Why Is This News – Live NYE Spotify US Launch Countdown Edition!


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It’s fair to say that, of all of the writers at TechCrunch, we’re the ones who have been most skeptical about Swedish music startup (and newly-minted verb) Spotify.

And for what reason? Because the company lied to us on multiple occasions? Because they routinely brief journalists with off the record half-truths, and then later deny those same reports? Because CEO Daniel Ek (pronounced “Eek” – he’s Swedish) still refuses to go on the record with us? Sure, those are all good reasons. But really our most consistent beef with Spotify has been the company’s inability to launch in the US, despite briefing reporters for the past TWO YEARS that such a launch is imminent.

“Spotify… aims to start U.S. operations in the third quarter. The Stockholm-based company, which has 7 million users in Europe, is in talks with unidentified U.S. Internet and mobile-phone service providers about partnerships, Senior Vice President Paul Brown said in an interview yesterday.” – Bloomberg (March)

“Spotify‘s SVP of strategic partnerships Paul Brown is to leave the music streaming service this week for a new startup outside of the digital music space.” – TechCrunch Europe (August)

Don’t get us wrong – we’ve no beef with the company’s inability to launch in the States, per se. Securing licensing deals in multiple territories is really, really hard – just ask Pandora, which closed down its European service back in 2007. No, our issue with Spotify is that they won’t admit that they have no clue when – or if – they’re going to be able to sign deals with enough US labels to launch over here. Instead Ek constantly talks up the service’s imminent launch, and scoffs at those who doubt him.

“We’ve always said we wanted to launch in early 2010. We still hope that will be the case,” [Spotify CEO Daniel] Ek said in an interview with the Times following his keynote. “That said, I don’t think it matters for us if it’s two or three months later. The U.S. is the world’s biggest market. And to use an American phrase, we really want to hit it out of the park.” – LA Times

Meantime, the European tech press (including, it has to be said, our esteemed colleagues at TechCrunch Europe) has continued to echo Spotify’s spin, keen as the continent is for another huge success, a la Skype.

“Yesterday, Billboard, a US music industry magazine, reported that Spotify’s “licensing negotiations with the major [US] music labels have reverted back to square one”, citing multiple sources. However, Spotify, talking to The Telegraph, has denied the allegations in the report, saying the service is still on course to launch by the end of 2010.” – The Telegraph

And yet, and yet… in the past couple of months, even the cheerleaders have started to lose their voices. Compare the breathless coverage from the Telegraph newspaper back in March explaining how “Spotify will definitely launch in the US this year and there will be a free element to the service” with this lede from two weeks ago…

“Spotify can no longer commit to a 2010 US launch date, despite publicly declaring its commitment to go live stateside by the end of this year several times over the last six months”

Meantime, during Paul’s recent trip back to London, he spoke to several reporters and commentators who had previously been bullish on Spotify, but who know consider the company’s bluster to be “essentially a running joke”.

“Spotify had a £16.66m loss in 2009 – a rumoured US launch is now imperative” – TechCrunch Europe (November)

All of this should of course make us feel a little smug. We love the Spotify app – and would genuinely love to see it launch in the US – but as we’ve written before, the best way for them to achieve this is to learn a little humility and to boast less, and negotiate more.  The thing is, though, watching so many former Spotify fan-boys turn on Ek has actually made us feel kinda sorry for him.

What’s more, technically speaking, Ek hasn’t failed yet. There are still a few minutes left of 2010 and there’s still time for Spotify US to launch and for Ek to prove us all wrong. And, given that no-one else seems to have faith that he’ll do it, apparently it falls to us to pick up the pro-Ek banner and wave it for all it’s worth.

Here, then, is a very special live New Year’s edition of Why Is This News? where we excitedly wait for Spotify’s triumphant, and much-promised US launch before the end of 2010.

We’re sorry we doubted you Daniel – we have our hats and slices of humble pie ready to be eaten in 10… 9… 8….


2010 Internal Year In Review (Month by Month)


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With almost 400 posts in the year, you no doubt missed some, and January probably seems like ancient history. That’s why at the end of each year, I try to summarize the 12 months that just went by on the blog to see if we all can remember the big news and opinion that passed through this place. Interspersed with the day by day updates, the product launches and feature enhancements, I did manage to expand the family and the house and get more embedded in Web startup land with a new role.

Maybe I blogged about all these changes and maybe I didn’t. 2010 saw a resurgence in tech startups after a poor economy shelved many ideas in 2008 and 2009, leading some to even claim there was a bubble. To be honest, I don’t think there is one, but a few late stage companies that deserve it got funded at big levels. Now let’s make sure to recap.

Reviews for the year 2009 and the year 2008 are of course available for those of you who just stopped by this year.

The word of 2008 was “launched”. The word of 2009 was “Twitter”. The word of 2010 was probably “Android”.

January

I started the year saying computing would get thinner, mobile and connected… noted Apple tablet reruns… discussed iPhone owners first considering Android… begged for OS neutral data… checked Technorati’s pulse… got a MacBook Air… said the iPad would sell like crazy… and said you should be driven and never compromise.

February

February reported on Apple’s growing chip division… saw Siri launch for artificial intelligence… the introduction of Google Buzz… which validated FriendFeed… based on open standards. Cadmus launched for Twitter relevance… and BuzzGain was acquired by Meltwater.

March

In March, TiVo launched the Premiere line of DVRsSocialToo protected against Twitter phishing attacksGoogle Reader hit Play… while Blogger added templates… and Twitter’s Ev Williams bombed in a SXSW interview. Qwotebook launchedmy6sense launched an Attention API… and my wife and I announced we were pregnant with baby #3.

April

In April, I belatedly started using Foursquare… I was annoyed with my iPad… but noted confusion from developers in terms of focus… Rick Klau left Blogger to head Google Profiles… I joined the MyLikes advisory boardTwazzup launched a Twitter client… Fabulis launched… Steve Jobs became an e-mail machine, and Facebook started pushing “Like” activity to third parties.

May

I mocked Apple’s focus on Flash when AT&T was a bigger enemy… Scout Labs was acquired by Lithium… I expanded use of Google Buzz… I grew tired of the echo chamber and attacks and attended Google IO, which saw the introduction of the Chrome Web store… the Google Buzz APIGoogle TV and argued iPhone users were in for it. I tested Android for the first time… and said mobile choices came down to your focus.

June

By June I reported Android was pretty good and hit 5,000 tweets. Spotify went social… I joined Qwotebook’s advisory board… fell in love with Redfintried to be pragmatic… heard rumors of Google Me… and saw Brizzly roll out picnics.

July

July saw Blogger add stats, my kids take to the iPads… a call for data independence… I goofed up and thought Foursquare would buy Brizzly… saw Kosmix introduce a cool Twitter extension… I officially switched to Android… saw the launch of Flpboard and Friendly for iPad… and moved across town where I suffered without broadband for a week.

August

August saw me misinterpret internal Twitter accounts as new features…. I had some dingbat fraudulently use my identity… the storage world got hot with acquisition maniaI announced joining my6sense… and Braden was born the next day.

September

In September, Spotify and Sonos teamed up… while I predicted the future of searchmy6sense came to Android… people debated the future of RSS, again… and Google Me rumors had us investigating social layers or networks. By end of month, OneTrueFan launched… and AOL purchased Brizzly.

October

By October, I got the new Apple TV… Tweetbeat launched for real-time Twitter events… Yobongo launched for location chatMarissa Mayer was moved to locationthe attention crisis accelerated… I visited the new Google campus store… and rumors about Apple looking to buy Spotify were false.

November

In November, Lazyfeed launched Lazyscope… and Sonos sent me a wireless iPod dock… I predicted the third wave of the Web would be personalBlekko and Rockmelt launched… I switched to the Samsung Epic… as did Path… and Hotpot… while Cliqset shut down… and new iPad competition from Android emerged.

December

As the year wrapped, Google Reader came to Android… while Facebook expanded friend discovery… I was featured on CNN to discuss privacy, which led to phone calls… Gawker’s database was compromised… and Delicious looked to be dying. I bought the NOOKColorsaw the launch of Beluga… argued iPhone fans were discounting Android… summarized Quora’s growth… got hooked on the Samsung Galaxy Tab and tried out Google’s Chrome OS laptop, the CR-48.

So that was our year. Launches, new gadgets and new operating systems galore. Discussion of openness and data portability, success and failure. If you’ve just bumped into the blog, now you’ll get a solid idea of what we do here. Even with all these links, the hardest part was making sure I caught all the big stuff. On to 2011.

Batting .400 For My 2010 Predictions in the Tech World


This post is by from louisgray.com


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At the end of each year, it has been something of a tradition to make wild predictions that few others are making, and then mock myself for those I got wrong. This year should be no different. At the end of 2009, I made concrete predictions for the world of tech, which assumed a strong IPO market, increased acquisitions and some specifics from the big players, including Apple and Google. As usual, I got some right, and others wrong. Let’s see how I fared.

History: Predictions for 2010, 2009 and 2008. Results for 2009 and 2008.

1. Twitter Manages to Complete 2010 With No Major Hacking or Security Incidents

Right. After a shaky start to the company’s life in terms of both scale and security, Twitter really held its own in 2010. They didn’t get hacked and for the most part, they stayed up. There were no large-scale hacking incidents for major users and no strategy docs leaked to TechCrunch. It’s the little things.

2. Seeing Android and iPhone, Windows Mobile Will Aim for Parity, and Fail

Right. Fail is a strong word, so maybe I’m presumptuous here. But Windows Phone 7 is absolutely an approach to take on Android and iPhone, and early reports haven’t been great in terms of sales. Given the late launch of the product, I would have to take more of a wait and see attitude to see the final result, but thus far, it’d be a stretch to see them in a strong #3 role in the smartphone race.

3. Apple Will End Exclusivity With AT&T, Adding T-Mobile and Verizon

Wrong. Another year went by with AT&T acting as Apple’s boat anchor. Rumors again are flaring up around Verizon, but not in time for 2010 to be counted.

4. Facebook Will Announce a Migration Plan for FriendFeed Users

Wrong. FriendFeed is still there, just as it always was, with a dedicated community, not going anywhere. Facebook keeps it alive even though many of the acquired FriendFeed team have since left.

5. Google Wave Will Exit 2010 Still In Beta

Wrong. I expected Google Wave to not be ready enough to consider a solid product, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the product being axed outright. Even by Google’s standards, that was a very short-lived product.

6. Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn Will All Go Public

Wrong. Not even close. One thing I hadn’t anticipated relative to historic activity was the strong role played by Russia’s DST, who has made hundreds of millions of dollars available to late-stage companies like Facebook, Zynga and others. The increased demands of going public at a time when rewards for late stage investment are so high has reduced the need to go public early in a company’s life cycle.

7. Chrome OS Netbooks Will Be Available from Major Retailers

Wrong. I may have a Chrome OS Notebook, but it came straight from Google in an early trial. It’s too early for this product to be sitting at Best Buy or Fry’s, but maybe this changes next year some time.

8. Many Social Media Experts Will Launch Mediocre Agencies

Right. I am sure this is true and don’t even have to go back it up. 🙂 Even in looking at some of the lesser-read tech blogs that infiltrate my Google Reader, I can see a lot of folks took side jobs as independent consultants focused on social media, and it doesn’t seem they are all that differentiated. Feedback from companies I have worked with in various roles indicates they are pitched often by SMEs with sleazy tactics.

9. Google, Facebook and Apple Will All Make $1B+ Acquisitions

Wrong. Not that it was Google’s fault of course. The company made very visible overtures to Groupon and allegedly to Twitter as well, with no success. Facebook remains cheap, while Apple did its spending on Quattro Wireless and Siri early in the year, at prices less than a billion bucks.

10. The Real-Time Search Market Will Consolidate

Right. Very much so. OneRiot got out of the real-time search game altogether and launched an ad network. Twazzup’s founders launched a Twitter client and later the Facebook iPad app Friendly instead of focusing on search. Collecta and Topsy are still out there, but I would venture a guess that most users will just turn to Twitter and Google for real-time search instead of going to the lesser-known startups.

Total score? 4 out of 10, just about where I usually bat, not because I am a bad guesser, but because I don’t like guessing the obvious and would rather have some fun with each year’s predictions. In 2009’s predictions, I scored 4 1/2, and only 1 1/2 for 2008. Maybe I’ll break 50% next year and maybe not.

A List Of The Best Of The Best Meme Lists Of 2010


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In this decade the Internet replaced television as our primary mode of disseminating culture. Many people are more familiar with Antoine Dodson’s “Hide your kids/Hide your wife” than any catchphrase currently on television. Remember the days of being able to say stuff you heard on TV like “No soup for you” or “Don’t have a cow, man” and have other people actually get what you mean?

There’s only so many times you can write posts around the theme “Hey, the Internet is now important” without inciting commenter revolt or a punch in the face. But the sheer number of meme round-ups found online today is testament to the fact that the web has won. So instead of making a list of my favorites, I’ll post some of the best lists of memes out there. Because I can and because it’s the only way to win. And because, like any connoisseur of memes knows, you can’t have viral culture without recursion.

The Atlantic’s “The 12 Best/Worst Memes of 2010

Alexis Madrigal’s list made the cut for brevity and for lack of helpful context. Also because the focus on the catchphrases, which made people want to share these things in the first place, was pretty spot on.

Know Your Meme, “2010 Year In Review”

The keepers of the most comprehensive database of Internet memes in existence, the folks at Know Your Meme have boiled the entire year in Internet culture down to about 90 seconds. They also seem to really have enjoyed “Deal With It.”



Urlesque’s “2010′s Memes in the Mainstream – How Bed Intruder, Bros Icing Bros and Old Spice Guy Broke Through”

Urlesque actually gives out awards for this, called the Urlies but I was more impressed by their list of memes that had gone mainstream (Bed Intruder, Bros Icing Bros, Old Spice Guy). And namely for this little piece of wisdom, “News outlets have seemingly had fewer things to report on, so they’ve started playing “viral videos” to fill the fluff stories niche at the end of their broadcasts.” Ha.

Jay Irwin’s “Top 10 Memes of 2010″

Props for introducing me to CAPTCHA Art and for being as humble and homegrown a memes list as possible. Double plus one for not including any videos. Enjoy the traffic Jay!

Buzzfeed’s “Top 50 Most Viral Posts of 2010″

Sure we’ve poked fun at them in the past, but if a meme happens on the Internet, and it doesn’t hit Buzzfeed, does it make a sound? From “24 Best Chatroulette Screenshots” to “Hitler Without A Moustache” here’s everything you clicked on this year while bored at work, in semi-infographic form.

The Huffington Post’s “The Best Internet Memes Of The Decade: Chuck Norris, Rickroll, Lolcats And More From 2001-2010″

Bonus points to HuffPo for slideshow format and spanning an entire decade. Minus points for quoting the New York Times’ definition of a meme in the first graph.

Memeburn’s “Outstanding Memes of 2010″

Bonus points for quoting The Urban Dictionary’s awesome definition of a meme “The thing that’s on your mind when nothing else is and your fingers are on a keyboard” in the intro graph. Minus points for the phrase, “Rosetta Blog.”

Chicago Sun Times’ “Year In WTF!?”

“Of course we’ve all heard of Paul Vasquez and Antoine Dodson by now, ’tis the wonder of the interwebs.” Thank you Chicago Sun Times. This is what I’m going to send my parents if I ever need to explain to them what a meme is or what WTF means for that matter.

Houston Press’ “The Year in Static Memes”

An addendum to the Houston Press’ “Year In Video Memes: What Do They Mean?” this caught my eye because of all the references to being drunk on Four Loko (in and of itself a meme) while writing it. You get an A for effort Houston Press. A for effort.

Ranker’s “The Top 25 Greatest Internet Memes of 2010″

That’s right count ‘em 25 in the most thorough list I’ve read so far. Did anyone else find the time to list 25? Nope. Enough said. Also, I’m really impressed that this guy has written more text explaining these memes than I’ve written in my entire blogging career.

Honorary mention: Rex Sorgatz’s “List of Lists”.

While not technically a list of memes, this is on here simply because “End of the Year” lists are in and of themselves a meme. How you like them apples?

—————-

While I’m sure whatever iterative cultural phenomena we experience in 2011 will go above and beyond what we’re seeing here,  you’ve got to admit that from “Star Wars Kid” to “Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig)” this was the decade where Internet memes came into their own. And just like I look forward to the day where it’s no longer “new media” and just media, I also look forward to the day where they are no longer “memes” and just culture.

Happy New Year (or whatever)! Ouch, my head hurts.


An iPhone Lover’s Take On The Nexus S


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There’s a scene in Iron Man 2 in which Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) shows off the mechanical soliders he has been working on — his would-be “Iron Man-killers”. Unfortunately, while they may look somewhat impressive, his machines malfunction and the demo goes horribly awry. His knock-offs are junk. This scene reminds me a lot of what the first Android phone, the G1, was like when compared to the iPhone. Luckily for Google, things have improved substantially since then — and without the help of a Russian Mickey Rourke. Well, presumably anyway.

We’ve already done a big, comprehensive review of the Nexus S, the latest and greatest Android device. But as I like to do (see: the bottom of this post), I’m going to look at it from the angle of an iPhone diehard. After all, this is widely considered to be the best Android device yet. So will it be enough to make any iPhone user jump ship? And since this is currently the only device running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”, what’s the overall state of the OS?

First of all, the Nexus S is a great smartphone. I’ve been using it for a little over two weeks now and I think I can safely say that in a world where there was no iPhone, this is the device I would use. While I like a number of fundamental things about Windows Phone more, Android is more mature. And more importantly, the ecosystem is far more built-out. Plus, the Google apps on the device are enough to entice anyone.

Previously, I’ve held firm on my belief that the Nexus One was the best Android phone out there. In my mind, this was true even as dozen of other Android phones came to the market more recently. The Nexus One was the best because it was pure Android. Unlike the Droids or the EVO, it wasn’t loaded up with crapware from the carriers. And they weren’t able to manipulate the core experience of Android with their awful skins. The Nexus S is the second “pure Android” phone. But it’s faster. And so it takes the crown from the Nexus One.

Hardware

Having said that, I still prefer the build quality of the Nexus One (HTC-built) a bit more than the Nexus S (Samsung-built). Like the Windows Phone model I used (a Samsung Focus), the Nexus S feels a bit too plastic-y for my taste. It’s the same reason I liked the original iPhone design more than the iPhone 3G and 3GS. The plastic backs just feel cheap to me. And they’re awful to try to remove. It feels like I’m ripping the phone apart each time.

I am glad the Nexus S doesn’t feature that stupid ball that many Android phones (including the Nexus One) used to like to include. And the main feature of the device, the screen, is clearly nicer on the Nexus S versus the Nexus One. (Though the AMOLED display is still far too hard to read in sunlight, in my opinion.)

I’m not sure why the Nexus S feature a small nub that jets out of the back. I assume it’s for ergonomic reasons, but it seems pointless and looks silly, in my opinion.

The camera is great on the Nexus S. Not iPhone 4-great, but I’d say the second-best smartphone camera I’ve seen yet. Plus, the Nexus S also has a front-facing camera, something the Nexus One did not.

This is the fastest Android device I’ve used yet, but it’s not clear if that has more to do with the hardware specs (1 GHz Hummingbird processor) or because of Android 2.3. Scrolling seems smooth and I haven’t noticed any major lag aside from a few apps, which for now I’ll assume is more their own fault.

The touchscreen on the Nexus S also easily seems to be the best I’ve used on an Android phone so far. That has been one of the little things that the platform hasn’t been able to nail when compared to the iPhone. But here, they come very close. (Again, it’s hard to know if that’s the hardware or Android 2.3 in particular — likely a combination of the two.)

Sadly, perhaps the coolest hardware feature of the Nexus S, Near Field Communication (NFC), doesn’t have much use yet. But when it does, that could be huge for things like payments. Something tells me Apple might be deploying that feature as well in the future.

The few calls I’ve made on the Nexus S were rock solid. Unlike the iPhone, I didn’t experience any dropped calls, even when going indoors. Of course, the Nexus S is on T-Mobile while the iPhone is on that carrier that shall not be named. So it’s hard to compare the two.

The battery life of the Nexus S is pretty good, but not great. While it’s nowhere near as bad as the EVO, the Nexus S still seems to use way too much juice when it’s idle. Others have noticed this as well. As far as I can tell, this is a result of certain apps running the background. Android 2.3 brings improved app management, but that’s not a good sign if it’s still not killing processes in a way to preserve battery life.

Software

And let’s talk about the Android 2.3 Gingerbread software. While we had heard this past Summer that that Android team was “laser-focused” on improving the user experience of Android with 2.3, it would appear that this work has been pushed until Android 3.0 instead. Why do I say that? Because Android 2.3 really doesn’t look that much different from Android 2.2 at all.

Sure, there’s a little bit of polish here and there, but overall it’s the same Android you all know and tolerate.

To me, the key to Android 2.3 is that it does seem to run significantly smoother than its predecessors. And that’s saying something because Android 2.2 ran significantly smoother than Android 2.1. The Android team is clearly making good improvements in this regard quickly. Overall, the system is still not iPhone 4-smooth. But it’s getting very close.

In their review, Mike and Jason talked a bit about the keyboard improvements with Android 2.3. There is no question that the keyboard is better. But it’s still well behind the iPhone keyboard, in my opinion. It’s also behind the Windows Phone keyboard. It’s a little baffling to me that Google still hasn’t nailed this feature that is so key (or why they just haven’t bought a company like Swype).

And it’s not just typing. It’s the fact that they software keyboard often pops up over key portions of apps and doesn’t do a good job of directing you to the next input box which is probably being covered. I’ve seen this happen time an time again in Android. And 2.3 is sadly no different.

Sure, many of my issues throughout the years with Android may seem like little nits (and many are), but they are annoying little aspects that would stop me from switching from the iPhone to an Android phone. Apple is very good at nailing the small stuff. Google, it seems, is still working on overall larger polish and hasn’t moved on to many of the little things. Hopefully by Android 3.0 we can expect some of that.

The Google-made apps continue to be the killer apps of Android. Gmail, in particular, continues to be better than it is on the iPhone simply because there is no native iPhone Gmail app (though the rich mobile web version is very good). Things like Navigation and Voice Search also give you capabilities that you can’t get on the iPhone. Google Voice finally just came to the iPhone, but it’s still much better on Android because it’s seamlessly integrated into the entire system.

And then there’s the newest version of Google Maps. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of Android now. The latest version, which includes 3D buildings and the ability to spin maps around, runs loops around the iPhone version of Maps (which also uses Google Maps).

With the speed of Nexus S + Android 2.3, games seem to run more smoothly than ever on Android. I’ve tested out several popular games like Angry Birds, SliceIt, and Fruit Ninja, and all basically look and perform like they do on iOS. I will say that there is some lag though on games like Fruit Ninja for no apparent reason. Also in that game, it drives me insane when I swipe my finger across the screen and hit the soft home button on the Nexus S, dumping me out of the app.

A couple of the apps I use the most on my iPhone: Twitter and Foursquare, still lack to polish of their iOS counterparts. Twitter, even though they’ve made it look more like the iOS version, is still far behind it in terms of usability. The same is true with Foursquare. It just feels slower and I find myself hesitant to use it because of that. Instead, I dig for my iPhone. That’s not a good sign for Android.

The Android browser, meanwhile still suffers from weird zooming issues. Whereas when you double tap an area in Mobile Safari and the iPhone gracefully zooms in, on Android’s browser, it seems to stutter-step in. Further, I don’t get why Google still includes those silly plus and minus soft buttons for zooming into webpages. I get that it was for one-handed use, but you should be able to double-tap an area with your thumb to zoom just like you can on the iPhone.

All in all, the browser, while a million times better than the awful browser bundled with Windows Phone, still lags behind Mobile Safari.

My favorite part of the whole package from a software perspective may be the “off” animation. You click the side power button, and the screen shuts off as if it were an old television set. Pretty cool.

Intangibles

When Jason heard I was getting a Nexus S to try out, he (half) jokingly asked if I had already decided what I wouldn’t like about it. The truth is that I do try to go into using these devices with an open mind — but I also realize it’s an inherently biased one. I’ve been using the iPhone for well over three years now. I’m so accustomed to doing certain things on it that it is hard to try and do some things the “Android way”.

But I’m well aware of that. And I’ve logged plenty of Android hours. Sure, I’m more accustomed to the iPhone, but I could switch anytime I wanted to. But that’s the thing, I don’t want to. The iPhone experience is still overall a better one in my mind. It’s that simple.

Nexus S and Gingerbread continue the trend of Google improving Android as a steady pace, but they are still behind where Apple is with iOS 4.2 and the iPhone 4. This is true in both hardware and software. On paper, the devices line up nicely. In use, they still do not. As I said above, there are still too many small things that the iPhone nails that Android doesn’t even seem to think of at all. Google still seems more focused on getting the larger areas (like the Market) up to speed. Maybe that will change with Android 3.0 before the iPhone 5 hits, maybe it won’t.

Again, the Nexus S is a great device. And I would highly recommend it to any and all people who want an Android phone. One of the most striking things about it to me is just how much better it is than the crappy Android experience on devices like the EVO and Droid 2, compliments of the carriers.

In fact, it’s hard for me to believe that anyone would choose an Android device other than the Nexus S. Having a physical keyboard is the only excuse I can somewhat see. Maybe Verizon’s network — maybe. Otherwise, this is absolutely the one to get. Don’t buy the bullshit Verizon Droid marketing.

Droid doesn’t does. This does.

Well, it does against everything except the iPhone 4, of course. Maybe Russian Mickey Rourke can help with that.

More:


Five Steps to Add AppUp .NET SDK to Microsoft Visual Studio


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Microsoft netbook The AppUp developer program launched support for .NET applications by releasing the .NET SDK, along with an IDE Plug-In for Visual Studio 2008. This plug-in reduces development time to integrate the AppUp SDKs and builds the MSI needed to submit your application for distribution and sales via the Intel® AppUpSM Center. The IDE Plug-in supports both the C/C++ and .NET SDK for Microsoft Windows* when using Visual Studio 2008.

With the .NET SDK and support now available for the Intel AppUp developer program, here’s a brief overview of the SDK’s technical components, along with five quick steps to add the.NET SDK to Visual Studio 2008.

Sponsor

Discuss


How Space Jam’s Website Went Viral. Space Jam’s 1996 Website, That Is.


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A couple of days ago Reddit user Jeff Ubelhor was talking to his friends about something or other and Space Jam, the movie starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan, came up (he swears they weren’t stoned). They checked on the website and realized that it hadn’t been touched since 1996. “From there I decided to post it on Reddit,” says Ubelhor “Because I thought it was hilarious, not only the design, but just how different Internet marketing was 14 years ago.”

The rest is Internet meme history. On December 29th, artist, professor and FAT Labs member Steve Lambert was given a link to the site by a student in his Hacking 101 class, posted it to the FAT Labs email list and tweeted it out as “The original Warner Brothers “Space Jam” movie website has been left untouched since 1996,“ his one time student, Buzzfeed founder and most viral human alive Jonah Peretti retweeted it, without giving him credit.

Both tweets were retweeted hundreds of times and the next thing you know Lambert was receiving emails like this:

From: “XXXXX”
Date: December 29, 2010 4:23:21 PM EST
To:

Subject: CBC News: SpaceJam tweet

Hi Steve,

I’m a reporter/anchor with CBC TV news in Toronto. Your SpaceJam tweet was trending locally for a couple of hours in Toronto, and was spread widely through our office. We’re going to a bit about it on our local supperhour newscast tonight.

Just wondering, do I credit you (through one of your students) as the originator of the tweet? Any comments on how many retweets you’ve generated?

Thanks,

XXXXX

And it wasn’t only Canadian TV stations that showed an interest. Since the Reddit post the site has been picked up by Buzzfeed (obviously), Huffington Post, Boing Boing, Geekosystem, Yahoo Sports, Slashfilm and countless others. Sister blog Urlesque, taking the phenomenon as evidence of a resurgence in interest in old movie sites, just published a post called “Old Official Movie Sites – Titanic, Air Bud, Event Horizon and More.” Sigh.

The original Reddit thread has over 2015 votes and 686 comments, including such meta and self-aware gems as “I wonder if we’re DDOSing a weakling 1996 server in an abandoned building somewhere right now” and “Browsing this on my droid x while moving 70mph. 1996 just shit their pants.”

Since Peretti and Lambert’s tweets, the bit.ly link has received over 57K total clicks, over 40K in one day. And that is just clicks on the link Peretti tweeted out which are nowhere near the traffic the site probably got all in all.  Peretti estimates that the Space Jam site could easily have garnered around 500K views since hitting the front page of Reddit shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, and gleaning from my web editorial experience I’m pretty sure that number is in the right ballpark. I’ve reached out to Warner Bros for the exact traffic stats.

A lot changes in 14 years and some things don’t. While the site’s original designer Jen Braun is “still working on the web,” Assistant to the Designer Andrew Strachler is now VP of Interactive Marketing at Warner Bros.

In 2010, computers are faster, monitors are thinner, social networking has exploded and we are now browsing the web on our mobile phones, among other things. But we’re all still staring at this silly looking website from 1996.

You could just chalk up this week’s explosion of the Space Jam site to an extremely slow holiday news cycle, but it’s much more than that. We’re now in the very last hours of the most fast-paced decade ever technology-wise, and that is a little scary. In this era of Word Lens and Self-Driving Cars, perhaps some of us are more than a little nostalgic for simpler times when having a website, no matter how bad, was an achievement in itself.”


The Top 15 Stories on LouisGray.com in 2010


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With almost 400 stories in 2010 posted on the blog, some definitely rose higher than others in prominence, due to breaking news, interesting insight or simply sharing my personal experience, as my view on the technology landscape changed, as did my preferences. While total posts on the site were down almost 30 percent year over year, thanks to the addition of baby #3, a new job that sees phone calls as likely at midnight as any other time, and greater filters on my side, to avoid feeding the echo chamber of repetitive tech bloggers, there are a number which gained more traction than any other. From a quick visit to Google Analytics, it seems my move from iPhone to Android gained the most attention, by far, as did discussion of Apple, Google, Facebook and social media strategies.

To see last year’s results, catch: The Top 15 Stories on LouisGray.com in 2009

The Top 15 stories authored in 2010, in order of highest traffic to least:

1. Why I Turned In My iPhone and Went Android
July 10, 2010

Despite this being far and away the biggest story on the site in 2010, I didn’t expect that to be the case, nor did I do anything useful to hype it. Having made the choice to go Android, turning in my iPhone earlier in the week, I felt it made sense to explain my choice. About 20 minutes to midnight on a Saturday, when nobody should be reading tech blogs, I summarized my thoughts. Robert Scoble, an hour or so later, said he couldn’t kick the Apple iPhone habit. Bizarrely the post hit Techmeme and for much of Sunday, was the 2nd biggest story on the Tech Web. I was inundated with comments from Apple fans telling me I was a fool.

But that wasn’t the end of it. John Gruber of Daring Fireball linked to the story on Monday, and said the piece was “thoughtful” but assumed Android would eventually be better than iOS, not that it is now. That kept traffic flowing, and I honestly couldn’t read every comment as it hit my e-mail. I moved them all to archives, and later caught up.

2. While Apple Slept On Their Hobby, Google Executed
May 20, 2010

Second in the Apple vs Google discussion was a recap I made of the Google TV unveiling at Google IO. Since the post, Apple TV reloaded with a new stream-oriented box, and Google TV has had a slow start, but at the time, Google seemed to be making a lot more headway and noise about its product while Apple had been remarkably silent.

3. iPhone 4 Is Nice, But It’s Not Enough to Slow Android
June 7, 2010

A clear tilt in my thinking of iPhone vs Android before I made the full switch, I looked closely at the iPhone 4 unveiling, with some glimmer of hope that Steve Jobs and team would do such a grand invention that I’d be a fool to switch sides. Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 looked very nice – the best Apple had ever done – but it was hardly revolutionary. Combined with the market forces behind Android, it seemed clear to me where momentum was headed.

4. 50 Startups Worth Watching
June 9, 2010

Showcasing Symbaloo, a Paladin client, I organized my thoughts on 50 top startups mid-way through the year that I was watching. Foursquare and Spotify topped the list, with others, like Blippy and Quora also featuring prominently. Interestingly, I had posted my6sense at #14 overall, more than two months before taking a fulltime role with the company in late August.

5. How to Bring Your Google Buzz Entries to Twitter
February 11, 2010

With Google Buzz just having launched under much visibility, many folks wanted to make their Buzz posts synchronize with other services. The addition of Google2Twitter made it simple.

6. Unfriending, Unfollowing, Unsubscribing… Less Is More
November 29, 2010

The multitude of connections we all have in our many social networks can at times become overwhelming. In the interest of getting more signal and less noise, I dramatically reduced the number of connections I had on both Facebook and Twitter, and even started trimming Google Reader feeds.

7. iPhone Armageddon: A Week With Android & EVO
June 1, 2010

Having gained the HTC Evo from Google IO, I opted to give the device a fair shake, rather than be dismissive of it, as I had anticipated I would. What I found was surprisingly good, and led to my eventual switch to Android, helped by the minor upgrades of iPhone 4.

8. Why I am Using Google Buzz as An Alternative to Facebook
May 8, 2010

While Google Buzz has been slammed by a number of tech sites for the gulf of what it delivered against their overhyped expectations, I found the site very useful, bringing the aggregation I always liked of FriendFeed to a new place. I outlined how I could use Buzz as an alternative to Facebook.

9. Should Social Profiles Live On When People Die?
July 3, 2010

One of the creepier things about Facebook was my often seeing the site request I reconnect with people who had passed on. Clearly, they hadn’t updated their profile in some time, but the catch was they couldn’t. Michael McKean, my example, had died due to leukemia and would never post a status update again. But Facebook suggested we talk more. Algorithm fail.

10. Facebook Starts Mandatory Profile Linkage to Public Pages
April 29, 2010

Facebook underwent many different updates to one’s profile during the year. In April, those things you liked couldn’t just sit as text on your profile, but were automatically connected to public fan pages of those items, be they bands, brands or products. It seemed a little pushy to me, and something that benefited the network moreso than its users.

11. Author: Zuckerberg has “Total Control” over Facebook
June 23, 2010

Speaking of Facebook (3 in a row!), after I attended a presentation from The Facebook Effect’s author, David Kirkpatrick, I highlighted his comments, which said Mark Zuckerberg had “total control” over the site. This key quote was enough to gain the interest of Huffington Post’s Technology section, who linked it up and drew a good amount of traffic.

12. Friendly: The Best Facebook Experience for iPad
July 24, 2010

One of the biggest successes on the iTunes store for iPad apps was Friendly. Friendly replicated the Facebook experience on the big screen, and in the absence of Facebook having an official iPad application, the company’s developers had a gold mine on their hands. I knew it was a big deal and was first to write about it. It’s leading the pack more than five months later.

13. The Third Wave of the Web Will Be Uniquely Personal
November 7, 2010

Working at my6sense, I think a lot about personalization and prioritization of content, so the best things come to you as an individual, not as a demographic. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed we were on the cusp of a big wave – one toward personalization, following on the founding of the Web to share information and the ongoing movement toward social. Shortly after my post, stories written by founders at Gravity and Trapit, both posted on TechCrunch, echoed my views.

14. New Apple TV Extends Fragmentation, Cupertino Style
October 1, 2010

Once the new Apple TV came into our home, I was excited to see what it could deliver, but soon found myself wanting, as the channel lineup on the device was dramatically reduced from its predecessor. With a focus on streaming, Apple was unable to sign enough deals that made the entertainment options on the product similar to what one could expect. This kind of fragmentation was annoying, and reminded me of the many similar complaints that critics would through at Android and its array of devices.

15. We Apple Fans Are In Mac Tablet Rumors Reruns
January 2, 2010

If 2010 was all about tablets, and specifically the iPad, we were already buzzing about it by January. For this longtime Mac fan, it seemed like deja vu all over again. Unlike year after year of previous rumors, however, this one came true.

I would like to say that 2010 was the fifth year in a row with more than 500 posts, but it wasn’t. Every day I go without posting I feel guilty, but it is just as important for me to drive quality through the site and share with you what I’m thinking, sitting in an interesting intersection of the Web, from the big tech giants and the smallest startups. Already curious what the top 15 stories of 2011 will be.

My 23-Year-Old Self Was Wrong About Salon.com. Like, Really Wrong.


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A few hours to go until 2011, and I’m busy drawing up my list of New Year’s resolutions. A major one: to stop writing about TechCrunch commenters. After all, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, it’s like wrestling with a pig: you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Still, that leave me just enough time – eight hours, and counting – to sneak in one last journey over to the dark side. And perhaps it’s fitting that the final salvo in my war against trolls has a happy ending. A Christmas miracle, even.

It began this past Christmas day when I wrote a short post wishing TechCrunch readers a merry Christmas. Sure enough, within a few hours, the usual rag-tag band of trolls, freaks and illiterates who skulk around in the TechCrunch commentsphere arrived. One responder jumped in to call me “A TOTAL f c k i n g RIGHT WING N U T C A S E” (caps theirs), adding “the twat doesn’t know shat about tech and worse doesn’t care for ‘PEOPLE’”. Another (now deleted for reasons that will become clear in a moment) stood out for a couple of reasons: firstly, for addressing me as “bro” and secondly for his wish that I would “die a non-journalist”.

Wishing someone to die – journalist or not – struck me as a particularly un-Christmassy wish; so un-Chrismassy infact, that I felt driven to reply, pointing out the various misspellings in his comment and offer seasons’ greetings to TechCrunch’s “illiterate college student readership.”

And that would normally be that. Generally speaking, anonymous trolls, like cockroaches, tend to scurry away the moment you shine a light on their idiocy.

But this is where the Christmas miracle kicked in. An few hours later I received an email – via the contact form on my personal website – from the commenter in question. I’m not going to tell you exactly what he wrote, suffice it to say that he wanted to say sorry. No, really.

Moreover, he wrote to say that, prompted by my sarcastic reply, he’d been driven to read some of the things I’d written in the past about trollishness and Internet anonymity and, more generally, my struggles with drinking and trying not to be a complete and total bastard. The result of his this reading had been a complete change of heart: the one-time troll felt like crap for being mean on the Internet, much like I feel bad for all the people I hurt while I was drinking.

I read the email at least half a dozen times before I could even start to think how to reply. Somehow our relationship had flipped on its head: now it was me who felt bad for being so quick to swat down his trollish comment. After all, even the most unpleasant little anonymous troll comment could have been written by a fundamentally good person who is having a bad day.

I sent my new friend a preview PDF of my new (to be published in 2011) book, partly as a way to say “apology accepted” but also to reassure him that, no matter how much of a shit he feels for wishing me dead on TechCrunch, he still has a long way to go before he can compete with me on the dickish behaviour front.

As I say, a Christmas miracle. And a reminder for everyone involved that the people we write about online are actually real people.

All of which got me thinking about my own trollish past, and reminded me that I still owe a correction – an apology even – for something I wrote almost eight years ago, back in 2003, during my very first stint writing for the Guardian. At the time I was 23 years old and so, of course, I knew everything there was to know, not just about media and technology but about the Whole Entire World. And it was with that authority that I wrote an 800 word column about how Salon.com – then a mere eight years old – was struggling to attract enough paid readers to break even. They’d spent an impressive $81 million dollars to attract a relatively modest 60,000 subscribers – $1,300 per ($30 a year) subscriber as I cockily pointed out.

How many Salon.com editors does it take to change a lightbulb? Ten. One to change the bulb and the other nine to piss $81m (£50m) up a wall. Not funny, but true.

And my mocking didn’t stop there. I went on to suggest that it was time for Salon to accept reality – that they’ve failed to prove that people want to pay for their particular brand of unremarkable journalism, and so should get out of the way and let other online publications have a chance to shine. Other online publications like the one, back in 2003, I just happened to be in the process of launching.

Even by my own 23-year-old standards, the column was screamingly disingenuous and mean spirited; spurred far more by my competitive instincts than by any honest appraisal of their prospects or standards of journalism.

“If you listen carefully you can almost hear the sound of money gurgling away. Advertisers’ money, investors’ money, subscribers’ money. Glug, glug, glug. It’s fair to say that had [Managing Editor, Scott] Rosenberg been the star of Brewster’s Millions, the film would have ended after about eight minutes.”

And so it’s appropriate then that over the next seven years, Salon enjoyed a near-constant succession of last laughs. Despite various false starts with paywalls and part-paywalls and “please help save independent journalism” pledge drives, they had their first profitable quarter in early 2005 and have kept their heads above water ever since. Not only that, but their journalism – both the quirky lifestyle stuff and their harder news reporting – has got better and stronger with every passing day. The publication reached another high point two weeks when Glenn Greenwald wrote a searing critique of the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning in Quantico. A week later, the United Nations announced an investigation into Manning’s treatment.

Along with Gmail, Arts and Letters Daily, the BBC and – oh, please – TechCrunch, it’s one of the five sites that I check every single day without fail. With 2011 looking sure to be the year of the iPad and ebook reader, it’s easy to see Salon.com becoming even more popular – and profitable – in the coming months.

So, yes, prompted by the Damascene conversion of one of my own former critics, I figured it’s about time I made amends for the trollish behaviour of my early-20s self. Sorry Salon, you were right and I was dramatically wrong and the landscape of online journalism is all the better for that fact.

Ok?

Ok.

Happy New Year everyone.


OMG/JK: Shiny Hats And Crystal Balls


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It’s time for a special New Years-themed edition of OMG/JK, and we’ve really gone all out with our costumes. From shiny hats to incredibly cheap kazoos, we’re ready to ring in 2011 with a bang. Oh, and we’ve got some technology to talk about.

Because there hasn’t been much major news in the tech world this week, we decided to spend most of the show discussing some of the big trends that are inevitably going to make headlines throughout 2011. From Apple’s likely push to the cloud to the consumer launch of ChromeOS and Android’s arrival on tablets we’ve got a lot to look forward to — and we’re not afraid to make some predictions.

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The ChromeOS CR-48 Experience: Fast, Promising, Early


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While the tech elite gained notifications early in the month that their Google ChromeOS-powered CR-48 notebooks were on their way, and thousands of others flocked to submit their names to become one of the lucky chosen 60,000 few to get access to what could be the first version of the next big operating system, my e-mail box remained empty. I must have groused about it enough that my wife finally took to her blog to lodge complaint with Google (somewhat tongue in cheek). Come Christmas morning, the last surprise for me was that she had subsequently conspired with some well-thinking Google staffers to make the device available for the holiday (along with some fun Android figurines). While I had to scowl at her end-run which delayed my access to the notebook, I finally put my ego aside and have been using the CR-48 intermittently for about a week, and have found it to be filled with intriguing promise, even if this is clearly not the final package.

The major hypothesis of the ChromeOS plan is that the future is the Web. Web sites, Web services and Web applications. As such, the main differentiation between the ChromeOS powered notebook and that of more traditional laptops running Windows or Mac is that there is very little of the desktop metaphor, with a local hard drive to save all of your documents and run your software applications. Running ChromeOS is much like a terminal that only runs the Web browser. Like the Hotel California, you can try to quit the app, but you can never truly leave.

First impressions with the Chrome OS are very smart. After taking a photo with the bulit-in Webcam to take your profile photo and finding the nearest WiFi point, you connect with your Google ID, and the service pulls in bookmarks you may have synchronized across your Chrome browser. If you are a person who lives on the Web, you’re practically set. Theoretically, all your e-mail, your social networks, your favorite Web sites, and even your documents (if you use Google Docs) are right there. What more could you possibly want?

The hardware, the less revolutionary but still nice to have, half of the equation, is extremely minimalist. Black all the way around. Quiet. Very quiet. It wakes up quickly from having the screen closed, and is quite smooth. After years of seeing my keyboard YELL AT ME with letters in full caps, the Google CR-48 is soothingly lower case. Even the CAPS LOCK key is gone, replaced with a search button – not that I found myself using that any more than just typing a word in the browser bar and hitting return if I truly wanted something. The trackpad is not the best in the world, but you can get used to it.

For someone raised in the desktop metaphor with applications, the feeling that I can’t get out of the browser and “get to my files” is a bit disconcerting and takes some rethinking. Jokingly, I saw it as if a person had been placed on house arrest. Sure, you can still watch TV and get food from the fridge, and maybe even have visitors over, but you can’t do anything outside beyond looking out the window. The lock-in seemed forced, even if I understood why. It’s something of the nature where it’s assumed Google knows best for me, even if the user is left wondering if its their own best interests that are being served, or that of the company.

At the early stage of ChromeOS’s life, it’s tempting to list those things you can’t really do. You have a Webcam, but it doesn’t work to take photos for some Web services, as neither Brizzly and Facebook could recognize it, while Gmail’s built in video chat could. You can download Zip files from e-mail attachments, but not unpack them. Taking screenshots looks like an impossibility.

That brings us to the Chrome Web store, the accepted place to run applications in the browser. Nicely laid out, reminiscent of iTunes, there’s a great number of options there, but it’s early days, so for every well thought out app, there are others that just serve as shortcuts to existing services, or lower-quality apps. Believers will have to be patient as the iTunes Store was not a huge winner back in 2003 either, and it will take time for developers to learn how to code for Chrome OS.

Included with the CR-48 notebook is embedded 3G wireless from Verizon, which makes the device very appealing for mobile computing. In the interest of not adding another 3G bill beyond that from my two Samsung Sprint devices, I did not enable this, but obviously could see the value.

Like many of Google’s products, the device and the underlying OS is very useful from day one. It’s clean. It’s fast. Its battery is very good and the compatibility of practically all sites and services on the OS is very good. But also like other Google products, to fully adopt the direction takes something of faith, that improvements and compatibility with more hardware and more flexibility is on its way.

To have consumers purchase Chrome OS laptops, once they hit the market, serious efforts will need to be taken to convince people why putting everything in the cloud, and abandoning (for the most part) applications they know well, will help their lives. It’s not just enough to built an intriguing device, but to also successfully sell the story around the device. For the thousands of brave souls who have access to the CR-48, getting the new laptop is fun, but also free. In parallel, we will need to see growth in applications and services to take advantage of ChromeOS, to ensure confidence we can close down our Macs and our Windows machines and go completely Google.

Can book retailer Borders survive without its own e-reader?


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Book and media retailer Borders announced today that it will hold off on paying some publishers in order to buy time and reorganize its debt amid a year of weak sales in its brick and mortar stores in the era of digital distribution.

The company has seen declining sales in books, movies and music since electronic book readers emerged and consumers started to use digital distribution marketplaces like iTunes. Borders’ revenue was down 17.5 percent in the most recent quarter when compared to the same quarter a year ago, according to its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its loss has also doubled to $74.4 million, up from a loss of $37.7 million the same quarter a year earlier.

But despite losing out on sales of books and other products, Borders is essentially looking to pull a GameStop and stay focused on its brick and mortar stores. Borders acknowledged e-books and e-readers as a definitive threat to its business but expects its in-store sales to remain intact, according to its most recent 10-Q filing. That being said, the company doesn’t plan to open any new stores in the near future.

Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the country, decided to take on the e-reader trend by producing its own electronic reading tablet, the Nook. The Nook became Barnes & Noble’s best-selling product in more than 40 years, according to a recent announcement by the company — beating out titles like Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code. Barnes & Noble also recently released the Nook Color, a light version of an Android tablet. The device includes Facebook and Twitter functionality as well as some apps like music service Pandora.

Borders doesn’t plan on developing its own e-reader and expects to find a niche as a neutral provider of e-books for every e-reader in the market. So why does Borders want to focus on its brick and mortar stores in the era of digital distribution and e-readers, where consumers can basically snap their fingers and get a book or song? There is basically no reason for an e-reader user to visit a brick and mortar store to pick up a new copy of a book.

It’s hard to argue with the popularity of e-readers, with companies like Barnes & Noble and Amazon seeing runaway successes with their versions. Borders’ shareholder confidence has already dropped off this year, with its share price dropping around 72 percent to less than $1 from its high of $3.29 this year. So now seems to be the best time for Borders to make a move into something new.

[Photo: mikemol]

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A Look At Some Of The Biggest Tech Stories Of 2010


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It’s New Year’s Eve, and there’s nothing that compliments a glass of celebratory champagne better than reflecting on the past year in technology news (really, it’s a blast). One of the best roundups just went up over on Techmeme, which has posted its annual “quasi-objective” list of the top 50 stories based how many links and citations each post received.

The top five stories shouldn’t come as a surprise, but they’re a good reminder of what’s gone on this year (apparently people like to write about Google and Apple):

  • 1. Gizmodo’s huge iPhone 4 scoop
  • 2. Steve Jobs bashing Flash
  • 3. Google’s decision to stop censoring Google.cn after detecting hacking attempts
  • 4. Google’s decision to mostly abandon its Nexus One experiment, which could have proven very disruptive to carrier/device lock-in.
  • 5. And the Consumer Reports announcement that it could not recommend the iPhone 4, which elevated ‘antennagate‘ to a new level (and prompted Apple to hold an event to discuss the device’s reported signal issues).
  • Google has also posted a roundup of its own, recapping the 454 posts it published on the Official Google Blog this year. Google says that 24,768,052 unique vistors visited the blog — an increase of 70% over last year, though most of this stemmed from Google’s April Fools joke, where it claimed it was renaming the company to Topeka. I like our April Fools jokes better.
    Ignoring the April Fools Joke, which had over ten times more views than any of the company’s actual news (a mildly depressing data point), Google’s top story was the ‘new approach to China’ referenced above. The second biggest story was Google’s post announcing ChromeOS — which was actually published in 2009 but has continued to draw attention, and finally had its big launch earlier this month. Rounding out the top five were Google’s announcement that it would install a fiber network in a still-undisclosed city, its decision to kill off Google Wave, and the launch of Google Places.

    Image by Brian Solis


    MIT Launches Phone-Enabled Work Site for Haiti


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    konbit_logo.pngIn time for the one-year anniversary of the destructive Haiti earthquake, a group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MediaLab have rolled out Konbit, an expansive work database for those effected by the devastation, usable by those with computers and without, by those literate and illiterate. Aaron Zinman, a grad student who, along with Greg Elliott, developed the site, explained the opportunity.

    “Normally (non-governmental organizations) organizations import foreign labor into Haiti due to the difficulty of finding local talent — a problem we are trying to combat.”

    Sponsor

    konbit2.png

    A Resume for the Developing World

    Here’s how it works.

    1. A displaced, unemployed Haitian calls the toll-free number (courtesy of Digicel): 5656 in Haiti, or +509 37031042 from abroad
    2. Creole (Haitian French) speakers, in Haiti and abroad, call in and translate those messages into English and other languages
    3. NGOs search the database for local laborers who can fill their open positions

    Those phoning in are prompted to tell stories that illustrate their experiences. The prompts have been recorded by Haitian radio personality Bob Lemoine and the tool is being advertised with PSAs on Haitian radio, said Zinman.

    “We have structured the interaction to help people tell what we think are relevant stories from their life that translate into employable skills. We first start by asking the basics–name, gender, education level (to proxy for literacy), can you work at night, and are you physically strong and healthy. Then we ask about their experiences with a wide range of skills. We frame the skill questions with examples to cue them and disambiguate. We ask about first-aid, construction, languages, child care, laundry, sewing, cleaning, repair, and transportation.”

    For those approaching the site, either as a job seeker, translator or NGO, it is simple and straightforward, as well as graphically arresting. For the NGOs, it helps them minimize labor costs, also a benefit for donors. For those effected by a crisis, not only does it help the NGO serving them to become more efficient, but it gives them extra access to the means to keep themselves and their family safe and fed, work.

    konbit_creole.png

    The Chicken and the Egg

    Konbit spent a good portion of last year approaching NGOs with the help of consultant Angela Dean at D&A Development Solutions.

    “We spoke to the UN Development Program, Clinton Foundation, Partners-In-Health, Peace Dividend Trust, at the State Department, and more. Everyone was the same–they thought the project sounded great and to let them know when it was deployed. We wanted more concrete feedback on how to cater the system to their interests, but they were so overloaded already and they didn’t know if this was pure vaporware considering the timing. So we discovered the answer to the chicken & egg is egg.”

    Now, after beta-testing the system in Miami, the egg has hatched in Haiti.

    To hear some of the phoned-in audio resumes, click here and select Haitian Creole as the language. If you speak it, here’s where you can also contribute to the translation effort.

    The project is open source and the code is available on Konbit’s Bitbucket page. The hope is that this process can be rolled out to each new crisis requiring in-country labor.

    First, however, the chick will have to grow into a hen and lay eggs of its own. To facilitate that, the Konbit folks intend to approach the NGOs who were skeptical the first time out again in January. If the NGOs see the power of the system, it may wind up materially adding to the list of things a competent NGO can do when they’ve got the people they’re supposed to be serving helping them do so.

    Discuss


    In a Year of Tablets, I’m Hooked on the Samsung Galaxy Tab


    This post is by from louisgray.com


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    This morning, I looked around the room and see three tablets in three corners. My wife’s iPad was charging on one side of the room, while her Barnes and Noble NOOKColor was on the nightstand. By me was the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Three tablets, three manufacturers, all with different uses.

    It struck me very clearly how 2010 was the year that tablets finally came to be useful household items, accelerated by Apple of course (after years of rumors), but in the end, the one I’ve been using the most has been the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I have found the 7 inch form factor extremely inviting, and it’s going with me practically everywhere, thanks to built in 3G support.

    Tablets? The iPod Touch, Samsung Epic, NOOKColor, Galaxy Tab and iPad.

    At risk of falling into “most recent gadget acquired” syndrome, the Galaxy Tab is absolutely my favorite and most-enjoyed electronic gizmo of the moment. It takes what I’ve already enjoyed about Android, including significant customization, flexibility and integration with all my Google Services, and brought it to a bigger, high quality screen, and a very fast processor that runs every app I throw at it.

    The Galaxy Tab vs the iPad In Size

    Sitting in between my Samsung Epic phone and the MacBook Air, in terms of size, the Galaxy Tab is big enough to present full-colored demos to potential business partners, while also being small enough to put in an inside jacket pocket or jeans back pocket. The device is lightweight and easy to maneuver one handed, which has come increasingly handy when reading books, RSS feeds, Twitter or anything else when balancing a 4 month old baby. In contrast, the iPad’s weight and bulk, not to mention heavy metal exterior, fails in this regard. The Galaxy Tab has a smooth plastic exterior that easily grips to your hand, but isn’t so harsh as to be uncomfortable if rested on the chest or lap (real-world use case, people!).

    My Galaxy Tab Home Screen

    Many people have remarked that the Galaxy Tab is essentially a larger Android phone. That is true. In fact, to my surprise, when purchasing the Tab, Sprint assigned a phone number to the device, even though it is not configured to make phone calls. It seems the exact same hardware went into the device, plus a bigger screen, battery and CPU. So if you’re already an Android user, you’ll be pleased to find it running Android 2.2 and doing just as you would expect. This is very similar to Apple’s unified OS strategy between their tablet and iPhone.

    The Galaxy Tab’s screen is the best I’ve tried. It is extremely clear and has high quality icons for apps and all services. The larger screen also allows for 5 icons to be stacked horizontally, unlike the standard 4 for most Android phones, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until Android widgets built for the “four icons across” size show room remaining.

    Like the iPad and the Barnes and Noble NOOKColor, the Galaxy Tab’s battery is very good. While practically every smartphone I have used has been fragile to venture far from a power source, all the tablets have had significant lifespan and can go days without a charge. I’ve taken the Tab with me on car trips and used the 3G network (from the passenger seat mind you), to use Google Talk and answer e-mail, or catch up on the various social networks. I’ve even used the Galaxy Tab to take Christmas photos and video tape the twins running at the park – although holding the Tab in front of me to record them no doubt looks very silly compared to today’s compact cameras.

    With CES looming around the corner, and Motorola promising to launch a new tablet with a new version of Android, it’s possible the Galaxy Tab’s position at the top of Android tablets could be short lived. But it’s clearly a real contender to the crown. It’s fast, it’s flexible, and the 7 inch form factor is extremely compelling. If you are looking for something smaller than the iPad or simply prefer Android, you’d do yourself a service to try out the Tab and add it to your arsenal.

    Carriers and the Mobile Expense Woes! Not!


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    Earlier this week, I read a piece on CNN Money, which took a rather simplistic view of the mobile data market. The author argued Internet mobile video was costing the carriers billions every year as they try to keep up with the demand for wireless data. Actually it’s not video; in reality, it’s apps on smartphones and their grown-up siblings — the tablets — along with web in general that are boosting the demand for mobile bandwidth. From the article:

    But that’s an expensive task. The U.S. wireless industry is spending $30 billion to $50 billion annually to improve their networks, according to Dan Hays, partner at consultancy PRTM.

    Verizon Wireless spent $17 billion alone improving its network in 2009, and AT&T spent about $19 billion over the past year on upgrades. Sprint laid out about half the money for the $14.5 billion it cost to launch its 4G network venture with Clearwire and other partners. T-Mobile said its network improvements have cost less but are in the same ballpark as its competitors.

    No one is denying that the wireless data networks are getting crowded and requiring more investments, but one has to look beyond the woe-is-me arguments carriers continue to use for everything. But it’s not a one-way street! Sure, carriers are spending the dollars, but data is bringing in the big bucks too. If it was a voice-and-text world, they would all be beating each other up on low-margin, flat-rate plans, scratching for market share. Data has given them something to cheer about.

    Chetan Sharma, an independent analyst and a contributor to our GigaOM Pro research service estimates that U.S. carriers will generate about $165 billion in revenues in 2010. Of the total, nearly $55 billion will come from sales of data services alone.

    “The average margins for the US operators are around 37% with VZ and ATT in 40%+ margins overall,” Sharma said. He estimates that the carrier data margins as of 2010 are generally around 40-50 percent. Because their margins are declining, the companies are looking to spend money on network upgrades and use tiered pricing to offset some of those upgrades.

    AT& T, which the article claims spent $19 billion upgrading its networks, has been a major beneficiary of the iPhone boom. Without the iPhone, the company labeled as the worst by Consumer Reports would be facing tough times. To paraphrase Johnny Cochrane, if the smartphone is a hit….!

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    GM leads Nissan in December electric car sales as supply trickles in


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    Chevy’s electric hybrid vehicle, the Volt, beat out the cheaper Nissan Leaf in electric car sales in the last month of 2010 as each manufacturer struggled to keep up with demand for their newest rides, the Associated Press reported today.

    The Volt went into production in mid-November and hit dealerships a few weeks later, just in time to compete with the Nissan Leaf. So far it looks like the Volt has won out in terms of sheer numbers — GM sold between 250 and 350 Volts in December. Only around 10 Nissan Leaf cars were actually sold in the past two weeks.

    There are around 50,000 people on the wait list for the Leaf, but Nissan initially limited rolling out its new electric vehicle line to around 200 cars in December across five states. The Leaf is around $8,000 cheaper than the Chevy Volt. Leaf Supply will continue to be limited well into early 2011, and Nissan has advised dealers to be careful about what kind of orders they sign for the Leaf.

    Each Nissan Leaf ordered in August was supposed to be built-in Japan in September, and orders that come in September had a slight chance of being filled in December. Most Leaf orders are expected to dealer lots in January. California may get theirs first, since the cars are first shipped to Los Angeles before being sent to the rest of the Northwest.

    It’s already looking like the electric car market is going to explode over the next several years as GM and Nissan, as well as others, ramp up production of their models of electric cars. Coda, a new startup that makes an electric sedan, expects to sell around 14,000 cars in its first year after release. Tesla Motors, despite some woes with its shares, has a pretty aggressive timeline for its Model S electric sedan and expects a prototype by the end of this year and deliveries to start in 2012. The company plans to build up to 20,000 Model S cars a year and currently has about 3,000 reservations for the car.

    Granted, the success of each car is going to depend on whether their owners change their lifestyles to account for a few hours of charging the batteries each day (even VentureBeat’s GreenBeat writer Iris Kuo isn’t exactly sure the world is ready for that yet). Now it’s just a waiting game to see which company comes out on top once each manufacturer finally catches up to demand for the electric cars.

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    Winklevoss twins on Facebook lawsuit: It’s not about the money


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    winklevoss twinsCameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twins who (along with their business partner Divya Narendra) accuse Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea, got a big write-up in The New York Times for their ongoing legal dispute with Facebook.

    We’ve covered this case a number of times before. The twins settled with Facebook in 2008 for $20 million in cash and $45 million in Facebook shares, but tried to back out of the deal almost immediately when unflattering instant messages from Zuckerberg came to light. They moved forward with an appeal earlier this year, arguing that their shares might be worth much less than Facebook claimed, according to a valuation made at the time. (VentureBeat’s Owen Thomas argued that Facebook is “playing a dangerous game” by claiming that it had no obligation to disclose the lower valuation.)

    So what’s new in the Times story? The legal details are pretty much the same, but Times reporter Miguel Helft interviewed the twins and offers a better sense of why they’re pursuing the appeal. After all, no matter what Facebook’s valuation was at the time, the “Winklevii” (the twins’ popular nickname from the movie The Social Network) seem guaranteed to make a bunch of cash from their shares once Facebook has an initial public offering. By throwing out the settlement, there’s a chance they could end up with nothing at all. But the twins said it’s about the principle, not the money.

    “The principle is that they didn’t fight fair,” Tyler Winklevoss said. “The principle is that Mark stole the idea.”

    The twins later told Helft (in unison!) that Zuckerberg only deserves credit for “not screwing up” their idea, and that if he hadn’t started Facebook, their site ConnectU could have been the one with hundreds of millions of users.

    If we are to take the twins at their word, this helps explain why Facebook hasn’t been able to make this lawsuit go away. It’s not about money, but credit, and the fact that the Winklevii want to be more than footnotes in one of the tech world’s biggest success stories.

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