Friday, December 23, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

€1,275 BlackBerry Porsche P’9981 Will Launch In U.K. By Year’s End

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 07:49 AM PST

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Pop quiz, phone fans: what device will you soon be able to buy in the U.K. that costs nearly twice as much as a Galaxy Nexus and looks three (maybe four!) times stranger? Well, if you’ve read the headline, you already know the answer: it’s the BlackBerry Porsche P’9981.

T3 reports that high-end retailer Harrod’s will be carrying the love-it-or-hate-it device in store by the end of the year. What really gets me is the price tag for it: the Porsche will sell for €1,275 ($1,662, or £1,021).

Wow. Let’s take a step back and consider that for a moment. For the same price you could spend on a BlackBerry Porsche, you could buy both an iPhone 4S and a Galaxy Nexus with enough left over to swing round Tesco and buy a few boxes of Jaffa Cakes. Tell me, UK readers, which would you rather do?

The Porsche P’9981, if you recall, is a limited edition BlackBerry designed in conjunction with the style mavens at Porsche Design. While the P’9981′s looks are… striking, the internals (1GHz processor, a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video, and an NFC chip) don’t do much to differentiate it from its less-gaudy brethren. I’d be surprised if Harrod’s managed to sell more than three of these things, but alas, I am but a poor writer and have no appreciation for the finer things in life.



How Best Buy Stole Christmas

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 07:32 AM PST

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“I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.”

There’s a bit of inherent risk when shopping online. You’re handing over your credit card to a retailer that promises to ship you something in return. Most of the time transactions are completed without issue and orders are fulfilled as promised. Sometimes things go awry, though. And sometimes Best Buy ruins Christmas.

Best Buy started reaching out to customers earlier this week — you know, mere days before Christmas — that the retailer was unable to fulfill orders placed as far back as November. Big Blue was sorry but they were canceling the affected orders. Happy holidays! Signed, your merry friends at Best Buy!

Consumers traded the safety of buying an object from a brick and mortar store for the convenience and often lower prices found online. As Best Buy proves here, buying items online is still a bit risky even in 2011. Consumers just do not know for a 100% fact that they will get their product. Sure, receipts are issued and shipping estimates are given, but there are just too many variables involved for complete trust. Shipping companies can also break the chain, too. You just never know if the FedEx man is going to chuck your LCD monitor over a gate.

Generally though, the bigger the retailer, the more safe the transaction feels. Amazon, Walmart, Newegg and, to a lesser extent now, Best Buy should be considered trusted retailers. These massive companies should be able to fulfill online orders with minimum exceptions. But issues do arise. Customers are sometimes left without their order, feeling used and abused.

Don’t worry about Best Buy, though. The retailer isn’t hurting its bottom line by canceling orders en mass. The Wall Street Journal quotes an analyst stating “It’s a hiccup for the company” and “It probably won’t make a big difference for Best Buy’s holiday sales.” Oh good. Because Best Buy’s earnings were the first things I thought of when this story broke. Screw the customers. They don’t matter anyway.

Apparently if those with canceled orders whine enough, Best Buy will issue them a gift card for the inconvenience. Of course those that suck it up and move on get nothing.

There’s no way of knowing how many of these canceled orders were to be holiday presents. Reportedly many of the canceled items were sold on Black Friday. But even without Christmas looming, Best Buy held these orders hostage for nearly a month. They violated the trust of their customers. The retailer essentially cast a wide net, collecting just as many orders as they could, likely knowing it would be unable to fulfill them all. It’s greedy, unacceptable and just plain wrong. Merry Christmas.

Oh, and just in case you need help, the CEO of Best Buy posted a tip to his Facebook page.



No Ice Cream Sandwich For Galaxy S And Galaxy Tab, Says Samsung

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 07:00 AM PST

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Sorry Galaxy S owners — even though your device has a near-identical spec sheet to the ICS-friendly Nexus S, Samsung has announced on their corporate blog that the company’s first Galaxy device won’t be getting the offical bump to Android 4.0.

The original Galaxy S isn’t the only one to get the snub, as the 7-inch Galaxy Tab won’t be able to join in the fun either.

It looks like TouchWiz deserves most of the blame here — according to Samsung Tomorrow, neither device has enough RAM or ROM to accomodate TouchWiz and all of its Samsung-designed accoutrements without affecting the quality of use. Considering that the myriad U.S. variants of the Galaxy S run with similar hardware, it’s doubtful that all you hold-outs with your Captivates and Epic 4Gs will get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich either, lest you shell out for some new devices.

So what’s a Galaxy S loyalist to do? Well, if you’re dead set against swapping handsets and you dislike TouchWiz anyway (like me), there’s always the custom ROM route. Once TouchWiz is removed from the picture, the Galaxy S seems totally capable of running a vanilla version of Ice Cream Sandwich without too many headaches. As GSMArena points out, the experience isn’t completely without hiccups, but the end result doesn’t look too shabby at all.



VideoCam3D For iOS Lets You Shoot & Convert Movies To 3D

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 06:47 AM PST

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NXP Software, developer of the CineXPlayer mobile application, is launching a new iOS app for recording and converting video into 3D. The app, VideoCam3D, lets you record in both blue/red and split screen 3D and works in conjunction with the CineXPlayer video viewing app, which also supports 3D movie playback.

While you obviously need an iOS device with a camera in order to record in 3D, those with iOS devices that lack a camera (like the older model iPad and iPod Touches) can still use the app for 3D conversions. Using iTunes’ “file sharing” feature, you can connect your device to your PC or Mac in order to import videos you recorded elsewhere, then convert them to 3D using the app.

For those unfamiliar, file sharing is the feature in iTunes that lets you transfer files between an iOS device and a computer via supported apps. It’s located on the “Apps” tab for your device in iTunes.

There are just a few video controls in VideoCam3D: a slider bar for 3D “Intensity,” the output type (glasses or split screen) and the intended viewing device (mobile, tablet or TV). When the conversion is complete, the movie is saved to your camera roll, if available, as well as within the app for transfer back to the PC.

The lite (free) version of the app will allow you to try, convert and play, but the paid ($0.99) app lets you save and share the 3D movies you make VideoCam3D from here in iTunes.

Demo video below (note, not my cat):



Patent Troll Sues Google, Groupon

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 06:38 AM PST

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Sigh. Here we go again.

A patent troll called Mount Hamilton Partners has filed two separate patent infringement lawsuits against daily deals juggernaut Groupon and Google, which also operates a digital couponing business called Google Offers.

Mount Hamilton Partners, which purports to be an ‘investor in technology companies’ on its website, garnered headlines about two and a half years ago when it sued OpenTable right before the restaurant reservation service provider went public. Now they’re going after Google and Groupon.

The patent in both cases is U.S. patent 7,904,334, entitled "System and method for reducing excess capacity for restaurants and other industries during off-peak or."

In the filings, Mount Hamilton Partners argues that the fact that services like Groupon and Google Offers help restaurants fill unused seats and build direct relationships – thus increasing loyalty – with individual customers, infringes its patent, causing ‘irreparable harm’.

The patent in question was filed for in May 2004 and approved earlier this year. As far as I can tell, Mount Hamilton has never produced or sold any ‘innovations’ based on its patented technology.

Both suits seek damages. Both suits should have never been filed.



In-Flight Wi-Fi Company Gogo Files For $100 Million IPO

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 06:34 AM PST

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In-Flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo has just filed for an IPO, and will raise as much as $100 million in a public offering.

Gogo, which has raised over $500 million in funding, provides in-flight connectivity to nine of the ten North American airlines that provide internet access, including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines, US Airways, Frontier Airlines and Air Tran Airways. The company also has trial agreement with United Airlines and Air Canada.

As of September 30, 2011, Gogo had equipped 1,177 planes with internet access, representing approximately 85% of internet-enabled North American commercial aircraft and is operated on more than 4,200 daily flights.

Since Gogo launched in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity in 2008, the company has provided more than 15 million wi-fi sessions to more than 4.4 million registered unique users. Currently, Gogo has contracts to add wi-fi to another 525 planes. Gogo-equipped planes represent approximately 42% of the company’s revenue for the nine months ended September 30, 2011. The company’s earliest contract, which last for ten years, expires in 2018.

In terms of revenue, Gogo posted $36.8 million in 2009 revenue, $94.7 million in 2010 revenue and $113.8 million for revenue for the first nine months of 2011. In terms of profits, Gogo has taken a loss for the past three years, with $140 million in losses in 2010. This number has reduced in 2011, with a loss of $26 million for the first nine months of 2011.

While the company has been taking losses, Gogo seems to be in a good position when it comes to the fact that it is the major provider for most North American airlines. With the new funds from the offering, Gogo will expand its in-flight wi-fi connectivity to additional North American and international flights, product development and more.

Earlier this year, Gogo revealed it is expanding beyond in-flight connectivity to providing a multimedia platform for airlines for news, movies, shopping deals and more.

And American Airlines became one of the first North American airlines to begin testing Gogo's in-flight streaming video to personal devices for passengers. Gogo’s system wirelessly streams content such as movies and TV shows from an inflight library to select types of Wi-Fi-enabled laptops during flights.

Fellow wi-fi provider Boingo filed for an IPO earlier this year.



HP Plugs Security Hole With LaserJet Firmware Update, Says No Record Of Printers Set Ablaze By Hackers

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 06:28 AM PST

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Remember when researchers claimed a massive security vulnerability could potentially enable hackers to remotely take over Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printers and even cause them to burst into flames? Fun times, for sure.

Of course, HP was quick to point out that the researchers had it all wrong, lamented the “sensational and inaccurate reporting” surrounding the supposed security flaw and said not a single customer had reported any instances of unauthorized access to its LaserJet printers.

Nevertheless, the company recognized that there was indeed a potential security vulnerability with printers placed on a public network without a firewall, and at the time said it would soon issue a fix.

This morning, HP announced that the firmware update is now available and said it has still not received any customer reports of unauthorized access. From the looks of it, not a single hacker exploited the security flaw to burn down a house, skyscraper, hotel, casino, school or shed.

The company reiterated its recommendation to secure devices by placing printers behind a firewall and to disable remote firmware upload on exposed printers whenever possible.



Spare Some Idle CPU Cycles For Charity This Season

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 06:23 AM PST

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Well, it’s that time of year again when families come together to stare moodily at each other over lunch and, in theory at least, we’re supposed to be thinking about others less fortunate than ourselves. To that end, stay you hand before you switch off the office PC and head off for some seasonal shopping. For those CPUs could be put to good work for charity, no less.

The Charity Engine is a non-profit volunteer computing grid. Based on Berkeley University’s BOINC software for grid computing – as used by dozens of famous ‘citizen science’ projects such as SETI@home. Charity Engine's version of BOINC simply donates what it makes from research projects on its grid and donates the cash to charity, while incentivising users with randomly generated cash prizes. Profit from the commissions from science and industry is shared 50-50 between the charities and prize winners. You can use the invite code for the beta: CRUNCH.



Kiip Swarm: Gamers Compete, Brands Sponsor Prizes, Developers Monetize

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 06:07 AM PST

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Kiip is not an ad network. It’s a mobile games reward network. Today it launches Swarm, a feature with a very unique value proposition: Let brands sponsor in-app tournaments where users win big prizes for high scores. Brands get exposure by piggybacking on an app’s existing user base, developers get paid, and users get to play for real-world rewards without being interrupted by ads.

Swarm’s debut is a partnership with Walt Disney Studios’ film John Carter where players of the game Mega Jump compete from December 23-26 to win a home theater system and smaller prizes.

Kiip launched in April 2011 on 10 games featuring 10 brands. Swarm builds off of Kiip’s core model where brands reward playerss with small product samples like PopChips, Sephora make-up, or BestBuy gift certificates when they complete in-game achievements. Now Kiip’s network includes 65 games, and 25 brands who pay between $0.25 and $3 per engagement with their rewards.

The company is fueled by $4.1 million in Series A funding from Hummer Winblad, Dave Morin, True Ventures, and Crosslink Capital. 20-year old co-founder Brian Wong reveals to me Verizon Ventures is also an investor that was never announced. Those in early were smart. Kiip won’t need more funding soon as it’s making plenty of money, and I think it’s going to a be a major force in game monetization.

That’s because Kiip actually cares about the emotions of gamers, not just their clicks. While Kiip’s reward system can be run alongside ad networks like AdMob and iAds, it will also disrupt them. Wong explains to me that big brands are already spending a lot on ads to promote their various contests and sweepstakes. By using Kiip to distribute through games instead, they get guaranteed exposure and only pay when people actually engage.

Swarm opens Kiip up to brands in verticals such as travel, entertainment, and automotive who can’t give away a million cars or flights like PopChips gives away snacks. To protect the big prizes they’ll offer, Kiip has developed a fraud detection system to make sure high scores are attained legitimately.

Next, Kiip plans to bring its  services to games on Facebook, console, and web. The company offers a win-win-win solution by rethinking the brand marketing and mobile monetization to put users first. Wong concludes, “You can’t fall in love with an ad, but you can fall in love with a reward.”

Check out the new Kiip Spotlight to find out which games you can play to win rewards.



Ubislate 7: India Gets Second Low-Cost Tablet – For US$57

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 05:36 AM PST

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India is getting a second government-sponsored tablet. The first model (the so-called Aakash) sold out in just a few days after it was launched online last week, but maker DataWind has already followed up with another 7-inch model, the Ubislate 7. It was actually announced a few weeks back, but is now available for pre-order, priced at US$57 (US$10 more than the original Aakash), and features much better specs.

The Ubislate 7 comes with the following features:

  • Android 2.3 (Aakash: Android 2.2)
  • 7-inch touchscreen with 800×480 resolution
  • Cortex A8 – 700 MHz CPU (Aakash: Arm11 – 366MHz)
  • 3 hours battery life – thanks to the new 3200 mAh battery (Aakash: 2100 mAh)
  • Wi-Fi and GPRS connectivity (the Aakash was Wi-Fi only)
  • HD video playback
  • 256 MB RAM
  • one USB 2.0 port
  • 2GB internal storage, which can be expanded to 32GB via microSD

Customers in India can expect to lay their hands on the Ubislate next month. DataWind will produce, via QUAD Electronics in Hyderabad, about 1,000 units daily.

Via The Hindu Business Line via The Next Web Asia



UpTo Lands Seed Funding To Go “Beyond Status Updates And Check-ins”

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

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A new, relatively stealth startup called Rock City Apps is gearing up for the launch of a mobile application called UpTo, and has raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures to finance the development of the product.

The company, which is based in Detroit, Michigan, plans to launch its first iPhone app ‘soon’ and lets you indicate your interest by inviting you to sign up to receive an invitation to the private beta.

You can do that here.

Rock City Apps co-founder and chief executive Greg Schwartz, previously founder and CEO of Mobatech and director of business development at Warner Music, has this to say about the service:

UpTo is a platform focused on the future tense that makes sharing calendar events simple and social. Other social applications are based on status updates and check-ins that are after-the-fact. UpTo lets friends see what’s coming, ahead of time.

The platform is built on top of your existing calendar and social graph.

Sounds interesting, but we’ll have to wait to see if it actually is.



AQUOS PHONE IS14SH: Sharp Integrates Android 2.3 Into Feature Phone Body

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 04:35 AM PST

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It seems Sharp saw good sales when the company launched the so-called AQUOS PHONE THE HYBRID 007SH on the Japanese market, the world’s first clamshell Android phone. Today, Sharp’s AQUOS PHONE IS14SH [JP] went on sale in Japan, and again they squeezed a ton of smartphone functions into a feature phone body.

The obvious target here are customers who want to type on a physical slide-out keypad but don’t want to miss out on the typical specs a Japanese Android phone is offering.

Here are the main features:

  • 3.7-inch LCD touchscreen with 900×540 (QHD) resolution
  • Android 2.3 OS
  • 8MP CMOS camera with HD video recording support (720p)
  • microSDHC card slot, microUSB slot
  • IEEE802.11b/g/n Wifi
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 1seg digital TV sensor
  • e-wallet function (NFC)
  • infrared communication
  • size: 56×117×14.7mm, weight: 136g

In Japan, the AQUOS PHONE IS14SH will be marketed by mobile carrier KDDI au, but don’t expect to see this handset outside the country anytime soon.



Over 40 Internet Companies Come Out Publicly Against SOPA (Including Us)

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 11:40 PM PST

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Since the list of 120 or so SOPA supporting companies hit the Internet yesterday, the lines have been drawn; People are publicly promising to pull thousands of domains from domain registrar Godaddy after it appeared on the list as a supporter. Other people are calling those people “bullies.”

Whether you’re for or against it SOPA has become somewhat of a pain point amongst techies, with the overwhelming majority, including myself and almost every other writer on the TechCrunch team, leaning heavily towards “against.”

SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) essentially allows ISPs to block entire domains because a piece of hosted content infringes copyright. As the bill approaches deliberation in House of Representatives next month, a steady stream of Internet companies have taken anti-SOPA stands. After all, sacrificing innovation to save a dying business model is a close as it gets to anathema in these parts.

Here’s a list of all the publicly anti-SOPA tech/Internet companies I could find. Please add other ones you know of in the comments.

Sources: (TechCrunch, Quora, CDT.org, Techmeme). You can read through our full coverage of SOPA here.



Tencent vs. Sina: The Fight for China’s Social Graph

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 10:35 PM PST

Tencent vs. Sina

Editor’s note: Contributor Kai Lukoff is a Beijing-based writer who is the founder of startup blog Techrice.

In the West, the battle for the social graph is over for now. Facebook is the undisputed champion. All my Western friends use Facebook, and many are addicted.

“If Facebook is the world’s social graph, then QQ (Tencent’s instant messenger) is China’s social graph,” says Hong Bo (a.k.a Keso), China’s most famous tech blogger. In China, Tencent is the longstanding champ, but its title is being disputed by Sina, one of China’s earliest portal sites.

Sina Weibo is the biggest story in the Chinese Internet over the past year, reaching 250 million registered users, and about 25 million daily active users as of Q3 2011. The coverage of China’s state-directed media leaves a lot to be desired, so Sina Weibo had become a prime source for breaking news events and commentary. It’s also a prime source of celebrity sightings and cultural memes—actress Yao Chen has more than 15 million followers. And instead of exchanging name cards at dinner, it’s now common practice to instead exchange “follows” on Sina Weibo. Among white-collar workers, Sina Weibo is far more widespread than Twitter is in America.

Sina Weibo filled a vacuum in social networking among China’s white-collar users. In fact, Weibo (which means microblog in Chinese) evolved out of a project to build a Facebook-style social network called Pengyou, which CEO Charles Chao axed in favor of building the Weibo microblog [see TC Cribs visit Sina HQ]. Sina employees refer to Weibo as “FaceTwitter”, revealing their ambitions for the product to be more than just social media, but also a social network.

The Fight for China’s Social Graph

Tencent, unlike Facebook, is not the same fighter across all weight classes. In 3rd and 4th tier cities and rural areas, Tencent is dominant. But in top-tier cities, among white-collar users, the Tencent brand is not cool. Virtually all Chinese do have a QQ account, and many still use it to communicate with old friends, but it’s slightly embarrassing—not an ID to give out to your slick new ‘city friends’. Tencent’s weakness is Sina’s opening.

But to wrest away control, Sina needs to fight a flawless fight. The battle will be won or lost in China’s second-tier cities, as Sina attempts to penetrate beyond its traditional base of urban white-collars and into “Tencent territory.”

Unfortunately for Sina, growth appears to be decelerating. There’s concern that usage may even be declining due to government efforts to tame edgy content, including rumors of a real-name registration requirement. Eric Wen of Mirae Asset writes that Sina Weibo is now in a “trough of disillusionment”, citing iResearch data showing that the user base, time spent and visitation time have declined for two consecutive months.

Tencent, for its part, long ago responded with its own “me-too” microblog, to prevent its user base from defecting to Sina Weibo. Its Tencent Weibo now claims 300 million users, although user activity pales in comparison to Sina Weibo. iResearch’s iUserTracker finds upwards of 80% of Chinese microblog user activity takes place on Sina.

Tencent Weibo does not need to stand on its own. In US terms, Tencent’s social hub is as if AIM, MySpace, Twitter, and a mini Facebook were owned by one company, and all cross-promoted and synced to each other. Tencent has locked-in a huge user base via the social graph of QQ Messenger, and Tencent Weibo is just another spoke in that hub.

Tencent is also on the attack deep into “Sina territory”, making inroads among smartphone users, an elite demographic that has traditionally eluded Tencent. Its Weixin app aims to become the QQ IM of mobile, China’s social layer in mobile and a hub for all of Tencent’s other mobile services. Weixin is growing explosively, reaching 20 million active users and 50 million registered, among a total of 70-80 million Chinese smartphone users. Sina is scrambling for a response, and just released a Weiyou messaging application for Android.

There are other social networks in China, but none present a serious threat to Tencent’s control of the social graph. The real-name social network Renren has 38 million monthly active users, but has struggled to break out of the student demographic. Kaixin001, Douban, and 51.com serve niche communities. Facebook and Twitter remain blocked out by the Great Firewall.

Still the Champ

Sina Weibo is a tremendous product that should maintain its audience of white-collars and influence in Chinese media. But it’s tough to knock out the champ. Tencent knows when to defend (Tencent Weibo), and is still nimble and creative enough to attack (Weixin). Its social graph is over ten years in the making and shows no signs of letting up now.



Facebook Opens Mobile News Feed As Viral Channel For Games

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 07:39 PM PST

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Once upon a time, Facebook game companies like Zynga fattened up their user counts thanks to viral distribution to non-gamers through the news feed. Facebook later curtailed this channel, forcing developers to concentrate on paid marketing and true word of mouth to grow. A new boom period could be coming, this time for mobile developers, as Facebook announced today that it is testing game stories in the mobile news feed. This could attract devs to its recently launched HTML5 mobile gaming platform with bait of reaching hundreds of millions of daily active Facebook mobile users.

Facebook learned a lot about balancing developer success with user experience during that first boom period, often called the wild west days. Game spam such as users asking all their friends to install and give them virtual good overran the news feed, making it a bore to non-gamers. Facebook will surely be monitoring the volume of mobile news feed game stories to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Rather than pepper the feed with individual stories, Facebook is using aggregated stories that read like “Rose Yao and 9 other people recently played games”. Below users see a few friends names and links to the games they played, and can tap to expand to see the whole list. Tapping a game will launch its HTML5 version, or that native app if already installed. The aggregated stories give users control, so those that want to discover something to play can, while those uninterested can breeze by.

Earned viral channels also democratize the Facebook platform, as they provide exposure to small developers without big marketing budgets. Facebook launched the HTML5 platform to make sure Apple and Google weren’t the only ones making money off mobile games. Developer adoption of the channel has been a bit sluggish so far, though. The opening of this viral channel could convince developers to experiment with Facebook mobile.

Facebook also made a few other announcements to the benefit of web Facebook game developers. Users will now see 6 bookmarks instead of 4 while playing games, which should boost retention and re-engagement. Home page bookmark notifications will now clear when clicked, making the arrival of new alerts more noticeable.  The separate Games & Apps dashboards have been combined so users don’t have to check two places, and game categories have been refined so Facebook can more accurately feature high quality developers. Finally, the company launched a Games Tutorial to ease the path to developing games for its platform.



Codecademy Builds ‘Labs,’ A Web-Based Code Editor

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 05:13 PM PST

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Smoking hot startup Codecademy, a service which teaches you how to program online has launched its Labs feature today, as a sign of things to come.

Codecademy founder Zach Sims tells me that Codecademy, and specifically new hire Amjad Masad, built the feature because it wanted people to be able to play with what they’ve learned on Codecademy without having to download a desktop-based code editor or integrated development environment (IDE).  He says that most other online code-learning environments (like Treehouse) don’t yet offer a way for students freeform write and run the code they teach in-browser.

In addition to Javascript, which Codecademy already offers courses in, the interactive coding console allows you to program in both Python and Ruby as a way to practice languages and implement curriculum you may have learned elsewhere. Sims tells me that the startup plans on offering Python and Ruby lessons in addition to Javascript eventually.

In addition to editing, Codecademy Labs allows you to run, and download executable files so your programs can run elsewhere. “It eliminates the biggest hurdle. When they’re learning code, people want a super easy way to go do something with it,” Sims says “Labs makes it really easy to continue along the path of learning stuff without any of the complications that go along with programming.”

Codecademy recently received $2.5 million from an impressive array of investors including Union Square VenturesO'Reilly AlphaTech, SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder Collective, CrunchFund, Joshua Schachter, Dave Morin, Naval Ravikant and others.



Y Combinator Startup Priceonomics Tells You How Much To Pay For Any Used Product

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 05:09 PM PST

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You want the best price on things you buy second hand, but finding out how much you should pay is a hassle. Removing this friction from a lucrative part of the purchase funnel is the goal of Priceonomics. The first startup out of the winter 2012 Y Combinator batch, Priceonomics has crawled the web to compile its next-generation price guide. It launches today featuring 10 million prices on 50,000 products, and plans to expand across verticals soon.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to buy a TV on craigslist, a bike on eBay, or something from the TechCrunch holiday gift guide. Visit the site and search for the product. Priceonomics returns an estimate for how much you should pay for it along with a range of prices it’s crawled. It then displays listings of people selling it. Filter by keyword, proximity, and price to narrow the results. There’s also value to sellers, as they can check how they should be pricing their own products.

Most listings I clicked had already been sold, but the site is designed for you to discover what you should pay, not necessarily where to buy. If you can wait a little while, enter your email address and Priceonomics notifies you when the product is posted at a great price.

There’s also browsable price guides for specific product types. You could click Computers->Apple->MacBook to discover you should pay about $1000 for this used laptop, or at least somewhere between $682 and $1,318. Currently the site features 71 product types across categories like transportation, cameras, computers, phones, and TVs, but more are on the way.

Used product price guides aren’t new, especially for cars, but Priceonomics does it right. I love how quick and clean the site is. It’s so refreshing compared to slogging through Google product search results. My only gripe is that I have to click a listing to find out if it’s already been sold. With time I’m sure the founding team of CEO Michael Flaxman, CTO Omar Bohsali CTO, and Rohin Dhar will sort this out and highlight active listings.

Because it fits into the purchase funnel at the stage where people are clearly trying to buy something, the site has big monetization potential. Featured product guides for brands, sponsored search results, traditional display, lead generation, and affiliate links would all work.

While the rest of the Winter YC class will launch soon, Priceonomics made a smart push to get out the door today. It may have missed the pre-holiday shopping blitz, but there’ll be plenty of people looking to spend cash gifts or find out whether they should return a new product and buy used instead.



OnLive Now Playing Friendly With The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 03:57 PM PST

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Does anyone out there actually own Sony Ericsson’s handset-formerly-known-as-Playstation-phone, the Xperia Play? I’ve never seen one in the wild. Not once.

If any Play owners are out there reading: A) raise your hand, and B) know that your device learned a cool new trick today. That fancy slide-out gamepad built into your device? It’s now compatible with OnLive’s crazy gaming-in-the-cloud service.

For the unfamiliar, OnLive allows you to use your smartphone to play a rather wide selection of games (around 200, currently) that would otherwise only be playable on big ol’ beefy computers. The games are actually being rendered/played on OnLive’s servers, then streamed back-and-forth to your handset with surprisingly little (but still perceptible) delay.

With today’s update, Xperia PLAY owners can use their device’s built-in gamepad to play any of OnLive’s titles. For everyone who didn’t buy Sony Ericsson’s wonky (but kind of neat ((but mostly wonky))) gaming portable, there’s always the standalone Bluetooth controller.



Cheezburger’s Ben Huh: If GoDaddy Supports SOPA, We’re Taking Our 1000+ Domains Elsewhere

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 01:56 PM PST

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And the anti-SOPA rallying of the tech world’s best continues.

Just minutes after Ycombinator’s Paul Graham disclosed that SOPA-friendly companies would be blacklisted from the YC Demo Day, Cheezburger (as in I Can Has Cheeseburger, FAIL Blog, Know Your Meme, etc.) CEO Ben Huh has announced that they will be moving their array of over 1,000 domains away from GoDaddy unless the registrar recants their support of the act.

Will Huh’s threat be enough to make GoDaddy back down? Probably not: GoDaddy is a company with plenty of controversies under its belt, so they’re more than used to taking a bit of heat. With that said, it will raise awareness to the fact that taking your domains (and thus your money) elsewhere is a totally legitimate form of protest — in fact, Huh’s tweet just reminded me that I have (make that had) 2 domains sitting in GoDaddy’s yard. Thanks, Ben!

You can find our full coverage of SOPA here, and find out more about why it’s such a terrible, terrible idea here, here, and here.



In A Reversal, Intuit Will Make Quicken 2007 For Mac Work With Lion

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 01:36 PM PST

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Intuit has just released some good news for  ”Quicken for Mac” users.  The accounting software company says they will have a solution that makes Quicken 2007 for Mac “Lion-compatible” by early spring 2012. Yes, irony alert. Back in July, I wrote about the dilemma facing those users, because Apple Lion OS was dropping support for Rosetta.  Without Rosetta, Quicken 2007 wouldn’t run on the Mac with Lion.  And I wrote each of the three options Intuit proposed (Quicken Essentials for Mac, Mint.com, Quicken for Windows) had their own flaws.

Aaron Forth, Intuit’s General Manager of its Personal Finance Group which includes Quicken and Mint.com, wrote a note to existing customers saying “I am committed to creating products to help you reach your financial goals.  I recognize, however, that we have not always delivered on this promise to Quicken Mac customers.”

Forth adds “I understand the frustration this may have caused you and have put a team in place to address the issue.”

The details have not been worked out yet, but Intuit says they have a team in place to solve the problem and they ask for their customers patience.

Back in July, Cult of Mac reported one solution might be Intuit bakes some Rosetta libraries into Quicken.  It’s unclear if that’s the solution now being worked on.

After calling them out for this problem earlier, it’s only fair to give them credit for doing this now.  Forth says “working toward a … solution is just a first step in winning back your confidence.”  I agree. Ok, I realize it is about to become 2012 and we are talking about a 2007 product, but it’s still a widely used product.



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