Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Motorola Mobility Acquires Video Guide Startup SetJam

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 09:39 AM PST

setjam-logo

Today, SetJam, a company that describes itself as “building the future of TV,” has announced it has been acquired by Motorola Mobility. The company’s products currently include a customizable TV and movie widgets designed for embedding on websites, plus developer-friendly tools like a REST API and XML download of the SetJam database.

The TV widgets are designed to be context-sensitive and offer full CSS-styling, so they blend in with the website where they’re placed, while also allowing the site’s owner to increase revenue through affiliate income that comes from clicks to third-party sources. The company’s widgets include links to iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and others, which would be the source of this affilate income. A list of the supported content sources found on the company’s homepage also includes Cartoon Network, MTV, Disney, Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, Spike, TBS, CBS, WB, FX, South Park Studios, Crunchyroll, Fox, TNT and Crackle among those SetJam offers.

For those with longer memories, you may recall SetJam was once a consumer-facing web service, similar to Clicker, which aggregated videos from around the web. It later shifted its focus, becoming the B2B service that Motorola Mobility acquired.

The announcement of the acquisition arrived from Ryan Janseen, formerly SetJam CEO. It reads:

I’m writing to let you know that today SetJam was acquired by Motorola Mobility.  We are all very excited about this transition here at SetJam.  Motorola and SetJam share the vision of making content delivery, discovery, and consumption seamless across any screen, and as a world leader in video technology, Motorola will provide us with unprecedented levels of reach and distribution.

I want to take this moment to personally thank you for your continued encouragement and support over the past two years. None of this success would have been possible without your backing and belief in us.  While this acquisition was in process, we’ve had to be far less communicative than we normally would be.  We greatly look forward to reconnecting with all of you in the New Year.  In the mean time, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!

Cordially,

Ryan

Ryan Janssen
(Former) CEO, SetJam

The announcement comes at a time when Motorola Mobility itself is being acquired by Google for $12.5 billion. Given Google’s own TV intentions with its Google TV service, one has to wonder if there’s a connection between the two moves.



RightNow Stockholders Approve $1.5 Billion Merger With Oracle

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 09:09 AM PST

rightnow

RightNow Technologies this morning announced that, at its special stockholders meeting, nearly everyone voted in favor of the previously proposed merger with Oracle, who agreed to buy the cloud-based customer service company for $1.5 billion (or $43 per share) in cash at the end of October 2011.

From the press release announcing the overwhelming approval:

Approximately 99.8% of the shares voting at today's Special Meeting of Stockholders voted in favor of the approval and adoption of the merger agreement, which represented approximately 87.0% percent of RightNow's total outstanding shares of common stock as of the November 8, 2011 record date for the Special Meeting.

RightNow's solutions help companies handle customer interactions across a multitude of channels, including call and contact centers, the Web and social networks.

Its products are used by nearly 2,000 organizations across the globe, the company says.

With the acquisition, which is still subject to regulatory approval, Oracle will thus be adding a robust cloud-based customer service offering to its own Public Cloud solution – more info on that here.



Verizon To Launch a Home Media Server In 2012, Plans To Eliminate Set-Top Box

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 08:59 AM PST

media-server-fios

Verizon will be rolling out a new Media Server product for its FiOS customers later next year, which will be a single hardware device that will eventually eliminate the need for a set-top box altogether. The server will be capable of streaming HD TV to all devices in the home, including the TV, of course, but also gaming systems, mobile devices and tablets like the iPad. Although the company has not officially announced details, timeframe or pricing, we were recently given a sneak peek into the company’s plans.

You can see the Media Server in this promotional video discussing Verizon’s focus on the energy efficiency of its products. Here, Tushar Saxena, Director of Technology at Verizon, talks about the upgrades Verizon’s set-top boxes have seen in recent months. He shows a big box that’s an example of outdated tech (hey, that’s my box!) and a more compact, 30% more energy efficient model. Saxena then shows off new set-top boxes, yet to be released, which are even smaller, and will soon be small enough to “velcro behind your TV,” he says.

But what’s interesting is that these tiny set-top boxes are meant for the additional TVs in the house – your main TV will be attached a larger Media Server, also shown in the video, underneath the stack of set-top boxes. The server will stream media to other Internet-connected devices, including laptops, Xboxes, PlayStations, tablets and mobile devices like the iPhone, the video explains. Saxena says that the plan is to eventually eliminate the set-top box altogether by providing applications to all the IP-connected devices, including TVs, that can directly communicate with the server over Wi-Fi. This transition should occur in a “few year’s time,” he notes.

Getting rid of set-top boxes means increased energy efficiency of course, which was the point of the video. But a Verizon spokesperson tells us that the Media Server itself will be released in late 2012.

Verizon is also running tests involving streaming 3D HD TV over Wi-Fi, using the same media server technology. Routers in Verizon’s test labs have successfully transmitted a 3D HD FiOS signals (40 Mbps) over 200 feet, through sheetrock and steel walls, without the loss of video quality. There’s a demo of that in action here using routers with multiple antenna arrays streaming over the 802.11n standard in conjunction with the media server hardware.

During a time when everyone is thinking of cutting the cable, so to speak, it’s interesting to watch developments like this which are more correctly envisioning TV as a service that should be available on any screen in the home.

Now here’s hoping Verizon’s pricing hits the mark, too.



In Confidential Email Samwer Describes Online Furniture Strategy As ‘Blitzkrieg’

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 08:27 AM PST

oliver-samwer (1)

Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based incubator best known for German-language clones of US startups like Zappos and Groupon, now has big ambitions in the online furniture space according to information passed to TechCrunch Europe.

In a confidential email sent by Oliver Samwer which we have confirmed is genuine, the head (with his brothers Marc and Alexander) of European Founders Fund and the driving force behind Rocket, says their strategy is to become “number one” in the ecommerce sector for furniture over the next year. But the language he uses – including the world “blitzkrieg” – indicates an aggressive and potentially insensitive management style which appears to be a ‘modus operadi’ of Rocket Internet culture. Samwer has since apologised for using the term.



Interview Street’s CodeSprint Developer Contest To Help Developers Show Their Skills To Companies

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-21 at 4.16.28 PM

Interview Street has been busy building out new ways for developers to prove their skills to potential employers, and now it’s introducing a 48-hour contest to help them show off their skills. Think of it as part of a next-generation way of finding the right employer

The site already offers a web-based integrated development environment, where developers can choose from dozens of challenges, lets them input answers, then get immediate results. If they're successful, recruiters from a variety of leading technology companies can then contact them about getting hired.

The new contest is called CodeSprint (it’s the second in a series), and it’s basically an online hackathon. Individual developers are given 48 hours to come up with solutions to as many programming challenges as they can get done, including both theoretical challenges as well as real-world problems. Cofounder Vivek Ravisankar tells me he expects that developers will be able to get about ten done within that time. “Everything will be based on performance — how fast they code, how many they get right.” Developers can also indicate which companies they hope to work for, which the companies will then see at the end of the contest. Each participant will also be able to show off their scores and resumes. You can sign up here and get more information here. The contest will begin on January 6th, 2012, at 8pm Pacific Time.

I wish there was something out there like this for prospective bloggers, since speed and accuracy are also crucial in this business. When I told that to Ravisankar, he responded by saying that in fact that was already the vision — to build out this type of service across verticals to figure out the optimal candidates for any type of job. And by the way, CodeSprint also sounds like a good experience for anyone who's thinking about starting their own company instead of getting hired.

The company has also recently launched a beta that lets developers take a 24-hour real-world problem challenge. They’ll get a server instance and be asked to build a prototype solution within the allotted time. Check out the main site for a selection of theoretical and real-world problems.

Participating companies include Amazon, Facebook, Quora, Dropbox, Airbnb, and other hot tech companies and startups. Interview Street has angel funding from Y Combinator and Morpheus Venture Partners. Competitors for this type of developer challenge service include CodeEval and Gild.



YouTube Gets Into The Winter Spirit With New Snow Feature

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 07:58 AM PST

snowtube

This winter is looking to be a mild one (it’s something like 60 degrees here in New Jersey), but no worries: YouTube is bringing the snow to you, even if Mother Nature won’t.

It looks like most of YouTube’s videos are now outfitted with a special snow button, which as you may expect, turns the video into a winter wonderland.

Alright, so maybe that’s a stretch. It’s not so much a blizzard as it is a handful of snowflakes that trickle down from the top of the video and pile up at the bottom. There’s no word yet on how long the snow effect will stay live, but here’s hoping it sticks around for a while — it’s bound to be the only snow I get to see all winter.

I’m already looking forward to playing with the snow button on some really inappropriate videos — how about making Tatooine look more like Hoth? Or how about this CrunchGear classic, which thanks to YouTube’s new flair, combines some hot pancakes with some cold weather?



Evernote’s Skitch Arrives On iPad…iPhone Version Still “In The Works”

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 07:51 AM PST

skitch_main

Skitch, the popular photo editing Mac app acquired by Evernote in August, is now available on the iPad. The release follows the launch of the Skitch for Android app earlier this year, and is the first iOS-compatible version available. Using the new app, you can annotate just about anything – a new photo, one from your camera roll, a screenshot, a map or you can just draw on a blank canvas.

And, of course, when you’re finished with your creation, you can save the photo to Evernote for safekeeping.

After choosing your starting point (a photo, screenshot, etc.), you can edit your creation using a number of built-in tools that take advantage of the iPad’s touchscreen interface. Objects you draw on the screen can be moved around with your finger or pulled into the trash. A pencil tool lets you draw freehand. You can add text. And you can drag, pull and adjust other objects like arrows, circles, squares and lines.

None of this is entirely ground-breaking stuff, but Skitch does what it does very well. It’s a pleasure to use.

In addition to the Evernote integration, your creations can also be tweeted or even – and this is pretty cool, too – mirrored to any Apple TV connected screen via AirPlay. It’s DIY Powerpoint with free tools. Nice.

But I know what you’re thinking: WHERE IS SKITCH FOR IPHONE ALREADY?

Evernote says its “in the works,” which is what they’ve been saying since August. According to the company blog post, they launched on iPad first because it’s “the ideal form factor for tactile annotation.” What about the nearly four-month-old Android app then?

You can grab the new iOS version of Skitch from here.



Android Phones Pass 700,000 Activations Per Day, Approaching 250 Million Total

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 07:45 AM PST

Android activations

Android just keeps ramping up higher and higher. Andy Rubin tweeted yesterday that there are now more than 700,000 Android phones activated every single day, which is up from 500,000 activations per day last June. You can see how steep the ramp has been over the past three years by looking at the chart up top, which comes from Horace Dediu at Asymco.

Dediu estimates that the total cumulative number of Android devices activated so far is between 224 million and 253 million. To put this in perspective, last October, Apple announced a cumulative total of 250 million iOS devices sold. But that number includes iPods and iPads.

If you look at only iPhones, Apple was selling only about 190,000 a day, based on the 17 million iPhones sold last quarter. That number did not include sales of the iPhone 4S, which sold at a rate of 1.3 million a day its first three days on sale. We won’t find out until Apple’s next earnings report how many iPhones it is currently selling, but it is likely less than 700,000 a day.

Apple and Android constantly play a game of leapfrog when it comes to announcing numbers. Apple likes to emphasize the bigger iOS number (which includes iPods and iPads), which arguably is more relevant since they also run iOS apps. This numbers game is targeted at developers. The bigger the number, the bigger the potential market. Of course, there are other factors to consider, such as OS fragmentation and which platform is easier to actually make money on.



SpotMe Payments: A Great App For Settling Up

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 07:00 AM PST

spotme-iphone

SpotMe, a handy little tool for sharing expenses in groups, is now a top 10 mobile app in the finance category and a featured app in Apple’s App Store Rewind 2011. Zornitza Stefanova, the CEO of SpotMe’s maker Boomerang Digital, describes the app as “a social messenger for payments.” What that means is that the app takes over the often uncomfortable job of having to ask your friends for the money they owe – it does that for you.

An early version of the app was launched this July, but the most recent update just arrived mid-December, bringing with it helpful new features like messaging and email summaries.

After installation, you can sign up for an account using Facebook and then add friends to a group by pulling their info from your phone’s address book or by typing in an email manually. It’s really fast to set up the bill you’re splitting, the money you lent, the rent, or any other expense you want to split with others. And speed, as we all know, is key when doing these sorts of things on the fly, lest you turn into the geek with your nose in your phone all night.

As new bills are added to the group, an automatic email goes out from SpotMe to those owing as a reminder.

Stefanova says the top use cases the company is seeing involve college students, bills split among friends, roommates, and the occasional IOU.

Although at present, the app only functions as a tracking tool for managing money owed, the company has something really interesting cooking: it’s planning to integrate a person-to-person (p2p) payment mechanism next year, sometime around the launch of its Android app.

That will then position SpotMe against other p2p payment apps, including PayPal, Venmo, ZipPay, Square, Dwolla, and others, which should be interesting. So many of today’s apps have started by addressing the technological hurdle of moving money digitally using your smartphone, but not the psychological hurdle that come from having to talk to friends about the money they owe you.

The core focus of the app, with its simple setup, email and push notifications, is to let the app do the dirty work of reminding friends about money they owe. Meanwhile, you can pretend that the money was the furthest thing from your mind. “Oh? You got an email about the dinner we split last week? I totally forgot!” (Sure you did).

We definitely needed an app for that. You can check out the newest version of SpotMe here on iTunes. (Sorry Android users. For now, the web app will have to do).



Nest Thermostat Teardown Reveals Beautiful Innards, Powerful ARM CPU, Zigbee Radio

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 06:34 AM PST

nest_thermostat

The Nest Thermostat is a gorgeous piece of eco-friendly electronics. But like your mom always said, it’s what’s inside that counts. Well then, she’ll be pleasantly pleased to find out that the inside of the Nest is as equally beautiful as the sleek exterior. The $249 thermostat might be costly, but a teardown posted on SparkFun shows the innards of a device worthy of such a price. Not only is it well-built, but the Nest is rocking serious processing power and connectivity options. Silly hyperbole alert: The Nest is a game changer.

It’s clear as you scroll through SparkFun’s pics that the Nest was designed and manufactured with an eye for detail. There doesn’t seem to be a wire or connector placed haphazardly. That’s to be expected. It’s creator, Tony Fadell, oversaw the iPod design and production during the first few years of the product’s life.

The Nest’s main PCB houses a surprising array of chips. The massive one in the center is a Sitara AM37x ARM Cortex-A8 that can run Linux, Android, and Windows Embedded CE and, thanks to a PowerVR core, OpenGL ES 2.0 is also supported. There’s also a ZigBee SoC that’s seemingly currently unused, lending to a theory that Nest has other devices in the works and will use ZigBee for wireless connectivity.

As Fadell explained to Sarah Lacy in a TCTV interview, the Nest learns from user behavior and eventually adjusts the home’s climate control based on previous activity. This requires a far amount of processing power, but the Nest has enough CPU juice to power a smartphone. The extra headroom no doubt increases the thermostat’s reliability while also allowing the company to expand on its feature set in the future.

Nest Labs quickly sold out of the first run. Another batch will hit in 2012 for the same $249 price. I’ll be the first to admit that the thermostat’s high upfront cost likely negates any savings it earns by intelligently adjusting a home’s heating and cooling system. But, and I say this with a smile on my face, I’d gladly throw money away just to hang a thermostat on my wall with enough processing power to outgun many traditional computing devices.



Amazon Debuts Store To Recommend ‘Best Of’ Digital Books, Apps, Movies, Software, Music And More

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 06:23 AM PST

Amazon.com_ Best of Digital

Amazon is making it easier for its users to discover recommended content today with the launch of a new ‘best of’ digital store, where consumers can find recommendations from Amazon's team of editors on the year’s best of movies & TV shows, music, video games, software, mobile apps, magazines and Kindle books and more. Basically, Amazon will recommend the best of any type of digital content that the company sells.

Of course, the timing of the launch is meant to coincide with holiday shopping season, which has historically brought record sales of digital content for Amazon. Last year, from Christmas Eve through December 30, Amazon customers purchased over three times more digital content, including Kindle books, magazines, movies, TV shows, music, and digital games as compared to the weekly average for the year.

Amazon says that in terms of specific days, the company sees the largest jump in digital product sales on Christmas and during the week following the holiday.

Amazon has published lists of its Best Sellers for Kindle books and other categories, but this appears to be a more curated, editorialized list of content from Amazon experts.

A centralized place for Amazon’s top recommendations for more than just books and movies makes sense considering the growing number of consumers who are looking to the e-commerce giant for software, apps, TV shows and more. And the destination could be a centralized place to find a variety of digital content for Amazon’s new tablet device, the Kindle Fire.

Here’s a preview of some of the recommendations Amazon is making for books, magazines, TV shows, movies, Android app, Android games, and software:

Top ten recommended Kindle books:
1. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Issacson
2. "11/22/63" by Stephen King
3. "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach
4. "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" by Laini Taylor
5. "The Circus Ship" by Chris Van Dusen
6. "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
7. "A History of the World in 100 Objects" by Neil MacGregor
8. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
9. "Then Again" by Diane Keaton
10. "Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Top ten recommended magazines:
1. Us Weekly
2. Cosmopolitan
3. Vanity Fair
4. National Geographic
5. O, the Oprah Magazine
6. WIRED
7. Glamour
8. Better Homes & Gardens
9. Reader's Digest
10. Men's Health

Top ten recommended movies:
1. The Social Network
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
3. Bridesmaids
4. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
5. X-Men: First Class
6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
7. Crazy Stupid Love
8. You’ve Got Mail
9. Cars 2
10. The Fighter

Top ten recommended TV shows:
1. Walking Dead
2. Arrested Development
3. Lost
4. Breaking Bad
5. Sons of Anarchy
6. The X Files
7. Sesame Street
8. Glee
9. Parks and Rec
10. Friday Night Dinner

Top ten recommended albums:
1. Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials
2. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
3. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon: Experience Version
4. Adele, 21
5. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
6. Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
7. Foster the People, Torches
8. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
9. Wilco, The Whole Love
10. The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow

Top ten recommended Android apps:
1. ESPN Score Center
2. LinkedIn
3. Quickoffice Pro
4. The Weather Channel for Android
5. EasyTether
6. Exchange by Touchdown
7. Pandora
8. Urbanspoon
9. MapQuest
10. Zillow Real Estate

Top ten recommended Android games:
1. Angry Birds
2. Words with Friends
3. Bejeweled 2
4. Atari's Greatest Hits (Missile Command Free)
5. Asphalt 6: Adrenaline
6. Plants vs. Zombies
7. Top Girl
8. Fruit Ninja
9. Cut the Rope
10. Little Piano

Top ten recommended digital video games:
1. Battlefield 3
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
4. Dead Island
5. Saints Row: The Third
6. Dungeon Defenders
7. Magicka
8. Disney Universe
9. Sonic Generations
10. The Sims 3

Top ten recommendations for digital software:
1. Microsoft Office Home & Student 2010
2. Office Mac Home and Student 2011 (Family Pack)
3. TurboTax Deluxe Federal + E-file + State 2011
4. Norton 360 Version 5.0
5. Microsoft Windows 7 Anytime Upgrade (Home Premium to Professional)
6. Quicken Deluxe 2012
7. Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 for Windows
8. Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) Level 1-5 Set for Mac
9. PaintShop Pro X4
10. Anime Studio Debut 8



SNES Classic Mega Man X Gets An Extra Life On iOS

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 06:11 AM PST

launchoctopus

Ready for some more SNES-flavored nostalgia on your iPhone or iPod Touch? Capcom has recently released Mega Man X for iOS, which should brighten the day of just about anyone who spent their formative years slaying robotic octopi.

Unlike the other versions of Mega Man that have found their way to iOS, Mega Man X ditches the classic pixelated look for smoother visuals — I think it’s a novel touch, though some gamers disagree with me.

Classic MegaMan games always required precision and some nimble fingers, and some tweaks had to be made to make it work with with a 3.7-inch touchscreen. The normal difficulty level has X constantly charging his X-Buster, while holding down the fire button turns on auto-fire mode. After a few minutes with the game, my only real concern is that the jump and fire buttons seem just far enough apart that they’re easy to miss when things start to get hairy.

If those thumbs of yours don’t move quite like they used to, there’s also an easy mode baked into the game. It may just be me, but the the thrill of clearing a particularly tough section is part of MegaMan’s appeal — considering how easy the normal mode can be, I imagine most people would skip easy mode altogether.

The end result is a version of Mega Man X that manages to strike a good-but-not-great balance between difficulty and playability. Purists may scoff at the changes, but taking a game that just begs for a controller and adapting it for a device without buttons is no small feat, and the nostalgia factor may be enough to sway gamers into forgiving its quirks and odd design choices.

Mega Man X is live in the App Store, and it can be yours for $4.99.



Hitwise: For The Third Year In A Row, Facebook Was The Top-Searched Term In The U.S.

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 06:05 AM PST

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Experian Hitwise, which has analyzed the top 1,000 search terms for 2011, is reporting that Facebook was the top-searched term overall in the U.S. for the third year in a row. Facebook accounted for 3.1 percent of all searches, a 46 percent increase from 2010. Four variations of the term "facebook" were among the top 10 terms and accounted for 4.4 percent of searches overall, a 24 percent increase from 2010.

Searches for "youtube" actually moved up from the third spot in 2010 to the second spot in 2011. "Facebook login" was the third most-searched term in 2011, followed by "craigslist" and "facebook.com." Facebook.com moved up one spot in 2011 to be among the top five search terms. When combined, common search terms for Facebook, such as facebook and facebook.com, accounted for 3.5 percent of all searches in the United States among the top 50 terms, up 33 percent compared with 2010.

For basis of comparison, Google’s 2011 Zeitgeist list of the fastest-growing search terms counted "Rebecca Black," and "Google+" as the fastest growing search terms for the year. In fact, Google+ oddly didn’t even make it on Hitwise’s Top 10 list of search terms for 2011. Why? Hitwise’s list includes searches made on Bing, Yahoo and other search engines beside Google.

Hitwise also reported that Facebook was the top-visited Website for the second year and accounted for 10.29 percent of all U.S. visits between January and November 2011, which is a 15 percent increase from 2010. Google.com ranked second, with 7.7 percent of visits (up 7 percent increase) followed by YouTube ( up 3.2 percent), Yahoo Mail (up 3 percent) and Yahoo (up 2.5 percent).

The combination of Google properties accounted for 12 percent of all U.S. visits, which represents a 22 percent increase compared with 2010.

Social dominated searches this year, says Hitwise. The report shows that social networking–related terms topped results, accounting for 4.2 percent of the top 50 searches, an increase of 12 percent compared with 2010.

Google terms (including YouTube) accounted for 1.6 percent of searches, an increase of 27 percent compared with 2010. Yahoo terms accounted for 0.59 percent, an increase of 15 percent compared with 2010. New terms that entered the top 50 search terms for 2011 included addicting games, Amazon.com, CNN, Chase online, Face, Facebook sign up, Hotmail, Lowes, Pandora, Twitter and You.

The fastest-moving search terms based on absolute change in 2011 included hurricane irene, bin laden wives, osama bin laden dead, les paul, nick ashford dies, apophis asteroid, sheen dumped, hurricane irene path and amber cole.

Hitwise also broke down popular search terms by public figures and other categories. Here’s who took the top spot for a variety of subjects: Public Figures (Justin Bieber); Top personalities (Kim Kardashian); Fastest-moving movie titles (Star Wars); Music (Lady Gaga); Branded destinations (Disney World); Top TV show searches (American Idol); Television (hulu); Athletes (Tiger Woods, Danica Patrick and Brett Favre); Sports Team (Dallas Cowboys); and News and Media (Casey Anthony, followed by Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian).



Amazon To Invest $270 Million In New Distribution Centers In Virginia, Tennessee

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 06:00 AM PST

amazon

Online retail giant Amazon this morning announced that it will open four new distribution centers, two in Virginia and two in Tennessee, and that it will invest a total of $270 million to get the new facilities completed by next fall – just in time for next year’s holiday season.

In Virginia, Amazon says it will create about 1,350 jobs, while the new distribution centers in Tennessee will create 1,300 jobs. Amazon operates such facilities, which it calls fulfillment centers, to warehouse and ship items customers have ordered on Amazon.com.

The new sites will be able to fullfil orders across the United States, the company said.

Virginia

Together with the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, Amazon announced that it will invest $85 million in Chesterfield County, and invest another $50 million in Dinwiddie County.

Governor McDonnell approved a total of $3.5 million in grants from the ‘Governor's Opportunity Fund’ to assist Chesterfield County and Dinwiddie County with the project.

Tennessee

In conjunction with the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, the company announced that it will invest $135 million in two new fulfillment centers to complement exisiting facilities in Wilson, Hamilton and Bradley Counties.

In total, Amazon says, the company will be creating more than 3,300 jobs and more than $270 million in investment in Tennessee.



Amazon Stops Hiding Competitors’ E-Reading Apps On The Kindle Fire

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 05:08 AM PST

fire

Amazon has stopped pretending that a group of e-reading apps it allowed onto its Android Appstore weren’t available on the Kindle Fire. For whatever reason, the company was effectively hiding e-reading apps from companies like Wattpad, Kobo and Bluefire, even though they worked perfectly fine on the low-cost tablet computer.

Confused about why its app didn’t appear for users on the Kindle Fire, which is proving to be quite a sought-after device, Wattpad engaged in conversations with some folks over at Amazon, which apparently led to a necessary change in policy for all makers of mobile e-reading apps.

It’s unclear when Amazon started showing e-reading apps from rivals (including Wattpad’s) on Kindle Fire, exactly, but it seems they started appearing in listings sometime yesterday afternoon. Possibly, this was part of the Kindle Fire update that was delivered earlier this week.

Either way, this is good news for Wattpad, Kobo and other e-reading app developers, who no longer have to educate people on how to sideload their applications on the Kindle Fire.

Update: Wattpad’s Amy Martin points out to me that, while she’s certain that there were multiple e-reading apps in the listings yesterday evening, right now it’s back to Wattpad only. We’re trying to find out what’s up with that.

Last week, The Verge reported that Amazon redirected everyone trying to visit the Android Market website of direct app market.android.com links to its own Appstore.

However, GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel reported yesterday that the browsing block is no more.

I don’t consider Amazon to be an evil corporation, but both the hiding of competing e-reader apps and the browser redirection on the Kindle Fire were business practices bordering on downright shady. It is, however, worth noting that Amazon seems to be paying close attention to all feedback and prone to fixing what needs to be fixed rapidly.



Cloudability Raises $1.1M To Help Businesses Manage And Monitor Cloud Costs

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

cloud

Cloudability, a platform to manage and monitor all of your cloud costs in one place, has raised $1.1 million in seed funding, led by Trinity Ventures and Walden VC.

Cloudability, which launched in early November, helps businesses be more efficient on the cloud by analyzing a company's entire cloud spend for cost savings opportunities and make recommendations. Cloudability supports more than 80 cloud and application providers, including AWS, Rackspace, Heroku, Airbrake and Google Apps, to give companies the ability to monitor and analyze complete cloud spend across multiple vendors.

The startup aggregates cloud costs into comprehensive reports and a simple dashboard to help companies understand and manage their cloud service spending, increase efficiency, reduce waste, and identify opportunities for coud cost savings. The service also includes daily customizable email and cloud spend/ activity notifications.

Cloudability is now tracking more than $21 million in cloud spend, and in its private beta identified an average of $2000 in efficiency gains per customer. Early beta users include SlideShare and others, and currently 1,000 businesses are using the platform to track spending.

The startup plans to use the funding to expand its engineering team, and accelerate product development and additional cloud-service integrations.



Japan’s Top 3 Mobile Carriers Agree To Support Global NFC Standard

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 04:18 AM PST

paypal-nfc

Japan, one of the most advanced mobile nations in the world, doesn’t want to be a “cell phone Galapagos” anymore, at least when it comes to payments over NFC. Paying with cell phones is already ubiquitous in Japan, but now the country’s top three telcos (NTT Docomo, KDDI au, and SoftBank Mobile) are trying to switch from the Nippon-only Osaifu Keitai system to the Type A and Type B NFC standards used globally.

The problem for the carriers is that Osaifu Keitai (“Portable Wallet”), which is based on Sony’s FeliCa RFID smart card technology, isn’t compatible to the Type A and B NFC standards. Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank have set up the so-called Japan Mobile NFC Consortium to coordinate the domestic adoption of those standards with “service suppliers and handset manufacturers”.

The background here is that with this move, the carriers are not only streamlining domestic mobile payment services but making it easier for Japanese handset manufacturers like Sharp or Panasonic to sell their devices abroad. In fact, Japanese business daily The Nikkei is reporting that handsets incorporating Type A and B NFC standards from Japanese makers will be released at the end of next year.

With over 120 million cell phones in use, Japan is currently the 7th biggest mobile market in the world.

Via Engadget



Done Deal – Akamai Buys Rival Cotendo For $268 Million

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 04:10 AM PST

cotendo

Akamai has indeed acquired Cotendo, one of its largest competitors, in a deal valuing the CDN and site acceleration services company at approximately $268 million.

The confirmation comes nearly a month after Israeli business press reported that Akamai was mulling an acquisition of the website and mobile acceleration technology vendor for up to $350 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, Akamai will acquire all of the outstanding equity of Cotendo in exchange for a net cash payment of $268 million, after accounting for expected purchase price adjustments, plus the assumption of outstanding unvested options to purchase Cotendo common stock. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2012.

Says Paul Sagan, president and CEO of Akamai:

“As we look to accelerate growth across the dynamic landscapes of cloud and mobile optimization, we are excited to be joining forces with Cotendo.

Cotendo’s technology, partnerships and people are a strong complement to Akamai. Together, we believe there is tremendous opportunity for our combined technologies as enterprises embrace the move to the cloud and seek solutions for an increasingly mobile world.”

Founded in 2008, Cotendo is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, and employs roughly 100 people (of which half work out of its R&D facilities near Netanya, in Israel).

Cotendo has raised over $36 million in funding from investors like Sequoia Capital, Benchmark Capital and Tenaya Capital.

The company specializes in acceleration services for dynamic Web apps, static and dynamic web content, performance monitoring and automatic failover as well as real-time reporting and analytics.

A few months ago, Cotendo raised $17 million in new funding from its previous backers, with Citrix Systems and Juniper Networks stepping in as strategic investors as well. Other strategic partners include Google, AT&T and Sumitomo Corporation.

Cotendo customers include Zynga, Vistaprint and Facebook. Notably, the company's advisory board includes Jonathan Heiliger, currently VP of Technical Operations at Facebook.

On an interesting sidenote: a year ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology joined Akamai in suing Cotendo over patent infringement (which in turn reminds me of Nuance’s recent acquisition of Vlingo, which also occurred after – years of – patent litigation between the two parties).



Report: Nintendo 3DS Sales In Japan To Pass The 4 Million Mark Earlier Than Expected

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 03:09 AM PST

3ds white

It’s a common platitude in the gaming industry: it’s the killer titles that make or break a video game system. One case in point is Nintendo whose 3DS sales in Japan, one of the biggest video game markets in the world, are expected to cross the four million mark two months earlier than expected.

Just two weeks ago, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said this will happen “in February next year”, but Japanese business daily The Nikkei is now reporting that cumulative domestic sales of the 3DS will reach four million before year-end. The newspaper is referring to stats from Tokyo-based market research company Enterbrain, which says Nintendo managed to sell a weekly record of 390,000 systems between December 12-18 (and 380,000 units between December 5 and 11).

Enterbrain reports that Nintendo has sold 3.6 million 3DS in Japan so far and projects that sales in the Christmas week will lift big N over the 4 million mark.

Sales were fueled by the recent launches of Monster Hunter 3G, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7. The holiday season sure did its part as well, but the recent numbers from Nintendo are especially impressive when you take into account that Sony launched its Vita in Japan just last week, too.



eBay Acquires German ‘Purchase-On-Invoice’ Technology Company BillSAFE

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 02:18 AM PST

billsafe

A little over a year after its subsidiary PayPal bought a minority stake in German software company BilLSAFE, eBay this morning announced that it has acquired the provider of purchase-on-invoice technology in full.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Read more over at TechCrunch Europe.



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