Google Gears’ days may be numbered


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GearslogoIt looks like Google is scaling back its support for Gears, the browser extension it launched in 2007 to add capabilities to web applications such as offline access to web applications.

The company is being a little vague about its exact plans. The Los Angeles Times reported that Google is “letting the sun set on its Gears project” — not because it isn’t interested web apps with additional capabilities, but because many of those features will be be including in HTML5, the next version of the standard web programming language. I asked Google for more information, and it sent the following statement (which repeats what it said for The Times):

As you know, we’ve been big supporters of HTML5 for a while now and we’re excited that a lot of the features that we launched with Gears a few years ago, are now making their way into the HTML5 spec in an open and standard way.

To be clear, we’re continuing to support Gears so that nothing breaks for sites that use it. But we expect developers to use HTML5 for these features moving forward as it’s a standards-based approach that will be available across all browsers.

So Gears users shouldn’t worry that the program will disappear in the next few months. After all, HTML5 isn’t even finalized yet. But as that programming language is rolled out, don’t be surprised if you hear less and less about new versions of Gears, and more about Google continuing to let Gears support slip, as it has (temporarily?) on Safari for Snow Leopard and Chrome for Mac.


SugarCRM Gets a True Open Source Visionary in Larry Augustin [OStatic]


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I was pleasantly surprised to read that Larry Augustin had been named SugarCRM’s full-time CEO. After spending much of the last decade as an investor and board member extraordinaire for many (most?) companies grouped in the commercial open source category, it is good to see Larry back in the CEO saddle. This is a vindication of sorts for Larry and his vision of an open source future. After years of attempting to explain just how ubiquitous open source was going to be, he can now take the reigns of a company at a time when most customers and vendors take as a given that a substantial portion of any solution will consist of open source code. This was not always the case, especially when Larry was still CEO of VA Linux Systems, at the time the premier vendor for servers running Linux.

To give you an idea of what SugarCRM is getting, Larry is a guy who saw the value in building a center of gravity for open source developerment before most; a guy who counseled LinuxWorld Expo to look to the developer audience and eschew the bad advice they were receiving from their vendors. That they ignored him and subsequently failed is a testament to his vision.

Perhaps the best example of this vision was a move he made almost 10
years ago that many, including yours truly, openly questioned at the time: the acquisition of Andover.net by VA Linux Systems. Some of you may remember that Andover.net was the media company that had purchased Slashdot.org and Freshmeat.net. VA was then still gleaming with post-IPO sparkles, which had taken place just two months prior to the Andover acquisition. With the addition of VA’s home-grown SourceForge.net, VA was on the verge of establishing a veritable open source developalooza. At that time, early 2000, the dot com bubble was still in full swing, seemingly oblivious to its imminent demise just ahead. In that context, the Andover play seemed to be another example of a high-flying IPO company looking to make and stay in the headlines for the sake of pumping its stock price. Many of us questioned how acquiring what amounted to “a bunch of web sites” fit the mission of VA Linux. With hindsight, however, the Andover acquisition wasn’t a cynical move at all, but rather a stroke of genius that was ahead of its time and unappreciated by industry observers.

In early 2000, everyone was still trying to comprehend how the open source revolution was going to shake out – would it be a fad? Was there a viable revenue model for a company that peddled in open source software? It occurred to Larry – much earlier than other executives – that there was an intrinsic value to building the center of gravity for open source development. That there was value in “activity” and capturing that activity meant, by its very definition, adding value. This was a point missed by the company most poised to benefit from the idea, Red Hat. It’s a point not missed by companies like Google, who seem intent on building that center of gravity.

To fully comprehend the magnitude of the Andover acquisition, one must realize that at the time of acquisition, a rather large percentage of open source types religiously visited Slashdot and Freshmeat. Shortly afterward, SourceForge.net came into its own as a provider of free hosting services for open source projects. Between the three sites, VA commanded a high percentage of open source mind share. That this fact went unappreciated both internally at VA and by outside observers is a pity. That many other companies have since jumped on the open source developer bandwagon serves to vindicate the original ideas and goals.

Larry was unfairly maligned for that acquisition. An interesting sidenote is that the race for open source hearts and minds has yet to be won. Some have tried, some are still trying, but no one has made it. Mark my words: whoever is most successful at building the center of gravity for open source developers will reap handsome rewards for it. Larry was the first executive to see that, and it’s about time he got some credit for it.

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Like Google Wave for Developers: Real-Time, Collaborative Code Editing


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Our startup-minded readers may remember Mike Trotzke, our good friend who, with a little help from his good friends Marc Guyer and Brad Wisler, founded a startup incubator called SproutBox earlier this year.

One of the latest sprouts to emerge from the box is Squad, Trotzke’s gift to developers everywhere – and we mean everywhere! This web-based environment allows distributed teams to collaborate in real time, opening, editing and sharing code from anywhere with an Internet connection.

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It’s also beautifully portable – meaning you can work on projects from any location, whether it’s your home computer, your laptop, your mom’s vaccum tube-era model – any device with a browser can be your portal.

And because it’s collaborative, it’s great for conducting code reviews or paired programming. And it’s a perfect platform for noobs and the poor suckers who have to train them. It’s even got a built in chat module so you can discuss changes as they’re made.

Parts of this app dimly reminded us of Lowdown, a plain-text collaboration tool for developers to communicate to designers and managers, and even more so of How’s My Code, a resource for distributed teams to conduct code reviews and keep all the coders for a project on the same page. But those apps were relatively lightweight contraptions slapped together for the Rails Rumble a couple months ago. Trotzke offers a product of a different caliber altogether.

He wrote to us, “It has a unique approach to realtime interaction that even non-developer types would find interest in.

“Users follow each others actions (tab switching, scrolling, etc.) and then see each character they type. You kind of need to try it out to get the feel, but it’s pretty sexy for instructional or code review use cases.”

Sounds sexy indeed! Like a developers-only, less crowded, actually useful version of Google Wave.

Check out the screenshots:

Pricing is competitive and ranges from free to $40 per month for teams of up to 5 users, with additional user support available for $7 per user per month. And the first month is free for everyone on a trial basis.

Squad supports a variety of languages, including HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, SPARQL, Lua and XML. Squad works great as an HTML editor, a PHP editor or a plain text editor.

The startup also plans to add a Ruby syntax mode, enhanced search and replace functions, an offline sharing mode, a show/hide feature on the collaboration panel and project handling functions.

It looks like a great, exciting product, and we look forward to reading users’ reviews and seeing what else Trotzke and the Squad team come up with.

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Yahoo’s Year-end Review: Pop Culture Rules [GigaOM]


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yahootopsearches.gifYahoo just released its year in review according to top searches for 2009. This year’s top 10 searches were dominated by pop culture, led by none other than Michael Jackson, who died earlier this year.

“Twilight,” the vampire book and film series, came in second. The top also included WWE, Megan Fox, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and NASCAR. It seems that 2009 was the year when the world at large wanted to escape from its woes.

For the gadget fiends amongst us, Apple’s iPhone 3G (8 GB), Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP 3000, Apple iPod touch (32 GB) and Sony PlayStation 3 were the top five products for 2009, according to Yahoo searches.

You can check out these and other top 10 search results on a special Year in Review 2009 web site created by Yahoo. As someone who appreciates good, clean design, Yahoo has done a great job of making a large amount of content easy and fun to consume. Kudos.


BillShrink: Now Cutting Costs For 1 Million Users


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BillShrink, the startup that looks to help users save money across verticals including cell phones, credit cards, and savings accounts, has just announced that it has grown to 1 million members since its launch in April 2008. Alongside the milestone, the site is also announcing that it has found “$1 billion in savings on everyday bills”.

That second statistic is a little confusing. BillShrink basically means that if its users had signed up for the top matches generated by its cost cutting tools, they would have saved a total of $1 billion. Of course, not everyone who uses the service decides to change their cell phone carrier or credit card, so the total amount of money saved isn’t that high. That said, this is the first time BillShrink has disclosed the size of its userbase, and it’s clear that the site is getting some solid traction.

BillShrink has been gradually rolling out its cost saving services in new verticals over the last year and a half. The site kicked off with support for finding the cheapest cell phone plan in 2008. Since then it has expanded to include a service for picking the best credit card, saving money on gas, and choosing the best saving account or CD. Most users are interested in the wireless service though, in part because of a marketing push from T-Mobile, and also because dealing with hellish cell phone carriers is something nearly everyone has to do.

BillShrink is able to expand to new verticals relatively quickly because of the technology that’s working in the background. The site is essentially taking unstructured data from across the web and converting it into searchable structured data. That’s a feat that’s harder than it sounds — Google is trying it with Google Squared with mixed results. Granted, BillShrink is dealing with a smaller set of data than a search engine that can query any term, but the site’s backend is more tech-heavy than you might think.

Looking forward, CEO Peter Pham says that the site will be launching some new verticals next year, some of which will include major new partners. Pham says that BillShrink will likely be exploring the ‘Triple Play’ deals offered by cable companies for internet/cable/phone service, as well as a service looking at mortgages (a space that Google has recently entered).

Image by Don Hankins

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Yahoo’s 2009 searches topped by Michael Jackson and Twilight, not Twitter


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yearinreviewBarely more than a few hours after Microsoft revealed the year’s top queries on its new search engine Bing, Yahoo followed suit with its own top 10. Unsurprisingly, Michael Jackson topped both lists, but Twitter fans will be disappointed to learn the microblogging service not only failed to capture the number two spot (where it placed on Bing’s list), it didn’t even make the top 10.

Perhaps that’s not surprising — Bing is a much newer service, and probably appealed to a more tech-aware audience. Yahoo, on the other hand, reaches more users (though it plans to replace its underlying search technology with Bing), and its list skews even more heavily towards celebrities and pop culture:

  1. Michael Jackson
  2. Twilight
  3. WWE
  4. Megan Fox
  5. Britney Spears
  6. Naruto
  7. American Idol
  8. Kim Kardashian
  9. NASCAR
  10. Runescape

Yahoo also released a list of the top 10 business success-related searches, and yep, there’s Twitter — and Bing!

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. Hulu
  4. Bing
  5. iPhone
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Dollar Stores
  8. Palm Pre
  9. Rosetta Stone
  10. Kindle

While we’re on the subject of “year in review” lists, I’ll add that I’m baffled that these lists are coming out now. I understand why some publications feel comfortable doing a list of the best movies or books or whatever (since critics have often received advanced copies or screenings of what’s coming out before the end of the year), but search terms? Really? Don’t we have another month to go?

At least Yahoo has a Year in Review site which it will keep updated with new trends.


Totally Virtual: How ReadWriteWeb Operates


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Recently I was the keynote speaker at the Unlimited Potential W2W (Wellington to the World) event in Wellington, New Zealand. The topic of my presentation was running a virtual company.

In the presentation, written by our Marketing Manager Elyssa Pallai, I spoke about the unique nature of ReadWriteWeb’s virtual business model and culture. Watch the video of my entire presentation below, for details of how our company is run and the Internet tools we use.

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As I explain in the video, ReadWriteWeb is a totally virtual organization. We have no head office, or any office for that matter. Our team work
from home or on the road, around the globe, in multiple time-zones, 24/7. Being totally virtual is about a cultural change – a mind shift.

Presentation, video-taped by Spring TV and available on Viddler:

Slides, via Slideshare:

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SMSONE: Micro-local news from India to make Silicon Valley jealous


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india-broadbandsignOf the hundreds of companies I meet in any given country, I only write about a handful. Sometimes it’s the ones that seem to be copying a US idea, but in reality are building their company in a completely unique—and frequently more profitable—way.  Other times, I’m captivated by an idea that’s perfect for an emerging market, but probably wouldn’t work in the US.

But every once in a while I find a company that hits the trifecta: It’s addressing a big problem locally, it’s something I don’t think is offered in the US, and…. I want it. And when a product in undeveloped, chaotic, messy India can make someone in Silicon Valley feel jealous, you know that entrepreneur has come up with something good.

I’m talking about SMSONE Media, a company I met in Pune about a week ago. Like most of the impressive companies I saw in India, it’s aimed squarely at the base of the pyramid and is using basic SMS to deliver services to people some of India’s most unconnected areas.  It was started by Ravi Ghate, who proudly points out that none of his core team graduated from high school, much less attended an IIT or IIM. (Typically not something you brag about in India.)

SMSONE is basically a very-local newsletter. Ghate goes to a village and scouts out an unemployed youth—preferably one who’s had jobs as a street vendor or has experience going door-to-door shilling for local politicians. The kid pays Ghate 1000 rupees (or about $20) for the “franchise” rights to be the local reporter for that village. He goes door-to-door singing up 1,000 names, phone numbers and other basic information, then mails the slips to Ghate. Ghate enters it all his databases and all those “subscribers” get a text introducing the kid as their village’s reporter. In India all incoming texts are free so, the subscribers don’t pay anything.

And what readers get is pretty powerful. Right now there is no way to get a timely message to people in a village. There’s no Internet access, no TV, no local paper, and frequently no electricity. All they have is a basic mobile phone. SMSONE’s service can give farmers instant updates about crop pricing or news of a seed or fertilizer delivery a town away. That means the farmer only makes the trip when he knows the shipment is there, rather than wasting days of travel hoping the shipment is there.

Consider something even more fundamental: Water. Much of the villages have government-owned water pipes that are turned on for an hour or so once a day, or even in some areas once a week. Everyone has to bring their vats, pitchers and empty kerosene cans and get as much water as they can while the pipes are on. But these pipes don’t really run on a schedule so people frequently miss getting the day or week’s water. Now, SMSONE subscribers get a text when the pipes are about to be turned on.

I know it’s not as life-changing, but I’d pay to get micro-local, highly relevant news about my neighborhood in San Francisco in 160-character bursts, whether it’s about a power or cable outage, a construction project that’s disrupting traffic or details on a shooting that just happened. And I might even welcome local ads that report a hot new restaurant opening or a sale at a boutique two streets over. I feel like modern, uber-connected life has made us less interested in “local news” as we used to think of it on a city or region level, but more interested in the micro-local, hence the excitement in the Valley around Foursquare, CitySourced, and a host of location-aware iPhone apps.

But the beauty of what Ghate has built is its simplicity. It doesn’t need a $300 smart phone and it doesn’t need GPS locators or a platform like Twitter to run on. Sometimes the most powerful innovation is built in the most extreme constraints.

I’m hardly the first to be impressed by what Ghate has created. He has won a host of awards including the Clinton Global Initiative’s YES Fund Award in 2008. And similar models are being built in parts of Africa where there’s similar mobile ubiquity and little else in the way of communications.

The change in life is not only pretty huge for subscribers. That once-unemployed kid suddenly has important local standing in his community. In addition to writing 160-character local news stories, he also sells local ads. Like a newspaper, Ghate enforces a ratio of ads to stories, so the news doesn’t get overrun by promotions.

The economics work out like this: Out of a 1000 rupee ad sale, 300 of it goes to the reporter, and Ghate pays him an additional 50 rupees for each news story. That adds up to a nice income for a village kid, but not so high that he picks up and moves to the big cities. Ambitious franchisees can even hire a few other reporters, expand their subscribers and make more money.

Right now Ghate’s operation is in 400 communities, reaching roughly 400,000 readers.  He just got an investment from the government of Bangalore to boost that reach to five million readers in the next four months.

Ghate is clear that the money will be used strictly to reach more people. The company already breaks even and Ghate makes enough to pay his basic living expenses. He doesn’t care about fancy cars or clothes. It wasn’t too long ago that he was one of those disadvantaged kids, selling flags and berries on the side of the road and being told to go away. He still regularly travels between villages by bus and stays in $5/a night hotels. He’s promised to take me with him on my next trip to India, to see how the service works first hand and meet some of these young “reporters.”

“I’ll be back in February,” I said. “Will you have 5 million readers by then?”

“Not quite,” he said looking up at the ceiling, seemingly counting in his head. He looked down at me again, smiled and said, “Come in April.”

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Google Dumps Gears for HTML5


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It’s official: Google is ditching its homegrown Gears offline web app API in favor of backing HTML5 for the win.

Now that the Chrome browser is becoming available for Mac, and the Snow Leopard OS doesn’t play nicely with Gears, Google has decided to trash the whole works and wait for HTML5, even though the spec isn’t yet ready and isn’t supported by commercially available browsers. Oh, the humanity… or rather, the machinery.

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In the mists of time, back when Gears first launched, we wrote, “We’ve written many times before about the need for offline web app access… And guess who is most at risk with this announcement? Yes, Microsoft. Google after all has many of the top ‘best of breed’ web apps now.”

This was before Google’s Chrome browser had hit the scene, and the Gears project was a collaborative effort between Goog, Opera, and Mozilla.

But in our coverage of last year’s Google I/O conference, we wrote of Gears, “We question whether offline access is even necessary. After all… in today’s world, you’re never too far from an internet connection. We concluded that offline access is important now, but less important with each passing day.”

Not only could Gears be used to take online data offline; Google had more in store for Gears users.

A few short months later, Google announced a geolocation API for mobile devices running Gears. We wrote, “We think that location-aware software is going to be one of the most interesting markets to watch in the near future and as as location-aware devices become more ubiquitous, we will hopefully see a lot of new and innovative services make use of them.”

But the party ended with Snow Leopard’s release. A change in the newest Mac OS prevents Gears from running on newer Mac computers. Whether or not the relationship is one of causation or mere correlation, Google is now abandoning Gears.

As one Google rep told the L.A. Times, “We are excited that much of the technology in Gears, including offline support and geolocation APIs, are being incorporated into the HTML5 spec as an open standard supported across browsers, and see that as the logical next step for developers looking to include these features in their websites.”

Believe us Google, no one is looking forward to the cross-browser, cross-OS implementation of HTML5 as much as we are.

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Plancast Is Foursquare… For The Future


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-2If you’re going to leave your job at TechCrunch, you better have a good reason. I think Mark Hendrickson actually may have had one.

Hendrickson left TechCrunch in March. After about two years of writing and doing development for TC, he got the startup itch. He formed a company, Worldly Developments, and along with co-founder Jay Marcyes is now ready to unveil their project: Plancast.

As you can derive from the name, Plancast is a way to easily broadcast your plans to your online social circle. But a better way to think about it may be as a “Foursquare for the future,” which is how Hendrickson often describes it. The main idea is that while many people use Foursquare and similar location-based services like Gowalla and Loopt to share where they are, Plancast is about sharing where they will be.

Here’s a perfect example: On my main Plancast page right now, I see that Hendrickson, another former TC writer Nick Gonzalez, and current TCer Jason Kincaid are all going to spend the night in the woods together in early December. I don’t know why they’re doing it, but they’re broadcasting that they’re doing it. That’s something that you really need to plan a little bit for, so if I wanted to join (I would if there was a hotel nearby that I could stay in), I could do so and let them know with the click of a button.

Screen shot 2009-11-30 at 6.04.25 PM

But it’s not just about events that you need to plan for. In fact, it’s not really supposed to be about events. “We shy away from using the term “events” because we don’t feel it’s very appropriate for the scope of activity we’re trying to capture. While our users may be interested in posting more formal, organized parties and whatnot to Plancast (and we certainly encourage them to), we want them to also feel completely comfortable sharing more informal plans (getting drinks, seeing a movie, going to the zoo, traveling to new york for a week, attending a conference, etc),” Hendrickson tells us.

He goes on to note that there’s a real void in that particular area, and I agree. While services like Upcoming and Going allow you to broadcast future things you’ll be doing, they are very event-centric. If you’re just going to get a drink tomorrow night and want friends to join, it seems like overkill to create an Upcoming event for that, for example.

Likewise, Facebook and Evite allow you to make future plans, but both are still pretty formal and are based around the idea of the RSVP. With Plancast, you simply click on a friend’s event and if you want to tag along, you hit the “count me in” button, and you’re set. You can also comment on events, to get more information or share your thoughts on it.

-3The social graph of Plancast is also very simple. While you can sign up for a new Plancast account from scratch, they emphasize the idea of using with Facebook Connect or Twitter to sign-in and create an account. When you choose either of those, it’s easy to link up the other one (if you use both), to make for wide-ranging social graph. And that’s an important aspect to Plancast, the ability to broadcast these plans out. Once you add yourself to an event, it’s as simple as clicking on button to share it on Twitter or Facebook to let others know about it.

And the event creation process is extremely simple. Along the top of the Plancast page (above your friends’ stream) is an input box asking “What are you planning to do?” Clicking in this box reveals fields to enter the “what,” “when,” and “where” of the plan. The “when” and “where” fields are particular useful because upon entering something it will automatically look up both a date and a place that it assumes you meant. This helps avoid confusion — with the place in particular, as it uses Google Maps to show it on a map.

Going forward, mobile will be a key part of the service, Hendrickson says. He notes that they’re thinking about doing an iPhone app that can do things like alert you when you’re in the vicinity of a plan currently taking place or one that will be in the near future. He says that they’re also thinking about integrating Foursquare’s new API to create a service that offers the best of both worlds — what your friends are doing now and in the future. (It’s important to note, by the way, that while it may be described as ‘Foursquare for the future,’ Plancast has no gaming element…yet. Hendrickson is also thinking about that.)

Likewise, Plancast wants to integrate with the some of the calendaring services to make it easy for people to use no matter your planner of choice. Facebook Events will be a key part of this, as will Google Calendar (which recently started testing a more social element of its own). And there is a plan for an Plancast API so other services can import and use their data.

-4

The Facebook integration is key for Plancast. The service was borne out of Facebook’s fbFund ‘09 initial winners (its codename was Magellen at that point), and they’ve received a micro-seed round from that so far. The next step is to raise a proper seed round, Hendrickson says.

So how does Plancast build a business out of this? Hendrickson notes that they’ve already begun talking to venues about how Plancast could benefit them, such as getting people to organize events at certain places. The venues themselves may also be able to post Plancasts when they have specials coming up on a certain night, for example. This is similar to what Foursquare is thinking about, but again, for the future.

Currently, all plans shared on Plancast are public, but soon they will roll out a feature to allow you to share certain plans just with select friends, we’re told. There is also a plan to have friend groups/lists to futher make it easier to share plans with only certain people.

I’ve been using Plancast for several weeks now, and it’s a solid service and idea. Hendrickson and Marcyes have managed to keep it simple (which I appreciate) while adding funtionality that differentiates it from competitors. The trick will be convincing people that they need to use yet another information sharing service in their life. But if I’m say, going to happy hour tomorrow and want to share information such as exact location, and time without going over 140 characters, while seeing who else is interested, this is a great solution. I do think this fills a need.

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Google Names Winners Of Second Android Developer Challenge


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Google has just annouced the winners of its second Android Developer Challenge, a competition that looks to spur development on the Android platform by offering large cash grants to the winners. Thirty prizes were given out in total, with the top 3 winners from each of ten categories taking home $100,000, $50,000, or $25,000 respectively, with 3 overall winners walking away an additional $150,000, $50,000, or $25,000.

The top winner overall was SweetDreams, an app that helps you send late night calls straight to voicemail and automatically conserves battery power by turning off features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi at night. Second overall was What the Doodle!?, an app that sounds like a online multiplayer version of Pictionary. And third prize overall went to WaveSecure, a security/backup app that lets you track your phone’s current location, lock it down or remote wipe your phone, and backup/restore data.

You can see a full list of the winners, along with their descriptions here. Of course, if you’re at your computer you can’t browse Android Market to learn more, because it still lacks a presence on the desktop.

200 finalists for the contest were announced earlier this month. To choose these, Google developed a special Android voting app for the contest; the top 20 apps from each of 10 categories were selected as finalists. To determine the winners, Google again allowed users to vote using the app. User votes accounted for 40% of the final tally, with votes from official Google judges weighted at 60%.

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Google Names 30 Best Mobile Apps for Android


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Wrapping up a six month-long challenge to mobile developers, Google has announced a string of winners of their second Android Developers Challenge (ADC).

From games and social networking apps to productivity and privacy tools, the cream of the ADC 2 crop includes an app for just about every kind of mobile user – and just in time, as the Droid has recently become “the fastest-selling Android phone to date.” Take a peek at the innovative apps waiting in the wings for the lucky owners of Android-powered devices.

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As Android adoption swells and trends suggest the OS might be the second most widely used mobile OS by 2010, it’s important that the app universe keeps pace with users. Google announced this challenge in May at their Google I/O developer conference and offered well over $1.5 million in cash prizes to the winning developers in 10 categories.

The applications – some of which might remind you of already popular iPhone apps – should be available shortly to Android users.

The overall ADC 2 winners are:

  1. SweetDreams, a revolutionary tool that will finally allow you to go to sleep without worrying about changing your phone settings in order to avoid unwelcome late night calls. You can even use those inactivity periods to save battery power as well.
  2. What the Doodle!?, a real-time online multiplayer game where one player tries to draw out a given phrase and others try to guess it. Features FFA and Team games, Global Highscores, Personal Face Doodles, integrated Voice Recognition and more.
  3. WaveSecure, a complete mobile security solution that protects your device, data and privacy. Track your phone’s location and who is using it , lock down your phone remotely, back up all your data, wipe out your data remotely, and finally, restore your data.

Winners in the education and reference category are:

  1. Plink Art, an app for identifying, discovering and sharing art.
  2. The Word Puzzle, a fun way to learn basic English words for preschool children.
  3. Celeste, an educational augmented reality app that displays the Sun, Moon, planets and their paths through the sky onto your camera view.

The entertainment category winners are:

  1. A World of Photo,a casual, globally multiplayer game inspired by Spin the Bottle.
  2. SongDNA, a widget that allows you to quickly look up detailed information about a song.
  3. Solo, an easy-to-play and feature-rich pocket guitar for your phone.

Winners for the arcade/action game subcategory include:

  1. Speed Forge, in which heavy duty hover vehicles normally used for mining are now seen in illegal races organized in abondoned factories and dark Marsian alleys.
  2. Graviturn, a game that makes you tilt your phone to move the red circles out of the screen while keeping the green circles.
  3. Moto X Mayhem, an app that includes seven levels of motorbike action in a side scrolling bike game.

Winners for the casual gaming category are:

  1. What the Doodle!?
  2. Totemo, a unique puzzle game with over 60 mind-soothing logic tasks.
  3. Mazeness, a rather simple game involving moving balls to their goals with help of barriers, teleports and holders.

These are Google’s lifestyle category winners:

  1. SweetDreams
  2. SpecTrek, an augmented reality ghost hunting game that doubles as a fitness app.
  3. FoxyRing, an app that analyzes the ambient noise and adjusts the ringer volume on your phone.

Media category winners are:

  1. Buzz Deck, an app that gets all the web content you care about most, along with Twitter & Facebook updates.
  2. SPB TV, a highly usable IP-TV application optimized to run on mobile devices.
  3. FxCamera, which lets you take pictures with various effects.

Here are the winning productivity tools:

  1. WaveSecure
  2. Hoccer, an application for gesture-based ad-hoc data exchange.
  3. Tasker, an app that lets users link any Task (action set) to the Contexts (application, time, day, location, event, widget press) where it should run.

In social networking, the winners are:

  1. Ce:real, an app that displays geographically based, real-world trends, including photo stories paired with Twitter keywords.
  2. SocialMuse, which lets users find people with similar musical taste or just explore the world through music.
  3. SpotMessage, a communication tool using GPS. Send a message designating a spot with Google Maps then the message will be notified when the recipient arrives at the spot.

For the travel category, Google name these top apps:

  1. Trip Journal, a trip tracking and sharing solution sending real-time updates from the places you are visiting.
  2. iNap: Arrival Alert, an application that allows traveling users to sleep (or work, or just zone out) then relies on GPS to alert them with an alarm when the destination is nearby.
  3. Car Locator, which navigates you back to your car should you ever have trouble finding it.

Finally, here are three miscellaneous winners:

  1. Rhythm Guitar, which plays like a real 6-string, 5-fret guitar.
  2. Andrometer, and app that measures the approximate distance from you to an object that you can see using GPS, accelerometer and geomagnetic sensors.
  3. Calton Hill GPSCaddy, an app that allows golfers to quickly and easily map any golf course either out on the course using GPS or in the comfort of home using satellite imagery.

Bonus Round: See our picks from last year’s ADC!)

Let us know in the comments what you think of this year’s winners (too many iPhone app clones? too little augmented reality?) in the comments – and definitely tell us what you’d like to see Android developers tackle next!

Discuss


Broadcom buys Dune Networks for $178M to make insanely fast networking chips


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duneChip maker Broadcom said it has agreed to buy Dune Networks for $178 million in cash. The communications chip maker is pouncing on a startup that makes a scalable networking chip set for communications equipment that connects computers inside corporate data centers.

They may not be sexy. But these are the chips that make the Internet go faster, as they can transfer data between corporate computers known as servers at high speeds.

Dune Networks has developed a chip set that can handle data  transfer speeds of 100 gigabits per second per port. It would be used in switching equipment for data centers with thousands of servers. The startup claims its chips can connect 10,000 servers in a single deployment. Broadcom’s Martin Lund, general manager of the company’s network switching chip business, said Dune’s product will complement Broadcom’s own line of Ethernet switching chips.

The deal is expected to close by the end of March. Investors in Dune include Alta Berkeley Venture Partners, Aurum-SBC Ventures, Evergreen Venture Partners, Jerusalem Ventures Partners, Pitango Venture Capital and US Ventures Partners. Dune was founded in 2000 and is based in Yakum, Israel, with U.S. offices in Sunnyvale, Calif.


Flavors: 10 Code-Free Minutes to a Sexier Web Presence


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flavors_branding_nov09a.jpgThe do-it-yourself website space is so crowded right now that it’s amazing to see anyone launch a product and cut through the noise. Still, we were captivated by the simplicity and design of Flavors.me. Similar to Card.ly, instead of forcing you to use Facebook, LinkedIn or your neglected blog to represent you, Flavors lets you to build a basic vanity site in less than 10 minutes. As of this evening non-designers will have a chance to revel in their newly found web sex appeal.

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Flavors.me from Jack Zerby on Vimeo.

ReadWriteWeb spoke to co-founder Jonathan Marcus to get an early look at the service. The basic premise is that Flavors lets you produce a well-designed springboard to portfolio pieces, current work and profiles. Users add links, edit fonts and colors, and upload a background photo. Rather than fiddling with cascading style sheets or modifying blog templates, this service offers a fast and easy way to create an elegant web presence.

Under the banner of Hii Def Inc. internet incubator, brothers Jonathan and David Marcus and former Vimeo design lead Jack Zerby created Flavors as just one of three companies to launch in 2009. Prior to Flavors.me, the group produced online sneaker shop Superkix. As a hybrid of both Flavors and Superkix, the team will soon release an online storefront tool by the name of Goodsie.

Says Jonathan Marcus, ” We wanted to sell Superkix t-shirts online but weren’t satisfied with Yahoo Stores, Shopify or BigCartel and realized there were enough re-usable elements from Flavors to make it feasible to build in parallel.”

While Superkix is an obvious revenue generator as a retail storefront, the group plans on offering a domain redirect feature to Flavors in mid-December as well as a yearly subscription fee after a 30-day trial. Upon launch, Goodsie will be available with a monthly subscription.

Says Marcus, “Both [services] will dramatically reduce the cost and complexity associated with maintaining a web presence. Any other monetization model such as advertising would introduce competing and distracting interests.”

Users can test Flavors later this evening at flavors.me. In the meantime, you may want to check out the company’s design gallery here. For those interested in a fuller feature set check out ReadWriteWeb’s Tools for Codeless Website Creation.

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Obama says yes to Copenhagen just as China backs off


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Screen shot 2009-11-30 at 5.28.05 PMChina isn’t going to be a proactive player at the climate talks in Copenhagen starting next week, according to a government representative. Because it won’t be seeking international funding, there’s no reason for it to enter into a binding global agreement to reduce carbon emissions — any changes it makes will be voluntary.

This news comes less than a week after Obama announced that he would be making the trip to Denmark to represent America’s interest in halting global warming. Most people has seen this as a promising sign that the U.S. government is finally getting serious about its environmental responsibilities. Obama says he will be pitching an 83 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and 30 percent by 2025. He will be accompanied by between six and seven cabinet members.

At the same time, the president has only scheduled one day for the conference, Dec. 9, and he won’t have any solid climate legislation to point to, which could actually undermine his efforts. The Kerry-Boxer bill, which would establish a carbon cap and trade system and set renewable energy generation targets, is languishing the Senate, likely postponed until the spring. And Congress still remains bitterly divided on the issue.

But none of this might matter if China is unwilling to participate meaningfully in treaty talks. Its government is arguing that the country has already done a tremendous amount on its own to decrease emissions, and doesn’t need external help to hit its targets — namely a 40 to 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 (from 2005 levels). Its climate rep, Yu Qingtai said that China will rely on its own resources to slash greenhouse gases.

Without a globally-enforced carbon cap, China will have a competitive edge over the countries that do agree to a treaty. This could strongly dissuade other prospective signers. But China has always taken the position that it is unfair for it to be limited when other developed nations in North America and Europe didn’t have to work inside similar constraints during their industrial revolutions.

Even the loudest proponents for the cap and trade system in the U.S. say that it would be futile unless China and India — two of the biggest emitters in the world, and growing — agreed to something similar. For now, even asking them to do so seems infeasible. So maybe it makes sense why Obama’s just doing a quick flyby after all.


Shoppers bought a lot of game consoles on Black Friday


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wiiGame consoles flew off the shelves during Thanksgiving week thanks to discounts and marketing promotions that finally brought gamers into stores.

Nintendo said it sold more than 1.5 million hardware units in the U.S. during the week of Thanksgiving. That added up to 2.5 systems sold every second. The number includes sales of the Wii console as well as sales of the DS and DSi handheld units.

During the week, Nintendo said it sold more than 550,000 Wii consoles at the new price of $199.99, down $50 from the end of September. More than a million handheld units also sold during the week (Sunday Nov. 22 to Saturday Nov. 28), a sales record that beat the company’s previous sales record of GameBoy Advance units sold during Thanksgiving week in 2002.

“Holiday shoppers are finding value in our products’ prices, and through a game-play experience that is unique to Nintendo,” said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America’s executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Meanwhile, Microsoft said it sold twice as many Xbox 360 consoles during Thanksgiving week compared to the week before. Spokesman David Dennis said that Microsoft’s console sales took off a couple of weeks ago on two fronts. First, retailers began selling bundles of the company’s Xbox 360 Arcade — the lowest priced unit at $199 — with cards that gave $100 worth of game downloads for free on Xbox Live Arcade. Also, the $399 Xbox 360 Elite model based on the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 game also sold like hotcakes starting on Nov. 10. Microsoft cut the price of its mainstay console by $100 on Aug. 27, but retailers have been aggressively bundling games with the consoles. On Black Friday, for instance, Best Buy bundled the most expensive consoles with a total of six free games.

Dennis said that games such as Halo 3: ODST and Forza Motorsport 2 are selling well, but he declined to provide specific numbers.

Sony is still tabulating its sales numbers and expects to announce them shortly. We’ll update the story when that happens.


Why the CrunchPad Mattered


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There’s already been quite a bit of ink spilled over the demise of the CrunchPad but I thought I’d add a few drops. My opinion is this: the CrunchPad was a testament to the power of online media and a fascinating study in the ability of new media to enact real changes on the real world. While the product faltered, it’s fascinating that the project went as far as it did given the forces arrayed against it.

Think about what happened: if we reduce this to its component parts you have some dudes in California who talked to some dudes in Singapore and who agreed to work together on a piece of hardware. I’ve seen the prototypes and the thing worked and worked well. Most hardware manufacturers can barely take each others meetings let alone coordinate a massive project while separated by a culture and an ocean.


Open-Source Business Models Aren’t Dead-End Streets [GigaOM]


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This year, open-source platforms and applications have shown how truly disruptive and influential they can be. However, The New York Times is getting lots of attention with a story that says successful open-source business models remain elusive. Are they? The companies that have built successful businesses based on open source have done so by being savvy, and understanding that their models have to be different from firms that simply sell software.

The Times’ story raises some good questions about high-profile, expensive open-source software acquisitions that didn’t bring lucrative results to the acquiring companies. It points out that Sun Microsystems’ $1 billion purchase of MySQL didn’t result in a goldmine, and that MySQL is now the key roadblock in Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun. It also points to VMware’s buyout of SpringSource and Citrix’s acquisition of XenSource — both expensive purchases that won’t necessarily have big payoffs.

While it’s true that growing a successful business out of an acquisition is one way to do well — and a long-standing strategy that’s understood on Wall Street — many businesses that really understand how open source works are winning by exploiting its unique strengths.

On this front, I can’t think of two companies that understand how to build a shrewd business model around open source better than Google and Red Hat. As we approach the end of the year, Google’s Android OS is clearly one of the hugest software successes of the year, and, just today, the latest winning applications in Google’s second Android Developer Challenge were announced. It’s easy to forget that as this year started, people were wondering if Android had any future at all.

Android is free, and Google does not have a business model that surrounds selling it. Instead, the free and flexible open-source platform is making its way into many handsets, where it will help steer lots of users into Google’s lucrative search-and-ad ecosystem. That’s a smart business model.

As for Red Hat, it has posted quarter after quarter of strong financial results based on a business model that is built on selling support, not software (GigaOM Pro, subscription required). Wall Street is still waking up to how well that has worked for the company, and open source-focused startups such as Acquia and Cloudera are employing the same business model. They provide subscription support for popular, free, open-source platforms.

As ZDNet notes, regarding whether businesses can make money with open-source software:

IBM makes a ton. Google makes a ton, too. Microsoft has figured out the trick. So have thousands of service companies, maybe tens of thousands around the world. It’s not just Red Hat.

Going forward, open source will become central to many more imaginative, successful business models, but imagination is required.


Your Favorite Mobile Apps: Facebook, Tweetie, Google Maps, Foursquare, and More


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Last week we surveyed you, the ReadWriteWeb community, about your favorite mobile applications. We asked for your top 5 mobile apps and ended up with nearly 200 different mobile apps in the post and comments! Today we reveal the full results, including the most popular mobile apps of our tech savvy readers.

Earlier today our resident Mobile Web expert Sarah Perez listed ReadWriteWeb’s top 10 Mobile Web products of 2009. As for your choices, we discovered that you like social networking on the go (Facebook, Foursquare), Twitter clients (Tweetie, Twitterrific), Google (Google Maps, Google Mobile), and innovative mobile-focused apps (Evernote, Shazam). The top 16 is listed below, with commentary. Also at the bottom of the post you’ll find a spreadsheet of the entire list.

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Top Mobile Apps of RWW Readers

Facebook 32
Tweetie 24
Google Maps 14
Foursquare 10
Evernote 8
Shazam 8
Google Mobile 7
Echofon (Twitter client for Mac) 6
Gmail Mobile 6
Pandora 6
TweetDeck 6
Twitterrific 6
Dropbox (to sync files) 5
Kindle 5
Spotify 5
Yelp 5

Many of our readers use iPhones, so the above list features more iPhone apps than apps from Android, Blackberry, Nokia, or other phones.

Facebook was the most popular mobile app listed by you all. Facebook has been improving their iPhone app all year and this survey shows that our readers are liking those iterations. As Sarah Perez noted earlier today, “if any application deserves an “app of the year” award, it’s Facebook 3.0 for iPhone.”

Not far behind Facebook was Tweetie, a popular mobile Twitter client which released a major new version of their app in September. Tweetie 2 introduced features like video tweets, offline mode, geolocation, and more. Other mobile Twitter apps to be mentioned multiple times include Echofon, TweetDeck and Twitterific.

Google has always been popular in our Mobile apps surveys, since we began doing them in 2007. They’re listed 3 times in the above list, including at number 3 with Google Maps.

Several mobile-centric apps (i.e. apps developed specifically for mobile, rather than the desktop computer) made our top 16 list. Foursquare is a trendy new mobile social network, Evernote is a great note-taking tool, Shazam is a head-scratchingly good app for identifying songs – to name just a few.

Click here to see a Google spreadsheet featuring the entire list of nearly 200 mobile apps listed by our readers.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Mobile Web Products of 2009

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