Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

How Carrier IQ Could Have Avoided Its Dumbest Move

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 09:05 AM PST

eyevo carrier IQ

Editor's Note: This guest post was written by Frank Barbieri, a serial entrepreneur and sometimes blogger. You can follow him @frankba

Imagine how differently Carrier IQ's fortunes would be if instead of engaging lawyers and flaks to address alleged privacy breaches they engaged the actual discoverer of those breaches, security researcher Trevor Eckhart. For those of you not familiar with the story it is the latest example of a company that let hubris trump transparency and in the process has potentially committed suicide.

When Mr. Eckhart found potential key logging and personal message logging by a supposedly harmless performance data-tracking application built by Carrier IQ and installed on over 100 million phones, the maker had a choice: attack the messenger or attack the problem. They did they the exact wrong thing. They sent a cease-and-desist letter to Eckhart, as if watching data traffic on ones personal mobile phone and fair use of public documents was a violation of some corporate right. They then issued a defensive press release that seemed in direct contradiction to data Eckhart had already publically posted.

They did everything but address the problem. The results? A class action lawsuit, a US Senator asking for information from them and their carrier and handset customers, undoubtedly countless headaches with their customers and tangibly dimmer prospects for the company and their investors, some of Silicon Valley's most respected. Carrier IQ, in short, made a problem into a story.

Now consider an alternative scenario. Instead of choosing hubris and stonewalling, Carrier IQ could have chosen transparency. They could have attacked the problem by enlisting Eckhart as a partner rather than casting him as an enemy. Instead of sending lawyers and PR flaks, Carrier IQ could have simply invited Eckhart, even paid Eckhart, to come to their offices and help them understand what he saw and how, if necessary, they should fix it. They could have called the EFF and asked for advice on an independent privacy audit. If they truly believed that their software does no evil as their press releases say, they could have very easily opened up the doors to prove it. If there are actual privacy violations due to poor implementations or non-malicious mistakes, they should be looking for all the help they can get,  including Eckharts, in discovering and fixing those errors.

Instead, because they badly flubbed the perception war, the public and lawmakers can only assume they have something to hide. If we take them at their word, they do care about privacy, but their actions indicate the contrary. It's a mistake that will cost them for years to come and radically change the direction and momentum of their business. We will all eventually know if they were doing malicious things, or they just screwed up, or if Eckhart's analysis is flawed. But even if we discover they are pristine, the fortunes of the company are probably irreparably damaged.

The lesson in this mess is: openness wins. When someone points out your flaws, or your company's flaws, that someone is your best friend, not your enemy. CarrierIQ made this a story by attacking the messenger not the problem, and in doing so created countless more problems for themselves. Learn from their hubris.

Boost Mobile Gives Customers A New Way To Add Credit: Facebook

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:59 AM PST

Screen shot 2011-12-06 at 11.56.06 AM

In the few months I lived across the pond (where prepaid phone plans are more popular than contracts, go figure), I learned something important about adding credit to your plan, or “topping up” as the Brits would say: it’s a pain in the arse.

Some carriers let you add credit by sending a text, which is pretty awesome, but the more options customers have the better. That said, Boost Mobile is launching a new Facebook app called Re-Boost which will let customers add credit straight from the social network.

The ability to refill your account from Facebook is actually quite awesome, but then the app gets a little strange. Since it’s on Facebook and thus intertwined in your digital relationship playground, you can elicit the help of friends to fill up your mobile account. That’s more of a blast, shooting out a request for more credit to the entirety of your Facebook network.

If that sounds as embarrassing to you as it does to me (but you still happen to need a friend’s help topping up), the Re-Boost app also lets you send a request to specific friends to help you add credit. Of course, with all the various methods of taking from your friends, Boost found it necessary to add some form of giving functionality. That way you can pay back all the friends that have been supporting your mobile lifestyle.

All in all this sounds like a great idea, though all the networking throws me for a loop a bit. You can check out the app now by logging into Facebook, searching “Boost,” and choosing the Re-Boost application.

DROID XYBOARD Tablets Get Official, Hitting Verizon Stores This Month

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:18 AM PST

Pasteur_front 005

Verizon’s been teasing us with them for weeks now, but today the company has finally made things official: Motorola’s LTE-capable DROID XYBOARD tablets will be hitting Verizon stores this month.

For those of you who have managed to miss all the news about Motorola’s latest tablet venture, here are a few of the salient details.

Better known as the XOOM 2 in Europe, the XYBOARD comes in two flavors: one with an 8.2-inch IPS display and another with larger 10.1-inch IPS display. Don’t worry about missing out on performance if you go for one version over the other, as both XYBOARDs share the same 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM under the hood. Both tabs also sport 5-megapixel rear cameras, along with a 1.3-megapixel front-facer, and an IR transmitter for controlling your home theater.

On the application side, the XYBOARDs come Motorola’s MOTOCAST media streaming software, QuickOffice HD, Citrix GoToMeeting, and the usual suite of Google appa. Handwriting input buffs may also want to take note of the 10.1-inch XYBOARD, as it ships with a stylus meant to make doodling cats on the screen even easier than before.

But how much will all that cost you? The 10.1-inch XYBOARD comes in three memory variants: you can score a 16GB model for $529.99, a 32GB model for $629.99 and the king-sized 64 GB for $729.99. If you prefer the smaller 8.2-inch model, prices are a little more reasonable. There are only two models to choose from: 16GB for $429.99 and 32GB for $529.99. All of these prices are with a two-year contract, so think long and hard about whether or not the XYBOARDs are right for you.

You’ll need to pony up an extra monthly charge if you want to take advantage of the XYBOARD’s speedy LTE connection, too: prices for Verizon’s data plans start at $30 for 2GB of bandwidth.

Verizon also snuck in an announcement confirming the existence of a white Droid RAZR. I’m sure that news won’t be as exciting to some of you as it is to me, but fans of chromatically pure devices have one more to add to the list. Motorola has also pledged that all three of the newly-announced devices will get access to Android 4.0 (a.k.a Ice Cream Sandwich), so here’s hoping they get access to the code sooner rather than later.

Overstock.com Teams With Barnes & Noble For eBook Storefront

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:16 AM PST


Overstock.com is looking to expand its brand into the realm of ebooks. But the online retailer is doing it a tad differently. Instead of signing partnerships with publishers, building a vertical retail platform and establishing a presence in the marketplace, the company briefly known as O.co simply inked a deal with ebook giant Barnes & Noble. Easy peasy ebook squeezy.

The partnership is only skin deep, though. Overstock.com/ebooks, the site’s new ebook subsite, is simply a portal to B&N. Clicking on a book directs buyers to the book’s B&N product page where the purchase can be completed. Even the genre pages redirects to the appropriate page at BN.com.

To go alone with the new ebook offering, Overstock.com is hawking a refurbished Nook Color for $149.00. "As the number one seller of refurbished NOOK® devices we are pleased to partner with Barnes & Noble to expand our product offering so that our customers have fast, easy access to the breadth of digital content that Barnes & Noble offers," said Overstock.com President Jonathan Johnson said in a released statement today.

Terms of the partnership were not released.

Need Tunes For An Indie Film? Audiosocket Launches A Fully Hosted Music Storefront

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:16 AM PST

IndieFlix - License

Audiosocket, the Music-as-a-Service platform provider, is today launching its own Music-as-a-Service Storefront. (Yep, in acronym lingo, that’s a “MaaS.”) The company already powers the backend of the Vimeo’s Music Store, allowing for the integration of appropriately licensed tunes into online videos. Now, with the new hosted service, Audiosocket aims to connect indie musicians and digital media companies, including launch partners IndieFlixThe National Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) and a new e-learning company LearnCreate.

The MaaS Storefront will offer AudioSocket’s catalog of over 33,000 pre-cleared songs from emerging artists in need of discovery and distribution to others in content creation communities, specifically those who are also focused on supporting indie artists themselves. (Well, those are the most likely partners for this service, that is.) The Storefront will be provided as white label offering which partners can customize, brand, and have up in running within 24 hours.

For example, IndieFlix, which likes to call itself the “Netflix for indie films,” says it gets a lot of submissions where the music hasn’t been properly licensed. Until now, it has had to spend its own time and money to resolve these problems, the company reports. With the Audiosocket Storefront, though, IndieFlix will be able to simplify this process. With the IndieFlix Storefront, available here, filmmakers can now browse and search for music by genre, mood, tempo, vocal, themes or instruments.

This isn’t the first deployment for Audiosocket’s “MaaS” – Vimeo’s Music Store was. But where that was a custom integration designed just for the Vimeo website, you can think of this one as “Vimeo Lite.” Instead of a full-on integration, this is a hosted product, a plug-and-play music storefront that anyone could use.

More details on the Audiosocket Storefront will be available from the company website: audiosocket.com.

Red Hat releases Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:15 AM PST


Today Red Hat announces the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2, the latest iteration of their flagship Linux distribution. I don’t usually cover every point release of every Linux distribution, but since I’ve covered recent releases from Canonical and SUSE I thought I’d give Red Hat some coverage, too.

RHEL 6.2 is in some ways a remarkable release, and in other ways completely uninteresting. It’s uninteresting in that there are no real surprises: this is a regularly scheduled update to the RHEL 6 product line, and it was released right on time. Red Hat customers have driven most of what’s included in this release, in the form of bug reports and feature requests.

RHEL 6.2 is uninteresting, too, because Red Hat’s promise to their enterprise customers is API and ABI compatibility for the life of the product. But this is also a reason why this release is so interesting.

Maintaining API and ABI compatibility on a complex suite of inter-related free software projects is no small task even on a short term basis. To manage it over a couple of years requires careful planning, attention to detail, and impressive staff talent. After all, companies are using Red Hat Enterprise Linux with the expectation that their servers will work exactly the same way for nearly a decade.

But the technology driving Linux development doesn’t stay the same for that same period of time. In addition to continuous kernel improvements, there’s whole swathes of new technologies rapidly evolving — KVM and Xen virtualization, filesystem advancements, and more — as well as the regular feature updates to the ecosystem of free software that go into a modern distribution: web servers, programming languages, support libraries, and more. Red Hat’s customers want to use these whiz-bang new features, but still enjoy long-term support offerings. It’s a delicate balancing act, and in that regard the release of RHEL 6.2 is utterly fascinating.

According to Tim Burke, VP of Linux Engineering at Red Hat, more changes (updates, bug fixes, etc) went into RHEL 6.2 than the entirety of what went into Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4, which was released in February, 2005. The list of RHEL 6.2 enhancements (PDF) is impressive, and includes a host of physical and virtual guest performance enhancements, improved management controls, and more. Also included are a variety technology previews of essentially beta software that people want to play with and that Red Hat wants to evaluate, like Parallel NFS and Linux containers.

“Red Hat is the leading innovator in Linux development,” claimed Burke. Certainly Red Hat is doing something right, as they’ve enjoyed 38 sequential quarters of successful growth all the while making predictable, sustainable releases for their customers.

A New Twist On Gift Cards: Dropost.it Lets You Leave Money For Friends At Any Location

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST


Dropost.it is a clever little service that allows you to drop gifts for friends which are geo-tagged to specific locations. These gifts, which you can think of as virtual gift cards purchased via the Dropost.it service, can only be accessed when the recipient visits a specific location. Initially, the service works over PayPal, but the company is working towards deeper integration with mobile wallets, including NFC-based wallet systems, like Google Wallet.

Beyond facilitating the gift-giving process, Dropost.it is also working on a feature that will help you figure out what gifts to buy your friends (this piece hasn’t yet launched). To do so, Dropost.it will pull in data from Facebook, including friends’ likes and interests, but it will also work with social data from Foursquare and Twitter in the future. (And yes, haters, you will need a Facebook account to log in today).

The idea is that you’ll be able to use the service to figure out what places your friends typically visit – that is, the restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail stores, etc. that they favorite. This is especially helpful when you’re buying for acquaintances whose personal interests you may not know too well, or when you’re buying for friends who live out of town.

After the gift is purchased (with a small fee), the recipient is emailed a message that includes an optional video greeting from the gift-giver, for a more personalized experience. The email also includes a link to download the accompanying Dropost.it mobile application (HTML5 first, then iOS and Android). To claim the gifted funds, the recipient just launches the app upon arrival at the given venue. As a service that works over PayPal, of course, this isn’t ideal, since the money isn’t instantly available in the recipient’s bank account unless they use the PayPal Debit Card. But further down the road, when mobile wallet usage is more prevalent, something like Dropost.it could be a useful way to surprise friends with instant gifts that are available immediately.

In addition to the consumer-facing angle, merchants can also participate in Dropost.it to set up their own promotions (aka “drops”) wherever they choose. They could allocate $1,000 in $5 increments to encourage foot traffic, for example, or they could use a series of drops to create a scavenger hunt-style game.

While the idea of a geo-tagged gifting platform may be a bit ahead of its time, the idea of parsing friends’ social networking profiles for recommendations is right on schedule. Even the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is just now figuring out how to use Facebook profile data to personalize offers to individual consumers. With Dropost.it’s insights into your friends real-world behavior, you have a better shot at something they’d actually like than you do when standing at the large, impersonal gift card aisle at the drug store. Even though geo-tagged gifts are a neat trick, it’s these social recommendations (when launched) that may end up being the service’s killer feature.

Dropost.it, however, doesn’t have the resources of a Walmart behind it, just a bit of  seed funding from Tampa’s TechStars Network member, Gazelle Lab, and two high-energy founders Orrett Davis and  Ty Mathen. Prior to today’s launch, Dropost.it lined up Bob Schwartz, President of Magento and Jim Bennette, CEO of VisiStat, as advisors along with a local business leader, Tampa Bay’s John Walsh, President of Walsh Solutions.

The Dropost.it site went live this morning. Considering the startup’s early stage, here’s hoping it stay up-and-running.

Is HTC’s 20% Revenue Dip Last Month A Sign Of Things To Come?

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 07:33 AM PST


Even though HTC has just come off of a record-breaking third quarter, it seems like some of the company’s mobile momentum is evaporating. The Taiwanese company recently cut their Q4 sales forecasts by more than 20%, and thanks to HTC’s unaudited November financials, it’s clear that the move was a wise one.

The financial report reveals a considerable drop in revenue when compared to HTC’s performance this time in 2010. Last month HTC had revenues of NT$30.9 billion (or $1.02 billion), while last year they managed to pull in nearly NT$38.5 billion ($1.27 billion). That’s almost a 20% dip in revenues year-over-year, which could put an end to HTC’s continuous growth streak.

Before this rough patch, HTC enjoyed six consecutive quarters of growth. It’s an impressive feat, considering competitors like LG’s mobile division has spent that same amount of time in a free fall.

So what gives? Was it just a bad month, or is it a sign of bigger, more dire days to come? It’s tough to say: when HTC slashed their sales forecast, they pegged it partially on the “global macroeconomic downturn,” but they also admitted that increased market competition made their forecast inaccurate. I sincerely doubt that increasing market competition is going to diminish any time soon, and that leaves HTC in something of a tough spot.

Apple has tremendous brand power and Samsung has design and production expertise. What does HTC have to lean on? Sense? Beats Audio? These are potentially great additions to a device, but it’s been a while since HTC has designed an entire package that took someone’s breath away.

Though I went through a phase of spec-geek lust for the HTC Rezound, nothing that HTC has put out in recent months seems terribly new or groundbreaking. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing — they’ve found a formula for touchscreen smartphones that has clearly been working for them — but maybe it’s time for HTC to mix things up a bit. Giving Sense the boot would be a welcome change, if I may be be so bold. I’m sure it has its fans, but all of Sense’s eye-candy always made whatever HTC device I was using feel just slow enough to be unsettling.

Really, what I think HTC needs is a flagship device a la the Galaxy S II: something the represents the pinnacle of HTC’s design and technical abilities. If they could design, produce, and throw their weight behind a device like that, HTC could potentially get back on the growth track.

Depressing though the November results may be, HTC can still take solace in the fact that they took the mantle of number one smartphone vendor in the United States, just barely pulling ahead of Apple in Q3. Still, it’s going to take some bold moves from HTC in coming months if they want to keep their mobile mojo intact. With any luck, their 2012 portfolio will further cement HTC’s position in the major leagues.

Cooking.com Grabs $13.5 Million

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 07:16 AM PST


E-commerce company Cooking.com has landed $13.5 million in growth capital financing in a combined debt and equity round led by private investment firm BIA Digital Partners, with San Francisco-based VC firm Azure Capital Partners participating.

The capital will be used to grow the company's flagship site – unsurprisingly, that would be Cooking.com – and to accelerate the build-out of its "Powered By Cooking.com" e-commerce solution for branded partner stores looking to sell cookware and kitchenware products online.

Cooking.com says it offers its customers access to over 60,000 products for the kitchen as well as recipes, menus, collections and a growing library of crowd-sourced cooking content.

The company was founded in 1998 (dotcom survivor alert) and is based in Marina del Rey, CA.

Urban Airship Says Its Push Notifications Work On Kindle Fire (Which It Found Out By Accident)

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 07:04 AM PST


Here’s a funny story: Urban Airship, a backend service provider for mobile developers, recently discovered that its push notifications offering works on Amazon’s new Kindle Fire…by accident. Although the company makes an Android push client called Helium, it had no clue that those notifications would also work on Amazon’s Kindle Fire out of the box. The company only found out after some developers started integrating the push mechanism into their own apps. Surprise!

Well, maybe that’s not entirely unexpected news. After all, the Kindle Fire is an Android-based device. However, the version of Android it runs has been extensively customized. Amazon removed Google’s services, including the Android Market, C2DM (Android Cloud to Device Messaging framework), Google in-app payments support and more. The Fire also doesn’t support any apps that require the camera, gyroscope, GPS, Bluetooth, a microphone or a micro-SD card.

So yes, it was kind of a surprise for the folks at Urban Airship to discover that their code worked just fine on the Fire without any further customizations.

One of the first developers to use UA’s push notifications feature is Glu, the Android games publisher behind dozens of titles, including Bug Village, Eternity Warriors and Contract Killer. Says Glu VP of Sales & Marketing Mike DeLaet, their team just integrated the Urban Airship SDK into all their apps on day one of the Fire’s release and notifications began working immediately.

It seems like Urban Airship is riding a wave of good news these days, with last month’s acquisition of SimpleGeo and its $15M Series C. Now it finds out that Kindle push works, too, without any code changes, opening up the service to what’s shaping up to be the number two tablet computer behind the iPad. Nice.

To support developers trying to add push to their Kindle apps, Urban Airship has added this section to its developer FAQ. The company will make an official announcement later today.

BBC’s Global iPlayer Heads To The iPhone, iPod touch

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:52 AM PST


While not everyone would agree, I’m firmly of the belief that news (and most everything) sounds much better delivered in a British accent.

The BBC’s new global iPlayer app, which has launched in more than 11 western European countries, offers up much more than just your daily news, but is chock-full of fun words like “arse,” “blimey,” and one of my personal favorites, “daft.” If you’re into that kinda thing (like myself), you likely want to know that the BBC will launch its iPlayer app on the iPhone and iPod touch on Thursday.

The service works a bit differently for the Brits than it does for us international users, reports TNW. In the UK, the iPlayer is more of a back-up type service, allowing you to watch broadcasted content for up to 30 days after it airs. In Europe and now Canada, the app is a much broader subscription service, letting users choose from a wide library of current and former British programming.

But according to the BBC, the growth and expansion of its iPlayer app is about much more than having a mobile presence. It’s about the migration of TV to mobile devices in general, and the BBC sees this platform as a way to further British culture as a whole.

Jana Bennett, president of worldwide networks and Global BBC iPlayer, had this to say:

This platform extension shows how Global iPlayer isn't just about moving TV to tablet devices, it's also about a mobile strategy – about truly getting TV everywhere in a way that it hasn't been before. We also want the global BBC iPlayer to be truly representative of the whole gamut of British creative output, to represent everything that is great about British content – not just the Best of British TV but the Best of British Culture.

Funding, Grants & Book Deals: Thiel Fellows Are Making The Grade (With More Classes To Follow)

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:49 AM PST


It’s no secret that Peter Thiel thinks that the next big bubble facing our economy is not inflating the housing or tech markets, but that of higher education. The former PayPal CEO and early backer of Facebook is well-known for his contrarian views and has more than once publicly criticized higher education for being an overhyped and bloated industry. The entrepreneur-turned-investor has been on a mission to find alternative (and better) ways to motivate, foster, and support young people who want to make a difference.

In May, Thiel, along with his Foundation, put their money where their mouth is, announcing the “20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship”, a program that offers talented independent thinkers under the age of 20 $100,000 and two years free of school to pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors. The program launched with 24 Thiel Fellows, each of these wiz kids pursuing their own inspiring scientific and technical projects. (You can meet the class here.)

Originally, the Thiel Foundation planned to award only twenty fellowships, but James O'Neill, who heads the Thiel Foundation, said there were so many outstanding candidates among the 400 applications they received that they were compelled to add four more spots.

Six months into the program, and already the progress has been impressive. O’Neill tells us that more than ten of the Fellows have founded companies, and at least one has already launched a product on the market. The progress of the program has been so good, in fact, that the Thiel Foundation has decided to launch a second class in 2012. The program is now accepting applications, with a deadline of December 31st. Candidates must be under 20 years of age until that date.

In preparation for next year’s class, O’Neill also peeled back the curtain a bit more on how the current class of young innovators have been faring in their first year. Andrew Hsu, who founded a company called Airy Labs (after dropping out of Stanford University as a fourth-year neuroscience Ph.D. candidate — at the age of 19) to build the next generation of social learning games for kids, launched with $1.5 million in venture funding. The round led by Foundation Capital with participation from Google Ventures, Rick Thompson, as well as other prominent angel investors and micro-cap venture capital firms.

Eden Full, who founded Roseicollis Technologies to take her solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter to developing communities, won the Staples-Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneurship award, snagging $300K from the Postcode Green Challenge for her contributions to the solar industry.

Dale Stephens recently signed a deal with Penguin Press to publish his forthcoming book, Hacking Your Education.

And today, The Fellowship announced that Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative that enables researchers to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges (created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) has rewarded Thiel Fellow Darren Zhu with a $100,000 grant.

Zhu founded Synbiosys, LLC, a synthetic biology company focused on building foundational tools to make biological systems easier to engineer and to commercialize their downstream applications. Specifically, Zhu and Synbiosys will be pursuing a global research project that aims to produce a low-cost diagnostic platform to diagnose Leishmaniasis, an understudied infectious disease that affects over 14 million people.

According to the Foundation, current diagnosis of the disease relies on expensive and invasive screening techniques, so Synbiosys is using synthetic biology to build a more rapid, inexpensive, and sensitive diagnostic tool that can be extended to diagnose other infectious diseases as well.

The early success of these impressive youngsters is certainly inspiring, and O’Neill said that he thinks the Fellows can become exemplars for other intelligent young people looking to get involved in technology. That’s why, he says, that the Thiel Fellowship makes picks participants based on who they are as people, rather than the particular project they’re pursuing. The program encourages Fellows to iterate and change course during their two years.

And they’re getting some serious guidance along the way. O’Neill says that they organize a retreat every quarter, in which they bring in experts to give talks and seminars on topics including IP tax, how to hire and motivate employees, develop products, pitch investors, and so on. Fellows also have the benefit of three “handpicked” mentors, chosen by the Thiel Foundation based on their interests.

It’s an awesome program for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and, with the way it’s being structured, O’Neill says that they’ve been surprised to find that the criticism from higher education has been a lot milder than they expected. Some professors and teachers are even encouraging their students to stop out and apply.

What’s more, “anyone under 20 is eligible” to apply. Lucky kids.

Amazon’s LOVEFiLM Hits The Xbox 360 Tomorrow Complete With Magical Kinect Controls

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:31 AM PST


Amazon took full control of Europe’s largest movie and TV subscription service earlier this year and now, starting tomorrow, LOVEFiLM will hit LIVE-enabled Xbox 360 systems. This brings thousands of streaming movies to Xbox LIVE subscribers including, wait for it, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Take that, Netflix! But alas, members of Team whatshisface need to be located within LOVEFiLM’s European service area to access any content including its exclusive titles that also includes The Dark Knight and The Hangover.

The service should be available starting tomorrow for Xbox LIVE subs. Those that also own a Kinect will be able to interface with the streaming app through voice commands and gestures. "It's very exciting to see the launch of Amazon's LOVEFiLM on Xbox LIVE,” said Stephen McGill, Director of Xbox & Entertainment for Microsoft UK. “Xbox owners will be eager to get started, using their Kinect-enabled consoles to interact with LOVEFiLM's extensive catalogue of movies in ways that will only be available on Xbox 360."

The Xbox Live integration is just the latest platform embraced by LOVEFiLM. The service is already available on iOS devices, set-top boxes, smart TVs and the Playstation 3. Plus, like Netflix in the states, LOVEFiLM also has a mail-order DVD service that pre-dates the streaming service.

This latest addition to the Xbox’s streaming portfolio further advances Microsoft’s ultimate goal of converting the gaming system into an entertainment powerhouse.

MyHealthTeams Launches Social Network For Parents Of Children With Autism

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:30 AM PST


MyHealthTeams, which develops social and local networks for communities of people living with or caring for those living with chronic health conditions, is launching MyAutismTeam, an online community for parents of children on the autism spectrum.

MyHealthTeams says that MyAutismTeam is the first social network catered specifically for parents of children with autism, with the aim of helping parents connect with other who have had similar experiences.

Parents can share recommendations of local providers, openly discuss issues, share tips, and gain access to local services. Since debuting over the summer, the site has grown from 30 to over 12,500 members. On the MyAutismTeam site, parents create a team of autism doctors and specialists, restaurants, schools, piano teachers, babysitters and more.

Parents can then communicate and post status updates around daily activities like dentist or doctor's visits. Members can also post on each other's walls and use the site's searchable database to find autism-friendly providers near them. And organization Autism Speaks helped seed MyAutismTeam's database of local autism providers with data from its own family resource database.

MyHealthTeams is also currently developing MyBreastCancerTeam, a network for cancer patients and survivors.

Citing Market Conditions, GlassHouse Technologies Pulls IPO (Again)

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:10 AM PST


GlassHouse Technologies, a provider of cloud, virtualization, data center infrastructure and security consulting and managed services, this morning announced that it will not proceed with its planned IPO, citing ‘current market conditions’ as the primary reason.

The company said it intends to withdraw its registration statement on Form S-1 as filed with the SEC.

GlassHouse originally filed to go public to raise $75 million in early 2010. In fact, they filed for a $100 million IPO back in 2007, too, but withdrew that filing in March of 2009. They cited ‘current public market conditions’ back then as well. Perhaps third time’s the charm?

"Obviously the economic climate continues to be volatile, and we feel these are not the optimal conditions for GlassHouse to move forward with an IPO," said Patrick J. Scannell, Jr., who was very recently named CEO of GlassHouse Technologies.

According to our data, GlassHouse has raised close to $90 million in funding to date, from investment firms and strategic backers like Cisco Systems and Citrix.

Will they ever hit the public markets and provide their shareholders with a decent return?

ZINK Raises $35 Million, Aims To Popularize Ink-Free Printing

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:43 AM PST


ZINK (short for ‘zero ink’) this morning announced that it has scored $35 million in Series B funding in a round led by Genii Capital. The company also announced the hiring of former board members Mary Jeffries (as chairman and co-CEO) and Ira Parker (as president and co-CEO).

Jeffries was once the CEO of Polaroid, where Parker also served as VP and General Counsel before moving on to a similar role at AOL.

ZINK is behind the ‘Zero Ink Printing Technology’ and its sibling, ZINK Paper, with which the company aims to ruffle some established feathers in the global printing industry.

The company has invented technology and a full-color printing system that essentially eradicates the need for ink cartridges or ribbons when used with its proprietary ZINK Paper. I’m not sure how they pull this off, exactly, but the company pitches its technology thusly:

Based on advances in chemistry, engineering, physics, image science, and manufacturing, the development of ZINK has generated an IP portfolio that includes over 180 patents and patents pending.

At the heart of the technology is ZINK Paper which looks like regular white photo paper before printing. Heat from a ZINK-enabled device activates the color-forming chemistry within the ZINK Paper, forming all the colors of the rainbow.

ZINK’s technology already powers a limited range of home photo printers, digital cameras with built-in ZINK printers, as well as logging printers, with more coming. Partners include Dell and Polaroid.

Founded in 2005, ZINK’s R&D labs and headquarters are based in Bedford, Massachusetts, with a manufacturing plant located in Whitsett, North Carolina.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Yes, It’s Paypal Stealing Money From Kids

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:09 AM PST


It’s the holiday season, when a webmaster’s mind turns to thoughts of love and charity. Take Regretsy, for example. The site collected a bit of money and began buying and sending gifts to the kids in the Regretsy community whose parents were having financial problems. In this economy, that could be just about anybody and, the Internet being the Internet, there was an outpouring of affection and donations. It warms, as they say, the cockles of the heart.

Unfortunately, Regretsy used Paypal.

As of yesterday, Paypal shut down the account and put a hold on Regretsy founder April Winchell’s account. They also forced her to refund the money she collected, less the fees Paypal took out – twice.

I’ll let you read the post yourself. It’s a gem of horrible customer support. But this part is classic:

PAYPAL: Only a nonprofit can use the Donate button.
ME: That's false. It says right in the PDF of instructions for the Donate button that it can be used for "worthy causes."
PAYPAL: I haven't seen that PDF. And what you're doing is not a worthy cause, it's charity.
ME: What's the difference?
PAYPAL: You can use the donate button to raise money for a sick cat, but not poor people.

A sick cat, eh?

Now April is a repeat offender. She’s raised money for needy people before and I suspect she’ll do it again. Clearly this sort of largesse is far too suspect to be ignored, especially in the cesspool of iniquity and scam-artists that is the dark binary star of Ebay and Paypal.

What’s Paypal’s problem? April used the “Donate” button instead of the “Buy Now” button on Paypal, a mistake that many make when, you know, soliciting donations. Donations, it seems, require pages of documentation citing non-profit status, something not mentioned directly on Paypal’s website. Instead, anyone can make a donate button – heck, I just did it – and then suffer the consequences when the Paypal militia figures it out. Why not lock the “Donate” button down and make the homeless shelter hire a lawyer in order to file for the ability to accept donations? That seems like it would be effective, non?

Paypal is historically histrionic when it comes to fraud. Either you’re getting screwed on a massive scale or your entire account is shut down on spurious charges. I understand that Paypal has to face scammers and fraudsters every day, but seriously? You hear more about folks like Merlin Mann and now Regretsy getting dinged than the scammers who tried to rent us a place in the Catskills that didn’t belong to them last winter. We trusted them, after all, because they took Paypal.

Paypal no longer seems like the service of choice for things like this and I’d recommend companies start looking into alternate ways to collect money including Amazon (Kickstarter uses this quite effectively) and Google Check-Out or, barring that, hosting their own merchant accounts. An envelope full of money passed by hand through a throng of drunken revelers seems like it would get to it intended recipient faster and more effectively than Paypal.


Zynga, Vostu Settle Copyright Lawsuit; Brazilian Gaming Company To Pay Up

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 04:36 AM PST


Zynga and Vostu has settled their copyright lawsuits, according to a representative for Vostu. Vostu has paid Zynga an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement and made changes to its games.

Here is the joint statement the companies issued: "Zynga and Vostu have settled the copyright lawsuits and counterclaims against each other in the United States and Brazil. As part of the settlement, Vostu made a monetary payment to Zynga and made some changes to four of its games. The parties are pleased to have settled their disputes and to now put these matters behind them."

For background, Zynga hit Brazilian gaming startup Vostu with a massive lawsuit in June, alleging that the company was copying Zynga's games. In fact, Zynga alleged that Vostu was copying Zynga’s games so closely that they even inadvertently included the bugs.

In return, Vostu claimed that Zynga has copied other games repeatedly over the years, including Zynga’s hit game Cityville.

Zynga then sued shareholder Google over the Vostu dispute, because Orkut, which is popular in Brazil, was hosting the Vostu games that Zynga says are ripoffs.

Lawsuits were filed in California and in Brazil. Vostu has a fairly large userbase in the Latin American country. In fact, 25% of internet users in Brazil play Vostu games.

Clearly this is ugly, but Zynga won this battle. And it’s not surprising that the companies reached an agreement at this time. As Zynga is about to go public, the social gaming giant is surely trying to get some of these legal issues resolved in the next few weeks. Vostu has raised a total of $46 million from Intel Capital, Accel Partners, General Catalyst, and Tiger Technology Global Management.

Android Apps On Your PC: BlueStacks’ App Player Blows Past Half A Million Downloads

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 04:32 AM PST


Back in May, BlueStacks, the startup that has developed software to let Android users run their apps on all Windows PC, tablets, and laptops, raised a $7.6 million series A, pre-launch. In October, the startup followed up with a $6.4 million series B from AMD, Citrix Systems, with participation from existing investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Ventures, and more.

Its series B round followed closely on the heels of the alpha launch of its App Player for Windows, which is basically a free software download that will give users one-click access to Android apps on any Windows PC, tablet, or laptop. (And the ability to view these apps in full-screen.) Complementing the App Player, BlueStacks also released "Cloud Connect", a cloud-based service that allows PCs to become a veritable extension of any Android-based mobile device — and vice versa.

While $14 million in funding seemed a bit bubble-ish for a startup with an alpha product (especially considering half of the investment was raised prior to to launch), we’ve learned from BlueStacks that the early adoption has been significant. Since launching six weeks ago, the startup’s App Player has been downloaded over half a million times, 550K+, to be more precise.

Of course startups are happy for all of us to fawn over vanity metrics, but the BlueStacks team did admit that this early adoption caught it by surprise. Especially the extent to which downloads are taking place outside of the U.S. The Americas account for 32 percent of the App Player’s downloads, with Europe and Asia both seeing over 31 percent of downloads as well. The startup recently expanded to support XP and Vista a couple weeks ago, as many Chinese users are still using XP, for example.

The App Player launched in October with several “app partners” pre-loaded, including Bloomberg, LivingSocial and Drag Racing. And we here more are on their way. In conjunction, there are over 250,000 apps available on BlueStacks’ Cloud Connect mobile app, which allows users to push apps from their phone into the startup’s player.

The early signs show that this is definitely a startup to watch, but chime in to tell us what you think. Is this a valuable technology?

MarkaVIP Raises $5M For Middle East-Focused Flash Sales Website

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 04:17 AM PST


MarkaVIP, an ecommerce company that operates an eponymous private sales club in the Middle East, has landed $5 million in Series A funding led by Lumia Capital with participation from NYC-based Invus Financial Advisors. The capital will be used to boost sales and marketing efforts and to support regional expansion throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

MarkaVIP was founded in Jordan by CEO Ahmed Alkhatib and CTO Amer Abulaila in November 2010. Early investors include former Yahoo VP Usama Fayyad and former US ambassador Karim Kawar, along with Hummingbird Ventures and Turkish serial entrepreneur Çağlar Erol.

MarkaVIP, which has adapted the flash sales model popularized by companies like Vente Privée and Gilt, has attracted 700,000 registered users to date, with up to 5,000 more joining per day.

MarkaVIP is currently available in the GCC, Jordan and Lebanon and employs 120 people across six offices in Beirut, Dubai, Amman, Istanbul, Antwerp and San Francisco.

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