Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Coming in a Few Days With Android 3.1”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Coming in a Few Days With Android 3.1”

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Coming in a Few Days With Android 3.1

Posted: 25 May 2011 02:24 AM PDT

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is only a “few days away” according to a tweet from Samsung’s Mobile US account.

Furthermore, as clarified in another tweet from Samsung, the new version of Galaxy Tab 10.1 will be sporting the latest version of Honeycomb AKA Android 3.1.

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is actually a replacement for another tablet in the same name, which Samsung itself thought was unworthy of competing with Apple’s iPad 2.

The device sports a dual-core, 1 GHz CPU, a 10.1 inch, 1280×800 pixel screen, a 3-megapixel back camera as well as 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats, and all of that comes in a case that weighs 1.3 pounds and is only .34” thick.

[Samsung Mobile US via Engadget]

More About: android, Galaxy Tab 10.1, honeycomb, samsung, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tablet

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Tesla Coils + Doctor Who + Mythbuster’s Adam Savage = Music To Our Ears [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 May 2011 11:02 PM PDT

What do you get when you combine Mythbusters, Tesla coils and Doctor Who? The answer is one charged-up performance.

ArcAttack is a performance art group that has rocked audiences with its custom-built Singing Tesla Coils since 2005. The plasma speakers produce musical tones by modulating spark output, a phenomenon that was featured in the Nicholas Cage film The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame took it to another level though at this year’s Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this YouTube video, Savage awkwardly dances to the tune of Doctor Who‘s iconic theme music while in a cage. The result is a performance that electrified the crowd (pun intended).

Check out the YouTube video and let us know if you’d get into the cage with the Singing Tesla Coils in the comments below.

More About: adam savage, ArcAttack, Doctor Who, maker faire, Science, Tesla Coil, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, youtube

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Apple to Address Mac Defender Malware With Software Update

Posted: 24 May 2011 09:54 PM PDT

Apple has finally acknowledged the recent rise of a fake antivirus program for Mac OS X and has promised to deliver a software update to remove the malware.

A few weeks ago, a piece of malware known as MacDefender started spreading to Mac OS X users. The software, also known as MacProtector and MacSecurity, warns a victim that his or her computer is infected and goes through a complex installation process for the rogue antivirus. The ultimate goal of the malware is to retrieve a victim’s credit card information.

“In the coming days, Apple will deliver a Mac OS X software update that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender malware and its known variants,” Apple stated on its support page. “The update will also help protect users by providing an explicit warning if they download this malware.”

Apple also posted instructions on how to avoid installing the Mac Defender malware as well as how to remove it from an affected computer.

Calls to AppleCare about the malware appear to be high. ZDNet estimates that anywhere between 60,000 and 120,000 Mac OS X users could have been affected by the Mac Defender attack.

Lead image courtesy of Flickr, sinkdd; bottom image courtesy of Intego

More About: antivirus, apple, AppleCare, Mac Defender, mac os x, MacDefender, malware, security

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Social Flights Brings Private Jet Travel to The Masses

Posted: 24 May 2011 08:57 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Social Flights

Quick Pitch: Social Flights provides point-to-point private air transportation, avoiding the hub & spoke model of commercial airlines.

Genius Idea: Democratizing private air travel with a collective buying system.

Long check in lines, baggage fees, invasive security check procedures, lengthy boarding processes, layovers, lost luggage, limited leg room — we’re all familiar with the downside of commercial airlines. The rich can afford to bypass the chaos and frustration in private jets. Why can’t you?

Social Flights, a collective buying startup and charter broker, helps its members join up to book private jets at affordable prices.

Members self-organize around shared interests in groups called Travel Tribes. They can then use the service to coordinate travel around destinations or events, and request and book private charter flights together.

“Private jets are expensive … but if I’m sharing an eight-passenger plane between 16 people — 8 people flying it one direction and 8 people flying it back — then the price comes down substantially,” says Daniel Robles, Social Flight’s chief innovation officer. “It floats well into the business class [price range].”

And, perhaps even less — short hops can run as low as $150 for fully-booked jets, depending on the destination.

The value proposition for the user is access to a VIP lifestyle that would otherwise be pricey. “You park in front of the private facility, walk onto your aircraft, fly directly to your destination with people you know, sign for your rental car and get on your way. No stress. No hassle,” the Social Flight website promises.

Robles believes Social Flights offers a practical alternative to commercial air travel for business executives, weekend travelers and anyone willing to spend more to save time and gain value.

The relatively young startup, having first launched in February, has helped its members successfully charter 15 flights. Social Flights is still in soft-launch mode, says Robles, aiming to grow at a slow and steady pace. The startup has roughly 4,000 members — 1,000 of whom participate in Travel Tribes.

Social Flight has access to 50,000 seats across its fleet and hopes to take a piece of both the private aviation market — a $50 billion per year business — and the commercial travel sector.

The site’s design and functionality are far less impressive than its mission, but perhaps travelers can be coaxed into overlooking these shortcomings in exchange for a $150 seat on a private jet to a destination of their choosing.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Bobby-Lewis

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, chartered flights, private air travel, Social Flights, spark-of-genius

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Too Good To Be True? Groupon Users Crowdsource Suspect Offer

Posted: 24 May 2011 08:09 PM PDT

Groupon users in Denver found Tuesday’s deal for a 61% price cut on home delivery of local, organic fruit from a company called Specialty Organics to be more than a little suspicious.

“I’m into this sort of thing [organic produce], and one thing I know is that there is very little fruit grown in Colorado, and to offer it all over the state for delivery just didn’t make sense — none of these companies or farms do that,” explains Maria Fraietta, a teacher in Denver who was the first to question whether the company was up to something fishy on the deal’s discussion board. “All of them explain how they work, approximately what you’ll get, and how it will be delivered. This one didn’t.”

Fraietta’s concerns, and those of others who left more than 100 comments on the board for the Denver deal, raise a valid question. As the ever-growing hoard of daily deals sites expands to every corner on the map, might some of the sites’ offers be too good to be true?

It’s a question that Groupon has taken to heart — building up a factchecking department with guidelines that require checkers to verify reviews and reviewer identity. The site is currently searching for a Factchecking Manager.

User Skepticism

In the meantime, users are picking up the slack. Fraietta’s investigations soon inspired others to look into Specialty Organics and visit its skeletal website.

“Kyle S.,” who spoke for the company throughout the discussion on Denver Groupon, mentioned in his first message another company, The Delectable Plate, that he said Specialty Organics acquired in February.

Groupon users immediately turned up the awful reviews that The Delectable Plate had accumulated on Yelp across several cities. Reviewers had complained of moldy deliveries, missing orders and undelivered refunds.

“It surely does seem that Specialty Organics used to be The Delectable Plate as one reviewer states,” commented Stacy C. on the discussion board. “Most reviews mention they got into this through vouchers bought off the internet, and most mention a ‘Kyle’ based out of Denver.”

The Delectable Plate ran a $79 daily deal with at least one deal site before going out of business, reportedly when a local organic partner farm didn’t package goods properly. In a statement explaining the closing, the site offered its deal customers $79 gift certificates at Specialty Organics, “a corporation with a similar concept to us, but on a much larger scale.”

What caught commenters’ attention about the Groupon deals that ran on Tuesday in Denver, DC, and Boston were the lack of specifics — no farmers were named in either the deal description or website, delivery was offered throughout the state of Colorado (“We do have multiple locations around the state to make this possible,” Kyle S. said on the discussion board) and nobody named what the promised fruit boxes would contain. The voicemail of a customer service number (a Google voice account for Kyle Pommer, the company’s director of marketing) indicated that it was “experiencing higher call volume than usual.”

A Closer Look At Specialty Organics

Pommer told Mashable that Specialty Organics is a 4-person company working with produce couriers in 15 markets. The company has no physical base, but rather partners with a company called The FruitGuys, which acts as its “farmer liaison” in various areas. He said this company’s policies prevented him from revealing the farms that it worked with.

But the Fruitguys COO, Erik Muller, said the company did not work with Specialty Organics — and that it didn’t have that kind of relationship with any third-party seller. When asked why this was, Pommer responded that he had been misinformed and that “the deal has not been set in stone.”

This isn’t the first time that daily deal site users have alerted each other to something that seemed fishy. In February, users called a deal for flower and gift merchant a scam after saying it raised prices to compensate for the Groupon discount. Groupon and FTD said that the site merely refused to combine Groupon’s offer with other discounts.

Groupon’s Response

Groupon calls the situation with Specialty Organics an absence of good communication skills rather than a scam. “Businesses go through a minimum of 8 layers of quality control, sometimes up to 13,” explains Groupon spokesperson Julie Mossler. “We make sure that the prices listed are accurate, they have good reviews, and most importantly that they’re a reputable business who will treat our customers excellently.”

Mossler noted that most of the negative online reviews cited were for The Delectable Plate, which was under different ownership than Specialty Organics. Pommer says that he and his partner bought the business and changed the name; the previous owners are no longer involved. Yet the deal disappeared from Groupon’s site for a period on Tuesday, only to reemerge as “sold out.”

Specialty Organics has recently run deals in LivingSocial’s Denver market and with KGB Deals. A spokesperson from LivingSocial said that it has gotten “virtually no complaints” about Specialty Organics — though there’s no word on whether subscribers have received their first monthly shipment yet.

Deal buyers may ultimately be satisfied at Groupon, too. But if a deal like this ever turns out to be a scam, Mossler points out members who purchased it will automatically relieve a refund as per the Groupon Promise.

More About: Crowdsorcing, groupon, Possible Scam, Specialty Organics

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Last Xbox Founder Leaves Microsoft

Posted: 24 May 2011 07:14 PM PDT

It’s the end of an era: the last member of the original Xbox team has resigned from Microsoft.

Otto Berkes, the current partner hardware architect for Bing, ended his 18-year career at the company on Monday, according to The Seattle Times. He is apparently joining “for another company outside of the Seattle area.” Microsoft has yet to return Mashable‘s request for comment.

Berkes, along with Ted Hase, Kevin Bachus and Seamus Blackey, sent the first proposal for the Xbox game console to Bill Gates in March 1999, and it wasn’t long until they had Gates and most of the company’s leadership on board with the project. Two-and-a-half years later, the original Xbox made its debut.

Microsoft’s Xbox has since evolved from gaming device to an entertainment powerhouse. Xbox Live, which recently added Hulu Plus to its lineup, has millions of paying subscribers. And Xbox Kinect has broken world records with its stellar sales.

Berkes first joined Microsoft as a graphics technology developer in June 1993. Beyond helping create the Xbox, he was one of the people behind the ill-fated Courier tablet device and worked with former Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie.

Berkes is the final member of the four-person Xbox founding team to leave Microsoft. Blackley left Microsoft in 2002 and is now with Creative Artists Agency. Hase resigned in 2006 and is now a VP at Aristocrat Technologies. Bachus has moved on as Bebo’s new Chief Product Officer.

More About: gaming, microsoft, Otto Berks, xbox, Xbox 360

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Watch Out, Nook: Amazon Launches $164 Kindle 3G With Ads

Posted: 24 May 2011 06:27 PM PDT

Watch out, Nook: Amazon has just launched a 3G version of its ad-supported Kindle for $164.

The new device, officially called the Kindle 3G With Special Offers, is almost identical to the $114 ad-supported Wi-Fi Kindle except for the addition of 3G functionality. The device is a 6-inch device that displays the occasional advertisement. In return, users get special offers and a $25 discount on the Kindle 3G’s $189 price tag. In a statement, Amazon Kindle director Jay Marine called it “the lowest price for any 3G ereader.”

The special deals associated with the 3G Kindle are similar to the Wi-Fi version. Some of the special offers Amazon will launch “in the coming weeks” include $10 for a $20 Amazon gift card, 20% discounts on 200 HDTVs, and $1 for select Kindle books.

The announcement of the Kindle 3G With Special Offers comes just hours after Barnes & Noble unveiled its $139 touchscreen Nook, a Wi-Fi-only ereader device that is lighter than the Kindle and boasts two months of battery life. Barnes & Noble also claims that it controls 25% of the ebook market, something that can’t be sitting well with Amazon.

More About: 3G Kindle, amazon, barnes & noble, ereader, Kindle, Kindle 3G, nook

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Can Modern Mobile Web Apps Loosen Apple’s Grip on Tablet Publishing?

Posted: 24 May 2011 05:14 PM PDT

By now there's little question that the iPad has defined the modern tablet, and media companies have tackled the promising concept of digital subscription publishing with varying degrees of success. We've seen impressive offerings from Esquire, Wired, and Sports Illustrated, and new iPad-only products like The Daily. What do all these digital publications have in common? If you want them, you've got to download them from Apple's App Store.

Users are cool with this — we've been downloading content apps for a while now. But from a publisher's point of view, there may be a shakeup on the horizon.

Playboy recently released its iPad app, a subscription service that offers everything from the monthly magazine (yes, everything), as well as a deep archive that spans all previous issues. The interesting part? You won't find Playboy in the App Store — it's an iPad-optimized website.

Apple's strict "no nudity" policy means that a major publisher like Playboy will likely never see the inside of the App Store. But the release of its digital magazine got us thinking: If developers can build web apps that do everything a native app can, who needs the App Store (and its accompanying 30% revenue cut and frustrating approval process) anyway?

Is the mobile content gatekeeper on tenuous ground?

Building the Native App Experience on the Web

If iPad users are going to pay for content on the web, they will demand the glossy finish of Apple's industry-leading UI. While modern web standards like HTML5 and CSS3 make it possible, Playboy still found challenges to overcome.

"From the start, we knew we needed to support certain gestures, like swipe and pinch/expand, and we also put great emphasis on preserving the smooth animations that are so integral to the iPad experience," says Paul Strauss, SVP of online operations for Playboy. "It was also extremely important that issues load as quickly as possible, so a great deal of effort was spent on optimizing image loading and minimizing the number of connections required to serve up an issue."

Strauss notes that while HTML5 plays a role in how the app accesses iPad hardware, the real star of the UX show is CSS3.

"It would be virtually impossible to recreate the smooth animations of the applications without the use of CSS3," says Strauss. "The iOS Safari browser’s support for hardware acceleration of 3D transformations is key to this performance."

When it comes down to user experience, Playboy sports most of the iOS bells and whistles — page swiping, image zoom, and support for device rotation. Strauss says the average user probably wouldn’t see a meaningful difference between the web app and a native one, but admits a tech-savvy reader might spot the limitations.


Despite the best technical finesse, there are definitely drawbacks to building a mobile web app, according to Richard Ziade, partner and lead strategist of app development firm Arc90. "Web apps don't retain state when you switch between apps. They have to relaunch," he says. "They're not as responsive as native apps, and handling purchases is probably going to be more cumbersome than the two-click experience associated with iTunes."

Strauss concedes other limitations for Playboy. "We would also have liked to be able to support offline reading of the archive. Even with HTML5′s expanded support for local storage, this is a challenge," he says. "As a result, the app requires an Internet connection at all times, and since the experience is image-intensive, a Wi-Fi connection is preferable for a smooth experience. That said, we think we turned this limitation into an advantage by offering our entire back-catalog to all members, which would be impractical in a download experience."

Playing Outside the App Store Ecosystem

Technical limits aside, what about the visibility that comes with the iTunes stamp of approval?

Playboy is a well-known brand. Readers who want to subscribe on the iPad will know where to look. But what about smaller publications or content providers?

"There is no doubt that 'discoverability' is a very valuable," says Ziade. As to whether it outweighs Apple's cut of the revenue, he says that "mileage will vary depending on the app."

Andres Barreto, the president and cofounder of OnSwipe, a purveyor of white label solutions for iPad publishers, disagrees. "The leading sources for content discovery are search and social, and they often fall in the ranges of 60%-80% of all traffic for most publishers. You loose that in a native app," he explains.

"The volume of traffic on the web is extremely valuable for publishers when it comes to advertisers, because agencies and brands need results on their media buys — and apps are just not performing," Barreto continues. "Bringing app-like experiences to the web allows publishers to drive the same premium advertising dollars but at a larger scale with their existing web traffic."

This, of course, harkens back to the biggest revenue question for online publishers: Do you aim to be as visible as possible and sell ads against pageviews, or do you charge readers a subscription fee for exclusive access? As we’ve seen so far, the model has been determined on a brand-by-brand basis.

Where Do Publishers Stand Now?

Does Playboy's foray into the world of web apps signal a sea change in the way publishers deal with the App Store gatekeeper? Ziade thinks it's too early to tell.

"The web has a very long way to go before it reaches that level of obviousness and ease-of-use for the typical user," he says. " 'Gatekeeper" implies a sort of stranglehold. Apple is enjoying its position because it cares deeply about the user experience. They did not grab their position, they won it."

Strauss views Playboy's web app development more as a workaround, rather than a way to jump the Apple ship — a remedy for the inherent challenge of publishing adult content.

"We are not in the camp of folks who feel that Apple's rev share is an issue or impediment," says Strauss. "We continue to focus separately on iOS products … that are 100% compliant with Apple standards, and which leverage the full benefits of the device in a native app. For these products, we think Apple's revenue share is a fair trade for access to their ecosystem and tapping into the Apple user base."

But from a more broad perspective on traffic, social media and monetization, Barreto thinks the days of "walled garden" apps are numbered.

"Publishers that really want to be able to tap into their existing traffic for better monetization and distribution will inevitably go the web route — it is just a matter of time. For content, most definitely so," says Barreto. “Giving up your existing traffic and severely limiting your monetization options due to either low download numbers and the subscription fees Apple imposes simply does not make sense for publishers anymore."

As a user, what's your preference? Do you prefer native apps above all, or have you used optimized web experiences that give the App Store a run for its money? Let us know in the comments.

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

More About: ipad, magazines, media, playboy, publishing, web apps, Web Development

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Zynga Preparing to File for IPO [REPORT]

Posted: 24 May 2011 04:13 PM PDT

Less than a week after LinkedIn’s spectacular IPO, social gaming juggernaut Zynga is preparing to cash in with its own offering.

According to Kara Swisher at AllThingsD, the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission is likely to come in the next two weeks, though other reports claim the company will file for IPO in late June. Goldman Sachs could be one of the lead bankers in the deal, but Morgan Stanley, T. Rowe Price and Fidelity Investments also have investments in Zynga and would likely be involved in an IPO.

The gaming company is worth around $10 billion on the private markets — a figure already higher than LinkedIn’s $9 billion IPO. So a Zynga IPO would likely trump LinkedIn’s strong showing on the markets. It makes $500 million to $1 billion per year in revenue, thanks to big partnerships and virtual goods. Zynga has also been on an acquisition spree as of late, acquiring 14 companies in the last 12 months alone.

Zynga’s top game, CityVille, boasts 90 million monthly active users, while the company’s breakout hit FarmVille has more than 45 million monthly active users.

More About: cityville, farmville, ipo, Zynga

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HBO Gets Social With HBO Connect

Posted: 24 May 2011 04:04 PM PDT

Premium cable network HBO soft-launched HBO Connect on Tuesday, a new “second screen” experience that aims to augment the social experience surrounding shows like True Blood, Game of Thrones and Entourage. The site is accessible now, but will launch more features in June as the summer season gets underway.

Sabrina Caluori, the director of marketing and social media at HBO, gave Mashable Connect attendees a sneak-peek at HBO Connect earlier this month. Along with the multi-platform HBO Go offering, HBO Connect helps flesh out the cable network’s digital plans.

HBO has dabbled with social initiatives and outreach campaigns in the past — including promotions with checkin service GetGlue. But HBO Connect is the best showing from the network to date, in terms of aggregating content and social options for users all in one place.

The site is dedicated into five key sections:

  • Pulse
  • Feeds
  • Conversations
  • Visualizers
  • Connections

Pulse, Feeds and Visualizers

The HBO Connect homepage is the “Pulse” of the site. This page acts as a real-time hub for what HBO-related content is being shared and clicked on across the web.

The Feeds section is a customized Twitter listing from various programs, allowing users to browse streams, filter based on keywords, trending topics or related services and filter through specific users lists.

The Feeds page also provides users with quick access to GetGlue checkins, official Facebook and Twitter status updates, and videos from the YouTube channel. Users that are logged in to HBO Connect via Twitter (Facebook is another login option) can create their own tweets, retweet the tweets of others or send replies, all from the website.

Visualizers are interactive, dynamic visualizations of trending topics, keywords and hashtags. These topics can be moved around the screen. Users can hover over Twitter avatars to see their tweets on those topics.

For True Blood believers, HBO is doing a special microsite, which displays tweets with hashtags such as #tbwithdrawal and #waitingsucks in real-time.

Conversations and Connections

The “Conversations” section has the potential to be the most interesting element of the site. These conversations will allow fans to interact with the people who work on the HBO shows themselves — both actors and creative talent — in live Q&A sessions and live Twitter commentaries.

HBO already has a bunch of conversations planned for the summer, including chats with Wendell Pierce from Treme, Thomas Jane from Hung, Janina Gavankar from True Blood and writers Jane Espenson (Game of Thrones) and documentarian Alexandra Pelosi.

What’s most compelling about these live commentaries and Q&A sessions is that they will be timed alongside replays of popular programming and archived for re-watching. In other words, users that want to catch up on a Twitter commentary with a costume designer or writer from their favorite show can do that alongside a rerun, instead of having to interrupt the flow of the show the first time it debuts.

At Mashable Connect, Sabrina Caluori explained that the inspiration for the Twitter commentaries came from Howard Stern. The self-proclaimed “king of all media” decided to live tweet a commentary of the movie, Private Parts as it aired on HBO one Saturday afternoon, a concept the folks at HBO thought was a great idea.

The “Connections” component of HBO Connect is a quick offering of the various ways users can interact and connect with various programs, movies and series on HBO. This includes fast links to blogs, Facebook and Twitter pages, GetGlue checkins, YouTube pages and more.

Desktop to Start, Other Platforms in the Future

Right now, HBO Connect is a desktop-only experience. Caluori told us that the goal was to launch the desktop version first, see what fans like, and then look at bringing the most popular and effective features to other platforms.

Still, we can’t help but notice that the site — built by RED Interactive Agency — is perfectly aligned with the greater and HBO Go brands. The colors, iconography and user experience is consistent across all the HBO properties, which makes us hopeful that this experience will come to the iPad and other platforms sooner rather than later.

It isn’t clear at this point if HBO is going allow the HBO Connect experience to sit atop HBO Go or if the two sites will remain separate experiences. We would like the have the option — at some point — to use the two in the same frame. Now that most HBO subscribers have access to so much content through the web browser, being able to turn on the social layer at will could be a real defining feature.

HBO hopes that programs like HBO Connect will keep viewers engaged even when their favorite shows aren’t on the air. We think it’s a good start.

HBO Connect is still in beta and we expect the service and features to evolve and improve over time. Still, we have to say we’re impressed with the hard work the network has put into the app. The social experience and network connections feel natural. It’s a nice way to approach social without potentially irritating your viewers — viewers that in HBO’s case, pay a monthly subscription fee for the service.

More About: connected devices, getglue, hbo, HBO Connect, HBO GO, social tv, television, tv

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8 Brands That Have Found Success on Facebook & What We Can Learn

Posted: 24 May 2011 03:08 PM PDT

brand trophy image

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable, a social media agency that has worked with more than 200 leading brands including, Verizon and Neutrogena. He is author of Likeable Social Media.

Any brand worth their social media salt has a presence on Facebook. But just because a brand is online, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is doing a good job.

While it’s possible to suggest some tips and best practices, there’s no greater teacher than learning from example.

Below, find eight brands that have found success on Facebook, including some takeaways on what they did right and how you can emulate their success.

1. The Pampered Chef

pampered chef image

The Pampered Chef launched their Facebook page at a national conference in front of thousands of enthusiastic consultants. The page earned 10,000 likes in its first 24 hours and now has over 260,000 likes.

Lesson: Ask your staff, customers, vendors, and partners — who already know you and like you — to "Like" your Facebook page first.


restaurant image combines exclusive Facebook offers with lots of engaging questions. This drives higher results in users' newsfeeds because of Facebook's EdgeRank formula. Last week for instance, they asked, "When the weather is nice, do you prefer to dine on the restaurant’s outdoor patio or stay indoors?" and "Which American Idol finalist would you like to dine with — Haley, Lauren, or Scotty?"

Lesson: Ask a lot of questions. You'll get valuable feedback, plus you'll be more likely to appear in your fans' newsfeeds.

3. Oreo

oreo image

Oreo is a global brand with over 19 million fans, and yet they still manage to make things personal for their fans. They consistently run fun content, creative pictures and links. They also have a "World's Fan of the Week" that showcases one Oreo fan in their profile picture based on uploaded fan photos.

Lesson: Share lots of photos, and ask your fans to share photos. Facebook's Photos remain the most viral feature of its platform.

4. Vitamin Water

vitamin water image

Vitamin Water has been trailblazing on Facebook for years, including crowdsourcing an entirely new flavor back in 2009. Today, they have over 2.3 million fans with frequent posts featuring pictures, videos, events and links. Most importantly, they are responsive to fan questions and inquiries, breeding loyalty even when their answers aren't exactly what customers want to hear.

Lesson: Find the resources to respond to your fans questions and inquiries.

5. Boloco

boloco image

Boloco is a Boston restaurant which has set up their Fan Page as a “Place” Page, allowing people to check-in. In addition to using the Reviews app to solicit and showcase reviews, Boloco is engaging and has fun with their audience. Most importantly, as a Place Page, they can leverage one of Facebook's newest features, Deals, offering customers specific and local specials.

Lesson: If you have a physical location, use Place Pages and Deals to drive traffic through your doors.


loft image

Last June, LOFT upset its fans after they posted a series of photos of super-thin models wearing their clothing. So the very next day, they apologized and shared photos of their own staff, of various shapes and sizes, wearing the line. Fans responded enthusiastically, and since then LOFT's Fan Page has grown from 50,000 fans to 250,000 fans. They also post a lot on weekends, when their audience is online and there's less competition from other brands.

Lesson: Know your audience well, and when you make a mistake, quickly own up, do right by your audience and fix the problem.


flowers image was one of the first brands to establish buying opportunities inside Facebook, and now leverages in-stream sales. But the most important thing they've done is to deeply integrate Facebook onto their website, putting the Like button on all products. Imagine visiting an ecommerce website and seeing what products the person you’re buying a gift for "Liked" — it would make choosing the right gift a lot easier, wouldn't it?

Lesson: Integrate Facebook outside of your Fan Page, on your website, in as many places as you can. Create more compelling opportunities for people to buy your product based on their friends' Likes.

8. Brooklyn Museum

brooklyn museum image

This local non-profit has used pictures and an art app called Wall Paper to attract more than 37,000 fans. One thing they do particularly well is engage other entities. A look at their Wall shows lots of artist pages and other organization's pages interacting with the Museum's page — not just the fans.

Lesson: Find synergy with other organizations and entities, and then work together to promote each other's Facebook pages so that everyone benefits.

These eight brands all demonstrate worthwhile lessons in Facebook marketing. What are your favorite brands doing on Facebook? And what other lessons have you learned? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclosure: The Pampered Chef, and are clients of Likeable.

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Image courtesy of Flickr, Vitó

More About: brand, business, facebook, MARKETING, social media

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How Lady Gaga Created a Web Marketing Spectacle for Born This Way [PICS]

Posted: 24 May 2011 02:29 PM PDT

“The web is what you make of it,” reads the parting text in Google Chrome‘s latest commercial featuring Lady Gaga.

It’s a simple eight-word slogan for Google’s web browser but it represents so much more when you connect it to Gaga, who took to the web this year to create an inescapable marketing spectacle for her Born This Way album.

In the months leading up to the May 23 album release — and even now — Gaga has paved a path for stars and brands to get inventive with the ways they use digital and social media to promote themselves and connect with fans.

The 25-year-old is no stranger to success on the web. She remains a heavyweight on major social networks: In the past year, Lady Gaga was the first artist to reach 1 billion views on YouTube; she beat President Barack Obama to 10 million Facebook fans (she’s now closing in on 35 million); and most recently, she was first Twitter user to acquire 10 million followers.

The promotional juggernaut further ramped up her all-encompassing web presence, fostering partnerships with Zynga for the FarmVille-inspired GagaVille, Starbucks for a massive scavenger hunt, VEVO for exclusive premieres, HBO for a concert special, Rdio for free lifetime subscriptions, iTunes for a promotional countdown, Best Buy and Livestream for an album signing and Gilt Groupe and Amazon Cloud Player for deals.

“Gaga and her team are some of the best marketers around; they understand the importance of integrating social with traditional media, engaging audiences in real-time, and most of all, telling a story that is relatable and worth spreading,” said Alexa Scordato, a Gaga fan, digital strategist and community manager for MAT@USC.

Even Lady Gaga’s critics have to acknowledge the magnitude of her marketing medley: “I’ll probably get cyber bullied after this from all her Little Monsters, but I’m not a huge Gaga fan,” said Romey Louangvilay, senior account executive of digital and social media at Euro RSCG PR. “With that said, I give her credit for her artistry and marketing genuineness.”

Below, we’ve compiled a huge swathe of the digital and social media initiatives behind Gaga’s Born This Way. Flip through the roundup and then let us know in the comments which tactics you thought were most creative or most ridiculous.

Zynga's GagaVille

On May 17, Zynga launched the Farmville-style GagaVille, which garnered much ridicule from Gaga haters and laughs from even the most devoted Little Monsters.

Jokes aside, Lady Gaga like other big brands this year found a way to leverage the enormous social gaming population, which is expected to reach 68.7 million players by the end of 2012.

Gamers were able to unlock and stream unreleased tracks from Born This Way and bonus remixes. The game incorporated Gaga's style and personality with users having access to crystals, unicorns and sheep on motorcycles. The GagaVille campaign also incorporated Zynga game cards (buy a $25 card and receive the Born This Way album and bonus tracks for free); Words With Friends (use a Gaga word of the day and be entered for concert tickets); and RewardVille (win virtual goods to use in other Zynga games).

Starbucks Scavenger Hunt

Starbucks and Mother Monster teamed up on May 19 for "SRCH," a two-week digital scavenger hunt in which participants can scan in-store QR codes, visit blogs and Starbucks digital properties, decode cryptic messages and answer trivia questions to earn prizes.

Yahoo joined the fun on May 23, helping transform the Starbucks Digital Network into all things Gaga. Visitors to the site had access to a special edition of the Born This Way for one day. They also received a free "Edge of Glory" download and an exclusive video by Lady Gaga singing a cappella.

"Considering that Lady Gaga may be the world's hottest star right now and an innovative creator unlike anyone we've seen, imagine our delight when we learned that she's also a big Starbucks fan," said Alexandra Wheeler, global digital strategy director for Starbucks, in a recent blog post.

The hunt ends June 7.

Google Chrome Commercial

In the this commerical, Gaga is shown at a computer typing inspirational messages such as, "This is our moment. ... Stay strong, Little Monsters!"

The video highlights two things other than the capabilities of Google's web browser: The extent to which fans will broadcast their adoration for Gaga and also Gaga's willingness to return their positive sentiments.

The song for the video is "Edge of Glory," a song from the new album.

Amazon's $0.99 Sale

Gaga fans woke up May 23 to a nice surprise: Amazon was selling the 14-song album as a digital download for a mere $0.99. Fans also received 20 GB of Cloud Drive storage from Amazon.

News of the massive sale spread like wildfire and consumers quickly started experiencing technical difficulties. With servers overwhelmed, people who bought the digital download were unable to immediately access all tracks.

In time, all songs became available, but Amazon users had already unleashed their anger by leaving one-star ratings due to Amazon's slow service.

Amazon has not disclosed the number of downloads for Born This Way.

Best Buy Live Feed

On album launch day, Lady Gaga stayed up into the wee hours of the night to meet fans and sign autographs at a Best Buy in New York City.

Best Buy promoted the event with a live video feed from Livestream. The video was surrounded by interactive features for fans who couldn't make it to the event.

Google Interview

In March, Google executive Marissa Mayer interviewed Lady Gaga as part of the "Google Goes Gaga" event. She helped promote Google Moderator, a tool that allows fans to submit questions via text or video on the musician's YouTube channel and subsequently vote for their favorites.

During the Q&A, Gaga talked about her forthcoming album and revealed that she would make her directorial debut alongside choreographer Laurieann Gibson for her second single, "Judas."

Through Google Moderator, her fans asked 643 questions about the single.

Near the end, Gaga asked a rhetorical yet fitting question to the audience of Google employees and online viewers, "Don't you love the Internet?"

Robin Hood Charity

In April, Gaga once again dipped her feet into social good by working with the Robin Hood Foundation to launch two Facebook contests in support of the New York-based charity, which benefits the poor and homeless between the ages of 16 and 24.

The contest — to decide how Lady Gaga should split $1 million among five charities — ran from April 26 to May 6 and received 1,057,101 votes.

She also lent her hand to the victims of the March 11 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, providing an exclusive remix of her single "Born This Way" for the Songs for Japan charity album.

Gaga also donated $1.5 million to Zynga's fundraising initiative with Save the Children and the American Red Cross via sales of her Japan Prayer Bracelets.

Gilt Groupe Deals

Gilt Groupe offered sales curated by Gaga's fashion director, Nicola Formichetti, as well as charity sales of a Mugler dress worn by Gaga, entrance into the Paris Mugler fashion show and access to a performance from Gaga.

HBO Concert Special

HBO aired Gaga's Monster Ball concert at New York City's Madison Square Garden on May 7.

The 120-minute concert special included the "Born This Way" single and teased the then-unreleased track "Marry the Night."

Rdio Free Music

Rdio created a BTW playlist and a corresponding contest to give away a free music subscription.

Facebook Engagement

Gaga ended 2010 as the celebrity with the most "Likes" on a Facebook Page with 24.7 million Likes.

She has one of the most active and engaged Facebook Pages not only because of her fans but also because she frequently shares status updates, photos, videos and news through the platform. On May 18, for example, she posted a photo collage that displays her album art on buildings, cars and even in and around a New York City subway train.

Vevo Exclusive Premieres

Vevo has so far exclusively premiered each of the official music videos for Born This Way.

The song "Born This Way" has racked up 52.7 million views on Vevo's website and "Judas" has accumulated 35.6 million.

VEVO also recently put together a Lady Gaga playlist available online, on the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android devices using the VEVO for iOS or VEVO for Android apps. The playlist includes live versions of "Edge of Glory/Judas" and "Born this Way' from the May 21 season finale of Saturday Night Live.

iTunes Countdown

The title track of Born This Way in February became the fastest-selling single ever on iTunes stores worldwide.

Capitalizing on her success, Lady Gaga released two additional songs in advance exclusively on iTunes. Fans got to hear "Edge of Glory" on May 9 and "Hair" on May 16 ahead of the May 23 album release.

GagaVision Videos

A fan favorite, GagaVision gives her Little Monsters a behind-the-scenes look at Gaga. In some of the videos, which are posted on YouTube, Gaga candidly discusses the creative process behind BTW. In other clips, fans get to see the people and places surrounding Gaga.

Twitter & TwitPic Trends

In May, Gaga hit a Twitter first by becoming the only user to rack up 10 million followers.

The messages she posts incite a tweet storm from her followers who retweet and @mention her comments, pictures and videos, as well as promote the hashtags she uses.

In April, for example, she revealed the BTW cover art via a Twitpic photo (seen above). The image garnered hundreds of thousands of views in mere minutes.

And More ...

As if that wasn't enough:

  • Gaga scattered QR codes (pictured) on the web that led back to iTunes where users could download a ringtone of "Born This Way."
  • Tapulous, a Disney Mobile venture, launched Born This Way Revenge, a Tap Tap Revenge app game for iPhone and iPod. The app features 17 tracks from the deluxe album version, access to GagaVision, Lady Gaga's Twitter feed, three exclusive chat rooms, the official lyrics and Haus of Gaga event lists.
  • Gaga became creative director at Polaroid.
  • Gaga gave comedic musician Weird Al Yankovic permission to include a parody of "Born This Way" called "Perform This Way" on his new album.
  • Gaga won MTV OMA awards for "Most Innovative Artist" and "Must Follow Artist on Twitter."

What Can You Learn From Gaga?

“She’s mastered the art of [the] launch,” Scordato said. “Every new video or album release is always an event. She and her team recognize that millions of views or album sales don’t come overnight.”

The takeaways are:

  • You need to build momentum with elements of surprise along the way.
  • Integrate. Make sure all your marketing channels are working together to promote a single brand identity and message.
  • Use your fans as your best marketing asset. Encourage and remind them to tell your story and never forget to thank them along the way.
  • Give people something to love. If you can do that, you’ve won half the battle.

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

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Google To Announce Virtual Wallet Platform Thursday [REPORT]

Posted: 24 May 2011 02:12 PM PDT

Google is expected to announce a mobile payment platform that will let consumers wave their Android-based phones at the checkout counter to make payments, redeem coupons and earn loyalty points, according to two reports.

The new technology will interact with near-field communication-equipped cash registers, in effect turning the devices into virtual wallets, Bloomberg reports. Participating retailers include Macy's, American Eagle Outfitters and Subway, according to another report in The Wall Street Journal., which cites "people familiar with the matter." It's unclear whether the roll-out will be national or just in New York. Google reps could not be reached for comment.

Google has been talking about adding NFC-enabled payments since at least November 2010, when then-CEO Eric Schmidt disclosed that Samsung's Nexus S mobile device contained an NFC chip. That device became available last December.

In March, Bloomberg reported that thousands of stores in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., would soon begin testing Google's NFC payment system. If Google begins enabling mobile payments this week, it will give Android a jump over Apple, which has reportedly decided not to include NFC in its iPhone 5 release.

Meanwhile, at least one major retailer, Starbucks, isn't waiting for Apple or Google to institute a mobile payment system. Starbucks began offering that option in January via a downloadable Starbucks Card app.

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Is Barnes & Noble’s Simple Touch Reader a Kindle Killer?

Posted: 24 May 2011 01:51 PM PDT

Barnes & Noble announced the latest addition to its Nook line of ereaders at a press event Tuesday morning: a smaller, black-and-white E-Ink touchscreen device with two months of battery life.

The Simple Touch Reader is a major upgrade from the original Nook, and also significantly improves upon Amazon’s Kindle 3 device in five respects: 1) It has a touchscreen, and is buttonless (save for the on/off button on the backside). 2) It has double the battery life. 3) It’s 1.5 inches shorter (5 x 6.5 inches). 4) It’s one ounce lighter (7.5 ounces). 5) There’s less of a page-turning delay.

Both devices have built-in Wi-Fi, 6-inch display screens and are priced at $139.

Amazon’s Next Move

The Barnes & Noble team was noticeably proud of the device at the launch event Tuesday, and it deserves to be, given how far the company has come in hardware development over the past year.

But the celebration should be short-lived. Amazon is ripe to launch the next generation of its Kindle device this summer, as it has for the past three consecutive summers. Historically, each Kindle iteration brings about a significant upgrade to storage, speed and battery life; the real question is whether Amazon will continue with its button-laden model, or opt for a touchscreen.

And even if the Kindle doesn't beat the Simple Touch Reader, Kindle users are unlikely to abandon their current devices in favor of Barnes & Noble's, especially when that means giving up access to their current library of Kindle-only books.

It’s for these reasons that my colleague Christina Warren believes that Barnes & Noble should cease production of E-Ink ereaders and focus instead on the low-end Android market. The bookseller arguably has a greater edge in that niche, especially given that the Nook Color is the bestselling Android tablet in the U.S. to date, according to B&N CEO William Lynch.

What do you think? Should Barnes & Noble give up production of low-end ereaders in favor of its Nook Color line of Android devices? And Kindle owners, are you thinking about making the switch to Nook, or are you waiting to see what the Kindle 4 looks like?

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Did Beyonce Copy This Italian Pop Star? [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 May 2011 01:35 PM PDT

Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

We showcased Beyonce’s stunning Billboard Music Awards performance of “Run the World (Girls)” as our YouTube video of the day Monday. Today, we’re featuring a video that highlights how similar that show was to one done last year by Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini.

Check it out above — the two videos are strikingly similar, which makes sense given that the artists used the the same artist (Kenzo Digital) and production company (Tribe Inc Design).

This isn’t the first time Beyonce has been inspired by the work of others — she’s cribbed from Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse in the past.

We’ve reached out to Beyonce’s label and Tribe Inc Design for comment, but, in the meantime, answer us this: Who wore it better, Beyonce or Cuccarini?

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Will Mobile Cloud Computing Ever Take Off?

Posted: 24 May 2011 01:00 PM PDT

The Digital Collaboration Series is supported by AceProject, a collaboration-oriented project management web application that empowers you to manage projects, tasks and time sheets. Create your free AceProject account here.

Over the past few years, companies like Google, Amazon and Salesforce have helped transform “the cloud” from a substance-free buzzword into, well a buzzword that actually makes a lot of business sense. Users increasingly access cloud services at home, at work and in the enterprise. Of course, like virtually every other sector of the web and tech industries, the focus is increasingly being turned to mobile.

In theory, the always-connected nature of smartphones and 3G-enabled tablets are a perfect match for cloud computing and cloud services. Still, halfway through 2011, we haven’t seen cloud computing and cloud services as tightly coupled or well integrated into the mobile ecosystem one might expect. Looking at the evolution of mobile platforms offers insight into the mobile cloud of the future.

Mobile Platforms Are Still Data Silos

Earlier this month, Google officially introduced the Chromebook, the first netbook computer that will ship with Chrome OS. Chrome OS is built around the idea of keeping data fundamentally stored in the cloud, while still providing local access. Programs, files and media are all executed in the web browser.

One of the key differentiators of Chrome OS is that because everything is stored and executed in the cloud, users can access their machines and accounts from a different device, without having to do anything more than log in.

This is in contrast to current mobile and desktop operating systems that might have some cloud-syncing capabilities for things like contacts, email and bookmarks, but still largely keep user data, application preferences and other information stored locally on the device itself.

Google’s Android operating system touts its cloud abilities — and sure, users can instantly access their inboxes, Picasa photo albums and Gmail contacts by simply adding an account to another Android device, but third-party application settings, locally stored files and protected items, like Wi-Fi passwords, remain inaccessible.

Many Third-Party Apps Increasingly Take Advantage of Cloud Services

Although modern desktop and mobile operating systems may still not be developed with a “cloud first” strategy, many third-party app developers are working at integrating with cloud services and using cloud backends to process and serve content at a brisk pace.

Cross-platform development company Appcelerator highlighted this trend in its Q2 mobile developer survey.

Appcelerator and IDG’s survey indicated that “84% of respondents said that they are using at least one cloud-enabled or cloud-based service in their applications today.” Although much of this activity is still based around the social cloud — integrating with services like Facebook or Twitter, an increasing number are using cloud-based commerce platforms or adding support for enterprise cloud backends.

Perhaps most telling, 44% of respondents are deploying parts of their apps using cloud platforms services from companies like Amazon or Microsoft. We’re approaching a point in mobile application development where content within the app is sourced from a data connection or API as much as it is embedded and executed through pure native code. This not only makes it easier for developers to bring the same content and services to multiple platforms, it makes it easier for users to access their data in other apps on other devices.

A trend — especially in the iOS App Store — is the increasing number of applications that are designed to integrate directly with cloud-based services. I have an entire iOS folder of note-taking apps dedicated to interfacing directly with Dropbox, for example, rather than using native storage on the phone itself.

The advantage of this sort of connectivity is that accessing an app on an iPhone or an iPad displays the same data. Moreover, that data is also accessible from the web or desktop.

Virtualization companies like VMWare are working to create virtualized instances — run from the cloud — of desktop computers, accessible on the iPhone, Android and iPad. The next step is to natively integrate the data on the phone with the data in another virtual machine, without having to rely on cumbersome syncing or file transfer procedures.

Better Integration is On its Way

Mobile cloud computing might still be in its infancy, however it is clear that mobile platform developers and app makers are embracing the cloud. Amazon, a company that has almost seamlessly rolled out its cloud platform to thousands upon thousands of developers, while also integrating that platform into its Kindle, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon MP3 products, is leading the way.

Google and Apple are both rumored to be taking a more proactive and cloud-centric approach to future versions of Android and iOS, while also building mobile-friendly cloud services.

Cloud integration also plays a big part in the future of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Mango platform. From integrating seamlessly with multiple networks and services for accessing documents, email and media to building more hooks for the cloud into is developer SDK, Windows Phone is betting big on the cloud.

The future for the cloud and mobile is bright — even if it might take some time to develop.

Series Supported by AceProject

This series is supported by AceProject, a web-based project management software that helps businesses of all sizes in 80+ countries, since 2001. The software offers a collaboration platform for organizations that need to manage projects, tasks, documents, and time sheets. Create your free AceProject account here.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Stefano Ferri.

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Opera Mini 6 Lands on the iPhone & iPad [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 May 2011 12:49 PM PDT

Opera has released its latest mobile browser for the iPhone and iPad.

In April 2010, Opera Mini 5 made its way to the iPhone and quickly became a huge hit.

Like Opera Mini for other platforms, Opera Mini 6 [iTunes link] for iOS not only allows users to access web pages more quickly over slower connections (thanks to data traffic compression), it also has a number of useful features not found in the native iOS browser, Safari. These features include better panning and zooming for viewing sites that don’t have a mobile stylesheet, more adaptive rendering to take advantage of the iPhone 4 retina display, and an easy way to share links or pages via Facebook, Twitter or MyOpera.

For iPad users, the browser has been formatted to fit the larger device.

As far as alternative browsers go, iCab Mobile [iTunes link] is still my personal favorite. Opera Mini 6 has a nice new UI, some enhanced features and best of all, is free. For that reason, it’s worth a download for users looking for something new, especially if you often work in areas with slow data speeds.

More About: Browsers, iphone apps, opera, opera mini 6

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Evernote Releases Unique Features For Chrome Browser

Posted: 24 May 2011 12:09 PM PDT

Evernote, the newly social note-taking system, released an improved version of its extension for Google’s Chrome browser Tuesday. The update has a new look, allows for better note-clipping, and offers the ability to search the web and Evernote at the same time.

The Evernote Chrome Extension, a browser button Evernote users click to save content on the web, is now capable of selecting the entire body of a blog post or article — no highlighting required.

The feature is called “Article Clips,” and it’s intended to make it even easier and faster for users to clip and save web content to Evernote.

Evernote has also introduced “simultaneous search,” an addition to the Chrome extension that searches Evernote and Google, Yahoo or Bing at the same time. Users need only perform a search query as they normally would. Evernote will display notes matching the query above the standard search results. Ideally, the feature should help users better recall if they’ve already saved notes related to their queries.

These browser-based upgrades are unique to the Chrome browser extension, at least for the time being.

“Google Chrome allows us to develop functionality that is often significantly more difficult to replicate in other browsers,” Evernote’s VP of marketing Andrew Sinkov says. “We do hope to extend these capability to other platforms.”

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Russian Search Engine Yandex Surges to $11 Billion Valuation in IPO

Posted: 24 May 2011 11:21 AM PDT

Yandex has become the latest Internet company to enjoy a significant pop after going public. The Russian search engine made its debut on Nasdaq on Tuesday, with shares surging from an offer price of $25 per share to as high as $42 before settling in the mid-30s.

At a price of $35 per share (around where the company was trading as of 2 p.m. ET), the company is now valued at more than $11 billion. Although its shares didn't spike as much as those of LinkedIn, which more than doubled in their first day of trading last week, Yandex is the biggest tech IPO of the year, having raised $1.3 billion in the deal.

Yandex's revenue totaled $439.7 million in 2010 and $137 million (with a profit of $29 million) in the first quarter of this year. The company holds 65% of the Russian search market compared to the 22% share Google has amassed.

At its current valuation, Yandex trades at about 25 times its 2010 revenue. LinkedIn traded at about 36 times its 2010 revenue after its IPO (and is still trading around that valuation). Chinese search leader Baidu, which may be a more apt comparison to Yandex, trades at 32 times its 2010 sales.

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10 Things You Need to Check Before Investing in a Startup

Posted: 24 May 2011 11:13 AM PDT

invest image

Bill Clark is the CEO of Microventures, a securities broker/dealer that uses crowdfunding to allow investors to invest between $1,000 to $10,000 in startups online. You can follow him on twitter @austinbillc.

You may already know where to find interesting startups, but what do you do once you’re actually ready to invest? It’s important to conduct your own due diligence on a startup before you write a check. You shouldn't only rely on a great pitch, or assume others are doing the due diligence for you.

Let's go over some items that you should investigate.

1. Understand the Industry

While you are looking for startups to invest in, make sure you invest in what you know. If you are a high tech expert and someone comes along with the next great idea in biotech, you might get caught up in the hype. The problem is that you may not have a deep knowledge of the market.

Your decision could be swayed more by the sales pitch than your actual experience, making the investment more risky. Make sure you read up and understand the industry before you put any money down.

2. Get to Know the Team

When you are investing in a startup, you are really investing in the team. When the direction needs to be changed because something is not working, having a good team is the difference between success and failure. You want to make sure that the co-founders have experience in what they are trying to accomplish. Have they been successful with another company, or, if this is their first business venture, how well do they work together?

Find out what their history is with each other. Knowing who is running the business is as important as what they are trying to run. A bad team can ruin a great business.

3. Assess the Monetization Strategy

Does the company already have a strategy on how it is going to make money? Twitter focused on growing its user base at first and waited to unveil how they were going to become profitable. You should at least have an idea of a few ways that the startup can charge for its service and it should be a reasonable price that you would pay as a user. You want to make sure that the founders have a strategy even if they are not executing on it yet.

4. Size Up the Competition

You need to understand who is competing with your startup for the same customers. Are the features something that the competition doesn't currently offer? How quickly can the competition create something similar and what would happen if they did? The competition might also have the potential to acquire the startup in question, so you’ll want to investigate the competition’s acquisition history as well.

5. Review the Adviser List

If the startup has advisers, you should call them to understand how they are helping. Are they offering advice when needed? Helping to connect with people? Or are they just a name on a slide? You should also see how long the advisory period will last.

It isn't the end of the world if the startup doesn't have a list of advisers, but if they are using their names as a selling point in the pitch, they should be active.

6. Check the Cap Table

You should look at the cap table to see how much stock has been issued and how many investors are on the list. You can see the valuation of the company and also if there is an option pool and how it will affect the shareholders.

7. Investigate the Financials

It is important to review the financials of a startup. Why? Because it will show you the money, of course. You can see how many assets they have, liabilities you may have overlooked and any potential revenue. You can also see how they are spending the money they currently have.

What did they spend the seed money on? Was it development costs? Marketing? Or did they give the founders raises and waste the money on toys? Every startup should have financial history, so make sure you take a look and understand the story it tells.

8. Review the Plans for Future Funding

How does the startup plan to use the next round of capital? They should have a solid idea of what they plan to spend it on. Typically, startups will give a high-level breakdown with sections like growth, marketing and development. It is important to get more details.

Look at the bigger expenses and understand those costs. Does development mean they are going to hire more technical people? If so, how many and at what cost? Is there really a marketing plan, or just a number they came up with because it sounded good?

9. Note the Burn Rate

It can take a startup thee months or more to raise capital, so you want to make sure you understand how long the money raised will last. Will they burn through the cash in six months, 12 months or longer? I like to make sure the round will last for at least 12 months — ideally 15 months or more. This allows the startup to focus more on building a great product rather than trying to ramp up for another round of financing.

10. Look Over the Legal Documents

You should look over items like articles of incorporation, by-laws, and board and shareholder meeting minutes. This will give you some insight into how the company was formed, who is on the board of directors, who has control, and what was discussed in the board meetings. Making sure a startup is upholding ethical and legal obligations ensures your investments will not be going toward financing shady deals.

This is by no means a complete list, and everyone should have their own set of criteria when evaluating an investment opportunity. However, these 10 points should give you a basic understanding of a startup’s health before you write a check. When you first start investing, it is a good idea to invest with other angels that have more experience or are knowledge experts in the startup's industry. That way, they can help you out with the due diligence process and find things that you may have overlooked or should at least consider before making an investment.

For more lists, how-tos and other resources on this topic, check out Mashable Explore!

Images courtesy of Flickr, MyTudut, and iStockphoto, Andresr, peepo

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Catchy Tribute to People of Walmart Goes Viral [VIDEO]

Posted: 24 May 2011 10:41 AM PDT

These aren't the greatest times for Walmart. U.S. sales are down, its foray into selling high-end goods didn't work out well and now there's a catchy song deriding the “People of Walmart.”

With more than 500,000 views since its release earlier this month, "People of Walmart" by Jessica Frech has attracted the attention of YouTube Trends. The video uses images provided by the People of Walmart blog, which launched in 2009 and caught on quickly. Since then, there's been a People of Walmart rap as well.

Frech's video and song [iTunes link] is a bit more gentle than the rap, but not by much.

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Sony Reports Another Hacker Attack

Posted: 24 May 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Sony has reported another security breach, this time a hacker attack that affects 8,500 user accounts on Sony Music Entertainment Greece websites where fans can subscribe to newsletters.

The company told Dow Jones Newswires that it had discovered the attack on Sunday evening, the same day that security firm Sophos and Hacker News pointed it out.

Usernames, passwords, email addresses and phone numbers were all stolen in the attack, Sony told Dow Jones Newswires, but no credit card numbers were involved in the free sites. Sony says it immediately shut down the websites and will restore them after a security review.

The security breach comes less than two weeks after Sony restored its PlayStation Network. The company had shut down the network on April 20 after discovering an attack that compromised user information from 77 million accounts. Later the company admitted that the hackers attacked Sony Online Entertainment at the same time and may have stolen information from another 24.6 million accounts.

Sony estimates that incident cost the company $171 million. That’s not the only bad news for the company though. In addition to the attack on its websites in Greece, Dow Jones Newswires reports that Sony also found traces of unauthorized access in Thailand and Indonesia. And PC World reports that analysts have discovered vulnerable pages in Sony Music Japan.

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Video Sharing App War Heats Up: BlipSnips Adds Twitter Integration & Geolocation

Posted: 24 May 2011 09:36 AM PDT

The social video sphere grows ever wider Tuesday with the introduction of BlipSnips 2.0, an updated TechStars-incubated mobile app that puts the focus on sharing and tagging experiences.

BlipSnips [iTunes link] for iPhone and Facebook was launched in January 2011 with early angel investors including Chris Kelly, former chief privacy officer at Facebook. The Boulder, Colorado-based startup has seen 125,000 downloads since then of the iPhone app, which boasts the unique ability to tag friends using their Facebook accounts at specific points in a video, as well as to add comments to particular time stamps (much like in SoundCloud’s mobile app). Users can then post those videos to Facebook.

Now, the offering is more robust. Improvements include a new “BlipSnip video theater” rendered in HTML5 where users can view, tag and comment; a public feeds list; the ability to tag friends from Twitter as well as Facebook; the ability to tag your location in a video; Twitter sharing; new following/follower features and more. The company also has a new mobile website, as well as its original website, where you can tag and share YouTube videos.

“In effect, what we’re trying to do is put the social into video, rather than creating a video app that has social as its by-product,” says CEO and co-founder John Bliss. “We’re more a social app first, video second.”

Bliss and fellow co-founder Gregory Keller differentiate the app from rising star Viddy by asserting that BlipSnips places social above aesthetics — Viddy is basically Instagram for video, allowing users to put filters and other effects on short clips.

“Our product is how do your friends interweave themselves within the body of the video — and that’s the future,” says Keller.

In essence, the app is much more like SocialCam, from the guys behind However, that app only allows you to comment and tag friends in the video wholesale, rather than at specific points, and lacks geo-location.

“We’re all about moments in time within the video,” says Keller. “It’s the concept of associating pieces of data, important social data, with moments in time of video.”

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5 Easy Ways to Liven Up Your Facebook Stream

Posted: 24 May 2011 08:57 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

As more advertisers and brand marketers realize the value of social media, they are flocking to set up Pages on Facebook, the largest social network of them all.

The stats are impressive. 50% of Facebook’s more than 500 million active users are creating and consuming content on the social network on any given day, and the average U.S. user spends nearly six hours per month browsing around on the social network.

With the shift to growing social media consumption, brands should be taking every step to improve their presences on social platforms, starting with the behemoth that is Facebook.

Whether your business is new to the platform or it has been around for years, there is always room for improvement. Here are five quick and easy ways to make your Facebook stream more lively for fans.

1. Showcase Your Customers

Paint Along NYC, a New York City-based company offering painting workshops, uses Facebook to build its online community. After each painting class, the instructor uploads photos of the attendees with their works of art to the Paint Along NYC Facebook Page. Each photo album is labeled with the date of the class and the item that was painted, so that customers can easily find and tag their pictures.

During class, the instructor makes sure that attendees are aware that their photos can be found on the company’s public Facebook Page.

2. Have a Sense of Humor

Humor is said to increase a person’s levels of happiness and hope, so why not share happiness via Facebook?

Jules Thin Crust, a group of organic pizza shops in Pennsylvania, runs its Facebook Page with humor and community in mind. Operated by owner John Ordway and multiple store managers, the Jules Facebook Page has a very homey feeling. The Jules social media team doesn’t take itself too seriously — an advantage that many small businesses have over large branding-dominated corporations. When Facebook fans joke around, Jules Facebook admins are comfortable jumping right in there with the fun. The casual tone used by Jules staffers — and the fact that they personally know some of the fans — makes the updates more personable, relevant and relatable.

3. Give ‘Em Something To Consume

With such high engagement stats, Facebook has brands and content creators turning heads. Etsy, the commerce platform for handmade goods, is among the brands on Facebook that understands its following and then creates and curates content to fit its needs.

As expected, Etsy’s Facebook Page features a stream of the quirkiest products that are offered on its site. But the page also features a fair amount of original and curated content, including blog posts and videos that would be of interest to its followers. Some of the content originates from the Etsy Blog. While many of the links and videos are purely for fun, these pieces often start conversations among Etsy fans on the Page.

4. Ask Questions

It’s not enough to be broadcasting promotional messages — brands should make an effort at engaging with their audiences. Asking questions is a great way to kick off that two-way dialogue.

Take a look at any brand page on Facebook — it’s quite likely that posts with questions get more action than ones without questions. ReadyMade magazine, for example, mixes up the format of posts on its Facebook Page. Posts with questions seem to prompt more conversation, especially if the question is easy to answer. People are inclined to offer their opinions, especially when it’s so simple to get involved.

5. Take Us Behind the Curtain

Whether you own a restaurant, a tech startup or a construction company, your customers are interested in who works at your company and what goes on behind the scenes. And so, providing a glimpse behind the curtain can be an effective and engaging way to populate your Facebook Page.

You may think there aren’t many ways to make a car dealership more interesting or welcoming, but a well-run Facebook Page helps one New Jersey dealership exude a friendly vibe. Lester Glenn Auto Group uses Facebook to promote the cars it sells, announce philanthropic projects and make small talk with customers. Recent posts about holidays and summer camps have seen success relative to other posts, probably because of their non-promotional and down-to-earth tone.

The page also features lots of pictures from inside the dealership, including ones that highlight employees and events. A recent post, for example, celebrates the birthday of Internet Sales Rep Stacy Myers. These depictions of life at the dealership give fans a look inside the company, and they also help to humanize the brand.

Your Suggestions

Facebook can be a difficult medium for businesses to crack, since it’s one of the more personal social platforms out there. What tips would you suggest for brands hoping to liven up their Facebook streams?

More Facebook Resources on Mashable

- 3 Facebook Mobile Trends to Watch This Year
- HOW TO: Avoid and Prevent Facebook Spam
- 5 Best Practices for Fashion Retailers on Facebook
- HOW TO: Implement a Social Good Campaign on Facebook
- 6 Best Practices for Media Companies on Facebook

More About: business, facebook, MARKETING, online marketing, social media

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New Nook’s Software Innovations: Page Turning, Social Networking

Posted: 24 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT

Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Simple Touch Reader is selling for $139, the same suggested retail price as Amazon’s Kindle. But the Nook has some incremental improvements that could win over customers.

Perhaps the biggest innovation, on the software side, can be seen while turning pages. On the Kindle, when you flip a page, the screen goes dark before the new page appears, sometimes with a lingering image of the last page — an effect known as “ghosting.” Barnes & Noble executives say the new Nook improves upon that experience with 80% less flashing.

The other big innovation can be seen in battery life. The Simple Touch Reader (pictured with Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch) will run for two months on a single charge, compared to less than a month for the Kindle. Otherwise, the new device runs on Android 2.1 and uses the E-Ink Pearl display.

Finally, there is a social media layer to the Nook. In April, Barnes & Noble introduced an app called Nook Friends that lets you trade recommendations with your friends on Facebook and off. Jamie Iannone, Barnes & Noble’s president of digital products, says he believes the company’s recommendation algorithm, which combines reviews from friends and experts, is a big differentiator. “It helps you figure out what you’re going to read next,” Iannone says.

Image courtesy of Business Wire

More About: amazon, barnes & noble, ereaders, Kindle, nook

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Logitech C910 Webcam Delivers HD Video to Mac and PC Users

Posted: 24 May 2011 08:00 AM PDT

The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging … now that's positivenergy™.

Product: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910

Price: $99.99 MSRP, available for less at some online retailers.

What It’s Good For: Capturing high-quality video recordings from a Mac or PC or for using video chat programs like Skype, FaceTime and Windows Messenger.

Who It’s Good For: Users looking for an enhanced web camera experience that is capable of recording HD-quality video. The wide-angle of the lens is ideal for users that frequently want to include more than one person in a shot.

Limitations: Although the C910 webcam does record video in HD, users must employ the included Logitech Vid HD software in order to get full 1080p. HD video calling is more limited on the Mac.

Bottom Line: At $99, the C910 is a quality HD web camera that works with both Windows and Mac OS X. For the price, it delivers solid performance and high-quality video.

A Look at the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910

Logitech released its flagship HD webcam in June 2010, but until January, it was a Windows-only device. As a Mac OS X user who does a lot of web video, I have been disappointed by the dearth of good HD options for my OS of choice.

The Logitech C910 is a small device that comes with a universal clip that can be affixed to the top of most laptops or LCD monitors. The clip isn’t as nice or as versatile as some of Logitech’s less-expensive web cameras, but it does what it needs to do.

The camera connects to a Mac or PC using USB, and users can opt to install the included software from a CD-ROM or download the latest version off the web. In Mac OS X 10.5 and higher, the device shows up automatically in compatible programs as a USB-Class Camera, even if you don’t install the secondary software.

The one major disadvantage of the C910 — and a disadvantage that is common to most HD webcams — is that in order to record 1080p video, the included Logitech software is required.

HD calling on the Mac is limited to the Logitech Vid HD program (Skype for Mac doesn’t currently support HD video calls), but Windows users can use Skype, Vid HD or Windows Messenger to make video calls in 720p.

Fortunately, the included recording software is robust enough for many purposes. The Mac OS X version allows users to choose to save the file as compressed or as a raw video file for editing in an external editor. Video recordings can also be uploaded directly to Facebook or YouTube from the software itself.

Even in non-HD mode, the web camera provides good color and especially full audio. We used the camera for our interview with Paul Feig, and while the overall video quality was poor thanks to a suboptimal connection and a Ustream configuration that wasn’t fully optimized for Flash Media Live Encoder, the results were serviceable and the audio pickup was better than expected.

Seeing is believing, so here is an unedited video, recorded in 1080p (compressed) and uploaded directly to YouTube. The audio hiss in the background is from our office, but otherwise, we’re pleased with the results.

Series Supported by Energizer®

The Gadget of the Day Series is supported by the Energizer® Inductive Charger, which brings you the next generation of charging with Qi technology. Qi is the new universal standard for wireless charging. Energizer® has always been designed with performance and responsibility in mind … now that's positivenergy™.

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- GoFlex Satellite, the Wi-Fi Hard Drive for iPad Movies and More
- Will the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse Click With New Users?
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More About: Gadget of the Day Series, logitech, logitech c910 webcam, reviews, web video, webcams

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Microsoft Unveils Mango, the Latest Version of Windows Phone

Posted: 24 May 2011 07:59 AM PDT

Microsoft held dual events in New York City and London on Tuesday to introduce the latest version of Windows Phone 7 — codename “Mango” — to the world. Mashable attended the New York City event and got a firsthand look at what is next for the software giant and its mobile operating system.

Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7 to the world seven months ago in an attempt to reboot its mobile strategies. With Mango, Microsoft is hoping to use Windows Phone 7 as a base, building out features and capabilities in the OS to make phones “smarter and easier.”

The company outlined its three focus areas for Mango:

  • Communications
  • Apps
  • Internet

We’ll be discussing Microsoft’s strategy more thoroughly in a later post, but the big takeaway is that Mango will be an evolution of the Windows Phone 7 strategy. Features like multitasking, better cloud integration and better platform tools are all part of Mango’s roadmap.

Mango tools will be available for developers today and is slated for a fall release. In addition to continuing its hardware partnerships with LG, HTC and Samsung, the company announced that Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE will also release Mango handsets. The biggest hardware maker, however, will be Nokia. The first Nokia phone to run Windows Phone will run Mango. Microsoft didn’t explicitly promise a fall debut, but says that Nokia handsets running Mango are already in the lab.

Many of the best ideas in Windows Phone 7 are being carried to fruition in Mango and with developer support; this could be Microsoft’s shot to take on some of the bigger players.

More About: mango, microsoft, Mobile 2.0, Nokia, windows phone 7

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Twitter Users Get New Email Notification Options

Posted: 24 May 2011 07:19 AM PDT

From now on, Twitter will send an email notification if a user you follow retweets or favorites one of your tweets.

Twitter’s official Twitter account announced the change Monday. The option is being gradually rolled out and is not yet visible to all users. When it becomes active, you will be able to turn the notifications on and off in the Twitter settings page (pictured below).

Another new option: you’ll receive an email notification when you’re sent a reply or you’re mentioned in a tweet. (Previously you were only able to receive notifications when someone follows you and when a user sends you a direct message.)

Although the changes are subtle, we reckon they will be useful to those users who like to receive email notifications, as the new options provide a handy way to keep a log of all the activity surrounding you as a user. However, it does appear that the default setting is to receive the notifications. So, Twitter power users, prepare yourself for a barrage of emails.

More About: email, notification, retweets, twitter

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Barnes & Noble Unveils Ereader With 2 Months of Battery Life [PICS]

Posted: 24 May 2011 07:19 AM PDT

After announcing that it has captured 25% of the ebook market, Barnes & Noble unveiled a small touchscreen E-Ink ereader (tongue twister, anyone?) at a press event in New York City Tuesday.

Priced at $139, the Wi-Fi-only, Simple Touch Reader is designed to more closely compete with Amazon’s Wi-Fi-only Kindle 3, which is likewise priced at $139. The new Nook device improves upon the Kindle 3 in several ways, however.

First, it sports a touchscreen, reducing the number of buttons to one: a simple on/off switch on the upper back. It also has up to two months of battery life — double that of the Kindle, and greater than any ereader in the industry. And although the device is substantially smaller than the Kindle at 6 x 5 x 0.47 inches (versus 7.5 x 4.8 x 0.335), it sports the same 6-inch screen.

And, at 7.5 ounces, it’s a full ounce lighter than the Kindle 3.

The device is available for pre-order now in-store and on, and will ship “in time for Father’s Day” on June 19, says Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch.

In addition, Barnes & Noble announced that the prices of its first edition Nook Wi-Fi and 3G + Wi-Fi devices will be reduced to $119 and $169 respectively. The price of the Nook Color, a heavy, 7-inch, Wi-Fi-only Android tablet, will remain the same.

Yesterday, Kobo announced that it is bringing a $129 touchscreen ereader to Walmart and Best Buy stores in June, although it only offers 10 days of battery life.

Additional Photos

The Simple Touch Reader features a single on/off button on the back.

A few of the covers created for the device.

Images courtesy of Fast Company

More About: barnes & noble, nook, simple touch reader

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Barnes & Noble: We’ve Captured 25% of Ebook Market

Posted: 24 May 2011 07:09 AM PDT

At a press event in New York Tuesday, Barnes & Noble announced that it has captured more than 25% of the ebook market, a 5% increase from the year previous.

The company also announced that the Nook is the bestselling Android tablet in the U.S. and that more than 1 million applications have been downloaded through the Nook platform. In addition, the retailer has established relationships with 8 million digital libraries and more than 50,000 publishers.

Perhaps more impressively, Barnes & Noble has sold more than 1.5 million subscriptions to newspapers and magazines since the feature became available six months ago.

But numbers were just the leadup to the real announcement: a new, smaller, touchscreen ereader called the Simple Touch Reader, which boasts two months of battery life.

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