For those who may have missed it, there was a flurry of consumer tech news this week, topped by a lucrative business deal for the Seattle-based Web entrepreneur behind the LOLCats craze.
Seattle tech entrepreneur makes laughter very profitable: Ben Huh, Seattle-based founder of the Cheezburger website, which allows people to post and view funny pictures and videos, is grinning like a Cheshire cat after securing $30 million in funding from venture capitalist Foundry Group. Cheezburger said it will use the windfall to hire more people and look for other “marketing and growth opportunities.” The company is expanding its board of directors; additions include Greg Gottesman of Seattle's Madrona Venture Group. Cheezburger publishes a network of humor websites including I Can Has Cheezburger, FAIL Blog, Memebase, and The Daily What.
The newest button on your TV remote: Netflix, the Internet video streaming and DVD-delivery movie service, is getting a tech honor equivalent to being carved in stone on Mount Rushmore. Sometime this spring, HDTV manufacturers Samsung, Panasonic, Memorex, Haier, and Best Buy's Dynex brand will add a Netflix button to their TV remotes. According to tech site Electronista, set-top box manufacturers Boxee and Roku also will add the magic movie button to their remotes, making it that much simpler for viewers to use the subscription-based Netflix movie service.
Netflix: The grinch that stole your DVDs . . . kinda: Netflix also got some negative press this week, after announcing that people who access their Netflix accounts from websites other than the official Netflix site will be unable to select movies to add to their DVD accounts. A Netflix company blog noted,“We’re doing this so we can concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly. Further, providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality.” The blogosphere was less than happy with this news.
This is your parent speaking: NO CAR TXTING! T-Mobile customers with some Android phones will be able to stop their kids (well, maybe an adult or two) from TXTing while driving. The phone company will offer DriveSmart, an app with both free and paid versions, that will stop incoming text and call notifications while someone is driving. Through a website, parents will be able to set phone permissions, and will be notified if the phone user overrides the parental control setup. If a Bluetooth headset is detected, however, calls will go through. For more information, here's the press release from the publishers of DriveSmart.
Another cut in the cord tying you to cable TV? The new generation of set-top boxes may be crossing over into cable's territory. Roku, the set-top box manufacturer that made its name initially by bringing the Netflix movie-streaming service to TV sets, announced that it will host WealthTV, its first live 24/7 streaming channel. WealthTV will be a self-described high-definition national cable network with "world travel, outrageous cars, culinary delights, top fashion, international news, movies" and more. The subscription cost will be $2.99 a month. Thus far, Roku owners are not amused. A hint of its programming sensibilities can be found with its announcement of a show called "Social," featuring Danielle Staub, star of cable TV's "Real Housewives of New Jersey."
A new (Microsoft) note for the iPhone: Microsoft’s popular OneNote Windows application, a note-taking and information gathering software program, is now available as a free iPhone app. The Apple phone version lets you capture and review notes and lists on your phone, and sync them with the Windows Live SkyDrive online storage site. This is part of Windows’ play to compete with the various Internet services that allow you to create content, store it on an Internet site or “in the cloud,” then access that content from any device: a computer, smart phone, or browser.
New games people play . . . on their Android phone: Popular Internet games website Kongregate, known for its large base of free Flash-enabled games, announced it is making its game service available on Android phones. (Sorry, iPhone users: Apple bans Flash software on its phone or tablet.) The company ran into a buzz saw this week (Jan. 19) when its app was banned from the Android Market app store because it violated the market’s rules. This is only the slightest of wrist slaps, however: The app can be directly loaded onto Android phones from the Kongregate mobile website and will appear in your phone apps as "Arcade by Kongregate."