Shortage of Engineers or a Glut: No Simple Answer

Ask a child if there is a shortage of ice cream in the world, and no doubt, the response will be an emphatic yes—there certainly is. And ask a tech CEO if there is a shortage of engineers, and you will get the exact same answer.

That’s the story I used to tell, based on my research on engineering graduation rates and outsourcing trends.  In 2005, my team shattered the myths about India and China graduating 12 times the numbers of engineers as the U.S. (we found that the U.S. graduated more than India did in 2004, and the quality of Indian and Chinese graduates was not comparable to that of American schools). And our survey of 78 executives from companies that Lou Dobbs (remember him?) harangued for “Exporting America” revealed that they weren’t going offshore because of shortages of U.S. talent or deficiencies in the skills of Americans, but because it was cheaper and these companies needed to be closer to growth markets.

The argument that I made, and that the opponents of skilled immigration also make, is that if there was, indeed, a labor shortage, then engineering salaries would be rising and companies would be paying huge bonuses to attract and retain talent. This wasn’t the case a few years ago. But with Google giving 10% pay hikes to all of its employees and offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in retention bonuses, this appears to be happening today. In Silicon Valley, there seems to be a talent crunch: most startups, venture capitalists, and big company executives say it is very hard it is to hire the right talent; they claim that wages are rising.

But national unemployment rates are hovering around 10%, and tens-of-thousands of highly experienced computer programmers and technical specialists can’t find work. How can this be?

I believe I know the answer. But to be sure, I asked several experts and even my Twitter followers to share their opinion on my website. I received many insightful responses.

Sanjay Subhedar, a VC at Storm Ventures, says that in Silicon Valley, there is a shortage of Objective C developers, analog engineers who understand low power design, and good user-interface designers. There are also shortages of radio-frequency engineers in New York City and in Indiana.

Edward Alden, Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations, explains that before the current downturn, computer programmers and software engineers were two occupations that had “something pretty close to full employment”. There was very strong wage growth during the tech boom (1999-2001), and then a leveling off—but not a decline—in wages from 2001-2007. Complaints of shortages continued post-recession, however, even when the overall unemployment rate of engineers was much higher. Alden postulates that employers are looking for very precise skill sets that are not readily available either because of inadequacies in U.S. education and training, or because of insufficient mobility in the labor force.

There is clearly a mismatch between need and skill availability. There are other problems also:

  • Many engineering graduates aren’t becoming engineers or joining startups, as UC-Berkeley engineering masters student Rahul Barwani noted. Most of Rahul’s classmates became management consultants or took other non-engineering jobs. That’s because they received higher salaries than what engineering firms or startups offer.
  • Startups don’t hire students fresh out of college because they can’t afford to train them.  As Robert Shedd, CTO of Three Screen Games, explains, startups need people who can hit the ground running. And that is why college graduates in places like Tampa, Florida can’t get jobs, as IT consultant Roy Lawson observes.
  • American companies don’t invest in training their workforce any more like they used to. They expect workers to have all the right skills.
  • Nearly 60% of U.S. engineering post-graduate degrees and 40% of graduate degrees are awarded to foreign nationals. In the past, most of these students would remain in the U.S. after graduation and eventually become U.S. citizens. Now, because of flawed U.S. immigration policies, most buy one-way tickets home.
  • The world’s best and brightest aren’t beating a path to the U.S. any more. In previous years, H-1B visas for foreign nationals were in such high demand that they had to be awarded by lottery. This year, the annual quota of 65,000 hasn’t even been used yet. Instead, these workers are staying home and entrepreneurship is booming in countries like India and China.

So there are many issues here. But the national debates about competitiveness, immigration, and education, typically focus on the issue of supply and demand of engineers and scientists. They paint this issue in black or white when it is shades of gray.

On December 7, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is releasing a detailed report which analyzes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and worker shortages from a historical perspective. It finds that the standard indicators of salary growth and unemployment rates are not the best metrics for assessing shortages. The authors of the report say it is better to measure the length of time it takes for companies to hire STEM workers; analyze global job growth in a given sector; and compare the U.S. position in the global job market to other countries. They prescribe more skilled immigration and greater investments in the education and skills of American-born workers.

All of this is very important, because many countries in the world are moving faster than the U.S. They are learning to innovate and will provide stiff competition in the future. Just when the U.S. should be opening its doors wider to skilled foreign workers and be focusing on nurturing startups, it is turning protectionist and xenophobic. We need to give Silicon Valley every advantage it can have rather than handicapping it with uninformed and misguided policies.

Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. You can follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa and find his research at www.wadhwa.com.


Facebook Shares Only Gain 1.2% Since Last Week

Ok, I flat out love these auctions that SecondMarket are holding for privately held Facebook shares. Last week the first one closed, and $40 million of stock changed hands at $20.76 per share, valuing the company at roughly $50 billion.

This week’s auction has now closed. Only 475,000 shares moved, compared to 1.9 million last week. The auction closing price edged up 1.2% to $21.01, about $10 million worth of stock total.

Stay tuned for next week’s auction. What do you think the closing price will be? Closest guess gets a TechCrunch tshirt.

Here’s the email to SecondMarket participants:

Thank you to those who participated in this week’s Facebook auction. The auction was again successful and fully cleared at a per share price of $21.01. Next week, the reserve price will be $21.50, and we will continue to require a minimum sale and minimum purchase of 25,000 shares.

If you own shares that you are eligible to sell and wish to participate as a seller, please complete the attached Seller Information Sheet and submit it to SecondMarket at [email protected] by Monday, December 6 at 11:59 PM EST.

If you would like to participate as a buyer, please complete the attached Buyer Information Sheet and submit it to SecondMarket at [email protected] by Wednesday, December 8 at 12:00 PM EST.

Please see below for detailed results on previous auctions and for this week’s auction calendar:

Previous Auction Results:

Total Shares Cleared to Date: 2,371,265

November 22, 2010:

Total Number of Shares Offered for Sale: 1,896,265

Number of Shares Cleared in Auction: 1,896,265

Reserve Price: $20.60

Clearing Price: $20.76

November 29, 2010:

Total Number of Shares Offered for Sale: 475,000

Number of Shares Cleared in Auction: 475,000

Reserve Price: $20.60

Clearing Price: $21.01

Next Week’s Auction Timeline:

· Monday, December 6 at 10:00 AM EST – Auction process commences

· Monday, December 6 at 11:59 PM EST – Seller order forms due

· Tuesday, December 7 at 9:00 AM EST – Buyers informed of share quantity available

· Wednesday, December 8 at 12:00 PM EST – Buyer order forms due

· Wednesday, December 8 at 5:00 PM EST – Participants informed of auction results

· Wednesday, December 8 at 8:00 PM EST – Transaction documentation distributed to buyers and sellers

· Friday, December 10 at 4:00 PM EST – Completed transaction documentation due from buyers and sellers

· Friday, December 10 at 7:00 PM EST – Notice to be sent to Facebook, Inc.

Please contact [email protected] or 212-668-5183 if you have any questions.


Shopping Rewards App CheckPoints Launches On Android

TechCrunch Disrupt finalist CheckPoints is a mobile shopping rewards app that lets consumers choose their own rewards. Despite not being available for OS3 users until recently, CheckPoints is currently the fastest growing mobile shopping application (in the same space as Shopkick and Barcode Hero) on the iPhone, amassing its first 100K users in one month and its last 100K users in the past two weeks.

The app is free to download and use, and lets shoppers earn CheckPoints by checking into over a million participating locations and scanning the barcodes of a number of featured products including Belkin, Tyson, Energizer, Kmart and more. You can redeem CheckPoints for prizes like cash, gift cards, airline miles and gadgets.

The app aims for a notably different demographic than Foursquare and Checkpoints users, who check in on average about 3 times a day, are predominantly female and 64% of them are between the ages of 25 and 44.

The decision to go Android wasn’t very hard,“From the moment we debuted in the Apple App Store, we’ve had requests to expand to the Android Market – in fact, we’ve got a waiting list of over 10,000 people,” said co-founder Todd DiPaola.

Venice-based CheckPoints currently has 1 million in funding. You can find the app in the Android Marketplace here.


Totable iPod Mic Soaks Up Audio, Won’t Play With Apple’s Latest Tech

Sure the iPhone (and a few iPods) let us record sound, but the audio is captured in the flat doldrums of mono. Not with Blue Microphone’s new Mikey stereo microphone: You can elevate your iRecording from black-and-white to colorful, full-dimensional, recording-studio quality.

Mikey is a 1-ounce device the size of a Tic-Tac box. It attaches to iPods, Nanos, iTouch and all iPhones except the 4 (more about that below). Its clever rotating hinge allows it to swivel like Linda Blair, making it possible to capture sound from a 360-degree field.

Optimized for the iTouch and the earlier iPhones, the Mikey records sharp, clean voices and music using its free Blue FiRe(really, that’s the way it’s spelled) app. To avoid losing audio fidelity when recording in varying loud and quiet environments, the mike has three sensitivity settings. A blue (surprise) LED light corresponding to the particular setting indicates that the mike is powered on.

There are no batteries, power is supplied by whatever device it’s plugged into. A mini-USB connector on the Mikey can keep your iPod or iPhone powered when connected to a powered USB port on a laptop. And a 3.5-millimeter stereo input port lets you record stereo audio directly from another audio device, MP3 or otherwise.

You can use the Mikey with the iPod Classic or Nano, and you’ll get a rich, clear sound. But the input limitations of those devices reduce the Mikey’s stereo capabilities to mono. That might work for devout mono-mix Beatles fans, but is that enough for you?

The Blue FiRe app for the iTouch and iPhone is a scaled-back version of AudioFile Engineering’s $10 FiRe Field Recording app, which has a cornucopia of pro capabilities that better leverage the Mikey’s range. With the Sonoma Wireworks $10 FourTrack app, the Mikey shows off its true power with the ability to record and mix four separate music tracks either simultaneously or serially. Recording length is limited to the amount of available memory, but settings in the apps can customize times.

We reviewed the first-gen Mikey about a year ago. That version we liked a great deal despite its lack of compatibility with iPhone.

Now in version numero dos, there are more devices that will work with Mikey, but not the iPad or iPhone 4. Bummer. Still this is really a quibble with Apple swapping its 30-pin connector for a digital interface. We hope future versions of the Mikey will sync with the latest tech coming out of Cupertino.

WIRED Pocket-size microphone makes full-dimension stereo recording on the go. No batteries required. Three sensitivity settings adjust audio gain in loud and quiet environments.

TIRED Does not work with iPhone 4, iPad, 6th-gen Nano or 4th-gen iTouch. Because multifunction app works only on iTouch and iPhone, the Nano and iPod Classic can only use Mikey with their mono voice-memo function.

See Also:

Boxee Box Is an Endless Stream of Disappointment

Every day, 3.2 gajigabytes of streaming video are delivered straight to the screens of slackers like you and me, sitting at our desks at work and gawping at classic outtakes from The Muppet Show in 1979, re-creations of news events by creative Taiwanese animators, and adorably cute animal babies.

Why don’t we just take all that entertainment home and splash it up on our HDTV screens?

That’s the idea behind Boxee, which organizes web video for you, makes it easier to share with other people, and simplifies the browsing interface, so it’s better suited for when you’re sitting on the couch.

Boxee has existed as software for over a year now, and now it’s available as a $200 gadget, the Boxee Box.

The hardware, which is made by home-networking giant D-Link, is unusual-looking but cool, shaped as if it were a cube of plastic sinking into the table. Because of its height, it won’t fit on a narrow entertainment center shelf, and it doesn’t go nicely in front of the TV, either. You need to find a tall shelf somewhere.

On the back is an ethernet cable for internet connectivity (or you can use Wi-Fi), an HDMI port for connecting to your TV (it supports 1080p video output), and two USB ports for connecting external hard drives. There’s also an SD card slot on the front for viewing photos and videos from memory cards.

The dual-sided remote is clever: You can navigate most of Boxee’s onscreen menus with the simpler side: It’s got a play/pause button, a D-pad, and a menu button. Any time you need to enter some text, you just flip the remote over, turn it sideways, and start thumb-typing on the tiny but usable QWERTY.

The remote sometimes gets confused if you press buttons on both sides at once, which is easy to do unless you hold it carefully. Also, entering passwords using the QWERTY (as you have to do for secured Wi-Fi networks and to access your Boxee account) is extremely frustrating, especially if your passwords have a mix of upper and lower case, because you can’t see what you’re typing on the screen.

Once you’ve got it set up, Boxee lets you navigate through TV shows and movies in its system. These are a really mixed bag, ranging from mainstream TV hits like Glee to truly awful C-list comedies and bizarre independent films you’ve never heard of, like The Auteur. Disappointingly, some shows are listed in Boxee’s menus, but won’t actually play when you select them.

I had better luck with the videos recommended by my Boxee-using friends, and videos I’d saved using Boxee’s “watch later” bookmarklet, which lets me stop wasting time at work so I can waste time at home instead. (Except with Vimeo videos: For some reason the bookmarklet isn’t able to reliably identify these videos on web pages.)

Web videos from these two queues worked fine, although the interface was sometimes jarring; It would launch a browser window, briefly show the entire YouTube interface, and then switch into full-screen mode.

It’s here that I came up against Boxee’s biggest problem: It’s only as good as the web video it delivers, and there is an awful lot of web video that can only be described as crappy. Poorly edited, low-quality clips are one thing. But when you blow them up onto a 47-inch screen in all their pixelized glory, they look terrible.

Even professionally shot and edited video from the likes of the BBC looked poor, because it had been down-sampled to fit a tiny YouTube video window, and then was being blown up again on my TV. It was like using a high-end stereo system to play an MP3 of a cassette tape of a CD.

Worse, videos that seemed funny and entertaining when I was at work often fell flat when I was at home on the couch. Maybe it’s because I was no longer procrastinating, and maybe it’s because of the pixelizing, but the joy was just sucked out of them.

The upshot is that Boxee’s slate of available video comes nowhere near being well-rounded enough to satisfy even my meager TV-watching needs. Add in its interface quirks and the poor quality of so much of the available video, and you’ve got an attractive but nearly useless piece of TV room furniture.

WIRED Promise of easy-to-access internet video. Works with a wide range of video services, including Netflix and Vudu. “Watch later” button lets you time-shift YouTube videos from work to home.

TIRED Quirky interface. Some TV shows appear in the menu, but won’t actually play. Much of the web’s video actually looks really terrible when blown up on a big HDTV.

See Also:

Meet Cloud Picker, Google’s Stealthy New Storage Product


What is Google Cloud Picker? According to these Blogger Forums, Sites Forums, and others, Google has been testing a new online storage tool called, you guessed it, Cloud Picker.

From these accounts, it appears that the tool is connected somehow to Google Apps, Docs, and Sites, and was presented to users when they tried to insert a file or image into a Google site. When they tried to embed the file, a “Google Cloud Picker” window opened and asked users to log-in to their Google Accounts.

Many users flocked to the forums because Cloud Picker wouldn’t work with any Google Apps account. When used with a regular Gmail account, the Cloud Picker brought users to a Google landing page with “Profile” and “Personal Settings” at the top and “My Products” at the bottom.

One user posted an image of Cloud Picker, which does shed a little more light on what the product is. It appears that it is a new storage product that allows users to organize and search photos, documents, videos and more that are stored in the cloud. From the looks of it, it seems more consumer focused as opposed to an enterprise tool.

Of course, this is all anecdotal so we are surely missing key elements of Cloud Picker. But when we contacted Google to learn more about the new product, we received this response from a spokesperson:

Oops… looks like someone pushed some code too quickly. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet but stay tuned!

So I think we we can expect a product either named Cloud Picker or something similar to Cloud Picker in the near future.

Information provided by CrunchBase


The Amazing Readability Of Google Maps


It’s been my experience that Google Maps has always been the most legible of the online map services, though even the worst have come a long way since the early days. I figured it was just the same magical Google power that returned search results so fast and pushed email to my phone in seconds. But while the juice that makes those things go is largely behind the scenes, the optimizations Google has made to the Maps interface are staring you right in the face every time you use it. But you might not have noticed them.

This blog post is a minute examination of those optimizations, and what competitors might look like if they did the same thing. It sounds dry, but I found it an interesting read, and it’s also one of those things that you can’t un-see.


(click for a larger version)

The primary difference seems to be the way the city labels are placed and weighted. The low-contrast background and various levels of white outline to the type make larger cities pop, and looser rules on where the city label is relative to its dot allow for better spacing between items. And there is apparently a sort of “halo” around larger cities that suppresses labeling of smaller items, the better to highlight the big cities and routes on the map. There are illustrations of these techniques at the post, and I recommend taking a look if you’re at all interested in psychovisual optimization and UI planning.

I don’t mention it just to give Google a pat on the back (though they deserve, and I give it to them — now), but also to bring up the fact that little things like this do add up. Superiority you can see, as Google Maps shows, is important to retaining users. If they know why they like your service, that’s good; if they don’t know, that’s also good. Of course, a different user might prefer Bing’s maps, with their different aesthetic — as long as it’s done with the same attention to detail.

A site like Flickr would quickly be put out of business by a competitor if they didn’t put the photos front and center, in high resolution, with good compression and simple navigation. The best feature set in the world won’t matter if your potential users ricochet off the site instantly because of something that can’t quite put their finger on. Like the idea in Gladwell’s Blink that you can do an extraordinary amount of processing in a fraction of a second, you can do quite a thorough evaluation of a service like Google Maps or Flickr in the same amount of time.

Tiny optimizations create a friendly environment for users, something sites don’t care enough about. Sloppy UI and poor presentation get picked up on by many who don’t even realize they’re doing so. So, a lesson to the competition: the little things don’t take care of themselves, but they might take care of you if you’re not careful.

[via Metafilter, where a commenter points out the interesting Fata Morgana]


Google Toying With Naming Social Product “Google +1? As Sergey Brin Gets Involved

Yesterday, after some digging, we were able to confirm that the internal codename for Google’s upcoming social project is “Emerald Sea“. Despite some confusion that it may be called “Emerald City“, it is definitely “Sea”, we’ve confirmed with several sources. But there’s more.

As one of our sources told us yesterday, these codenames quickly evolve. And in fact, it now looks like Emerald Sea may already be a slightly older name. And Google may be close to picking the final name for the product. As of right now, we’re hearing it’s being called “Google +1″ or “Google Plus One”.

Our source on this wasn’t sure if this will end up being the final name, but it is definitely the one they’re using internally right now with the thought that it could be the final name. The “Plus One” name apparently is derived from some of the functionality of the project. In this case, you could think of  ”+1″ as being Google’s version of the “Like” or “Retweet”. It also speaks to the the fact that you’re not doing something alone on the web. It’s social, get it?

Another source suggests another possible name Google is considering: “@Google” or “At Google”. Yes, that would seem to be a total Twitter rip-off, but several other social services have since adopted the @reply syntax since Twitter made it popular a few years ago.

More interesting than the name though is who is said to be taking a very active role in the development: Sergey Brin.

One source says that Google’s co-founder has moved the project to an area of the Googleplex called “Building 2000” (which is also home to a new Google campus store and a slide!) and that the area is now in a state of lock down as they prepare the project.

Other sources suggest that “there is still a lot of grumbling” surrounding the project internally. This seems to sync up with previous reports of internal disagreement that has led to delays. As we first reported, Google VP Vic Gundotra has been leading the project, so it’s not clear how or if Brin’s hands-on involvement has altered that.

In its current state, Google +1 is said to be a toolbar that appears across many of Google’s services. That is said to include their Chrome web browser. Though one source says they believe it will be a Chrome extension, rather than being fully baked into the browser — at least for now. And while +1 should start on Google properties, the idea would be get other sites to implement it too — perhaps like Facebook’s Like button and other social widgets.

Google clearly really, really wants to get this social stuff right, this time. And to that, I say “+1″.

[photo: flickr/jurvetson]


The Epic Cheap Stocking Stuffers Gift List For Freaks, Geeks and Everyone Else

Stocking stuffers are a must. These little, often trivial items, can make or break a Christmas morning. Whether you’re shopping for a fledgling nerd-in-training or one with a bit more XP, these stocking stuffers will certainly bring them a bit of joy and happiness. All items are under $13, giving the frugal gift giver a bit of breathing room in your holiday budget. Even if you don’t have a stocking to stuff this year, there’s probably something here to satisfy your requirement as a Secret Santa to either someone at work, or even as just a little gift to yourself.

Continue reading…


LivingSocial Confirms $175 Million Amazon Investment

The rumors are true! Amazon and daily deals site LivingSocial have just officially confirmed their partnership, with the e-tailer investing a whopping $175 million in the latter. This comes at an interesting time for both companies, amidst even more rumors that competitors Google and Groupon will hook up to the tune of $5.3 billion in the coming weeks.

Earlier today, Hitwise drew up some comparison stats on group buying and released data which showed among other things that Groupon commands 79 percent of U.S. visits to the group buying category, whereas No. 2 in the category LivingSocial only commands 8 percent of the market. While that is a formidable gap in marketshare, LivingSocial is on track to bring in $500 million in revenues next year which is a really positive sign.

In addition to the hefty Amazon financing, the company has also received a $8 million in investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners bringing the entire round up to the $183 million mark. Some are saying that this most recent funding has skyrocketed LivingSocial’s valuation to over $1 billion which would mean that Amazon now has something under a 17.5% stake.

Full press release below:

LivingSocial Announces $175 Million Investment by Amazon.com

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — LivingSocial (www.livingsocial.com) has secured a $175 million investment from Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN). LivingSocial has also secured an additional $8 million investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners. LivingSocial will use this investment to maintain a steady drumbeat of worldwide launches and overall business growth while continuing to serve more than 10 million subscribers across the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland and Australia in more than 120 locations. Because of LivingSocial’s rapid expansion, the company is currently booking revenues of more than $1 million a day on average and is projected to book well over $500 million in revenue in 2011.

“To be the biggest player in the local commerce space there is no one better to work with than Amazon,” said Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO of LivingSocial. “As the social shopping space continues to heat up, LivingSocial is committed to staying focused on providing the high level of quality that consumers and merchants have come to expect when working with us.”

As the online source to find amazing experiences at an unbeatable value, LivingSocial lets anyone experience the hottest restaurants, shops, activities and services in their area. The company has dedicated area experts on the ground in every location working directly with business owners, and constantly researching the best in local adventures to bring a savings of 50% to 70% for consumers.
Recently, LivingSocial expanded its business by acquiring adventure company Urban Escapes, and launching three new verticals including LivingSocial Family Edition, Campus Deals and LivingSocial Escapes, a travel site that offers unbeatable savings on curated adventures. In addition, the company continues a regular flow of launches – on average one per day – and has expanded its reach in Australia with a controlling stake in Jump On It, making it live in five countries.

About LivingSocial

LivingSocial is the online source for people to find handpicked experiences at a great value, inviting anyone to save up to 50% to 70% each day on their favorite restaurants, spas, sporting events, hotels and other local attractions in major cities. LivingSocial has an extensive subscriber base of 10 million, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. To sign up for Deals in your location, or to find out more information about LivingSocial, visit www.livingsocial.com. You can also follow LivingSocial on Twitter at www.twitter.com/livingsocial.

About Amazon.com

Amazon.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth’s Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. Amazon.com and other sellers offer millions of unique new, refurbished and used items in categories such as Books; Movies, Music & Games; Digital Downloads; Electronics & Computers; Home & Garden; Toys, Kids & Baby; Grocery; Apparel, Shoes & Jewelry; Health & Beauty; Sports & Outdoors; and Tools, Auto & Industrial. Amazon Web Services provides Amazon’s developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon’s own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable virtually any type of business. Kindle and Kindle DX are the revolutionary portable readers that wirelessly download books, magazines, newspapers, blogs and personal documents to a crisp, high-resolution electronic ink display that looks and reads like real paper. Kindle and Kindle DX utilize the same 3G wireless technology as advanced cell phones, so users never need to hunt for a Wi-Fi hotspot. Readers who don’t need the convenience of free 3G wireless can choose Kindle Wi-Fi for a lower price. Kindle is the #1 bestselling product across the millions of items sold on Amazon.

Amazon and its affiliates operate websites, including www.amazon.com, www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.de, www.amazon.co.jp, www.amazon.fr, www.amazon.ca, www.amazon.cn, and www.amazon.it. As used herein, “Amazon.com,” “we,” “our” and similar terms include Amazon.com, Inc., and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.

Forward-Looking Statements

This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, potential fluctuations in operating results, international expansion, outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment center optimization, seasonality, commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, foreign exchange rates, system interruption, inventory, government regulation and taxation, payments and fraud. More information about factors that potentially could affect Amazon.com’s financial results is included in Amazon.com’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent filings.


See Who Is On Your Flight And At Your Airport With Planely

Flying out to attend TCDisrupt in New York, a bunch of us were delighted to discover we were all on the same plane together, the infamous #VX22. Let’s face it, being on the same flight with someone you know is pretty fun most of the time, as a plane flight is a pretty unique shared experience and oftentimes results in a lasting bond. Don’t believe me? Shortly after sharing #VX22 with TechCrunch staff, I too started working for TechCrunch.

Planely co-founder Nick Martin is trying to tap into precisely this effect with his Copenhagen-based startup Planely. Travellers can connect with Facebook, enter their flights and see what other users will be at the same departure airport, on the same flight and/or at the same arrival airport.

This is great especially in the use case of massive early adopter attracting conferences like LeWeb, which is the first conference to partner up with Planely. Conference attendees can share rides, information or simply get better acquainted while travelling.

Planely users can also message each other beforehand, and start building a relationship before they even leave for the airport. So if anyone else is leaving for Paris on Sunday, you know where to find me.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Speaking Of… Jeff Bridges & Olivia Wilde in TRON Legacy, Part 3 & 4 (TCTV)

Greetings programs! I have the ultimate TRON interview for you: Jeff Bridges. I had 3 minutes with Bridges, so I asked him this question from TechCrunch fan “itbedave”:

I’m curious as to what Jeff Bridges thinks of blue screen acting then (original TRON) vs. now (TRON Legacy) – and if it’s “advancement” has enhanced or ruined acting in big Hollywood films?

Jeff, who plays Kevin Flynn, loved this question and went into detail about his feelings around motion capture. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask him if Flynn abides or if he drinks White Russians, but I think you’ll love his response. He’s not a TechCrunch reader yet, but maybe we can convert him. I’d love to see some Bridges in the comments, wouldn’t you?

Jeff’s interview takes place in the beginning of part 3 and he’s followed by Olivia Wilde who has some awesome advice for women who want to get into technology. I asked Olivia if she was aware of quora.com and she was not, but I’m sure that the folks over at Quora are stoked. Her name in the movie is spelled Quorra, but I imagine there will be a lot of people typing it in with one R. Regardless, it is always nice to have a super sexy, smart and kick-ass woman have a similar name to yours. That’s the kind of brand confusion we can all get down with.

Part 4 includes interviews with the director, co-producer, vehicle designer and the VFX team. TRON: Legacy is the first released feature length film that Joseph Kosinski has directed, which is a huge break from making commercials (Halo & Gears of War). Kosinski is also working on a remake of the 1976 science fiction film Logan’s Run. The original TRON light cycles were designed by Syd Mead who was also responsible for the city backgrounds and vehicle designs in Blade Runner. The light cycles got an upgrade and we got a few minutes with a member of the design team to discuss if light cycles could exist as real motorcycles in the real world. After the interview, Parker Brothers Choppers announced it had made functional replicas and for 55K, you can have your very own. Unfortunately, it looks like they aren’t the best at turning and they lack light trails, but hey, as long as you drive straight where ever you are going, you are good to go!

In case you missed Part 1 and 2 of our TRON Legacy coverage, those interviews with cast and crew can be seen in this post.

Interviews below:
Part 3

Part 4


Meebo CEO Seth Sternberg On Why He’s Pushing For Website Check-Ins (TCTV)

Now that people are just starting to get comfortable with the concept of the check-in for geo-location, it is starting to spread to other areas like product check-ins, TV show check-ins, and website check-ins. Just a couple weeks ago, Meebo introduced website check-ins as a new feature for its Meebo Bar. And before that, at our last Disrupt conference in San Francisco, two of the startups (Badgeville and OneTrueFan) launched entire companies around the concept of the website check-in.

So why would you ever want to check into a website? I ran into Meebo CEO Seth Sternberg today at SAI’s Ignition conference in New York City, who explains in the video above. The Meebo Bar is an IM and sharing extension that increasingly is appearing on many Websites. Meebo is now testing the concept of website check-ins, where you can check into any site you are on by clicking a button and sharing that on Facebook or Twitter. This is not the same as sharing a specific link, although it supports that as well. It is more just telling everyone you know that you like a certain site and it acts as an implicit endorsement. As a result, you will be able to find new sites through people, kind of like you can with StumbleUpon. A check-in in this respect is very similar to a Stumble.

People who check in the most become “VIPs,” with the idea that individual publishers could then reward their most loyal visitors with recognition or extra perks. You can sign up for the alpha version of the Meebo extension here (for Firefox and Chrome only) to check out the check-in feature.


Hitwise: Groupon Is Getting 79% Of U.S. Group-Buying Visits Vs. 8% For LivingSocial

As Groupon weighs a $5 billion+ acquisition offer from Google and LivingSocial is believed to be about get a $100 Million to $150 million cash infusion from Amazon, it is instructive to look at the difference between the two companies. Hitwise looked at a 81 group-buying sites and came up with the chart above, which shows that Groupon commands 79 percent of U.S. visits to the group buying category, whereas No. 2 site LivingSocial only has an 8 percent share.

This is what market leadership looks like, and explains why Google may be willing to overpay for Groupon. In general, the Internet coalesces around market leaders for different categories—the gorillas. And the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 is usually vast. It was true in auctions (eBay), e-commerce (Amazon), search (Google), and social networking (Facebook). And it will happen in social commerce as well.

Although, earlier today, a LivingSocial executive noted at the SAI Ignition conference that LivingSocial is on track to do $500 million in revenues next year (it wasn’t clear if he was talking about the gross value of deals going through LivingSocial or the actual revenues that will be booked by LivingSocial—whereas Groupon will do well above $500 million in top-line revenues this year). What do you think? Will social commerce be yet another winner-take-most market?

UPDATE: LivingSocial just confirmed a $175 million investment from Amazon.


Bitly News Tries To Create A Hacker News For The Rest Of Us

What are the headlines people are sharing the most? A new headline aggregation site called Bitly News tries to answer that by showing the most clicked-on shortened bit.ly links on Twitter. Bitly News is not an official bit.ly product. It is an independent hack by Jeff Miller built on top of both the bit.ly and Twitter APIs. (John Borthwick, CEO of both bit.ly and betaworks, just mentioned the site on-stage at SAI’s Ignition conference as an example of somebody using bit.ly’s APIs). With billions of shared bit.ly links every month, there is a pretty broad reach of links to mine.

Bitly News is modeled on Hacker News, the headline news site for developers. The site only shows headlines and where they come from in rank order. Each headline links directly to the original story. Under each headline you can see how many times it’s been clicked on and when it was posted. You can comment on Bitly News or click through to bit.ly to see more stats for that headline.

The default view shows the most popular stories right now, but you can also see the newest stories which are trending. The stories are all over the map. Some of the top ones right now are: “Nasa Finds New Life Form” on Wired News, “Cake Wrecks: Happy Hannu…Channa…Festival of Lights” on Cake Wrecks, and “Police Investigate Murder In Disney-Developed Town.” on CNN.

It is a little too broad for my taste: the equivalent of the most popular videos on YouTube. If Bitly News could segment the top headlines by topic (politics, tech, national, world, sports, entertainment), I’d find it more useful. What do you think?