Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Google Launches Hangouts API For Developers

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:32 AM PDT


In addition to the slew of new Hangout-related features announced today on the official Google blog, the Google+ team also announced the launch of the Google+ Hangouts API for developers. This API (application programming interface) will be available as a “Developer Preview” starting today – meaning it’s not a fully-cooked product, but one that’s available for testing purposes only.

The new Hangouts API will allow developers to build their own experiences inside Hangouts and build real-time applications that use Hangouts, similar to Google’s own built-in YouTube player. The YouTube player lets Google+ users in a Hangout watch videos together at the same time.

Google also announced screen-sharing, Google Docs editing and sketching as new built-in features for Google+ Hangouts today, thereby forcing developers to think beyond the obvious integrations to more creative uses of the Hangouts API when building their apps.

To get started with the API, developers will build a Web application, register it with Google and specify who on their team can load it into a Hangout. The app behaves like a normal Web app, says Google, but it can use the new APIs like synchronization. Developers can create a "shared state" among all instances of their app so that all of their users are instantly notified of changes made by anyone else. Also included are the first few multimedia APIs that enable apps to do things like mute the audio and video feeds of Hangout participants.

Documentationsign up forms and group-based feedback are also available as of now.

The increased focus on Google+ Hangouts comes at a time when interest in Google’s new social network is dwindling and Facebook has implemented several similar features. It’s not surprising to find Google promoting Hangouts, given they’re one of the service’s main differentiating factors from Facebook. Although Facebook offers video chat with friends through its Skype integration, that support is limited to one-on-one conversation, not group chats.

T-Mobile CMO Says No iPhone 5 This Year

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:27 AM PDT


Bad news T-Mobile customers: you may have to cross the iPhone 5 off of your holiday wish list. According to a leaked document from T-Mobile’s OneVoice intranet, Chief Marketing Officer Cole Brodman has unequivocally said that T-Mobile will not get the iPhone 5 this year.

The statement was pulled from his appearance at a company Town Hall at their Field Service Center, where the CMO fielded questions from inquisitive employees. Perhaps to ease the blow, he mentions that T-Mo will launch two new smartphones in the lead up to the holiday season right before giving all those iPhone rumors the axe.

It’s almost certain that one of those smartphones is going to be their Qualcomm-powered Galaxy S II variant, but the other is still shrouded in mystery. Leaked images showed off an impressive device called the HTC Amaze 4G that was reportedly meant to hit T-Mobile — could that round out their holiday blitz?

Even though his phrasing seems pretty clear, the web is already a buzz with people considering the semantics of his remark: does he mean that T-Mobile is getting the iPhone 5 next year? The iPhone 5 isn’t coming to T-Mobile yet, but does that mean the iPhone 4S will? While the debate rages on, it’ll take nothing less than a full reversal from Bellevue to convince us otherwise.

Podio Launches Ability To Create Apps Inside Its iPhone App

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:25 AM PDT

Collaboration startup Podio, which is taking on the worlds of Yammer and BaseCamp, allows users to create easy-to-build apps (closer to widgets) on their platform.

Today it’s launched the ability to do the same on its iPhone app and revealed it now has over 40,000 organisations on the platform. Podio’s CEO Tommy Ahlers is the former founder of Zyb which sold to Vodafone for $49 million.

Following In Netflix’s Footsteps, Blockbuster Creates A Separate Popcorn Business (Plopydop)

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:22 AM PDT


In the wake of Netflix’s announcement that it will separate its DVD and Internet streaming businesses, with the old DVD business being renamed Qwikster, the backlash among customers and investors has begin. And along with that backlash, come the parody videos. The one above by the guys at Landline TV shows Blockbuster’s response. It too is splitting up its business into movie rentals and popcorn. Those buckets of Popcorn it sells at the checkout will now be a new business called Plopydop.

Plopydop will start experimenting with a variety of new popcorn, including “coffee-flavors, popcorn that reads other people’s minds, . . . popcorn that comes with a free dentist visit . . . and a tub of popcorn that comes with a free movie rental now that everyone hates Netflix.”

If the mock video looks familiar, that is because it is based on the apology video Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and new Qwikster CEO Andy Rendich taped to explain the Netflix change. I’ve reposted the original below.

Company: Netflix
Website: netflix.com
Launch Date: September 20, 1997

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 a month, Netflix members in the U.S. can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streaming right to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. In Canada, streaming unlimited movies and TV shows from Netflix is available for $7.99 a month. There are...

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Google+ Hits Beta With 9 New Features Including Search, Mobile Hangouts, And Open Signups

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:17 AM PDT

hangouts on mobile phone

In the roughly 90 days that Google+ has been available, Google says that they’ve made 91 different improvements to the service. Today brings nine more — a few of which are big.

First and foremost, Google+ finally has search. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe that a service built by Google launched without it, but it did. Now Google+ allows you to search for people and posts simply by using the search box at the top. Of note, you can filter results by either “Best of” or “Most recent”. This also allows you to search the Sparks feature, which is still underdeveloped.

The other big news: Google+ is moving from “field trial” to”beta”. Along with this upgrade, Google is opening signups for anyone.

Finally, Google has rolled out a ton of new features for Hangouts, the live multi-user video chat service that has been an early hit on Google+. Of the changes, the biggest is the ability to do a Hangout from a mobile device. Google has updated the Google+ Android app with this functionality, and says an update to the iOS app will be coming soon.

Another new feature is the ability to go “on air” — essentially a fully public broadcast. When you do this, up to nine other people can still join your broadcast, and anyone can watch. Google notes that the feature will be limited to certain broadcasters (read: big ones). They’re kicking it off tomorrow night with an On Air Hangout with will.i.am.

Google has also started adding “extras” to Hangouts. The first ones:

  • Screensharing: for when you want to show off your vacation photos, your high score, your lesson plan or whatever else is on your screen
  • Sketchpad: for when you want to draw, doodle, or just scribble together
  • Google Docs: for when you want to write, plan or present something with others
  • Named Hangouts: for when you want to join or create a public hangout about a certain topic (like fashion or music or sports…)

Google notes that these extras are still under construction (read: beta beta).

Finally, Google is also releasing an API for Hangouts. This follows the broader (but limited) Google+ API roll out last week.

I’m sure all of these changes rolling out two days before Facebook’s big f8 conference are coincidental. War.

Product: Google+
Website: plus.google.com
Company Google

A Google project headed by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, Google+ is designed to be the social extension of Google. Its features focus on making online sharing easy for users. “Circles,” think social circles, akin to Facebook’s lists “Sandbar,” a user-unifying toolbar “Sparks,” a search engine for sharing content between users “Huddle,” a group messaging app that allows users to share with certain “Circles” “Hangouts,” group video chatting designed to allow up to 10 users video chat at once Each Google+ user can replace his...

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With Version 2.0, Instagram Focuses On Re-engineering The Camera

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:03 AM PDT


It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote up my initial lengthy preview of Instagram. I had a feeling that when it launched, it was going to be big. I underestimated it.

Fast forward to today. Instagram is just about to hit 10 million users. They are the nimble upstart that has become the gold standard in the mobile social photo space . Everyone is gunning for them. And so it’s fitting that today, a year after my initial post, they’re unveiling version 2.0 of their app.

First, it’s important to note what Instagram 2.0 is not: a completely new app. If the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to anyone, it applies to Instagram. At its core, what they’ve built is clearly working, so there’s no reason to change that. But the Instagram team realized there was a way to dramatically improve the service while retaining the elements users love. So they set out to completely re-engineer the camera.

The aspect of the app where the magic really happens has been completely re-done. When you first load the camera up, you’ll notice that it looks different. The limited settings buttons at the bottom have been replaced by more robust controls along the top of the camera screen. There you’ll find the flash toggle, the ability to flip to the front camera, and the ability to close the camera. But you’ll also find the new tools: border toggle, and a new water drop icon (more on that in a second).

Along the bottom of the camera portion of the app, on either side of the shutter, you’ll find the button to load images from your camera roll and a new eye icon. Clicking on this icon alters the Instagram camera to make it so that you can see camera filters in realtime. Yes, you now see what a picture will look with a filter before you take it.

How? Instagram has completely re-written the filters to make them as fast as possible. It used to be that you would have to wait a few seconds for a filter to be applied to a photo, even on the quick iPhone 4. Now it’s nearly instantaneous in Instagram 2.0. And this allows them to do live filtering as well. The filters now perform over 200 times faster, co-founder Kevin Systrom says.

Other apps, notably Path, have done live filters before. But the performance has left something to be desired. And more recently, Path removed the ability and now focuses on filtering after a picture is taken.

To be clear, with Instagram 2.0, you can still filter after a picture is taken as well. If you don’t click on the eye icon, you won’t see the filtering option until after you’ve taken the picture — just like the old days. But what’s really cool is that even if you filter an image before you take the picture, you can change your mind after you take it, and switch the filter.

Speaking of filters, yes, there are more of them. Instagram has added four news ones with the 2.0 release: Amaro, Rise, Hudson, and Valencia. Instagram has teamed up with one popular Instagram user to make these and even more down the line.

Going back to the water drop icon, this allows you to also tilt-shift in realtime as well. Or you can do it after the picture is taken. This tool has also been re-written to be 100 times faster than before, and it’s now more visually obvious what the focal point is.

Once you take a picture, there is also a new option to rotate it, 90 degrees at a time. And again, there’s also now a border toggle to turn off borders for any filter that has them by default.

That’s about giving users more control, and along those lines, Instagram is giving users another element many have requested: high-resolution photos. Previously, Instagram would save all photos as 612×612 — now they’re 1936×1936, taking full advantage of the iPhone 4′s camera. But it’s important to note that these high resolutions images are only saved to your camera roll. The images uploaded to Instagram’s servers are still the smaller variety. Instagram says they’re doing this in order to ensure fast upload speeds are maintained and because iOS 5 with Photo Stream will allow people to share higher resolution images that way.

With these changes to the camera, Instagram is simply extending upon its lead in the social mobile photo space. The picture-taking process is now much faster and more powerful and that’s a win for all current users. These things will also convert even more non-users over to the service. They’re not changing what’s working, they’re improving upon what’s working.

And Instagram’s timing is good. While Google quickly killed off its mobile photo-sharing fledglings, others, like Facebook, are widely expected to get into the game soon. In fact, we’ve seen pictures of their app. Color is also about to pivot to Blue, a new mobile photo sharing app that ties in deeply with Facebook. Other rivals such as Path are said to be working on completely revamped products in the mobile photos space as well. And with the launch of iOS 5 in a few weeks, more developers will be building photo apps with filters than ever before.

One more thing: the Android app? No sorry, not yet. But Instgram did get a pretty new iOS icon.

You can find Instagram in the App Store here.

[image: instagram/thequeenrebel]

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Company: Instagram
Website: instagr.am
Launch Date: September 20, 2011
Funding: $7.5M

Instagram is a photo sharing application for the iPhone. It allows you to quickly take pictures, apply a filter, and share it on the service or with a number of other services. The team behind it is also behind Burbn, a location-based service that works with HTML5-compatible web browsers.

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Food Delivery Search Engine GrubHub Raises $50M, Buys Campusfood And Allmenus

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 09:00 AM PDT


Chicago-based startup GrubHub, a service that lets you order food for delivery or take out from local restaurants online or by mobile phone, has raised $50 million in Series E funding led by Lightspeed Ventures with Mesirow Financial, Benchmark Capital, Greenspring Associates and DAG Ventures participating. The company has also acquired New York-based food delivery network Dotmenu, the parent company of Campusfood and Allmenus. This brings GrubHub’s total funding to $84 million.

GrubHub gives its users access to food delivery service from more than 13,000 restaurants in U.S. cities including: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Boulder.

GrubHub is free for diners who order and pay for their meals with while restaurants pay
commissions on each order processed. Restaurants that do not currently partner with GrubHub can still list their telephone numbers and menus for free. And of the 13,000 restaurant menus currently available on GrubHub, 5,000 establishments are paying GrubHub to manage and market a white-label online order and food delivery service.

Dotmenu has a foothold in menus and food delivery in the college market (with a presence in over 300 markets in the U.S.), and through the acquisition, GrubHub says it will have the largest restaurant listing platform in the country with 250,000 restaurant menus in over 50 major cities and college towns across the US. The two companies are projected to send over $225 million in combined order revenues to independent restaurants in 2011.

Benchmark’s Bill Gurley sais this of the deal and GrubHub: By combining its ability to aggressively scale its footprint and mobile platforms with Dotmenu's proven leadership in college markets across the country, GrubHub is the clear leader in the online ordering space…This move will make GrubHub a household name, such as Benchmark's other on-line portfolio companies OpenTable, Yelp and Zillow.

GrubHub founder Matt Maloney has a goal of taking GrubHub public, also following in the footsteps of OpenTable, which filed for an IPO “Going public is a very realistic opportunity for us within the next two years,” Maloney told us in March when the company raised $20 million.

At the time, Maloney said GrubHub had experienced a 300 percent increase in mobile food orders since last Fall and projects projects mobile orders to make up 20 percent of its total food sales by the end of 2011, which is compared to less than two percent in 2009 (mobile food orders accounted for 10 percent of total food sales in 2010).

Zynga To Debut New, 3D Version Of Facebook Game Mafia Wars

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:58 AM PDT

Mafia Wars 2

After launching new title Adventure World on Facebook, social gaming giant Zynga is revealing details about its next Facebook game—Mafia Wars 2. You can watch the trailer below.

Originally launched 2008, Mafia Wars allows players to build their virtual criminal empires by collaborating with their friends to complete crime jobs, fight and rob other Mafia crews, run underground businesses and purchase virtual goods like weapons and getaway cars. Set in New York City at launch, the game expanded to new in-game locales including Cuba, Moscow, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Italy and Brazil in March 2011.

Details are sparse, but the new game’s tagline is "Being bad never felt so good." The trailer is actually set to “Mountain Song,” by Jane's Addiction. The game will include a 3-D world and several new characters.

Company: Zynga
Website: zynga.com
Funding: $1B

Zynga was founded in July 2007 by Mark Pincus and is named for his late American Bulldog, Zinga. Loyal and spirited, Zinga's name is a nod to a legendary African warrior queen. The early supporting founding team included Eric Schiermeyer, Michael Luxton, Justin Waldron, Kyle Stewart, Scott Dale, John Doerr, Steve Schoettler, Kevin Hagan, and Andrew Trader. Zynga’s mission is connecting the world through games. Everyday millions of people interact with their friends and express their unique personalities through our...

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Social Media Monitor TrustYou Raises $5 million, Acquires Competitor

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:55 AM PDT

154921v1-max-250x250 (1)

TrustYou, a social media monitoring and semantic technologies startup, has raised a $5 million Series A round. It’s also acquiring Dallas-based competitor ReviewAnalyst. The round was led by Credit Agricole Private Equity and will be used to expand worldwide operations out of its base in Munich Germany. Its “sentiment search platform” is aimed at the hotel, restaurant and travel industries in the United States and Europe.

New Startup Accelerator Advise.me Launches

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:42 AM PDT


Advise.me is a newly launched startup accelerator and incubator with locations in the San Francisco and New York areas. However, through its “Global Startup Initiative,” the group is encouraging companies to apply no matter where in the world they are located. Advise.me says it will structure things appropriately to work where the startup is based, or it will help the company to relocate to one of its local areas instead.

As with most startup accelerators, Advise.me is offering a variety of support services, including help with advisement and execution, marketing, product design, development and infrastructure, business strategy, business development, operational structure, security, accounting, funding and M&A.

The initial funding the program offers is independently determined by its investment partners based upon their own criteria, and may not be available to everyone in the program. Startups may receive $6,000-$7,000 per founder or up to $25,000 in total. Says Advise.me, it believes that this is enough funding to allow founders to develop a working prototype or in some cases, to help get them to the next initial stage for receiving larger funding options.

In addition to the funding and advisement, startups will receive the following:

  • $2,000 per month for 12 months of MediaTemple or RackSpace hosting
  • Advisement and operational support of a team of 2-7 individuals
  • 3 months of office space, rent and utility free
  • Access to high-level contacts
  • VIP invites to Advise.me events and meetups for networking purposes
  • A chance to demo to strategic investors, partners and media

Although, as noted above, location is not a factor in determining which companies will be accepted into the program, Advise.me says that having a strong and experienced team will help improve its chances. It’s also looking for “compelling offerings that are market disruptive,” and it prefers companies that are past the idea stage and already have a working prototype.

Advise.me was co-founded by Solomon Engel (Founder and CEO),  Aaron Anderson (Co-founder and User Interface Designer), Drew Wilson (Co-founder and Principle Designer) and Michel Triana (Co-founder and CTO). It includes an impressive team of advisors, with folks from Google, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, EA, Sencha, Xero, Sega, Apple, Playdom, Yahoo, Nokia, AOL and several other big-name companies on board as advisors.

Besides the team members listed on the Advise.me site now, the company is adding the following new team members today: Indy Guha, VC at Bain Capital Ventures, Rogelio Choy, COO at Formspring, Luca Prasso, Global Character Technical Director at DreamWorks Animation, Eva Diaz-Santana, Senior Cocoa Architect at Apple and Tyler Galpin, User Interface Designer at Advise.me.

The accelerator launched at last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt, and is now accepting applications from interested startups.

Origo: A 3D Printer For Kids

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:25 AM PDT


As predicted in “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” toys will change the world. Our kids, growing up with computers, game consoles, and endless visual delights, will have different minds than previous generations and their children will be even more unique. After all, our kids are about get get toy 3D printers and there’s no telling what could come next.

Origo is a concept product right now but it should be available soon. Clad in purple plastic, the system is a standard extruder-type 3D printer that can make various small objects out of a thin stream of plastic. The founders, Joris Peels and Artur Tchoukanov, are two experienced 3D printing experts. Peels was the community manager for i.materialise and Shapeways. They designed the Origo to have a minimum of moving parts and a simple UI using 3Dtin as a design platform.

The Origo describes itself thusly:

Right now, I am just an idea. I will be as easy to use as an Xbox or Wii. I'll be as big as three Xbox 360's and as expensive as 3 Xbox 360's. I will sit on your desk and quietly build your ideas, drawings and dreams.

There are other 3D printers. But none will be as easy to use as I will. None will be as reliable or work as hard for you. I'm not a kit or an industrial machine. I'm not complicated. I'm an appliance, like a toaster or a microwave. Only I'm purple and make your stuff.

No pricing or availability but Joris expects the device to cost about $800. Sadly, they’re not yet funded. “We’re currently speaking to VC’s and other investors but most run like little girls when they find out we actually want to make hardware,” said Peels. Considering Makerbot just grabbed a $10 million investment, these guys should be on the right track.

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Samsung To Make Bada OS Open Source And Part Of Your Smart TV?

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:14 AM PDT


A new report today suggests that instead of snatching up a mobile operating system whose future is uncertain at best, Samsung hopes to help grow their Bada OS by making it open-source within the next year.

Taking a page out of Google’s book, Samsung is looking at the open-source paradigm as a way to drum up developer support for Bada. Their ideal end result? A more compelling software package to connect with their high-end smartphone lineup.

Samsung is also considering expanding Bada’s presence by taking it to a smart television near you. While their current smart TVs use a proprietary OS, a Bada-powered television could help unify their mobile and home experiences.

Typical of the Wall Street Journal, this news comes straight from the mouth of “a person close to the situation,” but if true, it’s a move that makes much more sense than buying up a completely separate platform. Samsung has been sitting on top of a completely serviceable OS for nearly two years now, but it’s more-or-less only ever found its way to middling handsets. That said, devices like the recently announced Wave 3 are no slouch — Samsung just needs to shore up Bada with more developer support, and taking the platform open-source could yield some really interesting results.

Of course, that’s not the only reason Samsung would be doubling down on their own OS. In the aftermath of the Google/Motorola deal, a renewed focus on Bada means that Samsung can also try to lessen their reliance on using Android in their product lines. The situation hasn’t forced things to come to that, but if Google ever starts giving Motorola preferential treatment with Android, Samsung will have something of a safety net built up.

Sobees Brings Social News Reader NewsMix To Facebook

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 08:00 AM PDT

sobees_ NewsMix

Sobees, the startup that develops social newsfeed for the iPadNewsMix, is bringing digital news curation to Facebook via a new app.

The aim of NewsMix is to make sense of the most popular content being shared by your Facebook friends. The NewsMix application for Facebook factors in Facebook "Likes" and brings together articles, photos, and videos posted by liked Pages on Facebook, as well as friends.

Users can like new Pages directly from the application and share their NewsMix articles on their Facebook wall. You can also read your friends' NewsMix (if they have the app installed), browse the Pages your friends like on Facebook and more.

Of course, Facebook is rumored to be launching a new content experience this coming week at F8 and other news organizations are launching social products on the platform, including the Wall Street Journal. The News Corp-owned publication just debuted WSJ Social, a social news reader for Facebook.

Amazon Kindle Library Lending Program Launches Into Quiet Beta

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:43 AM PDT


As reported earlier this year, Amazon and digital content distribution service OverDrive are teaming up to bring Kindle library lending to thousands of public libraries across the U.S. That partnership, rumored to be launching this month, has apparently now gone live in select locations.

According to postings on Amazon’s Kindle Forum, some users are already seeing this option in the Seattle area. A page on Amazon’s website describing the new service has also gone live.

Thanks to the partnership, library patrons will be able to check out e-books from their local library on all Kindle models (Kindle 3, Kindle 2, Kindle 1 and Kindle DX) as well as through platform apps, including the Kindle Cloud Reader. Books are downloaded over Wi-Fi or USB, but 3G will not be supported. Amazon’s “Whispersync” technology will also preserve digital notes and bookmarks in case you later buy the book from Amazon or check it out a second time.

From Amazon’s new “Public Library Books for Kindle” instructional page, the service works as follows:

  • Visit the website of a U.S. library that offers digital services from OverDrive.
  • Check out a Kindle book (library card required).
  • Click on "Get for Kindle." You will then be directed to Amazon.com to redeem your public library loan. You may be required to login to your Amazon.com account — or create a new account — if you're not already logged in.
  • Choose to read the book on your Kindle device, free reading app, or Kindle Cloud Reader.

In forum postings, users are complaining that the EPUB format is not being supported in favor of Amazon's proprietary AZW e-book format. Amazon’s “How To” page detailing how to transfer files to the Kindle also confirms this, stating “EPUB eBooks are not supported on Kindle.”

In what appears to be a quiet beta testing period, the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System are currently offering the Kindle lending program. The service will eventually become available to 11,000 libraries across the U.S.

Amazon advises users to “check with your local library for more information about borrowing Kindle books or to see what books are available.”

Company: Amazon
Website: amazon.com
Launch Date: September 20, 1994

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is a leading global Internet company and one of the most trafficked Internet retail destinations worldwide. Amazon is one of the first companies to sell products deep into the long tail by housing them all in numerous warehouses and distributing products from many partner companies. Amazon directly sells, or acts as a platform for the sale of a broad range of products. These include books, music, videos, consumer electronics, clothing and household products. The majority of Amazon's...

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Honestly Now Raises Funding For Q&A Social Game

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:33 AM PDT

Honestly Now

Honestly Now, a Q&A social game, has raised an undisclosed round of seed funding led by Golden Seeds and Canrock Ventures.

Honestly Now is a Q&A social game aimed to help women ages 30 to 50 years of age make better personal decisions, together. The brainchild of Tereza Nemessanyi, Honestly Now’s platform wants to transform real-life tricky questions into conversations.

Players, who sign in using Facebook, can choose to keep questions private with friends, or share queries anonymously inside the site’s community. Users who engage on the site more and answer questions routinely are characterized as pros, and you can also see which of your Facebook friends are asking questions on the platform. Honestly Now also offers an iPhone app.

The interface is fairly simple, but one improvement could be made in the discovery of questions and answers on the platform. Honestly Now faces competition from Jig and OpinionAided.


Appsbar Launches Free, DIY App-Building Toolkit For Bands

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:12 AM PDT


DIY mobile app creator appsbar is launching a new toolkit for garage bands and other budding artists today called “Discography.” With this option, available in the “create new page" section of appsbar’s free app builder, artists can enter in their Artist ID from iTunes or set up a separate payment service to be used for selling their songs.

Included with the new toolkit are social sharing functions that allow artists to send out messages to the app’s users when a new track is available for download. The artist can also recommend older songs that are available for download, if they don’t have any new tracks to push.

The apps’ users can listen to a 30-second music sample prior to purchasing and that sample can be shared across social networks. Users can also review or comment on the track, and these reviews are available to all the other app users. There’s not much else to the app builder beyond that – it’s a very basic toolkit.

Currently, appsbar Discography is an option on iOS only, but will be available on Android soon. Appsbar, which launched in April, now offers DIY app-building services to its community of over than 30,000 users, the company says.

Appsbar Discography competes with more fully featured products, like Mobile Roadie, Kyte, and others, but the difference is, appsbar is free. That said, the old adage that you “get what you pay for” seems to apply here. Appsbar’s apps aren’t much to look at, but for starving artists, this may be all they can afford.

Company: appsbar, inc.

appsbar fills the gap between over-simplified apps and costly, professionally-produced apps. appsbar is the first tool for any business, group or individual to create professional, personalized apps for use on mobile device with no cost, and without the interruption of advertising. Appsbar gives creators one platform to create and submit apps to popular app stores. It presents myriad personalization opportunities with a unique interface that guides creators through the entire process – from creation, to editing, to publication -...

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The HTC Rhyme: Apparently Girls Prefer Mid-Range Specs

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:05 AM PDT


After wondering for a while what HTC’s mysterious media event would uncover, the woman-friendly (because women, like yours truly, apparently need gender-specific handsets) HTC Rhyme for Verizon has finally reared its pretty little head with several clever accouterments.

As per the announcement (and earlier leaks), the Rhyme will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread on a 1GHz single core processor, with HTC’s latest and greatest version of Sense slapped on top. That’s about the best part, so go ahead and let your excitement peak out.

Past that you’ll see a 3.7-inch LCD WVGA touchscreen with a 5-megapixel rear shooter and a 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat. As per usual, Bluetooth 3.0 and WiFi radios are in tow, along with 4GB of internal memory and 768
MB of RAM. Obviously, the Rhyme also has support for Verizon’s network, but no 4G LTE for the ladies it seems.

The HTC Rhyme also has charm factor. By that, I mean the phone literally has a little charm that is meant to hang out of a woman’s purse and lights up to tell if they’ve missed a call. While I see this as more of a Status-esque Facebook button gimmick, it will probably go over really well with 13-year-old girls. And that’s it. 

The Rhyme also launches with a surprisingly sweet charging station that also features speakers for improved sound quality, and what HTC is calling tangle-free headphones. Past those accessories, you’ll also get a Bluetooth headset (in matching magenta), a wireless visor speaker for the car, and an arm band for working out.

As far as Sense 3.5 goes, HTC has thrown in 12 new stock wallpapers, updated the Flip clock, and added a preview tab that lets you peek into your recent emails, photos, music, texts and apps. These preview tabs remind me a lot of Windows Phone Mango’s live tiles, though on a much more subtle scale.

Sense 3.5 also enhanced the camera app to add face recognition, the ability to take a quick-burst style series of shots, and a cool auto-upload feature. If you preset a certain Facebook album to upload pics from your phone, the Rhyme will automatically send any pictures taken on your phone straight to that specified album. This could make for a couple embarrassing moments, but it takes thinking out of the process of posting mobile pics to Facebook.

According to Verizon, the phone will be available on September 29 at Verizon in-store and online, as well as at Target. Verizon says the Rhyme will cost $199 on-contract, with the docking station, the charm, and the headset all included.

Electronic Medical Records Service Practice Fusion Raises $6M From SV Angel, Founders Fund

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 07:00 AM PDT


Practice Fusion, a web-based electronic medical records and healthcare community, has raised over $6 million in new funding from SV Angel, Western Technology Investment, Scott Banister, Founders Fund, Morgenthaler Ventures, Glynn Capital Management, SV Angel, Auren Hoffman, CEO of Rapleaf, Hadi and Ali Partovi, Peter Loftsgordon, and Mike McCarthy. To date, the startup has raised over $36 million in funding.

Launched in 2007, Practice Fusion allows doctors across the country to chart patient visits, review records, schedule appointments, prescribe medications electronically, order and receive lab tests, and connect patients to their health data online. Practice Fusion’s web-based system is free to health care providers and lives in the cloud.

Practice Fusion;s hosted electronic medical records that are always online and works to improve the overall efficiency of a healthcare provider's practice by matching the workflow of primary care and specialty physicians through the entire lifecycle of a patient's healthcare — while giving them access to their personal records.

Practice Fusion has created buzz amongst doctors after the the Obama Administration’s $44,000 incentives for doctors to start moving their health records online. The company has brought more than 100,000 health care providers into its community, allowing for triple-digit annual growth among its users. The company announced last week that a forecasted 5,000 eligible medical professionals are using the EMR to qualify for up to $90 million in 2011 federal technology incentives.

Company: Practice Fusion
Launch Date: September 20, 2011
Funding: $28M

Practice Fusion provides a free, web-based Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system to physicians. With charting, scheduling, e-prescribing, billing, mobility, lab integrations, referral letters, unlimited support and a Personal Health Record for patients, Practice Fusion’s EMR addresses the complex needs of today’s healthcare providers and disrupts the health IT status quo. Practice Fusion is the fastest growing EMR community in the country with over 70,000 users and 9 million patients. For more information on Practice Fusion, please visit practicefusion.com.

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Angry Birds Costumes Arrive Just In Time For Halloween

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:53 AM PDT


The man glassed the road, watching the long procession slump south across the valley, armed and ragged like a band of crusaders for some dark creed. The rain caught them earlier, somewhere further north, and now they were wet to the bone, all of them, their eyes all downcast save a pair who looked like the guards, janissaries still young and with enough energy to lift their heads to watch the tree-line and all the darkness that lay beyond it.

The years had brought many swart beliefs to the land and the man had seen blood cults and bridge trolls, men driven mad with hunger and terror and loss. But this group was different. Each wore something that was once brightly colored but now ratted to the color of the ground and the slate sky. One man wore a scarf, once red, another wore a shiny green hat gone the color of oil on pavement.

This group had their own queens, two women, thin and frail as birds, slumped on car seats attached to a metal litter and carried by a team of slaves, four on each side. The women wore on their heads some sort of stuffed regalia – one woman, who looked asleep or dead, wore a red bird with wary eyes and the other wore something porcine in appearance, with a dull grin. The green pig covered the woman’s body as well and her arms stuck out like straws. Some of the stuffing had left it and it had been hastily taped shut but now the pig was deflated, like a Jack o’lantern left too long in the cool night. A yellow crown, carefully washed to the point of bleaching, lay perched on the pig’s lopsided head.

What these headdresses meant the man did not know, and how these two women so bedecked assuaged this band’s fear was also a mystery. The land threw up strange prophets these days and one man’s sunken-eyed woman was another man’s celestial bride. The band clattered on, the litter groaning and their worn shoes flapping on the broken pavement like the slap of a branch on an abandoned barn. The man lay back, waiting for their passage, hoping none of them saw him high in the brush. They did not, and soon he was alone again, the sound of the rain gathering around him and an afterimage flare of the red bird (when was the last time he saw a live bird? Ten years? Twenty? Time was impossible here) still maddening him in the dead dark.

Product Page via Chipchick

Netflix Stock Erases 12 Months Of Massive Growth, Crashes Through 52 Week Low

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 06:32 AM PDT

I'm too tired to photoshop reed hastings on there. sorry. next time.

And with the sound of Wall Street’s opening bell, Netflix quickly dipped below its 52 week low, opening at $141.40 but falling within a few seconds under $140. [NASDAQ:NFLX] Over the past two months the company watched subscribers leave along with 55% of its market cap from the same time period — which now places their valuation at its 52 week low of $7.46B. On July 12, 2011, just one day prior to Netflix’s all-time high price of 304.79, the company announced a radically different corporate structure and also raised the price of the most popular subscription plan by 60%.

Sure, it’s still the top consumer of internet bandwidth and the de facto leader in video streaming services, but the company’s stock has lost a year of growth in a matter of two months, or rather, two decisions.

Most should know the storyline by now: Netflix split the company into two separate divisions two months ago and raised the price of a popular subscription. A consumer backlash rightly ensued. Then late Sunday night Netflix took it even farther and announced that an entirely new company, Qwikster, would handle the DVD mailers while Netfix would do just streaming. A media snarkfest ensued while the stock price continued its nose dive.

Both Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital recently lowered their price targets on shares of Netflix, with the former pricing the stock’s 6-month, DCF-derived target price at $270, down from $330. Barclays now labels the Netflix stock as overweight and repriced their target from $285 to $260. Last Friday, Caris & Company even downgraded shares of Netflix from above average to simply average. These shifts come as the company announced late last week that it lowered its Q3 subscriber projection by a million subs spanning both the streaming and DVD rental business.

Reed Hastings Sunday night blog post stated in part that while the now two companies are done with price increases, the decision to completely separate DVD and streaming will help both businesses by letting “each grow and operate independently.” Qwikster was then announced, which will continue the task of servicing and mailing DVDs — and now games, too.

Netflix’s slide from grace is exactly what Reed Hasting said he was trying to avoid. He stated that his recent moves were to prevent his company from moving before its too late. Aol and Borders are used as examples, which now seem rather appropriate as Netflix’s stock crashes through charts much as those two companies’ did.

Company: Netflix
Website: netflix.com
Launch Date: September 20, 1997

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 a month, Netflix members in the U.S. can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streaming right to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. In Canada, streaming unlimited movies and TV shows from Netflix is available for $7.99 a month. There are...

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