Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Apple Picks Instagram As The “iPhone App Of The Year”

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 10:14 AM PST


Apple released its iTunes Rewind 2011 and App Store Rewind 2011 today, the company’s annual lists detailing of the top selling apps, music, TV shows, movies and podcasts for the year. This year, the biggest winner on the apps front was Angry Birds, which ran away with the number one spot on the iPhone and iPad in all categories except top free iPhone app, which was awarded to Facebook.

Apple also selects its own favorite applications, and one of our preferred apps, Instagram, won the honor of being Apple’s “iPhone App of the Year.”

Angry Birds, which is available on iOS as both a paid and free application, not only dominated the year-end lists as the number one download in several cases, it also occupied additional slots on multiple lists for its spinoffs, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio.

Several other games also appeared on the year-end listings, including Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings, Doodle Jump, Plants vs. Zombies and more.

In terms of non-games, consumer-friendly brands like Netflix, Facebook, Skype, Kindle, Pandora, CNN and Twitter, plus Apple’s own Pages and GarageBand, made the list.

As for Apple’s editorial picks, it was Instagram as the favorite for iPhone, and photo app Snapseed for the iPad. Runners up for the “app of the year” title included VidRhythm (iPhone), Band of the Day (iPhone), djay (iPad) and Jamie’s Recipes. (iPad)

Game of the year went to Tiny Tower (iPhone) and Dead Space for iPad.

All the runners-up and top 30 lists can all be viewed here in iTunes, where you can also find the results for the non-app categories. (That’s not our thing. But congrats, Adele).

The complete top 10 lists are below:

Top Paid iPhone Apps:
1. Angry Birds
2. Fruit Ninja
3. Angry Birds Seasons
4. Cut the Rope
5. Tiny Wings
6. Angry Birds Rio
7. Words With Friends
8. Camera+
9. Doodle Jump
10. Plants vs. Zombies
Top Free iPhone Apps:
1. Facebook
2. Pandora Radio
3. Words with Friends Free
4. Angry Birds Free
5. Skype
6. Netflix
7. Angry Birds Rio Free
8. Groupon
9. Fruit Ninja Lite
10. Twitter
iPad Apps
Top Paid iPad Apps:
1. Angry Birds HD
2. Pages
3. Angry Birds Seasons
4. GarageBand
5. Angry Birds Rio HD
6. Penultimate
7. Fruit Ninja HD
8. Cut the Rope HD
9. SCRABBLE for iPad
10. Keynote
Top Free iPad Apps
1. Angry Birds HD Free
2. The Weather Channel for iPad
3. Netflix
4. CNN App for iPad
5. Angry Birds Rio HD Free
6. Kindle
7. Skype for iPad
8. Calculator for iPad Free
9. Pandora Radio
10. Calculator Pro for iPad Free

Boingo Offering Free Wi-Fi To Nintendo 3DS Users

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:58 AM PST


If you’re in a Boingo-equipped airport this holiday, be sure to whip out your Nintendo 3DS for some hot head-to-head gaming. The Wi-Fi provider will be free to 3DS users on December 8 and allow them to download games and videos and access the Nintendo Zone (spoooky) via Wi-Fi.

The 3DS already gets free Wi-Fi at various locations including AT&T hotspots, Best Buy, and Simon Malls. You can use the 3DS to browse the Internet using the built-in browser but I wouldn’t depend on it for mission-critical activities. It is, however, a nice feature if you’re thinking of downloading a game during a layover or need to update your Pokedex.

The free service partnership will last indefinitely past the holidays.

Twitter Redesigns Around Four Concepts: Home Timeline, Connect, Discover, Me #LetsFly

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:53 AM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-08 at 9.49.55 AM

Twitter is starting to push out a significant redesign of its service that makes the interface simpler for all users across all of its platforms. The goal is to resolve complexity around concepts like the hashtag or the ‘at’ symbol.

Twitter has a new page up about the changes ( and a video, below. I’ll follow it with some screenshots. My live blog notes here.

The four key elements are a new homepage timeline, a better way to see anything related to you, an interface for easily finding context for hashtags, and a slicker user profile (as well as a fuller-featured one for brands, apparently).

I’ve just gotten access to the mobile app. Here are a few screenshots to illustrate the changes.

Home. Sweet home.

Connect. A fuller view of everything related to @ replies.

Discover. Hashtag-driven search.

Me. The new profile page.

SCVNGR’s New Mobile Payment Solution LevelUp Goes Device Agnostic With A Web App

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:39 AM PST


Back in March, SCVNGR launched a product to complement its mobile scavenger hunt called LevelUp that essentially took on Groupon and the daily deals industry with a mobile product that focused squarely on one of the biggest problems with that very industry: Customer retention and loyalty. LevelUp, and Founder Seth Priebatsch inked deals with American Express and a few others to enable users to redeem their deals by swiping their credit cards.

Fast forward to the last month of 2011 and LevelUp looks a bit different than it did at the outset. The context is simple: Mobile payment solutions stand to be a big business over the next five years, but as they stand right now, carriers and the makers of mobile OSes are finding it hard to come to terms (see Verizon’s treatment of Google Wallet), and users suffer by being subjected to these obstacles.

So, the SCVGR spin-off is today launching a mobile payments web app to complement its existing native apps to allow anyone on a web-connected device to pay with their phone — using any credit card or any web-connected device with a simple QR code.

For now (or until we see a more widespread adoption), LevelUp allows users to bypass NFC or needing specific cards to link to a certain device and carrier on a particular version of Android. Priebatsch wants to do away with the limitations imposed on mobile payments solutions by niche requirements, allowing anyone with a web-connected device (and soon an offline, HTML5 version of the app) to show up at their favorite merchants and just pay.

Building on its previous functionality, LevelUp is now combining mobile payments and loyalty rewards — as users can visit any merchant that accepts LevelUp to pay with their smartphones and save money while doing it. LevelUp is designed so that users have instant credit waiting for them the first time they use the app, with the ability to unlock further credits toward their purchases when they revisit their favorite merchants.

Merchants are able to use the solution by through a LevelUp reader or by downloading the LevelUp Merchant app, which then provides local businesses with analytics, insight into the behavior of their customers, which are their most loyal customers, savings on interchange fees, etc.

LevelUp is currently available in San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, with more than 200 merchants accepting the payments solution in Boston and Philadelphia, for example. As the second product from SCVNGR, LevelUp has access to the 2 million users and 5,000 enterprises using SCVNGR (and the nearly $20 million it’s raised in funding). SCVNGR is now at 104 employees, with 40 more joining in January to build out the LevelUp team, specifically the sales force, which will help speed up adoption among local businesses and push the product into further markets.

Priebatsch said that LevelUp has already been seeing some encouraging adoption stats, among them that 60 percent of all LevelUp customers return to merchants which they’ve already patronized, with the average LevelUp user saving $25 to $50 a month. LevelUp is currently at about 100K users a month, which the founder expects to increase as more SCVNGR users adopt and as the solution pushes into more cities.

LevelUp has partnered with T-Mobile to help it achieve national scale, and distribute the merchant-side payment solutions, which they’ve been offering at discounts — along with data plans to back the infrastructure of the LevelUp network.

Apple iOS 5 Integration Boosted Twitter’s Monthly Signups By 25 Percent

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:33 AM PST


At the Twitter news event today, the company revealed a number of compelling stats about its service, namely that its Apple iOS integration has boosted monthly signups by 25 percent globally.

Apple announced a deep integration with Twitter in iOS 5 earlier this year, which provided a single sign-on for Twitter use on the device, and with any app you download, it will just ask you for Twitter credentials and permission.

Apple also integrated Twitter into many of its own features and applications like camera and photos. You can also Tweet articles and content directly from Safari, Maps, videos from YouTube, etc and add location as well.

We know founder Jack Dorsey is extremely optimistic about the partnership and even wrote a note to third-party developers recently explaining the importance of the integration to applications.

Clearly the integration has been a big contributor to much of Twitter’s growth over the past few months. In October, CEO Dick Costolo revealed that the iOS 5 Twitter integration had already increased signups in the early days of the integration and broader release.

As you can see from the comScore chart below, saw a boost in traffic (to its web site, this doesn’t include mobile or other clients) in October, with 3.7 billion page views in October, up from 3.3 billion in September. While this doesn’t show the mobile traffic, clearly engagement with the site and service is up.

Twitter also announced that it has 700 employees now. And advertisers and brands seeing up to 50% engagement with Twitter’s ad products. The company will soon expand these products beyond just to mobile platforms as well.

Mobile Phone Payments Company Bango Signs Deal With Amazon

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:20 AM PST


Very interesting, Bango. Sometimes the biggest deals are the ones where everyone is keeping mum. That seems to be the case with this little blip of news coming out of the mobile phone payments company Bango today. The company announced it has signed a deal with, Inc. to provide “services.” And yep, that’s just about all it’s saying.

Bango provided a short statement, noting that Amazon is now a Bango customer, which makes it the third major customer to sign up for the mobile payments platform. Previously, Bango signed deals with Research in Motion (RIM) and Opera, both of which involve offering carrier billing services for those companies’ app stores. (Carrier billing is the payment mechanism that allows users to pay for purchases on their mobile phone bills.) However, in Opera’s case, customers are able to use a credit card or carrier billing to purchase apps.

Bango won’t confirm any details of the new agreement, including how much the deal is worth or even what services, specifically, it will be providing to Amazon.

But the conclusion being drawn from the news, of course, is that Bango will soon be providing carrier billing services to Amazon for its app store, the Amazon App Store for Android, which is available to any Android user (in the U.S.) as an installable app. The Store is also now a prominent feature on the company’s new Android-based tablet, the Kindle Fire. What’s interesting, however, is that the Fire doesn’t come in a 3G version, which could entail a carrier relationship. It’s a Wi-Fi only device. Perhaps Bango’s news, then, hints at something yet to come?

Then again, given that Bango also provides analytics services, it could be something less exciting (to consumers, at least) than paying for apps via your phone bill.

According to a Bango spokesperson, the company couldn’t share any information beyond what it has already provided due to “commercial sensitivities.”

“This was very much just a regulatory announcement that Bango was required to release as it is a publicly quoted company. We hope to be able to release more information in 2012,” the spokesperson said.

The full statement reads as follows:

Bango (AIM: BGO) announces today that it has signed an agreement to provide services to Amazon. The terms of this agreement are not being disclosed. The Board believes it is too early in the relationship to accurately forecast the level of business which it may generate.

A New Tokyoflash Pocket Watch For The Tubercular Steampunk Dandy In Your Life

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:18 AM PST

Planning a trip around the world in 80 days? Spending some time with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? You’re going to need this $149 Tokyoflash, touchscreen pocket watch that, is as far as I can tell, unreadable by mere mortals.

The watch comes in four colors and features a touch display to scroll through the dual-time, date, and alarm features. It’s cased in a nice steel case with mineral crystal cover and, with a bit of patience, you can learn what the heck this thing actually says. It has a back-lit LCD screen that drops into a “natural” color when unlit.

This is a limited-edition model, which makes it slightly more desirable to that special someone on your Christmas list who needs a watch to match their steam-powered mechanical arm, steel top hat, and smoked-glass monocle.

Product Page

Live At Twitter’s “Come See What We’re Building” Press Conference #LetsFly

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:14 AM PST

photo (10)

Twitter isn’t just showing off its new building today, it’s launching a major redesign. Broken into four types of areas, it includes a new home timeline, a better view of things related to you, hashtags, and a profile page (including enhanced pages for brands). The thematic hashtag is “#LetsFly.”

Live blog here. Earlier notes and photos, below.

9:15 Jack Dorsey is on stage, talking about the art deco building that we’re in now. Dick Costolo is, too.

700 employees now. Hiring a bunch. Also building out offices elsewhere. Sales and engineering office in New York. Ditto in London and Tokyo. And opening several new offices.

In September we announced we had 100 million monthly active users. Since Apple integration, monthly signups are up 25%. Global not just US.

If 2010 was the year we realized we needed a Twitter-owned experience on all our platforms. 2011 has been a year of fleshing out all the core capabilities, like native photos, URL shortener.

New ads. Revenue growing “apace.” Advertisers and brands seeing up to 50% engagement (VW launch). Going to launch to mobile, beyond Tons and tons of businesses today. Testing self-serve ads. Going to launch early next year.

9:20 On Friday afternoons, we get the whole company together, synthesize the events of the week for everyone. Starting to share stories from Twitter users with the rest of the world.

Twitter has been around for five years. We think about it a lot, how it exists today, what it can do for the world, how to build a business. Dick and the team are constantly asking ourselves these questions. We’ve made three important realizations.

- Universe within every tweet. Really a caption now. Caption that’s associated with a rich canvas. Photo. Two-pane view. Side drawer still feels disconnected from the tweet itself. We wanted an experience where the universe of the tweet was contained within the tweet. The media, the conversation, on any platform.

- People using apps and hash tags everywhere. Participatory event. No one understands what the symbols mean. How to act.

- As Twitter continues to grow around the world, we can and should have an obligation. Now 7 billion people on the planet. We need to reach the world. As a company, create the simplest, fastest service in the world that will allow us to reach every person on the planet. Went through entire service. Mobile, web, got it down to four key elements.

9:25 Launching today:

Home Timeline (browser-style “home” icon). First navigational element. Simple, clean, universe of tweet is now contained within the tweet on multiple platforms. Web site, iPhone, Android, HTML5 mobile, Tweetdeck, etc. Retweets, favorites, etc. all right there. Additionally, click on tweet, copy embed code, stick in the story. Everything follows it in. Wasn’t just a change in the interface. Not just adding a couple features to Twitter. Product engineers, infrastructure engineers focused on making it as fast as possible. Reach everyone?

Connect (@ symbol). We wanted to create the easiest way to reach others. Enter username. Or retweet. Where you’re being mentioned. Any conversations that you have. Everything that you’re doing socially on Twitter is in here.

Discover (# symbol). The newest navigation element. When people see a hashtag on a billboard, can click on the symbol, enter the tag they say, and relevant conversations will surface. Come to Twitter and want to see what’s happening in your world. More than 250 million tweets per day, we’ll surface whatever seems relevant to your world. Discover experience is personalized, so the more you engage, the more personalized they’ll become. Activities. What tweets are my friends following. Who are friends following.

Me (profile outline icon). We wanted to group everything that happens about you in one specific area. Favorites, media, tweets. Wanted to tell more compelling stories. Profile pages for individual users much richer. Media: pictures, videos, etc. Best place to represent yourself on the internet. Also for brands.

9:30 Also launching select profile pages for some partners. Bigger canvas. Much richer interaction. (Looks like Facebook Pages or MySpace profiles.) While other services add feature after feature after feature on top of each other. We’re going in the opposite direction, we’re offering more simplicity.

This new Twitter is really a foundation for us. Just like the new building isn’t just a new building, it’s the base for our future growth. Like these new products. Innovate really quickly to change the world. We’ve pushed it up even more. Tweet button everywhere in navigation, including top level. Every time you have something to tell the world, you can do it instantly. We believe and honor the power of small and simple messages to move the world. If you look back in history, some of the most moving and inspiring things have been said in less than 140 characters.

Twitter for iPhone and Android also available right now. Downloading app unlocks new version on web site. Roll out new version to 100% of users in the next few weeks.


Pre-live blog notes.

Yes, it’s at the new building on Market Street. Hilarious pun. The press conference hasn’t started so right now it’s just a bunch of Twitter employees running around chatting with press but not telling us much.

Hopefully the event isn’t just a building tour, although I have to say the company has made their sections of this old furniture warehouse are starting to look nice. The floor is still pockmarked concrete, presumably left over from the days when this was a furniture warehouse. But the windows have sleek new frames. And a cavernous middle section of the floor is all lit up in blue lights, with a fancy illustration of what it’ll look like one day in the middle.

To keep you entertained in the meantime, here are some photos I snapped when I was wandering around looking for the coffee a few minutes ago (they came out blurry because my hands haven’t had any caffeine to calm the jitters). I’ll update the post once there’s news to share.

One day this will all be yours, chief executive Dick Costolo.

Pretty lights.
Room for uptime.
Le Press Corps.

What Are The Best Startups Of 2011? #Crunchies

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:02 AM PST

Crunchies logo

As open nominations for the 5th annual Crunchies awards enters its final week (nominate here until Dec 13), it’s time to figure out which are the best startups and products of 2011. The Crunchies, which we co-host along with GigaOm and VentureBeat, has 20 categories spanning from Best Mobile App to Best VC. We’ve introduced some new categories this year such as Best Tablet App, Best Shopping App, and Biggest Social Impact. But the most anticipated awards, the ones we save for last, are Best Overall Startup and Best New Startup of 2011.

Last year, Twitter won Best Overall and Quora won Best New Startup. Who will win this year? There are plenty of amazing startups to choose from. In the Best Overall category strong contenders include Airbnb, Dropbox and Square. They each grew like crazy this year and raised tons of money. Best New Startup is a tougher category. We allow startups that either were founded or launched during the year. Some names to think about here include Pinterest,, Nest, Codecademy, Getaround, and Warby Parker.

Who do you think deserves to be named the best startup of the year? Nominate them on the Crunchies voting site and make your case in the comments below.

The 5th Annual Crunchies Awards

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA

7:30pm – midnight – Awards Ceremony and After Party
A night of celebration with festive attire.

Tickets will be released in batches starting early December. Davies Symphony Hall can seat over 2,000 attendees, double the size of previous Crunchies Awards.

Nominations open: Friday, November 18th
Nominations close: Tuesday, December 13th at 11:59pm PST
Finalists announced: early January

Our sponsors help make the Crunchies happen, if you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities during the ceremony or after-party, please contact Jeanne Logozzo at jeanne [at] techcrunch [dot] com.

For press credentials, please fill out this request form and confirmations will be sent separately via email.

Google+ Introduces Automatic Face Recognition To Photo Tagging (But It’s Completely Opt-In)

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 09:00 AM PST


No, Google is not launching super-creepy facial recognition, so put those pitchforks down. But it is introducing a new feature to Google+’s photo app, which now makes it a bit easier to quickly tag your friends. It’s called ‘Find My Face’, and while the name leads me to recall scenes in the classic Nic Cage/John Travolta film Face/Off, it’s a feature that plenty of users will find handy.

It’s pretty straightforward: opt into Find My Face, and the next time one of your friends uploads a photo that you’re in, they’ll see your name as a suggested tag. It’s very similar to the semi-automated facial tagging that Facebook launched earlier this year, though with one key difference: unlike Facebook’s feature, which automatically opted users in, Google is asking for explicit permission before it turns it on.

Of course, the fact that the feature is opt-in means that fewer people are going to be using it. Google+ will be presenting a dialog to users the next time they visit any photo on Google+, and I’m guessing that they’ll continue to present similar reminders over the coming months for any users who haven’t chosen either to explicitly opt-in, or indicated that they don’t want to. The option will show up in this settings page.

Google’s history with facial recognition is interesting — Eric Schmidt, who at the time was the company’s CEO, previously disclosed that facial recognition was the only piece of software Google had ever held back, over concerns around privacy and potential for abuse. Because this feature is opt-in, though, and is only available to people who you know (either on Google+, or its other services like GChat), the potential for abuse is minimal.

Enloop Wants To Take The Pain Out Of Writing A Business Plan

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 08:37 AM PST


Writing a business plan is no easy task — it can be painstaking. If you’ve ever written one, you’re probably familiar with the many websites that offer those static business plan and projections templates and galleries. They can be a great point of reference, but oftentimes they’re just that. Cynthia McCahon founded Enloop because she wanted to build a better resource for entrepreneurs gritting their teeth over their business plans, and because she’d watched many friends and colleagues sink time and money into business ideas that just weren’t going anywhere.

Hoping to take a bit of the emotion out of an emotional process, Enloop was founded as a way for entrepreneurs to create business plans from scratch, guide them through the business plan process, and offer a system that provides thorough and intelligent risk analysis to give founders a sense of whether or not they’re off on the right track.

Enloop’s solution is free and easy to use and automates the business plan process, because many first-time entrepreneurs just aren’t sure what to say to investors or underwriters — or how to say it. The startup’s patented system, created by MBAs, accountants, and software developers, generates the basic text of the business plan, explaining each important section to you as you change your inputs, toy with different scenarios, while Enloop automatically updates the financial data in that text as you go.

The solution also automatically creates customized financial forecasts for your business, like sales, profit and loss, cash flow, and balance sheets. Entrepreneurs can start with creating a simple plan based on annual inputs, or generate more complex forecasts up to 3 year projections for CPAs and accountants. One simple plan is free, whereas three plans and 36-month projections will cost $10 per month, and unlimited will run $40 a month.

But the real kicker is Enloop’s Performance Score (EPS), which is a FICO-style score for your business plan, which updates as you change your financial information, rising when it likes how you’re planning your business, and decreasing when you veer off the right path. The score is designed to be your devil’s advocate, your conscience — a safeguard against unstable or unworkable business plans in an attempt to save your business from the deadpool.

Today, Enloop is also announcing some new functionality to go along with its business plan forecasting and “Klout score” for business plans, as it now allows your friends and colleagues to view and edit your plan(s). With any subscription, users can share the plan with as many people as they’d like (including their their CPA, business advisor or loan officer), and once invited collaborators can edit and print the plan, with the Enloop Performance Score changing in realtime.

This is great, because you really don’t want business plan writing to be a solitary process, but at the same time, features like this are best offered for free. With Enloop generating a professionally formatted PDF document that’s ready to download, print, and share with any number of people that are critical to the process — it takes a lot of the pain out of having to string together the right words to describe the thrust of your business for investors and beyond.

And, with a predictive algorithm that offers you a reality check and a glimpse into whether or not you’re building the next Google — well, couple this with InDinero and I’d say you’ve got yourself one helluva deal.

Google Image Search Adds More Tablet-Optimized Improvements

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 08:23 AM PST


Google has updated its Google Image Search experience with a redesign targeted towards users of tablet devices, including the Apple iPad. Now, when you’re browsing through image results on your tablet computer (yep, Android tablets, too), you can tap an image result in the carousel view to expand the image on the screen. You can then begin swiping through the rest of the image search results to continue browsing.

Below each image is information about the photo itself, including the usual: title, description and URL of the page where the image is found. You can tap on the webpage preview option to visit the website hosting the image.

This new feature is an extension of Google’s previous image search enhancements for tablets from back in July. At the time, Google introduced several tablet-optimized enhancements, including larger image previews, continuous scrolling and faster loading of thumbnails.

The new image carousel is launching today in over 40 languages, says Google via blog post. Google didn’t specify which versions of Android support the update, but the video shows it running on Honeycomb.

Prepare Your Wallets: Razer’s “Blade” Gaming Laptop To Ship Soon

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 08:02 AM PST


You know what? 2011 has been a long year. With only a few more weeks to go until we ring in 2012, why not treat yourself to something nice completely ridiculous to finish out the year in style?

According to Kotaku, Razer’s high-end Blade gaming laptop will be going up for pre-order in the next few days, and should be hitting doorsteps by Christmas.

If you haven’t yet heard of the Blade (or if you’re suffering from a sticker shock-induced bout of amnesia), it’s a powerhouse of a gaming rig crammed into an aluminum body that’s less than an inch thick. It’s certainly no slouch when it comes to specs: it sports 2.8 Ghz Intel Core i7, 8GB of RAM, a 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M video card, and an 17-inch LED-backlit display. Oh, and who could forget the 10 context-sensitive touch keys to the right of the keyboard, which change depending on the game currently being played?

In fact, the Blade has only gotten better since last we saw it. Thanks to a considerable amount of media love for the gaming notebook, Razer President Min-Liang Tan says that the company has been able to renegotiate component prices and swapped the 320GB HDD for a 256GB solid-state drive without further inflating the price tag. Is that going to be enough to sway potential buyers? Probably not, but if you have $2,800 to burn, I can think of worse things to blow it on.

Social Video Sharing iOS App Klip Ups The Personalization In New Version

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST


Klip, a mobile app that allows users to capture, share, discover and view mobile videos, is releasing a new version of its iOS app with new suggested recommendations, SMS functionality and more.

Klip, which launched in September, is focused is on the discovery and providing the highest quality video streaming around for mobile device. You simply shoot a new ‘Klip’ or grab one from your Camera Roll and share it with the community, your friends on Facebook, Twitter, on your YouTube channel, or by email. Within the app, you can watch Klips from around the world, follow other Klippers, re-klip the Klips you think are worth sharing again, or stay on top of hot topics by following hashtags.

The most prominent addition to Klip’s app is the "suggested" recommendation engine, will intelligently suggest new videos, users and topics to watch and follow. Klip will suggest videos and users to you based on your interactions in the app over time.

The app also includes SMS and iMessage to invite friends, tag friends, and share videos. And you can import contacts from your email accounts (including GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL mail). The backend of the application has also been updated to support faster uploads for HD videos.

Klip just raised $8 million in Series B funding from Benchmark Capital, Matrix Partners and Alain Rossmann (the founder of the company).

ZTE To Make Big Play For U.S. Market With High-End Smartphones

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 07:15 AM PST


The U.S. mobile market is already saturated with smartphones, with players like Apple, HTC, and Samsung locked in a never-ending market share struggle. It’s a game dominated by big-name players, but according to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese hardware vendor ZTE is looking to take on all comers with a new line of high-end smartphones that will debut next year.

It’s quite the about-face for the Chinese company, whose oeuvre to date consists mostly of budget handsets and broadband modems. That’s not to say the formula hasn’t been working: aggressively-priced Android devices like the ones in ZTE’s portfolio were recently cited as one of the reasons for China’s booming smartphone market. Even so, ZTE America President Lixin Cheng sees a big opportunity for the company by diving deeper into the U.S. market.

“By 2015, we expect the U.S. to be the largest market for handsets for ZTE,” Cheng said. “Next year, we’re going to launch LTE and high-tier phones in the U.S.”

Cheng declined to go into specifics, but the considering their past offerings, ZTE-branded Android and Windows Phone devices will likely be among the company’s 2012 salvo. Even though the company is looking to go the whiz-bang route when it comes to the hardware (and possibly software, if their partnership with Mentor Graphics proves fruitful), it seems as though they intend to remain competitive as far as price. Though he doesn’t delve into specifics, Cheng mentions that the forthcoming devices will be “more affordable” than the iPhone.

I’m all for more competition in the market, but I have to wonder what sort of effect the ZTE brand will have on sales. People tend to prefer known entities when it comes to these sorts of long-term purchases — they’re comforting, and big brands can imbue owners with a sense of clout and pride that smaller brands can’t match up to. In spite of that, ZTE seems to have the wind at their backs for now: Cheng reports that sales of ZTE devices in the United States in Q3 were up 157% year-over-year.

ZTE is probably looking forward to a bumpy ride, but they can take solace in another Asian success story: HTC. The Taiwanese company went from being a relative nobody churning out nondescript Windows Mobile devices to being the biggest smartphone vendor in the United States within the span of a few years. Could ZTE pull off that same sort of meteoric rise? Possibly, but they’ll have to bring a strong device portfolio to the table next year if they want to stand a chance.

Leica Introduces V-Lux 3 Superzoom Camera

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 07:07 AM PST


Leica has just announced the V-Lux 3 superzoom camera, 12.1-megapixel CMOS camera with 4.5-108mm F2.8-5.2 lens with 1080p60 video capture. Not surprisingly, this thing is actually a rebadged Panasonic DMC-FZ150 which lends truth to the old adage “A fool and his money are easily duped by camera companies.”

While I love Leica’s traditional M-line, this move is such an egregious cash-grab that I would prefer not to comment on it further.

DODOcase For The Kindle Fire Is Ready To Disguise Amazon’s Tab As A Hardbound Book

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 06:42 AM PST


The Kindle Fire is a hit. Amazon shipped millions of the budget tabs over the last few weeks and will surely ship million more. But all those Fires shouldn’t go unprotected. Enter the DODOcase for Kindle Fire.

Like the iPad, Kindle and PlayBook editions, the $45 DODOcase for Kindle Fire is handmade in San Francisco using traditional bookbinding techniques. It also features the same bamboo frame and and fold-over flap. Monogramming is also available for a bit extra.

DODOcase hit the iPad accessory scene shortly after Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. The company nearly pioneered the “it looks like a book” iPad case. We’ve been a big fan from the beginning having found the cases to be durable and wear like a fine hardcover book. I have one on my iPad right now and Greg famously proclaimed in our official review that this case might get you laid (I can’t substantiate that claim, though).

Start-up Tripl Helps You Find Locals To Harass/Befriend

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 06:29 AM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-08 at 8.52.00 AM

So you’ve just landed in Pittsburgh and you don’t know anyone. If you’re like me, you hit the local Eat’n'Park and stare at people from your booth, crying while eating fries. With Tripl, however, I can meet some of the movers and shakers in the locality, network like a champ, and generally leave the hellscape that is my dark, lonely soul. Win-win.

The service has just come out of beta and is available to try here. To use it, you login using Facebook and recommend folks who you think are important in the places you’ve visited. They can be anyone, from VCs to raver kids. Then when you plan a trip you can see who is who in town and connect with them.

On the surface, the service makes sense: its nice to know a local. In practice? Ehhhh… maybe it’s the grump in me but I want to show someone around the neighborhood like I want a hole in the head. If you’re an extrovert, however, this is right up your alley.

There is also a network effect at work here. Tripl needs a wider user base to be actually useful in that it matches folks with each other based on a few basic characteristics. As it stands, it’s kind of a Silicon Alley/Valley sort of situation where the early adopters have shown up. I’d love to meet a museum curator in Barcelona, for example, to discuss Woody Allen over cava and octopus or perhaps a beautiful female Jai Alai player who is really a spy in Haifa who will embroil me in an international plot of intrigue and mystery. Instead it shows me Ouriel Ohayon.

It’s a fascinating concept, Tripl is, and the UI is quite smooth and attractive. Is it for me? I can respond with a resounding “maybe.” I suspect my travels will bring me to places covered by Tripl but I also have a feeling that many trips to out of the way places – where you definitely need a local to convince you not to drink yourself, Apocolypse Now-style, into a blubbering mess at the hotel bar and then go back to your room for some alone time – won’t be covered here. I could be wrong.

David Los and Peter Sullivan founded the company in Stockholm. Peter went to Sweden as a student and essentially stayed, finding the bracing air and short, riotus summers to his liking. However, like many of us, he wanted to meet other people in other cities and thus Tripl was born. It’s funded by a $300,000 angel round and run by a very small team along with some European programmers.

Give it a try and see how you like it. I’m apparently a local in New York and if you travel here I’ll be happy to suggest some places you can go, many of them that won’t be actual swear words. Technology has a tendency to pull us apart. I guess Tripl is trying, in its own convoluted way, to bring us together.

Click to view slideshow.

IBM Buys Retail Forecasting And Merchandising Software Company DemandTec For $440M

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 06:23 AM PST

Home - DemandTec

IBM has made a major purchase today in the commerce and retail world—DemandTec, a retail marketing and merchandising software company. IBM is acquiring DemandTec (which listed on the Nasdaq) in an all cash transaction at a price of $13.20 per share, or approximately $440 million.

DemandTec provides retailers and e-commerce companies with tools to transact, interact, and collaborate on core merchandising and marketing activities. DemandTec’s cloud-based analytics software allows businesses to examine different customer buying scenarios, both online and in-store, so retailers can spot trends and shopper insights to make better price, promotion, and assortment decisions that increase revenue and profitability.

For example, retailers can predict how consumers will respond to a price change before making the change. Or a merchant and supplier can work together to understand how one shopper segment differs from another to create a targeted merchandise plan.

DemandTec’s use of cloud-based price, promotion and other merchandising and marketing analytics helps companies better define the best price points and product mix based on customer buying trends. Essentially, DemandTec uses data analysis and forecasting to make the retail world smarter.

DemandTec customers include Best Buy, ConAgra Foods, Delhaize America, General Mills, H-E-B Grocery Co., The Home Depot, Hormel Foods, Monoprix, PETCO, Safeway, Sara Lee, Target, Walmart, and WH Smith. DemandTec also has a portfolio of 31 patents in the areas of pricing, response analysis, and promotion analysis.

For IBM, the acquisition is all about its smarter commerce initiative. IBM estimates the market opportunity for Smarter Commerce at $20 billion in software alone.

IBM’s recent acquisitions include Algorithmics, and Tririga.

Amazon Launches $6M ‘Fund’ To Boost Kindle Direct Publishing, Lending Library

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 06:22 AM PST


Amazon this morning announced that it has set up a $6 million annual fund dedicated to independent authors and publishers. Dubbed KDP Select, the fund aims to let indie authors and publishers “make money in a whole new way”.

Here’s how it works: if a KDP author or publisher chooses to make any of their books exclusive to the Kindle Store for at least 90 days, those books are eligible to be included in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and can earn a share of the KDP Select fund.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a kindle can borrow once a month, with no due dates.

Amazon says it expects the fund to be at least $6 million for all of 2012, but has also already allocated $500,000 for December 2011 (the new option is available starting today).

Under the terms of the program, independent authors and publishers can enroll anything from a single, self-published book or their entire catalog (if applicable).

From the press release:

The monthly royalty payment for each KDP Select book is based on that book's share of the total number of borrows of all participating KDP books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP Select books are 100,000 in December and an author's book was borrowed 1,500 times, they will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December.

Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and authors will continue to earn their regular royalties on those sales, Amazon adds.

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