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
Earlier this week we reported on how Backupify was closing down TweetBackup, a free service to back up your Twitter account that it acquired in 2010; now we have confirmed that, as we’d heard, this is part of a bigger plan at the company to phase out consumer services altogether, as Backupify focuses its efforts on paid services for enterprise customers. From today, it will stop accepting new sign-ups for its free tier of back-up services for personal files. It is also discontinuing by the end of this year support for certain sites, including Facebook personal profiles, Blogger, Picassa and Flickr.
It will continue to offer services to back up Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter and personal Gmail accounts, but it’s likely that these will be moved to all-paid services over time, as part of its personal backup products, which it will continue to support “for the foreseeable future” (even if only as paid, not free, products). Rob May, CEO of Backupify, tells us that the timescale for free support is around two more quarters.
The moves are a signal that some startups that began with consumer social media services in mind have found that market hard to monetize. On the other hand, as enterprises become increasingly social, they are proving to be willing paying customers for many of the same kinds of offerings.
Rob May, CEO of Backupify, tells us that this move has been a long time in the making — some two years in fact.
“We started Backupify as a consumer-facing business but we quickly realized there was money in SMB and enterprise, so when we raised money the intention was to use it to go after the B2B market. And this is now a bigger chunk of our revenue — over 90%,” he told TechCrunch. In a blog post on the news, May also notes that enterprise was only a small percentage of revenues three years ago.
The company is not revealing total user numbers currently but when it announced a Series C round of $9 million last year, it had 170,000 users, and didn’t break out how many of those were free or paid.
He notes that in fact there is nothing of TweetBackup getting left behind in the closure. Over time, as Twitter has changed its own APIs, the company had to rebuilt its product from the ground up. It’s that rebuilt technology that has also gone into Ditto, the Symantec service for backing up Twitter accounts, which turns out was co-developed with Backupify (one by-product of the strategic investment that Symantec made as part of that most recent $9 million round of fundraising).
In the meantime, Backupify is working on developing services to back up other platforms and sites. It’s currently in testing with Apptivo, Freshdesk, Mavenlink, Nimble and Pipeline Deals to provide backup services to their users, and with the increasing move to cloud-based enterprise services, you can see how and where something like that could develop further. May says it’s not currently working with Evernote — a company with an ethos of saving your data for the rest of your live and beyond — but that he would love to.
Read more from the original source: Backupify Is Phasing Out Free Consumer Products; Drops Support For Facebook Personal Profiles, Blogger, Picassa And Flickr
Finally we have an app that ends the age-old debate about whether or not the earth is getting warmer. The Just Science app has collated all the data from the last two centuries to determine the earth’s surface temperature. Developed by Novim, a research group from UC Santa Barbara, the Just Science app just won $20,000 from the American Clean Skies Foundation for improving our scientific knowledge about the world. As Novim Executive Director Michael Ditmore told me, the free Just Science app is the result of 18 months’ work in which his research team went all the way back to the year 1800 for data about the earth’s temperature.
So what’s the truth about global warming, I asked Ditmore. The earth is getting warmer, he confirmed, by around six tenth of a degree in the last 50 years. “Not spectacular, but significant,” Michael Ditmore reports on the findings of an app which, in my mind at least, is both spectacular and significant.
Read the rest here: Keen On… How One App Ends The Debate About Global Warming
A number of startups have been trying their hand at subscription-based children’s books services, or something like a “Netflix for kids’ books,” so to speak. Today, another entry called Zoobean joins the flock, with the debut of its own handpicked catalog which parents can either subscribe to, or choose to just shop online like a standard e-commerce website.
The company was co-founded by Jordan Lloyd Bookey, Google’s head of K-12 Education Outreach, and her husband Felix Brandon Lloyd, who is a former Washington, D.C., Teacher of the Year. Like the founders of similar services in this space, including the recently launched Sproutkin and The Little Book Club, for example, Bookey and Lloyd are also parents.
“About a year ago, when our daughter was born, we were looking for a book for our son that would help him understand what it would mean to be a big brother. And in this particular case – we’re a multi-racial family – we were looking for something that might have kids that more resembled our family,” explains Lloyd.
That challenge proved harder than they thought.
The parents wanted a way to find a recommended book that matched their interests, but one they knew was also quality reading. So they built Zoobean to address this problem.
The site, at launch, has nearly 1,500 books for sale, all of which are parent-recommended, curated by a team of parents, teachers, librarians and others, and which are cataloged more extensively with topics, characters’ backgrounds, recommended ages, keyword tags and more. That way, when a parent is looking for a specific book on a topic, they can click to see all those that address that topic – like “self-esteem,” “anger and frustration,” or “growing up,” for example, as well as find books that match their own family structure and characteristics (e.g. “brother & sister,” “mother & child,” “black,” “Chinese Americans,” etc.)
The site will directly sell five featured items per month centered around a theme, and one of these will be available through an optional subscription. Subscribers pay $14.95 for the featured book of the month, a high-quality, hardcover. However, the majority of the cataloged books on Zoobean are being sold through affiliates like Amazon. Zoobean also offers a weekly reading guide for parents detailing the books in its featured collection along with activities parent and child can do together to learn more about the topic.
Though when the founders were speaking of their site’s uniqueness, their focus was on the curation aspects and the way the books were cataloged in more detail. But one of the more interesting things about this service with respect to its competitors is the diversity its selection reflects. There are books about many different ethnicities and subjects, and even harder-to-find books that cover transgender issues or bullying, for example.
“Any kid, parent or loved one who’s coming to find the right book can find one that the child can see him or herself in,” explains Bookey of the Zoobean collection.
The company has raised $500,000 in a seed round led by Kapor Capital, along with other private angels, friends and family. The plan is to raise another $250,000 on top of that.
Until today, Zoobean was in private, invite-only beta with some 200 testers. Now, it’s opening its doors to all parents or anyone else in the market for kids’ books. Users can sign up or browse the collection here.
Online legal services platform Rocket Lawyer has raised another $15 million in new funding, we’ve confirmed with the company. We’re told that the funding was raised from a “strategic investor,” who is not being named at this time. Rocket Lawyer previously raised $40 million in capital from August Capital, Google Ventures and Investor Growth Capital (IGC).
For background, Rocket Lawyer provides legal documents to consumers and small businesses, and allows consumers to find and reach lawyers as well. Earlier this year, Founder Charley Moore told us that the company is growing revenue by $20 million each year.
Last year, rival LegalZoom sued the company over false and misleading advertising, trademark infringement and unfair competition. Rocket Lawyer has since counter sued LegalZoom (and we’re told some of the charges have been dropped).
Rocket Lawyer is looking to expand beyond just offering documents–the company just bought legal Q&A site LawPivot. While its unclear what the new funding will be used for, it should be interesting to see if Rocket Lawyer makes any new acquisitions in the near future.