Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

LG Nitro HD Surpasses 1 Million Units Sold

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 09:18 AM PST


comScore recently ranked LG second in the world in terms of mobile OEM market share, and it would seem the good news keeps on coming for the smiley-face company. The Nitro HD, or Optimus LTE if you’re from outside of the States, has reportedly hit 1 million units sold.

It was first available in South Korea last year in October, and LG sold 600,000 units on its home turf. After venturing into new lands, including Japan, Canada, and the US of A, another 400,000 units were sold. According to my calculator, 600,000 plus 400,000 does indeed total 1 million units.

If you remember back to our review, we had mixed feelings with the Nitro HD. The 4.5-inch 720p display is downright gorgeous, and certain hardware features like HDMI out, LTE support, and that textured back panel are quite nice. Android 2.3 Gingerbread, however, tends to lag quite a bit on the Nitro.

Luckily, the phone is slated to receive ICS in the second quarter of this year and there are obviously plenty of people who are pleased with LG’s latest endeavor.

[via CNET]

Online Investing Platform Kapitall Now Lets You Trade Stocks

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST


Kapitall, a web app that investors can use to research and analyze stocks, mutual funds and exchange traded funds, is debuting the ability to trade stocks via its platform today.

Kapitall’s interface is inspired by video game design and combines a graphical user interface with tools that make it easy to build portfolios, share ideas and execute trades. The startup believes that people can learn to navigate the stock market even if they don’t have a financial planner or don’t have the experience to sift through financial statements of public companies. The drag and drop interface was designed by Cordell Ratzlaff who led the design of Mac OS X at Apple.

The simple brokerage platform has no minimums to open and maintain an account, and is fully paperless. You can choose to transfer real money into Kapitall to begin trading or use practice portfolios to see how your trades perform, risk-free.

The platform takes a more visual approach to trading and analysis, and allows you to access in-depth summaries of each public company, including financials, analyst opinions, recent stock fluctuations, news and more. You can also choose to invest in companies by trends, and Kapitall has grouped companies together by categories like ‘green picks,’ ‘beauty,’ ‘high risk,’ and ‘high growth.’

Once you start investing, you’ll be able to see visual picture of your portfolio based on sectors, returns, and more. You can access all of your transaction history, share portfolios with other users and more.

Kapitall is trying to offer a simpler, more easy to use online brokerage option to consumers who may be challenged by using E-Trade, TD Ameritrade and others. Another startup that is also aiming to democratize the online trading space is Zecco.

Google: “Hundreds” Of Schools In 41 States Use Chromebooks

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 08:22 AM PST


During this morning’s keynote at the annual Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) conference in Orlando, Florida, Google’s Product Manager for Chromebooks, Rajen Sheth, shared an update on Chromebooks‘ headway in educational institutions. According to Sheth, today there are now “hundreds” of schools using Chomebooks in 41 states across the U.S.

There are, of course, some caveats to those figures. For starters, no exact number of Chromebook devices was given. In addition, among those “hundreds” of schools being counted, some may be only using a single set of Chromebooks in their institution, from the sounds of it. And what constitues a “set?” That, too, is unknown. According to Sheth, of the “hundreds of schools” using Chromebooks, Google is counting those that have “outfitted at least one classroom with Chromebooks.”

A more interesting figure is the one that was not shared – how many individual Chromebooks have actually made their way into the U.S. school system?

Sheth also announced three new major deployments of Chromebooks in school districts, which, while clearly individual “wins” worth bragging about, aren’t necessarily indicative of the Chromebook’s overall momentum.

Combined, the three deployments will see 27,000 students provided with Chromebooks – a 1 student per 1 Chromebook ratio. These newly signed up districts include the Council Bluffs Community School District in Iowa which is deploying 2,800 Chromebooks in its high school and 1,500 in two middle schools, the Leyden Community High School District in Illinois which is giving the devices to 3,500 students in their two high schools, and the Richland School District Two in South Carolina which will deploy 19,000 computers.

But given the very introductory nature of this morning’s keynote – a keynote which focused on Chromebook’s advantage over traditional PC’s (Chromebooks automatically update!, less headaches for I.T.!, it’s all web!, etc.),  it’s clear that Google’s Chromebook push is in very early stages yet.

Sprint Plans To Kill The BlackBerry PlayBook… Again

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 08:12 AM PST


For the second time over the course of a year, it would seem as though Sprint’s ready to kill the BlackBerry PlayBook. A new version of the PlayBook OS is set to debut in February, but according to an EOL (End of Life) report out of SprintFeed, Sprint isn’t prepared for the wait. Not even for a week.

Of course, the WiFi-only PlayBook will still be available at various office stores like Best Buy and from RIM directly, but Sprint’s execution of the PlayBook marks the end of the product’s life on a carrier shelf.

At least for now. Rumors of a new BlackBerry PlayBook have been swirling around as of late, and just a couple days ago former CEO Jim Balsillie confirmed the existence of such a device. Still, it’ll likely be a while before PlayBook 2 hits the market and I’d be comfortable assuming that, even with the price cuts, RIM still has quite a few tablets it’d like to unload.

That said, getting the boot from Sprint likely isn’t great news over at Waterloo, but the good news is that it’ll hopefully be replaced by a tablet with a 1.5GHz processor, an NFC chip, and support for 42Mbps HSPA+.

Maybe specs like that will fare better.

Popular Barcode Scanning App ShopSavvy Launches Mobile Marketplace

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 07:42 AM PST


ShopSavvy, which you probably know as the barcode-scanning, price comparison app, is  launching a major new feature today: SavvyListings, a mobile marketplace. With the addition, the company is hoping to turn its user base of some 20 million into customers who buy and sell items directly with each other.

To use the SavvyListings feature, you simply scan the barcode of product in question, then head to “Options,” and “Sell this Item.” (You will need to sign in with your ShopSavvy account). ShopSavvy, thanks to its database of pricing information, will be able to suggest a price for each item you choose to sell. It will also default the item’s condition to “gently used.”

Like a dumbed-dumbed version of Craigslist (yes, it can get even more basic, if you can believe it!) listings don’t have to include images, descriptions, categories or shipping costs. It’s just “I have this item,” essentially. Potential sellers can then reach out the buyers to make any sort of pickup and delivery arrangements they choose.

From then on, the item will appear under the “Local Stores” section until it’s sold.

The result transforms ShopSavvy from just a utility for comparing prices into a country-wide mobile yard sale.

Only one problem? If you have second thoughts after listing the item, there doesn’t seem to be an option to delete it from within the app itself. (So no, my copy of “20 Under 40” is not actually for sale, but thanks for asking).

Now You Can Control Your Galaxy Nexus By Groping A Wall

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 07:38 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-25 at 10.34.38 AM

The Galaxy Nexus’s 4.65-inch display may make it a handful for some, but a nifty new project from a developer known as DDRBoxman allows users to interact with their Galaxy Nexus on an even grander scale.

With the help of a projector, a Kinect camera, and a specially tweaked Ice Cream Sandwich ROM, he was able to interact with his Nexus by touching a wall.

Originally cobbled together for use with meetings and presentations in mind, DDRBoxman’s feat involved quite a bit of setup. A bit of software called Simple Kinect Touch allows a computer running either Windows or Linux to pull in and interpret data from a connected Kinect camera pointed at the Galaxy Nexus projection. It then takes that gesture data and turns them into TUIO data that the Galaxy Nexus can interpret as touch inputs thanks to its custom ROM.

That’s really the stumbling block right there — an enthusiast could probably get the projector and Simple Kinect Touch set up on a rainy afternoon, but DDRBoxman had to bake system support for the TUIOforAndroid app into the ROM. Maybe if we all ask nicely, he’ll share the fruits of his labor so we can partake in the wall-touching fun.

The end result isn’t the most fluid user experience you’ll ever see, but it’s impressive nonetheless for a proof of concept. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled on the project for a while, because I have a feeling it’ll only be get better with time.

Accel And SV Angel Back Endorse With $4.25 Million To Close The Loop Between Shoppers And Brands

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 07:34 AM PST


Brands and businesses can track their reputations online and connect with consumers through social media. But what about in the real world? One of the biggest prizes in Startupland will go to whoever can figure out how to connect real-world shopping to brands and businesses. Steve Carpenter is going after that prize with his latest startup, Endorse.

A lot of effort is going into trying to close the redemption loop from online offer to physical purchase in real-world stores. The daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are nibbling at this, as is Google Offers, Yelp and others. Most of those efforts focus on local commerce rather than big brand products you buy at national retailers, and that’s the nut Carpenter wants to crack. “If I look around, certainly Groupon created a new kind of incentive for local merchants, but nobody has modernized the coupon for the modern brand.”

Carpenter has been incubating the company for a year as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Accel. (He sold his last company, Cake Financial, to Etrade in 2010). Endorse just raised $4.25 million in a Series A led by Accel, with SV Angel also investing (it fits into SV’s Online2Offline investment theme). His co-founders and team include early employees from YouTube and Paypal—co-founder and CTO Erik Klein, Mayrose Dunton (YouTube’s original head of product), and Franck Chastagnol (former lead engineer for YouTube ads).

“The coupon turns 125 years old this year,” notes Carpenter. “It was designed by the first Coca Cola CEO—it was a free trial. The mechanism of the coupon hasn't changed.” Endorse is trying to reinvent the coupon by rewarding shoppers (mostly networked Moms) for not only endorsing brands, but proving that they went out and bought the products.

Carpenter tested out his concept in classic Lean Startup fashion. During a 3-month private beta trial, shoppers went to to pick the brands and products they liked, and then actually sent in their receipts for 10 percent cash back. Endorse sent them a Netflix-like mailer, and they stuffed it with receipts. Endorse set up a scanning process to scan the receipts and record their purchases. In addition to the cash back, brands could reward loyal customers with discounts for themselves and their friends.

The results of this market test were fairly impressive. Endorse seeded the service with five women across the country. With no marketing, it spread to 15 thousand beta customers in three months (86 percent of them women in places like Indianapolis, North Carolina, and Sacramento). Just like Pinterest, Endorse kept this stealth by focussing on middle America.

Those 15,000 customers turned in 150,000 receipts and made 1.5 million brand endorsements. By the time Carpenter ended the trial, the service was growing by 10,000 receipts a week. These numbers are small, but that’s the point. He and his team learned enough about their customers to start designing the real product, which will launch later this year.

The real product will still include the Netflix for receipts, but there will also be a mobile app which will allow consumers to snap a photo of their receipts instead of mailing them in. Endorse tested this as well using just camera phones and email, and it was seeing a new proof of purchase pop in every 90 seconds over a period of 3 days.

Endorse is trying to solve two problems: recognizing shoppers for product loyalty and giving brands product-level data currently unavailable to them. In addition to cash back, brands can use Endorse to craft other types of incentives, such as paying extra to get you to try a product. Or, if you are Oral B, you know that someone who buys a set of replacement heads for a spinning electric toothbrush is 90 percent likely to remain a lifelong customer. It might be worth it to reward that person $25 or even $50 for making that critical purchase. Or a loyal customer might get a nudge to influence her friends by letting her gift them a 30 percent discount. Endorse can also lead to buying circles. Each endorsement can be shared via the equivalent of an affiliate link for the real world, which then associates the new Endorse members to the person who referred them.

For brands, it is all about the data. Most real-world retailers are stingy with the data they share with brands about who is buying their products. Web startups like Endorse see an opportunity in bypassing the retailers and simply connecting brands and consumers directly. But that is easier said than done. You might remember that previously social shopping startups such as the defunct Blippy tried to get consumers to broadcast their credit card purchases on Twitter or Facebook with the intention to later pan in that stream for data nuggets. The challenge was that nobody really wanted to broadcast how much money they were spending, and even if they did, the data wasn’t at the product level, it was at the basket level.

Endorse collects the actual receipts, with each product listed line-item by line-item. It’s a printout of the retailer’s cash register information, which Endorse then scans and redigitizes to put back into its own database. It is an inefficient process, but barring big retailers like Walmart and Target opening up their data warehouses to brands and startups (ain’t gonna happen), the physical receipt in the customer’s hands is the only way to reassemble that data. It’s somewhat of a hack, but if Endorse makes it easy enough it could have a business.

All it is doing, if you think about it, is liberating data. There is a lot of money to made from doing that these days.

JNSQ, An Independent Style Mag For iPad, Makes Its Public Debut

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 07:11 AM PST


JNSQ, the first independent style magazine for the iPad, is making its public debut today. The app, created by former marketing manager Melissa Middleton and angel investor and stealth startup founder Fritz Lanman, features similar content as to what’s found on the online version of the company, at, but is published monthly – like a real magazine.

The magazine has actually been live in the app store since October, so you may have stumbled across it on your own. But that was a “soft launch,” meant for testing and experimentation, as opposed to today’s public debut.

What’s perhaps more interesting (at least to those of you whose interest in fashion goes about as far as “what t-shirt should I wear today?”), is the platform on which JNSQ was built. Developed by an ex-Amazon employee hired on contract by the company, the magazine was created within a custom-built CMS system for building iPad magazines. That’s going to be useful going forward, because founder Middleton has ambitions to take JNSQ and expand it, turning the company into a new, digital media empire. Or, as she puts it, “the Conde Nast of digital.”

As for the user interface, it’s highly usable, clean, and uncluttered. There are integrated, but unobtrusive, sharing, bookmarking and favoriting buttons. And beneath the articles, a small “related content” section directs readers around the magazine in a more intuitive, iPad-friendly way. The app also doesn’t spend ages downloading content to the iPad upon launch, and the homescreen is broken up into clearly marked sections: Featured Articles, Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle (think health, home, travel, etc.).

JNSQ’s content is created by a team of 21 editors who contribute content to the app on deadline – like a real magazine. Their work is edited and scrubbed prior to publication, again, just like a real magazine. However, JNSQ will update throughout the month with new content – and will soon use push notifications (via Urban Airship) to alert readers of the additions.

Another difference between JNSQ and a traditional magazine is that the editors are bloggers. “Readers are trusting bloggers because we’re more accessible, it’s not ‘industry.’…Bloggers are non-policed, it’s fun, and they can put more personality into it,” Middleton explains. The bloggers’ voice throughout JNSQ will hopefully appeal to the right kind reader, she hopes: “our audience is the everyday woman. She’s not sitting at fashion week, but she still has a taste for style.”

Says Middleton, she got the idea for JNSQ back when the iPad first came out. “I was looking for style magazines,” she says, “and there was nothing. The demographics of the people who were buying the iPad at the time were men.” Obviously, that’s no longer the case – the iPad is for everyone. There’s a huge market for appealing to the style-savvy women’s mag crowd. Or really, anyone who loves fashion and style, regardless of gender.

JNSQ is too new to be sharing download numbers or active users numbers yet, but Middleton says the engagement metrics are “unbelievable.” So unbelievable, in fact, that one potential investor didn’t actually believe them. He requested she send a screenshot of proof. The metric that he couldn’t grasp? Users were spending an hour and a half in the app per session, on average.

Hey, that’s kind of like a real magazine. Maybe even better.

Samsung Employee Leaks New Info On Future Galaxy Tabs

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 07:06 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-25 at 10.04.24 AM

I just love it when leaks come straight from the horse’s mouth. A leaky horse mouth, if you will.

Electronista is reporting that a Samsung product marketing manager by the name of Ryan Bidan has let slip a few details on the next Galaxy Tab or, potentially, the next iteration of the Galaxy Note.

According to the report, Mr. Bidan hinted at the inclusion of an S pen (the same stylus used with the Note), 3D gestures courtesy of the front-facing camera, and perhaps even some voice controls “in certain circumstances.”

Here’s the official quote:

I think a pen interface continues to make a lot of sense across a number of screen sizes, like the larger is more obvious of those. That's about as specific as I can be without announcing a product.

Samsung has been aggressive with its move into the tablet arena, offering a number of different-sized products with most of the same feature sets. In fact, if we include the Galaxy Note phablet, screen sizes range from 5.3-inches to 10.1-inches. The probability of a larger Galaxy Note, however, is pretty minimal since anything even slightly bigger would have a tough time fitting into a pockets — which is necessary if we’re to call it a smartphone.

That said, the S pen (along with the other reported new features) will likely be integrated onto a new Galaxy Tab, but which size has yet to be determined. Samsung has already released three 10-inch GalTab models, and two 7-inchers. So if I had to guess, I’d say you’ll likely find these new features on a 10-inch model before you see them anywhere else. If it goes well, perhaps Samsung will integrate the S pen elsewhere.

But we mustn’t forget that most tablets sold with a stylus haven’t done so well… yet. Then again, that isn’t really the fault of the stylus so much as it is other factors.

Remember, the stylus does have its perks, and if it doesn’t add much cost for Samsung, why not add the feature?

Fab Hits 2 Million Members, Plots International Expansion, Opens For All

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 06:53 AM PST

fab founder and CEO Jason Goldberg just made a significant announcement on his blog about some new and upcoming changes at the ridiculously fast-growing startup.

The design shopping site now boasts 2 million members, having added more than 400,000 new members in the past month and doubling membership since November. Expect that number to grow fast, because the site is now open for everyone immediately upon sign-up, and will soon become available in Canada and Europe to boot.

It’s unclear where and when Fab will hit Europe, but Goldberg mentions in his blog post that he’s recently visited Berlin, Brussels and Paris. Meanwhile, the European clone machines are already hard at work at trying to grab market share before makes its way overseas by shamelessly ripping off their design and certain functionalities.

Finally, Fab is today debuting ‘Fab Shops’, enabling members to visually browse products by dedicated online storefronts organized around product categories.

Users can now browse all the products on Fab by shop, color, and price.

Goldberg says iPhone, iPad, and Android versions of ‘Fab Shops’ will be added to its product line-up in the next few days. offers daily sales of design items in categories ranging from home products to clothing to jewelry to art work, at up to 70 percent off retail. The company recently raised $40 million in series B funding from star investors to support its rapid growth.

The company recently announced its first acquisition, purchasing NYC-based FashionStake, a community-curated marketplace for independent designers.

Social Brand Marketing Booms In 2011, Buddy Media Ups Revenue 2.5X

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 06:40 AM PST

Buddy Media Blue Logo

With 300 new big brand customers and 2.5X revenue, 2011 was a landmark year for social media marketing software developer Buddy Media. As CEO Michael Lazerow told us that Buddy Media was on track to hit $20 million in revenue in 2010, it could have pulled in $50 million during 2011. The company grew from 100 to 225 employees, and opened new offices in London, SF, and Singapore. Meanwhile, competitor Vitrue doubled its revenue during 2011. In short, brands are getting serious about social marketing, and Buddy Media and Vitrue are the tools they trust.

The huge revenue growth came thanks to Buddy Media breaking out its software platform into 4 a la carte products. Agencies and brands were then able to customize a package for their needs and ended up spending more. During 2011 it attracted premier clients such as Citibank, IBM, and the NFL with its reputation for helping brands promote through Facebook. To house its swelling work force, Buddy Media is moving its headquarters to a new 65,000 square foot office in New York City.

Other milestones for Buddy Media this year include:

The one piece of the marketing equation Buddy Media is missing an social advertising platform, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it launch, acquire, or do a deep partnership with one this year.

Buddy Media and other top-tier social marketing platforms stand to capitalize as brands increasingly shift marketing resources to social. While free tools are proliferating, huge multinational brands need the reliability and customer service these platforms provide.

Competitors are vying with Buddy Media for the biggest spending brands. Vitrue is aggressively innovating through acquisitions and partnerships, while Context Optional offers an end-to-end social marketing service as it became part of the Efficient Frontier ad platform before being acquired by Adobe. To stay ahead, Buddy Media will need to continue improving its engaging apps, publishing capabilities, and analytics, and offer a better integrated ad buying solution.

Buddy Media’s success could line it up for an IPO, or make it an attractive acquisition target for one of the world’s top traditional media publishers looking for big social play.

Mark Shuttleworth Unveils New Head-Up Display for Ubuntu 12.04

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 06:24 AM PST


Every time I write about Ubuntu and its (not-so) new Unity interface, I see lots and lots of comments decrying it as useless, an abomination, the worst thing to ever happen to computers, etc. Personally, I’m not so flummoxed by it, but there’s no denying that Unity has been a divisive addition to Canonical’s flagship Linux distribution. The choice to move application menus up to the global bar at the top of the screen has been frustrating to many, and a lot of power users find Unity too mouse-intensive. Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu’s Self-Appointed Benevloent Dictator For Life, yesterday unveiled the next step in the Unity evolution: the Head-Up Display.

According to Shuttleworth, their testing revealed that “users spent a lot of time, relatively speaking, navigating the menus of their applications, either to learn about the capabilities of the app, or to take a specific action.” The goal of the new Head-Up display is to — eventually — replace menus altogether. Instead of clicking through menus, users type the command they require in a search box. It may sound a bit counter-intuitive at first blush, but take a look at this video for a few examples:

Certainly typing “undo” is not a particularly good example of efficiency, but it’s important to remember that not everyone can commit “CTRL+Z” to memory. If you know what you want to do, typing it into an assisted search box may well be faster than navigating nested menus or memorizing arcance key combinations. As Shuttleworth notes, “Hotkeys are a sort of mental gymnastics, the HUD is a continuation of mental flow.” And for power users who railed against the importance of the mouse in Unity to date, the HUD should be a welcome first step toward a better all-keyboard experience.

Shuttleworth also mentions that the long-term goals of the HUD include full voice integration, allowing you to simply say the word “undo” rather than type it.

Before you start casting aspersions, do read Shuttleworth’s blog post about the HUD. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

TIBCO Updates Social Enterprise App Tibbr With Geo-Location Features

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST


Enterprise software company TIBCO is debuting a new version of its Yammer-clone Tibbr today. The newest version of the company’s social communications app includes geo-location capabilities called Tibbr GEO, which integrates the 'check-in' model in the enterprise.

By incorporating location into Tibbr, the service wants to physical places into data hubs that can immediately stream important insights relevant to that specific place. Tibbr GEO gives companies the ability to tag important places, whether in the enterprise or as part of the extended enterprise. As Tibbr users approach these places, they're automatically presented relevant in-stream information.

For example, Tibbr says the geolocation feature could turn a gate into a contextual relevant data hub to give agents, pilots and flight attendants insights as they approach the gate. Or the section of every retail aisle could include data on individual shelf space, insights about individual products, how they're selling, how fast they're moving or how a new location might be affecting sales.

Tibbr Mobile applications now use HTML5 to deliver users a consistent mobile experience across all platforms and has also been updated to support offline access.

YC-Funded Embark Is Now Plotting Two Million Transit Trips A Month

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 05:32 AM PST


As a former resident of Los Angeles, New York’s public transportation system feels magical at times. Trains — underground trains — that go places you actually want to go. It’s a wonderful system. And I thank my stars that I live in an age when my smartphone can tell me how to use it.

Because for all its convenience, NYC’s subway system can feel a bit labyrinthine at times — particularly when there’s a planned service disruption (there’s always a planned service disruption). Thankfully I’m equipped with a well-crafted Android app called Embark NYC, which makes it easy to plot my subway route and get notified about any potential delays.

Embark NYC (which was formerly called Ride NYC) was built by a company called Pandav, which is also responsible for the popular, and similarly polished app iBART. And today, the company has some big news: it’s changing its name to Embark, and it’s releasing some data that gives an idea as to just how popular it’s gotten. Namely, that it’s now plotted a total of 20 million trips since its first app launched ten months ago, and that users are plotting an additional two million trips per month.

Oh, and they’re also announcing that they were a member of Y Combinator’s most recent batch of companies. And that they’re launching a new app today that caters to Boston’s subway system, the T. To date Embark has launched support for a total of twelve cities on iOS, with three available for Android (NYC, the Bay Area, and Washington DC, which are the biggest markets). You can find all of these apps on their homepage, right here.

So what’s driving Embark’s success? Cofounder David Hodge says that one of the company’s biggest differentiators is its attention to detail. Aside from the apps’ fantastic design, the team is doing everything it can to make its recommended routes as accurate as possible — including manually timing how long it takes to make transfers at different subway stops, and even how quickly people walk in different cities (yes, New Yorkers do indeed walk faster).

Other key features include the ability to use the application offline (you don’t need a data connection to plot your trip), and, starting today, the ability sign up for Push notifications that’ll let you know when there’s an issue affecting your specific subway line. There’s also a handy sharing function that will let you email, text, or (if you really want to) tweet to your itinerary.

Alongside the news, Embark is sharing another key bit of information: the company is now profitable. The apps are all free — Embark is pulling this feat off through advertising alone. These ads are particularly effective, Hodge says, because users looking at the app are frequently at a so-called ‘decision point’ in terms of figuring out where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. Run a well-timed ad for Starbucks when someone is figuring out their morning commute, and they may well figure out a way to stroll past one. And with two million trips plotting per month — and growing — Embark has a lot of opportunities.

Amazon Web Services Debuts Storage Gateway To Securely Upload Enterprise Data To The Cloud

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 05:29 AM PST


After launching distributed database DynamoDB last week, Amazon Web Services is debuting another product—AWS Storage Gateway, which is a service that provides enterprises with a new option to securely upload and backup data to the AWS cloud from on-premises software appliances.

Basically, the Gateway connect san on-premises software appliance with Amazon’s cloud-based storage for a more secure integration between on-premises IT environments and AWS storage infrastructure. Via the Gateway, data is uploaded to AWS, where it is encrypted and stored in the Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). The Gateway provides a solution fir enterprises looking for effective backup and rapid disaster recovery between on-premise applications and the cloud.

And there is no need to re-architect on-premises applications as the AWS Storage Gateway exposes a standard iSCSI interface that works with existing applications, explains Amazon.

As Amazon says in a release: The AWS Storage Gateway also makes it easy to leverage the on-demand compute capacity of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for additional capacity during peak periods, for new projects, or as a more cost-effective way to run normal enterprise workloads.

The Gateway is prices at $125 per month per installed gateway and comes with a 60 day free trial. Snapshot storage pricing starts at only $0.14 per gigabyte per month.

Big VCs Invest In Big Data Startup Continuuity

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 05:21 AM PST


Venture capital firm Battery Ventures this morning announced that it has made an investment in Continuuity, a stealth ‘big data’ startup founded by Battery entrepreneur-in-residence Todd Papaioannou (formerly VP and Chief Cloud Architect for Yahoo).

Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Partners and a group of angel investors including Bob Pasker, Paul Ambrose, Matt Ocko and The Data Collective also participated in the round.

It’s unclear what Continuuity is building, and the press release makes us none the wiser:

Continuuity’s goal is to enable the development of the next wave of real-time Big Data applications.

Ok then. Here’s a recent video interview of Papaioannou talking about trends in big data:

Android May Have Consumer Market Share, But iOS Is Tops In Enterprise

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 05:00 AM PST

Top 10 Device Q4 v3

According to a new report from managed enterprise mobility provider Good Technology, iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) hold the top three spots in the list of the top 10 enterprise activations by device type. The report includes data gathered by Good for Q4 2011 and includes half of the Fortune 100, providing insight into enterprise activation trends among some of the world’s biggest businesses.

The company found that despite Android’s overall market share growth and steady absolute growth among Good’s customers, only 35% of all smartphone activations were on Android, compared with iPhone’s 65%.

The mid-October release of the iPhone 4S helped that particular device quickly earn the number one position on the top 10 enterprise activations list, with the iPhone 4 moving into spot #2. The iPad 2, meanwhile, claimed the third position.

Since there are far more Android devices than iPhone models, it’s not as fair to compare trends on a device-by-device basis. After all, there’s aren’t just a couple models of Android phones out there – there are dozens upon dozens of “top” (popular) devices.

However, even when looked at as a whole, Android activations accounted for just 35% of the smartphone activations and only 6% of tablet activations. The Samsung Galaxy S II was the top Android device at spot #6 and was followed by the Motorola Droid Bionic, the Motorola Droid 3, Sprint EVO 4G (Q3′s most popular Android device) and the Motorola Droid X2. Motorola phones were popular over the course of the past year, too, and were represented in the top 10 each quarter.

Good does note that iPhone activations had slowed in the previous quarter, in anticipation of the new iPhone, then jumped significantly after its launch, with 31% of smartphone activations from that device alone. But collectively, iOS devices accounted for over 70% of all activations in Q4, an indication that enterprise customers’ iOS preference wasn’t just being boosted by the iPhone 4S launch. iOS is the preferred choice in the enterprise, Good says.

On the tablet front, iOS’s domination is even more apparent – the iPad and iPad 2 account for 94% of the total tablet activations in Q4, compared with 6% for Android tablets, where the Galaxy Tab leads the pack. iPads were most popular in three industries: financial services (accounting for 42% for the quarter), business/professional services and life sciences.

Going into Q1 and Q2, Good says that it expects iPad and iPad 2 activations to slow heading into March, as customers prepare for the (rumored) launch of the iPad 3. It also expects Android activations to increase on a relative basis after the immediate impact of the iPhone 4S lessens and as BYOD (bring your own device) programs become more common.

However, says John Herrema, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Good, the company expects the iOS/Android numbers to be roughly the same during the first half of 2012 as they are now. A change would require a major shift in tablet trends. “I don’t see that happening with the iPad 3 on the horizon,” says Herrema.

“If Android and iOS split smartphone [market share] or even if Android takes the overall smartphone lead, it would still likely be no more than 40% of all Good activations overall, given the dominance of Apple on tablets and the large numbers of tablets we are activating. Meanwhile, I don’t see Android dropping substantially below where it is now because that would require major shift among BYOD smartphone users.”

We should note that this report does not look at RIM devices or Windows Phone, as Good doesn’t have insight into these platforms. This is only a comparison between the iOS/Android adoption rates in the enterprise, which by itself, limits itself to enterprise environments where BlackBerry has already fallen from favor.

Video: Dunder Mifflin’s Office Remade As A Counter Strike Source Map

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 04:15 AM PST


Long before the advent of such games as Minecraft, virtual worlds were coded primarily as first person shooter maps. You could play Half-Life deathmatch in a super-sized kitchen, Counter Strike on a World War II battlefield and so on. Map making was an artform. But it’s clearly not dead.

The story goes that this CSS mapper starter building the map in 2009. Since then he’s logged over 500 hours of crafting every detail but he’s not done. In fact he’s looking for someone to complete his masterpiece. Perhaps he’s like me and just bored with the series now that Michael Scott followed his love to Colorado. Who knows, anyway, the map is impressive as is, although I’m not sure if it has the same playability as the original cs_office. Unless of course the map includes Dwight’s weapon caches and super heated door knobs.

Jammit Lets Budding Rock Stars Play Along With, Isolate, And Record Over The “Masters”

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 04:00 AM PST


While magical mobile devices are able to simulate instruments in wild and mind-blowing ways, thankfully most people stick to the actual instruments themselves when learning to play. Arguably, a better — or at least more popular — use for mobile devices is to act not as the instrument itself, but as an educational aid — a tool that helps us to learn how to play our favorite instruments.

There are a ton of these educational (and often game-ified) apps out there, and we seem to have a new one at Disrupt every year. There’s Miso Media’s Plectrum, which “listens” as you play, scrolling the tablature forward as you progress through the song, or Tonara’s interactive sheet music, WildChords’, a musical game that uses audio technology to recognize sound through your device's microphone, turning your six-string into a game controller, Rocksmith, Rock Prodigy, and these … well, you get the picture.

If you want to learn to play the guitar, or another instrument, you can find plenty of YouTube videos you can strum along to, and the mobile apps and web-based tools that boost your chops continue to get better — and, frankly, astound. Of course, the truth is that most musicians learned their instrument by playing along to their favorite songs (probably not mp3s), and imitating what they hear. While YouTube offers a great jumping off point, it’s disorganized and only just scratches the surface.

Today, we’ve learned about another app for iOS (and coming soon to Mac and Windows desktops) called Jammit, which should be of interest to novices and experts alike. Ideally, when learning to play an instrument (or practicing), we want to play along with our favorite songs — to emulate them to get a better feel for how musicians created these songs — and for learning how to create our own riffs.

Jammit wants to assist in this approach by allowing musicians to play along with their favorite songs, and to get a taste (at least virtually) of what it’s like to be there in the recording studio. Jammit uses the original multi-track master recordings in its catalog so that users can tune into instrument-specific samples — for guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals. This granularity allows musicians to dive in to each nuance of a certain song, and then replace it with their own. Now you can feel like you’re part of the band — even if, like me, you’re too busy to go on tour with Rush.

It’s not easy to get access to original master recordings of songs, and Jammit Founder Scott Humphrey tells us that they’ve spent years working through the red tape to manage licensing fees and be able to offer master tracks to their users. After years of pursuing these leads, Jammit is now home to master tracks from hundreds of artists, including R.E.M., Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, Rush, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and more.

While the catalog is not as complete as those we’ve come to expect from iTunes, there’s plenty of classic music to get you started on practicing, mixing, recording, and tinkering. Allowing you to literally remove the original guitar riff and record yourself right into the song — from your iPad? Pretty cool.

What’s more, the app provides note-for-note transcriptions in standard notation or tablature, the ability to quickly navigate to any part of the song, repeat bars with snap-to-grid looping — and this is the kicker — slow the song down by 90 percent without affecting the pitch. This feature, along with a “now” line, which underscores exactly which note you are on to aid in the learning process, are two huge updates for the newest versions of the app. If you’re having trouble hearing what chords are being played, or are struggling with the fingering, just slow the song down and loop it, or get cues from the app itself. Then, once you’re done recording, you can send it off to friends, teachers, and groupies.

The app itself is free, and individual songs range from about $2 to $6. Jammit currently has around 200 guitar songs, and approximately the same amount for bass, drums, and vocals. Humphrey tells us that they have hundreds more songs in the cue, and are starting to see bands come to them who want to release their albums on Jammit in tandem with releasing a new album. The latest example would be Lamb of God’s new album, “Resolution.”

Jammit is currently raising a seed round of funding.

For more, check out the example of Rush’s “Limelight” below, or check out “how it works” here.

33Across Acquires Tynt To Become Social Data Powerhouse

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 03:55 AM PST

33across tynt

Social ad targeting company 33Across just announced that it has acquired Tynt.

What’s Tynt? Well, if you’ve ever tried to copy-and-paste a quote from an article and discovered that there was suddenly some extra text and a link attached (for example, “Read more:”), you have Tynt to thank for that. Not only does it add attribution to copied text, it also uses copy-and-paste data to make larger recommendations about a publisher’s search engine optimization and social networking lift.

33Across CEO Eric Wheeler describes the deal as helping his company reach “both sides of the ecosystem” — where 33Across wants to help advertisers understand their social reach, Tynt is doing the same for publishers. He says 33Across will continue to offer publisher tools under the Tynt name. At the same time, the 500,000 publishers who work with Tynt will now have access to 33Across’ “Brand Graph“, which identifies people who are likely to become loyal to a specific brand, based on their social connections and interests.

The acquisition price was not disclosed, but Wheeler says the entire Tynt team will be joining 33Across. The company also says that post-acquisition, it now has “the largest social and interest graph across in the world,” with 1.25 billion “users.” The comparison to companies like Google and Facebook seems a little odd, since 33Across doesn’t have users in the same way those other companies do, but maybe I’m just quibbling with the wording. Anyway, the point is clear — 33Across and Tynt have data about a lot of people.

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