Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Qwiki Moves Headquarters To NYC, Preps Big Update For 2012

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:57 AM PST

NYC-1

Disrupt 2010 winner Qwiki has had quite an interesting year — after they launched in January 2011, they pulled in $9 million in funding and lost co-founder/Google alum Louis Monier.

Now they’re hoping that a change of scenery will do the company well. Founder Doug Imbruce announced on the company’s blog earlier today that they have relocated Qwiki HQ to New York City.

If you missed out previous coverage of Qwiki, here’s a bit of background. Qwiki is a web and mobile application that take search queries and returns pertinent information in a polished visual format, complete with narration. Qwiki’s biggest claim to fame is how it manages to cobble together different forms of media into a cohesive (but not over-blown) presentation, even on super-obscure topics like the awful live-action Gundam movie.

Our own MG Siegler referred to the experience as “a movie highlight reel of Wikipedia pages,” and I can’t think of a better way to visualize the format.

While I’m sure the Qwiki team will have a grand old time at their new digs, they’ll also be working on a updated version of Qwiki that’s slated for release in early 2012. Imbruce doesn’t go into too many specifics, but he notes that the new release will sport a revamped format and publishing tools. His description mentions that the newspapers would find value in their publishing tools, but regular users may also get some use out of them if the company’s Qwiki editor makes an appearance.



Evernote’s Clearly Comes To Firefox

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:57 AM PST

clearly

Evernote’s new browser extension called Clearly has arrived on Firefox. The add-on, which offers a better reading experience on the web by removing ads, links, navigational elements and other clutter from websites, was first released for Chrome users back in November.

Now the extension comes to its second platform, along with three built-in themes, and, of course, the ability to clip articles to Evernote for later reading.

Clearly takes on similar products like Readability or Instapaper, but the tie-in to Evernote makes it pretty handy for those who are already dedicated to the Evernote note-taking/clipping service. Once installed, you just click the extension to transform the site into an easy-to-read, ad-free layout. And when clipping an article for later reading, the extension is smart enough to aggregate multi-page articles into one single page.

On Firefox, the extension includes three built in themes (Newsprint, Notable and Nightowl), but if none of those fit your personal preference, you can build your own theme in the app’s settings.

You can grab the new Firefox extension here.



Microsoft Bows Out Of CES 2013, Cites Marketing Transitions

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:45 AM PST

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This year will be Microsoft’s last year at CES where the company usually runs the keynote and takes up a huge portion of the show floor. “In looking at all the ways that Microsoft is now reaching its' customers today (its' owned events, marketing campaigns, retail stores, etc.) this felt like a natural time to make this transition,” wrote an MS PR rep.

This will also be the last time CEO Steve Ballmer keynotes the show.

Microsoft has enjoyed a great partnership with CEA over the years, and they will continue to view CES as an important connection point to do business with our partners across the phone, PC and entertainment industries; it's a perfect platform for this.

The software (and hardware) giant usually commanded a great swathe of the CES show floor including tents outside the convention center. Traditionally a PC-centric show, CES has slowly moved into an event dedicated to iPhone/iPod accessories and, to a lesser extent, other electronics including cameras, PC components, and mobile devices. Because there are currently a plethora of potential shows where Microsoft could exhibit, including both MWC in Barcelona and CTIA for mobile and its own events for Windows-related news, not to mention a huge presence at E3 for Xbox, it’s clear that the audience at CES is now less important to Microsoft on the aggregate.



Omada Health Raises $850K From Esther Dyson & More To Take On Diabetes

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:34 AM PST

OmadaHealth_Logo

Omada Health, a graduate of Rock Health’s first batch of startups, is announcing today that it has raised $800K in seed funding from a number of angel and venture investors, including Esther Dyson, NEA, Aberdare, Kapor Capital, and TriplePoint Ventures to name a few.

Omada Health, simply put, has turned its focus to one of the most pervasive diseases in the country: Diabetes. Well, really, prediabetes. The CDC estimates that 79 million people in the U.S. currently have prediabetes — said another way, that’s approximately 1 in 3 adults. And the majority of those people are not aware of their condition, which essentially means that they are suffering from blood glucose levels that are not irregular enough to be considered diabetes, yet still indicate an extremely high risk of progressing to full-blown diabetes.

And the projection is pretty grim. If nothing is done, the CDC estimates that half of the American population could have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020. Besides bringing attention to the ways that food is being produced, distributed, and consumed, Omada Health Co-founder Sean Duffy tells us that lifestyle programs have been (and are being) designed which can dramatically reduce a person’s risk of progressing from prediabetes to diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program, for example, was a recent, major multicenter clinical research study that developed a 16-week lifestyle program that succeeded in reducing progression by 58 percent.

Omada Health, then, is leveraging these types of research and programs to bring interventions to the millions of people with prediabetes through group-based programs, “human-centered design, behavioral science”, and web technology. Duffy tells me that the startup aims to be (one of the first) online platforms for delivering preventative care at scale — at a cost point that demonstrates compelling ROI for insurance providers or self-insured employers.

The Omada program matches people with prediabetes into small groups, pairing each group with a “facilitator” trained in the Omada curriculum, who then guides patients through a 16-week lifestyle course. While progressing through the course, Omada tracks their progress using a cellular-connected scale as well as other metrics. So far, the startup has run two prototypes and is currently preparing for a larger pilot early in 2012.

The startup was first conceived as an internal project at the global design consulting firm, IDEO, where Duffy and co-founder Adrian James were both employed. In May, the two left IDEO to join Rock Health, were later joined by two more staffers, and today the team has added a round of seed funding to push forward with their pilot program and ramp up hiring.

We’re looking forward to hearing more about the pilot program, so stay tuned. For more, check out Omada Health at home here.



Steve Jobs Memorial Statue Unveiled In Budapest

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:10 AM PST

stevejobsstatue

While memorials of all kinds and sizes have been presented since his death, the world’s first statue of the late Steve Jobs has today been unveiled in Budapest, Hungary. It’s made completely of bronze and stands nearby the entrance of architectural software maker Graphisoft’s headquarters.

Jobs seems to be presenting a new product on stage, or possibly waving as he was known to do upon exiting the stage.

The statue was commissioned by Graphisoft founder and chairman Gabor Bojar and sculpted by Hungarian sculptor Erno Toth. Graphisoft and Apple go way back, when Jobs first took a liking to Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD software in 1984 and threw Apple’s support behind it. “Apple’s support included cash and computers at a time when GRAPHISOFT was a small company with limited resources, working within the economic and political confines of what was, at the time, communist Hungary,” Gabor Bojar said.

This is only the first in what should be many Steve Jobs tribute statues, and hopefully we’ll get one stateside pretty soon.



DealFind Launches Its Version Of Groupon Now: “Everyday Deals”

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:00 AM PST

Dealfind

Toronto-based deal provider Dealfind is on the move, having recently gone mobile, and, as of today, is launching something called “Everyday Deals.” The feature is somewhat similar to GrouponNow in that it allows you to find deals you can buy and use right now. But really, the site is more of a deals database, where deals are searchable by location, category and redeemable time.

The new Everyday Deals site lets you filter through the available deals using drop-down boxes at the top. You can see how this works using Calgary as an example. Times are split into early morning, morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening and late night.

Despite once being known as “Canada’s Groupon,” Dealfind has expanded since its founding in 2009 and is now in 70 markets across both the U.S. and Canada. Much of that expansion has been fairly recent. In November, Dealfind added 18 more U.S. markets to its lineup, bringing the total to 41 U.S. cities versus the 29 it has in Canada.   It has sold 1,729,883 vouchers valued at $405,900,647.

Dealfind’s deal quality still has room to improve in some cases. (Is anyone else sick of all those mani/pedi offers? Ugh). The new feature is live now, but not all supported markets have deals listed as of yet.



Meet Dotti, Sincerely’s New Mobile Photos App For That (Holiday) Disposable Camera Nostalgia

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:00 AM PST

DottiPrintPackage

Sincerely, the company behind photo-printing iOS app Postagram, is launching a new app today. It’s designed to capture all the nostalgia that you and your family feel about those disposable camera photo sets you all shot during the holidays over the last couple decades.

Called Dotti (maybe your effusive aunt’s name, too?), you download it from the App Store or Android Market, get 12 photos to shoot, and then get the option to send them off to be made into high-quality 4×6 prints for $4.99. You’ll get back the photos by mail in less than a week.

Among the many improvements over real disposable cameras, you get the option to edit and delete any photos in the roll that you don’t want before sending it off. Oh, and you get the high-quality phone camera instead of the cut-rate one that came with the original version.

The whole interface is designed to make you feel like you’re using the real thing, though. You see a roll of film in the back when you first load it up, which you cycle through as you use up shots. You see photo counter and get the camera-clicking noise as you progress through the roll. Once you’re done shooting and you’ve sent it off, the app resets as if you’ve stuck in a new role of film.

The company is timing this launch ahead of Christmas, so you can take photos with your family and get them back before New Years.

Of course you could just use your phone to take photos, then use Apple’s own printing service to get them, or another third party like Sincerely’s Postagram. But the point is creating a special and highest-quality experience, founder Matt Brezina tells me.

“When I started thinking about it over a year ago, I felt that the iPhone was the new camera, and that one of the business models around it was that a printed photos was one of the world’s simplest and most appreciated gifts,” he explains. “So I thought: what’s the easiest way to send? First we had Postagram, and from there we built the Sincerely Ship iOS library for other developers, then holiday cards so we made Sincerely Inc. The other thing that customers said is that they wanted to put photos into a frame to archive. So we could have created some sort of utility app for that — or a disposable camera.”

The app has just gone live for iOS and Android, and you can learn more about it here.



Enterprise Security Company Cyber-Ark Raises $40M From Goldman Sachs, JVP

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 09:00 AM PST

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Cyber-Ark Software, which provides identity management solutions to financial institutions and other enterprise customers worldwide, has raised a healthy $40 million in venture capital funding in a round led by Goldman Sachs and Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP).

Founded in 1999, Cyber-Ark had previously raised $25 million from angel investors and VCs.

The company provides information security solutions to roughly 1000 enterprise clients, enabling them to protect users, applications and data against both insider and external threats.

The company has 170 employees worldwide and is headquartered in the US, with R&D operations located in Israel.

The $40 million investment deal includes the purchase of shares from existing shareholders by Goldman Sachs and JVP, as well as the provision of growth capital for the company.

As part of the round, JVP founder and chairman Erel Margalit will be appointed chairman of the company, and Goldman Sachs VP David Campbell will be joining Cyber-Ark’s board.



Scribd Protests SOPA By Making A Billion Pages On The Web Disappear

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:41 AM PST

Tribe Legis Memo on SOPA

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is delayed in Congress, but it is definitely not dead. The media company lobbyists and their Congressmen (hello, Lamar Smith!) are simply regrouping. Some of the more controversial aspects of the bill include transferring liability for copyright infringement to sites that host user-generated content and blocking that content via DNS servers.

To highlight the chilling effect this legislation could have on free speech on te Internet, today document-sharing site Scribd is protesting SOPA by making every document disappear word-by-word when you vist the site. All in all, there are a billion pages of documents on the Scribd. “With this legislation in place, entire domains like Scribd could simply vanish from the web,” warns Jared Friedman, CTO and co-founder, Scribd.

You can see the effect by checking out this Lawrence Tribe legal memo on the constitutionality of SOPA (embedded below, but the disappearing act only works on Scribd’s site). After the words disappear, a message comes up urging readers to call their Congress person to stop SOPA. It also provides a few links where people can learn more, including to a our video interview with Brad Burnham on the subject (also embedded below)



StartupBus Doubling To 12 Buses In 2012, But You Have To Vote Your Region In

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:15 AM PST

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StartupBus, the hackathon/road trip combo started by Elias Bizannes nearly three years ago, is doubling the number of events it runs in 2012. There will be a maximum of twelve buses that run in the new year, up from six previously. But here’s the fun part: the organization will determine which regions get their own Startup bus through an online competition requiring hopefuls to “vote up” their region through social media.

Starting today, the organization is launching the voting website at StartupBus.com/unlock, which now features nine cities plus three schools (dubbed “tribes” in StartupBus lingo): Stanford, MIT and Harvard.

To vote for your region, you just click the appropriate button to tweet or Facebook “like” your selection. If your city isn’t represented on the list, you can email the address provided to be considered for inclusion.

StartupBus began as an experiment, but has expanded over the past couple of years to become an international event, competition and community – a group that now includes 200 people. In the U.S., the bus heads to SxSW in March and in Europe, it goes to LeWeb in December. The bus is currently popular in areas like San Francisco, New York, Boston, Cleveland (Cleveland?!) and Tampa due to active StartupBus alumni.

It should be noted that voting alone won’t ensure a region gets chosen in 2012. The final determination will be made based on the number and quality of the applications submitted when those open up in January. Says Bizannes, “regional hype without enthusiastic future applicants that are of a high calibre means nothing in the scheme of things.”

But it will help.

“We want to help raise visibility of the rising technology communities that have the local talent and passion to prove it,” says Bizannes. So get voting.



TripAdvisor Spins Off From Expedia, Takes Flight On The NASDAQ As A Public Company

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:06 AM PST

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In April, Expedia announced its intentions to spin off trip reviews site TripAdvisor as a public company. And this morning, TripAdvisor debuted on the NASDAQ under the symbol ‘TRIP’ trading at. This morning, TripAdvisor is trading at $29. Expedia is trading at $27.72, down 50 percent.

TripAdvisor, which was founded in 2000, was originally bought by IAC in for $212 million in 2004. IAC spun off Expedia, which included TripAdvisor, in 2005. With 50 million unique monthly visitors and 20 million members, TripAdvisor is the giant in the travel reviews space. The site publishes 25 new contributions every minute and also features over eight million candid traveler photos. The reviews site operates in 30 different countries, including in China under the site Daodao. IAC chairman and CEO Barry Diller will serve as the TripAdvisor’s chairman.

The company appears to be increasing revenues by 30 percent quarterly, although Expedia warned in October that the newly public company’s profit margins “will be under a bit of pressure” as result of the spin-off. The company’s main revenue stream is cost-per-click advertising.

As CEO and co-founder Stephen Kaufer explained to us in an interview, the evolution of TripAdvisor into an independent, public company is about “unlocking shareholder value.” Kaufer says that the company will continue to ramp up its social and mobile efforts as a public company in 2012.

TripAdvisor debuted an in-depth social personalization effort with Facebook and so far 57 million users have signed up with their Facebook account to receive social recommendations and advice on the reviews platform. “We’re huge believers in getting travel advice from friends,” Kaufer says. While he wouldn’t comment directly on what new social features are in store for the company, he did say that TripAdvisor is looking at further opportunities, especially in mobile, and will continue to look at acquisitions as a way to expand.

Vacation rentals has also been another area where TripAdvisor has been expanding. While the company offers 200,000 vacation rental property listings worldwide, TripAdvisor will be looking to build its vacation rentals business in Europe and Asia, says Kaufer.



Fandango Teams Up With PayPal To Help You Skip Lines At The Movie Theatre And Leave Your Wallet At Home

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 08:03 AM PST

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In case you are heading to the movie theatre this holiday season, you might want to pay for your ticket via Fandango. Using the Fandango mobile app, you can now purchase movie tickets using your PayPal account and, in some cases, get your movie ticket straight to your mobile phone, avoiding lines at the ticket counter.

While Fandango has offered PayPal as a payments option on the web, this is the first time the company is using the payments platform in its iPhone and Android apps. The company, which began rolling out mobile tickets in 2010, says that more than 20 percent of Fandango's ticket sales come from mobile devices, seeing a 73 percent year over year increase in mobile ticket sales in 2011.

Fandago says that it is seeing an 11% year-over-year increase in average monthly Web traffic, reaching as high as 25 million unique visitors per month. Mobile now represents more than 28% of all visits to Fandango.

With the new integration, film goers can can select PayPal as a payment option after choosing
the show time and entering the quantity of tickets. Customers can then login to PayPal and complete the transaction.



Kindle iPad Update Adds Print Replica Textbooks, PDF Support

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 07:55 AM PST

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Amazon has updated the Kindle app for iPhone and iPad, adding some basic improvements to the standard assortment of reader functions. These include the addition of “print replica” textbooks so students can follow along with the paper copy in class as well as improved PDF support and a personal document system that lets you send files to an Amazon address for conversion.

They’ve also improved the magazine interface for easy downloads and storage. You can also sideload PDFs for reading on the go.

As if that weren’t enough, Conan O’Brien brings us someone who may or may not be Jeff Bezos addressing the many complaints folks have had regarding the Kindle Fire, including the poorly-place on/off button and its as-of-yet undiscovered tendency to catch fire.



To Prevent Theft: Car Seat Identifies Drivers Sitting Down

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 07:54 AM PST

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A group of researchers at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology in Tokyo has developed a car seat [JP, PDF] that can identify drivers when sitting down. The trick is that the system measures the pressure people apply on the seat through a set of 360 sensors.

Each sensor is measuring pressure by its own and sends the information to a laptop, which aggregates the information to show key data like the highest value of pressure, area of contact on the seat (see below), and other factors. According to its makers, the system was able to identify drivers with 98% accuracy during experiments.

According to a recent report in Japanese business daily The Nikkei, the research team now aims at working together with car companies to commercialize the technology as effective anti-theft systems in two to three years. Development at the institute started last year.



Streamglider Takes On Flipboard And Pulse With Sleek Social Interest And News Reader For The iPad

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 07:49 AM PST

StreamGlider

Streamglider is launching its iPad app today, hoping to disrupt the tablet news consumption and social reader space. Despite competition from Flipboard, Pulse, and many others, Streamglider believes that it provides the most comprehensive iPad experience to date for tracking your social streams, RSS feeds and more via the iPad.

The free iPad app allows you to import your social accounts like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Google Reader and more into a single stream. You can mix and mash multiple sources together (via a drag and drop interface) to create specific topic-focused streams, and share these streams with others. Streamglider will also provide designated streams of content around specific subjects as well.

In terms of the technology itself, you can view your streams in a variety of modes, including a grid-like, newsreader style. Any item can be tapped to preview, share with friends via Facebook and Twitter, or saved for future reading. Streams of content frames flow across the screen, and can come from multiple sources, showing images, news items, videos, social media updates, and more. Each item has an icon or watermark to indicate the type of content (Facebook status update, Twitter tweet, RSS news item, Flickr photograph, YouTube video).

You can zoom in on grid to the point at which a stream becomes full screen into slideshow mode, which is almost like a digital picture frame, or a projection at a conference. You can leave the app running in slideshow mode and view content as it refreshes constantly and ticks by.

And you can also transition into a magazine mode, similar to Flipboard, for a newspaper-like experience. You can read an entire story without exiting to a browser as each story can scroll independently on the page.

In terms of the business model, Streamglider is pursuing a white-label business model, allowing publishers to build their own ‘Streamglider’ for their audiences with advertising and more. Streamglider, which plans to open-source part of its software as well, will also offer a pro-version for consumers that will not include advertising and allows users to create unlimited mashups of streams (the free version limits these mashups). The startup plans to announce publisher partners and the white label release in early 2012.

Streamglider was founded by Nova Spivack, Bill McDaniel, and John Breslin.

Spivack compares the user experience to being able to switch between TV channels. “Streamglider’s experience is designed for realtime world of streams, and it allows users to view all the content they want in place in a variety of ways.”



HTC And Google Sound Off On The ITC’s Patent Ruling

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 07:44 AM PST

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Though they had until April of next year to figure out a fix for their patent-infringing UI feature, HTC CEO Peter Chou has reaffirmed to the media that the company has already has a solution ready to go at a joint press conference with Google’s Mobile SVP Andy Rubin.

As Jordan mentioned yesterday, the patent in question deals with the ability to tap a phone number or an address within an email to bring up the corresponding application. Chou pledged that the offending UI flourish would be removed from all of their mobile devices “soon,” and Reuters reports that the company is testing their new devices for compliance with the ITC’s ruling.

Rubin also chimed in on the matter, stating that the feature that supposedly infringed Apple’s patents isn’t a core part of how Android works, but rather a “user interface feature” that has been baked into an application. Hopefully this means that Google will be able to work around it as quickly as HTC has, unless they want their other hardware partners to undergo the same legal scrutiny.

For now it looks like things are quieting down on this front, but somehow I don’t expect things to stay that way. Andy Rubin would probably agree: looking forward, Rubin says he is optimistic about the scores of mobile patent squabbles eventually giving way to a “patent peace on the overall platform,” but he expects these sorts of intellectual property battles to drag on for a few more years.

Meanwhile, HTC’s Chou seems a bit more miffed by the goings-on in the mobile space, and by Apple’s legal maneuvers in particular.

“This industry should not allow one company use its powerful weapon to stop other innovation and take it all… this is not fair,” he said.



FriendFinder Launches Tablet Games Studio (With A Cool Name)

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 07:28 AM PST

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Internet holding company FriendFinder Networks, which operates a number of adult, social networking, dating and e-commerce websites, has quietly established a game development subsidiary back in 2010.

Today, the company said that the studio, which is called Fierce Wombat Games, will be releasing its first title for Mac, PC and iOS in early 2012.

Based in San Jose, CA, the studio is led by Graeme Bayless, a former exec at companies like Groove Media, 2K Games and Namco.

The studio’s mission, straight from Boss Wombat’s mouth: “to build and publish games as compelling and fun as the classics that drew all of us into games”. We’ll wait and see.



Fingerprint’s Educational Apps For Kids Are Hot: 2M+ Minutes Played This Month

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 06:59 AM PST

Fingerprint Logo

San Francisco-based Fingerprint Digital, a startup building educational apps for kids, is blowing up. The company released its first apps into iTunes on December 1st, and already, it has seen over 270,000 game playing sessions for a combined total of over 2 million minutes played. And, according to CEO Nancy MacIntyre, its apps are about to reach download numbers in the six figures.

In just two weeks, Fingerprint pushed two of its games into the top five in the educational apps’ category: Big Kid Life Firefighter and Big Kid Life Fairy Princess. (And yes, despite what those titles sound like, they are actually games for learning.)

The key to the startup’s early success is having an innovative twist on educational gaming combined with a solid team. Fingerprint was started by Nancy MacIntyre, formerly the EVP of Products and Marketing at LeapFrog, and Brad Edelman who co-founded social gaming company PlayFirst. It also has Heather Regan, the former COO of Everloop, as VP of Product Management and Learning. Former game marketing lead at 2K Games (a division of Take Two Interactive) Phil Shpilberg is on board as well, serving as VP of Marketing.

What’s great about what Fingerprint is doing is that it’s re-opening the lines of communication between parent and child – lines which are often shut down as the kid gets sucked deeper into the video gaming world. Not only are the company’s apps educational, they also feature a built in sharing platform (“Mom-Comm”) which allows kids to share their progress with their parents.

The grown-ups get to stay in the loop (for a change) with a news feed detailing their child’s progress and activity. In return, the parent can then provide encouragement and support through text and voice messages that are played directly in the game. Through this proprietary system, parents have received over 500,000 “snapshot” reports in December, the company says. And the kids are addicted, too: average gameplay sessions last 7.35 minutes and kids have returned to the games four times this month.

The company now has five apps: three “Big Kid Life” titles (Fire Fighter, Veterinarian, Fairy Princess), Play Maker and one third-party app Do Re Mi 1-2-3. They’re really well-made, quite cute and a lot of fun. You can check out the complete set here.

The third-party app is the first to use the Fingerprint SDK, which allows any title to integrate the parent-child communication system for free in exchange for revenue share with Fingerprint. The company says it will vet the titles first to make sure they have a strong educational foundation.

Fingerprint raised $1.4 million in funding earlier this fall, and says its goal is to build a large network with dozens of apps. It will release several new apps next quarter including one that they’re dubbing their “biggest product initiative” and an “all new app experience.”

Fingerprint is currently giving away its apps (typically $1.99-$2.99) for free, in conjunction with its Facebook promo.



SurDoc Raises $4 Million For Sharing Formatted Documents Across All Platforms

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 06:00 AM PST

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SurDoc is doing what Adobe has sort of done with its PDF file format, which is make it as easy as possible to share formatted documents across computers and mobile devices without losing the formatting. The difference it offers is that you don’t need to mess with any file formating or PDF reader to access the documents — or with all of the vulnerabilities of PDFs. You can just upload text, spreadsheet and presentation files (so Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) to its online service, and share them from there.

The company, whose product is live today as a trial, has also let us know that it has raised a $4 million round of funding from IDG Ventures. While the online service currently offers 10 GB of storage as part of its trial, TechCrunch readers can get 20 GB by entering the following code when they sign up: TCLAUNCH.

SurDoc’s technology is based on UOML, a new document standard whose development was led by company founder Alex Wang, that’s been approved an international information open standards body OASIS. That organization’s members include Google, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, the U.S.Department of Defense and the University of California.

SurDoc currently allows you to annotate documents, although full editing capabilities aren’t in place yet. Future plans include adding complete fidelity for Google Docs, the company’s Peter Junge tells me. Current document formats that can be imported include: .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, ODF, PDF, XPS, SVG and HTML.



Verizon’s Data Network Suffering (Another) Nationwide Outage

Posted: 21 Dec 2011 05:34 AM PST

4gdown

Just two weeks after Verizon’s 4G data network most recently went on the fritz, it looks like customers are once again being forced to live their lives without data. Scores of Verizon users across the country will be waking up without without so much as a 3G connection in sight until a fix is in place.

A quick look at Verizon’s support forums illustrates the extent of the data outage: the data outage has struck New York, California, Illinois, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio (among others).

Now the outage doesn’t seem to be affecting everyone (much like last time), and some users are reporting that their data service has been restored. I’d take those reports with a grain of salt for the time being: my Verizon Galaxy Nexus manages to pick up a 1X or 3G connection sporadically, but it never lasts for long. That said, anyone who has an LTE smartphone may want to switch into the CDMA-only mode, as that’s where I’ve had most of my (limited) success with data.

While I’m sure that it won’t be too long before Verizon sorts out this mess, it may not be the most comforting situation for customers looking to re-up their contracts with Big Red. They’ve had pretty consistent 4G service for the year that the network has been live, but now customers have had to deal with two major data snafus in one month. C’mon Verizon, I expect these sorts of data issues from RIM, not you.

Verizon has yet to acknowledge the issue via a release, although their @VZWSupport Twitter account has just started fielding customer complaints about the outage. We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.



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