MediaFile

Is Siemens coming after Zynga?

Bewell_inside1Zynga better brace for its newest rival, the German manufacturing behemoth Siemens, which is reinventing itself as a social gaming startup with its first title out today, “Plantville.”

While Zynga makes money by selling virtual items in their games, say tractors, Siemens won’t charge for any items and just wants to muster up interest in “math, science and technology while inspiring the next generation of plant managers.” Siemens, keep in mind, has the edge of having sold tractors in real life.

And just because Plantville is an educational game, which could scare away users,  it doesn’t mean Zynga shouldn’t be shaking in its boots.

The game, which launched this morning, has already spread to 27 countries and has more than 1,000 players, says Tom Varney, head of marketing communications for Siemens Industry.

Zynga might think it’s big, with 1500 employees and a $9 billion valuation, but it’s dwarfed by Siemens, which has a whopping 420,000 employees (who are allowed to play the game at work) and pulled in $75 billion in sales last year. While Zynga is known for acquiring competitors, this might just be one company that’s too rich for it.

Tech wrap: AT&T/T-Mobile a done deal?

Reflections are seen in the window of an AT&T store in New York March 21, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermidAT&T’s planned buy of T-Mobile USA is ultimately expected to get regulatory approval, combining the second and fourth largest wireless operators to create a new leader that will control around 43 percent of the U.S. wireless market. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson suggested he had little choice but to do it as AT&T is in dire need of more wireless airwaves to increase network capacity for mobile Web services.

Google announced that it’s partnering with Sprint to integrate the free calling and texting service Google Voice with the carrier’s feature phones and smartphones. Sprint customers will be able to use their existing Sprint mobile number as their Google Voice number.

Nokia’s strategy for entering the tablet computer market may not include Microsoft, its recently announced partner for smartphones, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s thinking.

Tech wrap: Facebook friends Google exec

The Facebook logo is displayed on a computer screen in Brussels April 21, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry RogeFacebook signaled an increased interest in deals, poaching a member of Google’s corporate development team to lead its fledgling merger and acquisition efforts and underscoring the rivalry between the social networking company and the search engine giant.

AOL hired Twitter co-founder Biz Stone as a strategic adviser for social impact. Its newest addition, The Huffington Post, also announced several hires. AOL announced last week that it was firing 20 percent of its global workforce and editor in chief for AOL’s Engadget Joshua Topolsky quit over the weekend. Still unclear was the fate of AOL freelancers.

Sales of Apple’s iPad 2 eclipsed that of its predecessor on its debut weekend, with around 1 million units being gobbled up. One analyst sees the iPad 2′s early success as a warning sign of a global tablet bubble, where supply could outpace demand for tablets by about 36 percent. While a glut might not make tablet makers happy, consumers aren’t likely to complain about the price drops that could result.

Obama tech dinner photos offer fodder for Silicon Valley Kremlinologists

ObamaCarIt’s Kremlinology day in Silicon Valley as industry-watchers pore over the details of the two photographs released by the White House of President Obama’s big dinner with the lords of the tech world.

Who sat where, who was drinking what, and what does it all signify, were among the top questions under debate the morning after the commander-in-chief and fourteen guests broke bread at the house of venture capitalist John Doerr.

If proximity to the president is the key measure of clout, then Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Steve Jobs won top honors, with both executives flanking Obama at the dinner table, as can be seen in this picture.

Google sprinkles search results with social networking, but leaves out Facebook

GOOGSocSearch1Google is turning up the volume on social networking content within its Internet search results.

The company unveiled some changes to its search engine on Thursday that will infuse search results with more social elements, such as links and information shared by your friends on services like Twitter, Quora and Flickr.

It’s easy to see how this improves search: If you’re looking for an accountant for instance, instead of simply getting a list of accountants’ Web sites, Google might include a snippet showing that your friend has posted a Twitter message lauding a particular accountant, and rank that accountant near the top of your search results.

Online customer service reviews get personal with Tello

Remember the flight attendant who imperiously cut you off after the second cocktail on your trans-Atlantic flight? Or how about that tech-support guy who heroically spent hours on the phone with you and solved the mysterious problem plaguing your PC?

Tello1A new Internet service unveiled on Wednesday is hoping to catch-on with consumers by providing an easy way to give kudos to the best customer service experiences and to flag the most egregious.

Online reviews are not exactly new, of course – the Web has proved a popular medium for consumers to rate businesses and vent about service for years through sites such as Yelp and Facebook.

Friending you soon on Facebook: Your insurance agent

Corporate America has gradually warmed up to social networking this past year, as companies have discovered the benefits of advertising on popular online services like Facebook.

But Hearsay, a start-up co-founded by ex-Google/Salesforce.com alumni Clara Shih, thinks companies can also benefit by making their employees interact more on social networks.

Hearsay helps corporations that have multiple local outlets, from coffee chains to insurance firms, communicate with customers on Facebook, LinkedIin and Twitter — a company can distribute pre-approved marketing promotions to local store managers or agents, who can then customize it and broadcast it to their networks of friends, for example.

Social networking’s next frontier: the Boob Tube

IntoNowScreenYou already tell your friends which bars and restaurants you’re hanging out at, thanks to social networking tools like Facebook Places and Foursquare.

A new company called IntoNow, led by a former Google and MTV executive, thinks television is the next frontier.

The company has developed a technology that scans the audio waves emanating from your television set and identifies the program you’re watching, similar to how the popular iPhone app Shazam magically informs you of what song is playing on the radio.

For Web startups, 2011 kicks off with flood of funding

MARKETS-KOREA-FOREX/The East Coast has been buried in copious amounts of snow this winter. In Silicon Valley, the only thing falling from the sky seems to be money.

If the first couple of weeks of the new year are any indication, Web startups appear to be awash in cash, with every day bringing one or more high-profile funding announcements.

The latest company to join the fund-raising parade is Formspring, which announced Wednesday it has raised $11.5 million in a round led by Redpoint Ventures. The San Francisco online social networking service, which has garnered more than 20 million registered users since launching 14 months ago, actually raised the money late last year, but had not disclosed the round until now, CEO Ade Olonoh told Reuters.

Farm Bureau finds wealthy friend in Facebook

In the 21st Century, Shakespeare might ask, “What’s in a domain name?” To the 6 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation, the answer is a lot of money. FACEBOOK/

Facebook paid $8.5 million to acquire the Internet address ‘fb.com’ for internal use by its employees from the largest U.S. farm group.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the purchase on Nov. 15, when Facebook unveiled its new messaging service. But he didn’t reveal the pricetag.