Friday, January 20, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Time Warner Cable’s New iPhone App Brings Live TV To The Small Screen

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 09:22 AM PST


Time Warner Cable is today launching a new iPhone application that allows customers to watch live television from their iPhone or iPod Touch device as well as control, manage and program their DVR. With the new app, users can browse the TV guide, favorite channels and search for programs by title or episode name.

There is a small catch to all this live TV-viewing, of course: it only works within the home.

The app joins TWC’s iPad app, released back in March 2011 and the Android app launched last month. The new iPhone version is actually a universal app, meaning one download now supports both the phone and tablet platforms.

As you may expect, you can’t watch live TV just anywhere – the iOS device has to be connected to the home’s Wi-Fi network in order to function. It also offers a number of features typical for TV provider mobile apps, including a remote control functionality, the ability to program your DVR (this feature also works remotely), and the ability to configure parental controls, among other things.

The app is fairly backward-compatible, however, as it works on iPhone 3GS and up, iPod Touch (3rd or 4th gen) and any iPad, all of which have to run at least iOS 4.3. Customers will also have to have the Navigator set-top box or a DVR in their home, as other models may not function properly.

TWC isn’t the first to add mobile phone support for its TV service. Comcast’s app arrived on the scene in May 2011, Cablevision launched on iOS in August and Verizon FiOS has FlexView, which works on the iPad and Android (but not iPhone).

TWC TV for iOS is available here on iTunes.

With MegaUpload Down, Who’s Next? RapidShare? SoundCloud? DropBox?

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 09:11 AM PST


Every digital locker service and file linking website is on notice now that MegaUpload and TVShack are down. The Feds have their banhammer out and aren’t afraid to use it. Sites better check their zettabytes of data. A single 50 Cent song can cause the Feds to swarm the founder’s house and seize their Predator statues. Forget SOPA and PIPA, apparently the US Federal Government doesn’t need legislation in place to shut down major file storage sites and lock millions of users out of their file lockers. The bigger question, then, is who’s next?

It’s clear that the US Federal Government is ramping up its fight against illegal file sharing and hosting. It’s the new war on drugs. The plan is to have taxpayers foot the bill and then attack websites rather than regulating or encouraging innovation. The only thing missing is a C.A.R.E. (Computer Abuse Reinforcement Education) presentation at your kids’ grade school. Just say no to perfectly legal data sinks, everyone.

MegaUpload was a massive digital locker service. It was so large that the site accounted for 4% of the Internet’s total traffic. The site boasted 50 million daily users and 180 million registered users. Was much of that content pirated? Sure, but MegaUpload held the files the way a pawn shop holds a car stereo. Unless there’s explicit illegal intent expressed by the customer to the holder, it’s hard to figure out who is at fault. Plus there was plenty of legitimate data there. But it’s all gone now.

As pointed out in a Justice Department press release, MegaUpload’s downfall was that they seemingly promoted the sharing of copy-written material. The Feds also stated that MegaUpload utilized third-party sites to publicize the “infringing content” and “manipulated the perception of content” by omitting infringing content from the top content lists. Or, in other words, MegaUpload was actively hiding the fact its users shared illegal content — at least that’s what the Feds say.

This isn’t completely about piracy, though. The Justice Department asserts that the seven individuals and two corporations, Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited, were involved in other criminal activities. They were charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement. All they needed was drug trafficking and human slavery to make them the villans of the “You wouldn’t steal a car” anti-piracy commercials. The charges are serious even without the copyright nonsense thrown in. The defendants will face serious jail time if convicted of even a few of the charges.

The case of TVShack and Richard O’Dwyer is slightly different. The 23-year owner didn’t have life-size giraffe statues on his rolling New Zealand estate. No, instead, the young British student is now facing extradition to the US for simply linking to sites hosting illegal content. His mother says he has no connection to the US, a fact confirmed by his lawyer who stated the site’s servers were not even hosted in the US. In fact, as the story goes, O’Dwyer shut down the website himself the day after a visit from police and US officials in November 2010. O’Dwyer was not charged with racketeering, money laundering, or anything of the sort. His crime was linking to copyrighted material [pdf], a crime which could land him in a US jail for five to ten years under pre-SOPA and PIPA laws.

The US Government is on a slippery slope. MegaUpload was clearly operating a shady business. Sure, it’s likely that a good deal of its 150 million registered users uploaded personal, and therefore legal, content, but the site was also the notorious home of illegal content. Even TVShack encouraged the downloading of illegal content but just by linking and not hosting. But what’s next? Who’s next? What happens with someone drops an Uncle Kracker album into their SugarSync folder?

Several digital locker services operate like MegaUpload. RapidShare and MediaFire are two of the larger services. But these sites have undergone a face lift recently and at least appear to be much less nefarious than they once were. Other services like DropBox, iCloud, and Amazon S3 are open to hosting any file type a user uploads. They also make sharing easy, but in a way that’s a lot more private than MegaUpload. Still yet, there are sites like Zoho where users can easily share content, content that could be copy-written. But the prime goal of all these sites is open file sharing — just like MegaUpload.

It’s sites like SoundCloud and GrooveShark that worry me the most. I love SoundCloud and enjoy exploring other people’s musical works. But there is copywritten material uploaded to the service as well. A single 50 Cent song is listed in the Justice Department’s complaint against MegaUpload (General allegations, section 6). GrooveShark is also actively pursuing the licences needed for the material it hosts and streams. It’s a race GrooveShark might not win.

It seems the trick is to fly under the radar by not dominating in the space. MegaUpload was huge. At one time it was estimated to be the 13th most visited site on the Internet. But shutting it down will not curb file sharing en mass. More sites will pop up or users will turn to more underground services. When Napster crashed, Bit Torrent took off. ThePirateBay took’s spot after it was shut down in 2004.

Valve’s Gabe Newell said it best, “Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.” Users flock to sites like MegaUpload, TVShack, and in the past, Napster, because they offer additional functionality and convenience. Look at Netflix, RDIO, MOG, Spotify: They all charge a fee for access to the same material that can be downloaded freely. People who care about their time don’t bother to download illegally. These services thrive because they offer the utmost in convenience, which is something the media companies have failed to provide yet.

The MPAA and RIAA have spent billions fighting piracy when they should have been instead spending billions to reinvent their constituents’ services. Their content is clearly desired. But they’re seemingly increasing their attacks. More sites will fall. The purposed legislation of SOPA and PIPA are simply ways to fast-track current practices. If they’re passed as currently written, Kim Dotcom will quickly have some new cellmates.

Love With Food Launches As A Monthly Subscription Service For Gourmet Bites

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST

Love With Food

The subscription commerce market is heating up with Birch Box, Kiwi Crate, and others all offering various takes on the monthly box model. Today, 500startups company Love With Food is launching its subscription model, which offers a monthly box to users with tasty, gourmet samples of food.

Here's how it works. Through monthly sample boxes, which are $14 per month with free shipping, Love With Food includes 5 or more gourmet tasty bites. The model gives people a way to find and taste samples of new foods before they buy full-size orders. Along with each box, users will get deep discounts on the gourmet food, new recipes that include one or more of the samples, and the opportunity to earn points which can be used for free products.

Once a box is purchased, Love With Food will donate a meal to the charity No Kid Hungry to help fight childhood hunger. So far, the startup has donated 4400 meals with the help of its community.

Love With Food is similar in a lot of ways to Foodzie, which also offers a monthly box filled with various gourmet foods. While Foodzie focuses on mostly, handcrafted artisanal food products, LoveWithFood will partner with any gourmet food producer. Additionally, Love With Food’s box comes in at a lower price point than Foodzie’s monthly box (which is $29.95 per month)

Cool Trick: AntiCrop “Un-Crops” Your iPhone Photos

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 08:46 AM PST


A newly released iPhone app called AntiCrop proclaims to the be the first application that allows you to “un-crop” your photos. What that means is that the app is able to extend the edges of your photos by using an intelligent content filling tool that duplicates the background, making your picture bigger than it was before. You’re not cropping the photo – you’re “un-cropping” it. And it’s a pretty amazing trick.

So why would you need to do this? The most common use case has to do with photos that were taken on an angle – a regular occurrence among iPhone users, who snap pics sans tripod. Using the included “lossless rotate” feature in AntiCrop, you can straighten out the photo in question before applying the un-crop. After adjusting the photo’s orientation, it’s just a matter of selecting the appropriate size (e.g., 4×3, 7×5, 16×9) to fill in the background.

You may also want to use AntiCrop to extend the background of landscape shots, to make the scenic shot more attractive. For example, you could crop a photo to remove extraneous strangers mingling in your beach scene, then anti-crop the photo to produce an image of an endless and vacant seashore.

Not all photos lend themselves to un-cropping, however. It’s better to have fewer items at the edges of the photo, for example. In other words, don’t try to use AntiCrop to clone photos of people, pets or other objects. Scenes, landscapes, nature shots, sky shots, etc. work well, though.

Although there is an excessive number of photo applications on the iTunes App Store (a search for “crop” returned hundreds!), I’m increasingly impressed by the power of some of the newer apps hitting the market lately. Just last week, for example, I came across GroupShot, which lets you swap the faces of people within your pictures to create the perfect photo. But I’m beginning to wish for an all-in-one app that lets you do anything and everything to your photos, not just cropping, filters, and other edits, but that would also offer these newer, and frankly more remarkable, capabilities. After all, this “photo apps” folder of mine is filling up fast. At least with a name like “AntiCrop,” I’ll remember what this one does.

You can try AntiCrop for yourself – it’s $0.99 on iTunes.

UpNext Releases Amazingly Fluid 3D Mapping App On iPad And Android

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 08:31 AM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-20 at 11.29.44 AM

The future was supposed to be all about swooping through pixellated cities, the crepuscular computer ghost-light arcing through the Aurignacian canyons of Neo Tokyo as we trailed our enemies into the dark. Instead we get some of the coolest map visualizations I’ve ever seen with a few social media tricks thrown in to make a very cool mapping platform called UpNext. You win some, you lose some.

UpNext uses 3D renderings of world cities to show points of interest and Foursquare checkins inside a real representation of nearly 50 cities. They’ve just launched their app for the iPad and Android tablets and I am seriously impressed. The resolution is great and the onscreen update speed is amazing. It offers the best of services like Google Maps alongside real city imagery, allowing you to use the map to orient yourself in 3D space. A blinking dot on a 2D street-scape works, but a 3D dot in a 3D city works even better.

“Google launched Google Maps 5 for Android last year. We are bringing the same vector based goodness to iOS, but with more beautiful cartography, faster rendering, and fluid search with our innovative search results system. Our cities are fully textured, our roadways carved in full 3D with overpasses and tunnels and our buildings are all tappable,” said Danny Moon, CEO.

Now all I need are a pair of Virtual Light glasses and a carbon-fiber messenger bike. The app is available now for iPad and Android and is coming soon on the Kindle Fire.

iPad Product Page
Android Product Page

Developer Is Building An App Store For Banned Android Apps

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 07:47 AM PST


An Android developer by the name of Kousik Dutta is building an alternative Android app store which will house the apps that have been banned from Google’s official Android Market. These will include the custom ROMs (customized versions of the Android OS), classic gaming emulators pulled due to copyright complaints, unofficial tethering apps removed at the behest of mobile operators, Visual Voicemail apps, one-click rooting apps, and more.

The developer, who also goes by the name “Koush” online, suggested the idea earlier this month and received hundreds of positive responses in return. Today, he has posted a progress update, showing an early version of the store being built. (See below).

Dutta is well-known in Android hacking circles as member of the CyanogenMod team and the creator of ClockworkMod, a custom recovery console for Android devices. For the uninitiated, these terms refer to customized versions of Android software which users can install on their devices after rooting their phone, a process which gives them complete administrative control over their handset.

Rooting, similar to its iPhone counterpart jailbreaking, has been popularized among the Android community, and today there are many software applications which less technical users (i.e., those without programming knowledge) can use to root their device. It’s still a risky task, however, so proceed with caution – you could turn your phone into a nice paperweight if you screw up.

After rooting, users are able install replacement firmware like CyanogenMod, created by Steve Kondik, which offers a customized version of the Android OS, free from carriers’ control and customizations. There are now over 1 million active users of CyanogenMod. It’s a sizable community.

These users will have access to the new alternative app store when complete, assuming the project stays on track. The screenshot posted today shows a very basic page for app submissions – nothing that looks like a finished product. But it’s promising.

Although modding has always been a popular activity among the geekier Android crowd, it’s interesting that they’re now facing many of the same restrictions as their iPhone-toting counterparts when it comes to apps. Android may offer a more open app publishing process – there are no review boards or wait times involved – but there are still rules. Certain apps are not allowed, especially if they violate copyright or a mobile operator’s need to generate revenue from value-added services, like tethering.

This should be an interesting project to keep an eye on.

After Laying Off 60 People, RueLaLa Raises $22 Million

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 07:03 AM PST


Members-only shopping site RueLaLa, a former subsidiary of GSI Commerce (before the eBay acquisition) just cut roughly 60 positions from its workforce of 550 employees, but an SEC filing published yesterday afternoon reveals that the flash sales company also recently completed a $22 million financing round.

RueLaLa was previously part of Retail Convergence, Inc, a company that was acquired by GSI Commerce back in 2009. The Gilt Groupe rival, which is still 30 percent owned by eBay, is based in Boston, Massachusetts.

When GSI Commerce was acquired by eBay in March of 2011, eBay said it would loan the new holding company that would be spun off for Rue La La $467 million in total, while GSI founder and CEO Michael Rubin was to invest an additional $31 million in cash.

We’ll update with more details about the equity funding round when we learn more.

Senator Harry Reid Caves: PIPA Postponed

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 06:58 AM PST

After a day of widespread online protests against a pair of bills in Congress, 122 members of Congress came out against them. Now make that 123 (and counting).

Both bills have now been tabled. Hearings on the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) had already been cancelled, but the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) was still scheduled for a vote. This morning the sponsor of the bill, Senator Harry Reid tweeted: “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act”

Support for the bills as written has crumbled in a matter of days. Even all four Republican presidential candidates at the most recent South Carolina debate all spoke out against the draconian measures the bills would institute. As Newt Gingrich said when asked why he was against the bills: “I’m for freedom.”

Read all our SOPA-PIPA coverage here.

Update: It seems as though Senator Chuck Schumer has decided to chime in, as well.

Bleacher Report Arrives On iPad With New Team Stream App

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 06:56 AM PST


Bleacher Report, the popular site for sports fans now boasting 22 million uniques per month, just released its Team Stream app for the iPad. Similar to Team Stream for iPhone and Android smartphones, the new Team Stream HD app features news and analysis and supports push notifications for breaking news.

This is the first tablet-optimized experience from the company, but it’s not the only one: the company is also pushing out an iPad-optimized HTML5 browsing experience, too.

Now when iPad users visit, they’ll be directed to a tablet-friendly version of the website with enhanced navigation, full-screen photo viewing and special transition effects in between stories. The site will also support sharing and commenting on its editorial pieces.

Meanwhile, the Team Stream HD app offers a personalized dashboard on the homescreen, with the headlines, top stories and tweets from the teams and topics you’ve deemed your favorites. As on mobile, you’re able to select which teams, athletes and sportswriters you want to follow, including athletes from the NFL, College Football, MLB, NBA, NHL, College Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, Golf, MMA, Boxing, WWE and NASCAR. The new app is nicely laid out, too, with a bit of extra space in between the stories and an easy-to-use UI (user interface).

BleacherReport, which just raised another $22 million this past summer, now includes an editorial team of more than 1,000 featured columnists and 6,000 contributors. Over 1.5 million users subscribe to its personalized email newsletters. And its content is now syndicated to national and regional publishers including USA Today, L.A. Times,, San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, and Seattle PI.

To grab the new BleacherReport iPad app, head to iTunes here.

Trion Grabs $85 Million To Bring New Life To The “Deep End” Of Online Gaming

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 06:18 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-20 at 3.39.21 AM

Is there room for a big splash to be made at the “deep end” of online gaming? The newly public Zynga has been making waves with free online casual games, or the “shallow end,” dominating the Facebook platform, and relying on analytics and in-game purchases to drive revenues and engagement. EA and others have been rushing into the casual gaming fold, buying up digital game developers like Playfish, Chillingo, Firemint and PopCap. But, EA is also taking a longer-term, diversification view, showing that there’s demand for richer, more complex MMO online gaming experiences, snatching up KlickNation in December.

Trion Worlds, a lesser known game development company headquartered in Silicon Valley, yesterday gave even further evidence that the “deep end” of online gaming is alive and well, announcing that it has raised an $85 million round of strategic growth equity financing from Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments. The round adds to the $100 million the startup has already raised from investors like Time Warner and Trinity Ventures.

That’s not bad considering Trion has only released one game. But, that one game, Rift, a MMO fantasy role-playing game has been a huge hit for the company, with more than one million players activating accounts in less than four months. And Trion said yesterday that its North American and European revenues surpassed $100 million in 2011. It seems yet more evidence that there is a thriving market for these large-scale, dynamic multiplayer online games, and the early success of Rift already has Trion thinking about an IPO, according to Reuters.

The success of Rift has led the company to begin developing two more game projects, including a realtime strategy game, End of Nations, designed in conjunction with Petroglyph Games, and Defiance, which sees Trion embarking on an ambitious partnership with the Syfy Channel to create an experience that is part TV show and fictional drama and part online action gaming. How gamers play the game will influence the show, and vice versa. (You can read more in our prior coverage of Trion and Rift here.)

Of course, being a one-trick or even a one-platform pony no longer cuts it in today’s wild world of gaming, as it’s become tough for game developers to become profitable off one hit, especially for those developing complex, MMO online games that cost millions to make. They’re riskier investments. What’s more, unlike other social games, Rift makes money not by freemium, the now go-to revenue model for online gaming, or by in-game purchases, but instead by monthly subscriptions.

This can be more lucrative than the former, with consistency in returns, but with online gaming and distribution plodding along towards free, it behooves the gaming startup to find other sources of revenue (and develop a lot more games) if it wants to stay in the game for years to come — and pursue an IPO. (Though, of course, $185 million in funding doesn’t hurt.)

This was the thinking behind Trion’s recently announced Red Door, a platform initiative that will allow the startup to run online games developed by third-party publishers, and presumably sell them through a consumer-facing storefront. Trion will likely be charging game developers to use their technology, which allows third-parties to create games with massive, scalable and synchronous gameplay.

As we touched on last year, the value proposition of Trion’s unique platform is its distributed computing framework in which gameplay, characters, and interactions between players are housed in the startups’ server cloud and are broken down by function — rather than location, like most other games. This means that, for example, one set of servers handles non-player functions in the game’s world, while another processes encounters with “bosses.” This allows Trion to remodel less-played portions of the game, activate more servers for scale, or make changes to the game in realtime — right in front of players — without having to patch their machines.

Leveraging this software/hardware, in which Trion has invested tens of millions, to sell to the developers of MMORPGs could have big potential, and with a whole pocketful of new capital, Trion now has more flexibility to tinker with its business models, continue scaling its infrastructure and developing further platform initiatives. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if those games showed up on mobile.

For more, check out Trion at home here.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: The MegaUpload Closure Leaves Users Unable To Access Their Files

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 06:03 AM PST


Alright, Feds. You’ve had your fun. You’ve arrested some people you deem bad and seized their Mercedes-Benz collection. Great. So how about turning MegaUpload back on for a quick minute?

The United States Department of Justice seized and shut down MegaUpload yesterday in an impressive (and scary) show of force. The site is effectively nuked, which is bad news bears for its zillions of users. Sure, the site was infamous for hosting illegal files, but it was also one of the best ways to share large files online. The closure leaves users unable to access their files. Those using MegaUpload for legitimate reasons are the real victims.

Don’t think for a minute that MegaUpload was used exclusively for trading of copy-written material. MegaUpload made sharing large files easy. Simply upload a file 2GB or smaller and the service popped-out a unique URL for sharing. Files stayed on MegaUpload servers for 90 days or forever if the user paid for a premium account. But now those files are inaccessible. They’re seemingly gone forever.

Users of course took to Twitter to vent their frustration. Hopefully these users had local copies.

MegaUpload’s fate will hopefully cause many of these users to rethink their sharing and backup methods. It’s not the best practice to hand over your data to a 3rd party for safe keeping. Products like iTwin, Pogoplug and services from Western Digital and Seagate will all allow users to share locally-stored files over the Internet. The files are stored on a local hard drive or flash drives while still allowing remote access. With SOPA and PIPA looming, these devices might see an uptick in sales as file lockers like MegaUpload get shut down.

[image credit: GekaSkr/Shutterstock]

Skyrim (Not Really) Ported To The TI-84 Calculator

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 05:37 AM PST

Are you ready to destroy the Dragons of Skyrim with your trusty orcish arrows and shortsword? Do you wish to hop on your trusty horse and ride endlessly up steep slopes and through wooded glens? Do you have a TI-84 graphing calculator? Well you’re kind of in luck.

An intrepid Skyrim fan created a Skyrim simulator that is basically a text adventure game with a few clever graphics. It definitely doesn’t recreate the glorious golds of a Skyrim sunset or the spooky caverns of Kolskeggr Mine but you can at least while away the hours in Social Studies.

If your teacher isn’t paying attention today in Calculus, you can grab the program here and live the adventure, albeit in a very truncated way.

via Kotaku

Foxconn Responds To CEO’s “Employees Are Animals” Comment

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 05:08 AM PST


Foxconn responded to yesterday’s kerfuffle about the CEO of Foxconn, Terry Gou, commenting that he cared for “a million animals” – namely his employees. They said it was an off-the-cuff remark, similar to saying that managing is like “herding cats” as opposed to suggesting that Foxconn employees walk on all fours and root in the mud. Big difference, clearly.

The statement is below. I love the line “Mr. Gou's comments were directed at all humans and not at any specific group.”

Statement From Foxconn Technology Group

There have been some media reports regarding a conversation that Foxconn Technology Group Chief Executive Officer, Terry Gou, had with the Director of the Taipei Zoo, Chin Shih-chien, at an employee event organized by Foxconn on January 15 in Taipei to benefit a range of charitable organizations through a contribution of USD1.4 million. In an effort to encourage his management team to learn from all aspects of life, Mr. Gou did say that, since all humans are members of the animal kingdom, it might be possible to learn from Mr. Chin's experience as his team looks for lessons that can be applied to business. Mr. Gou's comments were directed at all humans and not at any specific group.

While some reports on Mr. Gou's comments in Mandarin were taken out of context and do not accurately reflect the full scope of that conversation, Mr. Gou does understand how these reports could be misinterpreted and seen as insensitive and he sincerely apologizes to anyone who might be offended by them. At no time did Mr. Gou seek to portray Foxconn employees in the negative context some media reports have suggested.

Tremor Video Acquires ‘InPlay’ Video Analytics Tech From TubeMogul

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 04:25 AM PST


Exclusive - Online video ad technology company Tremor Video has purchased InPlay, the video analytics solution for publishers, from TubeMogul. Tremor Video will integrate InPlay directly into VideoHub, its enterprise video platform.

InPlay will be available to all publishers as part of “VideoHub for Publishers”, which is set to hit the market in the first quarter of this year.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

InPlay is a video analytics solution that helps publishers understand real-time engagement, viewership and performance data. TubeMogul is selling the technology after shifting its focus to providing a demand-side buying platform for video advertising.

Worth noting: TubeMogul says the real-time reporting tools developed for its video advertising platform will remain unaffected by the divestment of its publisher analytics technology.

Tremor Video’s acquisition of InPlay follow other recent deals closed by the video ad technology company, such as the purchases of ScanScout and mobile ad platform Transpera. The company says it plans to “continue to be acquisitive”, fueled by $37 million in funding raised in 2011.

Snake Camouflage: Japan Gets Exclusive Metal Gear Solid 3DS System

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 04:14 AM PST


Resident Evil isn’t the only big video game series that made the news in Nippon today: Konami announced [JP] the so-called METAL GEAR SOLID SNAKE EATER 3D PREMIUM PACKAGE for the Japanese market. The set includes a special 3DS system, a copy of Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D, and two clear files in MGS design.

Here’s the so-called “Snake Camouflage”-style 3DS:

Here’s a photo of the box and the clear files:

The MGS package is only available in Konami Style [JP], the company’s online shop, for US$298.

Players living in Japan can already pre-order the set, but they will only get to buy one when they enter a raffle: the lucky winners get an email from Konami by February 10, followed by the package itself on March 8.

SkyGrid Debuts iPad App Touchtv To Allow Users To Watch Content On Demand

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 04:00 AM PST


SkyGrid, a startup that offers a powerful news aggregator to consumers is venturing into the TV content and media business with the launch of Touchtv, an iPad app that allows viewers to watch recent programs from popular sports, entertainment, politics, and news channels.

Custom designed for the iPad, Touchtv, which is a free app, aims to give viewers their own personal TV via the iPad to watch their favorite channels. SkyGrid has partnered with a number of networks including Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN, OWN, E! and others to show specific content and programming.

You can simply launch Touchtv on your iPad and "touch" any channel to start watching. From the Home Screen viewers can watch their channels and personalize their TV. As SkyGrid CEO Kevin Pomplun explains to me, Touchtv aims to replicate an identical experience to watching TV and flipping through channels. Unlike Hulu, Netflix, or others, Touchtv not trying to provide full sitcoms or games, but instead is trying to give users the channel watching experience.

In addition, LG has selected the Touchtv experience to be embedded in 40 million of their TVs which will be in market in the next year and a half. The aim of this could be to give cord cutters the ability to watch network programming without cable.

Touchtv still faces competition from Hulu, Netflix and even the individual iPad apps offered by cable operators and networks for the leanback experience. Pomplun says that SkyGrid will continue to operate independently from Touchtv.

Downfall: Photos Of MegaUpload Founder’s Valuable Cars Getting Seized

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 02:35 AM PST


The shit really hit the fan over at massively popular file hosting site MegaUpload. Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice seized and shut down the site and commenced criminal cases against its owners and others, sparking retaliatory actions from hacker collective Anonymous.

Yesterday, following the DoJ indictment, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand arrested MegaUpload founder Kim Schmitz (aka Kim Dotcom), CMO Finn Batato, co-founder and CTO Mathias Ortmann and others. Their subsequent bail request was denied in New Zealand court as it was opposed by US authorities on the case.

GigaOm has an excellent run-down of the indictment details if you’d like to learn more.

In the meantime, we got pinged by Elliott Kember, who was in New Zealand when the crackdown was in full effect. He traveled to Schmitz’ mansion and took a bunch of pictures of the property and the loads of expensive cars that were being seized. We got permission to embed some photos.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US is looking to seize a great deal of property of the charged MegaUpload execs, including $175 million scattered across bank accounts worldwide, “a 2010 Maserati, a 2008 Rolls Royce, and a number of Mercedes Benzes”.

For a list of items seized, check out CNET’s article on the matter.

And now some photographic proof of the fact that the seized cars carried license plates that said things like ‘MAFIA’, ‘HACKER’, ‘STONED’, ‘V’ (for Vendetta?), ‘KIM COM’, ‘CEO’ and ‘POLICE’.

And check out that lovely pink Cadillac!

Capcom Announces Surprising November Release For Resident Evil 6 (First Trailer)

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 01:15 AM PST

Picture 2

One of the world’s biggest video game franchises is getting a new title: Capcom today announced Resident Evil 6 [JP] for the Xbox 360, Sony PS3, and the PC. What’s interesting is that the company also said when exactly the game will come out, namely on November 20 in North America and Europe, and two days later in Japan.

Note that the release dates are for the console versions, the PC version hasn’t been dated yet. By way of comparison: Resident Evil 5 was announced in 2005 and went on sale four years later.

The new game is the first addition to the Resident Evil series (which is called “Biohazard” in Japan and sold 47 million units so far) in three and a half years.

Next to a number of new characters, it will star former protagonists Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield who have to fight a series of global bio-terrorist attacks. Capcom also said that Resident Evil 6 will have both single and cooperative play, just like the previous game in the franchise.

Here is the first US trailer:

Daily Crunch: Sense Effects

Posted: 20 Jan 2012 01:00 AM PST

VC Investing Soars 22 Percent To $28.4B In 2011, Internet Sector Reaches Highest Levels In A Decade

Posted: 19 Jan 2012 08:59 PM PST


VCs poured significantly more money into deals in 2011, according to a recently released MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters. Venture capitalists invested $28.4 billion in 3,673 deals in 2011, an increase of 22 percent in dollars and a 4 percent rise in deals over the prior year. The amount of venture dollars invested in 2011 represents the third highest annual investment total in the past ten years.

In terms of the fourth quarter, investments in the quarter totaled $6.6 billion in 844 deals, which is actually a 10 percent decrease in terms of dollar amount and an 11 percent decrease in deals from the third quarter of 2011 when $7.3 billion went into 953 deals.

Double-digit increases in investment dollars in 2011 were spread across a number of industries, including the Clean Technology and Internet sectors. Investment dollars also increased across every stage of investment categories, with the exception of a 48 percent decrease in seed stage investments. First-time financings rose in 2011 compared to the prior year, however, fourth quarter investing did show a decline in both first-time dollars and deals when compared to Q3 2011.

Tracy T. Lefteroff, global managing partner of the venture capital practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers observes that investors “are acting prudently and not chasing excessive valuations” and we’re “unlikely to see these sectors overheat like we saw in the 1999 to 2000 era.”

The Software industry brought the most VC dollars by sector for the year, with the amount raised up 38 percent over 2010 to $6.7 billion in 2011. VCs invested into 1,004 software deals, a 7 percent rise in volume over the prior year. Reflecting the fourth quarter decline, software investing was down in the last quarter of 2011 with $1.8 billion going into 238 deals. Despite this decrease, software was also the number one sector for dollars invested and total number of deals in Q4 and counted more than double the number of deals during the quarter than the second largest sector, Biotechnology.

Internet companies also saw a significant increase in investing in 2011 with $6.9 billion going into 997 deals. That’s a 68 percent increase in dollars and 24 percent increase in deals from 2010 when $4.1 billion went into 807 deals. In fact, 2011 marked the highest level of Internet investment over the past decade.

For the fourth quarter specifically, internet-specific investment declined 23 percent in dollars and 7 percent in deals with $1.3 billion going into 239 deals, compared to $1.7 billion going into 257 deals in the third quarter of 2011. Internet companies accounted for 24 percent of all venture capital dollars in 2011, up from 18 percent in 2010.

Thirteen of the 17 industry categories experienced increases in dollars invested for the year. Industry sectors experiencing some of the biggest dollar increases in 2011 included: Consumer Products & Services (103 percent); Media/Entertainment (53 percent); Electronics/Instrumentation (52 percent); and IT Services (39 percent).

In terms of venture capital by company stage, investments into Seed Stage companies decreased 48 percent in terms of dollars and were flat in terms of deals with $919 million going into 396 companies in 2011. For the fourth quarter, venture capitalists invested $134 million into 80 seed stage companies, a 40 percent decrease in dollars and a 28 percent decline in deals compared to the third quarter of the year. Seed Stage companies attracted 3 percent of dollars and 11 percent of deals in 2011 compared to 8 percent of dollars and 11 percent of deals in 2010. Seed stage deals were the only stage to experience a decrease in average round size for 2011.

Early Stage investments experienced double-digit increases, rising 47 percent in terms of dollars and 16 percent in terms of deals in 2011 to $8.3 billion in 1,414 deals. For the fourth quarter, Early Stage investments increased, with $2.3 billion going into 364 deals, an 11 percent increase in dollars in Q3 while the number of deals was flat. Early Stage companies attracted 29 percent of dollars and 38 percent of deals in 2011 compared to 24 percent of dollars and 35 percent of deals in 2010.

Expansion Stage investments increased in 2011 by 9 percent in dollars and dropped 8 percent in deals with $9.7 billion going into 999 deals. Expansion funding dropped in the fourth quarter, dipping 9 percent from the prior quarter to $2.4 billion. The number of deals also decreased during the quarter, falling 21 percent to 222. Expansion Stage companies attracted 34 percent of dollars and 27 percent of deals in 2011 compared to 38 percent of dollars and 31 percent of deals in 2010.

In 2011, $9.5 billion was invested into 864 Later Stage deals, a 37 percent increase in dollars and a 5 percent increase in deals for the year. For the fourth quarter, $1.8 billion went into 178 deals, which represents a 26 percent decrease in terms of dollars and a 9 percent decline in terms of deals from the third quarter of 2011. Later Stage companies attracted 33 percent of dollars and 24 percent of deals in 2011 compared to 30 percent of dollars and 23 percent of deals in 2010.

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