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Wed, 30 Nov 11
Siri Shows Up on Other Devices, for Cars, for Everything
An ecosystem is emerging around Siri, the intelligent natural language software agent that Apple introduced with its iPhone 4S. In the latest evolutionary news, a version of Siri has been made to run on other Apple devices, there's a comparable app for Android devices, and there's even an app to start your car with Siri voice commands.

One of Siri's many talents is voice dictation, and now a hack known as SiriOus allows for jailbroken iPhones 4 and 3GS, and the iPod Touch fourth generation, to offer that function. Jailbreaking involves getting around Apple's limitations on a device, such as installing non-App Store apps or changing the user interface.

Here Comes Cluzee

Owners of non-4S Apple devices aren't the only ones who might be a little Siri-envious. Now, a new, third-party "intelligent personal assistant" application called Cluzee provides similar features for Android-based devices.

Cluzee, available in the Android Market, also reportedly offers features beyond Siri. Tronton, the company that created Cluzee, has posted a video in which Cluzee answers a question like "what does my schedule look like today?" This not only includes a verbal recitation of one's calendar schedule, but also on-the-fly integration with external data, such as verbal advice to avoid the traffic on certain streets, in order to reach a doctor's appointment.

Tronton said that Cluzee can provide such additional capabilities as personalized recommendations of restaurants based on the user's previous choices, a health planner, a travel planner, notes management, personal radio and more. And, if you want a taxi, just tell Cluzee, "Call taxi."

Siri Controls for Any Machine

But instead of a taxi, you might want to tell your own car to start. A developer named Brandon Fiquett has created a plugin/PHP addition that allows voice commands through Siri to turn a car engine on or off, if the car has the...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Cisco: Cloud Traffic To Grow 12-Fold by 2015
Global cloud computing traffic will grow 12-fold by 2015. So says the inaugural Cisco Global Cloud Index. The report projects a 66 percent annual growth rate for cloud traffic from 2010 to 2015 to ultimately reach 1.6 zettabytes.

To put that figure into perspective. 1.6 zettabytes is the equivalent to 22 trillion hours of streaming music; 5 trillion hours of business Web conferencing with a webcam; and 1.6 trillion hours of online high-definition video streaming.

Cisco estimates the cloud drives 11 percent of data center traffic today, and will grow to more than 33 percent of the total by 2015. Indeed, cloud is the fastest growing component of data center traffic and will reach 4.8 zettabytes a year by 2015. The cloud is becoming a critical element for the future of information technology and delivery of video and content.

Peak Cloud Hours

"Cloud and data center traffic is exploding, driven by user demand to access volumes of content on the devices of their choice," said Suraj Shetty, vice president of product and solutions marketing at Cisco. "The result: greater data center virtualization and relevance of the network for cloud applications and the need to make sense of a dynamically evolving situation."

According to Cisco, the vast majority of the data center traffic is not caused by end users but by the data centers and clouds themselves undertaking activities that are largely transparent to end users -- like backup and replication.

By 2015, Cisco predicts 76 percent of data center traffic will remain within the data center itself as workloads migrate between various virtual machines and background tasks take place. Another 17 percent of the total traffic leaves the data center to be delivered to the end user. The remaining 7 percent of total traffic is generated between data centers through activities such as cloud-bursting,...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Mobile Apps To Get Ratings Similar to Video Games
Mobile applications and games on popular smartphones and tablets -- including Apple's iPhone and iPad and Android-based devices -- will soon carry age-based ratings.

The ratings that AT&T Wireless, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless plan to use starting next year may look familiar to many. That's because they are based on those created for video games by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in 1994.

The app ratings, which will be officially announced today, include symbols such as "E" for "Everyone" or all ages and "T" for "Teen" or suitable for ages 13 and up. But the ratings also include descriptors detailing whether an app shares personal information or user-generated content, or connects to social networks, says ESRB President Patricia Vance.

CTIA-The Wireless Association chose the ESRB to create an app-rating system after soliciting bids earlier this year. As smartphones and the apps used on them evolved, CTIA saw the need for improved guidelines, says David Diggs, CTIA's vice president for wireless Internet development.

"In 2005, there was no such thing as an app, and the devices were radically different," he says.

Other providers are expected to implement the ratings, too. "It's an important milestone in our effort to make information available for parents and their kids," Diggs says.

CTIA's choice of the ESRB could allay industry fears about the voluntary ratings system. The video game industry created the self-regulatory ESRB after congressional hearings into violent content led to a federal ultimatum. Consumers are familiar with the ESRB ratings, Vance says. "And there's a certain credibility associated with them."

Calling the plan "consumer-friendly," Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said in a statement that "it's a win-win when industry takes proactive, responsible steps to protect children from inappropriate content."

Currently, each online app store rates content in its own fashion. Apple rates apps for age appropriateness, while...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
RIM's New Management Platform Includes Apple, Android Devices
Struggling mobile-device maker Research In Motion has decided it needs to position itself for a multiple-device world. On Tuesday, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company introduced its next-generation enterprise management platform -- designed not only for RIM's BlackBerry devices, but devices running Apple's iOS or Google's Android.

RIM Vice President Alan Panezic said in a statement that the new platform, called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, makes it "easier for our business and government customers to manage the diversity of devices in their operations today." He noted that the new platform marries the existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3 technology with management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all of which can be managed from a single Web console.

Living in a BYOD World

Those devices can also include tablets, either RIM's PlayBook, Apple's iPad, or the various tablets running Android.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which is in an early beta testing with selected customers, offers management for assets, configurations, applications, connectivity and security, the ability to secure and protect lost or stolen devices with remote lock or wipe, user- and group-based administration, and the ability to manage multiple devices for each user.

The release version of Mobile Fusion is expected in first quarter, and each Fusion server is projected to be able to handle 10,000 devices.

RIM said that, while more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies provision BlackBerries, there is growth in both company-provisioned and employee-owned devices -- a category being called Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD. This had led, the company said, to "an increased demand for mobile-device management solutions," as consumer-oriented devices increasingly populate the enterprise.

'Lemonade Out of Lemons'

Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said that RIM's new approach was "making lemonade out of lemons." In other words, he said, the company's strategy with the new platform appears to...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Season of Part-Time Jobs Kicks Off with Holidays
Lloyd Slocum was unemployed for 18 months, but like hundreds of thousands of Americans, he's working part time this holiday shopping season, unloading trucks and stocking shelves for a Bealls store in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

"It gives you something to look forward to," says Slocum, 29.

He plans to use the cash to buy his father a Christmas present and hopes to parlay the gig into a full-time position with Bealls/Burke's stores, a Sunbelt chain.

Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping frenzy, also kicks off the less-celebrated season of the part-time worker. Retailers alone are hiring about 500,000 seasonal employees this year, most of whom are part time, according to the National Retail Federation. Retailers' recent shift to opening on Thanksgiving or midnight on Black Friday has intensified the need for part-time workers.

Holiday jobs offer financial and emotional lifelines for many of the nation's jobless. They also point up a troubling reality: A near-record number of Americans are working part time throughout the year, even though they would prefer full-time jobs. It's not just because of the sluggish economy. Economists cite a broader, longer-term shift toward part-time work as employers cut expenses and more precisely match staffing with the ebbs and flows of customer demand.

The number of part-timers who really want full-time positions -- so-called involuntary part-time employees -- has risen from 8.4 million in January to 8.9 million last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total has hovered at 8.5 million to 9 million since early 2009 -- double the pre-recession level.

By contrast, the tally of unemployed Americans has stayed flat at about 13.9 million this year and is down from about 15 million in late 2009 as employers have added a modest 2 million or so jobs. The disparity underscores how the nation's official...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Lines Blur for Online and In-Store Shopping
A tablet-toting Macy's salesperson ordering a diamond necklace with a Macys.com app -- for a customer standing in a Macy's store.

Walmart shoppers pulling up maps of their neighborhood store online -- so they can better navigate the aisles to grab the best in-store Black Friday deals.

Toy-seeking parents ordering Lets Rock Elmo from Toysrus.com -- yet heading to the physical store to pick the gift up.

The boundaries separating online and in-store shopping are fast dissolving.

Consumers are increasingly doing online research before they head out for holiday gifts. When they get to stores, they're pulling out smartphones and tablets to compare prices and read reviews.

For their part, retailers are both pushing people to their Web sites -- so they can cut back on in-store stock expenses -- and using Web-based initiatives, such as free Wi-Fi, to keep shoppers in their stores.

Online and offline experimentation will be omnipresent this holiday season, as retailers and consumers both try to figure out the most effective way to shop.

"One of our major strategies is to let (multiple shopping channels) blend together," says Martine Reardon, Macy's executive vice president of marketing and advertising. "My challenge is to give shoppers that great experience from every channel."

There is much at stake for the retailer who can't figure out how to integrate online and in-store shopping. Those who have slow-to-load Web sites, don't offer helpful apps or aren't optimized for digital and mobile devices could lose customers this season, experts say.

Underscoring the importance of retail Web sites: Thanksgiving Day online sales were up by about 20% over 2010 by noon PT, according to the Web analytics company IBM Coremetrics. Also, shoppers were using mobile devices more often to visit -- but not necessarily buy from -- a retailer's Web site Thursday, Coremetrics said. The share of consumers using mobile devices...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Smartphone Viruses: Real Danger or Just Hot Air?
Every PC user knows that going online carries with it the danger of picking up a computer virus. But are the dangers the same with mobile surfing? Not quite ... so far.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of talk out there about dangerous mobile software, a lack of awareness about the need to secure mobile devices and a heightened danger for mobile devices and their users.

But a lot of that talk is coming from Internet security businesses that would like to see their wares on smartphones. Experts aren't quite as sure. Some even advise against virus-scanning software. It's enough to pay attention to the origin of the apps you download, they say.

"You could say that the anti-virus software makers have a great interest in playing up the danger, sometimes bigger than it really is," says Juergen Schmidt, chief editor of a German security publication. But he says the threat to smartphones is much smaller than that to Windows computers. "A virus scanner is, for now, definitely not a must for a smartphone."

The relative threat is not the same for all mobile operating systems. "At the moment, the risk for Android smartphones is higher. Some experts already say 'Android is the smartphone Windows of the future,'" explains Schmidt, referring to Windows susceptibility to viruses on PCs.

There is also some malware out there that targets the old Symbian system, whose applications can be installed for free, like Android apps. Meanwhile, there aren't many threats out there for Blackberry or Windows mobile systems.

The best when it comes to security is Apple's iOS, since it will only accept apps that comes from the official App Store, meaning they've all been reviewed by Apple.

"You can say what you want about the reviews by Apple, but it has certain advantages when it comes to security aspects," says Schmidt....

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Nokia's Lumia 800: Smartphone and Savior?
Nokia and Microsoft are both banking on the new Lumia 800 to provide them with a big comeback in the smartphone market, currently dominated by Android devices and Apple's iPhone.

The fact that two global market leaders -- Nokia has seen its market lead cut by Android and Apple, while Microsoft operates the world's premier PC operating system, while failing so far to crack the smartphone market -- have tied up so much hope in one device is reason enough to give it a close look.

Nokia announced in February that it was switching to Windows Phone as the operating system for its smartphones. The Lumia 800 is the first fruit of that partnership.

It is a purely Windows device. Controls and functions are identical to smartphones using the system, like those from HTC or LG. But the Lumia is supposed to get a boost from its design, its camera and Nokia's navigation service.

Nokia will have to deal with the fact that, just this summer, it released its first, and likely last, smartphone using the MeeGo operating system, developed in collaboration with Intel: the N9.

The Lumia 800 looks identical to the N9. It has a seamless polycarbonate housing with rounded corners, meaning it sits better in the user's hand. Connections for earphones and a mini-USB device are hidden under a plastic lid along the top side. Next to that is the dock for a micro SIM.

It comes in classic black, light blue and bright pink. The screen is also slightly arched and merged into the housing, keeping with the overall feel of the device. Measuring 3.7 inches (9.4 centimeters) diagonally, it has a resolution of 800 X 480 pixels.

Despite bright colors, that means the Lumia's display is significantly less defined than the display of the iPhone 4, with its 960 X 640 pixels.


Wed, 30 Nov 11
Microsoft Signs Agreement To Scrutinize Yahoo
It looks as if Microsoft wants a seat at the negotiating table if Yahoo decides to sell part or all of its business.

To gain better access, Microsoft Corp. has signed a nondisclosure agreement with Yahoo Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on the condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been formally announced.

The DealReporter and The New York Times earlier reported the arrangement between Microsoft and Yahoo.

Yahoo's board has been mulling the company's options since firing CEO Carol Bartz in early September. The alternatives include selling Yahoo's Asian assets, such as the Alibaba Group in China, and auctioning off the company in its entirety instead of hiring a new CEO. Tim Morse, Yahoo's chief financial officer, has been interim CEO since Bartz's ouster.

The DealReporter said that Yahoo's board is scheduled to meet next week to discuss its next step.

Microsoft unsuccessfully tried to buy Yahoo in 2008 for as much as $47.5 billion before walking away in frustration. Yahoo's stock is worth less than half of Microsoft's last offer of $33 per share.

Yahoo shares fell 3 cents Wednesday to close at $14.94. Microsoft's stock price dropped 32 cents to close at $24.47.

The New York Times reported that Microsoft is primarily interested in protecting its Internet search advertising alliance with Yahoo if its partner pursues a sale or a dramatic reorganization. Microsoft currently provides most of the search technology on Yahoo's Web site in return for 12 percent of the ad revenue generated from the results.

To preserve its business relationship with Yahoo, Microsoft already had explored contributing to a joint bid for Yahoo's U.S. assets with some of the buyout firms that have been considering making offers. That list includes Silver Lake Partners, Providence Equity Partners and the Texas Pacific...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
Qualcomm Challenges LCDs Through New E-Reader
A new electronic display is poised to challenge power-hungry LCDs after U.S. mobile chip maker Qualcomm Inc. teamed up with a South Korean bookseller to introduce a new e-reader.

The "Kyobo eReader" was unveiled this week in Seoul and will reach South Korean consumers as early as Dec. 1, Kyobo Book Centre officials said Thursday.

The e-reader features Qualcomm's 1.0 GHz "Snapdragon" processor, a custom Kyobo application based on Android and a 5.7 inch "XGA" mirasol display.

The mirasol display uses ambient light instead of its own in much the same way that a peacock's plumage gets its scintillating hues. Qualcomm's mirasols have already been used in a few Chinese and South Korean phones, and in an MP3 player on the U.S. market. The display contains tiny mirrors that consume power only when they're moving, easing battery drain. Mirasol displays also quickly change from one image to the next and show video.

The global market for e-readers is dominated by bright LCDs and grayscale "e-ink" screens. LCDs consume relatively more battery power while e-ink screens are slow to refresh.

The introduction of the e-reader jointly developed by Qualcomm and Kyobo signals increasing competition in the global market for tablets.

U.S. online retailer Amazon.com Inc. and bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. have recently released tablets of their own, Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, and are challenging Apple's iPad in pricing.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs noted South Koreans' near-100 percent literacy rate and digital reading skills during a launching ceremony in Seoul on Tuesday, according to the San Diego-based company. Fifteen-year-old South Koreans scored highest in their ability to absorb information from digital devices, according to a 2009 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Over 80 percent of households in South Korea have broadband Internet access.

The e-reader featuring the mirasol display will be priced at 349,000...

Wed, 30 Nov 11
EU Data Protection Reform To Replace National Laws
The European Union wants to replace a mishmash of national laws on data protection with one bloc-wide reform, updating laws put in place long before Facebook and other social networking sites even existed.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Monday that social networks must become more open about how they operate. Under her proposals, businesses -- including Internet service providers -- would have additional responsibilities, such as having to inform users of what data about them is being collected, for what purpose, and how it is stored.

EU regulators have been concerned about how commercial online services use customers' personal data to attract advertisers, saying they want to make sure that citizens' Internet privacy rights are respected.

"All social network service providers active in the EU must fully comply with EU data protection laws," Reding said. "Companies have a specific responsibility when personal data is their main economic asset,"

Existing EU laws date to 1995, long before Facebook and other social networking sites existed. EU officials expect the draft legislation to be ready early next year, and after that, it could take up to 18 months for the bill to become law.

The EU has to iron out differences between its members over privacy issues. Countries like France and Germany favor stronger protections for privacy, while Ireland, Britain and others prefer more market-friendly rules.

A Eurobarometer survey this summer found that 75 percent of Europeans are worried about how companies -- including search engines like Google and social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn -- use their private information.

The proposed reform also would help businesses by replacing the current patchwork of 27 national regulations, she said.

"They need ... to have a 'one-stop-shop' when it comes to data protection matters, one law and one single data protection authority," Reding told the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU....

Tue, 29 Nov 11
LG's Nitro HD Is AT&T's Third LTE Smartphone
As the holiday season smartphone war begins to heat up, AT&T is breaking out the Nitro.

The tough-sounding Nitro HD from South Korean electronics giant LG has a 1.5 gigahertz dual-core processor and 4.5-inch True HD Advanced High-Performance In-Plane Switching display, and is able to access AT&T's brand new long-term evolution network for high-speed, 4G data.

Look for it online or at AT&T-owned stores Dec. 4.

That makes three LTE smartphones for AT&T, after this month's HTC Vivid and Samsung's Galaxy SII Skyrocket, since the nation's second-biggest carrier launched the LTE network in September. It recently expanded to 15 markets, with plans to reach 70 million Americans with 4G LTE by year's end.

Bang For Your Buck?

The Android-powered Nitro HD isn't cheap, running $250 with a two-year voice and required data contract. That's the same price as the Skyrocket but $50 cheaper than the Vivid.

Rival Verizon Wireless also charges a premium price for some of its LTE phones, with Samsung's Droid Razr and HTC's Rezound selling for $299.

But AT&T says it's worth the cost, citing the LG Nitro HD's slim 5.3"x2.7"x.4" design, 8-megapixel HD camera and 20 gigabytes of total memory (4 GB on-board and an included 16-GB microSD). It also features Wi-Fi Direct technology and DLNA features for wireless HD content-streaming options.

"With the LG Nitro HD as one of our last smartphones to arrive in 2011, we're closing out the year with a bang," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president, devices, AT&T Mobility and consumer markets. "We've seen others get close to a true HD experience on Android super phones this year, but Nitro HD is the one that does it right."

Fast Pace

Three LTE phones in one month is a sharp pace for AT&T in catching up with top rival Verizon Wireless, which now has seven LTE phones -- including...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Amazon's Black Friday Kindle Sales Quadruple
Amazon reported its best-ever Black Friday sales for the company's Kindle family of e-readers and media tablets, the online retail giant said Monday. Unit sales quadrupled across the board in comparison with Kindle sales the same day last year.

"Even before the busy holiday shopping weekend, we'd already sold millions of the new Kindle family," said Amazon Kindle Vice President Dave Limp. "And Kindle Fire was the best-selling product across all of Amazon.com" on Black Friday.

However, Apple's iPad also had an outstanding Black Friday, according to the sell-through observations made by investment firm Piper Jaffray. "We observed Apple stores selling 14.8 iPads per hour, up from 8.8 iPads per hour last year on Black Friday," noted Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Andrew Murphy.

One reason why was that Apple discounted iPads 8 percent to 9 percent for Black Friday this year, compared with 6 percent to 8 percent on Black Friday last year. "Apple stores were selling 68 percent more iPads per hour on a year-on-year basis," Munster and Murphy wrote in a Monday investor note.

Sales Channel Rivalry

Though Apple also sells the iPad via mass-market retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, the $199 price tag sported by the new Kindle Fire clearly helped Amazon beat Apple's iPad unit sales at Target's retail outlets nationwide.

"This was a great Black Friday for Target and for Kindle Fire, which was the best-selling tablet in our stores on Black Friday," said Target Vice President Nik Nayar.

Amazon also benefited from heavy Kindle sales at Best Buy. On the other hand, Apple's iPad is available worldwide and also distinctly appeals to business professionals in ways in which the Kindle Fire cannot -- due to Amazon's design emphasis on delivering multimedia entertainment as well as the limitations induced by the device's Amazon-centric user interface.

The Black Friday...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
AT&T, T-Mobile Aren't Giving Up on Merger
The AT&T move to merge with T-Mobile is entering a new phase. Even with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman and the Department of Justice opposed to the deal, the companies are not giving up.

Last week, after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski came out against the $39 billion merger and asked his board to refer the application to an administrative judge, AT&T and Deutsche Telekom AG, T-Mobile's owner, withdrew their pending application -- but it appears they are not abandoning their effort.

Removal of 'Competitive Force'

Genachowski had said his decision was based on review by the agency of hundreds of thousands of documents, dozens of petitions opposing the merger, and meetings with both companies. He contended that the deal would lead to higher prices for consumers and large job losses.

DOJ had filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T in August, with the hearings before a federal judge beginning in February. Justice had said that "the elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market." Many observers had speculated that the one-two punch of the FCC and the Justice Department, if either and certainly if both succeeded in their legal actions, would most likely be enough to kill the merger.

But, on Thanksgiving, the companies announced in a statement that they are "continuing to pursue" the sale, and are focusing their efforts on "obtaining antitrust clearance for the transaction from the Department of Justice," either through the DOJ litigation currently pending in federal court, "or alternative means."

There are reports the company is prepared to sell as much as 40 percent of T-Mobile USA, if that would help obtain approval by the regulatory agencies. However, a key reason cited by AT&T for the merger is to obtain T-Mobile's spectrum, and divesting part of the company...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Java Flaws Exploited in Hacker Kit
Oracle's Java is making headlines this week -- for all the wrong reasons. Oracle patched a whopping 76 security holes in hundreds of products that carry its brand name last month. But hackers are nonetheless haunting the holes and some are suggesting enterprises scrap Java.

At some level, it should come as no surprise. Kaspersky Labs listed Java in its top 10 vulnerabilities list in its second-quarter threat report. And Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report 11 said Java is "responsible for between one-third and one-half of all exploits."

Now, Java is at the root of exploits once again. The US-CERT/National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIT) is sounding the alarm on a vulnerability in the Java Runtime Environment component in just about every recent version of the software. According to the US-CERT/NIST, the vulnerability allows hackers to remotely access computers.

Hardened Browsing

Cyber thieves and hackers are always looking for a new way to obtain sensitive information, and infected Web sites continue to prove to be one of the best, according to Bill Morrow, executive chairman of Web browser information security firm Quarri Technologies.

"Java's recently patched critical security flaw is the latest example of how the bad guys can take advantage of the unsuspecting end-user," Morrow said. "Java exploits are most effective when included in exploit packs since they can turn any hacked Web site into a particularly dangerous place for end-users."

Morrow pointed to the browser at the end point as the weakest part of any network -- one wrong click of the mouse can open a company's most sensitive data to significant threats. This is not a new truth, but one that continues to be proven.

"As companies of all sizes increasingly use browsers as the primary platform for the delivery of information, browsers have also become the primary point of theft or data...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Cyber Monday Expected To Break Records
Those sounds you can almost hear are countless, ringing virtual cash registers. It's Cyber Monday, and projections indicate it will be a record-breaker.

While sales in brick-and-mortar stores this past Black Friday increased 7 percent over last year, per ShopperTrak, online sales jumped even more. Black Friday saw a 26 percent gain in Internet sales over last year, according to comScore, for a total of $816 billion. More than 50 million Americans shopped online on that day. And an estimated 123 million Americans are expected to make purchases Monday, pushing sales to a record $1.2 billion -- a 15 percent increase over 2010.

Shopping from Mobile Devices

That Cyber Monday estimate comes from a survey for Shop.org by BIGresearch. It found that 78 percent of all retailers are scheduled to have a special promotion for the day.

Vicki Cantrell, Shop.org executive director, told news media that "retailers have invested heavily in mobile apps and related content," and many online stores are featuring sales that last only an hour or that offer deep discounts of specific product lines.

A key factor in this year's online sales, according to Shop.org, is the use of smartphones and other mobile devices to make purchases. The organization notes that the number of American shoppers intending to use their mobile devices for shopping on Cyber Monday has tripled in just two years, from 3.8 percent in 2009 to 14.5 percent this year. This year's figure is more than twice last year's 6.9 percent.

A report from IBM found that mobile shopping on this year's Black Friday increased to 14.3 percent of all online shopping, compared with 3.2 percent last year. It found that Apple's iPhone and iPad were the most frequently used, followed by Android devices.

About 87 percent of shoppers continue to use their home computer, but nearly 16 percent...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Holidays Are Prime Time for Phishing Scams
As the holiday shopping season revs up, an increasing number of cybercriminals are trying to lure online shoppers into divulging sensitive information on bogus forms, or into clicking on viral Web links or videos that will infect your PC with a nasty data-stealing program.

So-called phishing plays on people's fears and expectations. Phishing always spikes with holiday shopping, celebrity scandals, weather disasters and big sporting events. Here are some tips from experts on how to protect yourself. Be on high alert for:

Bogus forms. E-mails and pop-up messages that ask you to type your account user name and password, credit card number or personal information such as Social Security number and date of birth are usually bogus. "Be very skeptical when opening e-mails," says Daniel Salsburg, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission's division of marketing practices. Legit organizations never solicit such information in an e-mail.

Don't reply. Instead, independently find the organization's phone number and call to verify the request. Never use a phone number listed in the potentially malicious e-mail.

Personalized warnings. Phishers will suggest urgent action that needs to be addressed in connection with an IRS, Social Security or Department of Motor Vehicles matter. The scammer may even use private information culled from a simple online search or from a social network to get you to submit information or click on a viral Web link, Salsburg says.

Some scammers do research on jobs Web sites to target the unemployed with bogus work-at-home schemes, says Peter Cassidy, secretary general for the non-profit Anti-Phishing Working Group. "The bad guys see opportunities to feast on the people who are looking for work," Cassidy says.

Innocent messages. An e-mail from a co-worker that says to open a file to see vacation or baby pictures could be a threat. The most effective phishing scams are the ones consumers...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Retro Cell-Phone Handset Takes Off
Like Betty White and Buddy Holly glasses, the traditional phone handset is now retro cool. The makers of the product -- complete with hand cradle, the rounded receiver and transmitter and the curly cord -- say mobile phone users are snapping up the handsets.

Sales have soared in the past year, driven by the soaring number of people who have canceled their landline phones and gone wireless-only, the ergonomic awkwardness of holding a notepad-shaped device to the ear and concern over cell phone radiation.

The retro handset is a testament to the "classic" design of the Bell phones, says John Howard, CEO of industrial design firm KDA Design. "From the ergonomic standpoint, it was designed quite well. It was modeled for the human face," he says.

The retro handsets on the market are typically compatible with mobile phones and computers that have a 3.5mm jack for earphones, including iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-based phones. They have a button for picking up and hanging up directly from the handset.

Native Union, a Hong Kong-based manufacturer, started selling its $30 Moshi Moshi Pop handset in the U.S. last year and ships about 30,000 to 40,000 of them a week. The U.S. has become its largest market, overtaking China, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Yubz, a Las Vegas-based company, has sold a $40 rival product, Yubz Retro Handset, since 2007. With sales up about 60% this year, 2011 is turning out to be the best year yet, says Karin Brewer of Yubz. South Korea-based iClooly makes a $40 retro handset and base that holds the smartphone and charges the battery.

"When we first started, we didn't expect this kind of phenomenon," says John Brunner of Native Union. "It's picked up a cult following."

Moshi Moshi handsets received a jolt of unplanned publicity when a photographer caught musician Lenny Kravitz using the...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
AMD Struggles To Reinvent Itself, Fight Intel
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Advanced Micro Devices was hoping to profit from a bigger share of the PC chip market after its longtime nemesis, Intel, suffered a string of antitrust regulatory rebukes in recent years.

But it hasn't quite worked out that way. Intel has extended its lead in the business while AMD has struggled to stay out of the red, ousted its CEO and recently announced it is gutting its workforce.

Now AMD, a Silicon Valley fixture for more than four decades, is considering a new strategy that some experts believe could dramatically alter its protracted struggle with the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Goliath, one of the most closely watched and acrimonious brawls in the tech industry.

"We're at an inflection point," said company spokesman Mike Silverman. "We will all need to let go of the old 'AMD versus Intel' mind-set, because it won't be about that anymore."

Although AMD has been vague about its plans, the company is widely expected to push hard to get its chips into smartphones and tablets. Those markets not only are dominated by other companies, but its gargantuan archrival is trying to elbow its way into them, too -- potentially moving the war with Intel onto a new battleground.

Nonetheless, AMD has to change to keep up with the fickle tastes of consumers, according to Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron.

"The competitive dynamic has shifted because of these new markets opening," he said. "There's kind of a big restructuring of the world taking place and all of the companies are working to address it."

AMD, which was founded in 1969, and Intel, launched one year earlier, began feuding over patents and other matters in the early 1980s. That's when IBM chose to equip its personal computers with Intel's brainy x86 microprocessors and picked AMD as a backup supplier of those chips.

But the squabbling...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Retailers Use Social Media To Offer Holiday Deals
Want a $25 gift card to Toys R Us for your holiday shopping? Enter the store's holiday scavenger hunt sweepstakes on Facebook and you could win one. Want to know where all your favorite Walmart products will be in stores on Black Friday? Facebook fans have access to localized store maps to help them navigate deals.

Shoppers looking for the best deals and most up-to-date savings during the holidays are turning to social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and even Foursquare to guide their purchasing decisions.

Retailers are responding with exclusive deals, interactive quizzes and savings coupons just for followers and fans:

CVS pharmacy has a holiday shopping quiz on its Facebook page that gives fans a 20%- off coupon for completing the quiz. It's also conducting gift giveaway contests through Twitter that enter active followers into drawings for gift cards.

Sears is letting customers vote online for products they want to see on sale throughout the holidays at Sears.com/pick, promoting each voting cycle through Facebook and Twitter.

RadioShack's "So wrong, so right" promotion asks Facebook users to upload photos of gifts gone wrong for the chance to win a "so right" gift, including an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S. Foursquare users can check in to "so right" places and activities, focused on philanthropy and personal wellness, to unlock a badge that donates $1 to Livestrong.

For retailers, social media is a cost-effective and easy way to reach not only their consumers, but their consumers' entire network of friends and followers.

Stores count on the fact that if you buy a deal or complete a quiz through Facebook, you'll share that with your friends, says Scott Silverman, co-founder of digital goods incentives Web site Ifeelgoods.

"Nothing is more powerful than an endorsement from someone you know and trust," he says.

It's the power of recommendations that has retailers pushing...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Bing Hitches Holiday Hopes To Rudolph the Reindeer
Like Santa Claus on that one foggy Christmas Eve, Microsoft has summoned Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to guide some precious cargo -- a holiday marketing campaign for its Bing search engine.

The advertisements, debuting online and on TV this week, star Rudolph and other characters from the animated story about the most famous reindeer of all. The campaign is part of Microsoft's attempt to trip up Google Inc., an Internet search rival as imposing as the Abominable Snowman was before Yukon Cornelius tamed the monster.

Google has been countering with its own emotional ads throughout the year. Most of Google's ads show snippets of its dominant search engine and other products at work before swirling into the logo of the company's Chrome Web browser.

The dueling ads underscore the lucrative nature of search engines. Although visitors pay nothing to use them, search engines generate billions of dollars a year in revenue from ads posted alongside the search results.

The holiday season is a particularly opportune time for search companies because that's when people do more searches -- to find gifts online, look for party supplies and plan nights out on the town. That means more people to show ads to. Advertisers also tend to be willing to pay more per ad because they know people are in a buying mode.

To capture that audience, Microsoft and Google are both thinking outside the search box to promote their brands.

Although the text ads running alongside search results do a fine job of reeling in some customers, they still lack the broader, more visceral impact of a well-done television commercial, said Peter Daboll, chief executive of Ace Metrix, a firm that rates the effectiveness of ads.

"It's instructive that these companies who are all about the Internet and doing things in real time are actually doing these emotive ads...

Tue, 29 Nov 11
Review: New Acer Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air
I'm a big fan of Apple's MacBook Air computer. Revamped by Apple last year, the notebook is a thin, ultralight, speedy computer. Instead of a high-powered processor, a traditional hard drive and a DVD slot, the gadget uses a low-power chip and flash storage -- the same medium that's used to store songs and apps in a smartphone.

Pushed by Intel, other computer makers have been trying to copy Apple's success. Intel has come up with a concept it calls the ultrabook, which is something like a MacBook Air without Apple's Mac OS X running on it.

One of the first ultrabooks on the market is Acer's Aspire S3. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the S3 looks a lot like the MacBook Air. It has the same 13.3-inch screen as the larger of Apple's two basic Air models. It has about the same dimensions and weight as that model. And it has a metallic colored case that bears more than a passing resemblance to the all-aluminum Air.

The S3 does have some significant differences, though, some good and some not so much. On the positive side, it's considerably less expensive. The base S3 costs $900, which is about $100 less than the entry-level Apple machine. And for that, you get a 13-inch screen instead of an 11-inch one and twice as much memory.

One reason that Acer is able to offer the S3 at a lower price is that unlike the Air, it doesn't rely solely on a pricey flash drive for storage. Instead, it includes a small flash drive as a boot disc and a much larger hard drive on which you can store your programs, documents, videos, songs and the like.

The advantage of this approach is that it allows you to have a machine that starts up and resumes operation quickly while still having plenty...

Sat, 26 Nov 11
Twitter, Live Streaming Create Alternative News Network for Occupy
"You can't evict an idea whose time has come," read one tweet carrying the hashtag #OWS this week.

Less than a second later came a message that "after @MikeBloomberg and the #NYPD raided #ows -- less than one-fifth of the 4,000 books from the peoples library are usable."

Another declared that "Occupy Wall Street Protesters Are Back in Zuccotti Park."

Slinging Hashtags

That's just one of the hashtags -- a phrase accompanied by the pound sign that allows Twitter users to quickly identify trending topics of interest -- allowing members of the growing, nationwide Occupy movement to communicate. And more than two months after a tent camp first sprouted in downtown Manhattan's Zuccotti Park to complain about the inequality of American wealth, the tweets still move across the computer screen almost too quickly to read, at speeds usually seen only when a new iPhone comes out.

The hashtag #Occupy gives news about the broader movement with protests in California and elsewhere. "Occupy protesters arrested and cleared from Charleston Park," reads one tweet, while a successor complains, "I lost a child to the Occupy Movement."

Just as social media fueled the mass protests in Cairo and London last summer, it is proving to be a crucial communication and recruitment tool for the fledgling Occupy movement in the U.S., which lacks a defined agenda, a public figurehead or even so much as a post office box. (The URL occupy.com is currently unused, and up for sale.)

The protesters have also relied on Livestream.com for complete coverage of events. The Nov. 15 NYPD crackdown that cleared the park of protesters, and resulted in over 200 arrests, was carried live as well.

"I think a couple of interesting things are happening," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "Similarly to what we saw earlier this year during the 'Arab Spring,' OWS...

Sat, 26 Nov 11
Microsoft Promises No-Hassle Windows 8 Upgrades
Microsoft is working to streamline the installation process for Windows 8 once its newest operating-system version becomes available to consumers next year. The software giant's Windows setup and deployment team aims to "reduce the time from start to finish," said Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft's Windows business division.

Some PC users will avoid the problem altogether by buying a new PC that ships with Windows 8 pre-installed. According to Microsoft, however, more than 450 million PCs are running Windows 7 that also will be able to run Windows 8, and many systems running Windows Vista and even Windows XP also will be eligible for an upgrade.

"Support for these PCs running different Windows versions is a big challenge in terms of testing all possible upgrade paths, languages, service packs, architectures, and editions," noted Christa St. Pierre, a member of the Windows setup and deployment team.

Pushing Upgrades

Microsoft intends to reduce the number of hoops that users must jump through in order to get Windows 8 up and running on their machines. After all, the goal at Microsoft is the same as always: to compel as many PC users as possible to buy the company latest OS upgrade.

The problem is that many PC customers have come to regard an operating-system upgrade as a formidable challenge, either based on their own prior upgrade experiences or those of friends and family members.

In 2010 Microsoft commissioned a study of how people make PC purchase decisions, and also talked to customers to find out more. "Even though many customers wanted to upgrade" to Windows 7, St. Pierre noted, the current setup experience "just wasn't easy enough to make them feel confident in doing so."

With Windows 8, Microsoft intends to offer two upgrade paths: one for people looking to minimize the hassle and...

Sat, 26 Nov 11
Review: Nook Tablet Is Kindle Fire's Worthy Foe
Listen and I'll tell you the story of the bookstore chain that stormed into the hottest category in consumer electronics and conquered.

It's a nice underdog story, right? A bit like the tale of plucky rebels who attacked Lord Vader's Death Star.

But that was fiction. Barnes & Noble Inc.'s new Nook Tablet ($249) is a solid product, worthy of duking it out with Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire. Considering that the Nook comes from a desert planet where the only entertainment was shooting womp rats (Sorry, I mean "from a bookstore chain."), it's really impressive.

But the Nook doesn't quite muster enough force to blow up a Death Star. Barnes & Noble's earlier Nooks were dedicated book-reading devices, and the Tablet is at most a half-way step into the world of general-purpose tablet computing.

Like the new Kindle Fire, the Tablet has a 7-inch, touch-sensitive color screen, about half the size of the iPad's. It's the same screen as on the Nook Color, the e-reader Barnes & Noble launched a year ago. I thought it was the best e-reader yet when it launched.

The Tablet improves on the Nook Color mainly by beefing up the processor and the memory and extending the battery life to 11.5 hours of reading, or 9 hours of video.

The Tablet also has improved software, but the Color will be getting the same software through a downloadable update.

The Tablet is debuting with Netflix and Hulu applications. Coupled with the nice, sharp screen, that makes for a good device for that TV and movie fix -as long as you're connected to Wi-Fi. The apps actually highlight one of the shortcomings of the Tablet: there's no way (short of hacking the software) to use it for offline viewing of movies you buy or rent.

Barnes & Noble promises to provide access to some sort...

Fri, 25 Nov 11
Giving Thanks Helps Your Psychological Outlook
Count your blessings this Thanksgiving. It's good for you. While it seems pretty obvious that gratitude is a positive emotion, psychologists for decades rarely delved into the science of giving thanks. But in the last several years they have, learning in many experiments that it is one of humanity's most powerful emotions. It makes you happier and can change your attitude about life, like an emotional reset button.

Especially in hard times, like these.

Beyond proving that being grateful helps you, psychologists also are trying to figure out the brain chemistry behind gratitude and the best ways of showing it.

"Oprah was right," said University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough, who has studied people who are asked to be regularly thankful. "When you are stopping and counting your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system."

And he means hijacking it from out of a funk into a good place. A very good place. Research by McCullough and others finds that giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself, almost the equivalent of being victorious. It could be called a vicious circle, but it's anything but vicious.

He said psychologists used to underestimate the strength of simple gratitude: "It does make people happier ... It's that incredible feeling."

One of the reasons why gratitude works so well is that it connects us with others, McCullough said. That's why when you give thanks it should be more heartfelt and personal instead of a terse thank you note for a gift or a hastily run-through grace before dinner, psychologists say.

Chicago area psychologist and self-help book author Maryann Troiani said she starts getting clients on gratitude gradually, sometimes just by limiting their complaints to two whines a session. Then she eventually gets them to log good things that happened to them in gratitude journals: "Gratitude...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
China Overtakes U.S. as World's Largest Smartphone Market
It's no surprise to analysts, but it's newsworthy all the same. China has overtaken the United States for the first time to officially become the world's largest smartphone market. So says Strategy Analytics.

The market research firm reports that smartphone shipments reached a record 24 million units in China during the third quarter of 2011. Smartphone shipments reached just 23 million units in the United States.

"China's rapid growth has been driven by an increasing availability of smartphones in retail channels, aggressive subsidizing by operators of high-end models like the Apple iPhone, and an emerging wave of low-cost Android models from local Chinese brands such as ZTE," said Tom Kang, director at Strategy Analytics. "Nokia currently leads China's smartphone market with 28 percent share, while HTC heads the United States smartphone market with 24 percent share."

Apple, Samsung Chasing Hard

Handset shipments grew 20 percent annually to reach record levels in China in the third quarter of 2011, according to Strategy Analytics. Competition is increasing rapidly from local Chinese brands ZTE and Huawei. What's more, the firm reports, Samsung and Apple are chasing hard.

If China Telecom launches a CDMA iPhone 4S early next year, Strategy Analytics expects Apple's share to spike further. HTC and Sony Ericsson were the big share gainers this quarter as their Android models captured shelf-share in major cities of east and south China.

In terms of the Asia Pacific, China is first in handset shipments, followed by India, Japan and South Korea. Together, these countries account for 70 percent of the region's market by volume.

"The United States remains the world's largest smartphone market by revenue, but China has overtaken the United States in terms of volume," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, noting that China is now at the forefront of the worldwide mobile computing...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Samsung Promises Galaxy Nexus Volume-Bug Fix
We're working on the problem, we'll get back to you soon.

That was the message from Samsung Electronics after reports that its hot new smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus, had a somewhat unusual glitch: The volume control tends to have a mind of its own when operating on 2G networks in Europe.

Deliveries Frozen?

Announced last month and launched last week in the United Kingdom, the 4.65-inch, Super AMOLED touchscreen, 1.2-gigahertz dual processor Galaxy Nexus initially had a November U.S. release date via Verizon Wireless, but it has now been pushed off to December, Samsung told Business Insider.

Samsung U.K. released a statement via Twitter on Tuesday, saying: "Regarding the Galaxy Nexus, we are aware of the volume issue and have developed a fix. We will update devices as soon as possible."

That statement is nearly identical to one given to the Web site Android Police by Google, whose Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, is the operating system powering the device.

Citing information from app developer and tech blogger Steve Troughton-Smith, Slashgear on Wednesday said at least one major retailer warned that Samsung has temporarily halted Nexus shipments while the manufacturer assesses whether the volume bug is a hardware or software problem.

The company handling public relations for South Korea-based Samsung in the United States had not replied to e-mail inquiries as of publication time.

The user forum XDA Developers has a long thread about the Nexus problem, informing participants that "Every Samsung Galaxy Nexus handset seems to be affected by this problem.

'Majority of users, however, are not reporting the problem due to not using 2G networks....2G networks working on GSM 900 are majority of Europe, Africa, Australia, Middle East and large part of Asia. In U.K., the GSM 900 is used by O2, Vodafone, giffgaff, Tesco Mobile."

An online poll on the site found...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Report Predicts a Happy Holiday for Kindle Fire
Amazon's Kindle Fire is catching fire, metaphorically. That's the prediction of a leading analyst, who foresees the new tablet selling 5 million units before the end of this year, hitting 12 million next year, and reaching 20 million in 2013.

If accurate, the projection by Citigroup's Mark Mahaney would mean the Fire would capture 15 percent of the growing tablet market in 2012. This would translate to more than $3 billion in revenue, or about 5 percent of the giant retailer's total revenue.

'A Substantial Segment'

"With an aggressive pricing strategy, an unmatched content cross-sell opportunity, a market-smart form factor, and probable product improvements," Mahaney told news media, "Amazon can own a substantial segment" of the tablet market.

Estimates by other analysts indicate that Amazon is losing some money on every Fire sold, in order to hit the magic price point of $199. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster has estimated the loss as high as $50 on each unit, while others have pegged the loss at just under $3.

Just as phone companies offer subsidized smartphones so they can make their money on services, Amazon intends to turn a profit on Fire sales by moving its vast inventory of content, including e-books, apps, music, movies and other offerings. That ecosystem is an advantage over Barnes & Noble's new Nook Tablet, which has access to e-books but only to modest amounts of other kinds of content.

Impacting iPad Sales?

Mahaney's projection is in keeping with other forecasts. For instance, earlier this week market researcher ChangeWave found that 65 percent of those who intend to buy a tablet in the near future would choose the iPad, while 22 percent would buy the Fire. While far behind the iPad, the 22 percent would mean that the Fire would soar above all other, non-Apple tablets.

"Amazon is going to leapfrog the...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
FCC Chairman Opposes AT&T Merger with T-Mobile
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Tuesday that he opposed AT&T's proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile because it would lead to higher prices for consumers and big job losses. The chairman, Julius Genachowski, has sent a draft order to the other FCC commissioners, asking for the deal to be sent to an administrative law judge for review.

The move could signal curtains for the proposed deal. While the FCC cannot by itself block the purchase, a judge can. The request to send it to a judge needs to be approved by the FCC commissioners, who will meet again in the middle of next month.

AT&T: 'Disappointing'

Genachowski said his conclusion was based on review by the agency of hundreds of thousands of documents, dozens of petitions opposing the merger, and meetings with both companies.

In a statement, Larry Solomon, AT&T senior vice president of corporate communications, called the action "disappointing" and said AT&T was reviewing its options. He added that it was "yet another example of a government agency acting to prevent billions in new investment and the creation of many thousands of new jobs."

The Communication Workers of America union is backing AT&T, telling news media that "the path to secure jobs is through massive investment in a 4G LTE network across America," and noting that T-Mobile by itself cannot make that investment.

As expected, Sprint, which had opposed the deal, sang a different tune. Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Vonya McCann said Sprint appreciated "Chairman Genachowski's leadership on the issue," and that the company looked forward "to the FCC moving quickly to adopt a strong hearing designation order."

T-Mobile Losing Customers

The U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T in August, with the hearings before a federal judge beginning in February. Justice said that "the elimination...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Larry Page-Run Google Shutters 7 More Projects
Google is continuing its streamlining efforts, shuttering projects that haven't panned out the way the search-engine giant hoped and folding others into other products as special features. Google's goal is to drive a simpler user experience.

In the latest round of closures, Google is getting rid of seven projects, some better known than others. Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of operations and Google Fellow, laid out the plans for each property, including Google Bookmarks Lists; Google Friend Connect; Google Gears; Google Search Timeline; Google Wave; Knol; and Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal. p It's good for Google to shutter projects and products that have very limited or no adoption. It helps with focus, said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. My question, however, is what will happen to Google's vaunted 20 percent time initiative out of which many of these projects came. p subhead Will 20 Percent Live? /subhead p A 20 percent project is a Google philosophy that allows employees to spend one day a week working on something not in the regular job description. News reports have suggested that Google's 20 percent project will continue. p Google's jobs page for engineers notes, We offer our engineers 20-percent time so that they're free to work on what they're really passionate about. Google Suggest, AdSense for Content, and Orkut are among the many products of this perk. p But there have been a lot of changes at Google since co-founder Larry Page took over the CEO reins from Eric Schmidt. By his own words, Page has focused much of his energy on increasing Google's velocity and execution since he took over in April. That has meant investing in acquisitions, including $12.5 billion for Motorola, as well as dropping more than 25 projects. p Page killed Google Buzz, for example, but then again it was the project that got the search-engine giant in hot...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Free Alternatives To Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office remains the industry standard for office work, regardless of whether you're working with a Windows PC or a Mac, looking to type a document, making a presentation, checking email or making a spreadsheet. It doesn't matter if you work in a university or an office. p But there is some pretty tough competition out there. Better yet, many of them are free. p One of the pioneers of free office software was OpenOffice, released as freeware and commercial ware in 1999 by Sun Microsystems. But Sun was bought by Oracle in 2010, leaving many concerned that the new owner would have no use for distributing free software. p Which is what came to pass when OpenOffice.org was sold in June to the Apache Software Foundation. Adherents of freeware felt they had little choice but to start up an alternative, leading to the introduction of LibreOffice in September 2010. p The project was based on the code of the last stable version of OpenOffice, 3.2.1. Programmers sheared away 500,000 lines of unnecessary code, like that linked to support from the Adabas database, which was no longer available. p LibreOffice offers word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics creation and a database. It's now up to version 3.4. p At the same time, LibreOffice introduced a new import filter and improvements with conversions from the MS Office macro-language VBA, says Oliver Diedrich, an editor at the German computer magazine c't. p Programmers are also working on ways to optimize the import of data from Microsoft's spreadsheet program Excel, as well as getting other expansions and master copies online. p The creators of LibreOffice announced in mid-October that they would release versions of the program to work on web browsers and tablet computers. Versions for both Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating system are being planned. But users will have to wait until the end of 2012 or early...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Customer Service Reigns in First Class
Flying has never been so good -- for those able to splurge. While most holiday travelers will fight for overhead bins and go hours without a snack or room to stretch their legs, life in first class is stress free. It's always been a special place on the other side of the curtain. Now, it's getting even cushier. p U.S. airlines, profitable again after a disastrous decade, are spending almost $2 billion to upgrade amenities for their highest-paying customers. On the most profitable international routes, high fliers are being treated with preflight champagne, flat-screen TVs and seats that turn into beds. Flight attendants greet them by name, hang up jackets and serve meals on china. p The lavish treatment is meant to keep people like Tim Carlson happy. Carlson, the chief financial officer of a semiconductor materials company, has taken 189 flights in the past two years, traveling 353,176 miles on United and its partners. p After the pilots, Carlson might just be the most important person on the plane. United will do anything to make sure another airline doesn't steal his business. Agents call him about delays and reroute him so he doesn't miss meetings. p I go to the top of the list for the next flight, Carlson says. p On a recent trip from Newark, New Jersey, to Brussels, he was met at the curb with a boarding pass and escorted to the front of the security line. Four minutes after being dropped off, he was past the checkpoint. p Most of the 3.4 million Americans expected to fly this Thanksgiving holiday week won't get anything close to that treatment. They've paid a little under $400 for their round-trip tickets. And it's a cutthroat business. To save $5, passengers are likely to choose another airline. p So, it's no surprise that the most loyal customers, and those willing to pay more...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
LivingSocial Goes National with Black Friday Deals
Here's one way to avoid getting trampled by bargain-hunting hordes knocking down store doors on Black Friday: Online deals service LivingSocial is unveiling a slew of bargains for the holidays that are just a couple of mouse clicks away. p LivingSocial is announcing Monday that it will offer discounts from national businesses such as Verizon Wireless, Electronic Arts Inc. and the sneaker brand Sketchers USA Inc., a contrast to the local deals for spas, restaurants and weekend escapes that it's known for. p Such offers will give national brands access to social media-savvy customers who might not otherwise think to visit their stores. It's also good, cheap marketing, as the deals are often widely shared on Facebook and Twitter. p LivingSocial, meanwhile, gets to sign up new subscribers and take a cut from the money they spend on the coupons. p It also gets to participate in a day-after-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza that's normally reserved for brick-and-mortar retail stores. p One set of deals, available for three days starting on Black Friday, includes $5 for magazine subscriptions that normally cost $12. Customers won't be able to redeem those coupons until Monday, so stores already offering monster sales on Black Friday won't have to cut their profit margins even thinner. p On Cyber Monday, the online shopping day that follows Thanksgiving weekend, LivingSocial will unveil another set of deals. Nearly all of the discounts are 50 percent off -- such as paying $40 to be able to spend $80 at wine retailer Wine.com. These coupons will go on sale Monday, Nov. 28, and can be redeemed starting the next day. p OfficeMax Inc. isn't known for attracting big holiday crowds, but Chris Duncan, a vice president of direct and loyalty marketing, said the company decided to offer a LivingSocial deal to reach new customers looking for e-readers, tablets and other gadgets. p Mitch Spolan, senior vice president of...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Apps To Smooth Your Way on Thanksgiving
Planning and cooking Thanksgiving dinner is about as easy as juggling chain saws. From setting a menu to managing multiple dishes at once, even the seasoned poultry preparer can become overwhelmed. Luckily, mobile applications can help make Nov. 24 a little less stressful and a little tastier -- whether you're hooked on Apple devices or stuck on your BlackBerry. p Here are a few we've tested. p subhead PAPRIKA RECIPE MANAGER: /subhead p --Price: $4.99 p --Compatibility: iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad p --Ideal for: The culinary organizer p --There are countless recipe apps, but chances are none of them can outdo that well-worn box of handwritten note cards you inherited from your grandmother. Paprika allows you to store your culinary traditions digitally while easily discovering new ideas. Using the app to browse more than 150 sites from Food Network to Epicurious, you can download recipes straight to your device. Meal planning and grocery lists also take some of the stress out of getting organized. p subhead KEY RING: /subhead p --Price: Free p --Compatibility: iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows p --Ideal for: The card-carrying shopper p --Before you can cook, you must shop. Lighten your load by dumping the stack of plastic loyalty cards that fatten your wallet and weigh down your purse. You can keep the savings with Key Ring, which can scan and store your information from more than 700 loyalty programs. When you want to redeem your deals in the store, just select the retailer and scan your barcode, all without fumbling for your keys. You can even join some programs without the paperwork. p subhead CHOW THANKSGIVING DINNER COACH: /subhead p --Price: Free p --Compatibility: iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad p --Ideal for: The traditionalist p --If you find Thanksgiving complicated enough without having to cull through hundreds of recipes to find the right instructions for an adequately cooked turkey, you might want to give Chow Thanksgiving Dinner Coach a try. With just nine preloaded holiday staples like pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, it trades flair...

Thu, 24 Nov 11
Geek-Meets-Cook with Gadget Protectors
Cooking with iPads and other tablet computers is on the rise. But what if a slip of the saute pan leaves that $500 gadget Wi-Fried? p Enter the growing market of wraps, stands and shields designed to make sure that floury hands and splattering pans don't turn into a recipe for techno disaster. p One solution is disposable, clear covers, such as Clever Wraps. You slide your device inside and, voila, grease, water and other undesirables stay out. p Clever Wraps cofounder Karen McElaney says the idea began with a desire to protect gear from kids, not cooks. She and her business partner had active teens who were apt to drop their phones and other handheld devices in snow, surf, etc. p They tried putting the gadgets in clear plastic bags, but that didn't work well since the bags tended to slip and the gadgets would end up getting pulled out. p It just came to us one day, `What if the bag for the device fit perfectly?' says McElaney. p The result was a product called Ringer Wraps, which has since morphed into Clever Wraps and includes a line of clear, plastic wraps that don't interfere with touchscreens or Bluetooth technology, while making sure that gadget-loving cooks won't have to cry over spilled milk. p The wraps were designed for single-use, though depending on what happens in the kitchen they can be wiped down and reused. p Among those closely following the rise of tablets in the kitchen are the staff of Epicurious.com, the online recipe site. p We've been fascinated by the adoption of the devices and the app downloads and the speed with which they have been downloaded, says Beth Ann Eason, senior vice president and general manager at Conde Nast, which oversees Epicurious.com. p Epicurious, which has the popular EPI recipe app, has been researching how customers are accessing recipes and found a significant increase in...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
New ASUS Tablet Has Quad-Core Chip
ASUS is prepping a December U.S. launch for the world's first media tablet to feature a quad-core processor. Called the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, the new mobile device uses Nvidia's new 1.3 GHz Tegra 3 chip, which is based on ARM's quad-core Cortex A9 technology.

Measuring 10.4 x 7.1 inches and just a third of an inch in thickness, the tablet weighs 1.29 lbs. Though shipping initially with the Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, the tablet also is upgradable to the new Android 4.0 platform, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

"Google has done a great job on ICS and has made the platform open to the ecosystem and easy to develop on," said Nvidia blogger Will Park on Tuesday.

"Thanks to Google's developer support, Nvidia's experienced software team was able to work with ASUS to quickly bring up ICS on the Transformer Prime," Park wrote.

Already available for pre-order on Amazon for $499 (32GB) and $599 (64GB), the ASUS Eee Pad is equipped with a 10.1-inch multi-touch screen made with Corning Gorilla Glass. The high-definition, 1280x800-pixel display also works at viewing angles of as much as 178 degrees.

Transformer Prime

The new tablet's Transformer Prime moniker is due to the device's optional detachable docking station, which hinges to the tablet's main body. Among other things, the docking station sports a full-size QWERTY keyboard, a multi-touch touchpad, two USB 2.0 ports, and a 4-in-1 SD card reader.

Available from Amazon for $110, the 1.41-lb. docking station also includes a reserve battery that adds six hours to the tablet's battery life. Additionally, the docking station doubles as a protective cover for the tablet's high-resolution display.

Beyond having Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 chip, the Eee Pad integrates 1 GB of DDR2 memory, both Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth radios, a micro SD card reader and the...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
EU Investigates Apple-Samsung Patent War
Will the Apple-Samsung legal war turn into unfair competitive advantages? The European Union wants to find out.

The head of the EU's antitrust division said Tuesday that his agency was investigating the two companies' patent dispute. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told news media that the EU has requested information from both Apple and Samsung, but has not yet received answers.

"We need to look at this because [intellectual property] rights can be used as a distortion of competition," he said.

'Tool to Abuse'

Almunia noted that, in technology, standardization and IP rights "can be used as a tool to abuse." The EU has the authority to fine companies as much as 10 percent of their global revenue for violating its rules.

Apple has sued Samsung in a number of countries, with various successes thus far, contending that Samsung has violated patents and other intellectual property rights. Apple is also suing HTC and Motorola, and Samsung has countersued Apple.

Recently, the patent war compelled Samsung to tweak its Android-based Galaxy Tab tablet in one European market, in an attempt to route around a legal injunction obtained by Apple. Last week, Samsung released its Galaxy Tab 10.1N in Germany, in which the only discernible difference, in addition to the letter "N" being added to the model name, was that a metal frame, or bezel, wrapped around the edge of the device.

In August, Apple had won a preliminary injunction that blocked the original Galaxy Tab, the 10.1, because of an alleged design infringement. The injunction, which applies only in Germany for products made by the South Korean company, also claimed the Tab was an iPad imitation.

Another change made by Samsung, in order to get around a Dutch injunction obtained by Apple for a software infringement, is how software on its Galaxy smartphones allows users to flip through a...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
Xbox Live Users Scammed in Phishing Attack
Bringing back memories of the Sony PlayStation hack that compromised thousands of gamer accounts, some British Microsoft Xbox Live users have been scammed in a phishing attack. Although Microsoft insists its network has not been hacked, the phishers have nonetheless fooled some gamers into disclosing credit-card information.

The Sun, a paper in the U.K., first reported that online crooks hacked into thousands of Xbox Live accounts to steal millions of dollars. The paper said the average catch was 100 British pounds, or a bit over $150 -- but that many suffered losses of more than 200 pounds.

"Xbox Live has not been hacked. Microsoft can confirm that there has been no breach to the security of our Xbox Live service," Microsoft said in a statement. "In this case, a number of Xbox Live members appear to have recently been victim of malicious 'phishing' scams."

Microsoft's Response

News reports suggest some Xbox Live users received e-mails tricking them into visiting "spoofed" Web sites and entering their personal information, including their credit-card numbers. Microsoft said it consistently takes measures to protect Xbox Live against ever-changing threats, and listed three current initiatives. Those initiatives sound like a lesson in basic Internet security 101.

For example, Microsoft is warning people against opening unsolicited e-mails because the messages may contain spyware or other malware that can access personal information on their computer without their knowledge or permission. Microsoft is also reminding all customers that they should be very careful to keep all personal information secure whenever online and never supply e-mail addresses, passwords or credit card information to strangers.

Finally, Microsoft said it is working closely with Xbox Live users who have been in touch with the company to investigate and/or resolve any unauthorized changes to their accounts resulting from phishing scams.

Back To Internet Basics

"It looks like...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
Penguin Removes New E-Books from Libraries
The growing availability of e-book titles for borrowing through public libraries has hit a bump. On Tuesday, Penguin Group USA announced it would no longer allow digital editions in any e-format of new titles to become available for library lending -- and it is disabling availability of all titles for lending in Amazon's Kindle format.

In a statement, the publisher said it had "always placed a high value on the role that libraries can play in connecting our authors with our readers." But, the company said, it would "delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format" until concerns about the security of digital versions were resolved.

The decision apparently does not affect library e-books of older titles in non-Kindle formats.

'Suspend Availability'

Penguin added that it was "working closely with our business partners and the library community" to create a secure and viable distribution model. It's not clear what the security issues are, or whether Penguin's withdrawal was permitted under the existing library licensing agreements.

Overdrive, the largest distributor of e-books to libraries, said in a statement that it was instructed to "suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog." The distributor also noted that it was told to disable "Get for Kindle" functionality for all Penguin eBooks in libraries.

The availability of e-books on a lending basis to libraries has been rapidly evolving. Several major publishers, including Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, do not license to public libraries, while others have put limits on e-book borrowing through libraries. Only Random House allows e-book lending through libraries without conditions on the number of times a book may be borrowed, or limits on which titles are available.

New programs to allow patrons to buy e-books borrowed through libraries, such as one soon launching through the New York...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
Six Degrees of Separation Now Five, Thanks To Facebook
Facebook and the University of Milan have determined that the social-networking giant has reduced the degrees of separation between any two people in the world from six to about less than five -- and even fewer when people live in the same nation. The research continues psychologist Stanley Milgram's "small world experiment" from the 1960s that explored the structure of social networks.

Facebook and university researchers first measured how many Facebook friends people have. The distribution is much different than in past large-scale social network studies. The researchers also discovered that the degrees of separation between any two Facebook users is smaller than the traditional six degrees theory. In fact, it has been shrinking over the past three years as Facebook has grown.

The overarching conclusion: The entire world is only a few degrees away but a Facebook user's friends are most likely to be similar in age and from the same country. But does anybody really care?

Does It Matter?

"Social networks are tying people together or exposing the fact that people are more closely connected than perhaps we all thought. It's a bit of a surprise how closely connected, actually," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "Now if Facebook could only help solve political and social problems like budget crises, climate change or global poverty."

Sterling makes a relevant point. Although the Facebook-University of Milan study is the largest social network study ever released -- researchers examined all 721 million active Facebook users, which is more than 10 percent of the entire world population -- the results are interesting but not altogether significant in the immediate term.

But could it be possible that these interconnections could have an impact in the future? Perhaps. According to Facebook, for even the most distant Facebook user in the Siberian tundra...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
New Mobile Games Boast Pro Wrestlers, 3D Plumbers
Nintendo's most popular hero has finally found a space on the 3DS; Professor Layton is back; and a magician's assistant is about to start his last adventure. It's time for the season's new mobile console games.

Fans of Mario have had a long wait for Nintendo's near-trademark plumber to make his way onto the 3DS handheld. And, although there have been 3D Mario adventures since the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 3D Land is the first title with a true sense of depth and space.

Otherwise, the story is largely the same. Chief baddie Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, leaving Mario no choice but to rescue her.

He has the option of putting on his raccoon suit, last seen in Super Mario Bros 3 for the NES. With it, he can use the tail to deliver some punches and to fly for short stretches. For longer flights, he needs his propeller. One new addition is a boomerang suit, which he can use to fight enemies far in the distance.

Gameplay is the same as in any other Mario game. The plumber continues to jump from one colorful level to the next, each full of hidden shortcuts and secrets. Players can also make use of the StreetPass function on the 3DS, which let players turn encounters with other 3DS players into opportunities to unlock bonus levels. The colorful jump-n-run game is on sale for about $57 dollars.

Professor Layton hasn't been around as long as Mario, but he's become almost as popular. On November 25, he'll start his fourth case on the Nintendo DS.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter takes players back to the past, three years before the events of the first game in the series. Players see how Layton and his assistant, Luke, meet and solve their first case together. The gimmick should make it...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
More Charges Filed in Celebrity Hacking Case
A Florida man has been indicted on two additional felony counts for allegedly hacking into an email account belonging to an unnamed actress, according to court documents obtained Friday.

Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., was charged Tuesday with one count each of unauthorized access to a computer and aggravated identity theft. He now faces a total of 28 counts and more than 100 years in prison if convicted.

Chaney previously pleaded not guilty to 26 counts, including wiretapping. An email left Friday for Chaney's spokesman Ryan Julison was not immediately returned.

An unnamed actress complained that her email was compromised in October after federal agents served a search warrant at Chaney's home and seized his computer, according to an affidavit.

Federal agents believe Chaney hacked into her account 13 times last month. The woman, who is referred to only by her initials C.B. in court documents, reported the hacking might have occurred as early as April.

The woman joins more than 50 alleged victims, including Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, who prosecutors say had their emails hacked by Chaney.

Some nude photos taken by Johansson of herself were posted on the Internet, and the actress told Vanity Fair for its December issue the pictures were meant for Ryan Reynolds, her then-husband. They had their divorce finalized by a judge in July.

Chaney was arrested as part of a yearlong investigation of celebrity hacking that authorities dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi." He offered some material to celebrity blog sites, but there wasn't any evidence that he profited from his scheme, authorities said.

Chaney is accused of mining through publicly available data to figure out password and security questions for celebrity accounts. He used a forwarding feature so that a copy of emails a celebrity received was sent to an account he controlled, according to court documents.

A search warrant...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
Big Payouts for Tech Startups Excite Silicon Valley
Everyone dreams of striking it rich -- and what they would do with such a windfall. A new house? A fancy car? Maybe designer clothes selected by a personal shopper.

For some in Silicon Valley, those wishes may soon come true.

As restrictions on selling stock are lifted at a handful of sizzling startups, early investors and employees are preparing for big payouts.

What they'll do with their riches is anyone's guess, but luxury retailers and wealth managers say they're expecting a bump in business and have been preparing for this new crop of Internet millionaires.

"We anticipate more activity over the next few months," said Richard Levinsohn, manager at Porsche of Stevens Creek in Santa Clara. "A lot of these people will have new found wealth and they're looking for a place to spend it. We're only too happy to help."

After a company goes public, financial regulations prohibit investors and employees who held shares before the listing to immediately cash out. That means companies that started trading on the stock market in the summer are just now emerging from the so-called "lockup" period.

The first up with the most buzz? LinkedIn Corp., which went public in May.

With its lockup expiring this month, the Mountain View-based social networking site announced last week that employees and early backers sold nearly 7.5 million shares at $71 apiece.

In a regulatory filing Wednesday, the company listed six individuals and a group of a dozen unnamed executives and directors who sold shares. According to the filing, CEO Jeff Weiner stands to gain more than $25 million, based on the $71 share price minus fees. A handful of other stockholders and venture capital firms also sold shares for million dollar payouts.

While only a wee slice of the population, these newly minted high-end spenders can make a difference in the luxury goods...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
Gates Testifies in $1B Lawsuit Against Microsoft
Billionaire Bill Gates envisioned a computer in every home in America, and he wanted to be the one who put them there, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder testified Monday in a $1 billion antitrust lawsuit filed against the software maker by the creator of then-rival WordPerfect.

Gates took the witness stand in a case that accuses Microsoft of duping its competitor prior to the rollout of Windows 95. He began his testimony with a history of Microsoft and was expected to remain on the stand throughout the day.

Gates said he was just 19 when he helped found the software giant.

"We thought everybody would have a personal computer on every desk and in every home," he said. "We wanted to be there and be the first."

Gates, wearing a gray suit and a yellow tie, was the first witness to testify Monday as Microsoft lawyers presented their case in the trial that's been ongoing in federal court in Salt Lake City for about a month.

Utah-based Novell Inc. sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the Redmond, Wash., company violated U.S. antitrust laws through its arrangements with other computer makers when it launched Windows 95. Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss. Corel now owns it.

The company argues that Gates ordered company engineers to reject WordPerfect as a Windows 95 word processing application because he feared it was too good. WordPerfect once had nearly 50 percent of the market for computer writing programs, but its share quickly plummeted to less than 10 percent as Microsoft's own office programs took hold.

Novell attorney Jeff Johnson has conceded that Microsoft was under no legal obligation to provide advance access to the Windows 95 operating system so Novell could prepare a compatible WordPerfect version. Microsoft, however, enticed Novell to work on a version, only...

Wed, 23 Nov 11
Chase Rolls Out Credit Card with Chip Technology
Chase is rolling out a credit card embedded with a "smart" chip technology that reduces fraud and is already widely used outside the United States.

The British Airways co-branded card, available Monday, is intended to appeal to frequent travelers who may experience hiccups with U.S. credit cards overseas.

The U.S. is the only developed country still primarily using credit and debit cards with magnetic strips. The rest of the industrialized world has already switched, or is transitioning, to the chip-based cards.

Chip-based cards aren't swiped like cards with magnetic strips. Instead, users insert the cards into a slot then punch in a PIN code to finalize a transaction. Although card terminals overseas also have a slot where magnetic strip cards can be swiped, cashiers in less-traveled areas are sometimes confused by how to process such transactions.

In other circumstances, such as train ticket kiosks, credit cards with magnetic strips can't be read.

Naney Pandit, general manager of Chase's card services, said not having a chip-based card was becoming a hassle for customers in recent years, as Europe and Asia adopt cards with the chip technology.

"What used to be a trickle a few years ago has become a frequent point of irritation," she said.

Chip technology nevertheless remains a rarity across the country. Magnetic strip technology is so entrenched that the transition to chip-based cards poses logistic difficulties. Stores have little reason to install terminals for smart cards because banks didn't issue them. Banks don't issue the cards because stores wouldn't accept them.

But increasing concerns over fraud could mean chip-based cards soon become more common. Visa this year announced new policies that will give U.S. banks, payment processors and stores incentives to adopt the smart cards, starting in 2015. Visa's move comes as industry experts are warning that U.S. merchants may become targets for fraudsters from countries...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Prices Are Dropping on Chromebooks
Chromebooks are dropping in price -- but the question is whether the drop will help to raise their appeal. The new price cuts, as much as 30 percent, affect Acer AC700 models and Samsung's Chromebook Series 5.

The laptops, based on Google's Net-oriented operating system Chrome, have not yet caught on, but the new pricing could give them a boost. The Acer Wi-Fi model will go for about $300, from its former price of $350, and the Verizon 3G model has been cut from $449 to $399. Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook, formerly $430, will now be $350.

'Tis the Season'

Google's Web-oriented Chrome OS came out in 2009, with the idea that a Net-based computer could be an attractive alternative to Microsoft's and Apple's platforms. The Chromebooks, which first became generally available this summer, use the cloud for all work, play, communication and storage.

In a posting Monday on the Google Chrome Blog, entitled "Tis the season for Chromebooks," Google Software Engineer Miranda Callahan noted that the Chrome OS has recently undergone "a bit of a facelift," with a boot-up in eight seconds and a "fresh, clean login experience."

"We've also been working closely with our partners to continually improve the overall Chromebook experience while making them even more affordable," he wrote.

A new Tab page makes it easier to manage apps, bookmarks, and most visited sites, and there are new shortcuts, such as to File Manager, music apps, and games.

When the Chromebooks came out in the summer, the key advantages touted by Google included the machines' always-connected state, instant-on, an all-day battery, the ability to "access your stuff everywhere," built-in security, and continual improvements to the OS and apps that did not require user updating.


From the standpoint of security, the companies have described Chrome as "the first operating system designed from the ground...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Stuxnet Strike on U.S. Utility Signals Disturbing Trend
U.S. security experts say a variant of the Stuxnet computer worm caused the destruction of a water pump at a public utility in Springfield, Ill., last week. Discovered in June of last year, Stuxnet targets the Windows-based supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems developed by Siemens to control and monitor specific industrial processes.

Though the destruction of a pump might not seem like such a big deal, there are oil pipelines, power plants, large communication systems, airports, ships and even military installations around the world using similar control systems. An earlier cyber attack targeting a control system at a hydroelectric facility in Russia killed more than 70 people in 2009.

The potential threats posed by cyber warfare are only outranked by nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction, warned Gen. Keith Alexander, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency.

"When you look at the vulnerabilities that we face in this area, it's extraordinary," Alexander said earlier this month. "What we see is a disturbing trend -- from exploitation to disruption to destruction."

A New Cyber Arms Race

What's worse, Stuxnet may merely be the prototype for more powerful next-generation cyber weapons that ultimately will make the Web the new battleground in an ever-widening arms race.

"In the past there were just cyber criminals," said Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky. "Now I am afraid it is the time of cyber terrorism, cyber weapons and cyber wars," he warned the security industry in a speech delivered in November of last year.

The first known Stuxnet variants uncovered were specifically aimed at Iran-based organizations with probable ties to the nation's nuclear energy program. The sophistication of the worm's coding and other factors have led computer security experts to believe that Stuxnet was a state-sponsored worm specifically constructed for conducting cyber warfare....

Tue, 22 Nov 11
iPad Could Make Apple Tops in Computer Sales Globally
Tablet computers have shaken up the PC industry so much that Apple may overtake Hewlett-Packard as the world's biggest computer distributor by the second half of next year.

That's the claim of market analysis firm Canalys, which says Apple's industry-building iPad has already made the Cupertino, Calif.,-based giant No. 2 in the world during the third quarter of this year.

The Tab Is Fab

Soaring sales of last year's iPad and this year's iPad 2 will help drive total 2011 global PC shipments to 415 million, up 15 percent year-on-year, Canalys says, while tablet shipments will reach a whopping 55 million units by year's end. Heavy volume during the holiday season may drive fourth-quarter figures to 22 million, with the iPad dominating the market. Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet will also be competitive, the firm said.

But is lumping tablets together with laptops and desktops as personal computers, well, mixing apples and oranges?

No, says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group.

"Actually tablets historically were PCs, and as we move into next year the new ones, which started out more like big smartphones without the phone part, will be getting four- and five-core processors and begin to run Windows," Enderle said.

Finnish handset giant Nokia has recently signaled that its debut next year in the tablet market will be a Windows 8 device.

Noting that they are competitively priced, Enderle has been suggesting for some time that tablets should be included in PC market share numbers as consumers increasingly choose between the two.

"I've seen a number of reports that actually don't put Apple on the chart in order to make the PC vendors look better and I think that is a huge mistake, because it creates a false sense of confidence," Enderle said.

"The risk for Apple is much of their...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Samsung Galaxy Nexus Volume Bug Draws European Customer Outrage
It seems Apple is not the only mobile-device brand that drives headlines when consumers report bugs. Samsung Galaxy Nexus owners in Europe are also making some noise.

XDA Developers points to multiple user reports of an automatic volume-changing problem in the Galaxy Nexus. It appears to be a hardware issue, according to XDA, which could translate to a costly recall for the iPhone competitor.

"What happens is that the phones volume will go haywire, it will start lowering volume hectically on the phone, especially during phone calls or when radio is being switched from 3G to 2G, or data connection is activated while Wi-Fi radio is turned off or on," XDA reported. "This only happens when the phone is on 2G connection."

Bug Blocks Usage

The volume bug appears limited to phones that use the 900Mhz radio band -- but that is the majority of Europe. XDA has confirmed that United Kingdom networks O2, Vodafone, giffgaff and Tesco Mobile use that frequency.

Apparently, the problem is even worse when the Galaxy-branded phone is in a low signal area. XDA reported that the bug often temporarily locks the use of the phone due to the spamming of what it is calling a "ghost volume button." The end result: calls are dropped and alerts are diminished.

"Currently it affects apparently more than 60 percent of handset owners in U.K.," XDA reported. "It is possible that this problem exists on every phone, other users simply are not on aforementioned networks or do not use 2G."

A PR Nightmare?

Apple's iPhone 4S suffered a bug when it debuted. Hundreds of consumers reported low battery life. Apple was silent until it developed a software update that worked to remedy the issue. So far, Samsung remains silent. Samsung could not immediately be reached for comment, and has not responded to the posts on its...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Is Android Market Secure or Not?
There's a battle brewing over how secure the Android operating system is -- or isn't. Juniper started the brouhaha last week with a report that said mobile malware on Android platforms has climbed 472 percent since July.

Juniper's Global Threat Center report noted the main reason for the malware epidemic on Android was because of different approaches that Apple and Google take to police their application stores.

"Android's open applications store model, which lacks code signing and an application review process that Apple requires, makes it easy for attackers to distribute their malware," Juniper said. "There is still no upfront review process in the official Android Market that offers even the hint of a challenge to malware writers that their investment in coding malware will be for naught."

Security Firms Agree

Kaspersky Labs is essentially backing up Juniper. In a Thursday report, Kaspersky said the last quarter saw the share of all mobile malware in 2011 targeting Android OS reach 40 percent, firmly establishing that platform as the leading target of malicious programs.

"Kaspersky Lab analysts had anticipated that cybercriminals would look for new ways to make money on Android malware, and it didn't take long to happen," the firm wrote. "In July, an Android Trojan of the Zitmo family was detected that works together with its desktop counterpart Trojan-Spy.Win32.Zeus to allow cybercriminals to bypass the two-factor authentication used in many online banking systems."

Of course, these sorts of reports are nothing new. Symantec led the charge earlier this year by confirming Android malware was on the rise. In a February report, Symantec pointed out the latest threats and suggested that consumers only use regulated Android marketplaces for downloading and installing Android apps.

What Is the Truth?

Chris DiBona, open source and public sector engineering manager at Google, took exception to the reports about Android's security. He lashed...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
iPad Has a Second-Place Competitor -- the Kindle Fire
Apple's iPad may finally have a clear second-place competitor. After months of jockeying by various manufacturers to become the key competitor to the category leader, a new survey indicates that Amazon's recently released Kindle Fire has moved into that second position.

The survey, by ChangeWave Research, found that 65 percent of those who intend to buy a tablet in the near future would choose the iPad -- while 22 percent would buy the new Kindle Fire. "Amazon is going to leapfrog the competition," ChangeWave said in a statement, "and become the number two product in the tablet market."

Doing Apple a Favor?

While this means that the iPad now has a clear-cut competitor, ChangeWave noted that Amazon may actually be doing Apple a favor. That is because the Fire's success may damage "the tablet market hopes of the remaining competitors in the field."

Among several other tablet makers -- Motorola, Research In Motion, Dell, HTC, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba -- none have more than 1 percent of the future tablet demand, according to ChangeWave. The only exception is Samsung's Galaxy Tab, with 4 percent. In addition to struggling at that very low position, Samsung is also locked in a worldwide legal war with Apple, which contends that Samsung has infringed its patents and other intellectual property in its tablets and smartphones.

Barnes & Noble's $249 Nook Tablet, which began shipping a day after the Kindle Fire became available, was not mentioned in the ChangeWave results even though the Nook Color e-reader/tablet has been the No. 2 competitor to the iPad in terms of units sold prior to this month.

Forrester Research predicts that by the end of the year, Kindle Fire sales could reach 5 million and the Nook Tablet could hit 2 million.

Some other reports have suggested that the Fire is beginning to impact...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Why That Corporate Cash Pile Isn't So Impressive
Hardly a day goes by without some politician or pundit pointing out that companies are hoarding cash -- roughly $3 trillion of it. If only they would spend it, the thinking goes, the economy might get better.

But the story is not as simple as that. Though it seems to have escaped nearly everyone's notice, companies have piled up even more debt lately than they have cash. So they aren't as free to spend as they may seem.

"The record cash story is bull market baloney," says David Stockman, a former U.S. budget director.

U.S. companies are sitting on $358 billion more cash than they had at the start of the recession in December 2007, according to the latest Federal Reserve figures, from June. But in the same period, what they owed rose $428 billion.

Before the recession, you have to go back at least six decades to find a time when companies were so burdened by debt.

Companies borrow money all the time, of course. They borrow to build factories, cover expenses, even make payroll. The problem: Debt doesn't go away. A business can cut costs during a recession. But it can't just shred the IOUs.

Heavy debt means companies could have to dip into those reserves of cash to pay their lenders. And when interest rates eventually go up, companies will have to spend more money just to service the debt.

In the last recession, which ended in June 2009, small businesses that depended on credit cards and bank loans got slapped with higher rates just as sales began to drop. Some got cut off all together.

Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co., says business debt is too high even if the U.S. manages to stay out of a second recession. If economic growth doesn't pick up, "they'll be more bankruptcies, and more...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Pakistan Bans 'Obscene' Words on Cell Phone Texts
Texters in Pakistan better start watching their language. Pakistan's telecommunications authority sent a letter ordering cell phone companies to block text messages containing what it perceives to be obscenities, Anjum Nida Rahman, a spokeswoman for Telenor Pakistan, said Friday.

It also sent a list of more than 1,500 English and Urdu words that were to be blocked.

The order was part of the regulator's attempt to block spam messages, said Rahman. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority refused to comment on the initiative.

Many of the words to be blocked were sexually explicit terms or swear words, according to a copy of the list obtained by The Associated Press.

It also included relatively mild terms like fart and idiot.

The reasons for blocking some words, including Jesus Christ, headlights and tampon, were less clear, raising questions about religious freedom and practicality. Any word could conceivably be part of a spam message.

The letter, which was also obtained by the AP, was dated Nov. 14 and gave cell phone companies seven days to implement the order.

Rahman, the Telenor spokeswoman, said her company first received the letter Thursday and was discussing how to proceed.

"It's a big issue, so it is being examined carefully from all points of view," said Rahman.

The letter said the order was legal under a 1996 law preventing people from sending information through the telecommunications system that is "false, fabricated, indecent or obscene."

It also stated that free speech can be restricted "in the interest of the glory of Islam."

Under pressure from Islamists, Pakistan has blocked pornographic Web sites and ones deemed anti-Islamic. Last year, it temporarily banned Facebook because of material on the site deemed offensive to Islam.

Tue, 22 Nov 11
Foreign Tech Firms Woo America's Best, Brightest
While politicians and tech leaders decry a lack of engineering talent in the USA, and college graduates struggle to find work, a growing number of tech companies overseas are swooping in and recruiting some of America's best and brightest.

The catch is that many of the recruiters are foreign-born tech workers who left the U.S. because of visa issues and now plan to take Americans back home with them as employees.

Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal, one of India's fastest-growing tech companies, visited four top U.S. universities this month in hopes of snagging 20 to 30 engineers, product managers and marketers. The recruiting trip had stops at Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University and Stanford University.

Mahindra & Mahindra, an Indian automotive company, is recruiting at Penn's Wharton School of business, as are the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

The India-born Bahl, 28, was educated at Penn but unable to get an H1-B visa to stay in the U.S. Last year, he founded online-coupon company Snapdeal in Delhi, where he helped create 850 jobs. It expects $100 million in 2012 revenue.

It's not that those U.S. grads won't get job offers domestically, says Bahl, a former Microsoft employee. But they want high-level engineering and product-development jobs that are hard to get in the U.S.

"Spending a couple years overseas is not a bad idea professionally, and our work environment is similar to a U.S. company," says Bahl, who adds that resumes from students are pouring in and about one-third are from Americans. "There is a dearth of engineering talent in India and China."

The domestic brain drain comes as President Obama and others ask lawmakers to change strict U.S. immigration law.

"While we shut our doors and keep entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists out, other countries are welcoming them," says Vivek Wadhwa, director of research at Duke...

Tue, 22 Nov 11
IHOP Goes Self-Service for Speed, Hip Factor
Goodbye waitresses, hello Wi-Fi. IHOP, the chain known for coffee-pouring waitresses and high stacks of pancakes, will open an IHOP Express in a tourist-heavy San Diego location where you buy your meal at the counter and pour your own refills, and the waitresses are replaced by runners.

The location -- its first express unit that's not on a college campus or military base -- will have free Wi-Fi, offer a menu with some quicker and healthier foods and, in most cases, have you out the door in about half the time of a conventional IHOP.

This is not your grandfather's world of family dining. The move comes at a time the struggling family dining industry, whose $34 billion in sales have been basically flat since 2005, is looking to catch up with the 21st century. Rival Denny's is also testing express formats, but has so far limited them to college campuses.

The question is: What good will any of these do?

"The whole family dining sector is caught in the middle and not doing very well," says Ron Paul, president of the research firm Technomic. Many consumers, instead, are gravitating to fast-casual restaurants such as Panera Bread and Chipotle, he says, which typically serve food more quickly and where consumers aren't expected to leave tips. This, he says, is family dining's attempt to mimic fast-casual.

On top of that, Paul says, family dining locations are typically very big on breakfast, but many Millennials (who are key targets) simply don't do breakfast -- at least, not at conventional breakfast hours.

"We know some people don't come to IHOP because they don't have the time," says the chain's president, Jean Birch. "This (new format) gives them an option."

And, she says, she plans to open more. "This is part of the future, but it's not the only future," Birch...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Skype Adds Facebook Video Chatting To Software
Internet phone service Skype said Thursday that it will let users of its software make video calls to their Facebook friends and receive them, too.

The free feature, released Thursday in a "beta" test version of Skype's software for Macs and PCs, expands on an existing partnership between the companies.

Since July, Facebook has allowed users with webcams on their computers to make Skype-powered video calls on the social-networking site. And it had already been possible to chat with your Facebook friends through Skype's instant-messaging feature, though there wasn't yet a video component.

Skype lets users make calls, conduct video chats and send instant messages over the Internet. Its basic services are free, while users pay for services such as calling regular phones from a computer.

Jonathan Rosenberg, Skype's chief technology strategist, said the company wants to help a billion people communicate, particularly with video. Working with Facebook "is really taking us a big step closer to that goal," he said.

Facebook, which is based in Palo Alto, California, has more than 800 million users worldwide. Skype, which is located in Luxembourg, has more than 170 million.

Skype was bought by Microsoft Corp. for $8.5 billion earlier this year. Microsoft owns a small stake in Facebook.

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Cox Kills Sprint-Based Cell Phone Service
Cox Communications, the country's third-largest cable company, stopped offering cell phone service Wednesday, saying it's too small to compete with the big cell phone companies.

Cox, based in Atlanta, inaugurated the service less than a year ago, and kept adding service areas throughout the year. It added San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif., less than two months ago.

The company's goal was to tie all of its technologies together by offering customers four services on one bill: cable TV, Internet, home phone and cell phone service. But Cox lacked the scale to compete in the cell phone sector and wasn't able to sell "iconic wireless devices" -- meaning high-end smartphones like the iPhone.

Cox Wireless was available to less than half of Cox's roughly 4.8 million cable-TV subscribers. Service areas included parts of northern Virginia, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

Privately held Cox said that subscribers will have service through March, and will get a $150 credit for each line that's disconnected. It did not say how many customers it had gained.

Cox used Sprint Nextel Corp.'s wireless network for the service. Earlier this year, it killed plans to build its own wireless network. The company had spent $550 million on airwave licenses for the network.

Cable companies have a history of edging into wireless services, then backing out. Cox itself built and operated a cellular network covering Southern California and Las Vegas in the 1990s, then sold it to Sprint. It was part of a group of cable companies that teamed up with Sprint in 2005 to market wireless service to their TV customers, but the project was scuttled in 2008.

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Rambus Loses Antitrust Trial vs. Micron, Hynix
A California jury denied Rambus Inc. billions of dollars in damages as it determined that chip-makers Micron Technology Inc. and Hynix Semiconductor Inc. didn't conspire to fix prices of memory chips in order to raise the prices of products for which Rambus licenses the rights.

Rambus' stock sank 61 percent after losing its 7-year-old antitrust case in California Superior Court in San Francisco. Micron's stock rose 23 percent.

Rambus had argued that Micron and Hynix conspired to fix prices to hurt its business. Rambus, which makes most of its money by licensing its technologies to other companies for use in their products, had been seeking about $4 billion in damages. If the jury had found in favor of the company, the award would have tripled under California law.

The jury determined Wednesday that Micron and Hynix did not conspire among themselves or with Infineon Technologies AG or Samsung Electronics Co. to fix prices and keep Rambus out of the market, as Rambus had alleged.

The jury also found that neither company conspired to harm Rambus' relationship with Intel Corp., the world's largest maker of computer chips.

In a statement, Rambus CEO Harold Hughes said the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is disappointed with the verdict.

"We do not agree with the several rulings that affected how this case was presented to the jury and we are reviewing our options for appeal," Hughes said.

Micron CEO Steve Appleton said his company is "very pleased" with the outcome. Hynix CEO O.C. Kwon said his company is "grateful" for the decision.

Rambus' stock fell by $10.93 -- more than half -- to close Wednesday at $7.11. It regained 19 cents after hours.

Micron's stock, meanwhile, jumped $1.28, more than 23 percent, to $6.74 in regular trading. It receded 20 cents to $6.54 after hours. Micron is based in Boise, Idaho, while Hynix is in...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Government Shuts Down Mortgage Scams Tied To Google
The federal government has shut down dozens of Internet scam artists who had been paying Google to run ads making bogus promises to help desperate homeowners scrambling to avoid foreclosures.

The crackdown announced Wednesday renews questions about the role that Google's massive advertising network plays in enabling online misconduct. It may also increase the pressure on the company to be more vigilant about screening the marketing pitches that appear alongside its Internet search results and other Web content.

The criminal investigation into alleged mortgage swindlers comes three months after Google agreed to pay $500 million to avoid prosecution in Rhode Island for profiting from online ads from Canadian pharmacies that illegally sold drugs in the U.S.

A spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department division overseeing the probe into online mortgage scams declined to comment on its scope other to say it's still ongoing.

Google Inc. also declined to comment Wednesday.

No company wants to be tainted by a criminal investigation, but the prospect is even more nettlesome for Google because it has embraced "don't be evil" as its corporate motto.

That commitment may make it difficult for Google to fend off a call by Consumer Watchdog to donate the revenue from fraudulent mortgage ads to legitimate organizations that help people ease their credit problems. Consumer Watchdog is an activist group that released a report in February asserting that Google was profiting from ads bought by mortgage swindlers.

"Google should never have published these ads, but its executives turned a blind eye to these fraudsters for far too long because of the substantial revenue such advertising generates," said Consumer Watchdog's John M. Simpson, a frequent critic of the company.

To fight future abuse, Google has suspended its business ties with more than 500 advertiser and agencies connected to the alleged scams, according to the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
AOL Revamps AIM To Stanch User Exodus
AOL is giving its AIM instant-messaging software a new look and new features in hopes of stanching an ongoing exodus of users who have turned to texting and other online messaging services.

The new AIM software marks the service's biggest revamp in several years and comes as AOL tries to revitalize its business. A Web pioneer back in the `90s, AOL has been struggling as its dial-up Internet service declines and its online content and advertising business isn't generating enough revenue yet to make up for it.

AOL made a preview version available Wednesday.

Among AIM's new features is the ability to view Web-based photos and videos within a chat window. Previously users would just see a link they would have to click to open a new browser window containing the image or video.

AIM will also now sync all the messages you send and receive across various devices you use to access the service, helping to prevent missed messages.

And its iconic "Buddy List" has given way to a list of AIM friends ordered by how recently you've chatted with them.

In an interview, Jason Shellen, AOL's head of AIM products, said many people think of AIM as "instant pestering."

Shellen, who joined AOL in 2010 when it bought the company behind online social software Brizzly, said the new software is "less instant, more message."

The effort to revitalize AIM -- which was originally released in 1997 -- comes as instant-messaging traffic is falling precipitously. Consumers are flock to social-networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, use the built-in chat features on sites such as Facebook and Google Inc.'s Gmail and send an ever-growing number of text messages.

In a move to keep people chatting over its service, AIM has allowed users to chat with friends on a number of other instant-messaging services, including Facebook's and Google's. This doesn't...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Norway Hit by Major Data-Theft Attack
Data from Norway's oil and defense industries may have been stolen in what is feared to be one of the most extensive data espionage cases in the country's history, security officials said Thursday.

Industrial secrets from companies were stolen and "sent out digitally from the country," the Norwegian National Security Authority said, though it did not name any companies or institutions that were targeted.

At least 10 different attacks, mostly aimed at the oil, gas, energy and defense industries, were discovered in the past year, but the agency said it has to assume the number is much higher because many victims have yet to realize that their computers have been hacked.

"This is the first time Norway has unveiled such an extensive and widespread espionage attack," it said.

Spokesman Kjetil Berg Veire added it is likely that more than one person is behind the attacks.

The methods varied, but in some cases individually crafted e-mails that, armed with viruses, would sweep recipients' entire hard-drives for data and steal passwords, documents and confidential documents.

The agency said in a statement that this type of data-theft was "cost-efficient" for foreign intelligence services and that "espionage over the Internet is cheap, provides good results and is low-risk." Veire would not elaborate, but said it was not clear who was behind the attacks.

The attacks often occurred when companies were negotiating large contracts, the agency said.

Important Norwegian institutions have been targeted by hackers before.

In 2010, some two weeks after Chinese dissident and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo was named that year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norway's Nobel Institute website came under attack, with a Trojan Horse, a particularly potent computer virus, being installed on it.

Other attacks on the institute in that same period came via email, containing virus-infected attachments.

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Will Amazon Make a Kindle Smartphone?
Amazon is burning up the tablet market with buzz about its new Kindle Fire. Now, some analysts are speculating that the e-commerce giant might introduce a smartphone next year.

Pointing to its supply-chain channel analysis in Asia, Citigroup suggested Amazon may be planning to roll out a smartphone in the fourth quarter of 2012. Reuters got its hands on a research note dated Nov. 17 in which the brokerage tied Amazon to Foxconn International Holdings, a contract manufacturer that works with Apple.

"With the clear success of the Kindle ereader over the past three years, and Kindle Fire possibly succeeding in the low-priced tablet market, we view this as the next logical step for Amazon," the brokerage said.

Kindle Smartphone Details

The Citibank note offered many details, none of which are confirmed, including the chipmaker and processor. Citibank expects Amazon to tap a Texas Instruments processor and Qualcomm's baseband chips, Reuters reported, and use Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry to make the device. Amazon was not immediately available for comment.

"I don't guess on rumors. People like to invent all sorts of information. It remains to be seen what Amazon might or might not do," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "A smartphone is different from the tablet and I think they are probably going to use the Kindle Fire as a learning experience. But what Amazon does next remains to be seen."

With Amazon preparing to sell as many as 5 million Kindle Fire devices in the fourth quarter, a smartphone could indeed be the next logical step. But the company may not be willing to sell the device at a loss. According to IHS iSuppli, it costs Amazon $201.70 to manufacture the Kindle Fire.

"The Kindle Fire, at a retail price point of $199, is sold at a loss by Amazon, just as the...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Macs Hit 5.2 Percent Worldwide Market Share
While Apple's mobile devices have dominated or been among the leaders in their respective categories, its computers have occupied only a small sliver of the market. Now, new data indicates that Apple worldwide market share for its Macs is increasing more rapidly than other manufacturers and has reached 5.2 percent -- in part fueled by rapid growth among businesses.

This is the first time in 15 years that the Mac has passed the 5 percent mark in market share. According to analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Co., the growth rate of Mac shipments in the third quarter of this year -- 24.6 percent -- exceeded that of PCs for the 22nd straight quarter. By comparison, the growth rate of PC shipments for the quarter was 5.3 percent.

43.8 Percent Growth in Businesses

Wolf said that the record-setting unit sales of 4.89 million Macs for the quarter helped the company's computer line grow from 4.7 percent worldwide market share in June, and from 4.4 percent at the same time last year.

He noted that the growth in Mac shipments over the last year was 20 percent of the growth of all PC shipments, and that the number of Macs shipped in the third quarter alone was more than the annual Mac shipments for each year before 2006.

Macs are also no longer primarily for consumers. While Mac sales to the home market increased 25.6 percent, compared with an overall PC increase of 4 percent, unit sales to businesses increased a whopping 43.8 percent, compared with 4.8 percent for PCs.

Wolf said that this surge in business adoption of Macs is a spillover effect resulting from the widespread use of iPads and iPhones by employees and IT departments.

Interestingly, while Macs have traditionally been strongest in education markets, the new results indicate the computer product line showed...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
AT&T Bundles Samsung Tab and Smartphone
In an early holiday season promotion, AT&T is offering a limited time, two-for-the-price-of-one deal at its wireless stores. But the twist is, it's a free smartphone with the purchase of a tablet.

After Sunday, those who purchase the brand-new 8.9-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, powered by Android 3.2 and equipped for the carrier's new high-speed, long-term evolution data network, for $479.99, and sign up for a two-year data agreement, can also get one of two Samsung smartphones, gratis.

The choices include Samsung's first LTE smartphone for AT&T, the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, or the Galaxy S II, either of which will require a separate data contract. While the Galaxy S II doesn't use LTE, AT&T still considers it 4G because it uses the HSPA+ network.

The deal has a value of $250 for the Skyrocket, which has a slightly larger screen -- 4.5 inches instead of 4.3 -- or $200 for the Galaxy S II.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel downplayed the significance of the deal.

"It's a promotion, one of many we run at any given time," he said.

LTE is key

But observers see it as a smart way to drive adoption of the carrier's newly minted LTE network, in addition to boosting sales of the devices and new data plans. Sunday also marks an LTE expansion to a total of 15 markets: Athens, Ga.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Oklahoma City; San Antonio; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Washington, D.C.

"They are trying to evangelize the LTE message," said wireless analyst Ramon Llamas of IDC Research. "It's still the early days for the network over there at AT&T so why not push as many as you can, as quickly as possible."

For Samsung, the incentives are clear: The push comes as a bunch of new tablets are trying to...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Amazon Pays $201.70 To Build $199 Kindle Fire
A teardown of the new Kindle Fire tablet performed by IHS iSuppli researchers found that it costs Amazon $201.70 to make a device that began retailing this week for $199. "Amazon makes its money not on Kindle hardware, but on the paid content and other products it plans to sell the consumer through the Kindle," said Andrew Rassweiler, senior director of teardown services for IHS.

However, the Kindle Fire hardware cost breakdown released by the analyst firm Friday only tells part of the story. Amazon had not disclosed what it is costing the online retail giant to roll out the tablet from a software perspective -- including software design, development and testing.

"We can safely assume that launching such devices from a software perspective requires a serious long-term commitment to morphing Android into what Amazon is looking for," said Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC.

According to Hilwa, a development team of a few hundred people would ultimately be needed to support an ongoing product such as the Kindle Fire, including the requisite maintenance as well as product evolution.

"I have no specific information on this, but I have always imagined that the team working on iOS at Apple, end-to-end, well exceeds a thousand people," Hilwa said. "Doing the estimates for things like that is complex because of shared resources in an organization."

Display and Touch-screen Costs

IHS iSuppli noted that its preliminary cost calculations for the Kindle Fire only account for hardware and do not include additional expenses such as software, licensing, royalties, marketing or other expenditures. However, Rassweiler compared Amazon's strategy of selling its new tablet at a loss to the business models followed by wireless carriers such as AT&T or Verizon.

"They sell you a phone that costs them $400 to $600 or more to...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
'Occupy Flash' Group Seeks End of Plug-In
As the physical world only has a limited number of places to occupy, the Occupy movement is now going virtual. In one virtual offshoot, a group of developers has launched Occupy Flash, "the movement to rid the world of the Flash Player" plug-in.

On a new Web site of that name, this descendant of Occupy Wall Street -- and countless other Occupy variations -- say in their manifesto that the "Flash Player is dead."

'A Fossil'

The time of Flash has passed, according to the group. They say the nearly universal desktop and laptop plug-in is "buggy," crashes frequently, "requires constant security updates," doesn't work well on mobile devices and is "a fossil, left over from the era of closed standards and unilateral corporate control of Web technology."

If it's so ancient, why worry about it? The group said it's not conducting a campaign against Adobe, maker of Flash, but is "simply trying to help them" get to the era of open Web standards "a little faster."

In other words, getting users to remove their Flash plug-in will force the embrace of modern open standards and will "invalidate old technology." But the group acknowledges that the effort currently comes with some "pain and sacrifice." Users will not be able to access Flash-based sites in their full form until the sites convert to HTML5, the alternative standards-based technologies that do not need a browser plug-in.

To help you toward the pain that will bring a brighter, Flash-less, standards-based future, the site offers Flash detection and links to Adobe's uninstall page for Mac and PC, and to Google's uninstall directions for its Chrome browser.

The budding movement's members have chosen to remain anonymous, but they told the BBC that they have all coded Flash at some point, and have never worked for an Adobe competitor.

'Tipping Point'

One unnamed...

Sat, 19 Nov 11
Google Co-Founder Donates $500,000 To Wikimedia
Even as WikiLeaks remains silenced by a lack of funds, another wiki is getting support from high-tech places. Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia, just raked in $500,000 from two heavy hitters.

The Brin Wojcicki Foundation, started by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, awarded the half-million-dollar grant to the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia and its sister sites. The Wikimedia Foundation kicked off its eighth annual fundraiser on Wednesday.

"This grant is an important endorsement of the Wikimedia Foundation and its work, and I hope it will send a signal as we kick off our annual fundraising campaign this week," said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "This is how Wikipedia works: people use it, they like it, and so they help pay for it, to keep it freely available for themselves and for everyone around the world. I am very grateful to Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki for supporting what we do."

Wikimedia Woos Donations

The Wikimedia projects reach more than 477 million unique visitors around the world every month, according to comScore, making Wikipedia the fifth most-popular Web site in the world. Wikipedia is available in more than 280 languages and offers more than 20 million articles contributed by a global volunteer community of more than 100,000 people. The San Francisco-based Wikimedia Foundation is an audited, 501(c)(3) charity.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, is pleased to see the support for WikiMedia Foundation. In fact, he said, he donated money to the cause.

"It's a great thing to do. It has become one of the places where students and most of the rest of us now are getting much of our core information. It is a crowdsourced kind of effort and it is not advertiser-supported," Enderle said. "The only way it survives, much like any public...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Dell Expects Disk Drive Shortage To Hurt Revenue
Dell is likely to be hampered for a couple quarters by an industry-wide shortage of computer storage drives resulting from the recent flooding in Thailand, the computer maker said Tuesday. p Dell predicted full-year revenue near the low end of the guidance it issued in August, which called for revenue growth of 1 percent to 5 percent over 2010 and was in turn a reduction from a previous forecast. p Dell Inc. cited the uncertain economy, as well as the disk drive shortage. The Thai flood waters, which started spreading in August, are now receding, but they closed many of Thailand's tech-related factories, including a bevy that produce a critical component of personal computers: hard disk drives. p During a conference call with analysts to discuss the company's third-quarter results and outlook, Dell's executive leading manufacturing, procurement and the supply chain, as well as PC engineering, design and development, said the complexity of the situation makes it hard to determine the scope and length of hard drive shortages. Jeff Clarke said this means the industry must keep an eye on how it's allocating its resources at least throughout the first quarter of next year. p Our goal is to mitigate any impact to our customers in Dell, and our teams will be working throughout the quarter to do just that, he said. p The shortages come as the personal computer industry already is dealing with decreased demand. Sales have slowed, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, because debt and unemployment fears and the growing popularity of tablet computers have led many consumers delay replacing PCs. In addition, the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan hurt supplies of memory chips. p Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to report Monday on how it fared during the most recent quarter and this should offer more insight into the performance of computer makers overall. p Dell's forecast, lowered in...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Facebook Tracking Is Under Scrutiny
In recent weeks, Facebook has been wrangling with the Federal Trade Commission about whether the social-media Web site is violating users' privacy by making public too much of their personal information. p Far more quietly, another debate is brewing about a different side of online privacy: what Facebook is learning about those who visit its Web site. p Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social-media giant has been able to create a running log of the Web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook Web page for any reason. p To do this, the company relies on tracking cookie technologies similar to the controversial systems used by Google, Adobe, Microsoft, Yahoo and others in the online advertising industry, says Arturo Bejar, Facebook's engineering director. p Facebook's efforts to track the browsing habits of visitors to its site have made the company a player in the Do Not Track debate, which focuses on whether consumers should be able to prevent Web sites from tracking their online activity. p For online business and social-media sites, such information can be particularly valuable in helping them tailor online ads to specific visitors. But privacy advocates worry about how else the information might be used, and whether it might be sold to third parties. p New guidelines for online privacy are being hashed out in Congress and by the World Wide Web Consortium, which sets standards for the Internet. p If privacy advocates get their way, consumers soon could be empowered to stop or limit tech companies and ad networks from tracking them wherever they go online. But the online advertising industry has dug in its heels, trying to retain the current self-regulatory system. p Online tracking...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Microsoft Struggles To Regain Former Growth
A quarter-century into its career as a publicly traded company, Microsoft finds itself a prisoner of its own past success. p The company continues to grow top-line revenue, but at a slower pace than in the glory days of the late 1980s and 1990s. Its profitability would be the envy of most other companies, but operating margins have gradually declined for most of the past decade. p Investors worry that Microsoft's missed opportunities in smartphones and late entry to the tablet market threaten its core Windows and Office businesses -- the sources of most of the company's value. And any new business lines, no matter how successful, almost inevitably would be less profitable than Windows and Office. p The result: a stock that has been so persistently undervalued for the past decade that it looks more like a bond -- no longer a stock young people buy to get rich but one retirees buy to stay afloat. p It's certainly not valued as a growth company, said Sid Parakh, an analyst who follows Microsoft for Seattle's McAdams Wright Ragen brokerage. Could they become a growth company at some point in the future? The potential is there, but for them to deliver on it they really need to execute. p The company has high hopes for its smartphone partnership with Nokia, tablets running the future Windows 8 operating system, and the hosted software and services business that goes by the moniker cloud computing. p In the wake of several recent high-profile announcements of corporate split-ups (Abbott Laboratories, McGraw-Hill, Sara Lee, Tyco), some investors may renew calls for Microsoft to spin off one or more business lines or split itself up entirely. p But while a split-up might unlock some value -- in the server-software and tools segment, for instance, or the Microsoft Dynamics business-software operation -- company management insists that its various product lines support...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
In Fire vs. Nook, It's Fire by a Nose
Who doesn't appreciate a good old-fashioned brawl every now and again? There may be no bigger slugfest than what is taking place this week in 7-inch touch-screen tablets as the Kindle Fire from Amazon goes toe-to-toe with the Nook Tablet from Barnes Noble. p In one corner is Amazon, the Internet's leading retailer and champion of traditional E-Ink-type electronic readers. In the other is Barnes Noble, which despite its own online presence and lineup of e-readers, is best known for its physical bookstores. p Behind the scenes, though, lurks tablet titleholder Apple, which has to take notice of this week's activities. Amazon is unleashing a body blow against the pricing status quo by introducing Fire at $199, $50 less than the Nook Tablet and, perhaps more important, $300 less than the Apple iPad 2. p Let me state upfront that neither the Fire nor Nook are as fully featured as the iPad 2 with its nearly 10-inch display. You won't find a camera on either device, which is a big deal only if you have designs on doing video chat. There's no Bluetooth or GPS, either. Both Fire and Nook have far fewer apps than the iPad. The software isn't as fluid. And without 3G or 4G cellular, your connectivity options are limited to Wi-Fi. p Still, many buyers won't give a hoot about any of this -- especially if what you have in mind for a tablet is reading (traditional strengths for Amazon and Barnes Noble); listening to music; watching movies and TV shows; browsing (including Adobe Flash sites); playing casual games; and checking e-mail. Despite some shortcomings, I found both tablets appealing in my tests. p The fight between the companies largely comes down to which ecosystem you want to buy into, because books you purchase from one provider are not compatible with the other. p Amazon...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Weather Channel Apps Take Mobile Platform by Storm
When the Weather Channel launched, media types snickered: Who would want to see a 24-hour cable TV channel devoted to nothing but weather? p No one is laughing now as the Weather Channel prepares for its 30th anniversary in April. The company -- owned by private investors and NBCUniversal, in which Comcast has a controlling stake -- wisely diversified into a Web and mobile property with an unforgettable name: Weather.com p The Web site is one of the top 20 online sites, according to ComScore Media Metrix and registered 1.1 billion online page views in October. Even more people checked the weather on their phones and tablets: racking up 1.3 billion page views. p Weather is the perfect mobile product, because you want to know what the weather is where you are, says Michael Kelly, CEO of the Weather Channel Cos. p The number of mobile phones in use worldwide could reach 2 billion by 2013, up from 1.7 billion today, according to research firm Gartner. Mobile will surpass TV in less than two years, predicts Cameron Clayton, the Weather Channel's executive vice president for digital content. p When the shift occurs, It will really turbocharge the two-way communication between us and consumers, says Clayton, advancing the concept of mobile users as citizen meteorologists who tell the company what the weather is like where they live, sharing that information with the Weather Channel community. p The Weather Channel was smart to get in on mobile early, says James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research. They're the brand name. If you have a new operating system, a new phone, a new tablet, you go to Weather to make sure you've got it, because it's what everyone wants. p Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, which went on sale Monday, shipped with a Weather Channel app preloaded, just as Apple did with the iPhone and iPad, where the...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Google Music Comes Late To Digital Music Party
In a move to compete with Apple iTunes -- and the rest of the digital music industry -- Music Beta by Google is now officially Google Music. But analysts said that just because the name Google is on the service doesn't mean it will gain traction in a market dominated largely by Apple and Amazon, as well as emerging streaming services like Spotify. p Google Music mimics some of the features Apple and Amazon offer with their cloud features, such as automatically syncing a listener's music library, both purchases and uploads, across all devices without cables, file transfers or space concerns. Google Music also keeps playlists intact on every device and allows for music listening offline. p With the official launch of Google Music comes a new music store in Android Market. The store offers more than 13 million tracks from artists on Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI, and the global independent rights agency Merlin, along with more than 1,000 independent labels. Google also partnered with the digital distributors of independent music including IODA, INgrooves, The Orchard and Believe Digital. p subhead Unique Artist Hub /subhead p You can purchase individual songs or entire albums right from your computer or your Android device and they'll be added instantly to your Google Music library and accessible anywhere, said Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google. p Good music makes you want to turn up the volume, but great music makes you want to roll down the windows and blast it for everyone. We captured this sentiment by giving you the ability to share a free full play of a purchased song with your friends on Google+. p Rubin also described the artist hub. The Google Music artist hub lets any artist who has the necessary rights to distribute their own music on the platform. Artists can use the artist hub...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Is Desktop Flash Fading Away?
Last week, Adobe announced that it was abandoning mobile Flash. Now, two new developments raise questions about whether desktop Flash will eventually suffer a similar fate. p Adobe has submitted the code for its Flex framework, which is based on Flash, to the Apache Software Foundation. Flex, a Software Development Kit that is used to build cross-platform Rich Internet Applications for browser-based Flash as well as standalone apps, is expected to be managed by the Apache Foundation as a new, open-source project. The SDK has been an open-source project, but under Adobe's management. The Apache Foundation still needs to vote on whether to make Flex a formal project. p subhead HTML5 'Best Technology' for Enterprise /subhead p On its Official Flex Team Blog, Adobe Flex Product Manager Deepa Subramaniam wrote in the past week that the company was still committed to Flex, but that the technology landscape for application development is rapidly changing. p Over the long term, Subramaniam said, HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development. p In its announcement last week, Adobe said it would no longer develop mobile Flash, and would focus on tools and related technology for HTML5. HTML5 does not require a browser plug-in, as Flash does, for browsers supporting the standards-based technology. p In the announcement on its Adobe Blogs, Interactive Development Vice President and General Manager Danny Winokur wrote that his company will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work on new mobile device configurations. p In his statement, Winokur noted that HTML5 is now supported on all major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively -- a reference to Apple's devices, where Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs decreed that HTML5 was superior to Flash. HTML5, Winokur added, is the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across multiple platforms. p subhead Long for This World? /subhead p The...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Apple's iPhone Eclipses Blackberry in Enterprise Survey
Apple's iPhone has surpassed Research In Motion's BlackBerry as the top smartphone platform among enterprise employees, according to a new global mobile workforce report from iPass. Apple's iPhone held a leading 45 percent market share in a survey of mobile workers at over 1,100 enterprises worldwide conducted from late September to late October. p Today's mobile employees are critical to the success of every enterprise, which explains why 95 percent of mobile employees currently have smartphones -- up from 85 percent in 2010. What's more, the median age of the mobile worker is about 41 now -- and that is down from 45, which we saw last time in this study, said iPass Vice President Kevin Murray. p Smartphones are now in the hands of nearly every knowledge worker, and with users contributing 240 more work-hours per year on average than their non-mobile counterparts, noted iPass CEO Evan Kaplan. Connectivity is essential, Kaplan said. Work is no longer where you go but what you do. p subhead Freedom of Choice /subhead p Among enterprise-class smartphone users, the iPhone's market share is 10 percentage points above what RIM's models collectively held last year -- when the BlackBerry smartphone platform led the enterprise smartphone field. One reason why Apple's iPhone now leads the pack is that 62 percent of enterprises now offer their employees the ability to choose the handheld device they would like to use. p According to iPass, 44 percent are allowed to choose a device from a list of corporate-approved smartphones. Moreover, an additional 19 percent are permitted to use whatever mobile device they wish for accessing corporate resources. p No surprise, the iPhone is the number one smartphone out there as far as our sample is concerned, Murray said. p Still, RIM's BlackBerry market share has only declined slightly from 35 percent in 2010 to 32 percent today, the report's authors...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Android Market Lousy With Malware, Says Juniper
As the number of applications available in Google's Android Market has soared, users are paying a price: More and more malware. p That's the claim of information technology and network products giant Juniper Networks, whose Global Threat Center believes the easy process for posting apps has led to a whopping 472 percent increase in malware samples since July 2011. p subhead All Too Easy /subhead p These days, it seems all you need is a developer account, that is relatively easy to anonymize, pay $25 and you can post your applications, wrote Juniper on its threat center blog, noting that the lack of upfront review leaves the world's largest smartphone community browsing through poorly defined, unscreened apps that will only be removed after the fact if malware is reported or detected by Google. p This approach has led to major increases in research into and discovery of vulnerabilities within the Android platform as the delivery mechanisms of mobile malware, said Juniper, which published its Malicious Mobile Threats Report for 2010 and 2011 in July. That report, showing a 400 percent increase in Android malware, looked at increasingly sophisticated attacks, including Myournet/Droid Dream, Tap Snake and Geinimi as well as the pirating of the 'Walk and Text' application, new threat vectors for mobile cybercrime, and the potential for exploitation and misuse of mobile devices and data. p The report puts something of a damper on Google's boast at the launch of Google Music in Los Angeles Wednesday that more than 200 million Android-based phones have been activated, with more than half of that growth in the past six months, as companies like Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola trot out increasingly powerful devices via all four top carriers, as well as smaller ones like MetroPCS and Virgin Mobile. p Google's press office did not respond to our inquiry via email for a comment about the report...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Salesforce.com Acquires Model Metrics in Social-Mobile Play
Salesforce.com is set to acquire a mobile and social cloud consulting services company. Terms of the deal to purchase Model Metrics were undisclosed. Adding Model Metrics to the salesforce.com mix gives the enterprise cloud company more mobile and social expertise to serve enterprise customers. p Founded in 2003, Model Metrics was an early mover in developing business process and technologies that companies need to accelerate cloud computing adoption. Model Metrics bet on the importance of mobile and social technologies to enterprise cloud computing nearly a decade ago, and started focusing on strategic app development and deployment. p Our core services strategy has always been to create a thriving partner ecosystem, and this acquisition enables us to double down on that strategy in the world of the social enterprise, said Maria Martinez, executive vice president of Customers for Life at salesforce.com. With Model Metrics, our strategic services team will have more of the mobile and social capabilities required to enable and accelerate the success of our partner ecosystem. p subhead Serving Fortune 100s /subhead p Model Metrics could be a significant acquisition for salesforce.com. The Model Metrics team has led some of the largest mobile and social cloud deployments. The firm has also developed a mobility practice that delivers enterprise apps with a user-friendly experience. p Model Metrics has more than 500 customers, including Blue Shield of California, Heidrick Struggles, and Standard Register. The firm has already completed more than 1,000 salesforce deployments for companies of all sizes, including some of the Fortune 100. Model Metrics has also partnered with Amazon Web Services, Adobe, Apple and Google. p Salesforce.com and Model Metrics share a vision for the social enterprise, said, Adam Caplan, founder and CEO of Model Metrics. By joining salesforce.com, we can help more companies unlock the value of cloud computing with disruptive mobile and social technologies. p subhead Social Consolidation /subhead p Salesforce.com has been blowing the social...

Fri, 18 Nov 11
Anonymous Says Facebook Spam Not Theirs
New spam on Facebook, which displays pornographic and violent imagery, is not the work of Anonymous. That's the word in a new posting from the political hacktivist group.

There has been speculation by security researchers that the spam was result of something called the Fawkes Virus, a reference to the Guy Fawkes masks that Anonymous members wear in their video communiqués. Fawkes was famous for his role in the Gunpowder Plot that targeted England's King James I in the 17th century, and the Guy Fawkes masks figured prominently in a popular, anti-totalitarian movie set in an alternative modern England, called V for Vendetta. p subhead 'Highly Untrue' /subhead p But, in a posting on the Pastebin site where Anonymous members have been known to issue communications, AnonymousWiki reports that Anonymous involvement in this attack is highly untrue. p Facebook has confirmed the spam attack over the last few days, but said it limited the damage. The highly offensive imagery was reported as part of various users' Facebook news feeds. The giant social networking site said that the spam attack exploited a browser vulnerability. p Security analyst Razvan Livintz had reported late last week that there were indications Anonymous intended to invade Facebook accounts with a sophisticated piece of malware, called the Fawkes Virus. Livintz said that the virus was written by Anonymous programmers, and pointed to a video posting on the Anonymous Central Web site that asserted these claims. p subhead 'Is This for Real?' /subhead p The voice on the video, a computer-generated voice as is the custom with Anonymous communications, noted that the virus can simulate basic actions on Facebook accounts, such as sending a friend request or a message. A remote administrator could then control those accounts, and code could be executed, or data removed, from infected computers. p The worm automatically sends out infected links with little or no action by the user....

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Berkshire Buys 5 Percent of IBM, Takes Other Stakes
Warren Buffett said Monday that his company has spent $10.7 billion to buy more than 5 percent of IBM's stock this year, a surprising move by the billionaire investor who has long shied away from investing in high technology companies.

Berkshire Hathaway also revealed several other new investments made during the turmoil of the third quarter. Besides the new IBM investment, Berkshire added much smaller stakes in Intel Corp., DirecTV, General Dynamics Corp. and CVS Caremark Corp.

Most of the details emerged from the quarterly update Berkshire filed with regulators on its $59 billion U.S. stock portfolio. Buffett disclosed some details in interviews earlier in the day.

Monday's filing doesn't offer a full picture of Berkshire's holdings, however, because the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed the Omaha-based company to keep some of its investments confidential.

Buffett has long refused to invest in high-tech companies because he has said it's too difficult to predict which technology businesses will prosper in the long run.

But he said he recently realized his view of IBM was wrong based on what he read in the company's annual reports and what he learned by talking to information-technology departments at Berkshire subsidiaries. He said he should have realized years sooner that hardware is no longer the heart of IBM's business.

"Now they're very much a services company, and they're very intertwined with their customers," Buffett said. And he said IBM's customers are reluctant to change once they start working with IBM.

So Berkshire has bought about 64 million shares since March, or about 5.5 percent of IBM. Buffett says he believes IBM has a sound plan for the future.

Andy Kilpatrick, the stockbroker-author of "Of Permanent Value, the Story of Warren Buffett," said it's surprising to see Buffett invest in a high-tech company, but the investment appears to be an example of Buffett spotting...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Amazon: Actress Lawsuit Over Age Revelation Bogus
Frivolous and selfish is how lawyers for Amazon.com Inc. describe a lawsuit brought by an actress upset that her advanced age -- 40 -- was revealed on an Internet database.

The company, along with its Internet Movie Database, asked a federal judge last week to dismiss the million-dollar complaint brought by the woman, who identified herself only as Jane Doe, a Texas resident of Asian descent.

The woman claimed that soon after she signed up for a subscription service called IMDb Pro, her birthdate appeared on her profile on the database -- and her offers for roles dropped sharply. She alleged that Amazon and IMDb had used her credit card information to glean her birthdate, which she had always tried to keep a secret because she looks so much younger than she is.

The case prompted discussions about ageism in Hollywood -- as well as rampant online speculation about who the actress might be. But in its two motions to dismiss the case, Amazon and IMDb argued that it's about something else: "the perpetration of fraud."

"Plaintiff's attempt to manipulate the federal court system so she can censor IMDb.com's display of her birthdate and pretend to the world that she is not 40 years old is selfish, contrary to the public interest and a frivolous abuse of this court's resources," they wrote.

Her failure to identify herself in the complaint without first seeking the court's permission violated court rules, they said, and although they believe they know who she is, they're not entirely sure. Furthermore, they argued, when customers subscribe to IMDb Pro, they agree to a privacy policy which makes clear that the database can keep and use certain personal information.

"Even if IMDb.com used plaintiff's name, address or zip code from her credit card subscription to locate her birthdate, such use is consistent with...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Co-Founder of Social Network Diaspora Dies
Ilya Zhitomirskiy, a co-founder of the startup social networking site Diaspora that put an emphasis on privacy and user-control, has died, a company spokesman said Monday. He was 22.

The cause of Zhitomirskiy's death in San Francisco wasn't immediately known, and neither the company nor the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office would release details.

"Ilya was a great guy. He was a visionary, he was a co-founder of a company that hopes to bring a better social networking experience," said Peter Schurman, a Diaspora spokesman. "We are all very sad that he is gone. It is a huge loss for all of us, including his family."

Zhitomirskiy was one of four students who started Diaspora in a computer lab at New York University.

As an anti-Facebook of sorts, the group raised more than $200,000 by collecting contributions through the Web site Kickstarter.

Last month, it posted a blog on its Web site asking for more contributions.

The site champions the idea of sharing while keeping control. On its Web site, the company promotes itself as a "fun and creative community that puts you in control."

In a video posted on Vimeo in April 2010, when Diaspora first went looking for funds, Zhitomirskiy describes his vision.

"No longer will you be at the whims of those large corporate networks who want to tell you that sharing and privacy are mutually exclusive," Zhitomirskiy said alongside co-founders Raphael Sofaer, Dan Grippi, and Max Salzber.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is listed as a supporter. He told Wired.com in May 2010 after Facebook announced new privacy controls that he liked the open source project. "I think it is cool people are trying to do it. I see a little of myself in them," he said.

According to Zhitomirskiy's profile on Diaspora, he's "super passionate about building a world of hacker spaces, maker culture, sharing, cycling,...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Continental and United Merger Is 'On Track'
In a recent speech, Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Continental Holdings, likened merging two large airlines to a total house remodeling.

"We are not doing painting and spackling here," he told a group of business executives in Chicago.

Like a large construction project, the integration of United and Continental airlines is having its share of drama: meshing disparate cultures; the issue of new union representation contracts running behind schedule; some disgruntled pilots; customer confusion; and a long to-do list that includes minute details such as the proper verbiage when warning flight attendants to prepare for landing.

Executives at United Continental maintain that crucial operational issues have been addressed and that the merger is proceeding without major glitches.

"From my perspective, things are on track," says Jim Compton, United Continental's chief revenue officer. "Merging two airlines is a long process and complicated. We have a lot of work ahead of us."

United and Continental announced their $3 billion merger in May 2010, creating the world's largest airline to be branded "United." They said they would generate up to $1.2 billion from cost savings and new revenue from their combined flight networks. The combined airlines would generate annual revenue of about $29 billion (based on 2009 financial results), they said. Shareholders approved the deal in September 2010.

For now, the two carriers are flying under their own banners, and the company doesn't expect to finish merging the two reservation systems until the end of March. But some early integration tasks, such as painting planes and replacing signs, are proceeding quickly. Other crucial customer service issues -- aligning frequent-flier programs, recoding kiosk software, agreeing on a reservation system standard -- have made progress, too, Compton says.

United Continental also has begun to rejigger the combined fleets by shifting some planes to better matching routes. For example, a United Boeing 777...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Libraries Ramp Up E-Book Lending
Libraries nationwide are finding more ways to go mobile. After a tentative foray into digital lending on PCs and e-readers several years ago, public libraries are opening the next chapter for smartphones and tablet computers.

The movement kicked into high gear in September when Amazon finally turned on its Kindle for 11,000 local libraries, triggering a flood of new users. App developers are also working with libraries to enable book lovers to borrow on their smartphones.

"With more devices for consumers to try, they're going to get better," says Christopher Platt of the New York Public Library. "And the e-reading experience will get better."

The evolution is playing out amid some challenges, including an ongoing squabble between eager-to-grow libraries and publishers that fear losing money on digital distribution, their fastest-growing segment of business.

Some large publishers -- such as Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette -- refuse to sell to libraries, thus limiting the availability of popular titles. E-books are also more expensive, as libraries pay retail prices and go without volume-purchase discounts given to print copies.

Still, customers' appetite for e-book lending is growing unabated. According to Library Journal, public libraries will increase their offerings by 185%. E-books will account for 8% of their materials budget in five years, it says.

The New York Public Library has quadrupled its e-book budget since 2009 and plans to spend $1 million this year, Platt says. The Seattle Public Library's e-book circulation grew by 92% in 2010, says Kirk Blankenship, its electronic resources librarian.

Some new developments will accelerate the pace of growth. Among them:

Kindle agreement. Unlike the rival Barnes & Noble Nook or Sony Reader, Amazon refused to play ball with libraries on its Kindle until a few weeks ago.

When Amazon finally did e-book lending on the Kindle and app, the rocket in circulation was quick, says Mary...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Apple Strengthens Disney Ties with Board Pick
Even as tech news headlines continue to explore Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' legacy and unfinished plans, Apple is moving to fill important gaps in its board.

Apple named Arthur D. Levinson, Ph. D. as its non-executive chairman of the board. Apple also announced that Robert Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., will join the board and serve on the audit committee.

No stranger to Apple's business, Levinson has served as a co-lead director since 2005. He has served on all three board committees -- audit and finance, nominating and corporate governance, and compensation -- and will continue to serve on the audit committee. And Iger brings a media focus to Apple.

Jobs' Friend Iger Makes Board

Apple CEO Time Cook acknowledged Levinson's "enormous contributions" to Apple since he joined the board in 2001. The chairman of Genentech and a member of the Roche board of directors, Levinson has been the company's longest-serving co-lead director. He joined Genentech as a research scientist in 1980, and served as Genentech's CEO from 1995 to 2009.

Cook said the board expects Iger to make an "extraordinary addition" to an already strong board. Iger built on Disney's history of unforgettable storytelling, with the acquisition of Pixar in 2006 and Marvel in 2009. Jobs, who founded Pixar, sat on Disney's board before his passing.

"His strategic vision for Disney is based on three fundamentals: generating the best creative content possible; fostering innovation and utilizing the latest technology; and expanding into new markets around the world, which makes him a great fit for Apple," Cook said.

Iger is widely credited with making Disney an industry leader at the forefront of offering its creative content across new and multiple platforms. In June 2010, President Obama appointed him to the President's Export Council, which advises the president on how to promote...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Steve Jobs' Vision Included Apple's Own iPhone Network
Having transformed computer interfaces, mobile phones, and mobile music players, it now appears that Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs had seriously pondered creating his own Wi-Fi based network to bypass traditional carriers for the company's then-coming iPhone. The intent was nothing less than creating a network phone system for Apple.

That information comes via a recollection Monday by wireless pioneer and venture capitalist John Stanton at the Law Seminar International Event in Seattle. Stanton said that, during a considerable amount of time he spent with Jobs in the period from 2005 to 2007, the idea of creating a carrier using Wi-Fi was discussed and investigated.

'Dramatic Shift in Power'

Stanton headed the predecessor company to T-Mobile, which was called VoiceStream Wireless. By 2007, he said, Jobs decided to abandon the idea of a Wi-Fi network to support the iPhone, and instead did a deal with AT&T Wireless as the first carrier partner in the U.S. for the groundbreaking device.

Stanton, who's now head of the venture capital firm Trilogy Partnership, added that, "If I were a carrier, I'd be concerned about the dramatic shift in power that occurred," in which Apple and Google in particular are now capturing revenue, and guiding mobile product development, that formerly would have been in the realm of telecommunication carriers.

Jobs reportedly sold the iPhone to AT&T before the carrier actually saw a working device, and the deal that Apple made was groundbreaking in its terms. Apple received unprecedented revenue streams and control, including much of the customer management.

Wi-Fi and cellular frequencies both occupy the ultra-high frequency range in the radio spectrum, but Wi-Fi is unlicensed, unregulated -- and uncontrolled by the carriers.

Buy a Carrier?

There has been some speculation that Apple, with about $65 billion in cash, might now simply buy one of the carriers. Some observers have...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Boxee Cuts Cord With Live TV Dongle
Boxee is promising to let cable watchers cut the cord without cutting live TV service. The company is working on a new add-on to its set-top box, known as the Boxee Box, that will roll out in January.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen described the add-on as a Live TV dongle that lets you connect an antenna to your Boxee Box to watch channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in high definition with no monthly fees. The Live TV stick is pre-selling for $49.

"If you are like us then the way you watch TV has changed. The stuff on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Vimeo keeps getting better and you can watch it everywhere," Ronen wrote in the company blog. "You end up watching less traditional TV, but continually pay more for it, which doesn't make much sense."

Hitting Pain Points

Ronen hit a pain point for thousands of TV cable subscribers, followed by another: canceling your cable subscription and relying solely on the Internet has traditionally translated to life without live sports, local news, special events and live TV shows. Right about then, Ronen suggested his solution: Boxee Live TV.

"Last year, 89 of the top 100 shows were on broadcast networks -- they remain the most popular channels on cable," Ronen said, ticking down a list that includes the Superbowl, the World Series, the Oscars, the Grammys, presidential debates and addresses, and the Olympics.

Ronen's point is, although there are hundreds of cable channels most people actually watch the broadcast networks -- and the rest is available on streaming content services. His point may be well taken by the cable subscribing masses, many of which pay $85 a month or more. Even by combining several streaming services, consumers could pay less than their monthly cable bill.

The Holy Boxee?

"The Holy Grail is...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Samsung Releases Tweaked Tablet To Avoid German Injunction
The worldwide war between Samsung and Apple has taken a new turn. Samsung has released a slightly tweaked version of its Galaxy Tab tablet in Germany, in order to get around a legal injunction obtained by Apple.

The new model is called the 10.1N. In August, Apple won a preliminary injunction that blocked the Android-based Galaxy Tab 10.1, because of an alleged design infringement. The injunction, which currently applies only to Germany, also claimed the Tab was an iPad imitation.

'N' and a Bezel

The only discernible difference in the new model, aside from the addition of the letter "N," is that a metal frame, or bezel, now wraps around the edge of the device.

Florian Mueller, whose Foss Patents site follows technology-related patents, wrote Wednesday that, in Germany, a design is infringed "only if all of its key characteristics are matched, or if that is the overall impression of an informed person." He noted that the Tab still has the same rounded corners, even with the bezel, but that what's protected for Apple under German law is "a set of characteristics and the overall impression it makes."

In addition to countersuing Apple in a variety of countries, Samsung has also changed the way its software allows users to flip through a photo gallery on its Galaxy smartphones, in order to get around a Dutch injunction sought by Apple for a software infringement.

Mueller speculates that, if the 10.1N passes legal muster in Germany, Samsung may be able to avoid a similar, pending injunction sought by Apple in the U.S. It is expected that if this design modification doesn't satisfy the German court, Samsung will tweak the tablet's physical design again and again, and keep resubmitting it to the court, until it does.

'Killer Patents'

This legal dance is part of a broader offensive Apple has launched against...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
New HP Ultrabook Targets Business Professionals
Hewlett-Packard took the wraps off a new ultra-thin notebook Wednesday that is squarely aimed at the company's enterprise clients. Called the HP Folio 13, the new machine is designed to deliver the gamut of advanced capabilities to business professionals while delivering as long as nine hours of operation from a battery charge.

The so-called Ultrabook product category, pioneered by Intel thorough its development of low-profile processor chips that consume substantially less power than their predecessors, will be a likely choice for businesses to offer to employees looking for a more consumer-centric experience, said IDC Executive Vice President Crawford Del Prete.

"We expect Ultrabooks will reignite interest in the small form factor PC category, and by 2015 expect 95 million Ultrabooks will be shipping worldwide annually," Del Prete said Wednesday.

Weighing 3.3 pounds, the ultra-slim HP Folio has a 13.3-inch high-definition display, a back-lit keyboard, a high-definition webcam and an array of ports, including Ethernet and USB 3.0. The new machine integrates the latest ultra-low-voltage Intel Core processors and a solid-state drive (SSD) with a maximum capacity of 128 GB.

Folio delivers cinematic-quality sound based on Dolby's advanced audio v2 technology. Also offered is an optional embedded security chip for protecting the user's confidential data, together with an optional dock for connecting HP's new Ultrabook to networking, video and audio peripherals stationed on a user's work or home desktop.

Folio 13 Features

The Folio's advanced form factor integrates CoolSense -- HP's technology for dynamically managing the machine's heat signature to deliver the optimum level of user comfort. Strategically placed vents and materials keep the laptop cool and direct the heat away from the user. Whether being used in a local cafe, conference room or on the user's main desktop, CoolSense automatically adapts to the local environment to maximize user comfort.

What's more, Folio...

Thu, 17 Nov 11
Nokia's First Tablet To Run Windows 8
Armed with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, Finnish handset giant Nokia hopes to go to battle next year in the growing tablet market.

The move would deepen cooperation between the American software giant and the world's biggest cell phone maker that began with an estimated $1 billion deal to install Windows Phone 7 on Nokia's newest smartphones.

Nokia's CEO is former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop.

French Connection

Word of a Nokia tablet emerged from an unlikely source Wednesday, when the head of Nokia's French division, Paul Amsellem, told Les Echos, a business magazine, that the Windows 8-based tablet will hit the market in June.

Whether a slip or a leak, the comments also shed light on when the next version of Windows will hit the market; Microsoft has not announced a date.

A device that recreates the feel of a PC on a tablet and allows access to PC data and applications could be a missing link in the market, said ABI Research tablet expert Jeff Orr.

"Today, Microsoft offers Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 software platforms for different device form-factors, but the synergies between the two are few," he said.

"Compounding the issue is the dominance of ARM-based processor designs in media tablets; a segment that Intel x86 architecture has admittedly been absent [from] for the first product wave."

While Windows 7 won't work on ARM processors, Microsoft intends to make it happen for Windows 8, Orr said.

"At the Microsoft BUILD conference in September, Samsung tablet PCs were given to attendees with an early developer preview of Windows 8. This first glimpse into Windows 8 on a tablet was powered by an Intel Core i5 dual-core processor similar to those found in mid-range laptop and desktop PCs," Orr said.

"How well Windows 8 performs on an ARM-based device remains a well-guarded secret."

Most tablets are powered by...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Review: Kindle Fire Sacrifices To Get Under $200
The Kindle was always an odd product name. Amazon used a verb to name a thing, raising the question: Kindle what? Now we have the answer: Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire is the first full-color, touch-screen Kindle. It's available in the U.S. starting Monday for $199.

A price like that for what's essentially a small iPad is bound to light the flames of desire this holiday season. I want to cool those down a bit, or some of you will buy the Fire and feel burned.

The Fire is the best Kindle yet, no doubt about it. It's amazing that it costs half of what the first Kindle cost, just four years ago, yet does so much more than display books.

It's more of an all-purpose computer than an e-reader. It shows movies, TV shows and Web pages. It does email and lets you play games. You'll be lucky to get any reading done, with so many other things to do.

But it has to be weighed against the competition. When you do that, it becomes apparent just how spare Amazon had to keep the device to limbo under that $200 price level.

The Kindle's design is even starker than the iPad's. It's a black monolith with only one button -- the power switch -- and two jacks, for headphones and power. All the controls are on the screen.

The smaller size does make the Fire more portable than an iPad; it will fit nicely into a handbag, for instance.

The size of the screen wasn't much of an issue on the monochrome Kindles because they were mainly good for showing text anyway. But the responsive color screen of the Fire opens up a lot of possibilities, such as showing magazine and comic-book pages.

Here, the small size of the screen gets in the way. It's just too far...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Cray Replaces IBM on Supercomputing Project
The University of Illinois says Seattle-based Cray Inc. will take over construction of the stalled $300 million Blue Waters supercomputer project, three months after IBM pulled out citing cost and technical concerns.

Cray expects to have the computer online next year, keeping the project, which is being primarily paid for by the National Science Foundation, on track to finish on time.

"We clearly had to do it real quickly," said Thom Dunning, the director of the school's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. "NSF's goal was to keep the project on track as much as it possibly could be."

The cost and financing will stay essentially the same, Cray CEO Peter Ungaro said. The NSF will provide just over $200 million with the remaining $100 million coming from the university and the state of Illinois. Cray will be paid $188 million, the equivalent of about half of its total revenue from its most recent fiscal year.

"This is a transformational contract for the company," Ungaro said. "It's a very big deal for us. It's a huge contract based on the size of the company and we couldn't be more excited about it."

The design and scope of what Blue Waters should be able to do in the years ahead will change, he said.

Once completed, the supercomputer will be used for a range of projects, including the study of how tornadoes are formed and how viruses invade cells.

Blue Waters was announced in 2007 as a project to build what would have been at least briefly the world's fastest computer and a computer that could operate at sustained speeds of a petaflop -- a thousand trillion operations a second and a long-sought standard that makes massive computational projects possible.

There are now a number of computers capable of faster peak speeds, the fastest being the K Computer in Japan.


Wed, 16 Nov 11
Adding a Solid-State Drive To Your Computer
Berlin (dpa) -- If you want to give your computer a speed boost, you should think about flash drives. If you want something affordable, you need to stick with tried-and-trusted hard drives. Or you can try to have the best of both worlds and install both in your computer.

The trick is splitting the load, so the operating system and frequently accessed programs are stored on the flash solid state drive (SSD), a more modern form of drive that boosts speed by allowing all data to be accessed simultaneously, as opposed to magnetic drives, which can only give up their information as they are read front to back.

Everything else goes on that old-fashioned drive. "The speed gain through SSD is enormous," says Christof Windeck, a hardware expert for the German computer magazine c't.

You don't have to be an expert to install an SSD drive into a PC. Most SSD drives are produced in a 2.5-inch format, meaning you'll need a 3.5-inch case so it fits into the PC. Those cases usually come with any SSD drive you might order.

Laptops are a little trickier, since space is limited. You might have to decide if you can do without your optical CD/DVD drive, since that function could be provided by an external device. If you make that plunge, you'll have freed up space for an SSD drive, which also needs to be fitted into a special frame to fit into a laptop.

"Installation is no problem," says Wolfgang Hantz, who owns a hardware upgrade company in Germany. "Even a beginner can do it."

Alternatively, set up the SSD as your boot-up drive, using the freed-up hard drive space for your optical drive.

An SSD with about 100 gigabytes (GB) costs about $167 dollars at online stores. Windeck says it doesn't make sense to get one with...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Why Holiday Shoppers Are Thinking Local
Economic concerns linger, but mom-and-pop retailers say they finally have some cheer for this holiday shopping season.

Nearly half are more optimistic about holiday sales than last year, according to a new survey of 792 small retailers by online small-business community Manta. Four in 10 say they already have better sales compared with last fall.

"More than ever, the consumers in our community really seem to understand the value of shopping locally," said Jodi Black, co-owner of Conover, N.C.-based Beautiful Brains Books and Games. "We are hopeful this trend will continue through the upcoming holiday season."

Overall, holiday retail sales are expected to rise 2.8% during November and December to $465.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

That boost will come from folks like Brady Kimball of Los Angeles. She is considering bracelets and necklaces as gifts for friends -- and checking them out at Meowdy, a boutique near her home.

It's vital for local retailers to lure customers such as Kimball, as holiday sales typically make up about 20% to 30% of retailers' annual sales, NRF says.

Kimball's attraction to local shopping dates back to the years she browsed the tiny shops near her hometown of Harvard, Mass.

"The relationships we developed with these local independent retailers made our shopping a more personal experience," says Kimball, 36. That, in turn, "made any gifts we got for friends and family all that more meaningful."

The thoughtfulness and personal connection associated with unique gifts are among the biggest draws for Main Street shops, says Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon.

Independent store shoppers can find an unusual present "that has a great story behind it," says Levy, who often shops in New York City boutiques. "Local stores can add to the treasure-hunting aspect of gift shopping that the national chain stores often miss."

While many...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Barbie Ventures into Online World with Stardolls
Sorry, Ken, but Barbie's got a brand new interest for the holidays: Stardoll. Mattel, the world's biggest toymaker, [announced] plans to wed the worlds of online and offline doll play by rolling out an extensive line of "Stardoll by Barbie" fashion dolls. The dolls are mini-fashionistas right down to their eyelashes, which aren't painted on but are rooted and protrude like those on more expensive dolls.

The move, timed to roll out over the lucrative holiday season, further tears down the virtual walls in Toyland. Until this industry-changing licensing deal, Stardoll had been an online-only play phenomenon, ranking as one of the world's biggest girl-oriented sites, with 200 million girls globally using it to digitally dress up dolls.

Mattel, which has been very hesitant to link its nearly $4 billion Barbie brand with other licensed brands, is jumping in big-time with eight Stardoll dolls that will sell for a rather hefty $20.99 each.

"Think of it as the marriage of the toy world's No. 1 fashion doll with the online world's No. 1 fashion doll," says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief at TimetoPlayMag.com, a Web site that advises families on toys. Silver says it's a savvy bid by Mattel to keep hard-to-please girls up to 10 years old still playing with dolls. The key: a virtual link-up.

"We're hitting on a cultural current that shows no signs of slowing: girls engaging in the digital space," says Stephanie Cota, senior VP of worldwide marketing for Barbie and girls.

Stardolls go by names such as Fallen Angel (Goth); Bonjour Bizou (sassy) and Doll Space (sparkly). Fashion-themed dolls are on fire, with U.S. sales up 15% the past year, reports NPD Group.

The new Stardolls may appear to be a step above Barbie. And not just in price. Besides the long eyelashes, Stardolls also have a different face paint that makes...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Web Programming with HTML5 Is Coming on Strong
A new programming strategy is coming on strong among the most popular U.S. Web sites, a company that tracks Internet technologies said.

By the end of the third quarter, 34 of the 100 most frequently visited Web sites had put HTML5 to use, said binvisions.com, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The programming strategy is supported by Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., the Journal said.

Mozilla Foundation, which produces Firefox, and Opera Software ASA are also including support for HTML5 on their browsers.

The program is noted for being flexible and fast, with venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, one of the creators of Netscape, calling it "a major step forward."

"HTML5 is going to put power back in the hands of creative people," said Roger McNamee, an investor who said the programming would help artists and companies looking for a wider range of Web site options.

Among the advantages to HTML5 is the ability for developers to program applications that can be launched on smartphones, computer tablets and computers without having to reinvent the program for each device.

"If you want to be delivering a Web experience around multiple devices, you have to be doing it in HTML5," said Danny Winokur, Adobe's general manager for interactive development.

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Facebook Users Threaten to Deactivate After Porn Hack
You may want to keep one eye closed when you log on to Facebook today. The social-networking giant was hit with a hack that is posting hardcore pornography and violent images on profile pages.

Millions of Facebook accounts have reportedly been infected with a virus that spreads the smut, and users are getting angry as they feel powerless to stop the images from appearing. Anonymous is said to be behind the attacks, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Shouldn't Facebook be doing something to block pornography? Perhaps, but it's not clear how the messages are being spread, or whether it is a weakness at Facebook's end or some other type of security issue, said Graham Cluley, a senior security analyst at Sophos.

"Obviously, ideally this kind of content would never be spread via Facebook. The number of people who are reporting having seen offensive material in the last 24 hours suggests that many have been upset," he said. "Facebook has reportedly acknowledged the reports and are said to be investigating.

"Lets hope they can get a handle on it quickly before users vote with their feet. You can imagine that many people would be very offended by the messages."

Facebook Users Tweet Anger

How offensive is the content? Sophos reports that the images include altered pictures of celebrities like Justin Bieber in sexual situations, pictures of extreme violence and even a photograph of an abused dog. Facebook users are turning to Twitter to express their upset.

A Twitter user named frayntrain tweeted, "Seeing a dead dog on my Facebook newsfeed....Officially deactivating it." And another named KryshaBravo wrote, "I sign into Facebook and the 1st thing I see is a dead dog. My relationship with Facebook is now over."

Are these images dangerous to Facebook users or just offensive? Cluley said it's hard to be definitive,...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Android Smartphones Top 50 Percent Worldwide Share
Android smartphones are continuing their march to world domination. On Tuesday, a new study showed that Android-based smartphones had achieved a 52.5 percent market share in the third quarter -- more than double its share at the same time last year.

The report, from information technology research firm Gartner, also found that Symbian, once the leading operating system in the world, was now at 16.9 percent, less than half its 36.3 percent share last year. That is not surprising, given that Nokia has all but abandoned that platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system.

Nokia King of Manufacturers

Third place was Apple's iOS at 15 percent, virtually the same as 2010's 16.6 percent. Research In Motion, which has been having a succession of problems in righting itself in this new, highly competitive smartphone market, is at 11 percent, a dip from last year's 15.4 percent.

Rounding out the survey were Nokia's Bada, at 2.2 percent, Microsoft at 1.5 percent, and Others at 0.9 percent.

Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement that Android "benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment, and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM." She noted that Apple's market share suffered, especially in the U.S., as consumers waited for the new iPhone.

Nokia, still king of manufacturers at 23.9 percent, saw a drop in the second quarter but improvement in the third. Samsung takes second in device sales at 17.8 percent, followed by LG Electronics, Apple, ZTE, RIM, HTC, Motorola, Huawei Device and Sony Ericsson. Sales of smartphones to end users was up 42 percent over the same quarter in 2010.

Microsoft 'Will Keep at This'

Avi Greengart, principal analyst at Current Analysis, said he expected Windows Phone 7's market share to increase dramatically over...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
RIM Debuts New Bold, Curve BlackBerry Smartphones
Research In Motion just announced two new BlackBerry 7-powered smartphones: the Bold 9790 and the Curve 9380. The phones both offer RIM's latest innovations in communications, multimedia, productivity and social connectivity.

The Bold 9790 takes a hybrid approach with a high-resolution touchscreen and a tactile keyboard. With the Bold 9790, RIM offers a narrow design that aims to make the smartphone easier to carry and comfortable to hold. The phone has a 1 GHz processor for fast loading of web pages and apps. The device also offers 8 GB of onboard memory and a memory card slot that supports up to 32 GB of additional storage.

The Curve 9380 becomes the first in its family to offer a touch display. The Curve models offer a larger display than other BlackBerry lines. It features a 3.2inch display and a 5-megapixel camera with flash and video recording. Both phones will be available in the coming weeks, but how much of an impact the devices will make on RIM's bottom line is questionable.

OS 7 Not Truly New?

RIM is hoping its BlackBerry 7 operating system will help it regain market share. The new operating system offers improved browsing, voice-activated searches, and support for Augmented Reality and near-field communications (NFC). It also lets users manage personal content separately from corporate content, and comes with a variety of personal and productivity apps out of the box.

"The challenge is that OS 7 really is the same as OS 6 which is really the same as OS 5, which to a large degree is the same as the BlackBerry operating system you had 10 years ago," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "North American consumers are looking for more than just the ability to have a touchscreen, they are looking for a user interface that was designed from...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
U.S. Sony Stores Launch New Xperia Smartphones
Two new Android-based smartphones developed by Sony Ericsson are now available in the United States -- but only through Sony Stores across the nation.

The decision to leapfrog the major U.S. network operators and sell direct means American consumers will not benefit upfront from any carrier subsidies. However, for customers shopping for a tech-savvy smartphone to use on a prepaid basis, there are now two more attractive options when it comes to buying a handset that runs Google's Android 2.3 operating system, also known as Gingerbread.

Available for delivery in an unlocked state, the Xperia arc S and neo V are designed for use on GSM, EDGE and high speed packet access (HPSA) networks such as those operated by AT&T, T-Mobile and various regional carriers in North America. Though newcomers to the U.S. market, these new Xperia handsets from Sony Ericsson have already begun percolating sales in Europe.

"The arc in particular has helped them establish more of a presence in the smartphone market," said Gartner Vice President Carolina Milanesi.

"It will be interesting to see how their range will develop now that Sony owns the entire company and could potentially integrate more technology and exploit brand more across the portfolio," Milanesi said in an e-mail Tuesday.

Smartphone Features

Priced at $500, the Xperia arc S is equipped with a 4.2-inch color screen featuring the mobile version of Sony's BRAVIA video display technology. Under the hood, the device has a fast 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and standard FM radios; and a DLNA TV interface for displaying the multimedia content stored on the phone on compatible TVs.

Users obtain instant access to the Sony Entertainment Network, which has thousands of movies and ten million music tracks to choose from. The handset's 8.1-megapixel camera/camcorder is capable of capturing...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
Move Over, Kinect, Siri Hacks Growing
Move over, Kinect -- here comes Siri. Microsoft's gesture-and-voice-based game controller, which has been hacked and adapted for a wide range of radical new user interface applications, may soon have to share that spotlight with Apple's intelligent voice-recognition agent, Siri.

Only a few weeks since its launch with the iPhone 4S, Siri is being hacked and adapted by third-party developers. First in line for Siri-ization are other Apple devices. One group of developers, dubbed the iPhone Dev Team, has ported Siri to run on an iPhone 4 and a 4th-generation iPod Touch. But, to do so, they had to jailbreak the devices so that they would run unauthorized code.

Siri for Android?

The iPhone 4/iPod Touch hack is not yet released, but the developers have posted a video attesting to their success. There is also a report that Siri has been made to run on the iPhone 3GS, although less successfully.

To operate Siri as well as on the 4S, a device must have a powerful processor, a continual data connection, and excellent microphone pickup. Siri is unique, in that it understands many kinds of natural speech, asks questions if needed to complete a task, and communicates wirelessly with Apple's data centers, which helps to decode your communication or find the requested information.

A French developer, Applidium, has announced that it has cracked the protocol by which Siri communicates with Apple. "As a result," Applidium posted on its Web site, "we are able to use Siri's recognition engine from any device." It added that "yes, that means anyone could now write an Android app that uses the real Siri!"

All of which means that these Siri adaptations, and the booming cottage industry of finding new ways to use Kinect, could drive a massive transformation across virtually all technology, with Kinect-based in-the-air gestures and facial recognition, and...

Wed, 16 Nov 11
MacBook Air a Huge Hit for Apple
The MacBook Air may be pretty flat, but its sales figures are anything but, it seems.

New research suggests that Apple's ultra-thin notebook is a runaway hit, now comprising more than a quarter of the computer giant's notebook sales -- 28 percent in October. That's a steep increase from just 8 percent in the last quarter.

The research comes from NPD Group and Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, who specializes in Apple. In June she predicted, based on visits to component companies in Taiwan, that a new iPhone would come out in the late third quarter.

The research obtained exclusively by AppleInsider highlights the popularity of this summer's upgrade in the MacBook Air, particularly instant start-up and the addition of the Thunderbolt port for connection to Firewire or Gigabit Ethernet area networks.

So 2010

Technology consultant Rob Enderle of Enderle Group sees the age of optical drives for CDs and DVDs fading fast.

"The new Ultrabooks don't have CD drives and they have little use in today's download/app store centric market," Enderle said. "I think what we are seeing is the approaching end of the optical disk in PCs. Ultrabooks are the showcase product going into next year and have broad OEM support."

Ultrabooks are an emerging class of thin (less than 0.8 inch), lightweight, portable laptops, using Intel Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors, made much thinner by the absence of a drive or any moving parts inside, replaced by flash-based solid-state drives. Ultrabooks include the 11-inch and 13-inch display MacBook Air, as well as the Asus Zenbook, Lenovo's IdeaPad and Toshiba's Portege.

"I'm not sure any vendor is pulling the plug [on optical drives] yet," Enderle said. "They are just putting more emphasis initially into Ultrabooks and thinner form factors that don't use the drives. Windows 8 favors downloads and app stores, so...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Apple Recalls First-Generation iPod nano for Battery Issue
Apple's iPod nano has always been a hot consumer item, but it may get a little too hot. Dangerous, even.

So the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer and mobile devices giant is asking people who bought the first-generation device, circa 2005, to turn it in for a replacement.

Safety Risk

"Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk," the company said in a post in its support forum for the nano. "Affected iPod nanos were sold between September 2005 and December 2006."

Apple blamed "a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect" for the issue, but stressed, "While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages."

Given the staggering number of iPods sold since in the near-decade since the groundbreaking MP3 was introduced -- more than 150 million since 2002 -- the number of overheating incidents is minuscule, but may be more than Apple would like to admit.

A Seattle TV station, KIRO, in 2008 filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request with the Consumer Product Safety Commission asking for an account of all overheating complaints related to the iPod. Apple's lawyers blocked the request, KIRO said.

When it finally received the documents, the station said, there were 15 incidents of sparks, smoke and damaged furniture between 2005 and 2008.

A Cincinnati mother sued Apple for $225,000 in 2009 after she said an overheated iPod Touch burned through her son's pants and burned his leg. The status of that case is unclear.

The recall does not affect other models of the iPod, and the company appears to be concerned about an increased threat in older devices.

"They identified this problem a while ago, they're just looping back now that the batteries are getting older...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Japan's K Machine Tops World Supercomputer List
Japan's K computer has set a record for high-performance computing, according to the new Top500 List released Monday by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Mannheim in Germany.

Jointly developed by Fujitsu and the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, the K computer succeeded in performing 10.5 quadrillion floating-point operations per second (petaflops), which broke the prior record of 8.16 petaflops achieved last June by an earlier configuration of the same machine.

Named after the Japanese word for 10 quadrillion (pronounced "kei"), Japan's supercomputer currently leads the field because of the SPARC64 VIIIfx chips specifically developed by Fujitsu for petaflop-scale computing applications. Each processor within the K computer's massively interconnected system contains eight cores running at 2 gigahertz, together with 5 MB of shared memory and an embedded memory controller.

The world's most advanced supercomputer, which is four times more powerful than its nearest competitor, is expected to become fully operational in November 2012. In its final configuration, the K computer will integrate 864 equipment racks collectively housing 88,128 interconnected CPUs.

"We truly hope that the K computer's world-class performance will benefit and deliver value to both Japan and the entire world," said Fujitsu President Masami Yamamoto.

Wide Range of Applications

Among other things, scientists already are planning to use Japan's K computer to analyze the behavior of nano-materials. The results of their simulations are expected to aid in the development of next-generation semiconductor building blocks such as nano-wires and carbon nano-tubes featuring lower power consumption requirements.

What's more, the K computer will be able to simulate seismic wave propagation, helping scientists to more accurately predict the extent to which earthquake-impact zones may be subsequently impacted by tsunamis. Furthermore, the petaflop computational power of the new machine will be harnessed...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Intel Rolls Out New Sandy Bridge Processors with AVX
Aiming at the peak of the high-end gaming market, Intel on Monday introduced two new six-core processors: the Intel Core i7-3960X processor Extreme Edition and the Intel Core i7-3930K processor.

The new entrants mark the first six-core processors in the second-generation Sandy Bridge family. With more than 2 billion transistors, Intel claims its latest client processors offer the processing power equivalent of approximately 365,000 Intel 4004 processors.

The new i7s target users and developers of advanced applications, such as content creation, 3D rendering and high-end gaming. Intel promises the additional cores, large CPU caches and new quad-channel memory support will offer better support for these applications.

Look Out, Nvidia

Based on Intel's 32nm manufacturing process, the new CPUs run at base speeds of 3.3 and 3.2 GHz with 15 MB and 12 MB of L3 cache, respectively. The Intel X79 Express chipset that supports this new LGA 2011 socket platform makes possible 6Gb/s Serial ATA ports and additional PCIe 2.0 lanes to allow expandability for high-end desktop platforms.

"To render our uniquely textured worlds, RAGE uses a very compute-intensive real-time process to transcode texture data from highly compressed form on disk to a compression format the GPU can use directly for rendering," said John Carmack, technical director at game maker id Software. "With two more available cores, a six-core system can transcode over 50 percent more texture data per second during game play than a four-core system, bringing new surfaces to full resolution quicker."

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, thought it was interesting that Intel used quotes from the likes of Carmack as part of its industry marketing efforts. He said id Software makes some of the most visually demanding gaming applications on the market.

"That's the type of developer and those are the types of customers that Intel is aiming at...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Pogoplug Offers New Cloud for Mobile Devices
There's another cloud in the quite cloudy, virtual sky. On Monday, San Francisco-based Pogoplug unveiled its Pogoplug Cloud, a free online storage space for mobile users -- offering yet another choice for businesses and consumers who want to back up and share their content.

Users can sign up from their mobile phone or tablet, and receive up to 5GB of space on the Pogoplug Cloud. Additional storage can be purchased, or users can set up their own private, unlimited cloud by buying a Pogoplug box.

For iPhone, iPad, Android

The services allow a participating user to automatically upload photos and videos to the Cloud, or to share anything stored in the cloud through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Music and high-definition videos can be streamed from the cloud to the mobile device.

The service is available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. The user signs onto the network, and the Pogoplug Cloud icon appears, as if it were just another drive.

The company is known for its Cloud Engine Pogoplug, a device that, along with the company's free service, gives easy access to several storage devices in a home or office via the Web. A software update last year also enables the device to offer Web printing from any smartphone or tablet.

There's also Pogoplug Mobile, a small black box for attaching a USB drive or a SD memory card, which allows the content to be shared remotely. The company also offers Pogoplug software for turning any computer, Mac or PC into a personal cloud.

Pogoplug, backed by venture capital funding, is one of many companies that are looking to the clouds. Apple's iCloud, for instance, allows users to sync content between Apple devices, such as a Mac, iPhone or iPad, and another Apple device -- or a PC running Windows. There's automatic...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
AMD Rolls Out New Opteron Processors
AMD just rolled out new processors as it continues to battle rival Intel for enterprise server customers. Once code-named Interlagos, the Opteron 6200 and 4200 series processors are making bold promises.

For starters, AMD claims the new series offers better performance, increased scalability for virtualization and up to 73 percent more memory bandwidth. That allows servers to host more virtual machines and handle increasing workloads.

AMD also touts more efficient economics for the cloud with half the power per core, requiring two-thirds less floor space and as much as two-thirds lower platform price.

"Our industry is at a new juncture. Virtualization has provided a new level of reliable consolidation and businesses are now looking to the cloud for even more agility and efficiency," said Paul Struhsaker, corporate vice president and general manager for commercial business at AMD. "We designed the new AMD Opteron processor for this precise moment."

AMD's 2012 Roadmap

AMD also announced the expansion of its 2012 roadmap with the addition of the new AMD Opteron 3000 Series platform. The AMD Opteron 3000 Series platform targets the ultra-dense, ultra-low power 1P Web Hosting/Web Serving and micro-server markets. Specifically, the AMD Opteron 3000 series offering is designed for hosting customers who need dedicated servers for their customers.

Systems from Acer, Cray, Dell, HP, IBM and many additional channel and motherboard partners are expected on the market in the coming days and weeks.

The first processor in the lineup will be the four- to eight-core CPU code-named "Zurich." AMD expects to ship the product in the first half of 2012. "Zurich" is based on the "Bulldozer" architecture and leverages the new Socket AM3+.

AMD is also introducing embedded server processors designed for high-end embedded systems such as storage, telecommunications and networking infrastructure. These models are planned to be available to match the embedded market's longevity need.


Tue, 15 Nov 11
Impractical? Absurd? Not for Secret Google X Lab
Driverless cars, Net-connected refrigerators, and dinner plates that track what you eat. These are some of the out-there projects being researched at Google X, a secret R&D lab at the technology giant.

The lab's existence -- which even many Google employees don't know about -- and some of the projects are outlined in a report in Monday's New York Times. The paper said the lab is working on a hundred "shoot-for-the-stars ideas," citing a dozen unnamed people who work at the lab or have knowledge of it. Researchers at Google X hail from Microsoft, Stanford, M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere.

Space Elevators

The lab's exploration into a seemingly limitless number of industries and would-be industries is typical of Google, which long ago emerged from being a search-engine giant to becoming the organizer of the world's information, and now has moved beyond even that lofty goal.

Space elevators, for instance. The concept, where freight is hauled into orbit by a cable anchored between the earth and a space-based platform, is considered to be one of Google X's projects.

Some of the projects are relatively near-term, while many others appear to have no discernible product target. Driverless cars, which use intelligent driving systems, may be on the near-term track, as Google is reportedly investigating the possibility of manufacturing such vehicles in the U.S., or licensing the technology.

In some cases, of course, a key question is whether the product or research is a solution in search of a problem. In the case of driverless cars, Google has said that the technology could address traffic accidents, many of which are caused by driver error or fatigue.

Wired Coffee Pots

Then there are remotely controlled robots, which might attend conferences in place of its human owner, as such a unit did on behalf of Google co-founder Sergey Brin at a...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Fujitsu Opens Its Cloud Store with CRM
Fujitsu's cloud store is open for business, beginning with customer relationship management. The company said earlier this week that its new, cloud-based Business Solutions Store will offer new subscription-based business services in a single platform marketplace.

For independent software vendors (ISVs), said cloud business vice president Andre Kiehne in a statement, "partnering with Fujitsu is the equivalent of a 'backstage' pass, since it provides them with easy access to a growing and truly global cloud solutions marketplace."

'Standard Feature Set'

The Business Solutions Store will include offerings from both Fujitsu and its partners, provided as software-as-a-service. A single interface will be available to set up new applications in the cloud-based Store.

This platform marketplace is the latest in Fujitsu's growing cloud environment. The company started recruiting ISVs last year to participate in a revenue-sharing model, in order to increase the number of business apps it could provide in the cloud. The company has been pushing its Global Cloud Platform as a way for ISVs to jump-start their ability to offer cloud-based services, without any initial investment. The revenue split with partners has not been disclosed.

With its CRM Cloud Services, Fujitsu is offering the first of its business apps, alongside those of partners. CRM Cloud Services, based on open source technology, provides what the company described as a "standard feature set" but at a "more affordable entry point," although the exact features are not yet detailed.

Both the Business Solutions Store and the CRM Cloud Services will be rolled out into various global markets early next year.

Pricing, Small Vendors

The CRM app was originally an in-house app for the company, which Fujitsu decided to build after it surveyed the prices and functionalities of others. Some observers have questioned whether Fujitsu, which is better known as a service provider in Japan than in other countries, will be able...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Tweets Become New Spin Room in 2012 Race
Rick Perry had barely gotten through his gaffe in Wednesday's Republican primary debate when a rolling commentary on the TV screen declared his campaign on life support.

"Perry is done," came a Twitter posting from a viewer called (at)PatMcPsu, even while the Texas governor struggled to name the third of three federal agencies he said he would eliminate as president. Another, called (at)sfiorini, messaged, "Whoa? Seriously, Rick Perry? He can't even name the agencies he wants to abolish. Wow. Just wow."

Perry insists his campaign isn't over and has vowed to move on from his meltdown.

One used to have to wait for several minutes after the debate ended for analysis of the 2012 presidential contest. But if Wednesday's exchange is any indication, social networking has become the instant punditry. The 140-character messages known as tweets came from ordinary viewers and prominent campaign strategists alike.

Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have long been hotbeds of political conversation, largely for an insider crowd of activists and news junkies. But CNBC, which aired the debate, took things a step further, featuring an onscreen crawl of tweets from viewers reacting to what was transpiring onstage. That allowed ordinary viewers to chime in on the political conversation and an even larger audience.

Social media provides "a real time citizen voice," according to Matthew Nisbet, an associate professor of communications at American University who studies politics and digital media.

"It's no longer a passive audience experience, watching commentators and political strategists discussing what is being seen on the screen," Nisbet said. "Now people can hear it from a more diverse range of voices, and potentially from their peers."

CNBC spokesman Brian Steel said the network, which specializes in business and financial news and runs a continuous stock ticker, viewed social media as a natural partner for the debate.

"During business hours...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Twitter Must Give User Info in WikiLeaks Probe
A federal judge on Thursday sided with government attorneys investigating the disclosure of classified documents on WikiLeaks and upheld a ruling that the Web site Twitter must turn over certain account information to prosecutors.

Lawyers for three Twitter account holders, all of whom have some connection to WikiLeaks, had argued that forcing Twitter to cooperate with the investigation by turning over the data amounts to an invasion of privacy and chills Twitter users' free speech rights.

But in a 60-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria, Virginia, affirmed an opinion issued in March by a federal magistrate that the government's tactics were permissible.

Prosecutors have said federal law specifically allows them to seek account information and say it is a routine investigative tool. The law in question -- the Stored Communications Act -- allows prosecutors to obtain certain electronic data without a search warrant or a demonstration of probable cause. Instead, the government must only show that it has a reasonable belief that the records it seeks are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.

The court order does not seek the content of the users' tweets, but instead seeks the IP addresses associated with the accounts.

Lawyers for the Twitter users, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say the government can use those IP addresses as a sort of virtual tracking device to pin down the specific computer used by an account holder and with it the user's physical location.

O'Grady's order also allows the government to keep secret any similar orders it sought from other social media sites. The Twitter users' lawyers have speculated that other Web sites were targeted with similar orders.

"The government shouldn't be allowed to get information about individuals' Internet communications without a warrant, and it certainly shouldn't be able to do it in secret,"...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
China Tries To Rein in Internet with New Threats
China's censors are trying to prevent critical postings and rumors on the Internet from reaching a broader audience, issuing new orders to prohibit news media from reporting online information before it is verified.

The regulations, dated last month and posted Friday on an official Web site, are the latest attempt by the authoritarian government to retighten control over information that has been loosened as people use social media to pass on news and bypass traditional censorship.

The rules ban reporters and news media from reporting any information taken from the Internet or mobile phones without firsthand verification. Violators may be barred from working in media for five years, and serious infractions may lead to criminal charges.

A media regulator said the rules are needed to restore government prestige and media credibility following a spate of reports based on "false information" -- often a euphemism for reports the government would rather suppress.

"Unverified reports are on an upward trend, and to a certain extent that has undermined the government's image, disrupted the information order, reduced the credibility of the media and brought a strong social response," the General Administration of Press and Publications, the agency that regulates printed media, said on its Web site.

In one sense, the regulations confront an issue media and governments around the world face in the Internet era: how to ensure the reliability of information, photos and video when ordinary people, not just professional media, can generate and circulate them instantly across cyberspace.

Many of the rules outline what are normal procedures in newsrooms in other societies. The rules forbid publishing doctored images and place restrictions on the use of anonymous sources.

But in China, where the media have long been tightly restricted, regulations are often used to enhance government control. Social media, especially Twitter-like micro-blogs known as "weibo" in Chinese, are among...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Yahoo Strategies Puzzle Investors
Even as Yahoo rolls out a fresh batch of social and mobile products and services, its strategic moves continue to baffle investors and analysts alike.

And at least one major shareholder isn't happy. Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, in a letter to Yahoo's board on Friday, pushed for the ouster of director and company co-founder Jerry Yang. Loeb, who owns a 5.2% slice of Yahoo through a fund called Third Point, asserts that Yang has too many conflicts of interest.

Chief among them is Loeb's contention that Yang is in discussions with several buyout firms about joining forces to acquire a controlling stake in Yahoo. Loeb's letter names the Blackstone Group, KKR, Providence Equity Partners, Silver Lake Partners and Texas Pacific Group as firms talking to Yang, who co-founded Yahoo in 1995 with David Filo.

Yang had no comment.

The shareholder hullabaloo is just the latest distraction for the scuffling Internet pioneer. Though the online display ad market is growing in the U.S. -- especially in the sale of targeted ads based on unique data -- Yahoo badly lags behind Facebook and Google. At the same time, Yahoo made "no strides forward in the dominant technology trends -- social, mobile and cloud. And, if anything, they've lost even more ground," says Jonathan Yarmis, an independent tech analyst.

In September, Yahoo booted Carol Bartz as CEO after she failed to reverse its flagging fortunes despite 2 years on the job. Then the board hired investment bankers Goldman Sachs Group and Allen & Co. to help the company explore its strategic options. In recent months, Yahoo has padded its editorial ranks, stealing key execs from CBS Interactive. Last week, the company bought online ad network Interclick for $270 million and bolstered its mobile and social efforts.

The confluence of seemingly conflicting strategies has confounded followers of the Internet...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
Ashton Kutcher's Paterno Tweet Prompts Web Backlash
Think before you tweet. That's the message Ashton Kutcher -- and no doubt scores of other Twitter-happy celebrities -- have taken away from one of the biggest Hollywood Twitter fails ever: the Two and a Half Men star's Wednesday night tweet railing against the decision to fire Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who was forced out amid the child sexual assault scandal involving a former assistant that has engulfed the university. Adding to the cringe-worthy nature of the gaffe: Kutcher and wife Demi Moore run an anti-sex slavery charity.

After being barraged by criticism, Kutcher deleted the original tweet (How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste), tweeted an apology admitting ignorance of the story behind Paterno's departure (he called himself an "idiot") and then posted a letter to his blog Thursday saying that he was turning over management of his feed to his team at Katalyst Media. Punctuating the whole episode? A photo Kutcher posted of his shaggy self next to a sign reading: "I'm with stupid." The accompanying tweet: "What's a picture worth?"

It was a stunning cyber-comeuppance for a celebrity who, with more than 8 million followers, helped pioneer the very medium he mangled. And it's a cautionary tale for other stars with a penchant for piping up in 140-character spurts.

"Tweeting and social media are a lot like medicine: First, do no harm. Then, get your brand and ideas and your thoughts out there," says Howard Bragman, veteran publicist and vice chairman of Reputation.com, who estimates that half of all celebrity tweets are from a star's, vs. his team's, fingertips; the "smart ones" vet their mini-missives through a staff. "Any celebrity who doesn't look at (Kutcher's gaffe) and learn from it is making a mistake."

Other famous people have flubbed...

Tue, 15 Nov 11
College.xxx? Schools Snap Up Porn Domains
The world is getting closer to the launching of a new Internet address system for pornography providers, and there are some eye-opening names being registered. Among them: washu.xxx and mizzou.xxx.

Don't, however, expect to find naked co-eds at either of these sites.

In what amounts to a defensive maneuver, schools across the nation are snapping up the .xxx domain names that match their federally registered trademarks. It's simply a matter of trying to keep them out of the wrong hands.

"We don't want someone coming across our trademark on a porn site. God only knows what they'd come up with," said Terry Robb, director of information technology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, which also has registered missouri.xxx and missouritigers.xxx.

Colleges and universities are no different than other organizations in this regard. With the impending launching of the new .xxx top level domains later this year, everyone with a trademark had a chance to reserve names in what's called a 'sunrise phase." Essentially, it provides some protection for organizations against domain prospectors who grab sites to use or sell at a profit.

In theory, the .xxx top level domain will give adult content providers a natural place to be on the Internet. But it has been criticized by the porn industry, which worries that this is the first step in forcing all adult providers to move to the more easily blocked domain addresses.

Against this backdrop, universities and other organizations have been forced to decide whether it's worth the time, trouble and money (about $200 per domain) to take control of their .xxx sites.

Some experts don't think there's a lot to be worried about for the vast majority of institutions.

"Then again, it's just a couple of hundred bucks. So I don't see any reason not to do it," said Greg Jackson, vice president for policy and analysis...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Google Acquisitions Beef Up Google+, Chrome
CEO Larry Page has built a reputation for making quick decisions to help his company compete in various markets. This week, Page decided to bet on two start-ups to help Google compete with Facebook and Firefox.

On Thursday, Google confirmed that it is purchasing Palo Alto social networking firm Katango and San Francisco browser technology startup Apture. Similar to Circles, Katango helps social networkers group contacts.

"Very excited to confirm that we've just acquired Katango!" Google vice president of Products Bradley Horowitz wrote on Google+. "In the earliest days of Google+, I alluded to the fact that we had big plans for Circles. Are you ready for some magic in your Circles? These folks are magicians!"

Happy VCs

Kleiner Perkins took a chance on Katango. The startup was KP's first to benefit from KP's $250 million social media fund. Katango is the brainchild of a group of Stanford PhDs with deep roots in artificial intelligence. They've applied their theoretical learning to create a complex algorithmic solution to a very real problem: organizing and sorting through a flood of contacts and content social networks generate.

"Katango was founded a little over a year ago to develop social algorithms that improve people's online social interaction," the firm wrote in a notice on its web site. "We're excited to join the Google+ team and carry on fulfilling that mission. Google+ is seeing tremendous momentum, so it's a perfect time to join and make Circles smarter for millions of people."

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, sees the Katango acquisition as a necessary move for Google. The lack of interest from Google execs and lack of investment into the product has troubled him given what's at stake. Google failed with its Buzz social network offering.

"Google Chairman Eric Schmidt didn't bother to join Google+ until recently. This was...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Facebook-FTC Privacy Settlement Near, Leaks Say
It's one of the drawbacks of being on Facebook: If you never make any adjustments to your privacy settings, you can assume everyone can see everything you post, or do, while using the giant social media network. Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 and now claiming an astonishing 800 million users seems ready to give in to pressure for more built-in privacy, as it negotiates with the Federal Trade Commission to settle claims that it violates users' rights.

Reports Friday said Facebook will agree to ask users to opt-in to any changes that allow their information to be used by the company -- something it's hard to imagine many users will want to do.

Leaked Information

Perhaps ironically, the news of a settlement about privacy came via leaks from people involved in the negotiations to the media.

Bloomberg Business Week, citing "a person familiar with the negotiations," said Facebook would agree to "get express consent from users before sharing material posted under earlier, more restrictive terms."

The Wall Street Journal also reported that sources close to the talks said Facebook agreed to obtain express consent from users before making material retroactive changes in privacy. The New York Times said the two sides are near a settlement that would include privacy audits for the next 20 years and preventing Facebook from making public any future information without their consent, but said the deal would not include requiring Facebook to ask users if they want to participate in current or future sharing features.

Facebook has good reason to put the legal matters behind it, Business Week said: An initial public offering could come next year, and it doesn't want jittery investors.

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center as well as the Center for Digital Democracy, the Consumer Federation and others asked the FTC to investigate whether Facebook was engaging...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Co-founder Confirms Steam Gaming Platform Hack
Valve notified users of the company's extremely popular online Steam gaming platform on Thursday that cyber-criminals had succeeded in stealing its Steam customer database in addition to hacking the online service's user forums last Sunday evening.

"We will reopen the forums as soon as we can," said Valve co-founder Gabe Newell in an online statement. "I am truly sorry this happened, and I apologize for the inconvenience."

Valve said it had encrypted the credit card information from customers stored on the company's servers. "We don't have evidence of credit card misuse at this time," Newell noted. "Nonetheless you should watch your credit card activity and statements closely," he advised.

In the wake of the notorious hacker attacks on the Sony PlayStation and Sony Pictures web sites earlier this year, companies doing business online have become more cautious about how they handle sensitive information, such as customer credit card numbers and other personal identification details. Still, Sophos security expert Paul Ducklin thinks companies like Valve could do more.

"Send an email to Steam asking why they encrypted credit card data and passwords, but apparently not the rest of its users' personally identifiable information," Ducklin advised Steam account holders in a blog. "In fact, send an email to every company with whom you do business online, and ask them how much of the data they hold about you is encrypted."

An Excellent Starting Map

Too many companies are simply treating payment card industry (PCI) compliance as if it were just another box they needed to check without thinking things through, Ducklin noted.

"They have taken the whole issue of PCI compliance as a security destination to be reached, rather than an excellent starting map for their security journey," Ducklin wrote.

Valve first became aware of the Steam intrusion last Sunday, when hackers defaced the online gaming platform's member forums...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Logitech CEO Says Google TV 'Cost Us Dearly'
Logitech is abandoning Google TV. But the electronics maker is doing more than discontinuing the Revue set top box, which runs the Google TV software. The company is making some startling admissions about its decision to partner with the search engine giant.

News reports are circulating around comments Logitech chairman and acting CEO Guerrino De Luca uttered at the company's Analyst and Investor Day on Wednesday.

De Luca, for example, reportedly said the Revue was a "mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature." He blamed Google, in part. De Luca said his firm "executed a full scale launch with a beta product and it cost us dearly."

"The Revue got terrible reviews, and for good reason -- relying on a wireless keyboard and clunky interface, the device offered a totally unpleasant user experience," De Luca told analysts and investors, according to The Verge. "Google is working on improving the technology. It has a ways to go."

Revue's Mixed Reviews

Logitech did get some positive spin. Wired magazine editors actually picked Logitech's Revue over Apple TV, Western Digital TV Live Hub Media Center and Seagate's GoFlex TV HD. The Revue sold for $99. But consumers weren't as always as kind.

"The Logitech Review is an after thought of Apple TV as it seems everything else is these days as well. Where Apple does a great job with the small remote that does so much, Logitech gives you a computer keyboard as if WEB TV was making a strong come back," a reviewer called Offshore48 wrote on Logitech's web site on Nov. 4.

"It works, it's not great, navigation is a hazard to you, and you have a huge keyboard that is larger than the largest remote they make. Obviously somebody thought this was a great idea and as of now the Logitech Revue is sitting idle...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Did Apple's iOS Update Worsen iPhone 4S Battery Problems?
Has Apple worsened the reported battery problems of its iPhone 4S? An update of its iOS 5 software on Thursday is resulting in complaints about battery issues -- even by some users who previously had no problems.

The version 5.0.1 update, delivered wirelessly, was supposed to correct bugs that caused the battery drain issues for some users, as well as fixing a bug affecting iCloud documents, adding multitasking gestures to the first iPad, and improving voice recognition for users in Australia who use dictation.

Wirelessly Delivered

One user, echoing the sentiments of many on the Apple Support Forums, wrote that "I seem to be losing battery life significantly after upgrading to iOS 5.0.1!!! Both my iPod4 and iPhone4. Before, I never noticed a problem. I even restarted my phone right after installing."

Another user said that, "after upgrading to 5.0.1, my iPhone is draining the battery even faster." A user named Healy79 said that, "after installing 5.0.1 I charged it up fully before going to bed and after 7 hours just sitting there lost 79 percent, and have lost further 5 percent while logging in and typing this."

Implicit in the battery brouhaha is the memory of Apple's Antennagate, following the release of the iPhone 4.

The reports of signal strength issues with the iPhone 4 began piling up shortly after its release. Apple had been suggesting that the signal-strength issue, which occurred when a user placed a hand or finger near the antenna on the lower left side of the device, was largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that mistakenly showed more bars "than it should for a given signal strength."

The turning point was when Consumer Reports magazine wrote that it could not recommend the device because of those issues. The non-profit organization also said that "it's the company's responsibility to provide the...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Coke Wins on Facebook with Social Media Marketing
For years, Coca-Cola has told us that so many parts of life "go better" with the iconic soft drink. You can now add social media to the list as well.

Coca-Cola has quietly become one of the most popular brands on Facebook, along with such pop-culture icons as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Eminem. Coke, with its 35 million fans, is the 16th-most-popular Facebook page. Disney is No. 23.

Advertising Age [has] named Coke its "Marketer of the Year," citing it as an example of how small and midsize brands also "can use creative stunts and strategic partnerships to get a lot done on a smaller budget."

On Facebook, Coca-Cola has received more than 35 million "likes," and Wendy Clark, Coke's senior vice president of integrated marketing who oversees the social-media effort, says having all those fans respond to Coke is meaningful.

"Fans are twice as likely to consume and 10 times more likely to purchase than non-fans," she says, in an interview at Coke headquarters here.

The emphasis on social media has clearly paid off, even though it's only part of Coke's overall $2.9 billion advertising strategy for TV, radio, Internet, print advertising and billboards.

Coke, the world's largest beverage company with some 500 different drinks -- soft drinks, teas, coffees, juices and water -- says its overall beverage volume is up 6% worldwide year to date; 3% for Coke alone. About 1.7 billion drinks of Coke are served daily in cans and bottles and from vending machines.

USA TODAY visited Coke here in an off-campus semi-secret (there's no Coke branding on the outside) warehouse facility less than a mile from Coke headquarters. Inside, there are no iconic red Coke logos. The one nod to its legacy: a new Coke vending machine that offers 125 different flavor combinations of Coke, Sprite, Fanta and other company products.

The interview...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Mobile Apps Help You Spend Wisely
Jim Langehennig set out last Black Friday to get a popular HDTV with a great advertised price. When the Consumer Reports electronics lab manager got to the store, however, it was sold out.

Another model had an unadvertised special, but Langehennig didn't want to buy it without checking the reviews. But he didn't have the magazine's app or mobile site loaded on his new phone. So he drove 30 miles home to use his computer. Fortunately, the other TV was still at the store when he got back.

"It would have been great to have the app right there in front of me," Langehennig says. Shopping and doing research on the fly can really pay off during the holiday season, especially when smartphones and tablets are used to compare prices and check product reviews.

But credit expert Gerri Detweiler says there also can be a downside to shopping with your mobile device.

"We can always be in shopping mode," warns Detweiler, co-author of Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress. "A minute of boredom can turn into a big credit card bill."

It seems as if one new -- or at least, improved --mobile shopping app is being introduced every day as the holiday season gets closer. While mobile sites compress retailers' websites so they fit on phone and tablet screens, apps offer more features and functions. It could be tempting for shoppers to fill their phones with apps and do much of their research and even purchases on the go. The best ones for each consumer will vary by favorite stores and choice of mobile device.

But everyone should have at least one price comparison app. EBay's Red Laser and Amazon's Price Check are good choices. Kevin Sterneckert, director of retail research for the technology advisory company Gartner Group, prefers Price Check...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Review: Motorola Revives Razr Name with Smartphone
With its super-slim, stylish frame, Motorola's Razr phone became incredibly popular in 2004 -- a smash hit that Motorola hasn't been able to replicate. Now, many years later, the company is trying to recapture some of that magic by ushering the Razr into the smartphone age.

The new Droid Razr, available Friday through Verizon Wireless for $300 with a two-year service contract, echoes the svelte form and good looks of its ancestor.

It has many great features, including a big touch screen and the ability to use Verizon's high-speed 4G LTE network for zippy Web surfing. It also has Motorola's MotoCast service for wirelessly streaming and downloading content stored on your computer.

Yet I couldn't get much time to enjoy the phone because using it with LTE quickly wore down the battery.

And while the phone runs the latest version of Google Inc.'s Android software that is available for smartphones, shoppers may be tempted to wait. Verizon will soon offer Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, which will come with an even newer version of Android called Ice Cream Sandwich. The Droid Razr is expected to get that update, too, but not until next year.

Don't get me wrong, though: The Droid Razr is a hot phone.

Gazing at it for the first time, I had the same thought as I did when I first laid eyes on the now-ancient Razr phone: How the heck did Motorola make the phone that thin? Except for a chunk at the top that houses the rear camera, flash and an external speaker, the Droid Razr is slimmer than any other smartphone. It's just a third of an inch thick. It's light, too, at 4.5 ounces.

It makes other smartphones -- Apple's iPhone included -- look chubby by comparison.

Its back is covered in diagonal gray and black lines composed of Kevlar fiber, which is...

Sat, 12 Nov 11
Small Business Holiday Parties on the Cheap
If there isn't enough money in your budget to hold a big holiday party for your small business, start thinking like an entrepreneur. In other words, get creative, and think of ways to put on a party that you can afford.

Employees at many companies understand that the economy is still dicey, and that business is more uncertain than it was a year ago. So if you tell them you can't afford to have the kind of event you had last year, they'll likely understand. But you should have some kind of celebration to let staffers know you appreciate the effort they've put in for you.

You need to make it the best party you can. Don't present your staff with a fait accompli party. In other words, don't say, "We're having pizza next Thursday to celebrate the holidays" and leave it at that. Call a staff meeting and ask your employees what kind of party they want. You'll probably find staffers are enthusiastic, come up with ideas and volunteer to help.


Many companies are forgoing parties in restaurants or event spaces and having them onsite. So, turn your break or conference room into Party Central, where the food and beverages can be set up. Make sure the party area is decorated.

The beauty of an onsite party is that you have more choices for the kind of food you have than if you pick a restaurant to go to. There's plenty of competition among companies that cater -- whether they're restaurants, catering companies or supermarkets. If there's a warehouse club like Costco, Sam's Club or BJs nearby, you can get a lot of party food without breaking your budget.

One of the cheapest ways of putting on a party is also the most fun -- the pot-luck party. Chances are you've got...

Fri, 11 Nov 11
Amazon Increases Orders for Kindle Fire
Days before the release of its new Kindle Fire tablet next week, Amazon is reportedly upping its initial production run through the end of this year to 5 million units. This is at least the second time the company has increased its order volume, and there are indications that pre-orders for the giant retailer's new product are strong.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos mentioned in his last call with analysts that "millions more" of the Fire were being ordered than was originally planned. According to estimates by eDataSource, a digital marketing firm, Amazon took 95,000 orders for the device on the first day of pre-sales in September. While less than a third of the original iPad's first day of sales last year, that level of volume is considered impressive.

2,000 Units Per Hour

Some Web reports, citing internal Amazon inventory documents, have said that the Fire is selling 2,000 units per hour, about 50,000 a day. At that rate, it would outsell the first month of sales for either Apple's iPad or iPad 2.

The Fire, retailing for $199, is scheduled to ship on Tuesday.

Given these sales numbers and increases in volume orders, there is speculation about whether the Fire is a competitor to the continued success of the category-dominating iPad. When the Fire originally was announced, many observers pegged it as an evolutionary step in e-reader development and as focused on competing with Barnes & Noble's Nook, and less as a direct iPad competitor.

But a new survey by consumer shopping site Retrevo indicates that, whether Amazon has intended or not, the Fire may be competing with the iPad for consumer dollars. In October, the site conducted a survey of more than 1,000 people, which showed that 69 percent were interested in buying a tablet this holiday season. Of that 69 percent, 44...

Fri, 11 Nov 11
Look Out, Siri! Here Comes Amazon's Yap
The race is on to make your computer a conversational buddy. Amazon recently bought a voice-recognition company appropriately named Yap, in an apparent effort to shore up its competitive position against Apple's new intelligent voice agent Siri.

Siri, released with Apple's iPhone 4S, is fast gaining an enthusiastic following. Widespread voice interaction has become the next stage of user interfaces, and some observers predict Apple could be preparing to release TV sets within the next year that employ Siri for remote control. Microsoft's Kinect game controller, whose technology is now being adapted for other uses, includes voice recognition, along with motion sensing, as its driving forces. Google has stepped up the voice recognition capabilities of its newest version of Android, version 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich. Users will be able to more extensively interact via voice to write e-mail or text messages, or to control phone functions.

Yap Voicemail

Yap's only consumer product was Yap Voicemail, a transcription application available for iOS and Android devices. In early September, Yap was acquired by a company called Yarmuth Dion, Inc., whose mailing address is at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.

Yap received $8 million total in 2007 and 2008 in venture capital, and there are reports that it has developed innovative technology for free-form, natural language recognition.

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, noted that motion sensing, touch, voice interaction and knowledge of where you are physically and where you are in your task stream are coming together to produce a more humanistic, context-sensitive usability.

"We're really seeing the computer industry as being on the cusp of making devices respond more like humans would," he said.

'Will I Need an Umbrella?'

When Siri was first announced with the iPhone 4S launch, the disappointment that the announcement was not for an iPhone 5 temporarily overshadowed the technology....

Fri, 11 Nov 11
U.S. Pulls Plug On International $14M Malware Ring
Six alleged hackers, plus a seventh still at large, have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in New York in a wide-ranging malware scam that netted as much as $14 million in ill-gotten fees and may have involved a staggering 4 million computers in 100 countries over four years.

Details of the bust were to be released at a news conference, but early news reports said the suspects were six Estonian nationals associated with the firm Rove Digital in Tartu and one Russian national, six of whom were arrested by Estonian authorities on Tuesday. The U.S. was seeking their extradition. The federal action involved seizing computers and freezing assets, but it was not immediately known Thursday exactly how the agents were tipped off to the scam, which reportedly affected U.S. government computers as well as private ones.

NASA Launched Investigation

The inspector general of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Paul Martin, told Businessweek that NASA detected a virus on 100 of its PCs two years ago, sparking the investigation. The magazine, citing Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the feds moved in to shut down the operation early Wednesday morning by shutting down servers in New York, Chicago and other cities.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used malware to hijack Internet searches, rerouting searchers' queries to sites that paid the hackers for the traffic. The malware, attached to computers when users visited infected sites, also interfered with the installation of anti-virus software.

"The international cyber threat is perhaps the most significant challenge faced by law enforcement and national security agencies today, and this case is just perhaps the tip of the Internet iceberg," said Bharara, the U.S. attorney, in announcing the indictments.

About half the estimated 1 million affected computers were in the United...

Fri, 11 Nov 11
CEO Larry Page's Mission: Avoid a Google Mid-Life Crisis
The New York Times is journeying into the world of Google CEO Larry Page. Reporter Claire Cain Miller paints a picture of a young corporate executive who doesn't like meetings or e-mail, and one who is on an urgent mission to pull Google through a "midlife crisis that threatens to knock if off its perch as the coolest company in Silicon Valley."

Strong words, especially considering Google's market dominance and growing influence in all things mobile. But Google has had its missteps in recent years. The federal government has taken exception to some of its privacy practices. And the competition on all fronts is fierce.

"Ever since taking over as CEO I have focused much of my energy on increasing Google's velocity and execution," Page said after Google's third-quarter earnings were posted. In the analyst call, the 38-year-old chief also said that Google is in the very early stages of what technology can deliver, and the tools we use online will look very different five years from now. The question is, how does Google fit into that picture?

Page's Quick Decisions

Eric Schmidt stepped down as CEO in January and settled into the chairman role. Page has been taking on the day-to-day management of the company he co-founded since April 4. During the surprise announcement, Schmidt said it was a move to simplify the management structure and "speed up decision-making."

The latter is important for a company that took the Internet industry by storm when it rose to dot-com fame 15 years ago. A much larger, publicly traded Google can't move as fast as its former start-up self. Giving the CEO reins to Page may have aimed to rekindle some of the early Google fire.

Page didn't disappoint. On his first day back in the CEO seat, he spent $900 million -- or at least tried....

Fri, 11 Nov 11
Rise of Outsourcing Poses New Cybersecurity Problems
Big banks, hospitals and insurance companies worry about computer security because they handle so much personal information. Now, in the age of outsourcing, they also have to worry about whether their partner firms are secure. And that's created a new kind of business consultant: The information security auditor who determines how much security is enough.

Some of these auditors work for big companies. When Evan Francen did security audits for Wells Fargo bank, he asked the outsourcing companies to complete a 1,500-question security checklist. (Wells Fargo officials declined to comment.)

Now Francen has his own security firm, FRSecure of Chaska, Minn., that helps outsourcing firms meet the demands of security auditors like him. And some of them really need the help.

"We audited a small bank that was compliant with computer security regulations, but we could have put them out of business in five minutes because of the physical risk," Francen said. "Their computer server room had no camera surveillance, no records of who came or went, no locked doors, nobody there at night, and it was in a separate building." Such insecurity represents a business opportunity for the likes of FRSecure.

"We're in the Wild West period of security compliance," said Kevin Orth, FRSecure's vice president of operations. "There are no security standards that are widely accepted." The opportunities in security auditing also have drawn the consulting arms of big accounting firms such as the accounting firm Deloitte.

"Every time there's another computer security breach, these security audit programs get ramped up quite a bit," said Matt Marsh, a partner in enterprise risk services at the Minneapolis office of Deloitte. "Because if there's a breach there can be costs, loss of reputation and loss of business."

Driving the latest corporate fear about computer security is a confluence of events....

Fri, 11 Nov 11
Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL Team Up To Sell Internet Ads
Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL are joining forces in an online advertising attack on Google and Facebook.

The alliance, announced Tuesday, is designed to sell some of the less-prized ad space that Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and AOL Inc. have had trouble filling on their own.

Even as they share some resources, the three companies vowed to retain their independence and compete against each other with separate sales teams. For that reason, they said they don't expect U.S. antitrust regulators to object to the nonexclusive partnership before they begin selling ads together in January.

Ross Levinsohn, a Yahoo executive vice president, hailed the alliance as a "fundamental rethinking" of the Internet ad market.

That statement also could be interpreted as a bit of wishful thinking. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL all need to change the direction of an online ad market that has been increasingly tilting in the direction of Google and Facebook.

Having already built a moneymaking machine in its dominant search engine, Google has become even more powerful in Internet marketing since it bought DoubleClick's ad service for $3.2 billion in 2008. That deal provided Google with a springboard to leap from text ads that appear next to search results into the graphical messages known as display advertising.

Facebook attracts more advertising as it becomes established as the Internet's most popular hangout. The company accumulates valuable insights into people's interests as its 800 million users share their passions. That advantage has helped Facebook become the leader in U.S. display advertising with a 16 percent share of the online ad market, according to the research firm eMarketer Inc.

Yahoo, the former leader, has seen its share fall from 18 percent in 2008 to 13 percent this year. Google's share of the display market moved from 2 percent in 2008 to 9 percent. Microsoft stands at 5 percent and...

Fri, 11 Nov 11
'Lost Interview' Shows a Younger, Healthier Jobs
A recently discovered video copy of a 1995 interview with Steve Jobs shows the Apple co-founder at a healthier time, not long before he rejoined and revitalized the company.

There doesn't appear to be much new in "Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview," which is being shown at Landmark theaters in 19 cities around the country starting Nov. 16. In a copy viewed by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Jobs discusses topics such as how he got interested in computers as a child, his anger at being ousted from Apple in 1985 after a clash with then-CEO John Sculley, and his irritation with competitor Microsoft Corp. -- subjects that have been covered elsewhere, and extensively in Walter Isaacson's recently released "Steve Jobs: A Biography."

Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak started Apple in 1976 and left in 1985. Jobs returned in 1997 and is credited with rescuing Apple from dire financial straits.

The video does give a look at a healthier version of Jobs -- who died in October at age 56 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer -- than many people have seen in years. On camera, his face looks full and he sports a shaggy head of dark brown hair, along with his signature black mock turtleneck and rimless glasses. At the time, Jobs was running a company called NeXT Computer, which Apple bought in 1996 for its operating software.

Ten minutes of the footage originally appeared in the 1995 PBS miniseries "Triumph of the Nerds." The master tapes disappeared but an unedited VHS copy of the interview was recently found in "Triumph of the Nerds" director Paul Sen's garage. In the copy viewed Tuesday, "Triumph of the Nerds" maker Robert Cringely introduces the footage and poses questions to Jobs off camera.

Fri, 11 Nov 11
Industry Says Africa Fastest-Growing Mobile Market
Africa is the world's fastest growing mobile phone market and soon poised to have 735 million people using their phones for everything from transferring money to tracking animals for wildlife studies, an industry group said Wednesday.

Mobile penetration in Africa is now second only to Asia, according to the report by the industry group GSMA, or Groupe Speciale Mobile Association. Its report found that subscriber levels have grown by almost 20 percent for each of the past five years, and the total is expected to hit 735 million by the end of 2012.

Mobile phone users in South Africa can receive text messages anytime there's activity on their bank account or credit card. Gertrude Kitongo also uses her phone as a radio, library, mini cinema, instant messenger and bank teller.

"I use my phone for everything," exclaimed the 24-year-old Kenyan-Ugandan, who says she cherishes the link to family and friends -- from her grandmother in a Ugandan village to her former schoolmates in Zimbabwe.

When she has a spare moment, Kitongo downloads and watches movies, or catches up on her Oprah magazine subscription. She makes payments and checks her bank balance using her smart phone, and her bank sends her a text message when she receives a payment.

Many African consumers, particularly in rural areas, often lack easy access to bank branches. Earlier this year, global credit giant Visa paid $110 million for Fundamo, a South African company that helps mobile companies and banks allow their customers to instantly transfer money between phones.

"It's cheap, it's a one-on-one relationship, it's fast, it's secure," Fundamo senior vice president Reg Swart said in an interview Wednesday.

Cape Town-based Fundamo has taken mobile phone banking beyond Africa into the Middle East, Asia and the Americas, tailoring technology to work on the most sophisticated phones as well as those that can...

Fri, 11 Nov 11
GPS-Based Apps Guide Travelers Along the Road
Amber waves of grain and purple mountains are great, but long road trips along U.S. interstate highways inevitably leave you hankering for junk food, safe rest stops and familiar hotel brands.

Several GPS-based apps have hit the market, aiming to make the expansive terra of American highways a little less incognita. Using the phone's GPS, they know where you are on the highway and tell you what's coming up in real time as you drive through exits. You can pre-select some favorites to get alerts (say, Holiday Inn hotels or Five Guys Burgers).

Some, like the I-95 Exit Guide, specialize in only one major highway. There are apps just for finding rest stops. I tested three of the more general highway apps -- iExit, RoadNinja and Road Tip -- on a 30-mile stretch of I-66 near Washington, D.C., and found their mission intriguing, though their execution still leaves a lot to be desired.

Plenty of popular "help-me-find-spots-near-me" apps exist, but they point to places in front of, behind and left and right of you. The highway apps, on the other hand, are wooing users who literally are looking farther down the road.

Many travelers are familiar with the experience of finding a decent Italian restaurant on Yelp or Urbanspoon, only to find that they just missed the exit to get to the restaurant. There are more than a handful of highway travelers who crave a particular dish (say, tacos), but settle for a nearby McDonald's burger -- only to find a Taco Bell three exits farther along. These highway guide apps exist to solve such problems.

While the apps mostly worked as they were intended, their shortcomings were quickly obvious. Nearly all entries are shops and restaurants that are part of large national chains, which is fine for some but not for curious and intrepid...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Siri On Older iPhones? No Siree
If you're hoping to one day install Apple's new voice-activated data assistant on your old iPhone, the answer is likely no siree. Or, no Siri.

According to a report, Apple has confirmed that the application -- which lets you manage your schedule, search for Web sites or get quick answers to questions via voice commands or inquiries -- is for new hardware adopters only.

No Current Plans

"Siri only works on iPhone 4S and we currently have no plans to support older devices," Apple apparently told a user in response to a bug report, or user message, which was posted on the blog of Michael Steeber, a Mac enthusiast.

The response was to a suggestion from the unnamed user that Apple create a special version of iOS 5, released on Oct. 12, that would allow iPhone 4 users and fourth-generation iPod Touch users to access Siri for a $19.99 fee.

Apple did not respond to an e-mail inquiry about using Siri on older devices in time for publication.

Siri has proved to be an enormously popular application and the primary differentiator between the 4S and its predecessor, in addition to a better camera, faster processor and improved antenna design. Originally offered via the App Store with more limited capability, Siri was acquired by Apple in April 2010, which prevented its development for other platforms. The program is now integrated into iOS 5 to allow interaction with many other apps and features.

The popularity and high usage may be one reason why the Siri server shut down briefly last week, causing the system to apologize to users by saying, "Sorry I am having trouble connecting to the network," a temporary embarrassment to Apple that likely will have no effect on sales of the iPhone 4S.

Whether or not the improved Siri will work on older iOS versions or older...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Analysts See No Signs Of iPhone Sales Slowdown
Digitimes reported Wednesday that Apple is likely to reduce its supply-chain orders for the components it uses to manufacture the latest versions of the iPhone and iPad. However, many industry observers have raised doubts about the accuracy of the report from the Taiwan-based electronics industry newspaper.

Citing a report from the Chinese language Commercial Times, Digitimes said Apple may reduce component shipments by 10 percent to 15 percent in the current quarter because iPhone 4S sales have not met Apple's expectations. Sources at companies participating in Apple's supply chain also reportedly told Digitimes that the components-order slowdown was due in part to a shortage of key parts for the devices.

The Digitimes article caused Apple's stock price to fall sharply on Wall Street after the opening bell on Wednesday, but some financial analysts called the unconfirmed rumors a "total joke."

"We believe recent chatter around iPhone 4S production cuts is off base," said Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Andrew Murphy.

Production Cut Unlikely

Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors that the iconic device maker expects the iPhone 4S to set an "all-time record" for handset unit sales in the fourth quarter of 2011. Industry analysts have generally agreed by forecasting iPhone 4S unit sales in the 26 million to 29.4 million range for the final three months of this year.

Piper Jaffray's confidence in Apple's iPhone 4S stems in part from a recent telephone survey conducted by the firm. The availability of the iPhone 4S remains limited, the investment firm's analysts said after contacting 30 Apple retail stores in the United States on Monday.

Munster and Murphy report that Apple's iPhone 4S was completely sold out at 57 percent of the retail outlets contacted by the investment firm. Moreover, of the 43 percent that did have some stock left, none...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Amazon Kindle Fire Takes Open Approach to Apps
Although it can't compete with Apple's App Store, Amazon is launching the Kindle Fire with several thousand of the most popular Android apps and games. All of the apps are Amazon-tested for the Kindle Fire.

The app lineup includes Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora, Twitter, Comics by comiXology, Facebook, The Weather Channel and popular games from Zynga, EA, Gameloft, PopCap and Rovio. Consumers can download the apps and games using Amazon's 1-Click system. Amazon will give away a paid app free every day in its Appstore and that app will work on all Android-powered devices.

Beyond the apps, Amazon has plenty of content available for the Kindle Fire, namely 18 million-plus movies, TV shows, songs, books and magazines. Amazon also promised to add more apps and games every day across all categories, such as Allrecipes, Bloomberg, Cut the Rope, Doodle Fit, Fruit Ninja, LinkedIn and Zillow.

Embracing Competitors

Even though Amazon has its own Amazon Prime service that offers members access to streaming video content, the retailer has partnered with its struggling competitor, Netflix. The Netflix app lets Kindle Fire customers with Netflix accounts watch their content on the new tablet right where they left off on their computer or television.

"The Kindle Fire is a consumption-oriented tablet, where you are buying into Amazon's extensive list of content and services," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "But that doesn't preclude using other people's content as well."

Content providers are lining up to get on the Kindle Fire. Zynga Chief Mobile Officer David Ko, for example, said teaming up with Amazon to make Words With Friends a featured game on the Kindle Fire helps the social-game maker reach new and existing players on yet another device. And Rhapsody's president of business development said the company is "really stoked" to offer its members music on the Kindle Fire.


Thu, 10 Nov 11
Adobe Drops Flash for Mobile Devices
Up in iHeaven, Steve Jobs must be chuckling. Adobe announced Wednesday that it will end development and support for mobile Flash, in favor of HTML5 technologies.

In an announcement on its Adobe Blogs, Interactive Development Vice President and General Manager Danny Winokur wrote that his company "will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work on new mobile device configurations," after the coming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android devices and BlackBerry's PlayBook tablet.

HTML5 'The Best Solution'

Instead, he said, "our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores." Winokur added that the company will continue to support existing device configurations with bug fixes and security updates, and that current licensees can continue developing and releasing their own Flash products.

In his statement, Winokur noted that HTML5 is now supported on all major mobile devices, "in some cases exclusively" -- a reference to Apple's devices, where Apple CEO and co-founder Jobs decreed that HTML5 was superior to Flash. HTML5, he added, is "the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across multiple platforms."

The company is continuing to invest in Flash development for Macs and PCs, and in the next Flash Player. It is not yet clear if Adobe's dropping mobile Flash is related to its recent decision to lay off 750 employees.

In April 2010, Jobs posted a note on the Apple Web site titled "Thoughts on Flash." He noted that Apple and Adobe go way back, to their garage origins, and that Adobe's PostScript was adopted for Apple's Laserwriter printer, making the computer company Adobe's first big customer.

Jobs: Create 'Great HTML5 Tools'

In explaining why he did not want to allow Flash to be fully...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
FCC Offers Discounted Broadband To Low-Income Families
More American homes will be able to get affordable broadband access next year, thanks to a new initiative from the Federal Communications Commission. Under the program, announced Wednesday, cable companies will offer high-speed Internet service for $9.95 to homes with children who are eligible for free school lunches.

About 35 million homes, or one-third of the U.S. population, do not have high-speed Internet access. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement that "the broadband adoption gap in the U.S. is very large, and the costs of digital exclusion are getting higher and higher."


The average price of high-speed Net access for homes is $45 per month or higher. Twenty-five million Americans are in families whose children are eligible for federally subsidized, free school lunches.

The program is called Connect-to-Compete, and it will be operated by a new non-profit organization by that name, which the FCC will oversee and fund, to the tune of $4 billion. The organization will launch in the spring of next year, and the program will roll out next fall.

All the major cable companies are participating, and the $9.95 offer, plus taxes, is good for up to two years, providing high-speed service of at least 1 Mbps. Higher speeds are at the discretion of the provider. The companies will not charge for installation or the rental of routers. Phone companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, are not participating. Comcast, as part of the deal to win the FCC's approval of its purchase of NBC Universal, has already started a discount service.

The initiative includes an offer from Microsoft to sell Windows 7 PCs with its Office suite for $250 to those families who qualify. Another company, Redemtech, will sell refurbished computers for $150, shipping and 90 days of tech support included. Morgan Stanley said it will offer...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Light Patch Tuesday May Lead To Out-of-Band Patch
Microsoft on Tuesday issued four security bulletins to address four vulnerabilities. Microsoft only rated one critical, an early holiday present from Redmond. But security industry researchers warned IT admins not to get complacent.

Although November's patch update is small, it's possible Microsoft will release an out-of-band patch for the zero-day vulnerability the Duqu installer exploits, said Joshua Talbot, security intelligence manager at Symantec Security Response.

"Microsoft recently published a security advisory as well as a temporary fix and is currently investigating the vulnerability," Talbot said. "In addition to implementing the temporary fix, IT departments and end users should also remain vigilant in following standard security best practices."

Difficult to Exploit

Andrew Storms, director of Security Operations for nCircle, said MS11-084 is the most interesting bulletin this month. This kernel bug deals with how font files are parsed. Microsoft rated the flaw moderate.

"The interesting thing about this bulletin is that it appears to have a lot in common with the Duqu advisory Microsoft released last week," Storms said. "I wonder if we are seeing the beginning of a new malware trend focused on exploiting kernel and font-parsing bugs."

As Storms sees it, the only critical bulletin this month doesn't look very threatening, at least on the surface. The Microsoft Security Research and Defense team blogged about the attack scenario for this bug and described it as "difficult to exploit in a real world scenario," probably because default firewall configuration settings successfully block the attack, he said.

"Enterprise security teams should patch this critical bug fairly quickly anyway because if attackers find a way to leverage it they can gain remote code execution privileges," Storms said.

The Browser Path

Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, pointed to a trend he sees in the security landscape. Overall, he said, it seems...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Oregon Looks To iPads To Help Disabled People Vote
Oregon was first in the nation to have all residents vote by mail. Now it's pioneering another idea: vote by iPad.

Voters in five counties are filling out and returning their mail-in ballots for a Tuesday special primary election to replace former U.S. Rep. David Wu, who resigned following a sex scandal. A handful will mark their ballots not with a pen but with the tip of their finger.

It's the latest attempt at using new technology to help voters with disabilities cast ballots privately.

Armed with iPads and portable printers, county election workers are going to parks, nursing homes, community centers and anywhere else they might find groups of voters who have trouble filling out traditional paper ballots.

Using the iPad, disabled voters can call up the right ballot and tap the screen to pick a candidate, with or without the help of election workers. The voters then print the completed ballot and stuff it in an envelope to sign, take with them and drop in the mail or an official ballot box.

Voters with poor vision can adjust the font size and screen colors, or they can have the iPad read them the candidates' names and even the voter pamphlet. A voter with limited mobility could attach a "sip-and-puff" device to control the screen. Lewis Crews, 75, who has severe arthritis, didn't have to hold a pen to fill out his ballot.

"It's a lot simpler for me. I think it's a great setup they got," Crews told The Associated Press last week in a phone interview after he filled out and printed one of the first-ever iPad ballots.

Elections officials helped Crews operate the iPad, he said, "but now that I've seen how it works I'm confident I can do it on my own."

State elections officials say they'll use the same system in the...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Corporate-Espionage Trial Begins in Chicago
The trial of a Chinese-born American citizen accused of stealing secrets from a cell phone company knowing they would likely end up in the hands of China's military began Monday in Chicago -- in yet another case highlighting persistent fears about Chinese espionage.

A prosecutor described Hanjuan Jin as a University of Notre Dame graduate who rose through Motorola Inc. to become a senior software engineer only to violate its trust by stealing documents on confidential technology and trying to flee on a one-way ticket to China.

"This is a woman who led a double life," government attorney Christopher Stetler said in his opening statement.

Jin, 41, did violate policy by removing the documents in 2007 and "Motorola has a right to be upset," defense attorney Beth Gaus conceded in her opening. But she insisted Jin compiled the documents merely to refresh her own technical knowledge after a long medical absence.

What's more, Gaus added, the supposedly sophisticated technology at the center of the trial -- a walkie-talkie type feature on Motorola cell phones -- was far from cutting edge and would have been little use to China's military.

"It was at a developmental dead end," Gaus said, adding that meant the documents don't meet the legal definition of trade secrets.

Beijing has consistently denied engaging in such activities, though U.S. counterintelligence experts have said signs point to the Chinese as among the most active espionage offenders in the United States.

Jin waived her right to a jury trial, leaving it to U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo to eventually decide a verdict. Dressed in a dark business suit, Jin looked on during the openings with little apparent emotion -- her hands folded on the defense table in front of her.

Jin was about to board her plane bound at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Feb. 28, 2007,...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Cyber Weakness Should Deter U.S. from Waging War
America's critical computer networks are so vulnerable to attack that it should deter U.S. leaders from going to war with other nations, a former top U.S. cybersecurity official said Monday.

Richard Clarke, a top adviser to three presidents, joined a number of U.S. military and civilian experts in offering a dire assessment of America's cybersecurity at a conference, saying the country simply can't protect its critical networks.

Clarke said if he was advising the president he would warn against attacking other countries because so many of them -- including China, North Korea, Iran and Russia -- could retaliate by launching devastating cyberattacks that could destroy power grids, banking networks or transportation systems.

The U.S. military, he said, is entirely dependent on computer systems and could end up in a future conflict in which troops trot out onto a battlefield "and nothing works."

Clarke said a good national security adviser would tell the president that the U.S. might be able to blow up a nuclear plant somewhere, or a terrorist training center somewhere, but a number of countries could strike back with a cyberattack and "the entire us economic system could be crashed in retaliation ... because we can't defend it today."

"I really don't know to what extent the weapon systems that have been developed over the last 10 years have been penetrated, to what extent the chips are compromised, to what extent the code is compromised," Clarke said. "I can't assure you that as you go to war with a cybersecurity-conscious, cybersecurity-capable enemy that any of our stuff is going to work."

Clarke, along with Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, told the conference crowd that the U.S. needs to do a better job at eliminating network vulnerabilities and more aggressively seek out malware or viruses in...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Zuckerberg Returns To Harvard To Recruit
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg left Harvard University as a dropout with a novel idea. He returned Monday with a triumphant message: He's hiring.

The 27-year-old CEO received a rock-star welcome during his first official visit since he left for California's Silicon Valley in 2004. He made his recruitment pitch to 250 students at Harvard after a similar meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"We're just getting started," he told reporters and a few hundred students who gathered at the Harvard campus to catch a glimpse of the Internet pioneer. "The next five or 10 years are going to be about all the different products and industries that can be rethought."

So many students turned out to see the sweatshirted billionaire outside a university library that campus officials had to set up temporary barriers to separate him from his audience.

Aaron Perez, an 18-year-old freshman from New York, said Zuckerberg's creation was one of the reasons he chose to study computer science. He said he's encouraged to hear that companies are hiring computer programmers in today's struggling economy.

"It's an empowering story, especially these days," said Perez, who risked being tardy to rowing practice to see Zuckerberg. "It makes it seem like I've got a chance."

Harvard computing officials were working on their own university wide online directory when Zuckerberg created Facebook as a campus-only social network. The then-sophomore told the campus newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, it was silly that the university needed years to create the site.

"I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week," he said.

An earlier Zuckerberg creation, Facemash, almost led to his expulsion after he hacked university computers for student photos.

But there were no hurt feelings Monday, as university officials and faculty welcomed Zuckerberg back to campus for the official visit. Zuckerberg has returned to...

Thu, 10 Nov 11
BlackBerry To Use Key Technology by Assa Abloy
Assa Abloy AB, the world's leading lock group, said Tuesday it is collaborating with Research In Motion to include key-card technology in coming BlackBerry models.

In a statement released Tuesday, Assa Abloy said the technology, known as near-field communication, will be incorporated in smartphones so they can replace regular access cards.

It said the technology will be included in the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 and BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360, which will be launched in early 2012.

Users will be able to swipe their phones in front of a door's card reader to gain access to a building. For increased security, the phone can be combined with a PIN number.

Assa Abloy is a leader in mobile key technology and its HID iClass system already exists in buildings around the world.

The head of Assa Abloy's mobile keys division, Daniel Berg, said the phones will work with existing door-opening systems and will mainly replace access cards at offices, but can also be used to open home or garage doors.

There is also a possibility to develop the NFC technology in the phones so it can be used for time reports and payments, Berg said.

In some countries, the NFC technology already exists in cards that are used for payments or as tickets in subway systems. Berg said the technology built into the BlackBerries could also work for such applications in the future.

The deal marks the first time the company's technology, which was tested at hotels in Stockholm last year, is incorporated into a mobile phone model.

Berg said the agreement with BlackBerry isn't exclusive and Assa Abloy is also in talks to sell its technology to other mobile phone makers.

The value of the deal will depend on the sales volumes of the BlackBerry models and how many people opt to use the key technology, he said.

Thu, 10 Nov 11
Eric Schmidt Defends Google, Mourns Jobs' Death
Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday defended his company as a great innovator despite allegations from late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that the Internet search giant stole ideas from Apple's iPhone.

Schmidt also told reporters that he is still "very sad and recovering from the sense of loss" from Jobs' death last month and does not think it's right to comment on Jobs' words in Walter Issacson's biography.

The biography was released after Jobs' death. In it, Jobs argues that Google Inc. stole from Apple's iPhone to build many of the features in Google's Android software for rival phones.

"I decided not to comment on comments that are written in the book after his death. I don't think it's right," Schmidt said, describing Jobs as a "fantastic human being" who he "dearly" misses.

Jobs died Oct. 5, aged 56, after a battle with cancer. Schmidt served on the Apple Inc. board from 2006 to 2009 but quit as Google and Apple went head-to-head in smartphones -- Apple with its iPhone and Google with its Android software.

"Most people would agree that Google is a great innovator, and I would also point out that the Android efforts started before the iPhone efforts. And that's all I have to say," Schmidt said.

Schmidt has been meeting with senior government and business officials, including South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Monday, during his three-day trip here.

Marveling at South Korea's Internet infrastructure, where 90 percent of households enjoy broadband access, Schmidt said he also told Lee that Seoul needs to trim down its Internet regulations.

"It is my view and, I think, Google's view that the regulation of Internet in Korea could be more open, more modern," he said. "Other countries had more liberal policies in some cases about the Internet, and they should examine them."

Schmidt said he did not go...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
iPhone 4S Recommended by Consumer Reports, Unlike Predecesssor
After panning the iPhone 4 because of its much-publicized antenna problems, the non-profit Consumer Reports magazine is giving its successor, the 4S, the thumbs-up. But not as high up as some leading Android devices.

"Apple's newest smart phone performed very well in our tests, and while it closely resembles the iPhone 4 in appearance, it doesn't suffer the reception problem we found in its predecessor in special tests in our labs," the magazine's Mike Gikas wrote Tuesday.

The problems with the iPhone 4 stemmed from its unique steel band design comprised of two antennas. When holding the phone in a way that bridged both antennas calls were interrupted, some users reported, and Consumer Reports found in lab tests. The glitch had little effect on sales, and Apple ultimately addressed the problem by offering, for a time, free cases that covered the bands.

Tests of new samples of the still-available iPhone 4 continue to find the problem, Gikas wrote, and so it is still not recommended by the magazine's researchers.

Does It Matter?

Consumer Reports does more intensive testing of phones and other electronic devices than the more standard "hands-on" user tests done by many technology blogs. But despite that high standard, its recommendations may not have the same cachet among younger technology buffs.

"For an IT vendor, a CR recommendation is like having your mom say she thinks your girlfriend is 'nice,' " said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "While gratifying, it's not the stuff true romance or commercial markets depend on."

Wireless industry analyst Kirk Parsons of JD Power and Associates, which also gives ratings for consumer products, said: "Consumer Reports may hold more sway over other industry findings like auto ratings. I remember they made a big deal on not recommending a specific SUV for failing their roll-over test. In wireless devices,...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
New Apps Add Friends' Tastes To Your Choices
Friends recommend products and services to friends all the time. Now, a new mobile-device app is trying to capture that social-recommendation energy, and is trying to get noticed above the pack of recommendation tools.

The name of the app, and the company that is releasing it, is Wikets. The company said the goal is to put "your friends' best product and place recs at your fingertips," rewarding users for the best recommendations. Those recommendations can be diverse, such as first-time parents recommending to other new parents products for babies, restaurants that can accommodate children, or a great pediatrician.

Reward Points

The recommendations can be sorted by proximity, or they can be viewed in a stream, a la Facebook. The most popular recommendations are shown, and users can comment on them or save to a Wishlist. Products from online stores can be linked, such as from iTunes, eBay, Amazon, or places on Yelp or Foursquare can be suggested.

When a product or service is purchased following a recommendation, the recommender acquires reward points from online retailers, such as iTunes and Amazon. The purchases are made outside the Wikets app, but the purchase is tracked by Wikets, and the company gets affiliate fees for purchases. Points are also offered for making a recommendation.

Wikets, which has received venture capital from Battery Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, was started by veterans of BladeLogic, a provider of data center and cloud automation software.

While there are a variety of review and recommendation sites, and check-in apps, Wikets is attempting to merge rewards with personal networks to replicate the kind of word-of-mouth -- and resulting satisfaction when you make a good recommendation -- that naturally takes place.

But Wikets is not alone in this quest. For instance, another start-up called Ness, short for "likeness," launched a mobile app in August that...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Apple Boots Security Researcher for Rogue App
In a move to prove that Apple's App Store could be stocked with apps containing malicious code, a notable security researcher put a rogue app into the store. Now, that notable security researcher is banned from Apple's developer program.

Charlie Miller, a principal research consultant for Accuvant, a security firm in Denver, tapped into a previously undiscovered flaw in Apple's iOS to develop an app that essentially "phoned home" to his own server. This is the same Miller, by the way, who has won the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest four times -- the only one to win it four times.

Here's the background: Miller developed a fake stock ticker app. He called it Instastock. That app served as his proof of concept. Miller put the app through Apple's submission process and got the green light. Instastock showed up on the App Store's virtual shelves in September. Apple didn't take kindly to the experiment. Apple won't let Miller back in its developer program for a year.

Miller Lashes Out

The flaw Miller discovered would let an app creator execute arbitrary code on Apple mobile devices that run iOS 4.3 or later. The flaw deals with the way iOS handles code signing. Code signing is important because it is a mechanism to protect users from malware. Essentially, Miller said, the flaw allows the apps to run new code even if Apple hasn't checked it.

"You can imagine downloading a nice app like Angry Birds but instead of just being Angry Birds it actually can download and do anything it wants, and Apple would have no idea that it happened," Miller said in a YouTube video that explains how attackers could use the flaw.

Since Apple banned him from its developer program, Miller has been vocal on Twitter. Among his tweets on Monday: "Apple has removed my app from...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Verizon Gives New 4G Phone Customers Twice the Data
Verizon Wireless is doubling down on its LTE network data rates under a limited-time offer currently available to the wireless carrier's 4G smartphone users. "For example, a customer purchasing [what used to be] the 2 GB-for-$30 plan will receive 4 GB for the same $30," a Verizon spokesperson said.

The same applies to other data tiers, so, for example, the $50 plan delivers 10 GB instead of 5 GB, and the $80 plan doubles to 20 GB from 10 GB. For an additional $20 per month, 4G LTE smartphone users can add a 2 GB mobile hot spot. Prices do not include taxes and surcharges.

"All new customers who purchase a 4G smartphone are eligible for the double data plans," Verizon said. "Existing customers who have upgraded their service or purchased a 4G smartphone within the last 14 days also will be eligible."

The wireless carrier is attempting to address one of the downsides to 4G LTE: the substantially higher speeds of the new network enable users to exceed their monthly data caps much faster than was previously the case on 3G. "We're pushing hard on 4G because customers want it -- more speed, new services," Verizon said in a recent tweet.

Long-Term Deal

Once a Verizon subscriber has chosen one of the new double data plans, they will be able to keep it as long as they continue to use a 4G LTE smartphone on the wireless carrier's network. "The limited-time promotion applies to how long we will sell the plan, not how long customers get to use the plans," Verizon said.

The rollout of the new data plans was specifically timed to coincide with the availability of Motorola's flashy new Droid Razr ($300), which has a clear runway ahead thanks to Apple's decision to delay the launch of...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Accel Partners Launches $100 Million Big Data Fund
In a move to spur category-defining companies at every layer of the big data stack, Venture capital firm Accel Partners has launched a $100 million "Big Data Fund."

The fund targets transformative companies in the big data ecosystem, including next-generation storage, data management platforms, data analytics, vertical applications and mobile. Accel has a clear motive: Big data drives innovation across its existing portfolio companies.

"Big data is the future of IT and we believe big data will drive the next-generation of multibillion-dollar software companies," said Ping Li, who leads the Big Data Fund for Accel Partners. "Vendors that effectively pave the way for big data to be leveraged for ever-evolving business-use cases, such as Cloudera -- will determine the winners in this next wave of cloud computing."

Staying Power

Accel Partners sees a clear need for more investment in big data, pointing to unprecedented volumes, varieties and velocities of data in enterprise IT departments that admins need to store, manage and mine.

The firm noted how newly proliferating unstructured and semi-structured data types are reshaping traditional data platforms and technologies. That, the venture capitalist said, is leading to a radical shift in the relational database era and the applications born from it. Industry analysts agree.

Benjamin Woo, program vice president, storage systems and lead analyst for IDC's Big Data Group, said next-generation big data technology innovation will be pervasive and cut across all layers of the big data stack -- from hardware components like SSDs to data organization and management solutions like Hadoop and NoSQL, to applications including analytics, business intelligence and collaboration.

"Big data is creating a lasting revolution in data centers across all vertical markets," Woo said, "paving the way for a new set of applications to be built on new big data platforms rather than legacy relational databases."

A Lucrative Investment

The big data...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Shopping at an Apple Store? There's an App for That
Having revolutionized the computer, music, and phone industries, Apple is now targeting brick-and-mortar stores. On Tuesday, the technology giant released the free version 2.0 of its Apple Store app, which allows iPhone users to pay for products at the store by themselves.

The two new features are Personal Pickup and EasyPay. With Personal Pickup, a customer can select and pay for an item remotely, and then pick it up at the store. This alone is not that new, as some other retailers allow customers to order online and pick up their purchased items at the physical store. Once you purchase the product, Apple said that "most in-stock orders are available for pickup within the hour" in the U.S.

Will Be 'a Big Hit'

But, with EasyPay, you can scan the bar code of a product at the store, see info on the product, log in with an Apple ID, and use the credit card linked to the Apple account to pay. Receipts are available on the phone, in the app. Only certain products, such as accessories, are currently available for such self-checkout. EasyPay currently requires either an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, and requires iOS 4.2 or higher.

The app also allows customers to check the status of current or previous orders. The new EasyPay feature is an expansion of a test in the 2009 holiday season, of a similar feature.

Laura DiDio, a research fellow with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., predicts that a self-service app for Apple stores "will be a big hit." She noted that Apple stores are often crowded, so this could save time for a customer.

She also pointed out that most products at the stores are kept in the back, with only samples or empty display boxes in the main store. So, even if Apple extends EasyPay...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Gamers Report for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
The troops will be lining up tonight to heed the Call of Duty. The latest installment in the military video game series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 ($60, for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, $50 for Wii, ages 17-up), hits stores at midnight. Late-night sales at retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop and Walmart will jump-start what's expected to be the year's No. 1 title.

Publisher Activision Blizzard says pre-orders are ahead of last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops, which sold 25 million units (more than $1.5 billion) and supplanted the previous record holder, 2009's Modern Warfare 2, as the top-selling game ever. "It's pretty clear there is demand in the 25-million-unit range," says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "Last year, Black Ops sold 17 million at holiday and another 8 million in the first half of 2011. Modern Warfare 3 should sell at least 18 million a holiday, and we'll see what its legs are."

Numbers like that compare with global box office figures for films such as Titanic and the Harry Potter films. (Avatar remains supreme at about $2.8 billion.)

The standard version sells for $60; a $100 version comes with a year's subscription to the new Call of Duty Elite online service, aimed at the 30 million who already have played in CoD multiplayer matches. (Each game has a first-person, single-player "story mode" -- an anti-terror soldier in the near future battling a Russian global offensive -- and the ability to play squad-based combat on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.)

Some of Elite's features, which is designed to enhance the multiplayer experience, will be free, including player and game statistics and Facebook-like networking features on the Web and mobile devices. Paid subscribers' perks include competitions and real-world prizes; strategy guides; private matches; new...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
U.S. Cellular: We Turned Down the iPhone
U.S. Cellular Corp., the country's sixth-largest cellphone company, on Friday said it had the opportunity to carry the iPhone but turned it down because the phone is too expensive.

It's the first U.S. carrier to acknowledge turning down the phone.

Consumers pay $200 for the base model of the iPhone 4S, but Apple charges carriers about $600 for it. Carriers count on making their money back in service fees over the life of the contract.

U.S. Cellular CEO Mary Dillon told analysts on an earnings conference call Friday that "the terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint." She didn't provide any details, but said the added load the iPhone could have placed on its data network was not a big consideration.

Chicago-based U.S. Cellular has 5.9 million subscribers, a number that has been shrinking slowly over the past two and a half years. Only a quarter of its subscribers on contract-based plans have smartphones, compared with half at AT&T Inc.

Carriers see the ability to sell the iPhone as a crucial competitive advantage, though its high price means it's not an easy path to profits. Sprint started selling the phone last month and has said it will take two years for it to pay off.

AT&T was the exclusive U.S. carrier for Apple Inc.'s phone for three and a half years, until Verizon Wireless got it in February. Now, tiny Mississippi-based carrier C Spire Wireless is set to add it too.

T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest carrier, has a data network that isn't compatible with the iPhone.

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Yahoo Investor Demands Jerry Yang's Ouster
A major Yahoo shareholder believes the slumping Internet company would be better off without Jerry Yang on its board as it mulls a possible sale.

In a Friday letter to Yahoo's board, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb asserts Yang has too many conflicts of interest to keep the board seat he has held since starting the company more than 16 years ago.

Loeb, who owns a 5.2 percent stake in Yahoo Inc. through a fund called Third Point LLC, based his conclusion on published reports that Yang has been talking to several buyout firms about joining forces to buy a controlling stake in the company. The letter lists the Texas Pacific Group, Providence Equity Partners, Silver Lake, KKR & Co. and the Blackstone Group as the firms talking to Yang.

In a statement, a Yahoo reiterated its board has been exploring various ways to boost the company's stock price and brushed off the reports cited in Loeb's letter as "rumor and speculation."

"Mr. Yang is one of nine directors with the exact same fiduciary duties and motivation as all of his fellow directors -- to serve the best interests of all the company's shareholders," Yahoo said.

Loeb questioned whether Yang is more interested in selling Yahoo to the highest bidder or negotiating a deal that keeps the company in "friendly hands." The letter also refers to Yang's "ineptitude" in 2008 when he squandered an opportunity to sell Yahoo to Microsoft Corp. for $47.5 billion, or $33 per share -- more than twice the company's current market value.

"It is now clear that (Yang) is simply not aligned with shareholders," Loeb wrote.

Yang holds a 3.6 percent stake in Yahoo, meaning he no longer owns as much of the company as Loeb does.

The attack on Yang is the latest bit of drama at a company that has been...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Ford To Upgrade MyFord Touch After Taking Heat
Ford Motor Co., stung by falling quality ratings because of its glitch-prone MyFord Touch system, is planning a major upgrade that it hopes will fix the problems -- and repair its own reputation.

Early next year, Ford is sending flash drives with a software upgrade to approximately 250,000 U.S. customers with MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, the equivalent system in Ford's luxury Lincoln brand. Owners can do the upgrade themselves in about 45 minutes, or dealers will do it for free. Ford is still deciding how it will offer the upgrade to 200,000 buyers outside of the U.S.

Ford knows of no other car company that has given owners the option of upgrading their own software on this scale. The unprecedented step underscores the urgency of the problem for Ford, which last month fell from 10th place to 20th place in Consumer Reports' annual reliability rankings largely because of MyFord Touch. Ford also plummeted in a J.D. Power quality survey earlier this year.

MyFord Touch, which debuted last year on the Ford Edge, replaces traditional dashboard knobs and buttons with a touch screen. Drivers control climate, navigation, entertainment, phone calls and other functions using touch or voice commands. It's a $750 option on lower trim levels, but comes standard on higher-end ones. Ford quickly rolled out the system on the Ford Explorer, Ford Focus and other models.

Dealer phone lines and Internet chat rooms were soon buzzing with complaints. The system shut down without warning and took too long to reboot. It didn't understand voice commands and didn't always respond to owners' touch. Some owners found the information-packed screens overwhelming.

Ford had dealers perform four software updates and paid dealers to hold owner clinics. But it soon realized it had to do more. The latest upgrade makes significant changes. Screens are now simpler and cleaner,...

Wed, 9 Nov 11
Tech Companies Top List of 'Great Workplaces'
Is it the office pizza parties? The on-site child care? The pay or the perks? The Great Place to Work Institute examines elements that make for a standout workplace and has released its first-ever list of multinational companies most successful at keeping their employees happy.

Tech giant Microsoft, software firm SAS and data management company NetApp took the top three slots, respectively. Google was No. 4 and FedEx No. 5.

Each had individual attributes that made it stand out. For instance, Microsoft's Canadian division gives workers 40 paid hours each year to use on volunteer activities. NetApp Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza calls about 30 employees each week to thank them for their work.

Yet, while those practices can boost morale, much more goes into creating a standout work environment, says Great Place to Work Global CEO Jos Tolovi Jr. Exceptional company leaders "think on a higher level," beyond individual workplace perks.

Firms that rank high on the consulting and research group's lists of great employers have three traits in common, he says: employee trust in management, pride in the company and camaraderie with colleagues.

"At the best companies, even the lowest-level employees know they are part of the team," Tolovi says. "They know that they have a common goal."

Picking Winners

To pick the best multinational workplace, the Great Place to Work team evaluated applications from 350 firms that have at least 5,000 employees worldwide and 40% of workers, or 5,000, based outside their home country. The contenders also had to have made at least five of the group's regional "best workplace" lists.

The goal, Tolovi says, was to pick winners who were able to keep up a "consistency of culture" in various regions. They examined factors such as health benefits, employee turnover and use of flex time.

The Great Place to Work group also wanted to honor companies...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Galaxy Nexus Could See Verizon Launch Nov. 21
Google and Samsung's "beyond smart" smartphone could be headed for Verizon Wireless store shelves as soon as Nov. 21, according to a published report of a leaked playbook by the carrier.

The feature-packed Galaxy Nexus, announced on Oct. 21, combines the branding of Samsung's premier line of Android-based devices with Google's Nexus brand, which got off to a rough start with last year's low-selling Nexus One. Google has since released the Nexus S with Samsung in December, via Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and AT&T.

Screaming for Ice Cream

Samsung on Monday confirmed that the Galaxy Nexus, which ships with Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, will be available in the United Kingdom starting Nov. 17th. A growing number of devices are seeing early releases in Europe before the United States, perhaps because Apple has a weaker market abroad for its iPhone and manufacturers see an opportunity to build a market there.

"The level of interest and anticipation surrounding the release of the Galaxy Nexus has been fantastic," Simon Stanford, Samsung's Head of Mobile operations for the U.K. and Ireland, said in a statement. "We're delighted to introduce the Galaxy Nexus to the U.K. and are looking forward to seeing it in the shops on 17th of November."

The press release did not specify a price for the Galaxy Nexus.

Droid Life, a site devoted to Android-based devices, on Monday posted what it said was a leaked Verizon roadmap of coming devices, including the Galaxy Nexus, slated for w/o, or Web-only, on Nov. 21. In an e-mail message to us, Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney did not deny the report but said "we have not announced an availability date for this device. I cannot confirm what is on the Droid Life Web site because it isn't information that we have shared publicly."

Wireless Analyst Gerry Purdy of MobilTrax...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Google+ Pages Are Open for Businesses
If you're a business that uses social networking, it's time to add Google+ to your campaigns. On Monday, the software giant said commercially oriented Web pages on its service were open for business.

Using Google+ Pages, companies can deliver content, build a community and reinforce a brand. Google said 20 businesses, including Macy's and Pepsi, have set up company pages in its trial period, and the service is now being made available to other businesses. Previously only individuals could set up a page.

The '+ Brand' Badge

Other business-based pages currently include CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Angry Birds, Burberry, Dallas Cowboys, Good Morning America, The Muppets, Toyota, and Zen Bikes.

On the Official Google Blog, Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra wrote that Google+ Pages now allow members to "hang out live with the local bike shop, or discuss our wardrobe with a favorite clothing line, or follow a band on tour."

Customers and fans visiting a company's or product's page can recommend it with a +1, or add the page to his or her circle. A +1 is the Google equivalent of Facebook's Like button, and a circle is a user's own set of relationships, enabling direct conversation between circle members.

Bradley Horowitz, Google+ vice president for products, told The New York Times Monday that he expects to see a "+ brand" badge in corporate advertising and products. This would include, he said, a + Pepsi on every one of its soda cans and in its TV spots, along with other social media references, such as the Twitter hashtag, plus, of course, the old-fashioned Web site address. As with Facebook's corporate pages, Google will be able to provide the demographics of visitors to + Pages.

Direct Connect

Gundotra also noted that potential customers can reach company pages on Google+ via its search engine,...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Microsoft Hosts NYC Bash For Mango Rollout
Microsoft and AT&T unveiled three new smartphones on Monday that are based on the software giant's new Windows Phone 7.5 platform, also known as Mango. To celebrate the launch, Microsoft constructed a six-story Windows Phone in the middle of New York City's Herald Square.

The mammoth structure incorporates giant LED screens that simulate the Metro-style interface of live tiles that are displayed on Mango handset screens. The simulation was to run through Monday evening.

"You'll see games in the Games Hub, music in the Music plus Video Hub, people in the People Hub," wrote Microsoft blogger Michael Stroh.

Mango's live-tile home screen -- "especially in the way developers can use the tiles" -- is going to be imitated by other platforms, noted Al Hilwa, the director of applications development software at IDC. But for Mango to succeed as a mobile platform, Microsoft will need to forge "market-by-market breakthroughs" by means of carrier and OEM alliances as well as through the fierce marketing of devices, he said.

"This is the nature of the Android ecosystem and it is the model Microsoft will likely have to follow," Hilwa said in an e-mail Monday. "The Nokia partnership brings exactly this expertise in various markets."

New Mango Models

AT&T is taking orders for two Mango-based handsets from Samsung and with a third model called the HTC Titan -- which will sport an extra-large, 4.7-inch display – set to follow shortly. p Priced at $200, the new Samsung Focus S offers buyers a 4.3-inch super AMOLED plus display, a 1.4GHz processor and 8-megapixel camera. The new Samsung Focus Flash -- which features a 3.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1.4GHz processor and 5-megapixel camera -- is priced at an ultra-low $50. p T-Mobile unveiled its own Mango-based smartphone offering last week. Called the HTC Radar 4G, the new smartphone has a post-rebate...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Firefox 8 Caters to Hardcore Twitter Users
Firefox 8 officially rolls out on Tuesday, but Mozilla quietly made it available in preview mode a few days early. Mozilla offered a Firefox 8 link to its FTP servers on Saturday for PC, Mac and Linux computers. p The latest update to Firefox includes a Twitter tie-in. Users can search Twitter right from a drop-down search box built into the browser or highlight text on the screen and right-click and select search Twitter to find people, topics or hashtags. p I don't think Twitter is going to be enough to get people to switch browsers, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. It appears that it's going to take more than that to drive people forward, but that doesn't mean that browser makers are going to stop trying. p subhead Mobile Browser Wars /subhead p Indeed, the browser wars may not be in full swing but they aren't dead, either. The battle is taking on a mobile dimension even as browser-makers duke it out on the desktop. p Google is the aggressor, with its Chrome browser gaining ground. According to Netmarketshare, Chrome is in third place with 17.6 percent, after Microsoft's Internet Explorer with 52.6 percent and Firefox with 22.5 percent. p Chrome celebrated its third birthday in September and got one of its biggest market share boosts in October with a 1.4 percent gain in the desktop market. Chrome's gains came at the expense of IE and Firefox. p Chrome is seeing momentum at a time when some are questioning the future of Internet Explorer and the success of the Windows Phone mobile operating system. Although Netmarketshare gives IE 52.6 percent of the market, it only has about 6 percent of Web traffic. Apple Safari is making its name known in the mobile market. Safari boasts 62.1 percent of mobile-browser Web traffic. p subhead An Incremental Update /subhead p As for the Firefox 8 release, few expected a major...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Best Buy Bets $1.3 Billion on Connected World
In a move to capitalize on what it calls the growth of the Connected World, Best Buy is making sweeping changes to its operations. Center to those efforts is the acquisition of Carphone Warehouse Group. p Best Buy on Monday announced it will purchase Carphone Warehouse Group's shares in the U.S. and Canadian Best Buy Mobile unit for $1.3 billion. That gives Best Buy full ownership of the business. The acquisition signals Best Buy's bet that the mobile industry will continue its rapid growth. p Best Buy is funding the deal with cash. The motive: tapping into what the company sees as a significant opportunity as connections migrate from phones to other connectable devices such as tablets, laptops, TVs and e-readers. p subhead Connected World Focus /subhead p The connected world concept is one into which many tech industry titans are moving. Hewlett-Packard on Monday announced additions to its portfolio of solutions and services for telecom companies that aim to help them drive business growth with better service-management quality for customers. p Last week, Cisco released its 2011 Connected World Technology Report that revealed the next generation of workers expects to use social media, mobile devices and the Internet more freely in the workplace. And the Connected World Forum last week showcased next-generation mobile apps and services. p We are seeing growth on the mobile side of the business significantly increase and a lot of that is being driven by smartphones and smartphone revenue, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. It's not really a surprise that Best Buy would want to invest even further in this type of activity. p subhead Shifting Europe Strategy /subhead p Best Buy Europe, meanwhile, is closing the 11 big-box pilot stores it launched in the United Kingdom. Instead, the company will focus on its installed base of about 2,500 smaller stories. Best Buy Europe launched a big-box format test in the U.K....

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Barnes Noble Unveils Its Nook Tablet
There's a new tablet in town, and it could help to redefine the category. On Monday, as expected, Barnes Noble unveiled its new, 7-inch Nook Tablet. p The tablet retails for $249, and joins Amazon's recently announced Kindle Fire tablet in defining the half-the-price-of-the-iPad end of the category. Like the iPad and the Kindle, the Nook will give users access to a massive amount of content, in the form of Barnes Noble's 2.5 million e-book titles, 250 periodicals, videos from Hulu Plus, Netflix, and TV.com, and music from Pandora, among other sites. Barnes Noble has also said it will have thousands of apps in time for the holiday season. p subhead Expanding the Category /subhead p The Fire will sell for $50 less than the Nook Tablet, but the Nook Tablet is 5 ounces lighter than the Fire, has a 1 GHz, dual-core processor, 1 GB of memory, and 15 GB of internal storage, which improve on the Fire's specs. The Nook Tablet also has a microSD memory card slot for expansion of storage. p The Fire, on the other hand, has more-extensive cloud storage and cloud-enhanced Web browsing, and, of course, Amazon's huge inventory of movies, apps and music, in addition to e-books. Both the Fire and the Nook Tablet are Wi-Fi only, with no 3G, and neither have cameras. p Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire expand the tablet category with a kind of subcategory of tablets in the $200 range. p He said neither device will be competing directly with Apple's iPad, but primarily with each other. The question potential buyers are going to be asking, Gartenberg said, is which can offer a better ecosystem. He noted that this is why Amazon looks like a better offer than Barnes Noble, since, for $50 less than the Nook Tablet,...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
AMD To Cut 1,400 Workers, New CEO's First Big Move
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is cutting some 1,400 workers as a weak computer market and manufacturing delays have hurt the world's second-biggest maker of microprocessors for PCs. p The layoffs announced Thursday amount to about 12 percent of the company's 12,000 workers and are the first big move by AMD's new CEO, Rory Read, who was hired from Lenovo Group in August. The cuts will unfold over the next five months. p AMD is struggling with an industrywide problem: PC sales growth, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, has been anemic because of the weak economy and competition from smartphones and tablets. p Although PC shipments continue to grow, the pace is slowing sharply -- and more than market research firms IDC and Gartner Inc. expected. That has raised concerns about the strength of the market going into the holiday shopping season. p Most of AMD's business is in chips for PCs. It doesn't have a meaningful presence in smartphones and tablets. p Read's job in large part is to help devise a strategy for AMD to penetrate computing markets where it and rival Intel Corp. have been largely absent. The battle has taken on a new dimension as AMD's and Intel's market share in PCs has reached a steady balance for years -- Intel's chips are in about 80 percent of the world's PCs, and AMD's are in essentially the rest. p Not having much presence in mobile devices has hurt AMD more than Intel because of its smaller size, and it was a key reason AMD ousted Read's predecessor, Dirk Meyer, in January. p Meyer in some ways had an excuse: He was orchestrating triage as he tried to manage the company's spinoff of its manufacturing operations while fending off Intel and overseeing the launch of an important new type of chip for AMD. That chip can process sophisticated graphics and general...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
LinkedIn Posts 3Q Loss as Revenue Growth Accelerates
Online professional networking service LinkedIn got demoted by many investors after suffering its first quarterly loss in its brief career as a publicly traded company. p The third-quarter setback, announced late Thursday, didn't come as a surprise. LinkedIn's stock nevertheless dropped by more than 9 percent. That wiped out some of the paper gains rung up since the company stimulated more interest in Internet companies with a rousing initial public offering of stock nearly six months ago. p Even before the IPO, LinkedIn Corp. made it clear that short-term losses were possible as it ramped up investments in buying more computers and hiring more employees in trying to build a business that changes the way people find jobs and advance their careers. p The third quarter showed LinkedIn isn't backing off that promise. If anything, the company is preparing to up the ante. Toward that end, LinkedIn filed plans to sell an additional $100 million of its stock to fund its ambitions. LinkedIn ended September with nearly $388 million in cash. p The proposed stock sale also will give some LinkedIn employees a chance to cash in some of their holdings. p The company's investments so far appear to be paying off. Its revenue growth is still accelerating while its service is adds about 5 million new members every month. p But it evidently will take more than that to support a stock that has been flying high since LinkedIn's stock market debut. The company's shares shed $8.19 to $79.31 in Thursday's extended trading. p After LinkedIn shares were priced at $45 in the initial public offering, they quickly doubled. Investors' rabid response sparked a debate about whether another investment bubble is forming around disruptive Internet companies, similar to the late 1990s dot-com boom that set the stage for a costly meltdown. p The fervor has subsided amid mounting worries about a fragile economy, although things...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
CIA Analysts Following Twitter, Facebook
In an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following tweets -- up to 5 million a day. p At the agency's Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the vengeful librarians also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms -- anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly. p From Arabic to Mandarin Chinese, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in native tongue. They cross-reference it with the local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House, giving a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt. p Yes, they saw the uprising in Egypt coming; they just didn't know exactly when revolution might hit, said the center's director, Doug Naquin. p The center already had predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime, he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press at the center. CIA officials said it was the first such visit by a reporter the agency has ever granted. p The CIA facility was set up in response to a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission, with its first priority to focus on counterterrorism and counterproliferation. But its several hundred analysts -- the actual number is classified -- track a broad range, from Chinese Internet access to the mood on the street in Pakistan. p While most are based in Virginia, the analysts also are scattered throughout U.S. embassies worldwide to get a step closer to the pulse of their subjects. p The most successful analysts, Naquin said,...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Facebook's Timeline Is a New Privacy Test
When Lisa Hope King created her Facebook account in 2004, things were much simpler. Facebook was a new Web site with a straightforward format. King's status as a sophomore at Rutgers University granted her access to a social-networking site aimed at college students. p It felt very personal, King, 27, says. The amount of information Facebook members could share was minimal. p Now, members can share everything from their employer to their current location. Facebook's coming overhaul of its members' profile pages will more prominently show users' Facebook pasts all the way back to the creation of their accounts. p The feature, Timeline, will roll out to all 800 million Facebook members and is designed to give a more comprehensive view of people's online identities, the company says. Facebook declined to say when it would launch. The come-on to members: Tell your life story with a new kind of profile. p As with past moves, Facebook's plans are sparking privacy concerns among some members and privacy advocates. The new emphasis on past posts means Facebook users have to be vigilant about screening who sees old posts to prevent potentially uncomfortable situations, especially for those in their 20s who have matured since creating their accounts as students and would rather leave the past in the past. p I don't think something I did four years ago is really representative of who I am today, says King, who works for a New York financial services firm. p Up until now, Facebook accounts have focused on the most recent posts. With the new profile format, the most recent Facebook activities will be at the top. But as users go back in time, Timeline will summarize past posts -- emphasizing the photos and status updates with the most likes or comments. p The new profile gets rid of the practical obscurity that has always been part of Facebook,...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Tips for Sorting Out the Deal on Online Deals
Coupon-dot-this and deal-dot-that. There will be no shortage of places for shoppers to find purported bargains on products that are allegedly stellar this holiday season. But how many are the lowest price or a good deal at any price? p If that's not the million-dollar question this holiday season, it will at least be the $499.99 one. p Coupons are king already this holiday season: Searches using coupon-related terms were up 119% last week when compared with the same week last year, says Web-tracking company Experian Hitwise. p There are more than 10,000 deals being touted online by retailers every day, says Dan de Grandpre, CEO of the electronics-focused Web site DealNews. While some are from stores that offer a different mediocre discount every day, some are on products that are deeply discounted. p Comparing prices should always be part of the process. But it's better to start by deciding on a few products or brand names than to pick based on price. p Once you decide, however, you'll need to leave some wiggle room. Sometimes you can find a great bargain on a product you never considered. And it's never been easier to find out if that unbelievable price really is a great deal. So, keep your smartphone handy. p How to make sure you're getting a good price: p Check price-comparison sites, such as PriceGrabber and Shopzilla, to get a more manageable number of prices on products than you'll get with a Google Product Search. p But comparison sites are probably not casting as wide a net as you'd think: You typically get prices only from stores they have contracts with. They make money on a pay per click model -- the more people check out a company's product, the more money they make -- and by selling stores the right to have their merchandise displayed. p Consider sites that aggregate all available deals and then...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Facebook Gets 'Hacky' in Its New Headquarters
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004 and moved to Palo Alto, Calif., four months later, the company has occupied temporary, rented space. But for the first time in its new Menlo Park, Calif., campus, Facebook is its own landlord. p That means the social networking company, never shy about using its offices to broadcast its upstart hacker identity, is taking self-expression to a new level in its first permanent home. From exposing structural steel girders and offering them as another site for employee graffiti, to choosing bare plywood as the ceiling material over employee walkways, Facebook's ongoing transformation of the buttoned-down former Sun Microsystems campus is meant to telegraph that the company itself remains a work in progress. p This is finished. Well, it's actually unfinished, said Facebook real estate chief John Tenanes, as he walked through a section of the Menlo Park campus where cutaway walls and ceilings prompted a visitor to wonder whether the renovations were complete. Because our job is never done, we're only 1 percent of the journey. That's what Mark's mantra is -- we're only 1 percent along in the changes Facebook hopes to bring to the Internet. p Tenanes recently led a reporter and photographer through what will soon be Facebook's first permanent home. The aesthetics behind Facebook's new digs say much about the company's corporate values and beliefs -- including its sense of urgency as a company. p About 500 Facebook employees, including the company's legal and finance departments, have already moved to Menlo Park. Tenanes' task is to complete renovations to enough of the nine-building former Sun complex to house an additional 1,400 employees by the end of the year, with work on the rest of the existing campus due to be completed by next summer -- allowing the fast-growing company to accommodate...

Tue, 8 Nov 11
Will Thunderbolt Take Over for USB?
It wasn't until a universal connector came along, toward the end of the 1990s, that people could hook up their printer, scanner or camera to a running computer without a lot of fuss. p That's when USB (universal serial bus) connections came along. The first one was released in 1996 and created a revolution. Since then it has become universal indeed, with all kinds of computers and components using its connections to communicate. p Of course, nothing can last forever and a successor system, Thunderbolt, seems to be waiting in the wings. It is capable of multiple times more performance, which could one day put it ahead of USB. p But USB remains a draw. Chip manufacturer Intel has recently released an ad campaign acclaiming staff member Ajay Bhatt, an American of Indian descent who helped create the USB standard, as a rock star. p The creation was a big step. Finally, it was possible to do without a multitude of connections and use devices as plug and play components, without first having to go through a lengthy software installation process before the computer would recognize them. Nowadays, no-one thinks twice before plugging a USB stick into a computer to download data. p It's become so common that almost every producer of computers and peripherals builds the sockets into their products in an effort to ease communication. It makes sense, since USB 2.0 is still widely used in the industry. p The newer USB version was first released in 2000, a high speed interface that could theoretically transfer data at rates of 480 megabits per second (Mbps). Since it could transfer data 40 times faster than its predecessor, it could finally be used with video players. p Of course, as data files have grown ever more complex and common, USB has become something of a bottleneck, since people want today's larger files transferred as...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Google Reportedly Planning Cable Service
Stay tuned for Google Cable. According to new reports, the technology giant plans a paid cable-TV service.

A story in Friday's Wall Street Journal indicates the company's entry into providing television programming may grow from an already-committed project to launch a high-speed Internet service in Kansas City, both in Missouri and Kansas. According to the report, Google is considering adding television and phone service as well.

Discussions for Programming

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is reportedly in discussions with Walt Disney Company, Time Warner and Discovery Communications about programming for the video service, although no deal has been struck. Former cable TV executive Jeremy Stern, recently hired by Google, is said to be in charge of negotiations.

The cable effort would be separate from the company's Google TV. That product, which integrates Web content with existing TV programming in an HD set, has specifically been positioned as a complement, not a replacement, to cable or broadcast TV.

In a recent posting on the official Google TV blog, for instance, Google Vice President for Product Management Mario Queiroz and Director of Engineering Vincent Dureau wrote that Google TV is about "bringing millions of new channels to your TV from the next generation of creators, application developers, and networks," such as the Google-owned YouTube. Google has committed $100 million to create original content for YouTube.

But Google is not alone among technology giants in eyeing the big glass eye. Amazon and Dish Network are said to be involved in developing streaming video content that would challenge Netflix. CBS CEO Les Moonves recently noted that Apple had approached that network, among others, for an ad-supported Apple TV service that would split ad revenue. CBS declined, he said.

A New Apple TV?

A key issue, apparently, was that CBS prefers upfront payment for online licensing deals, which the Apple TV service...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Amazon Begins Shipping Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Early
Amazon began shipping orders for Samsung's 7-inch tablet Friday -- even though the device maker had originally intended its new Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus to debut in Indonesia and Australia at the end of October and not launch in the U.S. until mid-November.

The Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is available with larger U.S. retailers who already have received the units that Samsung has shipped to them, the company said Friday in an e-mail statement.

"The nationwide availability date is still November 13," Samsung said.

Amazon is selling the 16 GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus for $400, with free shipping included. The 32 GB model can be pre-ordered for $500, and will likewise ship for free once Amazon has the item in stock. The other major U.S. retailers expected to begin selling the new tablet include Best Buy, Tiger Direct and Fry's.

Integrating built-in infrared capabilities, the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is also designed to work in tandem with a "smart report" TV app developed by Peel that will enable users to instantly find and view their favorite TV programs as well as discover new TV content based on personal preferences.

"The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus -- with its built in IR remote functionality -- is a great platform for the Peel app and creates an ideal second screen experience for any TV lover," said Greg Lindley, chief experience officer for Peel.

With Peel's new app on-board, the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus can double as a universal remote control for an entire home entertainment system -- from the TV set and surround-sound audio system, to a DVD or Blu-ray player and a set-top box for cable. The new "smart report" TV app can connect users directly to Facebook and Twitter so they can share what they are viewing at any...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Siri's Day Off Is Latest iPhone Glitch
Some iPhone users had a burning question to ask the device's much-vaunted personal voice assistant application on Thursday: "Why aren't you working?"

What they got back were bland answers such as "Sorry, I am having trouble connecting to the network," and "I can't answer questions right now. " A rising star featured in 4S commercials and darling of the mobile world, the female-voiced Siri can be forgiven for needing a day off.


With as many as 5 million of Apple's newest smartphones sold since their early October launch, users have been sending queries fast and furious, such as "what's the weather?" and "where is Puss N' Boots playing?" Those queries evidently have been inundating Apple's cloud servers, which translate the words into data and send responses.

An outage of new technology isn't unusual. Last month Research In Motion's servers for its BlackBerry messaging and data systems went down for several days across a wide geographic area, and Verizon Wireless faced an embarrassing shutdown of its long-term evolution, high-speed data network in April just four months after it launched.

"This is not that big, yet," said Ramon Llamas, a wireless analyst for IDC Research.

On the scale of recent Apple snafus, he said, last year's Antennagate, in which iPhone users complained about reception problems stemming from the iPhone 4's unique double-band antenna, takes the cake, while the connectivity issues with AT&T's network rank second.

"Having Siri break down is a distant third, because you can still use your phone," Llamas said. "It's something people are addicted to and something for Apple to address but it's not insurmountable. When you get right down to it, it's still very new, still a beta, so it's going to have some teething pain."

Indeed, the problem seemed to be fixed by Friday, although it did come on the heels of...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Google Builds on Caffeine to Freshen Search Results
Google is sprucing up its search technologies again. The changes mark one of the biggest tune-ups Google has made to its search algorithm and promises more up-to-date, relevant results.

The update builds on the Caffeine Web-indexing system Google launched in 2010. Caffeine allows Google to crawl and index the Web for fresh content quickly on a large scale. The fine-tuned algorithm will affect about 35 percent of searches.

"Given the incredibly fast pace at which information moves in today's world, the most recent information can be from the last week, day or even minute, and depending on the search terms, the algorithm needs to be able to figure out if a result from a week ago about a TV show is recent, or if a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old," Google Fellow Amit Singhal wrote in a blog post.

Fixing a Flaw

Google Search uses a freshness algorithm, which is designed to give you the most up-to-date results. Here's an example of how the new algorithm works: If you search for "Olympics," the new Google search figures you probably want information about next summer's Olympics, not the 1900 Summer Olympics. So even when you just type "Olympics" without specifying 2012, you still find what you're looking for.

Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said the freshness algorithm is a welcome development. The new tweaks don't affect results for standard searches, like how to bake a cake or how to unclog a sink.

"For years, this has been a kind of Achilles heel or flaw in Google results: time or recency was not given the weight it should have had in Google's algorithm," Sterling said. "Consequently a result for any query might have brought up 'stale' or old links at the top of the page. To see the...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
New Nook Tablet Specs Aimed at Hosing Kindle Fire
Barnes & Noble will release a Nook Tablet on Monday that has twice the memory and storage of Amazon's coming Kindle Fire, according to new reports on the Web. The new tablet will be offered at $249, currently the price of the Nook Color, which is expected to drop in price below $200.

The new tablet could point to the further evolution of e-readers into mini-tablets. The Nook Tablet can build on the success of the Nook Color, which is now second in shipments to Apple's iPad 2.

Nov. 15 and 16

The Kindle Fire ships Nov. 15, and, according to the reports, the new Nook Tablet will ship the next day. The Nook Tablet will feature 1 GB of memory, compared with 512 MB for the Color and the Fire. It will also have 16 GB of storage, expandable to 32 GB, and will sport a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, faster than the dual-core in the Fire and the single-core in the Color. The Color and the Fire each have 8 GB of storage.

Several weeks ago, Amazon unveiled its Kindle Fire tablet, which will sell for $199. Aside from the price and hardware differences, the Fire takes advantage of Amazon's cloud to speed up Web browsing, and is intended to be a playback device for Amazon's huge store of content. According to news reports, Amazon is selling the Kindle as a loss leader, under the price of manufacture, in order to move more content.

Amazon has also been actively working to build on its content advantage. On Thursday, it announced the Kindle Owners Lending Library, with thousands of book titles -- including more than 100 bestsellers -- available at no additional charge to Kindle-owning subscribers of Amazon Prime, which costs $79 annually and includes other benefits. Recently, the company also announced an arrangement...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Groupon IPO Highest Internet Debut Since Google
It's hardly the heyday of tech industry initial public offerings, but Groupon is reminding investors of what those days were like. Groupon took its stock to the public markets Friday morning and the IPO set a valuation that was the highest since Google.

Launched in November 2008, the Chicago-based Groupon is a deal-of-the-day Web site featuring geographically specific deals from local merchants. If a certain number of consumers sign up for an offer, then the deal becomes available to everyone. But if the minimum is not met, nobody gets the deal.

Groupon made an initial public offering of 35 million shares of Class A common stock at a price of $20 per share. That equals about 5.5 percent of the company. That is a smaller number of shares offered compared with traditional IPOs.

Despite the fact that Groupon has yet to turn a profit, its debut on the Nasdaq Friday morning had investors rushing to get in. The New York Times reported that the shares soared from $20 to $28 at open and pushed upward to more than $30 a share in early morning trading. That values Groupon at about $19 billion.

Groupon's Perfect Storm

"Groupon is trading well. It is surprising to me," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. "I do think the limited number of shares drove the value up. That plus we haven't had a really exciting tech IPO in a long time. A number of forces came together to create a perfect storm effect for Groupon."

Groupon's success may encourage other tech darlings to go IPO. Business social-network LinkedIn made its debut on the public markets in May and also saw a warm reception. LinkedIn opened at $45 a share and quickly rose to $83 a share on the New York Stock Exchange. As opening day went on, the shares...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
ThinkPad Tablet Combines Work and Entertainment
Persuading people to embrace a tablet that's not an Apple iPad compels rivals to come at buyers from a different angle. Lenovo's angle is to market a tablet at mobile professionals and students for office or classroom use. As the Chinese computer maker behind the ThinkPad-branded notebooks that are popular in business, Lenovo would appear to have the chops to pull it off.

The result is the ThinkPad Tablet that went on sale recently. I've appreciated many ThinkPad notebooks dating back to the IBM days -- Lenovo snagged the ThinkPad franchise from IBM more than six years ago -- so I was curious how Lenovo's tablet would measure up. Well, Lenovo has produced a solid machine -- one that in the end I liked but didn't love.

Though the design and use of a tablet obviously differ from a laptop, you get the sense that the device was meant to evoke warm feelings from fans of ThinkPad notebooks. It costs $499 for a model with 16 gigabytes of storage, $569 for 32 GB and $669 for 64 GB. All are Wi-Fi-only; Lenovo hasn't announced specifics for versions with cellular connectivity, though a SIM slot is on board.

The tablet fuses business needs with entertainment and runs Android version 3.1 Honeycomb. It's about an inch taller than an iPad 2 and thicker. At 1.65 pounds, it's got some girth -- providing space for a full-size USB 2.0 port that is concealed behind a sliding door. (Apple iPad has no USB.) There's also a microUSB port (you can use for charging) and a miniHDMI port for connecting to a high-definition television (at 1080p) and microSD card reader. There are front- and rear-facing cameras but no flash.

ThinkPad has a 10.1-inch multitouch display protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass. The screen didn't wow me. The home screens are...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
'Malvertisements' Take a Toll on Businesses, Consumers
Consumers browsing popular Web sites increasingly are encountering ads that infect their computers -- and the online advertising industry is scrambling to quell the problem.

The spread of "malvertisements" has risen tenfold over the past year -- spiking to nearly 15,000 tainted ads in May, likely infecting millions of PCs, according to security intelligence firm RiskIQ.

Tainted ads were found on "major sites such as weather.com, foxsports.com, monster.com and usnews.com, just to name a few," says Elias Manousos, CEO of RiskIQ.

A recent rash of infections triggered bogus security warnings, followed by an offer for fake antivirus protection.

Last month SpeedTest.net -- a popular Web site that consumers use to measure the speed of their home high-speed Internet connection -- was hit by the tainted ads.

Simply navigating to the site launched the promos, which locked up the visitor's PC until he or she purchased worthless "protection" for $35.

Organized-crime gangs have streamlined the process of sneaking viral ads into the distribution system used by advertising networks to place ads on Web sites.

"The average home computer user faces a high risk of being attacked by malvertisements," says Vincent Liu, managing partner of security consultancy Stach & Liu.

"Most Web sites aren't as on top of this as we are," says Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of Web diagnostics firm Ookla, SpeedTest's parent. "We were surprised someone got in. We quickly stripped it out and locked things down."

However, tens of thousands of other Web sites that use the same technology to deliver legitimate ads to their sites are wide open to this new type of attack, says Matt Huang, chief operating officer of Web site security firm Armorize.

In another twist, consumers bedeviled by fake anti-virus pitches have started bad-mouthing Web sites they believe triggered the bogus promos. Armorize has documented numerous consumer complaints that have gone viral on...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Google Picks Mobile for New Business Model
Google Inc. went far from its California headquarters to make an Alabama city its model in a new campaign to help businesses build better Web sites for mobile devices. The alliteration, Mobilizing Mobile, was simply too good to pass up.

It doesn't matter that mobile and Mobile (moh-BEEL) are pronounced differently.

Google spokeswoman Sandra Heikkinen said some executives in Mountain View, Calif., are still practicing the pronunciation of the city, but "we love the alliteration."

The search giant is planning a series of events and workshops in Mobile from Nov. 14-16 to help businesses build a presence on the mobile Internet and get new customers. Participants will have the opportunity to have their desktop Web sites developed for portable devices like smart phones and tablets the same day as the workshop. It can tell potential customers their location, phone number, hours of operation and other information designed to drive business.

"Someone can find them that afternoon," said Jason Spero, Google's director of mobile advertising for the Americas.

For Google, it's part of an international effort, GoMo, to get more businesses using mobile sites.

For Mobile, it's an opportunity for businesses to get their sites developed and hosted free for a year. It's also an opportunity for the city to turn a digital search disadvantage into an advantage.

Leigh Perry Herndon, vice president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, said people who type Mobile into an Internet search often get more information about telecommunications companies than they do the port city in Alabama. But now that spelling problem has brought Google to the city.

"This is one of those benefits of having a name that sounds like something else," she said.

Google executives said that while Mobile's name made it attractive, research made it a cinch. They found a city with a diverse range of businesses and a tech-savvy...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Twitter Changes Business of Celebrity Endorsements
Rapper Snoop Dogg gave props on Twitter to an ad for the Toyota Sienna minivan. Actress Tori Spelling linked to a Web site for rental cars. And reality TV star Khloe Kardashian soliloquized about the brand of jeans that accentuates the famous Kardashian derriere.

"Want to know how Old Navy makes your butt look scary good? Ask a Kardashian," the reality TV star wrote, or tweeted, on the social media Web site. Of course, she capped off the reflection with a smiley face.

These celebs aren't just writing about family cars and fashion choices for the heck of it. Stars can get paid big bucks -- sometimes $10,000 or more per post -- to pontificate about clothes, cars and movies in the 140 characters or less allowed per tweet. That's adds up to about $71 per character.

Twitter, which in its five-year existence has reshaped how people shop, vote and start revolutions, is now changing the business of celebrity endorsements. Just as Match.com and eHarmony pair up singles for dates, a growing number of startup firms are hooking up companies with stars who get paid to praise products to their thousands -- sometimes millions -- of Twitter followers.

The list of celebs and the things they hawk is long and getting longer all the time. The endorsements range from subtle to blatant; the celeb pairings from sensible to downright odd.

Singer Ray J urged his 600,000-plus Twitter followers to see the horror movie "Saw 3D." Football star Terrell Owens gave a shout-out in front of his more than 1 million followers to a hotel chain giving away sports tickets: "Comfort Inn is hooking up 3 days of it!" Lamar Odom, L.A. Lakers forward, tweeted to his nearly 2 million followers about hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z's book "Decoded": "My man Jay-Z ... only rapper to...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
Judge Says Sprint and C Spire Can Sue AT&T
A federal judge ruled Wednesday evening that Sprint Nextel Corp. and a regional cellphone company can sue AT&T Inc. over its acquisition of rival T-Mobile USA.

AT&T had asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle to dismiss the case because Sprint and Ridgeland, Miss.-based C Spire Wireless did not have the right to sue over the deal that would create the nation's largest wireless phone carrier.

Dallas-based AT&T already is fighting an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Obama administration that claims the AT&T-T-Mobile merger would lead to higher wireless prices, less innovation and fewer choices for consumers. AT&T says the deal will allow it to better serve customers and expand its wireless network.

But Huvelle ruled Sprint and C Spire could move forward with some of its claims, including that the deal would block their access to the most innovative handsets, which they say are becoming the primary way to attract customers. Wireless carriers compete for devices, sometimes winning exclusive deals with manufactures such as AT&T's deal to exclusively provide iPhone service from the popular smartphone's release in 2007 until early this year.

Huvelle said manufacturers want to design devices for larger carriers because they can sell the most phones. Sprint and C-Spire argue that with 129 million customers combined after the merger, AT&T and T-Mobile would control more than 40 percent of the national market and have increased power to get exclusive deals that would hurt smaller competitors' business.

Huvelle agreed with AT&T that Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint and C Spire do not have the right to sue on many of the grounds they attempted, including their claim that the deal would lead to higher retail rates. She said that is a harm to consumers and not the companies themselves.

Wayne Watts, AT&T senior executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement that...

Sat, 5 Nov 11
U.S. Report Blasts China, Russia for Cybercrime
Cyberattacks by Chinese and Russian intelligence services, as well corporate hackers in those countries, have swallowed up large amounts of high-tech American research and development data, and that stolen information has helped build their economies, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded.

The report, offering the first such detailed public accusations from U.S. officials, said computer attacks by foreign governments are on the rise and represent a "persistent threat to U.S. economic security."

Assessing the implications, the report said "the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive U.S. economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace."

For years, experts and officials have complained about cyberattacks emanating from China. But this report, released Thursday, provides some of the sharpest and most direct criticism from the U.S. government about those intrusions.

A senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the report before its public release, said the Chinese and Russians are using the high-tech espionage to boost their own development.

Despite the broad accusations, neither the report nor the U.S. officials offered many details about the Chinese or Russian cyber-attacks. They also did not say how many of the attacks are government-sponsored. While they said attacks can be traced to the two countries, they noted that identifying the exact culprit is difficult.

China had no immediate response to the report, which was issued well after working hours Thursday in Beijing.

However, China has consistently denied engaging in cyberspying and, at a regularly scheduled news briefing Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated Beijing's insistence that it, too, has been attacked.

"China is a major victim of hacking," Hong said. "China is ready to build, together with other countries, a peaceful, secure and open cyberspace order."

He added, "As for the remarks from certain quarters, I would point out that hacking attacks have no boundaries...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
HP Updates Windows Tablet PC for Professionals
Having recently reaffirmed its commitment to the PC side of its business, Hewlett-Packard is poised to launch an updated tablet PC running the professional edition of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system. Called the HP Slate 2, the machine will enable business professionals to maintain seamless continuity with the entire range of content residing on the machines used by their managers and fellow workers.

The decision to refresh the original Slate tablet launched by HP last year demonstrates that the company continues to see growth opportunities in the professional segment of the tablet market. About 6 percent of all tablet shipments during the second quarter of 2011 went to commercial users -- up from 3 percent in the prior two quarters of 2010, said IDC Vice President Loren Loverde in an e-mail Thursday. "Apple had about 80 percent of that in the past two quarters," she said.

HP experienced strong growth in the U.S. PC market during this year's third quarter -- when the company's PC shipments increased 15.1 percent year over year and its market leading share totaled 28.9 percent, said Mika Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner.

"Moving to a Windows-based tablet is a good direction for HP," Kitagawa said in an e-mail Thursday. "But I am not sure how the product will help [boost the] overall revenues and profitability [at HP's Personal Systems Group], as the market is expected to be small at this point."

Right Mix of Features

HP's new 1.5-pound tablet will enable mobile workers to create, edit and review business documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other types of Windows-compatible files while on the go. The HP Slate 2 also ships with the requisite mSATA SSM technology for delivering faster Windows 7 boot times.

Slate 2 integrates a 1.5GHz Atom Z670 processor from Intel, 2GB of...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Customer Analytics Come To Real Stores
If you run a physical store -- remember them? -- you may have looked longingly at the kinds of analytics that your Web site, or your online competitors, may have enjoyed for years. Now, a new company is making a data analytics platform available for the real world, taking advantage of the fact that most store visitors carry a mobile phone with Wi-Fi enabled.

On Thursday, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Euclid Elements announced its new platform, emerging from a stealth development period funded by venture capital. "To put it simply," said co-founder and CEO Will Smith in a statement, "we're Google Analytics for the physical world."

Wi-Fi Within 60 Yards

The Euclid platform uses sensors to map shopper traffic patterns in retail spaces, by tracking the position of customers' smartphones.

The data includes numbers of unique visitors over given time periods, numbers of people walking by when the store is closed, new vs. repeat visitors, customer loyalty and frequency, the effectiveness of promotions in creating loyal customers, metrics between stores, average dwell time, and window conversion rates -- how many walked by vs. how many walked in.

The sensors pick up Wi-Fi signals within 60 yards, and use that information as markers for the customers. The service runs about $200 monthly. The data can be used to help determine merchandising displays, the effectiveness of in-store specials, store layout and traffic flows, staffing and other aspects.

The company said that the installation is quick and easy. Installation of sensors, it said, takes a couple of minutes, and then stores just need to log into their Web dashboard to view analytics. The company said that the data is secure, in that it is always hashed, encrypted, and sent over secure connections.

No Personal Data

Euclid said that no personal shopper data is collected, and that all data is anonymous...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Motorola To Debut Xoom 2 In U.K.
Motorola's Xoom tablet is up for an update, and the mobility giant has one in the form of a slimmer, lighter and faster model of its Android slab.

But don't go shopping for the premium Android-based tablet's sequel just yet. It's going to debut only in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Faster, Lighter, Slimmer

Motorola, soon to become a subsidiary of Android-developer Google if regulators give their blessing, says the Xoom 2 is 10 percent lighter and 30 percent thinner with an improved, high-definition 10.1-inch screen, powered by a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor that's 20 percent faster. The Xoom 2 also allows users to stream files to their PCs via the MotoCast app.

Want a smaller version? Moto has the Xoom Media Edition, with an 8.2-inch screen. Both pack Android 3.2 with similar specs, though the bigger sibling promises more battery life, 10 hours as opposed to six. American customers can register now for information about availability. Prices have not yet been announced.

The current, 4G LTE-capable Xoom sells for $499 with a two-year data contract, and $669 a la carte.

First released in February of this year, just ahead of the iPad 2, the Xoom has struggled to gain a foothold in a tablet market that has been dominated by Apple's market-building tablet, with Samsung's Android-based Galaxy Tab also gaining some market share.

"The Xoom was prematurely released in that much of what it had that was better than the iPad wasn't working at launch," said Rob Enderle, principal technology analyst at The Enderle Group. "Flash support wasn't done -- it's a big differentiator -- many of the apps like Netflix weren't available yet, and Honeycomb was largely unfinished at launch. This was fixed over time and Best Buy told me it became their second-highest selling Android tablet."

Enderle noted, though, that this wasn't saying much...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Apple Readies Fix for iOS 5 Battery Issues
Apple isn't saying much about the battery issues with the iPhone 4S, but Cupertino has finally broken its silence. On Wednesday, the company revealed that it has discovered an issue that is causing some customers running iOS 5 to experience battery life woes.

Based on Apple's statement, however, it seems the battery issues are not as widespread as the headlines are making them out to be.

"A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices," the company said. "We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks."

That statement was the beginning and end of what Apple had to say on the matter. The iPhone maker did not offer any temporary workarounds for the issue, though forum posts indicate that some users have seen battery life improve by turning off a feature that adjusts to new time zones automatically and by limiting notifications from incoming e-mail and social-networking sites.

Too-Early Adopters?

Analysts aren't surprised that Apple stayed mum until it had a fix -- or that there are bugs in iOS5. Historically, Apple remains silent while it confirms an issue and develops a fix. When the fix is near-ready, Apple admits the problem and promises to resolve it.

"This is a brand new operating system. There are certainly going to be issues -- and in a small device like this most likely those issues are going to have some impact on the battery life," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group. "It's part of the price you pay for wanting to be the first on any new device. You are the one who gets to discover all the wonderful new problems with it."

Indeed, hype around new Apple products is...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Amazon Launches New Kindle Lending Library
Could the future availability of e-books look more like Netflix than a bookstore? Amazon is pointing to at least one possible future, with its new, free e-lending program for Kindle.

On Wednesday, the giant retailer announced the launch of its Kindle Owners' Lending Library for customers with an Amazon Prime membership. Kindle-owning members can now borrow any of thousands of book titles in the Library for free. The selections include over a hundred current or former New York Times bestsellers, and the frequency can be as much as a book a month. There are no due dates for the "return."

Bookmarks Saved

Amazon points out that no other e-reader or e-bookstore offers such a deal, which is getting close to the subscription model offered by Netflix for movies. The free Lending Library option is included in the Prime membership, whose $79 annual fee also includes free two-day shipping and unlimited streaming of about 13,000 movies and TV shows.

Titles in the new lending library include Michael Lewis' Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short, Liars' Poker, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, and Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Notes, highlights, and bookmarks made in the loaned e-book are saved, and will re-appear if the book is bought or borrowed again. Books are borrowed and returned from a given Kindle device.

Amazon said that, for most titles, it has reached a fixed fee agreement for a given number of titles from a publisher. In other cases, Amazon pays a standard wholesale price to the publisher each time a book is borrowed, in an effort to show the revenue opportunity for publishers, but at no risk to them.

'Very Creative'

Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content, said in a...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Yahoo Releases Content and TV Apps for iPad
Hoping to get a better foothold in the fast-moving mobile market, Yahoo has released new apps for the iPad. One, called Livestand, provides news and entertainment content, and another, IntoNow, is intended as a companion to watching TV.

Livestand, a digital newsstand app, shows Yahoo content from the company's news, finance and sports sites, in addition to content from other companies' magazines. By providing third-party magazines, Yahoo's app allows publishers to deliver their content without having to create an app. Livestand comes with interactive ads from such companies as Toyota.

Scientific American, Forbes

Other tablet-based publishing platforms, such as Flipboard and Google's coming Propeller, are also beginning to create a common framework so that publishers don't have to keep reinventing the wheel. Outside content for Livestand includes Scientific American, Forbes, Surfer, Parenting and ABC News. Ad and subscription revenue is being shared with publishing partners, but the deal arrangements were not made public. An Android version is expected early next year.

Livestand was originally discussed by the company in February, but the product had been delayed. The app adds an element of personalization to content reading, in that it shows the user content based on interaction and choices.

IntoNow, which Yahoo bought earlier this year, identifies a TV program by recognizing its soundtrack, recommends related content, and allows the user to communicate with others about the program. The app is integrated with Facebook, Twitter, iTunes and Netflix.

Social TV

IntoNow draws on an index of several years of U.S. television programming. When the acquisition was announced in April, Yahoo noted in a statement that IntoNow "is able to identify content down to the airing, episode and time within the program as well as provide program information and links associated with it, all within a matter of seconds."

The basic idea of IntoNow is a concept gaining traction at...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Loses Extradition Appeal
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lost his appeal against extradition to Sweden to answer sex crime allegations, but said Wednesday he will now consider whether to take his protracted fight to Britain's highest court.

High Court appeal Judges John Thomas and Duncan Ousely rejected Assange's claims that it would be unfair and unlawful to send him to Scandinavia to be questioned over the alleged rape of one woman and the molestation of another in Stockholm last year. The 40-year-old has denied wrongdoing, and insists the case is politically motivated by those opposed to the work of his secret-spilling organization.

"We will be considering our next steps in the days ahead," Assange said outside the court. He did not seem angry or visibly upset, despite the substantial legal setback.

Lawyer Mark Summers confirmed that it was not clear whether his client would attempt an appeal to Britain's Supreme Court. His legal team has 14 days to decide whether to apply to the High Court, and then must try to persuade judges that there is a point of law to justify an appeal to the highest court.

It means Assange will remain in Britain for at least several more weeks, and could potentially extend his fight against extradition into next year. At a hearing, the appeal judges confirmed that Assange would remain on bail, held under virtual house arrest at a friend's country estate in southern England.

Legal experts insisted the odds are now stacked against Assange avoiding extradition to Sweden.

"I think it's highly likely that he'll be in Sweden before the end of the year," said Julian Knowles, an extradition lawyer not involved in the case.

Vaughan Smith, the owner of the country mansion where Assange is living, said his friend's prospects appeared bleak. "It's not good news," he told The Associated Press.

Smith said Assange is concerned about...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Beware of Bogus Online Product Reviews and Sites
Web sites and online product reviews are increasingly pretending to contain legitimate opinions about products but are often simply for-hire endorsements or promotional material, experts say.

Deceptive review sites are among the first things consumers searching for reviews on products including juicers or treadmills would find, but they come and go so fast, it's difficult for regulators to police them, says Christine Frietchen, editor-in-chief of ConsumerSearch.com.

"The big problem is that these sites are turning up every day in consumers' online research during the holidays when they are looking for gifts and trying to do their homework like everyone tells them to do," says Frietchen, whose site summarizes the best expert and user reviews on the Web.

Jeff Hancock, a psychologist and associate professor at Cornell, co-authored a scientific study this year about online reviews and estimates up to 5 percent of all online product reviews are "deceptive opinion spam," or the work of people paid to tout or disparage products.

The Federal Trade Commission has brought two deceptive-advertising cases about fake reviews in the last 14 months:

Nashville-based Legacy Learning Systems in March settled FTC charges that it deceptively advertised its DVDs of guitar lessons through affiliate marketers who falsely posed as users or independent reviewers.

A public relations firm, Reverb, hired by video game developers settled FTC charges in August 2010 that it didn't disclose it had employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the iTunes Store.

"The more egregious the claims are, the more likely they are to be targeted," says Mary Engle, director of the FTC's division of advertising practices. "Bad practices bubble up."

Engle recommends consumers be wary of review sites that suggest they've "reviewed a bunch of different products and then claim to find only one that's worthwhile." She says the most glowing and most negative reviews should be viewed...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Freecycle Network Grows Globally in Bad Economy
OFFER. WANTED. TAKEN. With those three words, Deron Beal of Tucson, Arizona, helped move the yard sale online, only with no money changing hands.

Beal is the founder of The Freecycle Network, or Freecycle.org. It's a grassroots gifting network that -- thanks to the sour economy and a growing commitment to the environment -- has transformed into a global movement of millions offering, wanting and taking all manner of stuff.

Staffed by volunteer moderators and loosely overseen by Beal, Freecycle aims to let you share your old TVs, clothes, broken blenders, tire chains and moving boxes with people nearby, using e-mail groups at Yahoo! and on the network's Web site.

There are nearly 5,000 Freecycle groups with about 9 million members in more than 70 countries. Not bad for a guy who was simply trying to keep perfectly good stuff out of landfills, or find homes for stuff charities don't take, in his own community.

"It's a win, win, win, win," Beal said. "Everybody feels good."

Freecycle can be effortless for people who can leave their old magazines, kitchenware or larger items on a porch for pick up, but it can generate a lot of e-mail and suck up more time in larger locales as giver and taker try to untangle their schedules and decide where and when to make an exchange.

There's no real navigation at Freecycle. You sign up, wait in some cases to be approved by a moderator, and decide whether to take individual e-mails, daily digests of offerings or read the list online only.

Beal got the idea for Freecycle while working as a recycling coordinator for a nonprofit in Tucson. The organization offered jobs to men in shelters to do concierge recycling by picking up things like old computers and office tables at shops, restaurants and other companies, then trying to find...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Anonymous Hackers To Expose Mexican Drug Cartel?
One of the world's most secretive movements is taking aim at a just as clandestine mafia, right out in the open.

Bloggers and tweeters claiming to belong to the hacker movement "Anonymous" say they plan to expose collaborators of Mexico's bloody Zetas drug cartel, even if some of them seem to have backed away from the plan out of fear.

Their debate is playing out on chatboards, Web sites and Twitter messages, many of them open to public view.

But just what they might do, as a claimed Friday deadline approaches, remains unclear, perhaps even to the loosely coordinated Internet community. Its participants generally hide their real-world identities even from one another, partly as protection from officials and prosecutors who often consider them outlaws.

Self-proclaimed members of a movement best known for hacking public corporate and government Web sites are now talking about attacking a drug cartel that largely shuns the Internet and has killed, even beheaded, ordinary bloggers for posting information about it.

"The problem is, hack what? There are no drug cartel Web sites, that I know of, that would be hackable," said Raul Trejo, an expert on media and violence at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

In an Internet video posted last month, a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask claimed the Zetas had kidnapped a member of Anonymous in the state of Veracruz while he was handing out political pamphlets. The video doesn't give the victim's name, and prosecutors say they know nothing about the supposed abduction.

The speaker in the video said that if the kidnap victim is not released, Anonymous will post the names, photos and addresses of taxi drivers, police, journalists and others allegedly working with the Zetas. He did not say how the movement would get such information, but suggested it can locate and blow up cartel associates'...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
House Votes for Five-Year Freeze on New Cell Taxes
The House on Tuesday approved a five-year freeze on any new state and local taxes imposed on cellphones and other wireless services, including wireless broadband access.

The voice vote reflected a consensus that new taxes on wireless mobile services have far outpaced average sales taxes on other items and have become a deterrent to the spread of wireless broadband technology.

"We need to encourage the development and adoption of wireless broadband, not tax it out of existence," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the sponsor of the legislation.

She said that in many places, the taxation of wireless approaches or even exceeds the rates of sin taxes on goods like alcohol and tobacco.

Her office said wireless customers now pay 16.3 percent in taxes and fees, more than double the average rate of 7.4 percent on other goods and services. It said taxes on wireless services hits 26.8 percent in Baltimore, 20.4 percent in New York City and 19.9 percent in Omaha, Neb.

"The exorbitant discriminatory taxes on wireless customers are not only unfair, they are counterintuitive, adding another costly impediment to the success of so many American businesses who are struggling in the midst of a prolonged recession," said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., co-sponsor of the bill with Lofgren.

The bill prohibits state and local governments from imposing new discriminatory taxes on mobile services, providers or property -- cellphones -- for five years. Discriminatory taxes are defined as those not generally imposed on other types of services and providers or imposed at a lower rate.

The only lawmaker to speak out against the bill was Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who said it was a special interest measure for the wireless industry that was opposed by state government associations and organized labor.

"This will deny states the flexibility to respond to economic downturns during the moratorium and therefore undermine...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Hollywood Hacker Pleads Not Guilty
A Florida man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to hacking into the email accounts of celebrities such as Christina Aguilera, Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson, whose nude photos eventually landed on the Internet.

Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., made his first court appearance in California, where he's been indicted on 26 counts, including unauthorized access to a computer and wiretapping. If convicted, he faces up to 121 years in prison.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Walsh denied federal prosecutors' request to remand Chaney to custody but modified his bond to $110,000, and he will wear an electronic monitoring device upon his return to Florida.

A trial has been scheduled for Dec. 27.

Chaney was arrested as part of a yearlong investigation of celebrity hacking that authorities dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi."

There were more than 50 victims in the case. Some nude photos taken by Johansson herself were posted on the Internet. Chaney offered some material to celebrity blog sites but there wasn't any evidence that he profited from his scheme, authorities said.

Chaney is accused of mining through publicly available data to figure out password and security questions for celebrity accounts. He hijacked a forwarding feature so that a copy of every email a celebrity received was sent to an account he controlled, according to court documents.

A search warrant unsealed and obtained by The Associated Press said Chaney's computer hard drive contained numerous private celebrity photos as well as a document that compiled their extensive personal data.

In arguing for a higher bond and time behind bars, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Feldman said that even after FBI agents seized the defendant's computer in February, he continued his hacking scheme against an actress for six months. She declined to reveal the celebrity's name.

"We have great concern that he can't stop himself," Feldman said. "We think detention would."

Chaney said he managed...

Fri, 4 Nov 11
Sony Headed for Fourth Straight Year in the Red
Sony reported a 27 billion yen ($346 million) loss for the latest quarter and downgraded its annual earnings forecast Wednesday to stay in the red for the fourth year straight, battered by the strong yen and poor sales of flat panel TVs.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate is now projecting a 90 billion yen loss ($1.2 billion) for the fiscal year through March 2012 after earlier forecasting a profit of 60 billion yen ($769 million).

Sony Corp. said the strong yen and lower sales, especially in TVs, hurt July-September results. It also suffered production disruptions from the widespread flooding in Thailand, which came on top of the supply problems from the March tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan.

Sony also announced a plan to turn around its TV operations, which have lost money for the past seven years straight amid price plunges, an oversupply of panels and intense competition. It said the plan will make the TV business profitable by the fiscal year ending March 2014.

Sony said the major problem was a surplus of liquid crystal displays, and it would shrink its TV production from 40 million units a year to 20 million. It also aims to reduce display costs and the number of models. The restructuring would incur a 50 billion yen ($641 million) special charge, it said.

"Management is feeling a serious sense of crisis about the seven years of losses," said Executive Deputy President Kaz Hirai, who was added to speak at the earnings announcement at the last minute. "I promise to lead the turnaround plan to get us out of the red."

The poor quarterly results and forecast of another annual loss underline a troubled year for Sony.

The company is hoping to integrate smartphones with other consumer electronics, such as televisions and computers, as it seeks to play catchup with Apple...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
T-Mobile Offers Premium BlackBerry Torch -- But at a Premium
T-Mobile will soon offer a premium BlackBerry device, the Torch 9810, at a premium price, $249 with a two-year contract. That's $200 more than AT&T charges for the Research In Motion smartphone, which it started selling in August.

Emphasizing the traditional appeal of BlackBerry devices to business users, T-Mobile is giving them first crack at the Torch: they can order it today while other customers must wait until Nov. 9. The $249 price is after a $50 mail-in rebate card and with a two-year voice and data contract.

Fast Processor, Fast Data Speed

Compatible with T-Mobile's high speed HSPA+ data network, which the carrier calls 4G, the Torch is powered by the latest-version BlackBerry 7 operating system and packs a 1.2 gigahertz processor, with 3.2-inch TFT VGA capacitive touch-screen display and full QWERTY slide-out keyboard and 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and 720p high-definition video recording. AT&T is not marketing its version of the Torch 9810 as 4G compatible.

The 9810 is an update of the Torch 9800 released in August 2010, which debuted on AT&T a year later. The processor is more powerful than the original 624 megahertz processor of its predecessor and the 768 megabytes of RAM exceed the original 512 megabytes. It also has more storage for apps and media, eight gigabytes instead of four, and ships with the updated operating system.

It comes in one color, a zinc-gray color finish, and the Torch 9810, like all BlackBerry devices, includes access to BlackBerry Messenger, personal and corporate e-mail, and social networking applications and access to BlackBerry App World for premium applications and games.

The offering comes at a time when German-owned T-Mobile is in limbo, waiting to see if federal regulators will approve its merger deal with AT&T. Meanwhile the two companies continue to compete, with the AT&T price for the Torch 9810...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Parents Help Underage Kids Sign Up for Facebook
A new study reports that many kids under the age of 13 are lying to obtain Facebook accounts -- often with the consent or knowledge of their parents or guardians.

In cooperation with Microsoft Research, members of the U.S academic community recently surveyed 1,007 parents and guardians of children from age 10 to 14 years. More than 70 percent of the survey's respondents said they believe there are circumstances under which it would be OK for their children to sign up for a service for which they did not meet the minimum age requirements.

Among the parents who reported having a child on Facebook, 72 percent said that their son or daughter had joined the social networking service when under the age of 13. Moreover, 68 percent to 78 percent with children ages 10 to 12 said they had even helped their offspring set up Facebook accounts.

Half the parents and guardians participating in the survey indicated it was OK for their child to violate the age restriction as long as it was done under parental supervision.

"In other words, many parents felt as though the violation was acceptable because they were monitoring their children's online practices," the report's authors wrote in the peer-reviewed journal First Monday. "However, they do so at the cost of their children's privacy and at the risk of acting unethically -- and potentially in violation of the law."

What Parents Know

Under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) enacted in 1998 and made final by a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rulemaking in 2000, Web site operators must obtain parental consent before creating accounts for children under the age of 13. Instead of creating a mechanism for complying with the new law, however, Facebook and other popular Web sites "have chosen to avoid these obligations by banning all...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Google Rolls Out Native iPhone Gmail App
At long last, Google has rolled out an official Gmail app for Apple's mobile operating system. Users of iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices can now get their Gmail with a tap.

"We've combined your favorite features from the Gmail mobile web app and iOS into one app so you can be more productive on the go," Google product manager Matthew Izatt wrote in a blog post. "It's designed to be fast, efficient and take full advantage of the touchscreen and notification capabilities of your device."

Gmail App Keywords

The keywords Google is using to describe its Gmail app are speed, efficiency and touch. On the speed front, Google aims to give iOS users the information they need more quickly, with minimal effort and distraction.

In practical terms, that means users get alerted to new messages with push notifications and sounds. Users can also find an e-mail by searching the entire inbox. The app will auto-complete e-mail addresses from a user's Gmail contacts, or the address can be selected from a device's address book. A user can even upload photos with a click using a new attachment button in compose view.

On the efficiency front, the Gmail app promises to help users organize their e-mail. A user can use Priority Inbox to focus on important messages first, quickly scan e-mails on the same subject with threaded conversations, and organize mail by archiving, labeling, starring, deleting and reporting spam.

Will Apple Users Adopt It?

Of course, the Gmail app is optimized for touch. A user can pull down the inbox to refresh for new mail, swipe right to view labels without ever leaving the inbox, or slide a finger to scroll through e-mails.

"Google has been ambivalent about putting out native apps for Apple devices. It had wanted to take an HTML5 approach to create consistency across platforms...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Nokia Plans Major Windows Phone Push in U.S.
Nokia is coming back to the U.S. smartphone market with a vengeance -- or at least with a new line of devices sporting Windows Phone 7 on multiple carriers. That's the story from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.

Nokia took the cover off its first Windows Phone devices at Nokia World in London last week and the reception was warm. Now the handset maker is looking to make a name for itself stateside with a range of high-end and less expensive devices, Elop told Bloomberg.

"Our plans are to be very competitive and to go head-on with the appropriate devices at the appropriate price points," Elop said. "We know we need to get volume moving and we need from that to develop economies of scale. And then as we do more and more differentiation, we expand gross margin."

Convincing Consumers

Nokia in February outlined a new strategic direction, including changes in leadership and operational structure to help the Finland-based company compete in a crowded smartphone market. The move included a major strategic partnership with Microsoft to build a new global mobile ecosystem. The Nokia-Microsoft ecosystem aims to deliver differentiated products.

"Nokia's biggest challenge in the U.S. is getting consumers to consider Windows Phone 7 on an equal plane with iOS and Android," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "Android and iPhone are extremely well established here and have growing momentum.

"Microsoft has not successfully convinced consumers that its operating system is strong. That's a shame because the operating system is quite good and Microsoft is actually bringing unique user interface elements."

By partnering with Microsoft, Nokia hopes to stand out from the pack with devices and software. Microsoft has competitive cloud services, such as the Zune Marketplace, Hotmail, Bing, mapping and more. But Greengart said Google stands out more in the consumer mindset around those products.


Thu, 3 Nov 11
Updated Square Card Case App Runs a Tab, Pays for You
If you imagined that, in the future, you could just walk into a store, take a product, and say your name to the cashier to pay for it, you're correct. Except that the future is now.

On Wednesday, San Francisco-based start-up Square announced an update to its Card Case app for iPhone 4 and 4S. Users who have the updated app on those model smartphones, as well as the new iOS 5, can leave their phone in their pocket, wallet, or purse, along with their old-fashioned plastic credit cards, and simply pay by saying who they are at the register.

'Automatic Tab'

About 20,000 retailers now have the ability to accept Card Case payments. With iOS 5, the Card Case app can determine when the smartphone is 100 meters or closer to a participating merchant. When nearby, the app automatically opens an "automatic tab" in that user's name at the register, which also displays a photo of the would-be customer.

At that point, the user simply needs to identify themselves. After the sale is made, the confirmation is sent to the iPhone. The app currently only supports those specific iPhones with iOS 5, but Square said that it intends to include the functionality in an update for its app on Android devices.

Square is a fast-growing company whose aim is to revolutionize in-person e-payments. Its first product was a small credit card reader that attached to an iPhone's headphone jack, allowing a merchant to accept credit cards and debit cards. The company says it has shipped about 800,000 readers.

A Little Too Friction-Less?

Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said that "merchants will love this, since they love anything that makes buying as friction-free as possible."

But, Gartenberg added, it "will probably take some time to evangelize the virtues of this to customers." To many customers, he...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
A Tech Industry Upset? Samsung Passes Apple in Phones
For the first time, Samsung Electronics Co. shipped more smartphones in the latest quarter than tech industry darling Apple Inc. On the surface, this may look like a big upset in a world that gives the iPhone maker adulation and outsized expectations. The real reason, however, has more to do with timing and Samsung's variety of offerings and prices.

Apple sold 17.1 million iPhones in the third quarter, 3 million fewer than expected. The South Korea-based Samsung, meanwhile, shipped more than 27 million, according to analyst estimates.

So what happened? For one, Apple's latest iPhone, the 4S, didn't come out until the quarter ended, so its sales are not included in the figure. People held back on buying older models in anticipation of the new iPhone, which came out Oct. 14. Apple said it sold more than 4 million units in its first weekend on sale, and that should be reflected in the count for the current, holiday quarter.

"People were waiting," said Francis Sideco, analyst with the research firm IHS. "We don't see this as a signal that Apple is all of a sudden losing its edge. It's their normal thing. But while they are doing this normal thing, Samsung is (going strong) and they happen to have a really good quarter."

Samsung's quarter was helped by strong sales of its Galaxy phones, though Sideco said the numbers shouldn't lead to the conclusion that the Samsung Galaxy beat the Apple iPhone.

"What beat it is Samsung's lines," Sideco said.

Besides the Galaxy line, Samsung's phones include Conquer, Replenish, Focus and Indulge. IHS estimates that Samsung sold about 40 different models during the third quarter. By comparison, Apple had just two -- the 4 and the 3GS.

Samsung does not disclose the number of phones it ships. IHS, formerly known as iSuppli, estimates that Samsung shipped 27.3...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
YouTube Launches Broad Entertainment Venture
YouTube is making a bold step into original programming in an entertainment venture with some 100 content creators, from Madonna to The Wall Street Journal.

The Google Inc.-owned video site said Friday that it's launching more than 100 new video channels. The partners include an array of Hollywood production companies, celebrities and new media groups that will produce mainly niche-oriented videos.

YouTube is shelling out $100 million to producers, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The money is an advance on advertising money the videos will bring in, and Google will recoup its portion first before splitting the proceeds. Advances are as high as $5 million per channel, said another person familiar with the arrangement, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Neither person was authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

Google declined to offer financial details of the deals, but said the majority of revenue will go to partners.

Participants include Madonna, former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, comedian Amy Poehler, actor Ashton Kutcher, "Office" star Rainn Wilson, spiritual doctor Deepak Chopra and "Modern Family" actress Sofia Vergara. Most are creating channels through their production companies. Madonna is a partner with the dance channel DanceOn, while O'Neal plans the Comedy Shaq Network.

Lionsgate is presenting a fitness channel, and other channels will be launched by news satire the Onion, professional wrestling's WWE, online magazine Slate and news service Thomson Reuters.

The channels will roll out beginning this month, though most will premiere next year. YouTube says the channels will add 25 hours of new original content daily, with dozens of Web series debuting at scheduled times.

Ultimately, YouTube is aiming to create a new digital video platform that will rival television programming.

In a blog posting Friday night, YouTube said the channels are being developed "specifically for the digital age." The video...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Can Kodak Rescue Itself with a Patent Bonanza?
Picture this: Kodak -- the company that invented the first digital camera in 1975, and developed the photo technology inside most cell phones and digital devices -- is in the midst of the worst crisis in its 131-year history.

Now, caught between ruin and revival, Eastman Kodak Co. is reaching ever more deeply into its intellectual treasure chest, betting that a big cash infusion from the sale of 1,100 digital-imaging inventions will see it through a transition that has raised the specter of bankruptcy.

Kodak popularized photography over a century ago. It marketed the world's first flexible roll film in 1888 and transformed picture-taking into a mass commodity with the $1 Brownie camera in 1900. But for too long the world's biggest film manufacturer stayed firmly focused on its 20th-century cash cow, and failed to capitalize quickly on its new-wave know-how in digital photography.

As a result, Kodak has been playing catch-up. Pummeled by Wall Street over its dwindling cash reserves -- and its stumbling attempts to reinvent itself as a profitable player in digital imaging and printing -- Kodak has been hawking the digital patents since July. Many financial analysts foresee the portfolio fetching $2 billion to $3 billion.

But others think Kodak can haul in far more than that -- and carry it off within a few months. That's because patents have become highly valuable to digital device makers who want to protect themselves from intellectual property lawsuits. In July, an alliance made up of Apple and Microsoft purchased a raft of patents from Nortel Networks for $4.5 billion. A month later, Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, in part, to gain hold of the company's 17,000 patents.

"The size of the (Kodak) deal could blow your socks off," predicts Los Angeles money manager Ken Luskin, whose Intrinsic Value Asset Management owns...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Pete Townshend Brands iTunes a 'Digital Vampire'
The Who's Pete Townshend on Monday branded Apple Inc.'s iTunes a "digital vampire" that profits from music without supporting the artists who create it.

Townshend said that faced with the Internet's demolition of established copyright protections, iTunes should offer some of the services to artists that record labels and music publishers used to provide. These include employing talents scouts, giving space to allow bands to stream their music and paying smaller artists directly rather than through a third party aggregator.

The guitarist was delivering the first John Peel Lecture, named in honor of the influential British radio broadcaster who died in 2004.

Townshend asked if there was any reason iTunes "can't provide some aspect of these services to the artists whose work it bleeds like a digital vampire" to make money.

ITunes declined to respond to Townshend's comments.

Apple's service is the market leader among legal download services, accounting for about three-quarters of music downloads.

Townshend said consumers, as well as the industry, needed to change their attitude to digital music.

"It would be better if music lovers treated music like food, and paid for every helping, rather than only when it suited them," he said.

"Why can't music lovers just pay for music rather than steal it?" he said.

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Symantec: China-Linked Hackers Hit Chemical Firms
Cyber attacks traced to China targeted at least 48 chemical and military-related companies in an effort to steal technical secrets, a U.S. computer security company said Tuesday, adding to complaints about pervasive Internet crime linked to this country.

The targets included 29 chemical companies and 19 others that make advanced materials used by the military, California-based Symantec Corp. said in a report. It said the group included multiple Fortune 100 companies but did not identify them or say where they were located.

"The purpose of the attacks appears to be industrial espionage, collecting intellectual property for competitive advantage," said the report.

Security experts say China is a center for Internet crime. Attacks against governments, companies and human rights groups have been traced to this country, though finding the precise source is nearly impossible. China's military is a leader in cyberwarfare research but the government has rejected allegations of cyberspying and says it also is a target.

The latest attacks occurred between late July and September and used e-mails sent to companies to plant software dubbed "PoisonIvy" in their computers, Symantec said. It said the same hackers also were involved in attacks earlier this year on human rights groups and auto companies.

Symantec said it traced the attacks to a computer system owned by a Chinese man in his 20s in the central province of Hebei. It said that when contacted, the man provided a contact who would perform "hacking for hire."

Symantec said it could not determine whether the Chinese man was a lone attacker, whether he had a direct or indirect role or whether he hacked the targets for someone else. It called him Covert Grove based on a translation of his Chinese name.

The U.S. and Chinese governments have accused each other of being involved in industrial espionage.

Security consultants say the high skill level of...

Thu, 3 Nov 11
Steve Jobs' Final Words: 'Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow'
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' last words were "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow," his sister says.

In her eulogy for her brother she delivered at an Oct. 16 memorial service at Stanford University and printed as an opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times, Mona Simpson explained what she knew about Jobs.

"Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day," said Simpson, a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. "He was the opposite of absent-minded.

"He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures.

"Novelty was not Steve's highest value. Beauty was. For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. He didn't favor trends or gimmicks.

"His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: 'Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.

"Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

Love was important to Jobs, she said.

"Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods," Simpson said. "He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him."

She also said Jobs was "willing to be misunderstood," was "humble," "cultivated whimsy" and "liked to keep learning."

She recounted how he battled his illnesses, pushing himself to walked further each day after his liver transplant.

Even in his hospital bed, he was an innovator, sketching devices for medical equipment, she said.

Later, when his cancer overtook him and he was slipping away, he still battled for each breath, she said.

"Death didn't happen to Steve," she said, "he achieved it."

But just before he did, there were those final words he spoke just hours earlier: "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Samsung Could Introduce Bendable-Screen Phones in 2012
You need a lot of flexibility to succeed in today's mobile market, and Samsung is apparently taking that literally.

The South Korean electronics giant's top investor-relations official, Robert Yi, made news early this week by signaling that a new technology for bendable displays may be part of the next generation of Samsung smartphones.

"The flexible display, we are looking to introduce sometime in 2012, hopefully the earlier part," Yi said, according to press reports. He said "the application probably will start from the handset side," with tablets later on. Samsung's Galaxy tablets largely follow the technology of its phones. Samsung said in June that it intended to produce flexible OLED screens after displaying a super-thin, 4.5-inch version at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

A Web site devoted to OLED displays, OLED-Info, reported in June that Samsung had entered into a joint venture with Japan's Ube Kosan to produce substrates for flexible displays.

Nokia, Too

As smartphones get larger, the new technology could mean a new variation of the flip-phone model of phones, but with the screen itself folding instead of just the panel holding the screen, making it easier to fit in pockets or purses. It could also open doors for new entertainment use as games and videos could display a panoramic view.

Samsung isn't the only company with bend on the brain, and it's not just about smartphones.

"At Nokia World in London last week, Nokia showed off a demo of a bendable media player prototype, where the user interface incorporated twisting the whole unit -- screen included -- to zoom in/out of photos and select music to play," said consumer devices expert Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. "It was rather delightful. I have no idea what Samsung is planning to do with its version of the technology; its utility depends on how it is...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
HP Taps Calxeda Server-on-a-Chip for Demo Lab
Hewlett-Packard has unveiled a new multi-year, multi-phased program called Project Moonshot that aims to dramatically reduce the footprint and energy consumption of the large server farms required for cloud computing environments.

"For Web 2.0 companies to continually deliver new and innovative services, they must radically reduce the space, energy consumption and cost of their data center infrastructure," said Glenn Keels, product marketing director at HP's Hyperscale Business Group.

In January, HP will open its first HP Discovery Lab in Houston, where clients will be able to experiment, test and benchmark applications on Redstone -- a server development platform that represents Project Moonshot's initial proof-of-concept offering. Additional lab sites are planned in Europe and Asia, where clients will be able to work directly with HP engineers and industry peers to test the new technology's ability to fulfill their specific requirements.

HP's ultra energy-efficient Redstone platform will integrate over 2,800 servers in a single rack that delivers a 97 percent reduction in complexity through reductions cabling, switching and the need for peripheral devices. "Companies with hyper-scale environments are facing a crisis in capacity that requires a fundamental change at the architectural level," said HP Vice President Paul Santeler.

New Era of Energy Efficiency

The Redstone platform will incorporate energy-efficient processors from start-up Calxeda. Based on ARM's Cortex cores, Calxeda's EnergyCore server-on-a-chip is designed to consume as little as 1.5 watts of power. According to Calxeda CEO Barry Evans, the EnergyCore chip is designed to handle workloads such as Web serving, media streaming and scalable analytics, as well as mid-tier infrastructure tasks pertaining to caching and in-memory scalable databases.

"We believe a new era of energy-efficient servers is now dawning for scale-out workloads," Evans said.

Among other things, EnergyCore incorporates an 80-Gigabit fabric switch together with an integrated management engine with power optimization software. The single piece...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Google Presents Gmail, Redesigned
Gmail is getting a makeover. On Tuesday, Google announced updates to its popular e-mail service, which will be rolled out to all users but can be optionally chosen now.

The changes include streamlined conversations, displays that adapt better to the screen size and type, new high-definition themes, and better navigation and search. A link in the bottom right of Gmail allows users to "switch to the new look."

'Clean, Simple and Intuitive'

In a video posted on the Web, Google Experience Designer Jason Cornwell said Gmail has been redesigned to make it as "clean, simple, and intuitive as possible." The visual design of the new Gmail has been compared by some observers to the company's redesign of Google Docs, with its more efficient look and its use of bright colors. Cornwell said that, "even if you do nothing" to use its new options, Gmail "adapts to you."

Conversation view has been redesigned so that it's easier to follow e-mail threads, with profile pictures accompanying the names of contacts in order to make it feel "more like a real conversation," Cornwell said.

For viewing Gmail on different kinds and sizes of displays, the spacing between elements will now automatically change for that screen. Users can also now manually change the density of spacing, via the Settings menu, to either Comfortable, Cozy or Compact.

Visual themes have been updated with a new set of images from iStockphoto, and the left navigation panel will keep labels and chat contacts always visible. Labels and chat areas can be resized to show more, or the chat area can be hidden entirely, via the Chats icon.

'Increasing Transparency'

The dropdown in the search box offers a new search panel, to speed up finding what one is looking for. The panel can also be used to create a new filter for search or for...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Apple Critics Comparing Battery Issue To Antennagate
The Apple iPhone 4S was a hit before it ever saw store shelves, selling more than 1 million pre-orders and then racking up 4 million sales in its first official weekend on the market. But the noise is growing louder over reported battery issues on the new device.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 176 pages on an Apple Support Communities thread called "iPhone 4S Battery Life?" The complaints started on Oct. 15, in the middle of the historic launch, and new posts continue to appear in the thread. In all, more than 2,600 comments have flooded the boards, and new discussions have branched off from there.

"My iPhone 4S battery seems terrible! Almost equivalent to my 3GS and its terrible battery life," said an Apple forum poster from New Jersey who calls himself Scarface, in a post Oct. 15. "When I got my iPhone yesterday and restored from backup I noticed nothing really changed with minimal usage and standby!"

Apple Contacts Consumers

Although critics are making an issue of Apple's silence, The Guardian reports that Apple engineers are contacting some iPhone 4S owners to investigate the reported battery life problems. Apple has yet to offer an official comment.

The Guardian reported one user was contacted by a senior Apple engineer who said he read a post and was "reaching out" to users for data. The user said engineer admitted it was an issue and that a fix would be released, then asked questions about his usage and asked if he could install a file on his phone that would retrieve some information. However, The Guardian did not disclose the name of the person quoted.

Shorter battery life shouldn't come as a surprise to iPhone 4S owners -- at least not the ones who read the spec sheet for the new device. The iPhone battery life...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Survey Finds a Bright Future for Tablets In Schools
Tablets, and especially Apple's iPad, could be poised to become a big part of educational computing. According to a new survey of technology directors for school districts, all of those questioned are in the process of testing or using iPads, and most indicated they expect that tablets could outnumber computers in education within five years.

The survey, by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, is relatively small -- only 25 tech directors attending an educational technology conference. But the results may point to the future of tablets in education as well as in business training.

End of Student Backpacks?

Interestingly, none of the 25 were testing or using Android tablets. Munster told news media that the lack of Androids could be due to the limited availability of devices using that platform, compared with the iPad. But, he said, it does point to Apple's "first-mover advantage," and could indicate a trend in education, which is also present in businesses, where students or employees are creating a demand for Apple products because they use them in their personal lives. In fact, schools mean "iPads" when they discuss "tablets."

The interviewed tech directors indicated their expectations that tablets for students will outnumber laptop and desktop computers within five years. But the directors expect tablets will supplement, not replace, computers.

Ron Johnson, the outgoing head of retail operations at Apple, has predicted that the current generation of students could be the last ones with backpacks to carry their textbooks, since the next generation may quickly move to textbooks on tablets. Apple has said that about 1,000 K-12 schools in the U.S. have an ongoing effort to provide one iPad for use by each student during the day.

Avi Greengart, an analyst with research firm Current Analysis, said many institutions and businesses were "still in the evaluation stage" of assessing...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Struggling Yahoo to Buy Ad Tech Firm for $270 Million
Yahoo may not be the force it once was in the search-engine world, but the struggling company isn't giving up. Yahoo announced plans to acquire an advertising and technology solutions firm that it hopes will help it compete against its rivals, namely Google and Facebook, on the display advertising front.

Yahoo is buying Interclick for $270 million. Interclick boasts proprietary solutions that improve data-targeted solutions and optimize returns for advertisers across pooled premium supply sources.

"This investment underscores our focus on enhancing the performance of both our guaranteed and non-guaranteed display business across Yahoo and our partner sites," said Ross Levinsohn, executive vice president of the Americas region.

Beefing Up Display Ad Intel

Levinsohn specifically mentioned the Interclick platform's ability to expand Yahoo's targeting and data capabilities to deliver campaigns with stronger performance metrics. Interclick has made a name for itself with its data valuation platform, which is optimized to work with large data volumes across multiple providers and marketplaces.

Once the acquisition is complete, Yahoo will be able to offer marketers tools that help them navigate the complex data online ecosystem. Interclick tools like Open Segment Manager and its Genome Platform were built to address the fundamental challenges of audience targeting by taking a more holistic understanding of consumers through its deep integrations with leading data providers.

But Yahoo gets more than technology in the Interclick deal. The search-engine company also gets new premium supply and a team experienced in selling audiences across disparate sources of pooled supply. It also gets an infusion of revenue. Interclick generated about $53 million of revenue in the first half of 2011.

But will it help Yahoo stave off the competition in the display advertising space?

"Amid the chaos surrounding Yahoo and its future," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, "the new acquisition will help...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Review: AT&T's Samsung Galaxy S II
Android is on fire, and Samsung is stoking the flames with the Galaxy S II. It's the fastest selling Android device with 10 million units sold worldwide.

Is the Galaxy S II the best current Android phone? Maybe. AT&T Wireless sent us theirs to try out.

Android fans may have the Motorola Droid RAZR and Samsung Galaxy Nexus in their eyes. No doubt, they promise to be nice devices when they arrive, but I'm with BGR's Zach Epstein, who says, "Unlike product cycles in the past, however, these new flagship phones were hardly a quantum leap past the current crop of Android-powered smartphones. In fact, the cycle of buyer's remorse may very well have just been broken."

It has one of the best displays available, and there are 4.27 inches of it. The screen, protected by Gorilla Glass with a fingerprint-resistant coating, is vibrant with sharp detail, and is visible even in sunlight.

Yes it is encased in plastic, but don't be deterred. It is attractive and apparently durable. (Check out this drop test: www.youtube.com/watch?v=elKxgsrJFhw.)

This also makes it pleasantly light. Despite having a larger screen and larger dimensions than my iPhone 4S, the Galaxy S II is lighter. Smartphone ergonomics can be subjective, but I felt more confident handling the Samsung. This surprised me since I thought the iPhone's smaller size would give it a handling edge.

Users among those who actually make calls will appreciate the good and distortion-free call quality. Those moving from 3G will notice data transfer speeds over AT&T's HSPA+ network to be consistently faster, but not as fast as LTE.

There has been a lot of talk about smartphone cameras lately.

This new Galaxy S has an 8-megapixel back-illuminated sensor camera aided by a single-LED flash. It can record 1080p video at 30 frames per second. There is also a fixed focus...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Review: Nike GPS Device Improves, but Oversimplified
Since 2003, I've tried several fitness accessories that use the GPS system to tell you how far and how fast you're running. I've generally liked them, except for the fact that they don't work well in big cities.

Many runners I know have one of these devices -- usually a watch that gets signals from GPS satellites in the sky to calculate distance and speed. These don't offer street maps, the way GPS devices in cars do, but some models have rudimentary navigation features to help get you back to your starting point. Some also try to coach you -- they'll beep when you're going faster or slower than your specified target.

Nike's $200 SportWatch GPS doesn't offer that. What you get instead is a simplified device that works exceptionally well in big cities, including my hometown New York.

The problem with big cities is that tall buildings block some of the GPS signals. It might take 10 or 15 minutes for a device to find the signals, rather than just a minute or so elsewhere. As the weather gets colder, I'd prefer starting my run sooner and spending less time standing around outside waiting for the watch to activate.

The SportWatch addresses these shortcomings in two important ways.

As long as you plug the watch in to a computer regularly, using a standard USB port, it retrieves data that can help locate signals faster.

It also has a backup system when no signal is available at all. The SportWatch comes with a small sensor that attaches to your shoe and measures the amount of time between footsteps and the time your foot is on the ground. The SportWatch picks up that information wirelessly and uses it to calculate pace and distance.

With this backup, you can start your run before the SportWatch finds the GPS signals....

Wed, 2 Nov 11
WSJ Best-Seller Lists Will Include E-Books
The Wall Street Journal has an agreement with Nielsen BookScan to publish best-seller lists that include both physical books and e-sales.

Since 2009, Nielsen has provided the journal with lists based solely on hardcover and paperbacks. The Journal and Nielsen announced Friday that four charts will debut this weekend: combined e-book and physical sales for fiction and nonfiction, and e-sales only for fiction and nonfiction. Eligible releases will include self-published books, children's books and "perennials," older works that continue to sell strongly.

It's the first time that Nielsen has compiled e-books, with Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Google among those participating. BookScan numbers reflect around 75 percent of hardcover and paperback sales and offer a rare look at raw data from an industry known for being secretive about how much books actually sell. But the Nielsen statistics became increasingly limited as e-sales took off.

"As consumers and booksellers continue to embrace the potential of e-books, we are very happy to be working with The Wall Street Journal to produce the most accurate best-seller charts available," Jonathan Stolper, vice president & general manager of Nielsen BookScan, said in a statement. "These new charts uniquely reflect what people are really buying and reading and will most definitely advance the industry's understanding of e-book best sellers."

But the industry, and the public, will have to wait before seeing actual Nielsen numbers under the new system. The lists will feature only rankings, not copies sold. And the data will be available exclusively to the Journal.

The New York Times and USA Today also include e-sales in their weekly lists.

Wed, 2 Nov 11
TripAdvisor Mobile Guides Smartly Steer Tourists
If you want to tour some of the world's big cities without hiring a guide or lugging a fat guidebook, TripAdvisor's new Mobile City Guides for Android smartphones and tablets now provide a sleek alternative.

You can download the free city guides one at a time from the Android Market and discover Self-Guided Free Tours of Beijing, the best restaurants in Chicago, an interactive map depicting the most noteworthy attractions in Boston, and an overview of culture and architecture in San Francisco.

TripAdvisor made its bones on traveler-penned hotel reviews. So each guide combines advice from TripAdvisor with plenty of travelers' hotel and restaurant reviews and ratings collected from TripAdvisor's global Web sites.

There are apps for 20 cities. Each guide uses your mobile device's GPS and compass features to detect your location and point you toward your sought-after attraction.

All the guides work offline, too, without Wi-Fi, so you can avoid wireless roaming charges as you travel.

But to download the guides, access app updates or get the most recent consumer-written hotel and restaurant reviews from TripAdvisor, you'll have to tap some wireless connection.

These TripAdvisor Mobile City Guides are fast, comprehensive and very tourist-friendly.

The New York City Guide, for example, offers 14 self-guided tours. The range from a one- to three-hour Brooklyn Bridge Walk to a half-day Cupcake Crawl bakery tour and a 10-stop Wall Street and Financial District amble.

A main gripe with the TripAdvisor Mobile City Guides is they are somewhat predictable and light on risk-taking.

Some of the New York City self-guided tours, for instance, advise bringing collapsible strollers to transport young kids or tote sanitizer or moist wipes on the Cupcake Crawl.

The Wall Street and Financial District Tour takes in the World Trade Center site and Trinity Church. It doesn't mention the nearby Occupy Wall Street protests, which have become a quirky...

Wed, 2 Nov 11
Our Love-Hate Relationship with Technology
So here's the tech question of the moment: Have we fallen so in love with gadgets that allow us to e-mail, text, friend, like and tweet that face-to-face connections will soon feel as awkward as first dates?

Or is there a failure to appreciate how these social network-tethered devices are enabling us to reach new levels of global connectivity?

The answer is, of course, yes and yes.

Novelist Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections, recently took up one side of this debate in a widely republished commencement address at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. It touted his rediscovered passion for environmental activism as an antidote to the illusion of connection offered online.

But dip your toe into the vast national tub of tech users, thinkers and analysts, and one senses both excitement and concern -- often expressed by the same people -- about how technology has fast become the furious love of our lives.

"My life is rooted in technology, but because I don't want to miss real relationships, my attitude is everything in moderation," says Janet Stauble, 27, social media community manager at Bankrate.com in Jupiter, Fla.

When Stauble walks her dogs, she deliberately leaves her cell phone at home. "I love that I can shoot a picture off to friends by text or a Facebook update, but at the same time, I want to be sure I can have time to myself," she says.

Frank Rice, 67, is in love with his PDA, but he isn't a fan of the way people text while walking and bump into him without apologizing.

"Overall, my attitude toward technology is I can't wait to see what's going to happen tomorrow," says Rice, a telecommunications consultant in Atlanta. "But I also grew up walking in the woods with my father, who showed me how to spot mushrooms that...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Microsoft Readies Kinect for Hands-Free Business
If you think Microsoft's hands-free Kinect controller is just for video games, think again. The company confirmed Monday that it will start a Kinect for business program early next year.

In a posting on the Official Microsoft Blog, Corporate Vice President Frank X. Shaw wrote that the emerging commercial program recognizes "the intense commercial interest in harnessing the capabilities" of the innovative remote control, which uses motion detection, hand-gestures, and voice recognition to control an electronic device.

'Revolutionize Entire Industries'

A beta Software Developers Kit for academic and non-commercial projects was released in June, and a similar one designed for commercial uses with PCs is expected next year. The commercial program will include a new set of tools and APIs, and Shaw said the results could "revolutionize entire industries."

He noted that the commercial pilot program for the Kinect "has already received more than 200 applications from top companies in more than 20 countries spanning 25 unique industries." Companies investigating commercial applications include Toyota, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Razorfish.

Microsoft is trying to capitalize on what it calls The Kinect Effect, which the company's Xbox Web site described as people "using Kinect in ways we never imagined." Far beyond fighting aliens in video games, those uses include helping autistic children, assisting doctors in the operating room, and much more.

At the Royal Berkshire Hospital in the United Kingdom, for example, the controller is being used in rehabilitation exercises. Patients are matched to games, based on the level of their impairment, and the company said the games have helped to improve balance, coordination, and physical movement.

8 Million in 60 Days

The Lakeside Center for Autism in Issaquah, Wash., has used Kinect to help improve social interaction, language development and motor skills.

A Spanish start-up company, Tedesys, is developing an app that will allow doctors to use the device...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Best Buy To Sell HP TouchPad for $149, with Strings
After the fire sale that saw Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad tablet sell out for $99 in August, the device is making its way to Best Buy store shelves once again. Best Buy will begin selling the TouchPad online Tuesday and in stores Friday.

The difference is, the discount isn't as deep this time around and it comes with a string attached. Best Buy is selling a 32 GB TouchPad for $149 -- but consumers have to buy an HP or Compaq notebook or desktop PC in order to get the deal.

Consumers who just want the TouchPad will pay $599.99. Best Buy warned that quantities would be limited. HP is not selling the tablet on its own Web site.

Revitalizing PC Business

"HP is trying to get people to start buying its computers again because everybody stopped," said Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner.

Enterprises in particular were hesitant to purchase HP or Compaq machines because HP was considering spinning off or selling its PC business. Enterprises were concerned about buying into machines for which the company may or may not provide support. But news emerged late last week that HP had decided to hold on to its Personal Systems Group.

"HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It's clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees," said Meg Whitman, the new HP president and CEO. "HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger."

A strategic review involved subject-matter experts from across the businesses and functions. Beyond the contributions the PC unit makes to HP's solutions portfolio and overall brand value, the study showed that the cost to recreate these in a standalone company outweighed any benefits of separation....

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Event Suggests New Nooks Could Be on the Way
Barnes & Noble sent out press invitations Monday for a special announcement on its Nook e-readers and tablets. The media event is to take place in New York City next Monday, Nov. 7.

With Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet launching Nov. 15 at $199, industry analysts have been saying that Barnes & Noble will be challenged to launch an update of its Nook Color tablet at a comparable price. However, the book retail giant may rip a page from Apple's mobile device playbook and reduce the $249 price of its current Nook Color to $199 -- even as it introduces a new, higher-performance model.

This strategy would enable Barnes & Noble to take other steps to improve its competitive position with respect to Amazon and Apple. For example, industry observers have suggested a number of design enhancements that Barnes & Noble could incorporate within its next generation Nook models -- including expanded memory, a more powerful microprocessor and a touch-sensitive color-screen upgrade.

The addition of a 3G capability to a refreshed Nook Color would be the single biggest design improvement that Barnes & Noble could make to gain a competitive advantage over Amazon's Wi-Fi-only Kindle Fire. Among other things, 3G connectivity provides tablet users with anywhere, anytime access to the latest news from the Web as well as instant updates of the electronic newspapers and magazines to which they subscribe.

Widest Possible Spectrum

By covering both the Wi-Fi and 3G tablet market segments, Apple's iPad has been able to appeal to the widest possible spectrum of tablet customers.

"We surveyed 236 buyers when the iPad 2 launched [on March 11] and found that 47 percent purchased the 3G model and 53 percent purchased Wi-Fi only," said Piper Jaffray analyst Andrew Murphy in an e-mail.

Neither the current Nook Color nor...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
RIM Offers Buy Two, Get One Free for BlackBerry PlayBooks
Research In Motion hopes to move some PlayBooks before the end of the year with a promotion that aims at business users. The BlackBerry U.S. Web site is making an offer it hopes mobile business users won't be able to refuse.

From now until Dec. 31, BlackBerry business customers can get one free PlayBook tablet with every two purchased from an authorized retailer. To make the pot even sweeter, business customers can also choose a premium accessory for each tablet, either a leather sleeve, a charging pod or a six-foot cable.

Optimizing for Enterprises

The promotion comes just days after RIM announced a delay in PlayBook OS 2.0. David Smith, senior vice president of BlackBerry PlayBook for RIM, specifically mentioned enterprise plans in his Oct. 25 blog post. In a move that plays on RIM's historic strengths,, he said, RIM is addressing barriers to tablet adoption, including device manageability and enterprise application deployment.

"Enterprises will uniquely have the ability to manage tablets from a centralized server, while BlackBerry Balance ensures a seamless user experience for personal and professional needs and gives CIOs the peace of mind that corporate data is secure," Smith wrote.

Smith said BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 will also offer dedicated shelf space inside the BlackBerry App World storefront to make approved enterprise applications available to an organization's end users more quickly. RIM hopes these features will help change the way enterprises view and use tablets.

The PlayBook OS 2.0 update will also include advanced integrated e-mail, calendar and contact apps, a new video story, as well as new functionality that will allow your BlackBerry smartphone and BlackBerry PlayBook to work together even better.

Overcoming Downsides

"RIM is trying to boost sales with this promotion and this is one way to do it. The PlayBook is obviously not selling and it can't compete with...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
AT&T Launches Skyrocket for LTE; Vivid, too
Sunday, Nov. 6, will be the date of AT&T's leap into LTE smartphone coverage as the carrier launches two new 4G, dual-core Android smartphones, one of which is cleverly dubbed the Skyrocket.

That phone by Samsung, part of its Galaxy family of devices, as well as HTC's Vivid, will put the network AT&T launched in September to its biggest test, after weeks of long-term evolution coverage for mobile computer users.

But with its reputation for weak connectivity for Apple's iPhone, the company has a lot riding on smooth, high-speed data operation. The company must also strive to avoid the kind of problem that beset Verizon Wireless when it faced a large-scale outage of its LTE network just five months after it launched, and as it prepared to add more smartphones.

Coverage Is Key

AT&T has insisted its network is better because it is backed up by a faster 3G system, HSPA+, so that users who go in and out of an LTE coverage area won't face jarring differences in speed. The Skyrocket and Vivid are "the only smartphones able to utilize both LTE and HSPA+ 4G speeds, for a consistently fast connection in and out of LTE areas," said AT&T in marketing the devices. (When Verizon's network was down its HTC Thunderbolt used a slower 1XRTT connection.)

"The idea is that the LTE network will be more reliable, however coverage will be key as the hand-off from LTE to 3G coverage could impact data speeds," said analyst Kirk Parsons of J.D. Power and Associates. "Early indications from the Verizon LTE experience has been positive but AT&T's coverage is not as robust as Verizon is now. That will change over time."

Along with the new phones AT&T is rolling out five new LTE coverage areas Sunday: Boston; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Athens, Ga. The network is...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Microsoft Adds Social Collaboration to Dynamics CRM
For Microsoft, it's all aboard the social CRM bandwagon. Last week, the software giant announced a service update to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, which includes new, integrated social collaboration tools at no additional cost to existing customers.

Brad Wilson, general manager of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Product Management Group, said in a statement that businesses will be able to expand their relationships with customers "by bringing together new social collaboration capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM with familiar collaboration technologies such as Office, SharePoint and Lync."

Activity Feeds, Micro-Blogging

The new social capabilities include activity feeds, micro-blogging, conversations, automated activity updates, and mobile activity feeds.

Activity feeds offer real-time notifications about relationships and business events, through a view of micro-blog posts that are combined with interactions, whether for an individual or a sales opportunity. Customers and employees can subscribe to specific feeds.

Micro-blogging provides notifications to users through simple updates, and conversations allow users to collaborate among themselves to get feedback from others or to locate information. Activity updates post information to an activity, using configurable business rules, such as when a given sales opportunity has been closed. Mobile activity feeds are designed for Windows Phone 7 devices.

The new update to Dynamics CRM Online also includes unified cloud service management for both Dynamics CRM and Office 365, as well as improved disaster recovery.

'A Standard Practice'

Microsoft social collaboration additions are part of a major trend among CRM vendors, including Salesforce, SAP, and Oracle. Last week, for instance, Oracle announced it was buying RightNow Technologies for about $1.5 billion. RightNow, which provides cloud-based CRM, has been recasting itself as a "customer experience management" provider, with new techniques for customer interaction, including the use of social media.

Salesforce.com has been the leader in this move toward the use of social media in customer service. Among other social media additions, last...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
New Campaign Aims To 'Stop Texts, Stop Wrecks'
Amid fresh evidence that warnings against distracted driving aren't sinking in, the USA's top road safety agency, states' attorneys general and the Ad Council are launching a campaign aimed at drivers 16-24 years old.

The message is simple: When you text and drive, you're not multitasking -- you're driving blind.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state attorneys general and state consumer protection agencies called on the Ad Council to create the campaign in hopes they can effect the kind of cultural change that helped rein in drunken driving and smoking.

"While enacting good laws is a very important thing and enforcing them is important, where you really achieve change is when you change attitudes and you change the culture in which people operate," Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen says.

"What I like about these ads is they are trying to change the culture. They're trying to make the case that when you text and drive you're putting yourself and people around you in danger."

The new multimedia campaign, created pro bono by the New York advertising agency The Concept Farm, is called "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks."

Based on the success of similar past campaigns, it potentially could reach 8 million people, says Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon.

"People in our culture, especially young people, have never known an era that didn't include cellphones and texting," she says. "One thing we are addressing is the compulsion (to text while driving)."

Two recent studies indicate that most Americans know that texting and driving is dangerous -- but many continue to do it anyway.

A recent survey from insurer Liberty Mutual and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found that more than half of high school students said they text while driving. The study also found that teens are sending fewer messages to peers and more to their...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Phishing E-Mail Masked as StubHub Notice
An email scam masked as an order confirmation from StubHub landed in countless mailboxes Thursday. The San Francisco-based online ticket broker, a subsidiary of eBay Inc., first learned of the scam early Thursday morning, and within a few hours was deluged with phone calls, said spokesman Glenn Lehrman.

"We don't have a sense yet of how big it is," he said.

The company has placed a warning notice on its home page advising recipients not to click on any link in the email. Lehrman said the company has been sending messages out through social media to notify customers.

The Better Business Bureau is also working with the StubHub to warn consumers.

Here's what you need to know:

The Scam

The email looks like a receipt for an order for two tickets to a boxing match in Las Vegas on Nov. 12. It appears to be sent by StubHub, and the charge is an alarming $2,766.95.

Lehrman said no accounts have been charged. The email apparently went to both StubHub users and individuals who have never purchased tickets from the site.

Like any phishing scam, the fake email is aiming to dupe recipients into clicking on the embedded links, in an attempt to obtain sensitive information like credit card account numbers and passwords.

The Cure

StubHub does not display credit card details on its site, but Lehrman said it is possible to order tickets from an established account using stored payment information.

Anyone who clicked through the email and entered StubHub account information should go to the company's Web site and change their password as soon as possible, which will make it harder for the scammers if they attempt to access accounts.

The Crime

The fake StubHub email appears to have originated in Eastern Europe, Lehrman said. That's a common origination point for online scams.

Phishing is usually used to steal financial information or personal...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Intel Seeks Dismissal of Claims in Antitrust Suit
Attorneys for Intel Corp. asked a federal judge in a hearing in Delaware Thursday to dismiss several claims in an antitrust lawsuit filed against the computer chip maker by New York state's attorney general.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2009, alleges that Intel paid billions of dollars in kickbacks to computer makers in order to dominate the market for microprocessors, and that it retaliated against manufacturers who did too much business with its competitors, particularly Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

The lawsuit alleges that the scheme weakened AMD and allowed Intel to charge more for its chips than it could have otherwise, and those higher prices were passed on to computer purchasers.

On Thursday, lawyers for Intel asked U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark to dismiss claims the attorney general's office made on behalf of individuals and some 4,000 public entities other than the state, arguing that it can't bring such claims.

Intel also asked Stark to toss claims involving purchases before November 2006, arguing that Delaware's three-year time restriction, not New York's longer statute of limitations, should apply.

Stark told attorneys he would consider the arguments but didn't say when he would rule.

A trial in the case is set to begin Feb. 14.

New York filed its claims on behalf of consumers under a New York law that allows the awarding of triple damages and under common law doctrine allowing the state to act in a "parental" role on behalf of consumers.

Intel attorneys contend that the New York law allows the state to seek only injunctions and civil penalties. And they said the state can sue on behalf of a public entities only when they ask it to and it provided no evidence they did.

"Silence does not equal requests," said Intel attorney Donn Pickett.

Richard Schwartz, a deputy attorney general, told Stark authorities are in the process of...

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Judge Blocks Most of S.F. Cell Phone Warning Law
A federal judge on Thursday struck down most of a San Francisco ordinance that requires retailers to warn customers about cell phone radiation and its health effects.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the required warning is misleading because it implies cell phones are dangerous and unregulated, and he ordered city officials to change the wording on the fact sheet that retailers are required to distribute.

The brochures must include a statement that all cell phones must comply with the Federal Communications Commission's safety limits regarding radiation emissions, the judge said.

"The overall impression left is that cell phones are dangerous and that they have somehow escaped the regulatory process," Alsup wrote. "That impression is untrue and misleading, for all of the cell phones sold in the United States must comply with safety limits set by the FCC."

An industry group called CTIA-The Wireless Association had sued the city after its Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance 10-1 last year.

The judge also blocked parts of the ordinance that require retailers to put up posters and affix warning stickers on cell phones. He said those items unconstitutionally compel retailers to broadcast the city's opinion of cell phones.

"All consumers who actually purchase a cell phone will receive the handout," Alsup wrote. "There is no reasonable cause for requiring retailers to convert their walls to billboards for the municipal message."

Alsup put the entire ordinance on hold until Nov. 30 to give time for an appeal. He also said that if the city refuses to edit the brochures as ordered, then the entire ordinance will be tossed out.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he will appeal the judge's decision.

Tue, 1 Nov 11
Coldplay Keeps Mylo Xyloto Off Streaming Plans
British band Coldplay is withholding its latest album, "Mylo Xyloto," from all-you-can-listen streaming services such as Spotify and Rhapsody -- making it the biggest band yet to express reservations about a system that pays artists a fraction of a penny every time someone listens to a song.

The decision for the hot-selling album, released Tuesday, is a blow to such services, which have millions of tracks available but rely on new tunes to keep listeners interested.

Consumers typically pay $10 a month for the right to pick any track or album from a library of millions and listen on demand via online streaming. Users can also download songs to mobile devices. Some services offer lengthy trials or free options with ads.

Usually, new tracks are available on the services on Tuesday, the same day they are released for sale.

The lack of availability of Coldplay's fifth album on subscription plans could push consumers to buy the album outright.

Coldplay's recording company, EMI, said in a statement "We always work with our artists and their management on a case by case basis to deliver the best outcome for each release."

Rhapsody president Jon Irwin said he respects the band's decision and needs to do a better job explaining the benefits of the subscription system to artists.

In an editorial he wrote for Billboard magazine on Monday, Irwin said he agreed that some reported royalties paid to artists -- as low as 0.015 cents per play on Spotify and 0.91 cents on Rhapsody -- "seem awfully small."

By comparison, recording labels and artists share about 70 percent of the $1.29 per track or $9.99 per album when music is bought on Apple Inc.'s iTunes.

Irwin argued that royalties from subscription music plans are recurring, not one-time as is the case with iTunes sales. Thus, he said, revenue will build over time.



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