Apple did something really odd today. Something they almost never do. They pre-announcedthe agenda for the keynote of one of their events, WWDC, taking place next week. Yes, they probably did this in an attempt to set expectations read: no new iPhone coming but in doing so, they also managed to do something even stranger: they outed a completely unreleased product. iCloud. So what is iCloud? Apple only states that it's their "upcoming cloud services offering." Of course, a number of other details have been rumored for months now. I figured it was a good time to break down what we know or what we think we know about what's coming. Erick did a bit earlier. I'll do a bit more.
More details have emerged since we originally reported on Twitter's photo-sharing service, namely that Apples new iOS 5 will probably come with a baked in Twitter image sharing feature. A tipster informs us that one trigger happy Apple iOS designer has already released a test link into the wild (which we've seen but are not replicating here). The tipster clued us into a http://a0.twimg.com/status_photos/ URL that appeared in his timeline, and then quickly disappeared.
Every technology era has its four horsemen driving growth and innovation. In the 1990s it was Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and Dell. Today, there is anew "gang of four," as Google chairman Eric Schmidt puts it. They are Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google (of course), and they are behind the consumer revolution on the Internet today. Not only are all four companies "growing at incredible rates." Schmidt notes that all four are together worth about half a trillion dollars, they are all platforms in their own right, and they are all basically spreading their power where before there was only one company who had such influence: namely, Microsoft. But "Microsoft is not driving the consumer revolution," Schmidt notes (although they still do well in the enterprise).
Today during a keynote interview atAllThingsD's D9, Google Executive Chairman (and former longtime CEO) made a key announcement: Google has recently renewed its partnership with Apple over mapping and search. In other words, don't look for a new version of Maps on iOS at next month's WWDC. So, why is this important? Apple has long shipped every iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad with a Maps application powered by Google. It's great (though arguably not as good as its Android counterpart). But Apple and Google are competing fiercely in the mobile market, and every time someone runs a search using Maps from an iOS device, Apple is handing Google a little more data that could be used to further improve their local products.
PunchTab, a startup that offers a social loyalty platform for consumers and publishers, has raised $850,000 in seed funding from Mohr Davidow Ventures, Embarcadero Ventures, and angels Venky Harinarayan, Anand Rajaraman, and Nick Sturiale. PunchTab is the brainchild of YouSendIt founder Ranjith Kumaran. PunchTab allows publishers to give reward points to users who check in to a site or blog every day. Visitors, which authenticate via Facebook Connect, can earn points for Facebook comments, Wordpress comments and Facebook likes. Once a publisher rewards a user, the visitor can redeem the reward through the PunchTab rewards catalog. The startup says the integration is simple, only requiring a publisher to add a few lines of code.
You may know Vudu as the startup bringing high definition movie rentals and rent-to-own services to set-top boxes like PlayStation 3 and the Boxee Box. And most TVs and Blu-ray players. Vudu recently became the second streaming service to receive its own dedicated button on Vizio's remote controls, following Netflix. You may also know Peter Gabriel, the British rocker who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a part of Genesis. The man responsible for Sledgehammer. What you may not know is that Gabriel is the front man and lead investor in a rapidly growing recommendation service called The Filter. Or that today The Filter is officially announcing that it has been tapped by Vudu to power its recommendation engine.
If you were among the first wave of people to buy an iPad last spring, there's a good chance you spent a lot of time playing one game in particular: Plants vs Zombies. PopCap's smash hit was one of the first games on the iPad and it did extremely well, and it's also seen a lot of success on the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch form factor. Now, some 16 months after its release, the game still ranks #27 on the App Store's list of top paid apps. It's not Angry Birds, but it's easily one of iOS's most popular games ever. And today, finally, Android fans are getting a chance to smack down some cartoonish undead.The application just launched on Amazon's AndroidAppstore, and you can download itright here(it's free today, and will be $2.99 starting tomorrow). Oh, and you won't find it on the official Android Market for another two weeks.Unfortunately it isn't currently optimized for tablets, but it should still work fine. The launch is a big deal for two reasons.
Social gaming giant Zynga is launching its latest game tomorrowEmpires & Allies, the company's first strategy combat game. Zynga is going big with this launch, debuting the game on Facebook in 12 languages (CityVille only launched in 5 languages). Zynga says this is the gaming company's most social title to date. Empires & Allies, which is the companys first title to be launched out of Zynga's Los Angeles studio, is set on a sprawling multi-island game board. The game itself is a cross between FarmVille and CityVille in terms of the layout and overall feel. There are two main parts to the game. First, players aim to build a island-nation by arming themselves against enemy forces and preparing for battle. Second, throughout the game, players build army units, recruit friends, and encounter allies and villains as fight their way across enemy-held territories on the quest to defeat the final villain. It's sort of like Risk meets CityVille meets Settlers of Catan.
There were a lot of stellar startups at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC last week, and unfortunately, there could only be one set of finalists and one winner. Of course, that doesn't mean that those companies that didn't make the final heat aren't worthy of some love. The Daily followed the entrepreneurs behind three Disrupt NYC battlefield competitors, SpotOn, Spenz, and Madbrook Publishing through their unique experiences at Disrupt. They came by plane, train, and automobile, fought some nerves, endured some ups and downs, but in the end were exposed to a host of eyeballs and launched successfully.
It's something that Dave Morin isn't too quick to talk about, but it's impossible to ignore: his new startup, Path, is becoming quite the gathering ground for ex-Facebook employees. Of course, Morin's reluctance to establish the connection probably has to do with the fact that he used to be the head of Platform there, and still has close ties to the company. But the small startup just hired its fourth ex-Facebooker today. And the latest is a pretty big one, considering he had been at Facebook over four years. Matthew Welty will be Path's new Head of Operations, Morin tells us. Welty had been an operations engineer at Facebook for the past four-plus years. For some perspective on how long he had been there, when he joined in April 2007, Facebook had 20 million active users. Today, they're about to hit 700 million active users.
Yesterday, we first reported that Twitter was on the verge of launching their own photo-sharing service. That report has since been confirmed by Liz Gannes, who happens to work for All Things D, which is hosting a conference where Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was planning to announce this news. So, yeah. "Sources familiar with the matter." Confirmed. And now we know a bit more. First of all, this move is a direct assault on services like TwitPic and yFrog. With Twitter Pictures, you'll be able to upload from Twitter.com and the clients and you'll get a nice, tidy URL that links to your picture (and a small thumbnail may now appear in your stream). We've heard that this might use the twimg.com URL that Twitter has used internally for a long time, but that's not certain yet.
Last October, Kleiner Perkins launched the sFund, a $250 million initiative designed to make strategic investments in entrepreneurs building social services and apps. The partners contributing to the fund include Facebook, Amazon, Zynga, Comcast, and more. The first startup to receive investment from the sFund was Cafebots, which received $5 million in series A from Kleiner shortly thereafter. At the time of the announcement, Cafebots was in stealth mode and was tight-lipped about just what kind of social service it was building. My colleague MG Siegler did, however, learn that the startup was hoping to expose users to a new, yet referential acronym: "FRM", or "friend relationship management". Of course, not everyone is familiar with CRM (customer relationship management) and some might miss this tongue-in-cheek reference. Today, we've had the chance to learn a little more about the Kleiner-backed startup ahead of its impending launch in June, and how it's moving past "FRM" to embrace a more all-compassing descriptor of its business: "personal crowd control". Also part of the update? The company will no longer be known as Cafebots. From here on out, it's Katango.
YouTube is now showing approximately 3 billion videos a day. A growing proportion of those are shown with adsmore than 2 billion a weekand YouTube as a business is expected to pass $1 billion in revenue next year. But when it comes to making money, some videos do better than others. For YouTube, it is all about scale, and networks of loosely aligned online video producers scale better than individual shows and viral-video phenoms. In fact, there is a brand new department inside YouTube called Networks. The purpose of the department is encourage the formation of these outside networks which then use YouTube as their distribution channel.
There's a button war going on around us. Google, Digg, Yahoo, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn they've all been angling to get their buttons in prime real estate on big websites. But two players loom larger in the space than anyone else: Facebook and Twitter. And Twitter just escalated the war a bit today. Twitter has just unveiled the Follow Button. This follows their Tweet Button which is already in use on thousands of websites across the web. While the Tweet Button was great for sharing individual pieces of content, the Follow Button is meant to establish more social connections on the service. In this regard, it's sort of like the Facebook Like Button, which people place on their websites to get other Facebook users to tie themselves to brands remotely. Of course, the Like Button also acts a bit like the Tweet Button as well (that is, you can share individual pieces of content from it too).
VMware has acquired social communications platform Socialcast. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Socialcast, which raised nearly $10 million in funding, combines a corporate activity stream that ties into CRM and ERP systems with social bookmarking, Outlook and SharePoint integrations, mobile (iPhone and Blackberry) and desktop (Air) apps, and analytics. Co-workers can share knowledge and updates in a semi-private setting. The company, which has over 7000 customers, offers both hosted and behind-the-firewall options.