Facebook’s No. 1 music app raises $16 mln

Rihanna is one of BandPage's most popular artists

RootMusic is not one of the better known names in the digital music business, but in just 18 months  it has built the most popular music app on the world’s largest social networking platform, Facebook.

That service is called BandPage and allows artists’ to post their video, sell  songs and promote their tours on Facebook.

Though this might seem like a service with a  relatively low barrier to entry — it is free and up to the artists or their representatives to post their videos — RootMusic has done a quietly efficient job of achieving scale and now claims some 250,000 musicians using BandPage.

That scale has helped to raise $16 million in Series B funding to expand its service, the start-up said on Wednesday. It said the round was led by GGV Capital with new investor Northgate Capital and existing investor Mohr Davidow Ventures. GGV Partner Hany Nada is set to join the board  that already  includes Bill Ericson from Mohr Davidow.

RootMusic will undoubtedly feature on Facebook’s planned music service which is expected to launch later next month at the Facebook Developer Conference.

Facebook is facing the music — is Google calling the tune?

Pssssst — wanna know a secret? Facebook is feeling the heat from the surprisingly successful launch of Google+. There is vigorous competition from the search-and-advertising giant many assumed couldn’t shoot straight when it came to social media.

Some caveats: For one thing, I say “surprising” only because Google was arguably a three-time loser in the space. For another, it’s actually no secret that Facebook is, shall we say, finding it necessary to adapt to what might be a new world order. Third: Facebook still reigns supreme in membership and impact and pretty much every metric you (or they) would choose to use. Google+ hasn’t been with us even two months yet, for heaven’s sake, and while it’s amassed tens of millions of users there are no guarantees.

What I am talking about here is trajectory, and meme. You will pardon the pun, and excuse the mixed metaphor, but Google has finally caught a wave, and Facebook is hearing footsteps.

Now showing on Facebook: Pulp Fiction and other Miramax movies

Have you ever logged on to Facebook to watch a movie?

Film studios are betting you will.

On Monday Miramax announced a special Facebook app that will allow users to rent, and eventually buy, movies and view them within Facebook. The studio is releasing 20 movies, including Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting and Spy Kids, in its new Facebook app. Users can rent the movies with Facebook Credits, the virtual currency that Facebook has developed for its 750-million user social network, and watch them on their laptop, iPad or TV.

Last week Universal Pictures made its Facebook debut, releasing the 1998 bowling classic The Big Lebowski to Facebook users. Warner Brothers’ Dark Knight and Paramount’s “Jackass” franchise of films were also released for rent on  Facebook earlier this year.

Facebook has already proven to be an ideal distribution channel for games, with more than 200 million users playing social games like Farmville and Mafia Wars on the service every month.

Tech wrap: HP spinning off PC division

Hewlett-Packard is close to a deal to buy software company Autonomy for $10 billion and will announce a long-rumored spinoff of its PC division.

Autonomy, which counts Procter & Gamble among a long list of major corporate customers that use its software to search and organize unstructured data like emails, confirmed it was in talks with HP.

Google+, which has picked up more than 25 million users since launching in June, is headed down the right path and is the first serious challenge to Facebook’s dominance.

Tech wrap: Cisco beats “low bar”

Cisco Systems Inc’s quarterly results edged past Wall Street’s scaled-back expectations as IT spending held up despite fears of a severe pullback, buoying its shares in extended trading. The world’s largest networking equipment maker reported sales of $11.2 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter, surpassing expectations for under $11 billion.

“They beat a low bar. A lot of it is coming from cost cutting, which we anticipated. In that sense it’s a relief,” Joanna Makris of Mizuho Securities USA told Reuters.

Groupon Inc’s plans for an initial public offering have been dented by the stock market slump and new financial disclosures that suggest the daily deal company’s business is slowing in North America, analysts said on Wednesday.

Facebook creates mobile messaging app

Facebook has yet to release an app for use on Apple’s iPad tablet.

But the social networking giant gave users of Apple’s iPhone and Android smartphones a new app on Tuesday.

Dubbed Messenger, the new app lets Facebook users quickly shoot messages to their friends’ cell phones.

Yes, you could already do this using the existing Facebook mobile app, but that required navigating through various screens and layers every time you want to read and compose a message. The Messenger app is a one-trick pony that’s strictly for communicating, making the process much quicker.  And Messenger lets you communicate with friends that aren’t on Facebook, with the app sending SMS text messages directly to their phone numbers.

Tech wrap: Is Groupon’s IPO window closing?

As the Nasdaq Composite index continued its week-long tailspin, tech investors and analysts are wondering what the stock plunge could mean for the pending IPOs of companies like Groupon and Zynga.

The coming week, which has about a dozen IPOs scheduled to price, will be a good test of the severity of the selloff, according to Nick Einhorn, an analyst at Connecticut-based IPO research house Renaissance Capital. “Less mature, less profitable companies could have a tougher time going public,” Einhorn told Reuters.

If there was to be another recession, writes Investor Place’s Tom Taulli, “the IPO market will freeze up. It will mostly be only standout companies – such as Zynga and Facebook – that will get traction. A company like Groupon, which has substantial losses, may have to delay its offering or cut the valuation.”

In a twist, Zynga brings mobile game to Facebook

On Monday, Zynga said it would be bringing its most popular mobile game, “Words with Friends,” to Facebook. The social games maker said the game would be coming soon.

Players on Apple- or Android-powered devices will be able to carry over games from their phones or tablets onto Facebook. Zynga, in an attempt at bathroom humor, said this would allow “a seamless transition from your work computer to the bathroom… don’t lie, you know you do it.”

While it’s no surprise that Zynga would want to tap Facebook to attract more users to “Words with Friends” — a game you have to play with at least one other person — it’s a curious move for a company whose biggest IPO risk is its dependence on Facebook. Future investors are more likely to welcome an announcement in which Zynga distances itself from Facebook, like the recent one about Zynga entering mainland China through its partner Tencent.

Tech wrap: Amazon impresses

Amazon wowed investors when it reported a 51 percent surge in sales for the second quarter and said revenue for the current quarter would beat expectations. Shares of the e-commerce giant shot up more than 6 percent on the figures in after-hours trade, even though second-quarter net profits fell as the company’s margins continued to be pressured by heavy spending on distribution, technology and digital content.

Netflix shares took another beating on Tuesday after it warned a day earlier it was expecting subscriber growth to stall in the third quarter in response to price hikes announced this month. That didn’t stop several analysts from raising their price targets on the video rental company’s stock, though, as they took the company at its word that the effects of the subscriber slowdown would be temporary. According to one analyst interviewed by Reuters, the gain in average revenue per user in the fourth quarter will “more than offset” the expected cancellations from the higher prices. Another expressed optimism about the company’s plans to expand into Latin America early next year.

Wal-Mart’s answer to Netflix, Vudu, has a new home on the website. The retailer decided to move its video streaming and rental service to its flagship site in a bid to drum up more use as it competes with a host of other similar services. Starting Tuesday, consumers can order a DVD for mail delivery or pickup or rent or buy releases digitally directly from Wal-Mart’s website. The retailer bought the video company last year but had operated it separately until now.

Tech wrap: Fake Apple Store defiant

Customers at an apparent Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming berated staff and demanded refunds after the shop was revealed to be an elaborate fake, sparking a media and Internet frenzy. Staff were also angry at the unwanted attention after more than 1,000 media outlets picked up the story and pictures of the store from the BirdAbroad blog. Apple declined to comment on the fake store or others like it dotted around China.

Apple was in early talks to join the bidding for Hulu, the online video site that Walt Disney Co, News Corp and its other owners have put up for sale, Bloomberg cited two unidentified sources as saying.

Verizon Wireless signed up 1.3 million fewer iPhone customers than AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers spent less per month than expected in the second quarter, disappointing Wall Street. While Verizon Wireless added three times more net subscribers in the quarter than AT&T, it only activated 2.3 million Apple iPhones compared with 3.6 million activations at AT&T.