MediaFile

Google sets Zagat free

This morning, Google took the wraps off  how it plans to use Zagat, the popular restaurant guide known for its burgundy pocket books. The Zagat restaurant  listings are now incorporated in Google + and its local service and, more to the point, are now free. People can access more than 35,000 summarized user reviews from Zagat for more than 90 cities across the globe using either Google +, its search function or through maps.

Google said it will continue to publish the guidebooks and expand to other cities like Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne.

Google picked up Zagat for $151 million last September in a move to broaden its offerings for local based content. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat,  the 30-plus year old eponymous guide  takes customer surveys and compiles them into brief and snappy summaries . It was a pioneer of amassing local restaurant reviews by people but over the years it  faced stiff challenges from upstarts such as Yelp– especially when a majority of Zagat’s content was subscription based.

The Zagats put the company on the block in 2008 where it languished until Google swooped in and bought it to bolster its local and mobile offerings.

 

Comcast turns the landline into mobile phone

Comcast, the largest U.S cable operator, is pushing ahead with its drive to transform the way Americans live with a range of new communications and video services launched at this year’s Cable Show  in Boston.

The latest is a new service called Voice 2go, part of its Xfinity Voice landline phone service, which offers lots of the features customers have become used to with cellphones.

The new features are based within a new Xfinity Connect mobile app that works on iPhones, iPads and Android phones. It enables Xfinity Voice customers to make free calls within a WiFi network — which is even more useful now that the Comcast and several other operators have enabled a common WiFi network across major U.S. cities. It also allows customers to use the service on 3G and 4G phones without eating up valuable minutes. As part of this it also enables free text messaging.

LinkedIn launches iPad app

Reaching people through mobile devices is one of LinkedIn’s key initiatives and yet, the networking site for job-seeking professionals never had a proper app for tablets.

 The number of LinkedIn members — all 150 million of them — who use mobile phones to access the site is growing at a fast clip. In Q1, LinkedIn  said that 22 percent of its traffic came from mobile devices, up from 15 percent in Q4 2011.

On Wednesday, LinkedIn finally rolled out an app for  iPads hoping to get more people to linger at the site longer.

The high costs of the cloud

How great is it that high-definition video is now portable? Thanks to cloud computing, superfast 4G networks and tablets with high-resolution screens, we can watch thousands of movies and TV shows in lush, beautiful clarity wherever we go.

In a way, that is pretty great, as the millions of people who have bought the new iPad with retina display and LTE connections have already seen. But in another way, it’s going to quickly become not so great: As hi-def video – or rather, the data bandwidth to deliver it – becomes a commodity for more people, that commodity will start to become much more expensive. Not just for consumers, but for the companies that will increasingly need more wireless spectrum and wired infrastructure to handle the surge in data demand.

Call it the curse of the cloud. The proliferation of online video services and portable devices to watch them on have added congestion to data networks even as wireless carriers impose fees on its biggest data users. According to Bytemobile, video accounted for half of all mobile data traffic in February, up from 40 percent only a year earlier.

Five 2011 tech earthquakes

By John C Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

Pick a year: It’s easy to look back and convince yourself That Was The Year That Was in tech, partly because the pace of change is so rapid and partly because we so readily embrace and then quickly depend on things that are completely different. Consider this: When the class of 2012 was applying to college, there was no iPhone. Until those students were just about at the end of their  junior years, there was no iPad. Both of these nascent devices now define the mobile Internet, which is where all the action is.

But 2011 had some pretty remarkable advances that seem to be the start of inexorable things to come, as well as some surprising and sad examples of demise, whose impact will surely be felt for years to come, in ways that are currently near-impossible to predict.

Some may argue that 2011 was the year of the tablet (redux), because of the spritely launch of Amazon’s Fire and Barnes & Noble’s reboot of the Nook color. I say, it was bound to happen, and that the only really interesting thing is that content companies are giving Apple a bit of competition, and not the hardware bigwigs.

UPDATE-PayPal tries to lure retailers to mobile app

(Updates to explain “secure element” issue. Changes in bold in paragraphs 10, 11)

Online payments firm PayPal is so keen to get mobile payments off the ground it has taken the unusual step of opening a Manhattan dummy store that demos how the app can be used (pictured at right).

It’s  idea is to demonstrate the application to merchants at the “store” between now and February.

What is Google’s mobile revenue? Depends how you do the math.

Google wowed Wall Street with the revelation that its mobile business is generating revenue at a run rate of over $2.5 billion.

Not bad for a business that’s still in its infancy, and which was operating at a $1 billion run rate at this time last year.

Of course, a run rate is not the same as revenue that’s been booked – it’s simply a way of extrapolating what a full year’s worth of revenue will be, assuming the current rate of revenue holds steady.

Tech wrap: HP’s TouchPad sell-off

Hewlett-Packard has finally discovered the magic price point for its TouchPad tablet: $99. The tech giant announced the new low price for the 16 GB model of the recently discontinued device over the weekend, also dropping the price for its 32 GB version to $149. Retailers such as Best Buy, Staples and Walmart followed HP’s lead by offering TouchPad fire sales of their own.

The response: overwhelming. According to PC World, many retailers had sold out of the devices by mid-day on Saturday. By Monday morning, the TouchPad had climbed to the No.1 spot on the Amazon best-seller list for electronics. Expect the selling frenzy to continue this week: HP said on Monday it intends to deliver more of the tablets until the supply runs out. HP originally launched the smaller model with a $500 price tag, but reduced it to $400 soon after its July 1 release in an attempt to spur demand.

Separately, HP launched a new desktop on Monday, days after the technology company revealed that it might spin off the world’s largest PC business — part of a wrenching series of moves away from the consumer market, including killing the TouchPad. HP billed the new computer — the HP Compaq 8200 Elite All-in-One Business Desktop — as the “first all-in-one PC” aimed at corporate and public sector customers.

Glam Media rolls out mobile ad platform

Glam Media is rolling out a mobile advertising platform for its stable of website properties and for other publishers taking direct aim at Apple’s iAd.

This is the latest move for the company, a network of highly currated blogs mainly centered around fashion, healthy and beauty that target women. It recently launched a new platform to support more than 10,000 authors and writers in addition to a tool box that helps its content creators navigate the increasingly complex world of social media.

The mobile ad platform called GlamMobile is for brand marketers — Lexus and Macy’s are launch sponsors of Glam Mobile. The platform is also available to help outside publishers develop websites that are suited to smartphone and tablets running on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.

Is a Facebook iPad App finally coming?

In the nearly 15 months since Apple launched its iPad, there’s been one conspicuous absence for users of the tablet: a Facebook app.

That will change in the coming weeks, as Facebook, the world’s No.1 Internet social network, prepares to unveil an app specially-designed for the iPad, according to a report in the New York Times today.

In development for almost a year, the Facebook iPad app is now in its final stages of testing and has received close attention throughout the process from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Times reported, citing anonymous sources. The report said the app will have capabilities beyond what’s available on Facebook’s website, such as specialized video and photo features.