MediaFile

Tech wrap: Now in your Twitter stream – ads

Your Twitter stream could be about to get even more cluttered. Twitter announced in a blog post on Thursday that it will now be placing ads from certain brands and companies directly into the message timelines of users who follow those organizations on the microblogging service. The company said it is testing out the new program with a select group of partners – including Dell, Starbucks and HBO among others – for a few weeks before rolling it out to a wider stable of clients. The new initiative is an expansion of the company’s so-called “Promoted Tweets” program, in which ads show up in search results on the Twitter.com website.

What does the new program mean for users? AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka has this take: “”Depends. Marketers will only be able to deliver the ads — which will use the “Promoted Tweet” format the company rolled out more than a year ago — to users who already follow them on the service. And they’ll only appear on Twitter’s main Twitter.com site. So, if you don’t follow any brands/marketers/companies on Twitter, you won’t see the ads. And if you’re checking Twitter on your iPhone, or via clients like TweetDeck, you won’t see them there, either.”

EA received a thumbs up from antitrust regulators for its deal to buy social gaming startup PopCap Games. EA struck the deal, which is estimated to be worth up to $1.3 billion, to step up its competition with Zynga, the social gaming company behind Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars.

What company is top dog in the U.S. consumer smartphone market? Well, that really depends on what you’re basing the comparison on. Look at mobile operating systems and you’ll see that Google’s Android operating system (OS) claims the biggest share of the market with 39 percent, according to June data from Nielsen. Apple’s iOS ranks second with 28 percent and RIM’s BlackBerry comes in third with 20 percent. When it comes to manufacturing smartphones, though, Apple comes out the clear frontrunner because the company is the sole manufacturer of devices that run its iOS. HTC is another leading manufacturer. Its Android phones account for 14 percent of the market and its Windows Mobile/WP7 make up 6 percent of the market.

Still annoyed that you can’t watch Flash-based videos on your Apple iPhone? Well, complain no more. Skyfire, a private-equity backed video tech firm, has unveiled an app that lets iPhone users do just that. The application, VideoQ, lets users send links to videos from their browser and watch them in the app. The startup is also hoping to expand the app into a full-fledged video entertainment portal.

Tech wrap: And Myspace goes to . . .

News Corp’s hunt to find a buyer for once-mighty social networking website Myspace has finally ended. Specific Media, an online advertising firm, has agreed to buy the site for about $35 million, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters. News Corp will retain a minority 5 percent stake in the website it purchased six years ago for $580 million. More than half of the site’s 500 employees are expected to be laid off as part of the deal.

Tech watchers will have to wait at least another sleep to find out more about Zynga’s plans for an initial public offering. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the online social gaming firm behind popular Facebook game FarmVille is expected to file for an initial public offering with U.S. regulators on Thursday morning. Earlier reports suggested the company could raise up to $2 billion in the offering and value the firm as high as $20 billion. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher sizes up how Zynga’s expected IPO fits in with other recent filings from similar companies such as Groupon.

Twitter’s Biz Stone and Evan Williams are leaving the site they co-founded and helped popularize – sort of. Both men will continue to advise Twitter on strategic matters but will spend the bulk of their days working at the newly-revived Obvious, the tech incubator company they started years ago that led to the creation of Twitter. Stone summed up their new plans in a blog posting on his website: “Our plan is to develop new projects and work on solving big problems aligned along a simple mission statement: The Obvious Corporation develops systems that help people work together to improve the world.”

Copious takes a stab a social commerce

Facebook is keen on seeing established industries get re-built with a social networking foundation, holding up the success of game-maker Zynga as the standard template.

So it’s not surprising that a former Facebook employee is behind a new effort to “socialize” e-commerce.

Copious, which launches in beta on Wednesday, aims to create a marketplace that makes heavy use of a person’s network of friends and acquaintances. Buyers and sellers use their real identities, logging on to the marketplace through Facebook Connect, so users can have more trust in the people they transact with, the company says.

E3: Strauss Zelnick dishes on Wii U, Zynga and why foie gras tastes better than chewing gum

Take-Two Interactive occupies a massive booth at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where it’s showing off its new games and serving beer at the elaborate sports bar it constructed on the show floor.  Under its CEO, Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two has been showing renewed financial health in recent quarters. In February, it posted its first profitable year in nearly a decade without a new release of its blockbuster video game franchise “Grand Theft Auto.”  Zelnick sat down with Reuters for an in depth chat touching on everything from Nintendo’s new console to Zynga’s business model, and the difference between foie gras and chewing gum.

Reuters: Are publishers on board more than ever before with Nintendo on the Wii U?

Zelnick: Well, It’s hard to know, right? At E3, there’s always a great deal of enthusiasm, as there should be. It remains to be seen what the releases schedules look like. We do think it’s pretty interesting. What they are doing with one display in your hands and the other display that’s wireless in front of you and the ability to have them work independently as well as together, creates a lot of interesting creative opportunities and that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll see how our creative teams feel but right now it looks pretty interesting.

Tech wrap: Twitter swallows TweetDeck

Twitter confirmed that it has bought TweetDeck, a popular third-party software application that organizes tweets, the short messages delivered through the online social network. Terms were not disclosed but a source told Reuters earlier this month that a deal for up to $50 million was imminent.

Twitter will seek to notify its users so they can defend themselves before it hands over user information to the authorities, a senior manager said when asked about a privacy dispute in Britain. Users have posted details on Twitter of celebrity scandals, in contravention of so-called super injunctions and could face an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.

“Platforms should have responsibility not to defend the user, but to protect that user’s right to defend him or herself,” said Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter’s European operations.

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.

Zynga plots its mobile stategy

Zynga wants to get into your pocket. As the  publisher of games like, “Word with Friends,” a Scrabble-clone popular on Apple devices and since February, on Android platforms, Zynga, known as the top games publisher on Facebook, is likely trying to reduce its reliance of Mark Zuckerberg and co’s platform.

“You should play and you should pay,” says David Ko, the former Yahoo executive who moved to Zynga in November to spearhead its mobile push.

 In a recent interview, Ko told Reuters that Zynga’s mobile strategy has two parts: Creating mobile versions of existing Web titles like ”FarmVille” and “Mafia Wars” and, having users play games on their mobile devices before anywhere else, like on “Words with Friends.”

GlobalMedia-Gaming giants differ on mobile, social games

kotickMuch of the buzz in gaming these days revolves around two small but fast-growing areas: social games and mobile ones played on smartphones. But two titans of the video game industry have decidedly different takes on those markets.

There are already tens of thousands of game apps available for the iPhone and competing Android smartphones, and tens of millions of people playing free games on Facebook.

Still, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick (pictured) sounded less than enthusiastic about those markets when he spoke to the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York on Tuesday. And that represented a stark contrast from what Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said just a day earlier

Facebook’s Zuckerberg on relationships with big companies

Facebook has had its differences with Google and Apple in recent months. FACEBOOK/

And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried his best not to comment directly on the budding rivalry with the two tech titans during his appearance at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

But Zuckerberg did offer some clues about Facebook’s philosophy towards working with big companies that might offer some insight into its relationships with Apple and Google.

“If you’re a very large company and supporting you is going to cost us tens of millions of dollars, then we want to at least have an understanding of how you’re going to use what we’re doing, and that you’re not just going to import the data but also try and contribute back to the ecosystem and make people’s Facebook experience better.”

Social gaming — what the real players say

FacebookSocial gaming is just barely old enough to be called an industry, but already the battle lines are emerging between major players Zynga, Playdom and Playfish.

Playdom and Playfish, since their acquisitions by the Walt Disney Co and Electronic Arts Inc respectively, have focused on bringing their branded intellectual property to the social gaming world. That could include a possible Playdom game with Marvel superhero characters, or the Playfish version of Monopoly now in the works (EA owns the digital rights to the board game). 

Zynga is by far the industry leader in revenue and size, but it lacks the deep vaults of intellectual property that come with being part of a conglomerate such as Disney.  So it has taken a different tack by focusing on marketing tie-ins with the likes of McDonald’s and convenience store chain 7-11. “One of the things that we really believe is going to happen is we think there is going to be much more connection between the virtual world and the real world,” Cadir Lee, chief technology officer for Zynga, told Reuters.