Monday, January 9, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Flurry: Mobile App Usage Up To 94 Minutes Per Day

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 10:27 AM PST


Mobile analytics firm Flurry has updated its report from last summer which compared mobile apps to web consumption and found that apps came out on top. In June, Flurry discovered that users were spending 81 minutes per day in mobile apps versus 74 minutes on the web. As of December, the usage of mobile apps has skyrocketed to 94 minutes per day, while web consumption dropped to 72 minutes.

The interesting thing about this data is that the most recent growth in mobile apps usage hasn’t really been at the expense of browsing the traditional web. People have just been using mobile apps more. We should note, however, that Flurry pulls its web data from comScore and Alexa, which aren’t always the best sources and use differing methodologies to determine browsing habits. In addition, users of mobile apps also browse the web, so it’s not so much a question of apps “versus” the web, as it is a look into our data consumption in general (despite Flurry’s positioning it as a battle that’s to be won or lost).

But the bottom line is: apps are hot.

Flurry notes that roughly 40 billion applications have been downloaded from the iTunes App Store and Android Market since their debuts. And we’re only at the beginning of the mobile app era. As Flurry’s end-of-year research found, the addressable market for mobile app developers is still in the millions.

The new report attributes the small decrease in traditional web consumption to a decline in Facebook use. In June, people spent over 33 minutes per day on the Facebook website, and now that number is below 24 minutes. Meanwhile, time spent on the web without Facebook grew by 2% between June 2011 and December 2011.

That doesn’t necessarily mean trouble for Facebook – it just means good news for Facebook’s mobile apps. As an unrelated report recently found, the number of monthly active users of Facebook's mobile apps recently passed the 300 million mark (or 40% of Facebook’s official 800 million+ users). Flurry confirms the same trend, saying “we believe that Facebook users, and users of other traditional style websites, are increasingly accessing services through mobile applications than from desktops.”

In this case, it may be a choice of apps “versus” the web.

As a part of today’s research report, Flurry also provided insight into which mobile app categories were the most popular. Not surprisingly, games led with nearly half (49%) of U.S. users’ time spent. Social networking (30%), Entertainment (7%) and News (6%) followed, with the “Other” category (accounting for everything else) at 8%.

Combined, social networking and gaming is 79%, which offers an interesting perspective on what mobile app users really do on their phones. We play.

Monster Wins CES With Feathers And Spikes

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 10:11 AM PST


Forget Apple. Forget salespeople. Monster just won CES. The company’s just-announced Inspiration line of headphones combines the fashion of weirdoes with the technology of Monster. Perfection!

The company failed to announce anything about the headphones. Monster didn’t state the price, availability or even the retail channels. They simply paraded models up and down wearing headphones adorned with features, lace, and other random fashionista items. These so-called Inspiration models are perhaps the first people in the history of the human race to wear fashion-first headphones.

But fear not! These headphones are within reach of most people. Simply take any ol’ headphones — they probably sound as good as these anyway — and steal your wife’s hot glue gun. Proceed to glue random household objects onto the headphones with utter disregard. Used featherduster? Perfect! A swatch of your dog’s hair? Of course! A used bandaid? I would think that’s fine, too.

We are the cusp of a new era, friends. Soon we’ll all wear headphones like these. I can’t wait.

Canon Boosts Specs, LCD, And Price Of Its G Series With New G1X

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 10:05 AM PST


The last iteration of Canon’s compact rangefinder-esque series of cameras, the G12, wasn’t particularly compelling to me. It barely stood up to its opposite number at Nikon, on paper at least, and the superb S95 seemed like a better deal to most people who opted to go Canon at that price. Today they’ve unveiled the G1X, however, which addresses most of the sticking points of the previous device, though it also raises the price considerably.

It’s been upgraded with a new 1.5″ (18.7 x 14mm) sensor, which is a bit smaller than an APS-C sensor like you’d find in their consumer DSLRs but significantly larger than a micro four-thirds one. And at 14 megapixels, they’re not trying to pack too many pixels on there.

They’ve also upgraded the LCD: the inferior 480×320 one on the G12 has had its pixel count doubled, giving a nice sharp 640×480. It’s also a little bit bigger: 3″ versus 2.8″ on the last one. You can see some other changes in DPReview’s quick preview; I like the chunky design of this camera better than its predecessor.

The lens, unfortunately, isn’t going to win any awards. A 28-112mm equivalent (4x) zoom that goes from F/2.8 on the short end to F/5.6 on the long end — sounds a bit more like a mid-range point and shoot than an enthusiast’s compact. Compared with the likes of the Fujifilm X10 and even last year’s Olympus XZ-1, this isn’t very special glass.

And at $800, it’s a steeper asking price. At the previous $500 price this would be more than a steal, but at $800 you have that X10, a number of devices from Sony and Samsung, and then the many M4/3 devices from the likes of Panasonic and Olympus. We’ll wait and see how it actually performs, but it has its work cut out for it.

Ustream: Watch Sharp’s CES 2012 Press Conference Live!

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 09:56 AM PST

sharp-logo (1)

Sharp. Everyone likes Sharp. They can do wrong, really, and they are taking the stage next at CES 2012. Their press conference, which is embedded after the jump, is set to kick off at 11:00 am PST. Expect thin LCDS and perhaps a thin LCD with Google TV built in. The event is expect to take 45 minutes. We’ll be there live as well, ready to post on whatever exciting products coming from The House of Sharp.

Intel Adds Integrated Voice Control With Nuance Partnership

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 09:52 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-09 at 12.57.34 PM

Today at Intel’s CES 2012 Keynote, the firm announced a strategic partnership with Nuance. If you’ve forgotten, Nuance is a voice recognition company, so yelling at your new ultrabook may be a closer reality than you thought.

You’ll have voice commands for checking in on notifications, and the processing never has to go through the cloud since ultrabooks will provide enough processing power to begin with.

According to the Nuance boss, responses will be spoken back in natural language and the program will provide for up to nine different languages, including English, French, German Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, and Mandarin.

They also mentioned that the power is there to eventually enable real-time language translation.

Intel @ CES2012: Windows 8 Will Bring Us Some Wild New Form Factors

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 09:41 AM PST


In addition to some new form factors, Intel showed us some interesting new Windows 8 interface ideas. Keep in mind that these are proofs-of-concept rather than working devices, so they may or may not actually appear on the market.

The most interesting new UI demo was the Nikishki notebook, a clamshell with a big transparent trackpad below the keyboard. The trackpad works as a traditional trackpad and then “disables” when you press your palms on it to type. Then, when you close the laptop, some of the screen is visible and you are able to see and use the Windows 8 tiles available through the transparent portion.

This could trickle into the current Intel ecosystem (but it might not) but it was a very cool concept.

Another concept was a Kinect-like gesture control for laptops that lets you make gestures in the air to control the system.

It’s a bit goofy but, in addition to gyroscopic controls and the new Nuance voice controls, you’re looking at what amounts to a few new ways to control your PC.

Click to view slideshow.

NYC TechStars Member Blueprint Health Announces Its First Class Of Startups

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 09:40 AM PST

Blueprint Health

NYC-based Blueprint Health, a health-focused member of the TechStars Network, is announcing its inaugural class of startups today. The Winter program, which begins on January 9th, will be taking place in a 12,000 square foot loft in SoHo that will be shared with the Health 2.0 NYC team starting later this month. Part of the loft may also be turned into a co-working space for other healthcare-focused area entrepreneurs.

When Blueprint opened up for applications in fall 2011, it listed a large group of mentors which included those who founded and helped lead companies like Amicas, Eliza, Everyday Health, Generation Health, Healthination, HelloHealth, Keas, Kryuus, Livestrong, MedCommons, Medivo, PatientsLikeMe, Phreesia, ShapeUp and ZocDoc.

Since then, it has added the following 10 mentors to its program:

  • Andy Weissman – Partner, Union Square Ventures
  • Dr. Paul Ehrlich – Chief Medical Officer, Cerner
  • Jonathan Gordon – Strategy, New York Presbyterian Hospital
  • Rachel Winokur – Head of Strategic Diversification, Aetna
  • Jason Gorevic – CEO, Teladoc
  • Jeff Hoffman –  Senior Director Health Care Strategy, CVS
  • Peter Preziosi – Health Innovation Strategist, Verizon
  • Hamel Shah – Corporate Business Development, Allscripts
  • Neal Sofian – Director Member Engagement, Premera
  • Dr. Destry Sulkes – CoFounder, Medivo

Blueprint also has employees from CVS, Johns Hopkins, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, Lockheed Martin, McKinsey Hospital Institute, Take Care Health Systems, Pfizer and WebMD on board. Its investment partners include Aberdare Ventures, ATV, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, HLM Venture Partners, Milestone Venture Partners, Physic Ventures, Psilos and Radius Ventures and Windham Venture Partners.

The startups participating in Blueprint's program, both now and in the future, will be focused on technology products for patients, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, health plans or employers. The accelerator, however, will not be as focused on consumer-facing apps looking to gain traction.

The first class of startups joining the program include the following:

5 O'Clock Records (Draper, UT)

Led by Matthew Cottrell, 5 O'Clock Records helps doctors reduce phone calls by direct requests for medical records from health insurance companies, lawyers, and others to a website where the requester can submit request information, verification, and pay for the request with a credit card.  Matthew is a serial healthcare entrepreneur who previously founded, grew the business to $22 million revenue and sold it to private equity firm.

AHEAD Research (Baltimore, MD)

Led by Craig Monsen and David Do, AHEAD Research helps care management companies reduce call times by implementing triage best practices and large-scale data analysis of medical information.  Craig and David are both Johns Hopkins medical school students and Ruby programmers.  Craig designed and built a computer-based system for the diagnosis of heart disease using an electronic stethoscope, while David built a handheld device for blind people to detect people in their environments using a thermal camera.

AidIn (Boston, MA)

Led by Russ Graney and Michael Galbo, AidIn makes discharge planning easy by creating an online system to manage discharge planning coordination and billing with nursing agencies.  Russ previously founded and led a high-performing charter school in Brooklyn and Michael previously started a company that converted waste into hydrogen and was a semi-finalist in MassChallenge.

iCouch (Shanghai, China)

Led by Brian Dear and Jessica Dear, iCouch provides a platform for counselors to conduct video counseling sessions and manage the billing process.  Brian is a self-taught iOS and Rails programmer and creator of ClassCloud, a cloud-based classroom management system.  Jessica has been a private practice counselor for over five years.

InquisitHealth (Secaucus, NJ)

Led by Ashwin Patel and Brijesh Patel, InquisitHealth connects recent and experienced patients to new patients based on medical procedure, surgery or treatment.  Ashwin has a PhD from the Wharton and is an MD candidate from Weill-Cornell Medical College.  Brijesh is experienced in web development, information architecture and product management.

Meddik (Philadelphia, PA)

Led by Tim Soo and Ben Shyong, Meddik is a search engine for health that ranks results based on a user's symptom set, clinical attributes, and demographics.  Tim is a Penn medical student and programmer who built Invisible Instrument, a Wiimote & iPhone gestural-based instrument that won an MTV Award.  Ben is a Web-developer and programmer, having built a real-time transit tool for the Philadelphia transit system and started a bubble-tea restaurant.

Patient Communicator (New York, NY)

Led by Jeff Novich, Patient Communicator is a practice management solution that will help providers reduce phone calls related to refill requests, payment, and appointment scheduling.  Jeff is serial entrepreneur, having previously founded an education start-up and a cab sharing iOS app, and has a computer science and physic degrees from Johns Hopkins and an MS from Columbia.

Procured Health (Dubai, UAE)

Led by Hani Elias and Will Danford, Procured Health will reduce hospital costs by improving medtech product evaluation and purchasing.  Hani is a founding member of McKinsey's Center for US Health System Reform, a Soros Fellow and holds a BA, JD and MPH from Harvard University.  Will has led development of Facebook and ESPN mobile applications for the new Windows OS.

Needl (Minneapolis, MN)

Led by Rashaun Sourles and Michael Winikoff, Needl is a Q&A web platform that connects healthcare professionals to industry vendors.  Previously, Rashaun spent 7 years in pharma sales at J&J and earned the "President's Circle" designation, putting him in the top 10% of J&J reps worldwide based on sales.  Michael previously started a technology consultancy focused on graphic design.

The inaugural class will also include two “floating founders” Tom Black (Madison, WI) and Janan Rajeevikaran (Toronto).  Tom is a Navy veteran and a software developer whose primary dev stack is Ruby, JavaScript, HTML5 + CSS3, Rails, Sinatra, Node.js, Heroku, and a sprinkling of Java/C/C++.  Janan has a degree in electrical engineering and has been programming for nearly a decade in about 20 languages.

Live From The Intel CES 2012 Press Conference: The Ultrabook Lifestyle

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 09:14 AM PST


Intel opened with that goofy guy from “Evolution of Dance,” which wasn’t very encouraging. However, things got better quickly.

Intel is coming down hard on the ultrabook this year, showing off a number of interesting 2+ GHz laptops with Intel processors that can do much more in a package the size of a Macbook Air. These new machines are slim, small, and based on Intel’s Ivy Bridge architecture.

[We are streaming this press conference live right here]
The demos included a super-fast render of a cute photo sharing app including lots of hi-res photos stuffed into a slideshow as well as a clever demo involving a train going over a bridge. The bridge, made up of hundreds of individual parts, is blown up and each part rendered in real time using 50% the processing power of the current chipset, Sandy Bridge.

In addition, the new system allows for secure NFC connectivity. For example, you can “tap” your credit card on the laptop to make a purchase, provided you have NFC capabilities built-in. Each machine manages “correct” cards to ensure that your card won’t work if your card falls into the wrong hands.

Most important, this chipset allows for a much thinner machine. Most laptops go from 9.5mm to 6.5mm with socketless chips that are soldered right into the motherboard (something hackers will hate) as well as improved heat dispersion.

Intel is serious about ultrabooks. They’ve already announced a $300 million dollar investment to reduce the price of thin components and prices are all ready at a commodity price. Interestingly, I suspect that these laptops will become the de facto standard, eventually pushing the standard, inch-think laptop to the side. They couldn’t pull off netbooks, but I think the ultrabook is the new hotness.

Click to view slideshow.

Local Services Marketplace Thumbtack Raises $4.5 Million

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 08:53 AM PST


Thumbtack, which operates an online community marketplace where people can easily list and book local services, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding, TechCrunch has learned. The round was led by Javelin Venture Partners, with MHS Capital and venture capitalist Tim Draper participating.

Founded in 2009, Thumbtack aims to “make hiring a service professional as easy as it is to buy a book on”. It’s up against startups like Redbeacon and OpenChime, among others.

It seems users have had no trouble finding their way to their website. Thumbtack says a new user has signed up every minute of every day for the last six months, on average.

The company also says 240,000 local merchants (carpenters, life coaches, wedding photographers, babysitters, math tutors, makeup artists and whatnot) have listed on to date, or roughly half as many registered merchants one can find on review site Yelp.

Thumbtack currently has 8 employees but plans to use the additional capital to hire more.

Samsung Launches New Smart TV Ad Platform, Samsung AdHub

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 08:50 AM PST


Today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Samsung launched its advertising platform, Samsung AdHub, for Samsung Smart TVs. With the new service, publishers and brands will be able to deliver video, 3D, and interactive advertisements to the living room through the Samsung Smart TV interface.

The advertisements will allow users to click to view video content, access new apps or services and will be able to launch the TV’s web browser. In addition, the new “Explore 3D” application, Samsung’s branded 3D VOD service, will allow advertisers the unique ability to launch native 3D TV ads on its TV sets.

AdHub, already available for mobile applications (both phone and tablet), allows developers to monetize their content for the Android and Samsung bada (mobile only) platforms. Developers select the ad network they want to use and how they want those ads to appear within their application. On mobile, these ads are targeted “by matching the right ad with the right content,” Samsung explains on its AdHub website.

Now those ads will be available on the big screen too, when the Smart TV in-app advertising solution goes live sometime later this year. TV app developers will be able to then download the Samsung SDK 3.0 for use with the company’s Smart TVs.

Samsung has already launched Smart TV ads in the U.S. and Korea prior to today’s announcement, with Best Buy and State Farm as advertisers. The company also has sales partnerships in place with Rovi and YuMe.

Live At Monster Cable’s CES 2012 Press Conference!

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 08:48 AM PST


Here we are, about to get bombarded by marketing nonsense and hyperboles. Yep, we’re at Monster’s press conference. Say what you will about the company, but they know how to sell. Their press conferences are as ostentatious as their marketing. It’s good family fun for all.

We’re currently sitting outside in some random hallway deep in Vegas’s Venetian hotel. It’s hot, stuffy, and filled with smelly bloggers pulling roller bags. Ah…CES, how I’ve missed you. The festivities are set to kick off at 9:00 am PST and if I had to guess, I’d say we’re in for 45 minutes of new headphones and HDMI cables.

Note: Updates will flow downstream.

*Play that that funky music, white boy!* Oh the music of press conferences.

First up, Noel Lee just announced that his company, Monster Cable, is no longer Monster Cable. It will now be known as Monster. Let the new round of silly trademark infringement lawsuits begin!

Monster is partnering with People Power to produce a new generation of power products that can be controlled over the Internet. “Energy management for the people,” says People Power CEO Gene Wang. “The most advance power solutions,” says Noel Lee. “Energy saving is what it’s all about.”

It’s plug and play. Plug devices into the smart power center and it allows for management via the web. Schedule your gadgets, computers and AV equipment. Plus, there’s a meter that tracks energy usage over time. It kills what Monster calls vampire power usage.

Monster Control Power Centers are hitting stores this March along with the Android, iOS and Windows Phone app.

Monster Digital, a brand new company that’s partnered with Monster and Seagate, to bring memory devices to market. SSD, flash memory cards, all memory, all the time. Best of all, as the Monster Digital head is currently explaining on stage, these products will sport Monster’s infamous packing.

Monster Micro is Monster’s smallest loudspeaker to date. It’s voice controlled and completely customizable with interchangeable grills and panels. Even the interactive voice can be changed with downloadable options. $229 when it hits the stores.

“What we have done with headphones, we will double or maybe triple our growth in the headphone market,” says Noel Lee. With that, Monster introduced Gratitude in-ear headphones. They were produced from a partnership with the music group Earth, Wind and Fire. No word on pricing.

On the 15th anniversary of Livestrong, Monster is teaming with the foundation for a special edition of all the iSport products.

N-ERGY is a set of headphones coming from the upcoming partnership with Nick Cannon. $69 in a few months. There is also a set of over-the-ears that will cost $129.

Yet another partnership is Monster and Diesel: Vektr. “We wanted to bring fashion to CES.” Noel Lee “Youthful, edgy, combing fashion with headphones.” Doesn’t that dude in the pic above look fashionable? I want to be him. No word on pricing or availability.

Fun fact: people are now leaving this press conference in droves. Apparently they don’t want to look good while wearing headphones. Seriously, a ton of people are leaving.

Diamond Tears: over-the-ear, unibody headphones. They look like Monster Beats made out of transparent plastic. Just what the world needs. No word on pricing or availability.

We Are Going To See A Lot More Original TV On The Web In 2012

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 08:47 AM PST

Tom Hanks

We are less than ten days into 2012, but here is a prediction that is easy to make: We are going to see a lot of original Web TV shows announced this year with big stars.

It’s already happening. Tom Hanks is making a cartoon TV series for Yahoo. Steven Van Zandt is starring in a Web-original drama on Netflix. House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, will also appear on Netflix, along with other original shows (it is also resurrecting Arrested Development for the Web audience). Yahoo is partnering with ABC News for Web video, and licensing original comedy as well.

And that’s just Yahoo and Netflix. YouTube is spending $100 million on original programming. And Hulu has dabbled with original programming.

Making TV shows for the web is nothing new. What is new is the level of commitment in terms of dollars and star power being thrown at Web video. Netflix viewers spend 10 hours a month watching streaming video, quadruple the time spent on YouTube or Hulu. Part of that is because Netflix shows feature-length movies, but part of it also is the quality of those movies and the familiarity of the actors who star in them.

Getting Tom Hanks to debut his animated series Electric City on Yahoo is a bold (and, no doubt, expensive) statement that Web video is entering a new phase. Web TV shows no longer have to be second-class citizens. Yahoo, Netflix, YouTube, and maybe even Hulu will increasingly compete for the best shows with cable channels. Could the next Mad Men be a Web TV series?

If the Web wants to chip away at the 130 hours a month people spend watching traditional TV, it will have to go beyond the experimental phase and start producing as many high-quality TV shows as cable and broadcast TV. Okay, maybe not that many. It depends what is your definition of “high-quality,” but in any given season there are only a couple dozen TV shows that count.

Netflix and Yahoo don’t need a full roster of 24/7 programming to compete with TV, but they do need more than one or two shows each. These high-profile shows are anchor properties, like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones. They only need a few hits to get people into the habit of watching on the Web, and then they can feed them all their other video.

It’s a risky strategy that depends on hits. But TV has always been a hits-driven business. Online will be no different, except that word of mouth (good or bad) travels instantly through social networks. We’ll know whether these shows can become hits much faster than if they were on regular TV.

Photo credit: Getty

Neolane Lands $27 Million For ‘Conversational Marketing’ Tech

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 08:25 AM PST


Marketing process automation software vendor Neolane has secured $27 million in funding in a round led by Battery Ventures, an investor in companies like Groupon, ExactTarget, Marketo, Bazaarvoice, Lotame and BlueKai.

Previous Neolane backers Auriga Partners, XAnge and board member Gilles Queru also participated in the round.

Neolane sells a centralized system that helps marketers and business owners track and manage marketing activity data from all across the board, thus enabling them to generate targeted messaging and relevant offers based on customer behavior and preferences.

The company says 400 B2C and B2B customers (including divisions of Fortune 500 organizations) rely on its marketing technology today, and that they’ve achieved profitability in 2011, after a decade in business. Alcatel-Lucent, Barnes & Noble, Orange and Sony Music are some of its clients.

Nuance Launches Dragon TV, Lets You Control Your TV With Your Voice

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 08:19 AM PST


Speech recognition company Nuance (which powers part of Apple’s Siri), is launching its new “Dragon TV” platform today, which will allow consumers to interact with their TV using their voice and natural language. With Dragon TV, you’ll be able to speak channel numbers, station names, plus TV show and movie titles, without having to use structured commands. You’ll even be able to perform content searches by actor/actress and genre. Support for Twitter, Skype and Facebook is also included.

The Dragon TV platform will be made available to OEMs and service operators who can choose to integrate the technology into to TVs, set-top boxes, remote control and other applications. However, the company did not announce any launch partners for the product, only its availability.

The timing of the announcement – today at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – is interesting. Recently, rumors of Apple’s forthcoming TV product, which many expect to include Siri or some other sort of voice recognition app, have been heating up, following the late Steve Jobs’ proclamation that he had “cracked” the challenge of creating an easy-to-use integrated TV.

Dragon TV would be an alternative to a completely integrated solution, as it would allow anyone to build in Siri-like voice technology into TV sets, DVRs and other set-top boxes. However, it could easily form the backbone of whatever Apple may have in store for its “iTV” product, too.

According to Nuance’s announcement, you’ll be able to navigate your TV by saying things like “go to PBS,” “What’s on Bravo at 9 tonight?,” “Watch Dexter on DVR,” “Find comedies with Vince Vaughn,” and more.

The Dragon TV platform also integrates with social networks, allowing you to send messages and posts updates by voice, the company explains. For example, “Send update to Facebook, ‘Anyone else looking forward to Celebrity Wife Swap?’” (Uh, no.)

Nuance says Dragon TV will run on Linux, Android and, of course, iOS.

Ustream: Watch LG’s CES 2012 Press Conference Live

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 07:55 AM PST


LG is kicking off the CES 2012 Press Day festivities and you can watch it live starting at 8:00 am PST. The company is expected to release, I don’t know, a slim Android tablet, several ultrabooks, and likely a Google TV. Because, you know, that’s what every company seems to be releasing at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show. The press conference is expected to start at 8:00 am PST and run approximately 45 minutes.

Challenging Amazon, Netflix Debuts £5.99 Video Streaming Service In UK, Ireland

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 07:42 AM PST


Netflix has made its debut in the UK and Ireland in early 2012, just like they promised, having worked out video content licensing deals with the likes of BBC Worldwide and MGM.

Users in the UK and Ireland can now subscribe to Netflix to watch available content on their connected TVs, computers, tablets, game consoles and mobile devices. In the UK, Netflix will be bumping heads with Amazon-owned LOVEFiLM, the well-established movie and TV series streaming service. Read more at TechCrunch Europe.

Cloud-Based Video Editor WeVideo Launches To Public

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 07:38 AM PST


WeVideo, the cloud-based collaborative video editing platform which announced integration with YouTube in October, is today exiting its beta period and launching commercially. The service now has over 125,000 users creating more than 1,000 video projects per day using the online platform.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based WeVideo, which launched in fall 2011, is actually a spinoff from a European venture called Creaza, which offers a similar, but education-focused, movie editor to a quarter million students across Europe. As opposed to desktop editing software, which is restricted by the computer hardware, WeVideo’s online video editing solution can scale up processing speeds on demand, based on the end user’s needs. As users move up through the company’s paid tiers, speeds increase, as does the available storage space and video resolution.

In addition, videographers can collaborate on projects together, where all project members can share their video clips via a single interface. (This feature is available to paid users only).

As it enters its General Availability status, WeVideo has settled on pricing for its freemium service. The free version offers 1 GB of workspace and scales up to offerings that range from $6.99 to $79.99 per month for 10 to 100 GB of workspace, as well as varying export qualities and additional features. An enterprise version will also be available (pricing available upon request), which will allow organizations to integrate WeVideo into their existing products or services.

The enterprise version includes a configuration layer that allows companies to add their own branding, full API level support, a centralized shared storage architecture and advanced administrative controls for collaboration, editing, management review and video export options.

Says CEO Jostein Svendsen, the company expects that it will amass over a million users by the end of 2012.

Tom Hanks Planning Yahoo-Only Web Series, “Electric City”

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 07:27 AM PST


Everyone’s favorite puppet cowboy, Tom Hanks, is working with Playtone and Reliance Entertainment on a new web series called Electric City (logo not shown). According to the AP, the show is about a “seemingly peaceful city situated in a post-apocalyptic world” and each episode will be three or four minutes long.

The shows will have a socially conscious message including conservation and energy issues. This is Yahoo’s first scripted program and it will be available through multiple devices in multiple languages. Hanks will appear as a character.

Quoth the AP:

“On the surface, the Electric City is utopia and under the surface, Electric City is secrets and heavy-handed state control,” says Erin McPherson, vice president and head of original programming at Yahoo. “What we found really compelling is that this is perfect for a highly digital audience, a lean-forward audience who likes to utilize the medium of the Internet.”

It’s interesting to watch Yahoo move into a different medium here and here’s hoping Hanks and his animations will make it a better year for the beleaguered company.

Vizio Breaks Into PC Market With Five New Models

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 07:19 AM PST


Vizio, maker of cheap LCD TVs for most of this millennia, has just announced they’re releasing five new PCs including ultralights and all-in-ones. These things are oddly well-designed and should come in at under competitor prices – a plus in the low-margin world of CE.

The PC swill launch in the spring and includes two all-in-ones, two thin and lights, and one notebook. Vizio is Microsoft’s latest PC partner this CES and all of these machines will run Windows 7 when they launch.

We’ll get further hands on when we can see these puppies in action.

Product Page

BlackBerry PlayBook’s Next OS Plays To RIM’s Strengths: Email, Calendar, Productivity

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 07:12 AM PST


CES generally isn’t RIM’s stomping ground, but the Canadian company is here in force. Chief among RIM’s news is details about the upcoming PlayBook refresh. Available for download next month, PlayBook 2.0, as RIM is calling it, seems to right many of the PlayBook’s wrongs. This is the feature set the tablet so badly needed at launch.

RIM is finally bringing email to the PlayBook. PlayBook 2.0 will bring a host of new email management tools to the tablet: unified inbox with social network integration, tabbed email, rich-text email editing, multi-account search. The unified inbox sounds like a souped-up version of the loved BlackBerry version. It supports multiple accounts from personal and enterprise sources. It also brings in feeds from Twitter, LinkedIn and other sources. Thankfully, with that much info in one place, the interface supports tabs.

It’s everything and more that the PlayBook was previously missing. Had the so-called BlackBerry tablet launched with the proper email support, it might not be on a fire sale right now.

The next PlayBook OS version will also bring a new standard set of calendar features that, like the new inbox, pulls info from social networking sites. The contacts app works that way as well, pulling in info from email and social channels and collating the information into each contact — sounds a lot like webOS.

With PlayBook 2.0, a user’s BlackBerry suddenly becomes more than just a bridge to the tablet. It becomes a remote control with the ability to act as a mouse or keyboard to the tablet. RIM says it’s perfect for those times that the PlayBook is hooked to an HDTV as you watch home movies of your little tikes.

It’s a little sad, really. RIM has finally built a proper tablet ecosystem. PlayBook 2.0 is what the PlayBook 1.0 should have been. There are new apps on the way as well as a video store for movies and TV shows rentals and purchases with day-and-date releases. The update even brings a new browser to the tablet. But it doesn’t matter for anyone but PlayBook owners. RIM launched the PlayBook with a gimped feature set. The company launched a product that was not ready and took nearly a year to release the right software. A unified inbox cannot erase a year of negative press.

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