Hello, Can We Speak To Nokia’s Steve Jobs? … Hello?

For the last few weeks I’ve become increasingly fascinated by someone at Nokia. That person is Anssi Vanjoki.

Vanjoki is an interesting guy. Last year he was named as one of the 25 most influential people on the Web. Why? He is Nokia’s most visible advocate of what Nokia still, perhaps rather quaintly, calls its “multimedia computers”.

And he’s not some grey executive. Back in 2002 he was awarded what was believed at the time to be the most expensive speeding ticket ever, $103,600, after being caught breaking the speed limit on his Harley Davidson motorcycle in Helsinki.

But this week he hasn’t been quite so visible. As Apple and Steve Jobs unveiled the fourth generation of the iPhone in San Francisco, there appeared to be not a murmur from Nokia, still the world’s largest maker of cell phones. Where was Anssi’s thundering response? We called Nokia.

Sideways: The First iPad-Only Magazine Is About . . . The iPad

While the print magazine industry is hanging its hopes on the iPad to lead it to the digital promised land where people actually pay for digital editions, it is still stuck with adapting a product designed for paper to the screen. But what if you threw the paper out to begin with and started with a magazine meant to be read only on the iPad? If you do that, you get Sideways, a mag app that claims to be the first iPad-only magazine. Its first issue is on sale now in the App Store for $3.99.

Sideways is an iPad magazine that covers, well, the iPad. There are articles about apps for the iPad and music for the iPad and training for a marathon with the iPad (my tip is you leave it at home). “You have a built-in demographic,” says CEO Charles Stack. “Who are the readers? The people who own an iPad.” There are also other articles which would appeal to that affluent, techy demographic. The first issue has a lot of World Cup themed articles, including one on World Cup apps, a guide with venues and dates, and a primer on how to fake your way through the World Cup.

So what makes it different than Wired‘s successful iPad mag or Time‘s. “It was ground-up designed for the iPad, not an adaption of a print magazine,” says Stack, who founded Books.com in the early 1990s before he sold it to Barnes & Noble. The articles are laid out in a familiar magazine format, taking advantage of the iPad’s large screen and lovely fonts. Video and audio is also blended in where a photo or graphic might be in a print magazine (still, nothing too radical here—Wired and Time are doing the same thing). You scroll through pages up and down like on the Web, not sideways, which is silly given the name of the magazine and the fact that side-swiping is becoming the norm for iPad magazine apps.

Where it starts to be different is when it departs from the printed word and starts to feel more like an app. For instance, the article on World Cup stadiums and dates pops open a map studded with all the stadiums across South Africa.  There is an interactive timeline of the entire iPhone product family in another article. And there is a photo gallery app which shows large, full-screen high-res photos from events that occurred over the past month.  It is kind of Life 2.0.

Sideways has six full-time staffers, a lot of freelancers, and is based in Cleveland, Ohio.  It is self-funded.  For now there are no ads, but the music reviews all have affiliate links to the iTunes store.  And you can imagine similar arrangements with Amazon affiliate links for reviews of other types of products.  Stack sees Sideways as a flagship product for a publishing platform he will eventually license to other magazine and book publishers.

New ideas are more likely to come from people like Stack and others outside the industry.  Still, I think charging $3.99 a pop for a digital magazine is going to be a hard sell, especially once we start getting the same experience on the Web.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Kindle’s First Waterproof Case Is a Knight in Plastic Armor

Product: Guardian Case for Amazon Kindle

Manufacturer: M-Edge

Wired Rating: 8

If a book and a Kindle got into a street fight, the book would kick some e-inked ass. (Especially if it’s a hardcover.)

As capacious and technologically advanced as Amazon’s e-book reader is, it’s gossamer compared to a tightly packed wad of printed paper. Throw a Kindle in your bag unprotected, and you’re liable to crack the screen. Drop it down a flight of stairs, and you’ll be picking up pieces at the next landing. If you take your Kindle in the bathtub, get ready to practice throwing it like a Frisbee; that’s about all a wet one is good for.

Long overdue, the Kindle’s suit of armor has arrived: The M-Edge Guardian. With 17.1 ounces of hard plastic and O-rings, the Guardian lets you tote your Kindle anywhere: the beach, Fallujah, even the bathtub. The heavy-gauge plastic exterior will clamp around your electronic library with four Pelican-case–like clasps.

You access the buttons and keyboard through thin, clear rubber windows. These provide generally decent tactile access: We have no complaints about the side buttons, which you use the most anyway. It’s easy to turn pages or hit the menu button.

The keypad is slightly more problematic, but it’s not as if that thing is a joy to type on when it’s not covered by a polymer layer. The joystick, however, is basically disabled. We never got the hang of using it through the weird rubber appendage that sits over it.

Guardian Case For Amazon Kindle

Our first test was to bring the Guardian in the tub. No problem with water (or hardcore nekkidness). When we took it to the beach, not a grain of sand breached its fortified perimeter.

Then we kicked it up a level and threw the Guardian — containing Kindle — into the dishwasher. Do not try this. Even though the case protected our reader admirably and showed no adverse effects, M-Edge doesn’t warranty against the pot-scrubber cycle.

That, and your office probably doesn’t pay for you to put your electronics through the tortures of hell.

WIRED Danny Trejo tough. Internal air chambers make the thing float. Soft-touch plastic on the back boosts your wet-fingered grip.

TIRED You can’t access the power button, so if your machine turns itself off while you’re re-enacting PT-109 with rubber duckies, you have to dry the case off, exit the tub, and extricate your Kindle to turn it back on again. Shiny plastic-screen overlay robs the reader of some of its direct-sunlight skills. Heavy: essentially triples your reader’s weight. Gotta leave it unlatched when you board a plane. Why? Decrease in pressure could wreck the case’s flexible-plastic portion.

product image

Lenovo’s Watt Whiffing Gaming Powerhouse Is a Switch-Hitter

Product: Ideapad Y460

Manufacturer: Lenovo

Wired Rating: 8

Buy a laptop today and you have to make (at least) one big decision that is an exercise in trade-offs: Get a machine with cheap, integrated graphics and better battery life, or buy one with a high-performance graphics card that sucks down more power and runs hot?

Can’t decide? Get the Lenovo Ideapad Y460. It’s both.

Perhaps we should explain. An innocuous switch on the front of the Y460 lets you control how much graphical power this otherwise unassuming notebook pumps out. Flip it on, and you’ll have full access to the ATI Radeon HD 5650 graphics chip. In graphics-on mode, gaming rocks, with performance on par with recent games-focused machines we’ve reviewed, but battery life fizzles to barely an hour and a half.

Not fragging this afternoon? Switch yourself into integrated mode. Gaming suffers immeasurably (framerates are on par with your average $500 system), but battery life shoots through the roof, jumping from 90 minutes to nearly four hours, perfect for long plane rides when an A/C outlet is miles below you.

Best of all: Graphics are switchable in real time without a reboot, so you can jump from spreadsheet to Sims 3 and back in seconds.

The only problem with the Ideapad Y460 is that you can’t switch the price. At a thousand smackers, it’s expensive, considering it bears the Ideapad brand instead of the more upscale Thinkpad logo. Clearly designed with consumers in mind, it offers an attractive, yet a little out-there, industrial design. It has desirable features like a multitouch trackpad, super-loud JBL speakers, and a mega-bright 14-inch LCD (at 1366 x 768 pixels). Other top-notch features are a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5 M520 CPU, 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB of hard drive space.

The only question is whether you will want to pay nearly a grand for all of this. It’s not quite in MacBook territory, but it’s awfully close.

Maybe you can justify it. The Y460’s performance is so dazzling and the machine is put-together so well that I think you can make the case that it’s worth the cash upgrade. Just tell the wife you’ll eat ramen for a month. She won’t understand, but you’ll be so happy with your computer you probably won’t care.

WIRED Unbelievably dazzling performance. Switchable graphics give you the best of both worlds — gaming performance and battery life — at the flick of a switch.

TIRED Not all features are perfectly polished: SlideNav application switcher bar is functionally useless. Noisy optical drive. Surprisingly heavy (5 pounds) for its size.

product image

High-Fidelity Headphones Will Keep You Runnin’

Product: /Adidas PMX 680

Manufacturer: Sennheiser

Wired Rating: 9

Like many dedicated long-distance runners, I have been on a perpetual hunt for the perfect set of headphones. Every time a new pair arrives, it’s like a first date ringing the doorbell. The anticipation! The promise of a new (running) partner! But eventually the sound quality disappoints and I’m inevitably left alone.

Thus, the arrival of the Sennheiser/Adidas 680 Sports Headphones was like a 13-year-old finding Edward Cullen ringing her doorbell. These are some of the best runner-friendly headphones we’ve yet strapped on.

The first sign that these headphones were a cut above was the carrying case. Yes, some headphones — very, very special ones — come in a heavy, water-resistant drawstring sack.

The sack contains more than the usual extra set of foam earpads and cable clip. The headphones also come with an extension cable that has integrated volume control, which is a thoughtful idea but more useful while sitting at your computer than running. It’s already as easy as it could possibly be to adjust the volume on an iPod. Still, the extension cable is useful, great for hooking onto or through extra layers of clothing.

The sound quality is exceptionally clean and crisp, with particularly deep bass. Playing “In da Club” is a peculiarly satisfying experience, as I’d never been so able to thoroughly replicate the head-pounding experience of being in a club in the streets of my decidedly suburban neighborhood. The headset’s large earbuds do let in some ambient noise. However, this is more advantage than inconvenience, as nothing ruins a good run faster than being hit by a car.

I tested the headphones’ touted water resistance, first in Portland’s 62-percent humidity and rain, then in sweaty ears and finally by soaking the headphones in wet hand towels. After each soaking, the phones suffered no ill effects in performance.

Kevlar-reinforced cables even survived the slobbery mouthings of my dog (that one was an accident, not a test). And the behind-the-neck design stayed put, even through the most strenuous circumstances — doing yoga while watching The Discovery Channel. I’ve always preferred a behind-the-neck design over in-ear buds, whose security depends on the size of the user’s ears. They do make wearing sunglasses or hats a little more difficult, though. And the PMX 680s are no exception. Trying to wear a baseball cap or Ray-Bans with these suckers is virtually impossible.

In sum, these headphones are everything you’d ever want in a pair of running headphones. And at a mere 60 bucks, they’re just a little easier to obtain than a sparkling 100-year-old vampire with fantastic hair.

WIRED Exceptional sound quality. Marvelous bass. Stays put securely. Water resistant and dog-proof.

TIRED Ambient noise leaks in. Large earbuds might be uncomfortable for some users.

product image

Notion Ink: Adam Tablet “On Track,” Funding Settled

So the reports of the Adam being delayed until November were… partially mistaken. Notion Ink has updated their blog with more particular (and more optimistic) info, though they stop short of providing an actual launch date. “We are on track” is the extent of their hinting, and that’s good to hear (on track implies July or August availability), but there’s more to their post than that.

Continue reading…

KwiqApps Raises $500K For Mobile Learning Apps

Startup KwiqApps has raised $500,000 in angel funding for its eLearning application, “Word Search for iPad.”

KwiqApps’ iPad app is a hidden word game for children. The interactive app presents a 15×15 letter grid on the iPad with age-appropriate words hidden in the grid. It allows players to find words using touch gestures. The game also has kids-friendly themes to encourage player engagement and deepen reading skill development. The app, which costs $1.99, is one of the to-ranked apps in the Kids Paid iPad Apps category on the App Store.

KwiqApps, which was incubated at the Founder Institute, plans to use the new funding towards product development. The startup is currently developing additional apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android systems. KwiqApps’ founder Yadong Liu thought of the idea for Word Search when he noticed that his daughters often misplaced the paper-based word search sheets provided for them at school. And Liu found that the iPad was the perfect platform for interactive apps for children. FreshPlanet also creates interactive iPad apps for kids.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Source: Arrington To Buy iPhone 4

TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington has made it very clear that he’s an Android fanboy. Hell, he may have started the movement (which is now rivaling iPhone fanboydom). And yet, according to a source close to the situation, he plans to buy an iPhone 4 when it launches on June 25. How good is the source? Well, it’s Arrington himself.

As regular readers may know, Mike and I tend to fight in our internal Yammer room regarding iPhone versus Android. Mike posts those from time to time. So I figured it’s fine for me to divulge his startling (to everyone but me) admission. “Yeah ok I’m buying an iphone,” Arrington wrote in Yammer yesterday.

This is humorous for a couple of reasons. First, Mike has never actually seen the iPhone 4, nor has he used one. I have and Jason has, but Mike has not. Even some iPhone fanboys are waiting until they get their hands on one to decide if they should buy it. Not Mike.

Second, just this morning, Mike was ripping me for liking the iPhone. “MG Siegler irrationally loves the iPhone and it has become an important fashion accessory and self confidence crutch in his San Francisco hipster lifestyle.” Again, I do love this new iPhone, but it’s because I have actually used it.

My former colleague Eric Eldon left a good comment on Mike’s post: “I’ll start calling MG a ‘San Francisco hipster’ when he moves to the Mission, dyes his hair black, gets an armsleeve tattoo, starts listening to emo, drinks Pabst instead of better beers, rides a fixie — and switches to an Android device just to go against the mainstream of what’s considered cool (the iPhone).

He’s dead-on. Hipsters don’t love the iPhone anymore. It’s way too popular. Hipsters want they device that spits in the face of the mainstream iPhone. They want an Android phone.

When I questioned why Mike would make the move back to iPhone land, he quipped, “why take a strong position on something unless you fully intend to reverse that decision dramatically at some point?” Fair point, though my strong position was that he was going to change his strong position. And I’m holding firm.

Likely knowing I was going to call him out, Mike went on to clarify, “just to be clear, it will still be my second phone. must have android/google voice for primary. But the EVO frankly sucks.” Second phone or not, that’s still him supporting the “Apple dictatorship.” Also, if you see him around, make note of which phone he’s actually using more.

Speaking of the EVO sucking, Mike does back up my stance that the device is no good. After a string of improving devices, Android took a step back with the EVO 4G. And Mike should know, he’s switched his phone like four times over the course of the past few months to be on the latest and greatest Android phone of the week. Me? I’ve had the iPhone the entire time.

Glam Swings For The Fences With Glam Adapt, An Ad-Serving Platform Built For Brands

As big brands move more of their ad budgets online, what they want most is not just to capture clicks, but to capture the attention and mindshare of consumers.  The buzzword in the online advertising industry for this attention capturing quality is “engagement.”  Every ad platform out there is promising to deliver more consumer engagement.  Today, Glam Media, which itself is both a publisher of women’s sites and an ad network, announced an entirely new ad-serving technology platform called Glam Adapt it’s built over the past 18 months to help brands find and target the most engaged consumers.

GlamAdapt works with existing ad-serving technologies and networks such as DoubleClick, Atalas, and iBlaster, but Glam CEO Samir Arora has bigger ambitions for it.  ”It also can be used as a complete replacement for Doubleclick,” he says.  GlamAdapt came out of his own frustrations as a publisher and ad network.  ”We were running into a wall in terms of having technology that do what the brands are asking,” says Arora: “targeted properly, engaging, detailed analytics and reporting,  the aha of television. I decided to build a third generation ad-serving stack that can work with existing technologies.”

The current generation of ad-serving technologies, he points out, are built to “optimize clicks.”  GlamAdapt is built around a broad set of engagement metrics, including audience targeting (demographics, location, income), contextual targeting (by topic, page placement, etc.), by device or ad type (display, video, iPhone, iPad, smartphone), brand metrics (such as sentiment), content metrics (by the authority of the source), and social metrics (such as buzz on Twitter, Facebook, etc).  GlamAdapt includes a content rank, which aims to augment Pagerank as a way to determine which pages might be the best for a brand to place their ads on.  Content rank will take into account the authority of a source down to the author level, social buzz, sentiment, as well as how much that article is being linked to.

GlamAdapt is built on open APIs which other partners can build on top of to create their own brand engagement targeting capabilities. Arora gives the example of a sun screen manufacturer who was testing the system in beta and wanted to target ads to people in cities with the highest levels of ultraviolet radiation.  So it imported its own geo-data for UV levels across thecomScore,  country and used that to target ads.  Partners like Quantcast, and Pointroll can build in their own targeting capabilities tied to their existing data. For instance, a brand could target based on Quantcast or comScore demographic variables.

Information provided by CrunchBase

iOS Usage Around The World: US Has 3.45% IPhone/iPad/Touch Penetration

Our buddy Jack Deneut of Nelso looked at some of the AdMob mobile metrics reporting and came away with an interesting look at the penetration of iPhone/Touch/iPad (iOS) around the world. The biggest user of iPhones by population? You’ll never guess.

Jack looked at the total numbers and compared it to population. For example, China has .05% penetration with 922,138 iPhones and Touches in a population of 1,338,612,968 while the US has 18 million devices in a population of 309 million for 3.45% penetration.

AdMob CEO: Apple’s New Mobile Advertising Rules Will Hurt Developers

Yesterday, All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka pointed out the possibility that Apple could be limiting Google-acquired mobile ad network AdMob from selling ads on the iPhone and iPad platform. The language was a little vague in Apple’s new developer licensing agreement, but indicates that only “independent” ad-serving companies will be able to serve ads. AdMob could be prevented from showing ads because it is not independent as a part of Google, which “develops and distributes mobile devices and operating systems.” AdMob founder and CEO Omar Hamoui told us hours before Apple’s new terms of the agreement came out that nothing good would come of disallowing AdMob to serve ads. But today the company has officially responded to the potential issue.

Hamoui confirmed that the current Apple developer terms “would prohibit app developers from using AdMob and Google’s advertising solutions on the iPhone.” AdMob is wisely using the developer angle to help boost its case. The post states that the new terms would hurt both large and small developers in terms of revenue. Essentially, competition is good for developers because the more ways they have to make money, the better.

AdMob argues that less competition results in decreased innovation and lack of progress. Separately, there’s the question of what happens if an independent ad network, like Greystripe or Millennial, gets bought by Microsoft or another large tech giant. The rule seems arbitrary.

AdMob does have a point, but ultimately Apple can decide to let whoever they want serve ads on their devices. But this clearly comes across as anti-competitive, which is ironic considering that the Google-AdMob deal was nearly crushed by the FTC for anti-trust grounds.These types of moves could lead the FTC to get involved if Apple products continue to dominate the mobile advertising market.

Here’s the full text of the announcement:

Apple proposed new developer terms on Monday that, if enforced as written, would prohibit app developers from using AdMob and Google’s advertising solutions on the iPhone. These advertising related terms both target companies with competitive mobile technologies (such as Google), as well as any company whose primary business is not serving mobile ads. This change threatens to decrease – or even eliminate – revenue that helps to support tens of thousands of developers. The terms hurt both large and small developers by severely limiting their choice of how best to make money. And because advertising funds a huge number of free and low cost apps, these terms are bad for consumers as well.

Let’s be clear. This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it’s clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.

Since I started AdMob in 2006, I have watched competition in mobile advertising help drive incredible growth and innovation in the overall ecosystem. We’ve worked to help developers make money, regardless of platform – iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, Blackberry, Windows, and others. In the past four years, AdMob has helped tens of thousands of developers make money and build real businesses across multiple operating systems.

I’ve personally worked with many iPhone app developers around the world, including one who created a fun and simple game in the early days of the App Store. He built the app because he was interested in the challenge. He built this single app into a multi-million dollar advertising revenue stream with AdMob, hired a whole team, and turned a hobby into a real business.

We see these stories all the time. We want to help make more of them, so we’ll be speaking to Apple to express our concerns about the impact of these terms.

SponsorPay Raises Further $4.6m For Its Virtual Currency Ad Solution

SponsorPay, Europe’s leading provider of advertisement-based payment systems, has secured a further €3.8m (approx. $4.6m) of funding.

The new round comes from Hasso Plattner Ventures, Moscow’s Kite Ventures, and Team Europe Ventures who are the original backers of the Berlin-based startup.

The injection of capital solidifies SponsorPay’s dominant position in Eurpope, having recently acquired its equally young rival, Hamburg-based GratisPay, in early February. The combined properties’ customers cover the majority of the major online and social game publishers across Europe, including Gameforge, Bigpoint, InnoGames and Frogster.

Topguest Rewards Travelers For Check-Ins At Hotels, Airports, And More

Location based services are moving towards establishing rewards program for check-ins; Foursquare just announced that it would be testing rewards offers to users this week. Topguest, which is backed by the Founders Fund, has an interesting take on the LBS arena; the platform gives travelers loyalty points and rewards for check-ins on Foursquare, Twitter, Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt and even Google Latitude.

So when you ‘check-in‘ at a hotel, frequent flyers’ lounge, board a plane, or rent a car you would would be able to collect a reward from a program you participate in. Topguest will give travelers loyalty points from established programs, such as Intercontinental, Starwood, or Delta’s programs.

You don’t actually have to download a separate application to take advantage of Topguest. You sign up for Topguest with your accounts on the various LBS services you use, and points are automatically credited from all of applications you used to check-in on Topguest.

The biggest challenge for Topguest (besides competing with the rewards programs of the location-based services themselves) will be striking meaningful partnerships with airlines, hotels, and rewards programs. But the startup has already signed on a premium partner-Andre Balazs’ Standard hotels. A Topguest users who checks in on any supported geolocation application and stays at all four Standard hotels in a week will receive a complimentary week stay at The Standard Hollywood, Downtown LA, Miami Beach or New York. Users are also eligible for 25% off their next reservation after 10 check-ins at any Standard hotel, bar or restaurant. Other location-varied rewards include spa treatments, Standard boutique discounts, and cocktails. And the startup has also signed up three other top loyalty programs as well that will be announced later this summer.

Of course, the number of people who will stay at all four Standard hotels in one week is extremely limited. But the rewards for check-ins at Standard bars and restaurants is actually compelling.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Zynga’s FrontierVille Looks To Recreate The Success Of FarmVille In The Wild West

It’s been almost exactly one year since social gaming powerhouse Zynga unleashed what was destined to become an online phenomenon: FarmVille. The game has 70 million monthly active users, many of whom are total addicts. But some gamers are doubtless ready for a new fix, and today, they’re getting just that — Zynga has launched FrontierVille, a Wild West themed game that shares many similarities with FarmVille, but with some new twists designed to instill a greater sense of adventure. We discovered the game back in April when it was still in early testing stages, but it hasn’t been available to the masses until now. To get a better understanding of what FrontierVille brings to the table, I stopped by Zynga headquarters yesterday for a full rundown of the new game, including a thorough demo.

If you’ve played FarmVille, you’ll be right at home in FrontierVille. Many of the same game mechanics are here: you can purchase and harvest crops, and in order to maximize your harvest and in-game bonuses you’ll have to check in at regular intervals throughout the day. But it also has some key differences. For one, the game obviously has a different theme (and it’s one that hasn’t already been pioneered by another popular game, which appears to be a first for Zynga). Perhaps more important, from a gameplay perspective FrontierVille has a number of new features designed to help add a feeling of spontaneity and a better social connection with your in-game friends.  In order to better understand how this differs from FarmVille, I asked FrontierVille GM Brian Reynolds to run through the main differences:

  • One of the biggest changes in FrontierVille involves your neighbors (basically, the friends you’ve connected with in the game, who are always shown in a panel at the bottom of your screen). In FarmVille when you visit a friend’s virtual farm, your potential actions are quite limited — you can’t do much to engage with your friend’s plot of land. In FrontierVille that dynamic has changed. You can now swing by a friend’s plot of land and tend to some of their chores, like harvesting their crops. Doing so gives you a reward, and also helps them save time. There’s one caveat to this though: your friend will have to approve your actions before they take effect (some players prefer to trudge through these tasks on their own).
  • Another social gameplay element is the notion of “hiring” your friends, which entails paying some in-game money to have a buddy harvest your plants or do other tasks. In reality your friends aren’t actually sitting at their computers doing this “work” themselves (which would be pretty boring). Instead, you’re merely controlling their in-game avatar. The social element of this stems from the game’s stat system: over time you can accumulate multiple kinds of experience points, based on how much you’ve engaged with your friends and what you’ve accomplished in the game. The more points you have, the more ‘work’ you do for your friends when they hire you, which in turn makes it more likely that your friends will be looking to hire your avatar.
  • FrontierVille is also putting a much bigger emphasis on its storyline. Soon after you start the game, you’ll encounter a letter from your betrothed who is stuck “out east” — it’s your job to build up your home and garden so that they can come out and join you. Once that happens you can start having children, who you design to look exactly as you want them to. Family members can be used to help decorate your land (which sounds a little weird, I know), and can also help speed up the rate at which you collect resources like wood. In addition to these story elements, there are also new missions that are designed to help mix up gameplay. For example, the game may instruct you to harvest flowers (something that you may not normally do) for the purpose of making a bouquet to woo your spouse.
  • Finally, there’s a new set of features that Reynolds refers to as the “living world effect”. In short, these are events that are beyond your control, which help the virtual world feel more alive. Log off for a few days, and you’ll find that you may have some weeds growing in the yard. Trees will grow larger over time, and eventually they’ll start to drop seeds where seedlings will start growing. And an array of creatures like snakes and bears will sometimes encroach on your territory. They won’t ever actually harm your property, but they drain energy when you’re close to them.

One other addition is a robust item collection mechanic that’s borrowed from Mafia Wars. Gamers can collect a wide array of special items as they play; collecting a “set” of related items usually gives the gamer a stat boost. It’s also worth pointing out that the game will integrate Facebook Credits, obviously a result of the recent agreement that Facebook and Zynga reached after sparring over the payments system.

So will FrontierVille be a success? Probably — Zynga has these gameplay mechanics down to an art, and I don’t doubt that they’ll be able to attract plenty of FarmVille fans to this new game. What’s more, when you start playing FrontierVille you’ll notice that Zynga has integrated a special invite system that lets you immediately invite all of your FarmVille-playing friends to join you (the logic being that folks who like FarmVille will probably like FrontierVille).

That said, despite the new additions, in many senses this is more of the same. The game still relies heavily on repetitive tasks that are restricted by time, and your social interactions with friends are asynchronous (in other words, you aren’t going to be playing alongside your friends at the same time). There are obviously still a huge number of people that enjoy this kind of game. But these game mechanics are going to get old, and I’ll be surprised if Zynga sees another industry-shaking hit of the same magnitude as FarmVille until they start to mix things up more.

Information provided by CrunchBase

California Primary Election Results: Fiorina And Whitman Prevail, Kelly Out

Former tech executives Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman prevailed last night in their respective races in the California primaries. Fiorina, former CEO of HP, won her campaign as the republican candidate for the U.S. Senate for the state of California, taking 54 percent of the vote. She will face incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer come November. TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld interviewed Fiorina in January, where she spoke candidly of her views on government spending, Sarbanes-Oxley and more.

Former eBay exec Meg Whitman won her campaign as the Republican candidate for the California governor’s race, taking 64 percent of the vote. Whitman will face former governor and current State Attorney General Jerry Brown in November. Both Fiorina and Whitman dropped millions of their own money to fund their campaigns. The LA Times reports that Fiorina spent $5 million on her primary campaign and Whitman spent a whopping $71 million of her own money towards her race.

Another former tech exec, Chris Kelly, was not as successful in his bid to be the State Attorney General. Kelly, who was the former Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, lost the primary election to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. Similar to Whitman and Fiorina, Kelly spent some of his own fortune on his race; $12 million to be exact.