Friday, April 22, 2011
  • Gavin O'Malley, April 22, 2011, 11:32 AM
  • Paving the way for more innovation (and competition), investment in U.S. venture-backed companies rose 35% in the first quarter, reports VentureBeat, citing a new report from Dow Jones VentureSource. During the quarter, venture firms invested $6.4 billion into 661 domestic deals. "The increased activity is consistent with the buzz in the tech industry about an overall recovery, an increase in optimism, and a faster pace for innovation among startups," according to VentureBeat.

    Yet, there is "considerable discussion about whether we're seeing a bubble in tech investing, with a major story on the topic every week or so." This past Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal ran its latest "bubble piece" with the headline, "In Silicon Valley, investors are jockeying like its 1999." The debate, as VentureBeat explains, "is about whether there's a comeback, with a recovery that is just beginning, or a bubble that is getting ready to burst." The median amount raised in the first quarter was $5 million for a round of funding -- up from $4.4 million a year earlier and on part with the 2009 median. Read the whole story...
  • Japanese mobile gaming company GREE has acquired mobile gaming startup OpenFeint for $104 million in cash plus additional capital for growth of the OpenFeint platform. "OpenFeint provides a comprehensive mobile social gaming platform for the iPhone and Android platforms," according to TechCrunch. "OpenFeint's plug and play mobile social platform and application for smartphones includes a set of online game services such as leaderboards, virtual currencies and achievements running in a cloud-based Web environment."

    OpenFeint and its team, including CEO and founder Jason Citron, are expected to stay on with long-term incentives. The OpenFeint platform first launched on the iPhone and iPad and more recently adding Android game developers to its rapidly growing community. Previously, OpenFeint raised $12 million in funding from Intel Capital, Chinese gaming company The9 and Gree rival DeNa. As TechCrunch notes, this isn't the first gaming company to be acquired by a Japanese gaming giant. Last year, DeNa bought social gaming startup Ngmoco for $400 million. Read the whole story...
  • Likely fueling the growth of location-based services, geo-location data storage and platform service SimpleGeo has put data for more than 20 million places into the public domain. "With this week's announcement, SimpleGeo is saying that the data for nearly 20 million places that it owns are now available, to use freely, under the Creative Commons Zero, or 'No Copyright,' license," reports ReadWriteWeb. "It is our belief that facts should be free, as in freedom," SimpleGeo co-founder Matt Galligan wrote yesterday on the company's blog."We wanted to see the proliferation of places data that developers could easily use, reuse, or basically do whatever they wanted with."

    Meanwhile, as Joe Francia, editor in chief of Directions Media, tells ReadWriteWeb, "'Free data' under CC0 shakes up the business model of those who for years have invested in collecting data under a proprietary (read expensive) model ... What remains to be seen is if their own sourced data can be maintained and updated in a timely manner. People want good data, regardless." Read the whole story...
  • Earlier this week, two security researchers revealed that Apple stores released iPhone and iPad users' long-term geographic histories. Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that both Apple devices and those running on Google's Android mobile operating system regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively.

    "Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people's locations via their cellphones," WSJ writes. At stake is the $2.9 billion market for location-based services, which Gartner expects to rise to $8.3 billion by 2014.

    In the case of Google, according to new research by security analyst Samy Kamkar, an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier. So far, Google is not commenting on the new finding. Read the whole story...
  • Likely beating Google to the punch, Apple is reportedly almost ready to debut its online music storage service. "Apple's plans will allow iTunes customers to store their songs on a remote server, and then access them from wherever they have an Internet connection," reports Reuters, citing unnamed sources. "The service is expected to arrive some point this summer, and Apple is yet to sign any licenses with music labels," according to PCWorld. Amazon launched a similar service earlier this month, but without one key ingredient, notes MediaMemo. "Amazon started its service without getting approval from the big music labels ... But Apple is actively seeking licenses for its service, and will pay the labels for the privilege." According to MediaMemo, "Apple will let users store songs they've purchased from its iTunes store, as well as others songs stored on their hard drives, and listen to them on multiple devices." "Apple's upcoming music streaming service could come in the form of an enhanced version of MobileMe," according to Apple Insider. "In February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple plans to revamp its MobileMe offerings by adding a free 'locker' service for storing photos, music and videos." Meanwhile, "Google had been expected to launch a music service as a feature of its Android mobile operating system as far back as last Christmas, but it seems to be no further ahead," The Next Web writes. Adds Reuters: "Music industry executives are pointing to changes in top management at Google as a possible reason for the technology company's uncertain music strategy." Read the whole story...