Ooyala announces live video streaming feature

ooyalaAiming to be a one-stop shop for web video, Ooyala is announcing a live video streaming feature for its video technology users.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company says it will make it easy for content publishers to create and manage live video streams from a single publishing platform. With the new feature, customers can manage live videos alongside other video assets. The analytics, branding, and monetization tools can all be found in the same place too.

The company comptes with others such as Ustream, Bit Gravity and others. The live streaming feature is part of the company’s Backlot platform, which lets video producers upload, transcode, edit, share, and manage video — all with a single set of tools. You can set up a stream for thousands of viewers with the push of a button. The service provides detailed analytics on the video. Publishers can customize the live stream viewer as needed and set up viewing permissions as necessary.

The company was founded in 2007 and has raised $10 million in funding. Jay Fulcher was recently appointed as chief executive of Ooyala. The company has more than 500 corporate and media partners for its online video platform.


The iPhone as a Gaming Platform: Share of Top Apps By Category

As a follow-up to my recent post on the Top Grossing Apps list on iTunes, I examined three lists highlighted in the app store: the Top Paid, Top Free, and Top Grossing Apps. Believing that many users scan these lists, developers covet a spot on any of these Top 100 charts.


In my previous posts, I've highlighted that Games is the largest category, accounting for about 20% of unique apps. The graphs below show that the gaming category has a much larger share†† in each of the three Top 100 lists:


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68% of the Top Paid, 67% of the Top Free, and 50% of the Top Grossing apps were Games. Other categories that had disproportionate share of apps in the Top 100 rankings include Social Networking, Photography, (and to a lesser extent) Sports, and Utilities.


In contrast, three of the five largest categories (Books, Travel, Education) were severely underrepresented in each of the U.S. iTunes Top 100 Charts.




(†) Size of a category is measured in terms of unique apps.


(††) Data for this post was for the two weeks ending 10/4/2009. I consider an app as being in the Top 100, if it was listed among the most popular (free, paid or grossing) apps, sometime during those two weeks.

Snapixel Lets You Share, Sell Photos

Snapixel is a relatively new photo sharing service combined with a straight-forward buying and selling platform for stock photography. It’s almost like Flickr got married to iStockphoto and they had a love child!

Yes, it’s yet another photo sharing service. And yes, it’s yet another stock photography marketplace. But both of the services rolled into one website results in a pretty decent combined offering, especially considering the fact that the whole thing was built by a completely bootstrapped venture based out of San Francisco.

Update: the company gave us some free coupons for TC readers! (see below where we discuss account types)

So what gives? On the photo sharing side, users get a bunch of features and storage for free. There’s no maximum file size (although the only format you can upload is JPEG for now), and you can store up to 5GB of photos without paying a dime. You get multiple upload options, geo-tagging and mapping features, easy organization and management tools and multiple ways to share images with your friends on other social networks in just a few clicks.

If you feel like you’ve seen this type of design before, it’s probably because you have. The screenshots below show that the whole look and feel of the Snapixel website was heavily inspired by Flickr, but frankly I see it as as a good thing because it works. Like Flickr, there’s a community aspect to the site, and the service lets you easily organize uploaded images into groups and sets, with the added ability of assigning the appropriate Creative Commons license to them. You can add tags, edit descriptions and titles, assign geo-information to photos and interact with other members.

But what Flickr lacks, Snapixel offers: a marketplace where users can go to buy and sell photos. Sure, Yahoo-owned Flickr once had serious plans for such an embedded service – it made, and still makes a lot of sense – and has a partnership with Getty Images in place that allows the latter company to market select images that Flickr users upload online.

Snapixel offers several account types: Free, Pro and Seller. The Pro account (currently $9.95/year) has all the features of the free offering but removes any advertising and comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth. When you sign up as a Seller, you get a Pro account with the extra ability to participate in the Snapixel Marketplace.

(The startup is giving away free one-year Pro subscriptions to the first 200 TC readers to sign up here – you can also simply enter the coupon code “TechCrunch” on the registration form)

When you apply and get activated as a Seller after screening, you can earn 60% from every photo sale – an extraordinarily high commission compared to competitors – and you get a couple of extra features such as watermarking, IPTC keyword support, flexible licensing options and unlimited storage.

All in all, Snapixel offers a great user experience combined with a service that’s packed with features, and again it’s impressive to see both of the core services of the platform so well aligned with each other in just one interface. The startup’s biggest challenge is going to be marketing; spreading the word to enough photographers who’d be interested in signing up to make the service viable.

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

Four short links: 8 October 2009

  1. Linux Baby Rocker -- inventive use of a CD drive and the eject command ... (via Hacker News)
  2. I Like Unicorn Because It's Unix -- forceful rant about the need to rediscover Unix systems programming. Reminds me of the Varnish notes where the author explains that it works better because it uses the operating system instead of recreating it poorly.
  3. Encrypting Ephemeral Storage and EBS Volumes on Amazon -- step-by-step instructions. (via Matt Biddulph on Delicious)
  4. You Have No Life -- if a video smacks even slightly of concentrated effort or advance planning, someone will inevitably scoff that the subject has a) "too much time on his hands" or b) "no life." Ten times out of ten. [...] After six years I lack a succinct, meaningful response to my students' defensive, clannish embrace of mediocrity, though I'm grateful for this tweet, which comes pretty close: dwineman: You say "looks like somebody has too much time on their hands" but all I hear is "I'm sad because I don't know what creativity feels like."

Cable Boxes And Their Fisher Price Remotes Are Junk. Demand Better.

41501151-300x300-0-0_Fisher+Price+Sesame+Street+Silly+Sounds+RemoteAbout a year ago, I had enough. I was so sick of putting up with Comcast’s ridiculous rates for terrible service that I decided to cancel everything but the Internet. Truth be told, I kept basic cable only because it was cheaper to keep it with my Internet package then to not keep it. But I never watched it. For all intents and purposes I was cable-free. Most importantly, that meant removing the cable box from my life as the filter between me and content on my television. I thought I would miss it. I did not. At all.

Fast forward to now: I recently moved, and luckily enough my apartment isn’t held captive under Comcast’s dominion. So I decided to try cable once again, just to see if it was as bad as I remembered it. My new service is substantially cheaper, so that’s nice, but all in all, the song remains the same. It’s absolute crap from an end user perspective. And yet we put up with it.

The Box

Almost all of us likely have a cable box. Turn it on. Just look at that user interface. Yes, it’s probably more or less the same one you’ve been looking at for the past 10 years, if not longer. It probably has some blue in there, probably some green, maybe a little red if they’re rebellious. The icons look like crap and the text is often hard to read.

I would make a joke about our phones having nicer UIs, except that our phones now have UIs that must be a thousand times nicer. Maybe a million.

dvr_motorola_dct6412_medIn fact, I can’t think of any digital device today that has a worse UI. And this is probably many peoples’ most-used device. And it’s not just that it looks awful, it’s slow. There are delays that simply shouldn’t be there when moving between channels or navigating the menus. We’re talking half-seconds to multiple seconds, but all of that time adds up and severely hampers the experience.

I don’t think I’m going to get much disagreement in saying that Motorola, which makes many of these boxes that cable companies use, should have been fired a long, long time ago for these miserable things. But of course, the cable companies don’t care. Most of them have strangleholds (shhh don’t say “monopoly”) over their communities, and know that consumers have very little choice, and so the cable companies go for these cheapest option boxes.

The Remote

As bad as the cable boxes are, their remotes may be worse.

Most TVs nowadays are slick pieces of hardware, and their accompanying remotes are also pretty slick. I’d love to use one someday, unfortunately they’re all pretty useless because the cable company forces their cable box on you and then makes you use their awful remotes. I’ve seen a lot of cable boxes in my time, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a remote for one of them that doesn’t look like it was developed by Fisher Price.

Those huge, ugly, rubbery buttons. The cable company branding. The absurd number of extra buttons. These things are nightmares. And while there are some nice universal remote solutions, let’s be honest, most people are never going to get those. Others will say, “Get a TiVo.” It does have a great remote, but again, why would people get yet another box for the living room when the DVR through the cable company is cheaper (though much, much worse)? So they are stuck using the Fisher Price variety. Like I am. Look mom, I can use TV too!

DigitalCableBoxRemote2

The Offerings

I’m not going to go into the various aspects of why cable companies overall content offering are bad. That could be a number of posts all by itself. I will say that it’s an absolutely joke that we still have no a-la-carte options. That is to say, no way to pick just the channels you want to get without being forced to have literally hundreds now that you could care less about.

The Catalysts

If the cable companies had their way, none of this would ever change. Just look at Comcast. We’re in the midst of a horrible recession and yet Comcast’s profits increased by an amazing 53% last quarter. Why? Well a small sliver may be attributed to the fact that in tough times people turn to entertainment to get away, but the real story is that Comcast jacked up prices. Again, because they could.

But I’m going hold out hope that services like Verizon FIOS and others can continue spreading, and put pressure on these cable companies to actually work towards improving their offerings, rather than improving their bottom-lines.

apple-tv-2While Apple’s iPhone is not everyone’s cup of tea, there is no denying that it significantly changed the wireless landscape in this country. Just a couple of years ago I was using a RAZR phone, and that was considered fairly high tech for the U.S. Today, that would be considered laughable.

The iPhone and the subsequent smartphones that followed have forced change to improve the state of the industry from an end-user perspective. Before it, the carriers ruled with an iron fist. Now, companies like Apple and Google are starting to have a say.

I hope the same thing is possible in the cable industry. It will be harder to initiate this change because various providers do have many areas on lockdown. In wireless, most consumers had a choice of which provider to go with. In cable, most don’t have that choice. Sure, some opt for satellite, but again, that’s not an option for a lot of people.

The Compromise

But forget the service, let’s even just improve the cable boxes. It’s no secret that the Apple TV hasn’t exactly been a big success for Apple. Maybe it’s time for them to stray from the go-it-alone approach and instead talk with cable providers about making boxes for them. Do I believe that will actually ever happen? No, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility as it is a similar idea to what they’ve done with the iPhone in wireless.

Apple could use its box to get a foot into the cable business. The box could have a DVR, full access to a cable company’s content, but also access to iTunes. Would the cable companies ever go for that and give up their pay-per-view business? Probably not, but maybe a smaller one would be willing to take a gamble on it. An maybe that in turn would force others to at the very least improve their rubbish hardware.

slingbox-7It’s a pipe dream, but it’s one that I’m going to keep on dreaming every time I turn on my TV. I look at my cable box’s UI versus the UI on my Apple TV or my Xbox 360 and I just shake my head. Two of them look like modern, sexy services, the other looks like it was designed in the 70s or 80s — probably because it was.

And why on Earth do cable boxes have to be so big? There is technology now to use CableCARD (even though no one suspiciously seems to be using them), and yet we need these gigantic boxes?

Myself and others have ranted about this topic before, with elaborate plans to bring about change, but nothing ever seems to change. That’s why I think now a very simple goal is important — Cable companies: Get decent cable boxes with non-Fischer Price remotes, or get out of my living room, again.

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

Foursquare location-sharing app is now live in London

Foursquare, the location-sharing app gaining traction because it’s designed like a game, is now live in the U.K. The move marks more international expansion after the company raised $1.35 million in a first-round of funding a month ago with investors like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

The three-person company has been on a tear lately, overhauling its main site to feature a live stream of updates from users across North America. It’s also more aggressively targeting businesses, encouraging them to offer deals to Foursquare users who frequent them enough to earn “mayorship” badges on the app.

That would effectively make Foursquare more like a loyalty card, as it motivates users to check-in or visit their favorite haunts more times to win deals. Plus it could charge local businesses for promotion within the app like the photo to the right. Other revenue models? If the app collected enough data about a user’s regular habits (like whether they typically like a pint of beer or brunch at 2 p.m. on Sundays), it could offer very specific, timed and targeted advertising to users around that.

lord_mayor_of_london_-_john_stuttard_-_nov_2006

No, being mayor on Foursquare does not get you a sweet Lord Mayor's Parade in London. But it could get you a free drink.

Launched at the SXSW, Foursquare is one of the few break-out hits in location-based services. It tries to turn nightlife into a game by encouraging users to voluntarily “check-in” or report where they’re at when they travel around cities. Check-in enough times and a user can earn different kinds of badges recognizing them for exploring their cities.


Tibco Offers Real-Time Service For Optimizing BPM Software

tibcologo.gifTibco is offering a real-time service called iProcess Spotfire that allows business users to manipulate data and produce reports from their business process management (BPM) software.

Tibco's do-it-yourself (DIY) service represents one of the promises of the real-time enterprise. The task of updating and fine tuning BPM software usually requires the help of IT personnel. It's reminiscent of how the web has made the most complex tasks fairly doable by people with little expertise. Tasks that once required experts now can be performed by people with few technical skills.

Sponsor

The Tibco service is designed for all levels of business users. Professionals can use it to understand the operation aspects of the process performance. Executives can use it to get a broad look at the business.

iProcess Spotfire features:

Personalized process reporting and analytics: Gone are the static dashboards. Custom templates display reports that are tailored to specific users.

Better Context:
Tibco provides the ability to extract process performance data generated by the BPM and combine it with business information from other applications. This provides the business manager with a broader context than if the data from the BPM environment was all that could be accessed.

Self-service: Instead of relying on IT to create custom reports, iProcess Spotfire enables business users to customize their own work and analyze the metrics themselves. By empowering the business users directly, companies can save time and money, while simultaneously ensuring that changes in the business process performance can be identified and acted upon by the most appropriate people, in the most efficient manner.

Due in large part to the faltering economy, BPM software is proving to be one of the hottest growing sectors in the enterprise IT market. According to Gartner, the BPM market will increase 5% over the next year. Companies that make the investment now in BPM will see better growth when the economy rebounds.

The Tibco offering optimizes BPM software even more by making it a DIY product. Efficiencies are maximized and business managers get to make better customizations that in the long run could have a real effect on the bottom line.

Disclosure: Tibco is a sponsor of the ReadWrite Real-Time Web Summit to be held October 15 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Ca.

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