Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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The SiriusXM Lynx Is A Portable Satellite Radio… With A Twist!

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST

You may have forgotten that there was such a thing as “satellite radio,” what with all the streaming services available now, but it exists and its still going fairly strong. The latest way to listen to this form of radio is the Lynx, a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capable player that records up to 200 hours of music and offers a full schedule of upcoming shows for your listening pleasure.

Priced at $250 it’s a pretty hard sell but if you’re trying to get satellite on the go or in your home, this may be an interesting alternative device. The device runs an unnamed version of Android.

Lynx gives subscribers more control over how they listen to SiriusXM satellite radio, allowing them to start a song from the beginning when tuning to a Favorite music channel or store broadcast content to listen to later. Subscribers can also restart their favorite content while connected to SiriusXM Internet Radio via Wi-Fi®. Subscribers can control their listening experience easily using the large touch screen display. Lynx can stream SiriusXM content to Bluetooth® stereo speakers, headphones, vehicle stereo systems or optional accessories for the home, vehicle or portable use. Lynx is based on the Android operating system and is fully updatable via a Wi-Fi connection.
Tune Start™: Automatically starts the currently playing song from the beginning so listeners will hear the whole song when tuning to any of their satellite radio music channels saved as a Favorite channel.
Radio Replays: Subscribers can build a library of up to 200 hours of programming from their Favorite satellite radio channels which are automatically recorded to allow for playback anywhere.
Pause, Rewind and Replay: Listeners can replay up to 30 minutes of live SiriusXM content on the currently tuned channel, and also access replay content on 5 favorite preset channels currently displayed.
Featured Favorites™: A dynamic set of presets that can be automatically added as favorite channels, allowing users to easily discover new and specialty programming.
Show Finder™: An easy-to-use electronic programming guide offering a complete list of what’s on over the next 7 days by channel, with the ability to set reminder alerts when favorite shows are being broadcast.

The Lynx will be available “soon.”

The Swift Rise And Sad Fall Of The Asus Transformer Prime Android Tablet

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:59 AM PST


The Asus Transformer Prime was the latest tablet to wear the title of iPad killer. It was supposed to rise up, powered by the all-mighty quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3, and finally stand tall against the iPad. It was supposed to use its keyboard dock as a mighty quarterstaff and deliver a memorable blow against Apple’s champion. But that didn’t happen. Asus is letting the Transformer Prime wither on the vine.

There is nothing sadder than watching a promising product die early. In the case of the Transformer Prime, interest and hype peaked before the tablet even launched. Then when the tablet finally hit retailers, users and developers quickly discovered locked software and buggy hardware. The tablet still has a chance to sell well. It is, even with the early hiccups, a stellar product relative to its competitors.

This is new ground for Asus. Before the original Transformer tablet, the company never had a halo product. Three short years ago Asus was just flourishing PC component maker testing the consumer market waters with a relatively small notebook/desktop lineup. The Eee brand made Asus a household name. But the Eee PC netbooks were just another bulletproof Wintel product. Sure, problems arouse and the Eee PCs were far from perfect, but the company successfully flooded the market with enough models to counter any bad press.

Android tablets are a completely different product than Windows notebooks. They require more precises marketing and launch schedules. Consumers also expect a more complete experience from the products thanks to the high bar set by the iPad. Asus is learning this the hard way.

Asus started teasing the Transformer Prime back in October through a Facebook campaign. There was never any talk of the launch schedule or price point. The tablet was finally announced on November 18th, but Asus still didn’t include the release schedule. Eventually, over the following month, several leaked screenshot from retailers indicated that the Prime would hit stores prior to Christmas. Then finally, Asus put rumors to rest and announced the tablet would be in stores and online on December 19th.

That didn’t happen. Retailers pushed back pre-orders as Asus failed to deliver the product on time. Eventually, just before the end of 2011, several shops started shipping out their first batches. It’s still not widely available from Amazon and Best Buy, though. Even if it was available, would-be buyers would be smart to hold off for a bit. Early adopters are singing a song of woe right now.

XDA forum members collectively erupted in rage yesterday after it was discoverd Asus locked down the Prime’s bootloader. Apparently 128 bit encryption is employed to keep owners from accessing key components and flashing new roms and kernals onto the tablet. The Prime is effectively grounded. This move prevents owners from unlocking the full potential of the tablet. Owners are at the complete mercy of Asus for system updates and improvements (like the current GPS and WiFi bugs). So much for Android being “open”.

This practice of locking down the system files is not new. However, every time a vendor ships a halo product with a locked bootloader, the Android community explodes with frustration. This particular move by Asus speaks to the company’s naivety. They simply don’t know what the hell is going on or who buys their products. Transformer Prime buyers are looking for a digital sandbox to explore Android. Geeks buy Asus products. They’re not John looking up recipes on Epicurious. If Prime buyers wanted a completely curated experience, they would have bought an iPad.

The troubles keep piling on. Owners are now reporting that the Prime’s GPS function is nearly unusable and the WiFi support is flaky. It takes forever to lock onto GPS satellites. So, in a classic anti-consumer move, Asus simply removed most references to GPS from their websites. The sensor is missing from spec list on this swanky product page although it’s still listed under specifications on this one. Reportedly the tablet’s thin metallic casing is to blame for both although Asus just pushed an update that is supposed to address the issue.

Asus could recover some lost love by unlocking the bootloader, but conflicting statements from Asus continue to enrage and frustrate owners. The Asus US Facebook team posted a message several hours ago promising an official statement was in the works. However, the company posted a patronizing message on its Italian page that said, in part, “Finally speech root: our position in this regard is simple. The product is guaranteed as it is.”

Asus is clearly in uncharted waters here. The company flubbed the launch and alienated their key demographic. That’s the formula for failure. Even if Asus recants and unlocks the bootloader, some of the damage is irreversible. CES kicks off next week and there will no doubt be several Android tablets competing for the iPad-killer label and looking to steal some of the Prime’s allspark.

Update: Asus just announced via its Facebook page that a boot unlocker is in the works and Android 4.0 will hit the device starting on January 12. Asus claims that they had to lock the device in order to meet certain DRM requirements and if owners choose to unlock the tablet, it will void the warranty and remove the ability to rent videos from Google.

The argument stands, though. Asus a company learning how to properly handle consumer electronics. As usual, early adopters are in for a good amount of pain and frustration.

SOPA, Freedom, And The Invisible War

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:50 AM PST


While laughable in scope and reach (not to mention ridiculous in terms of potential enforcement) the Stop Online Piracy Act is seen as a very real threat to our freedom to, in short, surf the Internet. Although its ramifications are far more draconian than I’m letting on here, I posit that the government is the least of our concern when it comes to online freedom. Let’s catch up since our last few articles on the topic.

Since the GoDaddy kerfuffle, SOPA has gained traction as the hacker cause du jour. Designed to help copyright holders protect their property (something any casual observer can support), the bill, would allow the US government to essentially “turn off” part of the Internet that it doesn’t like. Most of these sites would be “rogue” or, more precisely, out of US jurisdiction. From the Bill:

A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order…Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

The money shot is, obviously, that these are “technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site.” The suggestion that the US government can take “reasonable measures” to “prevent access” is patently absurd. Short of a “reasonable” nuclear strike on the rogue server farm, circumvention of these measures will be, at best, an inconvenience.

It is abundantly clear that this bill is a direct reaction to the Wikileaks case as well as a play by the media companies to survive past the next decade. It is despicable effort wrapped in the flags of freedom and fraud protection that, with its “You Dunn Goofed”-style “backtracing,” is as impossible to enforce as it will be to implement.

Cory Doctorow, for all his stridency, puts it quite succinctly:

The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. … Consequently anything you do to “secure” anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.

To activists, SOPA now has a cousin. The NDAA is seen in the same philosophical light as SOPA. I worry that whereas SOPA binds the mind, the NDAA binds the body – a much more corrosive concept. As long as our fingers are free, there will exist a dark net that no government can touch. If we are in real, literal chains, that option is considerably curtailed. To conflate these two is incorrect and simplifies both issues to the point of farce.

In the end, SOPA probably won’t pass. It is unenforceable and unpopular and, more important, it could be used by enemies of a particular company to force virtual embargoes – something no lobbyist wants. If it does pass, however, what will happen? Like the DMCA, it will be a toothless bill that has little bearing on our lives. The first international lawsuit against the US Government for censoring one thing or the other will blunt its teeth and new technologies will break them. SOPA, is at best, the sort of hand-waving that so many series-of-tubes Congressmen have performed in the past: a curt nod to forces that none in government can control.

What worries me more is our own tendency to sell our rights to businesses through various forms of EULA acceptance, lock in, and trust. “[Google|Apple|Microsoft|EA|*] has my best interests at heart,” is a lie so dangerous that it makes SOPA look like a request to silence your cellphones in the movie theatre. It’s this corrosive mentality – that the government is out to get us while Google wants to “help” us by releasing “open” software and that the walled garden of iOS is a boon to humanity and not a shackle – that will do us in sooner than any bill.

Commendably Google and a number of other parties have come out against SOPA. However, Google in particular is one of the biggest beneficiaries of an open Internet. To say they are mercenary on this point is mean-hearted and arguably wrong, but a free and open Internet helps spread Google juice around the world.

Government can, if cornered, interact with enemies on a physical level. Bradley Manning is in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, facing life imprisonment for essentially doing what anyone with a USB key and a grudge could do with proper security clearance. Rupert Murdoch’s big crime was performing a “phone hacking” maneuver that you learn in Script Kiddie 101. Meanwhile, groups like LOLSEC and Anonymous have run circles around multiple targets across the globe. SOPA is a straw man. We can keep our freedom on the Internet. However, as we give big businesses more of our time, attention, and personal information, we build a cage of our own making, no SOPA required.

[Image via Wikipedia]

RIM Co-CEOs May Soon Be Stripped Of Their Chairmen Roles

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:35 AM PST


As RIM navigates some particularly rough seas, it appears as though the company may soon kick-off a good old-fashioned corporate governance shakeup in order to please their shareholders. Although they’ll retain their positions as co-CEOs, the Financial Post reports that RIM’s Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie may soon be ousted from their positions as chairmen of the board.

The sordid tale began this past summer, when shareholder Northwest & Ethical Investments LP proposed that the CEO and chairman positions should be split citing the need for “increased board oversight.”

RIM was quick to answer at the time by saying that the chairman position helped Lazaridis and Balsillie generate business for the company. Northwest & Ethical retracted their proposal, on the condition that RIM could have six months to prove that letting the co-CEOs keep their titles as chairmen would benefit the business.

Time is quickly running out, and if the FP’s sources are to be believed, there really isn’t reason for things to stay the way they are. As a result, RIM is reportedly eyeing independent director Barbara Stymiest to take over as chairperson of the board, but we may have to wait until January 31 before anything becomes official.

That initial proposal must feel like an eternity away for RIM’s top brass, as the company has suffered crisis after crisis since then. Anemic PlayBook sales, a world-wide service outage, and a pair of drunk (and possibly superhuman) executives raising hell on a plane are just a few of the things that the company has had to weather recently, which could explain why Lazaridis and Balsillie may not be putting up much of a fight.

They’ve already offered up their joint mea culpa by slashing their salaries down to $1/year, so relinquishing their chairmen roles could be their next step in appeasing the shareholders. It seems to be working, at least temporarily — at time of writing, RIM’s stock price has jumped 8.5% since the market opened.

The bigger question that this whole situation raises is how exactly this affects RIM’s future. Both men will retain their roles as co-CEOs unless something terribly drastic happens, and hopefully the shakeup is enough to shock the company into trying something new. Even so, RIM’s foreseeable future is looking dicey — the company’s first BlackBerry 10 devices have already been pushed later into 2012 than expected, and PlayBook price tags are being slashed left and right in an effort to move product. Lazaridis and Balsillie don’t seem to be men who like sweeping change, but here’s hoping a change in corporate structure will have them making some bold new plays.

Netflix To Debut Original Series “Lilyhammer” Next Month

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 08:00 AM PST


Netflix is launching a new original series next month called Lilyhammer, which will kick off the company’s foray into original programming for 2012. The series will star The Sopranos actor and E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt in a “fish out of water” story that takes place in Norway.

The story follows New York mobster Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano as he enters the federal witness protection program. He moves to Lillehammer – the Norwegian town that hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. He calls it “Lilyhammer,” however, which is how the show gets its name.

The series will include eight episodes in its first season, beginning February 6th in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. All episodes will be available for streaming on connected TVs, tablets, game consoles, computers and mobile phones – but not on DVDs by mail.

We reported in March 2011 that Netflix would be soon bankrolling original content. The company successfully outbid HBO and AMC for the rights to House Of Cards, an adaptation of the successful 1990 British miniseries. The show stars Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey, and is being produced David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network). Netflix confirmed that show will arrive in the U.S. and Canada by “late 2012.”

In November, the company announced it would resurrect critics’ and fan fave Arrested Development, with episodes starting in 2013.

Netflix had previously said that Lilyhammer would arrive in early 2012 and that at least two seasons have been planned.

You can check out the trailer for the series here on YouTube.

Social Network For IT Professionals Toolbox.com Acquired By Ziff Davis

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 07:23 AM PST


Digital media publisher Ziff Davis has acquired Toolbox.com, a social networking and knowledge exchange website for IT, HR and Finance professionals that has been around since the late nineties and was previously owned by a company called the Corporate Executive Board. Terms were not disclosed.

For Ziff Davis, which was acquired and ‘relaunched’ as a digital-only media publishing company by former Time Inc. exec Vivek Shah in partnership with PE firm Great Hill Partners back in June 2010, this is the fourth acquisition in the past twelve months.

Also read: Ziff Davis Buys Tech Deals Site LogicBuy; Launches Ad Targeting Platform BuyerBase

Toolbox.com says it connects over three million IT experts and executives from across the globe on a monthly basis, having attracted 2.3 million registered members since its founding in 1998.

Basically, Toolbox.com enables users to evaluate IT vendors, plan and manage projects, solve problems and stay in the loop of what’s happening in the world of tech.

Toolbox.com is henceforth a unit of ‘Ziff Davis B2B Focus’, which was formed earlier this year with Ziff Davis' acquisition of Focus Research, a provider of online research to enterprise buyers and leads to IT vendors.

Other sites operated by Ziff Davis include PCMag.com, ExtremeTech.com and Geek.com.

Miss Your Cat? Now Fluffy Can Send You Tweets All Day Long

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 07:20 AM PST


You like cats. Even if you’re a “dog person,” or allergic, I still know your little cat-loving secret. And how do I know? Well, since you’re here on TechCrunch it’s apparent that you’re at least mildly interested in the internet, which happens to be infested with cats.

If your cat obsession translates over into real life, as does your ability to hack, then boy do I have a treat for you. It’s called Kitty Twitty, and here’s how it came to be: Mark de Vinck’s wife was absolutely love-struck when she got her new cat, but missed little Chester every time she went to work. Instead of constantly intervening to give her updates, Mark decided to build something that completely removed him from the situation. The result is a little wooden cat toy that sends you a new tweet each time your cat starts to play with it.

Courtesy of Arduino, de Vinck was able to put a switchboard inside a little wooden box that instantly relays messages via Twitter. Of course, the Kitty Twitty is also equipped with a wire and a cat toy at the end of it to make sure little Chester (or whoever) is always interested. Mark says this can get even more in-depth by adding sensors to the food bowl or the kitty bed, and that dog lovers should be able to implement the same idea with something Rover might like.

The full instructions on how to build your own Kitty Twitty are here on MakeProjects, and we’d love to hear if yours turn out as well as Mark’s.

Siri Android Clones Are Laughable At Best

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 07:14 AM PST


When we first introduced the Siri clone Iris, I figured that would be the last of the outright Siri-alikes. I was wrong. Programmers are taking advantage of less experienced users and creating apps that are downright insulting to the average intelligence.

One app, called Siri for Android is a hard link to Google’s voice controls while another, called Speerit is a Korean clone that purports to connect to Apple’s servers (which is untrue).

Whether you believe these apps should exist on the Android Market or not, its clear that there are enough new users out there who will fall for some of the oldest software tricks in the book. A word of advice: if it’s called “Siri” and it runs on Android, it’s probably not real.

via 9to5mac

Murdoch’s Wife’s Twitter Account, @Wendi_Deng, Was Fake

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 06:55 AM PST


Following media mogul Rupert Murdoch‘s arrival on Twitter this week, wife Wendi Deng (@wendi_deng) showed up shortly afterwards, tweeting alongside her husband, flirting with comedian Ricky Gervais, politely declining to engage with the man who attacked Mr. Murdoch with a piepushing @rupertmurdoch to take down a questionable tweet (which he did), and generally being a spicy character worthy of a Twitter follow.

Only one problem: that wasn’t Wendi Deng Murdoch.

According to the @Wendi_Deng Twitter account this morning, she was just having “a bit of fun” and is “definitely not married to Rupert Murdoch.” In other words, it was a parody account. She (he?) says she’s a nobody, not even an aspiring comedy writer.

While parody accounts are a dime a dozen on Twitter these days, what made “Wendi Deng’s” notable is that it actually passed through Twitter’s verification process somehow – the process that determines that an account on Twitter is maintained by the person who it’s claiming to be, then given a checkmark indicating its verified status. This is generally used to verify celebrities, politicians and other public figures, like the Murdochs.

Somehow, “Wendi Deng” fooled Twitter – at least for a day. This even concerned the account’s holder, who says “…you have to wonder why Twitter verified this account for a full day. I never received any communication from them about this. I was surprised – and even a little alarmed – when I saw the Verified tick appear on the profile. You might ask ‘why didn’t I tell them?’ But surely Twitter should be checking out its Verified status more carefully? No?”

It is indeed a little worrisome that “Wendi Deng” slipped through the cracks in Twitter’s verification process – a process that’s always been sort of mysterious, to be quite honest. For celebrities with a web presence, Twitter will often use the star’s official home page as a source for the verification – if there’s a link to the Twitter account posted there, it’s legit. But in the case of public personas, it appears that Twitter trusted the numerous media reports claiming the account’s legitimacy instead.

We’ve reached out to Twitter to confirm if this was the case.

Update – Here’s Twitter’s statement:

“We don’t comment on our verification process but can confirm that the @wendi_deng account was mistakenly verified for a short period of time. We apologize for the confusion this caused.”

Obviously, that’s not a valid means of verification – the media can be wrong. And they clearly were. Which just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, even if Twitter tells you it’s true.

And in case you missed Murdoch joining Twitter entirely, here’s the news, NMA-style:

RIM’s New PlayBook Promo: All Models For $299

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 06:09 AM PST


Well, if you were hoping to snag a BlackBerry PlayBook on the cheap, it looks like now’s the time to act. In what seems like a move born of desperation, all models of the PlayBook are now going for $299 on RIM’s online store.

Previous PlayBook sales have set the beginning price point at $199 for the 16GB model, but this time you’ll be able to purchase a 64GB PlayBook for the same price as a 16GB model. Not too shabby, especially if you didn’t jump on a local truckstop special.

Of course, that supposes that there are enough of them to go around — with every variant sporting the same price tag, I expect RIM to sell though their 64GB PlayBooks before long.

RIM is no stranger to PlayBook price cuts, but this new promotion is slated to run through the beginning of February, which would make it one of the longest, most drastic price cuts in the tablet’s troubled history. With PlayBook OS 2.0 scheduled to hit devices sometime next month, it could be a ploy to move units into people’s hands ahead of the update.

Then again, RIM’s most recent earnings statement shows that the audience for the PlayBook is slowly dying, with shipments slowing considerably throughout 2011. It’s beginning to look like the only way people will buy one of these things is with some hefty discounts involved, which doesn’t exactly bode well for RIM’s financial position. Still, their loss is your gain — the PlayBook is a flawed tablet to be sure, but this is a solid deal if you’re already stuck using a BlackBerry.

RJMetrics Raises $1.2M For Hosted Business Intelligence Software Suite

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST


Exclusive - I first learned about hosted business intelligence software startup RJMetrics a few weeks ago, when Fab.com founder Jason Goldberg wrote how he made creative use of their software suite for his latest fundraising round; in fact he said he liked it so much he asked to invest in the company.

Fast forward to today: RJMetrics has landed $1.2 million in seed financing from Goldberg, early-stage VCs including SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, SV Angel and Zelkova Ventures, and other angel investors such as Wharton Professor Kartik Hosanagar and DuckDuckGo CEO Gabe Weinberg.

In addition, Jason Goldberg has joined the Philadelphia startup’s board of directors.

Founded in January 2009 by Robert J. Moore (the ‘R’) and Jake Stein (the ‘J’), RJMetrics was bootstrapped to date and managed to get to profitability by selling subscriptions for its hosted business intelligence software to organizations that operate database-driven websites (mostly e-commerce companies, SaaS vendors, social media organizations and online content providers).

Basically, RJMetrics provides tools for database analysis, enabling its customers to extract data from their business and transform it into a more suitable format for analysis and providing them with the means to turn it into beautiful, actionable charts.

Moore and Stein were both formerly employed by venture capital firm Insight Venture Partners, so they knew that they’d be better off waiting as long as possible before raising outside capital, and only agreed to take on investors when they were absolutely sure that it would “generate positive returns”.

For one, they say, almost 100 percent of this seed funding round came from firms or individuals who have used RJMetrics’ product extensively, which is always a big plus.

Internap Buys Hosting, Cloud Services Company Voxel For Up To $35 Million

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 05:24 AM PST


IT infrastructure solutions provider Internap this morning announced its acquisition of privately-held Voxel, an enterprise hosting and cloud services company based in NYC, for $30 million in cash. Under the terms of the deal, an additional $5 million in cash could be put on the table over the next two years, subject to certain performance-based criteria.

Founded in 1999 in founder Raj Dutt’s dorm room, the company provides on-demand dedicated hosting and cloud services to enterprises and Web-centric businesses.

Voxel says it currently serves more than 1,000 customers and has approximately 50 employees.

The company was backed by NYC-based private equity firm Seaport Capital.

By adding Voxel’s service locations in Amsterdam and Singapore to Internap’s existing service locations, the combined company aims to offer colocation, managed hosting, dedicated hosting and cloud services to customers around the world. Internap says it will also leverage Voxel’s automation technologies and expertise to enhance existing products.

Sanwa Supply Rolls Out Micro Projector For iPhone 4/4S

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 05:04 AM PST


Japan-based accessory maker Sanwa Supply started selling the 400-PRJ011 [JP] in its online store, a DLP micro projector that slides onto an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S. The device comes with a 2,100mAh battery, which takes about five hours to fully charge and provides enough juice for 2.5 hours of projector usage.

With the projector function turned off, buyers can also use the device to charge their iPhone (it adds 100% to the life of the phone’s battery).

Sanwa says the projector produces images with 640×360 resolution, 1,000:1 contrast ratio, and up to 65 inches in size. The device weighs 103g and also features internal speakers that can be used in addition to those in the iPhone.

Sanwa is selling the 400-PRJ011 for 19,800 Yen (US$260). If you’re interested but live outside Japan, I suggest you contact specialized shopping sites like Flutterscape or the Japan Trend Shop.

Report: 522 Exits Of Venture-Backed US Companies Netted $53.2 Billion In 2011

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 04:26 AM PST


According to a Dow Jones VentureSource report released this morning, fewer US-based venture-backed companies exited in 2011 than the year before, but the deals netted more capital as the median price for M&A and buyouts, as well the median amount raised in initial public offerings, spiked.

Dow Jones VentureSource says there were 522 exits of venture-backed companies in the US throughout 2011, which represents a significant 4 percent drop in deal activity compared to 2010.

However, the capital netted from those exits increased an impressive 26 percent in 2011, compared to the year before.

Notably, for the first time in five years, acquisition activity in the fourth quarter of 2011 did not outpace the third quarter. In fact, Q4 2011 was apparently the least active quarter of the year.

Says Jessica Canning, global research director for Dow Jones VentureSource:

“Despite a slower acquisition pace capped with an uncharacteristic drop in deal activity in the fourth quarter, there are some positive signs heading into the new year. Acquisitions of companies liquidating their assets were halved in 2011 and companies are benefiting from lower start-up costs by taking capital farther toward a larger acquisition.”

According to Dow Jones VentureSource data, the median price that was paid for a company increased 77 percent (to $71 million) in 2011.

To reach an M&A or buyout, companies raised a median of $17 million in venture financing, 12 percent less than in 2010, and took a median of 5.3 years to build their company.

In 2011, 45 companies raised $5.4 billion by going public, significantly more than the $3.3 billion raised by 46 IPOs in 2010. A lot of that comes from the IPOs of tech giants Groupon and Zynga, which combined raised $1.7 billion by hitting the public markets.

Other notable tech IPOs included LinkedIn, Pandora, Yandex, Tudou and Renren.

And now, all eyes on Facebook.

The median amount of venture capital raised prior to an IPO rose 17 percent (to $85 million) in 2011.

The median amount of time it took a company to reach liquidity fell to 6.5 years, from 8.1 years in 2010. In other words, companies seem to be needing more capital but less time to get from founding to IPO in this day and age.

Also read:

Late-Stage Web Companies Took In The Largest Tech Investments Of 2011

2011: The Year In Tech

Blippar Raises Seed Funding From Qualcomm For Mobile Augmented Reality Technology

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 03:16 AM PST


Blippar, the UK startup behind an eponymous mobile image recognition and augmented reality platform, has landed seed funding – the size of the investment was not disclosed – from Qualcomm Ventures.

The startup, which is based in London, says the seed funding serves as a springboard for a bigger Series A funding round it expects to close in early 2012.

Read more over at TechCrunch Europe.

Daily Crunch: Smudge

Posted: 03 Jan 2012 01:00 AM PST

Updated: Google May Have Violated Its Own Paid Link Policy With Chrome Promo Campaign

Posted: 02 Jan 2012 07:31 PM PST

Chrome Sponsored Link Campaign

Google appears to have paid bloggers to write about Chrome in a way that violates its own paid link policy, according to Search Engine Land. If Google applied a similar penalty to those it’s doled out to past violators, the Chrome download page would be removed from its search engine results for between a month and a year. Don’t bet on that happening, though. The campaign is another example of how Google’s diverse business can lead it to trip over itself.

[Update: The sponsored blog post that linked directly to the Chrome download page has deactivated that link. Scott Button, CEO of Unruly Media, tells me " It's crucial that branded video content is clearly marked as sponsored and that links don't distort search engine rankings. Occasionally, bloggers will unfortunately pen a post that deviates from our guidelines, as here. Where that happens, we're very happy to have it pointed out, and will work with the blogger to fix it as fast as possible." However, the thin content of the sponsored posts should still make them eligible to be penalized and demoted by PageRank.]

The crux of the issue is that Google or its advertising firm Unruly has sponsored bloggers to discuss its browser and include a “Chrome for small businesses”  promo video, as first spotted by SEO Book. Some of these posts purport to be reviews of Chrome and how it aids merchants. In reality, they provide no details on Chrome features or how the browser can actually benefit small businesses. This classifies them as garbage posts — the kind Google demoted in its Panda algorithm update. SEL’s Danny Sullivan does a deep dive into several of the sponsored blog posts if you want examples.

It would be fine for Google to have paid for links to the Chrome download page if the bloggers used the nofollow attribute. This indicates to PageRank that a link was paid for and shouldn’t influence search rankings. At least one didn’t. If you really want to voice your discontent over Google sidestepping it’s own rules, you can complain about this sponsored post using Google’s paid link reporting tool.

The violation could have been an error on the part of the sponsored bloggers. Still, Google should have predicted scrutiny and been more careful with the instructions the bloggers received. Google’s wide footprint gives it plenty of cross-promotion opportunities. But as we saw with the Fingergate Google+ photo takedown issue, it can also make it hard for the company to consistently adhere to all of its policies.

This Month’s Apple Event To Focus On Publishing And iBooks

Posted: 02 Jan 2012 07:07 PM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-02 at 6.56.54 PM

Apple will be holding a product event later this month in New York, Kara Swisher is reporting, and we’ve confirmed independently with a source.

According to the source the event will not involve any hardware at all and instead will focus on publishing and eBooks (sold through Apple’s iBooks platform) rather than iAds. Attendance will also be more publishing industry-oriented than consumer-focused.

The event will unveil improvements to the iBooks platform, according to the same source, and is not “major.” I’m still trying to track down other details, such as the exact day and time and will keep you posted. My request for more information was sent to Apple via email and has not yet been responded to.

I for one am hoping they’ll finally reveal a way to easily get Newsstand off your iPhone. I’ll update this post when/if I have more info.

What have you done

Posted: 02 Jan 2012 06:59 PM PST


And so this is Christmas/ and what have you done

John and Yoko’s War is Over carol barely registered at the time, with its Wall of Sound Phil Spector treatment and post-Beatles despair still in the air. But now it and Stevie Wonder’s Martin Luther King birthday song have become the defaults for this and those times of year. Perhaps it’s the careful rendering of the religious undertones of the holidays, but for me it’s that line. What have I done? Good grief?

On a personal level, there’s plenty of work to be done. I can’t help but think of those so much less fortunate than we are when trying to size up our accomplishments. How trivial thoughts of career and competition and success or failure are. What’s left is family, friends, and love.

I read a funny post today about normal people, a subject also popularized on the Gillmor Gang by Robert Scoble. The idea is that technology people should pay attention to the normal people because that’s the road to real success. Millions of users rather than thousands. The mainstream user rather than the early adopter. Of course I take this personally, having spent so much time delving into the moment of the Big Bang at the expense of the Big Middle.

We went to see Tree of Life last night. By “went” I mean into the living room and renting the film on Comcast On Demand. It was a difficult film to watch, almost no dialogue or explanation of plot and little relief from the terror and beauty of life. As it ended, we realized there would be no answer to the central riddle of the death of a child. I said it really didn’t matter; my wife said she disagreed.

This was not a movie for the normals, even with and expressly because of the presence of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. This was a big budget and highly technological rendering of an enigma. But within that frame, I found myself intuitively understanding things just as they happened, only later finally getting enough data to confirm my instinct. Something powerful was at work, on the fulcrum between the normal and the human condition.

For most of the last eight years and certainly the last two, we have been driven by the filter of a man who knew he was dying. Steve Jobs may have done what he did given a more gentle fate, but how he did it within the boundaries of his time left has profoundly altered our sense of what we have done.

He seemed to view time as the envelope in which to pour ideas, to calculate the requirements to see it through, to set in motion the forces that reshape the world. No one can say for sure what he thought, but the results continue to pour forth. We see the objects he created; less visible are the structures they imply.

How audacious it was to overturn our love/hate relationship with computers. The first clue was the sofa in the middle of the stage at the iPad introduction. Here was the man who perfected the computer as art form invading the center of the television’s turf. Disrupting the click of the mouse with the insouciant swipe of the hand. Enough of this, what else? Replacing the linear steps of navigating to and from documents with Siri and her guidance. Is this who you mean?

None of these ideas are new. Jobs was not spending his time on incremental improvement. He was choosing his battles and fighting the next war before others could marginalize the opportunity. He viewed each decision, each choice, as requiring his and our best effort at seizing the day while we still had the light. In that pact, we were no more the audience than he was the inventor. We were collaborators in transforming ourselves to the people we thought we could be.

In no way was this his victory over others. You could see in Gates’ reaction, like McCartney’s when Lennon was killed. The sadness of the loss of the partner, that strange grace we find as the dinosaur finds in the dawn of life in Tree of Life. You can see Andy Grove’s Think Paranoid ethic in the way the young animal swivels its head to stay alert, and the curiously human way he or she lets a vanquished foe survive.

Seeing the future is one thing, inventing it yet another, nurturing it and the next Big Bang so rare. It’s because we haven’t seen the explosive creativity of what comes next that we know how precious what we do now can be. Watching Words on Friends play says nothing about the devices used, or even the realtime network traversed, but everything about our evolution in emotional development.

My daughter asked me about the Timeline: Can we go back to the way it used to be? Probably not, I guessed. She’s worried it’s too complicated for a friend coming to her page, too hard to find a video or a picture, too impersonal navigating the constantly flowing stream. It’s like a messy room, she said. She’d rather have a clean room. Really? Wow.

Cleaning up the stream, making it feel like home rather than a transient hotel, these are the things we have not done. Our children look to us for signs of direction, forcing us to act like adults to calm their fears. We have little to teach them except that which we learn of our selves. I’ve always been partial to those who lead not by example but by educated guess. As we stumble around in the dark, we understand how brave and kind were the ones that brought us here.

Another year over/ and a new one just begun

Flurry: 1.2 Billion Mobile Apps Were Downloaded Over The Holidays

Posted: 02 Jan 2012 02:50 PM PST

1.2B apps

With nearly 7 million new Android phones and iPhones activated on Christmas Day, an app-downloading frenzy was a foregone conclusion. App research firm Flurry estimates that a combined total of 1.2 billion apps were downloaded during the holiday week between December 25-31. That compares to an average of 750,000 mobile apps downloaded per week earlier in December, or a 60 percent jump.

This is the first time app downloads surpassed the one-billion mark in a single week. About little less than a quarter of those apps (242 million) were downloaded on Christmas Day itself. People download a bunch of apps when they first activate their phones, and then add more as they discover new apps. But that first week the downloading activity is at a height while consumers are still eager to play their new toys.

The geographic breakdown is also notable, with the U.S> accounting for nearly half of all downloads (509 million), followed by China (99 million), and the UK (81 million). Then Canada, Germany, and France all came in at around 49 million.

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