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TechCrunch Giveaway: A Free Ticket To Disrupt NYC #TechCrunch

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 10:05 AM PDT

Here is another chance to win a free ticket to this year’s Disrupt in NYC. We have announced some amazing guests and speakers for this year’s Disrupt and we will be announcing more later on today. Tim Armstrong, Arianna Huffington, Ron Conway, Dennis Crowley, and Chris Dixon will all be joining us, just to name a few. For now, you can check out the full list of speakers and guests here. As you know, we will be taking over Pier 94, overlooking the Hudson River in west Midtown Manhattan. However, not only are we taking over a pier, we are also taking over some amazing spots in New York City for the after parties. We also have other special surprises we will announce as we get closer. A special congratulations to Adam Growald for winning last week’s ticket.

Disrupt is happening May 23rd to May 25th in New York City and we want you to come with us. To win this week’s free ticket, all you have to do is follow the steps below.

1) Like our TechCrunch Facebook Page:

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (including the #TechCrunch hashtag)
- Or leave us a comment below

The contest starts now and ends tomorrow, April 30th at 7:30pm PST.

Please only tweet the message once or you will be disqualified. We will make sure you follow the steps above, choose at random, and contact the winner this weekend with more details. Anyone in the world is eligible.

Please note this giveaway is for 1 ticket only and does not include airfare or hotel.

Good luck!

Nokia Siemens Closes $975M Acquisition Of Motorola Solutions’ Wireless Network Assets

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 09:01 AM PDT

Nokia Siemens has closed the acquisition of the wireless network infrastructure assets of Motorola Solutions today. The company reports that it paid $975 million in cash for the assets and approximately 6900 employees will transfer to Nokia Siemens Network from Motorola. The finalization of the deal come after China regulators approved the acquisition a last week. The full release is paste below.

As of April 30 2011, the company says that responsibility for supporting customers of Motorola Solutions' GSM, CDMA, WCDMA, WiMAX and LTE products and services transfers to Nokia Siemens Networks. Part of the approval is due to the fact that Motorola reached an agreement with Chinese manufacturer Huawei over a pending patent lawsuit relating to the assets being acquired. In January, Huawei filed a lawsuit to prevent Motorola from giving Nokia Siemens Huawei’s IP information.

The litigation was recently settled for an undisclosed financial amount.

It’s been nearly a year since Nokia announced the acquisition of Motorola’s wireless assets. Back then, Nokia was planning to pay $1.2 billion for the network and the deal was predicted to close by year end.

Nokia says that based on revenue, the acquisition of Motorola Solutions' Networks assets makes Nokia Siemens Networks the third largest wireless infrastructure vendor in the United States and the leading non-Japanese wireless vendor in Japan. And as part of the deal, Nokia Siemens Networks is acquiring a number of research and development facilities including sites in the United States, China, Russia, India and the UK.

Nokia Siemens Networks completes acquisition of certain wireless network infrastructure assets of Motorola Solutions
Pays US $975 million in cash
Approximately 6900 employees will transfer to Nokia Siemens Networks
Takes on responsibility for 50 operator customers in 52 countries
Nokia Siemens Networks and Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) today jointly announced that Nokia Siemens Networks has completed its acquisition of Motorola Solutions' Networks assets paying US $975 million in cash. As of April 30 2011, responsibility for supporting customers of Motorola Solutions' GSM, CDMA, WCDMA, WiMAX and LTE products and services transfers to Nokia Siemens Networks.

"The people, customers and technology we've acquired greatly complement our existing business by taking us into new markets and broadening our market share," said Rajeev Suri, chief executive officer, Nokia Siemens Networks. "Our combined knowledge and experience will provide our newly expanded customer base with the means to grow by providing greater value to their subscribers."

"Motorola Solutions is pleased to complete this transaction to combine our Networks team with an industry leader," said Greg Brown, president and chief executive officer, Motorola Solutions. "This is great news for our customers, our investors and our people and will allow Motorola Solutions to further sharpen our strategic focus on providing mission-critical solutions for our government and enterprise customers.”

The acquisition strengthens Nokia Siemens Networks' position in key regions, particularly North America and Japan, as well as with some of the world's major service providers. Based on revenue, the addition of Motorola Solutions' Networks assets makes Nokia Siemens Networks the third largest wireless infrastructure vendor in the United States and the leading non-Japanese wireless vendor in Japan. In addition, the acquisition reinforces Nokia Siemens Networks' position as the world's second largest wireless infrastructure and services provider.

As part of the deal, responsibility for supporting 50 operators across 52 countries, as well as approximately 6900 employees, will transfer to Nokia Siemens Networks. In addition, Nokia Siemens Networks is acquiring a number of research and development facilities including sites in the United States, China, Russia, India and the UK.

AudioMicro Partners With Microsoft: Free Music, Sound Effects For Office 2010 Users

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 08:00 AM PDT

AudioMicro, a site where you can find royalty-free stock music and sound effects backed by DFJ Frontier and Fotolia, has struck a deal with Microsoft to provide music and sound effect files to Microsoft Office 2010 users worldwide.

Under the terms of the licensing and distribution deal, Microsoft Office 2010 users are able to select from a hand-picked collection of over 1,500 music tracks and sound effects at to use with any Microsoft Office project.

The partnership is noteworthy because AudioMicro launched in 2008 with a heavy emphasis on the needs of PowerPoint slideshow creators, AudioMicro founder and CEO Ryan Born says.

Royalty-free sound effects offered by AudioMicro on include parts of The Hollywood Edge sound effects library created by the sound editors of Soundelux, whose credits include such films as Unstoppable, Inglourious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum and Braveheart.

AudioMicro is not all about stock music and sound effects, by the way – the company operates a constantly growing network of digital content licensing marketplaces, including for cartoons, celebrity pictures, and tattoo flash.

The company also announced that it recently brought on Myspace VP Sean Percival as an advisor – he will be helping the young company out with all things SEO and social.

Matrix Partners Closes $650 Million Funds To Invest More In China, India

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 06:55 AM PDT

Matrix Partners, a US-based investment firm with additional offices in India and China, this morning announced that it has closed two new funds: Matrix Partners China II (at $350 million) and Matrix Partners India II (at $300 million). The funds bring the firm’s total international assets under management to $650 million in China and $600 million in India.

Matrix Partners established an India presence back in 2006 and has an experienced entrepreneur running its investment team there: Avnish Bajaj, co-founder and former CEO of India’s largest online marketplace (acquired by eBay).

The firm has been active in China since 2008.

Matrix was an active player in the development of the VC industry in the 1980s. The firm’s predecessor, Hellman Ferri Investment Associates, was founded by Paul J. Ferri and Warren Hellman (founder of San Francisco-based PE firm Hellman & Friedman).

Matrix Partners was an early stage investor in companies like Apple, JBoss, SanDisk, Tivoli Software and VERITAS Software. Recent investments include Anjuke, HubSpot, Zendesk,, GOGII, BuyWithMe, Gilt Groupe and Zong.

The Future of Advertising Will Be Integrated

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 06:30 AM PDT

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Mark Suster (@msuster) a VC at GRP Partners. He blogs at BothSidesoftheTable.

Banner Ads. They first started in 1994 and are therefore almost as old as the Web itself. They were very effective back then, with the original ad garnering a 78% click-through rate (CTR)!  I guess from there we had nowhere to go but down.

Nowadays banner ads get on average 0.2% CTR meaning for every 1,000 ads that are served up only 2 people click on them. And as Jon Steinberg of Buzzfeed points out, the CTRs for social media banner ads are just 0.08%.

Holy Shiitake!

Despite its creation more than 15 years ago, banner ads have been surprisingly resilient despite their lack of efficacy. In the IAB study that revealed the graph above, brand advertisers indicated that their number one objective in online advertising was “creating awareness” followed by “creating purchase intent” or “likelihood to recommend” the product. Yet these seem to be the least effective attributes of banner advertising.

The fundamental problem with banner ads is a condition called “banner blindness” meaning that our eyes are really quickly trained to look at what is most relevant on the page – the content we want to see. Check out this chart from eye-tracking research conducted by the usability guru Jakob Nielsen published in this piece. It shows that our eyes are trained to focus on the text, not the ads.

I’m sure it probably resonants with how most of you read the web.

So I’ve spent the last few years checking out companies that are trying to solve for this problem. The global advertising market is estimated at around $475 billion / year with only 12% of this online and measurable. (some data sources have this estimate much higher.) We believe that the structural industry changes will continue to create big opportunities for technology firms that enable the changes in media consumption for television, radio, inbound calls, online & social media. We are investing heavily in these changes.

One company that I previously wrote about trying to change this industry is, Solve Media, (I am not an investor) has created an interesting ad unit designed to drive up brand “engagement” and recall. The idea is that if I can serve you an ad for a function that you already need to perform on the web anyways – a captcha – with a brand message I can drive recall. And market research seems to confirm this.

You’ll see a clear problem here. Traditional banner ads only drive 16% brand recall and almost ZERO message recall. So it’s hard to argue that brands shouldn’t worry about CTR rates when it doesn’t seem that banners are very effective for branded advertising or awareness either.

It’s no big surprise that the overwhelming majority of online spend has therefore been “direct response” advertisements (trying to elicit an action) rather than branded advertising as pointed out in this good summary by Jeremy Liew.

So people will spend money online to get you to sign up for credit cards or Netflix but not to change your laundry detergent. I decided to look up one branded company in the chocolate segment to get a sense for the magnitude of spend online. Hershey’s chocolates spends about $365 million in advertising per year. Just $460,000 of this is spend on online display ads (0.1% for those without a calculator handy).

The reality is that advertising has got to become more integrated with content in order to drive efficacy. I know that any time ads are mentioned it makes the blood boil on any self respecting technologist the same way it did when HotWire ran their first ad in 1994 and the way it made Google’s blood boil when Overture launched the sponsored search category.

Ask anybody if they like product placements in movies or TV and they’ll resoundingly tell you “no” but marketers know better, which is why the celebrity endorsement industry is a $50 billion industry.

But even for the consumer reality sets in. Firstly, we care more about getting cheap or free high-quality media than we do about whether we see ads. Give people massive price increases on most media and they’ll abandon it. So how people behave and what they verbally say they stand for are often at odds.

Integrated Advertising

I believe that “integrated advertising” is one of the more effective types of advertising out there. You have to find a way to get your audience to actually “engage” with the content in the way that Solve Media is doing, in the way that in-game advertising works for video games or the way that celebrity endorsements work.

It’s why I still believe passionate in companies like Adly (I’m an investor) who have created ways for celebrities to integrate endorsements “in steam” in a Twitter feed. Yes. Oh, sacred cow. In the steam. Integrated with where our eyes & attention are. I advocated strongly for this 18 months ago and my belief system is as ardent as it was back then. If you’re interested here is my case.

But the simple facts are:

  • Our attention is all in the stream. As evidenced by the eye-tracking studies – they will remain in the stream.
  • We know that celebrity endorsement works. It has for decades. Celebrities care about their personal brands so will naturally rebuff requests to sponsor inauthentic products.
  • The beauty of social media is that consumers can vote with their “unfollow button” so it has a natural self-correcting mechanism. If you get economic value out of having followers you don’t want to lose them over one ad.
  • Sure, there needs to be ad disclosure. And naturally we have built in quality controls like: frequency capping, automated measurement so we can pull ads that people respond poorly to, A/B testing tools, data analysis to tell celebrities & brands which products will resonate, etc.

But I can tell you as my firm invested in Overture who created the category of pay-per-search that Google perfected – our company underwent three years of ridicule in Silicon Valley until people looked at the performance data and realized that efficacy matters.

The technology blogs will be aflutter with continued criticisms of in-stream ads while mainstream consumers continue to click on links provided by the celebrities they respect and will buy products accordingly. We already have the data that proves it.

In Image Ads

Another areas that I’ve been really focused on over the past 2 years is “in-image ads” as another form of integrated media. When you think about the eye-tracking we know that people care about the story and the images. And it is already an accepted fact that in many cases the ads & images are blended as any lady who reads Cosmo or Vogue will tell you. The big splashy image ads is part of their reading experience.

So we put our money where our mouth was an invested in the largest in-image advertiser on the web, GumGum, whose network now reached over 100 million monthly uniques with 3 billion ad-compliant images, delivering an average CTR of 0.4% (2x industry average for banners). The eyes are in the image. We believe this is why Google Ventures invested in Pixazza.

As you can see from this image, the ad is unobtrusive and potentially valuable to the reader. The ad unit is served up based on algorithms that determine what is actually in the image and also for whether an ad placement would impair the image. We could even target ads better based on who the end consumer was.

What else is out there in the field of integrated advertising?

Vibrant Media & Kontera have both built large and fast-growing businesses around text-based advertising and there are new entrants doing it in new ways like SkimLinks. Vibrant has a reach of 250 million uniques, making in the 12th largest ad-focused property online and has 3rd-party verified studies suggesting up to 50% increase in brand lift following their in-text ads (I’m not an investor in any of these companies). Text is shown to deliver higher CTRs than banners. Text is what we’re reading. It’s integrated.

There is a whole industry being spawned in the Internet video world and especially in the integration of devices (second screen TVs) and the TV experience. Some of the interactive experiences I’ve seen in recent demos are simply mind boggling and are starting to form new opinions in my head about how we will consume big screen TV in the future (I’ll save that for a future post).

The games industry has massively changed over the past several years to more of an integrated advertising / purchasing media with the growth of virtual goods and ads. An obvious example of integrated media would be the new Rio Angry Birds version. It’s actually very cool. There are increasingly incentivized offers to get more powerful swords & shields in battle games. This has proved far more effective than small crappy banners at the bottom of each screen.

There will always be a tension between advertising wanting to reach audiences through whatever means they can to capture their attention and help them discover new products and consumers who claim a strong preference for ad-free products. Yet the other tension between ad-free products that cost more versus ad-supported models have a clear winner: ads. On products where I’ve seen data the “ad free” versions have converted at 4-6% of the user base at maximum.

So the future of helping make the ad industry more measurable (and more online) I believe will be one of helping make ads both authentic & integrated. Trying to relegate ads to the least intrusive real estate of our computers is missing the point. Advertisers pay for efficacy.

If not, we’d be telling advertisers to just leave all of their branded advertising spend on traditional television in the future. And to stick with their old adage, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.”

Twitter Gets Hit With Bizarre Class Action Lawsuit Over Unsolicited SMS Notifications

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:50 AM PDT

Two California residents, Drew Moss and Sahar Maleksaeedi, have filed a rather peculiar class action lawsuit against Twitter (see documents embedded below).

Basically, they’re suing over the fact that Twitter sent a confirmatory SMS to their cellphone after they themselves used an SMS command (‘STOP’) meant to turn off all phone notifications.

The two men allege that Twitter has engaged in unlawful conduct by contacting them on their mobile phones without their consent, which they say is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) and an invasion of their privacy.

Here’s the relevant part in the lawsuit documents:

At some point Plaintiffs decided that they no longer wanted to receive text message notifications on their cellular telephone from Defendant.

Plaintiffs then responded to Defendant's last text message notification by replying "stop," as instructed by Twitter.

At this point, Plaintiffs withdrew any express or implied consent to receive text message notification to their cellular telephone that they may have previous given Twitter.

In response to receiving this revocation of consent, Defendant then immediately sent another, unsolicited, confirmatory text message to Plaintiffs' cellular telephones.

Moss and Maleksaeedi says an "automatic telephone dialing system" was employed to deliver the confirmatory message, and that they incurred a charge for incoming calls as a result. This is illegal, the two men claim, because the message in question was not sent for emergency purposes and without prior consent given.

According to the lawsuit documents, Moss and Maleksaeedi seek up to $1,500 in damages for each call in alleged violation of the TCPA, which, when aggregated among a proposed class number in the “tens of thousands”, would exceed the $5 million threshold for federal court jurisdiction. The suit is expressly not intended to request any recovery for personal injury.

I’ve contacted Twitter for comment on this rather bizarre lawsuit but haven’t heard back yet (it’s still very early in California, so we’ll update as soon as we get a response).

(Photo by Flickr user mira66, used with permission)


eBay: Searches For Royal Wedding Products Up 1,815 Percent In 2011

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:45 AM PDT

The Royal Wedding is finally over, and William and Kate are hitched. The wedding goes beyond just a ceremony, the event is actually a huge business. Between replicas of Kate Middleton’s engagement ring and Royal Wedding china, retailers are profiting off of the nuptials. And eBay and its merchants are part of this business. Here are a few stats related to the searches and purchases of wedding-related items on the marketplace.

  • In April, more than $70,000 and 3,000 items related to the Royal Wedding have been sold on eBay
  • Kate Middleton searches are five times more popular than those of Prince William
  • The most expensive item sold was Kate Middleton/Princess Diana replica ring for $1,500
  • Monthly eBay searches for Royal Wedding products have risen a staggering 1,815% in 2011

Zwapp Puts A Social Layer Over Your iPhone Apps

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 04:31 AM PDT

Sharing what mobile apps you have in a social network has been tried various ways. Appsfire hit on the idea of socialising apps.

Zwapp is coming at it from a slightly different angle. Its iPhone app (iTunes link) auto-discovers what apps you have on your iPhone and connects up your contacts, Facebook and Twitter friends. You then follow people who’s opinion’s you respect when it comes to apps. It even has a live feed where you can see what apps your friends are using and downloading (privacy is now most definitely over it would seem).

Onavo’s Guy Rosen Plans To Disrupt Data Roaming (TCTV)

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 03:07 AM PDT

Onavo, as we just reported, is a magical iPhone app which literally shrinks the data your phone uses and thus your roaming data bill when you are travelling.

It launches today and I caught up with CEO and co-founder Guy Rosen at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam.

Onavo Is A Money-Saving, Must-Have App For EVERY iPhone Data User

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 02:00 AM PDT

There’s really no better way to describe Onavo other than a must-have app for any and every iPhone user on a data plan. I’ll go a step further: I think it’s the very first app one should install.

Why? Because Onavo shrinks your data usage (and thus, your bills).

All you need to do is install the free app and you’re done. The app will then run in the background and do its thing and all you have to do is continue consuming data as you do today … surfing the web, emailing, tweeting, using maps, etc.

The techies among you are asking yourself whether there’s any slow-down in data speed. I’ve been using the app for a few weeks and I have perceived no noticeable slow-down.

What happens behind the scenes is that compression technology resides on Onavo’s cloud servers. Once the data is routed through them, the compression takes place before the data reaches the device (or the carrier).

Onavo is targeting travelers who have a very obvious pain-point of being forced to purchase ridiculously expensive data plans when on business or personal trips. Mind you, saving 5MB-15MB in data usage can equal direct savings that can go as high as $50 and up. However, with all-you-can-eat data plans a thing of the past, I contend that Onavo provides significant value for domestic data usage as well. I, for example, keep it running all the time.

I’m currently away on business in San Francisco (I’m based out of Israel) and in the past two days alone I’ve saved 11.32MB, and I still have four nights to go. Most of my savings were with Maps on iPhone, where Onavo saved me 75%, or 8.87MB of 11.80MB. Onavo also saved me 64% surfing the Web, and 12% on email.

To the best of my assessment, this is an upside-only app. And being free, there’s really nothing that should hold you back from downloading it.

Behind The Scenes: Record Label Demands From Amazon

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 01:28 AM PDT

This is a guest post from Michael Robertson, a 12-year veteran of the digital music business. He is the founder and former CEO of digital music pioneer He is currently the CEO of music locker company MP3tunes..

Amazon defied the record labels by launching an unlicensed personal cloud music service. (Disclosure: I’m CEO of competitor MP3tunes.) Music companies immediately expressed their dissatisfaction and Amazon public stated they would discuss licenses with labels. Since then considerable speculation has swirled about regarding licensing discussions Amazon, Google and Apple are having with the 4 major record labels.

Dominating the discussions is the labels concern that personal cloud services will exacerbate piracy and erode their business even further. Consequently they want to impose substantial restrictions on any such service, but each labels has different concerns and demands. Below are examples of the startling limitations major labels wish to impose on such services.

Universal Music Group is concerned that users will load pirated songs into lockers. Average MP3 players house more than a thousand songs and UMG believes that many were unpaid for. They do not want to see the billions of songs that came from P2P system laundered (think drug money) in a cloud service and become legitimate.

To combat this they want only songs with digital receipts to be able to added to lockers. For some time UMG has been demanding that online music retailers embed personal information in every song they sell. They call it UITS. iTunes has been inserting email addresses into every song while other retailers like Napster are using a unique receipt number. (Techcrunch first wrote about Dirty MP3s a year ago and how these might be used by future cloud services.)

All songs without a proof of purchase would be assumed to be unauthorized and not accepted into the system. Songs ripped from CDs would not have unique identifiers and wouldn’t be loaded. Any song purchased prior to retailers inserting personal identifiers or from retailers who have yet to personalize every song would also be excluded. (To date, Amazon’s MP3 store does not put any unique identifiers in songs despite UMG’s demand that they do so.) Promotional songs download online would also not work.

Sony Music Group shares UMGs concern about the laundering of songs, but seems more concerned about locker sharing and downloads and is demanding restrictions in those areas. Sony believes users will share lockers by visiting each others houses and syncing in each others music. To combat this Sony wants loading to happen from only one computer. Each locker owner would have to designate a single location from which they could upload songs. Users could load music from either their laptop or desktop or office computer but not all three. Their belief is that this will prevent friend to friend file sharing.

Downloading is another area of concern for Sony. To prevent lockers from become Napster like repositories they want to restrict downloading to one emergency download only. Locker owners would only be able to download their music files a single time if they claimed they were lost. All future downloads would be forbidden. This would limit the ability for a locker owner to go to a friends house, download all their music and then have the friend upload those songs as their own. This means that syncing to portable players and smart phones would not be allowed. Neither would download to laptops for offline playback.

Most worrisome to Warner Music Group is that users may setup multiple lockers and the distribute the extra lockers to friends. Imagine if a locker owner setup a locker at Apple and Amazon and then gave their less used locker away or maybe even sold it. What WMG would like to see happen is that a central locker authority would administer all locker assignments. For awhile they were pushing Catch Media as the solution. More recently they may have relaxed their demands in this area and insisted that locker identities be uniquely tied to a valid credit card or some other such verified identity.

The above list of demands is by no means complete but rather an illustration of the labels mindset. There are others issues dealing with simultaneous user access, family accounts, mobile access, local caching, regional restrictions and more. The one company who had such a personal cloud license is the now defunct Lala who had to agree to no downloads whatsoever, no mobile stream (web browser only) and costly per song stream fees.

In addition to usage restrictions, labels are demanding that cloud services pay them an annual per user fee. Labels will demand a minimum per user fee each year and not the more business friendly percentage model. Such a flat fee will mean no free or advertising sponsored service will be possible. For subscriptions services such as Rhapsody and MOG they demand the HIGHER of: per user fee, percentage of revenues or per stream fee effectively boxing in services and insuring they’re never able to turn a profit..

The challenge for cloud services such as Amazon’s is how to appease the record labels and still have a consumer friendly service that is financially viable. Even one of the above restrictions renders a cloud service mostly useless. Combined they would make a locker service utterly worthless, for sure nothing that a music fan would pay for making it impossible for the company to cover the demanded per user fees. Amazon has publicly stated that their position is that a license is not required for a service such as theirs. This issue is currently being litigated by my company in EMI v MP3tunes where we await the Judge’s ruling. With the record labels wide reaching demands it’s difficult to see how Amazon, or any company, could arrive at a workable license for personal cloud music.

Worldwide Mobile Phone Market Grew 20% In Q1 2011, Fueled By Smartphone Boom

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 11:04 PM PDT

According to research firm IDC, the global mobile phone market ballooned in the first quarter of this year, growing 19.8 percent year-over-year, mostly due to the meteoric rise of smartphone shipments, especially in emerging markets. According to the firm’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped 371.8 million units in Q1 2011 compared to 310.5 million units in the first quarter of 2010.

IDC posits that smartphone growth worldwide, particularly in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan, due to the impact of the earthquake and tsunami), Middle East, Africa and Latin America, helped lift the overall market to a record first-quarter high.

Perhaps surprisingly, quite a few handset manufacturers, including feature phone makers such as Micromax and TCL-Alcatel, outpaced the overall market. Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, says this trend contributed to share losses of some top suppliers.

Feature phones still represent the majority of mobile phone shipments, even though they are under increasing pressure from smartphones, but IDC says it does not expect feature phones to disappear quickly as there is still strong demand across the globe.

In the United States, Apple’s iPhone and HTC Thunderbolt were two devices (introduced at Verizon Wireless) that helped keep the smartphone category front and center of the overall mobile phone market last quarter. BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android devices were best sellers, says IDC, and the same trend is visible in Canada.

In Western Europe, Android-based phones and iPhones helped grow the market in the seasonally slow quarter. New devices from HTC, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson sold well in most countries in the high-end tiers.

Apple maintained its number 4 spot on IDC’s Top 5 list (see below) thanks to a record quarter for unit shipments. The company also posted the highest growth rate of the worldwide leaders, with market share rising to 5 percent.

Beleaguered Nokia remains the world’s largest mobile phone maker by volume, although its market share dropped from 34.7 percent to 29.2 percent year-over-year.

Also read: Users Will Download 44 Billion Mobile Apps By 2016

(Photo by Flickr user peruisay, used with permission)

Square To Beef Up Card Reader Security This Summer (And VeriFone Wasn’t So Wrong, After All)

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 08:40 PM PDT

Yesterday was a big day for hot mobile payments startup Square. The company announced that it received a strategic investment from Visa, giving the company a big stamp approval. And it also announced something that got far less attention: Square will be releasing a new card reader (the thing you plug into your phone) this summer, and it will use encryption at the read head. The news was announced with little fanfare by Square Security Lead Sam Quigley during a panel at the Visa Security Summit. But it’s important for a couple of reasons.

First is the fact that just last month, rival (and much larger) payments company VeriFone lobbed a heated accusation at the startup: it said that Square should recall all of its readers because they didn’t encrypt credit card data, making it easy for thieves to skim the information. Square CEO Jack Dorsey battled back, stating that VeriFone’s accusation that their reader was insecure was “not a fair or accurate claim and [that] it overlooks all of the protections already built into your credit card.” Dorsey also outlined all the ways that credit card fraud could still be committed, regardless of encryption, and explained that users aren’t responsible for fraudulent charges regardless.

But now we have Square doing almost exactly what VeriFone was crying foul on. So what gives?

In a blog post that appears on the Visa Security Summit website, Square COO Keith Rabois writes that the company will be adopting Visa’s new set of mobile application best practices — which were also released yesterday. From Rabois’s post:

"The adoption of best practices will help increase trust in innovative payment solutions. Of course, Square complies with all current industry standards, and we are committed to meeting or exceeding industry guidelines as they evolve."

Square’s endorsement of the Visa guidelines the same day as the funding news is obviously no coincidence. And among these best practices is a requirement that these applications “encrypt all account data including at the card-reader level and in transmission between the acceptance device and the processor…”. Which explains, at least in part, why Square will be shipping a new reader.

But what does that mean for the hundreds of thousands of existing Square card readers? When I spoke with him earlier today, Rabois said that Square is still more secure than the vast majority of card readers in the field, alluding to the additional features Square offers, like the ability to receive text and email notifications after each transaction. In other words, he’s still refuting VeriFone’s claims that Square needs to recall the existing reader. He also says that the new encrypted read head is just one of the new features that will be included in the new Square device this summer (which is actually the third iteration of the card reader).

When I asked if this meant Square users would have to replace their existing readers, Rabois declined to get into specific details (it sounds like the plan is still being worked out). However, even if Square does wind up having to distribute a new batch of readers, the relatively inexpensive per-unit cost probably won’t have a major impact on them — though it could still be an inconvenience for users.

In a statement CEO Jack Dorsey added,

"Security and consumer trust are fundamental to our success. Square is committed to offering merchants a way to accept electronic payments that are secure, reliable and in compliance with the security standards for the global payments industry.”

South Park Scares You Into Reading Apple’s Terms And Conditions

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 06:21 PM PDT

You know the drill … You open iTunes and there’s a popup that asks you to download a new version. You download the newest version and there’s another popup asking you to agree to Apple’s Terms of Service. But it’s over 55-pages long! You scroll to the bottom and hastily click “Agree,” because what’s the worst that can happen right? Right?

Well in South Park’s out-of-control genius premiere last night (which you’ve probably already seen but I’ll repost clips of for the two of you who haven’t) creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took iPhone Location-gate to the next level in a plot line that was a mashup of a Stevenote and the horror film “The Human Centipede.”

In the episode, Kyle, who apparently is one of the only people in South Park who didn’t read the iTunes TOS, inadvertently agrees to become the middle part of a Human CentiPad or a “part human, part centipede, part web browser and part emailing device.” Hilarity ensues.

Classic line: “I should have never updated iTunes.”

eBay’s PayPal Buys Mobile Payments Startup Fig Card

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 05:20 PM PDT

In its second acquisition in two weeks, eBay’s PayPal unit has bought mobile payments startup FigCard. Terms of the acquisition, which was announced on the PayPal blog, were not disclosed.

Boston-based Fig Card allows merchants to accept mobile payments in stores by using a simple USB device that plugs into the cash register or point-of-sale terminal. All the consumer needs is the Fig app on his or her smart phone. The connection with PayPal is that when consumers setup their payment information, they could add PayPal as a payments option. You can see the video below for a demo of Fig Card’s technology

This is also as much of a talent acquisition as it is a technology buy. The founders, Max Metral and Hasty Granbery (who will both join the PayPal Mobile team) are both seasoned technology execs. Prior to founding Fig, Metral was co-founder and CTO of Firefly, which was sold to Microsoft. He also went on to architect sign-on system Microsoft Passport. Metral and Granbery met at PeoplePC, which was sold to Earthlink. And so and so forth.

Clearly mobile and online to offline is a big part of eBay’s strategy both for its marketplace and PayPal business. The company just bought location and advertising company Where, which will be housed within PayPal. In fact, PayPal will be integrated into Where's mobile app as a payments mechanism for its local deals.

It should be interesting to see how (and if) PayPal integrates Fig Card into its products. We know that the payments service is looking to connect with local merchants and bringing them a PayPal-focused point of sale system could help them compete with emerging technologies like NFC, Square and others.

Buzz Off, Google Buzz

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 05:12 PM PDT

Two days ago, we removed the Google Buzz button from the top and bottom of each post on TechCrunch. No one noticed. Not a single person said a word about it. It wasn’t until earlier today when I tweeted about it that we got some feedback on the change (most of it being: “oh, I didn’t even notice”). As I tweeted, that in and of itself says a lot.

The issue of Buzz being a viable sharing platform used to be somewhat of a hot-button issue. When I wrote a post last March noting that traffic coming our way from Buzz appeared to be less than that of a dead man, FriendFeed, many folks got up in arms. It turns out, my data was flawed — but it wasn’t necessarily wrong. You see, since Buzz runs within Gmail, which defaults to HTTPS, it scrubs the referrer data before sending the traffic our way. So, conveniently, the only way to measure Buzz traffic was to infer it. Like a black hole.

But I’m now pretty convinced that Buzz is actually much more like a black hole in another way: we were sending links there, but nothing was coming back our way — meaning traffic.

When we had the Buzz button live on TechCrunch, I was sending every one of my posts to my over 2,200 followers on Buzz. Mike was doing the same for TechCrunch posts to his over 1,500 followers by way of the tweets he auto-imported into Buzz. Most importantly, the TechCrunch Buzz account was sending a link to each story to the over 9,000 people that follow it. And yet, all but a very tiny amount of traffic is accounted for from the other major referring sites.

Further, there were never any weird spikes in traffic sent by some unrecorded source. When a post is popular on services like Facebook, Twitter, Hacker News, Google News, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc, we often see big spikes. There was never once a sign of that happening with Buzz — inferred or otherwise.

And so that led to us removing the Buzz button yesterday. And again, no one said a word. So it will remain gone.

We are planning for now to replace it with the new Facebook Send button (though a minor technical issue is holding up that deployment). That also says a lot. We will have two Facebook buttons (the Like button being the other) on the site and zero Google ones. I suspect when Google rolls out their +1 button, we’ll try that out. But that’s not really the same thing.

Our data shows that the Facebook and Twitter buttons are being used a lot. And even the Digg button is every once in a while these days. But Buzz? More or less nada.

And looking over my Buzz feed (which I haven’t done in months), it looks as if 99 percent of the content are tweets that are being auto-imported. And there’s basically no interaction on any of the items.

A black hole.

Remember when Buzz was supposed to get its own standalone site? What ever happened to that? It does exist in Google Profiles now, but I’m sure it gets even less usage there than within Gmail. Remember when Google launched a Buzz API that no one uses? That was just about a year ago.

We’ve been hearing rumblings for months that Google was considering scrapping Buzz altogether at some point in the future. That still may be in the cards now that social is a priority under new CEO Larry Page. As more of their social products begin to roll out, Buzz may in fact be Wave’d.

The upcoming Google I/O conference will be telling. If we don’t hear anything about Buzz, I suspect Google may soon be telling it to — forgive me — buzz off. Like we just did.

With A New Suite Of Games, Arkadium Lets Gamers Play Right On Their Facebook Walls

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 05:00 PM PDT

Arkadium, the casual and social game developer, is announcing today the release of the Arkadium Stadium, a suite of 12 Flash-based games that users can post and play right from their Facebook walls. Now you don’t have to deal with the hassle of playing the game in-app. I joke, but this functionality is very cool, as it allows you to quickly publish the game app to your profile, or your friends’ profiles and play right there. No fuss, no muss.

Arkadium Co-founder and President Jessica Rovello told me that few gaming companies have yet explored this method of “wall play”, so through the Arkadium Stadium, the company hopes to begin setting the groundwork for people to be able to enjoy and share games like they would videos, photos, and links.

Arkadium has been making casual games for the last 10 years, but has only moved into creating games for Facebook in the last year. With the growth in popularity of Facebook games (back in September Zuckerberg said that 200 million people are playing games on Facebook), the company’s transition made sense, Rovello said. And, while most Facebook games are currently played in-app, this functionality might signal a growing trend in social gaming, especially on Facebook. It’s a logical next-step, and will only make sharing and playing that much easier.

The Arkadium games suite, which includes puzzles like Sudoku, a Tetris-like dice game, 52-card pickup, and other simple (and addicting), casual games. In fact, in writing this post, I was distracted at least once by the ability to post a game to my Facebook profile, play the game embedded-as-is in my wall, then pause and stalk a few ex-girlfriends.

I have a feeling this functionality is only going to increase the potential of virality, which is of course exactly what Arkadium is hoping. Of course, if you’re not a fan or are a little sensitive to multimedia Wall posts, this is a great way to be bombarded by game-spam at any turn on Facebook. Though I think people are starting to let down their guard a little bit in terms of how willing they are to have content shared on their walls. And, hey, if it gets annoying, you can just remove the post, or play the game in-app.

Whether or not it’s needed, this adds another layer to “Social”, considering I can now pop over to friends’ profiles to see if anyone else has taken the bait and is enjoying a little Sudoku during work hours. And if they’ve posted a game I happen to enjoy, but am a little hesitant to add the game to my own wall (I’m careful like that), then I can just roll a few dice right on their Facebook wall. Then leave them a message on their wall reminding them how much better I am at the game.

At any rate, it’s kind of a neat feature, and I’ll be interested to see whether or not its embraced by fellow Facebook gamers. (And how well Flash holds up across browsers — in Chrome, it works like a charm.) I have a feeling it will be, if Zynga isn’t already planning to roll out similar functionality for their lineup.

Check it out.

On Track To Make $8 Million This Year, Refinery29 Invades San Francisco

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 03:48 PM PDT

Fashion news site Refinery29 is on a roll. The hyperlocal fashion site is expanding to San Francisco today, its fourth city after New York, LA, and Chicago. The site covers high-end local fashion designers, and it launched a sister group deals service called Refinery29 Reserve last November.

CEO Philippe von Borries tells me the company’s is on track to do $8 million in revenues this year, based on the first quarter run-rate. It ended 2010 with $2 million in sales, up from %600,000 in 2009. “Our formula is to engage users with content and convert them into shoppers,” he says. Still, he expects advertising to make up 75 percent of his revenues this year, and the commerce business to make up another 25 percent. The Reserve business is only in New York right now, but will soon launch in San Francisco as well.

And the group buying experiment is doing well. “Last week alone we generated $100,000 in gross slaes from two offers,” he says. But ad sales are doing even better. Refineery29 is like a hyperlocal fashion blog that attracts exactly the types of fashion-obsessed shoppers high-end brands are looking to reach. The site gets 1.6 million monthly unique visitors, according to internal numbers, and 25 million monthly pageviews. It also has 350,000 email subscribers, with 25,000 of those already in San Francisco through a soft launch).

Combining commerce and media is a new model for online publishers like Refinery29 and Thrillist (which owns JackThreads). These are like the new fashion magazines. Instead of just having an index of products at the back, now you can actually buy some of the products featured in the articles. There is still a distinction between the editorial and the commerce, but it is now only a click away.

Why Can’t Anyone Make A Popular Tablet?

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 03:46 PM PDT

I’ve been thinking a lot about the popularity of tablets and the problems manufacturers face coming up against the iPad. The devices that we see here at CG are all pretty amazing – even the Playbook was a cool, if flawed, device – but no one device seems to be able to grab any traction.

In looking back, I see echoes of the netbook craze of the oughts, and the parallels with this “fad” (along with the distinct differences) are very telling.

Continue reading…

LivingTechie Is A Groupon For Techies

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 03:12 PM PDT

Just to add more fuel to the conflict of interest fire we have raging over at TC HQ today, TechCrunch Israeli correspondent Roi Carthy has decided to build a startup and we are writing about it. You’d think being a TechCrunch writer would make Carthy shy away from doing something as hackneyed as a Groupon clone, but Carthy’s daily deals site has a twist!

(DISCLOSURE: I, like Carthy, write for TechCrunch)

Similar to which we posted on earlier today, LivingTechie is targeting people in the techie/hipster/early adopter user base by limiting its daily deal email list to people who have companies listed in Crunchbase (they validate against the URL). People who receive the Living Techie emails can then share them with other people via a special link.

“While we are purposefully creating a ‘club house’ for employees of the tech/startup industry, once a deal is received, it can be shared with anyone,” Carthy tells me.

Carthy wants the site to continue to feature vertical discounts and deals that are particularly appealing to the tech early adopter crowd, like I dunno iPad cases. Powered by DealCoop, Living Techie starts right out of the gate with deals from JackThreads, Wakemate, ioSafe and vibrator company JimmyJane. Of course.

Keen On… Robert Vamosi: When Gadgets Betray Us + Book Giveaway

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:54 PM PDT

Can gadgets betray us? Is the Pope Catholic?

Last week, we ran an interview with Robert Vamosi, a senior security analyst at Mocana, and the author of When Gadgets Betray Us, about the iPhone location tracking kerfuffle.

But Vamosi's new book goes beyond a critique of Apple and Google. When Gadgets Betray Us is a broad warning about how the latest technology hardware – from smart meters to medical devices – is leaking our data. And Vamosi offers a broad critique of technology, even arguing that we need to redefine the concept of "hacking" in an age where both privacy and traditional notions of intellectual property are in crisis.

So is Vamosi correct? Can gadgets really betray us?

To celebrate Vamosi's new book, we are giving away 3 free copies of When Gadgets Betray Us. If you want one, you don't need to betray anyone. Just follow these steps to enter:

1. Retweet this post and include the #TechCrunch hashtag
2. Let us know how you've been betrayed by a gadget.

The giveaway starts now and ends tomorrow at 12:00pm PST.

When gadgets betray us

How to protect ourselves against prying gadgets

Why we need to redefine the idea of hacking

The Complete Guide To Watching And Tracking The Royal Wedding Online

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:30 PM PDT

For any of you caught up in the frenzy over the royal wedding between England’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, we’ve collected a comprehensive list of where to watch the festivities online, where to find photos, dedicated mobile apps, Twitter accounts following the Royal Wedding and more.

As opposed to the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, this Royal Wedding is particularly unique because of the web didn’t exist back then. And neither did social media. This will be one of the most publicized and watched weddings in history and the whole world is invited to view and comment both on TV and the web.

Where To Watch

YouTube’s Royal Channel: As we noted a few weeks ago,The YouTube account for the British Monarchy will be streaming the festivities live beginning at 5 AM ET on Friday.

NBC’s The Today Show will be streaming their coverage live on the show’s site. The Today Show’s Royal Wedding Blog Windsor Knot will be posting pictures and coverage.

FOX and ABC will both be streaming their coverage of the Royal Wedding on Hulu. ABC will also be syndicating its stream to Yahoo’s Royal Wedding portal. CBS will be streaming the wedding on Ustream. PBS, PopSugar, and ET will also be using Ustream as a platform for their live coverage.

CNN will be livestreaming the day’s events on, including views from inside the Abbey as well as the parade, and via the CNN Apps for iPhone and iPod touch, iPad and Android tablet.

TV Replay will be pulling real-time clips of the ceremony, moments like first kiss etc, that will be live on AOL’s Royal Wedding portal. Splash Live will be streaming from Justin.TV.

How To Follow Using Social Media

The British Monarchy’s Facebook Page will be posting photos, news and more on the social network. And you can follow the Monarchy’s official Twitter account, @clarencehouse, which will be posting news from the event. While I’m sure there will be many hashtags on Twitter marking Tweets about the wedding, you can follow #rw2011 and #royalwedding.

In case you are worried about downtime, we hear that Twitter is preparing for the impending traffic that Tweets about the wedding could cause for the platform.

E! will be livestreaming their coverage of the wedding directly from Facebook.

The British Monarchy’s Flickr page will be updated with photos from the event, and you can access more information on the official site for the wedding. You can also access photos and news from AOL’s Royal Wedding portal and Yahoo’s Royal Wedding news site.

Photo sharing app Color and The Telegraph have joined forces to share real-time eye-witness photos of the royal wedding and the celebrations going on across the UK. A live stream of photos taken using Color in the UK can be accessed here.

Of course, we hear that Royal Wedding guests will be able to Tweet from inside the ceremony so if you follow one of the lucky guests (i.e. Victoria Beckham, and Elton John) you may be able to get an insider’s account of the wedding.

HuffPost Style will be featuring the fashions from the festivities, including the wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses and more. Just Spotted has Royal Wedding channel to keep track of celebs spotted at the wedding.

Mobile Apps

The official Westminster Abbey (where the marriage will take place) app allows you take a 3D tour of the royal church.

Dress The Royals allows you to dress the British Royal Family for the event.

You can also download People Magazine’s The Royals App, The Royal Wedding By Hello Magazine, BBC’s The Royal Wedding Insider, and NBC’s Royal Wedding App.

(Fly Or Die) Can TweetDeck’s New iPhone App Survive A Twitter Acquisition

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 02:13 PM PDT

TweetDeck’s new iPhone app came out a couple days ago. It is completely redesigned from the ground up and looks more like it’s Android cousin than the first TweetDeck for iPhone. Instead of cramming as much as possible into an iPhone screen, TweetDeck stripped everything out but the essentials. The result is a spare mobile stream reader that packs a lot of punch. We take a look at the new TweetDeck for IPhone in this episode of Fly or Die, along with SounTracking, and Zapd. As usual, the CEO behind one of these products appears as a surprise guest during the show.

With Twitter rumored to be negotiating a $50 million acquisition of TweetDeck to keep it out of the hands of Bill Gross’ UberMedia, it is not clear whether this brand new product will survive such a deal. After all, Twitter has its own iPhone client, among others. It doesn’t need two.

For now, though, you can enjoy it. The new TweetDeck for iPhone still lets you add as many columns as you want and swipe through to view different streams, but you also get a unified Home column, which can combine your Twitter and Facebook streams into one. The app has nice subtle touches, such as the diagonal swipe to see more Tweets from the same account (my favorite). And instead of timestamps cluttering each Tweet, the timestamp changes at the top as you scroll through your stream. If you want to jump to the top to the most recent Tweet, just tap the actual time (yeah, someone had to point that one out to me too, but these are the kinds of hidden features power users love).

In this show, we also look at SoundTracking, a music-sharing app that just passed 250,000 downloads in six weeks. John Biggs, my co-host, calls it Instagram for music. You can Tweet out, or share on Facebook, a link to any song, It can be the song you are listening to in the iPod app on the phone, one that you search for, or one that the app identifies through the microphone.

Finally, there is Zapd, which is also close to 250,000 downloads since it launched only four weeks ago. Zapd lets you create simple, themed websites from your mobile phone. Snap a picture, add some text and a few links, and your site is up in no time, and you can keep updating from your phone. It’s like Tumblr, but even easier.

It’s Face Time: Google Talk For Android Phones Gets Video Chat Support

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 01:50 PM PDT

If you’re on an Android device, you may know that there are already plenty of ways to conduct video and voice calls using various third party applications (Qik, Fring, etc.). But that functionality has never been included with stock builds of Android (at least, not for phones), the way Apple’s FaceTime has been integrated into iOS for the last year. Today, that’s starting to change.

Google is currently rolling out an update to Nexus S devices that adds voice and video chat to Google Talk, which is included as part of the core set of Google applications that come pre-installed on many Android devices. The feature will work on both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G wireless networks, and allows calls between phones, tablets, and any computer with Gmail and Google Talk enabled.

The update is gradually rolling out over the air (a process that usually takes a couple of weeks), and it also includes numerous bug fixes. The Nexus One will be getting an update as well, but it won’t include the video chat support (it doesn’t have a front-facing camera, though it would have been nice to have a voice-only feature for VoIP calls).

We should note that the tablet version of Android, Honeycomb, has actually offered video chat in Google Talk since it launched, but this is the first time it’s been available on phones. Google says that the feature will roll out to more Android 2.3+ phones in the future.

Microsoft Revenue Up 13% to $16.43B, Earnings At $0.61 Per Share

Posted: 28 Apr 2011 01:27 PM PDT

Microsoft just reported its third quarter 2011 earnings today with revenues of $16.43 billion, an increase of 13% from the same period of 2010. Microsoft's operating income was $5.71 billion, its net income was $5.23 billion and its diluted earnings per share were at $0.61, a 36% increase from last yer.

With this report Microsoft surpassed Wall Street analyst expectations which were at 56 cents per share on $16.19 billion in revenue.

Microsoft said that the strong financial results were primarily due to Office, Xbox and Kinect sales.

From Microsoft CFO Peter Klein:

"We delivered strong financial results despite a mixed PC environment, which demonstrates the strength and breadth of our businesses. Consumers are purchasing Office 2010, Xbox and Kinect at tremendous rates, and businesses of all sizes are purchasing Microsoft platforms and applications.”

On the strength of Office sales, the Business Division grew 21% since last year at $5.25 billion in revenue. Servers and Tools grew 11% at $4.1 billion.

The Entertainment and Devices division reported a 60% increase in sales, bringing in $1.95 billion in revenue with an operating income at $225 Million. The company’s Online Services division, which includes Bing, made $684 million in revenue (a 14% increase), operating at a loss of $726 million.

While Microsoft did beat the street at $16.43 billion in revenue (versus $14.5 billion last year), its net profit was $5.23 billion which means that rival Apple has trumped it in profits as well as revenue and market cap, bringing in $5.99 billion in profit last quarter.


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