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December 28, 2011

New York Times accidentally pleads with 8 million people not to cancel subscription

Well, this is a headache for the most esteemed newspaper in the land....

Today, at 1:25 pm, I got an email from the New York Times pleading me to rethink my subscription cancellation and re-up for an exclusive rate of 50 percent off for 16 weeks.

There's only one problem: I wasn't a print subscriber. In fact, about 8 million people got that email, too, and they weren't supposed to get it. Instead, it was only intended for about 300 people.

I've been following Amy Chozick's tweets about it -- she's the Time's corporate media reporter.

But hey -- now, I presume, every NYT subscriber knows that if they just cancel, they can get a 50 percent break on a print subscription.

Did I mention what a headache this must be for those poor folks over at the Grey Lady?

Update: Here's the official story from the NYT's Amy Chozick.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Maryland maker of Kindle cases sues Amazon

It wasn't too long ago -- in May, actually -- when I was getting pitched by a PR representative hired by M-Edge Accessories to write about its growing business and how it was working with Amazon to sell its range of Kindle/tablet cases.

But somewhere along the way, apparently, the relationship soured.

The Odenton-based company last month filed a federal lawsuit in Maryland that accuses Amazon of unfair business practices. (The WSJ reported it this morning, saying that it was filed last week. In fact, last week, M-Edge simply amended its original complaint, which was filed Nov. 18. Anyway....)

In the complaint, M-Edge blasts the massive web with multiple accusations, including "patent infringement, unfair competition, intentional interference with contracts and economic relations, and false advertising."

Indeed, the first sentence of the meat of the lawsuit characterizes Amazon's alleged behavior toward M-Edge as "a classic example of unlawful corporate bullying."

M-Edge has 50 employees. Amazon is much, much bigger. The company makes a wide range of Kindle and tablet cases, and says in its complaint that it's products used to be top sellers. But M-Edge claims that Amazon "de-listed" them from their website. At the heart of the complaint, M-Edge says it had a contract with Amazon to pay it 15 percent commission for M-Edge accessory sales -- but in January last year, Amazon allegedly wanted to up the rate to 32 percent.

Since Amazon sales accounted for 90 percent of its business, M-Edge eventually signed a new contract in July last year, the company claims.

The allegations are interesting, and gives a one-sided view of an interesting relationship between a tiny company (M-Edge) and a goliath (Amazon) as the goliath launched the Kindle and watched it grow into a big business. I'm waiting to see how Amazon responds to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for comment from M-Edge.

Here is the lawsuit, which really is more interesting than anything I could write about it:

M-Edge Sues Amazon

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:08 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

December 20, 2011

Amazon Kindle Fire's impressions growing 19 percent a day on Millennial Media's network

Millennial Media, a top mobile advertising firm based in Baltimore, put out its latest monthly "Mobile Mix" report that updates trends in the industry based on what the company is seeing in its network. The early results are in: users of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet are actually using the device! (Okay, we're not that shocked.)

Millennial reports impressions from the Kindle Fire grew at an average daily rate of 19% since its launch in mid-November. And, the Fire has slightly outpaced the impression numbers from the launch of the original iPad in early 2010, according to Millennial.

These are interesting times for the Kindle Fire. Clearly, there are people out there who really want the device. Yet it got knocked down a peg recently in a New York Times article for a number of hardware and software issues.

No doubt, though, Amazon and Jeff Bezos aren't going to be deterred. They're in it for the long haul.

Millennial put together this snappy graphic that shows the evolution of the Kindle line (see below). Sexy. Ahem. Kidding. Has anyone really thought of the Kindle as "sexy", the way Apple devices are often considered?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Smartphones

December 15, 2011

The Baltimore news ecosystem: report

I stumbled across this interesting article that looked at digital/mobile efforts in Baltimore news operations, including The Baltimore Sun and the local television stations' presence and efforts.

The article, from NetNewsCheck, gives some good context as to the local players, as we gallop into the digital frontier of the mobile web.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

The year in search, according to Google

I don't know if I should be mortified or amused.

Google today released its 11th annual Zeitgeist report, which looked at global and regional search trends.

Apparently the No. 1 fastest rising search query was Internet celeb Rebecca Black, who had that song "Friday", which, believe it or not, I have never actually heard. But here's the Youtube video (11+ million views!)

Google built a dedicated website for its Zeitgeist report. Here it is.

Turns out, Apple dominated the list, with the iPhone 5 (which didn't actually appear), Steve Jobs and the iPad 2, claiming three of 10 spots.

Poke around on the site, and let me know if your faith in humanity has been affirmed, or shot to heck. ;-)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas

December 14, 2011

Things are a-brewing in Baltimore's tech scene

I know there's been a lot of introspection in Baltimore's tech circles regarding where the community is heading, especially the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, but leave it to a couple local entrepreneurs to cut through the uncertainty with action, not just words.

In what was possibly the Baltimore's tech scene's worst kept secret over the last month or so, Greg Cangialosi, of former Blue Sky Factory fame, and Sean Lane, of current BTS Corp. fame, are teaming up to launch what they call a "hybrid accelerator" in Locust Point.

Here's my story today online. It's also in the print edition.

What this dynamic duo is trying to create involves a virtuous cycle of idea generation, capital allocation, market growth, and wealth accumulation for the startups they hope to nurture. And with wealth in a functional startup ecosystem comes a helping of responsibility: will you re-invest some of your money back in the community that supported you? It is this ethos that permeates other startup communities that are far ahead of Baltimore, such as Silicon Valley.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Cangialosi/Lane are investing their own money in the concept and seeking other investors to fuel their investment fund. By next year, we could be looking at half dozen or more new startups in Baltimore under the wings of Cangialosi/Lane.

I'm also aware of a few more similar projects under way, one of which I mentioned in my story, that's being explored by StartupBaltimore's Mike Brenner. And there's yet another project/idea that's percolating, that I'm hoping I can report on soon.

So, with all these ideas, is the community at a "crossroads", per se, as some believe. Or is it going through an uncomfortable growth and realignment phase? Clearly, there are a bunch of people in this town who believe there can be more value-added services and even physical locations that are offered to startups, beyond the Emerging Technology Center's orbit.

I see people moving forward to build out a more supportive ecosystem. The reality is that for many startups, they really don't need or want a big lease and fancy office space. They can be lean and bootstrap their operation from a coworking space, a coffee shop, their home, or a mix of all such options. I see Baltimore's tech community moving forward to support such alternatives to startup building. And that's a good thing.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

December 13, 2011

BaltTech's top five list of gadgets for the holidays

I was on WYPR's Maryland Morning yesterday to talk about tech, and I covered what I think are some cool gadgets to give as gifts this holiday season.

Without further ado, here's my top five list of gadgets:

1. The Lytro -- starts at $399. What's special about it: It uses new technology to capture the entire field of light in a photo, allowing for incredible manipulation of the digital image after it's taken. You'll never have out of focus images again.

2. Twine -- starts at $99. What's special about it: This little gadget allows you to hook up things -- not just computers and phones -- to the Internet. For instance, you can set it up with a sensor to Tweet you if your basement floods.

3. Amazon Kindle Fire -- sweet starting price at $199. The Kindle Fire lets you shop the entire Amazon catalog of stuff, from books to songs to videos. This could be a hot seller for people who just want a decent tablet, and aren't willing to pay the Apple iPad premium of $500 or more.

4. iPhone/iPad/smartphone Accessories -- accessories are now a huge business. people love to adorn their phones and tablets with cool cases. I'm interested in the ZaggFolio, an iPad case that turns the device into a laptop-like experience, with a full keyboard. $99:

5. The Withings Wi-Fi body scale: $160. This scale connects to your Wi-Fi network in your home. You step on it and it takes your weight and other body measurements and beams the numbers to a Web application and an iPhone application. You can track your weight effortlessly and overtime, and the charts are automatically updated. Very cool.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gadgets

December 7, 2011

Abrupt: GBTC suddenly names new executive director

[Updated with comment from GBTC Chairman: See below]

The Greater Baltimore Tech Council this morning sent me a press release announcing that they just appointed a new executive director. His name is Jason Hardebeck and you may remember him as the guy who sold his Baltimore social networking company to Facebook recently for an undisclosed amount.

Hardebeck replaces Sharon Webb, who had been in the position for about a year. I did a lengthy Q&A with Webb recently about the organizational challenges the GBTC faced in a new economy, with pressures from the explosion of social media.

A press release called Webb's tenure a "transitional period."

“Sharon did a phenomenal job bringing the GBTC to this point,” said GBTC Jason Pappas, president of Hannix Inc. in a news release. “But the timing is right to reinvigorate the organization so it becomes an outstanding resource and advocate for our growing technology and industry.”

This is sudden and abrupt news. I had not heard any inklings of a leadership change. Indeed, during the last change, when Steve Kozak left the top position, the board did a leadership search. This time around, it seems that they handpicked Hardebeck for the top spot.

So, in a span of less than two years, the GBTC has gone from Steve Kozak, to Jen Gunner (interim executive director), Sharon Webb and now Hardebeck.

I'm hoping to talk to both Pappas and Hardebeck today to get the full skinny. Stay tuned.

Pappas tells me in a phone interview that Webb did a "very good job" leading the organization through a difficult transition period over the past 12 months. He said she was hired for her analytical skills, to help analyze the organization and re-position it for the future.

But the GBTC had come to a point where it was ready for an executive director who could act as a "Pied Piper" from within the technology community, as someone who had had highly public success as a Baltimore technology innovator.

"Sharon did a really excellent job of taking us over the past 12 months from an organization that was trying to redefine itself, and she was absolutely the right person to guide us through that discussion to figure out how we position ourselves. That was her strength. From a need standpoint, the need shifted [for the GBTC].

Hardebeck fit the bill with his recent success with WhoGlue and Facebook, according to Pappas. Plus, Hardebeck was interested in the position and had been a community advocate for years in Baltimore tech circles. The GBTC board unanimously approved the appointment of Hardebeck, Pappas said.

"We needed someone with some street cred who had 'been there, done that' in the technology commmunity," Pappas said.

For the full press release, hit the jump:


Jason Hardebeck, a Baltimore technology entrepreneur with more than 20 years of business experience, is tapped to lead the organization

Baltimore, MD – December 7, 2011– The Greater Baltimore Technology Council today named Baltimore technology entrepreneur Jason Hardebeck executive director.

“Jason is a proven leader with an impressive track record,” said GBTC Board Chair Jason Pappas. “He is well known in the technology community and will make the GBTC the premiere organization serving the region’s technology and innovation sector.”

Hardebeck most recently was chief executive officer of WhoGlue Inc., a Baltimore-based software company that develops social networking and membership management applications. After founding the firm in 2000, Hardebeck sold WhoGlue to Facebook last month.

“The GBTC has tremendous potential to develop into a leading organization to help entrepreneurs and local companies accelerate the commercialization of their products and ideas,” Hardebeck said. “This is something that I am passionate about. The world has changed and the Technology Council should be a shining beacon of our region’s potential to grow world-class technology companies. The GBTC should reflect that vision by emulating industry best practices and infusing our community with new ideas and energy.”
In addition to heading WhoGlue, Hardebeck has held senior management roles with a number of privately-funded and venture-backed technology firms in software development, business-to-business and business-to-consumer internet solutions, and cleantech and renewable energy.

In 2005, Hardebeck was appointed by the Governor to serve as Maryland’s first Entrepreneur in Residence within the Department of Business and Economic Development, and in 2006, he was named executive director of the Maryland Business Council, a business trade organization.

Hardebeck’s corporate experience includes supply chain and marketing roles at Black & Decker, and plant management at Cargill.

Hardebeck graduated in 1987 from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering, and was a Nuclear-Qualified Surface Warfare officer from 1987 to 1992. He holds a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University.

Hardebeck replaces Sharon Webb, who joined the GBTC in December 2010 and is credited with stabilizing the organization during a transitional period.

“Sharon did a phenomenal job bringing the GBTC to this point,” Pappas said. “But the timing is right to reinvigorate the organization so it becomes an outstanding resource and advocate for our growing technology and industry.”

About the Greater Baltimore Technology Council
The Greater Baltimore Technology Council is devoted to expanding the region’s technology community, and supports technology companies with innovative programming, resources, links to capital markets and connections.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

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