Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

The Mystery Of The 8MP iPhone 5 Sushi Picture

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 08:41 AM PDT


That rather bland looking meal right there could have been captured with an iPhone 5. That’s what the Internet says at least. The picture’s EXIF says it was taken with an iPhone 4, but the cropped image resolution of 2235×2291 (5.12 megapixels) is larger than the iPhone 4′s sensor can capture. The original, unedited picture was just shy of 8MP, which is in line with the rumors concerning the iPhone 5. Plus, as if that evidence wasn’t enough, the image’s embedded data gives the GPS coordinates of 37.33216667,-122.03033333 — that’s 1 Infinite Loop, Apple’s HQ.

The evidence just keeps pilling on: the f-stop is slightly higher than that of the iPhone 4, the maker of the camera is labeled of Apple, and the image is marked with AppleMark, somewhat indicating that the image was imported to a OS X computer through Image Capture.

But images can be edited. EXIF info can be altered. A similar image popped up before the iPad 2′s launch claiming to be captured from the upcoming iPad 2. However, it turned out to be taken with an iPhone 4 and uploaded to Flickr through an app that changed the photo’s data. That could be happening here although the AppleMark seems to say a computer was used somewhere in the process.

Pocketnow fails to give the source of the image, but they did post the original image along with the story that it was shot by an Apple engineer during lunch who clearly enjoys the most boring avocado rolls.

Click here for the full image.

Google Fails To Hire The ‘GooglePleaseHire.Me’ Guy

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 07:23 AM PDT


Remember Matthew Epstein, the guy that wanted to work at Google so badly that he created an interesting campaign in order to get the search and advertising giant’s attention? Well he did get their attention, partly because we urged Google to hire Epstein as fast as human-resourcesly possible.

That said, at some point the company apparently lost interest in communicating with Epstein.

In an update posted to his blog this morning, Mr. Moustache says he has landed his ‘dream’ job – but not at Google.

Writes Epstein:

Well mustachios, three weeks and nearly half-a-million YouTube views later my quest to land my dream job has finally come to an end. In the past three weeks I've interviewed with many of the major tech companies in New York, Seattle and San Francisco. It's been an incredible ride and an extremely humbling one to say the least. I received offers, rejections and everything in-between but in the end I was fortunate enough to have been given an offer that would allow me to fulfill my dream job.

That offer came from a young San Francisco company called SigFig, and Epstein says he “turned down two household-name tech companies” to join the startup, which hasn’t yet publicly released its product but apparently aims to “bring transparency to the investment world”.

So what about Google? Epstein does his best to not paint Google in a bad light whatsoever, but the way the company acted as described below does seem kind of peculiar:

No, Google didn't hire me nor did they extend an offer to me. That's right ladies and gentleman – the big G turned me down. Why you ask? I've thought a lot about it and in all honesty I don't know why. Unfortunately Google didn't tell me why I didn't receive the job but in in their defense withholding that type of information is a pretty standard HR practice amongst large corporations.

Maybe it was my personality? Maybe it was my GPA? Maybe I answered a question wrong? Maybe I presented an incorrect solution to a theoretical problem? Maybe I didn't do enough to verbalize my thought process? Maybe I posted something on my blog they didn't like?

From day one of my campaign I told you all I wasn't entitled to a job at Google just because I dug into my savings and created a campaign for them. At the end of the day they judged me on the same criteria they judge every other candidate on and I didn't meet those criteria – plain and simple. Regardless of the reasoning behind Google's decision, I fully respect their choice and think no less of them. Google has great people and great products. Everyone at Google was nothing but kind to me – from the employees that e-mailed me with good luck wishes to the recruiters that made me sweat during my interviews.

Yesterday was Epstein’s first day at SigFig. The moustache is gone. My spider senses appear to be worthless. More details and stats right here.

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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Netflix Tightens The Reins On The Number Of Concurrent Video Streams Per Account — UPDATE

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 06:55 AM PDT

netflix likes the cash

Netflix is clearly on the prowl for some extra cash and just closed a popular loophole. The company’s terms of service has long restricted the number of concurrent video streams to the number of DVDs the user was able to rent at a time. Have a one DVD-at-a-time plan? Per the TOS, you were able to have one Netflix video stream going at a time. Two DVDs at a time? Two video streams. But it was just loosely enforced with a random pop-up message. That is until now.

Starting over the holiday weekend, users instantly received a new error message if they used more than their allotted streams. This message, shown after the jump, kindly indicates to the offending user that a movie is already being watched on this account. This is bad news bears for those freeloading on someone else’s Netflix account.

Nothing has changed in Netflix’s terms of service; the company is just now enforcing its policies. This comes just after the infamous price increases that forced current subscribers to fork over 60% more cash for the same level of service. Now, if a user or family wants to watch Netflix streaming on various devices at the same time, they’re going to have to pay considerably more. The Two DVD plus Streaming plan costs $19.98 a month, three DVDs costs $23.98 and the four DVD plan runs $29.99.

Netflix’s Terms of Use

Personal Computer Requirements and Device Limitations: To enjoy watching instantly via your personal computer, your equipment must satisfy certain system requirements. Click here to view the various system requirements. To see partners who offer Netflix ready devices you may use to access our service, click here. YOU MAY INSTANTLY WATCH ON UP TO SIX UNIQUE AUTHORIZED NETFLIX READY DEVICES. YOU WILL BE ALLOWED TO INSTANTLY WATCH SIMULTANEOUSLY ON ONLY ONE SUCH DEVICE AT ANY GIVEN TIME. For certain membership plans in the United States, you may instantly watch simultaneously on more than one Netflix ready device within your household. Click here to view the number of devices on which you may simultaneously view movies & TV shows that are associated with your plan. The number of devices and concurrent streams may change without notice to you. For certain limited membership plans in the United States, your available Netflix ready device may be limited to personal computers.

Netflix’s FAQ

Can I watch movies instantly on more than one PC or Netflix-ready device?
Some membership plans allow you to watch simultaneously on more than one personal computer or Netflix-ready device. If you are on the Unlimited Streaming plan, the Unlimited Streaming + 1 DVD out-at-a-time plan or a limited streaming plan, you may watch only one device at a time.
If you are on the Unlimited Streaming + 2 DVDs out-at-a-time plan, you may watch on up to two devices at a time. Members on the Unlimited Streaming + 3 DVDs out-at-a-time plan may watch on up to three devices at a time. The maximum is four devices at a time — available for members on the Unlimited Streaming + 4-or greater DVDs out-at-a-time plan.

Netflix has every right to enforce its policies. However, the company clearly thought it best to pull the band-aid off as quick as possible by increasing the prices and hardlining on its TOS at the same time. I think I would have delayed this latest change a bit longer, though. Netflix lost most of its good-will on the last bit of news.

Update: Per Netflix’s VP of Communication, Steve Swasey, the restrictions happened in error and the company is not actively blocking concurrent video streams. Great! How ’bout you change the wording on your website then, eh?

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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InternMatch Raises $500K To Connect Students With Internships

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 03:00 AM PDT

Internship | Find Intern Jobs and Paid Internships | InternMatch

InternMatch, a 500 Startups-incubated company has raised $500,000 in funding from Netflix founder Marc Randolph, Roger Dickey, Angel Fund Social Leverage, 500 Startups and other investors. This brings InternMatch’s funding to $900,000.

InternMatch essentially helps connect students with internships. The platform attempts to do humanize the internship search process for students and allows small to medium sized businesses to recruit students who fit in with their business culture. The startup wants to replace the career fair for college students who want internships.

On InternMatch's platform, both internship seekers and employers can search for a match, receive skill and location based matching recommendations, and access tools to manage the application process (i.e. tips for resume creation, internship preparation, and more).

For companies, InternMatch provides a match guarantee—if an employer doesn't find an intern within 60 days, they get a full refund. The startup wants to set itself apart from competition by providing a dead simple UI where students can search and apply to positions easily.

InternMatch has expanded nationally, and is launching a new product today—Community Pages. Basically Community Pages is a centralized place to help employers showcase their culture through content including video, photos, Q/A, social media feeds and more.

Community Pages offer employers the option of choosing either sophisticated candidate filtering or simple integration with existing Applicant Tracking Systems. And InternMatch is launching Community Pages with a number of well-known companies including Sequoia Capital, Pixar, AOL, Wikimedia, Yelp, AOL and others.

South Africa Wants Access To BBM Messages

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 09:42 AM PDT


“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” And then times got worse, and worse, and worse. At least for RIM.

After jumping through hoops for the Saudi Arabian government, and then doing the same in India, South Africa has decided to get in on the fun and ask for access to BBM messages. The government’s reasoning was security-related, of course, but also had to do with the fact that UK has plans to do the same.

Deputy communications minister Obed Bapela told delegates at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference on Monday that “there is evidence that criminals are now using BBM to plan and execute crime. We want to review BBM like in the UK and Saudi Arabia,” reports the AFP.

And honestly, the country probably needs it. South Africa sees an average of 46 murders a day, and BBM has already proven itself a popular way to organize crime.

IndieGoGo Raises $1.5 Million For Its Crowdfunding Platform

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 09:05 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-09-07 at 8.48.08 AM

IndieGoGo, a crowdfunding platform that was founded in 2008, has raised a $1.5 million funding round led by Metamorphic Ventures and Zynga cofounder Steve Schoettler.

As with other crowdfunding services, IndieGoGo allows its users to raise money for a multitude of campaigns that can encompass anything from 3D printers to root canals. Once a user has published a campaign to the site, they can distribute it via channels including Email, Twitter, and Facebook. The site also uses an algorithm, dubbed the ‘GoGoFactor’, that determines which campaigns are featured on the homepage and the site’s outreach (the more engaged your users are, the higher you rank).

IndieGogo makes money by taking a percentage of the money that’s contributed: if you create a campaign and meet your stated goal, then IndieGoGo charges 4%; if you don’t meet that goal, IndieGoGo charges a higher 9% fee, but you get to keep the remainder of the money. (IndieGoGo competitor Kickstarter, which has gotten a lot of attention in the press recently, takes a different approach — the campaign only gets the money if it reaches its stated goal).

IndieGoGo cofounder and CEO Slava Rubin says that the site has now been used to power 40,000 campaigns since it launched, and is distributing “millions of dollars each month to customers in over 200 countries”. The company plans to use the money to build out its product team and boost marketing and customer satisfaction — he says the San Francisco-based company plans to grow from four people to twenty five.

Battery Leads $4.7M Round In Floral Delivery Service H.Bloom

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 02:00 AM PDT


Luxury floral subscription service H.Bloom $4.7 million led by Battery Ventures with participation from existing angel investors, including Brian Lee, the founder of ShoeDazzle and LegalZoom; and Anton Levy, partner at General Atlantic, and board member of Gilt Groupe. This brings H.Bloom’s total funding to $8 million.

H.Bloom is hoping to disrupt the online floral delivery service by offering floral subscription plans at affordable rates. Their basic package is $30 per floral bundle (including shipping) and can be delivered on a weekly, monthly or bi-monthly basis.

And the service delivers designer-quality arrangements (made by professional designers), to both residential and business customers, for approximately 70 percent off traditional floral boutique pricing. The startup serves New York City, Washington DC, and as of September 1st, Chicago.

The flower industry is a $32 billion flower market, explains Bryan Burkhart, co-founder and CEO, and is ripe for innovation. Retailers have to pay for expensive store-fronts and an overwhelming percentage of flowers that spoil before a customer can purchase them. H.Bloom can offer competitive pricing by working directly with the growers, cutting out traditional overhead expenses and relying on the subscription plan model, which requires 7-day notice for cancellations. H.Bloom only orders flowers they need for set customer orders.

The subscription model seems to be working. The startup has seen revenue double every other quarter since its launch in April 2010. And the company only wastes around 1 percent of its inventory. Burkhart says that the response from commercial customers, such as those who want florals in their office space, is particularly positive. For example, H.Bloom is supplying the florals for New York real estate giant Tishman Speyer’s offices.

H.Bloom will apply the new funds to hiring, expanding into new markets, and investing in sales and marketing.

If You’re Feeling S.A.D. Try A Valkee – Special Offer For TC Readers

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 08:54 AM PDT


Back in January we noticed a clever little device which claimed to ease seasonal depression – sometimes known as Seasonal Affected Disorder or SAD. The Finnish Valkee is an awesome Sci-Fi style device which literally shines light into your ear canals. Your wear it like a set of headphones on a music player.

Since then however, they’ve now been backed up by scientific proof that the brain is actually photosensitive [PDF of research]. The research shows that the brain gets more stimulation from light delivered through our ears than light delivered through our eyes.


Valkee, an Oulu, Finland-based maker of bright light headset to treat and prevent seasonal affective disorder and other depression types.

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Local Business Data Provider Locu Raises Seed Round

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 08:45 AM PDT


Locu, a data-focused startup founded by MIT graduates and computer science researchers, is closing a seed round of over $600,000 from East and West coast investors, including Factual founder Gil Elbaz, Google’s Bruno Bowden, Cloudera founder Jeff Hammerbacher, Hubspot’s Dharmesh Shah, Twitter VP of Engineering Michael Abbott, Facebook co-founder Andrew McCollum, MIT’s Ed Roberts, Jean Hammond, Matt Ocko and Mitch Roberts. Early stage investment fund Quotidian Ventures is also involved.

Locu plans to create the world’s largest real-time, structured repository of small business offerings data, such as restaurant menus, with the goal of helping better local search.

The seed round was for $623,000, to be exact. 60% came from East Coast investors (Boston, New York) with 40% from West Coast investors (San Francisco, Los Angeles). There were also a couple of other Boston-area investors involved and one other early stage fund, who did not want their name disclosed.

The startup’s founding team includes Rene Reinsberg, Marek Olszewski, Stelios Sidiroglou-Douskos and Marc Piette, and is advised by Sep Kamvar, Professor of Computational and Mathematical Engineering at Stanford. The founders’ backgrounds include an impressive array of experience with Google, Cisco, IBM, Bloomberg, VMWare, Microsoft, Sun, McKinsey and Morgan Stanley.

The founding members originally came together at MIT, where they won last year’s MIT Linked Data Ventures competition, supervised by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Since then, Locu has grown its engineering team, but is still actively looking to hire more people over the next few months.

The first product from Locu is the soon-to-launch, which is designed to be a simple way for restaurant owners to keep their menu system up-to-date. The platform will include features like automatic import from any file format, integration with Facebook and other sites across the Web, a mobile application for on-the-fly, real-time editing, and, most importantly, fast and easy updating.

According to the company homepage, restaurant owners will be able to get their menu online in less than 5 minutes, with no need to call a webmaster.

Besides being an easy-to-use platform for restaurant owners, the data within MenuPlatform is semantically-annotated (i.e., structured), too.

The end result of applying a more structured taxonomy to this sort of real-world content could then lead to improvements in local search. For example, instead of simply searching for a nearby sushi restaurant, as you would today, you could search for a sushi restaurant offering a “rainbow roll” for less than $6.00. That, of course, is just a basic example of what Locu’s technology could provide in the future.

In addition to search, developers will also be able to build rich apps around this structured local data using Locu’s APIs (application programming interfaces).

Using a combination of document analysis, machine learning and online human computation workflows, Locu’s focus going forward is building efficient technologies that digitize real-world content, it says. Menus are only the beginning.

Launch Date:

Locu Inc. is building technologies to efficiently digitize and augment real-world data. Locu strives to create the freshest, most complete data sets around local business data to help further...

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BountyJobs Lands $5M From Greylock, Accel Partners And RPM Ventures

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 08:29 AM PDT


BountyJobs, which operates an online marketplace that connects corporate recruiters with a network of headhunters, this morning announced it has secured $5 million in funding from existing investors.

The financing round was led by Greylock Partners with the London offices of Accel Partners and RPM Ventures participating.

BountyJobs currently boasts a marketplace of more than 10,000 pre-approved headhunters across the United States. Once employers are cleared to post job descriptions on the Web application, they can do so along with the fees they are willing to pay for successful hires (hence the company name).

Headhunters, in turn, request permission to work on each job.

BountyJobs chief exec Mike Hard says the additional capital will allow the company to expand software and services support for existing and future clients that regularly hire through contingent search agencies.

Launch Date:

BountyJobs is a website where employers post descriptions of the type of employees they are looking for with the “bounties” they will pay if they fill them. Headhunters...

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Adfonic Snubs VCs To Raise $7.5 Million From Super Angels

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 08:07 AM PDT


Adfonic, the European-based global mobile advertising marketplace, has raised $7.5 million (£4.7 million) to expand globally. The startup says revenue has grown ten-fold in the last 12 months. The plan is to increase headcount from 40 today to over 100 in 12 months time and open offices across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific by year end.

It’s an unusual round because its from existing investor Gordon Shields, the successful telecoms and environmental entrepreneur and investor, and a handful of other angels. You might say Super Angels. We understand the company spoke at length to VCs but didn’t go with any. That’s quite a comment on the European VC scene, which we’ve covered at length.

Redpoint And Accel Back Brazil’s Online Subscription E-Commerce Site Shoes4You

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 08:01 AM PDT


Shoes4you, a company then sells shoes through a monthly subscription model, has received a round of Series A financing, led by Redpoint Ventures and with Accel Partners Flybridge Capital Partners, Romero Rodrigues (CEO and co-founder of BuscaPĂ©), IG Expansion, and Fabrice Grinda (CEO and founder of OLX) participating. As part of the round, Redpoint partner Jeff Brody will join the Board of Directors. The company declined to disclose the amount of funding raised.

Similar to the U.S.’s Shoedazzle, Shoes4You (which launches this month) offers collections of designer shoes to its Brazilian clientele. Users visit the site, create a customized profile of their tastes and styles and Shoes4You will send them a monthly shipment of shoes that match your customized style profile. Founded by Olivier Grinda, Shoes4You, the company says it plans to launch 12 collections per year and hundreds of sub-collections throughout the year.

Grinda is actually a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded a flash sales site (Brands Club) and a group buying site (ClickOn), both of which are in Brazil.

Not only does the startup add a new e-commerce site for the growing internet market in Brazil but Shoes4You also brings the fast-growing monthly subscription model to the country. The model has seen success in the U.S. with startups like BirchBox (Accel is also an investor), Foodzie, Blissmobox, BeachMint and Babbaco all gaining traction.

Redpoint, in particular, has been bullish on investing in Brazilian markets. The venture fund has made three investments in Brazil including Shoes4You, and an investment in Brazil’s popular travel site Viajanet. Brody explains the reasoning behind investing in Shoes4You, "The demand for shoes, apparel and other fashion accessories on the Internet is exploding in Brazil. The opportunity to partner with such an experienced and motivated team to introduce the subscription e-commerce model to Brazil is truly exciting.”

Accel partner Kevin Efrusy adds "Brazil has rapidly become one of the most important markets for virtually all of our internet companies, and Olivier is someone we are excited to build a company with."

For more on Redpoint read my colleague Sarah Lacy’s recent piece: Redpoint Ventures: Making Money the Old Fashioned Way

Microsoft Job Listing Hints At Locating “Every Windows Phone Device In The World”

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 07:44 AM PDT


Microsoft has set out a pretty lofty goal for whomever applies to their latest job listing — they want some deeply technical people who, among other things, will help “find the location of every Windows Phone device in the world.”

Useful location-based services like “Find My Phone” and Bing Maps have been baked into Windows Phone 7 since day one, but Microsoft seems to have something slightly different in mind for their location team. The listing specifically seeks people to work on their forthcoming core location service, details of which are largely unknown.

The job listing, spotted by Neowin, does however make mention of what the core location service will be expected to do. Among the priorities for the core location team will be working on more accurate ways to determine a device’s location even without assistance from the built-in GPS. Next up on the list is solving the problem of determining a device’s position while indoors — a truly dicey one because the device usually can’t rely on GPS, and wireless network coverage can take a hit within walls.

It seems as though much of Microsoft’s focus here is building a strong team to boost the overall accuracy of their location services, and while no specific applications are mentioned, it’s easy to see how such improvements could enhance Windows Phone’s user experience. Find My Phone and Bing Maps performance could improve tremendously, and if offered to developers, core location services could make location-based apps even more accurate and more worth using.

Pragmatic causes aside, this isn’t great timing on Microsoft’s part. Their recent legal kerfuffle over storing and transmitting user location data without consent is still fresh in people’s minds, and perhaps because of that, Microsoft has already pulled the listing. The full text is reproduced below, but hopefully Microsoft gets their issues ironed out and posts it again. Better location services can only improve the Windows Phone experience, so long as it plays by the user’s rules.

“The team is looking for highly motivated, extremely intelligent, and deeply technical people to build the core location service platform. We are tasked with delivering a highly scalable service to find the location of every Windows Phone device in the world, either by assisting GPS, or by using signal-analysis techniques to compute location where GPS cannot. You will work closely with MSR and other research groups to improve our algorithms for mining large amounts of data using Bayesian analysis and other machine learning techniques. We have incredibly hard problems to solve in the coming year such as solving the indoor positioning problem as well as motion detection and relevance based positioning.”

Incentivized Installs Not All Bad, Says New Study…But Consider The Source

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 07:36 AM PDT


Mobile users acquired through “incentivized” installs can be valuable, according to a new study, if managed properly. The term refers to users who download a mobile application in exchange for something else – usually in-game virtual currency or goods. Traditionally, these sorts of users are thought of as somewhat disposable, simply serving as a way to boost an app’s rankings in iTunes…at least until Apple cracked down on the now-banned practice.

But a new study of mobile app traffic shows that, in certain cases, incentivized traffic can outperform organic traffic. Unfortunately, given the report’s source, it still leaves us with quite a bit of doubt.

The study was performed by W3i, an application distribution and monetization network. And what does W3i engage in? Yes, incentivized installs. Well, sort of. Given Apple’s ban, W3i now focuses on promoting free-to-play applications through its mobile ad platform. It’s a kinder, gentler way to encourage installs that’s quite different from how its original incentivized installs program worked.

That said, to claim that W3i doesn’t have the world to gain by promoting the benefits of incentivized installs would be naive.

But let’s look at the data.

Between December 2010 and April 2011, W3i looked at the 30-day retention rates per traffic source for one of its burst campaigns for a popular game. It also calculated the volume per traffic source (see below chart, each color designates a different app).

The top paid volume source (77,541 installs) produced the second best 30-day retention rate (6.22%). But the second-top volume source (64,497 installs) performed the worst (2.16%).

Why the difference?

Both were incentivized traffic sources, but both had dramatically different retention rates. Clearly, not every traffic source is the same. In this case, the traffic sources were individual applications where the game was being promoted. One app led to higher retention rates after a month than the other.

Revenue, too, saw similar trends. (The letters refer to apps, whose names can’t be listed).

In addition, there were even cases where the organic traffic performed worse than the incentivized traffic, in terms of ARPU (average revenue per user).

Unfortunately, while this (far too narrow) slice of data does seem to show that incentivized installs aren’t necessarily the monster that Apple makes them out to be in all cases, the source of this data is suspect. It would be interesting to see a broader study from a less-biased company.

In the meantime, the big takeaway from these findings is that incentivized installs, can, in fact, deliver valuable new users for some when implemented correctly. But how regularly does that happen? In what apps? What’s the general trend here? Were these findings a fluke or par for the course? These are all questions W3i fails to answer with this study, instead showcasing trends for a single game. Not good enough to prove Apple wrong, we’d say.

Launch Date:

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

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Google Offers Expands to Austin, Boston, D.C., Denver And Seattle

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 06:40 AM PDT


After its debut in June of this year, Google’s deals service Google Offers is now expanding to five more cities: Austin, Boston, D.C., Denver and Seattle. It’s already up-and-running in the original test market of Portland, plus the Bay Area and New York City.

As of today, each of the new cities has at least one offer available, including those for local restaurants, retail establishments and tourist attractions.

Details of the five new offers are on Google’s Commerce blog this morning.

Users can sign up to receive offers from, or use the Google Shopper for Android app (see the “Today’s Offer” tab.) The latter method doesn’t require a sign-up process – you can just peek at the offer to see if it appeals to you.

Google Offers has been called, for obvious reasons, Google’s own version of Groupon, and in some cases, has been found lacking. But Google Offers actually a much more integrated product than the singularly focused Groupon and its competitors, like Living Social, and dozens of others.

Offers ties to together Google’s search, advertising and business listings service Google Places with its mobile platform, Android. This isn’t only done through the optional Android app, Shopper, but also through the upcoming mobile technology, NFC (near field communication), and Google’s mobile payments service.

On NFC-equipped phones, like Google’s flagship device, the Nexus S, you can tap on a Google Places window decal, read reviews, visit the company website, perform related searches on your mobile (and click on ads), and check for an available offer.

At checkout, you can even pay using Google’s NFC-based mobile payments service, Google Wallet.

Widespread adoption of NFC technology and the services it supports is still years out, giving Google plenty of time to slowly grow its Offers business. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Google was just hopping on the daily deals bandwagon with this one – given its deep integration with so many core products at the company, it’s clearly being positioned as an important revenue stream in Google’s mobile-first future ahead.

Video: Japanese University Uses Fish Scales To Develop Stronger Artificial Bones

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 06:04 AM PDT

junzo tanaka

Ceramics, metallic alloys, bone powder, wood or stem cells are just some of the substances doctors have used to replace or heal broken bones so far. Now a group of researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, led by Professor Junzo Tanaka, has come up with an alternative: fish scales.

According to the professor, using fish scales comes with three advantages (when compared to using collagen from pig skin, for example): it’s safer (viruses don’t migrate from fish to humans), the artificial bones are stronger, and the material converts to bone about two times faster.

This video (in English, shot by Diginfonews Tokyo) provides more insight:

RadiumOne Gets Into The Group Messaging Game, Debuts App For iOS And Android PingMe

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 05:57 AM PDT


RadiumOne, an online ad network that aims to combine social and intent data to serve ads, is getting into the group messaging space today. The company is releasing a free, group messaging app for iOS and Android called PingMe Messenger that allows users to message each other in real-time, across platforms.

The app has actually come out of RadiumOne Labs, a division of RadiumOne, which incubates what the company calls ‘first-party products’ for the publisher community they serve. The first product to be released by RadiumOne Labs is PingMe.

Similar to other group messaging apps, PingMe gives users the ability to send realtime messages to friends and family without incurring text messaging costrs, similar to the act of sending a BBM on a BlackBerry phone. Once downloaded, the app allows users to connect with their friends through their telephone's address book, Facebook, or the PingMe network. The registration process is fairly simple—your phone number is your user ID, and you don't need a password or hard-to-remember PIN to connect with your friends.

With the app, which only cost $160K and took 4 months to develop, you can chat with friends in groups or individually with the same speed of messaging as BBM. And PingMe is free in the U.S. and worldwide and offers unlimited messaging.

Some of the more unique features of PingMe include an opt-in geo-location functionality that lets friends find each other based on their location, the ability to post status updates a news feed and PingMe tells you when someone sends you a message – even when PingMe is closed.

So why is a social advertising company getting into the group messaging game? Eventually, the goal is to offer a white label, skinned version of the app to publishers and advertisers that they can offer to customers, says founder Gurbaksh Chahal.

For background, RadiumOne mines social data and use this information to identify relevant consumers for brands. Through what Chahal calls "social retargeting,” RadiumOne analyzes how users interact with one another on social networks to find the consumers that identify with a brand's current customer base, and then serves advertisements to this audience across the company’s network of publishers. The company just raised $21 million in new funding at a $200 million valuation.

RadiumOne Labs will be launching a number of similar white-label offerings for advertisers and publishers in the future for various products, Chahal explains. While PingMe will go head to head with GroupMe (recently acquired by Skype), Facebook, and others; Chahal doesn’t seem to be too worried about the competition and believes there’s still room for innovation in the group messaging space. RadiumOne will launch PingMe apps for BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices in the next few weeks.

Hands-On With The Motorola Droid Bionic For Verizon

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 05:31 AM PDT

Droid Bionic

Today Motorola and Verizon announced the Droid Bionic. It took its sweet time getting here, but it’s finally official. We are forevermore free of writing posts about how long its been delayed. Instead we get to write about the phone itself, which is much more enjoyable for everyone involved.

We have a longer review in the works, but we thought it’d be nice to give you guys some hands-on impressions of this bad boy fresh from the announcement. As far as specs go, we seem to have had those nailed a long time ago:

  • Verizon 4G LTE
  • Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
  • 1GHz dual-core processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8-megapixel rear-, VGA front-facing cameras (1080p video capture)
  • 4.3-inch qHD display
  • Lapdock accessories not included

But that’s enough for the cold hard facts. How does the phone feel?

  • Size: The Bionic is a bit large for my taste, sporting dimensions of 2.63in x 5in x 0.43in. It has a little hump on the upper rear edge making it a bit thicker than the promised .43 inches, but its weight treads nicely on the line between cumbersome and cheap-feeling.
  • Display: The screen is slightly recessed — great for keeping it scratch-free — and boasts a resolution of 960×540 pixels. I can’t honestly say it beats the Super AMOLED Plus display on the AT&T Galaxy S II, but there’s certainly competition there.
  • Feel: With a soft touch finish, the back panel has a nice feel in the hand, but doesn’t deal well with prints. The bezel, though smaller, has an even harder time dealing with smudges.
  • Performance: There’s no doubt whatsoever that the Bionic is snappy. It handled just about everything I threw at it (some games, a little web browsing, and some Hulu-style video playback) with no problem at all. But I did expect loading the apps themselves would be faster. There was a bit of a lag opening up some games, the camera, and the browser.

The Droid Bionic will be available on September 8 for $299 on-contract. Luckily, a couple promotions are going down that may help out your wallet. If you plan on switching to the Bionic from a feature phone and your contract is up soon, you can get a $100 gift card to go toward the price of your new Bionic. If you’re planning on going all out and getting that fancy lapdock, too, you’ll get $100 mail-in rebate if your purchase both the Bionic and the lapdock at the same time.


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

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Asustek To Start Marketing Its WAVI Xtion Controller And Its Kinect-Like Features This October

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 05:15 AM PDT


Asus is hoping to capture some of the Kinect’s good will starting this October by kicking off a marketing campaign for its motion controller clone. The WAVI Xtion was created in partnership with PrimeSense, the same group partly responsible for the Microsoft Kinect — hence the familiar design and capabilities. Asus demoed the device last January at CES 2011, but Digitimes is now reporting that Asus is set to start marketing the kit this October as Asus, which comes after its self-imposed Q2 release target.

This isn’t the first time Asus turned to the gaming world for “inspiration.” The Eee Stick launched several years after the Wii, but was targeted to buyers of its popular Eee netbook. The motion controller functioned and looked very similar to Nintendo’s Wii Remotes. Never heard of the Eee Stick? Yeah, that’s the problem.

The WAVI Xtion is supposed to bring the fun and function of the Kinect to the livingroom PC. Asus thinks (and hopes) that the device will bring the same sort of motion interactivity to the PC desktop as the Kinect did to the Xbox 360. The same Digitimes report indicates that the target price will be around $250-$300, which is a tad more than the Kinect’s $150 price tag. Reportedly the device will first go on sale in China where the 360 is banned by the government. No word on the release date, though.

Report: Nintendo 3DS Gets “Slide Pad” Add-On (First Pic)

Posted: 07 Sep 2011 04:29 AM PDT


This week’s issue of the Famitsu, Japan’s biggest video game magazine, is due out tomorrow, but gaming geek @south1996 appears to have made an early and pretty interesting snapshot: it’s the first picture showing the 3DS joystick add-on the gaming world has been speculating over for weeks.

As you can see, the so-called “slide pad” is designed like a cradle that holds the lower part of the 3DS, making the device as a whole rather bulky (one Japanese game blog estimates that it makes the 3DS 1cm wider on the left, 2-3 cm on the right and 2cm to the bottom).

The slide pad adds an analogue circle pad on the right and three shoulder buttons to the 3DS (L1, R1, and R2).

The arrival date or price of the add-on are unknown at this point, but one line in the picture says that it will be usable with Monster Hunter 3 (tri-) G, an update of the popular RPG series for the 3DS Capcom is currently developing.

Via Engadget

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