Icera Raises $70M, Cuts Staff

logo1Icera, a UK-based semiconductor company, said today that it’s raised $70 million in additional funding in the form of debt and equity; it also said it would cut an undisclosed number of its staff. Current investors Atlas Venture, Balderton Capital, Accel Partners, Amadeus Capital Partners and 3i provided $60 million in equity, and ETV Capital SA and MMV Financial offered $10 million in debt. This brings the company’s total funding to around $270 million — a king’s ransom in any market, but especially for a chip firm in this one.

The reason investors still plow money into Icera is the flexibility of its chipset. Right now it makes a software modem for HSPA used in data cards, but its programmable modem could be used for other wireless technologies, enabling Icera to participate in other wireless standards without a huge redesign of its silicon. That keeps the potential markets wide open and the costs lower, which makes investors happy enough to put more skin in the game — although perhaps not as much as the $100 million Icera was reportedly seeking earlier this year. Maybe that accounts for the cuts.

VCs Must Woo Unhappy Investors, Too

The latest tale of woe out of the VC industry appears today in the Wall Street Journal, on how the limited partners who invest in venture capital firms are backing out of their commitments to fund individual VC funds. The end result of LPs failing to follow through are shuttered companies such as Ambric, which had to close despite having signed several customer deals and keeping its investors’ confidence. But when the investor’s investors back out, the money dries up. Read More about VCs Must Woo Unhappy Investors, Too

Truphone enables WiFi phone calls on iPod Touch

TruphoneipodtouchWe’ve talked about Truphone before. They offer low-cost and free voice calling over WiFi for handsets like BlackBerries, Nokia devices and Apple’s iPhone. Can you believe they now offer their service on a non-phone? Yup, as of today, Truphone enables an iPod Touch to be a voice communications device with their free client application available in the iTunes App Store.

Bear in mind that two other requirements come into play here. First, you’ll need a second-generation iPod Touch; the first-gen devices don’t support audio input. A headset with microphone is also required since there’s no built-in microphone on the iPod Touch. Apple sells one in their store of course, but Truphone is working on a microphone adapter of their own. The company tells me that it will be available soon.

With Truphone’s application, an iPod Touch with microphone and a WiFi signal, you can make free calls to other Truphone users on iPod Touches, Nokia handsets and even a contact that uses Google Talk on a PC. Calls to landlines (at low costs), Skype and MSN users are coming soon as are features allowing you to update your Twitter or Facebook status.

While I wouldn’t rely on using an iPod Touch for a majority of my calling just yet, I could see it being very useful for long distance calls by setting up Truphone accounts with friends overseas. Why burn any international minutes or deal with a crappy cellular signal if you’re comfy in a WiFi hotspot with your iPod Touch?

Is It Time to Buy Google Shares?

Google shares recently fell as much as 67 percent from an all-time high in November of 2007. But while there is plenty of reason for concern in the short term, there are also signs that Google is growing slowly more integrated into many facets of our online experiences. So does that mean it’s time to buy Google shares?

What If the Recession Does Turn Into a Depression?

It’s far from certain — it’s even a fairly remote possibility — but the possibility of an economic depression is being discussed more and more these days. As is to be expected, the discussion tends to be centered around how much of what we’re used to having could be destroyed. As worthwhile as it is to brace for the damage an economic depression could wreak, this is Thanksgiving weekend — a time to reflect on what we do have, and what opportunities we see ahead. Not “opportunities” as in exploiting those in need during hard times, but as in adapting to and serving changing needs. Read More about What If the Recession Does Turn Into a Depression?

Mac of All Trades II: Return of the Mac

It’s time for some more alchemy involving your beloved laptop or desktop companion. Just like last time, we’ll look at a few different apps that allow your Mac to perform some unusual tricks. That Apple is far from a one-trick pony, so forget about boring old internet browsing/photo and video editing/word processing. Prepare to add a “daddy” to the end of your Mac, and show all your friends just how cool you are. This batch will really help you “Bond” with your computer.

Saltwater Aquarium

Nothing says “international man/woman of mystery” like a saltwater fish tank. Whether you’re plotting to destroy the world, or just aiming to become a master of seduction, your lair should definitely house Finding Nemo and his buddies. Real aquariums are expensive and hard to maintain, but your Mac has you covered.

I know it has been around for a while, and it might not be the most useful software on the planet, but I still can’t get enough of SereneScreen’s Marine Aquarium. It comes in both pay and free editions, with the free version lacking the fish variety and customizability of the paid-for software. I set it up on my 32-inch LCD TV and let it run while working or entertaining.
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Final Vinyl Makes Sound Routing and Recording Surprisingly Simple

Being a big fan of my Griffin radioSHARK I was disappointed when the developers dismissed all plans on cranking out an HD Radio version of the device. Given the extensive source tagging in the digital stream, they could have integrated both recording to iTunes and purchasing from iTunes with little effort.

Still wanting to experience HD Radio as inexpensively as possible, I recently purchased a Sony XDR-F1HD HD Radio Tuner and, despite owning every cable known to human-kind, I lacked the RCA-male-to-3.5mm-female cable required to directly connect the tuner to my desktop speakers. Not wanting to trudge down to the family room to hook it up to the stereo for testing, I got out my trusty Griffin iMic but did not want to crank up anything as complex as Garage Band just to do listen to the radio. While I could have used something like Audacity, that program is overkill for the task I wanted to perform.
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Faster iPod Touch pointing to faster iPhone?

IphoneWhen folks find out that I still use a first-generation Apple iPhone for my primary handset, the first question out of their mouth is usually, "why didn’t you upgrade to the iPhone 3G?" I’ve covered that before but as a quick rehash: adding 3G and true GPS capabilities didn’t appeal much to me for a few reasons. First: I spend $599 for the handset, although I did get $100 back that I put towards the purchase of Leopard. Second, I purchased and pay a monthly fee to Verizon Wireless for a USB 3G adapter… I’d rather have the 3G to use on my other larger screened and more capable devices. Third, AT&T’s 3G coverage in my area was spotty at the time. Finally, I felt it was safe to assume that Apple would boost the processor at some point. From the sounds of it, they might have done just that in September, only they did it with the iPod Touch.

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iPhone Your Life: Apple Tries to Get its App Store Act Together

There have been a lot of complaints about the organization of the App Store. Yes, you can search, and browse by category, but the sheer volume of apps available and the relatively simple App Store design make finding something without knowing exactly what you’re looking for a bit of a nightmare. Luckily, you have us to sift through the mess and find the diamonds. Now, you also have the official Apple “iPhone Your Life” website.
Apple appears to have taken a page out of Mozilla’s playbook, since iPhone Your Life presents select iPhone apps in a way very similar to Fashion Your Firefox‘s organization of add-ons for their popular internet browser. As on the Mozilla site, items are organized into broad categories that attempt to group apps by use and/or context for use. Apple provides five categories:

  • Around Town: Location-aware apps and directories for finding things to do, eat, etc.
  • World Travel: Map, language, and conversion apps for smooth globe-trotting.
  • At Home: Past-times and fun for the family, plus apps that interact with your Mac.
  • Getting Things Done: A lot of (surprise!) GTD apps.
  • Fun and Games: Many of the higher profile games available for the iPhone, and some silliness.

Each category’s page presents a brief description of around ten apps that are somehow connected with the overall theme. Submenus containing lists of Top Apps or Staff Picks in the category are also included. Pages can be sent to a friend using convenient links following the App descriptions.
The site seems to be aimed at relatively novice users, and is probably designed more as a supplement to the ongoing iPhone “Dilemmas” campaign than as a functional, thematic app browser. Still, iPhone Your Life is well presented, and might reveal a hidden gem or two that you’ve somehow neglected to pick up on in your obsessive refreshing of AppShopper.com. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

This Is Cool: Social News & Obama’s CTO

[qi:012] Updated: Katie over on Earth2Tech just tipped me off to President-elect Barack Obama’s CTO web site a web site dedicated to President-elect Obama’s pick for CTO. This site was set up by a company called Front Seat using the free version of User Voice’s social software. They are using Digg-like social voting to figure out what the top priorities for this new job will be. There are some interesting ideas there and hopefully some of them will actually make it to Washington from this unofficial platform. I like this idea — now let’s hope that people actually listen and not just use view these suggestions as cute tricks. But I don’t like the fact that Front Seat doesn’t let people know that it is not an official Obama site. (Related link: How Obama Can Use the Net to Improve the Government.)