Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Salesforce Acquires Radian6 For $326 Million

by Avinash Saxena
Enterprise cloud computing company Salesforce has acquired social media monitoring platform Radian6 for approximately $276 million in cash and $50 million in stock, the companies have announced.
“With Radian6, salesforce.com is gaining the technology and market leader in social media monitoring,” chairman and CEO of Salesforce Marc Benioff said in the company’s announcement.
This is the third large acquisition in recent months by Salesforce, which has acquired Ruby cloud platform Heroku for $212 million in December. That same month, Salesforce also acquired contact management startup Etacts for an undisclosed amount, and in January, the company scooped up web conferencing service Dimdim for $31 million.
Social media management and monitoring space has been the center of several large investments and acquisitions lately. In February, Vitrue secured $17 million in funding, while Buddy Media raised $23 million last October.
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March 31, 2011

How Women Really Feel About Their Facebook Friends

by Avinash Saxena
When it comes to Facebook, we have friends, and we have “friends.” A recent survey found that for many women on Facebook, their true feelings about many of their Facebook friends might be less than friendly.
Daily deals site Eversave talked to 400 women about their Facebook relationships. The company originally conducted the survey as market research on the social network’s influence on the daily deals ecosystem, but Eversave was surprised to uncover the love/hate relationship between women and their online friends.
For example, the majority of female respondents said they had at least one friend who was a “drama queen” on Facebook. A majority also said they had at least one obnoxiously “proud mother” as a Facebook friend.
Most women — 83% of respondents in this survey — are annoyed at one time or another by the posts from their Facebook connections. For these respondents, the most off-putting post was some kind of whine; a full 63% said complaining from Facebook friends was their number one pet peeve, with political chatter and bragging coming in a distant second and third.
The respondents also said at least one of their Facebook friends tended to:
  • Share too many mundane updates too often (65%)
  • “Like” too many posts (46%)
  • Inappropriately or too frequently use Facebook to promote causes (40%)
  • Project false information or images of a perfect life (40%)
These kinds of Facebook archetypes have become part of the cultural lexicon. We recently covered anamusing music video about Facebook “types.” But it’s fascinating to see these characteristics quantified by the women who get teed off by them.
Here are a couple infographics with more details from the survey:

 

March 31, 2011

Google’s Answer to the Facebook “Like” Button: The “+1”

by Avinash Saxena
Google is making a big new push into social with a feature called “+1” that is similar in purpose to the Facebook “Like” button, but integrated directly into the world’s biggest search engine.
Starting Wednesday, users who opt into the +1 button experiment(and soon everyone else) in Google Labs will start seeing a +1 icon next to each link in Google search results.
Google defines this action as a “public stamp of approval,” and it is exactly that. When you +1 something, your name becomes associated with that link “in search, on ads, and across the web,” according to the company. It also shows up in a feed on your Google Profile, which is required to use the product.

The move builds on a number of social features that Google introduced in search earlier this year, such as the ability to see which friends have tweeted a given link in search results. Today’s move, however, is clearly something much bigger.
Beyond showing up in search results, Google plans to offer to publishers a +1 button that lets readers +1 something without leaving the publisher’s site. Facebook has a big head start here with its Like button — some 2 million sites and counting have it installed — but Google’s button will instantly have a lot of appeal, given the company says +1 data will directly influence its market share dominating search rankings. Similarly, we have to imagine that +1 is more bad news for content farms, whose content is less likely to be shared.
In another twist, users will also be able to +1 ad, which essentially adds a “recommended by friends” component to AdWords and AdSense. as the company explains on the AdWords blog.
March 30, 2011

With Square In Its Sights, Intuit Readies A Tablet App For GoPayment

by Avinash Saxena

Mobile payments are finally taking off right now. But it is not mobile wallets for consumers with NFC-chipped mobile phones leading the way. It is payment apps for small merchants like those made by Square and Intuit’s GoPayment. Tonight at an Intuit showcase in New York City, I got a sneak peak at several new Intuit products still in development, including an upcoming GoPayment tablet app that aims to replace the cash register for small businesses, Intuit 401k, and an iPad Check-in app for doctor’s offices.

The GoPayment app will work on both the iPad and Android tablets In addition to taking credit card payments with a swiper that plugs into the headphone jack, it also lets merchants set up a cash register with their own products and prices. They can even take pictures of the products with their iPad 2 and the picture is placed on a virtual button to make it easy for any employee to ring up the items. Square, of course, has its own iPad app which has been available for almost a year. Add a cash drawer, and these systems can readily replace a register that can cost thousands of dollars. All a merchant needs is an iPad and the software. Intuit and Square still make a tiny fraction off each transaction, but they get rid of much of the equipment, and all the maintenance, costs associated with typical credit card readers you find in most stores.

GoPayment has been around for two years, but only recently started to target the lower end of the market where Square is gaining traction—small businesses without merchant accounts at banks who don’t already take credit cards. Another competitor, VeriFone, is making noisein an attempt to enter this market as well, but Square should be more concerned about Intuit. The company already has relationships with 4.5 million businesses through QuickBooks and has a few advantages in payments processing.

The trick to making money in payments processing is to keep the fraud rate down. Intuit already handles payments for many small businesses through and has built up an expertise in fraud detection to the point where it transfer money to its payments customers in a matter of two or three days. Square reduces its risk for larger accounts by holding the money for 30 days. Intuit’s credit card swiper might be uglier than Square’s, but don’t underestimate how important it is for small businesses to get getting paid faster.

Both services seem to be neck and neck in terms of the volume of payments that go through each. GoPayment processes about $9 million a week, whereas Square is processing about $7 million (but GoPayment’s numbers include payments from the Web and QuickBooks, not just mobile). GoPayment has processed $113 million since it launched in 2009. Intuit’s director of mobile strategies, Omar Green, who happens to live in the same building in San Francisco as Square founder Jack Dorsey, acknowledges that Square led the way in opening up this new market. But it’s a wide open field and Intuit is going after the opportunity just as aggressively.Update: Intuit says it is now up to $12 million a week in payment volume and $120 million cumulative GoPayments.

While I was at the showcase, I also saw some other new Intuit products for businesses. One is called Intuit 401(k), and is part of Intuit’s Payroll business. Any small business that uses Intuit Payroll can now also set up a 401(k) account for their employees for significantly cheaper than other 401 (k) management services. It costs $495 to set up and starts at $75 a month for up to ten employees. The contributions are withdrawn automatically from payroll and managed by Morningstar, with a few simple options based on risk tolerance. Intuit also removes the financial risks of any liability associated with managing the plans off the shoulders of the small businesses

The other iPad app I saw is being developed by Intuit Health, which already offers health portals for doctor’s offices to help manage appointments and billing. Now it is working on an iPad Check-In app which will replace the paper forms on the clipboard you have to fill out every time you visit the doctor. Instead, you just sign in with your name and password, and fill out any necessary details on the iPad app. It also ties into payments and will allow patients to charge their co-pays electronically.

 

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March 30, 2011

City Tax Battle Isn’t About a Two-Year Break. It’s About Repealing the Payroll Tax Completely

by Avinash Saxena

Not only is the San Francisco Chronicle lacking the professional courtesy to link to TechCrunch for first reporting the tech industry’s fears about San Francisco taxing stock options– the paper is also missing the broader point in the escalating debate.

This isn’t about Zynga and Twitter negotiating a special deal, nor is it about a two-year deferral of payroll tax. Sure, that could keep a few companies and thousands of jobs in the city. But what would really cripple the city’s future economic growth is if every other startup reading this news, grimaces at the idea of haggling with unsympathetic elected officials who don’t seem to want their jobs, and decide instead to follow Mark Zuckerberg’s lead and open their company in Palo Alto or another Bay Area city from day one.

San Francisco has lost a lot of industries over the past decades like publishing and banking, and for much of Silicon Valley’s history, the city has watched as neighboring Bay Area cities got thousands jobs and newly minted millionaire citizens. The Web 2.0 movement has been San Francisco’s rare shot at owning an engine of constant new-job formation– and highly-paid jobs at that. And fortunately, some members of the city government get just how precious that is in a country gripped with underwater mortgages and 9% unemployment.

The goal isn’t a mere concession or two for the big boys. It isn’t a two-year payroll tax deferral either. David Chiu, President of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is aiming for a near term agreement to take taxing startup stock options off the table completely and a goal over the next two years of repealing the payroll tax as it stands now– completely.

“I want to thank TechCrunch for starting this urgent conversation,” he said in an interview earlier today. “We are the only city in the entire state with a payroll tax, and I’ve been concerned about it since I came into office. Last year, we jump-started the conversation about why it is a job killing tax. I want to propose big changes, and it’s a long conversation.” Chiu, a former CEO, continued, “A two-year moratorium doesn’t solve the problem. That solution still limits the possibilities of new tech companies being formed here. I can tell you as the president, the current board is very willing to do anything that helps incentivize San Francisco job creation.”

As we speak, the Board of Supervisors is meeting – and Chiu is introducing a drafting request that will start a multi-week process of hammering out the details to pull this ambitious plan off. Chiu and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee have also invited several tech companies and venture capitalists to participate in the process. The first step will be addressing the stock option issue, although Chiu wants to make sure only high-growth startups are getting the exemption, not mature companies seeking a payroll tax loophole.

Repealing the entire payroll tax will take more time. It has to go on the ballot the same year supervisors are up for election, which means November 2012. If it does, expect a record turnout of entrepreneurs. The recommendation will likely be to replace the payroll tax with a solution similar to what nearly every other city does, taxing companies’ gross receipts. The compromise won’t gut the city’s taxes, but it also won’t put San Francisco at a disadvantage by unfairly penalize high growth startups creating thousands of jobs.

No doubt this will be a contentious issue, and it’s one that every single member of San Francisco’s startup scene needs to be paying attention to. Well, unless they want to start commuting. As we’ve reported before, San Francisco is one of the only cities in the nation that has a payroll tax. But what is even more unique that a lot of local reporters miss: San Francisco law counts stock options as part of payroll– something even the Federal government doesn’t do. There’s a new IRS requirement to report stock option gains. Since it didn’t exist before, companies like Salesforce.com didn’t have to worry about this unless they chose to report options as compensation.

But the subtle change is what has startups understandably spooked. Companies like Twitter and Zynga could owe tens of millions of dollars to the city should they go public at current secondary market valuation levels– as much as half of the proceeds of a typical IPO. It’s a cost that they would totally avoid simply by moving a few miles away. You can argue that these companies need to pay “their fair share” all you want. No company in their right mind would wind up paying it, because its fiduciary duty to shareholders would require it relocate and invest that money in the business instead.

The groundswell of supervisors seeking to address a more systemic change for all startups since TechCrunch’s original article is a good indication that multiple forces in the city government want to keep startups happy. As the Chronicle reports, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is also drafting legislation he intends to introduce to the board today for a two-year moratorium on all payroll taxes on all private companies with 100 employees or more. It’s a step up from the proposal already under consideration that would allow a six-year break on taxes if companies relocate to the city’s blighted Tenderloin neighborhoods. Even the city’s own economists see some sort of concession as an fiscal no brainer.

As this issue gets bigger, it could be about even more than saving jobs. It could be about changing the political makeup of the city. Long a haven for progressives, San Francisco is one of the most unfriendly places to do business in the United States. Charmed by its weather, beauty and highly talented workforce, a lot of companies have just viewed policies like the payroll tax as the necessary cost to being here. When the founders of those companies decided they wanted to start a family or had just made enough money; they’d just move elsewhere.

 

March 30, 2011

Google’s Value To US Users And Advertisers Is Over $119B Per Year, According To Google

by Avinash Saxena

Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian took the stage today at Web 2.0 Expo to break down the totality of Google’s yearly economic value in the US. He spoke about two elements of value: The value of Google to users and the value of Google to advertisers.

In order to estimate the value of Google to advertisers, Varian used the vx – c(x) model (where v = value per click, x = number of clicks and c(x) = cost of clicks) and then did some “back-of-the-napkin” math.

The bottom line? Google’s value to publishers and advertisers is $54 billion.

In order to calculate the value of Google to users, Varian cited the “A Day Without A Search Engine” study, which plotted the time spent by students searching for the answers to questions in a library against that spent by those who used Google to get their information. Students who searched in the library ended up averaging 22 minutes to find what they needed whereas students using Google took an average of 7 minutes, saving 15 minutes.

Because of a question “demand curve” (which holds that the cheaper question asking is in terms of time, the more questions we ask), Varian did some more “back-of-the-napkin” math and tried to glean how much time Google saves the average US user daily.

Varian came to the conclusion that Google saves us 3.75 minutes per day, and then used the average US hourly earnings numbers ($22) to calculate that Google saves users $1.37 a day. That number multiplied by 365 days in a year equals $500. Varian then multiplied that $500 number by 130 million, the number of people employed in the US, to get to $65 billion value in savings for users.

Adding those two bottom line numbers $65 billion + $54 billion together results in the rough ballpark of the total value of Google to US users ($119 billion), Varian holds. For comparison Google’s global market cap is $187.04 billion.

But that $119 billion number doesn’t take into account extraneous factors like the value to non-employed, etc. Says Varian, “You should think about these numbers as an underestimate. The value of getting answers to questions immediately is a pretty big deal.”

 

March 29, 2011

New Intel solid-state drive hits 600GB

by Avinash Saxena
Intel has entered the high-capacity big leagues with a new series of solid-state drives that offer up to 600 gigabytes in capacity.
Intel solid-state drive 320 Series. Intel solid-state drive 320 Series

The world’s largest chipmaker is tapping into its most cutting-edge manufacturing technology to get the larger capacities–with chip geometries shrinking to a mere 25 nanometers. Those geometries are a step ahead of its newest Core i series processors, which are built on a slightly “fatter” 32-nanometer manufacturing process.

Intel’s third-generation SSD 320 Series comes in 40, 80, 120, 160, 300, and 600GB options.

And, of course, they’re faster. The new SSDs deliver up to 39,500 input/output operations per second (IOPS) random reads and 23,000 IOPS random writes on its highest-capacity drives. Maximum sequential write speeds have doubled from its second-generation SSDs to 220 megabytes-per-second (MB/s) sequential writes. Read throughputs have been boosted to 270 MB/s sequential reads. These numbers are comparable to–and in some cases exceed–published numbers from Samsung, a leading SSD manufacturer and supplier.

 

March 29, 2011

Tsunami ravaging Kesennuma port

by Avinash Saxena
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March 29, 2011

Amazon Bring New Products For Music

by Avinash Saxena

 

 

 

Amazon has just entered the streaming music business with the launch of Cloud Player, a music player that lets anyone upload their music to Amazon’s servers and play them via the web or Android.

The new Cloud Player service adds a new “Save to Amazon Cloud Drive” button for saving MP3s to the cloud, as well as an option to upload music from a hard drive to a user’s Cloud Drive. Users are given 5 GB of free storage, but can get 20 GB if they purchase an album through Amazon. It’s $1 per GB after that.

Cloud Player comes in two flavors, an app for the web and an Android app counterpart. Both players allow users to upload their music, create playlists and organize their music. And because it’s a cloud-based platform, users can access their music and settings from any compatible computer or Android device.

The most comparable service to Cloud Drive is probably Grooveshark, which also lets you upload your music, though Amazon has several major advantages in its MP3 store, its longstanding payment system and its stronger brand recognition.

Google and Apple have been rumored to be hard at work on their own cloud-based players, but it looks like Amazon beat them to the punch. Amazon’s Cloud Player will certainly face a stiff challenge when they launch their own streaming music services, especially given Google’s control over Android and Apple’s control over iPhone and iTunes.

 

March 28, 2011

Nuclear safer than coal, China official says

by Avinash Saxena
ReutersEven in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis, nuclear power remains a safer and cleaner choice for China than coal, Pan Ziqiang, the chairman of the science and technology committee at the China National Nuclear Corp., said today.Before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, Beijing was bullish about the prospects of nuclear power in China, fast-tracking the approval of dozens of reactors along the coast as part of a wider plan to ease dependence on heavily-polluting fossil fuels. 

Since the quake, China has been at pains to show that its existing nuclear facilities are completely safe, and has already suspended all new project approvals pending a nationwide inspection into reactors and construction sites.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, also said it would also “adjust and improve” its plans for the sector.

“We’ve recently drawn up recommendations saying that these inspections [announced by the State Council] are completely necessary, but I personally believe that the nuclear power development plan should not be changed,” Pan, an industry veteran of nearly 60 years, told reporters in Beijing.

“Everybody knows atmospheric pollution from coal is very serious…Nuclear basically has no harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions are 1 percent of a coal-fired power plant.”

Many of the projects currently under construction use tried and tested designs from Russia, France, Canada, and the United States, but China will also build the world’s first “third-generation” AP1000 reactor, built by U.S.-based Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba.

Related Stories:
• Japan reels from earthquake, nuclear crisis (roundup)
• Energy CEO: Costs, not safety, block new nukes
• Will Japan’s nuclear crisis affect U.S. energy debate
• Nukes 101: Up close and personal with nuclear power

China will also be one of the first countries to build new European Pressurized Reactors designed by France’s Areva, prompting critics to claim that China has become the testing ground and shop window for unproven technologies.

Pan said the dangers had been exaggerated.

“From a safety perspective, up to now China has never had an incident higher than level 2. From the 1950s when development began, there hasn’t been a single death caused by radiation–not one–and there hasn’t been a single fatal disease [caused by radiation]. Of course, there have been skin burns, and 10 people were killed in a work accident in 2007, but this is very far from the amount of deaths from China’s coal industry.”

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident has been rated at level 5 on the IAEA’s nuclear event scale, the same as the fire that destroyed the core of Britain’s Windscale nuclear plant in 1957, but lower than the level 7 accident at Chernobyl in 1986.

Pan said the impact of the Chernobyl accident, the worst in the industry’s history, had also been exaggerated. He noted that a World Health Organization report in 2005 put total fatalities at 56, far lower than had previously been estimated, and found no evidence of increased cancer risks apart from an initial spike in thyroid cancer among children drinking contaminated milk.

“We need to adopt stricter management and strengthen the safety culture and our monitoring [but] I think we should accept nuclear development.”

China’s official capacity target still stands at 40GW by 2020, but many in the industry–including Pan–have said a target of more than 80GW would be feasible.

Officials from both the government and its two state-owned nuclear contractors have stressed that China’s plants are far more advanced than Japan’s stricken Fukushima complex, which was first commissioned four decades ago.

China’s coastline is also less vulnerable to the sort of catastrophic tsunami that struck northeast Japan, they have said.

There have been no serious safety accidents at China’s existing nuclear projects, but the scale of its future plans has alarmed experts worried about a shortage of qualified technical staff as well as a lack of transparency.

Yesterday, the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp. opened its Daya Bay nuclear facility to selected journalists from nearby Hong Kong. International media were not invited to participate.

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