Fritz Demopoulos On How The East Can Be Won

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The latest session at TechCrunch Disrupt was a fireside chat between Sarah Lacy and accomplished entrepreneur Fritz Demopoulos — an expat who arrived in China in the late 90s while he was working at News Corp and went on to start (and sell) two very successful companies.

The conversation, which you’ll find a recording of above, focused largely on the issues facing Western companies as they try to make their way into China.

The issue, Demopoulos says, is that companies can’t simply look at China as an important market. CEOs and other executives have to be looking at China as a commitment, both from an organizational and financial perspective. Many companies, he says, scoff at the idea of putting several years or more into building a sustainable presence in China (in part, in some cases, because they’re public). But they need to be willing to do this.

Asked about the lack of acquisitions in China, Demopoulos said he’s hearing that more bankers and lawyers are actually working on M&A style transactions, so it looks like they’re picking up. He added that the shortage of M&A historically may step from a Romance of the Three Kingdoms scenario, where “everyone hates each other”.

Finally, the talk turned to what it takes to start a successful company in China. There’s a widely held perception that you need to ‘know someone’ with connections to the Chinese government to make it there, which Demopoulos addressed. To succeed, he says, you need to do one of four things:

  • The first, is to be a broker or middle-man
  • The second is to participate in the china information industry, or PR
  • The third is to take advantage of government related opportunities
  • And finally, the fourth is the find new markets or create great products

As for the government connections? Demopoulos didn’t dismiss that entirely (there are some times when they can help), but he said that when you think about it, there are probably tens of thousands of people with various connections. In some ways, it’s sort of a buyer’s market for those who need them.

Alternatives to Google Reader? Don’t Bother, You’re Not Going Anywhere…

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Today Google Reader became the latest Google product to have Plus added to it. Now Google Reader users can +1 or share items to Google Plus, from within Reader. Google has made very clear over the past month that Plus will be integrated into all of Google’s products over time, so this wasn’t a surprising move. However, rather predictably, there has been a user backlash anyway. Writing on his G+ profile, Google Plus Marketing Manager and long-time RSS expert Louis Gray tried to assure everyone that they have choices: "We know that for some people, the changes to Reader will make you think differently about the product, and this may make you seek alternatives."

But are there in fact any viable alternatives to Google Reader?


I believe that comment was a little disingenuous from Gray, because he knows that Google dominates what’s left of the RSS Reader market. There are always alternatives, but the reality is that relatively few people will use them. What’s more, most of the alternatives rely on Google Reader for content.

So Google knows full well that most people will either stick with Google Reader, or still have a connection to it. If users do stick with Reader (by far the most likely scenario), they will use Plus a lot more now that it’s the only way to share.

RSS Readers Ain’t What They Used To Be

This is another key turning point for RSS Readers, perhaps the final innovation in this long struggling market. No longer are RSS Readers independent products with their own devoted, reading-focused users – or "word-y people" as one Google Reader fan described them on my G+ profile.

Sure, the writing was already on the wall. Formally popular consumer RSS Readers like Bloglines and Newsgator have by now either disappeared, morphed into new products, or became focused on markets that will pay for them (which usually means the enterprise market).

The RSS Reader market has declined because reading content is a very fragmented experience these days. That was my conclusion even back in 2009, when I cited the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Nearly two years later and the fragmentation has only multiplied. As well as Twitter and Facebook, there are tablet-focused apps such as Flipboard and, services like Instapaper and ReadItLater which make it even easier to read articles on mobile devices, and newly popular social services – like Google Plus.

Where To Now For The Google Reader Community? Google Plus Of Course…

Even despite all of the changes in the way people consume content on the Web, Google Reader had been the holdout as a specialist RSS Reader product. It has (had?) a passionate community of RSS Reader fanatics.

While RSS reading as an activity will continue in Google Reader, as of today the sharing features have been "retired" and moved to Google Plus. Also the note-taking features. And because almost all community activity happens on social networks – like Google Plus – that effectively spells the end of any real innovation in the RSS Reader market.

So what of these supposed alternatives to Google Reader? In fact, many of them rely on Google Reader. Google Reader powers – or its content can be plugged into – a number of the products that have forced the likes of Bloglines and Newsgator out of the consumer RSS market. Services like Flipboard for the iPad (Google Reader is one content input option) and Feedly (multi-platform, but one of its core features is that it syncs with Google Reader).

So even if Google Reader users migrate to another product, they’ll likely still be connected to Google Reader in some way.

May As Well Get Used To It

Louis Gray positioned the changes today as giving Google Reader users more granular ways to share things, by way of the circles feature of Plus. So, for example, you might share a technology post in Google Reader to your "Tech Friends" circle. That does sounds appealing to me. And already in my tests I’ve seen how easy it is to share things from Google Reader to Plus.

So for people like me, where Google Plus is my (Google-related) social network anyway, the Reader changes are a positive thing. As for Google Reader’s avid fans, I feel for them – they have lost some beloved features. But they will simply have to get used to the changes, because there are no real alternatives left in the consumer RSS Reader market.


How To Get Your Own G+ License Plate

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You might have seen the news last week that I picked up a rather unique license plate, which reads as GOOG +1, a shortcut highlighting not just Google+, but the +1 button you find throughout the web, including here. While we at the office often talk about Google+ being a good representation for how we share in the real world online, in my own silly way, I like how the GOOG +1 license plate reflects in real life how I share on the web. See what I did there?

When I debuted the new plate, grinning, the reaction was split two-fold, between those who thought I was a goofy fanboy and those who appeared jealous they hadn’t thought of it themselves. After all, I only joined Google in August, and there’s no doubt people on campus are more deserving and could likely have gotten it before me. But GOOG +1 isn’t the only way you can highlight Google+ on your license plate, assuming you live in California and have a little imagination.

Personalize Your License Plate with a +Sign on the DMV Site

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers personalized license plates, if you’re willing to pay for them. I’d never been interested before, accepting what I was given, but the state now has a series of “Kids’ Plates” that feature symbols including a heart, a hand, a star, and the + sign. Before I joined Google in late August, I knew I had to find a way to get a + on my license plate – and unfortunately, I couldn’t get GOOGLE+, as the state interprets the + as a blank space, and GOOGLE is already owned by someone. (Not sure who…)

This Might Be Your Plate

So I ordered GOOG +1. A short 9 or 10 weeks later, the plate arrived, and I enjoyed taking the specialty plate around the offices in Mountain View, to get photographed with many of those who are working on the product. In the photo album I posted to Google+ (of course), you can see Senior VP Vic Gundotra, VP of Software Bradley Horowitz, CEO Larry Page and many others smiling with the plate. It’s a little token, but fun.

To get your own G+ plate, saying whatever you like, including +YourName or G+ Rocks or whatever you can think up, head to the California DMV, choose a personalized plate, select the Kids plate, and test the name until you find one available. For fifty bucks and a forty buck a year cost, the plate is yours.

If you’re a longtime reader, you know I have fun with tech and this particular experiment was fun. Do I expect to see scads of G+ license plates up and down the freeway? No. But you can if you like. I’d love to hear your idea and see what you come up with.

Adobe buys Auditude reportedly for about $100 million

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Adobe Systems has acquired Palo Alto-based Auditude, the two companies jointly announced today. Auditude is a video ad management and analytics platform, which now becomes part of Adobe’s efforts to enter  contemporary and fast growing markets such as video and mobile devices. While the two companies didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, our sources familiar with the deal put the value of the acquisition at around $100 million.

Auditude had raised a total of $38 million from Redpoint Ventures and Greylock Partners. It works with companies such as Comcast, MLB, Starz & Fox News. Auditude started out as video fingerprinting technology company but later morphed into a company that balanced “who owns the rights to make money from a video with what ads are available.”

As for its plans for Auditude, Adobe in a press release outlined:

Auditude’s advertising server platform meshes neatly with Adobe’s video technology. The combination of Adobe Flash Media Server, Adobe Pass and Auditude creates the most comprehensive solution for the world’s leading content publishers, broadcasters and brand to encode video once, securely deliver their content across platforms on-demand and efficiently monetize it. Adobe also plans to integrate Auditude with the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite, which consists of integrated analytics and optimization products to collect and unleash the power of customer insight.

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Why China Is Ready For ECommerce

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Ecommerce in China is ready to take off and, more important, it’s ready to reach great heights on its own terms. Lu Dong of La Mui, Haifeng Ye of Mbaobao, and Fangfang Wu of Greenbox are three ecommerce pioneers who are, as we speak, redefining online sales in China.

“China is ready for ecommerce,” said Lu Dong. “People are moving to buying almost anything online.”

Haifeng Ye agreed. “We have a greater opportunity here in the Chinese market to make something new. In america the ecommerce market is quite established,” he said. “We can use ecommerce to build a new retail format.” He calls online sales a huge opportunity.

The three agreed that the biggest fish in the China ecommerce sea was Taobao and the importance of Taobao as a sales platform in China cannot be ignored. The company helps with settlement, logistics, and service and all three agreed that Taobao is “great.”

These entrepreneurs see things improving over the next few years and noted that ad rates have risen 30-50% while outside investment is down slightly but not enough to make these panelists worry.

Lu Dong said it best: “It’s important to raise money but it’s more important to make money.”

What you need to know about flywheels

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The bankruptcy of Beacon Power will likely draw attention to the flywheel industry, as Beacon was one of the better known companies in that field. So how exactly are flywheels used for energy storage, why do companies buy them, and why has the technology struggled? Here’s what you need to know:

What are flywheels: Flywheels are being used as energy storage devices and spin large discs very fast inside a vacuum. The rotation of the discs is stored as kinetic energy (movement).

What are flywheels used for: Flywheels are most commonly used as backup power for emergency power systems — what’s called uninterrupted power supply, or UPS — and these UPS systems are found in facilities like data centers, which will come online if the grid goes down. According to Lux Research, flywheels and ultracapacitors could take 10 percent of the datacenter UPS market by 2016. A few years ago Frost & Sullivan estimated that just 6 percent of the UPS market used flywheels. Sun has used flywheels in its green data centers, as has Cisco.

Beacon Power’s flywheels are largely used to help keep electricity flowing over the grid at the steady 60 hertz required. The company’s 20 MW plant in Stephentown, NY, was built to absorb and discharge energy to the electric grid, making it possible to use more variable renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has pegged 2012 as a turning point for grid energy storage in the U.S. because by then energy storage makers that have collectively received more than $250 million in federal stimulus funding are expected to complete research and development work and move into field trial stages in the U.S.

Why companies buy flywheels: Companies that buy flywheels like them because they don’t use toxic chemicals like batteries, they can come online very quickly when used as backup power, they need little maintenance over a 20-year period (so lower lifetime maintenance costs than batteries), and they are energy efficient. Flywheel maker Active Power once told us that a 10-megawatt flywheel-based UPS system could save a customer $20 million in energy and maintenance costs over 20 years.

Why flywheels have hit hurdles: Flywheels have had difficulty finding the right market and have faced competition from batteries, which have received a good amount of funding and support. Batteries have lower upfront costs than flywheels, and Beacon’s flywheels are more expensive than lithium-ion batteries on a capital cost basis, though Beacon says its flywheels are cheaper on a per-cycle basis.

Companies that make flywheels: There’s a handful of companies other than Beacon that are making flywheels, including Pentadyne, and Active Power, which make flywheel UPSs for data centers. Pentadyne has developed magnetically levitated carbon-fiber flywheel systems that don’t use an external vacuum pump, have no mechanical bearings, and use 90 percent less power than other flywheels.

Smaller companies that I’ve learned about in recent years include Amber Kinetics and Velkess. The DOE gave Amber a $4 million grant to develop and demonstrate its flywheel energy storage technology for grid applications. Velkess is a three-year-old company that says it has developed a new kind of flywheel that is cheaper and more stable and safe than conventional flywheels.

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Daily Wrap-Up: The Lifestreaming Apects of the Facebook Timeline and More

This post is by Robyn Tippins from ReadWriteWeb

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beeri.pngRichard MacManus takes a look at the Facebook Timeline and the lofty inspirations behind it. All of this and more in today’s Daily Wrap.

Sometimes it’s difficult to catch every story that hits tech media in a day, so we thought it might be helpful to wrap up some of the most talked about stories. Assuming this goes over well, we’re going to give you a daily recap of what you missed in the ReadWriteWeb Community, including a link to some of the most popular discussions in our offsite communities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus as well. This is a new feature at ReadWriteWeb so we covet your feedback. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments below or reach out to me directly at robyn at


Facebook Timeline & The New Lifestreaming Era

Ever wondered about the inspiration behind Facebook’s Timeline? We look at two companies, one acquired, one a muse, that are ahead of their time(line), FriendFeed and Memolane.

Some of our favorite comments from this story:

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Still reading? Here are a few more must read posts, chosen by your fellow community members.

Google About To Launch Website Mobilizer GOMO

Startup Shocker: SimpleGeo Gets Acquired by UrbanAirship

MobiUs Accelerates Mobile HTML5 Development, Aims to Kill Mobile Flash

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How Open Source Can Help Digital Magazines Proliferate

How Will Ubuntu Succeed In the Mobile Platform Game of Thrones?

How To Win National Novel Writing Month Using Google Docs

YouTube Releases Its 90-Minute, User-Generated Documentary Film For Free

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Timestamp Your Facebook Timeline

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Live Chat Tomorrow: Intelligence Matters: Virtualize your Business Critical Workloads with Confidence

Don’t forget to join us tomorrow for our next ReadWriteWeb Live Chat at 10:00am PST.


How Groupon Is Losing China

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At this point, it’s no secret: Gaopeng (Groupon’s nascent effort in China) is a train wreck. By September of this year, the seven-month old endeavor had already accumulated $46.4 million in net losses with just $2.1 million in revenue. Meanwhile, a number of competitors in the region are predicting profitability within months.

In today’s “Attack Of The Clones” panel at Disrupt Beijing, a few of Groupon’s fiercest Chinese competitors took the opportunity to, well, attack. While obviously a bit subjective, their words do provide some insight on how a company so massive in the US could tank so dramatically on the other side of the world.

Panel guests Yinan Du (CEO of 24Quan) and Xing Wang (CEO of Meituan) agreed on at least two points: Groupon rushed their entry into China, and failed to embrace the culture (or hire people who could). According to Yinan Du, “Groupon didn’t have a chance from the beginning”.

“For any startup to be successful, there has to be a magic team behind it. They hired magic, but no one who understands both worlds. You have to be bi-cultural, you have to have someone who really understands how things work in America and how it differs in China.” Amongst the noted differences: margins. While Groupon happily pulls somewhere around 40% margins on deals in the US, no competitor in China is seeing anything above 14%.

Both panelists also harped on Groupon for their partnership with Tencent, calling it shortsighted and clearly not properly thought out. “They were focusing on PR rather than the business itself.”

Alas, Groupon was unable to send a representative as they’ve recently entered their quiet period in preparation for their impending IPO. Had they been on stage, however, there may not have been much they could have said to dampen the onslaught.

Click to view slideshow.

Launch Date:
November 11, 2008

Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 565 cities around the world. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon can offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere.

Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way that offers the consumer an unbeatable deal, and businesses a large number of new customers. To date, it has saved consumers more than $300 million and claims it…

Learn more

TweetSheet Will Surface Your Best Self Online

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Vizifylogo.jpgPeople say everything bad you post online will be found when you grow up – but what if you could use help finding the good things you’ve posted to the web? Startup company Vizify believes there’s a need for that and the company’s first product, called Tweetsheet, is already showing me things about my use of Twitter that I didn’t know before. Here’s my profile page there.

Log in with your Twitter credentials and the service will show you what your most popular Tweets have been, how your Tweeting has grown or fallen over the past year, who retweets and replies to you the most and where the people who respond to you live. All this data is pretty straightforward but it’s presented well and is a good example of the company’s big vision: to help people surface their best historical content to present that to the world.


What did I learn from my TweetSheet profile? I found out that my activity spiked in June and hasn’t ever recovered since – thanks to Google Plus. I got a good picture of what the most popular content I share is – it tends to be news coverage of big brand name web apps. Unfortunately it’s tweets with the strongest language, the most audacious claims, that get retweeted the most from my account, too. I also learned that Portland coder Jeremy Felt really appreciates my twitter posts. That’s great.


There’s much more that could be surfaced just on Twitter – not to mention once the service expands out to more services. Todd Silverstein, CEO of the company, says that users will be able to use the surfaced data visualizations to edit together public profiles they could share with others.

“I began my career in publishing,” he says, “and there has always been a lot of ephemera published, much of it that deserves to be saved. I kept a journal when I was younger and I think it’s great to see where I was in my life at those times. I believe there is a lot of content in Twitter that deserves to be saved, too. But we don’t have the tools to understand it.”

Silverstein comes from Cornell, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, HarperCollins books, co-founded online custom jewelry startup Gemkitty and in 2009 was awarded a patent on a practice called Remote Purchasing that sounds like part of the Bruce Sterling short story Maneki Neko.

Silverstein says that despite the site’s simple looks, he’s got meaningful patents filed. “Acquiring that information, going through it and finding interesting things,” he says, “we’re doing it algorithmically, working backwards from an inspection of data, in the future new data we’re not yet familiar with – and that’s a non-trivial matter.”

Algorithms applied to real-time social software user data, in service of self-awareness and effective presentation. That sounds great, we’ll see what more Vizify can deliver.


Why Hulu Plus isn’t available on Apple TV yet

This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat

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It’s only fitting that, on Halloween night, we find out the reason streaming video service Hulu Plus has yet to make its way to the Apple TV is that Apple is apparently scared of the competition.

Hulu could take business away from Apple’s TV show and movie purchases via iTunes. Apple’s $99 set-top streaming media box was also recently upgraded to permit  customers to take advantage of past purchases, which can be downloaded through Apple TV’s iTunes store using Apple’s iCloud service.

A native Hulu Plus app for Apple TV has been ready to roll out to users for at least a month, according to a report from 9 to 5 Mac. However, the development is on hold despite the absence of any technical problems.

Although Apple TV allows native apps from both streaming video services Netflix and Amazon, neither service is much of a threat because they don’t offer current programming. Both streaming services have quite a large TV offering but are prevented from streaming the most recent season of all TV shows currently on the air.

Apple also restricts the Hulu Plus iOS applications for the iPhone and iPad. The iPad version is unable to take advantage of high-definition video playback when devices owners use an HDMI iPad adapter cable with their television sets. As for the iPhone version, users are unable to use the new Airplay feature, which lets people mirror their phone’s screen with a television screen that’s connected to an Apple TV.

Another reason Apple might have delayed Hulu Plus on Apple TV could be the streaming service’s efforts to sell itself during the last few months. Hulu’s owners — News Corp., Disney, Comcast and Providence Equity Partners — initially put the service up for sale in June but eventually decided to call off the auction. Some of the potential bidders in that auction included direct Apple competitors like Google. Apple could just as easily have waited to see how the situation played out before agreeing to add the service to Apple TV.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

Anonymous Threatens Mexican Drug Cartel

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Anonymous_Logo_150x150.jpgAnonymous has targeted a Mexican drug cartel after that group, Los Zetas, allegedly kidnapped one of its members in Veracruz. In a video released on October 6, the group “claimed that they would release the names of journalists, taxi drivers and others who have worked with Los Zetas in the past” according to Foreign Policy. They also threatened to include the addresses of the collaborators on November 5.

The Guardian posted a translated version of the Spanish-language video. (See the original embedded after the jump.)


The idea that social media independents are not journalists is an idea the criminal cartels do not share. Nor for that matter do the people of Mexico, who have turned to Twitter to get information on cartel violence, information the traditional press rarely reports any more for well-founded fear of retaliation.

In September, cartel goons killed and hung a man and woman from a bridge. The two had used social media to report on gang violence in the city of Nuevo Laredo on the border with Texas. A sign hung with the mutilated bodies said, “This is going to happen to all the Internet snitches (Frontera al Rojo Vivo, Blog Del Narco, or Denuncia Ciudadano). Be warned, we’ve got our eye on you. Signed, Z.” Another said, “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and social networking sites. I’m The Laredo Girl, and I’m here because of my reports, and yours.”

Que Dios los bendiga, los bloggers de México.


Disrupt Beijing Finalists: So Good We Had to Pick Six

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disrupt beijing

Memo to Chinese startups: You made for a late night of deliberations. We typically pick five finalists. There were a few companies that were clear picks, captivating everyone– from the judges to the staff to people we talked to in the hallways. Then there was another group that each had passionate advocates on staff, making for some tough decisions.

Ultimately, the staff got down to six we liked and couldn’t agree on which one to eliminate. So in the spirit of rule breaking, we decided to pick six finalists. Here they are in alphabetical order:


8 Securities


Order With Me

TouchPal Contacts

United Styles

These companies will duke it out in front of our finalist judges just before lunch. You won’t want to miss the drama!

Smule to make beautiful music with $12M in funding

This post is by Chikodi Chima from VentureBeat

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Music app maker Smule today announced a new funding round of $12 million to support future expansion plans, and to hire more employees.

Smule is the company behind the I am T-Pain autotune app, Ocarina, a very early hit on the iPhone, Glee Karaoke, and many more.

“This gives us some confidence we should put our foot on the gas,” Smule co-founder and chief executive officer Jeff Smith told VentureBeat. Smith said the money will go towards a rapid push to expand its team with more engineers, more product and creative teams, more marketing managers and more business analysts.

In a release issued along with today’s announcement, Smith said that Smule’s board and executive team will be taking more “aggressive steps to dominate the burgeoning market for mobile social music.”

Smule’s free-to-play Magic Piano app has been downloaded to more than 5 million iOS devices, and more than 200 million songs created on Smule products have been shared on the Smule Sonic Network.

“If we saw opportunities to accelerate inorganically, we would pursue that as well,” said Smith,  meaning the company might grow by acquisition, if necessary, though he added that the company did not have any buyout plans in its immediate future.

The music industry is a $65 billion annual pie, and Smith is confident that his young company has what it takes to shift the existing paradigm from the passive consumption of a static product, and one that is controlled by professionals, to one that is interactive, and democratic.

Founded in 2008, the latest round of investment brings Smule’s total funding up to $25.7, according to VentureBeat Profiles. Bessemer Venture Partners, Granite Ventures, Shasta Ventures, and Floodgate. The current round of funding was led by Shasta Ventures.

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

Next Up to Sue BitTorrent Users: Book Publishers

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Joining their counterparts in the film industry, large book publishing houses are the latest to take aim at users of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol. John Wiley and Sons, the publisher of the popular “For Dummies” how-to book series, is suing 27 Bit Torrent users for downloading PDF files of the books, thereby infringing on Wiley’s copyrights.

How extensive is the alleged book piracy? users are said to have swapped copies of Photoshop CS5 All-In-One For Dummies more than 74,000 times, according to the lawsuit.


The defendants, all of whom reside in New York state, are being sued for copyright and trademark infringement, as well as trademark counterfeiting, which the company claims may dilute the quality of its brand and thus incur even further costs.

This is a first for the publishing industry, who are following in the footsteps of Hollywood. Most famously, tens of thousands of users who used BitTorrent to download the widely-acclaimed and award-winning film The Hurt Locker were sued by the film’s producers. Many of those defendants settled out of court, as is common in cases like these.

Despite the popularity of legitimate e-book marketplaces like Amazon’s Kindle Store and Apple’s iBooks, digital book piracy has grown in recent years, with some best-sellers being illegally downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

It remains to be seen how this case unfolds, or if other book publishers follow Wiley in the practice of suing BitTorrent users for copyright infringement.


Post-Rev Egypt Arrests Another Prominent Blogger

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alaa150.jpgProminent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah has been arrested by the Egyptian military. He was summoned for questioning on Sunday. His last tweet says starkly, “Going in.” He has since been remanded for further questioning for 15 days. During his initial appearance he refused to answer questions, declaring the military court that held him, and sentenced fellow blogger Maikel Nabil to three years in prison, was illegitimate.

The charge he was arrested on was inciting violence against the military.


Alaa has been a prominent voice in the Egyptian blogosphere (and many other spheres) for years. He came back to Egypt from South Africa to take part in the Arab Spring that overthrew Mubarak. Now the same military that those protesters looked to for protection against the violent, graft-ridden police force seems to have abdicated its role as protector.

The son of a well-known civil rights attorney, Alaa was one of the voices that decried what he saw as military involvement in the violent suppression of the October Christian protests.

The love of tyrants for inversion – up is down, backward is forward, good is evil – is visible in today’s Egypt, in a stark black outline against the hopeful, peaceful end of the decades-long rule of a corrupt dick. Given the dozens of activists dragged into the military’s dungeons in recent months, Mubarak must be delighted. He may have been turned out, but his policies are in full force.


On the Verge of a New Tech Site, Which Finally Debuts

This post is by from AllThingsD » Kara Swisher

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Tonight at 1 am PT, techies who have nothing else to do — that would be me! — can click onto a brand-new tech site called the Verge.

Well, kind of — it’s the result of many months of work by the gang that defected from AOL’s popular tech powerhouse Engadget, set up temporary shop under the Web-site name This Is My Next, and busied themselves with creating the Verge.

I have another screenshot below of the new site, which will be focused on news, reviews and features about tech, and which has been getting a final tweaking all day today.

From my quick perusal, it has a vibrant and slick design, with a lot of packed boxes, swooshy movement and plenty of content.

Along with the launch, the Verge’s parent company — formerly doing business as SB Nation, focused on sports — will also be transformed, into Vox Media.

In a chitchat with Vox’s CEO Jim Bankoff, top exec Marty Moe and Josh Topolsky, the Verge’s editor in chief, the trio of former AOLers said they were going for the big time.

“We want to build the platform for talented, native Web voices — in sports and tech for now — and then we plan to grow more verticals,” said Bankoff.

“We want to create more than a news site or blog about tech — the frustration at AOL was that we did not get the resources or manpower to realize that bigger vision,” said Topolsky.

(You’re speaking to the choir, brother!)

Said Moe: “We think this category has not had a large enough vision … not enough has been innovated over the years, and we think it is a big opportunity.”

Topolsky said the site, along with a mass of original content from 30 writers, will also be helped by a strong database of information about all its topics and gadgets, and will focus a lot on community input.

“What we want to do was graduate beyond the blog,” he said.

(Hmm … and here I just got the hang of this blog thing.)

Bankoff, who would not say how much Vox spent on launching the Verge (my back-of-the-envelope guess — several million dollars), said that costs were spread between the tech and sports sites, with centralized sales and product teams.

Initial launch sponsors are BMW, Sony and Samsung, said Moe, who aims to sell “major brand advertisers on the idea that we will be the premier destination of consumer tech coverage.”

It has to grow past big sites like Engadget to do so, but Topolsky said that This Is My Next had three million unique visitors in the last month, and more than 10 million page views.

“We have done that with a lot of editorials and in-depth reviews,” he said. “I think people are really hungry for great content and stories.”

As to competitors, Topolsky said that “this not to necessarily I win if you lose,” although his clear aim is to unseat sites like CBS-owned CNET, Engadget and Gawker Media’s Gizmodo — and perhaps even newsier sites such as TechCrunch and AllThingsD (as if!).

“We are going to do the nuts-and-bolts stuff,” he said. “Somewhere between Engadget and Wired.”

Topolsky compared the Verge to a “boutique hotel — we have the same stuff everyone else has, but it is a much more elegant experience.”

Later, that will change, he promised, noting that “this is only version 1.0.”

Of course — but what else would you expect from a gadget site?

(Good luck and congrats to the entire Verge team from AllThingsD!)

And here, as promised, is another lovely screenshot:

Republic Wireless to launch $19 unlimited voice, SMS & data service

This post is by from GigaOM

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Updated with more detailsRepublic Wireless, a division of Cary, N.C.-based VoIP and bandwidth provider will launch a hybrid cellular voice and VoIP service on November 8, 2011. Jason Kincaid first reported the story, but we have some more details and a couple of screenshots.The service, which costs $19 a month, will allow you to make VoIP phone calls over Wi-Fi and will switch to cellular-based calling when a Wi-Fi network is unavailable. Text messages can also be sent via Wi-Fi or cellular networks. The service does require a special Android handset. The plan includes unlimited voice and text messaging. It also includes unlimited data without any bandwidth caps. 

Just like UMA, Just Different.

For those who have played around with the combination of Wi-Fi and voice calling known as UMA, the idea behind Republic Wireless is no different than the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA)-based service that is bundled in some T-Mobile BlackBerry devices. T-Mobile also has UMA available on some Android phones. When inside the office or your home or inside a Wi-Fi hot-spot, all phone calls and text messages are sent and received via the Internet. When there is no Wi-Fi, the calls are routed over a cellular network.

Republic is doing pretty much the same.  The company however says that it has built its own soup-to-nuts solution to offer the hybrid calling functionality. The company is going to buy wholesale minutes from third party carriers such as Sprint. could easily use other wireless carriers as its wholesale partners. The company says the monthly plan would include unlimited 3G data without any bandwidth caps. Typically phone companies call  5 gigabytes download as “unlimited.” It is not clear if the plans would include 3G wireless data access or if it will cost extra per month.And like Kineto Wireless’ UMA that is used by T-Mobile, Republic requires you to buy a special phone that can handle this hybrid calling. The company has built this hardware based on Google’s Android OS. The screenshots below show how the end-customer can find out if they are on Wi-Fi or on the cellular network.

Is cheap enough?

As a long-standing fan of UMA, I like this idea of having one number automatically switching between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. It is also attractive to those who travel internationally and want to save on calling back to the US.

However, I cannot get past the need for a special hardware. That need for special client hardware was always a problem for UMA. From the pricing, my best guess is that Republic is going after customers on a tight budget.And in order to attract this set of customers, the company is going to find a way to subsidize the hardware that will increase its total customer acquisition costs, which in turn means longer pay-off time for these customers.

Still, the idea of unlimited 3G data with the service for $19 a month is interesting enough for me to consider getting an additional line.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing: What’s In Store For Day Two

This post is by from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

In case you haven’t read through the 50 or so China posts on the site right now, the last day of our first international Disrupt conference will be starting at 9 am Beijing time/6 pm PST today. If you need even more reason to watch, catch Sarah and I above, talking about who we’re most excited about in today’s lineup.

And for some reason you can’t make it to China this morning/afternoon, you can find the livestream here.

Launch Date:
November 6, 2005

TechCrunch, founded on June 11, 2005 by Michael Arrington, is a network of technology-oriented blogs and other web properties.

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Yahoo Shares Melt as Rumors Collide (Plus, I Add Another Log to the Fire)

This post is by from AllThingsD » Kara Swisher

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Do sale rumors make a troubled asset more attractive? Yes — except when more rumors (that those sales rumors might not be true) appear.

Welcome to just another day in the life of Yahoo, which saw its shares drop more than 5.5 percent today. Its stock declined almost a dollar to close at $15.64, after it was reported by various news orgs that Yahoo might be leaning toward no sale and a shareholder dividend, and toward taking control of its own sale of its lucrative Asian assets.

That was counter to the news — from a number of the very same outlets — touting a variety of ever more elaborate and sometimes breathless sale scenarios last week, featuring various configurations of Microsoft, Google and private equity firms like Silver Lake and others.

Silver Lake, in fact, appears to be the most aggressive in the possible bidding for all or parts of Yahoo, and has been noodling such a deal most intently, and for a long time now.

It makes sense, given that Silver Lake was successful in a vaguely similar deal that ultimately saved the Internet telephony service Skype, which it eventually peddled at a high price to Microsoft.

In fact, according to several sources, Yahoo director and co-founder Jerry Yang — also a former CEO of the company, who appears to have seized the ball firmly in the strategy game — met with Silver Lake today for an unspecified little chitchat.

That said, one source told me, “what is deeply uncertain is whether Silver Lake will do something at all.”

This is par for the course in this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drama. Because — although it makes for a boring post, and the back and forth throat-clearing before an actual event might be entertaining — so far, not very much is actually happening as yet at Yahoo, with regard to its variety of options.

Of course, this could change in an hour. Or tomorrow, or the next day. Most of all, it’s clear that Yahoo’s board has to move in some significant way before the end of the year.

So, yes, the Silicon Valley Internet giant is doing all the sales-oriented stuff it should do with its coterie of pricey bankers (presumably being paid by the hour).

Yes, it has recently hired a talent-search firm, which is eyeing the landscape to find a willing CEO. (Even more adviser costs!)

And, yes, it is still wrangling with its Asian partners — Alibaba Group and SoftBank — over how to do a tax-free transaction (you’d think from all the sweating over it that this deal was harder to solve than the European debt crisis).

And, on schedule, activist shareholders — like hedge-fund agitator Dan Loeb of Third Point — should be attacking again soon, until a deal is done.

But according to many sources both inside and outside Yahoo, what’s happening is pretty much business as usual for this Hamlet of a company, which is lugubriously debating and weighing and pondering its fate.

I suppose it should, given the importance of it all, except it is a conundrum that has been going on for far too long at Yahoo, and under a number of different leaders.

In other words, it’s like “As the World Turns,” except with some new characters and a whole lot more amnesia.

But the slowness of a very real process is also causing deep frustration with all those dealing with Yahoo now — including possible bidders, and definitely its Asian partners.

Their gripes — which are louder than in most deals — are not surprising: They refuse to sign a too-onerous NDA to look at Yahoo’s books; there’s an irksome tone of indecision on the part of the company’s board; and, as always, the incessant leaks about all of this and more are making it worse.

One bidder has likened the company to a “melting iceberg that has a lot less time than the planet has to put its house in order.”

Another bemoaned the variety of trial balloons being floated, and noted that no movement was what Yahoo seems to do best.

That’s not exactly true, of course, so expect to see more leaks about plots and plans and meetings.

But no matter what you hear, keep in mind that having Yahoo’s fate being spun about like a top on a daily basis on Wall Street and in the media is not good for the company itself — or for its employees and shareholders.

Since it makes me dizzy — even though I like a good scoop as much as the next reporter — that’s the reason I have largely stuck to reporting about the actual internal turmoil inside Yahoo, from poor employee morale to various staff rejiggerings to more relentless brain drain.

Because while everyone fiddles, Yahoo’s real prospects of maintaining its core business melt a little bit more every day.

Yahoo is on its third CEO in four years, it has lost advertising momentum to Google and Facebook, its engagement levels are dangerously slowing, its social and mobile strategies are unclear and even its powerful email product is under siege.

And in the end, it is only these things that will matter to whoever runs the company in the end.

[Photo from Mat Honan’s fantastic tweet here.]