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Posted at 2:49 PM ET, 03/11/2011

South by Southwest kicks off

By Hayley Tsukayama

South by Southwest, the Austin festival featuring a convergence of music, film and tech, started today. Better known as SXSW or SouthBy, the festival is the place to be for tech start-ups. In the past, the gathering has helped fledgling companies such as Twitter and Foursquare gain a foothold in the tech world.

Folks are still traveling and settling in today, but there are a couple of trends to keep an eye on.

Many in the tech press are predicting that group messaging apps will be the big breakout at SXSW this year. A prime example of this kind of app is new Facebook acquisition Beluga, but it will face competition from Yobongo and GroupMe.

Another genre of apps expected to take off this year is picture-sharing applications. Instagram released an update Friday morning just in time for the festival with two new features: Tilt-Shift and a cool new News Feed. Another picture-sharing app, Picplz, added an update Thursday for "collections," a feature kind of like playlists for photos.

Other apps designed to set up personal connections on the go such as Hurricane Party (an app designed to set up spontaneous parties), Bump (lets you exchange contact information by tapping your phones together) and Sched (a scheduling app) are also expected to be popular at SXSW this year.

And what is an Apple fan in Austin to do on this iPad 2 launch day? Never fear. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Apple set up a "pop-up" store for iPad 2 buyers at the festival. VentureBeat found one lonely man in line for the iPad 2 at 8 a.m. Friday.

For more SXSW coverage, check out The Washington Post's new @innovations blog.

By Hayley Tsukayama  | March 11, 2011; 2:49 PM ET
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