Friday, October 7, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Kleiner Perkins, SV Angel Back Personalized, Designer Quality E-Commerce Platform Everlane

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 10:30 AM PDT


Stealthy e-commerce platform Everlane has raised $1.1 million from a number of high-profile investors including Kleiner Perkins, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, Betaworks and angel investors including Brian Sugar, Keith Rabois, Dave Morin, Ben Ling, Nils Johnson, and Karl Jacob.

Everlane is still a month away from its public launch but we’ve received a few details on what the e-commerce company will offer come November 1. Co-founder Michael Preysman tells me that the site will offer designer-quality goods, always under $100. The plan is to build the next American Apparel or J Crew, but all online through a highly personalized, collaborative experience.

How does Everlane promise designer-quality duds at low prices? Similar to fellow e-commerce platform JustFabulous, Everlane bypasses the middlemen in the manufacturing process, which cuts 90% of traditional retail costs, and incorporating consumer feedback in realtime. You have to be a member to join, and each month the site launches a new collection of goods. Members can vote and comments on what new accessories and clothes Everlane offers each month.

Preysman tells me that the site will focus on offering American Apparel-style clothing, including high-quality t-shirts, sweatshirts, and more. Each month, Everlane will also launch a new line of accessories, including jewelry, that will expire each month. Preysman also says that Everlane has brought on a number of retail executives and employees from American Apparel, including the company’s former brand director and former content director.

Everlane will merge the tech and branding world, says Preysman, and create a new platform for finding high-quality basics at low prices. Plus, members get input on design and new products. Similar to American Apparel and J. Crew, Everland has ambitions of being a “broader lifestyle brand.”

Everlane is certainly capitalizing on a new wave of personalized (and well-funded) e-commerce startups that include JustFabulous, ShoeDazzle, BeachMint, BirchBox and many others. The space is still relatively new, but has been gaining traction amongst users as an affordable way to shop online, customize your purchases, and receive high-quality goods.

Hipchat Adds Custom Emoticons… For A Price

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 10:22 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-10-07 at 11.36.51 AM

Hipchat, the group chat service we use internally, has just added DIY emoticons – with a catch. If you’re not familiar with them, Hipchat’s emoticons are quite fun. They have most of the major memes as well as famous faces (try (arrington)). Now, however, you can add your own famous faces. Our favorites are (jobs) and (gates) as well as (yuno) and (lol). Try them.

In a clever bit of viral marketing, the site allows you to refer friends and you get four emoticons for each paid referral. We were able to get a few so far, adding Matt Burns and myself to the pantheon of 25 pixel by 25 pixel icons available to us during our daily bull sessions.

The emoticons are only visible for your group, so there is little if any duplication.

Hipchat was co-founded by Pete Curley and most recently added iPad and iPhone apps in an effort to beat competitors like Campfire.

Company: HipChat
Launch Date: January 9, 2009
Funding: $100k

HipChat is a private instant messaging network for companies, teams, and organizations. Features include: chat rooms, file sharing, and searchable chat history.

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Storify Adds SoundCloud Support, Lets You Add Audio To Streams

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 10:00 AM PDT


Audio platform SoundCloud and social media story-making tool Storify are partnering up today to allow the collection of sounds into Storify streams alongside tweets, Facebook posts, photos and videos. This news comes only a day after SoundCloud was taken down by a distributed denial-of-service attack, which kept the service offline and unstable for over a day. (It’s back up now, so it should be good to go.)

SoundCloud is typically known as a service that allows unsigned musicians, D.J.’s and music hobbyists a way to host their tracks online, post them to social networks and friend and follow other users. However, SoundCloud isn’t limited to hosting music – it can support any type of sound, including voice.

For that reason, the addition of SoundCloud can be helpful in the creation of the news summary type streams that Storify can help create. For example, here’s a stream summarizing the #OccupyWallStreet protests. At the top, a SoundCloud embed includes a reporter narrates what he’s seeing.  Here’s an example of SoundCloud being used to report from a conference. Another example involves interviewing subjects for a “man-on-the-street” style report.

Of course, SoundCloud’s integration isn’t limited to news reporting. Here’s a Storify post for a music competition, as another example. Other musicians could create Storify summaries of how their SoundCloud track was discussed on social media, too.

The integration of SoundCloud in Storify is live now.

Company: Storify
Launch Date: November 12, 2009
Funding: $2.02M

Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. With Storify, you collect the best photos, video, Tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere. It's the best way to remember an event through what people share, whether it's a conference, wedding, election or natural disaster. Streams flow, but stories last.

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Company: SoundCloud
Funding: €12.5M

SoundCloud is an audio platform that enables anyone to upload, record, promote and share their originally-created sounds across the web, in a simple, accessible and feature-rich way. Its open platform also supports a wide range of applications built on the SoundCloud API, enabling everything from mobile voice recording, online mastering, digital distribution to Facebook artist profiles and iPad music making. SoundCloud offers free accounts to amateur creators, with more advanced users able to upgrade to premium accounts for advanced...

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Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address Was Watched 8 Million Times Yesterday

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 09:29 AM PDT

Steve Jobs-1

Wow. In the wake of the sad news of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ passing, the videos featuring his inspiring speeches and presentations have seen jaw-dropping amount of views. One of Jobs’ most famous and more recent speeches, the commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 averaged 2,000 daily views in September. Yesterday, the speech saw over 8 million views, according to Visible Measures.

His many product presentations at Apple events averaged 24,000 daily views in September (here’s an early one from 1997). Yesterday, these videos generated over 6.8 million views. His interview alongside Bill Gates at All Things Digital averaged 11,000 daily views in September. Yesterday, these videos generated over 850,000 views.  So more than 15 million views overall just in one day.

Visible Measure says its accumulated this data across numerous clips for each video available on the web.

It’s no question that all of these videos are now a part of our collective memory of Steve Jobs.

Person: Steve Jobs
Companies: Pixar, NeXT, Apple

Steve Jobs was the co-founder and CEO of Apple and formerly Pixar. Steve Jobs was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin to Joanne Simpson and a Syrian father. Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, California then adopted him. In 1972, Jobs graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, California and enrolled in Reed College in Portland, Oregon. One semester later, he had dropped out, later taking up the study of philosophy and foreign cultures. Steve Jobs had a deep-seated interest in...

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Done Deal: EU Approves Microsoft’s $8.5 Billion Acquisition Of Skype

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 09:26 AM PDT


The European Commission has cleared Microsoft’s $8.5 billion proposed acquisition of Skype. As announced in May, Microsoft entered an agreement to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. With this approval, the acquisition can now take place.

The deal got U.S. regulatory approval from the FTC in June. At the time of the acquisition, Microsoft and Skype said they "hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year". Clearly their wish came true.

Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and its current chief executive Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Many believed that Microsoft overpaid for Skype, especially considering the fact that Facebook and Google were also sniffing around the VoIP company. And this was Microsoft’s biggest acquisition to date.

Here’s the EU’s statement on the acquisition:

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the Internet voice and video communication provider Skype by Microsoft Corporation because the deal would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) 1 or any substantial part of it.

In the area of consumer communications, the investigation found that the parties’ activities mainly overlap for video communications, where Microsoft is active through its Windows Live Messenger. However, the Commission considers that there are no competition concerns in this growing market where numerous players, including Google, are present.

For enterprise communications, the investigation confirmed that Skype has a limited market presence for these products and does not compete directly with Microsoft’s enterprise communication product Lync, which is used mostly by large enterprises.

The Commission’s investigation also focused on possible conglomerate effects, since Skype and Microsoft are active in neighbouring markets.

The transaction was notified to the Commission for regulatory clearance in the EEA on 2 September 2011.

Thanks To Whole Foods Deal, LivingSocial Grew Five Times Faster Than Groupon In September

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

September_Daily Deal Sites Gross Revenue

LivingSocial is still less than half the size of Groupon in terms of gross revenue, but in September it grew five times as fast largely thanks to one deal: Whole Foods. According to new data from daily deal tracker Yipit, LivingSocial’s gross revenues for deals in North America grew 32 percent in September, compared to 6 percent growth for Groupon. (Both figures are monthly growth versus August, 2011).

Yipit estimates that LivingSocial sold $59.3 million worth of deals in September, a month-over-month increase of $14.6 million. As much as $10 million of that amount was related to a very successful Whole Foods deal which offered $10 off a $20 purchase. Which just goes to show how one popular national deal can really move the needle for the daily deal sites. Groupon saw similar success with a Gap deal last year.

Even if you back out the impact of the Whole Foods deal, LivingSocial still would have shown 10 percent growth during the month. That is still faster than Groupon, but off a smaller base. Groupon sold an estimated $143.4 million worth of deals in North America in the same period. Groupon maintains 54 percent market share of daily deals in North America, versus 22 percent for LivingSocial—a number it has been hovering around since July. But both are doing very well, with a $3.2 billion annual gross revenue run-rate for Groupon and a $1.7 billion run-rate for LivingSocial, based on September’s numbers.

The Daily Deal industry overall grew 12 percent in September to an estimated $266.6 million in gross revenues, a faster pace than the 9 percent growth rate in August. The industry as a whole is at a $3.2 billion annual run-rate, based on September’s numbers (with Groupon representing $1.7 billion and LivingSocial $712 million of that total). Note that these are the gross revenues the deals represent, and not the direct revenues each company gets to keep after it splits the value of each deal with merchants.

Groupon and LivingSocial together make up 76 percent of the daily deals industry,but a dome of the newer, smaller players are growing even faster (again, off a smaller base). In September, No. 3 player TravelZoo grew 37 percent. AmazonLocal grew 177 percent, and Google Offers grew 236 percent. Something tells me that No. 3 spot is going to change fairly soon.

Company: LivingSocial
Launch Date: October 7, 2011
Funding: $632M

LivingSocial is the social commerce leader behind LivingSocial Deals, a group buying program that invites people and their friends to save up to 90 percent each day at their favorite restaurants, spas, sporting events, hotels and other local attractions in major cities. LivingSocial has an extensive user base of more than 85 million, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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Company: Groupon
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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Company: Yipit
Funding: $7.55M

Yipit aggregates and recommends the best daily deals based on users’ locations and interests. Yipit draws its deals from 330 active daily deal services including LivingSocial and Buy With Me, then ranks them according to users’ preferences. Yipit is available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and New York.

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Steve Jobs, Pop Artist

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 08:54 AM PDT


Many have said that Apple lovers are a cult and the late Steve Jobs was its cult leader. No rational person, they say, would pay that much for a tablet or a laptop or a mouse when the alternatives were so much better and cheaper. I would argue, however, that this outpouring of grief and emotion and reflection shows Apple as less a cult than a producer of pop culture. Pop culture is polarizing, world-reaching, and often burns brightest for far too short a time. Steve Jobs, then, was a less an inventor and more an artist, a creator akin to Bono, Miles Davis, or Annie Leibovitz. You can argue as to the various merits of each of those artists and that’s the point: you’ll never win.

I had been thinking about this concept for the past few weeks – especially after the break-up of R.E.M. – and now that Jobs is gone I noticed a feeling in myself akin to the loss of a source of great pleasure and dare I say pride. I was proud to be a member of a huge fan base and I was proud that we had all made this decision for similar reasons, especially when reflecting on the values and quality espoused in Jobs’ mission.

It can be argued that Apple took current technologies – MP3-playing DSPs, LCDs, touchscreens – and simply mixed them in different ways. Everything Apple has done can be seen in other devices that came before them. The iPod is a just an Archos Jukebox. The iPhone is just a Blackjack. The Macbook Air isn’t new: there was a Sony laptop much smaller and lighter back in 2000!

But that synthesis is the very definition of pop culture. It can be argued that Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Robert Plant stole from black urban and white country culture, stole the blues and jazz and folk from the poor and splashed it up on the stage like the flim flam artists they were. But it must be accepted that these three men and the artists in their cohort changed music forever by taking liberally from all musical forms and producing a more catholic, richer form of musical expression than anyone had a right to expect.

Then, we return to the concept of the cult in pop culture. There are plenty of people out there who love Katy Perry and there are plenty of people out there who hate her. Transpose Katy Perry with anyone else (Coldplay would be my personal choice. I’m baffled by them.) and you have the same result. The important point is that popularity doesn’t increase the fans or non-fans on any one side, but it instead grows the whole group. In a Venn diagram, the increasing popularity of a band doesn’t grow the fans circle. Instead, it grows both circles nearly equally and they sometimes overlap. You can hate Coldplay but love “Yellow.” You can hate Apple but love the iPhone.

Neither the fans nor non-fans are “right” in any sense of the word. Those who love Andy Warhol and those who hate him will never see eye-to-eye. Those who love iOS will never see why people like Android. It will be thus forever.

Therefore, Apple and Jobs brought something to technology that it didn’t have before he began – irrationality. There is no good reason to love a Mac Pro over a Windows gaming rig – both have approximately the same specs. But there is also no reason to like the Decemberists over Sufjan Stevens but I, personally, can’t stand the that Sufjan guy.

Finally, Steve Jobs was a perfectionist akin to a musician, director, or writer. Nothing was ever good enough until it was. You’ll note D.B. Grady starts his panegyric in the Atlantic talking about Kubrick’s precise direction. Compare this with the iteration cycle of most products. Motorola and RIM will dump a half-baked product onto the market and hope it sticks. If it doesn’t, there’s always next CES, or next CTIA, or the next press release. These guys are like the Spin Doctors – they make a hit, play it incessantly, and many people like it. Then you see them on stage and the lead singer is drunk as a lord and about to puke on the mic and you’re like “I think these Third Eye Blind guys are a little cooler.”

Apple, on the other hand, is like an old Pink Floyd stage show: sure, the flying pigs sometimes get away from them, but man if those lasers aren’t cool and they were en pointe the entire time. Jobs is akin to James Brown, fining musicians who messed up and creating an army of experienced, skilled session musicians in the process. Sure, everyone can make great music and in the end you come away with vaguely the same feeling but the quality of each experience is vastly different.

Apple raised the conversation away from megahertz and kernels to the plane of “It just works.” This refusal to bend to consumer will that most defines Apple is a product of pop culture rather than a technology company. Think of Radiohead’s recent produce: they’ve changed everything, thrice over, but they are pushing music to a new edge. “No Surprises” is as much different from “15 Step” as the original iMac is from the Macbook Air. But all of these derive from the same goal – to push the state of the art at the time, whether it be the hard electronic and mechanical arts or the “soft” liberal and aesthetic arts.

Apple is not a cult: they’re a band or a collective or an artists’ colony. Just like a band they think about money, logistics, engineering, and succession. They had a great leader and they’ll have another and another. In the end, then, Apple fans have a strong defense and Apple detractors are also right, in their way. But, as Shakespeare noted, “the man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.”

Company: Apple
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 7, 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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Travel Much? The Unlocked iPhone 4S Will Be Available In November

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 08:41 AM PDT

iPhone 4S

Even with that far-reaching tinge of disappointment over a lack of an iPhone 5, iPhone 4S orders are still expected to be pretty high. However, Apple is only currently selling locked models of its new flagship for Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. But according to a line on the Apple website, an unlocked version of the phone will be available in November.

If you travel often for work or pleasure, the unlocked model is certainly the way to go. It will work on AT&T’s network here in the States, as well as T-Mobile’s (at EDGE speeds), but once you venture abroad you’ll be able to tap into carriers that support GSM/UMTS networks.

The only catch will be pricing. While you can get the locked 4S from your select carriers for between $200 and $400, unlocked versions will be going for full retail price. The 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models will be priced at $649, $749 and $849 respectively. But hey — at least you’ll be contract free.

ZipPay To Launch New Mobile Payments Service Cheaper Than Square

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 08:15 AM PDT


The easiest way to describe stealthy mobile payments startup ZipPay is to say it’s like Square and Venmo had a baby, and this was the result. Like Square, the startup aims to address the needs of individuals and small business owners who can’t afford the high fees associated with having their own merchant accounts by allowing them to accept credit card payments using their phone. Meanwhile, like Venmo, the solution will also provide a way to perform person-to-person payments.

But there are some key differences. For starters, unlike Square, ZipPay won’t use a dongle. It also promises rates lower than Square’s 2.75% per swipe.

How this will be done, however, is still unclear.

Instead of dongles that attach to the phone’s headphone jack, as is the case with Square, ZipPay will offer a mobile wallet solution that uses some undisclosed patent-pending technology.

To load cards into the wallet, ZipPay is leveraging, the new software development kit (SDK) for mobile developers that uses a combination of computer vision and machine intelligence to “read” a card held up to the mobile phone’s camera. This technology allows faster entry of credit card information into a mobile application, when compared with manually typing in numbers on a small keyboard.

Unlike Square’s wallet-like Card Case, which provides digital “tabs” for local merchants, ZipPay’s wallet supports all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Store cards, discount cards and membership cards will be supported in the future.

The card data is stored directly on the device in an encrypted format, however, this is not an NFC-enabled mobile wallet system. There’s a mandatory 4-digit PIN code for the ZipPay app, but how the card data is sent between the customer and the merchant or two ZipPay users remains a mystery.

Company CEO Ryan Stevens says he isn’t ready to reveal this part of the system for competitive reasons, but it’s possible that the app somehow uses smartphone sensors to connect the two devices, each which need to run the ZipPay app. Perhaps something like Bump?

On the merchant’s side, like Square, ZipPay will allow for expedited sign-up, so new users can start accepting credit cards immediately. The company runs a basic background check on the spot, and if there aren’t any obvious red flags, the account is approved. Merchants can charge up to $1,000 that first day (the same as Square’s manual entry/card not present limit). Later on, when the full background check goes through, the limit is dropped.

ZipPay has a banking partner on the backend (unnamed for now) and payments are deposited into merchant’s accounts within 1 to 3 days, implying an ACH system is involved.

The second part of the ZipPay system is the feature which involves peer-to-peer payments, something very much like the startup Venmo. In this case, both people would need to have the ZipPay app on their devices and then, again using the undisclosed technology, payments can be instantly sent between the devices.

Because the company is not ready to detail its technology, it’s hard to compare what it’s offering with Square, PayPal, Google Wallet or others. We do know it’s not NFC and there’s no dongle, but that’s about it. We also know that it plans to take a portion of the processing fees, like Square, and the app will also include “a small ad,” which may be how it plans to undercut Square.

Security is also a big question here, considering that encrypted data stored on the device may still be vulnerable if the device is compromised by a virus or malware, for example. Also, in NFC’s case, each contactless card stored on the device generates a cryptogram to exclusively identify each transaction. No two cards share the same key and the key is never transmitted.

How will ZipPay’s system work? Is it storing full mag stripe data on the device? What level and type of encryption is involved? What’s being done to protect the data on both ends? During transmission?

The company says it stores no credit card data on its own servers, only the technology used to decrypt the data on your device. Using an online dashboard, lost or stolen phones can be immediately disabled from making payments, but that does not guarantee that the credit card data couldn’t somehow be extracted from the device before you realize your phone is gone.

Until the system launches into beta, many of these questions may remain unanswered. ZipPay will offer iPhone and Android apps, starting with the iOS version, launching in Q1 2012. It’s accepting beta sign-ups now.

CEATEC 2011: Panasonic’s Assistance Robot And Awesome RoboticBed In Action (Videos)

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 08:04 AM PDT


We’ve already shown you Panasonic‘s cool hair-washing robot on video, but the company is currently showcasing two more robots at the CEATEC 2011 tech exhibition in Japan: one is the so-called HOSPI-Rimo (an assistance robot that we covered two weeks ago), the other model is aptly named RoboticBed.

The video below shows the HOSPI-Rimo (Remote Intelligence and Mobility/pictured above) in action at CEATEC 2011. To recap, this medical, mobile robot is supposed to make it easier for bedridden patients to get in touch with doctors or family members who are living far away (“virtual visits”):

The so-called RoboticBed, which made its debut in 2009, is actually pretty awesome.

It’s essentially a bed that can transform itself into an electric wheelchair and vice versa. Panasonic says the newest version show at CEATEC 2011 is “more practical” and safer than previous models:

Via Robonable [JP]

Sprint’s New 4G LTE Network Will Cover 260 Markets By 2013

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 07:19 AM PDT


Sprint has today announced its plans for a forthcoming 4G LTE network, which should cover 120 different U.S. markets by the end of next year.

By 2013, the company expects that over 260 markets will benefit from LTE coverage. The “aggressive rollout” should begin on the 1900MHz spectrum, and Sprint hopes to launch on the 800MHz spectrum in the future. Sprint also hopes to build out their LTE network using LightSquared’s 1600 MHz spectrum, although the deal is still awaiting FCC approval.

Sprint will continue selling WiMAX compatible phones throughout the next year, along with 15 new LTE-capable devices, CNET reports. Sprint’s VP of Product Development, Fared Adib has (unfortunately) declined to reveal any shiny new LTE devices today, but he did hint that a variety of handsets, modems, and tablets are currently in the works. The very first Sprint LTE device is expected to appear around mid-summer 2012.

The news has to be a bit of a blow for everyone who jumped on Sprint’s WiMax bandwagon, but CEO Dan Hesse has indicated that support for WiMax devices won’t just disappear.

While Sprint has been depending on Clearwire for its WiMAX network, the LTE roll-out is in Sprint’s court. As we mentioned earlier, Sprint wants to consolidate its network sites, bringing the total from 60,000 to 40,000 using multi-mode network sites, which combine multiple 3G and 4G transmitters into a single unit. Hardware partners Samsung, Ericsson, and Alcatel-Lucent have been developing their multi-mode stations, the deployment of which has already begun.

Sprint is bullish on the positive effects that the LTE rollout will have for their customers. They claim that the 3G-to-4G transition will be as close to seamless as they can manage, and that all Sprint customers will benefit least a little from the network overhaul.

Sprint shares have gone up since the announcement.


LivingSocial Issues $143 Million In Stock For TicketMonster Deal

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 07:14 AM PDT


LivingSocial is busily expanding its daily deal footprint both in the U.S. and abroad. According to a new SEC filing, LivingSocial issued $143 million in stock as part of a “business combination transaction, such as a merger, acquisition or exchange offer.”

While the filing does not specify the acquisition or acquisitions in question, the most likely candidate is LivingSocial’s acquisition of TicketMonster in Korea, which was agreed to in August. TicketMonster is a daily deals site with 2 million members in Korea and Malaysia. It employs 600 people, who now work for LivingSocial.

The $143 million could also include Turkish daily deals site Grupfoni, which happened around the same time. Update: I’ve confirmed the entire amount is for TicketMonster and the Grupfoni acquisition has not yet closed.

LivingSocial itself raised $400 million last April and was considering an IPO filing, which may have been pulled due to market conditions (and the investor backlash competitor Groupon is facing).

Company: LivingSocial
Launch Date: October 7, 2011
Funding: $632M

LivingSocial is the social commerce leader behind LivingSocial Deals, a group buying program that invites people and their friends to save up to 90 percent each day at their favorite restaurants, spas, sporting events, hotels and other local attractions in major cities. LivingSocial has an extensive user base of more than 85 million, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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Company: TicketMonster
Launch Date: October 7, 2011

Ticket Monster Inc. operates web-based platform for buying and selling of products and services online. The company provides offers online discount offers. Ticket Monster Inc. was founded in 2010 and is based in Seoul, South Korea.

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Company: Grupfoni

Grupfoni, a leading local ecommerce company in Turkey.

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YouTube Launches Movie Rentals For The UK

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 07:02 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-10-07 at 15.56.59

YouTube has rolled out its movie rental service in the UK. features over a thousand feature films including The Dark Knight and Reservoir Dogs alongside British classics like Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The UK is the third country to get the service, following the US and Canada.

Prices for the films range from £2.49 to £3.49. Users have 30 days to watch the movies rented and then have 48 hours to finish the movie.

LibreOffice and One Year After the Schism

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 06:50 AM PDT


When I first started using Linux, way back in the last century, one of the biggest challenges was the lack of a decent productivity suite of the sort to which every Windows user is accustomed. The only real option was StarOffice, which worked but was unbearably slow to load and cumbersome to use. Sun Microsystems bought StarDivision, the makers of StarOffice, in 1999 and released the source code to the suite in July 2000. Thus was born, with the intention of providing a viable open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Sun got bought by Oracle in 2010 and commercial development of was officially terminated shortly thereafter.

For a traditional closed source application, Oracle’s abandonment may well have been the end of the line. But had been released under the LGPL, the Lesser GNU Public License. This free software license specifically states:

You may modify your copy or copies of the Library or any portion of it, thus forming a work based on the Library, and copy and distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1 above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:

a) The modified work must itself be a software library.
b) You must cause the files modified to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change.
c) You must cause the whole of the work to be licensed at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.
d) …

So when Oracle called it quits, dedicated members of the community pooled their resources and set up The Document Foundation to provide structure and leadership to the continued development of the open source code used by

The Document Foundation is an open independent self-governing meritocratic organization, which builds on ten years of dedicated work by the Community. TDF was created in the belief that the culture born of an independent foundation brings out the best in corporate and volunteer contributors, and will deliver the best free office suite.

The new product was called LibreOffice. At the time, this was a simple, direct fork of the existing codebase. A simple find-and-replace would have been performed to substitute “LibreOffice” for all instances of “”.

The Document Foundation quickly set out to differentiate itself from the project governance that had gone before. You see, Sun Microsystems had long been requiring contributors to to assign the copyright of their contributions to Sun. In many ways, this makes sense and isn’t really a big deal: it allows a single entity to control and defend the copyright of the entire work. But in many ways, such copyright reassignment is anathema to open source collaboration. Moreover, as sole arbiter of the project’s life, Sun had the power to reject contributions for any reason. As such, The Document Foundation specifically rejected the need for copyright reassignment, opening the doors for all comers, and established a strict meritocratic model for evaluating contributions.

So it’s been a year since the formation of The Document Foundation. Development activity has been strong, with more than 300 developers committing more than 25,000 changes. Major commercial contributors include SuSE, Red Hat and Canonical. Hundreds of individuals developers have contributed, looking to improve a project they value.

The first stable release of LibreOffice was on January 25, 2011. Since then it has been downloaded more than six million times, with 90% of those downloads being used on Windows computers. LibreOffice is now the default productivity suite in most Linux distributions today. The Document Foundation estimates that it’s being used by about 25 million people across Linux, Mac and Windows operating systems.

In light of the exodus of developers from to LibreOffice, Oracle has recently decided to donate the code to the Apache Software Foundation, so that the ASF can shepherd it as a true open source project. The old is now “Apache (incubating)“, and is a member of the Apache Incubator.

Except that Oracle didn’t really donate the code, at least not in the usual sense of that word; nor have they transferred any copyrights. According to Ross Gardler, Vice President of Community Development at The Apache Software Foundation, Oracle “have granted a sufficient license to allow Apache to move forward in a completely unencumbered
fashion. The terms of this license are described in our standard Software Grant Agreement at”

The Incubator is an Apache program for ensuring that new projects develop the kind of community traction necessary to survive. According to the Incubator website, “[a]ll code donations from external organisations and existing external projects wishing to join Apache enter through the Incubator.” This is why the “(incubating)” suffix is tacked on to the already cumbersome “Apache” project name. The domain has also been donated to Apache, and will at some point move to Apache hardware. For now, it’s still residing on Oracle hardware.

One important thing to note about Apache projects is that they all use the Apache Software License. This is a permissive license that does not contain the “copyleft” provisions of the GNU licenses. This means that Apache is now licensed under the ASL, not the LGPL.

If Sun had not required copyright assignment, then the process of changing licenses would be a nightmare: every individual contributor would retain the copyright on their contributions and would need to give their assent to a license change. It’s almost guaranteed that there would be at least some resistance to a license change, which effectively means that no license change would occur.

The switch was easy to accomplish, though, specifically because Sun had previously required copyright assignment on all contributions: when Oracle bought Sun, they immediately gained complete and unfettered ownership of the copyright to all the code, and the copyright holder is permitted to re-license the work at any time.

Today the Apache project is alive and well, though they have not yet released anything. They’re still in the process of refining the build process, and building the requisite infrastructure within Apache. They’re also engaged in IP clearance: finding bits of third-party GPL-licensed code and libraries that may have been bundled with the old and replacing it with Apache licensed (or compatible) code and libraries. This is a surprisingly non-trivial task, given the size and complexity of the OOo codebase.

I asked Gardler whether Apache has any plans to try to reclaim the status of default productivity suite in major Linux distributions. He replied that there “is no desire to directly compete with LibreOffice or any other open source project. The Apache community are interested in creating the best permissively licensed suite of personal productivity tools we can.”

That clause “permissively licensed” is an important one in the discussion about LibreOffice and Apache LibreOffice still uses the LGPL, and while that license is more permissive than the normal GPL, it’s still less permissive than the Apache license. Gardler went on to clarify:

This means Apache licensed code can be reused in any downstream project. It is hoped that there will be opportunities for collaboration on core components that facilitate document exchange between OOo and all other projects seeking to work with ODF documents.

Like The Document Foundation, the Apache Software Foundation is a meritocratic organization, rewarding participants for the quality of their contributions.

Newcomers looking to get involved with Apache might want to look at the Help Wanted page on the wiki.

image Flickr‘d

Mobile App Downloads To Reach 98 Billion By 2015

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 06:43 AM PDT


According to new research from Berg Insight, the number of mobile application downloads will reach 98 billion by 2015. The number will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.6% between 2010 and 2015, the analyst firm reports. App store revenue will also grow, to reach € 8.8 billion in 2015, or $11.8 billion in U.S. dollars.

Last year, revenues from paid apps, in-app purchases and subscription services reached € 1.6 billion, or $2.15 billion U.S. This direct app store revenue will grow 40.7% from 2010 to 2015 before reaching $11.8 billion U.S.

Not surprisingly, Apple’s iOS was found to be the leader in direct monetization of mobile applications, and Berg predicts that will continue to be the case through 2015. It also predicts that Android will be #2 and Windows Phone will be #3 in terms of direct monetization.

More difficult will be how that revenue will be generated. Senior Analyst Johan Svanberg says that even though download numbers are increasing, most apps are free. That means free-to-download monetization strategies like in-app advertising and in-app purchasing, for example, will be increasingly important. This is especially true in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, which will account for over 40% of all app downloads by 2015.

Svanberg downplayed the effect of HTML5 advances during this time frame, too, saying that they’ll “eventually” be relevant alternatives to native apps, but for the next five years, the mobile app is here to stay. However, Web apps and native apps aren’t mutually exclusive, he notes, and developers looking to maximize reach should also build for the Web.

YouTube Rolls Out Movie Rentals In The UK

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 06:36 AM PDT


YouTube today delivered its movie rental service to UK customers, making it the third country to gain access to the service. Both Canada and the U.S. have enjoyed YouTube movie rentals for a while now. At this point there’s plenty to choose from, with over 1,000 different titles ranging from blockbusters to indie films.

Each rental will last 48 hours, and cost between £2.49 (USD $3.87) to £3.49 (USD $5.42). Users can access their rented videos from any computer as long as they’re signed in to their YouTube account, along with Google TV, any Honeycomb-powered Android tablet and select Android smartphones.

Here’s what YouTube had to say about it in a blog post:

We've got some cracking films to keep everyone entertained through the upcoming winter months and beyond. From blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Reservoir Dogs, to new releases such as Hanna, Fast Five, and Red Riding Hood, and even British classics like Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Sounds like a nice rounded-out collection to choose from, and it doesn’t stop there. The service has partnered with studios such as Universal, Lionsgate, Entertainment One along with independent British film makers such as Metrodome and Revolver Entertainment.

Company: YouTube
Launch Date: November 9, 2005
Funding: $11.5M

YouTube was founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. YouTube is the leader in online video, sharing original videos worldwide through a Web experience. YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips across the Internet through websites, mobile devices, blogs, and email. Everyone can watch videos on YouTube. People can see first-hand accounts of current events, find videos about their hobbies and interests, and discover the quirky...

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CEATEC 2011: Panasonic’s Shampoo Robot Up And Close (Videos)

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 06:06 AM PDT

Picture 1

Panasonic took the wraps off a new version of it’s super-strange (and awesome) hair-washing robot at the CEATEC 2011 tech exhibition that currently takes place in Japan (the first version is about one year old). The robot handles the entire process of hair washing autonomously: wetting, shampooing, conditioning and drying.

The new version washes your hair with a total of 24 (instead of just 16) fingers. Panasonic also says they improved the scanning system (the robot scans the head’s shape before it does its magic), allowing for a better “experience”. The old model also lacked the conditioning and drying functions.

Users can get their data (preferred washing method, shape of the head) stored to save time when getting their hair washed next time.

These videos show Panasonic’s robot in action (at CEATEC 2011):

Via Robonable [JP]

Ondango Launches To Let Merchants Turn Their Facebook Pages Into Secure, Social Shops

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-10-06 at 11.11.06 PM

Officially launching to the public this week is a solution called Ondango, which allows businesses to launch their own social commerce platform on Facebook. The shopping system can be set up in a few quick steps to let customers browse and purchase their favorite products without ever having to leave the warm confines of the social network.

In other words, Ondango allows merchants to sell their products from the Facebook page, provide customers with a secure transaction mechanism, all while leveraging Facebook’s viral and social features. Yet, as eCommerce on Facebook is a relatively new feature for most web surfers, Ondango wants to make sure the solution is both easy for merchants to integrate and is designed in a format they’re familiar with, which is why shops closely resemble Facebook’s look, feel, and usability.

The Ondango-powered shop below shows an example of what the setup looks like, in this case for a German band, as Ondango is headquartered in Berlin. The solution is also available in English, Spanish, and Polish.

And on the other side, to get at that ease-of-use for customers who aren’t particularly familiar with social commerce on Facebook, the most appealing aspect of Ondango is that it doesn’t require users to accept an app request.

There are a lot of Facebook commerce solutions in the space, but adoption has been slow among brands and consumers alike. Because, as Ondango Co-founder and CEO José Matías del Pino puts it, the idea of putting an eCommerce solution on top of Facebook seems complicated, and most brands are just starting to get their social media teams in place and use new social channels to market and sell their products.

What’s more, from a user perspective, consumers are worried that Facebook is somehow involved in the transaction process, that their might be grabbing their credit card information, etc., he says. Thus, Ondango offers a solution in which all commerce happens through Facebook fan pages, and users aren’t redirected to merchant sites, yet the processes happen through the startup’s servers so that Facebook doesn’t have access to purchase data.

While Ondango offers users the ability to share purchases with their friends, leave comments, subcomments, and post purchases to their walls, the real focus, de Pino reiterates, is on the conversion rate for its shops. That’s why the startup went after a design that looks like it was implemented by Facebook, is straightforward and easy to use, and doesn’t require an app request.

Of course, launching an app request to purchase gives the host (like Ondango) access to the user’s Facebook data, and while the CEO said that, of course, all companies want access to that, the Ondango team found during their beta that 80 percent of users would drop out of purchases when they received an app request.

So, though Ondango may not be able to take advantage of data mining and cross promotion et al, they have built a solution that consumers can trust — and with that trust, a solution that will hopefully encourage conversion for merchants.

As to how the startup is going to make money? Ondango will be charging a monthly fee as well as a small transaction fee, under three different plans depending on the size and inventory of the shop. (Readers can check out more on pricing here.) The startup is also currently offering a 30-day free trial for new users.

Ondango is a graduate of the Founder Institute Berlin, and attracted 50-plus customers and 150K transactions during closed beta, as well as a 40K scholarship from a Berlin university, as well as a small round of angel investment.

The startup was also this week named one of the winners of the White Bull Summit in Barcelona, which recognizes the most innovative European tech startups.

For more on Ondango, check them out at home here or watch their video introduction below:

Samsung And Google Postpone Nexus Galaxy Launch Hours After A Leaked Demo Video Drops

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 05:36 AM PDT


Oh well. Where’s that iPhone 4S pre-order link? Samsung and Google decided that “it is just not the right time to announce a new product” and postponed the scheduled Nexus Galaxy/Prime and Ice Cream Sandwich debut. The two companies were supposed use the CTIA stage next Tuesday to unveil the next-gen superphone and Google’s latest Android incarnation. But that’s not going to happen per a joint statement released this morning.

Samsung and Google decide to postpone the new product announcement at CTIA Fall. We agree that it is just not the right time to announce a new product. New date and venue will be shortly announced.

This takes the event off the books for next Tuesday, October 11th. The mobile world was expecting the big unveiling of the Nexus Galaxy (or Prime, if previous rumors are believed). Details leaked yesterday concerning the so-called superphone that places a 1.2GHz CPU, backed by 1GB of RAM at the core. The phone is said to include an NFC chip, 32GB of storage and a 5MP camera with a 1080p recording mode. Of course none of this was confirmed. Next Tuesday was going to be a big day for mobile nerds.

Eric Schmidt previously stated that Google would launch Ice Cream Sandwich by November. Hopefully Google stays true to its word and the Nexus Galaxy/Prime event will be back on the books sometime this month.

But fear not. A leaked demo video hit the interwebs today that might satisfy your Ice Cream Sandwich craving. It’s hard to tell if this is the real release or just a clever Android 2.x launcher, but we’re leaning more towards the former. The video doesn’t have any glaring goofs or obvious flaws. The OS shown is silky smooth, the animations are right, and there’s certainly a Honeycomb feel throughout the whole thing. If that video is indeed Ice Cream Sandwich, current Android owners might want to hold off jumping on the 4S bandwagon. A beast is nearly upon us.

What’s Cooking At Rovio? Angry Birds Cookbooks, Movies And – Gasp – Games (TCTV)

Posted: 07 Oct 2011 04:10 AM PDT


I caught up with Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle at Rovio, the creators of the successful Angry Birds franchise, yesterday at the Planet Of The Apps conference in London.

It wasn’t a huge secret, but I certainly didn’t know this: Vesterbacka tells me you will soon be able to buy Angry Birds-themed cookbooks; actual physical books and ebooks for Kindle, Nook and iPad.

Full disclosure: I got one of these limited-edition Angry Birds cookbooks for free (hence the pictures above and below). Also, I’m not much of a cook (hence why I accepted the book in the first place).

In all seriousness, Vesterbacka tells me there have been 400 million downloads of the Angry Birds apps to date, and that its merchandising business is chugging along nicely as well, with about 10 million plush toys having gone over the counter already. I also bought two for our baby boy recently.

Rovio is on a mission to turn Angry Birds into a brand as iconic as Nintendo’s Mario and Mickey Mouse, Vesterbacka adds. Gotta love ambitious (European) startups.

Enjoy the interview:

Company: Rovio Mobile
Funding: $42M

Rovio is one of Europe’s leading independent developers of wireless games with an ever-growing portfolio of award-winning titles spanning many genres from casual to core next-gen console IP. Their studio has developed games for some of the biggest names in the mobile space, including Electronic Arts, Nokia, Vivendi, Namco Bandai and Mr. Goodliving/Real Networks. The seeds of Rovio were sown in 2003 when Helsinki University of Technology students Niklas Hed, Jarno Väkeväinen, and Kim Dikert participated in a mobile game...

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Product: Angry Birds
Company Rovio Mobile

Angry Birds is a puzzle video game developed by Rovio, a developer based in Finland. Since its release for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices, over 6.5 million copies of the game have been purchased, and versions have appeared for other touchscreen-based smartphones. In Angry Birds, players take control of a flock of birds that are attempting to retrieve eggs that have been stolen by a group of evil pigs. The pigs have taken refuge on or within structures made...

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