Archive for September, 2011

IBM Tops Microsoft in Market Value

September 30, 2011  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

International Business Machines Inc. topped rival Microsoft Corp. in market valuation for the first time since 1996, the latest sign of the technology industry’s shift in emphasis away from the personal computer. The reversal comes more than a year after Microsoft lost its crown as most valuable technology company to Apple Inc. Microsoft’s market value peaked in late 1999 around $600 billion and has trended downward ever since, as the company has failed to replicate its dominance of PC software in markets like Internet search and mobile.

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Sprint’s Virgin Mobile Decides to Hold Off on Throttling Heavy Users

September 30, 2011  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Sprint, which boasts of its totally unlimited plans for its main brand, has delayed a plan that would have started throttling Virgin Mobile customers who used more than a certain amount of data each month. The company announced in July that it would start in October to reduce the data speeds of customers who used more than 2.5GB of data in a given month. Virgin Mobile said at the time that the move would affect fewer than 3 percent of its customers, who would then have their access returned to full speed the following month. Today the company said it had delayed that plan until sometime in 2012. The announcement was noted, almost as a footnote, at the bottom of a press release announcing two new Android phones coming to the prepaid brand. Asked to explain the move, a Virgin Mobile representative told AllThingsD , “We have decided to delay the reduction of data speeds until 2012 to ensure we have all the necessary systems in place so that our customer experience will remain positive.” The company didn’t say when in 2012 the move would take place, but the representative said that the company “will provide further information on timing beforehand so our customers have advance notification.” T-Mobile has relied on throttling extensively to manage data use on its network, while both AT&T and Verizon largely rely on overage charges to deal with those who exceed their data plan in a given month.

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Want to Lunch Like Larry or Snack Like Sergey? Kitchit Launches the NetJets for Personal Chefs. (Video)

September 30, 2011  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Imagine lifting the silver lid on a carefully prepared, elegantly plated and perfectly seasoned culinary masterpiece, only to realize … your dog is pawing at your leg, begging for a bite. That experience, or something like it, is precisely what the new start-up Kitchit is trying to bring to its users’ homes. Launching today, in invite-only beta, the Web service allows anyone with a credit card to book a top-tier chef to prepare the meal at their next dinner party. The company, which was part of Stanford’s StartX incubator program, just finished raising a seed round of funding. The value of the round is undisclosed, but it counts super-angel Dave McClure among the early investors. The three founders — CEO Brendan Marshall, CTO George Tang and Chief of Product Ian Ferguson — came together months ago to build a business around the idea of “democratizing fine dining,” said Marshall. Buzzwords aside, Kitchit is opening up what was a previously gray market of transactions made by foodie insiders — or people who happened to have the connections necessary to find chefs who were looking to make extra money cooking outside the confines of their primary jobs at high-end restaurants. With Kitchit, even a fish-stick aficionado can arrange for such a meal. It’s the exact same kind of hidden economy that companies like Airbnb have built a business on disrupting. But what does this new opportunity mean for the user/eater? Potential diners visit Kitchit.com and pick from a stable of preapproved chefs — about 40 at last count — who will prepare their haute cuisine in the client’s home for any number of guests. Kitchit takes care of billing, scheduling and making the connection with the chef, taking a cut of the payment. The end result, said Ferguson, is “a five-star meal cooked for you and your guests in your home, for less than you would pay in a restaurant.” And while the prices fluctuate with the cost of ingredients and demands of individual chefs, Ferguson’s math does seem to hold, even if it doesn’t promise an enormous bargain. He explained that the average per-plate cost of a Kitchit dinner party is somewhere between $50 and $100. Still, being able to eat at home and drink wine without a restaurant’s precious liquor markup must mean some savings, right? While it’s tempting to draw an immediate correlation between Kitchit and a company such as Airbnb, CEO Marshall insisted the two were after different markets. “We’re really more like NetJets for now,” he said. Beyond the initial focus on high-end dining, Kitchit faces some sobering costs of scaling that Airbnb doesn’t

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Rome fest hosts best of British

September 30, 2011  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Film News: Guests include Davies, Hare, Nyman -- ROME -- The Rome Film Festival has recruited British helmers/scribes Terence Davies and David Hare, composer Michael Nyman and writer Hanif Kureishi to hold onstage conversations during the upcoming event's Focus UK sidebar.

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Vote for Who Will Stay in Conan’s 25,000-Square-Foot Studio, Using Airbnb

September 30, 2011  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Three weeks ago, Conan O’Brien listed his “cozy and charming” 25,000-square-foot Burbank, Calif., studio on Airbnb , the start-up that has become controversial because it allows just about anyone to rent out any type of housing to anyone on the Internet. Now Conan has narrowed the field of applicants from thousands to four finalists , who are being characterized as “a cougar, a Brit named Omar, a Florida family of 10 and a Bill Clinton wannabe.” Conan fans are being asked to vote for who gets to spend three nights on the nighttime show’s couch — for $3. So far, the family of 10 is in the lead. Here’s Conan explaining the rules:

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Clerkenwell, BBC America ink pact

September 30, 2011  |  Variety  |  No Comments

International News: 'Misfits' producer to develop skeins for U.S. auds -- U.K. shingle Clerkenwell Films is to develop content for BBC America as the cable net beefs up original production.

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‘The Playboy Club’ Advertisers Say They Didn’t Abandon Show

September 30, 2011  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

NBC’s ratings-challenged new series The Playboy Club —which lost a million viewers in its second episode this week—has another problem to contend with : the Parents Television Council, which recently launched a campaign to convince the show's sponsors into dropping their support. So why is the group riled up this time? “It’s the promotion of the Playboy Club brand by the network,” PTC policy chief Dan Isett told the New York Post . “We know what it stands for. The network spends millions to market a show like this; the posters are all over buses in Washington, D.C. The idea you can change the channel is not accurate.” The group said yesterday that seven advertisers—Kraft, Sprint, Lenovo, UPS, Subway, P.F. Chang’s home meals, and Campbell’s Soup—had all listened to the parents’ message and dropped their ads after the first episode, sparking rumors that the show was headed for cancellation. Sources at NBC, however, told the Post that the list was wrong (although the network would only officially say that it plans to continue the show “with advertising” and that it doesn’t discuss its sponsors’ media plans). Two of the advertisers themselves were also willing to disprove the PTC's claim. In an email, Kraft said, “For The Playboy Club , our sole purchase to date was on the premiere episode, and we did not have plans to advertise on that particular show through the end of the year.” Unilever, which owns the P.F. Chang brand, also confirmed that it hadn’t jumped ship, and will continue to advertise on occasional episodes. Chrysler, another NBC advertiser, similarly said it was planning to continue to advertise on the network. “We feel that it is important to deliver information about our products to a diverse and broad audience,” a spokeswoman told the Post .

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Finally, the Tablet to Make HP and RIM Feel Better About Themselves

September 30, 2011  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

There have been some pretty bad attempts to take on the iPad over the past year, but last night things reached a new low. On NBC’s “ The Office ,” the fictional Dunder Mifflin team was forced to sell a triangle-shaped tablet, dubbed the Pyramid. It’s heavy and has poor battery life and, well, it’s shaped like a triangle. It’s got enough flaws to make the TouchPad and PlayBook seem like home runs. Of course, unlike the products from HP and RIM (and dozens of less-than-successful Android tablets), the Pyramid has going for it that it was never meant to be real. That said, its arrival should provide some comic relief for the tablet industry, at least until they remember that Apple continues to laugh its way to the bank.

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Tango Video Calls Make it to the PC — But Are Windows-Only for Now

September 30, 2011  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

When Tango first launched a year ago , its big draw was that it could relatively painlessly connect video calls across both Android and iOS platforms over Wi-Fi and cellular networks. In other words, Tango was a more versatile alternative to Apple’s FaceTime. But what you couldn’t do with Tango is make a video call to a user who wasn’t on a smartphone. And that kind of cripples one of the main values of video calls, which is chatting between family members separated by distance — because seeing someone’s face can be so emotionally resonant. What if your family member doesn’t have a smartphone? “We thought we could skip the PC generation, but it’s a problem we could not ignore,” Tango co-founder and CTO Eric Setton said in an interview this week. So now, starting today, Tango is coming to the PC. But here’s the thing: Tango is only for Windows PCs for now. Setton told me that a Mac version is in also the works and admitted “it’s crucial that we get it out pretty soon.” Tango — which has 23 million registered users, with 35 percent of them making calls every month — is also set to be the first video calling service on Windows Phone 7, so it is gradually coming around to its promise of being truly ubiquitous across platforms. Setton said he’d also like to do a Web-based Tango client, but that he thinks that’s less useful because potential callers would have to keep Tango open in their browsers at all time to receive calls. Tango is already compatible with all the 450 Android and iOS phones and tablets and each new one as it comes on the market, Setton said. Tango lives in the system tray on Windows, and calls placed to Tango users who have the software installed on multiple devices will “ring” on all of them. The service doesn’t require logins, passwords or user names, because Setton and his team want it to be easy to use. Instead Tango asks users to register with their mobile phone numbers as their unique identifiers. Which is kind of funny for a company that provides an alternative to phone calls and now doesn’t even require phones!

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N.Y. comedy fest sets panels

September 30, 2011  |  Variety  |  No Comments

TV News: Variety exec editor Gaydos to moderate 'Live' discussion -- The New York Comedy Festival will hold three panels in conjunction with its other events on Nov. 11-13.

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