Ford brings SYNC and AppLink to Europe


At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Ford announced that it is bringing its SYNC and AppLink platforms to Europe. After selling close to 4 million cars with its voice-activated hands-free platform in the U.S., Ford now plans to sell more than 3.5 million SYNC-enabled cars in Europe by 2015. SYNC will speak nine European languages and also feature Ford's Emergency alert system (that's SYNC 911 Assist in the U.S.). The first car to feature SYNC in Europe will be the also newly announced B-Max vehicle, but Ford plans to quickly bring it to other cars as well.

SYNC and AppLink

In addition to SYNC, Ford is also launching AppLink, its platform for connecting mobile apps to the car and controlling them by voice, in Europe. The company is actively looking for local partners here that will enable their mobile apps for Ford's system.

SYNC, which had been available in the U.S. for a few years now, will now also speak nine European languages. Given the multitude of countries SYNC has to work in, one of the most important features of SYNC here will be the new emergency assist feature, which will automatically detect where you are and call the right emergency service for the country you are in and then talk to the emergency services in the appropriate language.

Looking ahead, Ford noted that it wants to bring more cloud-based services to the car as well. In Ford's vision, you next car would automatically shut down the lights in your house when you leave your garage, for example, tell you about road-work and traffic jams and also find a parking spot for you.


1:37 am

Cisco Wants EU to Place Conditions on Already Approved Microsoft/Skype Deal


Last October, Microsoft won final approval from the European Commission to go ahead with its acquisition of the popular VoIP service Skype. Now, however, this approval is being challenged by network equipment maker Cisco. While Cisco says it doesn't oppose the merger, it does want the European Commission to place "conditions that would ensure greater standards-based interoperability." The Italian VoIP and fixed-line provider Massagenet also joined Cisco's appeal.

When the original deal was unconditionally approved, the Europen Commision explicitly noted that "there are no competition concerns in this growing market where numerous players, including Google, are present."

Cisco: Afraid that Microsoft Could "Control the Future of Video Communications"

Cisco, according to its appeal, worries that Microsoft/Skype could "seek to control the future of video communications." That seems to be quite a stretch given how vibrant this market is. While Microsoft will integrate Skype into its mobile operating system, there is little reason to believe that it could "control the future of video communications." Maybe Cisco is more worried about losing an edge in the enterprise market once Microsoft integrates Skype into its productivity solutions for large companies.

12:04 pm

With 5 Million More Euros in the Bank, Pearltrees Gets Ready to Scale and Start Monetizing


The Paris-based social curation platform Pearltrees just announced that it has raised a Series B round of 5 million Euros (about $6.62 million USD). The money is coming from Group Accueil, which had also invested in the service’s previous round. In total, Pearltrees has now raised 8.5 million Euros. The company, which launched its first alpha almost 3 years ago, aims to use this money to scale its product and – maybe even more importantly – implement a freemium business model for its service.

The company did not publicly discuss what exactly this freemium model will look like.

Pearltrees is probably best known for its highly visual interface to its collaborative curation service. Some of the most interesting technology the team has developed, however, actually powers the discovery mechanism that is slowly becoming a more important part of the user experience (especially in Pearltrees’ recently released iPad app). This so-called “TreeRank” algorithm – named after the way you organize your bookmarks/pearls on the site – allows the company to interpret and expose the interest graph its users generate through their bookmarking  activity on the site.

Pearltrees, according to its own data, had about 1 million unique visitors in January, which accounted for about 30 million pageviews. In total, about 350,000 contributors now use the site. Interestingly, only about 25% of Pearltrees users are American.

Pearltrees and Pearltrees story / Pearltrees development / Ecosysteme in Patrice Lamothe (Patrice)

11:00 pm

European Parliament Wants to Cut Mobile Roaming Fees


With networks that typically span the whole country and plans that generally shield U.S. mobile phone users from paying extra roaming fees these days, being outside of your provider's reach isn't much of a problem on this side of the Atlantic (though there may be some changes afoot here, too). In Europe, though, where users travel between different countries on a regular basis, roaming fees can add up quickly. Now, the European Commission wants to cut the fees that telecom operators can charge. According to Reuters, the EU Parliament wants to reduce the rates telecom companies can charge to an even lower point than EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes proposed last year.

"The charge for a one-minute outgoing call when abroad", says Reuters, "would be 15 cents compared with Kroes's plan for a one-third cut to 24 cents. The cost of surfing the Internet would be slashed to 20 cents per megabyte from 50 cents."

Currently, the caps for roaming charges are 35 cents for outgoing calls and 11 cents for incoming calls. The new proposal would also cap the rates for Internet usage to about 20 cents per megabyte.

Unsurprisingly, the telecom industry is currently lobbying for smaller rate cuts while the EU Parliament is working on reconciling Kroes' and the parliament's proposal.

Kroes' proposal also includes a provision for 'decoupling,' which would allow consumers to switch providers when they cross the border. This would make international travel a lot easier (and cheaper) for Europeans and completely circumvent the roaming problem in the first place.

12:13 pm

Google Finally Takes Social Search Global, +1 Up Next


Ever since its launch in late 2009, Google’s Social Search feature was only available in the United States. Over the course of the next week, however, Google will finally roll this feature out globally. Social Search shows you what your friends and contacts shared on public networks like Twitter, Flickr, Google Buzz and Google Reader and displays this information on relevant search results pages. In addition to bringing Social Search to the rest of the world outside of the U.S., Google also announced that it aims to roll out its experimental +1 feature globally as soon as it can.

Google announcement comes just a few days after Microsoft’s Bing announced its improved Facebook-based social search experience that is mostly based on data Facebook’s and Bing’s users share through the ubiquitous ‘like’ button. Given the failure of Google Buzz, Google’s closest competitor to Facebook’s ‘like’ is +1, but until Google rolls out the actual +1 buttons, it will be hard to say if the Mountain View-based search giant can actually compete with Facebook in this market. Until then, Microsoft has the upper hand when it comes to social search as Google – unlike Bing – does not have access to privately shared Facebook ‘like’ data.

To see a full list of your Google connections, click here. If you’re not familiar with how Google Social Search works, here is a video that explains its functionality in more detail:

8:34 am

Spotify Launch in the U.S. Still Delayed by Record Labels' Financial Demands


Spotify, the popular European music startup that gives you free access to millions of songs, may never launch in the U.S. after all, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph. Apparently, the record labels are asking for “very large minimum guarantees,” which is something that, according to this report, is making Spotify rather nervous as its European operation is just about to be profitable and entering the U.S. market could turn out to be a huge financial risk. According to the Telegraph’s source in the record industry, this “has caused Spotify to stop and think about whether it can afford the move to the US and indeed whether it is worth it.”


The record labels are apparently scared off by Spotify’s freemium model and don’t want potential record buyers to think that music should always be free. Indeed, the industry has worked hard over the last few years (in between suing those who downloaded illegal MP3s) to wean people off the idea that all music should be available for free.

Officially, of course, Spotify still argues that its working hard to launch in the U.S. and looking for additional funding to finance this venture, but if the Telegraph’s source is right, then there is considerable doubt whether this launch will ever happen or whether Spotify will just remain an European company and cede the U.S. market to the likes of Rdio (itself founded by Europeans), MOG and similar startups.

(via: The Next Web)

10:45 am