MediaFile

Rovio set to launch its next mobile game “Amazing Alex”

There won’t be birds, eggs and green pigs but Rovio is all set to release its next new franchise after a hugely successful run with “Angry Birds.” “Amazing Alex,” a physics-themed puzzle game, is coming to iOS and Android devices July 12.

The trailer released by Rovio shows a little blonde boy experimenting with a Rube Goldberg-like machine. The game will have 100 levels and players can build their own.

The Finnish mobile game maker’s new game is a revamped version of “Casey’s Contraptions,” an IP it acquired in May from developers Mystery Coconut and Snappy Touch. The original “Casey’s Contraptions” game was available on the App store.

With over one billion downloads since December 2009, Rovio created a strong brand with its “Angry Birds” franchise that has become a pop-culture phenomenon. We’ll soon find out if “Amazing Alex” will follow suit.

Tech wrap: Kodak files for bankruptcy protection

Eastman Kodak, the photography icon that invented the hand-held camera, filed for bankruptcy protection and planned to shrink significantly after a prolonged plunge for one of America’s best-known companies. The Chapter 11 filing may give Kodak the ability to find buyers for some of its 1,100 digital patents, a major portion of its value. According to papers filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan, Kodak had about $5.1 billion of assets and $6.75 billion of liabilities at the end of September. Kodak now employs 17,000 people, down from 63,900 just nine years ago.

Kodak’s long decline can be traced back to one source: the former king of photography’s failure to reinvent itself in the digital age, writes Ernest Scheyder. Kodak’s film dominated the industry but the company failed to adopt modern technologies quickly enough, such as the digital camera — ironically, a product it invented. ”Kodak was very Rochester-centric and never really developed a presence in centers of the world that were developing new technologies,” said Rosabeth Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School. “It’s like they’re living in a museum.”

Apple unveiled a new digital textbook service called iBooks 2, aiming to revitalize the U.S. education market and quicken the adoption of its market-leading iPad in that sector. The move pits Apple against Amazon.com and other content and device makers that have made inroads into the estimated $8 billion market with their electronic textbook offerings. Apple has been working on digital textbooks with publishers Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a trio responsible for 90 percent of textbooks sold in the United States.

Why are cheap startups so expensive?

Starting up a Web company is never easy, but at least it’s not as expensive as it used to be. Instead of buying and maintaining an IT infrastructure, as they had to do in the dotcom boom, startups now turn to cloud server services like Amazon’s. Instead of costly proprietary software, OpenOffice and Google offer cheaper (or free) options. Instead of paying office rent, employees can work from home. And the viral power of social media can bring new customers with little marketing. Open-source projects and the durability of Moore’s Law promise to lower costs even further.

But if it’s cheaper than ever to fund a startup’s growth, why are some Web companies receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in financing? And why are valuations rising quarter after quarter, to the point where some venture capitalists are complaining that certain startups have simply gotten too expensive to invest in? How is it that Web companies are becoming both cheaper and more expensive? Are VCs valuing companies on fundamentals, or following the market’s momentum?

Such questions might seem academic, except that the gap between startup costs and valuations keeps widening. The last six months alone have seen a surprising number of nine-digit venture rounds. In July, Airbnb, a home-sharing startup that had 130 employees, raised $112 million in a round that valued the company at $1.3 billion. A week later, Twitter, which had 600 employees, raised $800 million (half going to cash out early investors), valuing it at $8.4 billion. In October, online-storage company Dropbox, another small company of 70 employees, said it raised $250 million in a round valuing the company at $4 billion. And just last month, group-buying company LivingSocial closed a $176 million round, vowing to raise an even larger amount in the coming months.

Kids will be kids, even those of vid game executives

Bobby Kotick — CEO of Activision, “Moneyball” actor --  stopped by the Reuters Global Media Summit on Monday to give us his take on Black Friday (Anecdotally: a success, though Saturday not so much) and to throw some cold water on rival  EA’s upcoming release of “Star Wars.”

But it was what his 9-year-old daughter dressed up as for Halloween that really caught our attention. (Hint: Not Brad Pitt)

If you are betting person, you would likely throw some dough that she donned a costume involving one of Activision’s popular games. Perhaps a character from Skylanders? The game aimed at 6-to-10 year olds involving toy monsters.

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.”

Tech wrap: Sony’s new security setback

Mere days after Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network, the company said it had discovered a security flaw on one of the websites set up to help the millions of users affected by April’s massive data breach reset their passwords.

The “security hole“, as Sony spokesman Dan Race termed it, could allow the hackers who perpetrated the April breach to access the accounts using the data they had stolen. Sony shut the webpage down in response. No hacking had taken place prior to taking down the page, Race noted.

Hacking occupied the minds of executives at the Reuters Global Technology Summit as well. Mobile hacking in particular was a hot topic of discussion, with executives at software giants and startups alike expressing their desire to cash in on ways to help smartphone users protect themselves as hackers increasingly target mobile devices.