web 2.0

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Producteev Two: The Task Management Service I’ve Been Longing For

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 09:16 AM PDT

I’m one of the worst ‘task managers’ you’ll ever meet. There are thousands of services out there that would make my life way easier, that I either don’t know about or that are too complex or too simple for my taste and needs.

So when I got pitched by an entrepreneur in between sessions at the recent TechCrunch Disrupt conference about a “new breakthrough cross-platform task management product”, I was skeptical. Five minutes later, I was sold.

Enter Producteev, which is launching said new product – dubbed Producteev Two – today.

Here’s what I love about it: Producteev Two lets users capture tasks, email-based action items or schedule deadlines using whatever communication channel they prefer. The product, which is free for up to 3 individual users, connects to a myriad of popular communication tools, including IM services like Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger as well as Twitter and Facebook.

No longer need I feel forced to visit a web application to save and manage tasks, unless I choose to do so. I can simply send a custom message to a dedicated email address, or quickly open a Gtalk IM window inside my Gmail account to create or assign tasks, and get notifications back through the channels of my choosing.

Better yet, a proper Gmail Gadget plugs directly into Producteev Two so I can now quickly check and manage important tasks straight from my Gmail interface, which I tend to have open at all times anyway. There’s also one for iGoogle. Just great.

There’s even some sort of social gaming aspect to the product. One feature, Producteev Academy, enables users to win badges for different activities, such as completing the most tasks. Don’t worry: it can be turned off.

In addition, the company this morning announced the launch of Producteev Two for the iPhone, which is also free. The mobile app works offline, syncs in the background when the user goes back online and supports push notifications. It’s currently being reviewed by Apple’s team of app scrutinizers, but should be available soon (screenshots below).

On Producteev’s roadmap: a desktop client for Mac, which will be available later this month, and an API. Amazing stuff for a company that’s raised less than $1 million in early-stage funding.

AdMob Rolls Out iPad SDK; Praises ‘Creative Potential’ Of HTML5

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 09:09 AM PDT

Fresh off the closure of its acquisition by Google, mobile ad network AdMob is officially launching an iPad-specific SDK to allow app developers to use the network’s ads within their apps. The SDK was previously in beta but is now available to the public.

AdMob says that the SDK is unified across all devices running the iPhone OS, which makes it much easier for developers, who can can download one binary for development across all Apple iPhone OS devices – iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The new also SDK supports two ad formats in native iPad applications: text & tile ads and image ads. Both of these ad formats are available in the three IAB standard ad sizes: 300×250, 728×90, and 468×60.

AdMob has already signed on advertisers to create advertising campaigns for the iPad; currently Amazon.com is currently running a campaign promoting their Kindle for iPad app. AdMob is relatively late to roll out a iPad-specific SDK, competitors Millennial Media, Medialets, Mobclix, and Greystripe have all created ad formats for the device.

The network is also praising the “creative potential of iPad ads using HTML5,” even building demos of ads using HTML5 technology, which rivals Flash, to show off the innovative formats.

This is interesting considering the whole Apple-Flash war, tablet battles and where AdMob’s parent company Google falls into this. At Google I/O conference a few weeks ago, Google CEO Eric Schmidt seemed to position the search giant as Flash’s friend. Of course, it should also be interesting to see if the rumored Google tablet will support Flash and if AdMob will change its tune if this is the case.

Find The Healthiest Places To Live On Bing Maps

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 08:42 AM PDT

Bing Maps is now helping you find the healthiest cities in the U.S. with a new app, Bing Health Maps. Microsoft is mashing up data from the Department of Health and Human Services to visualize what parts of the country are healthy or not so healthy by state and county.

You can select a state and a Community Health Indicator, which includes Birth Indicators (low birth weight, premature births, births to women under 18); Death Measures (homicide, lung cancer, stroke) or Health Risk Factors (obesity, smokers, high blood pressure). You can also see what percentage of the population of a given county are reporting the answers to the questions to give you an accurate view of the statistics.

The data visualization of the app is really compelling if accurate. For example, in Cook County, IL, you’ll find that 22 percent of the population is reporting obesity as a health issues, that 13.3 percent of births in the county are premature, and that there is an average of 28.1 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 people.

The map will include all the counties within a state and your can click on each country to get information for a specific community. It’s similar in theory to Google’s Flu Maps feature, which maps flu levels across 121 cities in the U.S.

Open URL Sharing Protocol OExchange Gets Support From Google, Microsoft, Et Al.

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 07:12 AM PDT

OExchange, a simple specification for URL-based content sharing on the Web, was introduced today by a number of online service providers and social networks. The open link-sharing protocol has gained support from Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Digg, Instapaper, StumbleUpon, Clearspring Technologies and a handful more.

So what’s it all about?

OExchange essentially establishes a common way for services like Posterous and Google Buzz to receive content. The protocol defines how third-party tools, e.g. Clearspring’s bookmarking and sharing service AddThis, can dynamically discover and share content to these services, as well as how sharing tools can read and set a user's sharing preferences.

A number of these services, like Google Buzz and Instapaper, have already implemented the protocol, which together with others such as OpenID and OAuth intends to making sharing content on the Web completely open. OExchange is licensed under the Open Web Foundation Agreement – you can get the specs here.

Chris Messina, Open Web Advocate at Google, has this to say about the new protocol:

"The key to increasing the amount and quality of sharing online is smoothing out the user interaction. By simplifying the underlying mechanism for cross-site sharing with OExchange, people can focus on what they’re sharing, rather than how.”

Do you agree that there’s a need for an open URL sharing protocol (which companies like Twitter and Facebook seem to doubt, since they’re not supporting it)?

Google Reportedly Acquiring Invite Media For Approximately $70 Million

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 06:28 AM PDT

Google is buying advertising technology startup Invite Media in a “$70 million range” deal, reports MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka. We’ve pinged the Mountain View company for confirmation but have not heard back yet.

Kafka has confirmed the story with multiple sources, who also said Google intends to keep Invite Media running as a stand-alone unit. At a later time, it would be integrated into its DoubleClick for Advertisers product, he adds.

Update: Google responded with this canned statement: “Although we’re always talking to various companies about a variety of things, we don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”

Invite Media is an ad technology company founded in April, 2007 in Philadelphia out of the University of Pennsylvania. The startup, which is headquartered in New York City, builds and operates what it refers to as a “universal buying platform” for display media, called Bid Manager.

This platform allows buyers to optimize online campaigns in real-time across multiple inventory sources, including Yahoo's Right Media Exchange and Google's DoubleClick Ad Exchange. Additional features include the ability to access third party data providers directly through the same central interface, gain reporting and analytics on key metrics, and build an internal "exchange practice" around a fully self-service platform.

Since February, its platform supports full real-time bidding and self-service integrations with ad networks AdBrite, AdMeld and PubMatic.

The company claims Bid Manager gives media buyers access to over 12 billion highly-targeted impressions per day through a single central interface.

Invite Media raised money from investors such as First Round Capital, Genacast Ventures, and strategic angels, but it’s unclear exactly how much.

Watch for updates.

Image Space Media Launches Self-Service Ad Creation Tool

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 06:25 AM PDT

TechCrunch50 demopit company Image Space Media (formerly Picad Media) is launching AdStart, a self-service product that allows marketers to create targeted in-image ads. The ads can then be served on Image Space Media’s in-image ad network of more than 4,000 publishers.

ISM’s ad network, which recently launched an analytics offering, helps publishers monetize images on their websites with ad overlays. Its proprietary technology allows for audience targeting and matches ads to the most appropriate images available. With AdStart, advertisers can now create text based ads on both a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand (CPM) impression level. Once the advertiser creates their text-based ad campaign, they set their bid price and fund their account using a credit card or PayPal with a minimum of $5.00 for prepaid accounts. The ads immediately begin running as overlays on contextually relevant images across the Image Space Media Network.

ISM says that beta testing results have been relatively successful. The CTR on the ISM AdStart campaign for The Intuitive Learning Company was more than 7 times higher than a Google Adwords campaign for the same product. COO Kevin Tung has told us that CTRs for in-image ads are higher than average rates for normal display ads, which he says range from .2 % to .3%. He adds that CTRs depend on size and dimensions of the ad itself.

The startup also recently raised $2.9 million in funding from New Atlantic Ventures, Ridgeline Capital, and Michael Gordon and brought on a new CEO last year, Jesse Chenard, who Tung actually met at TechCrunch50 in 2008. Image Space Media faces competition from GumGum and others.

Layar’s New Augmented Reality Browser Makes For A Strong Location Play

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 06:14 AM PDT

Layar is today unveiling the latest iteration of its Reality Browser product (3.5), starting with an Android version with an iPhone 3GS app update scheduled for later. With the new version of the browser, users can now easily discover and experience Augmented Reality without the need to enter a search query or open a specific layer. This means users can instantly see the most interesting content nearby upon launching the browser, effectively turning it into a potent location-based search and discovery service with an augmented reality element attached to it rather than the other way around.

Mobile Payments Startup Boku Launches In-App Billing Library For Android

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 05:55 AM PDT

Fresh off an announcement of a strategic investment from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, mobile payments platform Boku is taking its mobile strategy one step further by launching an in-app mobile billing library for Android.

The Boku Payments SDK allows developers to monetize any Android app with in-app purchases via carrier billing. Boku, which just launched last year, doesn't require users to have a credit card or bank account to make a micropayment. Users enter their cell phone number, reply to a text message and then all virtual charges are automatically charged to the user's monthly cell phone bill.

Boku’s SDK allows for a one-tap purchase process in more than 60 countries over 200 carriers worldwide without a user login or password needed for purchase. Boku authenticates the transaction and deals with the carrier billing as well. It’s incredibly easy for consumers because they don’t have to deal with the hassle of entering credit card information on their phone.

While the iPhone has supported the idea of In-App purchase for a bit over a year now, Android hasn’t adopted this yet. But as the Android platform becomes more heavily used by consumers, payment companies like Boku stand to profit from in-app purchases. PayPal just launched its Mobile Payments Library for Android, which allows consumers to make transactions without ever leaving the app.

Of course, the potential obstacle to the adoption of Boku are the high fees that mobile carriers charge to the payment systems (which are then passed on to the publisher or developer). Boku told us last June that different cell phone carriers charge varying fees that range between 10% to 50% of the purchase price, which is a hefty amount in transaction fees. But Boku is steadfast in its commitment to remedy this issue. Ron Hirson, Boku’s marketing chief, says the company is ramping up negotiations with carriers to lower these fees.

As I stated above, the barrier for Boku’s system will be the high carrier fees that will be passed on to developers. But if this can be negotiated, the sky’s the limit for mobile payments as an attractive payments platform. Coincidentally, competitor Zong also announced the availability of its payment service for developers this morning. It looks like the two will duke it out for Android developers who want to start monetizing off of their apps. That is, until Google rolls out In-App purchase support for the Android platform

The Kindle Will Soon Be Available At Target Locations Nationwide

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 05:39 AM PDT

This has been a long time coming. The Kindle has slowly been creeping into Target retail outlets but the company just issued a presser stating that the most popular ebook reader on the planet will be available nationwide on June 6th. This officially makes Target Amazon's first brick and mortar retail partner, although Target isn't new to the ebook game.

Wikinvest Introduces A Portfolio Tracker Linked To All Your Brokerage Accounts

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 05:30 AM PDT

The problem with most portfolio trackers on financial sites like Yahoo Finance is that they are a pain to set up and an even bigger pain to maintain. Typically, you have to enter each stock position by hand, and every time you buy or sell a stock, you need to manually record the change. Wikinvest is introducing its own portfolio tracker today with an obvious improvement: it links directly to all of your brokerage, 401(k) and other stock accounts and tracks positions and changes automatically.

At launch, Wikinvest’s portfolio tracker hooks up to about 25 different brokerage accounts, including Schwab, ETrade, Fidelity, Ameritrade, Morgan Stanley, and Zecco. It lets you combine holdings from different accounts and track them as a single portfolio. You can compare the overall performance of your portfolio to the S&P 500 or Dow Jones, and see the average PE, ROA, ROE, and other ratios across your portfolio. Also, when you hover over a headline for a stock, you get a realtime newsfeed for that company.

Portfolio tracking is an addictive feature for finance site junkies. Parker Conrad, Wikinvest’s CEO, estimates that less than 3 percent of people who use finance portals actually add a portfolio, but those who do make up 30 percent of the pageviews. So if he can make it easier to set up and track portfolios on Wikinvest, it should help drive more growth. The site is still small, with about 1.2 million unique visitors worldwide, according to comScore, but it is currently going through a growth spurt which kicked off a year ago with a redesign.

About 60 percent of its traffic comes from search, with the rest coming either directly or through partnerships. Wikinvest powers the stock charts on Forbes, USA Today, and NPR.com. Wikinvest now needs to make more of those visitors stick around and come back on their own. Hence, the portfolio tracker.

Bob Pittman Plunks Some Cash Into Fanboy Newsletter GeekChicDaily

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 05:03 AM PDT

The email newsletter may seem like an anachronism in this age of Web media, but the inbox persists as a favorite filtering mechanism for millions of readers. It’s a niche media model that is proving itself with email newsletters such as DailyCandy, Thrillist, and Tasting Table. Former MTV and AOL exec Bob Pittman is a man who has invested in all three of these, and is now plunking some cash into GeekChicDaily, a daily email aimed at 18-34 year old men looking to feed their “inner geek.” Pittman joins former Sony Pictures CEO Peter Guber and other series A investors to bring the total capital raised in the series A to about $1.5 million.

GeekChicDaily co-founder Peter Levin calls Pittman the “most successful investor in newsletter space.” The newsletter audience may be smaller than the general Web audience, but it makes up for it in focus and loyalty. GeekChicDaily reaches about 425,000 opt-in readers a month.

If Thrillist is the new Details, doling out advice to young men about where to go out and what to wear, GeekChicDaily concentrates more on videogames and pop culture. “My guys want to know when are the new levels coming out for Modern Warfare,” says Levin, “or what happened behind the scenes at the Lost finale.” He thinks GeekChicDaily serves a completely different audience than Thrillist’s wannabe-hipsters. He is going after the fanboys instead. For instance, the newsletter recently featured a barbeque mitt in the shape of the space slug from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back which tried to swallow the Millenium Falcon.

AT&T Announces New Data Plans, Unlimited Data Nowhere To Be Seen

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 04:57 AM PDT

Today is a sad day in data land. AT&T have just announced two new mobile data plans with one glaring omission: no more unlimited data. There is some consolation, though, as those of you currently on unlimited plans are welcome to keep them. As of June 7, however, any new customers wanting the all-you-can-eat data buffet will be left hungry -- and that includes new iPad owners.

BlackBerry Partners Fund Leads $9 Million Funding Round For Transpera

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 04:26 AM PDT

Mobile video advertising startup Transpera has completed its Series C financing round, totaling $9 million. The round was led by BlackBerry Partners Fund, an independent venture capital firm that works in collaboration with Research In Motion and backs companies focused on building and selling applications, services and supporting infrastructure for mobile computing.

Existing investors Flybridge Capital Partners, First Round Capital, Intel Capital and Labrador Ventures also participated.

Transpera also announced the launch of what it dubs The Attention Network, its mobile video advertising platform.

The company claims its ad platform provides the highest revenue per impression; video ads delivered through Transpera can be placed across the mobile Web and on a variety of platforms such as iPhone, iPad, Android and of course BlackBerry.

Transpera’s network includes publisher brands such as AccuWeather.com, CBS News, Discovery Communications, MSNBC.com, MTV, Travel Channel and more. The startup is based in San Francisco and has raised $19.3 million to date (its $8.25 million Series A round was closed in November 2008, its $2 million Series B round in January 2010).

Transpera has a very experienced management team and quite an impressive advisory board that includes people such as Tom Rogers (CEO TiVo), Todd Warner (Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Windows Mobile), Jeff Janer (former CMO, Third Screen Media) and former President of ZD Interactive Media Division Jeff Ballowe.

Sonic Solutions To Acquire DivX In $323 Million Deal

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 03:59 AM PDT

Sonic Solutions and DivX, both listed on Nasdaq, this morning announced that they are to become one. Under the terms of the agreement, Sonic would acquire all the outstanding shares of DivX and merge DivX operations into those of Sonic.

DivX stockholders would receive a combination of cash and stock equal to $3.75 in cash and 0.514 shares of Sonic common stock for each share of DivX they hold. The offer was worth $9.83 a share at Tuesday’s closing price, or around $323 million in total.

The price is a 41% premium to Tuesday’s closing price for DivX shares.

Sonic says the purchase could potentially double fiscal year 2012 earnings per share on a non-GAAP basis. Following completion of the merger, DivX stockholders will own approximately 35% of the combined company’s capital stock.

The acquisition is expected to close in September 2010.

Here’s how Sonic pitches the buy to shareholders and the press:

For more than 20 years, Sonic has been the leader in developing technologies for the preparation and delivery of entertainment content in popular formats — CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and most recently Internet delivery of video.

The acquisition of DivX is expected to advance Sonic’s mission to deliver technology that makes it easy and convenient for retailers, online services, Hollywood studios, and manufacturers of CE and mobile devices to distribute premium digital video content over the Internet. DivX is expected to enable Sonic to deepen and broaden the technology it offers for Internet-based video delivery and expand its relationships with leading retailers and consumer electronics manufacturers.

DivX technology is said to reside on over 300 million devices, including over 8,500 models of digital televisions, DVD and Blu-ray Disc players, and over 80 different mobile handsets. The DivX web properties get visited by more than 12 million unique users on a monthly basis, combined, according to the release.

The current Sonic management team will lead the combined company, augmented with key managers and executives from DivX. Kevin Hell, DivX’s CEO, Dan Halvorson, DivX’s CFO and David Richter, DivX’s executive vice president, business & legal affairs and general counsel, will be leaving the combined company after the transaction is closed.

Why Google TV As A Platform May Push Apple To Build Televisions

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 01:28 AM PDT

Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a lot of interesting things to say tonight at the D8 Conference. But to me, one of the most interesting topics he talked about was only brought up by a question from the audience: Apple TV. We all know that Apple considers the device a “hobby,” and tonight Jobs explained why. But he also may have tilted his hand a little bit when it comes to his thinking about this going forward.

Jobs said that the Apple TV is still a hobby because there is a bad “go-to-market” strategy for such devices. In other words, this is basically what I wrote about a month ago: Apple TV will remain a hobby until Apple figures out a way to make money off of it. In the current ecosystem where subsidized cable boxes dominate, that will be very, very hard (just ask TiVo). And Jobs knows it.

But in his answer, Jobs may have also made a little mistake. He clumped in Google with the other device makers who had attempted (and failed) to make a successful set top box. The recently announced Google TV is actually not a set top box — it’s a platform. Yes, one Google TV device (made by Logitech) will be a set top box, but Google TV will also be built in to Sony TVs and Blu-ray players starting this Fall. And that may be just the thing Apple needs.

I’m sure smarter people than us will figure this out,” is the way Jobs ended his answer. Those people may be Google. You see, by creating a system that is a platform which is built into TVs and resides on top of your current content, Google may have the perfect hybrid model to shake up the broken industry Jobs is referring to.

Jobs thinks someone will have to “tear up the set top box” (amen) to make a viable product, but if Google TV proves to be something consumers want (far from a sure bet at this point), they will have done so without doing that. But at the same time, they’ll be raising peoples’ expectations for what to expect from a television experience — and this could allow Apple to come in and do the tearing up of the box.

Recent rumors had Apple hard at work on the next generation Apple TV. The current thought is that this would be a cheaper ($99) device, that relies heavily on cloud-based service. As I wrote last week, the price confuses me because it doesn’t seem to go along with the high-margin products Apple makes all their money selling. So either they’re able to produce these for a really low price (which doesn’t seem too likely) — or they’d do this cheap box to get consumers hooked on their better experience and content, and then shift to more expensive boxes.

Given Jobs comments tonight, the latter could well be an option. He’s clearly thought about this a lot (he mentioned they thought about doing a TV product instead of the iPhone — and then instead of the tablet, but there was no good market strategy), and seems frustrated by the current stalemate.

But Jobs may have another option.

The entire time Jobs was expressing his thoughts about this topic, I kept thinking back to the long-standing rumors that Apple may one day make their own television set. Again, not a box, an actual display.

This would eliminate Jobs’ concern about there being too many boxes in the living room. And it would allow him to bypass the cable boxes (which would have to hook in to his unit — which he would undoubtedly control). The main problem with this is that the television hardware business is generally a low-margin one. But then again, so is much of the PC market, and Apple does just fine there. If Apple could come up with some sort of premium television set, people would buy it.

Undoubtedly, this Apple television would be slow-going at first as Apple would restrict what types of cable boxes (if any) and/or cable companies you could use with it. But eventually, it could force the industry to conform to its new standard of television much in the way that the mobile industry has been shifting the past few years for the iPhone/App Store. And again, Google TV may be a catalyst to set this all in motion.

No one is willing to buy a set top box,” Jobs said tonight. With a true Apple Television, no one would have to. I can almost hear Jobs now: Apple Television: it’s the best television out there. But it’s also the best web surfing experience from your couch, the best app console in your living room, and the best connected media player in your house.

Redefining Education…in a Tree House

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 11:59 PM PDT

At some point or another every kid has dreamt of living in something like the Swiss Family Robinson's tree house; even fictional children like Bart Simpson. I think I could have settled for going to school there. And—fantastical as it seems—that's exactly what the Green School in Bali feels like.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Web and mobile technology remaking education, but in the middle of the jungle – within a cluster of bamboo buildings nominated for various architectural awards and furnished with hip, mondernist bamboo furniture – I found a place where cleantech was remaking the very concept of a school.

The toilets are almost all very comfortable compost toilets, the trash is all recycled with the organic matter going to a school pig slop where Balinese black sows make sure nothing goes to waste. Each grade has a garden that supplies organic food for lunches— including organic cacao in the summer months so the kids can make their own chocolate. The school is even experimenting with different methods of renewable energy including methane-extraction from the compost-toilets and a large water vortex that creates hydro-electric power without the environmental devastation that comes with building a dam.

There's an inflatable classroom with a canvas roof and hip oval-shaped desks for when the weather gets too unbearable, and – why not?—a state of the art mud wrestling pit. As I wait for a Balinese latte at the coffee stand, a mother hen and her chicks peck across the soccer field like something out of a fairy tale. The third-grade's pizza garden isn't too far off in the distance, and even farther down the path last year's tweens learned real-world math by building their own thatched bamboo clubhouse. And, of course, there's school-wide wifi.

Of course all of this green stuff is just be a gimmick if it’s not backed up by high academic standards. To that end, the school runs according to the Cambridge international school standards, combining the benefits of an international school education, with the unique advantages the Green School’s environment offers.

Richard Branson was here to check out Green School last week, and before him famous guests included Ben of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Donna Karen of DKNY and David Copperfield. You can understand why the Vegas illusionist would like a school that seems to have sprung up from nowhere in the middle of the jungle.

The everyday students range from poor Balinese kids on a scholarship to the considerably-more-well off kids of a guy like Allard Luchsinger —a multi-time European Internet entrepreneur who decided to take a year off with his family in Bali. Unlike transitions to Los Angeles and San Francisco, his kids were instantly happy here, Luchsinger says. It's not hard to see why.

This seems a school that only a wild-eyed, half-hippy entrepreneur could dream up so I'm not surprised to hear there's not one, but two, behind it. John Hardy moved to Bali in the mid-1970s and his wife Cynthia moved in the early 1980s. Together, they started a local jewelry business called John Hardy Jewelry that caught on, selling its pieces in high-end chains like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. In 2007, the company sold for undisclosed millions of dollars that go a lot farther when they are converted to Indonesian Rupiahs. (It takes just $100 to be a Rupiah-millionaire.)

Spurred by a desire to give back to the island that created their jewelry empire, the couple began dreaming about Green School. They put $5 million of their own money into the school, it opened in September 2008 and today it's still largely reliant on donors and the Hardys themselves to keep the doors open. (Branson's check is reportedly in the mail.) Meanwhile, the two have also opened a for-profit venture called PT Bamboo that makes the stunning sustainable bamboo architecture and furniture the showcased at the school.

Why should you care about a school in the middle of the jungle? Because that jungle shares the planet with us and Bali hasn’t always had the best track-record of environmental stewardship, having destroyed a good deal of coral with dynamite fishing in years past. Now, Green School is teaching locals a new way to think, plant and build, and is pushing the boundaries of clean-tech innovation that's also beautiful, functional and comfortable. So frequently, we hear about emerging markets causing environmental problems, but Green School is another example of where an emerging market is creating the solution.

More pictures below…

Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia Greenschool, Bali, Indonesia

Steve Jobs Both Smacks And Kisses AT&T

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 07:46 PM PDT

Tonight at the D8 Conference outside of Los Angeles, Apple CEO Steve Jobs addressed the iPhone’s exclusivity with AT&T in the U.S. This has been the subject of debate for three years now, and it’s getting more heated as the iPhone continues to grow in popularity. For his part, Jobs seemed fairly all over the place when talking about Apple’s relationship with AT&T. He would gush about them one second, and then take a jab at them the next.

When Walt Mossberg asked Jobs how AT&T was doing on the network side of things, Jobs at first said AT&T was doing “pretty good.” But then quickly noted that “they have some issues.” But Jobs said that the other carriers would have likely had the same issues had you put the iPhone on any one of their networks (which is a great argument for why it should be on more than one network).

Jobs then noted that AT&T was making improvements to the network, but then said he wish they were improving faster.

When asked if there would be an advantage putting the iPhone on two carriers, Jobs acknowledged that “there might be.” Asked if that would happen in the near future, Jobs said he couldn’t comment on that. But earlier Jobs noted that they meet with AT&T once a quarter, so the fact that this wasn’t a firm “no” or something implying that, is interesting — or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.

AT&T took a big leap for us,” Jobs said in mentioning that they weren’t sure if they’d be able to break into the phone market at all when they first set out. The big question remains: was it a big enough leap to justify another year of exclusivity?

The subject of AT&T came up again later in the Q&A session. One person asked what Apple is doing to ensure you can actually make a call on their phone on AT&T’s network. Jobs said Apple was talking about it with AT&T and gave a fairly technical answer for what they’re attempting to do (involving increasing the backhaul).

Interestingly, Jobs noted that, “things get worse before they get better.” He then continued, “If you believe that, things should be getting a lot better soon!” To which the audience burst into laughter.

Jobs came back to say that he’s been told a lot of places are supposed to get better by the end of the Summer. When asked what happens if they don’t, Jobs cryptically replied, “then they won’t.”

[photo: Engadget]

Steve Jobs On Google’s Android Betrayal: “My Sex Life Is Pretty Good”

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 07:12 PM PDT

Today at AllThingsD’s D8 conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the guest of honor, where he has taken the stage for an extended interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. One of the topics touched on was Google’s Android, and how Jobs felt about Apple’s long-time partner making products that directly compete with the iPhone and iPad.

In one exchange, Mossberg asked Jobs whether he felt betrayed by Eric Schmidt and Google. Jobs’ non-sequitur response: “My sex life is pretty good”. Obviously it’s a sore subject (or at least one without a good PR-friendly response).

When Mossberg asked about the competition, Jobs noted that it was Google that decided to compete with Apple — Apple didn’t decide it was moving into the search business (he reportedly made similar statements at an internal all-hands meeting earlier this year).

Regarding ChromeOS, Jobs pointed out that Google was building off of the open-source WebKit engine, which Apple created.

Asked if Apple would be removing Google from the iPhone, Jobs responded that it wouldn’t.

Here’s his extended followup response, explaining that Jobs thinks that the market will dictate who wins (and will presumably choose Apple over Google), taken from Engadget’s live notes:

We want to make better products than them. What I love about the marketplace is that we do our products, we tell people about them, and if they like them, we get to come to work tomorrow. It’s not like that in enterprise… the people who make those decisions are sometimes confused….Just because we’re competing with someone doesn’t mean we have to be rude.

Image via Engadget

Steve Jobs: People Are Voting Against Flash By Buying An iPad Every 3 Seconds

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 07:00 PM PDT

You may have thought you knew exactly what Steve Jobs thought about Adobe Flash considering he wrote a 1,700-word blog post on it back in April. But today at the D8 Conference outside of Los Angeles, he made himself a little bit more clear. He said that Flash is the latest in a string of technologies heading towards the end of its life.

Jobs said that many technologies live in cycles — they have a Summer, and then go to the grave. Apple likes to choose technologies that are just in their Spring time, Jobs noted. Of course, he’s implying that Flash is not one of those technologies. And that instead, it too will soon be in the grave.

And Jobs said that this removal of Flash was simply the latest in a series of moves Apple has always taken to stay ahead of the curve. They got rid of the 3.5″ floppy, for example, despite making it popular in the first place. They also got rid of serial and parallel ports before the rest of the industry in favor of USB. And then with the MacBook Air, they got rid of optical drives. “When we do this, sometimes people call us crazy,” Jobs noted.

Sometimes you have to pick the right horses. Flash looks like it had its day but it’s waning. And HTML5 looks like it’s coming up,” Jobs said.

Jobs then reiterated that no mobile phones are yet shipping with Flash. When Walt Mossberg said that soon they would be, Jobs quipped that they’ve been hearing that same thing for two or three years.

When Mossberg brought up the “holes” in the Internet without Flash, Jobs said those were quickly being filled — and that most of those were just ads anyway. Jobs said that Adobe had a chance to get Flash on their devices, but came up short. So they’ve moved on.

Jobs did say that if the market tells them they’re making bad choices, they’ll change. But so far, that isn’t happening. “People seem to be liking the iPad,” Jobs said to laughs and applause. “We’ve sold one every three seconds since we launched it,” he added.

Apple Cracking Down On Widgety and Desktop-y iPad Apps

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 06:28 PM PDT

If you thought you could handle the iPad because there will be apps that truly customize the interface, I laugh in your general direction. No, wait, Steve Jobs does. I'm reminded of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in which that lady keeps adding rules and pronouncements to the wall, hemming in the Hogwarts population bit by bit, and punishing transgressors with a magic quill. Apple doesn't have a magic quill (yet... iPain?), but it does get to veto apps for a growing number of semi-obscure reasons, and the latest one is "apps that create their own desktops."

Former App Store King iFart Gets Blocked From The iPad

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 05:20 PM PDT

Back in December 2008, when the App Store was still less than half a year old, I wrote a post about an application that has now become something of an iPhone staple: iFart. The app and similar ‘gross’ applications like it have gone on to become immensely popular, proving that the general public has an insatiable and somewhat disturbing appetite for recorded flatulence. Unfortunately (at least for fart-lovers), the application has hit a snag on its way to the iPad: iFart HD has been rejected on the grounds that it has “minimal user functionality”.  This, despite the fact that the app will literally shake your iPad when it emits a ‘bombardier’ or ‘brown mosquito’ (the iPad’s speakers vibrate a lot).

iFart isn’t the first application to be hit by this arbitrary rule — we’ve previously written about apps like QuackPhone, which made your iPhone sound like a duck, and was rejected on similar grounds. But iFart isn’t some unknown application. In fact, it sold 100,000 copies in its first 14 days (reaching #1 on the App Store), once ranked in the top twenty iPhone applications of all time, and has over 20,000 reviews to date.

Joel Comm, CEO of iFart’s developer InfoMedia, says that it took a month of waiting before he got ahold of an Apple representative, who told Comm that he’d have to add quite a lot of functionality to the application to have it approved for the iPad — sound boards, even well-known ones, don’t cut it.

Comm has been through this before. When the App Store first launched Apple was routinely blocking applications like iFart and Pull My Finger, until it finally opened the floodgates to these ‘joke’ applications in December 2008. This time though, the application isn’t being blocked on the grounds of profanity or crudeness. Rather, it’s a lack of functionality, which is harder to change. The only consolation is that Comm can add a landscape mode to the existing iPhone app, but it wouldn’t be a native HD version.

Comm points out the inconsistency of the App Store review process, noting that similarly themed apps like Farting Zombies have made it onto the iPad. Of course, such inconsistencies on the App Store are nothing new, but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating for developers. Comm also points out that InfoMedia isn’t just developing so-called ‘crapps’: its application GameDock was among the first multiplayer gaming platforms on the iPhone, and iVote has gained popularity as a polling app.

If nothing else, this makes it clear that Apple is looking to keep the bar higher for the iPad than it did for the iPhone. There’s no way to know if Apple intends to eventually lower it, but my hunch is that Apple wants the iPad to be viewed as a full-fledged computing platform rather than a device with big-screen joke apps. Comm shares a similar sentiment — he thinks that Apple is afraid that approving fart apps would lead to an influx of ‘novelty’ applications for the iPad.  So it may be awhile, if ever, before you get to experience iFart HD in its full glory (or lack thereof).

Gilt CEO: How Gilt Will Go Local

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 03:45 PM PDT

Gilt is closing in on Groupon’s turf. In April, Gilt quietly launched a beta version of “Gilt City,” a local deals service that offered a set of weekly deals for New York. Although City remains in beta mode and is only available to approximately one-third of Gilt’s NY membership, the well-funded company is preparing for an official launch in 15 to 20 U.S. markets.

Nothing is finalized yet, Gilt’s CEO Susan Lyne says in our video interview, but “City” is expected to be a significant pillar in the company’s growing portfolio, which now includes flash sales for women, children and men’s fashion, travel and home. While Groupon clones are rushing into the game, Lyne is approaching the local deal business carefully, she’s using the beta version of City to gauge customer demand and find an appropriate model.

City currently displays 5 vendors a week, with each offering one or several deal packages— for example a Yoga studio might offer a discounted 5-class package and a discounted monthly pass. That differs from Groupon, which only showcases one main deal per day, per location (there are small side offers but they don’t get equal billing). While Groupon’s CEO Andew Mason has adamantly defended their one-deal-a-day model, Lyne says she is willing to scale up if there is sufficient demand.  Lyne acknowledges the similarities between Groupon and City, and the fact that Groupon may occasionally offer comparable deals, but she argues that Gilt’s editorial voice will remain distinct by consistently offering higher end services/goods.

So far the NY experiment is going well, performance has exceeded expectations and Gilt will open the site to the rest of its NY members within the next few weeks. “Assuming that we continue to see the kind of engagement and excitement from our NY members, we’ll roll it out pretty quickly across the country,” Lyne says. As I mentioned, the company is looking at roughly 15 to 20 markets for City’s national roll out. Every market in this target group has at least 30,000 members, with some cities (like New York) obviously carrying far more. Although the larger expansion is at least months away, Lyne is already thinking about City’s next step. After we wrapped up the video portion of our interview, she mentioned her interest in a hyper local site, a “City” that focuses on key neighborhoods within a metropolitan area (Lyne mentioned Park Slope as an example). Groupon is also trying to get closer to its users, in April, Groupon’s Mason announced plans to launch sites for major suburbs and possibly split larger cities into subareas.

Gilt’s City has a long way to go before it catches up to the king of the local deal domain, or even its rivals, like LivingSocial. Groupon recently raised $135 million, putting its valuation well above the billion mark. However, even in its infancy, City is already a credible threat thanks to the Gilt engine and its huge user base. Gilt has a stunning war chest, with revenues on track to hit $450 million this year and don’t forget that $83 million in funding (just this month the company raised $35 million). Lyne did not disclose how much City has made so far, but she did provide one key example. Before City, Gilt experimented with the local deal by offering a discounted spa package (that was available in roughly 5-6 cities)— within 36 hours Gilt pulled in nearly half a million in revenues. Not a bad start.

ComiXology Brings A Flashy Comics Reader To The Web

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 03:26 PM PDT

With the advent of the iPad, the digital age of comics may finally be blossoming. The iPad as a reading device works best with visual media such as graphic novels and standard comic books. One of the best early apps on the iPad, for instance, is the Marvel Comics reader, which was developed by ComiXology, which also offers a general comics reader app for both the iPad and the iPhone with 1,700 titles across different publishers.

Now ComiXology is bringing that reading experience to the Web with a browser-based reader in beta. (Existing ComiXology users can sign in, others can sign up for an account). The Web reader lets you zoom into each panel and click arrow buttons to go to the next one. Or you can look at the whole page. It is not as satisfying as swiping with your fingers on an iPad, but it does the job if you are on your computer. If you’ve purchased comics in the iPhone or iPad apps, they are available in your library in the Web reader. There are also some freebie comics you can check out.

Unfortunately, the app is in Flash, which makes it look good, but also slows it down. There is some waiting around for the Flash circles to do their thing. But for heavy graphics apps, Flash is still the default. A competing comics app, Graphic.ly, is also available only in Flash via a nice-looking AIR app. If ComiXology made an HTML5 app, it wouldn’t have to have a separate iPad app, but maybe HTML5 isn’t quite ready for full-on comics just yet.

Another thing ComiXology lacks are any social features beyond ratings. Graphic.ly, in contrast, lets you follow other readers and comment directly on pages and panels. The homepage is a stream of comics-related activities which is supposed to help you discover and read new comics. ComiXology takes more of a the classic loner approach to reading comics and brings it online.

A Couple Websites Battle To Be Mayor Of Foursquare Mayor Battles

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 03:24 PM PDT

While some of the gaming elements of Foursquare have dried up (point leaderboards), mayorships continue to be a hot item. And now there are not one, but two sites that help you better track mayorships at local venues: When Will I Be Mayor? and Be The Mayor.

Be The Mayor is a simple site to show you what you’re up against in terms of becoming the mayor of a specific venue. You enter in the name of a venue (and the city it is in) to search for it, and you’ll be taken to a page that shows you the current mayor and highlights how many more check-ins you’ll need to topple them. There’s also a handy bookmarklet you can use to give you easy access to this data from any Foursquare venue page.

When Will I Be Mayor? is a bit more robust. It asks you to connect your Foursquare account via OAuth, and then shows you a list of your most recent check-ins. From this list, you can see who the current mayor of those venues is. And below that, it also shows you how many more check-ins it will require for you to become mayor there. But with When Will I Be Mayor, you can mark certain spots to be monitored so you can check back to see how you’re doing in pursuit of the mayorship. And you can sort venues by most and fewest number of check-ins (by you).

For those who have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, in order to become the mayor of a venue in Foursquare, you have to have the most check-ins (over two) at a venue over the past 60 days (there are a few other elements to it, but that’s basically it). While mayorships are a matter of pride amongst some, increasingly, they’re also about getting you good deals at venues you frequent.

When Will I Be Mayor is the work of developer Greg Avola while Be The Mayor is the work of The Barbarian Group.

Delicious Founder Joshua Schachter Leaves Google

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 02:44 PM PDT

Over a year after joining Google, Joshua Schachter, the founder of Delicious and a Yahoo exec until June 2008, is leaving the search giant, according to a Tweet he just sent out. Schachter sent out another Tweet shortly after the first message stating that he has “no clue what he’s doing next.” Schachter confirmed to us that he is in fact leaving Google.

When asked why he was leaving Google, Schachter told us that he “Felt like doing something new,” but apparently doesn’t know what that new project is. Yet. Schachter joined Google last January as an engineer and also continued his role as an independent angel investor. He tells us that he may slow down his investments in this next stage of his career.

Schachter of course is best known for founding bookmarking service Delicious, which was acquired by Yahoo in December of 2005. Schachter has been fairly vocal about his displeasure with the direction of Delicious and even launched his own threaded Twitter conversation application last Summer while at Google.

Schachter’s angel investments include Foursquare, SimpleGEO, Square, DailyBooth, Bump Technologies and most recently BlockChalk and 4chan founder Moot’s new startup Canvas Networks.


Post a Comment