Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch


The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

RadiumOne Buys Mobile Photo Sharing App Developer Focal Labs

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 10:00 AM PST

Focal Lab

RadiumOne, an online ad network that aims to combine social and intent data to serve ads, has acquired Focal Labs, the developer of the photo sharing and geo location apps Clixtr and PicBounce, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Clixtr, which launched at TechCrunch50, aims to turn smartphones into 'social cameras'. The basic idea behind the service is that when you're at an event, be it a birthday party at your home or at a massive rock concert, photos from multiple people attending could be turned into one single, centralized photo album.

To make this work, even when pictures are taken by people you do not know, Clixtr uses location as the tying factor. The app essentially combines the capabilities of the iPhone's camera and built-in GPS to geo-tag photos and determine when photos are being taken at the same location.

Picbounce allows you to upload a photo from your iPhone to Facebook or Twitter and has been downloaded more than a million times.

For background, RadiumOne mines social data and use this information to identify relevant consumers for brands. Through what founder Gurbaksh Chahal calls "social retargeting,” RadiumOne analyzes how users interact with one another on social networks to find the consumers that identify with a brand's current customer base, and then serves advertisements to this audience across the company’s network of publishers. The company just raised $21 million in new funding at a $200 million valuation.

It’s unclear how RadiumOne plans to use Focal Labs, Clixtr and PicBounce (another photo sharing app), but the company has been expanding to social, consumer-focused products as well. RadiumOne recently launched Ping, a group messaging app.

Clearly as Chahal has told us in the past, social sharing is a focal point (no pun intended) for the company and Focal Labs, which has an expertise in photo sharing apps, could help further this agenda.

Pogoplug Launches New Hardware, Brings Unlimited Storage To Your PC

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 09:18 AM PST

Series4 Hero

Pogoplug is launching the fourth generation of its flagship product today, the Pogoplug Series 4. As with all Pogoplug hardware, the new device lets you attach your hard drives and plugs into your router in order to instantly give you your own personal cloud of online storage.

The service also comes with 5 GB of free online storage optimized for mobile users, and allows you to purchase additional cloud storage, if need be. However, all users of the Pogoplug device who host their own storage, can do so for free.

The pricing for the updated Pogoplug hardware remains the same as before: $99.99. It offers four different types of connections, including USB 3.0 (x2), USB 2.0 (x1), SATA/USM (x1) and SD Card (x1).

The hardware is designed to work with Pogoplug’s accompanying software suite, a freemium offering that allows you to stream your storage photos, music and movies to any PC or Mac via the web, or to your smartphone or tablet. The premium version ($29) includes the the ability to stream to any connected device, not just home computers. And for those not interested in buying any hardware, the software can function on its own to turn your computer into a software-based version of Pogoplug.

The company also offers a cheaper Pogoplug Mobile device for $79 which works with iOS and Android via mobile apps, offering mobile-specific features like automatic backup of mobile photos and videos, which, for Android users, offers something similar to Apple’s iCloud for their platform. The mobile product also works to convert your media into streamable bite-sized formats that are better for mobile viewing and sharing.

The bigger question with Pogoplug, and its now almost dizzying (and, yeah, I’m gonna say it: confusing) array of choices is why someone would choice this option over those from cloud storage and services companies including Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Dropbox, and others?

While it’s true that those using the software only (no device) and those who want mobile-optimized content and backup, will have to pay for additional storage beyond the 5 GB, no-frills Pogoplug users get everything for free, save for the one-time purchase price involved with buying the hardware. And that is a bargain, even if Pogoplug’s cloud is not.

And Pogoplug is especially helpful for those of you who, like me, have about 5 old USB hard drives laying around the house, all with content you would like access to from anywhere, but no easy way to just get them online.

The new Pogoplug is available at

Microsoft And Nokia Team Up To Take Back The Low End

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 09:01 AM PST


Say a prayer for Android. Nokia’s new Lumia 710 Windows Phone, a $49 smartphone aimed at the feature-phone set, is about to change the way carriers sell – and customers see – cellphones. Forget LTE, dual cores, and all that flummery. Microsoft and Nokia are essentially buying a few million people stuck in the 20th century a new cellphone and they’re doing it in a way only the world’s two finest proprietors of technology to the masses could.

On the surface, the Lumia 710 is redolent of the bargain basement. The amateurish (but rugged) protruding buttons and a rubberized back are a direct attack against the carbon-fiber power slabs that most carriers are flogging while the OS is all animation and pop, aimed at a market that’s used to constantly moving images associated with ad-clogged web pages and Xbox dashboards. It is, to quote Ren and Stimpy, a jolly candy phone, priced to move and ready for the anything but iPhone crowd who, whether by dint of economics or aesthetics, don’t go much for Nexii or RAZRii either.

If you’re thinking that I’m suggesting the Lumia 710 is in any way bad or too “mainstream,” think again. Nokia and Microsoft were – and, to an extent, still are – on the ropes. Convinced for too long that their vaunted N-series was still lounging in high Olympus while it was really playing-second fiddle. It took Elop and his “sell-out” to Microsoft – whose money is helping subsidize this handset – to remake the brand.

The 710 is what Nokia does best: solid, acceptably-specced hardware at a price that’s approaching free. I would equate these phones with the long-dead Wing and Shadow, two “feature-smartphones” Microsoft belatedly tried to foist on a public salivating for the iPhone and the Nokia 5310, a music phone that circulated for a few years in the wake of the app phone revolution. Those were phones aimed at the low end at a time when the low end was looking up.

These past few years have changed the way we think about phones and, although there are cheap Android and iOS phones to be had for under $100, Nokia is really aiming at parents who may be buying their kids a new cellphone (the Xbox Live app is a huge deal) and out-of-work folks who are looking for a real smartphone experience for not a lot of money. Microsoft and Nokia excel at this.

I won’t estimate sales in the millions for this model, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slow and steady trickle of phones like the 710 in the next few years. If Microsoft knows anything it’s that low-end, commodity hardware is just fine to showcase their software and if Nokia knows anything it’s low-end, commodity hardware is a great base on which to build a business. Nokia didn’t get huge by selling the Nokia N810. They got rich selling Neo’s 7110.

That said I also feel that this is a real and credible threat to Android. A single OS provider the size of Microsoft sending out updates to an entire line, from low to high, is increasingly seeming more credible than newcomer Google pumping out Ice Cream Sandwiches and other updates to the older phones that they clearly consider dross. Microsoft, through the execrable Windows Mobile platform, learned how to code to the lowest common denominator.

Claim chowder or not, 2012 is the year of WinPho.

Nokia’s First U.S. Windows Phone Is The $50 Lumia 710 On T-Mobile

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:33 AM PST


Nokia will be officially pulling back the curtains later on tonight, but the cat’s out of the bag: the company’s first U.S. Windows Phone is the Lumia 710, which will debut on T-Mobile with a $50 price tag on January 11.

Sure, it isn’t as svelte or as colorful as its brother the Lumia 800, but the Mango-powered 710 does share the same internals. The Lumia 710 sports a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage — nothing that sounds super-impressive, but we’ve seen before that Mango doesn’t need the latest and greatest hardware in order to run like butter.

The Lumia’s 3.7-inch ClearBack LCD display and the 5-megapixel rear-mounted camera aren’t too shabby either, and the customers can pick up the entire package in black or white. We’ve seen the 710 sport some funky-colored backplates in the past too, so I wouldn’t expect the chromatically choosy to suffer without some color for long.

With the 710, Nokia and T-Mobile have set their sights on first-time smartphone owners (a Nokia data sheet calls them “smartphone intenders”), and T-Mobile customers could do far worse for $50. Going after beginner smartphone users is a solid strategy for Nokia (and Microsoft by extension) — if they can get first-timers hooked on the simple, elegant functionality that Windows Phone is known for, they may be able to lock down those users for the long haul.

Google Map Maker Gets A Makeover, Is Now Easier To Use

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:31 AM PST

Screen shot 2011-12-13 at 10.42.28 AM

Google Map Maker, the still somewhat undiscovered gem of Google Maps which allows users to create and edit maps, is getting its new Google makeover today. Following the redesigns of other top Google properties including Gmail, Docs, YouTube and Reader, Map Maker’s updated user interface is meant to be easier on the eyes, while also increasing the service’s usability.

Map Maker, which launched in the U.S. in April of this year, is largely meant to extend the Google Maps service into countries where there isn’t much data, namely, emerging markets. In these regions, users can hand-edit Google Maps using an online tool, submitting details about roads, points of interest, features near a point and even geographic boundaries. These edits are moderated by Google, and, after approval, go live for all users of Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Maps for Mobile.

In the U.S., however, the feature was limited to map edits, not creation, allowing users to add greater detail to an area for things like bike paths, walking trails, campus maps, and other areas and features that aren’t traditionally found on maps.

With today’s update, the service has been improved, with a particular focus on first-time users. There’s now a new pop-up box that appears on the screen when you first visit the website, walking you through the tool’s use. In five screens, Google explains the icons used, how you add and edit places, add roads, and review edits by others. And it’s all so darned pretty. (Google is getting pretty – this still seems weird.)

Google Map Maker is now live in over 180 countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

Zendesk Ramps Up Social In Customer Support Platform With Facebook Integration

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST


Customer support startup Zendesk is debuting Zendesk for Facebook, which allows customer service teams to engage with Facebook users from within the startup’s popular help-desk platform. Launched in 2008, Zendesk offers a web-based, SaaS-delivered help desk and support ticketing application that gives companies a simple way to manage incoming support requests from end customers.

There’s no doubt that social media is a large part of customer service, and brands and companies need to keep a close eye on what customers are talking on services like Facebook and Twitter about so they can be part of the conversation.

With Zendesk for Facebook, support teams can respond to Facebook wall posts from within the customer support system. Facebook has been a long-awaited integration for the support SaaS; Zendesk added Twitter data and functionality in 2010.

Zendesk now has than 10,000 customers (including Adobe, MSNBC, Sony, OpenTable and Groupon) and offers both plans for small businesses and enterprise companies. To date, Zendesk has raised $26 million to date from Matrix Partners, Benchmark Capital and Charles River Ventures.

Samsung, Please Don’t Ruin Ice Cream Sandwich With TouchWiz

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:57 AM PST


If you’re anything like me and you’ve fallen in love with Ice Cream Sandwich’s looks, then seeing what Samsung has done to it may be a bit of a heartbreaker. SamMobile managed to get their hands on what seems to be an developer build of Android 4.0 with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI running on top of it, and have loaded it up on a Galaxy S II to play with.

Frankly, I think TouchWiz just ruined everything.

On the one hand, I can’t blame Samsung for wanting to bring TouchWiz to Ice Cream Sandwich. The UI has, for better or worse, appeared on nearly all of the company’s flagship smartphones and one could argue that it has become part of a Samsung device’s identity.

But here’s the problem: Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t really look anything like the Android versions of the past, and that’s part of what makes it so appealing. It oozes a sense of freshness that I as a long-time Android user find reinvigorating, and Samsung wants to cover it up with an updated version of the same UI we’ve seen for years.

Let it breathe, guys! I’m not saying that TouchWiz needs to die, but Samsung should poke a few holes in it and let some of Ice Cream Sandwich’s style show through.

Now in fairness, TouchWiz doesn’t seem to rid the device of ICS’s design flair entirely. The Roboto typeface is still there, as are a few tinges of neon blue scattered throughout the device. And yes, all of ICS’s lauded improvements haven’t been messed with — the fast app switcher and Face Unlock are present and accounted for.

For all I know, I could be in the minority. Maybe most people would rather have bright friendly icons rather than a vaguely Tron-inspired design. But visually, Ice Cream Sandwich is a pretty bold step for Google — why not add to it instead of just covering it up wholesale?

SamMobile notes that the build that they played with is dated December 7 — there’s really no way to tell how far along Samsung is in the process, although a few force close issues means it’s not quite ready for primetime yet. Motorola and Sony Ericsson have outlined the amount of sheer work that goes into preparing an Ice Cream Sandwich update for their devices, and it’s likely that some things will change before Samsung’s update is pushed out. I’m not holding my breath for a massive redesign, but nevertheless, a nerd like me can dream.

If you’ve got a Galaxy S II and nothing to lose, SamMobile has made the ROM available for you adventurous users to download and install. Be careful though: it’s not meant to be a daily driver, and not everything works the way it should.

Facebook’s Leftovers? Social Network Tagged Acquires hi5

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:35 AM PST


Social networking service Tagged, Inc. announced it has acquired the social game network hi5 today, doubling Tagged’s monthly active users to 20 million. The combination will also increase the total number of registered users to 330 million, up from 100 million.

According to The WSJ’s report, the deal’s terms were not disclosed, but include the hi5 website and user base.

Hi5 used to be among the top three social networks in 2008, behind MySpace and Facebook, but suffered as Facebook began to move into international markets. Since then, hi5 has tried to remain competitive by reinventing itself as a social gaming company. In February of 2010, it acquired the social game developer Big Six, whose platform was to become a part of the hi5 network. Earlier in the year, the company suffered from layoffs and also hired a new CEO, Bill Gossman.

With the focus on gaming, hi5 closed an additional round of funding in July 2010, raising $14 million. The round, led by Crosslink Capital, brought the social network's funding to over $34 million. It also appeared to include the $3 million in debt funding raised from Mohr Davidow in April 2010.

Sadly, it was all for naught. By September, the company confirmed “significant layoffs” where 29 people (19 FT) were let go.

Tagged, meanwhile, has been growing. In January, it doubled staff and gave out raises, acquired social networking client Digsby in the spring, and, more recently, acquired the machine learning company Topicmarks.

Tagged has a small U.S. presence, with about 30% of its user base located here. But the network is popular in Southeast Asia, South America as well as in some European countries like Spain, Portugal and Romania. Only 10% of its user base overlaps with hi5, which is what made the deal appealing. Post-acquisition, Tagged will leave hi5′s website up and running, allowing users to enter the Tagged site through hi5′s domain.

Tagged’s revenue was $33 million in 2010, and CEO Greg Tseng told the WSJ he expects it to be between $43 million and $45 million in 2011. Unlike Facebook, which is focused on connecting people who know each other, San Francisco-based Tagged is designed to be a network for meeting new people through games, gifts, browsing features and more.

A Look At The Radical HP Rebranding That Never Was

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 07:32 AM PST


HP is currently a company without a strong identity. This comes after a decade of products and CEOs that each fumbled in one way or another. The company needs to make a sharp statement and emerge from the doldrums that has seemingly trapped the iconic Palo Alto company. The purposed logo and rebranding (videos below) shown here would be a great first start.

The story goes that the designs shown here were drawn up by Moving Brands and released a few months back (prior to the ousting of Apotheker.) The abstract four line logo is a clever play on the classic HP logo using a 13-degree slant, which is already a common feature in many HP products. As The Verge notes, it’s a bold design and perhaps one that’s too radical for the slow-moving corporate machine that is HP. But it’s hard to look at that logo and not dream of HP rising from the ashes with those four lines proudly displayed on its standards waving over the consumer electronics battlefield.

HP’s current CEO, Meg Whitman, has the daunting task of steering HP. She’s the fifth leader in as many years with the task. So far during her time at HP’s helm the company’s stock has slowly regained lost value. One of her first major announcements was that HP’s personal systems group, the part of the company that makes PCs, would stay within HP rather than being spun off. She is in a sense reorganizing HP, an HP that needs rebranding as much as it needs to stop hawking printer ink that costs more than the printers themselves.

Moving Brands details their purposed rebranding here. Apparently the project began way back in 2008 and was just recently released to the public. Clearly the new logo and branding has not been implemented, and seeing how the design company released it themselves, HP will probably never use it. Companies tend to package rebranding with a major marketing campaign to maximize exposure. But HP needs to do something along these 13 degree lines. They might make capable computers but there is little excitement around the brand.

UnderConsideration astutely notes that “HP's logo has been around for so long that it's not really questionable anymore, it just is and it just exists.” Per Moving Brand’s charts, the slated HP letters first appeared in 1941. Over the years the two letters have seen little change, more often updates involved adding and remove a surrounding shape like a rectangle or circle. But the two letters, H-P, representing the company’s founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, have remained constant. And they should. However, HP is a stale, lifeless machine and needs a shot of energy. Whether HP will ever implement Moving Brands’ four line logo (they won’t), or instead uses something different, the logo and HP brand need to evolve to help springboard the company into a new era of exciting products — yeah, the logo is just the start, and HP actually needs to make exciting products as well but that’s a topic for another “HP Sucks” post.

GroupTalent’s Hiring Marketplace Now Automatically Matches People With Jobs

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:50 AM PST


Talent drain? That’s what they’re saying. The explosion of early stage startups has made it harder for companies to find the best engineers and designers because everyone’s trying to do their own startup. GroupTalent (a startup, of course) wants to be the solution for that.

In an effort to make the process of finding work even less painful than before, today the company is launching a newly revamped website which introduces a matching algorithm that automatically pairs projects and talent together.

GroupTalent doesn’t want to be considered as just another job board or hiring marketplace. Unlike oDesk or Elance, where there’s more emphasis on catering to employers looking for freelancers, at GroupTalent, there’s more of a focus on the talent itself. Most of the startup’s market comes from early stage founders who are looking for gigs to help them extend their runway, says Manuel Media, GroupTalent CEO.

“The majority of our talent base are teams from startups who are bootstrapping,” he says. “Many are funded, many are from accelerator programs such as YC, TechStars, 500 Startups, and then there are those who are just getting started. Most of them are tired of ramen.”

In other words, just because it’s increasingly hard to recruit someone talented willing to work full-time, that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented folks willing to work.

The biggest difference between GroupTalent and other job boards is the curation aspect to the service. Only 20% of all applicants get in, as the company denies those it doesn’t believe meets a certain quality bar. This filtering process is currently done through manual review in combination with some algorithms that rank the applicants based on open source contributions.

To date, GroupTalent has received applications from over 500 developers and designers from 300 teams who have completed $200,0000 worth of projects. Typically, projects submitted range from $10,000 to $100,000.

With today’s addition of the automatic job-matching feature, the company is able to match projects with talent who already know their way around a given problem space.

For now, explains Medina, “the demographic that we've found gravitating to our service early on is other startups who want a specialist to knock out an entire app,” he says. “In the future, we believe a good customer segment for us will be larger companies who want to bring in experienced developers to move quickly and build out an idea in the fraction of the time an internal team would take. Sort of startups-for-hire.”

You can check out the new refresh of GroupTalent here.

The first 10 companies to submit projects using the code TALENTCRUNCH will not be charged for the standard match and management fee (a 20% discount).

SAY Media Acquires ReadWriteWeb

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:40 AM PST


Anthony Ha, who previously worked for tech blog Venturebeat, reports on Adweek that SAY Media has acquired tech blog ReadWriteWeb. He also says Dan Frommer, former editor at tech blog Silicon Alley Insider and founder of tech blog SplatF, will be joining tech blog ReadWriteWeb as its new editor-at-large. The news comes shortly after Marshall Kirkpatrick, who has long been a senior writer for tech blog ReadWriteWeb after working as a reporter for tech blog TechCrunch, announced that he would be leaving his fulltime position at tech blog ReadWriteWeb.

Sarah Perez, who recently joined tech blog TechCrunch after writing for tech blog ReadWriteWeb, says she has no comments to share about the deal for the time being.

Update: looks like Adweek pulled the story after prematurely pulling the trigger. Press release below and RWW blog post here.

Founded in 2003 by Richard MacManus, ReadWriteWeb has grown into one of the most popular tech blogs in the world, currently ranking #10 on the Techmeme leaderboard.

(On a sidenote: looks like there aren’t a lot of big, independent tech blogs left now)

We’re trying to get a hold of tech blogger Dan Frommer for an official statement on his role at the newly acquired tech blog. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

I’m guessing Ha moved (a little too?) fast, because there aren’t any official statements on the SAY Media blog or tech blogs ReadWriteWeb and SplatF yet. Expect some soon.

Say Media, which is the result of a merger of Six Apart and VideoEgg, has been on an acquisition spree of late. The company has picked up companies like Dogster, Sideshow and Remodelista.

Update: here’s the press release:

SAY Media Acquires ReadWriteWeb

SAN FRANCISCO – Dec. 14, 2011 – SAY Media today announced it has acquired ReadWriteWeb, one of the most popular and influential technology publications in the world, to anchor its growing Technology channel that reaches more than 75 million global consumers each month. Founder and editor-in-chief Richard MacManus will continue to lead ReadWriteWeb as part of SAY Media's rapidly expanding editorial team. In addition to ReadWriteWeb’s current staff, new star writers will contribute to the renowned technology publication, starting with Dan Frommer, founder and editor-in-chief of SplatF, who will serve as editor-at-large.

"ReadWriteWeb has established itself as a leading news and analysis source for the tech community, reaching high-level business influencers and decision makers. Its editorial team is frequently sourced and considered to be one of the best in the business," said Matt Sanchez, CEO, SAY Media. "As we looked to acquire a property that would further strengthen our technology channel, ReadWriteWeb naturally rose to the top of the list. Richard and his team are extremely passionate about the content they create and have worked very hard to develop a deeply engaged and informed community of tech enthusiasts."

As part of SAY Media's portfolio of owned and operated media properties, ReadWriteWeb will take advantage of the company's proprietary technology platform, experienced ad sales team, and world-class design expertise to scale its business to reach more technology enthusiasts and decision-makers. Under SAY's guidance, the site will continue to evolve through design and user experience innovations that align with SAY's Clean Campaign vision, and also expand its editorial scope to appeal to a wider array of technology consumers.

"We're incredibly excited to be joining SAY Media and believe this partnership will help us better serve our community of readers," said Richard MacManus, founder and editor-in-chief, ReadWriteWeb. "With SAY's technology and services we'll be able to scale ReadWriteWeb in ways previously unavailable to us. We'll now be able to expand our editorial scope into relevant areas of interest and redesign the site to create a more premium experience for both our readers and advertisers."

This acquisition will strengthen SAY's Tech channel offering by giving brands an assortment of custom advertising opportunities that leverage the influence and authority of voices like Richard MacManus and Dan Frommer and the reach of SAY's broader network of technology properties to connect brands with engaged audiences. Current sites in SAY Media's Tech channel include: Android and Me, Gear Patrol, gdgt, SplatF, TechDirt and more.

"ReadWriteWeb covers the tech industry with a high level of integrity and intellectual curiosity. I can’t wait to add my voice to the site, as I report on technology trends around the world," said Dan Frommer, founder and editor-in-chief, SplatF and editor-at-large, ReadWriteWeb.

As SAY continues on its path to become the undisputed home of passion-based, vertical media properties, the company will continue to partner with, build and acquire sites that create quality content with a point-of-view and maintainvibrant, engaged communities.

About ReadWriteWeb
ReadWriteWeb is one of the most popular technology blogs in the world, known for offering insightful analysis about each day’s Internet industry news. ReadWriteWeb was founded in April 2003 by Richard MacManus and is now one of the most widely read and respected blogs in the world. Its readers are smart and influential decision makers. For more information visit

About SAY Media
SAY Media is a digital publishing company that turns strong, culturally relevant voices into premium digital media experiences. Through its technology platform and media services, SAY enables its portfolio of independent content creators to build passionate communities around key consumer interest areas such as Style, Living, Food and Tech. The company provides simple and accountable ways for the world's top brands to engage with these passionate audiences, at scale, with a reach of more than 500 million people around the world. SAY Media is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices across North America, in the UK and Australia. For more information visit:

Microsoft Debuts SkyDrive App On Windows Phone And iOS

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:38 AM PST


Microsoft doesn’t seem to have much in the way of cross-platform animosity any more. Case in point, the company’s SkyDrive team recently launched both a Windows Phone and iOS version of their SkyDrive online file storage application.

SkyDrive is the latest in a line of Microsoft applications that have made an appearance on iOS, with others including the (rather nice) Xbox Live app and Kinectimals.

Aside from the obvious stylistic changes, the WP7 and iOS versions pack the same functionality. Setup is dead simple: if you have a Windows Live account, then you also have a SkyDrive account just waiting to be filled with documents and silly photos. All it takes is a quick log-in to be able to start storing and sharing your myriad files online.

Users can upload files, organize them into folders, and share them with friends and colleagues. Navigating through SkyDrive is pretty straightforward too, so even the most stubborn file sharers should have an easy time getting into the swing of things.

SkyDrive is a pretty notable addition to the Windows Phone marketplace, as similar online file storage services like Dropbox and haven’t yet found their way to Microsoft’s mobile OS. The iOS version is a tougher sell considering all of the available alternatives, but it could be a great solution for certain use cases. If you’re constantly juggling multiple phones for example, having SkyDrive installed could be one of the quickest ways to get files from a Windows Phone to an iPhone. Sadly, Android hasn’t yet felt the SkyDrive love, so people looking for a more comprehensive solution should choose their cloud-based file dump carefully.

Former AOL Exec David Eun Lands EVP Gig At Samsung

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:14 AM PST


Ex-Googler and previously head of AOL Media and Studios – and I guess you could say the former boss of my boss’s bossDavid Eun has been appointed Executive Vice President at consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronics.

At Samsung, Eun will be helping the company develop a ‘global media strategy’ for its array of digital TVs, smartphones, tablets and other connected devices.

Eun left – or was forced to leave – AOL in February 2011 after the company’s Media Group was restructured around Huffington Post after the latter’s $315 million acquisition by AOL.

LA-Based Startup Accelerator Amplify Launches $4.5M Fund With Backing From Mark Burnett, Brian Grazer, Eric Schmidt

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:10 AM PST


Another startup accelerator is debuting in LA today—Amplify. With the backing of some well-known Hollywood and Silicon Valley names, the Venice Beach-based incubator is launching a $4.5 million incubator and fund. Investors include Mark Burnett (Apprentice, Survivor), Brian Grazer, Jarl Mohn, Accel Partners, BV Capital, Greycroft Partners, Rustic Canyon, Tomorrow Ventures (Eric Schmidt), Tim Draper, Gordon Crawford, Vivi Nevo, Paige Craig, Diego Berdakin and Tom McInerney.

The accelerator, which is being managed by Paul Bricault and Richard Wolpert, will be looking to incubate and invest in companies at the intersection of technology and entertainment.

Amplify will provide portfolio companies with four months of intense collaboration and mentorship with each startup receiving up to $50,000 in seed capital, office space, weekly mentor meetings with entrepreneurs and a 3-year hiatus on city taxes

"Digital entrepreneurship is really starting to blossom in Venice with the likes of Amplify and Google," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "As a high-tech incubator, Amplify will help nurture a new generation of businesses, creating more jobs and more opportunity right here in Los Angeles."

As more incubators launch in the LA area it should be interesting to see the startups and ideas that start emerging from the area. Former MySpace CEO and serial entrepreneur Mike Jones recently debuted Science, a Santa Monica-based technology studio for startup ideas.

Burnett says of the incubator: “The convergence of tech and entertainment is finally happening in Los Angeles, and I couldn’t be more excited to help Amplify bring these worlds together," said.

Roku Keeps The Updates Rolling, Adds More Motion Games, MKV Support And Soon, An iPhone App

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:08 AM PST


Roku is back with yet another update for the company’s tiny media streamers. This update adds a bunch of welcomed features to the Roku 2 and Roku LT including games and system enhancements.

Roku introduced games to its platform with its latest generation of streamers. But so far the only official game has been Angry Birds, which, you know, is also playable on your smartphone, browser, tablet, and probably some refrigerators. However, this update brings Downhill Bowling 2, Castle Warriors and Frisebee Forever and are all designed to work with the motion control Game Remote.

Update 4.2 also adds MKV playback from USB sources and improved WiFi performance. It also address the battery life of the Bluetooth Game Remote and intermittent audio drop-outs. Lastly, the new firmware paves the way for iOS and an Android remote with the former launching relatively soon.

The update is slated to roll out within the next 48 hours and notes in its official release that users can check for the update through the Software Update option in the Settings menu.

Lightbank Backs Belly, A Customer Loyalty And Rewards Platform For Local Businesses

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:00 AM PST


A new Chicago-based startup is emerging today as a contender in the local business customer loyalty and rewards space. Belly (formally Bellyflop) is hoping to replace those old punchcards you receive at local merchants. And the startup is debuting with an investment from Lightbank, the venture firm founded by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. While the exact amount of the investment was not disclosed, we understand it is in the seven-figures.

Belly wants to reinvent customer loyalty rewards through gamification and digital check-ins. But the startup has a slightly different take on how to achieve this. Here’s how Belly works. Belly offers a quick-setup, plug-and-play rewards platform to merchants. Part of this is an in-store iPad (which Belly supplies) that is used to validate paying customers right at the point of sale, and serves as a check-in point. Belly will also train employees to encourage them to participate in the program.

Merchants pay a monthly subscription unlimited Belly cards to hand out to customers, in-store marketing materials and secure access to customer data that reveals sales, points and redemption data, as well as insights into foot traffic and card usage patterns. Businesses can even use Belly data to send out push-notifications about exclusive promotions and other rewards to Belly customers.

On the consumer side, to check in, customers can scan their smartphone at an in-store iPad POS and with each check-in, you get closer to a specific milestone, and reward (as stipulated by the business). You simply scan a Belly card (provided by the merchant), or use Belly’s iPhone or Android Apps on the businesses’ Belly iPad app (which sits next to the register). Once you check-in you accumulate points, and can start earning rewards.

On the Belly mobile apps themselves, you can simply open the app and see a list of merchants that are Belly users by your location. The app completely replaces the merchant card at all of these businesses. With the Belly card, you have one universal rewards card (that is attached to your email) which can be used at all participating Belly merchants.

As co-founder and CEO Logan LaHive explains, consumers don't want to carry several different cards, and businesses need a loyalty system that everyone can use. And businesses are able to tailor their rewards program.

Currently rewards at businesses range from a comic book store that offers customers a chance to punch the owner in the stomach, to a bakery that rewards customer 10 minutes all you can eat cupcakes. You can arm wrestle a sandwich restaurant owner or ride along in a food truck that will let its best customers "egg" the truck as it drives by. Belly works closely with each individual business to ensure the rewards are unique and personalized to that business.

Currently Belly already has been installed at 285 businesses in the Chicago area and nearly 50 new businesses are being added to Belly every week, along with 500 new users a day. In just 12 weeks since its pilot launch, Belly has more than 18,000 users and 50,000 check-ins. LaHive says that many of the stores are seeing more check-ins through Belly than Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla combined. Belly plans to expand nationally in the next few months.

One of the added bonuses for businesses is that they can see when each customer is checking-in, how often and more. Businesses can get a clear view of their most loyal and valuable customers. another data area where Belly may expand into is transaction data. Currently the app doesn’t track what the customer actually bought but is looking to integrate with Point of Sale systems in the future.

Belly faces competition LevelUp, Perka, PerkVille, PunchTab and others.

iSwifter Partners With Discovery To Launch iPad Browser For Educational Content, Rover

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:59 AM PST


iSwifter, an iPad app that allows developers to stream flash games to the tablet device, is debuting Rover, an iPad browser that gives educators and students access to Flash-based educational content on the device. 

The startup has partnered with Discovery Education, FunBrain, Mathletics developer 3P Learning to create content for the new app.

As we’ve written in the past, iSwifter allows users to browse, play and rate Flash games from gaming portals on the web, with each game optimized for iPad. The startup actually spun out of incubator YouWeb last year. With iSwifter, Flash does not run on the device at all but it is streamed to the tablet just like a Netflix movie or a YouTube video.

With Rover, educators can develop and customize lesson plans that deliver both Flash and non-Flash based content on the iPad. And iSwifter says the app is compliant with schools' firewalls, making it possible for educators to access the same Flash-based online learning content already used on classroom PCs.

Discovery Education has begun using Rover to deliver Flash-based learning apps, lesson plans and materials that enable teachers and students to move beyond the traditional textbook.

Cost Of U.S. Consumer Electronics Returns Estimated To Reach $16.7 Billion In 2011

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:56 AM PST


While consumer electronics (CE) merchandise returns are often an overlooked scenario for consumers they are undoubtedly top of mind for manufacturers and retailers because of their billion dollar price tag. "Put another way, manufacturers spend about 5 percent to 6 percent of revenues to manage all aspects of a customer return. For retailers, returns represent approximately 2 percent to 3 percent of sales," according to a new study put out by Accenture.

What's more shocking is that, typically, only 5% of those returns are due to defective products. The other 95% of returns are either because of product frustration or buyer's remorse. In the end, the items make their way back to stores in good shape but at a cost to retailers and manufacturers, the study continues.

The report, based on several Accenture surveys and a few older 3rd party studies, does offer several "prevention-based" solutions to alleviate the situation for both retailers and manufacturers alike.

And while one of the report's major recommendations is for increasing metrics (which has a tiny element of "sales-y-ness" to it—after all, metrics and logistics are Accenture's gig) I have to admit, it makes sense within the context of the report. Being empowered with statistics on return histories would be powerful information to have as you plot supply chain course changes. The other detailed recommendations of encouraging and empowering consumer research, creating more accurate advertisements, and developing more involved customer service routines also make sense to this blogger.

As we speed toward the holidays and the gadget Mecca that is CES, gadgets are on all of our minds for sure. Honestly, how can it be avoided when it seems like you can't get through a single NFL game on television without being exposed to 15 mobile phone commercials that all talk about benefits, but not about of the reality of the device. It's no wonder that many consumers are confused about what they are getting.

The paper is definitely not some Aristotelian epic but it is a quick, decent read and it brought awareness to a concept I hadn't thought about before…nestled all snug in my insulated consumer experience. The bottom line of this report is that, in their lust to sell, CE retailers and manufacturers would be wise to do so with an eye toward preventing the return. That's good advice.

The Rise Of The “Creative” Class

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:53 AM PST


LinkedIn has put out its annual list of top buzzwords (over)used on members’ professional profiles. The top word people in the U.S. use to describe themselves on LinkedIn? “Creative.” That word did not even make the top ten list last year, when “Extensive Experience” topped the list.

And it’s not just the U.S. If you look at the country breakdown, this was the most used word in economies such as the U.S., UK, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany. (People in Spain like to think of themselves as more “Managerial;” India, “Effective;” Brazil, “Multinational;” France, “Dynamic”).

I think it’s telling that so many professionals are trying to identify themselves as part of the creative class. In a time of high unemployment when traditional skills can be outsourced or automated, creative skills remain highly sought after and highly valuable. We all want to be part of the creative class of programmers, designers, and information workers. The term used to mean artists and writers. Today, it means job stability.

Zipcar Acquires Controlling Stake In Spain’s Largest Car Sharing Operator

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:23 AM PST


Car sharing network operator Zipcar this morning announced the exercise of its option to purchase a majority ownership interest in Barcelona-based Catalunya Carsharing, better known as Avancar, after investing in the company almost exactly two years ago.

In fact, the option had been extended for an extra year after Zipcar decided last year it wouldn’t yet exercise it, opting instead to give Avancar a loan that could be converted into equity.

As things stand today, Zipcar owns a controlling stake of 60 percent in Avancar, which operates a fleet of vehicles throughout the cities of Barcelona and Sant Cugat del Valles.

Said Scott Griffith, chairman and CEO of Zipcar:

“We expect Barcelona to be a top tier car sharing city in the years to come and a key part of our developing network of European cities. With the integration of our acquired U.K. operations completed, we have shifted our focus to expanding our European reach.”

Avancar was founded in 2005 to become the first car sharing operator in Spain.

Also read: Zipcar Members Can Now Reserve A Car On Facebook

No comments:

Post a Comment