Jolla, the Finnish startup comprised of ex-Nokians who left to keep the MeeGo fire burning, has confirmed it will be showing off its first handset next month, and kicking off a “pre-sales” campaign to allow fans to register to buy the phone. Although Jolla has demoed its Sailfish UI in some detail before, it has generally been tight-lipped about its plans for the device’s hardware design — so next month will mean another big reveal.
Jolla had previously pegged the second half of this year for its debut device launch. Today it has confirmed to TechCrunch that this launch timeframe is not changing, despite its intention to show the phone next month. It provided the following emailed statement confirming the pre-sales campaign and noting that the shipping timeframe remains the same:
“In The Studio” welcomes a digital media savant who has hustled his way up through the music world by interning for Rolling Stone, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, MTV Networks (through Viacom), Hulu, and Twitter, worked as an editor and analyst for ABC News and Fuse TV, and eventually embarked down the path of entrepreneurship to be recently acquired by Live Nation.
Joel Resnicow, now the Mobile Product Lead for Live Nation’s San Francisco offices, has invested his entire career in both old and new media platforms. Before joining Live Nation, Resnicow co-founded a music application company (disclaimer: I worked with Joel there) called Rexly, which sought to aggregate digital media tastes and help users discover new content through their friends but across mediums and channels. Rexly committed to a product direction, but was timed to coincide with Spotify’s U.S. release and was never able to gain elusive mobile distribution or enough investment to continue, as music startups have created scar tissue among investors.
In this conversation, Resnicow recalls the insight that led him to help create Rexly, how Spotify’s model has disrupted iTunes in many ways, the lessons he’s learned by trying to create a product in a difficult category when big incumbents were launching competitive services, and how the Rexly acquisition by Live Nation now gives him and his team a new platform by which to create more and more tools to help artists make deeper connections with their fans. As a larger vision, Resnicow sees music discovery on mobile devices as a way for bands to find and engage with fans and eventually drive ticket sales for live shows, where the real money is. Resnicow also touches on the new seed fund by Live Nation Labs, which is looking to push innovation broadly in the music space, ranging from discovery, ticketing, social media, photography, and video. Finally, Resnicow is brutally honest about his experience in pitching Rexly to many investors and the challenge with iOS distribution, a pain point many app makers acutely feel.
Last October, Minecraft creator Mojang followed in the footsteps of Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise and inked a deal with specialist children’s publisher Egmont — for book and magazine publishing rights for the virtual world block-building game that has sold close to 10 million copies. Today Egmont has now revealed the first paper-based Minecraft products it will be launching in September. The publisher acquired global rights to Minecraft, excluding the U.S.
The range includes four guidebooks covering various aspects of the game: The Beginner’s Handbook, The Redstone Handbook, The Combat Handbook and The Construction Handbook, plus a Minecraft Annual, Minecraft Poster Book, and All About Minecraft Magazine. The handbooks will be priced at £5.99 each, while the annual will retail for £7.99 and the poster book for £9.99.
As well as including developer-related content from Mojang, Egmont plans to run a competition for Minecraft fans to win the chance to have their designs featured in the Poster Book. It said it is also in discussion with a number of “superfans” about them contributing to the titles.
Here are full details of the range of Minecraft publications:
Minecraft – The Beginner’s Handbook
For beginners who find themselves alone, in a mysterious new world, full of hidden dangers, with only minutes to find food and shelter before darkness falls and the monsters come looking for them, The Beginner’s Handbook might just save their lives, giving novice players the knowledge they’ll need to survive and make it to the next level.
Minecraft – The Redstone Handbook
Handbook two will allow fans to wire up and get connected to one of the most complex areas of Minecraft – Redstone. In The Redstone Handbook experts will guide players through all aspects of working with this most sought after mineral including: mining, smelting, using repeaters, circuit components and circuit designs.
Minecraft – The Combat Handbook
The Combat Handbook will teach fans everything they need to know to defend themselves from attacks in Minecraft. It will include tips from Minecraft experts and step-by-step instructions on building forts, setting traps, crafting armour and weapons and how best to prepare for one-to-one combat with hostile mobs and enemy players.
Minecraft – The Construction Handbook
The Construction Handbook will showcase all the awesome things that people have built in Minecraft. Ranging from building detail like arched windows and spiral staircases in a castle to outstanding rollercoasters and the infamous cow launcher, this book aims to inspire fans with step-by-step tutorials to build particular elements of grander projects.
Minecraft – The Annual 2014
The Annual will celebrate the limitless possibilities of Minecraft. Packed with step-by-step instructions for exciting builds and projects, tips from the experts, cool things to make, games to test your brain power and codes to unravel, it’s everything Minecraft fans have been waiting for.
Minecraft – The Poster Book
Packed with iconic pictures from the world of Minecraft, fans will be able to immerse themselves in the epic world of Minecraft in the Poster Book! Packed with awesome artwork to display on bedroom walls, the pull-out posters will include images of the scariest creatures, impressive landscapes, striking scenes and some of the most jaw-dropping constructions ever created in Minecraft.
Spotify’s first artist-specific apps went live last June, with Quincy Jones, Tiësto, Rancid and Disturbed jumping onboard in the first instance. Spotify apps are designed to help musicians categorise and curate specific tracks and playlists from Spotify’s catalog, offering users behind-the-scenes updates, photos and artwork, as well as charts and artist picks to help introduce them to new music.
A slew of artists have launched a Spotify app since, but the latest one, courtesy of Aussie songsmith Nick Cave, is worth checking out.
Timed to coincide with the launch of his latest album, Push the Sky Away (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ fifteenth studio album), Nick sifted through his musical history and categorized each song individually for this app. So, rather than browsing by the usual filters, Cave’s Spotify app allows fans to explore 4 decades of music by themes such as Sex, Comic, Heart Break, Blasphemy, Confessional, Murder and Mayhem, Classic, Love, Spiritual and Super Dark.
The app covers Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, The Birthday Party catalogues and other musical endeavors of his, including his soundtracks. Spin the wheel and you’ll end up with an emotion-based playlist, constructed by the great man himself.
It also features a selection of playlists hand-picked by artists and other famous fans, including Lou Reed, Flea, Shane McGowan, Jarvis Cocker, Cate Blanchett and others. More will be added through the year too.
Nick Cave worked with Manchester-based Web design agency Retrofuzz, and the team at Kobalt Label Services, to develop the app. Indeed, it’s interesting to see Spotify develop as a platform, and how artists and agencies are getting creative with what was once simply an “iTunes for streaming” music service.
Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock
Cheers, the app and social network built around giving users the chance to celebrate the good things in their lives, has raised a $2.5 million Series A funding round led by MindFund and including Charles River Ventures, Trinity Ventures, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and others. The startup launched just over a year ago in February, and is still very much experimenting with its positivity-based social network, according to founder Farhad Mohit.
The funding will help Cheers continue to explore and expand that experiment, Mohit says, and build on recent additions to the platform. This includes the addition of “Celebrations,” a feature introduced in an update a few weeks ago that allows users to build collections that are open to community contribution about any topic. This new feature was designed to address an audience focus issue by giving users ways to find and engage with content they’re specifically interested in, instead of having to wade through the firehose of the general feed.
The Cheers app is similar in concept to apps like Oink, the Kevin Rose project that closed up shop not long after launch after it failed to attract much of an audience. While Mohit admits that the membership numbers aren’t quite where Cheers would like them to be, he still feels the app is now doing something fundamentally different from Oink and others, and addressing a problem that still needs tackling. The key will be continuing to evolve the app’s approach in order to get it to the point where it’s striking a chord with a broader user base.
“If you look at the kinds of decisions that need to be made, there are several layers,” Mohit (who previously founded BizRate) explained. “There’s the purchase layer, when you want to decide whether or not to buy from somebody. For those, BizRate and its ilk were very satisfactory. Then one level above is sort of vendor choice. That’s where Yelp comes in. They [Cheers and Oink] come in at the awareness level – they help you decide whether something is even on your radar to consider.”
Other services in this category have failed because “they failed to realize what this simple text and picture and information is really good for.” They’re not good for comparison, he said. They’re good for generating awareness. Cheers, if it accomplishes its mission, will succeed by enabling a lot of fans and followers of things to create awareness about the people, places and locations that its network members are favoriting, instead of acting as localized, limited-scope comparison tools on the ground around specific locations.
To do that, Cheers hopes to eventually become a funnel for brands looking for sponsored content. The idea is that with Celebrations, brands can curate content from actual users and fans that is positive in nature while at the same time being genuine and spontaneous. It is essentially tailor-made for use in social media campaigns like Facebook promoted stories.
Cheers has a couple of advantages for organizations and groups. It provokes the kind of engagement you can see here in a Celebration called Starbucks, which was started by a user – not anyone associated with the brand. And the network is remarkably good at self-filtering, maintaining an overwhelmingly positive vibe. Mohit says that’s mostly due to the company’s dedicated core users, rather than any direct influence on the part of Cheers or its employees. Brands will soon be able to take advantage of tools designed for organizations on Cheers, Mohit says, which is in part what the funding is designed to help with.
Mohit is surprisingly candid about Cheers and the startup’s chances, saying that this Series A is mostly designed to set the company up to see if there should be a Series B or not. The company has an excellent model for helping organizations turn their biggest fans into a fount of quality user-generated advertising. Now it just needs the user-acquisition strategy to make that happen on a larger scale.