Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Automated Video Editing Site Makes Movie Magic Out of Raw Footage”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Automated Video Editing Site Makes Movie Magic Out of Raw Footage”

Automated Video Editing Site Makes Movie Magic Out of Raw Footage

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 04:31 AM PDT

Devices proffering video capture are nearing ubiquity. Hence, so too are lackluster, unedited video clips. Magisto to the rescue.

The Israel-based startup is launching to the public Tuesday with an automated video editing platform. Magisto’s promise: Give us your unedited footage, and we’ll give you a short movie that you can proudly show off to friends and family.

In fact, that’s nearly all there is to the site. You can upload up to 16 video files, add a title and soundtrack — select from available tracks or add your own — and then sit back and wait for an email to notify you that your mini movie is ready to be shared.

Magisto is not for the artistically-inclined, obsess-over-every-detail video editor. It’s for average Joes and Janes who don’t have the time or interest to bother with learning or using complicated editing software.

“The average person doesn't edit videos,” says Magisto co-founder and CEO Oren Boiman. “So they either post long boring videos nobody wants to watch, or they save them on their hard drive — unwatched, unedited, unshared. We made Magisto to give people a way to take their videos and turn them into movies that are fun to watch and easy to share.”

The startup is keeping mum on its secret sauce, but does say that its proprietary technology is designed to automatically find the best footage in your videos. The technology is said to recognize faces, understand the difference between people, objects, pets and landscapes, and even capture the intent of the filmmaker.

Magisto’s magic formula, from what we’ve seen, works impressively well — so well, we’d like to see the startup release mobile applications for quicker uploads, and remove its branding at the end of finished movies.

Coinciding with Tuesday’s launch, Magisto is announcing that it has raised $5.5 million in a Series B round of financing.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, adventtr

More About: Magisto, startup, video editing

Today’s Top Stories in Tech, Mobile & Social Media

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 03:47 AM PDT

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning’s edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world. We're keeping our eyes on four particular stories of interest today.

Facebook to Launch "Major" Profile Redesign at f8

Facebook plans to roll out a major redesign of user profiles at its f8 developer conference this week, Mashable has learned. The redesign is designed to make the site more “sticky,” and is rumored to include the launch of a music and media platform and more robust shopping capabilities.

Google Wallet Has Arrived

Google's mobile payment system, Google Wallet, is now available publicly to those who use Sprint Nexus S 4G phones coupled with Citi MasterCards or Visa cards. Here’s why we don’t think you should trade your physical wallet for a Google Wallet just yet.

Samsung to Make Bada Open Source?

Samsung is considering turning its mobile platform Bada into an open-source project next year, according to reports.

Amazon Appstore Goes International for Some

Amazon's Appstore, which launched in the U.S. in March 2011 to compete with Google's Android Market, is now also available in Europe, India and Australia. The expansion has not yet been announced by Amazon.

Further News

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

More About: first to know series

Samsung Looking to Open-Source Bada [REPORT]

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 03:21 AM PDT

Samsung is considering turning its mobile platform Bada into an open-source project next year, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources.

The company also plans to expand Bada into a platform that could be used in devices other than smartphones, such as smart TV sets.

The move — unofficial and unconfirmed at this point — comes shortly after Google purchased Motorola Mobility, which puts Android smartphone manufacturers into an awkward position, as it means that Google will directly be competing against them on their own platform.

Recently, HTC CEO Cher Wang said the company is considering purchasing a mobile operating platform. HTC and Samsung are two biggest Android smartphone manufacturers, and Google’s acquisition has them both backpedaling from Android a little.

Samsung’s strategy seems to be different, though, as the company reportedly doesn’t have plans to purchase a new mobile operating system. Turning Bada, which so far hasn’t been very successful, into an open-source project, might be a push the platform needs to become relevant in the smartphone space.

[via WSJ]

More About: Bada, Mobile, platform, samsung, smartphone

For more Mobile coverage:

Amazon Appstore Goes International for Some

Posted: 20 Sep 2011 01:17 AM PDT

Amazon’s Appstore, originally launched in March 2011 as a competitor to Google‘s Android Market, has been a U.S.-only affair –until now.

Although there hasn’t been an official announcement from Amazon, the store is now also available in Europe, India and Australia. Until now, users from countries outside of the US could use the Appstore, but they had to register with the U.S. version of Amazon; now, they can use their localized Amazon account.

However, the store hasn’t opened its doors for everyone – some users from the aforementioned countries report that they still can’t access it.

If the Appstore is available to you, it’s well worth a visit. Beside offering thousands of Android apps, the Appstore features a free daily download, and you may find it better organized than Google’s original Android Market.

[Amazon Appstore via The Digital Reader]

More About: amazon, Amazon Appstore, android, App, apps, appstore, australia, europe, india

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Google Wallet: First Impressions

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 09:15 PM PDT

Google officially rolled out its Google Wallet mobile payment system Monday. We’ve been using a Sprint Nexus S 4G with Google Wallet for the past six weeks. Google Wallet is still in its infancy, but the system already shows a lot of promise.

Right now, Google Wallet only works with Citi-Mastercards and the Google Prepaid Card. Visa and Google announced a worldwide agreement to support the Visa payWave app, but it will still be up to the financial institutions and banks to add support.

Types of Mobile Payments

Over the past six weeks, I’ve used Google Wallet at a variety of locations around New York City. Thanks to its partnership with Mastercard, the NFC chip built into the Nexus S 4G works with any of the thousands of PayPass merchants. This means that if you are in a taxi cab or at Walgreens, you can just tap or wave your phone to make your payment.

The “tap and pay” method of payment is cool, but the Google Wallet feature that has the most potential is what Google is calling SingleTap. The SingleTap experience means that users can combine their coupons, loyalty cards and payment method all with one tap.

Google showed me a demo of the SingleTap payment using one of Macy’s POS terminals and the results were impressive. Using the Google Offers app that can save coupons directly to Google Wallet for Android, you can make a payment with your default payment type, apply the coupon you have saved and also apply the purchase to your loyalty card for that store. It’s a seamless process and it offers tangible value over fumbling through various cards.

Using Google Wallet

I’m the type of person that never goes anywhere without my phone. In fact, I’ve recently started using a phone case that doubles as a wallet. For me, the value proposition of not having to carry around various credit cards and instead just use my phone makes a lot of sense.

If you have never used NFC-enabled devices, it can take a bit of getting used to. The way Google Wallet is set up, it only works if the screen is on and unlocked. If you haven’t used your wallet within a certain period of time, you will also be prompted to enter an unlock code before using the app.

We’ve discussed the security behind NFC systems in the past, and Google has created its own Secure Element that adds an additional layer of security. Google hopes to make this Secure Element an accepted standard within the NFC space.

I liked the process of using Google Wallet. The one frustrating aspect was that my day-to-day credit card, my Bank of America Visa checkcard, couldn’t be tied directly to the system. I do have a Citi-Mastercard and that worked seamlessly with the system (after calling Citibank to get the card activated for use with Google Wallet), but having to use the Google Prepaid Card added an additional layer of complexity that just wasn’t worth the hassle unless I knew I was going to be buying something in advance.

Privacy, Google Offers & More

A big question that many would-be users are sure to have about Google Wallet is “does this mean Google knows what I buy.” The answer, at least right now, is no. Google does record local transactions on your phone, but these transactions are only identified by amount and location and are only viewable to you.

In practice, this means that if I look at my Google Wallet history, I only see a date, an amount and an approximate location. Google says that it is working to roll out a more robust digital receipt system in the future.

I appreciate the concern for my privacy — and I certainly do NOT want my purchases being tracked (aside from how they are already tracked with existing loyalty card programs) — but a big disadvantage, at least right now, of the Google Wallet is that receipts are still printed. When I can have access to all of my receipts within the Google Wallet app, that will make the system that much more useful.

The biggest opportunity we see, right now, is for Google Offers. Google Offers as an app is a nice way to browse for deals, specials and coupons. You can clip those offers digitally to Google Wallet and then show the coupons at merchants, whether they are NFC-enabled or not.

The potential for the deal discovery space, especially with the addition of geolocation, is something I have been waiting to see take off for nearly two years. Google is being very cautious to make its experience as low-friction as possible. However, with the right tweaking and perhaps with greater social integration, a la Google Places and Google+, this component could really separate Google from the pack.

This Is Just the First Step

With the announcement that American Express, Discover and Visa have all licensed their NFC technologies to Google, the next step is to get the thousands of financial institutions and merchants on-board with an NFC system.

Meanwhile, the NFC space is highly competitive. Visa has its own mobile wallet initiatives, as does American Express and PayPal. We’re at an interesting place in the market; we’re finally at a point where lots of activity is happening in this space and mainstream adoption seems closer than ever, yet these competing solutions complicate short-term adoption.

Google’s approach is to create a platform that it wants everyone else to build on. That’s the general message the company has presented to me in regard to Google Wallet. It wants things like the Secure Element and the way it is being used by point-of-sale systems.

Interestingly, this is a similar game that competitors are taking too. Visa, for example, is licensing its technology to Google while developing its own platform. When I spoke with Visa last month, the company told me that its goal was to be wherever consumers want to make payments. That’s a vision shared by many of the major players in the payments space.

Google Wallet’s challenge will be to differentiate itself in a burgeoning market. This is just the beginning of what is sure to be a major technology story within the next 18 months.

Let us know what you think of NFC, Google Wallet and the future of payments in the comments.

More About: google wallet, mobile payments, nfc

KeepRecipes Is Like Instapaper for Food

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 08:21 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: KeepRecipes

Quick Pitch: An easy way to save recipes from websites, cookbooks and other users in one place.

Genius Idea: Selling digital versions of paper cookbooks that automatically plug into the system.

My current online recipe box is my inbox. While surfing the web’s recipe databases, blogs and websites, I email links to myself that I hope I’ll be able to find by searching my gmail later. But as my unwieldy inbox pushes the recipes further and further down the page, I’m more likely to forget about them than cook them.

KeepRecipes is courting home chefs like me by promising to put all of our online and offline recipes in one neat virtual box — and help us discover new dishes at the same time.

The startup attempts this through multiple tools. My favorite is a bookmarklet that works like Instapaper for food. By clicking on the KeepRecipes button, users can easily save the ingredient list on any webpage to their KeepRecipes account. The same recipes synch to a free iPhone app that can be pulled out in a grocery store or a kitchen (there’s even a feature that keeps the phone’s screen lit during cooking time so that users need not touch their phones with messy hands).

Due to copyright issues, the bookmarklet can only auto-populate the ingredient list of the recipe. But if the user highlights instructions before clicking the bookmarklet, those are also saved with the ingredient list.

Another way to add recipes to KeepRecipes is to search for content added by others on the site. If you’re in a browsing mood, it helps to create what the site calls a “taste graph” by following publications and users whose recipes you like. The New York Times, Food Network, Not Your Mother‘s series and The Today Show all have presences on the site.

At this point, users still need to add recipes from paper cookbooks manually. But KeepRecipes is working on an easier way to do this that adds a revenue source to the site at the same time. The plan is to sell access to digital versions of paper cookbooks that come automatically loaded into user recipe boxes. The Not Your Mother’s series and A. J. Rathbun’s cocktail book Dark Sprits and cookbooks from the A Baker’s Field Guide series are just a few that will be available before Thanksgiving.

For users who already own some cookbooks in paper, the startup will offer a digital version for a small fee after proving they own the book through specific questions (i.e. “on page 34, what is the third word?”). Harvard Common Press has already agreed to sell digital versions of their cookbooks this way.

KeepRecipes tried out the premium recipe model in April by selling a cookbook of Japan-inspired recipes that has raised more than $5,000 for the Red Cross Japan earthquake and tsunami relief fund. Later, they launched a cookbook with recipes from famous moms that benefits FEED, an organization that helps feed hungry school children. Only users who bought a cookbook in this way have had access to the site up until recently.

Now is a difficult time to be courting home chefs. Foodily, Gojee and other startup recipe platforms are all gunning to be the site that cooks turn to before heading to their kitchens.

“There are a number of recipe startups and we’re aware of that,” says KeepRecipes CEO and co-founder Phil Michaelson, “but the way that we fit within the cooking process is very different — the idea that they can use the websites they’re already using, but then keep them with KeepRecipes. We’re helping them to use the recipes and to memorialize the occasion of what they cooked.”

Image courtesy of istockphoto, Loooby

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, cooking, Food, keeprecipes, recipes

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One Young World Mobilizes Youth to Create Positive Change

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 07:56 PM PDT

one young world

One Young World, a non-profit that provides an open platform for young people to create positive change, hopes to kick off a movement uniting young people across the world to advocate on behalf of the world’s youth. They’re calling this movement a “Youthquake.”

One Young World co-founder and Global CEO David Jones took the stage Monday at the Social Good Summit, along with three of the organization’s global ambassadors — Erin Schrode, Michael Teoh and Kwadwo Ofori Owusu — to talk about how social media and new technologies are being used to drive these youth movements.

One of the ways the non-profit unites youth is through annual summits, the most recent of which took place in September in Zurich, Switzerland. The goal of the summits is to give voice to the best and brightest youth leaders and provide them with a forum to discuss their solutions for world problems.

“If the world’s leaders actually listened to the brilliant young people around the world we’d be able to create positive change,” said Jones, who believes that many of the leaders are falling behind. According to Jones, 84% of young people believe it is their duty to change the world for the better. Each of the youth ambassadors traveling with Jones took the stage to discuss the action they’re taking to achieve that goal.

Schrode, of New York, started the Teens Turning Green campaign and founded The Schoolbag, an eco-education movement based in Haiti. Teoh, of Malaysia, is a youth advocate, consulting government, for-profit companies and non-profits on youth engagement. Owusu, of South Africa, teaches debate to high schoolers in Cape Town’s underdeveloped townships.

“We have the tools at our fingertips. We can harness the power of collective action,” said Schrode, speaking about the “power of social medial to reach the masses.” Schrode said that youth can “shake things up” just by connecting with one another.

"This is our time,” said Michael Teoh, "to use technology responsibly and socially to cause change in the world.”

Do you know of any young people starting powerful social movements? Tell us about them in the comments.

More About: Social Good, social good summit, Social Media

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Foursquare Now Keeps Home Addresses Private

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 06:55 PM PDT

Foursquare has rolled out a new privacy option to help prevent users from unwittingly sharing home addresses with strangers.

The update, first spotted by About Foursquare, enables the user to designate a Foursquare locale as a private residence by selecting “Home” as the venue’s primary category.

Applying the “Home” category will keep the actual address of the venue private to just the user and his or her friends, as well as allow the user to edit the venue or delete it altogether.

A Foursquare support entry further details: “Doing this will ensure that only you and your friends can see the address on the venue page; everyone else sees a zoomed out map with no map pin (rather than the real location). If a Mayorship, badge unlock or check-in is shared to Twitter or Facebook, the venue URL will include a map without a specific location for everyone.”

A Foursquare user can also flag a venue as his home or have it removed, even if he or she didn’t create it, according to Foursquare’s support site. “Go to the venue page on the website and click "Report a Problem" for a list of flagging options. Select "Venue is my home" and choose the best description,” the entry explains.

About Foursquare also reports that Foursquare is updating venues with the appropriate “Home” category should they appear to be members’ home addresses.

The new home privacy options will likely be received by members as welcome, but long overdue enhancements to the location-sharing service.

Update: A Foursquare spokesperson tells Mashable that the startup is in the process of slowly rolling out the feature. A formal announcement will be made later in the week.

Image courtesy of Flickr, lumierefl

More About: foursquare

Batman & Hobbits: Why Warner Bros. Is Betting Big on Film-Flavored Video Games

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 06:24 PM PDT

batman image

Warner Bros. is gearing up for some big video games this fall. We had a chance to log some hands-on time with Batman: Arkham City and Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Ultimately, while both games play differently, they share one thing in common.

Both games are loosely timed to upcoming movies from their respective franchises. For Batman, the game’s October 18 North American release lands ahead of Christopher Nolan’s last Dark Night film, slated for summer 2012. The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) game releases November 1, ahead of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film, slated for December 2012.

That may seem a long way off, but both films are already generating a ton of buzz. Leaked clips and images have turned viral immediately as they hit the web. Regardless, content-wise, both games are entirely separate from the looming blockbusters. Here’s a quick breakdown of each game.

Batman: Arkham City

Following the critically loved and financially successful Batman: Arkham Asylum, this game sees most of Batman’s foes escaping the loony bin and consequently running amok in the city. The game’s scope has expanded accordingly. Players can fly Batman around the city with a cape glide and grappling hook. Much of the core gameplay remains similar (sneak around, surprise bad guys, find clues, beat up thugs, use cool gadgets), but the real star of Batman is the city.

Rocksteady, the development team behind the game, spent plenty of time making sure Arkham City — a sort of crazy camp/island within Gotham — was as detailed as possible. You can explore any building you encounter, and each one has a remarkable amount of surprises. The team showed us some sample exploration with the aid of 3D flicker glasses. Quick movements while wearing the glasses causes some uncomfortable blur, but simply staring out over the buildings was very impressive.

The game looks amazing and controls are tight. Combat still feels a little like rock-paper-scissors, but it serves its purpose. It’s definitely not just a game for Batman fans, but knowing the lore can help explain why, for example, Two-Face’s level is rendered in two different styles.

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Remember when George Lucas said there was a whole part of Star Wars we’d never seen before, and subsequently created a television show out of its middle-zone mythology? Well, that’s basically what the team at Snowblind did with LOTR. War in the North focuses on a small but important blip in the story: The books’ main heroes (and the sole focus of the films) indicate that the bad guys didn’t win thanks to the efforts of warriors “in the North.” That’s you.

You’ll navigate this parallel mythology as one of three character types — elf, human, dwarf — as you defend the heck out of the North. Snowblind, most famous for creating the role-playing game Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, has taken a similar approach with LOTR. You work to level up your character, collecting cash and loot along the way. Though the main playable characters are all new, the game takes place in (and is licensed under) the film’s universe, meaning Gandalf looks and sounds like Sir Ian McKellen. The other main characters (and their movie-likenesses) will occasionally drop in for inspirational cameos.

The game itself is a blast to play for anyone interested either in LOTR or action role-playing games. This is, surprisingly, one of the first LOTR games to carry a “Mature” rating as there is plenty of gore.

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Both LOTR and Batman look great, but we only had a chance to play with demo builds. It remains to be seen if their concentrated excitement and plots can carry through to a longer, sustainable game experience.

What do you think? Do either of these games whet your whistle? Let us know in the comments.

More About: comic books, features, hands-on, video games, warner bros

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Social Good Summit Recap: Good News & Shocking Stats – Day 1

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 05:52 PM PDT

un image

The first day of Mashable‘s Social Good Summit has come to a close. Here’s where we discuss what was announced, explore the areas where social good can improve, and reveal some shocking stats.

There were some great highlights from Day One, which we’ve summed up for you here. If you’re interested in following what’s happening at the Summit, be sure to join us online at our livestream.

The Good News & What Was Announced

Ted Turner took the stage at 1 p.m. to talk about Next Generation Leadership. His words of advice? “Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell and advertise.”

Though only half-joking, Turner offered some more choice words which he received from Jacques Cousteau: “Even if we don’t know if we’re going to make it, what else can men of good consciousness do but fight into the bitter end… I’ve got a lot of flags on my boat,” he continued. “But I don’t have a white flag.”

Another bright spot was a panel featuring philanthropist Monique Coleman and UN Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos. Coleman spoke about how youths can get involved with social good projects and how pop culture can help. “Young people are talking about Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, but you can make them aware, within that, of what’s happening in Somalia, for example,” Coleman said. The good-natured talk even saw Amos offer Coleman a job.

One Young World, an online forum where youths can talk about global issues, featured some of its teenage ambassadors at the Social Good Summit– one from the U.S., one from Malaysia and one from Cape Town. Scott Harrison, charity: water’s Founder and CEO, announced the launch of a new campaign called Dollars to Projects, which tracks and provides feedback to all donors of what’s happening with charity: water’s global projects.

Howard W. Buffett announced the launch of LearnedByGiving.org, a website and education program to teach youths how to better invest and become the world’s next leader.

Where We Need to Improve

It wasn’t all sunshine at the Summit, as some of the speakers mentioned the areas where philanthropists need to improve. Turner spoke on the need for better communication: “We have enormous global communications today that we didn’t have 100 years ago, and we can do things today that we couldn’t 100 years ago and more should be expected of us… it’s no longer you or me, it’s you and me, and we’re either going to make it together or not at all.”

Nicholas Negroponte, Chairman and Founder of One Laptop per Child, spoke on how to bring education to a swathe of children in developing countries. His organization is leading a social experiment to see if his laptops can help children across the globe teach themselves how to read. Perhaps with a hint of disappointment, he said in 2001 that his computers were a huge hit in impoverished nations because they were the brightest light in the house.

Simon Mainwaring, founder and author of We First, talked about the tricky relationship between brands and philanthropy and cited an Edelman study that consumer trust in businesses to do the right thing has dropped 8 points in the past year.

Shocking Stats

The ugly included some of the most shocking stats brought up at the Summit. Coleman said teen suicide was the number one cause of teen death in countries including the United States, Australia and Japan, partially due to enormous social pressures on today’s youth. She saw volunteerism as a way out. “If we spent less time in the mirror and more in activism, I don’t think that would be the case,” she said.

Negroponte also had some shocking numbers about literacy in Afghanistan. He said 25% of the teachers in Afghanistan are technically illiterate, while the next highest 25% of teachers have only had one more year of higher education than the kids they are teaching.

Quote of the Day

“If every young person pursued their greatest passion and then said, ‘What part of this can be applied to social good?’ You don’t have to choose between being successful and being a philanthropist.” – Monique Coleman.

Preview of the Summit

Head over to our Summit page to find out about upcoming speakers, see detailed agendas for each day and even watch along on our livestream.

Event Details

Date: Monday, September 19, 2011, through Thursday, September 22, 2011

Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m. ET

Livestream: Join us online for the Livestream

Hashtag: Follow the hashtag #socialgood to keep up with the latest developments at the Social Good Summit.

Sponsored by Ericsson

For over a century, Ericsson has seen communications as a fundamental human right. Today, it is the leading provider of technology and services to network operators. Its networks connect 2 billion people and almost half of the world’s 5.5 billion mobile subscriptions. Now, Ericsson intends to do for broadband what it did for the telephone; make it mobile, available and affordable for all. Ericsson's vision is to be the prime driver of an all-communicating world, where Information and Communications technologies (ICT) come together to create a Networked Society. A Networked Society will bring many opportunities and challenges. As Ericsson works in the world, it aims to apply innovative solutions together with partners to make a real difference to peoples' lives, to business and to the economy, enabling change towards a more sustainable world. We call this Technology for Good.

Sponsored by Ericsson

More About: Social Good, social good summit, Social Media, United Nations

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Don’t Trade Your Wallet in for a Google Wallet Just Yet

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 04:44 PM PDT

Now that Google Wallet has officially rolled out, is it time to ditch your real wallet?

Probably not for a few years, experts who follow the mobile payments segment say. Their reasoning is fairly straightforward. What we’re seeing with Google, Isis and PayPal is an early land grab for a technology that won’t be adopted for possibly five years.

Here’s why:

Retailers Aren’t On Board Yet

Google Wallet, the company’s mobile payment system, is now available at various retailers, including CVS, RadioShack and Foot Locker and more are coming soon, but it’s not available in every outlet of those chains, just select locations.

How long until all the big retailers are offering Google Wallet in all of their stores? David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report, a trade publication covering the credit card market, says it will be five years or so. “It takes several years for a major U.S. retailer to decide to do something different at point of sale,” he says. “Even if they decided they wanted it today, it would still take two years.”

There Aren’t Enough Smartphones with NFC

If you want to use Google Wallet, you’ve got to have a phone with Near Field Communication. Right now, there are only a handful of such phones on the market. Bob Egan, founder of The Seraphim Group, says there are about 50 million NFC-enabled smartphones in the pipeline over the next 18 months, but even then the technology would not be widespread enough to be considered mainstream.

Consumers Aren’t Ready Yet

Changing consumer habits takes years. Remember, for instance, how slowly supermarket chains rolled out self-payment kiosks over the last decade? “You’re asking people to do something they don’t do right now,” says Egan. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Concerns over security will also complicate things, as will the payment system, in which the phone bill replaces credit card bills. “People don’t trust their carriers to get it right,” says Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates.

Google’s Goals

If this technology is still years away from adoption, why is Google making a big deal about Google Wallet now? Egan says that it all goes back to Google’s main business: advertising.

Tracking what consumers actually buy is a huge piece of the puzzle for advertisers. “They’re making assumptions on consumer behavior right now,” says Egan. “This will allow them to be more predictive.”

Google Wallet will also let Android keep up in the features war with iOS and BlackBerry, says Noah Elkin, an analyst with eMarketer, Over time, people will use their phones as a wallet, Elkin says.

“It’s another step of migrating everything we do onto a single device,” says Elkin, noting that smartphones have pretty much obviated the need for cameras. “It’s possible to envision that [phones] will supplant cameras, but consumers have been taking their cards out of their wallets for years and they don’t have a great problem with that.”

More About: ecommerce, Google, google wallet, nfc

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Facebook to Launch “Major” Profile Redesign at f8

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 03:57 PM PDT

Facebook plans to roll out a major redesign of user profiles at its f8 developer conference this week, Mashable has learned.

Details about the redesign are sparse, but two sources familiar with Facebook’s plans (who have asked to remain anonymous) have told us that the redesign is “major” and will make Facebook profiles nexuses for consuming content.

The profile changes will be part of a wider launch, one that will include launch of a music and media platform.

Here’s what we know so far about the profile redesign:

  • The redesigned profiles will be more “sticky,” says one source. One of the goals of the new profiles is to get users to stay on them for longer.
  • We already knew Facebook is launching a media platform at f8. However, we’ve also learned that the platform — which will include music and video from partner sites — will display the media content a user is watching or listening to on their profiles. Essentially, when you’re listening to Lady Gaga on Spotify, your friends can see and access that on your Facebook profile. This confirms a recent New York Times report.
  • The redesigned profiles are part of a larger push into social ecommerce. We don’t exactly know what that means, but we’ve heard whispers that Facebook intends to give Facebook Credits more prominence. We’ve also heard that a Facebook app store may emerge at f8.
  • Facebook’s push into ecommerce may be related Project Spartan, an HTML5-based mobile platform rumored to be launching soon.

Facebook is being tight-lipped about the changes; the company declined to comment on this story. However, more and more pieces of Facebook’s big launch continue to leak out as the excitement builds for f8 (feel free to send us screenshots if you have any) The company is currently under lockdown, trying to fix the final bugs before Thursday’s big launch.

What do you think Facebook will launch on Thursday? Let us know in the comments.

More About: f8, Facebook

YouTube Cover Song Face-Off: Cee Lo’s “Forget You”

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 03:40 PM PDT

Each week, Mashable picks a popular song, finds 10 covers of it and asks you to vote for your favorite.

Gwyneth Paltrow snagged an Emmy on Sunday for her recurring guest spot on Glee, in which she plays a substitute teacher who sings Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You.”

Cee Lo’s hit single — even the uncensored version, “F*** You” — spawned many more covers on YouTube. This week, we’ve broken the rules and picked 15 entertaining renditions instead of 10. Vote for your favorite version in the poll.

And if you know any YouTube cover artists who should be on our radar, please let us know in the comments.

Joseph Vincent

Christina Grimmie

James David

Karla Davis

Ryan Beatty

Wiriyapa Nui

Megan Nicole & Jason Chen

These Kids Wear Crowns


Stan Carrizosa

Tharwana & Aziz

Cover Drive

Lyle & Lyss

Spike the Punch


Gwyneth Paltrow

Cee Lo Green

To listen to more covers used in past YouTube Cover Song Face-Offs, click here.

Last Week’s Face-Off Winner

In the most intense face-off to date, a Melbourne trio held off a late comeback attempt from Tyler Ward with their cover of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” Kimmi Smiles, Maribelle Anes and Louna Maroun attracted almost 50% of the more than 9,500 votes cast.

Smiles told Mashable that she and her friends taped their well-produced rendition in Melbourne, where “shuffling” — the dance move in LMFAO’s song — originated. The video includes their fans as well as several famous Melbourne locations.

“This entire video was just basically to show where I lived, how amazing the locals are and how beautiful the city is,” says Smiles, who wants to duet someday with Beck as well as fellow YouTube artists Walk the Earth.

Here’s a collection of their best YouTube videos (two from each).

What popular song should we pick next week for the YouTube Cover Song Face-Off?

More About: Entertainment, Music, music videos, viral videos, YouTube, YouTube Cover Song Face-Off

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Pepsi Packaging Promotes “The X Factor” With Photo-Scanning Contest

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 03:04 PM PDT

Simon Cowell will return to reality television with the premiere of the highly anticipated music competition show The X Factor. Lead sponsor Pepsi is getting the word out with bold new packaging and a “Snap and Send” photo-scanning contest powered by mobile image recognition startup Pongr.

New Pepsi cans and bottles with The X Factor campaign are now appearing in stores. Three-hundred million cases of product will feature the new branding alongside an interactive call to action, one that favors mobile photo-sharing over QR code-scanning.

“By using our packaging as digital media and as a conduit in to the show, we are bringing the physical and digital worlds together for Pepsi consumers and The X Factor fans," Shiv Singh, Pepsi’s global head of digital, says.

The X Factor packaging invites Pepsi drinkers to snap a photo of The X Factor and Pepsi logos together and send them to TheXFactor@Pepsi.com. Those who do so will be entered into a contest to win a trip to Los Angeles to see a live broadcast. Mobile photo contributors will also instantly get back links to Pepsi-exclusive videos of The X Factor contestants and behind-the-scenes content.

Startup Pongr is powering the technology piece of the campaign, filtering submissions by decoding logos and transmitting back digital content to participants in near real time.

“Our X Factor is that we can make static brand logos interactive without using QR codes, without requiring any creative modification of the package design and without the need to download any special apps,” Pongr CEO Jamie Thompson says.

With the campaign, Pepsi continues its tradition of innovation in the realm of interactive campaigns. Earlier this year, the brand partnered with Yahoo-owned IntoNow on a television ad-tagging campaign that rewarded viewers with free Pepsi products. The soda maker may also be attempting to one-up its carbonated rival — Coca-Cola is also a digitally savvy brand and, more notably, is the lead sponsor of American Idol.

Image courtesy of Pongr, Joshua S.

More About: Pepsi, Pongr

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HOW TO: Create a Transparent Monitor Illusion [VIDEO]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 02:33 PM PDT

If you’ve already checked out our gallery of transparent desktop wallpapers, you know that this little trick is just full of awesome.

The only thing better than perusing the web’s creativity is getting creative yourself. That’s why we asked our pal Jeremiah Warren to whip up a step-by-step guide on how to turn your own screen into a window on the world.

SEE ALSO: Suddenly It's Clear: 10 Transparent Screen Trick Shots [PICS]

Have you had success creating this digital illusion? Share snaps of your best transparent screens in the comments below.

More About: features, Photos, Tech, Video

Netflix Has Lost Half Its Value in Two Months

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 02:20 PM PDT

Netflix’s decision to raise prices and its ham-handed marketing of its new Qwikster DVD service has flopped with both consumers and investors.

The company’s stock was down another 7% at the close of the market Monday as sellers punished it for rebranding its DVD service and its odd approach of publicizing the move: In the tenth paragraph of a blog post by CEO Reed Hastings.

SEE ALSO: Qwikster From Netflix: The Worst Product Launch Since New Coke? [OPINION]

But the long-term view of Netflix’s stock is even more dire: The stock price is now 42% lower than it was in July, when Netflix first announced the new pricing plan (and down more than 50% from an all-time high reached on July 13).

Since then, Netflix has also lost a deal with Starz as Dish Network contemplates a rival service and expressed interest in buying Hulu, according to reports. As a result, Netflix’s share price continues to fall; last week it was the worst performer in the S&P 500.

The chart below details Netflix’s bummer of a summer. What do you think? Is Netflix this year’s Digg or does this just mean the stock’s a pretty good deal now? Let us know in the comments.

Netflix Price Stock Chart

Netflix Price Stock Chart by YCharts

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ross Catrow,

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Google+: Why the Real Name Policy Is Creating a Very Boring Social Network [OPINION]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 01:55 PM PDT

This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Jamie Beckland is a digital and social media strategist at Janrain, where he helps Fortune 1000 companies integrate social media technologies into their websites to improve user acquisition and engagement. He has built online communities since 2004. He tweets as @Beckland.

Google has raised a lot of digital hairs with its new policy, requiring real names for Google+ users. Cory Doctorow says that real identities are bad because they make it easy to sell us to advertisers. Danah Boyd goes further, saying that the policy is an abuse of power because it may compromise users’ safety.

But they vastly understate the case, and ask for the wrong solution.

The hugeness of Google’s error is in misunderstanding the basic human need for a flexible framework for identity creation. People change and evolve, and throughout the entirety of human history, we have been able to shed old versions of ourselves, and construct new identities. This is so universally true as to be a cliché. How many films open the first act as follows: A stranger comes to town. What is the mysterious secret he hides? What did he run away from?

Our identities are complicated. In fact, the need for multiple identities only accelerates in today’s Internet culture. Digital natives understand the notion of curation so much so that they curate their own existence on social networks. Julia Allison and iJustine are extreme examples of this phenomenon, but it happens every Friday night: Young people spend more time uploading photos of themselves to Facebook showing how great a time they’re having, instead of, you know, actually having a great time.

The act of identity creation happens on the social network through the curation process, not by the things that are really happening to the person.

SEE ALSO: Why Mainstream Social Networks Complicate Our Identities

In this context, we are becoming more like celebrities. We manage our personas by curating which pictures get tagged on Facebook (hint: only the ones where we look good). We portray the most interesting aspects of our lives through status updates (“I found a dollar on the street!” gets 27 Likes, not because it’s important, but because it’s “interesting.”) We understand that parts of our personalities are most appropriate for different audiences.

The rise of celebrity culture is actually an attempt to create shared experiences for a large, fragmented society. We can learn something from celebrities about the importance of alternate identities. Increasingly, artists have created alter egos for themselves to make space for a different or new part of their personality to emerge. As they get boxed in by the expectations of their fans, they need to create an outlet that allows them to risk something by creating work that is outside of their traditional oeuvre.

Madonna took the persona of Dita when she released Erotica, and book Sex in order to explore sexuality in a deeper way than she could as the Material Girl.

Sean Combs became the rapper Puff Daddy, then P. Diddy when he needed to refresh his stale 90s image. Instead of creating a new personality, he just kept beating that dead horse, and when it stopped working, he dropped the “P” and just became Diddy. But, for his serious menswear clothing line, he uses the moniker Sean John.

Marshall Mathers became Eminem, and when there was still too much darkness and bile, he created the persona of Slim Shady.

The most extreme example is Nicki Minaj, who has taken the notion of alter egos to the insanely illogical extreme. She has only released one album, but has no less than eight distinct personas:

1. Onika Tanya Maraj is her given name
2. Cookie is the first identity she created to escape her troubled home life
3. Harajuku Barbie is the playful Minaj
4. Nicki Minaj is her primary performing identity
5. Roman Zolanski is the hard charging, angry brute
6. Martha Zolanski is Roman’s mother
7. Nicki Theresa is a Mother Theresa-inspired saint
8. Rosa is her Spanish moniker

The value of multiple identities to these artists is indisputable. One of the most extreme examples is ”Roman’s Revenge,” the 2010 Nicki Minaj and Eminem duet. Both rappers spend the entire song spewing hate-filled lyrics at their fans. This is not a song that a musician would want to present to the public as part of their late night talk show personality. Without alternate identities, this song could not exist. And while it’s a tough song to listen to, the world is a better place for having the song in it.

One single name will never be able to contain all of the aspects of any individual person, in all her complicated, contradictory glory. Quora has a real names policy, but it never came under serious scrutiny because it was always clear about what kind of community it was: a serious-sounding, wonky intellectual place where deep-ish knowledge, packaged well, is appreciated. It’s a very specific niche, and it is more interested in keeping quality high than getting lots of users to interact.

That’s why Google+ will ultimately fail in its attempts to create an “identity service” with their real name policy.

Google+ wants us to give it everything, which means that we will end up giving it nothing of value. By requiring real names, Google+ is sending clear signals that it wants to be a specific type of community: the kind where people share cat videos and links about current events that ultimately inform Google’s own search rankings. Paradoxically, this banality will still create a huge amount of value for Google because of how poorly computers truly understand people. Google’s ability to sell advertising will still grow tremendously, even from this base level of information.

Critics of the real name policy want Google to change its mind and see the error of its ways. That is the wrong solution.

The right solution, of course, is to do nothing. Allow Google+ exactly the kind of community they ask for: the one where you use your real identity, but in return, only share a certain, specific part of yourself — the part that you don’t mind being indexed by Google’s servers and made available to the entire world. In other words, the most boring, unimportant and universal version of yourself.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, archives

More About: features, Google, Opinion, Social Media

Top Chef Gives Ousted Contestants a Second Chance With Web Show

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 01:37 PM PDT

Bravo is cooking up a new mode of storytelling for Top Chef‘s ninth season: to the web and back.

Storylines from the new season of the reality/game show will start on TV, continue on webisodes and then return to TV again. Because of the nature of the show, though, viewers who miss the webisodes won’t be completely lost. The Toyota-sponsored webisodes will feature eliminated “chef’testants” who get a second chance to be on the show by facing off with another who was booted. The winning contestant out of the dozen or so digital broadcasts will qualify for the on-air finale.

Like other networks, Bravo is trying to herd more viewers to its online sites and keep them engaged there. The trick is to provide a reason to go without alienating TV-only viewers.

SEE ALSO: Fall TV Goes Social: 27 New Shows to Watch

“You can be a lean-back viewer and enjoy the show,” says Lisa Hsia, executive vice president of digital for Bravo, “but we have a lot of rabid superfans who can’t get enough and they can get deeper and deeper.” Hsia, who emphasizes that the digital episodes are accessible not just on the web but on smartphones and tablets, says that fans don’t really care how they access content and put digital media and TV on the same plane. That insight informed the high production values for the digital shows, which were shot on the same set as the TV show and hosted by the program’s lead judge, Tom Colicchio (pictured).

Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research at Horizon Media, says that more networks will experiment with so-called transmedia storytelling and use digital media to augment the action on TV.

“TV and online can complement each other,” he says. “It’s not necessarily competitive as previously thought.”

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Google Wallet Has Arrived

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 01:25 PM PDT

Google’s mobile payment system, Google Wallet, is now available to the public — for people who use Sprint Nexus S 4G phones and Citi MasterCards or Visa cards at least. The near-field communication and contact-less payment system was expected to launch this summer.

Google Wallet — along with Google Offers — is built on an open platform that combines multiple credit cards, loyalty programs and offers at the point of sale. Payment is made by swiping your smartphone at checkout. Essentially, Google is turning your phone into your wallet.

The Google Wallet service must be associated with a Google account to begin using it. After agreeing to terms and conditions and entering a PIN, you can start the process of provisioning your cards to your account.

So far the service only works with Nexus S 4G phones on Sprint; people with these phones will receive over-the-air updates Monday and will see a new “Wallet” app. It also only works with Citi MasterCards and Google Prepaid Cards, which can be filled using any other credit card.

Update: Visa has announced that Visa customers can also use Google Wallet.

Eventually Discover and American Express will work with the app as well, Google said Monday.

The system made its debut in May and was tested in select markets. Just last week MasterCard, a launch partner, held another press event in New York City to show off other future-of-payment technologies, including the ability to make purchases by simply waving at your TV.

SEE ALSO: The Future of Mobile Payments [INFOGRAPHIC]

Shortly after Google revealed Google Wallet earlier this year, PayPal filed a lawsuit against Google and two former PayPal executives for sharing trade secrets. In the suit, PayPal claimed that former PayPal executive, now working at Google, Osama Bedier stole PayPal's trade secrets and shared them with Google and other companies, and that another present Google employee and former PayPal exec, Stephanie Tilenius, violated her contract when she recruited Bedier.

Since the suit, PayPal told Mashable that it is preparing to release an update to the PayPal Mobile app that would let users make peer-to-peer payments using NFC.

Mobile carriers have also begun working on their own competitor to Google Wallet. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are reportedly investing millions in Isis, their own mobile payment project. So far Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have signed on to the service. It is expected to roll out sometime in 2012.

Google released the video below in May to promote Google Wallet.

Google released the video below, featuring Seinfeld‘s George Costanza, in August.

More About: Google, google wallet, mobile payment

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23% of Global Population Never Uses the Internet for Health Info [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 01:10 PM PDT

Mashable‘s Social Good Summit is in full swing. David Armano, Edelman Digital’s EVP of Global Innovation and Integration spoke Monday about how digital innovation is impacting global health.

Edelman surveyed more than 15,165 people to create a global confidence index: how healthy different countries believe they are. While most values seem high, the survey shows how cultural views of health can skew responses. In India, Armano said, percentage is high because good health is measured just by access to clean water. Japan’s percentage might be low, despite its record of long life-expectancy, due to the recent earthquake, tsunami and ensuing crises.

But Edelman took the survey one step further, comparing these values to how people keep up their health and how they use the Internet. The results help illustrate the growing connection between global health and digital tools. The goal is to help improve the behavioral shifts, to leverage technology and to improve health.

Have a look at Edelman’s graphic below and compare it to the Digital Engagement just below it.

global infographic

digital engagement

Image courtesy of Flickr, jfcherry

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Talk Like a Pirate: 5 Free iPhone Apps for Mobile Scallywags

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 12:59 PM PDT

Garrr! Sept. 19 be “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” one special occasion Mashable is always happy to celebrate.

To help you land-lubbers out, we’ve found five fun iPhone apps that will get you talking as if you were born with a peg leg and a parrot on your shoulder. As an added bonus, you won’t need to part with a single piece o’ gold to download them — they are all free.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Celebrate "Talk Like a Pirate Day" Online in 2010

Take a hearty swig of grog and take a look through the gallery below. Give us your best pirate impression in the comments — or be prepared to walk the plank!

1. Pirate Dictionary

If your pirate vocab be needing expandin', this app can help. It's not terribly extensive, but you'll find a good handful of words -- complete with definitions -- to help your pirate-speak sound more authentic.

2. Pirate Insult Generator

"Yer mother be a strumpet and yer father be a scalawag, ye nattering, parrot-loving bilge rat!" You'll never be lost for a pithy pirate-themed put-down using this app, which offers 7,913,840 possible insults.

3. Fat Cat Pirate Chat

With a colorful, graphical interface and audio of 60 pirate phrases, this app is perfect for younger pirates. Older pirates, however, can generate phrases and send them via email, text or Twitter.

4. TripLingo: Pirate Edition

Popular travel language app maker TripLingo offers a pirate version for free! Amusingly, the program is set up just like its more serious versions, a must-download for anyone who wants to learn the corsair lingo.

5. a.k.a. - Your Favorite Name Generator

You can't celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day until you've determined your pirate name. This free generator will help.

BONUS: Pirate Web Browser - The Web Speaks Pirate!

Finally, if you want to enjoy some pirate parlance online, the "Pirate Web Browser" will convert text into a more celebratory vocab.

Image courtesy of JibJab

More About: gallery, iphone, iphone apps, Lists, talk like a pirate day

Opera Buys Top Mobile App Store Handster

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 12:32 PM PDT

In a strategic maneuver to become a mobile services company, Opera Software has acquired mobile application platform Handster, the leading independent app store for Android applications.

“Opera is evolving from being a browser company into a fully integrated mobile services company and this acquisition is an important step in that direction,” Opera CEO Lars Boilesen explains in a statement. “Handster will enable us to strengthen our mobile store offerings to consumers, mobile operators and handset manufacturers.”

Handster‘s platform supports Android, Java, Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, web and tablet applications. The company also offers white-label solutions and has relationships with device manufacturers, including LG and Ericsson.

Opera, primarily known as a maker of browsers for web and mobile, has its own app store. The Opera Mobile Store for iOS, Android, BlackBery, Java, Symbian and web applications was released in March of this year.

The acquisition will immediately boost Opera’s mobile content offerings. The long-term effects could be more significant. Here’s why: Opera owns a tiny fraction of the web browser market. It has fared better on mobile — Opera currently commands 21.61% percent of the mobile browser market globally, according to StatCounter. Now tack on the most populous Android app market, which it gets by way of Handster, and a once flagging web company is poised to become a mobile powerhouse.

Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Handster CEO Victor Shaburov will join the Opera Mobile Consumer and Publisher team in San Mateo.

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Mobile App Developers Now Have Easy Access to Cloud Services

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 12:13 PM PDT

Cross-platform mobile development company Appcelerator has announced a new marketplace that will let users buy and sell add-ons to its Titanium platform

Appcelerator is calling the new offering the Open Mobile Marketplace, which is designed as a way to give its 1.5 million plus developers easy access to modules and add-ons from cloud services companies. The marketplace will also let independent developers sell their own native and HTML5 modules, app templates, cloud extensions and design elements.

Think of this as Salesforce.com‘s AppExchange, but with a focus on the Titanium mobile platform. The goal is to make it easier for mobile app developers to quickly build the solutions they need for their app, without having to reinvent the wheel.

At launch, the Open Mobile Marketplace will be offering solutions and add-on modules from AdMob, Box.net, Bump, Greystripe, GetGlue, Omniture, PayPal, Twilo, Urban Airship, Salesforce.com and more.

Titanium developers can buy these various modules and very easily implement support for these different cloud services or platforms into their own apps, without having to figure out the code. For services that already have a mobile SDK, like Box.net or GetGlue, the marketplace offers a way to get that SDK in front of a lot more developers.

I have been writing about Box.net and its mobile efforts since 2008. When the company launched its mobile API back in 2009, we saw it as an opportunity to build its platform and make more connections with mobile applications. Slowly but surely, Box.net has indeed made inroads in the mobile app space, but a marketplace like what Appcelerator is presenting will instantly make it more viable for app developers to find and easily implement Box.net support.

Templates and Design Elements

Beyond just various modules, web services and cloud components, the Open Mobile Marketplace also offers application templates and design elements, which will make adding visual panache and improved interactions to an app less painful.

Check out this demo for Mosaic, which is a Flipboard-esque gallery component:

Maturation of the Mobile Development Space

The emergence of a services and add-on marketplace indicates that the mobile development space is starting to mature.

It’s true that these sort of plug-and-play modules and interactions aren’t for everyone — some mobile purists will probably scoff at paying for a pre-compiled module when the underlying code itself is freely available.

The target customer for a solution like Titanium and the Open Mobile Marketplace isn’t necessarily the developer that wants to make his or her living by creating mobile apps. Instead, many of the customers are in the small business or enterprise space. These are people that want to build apps quickly, make sure the apps can be compiled across platforms and don’t have the resources to learn every part of Java or Objective-C that they need to learn to correctly add support for a cloud-based service.

Like Salesforce.com, these solutions are designed for individuals who need to rapidly develop apps. NBC’s new iPad app was built using Titanium. GetGlue also used Titanium when creating its suite of mobile apps.

For developers and businesses that need to build things quickly, mobile marketplaces like what Appcelerator is offering makes sense.

Let us know what you think of these mobile marketplaces and their role in mobile app development.

More About: appcelerator, box.net, getglue, mobile app development

Charity:Water Launches Dollars to Projects

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 11:55 AM PDT

Charity:Water, the water-focused non-profit that has raised $43 million dollars to date for clean water projects around the world, launched Dollars to Projects at the Social Good Summit Monday.

Dollars to Projects is a mycharity:water feature that tracks online where every dollar raised is being used in the world. The new initiative allows donors to track their donations to specific projects and receive reports of where that money goes and how it has been used. The reports, which include Google Maps and photo galleries, detail exactly how the money was used, who the project affects and who else donated. The reports can be shared out to friends via social media channels.

The organization has helped 2.06 million people in 19 countries via more than 250,000 donations in the past five years, according to founder and CEO Scott Harrison. However, said Harrison, that only accounts for around 1/500th of the global problem.

SEE ALSO: 12 Incredible Internet Activists Changing the World Through Social Media

His new goal is to reach 100 million people in the next decade with clean water projects. To do so, charity:water will need to raise $2 billion. This, said Harrison, is a goal that many people think is impossible in a shrinking non-profit sector. Charity:water, though, has been experiencing significant annual growth in the past few years — revenue was up 85% in 2010 and is up 65% so far this year.

Click for full-size.

One of the reasons the organization has experienced growth is the power of proof. Harrison talked about how powerful it is to show people exactly how their money is being used. Dollars to Projects is another tool that charity:water will offer donors to feel connected to the money they give.

“Water is provable — you can know that you solved the problem and saved people’s lives,” said Harrison, who also noted that the organization receives 73% of its donations online. “Water changes everything when it’s brought into communities.”

Today, the non-profit’s website has many social elements, including user profiles tracking donations and actions.

More About: charity:water, Social Good, social good summit

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Qwikster From Netflix: The Worst Product Launch Since New Coke? [OPINION]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 11:32 AM PDT

As any marketer will tell you, there are some truly awful times to launch a new product — like August, when few potential customers are paying attention, or January, when they’re all shopped out from the holidays.

And then there’s launching your new product in the tenth paragraph of an apology for some previous poor communication, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings did late Sunday with Qwikster, the new name for Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service.

The reaction was immediate, and almost uniformly negative. Nearly 10,000 commenters had piled on Hastings’s blog entry by midday Monday. “With actions like this, it is only a matter of time before you become the next MySpace,” said one. “Your arrogance is so thick it’s palpable,” wrote a “former Netflix evangelist.” A former Coca-Cola employee, Mary Louise McCoy, compared the launch of Qwikster to the disastrous 1985 launch of New Coke she experienced from the inside. “Hubris has brought down many a company,” she added. “You are going to lose thousands more members, including myself.” Several of Mashable‘s commenters said they had to double check that it wasn’t April Fools’ Day.

SEE ALSO: 5 Tips for Recovering From a Major CEO Blunder

It’s hard not to agree with all of this. I first interviewed Reed Hastings 10 years ago and have chatted and dined with him several times since; a former Artificial Intelligence researcher, he is one of the smartest and most amiable minds I’ve ever met. He predicted his company’s transition to Internet streaming 10 years ago, hence the name Netflix. His incredible foresight and drive helped bring Blockbuster — once an impossibly large rival — to its knees.

But the Hastings in the apology video is not the Hastings I knew. He seems spooked by Wall Street’s reaction to Netflix’s loss of subscribers. He fluffs one of his lines, which is profoundly odd in a prerecorded video from a video company executive. Then, of course, he compounds the poor communication he’s supposed to be sorry about with a precipitous rebranding. The whole thing leaves an impression of haste, of someone being reactive rather than proactive.

We’ve known for some time that Netflix intends to move away from the DVD subscription model toward streaming, which is fundamentally more lucrative. But Hastings seems determined to lose or confuse as many customers along the way.

How bad is the whole Qwikster idea? Let us count the ways:

1. The name. One sign of poor branding is how many ways there are to misspell what you’re looking for. Expect a surge of Google searches for Quickster, Quikster and Qwickster — none of which are currently redirected to the correct website. Nor does the name seem to have anything to do with the product. “Qwik” suggests a discount supermarket or photocopy shop, while the generic “-ster” ending was all the rage for startups … in 2000. Now it’s primarily associated with companies that get sold off in a fire sale and become shadows of their former selves: see Napster, Friendster and Dogster. You’d be better off calling the new company “Qwik ‘n’ Save”.

2. Customer confusion.
Will my DVD queue port over to Qwikster intact? Will the user interface look the same? Currently, Netflix tells you if the movie you’re searching for is available on disc or on streaming, and you can click on either button — will that go away? Nobody knows, and that’s likely to cause customers to throw up their hands and leave. If Netflix had been smart about this launch, it would have prepared an FAQ at launch — not to mention secured the appropriate Twitter handle so it could respond to customers directly.

3. Fixes a problem no one needed fixing. Have you ever longed for a rebranding of Netflix’s DVD envelopes? Or thought to yourself, “I’d pay for both disc and streaming services if only they had separate names and separate websites?” Me neither, and that’s what makes the move such a head-scratcher. We’re told that Qwikster will also offer video games for rental. That’s great: Competitor Redbox rolled out the same service this summer. But Redbox didn’t feel the need to rebrand itself in the process. Quite the opposite — we’d rather try out a new kind of rental if it’s from a known entity.

4. Broken trust.
Tin-eared product roll-outs are one thing. But a tin-eared product roll-out at the end of an email apologizing for a previous tin-eared product roll-out? It’s hard not to feel like you’re being taken for a ride at that point. Think of that moment in an argument between lovers or family members when an apology suddenly (and often unintentionally) transmutes into an offense even more outrageous than the one being apologized for.

Until today, Netflix’s only offense was that it had raised prices by 60% on a bunch of its customers. Now it leaves all its customers — the 22 million who stream, and the 15 million who rent DVDs — confused and uncertain about the future of the company.

But it’s not too late to walk things back. New Coke may have been an unmitigated disaster, but Coca-Cola eventually ditched it and is still standing strong a quarter-century later. Hastings might win a lot of that lost trust back if he moves fast, apologizes again, and comes up with less confusing branding for the DVD-by-mail service. Might we suggest Netflix Classic?

More About: dvd, netflix, Opinion, Quikster, reed hastings, streaming

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News Corp to Pay $4.7 Million in Phone Hacking Settlement [REPORT]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 11:11 AM PDT

News International, the UK division of News Corp, is expected to pay 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) to settle phone hacking claims made by the family of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler, according to Reuters.

Evidence suggests that Dowler’s phone was hacked by employees of News International’s since-shuttered tabloid News of the World when she went missing in 2002. Journalists at the paper allegedly intercepted and deleted messages from family members and friends trying to reach Dowler, giving her family false hope that she was still alive and checking her voicemail. Police fear that evidence may have been lost in the process.

News International and Mark Lewis, the family’s lawyer, have declined to confirm details of the settlement.

More About: Media, News Corp, News International, News of the world

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Windows 8: Can Two Interfaces Survive Side-by-Side? [OPINION]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 11:03 AM PDT

Windows 8 Preview Metro Mode

Windows 8 is the Sybil of operating systems. Never in my life have I seen two such polar opposite approaches to interface design live side-by-side. One minute you're in the playschool-colored, box-like, all-touch Metro interface, the next, you're back in good-old-fashioned Windows world, with screen metaphors you recognize.

I don't know if this jarring juxtaposition is Microsoft's intent, but the slamming together of these two interface concepts is equal-parts remarkable technical achievement and programming magic trick. I liken the experience to walking down a street in New York City, turning a corner and ending up in Paris, France. It freaks you out a bit, but is not an altogether unpleasant experience.

Some people say that the touch-friendly metro interface is simply a shell on Windows 7. To a certain extent, that's true. Microsoft Windows Lead Steven Sinofsky did say that Windows 8 is built on the solid foundation of Windows 7. Search under Apps (even from within the Metro interface) and you'll find "RegEdit," which is short for "Registry Editor". If you run it, the interface kicks you out to Windows classic and into the Registry Editor where you can see a Registry that looks pretty much like the one you saw in Windows 7. To be fair, the Windows 8 Preview Build let me keep my apps, files and user data. So whatever was on my system with Windows 7 is still in the Windows 8 Registry.

It's not unusual for Microsoft, when it makes big changes to Windows, to use the tried and true as the fundamental foundation. Windows 95 was, in essence, a shell on top of DOS. Earlier versions of Windows were, as well, but Windows 95 was the moment when we started to talk about the Windows kernel. At that time, the kernel resided in DOS. Keeping things like the DOS kernel and, now, the Windows Registry provides the safety valve Microsoft needs to support products built around previous versions of Windows, while still looking like they've done something drastic to the OS.

Almost Classic

Windows 8 Classic ModeThe most noticeable change on the Windows 8 Classic interface in a redesigned Start button, which has far fewer clickable options than Windows 7 — there isn't even a "Programs" list. A click on it shoots you over to Metro. Metro tries hard to be almost nothing like traditional Windows. I cannot, for example, right click on the "desktop" to bring up desktop options. Again, since this is a touch-screen interface, that makes sense. On the other hand, Windows 8 is the platform for tablets and PCs. Tablet users may love the Windows Phone 7-like interface (as I think they should), but traditional Windows users will likely be confused and a bit frustrated.

One Windows stalwart I know absolutely hates Windows 8, but only, I think, because he, like me, is running it on a PC and finds the Metro interface childish and confusing. I don't think it's that bad, but I do hope Microsoft realizes that they have to provide a rational interface for the millions and millions of traditional PCs out there and not fall into the trap of trying to compete with the Apple iPad at the expense of its core customers.

My guess is that we will see very clear options to run Windows in traditional form, as Metro-only or with this new dual-personality configuration. Microsoft must offer these choices, because the current path is just this side of madness.

What do you think of Microsoft’s dual-mode operating system? Share your take in the comments.

Windows 8 Devices

Microsoft demonstrated a lot of Windows 8 devices, including tablet devices, at its Build conference in Anaheim, CA.

Windows 8 Devices: A Closer Look

These are some of the devices running Windows 8 at Microsoft's Build conference.

Windows 8: Lock Screen

"Your personalized lock screen shows you unread emails and other app notifications. The image shown here is a photo of the road leading to Mt. Cook National Park in New Zealand."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Start Screen

"See your apps and content in a glance on the start screen."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Files

"Pick the files you want to send or share from one place."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Internet Explorer

"Touch browsing is fast, fluid and intuitive."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Thumb

"The thumb keyboard feels natural and comfortable."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows 8: Touch Keyboard

"Large buttons help you type on the touch keyboard."

Courtesy of Microsoft

Windows division President Steven Sinofsky

Windows division President Steven Sinofsky takes the stage at Build.

More About: Metro, microsoft, Windows 8

eBay Takes on Mom Jeans in New Campaign [VIDEO]

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 10:47 AM PDT

Here’s a new selling point for eBay: You can buy things on it so quickly, you’ll foil your parents’ attempts to give you things.

That’s the gist, anyway, of the first ad in a new campaign from the online retail giant. In the ad, from agency Venables, Bell & Partners, a young woman, seated at her parents’ dining room table, is using her tablet PC to shop for jeans. When her mother learns what she’s doing, the mom goes to her closet to find some jeans, affording viewers a view of her loose-fitting mom jeans. By the time mom has returned with a tent-size pair, her daughter has already bought a pair of her desired pants online. She then fakes disappointment.

The TV ad, which evokes the memorable fake ad from Saturday Night Live (below), is part of a new campaign from eBay targeting mobile users with the tagline, “If it’s on your mind, it’s on eBay.” If mom jeans are on your mind, no doubt you can find them there, too.

What do you think of this ad? Funny? Ageist? Both? Let us know in the comments.

More About: Advertising, ebay, Marketing

Justin Bieber, Startup Investor?

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 10:16 AM PDT

Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber is probably the only 17-year-old in the world any early stage startup would love to give large chunks of equity to. It’s not about his money so much as his social media power.

His 12.6 million Twitter fans are some of the most active around, according to the company; they account for about 3% of Twitter’s infrastructure at any given time. His video for “Baby” was the most watched on YouTube last year.

Now sources within the startup scene say Bieber is about to launch himself into a new role: angel investor for early stage companies.

Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, has talked about such a move for some time. Here’s what he told TechCrunch at its conference in June: “For all of you young entrepreneurs out there watching, if you have a brilliant idea, Troy [Lady Gaga's manager] and I will combine the powers of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Give us a large piece of equity.”

“I realized that the power our artists have created for themselves on Facebook, on Twitter on YouTube are very, very valuable for launching these platforms,” he added. “The great thing about technology that works, and that isn’t dependent on a Gaga or a Justin, but can be launched by a Gaga or a Justin.”

Braun did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In case there were any doubt about Bieber’s influence, he posted a photo of Los Angeles traffic on Instagram in July. The startup’s servers blew up with traffic that resembled a pattern a site might experience if it were being hacked. About 50 users started following him every minute and left one comment every 10 seconds.

SEE ALSO: 10 Must-Follow Fake Twitter Celebs [PICS]

A source familiar with Bieber’s business team said this kind of online influence has not gone unnoticed by the companies with which they’re talking business. The source is familiar with one startup that met with Bieber’s team about investing.

Another source says Bieber’s business team has already agreed to invest in a different company, a New York-based fashion photo sharing startup called Thre.ad. The startup itself denies this.

Thre.ad’s founder, Mimi Nguyen, is connected to Bieber through a non-profit organization she co-founded, called Pencils of Promise. Bieber is the organization’s spokesperson. He follows her on Twitter and she has tweeted about being at an event with him.

“If he ever wants to [invest], I wouldn’t be against that,” Nguyen says.

Bieber has been spotted hanging out with at least one New-York based startup investor. As Business Insider pointed out last week, a YouTube clip of Bieber playing basketball with NBA player Steve Nash also features Mide Duda, the co-partner of Nash’s venture capital firm, Consigliere Brand Capital.

Bieber would hardly be the first mega-celebrity to make a foray into the startup scene. Ashton Kutcher has been playing the investor game for years, and lent his reputation and funds to Foursquare, Path, Flipboard, Airbnb and Skype. Lady Gaga, meanwhile, is an investor in Turntable.fm and Bre.ad.

For musicians like Bieber and Gaga, tech investments make sense. Digital downloads are outpacing profits from album sales. Between 1999 and 2009, total revenue from U.S. music sales and licensing dropped by more than half. Artists are looking for other ways to capitalize on their fame. Meanwhile, celebrity activity on platforms like Twitter is an important driver of early success for startups.

A fragrance line and full-length documentary movie have already launched on Bieber power. Why not a startup or two?

More About: celebrity investors, justin bieber, Startups

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FarmVille’s Newest Expansion: Lighthouse Cove

Posted: 19 Sep 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Zynga has rolled out Lighthouse Cove, a new expansion for its flagship FarmVille social game.

The goal of Lighthouse Cove is to rebuild the area in the wake of a massive storm. Users are able to build a getaway that includes new crops, buildings and a bed and breakfast where users can create culinary dishes. River otters, raspberry wine, super maple trees, darrow blackberries and duroc pigs are a few of the new additions to the game. Users above level 15 will be able to access the expansion.

“It’s the next milestone in the evolution of FarmVille,” Nate Etter, GM of FarmVille, told Mashable. “It’s an extension of the core farming game.”

Zynga has also added some different gameplay dynamics to Lighthouse Cove, based on what it learned from launching FarmVille‘s last expansion. When the company rolled out English Countryside back in March, it learned that some users would complete the entire expansion in marathon sessions, limiting the impact of the game. It also made it tough for players to play the game with their friends, since everybody would be at different points in the storyline.

To fix that, Zynga is staggering story releases in Lighthouse Cove. Users will not be able to complete the expansion in one fell swoop. Instead, new storyline events will occur each week, giving players a chance to experience the story with their friends until its completion later this year.

Zynga has been pushing more game releases in recent months as it debates whether it will delay its IPO. In September, the company launched Adventure World, a hybrid adventure/social game. And in August, the company unveiled Pioneer Trail, an expansion to FrontierVille.

More About: farmville, Lighthouse Cove, Zynga

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