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Amazon's Kindle Fire ArrivesAmazon's first true entry into the tablet marketplace arrived this week with the introduction of the $199 Kindle Fire. The Fire adds color to the traditional Amazon Kindle e-reader and also offers the ability to store and stream music, TV shows and movies from the Amazon Marketplace, making it the only non-Apple tablet on the market that comes with its own content ecosystem. The device launches with about 8,500 apps available, as well, including Netflix and Angry Birds.
Most reviews were quick to point out that the Fire, though a step up from the previous generation's Kindles, was still not a true competitor to the $499 iPad 2 from Apple. It has obviously a far less robust library of applications, a smaller screen, less battery life, an inferior web browsing experience, half the storage space and no cameras or microphones. Reviewer Walt Mossberg complained about UI problems and noted that the Fire's "hardware is plain and clunky. It's a thick black box with zero style." Ouch.
In addition to iPad 2, the Fire will also face competition from Barnes & Noble's second generation Nook Tablet, which will cost $249 and is also due out this week.
QUESTION: Is the lower price tag going to be a big enough draw for people who just want their tablets for consuming content? Will the Fire be a significant competitor for Apple? Is there room for both the Fire and Nook?
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House Considers Stop Online Piracy Act Added by: pepdekCongress has been holding hearings on the so-called "Stop Online Piracy Act," presenting a somewhat radical change to the way copyrights are managed online. If this law passes, sites like Tumblr and Facebook could be shut down for letting users post freely. The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users. A number of companies, including Google, Facebook, Zynga and Twitter, took out an ad in the New York Times, making the case that the bill threatens jobs, innovation and the right to free expression online. Other companies, including Tumblr and Mozilla and even 4Chan, protested by censoring portions of their pages and directing users to contact Congress and voice their opposition. (Tumblr reported that its users are averaging 3.6 calls per second to Congress through the company's Web site.)
If the bill should pass, it would become a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.
A similar bill - the Protect IP Act - was already introduced in the Senate and was approved by a sub-committee in May.
QUESTION: Think this will pass as-is? Considering all the money and influence behind web companies like Google, why can't they mount a more powerful defense against big media conglomerates who support these kinds of bills?
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Yelp Files for IPOLocal reviews service Yelp has filed for a 2012 IPO that could raise an estimated $100 million for the company's growth. Yelp IPO rumors have been bouncing around since the company rejected a $500 million acquisition offer from Google back in 2010. The IPO could value the company at as much as $2 billion.
The company has generated more than $58 million in revenue so far this year, but still is not profitable. Most of their current income comes from local and brand advertising, along with other services like Yelp Deals.
According to the SEC filing, Yelp has 22 million reviews and 61 million monthly uniques. Over 500,000 businesses have registered their pages with the service.
QUESTIONS: Is Yelp ready for an IPO? How do you think they'll fare? Would you buy Yelp shares?
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Google Launches Apple Music Store Competitor Added by: cbedgoodGoogle took the fight directly to iTunes with the release this week of the Google Music Store, a service that allows users to purchase songs directly through the Android Market. Users can store up to 20,000 songs on Google Music, and labels including Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, Sony Corp.’s music unit and EMI Group Ltd will be offering over 13 million songs for individual sale. Other features include reviews as well as special content from bands (including Coldplay) available only on Google Music.
Song prices range from free to $1.29, and anyone can share a one-time, full song preview to their followers on Google Plus.
Google also has plans to team up with individual artists. For $25, anyone can set up their own "music store" and will earn a 70% revenue share on everything sold.
QUESTIONS: Considering how many people will now automatically have Google Music accounts on their devices, obviously there will be wide adoption of Google Music over the next few weeks. What's the metric for success here? How will we know if Google Music is working?
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AOL Losing Key StaffBig stories this week about dramatic executive departures from AOL.
First up, Brad Garlinghouse, a former Yahoo exec who was brought in back in 2009 to help revive the AOL brand, and has been serving as Applications and Commerce (basically, the company's head product guy.) In the wake of the news, many people pointed to a November 6th tweet by Garlinghouse as giving a possible reason for his departure. It's a quote from Steve Jobs, taken from Walter Isaacson's recent biography:
"When sales guys run the company, product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off."
The same report about Garlinghouse included word that TechCrunch editor Sarah Lacy was also be stepping down.
Then on Thursday night, BusinessInsider reported that TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde was also leaving the company. (Forbes published some awkward e-mail exchanges between Harde and a Huffington Post Media Group publicist, implying that tensions remain high between the Huffington Post and TechCrunch teams.)
QUESTION: What the hell is going on at AOL? What can be done? Does Tim Armstrong need to go next?
SOURCES: Bloomberg and Business Insider
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Foursquare.com Gets Serious UpgradeCheck-in powerhouse Foursquare has long been thought of as a mobile-only experience. But now the company has spent some real time reimagining Foursquare.com as a destination. The main Foursquare page for logged-in users now consists of a map of your local area (if you've allowed the site to know your location), along with all sorts of local sites, businesses and attractions featured. These points on the map include locations where your friends have checked in, places that are just overall popular on Foursquare, things that are similar to the stuff you're already checking in to regularly and, of course, locations with active "deals." You can even zoom out and get a similar guide for your entire city, or other neighborhoods.
Notable as well is that the info provided is time sensitive. So if I log in at 9 am, Foursquare will be thinking "brunch places." Go back at night, it'll show you good spots for dinner.
QUESTION: Thoughts on the new Foursquare? Why is Foursquare suddenly focusing more on the web experience? Are websites going to become sexy again, after the mobile obsession of the last year?
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