NVIDIA brought its new Shield handheld gaming system to Google I/O this year and showed off a near-production device. The Shield made its debut at CES this year, surprising most since it’s a consumer handheld device from a company that generally makes internal components. But it has some neat tricks up its sleeve, including a Tegra 4 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 720p display and 16GB of internal storage.
The Shield units available at I/O this week were all running Android and showing off Android games with hardware controller support, and none were demoing the PC game streaming that NVIDIA said would be coming to Shield as a beta when it comes to retail in June.
My experience with the NVIDIA was limited to just a few games, including the Epic Citadel demo that always gets trotted out to demonstrate amazing graphics capabilities on mobile devices. There were also a couple of playable cart racers in action, and all of the above performed well and really showed that the hardware is capable of rendering high-quality video smoothly and without any apparent effort. For a device that’s essentially a smartphone without the actual phone powers, but with more physical buttons for $349, that’s an important achievement to be able to claim.
Shield does its Android job well, and the hardware feels great to these gamers’ hands. Buttons are slightly clicky and the ergonomics are solid, and the thing doesn’t take up too much more space than an Xbox controller when the screen is folded down and it’s in travel mode. There’s mini-HDMI, which was outputting gameplay to a small HD television, and a micro-USB slot for charging. The onboard screen boasts “retinal” quality 294 PPI pixel density, which means video and games look silky smooth.
Maybe the best part is that NVIDIA has gone for a pretty near stock Android Jelly Bean experience, which a rep from the company told me was a conscious choice they made after first trying a more involved widget overlay that ended up making for a much less pleasant experience. Navigating the stock Android with hardware controls (you can also always use the touchscreen) is also surprisingly intuitive.
All that said, this is a strange device with a market that’s probably going to be pretty niche. Really, it almost seems like a reference device designed to show off the power of Tegra, but NVIDIA is actually shipping the thing, so those of us like me who actually have a hankering for this kind of hardware will really be able to buy it even if it doesn’t become a runaway success.
Continue reading here: NVIDIA’s Shield Mobile Gaming System Feels Like The Way Android Games Should Be Played
CrowdOptic, a startup with technology for identifying where people are pointing their smartphone cameras, has raised another $1 million in funding.
When I’ve spoken to the team in the past, they’ve emphasized the ways this could be used to create new types of social interactions — if people are attending a live event and pointing their cameras at the same thing, they can start chatting and sharing content. However, the company’s website highlights a number of use cases, including “focus-aware” advertising, analytics, news reporting, social TV (live attendees can provide content to people watching at home), and security.
CEO and co-founder Jon Fisher said that customers include Australia- and New Zealand-based ticketing company Ticketek (CrowdOptic built the company’s Friend Spotter app for finding your Facebook friends in a stadium, which you can see in the screenshot above) and Fora.tv (which used CrowdOptic to share authenticated, eyewitness content from the presidential debates).
The new funding comes from CrowdOptic’s existing investors, including Silicon Valley Bank, tech legend Ray Lane, and Fisher himself. Fisher also said that CrowdOptic recently celebrated its second quarter of profitability. The company has now raised a total of $3.5 million.
By the way, Fisher was previously CEO of Bharosa, NetClerk, and AutoReach, but he isn’t the only team member with an impressive résumé — COO Jim Kovach has worked at other startups, he has a medical degree and a law degree, and he was a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
Here is the original post: CrowdOptic Raises Another $1M To Build Experiences Based On Where Your Phone Is Pointing
MessageMe — a messaging app that launched in March with a little Facebook controversy thrown in — has raised another $10 million, according to an SEC filing earlier today. The Series A round was led by Greylock Partners; and as part of it, John Lilly, the ex-CEO of Mozilla who is now a partner at Greylock, will be joining the board of LittleInc Labs, makers of MessageMe.
TechCrunch understands that others participating in this round are the same investors from LittleInc Labs’ $1.9 million seed round, including True Ventures, First Round Capital, Google Ventures, SVAngel, Resolut.vc, Andreessen Horowitz, and Social+Capital Partnership. The company’s angels also include Airbnb’s Brian Pokorny, Hiten Shah, Eric Wu and TinyCo CEO Suleman Ali.
Although the seed round was announced in March, just weeks after the launch of the app, it actually closed last year and went towards the company’s launch. This newest round will be used to help MessageMe keep up with growth in the future, as it faces up to an increasingly crowded field of competitors. They include biggies like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, both of which are popular across a number of regions; those that have built up strong followings in local markets, such as KakaoTalk in South Korea and Line in Japan; and newer contenders like the new Hangouts app from Google.
Amidst (or perhaps despite) all the competition, MessageMe continues to grow fast.
Two months ago, the app was seeing 500 notifications per second among 1 million users — despite the fact that Facebook cut MessageMe off from Social Graph access one week after it launched. The reason for that appeared to be the same as for other apps that faced the same fate: they are not allowed to use “Find Friends” features to seek out Facebook contacts on third-party apps, when those third-party apps are deemed to be competitive to/replicating core Facebook services.
Today the sent rate is apparently significantly higher, as are user numbers. We understand that the company will be sharing more specific numbers next week when it also will be announcing details for how LittleInc Labs plans to make money from its ad-free, free-to-download app.
On that front, there have already been some fairly obvious clues as to what those plans might entail: In addition to multimedia options in the app to send messages as pictures, doodles, video, voice, location and music, there are also tabs for stickers and money.
Conversely, although the two co-founders, Arjun Sethi and Justin Rosenthal, have had extensive experience with social gaming in past roles, including long periods for both at LOLapps, it’s noticeable that there is no games tab on that dashboard.
Stickers, of course, have been a very popular value-added service for other apps like Line, which makes millions each month from stickers; and other messaging apps like Path are now adopting them, too.
Money is a newer area in messaging but one that is also being chased by more than one party: Google just yesterday announced that Google Wallet would be integrated with Gmail, letting users send money as attachments. Peer-to-peer money transfers via mobile, meanwhile, have been a much-used service particularly in developing markets, where users may not have bank accounts. MessageMe could play on both of these concepts, depending on who it partners with to provide the service.
Despite rising costs and increasing competition from rivals like Tencent, Chinese Internet giant Sina narrowed its first-quarter net loss to $13.2 million from $13.7 million a year earlier, the company reported today. Sina’s net revenue increased 19 percent year-over-year to $126 million, strengthened by stronger-than-expected non-advertising revenue.
The company’s Sina Weibo is China’s largest microblogging service, with over 46 million daily users. Last month, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group bought a 18 percent stake in Sina Weibo for $586 million, a deal that valued the site at over $3 billion.
Sina hopes that the Alibaba deal will allow it to strengthen advertising revenue despite the slowdown in ad sales that has hit all major Chinese Internet companies, including Baidu and Tencent. Sina’s ad sales dropped 15 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter to $94.3 million.
Adjusted non-advertising revenue, which includes revenue share from Web games and membership fees on Sina Weibo, increased 17 percent to $27 million, more than the range of $21 million to $23 million range forecast by the company.
“As we start 2013, we are making good progress in transitioning from a PC-centric to a mobile-centric Internet company with new product launches and improved monetization,” said Sina chairman and CEO Charles Chao in the earnings release. “In April, we formed a strategic alliance with Alibaba Group to catapult us into social commerce. By partnering with Alibaba, Weibo is well positioned to play a key role in the future of e-commerce, particularly in mobile commerce as we explore ways to search, share and buy the goods and services of the millions of merchants on Taobao and Tmall.”
Read the original post: Sina Narrows Its 1Q Loss As It Counts On Weibo-Alibaba Deal To Bolster Ad Revenue
The first rule of being cool is not telling people you want to be cool. Yahoo is not following this rule, with its M&A team in full pray-and-spray acquisition mode post-Marissa Mayer hire, hitting on everything that walks, or at least has traction.
I’ve heard rumors that Yahoo was trying to get into the following deals over the past couple of months: Foursquare (at an $800 million asking price). Path (at a $2 billion asking price). Pinterest. Hulu. Zynga. Daily Motion. And at a smaller scale: Gdgt. Wavii. Media Ocean (?). A spate of others. And now Tumblr. “Literally they talk to everyone,” said one person familiar with the matter on the matter.
There was a kid in my high school who used to buy the popular kids lunch so he could sit with them. Yahoo has become that kid. At a reported $1b Tumblr would be a pricey picnic, about 1/4 of the cash Yahoo has on hand.
But it could work if it goes through, which I don’t think it will. A Tumblr buy fixes the issue of declining Yahoo traction, particularly amongst us wild, mobile-addicted youth. Yahoo, which wants to be a “key part of everyday life,” is limited by the fact that young people don’t want to use it at all, let alone every day. Tumblr is the exact opposite, hitting the sweet spot of mobile, social communications, messaging and viral distribution — Even bringing in some coin in the process.
Just to heap another dollop of speculation on top of this already absurdly speculative post: It wouldn’t be surprising if Google was also courting David Karp, as Mayer, a former Googler, still thinks like she’s in Google M&A, “Hey, a critical mass of people are using it … Let’s buy it and stick ads on it!.” Imagine what the social blogging platform could do to revive Google+ engagement and content creation … And how much more it would be worth to Google?
And it certainly makes sense for Yahoo to explore this strategy as well, in its larger, non-acquihire deals. But perhaps it should try being less promiscuous about it.
Read the original: Yahoo Wants To Buy Everyone, Tumblr Edition