JiWire Acquires Location-Based Mobile Shopping Platform NearbyNow

Mobile advertising company JiWire is announcing today that it has acquired location-based mobile shopping platform NearbyNow. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

NearbyNow allows brands to show products within in app or an ad and confirm availability of the product in the actual store. Users can also reserve the product in the store for pickup. For example, a Seventeen Magazine mobile app user sees an ad for boots online and can click through to check local inventory. If they are in-stock, the shopper reserves the boots and they are ready at the counter when she arrives. The company says that ad click-though rates are more than 20 percent and conversion-to-purchase average rates of 5.8 percent.

The advertising and shopping platform will be complementary to JiWire’s own advertising network. JiWire says that it plans to combine its existing location-based advertising platform that runs across Wi-Fi and mobile for devices such as iPads, smartphones and laptops with NearbyNow’s platform to increase ways in which advertisers can reach new local customers at scale and drive in-store conversions.

NearbyNow has raised nearly $20 million in venture funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and others.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Please, If You Would, Read CrunchGear’s Black Friday Coverage

We’re a service-orientated organization and as such our goal is to assist the consumer in choosing the best possible fit for their gadget-facing needs. We’re no blue sky imagineers: we’re professionals. We want you to be happy and we have an easy-to-remember motto: AWPBFDDtWBBFAAPGGFPWAS (Always Be Posting Black Friday Deals During the Week Before Black Friday And Also Post Gift Guides For People Who Are Shopping). And we’re sticking to that easy-to-remember motto through this week over at CrunchGear.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to head over to CG and view some of the deals we’ve gathered up thus far and keep your eye on things this week and through Mobile Monday (which is totally a made-up holiday.) Also, keep your eye on the Gift Guide for our takes on the best holiday gifts.


Survey Says: More Than Half Of You Will Be Checking Your Email Over The Holidays

We know that email has done away with the nine to five job but does anyone ignore emails over holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving anymore? A new study by email software company Xobni suggests that going completely offline from email over the holidays may also be a thing of the past. According to the survey, 59 percent of U.S. working adults will check work email over holidays.

Of the survey respondents over half (55%) check work email at least once a day and more than one in four (28%) do so multiple times throughout the day. The data also showed that 79 percent of those that check email while on holiday stated that they have received a work-related email from a colleague or client on holidays.

So are U.S. worker happy about the onslaught of email over the holidays? According to the survey, 15 percent are “thankful” or “relieved” to have the distraction of work email over the holidays. On the other hand, 41 percent of those that receive an email from a co-worker/client while they had time off for the holidays saying they are either annoyed, frustrated or resentful after receiving these emails. The survey also found that 12 percent of respondents actually “dread” seeing work emails populate their inbox and 10 percent even feel pity for those who do send work-related emails on holidays.

Regardless of how the actually feel about work email over a holiday, 42 percent of those that check work email while they have time off for the holidays still believe that staying up-to-date on email eases their workloads once they return from break. Some respondents (19 percent percent) that receive work emails from a co-worker/client while they had time off for the holidays say they feel “thankful” or “relieved” at having the distraction.

So what about the breakdown when it comes to males vs. females? Xobni says that
employed males are significantly more likely to check work email on holidays – 67 percent – compared to just 50 percent of women. Employed middle-aged adults feel the greatest urge, with 65 percent of those aged 35-44 stating that they have checked work emails on holidays.

One in ten (10 percent) who admitted to checking email while off for a holiday stated that they did so while spending time with friends or relatives at Holiday parties/gatherings or during meals. A small amount of those (5%) that check work email while they have time off for the holidays even admitted to using work email as excuse to avoid awkward family moments and other holiday commitments.

Photo Credit/Flickr/StereroGab

Information provided by CrunchBase


myThings Scores $6 Million In Funding For Personalized Retargeting Technology

MyThings, which provides personalised retargeting services, this morning announced that it has raised $6 million in their third round of funding. The financing round was led by T-Venture, Deutsche Telekom’s venture capital arm, with participation of previous backers Accel Partners, Carmel Ventures, Dot Corp and GP Bullhound.

MyThings, founded in 2005, claims its technology is capable of increasing return conversion rates of online retailers by more than 500%. Its proprietary optimisation technology is currently being used by leading European retailers such as Price Minister, Republic, PIXMania, Etam and Orange, and its total reach is said to surpass 1 billion monthly impressions these days.


Qype Raises Another 6.5 million Euros, Signs Vodafone Distribution Deal

Local reviews site Qype, which lets you review any venue from restaurants and bars to gyms and childcare, has raised a new funding round amounting to a combined 6.5 million euros to throw fuel onto its mobile business. Investors include Vodafone Ventures and existing backers. Currently the largest user-generated local review site in Europe (yes, it’s ahead of Yelp), Qype has raised 3.5 million euros from Vodafone Ventures and a further 3.0 million euros from its existing three investors, Advent Venture Partners, Partech International and Wellington Partners.

The main aspect of this deal means co-branded version of Qype’s application will be pre-loaded on supported Vodafone devices, including Blackberry and Android on handsets in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and Ireland. It’s likely that Qype will do best out of pre-installation on Android devices.


HP’s Multitasking Printer Spreads Itself Too Thin

The HP Envy 100 box is daring me to open it, but I am afraid. Four words: Print Scan Copy Web, hover over an ominous printer on the box front. I gently slip open the top, anticipating the terror of endless plastic wrap and cardboard. What’s this? A tote bag? Sweet, I didn’t even have to donate to PBS! Yes, even mere mortals like yourself, and not just obscenely “rich” and “handsome” tech writers like me, will have your HP Envy 100 wrapped in a delicious free tote bag.

But seriously, the Envy’s packaging is a welcome change from the usual mess of plastic and parts. And while there is the requisite foam and some baggies, at least HP put a bit more effort into presentation while minimizing unnecessary bad-for-mother-earth clutter. Plus, a free tote bag never hurt anyone.

Once you haul it out of the box, you see that the Envy 100 printer/scanner/copier looks like it was designed by Darth Vader. Ominously coated in gloss black with silver accents, it’s barely 4 1/2 inches tall; sleek enough to slip into a pretty small space. Even the paper-output handler is an automatically retractable arm that barely sticks out. On the outside, this machine looks badass. But just how evil is it?

First, you’ll need to install the rather small ink cartridges. Unfortunately, there aren’t separate color ink cartridges that would save money on refills. You get one multicolor ink cartridge and one for all your blacks. Perhaps more alarming: After running through one 50-page load of plain paper and a few photos, the Envy software showed black ink hovering near 50 percent. HP claims the ink-measuring software may not be completely accurate, but be forewarned dear reader, your ink costs could get real big, real fast.

After connecting the power cord, the 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen lit up, and the Envy held my hand as it led me through a zenfully simple setup process … until it was time to install the software on my computers.

Installation on a Vista PC came off without a hitch, aside from the usual “opt out to not install this extra addware that you’ll never use.” Next up was a real test where the Envy scored with a +2 critical-hit bonus roll. Yes, dear reader, HP graciously provides Linux drivers on their website. So, for all 20 of y’all out there using Ubuntu or K or X whatever, HP deserves a shoutout. Just be prepared to go through the usual “missing library” installations Linux requires to make anything work. (Mac users can ignore this entire paragraph.)

Once hitched up to my home Wi-Fi network, and loaded with paper (up to 80 sheets), it was time to waste some trees with hard-copy output. On a notebook running Vista, using a wireless connection, and Normal print-quality settings, the Envy averaged 4.5 pages per minute when handling simple text or text with grayscale graphics. On plain paper, text was sharp and dark, while color photos printed in grayscale tended to be slightly dark.

The Envy showed more moxie with color graphics. A high-resolution full-page photo printed out in slightly more than nine seconds. While that may be pretty poky, the colors were excellent with subtle detail, and a near perfect match to the graphic onscreen. Of course, to get good results, you’ll have to make sure your color management is spot on, as well.

The only strike against the Envy’s printing was that some glossy photo paper came out with faint, but noticeable marks from the paper-feed mechanism. Some gloss-paper coatings are more delicate than others, and different paper brands and qualities had different results, with a good number showing no marks at all. Photo perfectionists should try a few different kinds of paper. In my tests, Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II has the best ink saturation while HP Premium Photo Paper matched the original the closest.

Copying is a no-brainer. Just touch the Copy button on the LCD screen, pick color or black, choose the number of prints, and you’re done. Copying output was a shade faster than printing, but not by much. For black-and-white copies, the Envy averaged 4.2 ppm. A single page color copy came out at 42 seconds. It’s certainly not blazing speed, but output on plain paper was on par with the Envy’s printing.

Scanning with the Envy is straightforward, as well. You can scan up to 1200 dpi so it’s useful for blowing up old photographs and other small artwork. The Envy tended to brighten scanned images a bit, reds in particular, but overall detail was very good, and any slight color variations were easily fixed in photo-editing software.

As with most other printers in this class, the HP Envy does direct printing from cameras, as well as from memory cards, with a top USB port and SD card slot. You can also scan results to a memory card instead of to a computer.

Another nice printing touch is e-print. Just send an e-mail from your phone or a computer to the printer’s unique e-mail address, and you’ll have hot, fresh copy ready and waiting when you get home. You can also check the status of an e-print job online.

Lastly, we come to the apps. Apps? You say, “I have enough electronics yapping at me all day. I just want my printer to print, my scanner to scan, and my copier to copy.” HP says, “With the Envy, you’ll have your apps, and like them!”

Flip out the Envy’s LCD touchscreen and you’re presented with a bunch of preloaded app icons. Some of the available apps are fairly useful, some definitely not. Do I really need a printer to spew out tic-tac-toe games when a pencil is about 100 times more efficient? More importantly, why would I want to print only the first couple of sentences of a blog post?

Other apps like Google Maps are useful for a quick print. Even so, it feels awkward and silly to peck out an address on the tiny LCD screen when my computer is a few feet away. True, you wouldn’t have to turn your computer on, and it might come in handy if you have a large home with the Envy as the central output/input peripheral. Thankfully, you can delete apps you don’t want or need to reduce clutter, and load some new ones you do want.

The HP Envy 100 is a jack of all trades, and does most jobs pretty well. It’s not particularly fast, but solid text output combined with excellent color prints merit consideration. The real question is: Do you need all the extras like apps and e-mail printing? If not, you could probably save some bucks and get similar performance from a more stripped down all-in-one.

And then there’s the boondoggle of most printers: per-page costs. With limited ink capacity and a hungry appetite, you might be buying ink cartridges more than you’d like, but at least you can carry them home in your new tote bag.

WIRED Excellent color output with subtle detail on gloss photo paper. Super-sleek Vader-approved design, low-profile chassis doesn’t hog space. Easy setup and installation. Downloadable Linux drivers available. Good LCD touchscreen

TIRED Small ink cartridges — doesn’t use separate ink cartridges for each color. Mediocre print speed. Gloss-black finish is a fingerprint and dust magnet. Cover for USB and memory card feels fragile. Paper-feed mechanism can mark some gloss-paper coatings.

See Also:

TomTom’s Newest GPS Guides You in Ways an iPhone Can’t

If you’ve tried TomTom’s GPS navigators in the past and have found them to be reliable if a bit of a snooze when it comes to design and interface, the new TomTom GO 2505 TM ($320) with its 5-inch interactive glass touchscreen should make you sit up and take notice.

With a smart new body featuring sloping matte black corners, a slightly rounded grey metallic back and a sharp GUI with colorful, easy-to-read icons, the TomTom Go 2505 TM is cool enough to hang with your slick new iPhone or Amazon Kindle. Better yet, it makes getting from place to place easier and a little more fun.

We recently brought the TomTom Go 2505 on one of the more boring excursions known to man: a Sunday shopping trip to New Jersey with the Mrs. (no fault of the Mrs., though). While the TomTom certainly didn’t brighten the scenery as we cruised the turnpikes and off-ramps of Jersey, it did get us to our various destinations quickly and painlessly. Returning to home base in Manhattan afterward didn’t go as smoothly, though. (More about that later.)

Along with the stylin’ redesign, the GO 2505 has a new stress-free and secure “click & lock” magnetic mounting system. While this may sound like a small detail, it’s nothing short of a godsend for anyone who has had a GPS unit or portable satellite radio fly off the windshield and into your lap when you hit the brakes.

To mount the GPS cradle, just push it against the windshield, twist the base, and it will suction lock in place. (No spittle necessary!) The GO 2505 unit then clicks onto the cradle and snaps down solidly with the help of magnets embedded in the device. Like most GPS navigators, the 2505 uses a rechargeable battery powered by the charging socket in your car.

On the downside, even when the TomTom’s battery is fully juiced, you’ll still need to keep the 2505 plugged into the charger if you want live traffic updates because the traffic receiver is built into the dangling cable. (That’s annoying.) And live traffic coverage with fast alternate-route suggestions is where the 2505 TM really shines.

In TomTom-speak, the TM designation in the model name means the 2505 receives lifetime map and traffic updates. In our real-world test, the navigator helped us avoid a nasty backup on the NJ Turnpike by immediately rerouting us to local roads. Before we could say “WTF?” we were making good time on a two-lane highway with only a few SUVs and minivans in front.

The live turn-by-turn instructions were loud and clear but we were disappointed that the female “Stephanie” computer voice was one of only a few pre-loaded options in English. No offense to Stephanie but she gets kind of irritating after a while. Customization choices, in general, are few on the 2505, but we’re told other voices and themes will be available in the near future as TomTom rolls out new software.

We loved the Advanced Lane Guidance feature, which shows you the correct lane to be in to catch your exit. (This came in handy in New Jersey where exit signs come fast and furious.) Though it’s not as responsive as an iPhone or iPod, the 2505’s touchscreen worked fairly well for us as we swiped between screens and pinched and enlarged our route. As already mentioned, the revamped menu system is easy to read — though the screen washes out in direct sunlight — and intuitive. We would like to see more Back buttons though; we kept getting stuck back at the home screen.

The only place where we got into trouble with our directions was heading back to Manhattan after our shopping trip. Instead of hopping on the turnpike, Stephanie kept insisting we take a shortcut around New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. While that may have made sense on paper, it didn’t take into account the New York Giants game that was about to start. In fairness to Stephanie, traffic wasn’t so much a problem at that point but the thousands of blue-shirted Giants fans tailgating around the parking lot did tie us up.

WIRED Quick continuous routing (and rerouting) keeps you one step ahead of the traffic snarls. Helpful magnetic click-and-lock mount system should’ve been invented a long time ago. Voice recognition gives you control over basic functions while keeping your hands on the wheel. Bluetooth compatibility lets you answer cellphone calls, hands-free, with the navigator.

TIRED Traffic receiver in charging cable means you have to stay plugged in to steer clear. Hard to type in locations on touchscreen if you have fat fingers. No music options.

See Also:

Gmail Call Recording Appears To Be Rolling Out Widely

Back in August, Gmail launched what is perhaps my favorite new feature ever: integration with Google Voice, which lets you make and receive calls directly from your computer.

Earlier this month, there were some initial reports that Google had improved on this feature with a nifty addition: the ability to record inbound Google Voice calls directly from Gmail. Now it looks like Google is rolling out the feature more broadly — we’ve polled a few people and they’re all seeing it, and there are plenty of reports on Twitter of people noticing it for the first time.

Now, Google Voice has let users record some phone calls for a long time, but it’s not exactly intuitive — you have to hit the number ’4′ on your keypad (most people probably don’t even realize they can do this). The feature is only available on inbound calls, and there’s a verbal notification given to both parties on the call that recording has been activated.

The Gmail implementation seems identical in terms of functionality — you can still only record inbound calls, and there’s the same notification when you activate it. But it’s a heck of a lot more convenient.  A new ‘record’ button sits just above the dialpad, and it’ll probably introduce a lot of people to the handy feature for the first time.

There do seem to be a couple caveats: first, as mentioned earlier, this is only available on inbound calls. Second, it looks like this doesn’t work on voice calls that are routed directly from one Gmail contact to another (without using Google Voice).

We’ve reached out to Google to see if the feature has been activated for everyone.


Fixing a Hole

And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right where I belong, sings Paul McCartney on his latest album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Facebook Band, which sits high on the iTunes charts. Boy, is he not kidding. He’s taking the time for a number of things that weren’t important yesterday. So should we.

On the surface it seems like business as usual, with the heads of big Internet companies sitting down with John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly at this week’s Web 2.0 Summit. The Android tablets are starting to drop now; they’re half the size, half the weight, and amazingly the same price. What? Here’s some guy with a Comcast XFINITY iPad app, which lets me control my DVR at home but doesn’t let me view any of the network content that is choking the hard drive nor the on-demand versions that would let me not record them in the first place. What?

Much is made of data portability but how it ain’t gonna happen because it wouldn’t be good business. Mark Zuckerberg was personable and engaging and all that good stuff, but why on Earth would he want to fix something that is so not broken? Why would Evan Williams want to give away Track for free when he can release a new iPhone app with Track push notification tied directly to our credit cards? What?

It really doesn’t matter whether we can get our data back out of these warm, cozy, interactive game-like interfaces. I already know what I know; what I’m interested in is what other people, the ones I care about and the ones they care about, know. That is the value of these services, and I want them to guard it carefully. Not the raw data, but the inferences, the analytics, the swarm sentiment, the speed with which these signals can be delivered to the priority queue.

Forget the noise about standards, the contortions Adobe and RIM go through to explain why Flash is important. Standards are what happens while we’re busy making other plans. They emerge from the rubble of innovation, not as the result of freedom-loving patriots who are trying to catch up with those who acted first. Sounds harsh, but Darwin doesn’t wait around for stragglers. Sometimes we need the winners of the world to do whatever it takes to get us to swallow our medicine.

Flash? What? The Adobe CEO is still several paragraphs away from saying OK, we’re shipping a tool to convert everything to iPad specs. How about an HTML streaming server so we can see everything in realtime now that it’s actually possible. Instead, we get marketing about an aging technology that developers are fleeing as they rush toward iOS. The mobile investment path goes: iOS, then Android, then RIM, then HTML 5 to work across the rest. If RIM is not careful, they will be among the rest once they get a Web experience (Playbook) that works.

Steve Jobs is not worrying about RIM or even Android. He’s trying to figure out how to get the carriers and Hollywood paid enough to seed the next generation of the iPad and iTouch. Facetime is the path to unify those two markets, forcing a new generation of IP services and Office-next business processes. Not only does it bypass the voice networks, it produces full motion video on a Flashless $250 iPod Touch. Meld the services together once iOS multitasks and you have everything you need for migrating realtime video, text, and notification streams.

Already Comcast ads promote movies appearing 30 days ahead of NetFlix. Orb TV throws away the remote in favor of iOS and Android apps to control Hulu, YouTube, and NetFlix. The network windowing strategies are collapsing together into multiple overlapping services that add up to big trouble once customers realize they can cobble enough together while waiting for the big players to co-opt the change. This is what we’ve seen with the carriers, as Verizon bundles a hot spot with the WiFi iPad and Google Voice finally reaches the iPhone.

Even the Beatles gave in to the new reality, almost as an afterthought with no fanfare and little excitement even for those of us who see reality only as a pale reflection of those 13 records that changed the world. In the end, the deal was more a business decision to prop up EMI as the record cartel struggles with its myopia about the new order of things. Fixing a hole where the rain gets in. Stops the mind from wandering. Where it will go.


Gillmor Gang 11.20.10 (TCTV)

The Gillmor Gang convened this week in the wake of the Web 2.0 Summit conference in San Francisco. Much of the conversation, however, concerned TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington’s water crisis. We did get a chance to intermingle some attitude about Facebook’s new Message platform, which apparently only Robert Scoble has wangled an active account.

The Gang was split down the middle on Facebook’s credibility in the data portability space, with Arrington and searchengineland editor Danny Sullivan arguing that Facebook are a bunch of liars and salesforce.com Cloudblogger John Taschek saying everybody in Silicon Valley was challenged in the truthiness department. Gillmor, of course, argued back and forth just for the sake of it. Arrington eventually veered off into a discussion of virtual reality, leaving us with the thought that whoever invents that will get all the money.


Whoa, Google, That’s A Pretty Big Security Hole

See Updates at bottom of post.

Facebook would probably just consider this a feature, but the rest of us will definitely consider this a big security hole. The creator of http://guntada.blogspot.com (don’t visit that site just yet) emailed us this morning to explain.

If you’re already logged in to any Google account (Gmail, etc.), and visit that site, he’s harvested your Google email. And proves it by emailing you immediately.

And it even works in “incognito” mode (also known as porn mode).

What is the exploit? We don’t know, and Google has yet to respond to us about it. We note that the site doing the exploiting is on Google’s own blogging platform. One developer we spoke with was confused as well, saying:

i have no idea what this is exploiting but there’s a decent chance it has something to do with Friend Connect and the way it passes data between iFrames (ie yes, it very well could be opensocial related). whatever is going on it’s an extremely serious security and privacy violation and i am confident google will address this in moments counted in minutes.

i can’t recall ever having seen anything like this on a major IdP’s website. it’s scary stuff.

If you insist on trying this yourself (hey, I did), the email to you will likely be in your spam filter.

This isn’t a particularly dangerous exploit, but it sure is something a lot of people would love to have on their own sites. The ability to harvest emails from anyone already signed into Google, not to mention just see exactly who’s visiting the site, is extremely valuable. See the second comment thread here for a related issue with App Engine a month ago.

Update: The site is now down. Here’s what it looked like:

Update 2: Email from Vahe, the man behind this:

Hi Mr. Arrington,
I see you have already shared the news. It’s good that google got it down, I really don’t want people to know about how that was done (if Google contacts I will definitely tell them – they just don’t answer my emails). Problem relies solely on Google.
Problem is I asked a lot of people, and most of them don’t really understand and care about this kind of things and big companies act like they all really protect our privacy and such, but they see that people don’t care and don’t do anything really.

Regards,
Vahe G. (Armenian 21yrs guy whom Google doesn’t wanted to even talk to)

Update 3: From Google: “We take potential security issues very seriously, and our team is actively investigating this one. We’ll share more information soon.” I suggest Google contact Vahe directly, he seems like he’d love to talk to them.

Information provided by CrunchBase


I Have Seen The Future, And It Looks A Lot Like Bump (Without The Bump)

There is something about exchanging information by bumping fists that is deeply satisfying. What I like most about the iPhone app Bump is that it’s different. Its features are nifty enough; transfer money, information, and as of last week, music to someone else by tapping your phone against theirs. More importantly, though, it’s a harbinger of the next wave of the mobile revolution.

Unfortunately, that also means Bump is already doomed.

Most app developers treat smartphones as little more than very small laptops. Location-based apps are the only real exception, which is why they’ve provoked such excitement. But that is obvious low-hanging fruit. Only a very few apps take advantage of the fact that smartphones are constantly with us, portable enough for actions that laptops can’t perform, and frequently within range of a shifting mesh of other devices.

Apple and Google bear much of the blame. In theory, their devices can talk to the nearby world via Bluetooth. In practice, though, the two titans have wired Bluetooth’s jaw shut. Apple’s API only permits connections to very simple services (keyboards, headsets, etc.) or other iOS devices—for anything else, developers must join a special program and sign a sheaf of NDAs. Android is far more open, but still requires explicit user approval every time an app asks to connect to a new Bluetooth device.

You can see why. Apple doesn’t want users downloading songs from iTunes and immediately beaming copies to their friends, and Bluetooth is a battery hog and security threat. But there are other solutions, such as an HTTPS-like certification mechanism. The existing restrictions have all but eliminated a whole genre of apps that could have been: for instance, only a tiny handful of multiplayer games allow Android and iPhone users to go head-to-head, and I’m sure GroupMe would love to form groups out of Bluetooth mesh networks connecting every enabled device in a given room.

Alas, Bluetooth won’t be unshackled anytime soon—but a whole new kind of connection is about to emerge. Last week Google confirmed that Android 2.3 will support Near Field Communication, as will Nokia and RIM smartphones, starting next year. And judging from Apple’s recent hiring of an NFC expert , and patent filings for a probably-NFC-powered iTravel app, the iPhone 5 will boast NFC too.

(Full disclosure / odd coincidence; the iTravel app currently in the App Store was created by, er, me. Let me stress that it has nothing to do with whatever Apple is cooking up.)

NFC opens up a whole cornucopia of possibilities. Phones serving as credit cards, keys, and ID are the most obvious, and least imaginative. Interestingly, NFC can also be used to automatically authorize Bluetooth connections. Next year we’ll see the emergence of a whole new category of apps and startups—and, hopefully, some new unexpected left-field brilliance. Developers, start your engines.

But spare a thought for Bump in this brave new world. What need will anyone have for a service that brilliantly mimics NFC, once the real thing appears? They might eke out a year or two as a substitute service for obsolete phones, but beyond that, I’m sorry to say, the only answer is none whatsoever. So long, Bump. You were a bold pioneer. Cash out while you can, and rest in peace.


How Apple’s Closed Ways Could Land It Into Antitrust Trouble

Editor’s note: Guest author Tim Wu is a profesor at Columbia Law School and most recently author of The Master Switch: The Rise And Fall Of Information Empires. Last week, he sparked a debate here about the nature of information monopolies.

While the antitrust spotlight has long been pointed at Google, the company that really has to watch its step is Apple. Beginning in the 1980s, Apple’s Steve Jobs left behind Apple’s original open design and began to champion a “closed”—or as the firm prefers, an “integrated”—approach to computing and entertainment delivery. This fact is familiar to any Apple user. Apple’s products are designed to work well with humans, other Apple stuff, and, at a distant third, other companies. “Foreign attachments” to the Apple system are sometimes accepted, but never quite loved.

Contrary to what devoted “openists” might suggest, there are some advantages to Apple’s approach. Products engineered to work together often work better, if only because the firm’s engineers have more information. An Apple engineer building an application for the iPhone knows much more than someone programming an App for all the phones Android runs on. Moreover, to its credit, Apple isn’t an integration purist, like AT&T in the 1950s. Apple runs standard protocols like WiFi, allows outside Apps on the iPhone, and hasn’t tried to reinvent the World Wide Web. You might say that a clever, nuanced balancing of open and closed is Apple’s real secret.

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But closed comes with a hidden cost. As Apple’s market power grows, its ideology is destined to bring Apple into chronic conflict with American and European competition laws. Take a monopoly in several markets, mix it with an ideology of exclusion and its easy to predict antitrust problems, in the sense that a Dodge Challenger is destined to get speeding tickets.

Things were different back in the 2000s when Apple was the rebel, the outsider that made more beautiful products. When it released the iPod, Apple’s ideology had little legal relevance, because it had no market power. Tension with the antitrust laws will be a feature of the next decade because Apple is such a success: it has gained market share, and indeed a likely monopoly in several markets, such as online music downloads and portable music players. While different studies may give slightly different numbers, most credit Apple with 70% or more of the markets for both music downloads and portable music players with iTunes download and the iPod.

Success, of course, is not illegal. The antitrust law does not make achieving a monopoly a crime. Rather, what American law bans is use of monopoly power to maintain the monopoly; or, as relates to Apple, in a way that is “unreasonably exclusionary.” That’s a legal phrase, of course, but unfortunately for Apple it translates readily to a single word: “closed.”

The Microsoft case from 2001 makes this clear. This was the famous Netscape case. Microsoft took various measures to exclude the Netscape browser from Windows 98; some, but not all, were judged unreasonable exclusionary actions and thus illegal. A more recent example is the 2005 Dentsply case where a manufacturer of artificial teeth imposed a rule on its dealers: no selling any competitor’s products. Dentsply owned 67% of the market by unit, and a federal appeals court ruled its monopoly power was used “to foreclose competition.”

Is Apple’s design ideology really “exclusionary” in this sense? Not always, but consider, for example, the iTunes-iPod setup. The “exclusion” occurs when a consumer wants to sync a music player other than an iPod to iTunes. It doesn’t work, and arguably, Apple is “excluding” or “refusing to deal” with independent music players so as to defend its monopoly.

More specifically, Apple’s habit of “upgrading” its products to exclude competitors could be a source of trouble. In 2009, Apple modified iTunes several times to prevent the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes. While its hard to know exactly what the upgrade did, at least some of the upgrades, like 8.2.1 seemed to have little purpose other than blocking Palm’s sync capacities. Apple, for its part, stated blandly “iTunes 8.2.1 provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices.” That turned out to be a code-word for blocked the Pre.

The exclusionary upgrade is, ironically, something that got Microsoft into trouble in the 1990s. Back then, Microsoft upgraded Windows to make Explorer and the operating system into a single product, and Netscape cried foul. A federal appeals court agreed that the upgrade lacked any “pro-competitive justification” and was therefor an illegal act of exclusion. Microsoft could not, as the court said, show that its “conduct serve[d] a purpose other than protecting its operating system monopoly.”

I hasten to say that none of this means that the iTunes-iPod upgrades setup is clearly illegal. In the United States, the federal government or a private party would have to prove that Apple actually has a monopoly or is close to monopoly in both markets, and probably need to prove that the setup harms consumers. (I wouldn’t mind being able to sync my regular phone to iTunes, or buy a cheap MP3 player that works with my iTunes library, but Apple may convince the courts that lack of competition is better for us.) As for its upgrades to block Palm, the question is whether, in fact, they really were product improvements, or just plain acts of exclusion. And one further point on Apple’s side is that many of its products have long been closed—it didn’t close them to kill competitors, like Microsoft did in the 1990s.

The point is not to dwell on any individual case. It is, rather to establish that Apple’s exclusionary practices are habitual, and therefore likely to put it on a collision course with competition laws. And incidentally, this analysis is why, despite the attention to Google’s monopoly, I’d suggest Apple is likely to run into antitrust problems first. The benefits of Google’s open ideology may be debatable, but it translates in antitrust language to “non-exclusionary.” To be sure, there are definitely ways Google could get into trouble, if it begins to close its once-open platform. Say, for example, if Google refused to take advertisements from firms who compete with Youtube. While the iPhone versus Google Android is a matter of taste, the latter’s design does tend to avoid a lot of antitrust problems.

If all I say is true, why hasn’t something happened already? There are a few reasons. When Apple was that beautiful outsider, it lacked the key predicate of antitrust action: market power. Second, the Bush Administration, as a general rule, declined to enforce the competition laws with much vigor; about the most significant thing the firm did was dropping the Microsoft lawsuit. Finally, the fact is that the Justice Department is watching Apple very carefully. Earlier this year, in fact, reports surfaced of an early investigation into Apple’s iPhone development practices based on complaints from Adobe and others.

Based on previous experience with writing about Apple, I suspect that some readers will read this and react with great anger. Should the federal government really be interested in product design? Isn’t all this just unnecessary meddling with Apple’s vision? Maybe so, and I am not trying to suggest that the Administration make Apple a priority. It is simply, again, to make clear that Apple’s exclusionary practices coupled with its gains in market share put it on a collision path with the competition law. It’s not a statement of what should be, but a statement of what is.

(Image via j/f/photos).

Information provided by CrunchBase


Lone TSA Twitter Account Fights Entire Internet

In case you’re confused by @tsagov, @tsabloggerbob, @tsaagent, @TSAsupervisor, @tsablog and countless other parody accounts, the real Transportation Safety Administration is actually on Twitter at @TSABlogTeam and wow, talk about the worst social media job ever (but definitely not the overall worst job ever).

For those of you who haven’t been following along, the Internet has been one big anti-TSA flash mob ever since the TSA implemented its new Advanced Imaging Technology body scanning and pat down procedures on November 1st.  Just take look at these @replies.

It’s no surprise that the TSA “porn scans” would get so much backlash — Nobody I repeat nobody is comfortable with their body, but especially those of us who spend most of our time online. As representative for the nerd contingent, software engineer John Tyner’s “Don’t Touch My Junk” blog post was the viral tipping point that unleashed the Pandora’s box of meta OMG WTF TSA round ups like this one.

Between “Cancer Surviving Flight Attendant Forced To Remove Prosthetic Breast During Pat-down,” “Woman Says She Was Cuffed And Booted From Airport For Questioning Body Scanners,”TSA pats down a screaming toddler“TSA Agents Absolutely Hate New Pat Downs“ and this, the story is one of the messiest media fests I’ve seen in my lifetime.

So what does the @TSABlogTeam account actually do? Well, it used to spam reply people with defensive TSA blog posts but it seems to have given up in the past day or so.

The guy who runs the account, aka Blogger Bob, insists that the job is “not that bad actually… It’s a challenge. I dig it.” I’m willing to bet that tweeting every 12 hours or so is way better than being one of the poor schmucks that has to feel up obese people because the government made some deal with Rapiscan. Yes it’s actually called Rapiscan.

“If something doesn’t change in the next two weeks I don’t know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry.”

TSA Employee

In the meantime, here are some inspiring videos, and tweets to get you through however long it takes for the TSA to capitulate.



#TheEuropas Proves Europe’s Startup Eco-system Is Now Motoring

The Europas, the European Startup Awards, were held last night in London. It was the culmination of a month of online voting by the European tech startup industry for the finalists, where some 33,126 votes were cast across 23 categories, eight judges deliberated over the results, 350 attended and joined the cream of Europe’s startups, VCs and entrepreneurs at a stunning venue in central London.