Twitter Continues Talent Scoop, Takes Digg’s UX Guy

candleIconFresh off their new $100 million funding round, Twitter continues to scoop up talent from around the web to expand operations. The latest catch is Mark Trammell, who had spent the last two years working on user experience for Digg. Trammell will start his new job at Twitter in a week on the design team working to build a user research program.

Trammell is the latest in a series of long-time employees to leave Digg in recent months. In May, former lead architect Joe Stump announced he was leaving to do a new mobile location startup (now called SimpleGeo) with former SocialThing founder Matt Galligan. A couple of weeks ago, Digg’s design lead Daniel Burka, announced he would be joined Tiny Speck, the new social gaming startup led by former Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield.

Despite the loses, Digg still has no real peer in terms of size in the social news space. Founder Kevin Rose recently spoke with Sarah Lacy backstage at TechCrunch50 about what is going right with Digg.

Trammell sounds particularly enthusiastic about his new gig:

I’ll be working with a new set of folks I admire (Doug Bowman, for instance) on a site that is changing the way the world communicates. Did I mention I’m excited? ‘Cause I am.

Trammell notes that despite his new job, he will continue to advise Digg on user research. Meanwhile, Twitter is rapidly approaching 100 employees.

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Three-year effort knocks ThinkPad boot time down to 30 seconds

lenovo_thinkpad_w700_3Lenovo, the world’s fourth largest PC maker, is rushing to claim the fastest boot-up and shutdown times for Windows 7 on its ThinkPad laptops and ThinkCentre desktop machines.

Why does a PC need to boot in 30 seconds instead of 60? Because boot time is one of the major factors that buyers focus on when shopping for a new computer. Shoppers use a computer’s boot time to gauge its overall performance, so it’s worth it for Lenovo to commit a full-time Velocity team in North Carolina to the sole job of speeding up boot and shutdown times.

A story in Computerworld recounts the geeky details of speed boosts that Lenovo engineers wrung from the company’s computers by searching for every possible way to knock a fraction of a second from boot time and from shutdown time. Here’s a list of just a few of them:

  • Fixing the source code of device drivers that had been written to the worst acceptable specifications.
  • Hiding some devices from the computer while it’s booting, then loading them afterwards.
  • Hiding those nagging self-updating Adobe applications until after Windows is fully booted.

Even if you can’t follow all the nerdspeak, Computerworld’s story is a good read that shines a light on just how much work goes into making a computer boot up a few seconds faster. There’s an unwritten insight in the article: For all the time we spend using our computers, we can’t stand to wait a few seconds for them to boot, or to shutdown. It seems to be hardwired human behavior, like the urge to throw a mobile phone in aggravation. Lenovo’s Velocity team can take pride in making the world’s information workers, impatiently toe-tapping in line at Starbucks, just a little less peevish.


Helmet-Cam Captures Amazing Avalanche Footage [NewTeeVee]

If you were to make a movie about experiencing an avalanche, you could only hope it would look like this. The view from the top of the snow-covered mountain, with the skier pointing to his planned run, then the first few turns in fresh powder, the fault lines forming in the snow, the out-of-control tumble, the stillness of being buried alive, four-and-a-half minutes of heavy breathing and agony, and then the rescuer’s shovel opening up the view to a blue sky — all captured from the vantage point of a helmet cam. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it’s crazy that it’s been captured and posted online.

Avalanche Skier POV Helmet Cam Burial & Rescue in Haines, Alaska from Chappy on Vimeo.

The video, posted by Vimeo user Chappy, was captured in April 2008 by a customer on a heli-ski trip in Haines, Alaska. (”Chappy” was snowmobiling nearby that day, he writes on Vimeo, though some of his group rode the same helicopter as the skier caught in the avalanche.) The skier fell 1,500 feet in 20 seconds, but escaped without broken bones. He was saved by his right glove, which flew off as he was falling and led the rest of his group to where he was buried. Chappy writes:

And then the digging out is utterly amazing. I don’t think that you could’ve paid a Hollywood crew to stage something better. The fact that he could’ve been facing any 360 direction and yet he’s looking right up into the sun-filled blue sky with that first full scoop away of the shovel is borderline spiritual.

O2’s Reign Ends: Orange to Sell iPhone [TheAppleBlog]


orange-logoAnd just like that, O2’s reign of terror comes to an end. This month sees the end of O2’s exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in the United Kingdom, and Orange has already announced it has a deal in place with Apple to sell the device. From the Orange UK news page:

Orange UK and Apple have reached an agreement to bring iPhone 3G and 3GS to Orange UK customers later this year. Orange globally now offers iPhone in 28 countries and territories.

Orange, which has the largest 3G network covering more people in the UK than any other operator, will sell iPhone in all Orange direct channels including Orange shops, the Orange webshop and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners.

Orange doesn’t say anything about pricing, plans or even the date the iPhone will become available, but does offer a webpage where customers can register their interest.

At the time of writing this article, O2’s home page, news pages and much of their usual website is “temporarily unavailable”, but Macworld UK has the text of a statement issued by O2 (though they don’t offer a link to the source):

According to Macworld, O2 says:

We’re proud that we’ve been able to offer an exclusive iPhone deal to our 20 million customers for the last two years. We always knew that iPhone exclusivity was for a limited period of time, but our relationship with Apple continues and will be an ongoing success. We have over 1million iPhone customers and they remain very important to us.

Interestingly, while speaking of a continued relationship with Apple, O2 has (somewhat paradoxically) used the opportunity to talk-up the Palm Pre.

We aim to offer our customers the best devices on the market, including becoming the home of Smartphones and we are really pleased to now add another device in the Palm Pre.

Home of smartphones, eh? In the dark ages before the iPhone, I was, for many years, a Windows Mobile customer with O2. And life was hard. Those phones were expensive and inexpertly supported by O2 who, it seemed to me, treated its premium-paying smartphone customers at best as something of an oddity, and, at worst, second-class citizens. It might have been the home of smartphones, but in my experience, it wasn’t a happy home.

And yet, life as an iPhone customer with O2 hasn’t been so bad — and certainly not as appalling as our American friends’ experiences with AT&T. We’re lucky not to have been plagued with dropped calls and painfully limited service. We also got MMS months ago, pretty much when Apple announced it, and not many months later.

But life on O2 has been expensive. Unlimited data comes with a fairly high price when compared with more reasonable data plans available elsewhere. (O2, apparently, knows it can squeeze its iPhone customers for the extra pennies.)

Hopefully the competition from Orange (and, potentially, other operators down the line) means that prices will start to fall, not only on the tariffs themselves but also on the actual handsets. We may also see an end to insanely expensive upgrade ‘settlements’ such as the one UK customers faced earlier this year, when the only way to ‘upgrade’ from the iPhone 3G to 3GS was for a customer to “buy out” their contract as well as pay the premium price for the new handset. (For anyone mid-way through their eighteen month contract, that was far more expensive than simply buying a 3GS handset sans-contract and simply swapping the SIM cards.)

Of course, competition-induced lower prices doesn’t necessarily mean the return of the attractive subsidy pricing we saw when the 3G was released, but it surely should mean lower prices across the board than those we have endured since 2007.

I can’t wait to see how the competition affects the pricing and promotion of Apple’s next iPhone revision in 2010…

Create Your Own “Extended Warranty” Fund to Self-Insure Purchases [Saving Money]

It's nearly impossible to make an electronic or appliance purchase without being offered an extended warranty. Turn down those over-priced extended warranties and set up your own protection fund. Photo by pasukaru76.

Every once in a great while you hear about someone who benefited from having an extended warranty, but chances are it's never been you. Retailers make piles of cash off extended warranties that are never needed—on many sales, the profit from selling the extended warranty is more than from selling the actual item.

Frugality blog FiveCentNickel offers an alternative to extended warranties:

Instead of buying warranty after warranty, why not create an "extended warranty fund." In other words, whenever a retailer offers you an extended warranty, simply transfer that amount of money into a dedicated savings account.

If/when problems arise, you can simply pay for the repairs (or replacement) out of your warranty fund. And once the fund builds up to a sufficiently healthy size, you can back off on your contributions.

There are two main benefits to self-insuring in this way. First, you'll get to earn interest on the money as it accrues. Second, you'll be the one that gets to keep the cash when your stuff doesn't break.

After a string of particularly good luck, you may even find yourself with a surplus of money that you can transfer to another account. Have your own trick for setting aside money for repairs and replacements without throwing money away on warranties? Let's hear about it in the comments.



Android Ecosystem — This Week in Android [jkOnTheRun]

apndroid-off-200x300Welcome to our newest Monday feature — Android Ecosystem! Last time, we were crossing our fingers in hopes that the Rockville Android MID concept would find a home in the retail world. Pocketables confirms that RAmos Digital officially outed the device with 4.8-inch touchscreen, 600MHz CPU, and Wi-Fi late in the week. While there’s no availability just yet, the early pricing of around $200 will surely generate interest in this Android-powered handheld. I’m happy with my phones, so a non-phone Android handheld is appealing to me over another phone.

One of the common complaints of Android phones is the constant data connection, which can eat through a battery pretty quickly. Enter APNdroid, which got a very brief review and mention over the weekend by the Android Guys. The app provides an easy method to turn off your data connections without interrupting your handset’s ability to make or receive calls or text messages. Essentially, your 3G or EDGE connection can be closed down or opened up to help manage battery life.

Continuing with the Android phone theme, Brighthand says the specs of Acer’s A1 are above average when compared to other Android handsets currently available. eXpansys offers up the details: resolution of 800 x 480 crammed into a 3.3-inch display, a 768MHz Qualcomm CPU, 256MB of RAM and a 5 megapixel autofocus camera. Even better is a wide range of bands for data support — the A1 will can handle 7.2Mbps HSDPA in the 850, 1900 and 2100MHz frequency range.

Productivity Tricks from the Stars [Workflow]

In their new-to-us "Lifehacking"* section, Slate asks a few celebrities what kind of tricks they use to get things done. Here are my favorite responses.

Photo by Benimoto.

Patty Stonesifer, chairwoman of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents:

I do a short exercise with every request that comes through-I ask myself "If I had to do this today, would I be glad?"

Judd Apatow, director:

I am always driven by the terror of humiliation.

Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York:

There is nothing like an incipient deadline and three cups of coffee to get the job done.

Curtis Sittenfeld, author:

Politely saying no can free up astonishing amounts of time. I'm still trying to learn how.

* Just a note: I love you, Slate, but as Danny O'Brien originally coined the term, it's "life hack" (two words) not "lifehack."

Smarterware is Lifehacker editor emeritus Gina Trapani's new home away from 'hacker. To get all of the latest from Smarterware, be sure to subscribe to the Smarterware RSS feed. For more, check out Gina's weekly Smarterware feature here on Lifehacker.



App Store: 2 Billion Apps Served [TheAppleBlog]


apps_iphone

Marking another base-10 milestone, Apple has announced that as of today, more than 2 billion applications have been downloaded from its wildly successful App Store.

Further, there are now more than 85,000 apps available to more than 50 million iPhone and iPod touch users in some 77 countries. The iPhone Developer Program now has more than 125,000 participants.

Those are some big, big numbers, and not surprisingly pleasing to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Noting that more than half a billion apps were downloaded in just this quarter, Jobs declared that the “App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.”

Well, except for those Google Voice customers, maybe, but there is no denying that the App Store is the latest Next Great Thing from Apple. Its success has rivaled that of the Last Great Thing, the iPod, and in a shorter time frame. It took four years for the iPod to become the standard for media-playing devices, but the App Store has achieved its current position in 14 months.

The App Store opened on July 11, 2008 with 500 available apps. Six months later, some 15,000 apps had been downloaded half a million times. About three months after that, the App Store had its billionth download and a catalog of some 35,000 apps. Now, five months later, downloads have doubled again and the catalog has more than doubled. Despite legitimate concerns over the app review process, it appears there is no stopping the App Store, especially with the imminent introduction of the iPhone in China.

Ten billion apps downloaded in 2010, anyone?

Tweetimag.es: An End To Broken Twitter Avatars

Screen shot 2009-09-28 at 11.24.37 AMWith more and more developers building services on top of Twitter, more and more are also using Twitter’s avatars as the primary icons for their services. That’s great because for the user it means one less image to upload to yet another service. The problem with this is that if a user changes that avatar on Twitter, it could break it on the new service without you realizing it. So former Digg lead architect and current Crash Corp. co-founder Joe Stump has created a simple service to get around that problem.

Called Tweetimag.es, basically the service allows developers to replace their calls to Amazon’s S3-hosted Twitter images and instead use a shorter img.tweetimag.es URL that will always pull your most recent Twitter avatar. So something like this:

http://a1.twimg.com/profile_images/396076570/Screen_shot_2009-09-03_at_2.04.12_AM.png

Can be replaced by this:

http://img.tweetimag.es/i/parislemon_o

As you can plainly see, the tweetimag.es URL is much preferred. And you can easily get different sized thumbnails simply by replacing the “_o” with “_m” for a 24×24 pixel avatar, “_n” for a 48×48 one, “_b” for a 73×73 one.

Stump envisions that developers may want to use Twitter usernames in a way similar to how email address are used for Gravatar images. With his solution, this will be possible.

Screen shot 2009-09-28 at 11.24.13 AM

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

Abu Dhabi looks to raise $600M for renewable energy hub, Masdar City

Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned energy company, announced over the weekend that it will be raising between $300 and $600 million to start construction on Masdar City, the massive planned hub for cleantech research and innovation, especially in the renewable energy sector. As its name suggests, the development will also be a zero-carbon, zero-waste city for about 50,000 residents, the government in the Unite Arab Emirates capital claims.

masdar_city_aerial_shot_q

Today, the company followed up with more news that Masdar City will be home to the Persian Gulf’s first geothermal energy facility, which will be used to power its 5-megawatt air conditioning system. Engineers will start drilling wells as soon as Nov. 1. Water will be pushed into these hot wells to be converted into steam, which will then turn turbines. This project alone is estimated to cost $11 billion. So far, it has signed one $1.6 million contract with Reykjavik Geothermal, a company from Iceland, where Geothermal expertise runs deep. Masdar says it plans to recruit five to six more contractors by the end of 2009.

Last year, the price tag on the so-called Masdar Initiative was $15 billion — but it has grown quickly since. Most of the money will be used for the town’s infrastructure, but some will provide financial underpinnings for the research organizations setting down roots there, including the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and a host of green energy ventures. Last year, the Masdar Clean Tech Fund funneled $250 million into these companies.

The $600 million sought would give the project seven years of runway, enough time to complete the first phase of construction. Dow Jones’ VentureWire reported that Masdar shot down rumors that it was also seeking $18 billion from international banks.

Other than the recent geothermal development, the bulk of Masdar City’s energy will come from solar sources, including a 500-megawatt solar-thermal plant and a 100-megawatt concentrating solar array (in which mirrors are used to concentrate sunlight on solar cells for greater output). It also plans to make major investments in thin-film solar arrays. Hydrogen fuel cells will provide a substantion amount of power, as well.


Newegg’s IPO Filing Reveals The Financials Behind A $2 Billion Electronics Retailer

Electronics retailer Newegg plans to raise $175 million for an IPO, according to an SEC filing. The online retailer sells IT products, including computer hardware and software; and consumer electronics through its website. In the filing, the retailer says that it has been profitable every year since 2001 and posted sales of $2.1 billion in 2008.

Newegg’s net income increased 55 percent in 2008, to $28.4 million. Sales increased 13 percent to $2.1 billion in 2008, and have just more than doubled since 2004, when sales were $982 million. As a retailer, NewEgg’s’s profit margins are slim. It was only 1.4% in 2008. Amazon’s profit margins are around 3.3%, which is double Newegg’s margins. Reaching a 3.3% margin may the best Newegg can hope for. And while Newegg is seeing decent revenue growth, retail is tough, especially when your biggest competition is Amazon.

In the filing, the retailer admits that it is playing in a tough field that’s chock full of other players. Newegg says that there are “intense competitive efforts” directed at them from rivals that have greater financial resources (i.e. Amazon), giving investors no assurance that Newegg will be able to compete against the big guys.

As with any IPO, investors will be looking for growth potential and whether Newegg can expand those profit margins over time. In order to double its profits, it can either double its revenues to $4 billion or double its profit margins to match Amazon’s. Which one is more likely to happen first if at all? Would you invest in Newegg?

Click on the financials below to enlarge.

Newegg financials

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TechCrunch50 Conference 2009: September 14-15, 2009, San Francisco

StatShot: Gleeks Love Tweets [NewTeeVee]

Don’t stop believin’ in FOX’s musical comedy Glee. For the second week in a row the show is racking up impressive social buzz on Twitter, according to the latest stats from Trendrr.

Glee rocked the week with a high of 71,555 tweets on Thursday. The ratings-challenged Heroes took second with a high of 34,734 tweets.

Oprah got a nice bump towards the end of the work week, fueled probably by the tell-not-just-all-but-way-too-much appearance of MacKenzie Phillips. Blech. Bad Twitter, bad, bad, Twitter!

newteevee_sept21-27

Free Squiz Business Cards for WebWorkerDaily Readers [WebWorkerDaily]

SquizDisp8_5680As Darrell noted in “Business Card Alternatives For the Real World,” the traditional business card doesn’t have the same impact that it once did. Squiz Cards are small (2.1″ x 1.1″), full-color, waterproof cards that won’t tear or get worn edges. Each set of 50 cards comes with a handy keyring dispenser, so you’ll always have your cards with you. You can design your cards using the browser-based editor, and cards can be shipped worldwide.

Editor_screenshot

The folks at Squiz have kindly offered some free cards to WebWorkerDaily readers — the first 25 people to comment on this post will each get a set of 50 cards. (Make sure to use your real email address when commenting.)

“Walk or Bus?” Chart Helps Determine What’ll Get You There Faster [Public Transit]

If you live in a city where walking and public transportation are the default modes of travel, weblog Visualmotive offers a chart and simple formula to help determine whether you should wait for the next bus or just hoof it.

According to the site, applying the following rule of thumb will help determine whether you should walk or wait for the bus:

If you have N blocks to travel, you should only wait for the bus if it is less than N minutes away.

Visualmotive has also come up with a corresponding chart (see it in full at the site) to advise you on whether you should walk or bus.

Check it out, then browse previously mentioned public transportation services PublicRoutes and Hopstop to help find local walking and public transportation directions to your destination. Got your own useful rule of thumb for whether or not you're going to wait for the next bus/train or just put on your walking shoes? Let's hear your tips in the comments.



What Early Birds Want to Know About the Real-Time Web

The real-time web is a broad and rich phenomenon emerging online. A wide variety of companies are building and using it in really diverse ways. YourVersion offers a real-time discovery engine for finding streams of content about topics you're interested in. Aardvark is using friends of friends networks, profile data built up over time and presence information ("the real-time web of people") to deliver answers to almost any question you can ask it. Kaazing uses HTML5 WebSockets to open secure, persistent connections to push data and allow financial institutions to use web interfaces instead of installed software, often for the first time. Those are just three of the many different companies on the cutting edge of the real-time web.

Because this field is so new and is seeing such breadth of innovation, people have a lot of questions about it. Next month we're hosting a full-day event to engage with those questions together, called the ReadWrite Real-Time Web Summit. Below are some of our favorite questions that Early Bird registrants said last week that they want to tackle

Sponsor

These are not the kind of questions you can get answers for by having a media pundit interview the CEO of a company on stage. To get answers to these kinds of questions one needs the exploration and input of people in the trenches of making it all work. We are creating an opportunity for these kinds of questions to get answered at the summit.

What are your big questions about the real-time web?:

How do we SWIM in the real time web stream? Access to the conversation by diving into the "stream" is an amazing, emerging meme - but managing the massive amounts of data, and community touch points that come along with it could drown a person! How do we manage it? Harness the power of the real-time web, not just tread water - hunt and peck - dip in and out? How do we SWIM?

Last year we happened across one of Kaliya Hamlin's unconference events, spent a couple of hours there and it was an amazing experience. I'm really looking forward to the real-time web summit. The unconference format is an amazing way for things to happen, it gets everyone to lower their defenses. By opening peoples' minds to 'this is about whatever we want it to be about', they look at how they can create value.
-Martin Källström, CEO, Twingly
How does one evaluate the credibility of real-time information?

How can we make the web real-time while keeping it distributed? How does the decentralized version work?

How are open standards going to push the real-time web forward?

How does it change our relationships? How does it change the way information moves? How does it change business? How does it change customer support and services?

What's it all mean? How active do I have to be in filtering incoming stuff? Who's making it mobile?

What are the ways that the real-time web will alter user behavior? What are the specific business problems the RTW will help solve?

What kind of infrastructure are people deploying to cope with real-time computing needs (which are much more demanding than static content)?

Does real-time web have an appeal to the larger masses and not just the 100-200k active early adopters?

Will companies segment the market by real time vs. delayed as with stock quote services?

Why did it take so long to get here?

What is the real-time web's applicability to real-world users; how the real-time conversation is inherently limited; how it will be dominated by Twitter in the near term?

How is the real-time web changing the practice of crafting public policy both for those within government and those outside? How can grassroots organizations organize their activists to use the real-time web to enhance popular influence in legislative processes?

Real-time seems like a feature, not an entire product. I want to talk to people about what the entire product looks like, what it should do, and how this new entire product relates to our existing notions of keyword-based search?

I want to hear what other people are going to do with it? A world where everyone is connected 24/7 with very low latency and "high" bandwidth will mess up social conventions.

What are the new user paradigms for aggregating, filtering and sharing real-time streams?

What are the services I can use to enable it for my site? What are things other people are making that I can connect to? What are the potential uses for it that I'm not thinking of?

What is happening with conversation analysis and realtime relational analysis (uses for advertising, marketing) Real-Time Analytics, Collective Intelligence, and Business Intelligent?

Are we building what "real" users want; for mainstream adoption? Where are the use cases demonstrating real-world need? Where's the money? How to deal with user experience, interaction design, issues in new social tools?

Those are some of the questions early registrants say they want to explore. Later this week we'll share a list of some of the topics registrants say they plan on leading discussions or presenting on. We hope you'll register today to discuss these questions with us.

Discuss


Change the world! Launch your Smart Grid company at GreenBeat 2009

GreenBeat2009 logoTo avoid environmental catastrophe within the next century, we, as a world, desperately need to cut carbon emissions.

If you’re an entrepreneur, this is the calling of a lifetime — there’s massive economic opportunity here. That’s why VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat 2009, the seminal conference on the emergence of a “Smart Grid” — the movement toward a cleaner, more efficient electrical grid — one that champions transparency and puts consumers back in charge of how much power they use, and more importantly, how much they pay for it. We’ve got everyone coming, from former Vice President Al Gore (father of the Smart Grid), to John Doerr, a leading Silicon Valley investor with Kleiner Perkins (see his piece here), to Laura Ipsen, VP and GM of Cisco’s Smart Grid Business Unit, to executives from the leading utilities like PG&E.

We’re also looking for the biggest, boldest ideas entrepreneurs have to change the way we think about, build and use the existing grid. To spotlight these ideas, we’re holding a competition to award the best disruptors in the business. More details are below.

Today, the country’s energy market is at least $1 trillion. And if you look at the proposals being bandied about, tens of billions of dollars are on the move. In some areas, value is being destroyed (inefficiencies are being ironed out and old power plants are being phased out). But in other areas, value is being created (alternative energy projects built, smarter software installed, jobs created).

Heavy regulation and focus on efficiency means that large utilities won’t be able to keep generating more and more power, but they’ll resist change if they don’t see financial incentives. Federal and state governments are now anticipating this problem, and the legislative environment is ripe for breakthrough.

The Obama administration may be distracted by the healthcare debate today, but eventually, it push forward on the controversial Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, mandating a carbon trading system. Obama knows the U.S. needs to save face at the United Nations’ climate summit in Copenhagen in December. The House has already passed the bill, which would reduce gas emissions sharply. eric-schmidtIt now hinges on the Senate. All this should be coming to a head around the time of our conference on Nov. 19.

Despite what critics say, the cost of these legislative measures will be relatively little, and the benefits huge. California illustrates this best. It has led the nation in efficiency, establishing strong renewable energy requirements, and decoupling utility revenue from how much power their customers use (giving them reason to actually help people conserve). As a result, consumers and businesses alike have redirected their energy spending to other goods and services, creating more than a million jobs with a payroll of more than $45 billion, according to an estimate by Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive (pictured here), who wrote a good column on this over the weekend.

powermeterThe opportunities are so big that even Google is reaching for a piece of the pie with PowerMeter, a consumer-facing home energy management system rolling out to thousands of households as early as this year. The California Air Resources Board, the agency responsible for implementing a law that will reduce California greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, predicts $33 billion in increased economic production as a result of the policy, Schmidt notes. In addition, the state’s gross product will increase by $7 billion, and personal income will grow by $16 billion.

Indeed, entrepreneurial opportunities already abound. Lately, we’re seeing metering companies buy up or partner with home energy monitor makers. Itron just landed a partnership with OpenPeak, Silver Spring just bought Greenbox, Elster partnered with Blue Line Innovations — all in the last two weeks. All of these metering companies are looking to install dashboards in homes and businesses telling consumers exactly how much energy they are using and how much it is costing them in real time. The Smart Grid has never gotten so much attention.

Given the activity in the U.S., imagine the opportunity in China and India, countries with huge populations and growing economies in urgent need of modernized energy infrastructure. News is that India, which has long rejected adopting curbs on emissions, is now considering a proposal to do just that.

I hope you’ll join us at GreenBeat 2009 to find out more about this potential. Sign up now and get an early bird discount of $255 off the regular price!

Meanwhile, here’s more on the GreenBeat 2009 Innovation Competition:

We’re seeking path-breaking companies to achieve the goals of the Smart Grid, which are defined by GreenBeat 2009 as the following:

1) Decarbonize the grid
2) Transmit data alongside power between utilities AND consumers
3) Drive increased efficiency and conservation of power

The top 10 business models and technologies promising the “smartest” impact on the power grid will win.

We are seeking submissions from companies with the following:

Innovative business models — These companies will have strategies that either leverage the capabilities and data made available by the Smart Grid or help fulfill one or more of the goals above.  These companies will answer the questions:  Who will profit from the Smart Grid?  What is the next killer app everyone will use?  Now that there’s so much data available, who will make the best use of it and how?  The winning business models will have clear revenue models and have convincing arguments as to why their revenue models are sustainable in a rapidly changing space.

Innovative technologies — These companies or organizations (universities, research groups) will help decarbonize the grid, facilitate data transmission and monitoring of power use, or increase efficiency or conservation efforts. We’ll give preference to companies that have a pilot project already underway. We’ll also give preference to companies that plan to launch at GreenBeat 2009 or at least plan to reveal the latest release of their their existing products (GreenBeat is focused on the bleeding edge, so we’re less interested in showcasing companies with dated technology).

Eligible companies can operate in any of the following fields:

  • Advanced metering
  • Network architecture for power management
  • Energy storage
  • Fuel cells
  • Grid scale hardware and infrastructure
  • Transmission
  • Real-time power monitoring
  • Lighting and Appliances
  • Demand management software
  • Home area networking
  • Data transmission/ “Broadband over Power line”
  • Electric or other car systems that disrupt our reliance on carbon

If you have any questions regarding the competition, eligibility, or potentially demonstrating your new product at GreenBeat 2009, please contact editor@venturebeat.com.


More Data for YouTube’s Partners: Google Integrates Content ID and YouTube Insights

youtubelogo.jpgGoogle just announced that it is integrating its Content ID system, which alerts YouTube's 1,000 partners when one of their videos or audio tracks is being used without authorization, and YouTube Insight, the analytics package that gives uploaders usage stats for their videos. Content ID gives copyright owners the ability to block a video or audio track, but most importantly, it also allows them to make money from these uploads by selling ads against these new videos (like Sony did with the JK Wedding Entrance Dance). Until today, YouTube's partners only got a very basic set of stats about these videos, but they will now get the same stats that the uploader gets as well.

Sponsor

Liz Gannes over at NewTeeVee had a chance to talk to the Content ID team and offers a lot more detail about the technical details behind the system. One interesting aspect of the system is that it is now being used more often to geoblock videos in certain regions. Google also told Gannes that Google regularly does 'legacy scans of its entire library' so that it can compare older videos against new claims from its partners. It is also interesting to note that Google now actually checks videos for copyrighted material before they even go live on the site. In the early days of Content ID, Google would only check after the video was already live.

Giving Partners a Better Idea How their Content is Being Used

This will hopefully mean that fewer copyright owners decide to completely block videos that use their content. After all, there is a lot of interesting demographic data in these mashup videos that YouTube's partners and their marketing firms can use. According to Gannes, Google's partners who leave user videos up "have seen their overall views more than double."

Discuss


Twones rolls up 25 music services into one

twones-logo-2The number of music sites worth signing up for keeps growing. If you’re as disorganized as I am, a morning’s listening can make a mess of your desktop, and the different interfaces for each site make hopping around among iTunes, Grooveshark, imeem and Pandora awkward.

twonesTwones — prounounced like “tunes” — makes a Firefox / Internet Explorer add-on that unifies 25 music services into one interface.

Twones also claims to be a rich source of information and bonding experiences built atop the music links, but it’s nowhere near last.fm’s seemingly infinite amount of user-contributed content.

What matters most is Twones will track all of these services in a common interface:

  • Last.fm
  • MySpace
  • Deezer
  • Muxtape
  • Seeqpod
  • Favtape.com
  • Finetune
  • Joost
  • Grooveshark Lite
  • Hype Machine
  • iTunes
  • iLike
  • MOG
  • imeem
  • Winamp
  • nuTsie
  • Ning.com
  • YouTube
  • Luisterpaal 3voor12
  • SkreemR.com
  • Windows Media Player
  • Songza
  • Pitchfork.tv
  • Play.it

Pandora support is coming soon, a company spokesman told me.

If you’re looking to bond with a bunch of fellow music fans, or go data-diving for everything there is to know about Architeq, last.fm is the Alexandria library of info. But Twones performs one function well: It consolidates your music interfaces, which makes them easier to use, which saves you time fussing with them, which lets you spend more time listening.


VLC Issues Security Update, Support for 64-bit OS X [Updates]

Windows/Mac/Linux: VLC—the most popular video player among Lifehacker readers—just released an update to version 1.0.2. The update addresses a serious security issue, adds 64-bit support for OS X, and fixes several bugs. The full changelog mentions a completely reworked interface for OS X (though we're not seeing any major differences anywhere except the preferences), as well as integration with the Windows 7 taskbar (which again doesn't seem all that changed to us). Still, grab it for the security update, and let us know if you notice any significant changes in the comments. [VLC 1.0.2]



Samsung Offers Memory Upgrade Deal with N310 Netbook [jkOnTheRun]

samsung-go-netbook-dealI received an email direct from Samsung this morning that surprised me. The company is offering its N310 netbook with a special deal that includes a 2GB memory upgrade and a case. Why the surprise? The N310 comes with Microsoft Windows XP Home pre-installed and traditionally Microsoft hasn’t generally allowed that on a retail netbook with more than 1GB of RAM.

Samsung prices the netbook at $479.99 and says the 2GB module is valued at $69.99, which is very overpriced. For the deal, they’re “cutting” the memory price to $19.99, which is right in line with the market — I paid about $25 for a 2GB module a few months back — and they’re throwing in a $20 case as well. So, $499.99 gets you a Samsung N310 with Windows XP Home, 2GB of memory, long battery life and a case. My gut says that either Samsung isn’t installing the 2GB module for you or Microsoft is relaxing more of its netbook restrictions of late. Either way, it should only take a few minutes to install the RAM if you need to do so.