Monday, October 3, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

BranchOut Brings Facebook-Focused Professional Networking To Job Search Platform CareerBuilder

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:55 AM PDT

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BranchOut, a professional social network for Facebook, is announcing a partnership with jobs and resume site CareerBuilder to help users bring social networking into the job search experience. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Launched in July 2010, BranchOut is sort of like a LinkedIn for Facebook because it allows you to network and find jobs through your friends on the social network. BranchOut’s Facebook app lets you search for companies and then shows you all your friends who either work there or know somebody who does. The application basically unlocks the massive amounts of career data about your social graph on the world’s largest social network.

On average, BranchOut, which is backed by Accel, Norwest, Floodgate, and Redpoint, says a network of 300 Facebook friends translates to 30,000 professional connections. Recruiters, in turn, use BranchOut to promote jobs and source talent from a variety of employment sectors.

Via the partnership, job seekers on CareerBuilder can view jobs of interest and instantly see people in their expanded network, via BranchOut’s application, who they could contact for a potential referral or advice on getting an interview.

The companies say that the integration of BranchOut’s Facebook-focused technology is a perfect fit for job seekers. According to a 2011 CareerBuilder study in the U.S., 40 percent of workers who are looking for jobs said they research companies that interest them on Facebook before applying to a position; and one-in-five (21 percent) use Facebook to contact friends about job opportunities.

And other traditional online job platforms are definitely catching on this social trend when it comes to networking and job search. Fellow job search portal Monster recently recently launched a BranchOut-clone called BeKnown. The question is when LinkedIn will eventually  integrate Facebook into its professional social network.


Company: BranchOut
Website: branchout.com
Funding: $24M

BranchOut is a professional networking service on the Facebook platform. The service leverages users’ social graphs and networks to help them find jobs, sales leads, and new hires. The company was founded in July 2010 by Rick Marini.

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PolitiFact Launches News Service To Bring Its Fact-Checking To Print

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:50 AM PDT

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Florida-based news outlet the St. Petersburg Times is launching the PolitiFact News Service today, a new venture that brings the Pulitzer-prize winning political database to newspaper publishers. Subscribers will have access to candidate report cards, the Truth-O-Meter, fact-checking, and updates and scorecards from the Obameter and GOP Pledge-O-Meter, which track the campaign promises of President Barack Obama and Republican leaders, respectively.

According to Neil Brown, Times editor, the news service launch came at the request of editors from around the country. "We heard from many editors who love the Truth-O-Meter and would like to use it in their papers," he said.

For those unfamiliar with PolitiFact jargon, the Truth-O-Meter provides fact-checking and report cards on the presidential candidates, pundits and members of Congress.

In addition to the above features, newspapers will also be able to syndicate articles that explore trends from the PolitiFact fact-checking findings.

PolitiFact, which launched in 2007 to fact-check the presidential campaign, has expanded into a full-featured web and mobile service in the years since, providing details about politicians and now, even talk shows hosts who discuss political matters. It notably won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009.

Syndication rates for newly-launched news service are not provided at this time, but the paper says that the lowest rates will be available prior to January 1st, 2012.



Redbeacon Nabs StubHub, Support.com Vet As New CEO

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:28 AM PDT

redbeacon

Home services marketplace and TechCrunch50 winner Redbeacon is announcing a leadership change this morning with the appointment of Anthony Rodio, former COO of Support.com, as CEO.

edbeacon lets users search, browse and book local service providers – from plumbers to bakers – on its website. Service providers pay a fee to Redbeacon for new paying customers, or in some categories, like lawyers, for a lead. The company has expanded from San Francisco to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Seattle, and Houston.

Previously, Rodio was responsible for Support.com's software business and day-to-day operations as its Chief Operating Officer. Prior to Support.com, he held senior positions at SideStep (acquired by Kayak in 2007), StubHub (acquired by eBay in 2007), Microsoft, and Amazon.com. He also previously worked at Bank of America and Procter & Gamble.

Founded by former Googlers Ethan Anderson and Yaron Binur, Redbeacon has raised $7.4 million in funding led by Mayfield Fund and Venrock.


Company: Redbeacon
Website: redbeacon.com
Funding: $7.4M

Redbeacon allows consumers who need a service performed to find and interact with local businesses and professionals. Redbeacon goes beyond returning business listings with ratings and reviews by helping consumers determine the right service provider for their specific needs and allowing them to compare price quotes and book appointments online. Consumers describe what they need done and specify when and where their job should take place. Using patent-pending machine learning and semantic technology, Redbeacon determines the best...

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The Horror: Kindle Touch 3G Disables Web Browsing Over 3G

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:23 AM PDT

why-no-kindle-touch-or-fire-for-eu-uk

Those tricksy Amazonians! The Kindle Touch 3G will have an experimental browser built-in but it will only run on Wi-Fi, not 3G. Browsing over 3G has been supported since the first Kindle and, to be fair, the experience was approximately abysmal. However, people love their free stuff and clearly this could be a deal-breaker.

In a customer forum, an Amazon spokesperson wrote:

We apologize for the confusion. Our new Kindle Touch 3G enables you to connect to the Kindle Store, download books and periodicals, and access Wikipedia – all over 3G or Wi-Fi. Experimental web browsing (outside of Wikipedia) on Kindle Touch 3G is only available over Wi-Fi.

Our Kindle Keyboard 3G will continue to offer experimental web browsing over 3G or Wi-Fi.

You’ll also note that they’re calling the old Kindle the “Kindle Keyboard.” Here’s hoping they don’t make a Kindle Keyboard for Kids.

via Beyond Black Friday


Company: Amazon
Website: amazon.com
Launch Date: October 3, 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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Chartboost Launches New Direct-Deal Marketplace For Mobile Game Publishers

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 08:15 AM PDT

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New direct-deal advertising marketplace Chartboost launches today, allowing mobile game developers to use cross-promotion techniques to increase the size of their game’s user base, and therefore, its revenues. The company was created by former Tapulous employees, Maria Alegre, now Chartboost CEO, and Sean Fannan, CTO.

After Disney’s acquisition of Tapulous, the Chartboost founders decided to help start a platform to give other game publishers the same ability to maximize their distribution power, something that they felt was Tapulous’ most valuable asset.

Previously Alegre worked a business and revenue associate at Tapulous. She later became head of Tapulous Labs Studio under Disney, where she was responsible for monetization and launch strategies, project management and game design. Fannan was a senior software engineer at Tapulous, where he built and managed the original server architecture, helped with scaling and coordinated the engineering of marketing deals with brands like Microsoft, Groupon, Disney and Fox.

Chartboost is not an ad network, the company explains, it’s a technology platform. It provides free ad-serving technology for direct deals and cross-promotions via the Chartboost SDK. Instead of mediating direct-deals through an ad network, Chartboost publishers get a 100% revenue share on these deals.

Included in the platform are white-labeled fullscreen interstitials, which publishers can use to promote their other titles. When they’re not being used internally, those spaces can be sold directly to other publishers and used to generate revenue. Also, says Chartboost, because the interstitials are promoting recommended games, they’re not perceived by end users as if they were ads.

Chartboost also offers in-depth metrics that allow publishers to track the direct deals and cross-promotions and manage their inventory accordingly. The analytics show impressions, clicks, installs, CPC, CPI and eCPM for each app. An API to track UDIDs is available, too.

The company currently operates under a freemium model: the ad-server technology is free when used for direct deals or internal cross-promotion. Meanwhile, the opt-in ad network offers revenue sharing with publishers, allowing them to maximize the unsold inventory that’s not used internally for cross-promotion or in direct deals. Those campaigns use metrics like Cost per Click (CPC) or Cost per Install (CPI) to determine pricing.

At launch, notable Chartboost publishers include TinyCo, Storm8, Pocket Gems, Gameview Studios, The Playforge, Funzio, OMGPOP, Com2us, Fluik Entertainment, Sunstorm Interactive, Ace Viral, Camigo Media, Neon Play, Lakoo, and Devsisters. Several of these are leading publishers in their own markets, and many are top 100 app makers.

As of August 31st, self-funded Chartboost says it’s a profitable company.

The platform is live on iOS and will launch on Android soon.




Groupon’s IPO Valuation Could End Up Being Less Than $6 Billion

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 07:37 AM PDT

downward spiral

It was only about six months ago that investor excitement for a Groupon IPO was so high that its expected valuation was $25 billion. Now, institutional investors are wary. A fund manager quoted in a Bloomberg report today suggests that Groupon might have to reduce its IPO valuation to between $3 billion and $5 billion in order to get it out the door. That valuation would be below the $6 billion acquisition offer Groupon turned down from Google last year. Another fund manager says that Groupon may have to delay its IPO further or even pull it.

All of this goes to show that six months can be an eternity when it comes to the IPO window. Since the days not so long ago when nobody blinked at its proposed $25 billion valuation, Groupon has taken a beating for some of its accounting practices, cash burn rate, and other financial details revealed in its SEC filings, which have been revised several times. Last month, it restated the way it accounts for revenues to a more conservative set of numbers, and announced that it lost its second COO in less than a year. It is facing increased competition from Google, LivingSocial, Facebook, and hundreds of other smaller startups. And of course, the overall stock market’s downward spiral isn’t helping matters any.

Delaying the IPO may not be a bad idea if Groupon can cut its costs (a big part of which is marketing and sales) to a more sustainable level. Without slashing costs, it will find itself in a cash crunch. The company spent $432 million on marketing in the first 6 months of 2011 ($345 million of which was on online marketing to acquire new subscribers). It had $225 million in cash.

Despite the IPO drama, Groupon still dominates the daily deal market and is introducing strong new products such as Groupon Rewards, which could deepen its relationships with local merchants. If Groupon pulls its IPO and then files again in a year with profits and a much stronger financial condition, investors will have a better idea of how to value to the company.

Image credit: Thomas Bower


Company: Groupon
Website: groupon.com
Launch Date: November 11, 2008
Funding: $1.14B

Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 565 cities around the world. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon can offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere. Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way that offers the consumer an unbeatable deal, and businesses a large number of new customers. To date, it has saved consumers more than $300 million and claims it...

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BBM For Android App Screen Shots Leaked

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 07:36 AM PDT

BBM_OnAndroid

Well, what do we have here? BBM for… Android?

New leaked photos appear to show a beta version of BBM running on an unspecified (and clearly uncared for) Android device. The validity of these shots is questionable, as they were sent to T3 from an anonymous source and a leak of this kind would take about five minutes for a Photoshop noob to complete. However, they do add a little weight to ongoing rumors that suggest RIM has plans to roll out its BlackBerry Messenger service on outside platforms, including Android and iOS.

Pictures aside, let’s just think about this purported plan for a hot second.

RIM won’t have trouble holding on to its enterprise customers, at least right now. The cost of switching platforms is just too high, and RIM security still can’t be beat. However, what made RIM an overnight (six-year) success was the fact that not only the enterprise, but teenagers and young people, were digging the BlackBerry. That, in a nutshell, comes down to messaging.

If there’s ever been one thing that BlackBerrys do best for the general public, it would be messaging. Even with an iPhone, BBM has always been that one little exclusively BlackBerry feature that I’ve envied. But if BBM is available on iPhone and Android — as a free download, mind you — than RIM stands to gain nothing from it.

Android leads in market share, followed by iOS. According to the numbers, we’re not looking at a mass exodus of Android loyalists or Apple fanboys anytime soon. BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry phones sales, on the other hand, are bleeding. People are already abandoning ship for greener, Android-flavored pastures. So what does RIM think will happen when one of its customers’ favorite apps pops up on a better platform, with hundreds of hardware options?

In any case, the anonymous source of the photos says that the BBM for Android app is “in the final stages of testing” and “should be out by 2012.”


Website: rim.com
Launch Date: October 3, 1984
IPO: NASDAQ:RIMM

Research In Motion (RIM) is a Canadian designer, manufacturer and marketer of wireless devices and solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. The company is best known as the developer of the BlackBerry smart phone. RIM technology also enables a broad array of third party developers and manufacturers to enhance their products and services with wireless connectivity to data. RIM was founded in 1984. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, the company has offices in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

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Goats Go To War: Kickstarter Project Aims To Keep A Programmer Housed And Fed

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 07:27 AM PDT

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It’s hard out there for a goat. You’re relegated to the background in many RPG games, chewing morosely while adventurers and soldiers light out for the darkened corners of the World, fighting dragons, the hellborn, and coprophagic demons. But now the goats are taking on the world’s vilest enemy – the Nazis – and they mean business.

GOATS vs NAZIS is an indie NES game by Jim Welch that should take about a year to finish. Welch is asking for $14,000 to help feed and clothe him while he works on the game (where the heck does he live?) and he’s offering the game for free once he’s done.

The game is a top-down shooter with seven levels and a password progress system. You can eat enemy weapons to shoot them back at them and it includes some delightful chiptune songs including the boss theme. The minimum pledge is $10 and that gets you the game ten days early along with a link to the soundtrack.

I think this is interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s a goofy take on such jingoistic titles like Bionic Commando (Spoiler Alert) and Rush’n Attack and, more important, it’s actually built for the NES, forcing folks to rethink that platform’s current viability. Second, it’s a great way for Jim Welch to support his gaming habit and, since he’s giving the game away, it’s the only way he’ll see a penny from this while he builds it. Indie game devs need all the help they can get and this is a great way to get it.

Third, goats fighting Nazis is pretty bad-ass.

The project has hit about $200 now but I suspect it will get funded once people discover its magical storyline. It’s also a great example of how Kickstarter can keep independent art of all stripes alive.

Project Page



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Google Offers Hits Miami

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 07:21 AM PDT

googoffers

Google’s deals service Google Offers launches in Miami, Florida today, with two kickoff specials now available. Offers, Google’s take on the Groupon model, initially launched in June, and expanded last month into five additional cities: Austin, Boston, D.C., Denver and Seattle. Including its original test market of Portland, plus the Bay Area and New York City, Google Offers now serves 13 areas. (New York and Bay Area markets are split up into smaller units, e.g. NYC Uptown, Midtown and Downtown).

The first two offers in Miami include a restaurant deal at Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami eatery since 1913, and a deal for Fandango movie tickets, at $5 each.

Like Groupon, Google Offers have limited windows in which you can purchase the coupon. But unlike Groupon, Google doesn’t have a tipping point for the deal. If only one person buys the deal, it’s active. Groupon’s return policy (indefinite) is better than Google Offers (60 days), as is its customer support (a toll-free number vs. having to enter your phone number via a website and wait for a call back).

But while Groupon is more of a standalone deals entity, Google ties Offers into its other services, including its business listing and reviews provider Google Places, Android (via the Google Shopper mobile app) and even Google Wallet, which enables Google to track the entire cycle surrounding customer behavior, from discovery to redemption to checkout.

Google Offers are available online, or via Google Shopper app for Android or iPhone.



Axcient Lands $15.5 Million For Affordable Backup And Data Protection Solution For SMBs

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT

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Axcient, the hybrid cloud-based data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity startup, is today announcing that it has closed a $15.5 million round of series C funding. The round was led by Scale Venture Partners, the VC firm that has led investments in other cloud services companies like Box.net and DocuSign, with participation from previous investors like Allegis Capital, Peninsula Ventures, and Thomvest Ventures.

The series C investment brings Axcient’s total funding to $33.5 million, and SaaS veteran and Scale Ventures Managing Director Rory O’Driscoll will be joining the startup’s board of directors as part of the investment. O’Driscoll also sits on the boards of companies like JasperSoft, Lumension Security, mBlox, Omniture, Picolight, ScanSafe and Vantage Media.

The company will be using its latest infusion of capital to triple the size of its marketing and sales team, roll out its services internationally, and grow its staff of 80 to 120+ over the next six months.

Today, small businesses looking to protect, back up, and optimize their most valuable asset, their data, often have to work with three or four different hardware and software solutions, combining services like Symantec BackupExec with tape or NAS or other online backup services and local hardware solutions. Cobbling these different solutions together to achieve maximum protection, backup, deduplication, and disaster recovery is a pain in the ass. Especially for how fundamental these services are to small businesses. One day without email or access to core parts of their network can be crippling to a young startup.

Founded in 2006, the Mountain View-based startup is attempting to bring these core data protection and recovery solutions to SMBs — for a reasonable price. And while it’s still paving its road ahead in a crowded space, the startup is beginning to see some real traction. Today, 2,000 SMBs are using Axcient to protect their data, from small dental practices and sole-practitioner law firms to 4,000-employee, multi-location AV companies and VCs on Sand Hill Road. The startup has seen over 30 percent quarter-over-quarter monthly recurring revenue growth in 2011 and by the end of this year will be managing two billion customer files and over 100,000 customer laptops and servers.

This year, the startup has also added 1,000 partners in North America, including a strategic partnership with HP, as well as adding enhancements to its platform, including remote monitoring and management platforms and professional service automation tools.

Like Nimble Storage, which we wrote about back in July, for example, Axcient is attempting to make it appallingly easy for SMBs, which may not be able to afford IT teams or install a hive of servers, to combine storage, backup and disaster-recovery into a single solution. To do so, Axcient sends businesses a small device (typically about the size of a desktop hard drive), which they can set up in as little as 5 minutes and self-connects to Axcient’s cloud as well as the SMB’s network or Amazon hosting service.

With local, on-site hardware that can effectively use local network speeds with the added benefit of the creation of a secure tunnel to Axcient’s cloud, the startup has basically enabled SMBs to take advantage of a SaaS-based hybrid cloud model which works for companies with 250GBs of data or 20 terabytes. And the cost to the end user is $100 a month, with pricing going up somewhat for customers with larger data needs. Pretty affordable considering.

Axcient’s value proposition, then, is clear: For a relatively affordable price, the startup offers an all-in-one solution that supports all of your company’s different OSes, like Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux, as well support for its critical applications, like Exchange Server, SQL server — on all your different devices, like laptops, desktops, servers, etc. And it runs in the background of your system and can be accessed remotely — via your browser.

For more on Axcient’s offerings, click here and let us know how you think Axcient fares compared to the competition.


Company: Axcient
Website: axcient.com
Launch Date: October 3, 2011
Funding: $18M

Axcient provides a data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity platform for IT Resellers and Managed Service Providers (MSP) serving the small to medium-sized business (SMB) marketplace. Axcient's hybrid data protection platform includes an onsite appliance for fast local restore and failover capability, as well as a storage cloud to ensure maximum protection from fire, flood, sabotage, theft and other unforeseen disasters. Axcient is compatible with Windows, Linux and OSX and is designed to protect customers from the laptop...

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Wildfire Launches Analytics Suite That Integrates With Facebook’s New Page Insights

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:57 AM PDT

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Social media marketing software maker Wildfire is announcing its integration with the new Facebook Insights data, the update to Facebook’s analytics system for Pages, also announced today. Wildfire had helped advise Facebook on the development of the new Insights system, so it was prepared to provide the new data to its clients via its own suite as soon as it became available.

However, the Wildfire suite offers some additional features beyond the new Facebook Insights, including the ability to track and aggregate Insights across multiple fan pages, for example.

Facebook launched its new fan page metrics and a new ad social ad format at New York’s Advertising Week event on Monday. The new ad format (dubbed “Expanded Premium Ad”) expands upon the previous “social ad” which showed which of your friends like a page, and provides a way for users to like and comment on the ad itself. The new ad format is larger, as it displays which friends have liked the fan page above the ad itself, with the comment box below.

The other major Facebook announcement from Ad Week, though, revolved around the update to Insights, Facebook’s analytics dashboard for fan page owners. The dashboard now lists the total number of fans, total likes and a new “Friends of Fans” metric, which shows many people can be reached through a page’s post and more. It also shows how people ended up on the fan page, whether through an ad, a friend’s post, or otherwise.

Wildfire takes some of the new data points from Facebook, called “Friends of Fans,” “Engaged Users,” and “People Talking About This” and pulls them into its own analytics suite.

Engaged users, explains Wildfire, include anyone who responds positively by consuming content (watching a video, clicking a link, etc.), liking a post, commenting on it, or taking other actions. Some of these users will comment on the post, which brings it into their friends’ News Feed, creating a discussion. These people are wrapped up in the new “People Talking About This” metric. The audience they connect with indicates the “Viral Reach” of that post.

In addition, the new “Friends of Fans” data shows the potential audience for any Facebook Page post.

In Wildfire’s Social Marketing Suite, brands with multiple fan pages can view Facebook Insights from all their pages in aggregate, including performance data, engagement, and analytics. Clients can then drill down into the pages to see the individual data points.

More information about the updated Suite is available on www.wildfireapp.com.



The iPhone 5/4S: The Complete Rumor Rundown

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:49 AM PDT

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Apple is less than 24 hours away from announcing the next iPhone. Unlike previous announcements, this show will be intimate and small, held at Apple’s HQ rather than a large venue like the Moscone Center. Most important, Steve Jobs isn’t headlining the show; although, if rumors are to be believed, he might make a cameo. Apple’s latest commander and chief, Tim Cook, is expected to lead the charge at what will likely amount to one of the biggest Internet traffic days of the year.

Apple is rather tardy releasing this latest iPhone, missing its traditional summer launch date by a good two months. However, if the rumor mills are to be believed, there, the new iPhone will be very similar to the old iPhone – except where it isn’t. We compiled all of the rumors here along with stating the viability for each. Some are wide-eyed, others are realistic, while some are pure fanboy fantasy.



The iPhone 4S Will Be A Less Expensive iPhone

Argument

  • Numerous leaked SKU line ups with iPhone prototypes that are made of just plastic rather than glass and aluminum found in Brazil.
  • Apple would completely disrupt Android and Windows Phone 7 by selling a new iPhone at $100 or less.
  • The iPhone 4 still packs enough computing power for most users.

Objections:

  • Unsubstantiated leaks cannot be trusted

Judgment: The stars just seem aligned for this one. The iPhone 4 is still a hot phone despite being over 15 months old. Apple just needs to repackage the current hardware into a less expensive body to completely demolish the competition.



Redesigned, thinner iPhone 5

Argument:

  • Countless thinner cases have leaked over the previous months all purportedly built for the next iPhone.
  • Every successive iPhone has been thinner than the previous.
  • Apple likes to keep design cues constant between products and so the next iPhone will look similar to the iPad.

Objection:

  • None, it’s a pretty solid claim

Judgment: Apple has never released a product thicker than the previous model and won’t start with the next iPhone.


Larger screen

Argument:

  • The iPhone 4′s 3.5-inch screen is tiny compared to recent superphones from Motorola, Samsung, and LG.
  • Leaked cases signal that the next iPhone will be physically longer and wider. A larger screen is logical if the size of the iPhone is increasing.
  • Our own research has shown that a larger screen is “likely.”

Objections:

  • Larger screen could mess with apps designed for the smaller screen

Judgment: Apple cannot ignore the current popular trend of larger screen sizes. As long as the phone is thinner, a larger screen will not make the phone feel any bigger.



Edge-to-edge glass

Argument:

  • Apple has always pushed the limit with its LCD implementation.
  • Edge-to-edge glass would give Apple something to tout over just using a larger screen.

Objections:

  • Likely higher manufacturing cost, which would cut into the profit margin
  • Could lead to more broken screens

Judgment: Not likely just yet. Apple pushes the limit but only as far as its financially viable.



NFC Chip
Argument:

  • NFC is the next big thing and already a feature on leading Android handsets
  • An NFC-equipped iPhone would further the advancement of mobile payments

Objection:

  • Current NFC radios are separate microchips and not integrated into a unified communication chip, which requires PCB real estate and extra battery power
  • Apple could be waiting until the payment companies make a lucrative offer to them

Judgment: Apple tends to incorporate non-proprietary tech only after its viability is proven. So that’s a “No.”



Dual-core A5 CPU

Argument:

  • Apple tends to include a faster CPU with each iPhone release
  • iOS 5 will likely benefit from a faster, dual-core CPU

Objection:

  • More powerful CPUs tend to decrease battery life

Judgment: It’s very likely the next major iPhone will have the A5 CPU. However, Apple might stick with the A4 for a mid-model refresh like the rumored iPhone 4S



New home button

Argument:

  • Leaked cases and bezels show an elongated opening/button
  • Touch-sensitive bezels allows for new controls, multitouch gestures

Objections:

  • Completely changes Apple’s “Keep It Simple, Stupid” design
  • Could break current apps

Judgment: Don’t start designing your next Kickstarter iPhone case project around this rumor. Apple will likely stick with its traditional home button.



8MP camera

Argument:

  • MP count has increased with every new iPhone release
  • An 8MP photo previously appeared with iPhone 5 metadata
  • Megapixel counts are unfortunately a comparison point between different phones

Objections:

  • Higher megapixel counts does not necessarily improve picture quality. Apple knows this. Hopefully.

Judgment: Camera sensors are constantly shrinking in size while increasing in MP count. Expect a higher count sensor but not necessarily an 8MP version.



CDMA/GSM dual-mode radio

Argument:

  • The next iPhone will use Qualcomm Gobi Baseband and run on both GSM and CDMA networks
  • Dual-mode phones have shown up in developer’s usage stats
  • Would allow Apple to makes/sell just one version, decreasing manufacturing costs
  • Allow Apple to sell a completely unlocked iPhone. Buy one from the Apple Store and activate it however you want
  • Carrier independence is a huge selling point

Objection:

  • Dual-mode mobile radios are still very rare
  • R&D cost could make it financially unfeasible

Judgment: It’s hard to say. The upsides are huge for both Apple and consumers, but dual-mode radios are not widely used. Apple tends to use highly-available and therefore, high margin components.



Extensive voice controls
Argument:

  • The next iPhone will have powerful voice controls built by Siri called Assistant, which Apple bought last year for $200m
  • The voice controls would outclass Android’s with more natural navigation paths
  • These function would need beefy hardware like the rumored A5 CPU, which creates an up-sell point for iPhone 4 owners

Objections

  • None, really. Seems like a logical step for iOS.

Judgment: It’s hard to predict future iOS features, but more beefy voice controls are probably on the road map.



Company: Apple
Website: apple.com
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 3, 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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Product: iPhone
Website: apple.com
Company Apple

Apple’s iPhone was introduced at MacWorld in January 2007 and officially went on sale June 29, 2007, selling 146,000 units within the first weekend of launch. The phone has been hailed as revolutionary with its bundle of advanced mobile web browsing, music and video playback, and touch screen controls. The iPhone is exclusively carried on the networks of both AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. An iPhone can function as a video camera (video recording was not a standard feature...

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Walmart And T-Mobile Team Up For No-Contract 4G Phone Plan

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:49 AM PDT

tmart

If you’re the kind of person who would much rather text or email someone rather than actually talk to them, Walmart and T-Mobile would like to have a word with you. The two companies have announced Monday morning that T-Mobile will introduce a new no-contract 4G rate plan exclusively at Walmart.

Expected to go live on October 16, T-Mobile’s new Monthly4G plan only nets you 100 minutes, but customers will also have unlimited messaging and data at their disposal. Now of course, this is T-Mobile, so that unlimited data comes with a caveat: you’ll only be able to enjoy that 4G connection until you hit the 5GB cap, at which point you’ll be throttled down to EDGE speeds. All things considered, it’s still not too a shabby deal at $30 a month.

If anything, it’s Walmart’s phone selection that may leave you wanting more. At present, their prepaid T-Mobile lineup is almost entirely made up of feature phones, and one underwhelming Android device to round out the pack.

To help make their new plan more appealing though, T-Mobile has also said that Walmart will be getting their first prepaid 4G-capable phone shortly. And hey, if you’re truly bummed out about having to use a solid plan on a middling handset, you can always swap the SIM card into a nicer T-Mobile phone and reap the savings month after month. Ka-ching!



Russian Software House Secures $200m From Baring Vostok Capital

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:46 AM PDT

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You may not have heard of 1C.ru, but this leading Russian software company publishes 1C:Enterprise, the most popular ERP software for small and medium-sized businesses in Russia. With such a lock on a large market, that means 1C reported sales turnover of more than $600 million in 2010. And the sales are expected to increase by 20% in 2011. So it’s not entirely unsurprising that the company has now received $200 million in return for a 9% stake from private equity firm Baring Vostok Capital Partners (BVCP) reports newspaper Vedomosti.



Yahoo News Gets Overhauled, Will Feature Deep Integration With ABC News

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:45 AM PDT

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Yahoo and ABC just wrapped up a press conference at ABC’s Times Square studio to announce a major partnership between the two companies: they’re launching a new ‘News and Information Alliance’ that will see ABC News get a much more prominent presence throughout Yahoo. ABC News will also be launching several ‘web-first’ video series’ that will be appearing on Yahoo.

In short, Yahoo is reinventing its news site: ABC is bringing the premium content to the table, Yahoo is bringing its 100 million users.

A video played at the beginning of the conference made the mission clear: Yahoo and ABC News are gunning for CNN and other online news portals like The Huffington Post. To do that, Yahoo is augmenting its news articles with content produced by ABC News, including several new ‘web-first’ digital series featuring ABC News’s anchors. The video denounced the “blitz of headlines and information” seen across the web (they have a point), and says that the team are setting out to create richer stories.

The first video to be streamed as part of the partnership will be a live stream of George Stephanopoulos interviewing President Obama beginning at 2:35 PM EST this afternoon.

Yahoo and ABC say that “creativity is key” in the alliance — they’re looking to create content specifically suited for Yahoo’s web properties, as well as tablet and other mobile form factors. GoodMorningAmerica.com will be launching as a new portal on Yahoo News.

To monetize, at least initially, Yahoo and ABC will be selling advertising against its premium content. I asked if there were any plans to eventually monetize this content through in-app purchases and/or subscriptions. Ross Levinsohn, executive VP of Americas at Yahoo, didn’t rule it out, but says he isn’t going to predict the future. My hunch? Yep.

So is this a good move? I like it, though I want to see just what form this originally produced content takes, how long it remains exclusive on the web, and how much creativity will actually be involved. I think news on the web still has a long way to go, and more high-quality, premium content online is a good thing — and inevitable.

One reporter asked a series of questions about Carol Bartz, eventually asking Levinsohn if he’s gunning to take the helm. Levinsohn says this is the best job he’s had and gave an anecdote about his work history and talked about building good experiences (sounds like he’s saying “no”, but I’m not sure he explicitly said that at any point in his answer).


Company: Yahoo!
Website: yahoo.com
Launch Date: January 1, 1994
IPO: December 4, 1996, Nasdaq:YHOO

Yahoo was founded in 1994 by Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang. It has since evolved into a major internet brand with search, content verticals, and other web services. Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo!), incorporated in 1995, is a global Internet brand. To users, the Company provides owned and operated online properties and services (Yahoo! Properties, Offerings, or Owned and Operated sites). Yahoo! also extends its marketing platform and access to Internet users beyond Yahoo! Properties through its distribution network...

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ReTargeter Launches New Solution To Let Brands Boost Their Conversions Via Social Media

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

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For those unfamiliar with ad retargeting, it’s helpful to think of the mall scene from Minority Report, in which personalized advertisements follow John Anderton around as he walks. In this scifi scene, the targeting happens via retinal scan, but in 2011, luckily Big Brother has not quite taken over. Retargeting in online advertising today allows businesses to show ads to visitors who leave their websites without conversion — generally by way of cookie tracking.

It’s a bit creepy, as brand-vertisements can seem to follow us around the Web as we surf, as retargeted ads are basically displayed to people who have shown at least some idle interest in engaging with the advertiser’s brand, but have yet to turn themselves into a juicy conversion. (The majority of web traffic, by the way.)

Retargeter, which, at retargeter.com has landed one of the best domains in the space, allows companies to serve their ads to their audience after they leave their website without converting. It works to provide a simple retargeting solution that enables businesses to place one line of code on their websites and begin serving their ads to would-be customers across sites like Yahoo, YouTube, and the New York Times.

And today the company is looking to expand its offerings beyond the typical retargeting solutions by giving companies further access to that much-coveted feature: Social. Launching ReTargeter Social today, the company is combining three of its retargeting products (RTInfluencer, RTDiscover, and RTInteractive) into one solution to allow brands to target their most zealous online advocates, increase their network reach via social media, and increase conversions by “up to 50 percent”, as targeted social users are “4 times more likely to click on shared links”, according to ReTargeter CEO Arjun Dev Arora (who was formerly head of Business Development of Yahoo! Real Estate).

Like traditional retargeting, ReTargeter Social serves ads to a brand’s audience after they’ve engaged without converting, yet in this case users are targeted via direct visits, Twitter feeds, Facebook, and other social marketing vehicles.

The social retargeting solution essentially allows brands to encourage and reward social influencers in any industry, as well as identify, reach and retarget to those top social influencers. This happens either through advanced targeting capabilities of on-site segmentation with the engagement that
your brand receives from social-sharing, or via an algorithm that indexes top Twitter users within their industry, for example. Plus, using a combination of email and display advertising, brands are then able to reach these influencers with unique ads and make sure they’re delivered across the entire network.

ReTargeter’s social solution also allows marketers to replace static ads with and interactive ad experience, sharing their latest articles, videos, polls, customer forms, and realtime feeds from a blog, Twitter, or their Facebook account.

This added social functionality beefs up the startup’s existing social feature set, which includes the ability to “like” a brand and engage with them continuously on Facebook (which author Tim Ferriss, the “The 4-Hour Work Week”-guy used to increase “likes” on Facebook), as well as ReFollower, which retargets with your Twitter feed, among others — allowing brands not only to enhance retargeting or direct buys through social channels, but also based on demographic, geographic region, and context.

For more on ReTargeter, click here.


Company: ReTargeter
Website: retargeter.com

ReTargeter is a customer focused retargeting company, utilizing Ad, Email, and Social as methods to capture and retarget audiences. ReTargeter allows companies to show ads to potential or current customers around the web after they leave a website and drive those users back to the site, effectively increasing conversions and keeping brand at top of mind. ReTargeter displays a company's ads on hundreds of thousands of popular sites across the web exclusively to people who have recently visited their...

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The Fitbit Ultra: More Fitbit Goodness, Same Fitbit Package

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 05:56 AM PDT

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I had the opportunity to use a Fitbit Ultra, the successor to a glorified pedometer that has become oddly popular and addictive to a certain subset of non-torpid technophiles. To be clear, the desire to measure your days in terms of steps taken is an old one (there is heard tell of an old Chinese tradition of walking 10,000 steps a day to reach health and prosperity), but the Fitbit does this in a decidedly 21st century fashion.

The device connects wirelessly to a small base-station/charger and records the steps taken as well as, when the device is strapped to your wrist, a fairly spotty rendition of your sleep patterns. A small OLED readout tells you current stats including calories burned, distance travelled, and steps taken. It snaps to your clothing like a clothespin and lasts about a week on a single charge. When you approach the base station the device sends its stats to the Internet where they are compiled and presented as handsome charts and graphs of current activity.

I gave the Fitbit a try early on in its creation and found it slightly lacking, especially in that it broke in half after a bit of use. I found the thought of measuring my every step as slightly disconcerting, a sort Prufrockian measure of one’s day, existence reduced to blue numbers on a little piece of plastic. However, as I began testing the $99 Fitbit Ultra, a slightly upgraded version that adds a stopwatch and altimeter for measuring stair climbs, I began to warm to the device’s charms.


This is why I’m fat

Call me a sucker for simplicity, but the thought I could improve my fitness by strapping a little thinger to my pants and walking around is fairly compelling. Wearing it for a while I noticed that I was decidedly sedentary and even my bursts of exercise that I attempt of an evening barely pushed me past the 5,000 mark. I also saw that some folks I knew were literally walking circles around me, hitting the high 20Ks while I was piddling around in 3K by the time I went to bed. I turned off Fitbit’s automatic Twitter notifications because they were quite embarrassing.

The new Fitbit is slightly more accurate than the old version and seemed to measure other exercises better including more aerobic activities like floor workouts and running. You can feasibly trick the thing into counting biking as an exercise (a process that delightfully pads the stats) but that’s not why this product exists. In short, it’s there to tell you you need to get off your butt and walk.

You can then track your progress using the online dashboard (here is mine so you can follow my exploits). If you’re really into it, you can add food consumed as well as blood glucose levels. The dashboard also tracks your sleep by telling how much you toss and turn at night.

I have a few beefs with Fitbit, though. First, I’ve not been able to trust the device after it cracked oh so long ago. To be fair, the first versions were made of chromed plastic and could have suffered some structural problems but I’ve been overly careful with this new model. Second, if you’re not careful, you will lose the little thing. The Fitbit slipped off my pants just as I was totally getting into a long run and it now remains, unloved, pining away for my hips in the dark and cold of the Brooklyn streets. To avoid this, they recommend women attach them to their sports bras, an option that while potentially possible given my pectoral girth was not applicable in my current attire. The best place to put it – on a pocket – is also the most potentially lossy. Also the Fitbit is quite small so once it’s gone it’s gone.

If you’re willing to accept that your Fitbit may disappear on you and that you’re essentially measuring out the steps until your imminent demise, this may by the statistical-gathering tool for you. If you’re a hardcore runner, biker, luger, or anything else, this is probably not the best device. A sports watch with GPS and heart-rate monitor would be far superior. However, if you’re just now realizing you spent most of the 2000s playing WoW and reading ebooks, you may want to pick one of these up if only because you can treat your daily walks like dungeon runs and your daily records like wizardly achievements.

Product Page



MGX: NEC Shows 9.9MM Thin, Android-Based Notebook Prototype

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 05:47 AM PDT

nec mgx

NEC is working on an super-thin notebook that’s powered by Android (version unknown) and that’s just 9.9mm thick. The so-called MGX (an internal code-name, “MG” stands for “mobile gear”) is currently just a prototype, but it looks pretty slick.

In its current form, the device is 215mm long, 109mm wide, and weighs 350g. It features a 7-inch OLED touch display with 1,024×600 resolution, HSUPA and Wi-Fi connectivity, and 10 hours of battery life.

The MGX could be commercialized around 2013, according to the company.

Via PC Watch [JP]



Commonred Launches VIP Contests To Let Entrepreneurs Pitch Top VCs, Angels (And Win A Meeting)

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 05:18 AM PDT

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In July, we covered the launch of a new Vaporware Labs (a software company that makes social, mobile, and web apps, like Steve Young Football for the iPad and iPhone, and MEETorDIE) service, called Commonred, which is attempting to take the “cold call/email/approach out of the networking process”. Commonred was essentially launched to not only help startup founders — but anyone in need of some professional networking — to more easily find shared points of interest between themselves and those they want to meet, network, or learn from. (Without the awkwardness.)

To beef up its offerings for entrepreneurs and founders out there looking to have their ideas heard by people who matter, Commonred has launched a series of VIP meetings contests in which founders and entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to pitch VCs, journalists, Angels, and tech big wigs in an effort to push their businesses forward. The pitch with the most votes then wins a meeting with the person of interest, and, hopefully, the rest is history.

Traditionally, for those founders and entrepreneurs who may not necessarily have access to VCs or angels, or may not have had success with AngelList, accelerators, or pitching their ideas to media outlets, the road to victory can be a tough one. Which is what makes Commonred’s contests appealing to aspiring entrepreneurs out there.

What’s more, the startups has already run contests for people like Tony Conrad, the founder of About.me and True Ventures, Ryan Spoon of Polaris Ventures and Dogpatch Labs, and Nick Efstratis, Managing Director of Epic Ventures. TechCrunch’s own MG Siegler was even a participator; you can see his contest here, which led to a meeting for the winning startup, GetComparisons (and to TC coverage last week).

Commonred is currently running contests to get meetings with notables like David Bradford, the Chairman of publicly traded Fusion-io, who also has advisory and team roles with companies like Omniture, Novell, SCP Worldwide, as well as product designer, angel investor, TechCrunch contributor, and former CEO of Ustream, Chris Yeh.

Generally speaking, Vaporware and Commonred Founder Derek Andersen told us, it takes between 10 and 100 votes to win constests, and once an idea is chosen, the founder receives a meeting of up to one hour in duration with the VC, angel, or journalist hosting the contest.

For VCs and journalists, this is a great way to meet an awesome new entrepreneur without clogging their inbox with pitches, and for VCs et al to give back to the community — with the process allowing the best founders and ideas to rise to the top.

The contests are ongoing, with five contests usually running at any given time. This week in particular, Commonred will have eight to ten running simultaneously. As to how entrepreneurs and their ideas might stand out amidst the onslaught of pitches from eager founders? Anderson said that submitting parties should find common threads with the person reviewing pitches: “If the VIP went to MIT, mention that you did too. If they invested in a company like yours 10-yrs ago, mention the link. Show that you care enough to do some homework”.

And, again, with winners receiving coverage from tech publications and beyond (Anderson told me that one winner received a referral and interview for 500 Startups’ program), this can potentially be a game changer for startups looking for a jump start.

For more, check out Commonred’s VIP Contests here.


Company: Commonred
Website: commonred.com

Commonred is a project incubated VaporwareLabs in Mountain View CA. Vaporware Labs creates fun, useful applications in the social and mobile space. We're comprised of young entrepreneurs, game developers, designers, and marketing experts.

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Aperture: A Triumph of Science Is A 21 Minute Look Into The Labs Behind The Portal Testing Chambers

Posted: 03 Oct 2011 04:58 AM PDT

aperture video

Cue Yanni intro music. Enter Aperture Laboratories documentary. Proceed to lose the next 21 minutes of your life. Sorry.

Aperture: A Triumph of Science isn’t your fanboy look at Portal. Hells no. This is mildly entertaining, mildly informative look into the facility best known from the Portal games. There’s a bit of Easter eggs, a few Black Mesa references and a healthy dose of Aperture Science stickers (available from ThinkGeek, btw) But the video is as long and fictional as a History Channel documentary so clear your schedule and mind accordingly. [via Kotaku]



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