Saturday, October 15, 2011

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Top 10 Greatest U.S. Digital Media M&A Deals Of All Time

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 08:31 AM PDT

top 10

Editor's note: Contributor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of WatchMojo.

Back in November 2006, I published the Top 10 Greatest Internet Digital Media M&A Deals of All Time.  It included eBay’s $1.5 billion acquisition of PayPal, Yahoo’s $1.6 billion acquisition of Overture, and Microsoft’s $400 million purchase of Hotmail back in 1998.  It also included News Corp’s $580 million acquisition of MySpace.  Don’t laugh.   The list was published a month after the big $900 million deal with Google, which I thought Google had drastically overpaid for at the time.  Of course, times they change, as does the list, so I decided to update the list – and yes, I went through all 255 pages on the Acquisitions section of CrunchBase.

Below is my updated list of the Top 10 Greatest Digital Media M&A Deals, in reverse order.  Give me your top ten in comments.

The Criteria

  • Lists are subjective, this one isn't any different.
  • Suffice to say these are U.S. deals.
  • This is not a "tech list", my background and experience lies in search, video and online advertising, so naturally there is a skew there.
  • Expensive is relative, but not overpaying is a major criteria.  As Fred Wilson mentioned when I first published the initial list, "Seven of the eleven deals were done in the “Internet doldrums” of 2001-2004. It will always be true that the best time to buy is when nobody else is buying."
  • People matter in all deals, so a good "acq-hire" is sometimes worth more than a deal that is accretive to earnings.
  • Take out a competition?  Always good!
  • Buy low, sell high?  We're impressed.
  • Allows parent / acquirer to enter a whole new market with one deal?  You have our attention.
  • We are excluding acquisitions by private equity firms, otherwise Hellman & Friedman's acquisition of Doubleclick for $1.1 billion before selling it to Google for $3.1 billion would rank near the top.
  • As with the original list, we're avoiding partial acquisitions.  That is why Google's 5% investment in AOL for $1B would didn't make the initial list (it was a very smart defensive move) and why Silver Lake and Andreessen Horowitz's 70% acquisition of Skype didn't make the cut on this updated list (that could have been #1, seeing how they flipped it to Microsoft for $8 billion within 2 years).  Microsoft's 1.6% stake in Facebook also seems like a bargain now.
  • They have to matter in 2011: for example, while AOL's acquisition of ICQ to defend AIM and bolster its instant messaging platform was wise, today AIM holds a 1% market share, so the deal doesn't really resonate anymore.
  •  Last but not least: like with all lists, I am sure I am forgetting a big one, so chime away.

10.  Microsoft acquires Hotmail for $400 million in 1998

The previous year Yahoo! had acquired Four11 for $92 million, by countering with a $400 million acquisition for Hotmail, Microsoft bought its way into the first truly viral application: email. Not only did Hotmail users lead one another to sign up, but as users signed out of their email, they were redirected to MSN.com.

Ironically, this deal has made both "Greatest" and "Worst" lists.  But even as of today, Hotmail is the largest web-based email service and remains larger than AOL, Yahoo and darling Gmail. (How many accounts are active is a fair follow-up question).

More on this deal here.

9.  AOL Time Warner acquires Advertising.com for $435 million in June 2004

Despite wiping out nearly $100 billion in market value by way of the disastrous AOL and Time Warner merger, AOL convinced the board to acquire Advertising.com in 2004 for $435 million.  Without a doubt Advertising.com isn't driving AOL's revenues the way it once did, but were it not for this deal, AOL would be in much worse shape than it is today.

More on the deal here.
8. Amazon Acquires Zappos for approximately $928 million in July 2009

Were it not for the RIP Good Times presentation that Sequoia gave its portfolio company CEOs in late 2008, it's entirely possible that Zappos would still be independent.  But the fact remains, Jeff Bezos met his match in Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh on the customer satisfaction front.  By scooping up Zappos, Amazon basically acquired the lone threat in the e-commerce landscape.

7. CBS Acquires CNET for $1.8 billion in May 2008
Yes, CBS paid a lot, but at 4x revenues in early 2008, it didn't have much choice; CNET represented the only property/company that could give CBS overnight scale: becoming a Top 10 property.  And sure, had CBS waited a few months, it could have paid half.  But that's hindsight, and this is M&A.  I laid out the logic of this deal a couple of months before it closed.  Also (disclosure), my company could have been part of this entity as we had strategic conversations with both CBS and CNET before they hooked up.

6. Google Acquires Doubleclick for $3.1 billion in April 2007

Yes, $3.1 billion is a very expensive price tag—especially considering private equity firm Hellman & Friedman paid $1.1 billion earlier—but Doubleclick has helped Google become a display banner juggernaut.  It was money well-spent.

5.  Google Acquires Applied Semantics for $102 million in April 2003

In my original list, I had chosen Google's acquisition of Sprinks in October 2003 because overnight this deal gave Google a lot of real estate on third-party websites to serve its text link ads on.  However, it was the Applied Semantics deal that gave Google the technology to scan web pages and serve contextual ads, thus giving birth to AdSense.

4. Yahoo! acquires Overture for $1.63 billion in July 2003

After Yahoo! acquired Inktomi for $235 million in December 2002, CEO Terry Semel pulled the trigger on Overture (formerly GoTo.com).  The deal not only gave Yahoo! an inroad into the rapidly growing paid search business but served as its lifeline to stay in the black.

More on the deal here.

3. eBay acquires Paypal for $1.5 billion in 2002

eBay dropped its Billpoint product and agreed to acquire Paypal for $1.5 billion.  Considering that about 60% of PayPal's business came from eBay, you have to wonder why eBay didn't apply some pressure to bring down the price, but the fact remains: PayPal drove eBay's revenues and is now clearly the most exciting part of the business.  The deal also gave rise to a whole generation of Internet entrepreneurs and investors who went onto found or invest in companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp.

More on the deal here.

2. Google Acquires Android for $50 million in August 2005

Google's own M&A team credits Android as their best deal ever: David Lawee, told attendees at the Stanford Accel Symposium that the acquisition was quite simply Google’s “best deal ever.”  Android only cost Google around $50 million, and considering that Android founder Andy Rubin, who previously started mobile-device maker Danger Inc., stuck around to take on RIM and Apple, it clearly deserves a top spot.

1. Google Acquires YouTube for $1.65 billion in October 2006

David Lawee might be reading this and scratching his head: what can possibly convince someone to pick YouTube ahead of the deal that Google's own M&A team picked as the "best deal ever"?

Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock and within the first few days saw its market valuation rise by well over $2 billion.  By doing so, it inadvertently blocked its only true threat as a search engine by scooping up what was to become the No. 2 search engine in the world.  It can be argued that  every 1% search market share is worth $1 billion.

If that wasn't enough as a defensive move, YouTube gave Google an entry into display advertising (this was six months before the Doubleclick acquisition) and billions of additional pageviews to serve Google search ads on as overlay on the videos.  Today, Google is the undisputed king of both search and video, and thanks to Android, it can claim to lead in mobile as well.

But this misses the point, were it not Android, it could be argued that Google would have found something else (internal or via acquisition) to do what Android does.  Google made Android into what it is today.  However, YouTube was a force to be reckoned with and at the time of the acquisition the most explosive startup ever.  Sequoia had only poured $11.5 million of venture funding into the company.  YouTube had the runway—forget what Mark Cuban says, he did after all sell Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion to Yahoo—to become a threat the way Facebook has become a threat.  By buying YouTube, Google scorched the earth in online video.

It's YouTube's world, we just stream it.

Hope you enjoyed this week's article.  Suggest topic ideas for upcoming weeks. 

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Ilona Baha



Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder of Granicus Group and CEO of WatchMojo, one of the leading producers and providers of professional video content to portals, web publishers, online magazines, blogs, social networks and video portals. A finance graduate from one of the top colleges in the nation, Ashkan started his career as in-house finance analyst at one of the original meta-search engines on the Web, Mamma. From there he worked in the online publishing industry where he headed up advertising...

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Company: Google
Website: google.com
Launch Date: July 9, 1998
IPO: NASDAQ:GOOG

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps and YouTube. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing them with a rich source of information....

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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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Dean Kamen’s Inflatable Wind Turbine Doubles As Digital Billboard

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 06:00 AM PDT

turbine sketch vertical

Most wind turbines have a recognizable shape, but a new design from Segway inventor Dean Kamen is less obvious in its functionality: This turbine has a vertical axis and rotors made of plastic fabric meant to be easily moved by the wind.

Archetypal wind turbines require a good amount of steel and concrete to be built, and once installed, it is difficult to move them. Kamen’s design uses air to inflate the rotors, which act as giant sails. The rotors can be easily deflated, making the turbine not only lightweight, but mobile.

Kamen believes turbine mobility would help owners generate more energy with the ability to toss turbines on trucks when high winds are predicted nearby. This could give rise to a new breed of storm chasers, although questions remain as to how much wind these turbines can handle, and how they would be installed in a temporary location to prevent them from flying away.

In his patent application, Kamen describes how the turbine’s light weight could also allow it to be installed on rooftops that can’t withstand the weight of the steel-and-concrete variety.

Another unique feature is an LED system that transforms the turbine into a digital billboard. Powered, of course, by the turbine they’re embedded in, the lights could display content like images, messages, advertising, weather advisories and traffic delays, and offer owners another potential revenue stream.

The unusual displays could also inspire conversation about wind power, and awareness is Kamen’s main objective with the design: In his view, the design isn’t so much a green tech breakthrough as it is a different approach to the possibilities of wind power.

Hat tip: EarthTechling


Company: Segway
Website: segway.com
Launch Date: October 15, 2011
Funding: $161M

The Segway personal transporter is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen. It is produced by Segway Inc. of New Hampshire. The name “Segway” is a homophone of “segue” (a smooth transition, literally Italian for “follows”).

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Canadian Rock Band Wants To Cash In On TeaParty.com Sale

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 05:31 AM PDT

tea

Domain name marketplace Sedo this morning announced that Canadian rock band The Tea Party has decided to sell their domain name, TeaParty.com, exclusively at Sedo.com.

With the 2012 election season approaching, the band – which actually broke up years ago – probably figured selling the domain name just might be very lucrative.

Says Stuart Chatwood, bass player of The Tea Party, with dollar bills in his eyes:

“We were floored by the worldwide press and interest in our domain name teaparty.com that soon followed the initial story in Businessweek.

After being overwhelmed by the multiple offers that were arriving daily, we thought it was prudent to seek out the best brokerage to help represent the band, and Sedo was the clear choice.”

The BusinessWeek story he refers to is this one, entitled ‘Teaparty.com Could Make a Rock Band Rich’. From the article:

With so many Presidential candidates, political operatives, and interest groups vying to capitalize on the Tea Party brand, there could be a bidding war.

How much do you think it’ll sell for?


Company: Sedo
Website: sedo.com
Launch Date: August 2, 2001

Sedo offers our users all the tools needed to buy and sell domains among a community of users stretching around the world, including domain appraisals, brokerage services, promotion and last, but not least, Sedo’s popular domain parking program.

Learn more


Nokia N9: The Most Amazing Phone You’ll Never Buy

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 04:02 AM PDT

n9

Nokia was nice enough to loan me a Nokia N9, its first and almost certainly last MeeGo-powered smartphone, after I not-so-subtly pointed out that I’d love to give the thing a solid whirl. After having played with it for a day now, I’ll tell you why I think it’s a phenomenal smartphone that rivals the best of ‘em, and why you would probably be better off not buying one anyway.

I’ll start off by explaining that I’m not qualified to be a professional smartphone reviewer, whatsoever. We have our former CrunchGear and MobileCrunch slaves for that type of stuff. That said, I’ve used a bunch of smartphones over the years, of all shapes and sizes, and I know damn well what I want.

If you’re looking for one of those thorough hands-on reviews or a list of specs, please look elsewhere. Okay? Okay.

TL;DR: The Nokia N9′s hardware, operating system and pre-installed applications are almost all exceptionally good, and a tight integration between them makes for a top notch user experience. Unfortunately, the price is far too steep, and there just aren’t enough apps on the marketplace.

Full review:

The Nokia N9 is easily one of the most pleasant, fast and thoughtfully designed phones I’ve ever used. And I’ve used plenty of iPhones and Android phones to date to know what I’m talking about.

There’s a lot of things to like about the N9: the quality and responsiveness of the touch screen, the nifty ‘swiping’ features, the general look and feel of the (unibody) hardware, the navigation and ‘Drive’ applications, the curved glass, the camera quality, the way notifications work, the incoming updates river view, the lack of buttons, built-in NFC capabilities, and so on. A really, really solid job, Nokia.

It has its quirks too, like any device I daresay, and a surprisingly crappy preloaded Webkit browser (no tabs, no favorites, no ‘read it later’, and odd rendering at times). You also can’t personalize the background (save for the lock screen) or add effects to it – something I’ve grown surprisingly fond of with Android phones. iPhone users will miss their folders.

So why would I – and probably you – never buy it? Two main reasons.

First, the phone is too expensive. The N9 costs 480 euros (roughly $650) for the 16 GB version, and 560 euros (~$755) for the 64 GB version, before taxes or subsidies.

I understand the reasoning. It’s a high-end phone, and Nokia wants its price to match the way it feels about the device. And if it weren’t ~2 years late to the market, it’d be an acceptable price, too.

Unfortunately, we now live in a world where you can pick up a decent iPhone or Android handset for roughly the same price or cheaper, so the N9 simply can’t compete on price.

The second reason is less objective and more obvious: the staggering lack of apps in the marketplace (called Nokia Store these days). It’s not disastrous; the phone comes preloaded with apps like Maps, Drive, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds (lite), AccuWeather, YouTube etc. and you can easily install apps like Foursquare and some nice games from the store, free of charge.

But that’s pretty much it, and it’s a problem.

I know I can pick up any Android phone or iPhone, install the Yammer app and collaborate with my fellow TechCrunch staffers instantly (okay, when the app does what it’s supposed to, which isn’t always the case). I can install Amazon’s Kindle app and start reading my most recently downloaded ebook on the page I was when I last signed off. I can install the NYT and WSJ apps to keep on top of world news, and download Pulse to read the feeds I’ve subscribed to. I can install Shazam and identify and buy tunes wherever I am. I can download Viber and call and text my friends for free.

On the Nokia N9, none of that is possible. The company representative I talked to yesterday says it will get better, and developers just need to become more aware of cross-platform application framework Qt and how they can port existing apps so they run on MeeGo.

Perhaps, but that will take time, and as I said before, Nokia is already late to this game.

It’s a sad, strange paradox: the phone is so beautiful and works so smoothly that I’m actually having a hard time putting the N9 down, but I can honestly say that I would never recommend anyone to go out and purchase it in a world so chock-full of better choices, especially at that price.


Company: Nokia
Website: nokia.com
IPO: NYSE:NOK

Nokia is a Finnish multinational communications corporation. It is primarily engaged in the manufacturing of mobile devices and in converging Internet and communications industries. They make a wide range of mobile devices with services and software that enable people to experience music, navigation, video, television, imaging, games, business mobility and more. Nokia is the owner of Symbian operation system and partially owns MeeGo operating system.

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Daily Crunch: Propulsion

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 01:00 AM PDT

DreamIt-Backed CloudMine Lets App Developers Bypass The Backend Pain, Focus On Their Product

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 12:13 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-10-14 at 11.08.18 PM

I think it’s a fair assumption to say that, for app developers, the enjoyable part of their job is building the actual app, not finding the right web services and hosting provider, setting up databases, and slogging through configuration. I could be wrong to presume this to be true, but CloudMine, a Philadelphia-based startup launching in open beta today is willing to bet that most developers might agree with me.

So, CloudMine has developed a service that will allow developers to reduce the pain by providing a set of RESTful APIs that allow them to quickly create back-end solutions for their apps. Specifically, the startup is offering schema-free data structure storage, user account creation and management, and server-side business logic for computations that are too complex or data-intensive to run on a mobile device.

CloudMine is currently part of the current batch of fledgling startups in DreamIt Ventures' Philadelphia-based accelerator program, which has invested $20K of seed funding in CloudMine’s backend solution. The service has been in closed beta for several months, where its testers have reported that CloudMine has cut the time it takes for developers to configure backend solutions in half.

Developers can use the service’s REST-based API directly or download its SDKs for the platform of their choice to give app creators the chance to increase their value proposition by focusing on the product (and getting it in front of users) and not worrying about tinkering with servers, web apps, or scaling.

I like that the PaaS service is offering a “B2D” (business-to-developer) solution that enables developers to move their focus away from infrastructure to product testing and iterating. It’s also pretty cool that developers can sign up for free and immediately get an API key for their first app — and quickly generating keys for other apps with one click once they’re ready to do so.

As to who is behind the startup: CloudMine was co-founded by Ilya Braude (formerly of Eastern Research acquired by Sycamore Networks and Drakontas), Marc Weil (who has previously worked at Apple and Oracle), and Brendan McCorkle (also the co-founder of Textaurant.

For more, check out CloudMine at home here.



Padfone, The Most Unintentionally Funny Product Launch Ever

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 11:55 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-10-15 at 12.54.24 AM

Sure this Padfone thing (yes it’s real) happened in May, but I just saw it and can’t stop laughing and can’t focus on the other thing I was writing so I am posting it here to get it out of my system, Arrington-style.

Asus‘ attempt to circumvent the innovator’s dilemma by Frankensteining two Apple products, punctuated by the “BREAK THE RULES” and “INNOVATION BEYOND EXPECTATIONS” graphics, has me rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

Way to go Asus, between “Is this a Pad or a Phone in a Pad?” and “Who’s calling me? Whoah,” I am speechless.

Wired Senior Editor Bill Wasik mused earlier, “We need a term for cultural products that are (a) not joking but (b) someone involved in their creation clearly is.” Okay, will the stoner at Asus responsible for this please fess up in the comments?

Update: In case anyone was confused as to where Padfone fits into the grand scheme of things, the folks over at Digital Inspiration have created this handy Venn Diagram.



Once Magazine Brings Compelling Photojournalism To Your iPad

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 05:19 PM PDT

Salty Tears / Larmes salÈes

Do you remember when photojournalism and photographic stories used to be a more central part of the news reading experience? Granted, those were the days when print publishing reigned supreme and photo-centric news magazines represented some of the highest circulation periodicals in American publishing. There’s no better example of this than Life Magazine, which sold 13.5 million copies per week at its peak.

Yet, Life slowly sputtered out of existence over the years (finally closing the doors of its print operations in 2007 after a number of re-starts), and just as digital technology has forced publishers and media organizations to alter their approach to the distribution and monetization of their content, photojournalism, too, seems in desperate need of a shot in the arm.

Photography and photo-sharing have exploded in popularity thanks to the cameras on our smartphones and the countless photo apps and tools that make storing, displaying, and sharing our photos a breeze. While online photo albums and slideshows have become ubiquitous, quality photojournalism and photo stories that actually present a narrative (and even share news) just haven’t made the jump.

Once Magazine, a startup that officially launched its first issue on the App Store in August, is looking to breathe new life into photojournalism by offering a series of curated photo stories uniquely edited and designed specifically for the iPad. Working with professional photographers and writers to create complete stories that aren’t just aggregated clumps of photos from the Web (no slideshows here), Once wants to reach all those people that love photographic stories, whether they consider themselves professionals or casual Instagram users. It’s Life Magazine for the tablet age.

(For sake of full disclosure, I should say that I have known the founders and editors at Once for several years, and consider them close friends. While I have no personal financial stake in the magazine, I do admit a bias insofar as I hope they achieve fame and glory. Though, admittedly, this can be said for all the startups I cover.)

While print publishing and photojournalism may be going the way of the dinosaur, every day, people upload millions of images to their Facebook and Flickr galleries, Path and Instagram, and the growing demand for engaging and sharable photographic content presented in a non-snooze-worthy narrative is still alive and kicking. (Just ask Tracks.)

Yet, as iPad owners currently resort to viewing photo galleries and stories in Safari and photographers remain fixed to print publications where photo budgets are drying up at light speed, Once is hoping to take advantage of the new availability of sales data and the shifting consumption habits of readers on the Web to offer a new solution.

In an industry where contributors struggle to make money from their digital content, and publications likewise fight tooth-and-nail to monetize, Once is hoping to offer a compensation (and revenue) model that can address both of these pain points. For starters, the magazine initially launched for free on the App Store, but today the team has released its new paid version, which means that its issues are now available both as in-app purchases or via a discounted monthly subscription. (The cost of which is $2.99 per issue or $1.99 per month with recurring billing, respectively.)

To entice photographers, Once will be splitting all revenue from App Store sales right down the middle (after Apple takes its 30 percent cut, of course). As it stands now, the magazine is advertising free, but moving forward, Once will slowly incorporate ads and will also look to begin selling physical prints of popular photos through the App Store.

Although Once has only been live for just over a month, the startup’s unique model has already added Dave Eggers (the award-winning author, co-writer of the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, and founder of McSweeney’s and 826 Valencia) as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet to its advisory board. What’s more, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers like Craig Walker, who will be featured in later issues, continue to line up to participate in the Once experiment.

The reason for this seems largely due to the fact that the magazine has been designed specifically for the iPad. From the beginning, that’s been the focus — unlike the trajectory of the majority of publications, which start with a print product and then grumpily port their offline content to digital media and app stores. The hope is that starting from scratch will allow Once to bypass the baggage inherent in legacy print models and give them a leg up on the competition.

As to the content of the magazine, generally speaking, each issue of Once will include three feature stories, each of which will be introduced by a multiple-page-long essay. Each feature will include an average of 20 to 25 photographs, which are complemented by captions, audio clips, and interactive graphics.

Thanks to the high resolution of the iPad 2′s display (1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch, for those keeping track) the experience of flipping through these photo-essays on the iPad is more enjoyable than reading a magazine in print. The interface is intuitive, easy-to-use, and provides just enough supplemental bells and whistles without distracting from the star of the show: The mind-blowing photos.

Of course, the one problem with being an iPad-focused magazine is that Once doesn’t have the benefit of drawing from a ready-made readership. While the team doesn’t have to worry about the costs (and overhead) traditionally associated with print publishing, user acquisition will no doubt be the startup’s biggest hurdle going forward. To combat this, friend and Once Founder Jackson Solway tells me that the team is considering various ways to partner with existing publications, potentially offering teaser versions of their stories to high-traffic websites in exchange for prominent links back to the Once app.

What’s more, with Apple prominently featuring Newsstand on all iOS 5-enabled devices, this will likely become a terrific source of downloads and eyeballs not only for Once, but for all publishers.

As Mark Edmiston, CEO of Nomad Editions, (which has a similar sharing model to Once, albeit with smaller rev-sharing percentages for contributors), recently told Johnny Biggs, publications that have previously found their app-only titles lost among the barrage of lifestyle apps and passed over by readers, Newsstand allows them to place their content front and center, which he believes will be a boon for publishers going forward.

As the Once team is composed of those who’ve previously worked at Wired, Getty Images, McSweeney’s, and Mother Jones, there’s plenty of publishing experience to go around, but with a 50:50 rev-sharing model, and prices set at levels that won’t scare away potential readers, the startup is going to have to sell a lot of issues to stay afloat. To aid in the quest for profitability, the team raised a small seed round back in March and is currently actively pursuing a larger second round of financing.

With a beautifully designed app that features some amazing photography from notable photojournalists, the Once experiment is already off to a good start, but the big question is: Can the startup’s rev-share model prove to be more lucrative for photographers and editors than current industry practices — are they tapping into the future of photojournalism? Or is this just another false start?

Weigh in and let us know what you think. And check out Once in the App Store here.



Tagstand Raises $1.1 Million To Help Take NFC Mainstream

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 05:17 PM PDT

tagstandlogo

The new iPhone may not have it, but the next one probably will — and it’s becoming increasingly commonplace on Android and other smartphone platforms alike.

Yes, Near Field Communication (NFC for short), is finally starting to make its way into the hands of consumers. And a YC-backed company called Tagstand is looking to help developers take advantage of the technology, by giving them (and brands) all the tools and special, NFC-equipped stickers they need.

Today the YC-backed company, which we first covered in August, is announcing that it’s raised a $1.1 million funding round that includes many notable angels. The full list: Yuri Milner, SV Angel, Naval Ravikant, Paul Buchheit, Yael Shazeer, Christina Brodbeck, Anand Agarawala, Mike Berolzheimer, Bee Partners, Quotidian Ventures, TEEC (Chinese angel network), Vaizra Investments (Israeli fund), Dean Smith, Christopher Morton, and Anand Swaminathan.

At this point Tagstand’s catalog includes a variety of NFC-enabled stickers for different use cases (outdoor stickers, stickers that’ll cancel interference so they work on metal surfaces, etc.) and NFC reader/writers. Once in the field, these stickers can be managed from a web-based control panel.

Cofounder Kulveer Taggar says that the company, which is already generating five-figure revenues each month, is seeing especially large growth in so-called “smart-posters” in retail and advertising. At this point there are 20,000 different stickers in the field, and that figure is growing around 50% month over month. Perhaps more important, engagement on each of these tags is increasing three-fold each month (in other words, more people are using NFC).

Most of this growth has been international, where NFC has a stronger presence — for example, Tagstand worked with Adshel to launch the largest NFC campaign in Australia for a supermarket chain called Coles, which has 50 sites in Melbourne). And Taggar says that the US is beginning to pick up steam in terms of NFC deployment.

More broadly, Taggar says that the growing number of NFC-enabled phones (you can see an exhaustive list here) is contributing to a general rise in interest from developers. A third of the company’s NFC orders are coming from businesses, and two-thirds are from engineers and hobbyists interested in experimenting with the technology.


Company: Tagstand
Website: tagstand.com
Launch Date: October 15, 2011
Funding: $1.1M

Tagstand ships NFC stickers and a platform to manage them. From a TC article on Tagstand: Tagstand offers to ship custom NFC stickers within less than 24 hours (plus however long it takes to ship them). And they're also making the tags 'smart', by offering a bit.ly-like short URL service that'll let you track when each one is used. Each sticker runs around $1, which seems to be around what other sites are charging for small batches. The short-URL feature is pretty...

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How To Enable 18TB Hard Drives? Just Add Salt

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 04:25 PM PDT

weroi

The continually increasing size of hard drives means we can all store more pictures, music, games, and so on, but as with the transistor counts in Moore’s Law, those increases don’t come easy. Companies like Toshiba, TDK, and Seagate are forever looking into ways to increase the number of bits they can store inside a drive. It’s already an astounding amount, but they always seem to find a way to improve it further.

Today’s advance comes from Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, where Dr Joel Yang has figured out a way to fit several times the number of bits in a given area. The secret? A little salt in the mix.

Hard disks have a surface covered in tiny magnetic granules, each only nanometers across. Groups of them clump together to form tiny, semi-regular islands. The hard drive head flies overhead and flips these islands one way or another to create 1s and 0s.

Those tiny granules are formed by exposing a certain solution to a nanolithographic process (but of course we all knew that already). Dr Yang found that by adding a bit of salt to solution, they were able to produce superior grains. They’re not actually smaller, but instead of having to clump a bunch together in an island, each individual grain can be manipulated individually into a bit storage unit. This means that the data density of the disk’s surface can be increased immensely.

They’ve demonstrated data storage at 1.9 terabits per square inch, which is about four times what the very best hard drives today are capable of. And they’ve made granules small enough that drives based on this new process could reach all the way to 3.3 terabits per inch. That means that your drives could hold as much as 18 terabytes in the near future.

Yang actually developed the salty solution when he was at MIT, but it looks like IMRE gets to reap the rewards, at least if they can commercialize it. We probably won’t see drives based on this tech for a couple years, but the improvement is notable regardless. The full paper can be read here.



Keen On… The Problem With the Internet: Consumers Want Culture for Nothing (TCTV)

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 03:40 PM PDT

morrison

This summer, at the prestigious Edinburgh International Book Festival, the prize winning Scottish writer and filmmaker Ewan Morrison made a highly controversial speech about the death of the traditional author and the book. Indeed, Morrison's speech made such a stir in Europe that I invited him onto TechCrunchTV to familiarize our global audience with his controversial views.

The unvarnished Morrison didn't disappoint. Arguing that the Internet is a "model for extreme American capitalism", he told me that today's high quality book and author are being killed by three forces: Google, Amazon, and the consumer. While Morrison's Google and Amazon arguments have been made before by a number of critics (including myself), it is his critique of the online consumer that is likely to be most controversial. But is he right? Could it really be possible that it's the online consumer – with his or her insatiable appetite for free or very cheap content – that is killing our culture?


Person: Ewan Morrison
Website: ewanmorrison.com
Companies:

Ewan has recently been awarded a Scottish Arts Council writers bursary for a book of short stories entitled TALES FROM THE MALL. He has also recently been awarded a six week writers residency at Cove Park – an innovative artist and writers retreat on the banks of Loch Long, Scotland. He was the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council Writers Award 2005, was a nominee for the ARENA magazine O2 Entrepreneur Award 2006, and was awarded a VARUNA writers residency...

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(Fly or Die) iPhone 4S

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 03:29 PM PDT

iPhone 4S.mov

Erick and John take the iPhone 4S and its built in voice activated personal digital assistant Siri, for a spin in this episode of Fly or Die.

Right off the bat Erick says he is impressed with reception he receives when using the iPhone 4S and points out how the iPhone 4S streamlines notifications from various sites (Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram) by having them scroll in one fluid stream. Erick also demonstrates how Twitter is integrated into the phone (with sound effects) before having Siri set up a meeting for him and Biggs.

Erick comes away impressed with Siri while John is somewhat less excited, saying the service is “almost a gimmick in one way, but it is also actually fairly useful.”

So where will Erick and John ultimately come down on the iPhone 4S?  Make sure to watch the video to find out.


Company: Apple
Website: apple.com
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 15, 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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Andreessen Horowitz Joins The Start Fund To Seed YC Companies

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 02:29 PM PDT

marc-andreessen

At the beginning of the year, super investors Ron Conway and Yuri Milner created the controversial Start Fund to invest in every new Y Combinator startup. They offered each YC startup to graduate from Paul Graham’s rigorous selection process $150,000 in an uncapped convertible note with no discount. Some venture capitalists didn’t like the precedent this set. But at least one more big one, Andreessen Horowitz, is jumping on board and joining the Start Fund.

Going forward, Andreessen Horowitz will contribute $50,000 of that $150,000 to each YC startup that chooses to take the deal (and so far, most of them have). “It will start with the next cycle,” Marc Andreessen tells me. With more than 60 startups per class and growing that comes to $3 million in commitments per class for each of the three investment partners in the Start Fund.

Is it really a good idea to invest blindly in a group of companies without any vetting? “What you have with YC is a special situation,” explains Andreessen. “it is a very high quality set. Paul just impresses the hell out of us in terms of quality and the results he has had. Our view is he is running such a good selection process that an investment in this group is a good idea.” Andreessen Horowitz is already an investor in some larger YC alums such as Airbnb, Bump, and Likealittle.

The competition for deal flow is so intense now that VCs need to get in earlier and earlier to compete effectively with all of the angel money still sloshing around. Andreessen looks at seed investing as a way to explore later investments and get to know companies early on. The earlier a VC puts money into a deal, the more they will make if the company turns out to be a hit. Vinod Khosla takes a similar approach in terms of trying to invest as early as possible (but without writing blank checks).

With Andreessen Horowitz handing out checks, the notion of a cash crunch seems far-fetched. Except that it is not so simple. The crunch is definitely not at the seed stage, rather it is at the A round. “I don't think there is a cash crunch,” says Andreessen. “There is no sign of a cash crunch at the seed stage. I think the crush will be at the next stage, seed going to venture.”

The number of active VCs doing A and B rounds is actually getting squeezed. Second and third tier limited partners (the institutions which invest in VC funds) are themselves feeling the squeeze from the public markets, and those are the ones who normally invest in second- and third-tier VC funds. So all the money is flowing to fewer top-tier funds who actually are showing returns over the past 5 to 7 years. Increasingly, those top tier funds are the ones which get in at the seed stage and are there to back companies all the way to billion-dollar rounds, doubling down every step of the way. Most startups, of course, won’t ever get past the seed stage. But big boys like Andreessen Horowitz, which manages $1.3 billion overall, (and Milner and Conway) can afford to lose $50,000 a pop for the option to find the next Dropbox or Airbnb.


Financial-organization: Andreessen Horowitz
Website: a16z.com
Launch Date: June 7, 2009

Andreessen Horowitz is a $950 million venture capital firm that was launched on July 6, 2009. Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are the general partners of the firm.

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Financial-organization: Start Fund
Website:

Start Fund, created in January 2011, is a joint venture between Yuri Milner and SV Angel. The fund was created to invest in Y Combinator startups and made its first set of investments in January 2011.

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Company: Y Combinator
Website: ycombinator.com
Launch Date: January 4, 2005
Funding: $10.3M

Y Combinator is a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to startup companies. It offers financing as well as business consulting along with other opportunities to 2-4 person companies looking to take an idea to a product. Y Combinator looks for companies with "good" ideas over companies with experience and a business model. The company made its first investments in Summer 2005. Y Combinator selects companies to finance and consult with twice a year. They are located in...

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Discover The World Around You With New Mobile App Roamz

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 02:00 PM PDT

roamz1

Just in time to be one of the first app installs on my freshly arrived iPhone 4S, there comes a new location-based mobile app called Roamz (iTunes link), which will have its official debut on Monday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. As hinted at by the name, the app wants to help you discover the world around you as you “roam” around town.

To do so, Roamz digs into social signals from services like Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and Instagram in order to find out what people in your area are buzzing about right now. It then presents those results to you in a stream which you can filter by interest.

After installing the app, you can optionally choose to connect Roamz Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, so it can provide better, more personalized recommendations. It looks at your own social signals, like your check-ins, your friends’ check-ins, and your shared likes and interests, including those you indicate within the app itself using the included thumbs up and thumbs down buttons provided on the listings.

Then, on the main screen, there is a series of toggles that let you filter what sort of information you’ll see, broken down into “interests” like Shopping, Events & Entertainment, Restaurants, Children, Pets and much more. By switching these toggles off or on, you can better filter the results of the activity trending near your location.

The result, ideally, is that you don’t have to be constantly checking your social networks to find out what’s going on, what’s popular or where your friends are checking into right now. ”There’s so much social data being shared,” explains Roamz CEO and Founder Jonathan Barouch, “but if you’re not following the right people at the right time, you may be missing out.”

Barouch admits that the venue categorization is not complete for all areas yet – only major metro regions. That’s why, for example, the results for somewhere like San Francisco or New York appear to be much better filtered than those I’m seeing for my own city (sunny Tampa, Florida). For smaller areas like this, only about 50% of the venues have been categorized. But, like they say, you’ve got to launch sometime.

In the future, Roamz plans to deliver its recommendations through iOS5′s new push notifications and may even integrate with Siri (e.g. “Siri, does Roamz recommend any museums around here?”) Further down the road, brands may be able to tap into these push notifications to send out highly personalized messages to users, which I like to imagine would go something like this: “Welcome back to Starbucks, Sarah. Enjoy this coupon for $0.25 off that latte you’re about to order.” But then again, maybe I’ve just been hanging out with Siri too much today.

Still, serendipitous discovery of the world around you? That’s the app I was waiting for. Roamz is in the very early stages of development, so it can’t fully deliver on that promise just yet. But it’s certainly one to watch.

Australian-based Roamz raised $3.5 million in Series A financing in January 2010 from media company Salmat. Barouch himself was previously the founder of Fastflowers.com.au, one of Australia’s largest floral chains.


Company: Roamz
Website: roamz.com
Funding: $3.5M

Roamz is a location-based application that helps you find out what is happening at places around you. With so much noise on the social web Roamz guides you to the serendipitous moments that the locals find out about. Roamz pulls in social data from multiple sources to give users a unique view of social activity occurring at places nearby. Roamz has developed machine learning techniques so that the more you use Roamz the smarter it gets and the more relevant...

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RIM, Get Ready To Pay Up For That Massive Outage

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 01:49 PM PDT

sadberry

Now that RIM’s global network is out of the woods, carriers are having to deal with the public relations nightmare that the outage has caused.

Given the sheer number of vocal BlackBerry users gumming up Twitter with calls for compensation, we (and all of their customers) are left wondering how RIM is going to handle this.

Today’s is a drastically different picture than the one RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie painted in a recent conference call. When asked if RIM would be compensating their carrier partners for the trouble, Balsillie said that it was the last thing anyone was thinking about. According to him, he was heartened to see how carriers the world over offered their support in RIM’s time of crisis.

“This has not been about pointing fingers,” said Balsillie. “This has been about serving customers.”

While true, this strikes me as a bit of a lame excuse. Of course these carriers were supportive — they wanted the network up and running as soon as possible, so that their users (and their wallets) wouldn’t jump ship. For customers, the carriers are the most visible target for service issues, whether the problem was theirs or not.

Now, that service has been restored, we’re starting to see how these carriers are making it up to their customers. All of the South African providers, for example, are either issuing service credits or offering free calls and messages to their customers. Etisalat, a carrier out of the UAE, will be offering BlackBerry users three days of free usage.

Apparently, carriers in Spain like Telefonica are legally bound to pay their customers for every 24 hours that service was affected. It won’t result in a huge win for individual customers — they’re expected to pick up a few extra Euro each — but Telefonica will certainly be feeling the pinch.

It’s not entirely clear to what extent (if at all) RIM will be covering these compensatory costs, but you’d better believe carriers will try and foist the bill onto the folks in Waterloo. Analyst Gus Papageorgiou of Scotia Capital puts RIM’s potential payout at over $100 million.

What’s still up in the air is if RIM will be directly compensating their customers, as opposed to covering the costs incurred by carriers doing it. The issue was brought up more than a few times during yesterday’s conference all, and all the pair of co-CEOs could say is that it’s a “priority.”

Even if they don’t reach out their customers, RIM could face legal pressure from irate customers. RIM’s been on the receiving end of class action lawsuits before, and they could face a doozy of one if enough users band together. Whether or not it sticks is another thing entirely.

It’s looking at this point like there’s no way RIM is going to get out this mess without opening up the corporate wallet. Unfortunately, it’s the exact last thing RIM needs right now. The company is in dire straits as is, and while it’s unlikely compensatory costs will send them into ruin, it certainly makes RIM’s future look even bleaker.



The World’s Movie Camera Makers Have All Quietly Stopped Production Of Film Cameras

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 01:35 PM PDT

Film_35_mm_-_amorce_croix_avec_agrafes

Most people reading this website will not be surprised to hear that the era of film is coming to an end. Even those of you who, like me, spent days in darkrooms perfecting your dodge technique, are likely unruffled at the notion. But in Hollywood film has been clinging tenaciously to life, if only out of a sort of traditionalist inertia. But this last year was marked by a sort of quiet final surrender by the film cadre: Arri, Panavision, and Aaton have all ceased production of film cameras. These companies have been driving the film industry for decades, and for them all to throw in the towel at once suggests that the end truly is approaching.

The story of the last few years of film is told extremely well in Debra Kaufman’s article at Creative Cow, which touches on the many people and industries which film moviemaking has both relied on and contributed to. To call its end a tragedy would be a sentimental overstatement, but the world rarely moves on without leaving some things behind, and it’s good to acknowledge that.

Practically speaking, there has been pressure for years on these film camera companies to switch entirely to digital, and a few things finally put them past the point of no return. While they have been doing good business in a way, the number of productions using film has been steadily declining, and the need for new film cameras hasn’t been strong in years. They’re phenomenally expensive, for one thing; even major production houses tend to only have a couple on hand or rent from a partner. Panavision and the others have been tweaking and repairing these cameras for a long time, but selling very, very few.

The competition from digital has also stepped up, even from within. Can Arri justify the cost put into their film department when everybody is crowing about the Alexa, which is by all accounts amazing? Then you have the upstarts like RED, whose totally new technology and research put the unwary old guard on the run, and Canon, whose 5D mk II has proven a popular option for filmmakers on a budget.

Changes in the industry, too, have portended film’s demise. TV production has made a sudden shift to digital, especially after labor disputes that led many actors and producers to join with the union covering digital productions instead of film. The earthquake in Japan flooded the one facility that makes a certain HD tape format, prompting a number of production houses to switch to all-digital. And of course the ongoing replacement of film projectors with digital continued to put pressure on the film ecosystem; in July, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced that fully half of their thousands of theaters were converted to digital, and they’re adding 700 every month.

What’s a film-based business model to do? Shut down quietly and with dignity, it seems. Film itself will likely be around for a while longer, though Kodak and Fujifilm are only going to continue production as long as it’s a good business decision. But with Kodak nearing bankruptcy and Fujifilm more and more embracing digital, the future isn’t looking bright for 35mm.

But will it disappear forever? It’s impossible to say, but the answer is a bit like that for books: they’ll remain in production for a long, long time, but will be marginalized to the extreme and bought only by collectors and traditionalists. As AbleCine’s Moe Shore estimates: “In 100 years, yes. In ten years, I think we’ll still have film cameras. So somewhere between 10 and 100 years.” Sounds reasonable. Some will say good riddance, and some will never convert, but that the industry is moving on is just a fact.

Whatever the specifics of the era’s demise turn out to be, here’s a modest salute to the film camera companies that have enabled so much creativity. They’re finally embracing the next wave with the humility proper to a venerable but truly outdated technology like film, and hopefully the next century will be as productive as the last.



Paul Carr’s ‘The New Gambit’ Wants To Be ‘The Economist,’ But Funny (And Tablet-Only!)

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 12:15 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-10-14 at 1.05.21 PM

Here’s the one in which we figure out what Paul Carr’s startup will actually do; Okay so it is a publication! Okay it’s a whole company focused on publishing only for tablets and e-readers! (Actually doesn’t a tablet count as an e-reader? Wasted thirty minutes having this discussion this morning …)

Carr’s post-TechCrunch company, NSFW Corp, will shun the Internet in favor of a publishing direct-to-the-tablet model because Carr thinks that high-quality content and the web are two mutually exclusive things. NSFW Corp’s first publication will be The New Gambit, which Carr describes as The Economist as written by The Daily Show writers — something like The Onion, but for real news.

The New Gambit will launch in public beta at the end of next month Carr hopes, and will be available cross-platform — on the Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc. Carr wants to hit a regular publishing schedule by the early part of 2012, with the weekly subscription costing 99 cents a ~50 page issue.

“We 100% won’t be on the web,” Carr says, a novel approach which means that his team of ten or so writers won’t have to worry about Internet writing annoyances like caring about SEO or breaking news.

“If we accidentally break news that's great, but breaking news lives on the web, and it's going to be free. [The New Gambit] will be more like ‘Here's what we think and here's what we know.’ We want to be breaking jokes. I mean we might just break news every so often just to fuck with people, and hide it at the back. Or maybe we’ll create the first range of news breaking merchandise? I like the idea of a plush toy breaking news … These are all just ideas,” he says.

Carr says he chose the name The New Gambit because he wanted something that sounded sufficiently pompous, and was inspired by the Simpson’s episode where Homer reads an issue of the The Economist with a “Indonesia’s New Gambit” headline on the cover, asking Marge, “Did you know that Indonesia is in a state of turmoil?” Carr explains,”I’m a strong believer that jokes are even funnier in a grown-up setting … I mean, come on — the Economist and the Simpsons!”

When asked about the challenges of launching a new kind of journalistic magazine in a tumultuous time for the industry, especially when considering The Daily’s failure, Carr said, “I think there is something so satisfying about laughing out loud that it's worth 99 cents of people's money.  I am not below hiring a team of researchers to follow people around ensuring that they laugh, or giving a money back guarantee.”

Funded by Crunchfund and Zappos’ Tony Hsieh, Carr is currently hiring for positions based out of Las Vegas, “I don't want a consistently funny man woman or child that isn't on my payroll. In the same way that Rupert Murdoch owns every single scumbag, I want to own every single funny person. I want the funny Glenn Bleck. Wait Glenn Beck is the funny Glenn Bleck.” At this point in the interview I started laughing really hard, telling Carr that he was, in fact, being really funny. “Imagine how funny this is going to be when you read it on your iPad and there's 49 pages left to go,” he said.

Update: Carr just posted about it on his own blog. Also, here’s that Simpson’s clip he’s referring to, en Español.


Paul Carr is, by process of elimination, a writer – although he recently announced plans to launch a start-up backed by Tony Hsieh (Zappos) and Michael Arrington’s CrunchFund. For the first part of what he laughingly calls his 'career', he edited various publications and founded numerous businesses with varying degrees of abysmal failure. After getting fired from every job he'd ever had – including at least two where he was his own boss – he realised it was easier...

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ZiiLabs Demonstrates Their Jaguar3 Android Tablet Media Platform On Video

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 11:41 AM PDT

jag3

We’ve seen a few peeks of Creative’s Zii-powered Android tablets over the last couple months, but being rather spec-oriented, this reference platform didn’t get much attention. This video does a better job of showing off the advantages of having a general-purpose parallel CPU array like StemCell. It’s a special 48-core chip they’ve married to a 1.5GHz Cortex A9, and it’s dedicated to media processing.

It may not be that we ever see this guy in action: the Zii series of media players just couldn’t stand up to the iPod touch, and it could be that this augmented Android platform isn’t cost-effective or flashy enough to bring in sales. A hell of a lot of people are going to opt for something like the Fire, since they have no idea what WebM is, and don’t see why they would want to have 1080p playback on a small tablet that can’t even display that resolution. That’s why they have a Blu-ray player attached to a 55″ LCD. Who can blame them?

It does look like a nice little tablet, though, and having that big parallel array would probably be attractive to a lot of developers. But I don’t think the market is big enough right now for this to sell more than a few thousand units.

[via Fine Oils]



The iPhone 4S Is Siriously Smarter

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 10:57 AM PDT

Siri iPhone 4S

Editor's note: The following guest post was written byMrinal Desai, an early employee of LinkedIn who is also co-founder of CrossLoop and addappt. You can follow him on Twitter.

Like many, I am absolutely amazed by Siri, the talking assistant on the iPhone 4S.  It was the one thing that really stood out for me during the launch event when Scott Forstall introduced it ten days ago. And now we finally get to play with it.

After an Apple product launch, my usual evening at home is telling (umm .. selling) my wife the new features and how I need to have it. It’s a path of persuasion of how the product is not a want. Those "needs" now have been met by the prior generations of the iPhone, both generations of iPad, Apple TV, MacBook, MacBook Pro and a home surrounded by wireless bits on an Apple router.  But when I went home that night, it was all about Siri—”the other person” in my life. I never uttered a word about the specs of the dual core A5 processor or how it has 7x better graphics or even the HSPA+ download speeds—she does not care. An average person, unlike many of us, couldn't care less for what is under the hood, couldn't care less whether the product is open or closed, couldn't care less about Flash, HTML5 or native apps. I found myself listing all the scenarios of how productive I was going to be, how finally something that can actually be used was here. It would be the perfect companion to get all my to-dos done!

Reminders are a common work flow issue for me and I always add them to my calendar.  Setting up meetings—we do that all the time. Rerouting as we drive—very frequent. Often working in the 'Indian Stretchable Time' zone, I find myself sending texts to people that I am running late. There is an entire industry of virtual assistants out there because we want to focus on important things, not busy things. I can imagine a few more Siri applications in the future that I know I would love to have:

  • Parking space as you drive around looking for one
  • Flight status: Siri, is United flight # 1234 on time?
  • Travel bookings: Siri, what is the cheapest ticket to Boston on Deceomber 15th? Kayak in the future?
  • More local: search for a type of business, say a tailor. Is the business open? Siri, call the business. Pay per call advertising?
  • Deals:  Is there a deal within a mile of where I am at?
  • Movies: Siri, can you tell me where The Ides of March is running? Is the movie 'Delhy Belly' available on Netflix Instant? If yes, please add it to my queue.
  • Commerce: Siri, can you tell me if a pair of Adidas Forest Hills are available at a store nearby? After Siri finds it (if available), Siri can then help me map the directions
  • Social: Headed to a meeting. Siri, can you tell me who are my mutual contacts with this person?

Asking questions is an inherent quest to learn, to search. Add context and meaning and suddenly we go far beyond keywords. One of the continuous things Google works on is figuring out context.  When you search with keyword “apple”, did you mean to look for the fruit or the company? Apple just changed the rules of the game—again.  It made the phone smarter, not just do more.

Finally and very importantly, user acquisition. Being in a noisy world and a salesman within, one thing that I obsess about a lot is user acquisition. I am a hungry student of product design elements that inherently attract new users. I am hungry to learn why people buy what they buy; why do they use what they use. How did they discover what they use?

So rewind back a little.  I remember when I got my first iPhone (3GS). I was so giddy with excitement with my new toy that I couldn't stop telling everyone I knew about it. Not only that, I did demos too. I convinced as many as I could to let go of their Blackberrys (I switched from one) and move on. The closer was always apps. My favorite one was Ocarina. I would blow through the microphone exhibiting my hidden musical skills (or lack thereof). The smoothly rotating globe with music being played all around the world never ceased to draw the “wows” and the “oohs”—and I assure you that they were not about how well I played the Ocarina. It was the single largest and most well lubricated organic word-of-mouth machine I had ever seen. It was a lot like the advertising we all do when we carry out shopping bags with a 'Macy's' logo on it or akin to wearing a Gap hoodie or when we wear a Barcelona team shirt. We pride ourselves in the product we associate with and we are more than comfortable paying (big dollars when it comes to European football with jerseys at $70-$80 a pop) to advertise them. Its an emotion so strong that it soon becomes an integral part of our identity that we wish to share.


With Siri, needless to say the millions (Apple reported a more than million pre-orders, and analysts now expect millions more to be sold this quarter) of iPhone 4S users are going to be marching around showing off their new friend Siri to friends, family and colleagues. If it works as demoed, it is going to make everyone want one. So in a genius stroke, Apple handed each of us ammunition to evangelize and advertise their brand through a product that is on us all the time. With Siri, they have also given us a reason to take out the phone from our pockets even more often now and demo it to complete strangers.

Deep within, I am fearfully hopeful that juuuuust maybe, Siri will be able be to recognize my first name—something that most people send through a paper shredder. And yes, if you forget your anniversary in the future and have a 4S, blame it on Siri. I know I would have loved to have it on my last anniversary.


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Company: Apple
Website: apple.com
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 15, 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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Person: Mrinal Desai
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Companies: CrossLoop, LinkedIn

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Google Axes More Services: Jaiku, Buzz, Code Search & More

Posted: 14 Oct 2011 10:23 AM PDT

GoogleAxe

According to a new post by Google VP of Product Bradley Horowitz, on the official company blog, Google is delivering the death blow to several more products and services, including its code search engine, Buzz, Jaiku, iGoogle features and the University Research Program for Google Search, the latter which provides API access to Google Search results for a small number of academic institutions.

Here are the details on the new shutdowns, per Google:

 

 

  • Code Search, which was designed to help people search for open source code all over the web, will be shut down along with the Code Search API on January 15, 2012.
  • In a few weeks we'll shut down Google Buzz and the Buzz API, and focus instead on Google+. While people obviously won’t be able to create new posts after that, they will be able to view their existing content on their Google Profile, and download it using Google Takeout.
  • Jaiku, a product we acquired in 2007 that let users send updates to friends, will shut down on January 15, 2012. We'll be working to enable users to export their data from Jaiku.
  • Several years ago, we gave people the ability to interact socially on iGoogle. With our new focus on Google+, we will remove iGoogle’s social features on January 15, 2012. iGoogle itself, and non-social iGoogle applications, will stay as they are.
  • The University Research Program for Google Search, which provides API access to our search results for a small number of approved academic researchers, will close on January 15, 2012.

Google also said that it will be closing down the Google Labs site, as it promised earlier. That site will be gone as of today, so get your last visit in now. In addition, Boutiques.com and Like.com will now be replaced by Google Product Search.

These latest closures come on the heels of several other service shutdowns from the company whose previous strategy seemed to involve throwing a bunch of a spaghetti on the wall to see what sticked. In June, it shut down Google Health. In August, Google killed off the projects from its Slide acquisition, and in September, it killed Aardvark. Despite all the streamlining and shutdowns, Google has previously stated that its “20% Time Project” isn’t going anywhere.



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