Google and Jaiku - the puzzle is getter clearer

jaiku logoGoogle has acquired the mobile microblogging service Jaiku for an undisclosed sum, fueling some speculation on Google’s future plans for forays into the social networking space, particularly via mobile devices.

For right now, existing users of Jaiku will carry on as usual. New users will be able to join in future, through an invitation, according to the official Google Blog.

There is further speculation that the Jaiku mobile service will be bundled in with the yet to materialize but highly hyped Google G-phone.

jaiku mobileTwitter, Jaiku, Pownce and other mobile chat applications give people one more way to communicate. The advantage to these applications is that the communications can be (and have to be) brief, so people do not feel they have to write long volumes, or stand on literary ceremony, such when writing emails - or have the need to make idle chit chat when calling acquaintances on the phone. It conveys “thinking of you” while providing a “what’s news” highlight in the briefest way possible.

Twitter is a very simple application geared at providing “What I am doing” updates - rather like the status updates on Facebook. People who travel frequently tend to embed Twitter into their web pages or blogs, to send quick bulletins on what they are up to. However, it is hard to say anything really meaningful within 140 characters.

jaikuJaiku, the more complicated cousin of Twitter, allows users to create an “activity stream” where they post Jaikus (a variation of the word haiku which means a short poem), as well as add pictures and contacts lists. The brain child of Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen from Finland, Jaiku was founded in February, 2006 and launched in July of that year. This is indeed a quick turn around for selling a start up that is only a year and a half old!

Google’s acquisition of Jaiku also came hot on the heels the acquisition of Zingku, the mobile social networking networking service, along with Google’s much publicized bid on wireless spectrum in the US and UK.

The interesting matter to speculate on is what does Google plan to do with Jaiku in the future? If Google were to set up their own social network, they would definitely want a quick chat or status update application, like the other social networks. One that is mobile ready and can exchange multimedia via mobile and other platforms, would definitely be a big asset.

And if the Gphone materializes, Google would definitely have the social-mobile market well covered. With Jaiku, yet another piece seems to have dropped into the puzzle!

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Pinger: Did they hear your voicemail?

pinger logoYou left a voicemail on someone’s cell phone. Now you are sitting around wondering if they listened to you message. What do you do? Call them back? Wait it out? Now there is something that you can do!

Enter Pinger, a cool cell phone voice mail application. When you sign up for Pinger, it allows you to call a phone number and leave a voice mail on any cell phone.

This is where it gets really neat. Pinger has introduced a new feature where you can actually see whether your message was picked up or not - an ear icon shows up next to the item in the outbox of your web account, when your message is played.

Pinger turned out to be remarkably easy to install. Like all web based mobile apps, you give them your mobile number when you open an account. They text a code to your phone, which you use for verification.

The feature that worked really well was the address book. You type in names of your contacts. When you want to leave a voicemail for them, you just speak their names into the phone. The name recognition worked well (seems to even pick up on foreign sounding names). You can also send a broadcast voicemail to a group of people.

pinger mail box

According to John Lai, Product Manager at Pinger, they have several other new features such as Pinger Promotions.

“This service allows our partners to post a widget on their website so that users can subscribe to receive audio clips from the partner. This also works if the partner already has a subscriber list whose members have opted into receiving content on their mobile phones. “

Previously we wrote about YouMail, a service that makes your voicemail a whole lot more exciting, by allowing you to customize your outgoing voicemail greetings, along with a host of other handy features.

Pinger provides a convenient voice alternative to text messaging.It is scary enough when people drive down the highway talking at length on their cell phones (while reading the newspaper, and eating at the same time), they don’t need to be sending SMSs as well. Hopefully, a service like Pinger will dissuade that kind of behavior!

Pinger is based in San Jose, and received $3M in series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and $8M in series B in a round that also included a new investor, DAG ventures.

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Studio4 Networks sold to Knightscove

studio4 networksStudio4 Networks, a company that provides educational video-on-demand (VOD) content delivery, has reached an agreement to be acquired by the Canadian film, DVD and TV production company, Knightscove (TSX on Toronto Stock Exchange) for $3.5MM in Cash and 5.5MM shares of Knightscove stock.

According to Colin Phillips, COO of Studio4 (and also a member of TCA in Los Angeles), the deal is anticipated to close in early December.

Studio4 has 3 on demand networks that provide content on early childhood developmental learning (Studio4 Kids), award winning educational programming (Studio4 Learning) and Health and Fitness programming (Studio4 Fitness). Content is distributed both through Video and Demand and Broadband platforms.Studio 4 Networks is a leading non-theatrical On-Demand network content distributor.

studio4 networks channels

Studio4 plans to generate revenue through advertisements placed on its networks, sales of ancillary products such as DVDs and through sponsorship and co-branding opportunities.

Studio4 has raised angel funding in the past, and is looking to close its latest bridge round of financing (to series A).

Studio 4’s offerings will complement those of Knightscove Media Corp. which separately announced its acquisition, today (October 3rd, 2007), of the distribution rights to a popular Canadian show (4 million viewers) “Little Mosque on the Prairie” from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (”CBC”), and “Talk to the Hand - Live in Michigan”, the first ever live concert DVD from the contemporary band, the Barenaked Ladies.

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Online video site Joost launches

Joost-1Joost, the streaming video site that has been getting a lot of buzz lately, officially launched today. The date came later than expected (earlier we reported the site would launch in June), but the previously invite-only Joost beta 1.0 is now open to the public.

Prior to today’s release into the wild, the site already had a sizable user base (over one million private sign ups), making it less likely to see a quick hockey stick movement in registered user numbers — although, in Web 2.0, we know anything can happen.

From presentation to functionality to content, Joost simulates a real television viewing experience. Unlike YouTube’s small viewing windows and search engine-esque layout, Joost defaults to a full screen viewing mode from within which users can access video controls and browse video “channels.” The company has made a few high-profile content deals: Joost secured a contract with Viacom in February to give the site access to shows from MTV, BET and Comedy Central. Other networks the company has licensing deals with are CBS, CNN, Major League Baseball and the NHL. However, while the quality of Joost’s content is above average, the quantity leaves something to be desired. After all, all of these licensing deals combined would only be the equivalent of having a TV with just 7 channels on it. While shows from these networks don’t make up all of the content found on Joost, the site doesn’t come close to having a library nearly as deep as YouTube’s. Joost needs to leverage their current momentum to solidify more broadcast agreements.

Joost’s founders are Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, previous creators of Kazaa and Skype, who received a portion of the $2.6 billion eBay-Skype acquisition that they used to fund development of the internet TV site. Joost runs on peer-to-peer technology (P2PTV) provided by the same company that developed Skypes’.

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