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Moglue Makes It Dead Simple For Anyone To Create And Publish Interactive Ebooks

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Creating and publishing content-rich, interactive ebooks without programming skills or distribution power: that’s the problem New York- and Seoul-based startup Moglue is trying to solve. The TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing finalist offers two products: MoglueBuilder (a desktop app that makes it dead simple for authors and artists to create and publish interactive ebooks) and MoglueBooks (an ebook store on iOS for users who just want to browse and consume content).

MoglueBuilder (download for Windows and Mac) has been in open beta for a few weeks and was downloaded by more than 20,000 creators worldwide so far, according to Moglue. With the new version that just launched, authors and artists can create interactive ebooks using a drag-and-drop-based UI and directly publish them to MoglueBooks to reach their audience – no programming required.

Moglue is currently focused on children’s books, but the platform is suitable to make any kind of content interactive.

It’s possible to spice up texts with images (backgrounds, characters, etc.), effects, sounds, and animations. For instance, a bird appearing in a children’s book could start flying up into the air and chirping when touched by the reader’s finger to make the story more appealing to children.

All elements can be customized in the property editor to, for example, determine how high the aforementioned bird should fly on the given page when touched. Creators can also record and add voices to each page to tell the story: all that kids need to do in that case is to listen, interact with the elements and touch the screen to turn pages. MoglueBuilder offers a whole range of other bells and whistles, i.e. background music, that can be uploaded and added to the ebooks.

With Moglue, amateur authors can create interactive ebooks that actually look and sound fantastic. Just check the 11 sample ebooks that are currently available in the MoglueBooks iOS app (which is the store that creators publish to). These selected ebooks (interactive versions of Pinocchio, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, etc.) are available for free for the next four weeks.

All books published to MoglueBooks must be set to free by authors between now and the next four weeks. As in the case of the aforementioned sample ebooks that are currently free, Moglue uses this measure to kick-start demand on the platform: after the four weeks, authors can start charging for their ebooks freely.

Creators using MoglueBuilder can publish to MoglueBooks for free during a promotion period, which ends this summer (publishing details and pricing plan here).

23-year old Moglue CEO Taewoo Kim tells me that starting around the same time, authors will also be able to publish directly to the App Store, under their own developer account. From summer, it will also be possible to publish books as individual apps to Google Play and Amazon’s App Store through MoglueBuilder (MoglueBooks for Android will be rolled out during that time, too).

The startup has raised about US$450,000 from Korean investors last month, following a US$540,000 seed round in October 2010. A big distribution deal has been closed in April, too: Kyobo, Korea’s largest offline and online book store as I’ve been told, chose Moglue as the platform to expand its business to interactive ebooks.

With Kyobo covering the domestic market, the startup is now planning to keep focusing its energy on the global market for interactive ebooks. Moglue is, for instance, thinking about expanding the platform to other categories such as educational books, manuals, visual novels, etc.



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May 17th

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Manila-Based Social Music Service Twitmusic Makes It Into 500 Startups

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A big domestic market of 92 million people, English as an official language, a large IT talent pool, and a strategic location in South East Asia: the Philippines surely has the potential to become the next web powerhouse coming out of Asia. I traveled to the country last month (on a private trip) to realize that the startup scene is still in its infancy – but that’s poised to change very soon.

One pioneering startup from the Philippines is Twitmusic, a Twitter-based social music service aimed at artists and their fans. As an artist, having an account on Twitter is one thing, but Twitmusic allows them to upload and share songs (and other content) through Twitter in a matter of minutes.

Existing Twitter users can log in to leave comment on tracks, “love” them, re-tweet them, or share links with followers using the #nowplaying hashtag with one click. Users can also embed individual songs elsewhere, download them (here‘s a pretty popular, downloadable one), or buy tracks on Twitmusic via iTunes.

The obvious idea here is to provide artists with a more efficient viral promotion and distribution channel to reach, engage with and sell music to fans – seamlessly integrated with Twitter. Users can listen to songs for free on Twitmusic, discover new tracks or artists, and share content with followers without having to register for a new site.

And Twitmusic’s concept seems to work: MC Hammer is actively using the service (here is his Twitmusic profile page), as are Bryan AdamsBow WowJon SecadaJason Mraz, and over 4,000 other artists currently. Adams even chose to release his latest single exclusively on Twitmusic.

Here’s how a dedicated page for a song (in this case Jason Mraz’s “I won’t give up”) looks:

With the initial traction, the eponymous Manila-based startup behind the service has seen interest from investors around Asia, but co-founder Stefano Fazzini told TechCrunch exclusively that the core team has moved to the US a few days ago.

As the first company from the Philippines, Twitmusic was accepted into 500 Startups, the Silicon Valley-based accelerator and capital fund (which just raised another US$50 million). Twitmusic has become part of 500 Startups’ 4th batch just ten days before the program started (on April 2), with Fazzini saying the demo day will be held around the end of July. (His brother and fellow co-founder Christian Fazzini now also resides in the US.)

This should be encouraging news for many startups in Asia with a global focus, especially seeing how young the service is: Twitmusic was launched in October 2011 (AngelList entry).

For more information about Twitmusic, hit this link for a recent, in-depth interview with Fazzini and Twitmusic marketing director Sandra Seifert. The Huffington Post UK covered Twitmusic in February.



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April 16th

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Gnzo Is Instagram For Video And A Flashy Multi-Video Viewer In One

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Gnzo, the video startup that made its debut at TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2010 (it was called Gunzoo then), has its first consumer-oriented product ready. Named after the Japan-based maker itself, Gnzo (pronounced gun-zou) is an iOS application that can best be described as “Instagram for video” and a (pretty cool) multi-video viewer rolled into one (free download in English/Japanese).

Users can shoot six-second videos, upload the them to Gnzo, and share them with friends on Gnzo itself, Twitter or Facebook in just a few seconds. It’s also possible to tag videos, leave comments, “clip” videos you like, or follow what friends are posting (there is also a “public” screen where new videos are getting uploaded constantly).

However, Gnzo doesn’t offer filters or other effects to add to content. As opposed to apps like Vlix, Viddy or Recood (to name just a few), a key selling point here is the multi-video viewer that allows users to arrange videos in a matrix as a group related to a specific tag or user.

Here’s how a Gnzo matrix looks for keywords like “color” and “sky”:

   

What’s cool is that Gnzo plays all videos (up to 30 of them on a single screen) simultaneously, meaning that in the app, the thumbnails you can see above aren’t images but “mini videos”. Users can continuously scroll down the feed to see additional sets of 30 videos: a tap is enough to view a specific video in full-screen mode (see below).

This how-to video shows the app in action:

Gnzo’s core technology is an impressive piece of video technology called ”fabric video”, which was developed by Prof. Kasai’s Lab (Prof. Kasai is a Gnzo co-founder) at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. (At said TechCrunch Disrupt event, Gnzo was pitched as an alternative way to search for and organize video content, mainly for businesses like device manufacturers, video ad providers, or web platforms like YouTube. Watch this video for more.)

Gnzo, which is currently in beta, is available on iOS only at the moment, but the eponymous startup says other versions (for Android and tablets, for example) are planned.

Here is another Gnzo demo:

More information and Gnzo videos can be found on the app’s Facebook page and the corporate website.



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February 28th

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MEDIAS ES N-05D: NEC’s New Android Phone Is 6.7mm Thin, Connects To Casio’s G-SHOCK GB-6900

media front feat

NEC did it again: about 11 months after unveiling the world’s slimmest smartphone at that time, the company is ready to release another super-thin Android phone with a set of impressive specs (via Japan’s biggest mobile carrier NTT Docomo). Dubbed MEDIAS ES N-05D [JP], the handset will hit Japanese stores in February or March this year.

NEC rolled out quite a few Medias-branded Android phones in recent months, but this model is just 6.7mm thin and has the best specs.

Here are the main features:

  • Android 2.3.6
  • waterproof body
  • 4.3-inch LCD with 720×1280 resolution
  • 8.1MP CMOS camera with NEC’s Exmor R for mobile engine
  • dual-core MSM8260 CPU (1.5GHz)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB internal memory
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wi-Fi
  • NFC e-wallet function
  • infrared connection
  • digital TV tuner
  • microSD card slot, microUSB slot
  • 1400mAh battery
  • connectivity to Casio’s G-SHOCK GB-6900 watch
  • size: 130×67×6.7mm, weight: 110g

The MEDIAS ES N-05D might reach markets outside Japan at some point in the future, but there is no official word from NEC yet.

Via IT Media [JP]



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January 31st

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WiGig: Panasonic Tablet Wirelessly Transmits A Full DVD Video In 60 Seconds (Video)

wigig feat

WiGig, a multi-gigabit speed wireless communications technology, was first announced back in 2009, but it’s taking companies like Panasonic quite a while to come up with applications that make use of it. Via WiGig, devices can communicate with each other at multi-gigabit speeds using the 60 GHz frequency band.

Panasonic has developed a prototype system, in which WiGig is embedded in a tablet that can wirelessly transmit data like photos or videos to displays mounted in the passenger seats of a car. That car has to be nearby: while Wi-Fi typically has a transmission range of about 30m, WiGig’s range is just 1-3m (Bluetooth: around 10m).

The tablet you can see in the video embedded below transmits a “full DVD video” in 60 seconds, according to Diginfo TV (which shot the video). WiGig, in the 1.1 specification, boasts a data transmission rate of up to 7 Gbit/s.

Panasonic is currently in the process of developing WiGig SD cards that are supposed to be commercialized in summer next year. WiGig-compatible phones are apparently on their way, too.

Here’s the video (in English):



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January 30th

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nanox: High-Quality iPod nano Watch Conversion Kit

nanox feat

Do you own the latest version of the iPod nano (sixth generation)? Do you look for a way to turn it into a watch? If yes, then this watch conversion kit might be the right solution for you. Dubbed nanox, the kit just went on sale in a total of 39 countries via Amazon (US, UK, Japan), and it’s probably the one with the highest quality out there (Facebook page).

Made from aircraft-grade anodized aluminum, the nanox is available in the seven colors Apple offers the iPod nano itself in. The kit, which doesn’t require using tools or screws, comes with 2mm thin straps made of 100% silicone and an anti-glare sheet for the nano display.

 

Maker emonster says the nanox is produced at the same factory as other Apple devices (it’s made of the same aluminum 6061 alloy Apple uses for its products). The kit was designed by acclaimed Japanese designer Noriaki Miyata.

And quality has its price: the nanox costs US$125.99 in the US Amazon store (£79.99 in the UK, Yen 9,800 in Japan).



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January 30th

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NEC Forecasts $1.3 Billion Loss, Ready To Cut 10,000 Jobs Worldwide

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Bad news from Japanese tech powerhouse NEC: the company yesterday announced [PDF] a net loss of $1.13 billion in the three months through December 2011, compared with a net loss of “just” $350 million in the same time frame last fiscal. NEC said it wrote down its deferred tax assets.

For the three-month period, revenue dropped from $9.3 billion to $8.7 billion year-on-year. For the full fiscal (which ends in March this year), NEC now expects a net loss of $1.3 billion. The company says restructuring costs alone will cause a $520 million net loss.

As a reaction to these numbers, NEC said it will cut a total of 10,000 jobs worldwide by the first half of 2013.

To be more concrete, 7,000 NEC employees in Japan will lose their jobs, while the rest will be laid off overseas. Among those 10,000 people, a total of 5,000 are outsourced or part-time workers (the other 5,000 workers are full-time NEC employees). Worldwide, the company employs around 116,000 people currently – full-time, part-time and outsourced workers combined.



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January 27th

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Disney, Q-pot Choco, Honey Bee: Japan Gets 3 Extra-Cute Android Phones

qpot sharp 2

Android adoption is growing rapidly in Japan, with local handset manufacturers doing everything they can in order to meet the demands of customers in all segments of the population. One particularly attractive target group seems to be women, given how many Japanese companies say they design Android phones specifically for female users.

Here are three recent examples.

First, Sharp has designed a weird “chocolate bar”-type handset that Japan’s biggest mobile carrier NTT Docomo plans to roll out on Valentine’s Day.

The so-called “Q-pot.Phone SH-04D” [JP] comes with Android 2.3, a 3.7-inch LCD with 540×960 resolution, NFC e-wallet function, Wi-Fi, and an 8MP CMOS camera.

Here are some accessories owners can get:

Second, Japanese carrier SoftBank rolled out Kyocera’s HONEY BEE 101K [JP] today, another handset designed with female customers in mind.

This model features Android 2.3, a 3.5-inch LCD with 800×480 resolution, a 5.1MP CMOS camera, a MP5225 dual-core CPU with 1.2GHz, 2GB ROM, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

Third, Disney Mobile has come up with the DM012SH, a Android 2.3 handset (made by Sharp). It comes with a 4-inch LCD with 960×540 resolution, an 8MP CMOS camera, NFC e-wallet function, infrared, digital TV tuner, Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, and a microSDHC slot.

Disney Mobile, a Japanese MVNO, is planning to offer the DM012SH (pre-installed with a special Disney UI, Disney apps, wallpapers, etc.) next month. Every buyer will get one the cases below for free:



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January 27th

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BookPlace DB50: Toshiba Introduces Android-Based Color E-Book Reader

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Following Fujitsu, another Japanese electronics maker is ready to sell color e-book readers: Toshiba announced [JP] the so-called BookPlace DB50 today, a 7-Inch device that comes with direct access to big T’s BookPlace store (which currently offers around 43,000 different Japanese e-books and magazines).

Toshiba says they plan to expand the range of available titles to 100,000 by March this year, the largest in its home market. The store has been available in America since 2010.

The device runs on special versions of Linux (Toshiba hasn’t revealed details yet) and Android 2.3.4 (heavily modified).

It has the following specs:

  • 7-inch color TFT LCD with 600×1,024 resolution and LED backlight (touchscreen)
  • Freescale i.MX535 CPU (1.0GHz)
  • 8GB memory
  • 1GM RAM
  • IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 5 buttons: HOME, MENU, BACK, CONTINUE, VOLUME
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • micro USB 2.0 slot, microSD slot
  • mono speaker (for MP3 playback)
  • 7.5 hours battery life
  • size: 190×120×11mm, weight: 330g

Toshiba is planning to sell the Bookplace DB50 on the Japanese market on February 10. The price will be US$284 (every buyer will get a US$64 coupon for use in the company’s e-book store).



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January 26th

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Nintendo Reports US$630 Million Net Loss Between April And December 2011, Announces Wii U For 2012

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3DS sales have picked up lately, but Nintendo‘s financial numbers are still weak. Big N today released [PDF] another set of disappointing results for the first nine months of its fiscal year (April to December 2011). The company lost a whopping US$630 million, compared with a profit of US$635 million in the same time frame last fiscal.

Sales were down 31.2% year-on-year to US$7.2 billion.

Nintendo says there are three main reasons for this performance: weak Wii sales, the unprecedented price cut for the 3DS in spring last year, and losses on its foreign currency holdings coming from the very strong yen.

But today, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was able to announce good news, too: Iwata said this company is ready to phase out the Wii and to start selling the follow-up console, the Wii U, in Japan, America, Europe and Australia by the “year-end season” 2012.



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January 26th

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