Archive for May 25, 2011

Arrington: Sonar (Which Took $250K To Build) Is Better Than Color Could Hope To Be

At the TC Disrupt Startup Battlefield finals going on now, after Sonar CEO’s product demo. TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington asked founder Brett Martin, how much he spent to build the service which introduces you to people relevant around you.

When Martin replied that Sonar took around $250K to date to build, Arrington commented, “This is better now than Color could ever hope to be,” looking at Sequoia investor Roelof Botha for comment or reaction. ”When you see something like this do you get bummed out that you put 20 [or so] million into color?”

Botha was non-plussed. Sequoia invested about $25 million in photo-sharing app Color’s $41 million Series A round.

“I’m comfortable with silence,” Botha, responded. To Botha’s credit Google’s Marissa Mayer was less effusive, likening the Sonar to a feature rather than the service.

Sonar monetizes by a “Promoted People” feature, which means that users who want to have prime real estate on the app will pay more, and is as of yesterday revenue positive. “That’s so brilliant and so awful,” Arrington said.

Here’s the video of Sonar’s finalist presentation:

Minecraft Coming to Android (But Probably Not the Droid You Were Looking For)

Fans of Minecraft, the popular building block game, have long been waiting for a mobile version. iOS and Android versions have been “in the works” since early this year, but now there are a few more details available. We still don’t know when the mobile versions of Minecraft will be released, but we do know where: on the PlayStation phone.

Minecraft developer Mojang told the gaming blog Gamasutra that an Android version of the game will come first to Sony Ericsson’s PlayStation-certified Xperia Play.

To Bot or To Tweet, That Is The Question

Twitter_Bot_150x150.jpgThe New York Times is breaking up with the bot that automatically tweets every article that goes up on the newspaper’s website. Instead, New York Times content will be curated by a team of social media editors who are much more interactive and collaborative online, @replying users and retweeting interesting non-New York Times content.

An interesting question emerges on how people, companies and publishers should be using the social space to build their brands, especially those focused on content. A Twitter bot is simple and it gets all the links to your content into the open, more or less like a 140-character RSS reader. Mobile applications like Flipboard and Zite use those Twitter streams to populate their feeds so there is incentive to just let a bot get all of the content out in one place. Is there a perfect mix between bot and human that works best in social media?

What the Web is Saying: Twitter Buys TweetDeck

Twitter officially confirmed its long-rumored acquisition of TweetDeck on Wednesday morning in a company blog post written by CEO Dick Costolo. Soon after Twitter’s announcement, TweetDeck also confirmed the deal in a company blog post penned by its CEO Iain Dodsworth. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Twitter/TweetDeck rumors have been flying around for weeks now, so lots of folks have had time to form opinions about the tie-up. Here are some of the more interesting takes on the situation:

  • TweetDeck could be a big part of Twitter’s new advertising revenue strategy.Twitter CEO Dick Costolo stressed TweetDeck’s appeal to “brands, publishers, marketers” in his blog post announcing the deal. TweetDeck’s CEO Iain Dodsworth placed similar emphasis on his company’s high-end appeal as a tool for “brands, influencers, the highly active and anyone that just needs ‘more power.’”Entrepreneur James Eliason translates the official spin from Twitter/TweetDeck as such:

    James Eliason

  • TweetDeck’s valuation may have been sweetened by UberMedia rumors.Although terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, various reports have pegged the Twitter/TweetDeck deal’s value at $40 million in a mix of cash and stock. It’s always worth noting that unconfirmed deal and valuation rumors can’t always be relied upon. TweetDeck itself has been incorrectly reported to sell before, most notably in a February report that it had been bought by UberMedia at a value of some $25 million.While the UberMedia/TweetDeck rumors clearly proved false, GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram wrote earlier this month that the buzz probably amped up Twitter’s interest in the company:

    “One of the obvious motives for acquiring TweetDeck, as we’ve written before, is to keep it out of the hands of UberMedia — the Bill Gross startup that has had a contentious relationship with Twitter since it was first created last year, in part because the company made it clear that it wanted to set up a competing advertising model and possibly a complete alternative network to Twitter. UberMedia was also said to be in talks with TweetDeck, but those expired without any resolution. Preventing Gross from acquiring the company, and bringing those users into the Twitter family, could justify the $50 million that Twitter is reportedly offering.”

  • TweetDeck’s compatibility with Twitter’s competitors is now in jeopardy.One of the biggest concerns among TweetDeck users is that the service will no longer integrate with other social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, PC World’s JR Raphael wrote this week:

    “But would [Twitter] want to maintain the integration with competing services like Facebook and Foursquare under its company banner? Would it be in Twitter’s best interest to leave TweetDeck’s robust customizability in place? …I’m not so sure it would.”

    Social media marketing exec Tammy Fennel was more straightforward with her prediction:

    “Tweetdeck will probably be a Twitter only client. Goodbye Facebook, Goodbye Linkedin.”

    For the record, in an interview with AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka Wednesday morning, Tweetdeck CEO Iain Dodsworth said he “can’t see [TweetDeck's multiservice integration] going away anytime soon.” But he also pointed out that “the reality of it is that TweetDeck usage has been heavily Twitter based, withe the external services.. acting more as a value add.”

  • Buying TweetDeck could be another stickiness play for a maturing Twitter.In an article published Wednesday morning, International Business Times reporter Manikandan Raman wrote that this could be an attempt to bring more of the Twitter ecosystem in-house:

    “The deal makes complete sense as Twitter as a way to read and write tweets is a no-frills platform that loses many people once they get some experience and start to explore alternatives. A recent report from Sysomos shows that 42 percent of all tweets are made using non-official Twitter services and applications, which included TweetDeck.”

If you have any thoughts on the Twitter/TweetDeck deal, please chime in using the comments.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

MSN’s bad app idea ‘Onit’ lands on iOS

Today, Microsoft released a version of its ‘Onit’ application for iPhone and iPad. The application is the progeny of MSN.

MSN. Remember it? It still exists, if you didn’t know, and people still use it. Millions, in fact. We all know how wildly inaccurate Alexa is, but its ranking of MSN as the 11th largest global site does demonstrate just how important this dinosaur remains.

A while ago, MSN released an app for Windows Phone 7 called ‘Onit;’ we did not like it. From our previous coverage:

Fresh in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is an app called ‘Onit,’ which is branded under the MSN tag. The application is an aggregator for content aimed at what ‘men’ like.

In other words, the application pulls in media and other bits of fluff from the internet that are supposed to appeal to the testosterone-fueled demographic of WP7 users. The app has a great number of sections that I found to be quite appealing in theory, being a member of their target market, including ‘Eat and Drink,’ and ‘Cars,’ though I must admit that the category labeled  ’Beautiful Women’ did grab my eyes off the bat.

Yes, the app is more or less PG, but it is also quite a bore. Then again, when was the last time that anything from the world of MSN made you sit up straight and pay attention? At least Onit is free. I can’t imagine anyone paying for it.

Onit for WP7 was a complete snooze, but it was pretty: “The app does use, and use well, the unique UI design of Windows Phone 7, imploring you to swipe left and right while moving forward and back inside of the application.” But that was not enough to make it in any way compelling: “But the Metro UI cannot save the app from itself; it lacks any sort of usefulness. If I want to look at cars or women, not to be an ass, but come on, there are better places to do so, and I’m not even being crass. This sort of mindless aggregation by something as vague as gender is not only presumptuous, but tired, and played out.”

We are not merely quoting ourselves out of sloth, but annoyance. You see, Onit for iOS is just as annoying as it was on WP7: a nice looking app that is a complete empty shell.

We downloaded and tested the iPad edition of the application, and found the same problems as before: boring content, weak aggregation, but a slick UI. Yes, Onit for iPad is actually quite pretty, but useless. Take a look:

You like that, right? Funny thing is, with every single content genre selected, there are only four more bits of content that load. So it’s lightweight as an app, but in all the wrong places.

The weather bit is nice, but I have other apps for that.

Onit for iOS. You can download it here. But we don’t recommend it.

Check Out Conan O’Brien Posing As Steve Jobs, Madonna And Other Great Innovators

Everyone is passing around the fold-out cover of the June 2011 Fast Company, featuring Conan O’Brien. The magazine editors transformed him into some of the biggest innovators in history: Madonna, Steve Jobs, Moses, Albert Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo, Socrates and Ben Franklin.

Conan, named one of the 100 most creative people in business, advises people in business to “prepare like crazy, then forget about it.

Click here for the full-size image

Conan O'Brian

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Who Are Microsoft, Oracle, And HP Most Likely To Buy Next? (MSFT, ORCL, IBM, HPQ, CSCO)

Shark Attack

Image: wikimedia commons

See Also:

Bill Gates

intel paul otellini

Microsoft Joe Belfiore speaks at Mix 11

This year could see increased MA activity by well capitalized tech companies that need to spur growth, according to a new report by GigaOm Pro.

The report, written by Jake Lynch (from The Street) and Kevin Kelleher, looks at likely buyers based on their cash, debt, and competitive factors such as consolidation of competitors in their key markets and the need to build stronger brands.

Then, it names five companies likely to do more big acquisitions in 2011, and names some possible targets.

  • Microsoft. In mobile, a big hardware acquisition like Nokia or Research In Motion is possible, but small companies with interesting mobile ad technology — like Mobclix, Jumptap, Millennial Media, or Where — are more likely. Microsoft might also deepen its presence in social computing and keep the pressure on Google by buying a social ad targeting company like Lotame, Blue Kai, or Audience Science, or with a longshot acquisition of LinkedIn. 
  • Cisco. Storage and virtualization are natural areas of expansion for the troubled company, but a big buy like EMC or VMWare (which have much higher P/E ratios) would probably be too much to swallow. Instead, Cisco could buy smaller companies with specific technologies like Aspera (high-speed file transfer), Xsigo (virtual I/O for data centers), Vyatta (open-source router software). Eucalyptus and could help Cisco in cloud computing, and Jive Software could help in social collaboration. In mobile, Bridgewater Systems, which provides infrastructure to mobile carriers, might be a natural fit. 
  • Hewlett-Packard. A bigger push into consumer living rooms might spur HP to buy HDTV giant Vizio, or perhaps smaller media-delivery hardware companies like Roku. Mobile ad companies like Jumptap, Millennial, and Where could help HP’s WebOS platform as much as they could help Microsoft with Windows Phone. Cloud computing buys might include Appirio, OpsCode, rPath, or Puppet Labs.
  • IBM. Terracotta, which provides open-source software to make cloud-based applications more efficient, is named as a likely target. Other possibilities include Citrix (a big virtualization technology provider), Bazaarvoice for business social computing, and clean tech startups. Big publicly traded data storage and management vendors like EMC and NetApp are longshots.
  • Oracle. Cloudera, which resells the Hadoop open-source data storage and processing platform used by Facebook and other big companies, is a top target here. Terracotta, CloudBees (which helps companies deploy Java apps in the cloud), and Box.Net (online storage) are also mentioned.

Of course, this is all a guessing game — the report didn’t predict Microsoft’s interest in Skype, although it pegged Cisco as a possible buyer. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting read — and you can get it for free if you sign up for a trial.

GigaOm Pro is the paid research arm of GigaOm, which just received a $6 million investment from publishing giant Reed Elsevier to build out that part of the business.

Tesla Could Raise Over $200M in Follow On Share Sales

Silicon Valley electric car company Tesla announced this morning that it is offering an additional 5.3 million shares of its common stock, and in a separate move both Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Daimler affiliate Blackstar Investco, plan to buy additional Tesla shares in a private placement at the public offering price. Tesla said in a statement that part of the funds of the sales will go toward developing Tesla’s next-gen electric SUV vehicle the Model X.

According to the company prospectus, Tesla’s additional 5.3 million shares — plus another option for an additional 795,000 shares of common stock for the underwriter — could net a maximum offering price of $158.47 million, at a proposed maximum offer price of $26 per share.

In the private placement, Musk plans to purchase 1.5 million shares of common stock from Tesla, and Blackstar plans to purchase 644,475 shares of common stock. At the proposed share price of $26, the combined private placement could net $55.76 million. The combined public offering and private placement could net Tesla $214.23 million.

Musk hinted on the latest quarterly earnings call earlier this month, that Tesla was considering raising more funds for the Model X project, a cross-over SUV that Tesla plans to unveil later this year.  Marketwatch notes that the additional shares “add 5.5 percent to Tesla’s existing pool of outstanding shares,” and Tesla’s shares have risen 5.3 percent to $28.14 on the news.

Tesla debuted on the Nasdaq in June 2010, at an offering price of $17, and ended its first day of trading up 40.5 percent to $23.89. It’s traded around there, and above that for months, and even up to $33 back in November. Tesla’s shares remained high enough, for long enough, that its investors were likely able to get a decent price after the 180-day lockup period.

Tesla’s latest financing move shows just how much money it takes to be a car manufacturer and launch more mainstream cars. In its most recent quarter, Tesla recorded revenues of $49.03 million, more than double its Q1 2010 revenues of $20.81 million. But at the same time Tesla also lost $48.94 million, which was a lot bigger loss than its Q1 2010 loss of $29.52 million. Tesla is in an investment and growth period as it looks to launch its Model S electric sedan in 2012, and now put more funds for developing its Model X program.

Check out our videos with Tesla:

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

Facebook launching social music service with Spotify

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AdMob Ad Requests More Than Triple In Past Year; Debuts New Tablet Ad Formats

It’s been exactly one year since mobile ad network AdMob was officially acquired by Google for $750 million, after intense scrutiny of the deal by the FTC. Over the past year, Google has been working to integrate AdMob into the company, and clearly there have been some highs and lows. Today, As AdMob-Google turns one the search giant is announcing a number of new features and milestones for the ad network.

Overall, AdMob traffic (Ad Requests) have grown more than 3.5 times in the last year. In April, AdMob saw over 2.7 billion ad requests a day globally, up from over 2 billion announced in January. There are over 80,000 mobile websites and apps in the AdMob network, up from over 50,000 in January. And 11 countries in the AdMob network generated more than a billion monthly ad requests in April 2011, up from just three countries a year ago.

AdMob tells us that they’ve seen traffic for tablet ads growing like crazy; in terms of requests the ratio of mobile to tablet ad requests are 5 to 1. Today, Google is announcing new formats for tablet ads, allowing advertisers and publishers to serve full-screen interstitial ads built with HTML5 on smartphones and tablets. These advertisements can include branded video, image gallery, and interactive formats.

The network is also launching new targeting for cross-promotion mobile ads for publishers, enabling developers to run promotions of their apps in specific geographies.

Another addition Google is announcing today is that ad serving platform DoubleClick for Publishers
DoubleClick for Publishers is now integrated with AdMob. So third party ad serving from DoubleClick is now available on the AdMob network, with support for rich media formats.

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