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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Bing Gets A Foursquare Badge For The World Cup, With Thrillist Tips

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 08:47 AM PDT

World Cup mania is about to begin and that means one thing: it’s a social media branding opportunity! On Friday, in time for the first kickoff, Bing is going to release a World Cup badge on Foursquare which can be unlocked by people who follow Bing on the service.

The badge, which is a Bing soccer jersey (see leaked image), will be tied to bars and other venues in select U.S. cities such as New York, Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Seattle where fans will gather to watch the games. Some of the bars and restaurants will also have tips, which will come from Thrillist, and people who follow Bing and check into those places may be offered specials regardless of whether they earn the badge. (Incidentally, earlier this week Thrillist launched it’s own iPhone app, filled with its own reviews of bars, restaurants and shops sprinkled on a Google map. It was downloaded 10,000 times in the first 24 hours, and is currently one of the top free Lifestyle apps, although it would be better if it used the Foursquare API to allow you to check into places too).

So how do you find these soccer bars? Glad you asked. Bing will also be introducing a new Bing Map App on Bing Maps called HomeTurfFinder which will show you where you can watch World Cup matches in those select cities (see screenshot below), along with surfacing related Foursquare checkins and tips.

Bing is not the first brand to get a World Cup badge from Foursquare. CNN announced two badges on Tuesday in the image of a CNN soccer ball.

Sponsoring a World Cup badge is an easy way for big brands like CNN and Bing to get people to follow them on Foursquare. Who’s next for the hat trick?

MobileCrunch Reviews the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 08:42 AM PDT

Short Version: A long, long time ago, I can still remember, how the MyTouch 3G’s touchscreen used to make me cry. And I knew that if they had their chance, that T-Mobile could add a keyboard, and maybe we’d be happy for a while. And how May/June made me shiver because T-Mobile has delivered – a MyTouch with a keyboard as useful as a Sidekick’s.

T-Mobile has been on an Android roll lately. With a number of great devices – including the Granddaddy, the G1, and the older uncle, the MyTouch, the company essentially owns the Android space, at least in terms of handset availability. Obviously other folks – ahem Evo cough Droid – own the mindshare, but T-Mo is plugging away like a champ.

The introduction of the MyTouch Slide gives Blackberry and, more importantly, Sidekick lovers something to lust after. The device, which looks like the standard MyTouch 3G, slides down to reveal a small but usable keyboard.

Read more…

NYT Bans The Word Tweet “Outside Of Ornithological Contexts”

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 07:09 AM PDT

Too funny. According to The Awl, The New York Times standards editor Phil Corbett yesterday reportedly sent out a memo (below) to NYT writers asking them to severely cut down on the use of the word ‘tweet’ outside of “ornithological contexts”.

Corbett has been overseeing language issues for the paper’s newsroom since September 2009, and was previously in charge of revisions in the newsroom’s style manual as deputy news editor.

Update: Dave Itzkoff, who blogs for the Times, tweets that the report is indeed not true. Which makes it a perfect satirical piece worth sharing anyway. Update 2: Another New York Times staffer tells us privately that the memo is “100% real” and Itzkoff clarifies that it is not the memo’s existence he was denying.

Basically, Corbett supposedly argues that the word ‘tweet’ is silly and – at least not yet – standard English, and that many people, particularly those not on Twitter, have no idea what the word means. But NYT writers have apparently used the word as noun or a verb 18 times in articles in the past month, across various sections, he adds.

Yes, it’s kind of amusing that someone would actually keep count of that sort of thing, but it’s not that bad a point, in my opinion. I mean, I assume it’s fine for TechCrunch to regularly use the word tweet without having to wonder if our readers will grasp what we’re trying to say, but it might indeed be harder for your average Times reader.

Anyway, here’s the full memo (which we believe to be authentic):

How About "Chirp"?

Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, "tweet" has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.

Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And "tweet" — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.

Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don't want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.

One test is to ask yourself whether people outside of a target group regularly employ the terms in question. Many people use Twitter, but many don't; my guess is that few in the latter group routinely refer to "tweets" or "tweeting." Someday, "tweet" may be as common as "e-mail." Or another service may elbow Twitter aside next year, and "tweet" may fade into oblivion. (Of course, it doesn't help that the word itself seems so inherently silly.)

"Tweet" may be acceptable occasionally for special effect. But let's look for deft, English alternatives: use Twitter, post to or on Twitter, write on Twitter, a Twitter message, a Twitter update. Or, once you've established that Twitter is the medium, simply use "say" or "write."

Don’t forget to rechirp this post.

Akamai Acquires Mobile Web Development Company Velocitude

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 06:51 AM PDT

Content delivery and web services giant Akamai has acquired mobile web development company Velocitude a mobile services platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Velocitude helps companies with mobile web development in commerce and marketing applications. The startup’s technology helps deliver mobile content to websites in a variety of devices. The Velocitude Mobile Platform allows a consumer to purchase products, sign up and view accounts, see product information textually or by video, interact with social media sites and/or be alerted via SMS. Velocitude will be folded into Akamai’s mobile content delivery service.

Akamai just scored a huge deal to deliver streaming content for Netflix, with business steadily improving. And as more businesses are looking to bring content to the mobile web, Akamai is wise to boost its mobile content delivery platform.

Logitech launches 720p webcam streaming service

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 06:10 AM PDT

Logitech just announced its C line of webcams including the C910 ($100) with two mics for noise cancellation and 720p video calls. It ships in August. The C510 is more portable and folds up on itself for travel – it’s $60. Finally, you have the C310 and C270 ($50 and $40) that stream at 720p and little else. These last three ship in June.

I tried the webcams with Logitech’s new VidHD platform and made a video call with Logitech’s headquarters. The software is still in beta so I froze up a bit during the call but overall the experience was quite interesting. Compared to calling my parents over Skype, the resolution was surprisingly high and I could actually see my contact’s hair instead of a blur of pixels. The software is Mac and PC compatible.

Read more…

Box.net Moves Beyond Storage In The Cloud; Adds File Syncing To The Mix

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 06:00 AM PDT

Cloud-based storage and sharing application Box.net is getting into the syncing game today. The startup is unveiling Box Sync, an extension of the Box.net platform that connects users' desktops to Box.net's cloud-based content management and collaboration platform. With the Box Sync desktop client, users can sync Box.net folders with their desktops. The new feature is intended to help businesses allows employees to seamlessly sync and share content. The startup is essentially trying to bridge the desktop and the cloud with Box Sync.

Microsoft Mocks Google’s Copy-Cat Background Image Feature On Twitter

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 05:55 AM PDT

Microsoft Europe's communication team has used its Twitter account to make fun of Google's latest search page feature: the ability to add background images to said page, a feature that has characterized Microsoft's Bing search service since its debut. Google yesterday temporarily added a default background image to make more people aware of the new feature, which apparently prompted Microsoft Europe to tweet: "We've lost a background image, if found please return to bing.com ;)".

Phoenix Ditches Virtualization Product Line, Sells Assets To HP For $12 Million

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 05:33 AM PDT

Phoenix Technologies today announced that Hewlett-Packard has agreed to purchase the assets related to its HyperSpace, HyperCore and Phoenix Flip instant-on and client virtualization products. The consideration for the transaction is $12 million in cash and the closing is expected to occur this month.

England Vs USA – It’s The TechCrunch World Cup Face-Off

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 05:32 AM PDT

This Saturday England will play the USA in the South Africa World Cup 2010. Personally, I'm hoping England won't be as complacent as it was in 1950. Back then, the first World Cup saw after the Second World War saw the two teams face each other for the first time. After winning 23 of its preceding 30 games, England was feeling pretty confident. What did the Yanks know about football anyway? When the match kicked off on 29th June, the USA took the lead in the 38th minute. They won 1–0 (that's "One Nil" BTW). So we present for you our handy list of iPhone apps and sites to follow the World Cup action, and a taster of what it would be like if the two Englishmen on the TechCrunch team (myself and Paul Carr) faced-off against TechCrunch's Mike Arrington, Erick Schonfeld and MG Seigler.

Elsevier Acquires Semantic Technology Software Company Collexis

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 05:24 AM PDT

Elsevier, a juggernaut of a global publisher of scientific, technical, and medical information products and services, announced today the acquisition of assets from Collexis, a developer of semantic technology and knowledge discovery software. The acquisition is effective immediately and terms of the agreement are not being disclosed.

Crowdcast Raises $6 Million To Make Business Intelligence More Social

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 05:01 AM PDT

Crowdcast, a provider of social business intelligence (SBI) solutions, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from Alsop-Louie Partners. The company's name is a combination of the words 'crowd' and 'forecast', and its self-declared goal is to help companies find out what their people really know about their businesses, in order to make better strategic leadership decisions.

Game On – Playdom Begins European Invasion

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 04:59 AM PDT

Playdom, the Silicon Valley-based social games developer, has announced its intention to try and crack Europe. It's planning an aggressive roll out across the Atlantic, aiming to create localised versions - French, Italian, German and Spanish - of its top titles, which include Mobsters, Tiki Resort and Big City Life, by the end of this year. The company's games largely target Facebook and MySpace, although it also has offerings for iPhone and Hi5, among other platforms. The first of Playdom's games to be available fully localised will be Bola, a Facebook football game which brings arcade-style football to the popular social network. Already available as a beta, analytics firm Appdata lists it as the 41st most popular application on Facebook, says the company.

Appsfire Pulls Out Of iPhone App Store After 2 Month Wait

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 04:45 AM PDT

Apple's iPhone app store approval process is famed for its inconsistencies, but today the developer of a popular iPhone app has had enough. Appsfire, an app for discovering popular iPhone apps, was approved in its version 1.0 form last August, but after two months its version 2.0 has not been approved, despite repeated calls by the startup to Apple, they claim. In an excoriating blog post today, founder Ouriel Ohayon effectively accuses Apple of not approving its latest update because Apple wants to keep discoverability to itself:

eType Auto-Completes Your Writing. Everywhere. (1,000 Exclusive Invites)

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 04:00 AM PDT

It’s safe to assume that there’s no Web user out there that hasn’t experienced auto-complete. Whether on Google site search and toolbars, Facebook search, or on ecommerce sites like Amazon, auto-complete has become a de-facto usability feature. Its ubiquity means that there’s a very shallow learning curve for users to get accustomed to it when used outside of the browser setting, and that’s exactly what eType is banking on with its auto-complete-as-you-type product.

We have 1000 exclusive invites for TechCrunch readers! Get them while they’re hot, here.

Now before you cubbyhole eType as a utility strictly for non-English speakers, here’s an anecdote that may change your mind: There’s an Israeli company called WhiteSmoke, which developed software that enriches written English. The product was originally developed to assist non-native English speakers boost the quality of their writing in emails and such. Lo-and-behold, WhiteSmoke discovered that their main customers were actually native English speakers that bought the software to polish their writing. And they’ve been buying it in droves, for around $100 a pop.

The point I’m making is that native English speakers are very much part of the target audience for eType, and may easily constitute the majority of its userbase.

eType is completely free and a breeze to use. All you have to do is, well, um, type. By default, eType starts auto-completing words on the third letter, but this can be changed up or down. Word suggestions are based on machine-learning and offer the most probable suggestions, based on what the user is typing out. For example, eType is able to take into consideration that the word ‘running’ can have multiple contexts such as ‘running for office’, and ‘running a marathon’.

One thing to remember about eType is that it’s executable client software, as opposed to a browser plugin. The major benefit is that it allows eType to be used across any application, from word-processors, to browsers, to email clients. The major downside however, is that eType currently only supports Windows XP and above. I’m told touch interface support (iPhone/iPad, etc.) availability is expected by year’s end.

While eType can be used across any application, users can opt to disable it on applications of their choice. For example, some users may want to disable it on their IM application.

eType comes with English, Spanish, German French and Hebrew dictionaries. It also offers word translations to and from English to these languages. Definitions are pulled from Wiktionary and there’s even an English thesaurus built right in. New words can be added simply by typing them out naturally. These are added to users’ own personal dictionaries, but are also sent back to eType for review and possible inclusion in the universal dictionaries.

The founder of eType is Israeli serial entrepreneur Daniel Scalosub. He is known for founding DSNR, a web marketing company, along with a couple of sister companies in the same field. This means that eType has significant marketing muscle behind it. Today, eType is where Scalosub focuses his energy.

Everyone Can Now Move Data In And Out Of Amazon S3 Faster And Easier

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 03:32 AM PDT

Amazon Web Services this morning announced the general availability of AWS Import/Export for Amazon Simple Storage Service (aka S3), with a new web service interface that enables easy management of data transfers and migrations.

According to the press release, the new feature accelerates moving large amounts of data in and out using portable storage devices for transport. For large data sets, AWS Import/Export is said to be ‘significantly faster’ than transfers over the Internet.

The AWS Import/Export service isn’t brand new and was already available for a number of companies, but as of today is generally available. The price is $80.00 per storage device handled and $2.49 per data-loading-hour.

In addition, Amazon Web Services today also announced support for Amazon S3 in the AWS Management Console.

Video Featuring An iPad, iPhone, Facebook And Twitter. Also, A Wedding.

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 03:10 AM PDT

We’ve seen a marriage proposal on an iPad (again, congratulations Zach, you dork) but what we hadn’t seen yet – although I’m pretty sure this isn’t a first – is an actual wedding ceremony riddled with iPads, iPhones, status updating on Facebook and Twitter and whatnot.

My wife would have called everything off if I would have even suggested such a thing, but hey, whatever floats your boat. Congratulations to both of them. Live long and prosper.

After some hardcore investigative journalism, I found the Apple fanboi officiant on Twitter and TwitPic, and also discovered the Twitter accounts of the guy and the girl that got hooked.

Here’s the tweet that was sent during the ceremony and here’s the picture the groom took to go along with it (both embedded below for good measure).

(Thanks for the heads up, Edible Apple)

Spotify Launches On TVs In Sweden and Finland

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 01:23 AM PDT

Is Spotify's future in devices and services? Like "Intel inside", it's beginning to feel like Spotify - the hot streaming music service in Europe which is said to be prepping a US launch - may have a better future dealing with service providers and device manufacturers than trying to go direct to consumers. That at least is the impression as today it launched its streaming music service on TVs across Sweden and Finland as of today, partnering with a Nordic telecommunications giant to do it. TeliaSonera's 120,000 digital TV customers will now get instant, remote control access to Spotify, so long as they are existing Spotify Premium subscribers.

What Has Kai-fu Lee Done Since October?

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 01:08 AM PDT

I visited Kai-fu Lee's Innovation Works while I was in Beijing last week to see how things are going. When I last visited the ex-Google China CEO’s incubator, it was little more than empty, expensive office space. (Next to Google…prime poaching?)

Now, the offices are teeming with more than 100 people, most of whom are clustered in a nine very early-stage startups. Most of them are targeting mobile, but everything else Lee told me was off the record. (Sorry.) Suffice to say, the incubator is bursting at the seams and Lee doesn't seem content. Expect more news soon.

Lee is well known in China—see if you can spot his book on sale above in a train station of a second tier city. But there's some healthy skepticism about how Innovation Works will do. There's the critique that Lee knows multinationals more than he knows startups, and the critique that he gets too much press in the West. (Yes, I know I’m adding to that here.) There's also the critique that with so much money and entrepreneurship in China now–especially in Beijing–there’s not a huge need for an incubator.

I shot a quick video with Lee and asked him some of those questions. There’s a cool small-world moment at the end (which is hard to hear over my spazzy laughter) when I randomly meet one of Lee’s crew who says he met his partner at the Beijing TechCrunch meet up we did about a year ago. We’ll just take our stock whenever it's convenient.

Come On Yelp, Really? Dukes, Barons, And Kings Of Venues?

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 11:51 PM PDT

Obviously, companies copy one another’s ideas all the time. If something is working, sometimes it just makes a lot of sense. But sometimes it’s just a little pathetic. Tonight, we’re seeing a bit of that from Yelp.

The latest update to their iPhone app (4.2.1) includes a feature called Yelp Royalty. It rewards users with the most check-ins at a venue the title of “Duke” or “Duchess.” Those with the most titles in their neighborhood become the “Baron.” Those with the most it the city become the “King.” Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard of Foursquare.

Sure, Foursquare is a little different in that it allows you to become the “Mayor” of a venues, but come on. And the fact that mayor icons (inexplicably) include King crowns just add to this.

You may recall that back in January, Yelp added the ability to check-in to venues from their iPhone app. Again, yes, this was copying an idea laid out by a bunch of services before it (Foursquare being the most visible), but it seemed like fair game. It was simply taking a good idea, and laying it over Yelp’s substantial service. Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley didn’t like the idea too much at the time, but noted that Yelp “copied the wrong stuff.”

Maybe this time, they copied the right stuff. Can’t wait for Crowley’s post reacting to this one.

Google Adds A Background Image To Its Homepage By Default (At Least For 24 Hours)

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 09:34 PM PDT

A few days ago Google got slightly more Bing-ified when it started allowing users to customize their backgrounds (Bing has featured a rotating photo as its background since it launched). Today, Google is taking that a step further: it’s now featuring a background image by default on its homepage, even for users who haven’t activated the new feature.  It sounds like the homepage will be rotating through images for the next 24 hours — this is obviously meant to help raise awareness of the new feature.

It’s worth pointing out that there’s a possibility the current featured image seen above is depicting the BP oil spill tragedy (which The Next Web is claiming). But Google’s blog post doesn’t say anything about it. We’re guessing that it isn’t a photo of the oil spill, and will update once we’ve confirmed. Update: Looks like TNW pulled their post. Update 2: Nope, we’ve confirmed with Google that it definitely is not related to the oil spill.

Google’s Marissa Mayer writes in a blog post:

To provide you with an extra bit of inspiration, we've collaborated with several well-known artists, sculptors and photographers to create a gallery of background images you can use to personalize your Google homepage. Included in the collection are photographs of the works of Dale Chihuly, Jeff Koons, Tom Otterness, Polly Apfelbaum, Kengo Kuma (隈研吾), Kwon, Ki-soo (권기수) and Tord Boontje, as well as some incredible photos from Yann Arthus-Bertrand and National Geographic. We'll be featuring these images as backgrounds on the Google homepage over the next 24 hours.

Of course, since we want your Google homepage to be personal to you, you can still choose an image or photo from your computer or your own Picasa Web Album. Whether you select an image from our new artist collection or prefer to have a more personal touch on your homepage, you'll still enjoy the speed and ease of use that you've come to expect from Google.

What’s Missing From iPhone 4 Is Part Of What Makes It Great

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 08:45 PM PDT

On Monday, Apple officially unveiled the iPhone 4. After playing around with it for 20 minutes or so after the keynote, I can safely say that it’s the most impressive mobile device I’ve ever seen. But plenty of people (many of which have never used the phone) disagree. Their arguments are mainly predicated on what Apple didn’t include rather than what it did.

But what those people fail to understand is that this is exactly what makes the new iPhone (as well as the previous iterations) so solid.

During his keynote address on Monday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted that while Apple may not be the first to release features, they do so in a way that’s the best implementation.

Many people view this as absolute bullshit. But what that implies is that they think Apple simply cannot get features done in time — or that they will not do them for some reason. I have a hard time believing either of those is the case.

Jobs cited the iPhone’s cut, copy, & paste functionality as one example of Apple getting a feature right. I have to agree. For two years, everyone complained (myself included) that Apple didn’t have this functionality. Could Apple have done it sooner? Of course. But would it have been half-baked? Probably. Just look at how it works on other devices — or maybe I should say: look at how poorly it works on other devices compared to the iPhone. Most Android phones want you to use that damn ball to select text. Or worse, those arrow buttons at the bottom of the EVO’s horrid keyboard. It’s a nightmare.

Another popular example is background tasks (or multitasking). This feature is finally coming to the new iOS 4 after being on other devices for a few years. So was Apple dragging its feet out of incompetence? Or were they being stubborn? In their view, they were waiting to perfect the system that would not destroy battery life. Android’s background method is supposedly similar to what Apple will use, but it has issues (see: the EVO).

Most people haven’t yet seen third-party apps running in the background with iOS, so it’s hard to know exactly how well Apple has done here. (And I only got to play around with one app, Pandora, running in the background for a few minutes.) But a few developers I’ve talked to who have used the system say it’s by far the best combination of functionality and battery-saving techniques that they’ve seen. One told me that it basically doesn’t ding battery life at all.

In March of last year, I reported that I had heard from sources that Apple was talking about ways to bring background tasks to the iPhone. Even though it didn’t happen until now, by multiple accounts, Apple was working on it at the time. It’s just that it took Apple this long to perfect the system.

Most companies, seeing their competitors already doing something, would feel forced into releasing their own solution as quickly as possible. Not Apple. And I suspect this ends up being a big benefit for the users.

But those are things that currently now work on the iPhone or will soon be working. What about newer features that Apple left out of iPhone 4 (and iOS 4)? Here’s a list of 10 things from eWeek. Some are ridiculous (for the millionth time: Apple is not going to do a physical keyboard — nor should they), and some are just clearly (and sadly) not going to happen (Google Voice). But a few are things that come up somewhat regularly.

One is 4G support. The main problem here is that the iPhone is still exclusively tied to AT&T in the U.S., and AT&T has basically no 4G support yet (they have enough problems with their 3G support). If Apple made a version of the iPhone that worked on Sprint’s network (which recently rolled out the EVO 4G), then maybe we could talk — but they don’t.

More importantly, I’m not even sure we’ll see a 4G-capable iPhone next year. As Apple proved with the first iPhone (which wasn’t 3G despite 3G being fairly ubiquitous at the time), they care more about the overall experience than about being the first to have a nice-sounding feature. Users laughed at the notion that 3G capabilities severely dinged battery life — until the iPhone 3G came out and that’s exactly what happened.

With 4G, by all accounts, the battery ding is even worse. Also, 4G is still slowly deploying around the country, and some carriers (read: AT&T) won’t have it really deployed for a long, long time. In other words, don’t be surprised if next year Apple still doesn’t have a 4G version of the device. Everyone will bitch about it, but in Apple’s view, it likely just won’t be worth it yet.

Another feature brought up is over-the-air (OTA) updates. While eWeek seems to specifically be talking about OTA firmware updates (does anyone really care about that so much?), the more pressing issue is the ability to sync things wirelessly on your iPhone. Currently, you can only truly do that with certain MobileMe elements (like Calendar, Contacts, etc). But in his post a couple days ago, my colleague Jason Kincaid brought up his disappointment that over-the-air syncing of things like apps and music wasn’t in iOS yet.

This is a fair point both because it would be very useful, and because it’s baked into the latest version of Android, 2.2. But we have yet to see exactly how well this system with work with Android 2.2. The on-stage demos at Google I/O were impressive, but it probably wouldn’t have been made into a demo if it weren’t. The proof will be in the real-world usage of this feature.

Apple is clearly thinking about how best to do this as well. Jobs said as much during the D Conference a few weeks ago, and Apple has even blocked applications that do something similar (a sign that they’re likely working on it — and that they don’t want third parties touching the iTunes/iPhone sync interaction). Make no mistake: this feature will be coming to the iPhone. And I would bet it will be here next year. And if Apple is able to get its iTunes-in-the-cloud service off the ground in time, it could be a lot easier than people are thinking right now.

The point to all of this is that one of the things that makes the iPhone great is that Apple is so deliberate and meticulous in the features they choose to focus on and implement. Could Apple include more features? Of course. But anytime you try to do more, you take focus away from the key things you want to get done. It’s something that’s so obvious it almost needs to be restated.

It’s the same reason why startups that focus on creating as many features as possible often fare worse than those that focus on a few key ideas. The ones that keep it simple are able to execute much better. Apple (which likes to think of itself as the “world’s biggest startup”) is no different, and the iPhone is a testament to that.

The conspiracy theorists will say that Apple holds back features to be able to sell more devices the next time around. I believe it’s much less about that, and more about focusing on a core group of features that matter the most — and nailing them. Judging by both sales figures and customer satisfaction reports, the strategy is working. And the iPhone 4 — even without 4G, OTA updates, a physical keyboard, etc, etc, etc — will prove that once again.

AT&T Security Breach Exposes Thousands Of iPad Owners’ Emails (But Luckily, Little Else)

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 08:00 PM PDT

A security flaw in one of AT&T’s customer-identification scripts has allowed a group of 4chan-associated hackers to extract as many as 114,000 email addresses of iPad owners. AT&T has apologized and explained the flaw and data leaked. Essentially, a bit of open information (the SIM card’s ICC-ID) was tied to a piece of private information (the iPad owner’s email address) so that on encountering certain AT&T fields, it would automatically fill in the field with the appropriate email. Think the “Remember this password?” notifications that pop up when you register for a site, but a little more low-level.

The hackers, a group known as Goatse Security (I’ll let you work out the reasoning for the name yourself), organized a brute-force attack in which they pummeled a public AT&T script with semirandom ICC-ID numbers, which would return nothing if invalid but an email address if valid. A few hours later, they had the ICC-IDs and email addresses of everyone from Michael Bloomberg and Diane Sawyer to a Mr. Eldredge, who commands a fleet of B-1 bombers.

Continue reading…

Hello, Can We Speak To Nokia’s Steve Jobs? … Hello?

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 03:53 PM PDT

For the last few weeks I've become increasingly fascinated by someone at Nokia. That person is Anssi Vanjoki. Vanjoki is an interesting guy. Last year he was named as one of the 25 most influential people on the Web. Why? He is Nokia's most visible advocate of what Nokia still, perhaps rather quaintly, calls its "multimedia computers". And he's not some grey executive. Back in 2002 he was awarded what was believed at the time to be the most expensive speeding ticket ever, $103,600, after being caught breaking the speed limit on his Harley Davidson motorcycle in Helsinki. But this week he hasn't been quite so visible. As Apple and Steve Jobs unveiled the fourth generation of the iPhone in San Francisco, there appeared to be not a murmur from Nokia, still the world's largest maker of cell phones. Where was Anssi's thundering response? We called Nokia.

Sideways: The First iPad-Only Magazine Is About . . . The iPad

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 03:32 PM PDT

While the print magazine industry is hanging its hopes on the iPad to lead it to the digital promised land where people actually pay for digital editions, it is still stuck with adapting a product designed for paper to the screen. But what if you threw the paper out to begin with and started with a magazine meant to be read only on the iPad? If you do that, you get Sideways, a mag app that claims to be the first iPad-only magazine. Its first issue is on sale now in the App Store for $3.99.

Sideways is an iPad magazine that covers, well, the iPad. There are articles about apps for the iPad and music for the iPad and training for a marathon with the iPad (my tip is you leave it at home). “You have a built-in demographic,” says CEO Charles Stack. “Who are the readers? The people who own an iPad.” There are also other articles which would appeal to that affluent, techy demographic. The first issue has a lot of World Cup themed articles, including one on World Cup apps, a guide with venues and dates, and a primer on how to fake your way through the World Cup.

So what makes it different than Wired‘s successful iPad mag or Time‘s. “It was ground-up designed for the iPad, not an adaption of a print magazine,” says Stack, who founded Books.com in the early 1990s before he sold it to Barnes & Noble. The articles are laid out in a familiar magazine format, taking advantage of the iPad’s large screen and lovely fonts. Video and audio is also blended in where a photo or graphic might be in a print magazine (still, nothing too radical here—Wired and Time are doing the same thing). You scroll through pages up and down like on the Web, not sideways, which is silly given the name of the magazine and the fact that side-swiping is becoming the norm for iPad magazine apps.

Where it starts to be different is when it departs from the printed word and starts to feel more like an app. For instance, the article on World Cup stadiums and dates pops open a map studded with all the stadiums across South Africa.  There is an interactive timeline of the entire iPhone product family in another article. And there is a photo gallery app which shows large, full-screen high-res photos from events that occurred over the past month.  It is kind of Life 2.0.

Sideways has six full-time staffers, a lot of freelancers, and is based in Cleveland, Ohio.  It is self-funded.  For now there are no ads, but the music reviews all have affiliate links to the iTunes store.  And you can imagine similar arrangements with Amazon affiliate links for reviews of other types of products.  Stack sees Sideways as a flagship product for a publishing platform he will eventually license to other magazine and book publishers.

New ideas are more likely to come from people like Stack and others outside the industry.  Still, I think charging $3.99 a pop for a digital magazine is going to be a hard sell, especially once we start getting the same experience on the Web.

Robed “Prophets” March In Front Of Apple’s WWDC Heralding “The End Of Native”

Posted: 09 Jun 2010 03:17 PM PDT

Minutes ago as I strolled down the streets of downtown San Francisco, an unusual sight caught my eye (which is saying something in SF): a man, decked out in what appeared to be Jedi Robes, was pacing the street in front of the Moscone Center with a large sign hoisted over his head predicting “The End Of Native”. One woman asked him if he was supposed to be a Jedi. “No,” he replied. “I’m a prophet.”

The “prophet” in question was on the wrong side of the street, but it didn’t take long to figure out that he was protesting Apple’s WWDC developer conference, which is in full swing this week. Three other men are currently marching in front of the conference center dressed in similar garb, each of them holding a sign with a different slogan — things like “Do not try and bend 3.3.1. That’s impossible” and “No one can be told what the End of Native is. You have to see it for yourself.” Each sign instructs viewers to head to endofnative.com.

I asked one of the ‘prophets’ for more information, and he directed me to the group’s website, which is bare save for this message:

Lately, some prophets of doom have been predicting the end of native applications. Well, we don't agree. After all, can you imagine playing "Plants vs. Zombies" in a browser. At the same time, we're sad about the state of mobile web development. Does it have to be quite so primitive? So hard to develop cross-platform? And so… well, so ugly? We think not.

Next week, a new company will introduce a new generation of mobile application frameworks. It uses HTML5 to produce amazing user experiences. It's cross platform, it's easy to develop with, but most of all, it's really quite beautiful. We think it will gladden your hearts and lift your souls.

To learn more, follow us on Twitter @endofnative, or leave us your email. (No spam, we promise!)

Obviously this is all a marketing ploy for an upcoming product, but it’s pretty funny (especially since these outfits were almost certainly repurposed Jedi costumes). I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from these guys in a week. Note that the website’s message is saying that the end of native isn’t coming, but that a new HTML5-based mobile framework is.

This all of course stems from the long-standing tension between developers and the App Store’s increasingly restrictive rules (the aforementioned 3.3.1 is the rule that banned developers from using cross-compiling tools, like the one Adobe made to allow Flash apps to be used on the iPhone). When Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked off his keynote at WWDC earlier this week, he addressed this, explaining that developers would have to follow the rules on the curated App Store but were free to do whatever they wanted in the browser. That obviously didn’t satisfy everyone.


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