News Corp, AllThingsD contemplate split – sources

AllThingsD, the widely read technology blog run by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, has begun discussions with owner News Corp about extending or ending their partnership, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters,” Peter Lauria and Nadia Damouni report for Reuters. “According to these sources, AllThingsD‘s contract with News Corp expires at the end of the year. One of the sources said Swisher and Mossberg have to deliver a business plan by next week to Robert Thomson, the former Wall Street Journal managing editor who will helm News Corp’s publishing unit as CEO after it is spun off.”

Lauria and Damouni report, “The fact that AllThingsD’s contract is up this year is well known, and sources said the website is receiving a lot of ‘inbound interest’ from potential buyers parallel to its talks with News Corp. Among the names mentioned as having reached out to AllThingsD were Conde Nast, where Swisher recently signed to work as a contributing writer for Vanity Fair, and Hearst.”

“Sources described the website as profitable. It has grown into a technology industry must-read, and features a popular conference division known for snagging A-list corporate executives for intimate interview sessions. Apple’s Steve Jobs, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and virtually every other major technology executive has spoken at the D Conference, as it is known,” Lauria and Damouni report. “Sources described the relationship between News Corp and AllThingsD as amicable but stressed. ‘Like all partnership, there could be more cooperation between the two,’ said one source. ‘There is tension between AllThingsD and the Wall Street Journal, for example.’”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Rhapsody updated for Windows Phone 8 with better audio quality, offline playback and more

rhapsodynewone 520x245 Rhapsody updated for Windows Phone 8 with better audio quality, offline playback and more

Music subscription service Rhapsody has released a new version of its mobile app for Windows Phone 8 today, giving device owners access to more than 13 million tracks on the move.

The online music store subscription service, available only in the US, has been updated with a slew of new features including offline playback for downloaded tracks, albums and playlists. Spotify, Nokia Music+ and Xbox Music are already offering users similar functionality on their own respective Windows Phone 8 apps, making Rhapsody somewhat of a hard sell for new listeners.

However, the app also has support for My Music, which is the user profile and radio functionality originally pioneered by Last.fm. It means users can add or remove tracks and albums to their profile, but also check out other people’s libraries at anytime.

Incremental updates for the Windows Phone 8 release include the ability to see your listening history, as well as the ability to add and remove both stations and playlists from their respective sections. It sits alongside further improvements to the app’s audio playback, album art and search functionality.

Rhapsodyscreens1 Rhapsody updated for Windows Phone 8 with better audio quality, offline playback and more

The app has adopted a mostly black and white color scheme, allowing cover art and various artist photos to really shine through. It’s a marked improvement over the recent Spotify release on Windows Phone 8, both in its use of colour and the way it takes advantage of the entire screen.

The app should be available now, although Microsoft has stressed on its Windows Phone blog that the update has “just started its rollout”, meaning that if it’s not there now, it should be in the next couple of hours.

Rhapsody still has a fairly strong following in the US, although its presence is being challenged by younger services such as Rdio, Spotify and Xbox Music. Last year the company acquired Napster International, giving it a crucial foothold in the UK and Germany. Although the service continues to operate there, it feels somewhat walled off and disparate given its limited international reach.

However, a series of refreshed apps could be just what the company needs to gain greater attraction in the US.

Rhapsody | Windows Phone 8

Disclosure: This article contains an affiliate link. While we only ever write about products we think deserve to be on the pages of our site, The Next Web may earn a small commission if you click through and buy the product in question. For more information, please see our Terms of Service.

Image Credit: LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Chilean mobile plan comparison startup LookUP eyes Colombia, Mexico and Peru

lookup via thinkstock 520x245 Chilean mobile plan comparison startup LookUP eyes Colombia, Mexico and Peru

Mobile plan comparison platform LookUP is set to expand across Latin America, the Chilean startup announced today. Already present in Chile, it will soon launch operations in Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

LookUP’s purpose is simple: it helps users find the best mobile plan for their needs, thanks to a custom wizard called Lookeador. The site is free for end users; its business model is to do lead generation tool for mobile carriers and their distributors, which pay a commission on closed deals.

According to its co-founder and CEO, David Alvo, LookUP’s clients in Chile already include Claro, Virgin Mobile and GTD M vil, as well as distributors of Movistar and Entel plans. Its Web app has passed the milestone of 100,000 end users. Alvo doesn’t disclose how many plans have been hired via the platform, but says that sales have kept on increasing.

As you may remember, LookUP was a finalist in the Best App category at TNW Chile Startup Awards last year. Earlier in 2012, it had joined Argentine accelerator NXTP Labs after successfully graduating from Founder Institute‘s Chilean program. Three months ago, the one-year-old startup closed a $150,000 round, and it will now seek series A funding to further finance its growth.

LookUP’s goal is to strengthen its position in Chile, while opening branches in Colombia, Mexico and Peru during the second quarter of 2013. The mobile market is a promising segment in Latin America, where mobile phones are ubiquitous, with smartphone sales finally taking off (see our previous post). The fact that number portability is now a reality in many countries has also encouraged Latin American users to shop around and start looking for better deals.

lookup lookeador 730x464 Chilean mobile plan comparison startup LookUP eyes Colombia, Mexico and Peru

Mobile aside, LookUP is planning to expand into other lead generation verticals and let users compare over 20 types of services, ranging from insurance and transportation to health and travel. It will also provide them with the same tools, including above-mentioned Lookeador and its click-to-call option, which connects users with sales agents as they submit a plan request.

Once it does diversify, LookUP’s competitors will include Mexican multi-sector comparison engine TuDecide, as well as fellow Chilean team ComparaOnline, which we listed as one of the 10 Latin American startups to watch in 2013. Currently focused on insurance, finance & telecommunications products, it was the first Chilean startup to receive investment from the Latin American VC firm Kaszek Ventures last May.

Image credit: Thinkstock

CyanogenMod quickly brings Android 4.2.2 to many devices

CyanogenMod 4.2.2

With all the excitement surrounding Android 4.2.2 this week, as you look down at your non-Nexus phone or tablet you may be feeling more than a little left out. Fortunately, the CyanogenMod team has worked quickly to release nightly builds of CM 10.1 to their lineup.

It’s not always easy to sift through an Android update, as history has taught the CyanogenMod team. Previous Android updates that seemed small on the outside have often had so much underlying code that the merge took weeks. Android 4.2.2 is all about polish, slightly changing dozens of tiny things across the operating system. Adding colons and changing font size, as well as fixing some known performance and Bluetooth bugs.

There are more than a few tiny changes, but now that the changes are live in the Android Open Source Project, Android developers can get to work merging the changes into their own projects. CyanogenMod, as one of the largest third party Android OS developers, will be releasing updates to their lineup of supported smartphones over the weekend.

Android 4.2.2

On top of the Nexus devices that are already running Android 4.2.2, CM10.1 nightlies for the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Tab P1000, and Asus Trnasformer Prime Infinity are available. Throughout the weekend, more smartphones and tablets are likely to become available. The CM team briefly commented on their progress, noting that as one device in a “family” becomes available, the others will be quick to follow behind. So, if your carrier version of something like the Galaxy S3 isn’t available yet, you won’t be waiting for very long. All of the work being done here continues toward the monthly stable release of CM10.1, which will be announced later this month.

CyanogenMod 10.1 remains the best way to bring your gadget to the latest version of Android, since even phones that will be announced next week will not get the update to Android 4.2.2 from the manufacturer for at least a couple of months. In the case of a phone like the Galaxy S3, whose version of Android is so heavily augmented by Samsung, it’s more likely that the Galaxy S4 will be released before an update is available.

Now read: Android 4.2.2 coming to most Nexus devices

Here’s How To Stop a Horrible Parody Twitter Account Before It Starts

Parody Twitter accounts are a pox on the internet. Comedian Jake Fogelnest, however, has done his part to prevent another one of these vile, unfunny things from becoming a thing.

Hello, this is @jakefogelnest. As a public service, I have registered this Twitter account to prevent another parody account.

— Russia Meteor (@RussiaMeteor) February 15, 2013

Just after the giant meteor hit Russia early this morning, Fogelnest rushed to Twitter to register @RussiaMeteor, so no one else could do it. We just wish he would have grabbed @RussianMeteor, too. Regardless, Jake Fogelnest is doing god’s work. [@RussianMeteor via Cracked via LaughterKey]

Karma 4G Hotspot: An Awesome Stash of Just-In-Case Internet

Having the ability to set up a Wi-Fi network wherever you need one can be great, but it can also come at a cost. Hotspots come with expensive plans, and more and more often, phone tethering does too. The Karma hotspot, on the other hand, is totally pay-as-you-go, and even comes with the built-in ability to accrue a (small) stash of data completely for free.

What Is It?

It’s contract-free, pay-as-you-go 4G hotspot built around the concept of “Social Bandwidth” and Facebook integration.

Who’s It For?

People who want a 4G hotspot they can have just in case, but don’t plan on using it regularly or don’t plan on using very much data.

Design

It’s a tiny little rounded squarish thing with an on/off switch and a microUSB port for charging. It’s got three little LEDs, one that lights up green when it’s on, one that lights up green when it’s able to generate a Wi-Fi network, and one that lights up red, yellow, or green to indicated 4G strength.

Karma 4G Hotspot: An Awesome Stash of Just-In-Case Internet

Using It

When you turn it on, the hotspot will start broadcasting an unsecured—and unsecurable— network named “[Your Name]’s Karma.” You can’t change this to “Free Karma by [Your Name],” or “Karma Wi-Fi”. When you connect to the hotspot, you’re asked to connect with Facebook which involves installing the Karma Facebook app. From there you’re off to the races, with a complimentary gig of data as a one-time bonus on your first activation.

If you’re connecting to someone else’s hotpot, you’ll go through a similar set up process, except with a step where you can interact with the hotspot’s owner The owner of the hotspot gets 100MB too.

If you run out of data (either of you) you’ll be prompted to buy some more at $14 per gig. All the data you buy is associated with your Facebook account, so you can use it on any Karma hotspot you find later on.

The Best Part

It can be free. If you don’t use much data and you’re out in public a lot, you can theoretically use this hotspot without ever paying for data. 100MB is plenty of data to check email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever, and you can just keep racking it up by dangling your unsecured Wi-Fi network in front of Internet-hungry strangers. Oh, and you get a free gig to start off with.

Tragic Flaw

The Facebook integration. Yes, this is inextricably linked to the best part, but it’s also just dumb. If you’re not a fan of Facebook, you’ll find the prompts to make unsolicited and frankly weird comments on a friend or stranger’s Karma activity awkward and stupid. And even as the owner of the hotspot, having it necessarily attached to that online profile can be kind of obnoxious. If you don’t have a Facebook account at all, you’re out of luck. Well, unless you make one.

This Is Weird…

If your privacy settings are strict enough, strangers’ interactions with you seem to disappear into the ether. So they’ll get that extra 25MB for shouting “hey doofus” at your wall, but the message doesn’t show up on yours or theirs. Weird as it is, this is probably a good thing.

Test Notes

  • If you can get a good connection, this hotspot is pretty fast. We clocked highs of 8mbps down (1.7 up) in open air on the streets, an average of around 6-7mpbs down (1.3 up) in buildings and crowded Wi-Fi space, and a low of around 1.5mpbs down (.3 up) in my apartment where all signals are dismal.
  • We were able to get about 7 hours of intermittent use out of a single charge.
  • We found the Karma hotspot’s signal to be available and strong pretty much anywhere a normal cell signal was. But Clearwire—which powers the hotspot—is only available in 80 cities, so plenty of places won’t get connection at all.

Should You Buy It?

Do you need backup 4G connectivity, but not to use all the time? Is there Clearwire coverage in your city? Then yes. At $79 a Karma hotspot isn’t too expensive by hotspot standards, but of course the real value comes in the form of not having to pay to not use it. It’s not the ideal hotspot for streaming a bunch of video or something, but it can be a great backup option to keep in your back pocket in case of an Internet emergency.

[Karma Hotspot]

Your Karma 4g Hotspot

• Weight: 2.1 oz
• Connection Type: 4G LTE
• Price: $79
• Gizrank: 4.0 stars

This Morning’s Google Doodle You Weren’t Meant to See

This Morning's Google Doodle You Weren't Meant to See

Google, topical as always, prepared one of its famed doodles in celebration of today’s passing asteroid and the fact that we’re all not post-apocalyptic shadows of our former selves. The Google Doodle team, however, couldn’t have anticipated how unfortunately relevant they actually would be following the unexpected and destructive meteor explosion over Russia.

The contraband doodle in question had the “g” in Google’s normal logo jump aside for the occasional pummeling projectile from space. It was, of course, quickly taken down, but Search Engine Land’s news editor Barry Schwartz spotted it before the removal. Google confirmed to ABC that it had removed the GIF out of respect saying:

Out of respect for those injured in the extraordinary meteor shower in Russia earlier today, we have removed today’s doodle from the Google homepage. The doodle was created to mark Asteroid 2012 DA14 passing Earth.

But as we all know, nothing on the Internet ever truly dies, and the logo can still be found right over here. [Search Engine Land]