TripIt Offers Developers a Cut [GigaOM]


This post is by Jennifer Martinez from GigaOM Network


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img_tripit_logo_tagline_horizontalTripIt, which aggregates people’s travel arrangements from various web sites into one web itinerary, is rolling out a referral program today that lets developers who build apps on top of its API receive a 10-20 percent cut of the sales from its TripIt Pro premium subscription service. The San Francisco-based startup released TripIt Pro, which offers customers real-time flight information for $69 a year, in June.

More than 250 developers are using TripIt’s API to build web and mobile apps, according to founder and President Gregg Brockway. Though the company offers a free iPhone application, its API is also used by developers on other mobile platforms and travel applications, and by online address book and social network service Plaxo. TripIt also developed an application for LinkedIn last year.

Separately, TripIt is partnering with travel web site Hotwire, which Brockway co-founded before leaving some five years ago. The deal will let Hotwire users send all their travel information to TripIt, which will then create a free web travel itinerary for them.

The startup pulled in $5.1 million in Series B funding last spring from Sabre Holdings, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and European Founders Fund, bringing the total amount raised to $6.1 million.

Clean Power Grants Step In to Fill Tax Credit Gap, But Problems Remain [Earth2Tech]


This post is by Jennifer Kho from GigaOM Network


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If it seems like it’s been twice as hard to raise money for renewable projects this year compared to 2007, that’s because it has been. At the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday, John Eber, managing director at investment bank JP Morgan, said tax-equity financing for renewable energy is expected to total $2.5-$2.6 billion this year, down from $3.6 billion last year, and from $6 billion in 2007. Tax-equity financing is based on the exchange of tax credits, so it’s no wonder it has plummeted in a market where profits – and therefore taxes high enough to make use of tax credits for renewable-energy projects – are harder to come by.

However, federal cash grants, which will enable renewable projects to get money in lieu of tax credits and were approved back in February, could definitely help fill the tax-equity gap. Eber said “The vast majority of projects are going to [want to] use the grant.” However, there have been a variety of complications that have kept many clean power projects from being eligible for the grants.

Among the biggest problems, Keith Martner, a partner at law firm Chadbourne & Parke, explained, is that four types of investors are disqualified from owning part of a project eligible for the grants. “Projects backed by private-equity funds will not receive cash grants unless there is a corporation between the … fund and the project,” he said. Another issue has been a lack of clarity about some of the requirements. For example, construction must begin, or projects must be completed, in 2009 or 2010, but some confusion remains about when projects can be considered to have begun construction, Martner said.

Even if the program is tweaked so that investors aren’t disqualified, the clock is ticking as the grants are set to expire in 2010. Martner thinks there’s a “decent chance” the program will be extended, but added that any such extension would be unlikely to happen before late 2010 – at the earliest – “because the government likes the stimulative effect of a deadline.” The drawback to having a short deadline and an uncertain extension is that it makes it difficult to plan for larger, longer-term projects.

So far, the majority of the projects that have been approved for grants are already up and running, according to Martner. The Treasury received 240 applications for cash grants as of Sept. 18, of which 178 were for projects already in service and 62 were for projects already under construction. The Treasury has authorized $1.05 billion for 40 projects so far. Most of that grant money — $970 million — has been allocated for wind projects, with less than 1 percent going into solar projects so far.

Kiva’s Causemopolitan on World Tour: Social Media for Social Good


This post is by Jolie O'Dell from ReadWriteWeb


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It’s been a long and winding road for serial volunteer and social media philanthropist Sloane Berrent.

Since her unplanned departure from an L.A.-based startup in 2008, Berrent has traveled through eight countries, documenting and publicizing the struggles of those in developing areas through her blog posts, tweets, images, videos, and her own presence at events at home and abroad. From post-Katrina New Orleans to a trash dump in Manila to a monastery in Burma, read on for her story of trying to achieve social good through social media.

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RWW: “Social media for social good” has become the catchphrase du jour, it seems. What does it actually mean; how much can social media users affect social change, and how?

I am a strong believer in the idea that the things you do online are meant to facilitate your offline interactions. People are so fast to click a button, and that can be great. Retweeting, forwarding, and Facebook walls are great engagements. But what’s more difficult is the donate button. That’s the big hurdle and disconnect. I’m trying to provide these inspirational opportunities in timeboxed campaigns. Social media is slowly catching on, but there’s a lot of noise. Standing out is hard; it’s important to have an offline component.

Berrent was visibly disturbed by what she witnessed at this Manila trash dump, where she saw shoeless children running through piles of debris.

RWW: Tell me about your experiences with Kiva borrowers. What kinds of people and enterprises have you seen? In your opinion, does microlending have a measurable impact on struggling local economies?

Kiva is really unique. It has a lot of power users – more than any nonprofit I’ve ever seen. One man has made a thousand loans. It’s individual stories, and people really connect. You get updates on that person, and people say it’s their favorite email of the month. As a microlending company, Kiva is one spoke in the larger wheel of microfinance. On a global scale, it has a very big impact.

Typically, when you go to a village or province, certain industries are prevalent. In a fishing community, maybe the borrower bought a fishnet or a fishing boat. In an area with a lot of bamboo, it’s going to be crafts. I worked in eleven branch offices. I met over 40 different female borrowers individually and over 250 in my time there.

I can see that the money Kiva provides makes a difference. Microfinance is a very slow process, and there are gems and sparks of people who break through the poverty cycle. When you see villages changing, it’s really something. It’s like watching grass grow, but it’s really beautiful grass.

This woman is a pig farmer and a recipient of funds from a Kiva-affiliated organization.

RWW: Now you’re working on a seven-day, seven-city tour to raise awareness and funds for malaria prevention through bed nets. Where did this idea come from?

I’d just finished Kiva training, and I was going to the Philippines for three months. And all I could think was, “When I come back, I’m going to be thirty.” I’ve honed in a lot on my direction – using the Internet to help people. And what if I could use this opportunity to give back, involving people in different parts of the country – something really ambitious?

I wanted it to be about saving lives. I wanted to say, “I saved this many lives on my birthday.” I’ve done a lot of work in HIV and AIDS; I looked into that and polio and malaria, and that’s what stuck with me. The campaign has no administrative fees. One hundred percent of the funds go to malaria… in rural northern Ghana. Providing malaria nets will really be a part of saving lives there.

Berrent met this monk in Burma and spent the afternoon pagoda-hopping with him.

RWW: What needs or gaps do you see in philanthropic efforts online?

I think it’s not having a strategy to begin with, not knowing the tools in your toolbox before you start. There’s a lot to be said for jumping in and having fun, but nonprofits don’t have the resources to play around online. They think it’s about getting interns and getting followers and fans without figuring out why a medium is important and how to make it successful for them.

RWW: What’s one surprise – good or bad – that you’ve come across since you started working with Kiva? What did you not expect from this experience, and what did you learn?

I learned that it’s much more complicated than the website makes it seem. There’s an entire division devoted to foreign exchange currency. The operational cost analysis, the challenges of technology in the developing world, the processes of remittance – it’s incredibly complex. There are regional specialists. On the site, you can make a loan in five clicks, but a lot of machinery comes together to make it that way.

RWW: What’s next for you? Is there more globe-trotting in your immediate future? how do you think the web will continue to be part of your life and career?

One of the best parts of this past year has been that I’ve gone through long periods where I didn’t have Internet access. That’s brought me a heightened and renewed sense of my purpose in the world and my authentic desire to make the world a better place. I’d like to be able to continue to support campaigns – even for-profit ventures – that I believe in, and I think social business is a wonderful intersection of the two.

I want to explore avenues with online and offline components, while continuing to blog and tell stories I’m passionate about.

Follow Berrent’s next adventures on Twitter or at her blog, The Causemopolitan.

And all this is just the tip of the iceburg that is Sloane Berrent’s fascinating story. For a fuller look at her travels and timeline, check out this list of her nine favorite blog posts from the past six months, covering humanitarianism, her work in New Orleans, the phenomenon of serendipity in international travel, and much more.

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Xobni Brings Twitter To Your Inbox


This post is by Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Earlier tonight, Xobni quietly released, at least to some users, a new version of its Outlook plug-in that brings Twitter streams into your email in an intelligent way. Instead of acting like any other Twitter client and showing you the full stream of everyone you follow, it shows you only the recent Tweets of the person whose email you are reading, whether or not you follow them on Twitter. (A Xobni blog post went up briefly about it and then was taken down, but not before I was able to grab the screenshot at right).

Instead of replicating Twitter outright, it shows you the Tweets in the context of an email to help you learn more about the person with whom you are communicating. This is consistent with the way Xobni brings up similar information about a contact from Facebook or LinkedIn or Skype. If you don’t know the person, it gives you some more context. If you do, it gives you something personal to talk about. (Threadsy, which launched at this year’s TC50, also shows Tweets in context alongside emails).

With both the full Facebook stream and now Twitter built into the product, chances are you’ll see what each contact has been doing recently. Xobni also lets you reply via Twitter, and follow a contact from within its application.

One of Xobni’s investors is Vinod Khosla, who told me a few weeks ago that Xobni is getting “great traction.” I’ve since heard that the product is approaching 3 million downloads.

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CMEA pulls plug on $500M late-stage cleantech fund


This post is by Camille Ricketts from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




cmeaCMEA Capital has decided against raising a new $500 million fund to back late and growth-stage cleantech companies, Dow Jones VentureWire reported earlier today. The news is interesting for two reasons: 1) It suggests a shift in strategy for CMEA, one of the largest investors in the green space, according to yesterday’s Greentech Media report on the sector; and 2) It may be further proof of cleantech’s rebound from the downturn — venture firms like CMEA no longer need to keep late-stage companies on life support due to a frozen exit market (A123Systems’ IPO broke the ice in a big way).

CMEA, which has had several big victories with A123Systems’ recent blockbuster exit and the impressive growth of solar firm Solyndra and biofuel maker Codexis, reviewed late-stage opportunities in the cleantech scene over the last six months, managing general partner Jim Watson tells VentureBeat. (A123 was actually the only late-stage investment the firm made out of its last fund — demonstrating almost prescient judgment.)

“We just didn’t see that much that was quality or at the right price,” he said. “There’s a lot of money on the later-stage side, so there is more competition for deals — a lot of them didn’t make sense economically.” Still, the firm will continue to keep an eye on this segment of the market if any ripe options arise. Watson said the landscape may change in the next year as companies run out of money from their previous rounds and government grants and loans — pricing on deals will probably improve. And of course CMEA will continue to fund its existing portfolio companies in this category.

The role of state and federal governments is particularly interesting in this context. For the time being, stimulus-package subsidies, tax breaks and grants have somewhat negated the need for late-stage cleantech funding. After all, the Department of Energy and other agencies have emphasized that preference is given to companies already generating revenue or with capital-intensive construction projects underway (it just handed CMEA’s Solyndra $535 million in loans, for example). Even so, VCs will probably need to jump back in as soon as the government shuts off the tap.

In the meantime, Watson said the firm will divert much of its energy to the early-stage startup market. “We decided to stick with what we do best: the transformational science,” he said. “These companies can create some real intellectual property around their breakthroughs.”

CMEA appears to be well-positioned to take on the higher risk associated with these early, more disruptive investments. This is a good sign for the cleantech sector in general, implying that liquidity has returned, soothing skittish VCs that spent the first half of the year shying away from even mildly risky deals.

“Higher reward comes with higher risk,” Watson said.

picture-3161213VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Get your early-bird tickets for $495 before Sept. 30 at GreenBeat2009.com.


San Francisco turns to wind power to hit carbon neutrality by 2030


This post is by Camille Ricketts from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




micro-wind-turbineSoon, wind turbines could grace San Franciscan landmarks from Treasure Island to Ocean Beach — or at least they should, according to a new report released today by the City’s urban wind power task force, a group commissioned by mayor Gavin Newsom and state assemblyman Tom Ammiano to envision the renewable future.

Anyone who has visited San Francisco for a lengthy amount of time (or attended a 49ers game at blustery Candlestick Park) knows that the City is ideally situated to generate power from wind. Pair this fact with its promise to be a carbon-neutral city by 2030, and it looks like installing turbines will be the best bet. The question now is if reaching that goal is at all feasible — and the answer depends largely on wind power’s ability to reach cost levels competitive with the coal-generated electricity already distributed by Pacific Gas and Electric.

For the most part, wind turbines have been installed in vast empty areas of land — the desert, the countryside, the rolling unpopulated hills of central California. But that’s starting to change. Turbines may become regular urban fixtures in the next several years. Boston has already built a flock of them near its Logan Airport, and even New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg has mentioned the possibility of fixing them on top of skyscrapers. It only makes sense for San Francisco — one of the most ambitious cities when it comes to renewable energy adoption — to lead the charge.

The task force issuing today’s report — a 44-member body including City business leaders, environmentalists and representatives from the wind power industry — says the next step will be to chart out the part of San Francisco with ideal conditions for turbines. City government should also consider policy changes to encourage wind companies to set down roots there, creating hundreds if not thousands of green jobs, the group recommends. These measures could include laxer permitting, tax and building codes and a revision of zoning regulations that include height and land use restrictions.

Mayor Newsom, who has taken a strong stance on green business and alternative energy development as he ramps up his campaign for California governor, says he will be adopting and moving fast on many of the proposals contained in the report. In addition to pursuing legislative action, he will also support the construction of more small pilot wind projects around the City. Whether or not this will actually happen given the weak state economy and the capital intensive nature of wind turbine construction is another matter.

Here’s a video of the first urban turbine installed in the U.S., located in the Mission District of San Francisco:

picture-3161211VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Get your early-bird tickets for $495 before Sept. 30 at GreenBeat2009.com.


Facebook Spreads Its Crowdsourced Translations Across the Web, And The World


This post is by Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch


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Facebook has long relied on its own users to help translate the site into more than 65 different languages. Now, Facebook wants to unleash its army of volunteer translators on other sites and apps across the Web. Any site or app that use Facebook Connect can now tap into the Facebook community to get help translating their site into any language that Facebook Translations supports.

As Facebook strives to cement itself as the social glue of the Web, offering free translation tools gives developers yet one more reason to choose Facebook Connect over Google Friend Connect or other competing platforms. It gives them access to new markets extremely quickly. Facebook thinks its crowdsourced translation tools are so good that it’s patented them.

The Internet is a global platform, which makes translation a must for sites both large and small. But the effort it takes to translate a site into many languages is expensive and time-consuming. Getting users to do the heavy lifting is appealing. Even if the translations aren’t top-notch off the bat, they will improve over time if enough people who speak a particular language care enough about a site to fix it.

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OnLive Raises Series C Round from AT&T, Warner Bros. and Others


This post is by Daniel Brusilovsky from TechCrunch


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OnLive, the gaming company trying to reinvent the Games On Demand service, has announced a Series C round of venture financing from AT&T Media Holdings, Inc., Lauder Partners, Warner Bros., Autodesk, and Maverick Capital. Warner Bros., Autodesk and Maverick Capital have participated in previous rounds of financing as well. OnLive did not disclose the size of financing.

OnLive has been working on the launch of its cloud-based OnLive Game Service, which delivers the latest games instantly through the MicroConsole TV adapter. Unveiled in March at the 2009 Game Developers Conference, the OnLive Game Service recently went into beta testing and is speculated to officially launch this winter.

Palo Alto-based OnLive raised $16.5 million in previous funding.

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San Francisco Tidal Project Rolling In, Mayor Newsom Says [Earth2Tech]


This post is by Jennifer Kho from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




GoldenGateBridgeSan Francisco’s tidal-energy project, expected to be the largest ocean-power project off of the California coast, has been in the works for four and a half years and counting. But the city is now in “the final stages” of getting permits for the project planned for the waters near the Golden Gate Bridge, Mayor Gavin Newsom said at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum on Tuesday.

The mayor’s been a stalwart supporter of the project in spite of concerns about the expense. Cost has been a major factor keeping ocean power at bay so far.

Newsom called it “unfortunate” that a city – and not the state or the federal government – is taking on the tidal project. He also said he’s less optimistic now than he was in January or February that Congress will pass a robust cap-and-trade bill. The climate-change bill, approved by the House in June, is poised for a tougher fight in the Senate, which is expecting to officially get its own draft version Thursday.

But cities don’t have to wait for a federal policy to start making a difference, Newsom said. He encouraged other cities to follow in San Francisco’s footsteps, for example, by requiring LEED certification when commercial buildings are remodeled. Simple steps like that one helped San Francisco roll back its greenhouse-gas emissions to nearly 6 percent below 1990 levels by September of last year.

While some of these programs have not been easy – “trust me, gay marriage was not controversial compared to requiring composting,” Newsom said – in general, it has been “extraordinarily easy” to work on reducing San Francisco’s greenhouse-gas emissions, he added. Offering $7,000 in solar rebates, for example, was quickly able to boost solar generation 450 percent in the foggy city, giving it six times as many solar installations as Los Angeles, he said.

San Francisco also is getting ready to launch its loan program for renewable, energy-efficiency and water-conservation projects for homes and businesses, he said. The program, similar to the one Berkeley, Calif., tested as a pilot program last year, will enable city homeowners and businesses to borrow money for those projects and pay them off as part of their property taxes.

“We’re taking it to a whole new level,” he said, adding that it will be the largest such city fund so far. Newsom said in March the program was targeting a $20-$30 million fund for the program, which is expected to launch by the end of this year.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Newspaper Journalists: The Online Video Stars of the Future? [NewTeeVee]


This post is by Liz Shannon Miller from GigaOM Network


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Are journalists and bloggers for traditional newspapers a new talent pool for the world of web video? As more publications push their staffers to explore online options for spreading the brand, it’s a trend that appears to be gathering momentum — and it’s resulted in some great content created on a relatively low budget.

For example, New York Times technology columnist David Pogue became a viral video star in 2007 thanks to the Webby-winning iPhone: The Music Video, and has continued to create short videos on a weekly basis that put a creative spin on tech issues. And when the Times partnered with CNBC for Pogue’s video series, they were able to share the costs and production as well as the content.

The Cheeseburger Show’s Kevin Pang, meanwhile, is a food writer for the Chicago Tribune who’s been using online video to showcase different varieties of the Chicago-area cheeseburger. While the show is produced under the Chicago Tribune banner, and benefits from the newspaper’s brand placement, it receives no actual funding from the Tribune Co. As Pang told the Chicago Reader, “Myself and a few friends filmed, edited, did sound, put on the pancake makeup completely by ourselves, on our own time. A labor of love, to be sure.” They’re also seeking sponsorship for the series, so as to “actually (hopefully) bring in coin for Mother Tribune.”

And the new series Twits, which riffs on the recent phenomena of celebrities using — and abusing — Twitter, gained notoriety for being a Washington Post production. It’s not what you’d expect to see under the banner of the publication that once brought down a U.S. President, but it was created by Liz Kelly, WaPo’s celebrity gossip blogger, who came up with the show as an accompaniment to her blog Celebritology.

By allowing their reporters to build an audience around their unique voices, the Times, Tribune and Post have been able to build their brands simply by associating themselves with fun content, and at minimal personal cost (something I go into in further detail about in a longer version of this piece over at GigaOM Pro, subscription required). Will any of these shows save the allegedly dying print industry? If publications begin to seriously retreat behind paywalls, then one good exclusive show, on top of well-respected news coverage, might be enough to convince subscribers to sign up.

Surprise! iPhone Users Love Their Phones, Hate Their Network [GigaOM]


This post is by Colin Gibbs from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




iphone3gBring a magnifying glass if you’re looking for surprises in a new study from CFI Group. The market research firm has just released the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. smartphone users that holds true to form: iPhone users love their devices but hate AT&T’s network; Verizon Wireless operates a rock-solid network but lacks high-end handsets; and consumers — not business users — are driving growth in the space.

Apple’s ubiquitous phone fared well in CFI’s study, with 92 percent of iPhone users claiming they own “their ideal smartphone,” and the device scored highest in terms of user satisfaction with applications. Android-based handsets and the Palm Pre also scored fairly well, with each rating a 77 on a 100-point scale, outperforming the BlackBerry (73) and Palm Treo (70). The dreaded “other” category — which included Symbian- and Windows Mobile-based handsets — rated a 66.

Unsurprisingly, the survey demonstrated a clear trend in why users choose certain types of handsets:

There is clear differentiation between the newer smartphones (iPhone, Android, and Pre) and the older smartphones. Older phones offer prospective buyers the nuts and bolts — e-mail, calendar, and perhaps web browsing — but little else. Applications, mostly an afterthought for older smartphones, are critical for customers of newer smartphones…The interface/operating system and looks/design of the phone are also more important for purchasers of newer smartphones. In short, customers expect more from these newer smartphones. These higher expectations raise the stakes for customer satisfaction — do things well, and customers will be delighted; do them poorly and customers will punish the failures.

The thing I found particularly interesting about the study, though, is that — unlike Om — most consumers won’t give up their iPhones despite AT&T’s network woes. AT&T scored lowest in customer-satisfaction ratings, and 50 percent of iPhone users said they’d like to switch service providers. But few iPhone owners seem willing to sacrifice the device to make that move. Given the stellar reputation of Verizon’s network, the nation’s largest operator has a huge opportunity to build on its lead if it can offer an intuitive, high-tech gadget that — like the iPhone — encourages subscribers to consume mobile data. And it’s looking more and more like the Palm Pre might just be that device.

OnLive raises big round from AT&T and others for on-demand gaming


This post is by Dean Takahashi from VentureBeat


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perlman-3OnLive is announcing today it has raised a third round of funding from AT&T Media Holdings, Lauder Partners and its existing partners as it moves toward the launch of its video games on demand service, which will let you play high-end games with no special hardware.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company declined to say how much it raised. But Steve Perlman, chief executive and founder of OnLive, said in an interview that the round was large and oversubscribed. Rumors surfaced earlier this year that the company was seeking a $750 million valuation, and one venture capital source said that the final valuation was likely above $500 million. If the numbers are accurate, it would easily be the biggest game-related funding of the year.

perlman-2“It was a very big up round” in terms of valuation of the company and this was the biggest round we’ve had to date,” Perlman said. “But we’re limited on what we can disclose. The valuation was quite high for a pre-revenue company. It is probably among the highest for a pre-revenue company getting funding this year. But the scope of the opportunity is high.”

Other investors in the round include prior investors Warner Bros., AutoDesk, and Maverick Capital. The deal shows that OnLive has huge financial support, and it suggests that AT&T could be a backer of the OnLive on-demand service. Perlman declined to say if AT&T would be a partner in launching OnLive, but he said his company is working with investors who are “relevant partners.” The service, first described in March, will let gamers play server-based games. Those are high-end PC games that look visually outstanding, even though they are hosted on data center servers rather than on perlman-4the players’ own computers. The service can cut retailers, and their profit margins, out of the picture. Coincidentally, the Game Crazy retail chain announced today that it will close 200 under-performing stores.

OnLive is in the midst of setting up a national network of servers that can handle the games. While the company leases those servers, the business is still capital intensive, Perlman said, which is why it needed the new round of funding.

Once gamers subscriber to this service, they can instantly play high-end PC games without waiting to download them to PCs. On top of that, they can play the high-end games even if they don’t have expensive computers. The service will work on just about any PC or Mac, or even on a TV set with small adapter box, dubbed a MicroConsole, from OnLive. You don’t need a game console or a high-end gaming computer to play. Among the new things you can do with this service is watch other gamers as they play live games. You can also capture video of your games and post them on your page as “brag clips.” Those videos capture your exploits of your best games, as illustrated in this screen shot.

As such, OnLive has the potential to turn the video game business, which is heavily dependent on selling $60 games at retail, on its head. Nine game publishers have agreed to make their games available on OnLive. OnLive’s services will include allowing gamers to watch others playing games live and instantly joining friends in matches.

perlman-1“Over the last decade, we’ve seen an enormous upheaval in the media business as the written word, photos, music, and video have been steadily moving away from physical media to online delivery,” Perlman (right) said in a blog post this evening. “One major category that still remains largely based on physical discs is fast-response interactive media — in particular, video games. And, of course, OnLive’s goal is to enable that last remaining transition.”

The plan is so audacious that it has attracted lots of skeptics. In the venture community, a number of game-focused VCs decided to pass on the deal because the valuation was so high. But it looks like Perlman got the valuation that he believed OnLive deserved.

“I invested in Steve’s prior venture, WebTV, and have found him to be a remarkable visionary and a great leader,” said Gary Lauder, managing partner at Lauder Partners. “He has assembled an impressive team.  I was already a believer in this paradigm of computing/service delivery and feel that OnLive is likely to succeed in a major way in its chosen domains.  I have read with some amusement the speculation on why OnLive can’t possibly work, and it amazes me how many ways new paradigms can be misunderstood.”

A lot of other rivals have surfaced. To Perlman, that validates the basic idea that games, much like other apps in the software-as-a-service vein, will move to servers. Rivals include Otoy, Gaikai, Israel’s Playcast, and even a new project being sponsored by Intel, which recently invested a small amount of money in Toronto’s TransGaming, which is working on a GameTree.tv on-demand games service.

But Perlman’s company has the biggest backers and momentum behind it in this sector. Rich Hilleman, chief creative officer at Electronic Arts, recently said after a speech in August that he was a big believer in OnLive and that it could change the business of video games.

Perlman said he hoped the backing from AT&T and Lauder would answer the skeptics. Perlman started OnLive in 2002 as a research project inside his research incubator, Rearden. Perlman’s previous companies include Mova, Moxi, Ice Blink Studios and WebTV. He also funded Android, which Google bought and used to launch its Android mobile operating system.

perlman-5OnLive recently started doing beta tests of its service, which will roll out formally during the winter, Perlman said. That suggests the launch might happen in 2010 instead of 2009, but Perlman said the launch depends on how well the beta testing goes. Last week, he demonstrated the game at the MIT Emerging Technology conference.

“This closing marks a major milestone for OnLive,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

Perlman said the company is filing for more patent protection and that proceeds from the funding will be used to bolster those efforts, as well as for the launch costs. OnLive already has more than 100 patents and patent applications pending. The company has more than 100 employees.


Yahoo! Issues Call for Homepage Apps, Plugs Proprietary Development Platform


This post is by Jolie O'Dell from ReadWriteWeb


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




The Yahoo! Developer Network blog has a post today calling for “innovative and flawless” applications to be submitted for inclusion in a gallery section on their redesigned homepage.

Apps are to be built using Yahoo!’s proprietary development platform, YAP. The YDN post further noted, “We’re working on an array of additional developer monetization opportunities – these will be available soon.” The gallery’s inaugural class includes YAP-built applications from Mint, Lumosity, Flixter, Target, and WordPress.

Sponsor

The YAP premise is fairly straightforward. Styled “a wide open, self service environment,” the platform allows developers to build apps and submit them to Yahoo! with no business development deals or contracts. Developers use their own environments, stacks, and servers and code in any language they like. For the developers, the benefit is instant distribution. For Yahoo!, the benefit is a ton of free R&D and IP.

For users, the benefit is a slew of widgets to make the Yahoo! portal more intensely personal, whether that experience is one of entertainment, education, practicality, socialization, or information. The apps pop into a lightbox-style layout, called “Small View,” on scrollover and go to a full-page “Canvas View” when a user clicks through.

Yahoo! has made conscious and ever-increasing efforts to open themselves to the developer community in what many see as a struggle to remain interesting and viable in the age of the open API. Tools such as YQL, their proprietary query language which we covered in depth, and their YAP application development platform help to foster a sense of relevancy for the aging web giant.

Discuss


Smart Grid co. PowerSecure nabs $12M in utility contracts


This post is by Camille Ricketts from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




picture-133PowerSecure International, provider of equipment and services to help utilities update their infrastructure, achieve greater efficiency and prevent power disruptions, announced today that it landed $12 million in new contracts with multiple electric utilities.

The North Carolina-based company says that most of these orders are for its Interactive Distributed Generation system — a product that stores and strategically delivers standby power during emergencies or peak energy use periods to fend off service disruptions like brownouts and blackouts. PowerSecure will also be providing equipment needed to modernize substations and transmission systems for utilities, none of which have been specified. The public company (Nasdaq: POWR) says $4 million of the money is being spent on Smart Grid installations, with the other $8 million going toward basic infrastructure revamps. This revenue should show up on its balance sheet between the fourth quarter of this year and second quarter of next.

In addition to providing the equipment, PowerSecure will monitor the Distributed Generation systems it sets up 24 hours a day, ensuring that standby power is present and ready for action. Its utility customers will be using the technology primarily to support federal and municipal buildings — facilities that cannot afford to lose power in an emergency.

PowerSecure brought in $25.1 million in revenue, with a net income of $686,000 in the second quarter. In July, it won $5 million in new orders for its EfficientLights LED lighting technology. These figures should go up as utilities receive subsidies from the government for Smart Grid deployments — this whole area of development has only just entered the cleantech spotlight.

greenbeat_logoVentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Get your early-bird tickets for $495 before Sept. 30 at GreenBeat2009.com.


Twingly Channels let you track memes around any topic


This post is by Kim-Mai Cutler from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Swedish start-up Twingly is launching channels tomorrow that find the most socially relevant news around any topic.

twinglyTwingly’s channels are a more sophisticated kind of real-time search or meme tracker that will pull up recently published items on a topic and filter them by how much they’ve been commented on or shared. It pulls links and comments from Twitter and the company plans to add data from social bookmarking services Digg and Delicious later. (The first 300 readers can check out Twingly channels here with the invite code ‘VENTUREBEAT’ starting at 1 a.m. PST tonight).

“We wanted to use collective intelligence to create a high quality filter for the audience,” said CEO Martin Kallstrom.

Twingly CEO Martin Kallstrom

It’s a little different from other real-time search startups because you can interact with the results by leaving comments. As in FriendFeed, Twingly users can “like” a link and boost it higher in the rankings.

The company says its channels can be used by companies that want to track how people are talking about their brands or competitors. It can also be a space where a company can interact with its customers or fans. It could be a pretty neat way of tracking news too.

Twingly, which is based just south of Stockholm, has been around for three years and built its business model off serving Europe’s larger newspapers with Twingly Blogstream, a product that shows how the blogosphere is interacting with news coverage. They charge anywhere from $7 to 20,000 a year for the service. The company says it’s approaching breakeven point.

It also launched a microblog search earlier this year, which we said could become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tweets. So this new release is clearly an  improvement over that.

Below’s an example of a Twingly channel around the hot Swedish music startup Spotify.

twingly-spotify


Touching: All Rumors Point To The End Of Keys/Buttons


This post is by MG Siegler from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




523179243_8d45df6fe2Anyone who has followed Apple news/rumors/patents over the past couple of years has probably noticed a certain trend emerging: Apple seems to be slowly shifting its entire line of products to touch-based computing. That is to say, it’s moving its products away from buttons and keys, towards manipulation through a touchscreen interface.

While obviously, MacBook trackpads have used some level of touch for a long time, this trend really started with the iPhone, which presented the first excellent use of multi-touch in a consumer device. From there, Apple slowly began adding multi-touch support to the aforementioned notebook trackpads, to the point where they all now feature it. And then of course, there’s the iPod touch, which is an iPod with multi-touch support.

But where things really start to get interesting is when you look at Apple’s patents and the rumors that spin out of them. If you name any Apple product now, you’re almost for sure able to find some sort of rumor that it will be gaining touch support in the future. In fact, a few more have hit just this week; including a touch screen remote for the Apple TV and a new multi-touch enabled mouse.

Touch Remote

These latest two make varying degrees of sense. Apple’s current remote (that tiny white one), which comes with the Apple TV and as an additional add-on with any Mac, is pretty bad. It’s especially bad for the Apple TV, which now has so much content on it, that it can take dozens of clicks to find what you want. And God-forbid you have to search for anything (nothing is worse than text-input on that thing). But Apple came up with a very smart solution for it: Turn the iPhone and iPod touch into a remote. The result is brilliant.

AppleRemoteBut would Apple really create create a new touch device that is only a remote? Such a peripheral would undoubtedly be exponentially more expensive than what it costs to produce the current Apple remote. But if Apple is finally ready to consider the Apple TV a real product (rather than just a “hobby”), it could well put in the effort to perfect a new kind of remote for a new kind of living room experience.

Boy Genius Report, which is reporting on the rumor, says it comes from the same source that was dead-on in naming some of the iTunes 9 features weeks before that product launched.

Touch Mouse

A touch-enabled mouse is much more interesting to me. Some of you may recall my rant a few months ago against Apple’s Mighty Mouse. The device, quite frankly, sucks. And really, it continues a line of Apple mice (or whatever the plural of “mouse” is) that have been laughably sub-par. And what’s interesting about that is the reason they have been sub-par: Because Apple did not want to add multiple buttons to the thing.

So in that regard, a multi-touch mouse makes perfect sense. It could eliminate the need for Apple to add more buttons to make a competent mouse, while at the same time adding new input functionality that we probably don’t even realize we’re missing with current mice (swipe left, swipe right, pinch to zoom, anyone?).

And the worst part of the Mighty Mouse, in my opinion, is the track ball. The reason it’s awful is because it gets dirty way too easily, and it’s annoying to clean. Again, a mouse with say, a multi-touch top, would eliminate that ball, and thus, the headache.

Touch Tablet

Of course, the big fish in the touch sea is Apple’s long-rumored tablet. More rumors today suggest that device could be announced in January 2010 (which is what earlier rumors suggested as well), and would be released sometime around the middle of 2010.

I don’t think I’m going out on any limb by assuming the device is real at this point (we, along with many others, have been hearing about it for months now). So when it does launch, it will likely be the most important test yet of Apple’s touch goals. For all intents and purposes it will be a computer that is just a 9 or 10 inch screen. It undoubtedly will not have a physical keyboard, which means it will be entirely touch-based.

isamu_sanada_macbook_touch_concept_2How consumers react to this will be important. I would bet that at first, many will wish there was a physical keyboard to go along with it (and maybe Apple would even offer such an accessory as an option add-on). But then, as they get used to it, many of those people will forget all about the keyboard.

The same thing has happened with iPhone. While plenty of people still bitch about its lack of keyboard, most of those people seem to be those who don’t actually have one (yes, there are exceptions), and/or haven’t used the touch keyboard extensively. Many iPhone users I talk to thought they would hate having no keyboard, but now would just consider it a waste of space.

Touch Beyond

And the idea that a physical keyboard is a waste of space is an interesting one, and one that I definitely agree with. The notion of a physical keyboard in this day and age is kind of silly. Back in the day they made sense as keyboard keys were physically connected to typewriter letters, and pushing one would produce type. But today, on computers, touching a key simply triggers a digital signal. Really, the keys are not necessary beyond our desire for tactile feedback. And they are a huge waste of space.

While it may be hard to imagine right now, eventually there will not be physical keyboards. Apple’s tablet may well be the first product that will get users accustomed to this idea. And yes, as I said, plenty will bitch. But eventually, technology will improve, and virtual tacile feedback will improve, and there will be no need to take up so much surface area on any device with physical keys that really serve no purpose.

That’s not to say that all computers will look like tablets. Certainly, there is something to be said for the ergonomics of the notebook — the keyboard on the bottom with screen on top. If you had to type long emails on a tablet, you’d either be looking straight down or your arms would get very tired. But eventually, notebooks will be folding devices with two screens, one where the current screen is, and one where the current keyboard is. This bottom screen could then be turned into a virtual keyboard as needed. Otherwise, it would be a touch manipulation area — or even just a screen.

Or another idea is to have a tablet computer which could be converted into a keyboard with a screen that is then projected on some surface. Or vice versa; a screen with a virtual keyboard projected on some surface. Stuff like this graces the pages of publications like Popular Science every month, and it’s probably closer than we think, and certainly closer than some of us would like to think (remember: people don’t like change).

co1Touch Microsoft

Of course, Apple rival Microsoft is working on a lot of interesting things with touch computing as well, including the Surface and touch-support in Windows 7.

Microsoft’s first true test of touch in its consumers products is the Zune HD. Early reviews are good, and you can probably expect Microsoft to pass along its notes on the device to some of its phone-making partners.

Meanwhile, the Surface is an interesting device but it’s still too much of a gimmick at this point. There needs to be third-party software support (we’ve been told that has been coming forever), and more importantly, the thing needs to be thousands of dollars cheaper if anyone is ever expected to actually use it.

Microsoft’s TouchWall is probably the much more interesting technology to watch as it relates to consumers. But there hasn’t been much word on that in a long time.

Microsoft’s touch device getting the most buzz the past couple of weeks is the Courier tablet. Unlike Apple’s tablet, which is expected to be media-centric, it appears the Courier will be a virtual notebook of sorts that you manipulate with both your hands and a special pen. It looks very cool, and it’s apparently running Windows 7. And that means it’s likely much closer than the mock-ups and videos may have you believe.

In fact, it could come as soon as mid-2010, just like Apple’s tablet, sources tell Mary Jo Foley. If that’s true, Microsoft looks to be at the leading edge of the touch revolution right alongside Apple. But because Apple has much tighter control over its entire ecosystem, it will undoubtedly be able to fully shift towards touch computing first, and as such, could well become synonymous with the technology (just as the iPhone has with multi-touch, even though other devices use it).

Screen shot 2009-09-29 at 1.52.17 PMThe Golden Age Of Touch

Computing, as we know it, is on the verge of a transformation. The input devices of yesteryear finally look ready to be replaced by methods that are not based on technologies that are decades (the mouse) or even centuries (the keyboard) old.

It won’t happen right away, but it is starting to happen already. We just need devices like the ones listed above to serve as gateway drugs to touch.

I, personally, can’t wait for my Minority Report-style computer system (yes, I seem to bring this up every few months). But for now, I’ll settle for a multi-touch mouse. Oh, and a touch tablet. No matter who makes it.

[Minority Report images: 20th Century Fox/Dreamworks]

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Review of Guobin Yang’s “Power of the Internet in China”


This post is by Andy Oram from O'Reilly Radar - Insight, analysis, and research about emerging technologies.


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




I’ve posted my review of

et-in-china”>
The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online
,
a combination of research and sociological analysis, here:


“>
Book review

Relevant comments are welcome on this blog.

One Quarter of Home Vid Rentals to Be OTT by 2014 [NewTeeVee]


This post is by Chris Albrecht from GigaOM Network


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Over the top and on demand are increasingly how people want to consume — and pay for — their video, if new numbers from The Diffusion Group hold true. The research firm estimates that by 2014 revenue from in North America from on-demand video delivered via over-the-top methods will grow to $2.1 billion, up from $621 million in 2009.

To provide some context, TDG pegs U.S. DVD rental revenue at more than $8 billion by 2014, which would make OTT rentals roughly 25 percent of home video rentals.

Spurring growth in OTT services is the mad proliferation of such capabilities into a wide variety of consumer electronics devices such as game consoles, Blu-ray players, and broadband-connected televisions sets; as well as the increased number of OTT video services that are now online (Amazon, Netflix, Vudu, etc.) and only getting better and easier for consumers to use.

In a press release, TDG analyst, Colin Dixon said if the OTT growth “…fails to warn companies like Blockbuster and Time Warner Cable as to the magnitude of this threat, they are asleep at the wheel.” His warning to a cable company like Time Warner comes at the same time when a new Pike and Fischer report forecasts that cable ad revenue, which dropped 8 percent in 2008, will fall by more than 22 percent in 2009. Growth in OTT delivery could snatch away even more revenue as people cut the cord and cancel their pay TV subscriptions.

OTT video is something we cover pretty much daily here at NewTeeVee. Piping video content directly to your TV over a broadband connection is such a fast-moving and important topic, we’re devoting much our our upcoming NewTeeVee Live conference to the subject. Hear first-hand from the major players involved like Reed Hasting, CEO of Netflix; Anthony Wood, CEO of Roku; Avner Ronen, CEO of Boxee; Marc Whitten, General Manager of Xbox Live and more. The show has sold out the last two years, so get your ticket today.