T-Mobile has 101 million subscribers making it the worlds sixth largest mobile...

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Deezer Reveals UK Launch Pricing – UK Yawns

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 09:32 AM PDT


While Spotify has only just made it over the US – after about 3 years of threatening to – there’s a slightly lesser known streaming music startup which has yet to even launch in the UK.

This is despite amassing 20 million users worldwide, most of them in its native France.

Deezer has now revealed its pricing for the UK. Excuse us if we don’t break out the champagne. It’ll have the well established We7 and Spotify to contend with.

Deezer launches in the UK in September with 13 million licensed tracks, “dozens” of radio channels, 30,000 artist-based radio channels and thousands of artists' discographies, biographies and reviews.

The site works on web, mobile, and, unusually, is geared up for IP Sound Systems including Sonos and Logitech Squeezebox. It’s not doing too mad on subscribers – 6 million unique visitors per month, 1.2 million premium subscribers.

The options will be:

Discovery Mode (Free) – The Discovery Mode on PC/Mac and mobile devices will allow you to listen to radio channels and smart radio (unlimited listening) and to music on demand in 30-sec clips

Free Trial – A 15-day free trial. You have the ability to unsubscribe during the 15 days, no commitment, no payment due

Premium – £4.99/month – Unlimited streaming on any PC/Mac in enhanced sound quality, no ads.

Premium+ – £9.99/month – Unlimited streaming, on PC/Mac and all handheld devices online or offline

Pogoplug Debuts New Hardware For Streaming To Mobile Devices

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 08:57 AM PDT

Mobile 45 Front f

Cloud Engines, Inc., makers of the Pogoplug line of devices and accompanying software, are launching a new hardware product today called Pogoplug Mobile. The device works like the company’s current Pogoplug product – you attach your hard drive or drives, plug it into your router and instantly have your own personal cloud. In short, it’s like a NAS (network-attached storage) box for your home.

But with the new Pogoplug Mobile, the system has been optimized for use with mobile devices. It’s more of a “mobile accessory,” says CEO Daniel Putterman. That’s why you’ll soon find it on the shelf next the Bluetooth headsets, and not hidden away in the hard drive aisle, he says.

Pogoplug devices have typically appealed to the DIY, “host-it-yourself” crowd, who eschew using the cloud storage offerings maintained by big companies like Google, Amazon, Apple or Microsoft, or the online services from smaller startups like and Dropbox. Instead of paying for storage as a service, often through monthly or yearly fees, Pogoplug only requires a one-time investment: the cost of the hardware and software.

For Pogoplug Mobile, that price is $79.99 – a bit cheaper than the original device, which is still $99. The software product, which also works with the newly launched hardware, is $29. However, the software is an optional, if highly practical, add-on.

With the Pogoplug Mobile device, which works with iOS and Android via mobile apps, there are new features that the original Pogoplug doesn’t offer. For example, Pogoplug Mobile automatically backs up the photos and videos on your mobile phone to your home network. For those familiar with Google+’s “instant upload” feature for Android users, the effect is the similar. Requiring no effort on your part beyond the initial configuration, your mobile photos and videos are not only archived for you, but also converted to streamable and bite-sized formats for easier mobile sharing.

Users can control whether the syncing occurs over 3G or Wi-Fi, and whether the original media, the converted file or both should be sent back home. Android users also have the option of syncing additional directories, too, via the Settings.

So why would anyone want to use a Pogoplug when there are other options out there? As noted above, some prefer a one-time charge over a recurring fee, while other simply prefer being in control themselves. Plus, even in the case of Apple’s forthcoming iCloud, only the most recent 1,000 photos are stored in the cloud for 30 days – in order to not lose them, you still have to sync your device to your PC or Mac to keep them forever. With Pogoplug, there’s more of a “set it and forget it” appeal.

Still, despite its desire to be seen as more of a mobile add-on, the company will likely be challenged to explain these sorts of differences to end users, who are wooed by Apple’s “it just works” marketing surrounding iCloud. Why buy hardware when Apple does everything for you? Indeed, why think at all about where files live and in what format? Although Pogoplug has always had a bit of geek appeal, its desire to go mainstream is clearly visible with this product launch. Whether it can cross over remains to be seen.

Mosaid Acquires 2,000+ Nokia Patents, Will Handle Licensing & Litigation For A Cut

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 08:36 AM PDT


While the patent wars continue to rage on, a recent move by Nokia may signal an aggressive new stance on handling patent infringement. Canadian IP firm Mosaid has announced a strategic purchase through which they gain control of nearly 2,000 patents out of Nokia’s library. The price tag for such a hefty acquisition? Absolutely nothing.

The patents, while originally filed by Nokia, were in the possession of Luxembourg-based Core Wireless Licensing. As the new owner of the patents, Mosaid will spin Core Wireless off into its own entity to handle licensing and litigation of Nokia’s technologies. Instead of having to pay out of pocket for Core Wireless, an agreement has been struck to split the income generated from licensing agreements and settlements against patent infringers.

Mosaid’s share of the proceeds will be 1/3, with the remaining funds going to Nokia and Microsoft respectively.

Of the roughly 2,000 patents Mosaid now has in their vault, CEO John Lindberg claims that a full 1,215 of them are viewed as essential to the use and operation of wireless systems — much more than the 500 found among Nortel’s patents. With his company looking at a potential hostile buyout by local competitor WiLAN, the acquisition may help to stave off that bit of corporate unpleasantness. Still, the fact that Mosaid is currently teetering on the edge of being acquired may actually help Nokia in the long run.

Big companies have been on the receiving end of Nokia’s patent-related ire, with Apple being one of the Finnish company’s most recent targets. Now that the Nokia’s financial performance is tied to that of Mosaid and the Core, Nokia has a pretty slick deal going. It would be in Mosaid’s best interest to play the bulldog and aggressively pursue not only licensing opportunities, but hefty settlements against companies that infringe on the Nokia patents. Meanwhile, Nokia benefits from whatever Mosaid manages to bring in, but without looking like they’re going on a wild suing spree. Well played.

[Globe and Mail, via The Next Web]

PlayHaven’s New Platform Lets iOS Developers Tweak Their Apps On The Fly

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 08:15 AM PDT


The iOS App Store is quite the volatile place. Even if you manage to fight your app up to the top of the charts, keeping it up there is an entirely new challenge. You’ve got to know exactly what’s working with your users — and more importantly, you’ve got to be able to mix things up quickly when you find things that aren’t.

Alas, mixing things up quickly on the App Store is inherently a bit difficult. Even if you can crank out everything required for your app update in a week or two, you can never be too sure if Apple’s review process will take a day, a week, or a month.

This morning, PlayHaven is launching a new platform that allows iOS developers to launch and test content campaigns within their apps without requiring another trip through the approval arena.

The idea is pretty simple, but it’s a clever one: PlayHaven’s platform lets developers design and fire off what they call “Dynamic Overlays”, which are essentially quickly customizable HTML5 pop-ups that engage the user and can fire off underlying code.

Now, what the hell does that mean? Here’s some examples of what you can do:

  • Rewards: Want to give your users a bit of in-game currency for playing on Christmas? Or Easter? Or Secretary’s Day? Tuck in PlayHaven’s APIs, drop in your code to allow currency rewards, and submit those changes — once it’s approved, you can schedule/change/cancel rewards on-the-fly without requiring updates each and every time.
  • Announce updates: PlayHaven can detect when a user is using an old version of an app, then automatically pop up a graphical alert explaining why they should update.
  • Game promotion: Launching a new game? Toss up an alert in your currently available games letting players know.

These are the most obvious ideas, but there’s plenty of room for creativity here. These Dynamic Overlays can be triggered by just about anything: scheduled dates, version number, accessing a specific part of the application, etc., which should make them pretty flexible.

PlayHaven also makes it pretty simple to figure out what’s working and what’s not, with a full analytics dashboard sitting on the backend. So you launched a campaign in your crazy space shooter advertising your new zombie flower-planting game, but no one is clicking? Tweak the graphic to make the zombie a bit bloodier and your flowers a bit brighter, push the new overlay, and measure the changes in click-throughs and conversion rate on-the-fly.

PlayHaven has quickly found some pretty serious traction for the platform, already naming heavy-hitters like Halfbrick (Fruit Ninja), DistinctDev (The Moron Test), and Glu (with their bajillions of games) as committed partners.

You can find more information on PlayHaven’s new platform here.


PlayHaven is a real-time mobile game marketing platform with a reach of 35 million unique users, driving 100 million monthly game sessions. Since its launch in May 2010, PlayHaven...

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Toshiba Announces The First Ultrabook, The Portégé Z830

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:55 AM PDT


It’s taken long enough, but it seems that with Intel’s Ultrabook spec, PC laptop makers are actually starting to put together a few notebooks that are competitive with the svelte and successful MacBook Air. The first out of the gate were a bit pricey, but Toshiba has just announced a sub-$1000 unit that doesn’t compromise too much on power. And it’s sure thin enough.

Let’s just get the specs stated:

  • 0.63″ (15.9mm) thick
  • 13.3″ LED-backlit display (1366×768)
  • 2.5 pounds
  • Intel Core i3, i5, i7 processors
  • Onboard Intel HD 3000 graphics
  • 128GB SSD
  • Magnesium alloy chassis with “honeycomb structure” for rigidity
  • Backlit, spill-resistant keyboard
  • 2xUSB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0 (right side), HDMI and VGA out
  • 1.3-megapixel webcam
  • Fingerprint reader (optional, on B2B model)

RAM wasn’t specified. I asked Toshiba for clarification on specs and pricing, but “under $1000″ was all they were willing to disclose. They also claim the sound system is enhanced, but compared to what is not clear. Small laptops like this one generally have pretty awful sound due simply to the limitations placed on the size, depth, and placement of the speaker drivers. Presumably Toshiba is proud to have approached those limitations as closely as possible, which is as much as anyone can do.

Whether it’s actually competitive depends on what you actually get for that low, low price. Could be a bargain, could be a hard bargain. We’ll have to wait for Toshiba to spill.

As for the design, it’s thin, angular, and efficient, but I wouldn’t say it sets itself apart much. You certainly can’t fault it on thickness or weight, though it lacks the unified single-shape design of the Air (I’m not sure how I feel about seeing through the sides there). Here’s a little gallery of the most representative shots:

As for availability, expect it in November. Hold onto your wallets, though. We expect similar submissions to the Ultrabook field from Asus, Acer (theirs leaked this morning), and others before year’s end, perhaps with a sweeter price or configuration.

Toshiba Unveils The Thinnest Honeycomb Tablet Yet, The 7.7mm-thick AT200

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:54 AM PDT


Just like the rumor stated, Toshiba used IFA 2011 to announce its latest Android tablet and it’s just as tiny as it looked. The AT200 packs a 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4430 CPU, up to 64GB of memory, and most of the ports that made the Toshiba Thrive popular: micro-USB, microSD, and micro-HDMI. Toshiba claims that the battery is good for “eight hours of video consumption.”

The Samsung Galaxy Tab suddenly looks a bit thick. The new Toshiba AT200 measures in at just 7.7mm, which is nearly a full millimeter less than both the slender GalTab and the iPad 2. But unlike the Galaxy Tab, the AT200 shouldn’t be mistaken for an Apple tablet. From the port locations, to the rear camera location, to the entire backplate, the AT200 looks nothing like an iPad. In fact, the brushed aluminum back looks wonderful and full dispels any myth created by the fugly Thrive Android tablet that Toshiba doesn’t know how design beautiful products anymore.

Toshiba failed to include within the presser expected release date or price. That said, the Android 3.2 tablet will likely ship rather soon as Google is set to unveil the next incarnation of Android dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich within the coming months.


Toshiba unveils its world-class, ultra-thin, ultra-light tablet

Toshiba AT200 tablet built to exceed expectations at only 7.7mm thin and 558g with full 10.1″ screen

Neuss, Germany, 1st

September 2011 – Toshiba Europe GmbH unveiled an exciting new product today – the ultra-thin 25.7cm (10.1”) AT200 tablet. Despite measuring only 7.7mm from front to back, the Toshiba AT200 delivers a broad range of essential ports and interfaces. It offers an amazing wide-view display for comfortable content consumption plus full web browsing capabilities to meet the preferred usage for tablets. Every bit as powerful as it is stylish and robust, this tablet is built to exceed expectations. The Toshiba AT200 will be available in the fourth quarter of 2011 in Europe.

Ultra-thin, ultra-powerful

“The new ultra-thin 25.7cm (10.1″) tablet Toshiba AT200, featuring Android™ 3.2, Honeycomb, is the latest in a long line of Toshiba products that are masterfully engineered”, said Marco Perino, General Manager DS Digital Products Division. “With a thickness of only 7.7mm and a weight of just 558g, the elegant Toshiba AT200 is highly mobile yet extremely smart and powerful.”

All essentials on-board

To connect with other devices the ultra-slim tablet comes with all essential interfaces and ports onboard: amongst them micro-USB, micro-SD, Wi-Fi™ and Bluetooth®. The micro-HDMI ®-port allows streaming HD content to the large screen of a TV. Front and back HD cameras are ideal for video conferencing and augmented reality applications.

High-quality media consumption – no matter where you are

The Toshiba AT200 allows users to enjoy videos at home and while out and about. It features a brilliant 25.7cm (10.1″) high-definition screen that displays pictures with crisp colours and in full detail.

Despite being ultra-thin, it allows up to eight hours of video consumption.

Sound quality at its best

To complement the first-class video capabilities the new Toshiba tablet with stereo speakers allows for a high quality sound playback. The Adaptive Sound Device Enhancer’s sophisticated algorithm maximises sound quality to achieve a quality that normally only can be found with large speakers. Plus, a technology called Sound Masking Equalizer identifies and enhances sound that is being masked or distorted by surrounding noise. The result is a well- balanced, powerful playback of music and video sounds even under high ambient noise levels.

Endless usage possibilities

Toshiba’s new tablet also offers a rich web browsing experience including support of Adobe® Flash® Player, access to more than 250,000 apps on Android Market™ and Toshiba Places for endless possibilities.

Stand Well Back – Media Giant Pearson Releases Developer API

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:32 AM PDT


Let’s all agree that traditional media companies have, for the most part, struggled with the Internet. It turned up on their doorstep a few years ago and, like a startled bull in a china shop, startled smashing up their business models.

Eventually various media outlets started releasing APIs so that third party developers could innovate on their platforms – although it’s been a double-edged sword. The Guardian newspaper released a full content API, advertising based, only for it for be used in an iPhone app called Today’s News which carried ads for the developer. That eventually got nixed.

Today international media giant Pearson is throwing its hat into the ring with its Plug & Play platform. This allows developers and startups to access three main datasets: the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness Guide to London and the FT Press business book publisher (that’s different form the Financial Times itself which has famously tangled with Apple recently).

Luckily that’s not all you’ll get. More datasets are planned for release, based on feedback.

A showcase shows how the data is being used so far. This includes an Android App with the Eyewitness Guide to London API.

Of course, the issue is always whether developers can monetise apps based on this kind of content and whether the media provider doesn’t one day turn around and stamp on something. But for now it’s looking good.

Launch Date:

Pearson is an international media and education company with businesses in education, business information and consumer publishing.

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Toshiba’s FlashAir SDHC Cards Pack Wireless LAN

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:31 AM PDT


There’s a whole lot going on at IFA right now, and while big announcements like the new Wave phones or Sony’s rather odd Android tablets get all the love, the little ones deserve some spotlight too. Toshiba has announced that they will launch the world’s first SDHC memory card with Wireless LAN functionality.

I know what you’re thinking: that sounds an awful lot like what the Eye-Fis do. You’re right, but only to an extent: while products like Eye-Fi’s Pro X2 allow users to upload photos directly from a camera to a computer or a smartphone, the transfers will only ever move in one direction.

Toshiba’s FlashAir cards can do that just fine, but the real fun comes in the form of peer-to-peer transfers. Owners of FlashAir compliant cameras can send and receive photos between each other, adding an extra level of functionality that should stand to set FlashAir apart.

While Toshiba neglects to mention any pricing details, the first FlashAir SDHC cards should see the sales floor in February 2012. Only the 8 GB Class 6 model is on display in Germany right now, but expect to see a few more size options pop up between now and then.

If the FlashAir ever reaches the widespread adoption rates Toshiba must be hoping for, it’ll be easier than ever to swap embarrassing photos while on the go. The big question: is this a blessing or a curse?

PSA: Netflix Price Hike Rolls Out Today

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:31 AM PDT


Netflix adjusted its pricing back in July. The new two-plan system started immediately for new subscribers with current subs having until today, September 1st, to opt out of the higher-priced plans before they’re charged 60% more.

The good news, in case you forgot like, is that as Hacking Netflix points out, it really doesn’t hit current customers until their first billing date after September 1st. This of course means more procrastination!

It only takes a few seconds to determine your billing date. Jump over to Netflix, sign in and click the link in the top right corner labeled Your Account & Help. The top most section should have your billing date listed. In case you’re still raging from the price increase, this screen will allow you to give Netflix the finger and cancel your account entirely or drop down to a lower-priced option.

Netflix claimed that the 60% price increase was required to keep the DVD rental side of the business profitable. The company also internally separated streaming and DVD into their own divisions for better management and growth. Hopefully this change, along with the increase in price, will allow Netflix to grow and expand the streaming library. I’m getting rather tired of watching the same Power Rangers episodes over and over again.

Launch Date:
23/5/2003, NASDAQ:NFLX

With more than 23.3 million members in the United States and Canada, Netflix, Inc. is the world's leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For $7.99...

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PayPal Adds Visa Exec To Run Fast Growing Payments Business In Asia

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:24 AM PDT


PayPal is boosting its leadership in Asia today with the addition of Visa exec Rupert Keeley. Keeley is joining eBay-owned PayPal to run its payments business in the Asia Pacific market.

This is a win for PayPal because Keeley has significant experience in managing payments services in Asia and other international markets. Prior to joining PayPal, Keeley served as President for the International businesses of Visa, where he was responsible for all of Visa’s businesses outside the Americas. He also previously was the Group President of Asia Pacific regions of Visa, and head of strategy and corporate development at Visa. Prior to joining Visa in 1999, he worked for Standard Chartered PLC.

PayPal president Scott Thompson says that the company’s Asia Pacific business is growing faster than any other market in the world, especially in China. He adds that e-commerce markets in Australia and Japan also represent potential for the business.

At PayPal, Keeley will will drive PayPal’s ‘aggressive regional growth strategy,’ work on adding new talent, and will develop relationships with customers and partners in Asia.

For more on Visa’s future payments strategy, read How Visa Plans To Dominate Mobile Payments, Create The Digital Wallet And More.

CloudFlare, Dropbox, Palantir And Kickstarter Named Technology Pioneers By The World Economic Forum

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 07:07 AM PDT

The World Economic

Every year the World Economic Forum picks a number of up-and-coming technology startups from around the world and dubs them Technology Pioneers. Past members of this club include Google, Mozilla, Mint, Etsy, Twitter, Amiando, Playfish, Obopay, and Brightcove

Today, The World Economic Forum announced 25 new members of the 2012 class of Technology Pioneers, who will be honored at a conference in China in September. This year’s group includes CloudFlare, DoubleVerify, Dropbox, Kickstarter, Lending Club, and Palantir Technologies.

CloudFlare, which was a TechCrunch Disrupt runner-up last Fall, offers a service that protects websites from online threats, promises and increase in page load speeds, and more. The startup made recently waves when it was revealed the security service was being used by infamous hackers LulzSec. And CloudFare just announced a $20 million round of funding.

File sharing company Dropbox is on a roll of late, with its 25 million users (many of which are paying), uploading 200 million files a day. The company is expected to announce a $200 million to $300 million  funding round soon, which could value the company at a whopping $4 billion.

Founded in 2004 by former PayPal employees and Stanford computer scientists, Palantir offers a high-powered analysis platform for businesses and governments. The company analyzes a variety of data including structured, unstructured, relational, temporal, and geospatial content. The virtue of of Palantir is that it accepts huge databases and allows users to slice and dice this information. The company has raised a massive $175 million, most recently adding $50 million to its coffers.

Crowd-funding website Kickstarter allows anyone with an idea for a film, album, art project, or product to make their pitch, say how much they need to get started, and ask for pledges. Once the minimum amount needed is pledged, the project gets started. To date, Kickstarter has helped fund more than 25,000 projects, with $75 million pledged.

According to the organization, Technology Pioneers are chosen on the basis how innovative a company is, the potential impact on society, growth and sustainability, proof of concept, leadership and more.

Appsfire Announces Open Source UDID Replacement For iOS: OpenUDID

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:59 AM PDT


Appsfire, a mobile application marketing platform, is introducing its own solution for the issue created by Apple’s decision to phase out developer access to the UDID (unique device identifier) on iOS devices. It’s called OpenUDID. As you may have guessed by the name, this is an open source UDID initiative.

In other words, it’s an attempt at creating a non-proprietary solution that aims to replace all that was lost, and in which all stakeholders can participate.

The change to UDID access was noted in a recent set of iOS5 release notes, where it was listed as "deprecated." The UDID, for those unaware, is an alphanumeric string unique to each Apple device, which is currently used by mobile ad networks, game networks, analytics providers, developers and app testing systems, like TestFlight, for example. In some cases, developers are even using the UDID to verify whether users are accessing their app from a new device.

By removing access to the UDID in iOS5, Apple has thrown an entire ecosystem into chaos.

Last week, mobile gaming network OpenFeint introduced a its UDID alternative called OFUID, which provides a solution for the gaming developer community. Users who opt-in to OpenFeint’s new single-sign on system thereby give the developer access to this OFUID, a universal account system for the gaming network's cross-platform users. The OFUID lets developers track users’ behavior across apps, and helps with their ad targeting efforts.

But this system was criticized as being an incomplete UDID replacement, and for its proprietary nature.

The newly proposed OpenUDID will be different.

Says Appsfire:

 As Appsfire is both a developer of consumer apps and an ad network, we sought a UDID replacement but were not interested in a solution owned by any single provider. We also foresaw a fragmented market where UDID management was operated by multiple providers with no cooperation between them. To help ourselves and thousands of other mobile app developers, we began working on the OpenUDID open source initiative.

The company says that it wants to work with others to provide a reliable proxy and replacement for a universal unique device identifier on a per device basis. It also wants to enable OpenUDID to be accessed by any app, supply open-source code to generate and access the OpenUDID for iOS (and later, Android), and incorporate, from the beginning, a system that will enable users to opt-out.

That latter requirement is in there because the new system should “match Apple’s initial intent,” explains AppsFire. Apple isn’t saying why it made the decision to remove the UDID. It may have made the change in response to previous privacy concerns or as a way to pre-empt future concerns. But in either case, it’s clear the company is taking a step to further respect its users’ privacy via the UDID removal. The new open source system should respect Apple’s decision in the matter.

Appsfire has published a simple Objective-C class that provides a one-line replacement to take advantage of the OpenUDID on github. All mobile app developers are invited to join in the testing process now, the company says.

The URL also points to the new github page.

Launch Date:

AppsFire produces a discovery platform for both iOS and Android mobile applications that allows users to share and distribute their favorite apps.

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Strobe Launches Game-Changing HTML5 App Platform

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:58 AM PDT


Today, Strobe Inc. is launching a new platform that helps developers build HTML5-based Web applications for desktops, smartphones and tablets, and centrally manage them from a single interface.

The launch is a major leap forward in HTML5 app development. From one interface, teams can manage code (both test code and production code), configure the app’s deployment across platforms (Web, Android, iOS, etc.), add additional services (social, push notifications, authentication, etc.), and even track analytics within an easy-to-use dashboard.

In short, it’s a comprehensive platform that makes building apps with Web technologies, like HTML5 and JavaScript, not just possible, but easy, straightforward and fast.

The company was co-founded by Ruby on Rails Core Team member Carl Lerche, Ruby on Rails, jQuery and SproutCore Core team member Yehuda Katz, and Charles Jolley, formerly the JavaScript Frameworks Manager for Apple. At Apple, Jolley worked on Apple’s Web products like MobileMe and iCloud. He’s also the creator of the open source JavaScript framework, SproutCore, which powered Apple’s Web services and is now a key part of the Strobe platform.

In addition to SproutCore, Strobe also uses PhoneGap, the popular HTML5 app platform. PhoneGap lets developers author apps using Web technologies then deliver them in a native wrapper to the iTunes App Store, Android Marketplace and other app stores. It also happens to integrate nicely with SproutCore.

What Strobe Offers Now vs. What’s Coming Soon

Although the Strobe platform aims to offer a complete set of tools for building apps and deploying them across platforms, while in beta testing, some of Strobe’s features are still limited. For example, the analytics product is coming in a few weeks and the only mobile platforms supported at this time are iOS and Android. Also, the social addon, which lets developers add Facebook and Twitter sharing features to their apps, is the only one available now.

But these are only temporary restrictions.

Strobe already has plans for more platforms on its roadmap, and will soon launch addons for authentication, push notifications and persistence (data-saving). In some cases, Strobe will write the addons itself, but in other cases, it will partner with service providers. Although no deals have been confirmed at this time, backend-as-a-service providers like Parse and StackMob immediately come to mind as good fits for Strobe integration.

Using Strobe To Improve App Discovery

By combining an app’s desktop Web version with its native version (built with Web technologies), Strobe isn’t just simplifying the development, deployment and tracking of apps, it’s also opening up more mechanisms for discovery too.

Strobe developers can configure the Web version of an app to point to the native app, in order to help convert the app’s casual users in more engaged native apps users who are more likely to spend money on virtual goods and upgrades.

Also, by typing the two experiences of native and Web together, the Strobe social addon can be configured to help users share exact points within a mobile game, for example, which anyone on the Web could click on via a shared link, and immediately play.  That’s potentially a discovery tool more powerful than rankings, press releases, blog posts, recommendation engines or monetization schemes.

Discovery, which is one of the toughest challenges the app industry has ever faced, is the ultimate end game for Strobe, and the HTML5-powered apps it helps build.

The Strobe developer preview is now open and pricing info is available here.

Strobe previously raised $2.5 million Series A in December, led by O'Reilly AlphaTech and Hummer Winblad. It will raise another round closer to the time of its public launch, planned for later this fall.

Launch Date:

Strobe Inc. provides software and cloud services for touch-centric applications on the web. Based on a blend of technologies, like native, HTML5 and SproutCore, Strobe apps offer a high-quality...

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Samsung Unveils Dual-Core Galaxy Tab 7.7 And 5.3-Inch Galaxy Note

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:43 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-09-01 at 9.31.33 AM

Size matters. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Samsung understands this, and has thus tried to build a tablet for just about any size pocket or backpack you may own. We all know about the GalTab 10.1 and 8.9, but today even smaller models join the pack. At the IFA conference in Berlin, Samsung today announced the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note.

And if some size variation isn’t enough, Samsung has also shaken things up in the design department. Neither of these noobs look very similar to the original Galaxy Tab 10.1. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, seeing that the GalTab is under heavy fire from Apple for allegedly imitating iPad “trade dress.” Either way, these two slates from Samsung are something new, and that’s all we’re ever asking for.

The 7-incher sports a Super AMOLED Plus display, which is just about as good as it can get. We’ve got a 1.4GHz dual-core processing chip under the hood, Wi-Fi channel bonding to improve connection and speed, and support for HSPA+. The 5,100 mAh battery is said to offer up to 10 hours of video playback. Pretty impressive for a slate that measures in at 196.7mm x 133mm x 7.89mm, and weighs less than a pound (0.73 lbs to be exact).

The slate runs Android 3.2 Honeycomb and the latest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UX. A 3-megapixel rear shooter comes with auto focus and LED flash (and 1080p video capture), with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat. The slate comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavors with microSD card support up to 32GB.

The 7-incher’s great, and I’ve always been a fan of this size slate. To me, it is much better than the standard iPad-esque 10-inch form factor when it comes to gaming, as the iPad is just a tad too large to hold with one hand. At least for me. But what’s more interesting is the even smaller Galaxy slate, Samsung’s Galaxy Note.

The Note sports a 5.3-inch Super AMOLED display, with overall dimensions of 110mm × 58.2mm × 12.3mm. That’s pretty teeny for a tablet. Like it’s big brother, the Note also runs on a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, but gets bumped down to Android 2.3 Gingerbread instead of Honeycomb. Oddly enough the camera on this little guy is better than that of the 7-inch GalTab, clocking at 8 megapixels in the back and 2 megapixels up front. The rear camera is also capable of video capture in 1080p.

The Note also comes equipped with a special type of stylus called the S Pen, which is meant to make it easier to mark down data on the go. Whether that actually holds true is a mystery until we get our hands on the Note and its famed S Pen. The Note has support for HSPA+ and WiFi, but is also an LTE-capable device.

Now you might think that a 5.3-inch display is infringing on smartphone turf, but I’m going to disagree and here’s why: Have you ever seen someone talking on the Samsung Infuse? It has a 4.5-inch display, and when held up against someone’s face, it looks kind of enormous. Chances are, smartphone displays won’t get too much bigger than that. At least, we hope not.

Either way, these should shake things up a bit in the tablet space. With IP wars raging across the world, differentiation should be a major focus. And what better way to set yourself apart than to create an entirely new size category.

If you can’t get enough, we’ve added Samsung’s introductory video for the Galaxy Note after the break.

Bitdefender Launches Anti-Malware Protection For Twitter

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:34 AM PDT


“Did you see this photo of you?” “Look on your face in this pix is priceless!” “LMAO this video of you is funny!” 

If you’re a regular Twitter user, you’ve probably see tweets like those come through as @replies or direct messages at some point. And you probably know not to click on the accompanying link. After all, there is no picture of you behind it, only a malicious web page set up by a criminal that wants to scam you, spam you or worse – infect your computer with malware.

But now there’s a tool that gives you added protection against these sorts of threats. Bitdefender’s new Safego protection for Twitter scans your profile for spam, phishing attempts and malware, and automatically notifies you when threats are detected.

Similar to the company’s Safego Facebook app, the new Twitter protection (now in beta), uses the same anti-malware and anti-phishing engines to scan the URLs posted to your profile.

The service checks unknown users before you follow them, checks the accounts of people you’re following and scans direct messages for spam, suspicious links and highjacking attempts. Threats are ranked by their severity as red, yellow, grey (low threat) or green (no threat). An optional setting can also warn your friends if it finds their accounts have been compromised.

But the service stops short of deleting tweets or unfollowing users on your behalf – it notifies you via direct message instead.

To use the service, you simply sign in with Twitter and authorize the Bitdefender Safego application as you would any other third-party app. You can then scan Twitter users’ profiles, your Twitter timeline and your direct messages, as well as configure any necessary settings.

The app is clearly in its development period, I must warn. The first time I tried it,  there were issues authenticating my account and I was directed to the Bitdefender 404 page. But because the app is in beta right now, I supposed I’ll give it a pass for the crash. It’s stable at present (if a bit slow). And, let’s face it, the app is providing a much-need service for the spam-overridden, link-filled social network that is today’s Twitter.

While the service did an OK job with detecting obvious threats upon its initial scan, I was surprised that it had some big misses too. For example, it claimed some anonymous link-tweeting profile was safe, when it was clearly a spam bot.

Still, this app is notable because of its uniqueness. After checking with several security firms for similar products, the closest we could come up with was McAfee Mobile Security’s SiteAdvisor, which scans links in all social networking sites, including Twitter. But none of the firms connected had heard of a dedicated anti-malware app just for Twitter.

But as with anything security-related, you can’t just trust software alone to do the job for you – you need to use a little common sense, too.

Launch Date:

BitDefender™ provides security solutions to satisfy the protection requirements of today’s computing environment, delivering effective threat management to home and corporate users. BitDefender products eatures antivirus, firewall, antispyware, antispam and...

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IBM Buys Risk Management Analytics Company Algorithmics For $387 million

Posted: 01 Sep 2011 06:27 AM PDT


Is IBM making up for lost time? After acquiring crime data intelligence software developer i2 yesterday, Big Blue is announcing another purchase this morning. The company is buying Canadian risk management analytics software developer Algorithmics for $387 million.

Algorithmics’ risk analytics software, content and advisory services are used by banks, investment and insurance businesses to help assess risk, address regulatory requirements and make more insightful business decisions. Basically, the software quantifies, manages and optimizes company risk exposure across a range of financial risk domains including market, liquidity, credit, operational and insurance risk as well as economic and regulatory capital risk.

The company has more than 350 clients, including 25 of the top 30 banks and a number of leading insurers, use Algorithmics’ analytics software and advisory services. Clients include The Allianz Group, BlueCrest, HSBC, Nedbank, Nomura, Societe Generale, and Scotia Capital.

IBM says that the acquisition will expand the company’s business analytics offerings for the financial services industry. Algorithmics’ risk analytics software and services will be paired with risk compliance technologies IBM acquired from OpenPages last year to provide clients with a range of business analytics software solutions.

IBM is making a big bet on business analytics, and has spent $14 billion on acquisitions in this area in the past five years. And Big Blue’s Business Analytics and Optimization team has more than 8,000 consultants including 200 mathematicians with more than 500 patents and a network of analytics solution centers.

As we wrote yesterday, this is only one of a handful of acquisitions IBM has made this year. Unlike 2010 (IBM spent $6 billion to acquire 17 companies in 2010), 2011 has been a relatively low-key year for IBM in terms of buying companies. This year’s purchases include real estate software company Tririga. But considering the past two days of purchases, perhaps IBM is set to begin a shopping spree in the second half of 2011.

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