February 13, 2012

Moving Day for BaltTech


We have come to the end of the road for this blog template. No longer will I be using Movable Type to craft my pearls of journalism for the blog-reading masses.

Starting early tomorrow, we're switching BaltTech over to the Sun's proprietary content management system, and my blog will look different to you -- and I'll have to learn a whole new way of creating BaltTech content. You won't have to do anything different -- the web address will remain

But! For diligent Baltimore tech scene followers, a word of advice: I'll be I am updating this post with a link to this old blog format, which will be turning into an archive of sorts. This content will continue to stay live on the Internet, but when you search for "BaltTech" on Google and type in, you'll get the new blog layout -- not this one. For the historians among us, if you want to find stuff I wrote about the Baltimore tech scene over the past three years, you'll need to search on this site here, because the new site will not have these posts in its archive.

But, the good news: I'm not going anywhere. I'll still be covering tech, entrepreneurs, innovation and whatever else interests me (or my editors).

And follow me on Twitter here!

And friend-up BaltTech on Facebook here!

Seeya' around.

This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

February 7, 2012

Facebook deletes photo of artful nude pregnant woman on Disney-owned parent-blogging site's FB page

Avert your eyes! Avert your eyes!

This photo was apparently deemed offensive by Facebook, and unilaterally taken down from a page operated by Babble, a popular online site for parents that's owned by Disney, according to Babble.

In a blog post, Babble explains:

Facebook’s community standards specifically state, “We have a strict “no nudity or pornography” policy. Any content that is inappropriately sexual will be removed. Before posting questionable content, be mindful of the consequences for you and your environment.” And today they proved that their definition of nudity is even stricter than ever thought. Earlier this afternoon, a photo of a beautifully adorned pregnant belly was removed from the site because – evidently – it involved unacceptable nudity in the form of a painted breast.

Babble’s social media manager, Andrea Zimmerman, posted the photo in question (above) to our Facebook page a few hours ago, and it received several hundred views before it was deleted by Facebook without warning. This has happened once or twice before to photos on Babble’s account, and Facebook has responded by sending a message warning that if their guidelines are violated too many times, the account will be deleted.

I have asked Facebook to comment. Waiting to hear back.

Update, 5:30 pm: A Facebook spokesperson sends along the following comment:

While we can’t comment on individual cases, Facebook has a strict policy around the prohibition of nudity on the site. This mirrors the policy that governs broadcast television, and which places limitations on nudity due to the presence of minors on Facebook.

In the meantime, is this photo -- a giraffe drawn on a woman's pregnant body -- offensive to you? Are there, perchance, other things you see on Facebook that are more offensive, yet never censored?

Just trying to spark a conversation.....

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:24 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

NFL's online copyright monitor vendor threw flag too soon on Chrysler ad

Yesterday, you may have followed the online back-and-forth here on the much-talked-about Chrysler ad, " Halftime in America," featuring Clint Eastwood. It was knocked off YouTube for several hours yesterday, with only a short notice from YouTube on the site saying they had received a copyright complaint from NFL Properties.

But the NFL said they quickly told YouTube the Chrysler ad was OK.

The NFL said they did not complain about the video. YouTube said they only take down videos when they receive a complaint. Chrysler was just wondering what happened to this video that they had spent a ton of money on, and why it was no longer on YouTube.

So here's the update. An NFL spokesman tells me today that a third-party vendor the NFL uses for "content identification services" had "mistakenly sent a take-down notice." (They declined to name the vendor.)

Says NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy: "We asked Google to reinstate it immediately, which it did. Our office did not object to the ad or its placement online. (It was on yesterday after the game – and continues to be – as part of content along with all the ads that appeared in the game)."

So here's the key part: "The vendor thought the ad was part of the halftime programming, which is protected, and not a commercial."

So the vendor thought Chrysler had taken a portion of the NFL's halftime programming and put it on its own Youtube page. Ooops. Inadvertent flag on the play. Play on.

In a way, Chrysler's ad people should be commended for making such a slick ad that it got confused for NFL programming. NFL programming is very well done.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

"App Economy" created nearly 500,000 jobs: study

A new study from TechNet, a bipartisan advocacy group in Washington for technology companies, says that the growth of "apps" -- from Facebook games to iPhone apps -- has generated nearly 500,000 jobs in the United States since 2007.

This study from TechNet is among the first to grapple with job creation tied to apps that include both mobile and Facebook platforms. Last fall, the University of Maryland released a study that estimated that the Facebook App Economy alone generated 183,000 new jobs.

The TechNet study breaks down the U.S. by state and region, in terms of app job density -- apps created about 466,000 jobs in the country.

(Baltimore accounts for nearly 1 percent of App Economy jobs, per the study. You'll find that number in the full report, attached below.)

Top U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Percentage of App Economy Jobs

New York-Northern N.J.-Long Island………………….. 9.2%

San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont………………………. 8.5%

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara……………………… 6.3%

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue……………………………….. 5.7%

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana………………….. 5.1%

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria………………………. 4.8%

Chicago-Naperville-Joliet……………………………….. 3.5%

Boston-Cambridge-Quincy……………………………… 3.5%

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta………………………… 3.3%

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington……………………………… 2.6%

Top Ten States for App Economy Jobs (Percentage)

California…………………………………………………… 23.8%

New York…………………………………………………… 6.9%

Washington………………………………………………… 6.4%

Texas……………………………………………………….. 5.4%

New Jersey………………………………………………… 4.2%

Illinois……………………………………………………….. 4.0%

Massachusetts…………………………………………….. 3.9%

Georgia……………………………………………………… 3.7%

Virginia……………………………………………………… 3.5%

Florida………………………………………………………. 3.1%

Below is the TechNet study:

TechNet App Economy Jobs Study

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:03 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

February 6, 2012

NFL asks Google to reinstate Chrysler's "Halftime in America" ad

Just got word from an NFL spokesman that the NFL did not ask Google/Youtube to take down Chrysler's popular "Halftime in America" commercial, featuring Clint Eastwood.

From NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy moments ago, via email to me: "The NFL did not file a copyright complaint about this ad with Google. We have asked Google to reinstate the ad immediately. Google is looking into why the ad was removed."

I reported early this morning that the video was blocked on Chrysler's Youtube page, with a notification to viewers that the NFL had filed a copyright claim.

Indeed, the video is now live on Chrysler's Youtube page. See below:

So what happened? Chatter around the web suggests that Youtube may have a very finicky automatic copyright detection filter that went a little over-aggressive today. But I'm waiting to see the official explanation from Google/Youtube.

Update, 4:30 pm:A YouTube spokesperson emailed me to say the following:

YouTube expeditiously removes content when it receives a copyright notification from copyright owners, or from third party agencies operating on their behalf. We reinstate content when we receive a retraction from the party who originally submitted the notification. The video has been reinstated.

I replied to the spokesperson:

The NFL says they never filed a complaint about the video -- even though the video screen said there was a complaint from NFL Properties LLC. Was it taken down due to some type of auto filtering technology that YouTube uses?

Your statement doesn't really say what happened in this case. Thanks.

The YouTube spokesperson's response:

No, a video comes down when we receive a copyright complaint about a specific video from the copyright holder, or from the third party agency that they designate to make such complaints on their behalf.

Then I ask back:

So did the NFL's third party agency make the complaint? Because the NFL itself is telling me they didn't complain.

Are you confused yet? Cuz I am. How did YouTube knock off this Chrysler video for several hours today?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:09 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

Youtube blocks Chrysler's "Halftime in America" commercial for NFL copyright claim

I missed the Clint Eastwood/Chrysler ad spot last night during the Super Bowl halftime, but many raved about it. So I just tried to pull it up on Youtube and was blocked. Apparently, the NFL has made a copyright claim against Chrysler and the commercial, per the message that popped up.

Update, 11:15 am: The NFL just told me they did NOT file a copyright claim. It asked Google to repost the Chrysler ad. Something happened on Google's end to take this video down.
youtube-chrysler-nfl.png I watched the commercial, which is still on Youtube on another official Chrysler account, and my layman eyes and ears had trouble picking out the alleged copyright violation(s). Is it because there was a reference to a football game, during the actual Super Bowl? I don't know.

Any copyright lawyers out there want to share some insight? I have a request for comment in to the NFL for some clarification on what's happening here.

P.S. The "Halftime in America" video doesn't even play on Chrysler's own website, because Chrysler linked to the Youtube video, which no longer plays.

This is unfortunate for Chrysler because it is paying for paid ad links on Google, which is how I found the video on Chrysler's site. Clearly, Chrysler had high, viral video hopes for this Eastwood ad. The ad copy on the site says: Just One Person can start a chain reaction that reaches thousands. Share this video and watch as it spreads across the country.

Update: 8:20 am: I've been in touch with both NFL and Chrysler spokespeople and they're both researching what's happening, before making any public statements. 


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 6:49 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*

February 2, 2012

What the Facebook IPO filing misses: age demographics

I keep hearing in my travels that the young folk (teens and tweens) are using Tumblr alot. Tumblr, indeed, is on a roll.

In the context of Facebook's IPO filing, I went looking for age demographics in its S-1 filing with the SEC.

Guess what? It wasn't there.

With 800+ million worldwide users, Facebook is gargantuan. But the social networking giant hardly gave insight into the demographic undercurrents driving the website's growth, in terms of age.

We've seen some of these graphics and stats elsewhere on the Web before. Like here, for 2010 estimates. And here, for 2011 estimates.

If I were investing in Facebook, I'd like to see more reporting on their age demographic trends. How fast are their various age segments growing? What is user activity among 18-25 year-olds like? What is your most engaged age demographic from a daily-average/monthly-average user perspective?

The only on-point statement I found the filing that addresses the younger demographic is the following: "We also believe that younger users have higher levels of engagement with the web and mobile devices in general and with Facebook specifically. We anticipate that demographic trends over the long term may contribute to growth in engagement as a greater number of users will come from demographic groups that have grown up with the web and mobile devices and who spend more time online every day." (page 46)

To me, one of the biggest competitive threats to Facebook is what online tools a 13 year old is using today to share their lives with friends.

Back in 2008, this chart I found on Myspace and other networks showed that 0-17 year olds were its largest demographic. Next largest? 45-54. And women dominated the site more than men.

AOL was once pretty omnipotent. But guess what? A new generation adopted new tools and new sites. Sure, people are still using AOL (dialup, no less), but AOL is a shadow of its former self.

Another random thought: Facebook has grown, in large part, thanks to women users. Look at the user stats from the above link (yes, this one). There are more women using Facebook than men in every age category.

That's pretty impressive. Women control many household purse strings. They are financial decision makers. I'm not saying this with any gender bias. But women increasingly really are decision makers, and advertisers recognize that. This is a feather in Facebook's cap.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

February 1, 2012

Facebook files for IPO, seeks to raise $5 billion

At 4:47 p.m. today, Facebook Inc. filed its S-1 registration statement as it seeks to go public and raise $5 billion.

Some key facts: from the filing:

* The Web 2.0 company has 845 million monthly active users. It had revenues last year of $3.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2010.

* It had a profit last year of $1 billion last year, compared to $606 million in 2010.

* Facebook has $3.9 billion in cash in the bank.

* Founder Mark Zuckerberg controls 36 percent of Class A shares. Baltimore's T. Rowe Price Group, a mutual funds investor, holds 5.2 percent of shares.

* Here's a monster number: 483 million daily active users (DAUs) on average in December 2011, an increase of 48% as compared to 327 million DAUs in December 2010.

* Zyngaville! Facebook says its relationship with Zynga accounted for 12 percent of its revenues. A healthy amount, but not surprising.

* The filing says Facebook plans to list its stock either on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange (You mean they haven't decided yet?)

* VERY interesting: Because Zuckerberg controls so many shares, the company is "not required to have a majority of our board of directors be independent, nor are we required to have a compensation committee or an independent nominating function."

* Total cost and expenses for running Facebook quadrupled to nearly $2 billion in 2011, from $515 million in 2009.

* Here's a chart of Facebook's history, from the filing:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast

January 31, 2012

Look at how easy it is to organize a tech event in Baltimore

There's been a flowering in Baltimore in the area of event planning and organizing, among the tech/entrepreneurial crowd. Social media has really connected people like never before. One of the more dynamic groups at the moment is the Baltimore Tech Facebook group, which is an organic mass of 600+ members. (Are you a member yet? And while you're at it, follow BaltTech on Facebook too, for news updates from me.)

One of the points I make in today's article is that some of the traditional groups normally behind Baltimore tech events -- TEDCO, Emerging Technology Center, and the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for instance -- find themselves attending as many, or more, independent community events as they now organize for the community. Such as yesterday's Practice Your Pitch event, organized on the Facebook group and held at Naden/Lean in Cockeysville.

Monica Beeman tweeted about Practice Your Pitch here. And I expect local video tech guru Eli Etherton to post a video soon of all the pitches and feedback. I'll post it here when he does.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

January 30, 2012

Baltimore's Lookingglass raises $5 million round of financing

Lookingglass Cyber Solutions, a Baltimore firm which makes some cool cyber security software that gives organizations global insight into cyber threats, said Monday morning that it raised $5 million in a series A round of financing.

Lookingglass, which got its start as an incubated company at the Emerging Technology Center in Canton, lined up West Coast and East Coast investors for the raise, which it will use for marketing, sales and deployment to enterprise customers, it said in a news release

Lookingglass's core product is called ScoutVision, which companies use to "continuously monitor their own networks, the networks of their partners and cloud-computing resources," Lookingglass says.

Lookingglass continues the trend of some local companies straddling both coasts to raise venture financing. Some have told me privately that there just isn't enough local interest in startup tech to put together a round that solely originates in Maryland or the Mid-Atlantic. An interesting post in TechCocktail, featuring Josh Konowe's experience raising money for Uppidy, is one of the latest anecdotes.

I haven't yet interviewed the Lookingglass folks, so I don't know about their personal experience.

The main investor is Alsop Louis Partners, an early stage investment firm in San Francisco. Vital Financial, a private equity and capital investment firm in Bethesda, MD, participated in the round.

Lookingglass disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission in August that it was attempting to raise capital, in a Form D filing. At the time, it said it was trying to raise $500,000.

The company listed its revenues as between $1 million and $5 million.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

January 27, 2012

SpotAgent: Baltimore speed cams account for 27 percent of ticket revenue


Hey, remember when I wrote about these two rascals last year who were using Baltimore city data to help you avoid getting a parking ticket?

Shea Frederick and James Schaffer are still at it with their app idea, And, they're taking they're budding expertise in crunching parking and speed camera ticket data to drop some knowledge about Baltimore's revenues from these tickets.

It's a big money-maker to say the least. Here are some numbers they put together:

* Revenue from speed camera tickets: $9.9 million, accounting for 27 percent of the total $43 million in ticket revenue. (Another $4.9 million, or 13 percent, came from mobile speed cams.)

* Parking meter violations: $3 million, or 10 percent of total ticket revenue.

* Total number of speed camera and meter violation citations issued: 913,000

For the full report, go here to SpotAgent's site.

I'd love to hear from someone in Baltimore City government for some color commentary about these numbers. I'm emailing someone in City Hall this blog post after I post it.

And below are Shea and James from a photo in the Baltimore Sun last year.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

January 24, 2012

O'Malley's digital download tax on ringtones, music, ebooks and more

Maybe you haven't heard: One of Gov. O'Malley's tax proposals this year is to extend the sales tax to digital products. That means digital media you download: ebooks, apps, music, newspapers, videos, ringtones, audio greeting cards and more could become subject to the state's sales tax of 6 percent. So that 99 cents iTunes song you buy would cost around $1.05.

That app you buy would go up a bunch of cents.

:: Here's the Senate bill, put in at the request of the O'Malley administration. The part about digital products starts at page 33.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is skeptical of this tax idea by O'Malley. Their vice president of governmental affairs, in a blog post today, said the organization will work to ensure this digital download tax doesn't become a repeat -- a Tech Tax 2 -- of the failed proposed tax on tech services in 2007.

For years, there's been a steady debate in Maryland about how to address the "sales tax loophole" on the Internet. Consumers who buy goods -- digital and physical -- from online sites that don't have any physical location in Maryland aren't charged the sales tax by the online retailer. Bricks-and-mortar retailers complain about unfair competition. (Note: See my second update below: there is a provision for this type of tax collection in the proposal.)

What other states are taxing digital downloads? I scoured the web for some info on this and I found a Wikipedia list; a proposed bill last year in Congress tried to solve the "who can tax what" conundrum when it comes to digital goods; and Amazon recently striking a deal with Indiana to collect sales tax a few years from now.

On the one hand, states such as Maryland are hurting for tax revenue to close budget holes. Maryland collects taxes on the sale of music CDs, for instance. But when that same music is digital and electronically transmitted, it does not, thus missing out on revenue.

On the other, there may be small businesses out there engaged in the digital download business who worry about new taxes.

Where do you stand?

If you're a ringtone addict, do you think you should now pay a tax? Or, if you're an iPhone app developer for instance, what does it mean to have to collect sales tax on your app sale in Maryland or elsewhere? How would this complicate your business? Or is it not that big a deal?


UPDATE at 3:25 pm: I've gone over the bill a little more closely and, of course, I have more questions. For one, how would the state go about taxing "chat room discussions" and "weblogs" (page 34)? Would this be where a user pays a fee to read or participate in these types of online media, and thus a tax is assessed and collected? (i.e. Online news paywalls?) And what about digital streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime and other services on Apple TV and Roku, for instance? The bill talks about taxing downloads, but is vague on the act of "streaming."

Update #2, at 3:50 pm: Ok, folks, some more closer reading of the bill indicates that there is indeed a so-called "Amazon tax provision" -- see page 42, 11-701(b)1 -- "engage in the business of an out-of-state vendor." O'Malley, like many other governors, does appear to want to collect sales tax from Amazon affiliates, to use the Amazon example, based on my read of the bill.  A business that's sold more than $10,000 worth of goods in Maryland over the previous four quarters, starting July 1, would be subject to collecting sales tax from customers. This type of bill provision has failed in the past, I'm told. 

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:02 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: *NEWS*

Abell Foundation: Waiting for a sustainable online journalism site to fund?

Robert_c._embry%2C_jr.jpgWhen you run in fast local media-gossip circles like I do (ha!), you can't resist the opportunity to ask a local power player whether his foundation is still interested in buying The Baltimore Sun.

Yesterday, I interviewed Robert C. Embry Jr. (left), president of the Abell Foundation, about the philanthropic institution's increasing emphasis on funding local technology startups. Abell has just committed $75,000 to a new group called the Innovation Alliance, which will use the funds to conduct a big survey of what the tech community wants and needs.

Toward the end of my interview with Mr. Embry, I asked if Abell still has any interest in buying the Baltimore Sun. (Abell was reportedly part of a team of local investors, led by Ted Venetoulis, who had floated the idea of buying the Sun about five/six years ago.)

Embry told me that the Tribune bankruptcy (Chicago-based Tribune Co. owns the Baltimore Sun, as well as the Chicago Tribune, LA Times and other papers) muddled the prospects for an acquisition several years ago. Indeed, bankruptcy is a sort of limbo for companies in most cases.

If and when Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, Embry said, "then we would re-open the question."

I also asked Embry if Abell, which has funded high-tech energy and biotech companies lately, has any interest in funding new online journalism startups?

Said Embry: "We've spent a lot of time considering that. A lot of people have approached us with ideas, but we haven't been presented with any that are self-sustaining."

I don't know what Maryland-based online news sites have presented themselves to the Abell Foundation for funding, but I can rattle off a bunch off the top of my head that are a steady part of my local media diet.

There's Baltimore Brew (which did a fantastic job raising $24,624 on Kickstarter -- well over their $15,000 goal.)

There's CityBizList, for Baltimore area business.

And, for state house politics news.

Are these sites "sustainable"? I don't know. At this point, they seem to have had some longevity. They are veterans, in terms of online years. That counts for something.

In fact, in addition to the Sun, which still dominates, there's still a healthy selection of print and online sources of good journalism and opinion-ating around Baltimore, and a little beyond. There's CityPaper, the Daily Record, Caroll County Times, Urbanite, the Patuxent publications, the Gazette, the Washington Post, and Center Maryland. (Update: Yes, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention the Patch sites.)

The not-so-hidden players in the local media scene anymore are Twitter and Facebook. The public has more power than ever before to push stories to the top of a traditional reporter's agenda. And the public can respond to a story -- and the newsmakers behind it -- with online persistence and inquisitiveness.

In the old days, journalists would work hard to find new angles and keep a good story alive every day. (We still do.) Today, the public does the same thing on Facebook and Twitter, if the story means enough to them (us).

Just yesterday, I watched as a story I wrote about the Abell Foundation and the Innovation Alliance immediately got some push-back in the comments section of the Baltimore Tech Facebook group.

Within a couple hours of posting the story, Newt Fowler, head of the Innovation Alliance, was immediately responding to questions from the tech community.

This is truly a revolution in news, information-sharing and accountability.

Sure, we lost the Examiner a few years back, but we've actually seen the remaining publications -- and new ones, including us at The Baltimore Sun -- start to adjust to the online world.

Anybody can make and break news, and anybody can immediately question the newsmakers -- and the news writers. This rocks.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media, Social Media, Startups

January 23, 2012

RIM gets rid of its Noah's Ark problem

noahs-ark.jpg Finally, RIM's two co-CEOs are stepping down. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have been running the company for years, and while at the helm they've enjoyed many, many successes. But the two have also failed to position the company to respond to the dual threats of Apple and Android, in the smartphone and tablet wars.

RIM, who practically gave birth to the modern smartphone with the BlackBerry, has had its lunch eaten by its competitors over the last four years. Actually, make that two lunches: Lazaridis's and Balsillie's.

The company has caught a fair amount of flack for having two CEOs. I've always thought it was so odd that, in a hyper-competitive field, this one big company chose to muddle the chain of command by having two top dogs in these key positions. But wait, turns out they also had two chief operating officers, too! Noah, have you gotten all your animals aboard the Ark yet? How many RIM executives does it take to do one job?

For comparison's sake, here's Apple's executive leadership team. Notice Tim Cook is the CEO and his (apparently) direct reports are all senior vice presidents, with one also being the lone "chief" -- the chief financial officer.

At Google, the search giant recently clarified its upper echelon by making Eric Schmidt executive chairman, Larry Page as CEO, and Sergey Brin as "co-founder." Where Schmidt was once supposedly the adult in the room, while listening to Page and Brin, Page is now in charge.

Here is a previous executive team (an old web page I found via the Wayback Machine.) At one point, RIM had two CEOs, two chief operating officers, and a chief *operations* officer.

And here is RIM's new executive team web page. A bit leaner. They went from eight top execs, to five.

Having these "co-" positions at the highest levels could indicate some problems in management performance and board leadership. Sometimes, people get promoted to a "co" position as a reward for them staying with the company -- and the company doesn't have the fortitude to push someone else out. It's called executive bloat.

Sometimes, it signals the need for what is perceived as a lot of "strategic" thinking and direction, and the thought is that two people are better than one. But the lines of responsibility and accountability get muddled. And there's a danger that the co-executives sometimes end up listening more to each other than the little people down below -- their people on the front lines.

I'm not saying that happened at RIM.

I'm just saying these are the dangers of diffusing leadership responsibility. In RIM's case, they've had four people doing two key roles, and the company has been dogging it the last few years. Let's hope the new guy at RIM -- Thorstein Heins -- takes the reins of leadership firmly.

Image via The Sun/UK.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

January 18, 2012

Updated: Seven of Maryland's 10 Congresspeople have not taken a stand on SOPA/PIPA

{Note: This post was updated below to indicate that Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, who had been listed on ProPublica's website as not having a view on SOPA, does not in fact support SOPA in its current form.}


Everyone is talking today about SOPA, the controversial House bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) and what effect it may have on the Internet, freedom of speech, and e-commerce if it becomes U.S. law.

For a good overview of the bill (and it's sister bill in the Senate called PIPA), check out the Wikipedia entry for it. Wikipedia is one of thousands of websites that have gone on a voluntary blackout today to protest SOPA/PIPA. It's a fascinating day for Internet citizens. They are making their voices heard.

The Obama White House last week came out against the bills as they've been written. Here in Maryland, our state's citizens who are tuned into the debate are eagerly waiting to see what their representatives to Congress think of the pair of bills.

Sen. Cardin supports the bill in broad terms as a co-sponsor, but stated this month that he wouldn't back it in its current form. “I would not vote for final passage of PIPA, as currently written, on the Senate floor," he said in a press release quoted in Talking Points Memo.

According to ProPublica, Maryland's other senator -- Barbara Mikulski -- and eight seven representatives in the House have been silent on the bills.

UPDATED at 3:20pm: However, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, has come out against SOPA in its current form, in recent weeks. He has communicated his position with his constituents (you can see the email in the reader comments below), and an aide to the Congressman alerted me to a blog post today where he re-emphasized his position against SOPA.

UPDATED at 3:45pm: Rep. John Sarbanes put out a statement today saying he was against SOPA in its current form. I predict that we'll suddenly see a few more folks come out against SOPA now that it seems like it's becoming radioactive in Washington.

What do our other reps really think about SOPA and PIPA? Well, we don't know. Yet.

Another site, called SopaTrack, shows how much money each of Maryland's representatives have attracted from pro- and anti-SOPA/PIPA donors. Each representative has received more funding from supporters of SOPA/PIPA -- in some cases, a lot more -- than from the bills' critics.

At this point, SOPA and PIPA seem like a pair of dirty words in Washington. Does anyone really think these bills are going anywhere and won't be dead in the water in a few weeks' time?

Oh, and if you're looking for what some local (Baltimore) musicians think of SOPA, check out the latest from our entertainment blogger Erik Maza.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

January 12, 2012

NFL using court orders to shut down Chinese knockoff-selling sites

In my story today, I looked at how the NFL and its teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, are now closely monitoring the proliferation of China-based websites that are selling counterfeit merchandise to unsuspecting (and, of course, suspecting) U.S. consumers.

The NFL has filed a pair of lawsuits over the past year in New York that have served to take down around 800 websites that they alleged were selling counterfeit jerseys and other unlicensed NFL products, league officials told me.

The NFL, which supports the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is going after these website operators in what has turned into an online game of cat and mouse. It follows in the footsteps of other big brands, such as Polo Ralph Lauren and North Face, in terms of using civil actions to shut down these sites through injunctions and so-called "ex parte" orders.

The most recent NFL case, NFL vs. Momo Lee, et al. was unsealed last month in federal court in New York.

The NFL and the Ravens told me that their efforts are really new within the past year, in terms of tracking these counterfeit sites and trying to shut them down.

Some consumers are savvy and know that they're not buying "the real thing" on some of these sites -- they're just hoping for a cheap facsimile in hopes of saving money and just having something to wear on game day.

But some consumers, like Barbra Skarzynski, were genuinely duped by a website claiming to be official. She ended up with a discolored Lardarius Webb jersey, with his name spelled "EWBB." That's a picture of it below taken by Baltimore Sun photographer Kim Hairston:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

January 6, 2012

Fun facts from Millennial Media's IPO filing

Did you hear? Baltimore's Millennial Media filed to go public yesterday, letting everyone know they hope to raise $75 million from Wall Street to fuel their mobile ad business's growth (and make its founders and early investors rich.)


Up above, those are co-founders Chris Brandenburg (left), chief technology officer, and Paul Palmier, chief executive officer.

Below are some fun facts from Millennial Media's S-1 registration statement with the SEC for its initial public offering:

* Quite literally, the money paragraph (note the improvement in gross margin) and the rapid closing of the gap from a $7 million loss in 2010 to a $417,000 loss in the first nine months of last year: "From 2009 to 2010, our revenue increased from $16.2 million to $47.8 million, or 195%, our gross margin improved from 29% to 34%, our net loss improved from $7.6 million to $7.1 million and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $7.0 million to a loss of $6.4 million. For the nine months ended September 30, 2011 as compared to the same period of 2010, our revenue increased from $29.1 million to $69.1 million, or 138%, our gross margin improved from 33% to 39%, our net loss improved from $5.4 million to $417,000 and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $4.9 million to earnings of $650,000."

* Employee growth: "We grew from 54 employees at December 31, 2008 to 190 employees at September 30, 2011." And more up to date: "As of December 31, 2011, we had 222 employees, of which 72 were primarily engaged in product and technology and 69 were engaged in sales and marketing."

* Fascinating chart of the ramp-up in spending among the top 100 advertisers with Millennial over the last three years:


* The top four executives at Millennial are all over 30 -- and the CEO Paul Palmieri and COO Stephen Root are over 40. (Sorry for pointing this out, Paul and Stephen. But I think it should be made clear Millennial's success as a startup so far is because of some relatively veteran executives, not fresh-faced kids out of college.)

* Those four executives earned this much money in 2011:


* Co-founders Paul Palmieri and Chris Brandenburg own 11.3 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively of outstanding shares in Millennial. Investment firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital are tied for the top shareholder spot, at 20.6 percent each.

* Millennial's five-year lease at the American Can Co. complex in Canton is up in July 2013. It's paying between $21 and $22 per square foot for 16,000+ square feet of space. It's annual lease has gone up from $201,000 in the first year, to $361,000 in its final year of the lease.

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January 4, 2012

BaltTech in 2012


This is the year of BaltTech.

No, not necessarily my blog. But Baltimore Tech.

I'm going into my fourth (calendar) year of blogging about Baltimore's tech scene, and my oh my, how time flies.There's a lot percolating these days, but more on that in a moment.

I started blogging about Baltimore tech in June 2009.

According to my blog dashboard, I've written 757 posts (and each one was a journalistic jewel, of course) and received 2,499 comments -- of which, probably a third were complete and utter spam. (Boo. )Along the way, I've seen my own approach to how I "do" journalism evolve. I think I'm fairly open about the stories I work on, and often solicit feedback, leads and story ideas on Twitter and Facebook. (The community-powered Baltimore Tech Facebook group rocks it, btw. My Facebook page is here -- like it up for BaltTech updates.)

Most of the time, I'm flat-out overwhelmed by the responses, comments and pitches I get. It's hard to keep up. But without question, the "crowd" has a huge impact on my work, my reporting and the stories that I ultimately end up producing. It's pretty darn cool.

Looking ahead, I have some thoughts about where I want to take my coverage of the tech community this year. (And, of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.)

* Biotech: I feel like I am not writing enough about Baltimore's biotech industry. I'd like to do more and I'm open to ideas and pitches. I've done a bunch of "big picture" stories in my time on the beat, and I think in many instances, I need to be looking for broader trend stories. There's very little in terms of "hard news," because big breakthroughs, discoveries and projects often take years to put together. But, I think there's a mix of powerful motivations in biotech. You have researchers who want to cure major diseases, and companies that want to do the same -- plus make a ton of money. And our universities sit in the middle of the mix. Then you have economic development officials and political leaders here in Maryland really taking big, long-term bets on biotech as a major industry in the state. There's a ton more to write, and I've barely scratched the surface. How are those state biotech tax credits really working out, btw?

* InvestMaryland: It's the state program championed by Gov. O'Malley last year that's supposed to pump around $70 million in Maryland startups in the next few years. It's a complicated beast. How will it play out this year? What companies will get funded? Will it really make a difference in the startup ecosystem in Maryland? I expect to follow it closely. The first deadline is Feb. 1st -- that's when insurance companies are supposed to express their interest in participating in the state-run auction to sell off tax credits, to raise money for investing in startups. (Here are links to all I've written about the program.)

* Baltimore's tech scene: I feel like there's an interesting story to tell about Baltimore's tech scene right now, when one looks at it in terms of the universe of the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and the Emerging Technology Center. There's been a lot going on, from leadership changes to the launch of a new accelerator by the ETC. (And at least one more that's apart from the ETC effort, by entrepreneurs Greg Cangialosi and Sean Lane.) There's a lot of debate within the community about whether efforts are being spread to thin. And then of course, you have the big news of Millennial Media, which brings me to my next point......

* Millennial Media: Even before its IPO announcement last week, I had been watching Millennial pretty closely because I knew they were poised for IPO or acquisition. The good news for Baltimore is that Palmieri & Brandenburg and crew are sticking to their guns and going for IPO. This is big news for their business, and the mobile ad sector, of course, but it also has the potential to be extremely influential in Baltimore's tech-and-startup ecosystem. Founder success usually begets new founder success. Mid-level execs who are currently working at Millennial may one day have their own idea for a startup, and with their connections and talent, spin off and do their own thing. In many ways, Millennial has the elements of a deliberate and classic startup story. How Millennial handles its IPO and growth will be an ongoing story that we'll all be watching.

 Adding to the mix, I pay attention to cybersecurity, social media and work/life trends at the intersection of technology. I'm following various companies and startup ventures to see how they progress. I also do regular Q&As with Baltimore biz folks, including techies. What am I missing? What would you like to see me cover more of?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

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.

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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

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:08 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

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.

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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. ;-)

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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.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

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:

Continue reading "Abrupt: GBTC suddenly names new executive director" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 30, 2011

Baltimore startup Woofound raises $750K

A Middle River start-up, Woofound, raised $750,000 in equity financing recently, according to an SEC filing today.

That's a good chunk of money for a startup in Baltimore. That's what 410Labs, co-founded by Dave Troy, raised several months ago.

The Middle River-based company has built a web platform that seems to help people identify their interests in the world using a straightforward ME/NOT ME dichotomy. The company is calling it "intelligent discovery," which seems to be made possible by tagging experiences.

Hmm. I'm eager to try it. Especially on mobile.

For the moment, the website is still in beta (I signed up; waiting approval to join). They've got a mobile site, and are working on native smartphone apps for iOS and Android.

So who's behind Woofound? Daniel Sines is one of the folks listed on the SEC filing. Here's some info about him over at

Here's their video describing the product.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups

November 28, 2011

PayPal: consumers have been pretty busy on Cyber Monday

I just got an email from the PayPal PR folks who are touting some Cyber Monday statistics:

* By mid-day today, PayPal had seen a 514 percent increasing in mobile payments compared to the same period last year.

* And over on eBay, the Cyber Monday special of a white Apple iPad for $449 ($50 off MSRP), sold out in less than two hours today. More than four iPads were bought per minute.

Meanwhile, the LA Times says Cyber Monday this year could reach a record $1.2 billion in sales.

Did you buy anything online today?

Below is a snapshot from Costco's Website -- they sure were playing up Cyber Monday today:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 23, 2011

Facebook buys Baltimore company that sued it: report


Sometimes the surest way to get noticed by a giant is to just sue them.

A small Baltimore company that sued Facebook two years ago was reportedly acquired by the mega-social-networking company earlier this month.

WhoGlue Inc., a company owned and operated by Jason Hardebeck (that's him above), said in an interview this morning that he sold his company for an undisclosed amount to Facebook in early November. The lawsuit that he had filed against Facebook -- for infringing on a patent titled "distributed personal relationship information management system and methods" -- was settled last year in a "very positive" way, Hardebeck said, and he and Facebook execs kept in touch.

"It's not typically how you introduce yourself to someone, to serve them with papers," Hardebeck said. "My experience with Facebook was very positive, very surprising, given its perception in the press and certainly from the movie [The Social Network]. It turns out that they are really good guys."

Facebook has bought several companies over the years. The WhoGlue acquisition appears to be the first acquisition by Facebook in Baltimore. [List of Facebook acquisitions.]

WhoGlue specializes in designing private social networks, for member groups, such as alumni associations. Hardebeck sees a future where public social networks interact with private networks more seamlessly.

He declined to comment on what exactly Facebook acquired from WhoGlue Inc. As part of the deal, Hardebeck ended up buying back some assets, trademarks and customer relationships from Facebook, and formed a new company, WhoGlue LLC, that can continue to operate the same business. WhoGlue had about a dozen shareholders, including the big tech company Siemens, which created the technology in the patent that WhoGlue held.

Hardebeck declined to say if the patent was sold as part of the Facebook deal. But he made clear that his company's sale didn't mean an early retirement for him. He intended to keep working in the same industry.

"Where we intend to go is where the world is going," Hardebeck said. "Eventually, public social networks will need to interact with private social networks."

"What we've beeen working on for 12 years just gets accelerated," Hardebeck said. "There's a very good chance now that we go out and get big fast."

WhoGlue consists of just two full-time employees, Hardebeck and a developer in Berlin. The company also works with contractors, he said.

I have a request for comment into Facebook. The deal was first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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November 21, 2011

Cyber (Mobile) Monday?

Personally, I hate shopping when advertisers and marketers tell me to shop. And I'm just not excited by cutthroat deals on a product, just because it's a great deal and kinda/sorta what I want, but not really.

So what moves my needle? Getting my holiday shopping done as quickly and painlessly as possible, without waiting in long lines and without killing hours and hours sprinting from store to store.

I'm talking quick and painless. And if possible, while sitting on my couch.

For the past couple years, I've done my shopping on my iPhone. Yes, I'm an early adapter. But two years ago, I gave myself a test, to see if I could buy all my Christmas gifts online, with my iPhone. And I did -- while sitting on my couch. I had the gifts shipped either to my house, or direct to my relatives.

If this isn't the future, I don't know what is.

So, for this holiday shopping season, the most interesting tech and retail story to watch will be how mobile shopping fares. Will people be using their smartphones and tablets to browse for gifts from their living room? What if it really booms? How will retailers act and react? No doubt, retailers will have to cater to savvy shoppers who comparison shop in stores with their mobile phones.

Reuters put together a good story on the topic.

Some salient factoids from the article:

The 300 largest U.S. mobile merchants, led by Inc, will generate $5.37 billion in sales through mobile devices this year, more than double 2010, according to a recent survey by Internet Retailer.


The peak day for mobile holiday shopping is expected to be the second Sunday in December (Dec. 11 this year), according to PayPal, the online payments business owned by eBay Inc. That's the last non-work day when orders will be shipped in time for Christmas. Last year on that day, total payment volume, or TPV, transmitted by mobile devices through PayPal's system was $4.7 million. This year PayPal expects more than $10 million of TPV on that shopping day.

I wish I could say I'll see you at the mall this season. But nope, instead you'll find me on my couch, shopping.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 16, 2011

Baltimore's 1st EduHackDay: the results

This past weekend, Baltimore's first "EduHackDay" was held over at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore.

Educators teamed up with computer geeks to build web and mobile apps for education. In many ways, Baltimore is becoming a little hotbed of education technology, and this grassroots effort to percolate ideas was a great effort.

I didn't get a chance to go to the event, because I was out of town. But with the help of Mike Brenner, one of the co-organizers and an advocate and conncector of startups in Baltimore, I'll share some details.

In Mike's words, here's how the weekend-long event unfolded:

We had roughly 70 attendees: ~ 40 developres, 20 designers, 10 teachers. We let the teachers pitch their ideas, read some some educator ideas that were pitched on our wish list from a global pool of teachers, and then let developers come up and pitch their own ideas. From that, we ended up voting on our favorite ideas, ending up with 10 ideas to work on throughout the weekend.

[On the] last night we had the 10 teams demo what they built to a panel of judges and the results are below.

Quick take away from me: I wanted to stimulate more activity from within our entrepreneurial community and thought education was a worthy customer / product to go after. I didn't expect folks to reinvent curriculum this weekend but I wanted to put the right problems and people in the room to show that there's a viable opportunity to build education technology products here in Baltimore. We need to be building less photo sharing apps and instead, more things that are meaningful.

The judges were:

Frank Bonsal, general partner at New Markets Venture Partners
Matt Van Italie, CAO of Baltimore City Schools, KIPP, McKinsey
Brian Eyer, Principal at Digital Harbor High School
Tom “TK” Kuegler, GP at Wasabi Ventures
Tom Murdock, Founder at Moodlerooms
Bill Ferguson, State Senator for Maryland
Scott Messinger, City Schools Teacher & Ed Tech Founder

The winning app ideas:

1st - Digital Harbor

2nd - Pluck

3rd - Pedante

4th - ParentConnect

5th - Board Speak

6th - CheckPlus

7th - Hey, Teacher

8th - What's Due?

9th - Baltimore School Watch

10th - Toader, a MakerBot project

Below are some screen shots of some of the projects:






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Hey Google: Let 410Labs show you how to launch an email app

If you're like me, so much of your emailing -- especially quick, short bursts -- is done while on the move, using a smartphone like the iPhone.

Shortmail, a new product launched by Baltimore startup 410Labs earlier this year, is all about short, quick messaging while tying together email, Twitter and the public Web. A few months ago, I remember asking 410Labs' cofounder Dave Troy if they were planning an iPhone app, and he said one was in the works.

Lo and behold, today it's here in the App Store. And for comparison's sake, unlike the Gmail app, which was introduced a couple weeks ago, pulled for bugs and then reinstated today coincidentally, I haven't spotted any bugs in the Shortmail app (yet). For starters, I like how you can easily claim multiple Shortmail accounts for your Twitter handles. Also, the app has some fun little sound effects, believe it or not. And overall, the design of the app is just fun and easy on the eyes. Kudos to whomever designed it.

FYI: My Shortmail is Gussent(at)shortmail(dot)com.

Here's a look at one of the Shortmail screens:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 15, 2011

Maryland Internet outage survey -- an early trend

We're into Day 3 of the BaltTech Maryland Internet Outage survey, and I want to share an early, interesting trend from this unscientific sampling. Btw, have you taken the survey yet? If not, and you're a Maryland resident, go here to take it -- it'll take you one minute, I promise.

So here's an interesting trend that's emerging already, from 60+ survey takers. The longest period that most survey takers' Internet stopped working was 24+ hours. The next longest is less than an hour. It seems when the Internet goes down, it's either a minor glitch -- or a major one. (The two -- "less than an hour" and "24+ hours" are really neck and neck at this point.)


Please take the survey!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:23 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 11, 2011

BaltTech survey: Maryland Internet outages -- How do they affect you?

This week, I reported here on a Verizon outage that knocked out Internet service to 5,000 customers -- no wait, 22,000 customers -- including 20,000+ Baltimore city government email accounts.

It is difficult to gauge the quality, reliability and accountability of our Internet service providers. So, to follow-up, I'm conducting a survey to gather data from across the Baltimore region (and beyond, too) on these Internet outages. If you're a Maryland resident who has been affected by an Internet outage in the last 12 months, please share your experiences below.

I will share the results (though not any personally identifying information) with readers in a few weeks.

This survey will be open until Monday, Nov. 21st.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:05 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

This Monday: Maryland's first Entrepreneur Expo

Hey -- are you an entrepreneur? Are you busy working your tail off every day to bring your dream to life?

Well, you may want to take a break on Monday to visit the state's first Entrepreneur Expo, over at the BWI Airport Marriott. There'll be lots of networking and schmoozing, I'm sure. And some noteworthy speakers, too. (Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend -- I'll be traveling that day, a "geek on a plane," so to speak.)

There is a registration fee. Details here.

TEDCO, the state agency that's lead organizing the event, says the Entrepreneur Expo will include:

• The Marketplace: home to business, university, technology transfer and entrepreneur exhibits and demos.

• Innovation Launch Pad: featuring Maryland’s coolest entrepreneurs, a panel of judges and live voting.

• Mentoring: More than 50 mentors on-hand all day for one-on-one business consultations.

• Entrepreneur Open Mic: a public forum like no other for entrepreneurs to create their own buzz.

• Social Media Clubhouse: for social media wanna-be’s up to pro engagers.

• Town Square: where all the action begins and continues throughout the day.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Events (Baltimore area)

Baltimore city gov phones set for a big VoIP upgrade

Baltimore's municipal phone system -- the phones that city workers use to do their jobs -- is set for a big upgrade.

The city comptroller's office is overseeing the process, which is moving steadily along. This week, a partnership between IBM and Avaya, was the only entity to meet the requirements for the city's RFP. The next step is for the city to consider a pricing bid from them. So far, IBM/Avaya has estimated to the city that the new system - a Voice over Internet Protocal system, or VoIP -- will cost $7.6 million to implement, according to Comptroller Joan Pratt, who spoke with me on Wednesday.

I hear the city has about 7,500 phones lines. One insight into how the current system works: when daylight savings time occurred last weekend, city technicians how to go to each city building and change the time on a "key system unit" -- a central box used to reset the time on each phone in that particular building, according to Pratt. (No, city techs did not manually change the clocks on every single phone, as one tipster suggested to us.)

With the new VoIP system, a task like a time change across thousands of phones will be able to handled remotely, from one location, according to Pratt.

Interestingly, in 1995, the city upgraded its phone system -- consisting of 9,900 phones -- for $7.2 million. Here's the Baltimore Sun article about it.

In that article, the city touted the savings it would reap -- several milllion a year at the time -- from the then-new phone system. I'll try to find out if the city sees any projected savings this time around with the VoIP system.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Government Tech

November 9, 2011

Verizon Internet outage actually affected 22,000 customers in Maryland, PLUS 22,000 Baltimore city employees

Verizon today revised upward the number affected by an Internet outage early this week to 22,000 customers, including residential, commercial and government, according to a company spokeswoman.

Yesterday, Verizon gave me an initial report that around 5,000 customers had been affected from Sunday to Monday, from the Baltimore metro area to parts of Montgomery County. The cause: a faulty router.

I had wondered aloud on Twitter if that 5,000 number sounded right. Not to toot my horn here, but if not for my questioning, the public would not have a sense of the scope of Verizon's Internet outage. It should not have to be this way.

Should Internet outage reporting by Internet providers in Maryland be more transparent? Should Internet providers give customers -- and the media -- the scope of an outage, so consumers, business and government clients can be informed? So much of our economy and daily living now runs directly through the Internet.

This morning, Sandra Arnette, a Verizon spokeswoman, emailed me the revised number when I asked about outages for Baltimore City employees. Rico Singleton, Baltimore Chief Information Officer, said in a Facebook comment at the Baltimore Tech Page that 22,000 Baltimore city government customers were affected, and the city had to work with Verizon to design workarounds for the network. Those city customers were city employees.

Slightly confusing: Arnette told me that 22,000 was the total outage number for the region, not just for one city agency. But Singleton told me in a follow-up exchange, that, yes indeed, 22,000 city employees' email accounts were affected by the Verizon Internet outage.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:59 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: *NEWS*

Maryland seeking consultant to guide new $70+ million InvestMaryland fund

This past year, Gov. O'Malley and the General Assembly pushed forward the Invest Maryland program, which plans to pump $70+ million into early and seed stage startup companies in the state over the next five years or so, to drive innovation and job creation.

I wrote about InvestMaryland in detail here, including the tax revenue and investment mechanics behind the plan. (Basically, the state is selling tax credits to insurance companies.)

So the state will use a consultant -- who is being sought through the RFP below -- who will advise the state and oversee the various venture capital firms that will compete to receive an investment from the state. Get it?

It looks like this consultant will play a big role in creating the nitty-gritty guidelines of how InvestMaryland will work on the ground and help the state manage a portion of the fund. The consultant will be asked to come up with an investment strategy for the venture capital firms that get access to the state money to invest.

What is not transparent in this RFP is how much the consultant can expect to be paid by the state. All it says is that the contract will be paid based on "mutually negotiated terms" out of the Department of Business and Economic Development's existing fund sources.

The report also lays out a timeframe that we can expect to see InvestMaryland follow as it "comes to market," so to speak. By June next year, the DBED Secretary intends to choose the VC firms that will invest Maryland's dollars in startup companies.

VCConsultantForInvestMaryland RFP

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 8, 2011

Verizon Internet outage: 5,000 customers affected, but you wouldn't know it

Over the last two days, I've gotten reports from coworkers and others on Twitter that their Verizon Internet service was down. It sounded like it was its DSL service, and the reports I picked up seemed to range from around Glen Burnie to North Baltimore. These weren't just people cheesed off about not being able to watch Netflix. These were small business owners who couldn't run credit cards, for instance.

I emailed a Verizon Maryland spokeswoman yesterday. Didn't hear back. Today, I went on Twitter and saw that Verizon had not tweeted about a significant outage in the Baltimore area. The vitriol directed at Verizon over its Internet service (just search @verizonsupport) is a bit astounding. (Sure, there are many who say they love FiOS, to be fair.)

As far as I can tell, Verizon's approach on Twitter was to handle every single customer complaint about the outage with a direct message. I could not find a record of any Tweet by @VerizonSupport that described the outage in broad, explanatory terms to Verizon's customers.

If @VerizonSupport did tweet out information about the outage, then I'd love for someone to point me to it, and I will amend and correct this blog post.

So today, I emailed the Verizon spokeswoman again, and called. This afternoon, I got an email response:

A router went down sometime late Sunday (11/6), early Monday morning (11/7) when a portion of the processing unit failed. Repairs were made and services restored around 3 p.m. yesterday. It’s my understanding that customers still experiencing difficulties need only reboot their routers at home and they should be back in business.

The statement didn't say how many customers were affected. So I emailed a followup question.

The response: Close to 5,000

Five thousand houses were without Internet service in the Baltimore area (updated: and parts of Montgomery County, too), and as far as I can tell, there was no public disclosure of this by Verizon, other than in response to my email questioning.

For comparison's sake, if you visit Baltimore Gas & Electric's website, a regulated utility by the Maryland Public Service Commssion, you'll see this super helpful map of power outages. In Anne Arundel County, six -- SIX -- people were without power on Tuesday afternoon. And BGE disclosed it to the public.

I asked Verizon's spokeswoman, Sandra Arnett, if the company would consider putting up an outage map for its phone and Internet customers.

In a followup email, Arnett told me: We don’t currently have an outage map. But, that is something we hope to develop soon to better keep our customers informed.

Verizon's telephone service is regulated by the PSC. But it's Internet service is not. The obvious question: If Internet service was regulated by the PSC, would Verizon have to do more to inform the community about Internet outages?

If you, as a Verizon customer, call the PSC to complain, it has to be about the phone service -- the PSC will just refer your Internet service complaint to the Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. I'm waiting to hear back from them to see if they received any complaints about the Verizon outage this week.

UPDATE: I spoke with Alan Brody with the Maryland AG's office and he's trying to get me some consumer complaint data for Internet service in Maryland. In the meantime, if you have a complaint about your Internet service (with Verizon or another company), you can call 410-528-8662. 9 am to 3 pm Mon-Fri). Or visit:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:34 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*

Millennial Media snags InMobi exec to launch Southeast Asia operation

The mobile talent wars continue to heat up.

Mobile ad network Millennial Media said that it is expanding to Southeast Asia. It hired an executive away from a competitor -- after surveying numerous candidates -- to lead a team out of an office in Singapore.

Baltimore-based Millennial is a top, independent competitor in the nascent field of mobile advertising, going toe to toe with Google and Apple and others, such as InMobi, in the hot field of advertising on mobile devices.

Millennial hired an InMobi executive in Southeast Asia, Robert Woolfrey, to launch its Singapore office.

Mack McKelvey, a spokeswoman for Millennial, said in an email that Woolfrey's hiring was "more about Robert than his previous employer," and that "numerous candidates" were interviewed. She noted that Woolfrey had six years of collective experience working in mobile in Southeast Asia.

Millennial is a story of rapid growth for a Baltimore company that's at the forefront of the quickly-shifting mobile device landscape. Millennial Media was founded five years ago. It's growth was recently recognized by Inc. magazine in a survey that showed its revenues rose more than 3,000 percent from 2007 to 2010. And revenues last year totaled nearly $48 million.

Stephen Root, Millennial's chief operating officer, told me in an interview that Millennial is looking to hire 15-20 people to be based in Singapore and to cover the region, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Phillipines. " It's incredibly promsing what we can do in the region," he said.

"Our growth this year has been very strong," Root continued. "Things have gone very well in the market."

Millennial has about 200 employees total, with the majority in Baltimore. The company also has offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit. In Europe, it has an office in London and is getting ready to expand into France and Germany, Root said. Also in the works: a Washington DC office, he said.

Millennial has such a strong need for engineering talent, Root said, that it's looking to hire engineers in certain offices around the U.S., in addition to its openings in Baltimore. The company is trying to be opportunistic in hiring hard-to-find mobile talent in whatever markets they can find engineers, he said. But the bulk of the job openings -- 20 to 30 at any given time -- remain in Baltimore, Root said.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 7, 2011

Massive data "pipeline" coming to Johns Hopkins


The National Science Foundation is giving Johns Hopkins University a $1.2 million grant to fund a telecommunications pipeline that will enable researchers to move massive amounts of data each day that's equivalent to 80 million file cabinets with text.

The university says the network will allow the university to quickly transfer large data sets produced today in scientific fields such as "astrophysics, medical research, genomics and turbulence modeling." It will be built at the university's Homewood campus.

The network will be one of the nation's first, public 100-gigabit per second Internet connections, the university said in a statement.

[Above: that's fiber optic cable being stored at an Elkridge warehouse; the fiber will be used by Maryland to upgrade fiber optic connectivity across its municipalities in the next couple years.]

To put the Hopkins announcement in perspective, much of the nation went bonkers when Google announced its contest to give some lucky communities a broadband network that would offer 1 gigabit-per-second speeds. This Hopkins data pipe would be 100 times that size.

So how will this network be used? According to Hopkins, researchers will be able to access large data sets from Google, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the San Diego Supercomputing Center to do research. The University of Maryland College Park's own engineering network is involved in the project, and getting about $250,000 of the $1.2 million in funding to upgrade their equipment and connect to the new Hopkins hub.

To read the Hopkins press release, hit the jump:

Continue reading "Massive data "pipeline" coming to Johns Hopkins" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Monday morning quarterbackin': tech news round-up


Happy Monday! Now get back to work. But before you do, here are some news bits you might have missed this weekend.

* Read about Sean Lane (that's him above) and his hot tech company, BTS, geared towards solving our Defense Department's communications problems in the battlefield. I did a Q&A with him, which was printed in this past Sunday's newspaper.

* Mike Brenner, over at StartupBaltimore, recapped a big deal that occurred in September: Connections Education (formerly Connections Academy), a Baltimore-based company that offers online education programs to public school systems across the country, was sold for $400 million to Pearson, a UK-based publisher and learning services company. That's a big exit for a Baltimore company. I'm waiting to hear more from Connections' CEO, Barbara Dreyer, for an update on its plans.

* And on that note.... Education Hack Day is happening this Saturday/Sunday. Designers, developers (and maybe teachers and even students?) will be gathering to build apps to help teachers and students in the classroom. In my view, education tech is percolating pretty well in Baltimore, obviously with Connections Education, but also with Moodlerooms, Laureate, StraighterLine and a host of other startups and small companies. A lot of folks care about improving education in Baltimore.

* Citybizlist pulled some numbers on what the Groupon IPO meant for some big local investors. Find out how much the Groupon stakes owned by T. Rowe and NEA were now valued at here.

What else did I miss?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 4, 2011

Baltimore cybersecurity firm raising $10M investment fund

cyberpoint-logo-official.pngCyberPoint LLC, a privately held company with offices at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, is spearheading a planned $10 million investment fund that will seek to bring foreign cyber security technologies for sale to federal government agencies.


In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, the new investment entity, Prescint Fund I LLC, disclosed that it had raised $2.25 million so far, with a minimum investment threshold of $250,000. The director of the fund is Gerald Caponera, CyberPoint's director of products.

Caponera oversees a nascent program within the company, called Prescient, that seeks to identify foreign companies with promising technologies that hope to sell to the U.S. government. That's not a typo: the new fund is called Prescint Fund, while CyberPoint's in-house program for tech development is called Prescient.

[As an aside, CyberPoint's security conscientiousness can be seen in how it teases, yet blocks, their employees' identities on its site.]

In an interview today, Caponera said the Prescint investment fund is an independent entity, with its own board, and comprised of some representatives from CyberPoint. He said CyperPoint's in-house Prescient program would be used to cultivate new companies and technologies, but the decision on whether to fund them would be made by the Prescint Fund itself.

"We set up this fund to help foreign companies cross the bridge," said Caponera. "It's a tactical fund. The goal is to make small investments to help bring foreign companies here quickly."

He said the fund would consider technologies in Maryland and across the United States, but there are also technologies in such markets as Canada and the United Kingdom that are worth pursuing.

The Prescint Fund would invest in the technologies and own the intellectual property of any derivative work that's developed, he said.

The funding approach could eventually mean technology jobs for Maryland, if new companies gain access to federal markets and locate some of their work close to the numerous federal agencies in Maryland, according to Caponera.

CyberPoint is extending a business development approach that was developed by Allen Shay, a government contracting expert who used to run a company called Prescint and is involved with the Security Technology Institute.

The original Prescint company had worked in Maryland technology circles to try to help startup companies gain access to federal government contracts, and also attract foreign investment to Maryland. (Here's a version of the original Prescint website that's since been taken down.)

Caponera said that CyberPoint acquired the Prescint business from Shay.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

This week in Google: Barrel rolls, Gmail, Reader and Offers

This week, we've seen Google do a bunch of attention-grabbing things:

1. It launched a Gmail App in the Apple App Store, which didn't work, and then promptly pulled it. (It also redesigned Gmail for the desktop)

2. It redesigned Google Reader, which brought some howls -- and some Google+ integration.

3. It amused Google searchers the world over by making screens do barrel rolls if you simply typed in the term: "Do a barrel roll." Google said they did this to highlight new web-browser technology.

4. And it launched a Google Offers app in the Android Market.

It's been a busy week for Google, although I have to say, I'm not sure if I'm more excited about the Gmail App for iPhone, which Google is still trying to get right, or the Google Offers app. I'm not a big deals scavenger, so I can't see myself using Offers that much. I could get excited about a powerful Gmail app, but I don't know if that's what Google will really deliver for iOS.

Personally, I'd love to see a kick-butt native iOS app for Google Reader.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:51 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 2, 2011

Survey: 2/3 of young workers choose Internet access over car


A new worldwide survey of 3,000 people, including college students and young workers, shows how the Internet has become a primary medium for news, social networking and communication, and for many, as important water, food, air and shelter.

The Cisco Connected World Technology Report can be found here.

It's chock full of snapshots of the Millennial generation, such as: More than half of the study's respondents could not live without the Internet and cite it as an "integral part" of their lives. In some cases, they call it more essential than owning a car, dating, and going to parties.

Indeed, the survey found that 2/3 of global students/young workers would rather have Internet access than a car.

As Fast Company points out, the next generation of workers want full access to social media and the Internet as part of their work life. And they have a whole set of expectations that employers are going to have to grapple with, to keep them happy.

[Thanks to @jessica_lee for tweeting about the report!]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:53 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Social Media

November 1, 2011

BTS: Keeping the Digital Harbor dream alive

For those who've been around Baltimore awhile, you'll recall the term "Digital Harbor" being given to the city in the early 2000s to brand it during the last tech bubble.

A bunch of tech companies that started back then are still around here in the city, but many aren't. But the idea of "digital harbor" still resonates for many, including entrepreneur Sean Lane.

Lane is the CEO of Battlefield Telecommunications Systems LLC, a 60+ firm that's based in Columbia and that started up three years ago to serve government customers. The news today is that BTS officially opened a Baltimore office, at the Foundry on Fort building in South Baltimore/Locust Point.

The office is for a subsidiary, BTS Software Solutions, and has about 10 employees. But the company expects to hire 40 or so people over the next 18-24 months, they tell me.

As far as I can see, this looks like a positive story for Baltimore. BTS builds mobile tactical cellular 3G networks for the military -- so soldiers can use smartphones and even iPads on a networked battlefield. I asked Sean Lane why he chose Baltimore over Columbia or further south, i.e. Bethesda or Northern Virginia, and he said the city has a lot going for it, such as talented workers, a quirky vibe, inexpensive real estate, and a good sense of place. He believes in the idea of growing the city's "digital harbor" economy and community.

I took a tour of the new office on Fort Ave. Lots of rough, exposed brick, bright sunlight, and splashes of red in the new office, which is above the Wine Market restaurant. There's even a ping pong table -- ah, those techies sure love their office games.

Here are some pics of BTS in Baltimore -- yes, that's Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (left) cutting the ribbon with Lane :





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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 28, 2011

TED taps Hopkins brain as a 2012 Fellow

jimmy-lin.pngHere's a shout-out to Jimmy Lin, a Johns Hopkins University Phd/MD candidate who's marrying two cool ideas: mapping genomes and Internet crowdfunding.

His novel approach with his nonprofit startup, Rare Genomics Institute, earned him a spot among the 25 TED Fellows for 2012. Being a TED Fellow is a high profile honor because the group attracts big thinkers from across the sciences, arts and humanities. TED conferences all over the world are typically big events where the overarching theme is a sharing and cross-pollination of envelope-pushing ideas.

TED Fellows get to participate closely in at least one big conference. The TED Fellows program is still young, but it's had over 5,000 applicants over the past few years, with only a few dozen being selected.

Lin, as a TED Fellow, becomes eligible to be chosen as a senior fellow, which is a two-year program that brings them to four worldwide conferences to learn and share new ideas.

I believe that Lin is the first Baltimorean to be a TED Fellow. Good news!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 24, 2011

A Baltimorean in Silicon Valley

The Economic Alliance of Baltimore took 30 business and community leaders on a field trip to Silicon Valley recently. Local entrepreneur and tech-scene advocate Mike Brenner put together a thoughtful post describing Silicon Valley's startup ecosystem -- and how it compares to Baltimore.

Here's the post, over at the Startup Baltimore website.

Some key takeaways that Mike covers:

* Investors are less risk averse in Silicon Valley.... and

* Mentorship is everywhere.

Read the post for more of Mike's observations.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, West Coast

Makers of porn film "Illegal A** 2" going after Maryland illegal downloaders

If you illegally downloaded a copy of "Illegal A** 2" in Maryland, your butt may be in hot water.

Fresh out of federal court a few days ago, we learned that the makers behind the popular porn film have brought their national campaign against illegal downloading to Maryland. (In case you're wondering about the asterisks, I'm not allowed to write the word "a**.")

Third Degree Films, of Chatsworth, Calif., has been pursuing people who downloaded the film through peer-to-peer online media sharing network BitTorrent. The film typically sells in DVD format for $11.49.

In Maryland, Third Degree is seeking the identities of 118 people who they allege illegally downloaded the film. Interestingly, Third Degree claims these people all swapped the exact same file.

The Smoking Gun website reported in July that an unidentified Purdue University college student tried to quash a Third Degree subpoena that sought his or her identity. The website says the main star of the X-rated "Illegal A** 2" is "Sasha Grey, one of porn’s best-known actresses, who has also appeared in HBO’s “Entourage” and director Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 movie “The Girlfriend Experience.”

Third Degree is going after thousands of illegal downloaders of the film, according to the Smoking Gun.

Below, Sasha Grey:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 20, 2011

NYTimes Paywall: "Hold....Hold....Hold....NOW!!!!"


Well looky here once more! The New York Times, watching its revenues and profits drain out to the web, took a gamble in erecting a paywall -- and it seems to be holding.

Better still -- they're actually gaining digital subscribers.

William Wallace would be proud. New York Times execs have not yet had to drop their sharpened spears and nicked shields in the face of the everything-should-be-free-on-the-Internet hordes and head for the last refuges of newspapers executives, that is the twin ivory towers of academia and public relations.

In its third-quarter earnings release today, the NYT reported that digital subscriptions rose to 324,000 -- compared with 281,000 in the previous quarter, according to Bloomberg. [Here is the NYT official news release on their earnings today.] In total, the NYT has 1.2 million regular digital users.

Meanwhile, even as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun (and Boston Globe and Dallas Morning News....) turn toward digital subscriptions, the Washington Post's publisher today told Politico that that paper ain't going paywall anytime soon.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:33 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Media

Lytro: a light field camera that makes "living pictures"

Huh? Light field? What's that? And why is it in a camera?

I vaguely remember reading something about light field cameras awhile ago and passed it off as future tech that wouldn't see the market for some time.

But I was wrong.

A company called Lytro is bringing light field camera technology out of the lab and putting it in a little eight-ounce body starting at $399. They unveiled it yesterday.

The killer tech behind it is that the camera is able to capture the entire light field in your shot, and not just a single pane of light, according to the company. This effectively means that you can shoot out of focus and then re-focus the shot after it's been taken. Or you can choose to focus on a part of the photo that was previously out of focus.

No auto-focus and no shutter lag, the company touts. So you're presumably taking pictures faster. Here's a photo gallery of Lytro photos.

Killer possibilities for the photographers and photo editors of the world, for sure.

But some of us like zooming in and focusing, don't we? I mean, part of the fun of photography is making choices about what to shoot in the field. It's an exercise of the mind, not just the eye and the fingers. It's not about snapping away at everything and focusing later in post-production.

Or maybe that's what it will soon be about.

Once again, it seems photography is on the verge of changing all over again with light field technology.

Below is an embedded image of a Lytro camera shot. Click on the image with your mouse to re-focus it. Pretty cool stuff.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

October 19, 2011

Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" coming in November


Well, looky here: I can't unlock my iPhone with my face? Can you?

Facial recognition to unlock the phone screen is one of the many features being introduced by Google in its latest Android update 4.0, aka "Ice Cream Sandwich." It's coming in November, but the software developer kit is being released to developers today, according to multiple reports.

Google announced the news today, along with a new flagship handset, the Galaxy Nexus, the first phone with Ice Cream Sandwich.

The updated 4.0 OS is being touted as a more refined user interface, according to This Is My Next. That site has a good rundown of the changes.

PCWorld's Sascha Segan thinks Ice Cream Sandwich could help Android flourish on phones and tablets, but the platform still has its problems with fragmentation, slooooooooow updates and poor app discovery in the Android Market.

Interestingly, Andy Rubin, of Google, told This Is My Next that he doesn't think there should be apps specific to phones and tablets. He thinks one app should be able to scale to both devices.

I have to respectfully disagree. I think accomplishing that scaling is hard to do well, and you may end up sacrificing some of the uniqueness inherent in each platform. I think people are willing to pay for a unique, specific, and refined tablet experience that can't be replicated on a smaller phone screen. I expect different -- and sometimes more -- from a tablet app than I do a phone app.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 12, 2011

AirPlay mirroring in iOS5: Oh, this can be big -- really big -- for Apple TV.


When I finally get around to downloading iOS5 for my iPhone and iPad, I'll certainly appreciate the 200+ new features that Apple is introducing with this big, free software upgrade, such as full Twitter integration, iMessage and Reminders.

But the big one I'm looking forward to? AirPlay mirroring. (SplatF's Dan Frommer's post about his most anticipated iOS5 updates got me thinking about this topic this morning.)

So what is AirPlay mirroring and why will it matter for users and the Apple TV? (Note: As a commenter below states, the AirPlay mirroring feature is only available for iPhone 4S and iPad 2.)

AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi content-streaming technology that enables you to push music and video from your iDevice to your television, with Apple TV ($99) as the wireless intermediary that makes it happen. Since I've owned an Apple TV, I've streamed photos, videos, and music from my iPhone to my TV. For instance, I take a bunch of photos of my kids playing outside and later, when we're inside, I flash those photos quickly on my TV. Wirelessly. Simply.

Now, AirPlay mirroring will allow you to mirror the entire iPhone or iPad, including all your apps. Suddenly, you can presumably start playing an iPhone game, and shift it to play on a bigger screen.

Or how about that Keynote or PowerPoint presentation you've been preparing? Imagine you have a demonstration to present to a group, and there's a 50-inch TV in the conference room. You bring your slim Apple TV and your iPhone/iPad and, bam!, you're giving a presentation without a laptop.

I really believe if Apple sets up a couch, a big-screen TV, an Apple TV and an AirPlay-enabled iPhone or iPad in each Apple Store, the company will see its Apple TVs fly off the shelves in short order. So much for Apple TV as a side "hobby," as Steve Jobs once called it.

I really believe AirPlay mirroring can be the sleeper hit feature of iOS5, which actually drives more hardware sales for Apple.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:37 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Wireless

BlackBerry outage comes to U.S., Baltimore

I just got an email from our corporate parent's help desk notifying us of a BlackBerry outages affecting email, text messaging and Internet service.

How many other corporate IT departments are sending out such an email across the U.S. this morning? And how many municipal governments, who rely on BlackBerrys for critical communications, are also affected?

In Baltimore, the city employees' BlackBerry services are down, according to Rico Singleton, in a brief email. He did not provide a number for city workers affected.

Reuters reports that Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, is saying that some clients are experiencing outages in the Americas. It's the third day of outages around the world for the Canadian company, and a serious setback for its legions of business customers who rely on these smartphones for communications.

Search for "BlackBerry outage" on Twitter to find remarks and other news articles about the topic.

For you loyal BlackBerry users out there, is this outage the last straw? Will you switch to iPhone or Android or Microsoft phones?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:23 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

Two tech events not to miss this week: TechNite and UMD Boot Camp

The two tech events that should be on everyone's calendar this week will offer up a double-dose of networking opportunities and food for thought.

First, tomorrow night is the annual TechNite, the annual showcase hosted by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, featuring some tech exhibitions and major networking opportunities. Also, there's a bit of a milestone here: this year's TechNite's top two major sponsors, for the first time, are technology companies: and Millennial Media.

This is significant, in my view. In the past, the top sponsors have usually been deep-pocket service providers, such as law and accounting firms. It's gotta be a feel-good moment for those in the tech community to see two of the biggest names in local tech take the top sponsor spot. Tickets are here -- can you get your company to pay for it? :-)

The second big event is Friday, at the University of Maryland College Park: It's the UMD Technology Startup Boot Camp, starting at 10 a.m. I've been to this in past year's and it's a cool day of programming and networking, ripe for people interested in partnering with University talent or getting access to some professional business plan development.

Here's the full agenda.

Unfortunately, you won't see me at either TechNite or the boot camp, because I've got some family commitments. But I'll be following the tweet streams closely.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 11, 2011

UPDATE: Facebook app bricking iPhones -- Facebook apparently working on a fix


For the latest update, see below.


It happened to me this morning: I downloaded the new Facebook app update for the iPhone and minutes later, my iPhone 4 fell into a dark coma.

I reset it several times (hitting the power and home buttons at the same time), then plugged it into my computer and iTunes. Twenty minutes later, it was back to normal. I deleted the Facebook app and reloaded it a few minutes ago.

It wouldn't download to my phone.

This appears to be a common problem, if you look at Twitter and search for "Facebook iPhone brick." Or just search for "Facebook iPhone." How common? Don't know yet. But it's clear Facebook has some type of quality control issue with the app.

On Apple's discussion forums, people have been talking about an apparent bug in the Facebook iPhone app. Check out: "Did the Facebook app update kill my phone?"

Did the Facebook update brick your iPhone? What are you doing about it?

UPDATE: At about 2:30 pm today, a Facebook spokesperson emailed me the following statement:

“We test all products vigorously before we launch them. However, as with all new technology products, occasionally unexpected bugs will surface once people start using products on a mass scale. We are committed to providing the best user experience possible, and are listening to and following up on feedback.”

In a followup email, I asked when an update that fixes the problem will be released, this person replied: "Will come back to you on this."

So, I guess we wait.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:32 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 10, 2011

Did Steve Jobs have OCD?

"For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through." -- Steve Jobs, as quoted in the Economist.

Journalists routinely pepper their copy with everyday terms that sometime have deeper meaning in a medical setting. Today, I'd like to consider the term "obsessive," as it has been applied to Steve Jobs in articles about him since he died last week.

A search of the Nexis news database turned up the word "obsessive" in connection with a Steve Jobs-related article a total of 68 times in the past week.

Numerous news reports have noted Mr. Jobs' "obsessive" attention to detail and perfection in the products he brought to life. Indeed, when you get past the tribute articles and dig deeper into Mr. Jobs' past, you find stories of him being tyrannical and harsh as a leader, paying exacting attention to details that he undoubtedly paid other top executives to monitor. But the vision of Mr. Jobs that we seem to get is of someone who just can't help but be involved in every single minute step of the process of product development and marketing.

So, I ask: Did Steve Jobs have obsessive-compulsive disorder? A search via Google today didn't turn up much, except for an OCD blogger taking on the topic (sort-of). Type into Google News "Steve Jobs" and "obsessive" and you find articles where journalists and bloggers used the term to describe him, i.e. "obsessive visionary."

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder? Many people's frame of reference about OCD is really informed by compulsive behaviors. Checking the lights, checking the door locks, checking the stove knobs, walking on sidewalks a certain way -- the behaviors that an OCD sufferer HAS to do. If not, they risk overturning their entire daily routine.

But not many really consider the "O" in OCD -- the obsessive thinking, the repetitive thinking, the attention to detail. The inability to not think about something for long stretches of time -- even if you just don't want to think about it any longer.

Or, to note the phrase Mr. Jobs uses himself, the inability to sleep well at night when thinking about something to no end. There are many, many people in this world who sleep very well at night without obsessing about the supposedly minor details that Mr. Jobs apparently did. So why did he?

Here's the NIH's definition of OCD. Sufferers with severe OCD often have a real hard time functioning in daily life. But as with many types of medical diagnoses, there's often a spectrum of behavior and functionality.

Look -- I never met Steve Jobs and I'm not trying to commit an armchair diagnosis here. I don't have a medical degree. People keep referring to his "obsessive" behavior as a leader and innovator, and I think the question is worth pursuing. What makes "genius"? What are the qualities of a true innovator? Does obsessiveness play a role?

My hope is that the official biography of Steve Jobs, due out later this month, really gets to the heart of Mr. Jobs' psychological state. If not, author Walter Isaacson will have missed a huge opportunity to inform us about the inner workings of the inner mind of Steve Jobs.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:53 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*

Technology, social media disrupt Baltimore's tech association

sharon-webb.PNG I recently caught up with Sharon Webb, the new-ish CEO of the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for a nice long chat about technology, the GBTC, and entrepreneurial activity -- oh, and raising multiples. (She's a parent of triplets and I have twins.)

Since I've been covering local tech the last 2+ years, I've definitely noticed a big surge in networking and startup events. The GBTC is sometimes involved, sometimes not.

So the main line of questioning I took with Sharon was: Can the GBTC be relevant in a world where anyone (with a half decent reputation and set of connections) organize meetups, talks, breakfasts, panels and events.

Here's the full interview with Sharon. Take a look.

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Netflix abandons Qwikster plans in embarrassing reversal


Can you say: D'oh!

Recently, Netflix said it was going to raise prices and split off its video streaming service from its DVD rental service.

The plan was to maintain as a streaming-only service. And a new venture,, would be for customers interested in only DVDs.

But, customers hated the idea -- and left in droves. Netflix slashed its third-quarter subscriber forecasts by a million, according to the WSJ.

So today, Netflix reversed course. In a blog post, the company said "two websites would make things more difficult" for their members. And, no more price increases, the company promised.

Up until this debacle, Netflix could do little wrong. But their reputation has taken a hit with these changes, course reversals, and back-trackings. Is this a chance for competitors to swoop in?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:38 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 6, 2011

Reflections on Steve Jobs


[Image via]

The news that Steve Jobs had died flashed on my iPhone last nite -- and hit me like a punch in the gut. My wife and I were talking to my mother on my iPhone when the AP alert dinged. I looked around on my kitchen table as the news sunk in. On the table were two iPhones and a new MacBook Pro. Nearby, an iPad lay on its back.

Here I was surrounded by stuff that this man had willed into reality. And all these gadgets were now an intricate and important part of my life. Ninety percent of the photos and videos I've taken of my three young kids have been with iPhones -- and Steve Jobs put them in my hands.

We don't just build and use tools to make things. These tools, in turn, re-make us.

So much has already been written about the impact of Steve Jobs on the world of technology and business, and on industries such as computers, music, and software.

But this blog post isn't about that. This is about the impact his vision has had on me and my family.

Ever since my young daughter was about six months old, she was handling an iPhone. She learned the sounds and images of animals on it. She learned her numbers and letters on it and later, an iPad. She was touching digital screens with fingers that were only a few millimeters wide.

She has grown up in a touchscreen world that largely Steve Jobs help bring about in the last four years. Now, when she sees a screen, she touches it, expecting the digital world to also deliver her a tactile experience.

This is new for all of us.

At 2 1/2, she started using the MacBook Pro and playing basic games that helped sharpen her memory. She has an incredibly scary memory already.

So last night, as I was tweeting my thoughts on Jobs' death, I pulled up Apple's website, which had posted a photo of Jobs and a warm message. My daughter sat on my lap and asked: "Daddy, who is that?"

I actually choked up. I said, "That's the man who invented our iPhones."

"Awwwwww," she said, with a smile. I couldn't bring myself to tell her he had died.

I came to appreciate -- and afford -- Apple relatively late in my life. Their products were never cheap, but they often satisfied and delighted, usually. And of course, Apple itself wasn't always hitting homeruns with its products, but on balance, its last decade has been pretty amazing.

No, I grew up in a PC household, where my computers were more like pack mules than exquisite machines. Oh and they were loud, with buzzing and whirring fans at all hours of the day and night.

My first Apple product was a 30GB iPod with video, seven years ago. I'm sure the iPod was the "gateway drug" for many who've adopted Apple products in recent years. It was different, small, powerful and easy to use. When it came time to buy a desktop computer a few years later, I had arguments with my wife over whether we should stay Mac or go PC. She was highly skeptical. She wanted to stay PC because it was compatible with her job's software. I wanted to go Mac because I believed it would help my creative exploits on the Web.

I won that argument (but have lost many, many since.) And now, my wife is indeed a Mac convert. (Guys -- it's a LOT easier to open up the wallet nowadays for tech purchases when the spouse is on board.)

From there, we got iPhones, iPads and a MacBook. They've all "just worked" wonderfully. The retail experience and customer support at the Apple Store in Towson is, by and large, excellent. It's just always crowded.

In my view, I think so many people -- tech geeks, customers, fanboys -- connected with Steve Jobs not only for his flair and showmanship, but in his ability to make you believe that he had your best interests in mind. This was part of the mythical "reality distortion field" that so many thought Steve Jobs could ensnare people with -- it even has its own Wikipedia entry. He projected the attitude of a guy who didn't tolerate crap for himself, and he wasn't going to let you, his customer, deal with crap either.

His passion and zeal for making cool stuff was real, and he brought us all along for the ride.

Thanks for the wonderful ride, Steve. RIP.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:38 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 4, 2011

The new iPhone 4S: Same design, new guts inside, sold by Sprint now

Can your wallet take the debut of another iDevice?

Today, at 1 PM Eastern/10 am Pacific, Apple's Tim Cook will take to the stage at the company's Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to unveil what many believe to be a new iPhone.

I expect the fireworks to be more about some killer software (i.e. rumors of a very "world changing", powerful voice integration/assist feature) rather than hardware, though there will be some hardware upgrades, too.

It's been more than a year since Apple came out with the iPhone 4, which has been a smash success despite the early complaints about its antenna. (Remember "antennagate"?)

I'll be posting highlights here of the announcement as it happens, and will share links to other resources online that are covering it, too.

Places I'm watching Apple live-blog updates: and

Stay tuned.......


The event has started. So far here's what's new:

* Apple introduced a new App called "Cards," which allows user to design their own greeting cards with their photos on their mobile device. Apple then ships it via USPS. Watch out, Hallmark!

* So far, there's been a lot of rehashing of the new features coming via iOS5, the next software update for iPhone, iPod and iPad devices.

* A new Apple app called Friends and Family, for sharing locations with trusted groups of people. Watch out, Foursquare.

* Just introduced: The Apple iPhone 4S. Same design as iPhone 4, but new electronic guts inside, include a dual-core processor chip. Also, it's a "world phone", meaning it works on both GSM and CDMA networks. CDMA is common in the US but GSM is huge in Europe. Apple going for world domination.

* New tech: a digital voice assistant that makes it easier than ever to interact with your iPhone and retrieve information. We'll see how it works IRL.

* Sprint gets invited to the iPhone party! So now AT&T, Verizon and Sprint -- the big three -- will have the iPhone.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

October 3, 2011

Apple iPhone 5 -- aka "iMaggeddon" -- tomorrow?

The next version or generation of the iPhone is expected to be announced tomorrow at Apple's headquarters, and it will likely go on sale in the next few weeks.

The likelihood that you'll be able to buy one before Christmas? Zilch.

Okay, maybe I'm being over-dramatic, but ... remember trying to get hold of an iPad, an iPad 2 or an iPhone 4? It wasn't THAT easy. You had to hustle and think ahead. And you usually had to have the stamina and patience to -- gasp! -- wait in a long line.

A survey last month projected unprecedented demand for the new iPhone. [CIO covered the survey here.]

So what is the tech media saying about "iPhone 5", aka "iMaggedon"?

Take a look:

* PCWorld's looks at the theories of what to expect.

* throws water on the iPhone "5" rumor and says we're really only getting a souped-up iPhone 4.

* This WSJ piece talks about what many others have speculated -- the newest iPhone will have enhanced voice and speech recognition abilities.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. scores $1.25B anthrax vaccine contract from Feds

Emergent BioSolutions Inc. today said it won a huge government contract to supply 44.75 million doses of its anthrax vaccine, worth up to $1.25 billion over five years.

Emergent's Biothrax vaccine is the only anthrax vaccine approved by the FDA. It has already delivered 55 million doses of the vaccine under various previous contracts with the federal government.

The Rockville based company has a manufacturing plant in Baltimore that's currently under renovation, and is not operating.

According to a press release this morning: Initial deliveries under this award are expected to commence in 2011 with 8.5 million doses scheduled to be delivered during the first contract year. Deliveries are scheduled to continue, subject to availability of funding, through September 2016. The company retains the ability to modify the timing of deliveries depending on manufacturing yields and other factors.

The press release is available on the jump:

Continue reading "Emergent BioSolutions Inc. scores $1.25B anthrax vaccine contract from Feds" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech

August 29, 2011

Amazon tablet could take a bite out of Apple's iPad: report

An analyst with Forrester Research predicted today that if launched an Android-based tablet in the fourth quarter, it could end up selling three to five million units -- a significant chunk that could eat into the iPad's market, according to a Reuters report.

The article notes that Apple has sold 30 million iPads, while its rivals -- Motorola, Research in Motion and Samsung, to name a few -- haven't been serious competitors.

What I like about this speculation:

1) Amazon has had some success with the Kindle, so these rumors point to indications that it may be gaining confidence in designing hardware. And apparently, Amazon is willing to sell the Kindle at a loss, and make its money through ebooks -- so it is indeed a "nasty competitor," per the Forrester analyst.

2) E-books are turning into a big business, and Amazon is a huge player -- meaning that users of an Amazon tablet will have access to a robust ebook marketplace at their fingertips. Amazon is also selling other virtual goods -- i.e. music, videos -- as well as physical goods. I wonder how an Amazon tablet can change the retail physical-goods buying experience, as opposed to just the virtual one.

What doesn't make me optimistic about an Amazon tablet offering:

* Apple's now got 100,000 iPad apps. Android Honeycomb has a pittance of around 300, according to Forrester/Reuters. Tablet buyers want confidence that they will have a deep catalog of apps to choose from. Not a month goes buy that I don't discover a new iPad app that completely changes how I use the device. App developers aren't building tablet apps for Android. It's the chicken-egg scenario all over again for Amazon.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:36 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

College presidents: there's value in online courses

The impact of the Internet on a university education is real.

About half of college presidents say that their online university courses provide the same educational value as those that students take in physical classrooms, but only a third of Americans feel the same, according to a new Pew Research Center report released yesterday.

(Mind you, in my view, it behooves college presidents to trumpet the value in their online courses, partly because such courses offer flexibility and attract non-traditional students. Also, the profit margins of such courses are generally higher.)

The survey showed that more than three quarters of institutions now offer online courses. Half of the presidents believes that most of their students will be taking courses online.

Some other findings direct from the report:

• 15% of college presidents say most of their current undergraduate students have taken a class online, and 50% predict that 10 years from now most of their students will take classes online.

• Nearly two-thirds of college presidents (62%) anticipate that 10 years from now, more than half of the textbooks used by their undergraduate students will be entirely digital.

• Most college presidents (55%) say that plagiarism in students’ papers has increased over the past 10 years. Among those who have seen an increase in plagiarism, 89% say computers and the internet have played a major role.

• The leaders of the nation’s colleges and universities are a tech-savvy group. Nearly nine-in-ten (87%) use a smartphone daily, 83% use a desktop computer and 65% use a laptop.

• College presidents are ahead of the curve on some of the newer digital technologies: Fully half (49%) use a tablet computer such as an iPad at least occasionally, and 42% use an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Cool app: University app turns smartphones into live broadcast tool for security

Computer scientists at the University of Maryland have built a first-of-its-kind smartphone app that automatically connects students and staff with campus police by opening up video and audio feeds on their devices.

The app is called "M-Urgency," and for now, it's going to work with Android phones. An iPhone version is coming for the campus.

I have more details in my Sunday story about the app and the burgeoning business of campus security apps.

But don't expect those quaint "blue light poles" -- the ones with the phones that patch you through directly to campus security -- to go the way of the dodo bird anytime soon.


[Image source:]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets, University Tech

Hacking email, government: a conversation with Dave Troy


I recently sat down for an interview with Dave Troy -- CEO of 410Labs and longtime Baltimore-area entrepreneur -- over Skype. You'll see a tightly edited portion of that interview in the above video.

A more in-depth representation of the interview can be found at this link.

Troy is not your ordinary computer geek. He's a bit of a Renaissance man, in fact. His interests vary from computer programming to the environment to politics. At the intersection of many of his interests is his belief in the power of technology and the Internet to improve society, and specifically, the functioning of government, for the people, by the people.

I've thought some about how technology impacts government, and I've taken to heart one of the central points of Evgeny Morozov's recent book, "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom." Morozov gives examples of how the Internet was used in other countries, not only by government critics and revolutionaries, but by the established government power structure to further monitor and repress people.

This is the larger debate we face as a society. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus are all wonderful tools for connecting people. But there are also powerful interests -- governments, corporations, etc. -- that are increasingly handling their dealings with individuals with more sophistication.

Case in point: Techdirt today reports on a DOJ report obtained by security blogger Chris Soghoian that showed requests for warrantless "emergency" ISP requests quadrupled in 2009.

And in other news: The Obama Administration refused to release the Bush Administration's legal rationale for allegedly illegal wiretapping of Americans.

So yes, the power of the Internet cuts both ways for us, at the same time enabling and hindering our freedoms in the hands of different players.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks, Startups

August 25, 2011

Tech firms top Inc. list of fastest-growing Maryland companies


The Inc. 500/5000 was recently released and it ranked the top fastest growing Maryland companies, based on their three-year revenue growth rate.

This is a GREAT list that offers insight into the revenues of dozens of privately held companies. (Admit it: you're nosy like me and want to know what all these small companies are all making around us!)

There are numerous technology companies on this list, some of which I've written about, such as Millennial Media and Aegis Mobile (Maryland's high-tech firm of the year).

The list also is an indicator of the types of businesses that are strong in Maryland: innovative energy and technology companies, systems integrators, cybersecurity and software and project management firms. Firms that deal in government contracting are, of course, well represented.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:44 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

August 24, 2011

Steve Jobs resigns from Apple CEO post

Multiple reports breaking now about Steve Jobs resigning from the CEO post at Apple:

* WSJ has the press release.

* Fortune's post.

* And Reuters has a blurb.

* Engadget's take. Shocking indeed. But he has been fighting serious illness.

* Techcrunch's report.

* And the Twitter search stream for "Steve Jobs."

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 6:45 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Baltimore's first earthquake tweet


We all know by now that social media, specifically networks such as Twitter and Facebook, played a big role in connecting people after yesterday's earthquake. [Note:Did you see my story about it?]

Well, the folks at Twitter sifted through all those messages yesterday and then emailed me with some interesting facts, including Baltimore's first earthquake tweet.

The tweet came from Verna-Catherine (@prettyinbluee_) Her first tweet was "Earthquake?" (see above)

At first, as you see by her tweets, she thought someone was breaking into her house. Then, she grabbed her dog and her TV.

Here's the tweeter -- she's fast with her texting. Someone in the media should think about hiring her!


My favorite tweet of hers: "People just happy that something interesting happened in MD."

Some other earthquake facts from Twitter, courtesy of PR person Jodi Olson:

* A Tweet can reach your followers in less than a second. So in areas far from the epicenter, some people read Tweets about the quake before they felt it.

* Within a minute of the earthquake, there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related Tweets.

* Twitter hit about 5,500 Tweets per second (TPS). For context, this TPS is more than Osama Bin Laden's death & on par with the Japanese quake.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:38 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones, Social Media

August 22, 2011

BestBuy offering free iPhone 3GS with contract

Word is out on the Internets [MacRumors] that Best Buy is offering the iPhone 3GS for free with a two-year contract with AT&T.

It's a "Deal of the Day" so this may mean it's only a one-day deal.

If you've never owned an iPhone before, should you jump on it?

My recommendation: If you must get an iPhone, save your pennies up and get the iPhone 4. Or at least wait another month or two for the next generation iPhone.

The iPhone 3GS was an excellent phone -- 18 months ago. But there's a lot you can do now with iOS that seems clunky on the 3GS, i.e. Facetime and Skype video chatting with ease. iPhone 4 is also a faster experience, and the retina screen causes far less eye strain. If you sign up for a two year contract with 3GS, that's a long time to go with yesterday's tech.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

August 19, 2011

BioMarker Strategies, Baltimore biotech startup, files for $4M capital raise

Baltimore biotech startup BioMarker Strategies, which is based over at the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins in East Baltimore, filed notice today with the SEC that it's intending to raise $4 million in equity financing.

So far, the company has raised $1.1 million. This would be the second time in about two years that BioMarker has sought to raise money from private investors; it has also tapped into the state's biotech tax credit, to lure investors to invest in them.

BioMarker describes itself "a tissue-based cancer diagnostics company" that's working on a live tumor cell testing platform for improving the treatment cancer. It's received funding from the National Cancer Institute.

I wrote at length about BioMarker in 2009 (my, how time flies!). Here's the story if you want to learn a little about the company's history and founders.

[Correction: Earlier, this post incorrectly stated the number of times BioMarker has sought to raise money. I regret the error.]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Un-exclusive: Apple working on iPad 3

Stop the presses: Now we have word that Apple, not content to rest on its iPad and iPad 2 laurels (and profits), is indeed preparing an iPad 3! With a better display!

Get the real scoop from the WSJ, who's on it.

It's coming in "early 2012." And no, this one probably won't have Flash capability either -- get over it already!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

August 18, 2011

Apple CEO Steve Jobs' wife donated to Otis Rolley

Fresh off Twitter, supporters of Baltimore mayoral challenger Otis Rolley are letting it be known that Steve Jobs's wife -- Laurene Powell Jobs -- has donated to his campaign.

See some tweets here:!/search/laurene%20jobs

I've reached out to the Rolley campaign and to Steve Jobs himself (I think I have his email) for confirmation. I can't seem to find any contact for Laurene Powell Jobs.

A search of Maryland's campaign finance database shows that a "Laurene Powell Jobs" donated $2,000 to Rolley on Aug. 3.

A woman by the same name also gave $1,000 to Bill Ferguson.

The news was broken on the Facebook page, Baltimore Tech, by Tom Loveland, a Rolley supporter. See here:

I'd love to get confirmation of this from the real wife of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, just to make me feel comfortable. Laurene -- if you read this, shoot me an email at Thanks.

Update: Dan Fee, a Rolley spokesman, said in an email to me:

Yes, Otis was very pleased to receive a contributions from Mrs. Jobs. She is a nationally renowned education advocate and as the only candidate in the race who has proposed a plan to improve Baltimore's education system, we were honored to receive her support.
Otis reached out to her because of her strong support for improving schools for every child.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

August 16, 2011

Maryland to hold first "Entrepreneur Expo" in November

entrep-expo-md.jpgIf there's one thing entrepreneurs like to do, it's network. And Maryland's entrepreneurs are apparently about to get that in a big way this November. The state's technology development entity, TEDCO, is spearheading the first Entrepreneur Expo on Monday, Nov. 14, at the BWI Airport Marriott in Linthicum Heights.

The event is taking place during the worldwide Global Entrepreneurship Week. [Registration is $99. More details here.]

The event has the title of "Harnessing the Power of Innovation in Maryland."

The first quote in the official press release today is from Gov. Martin O'Malley ("Entrepreneurship is part of the engine of our state's economy"), who has seized job creation through technology as one of his economic goals. [Remember O'Malley's InvestMaryland initiative passed earlier this year in the General Assembly, which pumps $70 million into tech startups around Maryland?

So, based on the agenda and the "about" page on the expo's site, we can expect an event filled with budding entrepreneurs, potential investors, legislators, university officials and federal lab officials, to name a few. Hit the jump for the full press release:

Continue reading "Maryland to hold first "Entrepreneur Expo" in November" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Events (Baltimore area)

August 15, 2011

Survey: 13% of Americans use cellphones to avoid interactions

In a report today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 13 percent of Americans indicated that they use their cellphones to avoid real-life interactions with others.

The survey tosses out a number of statistics on the habits of American cell phone users.

Some more:

* Half of all adult cell owners (51%) had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. One quarter (27%) said that they experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand.

* Cell phones can help stave off boredom – 42% of cell owners used their phone for entertainment when they were bored.

* One third of Americans own smartphones. And it's in that demographic's usage patterns do you have a window into our mobile future: Fully nine in ten smartphone owners use text messaging or take pictures with their phones, while eight in ten use their phone to go online or send photos or videos to others. Many activities—such as downloading apps, watching videos, accessing social networking sites or posting multimedia content online—are almost entirely confined to the smartphone population.

[Thanks to @johnbhorrigan, who tweeted out the Pew report.]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless

Motorola Mobility added to Google's Circle

Big news on a Monday: Google is buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion -- a 63 percent premium over Motorola's stock price.

Google CEO Larry Page laid out some of the rationale for Google buying the handset maker, which makes cellphones tied to Google's Android platform, in a company blog post this morning.

Already, bloggers and tech journos are slicing and dicing the deal for meaning.

* Business Insider makes the point that with Google owning a hardware maker now, it's competing head-to-head moreso than ever with Apple.

* Larry Dignan over at ZDNet's Between the Lines blog gives six reasons why the deal makes sense. Among them: Google is getting tons of patents for wireless via Motorola, and patents help you ward off lawsuits. Also: mobility is the future of computing and Google needs to better integrate the hardware/software experience for Android.

* Here's the Wall Street Journal's straight-news take on the deal.

* So is Google now a "mobile company"? New York Times' DealBook discusses.

* Engadget's post is worth checking out, if only for the Photoshopped Google hearts Motorola graphic.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:24 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Wireless

August 9, 2011

Baltimore not very "iPad-friendly": report

Why is Men's Health always hatin' on Baltimore?

The latest indignity from the magazine, which featured a story today on its homepage titled: The Top 10 Muscles Women Love", disses our natives' technology/gadget habits.

Mashable reports on a survey by Men's Health that ranks 100 U.S. cities in terms of "iPad friendliness."

Plano, Texas, came in first place. Baltimore came in 97th. (Toleda, Ohio, came in last.)


Mind you, in March, Baltimore ranked #58 on their list of most socially-networked cities in the U.S.

Hey, at least we're not Stockton, Calif., which ranked 98th in the iPad friendly survey and 95 in the social media networking survey.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:15 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

Baltimoreans can rent out their parking spots thru Parking Panda

parking-panda-image.gifHey Baltimore: Here's your chance to make a buck off your own parking spot.

Parking Panda, a Baltimore web startup, recently went live with its website -- -- which can also be accessed by mobile phone browsers.

Parking Panda is kinda like the Airbnb (a site that lets people pay for or rent out homes and apartments for travelers) of parking.

People who are looking to make a little extra money off their unused or lightly used parking spot can list it for rent on the site. And people who are looking to park in city neighborhoods -- perhaps during big events such as baseball or football games, or the upcoming Grand Prix -- can turn to it to find a spot they can rent with their smartphone.

The site is the work of Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, two young guys from Baltimore who won a startup competition in the city in the spring. They are currently working on their startup in New York City, at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, but they plan on returning to Baltimore to jump-start their business.

[I wrote a story about Parking Panda and the trend of business accelerators recently.]

And they're hoping the Grand Prix, over Labor Day weekend, will generate demand for their app as people struggle to find parking downtown.

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Amazon Kindle getting social -- but does it get it?

kindle-social.jpg So it looks like Amazon is trying to make the Kindle experience more social. There's a good write-up in The Atlantic that discusses the new social features of the Kindle and the website, where the e-reader's public notes feature is integrated with Twitter and Facebook.

I'm not a Kindle user so I don't have a feel for how much of a demand users have to be "social" on Twitter/Facebook while trying to read a book.

Amazon's been steadily adding "social" features to the Kindle platform over the past year. But do you want to be social while trying to enjoy the peace of mind of reading a book? I dunno....

I guess I can see some usefulness in it.

As The Atlantic writer notes, readers may enjoy the ability of sharing lending versions of e-books with others in their social networks.

But it's also not in Amazon's interest to make it too easy for people to mass-lend their e-books, cuz it could potentially hurt Kindle sales. Or not?

Tim Carmody, over at Wired, has a good rundown of the details of how Amazon's pimped-up social network is behaving for users. Growing pains are evident.

I suspect we're seeing the early stages of social network experimentation for Amazon. There are rumors they're building their own tablet to compete with the iPad. Building a social network around books (and Amazon does music, and millions of other stuff, too) may be just the beginning.

Amazon could build a social network that incorporates and integrates both the virtual AND physical worlds better than anything out there right now that Apple/iTunes or Facebook/Twitter or Google/Microsoft could ever hope to accomplish. One that's powered by its deep reservoir of customer reviews and integrates well with its Amazon hardware, i.e. e-readers and tablets.

(Image via FastCompany)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:24 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets

August 8, 2011

Baltimore-based Localist scores 8 university contracts, a Baltimore-based startup that's developed a social calendar platform, announced today that it had scored deals with eight universities which will use its platform for connecting students with events.

Here are the universities:

* DePaul University - Chicago, Ill.
* Emmanuel College - Boston, Mass.
* Georgetown University - Washington D.C.
* Towson University - Towson, Md.
* University of Delaware - Newark, Del.
* University of Rhode Island - Kingston, RI..
* Virginia Military Institute - Lexington, Va.
* Williams College - Williamstown, Mass.

In addition to these eight, is also using Localist's platform. Eleven other universities are currently using the Localist platform.

This is more good news for Localist, whose founders used to operate it as a consumer-facing Website, but switched gears last year to sell it as a white-label product to universities and other organizations. They're now serving 105,000+ students.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups

The new "innovation community manager" at GBTC

HazlettGBTC.jpegGive a big hello (and "follow" on various social networks) to Andrew Hazlett, the Greater Baltimore Tech Council's new "innovation community manager."

Catch his blog here.

Back in June, I wrote about this new job created at the GBTC. It's great to see someone else who's going to be writing about the tech and entrepreneurial scene in Baltimore.

Andrew has a pretty diverse background, as he writes, in journalism, government, urban public policy and book publishing.

I'm looking forward to following the stuff he does. 

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Events (Baltimore area), Social Media

July 5, 2011

Tech happenings in Baltimore for the next four weeks?

wonder-twins.jpgLater this week, I'll be taking a four-week parental leave to stay home with my wife and our new babies.

Yes, that's right. Plural.

Some time in the next 3-4 days, we expect to add twins to our family, a boy and a girl. We already have a 2.5 year old daughter, who can't wait to be a big sister, she insists.

So, I'm hoping the Baltimore/Maryland tech community can help me and The Sun stay in the loop on local tech happenings for the next four weeks or so. July and August are usually slow months in the news business, as people cycle through their vacations.

But we still have a daily newspaper and a website to deliver to y'all!

If you have news, just send tips to one of my editors, Liz Hacken, or to my email. Hit me on Twitter at @gussent. I can't promise I'll get back to you in any reasonable time frame, but please be assured I'll be reading my messages and trying to act on them as best I can.

I'll be sporadically blogging here whenever I find some time away from changing diapers and monitoring feedings. (Of course, any spare time I do manage to find I just may end up using for sleep!)

In the meantime, I'm interested in any helpful high- or low-tech technology that parents of twins have relied upon to help them manage and make their lives easier. What do you recommend? Is there a favorite iPhone/iPad app parents are using these days to help track their newborn's growth and patterns?

Is there, perchance, an app that can turn 3 hours of sleep into six hours of sleep?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:51 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 30, 2011

Shortmail: A Baltimore-grown email service

Shortmail.jpgThere's a new email service on the block as of today, and it's called Shortmail. But do we need another email program? you ask.

Well, if you're overwhelmed with spam, tired of long-winded dissertation-type emails, and suffering from inbox overload, maybe you do.

Shortmail, created by 410Labs, is the latest offering in the nascent trend of short email services. It's somewhere between traditional email and Twitter. Whereas Twitter has a 140 character limit on messages, Shortmail has a 500 character limit. It integrates nicely with Twitter, too.

For instance, my Twitter account is @gussent, and my Shortmail address is automagically

You can merge your Gmail and Twitter contacts into your Shortmail contacts.

But I think one of the most useful features of Shortmail is that you can keep a message private, or make it public, via your own Shortmail personal page (i.e. This can definitely come in handy, especially in my job as a journalist.

The folks behind 410Labs include Dave Troy, an entrepreneur and vocal advocate for Baltimore's tech scene, and Matthew Koll, a veteran entrepreneur.

The company also makes other other social communication products, including, which helps you get answers to questions in a social-y, Twitter-y way, and Mailstrom, an inbox analytics tool that aims to be the of your email life.

For more details on Shortmail's launch, which happened officially in San Francisco this week, check the news release here.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups

June 29, 2011

Maryland biotechs get pumped with state cash

This week is starting to feel like Maryland biotech news around here.....Here's some news that was announced today at the huge BIO international convention by Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development:

The Maryland Biotechnology Center, a program within the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, said today that nine companies will receive $1.8 million in grants to help bring their products to market and create new jobs.

Each of the nine companies will receive an average of $200,000 to develop research and products for commercialization. The program is in its second year of existence, and is part of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s long-term plan to grow the state’s biotech industry through 2020.

Last year, the center awarded $1.3 million to seven biotechnology companies.

The nine companies that received funding this year are: Neuronascent, of Clarksville; Noble Life Sciences, of Rockville; Unither Virology, of Silver Spring; Paragon, of Baltimore; Telcare, of Bethesda; Diogenix, of Gaithersburg; 20/20 GeneSystems, of Rockville; A&G Pharmaceutical, of Columbia; and Plasmonix, of Baltimore.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Myspace: Put a fork in it -- it's done

fork-hotdog.jpgMyspace is reportedly being sold today to Specific Media, an online advertising network, for $35 million, according to Kara Swisher over at AllThingsD.

This is a big deal because not too long ago (in Internet time), Myspace was worth more than a billion bucks, supposedly -- that is, if you believed all the hype around it, as News Corp. did when it paid $500+ million for it in 2005.

I could cite a few more facts about Myspace, but really, do we care?

I'll be honest: I can count the number of times ON TWO HANDS that I ever visited someone's Myspace page. As a reporter, I only visited such pages when someone died or committed a crime here in the Baltimore area.

I won't discount the fact that there were a lot of people active on Myspace, and it seemed like it had been doing well reinventing itself a site geared toward musician/artist discovery and promotion. At one time, it seemed like there were a surprising number of people who claimed gang allegiances on Myspace here in Baltimore. Is that still the case? Or do gangbangers now have Facebook Groups and Pages Tumblrs?

Myspace had an ugly UI (user interface) and the blinking/neon/music adornments that people used to gussy up their pages were just pointless messes. Every time I visited someone's page, I felt like my computer screen was getting hijacked by tackiness.

If you ask me what I was doing on the Web back in 2005, when Myspace hit its peak and News Corp paid all that money for it, I would tell you: gosh, I really don't remember. I was checking my Yahoo mail. I was playing around with blogs. I was probably using Google Search more to find content. I was on the Internet less, and in better shape physically. But I digress.

At least News Corp. got $35 million for it.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 27, 2011

Bam! A Glen Burnie tech company just raised $35M

It's not everyday -- or every week -- that a Maryland company can boast that it raised $35 million from investors. Honestly, I can't say I see that kind of private money tossed at a company much at all here in the Free State, as someone who follows this kind of stuff. (Oh, but how I wish it were more frequent....)

But today at least, Glen Burnie-based Novasom Inc. can be the braggart. For people who suffer from sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, Novasom has a gadget for you.

The company has a device on the market that measures and diagnoses sleep apnea in a suffering sleeper. These devices are not sold to the general public, but rather shipped to patients at their homes, and covered under certain insurance plans (Novasom essentially makes money from "renting" the device as a service to patients who are covered by insurance.)

The patient uses the device to take measurements when they sleep at nigh over three dayst, and then ships the device back to the company, which shares the data with your medical providers.

Here's what's cool about Novasom: this company is actually making a device, a piece of hardware, and they have a business model. They've hired a 100+ people in the last few years. And did I mention they're actually making a tangible product, and not just another Facebook competitor?

Making an actual piece of stuff doesn't guarantee success in the U.S., and software has been insanely popular lately (App Store anyone?). But economists like to see hardware getting made, especially since it can lead to demand for more and new software.

A few months ago, I was told by Roger Richardson, Novasom's vice president of operations, that the company is making a next-generation device that will enable the electronic delivery of your sleep data over a wireless telephone connection, i.e. a 3G network. No need to wait till it gets shipped back for a data download. And yes, this device has all the regulatory approvals for use.

Imagine if Novasom can get approval to do other sorts of medical-related-things with their wirelessly connected devices. There's a bigger market potential here than just sleep apnea sufferers.

So, the news today is that Novasom raised a new round of investment -- $35 million worth -- led by Safeguard Scientifics Inc., with participation from existing investors including TPG Biotechnology II Fund and Quaker BioVentures.

It plans to use the new money to "fund growth, expand its leadership position in payer and provider markets, and develop additional innovations within the company's proprietary NovaSom(R) diagnostic medical device and cloud-based MediTrack(R) Patient Management Portals."

Novasom, which used to be known as Sleep Solutions Inc., has been around since 1992 and had been based in California. The company moved to Glen Burnie in 2008 and uses a Baltimore County company, Zentech, as its contract manufacturer for its devices.

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Startup story: Baltimore's Moodlerooms raises more moolah

Ever since I wrote about Moodlerooms, a Baltimore startup, expanding and moving out of the city's incubator program last year, I've been following its progress with interest.

Last week, Moodlerooms disclosed in an SEC filing that it had raised $2.9 million of a $3.4 million equity offering. Citybizlist has a run down of some of the investors and directors involved in the company now.

In May, Moodlerooms raised $425,000 in debt in the form of unsecured promissory notes that could be converted into company equity.

Moodlerooms makes software that's based on the open-source e-learning platform called Moodle. The company's been around for about six years and has been steadily growing. It competes against other e-learning platforms out there, such as Blackboard, for university and secondary education clients.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 22, 2011

UMBC biotech startup raises $1.5 million

Plasmonix Inc., a biotech startup whose technology comes from research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, this week announced it raised $1.5 million of a planned $2 million Series A equity offering.

The investment was led by the Maryland Healthcare Product Development Corp. Plasmonix is working on commercializing a technology called Metal Enhanced Fluorescence, which was developed at UMBC.

Basically, the technology enables super-fast detection of heart attacks, sexually transmitted diseases, salmonella -- within 20 seconds.

Watch the Youtube video of founder and MEF inventor Dr. Chris Geddes (Other founders include William M. Gust II, President and CEO and Dr. John Holaday, Chairman.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers

June 21, 2011

A new type of job at the Greater Baltimore Technology Council

The GBTC is the main organization in the Baltimore area for connecting and promoting the big and small technology companies and entrepreneurs in the region.

The organization is no longer the only game in town. There are a lot of opportunities in Baltimore these days for techies to network. But the GBTC has been a steady presence over the years with lots of knowledge about the local landscape, and the ability to help connect business people. And they offer a lot of peer-to-peer networking opportunities with some very talented, experienced folks in Baltimore's tech/entrepreneur community.

So, it doesn't surprise me that the org is now hiring for an interesting, new position: Innovation Community Manager. There are a lot of events going on in the area (think: Ignite Baltimore, TedxMidAtlantic, etc) that the GBTC probably wants and should bring its resources and membership to bear on.

I look forward to bumping into this new person in this new job at the various events in Baltimore.

The person in this position, according to the job ad, will:

* Attend innovation community events & meetings
* Offer and coordinate GBTC services for community programs and events: venue, catering, promotion, registration, volunteer re-imbursements
* Work with event organizers for targeted sponsorships
* Coordinate printing of programs, banners, t-shirts, etc.
* Publicize and market events
* Serve as an “idea conduit” for GBTC programs, events and on-line content requested by the community

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Baltimore hacker who hijacked CEO powerpoint, displayed porn, sentenced

This just sounds like one of those ideas that sounds funny over beers with friends, but when you actually do it -- well, the long arm of the law really does come after you.

Walter Powell, 52, was the director of management information systems at Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems who got fired in September 2009 and, soon after, started hacking his former employer's computer system, authorities said.

In one incident, Powell hijacked the CEO's digital presentation to the board of directors, and then displayed pornography. Yes, that really happened. Our crime blogger, Peter Hermann, has more details on it. It involved a PowerPoint presentation and a 64-inch TV.

Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock handed down a two-year suspended sentence, 100 hours of community service, and three years of probation. She also barred Powell from possessing remote-access software. My guess is that Mr. Powell won't be getting a job in tech support anytime soon.

Here's the press release from the Baltimore State's Attorney's office:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 20, 2011

Anatomy of a @gussent story

light-bulb.pngFor those who've ever wondered how I choose what to write about, this post is for you. Let's take a look at my latest weekend feature: "Help Wanted: Looking for a few good social media pros."

It is a story about the rise of the role of the social media professional in the workplace, and how far we've come in a just a few short years. The story isn't so much chock-full of news, but it is, I hope, filled with some context and perspective on the rapidly evolving social media function in the context of marketing and communications in organizations.

So how did I get the idea for a story on the topic?

Look no further than an earlier blog post over on my blog, BaltTech: "Over-reaction? Gone golfing tweet leads to social media worker's firing."

A "social media specialist" got fired for what her boss perceived as an inappropriate tweet that reflected poorly on their organization.

With Twitter mistakes in the news these days (Anthony Weiner, anyone?), I got to thinking: my, how far we've come in professional circles in terms of the central importance of social media.

People are losing jobs and careers over their Twitter mistakes. How are companies conceiving of the social media function today, versus, say, 2-3 years ago? I put out a bunch of requests on Twitter in the followup to the blog post, seeking people who worked as social media pros in the Baltimore area.

I hooked up with Michelle Forman, digital media specialist at the Association for Public Health Laboratories (@aphlnews) in Silver Spring. I interviewed her and got some great perspective. I also sought companies that were hiring social media pros.

I used some online job boards to zero in on a bunch of companies that were hiring in the Baltimore area, including Mile One Automotive Group. I interviewed Nicole Hayes, its e-commerce director and a former employee, who gave me the nuts and bolts of her social media operation at the network of 56 car dealerships.

I was interested in how some organizations use twitter for customer service, and I thought of BGE. Rob Gould and Diane Hughes, two BGE communication pros, walked me through their org processes. I tried to get the folks behind @ComcastCares to talk, but we couldn't find a time to chat before my deadline.

I researched job sites, such as, and pulled statistics on the public relations field (and how social media is affecting it), from the Department of Labor. A recent survey by Robert Half Technology confirmed what I thought many were seeing on the ground: that more workers are being given the green light to use social media at the office, for work purposes.

And lastly, when it came time to find some local voices on how social media is used by organizations, I turned to some familiar faces who I've come to know through Twitter. Ryan Goff, a VP at MGH, Jeff Davis, of Sawmill Marketing and Amy Phillips, of Social Pollen, are all people I've come to know as being active in Baltimore's vibrant internet/social media scene.

So far, since the story appeared over the weekend, it has been tweeted 494 times, Facebook "liked" 104 times, and shared through other sites 77 times. The truth is, my story just scrapes the surface of the whole "social media marketing" phenomenon that some companies have embraced.

There is still some skepticism out there about social media's value. But, as someone who works in media, it's value as an important tool for reporting is real, if my experience reporting out this story shows anything.

A story about social media was indeed shaped by my use of social media. The irony isn't lost on me.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Netflix's weekend hangover

netflix-hangover.gifDid you have trouble viewing programs on Netflix this past weekend? The website was down for several hours last night and there were scattered reports (on Twitter) of some problems.

CNET cited a spokesman, who called it a "technical issue" -- there were no suggestions of hackers taking down the video-streaming service. But hackers are on everybody's minds these days.

ZDNet also noted how Netflix had to pull Sony movies from its Starz streaming service on Friday, leaving subscribers with fewer choices.

Don't be surprised if the unlimited data streaming payment model for your home ISP comes to an end, just as Netflix really seems to be gaining a major foothold. Data caps and "throttling" will likely become bigger issues.

Netflix is a huge data streaming hog, and ISPs are inclined to make someone pay for the growing data usage -- and that someone will probably be the consumer.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:40 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 15, 2011

A new Facebook photo-sharing app?

Sure, there've been rumors about Facebook launching its own smartphone, which the company has denied. But maybe we're about to get the next best thing: a new Facebook photo-sharing app, according to TechCrunch.

Photo-sharing apps are hot right now (Instagram, anyone?). But Facebook is the preeminent place on the web to share photos, hosting billions of photos now for hundreds of millions of users.

The TechCrunch report promises to reveal more about this new Facebook app. The tech blog obtained 50MB worth of images somehow, so we may soon be seeing screenshots of how it works.

Does easier photo-sharing via Facebook get you going? Or are you not willing to commit any more of your personal life and images to the super-site?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 13, 2011

Tech Fathers' Day Gift roundup


With Fathers' Day coming this Sunday (June 19), I thought I'd compile a meta-list of some good guides to tech gift ideas out there on the Web. I'm going into my third year as a dad and I can't say I'm really wanting for any new tech devices. Then again, I don't need socks, underwear, or ties, either.

So, my dear family, if you had to choose a gift for me, something fun from this batch of links below would probably make my day.

* CNET has a "grads and dads" gift guide that's very comprehensive. I kinda like this iPad/notebook bag.

* You can't go wrong with any of BrothaTech's suggestions this year. I'm particularly keen on the idea of a Sonos in my house.

* How about a silent alarm clock for your dad? Help him wake up gracefully, without a glaring alarm sound that also wakes up everybody else in the house. The tech press is writing about a new gadget called Lark does just that, using a wristband and vibrations to wake someone up.

* Here's a fun list of "intangibles" you can get the geek dad for father's day.

* This top-five list recommends the Annoy-a-Tron. I love annoying people. WANT.

* It seems like digital barbecue thermometers are a hot item (no pun intended), but frankly, I'm not interested. I prefer to grill by the seat of my pants.

For more, mostly non-tech ideas, check out this gallery from our site.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:09 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 10, 2011

The new HP TouchPad -- do you care?

I finally got around to reading up on the HP TouchPad today. It sounds like a pretty decent device, one that differentiates itself technologically from the Apple iPad and Android tablets in certain ways.

But it represents a fourth signficant mobile/tablet platform (behind Apple, Android, BlackBerry) that tech consumers have to wrap their brains and fingers around. Even though HP, which bought Palm, is dovetailing its tablet with the Pre smartphone, is it too late to the game for it to draw market share from the iPad juggernaut?

Here's what's cool about the TouchPad: It runs on the tablet version of WebOS, which has been critically acclaimed as a well-oiled response to Apple's iOS. The tablet incorporates some pretty nifty wireless features that connects a Pre smartphone to the tablet wirelessly. You can touch the phone to the tablet and share web pages, for instance. And you can wirelessly charge the TouchPad.

And if a call or text comes in on your Pre, you can receive it on the tablet. That's cool. To boost its attractiveness to smartphone-using consumers who mostly have BlackBerry, Android and iPhones, HP should consider enabling that feature with non-HP phones, if technically possible.

The other thing that is appealing is the app switching interface that webOS offers. For high-use multi-taskers, webOS purportedly enables app switching that is smoother than the iOS/Android experience, many think. (My experience has been with a first-gen Palm Pre -- the app switching, I found, was good, but not necessarily a make-or-break reason to adopt the platform.)

The TouchPad price is $499 for a tablet (16GB version) that offers video chat and Wi-Fi; but there isn't a 3G option yet, the way Apple and some Android tablets offer. HP said it will soon partner with AT&T for a 3G version later this summer.

Pre-ordering begins June 19, and the TouchPad will hit stores on July 1.

All in all, I worry that HP's tablet offering will essentially be competing for third place in the market, against BlackBerry and its Playbook, and behind Apple and Android.
But it is good to see a company as big as HP staking its claim in the space and continuing to drive innovation.
Expect to see Apple adopt (er, "borrow"? hehe) some of the innovations that HP is bringing with webOS and the TouchPad.

Here's a video of the TouchPad:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

June 9, 2011

Over-reaction? Gone-golfing tweet leads to social media worker's firing

It's not as titillating as Congressman Anthony Weiner's tweet saga, but a social media specialist's tweet about workers at a Lehigh Valley economic development agency leaving work early to play golf was deemed inappropriate enough to lead to her firing.

According to the Morning Call newspaper, the offending tweet from the Lehigh Valley Ecoonomic Development Corp.'s official Twitter account was: "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?"

That was enough for Vanessa Williams, a newly employed social media specialist, to lose her job.

The agency head quickly told the local newspaper that the policy was for people to leave early on Friday only if they had worked their 40 hours for the week. The tweet was sent out last Friday and the head said no one left early that day, according to the Morning Call.

Do you think Williams' firing was appropriate or an over-reaction? If there was clarification needed -- i.e. something like: "actually, no one left early today but sometimes, when they do, they choose to go golfing after working their full 40 hours" --- why couldn't that have been accomplished in follow-up tweets without firing this person?

And yes, actually, I think it is a good thing for an economic development agency to know if its local companies have a practice of adopting summer hours. So I can see where the social media specialist may have thought she was doing a good thing to understand how local businesses were approaching the topic of summer hours.

Here's the problem, I think: too many companies and agencies are jumping onto social media without thinking through the ramifications. And they're using a hammer in touchy circumstances, when a soft touch would suffice.

What do you think?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Social Media

June 8, 2011

Atari coming back to the future

Looks like Atari, the company whose video games we grew up playing as children of the 80s, is laying the groundwork for a comeback on mobile phones and social media sites such as Facebook.

The WSJ has a story outlining the California company's plans, which include bringing back its old games to new platforms. Asteroids? Pong? Battlezone? What old Atari game do you wish for your smartphone or tablet?

Personally, I'd like to see Atari adapt these old games to the new gaming hardware options on the market. For instance, why not have the games make use of a smartphone's accelerator or gyroscope? What about finger and swiping gestures? Or how about Atari games using a Kinect? Make me play these old games in a new way!

I got the fever...Pac-Man Fever.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:18 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

June 6, 2011

Apple unleashes the iCloud

Sure, Apple introduced some nice changes today in San Francisco to its new operating system for Macs, called "Lion", including more hand gesture interactions and updates to the Mac App Store. And iOS 5, Apple's next iteration of the popular mobile operating system for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, brings 200 updates to users.

But the real meat of Steve Jobs presentation today is in what Apple's devices will be able to do in the cloud: that is, the new iCloud service. (For a blow-by-blow account of the announcement, read the Engadget live blog.)

The new iCloud pulls together the multiple iDevices (if you own more than one) into one virtual, cohesive unit online. It's really a new (for Apple) metaphor that will enable consumers with multiple mobile devices to keep their gadgets in sync, all at the same time. Take a picture on your iPhone? It's instantly available on your iPad. The tech world is ready for this.

MobileMe, Apple's $99 annual service for syncing Calendar, Contacts and Email across Apple's devices is gone. In its place comes iCloud (for Macs, iDevices and PCs), and it's free. "iCloud stores your content in the cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your device. It automatically uploads it, stores it, and pushes it to all your devices."

Basically, iCloud will enable users to push across photos, videos, apps, email, calendars, contacts to multiple devices over the air. No more syncing your iDevice to a computer with a cable. The cord has been cut. Your data will get updated and stored automatically in the iCloud daily, over a Wi-Fi connection (not 3G).

Apple is putting its iWork software suite in the cloud -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote. The office productivity software is its version of Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Putting its software in the cloud is basically table stakes at this point. Every big player wants a cloud productivity suite offering.

Steve Jobs like to announce "one more thing" at these events. And the news that everyone was expecting: Apple is putting iTunes "in the cloud" by enabling people who buy iTunes music to automatically download to multiple devices (up to 10).

For people who have thousands of songs in iTunes, they don't have to manually upload all their songs to iTunes in the cloud. Instead, Apple is offering the ability to "scan and match" your iTunes library to the cloud. (Basically, Apple will scan your iTunes collection on your computer and create an online version of your collection for you to use.) This means if you have multiple iDevices, you'll have one online repository for your music, and your various devices will pull music from the cloud, in addition to having your own music stored on your local devices.

Cost: $24.99. A similar service offered by Google, which takes longer for users to upload their music, costs $50 a year.

Would you use such a service? I don't know.... I'm not a big buyer of new music so it's less crucial for me to have the latest songs updated across all my devices. I do think I'll use other iCloud features a ton, especially the new Photostream feature that makes pictures available to all your iDevices instantaneously.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

Apple news coming today: iCloud, Mac OS X Lion, iOS

apple-steve-jobs.JPGToday at 1 pm Eastern, Steve Jobs will take to the stage at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in California to usher in some new Apple software products.

Though he's technically out on medical leave, Jobs is apparently able enough to do this, which is a great sign for his health (we hope).

We know he'll be introducing something called iCloud, a cloud service that many speculate will offer streaming music as well as other capacities.

iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and Touch will likely get a big update, and the new operating system -- dubbed Lion -- for the Mac platform will get a modest makeover.

Many seem to be guessing that Apple is heading in a direction that ties all three offerings together -- a cloud service with Apple's desktop and mobile platforms.

There are numerous sites to catch blogging updates about the Apple announcement today at 1 pm. I'll try to do some live updating myself here. Stay tuned.


Photo of Steve Jobs at WWDC 2004 courtesy of Reuters

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 31, 2011

Possible cancer risk with cellphones: WHO

The World Health Organization has started listing cellphone use as a possible "carcinogenic hazard", putting it in the same category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform, according to various reports.

A team of scientists from 14 countries found enough data to show a possible connection between cell phones and certain kinds of brain cancer, according to Reuters. But so far, there haven't been enough long-term studies that conclusively link cellphone radiation to cancer.

The BBC has more on the story.

Is it responsible of WHO to give such a warning based on, thus far, half-baked conclusions?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:57 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 27, 2011

Tech boom hits New York -- can Baltimore feel the aftershock?

The headline reads "New York startups ride tech boom."

It's the Wall Street Journal, and it's declaring that New York is experiencing boom times in its startup scene. Some may automatically -- and skeptically -- wonder that when a newspaper declares a boom, you know a bust isn't too far behind. I'm not ready to be that skeptical, yet.

As the article points out, there are a couple of different pieces in play in New York right now that's working in Silicon Alley's favor. There's talent, a mix of relative success stories, and a community of eager entrepreneurs fueling the ecosystem. Just as importantly, investors from Silicon Valley and elsewhere are now checking into the New York scene to grab on to any shooting stars that fly out of there, according to the article.

If there's a boom going on in New York, here in Baltimore, the startup scene is hoping for some positive aftershocks. There's still a fair amount of investment dollars flowing into the Washington-Baltimore region, but most of the money is going to that Northern Va./Washington corridor.

Many in Baltimore's tech scene were looking forward to the Startup City -- a business accelerator -- acting as a sparkplug for entrepreneurs and investors. But alas, that program has been postponed because enough investors couldn't be lined up, and the organizers are going back to the drawing board.

My rough sense about Baltimore is that investments are being made in biotech, cybersecurity and other targeted areas where there's money to be made, i.e. health care. Local angel investors seem to be less inclined to invest in popular consumer-facing apps and tech that captivate the general public, such as "the next Facebook" or "the next Twitter" or "the next Foursquare." The scene here is more B2B than B2C, which is fine, because there's money to be made in B2B -- it's just not as sexy to the average joe.

When you look at the latest stats from the National Venture Capital Association, the reality is that investments in New York and the DC-Metroplex (that includes us) were actually down in the first quarter this year.

You know who's up? Silicon Valley. And Texas (Austin, anyone?). And Philadelphia (kudos to our neighbor's startup scene). And the U.S. southwest.

Here are investment numbers for the 1st quarter of 2010, from the National Venture Capital Association:


Now here are similar stats for this year's first quarter:


These numbers make me wonder if venture capital is just heating up in Silicon Valley, driving valuations ever northward, and forcing VC's and angels to go looking for smart companies and smarter deals in other tech hotbeds.

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May 26, 2011

Google: Hand over your wallet and no one will get hurt


The buzz for awhile now is that your smartphone will also become your wallet. That day is just about here.

Google today introduced what many had expected: a mobile payments system that marries a mobile phone, a mobile app, your credit card, and a new technology called "near field communication." (aka NFC)

The whole offering is called Google Wallet.

Basically, with phones that have the NFC chip, you'll be able to wave your phone -- like a magic spending wand! -- and plunk stuff on your virtual credit card. Google Wallet will also automatically ding you with coupons and loyalty points for whatever consumer programs you're signed up with.

Citi, Mastercard, First Data and Sprint are the partners on the effort with Google. If you use Mastercard's PayPass technology, then you can use Google Wallet, too.

Don't be surprised, dear reader, to see other mobile wallet solutions coming your way in the next year. Visa and AmEx have their own plans cooking. And who knows what Apple really has planned for its iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad junta.

Want to know more about the mobile payment scene? Here's a story I wrote last week about Micros Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md. rolling out a mobile payment app for restaurants.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones

May 19, 2011

Near field communication mobile payments coming to restaurants, via MICROS-Verifone partnership

What timing... Just this week, I wrote a story about MICROS Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md. jumping into the field of mobile payments with a smartphone app called Tabbedout.

Now, word comes out today that MICROS has partnered with Verifone to develop a near-field communications solution for the hospitality industry. What's NFC? Basically, a special chip installed inside your mobile phone allows you to use it as a kind of "mobile wallet."

Presumably you can link your phone directly to your bank account or credit card. And kapow! You are waving your phone around and spending money. Ah, the sweet smell of progress: it's never been easier to burn through your cash!

In addition to making payments with your phone, you'll be able to use NFC technology to take advantage of mobile coupons and promotions. Imagine the possiblities, say, if you can link NFC tech to social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare -- so with a wave, you can send out a status update that you're at a particular restaurant.

Scary or useful?

It looks like Verifone has designed systems for white tablecloth restaurants as well as quick-casual. You could use your NFC-enabled phone right at the table, which will have a little wireless gadget (see below image from Verifone) that you wave your phone in front of. Here's an example.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:14 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Wireless

LinkedIn IPO launches into stratosphere


Buckle in, folks! It's gonna be a wild ride from here on in.

LinkedIn Corp., the social media network for workers, went public today and its shares, which started out priced at $45, zoomed up to $90.50 in morning trading. It's currently at around $85, as of 10:40 a.m. today. That means, on paper at least, LinkedIn was valued upwards of $8.5 billion.

The Wall Street Journal story this morning noted that investors are hungry for similar IPO stories. By "similar stories," the WSJ probably means everyone is waiting to see how IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga might do.

LinkedIn has been the under-rated, less sexy social media company, compared with those other four. But it was the first one to go IPO. I'd hate to be the last of those companies doing an IPO. Who'll have money to invest at that point?

Seriously though, I have to wonder if how well LinkedIn performs in the next couple of quarters will either whet investors' appetites for more social media companies on Wall Street, or turn them off on such company stocks. It's not a given that a big first day in the stock market for LinkedIn presages successful IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga. LinkedIn, for one, has a lot of work to do for those investors who bought in between $45 and $90 today.

As Michael Moe, chief investment officer of GSV Capital Management in Woodside, California, told Bloomberg News yesterday: “The valuation for LinkedIn is rich. To earn the valuation, it has to continue to grow very, very fast.”

A lot can happen in the next couple of quarters. Internet competitors and the speed in which the market changes is faster than the speed at which Wall Street bankers operate. If LinkedIn knocks it out of the park the next couple quarters, that bodes well for its peers. If not, well, maybe we'll see more IPOs. Or maybe instead we'll see some acquisitions and mergers.

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May 18, 2011

Diabetic and drive a Ford? You may soon be in luck

WellDoc, a Baltimore startup company helps people manage their chronic diseases with technology such as mobile devices, has scored a research partnership with Ford Motor Co. that will work toward integrating WellDoc's technology into Ford vehicles.

The premise: Americans spend 500 million "commuter hours" in their cars every week, so the automobile can become another access point for integration health care information technology systems.

Here's how WellDoc and Ford will integrate the tech, according to a press release:

The research project between WellDoc and Ford demonstrates how adults with type 2 diabetes can manage their disease using the WellDoc DiabetesManager® System through Ford’s SYNC® voice-activated in-car connectivity system. People with diabetes can enter their data such as medications, exercise, and diet information through speech-to-text interaction while in their Ford vehicle. Patients who utilize the DiabetesManager System benefit from consistent interaction across their cell phone, computer and now their vehicle. The WellDoc software-based system will also allow healthcare providers to access their WellDoc clinical decision support records while they’re in the office, on their mobile device or in their Ford vehicle.....Advanced features, still in development, include leveraging Ford SYNC’s location based services to help a driver not only identify and find a restaurant, but also assist them in making proper food choices at the restaurant.

Yowza. We're really starting to expect a lot from our driving experience!

WellDoc's been on a roll lately. It recently partnered with AT&T, too.

Below, WellDoc's brother-sister founders: Ryan Sysko and Suzanne Sysko Clough:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

LinkedIn IPO frenzy -- would you buy the stock?

The coming LinkedIn IPO -- expected tomorrow -- may be a resounding success, as frothing-at-the-mouth investors appear eager to throw their money at big social media companies. The company is expected to prices its shares tonight and make them available on the stock market tomorrow, under the New York Stock Exchange ticker LNKD.

Potential share price: $42-$45.

Potential valuation: ~$4.25 billion.

So, here's the question: Would you invest in LinkedIn? This Reuters article outlines some of the risks in the marketplace for LinkedIn, including the fact that it has struggled with losses and profitability.

What happens when LinkedIn becomes directly accountable to Wall Street when it's public? Will it cut expenses and investment in future growth drastically to produce better profit margins?

In this Bloomberg video, Jonathan Merriman, a tech investor, explains the LinkedIn IPO and talks about the risks. Interesting stuff:

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May 17, 2011

Paying with your iPhone, browsing menus with your iPad


In today's story about technology in the Baltimore area, we take you to two popular destinations in Howard County, Md.: Houlihan's and Victoria's Gastro Pub.

At Houlihan's, the Columbia restaurant has enabled a smartphone app called Tabbedout to work with its point-of-sale terminals, where orders are punched in and credit cards are run. Tabbedout is made by an Austin, Tex.-based company and it's being marketed in partnership with MICROS Systems Inc., a big player in POS terminals for restaurants.

Basically, you input your credit card info once into the Tabbedout app and then you can request the tab -- and pay it -- with a few swipes of your finger while at the restaurant.

At Victoria's, also in Columbia, management there is allowing its restaurant to be used as a test bed for MICROS's iPad menu app, which is under development. The app allows beer and wine drinkers to browse the restaurant's extensive libations selection (250 beers enough for you?), and keep track of the beers you drink as a beer club member.

It remains to be seen in which direction MICROS will go with the iPad app, but don't be surprised if one day soon you're able to download your favorite restaurant's iPad app and interact with it, say, as a member of a diner's club, even when you're not there.

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May 16, 2011

Do you ever wish you could just unplug?

Do you feel overwhelmed and, perhaps, addicted to your smartphone, social media or the Internet -- or all three? Do you regularly wish you could just unplug, if you could just find the discipline to Put. Your. Phone. Down.

My story in yesterday's newspaper considered this topic from the perspective of some people who choose to take a "media fast", an "Internet Sabbath" or an "Internet Sabbatical." The idea has different names, for sure, but it's basically about setting time for yourself to unplug from digital life, slow down on the multi-tasking, and live in your physical reality, not a virtual one.

Gin Ferrara, a community manager at NewsTrust, was game enough to let me interview her for my story. She's an advocate of such media fasts. In fact, you can see her talking about her experience with the idea -- media free week -- in this video where she presented at a recent Ignite Baltimore event.

One area that I forgot to mention in my story (and I'm embarrassed for forgetting this) is the role that technology can actually play to help us better manage our relationship with technology -- does that make sense?

When people talk about unplugging, many mean they wish they could put down the work BlackBerry and not be reachable on the weekends by their bosses. When it came to smarter email management, I thought of Jared Goralnick. For my story, I interviewed Goralnick, founder and CEO of Awayfind, a tool that helps you get a handle on your email inbox. Basically, checking email can be a huge, compulsive time-suck. I probably check my email inbox a 100-200 times a day, but only a tiny fraction of that time am I receiving something I need to act on immediately. So Awayfind, a Made-in-Maryland company by the way, helps ferret out the important emails from the not-so-important ones.

"If you’re successful, you spend less time in your inbox," Goralnick said. "We’re a big fan of minimizing interruptions."

Personally, I think Goralnick is spot on. Lately, I've found myself feeling more refreshed and productive and focused when I'm working out of the office then while at the office. And then, it hit me. At the office, where I have MS Outlook, I'm constantly being distracted by email alerts that pop up (I have to change that setting), while outside the office, I don't have that distraction.

I probably get 300 emails a day. I can't keep up with them. About 90 percent is horrible spam. But I lose emails -- including ones from my bosses -- in the stream.

It's frustrating. And, by the end of the week, all I want to do is unplug.

Below is a picture of Gin and her husband, David Pepper, at home with Scrabble -- a game they play during their media free weeks.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Social Media

May 14, 2011

Convicted mobster alleges Feds planted biochip on him


The story of Vincent Michael Marino, aka Gigi Portalla, is one of drugs, violence, the New England mob -- and on its surface, seemingly wacky allegations of the DEA implanting him with a microchip to track his movements in the 1990s.

Marino was a bruiser in the Massachusetts organized crime scene back in the 1990s. He got sent to federal prison in the late 1990s and now he's housed in a penitentiary in Louisiana. Marino's life got complicated in Nov. 1996, when some people tried to kill him.

He was shot in the buttocks, taken to a hospital, and had surgery to remove the bullet, while law enforcement officers looked on. About a month later, he and a buddy were arrested at an airport and charged with drug trafficking allegations.

Now here is where it gets interesting: Marino alleges that, after his arrest, a federal agent approached him to sign a consent form to remove a biochip device from his body, which they had used to track him. Marino refused to sign. A subsequent x-ray would later find that there was some type of foreign object in his abdomen.

Marino filed complaints with the feds, who did some due diligence and determined that the federal agent was joking around with Marino during his arrest in telling him that they had biochip'ed him. Marino also filed an earlier lawsuit about the alleged implantation of a biochip, but it was dismissed by a federal court.

It appears that Marino has been housed in federal prison for more than 10 years while waiting for a simple MRI to be done that would further prove -- or refute -- the existence of some type of biochip in his body. If a biochip is there, one would have to wonder that his conviction would be overturned as a violation of his civil rights.

Did the technology exist in the 1990s for the implantation of some type of biochip that could track people? This New York Times article, which covered Marino's earlier lawsuit in 1999, certainly considers its plausibility.

Marino refiled a lawsuit last month in the U.S. District Court in Washington DC. Below is the complaint. At this point, I'm not sure why it's taken over 10 years to just give Marino an MRI to prove, once and for all, that he either does or does not have a biochip in him.

He appears to have some medical evidence for an "artifact" being in him, through an x-ray that was done on him. An MRI has to be cheaper than defending against his lawsuits, which apparently no one takes too seriously.

Or, is this the delusion of a convicted mobster?

Vincent Michael Marino Lawsuit

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 13, 2011

Stolen laptop recovered with help of technology, Twitter followers

Sean Power (or @seanpower) riveted the Twitterverse last night with his play-by-play of his efforts to use technology and the Twitter crowd to reclaim his stolen laptop.

His computer had been stolen days before in New York City and Sean had to fly to Canada in the meantime. But on his computer, he had free, open-source location-tracking software, called Prey, that alerted him when his laptop was being used. His laptop's webcam took pictures of the alleged thief, and tracked him as he surfed the Web, used Skype and even logged in to his bank account!

Sean ends up calling the guy and arranging for his computer to be given to two people, who apparently heard about the drama as it unfolded on Twitter, and offered to help Sean.

It's a crazy tale of high-tech and, um, crowdsourcing, I suppose, your stolen laptop's recovery. Hit up the links over in Geekwire to dig further into the story.

Here's a question: how popular is the Prey software today after Sean's story?

Here's their video of how the software works:

Prey Project introduction from Carlos Yaconi on Vimeo.

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Free high-speed Wi-Fi at Preakness coming

At the Preakness Stakes on May 21, using your smartphone to watch and send videos and photos and update your online social network accounts should hopefully be smoother than ever, thanks to a Wi-Fi network that organizers plan on deploying for race fans.

Tough cellphone and Internet connectivity at big events is often a fact of life, as thousands of people with handheld devices concentrated in a relatively tight area can overwhelm cellular towers.

The Preakness is one of horse racing's biggest annual events where tens of thousands of people show up, party in the infield and enjoy a day at the races. Organizers are striving for more technological sophistication at the event, and encouraging people to interact with the event via their mobile phones.

(Personally, I'd love to see every race horse "tagged" with a GPS chip, so we can all track the races in real time with an app on our smartphones.)

Did you know: The Preakness has its own smartphone app now.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Pimlico, has chosen Ruckus Wireless, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-company, to install the high-capacity Wi-Fi network on the 70 acre Pimlico site for Preakness. A local ISP, Believe Wireless, is providing the Internet connectivity.

For the Wi-Fi tech geeks out there, Pimlico will "deploy 50 Ruckus ZoneFlex 802.11n dual-band access points (APs) managed by a centralized wireless LAN controller. The APs located in the infield section are mounted in tents and will connect to Ethernet switches and fiber and copper cabling installed underground," according to a news release.

Imagine if this infamous Preakness video -- the "running of the urinals" -- could have been broadcast live by people using their smartphones?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:40 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 12, 2011

Facebook's Careless Whispers Against Google: Reports


What Would George Michael Think?

The Daily Beast and USA Today report on the unmasking of Facebook as the company that hired a huge PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, to spread exaggerated tales about Google infringing on users' privacy.

A nasty whisper campaign? No surprise there. But Burson-Marsteller, your two PR guys were careless about it.

Blogger Chris Soghoian posted the email exchange he had with Burson-Marsteller for all to see.

Kudos to Chris and others in the media for not being used as PR pawns.

I wonder if Facebook feels guilty about doing this -- or just foolish for getting caught. Will it ever dance again, as George Michael sings in the chorus:

I'm never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend
I know you're not a fool

UPDATE:Not only do I have "Careless Whisper" in my head, my editor also pointed to this awesome Youtube vid I had never seen before:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Media

May 11, 2011

Maryland tech company winners

The Tech Council of Maryland gave out its annual round of awards last night for different categories. The nonprofit council has about 500 member companies and individuals. Without further ado, the winners:

The winners of the 2011 TCM Tech Awards are:

Tech Advocate of the Year - Sen. Nancy J. King: Sen. King was recognized for her numerous efforts to foster growth of the tech and biotech community in Maryland. She co-sponsored a bill and worked in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee this year to help secure additional funding for the Biotech Tax Credit. She also was instrumental in stopping legislation that was harmful to tech and biotech incentives, extending the Research and Development Tax Credit and opposing the tech tax.

Executive of the Year - Moe Abutaleb: Abutaleb, who is president, CEO and co-founder of UltiSat Inc., has been involved in the telecommunications industry since 1977. Throughout his career, he has participated in and managed the definition, development and implementation of numerous space and ground-based products and systems. Abutaleb established and sold his first start-up company, ITCI, which developed and licensed hardware and software products in the secure communications and bandwidth management markets. His vision to "dream big" led to the founding of UltiSat (originally called Psi Systems) in 2003. As CEO of UltiSat, Abutaleb has managed the company's systematic, progressive and organic growth to a level of profitability that is more than double comparable businesses. Last year, under his leadership, the company grew revenues by 100 percent, doubled its staff and office space and acquired a Danish subsidiary.

CFO of the Year - Peter L. Buzy: Buzy is CFO, treasurer and executive vice president for Finance and Administration at Martek Biosciences Corporation, which is now a part of DSM. He joined Martek in 1998 as its CFO and has been instrumental in the company's growth and success. His inspirational and ethical leadership turned the company's $13.5 million loss in 1998 into a $52 million profit last year. Buzy has executed license agreements with several major pharma and food companies and has acquired three companies for Martek that were valued at $275 million. Most recently, he was involved in negotiating a deal for the sale of Martek to its longtime partner, DSM, for $1.1 billion.

STEM Educator of the Year - Anthonette Peña: Peña is an 8th grade science teacher, at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C. As a teacher, she strives to increase the number of underrepresented groups, specifically minorities and females, within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) pipeline and encourages her students to consider STEM careers. Her innovative lesson plans are tailored for a variety of learning styles, including inquiry-based, hands-on learning and use of technology when possible. Prior to joining the Stuart-Hobson staff, Peña served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings.

High Tech Firm of the Year - Aegis Mobile: Columbia, Md.-based Aegis Mobile is a national provider of mobile and compliance solutions that has been profitable since day one. Aegis' set of proprietary tools provides mobile marketing compliance, media intelligence, device testing, mobile websites, mCommerce solutions and mobile applications. The company works with Fortune 100 companies, educational institutions and other businesses in a variety of industries, as well as four of the six major mobile carriers, to ensure that mobile websites deliver timely, relevant and safe user experiences.

Emerging Company of the Year - Zyngenia, Inc.: Zyngenia, which is based in Gaithersburg, Md., is a biotechnology company founded in 2009 to focus on the development of next-generation multispecific, multivalent antibody-based drugs called Zybodies™. The company is an example of a successful public-private partnership, having received $25 million in combined venture funding from New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Montgomery County and the State of Maryland. Zyngenia has developed proprietary technology that enables it to create single molecule drugs that bind two or more drug targets simultaneously thereby enhancing efficacy and leading to new ways in which to target a number of different diseases. Zyngenia's first and second drugs are designed to be used in oncology and autoimmune indications, respectively.

Government Contracting Firm of the Year - NETCONN Solutions: Hagerstown, Md.-based NETCONN Solutions provides advanced technological solutions and enterprise systems design, analysis, and integration services for many agencies in the U.S. Department of Defense. The company focuses on enterprise-level technical challenges in five key practice areas: information assurance tools and security, orchestrated migrations, value engineering, data center infrastructure and edge computing. For the 14 years it has been in business, the company has achieved positive revenue growth and is currently operating at over $30 million in revenue.
Biotechnology Firm of the Year - Novavax, Inc.: Novavax, Inc., which is based in Rockville, Md., is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that is developing next-generation vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases, such as pandemic and seasonal influenza, H1N1 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The company's breakthroughs have led to both a landmark flu vaccine contract and licensing agreement with a South Korean drug maker valued at $179 million and a multiyear contract with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for advanced clinical and manufacturing development of recombinant vaccines for the prevention of seasonal and pandemic influenza.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 10, 2011

Google Music Beta launches today

It's been talked about for awhile and now it's finally here -- er, if you get an invite to the beta, that is. I'm talking about Google Music Beta -- the cloud-based service for listening to music you own from multiple devices.

Google launched this service without any agreements in place with major record labels -- sort of what Amazon did recently with it's own service, called Amazon Cloud Drive.

For music lovers and some big tech companies, developing a cloud-based service for streaming music that people already own has been the Holy Grail the last couple years. Apple is reportedly preparing to unveil its own cloud-based solution in the coming months, but one supposedly that's less cumbersome than Google's and Amazon's. You see, with theirs, you have to upload your music to their services, which could take many hours.

But Apple could unveil a service that, some hope, detects the songs consumers already own and then builds their streaming selection automatically -- without having to upload hundreds or thousands of songs. That, my friends, is a better user experience.

On a side note, why does Google think it's a good idea to keep adding the term "beta" to products that it heralds? I think it sends the wrong signal to mainstream users who don't like to be used as guinea pigs all the time. Deliver a quality product out of the gate -- or get out of the game, Google! Come on!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:48 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: *NEWS*

Will Microsoft suck the spark out of Skype?

By now, you've heard the news: Microsoft is buying Skype in an $8.5 billion deal, the largest ever acquisition for the mammoth maker of the Windows franchise.

Skype was owned by eBay and a bunch of other investors, but eBay never really realized Skype's potential. Skype's got 600+ million users worldwide (that's about the same size as Facebook, folks), but it's never quite figured out how to make money.

Microsoft probably thinks it needs Skype to be a contender in the VOIP market, and getting all those loyal users helps. People may often complain about Skype, but many appreciate it because it's free and cheap -- lots of bang for little or no buck.

So now, the big question is: what will Microsoft actually DO with Skype. Will it go the way of the Flip cam, whose business was bought by Cisco and now faces a shutdown? Will Microsoft try to integrate Skype into its suite of Office products -- and is that even technology possible? [Update: ReadWriteWeb reports that that's exactly what Skype/Microsoft plans to do.] The Guardian's Charles Arthur thinks it won't pay off for Microsoft. Many seem to be skeptical that Microsoft can generate value -- and profits -- from the deal.

I, for one, think Microsoft can find some interesting synergies and integrations with the Microsoft Kinect and the Xbox, and Skype. And don't forget, Microsoft is now a major partner with Nokia, and could make Skype a major player on smartphones, though it has to be sensitive with the mobile carriers.

This may be a minor quibble, but I also think Microsoft can do a better job of (re)designing Skype's user interface, which right now is mediocre at best for both PC and Mac platforms. It's kind of nightmare, frankly.

So, no, I don't think Microsoft suck the spark out of Skype. I'm interested to see in which direction Microsoft takes the platform.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:32 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 9, 2011

Powering a cellphone with your voice?

Today, the UK's Telegraph reports on a new effort by South Korean scientists to convert sound waves into energy, with obvious uses for mobile phones.

If this piece of science ever gets fully developed, my gosh -- people will never shut up on their cellphones and they'll use the excuse of saying they're charging their batteries!

The writer quotes scientist Dr. Sang-Woo Kim as saying:

"Sound power can be used for various novel applications including cellular phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles.

"The latter development would have the additional benefit of reducing noise levels near highways by absorbing the sound energy of vehicles."

Here's another idea: can scientists convert the physical pressure that we exert on our phones for texting into energy? Can you imagine if we harness the national potential of all 13-year-olds engaged in texting everyday? I'm sure we could power cities across the land!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Smartphones

May 5, 2011

Bin Laden phishing/Facebook scam-spam

Osama Bin Laden is dead. But he's still wreaking havoc online, thanks to spammers and hackers who've appropriated his name and the widespread interest in the news of his death to trick people into clicking on links.

Facebook Wall posts and email links that try to entice you to click on images and videos are all over the Net. Have you clicked on any of these links? If so, I'm wondering what the fallout is for computer, email and social media users? Was your account hijacked? Have you lost money? Or is this just another daily nuisance that we all endure as digital citizens.

Drop me a message if you've been affected. Here's my email: gus(dot)sentementes(at)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

May 4, 2011

Lockheed Martin sues Montana firm over "skunk works" trademark

Lockheed Martin has set its sights on a small Montana arms manufacturer named Underground Skunkworks LLC.

The Bethesda-based defense contractor, is suing the company in federal court in Maryland for incorporating the term "skunk works" in its name and products. The company, Underground Skunkworks LLC, is a maker of high-powered rifles, shotguns and carbines.

Now, Lockheed holds a couple of federally registered trademarks for Skunk Works, and it claims the term in an official history on its website. Lockheed says it has been using the term "Skunk Works" since World War II.

Underground Skunkworks seems to be aware that the name "skunk works" may strike some people -- and potential military customers -- as evoking Lockheed Martin, and has put up a disclaimer on its website's homepage. Here's a snapshot of the disclaimer:


Underground Skunkworks hasn't yet responded to the complaint, which was filed this week. We'll see who wins this showdown......

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 29, 2011

Hey 5th grader...Want a job in media?


Today, I saw the future. And they were 11-year-old boys in t-shirts and girls in pig tails.

I visited Vincent Farm Elementary School, north of Baltimore city in White Marsh, for a career day presentation where I hoped to persuade 5th graders to become journalists. But I wasn't prepared for what I saw: 4th and 5th graders every morning put on a live video broadcast for the entire school where they share news and event information.

In the studios of WVFE (Vincent Farm Elementary...haha!), the three-year-old school has multiple video cameras, a "green room" which makes it easy to overlay background images on video, and a production booth with mixing equipment for audio and video.

Best of all -- the 5th graders were teaching the 4th graders how to produce the morning show. There were two adults supervising them, but many of these kids knew what they were doing and they were coaching their peers. They had wireless headsets to communicate between the studio and the production room. It was one student's job to count down to the live broadcast, beamed to every classroom: 5-4-3-2-1


This is the generation of digital natives. I told them a story of how, when I was their age, if I was out somewhere and wanted to call my mom, I needed to have a pocketful of dimes to use in a payphone.

They had never used a payphone.

As for me, I think the kids liked my talk. But I think the cop, the paramedics, the two guys from Geek Squad, and the Chick-Fil-A marketing guy were bigger hits with them.

Although, I was completely impressed when one 5th grade girl told me she watches "AutoTune the News" on Youtube. She'll either be a journalist -- or a Youtube star one day, I'm sure.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 26, 2011

Cyber pork? Cybersecurity and the dangers of threat inflation

Two George Mason University researchers are calling the bluff of the nation's military-intelligence-industrial-complex and essentially saying in their latest research paper: show us the evidence.

Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins, at the Mercatus Center at GMU, wrote a research paper titled: Loving the Cyber Bomb? The dangers of threat inflation in cybersecurity policy.

In the paper, they draw an analogy of the current political and national rhetoric on cybersecurity policy with the run-up to the Iraq War, and how the military, the press and public officials didn't paint the whole picture for the public.

Is this research paper a wake-up call for those of us citizens, taxpayers and journalists who are really wondering how much basis there is to the cybersecurity fear? I have written several articles on cybersecurity and how it's ramp-up is benefiting Maryland -- and I know that Brito and Watkins' paper is giving me pause.

But Brito and Watkins make a great point -- how much evidence is there really out there to support the rhetoric, to justify what we hear from our state leaders, such as Gov. Martin O'Malley ("Cyber Maryland" promoter ) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who's also been a huge booster of the cybersecurity industry in the state.

Is "Cyber Maryland" really about "Cyber Pork"?

Part of the issue, many agree, is that the federal government has an "over-classification" problem, meaning too much information is shielded from public view. That has to change if Americans wish to decide on the cyber threat for themselves, the researchers argue.

Take a read through Brito and Watkins' paper. Is there evidence out there in the ether that they missed?

What do you think ? Is the cybersecurity threat overblown? Is this an example, as Brito and Watkins say, of "Cyber Pork," and Maryland is just a beneficiary of it, to the expense of U.S. taxpayers as a whole?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:06 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*

Malicious search terms and the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate


Awwww, aren't they cute? Watch out -- searching for them online could kill your computer!

Norton, the anti-virus software company, is warning people to beware of the sites they click on if they're doing any searches for the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, on April 29. Apparently, there are plenty of malicious websites out there that want you to click on them, and then they'll do nasty stuff to your computer. An online misstep could even cost you money.

Perhaps the most important warning from Norton: "Think before you click – Beware of emails or links that promise “leaked” footage, offer “scandalous” pictures, or purport to have “secret” information. Cybercriminals take advantage of sensational and shocking headlines to get you to click on links that could infect your computer."

The chart below shows how many "poisoned" results showed up for each term, out of the first 100 terms returned.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:59 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

Sold out: Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Apparently today, a new tablet went on sale at Best Buy, and it sold out very quickly, according to Android Police. It's called the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, and it's supposedly an iPad competitor for $399 -- or $100 less than the entry-level iPad 2.

But maybe it sold out so quickly because Best Buy didn't have a lot of them to sell?


Asus is not flooding the U.S. market with these yet, opting instead for a bigger role out in the U.K., according to Android Police. If you have been waiting out on the iPad because you're not impressed with its specs, this Android device -- which runs the Android Honeycomb software version -- has some hardware that the iPad lacks, such as two USB ports and a media card reader. It also hooks up to a keyboard. Clearly, this is meant as another option for a netbook.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:06 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: *NEWS*

Competition! Facebook Deals, Google Offers, Youtube video rentals

Two things to pay attention to today:

1) Facebook is introducing its own version of Groupon and Living Social for its 600-million-strong online social network. It's called Deals and it launches in five cities today: Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco. The online-social-couponing business is hot-hot-hot right now. Even Google -- of course -- is getting into it with its own "Google Offers", which is running a beta in Portland, Oregon, with early plans for New York City, Oakland, and San Francisco. Google, as you may remember, tried to buy Groupon for $6 billion, but got spurned, and now wants to build its own Groupon clone from scratch.

2) Online video: the streaming wars are beginning. Netflix is currently in the pole position, as it is carried on a broad range of devices, from mobile phones, to PCs/laptops and tablets, to gaming systems. Apple is on the chase with its Apple TV offering, with iTunes movie rentals and downloads. And Amazon Video on Demand is a pretty darn cool service, too -- especially on a Roku player.

But wait -- now we're hearing Google/Youtube is planning a vast expansion of its own paid streaming service for Hollywood movies. The Holy Grail in online streaming is getting early access to movies that just left theaters and are on DVD. Movie companies make money off DVD sales so they don't want to stream them online without meaningful revenue replacement. So if Google gets it right, this could be a big deal. Peter Kafka, of All Things D, confirmed the report and noted that "big studios including Sony, Time Warner’s Warner Bros. and Comcast’s Universal are on board. So are indies like Lionsgate."

All of this competition is potentially good for the consumer. Let's see how good it can get.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:53 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 21, 2011

When a public company deals with a very private NSA

One of the companies in the Baltimore area that I pay attention to on my tech beat is KEYW Holding Corp., a three-year-old company that's launched itself hard out of the gate with a string of acquisitions and an IPO last fall.

It's a public company in fact. But if you look at its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, you'll be hard-pressed to figure out what it does for its federal government clients, namely the National Security Agency.

There are large defense contractors out there -- think Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics -- who do a lot of defense-related work. But you end up getting many glances at the stuff they're doing for -- and selling to -- the government because they'll often work on big projects that are hard to hide, i.e. fighter jets.

But more than half of KEYW's revenues come from the NSA, whose annual budget is classified. The intelligence budget, in general, is hard to wrap your hands around -- and spending on cyber security is generally not quantified. But KEYW needs to do some level of disclosure to appease shareholders and Wall Street analysts, to demonstrate that there is a bonafide market they are pursuing for business. So it's interesting to see how they balance this fine line of disclosure and the need for secrecy. For instance, here's KEYW's review of the national budget for intelligence spending:

The Director of National Intelligence disclosed that the 2010 National Intelligence Program budget was $53.1 billion. The budget for U.S. Air Force Intelligence is not separately reported within the overall Air Force budget, which was $160.5 billion for fiscal year 2010. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the fiscal year 2009 budget for information technology, or IT, security spending was approximately $7.3 billion, which represents a 9.8% increase over fiscal year 2008 IT security spending. According to INPUT, a provider of market information for U.S. Government business, the federal cybersecurity market is expected to achieve a 9.1% annual growth rate through 2015. Driving this growth, they cite a 445% increase in cyber threats since 2006 and increased reliance on the internet, networked systems, and connectivity as creating opportunities for cyber attackers to disrupt government operations, as well as U.S. critical infrastructure. Given our relative size to the size of the market, we believe that we have plenty of room to grow.
[source: Company 10-K]

My favorite part of KEYW's annual report is when they try to give shareholders a look into a positive outcome for some of the work they're doing -- a case study, essentially -- without actually telling you anything specific about their work. Here's how they describe their "Encounter" program:

Since early 2009, a program we call “Encounter” serves as an on-going example of how we use research and development funds to respond to our customers’ needs with agility and to grow our business. Our customer had a technical problem that had been lingering for several years. The customer had spent millions of dollars with several large companies (both integrators and technology companies) searching for a solution, with no near-term solution in sight. Our engineers, knowing the importance of this problem to our customer, looked for new and innovative approaches. After reviewing the concept with our customer, we authorized a proof-of-concept project to begin immediately, prior to our customer’s official approval of the project, to demonstrate the potential of the new approach to our customer without delay. This initial project took approximately six weeks to complete. Armed with the results of this project, we met with our customer to explore how this solution might meet its urgent needs. After the successful demonstration, the customer issued a directed task order to continue the work, while the other contract activities that had not been producing results were cancelled. Our work on this project continues and has produced strong results for our customer. Encounter has expanded into a deployment project, where a number of systems have been integrated and deployed in our customer’s operating environment, and are being supported by us. We expect further development, deployment and ongoing support to continue for a number of years.

This case study exemplifies how we create long-term growth opportunities, on a sole-source basis, by leveraging our in-depth knowledge of our customers’ missions and needs, our Agile DNA and our ability to use IR&D. Our product line has evolved through a combination of customer development and IR&D. We frequently develop a core capability or technology and then customize this capability or technology to meet specific customer requirements."

So, yes, KEYW is a fascinating little company that offers a rare look into how a publicly traded company can try to tap capital markets (which value a fair amount of disclosure) while also trying to satisfy their main top-secret client.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

The cyber security push continues at UMBC

If you've been within earshot of Gov. Martin O'Malley or Sen. Barbara Mikulski over the past year, you've no doubt heard them talk about the concept of "Cyber Maryland." The two public officials are some of the most ardent promoters of the cyber security industry in the country, and they're pushing it hard for Maryland.

And today, they pushed for it hard again -- this time at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's "bwtech" campus for technology startup companies. O'Malley and Mikulski helped mark the opening of the "Cync" program, a partnership between UMBC and Northrop Grumman to incubate cyber security companies. A bunch of executives from big and small organizations, from Northrop to the NSA, rounded out a panel of "experts" who led a short discussion on the cyber security industry and its needs.

I've had the chance to listen to Sen. Mikulski speak on several occasions, and I have to hand it to her: she has a great knack for the soundbite and for crystallizing complex issues in fairly simple ways for us laypeople to understand. In talking about the cyber security threat and online identity theft, the senator dropped this gem:

"You don't need a visa to come here to steal [someone's] Visa card."

Love it.

While overall government spending on defense is expected to tighten, spending on cyber security, many believe, will remain robust. And that's good news for Maryland and its federal facilities, from the National Security Agency and the Defense Information Services Agency, to the private contractors who support them.

In the past two years, UMBC's bwtech has attracted 16 cyber security companies.

UMBC and Northrop Grumman introduced the first two companies accepted into the Cync program: Rogue Networks, which is developing monitoring tools for large networks, and Five Directions, which enables high-security file sharing between public and private cloud networks.

So, this CYNC venture, from Northrop's perspective, is about seeding small companies that they can partner with to provide technology to their big clients. Northrop doesn't have any exclusive rights with these start-ups, i.e. first dibs on acquiring them.

And for UMBC, it's all about creating opportunities for their students after they graduate. "For all the employers in the room, we have no shame. We're looking for jobs for our students," said UMBC's president, Freeman A. Hrabowski III.

Below is the governor with the CEO of another bwtech incubator company, Fearless Solutions (I forgot to write his name down! Anyone have it? Drop it in the comments below.)

(Update: The CEO's name is Delali Dzirasa. Thanks @UMBCscitech for sharing his name.)


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:42 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 20, 2011

Borrow Amazon Kindle books -- from the library

Amazon today announced that it will soon enable Kindle users (including those using Kindle software on Apple and Android devices) to borrow Kindle books from more than 11,000 libraries across the country.

This is good news for the digital reading platform and helps keep libraries part of the books ecosystem. (Okay, maybe that's a stretch.) The cool tech feature of Amazon's "Kindle Library Lending" service is that you can make digital notes in the e-books you borrow, and the notes are saved. So if you borrow the book again, or choose to buy it, your notes are maintained.

In a printed book, mind you, the library doesn't like it when you write in the margins.

Here's the original Amazon news release, for more details.

FYI -- Amazon is partnering with a service called Overdrive to make Kindle books available through local libraries. There's also an Overdrive app for the Apple iPhone platform that offers a similar service. But iPhone/iPad users also have access to the Kindle app, too.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:58 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets

Clean energy: Catonsville biofuel firms files to raise $15 million

A small company in Catonsville called Fiberight LLC has been working the past four years to develop and build technology that converts solid and industrial waste into a kind of ethanol -- and is trying to raise $15 million to fund its venture, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing yesterday.

The company has a plant in Iowa, where it's been working on scaling the technology. It also has plans for a plant in Elkridge, MD.

As an aside, I've never heard of Fiberight before, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see this little company doing some apparently innovative things in the biofuels space. There is a lot of investment money -- and tax breaks and subsidies -- flowing into the clean energy sector right now.

There's some heavy science behind Fiberight's efforts. A glimpse from its website:

Fiberight has successfully developed a unique process of converting waste fibers into biofuel. Fiberight’s technology can efficiently unlock the potential to convert millions of tons of non-recycled municipal solid and industrial wastes into valuable next generation cellulosic ethanol and other key co-products.

Here's some more info about Fiberight from a trade pub.

Another trade pub, Green Energy Reporter, has been reporting that Fiberight has actually been trying to raise $27 million. We'll see if that $15 million in the SEC filing ends up being amended.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 19, 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook: As hard to find as an iPad 2?


I popped into a RadioShack this morning in Baltimore and asked whether they had any of Research in Motion's new tablet computers, the PlayBook.

Nope, the two clerks said. And one said only nine of the 18 stores in -- presumably -- the Baltimore area were getting any initial shipments.

Coincidentally, I am in the market for an iPad 2. So I called a couple of Best Buys in the Baltimore area, and the Towson Apple Store. And guess what? No iPad 2's in stock either.
That doesn't surprise me.

Part of the reason that the iPad 2's are so hard to find is that Apple can't make them fast enough, and demand for them supposedly is higher than for the first one. We'll have to see how demand is for the PlayBook and whether RIM can actually put enough of them in stores for consumers to actually walk away with one.

I'm more interested if any BlackBerry fans have gone out today to buy the PlayBook. Got any first impressions you want to share? Drop 'em below.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:46 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

410Labs: Baltimore startup attracting outside investors

We've seen Dave Troy roll up his sleeves and help coordinate and promote Baltimore's tech scene over the last couple years, helping pull off such events as TedXMidAtlantic and BarCamp Baltimore.

He's also dabbled in politics lately, with a public endorsement of Otis Rolley, who's running for mayor in Baltimore.

But the local entrepreneur, who founded and sold ToadNet, an ISP, is coming on strong this year with a new startup venture. It's called 410Labs. The company is all about building nimble communication tools that make managing your flow of digital information better, whether its with Twitter or email.

A new tool that Troy and his colleagues demo'ed at the Baltimore Startup Weekend event is called Mailstrom, which helps people analyze and manage their email inboxes.

Last week, Troy tweeted that his company was receiving some investments to keep doing its thing. So far, 410Labs is about halfway through a $500,000-plus angel round of investing. And its attracted investors from San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC and possibly even New York.

Here's a short Q&A I did with Dave recently:

Q) Who are the principals in 410Labs?

A) David Troy, CEO; Matt Koll, Chairman (sold two companies to AOL). We also have two full-time developers and one part-time employee who have a stake in the company.

Q) What do you build?

A) We're building products that add value to people's lives using technology. So that's pretty broad. Our first product, Replyz, helps people find answers to questions. Our second product, Shortmail, is experimenting with innovations in email, which hasn't seen much innovation in a very long time. We anticipate having about four products in our portfolio by the end of the year.

Q) Why take investment?

A) We're not taking much, and the investments are strategic in nature. We want to build support within our industry, both in San Francisco and here in Baltimore. So it's really more about relationships, but this will also allow us to hire people and move faster than we have been. We also appreciate the vote of confidence and insights that we gain by working with outside investors.

Q) How much currently raised and how much targeted?

A) We are raising $500-$600K in this current round and are about half done. As I said, the investments we have secured so far are firmly in the "Angel" category.

Q) Who are your investors? (Is it Twitter and Living Social, per se, or individual executives from those companies?)

A) I can't speak to it in full before we close the round, but individuals at both Twitter and Living Social have committed to angel investments in the company. It's going to be a nice mix of people in San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC, and probably New York.

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April 18, 2011

Baltimore's Startup Weekend -- the winners!

So this weekend, I ran a few errands: I went to the bank, dropped off recycling, cleaned my house, worked, and tried to pay some fatherly attention to my kid.

Sounds like a typical weekend for a lot of folks, right? Well, not for the uber-ambitious people who spent 2 1/2 days of their lives breathing, eating and sleeping the Baltimore Startup Weekend experience. That's some of them below.


I wrote a story about the event for entrepreneurs and techies here. But it didn't quite do it justice. There were a TON of great ideas there, and super-motivated people who made a lot happen in a weekend. I saw prototypes, alpha versions, beta versions, and almost-ready-for-primetime versions.

In the 2+ years I've been covering these types of events in the Baltimore area, I have to say that, in my outsider's view, this was perhaps the strongest one, in terms of raw idea power and get-up-and-just-do-it initiative.

Baltimore's tech scene indeed has come a long way.

It helped that about half of the crowd seemed to be coming from out of state. This is, net-net, not a bad thing. We want outsiders being attracted to Baltimore. Let them move here. Let them connect with talented folks here. And hopefully, let them find some office space to call home here for their business. It is a good thing when Baltimore is seen as a place that's friendly to the shiny brightness of risk-taking entrepreneurs.

That said, Startup Weekend was a competition and there were winners. Here they are:

* 3rd place: @Dapprly, an app that enables people to crowdsource opinions of their outfits before they go out on the town, and @talkchalkco, a powerful Facebook app that enables teachers and students to do their work on the social networking site.

* 2nd place: @ispylocal, AKA Localize, AKA Proportunities, which enables owners of vacant buildings to essentially poll the neighborhood for ideas on what businesses should move in to the empty space, via text messages.

* 1st place: @Parking_Panda, an app that enables people who own driveways to rent them out, to make a little extra cash and help alleviate parking problems in the city.

If anybody puts together a list of all the ideas and pitches that came out of Baltimore's Startup Weekend, please let me know and I'll re-post here.

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April 15, 2011

Lessons learned? Twitter's original angel investors who sold out early

oops-image.jpgThe Business Insider published a really interesting look at how a bunch of original Twitter investors feel about cashing out of the hot social media startup at its really early stages.

They sold out for $5 million five years ago, and now Twitter has reportedly received valuations of up to $10 billion. Yikes!

Here's the link:

As you might expect, some of the investors have gone with the flow and seem to have accepted how life and startups work out. Others seem more bitter about missing out on a crazy growth opportunity.

Twitter is a funny beast. Unlike Facebook, which seems like everyone introduced to it early on knew it would be a huge success, Twitter seemed to skyrocket thanks to the early, passionate adoption by users, especially by journalists and civic-minded folks who started using it as a breaking news tool.

It gained momentum that completely surprised Twitter management.

So really, if you're to believe the narrative the tech press is currently spinning about Twitter, then it may be safe to say that Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey are not only smart, they're also pretty darn lucky that they somehow managed to create a product that really resonates with people.

Smart AND lucky is a great combination for startups!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, West Coast

April 13, 2011

Startup Weekend comes to Baltimore: this weekend


Entrepreneurs: start your engines.

The popular Startup Weekend event is coming to Baltimore this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Our version is organized by some leaders in the local tech and entrepreneurial scene, but it's run off of a format developed by the Seattle-based nonprofit Startup Weekend organization, which encourages new business formation across the world.

It's a bootcamp-like weekend-long event intended to create a crucible of thinking, innovation and work for the participants, to move them toward a defined product.

From the Baltimore Startup Weekend site:

Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The weekend brings together people with different skillsets - primarily software developers, graphics designers and business people - to build applications and develop a commercial case around them.

The weekend is not for the faint of heart. For those participating, they will spend basically Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday working on a project that they will then pitch Sunday night.

The event starts Friday evening at the Emerging Technology Center in Canton, where it will also be on Saturday. On Sunday, it shifts to the University of Maryland Baltimore's BioPark, on the west side of downtown.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Events (Baltimore area)

April 12, 2011

Google Trends' "Hot Topics" is gone

I just checked out Google Trends and discovered that the "Hot Topics" section was gone. I never really found it that useful and didn't quite understand what made a topic "hot" vs. highly searched.

WebProNews reports that Google decided to "streamline" and unify the hot topics section into the "hot searches" section. Hope this doesn't make too many people hot and bothered.

For anyone not in the know, Google Trends is a site commonly used by bloggers and other online writers to gauge the popularity of different search terms, usually in the hopes of writing good "SEO friendly" copy.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:04 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

Maryland motion-control tech company raises $5.5 million

Loop-pointer.jpgHillcrest Labs brought us the Loop -- a circular device that you hold and use to control your PC while it's hooked up to your TV. That's it on the left.

Now the Rockville, Md.,-based company has just raised a good chunk of money, presumably to expand and bring more cool gadgets to market.

According to a Securities and Exchange filing today, the privately held company has raised $5.5 million in an equity round of investment.

The firm touts itself as creating the world's first motion-controller for television, the world's first complete Web browser for television, and the world's first cursor-controlled apps for television (huh? who really wants a cursor controlled app on their TV? I'm confused). Anyhow....

Hillcrest made headlines three years ago when it filed a patent infringement suit against Nintendo, for its Wii controller. The company has had millions in investment pumped into it from major venture capital players, including NEA and Grotech, both local-regional firms.

Hillcrest has partnered with LG Electronics and Logitech on products, among others, to develop cool new tech.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups

Bye-bye Flip camera

flip-camera.jpgMy, how fast the market changes. Just a few years ago, the Flip camera was a blockbuster seller and a bit of a revolutionary.

It represented easy video recording on the go. And it was relatively cheap and practically idiot-proof to use. But alas, the smartphone wave seems to be sweeping the Flip away.

With more and more consumers shooting HD video with their iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys, who needs a Flip?

Today, Cisco announced that it will be shutting down its Flip camera business and The Flip camera and laying off about 550 employees.

Cisco bet big on Flip barely two years ago, buying its maker, Pure Digital, for $590 million.

It's too bad they didn't find a way to make the technology work for them and for the consumer, but it's also a sign that people are increasingly using one device -- mobile phones -- for a lot of their digital media creation uses.

Personally, I used a Flip several years ago, when they first came out and it was okay. But, smartphones (or even an iPod Touch) now are generally equal, if not better, and more functional.

Will you miss the Flip?


Update: Random thought-- Why the heck didn't Cisco ever build some network connectivity into  the Flip?! I don't follow Cisco closely, but when I first heard the news 2 years ago that it was buying Flip, I thought: Cool. Here come the networked cameras. But they were never Wi-Fi or 3G enabled. What's the story behind that?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:54 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

A Brazilian iPad to go along with your Brazilian wax?

Well here's some interesting news: Apple Inc., an American company, may be working with a major Asian manufacturing partner to open up a production facility in Brazil.

Foxconn, Apple's manufacturer, is reportedly interested in investing $12 billion to broaden its manufacturing base from Asia, reports Reuters.

Apple's tablet computer, the iPad, is expected to made at the Brazil plant. Brazil is on a roll.

First, it got the World Cup in 2014. Now it may be getting iPad production, which is a fairly sophisticated consumer product to build. This could bode well for the country's manufacturing base and entice other multinational companies to bring production to South America.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 11, 2011

Hopkins Applied Physics Lab's Ignition grants encourage even more geekery

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., employs a few thousand brilliant minds who work on complex -- often top secret -- problems, from space travel to defense.

But a new program is encouraging the lab's scientists to come up with solutions to challenges outside of their normal duties, and the organization is rewarding these thinkers with "Ignition grants."

A story in the JHU Gazette today identified eight winners of the grants, and their neat projects.

The winners get an infusion of $12,000 to $20,000 to conduct their research. It kind of reminds me of Google's "20 percent time", where it's engineers are giving a chance to work on their own pet projects a fifth of their time.

So what did the APL brains pitch to invent? According to the JHU Gazette's Geoff Brown, the winning entries were:

* “Find an Expert at JHU: A Marketplace for Connecting Innovation to Resources Within the JHU Family”

* “iBuoy”

* “Pocket-Size Personal Surveillance Robot”

* “On-Site Child Care” [Hands down, BEST IDEA EVER.]

* “Mechanical Engineers Unite”

* “Distributed Library”

* “Conformal Antenna for Gun-Launched Projectile” [Well this sounds interesting.]

* “Volunteer Cyber Defense Corps”

This article has some background on some of these inventions and ideas, but I'd love to get more detail on each of these entries, so if you know something about them, please drop some knowledge in the comments below. Thanks.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Columbia University study: Facebook users either sharing too much, or too little

A computer scientist at Columbia University found that every single person surveyed in a study about Facebook usage was sharing something they wished to hide, or hiding something they wished to share -- a finding that highlights the shortcomings of the online social network's privacy settings, according to his research.

The study is believed to be the first that considers the privacy intentions of users of the popular network, which has more than 600 million members worldwide, and attempts to reconcile users intentions with how their information is actually displayed on the site.

Steven M. Bellovin, who as a graduate student helped develop the USENET internet discussion board system more than three decades ago, reviewed his study during a talk to students at the University of Maryland School of Law today in Baltimore.

"If you think it should be kept private, have you succeeded in doing so?" Bellovin posited to the crowd.

Bellovin said that most people indicated in his study that they cared about privacy, and that media coverage of privacy concerns with Facebook had made them pay more attention to the issue. But a majority of users indicated that they can not or will not fix errors in their privacy settings, he said.

"The overwhelming majority of people have given up," said Bellovin. "That, to us, is a fairly damning statement on the user interface."

The study was limited to surveying 65 Columbia University students, who were recruited on campus, and completed by using a customized Facebook application.

Below, Bellovin, left, accompanied by UMD law professor Danielle Citron.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Social Media

April 7, 2011

YouTube wants to compete with the boobtube

Finally, YouTube is planning to bring some order -- and more professionally produced content -- to the chaos of content that is its site.

The WSJ is reporting today that YouTube, owned by Google, plans to restructure its home page into a bunch of "channels" to make it easier for us lazy viewers to browse such content as "arts" or "sports." (Umm, how is this different from its current design, WSJ?)

The company also plans to pump a $100 million to commission "low-cost content" designed exclusively for the Web, the WSJ says. Let's hope this "low-cost content" isn't really a synonym for "crap."

Here's why these changes matter, per the WSJ: The pending changes are a big bet by the world's most-popular video site to push in a new direction. Between the Wild West of user-generated content and the pricier precincts of full-blown TV shows, Google is hoping to carve out a niche of original, professionally produced Web videos that it hopes will cultivate loyal viewers.

But seriously, YouTube, let's chat for a moment. Who are you trying to be? Everyone loves watching videos of chattering twin babies and talking dogs? Such video clips are HUGE, and probably bigger than anything YouTube will ever professionally produce. So why spend the $100 million? Because you have it? Okay, well, that's a good enough answer, I guess.

Can YouTube's professional content ever beat the Bed Intruder video?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

April 5, 2011

Smartphone ownership more than doubles in a year: Arbitron

Arbitron Inc., a media audience measurement firm based in Columbia, Md., that the percentage of Americans who possess smartphones more than doubled in the past year, from 14 percent to 31 percent.

Here are more factoids from the study:

-- Facebook is now being used by a majority of all Americans age 12 and
over (51%); this number was only 8% when Arbitron/Edison Research first
measured the social media phenomenon in 2008.

-- A majority of American households now have two or more computers (51%);
as compared to 24% of households in 2002.

-- Usage of online radio is up significantly, with weekly usage of all
forms of online radio having doubled in the last five years;
self-reported weekly time spent with online radio is now nearly 10 hours
(9 hours 47 minutes).

-- Daily time spent with TV, Radio and the Internet combined has increased
by 20 percent in the last ten years, with self-reported daily usage now
at 8 hours 11 minutes compared to 6 hours 50 minutes in 2001.

-- Just under one-third of all Americans (31%) have plugged an MP3 player
such as an Apple iPod into their car stereo systems.

-- One in ten Americans report listening to Pandora Internet Radio in the
week before they were surveyed.

-- Among the 81% of American households with Internet access, two-thirds
now have a Wi-Fi network installed.

-- More than one-tenth of all cell phone owners have listened to online
radio streamed in their cars by connecting their phones to their car
stereo system.

More than 2,000 people were interviewed for the study.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:33 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

Social enterprises: when non-profits and for-profits collide!

schroeder-starbucks.jpgMost days, you'll find Richard Schroeder (left) working off his laptop at the Starbucks on Boston Street in Canton. He's been busy setting up Sierra Leone's first "special economic zone" over the past year or so -- and he's done a fair amount of the work by telecommuting from a coffee shop.

The nonprofit he works for -- World Hope International -- is based in Alexandria, Va., but Schroeder, who lives in Baltimore, mostly does his work out of the Starbucks and a nearby Panera Bread.

It was while telling me his story about his work life when I was struck not only by how he works internationally from a local Wi-Fi hotspot, but how the field he is in -- international development -- is evolving.

I found that his effort to set up the First Step special economic zone in Sierra Leone is part of a trend in non-profits exploring for-profit ventures to improve people's lives -- and to better sustain their ventures and relying less on donations.

Schroeder's work became a launching point for me to explore this notion of "social enterprises," which is a broad catch-all term for initiatives that show characteristics of non-profit and for-profit ventures. Here's my story, which appeared in the Sunday paper.

The social enterprise: making a buck and doing good International, local projects blending nonprofit and profit models

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

World Hope International, a Christian relief and development nonprofit group, has been providing charitable aid and small loans to farmers and entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone for years.

Now the Northern Virginia group wants to go into business with those it aims to help. It has started a for-profit arm to build an industrial park and helped launch a juice plant that would process the West African country's bounty of mangoes and pineapples.

World Hope's effort is part of a recalibration of how some nonprofit organizations approach their work — applying the strategies of capitalism to achieve their goals. In Sierra Leone, which is still rebuilding after a civil war that ended more than a decade ago, World Hope wants to create good-paying jobs by attracting "ethical" investment. They say they can provide the moral compass, while foreign companies provide the startup capital.

"This is marking a huge transformation in the way nonprofits would do international economic development," said Richard Schroeder, a Baltimorean and World Hope economist who has led the nonprofit's effort in Sierra Leone. "We transform that humanitarian presence into a framework that will support ethical foreign direct investment."

Read on: Full article.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

March 31, 2011

TidalTV, Baltimore video ad startup, raises $30 million

john-ferber.jpgBig news in Baltimore startup land today:

TidalTV, founded by Scott Ferber (left), who co-founded in 1998, announced that it raised $30 million in new financing from investors -- an amount that nearly doubles the $16 million the company raised in 2009.

The investment round was led by New Enterprise Associates, with involvement from existing investors Comcast Interactive Capital and Valhalla Partners.

TidalTV said in a statement today that it plans to use the increased funding to "support the aggressive expansion of TidalTV’s technology into new global markets throughout 2011 and the deployment of its proprietary ad decisioning solutions into new multi-screen applications for advertisers, media agencies and publishers."

TidalTV's technology helps serve targeted advertising to mobile and online video watchers.

The company cited industry estimates from eMarketer, which showed eMarketer estimates that "by 2015, 76% of internet users, or 195.5 million people will be watching online video each month. In the same period, it predicts online video advertising spending will surge from $1.97 billion to $5.71 billion."

The technology that underpins TidalTV appears to be heavily guided by mathematics and science -- a quantitative approach that Scott Ferber, and his brother John, brought to, which is now owned by AOL.

The Ferber brothers sold to AOL in 2004 for nearly a half billion dollars.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:54 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Startups

Johns Hopkins No. 2 in "social media colleges" ranked the top 100 colleges that deploy social media strategies on campus for students, prospective students and faculty -- and ranked Johns Hopkins University No. 2, behind Harvard University, where Facebook was born.

The online site, which helps students research and rank colleges, singled out Hopkins for its "fantastic" social media page and its "best-in-class" iPhone app.

This honor is not only good for Hopkins, but also good for a savvy little Baltimore tech company called Mindgrub. ViaPlace, a startup sister company of Mindgrub, designed the Hopkins iPhone app and specializes in building interactive mobile apps and websites. The company's done an app for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is currently working on an app for Loyola University Maryland.

The Mindgrub crew went to the digital interactive festival, South By Southwest, in Austin, Texas, earlier this month. Here's the video to prove it:

[via CityBizList]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:40 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Social Media

March 30, 2011

Google Fiber going to Kansas City, Kansas -- not Baltimore

Breaking news: Google just announced that it will build an experimental next-generation, high-speed fiber optic network in Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas City beat out more than 1,100 other communities across the United States, including Baltimore and several Maryland municipalities.

Here's the official Google announcement.

Baltimore technology enthusiasts months ago rallied online -- in an effort dubbed BmoreFiber -- to persuade city officials to get behind the idea to submit a proposal to Google, using the effort as a rallying cry to call attention to the city's technology infrastructure. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city and business stakeholders supported the effort and touted Baltimore's medical, technological and infrastructure capacities to Google. Mayor Rawlings-Blake named Tom Loveland, CEO of Mind Over Machines and an influential player within the state's tech community, as Baltimore's "Google Czar."

"With Google Fiber, Baltimore will change the world," the website reads.

The Google Fiber plan calls for delivering 1 gigabit download streaming to connected homes -- roughly 100 times faster than current average download connections for most Internet users. Supporters of such ultra-high-speed bandwidth say that enabling that kind of connectivity will create and enable new business models and help generate advances in everything from telemedicine to entertainment.

Stay tuned. More to come on this ....

UPDATE:Not all hope is lost. Google cofounder Sergey Brin seemed to indicate in the video below that the Kansas City roll-out is only the beginning, implying that it may roll out Google Fiber to other communities. This leaves some wiggle room of hope for Baltimore in the future.

I sought comments from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Dave Troy, who helped organize the Bmore Fiber grassroots effort and is a volunteer on the city's new Broadband Task Force formed by the mayor:

From Mayor Rawlings-Blake's spokesman: This was probably the most competitive process among American cities in modern history and it was great for Baltimore to be a part of it. It started the discussion on what we can do to improve broadband access and reduce the digital divide in Baltimore. As a result of the Google process, the Mayor Rawlings-Blake created a broadband task force to identify opportunities to increase access to ultra high-speed internet. Mayor Rawlings-Blake named Tom Loveland, CEO of Mind Over Machines, and Donald Fry, Greater Baltimore Committee President and CEO, to lead the effort as co-chairs of the task force. The Mayor is also pleased that internet infrastructure companies and wireless broadband providers are continuing to expand and improve their networks in Baltimore.

From Dave Troy: From my perspective I think it was a fair competition with 1,100 players. We had no strong sense of what sort of municipality they might favor – word was that a city nearby to them might be the first choice, like Palo Alto – so the fact that they chose a city that resembles Baltimore bodes well for us going forward.

Sergey Brin is quoted as saying that they are "starting with Kansas City," so if they pursue other cities of similar sizes, I'd say Baltimore continues to fare very well on that list. So I am disappointed but still hopeful. And regardless, the process spawned an exploration of how we might go about doing this ourselves, and that is already well underway with the work that Tom [Loveland] and I are doing with the Broadband Task Force.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:40 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: *NEWS*

Tablet ennui: Microsoft, Dell poo-poo iPad, tablets


Two stories making the Internet rounds today reveal Microsoft's and Dell's approach to the tablet category, which appears to be a strategy of downplaying Apple's huge market lead and poo-pooing the tablet as a form factor.

As Homer Simpson would say: "D'oh!"

Dell's global head of marketing for large enterprises told CIO that the iPad would ultimately fail in the enterprise. Commenters on the site suggested that the Dell executive was "smoking" something or "DELLusional."

Meantime, Microsoft's global chief research and strategy executive mused that tablets might be a flash in the pan -- even as his company struggles to come up with an iPad competitor. He believes the smartphone will emerge as the primary mobile and portable computing device, according to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Really, Microsoft? How about those 700,000 downloads of the Citrix application for the iPad? That's the beginning of a wave of professionals accessing their PCs through a tablet application -- and it's happening on an iPad.

Personally, I think the tablet is here to stay. And Apple is locking in millions of customers into their ecosystem at a very fast rate.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas

FTC charges Google with deceptive practices in Buzz rollout

Whoa. Here's some news: The Federal Trade Commission just released news that Google agreed to settle allegations that it engaged in deceptive practices with consumers when it launched its Buzz social network/microblog site last year. Google has agreed to implement a "comprehensive privacy program" for consumers.

There was buzz about Buzz when it first launched in the area of consumer privacy concerns. The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the FTC raising privacy concerns.

[Updated: An earlier version of this post erroneously reported the entity that filed the complaint with the FTC as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Mea culpa.]

Below is the FTC news release:

FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google's Rollout of Its Buzz Social Network
Google Agrees to Implement Comprehensive Privacy Program to Protect Consumer Data

Google Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched its social network, Google Buzz, in 2010. The agency alleges the practices violate the FTC Act. The proposed settlement bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and calls for regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information. In addition, this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, which provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States.

“When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations."

According to the FTC complaint, Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product. Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective. For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find, the agency alleged.

On the day Buzz was launched, Gmail users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, the FTC complaint alleged that some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah...” were nonetheless enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network.

In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors. According to the FTC complaint, Google made certain changes to the Buzz product in response to those complaints.

When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose - social networking - without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance.

The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz.

The complaint further alleges that a screen that asked consumers enrolling in Buzz, “How do you want to appear to others?” indicated that consumers could exercise control over what personal information would be made public. The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.

Finally, the agency alleges that Google misrepresented that it was treating personal information from the European Union in accordance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. The framework is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission. To participate, a company must self-certify annually to the Department of Commerce that it complies with a defined set of privacy principles. The complaint alleges that Google’s assertion that it adhered to the Safe Harbor principles was false because the company failed to give consumers notice and choice before using their information for a purpose different from that for which it was collected.

The proposed settlement bars Google from misrepresenting the privacy or confidentiality of individuals’ information or misrepresenting compliance with the U.S.-E.U Safe Harbor or other privacy, security, or compliance programs. The settlement requires the company to obtain users’ consent before sharing their information with third parties if Google changes its products or services in a way that results in information sharing that is contrary to any privacy promises made when the user’s information was collected. The settlement further requires Google to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program, and it requires that for the next 20 years, the company have audits conducted by independent third parties every two years to assess its privacy and data protection practices.

Google’s data practices in connection with its launch of Google Buzz were the subject of a complaint filed with the FTC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center shortly after the service was launched.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. Commissioner Rosch concurs with accepting, subject to final approval, the consent order for the purpose of public comment. The reasons for his concurrence are described in a separate Statement.

The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 1, 2011, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section. Comments in electronic form should be submitted using the following web link:
and following the instructions on the web-based form. Comments in paper form should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has actually violated the law. A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the respondent that the law has been violated. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

March 29, 2011

Maryland bioscience pros honored

The Greater Baltimore Committee named four professionals as winners of its 2011 Maryland Bioscience Awards.

From a news release today:

* Best New Product or Progress: Steven J. Kubisen, Ph.D., President and CEO
Seguro Surgical, Inc., Columbia. The core technology for Seguro Surgical’s first product was licensed from Johns Hopkins University in September, 2009. In less than one year, Seguro completed the commercial product development, established manufacturing capability, established sales coverage and launched the Lap Pak. The product is a one-piece, silicone “bowel packing” device for use in abdominal surgery, saving operating room time and reducing the risk of complications from the surgery.

* Leadership in Bioscience Award: Steve Dubin, Esq., CPA, CEO, Martek Bioscience Corp., Columbia. Dubin has been with Martek from its beginnings in 1986. The company employs 600 people and generates more than $450 million in annual revenue from its life’sDHA™ and other nutritional products. In February 2011 Martek was acquired by the global life sciences and materials sciences company DSM for $1.1 billion.

* Entrepreneurial Spirit Award: Gary Lessing, MBA, President and CEO, Corridor Pharmaceuticals, Lutherville. Lessing engineered the merger between the company he co-founded, Arginetix, and Immune Control to form Corridor Pharmaceuticals in 2010. Corridor, which seeks to develop inhibitors to an enzyme for pulmonary hypertension and other conditions, has secured more than $27 million in funding, launched a Phase I human clinical trial for its product, and completed technology licenses with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania.

* President’s Award: Carolane Williams, Ph.D., President, Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), Baltimore. The President’s Award this year recognizes the importance of workforce training in the bioscience industry. Through a unique partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore Bio Park, BCCC is addressing the need for a pipeline of highly-skilled workers for the growing bioscience industry. The partnership also helps bridge the divide between workforce shortages and unemployed and under-employed adults in Baltimore. Using a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, BCCC has developed the BioScience Connections scholarship program to help students pay for college.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:09 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

March 24, 2011

List of tablet computers: the iPad's competition

The folks at Webbmedia Group (based in Baltimore!) did all the hard work so you don't have to -- they compiled a list of 30-plus tablet computers, including specifications and features, that are on the market, or soon to hit.

The usual suspects are on there, such as the Apple iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the upcoming RIM/BlackBerry Playbook. But did you also know about the Kno, the Vizio and the LG Optimus?

If you're closely watching the tablet market and are looking for something other than an iPad -- which pretty much IS the tablet market right now -- take a gander below. Thanks for putting this together, Webbmedia.

Tablet Matrix Q2 2011 by Webbmedia Group

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:10 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets

March 23, 2011

Loophole? Maryland not tracking formation of "benefit corporations"

I'm working on a story at the moment that references "benefit corporations," which are these hybrid non-profit/for-profit entities that allow a business to make profits but also funnel resources into social welfare, environmental or humanitarian causes.

Maryland, with a fair amount of fanfare, was the first state in the country to enact a law that enabled these benefit corporations last year, and a handful of states are now following suit. (The Sun covered the law when it took effect -- here are details on it.)

From the Sun story: Under Maryland law, a so-called benefit corp. pays taxes and has shareholders but is shielded from shareholder lawsuits if the company chooses to channel some profits to benefit employees, the community or the environment.

So here's the loophole: the Maryland State Department of Assessment and Taxation is not tracking how many of these benefit corporations are being formed -- because such a registry was not written into the state law, according to acting deputy director Robert E. Young.

"There's no way to track this," Young told me.

Young told me that "less than 50" benefit corporations have been created in Maryland since October, when the law took effect after being passed in April. But that number is anecdotal from the clerks who handle the corporate filing paperwork.

So, say, five years from now, if anybody in the state wants to look back and evaluate whether the benefit corporation law has been effective, how many benefit corps have been formed, and their impact on state tax revenues .... well, this can't be done because they can't be tracked.

Um, is this a problem? What do you think?

(Note: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly referred to benefit corporations as "b corporations," which is a term that does not apply in this particular case.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

March 22, 2011

Hackers target celebrities' nudie pics in email, mobile phones

Apparently, a lot of celebrities like to take nudie pics of themselves -- 'cuz hackers have stolen pics from dozens of them, various media are reporting.

I read about it on Fox News, but of course, this hot (ahem) news tip comes from TMZ.

Apparently I've been living in a cave and didn't know that a big bunch of celebrity women have had their emails and mobile devices hacked, and nudie pics of themselves stolen. Some of the pics have appeared on a French blog, whose blogger has since gone underground. Defamer says the hacker goes by the online name: "Gook."

Anywhere from 50 to 100 celebrities may have been hacked. Fox News says the celebrities, all female, include Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Hudgens, Scarlett Johansson, Ali Larter, Busy Philipps, Miley Cyrus, Emma Caulfield, Addison Timlin and Renee Olstead,

Read more:

The FBI is on the case. This sounds really interesting from a technical perspective, especially if some interesting hacks were deployed on mobile devices to get access to these photos. And did the hacker(s) sell the pics for cash? Or were they using them for potential blackmail purposes

It also makes me wonder about the phenomenon of taking nudie pics of yourself and storing them on your phone or email. How common is this? Or is this an epidemic in Hollywood only?

I'm gonna bet there are a lot of "freaks" out there who do. My guess is that people end up with nudie pics of themselves on their phones and in their emails from engaging in "sexting" with another person. Right?

What's the real deal, folks?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:47 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

Amazon to Apple: You say "App Store", we say "Appstore"

Apple has laid claim to the term "App Store" with a trademark filing -- and it's using its sharp elbows to try to prevent Amazon from calling their own version by the same name.

By "sharp elbows," I mean that Apple is suing Amazon.

Amazon's version, technically, is called "Appstore" -- one word -- whereas Apple's version is two words. But that may not be enough to protect Amazon. Then again, Apple has not yet been awarded the trademark and it's unclear if App store is worthy of trademark protection.

There may have been other "app stores" floating around the marketplace prior to Apple's introduction of it in connection with its iPhone and iPod Touch products. But it's hard to argue that Apple didn't popularize the term and now for many, it means it's a store that sells apps for computing devices.

Amazon's "Appstore" is viewed as an iTunes competitor. It's a store for applications for the Google Android mobile operating system, which is used on many phones and, increasingly, tablet computers. Amazon hopes to offer a streamlined and user-friendly experience for browsing, reviewing, downloading and paying for apps on Android devices.

If anyone could build a successful Android app store, it's definitely Amazon. They've already got millions of people using the site, with pre-loaded credit card information. And their site has good customer review tools, which is important for discovering and assessing these mobile apps.

Apple is right to use every advantage it can to beat back the competition. But I have a feeling they might lose the "app store" argument against Amazon.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

March 17, 2011

Groupon could be worth $25 billion -- or yours for $10 if you and 100 others buy before the end of the day

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

People are hyperventilating that Groupon could be worth $25 billion in a possible IPO.

Me? Personally, I don't get the hype. Groupon is in a business with a low entry barrier with tons of competitors nipping at their heels. Plus, I'm not so sure they can keep the momentum rolling. I've read stories of retailers and restaurateurs having trouble with the Groupon effect -- where they sell tons of coupons but make almost no money and in some cases actually lose money.

Plus, Groupon and similar couponing companies are partly dependent on a fair share of consumers actually NOT cashing in their coupons at establishments. This means that the more coupons you buy and don't use, the better off these companies and retailers are, because they pocket your money without giving you the product or service. If all of a sudden everybody starts redeeming their coupons, well, the business model gets upended.

Moral of the story: if you buy a Groupon or a Living Social whatever or a Chewpon, use it. Or you just handed over cash money for nothing. But you don't need me minding your Ps and Qs, right? Right.

So, what do you think Baltimore businesses, of the Groupon effect? Has it been good for businesses in Baltimore who've used it, or not?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 6:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

New York Times metered paywall: $100 million a year?

The Business Insider posted a short article today on how a former Wall Street Journal publisher estimates that the NYT stands to make $100 million on its metered paywall from subscribers (in addition to the $150 million it rakes in from digital ads.)

So, where does that $100 million come from? Not sure. But I have a guess. I believe Gordon Crovitz, the former WSJ publisher, is looking at the New York Times experience with the "Times Select" offering, which charged $50 a year several years ago for columnist and other specialized content.

Times Select drew 227,000 subscribers. Now, to reach Gordon Crovitz's rosy $100 million expectation, the new NYT metered paywall, on average, would have to enroll 238,000 paid subscribers in the "all digital access" plan, at $35 a month -- or $420 $455 a year (a Times spokeswoman called me to say their billing schedule of once every four weeks works out to be higher.)

But wait, there's a big difference between $420 $455 a year and $50 a year. Not many people have the deep pockets for a $420 $455 a year digital subscription to anything. So let's take the low end of the NYT's pricing scheme.

The cheapest rate for access to and its various smartphone apps is $15 a month. Or $195 a year.

But again, Times Select charged $50 a year, whereas the entry level digital subscription charges $195 times a year. To make $100 million in revenue just off the barebones digital subscription, the NYT would have to get 555,555 people to pony up $195 a year.

Again, Times Select drew in $10 million a year in revenue with 227,000 subscribers.

Sorry, Crovitz, I don't see these numbers working out in the New York Times favor. My bet is if the NYTimes even makes $50 million on this paywall approach, it will be darn tootin' lucky.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*

New York Times Metered Paywall: It's real and it's spectacular


The New York Times, arguably the last great hope for quality "traditional" journalism in a Web/blog/Twitter/Facebook world, took the covers off its "metered" paywall strategy today.

It's real and it's spectacular. No really. I kinda like it. Do I think it'll work? I wouldn't bet on it. But it's probably the best attempt at just doing something by a mainstream, big-time general circulation newspaper (i.e. not the Wall Street Journal and its pay model.)

Their strategy takes effect in Canada today (those Canadians are the NYT's guinea pigs. Ha!), and will come to the U.S. on March 28.

From the NYTimes' description of the new way of consuming its news online:

On, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

• On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.

• The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at

• Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to to sign up for free access.

• Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

• The home page at and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

For more information, go to

Clearly, this is a strategy that lets casual users still partake in Times content. The Times doesn't value those users as much, of course. But if you're checking out Times content more than 20 times a month, that means you're likely a believer in their product and wouldn't mind ponying up some cash to keep it coming. Or would you?

Here's how much cash we're talking about -- from the FAQ:

All digital subscription options will be available globally on March 28, 2011

An NYTimes digital subscription provides ongoing access to our digital content. We offer three options, each of which provides unlimited access to the Web site. The differences between the options are based on which smartphone and/or tablet apps are included. The options and pricing are as follows: Plus Smartphone App:* $3.75 per week (billed every 4 weeks at $15.00)

* Unlimited access to from any device
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android-powered phones Plus Tablet App:* $5.00 per week (billed every 4 weeks at $20.00)

* Unlimited access to from any device
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for iPad, plus Times Reader 2.0 and the NYTimes App for the Chrome Web Store

All Digital Access:* $8.75 per week (billed every 4 weeks at $35.00)

* Unlimited access to, plus smartphone apps and tablet apps
* Unlimited access to from any device
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android-powered phones
* Unlimited access to the NYTimes app for iPad, plus Times Reader 2.0 and the NYTimes app for the Chrome Web Store

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:36 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: *NEWS*, Media

March 14, 2011

Buy back programs: Buy. Sell. Repeat.

This past weekend, I took a look at the proliferation of "buy back" programs in the consumer electronics retailing industry with this piece, which appeared in the Sunday paper. Best Buy is the latest retailer to come out with a program. Walmart, Target, Radio Shack and various wireless carriers have their own, too.

Personally, I find myself taking care of my gadgets better knowing that there's a market for them. It also gives me some buying comfort knowing that there's a multitude of ways to sell "old" gadgets to help fund the purchase of new ones. What are your thoughts on this trend? Which buy back programs do you think are the best right now?

Best Buy employee Rustam Ibragimov, left, explains the company's buy back program to customer Robin Wilson, from right, and husband Roger, of Frostburg who are buying a laptop computer. The couple purchased the buy back program and an one-year repair service warranty on the computer. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / March 10, 2011)

Go-go gadget buy back
Retailers want to sell you gadgets, buy them back later, and then sell them again

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

You know that shiny smart phone you bought six months ago? There's an even better one hitting the market right about now. Or how about that flat-panel TV you bought last year. Now they come in 3-D.

With the ever-quickening pace of technological advances, you can be left in the digital dust.

Retailers now have a solution for consumers — and for themselves. They will buy back your old gadget in hopes that you turn around and buy the next best gadget on their shelves.

Under these "buyback" programs, big-box retailers and online merchants give cash or credit for a piece of used electronics. Best Buy, the world's largest consumer electronics retailer, launched its program earlier this year.

"Technology is changing so fast that the consumer a lot of times feels they're being left behind, so they'll postpone buying," said Cynthia Jasper, an expert in buying behavior and chair of the consumer science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "So it's a way to make the consumer feel at ease."

For retailers, buyback programs are another way to lure customers into stores to spend on pricey gadgets such as smart phones, laptops, tablet computers and televisions. Retailers also see buyback programs as an alternative revenue stream because they can sell used products through online outlet sites.

One California start-up has put its own twist on the concept. Its vending machine model, called the "ecoATM," is an automated kiosk that accepts used gadgets and pays the consumer in cash or gift cards. The company behind the Redbox movie rental kiosks, Coinstar, has invested in ecoATM, which has already deployed some of the machines in California.

Retail industry experts say the consumer electronics market is evolving the way markets in used cars or used textbooks did. And if consumers believe their gadgets will retain some value, they might be more willing to upgrade sooner rather than risk the device becoming outdated and worthless, industry experts said.

For years, early adopters of gadgets have used eBay and other online outlets to eventually sell them and use the cash to defray the cost of the latest models. With the new buyback programs, that kind of electronics consumerism could become the norm.

Many consumers already trade in — and up — their cell phones, as those who lock into contracts are often given credit to upgrade to newer models. Sprint, AT&T and Verizon have introduced their own buyback programs, some of which aim to lure customers from other carriers.

"The electronics business is built on people upgrading their products," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, a technology research firm. "Anything to increase the turnover is a benefit to the industry."

Consumer electronics retailers typically have thin profit margins, but some are finding a lucrative market in buying and reselling lightly used gadgets.

Dale S. Rogers, a logistics and supply chain expert and professor at Rutgers University, estimates that the secondary market for consumer electronics is worth about $13 billion in annual sales — or about 10 percent of the total consumer electronics market in the United States.

Rogers said that brick-and-mortar retailers increasingly feel threatened by online commerce and are strategizing ways to keep consumers coming through the doors. Best Buy's program, for one, requires customers to come into the store to sell back products.

"The brick-and-mortar, big-box retail store is experiencing some difficulty these days," said Rogers. "It's real easy to buy online, so these buyback programs are really a great way to get you into the store."

Under Best Buy's program, the consumer who buys a gadget pays an upfront fee, which varies on the type of product, to participate and is guaranteed a resale price of 10 percent to 50 percent of the item's original price. Most gadgets, except for televisions, have to be sold back within two years to qualify for a resale. Televisions have a four-year window for re-sale.

Best Buy then resells the products through its outlet center, through other online channels, or recycles them.

Robin Wilson of Frostburg, who purchased a buyback plan from the Best Buy store in Timonium when she purchased a new laptop recently, said it was the first time she had ever considered selling back a gadget. She liked knowing she would get at least some money back. She and her husband bought a used Apple MacBook Pro for $975 and a 1-year warranty for $139. Buying the warranty allowed them to get a discount on the usual "buyback" rate of $69.99 for laptops, for $25, she said.

With the buyback plan she purchased, Wilson is guaranteed to get back anywhere from $195 to $487.50 in Best Buy store credit, depending on when she trades in the laptop over the next two years.

"You usually can't do anything with [computers] because they're not worth anything after a couple years," Wilson said. "This seemed like a pretty good deal."

Some consumer advocates are critical of Best Buy's program, saying consumers have other options for selling their used electronics without paying an upfront fee.

Best Buy officials say that with the fee, consumers are guaranteed a minimum return. The company also promotes the convenience of in-store resales as a key benefit.

"Let us take care of it for you," said George Creighton, operations manager at the Best Buy store in Glen Burnie.

TechForward, a start-up company in California, has been offering this "guaranteed buyback" model for several years, partnering with clients such as Radio Shack and CompUSA, which offer the option to consumers. The terms of TechForward's program are similar to Best Buy's.

It had partnered with Best Buy to develop the retailer's own program, a federal lawsuit filed last month in California alleges. TechForward contends that Best Buy stole its trade secrets and launched its own program — with a major commercial on Super Bowl Sunday this year — and ultimately cut out the small company.

Best Buy representatives declined to discuss the lawsuit.

As part of the lawsuit, TechForward revealed that one of the ways it makes money is by closely tracking the rate of return for different gadgets. The company can turn a profit from those who never take advantage of the buyback plan., a Boston-based company founded in 2006, gives consumers the going market price for a gadget, whether it's a smart phone or an Apple iPad.

It has also developed its own technologies for quickly assessing the worldwide market for electronics. Gazelle users can get an online price quote for their equipment, ship the product for free to the company and get paid within two weeks.

Some of Gazelle's retail partners include Walmart, Costco and Kmart. Consumers can trade in electronics through these retailers' websites and get store credit, or they can opt for cash back.

Kristina Kennedy, a Gazelle spokeswoman, said the company calls the nascent industry "recommerce." The March 2 announcement of the Apple iPad 2 led to a watershed moment for the online service. Owners of the original iPad flocked to the website and sold 2,400 units on the day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the second version.

"That became the biggest day of business for us in the company's history," Kennedy said.

"What's really spurred our business is the pace of innovation," Kennedy said. "The last couple years have seen some very exciting products to come out in consumer electronics."

Baltimorean Dawn Ward has sold two smart phones, including an iPhone 3G in October for $80, through She's excited about all the options she now has to sell her gadgets.

"For the consumer, it's awesome," Ward said.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

March 11, 2011

Men's Health basically says Baltimore is mediocre social networking backwater