web 2.0

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Apple Responds To Adobe [Humor]

Posted: 14 May 2010 11:23 AM PDT

We covered Adobe’s message to Apple, so we wanted to get the other side’s angle as well. Behold, Apple’s message to Adobe:

Okay, okay, this is already all over the web. And (obviously) not real. But it’s too damn funny to pass up.

[thanks Ouriel]

Grockit Scores $7 Million To Advance From Online Test Prep To The Academy

Posted: 14 May 2010 10:32 AM PDT

Online learning site Grockit raised another $7 million in a Series C financing today. Atlas Venture led the round, with existing investors Benchmark and Integral Capital participating.  The last time Grockit raised money was an $8 million Series B in 2008.

Grockit is an online learning community that adds game mechanics to helping high school students prepare for standardized tests such as the GMAT and SAT.  With the new capital, Grockit plans to expand into more general online education with the Grockit Academy. “We are moving out of test prep into education,” says CEo Farb Nivi.  It will start with a Summer Enrichment Academy in June.  School districts are already interested because they are losing funding for summer enrichment programs, and Grockit is a free online alternative.

Grockit Academy will be a place where students can learn together and teach each other.  It will start with math and English curriculums for 8th to 12th grades.  The group learning is free, but if students (or their parents) want reports or adaptive learning algorithms to help them get smarter, they can pay a $79 annual fee.  It is the same freemium model Grockit has with its test prep community.  Nivi says he is seeing conversion rates of between 3 and 7 percent from the free to premium accounts, and those conversion rates are increasing.

Grockit launched at TechCrunch50 in 2008.  CEO Farb Nivi came back from a near-death motor accident last year, to rebuild the startup and he is now refocussing on the larger education market rather than just test prep , which is already crowded.

Gilt Cash Machine Rolls On, Raises $35 Million

Posted: 14 May 2010 10:08 AM PDT

Gilt Groupe has just raised another $35 million according to a regulatory filing submitted on Friday. Gilt has not suffered for lack of cash, the online sample sale site has raised a total of $48 million in previous rounds from Matrix Partners and General Atlantic, its previous round of funding (July 2009) put its valuation at roughly $400 million.

Update: According to Gilt, the round is an extension of the last round, which included General Atlantic and Matrix Partners. The company confirms that this round puts Gilt at a higher valuation.

On the revenues front, Gilt’s trajectory has been even more impressive. When I talked to Gilt’s CEO, Susan Lyne, last fall she was predicting revenues of $150 million for 2009 (roughly triple 2008′s $50 million)— the company surpassed that bar with $170 million. She said Gilt was on track to triple its revenues again in 2010 (from $150 to $450)— don’t be surprised if Gilt surpasses the $500-million mark as well.

That growth should be supported nicely by Gilt’s recent initiatives: it launched Jetsetter last fall, an iPad app in April and a local flash sales site for New York, Gilt City. The Gilt City venture shows it’s hungry for a piece of the daily deal market, or rather, to go head-to-head with Groupon (which has also enjoyed a rapid acceleration in revenues and boatloads of investor capital— Groupon’s latest round of funding put its valuation at $1.35 billion). Although Gilt City pre-launch version only concentrates on the New York market, the company is clearly paving the way for a national campaign that would likely cover every major metro area.

If Gilt can take some of Groupon’s shine, that would elevate Gilt’s valuation even further, prepping it for what many believe is an upcoming/inevitable IPO. In an interview with the WSJ in May, Lyne said the company could go public as early as next year.

Google’s Nexus One Store Is Going Out Of Business

Posted: 14 May 2010 09:52 AM PDT

When Google launched its Nexus One Android phone, it also launched alongside it an online phone store where the Nexus One and future Android phones would be for sale. It was a slightly disruptive play to de-link the purchase of a phone from an actual carrier. The idea was, you could pick your phone, pick your plan, and mix and match.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Carriers don’t like to give up control. In fact, Verizon decided not to sell the Nexus One at all, and instead opt for its own more Incredible Android phone. The phone store turned out to be a flop, and Google just announced that it will be closing up shop online:

While the global adoption of the Android platform has exceeded our expectations, the web store has not. It's remained a niche channel for early adopters, but it's clear that many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone, and they also want a wide range of service plans to chose from.

The Nexus One phone will still be available through carrier partners. But Google’s online phone store will become an “online store window” showcasing Android phones available globally—directly from the carriers. Google has enough on its hands going up against Apple. It needs the carriers on its side if it wants to win the bigger battle.

AdMob Keeps Growing, No Thanks To Apple

Posted: 14 May 2010 09:10 AM PDT

Yesterday, Admob served its 200 billionth mobile ad, only nine months after serving its 100 billionth ad. The mobile ad network is still growing strong, with 160 employees and an annualized revenue run-rate above $100 million.

But ever since Google outbid Apple with its $750 million bid to buy AdMob, the original growth engine for AdMob—iPhone app ads—has been stalling. As you can see by the chart above showing worldwide ad impressions across the AdMob network, the iPhone peaked as the biggest smartphone source of AdMob ads in November, 2009, right before the Google deal was announced. Since then, it’s been a slow but steady decline from 54 percent to 46 percent in March, 2010. Fortunately for AdMob, Android is picking up the slack, rising from 16 percent of ads served to 25 percent, during the same period. In the U.S., Android is already contributing more ad impressions than the iPhone for AdMob.

Of course, ever since Apple was spurned by AdMob, it’s made it more difficult for AdMob to compete on the iPhone. Apple went on to acquire AdMob rival Quattro Wireless, and plans to introduce its own iAds, which will tie into iTunes in unique ways. Apple may further hobble AdMob by blocking its ability to collect data from the apps which serve its ads.

So you can expect that iPhone percentage to keep on dropping (even if the absolute number of impressions keeps rising, also note that the iPhone figures above do not include the iPod Touch). The question is, can Android keep growing fast enough to make up for it?

TiVo Responds To Court’s Decision To Revisit Patent Case As Stock Plummets

Posted: 14 May 2010 08:52 AM PDT

TiVo is having a very rough morning.

A federal appeals court stated today that it will revisit a digital-video recorder patent dispute between TiVo and both Dish Network and EchoStar. TiVo has sued the companies back in 2004 over its patented DVR technology back when the two were still a single company.

They won the suit, but the court has now decided to reconsider its verdict, which is a bit of a cold shower for the company.

Today’s decision pushed TiVo shares down as much as 36 38 percent.

The company moments ago released a statement on the matter:

“We are disappointed that we do not yet have finality in this case despite years of litigation but we remain confident that the Federal Circuit’s ruling in our favor will be reaffirmed after all of the judges on the Federal Circuit have had the opportunity to review the merits of this case.”

Update: and here’s the Dish / EchoStar statement:

“DISH Network and EchoStar are pleased that the full Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has granted their petition for rehearing en banc. We believe the issues that will be considered by the full court on rehearing will have a profound impact on innovation in the United States for years to come.”

In March 2010, a panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a trial judge’s decision to hold Dish and EchoStar in contempt for infringing on TiVo’s DVR patent. The companies then urged the court to reconsider, and the appeals court has granted said request earlier this morning. The court said it will take a second look at its March finding.

More details on BusinessWeek.

The market is busy beating TiVo with a stick – let’s see how long that continues.

Google Voice Goes After Impressionable Young Minds; Students Get Invite Priority

Posted: 14 May 2010 08:44 AM PDT

Google is adopting an Apple strategy today. The search giant is giving students priority to its invite-only phone service, Google Voice. Clearly, Google is trying to go after impressionable minds to gain early adopters of their technologies, which is something that Apple has been doing with its products for some time. The company implemented a similar strategy with Google Apps and Google Wave. The college student market is key because that's where many people get trained, start relying on, and form brand allegiances to apps and technologies.

Google naturally believes the features of Voice, including the integration of Voice with email, free text messages and the ability to read voicemail in a transcript form are ideal for students and their lifestyle. Of course, this claim isn’t off base but I think those features are useful for anyone, which is why we find the service compelling overall.

Now when a student signs up for Google Voice with an .edu email address, he or she will be given priority over other applicants for the service. There’s even a special page for students to sign up for Voice. Apparently any student who applies will automatically receive an invite within 24 hours. Maybe I should have kept that old college account active after all.

What’s Next In Online Advertising? Find Out At Disrupt.

Posted: 14 May 2010 08:28 AM PDT

Now that Apple has rolled out its very own mobile app advertising program, iAd –hey, better name than iPad, at least –and Verizon is making a rival tablet, the advertising industry is poised for disruption. Whoever can best use geo-local data to deliver realtime relevancy will make advertisers very happy. Ads will get more interesting and interactive on elegant devices.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Big ad budgets are moving online, where brands are trying to figure out how to make display ads work for them the way search ads work for direct marketers.  There is a whole array of new targeting techniques, not to mention social marketing campaigns that build buzz across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond.  It’s all very confusing.  So we’re assembling some of the smartest people we know in advertising to discuss these changes at Disrupt, our technology and media conference taking place May 24-26 in NYC.

They include Samir Arora, the CEO of the giant women’s ad-network and publisher Glam Media and Zaw Thet, CEO of SMS-advertising firm 4INFO, which counts as clients media properties like NBC, Moviefone and MySpace. Brian O’Kelley is CEO of AppNexus, which debuted its realtime advertising platform this year.  He helped shape Right Media’s technology, leading up to an $850 million acquisition by Yahoo in 2007. Eric Wheeler, CEO of 33Across, was helping Ogilvy march into a Brave New World in digital advertising before founding his online social-graph marketing firm.  From publisher to mobile marketer to technologist to ex-Mad Man, this line-up will offer insight on the best ways to continue reaching the right audience—and the technologies that will come to dominate the markets.

Disrupt’s early-bird price expires tomorrow. Get tickets here. Or, learn more about exhibiting as either an early-stage startup –special pricing — or a big man on campus here. And check out our amazing speaker lineup.

And then there’s Twitter’s roll-out of new ad programs and Facebook’s continual expansion to creating one gigantic social graph. Not to mention  the changing market dynamics  of how inventory moves on exchanges vs. networks, demand-driven networks and auctions, and the FCC’s ongoing inquiry into privacy and behavioral targeting. We want to hear what ad-tech entrepreneurs have to say. And we want to hear what you have to say, too. We’re pulling the audience onstage for some of the conference.  Will you be there?

Finally, calling all Web developers: check out our pre-event Hack Day, a gonzo overnight marathon of creativity and building products. Mashery just signed on to present an API workshop, as did SimpleGeo. Hack Day sponsor Facebook and Disrupt sponsor Yahoo will also be offering workshops. Google‘s Don Dodge will help us pick a winner on Sunday.

Image courtesy Flickr/betta design. Eric Wheeler image courtesy 33Across.

Samir Arora
Founder, Glam Media

Samir Arora helped found Glam Media as a better way for premium brand advertisers to connect with audiences online. Under his leadership, Glam Media has grown from a tiny startup with a reach of 100,000 monthly unique visitors, a network of 12 publishers and its owned and operated site Glam.com, to become the #1 online environment for women and one of the Top 10 Media Companies in the US, with over 80 Million unique visitors a month. A technology industry veteran, Arora is a serial entrepreneur who was at Apple Computer in its early years and was CEO of NetObjects, where he drove the creation of the first website-building product, NetObjects Fusion. Arora also currently serves as chairman of Information Capital LLC, a venture-capital fund that invests in leading-edge “big idea companies” in consumer publishing, media, and technology.

Brian O’Kelley
CEO, AppNexus

Brian O’Kelley is the CEO and Co-founder of AppNexus, an advanced ad platform specializing in real-time advertising. Widely considered a visionary in the field of online media, Brian created the first successful ad exchange as CTO of Right Media (acquired by Yahoo for $850MM in July 2007). Prior to Right Media, Brian was CEO of Netamorphosis, an early social networking and e-commerce site for events and venues. Brian was also an early innovator in real-time personalization and real-time ad optimization at LogicSpan, a consulting and technology integration firm, and later co-founded Cetova, a web-based reporting and analytics platform for enterprise financial systems. While earning a computer science degree at Princeton University, Brian started a web design firm, building an open-source e-commerce engine used by more than 100 companies. Brian is an active partner at Grape Arbor, an angel investor group. Since its founding in 2006, Grape Arbor LLC has made investments into more than a dozen technology companies.

Zaw Thet
CEO & Co-founder, 4INFO

As the CEO and co-founder of 4INFO, Zaw Thet is helping to set the bar for how brands reach and engage consumers with content on their mobile devices. A veteran of the software/wireless industry, Zaw has a successful track record for leading companies to outstanding growth and performance. Prior to 4INFO, Zaw was part of the early social networking industry, as a Director at Spoke Software. Zaw also did a short stint at IBM, was the co-founder and CEO of GetInventory, a web-based supply chain management company, and was a special consultant to the San Francisco 49ers. Zaw has been a featured speaker within the mobile and interactive advertising industry, recently appearing at iMedia Brand Summit, and the Mobile Media Investor Conference. Zaw has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was a Soros Fellow.

Eric Wheeler
CEO, 33Across

Eric Wheeler is CEO of 33Acroos. Prior, Eric was the CEO of Neo@Ogilvy and Executive Director of Ogilvy Interactive North America. Under his leadership, Ogilvy Interactive’s revenue grew five-fold from 2003-2007 working with leading brands including IBM, American Express, TD Ameritrade, Cisco and Yahoo!. Eric was co-founder and President/COO of Lot21, the award-winning digital agency that sold to Carat in 2002. Eric’s 18-year career includes leadership positions at CNET, Young & Rubicam and Anderson Lembke in San Francisco. Eric holds a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Boston University.

Foursquare Snags A Deal With The Today Show

Posted: 14 May 2010 08:13 AM PDT

Foursquare is striking deals left and right with mainstream media companies. The mobile social network just signed partnerships with The Wall Street Journal, VH1 and The History Channel. And today, Foursquare is linking up with Matt, Al, Anne and Meredith for a deal with NBC’s The Today Show.

The deal centers around the show’s yearly Concert Series that brings big-name artists like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber to the stage at Rockefeller Plaza each week, just outside the studio where the Today Show is filmed. When a concert visitor checks into the location of a Today Show Concert, you can earn special badges, including “newbie” badge (your first concert) to a “Roker” badge (three check-ins) or a “10 to 10″ (those who do it 10 times). The partnership also includes tidbits about New York City venues.

The idea is for the tourists who visit the Today Show and attend the concert series to be able to connect with each other and brag about their unique badges. The social network also signed a deal earlier this year with fellow-NBC Universal channel, Bravo, that allows the network to point out locations from its shows that let fans who use Foursquare (or their own Guides By Bravo app) go to them in the real world.

It’s been a busy couple of months for Foursquare, between acquisition rumors, partnerships, and the rollout of a number of new features, such as an App Gallery.

TweetDeck Is Working On A Rich Mobile Web Client

Posted: 14 May 2010 07:13 AM PDT

Social stream aggregator TweetDeck realizes full well that there’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the mobile area, and that making apps for iPhone, iPad and (soon) Android only is not going to cut it if it wants to be a dominant player there.

Hence, the startup has “embarked on a secret mission” to develop a full-fledged mobile Web client to cater to people with browser-equipped BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian and other devices.

The cross-platform mobile Web client for TweetDeck will benefit from cheaper and faster Internet access in the years to come, CEO Iain Dodsworth writes, and more powerful and standards-compliant browsers and HTML5 will make for an even greater opportunity.

Dodsworth also mentions that battery life is an issue on all mobile devices, particularly on older platforms. With TweetDeck Mobile Web, which is what the product will likely be called, an app running in the background draining your phone’s juice stops being a problem – if it ever was one.

The startup makes it clear that it will not stop developing new features for its existing and future dedicated mobile clients, commenting that “the Android app is coming very soon and the iPhone and iPad apps will continue to be improved moving forward”.

TweetDeck says that by focusing its efforts on a single Web client, it can provide the attention and resources to “really make the experience shine”. The startup plans to create style sheets and Javascript dedicated to each platform, and promises it will work well on slimmed down devices. A TweetDeck for everyone, if you will.

A timing for launch wasn’t provided, but TweetDeck says they’ve been developing the product for months, and that testing is about to begin (you can sign up here).

The company has started by optimizing TweetDeck Mobile Web for BlackBerry devices, and says that it will be looking at what the community says to see which platforms it should be polishing next.

One of the competitors it will be facing a lot of heat from is … Twitter, which also boasts a fairly powerful mobile Web client. It’s worth pointing out that TweetDeck supports streams for other services as well, and will be adding some new ones with the TweetDeck sync & sign-up services layered on top in the near future.

It’s unclear if that other rival, Seesmic, has similar plans.

Venture Returns Rose 3 Percent Last Year, But Longer Term Returns Are Still Hurting

Posted: 14 May 2010 06:38 AM PDT

Venture capital returns improved in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the Cambridge Associates U.S. Venture Capital Index, the performance benchmark of the National Venture Capital Association. Fourth quarter returns saw a 3.3 percent rise, ending the year with a 3 percent return overall, on average.

The key words here are “short-term improvements,” however, because performance continued to decline in the 5- and 10-year periods ending in the quarter.

Annual returns rose from 2.3 percent in the third quarter of 2009, as venture-backed exits began to show signs of improvement at the end of last and the beginning of this year.

However, 3-, 5-and 10-year returns deteriorated, with the 10 year horizon even falling into negative territory. You have to go back 15 or 20 years to find decent returns of 37.8 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively, and Cambridge Associates is quick to point out that they also continued to outperform public market indices.

The trend, however, is clearly not upbeat news – will it reverse at some point?

The full report is available from the NVCA website.

Celebrate National Photo Month With Free Stuff From CrunchGear!

Posted: 14 May 2010 06:05 AM PDT

The month of May, named after the Greek goddess Maia, is National Photography Month. What better way to celebrate than to buy a whole bunch of "Happy National Photography Month!" cards at Hallmark. What? Hallmark doesn't sell any such cards? Okay, Plan B: what better way to celebrate National Photography Month than with a CrunchGear contest! We have three lovely prizes to give away, each to a different lucky winner. Click on through for the prizes and contest details.

Microsoft To Upgrade Office Live Workspace Accounts To SkyDrive

Posted: 14 May 2010 05:26 AM PDT

Microsoft will soon be upgrading Office Live Workspace accounts to Windows Live SkyDrive accounts, the company has announced in a blog post and an email (screenshot below).

Office Live Workspace users will get many of the same capabilities they’re used to, plus a number of new features (e.g. the Office Web Apps, Web-based ‘companions’ to the software giant’s most popular business software products, expected to roll out on June 15th in conjunction with Office 2010) and up to 25 GB of storage space.

Microsoft didn’t provide a solid timestamp for when the automatic upgrade will occur, only saying that it will come in the ‘coming months’, and that it will be opt-in. Users needn’t do a thing, Sam Sengupta, Principal Group Manager, Office Live Workspace adds, as all workspaces, documents, and related sharing permissions will be available directly within SkyDrive.

If you use the same Windows Live ID to sign into SkyDrive as you do to sign into Office Live Workspace, your documents will be moved into the same account. Office Live Small Business account owners will not be affected by the upgrade of Office Live Workspace to SkyDrive.

More in the FAQ on the topic.

(Thanks for the tip, Ian Patrick)

FacebookSearch Makes Public Updates Searchable… Outside Facebook

Posted: 14 May 2010 04:11 AM PDT

While the debate rages on about Facebook's attitude to privacy, and in particular the views of Mark Zuckerberg, the current situation is that an awful lot of people make their status updates public, whether they realise the full implications or not. A stark reminder of this comes today in the form of a new search engine thrown together by two developers. FacebookSearch simply takes those public status updates and makes them searchable, outside of Facebook. The guys behind it Peter Burns and Will Moffat have posted a simple explanation: "This is a simple example of just how open facebook has made your information. This data is wide open, and this is one of the least scary uses that anyone will make. If nothing changes, it's only to get worse." There's an interesting discussion over at Hacker News on the morality of what they are doing.

Why On Earth Does Google Buzz Think I Am Chris Messina?

Posted: 14 May 2010 02:45 AM PDT

Google is weird. I mean seriously weird. Or maybe it's just Google Buzz. With all the Facebook privacy issues going on right now I thought I'd go and check out Google Buzz. I'd heard a rumour you couldn't delete your profile. On the face of it, it would appear you can. At the bottom of the Edit Profile page, there is a link to deleting your Buzz profile which says "This will disable Google Buzz integration in Gmail and delete your Google profile and Buzz posts. It will also disconnect any connected sites and unfollow you from anyone you are following." Fine, that's good enough for me. It may well be that Google retains data whether I know it or not. I pretty much assume Google keeps everything. That's not what caught my eye. What got my attention were the other profiles Google was "suggesting" I add to mine.

BillShrink Helps Walmart Customers Shrink Their Phone Bills

Posted: 14 May 2010 02:18 AM PDT

BillShrink, the startup that looks to help users save money across verticals including cell phones, credit cards, and savings accounts, has scored a deal with giant retailer Walmart to have its cost-saving tool endorsed via the Walmart.com website.

The tool, which is being prominently advertised by Walmart on its highly trafficked website (see screenshot below), is available at walmart.com/billshrink.

The deal is similar to the one the startup struck with T-Mobile USA almost exactly a year ago, only this time with a retailer rather than a carrier that has more commercial incentive to showcase its lower pricing than a neutral vendor such as Walmart Wireless.

BillShrink late last year announced that it had grown to 1 million members since its launch in April 2008 – this deal is bound to bring in more. Billshrink is headed by CEO Peter Pham, a former Photobucket executive who joined the company in February last year.

Pham says he wants BillShrink to do what Kayak did for travel, but with basically every other vertical that has millions of product and service options. He boasts that the company’s platform, which aggregates unstructured data from all over the Web, will enable it to roll out a new vertical every 3-4 months.

(Via press release – the announcement is buried in there somewhere)

This Is MySpace’s Moment To Shine, But That Obviously Isn’t Going To Happen

Posted: 14 May 2010 01:17 AM PDT

I’ve said my peace on the Facebook Privacy Fiasco of May 2010 (tune in next month for the Facebook Privacy Fiasco of June 2010 featuring many of the same characters and all of the vitriol of previous fiasco editions).

If you’re not aware of the specifics of this month’s outrage, it comes down to this – the media and a bunch of very loud, angry and poorly dressed users are shouting “burn her, she’s a witch!” I’m playing the part of the guy in the armor with the impeccable logic trying to calm down the mob:

All this privacy distraction has caused Facebook to pull way back on their shakedown of the social gaming publishers, the other Facebook story going on right now. One thing is certain, in the very short term Facebook has been weakened.

The game publishers will use it to extract better terms from Facebook. But there is a far bigger opportunity for a hungry competitor to get a lot of attention and possibly turn things around for themselves.

MySpace, the once great social network that still has scores of millions of active users, should be reworking their policies and products at a feverish pace to provide the perception of giving users fair and easy to use privacy controls along with a promise never to change those controls without their express permission. YOUR DATA IS SAFE WITH US is how the messaging would read. They’d announce that along with some extremely well known privacy advocate joining the company’s exec team, and pair it with a promise to have an outside firm review their privacy policies and execution regularly.

A lot of these and other ideas were thrown out there by Robert Scoble earlier today. Facebook isn’t going to do any of them. But heck, MySpace has absolutely nothing to lose. Why not make a firm decision to be the “safe, secure” online social network. It might just get them in the game again.

That’s what I’d do if I were one of the co-presidents of MySpace (we’d be tri-presidents then, a virtual gaggle of presidents). It’s all laid out for you clean and nice. Make the announcements at a huge press event, hire the people and the outside auditor, and then work like crazy to make MySpace a reasonably presentable site to hang out on. Something that doesn’t scream “trailer park.”

I mean, if these guys come out of nowhere and are conducting a very successful grass roots anti-Facebook campaign, why not MySpace?

I can’t deal with a mob trying to take Zuckerberg down for some ridiculous out of context instant messages six years ago. But I’m all for good, clean, slightly devious competition. The floodgates are open, MySpace. Prove you have something left to fight with.

With MAXroam’s New SIM, You Can Kiss AT&T Goodbye And Head To Europe With Your iPad

Posted: 14 May 2010 12:00 AM PDT

One of the best things about opting to get the 3G version of the iPad is that it’s completely unlocked. You don’t have to do anything that voids the warranty to get it to work with any GSM Micro SIM. In the U.S., that’s not that useful since the only major GSM carriers are Apple partner AT&T and T-Mobile. But this means you can use the iPad 3G around the world even though Apple doesn’t have agreements with other carriers yet.

And today, Cubic Telecom is launching what it says is the first iPad 3G SIM card that will work across Europe (others have announced plans, but their’s is actually launching). The card, sold under the brand MAXroam, costs €75 (about $95) and comes pre-loaded with 50 MB of data. With this SIM, you’ll be able to use the iPad 3G across Europe when the device goes on sale outside of the U.S. on May 28. Or you can get one from the U.S. now and use this SIM. Again, it’s unlocked, so it will work.

Cubic Telecom’s research and development team has been working for the past three month to come up with this Micro SIM card being used in the iPad, director of products & innovation Pat Phelan says. The time spent doing that should pay off, as it looks like the next-generation iPhone due this Summer will also use the same type of SIM (though those undoubtedly will not be unlocked to begin with).

Cubic Telecom is a Licensed Mobile Network Operator that offers roaming services at reduced costs around the world. They launched at TechCrunch 40 some two and a half years ago and have since cut deals with Dopplr, Qik, and others.

If you’re heading to Europe soon with your iPad (or live there and travel around, for that matter), this is probably a must-buy.

Adobe Debuts eSignatures, Takes Digital Signatures To The Cloud

Posted: 13 May 2010 11:44 PM PDT

This Friday, Adobe unveils the public beta version of eSignatures, a cloud-based service that lets you easily add your John Hancock to documents online. Upload your document, insert the recipient’s e-mail, select a date, insert a message and then sign. The finished document is certified to ensure that it hasn’t been altered since the signature— if it is modified in any way the certification tag disappears. The process is dead simple (it took me less than two minutes from start to finish) and best of all, it’s free.

According to an Adobe source, eSignatures may eventually be integrated into the Acrobat.com service since they share many of the same underlying technologies (an integration with Acrobat.com may also open up monetization opportunities).

Here’s a look:

This is not Adobe’s first foray into the digital signature market. The company has managed digital signatures for large banks and governmental organizations, through products like Adobe LiveCycle. However, as Paul McNamara (Adobe entrepreneur in residence) points out in the company’s blog, Adobe LifeCycle required “sophisticated computer infrastructure that’s often beyond the reach of small businesses and individuals. And therein lies the opportunity — take our LiveCycle signature technology, put it in the cloud and simplify it to make it easy for everyday signatures.”

The potential cost savings could be huge, Adobe estimates that $7.4 billion is spent annually on overnight shipping for signed documents. What’s more interesting is how Adobe eSignatures venture will impact the other companies in this space like EchoSign and DocuSign (which recently raised $2 million in additional funding late last year).

The Media Attacks On Facebook And Mark Zuckerberg Are Getting Out Of Hand

Posted: 13 May 2010 11:16 PM PDT

Friday is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 26th birthday. My guess is he won’t be enjoying it as much as he should, given that the top tech story of the day is a look at a private instant message exchange he supposedly had six or seven years ago at Harvard. The messages show a callous disregard for personal information added by early Facebook users. Given that Facebook is in one of its regularly scheduled privacy scuffles right now, the connection is just too juicy. The press has gone wild.

It’s completely out of hand, and it’s just another example of an online mob getting out of control. I’m embarrassed to see people I respect stopping one step short of calling for physical violence against Zuckerberg. And they certainly aren’t stopping short of calling him every nasty thing they can think of. The Huffington Post actually compared Facebook’s privacy issues to the BP oil spill. Shameful.

The Facebook privacy issue is a reasonable thing to debate. Whether or not Vice President of Communications and Public Policy Elliot Schrage gave a reasonable defense of the company’s privacy policies to the New York Times is also a reasonable thing to debate. Even a high profile person saying they’re going to close their Facebook account, obviously for competitive or for promotional purposes, isn’t going too far.

But what Mark Zuckerberg said or didn’t say six years ago isn’t relevant to anything. It isn’t an indication of his character, or how he views privacy today. It’s nothing, a snip of a private conversation without context and certainly without the benefit of knowing more about him as a person.

Who here hasn’t said something stupid when they were 19? Who here hasn’t done something dumb when they were 19? None of you. If you’re getting all self righteous, you’re lying to yourself.

Six years ago Zuckerberg had no idea what Facebook would become, or how much he’d have to change and mature to handle it. He’s the CEO of one of the most powerful corporations on the planet. He is leading a team that is recreating and redefining our culture as a society.

And frankly, none of what Facebook is doing privacy-wise should be a surprise to anyone. At a high level anyway. Facebook is trying to invent, on the fly, an entirely new way of organizing the Internet. 500 million people a month visit the site. They can’t do anything at all without angering some portion of them. And since the service is growing and evolving so fast there’s no way change won’t happen.

These uproars have been happening since we first started covering Facebook in 2005. At first it was college students enraged that high school students were being let in. Then they were enraged that everyone else was let in. And so on.

In ten years, or less, Facebook will have found its way for the long term. Change will come much more slowly then. And frankly it’ll be boring. We’ll look back to 2005-2010 as the roller coaster ride that it is. We’re lucky to be part of it. The Age of Facebook is just beginning, and we have front row seats to the show.

Facebook will probably change some of the ways that they handle privacy to at least make it easier to understand what’s going on. And they may communicate to users in a way that pacifies them instead of enrages them. The media will always be there to fan the flames. But let’s at least take a step back and put a little perspective on who Mark Zuckerberg is today. Who he was in 2004 is far less interesting.

And please don’t accuse us of being Facebook fanboys. We call them out regularly, from the financial ties to Scamville to major security breaches like the recent Facebook Chat issue. And don’t even get me started on the Holocaust denial stuff. In the past Facebook has threatened to cut off all communication with us over their perception of our overly negative coverage, in fact. We call it like we see it. And in this case, the attacks on Zuckerberg are way out of line.

More Images Of What Chrome OS Will Probably Look Like

Posted: 13 May 2010 11:10 PM PDT

Chrome OS — Google’s lightning quick operating system that’s based entirely on the Chrome browser — is due out the second half of this year (check out our report earlier this evening on its progress).  We’ve seen some demos of it in action, and even tried out an early version ourselves, but there are still plenty of question marks as far as how people will actually use this thing. After all, while the browser will be able to accomplish most tasks, users are going to want some degree of multitasking, and there’s also the question of how users will be navigating Chrome OS’s basic file structure.

Luckily, Chromium — the open source project behind Chrome and Chrome OS — has been posting some conceptual screenshots of what the OS may look like. The Chromium site is full of reminders that the UI is under development and that “designs are subject to change”, but I suspect that we’ll see many of these ideas incorporated into the final builds of Chrome OS.

Some of these screenshots were actually uploaded months ago, but we haven’t seen them too widely distributed. Others, like the coverflow-like windows management interface, were uploaded to the site more recently. Click on each link below to see Chromium’s explanation for how these interfaces are being used and the rationale behind them (and click on the screenshots for a larger version).

Window Management


Content Browser

Open/Save Dialogs

Adobe, You Brought An Advertisement To A Gun Fight

Posted: 13 May 2010 10:55 PM PDT

Adobe, no one seems to want to say this to you, but I will. Stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself.

You’ve just spent God-knows how much money on an ad buy that blankets much of the technology press (including this site). It’s a strange passive-aggressive message that just makes Jobs’ aggressive-aggressive post from a few weeks ago seem even more forceful. And it’s transparent. But worst of all, it won’t work. You must know this.

On the face of it, the ad is an attempt to convince people that you’re the good guys in this fight. “We Love Apple” — the problem is, you don’t love Apple. Why on Earth would you? They’re completely screwing you right now. Everyone knows that. You’d have to be crazy to love Apple right now.

So what you’re really trying to say with this ad is “We love choice, and if you love choice too, put pressure on Apple.” The problem with that is, it won’t work. As they’ve made it abundantly clear over the years, Apple doesn’t listen to any outside input. Hell, they don’t even have focus groups. They do things their way. We’ve seen this recently with the App Store. Thousands of blog posts (including plenty here) condemned Apple for being too closed, and in some cases hypocritical. Did they open the store up? No. They just perfected their closed system.

The only way your ads can have any impact is if they convince people to stop buying Apple products. But that won’t happen either. The side-effect of making quality products is that people want them. They want them even in some cases if they don’t like you, or agree with certain actions. And the fact of the matter is that despite these ads, most people won’t have any idea what all of this is about — nor would they care if they did. They’ll just buy what they consider to be a quality product.

So that leaves your only real hope: the government (ugh). And you’re trying to make that happen. But again, that’s not going to work. While Apple may control a significant percentage of the mindshare in the market right now, they do not control a majority of the actual market share in computers or smart phones. They do in MP3 players, but that is a dying industry. As for the iPad, tablet computers are much too new of a category for the government to even think about regulating at this point.

So where does that leave you? Well, to be frank, shit out of luck.

On one hand, there’s an urge to feel bad for you. You really are getting screwed here. On the other hand, you really did it to yourselves.

When Apple first launched the iPhone in 2007, had there been a great, lightweight version of Flash for mobile devices, I bet that Apple would have almost been forced to use it. They offered it on their desktop browsers after all, and this new device was supposed to be putting the Internet in your pocket. It was no sure thing that this device would succeed at the time, and giving it every chance to (by including something like Flash) would have made sense. But there was no version of Flash ready that would run on the device (presumably without massive performance/battery hits). In fact, only now, three full years later, is a version of Flash running on mainstream mobile devices being shown off.

You gave Jobs three years worth of solid data (massive iPhone sales) to prove he didn’t need you. And now he’s using that knowledge in the iPad, the device which may or may not be the first step in the future of computing. And now others are rallying to his side because he grabbed the position of power.

And that’s not all.

You also screwed yourselves several years ago, when you couldn’t have possibly known you were doing it. To quote a passage from Jeffrey Young and William Simon’s 2005 book iCon Steve Jobs:

When Steve returned to Apple in 1997 he invited the executives of Adobe over and asked them to help him create a version of their video editing software for Mac. Even though it had been Steve and Apple that put the company on the map twenty years before, they now refused.

Whoops. You then followed that move up with nearly a decade worth of under-supporting (or simply not supporting) the Mac. I’m hardly the only one who has noticed this.

Sure, you had your reasons. The Mac had tiny market share and the focus was on Windows. But a decision was made, and now you have to live with it. And you can’t pretend none of that happened and write things today like:

“We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs.”

Um, where were you in 1997 for the Mac? What about 1998? 1999? And so on. There were plenty of Mac users out there that weren’t able to “freely access their favorite content and applications” — because of you.

Selective memory is great — until it comes back to bite you in the ass.

But all hope is not lost. There is something you can do to win this fight. It’s something so simple that I find it hard to believe you’re wasting your time and money on these embarrassing ads.

Make a killer product.

If you make a great enough product, you’ll force Apple to accept you. It has to be good enough that people will refuse to buy Apple products without it. A tall order, sure, but shouldn’t that be the goal of any product you make — to be the absolute best? Flash is not that product. Not right now anyway. Apple’s sales figures have already proven that.

But maybe you can use your growing relationship with Google to build a better version of Flash that runs on Android phones and soon their tablets. You have their growing platform, use it. Prove Apple wrong. That’s the only way this fight ends well for you.

You brought an advertisement to a gun fight. Poor choice. Time to rally. Apple once proved you wrong. Now it’s your turn. Or not. Victors. Spoils. Etc.

P.S. When you’re leaving notes all over the web trying to convince people how open your technology is, maybe leave out the Registered® Trademark® logos next time.

[images: Paramount Pictures]

Going, Going Gone: Dating.com Sells For $1.75M, Domain Sales Heat Up

Posted: 13 May 2010 09:34 PM PDT

Tapping into the always lucrative desperate singles market, someone has purchased the domain Dating.com for $1,750,000 at the DOMAINFest auction in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Today’s auction racked up $2.4 million in sales and featured BoardGames.com (a distant second at $450,000), Therapists.com ($50,000) and Antidepressant.com ($30,000)— sadly the endearingly antiquated CdCollection.com fetched a mere $300. Here’s a look at the DOMAINFest auction’s top ten sales:

Dating.com was sold by domain firm Oversee.net, via its SnapNames unit. The property has been a highly anticipated sale but its final price is no anomaly.  Oversee.net has recently enjoyed a nice string of six-figure-plus domain trades. Its Moniker unit brokered the sale of Photo.com for $1.25 million last week and Guns.com for $800,000 in early March— and of course there was that other SnapNames auction this week: the modest sale of Slots.com for an eye-poping $5.5 million.  Or as Robin Wauters describes it: “more than $1 million per character.” The identity of the buyer was not disclosed.

With the domain market heating up, there have been other high profile transactions in 2010 including Flying.com (purchased for $1.1 million in April by UsedAirplanes), Poker.org ($1 million in February), and Files.com ($725,000 in March).

Chrome OS Coming Along Quickly, But Not Ready Just Yet

Posted: 13 May 2010 06:35 PM PDT

A report today on VentureBeat says that Acer will unveil the first Chrome OS devices in two weeks. While that certainly could happen, don’t expect the OS to be finished, and don’t expect those devices to launch anytime soon.

I’ve been digging through the notes for Chromium OS (the open source project Chrome OS will be built on) on Google Code and have found some interesting things. Notably, in the past few weeks, it seems like the Chromium team has been moving quickly to gear up for something. But I suspect this has more to do with Google I/O, which takes place next week in San Francisco, and will highlight the OS in several sessions.

For its part, Google will only say that, “We’re excited about the progress we’ve made on Google Chrome OS so far, and development is continuing on schedule. At this time we have no updates to share.”

That schedule originally stated that Chrome OS would launch in the 2nd half of 2010, with devices ready in time for the holiday season. The Computex Taipei show, where Acer will supposedly show off the first Chrome OS device, runs June 1 to 5, which is technically still the first half of 2010. So unless the Chrome OS project is ahead of schedule (which we’re hearing it isn’t), you can probably expect any devices shown to be running a still incomplete version of Chromium OS. And judging from the current state of the code, that seems to be the case as well.

So where does Chrome OS stand?

The latest version is This is running Google Chrome (the browser) version 6.0.401.0 (which is the latest build of Chromium — yes, version 6 is already being worked on). Right now, the team working on it seems to be powering their way through a series of features that they want to be ready for a version called v1.0FR (I’m going to assume “FR” stands for either “first release” or “final release”). Currently, the team is working on a version known as Milestone R7. This milestone is set to contain many of the features tagged to be in v1. But even R7 isn’t scheduled to roll out until mid-May, according to an update today.

Meanwhile, the next iteration, R8, isn’t due until the end of June, according to that same update. No timetable was set for R9, and there are few features labeled as that. After that, instances of both R10 and R1.0 show up — that could be v1 or it could just be another way of labeling things. Recently, team members have been going through a lot of these issues and removing the label “beta1″ — many of these are R7 and R8 features now labeled with v1.0FR. A note on this thread seems to suggest that v1.0FR may be the name Google is using for the “shipping version” of Chrome OS.

Some other interesting tidbits:

  • The current goal is to get Chrome OS to take 5 seconds or less to boot from power on to the login screen. That login screen currently looks like the image above.
  • We noted last month that Google was planning to give Chrome OS universal printer support from the cloud — this has already been checked-in to the Chromium OS code (as of 2 days ago)
  • It seems there may only be limited trackpad gestures at launch. Google wants at least 2-finger scrolling to work, but it’s a bit buggy as of a couple months ago.
  • There will be Chrome OS themes. This shouldn’t be a surprise for users of Chrome, the browser.
  • A note here suggests that R8 may be the first version Google proactively pushes to OEMs to test their hardware on. Again, R8 is scheduled for the end of June.
  • The compact navigation will apparently not be ready for v1. The image below shows how that currently looks (in Incognito mode). Notice the URL bar and reload button below the tab.
  • Also shown in a screenshot below is how opening a file will apparently work (it’s still buggy as well).
  • There’s a lot of talk about making sure things work on both x86 and ARM chips.
  • There’s also a lot of talk about 3G support, including many USB sticks.
  • There will be a pop-up media player (see picture below — again, buggy)
  • The latest version of what the Apps page will look like is featured at the top of this post — funny that Lala, which Apple is shutting down, is on there.

QLess Saves You From The Annoyance Of Standing In Line

Posted: 13 May 2010 06:23 PM PDT

Whether it be at the DMV, a restaurant or even at a theme park, standing in line is one is life’s major annoyances. Enter QLess, a startup that has developed a technology that eliminates the act of standing into line by letting people use their cell phones to get in a virtual, mobile line.

QLess, otherwise known as “virtual queue management,” is sold to businesses as an installation on touch screen kiosks or computers at an establishment. Users virtually enter the line at the kiosk, or from their computer with the designated line they’d like to join and their cell phone number. Qless’ technology will show the visitor how long the expected wait time is and will then send the user a text message or automated phone call when their wait time is up.

QLess is also fairly interactive; people can request more time or a status update after a designated time, or even leave the line at any time. While QLess is a technological investment for a small business or company, the plus for establishments is they have less grumpy consumers standing around and are able to create a more efficient environment to deliver their services.

The technology is already being used by a number of businesses around the country including Sprint, DMVs in Kansas and Missouri, a healthcare system in Oklahama and Border Grill.

As local businesses and governments become more comfortable with technology, QLess is seeing traction in the adoption of its offering. The number of people queued per month hit another record last month, with a 23% month over month increase, following on a 48% month over month growth in March, with almost half a million users. And in the past two years of operation, QLess has saved people a total of nine straight years of time in standing in line.


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