Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch


The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

3DMark For Android Will Let You Conduct Benchmark Tests On Your Phone, Tablet

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 09:17 AM PST


Even though the spec is apparently dead, some of us may still want to tag numeric values to our gadgetry. The folks over at Futuremark seem to agree, and want to take their benchmark testing into new territory. According to Android.HDBlog, the company is developing its graphics benchmarking tools for the Android platform, both smartphone and tablet alike.

With quad-core processors on the horizon, mobile processing is about to step up its game. That said, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have reliable programs that test our phones/tablets’ performance. 3DMark is already widely used among PC folk to test desktop and laptop computers.

The new 3DMark for Android will be able to conduct full graphics performance tests, compare results between various online devices, and compare results with the forthcoming Windows 8 version of 3DMark. No word on availability yet, but it can’t be too long before you’ll be able to put Android devices to the test.

Financial Analyst Compares RIM To Apple, Pigs Spontaneously Take Flight

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 08:18 AM PST


Though I’m fairly sure that I disagree with him, Laszlo Birinyi of Birinyi Associates had some flattering compliments to lay on RIM today, putting the Waterloo-based company at the top spot of his five investment picks for 2012.

While we don’t usually cover analyst predictions, this statement reported by Barrons was too good to resist.

“[RIM's] been beaten down, it's a brand, it's got its fans, it's got its products. In 1997, I was in the Year in Wall Street show, and Louis Rukeyser asked me what were my picks for 1998. I said my first pick is a $7 stock — called Apple Computer.”

So, let me get this straight, Mr. Birinyi.

You’re comparing RIM — the same peeps facing a lawsuit over multiple massive service outages, the same stuck-in-the-past executive team that refuses to step down (despite employee pleas), the folks that freak out and bail on BBC interviews, the people responsible for the failure that is the BlackBerry Playbook, and the folks who are currently bringing you mid-range handsets as their flagship line — to the most valuable publicly traded company in the world?

That’s like comparing a BlackBerry to an iPhone.

Then again, those of us who aren’t enjoying the liberties of the USA tend to thoroughly enjoy the BlackBerry brand. The phones were apparently a core part of the London riots this year, and folks in Indonesia started an all-out riot over the half-off BlackBerry Bold 9790. Many of us here in the States have already written off RIM as a crumbling failure, but a crowd of 3,000 people lining up for a BlackBerry, whether it’s here or on Mars, is a surprise in itself.

Come to think of it, Apple was a pretty broken brand in the 90′s, and found a way to pull itself into glory. Perhaps, RIM can do the same, but it’s a long shot. As a computer company, Apple had more potential markets to infiltrate (and we welcomed the iPod with open arms). RIM isn’t quite in the same position as Apple was, but a comeback for the BlackBerry brand wouldn’t be the craziest thing that’s ever happened.

CTIA And ESRB Debut App Rating System, No Buy-In From Google Or Apple

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 08:17 AM PST


The CTIA and ESRB pulled back the curtains on their new mobile app rating system today, and it looks like with the help of their six founding partners, app ratings could soon grace a smartphone near you.

The new app rating system will be implemented first by AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless, and other storefronts are said to have expressed interest.

If that list appears to be missing a bit of star power, you’re right: Apple and Google aren’t participating in the program as they both already provide age and maturity level suggestions for each app listed in their app stores. Though the reasoning seems pragmatic, I’m sure neither company wanted to cede control over part of the app submission process to a third party.

I expressed some concern about the logistics of getting an app rated when the news first broke, and thankfully the CTIA and ESRB have worked out a fairly painless process for developers. When an app is completed and is being prepared for submission to a given app store, developers will fill out a quick online survey that will be reviewed on the spot by someone from the ESRB.

Once the review is completed and the app earns a rating (think classic ESRB: E for Everyone, T for Teen, etc.), developers will be given a unique identifier code that allows them to submit that same app to other participating app stores without having to go through the review process again.

CTIA President Steve Largent made it clear that the app rating system would only apply to new app submissions — apps that are already available in their respective app stores won’t be rated unless developers choose to submit them for ratings. Developers can also appeal a rating for an app if they find it to be inaccurate with regard to their app’s content.

When the CTIA and the ESRB teased us with a heads-up press release last week, I took a quick look at the current state of in-store app ratings. Apple is doing just fine on their own: they have fairly descriptive ratings for their applications, and they already encompass some of the content descriptors that ESRB ratings are known for.

Google on the other hand doesn’t go into as much detail with their content ratings, which are usually hidden below the fold when viewed on Android devices anyway. The Android Market could stand to benefit from some more robust app descriptions, especially given that Android remains the most widely used smartphone OS in the country and that the Market is no stranger to funny business.

This of course begs a fairly weighty question: is there a point to an app ratings system that Apple and Google won’t use? More than a billion apps have been downloaded from the Android Market in the United States alone, and Apple has surely crossed a similar milestone. Will developers see the need to undergo an extra step in the submission process when the app stores that people flock to don’t require it? The jury’s still out on that one — for now we’ll just have to sit back and wait for those first apps to get their ESRB badges.

Verizon FiOS Customers Can Now Sign Up For New Xbox 360 Service, Will Let You Control Live TV With Your Hands

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 08:12 AM PST

FiOS TV - Xbox Program Guide

Last month, Verizon and Microsoft announced a partnership that will bring live HD TV channels to Xbox 360 customers who have active Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. Through the agreement, customers who sign up for the service will be able to watch live TV via their Xbox, without having to purchase any additional hardware. Of course, the coolest part of the news was not that you could watch live TV on your…well, you know…your TV, but that you could control it via the Xbox 360 Kinect. Yep, prepare to channel surf with your hands and your voice!

The offer is now ready to order, says Verizon, which has just launched the sign-up form here for new FiOS customers. Existing customers can just call Verizon to add an Xbox to their current service. (Note that in addition to Xbox Live Gold, you’ll also need to subscribe to both FiOS TV and FiOS Internet in order for this service to work).

To encourage new sign-ups, Verizon is offering an $89.99 “triple-play” package with TV, 35/35 Mbps Internet and Verizon voice service. They’ll even throw in a 12-month subscription to Xbox Live Gold and the “Xbox Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary” game. The offer is good through January 21st.

OK, now for the bad news: the sign-up form is live, but the service itself is not. Verizon says the FiOS TV app will not be available for download until next month. This is how you’ll be able to magically control the live TV channels using voice and gestures.

The live TV offering will launch with 26 channels on board, including MTV, Spike, Food Network, Comedy Central, HBO, CNN and Nickelodeon.

As a part of the deal, Verizon is also running a promotion with gaming network Machinima to sponsor the Gamers’ Choice Award for the Inside Gaming Awards. Voters can vote via Facebook or Twitter (using #FiOSGamers) for a chance to win two years of the trip-play service, a multi-room DVR, Microsoft Kinect and 40,000 Microsoft points.

Affordable Online Art Store 20X200 Debuts Custom Framing

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 08:02 AM PST


E-commerce site for art collectors 20X200 is expanding to new territory today—frames. Founded by Jen Bekman, 20X200 simulates the feel of a gallery, except online. Each "online exhibit" is curated with limited-edition prints and photos, all priced affordably.

Clearly, in-house framing, which soft-launched in June, is a natural extension of the business. But finding the right frame for a piece of art can be an expensive and time-consuming task. All frames are solid wood, with a sleek black or white lacquer finish, and come ready to hang.

Bekman explains that the company’s frames are all affordable, and the startup can now frame almost all sizes of the art offered on the site.

In fact, framing now accounts for roughly 20 percent of 20X200′s total revenue. The company has sold over 150,000 prints, with revenue doubling each year since inception.

In case you need a gift for the holidays, 20X200 is running a number of promotions. For the holidays, the startup is allowing customers to order custom framed art on any edition on the site through December 4. Starting December 5, 20X200 will debut a ready-to-ship set of art work that will allow customers to buy framed art and still get them in time for Christmas.

Dan Abrams’ Mogulite To Rebrand As TheJaneDough; Will Focus On Women In Business

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 08:00 AM PST

the jane-1

Earlier this year, Mogulite launched as the seventh site in Dan Abrams’ Media Metwork, which includes Mediaite, Geekosystem, Styleite, Sportsgrid, and The Mary Sue. At launch Mogulitefocused on chronicling the lives of moguls from the professional world, from Mark Cuban to Oprah Winfrey to Arianna Huffington. Today, Abrams is announcing that Mogulite is being rebranded next week as TheJaneDough, with a niche focus on content related to women in business.

The editors that currently run Mogulite, Amy Tennery and Hilary Reinsberg, will continue to lead TheJaneDough. As Tennery explains, the stories written from the professional female perspective have attracted a lot of attention on the site and it made sense to refocus the content.

Abrams says that TheJaneDough will call out sexism, highlight top female CEO’s, with the tagline “The business news we knead.”

This isn’t the first female-focused site for Abrams’ empire. TheMarySue launched as a female-focused geek site in February.

Shazam Reacquires Its Audio-Recognition Intellectual Property

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 07:31 AM PST


Mobile music discovery platform Shazam is reacquiring the intellectual property it sold to music royalty outfit Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) back in 2005. At the time, the startup had sold the IP, which involves Shazam’s core audio recognition technology, in order to help fund its development. Given Shazam’s recent growth and expansion into other areas beyond music identification, now was the right time for the company to reacquire those rights, says Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher.

Shazam made its debut as a clever app that could “listen” to the music playing on your radio in order to tell you what song was playing. However, in recent months, the company has been working on leveraging that same technology for use with TV advertising. In early November, the company also partnered with Delivery Agent, allowing you to “tag” (that’s Shazam lingo for “identify”) a TV show itself. The first studio to participate in this venture is NBCUniversal, which now lets you tag “Covert Affairs” episodes to discover the clothing and accessories worn by the TV characters as well as offer you an opportunity to buy related NBC merchandise. MTV and various advertisers are also on board with this aptly dubbed “Shazam for TV” initiative.

By reacquiring its core technology, Shazam can integrate it more fully into its services, the company explained in a statement. This means not just the music ID service, but the TV ID services, too.

Says CEO Andrew Fisher:

“Shazam has seen fantastic growth in the last year, adding more than 1.5 million new people every week, with the total number of Shazamers around the globe now exceeding 165 million. This is the optimal time to repurchase the technology and patents so that we can continue to add to and protect our growing portfolio which will, in turn, allow Shazam to broaden our range of products, further developing Shazam for TV and other innovative offerings.”

The price Shazam paid to buy back its IP was not disclosed. Under the agreement’s terms, Shazam will assume ownership of the IP while BMI will be able to still use the technology in the B2B sector to detect and identify performances of music through its BMI Recognition Services. BMI will also become a Shazam shareholder and the companies will work together on other co-marketing programs and service offerings in the future.

The sale of IP may have helped Shazam get off the ground back in the early days, but the company has since turned to outside investment to raise additional capital. This summer, Shazam raised a huge $32 million round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from DN Capital.

Forrester: Consumer Interest In A Windows Tablet Tumbles But Still Leads Android

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 07:02 AM PST


Microsoft might have missed the tablet party bus. At least that’s what a Forrest report published on Tuesday states. Consumers have lost interest in a Windows touch device even though just earlier this year the majority of those polled wanted such a device. But now, likely after the barrage of different tablets released this year, that number has waned as expectations changed. Where a tablet was once thought to replace laptops, now it’s mostly seen as an entertainment device. Recent low-cost tabs such as the Fire and Nook Tablet further define a tablet as a low-cost device.

A Microsoft tablet is on the horizon. That’s a fact. The company demoed a Samsung device at its BUILD conference earlier this year, but the next-gen platform isn’t slated for release until late next year. As Forrester notes, current tablet leaders will already be on their third generation tablets by the time the first Windows 8 slate hits. As time progresses, consumer interest in a Windows tab is rapidly slipping.

The numbers are somewhat shocking, but at the same time understandable. In Q1 2011, 46% of potential tablet shoppers wanted a Windows tablet, but in Q3, that number dropped to just 25%. During the same time period, Android’s appeal gained some ground going from 9% in Q1 to 18% in Q3, although it still trails Windows despite the huge number of available Android devices. iOS and the iPad gained the most, though. Now, in Q3 2011, 28% of potential buyers are interested in an iOS device rather than 16% in Q1.

There is some good news as the Forrest report points to OEMs jumping on Windows 8. Both Samsung and Dell have already committed to support Windows 8. Forrest expect most OEMS to join the Windows 8 team partly because Android tablets have yet to mature into a cash crop. High prices, poor marketing, and fragmented product offers are cited as reasons. But with Windows 8, companies can “leverage their investments in Windows 8 laptops and desktops.” Companies are already working on Windows 8 desktops and laptops. Offering a Windows 8 tablet is a smart, scalable option.

Besides mind share, Microsoft has several obstacles to best in regards to a Windows 8 tablet. Forrest notes that Windows must differentiate itself in productivity and gaming by leveraging touch/voice-first control schemes and the successful Xbox platform respectively. Also, the Windows 8 tablet must be priced well as Forrest found the optimal price point to be $308 (that was before the $199 Kindle Fire). Moreover, consumers need to be reminded of Windows 8 through a smart marketing campaign and Microsoft needs to invest in new and old distribution channels.

While it’s never too late to launch a good product, Microsoft is quickly losing market share it never had. A year ago, per this report, Windows was the tablet OS of choice for potential buyers even though such a device wasn’t available. But now, Android and iOS are quickly eroding consumer’s interest in Microsoft’s offering. At this rate of decent, Windows 8 is going to have a massive uphill battle to reclaim lost ground when it finally launches.

The Final Tally From IBM: Cyber Monday Online Spending Up 30 Percent From Last Year

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 06:56 AM PST


As of yesterday afternoon, Cyber Monday online sales were up 18 percent but apparently a surge of activity yesterday evening helped push the day’s e-commerce sales to record amounts. Cyber Monday online sales, according to IBM’s Coremetrics report, were up 33 percent over 2010, and up 29.3 percent over Black Friday.

IBM says that the average order amount was up 2.6 percent this year from $193.24 to $198.26. The shopping peaks during the day took place at 11:05am PST/2:05pm EST as well as after commuting hours on both the east and west coast.

On Cyber Monday, 10.8 percent of people used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 3.9 percent in 2010. Additionally, mobile sales were up as well, reaching 6.6 percent on Cyber Monday versus 2.3 percent in 2010.

Interestingly, more people flocked to mobile devices to shop on Black Friday than Cyber Monday. On Cyber Monday mobile traffic averaged 10.8 percent compared to 14.3 percent on Black Friday. And consumer sales on mobile devices reached 6.6 percent versus 9.8 percent on Black Friday.

Apple’s iPhone and iPad continued to rank one and two for mobile device retail traffic (4.1 percent and 3.3 percent respectively). In fact, shoppers using the iPad drove more retail purchases than any other device with conversion rates reaching 5.2 percent compared to 4.6 percent for the iPhone.

Android came in third with 3.2 percent. Collectively iPhone and iPad accounted for 7.4 percent of all online retail traffic versus 10.2 percent on Black Friday.

Referrals from social networks were only slightly up yesterday from last week. Shoppers referred from Social Networks generated 0.56 percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday versus 0.53 percent on Black Friday. Similar to Black Friday, Facebook led the pack, accounting for 86 percent of all social media traffic.

Discussions on social media sites leading up to Cyber Monday increased in volume by 115 percent compared to 2010. Consumers were mainly sharing tips about using price comparison websites while avoiding cyber scams, Cyber Monday deals for international consumers and Black Friday in-store shopping experiences.

We don’t yet have a dollar amount on what was spent yesterday, but considering last year’s $1 billion Cyber Monday, all signs point to sales exceeding this. We’ll find out more when comScore releases its numbers in the next few days.

We also saw record breaking Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, so the big jump in Cyber Monday sales isn’t completely surprising. More and more retailers pushed lucrative online deals, as well as free shipping offers this year, making shopping online more convenient and wallet-friendly for consumers. And the risk of pepper spray incidents in stores certainly was an incentive for shoppers to purchase from their computers or mobile phones.

Apple Tops Android In Mobile Ad Performance, But Windows Phone Still Leads The Pack

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 06:53 AM PST


Mobile ad optimization platform Smaato, Inc. released the results of its mobile ad report for Q3 2011 today and found that, for the third consecutive quarter, Windows Phone (156) led the company’s “Smaato Index,” a measure of mobile operating system click-through rates. In second place was RIM (113), which has now overtaken both Apple (89) and Android (84) .

End users may not care about the click-through rates on ads – in fact, they may indicate the inability of a platform to offer monetization options through other methods, like paid apps or in-app purchases. However, for developers, high click-throughs may mean the platform is easier to monetize via advertising.

It’s not surprising that Windows Phone is leading in click-throughs, however. The OS’s install base is not large enough to support viable revenue generation through paid applications. And since Windows Phone Mango rolled out without the promised in-app purchasing support, it leaves developers – especially indie developers – with no other real options for monetization besides ads.

Smaato’s CEO and Co-founder Ragnar Kruse, of course, spins this as a positive in terms of the advertising possibilities on Windows Phone and Microsoft/Nokia’s opportunity to create a “viable third ecosystem.”

“Developers are advised not to overlook the Nokia/Windows combination as it might be a platform that is easier to monetize, will have less threats of piracy as it will be a more closed ecosystem, and will also offer more cohesiveness,” Kruse says.

The report also looks at mobile ad fill rates, which have now stabilized with just a 1% drop from the previous quarter. The findings suggest that seasonal factors were at play during the summer, as now, 13 out of the top 20 U.S. ad networks have performed above average at rates between 19% and 84%. Worldwide, the average rate was 10% (an 8% decline since Q2), but the range was wide – 19% to 84%.

Additional details including a look at mobile ad network response time and more are available in the full report here.

Note: The performance parameters in the Smaato Mobile Advertising Index are based on over 40.000 registered publishers managed ad requests in the third quarter of 2011 and over 70 connected ad networks delivering mobile advertising across 230 countries.

EU Aims To Help Consumers Resolve Trader Disputes Out Of Court (And Why That Matters)

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 06:48 AM PST


This is important news for anyone who shops – or sells something – online in Europe. The European Commission this morning put forward a number of legislative proposals to alleviate some of the problems EU consumers encounter when buying goods and services on the Internet (see some examples in Neelie Kroes’ tweet, embedded above).

With the proposed legislation, the Commission basically wants to ensure that all EU consumers can solve such problems without going to court, regardless of the kind of product or service that the contractual dispute is about and regardless of where in Europe it was purchased.

For consumers shopping ‘abroad’ online from another EU country, the Commission wants to create a single, EU-wide platform that will allow people to solve contractual disputes related to cross-border commerce out of court – actually entirely online – within 30 days.

Read the rest of the story on TechCrunch Europe.

AT&T’s Fourth Quarter Hail Mary For T-Mobile

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 06:45 AM PST


When news breaks on Thanksgiving, you can safely bet that it’s bad news. AT&T’s announcement last week that it had withdrawn its application to acquire T-Mobile (and started preparing for the $4 billion payout it owes should the deal fail) is a great example. As we ate stuffing and turkey and cranberry sauce, AT&T was strategizing (all the football on TV probably helped). The plan, you ask?

Basically, AT&T is in talks with Leap (and presumably T-Mobile) to sell off a big chunk of T-Mobile’s customers and a small portion of its wireless spectrum to regional carrier Leap Wireless, according to the New York Times. The hope is that with fewer potential customers to be acquired in the deal, the Department of Justice may ease up in its campaign to block the merger. Even if the DoJ doesn’t back down, the exchange will give AT&T a stronger argument in the court room.

If it goes through, the AT&T/Leap deal would push Leap past T-Mobile as the number four carrier. The trick is to push over enough subscribers to make T-Mobile seem “smaller,” while leaving the pink carrier with enough wireless spectrum to help AT&T build out its next-gen service once it swallows T-Mo.

The plan is a long shot to say the least, but AT&T has quite a bit riding on this. $4 billion, to be exact.

For inspiration:

MOTOACTV Fitness Tracker To Debut In U.K. On December 1

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 06:08 AM PST


Fitness fanatics in the U.K. will soon have another gadget to aid them in their quest for physical supremacy: Motorola has just announced that their MOTOACTV fitness tracker will hit stores on December 1.

The MOTOACTV was overshadowed a bit since it first appeared alongside the Droid RAZR, but it’s a fairly nifty device in its own right. If you’re not familiar with the ACTV, think of it as an Android-based amalgamation of an iPod nano and Sony Ericsson’s ill-fated LiveView.

On top of being able to track workouts, the MOTOACTV can sync with newer Motorola smartphones to display notifications on your wrist, and it sports 8GB of internal flash storage for all those carefully-culled playlists. As a (lousy) runner, the MOTOACTV’s smart music player seems like an especially clever twist: it can determine what songs users tend to listen to when they go all out, and stick those tracks in their own playlist.

Motorola has teamed up with British sports retailer Sweatshop to bring the MOTOACTV to the UK, but those looking to harness the power of Android to support their workouts better start saving up. The MOTOACTV is set to debut with a £249.99 ($390.50) price tag, so only serious workout fans need apply.

The Lenovo LePad S2005, A 5-inch Tabletphone For The Chinese Market

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 05:52 AM PST


Lenovo, taking a page out of the Android history books, just announced the LePad S2005 tabletphone for the Chinese market. This Gingerbread device pushes the recent trend of supersize phones into tablet territory. But that’s been done before. The Dell Streak rocked a 5-inch screen with pride way back in 2010. However, way back then, the EVO 4G stole most of the limelight, leaving the Dell Streak in the background. The LePad, or as it will be branded elsewhere, the IdeaTad S2005 actually has a chance to make it big in today’s roaring Android marketplace.

Inside the S2005 is a Qualcomm dual-core 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 480 LTPS display with a 178-degree viewing angle. The phone rocks 2.3.5 and there doesn’t seem to be any talk of Ice Cream Sandwich. A 1,680mAh battery powers the whole contraption. Despite the larger frame, the S2005 only has the standard connectivity ports of a micro-USB port and a micro-HDMI port. The Chinese flavor uses a HSPA+ radio for the China Unicom network but models headed to different markets might have something else.

Lenovo has yet to pricing or the release schedule. Engadget Chinese is stating that the phone will hit their home market in two days. The rest of us are going to have to wait.

WordPress Introduces WordAds: “You Deserve Better Than AdSense”

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 05:13 AM PST


Automattic has teamed up with Federated Media to – finally – allow WordPress.com bloggers to make money from online advertising. The project is called WordAds and if you’re on WordPress.com you can express your interest for the program here.

From the WordPress.com blog, including a fair bit of snark directed at Google:

Over the years one of the most frequent requests on WordPress.com has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads.

We've resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn't terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google's AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad.

You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

WordAds, which is optional, will let bloggers make money from their blogs by showing “high quality ads from brand advertisers” – this is where Federated Media will come in.

Note that not every WordPress.com blog will be eligible for the program. According to the sign-up page, only publicly visible blogs with custom domains will be considered. Furthermore, selection will be based on “level of traffic and engagement, type of content, and language used on a blog”.

Automattic’s Jon Burke also threw out an interesting stat in the blog post: apparently, more than 50,000 WordPress-powered blogs come online on a daily basis.

Cisco, Google Ventures, VMware Put $8.5M In Data Center Automation Startup Puppet Labs

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 04:29 AM PST


Puppet Labs, a data center automation company, has raised $8.5 million in Series C financing from new investors Cisco, Google Ventures, and VMware. Existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, True Ventures, and Radar Partners also participated in the round. This brings Puppet Labs’ total funding to $16 million.

Puppet Labs provides systems management and datacenter automation software for the enterprise and the cloud. Puppet Labs' flagship product, Puppet is an open source data center automation and configuration management framework that provides system administrators with an easy to use platform for transparent and flexible systems management.

Earlier this year, Puppet Labs expanded beyond its open source roots and launched Puppet Enterprise, the first commercial version of Puppet. Basically, Puppet makes the provisioning, configuring, and managing of virtualized and cloud infrastructure easier for system administrators.  

The company currently has 250 customers including Zynga, Twitter, NYSE, Disney, Citrix, Oracle/Sun, Constant Contact, Match.com, Shopzilla, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Stanford University.  The startup also offers integrations with VMware, Amazon Web Services, Cisco, OpenStack, Eucalyptus, RightScale, and Zenoss.

Puppet Labs recently acquired the Mcollective, a framework to build server orchestration or parallel job execution systems.

Backed By Ellen DeGeneres And Others, Sojo Studios Launches Facebook Game ‘WeTopia’

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 03:54 AM PST


If you’re going to waste your time playing games on Facebook, you might as well do it and help build a better world while you’re at it. That’s the promise, at least, of online entertainment company Sojo Studios, which is today debuting the preview of a Facebook game with a philanthropic twist called ‘WeTopia’.

Backed by a former key Facebook employee, Path CEO Dave Morin, and Esther Dyson – both are on the advisory board – Sojo Studios wants to entice online gamers to play WeTopia in order to develop a better world for children, both on Facebook and in the real world.

Here’s the pitch:

As players build and grow their WeTopia villages and help their neighbors, they earn currency called “Joy” which they can apply toward real-world projects: whether food, healthcare, education or other programs assisting children, both in the U.S. and other nations.

Players can choose specific beneficiaries to receive their Joy and track their contributions through pictures, videos and in-game messages.

WeTopia is free to play – players can also buy Facebook credits to spend in-game – but everyone can have a real-world impact simply by earning and spending Joy through game play.

Sojo Studios says it plans to make money through advertisers and sponsors as well as in-game purchases by players, with a mandate to donate 50 percent of the net profits (never less than 20 percent revenue) to its charity beneficiaries.

The company has scored a “long-term, exclusive partnership” with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”. The celebrity will be using her reach to provide marketing support for the WeTopia game, but also “provide creative input into the design of future games” according to a press release.

The company is also ‘affiliated’ with Warner Bros., but it’s unclear what that means, exactly.

Among Sojo Studios’ initial nonprofit partners are Save the Children, buildOn and Children’s Health Fund.

More on Venturebeat.

With BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM Wants To Help Enterprises Manage Android, iOS Devices

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 01:56 AM PST


Research In Motion this morning introduced a new enterprise mobility solution dubbed BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, aiming to help its business and government clients manage employees’ smartphones and tablets running the BlackBerry operating system, but also Android and iOS devices like the iPhone and the iPad.

Currently in early beta testing with a limited number of enterprise customers, RIM expects to kick off a closed beta program in January 2012, with general availability scheduled for late March 2012 (pricing unknown).

Mobile Fusion will encompass the company’s Enterprise Server technology for BlackBerry devices but combine it with mobile device management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, and will basically enable IT departments within organizations manage a multitude of decices from a single, Web-based ‘control room’.

RIM realizes that, increasingly, employees are bringing their own devices to the office, and is trying to cash in on the fact that those devices are increasingly not BlackBerry phones or tablets.

In an interview with Reuters, RIM’s VP for Enterprise Product Management, said:

“What our enterprise customers are looking for, and the opportunity for us, is to become the de facto platform. We will take full advantage of whatever security capabilities are provided by the core operating system. We’re not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form.”

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will also introduce self-service functionality for employees to secure lost or stolen BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablets.

Daily Crunch: Buggy Bumper

Posted: 29 Nov 2011 01:00 AM PST

Freelance Writing Marketplace Scripted Signs For $700K

Posted: 28 Nov 2011 11:58 PM PST

Screen Shot 2011-11-29 at 12.57.05 AM

Writer marketplace Scripted.com is announcing $700K in seed funding today, from Crosslink Capital, Shopzilla CIO Jody Mulkey and Douglas Feirstein.

Starting out as an offshoot of scriptwriting community Scripped, Scripted pays writers a flat rate to create blog posts, articles, copywriting and tweets for various small business clients. The company, which says it vets writers according to wants and needs of its clients, provides a thousand posts a month for customers like Mailchimp and Levi's.

Having amassed a grand community of writers from its days as primarily a screenwriting resource, the startup now boasts a writing userbase of 80K and claims that 80% of those writers are US based. It adds a new writer to its userbase every 2 seconds, it says.

Scripped plans on using the cash to focus on customer growth, both on the writing and client side.

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