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Monday morning wrap-up: Flipt, Facebook, MySpace's unnecessary clicks & more

Here's the latest in Silicon Valley stuff:

Radiate changes name to Flipt, raises $5M -- We've mentioned Radiate before. It is the stealthy start-up run by 21-year-old Sam Altman, that is developing social networking play that incorporates location-based technology into a mobile offering -- we don't know much more. It has now changed its name to Flipt (it has a placeholder at least). VentureWire (sub req) reports that big-name venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and NEA have backed it with $5 million.

Google gets vocal for first time -- We've rarely, if ever, heard Google get vocal at Microsoft for playing unfair. But here's a story that shows even Google can get unruffled and start making noise -- in this case, about Micrsoft's plans to integrate its own search bar into its browser, and not give people the choice of selecting Google. (Now that McNealy is gone, guess Google has to take over the yelling-at-Microsoft department?)

Virtualization craze is on, start-ups popping up all over -- Virtualization is a hot trend right now. It refers to how a server, or an anti-virus tool, or some other system performs a task real-time on the side so that your own system doesn't have to do it. This can make things faster, and more secure. Here's the Mercury News story (free registration) from the weekend about Palo Alto's VMware. In VMware's case, it emulates the computer so that multiple copies of an operating system think they are each running on their own machine, when in reality they are all running on one physical computer or network server. The addition of virtualization into chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, however, could hurt VMware's business. It will also make it easier for companies like XenSource and Virtual Iron to compete. Indeed, today Virtual Iron announced new funding from SAP Ventures, for a total of $31.5 million in funding. Another virtualization company, Fireye, of Menlo Park, announced today it has raised $6.45 million in a first round of funding from Norwest and Sequoia. We talked with founder Ashar Aziz last week. He is the former CTO of Sun Microsystems䴜 N1 products, and says his technology is aimed to protect a company's internal network from infected machines used by employees on the go.

Russell Siegelman has left KP -- We remarked recently that Russell Siegelman, partner at the well-known venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, was missing from the list of the firm's recent partners. We'd checked with KP about this, but KP never responded. Now KP partner Ted Schlein has confirmed his departure, reports Dan Primack. Aside: Dan, btw, we were the ones dubbed by Paul Kedrosky as Kleinerologists ;-)

Facebook expands to private companies. Originally, Facebook hemmed its usership base by requiring users to have a college email address. It has since broken down a few walls. It is open to high schoolers, and now is courting private companies. The word comes from a new blog devoted solely to Facebook, called Inside Facebook. It lists the ten companies and one non-profit participating: Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EA, Gap, Intel, Intuit, Microsoft, Pepsi, PWC and Teach for America.

eBay launches eBay Express; but what about Half.com? -- Here's the Mercury News story last week about the new service launched by eBay offering goods sold at fixed prices, for people who don't like auctions. Yet eBay has owned and operated another site for buying and selling goods at fixed prices for several years: Half.com. We've gotten a little redundant here, no? Ebay Express at least has a link from Half.com at the very bottom of the page, even if Half.com doesn't get any mention from Ebay Express.

Sun's Schwartz only major CEO in Silicon Valley with a (decent) blog? -- We're not certain of this, but it looks like Jonathan Schwartz is the only one. The blog may have become popular because of Schwartz's honest, open style. The guy in ponytails (click on this picture, to enlarge; it is from his trip to Brazil) lives in the Mission District of San Francisco, which is a statement itself. He doesn't come across as someone trying to sell you something behind every sentence (though true, the salesman Schwartz does come across in many of the posts). In his tribute to outgoing Scott McNealy, he says "There is no single individual who has created more jobs around the world than [Scott McNealy]..I'm not talking hundreds or thousands of jobs, I'm talking millions." Stretch or no stretch?

Intellectual Ventures a troll, or anti-troll? -- Here's a good review of Intellectual Ventures, the firm founded in 2000 by former Microsoft chief technologist Nathan Myhrvold that is buying up as many patents as it can put its hands on. We can't help thinking these goes against the spirit of innovation in Silicon Valley, but the piece is balanced enough and you can make up your own mind.

...But at Intellectual Ventures, not all the big ideas come from the Jedis. Another arm of the 100-employee company, headed up by former Intel Corporation in-house counsel Peter Detkin--a Darth Vader figure to many--has been buying up thousands of patents through shell corporations. A $400 million investment from some of the biggest technology companies, including Nokia Corporation, Intel, Apple Computer Inc., Sony Corporation, and Microsoft, funds the shopping spree. (None of these companies would comment for this story.) Some in the IP asset management field estimate that Intellectual Ventures has amassed 3,000-5,000 patents.


thinkfree.jpg
ThinkFree.com offers you Microsoft Office look-alike from browser -- ThinkFree is a San Jose company that has developed a bunch of online applications that offer similar features found in Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint and Excel), and makes them compatible with Microsoft. It offers mashups, too, including letting you insert Flickr into documents and, according to a review in ExtremeTech, plans to integrate Google and Yahoo for maps, and del.icio.us for shared bookmarking. Of course, it's letting you share it all. And it's offering 1GB online file storage, all for free, an upgrade from its previous offering.

Apple's all-seeing screen -- Apple has patented technology on a screen that looks out at you, even as you watch it. Reminds us a bit of Big Brother in the movie 1984. Apple is probably developing it for more benevolent purposes -- for example, letting you chat with someone via videoconference while watching them, and on their side, they're watching you.

The 30-something angels running Silicon Valley -- This is a good story from the WSJ about something we've also noticed: And increasing number of tech guys formerly at Google, eBay and other firms running around Silicon Valley funding companies before the traditional angels and VCs get there. The piece mentions Google's Georges Harik and Aydin Senkut (who we mentioned before, and who made his tens of millions and then bought a Lamborghini and two multimillion-dollar homes before launching his VC career), and eBay's Gil Penchina (who says his strategy is to invest in as many start-ups as possible) and Corey Cleek. They're typically investing between $25,000 and 100,000.

Yahoo's new Tech site -- Here's the Merc story on Yahoo Tech site for normal people who want to learn about technology and get help buying it.

Globalstar raises the small sum of $400 million -- Globalstar, the Milpitas satellite telecom/data provider that competes with Iridium, and not long ago brought out of bankruptcy, has raised the tidy sum of equity and debt. It has been profitable since shortly after its restructuring in April 2004.

MySpace has unnecessary clicks --- We've talked about how Web sites have a lot of incentives these days to juice their traffic, perhaps to maximize advertising revenue. We're not implying that MySpace is doing anything illegal here, but check out this latest post by Mike Davidson, chief executive of Newsvine, which calls social networking company MySpace a "factory of unnecessary clicks."

So what if the operators of MySpace cleaned up the site and followed modern interface and web application principles?

That's right. I hold that at least 2/3rds of page views would disappear. Here's what I mean. This would be the flow in a, say, Google-engineered network experience:

1. Click over to "GoogSpace", or whatever we want to call it. (+1 page view)
2. Click through to read and reply to all mail (0)
3. Visit a few friends' pages (+3)
4. Edit my profile page (+1)

That's about 5 registered page views. The rest of the interaction comes from XML/HTTP requests.

Here's the same sequence on MySpace:

1. Click over to MySpace. (+1 page view)
2. Log in, because MySpace doesn't remember logins very well. (+2)
3. Click through to read and reply to all mail‰¥Ï about three per mail. (+21)
4. Visit a few friends' pages. (+3)
5. Reload a few pages because of server errors. (+3)
5. Edit my profile page. (+10)

UC Berkeley researches develop artificial insect eye for digital cameras -- The eye contains over 8,500 hexagonal lenses packed into an area the size of a pinhead. America's military research group, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), is interested in the eye and funded some of the research, according to this report.

Eye-Fi.jpg
Eye-Fi makes uploading photos easier -- Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble points to Eye-Fi, a Menlo Park company that is putting WiFi capability directly into your a memory card for your camera, so that it can automatically send photos to the Web -- saving the hassle of connecting to the PC.

Scoble notes the chip, to cost around $100, is in alpha testing but will be availalbe this year. It is angel funded.


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Comments

Wow, the hypocrisy coming out of Google on the browser seach bar issue is amazing. Google has benefitted *hugely* as the default search engine in both the Firefox and Safari browsers. Never have I been prompted to choose a search provider while setting up my browser. It's Google out of the box. And now Microsoft wants to level the playing field a bit by making its *own* search the default on its *own* browser. Well, duh!

Granted Google doesn't control the development of the Firefox and Safari browsers (Or do they, considering their cozy relationship with Mozilla?). But I haven't seen them complaining about their favored status in those browsers.

What this reveals more than anything is just how important those little search boxes are, and the lengths Google will go to try to protect its lead there.

Feh!

Joe Schmoe on May 1, 2006 11:16 AM
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Actually, this IE thing may not be as bad as it seems. I downloaded IE 7 beta yesterday, and it defaulted to Google's search (probably because i was already using Google search). And another reader mentioned that if you hadn't been using Google before, and you download IE 7, then Google gives you a link on the top-right hand corner that encourages you to change your settinng on IE 7. Below is a link to a Mercury News piece on some of this, including a mention of how Google enjoys the same default on Firefox (significant, even if Firefox's usage is nowhere as large as IE) and even on some pre-loads on some PCs.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/14479439.htm

Matt Marshall on May 2, 2006 5:14 AM
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