Closing In On Chrome OS Launch, Key Architect Matthew Papakipos Jumps To Facebook

Google’s director of engineering Matthew Papakipos is leaving the search giant for Facebook, according to a Tweet he just sent out.

Most recently, Papakipos started and led the Chrome OS project at Google. Papakipos also served as the Director of the HTML 5 Open Web Platform for Chrome OS and created and lead the Chrome GPU hardware project.. Prior to joining Google, he was the CTO and VP of Engineering for software development company PeakStream, which was acquired by Google in 2007.

It’s certainly a talent loss for Google, which scheduled to launch Chrome OS in the Fall, and a huge talent win for Facebook’s engineering team. Facebook isn’t giving specifics on what Papakipos will be working on, but a representative did say that he would be a key player on the engineering team.

Here’s the official statement from Facebook:

Matthew Papakipos has indeed joined Facebook. Matthew is an accomplished entrepreneur and engineer, and it’s wonderful that he has decided to bring his considerable talents to Facebook’s world-class engineering team.

Facebook has also made another key engineering hire today, Jocelyn Goldfein, who was formerly a VP and general manager of VMware’s desktop business unit. Facebook said in a statement, “We’ve landed two accomplished, senior people to join the Facebook engineering team — Matthew Papakipos and Jocelyn Goldfein. Both are about as accomplished as they come and we can’t wait for them to hit the ground running as key players on the team.”

Facebook also recently snagged Google’s senior Android Developer Eric Tseng to head up mobile products for the social network.

Information provided by CrunchBase

JibJab Means Business, Now Processing 1 Million Transactions A Year

Online humor site JibJab, which is behind ElfYourself and loads of other zany videos has hit a big milestone: it’s now processing one million paid transactions per year. That’s big news for the company, which pivoted in late 2007 from an ad-supported business to one that generates revenue primarily through premium services and downloads.

JibJab earns money through a few channels. First, it offers a premium membership for $12/year that gives members access to its full range of customizable “Starring You” videos, which let you insert your friends’ faces into funny video clips like the site’s amazing take on the original Star Wars Trilogy . Membership also gives you access to all Ecards and ‘Everyday Fun’ messages. Unpaid users have access to some of this content, but much of it is reserved for premium members.

If users want to download their custom videos they can do that too for a few dollars (premium members get a discount on downloaded goods). Finally, the site also sells physical goods emblazoned with photos of you and your friends.

CEO Gregg Spiridellis declined to break down how many transactions each of these revenue streams accounted for, but he did say that the site is seeing 2x growth in terms of premium transactions since last year. You can see Spiridellis talk more about this in the interview above. JibJab has raised $16.9 million since 2006.

Information provided by CrunchBase

AT&T Tricks Zuckerberg And Benioff Into Buying MicroCells; Promptly Fails

Oh, AT&T.

I’ve already made my feelings on their MicroCell abundantly clear. Considering the quality of the carrier’s network in cities like San Francisco (which is to say, awful), it’s a good idea. But given the poor state of AT&T’s performance, they should be giving away the device for free to customers affected. Instead, they’re making those customers pay an extra $150 for the “privilege” of having working service. It’s a truly remarkable business model. Let’s call it: bait & switch & fix (for a fee). And it’s working.

AT&T managed to rope in two of the biggest name in tech into their scheme: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. So that’s great for AT&T, right? Two huge potential endorsers of their rip-off box. Well, not so fast — this is AT&T, after all.

Benioff posted about his new MicroCell purchase on his Facebook wall yesterday. “I hope my iPhone will work at home now,” he wrote. This is undoubtedly the reason the vast majority of users have bought the device (instead of just, you know, leaving AT&T like regular people would do if their service doesn’t work). A lot of commenters on his post were curious to know how well it’s working as they suffer from the poor AT&T service as well. So how is it working? Well, according to the tech giants, it’s a mixed bag.

I got one and it seems to work pretty well,” Zuckerberg wrote in a comment under Benioff’s post. “Pretty well” isn’t exactly a rave review, but AT&T will undoubtedly take it from Zuckerberg. But Benioff had a different experience. “Bought 2 AT&T MicroCells today. Installation won’t complete. Called AT&T. They said they are having a national MicroCell outage since Friday. It won’t work for 2 more days. Where is when you need it?,” Benioff wrote on his wall. Other posts confirm AT&T acknowledging the outage.

It’s another genius plan from AT&T. The network won’t work to make calls, so they get you to spend an additional $150 (on top of the $100+ a month you’re already spending with them for service), then that goes down, but only those wealthy enough to pay for landlines or other cellular phones on other networks (Benioff) are even able to call and complain. If both AT&T and their MicroCell service go down across the country, but no one can make a call to complain about it, did it really happen?

In all seriousness, this is pathetic. And besides Zuckerberg and Benioff, reports across the country seem to be a mixed bag about the MicroCell. Some say it works, some say it doesn’t (even when the network is up). We can’t confirm either of these scenarios because AT&T won’t even sell us one.

With the iPhone 4 selling 1.7 million units in the first three days, a whole new group of people are about to be exposed to the pleasure of AT&T. Hope they have $150 ready when/if that MicroCell network comes back up.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Apperang Pays You Cash to Download iPhone Apps… Ka-Ching!

Yep, you read that right. Today W3i is announcing Apperang, a new service that will pay users to download mobile applications.

Apperang builds on the pay-per-acquisition model that we’ve seen succeed with companies like TapJoy. As opposed to pay-per-click, pay-per-acquisition (or pay-per-action) means that the developer only pays if the desired action occurs. In this case, developers pay only when the user downloads the app.

Hit the jump to find out how Apperang works.

Google Apps For Education Wins Two More States, Rolls Out Training Tools For Teachers

Google has made it fairly clear that adoption of Google Apps at schools and colleges is vital to the growth of the productivity suite as a whole. The strategy makes sense; not only do educational institutions represent a huge market for Google Apps, but schools and colleges are where many people get trained, start relying on, and form brand allegiances to productivity apps. Today, Google is announcing that it has signed on two more states, Colorado and Iowa, to extend Google Apps for Education to the 3,000 schools across the two states.

The two states join Oregon, which was the first state to adopt Google Apps for Education in its schools. One of the advantages of “going” Google is the productivity suite’s attractive price point for public schools that are on a budget.

Time Magazine Reminds Me Of Some Of My Fickle Ex Girlfriends

In 2008 Time Magazine really liked TechCrunch and yours truly, putting me on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. I was on the verge of becoming a “cybermogul!”

But things went downhill from there. In 2009 TechCrunch was no longer relevant to, well, anything. TechCrunch was named one of the most overrated blogs. “Stick a fork in this one — it’s done,” said Time. Ouch.

But we’re back, baby! Despite absolutely zero editorial or other changes after our 2009 death, 2010 is a new year, and Time loves us once again. We’re one of their essential blogs:

Michael Arrington may be as cocky as ever, but it’s with good reason: his tech blog remains the essential destination for the inside scoop and analysis on what’s going on in Silicon Valley and beyond. Arrington and his team of bloggers have enviable access, getting exclusives and access from Apple to Zynga. Plus, for those in search of the next big thing, no one covers startups better than the Techcrunch gang. (And fosters them now, too — the blog’s Techcrunch Disrupt conference this year brought together some of the smartest minds in tech to look at some of the best up-and-coming new ideas.)

I’m pretty sure I know what’s coming in 2011: she loves me not, and another breakup. And I’m sad about that. But 2012 is going to be a good year, methinks. I’ve heard Time has already written the blurb about our big comeback from the 2011 flatline.

Information provided by CrunchBase

iPhone 4 Costs $188 To Make

Another day, another iSuppli teardown. The folks at iSuppli have found that iPhone 4, according to their estimates, cost $188 to make. While this is almost comically low, it says something about Apple’s ability to mass produce phones and the high margins they’re able to make on relatively low-cost products.

The gyroscope chip, for example, apparently costs Apple $2.60 while it costs $2.90 in quantities of 200,000. These disparities pop up in a number of places, which, sadly, lends an air of WTF to the proceedings.

Read more…

Video: Next-generation Electric Mini Vehicle ULV

It seems interest in the development of electric cars has really picked up steam in recent months, especially in Japan. A research team at Tokyo-based Waseda University has manufactured the ULV [JP], a one-person electric vehicle with a number of selling points: it’s cheap, it’s small and light (72.6kg), and it has a decent driving range (80km).

Read more…

Facebook Hiring 500 People In India

Facebook recently announced it would be opening an office in Hyderabad, India, to be able to provide better round-the-clock and multilingual support to its ever-increasing number of users, advertisers and third-party developers.

According to Business Standard and India Times, the company is set to launch its India operations from the ‘City of Pearls’ – its first office in Asia – within the next two months.

In a press release on Sunday, the State Information Technology and Communications department said Facebook had been granted permission by the government to set up an office in a business incubator at the Raheja Mindspace special economic zone (SEZ).

The new office will add to Facebook’s operations in Palo Alto (California), Dublin (Ireland) and a recently opened office in Austin (Texas).

According to The Economic Times, an Indian government official also said that Facebook has been allotted about 50,000 sq ft space and is going to recruit close to 500 people for running its operations. Facebook, which has nearly 8 million users in India and nearly 500 million users across the globe, would reportedly invest $150 million in the initial phases.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Apprupt Launches Self-Service Affiliate Network For Mobile Apps

Apprupt, an affiliate network for mobile apps, has today launched its self-service platform for “appvertisers” (a slightly silly name).

It enables app developers to sign up to apprupt on a cost-per-install basis, enabling them to track their marketing campaigns for both paid and free apps. Features include account management (including campaign spend), and reports and analytics providing “the ability to determine the ROI at any given time” by measuring the number of app downloads generated.

Skimlinks Rolls Out SkimWords To Turn More Links Into Affiliate Revenue Opportunity

Affiliate marketing platform Skimlinks has launched its latest product that aims to make it even easier for publishers to place revenue generating affiliate links in their content.

Dubbed SkimWords, the feature, which is currently in beta, differs slightly from the company’s main offering. Rather than simply converting existing retailer links to affiliate links on-the-fly, it looks at the page’s content and converts any references to known products into fairly non-obtrusive geo-targeted links to retailer sites where the item can be purchased.

The fact that these links are location-aware – at the country level – is perhaps noteworthy since it accommodates a site’s international traffic and therefore hopefully doesn’t leave much money on the table.

Geodelic Scores $7 Million To Boost Its Location-Aware Mobile Apps Business

Exclusive – Mobile application developer Geodelic has raised $7 million in a Series B financing round led by MK Capital, with previous backers Clearstone Venture Partners and Shasta Ventures participating.

The round brings the total amount of capital injected into the company to more than $10 million.

Initially incubated by Clearstone in 2008, Geodelic develops a free application for mobile phones that come with ‘search-less search’, meaning the app automatically browses and shows your points of interests in your immediate vicinity. The company was founded by Rahul Sonnad, who previously founded thePlatform, a Web video publishing service he sold to Comcast back in 2006.

The Geodelic app, which is available for iPhone and Android, lets you swipe through locations to quickly find a good coffee joint, closest bank, grocery store or favorite restaurant.

The application is also capable of learning what you seem to like, presenting you results based on your profile. Users get the added benefit of Geodelic’s integration with select reservation and review services (e.g. OpenTable).

The Geodelic network also contains content-specific mobile guides, which can soon be created by anyone. One example is the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which enables users to discover the attraction, locate their favorite stars of stage and screen and to access photos and biographies straight from the app.

Additionally, Geodelic technology has been licensed by carriers such as Korea Telecom to allow enterprise customers to quickly deploy mobile guides and to interact with their consumer base.

Geodelic’s makes money by partnering with brands and marketers to create a network of so-called Experiences. The startup’s authoring system allows businesses to publish location-triggered content to Geodelic users on the fly and provides detailed, real-time statistics they can use to improve their location-based offerings. A relevance engine even tracks user behavior, allowing marketers to reach consumers as efficiently as possible at the point of sale.

To date, the Geodelic application has been downloaded over half a million times on Android phones, the company says. It is also available for iPhone (iTunes link), and currently in development for Blackberry devices.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk To Sell Nearly One Million Personal Shares At IPO

One day before its scheduled IPO, Tesla Motors is increasing the allotment of shares that will be sold to the public from 11.1 million to 13.3 million, according to an amendment to its S1 filing. The additional shares are being sold by existing shareholders looking to cash out at the IPO, including Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk who is selling an additional 909,212 of his personal shares. Other selling stockholders include VantagePoint Venture Partners (238,748 shares), Bay Area Equity Fund (88,586), Westly Capital Partners (72,625), Compass Venture Partners (22,931), as well as friends and family like Elon’s brother (and OneRiot CEO) Kimball Musk (12,692). Tesla itself won’t make any additional money from the bump in shares, but more shares will be available to the public.

If Tesla shares open at the high end of its expected range of $14 to $16, the Silicon Valley electric car company will debut with a $1.5 billion market cap (based on 93.5 million total shares outstanding after the IPO and a concurrent $50 million private placement with Toyota). After the offering, Tesla’s largest shareholder will still be founder Elon Musk, who will own 28.4 percent of the company (worth $426 million at that valuation, versus a potential windfall of $14.5 million for the shares he is selling). The second largest shareholder will be Daimler (through an investment arm called Blackstar Investco) with 8 percent of the shares, and the third largest will be the government of Abu Dhabi (through Al Wahada Capital Investment) with 7.8 percent of the shares. The two biggest VC shareholders will be Vantage Capital Partners with 6.6 percent and Valor Equity Partners with 5.25 percent.

It takes a ton of money to crack into the car business. Even before the IPO proceeds, Tesla has already raised $783 million in venture capital and government loans. Tesla is expecting to raise about $210 million in the IPO, bringing the total raised to just over $1 billion.

And so far the company isn’t making any money. Last year, Tesla lost $56 million on revenues of $112 million. In the March quarter of 2010, it lost $29.5 million on revenues of $20.8 million. As of March 31, 2010, the company still had $188 million in cash. But it expects to spend up to $125 million this year, as it gears up to manufacture its Model S sedan (including $42 million to buy a factory in Fremont, California formerly operated by Toyota and GM).

While Tesla is known for its sexy roadster, it the Model S which will make or break the company. It is a more affordable electric sedan which the company hopes will start to make inroads with the general car-buying public.

mSpot Debuts Cloud-Based Music Streaming Service For Android

Mobile entertainment startup mSpot is debuting its free music cloud service today that allows you to sync your entire music collection across Android phones and PCs/Macs to the public today. The service, which was launched into private beta in May, streams music to your browser and Android phone.

Here’s how it works. The service’s application that operates in the background of your computer managing the upload and day-to-day syncing of your music library. In addition, it can upload playlists, coverart, ratings and song information you may have entered using iTunes. The application will manage your music for you, making automatic updates whenever changes occur in your library, and on across different connected devices.

And mSpot’s cloud service automatically re-syncs music when new songs and albums are added. The service also promises to handle transitions between spotty and solid coverage areas and reduces data charges on your mobile plan. Other features include the ability to see lyrics of songs and to make a ringtone out of any song.

MSpot is betting big on this service. The company has been developing this proprietary playback
technology that allows users to play songs from the cloud instantly for four years. mSpot mobile application automatically senses network conditions and adapts playback accordingly even without network coverage.

While mSpot offers free storage for the first 2 gigabytes (approximately 1600 songs), additional storage is available for purchase ranging from 10 gigabytes (8,000 songs) for $2.99, 20 gigabytes (16,000 songs) for $4.99, and 50 gigabytes for 9.99.

mSpot’s streaming service will be incredibly an useful application for Android users. But that’s until Google launches its own cloud-based music streaming service, which is expected to take place later this year. The company even acquired streaming technology Simplify Media to boost its service.

Lala did this as well, but Apple has shut that service down after acquiring it. And we expect that Apple will be launching a cloud-based version of iTunes soon, which would also pose a serious threat to mSpot’s offering.

Mspot is best known for its Mobile Movies site, which will let users stream full-length movies on their mobile phones, on the web, so you can enjoy mSpot’s online streaming movie service on your computer. mSpot has struck deals with Paramount, Universal, Image Entertainment, and Screen Media Ventures to stream full-length movie rentals to users’ PCs and cell phones, allowing you to switch between both devices as you pick up and leave off throughout a movie. The PC streaming functionality builds upon the mobile movie service mSpot launched last year. The service, which just launched an iPhone app, includes 1000 titles that can be streamed to both a computer and mobile device.

Information provided by CrunchBase

iPhone 4 Leads the Pack With Stunning Design, Interface

Product: iPhone 4

Manufacturer: Apple

Wired Rating: 8

Apple’s fourth-generation iPhone makes its predecessors look like toys. Heck, even the iPad looks sissy now.

It’s an impressive upgrade. The iPhone 4 ditches the curvy plastic case of the older models in favor of a thinner, squared-off glass body laced with a stainless-steel band. It has a higher-resolution display, a brand-new front-facing camera, an improved back camera with flash, double the RAM of the iPhone 3GS, and the same A4 processor that powers the iPad.

Grip it in your hand, and the iPhone 4 feels like the phone of the future.

The defining feature of the iPhone 4 is its 960-by-640-pixel display, which has a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, far higher than any other consumer display. Apps, websites, photos and videos look stellar. Text is crisper, images look rich and detailed, and colors are stunning. It’s been hard to put down this phone: Staring at that screen is addictive.

The second most compelling addition is the front-facing camera, which works with a built-in video-chatting client called FaceTime. Remember when George Jetson’s boss chewed him out on a video phone in The Jetsons? It looks a lot like that. Choose a contact, then tap FaceTime, and within a few seconds you’ll see your buddy’s mug. (Better keep your finger out of your nose from now on.)

Video chatting is nothing new: Plenty do it with webcams on their computers already. But video conferencing on a phone makes a dramatic difference, as you have the liberty to take the camera with you wherever you go. Give a virtual tour of your new apartment to friends across the country. Hold a FaceTime chat with a retired co-worker, and pass the phone around the office for everyone to say hello. This new method of communication — digital coexistence — is fresh and exciting, even to journalists who live and breathe gadgets every day.

There are some big limitations. Currently, FaceTime is only available for iPhone 4 users, so the number of people you can video chat with is limited. However, Apple published FaceTime as an open protocol: Any software developer can integrate the service into their third-party software on Macs, Windows machines or even competing smartphones, such as the HTC Evo 4G. It’s a mystery why Apple hasn’t already provided integration with its own desktop chat client, iChat, which would greatly expand the number of people you could video chat with.

Second, FaceTime only works over Wi-Fi, until the carriers’ networks get better, says Steve Jobs. Provided you have a strong Wi-Fi connection, FaceTime works well, and it’s a blast. With a weak or overloaded Wi-Fi connection, it’s an exercise in frustration. And without Wi-Fi, you can’t use it at all. That’s stifling, but for now, most of us will probably be video chatting in more private settings, where we presumably have decent Wi-Fi anyway, so we’ll let you off the hook for this one, AT&T.

However, AT&T’s overloaded 3G network remains a major concern for old-school telephoning. Call quality sounds clearer with a noise-canceling microphone on top of the handset, but reception problems persist. We experienced plenty of dropped calls with the iPhone 4 in San Francisco. Network coverage varies from city to city, and your mileage may vary. But we can’t file this away as a non-issue until either AT&T expands its network to accommodate data-guzzling iPhones everywhere or Apple shares the iPhone with multiple carriers to mitigate overcrowding on AT&T’s network.

Adding to our cellular woes, many customers have reported a strange antenna problem, where squeezing the steel band on the bottom-left corner of the iPhone 4 results in dropped signal strength. That just happens to be the way many left-handers are naturally holding the iPhone. We were able to replicate this behavior, but only by squeezing the iPhone very hard. Jobs’ e-mail response to a concerned customer was to “just avoid holding it that way” — which doesn’t seem fair — and Apple’s recommended solution is to buy a $30 protective “bumper.” Whatever the remedy, when a number of people are complaining about the same issue and the proposed solution is a band-aid, this appears to be a design flaw.

Whether it’s AT&T’s network or Apple’s design, the iPhone 4’s semi-frequent dropped calls create the same old headaches. This is still an unreliable phone, period.

That’s a shame, because the iPhone 4 is solid with just about everything else it does. The new 5-megapixel camera (up from 3 megapixels in the iPhone 3GS) takes photos that look better than a lot of dedicated point-and-shoots we’ve used. However, white balance seems slightly off, often appearing too yellow, so you’d benefit from touching up photos with an image-editing app. Also, photos shot with the iPhone 4’s new LED flash look eerie — as you’d expect with an LED flash.

Did we mention the iPhone 4’s snazzy back camera also shoots high-definition, 720p video? It looks great, too, with smooth motion and crisp clarity, although the yellows again appear heavy.

Finally, the iPhone 4 subtly improves on speed compared to the iPhone 3GS. It’s not tremendously faster, but you’ll notice that complex tasks finish up more quickly. In the photo-editing app CameraBag, for example, photo processing took about a second per photo, whereas on an iPhone 3GS it took about three seconds.

The iPhone 4’s main competitors are the crop of high-end Android phones currently on the market. The Nexus One, Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G all have impressive hardware and match the iPhone 4 nearly feature for feature — in some cases, exceeding the iPhone 4’s specs, as with the Droid X’s 8-megapixel camera.

Any day now, a manufacturer will likely deliver a better piece of hardware than the iPhone 4. However, Apple is still far ahead of the curve with its new iOS 4 software and ever-growing App Store. The entire experience of iOS is far more elegant and intuitive than Android, and for many people, that ease of use will outweigh iOS 4’s relative lack of flexibility and its subpar telephone capabilities.

Interestingly, the iPhone 4 has more RAM than Apple’s other hot product, the iPad, with 512 MB in the iPhone 4 compared to 256 MB in the iPad. It also has two cameras, a newer OS and a higher-resolution display than the iPad, which might inspire some buyers’ remorse among early iPad adopters.

With the iPhone 4, Apple has blown Android rivals, previous iPhones and even the iPad out of the water. It’s that big of an upgrade. And for now, it’s the uncontested leader in the smartphone market.

WIRED Incredible display. FaceTime video chat is futuristic fun. Thinner profile feels great in your pocket. 5-megapixel camera could replace your point-and-shoot.

TIRED The phone — one of the most important features — is still frustratingly unreliable. Antenna flaw for some lefties is lame. White balance in photos and videos is slightly off.

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