Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google+ Brand Pages, WebOS Sale Rumors, Demand Media Earnings: Today’s Top Stories”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google+ Brand Pages, WebOS Sale Rumors, Demand Media Earnings: Today’s Top Stories”

Google+ Brand Pages, WebOS Sale Rumors, Demand Media Earnings: Today’s Top Stories

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:23 AM PST

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 five particular stories of interest today.

Google+ Releases Brand Pages

Google+ has welcomed the first batch of brands and organizations to the social network.

Barnes & Noble Unveils Nook Tablet

Barnes & Noble unveiled its second-generation, $249 Nook Color tablet — called simply, “Nook Tablet” — at a press event in New York City Monday morning. We’ve stacked up the device against the iPad 2, Amazon Kindle Fire and Galaxy 8.9 here.

HP Mulls Sale of WebOS Unit

Unnamed sources have told Reuters that HP is considering selling its WebOS unit in a deal that could fetch millions of dollars — but likely far less than the $1.2 billion the company paid to acquire it from Palm in 2010.

Olympus May Delist Following Scandal

Japanese technology company Olympus has acknowledged that its senior management team has been covering up investment losses for decades, sending shares down 29% before the markets closed in Asia. The company may need to delist from Tokyo’s stock exchange, Sky News suggests.

Demand Media Reports Narrower Loss Than Expected

Demand Media beat analysts’ forecasts in its Q3 2011 earnings announcement Monday morning, reporting a loss of five cents per share on revenue of $85.1 million.

Further News

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

More About: first to know series

Honda’s ASIMO Robot Gets Smarter, More Autonomous

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 05:18 AM PST

Honda has upgraded its bipedal ASIMO robot with several advancements, including improved AI and a bigger degree of autonomous behavior, the company announced.

The new ASIMO features strengthened legs, an expanded range of leg movement and stability control technology that allows it to walk, run, run backward and generally be much more agile than before.

It now has a multi-fingered hand with a tactile and force (we wouldn’t want it to apply too much force on its human overlords) sensor, which makes it capable of performing delicate tasks, such as pouring coffee into a mug.

Perhaps even more importantly, Honda’s little droid has been upgraded in the AI department as well, enabling it to (autonomously) respond to movement and surrounding situations. It can recognize a face or a voice — even when multiple people are speaking simultaneously — and react to the intention of the other party. It can also predict the direction a person will walk within a few seconds, and take an alternate path to avoid collision.

SEE ALSO: Robot Invasion: Toyota Unveils Four Healthcare “Assistants” [PICS]

As one example of ASIMO’s possible usefulness in real world situations, Honda mentions the recent disaster in the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. “Not only is it possible to get inside the nuclear plant, but our robot could also get into other sites where humans don’t have access to,” said Honda’s CEO Takanobu Ito at ASIMO’s presentation.

BONUS: 10 Amazing Real-Life Robots

1. The Cubinator

We met The Cubinator for the first time at the 2010 World Maker Faire. The robot currently holds the Guinness world record for fastest machine solve of a Rubik's cube. Pete Redmond, who developed the robot for the final project of his master's degree, says that its solve time averages about 25 seconds. Webcams in the robot's eyes detect the colors on the cube and the machine solves the puzzle by using an algorithm to find the fewest moves. It also has has a sense of humor, shouting "oh dear!" when it occasionally drops the cube.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: asimo, honda, Robot

Samsung Galaxy Tab Plus 7.0 Coming to T-Mobile on Nov. 16

Posted: 08 Nov 2011 01:29 AM PST

The 4G variant of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Plus 7.0 tablet will become available under T-Mobile’s wing on Nov. 16, the company has announced.

The 9.96 mm thin device has a 7-inch, 1024×600 pixel screen, a 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU, 1 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of storage space and a 3-megapixel rear-facing as well as a 2-megapixel front-facing camera (for video chats).

It also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 as well as HSPA+, which is the standard T-Mobile uses for fast data transfer — or 4G, as they call it.

The price is $250 after a $50 mail-in rebate, with a two-year contract, and 20 additional interest free monthly $10 payments on top of your data plan. You could say that it’s just another way to make it look cheap without actually making it so, but then again, if you’re strapped for cash, $250 sounds pretty good compared to the regular $399 price tag on Amazon.

More About: galaxy tab, Galaxy Tab Plus 7.0, samsung, Samsung Galaxy Tab Plus 7.0, trending

Take the Interview Enhances Job Candidate Screening With Video

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 09:02 PM PST

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: Take the Interview

Quick Pitch: Take the Interview is a job interview service that adds a video component to job candidate screening.

Genius Idea: Giving employers important information about how candidates present themselves earlier in the interview process.

Large firms wouldn’t pay for representatives to bop between college job fairs if it were possible to tell everything about a job candidate from a resume. Those sheets of carefully considered qualifications don’t always show what people are really like.

Yet, here’s how the hiring process often works: An HR representative culls promising resumes, calls their owners for a brief screening and then sends the handful of candidates who do well on the phone for in-person interviews with the appropriate department.

In her former life as an investment banker, Take the Interview Founder Danielle Weinblatt was often a part of the last step. She usually started interviews with three simple questions at the difficulty level of, “Why would you like to work here?”

“I would get people who had been resume- and phone-screened, and it boggled my mind how many of them would come through and not be able to answer these three simple questions,” she says.

She also applied what she calls “the airplane test” — with an unfortunate rate of success. If she could imagine sitting through a flight between New York and London with the candidate, that person was a potential fit. But this quality was something neither a resume nor a phone screening did much to help assess.

What she wanted to do was to ask her most important questions to candidates up-front in a way that would allow her to quickly assess them — without committing to a 30-minute interview.

Take the Interview, which came out of startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures last summer, attempts to do this through video screening. Candidates use their computer cameras to record answers to a series of questions from potential employers. When they’re finished, an employer can easily flip through the videos to cull candidates worth meeting in person, and they don’t need to waste time on the phone or in an interview with the ones who aren’t.

“It's not just about what people say, it's about what they sound like, how they pull themselves together,” Weinblatt says.

The service costs between $45 and $300 per month depending on how much a company plans to use it. Since launching in August, more than 350 customers, including Boston University – Kaplan and Living Social, have signed up.

Weinblatt says Take the Interview is contemplating a collaboration with another company that is creating a candidate screening platform — sans video — that crowdsources skills tests appropriate for specific positions. That would help the platform evolve from merely making interviews easy to fast-forward and pass around into a comprehensive screening platform. The startup has already made its first move toward expanding its offerings with an option to attach a portfolio or answer questions in text format.

It will also, at the public suggestion of well-known venture capitalist Fred Wilson, be adding more extensive scoring features to its current five-star rating system that will help employers keep track of their favorite candidates.

“It's a way to cut through the crap and get to the right person,” Weinblatt says.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, drewhadley

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, Dreamit ventures, Startups, take the interview

For more Business coverage:

Mad-Talented Street Performer Beat Boxes Entire Song [VIDEO]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 08:58 PM PST

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

Dubstep is that bass-heavy wobble dance music you hear all those young kids talking about. The songs are usually so sampled and cut up that lyrics and sometimes even actual notes are unintelligible or indiscernible. Naysayers have described it as “loud trash.” Fans haven’t had time to describe because they’re too busy dancing their faces off to the heavy drums and bass lines characteristic of the style.

Dubstep, a style original from London’s underground and club scenes, is enormously difficult to make: The whole song is cut, mixed and distorted beyond recognition while preserving some sense of song structure and progression. Doing all of that a capella is several magnitudes more difficult. That’s why we’re so impressed with this beat-boxing street performer. Our best guess is that it’s David Crowe who also appeared on Britain’s Got Talent (thanks to the YouTube commenters for the tip-off).

We’re suckers for a good beat-box. Take a look and a listen and let us know: Impressive or just some noise?

More About: Music, viral-video-of-day

For more Entertainment coverage:

iPhone 4S, Can You Hear Me Now? Apple Sees Rise in Audio Bug Reports

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 07:59 PM PST

iPhone 4S Sales and Activations

Some of us are perfectly happy with the iPhone 4S — but it’s starting to feel like we’re in the minority.

First came “yellowgate” — reports of users who were seeing a golden tint on their screens. Next came “batterygate“; as Apple eventually admitted, some of the location services in iOS 5 (which comes pre-loaded on the 4S) were causing the battery to drain faster than normal. Last week, Siri, the intelligent voice assistant baked into the iPhone 4S, was unable to connect to its servers for the better part of a day.

Meanwhile, a growing number of 4S users have found a significant audio bug: On some calls, they cannot hear the person on the other end.

Even for those afflicted, the bug does not appear to affect all calls. It can sometimes be remedied by plugging in a headset, they say, or pressing the mute button twice, or disabling Siri. But the elusive nature of a bug does not make it any less annoying — and the number of users affected by it appears to be on the rise.

This discussion thread on Apple’s website now features 34 pages of notes from affected users, with new commenters chiming in daily. The issue appears to cut across service providers; AT&T and Verizon customers in the U.S. are affected, as are users in the UK and Australia. There is also a Facebook Group called “iPhone 4S Outgoing Call No Audio” — a sure sign that the problem is crossing the threshold from “bug” to “meme.”

What is unknown at this stage is whether this is a software or hardware problem. Users who have installed the developer beta of iOS 5.01 report that it doesn’t fix the issue. Some suggest it is a bug in some 4S earpieces and that exchanging the faulty phone at an Apple Store does the trick.

We’ve contacted Apple for more information. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if this is a bug you’ve encountered.

More About: apple, iPhone 4S

Tennis: The Unlikely Testing Ground for New Video Game Tech

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 07:14 PM PST

Some of the most popular and beloved video games of all time are tennis games. That’s a weird sentence, considering the sport is far less popular than others, in the U.S. and around the world.

More people watch soccer (football), basketball, American football or racing than tune in to tennis. So why do tennis games give us the warm fuzzies? It might be that tennis video games are unlikely barometers for new video game technologies.

Video games are about being immersed in the experience. For many genres — role-playing games, first-person shooters, actions games — that immersion comes from a variety of factors, predominantly narrative and visuals. Controlling these games is often satisfying but unrealistic — pulling a right-trigger to shoot feels “gun-like,” but that’s about where the simulation ends.

Why Tennis?

Tennis games, for better or for worse, don’t really have much narrative, and there is only so much you can do graphically. Tennis games have, at most, four characters onscreen hitting one ball across a monotone surface. Visually, that’s all you need.

The immersion happens through the controls. This puts emphasis on the user interface, rather than the system’s graphics or processing power. Unlike other sports games, the user controls one character and won’t have to worry about switching to new mechanics or controls mid-game (say, from quarterback to wide-reciever). One-to-one control reigns.

Finally, the dynamics of the real tennis world may play a role. Companies like EA can afford to keep making Madden football video games every single year because the franchise is a guaranteed seller. Tennis games may not always be so viable. Additionally, tennis rosters don’t change the way that other pro sports do. For example, the Montreal Canadiens might scrap half their team year after year. In tennis, you’ll still be dealing with the same top five players. Because of this, tennis games inherently feel more special, though not necessarily “better,” than sports games which release on a more consistent schedule.

A Strong Lineage

Grand Slam Tennis 2 from EA Canada is the newest in a line of tennis tech innovators that reaches from Pong on the Atari in 1972, to Mario’s Tennis on the Virtual Boy in 1995, to Wii Sports in 2006. EA Canada’s game uses the PlayStation 3 Move controller to simulate swinging a racket. It’s a mechanic that the team worked on with the first Grand Slam Tennis on the Wii in 2009. “We’ve talked here at EA Sports about doing a tennis game for some while, and I’m talking even before the Wii game came out,” says Thomas Singleton, producer on Grand Slam Tennis 2. “There have been a lot of people who pitched tennis concepts, but there weren’t really any things out there to make it really fresh or innovative until the Wii came out.”

Of course, tennis games existed before the Wii. There were classics like the aptly titled Tennis for Nintendo and Super Tennis for the Super NES, in addition to the games mentioned in the gallery below. Tennis has always been a unique challenge for game developers. The mechanics of a tennis swing are simple enough to create, but nuanced enough (different spins and angles) to make them a challenge to replicate authentically.

The Wii was the first viable console to allow for gesture-based control. The games often push gesture-based tech to its limits, as the controller is constantly being swung. The PlayStation Move controller now competes with the Wii MotionPlus controller, with its improved accelerometers and gyroscopes. The trick for a game like Grand Slam Tennis 2 is to push those devices to their tech limits, while also making the game fun for casual users unaware of that tech wizardry.

In the future, tech will allow for more fidelity and response, until it seems effortless. “I think you literally walk into your game room, you walk into your Holo-Deck,” Singleton says with a laugh. As the tech improves, so will the games. Don’t be surprised if we keep seeing tennis games at console launches.

Pong, Atari -- 1972

Many credit Pong as one of -- if not the -- first graphical video games ever made. The first controls on home consoles were actually a scroll wheel that moved the paddles up and down the screen.

"There was this game called Pong, you may have heard of it?" jokes Thomas Singleton, Producer on EA's upcoming Grand Slam Tennis 2 video game. "It was a tennis game and it was highly addictive."

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: features, Gadgets, games, Gaming, sports, Tech, video games

For more Entertainment coverage:

20 TV Shows With the Most Social Media Buzz This Week [CHART]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 05:27 PM PST

When we discovered last week that zombies account for $5.74 billion of the U.S. economy, we weren’t surprised to see The Walking Dead top the cable list for most social TV show. Now if only zombies cared as much about money as they do brains…

The following chart breaks down the stats on the TV shows with the most social buzz. Be sure to check in every Monday for new social TV stats by following the “Social TV Charts” topic. Then sound off in the comments below why you think shows like Bad Girls Club jumped to spot number three this week. We’ll admit, we’re stumped.

The data below is compliments of our friends at Trendrr, who measure specific TV show activity (mentions, likes, checkins) across Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue and Miso. To see daily rankings, check out Trendrr.TV

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, narvikk

More About: features, Social Media, social tv, social tv charts, Trendrr, TV

For more Entertainment coverage:

HTC Edge Could Be the World’s First Quad-Core Smartphone

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 03:49 PM PST

Just when we started getting used to dual-core smartphones, here comes a quad-core smartphone, the HTC Edge. Whether it's the first quad-core handset in the world is still up for debate, but if the rumors are true, it'll be the most advanced.

Looking a lot like that HTC Rezound we were admiring last week, its inner parts list has a similar spec sheet, with a gig of RAM, 8-megapixel camera with the F/2.2 lens, and it will even have the Beats Audio enhancement package.

But that’s where the similarity ends. The Edge has a relatively gigantic 4.7-inch screen (compared with the Rezound’s 4.3 inch screen), and then there’s that Nvidia processor with its quartet of cores, each zinging along at 1.5GHz. All this updated tech will reportedly be shoehorned into a package that’s just 10mm thin.

By the way, in an Nvidia demo last spring, the company showed its Tegra 3 processor running twice as fast as its predecessor, the Tegra 2, and also running faster than an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 chip. So we’re talking about laptop speed in a smartphone. Here’s a video of that demo, which also suggests the Tegra 3 sips less battery power than the Tegra 2:

One disappointing spec in this HTC Edge phone is a lack of the faster LTE capability, but it’s still no slouch with 21 megabit-per-second HSDPA connectivity on board.

Our friends at Pocketnow say they expect this beast of a smartphone to go on sale late in the first quarter of next year (or early in the second quarter), hopefully packing that shiny new Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) operating system.

Our take: The idea of a quad-core smartphone that’s as fast as a laptop in the palm of your hand is quite impressive. However, are people concerned about how smartphones are too slow? We’re not hearing that complaint nearly as much as worries about the nagging problem of too-short battery life.

And with its screen that’s significantly larger than most, along with two extra cores, wouldn’t the laws of physics require more battery power to run all this? Although the Tegra 3 chip is said to use less power than the Tegra 2, that larger screen will probably run the battery down faster, and the rumor didn’t include any info about improved battery life.

Let us know in the comments if you think it’s more important to have four cores on a smartphone than longer battery life. Or can we have both?

The phone will probably look a lot like this:

HTC Rezound is slightly over a half-inch thick

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: HTC Edge, smartphone, tegra 3

For more Mobile coverage:

What Advice Did Steve Jobs Give to Mark Zuckerberg?

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 03:29 PM PST

Mark Zuckerberg says he asked Steve Jobs about how to build a high-quality team and great products, but denies Apple and Facebook ever talked about an acquisition.

The revelations come as part of an in-depth interview between PBS’s Charlie Rose and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. The extensive interview covers all of the bases, such as whether Facebook will ever build games (no, Zuck says) and what Zuckerberg thinks of Google+ (he calls it “their own little version of Facebook”).

However, the most interesting part of the interview comes when the trio starts discussing Zuckerberg’s relationship with Steve Jobs. “I had a lot of questions for him on how to build a team around you,” he says in response to one of Rose’s questions. “That's focused on building as high quality and good things as you are. How to keep an organization focused, right, when I think the tendency for larger companies is to try to fray and go into all these different areas.”

Zuckerberg professes respect for Apple because, like Facebook, it is out to build a company that will change the world rather than fatten the bottom line. Rose then asks Zuckerberg whether the two companies had ever talked about an acquisition.

“No. I don't think it ever really got there,” he says. “I mean, nor would I have wanted to sell it.” Sandberg and Zuckerberg then start talking about how Jobs never raised the issue because he understood that Zuckerberg had no interest in selling. We here at Mashable have heard conflicting stories about whether Apple has ever tried to acquire Facebook, but we find it hard to believe the two companies never talked about the issue at some level, whether seriously or just in passing.

Sandberg ends the interview with a strong message for women. “If you survey men and women in college today in this country, the men are more ambitious than the women,” she says. “And until women are as ambitious as men, they're not going to achieve as much as men.”

BONUS: 15 Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes

Jobs quote from 2005 Stanford commencement address. Posted by livinglauren.

Click here to view this gallery.

[via VentureBeat]

More About: apple, Facebook, mark zuckerberg, steve jobs

Samsung Focus Flash: A Great Phone, An Awesome Price

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 02:41 PM PST

Samsung’s new Focus Flash is a sleek, well-designed Windows Phone with a price that might just be enough to bring new smartphone users into the Microsoft fold.

What makes the Samsung Focus Flash remarkable aren’t its specs — though it is a well specced device — or its form factor — though we’re impressed with its build — but its price. At just $49.99, this Windows 7.5 Mango device gives “budget smartphone” a whole new meaning.

The Phone

When I first handled the Samsung Focus Flash, my first reaction was, “this looks slick.” The Focus Flash is similar in size to the iPhone 4/4S, though the sides are tapered angularly, which makes it appear thinner in spots.

Aside from the front screen, which is glass, the body of the phone is plastic. The phone doesn’t feel cheap or overly slight; it’s lightweight but the phone still feels substantial. In other words, I never feared I was going to break the phone by putting it in my pocket.

The screen is a 3.7″ Super AMOLED display. This is on the small size for most of the newer Windows Phone 7 handsets. The Focus Flash’s big brother, the Focus S, has a 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus display. Later this month, the HTC Titan will ship with a ginormous 4.7″ screen.

Although most manufacturers are embracing the bigger screen philosophy, I prefer smaller screens myself. Perhaps my hand size (and pocket size) has something to do with it, but I find the 3.7″ screen size just about perfect.

Although not as vibrant or crystal clear as the Super AMOLED Plus display in the Focus S (or the Lumia 800), the screen is still a joy to look at and use. In fact, I preferred it to some of the more expensive Windows Phone Mango devices I got to play with alongside the Focus Flash.

The processor is a speedy 1.4Ghz processor. Windows Phone devices don’t currently support dual-cores and the 1.4Ghz processor matches what you find in more expensive devices.

The front and rear cameras are serviceable, but nothing to write home about. Microsoft requires phone makers to include a photo button on the device itself, which is a nice touch.

The one glaring weak spot on the phone — and the only part that makes it feel like a $50 device — is the amount of onboard storage. The phone only has 8GB of memory — less with the included apps from Microsoft and AT&T. Plus, the memory isn’t expandable.

For the users that Microsoft and Samsung are targeting with this device — first time smartphone owners — this likely won’t be a problem — but it will mean limiting the amount of media on the phone over the long term.

Like Apple and Google, Microsoft is hoping consumers will use a combination of cloud-storage and streaming apps to satisfy their storage needs.

Battery life on the device was impressive. The phone got through about two days of normal use and one day of hardcore web surfing and app usage on a single charge.

The OS

When Windows Phone 7 was released last year, I was impressed with the promise that the operating system displayed. Still, there were some glaring feature omissions — like multi-tasking and copy and paste — that made using the phone a pain. Fortunately, Windows Phone Mango has solved those problems and improved substantially in other areas too.

The Metro UI remains one of my favorites on any platform. It’s designed to be easy to glance at and the text and chromatic layout is a pleasure to read in nearly all situations.

Although you need a Windows Live Account to use the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, email and calendaring works with any major provider. In fact, I was able to plug in my Google Apps email info into the phone with no problem and instantly see not just my mail, but also my calendars and to-dos.

Microsoft has totally one-upped the competition when it comes to social networking integration. Not only does the phone natively connect to Twitter — but also Facebook and LinkedIn. Plus, your contacts and calendars from those networks can show up in a unified inbox.

One of the neatest features in Mango is the ability to pin portions of an app to your homescreen. This means that instead of just having a shortcut to Evernote, I can actually pin the voice capture action in its place. Tapping that button takes me to a new voice note, no additional steps required.

Microsoft has also added a voice search layer across the OS that works with Bing and select web providers to offer up relevant information. The effect is more similar to the pre-Apple acquisition app Siri than Siri on the iPhone 4S, and Bing’s voice recognition engine continues to be subpar when compared to Google or Nuance. Still, it’s nice to see Microsoft thinking about the future.

The Apps

Over the last year, a host of apps and games have made their way to the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. While Microsoft still lags behind Android and Apple in terms of app numbers, it’s getting better.

This week, Spotify has made its way to Windows Phone Mango. In addition the features already available for iPhone and Android, the Windows Phone version features built-in sharing via Facebook, Twitter and Messenger in a way that is utterly seamless.

Other major apps like Netflix, Amazon Kindle, Angry Birds, Foursquare, and WordPress are also available.

In fact, in testing the phone over the weekend, I found about 90% of my most-used apps and utilities were either available for Windows Phone Mango or had a similar substitute.

Still, the omissions can hurt. Not having access to Dropbox, for instance, meant that I couldn’t easily access any of my stored documents or files. Likewise, while Netflix support is excellent, not having access to HBO Go, Hulu Plus or my cable company’s app meant that my video watching options were severely limited.

The good news is that overall, app quality, even from smaller developers, is largely good. The bad news is that many of the niche apps that have found a home on Android or iOS are still missing from Windows Phone 7.

The situation is getting better and my hope is that in the next twelve months, Microsoft can continue to court developers.

Compared to Other Windows Phones

One of the real strengths in Microsoft’s smartphone strategy is that it sets a minimum baseline for device performance. This guarantees every Windows Phone device has a minimum spec and thus, will run the same apps and the same version of the software.

This strategy means unlike many $50-and-under-devices, the Focus Flash isn’t running antiquated software or hardware. In this way, comparing the phone to others in higher price ranges becomes more about additional features rather than pure hardware performance.

I prefer the screen on the Focus Flash to the screen on the more expensive HTC Radar 4G. The Radar 4G has really terrible viewing angles and though larger, feels a bit more chintzy.

The Focus S has the same internal specs as the Focus Flash, but it has more internal memory, a bigger screen and a better camera. Whether or not it’s worth the extra $150 comes down to personal preference. While the screen on the Focus S is a bit nicer, I actually prefer the size and form factor of the Focus Flash.

The Value

Microsoft and Samsung should be commended for hitting the sweet spot in the value market with the Focus Flash. Aside from the internal memory — which is anemic — this phone is anything but budget.

Yes, it requires a 3G data plan and yes, users will need to sign the standard cell phone contract. However, for the person transitioning from feature phone to smartphone or for families looking to add another line to their account — this is a phone to keep your eye on.

There are cheaper smartphones. The iPhone 3GS is available for free. However, that phone is now two and a half years old and is showing its age when running iOS 5. Meanwhile, the Focus Flash runs the latest version of Windows Phone Mango and has a clear upgrade path for the future.

For users who are new to the smartphone game, use Office or Exchange at work, and want an inexpensive but feature-rich phone, the Focus Flash is definitely worth a look.

I give this phone a solid 8/10.

More About: Feature, review, samsung focus flash, spotify, windows phone 7, Windows Phone Mango

Nook Tablet: How Does It Stack Up Against the Competition? [CHART]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 01:52 PM PST

The great tablet wars are nigh. While a horde of Android slabs battle the iPad for supremacy, Amazon returned to the fray in September with the Kindle Fire, hoping to reclaim stewardship of the ereader throne. Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble thrust forth its Nook Tablet this morning in a bold gambit to split the market asunder.

See, aren’t ereaders more fun when they’re in a Lord of the Rings movie?

For serious, though — if you’re considering a shiny new tablet (either for yourself, or as a holiday gift), you now have more choices than ever. That might be a good or bad thing for you, depending on whether making decisions induces paralyzing anxiety.

Fortunately, we’ve devised this handy comparison chart. See how this new Nook stacks up against the leading tablets and ereaders below.

Looking for any specs we didn’t cover? Leave your questions in the comments, and one of our representatives will be with you as soon as possible.

Data Storage
Battery Life
File Formats
Operating System

Nook Tablet

8.1" (H) x 5" (W) x .48" (D)

7" multi-touch display

16GB (expandable to 32GB via MicroSD)
11.5 hours (reading)
9 hours (video)
1GHz dual-core
ePub, PDF, DOC, MP4, MP3, JPG, and more.
Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)

iPad 2

9.5" (H) x 7.31" (W) x .34" (D)

9.7" multi-touch display

16GB, 32GB & 64GB models. Non-expandable.
10 hours on Wi-Fi
512 MB
1GHz dual-core Apple A5
PDF, DOC, JPG, MP4, MP3, MOV, and more.
iOS 5
$499, $599, $699 (depending on storage size)

Kindle Fire

7.5" (H) x 4.7" (W) x .45" (D)

7" multi-touch display

8GB (approx 6GB user content). Non-expandable.
8 hours (reading), 7.5 hours (video)
512 MB
1GHz dual-core
Kindle (AZW), PDF, unprotected MOBI, DOC, JPG, MP4,
MP3, and more.
Amazon-flavored Android UI

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

9.09" (H) x 6.21" (W) x .33" (D)

8.9" multi-touch display

(Also comes in 10.1" and 7" display models, with varying

16 GB
13 hours (variable)
1 GB
1GHz dual-core
PDF, DOC, MP3, MP4, and more

Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)


Bonus: Up Close with the Nook Tablet

Barnes & Noble's Nook Demo

A look at some of the games and apps available on the Nook Tablet. By the holidays, Barnes & Noble will offer thousands of high-quality Nook Apps from leading third-party developers and content providers that can be enjoyed on Nook Tablet, as well as Nook Color.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: android, chart, features, ipad, kindle fire, Nook Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tab, tablets

eBay Launches Celebrity Auction House for Charity

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 01:33 PM PST

brad pitt image

It’s amazing what you can get a celebrity to do for charity. A crew of A-listers including Brad Pitt, Katy Perry, Troy Polamalu, Christina Aguilera and Jeff Bridges have signed on to eBay’s new Celebrity section to give away exclusives and share their shopping habits for charity.

Celebrity auctions swish exclusives with all money going to the celebrity’s selected charity. For example, Brad Pitt is auctioning a private meet-and-greet and tickets to his gala benefiting Make It Right, a non-profit helping rebuild homes in New Orleans.

The celebrities will auction fan experiences as well as personal memorabilia. Some other auctions include Katy Perry selling a stage dress to benefit the American Red Cross, meeting Christina Aguilera backstage at a taping of The Voice benefiting World Food Program USA and purchasing paintings made by Jeff Bridges to benefit Share Our Strength — No Kid Hungry.

The launch of eBay Celebrity is another feather in eBay’s charitable cap. The online marketplace has been donating to charitable causes through eBay Giving Works. In 2011, Giving Works has so far raised more than $51 million for charity and more than $278 million to date globally since the program started in 2003.

“We know a lot of these charities have celebrity ambassadors and we wanted to give them even more of an opportunity to raise money,” says Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for eBay. “So many of these celebrities were coming to us to raise funds, but we didn't have one place where consumers could come and engage.”

celebrity image

What’s interesting about eBay Celebrity is that celebrities gets their own mini-profile where they can leave messages, post content, promote their auctions and the charities they benefit. There’s also a quasi-awkward feature where celebs can share shopping-search habits. Turns out Katy Perry has a thing for Jonathan Taylor Thomas memorabilia, Brad Pitt needs a framing hammer, Troy Polamalu is into surfboards and Robert Duvall want’s Martha Stewart’s cookie cookbook.

The auctions range in price quite a bit. Pitt’s starting bid is $10,000, though others are less, like Sienna Miller’s leather jacket is at just $15.50 after four bids. Users choose to sell their own items for the celebrity charities, or they can donate directly to the causes during checkout or through PayPal.

eBay has a reputation as an odd “black market” for celebrity memorabilia and autographed images. Celebrity is a way of collecting all those random and often illegitimate items and for a good cause. To wit, eBay says it will not take any percentage from the sale of Celebrity auction items.

It’s potentially a win for everyone: Celebrities get to raise more money, fans get exclusive deals and charities get some serious spotlight from their celebrity ambassadors. The benefits also extend to eBay which, after auctioning off a Justin Bieber item for charity, saw a 107% increase in searches for “Justin Bieber” and a 35% increase in sales for unrelated Bieber memorabilia. The Celebrity vertical could help boost eBay’s collateral sales while doing some good.

Is the new portal the perfect celebrity auction house? Are you more willing to buy memorabilia from Celebrity rather than scour eBay or Craigslist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

More About: celebrities, charity, ebay, ecommerce, Social Good, Social Media

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Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi Denies on Facebook He Will Resign

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 12:43 PM PST

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied — on Facebook — reports that he would step down amid pressure from Italy’s intensifying debt crisis.

“The rumors of my resignation are groundless,” he wrote on his Facebook wall Monday, after giving a similar statement to an Italian newspaper.

Berlusconi faces increasing pressure as constituents call for his resignation before a key vote Tuesday and Italy’s debt crisis intensifies.

His former spokesperson (who has since become a newspaper editor) had published a report earlier in the day saying the Prime Minister would step down “within hours,” according to Bloomberg.

Although Facebook is not the most commonly invoked communication method for political leaders, Berlusconi’s announcement to his 330,000 followers isn’t an anomaly. Newt Gringrich, for instance, first announced his presidential run on Facebook and Twitter.

But it is unusual for a politician to post something that is so likely to receive a firey response. As Oakland Mayor Jean Quan found out after police tear gassed Ocuppy Oakland protesters, Facebook can quickly turn from open dialogue to public lambasting in the wrong circumstances.

Image courtesy iStockphoto/EdStock

More About: Facebook, italy, Silvio Berlusconi, trending

Emergency Alert System Gets First National Test Wednesday

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 12:30 PM PST

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will run the first-ever Emergency Alert System (EAS) test for 30 seconds Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST, which will be used to inform Americans in the case of a national emergency.

The test alert will resemble warnings previously issued for weather emergencies in affected areas, interrupting all U.S. television (including cable) and radio (including sattelite) stations. Listeners will hear a message announcing “This is a test,” and viewers may see a message across the television screen that reads, “Emergency Action Notification has been issued.”

The alert, administered in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be used to inform Americans in the event of a national emergency, should other modes of communication be unavailable.

According to FEMA, the Nov. 9 date was chosen because it’s near the end of hurricane season and mostly before the start of winter weather (although the northeast got an early taste of snow this year). The early afternoon time slot will avoid daily rush hours and fall during normal business hours in most time zones.

In addition to government efforts, private service provider T-Mobile issued a test warning last Saturday to thousands of their subscribers, which rang a siren noise and read “Presidential Alert” with the word “Test” below.

The alert was part of FEMA’s Personalized Local Alert Network, which allows "customers who own an enabled mobile device to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area."

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, BradenGunem

More About: fema

Alien Invasion Not Imminent, White House Says

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 12:17 PM PST

alien image

Well, perhaps not an invasion, but the White House has issued an official statement saying that there is no evidence that life exists outside of Earth.

The statement came in response to two petitions on We The People, the White House’s experiment in crowdsourced petitioning and public opinion. Any petition that gains at least 25,000 signatures will be passed along to a top policymaker for a response. The petitions asked the White House to “formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race” and to “immediately disclose the government’s knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings.”

Both petitions claim that extraterrestrials exist on Earth and that the government has gone to lengths to hide this information. The White House, though, says:

The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye.

The combined signatures don’t add up to 25,000, so it’s odd the White House would respond to this petition instead of others on the platform. Here are some pros and cons of the decision.

Pro: Despite the seemingly outlandish petition, the White House responded with a respectful and fairly lengthy response penned by Phil Larson, who works in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In it, Larson says that while aliens aren’t on Earth, “that doesn’t mean the subject of life outside our planet isn’t being discussed or explored. In fact, there are a number of projects working toward the goal of understanding if life can or does exist off Earth.” He lists three programs — SETI, the Kepler spacecraft and the Mars Science Laboratory — as examples of the search for life on other planets.

Con: The White House chose to answer this petition instead of handling more controversial topics such as those addressing the electoral college, Keystone XL Pipeline or same-sex marriage.

Pro: This response is encouraging to the validity of the We The People platform. No matter the petition, if it receives enough popular support, the White House will take it into consideration and respond.

Con: Occupy Wall Street is picking up speed and influence. The 2012 election is top of mind. The job market is still dismal, and there are tensions running across political and economic divides. While space exploration is certainly an important element of the U.S.’s tech history, the decision to handle this petition, titled “Searching for ET, But No Evidence Yet,” seems like a case of bad timing especially since it has fewer than 25,000 signatures.

Now it’s your turn: Did the White House make the right decision by responding to this alien inquiry? And are your Area 51 beliefs crushed, or do you still hold out hope for alien life?

BONUS: Our Favorite YouTube Videos: The Space Edition

Space Jam Trailer

Adam Ostrow: Space Jam, an essential movie in the sports star meets cartoon character meets outer space genre.

Click here to view this gallery.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Markusram

More About: crowdsourced, government, obama, White House

4 Ways YouTube Has Changed Broadway

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 12:00 PM PST

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA, that makes a full platform of marketing software, including marketing automation tools.

As Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” Increasingly, that stage has grown to include the digital sphere — that means YouTube.

When it comes to the entertainment industry, the legitimate theatre (or “legit” in Variety speak) might lag behind film, television and music in terms of its digital prowess. One of the services that is changing this — and bringing the stage to new audiences around the world — is YouTube. Not only can fans find clips of their favorite songs or productions online, aspiring Broadway Babies are increasingly turning to the video giant’s platform to audition for roles.

Let’s look at four ways YouTube is changing Broadway.

To Audition

In the film and television industry, casting directors have been accepting audition tapes from would-be applicants for nearly two-decades. Over the last five years, this has evolved to include online video auditions, using YouTube, Skype or Facebook.

For live theater, however, the rule for casting has largely been “in-person only.” Open auditions are a Broadway rite of passage, but these auditions almost always take place in person (it’s why the biggest shows or revivals do geographical tours to try to find new talent).

In the last few years, YouTube has started to change that. A New York Times article from August notes that two recent Broadway revivals, Annie and Funny Girl, held online casting calls. The best of the online submissions are called in for in-person callbacks.

In February, the off-Broadway revival of Rent held online auditions via YouTube in addition to open calls in Los Angeles and New York City.

Last April, the national tour of Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan held auditions for non-dance roles over YouTube. In the case of Peter Pan, the production even awarded the creator of the most-viewed YouTube video four tickets to see the show in Madison Square Garden.

Not all casting directors or show producers are convinced that YouTube is the future of online auditions, but for large productions or big touring shows, it is quickly becoming an important part of the process.

To Discover Talent

As the Times article points out, however, direct casting submissions are only part of the YouTube story. While more productions are seeking online submissions, a much larger movement is happening when it comes to discovering talent.

For Broadway casting directors, YouTube is a goldmine for doing talent research. The New York Times article quotes a number of casting directors who have turned to YouTube to find talent.

When Disney was casting potential Ariels for The Little Mermaid, it used YouTube to compile a list of potential candidates. Producers could then login to the site and see bookmarks or compiled playlists of potential finds.

To Promote

Having an official YouTube channel is a great way for Broadway productions to promote their shows and connect with fans.

The Book of Mormon won 9 Tony Awards and has been sold out for months. Still, the hit show maintains its own YouTube channel, in addition to accounts on Twitter and Facebook.The videos for this show are more promotional in nature and contain very little music and stage clips, but it’s a nice nod to fans.

The DisneyOnBroadway YouTube channel has amassed nearly 10 million views for its videos, which promote Disney stage productions like The Lion King and Mary Poppins.

Even smaller productions, like the off-Broadway Silence! The Musical, are using YouTube to promote their shows. Silence!, based on my all-time favorite film, Silence of the Lambs, uses YouTube as a way to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the show. For this show, which The New York Post likened to The Book of Mormon (the difference being, “you can afford the tickets”), YouTube is the perfect promotional outlet.

To Document

Of course, most widespread use of YouTube and Broadway isn’t sanctioned by many producers, theaters and Broadway actors — but it happens anyway.

The fact that nearly every person carries a video camera on them at all times has led to a huge rise in uploaded performances of Broadway shows.

It might make some actors angry (hear Broadway legend Patti LuPone dress-down a photographer in this clip), but it’s a fact of life in the 21st century.

The best part of YouTube is that it is a virtual treasure trove of past performances that would not otherwise be viewable by anyone. Live theater is about the live experience, but being able to revisit a particularly poignant performance or show-stopper is only possible thanks to tools like YouTube. Do a YouTube search for your favorite musical or regular stage show and you might be surprised by the quality (and age) of some of the clips that you find.

It’s particularly cool to watch the evolution of a long-running show over a period of years. Sometimes, fan-made montages, like this one from Sondheim on Sondheim are better than official promotional spots.

Series supported by HubSpot

The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA, that makes a full platform of marketing software, including marketing automation tools.

More About: broadway, Digital Marketing Series, features, mashable, YouTube

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Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire: This is War [PICS]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 11:51 AM PST

Barnes & Noble's Nook Demo

A look at some of the games and apps available on the Nook Tablet. By the holidays, Barnes & Noble will offer thousands of high-quality Nook Apps from leading third-party developers and content providers that can be enjoyed on Nook Tablet, as well as Nook Color.

Click here to view this gallery.

I hope Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was paying attention to the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet unveiling today. If not, he may not know that B&N CEO William Lynch essentially declared war on Amazon's soon-to-ship Kindle Fire tablet.

It's not just that the two 7-inch tablets are eerily similar in functionality — if not looks — or that both companies made their name in the retail book space or even that they're likely shipping within days of each other. No, it's that Barnes & Noble spent a significant portion of the Nook Tablet rollout attacking the Amazon Kindle Fire.

Rarely have I seen one company so directly assail another's product. Perhaps my favorite line was Lynch's description of the Kindle Fire as “a vending machine for Amazon services.” In a way, that's true. Amazon's Kindle Fire gives easy access to virtually all of Amazon's consumer-facing products and services. On the other hand, the Nook Tablet does pretty much the same thing for Barnes & Noble, though there is less focus on actually shopping for anything besides books, magazine and movies on the Nook Tablet.

Lynch's diatribe against the Fire continued throughout the presentation. For every Nook Tablet feature he'd introduce, Lynch would be sure to offer the lesser Kindle Fire counterpoint. The Nook Tablet will ship next week with 1 GB of RAM; the Fire reportedly has 512 MB of RAM (Amazon has never officially specified the exact amount). The Nook Tablet has 16 GB of storage space and a micro-SD slot for up to 32 GB of additional storage. The Fire: no slots and 8 GB of storage.

The Nook Tablet looks almost exactly like the now $199 Nook Color (though the former is slightly thinner), but Lynch was quick to point out that while Barnes & Noble designed its tablet from scratch, Amazon started with the Research in Motion BlackBerry PlayBook as a reference design. The point Lynch was trying to make is that this somehow limits the Kindle Fire.

Though the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet each have 7-inch, 1024-by-600 screens, Lynch explained that Barnes & Noble's Tablet offers a "Vivid View" IPS lamination display with no gap in the screen manufacturer, for a brighter screen with better viewing angles than screens made without this process, like the Kindle Fire.

Lynch also repeatedly highlighted consumers’ ability to walk into any Barnes & Noble store for product support. "Where do you go for support for the Kindle Fire?" asked Lynch. "To Seattle?"

The steady attack on Amazon and the new Kindle may seem odd, especially since Barnes & Noble made the tablet leap ahead of Amazon. According to Lynch, the Nook Color is the number-two best-selling tablet in the U.S. after the Apple iPad. What’s more, Lynch said it now sells 27% of all ebooks. These are big numbers and with “millions” of Nook Colors sold, so shouldn’t Lynch be sitting pretty by simply offering a strong upgrade to an already successful tablet product? Yes and no. Nook Color is a relatively decent tablet story, but Barnes & Noble still trails well behind Amazon in the ereader market (it has roughly 25%. IDC puts Amazon’s share at 51%). This aggressive approach is about getting all those millions who are now caught between their old ereader (or no ereader at all) and a new color device to either switch from Amazon or choose one of Barnes & Noble’s devices as their first ereader (one study shows that 15% of those without an ereader plan on buying one within the next six months). B&N can’t afford to be coy here, so it decided, instead, to launch an all-out assault on Amazon’s offerings. To do so, Lynch focused heavily on all that separates the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire.

Not So Different

Yet, for all that's different, this really boils down to a battle of two fairly similar 7-inch Android 2.3 content consumption tablets (neither has a camera). Both offer email and web browsing, though the Kindle Fire has its own proprietary Silk Web browser and the Nook Tablet uses a slightly modified Android browser.

I've now seen both devices up close and even got to hold the Nook Tablet — though they would not let me operate the device. Like the Fire, the Nook Tablet offers a bright, consistent, highly navigable interface that focuses on content and does an admirable job of hiding the standard Android interface. Screen colors were bright and consistent even at relatively extreme angles. There's now a mic (the Nook Color does not have one) that enables one of the Nook Tablet's niftier features: Read and Record. During the onstage demo, Lynch recorded his voice as he read Winnie the Pooh on the device. It will then play back the recording in-sync with page-turns. The mono-speaker is quite loud and in two separate demos, I could clearly hear the recording over the din of a crowded room. Those recordings, by the way, can be saved to the internal storage or on a micro-SD card so you can share them between Nook Tablets. Unfortunately, it doesn't store to Nook Cloud-based storage.

As with Amazon's Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet does not offer open access to the full Android market. Instead, there's the curated market, which will launch with 1,500 apps designed to work on a 7-inch screen.

Speaking of differences, there really aren't many differences between the new Nook Tablet and its predecessor, the Nook Color. The Nook Tablet has the exact same screen but updates Android from 1.3 to 2.3 (Gingerbread). The tablet also adds the aforementioned microphone, doubles the amount of RAM (from 512K to 1 GB) and adds a more powerful 1 GHz processor. The new device is also slightly lighter and thinner that the Nook Color.

For all this, you'll pay an addition $50. That's also $50 more than the Kindle Fire, clearly the Nook Tablet's chief competitor. Is the Nook Tablet a better deal than the Kindle Fire? You are getting more storage space and expandability with the Nook Tablet, but I still think the devices are more alike than not. For example, as content consumption devices, neither offers a camera, and both are Wi-Fi-only.

At this point, two things are clear: We now have two solid contenders in the 7-inch tablet space, but we can't recommend either one until we get a chance to test both of them, side-by-side, and this is officially Tablet War.

More About: barnes & noble, kindle fire, nook, Tablet, trending

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Animal Issues Get More Social Love Than Disaster Relief [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 11:05 AM PST

Non-profits targeting wide-reaching issues have embraced social media, but they have not all found equal success. This infographic, created by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s non-profit craigconnects, examines the impact of Facebook and Twitter activity across seven types of causes — animal, children, cultural, disaster relief, environment, health, veterans/military and women.

The research tracked the five largest non-profits by funding in each category and is a follow-up to a previous study on how non-profits use social media. The infographic explores who posts most frequently, who’s being talked about, who’s replying to followers and whose posts have the greatest spread.

The most talkative organizations are for animal causes (surprise, the Internet loves animals!) and environmental causes. Veterans/military causes post the least. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is the most talkative non-profit. Disaster relief organizations have the most engaged followings. Women’s causes are among the least talked about, though we’ve seen that women dominate social networking.

Take a look through the findings and let us know in the comments what you think. Do you engage with non-profits on Twitter or Facebook? Which causes do you find most engaging?

More About: craig newmark, craigconnects, craigslist, infographic, non-profit, Social Good, Social Media

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Google Direct Connect Hooks Search and Google+ Pages Together

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 10:49 AM PST

Google has rolled out a new feature called Direct Connect, which makes it dead simple for users to find and follow brands on Google+ via Google Search.

Whenever a user wants to find a brand on Google+, all they have to do is type “+” in Google Search, followed by the brand or business they want to follow. So if a user wants to follow Toyota, they would simply type “+Toyota” in the Google Search box. This brings up a direct link to the Toyota Google+ Page that appears directly under the search box. Hitting enter after typing in “+Toyota” will also take a user directly to Toyota’s page.

Direct Connect changes the function of the “+” operator in Google Search. In the past, the operator made it so that any word with the plus sign before it was required in all search results (much like what putting quotations around a word or phrase accomplishes). However, Google retired that operator last month, likely in anticipation of the launch of Direct Connect.

Direct Connect gives Google+ Brand pages a leg up on Facebook Pages, Twitter profiles and even brand websites. The link appears just under the search box, so it essentially acts like a search result above the search engine page. It’s also the only operator that takes users directly out of Google Search and to another website.

Google is testing Direct Connect with its properties and a limited set of partners (+Google, +Toyota, +YouTube, etc.) but says it will roll out the feature to other brands in the near future.

1. Angry Birds

The popular game welcomes Google+ followers with an excited "Ca-caww!"

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Google, Google+ Pages, trending

What Will the Next 40 Years of Technology Bring? [CONTEST]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 10:43 AM PST

This post is supported by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow™ and the world leader in silicon innovation, in celebration of the world’s first microprocessor: the Intel 4004.

In the past 40 years, technology has drastically changed our daily lives. Back then, the Internet was barely in its infancy. The smallest computer was the size of a refrigerator and was infinitely less powerful than today’s palm-sized smartphones.

Nowadays, children in school can learn with peers across the globe in the classroom. Cars don’t need to run on fossil fuels. The deaf can hear. Computers are sleek enough to fit inside a manila envelope.

Looking at how far technology evolved in the past 40 years, we want you to tell us: Where do we go from here? In the next 40 years, what do you think technology will be like?

The most inspired response will receive an Asus UX31E-DH52 Ultrabook — so be sure to submit a thoughtful and creative answer. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

How to Enter the Contest:

  • Tell us in the comments below what you think is on tap for the next 40 years in technology, and “like” this post on Facebook, OR
  • Tweet your thoughts on the next 40 years in technology with the hashtag #next40yrs.
  • Submit your answer by Monday, Nov. 14 at noon ET.
  • Please use your real identity in the submission so that we may credit you in the follow-up post.
  • Look out for a post with the winning submission on Tuesday, after the contest closes.

This contest is limited to U.S. residents 18 and older. Please read our full contest rules here.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, iqoncept

More About: Asus, contest, intel

Google+ Launches Branded Pages

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 10:06 AM PST

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as social media and technology updates.

Google has finally unveiled brand pages for Google+, allowing businesses and brands to join Google’s social network.

“So far Google+ has focused on connecting people with other people,” Google SVP of Social Vic Gundotra said in a blog post. “But we want to make sure you can build relationships with all the things you care about—from local businesses to global brands—so today we're rolling out Google+ Pages worldwide.”

The new Google+ brand pages look similar to Google+ Profiles, except for the little square icon that designates that it’s a Page rather than a Profile. Users can add brands such as Fox News, the Dallas Cowboys and Angry Birds to their circles, check out their information and browse their photos. When users add a brand to their circles, it increases that brand’s follower count.

Google’s launch partners include Angry Birds, CNN, Fox News, the Muppets, the Dallas Cowboys, Pepsi, Toyota, Macy’s, X Games, WWE, Train, Barcelona Football Club and Save the Children.

SEE ALSO: 4 Reasons Google+ Brand Pages Will Be Better Than Facebook's [OPINION]

When the search giant first launched Google+, brands immediately jumped on the opportunity to gain additional exposure. Google soon asked brands to stop creating Google+ profiles. It quickly became a controversy that forced the company to accelerate its plans for business pages.

What do you think of the new Google+ pages? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: What Google+ Looks Like

1. Angry Birds

The popular game welcomes Google+ followers with an excited "Ca-caww!"

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Google, trending

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8 Mainstream Celebrities Who Invest in Tech Startups

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 09:33 AM PST

1. Lady Gaga

Startup Investments: Lady Gaga and fellow celebrity Kanye West invested $7.5 million in Turntable.fm - a website that allows you to experience and discover music online with your friends. Users can rate music with their friends by clicking either the "Awesome" or "Lame" button, or become a DJ by spinning tunes with other DJs on the site.

Image courtesy of LadyGaga.com

Click here to view this gallery.

These days, top celebrities aren’t just spending money on Hollywood mansions and private yachts — they’re also investing millions of dollars in startup tech companies.

From websites that let you show off your best dance moves to ecommerce solutions that help you find the perfect shoes, check out this gallery to see where celebs are putting their money in the startup scene.

More About: celebrity, startup

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Top 10 Role-Playing Games for iPhone

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 08:20 AM PST

1. Dragon Fantasy

Fans of RPGs dating back to the NES era will love this. The story and dialog is often goofy, and the game is boiled down to the essence of the genre, but everything that defines the old-school turn-based RPGs is present.

Expect to do plenty of grinding, and suffer all the frustrations that came with the classics, but there's an audience that will absolutely love this. Plus, the game has already been updated with additional content post-release, expanding the game's story. Try doing that with a Nintendo game!

Click here to view this gallery.

Role-playing games (RPGs) are a long and proud tradition. From the Final Fantasy school of turn-based battling to Roguelikes that offer random dungeon generation, the genre is varied and still going strong. Known for their depth and often packing narrative, there are plenty of offerings on iOS.

SEE ALSO: 10 Best iPhone Arcade Games

Check out our picks for great adventures you can have on your morning commute!

More About: contributor, features, Gaming, iOS, ipad, iphone, video games

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11 Essential Tools for the Tech-Savvy Traveler

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 07:55 AM PST

The Trendsetter Tech Series is supported by smart. Test drive the space saving, eco-friendly, totally unique, smart. Visit smartusa.com to find a new smart center near you. smart — unbig. uncar.

The holiday season is upon us, and that means one thing: traveling. Whether you’re hastily coordinating the logistics to actually get to grandma’s house or frantically securing those last minute business deals on the other side of the country before 2012, finding the right flight, hotel and rental car is no joke. And if you’re pressed for time or on a budget, getting a great package is nothing short of a holiday miracle.

Luckily, there is a veritable cornucopia of travel applications, available both online and via smartphone, that can ease those transit-induced tension headaches. These 11 tools will stick with you every step of the way, from flight procurement to a last-minute business dinner suggestion, to smooth over the turbulence and make sure you get to your destination safely and cheaply.

1. Hipmunk

This travel deal curator categorizes all the available deals from various travel websites (including Hotwire and Orbitz) into one, easy-to-decipher graphic that pushes the best flights to the top. The website also has the power to sort by "Agony," ensuring your cross-country trek has the shortest layovers and highest reliability ratings. Hipmunk is also available for free via iOS or Android, convenient for making plans on the go.

Click here to view this gallery.

Series supported by smart

The Trendsetter Tech Series is supported by smart. Test drive the space saving, eco-friendly, totally unique, smart. Visit smartusa.com to find a new smart center near you. smart — unbig. uncar.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, YinYang

More About: applications, deals, features, mashable, Mobile, travel, Trendsetter Tech Series

Barnes & Noble Launches Nook Tablet

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 07:30 AM PST

Barnes & Noble launched a tablet reader on Monday. The Nook Tablet will rival other tablet readers on the market, including Amazon’s newly launched Kindle Fire.

The Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, which will retail for $249 and arrive in stores at the end of next week, looks very similar to the Nook Color — which Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch says is the second-best selling tablet behind the iPad.

That device’s price will be reduced from $249 to $199 starting today. The Nook Simple Touch’s price will be reduced from $139 to $99.

The Nook Tablet runs on Wi-Fi, and it has a 7-inch display, a built-in microphone, web browsing, email, the ability to play movies in HD and a “Nook Newstand” that allows users to subscribe to periodicals. Barnes & Noble’s new tablet comes with 16 GB of memory, twice that of the Kindle Fire, and enables users to add up to 32 GB more using an SD card.

For content beyond reading material, Barnes & Noble has preloaded Netflix and Hulu Plus on its new device. Like the Kindle Fire, the tablet runs Android 2.3 but does not allow access to the full Android market — only selected and Nook-optimized apps. By the holidays, it hopes to offer Nook-specific apps from third-party developers.

Lynch minced no words in positioning the tablet against the Kindle Fire.

He called the tablet “a vending machine for Amazon’s services” and criticized Amazon for selling an ad-supported version of the Kindle Fire at a $40 discount. Brick-and-mortar stores that can provide support, more memory and a device that is slightly lighter were all included in his list of reasons that the Nook Tablet had an advantage over the Kindle Fire.

Lynch also said that Netflix CEO Reed Hasting said that HD movies look better on the Nook.

“Judge for yourself,” he said, “but we think content will look and render better on the Nook than on Kindle Fire.”

Barnes & Noble's Tablet Launch Event

Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch on stage at the launch event for the Barnes & Noble Tablet.

Click here to view this gallery.

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The Evolution of the Microprocessor [SPONSORED]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 07:00 AM PST

This post is brought to you by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow™ and the world leader in silicon innovation. For more information on sponsored posts, read here.

The first programmable microprocessor — the Intel® 4004 — made its debut in 1971 in a business calculator. Since then, multiple generations of Intel microprocessors have gone on to be the brains in a variety of everyday products, from gas pumps and traffic light controllers to some of history's most profound moments, like the Apollo space missions and medical research into the human genome.

It would take up to one million original Intel 4004 chips to provide the effortless computing power we have all come to expect from today's Ultrabook. By our calculation, that would make today's laptop measure roughly 23 feet by 10 feet, and it would consume 4,000 times more energy than a moden laptop and cost about $150,000 a year to power. Cheers to progress!

The dramatic evolution of computing over the past few decades has unleashed wave after wave of innovation. Yet, Intel believes we are still at the very early stages in the evolution of computing. Fueled by the relentless advancement of Moore's Law, the pace of technological innovation is, in fact, accelerating. Intel believes the sheer number of advances in the next 40 years will equal all of the innovative activity that has taken place over the last 10,000 years of human history. Intel envisions billions of connected people, and trillions of connected electronic and electromechanical devices, creating the so-called "Internet of things". Today, technology is no longer the limiting factor. We are limited only by our own imagination, so the really important question is, "What do you want from the future of computing?”

(This post is brought to you by Intel, Sponsors of Tomorrow™ and the world leader in silicon innovation. For more information on sponsored posts, read here.)

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Google Doodle Pays Homage to Marie Curie

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:44 AM PST

Today’s Doodle on Google‘s homepage pays tribute to Marie Curie, the famous Polish-French physicist and chemist born Nov. 7, 1867.

Marie Curie was born Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Warsaw. She studied at the Sorbonne Institute in Paris, earning a degree in mathematics in 1894. There, she also met her future husband, scientist Pierre Curie, whom she married a year later in July 1895.

Among her many contributions to science, Curie coined the term “radioactivity,” discovered two elements — polonium and radium — and founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw.

She was also the first woman to receive a Nobel prize and the first person ever to receive two Nobel Prizes, for physics and chemistry.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Animated Google Doodles [VIDEOS] | Where Do Google Doodles Come From?

Curie spent the majority of her lifetime working with radioactive substances, unaware of their harmful effects on human health. She died in 1934 of aplastic anaemia, a condition that was a result of her long-term exposure to radiation.

BONUS: More Google Doodles

The Christmas Google Doodle

Each package gets larger with a mouse-over, and a click on it returns search results pertinent to a specific country or the particular items featured in a scene. This one is from December 24, 2010.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Doodle, Google, google doodle, Marie Curie, trending

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Disney and YouTube Sign Video Partnership

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:27 AM PST

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Disney and YouTube are set to announce a content partnership worth $10 million to $15 million, The New York Times reports.

Under the terms of the agreement, YouTube will invest millions of dollars on an original video series produced by Disney and distributed exclusively through a new co-branded channel on both YouTube and Disney.com, according to the Times.

Disney has had a couple of bad quarters, and it’s hoping to re-capture its audience through new distribution channels. It wants, as co-president of Disney Interactive James Pitaro told the Times, to “go where (its) audience is."

The deal also makes sense for YouTube, which is always on the lookout for more original, quality content and strong brand partners. However, Robert Kyncl, YouTube's global head for content partnerships, emphasized that YouTube will be a neutral distributor and is not planning to go into the production business.

YouTube recently announced a big push to bring more premium content to the site, with a slew of new video channels. Google has reportedly spent $100 million on the deals for the new channels, and its partners include celebrities such as Madonna and Ashton Kutcher, as well as media companies like The Wall Street Journal, The Onion, SB Nation and Demand Media.

More About: disney, Video, YouTube

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Meet the New Social Media Correspondent for “The Voice”: Christina Milian [Q&A]

Posted: 07 Nov 2011 06:13 AM PST

The Voice Season Two

NBC’s The Voice — a singing competition that became a social media powerhouse on TV earlier this year — returns for another season Feb. 5 with added star power: Grammy-nominated singer Christina Milian.

She has been tapped as the show’s new social media correspondent to join host Carson Daly and celebrity judges Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton in the search for America’s next singing sensation.

Milian replaces last season’s correspondent, former G4 personality Alison Haislip, and will interact with fans on Facebook, Twitter, NBC Live and NBC.com. She’ll also appear on live shows. Milian will serve as a role model on set for the contestants. Last season, The Voice trained finalists to leverage blogs, Facebook Pages and Twitter, and gave them cameras and Samsung Galaxy Tabs.

“She knows how important social media is to current musicians and is very active online to engage with her fans,” a spokesperson for The Voice recently told Mashable. “She will be a great example to our artists.”

Q&A With Christina Milian

Milian burst into the pop scene 10 years ago with “AM to PM,” continued charting worldwide with “Dip It Low” in 2004 and has since released a third album and made several appearances on TV shows, including CSI.

"I look forward to being the eyes and ears for the show and I hope everyone enjoys my fun demeanor. … I get a chance to integrate my music career with a show like this. My fans will be very happy with that.”

Mashable: How is social media important for you?

Milian: I’ve always been an advocate of the Internet and staying ahead of the game by communicating with my fans. I want to know what they like or dislike, etc. It keeps your fans riding with you in the long run when you constantly provide them with content or something to talk about.

Mashable: What will you bring to The Voice team?

Milian: I think the coaches will feel even more comfortable with me to share a lot more. I know their fans will for sure appreciate it, especially Xtina fans! They’re tweeting me already wanting to know the inside scoop. I hope to make it fun and informative, and I would like to find more ways to give them what they want to see. Maybe YouTube videos? I love doing those!

Mashable: What was your favorite part of season one?

Milian: The show stays very true to music and talented vocalists. It’s great to see people get a chance at hitting it big and to be coached on how to become better artists.

SEE ALSO: How The Voice Became a 24/7 Social Media Conversation

Mashable: What is your most memorable online moment?

Milian: I would say the first time I realized there were fan clubs on the Internet for me. It started with ChristinaMilian.org. I still remember to this day a girl named Suz ran it and it had all types of info. I was shocked to find that so many people were into my music career.

Mashable: So what’s next?

Milian: I look forward to being the eyes and ears for the show and I hope everyone enjoys my fun demeanor. At the end of the day, I’m so blessed to do this and The Voice is happening at a great time in my life. I get a chance to integrate my music career with a show like this. My fans will be very happy with that.

BONUS: A Look Back at Christina Milian’s Music Videos

"Us Against The World"

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More About: Music, nbc, social tv, television, the-voice

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