Archive for March, 2012

OMGPOP Draws Zynga’s Daily User Traffic Up By 25%

omgpop3.30.12

As the dust settles after Zynga’s purchase of New York mobile social game developer OMGPOP, the company is visibly taking on a new shape. A 25% larger and more mobile one. That’s the percentage growth of its total daily active user base, when you add in the 14.6 million people playing mobile sketching app Draw Something to its existing 55 million players.

The game has gone from 1.7 million to 14.6 over the month of March, based on app tracking service AppData. Today, it’s nearly the combined size of Zynga’s two biggest hits on Facebook, CityVille and Texas Hold’em Poker.

Which means Draw Something’s share of the market is likely to grow in the coming months. CityVille was launched at the end of 2010, and Poker years before. Zynga has milked them along, and will no doubt continuing doing so far into the future. But, they’re never likely to grow significantly beyond their current sizes, based on the overall life cycle of these games.

Draw Something is a blank slate. It’s been out for around two months, and could keep growing. Zynga has the analytics and marketing skills to help with that. And it also has the experience keeping traffic up across its games on social and mobile platforms. Its core mobile franchise to date, Words With Friends, has the second-most daily active users out of any Zynga game, with 8.1 million daily actives.

The user count comes with a caveat here. Only Zynga knows the non-deduplicated daily unique user number. It’s quite possible that users of other Zynga games are already playing Draw Something, particularly with Words With Friends. That’s still good, in that they might be paying for virtual goods across titles. But it also means the total traffic is lower than it looks here.

The big long-term potential isn’t just that Zynga has all these users from this game. It also has the ability to promote its other games, including any it’s planning on launching in coming months, to this vibrant user base. That could extend the value of the game far beyond its own cycle.

The $210 million bet on OMGPOP has the obvious risks, too. The acquired company has never made a hit even close to this big. And Draw Something may have a shorter life cycle — Zynga hasn’t had a chance to see how long this type of sketching-sharing game can stick around.



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Eric Eldon

March 31st

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Not Even a Robot Would Find These Polygonal Pillows Comfortable [Pillows]

Designer Mika Barr apparently took their inspiration for these angular faceted pillows from the patterned creases seen when you unfold an origami creation. And even though they actually can't feel, we doubt even a robot would find these comfy. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

March 31st

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Tech Jobs And Airbnb Are Squeezing The SF Housing Market — Here’s What To Do

planet for rent

Editor’s note: Jon Sterling has been in the real estate business since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @mistersterling.

Have you been searching for a place to live in San Francisco lately? You’re not the only one thinking @$#%&! on a daily basis.

Forget the speculation about a tech bubble. This is a real estate bubble.

It’s a common scene on a weekend morning: A line of people waiting for an open house at an apartment that just hit the market, with rental applications, credit reports, and certified checks in-hand. The first one who qualifies wins the prize.

SOMA condos under $600,000 (now considered “entry level”) are going under contract in a matter of days, often with multiple offers. So far in 2012, the median market time for sold condos in SOMA is 42 days. That’s 42 days from the time it goes for sale to the time the title changes hands. In the past month, that number has dropped to 34 days.  When it comes to real estate transactions, 34 days is fast. Very fast.

I have a client who wanted to see two condos that hit the market last week ($589,000 and $599,000). Both were under contract before we had a chance to see them, and both had multiple offers.

New tech jobs are increasing the housing demand and causing pain for buyer and renters, but that’s not the only way technology companies are adding to the Silicon Valley housing woes. The success of short-term rental companies like Airbnb and HomeAway are contributing to the lack of inventory as well.

The short-term rental companies have provided liquidity for homeowners and renters by making it convenient for them to rent out rooms, apartments, and entire houses. Owners and renters are now able to subsidize some (or all) of their monthly payments, which limits the number of units on the market. If a tenant loses his job, he can rent his bedroom and sleep on the couch to generate some cash. If a condo owner quits her corporate gig to launch a startup, she can stay with friends for the weekend while visitors rent her place. A few years ago, those units would have gone on the market out of necessity. Today, the classic illiquid asset — real estate — has a new kind of liquidity.

The San Francisco Business Times reported that 8,000 new tech jobs are expected to be created in San Francisco this year. That much job growth is great news for the local economy, landlords, and home sellers, and will have a positive trickle-down effect.

At the same time, that is very bad news for renters and buyers. Many of the new jobs will be filled by people who already live and work in tech in San Francisco, so 8,000 new jobs does not necessarily mean 8,000 new residents. Nonetheless, aggressive hiring by tech firms is contributing to the housing scarcity. The war for engineering talent has expanded across the country, and often includes hefty relocation packages.

So what should you do?

If you are a renter, use your network — Facebook, Twitter, Path, co-workers, and anyone else who is connected in San Francisco. If you can nab a place before anybody else knows about it, you win. Also, walk the neighborhoods where you’d like to live and look for “For Rent” signs in windows. Not all landlords use Craigslist. Have a current copy of your credit report handy and move quickly when you find a place that might work.

If you are a buyer, find a great advisor. Most of the time that will be a real estate agent, but it doesn’t have to be. A great real estate agent will bring your properties as soon as they hit the market, and maybe even before they hit the market, in addition to helping you navigate the home buying process. Also, be smart about your bidding strategy. This is not a market where low-ball offers are going to work.

If you are a seller, thank your lucky stars. Most sellers in the country are not as fortunate as you. Just don’t gloat, okay?

If you are lucky enough to have an awesome place at a decent price, do your best to lock-in your current rental rates for as long as you can stomach it. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord if you’re willing to sign an extended lease. Try something like, “I will commit to this apartment for the next three years if you will commit to the current monthly rental rate for the next three years.”

If you are a landlord, make hay while the sun shines.  Rainy days will be upon us again. We will remember the landlords who treated us well, and those who didn’t. And even if we forget, the Internet doesn’t.

[photo via flickr/J_P_D]



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Contributor

March 31st

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We’re Going To This Super Happy Block Party In Palo Alto, And You Should Too

Screen Shot 2012-03-31 at 2.57.43 PM

Who throws a party in Palo Alto?!

Well actually … Today Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Talenthouse, Super Happy Dev House and the City of Palo Alto itself have joined forces to give nerds a place to play on University Ave for 12 hours. So why should you stop coding and jump on the Super Happy Block Party bandwagon? Well a gaggle of VCs have occupied the 3rd floor of the High/Alma South Garage, committing themselves to hearing your ideas until 7pm tonight. Poor things!

Full list of VCs to harass to pitch:

Mark Goines, Morgenthaler
David Krane, Google Ventures
Jeremy Schneider, Webb Investment Network
Jon Soberg, Blumberg Capital
Ryan Kottenstette, Khosla Ventures
Michael Marquez, Morado Ventures
Felix Shpilman, Start Fund
Peter Ashley, 500 Startups
Todd Kimmel, Mayfield Fund
Vicki Levine, Lightbank
Thomas Korte, AngelPad
Peter Moran, DCM
Dave McClure, 500 Startups
Josh Goldman, Norwest Venture Partners
Stephanie Palmeri, SoftTech VC
Raymond Nasr, Innovation Endeavors
Itamar Novick, Morgenthaler
Gil Ben Artzy, UpWest Labs
CeCe Cheng, First Round Capital
Pejman Nozad, Angel
Eric Chen, Uj Ventures
Jay Jamison, BlueRun Ventures
Anne De Gheest, HealthTech Capital
Ron Hose, Angel
Scott Brady, Angel (Slice)
Nils Johnson, Angel (Beautylish)
Harpinder Madan, Angel (Slice)
Dror Berman, Innovation Endeavors

The organizers are expecting more than 2,500 people and have a contingency plan in case it starts raining and they have to move the Popup Innovation Parking Lot, Hack the Future Tent, the Day Star Yurt & Silent Disco, the Soap Box Stages, and the Techno Petting Zoo of Robots indoors. Whatever those things are, they sound pretty trippy and cool.

Which is why I’m about to get in my car, and go pick up my colleagues Kim-Mai Cutler and Josh Constine (if he ever wakes up from whatever party he was at last night) and drive their butts down south.

Because way to let your geek flag fly Palo Alto; Your move SF.

Pics via/Amir Youssefi



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Alexia Tsotsis

March 31st

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Add a Massive 5.6-Inch LCD Display To Your DSLR [Displays]

If the Canon 5D Mark III's generous 3.2-inch LCD display still isn't large enough for your needs, the Swivi lets you strap on an even larger 5.6-inch swiveling display for live previews or reviewing shots and footage. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

March 31st

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Tired Of Straight Tech News? Check Out Techcrunch.com/Drama

tc-drama

We know that many of you visit TechCrunch on the regular for a hearty dose of startup coverage, general tech news and opinionated coverage of the tech zeitgeist.

But we also know that the trainwreck posting on our hirings and firings, Aol spats, tech gossip and quibbles between staff is what really gets your fingers clicking and blood boiling.

I mean, it’s like a car accident, you can’t help but stare.

So to cater to everyone who just visits here just for the drama, we’re today launching a drama-only new channel, TechCrunch.com/Drama, where you can find such conflict-infused fare as “I’m Leaving TechCrunch. Here’s Why” or “How The Hell Is It My Fault?” or “CrunchPad Federal Lawsuit Filed; Some Additional Thoughts.”

But it’s not just about navel-gazing and staff changes (though there’s plenty of that) certain actual news also qualifies as dramatic, simply by virtue of the spools and spools of comment threads it produces, e.g. the leaked Twitter documents.

There’s not really a way to define what constitutes a “dramatic” post, other than when it hits it causes an Internet explosion.

We’ve heard time and time again that you’ve missed TechCrunch’s “swagger,” and we agree; So the next time your eyes glaze over while reading the umpteenth re-written press release, click on the “Drama” link up there on the navigation bar and relive some our site’s most superfluous, gut wrenching and annoying coverage.

You know you love it.



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Contributor

March 31st

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson On Social Media And His Favorite Tech [TCTV]

puopolo the rock

Editor’s note: Guest contributor Joseph Puopolo is an entrepreneur and startup enthusiast, who blogs on a variety of topics including green initiatives, technology and marketing. Follow him on Twitter @jpuopolo.

It’s the eve of WrestleMania 28, and I got a chance to meet with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. What does that have to do with tech? Well, in the video interview, Johnson shares his thoughts on how social media has changed the game, what is his favorite tech and how he uses it to engage his fans.

Johnson says he launched his Twitter account a little more than a year ago, and that it’s “one of the greatest things” he’s ever done, because it gives him a way to connect directly to fans.

“A lot of people would have had a team coming in … these great business minds, but I wanted to strip away the business of it all,” he says.

You can see more, including a peek at Johnson’s iPhone, in the video above. (The background noise is a little loud at first, but Johnson comes through loud and clear.)



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Contributor

March 31st

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Hearing Aid Vacuums Might Be Handy For Earbud Maintenance [Vacuums]

The Renew is a tiny handheld vacuum, with an even tinier syringe nozzle, designed to suck dust, debris, and earwax out of a hearing aid. And as gross as it sounds, it might also be an effective way to improve your headphones' sound. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

March 31st

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Review: Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector turns your iOS device into a portable home movie theater


Click to view slideshow.

Just seeing Epson’s MegaPlex iOS device projector at tradeshows and in still pictures doesn’t do it justice. Set up in a small, awkward booth and surrounded by bright lights, the projector does not inspire a second look. It was not until I got a private screening at Macworld that I really saw what this thing could do.

The MegaPlex MG-850HD is an incredibly bright 2800 lumen 720P projector with some mighty 10-watt stereo speakers built-in, but it adds something that you would not find in many other high-end consumer projectors: a 30-pin iOS device dock. The dock will accommodate anything from an iPod touch, iPhone, or even any iPad.

Amazon has the MegaPlex MG-850HD for $612. Buy.com has it for $620.

This thing is a Portable. Home. Movie Theater—and I mean that in every sense of the word “portable.” At less than eight pounds and with a sturdy handle, it is easy to pack and take it to the parents’ house, or even move it from the basement to the bedroom. Your iOS device is the “brains” of this thing, and it starts working immediately upon plugging in, so it takes only seconds to set up. You can watch your iTunes, Hulu, or Netflix videos in under a minute after choosing a destination.

Similar to most high-end projectors, this one features manual movable feet to adjust projection angles, focus, zoom, and horizontal keystone. The MegaPlex also does auto-vertical keystone and iris controls to make setting it up at angles surprisingly easy.

This thing boasts some range, as well. With the early spring weather this year, we turned an evening birthday party into an impromptu outdoor movie showing on the backside of our house (with a sheet over a window). The MegaPlex is rated for an over 25-foot diagonal screen, and I can attest that it looks fantastic even before it is fully dark outside.

With that said, something even better happened with the release of the new iPad and 1080P Apple TV…

No, this thing does not do 1080P, so there is no added benefit from having 1080P devices; although, I have to say watching 10-foot 720P movies on my wall usually beats my 46-inch 1080P display pretty handily.

However, my old Apple TV with its 720P Airplay went up for grabs, and connecting this to the MegaPlex makes everything easier and more portable. Now, the Apple TV 720P is permanently connected via HDMI and those few seconds that it took to plop down the iOS device are now used to beam video to the Apple TV over Wi-Fi.

There are a few problems with this set up, of course. Apps, like Hulu and Netflix, do not let me use Airplay for “some reason.” In addition, it is a pain to set up the Apple TV outside of a home Wi-Fi network, so we usually just plop down the iOS device.

One other nit-pick I have with the MegaPlex is that the VGA/USB ports are behind a strange rubber housing that is hard to find and replace. The easy solution to Mac/PC connectivity is buying an inexpensive Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, which works great. The MegaPlex becomes either a 1280-by-800 extra display or a mirrored one for your Mac. If you have a more recent Mac/Cable, the audio will go through Mini DisplayPort too.

The 10-watt speakers are better than I thought they would be. They easily fill a bedroom or living room with treble, but we were left wishing for a little more noise outside. You certainly will be better off adding some bass in the form of a subwoofer in either scenario. However, keeping the weight and size down probably made more sense than making this a truly portable outdoor theater.

That is one other thing: When the MegaPlex is not used as a projector, it makes a nice (albeit large/expensive) charging speaker dock for iOS devices.

The remote is also very intuitive and helps a lot when controlling the iOS device and not reaching behind the projector to control the iOS device.

As with all non-LED projectors, this one gets hot and has a fan that turns into a portable heater after a half-hour or so. I have not seen a 2800 lumen projector that behaves any differently.

Conclusion:

At just over $600 now (it is listed at $799), this is an inexpensive 720P 2800 Lumen projector, even though it is on the high-end of devices you will find today. Nevertheless, when you add the excellent speakers, the significant portability, and the iOS device dock, the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector becomes a “got to have” bargain for those who want to beam whatever is on their iOS device to a display.

For those who do not want the clutter of a permanent HDTV screen, this also makes a solid HDTV replacement. Still, you will want to get better speakers and some clean wall space.

Amazon has it for $612. Buy.com has it for $620.

IMG_1667 IMG_1662 IMG_1660 IMG_1659 IMG_1658 IMG_1657 IMG_1656 IMG_1655 IMG_1654 IMG_1666 IMG_1670 IMG_1672 IMG_1673 IMG_1676 IMG_1677

Projection System: Epson 3LCD, 3-chip technology

Projection Method: Front / rear

Product Color: Black

Driving Method: Epson Poly-silicon TFT Active Matrix, 0.59-inch wide panel without MLA

Pixel Number: 1,024,000 dots (1280 x 800) x 3

White Light Output: 2800 lumens1 (ISO 21118 Standard)

Color Light Ouput: 2800 lumens1

Aspect Ratio: Native 16:10 widescreen

Native Resolution: WXGA (1280 x 800)

Resize: 16:9, 4:3

Lamp Type: E-TORL™ 200 W UHE

Lamp Life: Up to 5000 hours2

Throw Ratio Range: 1.30 — 1.56 (wide/tele)

Size (projected distance): 33″ – 320″

Keystone Correction:

  • Horizontal ±30 degrees (slide bar)
  • Vertical: ±30 degrees

Contrast Ratio: Up to 3,000:1

Color Reproduction: Full-color (16.77 million colors )


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Seth Weintraub

March 31st

Apple

Is Over-the-Top Packaging Really the Best Way To Sell Vodka? [Booze]

Companies like Apple have made a push towards minimizing the packaging for their products. But apparently that ethos simply doesn't exist for makers of high-end Vodka, like Belvedere, who packaged its hooch in a box that looks like a photographer's studio flash. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

March 31st

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