Monday, September 26, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

HTC “Facebook Phone” Dumps Facebook For Chinese Market

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:55 AM PDT

qqfacebook

How do you sell the Facebook phone in a Facebook-free environment? Luckily for HTC, China isn’t short on homegrown social networks, one of the largest being the instant messaging service QQ. So as the HTC Status (once known as the ChaCha) migrates toward China, where our favorite social network has been banned, Facebook will be left behind to make room for a dedicated QQ button (pictured at left).

Now, the phone will still be called the ChaCha, reports MicGadget, and apart from the default social services getting switched around, it won’t be any different from our AT&T version. To refresh your memory, the Status/ChaCha sports a 2.6-inch HVGA display with a full QWERTY keyboard down below, BlackBerry-style. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread on an 800MHz processor, with a 5-megapixel rear camera and HTC Sense 3.0 UI slapped on top.

Its real stand-out feature would be the dedicated Facebook button down on the bottom right corner of the phone. It lets you get instant access to the social network, and pulses when you’re on a sharable page, video, etc. When pressed, whatever web page you were viewing or song you were listening to gets automatically posted to your Facebook wall. Obviously, the button will work a bit differently with QQ and its over 700 million users, but the same idea still applies.

HTC hasn’t been super clear about availability on the Chinese ChaCha, but we do know it’ll go for 2,680 yuan, which is $419 over here in the States.


Company: HTC
Website: htc.com
Launch Date: September 26, 1997

HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Phone 7 operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in late 2006, the company has introduced dozens of HTC-branded products around the world. The company recently introduced the HTC diamond to compete with Apple’s iPhone. Founded in 1997 by Cher Wang, Chairwoman, and Peter Chou, President and CEO, HTC made its name as the company behind many of the...

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Handheld Console Compresses Super Mario Brothers Down To 64 Pixels

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:35 AM PDT

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Doot doo doot doo doo doot! Hacker Retrobrad created a handheld console that displays Super Mario Brother in a very special way: each sprite is reduced to one pixel. The console, called Super Pixel Brothers, includes all 20 levels as well boss fights.

The game is played on an 8×8 mutli-colored LED board and to hit enemies you need to position your single-pixel Mario over their single-pixel heads.

He’s including the full how-to and schematics on his site and he’s thinking about selling the actual PCBs so you and your plumber brother, Luigi, can recreate your adventures in a decidedly low-bandwidth fashion.

The kit also allows you to build your own 1-pixel version of SMB using a converter, a trick that many of us will probably want to emulate in our copious free time.

via Retrothing



AdMob Founder Omar Hamoui Invests In Paid Task Mobile App Gigwalk

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 09:00 AM PDT

gigwalk

AdMob founder Omar Hamoui has made an investment in Gigwalk, a mobile app that allows users to get assigned basic "gigs" or jobs from companies via their location. The startup has raised a total of $1.7 million from Hamoui, Greylock, Jeff Clavier, Michael Dearing and the Founder Collective.

Gigwalk, which launched a few months ago, basically allows companies to tap into a mobile workforce for simple tasks. Users simply download the app, enter your PayPal information and get assigned entry-level “gigs” or jobs that may take just a few minutes at a time in a particular location. For example, TomTom uses Gigwalk’s workforce to snap pictures to verify certain navigation points, such as one-way streets, etc. These workers simply snap a picture, email them in and receive a few dollars for the easy task.

The site launched in May, and some workers have already made $1,000 to $9,000 over the past 4 months. The average payout is north of $20, and the site is seeing the number of gigs in the hundreds of thousands. And Microsoft just signed up as a customers.

Hamoui decided to invest because he is interested in companies that are taking advantage of mobile innovations. He explains “A lot Gigwalk’s secret sauce is outside the app and the potential is really, really significant.”


Company: Gigwalk
Website: gigwalk.com
Funding: $1.7M

Gigwalk instantly connects businesses to an on-demand, tech-savvy mobile workforce who gets paid to use their iPhone to collect, capture and report real-world data while going about their everyday activities. Gigwalk clients range from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses across industries, including mapping, real-estate, local, travel, government, consumer research, and retail. A Gigwalker completes a variety of on-location, paid tasks or Gigs to verify a street name, photograph a menu, report on red-light cameras, confirm product placements in...

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Samsung Asks Apple For 2.4% Payout On iPhone Chipsets

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:56 AM PDT

Courtroom2

Good morning, and welcome to today’s edition of: “Apple and Samsung love to hate each other.”

Though it’s only been a short weekend since the latest update, the dueling electronics makers have again waged war in the Netherlands. Samsung countersued Apple in the Hague court last week, claiming that the iPad and iPhone violate certain 3G technology patents held by the South Korea-based company. The issue is that those Samsung-held patents fall under FRAND licensing terms, as they cover technology necessary for the industry as a whole, and must be licensed out to competitors under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

Because of this, Samsung has asked that Apple pay 2.4 percent for every chipset per patent within its 3G-capable iPhones and iPads, reports Webwereld journalist Andreas Udo de Haes on Twitter. Obviously, negotiations like this negate the need for an injunction. However, Apple claimed in court that it was already paying its licensing fees to Intel, which Apple is arguing as the sole supplier of its GSM iPhone chipset. Samsung, on the other hand, is saying that Apple has other component suppliers that it is purposefully obscuring to circumvent such claims.

Samsung has also argued that Apple knew about Samsung’s patents back in 2007, around the time of the first iPhone, and that Apple declined to license the technology. Apple said those terms weren’t in conjunction with FRAND’s guarantee of “fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory” terms. Whether Samsung then asked for 2.4 percent per patent on chipsets is unclear, but Apple has certainly called that figure “excessive” this time around.

Meanwhile, the Australian court is fielding further requests to delay the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Both companies met today in front of Judge Annabelle Bennett to talk about the revised version of the GalTab that Samsung has said no longer violates the original 10 allegedly infringed Apple patents. In court, Apple said that three of its patents are still being infringed by the Samsung tab, all in reference to touchscreen technology, reports Australia’s IT News.

Apple has taken an “eyes wide open” strategy in its argument. “It must have been plain as the Opera House to Samsung that Apple’s patents were right in front of its eyes and that they were wide open,” said Apple’s lead counsel Stephen Burley. “If they intend to launch a product that infringes a patent, they ought to clear the way in advance, not to crash through.”

Though it’s unclear how the Dutch case will pan out, Apple’s made big strides in Australia even without securing a permanent injunction. Samsung had been advertising an “imminent launch” for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 since July 20, but the tab has yet to grace Australian shelves.

Again, there are no signs of this fiasco slowing down anytime soon. Buckle up.


Company: Apple
Website: apple.com
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: September 26, 1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod (offered with...

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Controversy as Spotify requires new users to be on Facebook first

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:27 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-09-26 at 16.30

It seems premium streaming music service Spotify just inexorably linked its future to Facebook. Fresh from integrating so deeply with Facebook’s OpenGraph that users’ Ticker stream are teaming with their friends’ listening tastes, it is now requiring new users to have a Facebook account first in order to sign-up for the service.

Visitors to the sign-up page are now greeted with "You need a Facebook account to register for Spotify. If you have an account, just log in below to register. If you don't have a Facebook account, get one by clicking the 'create an account' link below."

The issue has ignited savage debate on Twitter, with one artist management company saying Spotify has “sold its soul to the Devil”.


Company: Spotify
Website: spotify.com
Funding: €183M

Spotify has created a lightweight software application that allows instant listening to specific tracks or albums with virtually no buffering delay. It was launched in the fall of 2008 and had approximately 10 million users by September 2010. Spotify offers streaming music from major and independent record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group, and Universal. Users download Spotify and then log onto their service enabling the on-demand streaming of music. Music can be browsed by artist, album, record...

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Eau Claire Library Lending iPads

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:46 AM PDT

Mapa-de-la-Ciudad-de-Eau-Claire-Wisconsin-Estados-Unidos-1919-8586

The denizens of the green dells of Wisconsin are a bit happier these days, at least in Eau Claire (French for “City Of Very Nice, Quiet People Who Will Smile At You”). The L.E.Philips Memorial Library is now lending out iPads for weekly stints, allowing the good, country stock of Eau Claire to enjoy Apple’s finest between two Sundays. They are also available for in-library use.

iPads are now available for check out at the library thanks to a generous contribution from the Presto Foundation. Each iPad is Wi-Fi compatible and pre-loaded with at least 1,000 classic e-book titles, 10 audiobooks and dozens of free apps and shortcuts to websites. The iPads are available for a 7-day loan period or for a 4-hour in-library use and holds may be placed on the iPads that check out for 7 days. iPads for in-library use only are on a first-come first- served basis.

Folks should also note that you should not place your iPad in the outdoor book return or return them at “area grocery stores” or they’ll charge you $25. If an iPad is three days late (uff-da!), you’re going to have to pay full retail for the thing and “no return is possible,” which is pretty hard-core for Eau Claire.

The question, obviously, is what this hopes to achieve. Aside from being an interesting way to sell iPads, the prospect of having a slate computer in the home, especially a home that may not be able to afford an iPad or any other portable device, is fairly compelling. I’m not a big proponent of computers in learning but these iPads are loaded with 1,000 class titles, 10 audiobooks, and some pertinent web shortcuts: a perfect introduction to the world of ebooks, audiobooks, and the educational web and those lessons and tools can be used to encourage kids to read on less expensive or more common ereader devices. With libraries becoming less storehouses of paper and more sources of bit-based information, it makes perfect sense.

A burning question, however: how do they sanitize these things?

via Dailytech



Facebook To Provide Up To $10 Million In Free Advertising For U.S. Businesses

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:44 AM PDT

facebook

Facebook has teamed up with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in an effort it claims will help grow American small businesses and create jobs. Starting in January 2012, Facebook will give businesses up to $10 million in free Facebook advertising in the form of ad credits. The goal is to provide 200,000 businesses in the U.S. with a $50 boost.

Meanwhile, Facebook, NFIB and the U.S. Chamber will provide businesses with webinars, collateral, case studies and tips educating business owners on how reach new customers on Facebook.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and we believe that Facebook can be a tremendous tool to fuel their growth and success,”  Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, says.

Of course, Facebook is clearly helping itself here, too, hoping to incentivize business owners to move more of their advertising dollars away from search engines like Google and into Facebook’s own network. That said, with Facebook’s now 800 million active users, it’s not exactly a bad move for small business owners to become more educated on how to use the network’s tools to connect with their customers.

The training will include details on using Facebook’s free offerings, like Facebook Pages (essentially, the social network’s business listing service) as well as the Facebook Platform, Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories.

The outreach effort will also involve a roadshow coordinated with state and local chambers of commerce and regional NFIB offices. At the events, experts will train local business owners how to use Facebook to reach customers.

More information about program is being made available on www.facebook.com/smallbusinessboost. This page will detail how to receive the free advertising credits and will list the dates and locations of the upcoming events.


Company: Facebook
Website: facebook.com
Launch Date: January 2, 2004
Funding: $2.34B

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original idea for the term...

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Tumblr Is A Pageview Machine, Now Bigger Than Wikipedia

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:40 AM PDT

Tumblr Vs Wikimedia

If you are wondering why Tumblr just raised $85 million, all you have to do is look at its pageviews. The super-easy blogging platform saw its pageviews jump from about 2 billion a month to 13 billion since the beginning of the year. It recently passed 10 billion posts, and is adding 40 million more every day. According to Quantcast, which directly measures the site, Tumblr attracts 72 million visitors a month, more than half of those from outside the U.S.

But its pageviews are really outsized compared to its visitors. In fact, Tumblr now generates more pageviews per month than Wikipedia, with only a tenth as many visitors, according to comScore. Tumblr is designed in such a way that it generates a lot of internal traffic between members.

To get a sense of how much of an outlier Tumblr is when it comes to pageviews, let’s take a deeper look at the comScore numbers. (ComScore’s estimates are lower than Quantcasts, but show the same general trends). In August, Tumblr entered the top 100 sites comScore tracks (at No. 99) with an estimated 41 million unique visitors. But it’s estimated 6.5 billion pageviews a month places it at No. 21 among all sites ranked by that metric. By comparison, the Wikimedia Foundation sites (which includes Wikipedia.org) get 423 million unique visitors a month who generate 5.6 billion pageviews.

Tumblr is also bigger than Twitter.com in pageviews (but not in unique visitors), and is about half the size of AOL and Craigslist. Below is a snapshot of where Tumblr ranks in Pageviews compared to other select sites in the ComScore Top 100:

1. Facebook (503B PVs/month)
2. Google (272B PVs/month)
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13. Craigslist (12.5B PVs/month)
14. AOL (12.4B PVs/month)
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21. Tumblr (6.5B PVs/month)
22. Wikimedia Foundation Sites (5.6B PVs/month)
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28. CBS Interactive (4.1B PVs/month)
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32. Twitter (3.4B PVs/month)
33. ESPN (3.3B PVs/month)


Company: Tumblr
Website: tumblr.com
Funding: $40.3M

Tumblr is a re-envisioning of tumblelogging, a subset of blogging that uses quick, mixed-media posts. The service hopes to do for the tumblelog what services like LiveJournal and Blogger did for the blog. The difference is that its extreme simplicity will make luring users a far easier task than acquiring users for traditional weblogging. Anytime a user sees something interesting online, they can click a quick “Share on Tumblr” bookmarklet that then tumbles the snippet directly. The result is...

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RIM’s PlayBook Gets Discounted At Office Depot, Staples

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:38 AM PDT

playbook

Canadian RIM fans have been privy to some solid deals on RIM’s ailing PlayBook tablet recently, and now those price cuts are beginning to pop up Stateside. Both Office Depot and Staples are now offering their selection of PlayBooks with some significant discounts.

Office Depot’s website has the 16 GB model going for $399.99 — $100 off the tablet’s original price. The discount comes off immediately, and customers also get a $100 OfficeDepot gift card, but the card has to be claimed via an obnoxious mail-in rebate. The bigger models in their lineup also benefit from the price break, with the 32 GB and 64 GB models going for $399 and $499, respectively.

Staples.com offers the exact same deal, but with a bit of a twist: instead of getting a Staples-only gift card, customers instead get a $100 prepaid debit card that be used anywhere. Since Staples considers the card the same as cash, they’re advertising their 16 GB PlayBooks as having a final price of $299. Again, the same sort of price break applies to the other 2 models.

Interestingly, the best deal to be had only works if you’re willing to do some legwork. The folks over on the SlickDeals forums report that if you choose to hoof it to your nearest brick-and-mortar store, you’ll be able save an additional $50 off the top of your purchase, bringing the price for a 16 GB PlayBook down to $249 after all is said and done. Sure, you could call Staples.com’s customer service line to have them price match against your local store, but where’s the fun in that?

With the TouchPad debacle still fresh in people’s minds, some people are almost certainly holding off on deals like this until the PlayBook price hits fire-sale levels. I can’t say I blame them, considering how some got burned for jumping on a deal just a bit too soon. These sales are slated to last until the end of the week, but it’s probably only a matter of time before other retailers get the go-ahead to slash their own PlayBook prices.



USA Today Twitter Account Hacked By “The Script Kiddies”

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:16 AM PDT

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A group calling itself “The Script Kiddies” hacked USA Today’s Twitter account this weekend and used it to solicit requests for future targets and even to promote its own Facebook page. Although this recent hack seems like more of a childish prank, this group is being taken seriously by the FBI due to its earlier hacks involving false terrorism claims posted to NBC’s Twitter account.

Just days before this year’s anniversary of 9/11, The Script Kiddies posted news that Ground Zero was attacked to @nbcnews, demonstrating a callousness for human tragedy that was seriously disturbing.

Now the group is back in action, taunting Twitter, stroking their egos and asking for your support on Facebook.

One of the tweets pointed to the @script_kiddiez_ Twitter account, which now appears to be suspended. USA Today is also back in control of its account, and has posted an apology.

In addition, the hackers claimed responsibility for other hacks, including Fox News (our coverage), Walmart, Unilevel (Unilever?) and Pfizer, in addition to NBC and USA Today.

And yes, they do have a Facebook page with 16 likes so far. (I wouldn’t recommend a visit…you never know).

According to security expert Graham Cluley, it’s possible that the new USA Today hack involved a spyware Trojan horse, like the earlier NBC hack did. For the NBC hack, NBC News’s director of social media Ryan Osborn could have received a Trojan horse containing a keylogger via email, which then captured passwords as they were typed into his computer.

The relatively unsophisticated nature of the hacks – emailed spyware – could be the reason for the hacking group’s name. “Script kiddie” is a derogatory term in the hacker community that refers to those who use hacking tools and programs written by others to attack systems or deface websites.

Despite the simplistic nature of the technology involved in the hacks, they certainly are effective. Although Twitter has been good about responding quickly to breaches like this when they occur, it’s well past time for the social network to offer increased protections similar to those Facebook offers today.

On Facebook, accounts can be protected through additional authentication mechanisms, alerts, login approvals and even proactive suspensions of comprised accounts. Twitter, meanwhile, is constantly on cleanup duty.

Image credit, Twitter: Sophos


Company: Twitter
Website: twitter.com
Funding: $1.16B

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to post their latest updates. An update is limited by 140 characters and can be posted through three methods: web form, text message, or instant message. The company has been busy adding features to the product like Gmail import and search. They recently launched a new site section called “Explore” for...

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Zynga Brings Most Popular Facebook Title CityVille To Google+ Game Platform

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:11 AM PDT

cityville

Back in July, Google and Zynga announced that the social gaming giant would be bringing Zynga Poker and other game titles to Google+. But it wasn’t clear if Zynga would be bringing its major and most popular titles on Facebook, FarmVille and CityVille, to Google’s new social platform. Today, Zynga is announcing that it is adding CityVille+ to the new game platform.

CityVille, which allows gamers to construct and build a thriving metropolis, is Zynga’s largest game on Facebook. As Zynga says in its announcement of CityVille+, Ultimately, we want to make our games accessible to everyone, everywhere – no matter where they play or what platform they play on.

The addition of CityVille is a big deal for Google+. Clearly, the popularity of the game on Facebook could help boost engagement on Google+’s gaming platform. It wasn’t clear if Zynga had an exclusivity contract with Facebook for its most popular titles like CityVille and FarmVille.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Google made a major investment in Zynga. It should be interesting to see if CityVille+ will gain the sort of viral engagement that its Facebook counterpart received.

Google+ currently has 18 games, including Angry Birds, CityVille, Crime City and Zynga Poker. Is FarmVille+ next?


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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Bose Announces Two Soundbar Systems

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:02 AM PDT

Bose Lifestyle 135_Beauty

Bose just announced two soundbar systems for home theaters, the Lifestyle 135 System and CineMate 1 SR System. The devices use a single bar to emit what many would call surround-sound audio and can be mounted almost anywhere in the room in almost any position.

The Lifestyle includes a small console with four HDMI inputs, a tuner, and an iPod/iPhone dock. The CineMate simply connects to any TV and both include remotes.

From the PR:

Bose FlexMount™ automatic placement compensation senses whether the speaker has been placed horizontally on a table, or mounted vertically on a wall. It then automatically adjusts the sound, offering owners two choices for soundbar setup with the same assurance of spacious, natural sound.

Bose® ADAPTiQ® audio calibration technology offers another performance assurance: the system will deliver optimal sound in any room. This
exclusive Bose advancement first recognizes where the system is located, and then compensates for how the acoustics of the space affect its audio quality — customizing the sound for the room's unique size, shape, even furnishings.

Now for the bad news: the Lifestyle costs $2,499 and the CineMate costs $1,499. A wall-mount kit is sold separately. That’s obviously a crazy amount to pay for a speaker bar and a subwoofer, but Bose is expensive for a reason: the speakers pump out good enough audio in a package that requires absolutely no fiddling. After all, for the 90% of us who don’t want to tune our surround-sound speaker systems to the exacting specifications of our living rooms, there’s Bose. Available this month.



Online Food Ordering Service Seamless Buys Local Restaurant Menu Directory MenuPages

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 06:59 AM PDT

menupages

After competitor GrubHub raised a boatload of cash and bought New York-based food delivery network Dotmenu, online food ordering service Seamless is making a major purchase for its expansion today—MenuPages. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Seamless is purchasing MenuPages from New York Media/New York Magazine (who bought MenuPages in 2008).

Seamless’ food ordering and delivery service promotes, markets and connects local restaurants with business and consumer customers across multiple platforms. The company’s restaurant network includes over 7,500 restaurants in 27 cities globally, including New York, London, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the company claims over one million individuals have ordered through the platform to date. Originally founded in 1999, Seamless says managed volume growth has is projected to exceed $400 million this year, and to date, Seamless has processed more than a billion and a half dollars in restaurant sales.

The addition of MenuPages to Seamless’ product makes sense. MenuPages is the most comprehensive online and mobile provider of constantly updated menus, and includes a database of 35,000 menus and more than 175,000 user-generated restaurant reviews.

Seamless will be expanding its reach beyond food ordering to become the resource for food and restaurant content, including menus, ratings, contact information, and reviews. This will also give Seamless a database of more than 40,000 restaurant partners and menus, and expands Seamless content and ordering capabilities to more than 50 cities worldwide.

MenuPages' also offers a proprietary menu transcription and updating tool that allows menus and restaurant information to be updated efficiently. Together, the brands' online properties draw 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

Mobile is also a major growth area for the properties, explains Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky. Seamless has seen 400,000 mobile downloads which account for over 15 percent of daily order volume, up from one percent in early 2010. MenuPages offers popular mobile apps, and combined Seamless and MenuPages have 886,000 in total mobile downloads.

Zabusky tells be that Seamless aims to be a comprehensive, accurate source of local restaurant content and services, whether that be to order food for delivery or to browse through a restaurant’s menus and reviews. And he says that there is enormous opportunity for the company to use its data (accumulated from over 10 years) to create a more personalized experience for both consumers and restaurants.

Seamless recently rebranded (and went through a redesign) from former name Seamless Web.

We’ve embedded the note sent from Zabusky to the Seamless team announcing the MenuPages acquisition below.

To the Seamless team –
 
I am pleased to share a very exciting and momentous announcement with you, one that cements Seamless' place as the leader in both food delivery and pickup and restaurant-related content. Today, we announced that we have signed a definitive agreement to acquire MenuPages, the largest and most accurate online database of over 35,000 menus in major cities including New York City; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Boston; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C. and South Florida. The press release issued this morning is attached for your reference.
 
The success Seamless has enjoyed thus far depends upon two critical components: our dedicated and innovative team, and our loyal customers, clients and restaurant partners who provide valuable feedback we can use. Over the years, we have heard from team members and customers alike the suggestion to combine our resources with those of MenuPages: for the food delivery king to join forces with the leader in restaurant content. Today, we have made that a reality, and I am excited for several important reasons:
 
• Greater mobile reach, utilizing location-awareness: Together, Seamless and MenuPages will have almost one million app downloads. Expanding our reach will enable Seamless to build upon the already strong momentum we have established with our mobile platforms, making it easier than ever to order food and browse menus from wherever you are, using your mobile device.
• Increasing the breadth and depth of restaurant selection: As you know, one of our key differentiators is the market-leading number of restaurants we make available for online and mobile ordering. Together, Seamless and MenuPages will have the highest quality restaurant and menu content, making Seamless definitively the most trusted source for restaurant information and food ordering. MenuPages has more than 35,000 restaurants in its database, combined with our 7,500+ partners. Further, MenuPages has a proprietary menu transcription and updating tool that allows the company to process a significant number of restaurant menus every month and will allow Seamless to grow even faster than before.
• Increased focus on user-generated content: MenuPages is a comprehensive database of more than 175,000 ratings and reviews – all provided by its vibrant community of customers, which will enrich Seamless' platform and enable us to be the most trusted and robust source for all things food and restaurant-related.
• Full completion and closed-loop customer experience: Seamless was already the leader in online and mobile food delivery and pickup, but we were thinking even bigger—we wanted to be relevant for all restaurant meals. People use MenuPages to not only find restaurants for delivery or pickup, but also for sit-down dining experiences, a meal historically out-of-scope on Seamless. Now, Seamless can extend our offering and value-add to new and existing customers, clients and restaurant partners even further.
• Greater breadth, depth and number of cities (and neighborhoods) will allow us to maintain and expand the most complete network of all-things-food that exists to more than 50 cities worldwide. The pairing of two great brands that are already intertwined into the fabric of urban life will create one premium brand: Seamless.

Seamless and MenuPages have been partners for several years, and this acquisition is a natural next step in our relationship. Together, we will provide our customers with an invaluable resource. This is an incredibly exciting time for our company, and I would like to thank you all for your continued hard work and dedication. While you may not see any immediate-term changes at Seamless, we will immediately welcome Tom Bohan (Director, MenuPages) and his outstanding 19-person team to our family, as Seamless employees.
 
A few months ago, when we reached another corporate milestone, I sent a note to all of you that said, "Our best days are still ahead." Today, I feel that same optimism and anticipation for Seamless' continued growth and success.
 
Best regards,
Jonathan



Online Payments Platform Braintree Processing $8 Million Per Day

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 06:50 AM PDT

braintree-picture

Braintree, an Accel-backed online payments provider, announced that it now is processing more than $8 million in online credit card payments daily, which is 268 percent of the same quarter of last year. The company is on track to process more than $3 billion in 2011.

Braintree, which just raised $34 million from Accel Partners, essentially powers and automates online payments for merchants and companies online. The company provides a merchant account, payment gateway, recurring billing, credit card storage, support for mobile and international payments, and PCI Compliance solutions. BrainTree has become a one-stop-shop for all the services a business needs to receive payments from anywhere in the world. The company’s clients include Airbnb, LivingSocial, OpenTable, Animoto, Lookout, Shopify, Brightcove, Hotel Tonight, GoMobo, 37Signals, and GitHub.

Part of this growth, says the company, comes from overseas, where Braintree has expanded its footprint in Europe, Australia, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Braintree says international transactions now make up 15 percent of the company's processing volume, and the startup is adding new merchants at a pace of 100 per month.

Of course, for basis of comparison, PayPal is now processing a whopping $315 million in online payments per day.


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Website:

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Endomondo Celebrates 5 Million Downloads Of Fitness App With $2.3M In Seed Funding

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 06:34 AM PDT

endomondo

Exclusive - Endomondo, which offers users a way to automatically track their sports data and monitor their performance over time, has raised $2.3 million from SEED Capital, TechCrunch has learned.

The Danish startup says its Sports Tracker social fitness app, which turns mobile phones into “full-fledged personal trainers”, has been downloaded 5 million times (PDF) to date.

The additional capital will help Endomondo set up an office in Silicon Valley, and explore revenue opportunities in order to reach profitability by the end of 2012.

Endomondo aims to make fitness more fun with social factors to inspire and motivate users.

Says Mette Lykke, co-founder of Endomondo:

"It's not that people don't know exercising is good for them, it's just that they lack the motivation.

We don't believe that aggregating people's health data is gonna do the trick alone. People will change behavior when they are motivated because something caught their interest or when faced with positive social peer pressure.

When users compare themselves to their peers, especially close connections like friends and family, then the fun and social factor works for fitness and they get motivated."

Endomondo’s Sports Tracker app, which was first launched in September 2008, can be used for running, cycling, walking and all other distance-based outdoor sports.

Using GPS, the app tracks route, distance, duration, split times, calorie consumption, and more, while providing audio feedback on performance.


Company: Endomondo
Website: endomondo.com
Funding: $800k

Endomondo is where you keep track of your sports activities, challenge your friends, and follow them live while they are working out. You can track your activities with most GPS mobile phones or a Garmin device, or you can choose to enter your workouts manually. Endomondo can be used for all distance based sports - running, biking, hiking and kayaking are just a few examples.

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AT&T Buys Hospitality Internet Provider Superclick For $15 Million

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 06:24 AM PDT

Superclick

AT&T is buying Superclick, an internet provider for the hospitality industry, in a cash transaction valued at approximately $15 million.

Superclick provides network design, deployment and infrastructure management for the hospitality, healthcare and MDU markets. The company serves a number of major hospitality brands such as Fairmont & Raffles Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah, Kimpton Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hotels, Marriott Hotels International, Shangri-La Hotels and Starwood in Canada, North America, the Middle East and Asia.

The company’s revenue isn’t huge, but it is increasing. The past quarter’s revenue increased 53.6% to $1,704,316 from $1,109,853 for the quarter and 58.0% to $4,444,523 from $2,812,337 year to date, thanks in part to new business. And Superclick is profitable.

Of course, this acquisition is peanuts compared to AT&T’s pending $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile.



Amazon, Fox Streaming Deal Brings 11k Movies And TV Shows To Prime Instant Video

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 06:17 AM PDT

iwanttobelieve

Amazon quietly announced a huge deal with Fox Broadcasting Company over the weekend. Posting directly on Amazon.com, CEO Jeff Bezos brought the big news to Prime subscribers who will now have unlimited access to an additional 11,000 movies and TV shows. These are huge titles, too: The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Arrested Development, and The Wonder Years. Yep, you can now stream the adventurers of Kevin Arnold through Amazon’s Prime Instant Video.

Jeff Bezos,

I have big news for Amazon Prime members – we’ve just signed a deal with FOX to add a broad selection of movies and TV shows to our unlimited instant streaming service later this fall. The new additions from the FOX library include 24, Arrested Development, The X-Files, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and – available on digital video for the first time – The Wonder Years. We now have deals with CBS, NBCUniversal, Sony, and Warner Bros, and adding FOX will bring the total to more than 11,000 movies and TV shows available for unlimited instant streaming.

These new additions prop up Amazon’s Netflix competitor rather nicely. Besides The Wonder Years, which Amazon is streaming exclusively, Netflix should have a good chunk of these new titles. This isn’t a bad thing as Amazon doesn’t necessarily need exclusive content to counter Netflix. Amazon’s Prime Instant Video simply needs more content and deals like this one.

Amazon launched Prime Instant Video last February and has steadily added new content. The service offers all-you-can-watch unlimited streaming for $79.99 a year, which works out to $6.64 a month verse Netflix’s $7.99. However, besides the access to unlimited streaming, the $79.99 a year charge nets buyers free 2-day shipping and $3.99 one day shipping. With strong platform support, and now 11k titles from Fox, Amazon Prime Instant Video is looking rather tasty.


Company: Amazon
Website: amazon.com
Launch Date: September 26, 1994
IPO: NASDAQ:AMZN

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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The Huawei Honor Android Smartphone Packs 1.4GHz Processor Under A 4″ Display

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 05:56 AM PDT

Huawei Honor

Today Huawei has announced its latest Android smartphone: The Huawei Honor. Unlike some recent mid-range offerings, this thing is quite the little powerhouse. The company has been focused on wallet-friendly Android devices for some time now, but the Honor certainly makes a transition into high-end turf.

As far as specs go, the Honor will run Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread on top of a 1.4GHz processor. It’s a bit thicker than some of its competitors, with a 10.9mm waste line, weighing in at .03 lbs. The Honor sports a 4-inch FWVGA display, along with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing shooter, which should make for some high-quality video chat.

The phone packs 512MB of RAM and 4GB of ROM memory, with support for a 32GB SD memory card. WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1 are supported, and the Honor also packs an FM radio. The phone will first ship in black, with more color offerings to follow. The company also said that the Honor comes with an “exclusive Huawei user interface with a weather widget.” We’re not sure if that’s the same 3D UI we say on the Vision, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

According to Huawei, the Honor is destined for China, Russia and the Middle East in the fourth quarter of 2011, but with specs like these we wouldn’t be surprised to see a U.S. variant pop up somewhere along the line.


Company: Huawei
Website:

Huawei is a leading telecom solutions provider. Through continuous customer-centric innovation, they have established end-to-end advantages in Telecom Network Infrastructure, Application & Software, Professional Services and Devices. With comprehensive strengths in wireline, wireless and IP technologies, Huawei has gained a leading position in the All-IP convergence age. Their products and solutions have been deployed in over 100 countries and have served 45 of the world’s top 50 telecom operators, as well as one third of the world’s population. ...

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Tumblr Raises $85 Million Round From Richard Branson, VCs

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 05:20 AM PDT

tumblr

Blogging community operator Tumblr has raised $85 million in new funding from Greylock Partners, Insight Venture Partners, the Chernin Group, Spark Capital, Union Square Ventures and Sequoia Capital. Richard Branson also participated in the round.

The news was broken moments ago by the NYT’s Jenna Wortham, who writes that the company will announce the financing later today.

The round brings Tumblr’s total of capital raised to over $125 million. The valuation of the company in its latest financing round was not disclosed.

Business Insider pegged the valuation at ‘$800 million+’ last August.

The funding comes at a time when Tumblr is experiencing massive growth across the board. Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp told us last June that the service recently hit 400 million pageviews in a single day (which comes down to roughly 5,000 pageviews a second).

According to Wortham, 30 million blogs have been created using Tumblr to date, which now generate more than 40 million posts every day.

Update: here’s more info from the official release:

This year alone, we’ve grown from 2 to 13 billion pageviews a month, with tremendous international adoption. Mobile pageviews have increased 17 times during that period. And the 30 million blogs on Tumblr now generate more than 40 million posts per day, passing 10 billion total posts just two weeks ago.

This year our little team has grown from 15 to 50, and it is incredibly important to us that we work with partners who understand our vision and share our ambition to build the best platform for the most creative people in the world.

Last Summer, Tumblr released a revamped iPhone app, which also helped spike the numbers.

For your further reading (and viewing) pleasure: TC Cribs: Inside Tumblr's Reblog-Worthy Digs


Company: Tumblr
Website: tumblr.com
Funding: $40.3M

Tumblr is a re-envisioning of tumblelogging, a subset of blogging that uses quick, mixed-media posts. The service hopes to do for the tumblelog what services like LiveJournal and Blogger did for the blog. The difference is that its extreme simplicity will make luring users a far easier task than acquiring users for traditional weblogging. Anytime a user sees something interesting online, they can click a quick “Share on Tumblr” bookmarklet that then tumbles the snippet directly. The result is...

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Evri Comes To iPad With New Topic-Based News Reader

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 04:58 AM PDT

evri-picture

Realtime semantic startup Evri is debuting its brand-new iPad application today, where it joins the crowded “iPad news magazine” space filled with the likes of Flipboard, The Daily, Zite, Pulse, NewsMix, AOL Editions, News360 and others. To differentiate itself from the pack, Evri’s app employs a combination of social news and topical streams, allowing readers to follow their interests as opposed to just following sources.

The new app relies heavily on Evri’s semantic underpinnings to turn unstructured data into topic-based channels. The company’s content discovery engine analyzes feeds from 15,000 news sources, runs the data through its natural language processing (NLP) parser and extracts entities which are put into Evri’s semantic index. In addition, the engine also determines what news is trending based on things like how many times a topic was covered, the velocity of coverage, how often its being shared on Twitter or Facebook and more.

And unlike apps like News Corp.’s The Daily, Evri’s index is updated every 15 minutes, not…well, you know, daily.

In other words, it’s a fairly robust backend technology that Evri has in place, no doubut helped in part by last year’s acquisition of another semantic search startup, Radar Networks. But more importantly, at least to consumers, is the new app’s interface. Given that Evri hasn’t always been a leader in terms of design, it was a concern. (Does anyone remember Evri’s bright pink “Top Gossip” mobile app? I do. Shudder.)

As it turns out, the Evri iPad app is a big improvement in the looks department. The user interface takes a little inspiration from Pulse, as it also features image thumbnails overlaid by white-on-black text. However, Evri offers its own unique take on topic navigation.

At the top of the screen are brightly colored squares for the major categories, including Top News, U.S. & World, Entertainment, Sports, Business and Technology. These are preceded by three grey buttons for social news (Twitter and Facebook) and “Now Following,” the section dedicated your personalized list of favorite topics.

Tap on any of these major categories to see the trending news within those areas or delve into subcategories using the navigation on the side (also image thumbnails, but smaller.) That may sound like a lot of navigational options, but it’s well done, not overpowering and it disappears when you need it to.

As you dig into the various sections, however, you’ll find only articles snippets, not the stripped down, clean text that apps like Flipboard provide. Evri is determined to be more “publisher friendly,” sending its users over to the actual website using an in-app browser, complete with sharing buttons and a “read later” option that supports both Instapaper and Read It Later. For readers, unfortunately, that’s not as pleasant an experience as the iPad-optimized Flipboard, which is, frankly, still the app to beat in this space.

In testing, Evri’s app had the occasional slowdown and crashed a couple of times, but the version I used was still in development. Hopefully by today’s launch, those bugs have been squashed. When the app was functioning, it was easy to swipe through pages, star favorite topics, share, save and read articles.

Evri for iPad is a free download via iTunes. In the future, it may include in-app advertising for monetization purposes, but the company doesn’t have those details sorted yet. Says CEO Will Hunsinger, Evri first just needed to get in the game. And as they say, joked Hunsinger, “you can’t get in the game if you’re not on the field.”


Company: Evri
Website: evri.com
Funding: $8.35M

Evri is a personalized news reader for tablets that makes it easier than ever to keep up with topics that interest you. With Evri, you can: Discover breaking news Check up on the stories you follow regularly Search new topics that intrigue you Read what your friends recommend Evri’s unique topic-based approach to news aggregation means you no longer have to rely upon a particular source to get the latest news on things you care about. You identify the topic, and...

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