Genentech’s (And Apple Board Member) Arthur Levinson Leaves Google Board

Genentech chairman Arthur D. Levinson is resigning from Google’s Board of Directors, the Mountain View company announced earlier this morning. His departure comes shortly after Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from the board of Apple, where Levinson is also a director.

No reason for the departure was given in the statement, but this is likely a result of the growing tension between Google and Apple, which is being closely monitored by the FTC.

In the statement, Schmidt describes Levinson as a good friend and valued colleague:

“Art has been a key part of Google’s success these past five years, offering unvarnished advice and vital counsel on every big issue and opportunity Google has faced,” Schmidt said. “Though he leaves as a member of our Board, Art will always have a special place at Google.”

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Review: Best New iPod and iPhone AppStore Games


With the recent iPod Touch update Apple has positioned and marketed the device as a new type of mobile gaming platform. Games have always been some of the best selling applications in the AppStore for both the iPod Touch and the iPhone. A recent advertisement for the iPod Touch carries the slogan “The Funnest iPod Ever” and features a number of games. We decided to try out and review each of the games featured in the ad and rate the ‘fun factor’ ourselves.

The Apple mobile devices have become decent gaming machines, with some of the newer games providing in-depth 3D environments and absorbing gameplay. We found a number of games that were extremely well developed and addictive, as good and better than most of the dedicated mobile gaming devices available on the market today.

We previously reviewed the best iPhone Apps so far this year. The following is our review of 12 of the new iPod Touch and iPhone games featured and highlighted in the recent Apple campaign.

If you have found any cool and fun new games for the iPod Touch or iPhone, or you have a particular favorite game, let us know in the comments.

Top Gun

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstarstar

Download: Rated 9+; $1.99

topgunpic After watching Top Gun for the first time, who didn’t want to be a Navy Fighter Pilot – flying around shooting planes out of the sky to save your country, and being called awesome monikers like Maverick and Ice Man? With Paramount Pictures Top Gun iPhone app, you can get closer to this experience. The best part of it is, you can do it to the tune of Danger Zone.

The game features 10 missions, each one increasing in difficulty as you progress. The controls are balanced and the game is well designed for the most part. The graphics were crisp, and there was no frame lag when I played. It did seem odd though that the game had no throttle control: you are unable to speed up nor slow down, which meant I couldn’t use my favorite Top Gun quote, “You’re gonna do what,?!” while playing. The lack of a multiplayer mode keeps me from giving it a higher ranking, but for two bucks, you can’t really go wrong. Playing to Danger Zone adds another star to the rating, it just pumps me up everytime.

Real Racing

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Download: Rated 4+; $6.99

realraceThis is the closest an iPhone game has come to either Gran Turismo or Project Gotham. Real Racing is for the true racing enthusiast and gamer. There are 48 cars in 4 different classes, and the game boasts a massive 76 events in its career mode. The game offers automatic acceleration, as well as manual for those who truly want a challenge. Furthermore, the game offers a six person local multiplayer (through a WiFi network) so you can test your skills with all of your friends. On top of a global leaderboard, Real Racing has customizable leaderboards so that you can always hold your superiority over the heads of those closest to you.

Overall, this game is amazing. The graphics are awesome, the gameplay is crisp, and you can even post your best races straight to youtube! The only thing that seems to be missing is a non-local multiplayer so that you can challenge anyone around the world, but the upsides far outweigh this point. Definitely worth the $6.99.

Monster Trucks Nitro

TechCrunch Rating: starstar

Download: Rated 4+; $0.99

MonsterTrucksNitro_Screenshot7The goal of Monster Trucks Nitro is to race down the eight different tracks as fast as you can while surmounting the obstacles which the game lays out. The game awards either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal depending on how fast you complete the races. Monster Trucks Nitro is a fun game and kept me engaged for a short while.

Unfortunately, I finished quite quickly and realized that there was no replay value to it other than simply going for all Gold medals. Also, there was no real sense of speed even when I used the Nitro. The graphics are decent, the framerate is adequate, and the multiple camera angles add a neat aspect to this game. However, the amount of content is definitely the shortcoming in this game and keeps it from a better rating.

3D Rollercoaster Rush

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstarstar

Download: Rated 4+; $4.99; Limited Free Version

3d_rollercoaster_rish Looking at the description of this game, I didn’t think there was any way this game could be worth the $4.99 price tag, so I downloaded and installed the free and restriction version to try it out. Within minutes of playing the free version, I was hooked, and immediately purchased the full version for $4.99. The graphics are awesome, and I have yet to get past all of the levels. The carts can go faster or slower through the use of the accelerometer and the stunts which you can perform are, as the description describes, “insane.”

Being able to race the game designer’s time and demolish it is pretty satisfying, but I would still like a multiplayer function if I’m going to be shelling my hard earned(ish) cash. Overall, the $4.99 is a bit steep compared to other games, but worth it. At a slightly lower price, it would definitely be a 5-star ‘must have’ game. Try out the free version first to find out if you enjoy the game.

Touch Hockey: FS5

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstar

AppStore: Rated 4+; $0.99; Limited Free Version

touchhockey_playingPlaying this game brings back memories of being in an arcade and playing air hockey with my buddies. There really isn’t too much to say about Touch Hockey: FS5, as it is quite simple and intuitive. The gameplay is smooth and very responsive. The friends feature, where you can play a friend over WiFi, is very addictive.

The only problem is that in single-player mode the AI is way too easy, so unless you have a friend to play against over WiFi, the game becomes very boring very quickly. The only difference between the free version and paid version is the removal of ads, which for most won’t justify the purchase price as the ads are not very intrusive.

Homerun Battle 3D

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstarstarstar

AppStore: Rated 4+; $4.99

homerunbattleHomerun Battle 3D, previously known as Baseball Slugger, is a homerun. The batting controls are perfect and there is so much replay value with the online challenges. The graphics are clear and the stadium rendering excellent – it certainly looks and plays better than Wii Baseball. This has quickly become one of my favorite iPhone/iPod Touch games available today.

My only gripe is how, when playing alone, the computer can throw six 80 MPH fastballs in a row, and then come with a 104 MPH slider. That’s ridiculous. Other than that, this game is a must have for anyone looking for a casual and fun game.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour by EA Sports

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstarstarstar

AppStore: Rated 4+; $4.99

tiger-woods-pga-golf-iphoneLike Tiger Woods, this game is a winner. It becomes apparently from early on that EA Sports has spent a lot of time developing and refining this game to mimic the classic console experience. While many games use a lot of the iPhone’s features simply for novelty sake, EA makes sure to use them to the users advantage.

The game offers actual PGA courses to play on, different difficulty levels, and upgradeable equipment and abilities. The graphics are as good as they get, the gameplay is on par with any other game out there, and replay value is high, especially for fans of golf. An online multiplayer would have seen this game receive an off-the-charts rating, and I hope we see that feature soon. This game is definitely a must have for anyone with either an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

Slope Rider

TechCrunch Rating: starstar

AppStore: Rated 4+; $2.99; Limited Free Version

sloperiderBased on the Mac game, Slope Rider was re-engineered to work on the iPhone/iPod Touch. While the game has crisp graphics and a good interface, there is nothing which truly stands out. You can either race via the alpine tracks, or do tricks via the freestyle courses. There are a multitude of tricks to master which are combined through the use of grabs, flips, and turns, which will in turn increase your points.

There is no multiplayer, and the only way to gauge how good you are is to check the global leaderboard. For this game, I would definitely recommend saving your three dollars for one of the other games on this list, and just downloading the free version.

Aqua Moto Racing

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstar

AppStore: Rated 4+; $3.99; Limited Free Version

aquamotoracing1cIf you blinked during the Apple commercial then you might not have seen this game. Aqua Moto Racing brings back memories of Nintendo 64’s Wave Race, which is definitely a good thing. There are 18 different tracks to race from, and you are able to race these in reversed mode as well, which adds to the replayability of the game.

While this game doesn’t have true multiplayer functionality, it does offer ghost mode. Ghost mode lets you race against the times of those who have made the global leaderboard. While this game isn’t on par with some of the other stellar apps on this list, it is definitely worth the free test drive, especially for those nostalgic for the old Wave Race.

Finger Foos

TechCrunch Rating: star

AppStore: Rated 4+; FREE

fingerfoosOn the Apple Ad, Finger Foos seems really cool and fun, but it really isn’t – it is terrible. The game is ridiculously simple and requires absolutely no skill whatsoever. The technology behind it is slick as you can see in the commercial, but the game just isn’t very fun.

It is a very very poor version of Touch Hockey: FS5, but does have the benefit of allowing more players to compete at once. It is a free game, so try it out yourselves to find out just how terrible it is and how misleading the ads can be.

2XL Supercros

TechCrunch Rating: starstarstarstarstar

AppStore: Rated 4+; $7.99; Limited Free Version

2xlsuperIf a game developer charges $8 for a game, it better be a very good one, especially since that price point is at the top end for games and it is the most expensive game on this list. 2XL Games, the developers of 2XL Supercross did not disappoint. This game has everything: the graphics are crystal-clear, the sounds of the engines are life-like, and the physics of the game are nearly perfect. A player can customize the look of his rider, ride in either a 125cc, 250cc, or 450cc bike, and race from four different camera views.

The controls take a little while to get used to, but once you get them, the game is a lot of fun. And if you don’t like the preset controls, no worries, as the game has eight different control configurations. This is another must have for any game enthusiast. Best of all, it has a free version to test-drive.

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Tweetie 2 Lives! Get It While It’s Hot

Screen shot 2009-10-09 at 1.25.28 PMA couple weeks ago we did a preview of Tweetie 2, the next version of the iPhone Twitter client. To say there was a lot of interest in obtaining the app is an understatement. And now you can. Earlier today, Apple approved the app, and it just went live in the App Store.

You may not be able to find it through a search right now, but use this link to go directly to it.

As we noted originally, the app is $2.99 even if you bought the original Tweetie. This has been the source of some controversy, as some users (like former Who’s The Boss stars) don’t understand why this isn’t a free upgrade. But we feel the many upgrades in the new app warrant the price.

More importantly, it’s $3, you probably spend at least that on coffee everyday. And you’ve probably spent ten times that on fart apps.

Screen shot 2009-10-09 at 1.32.59 PM

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Is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce corrupt? And why it matters

us-chamber-of-commerce-1It’s been a remarkable few days for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the 3 million-member business federation that says it spends more money on lobbying than any other organization in the U.S.

When the Chamber recently took a strong stance against federal policy and other legislative proposals that will regulate greenhouse emissions, it forced several companies to quit the Chamber in protest. These companies, including large California utility PG&E and Apple, argue the Chamber’s stance is archaic and incompatible with their views.

Because he’s been dragged into the news, the Chamber’s president Tom Donohue is getting more scrutiny. And it turns out that he serves on the board of Union Pacific Railroad. That’s significant for two reasons. First, the railroad is heavily dependent on the business of transporting coal for its revenues and has admitted it could be adversely affected by the legislation:

“We May Be Affected by Climate Change and Market or Regulatory Responses to Climate Change…Restrictions, caps, taxes, or other controls on emissions of greenhouse gasses, including diesel exhaust, could significantly increase our operating costs…[and] could also affect our customers…[which could] reduce the amount of traffic we handle and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, and liquidity.”

34617571As board member of Pacific Union, Donohue (left) is barred from “any conduct or activities that are inconsistent with the Company’s best interests.”

Second, the Railroad has paid him about $5 million worth of compensation for being on the board since 1998. All of this and more is being documented really well by the National Resource Defense Council’s Peter Altman.

VentureBeat’s Camille Ricketts today wrote a follow-up piece about the Donohue’s response to the Chamber defections, which is in part to blame the companies for grandstanding or not entirely understanding its policy. The Chamber is not backing down from its position.

Why is this relevant for Silicon Valley and innovation? Well, first, the science about climate change is undisputed. A survey of more than 900 scientific peer review articles on climate change found that not one conflicted with the United Nations’ IPCC’s conclusion that the world is getting hotter and that the vast majority of the effect is caused by human carbon emissions. U.S. Government agencies have said that to avoid environmental catastrophe within the next century, we, as a world, desperately need to cut carbon emissions.

Second, to push for this change, the Obama Administration has already started to pump $4 billion of stimulus funding into Smart Grid technologies. The proposed cap and trade legislation — a more ambitious law that could be passed by the end of this year — will help bolster investments into green companies even further. By imposing limits on greenhouse gases, and creating a floor price on the cost of carbon, it will force a more aggressive transition to renewable sources of energy such as solar or wind. A whole new energy infrastructure will be needed. That’s one reason why VC investments in the sector during the third quarter exceeded investments in all other sectors, including IT and biotech. Indeed, that’s why we’re holding our GreenBeat conference next month on the Smart Grid. Former Vice President Al Gore, leading Silicon Valley investor John Doerr, and executives from Cisco, PG&E and other executives are all speaking (We’re also inviting the top innovative startups and other companies to partake in a competition).

union_pacificAll of this comes as hundreds of green energy company executives and investors flew to Washington this week to urge congress to pass the climate change bill. Among them was Kleiner Perkins’ Doerr. During a Q&A session in Washington, Energy Secretary Steven Chu reportedly cited a congressional Budget office estimate that the House bill would boost energy costs for the average household by roughly the equivalent of a postage stamp each day — a mere 44 cents.

Back to the Chamber’s stance. There’s no way around seeing it as astonishingly hypocritical. On the one hand, it argues that it supports climate change legislation, if done correctly, and that the reason it is against the current House Waxman-Markey bill is because that proposal isn’t strong enough. But if you go into the details of the Chamber’s arguments, you won’t find any convincing counter-proposal. It’s clearly obfuscating. Again, Altman of the NRDC is documenting this: The Chamber doesn’t really see warming as a problem. The Chamber argues that a “warming of even 3ºC in the next 100 years would, on balance, be beneficial to humans” because of fewer cold-related deaths in winter months (see p. 38). Note some of the other excerpts of its comments to the Environmental Protection Agency:

  1. “The increased use of air conditioning will mitigate many of the effects cited by EPA….” (p.1)
  2. “Overall, there is strong evidence that populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations” (p. 4)
  3. “The evidence when considered together suggests potential increases in temperature as the result of climate change will not pose an endangerment to public health… ” (p. 14)
  4. “The U.S. health care system has effectively dealt with many of the reported climate sensitive diseases for a long time, and will continue to respond effectively.” (p. 39)

This is really scary. The Chamber is arguing that the earth can withstand global warming when it really has no idea that this is true. In fact, it can be argued just as easily that unprecedented warming could possibly trigger an irreversible process of heating and change that builds on itself and whacks the earth’s ecosystem out of balance.

How does the Chamber really justify holding to such a radical position? VentureBeat has called the Chamber several times for comment since Tuesday (its site has no email), but the Chamber has not responded. Sen. Richard Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, is now asking questions about Donahue’s board memberships.

Notably, the San Jose (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce is still mulling its position. A call to the group for comment yielded no response. We also called the California Chamber of Commerce. A spokeswoman Christine Haddon said: “We’ve taken a totally different position (than the U.S. Chamber),” adding that while the state Chamber originally opposed California’s legislation AB32, that legislation is now law and so the Chamber is embracing it in order to be able to better influence how it is implemented.

Now, the interesting question is who is next to break ranks from the U.S. Chamber. Yesterday, Microsoft (which is offering Hohm, a home energy management product) said the Chamber no longer represents its views. That comes a few days after General Electric, the largest corporate player in the country in the energy industry, also took the stance. This is significant: When you lose the utilities and the largest grid vendors, you’re looking very shaky.

It’s tragic that such an influential group as the Chamber would resist such important change. It’s time for urgent action, and the move by Apple and PG&E is very encouraging that some big companies see a way that proactive policy on climate change doesn’t necessarily have to be bad for business. One PG&E executive, who requested anonymity, put it this way: “You can stick your head in the sand, and have stuff done to you, and lose while you do nothing. Or you can embrace change, and take a role in shaping policy.” PG&E’s chief executive Peter Darbee, the executive continued, “has a deep conviction that climate change is real, and we have a moral responsibility — that things can be done that aren’t anti-competitive. To be sure things get done in a constructive way, you need to be part of the dialog.”

If you’re an executive in the energy or green industry, you’ll want to come to GreenBeat 2009, the seminal event for the Smart Grid. Sign up within the next two days, and you get a $255 discount!

iPhone Releases OS 3.1.2 Update, Fixes a Few Bugs [Updates]

Apple has just pushed out an update for all iPhone generations in the form of iPhone OS 3.1.2. Don't expect any major feature updates in this 241MB download, but do expect a few fixes to some annoying problems, most notably:

  • Resolves sporadic issue that may cause iPhone not to wake from sleep
  • Resolves intermittent issue that may interrupt cellular services until restart
  • Fixes bug that could cause occasional crash during video stream

Now if only I could get an update that "Resolves issue where your stupid phone thinks headphones are plugged in all the time, even when they're not, so you can finally answer calls without a headset plugged in" I'd be a very happy human being. To get your update on, plug in your iPhone and click on Check for Updates in iTunes. Jailbreakers: You'll probably want to wait on this one. [via Gizmodo]

Satirical iPhone Apps? Not Cool. Upskirt iPhone Apps? Cool.

Screen shot 2009-10-07 at 9.34.13 PMA buddy pinged me tonight with the video below. It’s of an iPhone called Puff! that basically allows you to blow into the iPhone microphone or push your finger up the screen in order to get a Japanese girl’s skirt to blow up into the air, revealing her underwear. I’m watching this video, and thinking of my headline for this story. Here’s what I had: Well, Here’s An App You’ll Never See In The App Store.

The only problem? This app is in the App Store. As in it it right now, live. In the U.S. too! What the hell, Apple?

Let me just get this straight: A hilarious satirical app made by the Someecards guys cannot get approved because it contains cards that, for example, mock Hitler. But an upskirt app is just fine? That is so ridiculous.

Now, to be clear, this Puff! app contains no nudity, but I think we all know what this type of app is implying, and who this type of app specifically appeals to (hint: some may be found in this app). This app is rated 17+ for “frequent/intense sexual content or nudity” but Someecards app was also submitted with the same rating, but just for satire (so basically, language), and it was rejected.

Apple is either extremely hypocritical, asleep at the wheel again (remember Baby Shaker?), or both.

Look, I’m all for all kinds of apps getting into the App Store, including porn apps as long as they’re correctly rated. What I’m not for is Apple’s totally uneven rules for what apps get in and what don’t. And today has brought two perfect examples of that.

I still think it’s time to tear down the App Store wall. I just wonder how long it will take Apple to realize that they have to because the approval situation is untenable and ridiculous? Maybe when they hit a million apps in the App Store? 2 million? Until then we’ll just have to deal with this BS, I guess.

[thanks Sean]

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Apple’s Mighty Mouse Never Lived Up To Its Name. And Now It Can’t.

mighty_mouseIt seems pretty clear at this point that Apple is getting ready to release a new mouse, probably with some kind of multi-touch capabilities, that is probably attached to some new iMacs. No one is happier about that than me, as I hate the current Mighty Mouse. But it looks like Apple may not have a chance to create a device that lives up to that name this time around, as someone else has won the trademark for the name “Mighty Mouse.”

Man & Machine, a company which makes computer peripherals, says it has been granted the trademark on “Mighty Mouse” from the United States Patent and Trademark Office as of yesterday. Sure enough, it’s there on the USPTO site. For over 5 years, the company says that it has used the name for its line of mice that are “rugged, hygienic, waterproof.” The company has a press release for the trademark decision; clearly, they are jazzed about the win.

And they should be. Though they never mention Apple by name, they do say that “Others have used the name Mighty Mouse for their computer mice and have sought registration of that trademark, but now the United States government has spoken.

Perhaps the U.S. government wasn’t a fan of Apple’s poorly executed mouse either. And now it looks like unless they want a trademark fight, or to pay Man & Machine a lot of money, the new mouse will get a new name. iMouse? Apple Mouse? Touch Mouse? Let the guessing begin.

It’s worth noting that “Mighty Mouse” was also the name of a cartoon series, and yes, parts of it are also trademarked, but since that is not a computer peripheral, CBS didn’t have a claim to the name in that realm apparently (though they tried).

[Thanks Clifton]

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