Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Hands On With Everpix, The Service That Centralizes All Your Photos From Desktop & Web

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

everpix-icon

For the past week, I’ve been testing the alpha version of the Everpix service, which aims to automatically centralize and organize all your digital photos, both online and off. I’m happy to report that, so far, it works as advertised.

In case you missed it, Everpix, a creation of ex-Apple engineers, was one of this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt finalists. Using a small utility that runs on your computer, Everpix lets you connect to your local photo stores, online services like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and Instagram, and even to the photos sent to you in Gmail.

Given that two of Everpix's Co-founders, Pierre-Olivier Latour and Kevin Quennesson, each spent several years with Apple (Co-founder Wayne Fan was previously at frog design), it’s no surprise that Everpix is launching first for Mac users.

To get started, you install a utility that places an icon in the Mac’s menu bar. Initially, the syncing may slow your computer down a bit as it uploads your entire photo library. For that reason, it might be a good idea to get the upload started before bed so it doesn’t interrupt your work.

Clicking the Menu Bar icon will take you to the Everpix website, where you can configure the various services you want to connect to, as well as point it to which folders on your desktop contain photos you want to sync online.

For those of you with complicated folder-within-a-folder systems for organizing photos on your computer, you may be a bit disappointed to find that with Everpix you can’t choose to upload only a selection of folders or files. You must either globally enable or disable your entire Pictures folder (or optionally, your Documents and Desktop, too). However, I’d argue that, for most people, this will be a feature, not a bug. In providing fewer choices in terms of what can be synced, it simplifies the setup, reducing the amount of clicks it takes to get started. (You click the icon, go to “Photo Sources” then click the folder you want online. That’s just two clicks).

In my case, though, the folder I use to save photos that appear accompany blog posts is in my Pictures folder, and I had no desire to include these alongside my family photos on Everpix’s website. I will be forced to relocate that folder elsewhere, it seems.

By default, all your photos are private and will always remain private unless you specify otherwise, so unless you have some really personal photos, I wouldn’t worry too much about having them posted online. Of course, seeing a secure URL (i.e., one beginning https://…) would make me feel a bit more comfortable.

From the Everpix website, you can choose to enable additional online photo-sharing services, all of which connect using OAuth or, in Facebook’s case, Facebook Connect. The one big disappointment here was Gmail. Despite the fact that Gmail added support for OAuth back in March 2010, Everpix straight up asks you for a Gmail username and password, noting that it will store your encrypted password or its servers. No thank you. When a better method is available, there’s simply no reason to handle things this way. I chose not to connect my Gmail, and will not do so until OAuth is supported.

As for the organizational aspects to the service, Everpix does as promises – it groups photos together by “moments.” These moments are periods of time representing life events. For the most part, I found photos grouped by date, but in some cases, it knew to separate the group of photos I took during the day from those taken later at night.

One wish I had for the “Moments” feature was a desire to manually combine some of these groupings into one. For example, photos from a conference like TechCrunch Disrupt were spread across multiple days, when I’d rather save it as one moment. Since all the photos are fairly recognizable to the human eye as belonging to the same group (i.e., green background, conference stage), it’s clear there’s no super-intelligent machine algorithm handling the groupings.

The other big feature, auto-curation, I liked more. In large photo sets, the service will run through the batch and hide (not delete), bad photos like those that are blurry, out-of-focus, dark, or under or over exposed.  You can return these photos to view with one click at the bottom of the page. And to keep the photo unhidden for good, just click the arrow icon on the photo.

The best feature of all is Everpix’s simple privacy settings. As noted above, all photos are private by default, but with one click, you can change that. With a toggle switch at the top of the page, an album (or select photos in an album) can be made accessible via a provided URL which you can share with Facebook, Twitter or via email.

Overall, despite the service’s simplicity, there are still many features Everpix lacked. For example, photos that appeared in landscape when they should be portrait aren’t rotated for you and there’s no mechanism on the site to do so. (Sure, that’s probably how they appear on the original site, too, but it mars the experience.) The forthcoming mobile interface for Everpix is also a much-needed addition, as it would provide the means to actually have your photos on hand wherever you are, plus provide a much simpler method for automatic uploads from your device. That’s in development, though, so it’s only a matter of time. I’d also like to name some of my moments, tag them or search them by people, places, dates or subjects, but search is not provided at all.

It would be great, too, if Everpix could pull in the face tags that iPhoto and Facebook already have and combine them – that would truly be a feat worthy of praise. I imagine that these are the kind of things Everpix is working on next – they would be crazy not to. A comprehensive photo database needs to be searchable and structured, not just organized and pretty, I’d say.

The company still doesn’t have details regarding pricing or a public launch, but in the meantime, I’m fairly happy to have this resource on hand. Before now, my photos had been widely spread out across the Web forever, with no easy way to centralize them. For that feature alone, Everpix is a tool worth having, in my opinion.

Everpix is accepting registrations here.


Company: Everpix
Website: everpix.com

Everpix lets you have all your photos in the cloud, automagically uploaded, organized and curated. View, rediscover, and share your best photos all in one place, effortlessly. Taking photos is fun, viewing them is fun, but everything else in between still sucks. People have lots of photos in various libraries and devices, accessing and organizing them is a pain, and putting them online or sharing them is cumbersome. Compare with the breath of fresh air that Everpix is: • All your photos...

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OnLive Feels The Facebook Love, Offers Any Game For $1

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 08:37 AM PDT

onlive_logo_white_background

OnLive offered a challenge to their community: Get 62,791 likes on its Facebook page and all users would get one game for $1. Well, OnLive’s fans came through, and as of this post’s writing, the Facebook page in question has 67,938 Likes. OnLive made good on its promise. Starting yesterday, all users will their next game for $1. Best yet, there isn’t any silly small print. All games currently available are eligible including Dues Ex: Human Revolution, DiRT 3, Red Faction: Armageddon and the rest of OnLive’s library. Nice. Let me suggest DiRT 3; Dues Ex is boring.

With OnLive, games aren’t delivered through traditional media. Instead, gamers buy access to the game, which is then streamed to a relatively small set-top box. Depending on the user’s Internet connection, the games are often delivered with graphics and game play comparable to that of modern gaming systems. Sometimes there’s a bit of lag, though. However, with extremely competitive prices and robust social features OnLive is becoming increasing popular with casual and hardcore gamers alike. This $1 deal will do nothing but earn the company even more fans.

The offer is good for a limited time so, OnLive users, fire up your MicroConsole and snag a game for $1 before it expires. Again, the offer is only for games currently available so pre-ordering L.A. Noire and Batman: Arkham City do not qualify. Per OnLive’s Twitter account, new users simply need to sign into OnLive to access the deal while users who previously purchased a game should get a promo code emailed (full details here). What a good way to start the weekend.


OnLive, Inc.
If you didn’t get a code via email, sign in to OnLive. Full PlayPasses should show as $1. Codes were sent to users who already purchased.

Company: OnLive
Website: onlive.com
Launch Date: October 22, 2011
Funding: $56.5M

Onlive develops server-based video game processing, allowing games to run without game consoles or high-end computers, moving away from a system in which games are purchased and downloaded.

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High-End Car-Sharing Service HiGear Expanding To L.A.

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 06:30 AM PDT

highgear

San Francisco-based HiGear, a peer-to-peer car-sharing service focused on luxury vehicles, is expanding to L.A. starting November 1st. The move is part of the company’s continued expansion plans that will see it arrive in five additional markets, including Portland and San Diego, by year-end.

Unlike other car-sharing services, HiGear specializes in “high-end” auto brands only, including Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Tesla.

Owners of these high-end cars can rent their vehicles to other drivers for fees that are, on average, 50% off commercial rates. Meanwhile, everyday drivers get a chance to finally drive their dream car without the burden of ownership.

HiGear provides comprehensive liability and collision insurance and performs member screening, which includes driving record checks and sometimes even credit checks. It also collects a security deposit in order to “encourage safe and fair use of members’ cars.” In additional to the rental fee ($125-600, depending on the car), drivers pay $20-40 per day in rental insurance. The average rental period is for 3 days, or around $410.

In HiGear’s case, the transfer of keys from owner to renter is not an automated procedure involving lockboxes, but actually has the members meeting up in real life in order to coordinate the transaction. Despite this hassle, the company says it now has an “inventory” of 200-plus cars and is adding new vehicles at a rate of 50-plus per month.

Earlier this month, HiGear raised $1.3 million in seed funding from BV Capital, Battery Ventures, 500 Startups and angles including Zipcar investor Craig Sherman and Kevin Chou.


Company: HIGEAR
Website: higear.com
Funding: $1.3M

HiGear is a private car-sharing club for luxury and sports cars. You can rent amazing cars from real people like you in your city. Members can share and rent luxury cars from each other within a trusted, secure community of car enthusiasts. Members typically enjoy prices that are 50% off or more, and also generate extra income by making their cars available to other members when not in use.

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Interview With Dick Costolo At Web 2.0 Summit [VIDEO]

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 02:39 AM PDT

Twitter CEO and former improv comedian Dick Costolo gave an almost hour long talk at the opening dinner of Web 2.0 Summit this week, peppered with his own unique brand of humor and insight.

When moderator John Battelle began the talk referencing a quote from a recent Chicago Tribune article, “Costolo’s job is to turn 140 characters emanating from the fingertips of Snooki, Anthony Weiner and Kim Kardashian into a money-making machine strong enough to withstand a bubble bursting,” Costolo himself chimed in with, “… This task seemingly insurmountable for a man of such limited distinction.”

Highlight: Battelle’s grilling of Costolo regarding Google’s recent announcement of hashtags and realtime search on Google+; “It’s early days,” Costolo began, to which Battelle responded, “That’s such a bad answer … ‘It’s early days’… ‘It’s not a zero sum game’ .. Can I answer for you?”

“A person can’t throw out a topic sentence any more,” Costolo quipped back, adding to the overall self-awareness of an already pretty self-aware interview (at some point the two throw around possible blog post headlines that could result from the interview — And Battelle mistakenly refers to me as ‘Alexis’).

It’s worth watching for at least a half hour or so in, if only to experience a prominent tech CEO with such a finely honed sense of the absurd.


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

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

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Bill Gates Pitches Windows Vista, Predicts The iPad (2006 Video)

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 02:06 AM PDT

gates

Five years ago, I was working for a Belgian company that published the only weekly IT magazine in the country, Data News. I was not a reporter, but in charge of its online media products. When it was announced that Microsoft founder Bill Gates would be coming to Brussels to, for the first time, pitch Windows Vista to enterprise customers and partners at the MS Business Innovation Event, I jumped on the opportunity to convince the editor of the magazine to arrange for a camera to be placed in the conference hall so we could record his talk.

Believe it or not, but I remember actually having to argue a bit to make it happen. But I ultimately got my way, and we taped what I believe is the only footage of Gates speaking at that event. We put it up on YouTube – about a month after they were acquired by Google, come to think of it.

Anyway, I haven’t watched the video since 2006, but I kept on getting emails notifying me of comments on it on an almost-daily basis for years (to this day). There are now close to 1,900 comments on the YouTube video, mostly saying how boring Gates is – particularly in comparison to Steve Jobs’ presentation skills – and how big a turd Windows, and especially Windows Vista, really is.

Judge for yourselves, but I urge you to listen to what the man says, too.

A while ago, I decided to watch the video again myself, and I was struck by some of the things Gates talked about in that speech, so I figured I should share it on TechCrunch some day. I finally got around to it. Jump to 1:13 if your time this weekend is overly precious to you – I’ve transcribed some of things Gates said from that point on below:

The form of the computer is changing as well. It’s getting smaller, it’s getting more pervasive. If we think about the machine on our desk, it’s becoming a flat-panel device with a very large screen area. In fact, bigger and bigger, so that we can look at and deal with more information.

The portable machine is getting thinner, lighter and smaller, and in fact there’ll be a tablet form factor that you can carry around literally like a tablet of paper. And it’s comfortable enough to read off of that screen as you hold it in your hands; that it’s as good as having a magazine, a newspaper … the traditional way of reading.

If we think about using that device for a student, as it comes down over the next five years. To be only a few hundred dollars, and they’ll be able to use that instead of buying textbooks, they’ll get digital curriculum that’s superior in every way. That can be personalized, that can have video, can have interaction. The wireless Internet showing up on that tablet gives that student a chance to navigate the world of information in a very rich way.

If we think about the device in our pocket, obviously it started off as a pure-voice device. But now, with camera-like capability, starting to show maps, bringing us our mail, our schedule, becoming our digital wallet, storing all of our media, music and even videos that we want to take around. That device is getting amazingly powerful. In fact, it has the power that even a PC only had a few years ago.

I should note that I’m well aware tablet computers had been on the radar for many, many years even back in 2006, and some companies – including Microsoft and Apple – had been trying to make them a reality and a commercial success, so I wouldn’t venture as far as to say Bill Gates was laying out a vision of a future that existed only in his mind. I know he didn’t really say anything spectacular.

What is amazing to me is that Gates pretty much predicted the iPad back in November 2006, and that it took until April 2010 for the first truly commercially successful tablet to hit the market, by its rival Apple no less. The Windows 8 tablets ‘wave’ will be coming in the first half of 2012.

Enjoy the video:

(Picture courtesy of World Economic Forum on Flickr / Photo by Andy Mettler)


Person: Bill Gates
Website:

William (Bill) H. Gates was chairman of Microsoft Corporation, the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. Microsoft had revenues of US$55.12 billion for the fiscal year ending June 2007, and employs more than 78,000 people in 105 countries and regions. On June 15, 2006, Microsoft announced that effective July 2008 Gates will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company to spend more time on his global health...

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Daily Crunch: Ticker

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 01:00 AM PDT

Mary Meeker On #OccupyWallStreet: “People Deserve To Be A Little Angry.”

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:50 PM PDT

Former Wall Street securities analyst and current KPCB partner Mary Meeker gave her annual talk at Web 2.0 Summit this week, towards the end highlighting the uncertain state of the overall economy versus the more hopeful aspects of the tech sector.

Meeker, who spent more than two decades on Wall Street, left right for Kleiner before the current #OccupyWallStreet movement came to a head. When asked by moderator John Battelle about her opinions on the subject, Meeker responded, “People are angry, everybody's angry. People deserve to be a little angry. I think that we've a had a lot of finger-pointing over the past couple of years, If we go back over the past forty years, our government has been pretty loose with spending and was pretty loose in keeping interest rates at a low-level.”

But does the blame for the US’s current 9.1% unemployment rate and other economic woes rest solely on Wall Street?

“If was to trying to point blame I'd say 1/3 government, 1/3 consumer and 1/3  financial services industry,” Meeker stated. “We have a problem and we don't have a cushion right now. Our expenses as a country are higher than then they ever have been relative to revenue .”

But Meeker, betraying her Silicon Valley roots was optimistic, “The way out is we all have to say ‘We have a problem and we all have to sacrifice.’ We have to give up a little here and give a little there. We need really good focused leadership from our Congress and the Whitehouse to really make those changes. And the consumer has to say, ‘I get that we all have a problem and we all have to sacrifice.’”

I think VC Bryce Roberts, who paid a visit to protest-central Zuccotti Park when curious about what exactly #OccupyWallStreet stood for, is a good example of someone taking Meeker’s first step, likening the movement to a Foo Camp, “I don't fit squarely into the camps of either the 99%er or the 1%ers. But I am off the fence. I do see a world I'm angry to inherit from the prior generation and embarrassed to hand over to my kids. Sure #ows is small. Sure it's messy. Sure it's easy to dismiss. But anything truly disruptive is.”


Mary Meeker has joined the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner. Previously she joined Morgan Stanley in 1991 as the Firm’s PC Software/Hardware & New Media analyst. Earlier, she served as a Technology Research Analyst at Cowen and at Solomon Brothers. She received an MBA in Finance from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York (1986), and a BA in psychology from DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana (1981) . Meeker’s work has been recognized in various Wall Street Analyst...

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Bill Gross On How He Will Avoid Stepping On The Giants’ Toes

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:09 PM PDT

Bill Gross

Earlier this week, Bill Gross launched a new mobile app and website called Chime.in at the Web 2.0 Summit. I dragged Gross in front of our cameras in teh hallway, where he gave me a demo and sat down for an interview. “The goal of Chime.in is to make an interest network,” he tells me in the video above.

The whole point of Chime.in is to help filter all the noise in social networks. It does this by letting you follow not only people, but also interests, and sort your stream by topic. Reading everything in reverse chronology has its limitations. “The problem with time-descending,” says Gross, “is that it won’t always bring the most relevant things to the top.”

In the video below, I argue it is inevitable that other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will have to add an interest layer at some point as well. How will he avoid stepping on their toes? Gross has experience dancing with Twitter, which has shut off access to his company, UberMedia, and ended up outbidding him for Tweetdeck.

As you will see in the video, Gross is not too worried.


Company: UberMedia
Website: ubermedia.com
Funding: $26.6M

UberMedia (formerly postup) is the leading independent developer of applications and web-based services that make it easier for users to find, follow and communicate with others on Twitter and other social media platforms. The company is focused on driving innovation in user experiences across a range of online and mobile platforms. UberMedia also provides advertisers and brands with new ways to engage and communicate with consumers via Twitter through its family of apps. Located in Pasadena, California, UberMedia is...

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Bill Gross is a lifelong entrepreneur and proponent of solar power. While still in college, Mr. Gross founded Solar Devices, a firm that sold plans and kits for solar energy products. As the CEO of the technology incubator Idealab, Mr. Gross has founded several extremely successful companies, including Overture (acquired by Yahoo!), CarsDirect, and Picasa (acquired by Google). Idealab recently moved into the renewable energy market with Energy Innovations, a sister company to eSolar that focuses on the retail...

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Back To School: Hulu Serves More Than One Billion Video Ads In September

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 08:35 PM PDT

hulu-logo

comScore’s online video stats for September are in, and in today’s non-news, Google Sites again ranks as the number one source of online video views. Google Sites, which derives most of its traffic from YouTube, served 18.6 billion videos in September, which made up 47 percent of the 39.8 billion videos viewed on the Web last month. Even for the cynical newsmen among us, that is pretty impressive.

What’s more, Microsoft Sites and Viacom Digital both leap-frogged Facebook in the rankings, to take third and fourth place respectively, while Facebook dropped to fifth. (You can read our August coverage of the web video trends here and Erick’s coverage of Facebook assuming third place back in July here.)

On the advertising side of online video, comScore reports that, of the 6.8 billion video ads viewed by Americans in September, more than 1 billion of those ad impressions were served by Hulu.

According to comScore, “video ads” are defined solely by streaming-video advertising and “do not include other types of video monetization, such as overlays, branded players, matching banner ads, homepage ads, etc.”

In September, Hulu served 1.02 billion video ads, with duration of these ads totaling 414 million minutes. The site resumed its 1 billion+ rate after dipping below the billion-benchmark over the summer, likely picking back up because our nation’s younguns are headed back to school. After all, let’s be honest, college kids returning to their dorm rooms no longer have the benefit of mom and dad’s cable package, so it’s back to watching their favorite TV shows on Hulu.

And, as video ads reached 50 percent of the U.S. population an average of 45.3 times during September, Hulu was the property that delivered the highest frequency of video ads to its viewers with an average of 38.2 per viewer. Anyone who watches Hulu knows that you can’t get through a broadcast without sitting through about 17 ads.

Hulu seems to be receiving a disproportionate share of video ad dollars because the platform is viewed as brand-safe, as advertisers know that they can run their ads on Hulu’s content without having to be red-faced when that ad shows up on some random user-generated video posted by someone’s uncle.

And, as we wrote last month, Hulu has never done social particularly well, but on September 22nd, Hulu went live on Facebook, meaning that video site’s users now get to watch their content directly within Facebook without having to leave the social network. This also means that the ads played by advertisers on Hulu get the added benefit of Facebook users’ eyeballs. Ads galore.


Company: comScore
Website: comscore.com
IPO: March 4, 2007, SCOR

“comScore is a global Internet information provider to which leading companies turn for consumer behavior insight that drives successful marketing, sales and trading strategies. comScore's experienced analysts work closely with clients to identify their business objectives and determine how they can best apply and benefit from comScore's vast databases of consumer behavior. comScore maintains massive proprietary databases that provide a continuous, real-time measurement of the myriad ways in which the Internet is used and the wide variety of activities that...

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Nintendo 3DS Gets Camera Update, Charming Mario Editions

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 04:03 PM PDT

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Nintendo has just wrapped a press conference going over some developments for the 3DS. The platform has seen strong but lower than expected sales, though the pricing do-over in August has spurred adoption. This update seems like a sort of holdover while the big games are still unreleased, but any improvements to the platform are always welcome.

First, a system update brings new options to the camera. You can now record 3D movies of up to 10 minutes in length, and it will also capture time lapse or multiple shots per second or stop motion. They also enabled the ability to shift data to a new 3DS, which some are taking as an indication of a “3DS Lite” or the like (perhaps one with two circle pads) arriving down the road.

3D makeovers of a few classic games were also announced. Kid Icarus and Kirby’s Adventure will be gaining an extra dimension the same way Excitebike and Xevious have. Not the biggest news of all time, but Kid Icarus is one of my favorite NES games and I think this is simply wonderful. Hopefully Metroid and Blaster Master aren’t far behind.

Lastly, they are initiating a sort of raffle this holiday season in which if you buy two Nintendo games, you’re entered in a drawing to win one of the cute Mario-themed 3DSes pictured above. That mushroom one is calling my name. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that the contest will actually be offered here in the US, but we can always hope.

You can find a few more game-specific details summarized over at 1up.



Murdoch On Myspace: “I Made A Huge Mistake.”

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 03:19 PM PDT

I wanted to put Gob Bluth here but in the end decided against it

Rupert Murdoch withstood intense grilling at News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting today, which focused largely on the phone-hacking scandal that is causing such an upset in the company’s financials and leadership. But among other things, Murdoch owned up to the debacle that has been Myspace.

“I made a huge mistake,” he said. “We then proceeded to mismanage it in every possible way. All of the people concerned with it are no longer with the company.” Except for himself, of course. The fact that it was a mistake and a mismanaged one at that is not news to the rest of the world, but the unmixed apology for the billion-dollar boondoggle reflects how low recent events have brought the once-proud news giant.

As you no doubt remember, the flatlining social network was sold in June to Specific Media for $35 million, representing a loss of around 94% of the site’s value as bought, and a microscopic portion of the never-realistic $6 billion at which Murdoch once valued the property.

Despite his self-deprecating words, Murdoch was described as looking “a little feisty” by the New York Times, perhaps because he is confident that the company has already shed the requisite amount of blood and profits over its practices and investments. The Hollywood Reporter has collected a number of opinions from analysts and experts, and the consensus seems to be that no immediate actions would be taken, but that clearly the company is in dire need of redirection, and the solution may take some time to formulate.

[image: Justin Sullivan/Getty]



Sony Ericsson Forces A Fan Site Into Submission

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 02:08 PM PDT

xperia

Yikes, what a disheartening story.

Proving that they don’t know a damned thing about fan communities, Sony Ericsson has filed a formal complaint against the fan-operated blog/forum Xperiablog.net, claiming that the owners were using it in “bad faith”. Fearing the costs of a legal battle, the site says they will be shutting down operations immediately.

If there were a class on “How not to handle potentially sticky trademark issues”, this would be lesson one.

Here’s the thing about the users in a community like this (I used to run a few, long before my time here at TechCrunch): they love the product. They really, really love it. In most cases, it’s almost an obsession. Think about it: they love it enough to search for other people who love the product, and who want to sit around and talk about nothing but the product. Treat them right, and they’ll be some of the best marketers you’ll ever find. For free.

Instead, Sony Ericsson has just gone and turned them all into enemies. A large group of people, all obviously quite vocal about the products they use, now dislike your product. Whoops.

The site’s founder on the decision to shutdown:

We do not have the resources to fight Sony Ericsson on this and therefore this is the last you will hear from us. Sony Ericsson has made great strides in its Xperia portfolio, especially in listening to the community. This makes it all the more confusing as to why Sony Ericsson would want to shut us down. We genuinely believe that 2012 could be a bumper year for the company, we just wish we could have been there along for the ride.

Admittedly, using a trademarked term wasn’t the best move on their part (at least from a legal standpoint) — but it is pretty much standard. Imagine if Sprint went after SprintUsers, Google after AndroidCentral, or Facebook after InsideFacebook?

Was it Sony Ericsson’s job to protect their trademark? Absolutely — but there are better ways to do it. At the very least: reach out, express the company’s concerns, and offer to help them find a new, less trademark-infringing home. When someone’s doing you a service, you don’t hold a gun to their head because they’re not doing it the way you’d like.


Company: Sony Ericsson
Website: sonyericsson.com

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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Avengers Cinematographer Shot A Few Scenes On An iPhone 4

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 02:00 PM PDT

iphone4scamera

Whenever a new iPhone comes out, people rush to have the first music video or short film shot entirely on its camera. But it’s not often you hear about a big-time Hollywood production using this kind of device for anything other than behind-the-scenes stuff. Yet in an interview with IFTN, the cinematographer for The Avengers, Seamus McGarvey, admits he supplemented their more professional camera setup with a few shots from the iPhone 4.

Don’t get too excited, though: it’s not like they had it on the helicopter rig or they’re using it for serious effects shots. The benefit of the iPhone 4 is that it’s compact and easy to operate. McGarvey says that a couple of the shots are even in the trailer, and I think I’ve picked them out. I highlight them not because I love the iPhone so much, but to explore how a device like this could possibly fit into a multi-million dollar shooting schedule. Also, it’s Friday.

You can’t use an iPhone for things where the lighting is complicated, where you need lots of crop space or extra resolution (effects shots and aerials), or where there’s any kind of real action or camera movement (the amount of skew from a small sensor like the iPhone’s will be really obvious on the big screen). Take those away and what do you have?

First is this shot of Thor:

Low to the ground and very simply exposed, plus there’s a ton of glare and lens flare. Plus the framerate is wonky, which suggests they just halved it to make it slow-motion. McGarvey had probably set up for some other shots, but thought a shot like this might be good to cut in and didn’t want to set up a whole new low-level dolly, or maybe they didn’t bring the lens for it. A quick shot like this won’t show flaws (detail is obscured by glare and exposure and movement is minimal), and it probably only took a couple minutes to get right.

Next is this explosion shot:

When you shoot explosions like this, you usually have several cameras to capture it from multiple angles, or the same angle with different framerates or focal lengths, that sort of thing. A lot of explosions you only get to do once. They were probably setting up and were short a camera, or thought of this placement at the last minute. No extra rigs? Put an iPhone down in a safety box (or not) and boom, instant camera 13. The framerate will be messed with later anyway to make the explosion look cooler. You could also use something like a GoPro, but those sport cams have a really wide angle lens on them and show a lot of barrel distortion.

Anyway. It’s kind of fun to go looking for this stuff. Like McGarvey says, “The beauty of photography or cinema is that you make every choice based on the content at hand.” And more than ever, a smartphone is what people have on hand. Will it serve? Go ahead and use it. Comparisons to 5Ds and such (which I’ve seen around lately) miss the point. The footage doesn’t compare. The use cases are as different as the prices. But why use a RED when an iPhone will do — and why use an iPhone when it won’t do?



Dropbox’s Mobile API Gets A Security Boost (And Is Now Mobile Web-Friendly)

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:44 PM PDT

developers

Red-hot startup Dropbox — you know, the file syncing service that just raised $250 million at a $4 billion valuation — has announced something this week that’s getting slightly less attention than its massive funding round, but is exciting all the same: the company has released an improved version of its mobile APIs, making the service better both in native apps and mobile web apps alike.

Dropbox first launched its mobile API in May 2010, and it’s been implemented in loads of mobile app since then. But it’s had a few issues that have been remedied with the new version of the API.

For one, it’s now adding support for ‘app folders’. Prior to this update, if you wanted to let a third-party app hook into your Dropbox account, you’d be giving it access to your entire account — which didn’t necessarily make sense for, say, a camera app. Now apps will be able to associate themselves with a single folder (which the user can move and rename as they’d like), without having to hand over the keys to the kingdom.

Likewise, security has now been beefed up using an authentication system that doesn’t require you to enter your credentials within a third party app itself. Instead, when you go to authenticate with an app, you’ll be swapped over to either the mobile web version of Dropbox or your native Dropbox app (Facebook and some other services use a similar mechanism).

The API also gives third party applications access to the versioning/revision system that Dropbox uses, which’ll let users jump back to previous versions of files and undelete them.


Company: Dropbox
Website: dropbox.com
Funding: $257M

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Frustrated by working from multiple computers, Drew was inspired to create a service that would let people bring all their files anywhere, with no need to email around attachments. Drew created a demo of Dropbox and showed it to fellow MIT student Arash Ferdowsi, who dropped out with only one semester left to help make Dropbox a reality. Guiding their decisions was a relentless focus on crafting a...

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The One Slide Andrew Mason Wants Groupon Investors To Focus On

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:26 PM PDT

Groupon slide-1

It’s been a rough quiet period for Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, but as his IPO nears in the next couple weeks the company is making a final push to sell their shares to the public with an IPO roadshow (which you can watch online). Mason & Co. do a good job of putting forward the best possible story to potential investors: Groupon is addressing trillion-dollar markets, it is the largest local commerce platform with scale effects, it is building on its daily deal dominance to move into adjacent products and markets (events, goods, travel), and it is building a local commerce Triforce centered around daily deals, instant mobile offers, and loyalty rewards.

But out of all the roadshow slides, Mason wants investors to focus on the one above because it answers his critics that Groupon is spending its way into oblivion. It shows the return on Groupon’s marketing investments.

One of the biggest red flags in Groupon’s SEC filings has been the enormous amount it spends on marketing ($466.5 million the first nine months of this year to “on subscribers acquisition,” according to the latest S-1 filing). In the third quarter, Groupon was able to get its costs under control to the point where it wet from a $101 million operating loss in the second quarter to almost breakeven (with a $239,000 operating loss in the third quarter).

The slide shows that in the first quarter of 2010, Groupon spent $18 million in marketing, which resulted in the company adding 3.7 million new customers. Groupon then tracked the spending of that cohort of customers over time. “We pay a fixed amount up front, and we recover our marketing costs in two quarters,” explains Mason. Those customers ended up making enough repeat Groupon purchases that they contributed $100 million to Groupon’s revenues and $43 million to its “contribution profits.”

The question I would pose if I was an investor in the roadshow is whether or not that analysis holds true for later cohorts of customers as well. If it does, then Groupon’s unconventionally high marketing budget will result in equally high returns. I wouldn’t be surprised if the returns diminished with later cohorts, but it was also a market share land grab strategy which Groupon is toning down now that it has 142 million “subscribers,” only 16 million of which are repeat customers. Groupon is already focussed on getting more of those one-time buyers to come back.


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

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

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Groupon’s Quarterly Growth Slows To 9 Percent, But Operating Losses Cut To Almost Zero

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:20 PM PDT

Screen shot 2011-10-21 at 12.20.45 PM

Groupon has taken a lot of heat over the last six months, some of it deserved, some of it perhaps a bit excessive. There are definitely legitimate concerns about Groupon’s value for small businesses and merchants, but lofty valuations aside, we have to remember that Groupon is still a young company, and the future remains unwritten.

The daily deal giant’s IPO roadshow is scheduled to kick off next week, and ahead of that, Groupon released an updated SEC filing on its upcoming IPO, in which it announced that it plans to sell 30 million shares at $16 to $18 a pop, which means that it has to raise between $480 million and $540 million — all resulting in a valuation potentially as high as $11.4 billion.

Now, while Andrew Mason wearing a suit and a tie while pitching to potential investors is enough to make anyone nervous, the daily deals behemoth has taken some positive steps of late, namely its closing of the redemption loop with Groupon Rewards. Read Erick’s analysis here.

That being said, is it all sunshine and moonbeams for Groupon at present? It’s enormous valuation might lead one to see it as such, but the company shared its Q3 stats today, which were buried in its updated SEC filing.

As one can see from the graphs herein, compared to Q2, revenues are up 9.4 percent in Q3 2011 (to $430 million), which is certainly a good sign. However, going further back, this represents a slowdown from 32.7 percent Q2 over Q1 growth and 72 percent growth Q1 over Q4.

On the other hand, gross billings actually grew 24.5 percent Q2 over Q1, resulting in $1.15 billion for the quarter. And “Cumulative Customers” hit 29.5 million this quarter, up from 23 million in Q2, all in the face of a decreasing marketing spend and income (loss) from operations dropping from $101 million in Q2 to $239,000 in Q3.

Below, we see that Groupon’s income losses from operations had been growing from Q2 2010 through Q1 2011, and remained high in the second quarter of this year. The third quarter of this year, Groupon’s most recent stats show, represent a significant cut in operating losses, and while Groupon remains in the red in this category, the trend is certainly positive.

One thing worth noting, however, while far from being dishonest, is certainly conspicuous (and slightly annoying): You will notice in the ninth slide that Robin posted this morning (from Mason’s presentation to investors) gives a jumbled look at the map of significant competition Groupon is facing in the daily deals space. BUT. But, where is LivingSocial, I ask you?

Yes, based on the numbers Erick shared in September, Groupon continues to hold the lion’s share of the market at 54 percent, but LivingSocial isn’t exactly just a piddling little lemonade stand on the corner. LivingSocial owns at least 22 percent of the daily deal market, which you would think would give it a more prominent position on Groupon’s “map of competitors”. At this point, The New York Times has a bigger title than LivingSocial, which is pretty ridiculous.

Hopefully, that’s just another example of Groupon’s “awesome” sense of humor.


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

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

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Gillmor Gang Live 10.21.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:17 PM PDT

Gillmore Gang test pattern

Recording of Gillmor Gang Live has concluded.


Person: Kevin Marks
Website:

Kevin Marks is a software engineer. Kevin served as an evangelist for OpenSocial and as a software engineer at Google. In June 2009 he announced his resignation. From September 2003 to January 2007 he was Principal Engineer at Technorati responsible for the spiders that make sense of the web and track millions of blogs daily. He has been inventing and innovating for over 17 years in emerging technologies where people, media and computers meet. Before joining Technorati,...

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Person: John Borthwick
Website: betaworks.com
Companies: Daylife, betaworks

John Borthwick is CEO of betaworks. betaworks is new form of internet media company. Prior to betaworks John was Senior Vice President of Alliances and Technology Strategy for Time Warner Inc. John’s company, WP-Studio, founded in 1994, was one of the first content studios in New York’s Silicon Alley. John holds an MBA from Wharton (1994) and an undergraduate degree BA in Economics from Wesleyan University (1987).

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Person: John Taschek
Companies:

John Taschek is vice president of strategy at salesforce.com. He is responsible for corporate product strategy, corporate intelligence and market influence. Taschek came to company in 2003, bringing over 20 years of technology evaluation experience. Taschek currently is also the editorial director for CloudBlog - an independent blog run as an adjunct to salesforce.com’s web properties. He occasionally is on Steve Gillmor’s The Gillmor Gang enterprise web video-cast. Previously, Taschek ran the testing labs at eWEEK (formerly PC Week) magazine....

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Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. He is best known for his popular blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft. Scoble joined Microsoft in 2003, and although he often promoted Microsoft products like Tablet PCs and Windows Vista, he also frequently criticized his own employer and praised its competitors like Apple and Google. Scoble is the author of Naked Conversations, a book on how blogs are changing...

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Steve Gillmor is a technology commentator, editor, and producer in the enterprise technology space. He is Head of Technical Media Strategy at salesforce.com and a TechCrunch contributing editor. Gillmor previously worked with leading musical artists including Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, and members of The Band after an early career as a record producer and filmmaker with Columbia Records’ Firesign Theatre. As personal computers emerged in video and music production tools, Gillmor started contributing to various publications, most notably Byte Magazine,...

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Google Tests One-Click “Add To Circles” Button In Search Results

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:10 PM PDT

Plus Circle

Slowly but surely, Google is finding more and more ways to integrate Google+ into all of their other products. The latest tweak: a one-click button, smack dab in the middle of your search results, for adding the author of the relative content to a Google+ circle.

Google has been fiddling with the integration of Google+ into search results for weeks. It began with the integration of public Google+ postings into search results, and later grew to include blogger/author headshots (complete with links to their Plus profiles) next to relevant items.

This latest tweak is really just the evolution of the aforementioned addition of author bios. By removing that one step (having to click into the author’s profile to add them), adding someone on Google+ becomes less of a deliberate decision and more of an impulse move. It’s just further proof that, in the Battle of Facebook vs. Google+, Google is playing an entirely different game.

Most of Google’s tweaks regarding Plus in results seem to focus on drawing attention to bloggers/writers/online personalities — which, while I’m obviously a bit subjective here, is a rather keen move. While we’re but a drop in the hat in the grand scheme of things, writers do have a notable degree of influence (whether they intentionally utilize that influence or not) over the public’s perception of a product. Funneling followers to writers could easily give them the perception that a product is more lively than it actually is, which may in turn spin their writings on the product in a more positive way. Clever, Google.

Not seeing the changes? Don’t worry: like most things Google does, it appears that they’re testing this one on a small handful of users first.

[Thanks Muneer!]


:
Website:

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TechCrunch Giveaway: Toshiba Thrive 10-Inch Tablet #ChannelCaster

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 01:06 PM PDT

(JPEG Image, 2400x2823 pixels) - Scaled (23%)-1

Thanks to OneLouder, we have a Toshiba Thrive 10-inch tablet to give away! This tablet is 8GB and valued at around $379.99. Not only will the winner of this giveaway win the tablet, but the ChannelCaster app will also be included in it. It’s an app that makes it simple to create custom content Channels based on any person, topic, or trend by mashing together multiple content sources in real-time from thousands of places like TechCrunch, YouTube, Flickr, news sites, blogs, etc.

Want it? Just make sure you follow the steps below.

1) Become a fan of our TechCrunch Facebook Page:

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (making sure to include the #ChannelCaster hashtag)
- Or leave us a comment below telling us what you would call your own news show

The contest starts now and ends October 23rd at 7:30pm PT.

Please only tweet the message once or you will be disqualified. We will choose at random and contact the winner this weekend. Anyone in the world is eligible.

Here’s a little peek at the ChannelCaster app:



Facebook And Google Spent Record Amounts On D.C. Lobbying In Q3 2011

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:55 PM PDT

Capitol Hill -2

Each quarter, Facebook and Google continue to spend more and more on lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. As evidenced by the most recent disclosure reports filed in the U.S. Senate's lobbying database, both of the companies hit all time highs in terms of lobbying dollars.

Google's lobbying spend hit an all-time high again this quarter, with spending coming in at $2.38 million, nearly doubling its spend from the same period a year ago. Last quarter, Google spent $2.08 million on lawmakers. The search giant spent a total of $5.2 million in lobbying last year, and with this quarter’s tally has already passed last year’s spend with $5.8 million in the first three quarters of 2011.

This past quarter, Google's lobbying strategy focused on patent reform, data privacy, The American Jobs Act, freedom of expression and intellectual property in international trade agreements, online advertising regulation, intellectual property and trademark issues, cyber security and online privacy, renewable energy, freedom of expression and censorship, "openness and competition in the online services market," cloud computing, tax reform, free trade, and broadband access.

Former CEO and current Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has been spending more time in the Beltway, helping with government relations, and with the anti-trust probe. Schmidt actually testified before Congress in September.

Patents are another major issued for Google, and over the past year have become a significant issue for the company. And Google must surely be lobbying for the approval of its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola.

According to Consumer Watchdog, Google issued this statement about its increased lobbying spend: “We want to help policy makers understand our business and the work we do to keep the Internet open, to encourage innovation and to create economic opportunity. Lobbying is part of that process.”

Facebook, whose spend in the Beltway is small compared to Google, still shelled out $360,000 in lobbying efforts this past quarter, which is more than what the social network spend on lobbying in the entire year of 2010. In fact, Facebook tripled lobbying spend from the same quarter in 2010. And Facebook will spend well over $1 million in 2011.

Policy areas of focus for Facebook this year include global regulation of software companies and restrictions on internet access by foreign governments; patent reform, online safety measures, internet privacy regulations, freedom of expression on the Internet; discussion of location-based services, cyber security, discussing House, Senate, and Government rules to allow more Government and Congressional offices to access social media to engage with citizens, and lobbying for Oregon power and water needs to support high-tech growth and investment in Oregon. Facebook opened a new, energy-efficient data center in Oregon in April.

It’s no secret that Facebook is deepening its ties with D.C., hiring more influential lobbyists, and even partnering with the current administration on policy issues. In September, Facebook has also filed to form its own political action committee, which will allow the company make direct contributions to candidates and parties, and spend unlimited sums bankrolling secondary efforts like independent ad campaigns.

Considering how both Facebook and Google’s lobbying spend has steadily grown from last year, it’s clear that both companies have a lot at stake in the hands of regulators, whether that be patent reform, privacy regulation, online safety or even antitrust issues.

Photo Credit/Flickr/Fovea Centralis



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