Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Social Gaming Company CrowdStar Looks To Become Less Dependent On Facebook Via Global And Mobile Deals

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT


It’s no secret that many social gaming companies are looking to become less dependent on Facebook as a centralized platform for games. Zynga just announced its first, direct to consumer, independent gaming platform. Today, social gaming company CrowdStar has unveiling its social games strategy, called Project Trident, to help create a global, mobile platform and franchises, as well as Facebook titles.

It’s important to note that CrowdStar isn’t fleeing the Facebook platform all together, but merely looking to diversify its interests. Through Project Trident, CrowdStar is focusing on creating social gaming franchises across Facebook, global and mobile platforms.

In terms of global reach, CrowdStar announcing deals to bring its Girl franchise to Asia. The company is partnering with Korea’s NHN subsidiary, NHN Japan, to bring It Girl to Japan. Korea and China are also on the radar for CrowdStar as the company is targeting the market of 1 billion gamers in Asia. In Q4 alone, the company is planning to introduce five game launches of It Girl and Top Girl across five different social networks in Asia.

Peter Relan, CEO of CrowdStar, says that Facebook is a great platform to start building a game on (the company plans to launch a new Facebook game this weekend) but the social graph on mobile is fundamentally different. And CrowdStar is focused on changing the social graph interactions and game design to work for mobile game play. The company’s iOS game title Top Girl has already seen over 4 million downloads in four months, and has become one of the top-grossing games on iOS

Relan says that last year, CrowdStar’s entire revenue came from Facebook. And this year 50 percent is from mobile, and global will soon factor in as a revenue stream too. The gaming company is planning for 8 game launches in Q4 across Facebook, mobile and global, which is more than all of the titles launched last year.

CrowdStar just raised $23 million led by Intel Capital, Time Warner Investments with participation from China’s The9 and media mogul Aviv Nevo’s NVInvestments.

Company: CrowdStar
Launch Date: October 20, 2011
Funding: $23M

CrowdStar is a global leader in social gaming attracting tens of millions of users every month to play hits like It Girl, Mighty Pirates, Happy Aquarium, Happy Pets, Happy Island and Top Girl.

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Motorola Admiral Hits Sprint On October 23 With $100 Price Tag

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:59 AM PDT


Move over, Kyocera DuraMax — Sprint has just officially announced the Motorola Admiral, the first Android smartphone in their growing Direct Connect lineup.

The Admiral takes a 1.2GHz processor, 4GB of internal storage, and 3G hotspot support and wraps it all in a mil-spec 810G compliant body. The 3.1-inch VGA display swathed in Gorilla Glass sits above a 4 row QWERTY keyboard, and a 5MP camera occupies the device’s rear.

Durable body aside, the Admiral’s other claim to fame is its support for Sprint’s CDMA-powered Direct Connect. With the iDEN network slated to be shuttered in favor of bolstering their CDMA coverage, Direct Connect allows users to chirp to fellow Sprint and Nextel customers with the same reckless abandon as before.

If you’ve been waiting for a rough-and-tumble smartphone that lets you bark orders to your crew as well as it lets you fire off a few emails, the Admiral may be worth a second glance. Expect it to hit Sprint’s sales channels on October 23 for $99 after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Vanity Phone Number Provider Zoove Raises Additional $5 Million

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:58 AM PDT


Vanity phone number provider Zoove is today announcing it has raised an additional investment of $5 million from Rogers Ventures to help it further accelerate its U.S. operations. The startup is the exclusive provider of “StarStar numbers” (e.g. **FLOWERS) for the four largest mobile operators in the United States, reaching over 250 million consumers.

Mike Lee, VP of Roger Ventures, the venture capital arm of Canada’s Rogers Communications, will also be joining Zoove’s Board of Directors as a part of this deal.

StarStar numbers, which are maintained in the Zoove-powered National StarStar Registry,  let consumers dial a company more easily than with traditional numbers and without an additional fee. Recently, StarStar numbers have been used in promotions from the NFL (**NFL), Simon’s Cowell’s X-Factor (**XF) and EA’s new Madden game (**MADDEN). After the consumer places the call, they will typically receive a text message or voicemail prompting them to opt in to engage further by viewing websites, downloading apps, downlading coupons, etc. The participating brands pay Zoove an annual fee for their number which varies based on length and scarcity of the number.

This current round brings Zoove’s total funding to $20 million. It had previously raised $15 million in Series D  this August. That round was led by new investor Panorama Capital, plus existing investors Cardinal Venture Capital, Highland Capital Partners and Worldview Technology Partners.

Below, a TV commercial featuring a StarStar number for the NFL:

Company: Zoove
Funding: $34.8M

Zoove operates a national directory of vanity mobile phone numbers, called StarStar Numbers, that lets brands easily connect with people – anytime, anywhere, on any mobile phone. Zoove is the exclusive national administrator of StarStar Numbers for the largest wireless operators in the United States, serving more than 250 million people. With StarStar Numbers, consumers simply call the name of the brand they see being promoted (e.g. **BRAND). Instantly, they can be pushed that brand's mobile app, Web page, coupon,...

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Foursquare’s Crowley Reveals The Strategy Behind Radar, Siri, And Mobile’s New Push Interface

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:45 AM PDT

Crowley 2.0

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley doesn’t think that you should have to open up a mobile app to interact with it. I caught up with Crowley a couple days ago at the Web 2.0 Summit, where he was a speaker. In the video interview above, he compares Foursquare’s newest feature called Radar to the Siri personal assistant on the new iPhone 4S. For Crowley, it’s all about getting mobile apps to push relevant information out to you at exactly the right place and time. “If you have a problem to solve with your phone, you don’t have to go to the search box.”

Radar taps into Foursquare’s Explore recommendations and pushes them out to you automatically via notifications. “What we have been doing with Radar is finding a way for people to use the app really without having to actually use it,” says Crowley. It runs Explore in the background, which tells you when you are near a place on your to-do list, where someone you know has left a tip, or where a lot of your friends are at that moment. Siri is similar in that it pushes out reminders and other information to you without you having to tap on the screen.

Radar takes advantage of Foursquare’s one billion check-ins and other data entered by its 10 million users to surface recommendations “Even a check-in is asking a lot of people,” says Crowley. “Now that we want to leverage all the data, what is the easiest possible on-boarding experience for the next 20M users?”

In part II of this interview, coming up, Crowley talks about how Radar fits into his overall strategy and plans to make money.

Dennis Crowley is a co-founder of Foursquare, a location-based social networking service. Previously, he co-founded Dodgeball, a network of the same nature which sold to Google in 2005. He has been named one of the "Top 35 Innovators Under 35" by MIT's Technology Review magazine (2005) and has won the "Fast Money" bonus round on the TV game show Family Feud (2009). His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Time Magazine, Newsweek, MTV,...

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Company: Foursquare
Launch Date: November 3, 2009
Funding: $71.4M

Foursquare is a geographical location based social network that incorporates gaming elements. Users share their location with friends by “checking in” via a smartphone app or by text message. Points are awarded for checking in at various venues. Users can connect their Foursquare accounts to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, which can update when a check in is registered. By checking in a certain number of times, or in different locations, users can collect virtual badges. In addition, users...

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New TechStars Network Member MuckerLab Launches In L.A.

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:03 AM PDT


MuckerLab, a new startup accelerator and member of the TechStars Network, is launching today in L.A. The three-month program will provide its selected startups with $21,000 in seed funding, plus the typical incubator benefits like shared office space, legal assistance, infrastructure and hosting, and, of course, mentorship from a network of advisors.

The program has two full-time founders, Erik Rannala, formerly of Harrison Metal, and William Hsu, who most recently served as Chief Product Officer at AT&T Interactive. There are also two part-time founders, HauteLook’s Greg Bettinelli and Happiness Engines founder Yan-David Erlich. Collectively, the group has founded, operated, and helped scale many of the most successful Internet companies including eBay, Google, Green Dot, HauteLook, LinkedIn, Live Nation, AT&T, StubHub and TripAdvisor.

MuckerLab, whose name is a reference to Thomas Edison’s original group of researchers and very old-school hackers, offers a large network of mentors including Brett Markinson of HauteLook, Brian Lee of ShoeDazzle and LegalZoom, Hiten Shah of Kissmetrics, Howard Lindzon of StockTwits and Wallstrip, Paige Craig of BetterWorks, Ryan Steelberg of DMarc, and Tyler Goldman of BUZZMEDIA.  The investors serving as mentors include Aileen Lee of Kleiner Perkins, Beau Laskey of Steamboat, Chris Farmer of General Catalyst, Dana Stalder of Matrix Partners, Dana Settle of Greycroft, David Travers of Rustic Canyon, Jeremy Liew of LightSpeed, and Jesse Jacobs of Chernin Group.

“L.A. sees historically great venture returns, second only to Silicon Valley,” explains Rannala, talking about what he calls the “most under-hyped market in the country.” In ticking off L.A.’s pluses, he notes that L.A. has seen many great exits, it’s the center of media and entertainment, it has three of the top ten engineering schools and it has a tech labor force that’s the same size as in the Valley.

“But the ecosystem is not as mature, or well-formed,”  Rannala says. “There’s a gap in the early stage – the seed stage to Series A.” And that’s where MuckerLab will come in.

Despite L.A.’s media and entertainment focus, the accelerator isn’t just looking for startups in those verticals, although Rannala admits that there probably will be more media-related startups forming here. However, ad technology and e-commerce have also thrived in L.A., he notes.

Classes, which will kick off in January, will probably include a selection of 5 to 10 companies, depending on the quality of the applications. There will be a strong bias for fully formed teams who are 100% committed to their startup.

Applications are now being accepted here.

Home Decor Flash Sales Site One Kings Lane Nabs Former eBay Exec As CFO

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT


Fresh off a $40 million raise, flash sales site for home d├ęcor, furnishings and accessories One Kings Lane, is bringing on a new CFO from eBay, Dinesh Lathi. In his new role, Lathi will lead finance, operations and customer service for the retail asite and will join the company’s management team.

Previously, Lathi was employed by eBay where he spent nearly seven years. He most recently served as vice president of managed marketplace and seller experience and was a member of the global marketplaces executive staff. While at eBay, Lathi and his team were responsible for a number of the core marketplace products including the Top Rated Seller Program, Buyer Protection, Fashion Vault, Daily Deal, Store Subscriptions and Zero Insertion Fees.

Lathi also served as CFO of RingCentral, a cloud-based enterprise phone systems provider; and was CFO of Industrial Container, a company that offers new and reconditioned steel, plastic and fiber drums. Lathi holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Materials Science from MIT.

As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, One Kings Lane is on track for over $100 million in 2011 sales, and is valued at $440 million. Now that the company is making real revenue, a CFO to manage the financial side of the business is necessary.

One Kings Lane, which just hit 2 million users, is proving that a niche vertical in the flash sales arena can bring in meaningful revenue and a loyal customer base. The company has also been able to use entertainment and celebrity partnerships to boost traffic and sales. Over the summer, One Kings Lane featured a content deal with Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators, and teamed up with actress Gwyneth Paltrow to promote her new cookbook.

Of course, Gilt is also trying to grab a piece of this market, recently debuting its new Gilt Home vertical.

Company: One Kings Lane
Funding: $63M

One Kings Lane is the leading flash sales site for the home market, offering members access to spectacular designer home decor, furnishings, accessories, and gifts – at prices up to 70% off retail. One Kings Lane works directly with leading home brands to bring the very best products at exceptional prices to its members – every day of the week. One Kings Lane also partners with top designers, decorators and industry insiders to deliver content that inspires, enlightens and...

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Vizio 8″ Tablet Owners Get Three Free Months Of Hulu Plus

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:49 AM PDT


The Hulu Plus application debuted on Vizio’s wallet-friendly tablet back in August, and that partnership seems to have some life in it yet. New and existing owners of the Vizio 8 tablet will be getting three free months of Hulu Plus service, presumably to lure the truly media-hungry away from other devices.

Here’s how it will go down: a new software update for the Vizio 8 is going live today, which will preload the Hulu Plus app onto the tablet. From there, it’s a simple matter of creating a new Hulu Plus account (don’t forget to have a credit card handy) and you’re off to the streaming video races.

It bears repeating that the Vizio 8 only packs a WiFi radio, so don’t expect to blow through old episodes of Ally McBeal while you’re lounging on the beach. Still, having Hulu’s full catalog available in a small package will do in a pinch when you’re lazing about on the couch and the remote is just a little too far away.

Best Buy Launches Appolicious-Powered, Curated Mobile App Directory

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:45 AM PDT


Social mobile app directory Appolicious is announcing a major new partner today—Best Buy. The consumer electronics retail giant is launching the Best Buy App Discovery Center, an Appolicious-powered mobile app directory designed to make it easier for consumers to locate and find recommended iOS and Android apps.

On the new platform users can search for apps that are organized into more than 1,200 categories, such as "Preschool Early Reading" and "Travel Destinations." Search also features auto complete, making it easier for consumers to see if the directory has the app they are looking for. All search uses Appolicious’ algorithmic app search based on social, user-generated and editorial signals.

Beyond just providing an app directory, Best Buy is also curating apps as well. The site will list
the most popular apps in Android Market and iTunes App Store and features Best Buy Blue Shirts' App Picks, which are recommendations from BestBuy employees. Consumers can even drill down recommendations by by specific store and store associate.

And the retail angle is BestBuy’s Price Cuts feature. The directory will include an updated list of price reductions in Android Market and iTunes App Store. For example Adobe Ideas app is discounted to $5.99 from $9.99 on the directory.

This is a big win for Appolicious, who also has formed a content partnership with Yahoo. Founder Alan Warms tells us that the BestBuy deal is the first of several similar partnerships that will be announced.

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Daily Deals Startup BuyWithMe Laying Off Half Its Workforce

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:22 AM PDT


BuyWithMe, a daily deals startup that had been acquiring companies right and left this year, appears to be going under. The startup has failed to find funding and is now laying off half its workforce. CEO Jim Crowley announced yesterday that at least 100 people will be let go today unless the company finds a last minute buyer.

According to a report by BetaBeat (and several tipsters here), the company was unable to raise the funding it needed. BetaBeat, who spoke to an unnamed employee, reports that BuyWithMe tried to raise a hundred million dollars at a $500 million valuation. The valuation was too high, and the company had no takers.

The layoffs are only the beginning of what may be shaping up to be a bad situation for this company, which is out of money and, according to one source, “folding.”

BuyWithMe made its sixth acquisition in September, with its purchase of San Francisco-based TownHog . It previously acquired NYC’s Scoop StChicago deals site DealADayOnlineSan Francisco deals site Swoop, loyalty company Edhance, and deals site LocalTwist. It had raised $21.5 million from Bain Capital Ventures and Matrix Partners.

Update: BetaBeat reports today that the company tried to buy its way to growth, but it was “all for show.”

Update #2: Here’s the official statement from CEO Jim Crowley:

BuyWithMe did have a significant reduction in staffing this week. We did this so the company is in the best position to continue to serve its merchants and members. As an organization we're continuing to pursue our business and to support our customers throughout the country.

Company: BuyWithMe
Funding: $21.5M

BuyWithMe is the premier group buying website where leading local merchants offer exclusive limited time offers to members of the BuyWithMe community. Through the power of its numbers, BuyWithMe negotiates handpicked group discounts for its customers to access at spas, restaurants, health clubs, bars and other local activities in their city. BuyWithMe currently publishes daily deals in 12 major DMAs, including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, New York, and San Diego. BuyWithMe is...

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Gooood Morning, Nerdinam: FlipZu Makes You An Instant Broadcaster

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:03 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-10-20 at 10.01.29 AM

You, too, can be just like Hard Harry, dropping the truth on your neatly manicured suburban hellhole from the privacy of your sweat-stinking bedroom. Tell the man off. Rail against the principals. Get the FCC on your tail (not really.) Because FlipZu is here to help you build your own pirate radio station.

The browser based app (Android and iPhone versions are also available) lets you broadcast live. That’s basically it. You press a button, perform a mic check, and start railing against the Illuminati and the Bilderberg Group. People can listen to you live or they can listen to your previous recordings.

Founded by Dario Rapisardi and Lucas Lain, both based in Argentina. Their blog includes instructions (in Spanish) about how to build a radio station using the app and a few pieces of software.

“We started it a little bit over a year ago, me and a college friend, self-funded. We just recently got a small private investment from a local investor – $150,000 – so we incorporated and we’re hiring a couple more people soon,” said Dario.

When asked if the product would scale when things get hairy, Dario wrote:

“You shouldn’t have any issue using it in an event. The platform is being used by President Correa of Ecuador to give his speeches on a
regular basis, it was used by former President Lula of Brazil, and it’s being used daily by one of the most popular radio shows in the city,” he said.

“In unusual high-traffic circumstances the platform will scale up (we’re on Amazon, and the streaming platform was built from scratch with EC2
in mind).”

This idea isn’t new. BlogTalkRadio has been doing this for a while, although they’ve focused on the call-in method of recording and transmitting. FlipZu is also fairly limited in terms of media availability and downloads right now although you can create an RSS feed of your recordings, thereby creating a podcast feed for various media players. It could be a great way to run live interviews at events and surreptitiously record Apple press conferences.

I tested it out a few times here and once I’m ready to start recording my survivalist rantings between 2am and 5am every night until the Elder Americans return to Earth from the Moon, I’ll let you guys know.

Going Geek Pays, Asus Details The Techie Transformer Prime And Padfone

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:02 AM PDT

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Asus has long been a niche brand trying to break into the mainstream but two of their upcoming products won’t help their cause. The Transformer Prime and Padfone scream geek. They’re clearly aimed at the techie demographic that’s increasingly getting the cold shoulder from the top CE brands. And why not? The Transformer Prime seems like a worthy successor to the original and the Padfone looks mighty fun although not that practical. Asus (hopefully) doesn’t expect to sell these products to your mom. They want you to buy ‘em.

Asus CEO and resident salesman Johnny Shih recently took the stage with Walt Mossberg at the AsiaD conference where he revealed the sleek convertible Transformer Prime tablet. A 10-inch display is opposite the Zenbook-styled backplate revealed yesterday in the cryptic teaser video. It runs a quad-core NVIDIA chip and draws power from a 14.5-hour battery. Of course there’s an optional keyboard dock. Johnny didn’t reveal the pricing or launch date but Asus plans on detailing the tablet in full at an official launch event on November 9th.

The Asus Padfone made a Computex Taipei debut back in May but Asus still isn’t ready to ship the tablet/cell phone hybrid. The strange contraption is currently set for a Q1 2012 release, which means it will probably be a mainstay at Asus’ CES booth. But when it finally does ship, it will do so in style with Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Transformer Prime and Padfone are not real iPad competitors. The iPad success comes from reaching an audience that doesn’t care about quad-core processing or even know what it is. And that’s fine. The techie crowd is largely ignored by tablet makers chasing the Apple. Hitting outside the norm is a strategy has largely worked well for Asus, who with the original Transformer, underestimated demand as the tablet quickly sold out. Instead, Asus is going after consumers that care about multitasking, open source operating systems, modding and the signification of the Prime designation. If Android tabs can’t beat the iPad, (they can’t) Asus is wisely targeting the growing market that doesn’t want an iPad. The Transformer Prime, with his ally in disguise, the Padfone, will lead this charge.

[image courtesy of Engadget]

Company: Asus

ASUS is well known for high-quality and innovative technology. ASUS offers a complete product portfolio to compete in the new millennium.

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Will RIM and Porsche Design Unveil A New BlackBerry Next Week? (Update: Confirmed)

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT


Here’s a noodle-scratcher to start your day off: Stuff Middle East is reporting that RIM and Porsche Design are teaming up for an event next Thursday that promises to show off an “exclusive collaboration” between the two companies. Could the rumored Porsche Design BlackBerry finally see the light of day?

For those who didn’t catch it the first time round, photos of a funky-looking BlackBerry allegedly called the “Knight 9980″ first surfaced back in September courtesy of a Chinese forum called MaxPDA. It didn’t look like any other BlackBerry we’ve seen before: the Knight has a more angular chassis than your typical BlackBerry and (disconcertingly) what looks to be a much flatter keyboard.

The reason for the radical change in design was because the Porsche Design team was supposedly in charge. They may seem like a strange choice, but Porsche Design has transcended the automotive trappings of its parent company to design everything from feature phones to hard drives to bobsleds, so a special edition smartphone doesn’t come entirely out of the blue.

Personally, I think this is one to file under “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Unveiling a niche, fashion-forward device seems like a very strange step for a company that has just recently recovered from a multi-continent outage and is working to regain the trust of their customers. If people don’t feel like they can rely on their BlackBerrys, then what would drive someone to buy another one, let alone one that seems to put form ahead of function?

Sure, fans of limited-edition gadgetry will probably snap them up anyway, but something about this situation just feels odd. I’ve reached out to RIM for some clarity on the situation, but haven’t received a response at time of writing. Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: A RIM representative has confirmed that the invite-only event will be taking place in Dubai next Thursday.

AT&T Surpasses 1 Million iPhone 4S Activations

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 06:48 AM PDT


It would seem that the iPhone 4S is one helluva record breaker. Apple recorded over 1 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours the phone was available, and a record 4 million devices sold in the first weekend. That’s double the amount of any other iPhone’s first weekend sales.

But the iPhone 4S isn’t just breaking records at Apple.

AT&T has just announced that its iPhone 4S activations have topped 1 million. To date, AT&T has never seen so many activations during an iPhone launch, which says quite a bit since big blue is the only carrier to have had the iPhone since its initial entry onto the market.

Verizon is set to release its activation stats tomorrow, at which point we’ll be able to get a little more context for these numbers. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that AT&T has also been growing its Android presence, with Android sales doubling year-over-year.


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Company: Apple
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 20, 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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Sony Ericsson Plans To Release Android 4.0 To The Xperia Line In 2012

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 06:37 AM PDT

SE Facebook

Sony Ericsson has joined HTC in offering up a general plan for pushing the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich updates to existing handsets. In a message on its Dutch Facebook page, the company has said it will roll out Ice Cream Sandwich to all 2011 Xperia handsets. Phones that should receive the update include the Xperia Play, Xperia neo and neo V, Mini Pro, Xperia Ray, and the Xperia arc.

Much like HTC, Sony Ericsson has given no firm timeline, but did say that the roll out will begin once all 2011 Xperia phones get the update for 2.3.4 Gingerbread. Here’s the official statement given to Engadget:

Sony Ericsson is currently rolling out the upgrade to Gingerbread 2.3.4 across its entire 2011 Xperia smartphone portfolio. This software upgrade will be available through a phased roll out in select markets. Beyond Gingerbread 2.3.4, we plan to upgrade our 2011 Xperia smartphone portfolio to the next Android platform made available to us.

According to Dutch blog AllAboutPhones, Sony Ericsson will release Ice Cream Sandwich update in 2012. This jives well with earlier statements made by Google executives, who mentioned that most Gingerbread phones should “theoretically” get Android 4.0 in 2012.

Company: Sony Ericsson

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications is a global provider of mobile multimedia devices, including feature-rich phones, accessories and PC cards. The products combine powerful technology with innovative applications for mobile imaging, music, communications and entertainment. The net result is that Sony Ericsson is an enticing brand that creates compelling business opportunities for mobile operators and desirable, fun products for end users. Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications was established in 2001 by telecommunications leader Ericsson and consumer electronics powerhouse Sony Corporation. The company...

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Total Immersion Launches D’Fusion Augmented Reality SDK Update And A New iOS Game (Video)

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 06:31 AM PDT

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Augmented Reality company Total Immersion released a free, Augmented Reality SDK today called D'Fusion. The updated kit is specially designed for multi-platform developers of games, apps and marketing solutions.

To mark the occasion (and demonstrate the tech) Total Immersion are also launching a free iOS game in the app store called Skinvaders. The game, which takes advantage of Total Immersion's face tracking technology, uses the player's face as the battlefield. It’s freaky, yet cool.

The first Total Immersion demo I saw was at the Mobile World Congress last year. It was an app that let you virtually try on different sets of eyeglasses. This new game underscores that they have been continuing to refine their face-tracking technology.

BranchOut Launches Tool For Recruiters To Source Job Candidates On Facebook

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 06:07 AM PDT


BranchOut, a professional social network for Facebook, is announcing the launch of RecruiterConnect, a tool for recruiters and hiring managers to source job candidates on Facebook and build private talent networks. BranchOut says that RecruiterConnect is also the first enterprise software product available on the Facebook platform.

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

On average, BranchOut, which is backed by Accel, Norwest, Floodgate, and Redpoint, says a network of 300 Facebook friends translates to 30,000 professional connections.

Now recruiters have an enterprise application to source candidates and take advantage of the connections taking place on Facebook. The application itself provides recruiters with a potential candidate's work history, education and recent professional activity, along with similar profiles and connections. RecruiterConnect also helps companies accurately match candidates with available positions.

BranchOut also recently launched a partnership with CareerBuilder.. The enterprise move on Facebook is interesting considering how popular professional LinkedIn has become for recruiters. But clearly with 800 million members Facebook is becoming a professional networking hub in many ways.

Company: BranchOut
Funding: $24M

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

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Think Finance Debuts Consumer Electronics Retail Site For The Unbanked

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 05:40 AM PDT


Think Finance, a company that helps serve the banking needs of the “unbanked”, is unveiling Presta, a new consumer electronics retail site that gives customers the option to lease-purchase electronics.

Think Finance caters to the 60 million “unbanked,” individuals in the U.S., which designate consumers who don’t have traditional bank accounts or cannot qualify for credit cards. The company says that 25% of Americans have FICO scores less than 600 and are facing dramatically reduced access to credit and banking services. Think Finance provides this population with pre-paid debit cards, online installment loans, financial literacy tools, and more. The company has served more than 1 million customers through its existing products.

Presta offers laptops, tablet computers, game consoles and more with a lease-purchase option, allowing customers to make fixed payments with a debit or credit card. Buyers can own products outright after making fixed payments for a year, or return them any time after three months with no penalty. Customers can even return products to upgrade to a newer model or pay off the lease-purchase agreement early at a discount.

In order to determine whether someone is qualified for a lease, Think Finance will take into account bank account history, how long a buyer has had an email account, income, and previous payment history. The site is debuting today in three states but will expand to 47 states in the U.S. in the first quarter


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BlueStacks Raises $6.4 Million To Give You One-Click Access To Android Apps On Windows Devices

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 05:30 AM PDT


BlueStacks, the startup that has developed software to let Android users run their apps on all Windows PC, tablets, and laptops, is announcing this morning that it has closed a $6.4 million series B round of financing. The round was led by AMD, Citrix Systems, and included participation from existing investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Ventures, Radar Partners, Redpoint Ventures, and more. BlueStacks raised a $7.6 million series A back in May.

The company plans to use its new funding to accelerate development of its app player (currently in alpha) and “Cloud Connect Service”, which together consists of free, downloadable software that essentially give users one-click access to Android apps on any Windows PC, tablet, or laptop — as well as the ability to view these apps in full-screen mode.

The recently released public alpha of BlueStacks’ “App Player for Windows”, which we covered last week, has already been downloaded in more than 100 countries, and the beta release of the app player is scheduled for this winter, in addition to a “Pro” version of the product, which will include access to premium Android apps like Fruit Ninja and Cut The Rope.

BlueStacks’ technology works seamlessly with AMD APU-powered tablets and PCs (hence the company’s investment in the startup), which means that Android apps can take advantage of the horspower and graphics capabilities of the APU on many of the x86-based systems that run on Windows and the suite of Microsoft Office apps.

The startup is hoping to define the next generation of IT architecture for enterprise, and hopes to help push the industry towards being able to run mobile apps ubiquitously, enabling users to work and play from anywhere, on any device. The next step is for BlueStacks to make more Android apps available, as there are only some 30-odd apps available at this point. But, so far, it’s already a great step forward for Windows and Android.

Company: BlueStacks
Launch Date: October 20, 2011
Funding: $7.6M

BlueStacks, a Campbell, California-based company that is developing technology to allow users to run Android and Windows applications on x86-based devices.

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DCM’s Android-Focused, $100M A-Fund Invests In Appia, PapayaMobile And Five Others

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 04:00 AM PDT


As my colleague Sarah Lacy reported in April, investment firm DCM launched a $100 million Asian A-Fund to support early-stage Android entrepreneurs. DCM partnered a number of notable Asian tech players including gaming giant Tencent, Japan's largest mobile gaming social network GREE and Japan's second largest mobile operator KDDI, to fund startups that are leveraging the Android ecosystem. Today, the A-Fund and DCM are announcing seven startups that received funding through the vehicle.

Jason Krikorian, general partner at DCM, tells me that the investments range anywhere from $250,000 to $5 million in companies and each investment is ‘stage agnostic.’ Krikorian says that over the next three years, the A-fund will make approximately 30 total investments. He said the fund is mainly interested in companies that are pursuing global market opportunities on the Android platform.

DCM and its strategic investors were motivated to launch the A-Fund not only in light of Android's rapid adoption, but also because of its technological flexibility and openness. Krikorian adds that there is still more innovation yet to take place, especially in the area of tablets and app development.

The first A-Fund portfolio companies are:

Appia: Creators of a white-label mobile app store platform that processes over one million downloads per day for operators, handset manufacturers, and other partners. The company powers mobile app storefronts for more than 40 partners, including four of the world’s top five handset manufacturers (Samsung, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless) as well as for Opera Software

Billing Revolution: The startup offers a single-click billing and payment service for transactions on mobile phones, including Android and iPhone devices.

PapayaMobile: The gaming company is one of the most popular Android mobile social gaming networks in China and the US with over 30 million users. Regionally, the fastest growing market for Papaya is China which has experienced over 500% growth since January 2011. Europe is close behind at 224% and then the United States at 222%

Happy Elements: The Beijing-based Happy Elements is one of the top Asian social gaming developers on Facebook and has launched a number of popular gaming titles in Japan, China and South Korea. Happy Elements has 2.5 million active daily users, develops the second and third most popular games on Mixi in Japan, as well as the most popular game on Kaixin001 in China. The company just announced a new $30 million round of funding.

Kanbox: The startup is China's leading cloud storage and sharing service provider.

Loki Studios: The mobile gaming company develops location and environment-aware smartphone games, starting with their flagship monster battle game, Geomon.

Kakao Corp: The startup is the developer of KakaoTalk, a cross-platform mobile messaging application with over 25 million users worldwide.

Already, DCM says that these startups are working with some of the strategic partners to help with distribution and other areas.

Tele Scouter: NEC Announces Transparent Head-Mounted Display

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 02:59 AM PDT

nec telescouter featured

NEC announced the so-called Tele Scouter [JP] in Japan, a futuristic, see-through head-mounted display (HMD) for augmented reality applications. The device is based on the AiRScouter, which Brother has been working on for years (and which we covered here, here and here).

The Tele Scouter, which NEC calls a “Wearable Computer”, is sized at 75×40×35mm and weighs 64g. Powered by a Windows Embedded CE 6.0-equipped (portable) terminal, it produces pictures in 800×600 resolution that can be superimposed onto the real world.

The terminal (pictured below) features a ARM 500MHz CPU, IEEE 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ver2.0+EDR, a microSD slot, a mic, It’s sized at 140×90×55 and weighs 360g.

NEC says that when worn, the Tele Scouter creates the impression of a 16-inch screen that's about one meter away from the user's eyes. The company sees the device used for device assembly, parts picking and selection, and remote operations in factories (battery life: 4 hours).

No word yet on a possible international release, but the Tele Scouter will be priced at US$5,200 in Japan. The software goes for an extra US$24,000 (release date: December 26).

Via AV Watch [JP]

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