Friday, January 6, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Etsy Makes It Easy For Users To Post Items To Pinterest With New ‘Pin It’ Button

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 09:52 AM PST


Online pinboard Pinterest is all the rage these days, and as Etsy is showing today with its latest product announcement, e-commerce sites are starting to realize the power of pinning. The e-commerce marketplace is making it easier for Pinterest users to pin and organize Etsy items, via a new Pin It button on Etsy listing pages, alongside the Tweet and Like buttons.

Etsy says that its members are big fans of Pinterest (and so is Etsy), so the integration makes sense. Etsy is also using Pinterest’s price display feature. So when you pin listings with the Pin It button, the required pin description field is prefilled with the item title and price. Users can also add a note about why they like the item, which will be added to their Pinterest posting.

As we’ve reported in the past, Pinterest encourages members to collect photos and links to products. Via these Pinboards, users are creating socially curated shopping catalogs, the social element comes in because everyone follows their friends' pinboards.

Also, since Pinterest is still invite-only, Etsy users who don’t use the pinboard can sign up for the site here.

So why are e-commerce sites starting to catch on? Pinterest is collecting a ton of commercial intent and data (especially from women) and is in a position to know what types of products to recommend users or what types of content to show them in the future. And the platform has become a real destination to discover new products.

As e-commerce sites allow users to automatically pin items, this serves as another form of advertising and discovery for retailers on Pinterest. Considering the viral nature of Pinterest, it’s safe to assume more e-commerce sites are going to catch on and add Pin It buttons to their product pages.

ChatON, Samsung’s iMessage Competitor, Arrives In App Store

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 09:12 AM PST


Remember ChatON? The Samsung-built, cross-platform, mobile messaging app which arrived in Google’s Android Market this fall? The app, somewhat similar to BlackBerry’s BBM or Apple’s iMessage, provides users with an alternative to SMS or MMS.

At the time, Samsung was promising support for iOS would be coming “soon.” Well, “soon” has arrived. ChatON is now available for download from iTunes.

That brings ChatON support to three platforms: Android, Bada phones and now iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). Samsung says that BlackBerry, Windows Phone and web support is still on the way.

For a refresher on ChatON’s feature set, the app lets users message each other, sharing text, pictures, voice messages, location, contacts and calendar data. There’s also a crazy option that lets you draw pictures by hand. Group chat is included, too, and involves a social element that ranks how often you talk to your friends on the app.

The interface seems OK. (Well, maybe a bit juvenile with that big ol’ smiley button. But then again, I’m old). The real draw is the app’s cross-platform nature – instead of using expensive SMS allotments, you can use an app instead. But ChatON competes with several others in this space, including GroupMe, which has the benefit of supporting SMS for those who don’t have the ability to run the app on their phones.

ChatON, however, may get a boost thanks to its creator Samsung who has the ability to pre-install the app on the devices it ships.

You can grab ChatON for iOS here on iTunes. To Launch “Touch Play”: An AirPlay-Based Gesture Remote

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST


Video-sharing startup (and stars of Bloomberg's TechStars reality show) is about to launch a pretty nifty feature called “Touch Play.” The new addition, a gesture-based remote control that works via Apple’s AirPlay, will be shown off at next week’s CES, with its launch planned for the week following.

For those unfamiliar, launched in October with a service that automatically pulls in all the videos your friends share on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr into a curated video channel with videos you can watch, favorite and then re-share.

Says founder Reece Pacheco, with Touch Play, it’s about using the right screen for the right thing. And the TV was made for watching videos! You’ll be able to control the videos on your TV via the mobile app.

The new gestures are built into’s iOS applications, but will only work on the latest hardware: the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2.

Touch Play is a bit more complex than Apple’s Remote app, it seems. There are a number of gestures included, like a one finger tap for the video’s context, a one finger swipe up for a like, a swipe down for a “watch later,” a swipe left or right to move back or forward in a video by 10 seconds, a two finger up or down to change “channels” (e.g. your favorites queue, your “watch later” queue, etc.), a pinch to return to the guide, an expand to expand the sharing controls, and a double tap to play and pause videos. Whew! 

The list seems long, but like all iOS gestures, it’s easier to get the hang of them by doing, not reading some “how to” guide.

Since you still have to wait a couple of weeks to demo this for yourself (boo), you can check out the video below as a preview:

Pacheco says has an Android tablet app in the works too, but won’t comment on the timing. They also have a “good guess” as to how the rumored Apple TV set will work, and are moving to support it, but won’t talk about that either (also, boo…or maybe, yay?)

You can grab a copy of for iOS here on iTunes.

More info is available via’s blog.

Facebook’s Free Social Cards From Moo Are Going Like Very Hot Cakes

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 08:11 AM PST

Some 24 hours after we broke the news that Facebook had engaged Moo to be the sole creator of its new ‘social’ business cards service we have some exclusive numbers on what that deal is translating into.

The promotion of 200,000 free packs of 50 cards is on a first come, first served basis. However the offer is capped at 5,000 orders per day (that’s 250,000 cards per day) in order, Moo says, to ensure a “strong ethos of customer service and to make it fair.”

Startup Weekend’s Eventful Year: 260 Events In 202 Cities; Startups Raised $30M+

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 07:55 AM PST

startup weekends

Startup Weekend, whose mission is to kickstart and foster startup communities worldwide through events and networking sessions, had a very lively 2011.

According to internal statistics shared exclusively with TechCrunch, the organization held a total of 260 events in 202 cities, in 67 countries (you can find the obligatory accompanying infographic below).

All in all, the ‘startup weekends’ attracted some 21,316 people, who collectively formed 2,817 teams.

Startups that were incubated at its events raised at least $30 million in outside funding in the course of last year, although Startup Weekend CMO Joey Pomerenke tells me there were probably more fundraising rounds completed that they simply don’t know about yet.

Some of the startups that got funded: Zaarly, Scanadu, LaunchRock, Foodspotting and Cloudbot. Two companies even got acquired: Keepstream and Volly.

One dude (Jon Rossi, organizer of Startup Weekend Denver and Boulder) even got himself a custom tattoo in support of the organization! (see picture on top)

This wasn’t mentioned by them in the retrospective, but it’s noteworthy: Google recently inked a two-year, global agreement with Startup Weekend to help expand its operations.

On that note: Pomerenke says 2012 is poised to become an even more eventful year, with 400+ Startup Weekend events planned so far. There will also be more verticals (see for example Startup Weekend EDU for the education industry) such as health, gaming, media and more.

Pomerenke also comments:

“There is a lot of great data we have compiled here, but the metric that is most important to us (but harder to track) is the impact we have on the peoples lives that go through our events. That could mean they learned a new skill, they found a co-founder, they got a job or maybe they were inspired to take that entrepreneurial leap.

This is something we plan on tracking better in 2012.”

Nobody Wins At CES

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 07:39 AM PST


Rather than do a CES pre-round-up of exciting products I’d like to address this interesting slant on the whole “massive electronics trade show in the middle of the desert” concept that has kept the Gadgets crew here up for the past few weeks. MG said Apple won CES. He was being snide, but, in a way, honest because, in the end, nobody wins CES.

The Consumer Electronics Show is, as its name implies, a show for consumer electronics. These include, but are not limited to, TVs, DVD players, Blu-Ray players (if they still make those), and accessories. TV stands! TV brackets! Speakers! Remotes! In fact, there’s an entire hall dedicated to the Asian purveyors of the components that make up those consumer electronics, a sort of Fishmongers Row to the CE industry where the smell is at least far more tolerable.

You’ll notice that nowhere in there did I mention PCs, laptops, cellphones, tablets, and Microsoft Windows. That’s because those are typically termed “mobile devices” or PCs or operating systems. There are trade shows for those, as well, although they are far fewer these days than they ever were. Why? Because the Internet took away all the fun of schlepping a booth to the Javitts Center in New York and paying for hotel rooms and food for a bunch of salesmen to stand around giving out tote bags. Why have a COMDEX when you can get Engadget, The Verge, and Gizmodo to cover your geegaw the moment its launched. Why pay $100,000 in booth fees at SXSW as a start-up when you can talk to TechCrunch to get approximately the same number of eyes? It doesn’t make sense.

CES is really for buyers. Sure it’s a hoot to see what gadgets will launch at back-to-school in September and we, regrettably, will be there reporting on start-ups and cool gadgets we find. But it’s buyers – men and women who love to spend a week eating steak and playing backgammon at MGM grand – who really drive CES. Buyers may be considerably more plugged in these days than they were in the past, but the orders they place at CES are usually the last time they actively pursue the noephillic instinct until January of the next year. Again, with the rise of the Internet, this is swiftly changing but for now the mom-and-pop electronics shop in Scranton trying to fight off Amazon and Best Buy comes to CES to see which TVs to stock.

Microsoft left CES because the news cycle it imparted on the industry didn’t suit it. You can talk backroom politics all you want, but in the end Microsoft could make its own news without CES. Every company is beholden to produce something new and great for CES and their R&D teams are geared to follow this schedule. Microsoft wanted off the treadmill, and they’re big enough to do it.

Ultimately, nobody wins CES because there’s nothing to win. Most products announced don’t launch for months (if not years) and the major news articles end up being trend pieces rather than actual reviews. Sometimes companies can take the air out of the event by launching something “huge” – the Palm Pre is the last item in recent memory that really stole the show – but CES is about selling real goods to real people, not impressing some tech blogger with a 1 terabyte cellphone. It behooves us to remember that the Consumer in Consumer Electronics Show is less a term of endearment and more a target for a precision strike. We are the consumer. They want to sell to us. CES is geared to making that happen.

If you’re a gearhead, I don’t want to cancel Christmas on you here. Yuck it up. We’ll be covering it in our own way over here. However, just remember that CES exists not to offer solace to the unmitigated fanboy. It exists to make money and when that money can be made elsewhere, CES will go away.

Siri Sibling Trapit Raises $6.2 Million Series A From Horizons

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 07:26 AM PST


Exclusive – Personalized web search tool Trapit, often called the sister to Apple’s Siri because both were built on the same artificial intelligence project from DARPA and SRI, has just raised $6.2 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Horizons Ventures, the Hong Kong-based venture fund that manages the investments for Facebook and Spotify investor Li Ka-shing. Horizons also previously invested in Siri’s B round.

While both Siri and Trapit arose from the same underlying technology and IP, Trapit moved in a different direction. It focuses on personalized search and web discovery in order to bring your attention to the web content that best matches your interests. To do so, the service’s web crawler indexes hundreds of thousands of sites, then utilizes its intelligent discovery engine to find content that matches your “traps” – aka, your saved search terms.

In some ways, it’s like an RSS reader, except that instead of subscribing to websites’ feeds, you’re subscribing to topics. As you continue to use the service, you can improve upon its initial recommendations by providing feedback. In addition, unlike several “topic based” web discovery services, the traps are entirely unique. No two users’ traps are alike, even if their search terms are the same.

With the additional funding, Trapit plans to grow its development team, continue its app development and core R&D investments and expand to other platforms, including mobile and tablet.

Rob Majteles, Founder and managing partner of Treehouse Capital and a GP at Oak Investment Partners is also joining Trapit as an outside, non-investing Director. Majteles, who has been an informal advisor since's formative stages at SRI, will join the company’s board.

The new board will now include himself, plus co-founder and CEO Gary Griffiths, co-founder and chief Product Officer Henry Nothhaft, Jr., SRI’s Steve Ciesinski and Frank Meehan of Horizons Ventures.

Trapit was also just selected as one of the eight finalists for the SXSW Accelerator in the Most Innovative Web Startup category, which Siri won in 2010.

The company now delivers over 4 million articles per day and has seen over 2.5 million users since launch.

After 58 Years: Panasonic To Cut The Cord With JVC Kenwood

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST

jvc logo

Panasonic has been partnering with Victor Co. of Japan, which in 2008 merged with Kenwood to become JVC Kenwood, since 1954. But yesterday JVC Kenwood announced [JP, PDF] that Panasonic, its largest shareholder and business partner, will go alone in the future.

Big P is apparently ready to sell 24,225,400 of its shares, a move that will make the company the seventh-largest shareholder in JVC Kenwood.

As far as voting rights are concerned, Panasonic’s stake will drop from 19.28% (as of September 30, 2011) to 1.75%. Panasonic is planning to set a price for the shares between January 17 and 19. Actual sales are scheduled to start at the end of the month, with the company being set to eventually sell all of its remaining shares in JVC Kenwood at some point in the future.

Panasonic cut its management ties with JVC Kenwood well before this ending of the capital relationship, namely during a shareholders meetings in April last year.

Nokia Acquires Norwegian Mobile OS Company Smarterphone

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 06:39 AM PST


Nokia has acquired Oslo, Norway-based Smarterphone, a company that builds a mobile operating system for so-called feature phones.

The news of the purchase, which was actually completed last November, comes straight from investment firm Ferd Capital, which pumped 6.5 million euros into Smarterphone since 2007.

Other backers of Smarterphone – which was formerly known as Kvaleberg AG, after founder Egil Kvaleberg – include Innovation Norway, Trolltech founder Haavard Nord and management consultant Lars Øberg.

Smarterphone specializes in software that allows handset makers to equip basic models of phones (aka feature phones) with smartphone-like looks and certain capabilities.

Whether Nokia will keep Smarterphone’s platform as a third option for its devices, aside from S40 and Windows Phone, or if this was more about buying talent and know-how, remains unclear.

Financial terms of the deal were also not disclosed.

HTC’s Growth Spurt Is Done (For Now)

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 06:36 AM PST


HTC released their unaudited Q4 financials earlier this morning, and as expected, they indicate a disappointing decline for the Taiwanese hardware vendor.

The company’s net operating income was down to NT$12.9 billion ($426 million), a nearly $22 percent decline from their position this time last year. HTC’s revenues were similarly impacted — they only managed to pull in NT$101 billion ($3.35 billion), which represents a 2.49% year-over-year dip, and a nearly 25% decrease from their impressive Q3 figures.

HTC tried to downplay expectations for their Q4 performance in November by slashing their revenue forecasts by 20%, but the drop still must have stung. At the time, the company cited increased competition in the smartphone market as one of the key factors for their sinking financials, and they weren’t kidding. Samsung today posted some remarkable figures (even for Samsung), which makes HTC’s path going forward even rockier.

HTC may be temporarily down, but they’re not going out without a fight. HTC has hinted at big things to come in 2012, with one of the latest rumors du jour being the appearance of their first quad-core smartphone at MWC. I still think HTC’s best chance is to throw their considerable weight behind developing a flagship phone with some staying power as opposed to replacing new hardware with even newer hardware at a blistering pace. 2012 is still young — HTC has plenty of time to bounce back, but they’re going to have to work for it.

Sony Announces World’s First XQD Memory Cards

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 06:19 AM PST


Are you ready for yet another memory card format? Dubbed XQD, the medium was first announced by Sandisk, Sony and Nikon in November 2010. And after the the CompactFlash Association finalized the specifications last month, Sony took the wraps off the world’s first XQD cards today.

Two versions of the card will be available, in addition to an XQD-compatible card reader (USB 3.0) and an ExpressCard Adapter. Here are some details from Sony America:

  • QD-H16 card, 16 GB, $129.99
  • QD-H32 card, 32 GB, $229.99
  • Card Reader, MRW-E80, $44.99
  • ExpressCard Adapter, QDA-EX1, $44.99

Sony says that the cards boast data transfer rates of up to 1Gbps/125MB/s write and read. From the press release:

Using the XQD memory cards, XQD compatible high-end DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera users can capture up to approximately 100 frames in RAW format in continuous shooting mode. In addition to outstanding high-speed data transfer capability, the new cards are highly reliable to protect users’ data and images.

Sony is planning to roll out the XQD memory cards, the reader, and the adapter next month.

The Samsung Note Is Definitively Not Coming To AT&T As Far As You Know

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 06:05 AM PST


Remember the mini-slate Samsung released a few months ago? The Samsung Galaxy Note? Pretty cool little device. As we enter CES week, the press releases are flying fast and furious and this one caught my eye. It’s for a small company that makes accessories for gadgets and I suppose (I can’t find the original) it outlined Anymode’s plans for Samsung Note accessories.

The release also noted that the Samsung Note would hit AT&T this year. There were rumors of this, but Anymode essentially confirmed it. Until they didn’t.

A few hours after the original announcement, I got an email retracting the earlier statement. It stated:


JANUARY 6, 2012 –The January 5, 2012 CES Media Alert titled “Anymode Introduces First Accessories for Samsung Galaxy Note” contained inaccurate information pertaining to AT&T and the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note.

The information was not provided by Anymode, AT&T or Samsung , nor did Anymode, AT&T or Samsung approve it.

The issuing party apologizes for the publishing of the inaccurate information and any inconvenience it may have caused.

I love the memory-hole-esque line “The information was not provided by Anymode, AT&T or Samsung , nor did Anymode, AT&T or Samsung approve it.” Yes, Anymode, you did “provide” it. You sent it out. Stand up for your convictions here. It’s a small slate. It’s not a cure for cancer.

In the end, this whole dance is part of the modern CE scene. What you’re seeing here is a small partner messing up and two other partners – much bigger and with more lawyers – pressuring them to convince the world something never happened. I’d call it a cover-up if it didn’t insult the memory of Watergate.

These curtsies, bows, and twirls are what passes for information dissemination in a world run by the rumor. This is why Microsoft left CES – the impetus to launch around a major trade show in a world that can accept breaking “news” in a few hours, not a few months. CES was good when magazines were working on back-to-school issues in January. Now they work on back-to-school blog posts the week before junior straps on his backpack.

Expect more fun line this over the next few days. CES, as they say, is a wild ride.

Bessemer Leads $6M Round In Q&A Platform For Students And Teachers, Piazza

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 05:59 AM PST


Piazza, a Q&A platform for students and instructors, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Bessemer Venture Partners with Kapor Capital and Felicis Ventures also participating in the round. The company is also backed by Sequoia Capital and SV Angel.

Piazza’s platform helps classmates share their questions and answers in a format that's a mixture between a wiki and a forum. Each class gets its own hub for Q&A, and students can bookmark any questions if they're also eager to find out the answer. Multiple students can contribute to each answer in a wiki style but there's a version history that shows what each student wrote.

Both students and professors can create Piazza hubs for their classes. Instructor answers are separated from the students' to make them easier to find. And professors can also look to see which questions have been bookmarked by the most students to gauge which topics they should explain better in class.

Piazza, which emerged from private beta in January, now enrolls more than 100,000 students hundreds of schools worldwide. This includes 109 of the top 250 colleges in the United States. Campuses where students are using Piazza include Stanford, Virginia Tech, Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and the University of Michigan/

Piazza also shared usage data today from fall term courses, with 96% of all questions received an answer within a median response time of only 25 minutes. In terms of the breakdown, 45% of questions received an answer from a student and 67% of questions were addressed by instructors (some were answered by both).

The most active class on Piazza was a computer science class at Berkeley, where students recorded over 19,000 contributions during the course of the semester, or an average of one contribution every 22 minutes. One student in this class answered 463 of his peers' questions. 74% of the students contributed some sort of feedback.

Students who sign on to Piazza stay logged in for an average of four hours a day, typically keeping the application open as a third tab in their browser. Piazza also recently introduced mobile clients for iOS and Android.

Piazza plans to use the new funding for research and development as well as towards expansion efforts in other schools and universities.

No Cable Killer After All: KIT digital Buys Assets Of Sezmi For $27 Million

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 05:48 AM PST


So much for Sezmi‘s ambitious plans to kill cable TV: the assets of the cloud-based TV delivery platform company were recently acquired by KIT digital for approximately $27 million in a mixture of stock and cash.

Sezmi, founded in 2007 under the name Building B by the former CTO of Sony Music (and later CTO of Sony’s US subsidiary) Phil Wiser and serial entrepreneur Buno Pati, reportedly raised over $70 million.

The Belmont, California-based company shut down its consumer-facing business back in September 2011, and tried to turn the ship around by focusing on selling hardware to service operators, such as telcos and ISPs. Clearly, that didn’t work out so well either.

KIT digital, which provides video management software and related digital services worldwide, says it acquired ‘certain assets and liabilities’ of Sezmi on December 30, 2011.

KIT digital paid approximately $16 million in cash upfront, and approximately $11 million in KIT digital common stock (or approximately 1.2 million shares), plus earn-outs. Notably, future earn-out payments may amount up to $20 million – $25 million over a period of three years, in total, payable either in stock or in cash at KIT digital’s discretion.

As part of the deal, KIT digital has obtained 18 patents from Sezmi, related to “over-the-top (OTT) platform provision in the mobile, online and digital terrestrial television (DTT) environments”.

According to the press release announcing the purchase, Sezmi has approximately 80 full-time employees and contractors in the United States, with another 55 in India.

Other recent acquisitions by KIT digital include Ioko, Polymedia, KickApps, Kewego and Kyte.

The company today also raised its financial guidance for 2012; KIT digital management says it now expects annual revenues of at least $320 million, as compared to $300 million previously. KIT digital plans to report preliminary Q4 2011 financial results in February.

Samsung Posts Record Q4 Numbers, 35 Million Smartphones Sold

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 05:46 AM PST

samsung headquarters

Samsung has today posted record quarterly profits after selling 35 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, up from 27.9 million in the previous quarter. Operating profits have soared to 5.2 trillion won (US $4.47 billion), representing a 73 percent year-over-year increase.

You can bet that the still-very-popular Samsung Galaxy S II has something to do with it, along with Google’s latest flagship device: the ICS-powered Galaxy Nexus. Of course, the revenue generated from Samsung’s processing chip and OLED display business didn’t hurt either, reports Reuters.

What’s most interesting perhaps is that Samsung only joined in on the smartphone party back in 2010, and has since dominated the market. Last quarter, the South Korea-based electronics giant surged past Apple to take the lead as smartphone king — all the while being taken to court in all corners of the globe.

Colbert Asks Steve Case About The ‘Sharing Economy’, Invents Toasterster

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 04:58 AM PST


Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL (which owns TechCrunch blah blah blah) and founder of Revolution, was on The Colbert Report yesterday to get interrupted by host Stephen Colbert after every other word he spoke while attempting to explain the ‘sharing economy’ to him and the audience.

Fortunately for viewers, the interruptions were amusing, especially when Colbert lays out his vision for a new startup called Toasterster, which would enable New Yorkers to pick up and ‘rent’ toasters at a central location and return them there after using it for the couple of minutes they need it for.

He made the rookie mistake of not securing though (gone in 3, 2, 1 …).

Daily Crunch: Strive

Posted: 06 Jan 2012 01:00 AM PST

Andreessen Horowitz, Salesforce Put $1.4M In Real-Time Messaging Infrastructure Startup Flotype

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 10:02 PM PST


Flotype, a startup that offers a suite of technologies that simplify real-time messaging for cloud and mobile applications, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Partners, Yuri Milner, Salesforce, and Y Combinator.

Flotype, which was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2011 class, is announcing that its first product is Bridge, a technology that enables real-time communication between any server, any device, on any platform. Bridge is essentially an API that developers can use to avoid the complexity of building real-time messaging into their applications, and help push more data faster between servers, web browsers, mobile phones and other devices.

Founder and CEO Darshan Shankar explains to me that as he and his co-founders were studying engineering at UC Berkeley, they realized that the infrastructure behind real-time communications platforms like Facebook and Twitter needed to be democratized.

For companies that want to build complex real-time applications, Flotype provides a simple API that can be deployed within minutes by developers to enable these communications. As Shankar explains, these developers don’t need to spend millions (or billions) of dollars on building this infrastructure in-house, and can get to market faster.

For example, developers can build massive multiplayer video games like World of Warcraft for smartphones, or create the communications architecture behind a large-scale social data platform. While Shankar declined to tell us how much the use of the API costs, companies can test out the technology for free.

Already, a number of large companies (which are not being disclosed) are using Flotype Bridge middleware. The new funding will be used for further development of additional products and services that support cloud and mobile architecture.

Animoto Learns To Play Friendly With Instagram, Now Pulls Photos In Directly

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 08:55 PM PST


It’s not a bad day for Instagram. First came the announcement that they were 2011 Crunchies Finalists. Shortly thereafter, they finally figured out how to push fullsize Instagrams to your Facebook Timeline. Capping off the day, automatic video slideshow service Animoto has launched full, built-in Instagram support.

If you missed our previous Animoto coverage, here’s all you need to know: you take your photos and video clips, and you put them into Animoto. It spits out something like this:

Animoto’s CEO Brad Jefferson tells us that Instagram support comes “as a response to strong customer feedback” — in other words, people have been asking for this for a while now. Alas, it’s a web-only trick for now; while the Animoto iPhone app will be getting Instagram support in time, mobile users will need to push things from Instagram to the Camera Roll to Animoto for the time being.

Yammer, We Just Can’t Quit You

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 07:16 PM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-05 at 6.52.35 PM

Do you have a product or service you don’t really like, always complain about, yet can’t really stop using?

Everyone knows someone who owns a car that always breaks down, or dates a girl that they’re not particularly into but for some reason they haven’t made the move to cut ties. You just kind of wave the annoyances away like, “Yeah, [whatever it is] sucks,” but you don’t want to go through the trouble of getting a new one because the switching costs (i.e. the time it takes to adapt to a new product/service/girlfriend) are too high.

Enterprise social network Yammer is this for TechCrunch. We use Yammer as our internal chatroom here at TC, it won TechCrunch 50 and the actual company itself is located right upstairs. Yet every time someone mentions them in, ironically Yammer, the whole thread becomes about how much they suck.

We have a cornucopia of very specific complaints (and to his credit Yammer CEO David Sacks has now ventured downstairs twice to address them personally, in addition to forwarding Robin’s our checklist of complaints to Yammer PM Jim Patterson for very detailed feedback which I’m including in this post) but the truth is that no matter how much we hate on it, nothing better exists — at least as far as we’ve seen/covered.

Sure, we could move to Jive or Salesforce or any of the others, but their UIs suck even more than Yammer’s! For what’s basically an enterprise clone of Facebook, Yammer seems to have the “enterprise clone of Facebook” market cornered.

So Yammer, we just can’t quit you. Hopefully you’ll use some of your new scratch on getting your act together.

Get ready for a bunch of Yammer clones posting in the comments!

TechCrunch: Desktop version regularly freezes.

Yammer: We released a new version of the desktop client in October which represents a substantial improvement in performance and reliability. (You should try it.) That said, there are issues with Adobe AIR that are beyond our control. For example, Adobe AIR is a known CPU hog, which causes instability. It also seems to update versions constantly and crashes a lot. In general, we’ve been frustrated with AIR as a development platform, and plan to move to native Windows/Mac apps this year.

TechCrunch : Mobile apps crash on some platforms.

Yammer: I don’t know of a mobile app that doesn’t crash sometimes. That said, we feel like our track record on mobile is pretty good. We released a new Android app in November, and a new iOS app will be in the App Store this month. The main focus for both of these versions was speed and reliability. Our mobile apps have already won kudos and awards from most quarters. Apple named us a Top App for 2011. Forrester also named us a leader in mobile collaboration.

TechCrunch: Apps are also inconsistent in terms of UI features and whatnot.

Yammer: We don’t believe that mobile, desktop, and web should have identical user interfaces. For starters, we’ve customized the experience to fit the available real estate. Mobile and desktop are primarily oriented around quick access to the feed, whereas the web is fully featured experience. If you want to use the 100% feature-complete version of Yammer, that’s what the browser for.

TechCrunch: Direct messages get delayed or not delivered at all.

Yammer: This is not true. Every Yammer message gets delivered. You seem to be basing your experience on not receiving messages by people you haven’t followed in Gabble, which isn’t even an official Yammer client. Yammer clients offer the choice of “Top Conversations” (seeing everything important, even if you’re not following the author) and “Followed Conversations” (only authors you’re following). In August last year, we made Top Conversations the default. Gabble is not under active development anymore so they haven’t updated (the API is available).

TechCrunch: New features get rolled out slowly and not on all platforms at the same time.

Yammer: It’s true that we release features iteratively. We release them first on the web, and if successful, then we add them to our mobile and desktop clients. This is because most of our users are on the website. It’s not true to say that we’re developing slowly. Yammer had a huge release in November that introduced Pages, Files, and Ticker. You should really try out the Yammer website before you make generalizations about our product. Your views seem to be based largely around using Gabble and outdated versions of our AIR app.

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