Google is the latest suitor to be reportedly circling around social sat-nav smartphone app Waze. Bloomberg reports ‘people familiar with the matter’ who say Mountain View is considering an acquisition, and that Waze is “fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties and is seeking more than $1 billion”. However sources contacted by TechCrunch have poured cold water on the Google rumour.
We’ve reached out to Google and Waze but at the time of writing neither company could be reached for comment. Update: A spokeswoman for Waze said: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”
Earlier this month we covered reports that Facebook was sniffing around the mapping and traffic service, with a view to ramping up its mobile efforts. Meanwhile Apple has also previously been linked with a Waze buy – having had its own highly public problems with maps. Google has also previously been rumoured to be interested, as has Microsoft. So that’s the full complement of tech giants all apparently eyeing up the same crowdsourced traffic startup.
Waze was founded in 2007 and has raised some $67 million in VC funding from backers including Kleiner Perkins, BlueRun Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and Li Ka-shing, according to Crunchbase. In February it announced it had grown to 40 million registered users, some of whom it picked up during Apple’s mapgate troubles. Waze has offices in the U.S. and Israel — the latter being where its R&D is based.
A key blocker for any Waze acquisition has been apparent investor conflict over the terms of any deal, with questions about whether Waze would move fully to the U.S. or keep R&D in Israel causing disagreements. There has also been investor conflict about whether to accept a lower, mostly cash offer or a higher offer comprised of more shares, according to our sources. Rumours of big tech suitors like Google sniffing around could also be a way for Waze investors to try to leverage more out of an acquisition — by making other suitors, such as Facebook (whose up to $1 billion interest in Waze we have previously confirmed), up their own offers.
Bloomberg’s sources claim Google and “other large tech companies” — but not Apple — have approached Waze about a possible acquisition since its talks with Facebook become public. However they also say none of the bidders is close to clinching a deal, and add that the talks may fall apart or Waze may walk away and seek more VC funding to continue expanding its mapping program. So really that’s saying everything is still to play for and any outcome is possible at this point.
To our ear, the most plausible-sounding scenario here is that investors are trying to leverage more out of a possible Facebook acquisition of Waze. Especially because multiple credible sources contacted by TechCrunch have told us that the Google acquisition rumour is not at all true.
Just four days after Yahoo-owned Flickr unveiled a brand-new upgrade, the site is experiencing major downtime for some—but not all—users.
Flickr tweeted its acknowledgement of the site going down, about two hours ago.
While it appears that some users are not seeing any problems, there are others who have not been able to access the site for hours. TNW spotted a tweet from @danielbowen complaining about the downtime that was posted at 5:30PM PDT. That’s almost six hours ago, at time of writing.
But isitdownrightnow.com shows the site is up, and other users like @bestofnatparks posted a tweet about its Flickr gallery about three hours ago.
Flickr’s update, launched just four days ago, overhauled the photo site’s interface with large, high-res photos. This pairs with a recent update of Flickr’s apps on both iOS and Android. Flickr has said that the updated iOS app yielded 25 percent more uploads.
The additional load placed on Flickr’s systems by all the high-res flood coming in is likely to have taken its servers down. Flickr has about 89 million users. The new site upgrade also bumped up each user’s upload quota to a whopping 1Tb. Not everyone’s going to be rushing to reach the quota, but it’s undoubtedly revived a lot of interest from users who have fallen by the wayside in recent years.
Pandora has had a busy quarter. In March, the social radio company saw its long-time CEO Joe Kennedy abruptly step down, leaving the board to scramble to find a replacement. On the bright side, Kennedy’s exit, while likely a result of stress, followed relatively good times for Pandora. And it’s continued to push forward since.
Pandora launched an ad-free version for Windows 8 in March, surpassed 200 million users (with over 140 million accessing Pandora via mobile) in April, then launched a “Premieres” station for U.S. users and deepened its Facebook integration with a new Timeline App.
Today, Pandora’s first quarter earnings reflected this flurry of activity, as the company saw GAAP total revenue increase 97 percent year-over-year to $83.9 million (with non-GAAP mobile revenue of $86.7 million), which outpaced mobile listener hour growth at 47 percent year over year. Meanwhile, total revenue came in at $125.5 million, representing 55 percent year-over-year growth and non-GAAP total revenue of $128.5 million.
What’s more, share of total U.S. Radio listening for Pandora grew to 7.33 percent in April — an increase from 5.86 percent in the same period last year.
This news followed a strong earnings report from Pandora for the fourth quarter as well, thanks chiefly to mobile revenue growth of 111 percent year-over-year (to $80.3 million), which caused the company’s stock to jump for joy.
Based on this performance, Wall Street expected the trend to (mostly) continue for Pandora in the first quarter, with forecasts pegging revenue at $123.9 million (on losses of $0.10 per share) for the quarter, compared to a loss of $0.09 per share for Q1 last year — and revenue of $123.5 in Q4. And so it did.
Of his company’s performance, Kennedy said:
Mobile listening hours and mobile ad revenue reached record highs, with growth in mobile ad revenue exceeding growth in mobile listening hours. During the quarter, we successfully implemented a mobile listening limit, enabling us to manage our content acquisition costs with minimal impact on listenership or revenue growth. Pandora’s subscriber base surpassed 2.5 million, adding more net new subscribers in the quarter than in all of fiscal 2013, giving Pandora the largest US streaming subscriber base of any music service.
It’s also interesting to note that Kennedy resigned after last quarter (as mentioned above), yet Pandora’s release today names him as Chairman and CEO. It seems either Pandora’s copy editors need more coffee or their communications team knows something we don’t. Perhaps Kennedy’s resignation (due, understandably, to heavy stress) was a bit more abrupt than intended and announced early. Although that’s not totally clear at this point.
All in all, it was a strong quarter for Pandora, with advertising revenue showing a 49 percent year-over-year increase to $105.1 million, with non-GAAP subscription and other revenue coming in at $23.4 million — a 114 percent year-over-year increase. Non-GAAP basic and diluted EPS were $0.10, right in line with Wall Street’s expectations, while the company ended the quarter with $75.4 million in cash, compared with $89 million after the prior quarter. (Cash used in operation activities came in at about $12.6 million.)
Some other notable metrics: Pandora’s total listener hours grew 35 percent to 4.18 billion for the first quarter, compared to 3.09 billion for the same quarter last year. According to Kennedy, Pandora’s mobile listening hours hit an all-time high this quarter, alongside significant growth of its subscriber base (which Kennedy claims above makes it the biggest in the U.S.).
As to guidance, non-GAAP revenue is expected to fall in the $155 million to $160 million range, while Pandora expects non-GAAP EPS to be in the range of -$0.02 and +$0.01.
This isn’t exactly the launch of Google Now for the desktop, which many of us have been patiently waiting for, but Google today announced that it is bringing a richer notifications experience to Chrome, starting with the latest beta. This definitely feels like it brings Google Now yet another step closer to the desktop.
These new notifications, which developers can easily add to their own Chrome packaged apps and extensions, will pop up outside of the browser window and live in a center outside of the browser, so users will be able to receive notifications, even if the browser is not open.
This feature is now available for Windows and Chrome OS users. Google says it’s coming to OS X and Linux “soon.”
Chrome, of course, already features basic web notifications (and if you’re a Chrome and Google Apps user, you’ve probably seen them from services like Gmail). These rich notifications go a step further, though, as developers can add their own full-bleed icons, images, headlines and short messages to them. Developers can also decide for how long notifications should stay on the screen by specifying different priorities for each alert.
The new notification center will be available through the Windows system tray or from the Chrome OS launcher.
Last week, Google also announced its new Cloud Messaging for Chrome push notification service. While Google doesn’t mention them in today’s announcement, there is no reason why those push notifications couldn’t soon arrive in the new notifications center, too.
You can find a full changelog of what’s new in Chrome 28 here.
Barely a month or two after launching the Y Combinator-backed photo-sharing service Popset, the team realized they were solving the wrong problem. Users weren’t struggling to share their photos with groups; they needed tools to help them organize and manage their photo libraries across a variety of platforms and services. So the company decided to change its course, and today it’s announcing what it has in store: Loom, a cloud storage and syncing service that’s like a better alternative to iCloud.
“People were requesting features and giving us feedback that caught our attention,” explains Popset and now Loom co-founder Jan Senderek. After interviewing hundreds of users over a month’s time, the founders had a better idea of what its user base wanted. People told the team of their awful routines for managing photos – backing them from iPhones to external hard drives, having to sync them through iTunes, how quickly the photos ate up precious disk space on their portable devices and MacBook SSD drives, and so on.
“There are so many thing that are wrong, and it’s kind of obvious how to solve that – by simply putting everything in the cloud and making it accessible to you on all your devices,” says Senderek.
That, of course, is the promise of Apple’s iCloud. But it doesn’t seem to work as well as it should.
In recent months, Apple users and developers have become increasingly frustrated with iCloud, which has proved to be difficult, buggy, and confusing to end users.
“People don’t really understand iCloud. They don’t understand what Photostream is or how it works,” Senderek explains. “It actually makes the problem worse.” Photostream, which saves the last 1,000 photos on your device, appears like a separate album, which also confuses some users.
The team, which also includes co-founders Philipp Wein and Daniel Wagner, realized they had a choice to make. They could either double-down on Popset or respond to the problems users wanted fixed with a whole new product.
They chose the latter.
Popset users were notified at the beginning of this month that the service would be closing in June, and were offered a downloadable .zip file of the photos they had shared.
The new product, Loom, puts all your photos and videos in the cloud, allowing you to empty your Camera Roll and reclaim lost disk space. Designed to replace the native Photos app, Loom instead uses smart technology to intelligently cache photos and videos based on the size of the device that you’re using. In other words, if you’re snapping high-def photos with your 16 GB iPhone 5, you don’t really need the full resolution version of those photos in order to enjoy them on the small screen, or share them with others.
Loom also works even when it doesn’t have a network connection – like Apple’s own Photos app does. It will just sync everything you do while offline once the device is connected again. And it will support some of Popset’s old feature set around album creation and sharing.
Also like iCloud, media stored in Loom will be available on all your devices. A developer API will be available, too.
Initially, the service will work on iPhone, iPad, Mac and web, but the plan is to bring the technology to Android as well, where it will be able to more deeply integrate with the operating system. In addition, photos and videos are only the beginning – the long-term plan is to support other file types including documents, music, audio, TV and movies.
Though Loom is offering something that solves a problem for many, if it goes the freemium route as it’s now intending to do, it will be up against several services with competitive pricing in terms of photo sync and storage. Facebook, Google, Flickr and even Shutterfly are offering photo upload (even automatic upload) and hosting, either entirely free or with large enough free tiers to make their services the better option for those watching their budget.
But Loom also has another interesting idea for making money – if users ever wanted to download their entire photo archive, Loom could send them either a link to download, or as an additional paid option, send them an external hard drive filled with their media.
Pricing details, however, are not yet available.
Loom is opening up its private beta in about a month. TechCrunch readers who sign up here will be able to get into the first batch which is limited to 1,000 users.
The San Francisco-based startup, now a team of eight, had already raised additional funding for Loom shortly after Popset’s launch. An additional seed round is also closing soon.