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четвер, 16 червня 2011 р.

Moving Into Social Web, Menlo Ventures Adds Partner

Menlo Ventures had brought in a partner from outside the firm just twice in its 35-year history.

Shervin Pishevar — an entrepreneur and angel investor with no formal venture capital experience — is now No. 3 after joining the team this week, in a sign that Menlo is planning a major push into the social Web.

“We’re seeing more opportunity in consumer than we can keep up with, which is why someone like Shervin will be a huge asset,” said Shawn T. Carolan, a managing director at Menlo Ventures. “The digital social fabric that binds people will affect Internet services in many different ways. This is not a few-year trend, this is a decades-long trend.”

Menlo, which has $4 billion in assets, has excelled in finding start-ups in the less glitzy corners of technology like enterprise software and networking solutions. It was the largest investor in 3Par, a data storage company bought by Hewlett-Packard for $2.35 billion last year after a heated bidding war with Dell.

But unlike some of its fellow deep-pocketed rivals on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, Menlo is not a big player in the much-hyped social networking space. The firm doesn’t have stakes in Facebook, Zynga or Groupon — all of which are expected to have big offerings in the next 12 months.

Now, Menlo is playing catch-up.
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With the addition of Mr. Pishevar, the firm is hoping to improve its stature among young Web entrepreneurs, who have built the core of the social Internet. Mr. Pishevar’s main focus will be to create an incubator to nurture talent and identify investment opportunities early.

“Today, entrepreneurs need less capital to start their businesses, which means that there is a higher volume of companies getting started,” Mr. Pishevar said. “In that noise, it’s going to be incredibly important to have a great eye for exceptional founders and to build a circle of trust that connects all those people.”

With capital sloshing around the market, Menlo and other players are under pressure to court start-ups long before their first funding rounds. To help attract talent, firms are hiring well-known entrepreneurs and Internet executives. The founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, is at Greylock Partners. Matt Cohler, one of the earliest Facebook employees, is a general partner at Benchmark Capital.

Mr. Pishevar, 37, fled his native Iran during the country’s brutal war in the 1980s. He later became a serial entrepreneur. At 23, he introduced a Web-based operating system called WebOS, following soon after with Webs, a publishing platform, and later SGN, which he sold in April to MindJolt. As an angel investor, he has invested in roughly 40 start-ups including Aardvark, a social search service that was sold to Google, and Milo, a local shopping application that was sold to eBay for $75 million last year.

Mr. Pishevar is often described as energetic and philosophical, and his Rolodex includes a global mix of investors, politicians, celebrities and founders in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Washington, London and Moscow. Mr. Pishevar, for example, connected Russian billionaire Yuri Milner with Evan Reas, the founder of LAL, more popularly known as LikeALittle, a college social networking site. Both Mr. Pishevar and Mr. Milner ended up investing in the site.

“Shervin has a good instinct for successful entrepreneurs and deeply understands current Internet trends,” Mr. Milner said.

As he did with Mr. Reas, Mr. Pishevar often helps young entrepreneurs navigate Silicon Valley, dispensing words of advice on financing and operations. He will even drive them to investor meetings.

Mr. Pishevar recently introduced the founder of Klout, Joe Fernandez, to Bobby Yazdani, an angel investor. Mr. Yazdani eventually bought a stake in Klout, a start-up that measures the influence of Twitter users, and initiated a meeting for it with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which is now a top investor.

Last year, Mr. Pishevar also helped secure a visa for Andrey Ternovskiy, the teenage founder of Chatroulette, a video-chatting site. He collected letters of support from his friends, including the actor and technology investor
Ashton Kutcher and Sean Parker, the former Facebook president.

“What sets Shervin apart is that he cares more for people than technology,” said Mr. Kutcher, who has invested alongside Mr. Pishevar. “He has all the understanding of technical infrastructure and social gaming mechanisms, but most importantly he has an understanding of people and a genuine care for their well being.”

Mr. Pishevar said he hoped to formalize his work with entrepreneurs at Menlo by creating a “people-focused” incubator, allowing founders at various stages to connect with other entrepreneurs and learn about best practices. Although the structure is still being worked out, Mr. Pishevar says the program will begin later this year.

“We want to bring founders into a trusted circle and help them incubate their ideas,” he said. “We also want to develop a structure and methodology that can help incredible founders scale across the stages.”

As part of the program, Mr. Pishevar is putting together an elite network of mentors to create a “Jedi council of incredible entrepreneurs.” The exclusive network will host gatherings, work together to solve problems and help the founders in the program.

“The greats are going to be harder to find in this world,” Mr. Pishevar said. “This is an incredibly human endeavor.”
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Social Media Minute: Facebook Growth Staggers, Klout Adds LinkedIn

Social media moves so fast, it's hard to keep up. Here are the week's top stories in scan-friendly format:

Facebook Growth Slows in May
GOP Debate Discussed Heavily Online
Klout Now Ranks Influence on LinkedIn
Instagram Gains 5 Million Users and 100 Million Photos

Facebook Growth Slows in May

Facebook, now at around 700 million users, is the powerhouse in social networking. Month after month, the service has shown amazing growth figures, that is, until this past May. According to Inside Facebook, Facebook's growth was 11.8 million users in May, down from 13.9 million new users in the month of April. In each month during 2010, the service added 20 million new users, on average.

Another interesting note from the latest figures, Facebook lost roughly 6 million users in the United States during May and another 1.5 million in Canada. Are users fleeing Facebook, much like MySpace a few years ago? Not likely — the service has surging popularity overseas, as Facebook added 1 million new users in places such as Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Mexico.

Why North American users left Facebook is unknown. Considering the numerous security and privacy issues Facebook has suffered, perhaps users decided to forgo the service and delete their accounts. Have you considered dumping Facebook, let's discuss in the comments below!
GOP Debate Discussed Heavily Online

Monday's New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate was discussed widely online and was a heavily trending topic on social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. CNN hosted the debate and tweeted the event heavily. CNN's Washington DC Bureau chief actively posted news to Facebook, Twitter and CNN.com during the event.

By following the hashtag #CNNDebate, watchers online could follow the conversation and gauge sentiment online. At 9PM on Monday night, #CNNDebate was a non-promoted trending topic on Twitter, showing a huge success of CNN's use of the hashtag. Public sentiment was largely negative, with even 'positive' tweets being very sarcastic and demeaning to the Republican participants.

It will be interesting (and entertaining) to see how the 2012 Presidential race unfolds online. With more Americans actively chatting online, the debates should be more present and heated this coming year.
Klout Now Ranks Influence on LinkedIn

Klout is a new website that ranks your influence on social networking sites by providing a score on how much pull you have on various sites. As of yesterday, Facebook and Twitter were the main sites that Klout offered guidance on. Just recently, the social networking rank site added LinkedIn to its portfolio of sites, so users can see their influence on the professional social network using Klout's algorithms.

Klout, at least on Twitter, measures influence by the user's ability to drive action through tweets, re-tweets and more. Regarding Facebook, the service measures your influence by analyzing who you most engage with via likes, comments and more. With the new functionality on LinkedIn, Klout will analyze your interactions and the type and frequency of sharing you do with your LinkedIn Contacts. Simply having a lot of friends on LinkedIn won't help your Klout score, however, having great interactions with your contacts will.
Read aslo:
http://gsg.princeton.edu/wiki/index.php?title=User:Drowles
http://alumni.amrita.edu/wiki/index.php?title=User:Adfeincg

iDating, Anyone? Apple's Social Plans For iPhones

Forget Facebook's status updates, and Twitter's social sharing in iOS: An Apple patent application hints at a future where a character-measuring iPhone app can tell you if you're near your pals--or even a potential soulmate.

locationApple's already patented extensively in the location-based app space. And hints of a "Find My Friends" API code have been found in the iPhone's OS. Now this newly revealed patent application would seem to be a completely natural extension of this tech. (And yes, we know predicting future use of an Apple patent is a risky affair, but ...)

It's all about, as Apple puts it, working out "common interests and experiences of two or more users" from their device and web content and noting if they're "located close to each other." Yup, it's a dating service, from Apple.

Well, technically it's more than than, but a dating implementation is certainly possible. Here's the relevant bit of the text:

A typical modern computer-implemented social networking application requires each user to provide some biographical information, and/or identify his or her interests, and in some instances can suggest to the user other users with compatible interests. For example, some web sites such as LinkedIn.com or Facebook.com require participants to register as members.

But of course we all cram our iPhones with reams of this personal data right from the start, some of it above and beyond what we'd share on any particular site like Facebook. Apple imagines that this data could be automatically scanned, or curated by a user intending to portray a particular public image, and then used as a wireless "beacon" to generate an ad-hoc social network of similar-minded folk. And there's a wrinkle:

Techniques for ad hoc networking based on content and location can be implemented to achieve the following exemplary advantages. Two strangers located closed to each other, both having requested to participate in the ad hoc networking based on content and location, can start a conversation from common interests or experiences identified by the ad hoc networking based on content and location. The identified common interests or experiences can be based on actions a user actually performed, rather that what the user says he or she did or liked.

Apple's realized that where you've been with your phone is also a useful social parameter, as is what photos from your collection you've chosen to share and which type of song you've downloaded from iTunes. The idea is that a spontaneous "icebreaker" popup will then appear on your iPhone, assuming you've opted in to this sort of interaction (which will have to be stringently policed if Apple ever uses this, to avoid accusations of abuse of data privacy), and you may go off and have a real-world conversation with a nearby person you'd never have met otherwise.

It's kind of clever, and it's extremely possible with the current state of mobile tech (which has developed a lot since the patent's filing in 2009). It's also a hint that our online social networking systems may, in the future, cross into real-world interactions--a behavior we're already seeing bursts of in the ongoing flash mob phenomenon. But can you really imagine sitting on a crowded metro, having your phone ping you, and actually thinking "Neat! Someone else nearby is a Meatloaf fan, likes to eat meatloaf too, and is looking for friendship!" and then actually going to talk to them? In a post-Sidekick world, maybe it's a behavior pattern for the kids.
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Report: We’re spending more time on social networking

New research from ComScore backs up what most people know anecdotally — we’re spending more time on social networks than ever.

According to the new report, American now spend one of every six minutes online using a social network, up from one of every 12 minutes in 2007.

The data also back up the fact that Facebook is the dominant player on the social networking scene, surpassing MySpace as the most popular social network in 2009 and continuing to grow. The site now reaches 73 percent of the U.S. population every month.

MySpace is still the second-most popular social networking site, with 34.9 million users per month, though user engagement has dropped 85 percent in the past year, the report said.

And who’s nipping at its heels? According to ComScore, there’s a race brewing between LinkedIn (which had 33.4 million visitors in May 2011), Twitter (27 million) and Tumblr (10.7 million). All three networks had their highest-ever traffic in May 2011.

Tumblr saw the fastest growth in the past year — 166 percent from May 2010 to May 2011 — leading the firm to say that it may be nearing “that critical mass threshold that propels it to more widespread adoption.”

What social networks, if any, do you use? And have you noticed your use increase over the past year?
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Social Network User Base Grows, 56% Are Adult Females

A new national survey finds the use of social-networking sites is growing, and contrary to some assumptions, people who use online social platforms, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, have higher measures of social well-being.

The survey of 2,225 American adults last fall by the Pew Research Center's Internet & AmericanLife Project found that the proportion of people using at least one social networking site has grown to 47% from 26% in 2008. As a result, the average age of adult users has increased from 33 to 38. More than half are now over 35 and 56% are women.

Facebook, of course, is the dominant social property, with 92% of those surveyed using it, compared to 29% on MySpace, 18% on LinkedIn, and 13% on Twitter. Facebook users were also found to be more trusting than other Internet users; they have more close relationships and get more social support than the average American.

They were also more politically engaged; a Facebook user who visited the site multiple times per day was two-and-a-half times more likely than other Internet users to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade someone on their vote, and 43% more likely to have said they would vote.

In the Pew sample, the average Facebook member had 229 friends on the site, with people from high school making up the largest share at 22%, followed by extended family (12%) and coworkers (10%), college friends (9%), and immediate family (8%). Facebook has also served as a way for people to revive dormant relationships.

What are people doing on the site?

The study found that 15% on an average day update their Facebook status, 22% comment on someone else's post or status, 20% comment on photos, 26% "Like" another user's content, and 10% send another user a private message.

Across all social networks, people are increasingly using them to keep up with close social ties. So 40% of users have "friended" their closest confidantes on social sites, up from 29% in 2008.

Despite speculation that social networks may hurt users' relationships or leave them isolated, "we found the exact opposite. People who use sites like Facebook actually have more close relationships and are more likely to be involved in civic and political activities," said Pew study author Keith Hampton, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, in announcing the findings.

That doesn't mean the social-networking population is monolithic. MySpace users, for instance, tend to be younger, with an average age of 32, and are more likely to be open to opposing points of view. MySpace and Twitter users are the most racially diverse mainstream social platforms.

When it comes to LinkedIn, nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use the professional networking site. LinkedIn members also tend to be well-educated, with most having at least one university degree. By contrast, MySpace users generally have fewer years of formal education than people on other social networks.

The Pew research come on the heels of news that Facebook's growth has slowed recently. In the U.S., it lost 6 million users in May -- the first time the number of users has dropped here in the past year, according to Inside Facebook. The site noted that Facebook typically hits saturation when it reaches about 50% of a country's population, which is where it is in the U.S.

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Lockerz Unveils App for iPhone and iPod touch

SEATTLE, June 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Lockerz, a social commerce company with more than 19 million members worldwide, today announced that its Lockerz App for iPhone and iPod touch is now available on the App Store. The app gives Lockerz members more opportunities to be rewarded for what they love to do online by earning discounts on products from popular brands.

"Our users have been asking for a Lockerz App for iPhone and iPod touch for quite some time, and we're thrilled to deliver one to them," said Kathy Savitt, founder and chief executive officer of Lockerz. "Bringing the best possible Lockerz experience to users on these great devices is crucial as we work towards becoming the homepage for Generation Z."

The Lockerz App enables members to earn PTZ® (Points) for signing in, uploading photos and answering "Dailies" (one-question polls) on these devices. PTZ can then be used to earn discounts of up to 100 percent on popular brands. With photo sharing as a key component of the Lockerz experience, the app also gives users the ability to edit their photos with photo filters, which turn ordinary photos into artistic images using easy-to-use and fun tools.

Other planned features include further integration with Facebook and Twitter and the ability to make purchases in Lockerz SHOP and through iTunes®.

PTZ are the discount fuel of Lockerz – the ultimate rewards program for Generation Z. Lockerz members can earn PTZ in more than 10 ways, including answering "Dailies" (witty and provocative one-question polls), watching videos, listening to music, inviting friends, or just logging in. PTZ are then used to lower the prices of merchandise in the Lockerz SHOP. The more PTZ a member earns and decides to use, the larger the discount, which can be up to 100%.

The Lockerz App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.

About Lockerz

Based in Seattle, Lockerz' mission is to be the homepage for men and women ages 13 to 30, building a community of more than 19 million trendsetters and tastemakers who love to shop, play and connect on the Web. Lockerz rewards members for doing what they love online, offering major discounts on the coolest fashions, electronics, music and more. Members earn PTZ® (Points) by watching videos, listening to music and inviting friends. Lockerz PTZ are then used to lower the prices of merchandise at-will. Lockerz was founded by former technology and retail executive Kathy Savitt, and is backed by Liberty Media Corporation and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. For more information about Lockerz, please visit www.Lockerz.com.

SOURCE Lockerz

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Accelerated Reader Quizzing App Now Available for iPad®, iPod touch®, and iPhone®

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis., June 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Renaissance Learning (NASDAQ: RLRN) announced the availability of an Accelerated Reader Student App that enables students to take AR quizzes in the classroom using the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone running on iOS 4.0 or later.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20001108/RENAISSANCELOGO)

The app provides Accelerated Reader customers hosted on the Renaissance Place Real Time platform with an option to wirelessly take AR quizzes, eliminating the issue of students waiting for access to limited classroom computers.

While anyone can download the app, each device needs to be configured to work with a school's AR Renaissance Place Real Time software in order to take quizzes. The app maintains the integrity of the AR quizzing process by assuring AR quizzes continue to be taken in a secure, monitored school environment, in order to maintain data fidelity for classroom use.

"We are pleased to offer an app that will enable AR quizzing for the Apple devices most commonly found in the classroom," said Glenn R. James, Renaissance Learning Chief Executive Officer. "The app's early summer release will give schools time to configure their devices so students can start taking AR quizzes on them at the start of the 2011-2012 school year."

The Accelerated Reader Student App is now available as a free download from the Apple App Store(SM). This will be the company's second app on the iTunes® store, following the release of the AR K12 Activity Widget, which allows school administrators to track their school or district's reading progress using their iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone.

Accelerated Reader also supports AR quizzing on the NEO 2, a popular computer alternative with additional classroom-friendly features to accelerate learning such as writing, math facts practice, keyboarding, and classroom response capabilities.

More information about how to use the Accelerate Reader Student App can be found at www.renlearn.com/arquizzing/default.aspx.

About Renaissance Learning, Inc.

Renaissance Learning, Inc. is a leading provider of technology-based school improvement and student assessment programs for K12 schools. Adopted by more than 70,000 schools, Renaissance Learning's tools provide daily formative assessment and periodic progress-monitoring technology to enhance core curriculum, support differentiated instruction, and personalize practice in reading, writing and math. Renaissance Learning products and school improvement programs help educators make the practice component of their existing curriculum more effective by providing tools to personalize practice and easily manage the daily activities for students of all levels. As a result, teachers using Renaissance Learning products and programs accelerate learning, get more satisfaction from teaching, and help students achieve higher test scores on state and national tests. Renaissance Learning has seven U.S. locations and subsidiaries in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod touch, and iTunes are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Content purchased from the iTunes Store is for personal lawful use only. Don't steal music.

SOURCE Renaissance Learning, Inc.
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iPod touch is still a better vehicle for ads than iPad, says report

Mobile advertising company Millennial Media on Wednesday released a report that says MP3 players and gaming devices are still better vehicles for delivering in-app mobile ads than tablets such as the iPad, even though tablets have exploded in popularity over the last year.

It's Millennial's first Mobile Mix Report that counts mobile ad impressions on non-phone devices, and it appears that non-smartphone app consumption is still completely dominated by the iPod touch. 70% of impressions in the "connected devices" category (which itself makes up 16% of the total impressions) came from Mobile Gaming Devices/MP3 Players, which includes the iPod touch and Sony PSP, among other things.

Connected Devices Millennial Media chart

Tablets such as iPad, Xoom, and Galaxy Tab made up a 29% portion of that 16% chunk, or just 4.6% of the total.

Though Millennial didn't break down this figure in its free report and explicitly say the iPod touch led the category, it does provide figures that allow us to safely come to that conclusion.

First, it says that Apple is the top manufacturer across all classes of device, with 30.84% of all impressions, and iPhone was the dominant device, drawing 16.53% of the total market's ad impressions.

Second, it says that connected devices (iPod/iPad category) made up 16% of all impressions and that smartphones made up 67%.

Therefore, if 30.84% of all impressions came from Apple devices. and 16.53% of that was the iPhone, that means 14.31% of the total market was covered by iPod touch and iPad, and the total market including iPad, iPod, and all its competitors makes up only 16% of the total market, that leaves only 1.69% of the total non-smartphone app market to everyone non-Apple.

Millennial includes some supplementary data to help this conclusion along, including the fact that most impressions (31% of total) are done over Wi-Fi, and most (60% of total) are done on a touchscreen-only device.
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MyTVRemote for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad gets revamped

On Wednesday Ryz Media announced that it has completely revamped its MyTVRemote for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, an accessory that allows iOS device owners to control their TVs without a standard clicker. The MyTVRemote has been updated with a newer IR transceiver, as well as a new orb design. It also provides support for a complete program guide for every zip code in the United States. Using the free MyTVRemote application, TV watchers can see what the most popular programs on TV are or connect using Facebook or Twitter to discuss shows. The MyTVRemote is available in four colors for $9.99 and the corresponding application is free. Hit the jump for the full press release.

MyTVRemote App Gets Hardware Design Overhaul

Colorful New Orb Designs Will Put a Conversation Piece on the Coffee Table,
Also Improves Performance of IR Control

Palo Alto, CA— June 15, 2011 – Ryz Media, maker of the popular MyTVRemote app that turns the iPhone into a super powerful remote control, today announced a new colorful orb design for the hardware that plugs into the phone headset jack allowing control of almost every entertainment device in the living room.

These four colorful new options will improve function as well as form with an updated IR transceiver. The new hardware for the MyTVRemote app includes a complete program guide for every zip code in the U.S., displays the most popular shows on TV and connects TV fans with others who are watching.

“We felt the hardware design for the MyTVRemote needed to better fit the iPhone and Apple design motif,” said Zeev Braude, CEO of Ryz Media. “Now we think MyTVRemote users will get an instant conversation starter on the coffee table because this new hardware is an eye catcher.”

The MyTVRemote app has been hailed by tech reviewers as one of the coolest iPhone accessories ever offered in the app store. It includes a customizable program guide that allows viewers to create their own unique TV guide. Viewers are then notified when their favorite shows are on and can navigate to them with a single click.

MyTVRemote also incorporates social elements – providing real-time online connection to friends and others watching the same program. TV fans can interact and discuss in real-time the shows they are watching together via Facebook and Twitter without ever leaving the remote. All social and interactive features happen directly on the mobile device to ensure the viewing experience is enhanced instead of compromised.

iPhone users can download the app for free and pay just $9.99, including shipping and handling, for Ryz Media’s cool new hardware that turns your phone into an easy to use remote within seconds. Now with MyTVRemote, users can control every AV device in the home with a simple smartphone app that costs a fraction of the cost of current clunky, plastic remotes on the market.

MyTVRemote supports the iPad and all generations of iPhone devices and iPod Touch media players.
To download it, go to the US App Store and search for either “MyTVRemote” or for “RYZ Media” or follow this link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-tv-remote/id351451688?mt=8

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Smith & Tinker back with Marvel iOS superhero game

Smith & Tinker, a once high-flying Bellevue game startup, is resurfacing this week with a new Marvel superhero game for Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

"Marvel Kapow!" features characters such as Thor, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America. Players uses touchscreen gestures such as flicks to slash enemies with Wolverine's claws or shoot them with Spidey's web.

Marvel_KAPOW!_ Screenshot3_1024x768.jpg
Smith & Tinker was started in 2007 by Jordan Weisman, a former Microsoft creative director. The company raised more than $29 million from a-list backers including Paul Allen and a group of venture capitalists.

The money was mostly used to develop a line of handheld game players aimed at young boys and built around a sci-fi monster game called Nanovor that launched in 2009.

That project was dropped last year after a restructuring that eventually cut the number of employees from around 55 to under 10. A recent check found Nanovor gear for 99 cents at Amazon.com, although the game's no longer supported.

Weisman remains on the board and contributes to creative work but the company's now led by Disney veteran Joe Lawandus. The company also relocated from Bellevue to space near the downtown Seattle waterfront.

"We've had a pretty interesting ride over the past few years," Lawandus said.

Lawandus said the company still has enough cash to build at least one more game based on Marvel characters. The company last year reached a licensing deal with Disney, Marvel's owner, that enables it to build casual games based on all characters in the Marvel universe.

"We're super excited about what we think tablets can bring to the mobile gaming space," he said, adding that the company is trying to reach big audiences with the brands used in its games.

"Marvel Kapow!" is available through iTunes in free versions with seven levels and advertising, or ad-free versions with 26 levels and additional characters that cost $1.99 for iPhone and iPod or $3.99 for iPads. Later the company may develop versions for Android and perhaps Windows, he said.
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Apple's Back to School promo: No more free iPod touch

We always thought of the iPod touch that Apple (AAPL) offered students as part of the company's annual "Back to School" sale as the equivalent of a narcotics dealer's free sample: a gateway drug that left users craving for an iPhone.

To the dismay of much of the class of 2011, Apple has dropped the popular loss leader in the promotion that launched Thursday on its online store. Instead, it offers the usual 10% discount on a Mac and a $100 gift card that can be used at the Mac App Store, the iOS App Store, the iTunes Store or Apple's iBookstore. Heavily promoted: Apple's iWork software suite -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Too bad the $100 can't be used for Microsoft (MSFT) Office, which for better or worse is still the standard at most colleges and universities.
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