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Sat, 30 Jun 12
With Nexus 7, Google Wants To Play in Amazon's Market
In releasing its first company-branded Nexus 7 this week, Google is deepening its reputation as both a hardware and software provider, staking out a place in the growing tablet market. But Google's content-centric, 7-inch device built by Asus is not much of a threat to Apple's market-dominating iPad, instead focusing on Amazon's Kindle Fire.

The Fire, Down Below?

The evenly priced, Android-powered devices -- $200 each ($250 for the 16-gigabyte Nexus) -- have similar specs in terms of display size, thickness and weight, but the Nexus 7 has an edge in processor speed (1.3 gigahertz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core vs. 1-GHz dual core) and RAM, 1 gigabyte vs. 512 megabytes. The Nexus 7, which is due in July, has a 1.3-megapixel camera, where the Fire has none. The Fire also is only available with 8 GB of storage.

The Nexus 7's display resolution is slightly better: 1280x800 pixels, compared with 1024x600. Best of all, the Nexus is the very first device to ship with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), the latest operating system, while the Fire runs a customized version of Android 2.3. The Nexus 7 packs Google's latest version of the Chrome browser while Kindle has its own Silk browser.

"The Nexus 7 is clearly aimed at Amazon's Kindle Fire," said analyst Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. "Google called it a tablet designed for Google PLAY content and gave it a home screen that defaults to My Library -- you can't get clearer positioning than that!"

After his hands-on look at the Nexus 7, Greengart said he "came away impressed with the hardware and with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but comparing it to the Kindle Fire is premature as Amazon is expected to launch a second generation Fire before the holidays."

He noted that Amazon also has an important advantage in merchandising the tablet --...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
Chrome for iOS Grabs Top App Spot in iTunes
Google's new Chrome browser app for iOS devices became the No. 1 free offering at the iTunes App Store on Friday, driven by all the media buzz generated this week at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco.

Still, early reviewers of Google's free download have given the new Chrome for iOS app mixed reviews.

"Safari is using the Nitro engine, and it's much much faster than this Chrome app," one reviewer said in an iTunes post.

In light of this criticism, we asked Net Applications Executive Vice President Vince Vizzaccaro about the new app's prospects with respect to trimming Safari's commanding share of the mobile browser market.

"I imagine a good number of people will try it out," Vizzaccaro told us Friday. "But if that's the experience they end up having, I have a hard time believing Chrome will gain much traction on iOS,"

On the other hand, given that this is Google's first attempt to launch Chrome on Apple's iOS platform, the browser's performance will likely improve over time, said Al Hilwa, director of Application Development Software at IDC.

"Playing on someone else's application platform -- and one that is as tightly controlled as iOS -- is always going to be a challenge," Hilwa told us Friday. "But it is a good move for Google to make the effort to be on iOS."

Mixed Reviews

Google's launch of a new iOS beachhead is significant because mobile devices, including tablets, account for 7.8 percent of global browser activities, according to Net Applications. And over the long haul, mobile browsing platforms are expected to command an ever-increasing share of the overall global market.

Though Microsoft's Internet Explorer reigns supreme in the PC market segment, Net Applications reports that Apple's Safari leads the mobile segment with a 63.2 percent share and with the generic Android browser...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
Patent Vultures Circle a Wounded RIM
Now that Research In Motion has failed once again to hit the mark, rumors abound that Microsoft may be the Canadian BlackBerry maker's knight in shining armor.

Reports suggest that Microsoft met earlier this year to discuss a Nokia-like deal where RIM would abandon its BlackBerry operating system for Windows Phone. Others speculate that Microsoft will acquire RIM for its patents.

Clearly, RIM declined to follow in the footsteps of Nokia. And clearly, RIM is in a world of trouble with the revelation that it's BlackBerry 10 platform -- which was widely trumpeted as an operating system that may help turn RIM around -- will not make its smartphone debut until the first quarter of 2013.

Neither RIM nor Microsoft were immediately available for comment, but we caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on RIM's fate. Although a partnership is possible, he told us an all-out acquisition is not likely.

Will Microsoft Buy?

"Microsoft has not been historically good at buying companies like RIM. They bought Danger and pretty much destroyed it. The key people are working over at Google now," Enderle said. "Remember, Microsoft also bought WebTV and that went south. I think that's going to give them pause. "

If Microsoft did buy RIM, Enderle said, the software giant's likely motive would be to scoop up the intellectual property as part of a patent defense. Enderle said Microsoft could even organize a consortium just to keep the IP out of Google's hands. That, however, would not keep RIM alive as the industry knows it.

Will Google Buy?

What about Google? Google recently acquired Motorola. Could Google be in line to grab RIM? It's common industry knowledge that Google wants a stronger patent portfolio, especially in the mobile arena in which they hope to dominate.

"The Motorola patents...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
Birthday 5 for iPhone: The Device That Changed Everything
It exploded onto the scene with a burst of fanfare, a revolutionary device that, it can objectively be said, changed everything.

Five years ago today the first iPhone went on sale, six months after Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the touchscreen device, essentially a computer in the palm of your hand that displaced voice calls as the primary reason for carrying a mobile device.

"Apple's version of the iPhone is a mobile phone that combines the wizardry of smartphones with the music- and movie-playing features of the iPod," is how NewsFactor reported the story on January 9, 2007. "It features a large, 3.5" touchscreen, a 2-megapixel camera, and integrates fully with Apple's iTunes music store. It's less than half an inch wide, works on a pared-down version of Apple's OS X (which in full form powers Apple notebooks and desktops), sports WiFi, Bluetooth, and EDGE (a type of mobile broadband), and runs on Cingular's network."

What, No 3G?

It took six months, however, for the much-hyped device to get into consumers' hands. Just before the consumer launch, we reported analysts' views that the phone set a new standard, but not without a few shortcomings.

Analysts at the time pointed out that the iPhone "lacked 3G capabilities and could only use the much slower EDGE technology. The compensation for this shortcoming [was] that the iPhone could automatically switch to Wi-Fi networks, when available, for Internet browsing." On Wi-Fi, it was reported, the iPhone "flies."

The original iPhone was followed in turn by the 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S models. Today's 5-year anniversary comes as Apple is soon expected to release the sixth version of the device. While the original device was strictly tied to AT&T, the current incarnation is available via AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and a few regional carriers, with worldwide sales estimated at more...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
Another BlackBerry 10 Delay at RIM; Is It Doomed?
Research In Motion on Thursday delivered its quarterly earnings report, along with news that industry watchers agree could be the end for the BlackBerry maker in its current form. Rumors have abounded that RIM would split itself in two for months.

First, RIM reported a $518 million loss against $2.8 billion in revenues. That marks a 33 percent decline in revenue compared with the previous quarter. RIM now has about $2.2 billion of cash on hand. RIM sold 7.8 million BlackBerry smartphones, a 30 percent decrease from the previous quarter. And the mobile device maker sold a mere 260,000 PlayBooks in the quarter.

"Our first-quarter results reflect the market challenges I have outlined since my appointment as CEO at the end of January," said Thorsten Heins, RIM's CEO. "I am not satisfied with these results and continue to work aggressively with all areas of the organization and the board to implement meaningful changes to address the challenges, including a thoughtful realignment of resources and honing focus within the company on areas that have the greatest opportunities."

BlackBerry 10 Delayed

And then he dropped the bomb that really got analysts' attention. Heins said RIM's priority going forward is the successful launch of the company's first BlackBerry 10 device, which he now anticipates will occur in the first quarter of 2013.

RIM's official word is that its software development teams have made major progress over the past several weeks to develop key features for the BlackBerry 10 platform -- however. The key word is "however."

According to RIM, the integration of these features and the associated large volume of code into the platform is taking longer than expected. That means the first BlackBerry 10 smartphones won't hit the market until after the holiday shopping season.

"RIM's development teams are relentlessly focused on ensuring the quality and reliability of...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
What's New in Android Jelly Bean
Faster ways to search content on the Internet and share photos between two phones are promised in the next version of Google's Android operating system for mobile devices.

Android 4.1 is nicknamed Jelly Bean, following Google Inc.'s tradition of likening its updates to a delectable treat. Google previewed it Wednesday at a conference in San Francisco for computer programmers.

Android is now the chief rival to the mobile software running Apple's iPhone and iPad. Google said there are a million new Android devices activated daily, up from 400,000 a year ago. The company said there's particularly fast growth in emerging markets such as Brazil and India.

Jelly Bean will be available in mid-July. Some devices -- the Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S -- will get it automatically as an over-the-air update. Google's new tablet computer, the Nexus 7, will also come with Jelly Bean.

One of the new features in Android will be Google Now, which is supposed to get you the right information at the right time automatically, if you activate the feature. If you say "traffic," for example, it will look at your usual commute to work and show you alternative routes if there's a lot of traffic. It will tell you the scores of your favorite sports teams automatically, and it will keep you up to date on the status of your flights if you're traveling.

Google said the Google Now feature will get smarter as you use it more.

The feature represents Google's response to Siri, the popular virtual assistant on Apple's iPhone.

Jelly Bean will also come with the ability to share photos by tapping two phones together, using an emerging wireless technology called near-field communications. The current version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, has limited ability to share data through NFC. Samsung Electronic Co.'s new Galaxy S III phone...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
FCC, Comcast Reach $800K Broadband Deal
Comcast Corp. has reached a settlement with federal regulators under which it will pay the government $800,000 and offer a broadband Internet access option to customers who don't subscribe to the cable company's video cable services.

The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that Comcast agreed to take those and other steps as part of a consent decree to settle an investigation by the agency into the company's compliance with conditions of its NBCUniversal acquisition, which was completed in January 2011.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV company, bought a controlling interest in NBCUniversal after the FCC and the Justice Department approved the deal with conditions following a yearlong review.

One of the conditions called on Comcast to offer stand-alone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and with sufficient bandwidth to customers who don't pay to get Comcast's cable TV service.

The agency launched an investigation after it received information suggesting that Comcast wasn't adequately marketing the service.

Comcast did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the consent decree, which resolves the investigation.

Under the terms of the settlement, Comcast agreed to provide a reasonably priced broadband Internet option through at least Feb. 21, 2015, to customers who don't get its cable TV service.

It also agreed to make a "voluntary contribution" to the U.S. Treasury of $800,000, the FCC said.

Among other conditions, the FCC required Comcast to conduct a major advertising campaign to promote the availability of the stand-alone Internet service next year.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the settlement will benefit consumers, foster competition among online video and satellite providers, and ensure that stand-alone broadband is available in Comcast's service areas.

Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said that the company has incorporated the commitments and conditions placed upon it in connection with the NBCUniversal acquisition, including the commitment to offer stand-alone broadband Internet.

"As is often the case...

Sat, 30 Jun 12
Yahoo Teams With Clear Channel, iHeart Radio
Yahoo is teaming up with radio station giant Clear Channel, expanding on its strategy to offer exclusive content to counter Facebook and Google in the competition for Internet advertising dollars.

The company said late Wednesday that, as part of the deal, it will provide exclusive live video of this year's iHeart Radio Music Festival, which is sponsored by Clear Channel's fledgling online music service. It also plans to carry nearly a dozen live events annually put on by Clear Channel.

Yahoo Inc. has cut similar deals with ABC News and CNBC to give prominence to stories from those providers on its Web sites while producing original video that it aims to sell to advertisers for a premium. Such jointly-produced content is meant to appear on the Web site and promoted on TV. The deal with Clear Channel means content that Yahoo helps produce will also be promoted on Clear Channel's 850 radio stations nationwide.

The moves are part of Yahoo's push to move beyond being just a Web portal. The company hopes to become a media company that produces content and captures a bigger share of the display and video ad market.

Mickie Rosen, senior vice president of Yahoo Media Network, said the aim of such partnerships is to create content that "is more premium than repackaged content that's ubiquitous on the Web."

At the same time, Rosen noted, the company still needs to maintain its regular relationships with news organizations that help it reach about 167 million users in the U.S. each month.

Fri, 29 Jun 12
Google Drive App Comes to iOS, But Features Limited
Two months after releasing Drive, Google has unveiled apps to access its integrated cloud storage service via Apple's iOS devices and its own Chrome Platform.

Drive is about "making it really easy to live life in the cloud and that means making all your files available on all your devices, anywhere," said Google Drive's product manager, Clay Bayor, at Google's I/O 2012 developer conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco. "We want it to be available on every platform."

Optical Recognition

The Drive app, available only for devices running iOS 5, allows users to access documents, photos and other media and sort through them. The system uses optical character and image recognition to make files or even photos accessible even if they are not sorted by category. Bayor demonstrated how to easily access scanned receipts or photos by keywords.

The app also enables iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch users to save documents for later viewing and share them.

However, files cannot be uploaded from iOS devices via the app, or deleted, nor can you create new Google Drive files, making it an essentially read-only service. iOS users can use the Safari browser, however, to access drive.google.com and use the other features.

"[The issue of] documents stored on Google Drive being only read-only is an important one," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

'Crippled Service'

"That makes Drive a somewhat crippled 'service' to begin with but also opens opportunities for developers to come up with fixes for that and other likely shortcomings or special needs," King told us.

"At this point, I doubt the issue will have a serious impact on Google Drive's chances as a cloud service for Apple customers. But that could change if this sort of issue remains unresolved."

Asked for comment, a Google spokesman told us: "Different platforms have different requirements, and we're excited a...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
Google Launches Infrastructure Service: Compute Engine
There's a new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), pay-as-you-go offering to compete with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. On Thursday, Google introduced its Compute Engine.

The new service, which was announced at the Google I/O developers conference taking place in San Francisco, allows users to create virtual machines. Google says it provides 50 percent more power per dollar than Amazon's service. The technology giant had previously offered a wide range of services and products in the cloud, but not a pure rent-our-servers offering.

Limited Preview

Compute Engine is currently being offered in a "limited preview," meaning that only a limited number of users can sign up. A general availability date has not been announced. Google said its service, even in this limited launch, is well suited for computationally intensive tasks, such as scientific research, because of its ability to scale to thousands of processor cores.

On-demand Linux virtual machines are offered in one, two, four, and eight virtual cores, with each virtual core having 3.75GB of RAM. Storage will be on local disks, persistent block devices, or in Google's Cloud Storage. Pricing starts at $0.145 per hour for a 1 core, 3.75 GB RAM virtual machine.

On the Google Compute Engine Web page, the company cites three initial use cases for its service -- batch processing, data processing and high-performance computing. Users can manage their projects via the Google APIs Console.

Google's App Engine, which provides a platform for developing applications, had pointed to this IaaS opportunity, said Urs Holzle, the company's infrastructure architect. Holzle told the conference that users of the App Engine, which does not offer pure use of virtual machines, had indicated their desire for an infrastructure service that provided virtual machines for long-term use.

Linux Only

App Engine requires that applications be designed for specific application programming interfaces, while Compute Engine will...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
Centerpiece of Google Device Strategy: Play
Though media reports out of Google's I/O developer conference have buzzed with news of the Nexus 7 tablet, Google Glasses and the next Android OS, industry observers say the company's Google Play store is the centerpiece of its evolving device strategy.

In one way or another, every major I/O 2012 session Wednesday was related to Google Play, formerly known as Android Market. For example, the online store is expanding to include popular magazines such as House Beautiful, Men's Health, Shape and Wired, and users can also purchase movies via Google Play in addition to renting them.

"And we're adding television shows on Google Play -- [including] thousands of episodes of broadcast and cable TV shows," said Andy Rubin, senior vice president of Mobile and Digital Content at Google.

Forrester Research Vice President James McQuivey said Google wanted to create a content platform that tied together all its ragtag content and app experiences into a single customer relationship.

"The power of the platform is the only power that will matter," McQuivey said in a blog post Wednesday. "The newly announced Nexus 7, as a device, is from its inception subservient to the experiences -- some of them truly awesome -- that Google's Play platform can provide through it."

It's All About the Experience

Google also introduced new tools and marketing strategies for Google Play that aim to make the online store a more attractive venue for application developers. Among other things, Google demoed a beta release of a developer console that will help app creators see how their products are performing across multiple device platforms.

McQuivey believes that Google's success or failure in the mobile hardware business -- and the home entertainment space with the Nexus Q streaming media player -- will not depend on flashy devices at attractive price points or connection enhancements.

"The tight integration...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
It's the Beginning of the End for Windows Desktop, Gartner Says
Gartner is prophesying the end of the Windows desktop. Windows 8 marks the beginning of the desktop operating system's slide to irrelevance, the firm said, and begins the new Windows RT computing era that will allow users to run Windows desktop programs alongside new Win RT mobile apps.

Win RT is a new platform designed to keep Microsoft relevant in a future that will be dominated by mobile devices, Gartner said. The firm expects Microsoft to position Win RT as its strategic platform for new development. But the demise of the Windows desktop won't happen overnight. Gartner is betting most users will continue to run Win32 applications for 10 or more years.

"Windows 8 is the start of Microsoft's effort to respond to market demands and competitors, as it provides a common interface and programming API set from phones to servers. It is also the beginning of the end of Win32 applications on the desktop," said Michael Silver, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Microsoft will continue to support Win32, but it will encourage developers to write more manageable and engaging applications using Win RT."

A Technology Shift

Although the new Metro interface model will lock organizations into the next generation of Windows, Silver said enterprises will take many years to move their applications to the new model. Specifically, he said it will take at least five years for significant traction of Metro-style apps to pervade all areas of user-facing enterprise apps.

Gartner advises organizations planning to develop new Win32 applications to switch to Metro for all new user-facing applications beginning in 2013 and focus on external apps first and internal apps later.

"Windows 8 is more than a major upgrade to Windows -- it's a technology shift," said Steve Kleynhans, vice president for client and mobile computing at Gartner. "We don't see technology...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
Cisco's Connect Cloud Smartens Up Linksys Smart Wi-Fi
Cisco is launching its Cisco Connect Cloud, to provide a software platform that could redefine how consumers interact with connected devices in the home, and to provide a new environment for the development of third-party apps. The Cloud is intended to work in conjunction with the company's new line of Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Routers.

The company said that the Cloud is designed to help make easier the complicated setup of home networked devices and settings. The company is also releasing a mobile app to provide access to the Cisco Cloud via a smartphone or a tablet, in any setting.

Six New Apps

The new mobile app offers a key feature, called SimpleTap, that allows a user to connect smart TVs, printers, tablets, and other devices to the Linksys router with one tap or swipe, thus facilitating the addition of devices to the network. In the future, Cisco said, the Cloud will allow new devices to be added by simply scanning a near-field communications tag on a device with a smartphone.

The company also announced that six new apps by third-party developers are available. One allows users to send or "beam" online videos to a Smart TV- or AirPlay-compatible device. Other apps help to mount home monitoring cameras on the network, or to provide safe-surfing for children who go online.

There's also a Device Monitoring app that provides real-status updates on devices, such as letting a user know when or how long children have been online with gaming consoles. The apps are available through Apple's App Store or Google Play store, formerly the Android Marketplace.

'Changing the Game'

Brett Wingo, Cisco Home Networking vice president and general manager, said in a statement that the Cloud was "changing the game when it comes to the connected home by ushering in a whole new level of experiences, simplicity and...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
Analyst: IBM Flex System Manager Reduces IT-Management Complexity
When IBM launched PureSystems in April, more than 600 companies stood in support of the integrated computing systems designed to simplify enterprise computing. IBM had invested $2 billion in R&D and acquisitions over a four-year period to develop the system.

But IBM didn't stop there. IBM recently introduced the Flex System Manager platform. Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, sat in on an IBM call with industry analysts. During the call, IBM execs detailed some of the features that make Flex System Manager a good solution for the problems that come along with IT complexity.

We caught up with King to get his insights on what IBM has to offer. He told us to first keep in mind that Flex System Manager is designed to complement IBM's new PureSystems solutions, which aim to fill a gap it believes exists between general-purpose computing systems and dedicated appliances like Oracle's Exadata.

Managing Virtualization

"PureSystems feature an all new integrated system architecture which supports both IBM Power and x86-based servers, associated storage and networking resources, and cross-platform technologies, including virtualization," King said. "The result is a highly flexible solution that can deliver the simplicity of appliances, the scalability required by business-critical workloads, and the efficiency and agility needed for cloud computing."

As King sees it, IBM's Flex System Manager provides levels of control and insight into hardware and software performance that are often missing from cross-platform solutions. In essence, he said, Flex System Manager offers a single, ready to run system that includes all the pieces of the operating infrastructure. King offered two real-world examples: managing virtualization and system resource pools.

"The rapid adoption of x86-based virtualization has certainly been the source of happy days for many vendors and businesses but it's sometimes resulted in a new complexity issue -- how to cope with the complexities of hypervisor...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
Review: Wireless Speakers Great Fit for Phone Use
Diminutive wireless speakers are filling the shelves at electronics stores. They're proving to be the ideal accessory for people who listen to the bulk of their music on mobile phones.

Because the smartphone is now such a ubiquitous entertainment device, there's no reason it can't also be a solid stereo around the house and on the road when paired with the right speakers.

All of the speakers I tested connect to your device wirelessly through Bluetooth. They also have a traditional stereo input jack, so you can plug in iPods and other music players without Bluetooth capability.

I looked at some of the latest wireless offerings that provide the most boom for your buck. I used a Motorola Droid X2, running Google's Android operating software. These options work with Apple's iPhone and iPad, too.

Mini Boombox, by Logitech ($99.99)

This speaker isn't much bigger than a balled-up fist, but it packs a similar punch when you press play. It holds a battery charge that I couldn't kill, even with a full day of house cleaning.

For such a small unit, the Mini Boombox delivered a full range of fidelity across various music genres, from the crunch heavy metal to the thumping beat of electronica.

The Mini Boombox was easy to set up once my phone scanned for available Bluetooth devices. The speaker kept the connection nicely throughout the first floor of a two-story house.

It also sports backlit, touch-sensitive controls on top of the unit, allowing me to easily toggle back and forth through my music files and adjust the volume. Of course, everything can be controlled from the phone as well.

Pound for pound, the Mini Boombox is a serious performer and my favorite of the bunch. It has the best balance of sound quality, touch-sensitive controls and a price point that won't gouge the wallet too deeply.


Fri, 29 Jun 12
EU Upholds Most of Microsoft Antitrust Fine
A European court on Wednesday upheld most of a massive fine levied against Microsoft by the European Commission's competition watchdog, closing a case against the software giant that began in 1998.

In an appeals ruling, the General Court of the European Union rejected Microsoft Corp.'s request to dismiss the fine levied in 2008, but did trim it by (EURO)39 million to (EURO)860 million ($1.1 billion). Counting two earlier fines, the case has wound up costing Microsoft a grand total of (EURO)1.64 billion.

That's the most ever resulting from a single antitrust case in Europe, though in 2009 Intel Corp. was hit with the largest single fine, (EURO)1.09 billion.

The court in Luxembourg said its decision "essentially upholds the Commission's decision and rejects all the arguments put forward by Microsoft in support of annulment."

The (EURO)860 million fine is a "penalty for noncompliance" with the watchdog's 2004 order for Microsoft to make computer programming code available that would allow competitors' products to interface properly with Microsoft's server software.

Microsoft did so, but at a price the Commission said was so exorbitant it amounted to not complying.

The court upheld that finding, but said Microsoft deserved a small break because of a letter the Commission sent in 2005 saying the company didn't have to freely distribute code that wasn't its own and was freely available elsewhere. That letter gave Microsoft some room to think it was okay to continue acting the way it had until 2004, and should have been "taken into account in determining the gravity of the conduct found to be unlawful," the written decision said.

The Commission's top regulator Joaquin Almunia said the judgment "fully vindicates" his office's action against Microsoft and "brought significant benefits to users."

"A range of innovative products that would otherwise not have seen the light of day were introduced on the...

Fri, 29 Jun 12
T-Mobile USA CEO Resigns, Succeeded by COO
T-Mobile USA, the country's fourth-largest cellphone carrier, on Wednesday said that its CEO has resigned and its chief operating officer is filling in while the company searches for a replacement.

T-Mobile, which is based in Bellevue, Washington, is struggling to compete against its largest rivals. Departing CEO Philipp Humm took the reins in November 2010, with a mission to reverse the slow slide of the business without help from the German parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG.

But revenue continued to decline every quarter of Humm's tenure. In March 2011, he seemingly found a way out of T-Mobile's difficult position by striking a deal to have AT&T Inc. buy the company for $39 billion. However, the takeover was scuttled by federal regulators, who feared that it would reduce competition in the industry and raise prices for consumers.

Humm was an executive with at Deutsche Telekom before taking the U.S. job. The company said he has left to "pursue a career outside of Deutsche Telekom" and rejoin his family in Germany.

Now, the company needs "somebody who can convert initiatives into market-successes," said Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann, in a statement.

COO Jim Alling is taking over Humm's duties in the interim.

T-Mobile's long-term prospects have improved slightly this year. It's still the only nationwide U.S. cellphone carrier that doesn't sell the iPhone, which means it's losing high-paying smartphone users to rivals. But thanks to a "breakup gift" from AT&T, it now has room on the airwaves to initiate a revamp of its network that will result in it becoming compatible with the iPhone.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile said it had agreed to buy some spectrum from Verizon Wireless and swap other spectrum holdings, further improving its ability to offer wireless data service. However, the deal is conditioned on regulatory approval of Verizon's deals with other companies.

Humm was the managing...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Google To Put Small Number of Augmented-Reality Glasses on Sale
For all those who can't wait until augmented reality arrives, here's the good news: Google's augmented-reality glasses, the company's visionary headset that overlays endless data on top of what you see in plain old reality, is now available in a special "Explorer's Edition."

The bad news: it will cost $1,500, and will only be available early next year to those U.S. developers who attended this year's Google I/O developers conference.

Sky Divers, Bicyclists

But don't despair. The fact that the heads-up display is available at all, even at a high price and to a very limited group, signals that the company believes it has a product that could be, well, looking good.

On Wednesday, Google Chief Executive Sergey Brin showed the prototype headset to attendees of the Google I/O conference, taking place in San Francisco's Moscone West conference center. The limitation on U.S.-only developers is apparently because of various countries' rules about radio-frequency devices.

In addition to layering data on reality, the glasses also offer a built-in video camera. To illustrate the possibilities, Brin introduced a stunt in which four sky divers, wearing the headsets, proceeded to jump from a blimp over San Francisco and land on the roof of the convention center where the conference was being held. The conference goers watched the jump through the parachuters' eyes via the glasses' video transmissions.

As if that wasn't enough to get your "I want one" juices going, video streams were also being transmitted from climbers who rappelled down the side of the conference center, all of whom were similarly fashionable in the new eyewear.

'500 Different Ways' To Go Wrong

"This could go wrong in about 500 different ways," Brin cautioned before the stunt took place, but there were no perceived hitches in the demonstration.

For those concerned about how to match such a headset with their outfit, Brin...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Google's Nexus 7 Tablet Targets Kindle Fire
Google is trying its hand at the hardware business again. This time, the technology giant is moving into tablet territory.

Google just unveiled a new tablet computer called the Nexus 7 that seems aimed directly at Amazon's Kindle Fire. Google debuted the new tablet at its annual I/O conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Andy Rubin, senior vice president of Mobile and Digital Content at Google, described the Nexus 7 as "a powerful new tablet with a vibrant, 7-inch 1280x800 HD display." The Nexus 7 is powered by a Tegra 3 chipset, with a quad-core CPU and 12-core GPU. The tablet weighs 12 ounces, lighter than most tablets on the market. The Nexus 7 will retail at $199 and starts shipping in mid-July.

"Nexus 7 was built to bring you the best of Google in the palm of your hand," Rubin wrote in the official Google blog. "Hang out with up to 10 friends on Google using the front-facing camera, browse the Web blazingly fast with Chrome and, of course, crank through your e-mails with Gmail."

Content-Oriented Tablet

We caught up with Avi Greengart, who is attending the I/O event, to get his take on the Nexus 7. He told us Google is indeed aiming directly at the Kindle Fire.

"This is clearly a content-oriented tablet. When you turn it on the homepage has a My Library widget, so it's showing you the content on the device," Greengart said. "The only other widget is for a recommendation engine, so it has content discovery, clearly aiming at Amazon."

Greengart said Google was probably annoyed that the best-selling Android tablet -- the Kindle Fire -- doesn't use any Google services. Amazon has uncovered a market niche, he said, and Google needs to address that before Amazon puts a dent in its search or content revenues.

"Head to head with Kindle...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Sprint To Launch 4G LTE in Five Markets July 15
Sprint will launch its first high-speed 4G LTE networks in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio beginning July 15. Sprint customers in those five metropolitan markets will be able to use Sprint's lineup of 4G LTE smartphones to access the Web at superfast speeds.

"Sprint expects average download speeds of 6 to 8 megabits per second, with peak speeds of 25 Mbps," a company spokesperson said Wednesday. "Upload speeds are expected to be 2 to 3 Mbps."

Sprint also said Wednesday that the addition of Network Vision in U.S. metropolitan markets will bring significant enhancements to the carrier's existing 3G service coverage.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said subscribers could expect to experience better signal strength, fewer dropped/blocked calls, faster data speeds, expanded coverage and better overall performance as the improvements rolled out.

"The performance of both the 4G LTE and improved 3G networks are exceeding our expectations and we are pleased with the progress of the entire Network Vision program," Hesse said.

Compatible Handsets Available Now

Sprint already sells four smartphone models that will be compatible with the carrier's 4G LTE network. The low-cost LG Viper 4G LTE is priced at $100, while the HTC EVO 4G LTE, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Samsung's new Galaxy S III are all priced at $200.

A Sprint spokesperson said Wednesday that the wireless carrier does not plan to introduce any smartphones that include both 4G LTE and WiMAX connectivity options -- though all of the company's 4G LTE handsets will also include 3G. However, Sprint has introduced a tri-mode hotspot accessory from Sierra Wireless that does support 4G WiMAX, 4G LTE and 3G network connections.

Sprint is currently the only top-tier U.S. carrier with no data service throttling, metering or overage fees. On Sprint's new 4G LTE network, also known as the carrier's Network Vision program,...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Attack on the Clone: Apple Wins Injunction Against Samsung iPad Rival
In the latest installment of Legal Clash of the Tech Titans, Apple has won a home-turf victory over South Korea-based Samsung, convincing a California judge to ban the sale of the Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S.

Apple claims the Tab, the strongest rival of its iPad in the still-fledgling tablet market, infringed on its patent by making a device that is too similar. In revisiting an earlier ruling as instructed by a higher appeals court, Judge Lucy Koh of U.S. District Court in San Jose ruled on Tuesday that, "Although Samsung has a right to compete, it does not have a right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing products," according to press reports.

Rivals Slowly Gaining

Koh is the same judge presiding over a class-action suit brought by users of Facebook over sponsored messages that use their likenesses. A proposed settlement in that case was reached last week. Another federal court in California recently heard the patent and copyright infringement case against Google brought by software giant Oracle.

The injunction against Samsung will apply only to the 10.1-inch Tab model -- the closest to the iPad -- and will not affect inventory already in stores. It is also dependent on Apple posting a $2.6 million bond as a hedge in case the ruling is overturned, to cover Samsung losses, Reuters said.

Though Apple is far and away the leader of the tablet market, analysts expect that dominance to erode in the next few years. Gartner, which estimated the iPad had an 83.9 percent share in 2010, projects a 63.5 percent share this year, down to 47.1 percent in 2015, with Android-based tablets, including Samsung's, gaining from a measly 14.2 percent in 2010 to 38.6 percent, leaving Apple still at the top but making less money from tablets.

Lawsuits could be one...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
FTC Sues Wyndham After Three Data Breaches
Data breaches are hardly unique in this day, but to see the Federal Trade Commission file suit against a company for suffering a breach is. The FTC just filed a lawsuit against hotel operator Wyndham Worldwide -- and three of its subsidiaries -- after the hotels witnessed three data breaches in less than two years.

The FTC alleges that these failures led to fraudulent charges on consumers' accounts, millions of dollars in fraud loss, and the export of hundreds of thousands of consumers' payment card account information to an Internet domain address registered in Russia.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Wyndham's privacy policy misrepresented the security measures that the company and its subsidiaries took to protect consumers' personal information, and that its failure to safeguard personal information caused substantial consumer injury. The agency charged that the security practices were unfair and deceptive and violated the FTC Act.

Serious Allegations

Since 2008 Wyndham has claimed, on its Wyndham Hotels and Resorts subsidiary's Web site, that, "We recognize the importance of protecting the privacy of individual-specific (personally identifiable) information collected about guests, callers to our central reservation centers, visitors to our Web sites, and members participating in our Loyalty Program...."

According to the FTC's complaint, the repeated security failures exposed consumers' personal data to unauthorized access. Wyndham and its subsidiaries failed to take security measures such as complex user IDs and passwords, firewalls and network segmentation between the hotels and the corporate network, the agency alleged. In addition, the defendants allowed improper software configurations which resulted in the storage of sensitive payment card information in clear, readable text.

"At the time of these incidents, we made prompt efforts to notify the hotel customers whose information may have been compromised, and offered them credit monitoring services," Wyndham said in a statement. "To date,...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Pew Study: More Net Surfers Primarily Using Cell Phones
The number of cell-phone owners who use their phone to go online at least occasionally has nearly doubled over the last three years. That's one of the key takeaways from a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The report, entitled Cell Internet Use 2012, found that 55 percent of the cell phone owners in the U.S. use their phone to go online, which it called "cell Internet users."

17 Percent of All Cell Owners

The 55 percent who occasionally go online via their phone is a large increase from the 31 percent that Pew previously found in April 2009.

Of that 55 percent, the study found that 31 percent use their cell phone as their primary tool for getting online, instead of a desktop or laptop. This works out to be about 17 percent of all adult cell phone owners in the U.S., plus there's another 5 percent of all owners who use both mobile and desktop/laptop equally.

This finding points to a significant portion of the population whose online contact is seen through the limited screen of a cell phone. The number is expected to grow, given the growing demographics of those users who are more likely to use their phones as their primary online device -- young adults and non-whites.

Almost half, or 45 percent, of 18- to 29-year-olds with online access do most of their browsing with their mobile device, and slightly more than half, or 51 percent, of African-Americans do. About 42 percent of Latino cell Internet users are "cell-mostly" surfers, compared with about 24 percent for whites.

Availability, Usage, Access

Additionally, respondents with annual household incomes under $50,000, and those who are not college graduates, are also more likely than those with higher incomes or college degrees to use their cells as their primarily online devices.

The report found...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Razer Blade Laptop Slices PC Game Footprint
The Blade gaming laptop looks like a notebook computer from the future, but it's arrived at a prime time for PC gamers.

Razer, a video game accessory company, brought the pricey $2,800 product to market late last year, and the laptop earned an Innovations award at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

But last month's debut of Diablo III, the fastest-selling PC game ever, could finally give gamers in the market for a replacement PC the option of one optimized for gaming.

"There's a rapidly growing market for high-quality hardware that targets PC gamers, and Razer is tapping into that," says DFC Intelligence founder David Cole.

Despite its price tag, the Blade has some strong selling points:

Portability. Manufactured with an aluminum chassis, the Blade weighs less than 6.5 pounds -- less than half the weight of some competing units.

And at 0.88 inches thick, the Blade is half the thickness of other gaming laptops. Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan has said that he expects pro gamers and hard-core enthusiasts alike to gravitate to the Blade because it is easier to carry but can work as a replacement for a desktop computer. It's also cool-looking. With a brushed obsidian finish, the Blade has a minimalist profile that wouldn't look out of place in a futuristic film such as Prometheus. Atop the display, there's a built-in webcam and microphone for video chatting.

Performance. Inside the Blade is an Intel Core i7 dual core processor and Nvidia graphics processor, so the machine has the power to handle current graphic-rich games such as Diablo III. And the Blade has some built-in features to make playing games easier. An LCD touch-tracking panel can serve as a mouse and mouse pad when playing a game, or players can connect a mouse via USB.

Just above that are 10 programmable keys that can...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
Workers Share Small Fraction of Apple's Great Wealth
Last year, during his best three-month stretch, Jordan Golson sold about $750,000 worth of computers and gadgets at the Apple Store in Salem, New Hampshire. It was a performance that might have called for a bottle of Champagne -- if that had been a luxury Mr. Golson could afford.

"I was earning $11.25 an hour," he said. "Part of me was thinking, 'This is great. I'm an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.' But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it's kind of tough."

The U.S. love affair with the smartphone has helped create tens of thousands of jobs and will pump billions into the economy this year. Within this world, the Apple Store is the undisputed king, a retail phenomenon renowned for impeccable design, deft service and spectacular revenues.

Last year, the company's 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer -- wireless or otherwise -- and almost twice as much as Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails.

Worldwide, its stores sold $16 billion worth of merchandise.

But most of Apple's employees enjoyed little of that wealth. While consumers tend to think of Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California, as the company's heart and soul, a majority of its workers in the United States are not engineers or executives with hefty salaries and bonuses but rather hourly wage earners selling iPhones and MacBooks.

About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in the United States work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year. They work inside the world's fastest- growing industry, for the most valuable company, run by one of the country's most richly compensated...

Thu, 28 Jun 12
States Cracking Down on Drivers Using Cell Phones
Growing concern over the continued use of cellphones by drivers has some states reviewing laws against the practice and exploring stiffer fines and harsher penalties.

A 2010 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that current texting bans are not reducing the risk or amount of crashes. But some question whether tougher punishment is the answer.

Justin McNaull, director of state relations for auto club AAA, says seat belt studies show that when states impose higher fines, more motorists obey the laws.

But Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, a drivers' rights group, says steeper fines won't change drivers' behavior. "It's more productive to treat distracted driving as a driver education problem," Biller says.

In New Jersey, the state Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved a measure this month that would increase fines for handheld cellphone use, including texting, from $100 to $200 for the first offense. Offenders could have their driver's license suspended for 90 days for the third and ensuing violations. The bill will next be heard by the Senate Budget Committee. Elsewhere:

The California Senate approved a bill in May that would cost drivers caught texting or talking without a hands-free device $30 for a first offense -- a $10 increase -- and $60 for a subsequent offense, up from $50. The bill goes next to the Assembly.

Connecticut last year increased fines for using handheld cellphones and text messaging while driving, from the previous $100 to $125 for the first offense, $150 to $250 for the second, and $200 to $400 for the third and subsequent violations.

New Jersey state Sen. Dick Codey, a Democrat and primary sponsor of the measure to increase fines in that state, likens distracted-driving prevention to the drunken-driving campaign that began decades ago.

"Our goal is...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
You Mean Orbitz Isn't Showing This Mac User the Best Deal Available?
Targeted content is a two-edged sword, and now the sharper edge is coming into view. According to a new report this week, Orbitz Worldwide is showing pricier hotel room rates to Mac owners than to Windows computer users.

The reason, per a report in The Wall Street Journal, is because of research by Orbitz indicating that Mac users often spend as much as 30 percent more on hotel rooms. Orbitz confirmed the practice to the newspaper, but indicated it was being conducted on an experimental basis.

Macs and Five-Star Hotels

The travel company said that it was showing different hotel offers to Mac users, not the same rooms at different prices, and it pointed out that Mac users, as well as others, can rank results in order of price.

With the site's average hotel room price being $100, $20 to $30 more commonly spent by Mac users is significant. Orbitz chief scientist Wai Gen Yee told the newspaper that Mac owners are about 40 percent more likely to choose a four- or five-star hotel than Windows users, and that, in the same hotel, Mac owners are more likely to stay in the pricier rooms.

Orbitz indicated that, while it is trying out this kind of you-are-your-platform targeted search results, other factors are more important, such as a customer's location, history of purchases and searches on the site, and a hotel's promotion. Orbitz competitors Expedia and Priceline have indicated they don't send results based on assumptions made from a customer's operating system.

This kind of price differential by platform may help Orbitz have a better year than it did in 2011, when it lost $37 million, but it raises questions about whether predictive analytics -- which looks for trends in data that will help to forecast customers' buying patterns -- could end up working against the interests...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Facebook Downplays E-Mail Switch Flap
After criticism mounted of Facebook's tendency to opt users in to new features, the social media juggernaut is downplaying this week's addition of a Facebook.com e-mail address on Profiles -- whether people want them or not.

The company in November 2010 launched its upgraded e-mail system, giving each user a Facebook e-mail allowing messages not only to other users but to and from other providers and domains.

On Monday, users checking their Profiles found that the address that combines their designated username with Facebook.com was automatically listed, and if they had a different e-mail listed on their Profile, it had been hidden. Many users were quoted in the media, complaining.

'It's Your Call'

It's no big deal, a Facebook spokesman told us.

"As we announced back in April, we've been updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site," he said. "In addition to everyone receiving an address, we're also rolling out a new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their Timelines."

Users could change it back through a series of steps: Clicking edit to change, selecting the desired e-mail with "show on Timeline" (or Profile if you haven't been Timelined yet), then selecting the Facebook e-mail as "hidden" and saving changes.

"Ever since the launch of Timeline, people have had the ability to control what posts they want to show or hide on their own Timelines, and we're extending that to other information they post, starting with the Facebook address," said the spokesman.

The latest Facebook controversy does not directly involve privacy issues, unlike the matters that have led the company to recently be sued for using Profile pictures in sponsored messages or investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for what it said were misleading privacy policies.

Any Facebook user could already contact other users, unless they block that feature,...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Mozilla Launches New and Improved Firefox for Android
Mozilla launched a faster, revamped Android version of its Firefox browser on Tuesday, hoping to improve on its lackluster popularity up until now.

The new mobile version of Firefox, now out of beta in the Google Play store, is significantly faster than Android's stock Web browser, has an improved interface and is able to use Adobe Flash for multimedia, Mozilla said,

Based on the latest data from Net Applications, the Firefox 4 for Mobile browser released by Mozilla in 2010 holds a minuscule 0.02 percent share of the global browser market for mobile devices. By contrast, the current mobile market leaders are Safari (63.2 percent), Android (19.2 percent), Opera Mini (12.4 percent) and Symbian (1.1 percent), according to the U.S.-based Web metrics firm.

However, Mozilla hopes the free upgrade of Firefox for Android, which is compatible with all smartphones running Android 2.2 and up, will attract the attention of smartphone users looking for a snappier and more dynamic browser.

"Firefox for Android is significantly faster than the stock browser that ships on Android phones according to the leading industry benchmarks, such as Sunspider," Mozilla said in a blog post Tuesday. "Firefox for Android [also] supports Flash so you can watch videos, play games and interact with more Web content on your Android phone."

Getting Creative

Firefox for Android's user interface now has a streamlined look, together with a new Awesome Screen powered by Firefox Sync that provides mobile users with instant access to their personal browsing history, bookmarks, passwords and form data. Mozilla developers have also made improvements to several other features, such as tabbed browsing, Firefox Sync and Firefox add-ons.

Firefox for Android also integrates new HTML5 capabilities under the hood. The goal is to enable developers to create richer Web apps and Web sites based on HTML5, JavaScript, CSS and other open...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Yammer Purchase Opens Social Toolbox for Microsoft
Now that Microsoft's Yammer acquisition is confirmed, reaction is rolling in about the $1.2 billion buy. Was Yammer worth the money? Is Microsoft's bet on social the right one?

Based on IDC research, Microsoft's decision making appears sound. A new report from IDC reveals enterprise social software adoption has accelerated significantly, finding use cases across almost all industry verticals as it continues to become a critical decision support and worker productivity tool.

IDC's research found that almost all vendors in the market had double-digit growth for 2010--2011, with the top two vendors, IBM and Jive, delivering greater than 70 percent year-over-year growth -- almost double the market average. The fastest-growing vendor in the top 20 was Yammer, with a year-over-year growth rate of 132.3 percent.

Microsoft Partner Sees Potential

We caught up with Mike Snyder, president of Sonoma Partners. Sonoma Partners recently developed the first Windows 8 tablet app for the enterprise, and Snyder works closely with the Microsoft team. He told us integrating Yammer into Microsoft Dynamics CRM will be a great long-term solution.

"Dynamics does include some strong social networking features today, but obviously Yammer has a lot to offer to make the social capabilities more complete," Snyder said. "Two obvious benefits of Yammer over the existing social features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM are strong cross-platform support for Android, BlackBerry and iOS, and the standalone desktop application.

More important than just software capability, Snyder said, is that Yammer could eventually work as the single social software across all Microsoft products, such as SharePoint and Office. Right now each of these groups is doing its own thing, he said, so it would be great to see these social features all working together.

Industry Analysts Give Nod

Michael Fauscette, group vice president, Software Business Solutions at IDC, said as organizations' workspaces become increasingly divested from...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
New Survey Examines Multi-Channel Expectations by Customers
When customers get in touch with a contact center, 40 percent expect the representative they speak with to already know about their attempts to resolve an issue through other channels, such as a Web site. That's one of the findings about customer choices in the age of multiple customer service channels in the 2012 Customer Channel Preference Survey, conducted by customer service software provider Nice Systems.

The survey, which quizzed nearly 1,200 people ages 18 to 65 in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, found that, on average, customers are using as many as six channels to obtain answers or resolve issues with a company.

Web Site, Contact Center

Possible channels include Web site, live chat with a representative on a Web site, a Web-site based virtual assistant, online communities, live representative via phone, service kiosks, branch offices, phone, e-mail, standard mail, interactive voice response, smartphone apps, text messaging and social networks.

A Web site remains the most popular channel, with smartphone apps and social networks quickly rising in popularity. Unsurprisingly, consumers ages 18-30 are driving the use of self-service channels, while those aged 46-60 use fewer channels and, while expanding into Web and e-mail, prefer assisted channels.

The contact center is described as having a "tier 2" status, since about half of the respondents said they will try that route if they cannot find what they need on the Web site.

In the age of instantly available data, the rising expectations by customers is a big challenge for companies. NICE Chief Marketing Officer Benny Einhorn said in statement that "the empowered customer who uses more channels, more often, is in effect creating a big data challenge and opportunity for businesses." To get the most out of these interactions, he said, organizations should try to "shape the interaction as it happens" by providing a...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Cisco Rolls Out Unified Communications Manager 9.0
The convergence of mobility and collaboration are a growing reality. And that's the backdrop for Cisco's upgrade of the Unified Communications Manager platform's services and capabilities.

Release 9.0 tackles what Cisco sees as some of the key challenges IT managers are facing as they seek to "collaboration-enable" their employees both in the office and on the go.

"Enterprise IT managers want to address user demands for access to collaborative technologies on a variety of devices," said Thomas Wyatt, vice president and general manager at Cisco. "At the same time, resellers are looking to enable IT managers to maximize the value of existing investments while they transition to next-generation collaboration technologies."

Automation Tools

Cisco UC 9.0 aims to do all of this. A new featured called Extend and Connect works with Jabber to bring any third-party phone into the Cisco UC environment. Cisco is also offering support for fixed mobile convergence to give users with any type of mobile phone access to more desk phone-like features anywhere -- without the need of a smartphone, a data plan, or a mobile client installed on the phone.

On the video front, UC 9.0 promises better bandwidth management via a built-in implementation of Call Admission Control. CAC automatically creates a logical view of the network so the system can dynamically update traffic management across clusters and locations to ensure optimal call quality, even during peak usage periods. Cisco is also offering support for additional video endpoints and a dial by e-mail feature.

"We've relied on Cisco Unified Communications for several years, and this latest version brings several updates that answer pressing business needs. Voice traffic has increased exponentially on our network, especially during peak times when applications are due for enrollment and financial aid," said Nick Ciesinski, network architect at the University of Wisconsin. "Native queuing gives us...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Facebook 101: Seniors Learn To Use the Social Network
Florence Detlor regularly scans photos on Facebook, eager to see what's new with her friends and family. She is 101 years old.

The Menlo Park, Calif., woman says she was "intrigued" when she first heard about the social-networking Web site and wanted to learn more about it. Realizing that she could use Facebook to keep up with her family, Detlor created an account.

She's one of a growing number of seniors joining Facebook to connect with grandchildren and former pals. Now, classes that teach the basics of Facebook are popping up.

At the public library in Muncie, Ind., seniors recently learned how to create a Facebook account, use its fundamental features, download photos and adjust the privacy settings to make their accounts more secure.

Ginny Nilles, director of the Muncie library, says seniors are taught by instructors, most of whom have a background in teaching or information technology. She says the library wants to make sure the people it serves know how to use new technology.

Because many seniors don't send or receive text messages, the immediacy of Facebook is what attracts them to take the class and create an account, Nilles says.

About 1,100 miles from Muncie, seniors in Fort Bend County, Texas, swarmed their community library in August to learn how to use Facebook. Joyce Kennerly, public information officer for Fort Bend County libraries, says the class is open to people of all ages but notes that most students are senior citizens.

"Everyone here is all about Facebook. Seniors don't realize what it is, but they know it is popular," Kennerly says. "Kids are saying, 'Grandma, Grandpa, get a Facebook, so you can keep in touch with me.'"

Roy Nugent, 85, says he enrolled in a class at his health care provider's office in November to "keep up with modern civilization."

The Hemet, Calif., man says he...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Samsung: Galaxy S III Sales To Hit 10 Million in July
Samsung Electronics Co., the world's top mobile phone maker, said Monday it expects global sales of the latest Galaxy smartphone to surpass 10 million in July even as it struggles to keep up with demand because of component shortages.

Shin Jong-kyun, president of Samsung's mobile communications business, said the Galaxy S III will hit the 10-million milestone within two months of its launch.

"It has been tough to keep up with demand," Shin told reporters.

Samsung's failure to procure sufficient mobile components for its latest smartphone has stoked concerns that its second-quarter smartphone sales could be much lower than expected. Shin said the company expects to resolve the supply issues with mobile components sometime in the next week.

"Despite the tough economic situation in Europe and problems with supplying components for the Galaxy S III, the second-quarter earnings will be better than the first quarter," he said.

Shares of Samsung tumbled 4.2 percent on the Seoul bourse on Monday, closing at a four-month low. The benchmark Kospi index fell 1.2 percent.

Samsung began sales of the Galaxy S III in Europe on May 29 and released it in the U.S. last week. In its home market, the company started sales of the latest iteration of Galaxy earlier Monday.

Samsung's sales estimate for the S III reflects robust demand from mobile operators. Unlike Apple Inc., Samsung does not disclose sales figures to consumers.

The South Korean company said the S III will be released by around 300 mobile carriers in 147 countries by the end of July, aiming for an early start before rival Apple announces a new version of the iPhone in the third quarter.

The third version of the Galaxy S features a bigger screen -- measured 4.8-inch diagonally -- but is thinner and lighter than its predecessors and the iPhone 4S.

Samsung packed the high-end smartphone with a...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
LulzSec Hackers Plead Guilty in London Court
Two British hackers linked to the notorious Lulz Security group pleaded guilty to a slew of computer crimes Monday, the latest blow against online miscreants whose exploits have grabbed headlines and embarrassed governments around the world.

Ryan Cleary, 20, and Jake Davis, 19, pleaded guilty to conspiring with other members of LulzSec to attack government, media, and law enforcement Web sites last year, according to Gryff Waldron, an official at London's Southwark Crown Court.

LulzSec -- an offshoot of the loose-knit movement known as Anonymous -- has claimed responsibility for assaults on sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News International. Other targets included media and gaming giants Nintendo Co. and Sony Inc., security company HBGary Inc., Britain's National Health Service, and Arizona State Police.

Waldron said two other defendants -- 25-year-old Ryan Ackroyd and an unnamed 17-year-old -- have pleaded not guilty to the same charges and will face trial in April of next year.

All four defendants have denied two counts of encouraging or assisting others to commit computer offenses and fraud. Waldron said prosecutors were still weighing whether to take Cleary and Davis to court on the remaining charges.

LulzSec, whose name draws on Internet-speak for "laugh out loud," shot to prominence in mid-2011 with an eye-catching attack on PBS, whose Web site it defaced with a bogus story claiming that the late rapper Tupac Shakur had been discovered alive in New Zealand.

It was an opening shot in what became a months-long campaign of data theft, online vandalism and denial-of-service attacks, which work by jamming target Web sites with bogus traffic.

The hackers repeatedly humbled law enforcement -- stealing data from FBI partner organization InfraGard, briefly jamming the Web site of Britain's Serious and Organized Crime Agency, and publishing a large cache of...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
ICANN Pauses System To Decide Suffix Review Order
The organization in charge of creating hundreds of additional Internet address suffixes to rival ".com" has suspended the Web-based system it set up to help decide the order in which it will review new address proposals.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers shut the system indefinitely over the weekend after confirming reports of "unexpected results." ICANN said network delays and the system's response to "differing circumstances" caused problems.

Even before the technical issues emerged, participants had complained that the system, described as digital archery, was overly complicated. People proposing a new suffix had to specify a target date and time, and then return to the Web site at that time to hit a "Generate" button as close to the target as possible. Those with the closest matches would get their proposals considered first.

ICANN suggested that the suspension might be permanent given the complaints. Besides investigating the technical problems, ICANN said it "will continue to listen to community comment" and will consider any information gathered.

Even with the suspension, ICANN said it would be able to make preliminary reviews of the proposals.

ICANN has received 1,930 proposals for 1,409 different domain name suffixes, including ".love," `'.google" and ".music." It will be the largest expansion of the Internet address system since its creation in the 1980s.

The digital archery system's troubles are the latest technical problems to hit ICANN, which is in charge of coordinating much of the technology behind the Internet's addressing system.

This spring, ICANN suspended access to its system for letting bidders submit proposals, after it discovered technical glitches that exposed some private data. That took more than a month to fix and restore.

After the proposals were unveiled this month, ICANN briefly suspended access to some of the documents on its Web site after inadvertently publishing the postal addresses of some individuals --...

Wed, 27 Jun 12
Quest Software Gets Higher Takeover Bid
Quest Software Inc. said Monday that it received a higher buyout offer worth about $2.32 billion from an unnamed buyer, continuing a battle for the technology services provider.

The most recent offer of $27.50 per share follows a string of increasing bids that began after the company announced in March that it was being bought by investment firm Insight Venture Partners for $23 per share. At that time, the Aliso Viejo, California, company said the deal valued it at about $2 billion.

The March bid was a 19 percent premium to the company's closing stock price the day before the deal was announced. The $27.50 per share offer announced Monday would represent a 42 percent premium to Quest's ending price of $19.40 from March 8.

Shares of Quest, which helps companies manage databases and provides other corporate IT services, rose $1.39, or 5.3 percent, to $27.61 in midday trading Monday. That suggests investors think there may be yet another, higher offer coming.

Quest said Monday that its board has decided that the most recent $27.50 per share bid is superior to prior offers and that it has informed Insight and Vector Capital, which was added to the buyout group this month. Insight and Vector have three days to match the offer.

While Quest did not say Monday who the other bidder was, reports published last month said that Dell Inc. was in discussions with Quest about a potential transaction. Quest declined to comment further on who was behind the bid announced Monday, while Dell did not immediately return messages.

Earlier this month, an undisclosed party offered to buy the company for $25.50 per share, or about $2.15 billion. Last week, Insight and Vector topped that with a bid of $25.75 per share.

In the event that shareholders who previously supported the deal with Insight do not support...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
It's 10 O'Clock; Do You Know Where Online Your Kids Are?
An old TV public service campaign used to ask: "It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?"

These days, you may know where our children are physically, but even in the safety of their bedrooms they could be exposed to negative influences. Increasingly tech-savvy, they also may be concealing their online behavior from their parents.

Perception vs. Reality

That's the warning from cyber-security company McAfee, whose 2012 Teen Internet Behavior study took a look at of the first U.S. generation to grow up entirely with the Internet.

Among the findings: 32 percent of teens have accessed pornography intentionally online and 43 percent of those access it on a weekly basis or more.

The market research group TRU conducted online interviews of 1,004 American teens 13-17 as well as 1,013 parents in May, finding a major gap between perception and reality. The study was funded by McAfee, which sells a security product to monitor children's activities online.

For instance, only 12 percent of parents believe their teens are looking at porn. While 73.5 percent of parents said they trust their teens to not access age-inappropriate content online, 43 percent of teens said they access simulated violence, 36 percent access sexual topics and 32 percent have accessed nude content or pornography.

The study also suggests that most parents believe ignorance is bliss: Two-thirds of teens surveyed say their parents don't need to know everything they do online, although half said they would change their behavior if they knew their activities were monitored.

"While it is not necessarily surprising that teens are engaging in the same types of rebellious behaviors online that they exhibit offline, it is surprising how disconnected their parents are," said Stanley Holditch, online safety expert for McAfee.

While half of parents said they had a good grasp on their teens' online behavior, and...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
Yes, Microsoft Is Buying Yammer, for $1.2 Billion
Following weeks of rumors and reports, Microsoft announced officially on Monday that it had agreed to buy enterprise social networking company Yammer. The deal price is $1.2 billion.

Yammer will become part of the Microsoft Office division, although the companies said the social networking service will remain as a standalone offering as well. Current Yammer CEO and co-founder David Sacks will continue to lead the operation.

'Best in Class' Service

In a statement, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Yammer "adds a best-in-class enterprise social networking service" to his company's growing portfolio of complementary cloud services. Other cloud-based services owned by the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant are SharePoint, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics and Skype.

Yammer, founded four years ago, has 5 million corporate users of its service, which provides social networks to companies for collaboration and communication. However, only about 20 percent subscribe to the premium, paid service; the rest belong to the free, basic service.

The premium version includes advanced administrative and security controls, integration with enterprise apps, priority customer service, and a designated customer services manager. The companies said that employees at about 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Yammer, as well as about 200,000 other companies worldwide. With Yammer, employees can join workgroups and maintain constant communication on projects.

Microsoft has steadily been moving its products from desktops and in-house servers to cloud-based software. It has begun to integrate them on the cloud for consumer and business markets, such as its voice and video over Internet service, Skype, which it purchased last year for $8.5 billion. With the Yammer deal, Microsoft ups the ante of its cloud-based services competition with Salesforce, Oracle, Google, IBM and others.

'Do Something Big'

In a posting on Monday on Yammer's corporate blog, Sacks noted that, when he and co-founder Adam Pisoni started the company, they "set...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
T-Mobile, Verizon Play Spectrum Musical Chairs
The AT&T deal to buy T-Mobile may have fallen through, but T-Mobile is hopeful federal regulators will approve a new agreement with Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile just announced a deal to acquire and exchange certain Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licenses in 218 markets.

T-Mobile said the deal would improve its spectrum position in 15 of the top 25 markets in the U.S. The Verizon partnership is over and above T-Mobile's previously announced $4 billion 4G network evolution plan, which includes modernization of 37,000 cell sites, launching 4G HSPA services in the 1900 MHz band and then LTE deployment in 2013.

"This agreement will provide T-Mobile with critical AWS spectrum, enhancing both network capacity and performance and allowing us to meet the growing consumer demand for 4G mobile broadband," said Philipp Humm, president and CEO of T-Mobile. "This is good for T-Mobile and good for consumers because it will enable T-Mobile to compete even more vigorously with other wireless carriers."

The Cable Factor

Humm said T-Mobile expects FCC approval later this summer, in time for the wireless carrier to incorporate this new spectrum into its network modernization and the rollout of LTE services next year.

Some of the spectrum T-Mobile is acquiring in the deal includes licenses that Verizon is purchasing from Cox, Leap and SpectrumCo, a consortium of cable companies including Comcast and Time Warner. The agreement is contingent on the closing of those transactions and is subject to regulatory approval by both the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.

Weston Henderek, principal analyst at Current Analysis, told us it was noteworthy the deal was contingent upon the Verizon cable spectrum deals winning regulatory approval.

"At CTIA Verizon was making statements about being willing to sell some of its other spectrum or partner if they could get the spectrum as part of the...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
Box Rolls Out OneCloud For Android Platform
Box has rolled out a new OneCloud for Android platform in cooperation with 50 new Android app integration partners. The new enterprise-class offering complements the company's existing platform for mobile devices running Apple's iOS.

As mobile devices get more powerful and begin to access more private or enterprise content, there is an opportunity for players to vie for the cloud storage market behind the mobile devices, said Al Hilwa, director of Application Development Software research at IDC.

"Integrating with apps that need to store data is clearly a key way to do this and Box appears to get the message on it," Hilwa told us Monday. "In the long run you would expect the mobile platform owners to play in this space more aggressively," Hilwa said.

Monday's addition of OneCloud for Android was a no-brainer for the enterprise-class productivity services provider given IDC's recent estimate that Google's mobile OS will continue to control a majority share of the global mobile market through 2016. The move is also expected to help drive Box's OneCloud global expansion plans.

"A tremendous shift is taking place in Europe [with businesses] looking for solutions that help them move to the cloud and transition away from costly, inflexible legacy technologies," said Box CEO Aaron Levie.

International Expansion

Box opened its first international headquarters in London last week to support a growing European customer base that has doubled in the past 12 months to 120,000 businesses. According to Box, 50 percent of the company's 11 million users are located outside of the United States.

Significant barriers exist for European organizations when collaborating both internally and externally, said Alys Woodward, research director for European Business Analytics, Enterprise Collaboration and Social Solutions at IDC.

"Collaborative, content-sharing tools like Box are extremely helpful in breaking these barriers down," Woodward said. "As the speed of...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
Nexus 7 Tablet Rumored Ready for Google I/O Event
Is Google preparing to release its own Android tablet this week? According to documents and rumors circulating on the Web, the answer is yes.

On Wednesday, the technology giant will convene in San Francisco its annual developers conference, Google I/O. In anticipation of the announcements at that event, various online reports point to the release of a Google Nexus 7 tablet, with a 7-inch screen at a resolution of 1280x800 pixels, a 1.3 GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, and 1 GB of memory.

$199 Price Point?

The specs are based on a circulating, alleged training document that purports to contain the technical specs of such a tablet, in addition to an accompanying photo of a tablet. The rumored tablet, which the document says will be manufactured by Asus, also contains a relatively low-end front-facing camera with 1.2 MP resolution, 8 or 16 GB of internal storage, and support for near-field communication technology for mobile e-commerce.

The tablet will also run the coming version of Google's Android operating system, called Jelly Bean 4.1, and will reportedly feature a price that starts at $199. The price point is possibly key to understanding Google's strategy for this device, assuming the device exists.

We asked Ross Rubin, executive director for Connected Intelligence at the NPD Group, about his expectations for Google announcements.

Rubin said that if a $200 tablet was released by Google, it would immediately be compared with the Kindle Fire, and would "be differentiated" because of that pricing from Apple's category-leading tablet, the iPad, which starts at $399.

'Fragmentation Has Occurred'

A Google Nexus tablet could have several advantages over the Fire, including the Google portfolio of software. Rubin pointed out that, by releasing a low-priced tablet with the latest Android version, Google might be able to push Jelly Bean into a prominent position among tablets. No Android tablet has...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
Xperia ion, First Sony-Branded Phone, Lands at AT&T
Sony is drawing from its entertainment heritage to push out a new smartphone it hopes will draw fans searching for a mobile HD experience. The Sony Xperia ion debuted on the AT&T network Sunday.

Selling for $99 with a two-year AT&T agreement, the Xperia ion is a 4G LTE Android smartphone. Sony is working to differentiate the ion with the LTE specs by adding HSPA with enhanced backhaul, which promises to keep the mobile HD experience running even when users travel outside the LTE coverage area.

We caught up with Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, to discuss the new device and its marketplace chances. He told us the Xperia ion is an important release for Sony.

"First of all, it's the first Sony-branded phone, not Sony Ericsson. They are hoping that the fact that it is Sony-branded will help at retail because Sony has far more brand recognition than Sony Ericsson ever did," Greengart said. "They are also using a lot of sub-brands in these products. They talk about it being PlayStation certified with an HD reality display with Mobile BRAVIA engine."


Sony's first 4G LTE smartphone, the Xperia ion has a 4.6-inch HD display and lets users view HD content on a big screen via HDMI. The HDMI connection also opens the Xperia ion's TV launcher, a customizable home screen carousel of application shortcuts. Users can navigate the TV launcher and the rest of the Xperia ion's menus using their TV's remote control.

Sony is also trying to woo photo lovers with the Xperia ion. The device offers a 12-megapixel Fast Capture camera and quick launch feature to help users catch spontaneous moments. The device sports a dedicated camera button that makes it possible to transition from standby to first camera shot in 1.5 seconds, and then from shot-to-shot in less than...

Tue, 26 Jun 12
The Pop That Wasn't: Life After Facebook's IPO
It's been a month since Facebook's IPO fell flat and in that time, the market for initial public offerings has collapsed. No company has gone public since May 18, compared with 19 in the same period a year ago. Fourteen offerings have been withdrawn or delayed, according to Dealogic.

There are no public offerings scheduled this week. Of course, thanks to the European debt crisis, financial markets haven't been terribly conducive to IPOs. Still, venture capitalists say the fallout from Facebook's rocky IPO is making companies -- especially those in the technology sector -- cautious about going public.

"It pretty much wiped the counter clean for the time being," says Francis Gaskins, president of researcher IPOdesktop. "It sucked the air out of the room."

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Internet industry that captivated the investment world in the late 1990s and went bust as the next decade began had pinned its hopes on Facebook's stock market debut to signify the beginning of a new era. In Silicon Valley, the IPO had been billed as "the big one", an earth-shaking event that would unleash a wave of investment in technology start-ups.

Instead, from the first-day-pop-that-wasn't to the investor lawsuits and falling share prices that followed, Facebook's $16 billion initial public offering has resulted in nothing but trepidation among tech entrepreneurs and those who supply their early funding.

"There were a lot of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs that really have been waiting for Facebook to go public," says Sam Hamadeh, the CEO of PrivCo, a research firm that follows privately held companies. "Everybody's been told just wait `til May 18, Facebook is going to pop, everybody will get very excited about it ... and then you have the opportunity to go public this summer with that halo effect."

That bright, glowing aura never materialized. After...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
Prices Plummet for Solid-State Drives
Solid-state drives (SSDs) were once premium storage -- fast, stable, durable and pricey. Now, a steady and dramatic decline in prices indicates that the last adjective may be permanently dropped from the storage medium's descriptors.

Prices for SSDs have fallen as much as 65 percent over the last year from such name-brand makers as Intel, OCZ and Crucial. Last year at this time, a 256 GB SSD might set a buyer back $500 or more. Now the same-size drive goes for less than $200. For some SSD models, the price-per-GB is now as low as about 65 cents.

Floods in Thailand

The reasons behind the steep price drop include lower prices for NAND flash memory chips and for controllers, plus competition among makers.

At the same time that SSDs have plummeted in price, their competitors, spinning hard disk drives, have seen price jumps as much as 50 percent because of floods last year in Thailand, where many of the drives are manufactured. The floods have devastated parts of the country, killing hundreds of people and damaging factories. Most SSD manufacturers are located in Korea and Japan.

Because of the rapid price drops and SSD's features, sales of SSDs have increased substantially, while HDDs have reportedly dropped as much as 40 percent for some models.

An example of the radical price drop is Intel's 240 GB model in its 520 Series, whose price at the NewEgg retailer fell from about $550 at the end of February to just above $300 by March and April. The model uses the SandForce SF-2281 controller, a common component in SSDs, and other SandForce-using SSDs show a similar price trajectory.

For instance, the Corsair Force Series GT 240 GB unit dropped from nearly $500 in September of last year to about $250 now. The OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB demonstrated a similar price...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
Apple's App Store Launches In 32 New Nations
Apple told iOS and Mac developers Thursday that the iTunes App Store is now open for business in 32 additional countries in Asia and Africa as well as elsewhere overseas. As a result, customers in 155 nations around the globe now have access to more than 650,000 free and paid iOS apps from third-party developers.

The latest countries to gain access to the Apple App Store -- such as Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Micronesia, Mongolia, Nepal and Papua New Guinea in Asia -- represent relatively small markets. Still, the expansion is one more step forward in Apple's implementation of its strategy for staying ahead of growing competition from rival mobile app vendors.

For example, the Amazon Appstore for Android-based mobile devices is slated to launch in five European nations this summer as well as go global in the near future. Facebook also represents another potential threat to mobile app store operators now that users of the social networking site can directly connect with mobile app developers from within Facebook.

"To mobile Web developers, Facebook is offering global discovery, distribution and targeting to 900 million active users, along with direct billing," noted London-based research firm VisionMobile.

Developer Support Is Crucial

With Apple's newly announced iOS slated to ship with certain Facebook functions baked into it, however, it is clear that Apple views Facebook as offering it growth opportunities that outweigh any competitive disadvantages. According to ABI Research, Facebook integration with iOS 6 may prove to be good news for Apple and bad news for Google -- whereas the score for Facebook is expected to range from neutral to potentially negative.

"Apple will benefit because the iPhone's sharing capabilities will now better match those of Android-powered smartphones, from which posting a photo from the camera or an article from the browser directly to Facebook has...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
NetSuite Offers Commerce as a Service CRM Approach
NetSuite recently launched "Commerce as a Service" (CaaS). The technology lets businesses manage their interactions with both consumers and other businesses via a cloud platform that delivers the customer experience directly on the core NetSuite cloud ERP/CRM business management application.

At the heart of the CaaS initiative is NetSuite SuiteCommerce, a new commerce-aware platform that offers a central system to manage all transactions and associated customer interactions on any touch point, from Web site to smartphone to social media site to in-store.

"Every company wants to deliver the commerce experience that Apple delivers to customers -- an experience that recognizes the customer regardless of channel or device, and efficiently delivers goods and services in world-class fashion, projecting a powerful brand message," said Zach Nelson, president and CEO of NetSuite.

"The secret sauce behind the Apple and NetSuite approach is an integrated back-end system that combines core business processing capabilities with rich customer profiles, to deliver the brand promise of a personalized experience, anytime from anywhere."

CRM System Transformed

The proliferation of new end-user preferred "touch points" such as smartphones and social media has increased customers' expectations of a tailored, individualized experience, according to NetSuite. Consumers assume businesses have full visibility to their transactions across touch points and will use that knowledge to provide an optimized experience.

At the same time, businesses expect their suppliers to have insight into their business relationships, and assume that they will deliver a B2B experience as compelling as a B2C Web site. And physical products increasingly include commerce-embedded capabilities, which enable machine-to-machine (M2M) commerce without the involvement of humans, based upon defined business rules for predictable needs.

With SuiteCommerce, NetSuite's integrated ERP/CRM system is essentially transformed into a commerce engine that is exposed to customers in a device-independent way. Because of both the presentation layer and business logic flexibility,...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
Settlement Calls for Facebook To Allow User Opt-Out for Ads
More details have been released in Facebook's proposed settlement of a lawsuit over including users' headshots in "Sponsored Stories" advertisements, and it appears to be much more costly than the first-reported $10 million donation to charity.

In addition to the donation and another $10 million in legal costs, Facebook must revise its privacy policies, warn parents about how the social network uses photos and give those parents more control over their use, and allow users to opt out of annoying or potentially embarrassing ads.

The U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., that would approve the class-action settlement released its terms Wednesday. And while the $20 million hit may seem inconsequential for a company valued at $104 billion in its initial public offering, the more substantial hit could be years down the road.

More Control of Interactions

"Facebook will create an easily accessible mechanism that enables users to view the subset of their interactions and other content that have been displayed in Sponsored Stories," the proposed settlement says.

"Facebook will further engineer settings to enable users, upon viewing the interactions and other content that have been used in Sponsored Stories, to control which of these interactions and other content are eligible to appear in additional Sponsored Stories."

Income from the highly lucrative advertisements featuring photos of Facebook users could begin to slow down as potentially millions of users opt out. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly referred to the ads as "the holy grail of advertisers."

Reuters reported that an economist hired by the plaintiffs estimated the company could lose $103 million in ad revenue over two years when people start opting out.

Facebook seems to have settled the class-action suit brought by five users in order to keep other plaintiffs from joining the suit, which could have exposed the social media behemoth to much higher...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
Do Consumers Really Want an XL Nintendo 3DS?
While Microsoft continues to make headlines with its Xbox gaming console and Sony is fairly quiet about its next generation PlayStation evolution, Nintendo is making moves in the portable gaming world. Nintendo plans to launch a larger version of its Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system alongside the game New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Aug. 19.

In a Nintendo Direct video on Thursday, the Japanese gaming giant revealed plans to launch Nintendo 3DS XL, a new version of Nintendo 3DS with 90 percent larger screens. The new system comes bundled with a 4 GB SD card, which owners can use to store content such as downloadable games and videos from the Nintendo eShop. The retail price: $199.99.

"Its screens are 90 percent larger than the original Nintendo 3DS, meaning your handheld gaming experience will be more intense and more engrossing than ever before," said Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime in the video. "It has an updated form factor and will be available in red and blue and has a battery life that outperforms the original Nintendo 3DS."

But Thin is In

We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on the XL version of the Nintendo 3DS. He told us the problem for Nintendo and for Sony is clear: Most of the money that would traditionally go to handheld gaming systems is going into iPads and iPhones.

"I am not convinced a larger product is what the market is asking for. In fact, when it comes to size, thin is in. It seems like Nintendo ought to come up with something very sleek, very stealth, very thin and very sexy, not something larger and thicker," Enderle said.

"It seems like engineers are throwing stuff against the wall hoping it will stick, but it appears...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
Twitter Outage Blamed on 'Cascading Bug'
When social-media giant Twitter goes offline, cyberspace is left with a void of tweet nothings. Twitter had its largest outage of the year Thursday, when it went out just before noon. The service was down in the U.S. and other parts of the world. In the U.S., Twitter came back up about 70 minutes later only to suffer at least two subsequent outages, according to online monitoring firm Pingdom, based in Stockholm.

"Twitter's Web site has had more downtime today than it had the entire year to date before today," says Pingdom analyst Peter Alguacil said Thursday.

The microblogging service blames the problem on a "cascading bug" that had "a significant impact on all users, worldwide," said Mazen Rawashdeh, vice president of engineering, on the company's blog. "It's imperative that we remain available around the world, and (Thursday) we stumbled."

The bug was an internal one, not caused by an external hack, said Rawashdeh, who noted that the site has been available more than 99.96% of the time over the last six months. Still, "What might have been a small flaw can cause a big outage," says McAfee representative Phyllis Schneck.

More than 140 million active Twitter users bombard the site with 340 million tweets a day via the Web, smartphones, tablets and computers. Unable to send their 140-characters-or-less missives, many were left wringing their hands. "So where will I get my snarky, smug or mildly humorous thoughts for the day?" mused Kyle Walker in Santa Monica, Calif.

Many went to Facebook for a social-media fix. To help friends persevere, Web site editor Tanya Valdez advised, " Don't panic. You will live. You can get through this."

As Twitter came back up, #WhenTwitterWentDown became a top 10 trending topic on the site.

Others joked about the addictive hold the site has on their lives. "Twitter went down,...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
New BlackBerry Won't Have Physical Keyboard
The first BlackBerry device running Research In Motion Ltd.'s new operating software will not have a physical keyboard, only a touch-screen one.

The BlackBerry 10 software will be offered on devices with physical keyboards in the future, but RIM spokeswomen Rebecca Freiburger declined to say when. RIM is expected to start selling BlackBerry 10 touch-screen devices this year.

Top-selling smartphones these days, including Apple Inc.'s iPhone and several running Google's Android software, also lack physical keyboards. But RIM's attempts in the past to offer touch-only phones have largely flopped.

Many corporate users have stuck with the BlackBerry solely because of its physical keyboard, given a perception that it's harder to type emails on a touch screen. The BlackBerry 10 system has already been delayed about a year, and with additional delays to get a physical keyboard, those people may not be willing to wait any longer, especially as the iPhone makes greater in-roads in corporate settings. Those users may simply get the new iPhone expected this fall.

RIM's hopes hang on the BlackBerry 10 system, which is meant to offer the multimedia, Internet browsing and apps experience customers now demand. The Canadian company is preparing to launch the new software later this year, just as North Americans are abandoning BlackBerrys for iPhones and Android devices.

Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial, called it puzzling that RIM isn't leading with its strength by releasing a keyboard BlackBerry first.

"The physical keyboard is the most dominant item that separates out Research In Motion from its competitors," Gillis said. "If you are not playing to your historical strengths you may find it more difficult to get traction."

Gillis said there is a spot in the market for RIM but the company "just got to get it together."

But Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said BlackBerry 10 is all about touch and...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
Google Stock Split Approved, as CEO Loses Voice
Google shareholders gave CEO Larry Page what he wanted Thursday by approving an unconventional stock split meant to cement his authority, but he wasn't around to hail the victory.

Page missed the Internet search leader's annual shareholders meeting because he has lost his voice, a previously undisclosed problem. Google didn't provide any other details about co-founder Page's condition except that whatever is ailing him isn't serious enough to prevent him from fulfilling his duties as CEO.

The voice difficulty is serious enough to prevent Page, 39, from speaking next week at a conference in San Francisco, where Google is expected to show off some of the latest innovations in its Android operating system for smartphones and tablet computers. He also is expected to skip a conference call next month to review Google's financial results for the second quarter.

Until his voice recovers, Page is relying on email and other written forms of communication to convey his thoughts. It might not be a huge adjustment for him. Even when his voice is at full strength, the soft-spoken Page can be reticent.

Page's absence was the biggest surprise at an annual meeting in Mountain View that featured familiar jokes about Google's free food and prosperity. A few critics also raised frequently asked questions about Google's methods for tracking its users' preferences and Web surfing activities.

Even the approval of the first stock split in Google's eight years as a publicly traded company was a foregone conclusion. That's because it had the backing of Page, fellow co-founder Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Combined, the three control about two-thirds of the voting power at Google.

The company didn't announce the specific vote results Thursday, but said the stock-split plan had won majority support.

Google Inc. doesn't expect be able to split the stock until at least October. That's because...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
ICANN Picks Little-Known Executive as CEO
A businessman with experience in building consensus will be the next CEO of the Internet agency in charge of contentious policies surrounding Internet addresses, The Associated Press has learned.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which is pushing through a major change in the way Web and email addresses are structured and assigned, plans to announce Fadi Chehade's appointment in Prague on Friday. He will replace former U.S. cybersecurity chief Rod Beckstrom as chief executive.

In selecting Chehade, ICANN went with someone who isn't well known and isn't well versed in the organization's core tasks -- keeping the Internet address system running smoothly.

Chehade does, however, have a knack for diplomacy. In the early days of e-commerce, he persuaded leading tech companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard to collaborate on a system called RosettaNet for exchanging data, even as they competed for customers. ICANN Chairman Steve Crocker said those achievements outweighed the drawbacks.

In an exclusive interview with the AP ahead of the announcement, Chehade, 50, said his work at RosettaNet prepared him for the new role.

"The thrill and the satisfaction of bringing people around some common understanding is tremendous," Chehade said. "I have a personal and deep love of bringing consensus."

He said that when executive recruiters contacted him about the position at ICANN, "I immediately had flashbacks of how much I enjoyed doing a job that everybody told me was impossible and difficult."

As CEO, Chehade will receive a base salary of $560,000 plus up to $240,000 in bonuses based on merit. He is tentatively set to start Oct. 1. His tenure lasts until July 1, 2015.

Beckstrom leaves ICANN this July 1. Chief Operating Officer Akram Atallah will serve as CEO in the interim.

One of Chehade's chief tasks will be guiding the largest expansion of the Internet address system since its creation...

Sat, 23 Jun 12
IBM Study: IT, Marketing Need To Get Together More Often
Senior marketing and IT executives need to work together more if they're going to take advantage of mobile devices and social networks. That's one of the key takeaways from a new study by IBM about marketing in the age of distributed communication channels.

The study, State of Marketing 2012, queried more than 350 marketing professionals in a range of industries. Among its findings: more than half of respondents who characterized their companies as high-performing pointed to good relationships between marketing and IT departments.

Mobile, Social Media

The study noted that this is 10 percent higher than other companies, and that the high-performers are three times more likely to actively create a companywide customer experience across channels.

According to the report, about one-third of responding marketing executives said they intend to deliver mobile ads within the next 12 months. This is the highest rate for that relatively new marketing channel in the five-year history of the IBM study.

Additionally, 46 percent intend to use mobile Web sites and 45 percent are targeting mobile apps. In social media, marketers are experimenting, with about one-quarter of respondents interested in launching apps on social networking sites, in utilizing user-generated content in social media channels, or in launching social media ads.

But these mobile and social efforts, particularly the experimentation, require marketing and IT departments to work more closely together than they may be accustomed, the report said.

'No Alternative'

Yuchun Lee, vice president of the IBM Enterprise Marketing Management Group, said in a statement the research indicates that, "as new channels continue to mature and consumer habits evolve, marketing and IT have no alternative but to emerge from their traditional silos and form a strong partnership that puts the business in a position to succeed."

Lee added that the "odd couple" of a chief marketing officer and a chief information...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
Samsung To Probe Isolated Galaxy S III Ignition
A Samsung customer in Dublin wanted to but a Galaxy S III smartphone, but seems to have ended up with a "kindle fire."

The story of the unlucky user, known only as dillo2K10, has been making the rounds in tech media since it was posted on the discussion board site Boards.ie, reporting a flame up from Samsung's latest flagship device.

While Samsung is investigating, it appears to be an isolated incident and unclear if a defect was involved.

Bang for Your Buck

"So I driving along today [sic] with my Galaxy S3 in my car mount when suddenly a white flame, sparks and a bang came out of the phone," writes dillo2K10.

"I pulled in to look at my phone, the phone burned from the inside out. Burned through the plastic and melted my case to my phone. The phone kept working but without any signal."

The post was followed by another with several large photos of a device with a brown singe melting the case on the corner about the size of a quarter.

Samsung responded on its official global blog, Samsung Tomorrow.

"There have been recent online posts displaying pictures of a Samsung GALAXY S III that appears to have heat-related damage at the bottom of the device," reads the unsigned post. "Samsung is aware of this issue and will begin investigating as soon as we receive the specific product in question.

"Once the investigation is complete, we will be able to provide further details on the situation. We are committed to providing our customers with the safest products possible and are looking at this seriously."

Incidents of overheating or fires from increasingly powerful electronic devices are rare, but seem to be on the rise. Last October Sony recalled 1.6 million Bravia TV sets that the company said posed a risk of overheating and melting.

The following month...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
HP Targets SMBs with Mobile Infrastructure Solutions
Hewlett-Packard just rolled out something new for small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) concerned about how to secure and manage their infrastructures in the face of a growing mobile workforce. The new solutions are part of the HP Converged Infrastructure.

HP positions its product in light of mobile workforce statistics. With more than 1.1 billion mobile appliances in use worldwide, for example, IDC reports that organizations of all sizes are challenged by the need to access, manage and secure mobile devices and the data generated by them.

According to Gartner research, by 2016, at least 50 percent of business e-mail users will rely primarily on a tablet or mobile client instead of a traditional desktop. The trend to use devices to access e-mail and other business data requires SMBs to prepare their infrastructures to support increased mobility, HP warned.

A Cadre of Solutions

In a move to improve security, HP is offering Client Virtualization SMB virtual desktop solution. The solution includes reference architectures -- such as HP ProLiant Generation 8 (Gen8) servers and client virtualization software from Citrix, Microsoft or VMware -- that protects company data by storing user profiles and data on a centralized server.

Meanwhile, HP Client Virtualization, Analysis and Modeling, a prepackaged service that analyzes the existing IT environment to simplify and speed deployment of virtualization for medium-size organizations and help them embrace mobile technology, aims to help SMBs reduce risk and complexity of client virtualization projects.

HP Transformation Experience Workshop for Mobility, a service that aligns business and IT stakeholders to ensure employees have access to data while upholding security requirements, promises to simplify adoption of mobile technology. The list of services goes on and on, from HP Business Protection solutions to increase uptime to HP Unified Communications & Collaboration tools to improve the mobile workforce's productivity to multi-service routers and...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
eBay is Latest to Go Green with Data Center
One by one, data centers are going green. On Thursday, eBay became the latest company to commit to powering an expansion of its main data center with little or no carbon-resulting footprint -- in its case, through fuel cells.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said that it would build the next phase of its central data center so that its primary power source is renewable energy. Its commitment, using fuel cell generators from Bloom Energy, will result in the largest non-utility fuel cell installation in the U.S.

'Raising the Standard'

eBay noted that renewable energy is usually employed to provide supplementary power to an electrical grid, but eBay's data center will design and build renewable sources into the core power infrastructure of the facility, which powers its global e-commerce. The electrical grid will be available as a backup.

Bloom Energy co-founder and CEO KR Sridhar said in a statement that, by "being a trail blazer and deploying a brand new, revolutionary architecture to build its new data center, eBay is raising the standard for the entire industry." In addition to eBay's operations, the data center also supports the company's PayPal and StubHub activities.

Thirty Bloom Energy servers will drive the six-megawatt installation, to power the expanded data center in Utah. Each Bloom server generates 1.75 million kilowatts of electricity per year, and will be located close to the data center to eliminate the losses common to utility grids.

The fuel cells will be powered by biogas, obtained from renewal organic waste. Although the largest, this is not eBay's first foray into renewable energy. At its San Jose headquarters, the company operates a 650 kW solar array and a 500kW Bloom fuel cell installation, plus a 100 kW solar array at the Denver data center. A 665 kW solar array, covering 72,000 square feet, was also...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
Drobo Previews SSD-Accelerated Storage Arrays
Drobo is previewing two new storage arrays that are designed to accelerate workflows for creative professionals and small businesses as well as dramatically expand the storage capabilities of home media enthusiasts.

The Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini storage arrays integrate several innovative features such as automated solid-state drive (SSD) acceleration, two Thunderbird ports and USB 3.0 connectivity.

"The SMB and prosumer market is clamoring for a plug-and-play storage product because it lacks the technical expertise and resources to manage complex storage systems," said Enderle Group principal analyst Rob Enderle. "With the new Drobo products, there is no question that this enigma is solved."

With respect to designing the new Drobo 5D, the San Jose, Calif.-based company said its engineering team had decided to build an entirely new Drobo platform from the ground up. "Though the outside shell looks very similar [to prior Drobo products], the inside is completely new," said Erick Pounds, director of product management at Drobo.

Industry-First SSD Acceleration

Both the Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini integrate industry-first SSD acceleration that enables device users to benefit from the instant storage and retrieval characteristics of SSDs as well as the capacity benefits of traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Moreover, the new storage arrays are based on entirely new hardware and software architectures that Drobo claims can boost baseline performance by at least five times -- even prior to the addition of SSDs.

For example, an accelerator bay is built into the bottom side of the Drobo 5D that accommodates "a new type of solid-state device called an mSATA SSD," Pound said in a video interview posted online.

When we asked Drobo to explain more about this new type of SSD, the company noted that the big advantage of the mSATA form-factor is size. "The dimensions are 29.9 x 50.8 x 3.75 mm -- about...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
Windows Phone 8: What's the Impact?
Following Microsoft's preview of Windows Phone 8 on Wednesday, the potential impact of this major new component in the company's overall platform strategy is still being assessed.

Key issues include the ecosystem for third-party apps, the effect on the company's alliance with Nokia, and the meshing of Windows Phone 8 with the coming Windows 8 OS for tablets, laptops and desktops.

The new Phone 8, expected to launch in the fall, will only run on new devices. This means that it will not run on Nokia's current lineup of Windows Phone 7-based Lumia devices, whose sales had been seen as key indicators of whether the phone maker's decision to abandon Symbian for Microsoft's phone platform was a good idea.

Nokia, Windows 8

Nokia says it will try to offer some of the new features that will be available in Windows Phone 8 to Lumia users, including a better camera, a tile-based interface that resembles Phone 8, and Zynga games.

But many industry observers expect that Nokia's sales of the Lumia could stall, as prospective buyers wait for the new Phone 8 devices to come out. Already, Nokia is showing the costs of its transition. Its revenue for the first quarter of this year plummeted 52 percent year-over-year, and its global market share fell from 25 percent to about 20 percent over the last year. Samsung is now the world's largest handset maker, replacing Nokia in that position.

Current Analysis' Avi Greengart described the transition to Windows Phone 8 as "short-term pain for long-term gain" for both Nokia and Microsoft. "It's not like the Lumia line has been setting the world on fire," he noted, adding that it's in Nokia's long-term interest to have a better application ecosystem.

Greengart pointed out that, as expected, Phone 8 appears to be "a stripped down version of the full Windows...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
Google Launches Endangered Languages Project
With its latest initiative, Google is working to preserve endangered languages. Backed by a new coalition, the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, the Endangered Languages Project gives people interested in preserving languages a Web site to share and access research, share advice and build collaborations.

"People can share their knowledge and research directly through the site and help keep the content up-to-date," Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman, project managers for The Endangered Languages Project, wrote in the Google blog.

"A diverse group of collaborators have already begun to contribute content ranging from 18th-century manuscripts to modern teaching tools like video and audio language samples and knowledge-sharing articles."

Documenting 3,000-Plus Languages

Rodriguez and Rissman offer an example of the need for the project: The Miami-Illinois language. The language was considered by some to be extinct. Once spoken by Native American communities throughout what's now the American Midwest, its last fluent speakers died in the 1960s.

"Decades later, Daryl Baldwin, a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, began teaching himself the language from historical manuscripts and now works with the Miami University in Ohio to continue the work of revitalizing the language, publishing stories, audio files and other educational materials," Rodriguez and Rissman said. "Miami children are once again learning the language and -- even more inspiring -- teaching it to each other."

As Google sees it, documenting the 3,000-plus languages that are on the verge of extinction -- about half of all languages in the world -- is an important step in preserving cultural diversity, honoring the knowledge of elders and empowering youth. And Google sees technology's role in strengthening those efforts.

A Google Throwback Project

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on Google's latest collaboration. He told us this is a "great" initiative on...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
Samsung Galaxy S III Brings Top-Notch Android Handset
Thank heaven the new Samsung Galaxy S III line of smartphones about to be released by the major U.S. wireless carriers is, as its marketers proclaim, "designed for humans." What if Samsung aimed the devices at other species?

The highly anticipated successors to Samsung's popular smartphones are sleek, attractive and, though you can make a compelling case for the recent HTC One devices, the finest Android handsets I've come across.

Not that Samsung has achieved perfection. The S Voice feature that lets you tell the phone out loud what to do is a poor alternative to Siri on the iPhone 4S, which invites inevitable comparisons. S Voice was sometimes slow to respond and not always able to understand what I was asking. (Not that Siri is flawless.) It does let you set alarms and get a weather forecast and, like Siri, will tell a lame joke. You can also use your voice to wake up a locked phone. But I had mixed results.

Galaxy S III has a beautiful 4.8-inch mammoth high-definition display that's not quite the behemoth that is the 5.3-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy Note "phablet" phone tablet. Galaxy S III weighs 4.7 ounces, but doesn't feel heavy, and is a mere third of an inch thick.

The phone has a slippery plastic feel that may bother some but didn't bother me. While I generally appreciate the aesthetics, I did accidentally press the back button just below the screen.

With the customary contract, it will sell for about $200 for versions with 16 gigabytes of storage, rising to about $250 for 32 GB. Models are coming from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular.

Samsung supplied two units for testing, a white model from Sprint and a "pebble blue" model from AT&T. The phones have a microSD slot for extra storage concealed...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
'Checkpoint of the Future' Takes Shape at Texas Airport
At a terminal being renovated here at Love Field [in Dallas], contractors are installing 500 high-definition security cameras sharp enough to read an auto license plate or a logo on a shirt.

The cameras, capable of tracking passengers from the parking garage to gates to the tarmac, are a key first step in creating what the airline industry would like to see at airports worldwide: a security apparatus that would scrutinize passengers more thoroughly, but less intrusively, and in faster fashion than now.

It's part of what the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, which represents airlines globally, calls "the checkpoint of the future."

The goal is for fliers to move almost non-stop through security from the curb to the gate, in contrast to repeated security stops and logjams at checkpoints.

After checking their luggage, passengers would identify themselves not with driver's licenses and paper boarding passes, but by scanning fingerprints or irises to prove they have an electronic ticket.

Passengers would walk with their carry-ons through a screening tunnel, where they'd undergo electronic scrutiny -- replacing what now happens at as many as three different stops as they're scanned for metal objects, non-metallic items and explosives.

Passengers would no longer have to empty carry-ons of liquids and laptops before putting them on conveyor belts for X-ray scans. They could keep their belts and shoes on. They could avoid a backlog at full-body scanners and a finger swab for explosive residue.

If screeners notice anything suspicious, a passenger would still be pulled aside and possibly patted down. But otherwise, passengers are supposed to reach their gates faster. And machines that accomplish each part of this transformation already exist or are in development.

The changing technology, combined with new screening tactics and changes at airports like the ones under construction here at Love Field, could make the checkpoint of...

Fri, 22 Jun 12
Startup Cue Aims To Queue Up Your Digital Life
Cue wants to lessen data overload. The tech start-up, whose free iPhone app launches Thursday, is offering a service that organizes and creates a visual daily snapshot of your online accounts -- e-mail, calendar, contacts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, instant messages and more. The process is complex, but the task is simple: bring order to social-media clutter for consumers and businesses.

Maximizing time has become a preoccupation among increasingly harried Americans. A Google search of "make the most of your day" yields thousands of results, ranging from self-help books to productivity tips.

"We were not built to handle what is thrown at us," says Daniel Gross, Cue's 20-year-old CEO. "Ultimately, this is a real problem that is getting worse with connected devices and more apps."

"It is a huge problem but a huge opportunity," says chief technology officer Robby Walker, noting that consumers, on average, absorb 63,000 words a day in content -- the equivalent of a short book.

Walker knows a thing or two about start-ups: He sold his previous one, presentations tool Zenter, to Google in 2007.

The Cue app -- its name is a nod to Q, the gadgets genius in James Bond movies, and a play on the phrase "cued up" -- could have huge implications for personal productivity, says Brian Blau, consumer analyst for Gartner.

"They're tackling a real issue: information overload," Blau says. "Cue does that for the basics: e-mail, calendar and social networks. But it has limited features."

A visual timetable of the user's day depicts various meetings with detailed data on the people they met with, in the form of their profile photo, tweet, e-mail and phone number.

Contact information, such as phone numbers and job titles, are automatically updated within the system. A search function makes it easy to find specific contact info.

An Android app is in the works.


Thu, 21 Jun 12
Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8: For New Handsets Only
Microsoft has taken the wraps off its next-generation mobile operating system and, as widely expected, its highlight is full integration with its counterparts on PCs and tablets.

But you'll have to buy a new smartphone to enjoy it. Multi-core processor requirements for the powerful new system will preclude its use on current Windows mobile devices.

Generational Shift

"Windows Phone 8 is a generation shift in technology, which means that it will not run on existing hardware," writes Microsoft Vice President Joe Belfiore on the company's Windows Phone Blog.

But as a "consolation" the company will give users of devices running Windows 7.5 a Windows 8 start screen as part of the 7.8 update (essentially a teaser reminding you to get a new phone whenever you turn it on).

Apps created for Windows Phone 8 also will not work on older phones.

Microsoft unveiled the new platform at its Windows Phone Summit for developers in San Francisco. It will roll out around the same time as Windows 8 for computers, this fall.

"Windows Phone 8 is based on the same core technologies that power Windows 8," Belfiore wrote on the blog. "As a result, Windows Phone 8 will unleash a new wave of features for consumers, developers, and businesses."

Leaping into the world of multi-core processing, Windows Phone 8 will allow for shared networking, security, media and browsing technology, and a common file system with its PC counterparts. Internet Explorer 10, the latest version of Microsoft's Web browser, which recently lost its top share of the market to Google's Chrome, will be included in Windows Phone 8, which will also feature feature sharper screen resolutions of 1280x768 or 1280x720 pixels for high-definition 720p displays.

Windows phones will now support MicroSD cards for increased storage capacity, as well as near-field communications for wireless sharing of contacts and files with...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Nuance Releases 'Next Generation' Version of Swype
On Wednesday, Nuance released a "next generation" update to its Swype keyboard software for mobile devices, which combines touch and voice input with adaptive learning about a user's preferences. The new features include advanced next-word prediction, a personal dictionary, voice and handwriting recognition, and other functions.

The company said the new Swype now offers four ways to type. Users can "swipe" by dragging their finger from letter to letter, as before. Alternatively, they can use predictive typing, speak their words, or write words on the screen with a finger.

'New Era of Input'

Michael Thompson, executive vice president and general manager of Nuance Mobile, said in a statement that "the new Swype living, learning keyboard ushers in a new era of input, where the keyboard adapts to the users' unique way of communicating every time they swipe, speak, tap or write."

One of the key updates is to Swype's characteristic swipe-typing feature. The software is known for allowing users to drag a finger in one continuous motion between keys, and the system guesses the intended word. Users have reported this mode of typing is faster on a screen keyboard than typical key-tapping.

But sometimes letters on the swipe path could spell a different word than the one intended, and a user needs to select the correct word from a prompt. Now, the software will look at the context of other words already typed to make a more intelligent guess as to what word you meant to type.

The update also brings Nuance's Dragon speech recognition to Swype, so users can speak their words instead of typing. The speech recognition could make the software more popular in countries whose languages have many more characters than those on a standard keyboard. Additionally, the update adds handwriting recognition capability, so users can, for instance, draw their...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
RIM Confirms Another Round of Layoffs
Research In Motion on Wednesday confirmed plans to slash more of its employee base. The BlackBerry maker did not indicate how many employees it would lay off, but said the company has "reduced some positions as part of its program and may continue to do so as the company methodically works through a review of the business."

RIM cut about 2,000 jobs 11 months ago. More recently, the Canadian company abandoned its co-CEO strategy and hired a new president and CEO, Thorsten Heins. But Heins hasn't stopped the bleeding -- at least not yet. In late May, RIM announced that it may lose money in the current financial quarter. RIM's first-quarter financial results will go public June 28.

Heins said RIM is going through a significant transformation as it moves toward the BlackBerry 10 launch, and its financial performance will continue to be challenging for the next few quarters. He said the ongoing competitive environment is affecting RIM's business in the form of lower volumes and competitive pricing in the marketplace.

RIM Scramble

"We are continuing to be aggressive as we compete for our customers' business -- both enterprise and consumer -- around the world, and our teams are working hard to provide cost-competitive, feature-rich solutions to our global customer base," Heins said. "On the positive side, we expect to further increase our cash position in Q1 from the approximately $2.1 billion we had at the end of fiscal 2012."

RIM has hired J.P. Morgan Securities and RBC Capital Markets to help the company review its business and financial performance. The advisers are working to help RIM with the strategic review it referenced on its year-end financial results conference call and to evaluate the relative merits and feasibility of various financial strategies, including opportunities to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships, licensing opportunities and strategic...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Amazon Preps Android Appstore for Europe
Amazon has begun accepting applications from Android developers for distribution in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain beginning this summer. The online retail giant also said Wednesday that it planned to further expand its Amazon Appstore coverage on a global basis soon.

"We're excited to open the door to even more opportunity by expanding app sales outside the U.S.," said Amazon Appstore Vice President Jim Adkins. "We see tremendous potential for current developers in our distribution program to grow with the international expansion."

We asked Al Hilwa, director of Application Development Software at IDC, if he believed Amazon's expansion into Europe -- and eventually elsewhere overseas -- was a significant move.

"Amazon should not be dismissed in the mobile wars," Hilwa said.

"Expanding its Appstore globally is a natural progression, and along with other recent announcements like the addition of in-app purchasing, it shows that it is transitioning to a broader ecosystem play bolstered by the success of its Kindle," Hilwa said. "In time, its apps may be the most popular set of apps for Android."

The Facebook Threat

Amazon is sweetening its existing deal with developers by offering them 70 percent of the list price for each paid mobile app sale beginning in July. The move may help the online retailer counter one of the biggest potential threats faced by Amazon and all other on-line Appstore operators -- Facebook's growing presence in the mobile app space.

Facebook is assembling the pieces of the puzzle to become a "platform of platforms" riding atop iOS, Android and mobile Web, according to a new report from VisionMobile. The social networking site, which has 2.3 billion users worldwide, is aiming to lock mobile developers into publishing, promoting, distributing and billing through Facebook, irrespective of platform.

"To mobile Web developers, Facebook is offering global...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Does Surface Target iPad or Offer PC Alternative?
Surface has plenty of common ground with the market-leading iPad, then takes the engineering a step further with a USB port, stylus input and new keyboard and touchpad options. But is Surface an iPad competitor or just a PC alternative?

Despite the hyperfocus on hardware engineering and the software strategy that focuses on Microsoft's own flagship products, is Microsoft's Surface strategy all that different from the winners and losers in the tablet market? Is Microsoft really aiming between Apple's eyes? And, if so, does the Surface offer a whole lot that the iPad doesn't?

We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get some answers to those questions as analysts from various sectors of the tech industry begin unraveling Microsoft's tablet strategy. He told us, for starters, that Microsoft's Surface strategy isn't especially new or unique in the tablet market.

PC Vendors Repositioning

"The past year has witnessed a great deal of breaking down of traditional PC industry relationships. Consider how many longtime Wintel OEMs and ODMs, including Dell and HP, are actively developing ARM/Android- based tablets and ARM-based servers," King said.

He pointed to Intel's Ultrabook initiative, which he said follows a similar though discreetly different disruptive line of thought -- offering design principles, as well as development assistance, to hardware partners that have mostly floundered in efforts to compete with Apple's MacBook Air.

"Microsoft's Windows 8 reference architectures suggested that the company is taking a far more aggressive position with partners than it has in the past," King said. "Overall, the company's Surface tablets simply seem to be the latest examples of ongoing trends which suggest that PC industry vendors are repositioning themselves for a future which is likely to be significantly different than the past."

Targeting Mighty iPad?

Where is Apple on Microsoft's tablet radar screen? Microsoft is "sort of" targeting Apple,...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
HP Announces Low-Power, 'Processor Neutral' Gemini Microservers
Hewlett-Packard unveiled on Tuesday a new generation of low-power microservers called Gemini. The new product line will use a coming Intel Atom processor called Centerton, but will feature swappable processor cartridges so that other processors may also be used.

Gemini is the first commercial release of HP's Project Moonshot, an initiative launched in November that is designed to develop extremely low-energy servers, as well as reduce server complexity and costs.

'Transform the Server Industry'

Intel and HP said they are working together to create more Gemini server cartridges, based on future processors using the Atom architecture. HP said it is also working on developing Gemini cartridges that use processors from other chip makers, such as ARM-based processors.

HP said Centerton was chosen for the initial server cartridges because of the processor's support for 64-bit processing, hardware virtualization, error correcting code memory, low power, increased performance and a variety of x86 software. These characteristics, HP said, are perfect for hyperscale computing, which uses many very low-power servers working together.

The Gemini line is designed to handle such tasks as Web site serving, offline analytics or managing a distributed memory cache. Gemini servers are expected to be available later this year.

Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager of the Hyperscale Business Unit at HP, said in a statement that customers who use hyperscale computing are expecting to "realize radical space, cost and energy savings," and that the Gemini approach can "transform the server industry by enabling customers to exceed the limits of what was previously possible in hyperscale computing."

15 Percent by 2015

The company said that the Gemini line innovates in a variety of ways. For instance, traditional servers need dedicated management, storage, power cords, cooling fans, and other individual support, while Gemini servers will feature enclosures that can support thousands of servers on each rack by...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Grim Job Prospects Could Scar College Graduates
Megan Silsby earned a biology degree last month from Virginia Tech, and she considers herself a full-time worker even though she hasn't landed a job in this rough economy.

Every day at 8 a.m., Silsby, 22, heads to a basement office in her parents' home in Chantilly, Va. All day, she searches the Internet for openings, applies for jobs, follows up with phone calls. She has applied for more than 80 jobs, with no luck so far.

"I've definitely kind of had to sit down sometimes and keep myself from getting discouraged, because honestly I feel if I get that interview " and her voice trails, youthful optimism diluted by the fallout of the Great Recession.

For the moment, Silsby finds compensation elsewhere, especially in the reconnection with her parents and two younger siblings. Her father has jokingly told her that he hopes she will never move out. She yearns for independence, but the job hunt has been a forced primer of how competitive the world is and a reaffirmation that being close to her family is important to her. Meanwhile, almost $30,000 in college loans wait to be repaid.

Variations of this story are being lived, one by one, by legions of college graduates confronting a tight job market. And one by one, generational attitudes are being formed about work, security and even family, particularly among people younger than 25 who have entered the job market since 2008.

The national unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in May as Silsby was graduating as one of 2.6 million who got bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees in the school year now ending. The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute called their labor market "grim" and said that over the previous year, unemployment among college graduates younger than 25 had averaged 9.4%, with an additional 19.1% in jobs for which...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Fliers More Satisfied with Airlines, New Survey Says
Customer satisfaction with airlines has improved as passengers become savvier about avoiding some extra fees, the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index finds.

A survey of roughly 5,000 passengers in the first three months of 2012 found satisfaction with the airlines was up 3.1% from a year before on the ACSI's 100-point scale.

That's in contrast to the findings of a larger survey out last week from the marketing research firm J.D. Power and Associates that saw satisfaction with North American airlines take a slide, dropping two points on its scale.

Steve Lott, spokesman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the major U.S. airlines, says airlines have demonstrated improved performance recently in Transportation Department monthly measurements.

"Thanks to operational improvements and fewer weather disruptions, our members are again delivering strong on-time performance and already this year set two all-time records for baggage handling," Lott says.

But satisfaction with airlines still ranks below several other industries such as hotels and full-service restaurants, the ACSI survey says. And the latest uptick in satisfaction likely has more to do with passengers finding ways to cope than genuinely enjoying their travel experiences, says ACSI managing director David VanAmburg.

"It seems to have gone up a bit because passengers continue to be increasingly savvy about how they fly," he says. "Customers are finding ways to avoid fees whenever possible."

Fewer people are checking bags, and those who didn't pay the extra fees felt better about the airlines than those who did, the survey finds.

The J.D. Power survey mirrored those results, with passengers who paid to check a bag having an average satisfaction score lower than their fellow fliers.

Low-cost carriers led the pack in both surveys. JetBlue knocked Southwest out of the No.1 spot for the first time in the ACSI survey's 18-year history. In the J.D. Power survey, JetBlue was on...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Yahoo Hires Chief Revenue Officer To Spur Ad Sales
Yahoo is turning to a former colleague of its interim CEO to oversee the troubled Internet company's efforts to sell more online advertising.

Monday's announcement that Michael Barrett will be running Yahoo's advertising sales team as chief revenue officer comes five weeks after the Sunnyvale, California, company dumped Scott Thompson as its CEO amid a flap over misleading information on his biography.

Thompson's replacement, interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, used to work closely with Barrett while they were both top Internet executives at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. at a time when that company owned MySpace, once the top online social network.

Barrett, 50, will report directly to Levinsohn at Yahoo Inc. He is scheduled to begin working for Yahoo early next month after the company's second quarter is completed.

ThinkEquity analyst Ronald Josey interpreted Yahoo's decision to reunite Barrett with Levinsohn as a sign that the company's intends to anoint Levinsohn as its permanent CEO. In a Monday note, Josey predicted that Yahoo may remove Levinsohn's interim tag before the company's annual shareholder meeting, which is scheduled for July 12.

Yahoo declined to comment on Josey's theory.

Levinsohn is the fifth CEO to try to turn around Yahoo in less than four years. He wants to build upon Yahoo's strengths in online news, finance, entertainment and video to give Web surfers reason to stay on the company's Web site for longer periods of time.

Although its Web site remains among the most popular Internet destinations, Yahoo has been struggling for years to bring in more advertising revenue as Internet search leader Google Inc. and online social networking leader Facebook Inc. introduced more compelling services and lured away advertisers.

Barrett most recently worked at Google, joining late last year as part of the company's acquisition of online advertising service Admeld.

Levinsohn predicted that Barrett's "deep industry experience and relationships will help...

Thu, 21 Jun 12
Songza Soars in a Challenging Online Music Field
Songza, a new online radio service, leapfrogged Pandora as the most popular free music app for Apple devices last week. But it immediately faces a struggle to survive in a business saddled with high royalty rates for artists.

The New York-based startup aims to re-write the songbook on how an online radio service ought to run. One key difference: it has no mood-killing audio ads.

"We have playlists for getting lucky," says CEO and co-founder Elias Roman, 28. "If you're getting lucky and you're hearing a toothbrush ad in it, that's not a lifestyle enhancement. That's embarrassing for everybody."

Audio ad-free Songza, at no charge, compares with a $36 annual fee to avoid audio ads on Pandora Media Inc., or $4 a month on Slacker Inc., another online radio service. It also limits Songza Media Inc.'s revenue flow, although the company still runs display ads.

The lack of interruptions helped Songza get downloaded 1.15 million times in the 10 days since June 7, when it updated its iPhone app and offered an iPad-optimized version.

The company now enters a race to become the biggest, or at least among the biggest, online radio services, before an inevitable shake-out decimates those unable to turn a profit.

Even Pandora, by far the market leader in online radio, tripled its losses in the first quarter through April to $20.2 million, mainly because listening hours jumped 92 percent from a year ago to 3.1 billion in the quarter. Royalties amount to a fraction of a penny per song play, and rapid growth has outstripped Pandora's ability to sell ads.

"You can't build a business with these per-track rates," says Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren. He says that an eventual slowdown in growth will allow ad sales to catch up. He's pinned hopes for cutting costs on a government royalty-setting process that starts in...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
Sharp Goes for 'Wow' Factor with 90-Inch HDTV
Have an entire spare wall in your home that needs to be covered? And an extra $11,000 burning a hole in your pocket?

If so, Sharp has a deal for you with its new humongous 90-inch Aquos TV. The Osaka, Japan-based electronics giant says its 142-pound LC-90LE745U model is the world's largest LED TV. It's 3D capable, with a1080p 3D full array LED panel, built-in Wi-Fi and an intuitive SmartCentral user interface to access apps and browse.

It's 4 feet tall, 6 feet diagonally and 8 feet wide but only 5 inches deep.

Catches Your Eye at Best Buy

While out of reach if you're not part of the One Percent, Sharp may have the "wow" factor in mind more than gross sales.

"While this might be an 'aspirational' model for many, it could instill a sense of luxury and value to the brand," said Michael Inouye of ABI Research, noting that the Aquos will be among the most eye-catching displays in any electronics store. "Some consumers may perceive Sharp in a more positive light because they see such a large and expensive TV, [and] it could make them feel the other Sharp TVs likewise are higher quality."

It's not the biggest TV ever, though.

"There have been 100-inch-plus models shown at CES in years past," said consumer devices analyst Avi Greengart of Current Analysis, referring to the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Greengart said production of big-ticket items hasn't been sidelined by the economic downturn.

"Luxury goods -- including handbags and watches that cost more than this TV -- are selling well in this economic environment," he said.

"I assume that the reason [they] do this is for PR value and bragging rights, but it is possible that it is profitable. It isn't a volume seller, but it isn't priced like one, either. Truth be told, $11,000...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
Where in the World Is Online Customer Service?
Most customers search for an online solution first when they have a problem with a product, and 80 percent of customers research products weekly on the Web. Those are a few of the top data points highlighting the evolution of online customer service, as collected by customer-service software provider Parature.

The search-online-first approach is the choice of 57 percent of all consumers, Parature noted, citing a 2012 study by Sitel, which provides customer care and related back-office processes.

Speed Matters

Social media and online support have also propelled expectations of company response times. According to an Oracle study, over half of Facebook users and 80 percent of Twitter users fully expect to have a customer service question or request answered within one day or less.

And, in some areas, those expectations are being met. A 2012 customer service study by STELLAService, which rates customer service performance, found that just over 40 percent of customer service requests, in the form of tweets on Twitter to 25 of the largest online retailers, were answered in less than 24 hours.

Two of the corporate Twitter stars in response time, again according to STELLA, were Zappos and LL Bean, which responded to all customer service tweets within 24 hours. In fact, Zappos appears to be going for a world record of sorts, with an average response time of 54 minutes.

But some companies are still getting with the program. The same study found that one quarter of the 25 largest online retailers simply did not respond at all to tweets. About 17 percent of customers aged 16-34, per Sitel, reported that the customer experience could be dramatically improved if companies responded to Twitter-based requests.

Online Chat, Knowledge Base

For 20 percent of shoppers, online chat is the preferred method of communication with a company, according to the 2012 Life Chat Effectiveness...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
ShoreTel Mobility Gives Phones Dual Persona for UC
A new mobile business phone service is rolling out for clients of ShoreTel's M5 cloud division. Called ShoreTel Mobility, the new unified communications offering will enable M5 business customers to leverage a single converged device for both professional and personal communications.

The initial product launch only supports Apple's iPhones, but releases this summer will add support for Android smartphones and tablets, as well as BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion.

The goal is to help M5 customers embrace a bring-your-own-device policy while maintaining corporate identity by routing business calls to and from any ShoreTel Mobility user through their normal business phone number.

"We are empowering our clients to embrace" the latest mobile market trends "by extending our cloud phone system capabilities to the device that users love the most -- their own," noted ShoreTel Cloud Division President Dan Hoffman.

With ShoreTel Mobility, employees gain "the ease of using the device that is already in their pocket and giving the enterprise a way to reduce costs, while maintaining a consistent corporate identity and caller experience," Hoffman said Tuesday.

Adopting a Dual Persona

Beyond helping customers embrace new BYOD policies with confidence, ShoreTel Mobility's goal is to help companies save money by automatically switching between wireless hotspots and cellular networks for the best available coverage at any given moment. The technology promises to significantly reduce direct dial and international roaming charges on smartphones.

What's more, ShoreTel Mobility provides business professionals with the ability to adopt a dual persona that maintains the confidentiality of the personal phone numbers. The new technology is specifically designed to seamlessly separate their personal and business identities on a single mobile device.

The new mobile offering enables businesses to maintain accurate records of all the business calls being made by company employees. The aim is to give M5 clients additional metrics...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
Microsoft's Surface Tablets Appeal, But Questions Remain
Microsoft on Monday unveiled two Windows-based tablets it hopes can grab market share from the iPad. Microsoft is positioning its new Surface tablets as "PCs built to be the ultimate stage for Windows."

Designed and engineered by Microsoft employees, Surface promises advances in industrial design. For example, Surface lets software take center stage by supporting a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Surface has edges angled at 22 degrees, which Microsoft said is a natural position for the tablet at rest or in active use. The idea is for the hardware to fade into the background and the software to stand out.

"Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a big bet -- a bet on software -- but it was always clear that we had to push hardware in ways that sometimes manufacturers hadn't envisioned," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at Monday's event. "We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects, hardware and software, are working together."

A Luxury Tablet?

Microsoft pointed to Surface design features like the casing, which is created using what's called VaporMG, a magnesium-based combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish similar to a luxury watch. By leveraging this approach, Microsoft said, Surface is thin and light yet also rigid and strong. The VaporMG approach also makes room for a built-in kickstand that makes it convenient to watch movies or take photos and videos with the Surface.

Using pressure-sensitive technology, Surface's Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures. That paves the way for faster touch typing than with an on-screen keyboard. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector. Microsoft also offers a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds raised keys for a more traditional typing feel.


Wed, 20 Jun 12
Cisco Quad Updated, Rebranded as WebEx Social
Cisco Quad is now Cisco WebEx Social, complete with social collaboration enhancements like a Unified Post function that makes creating a post as easy as writing an e-mail.

The updated product, announced Tuesday, will add new features for sharing knowledge, finding experts, and working together in virtual teams. Murali Sitaram, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Cloud Collaboration Technology Group, said in a statement that these enhancements will marry "the best of consumer social network features with a complete set of integrated collaboration cloud services," allowing users to participate from the device they choose.

Integration with Office

The product now known as WebEx Social is an enterprise collaboration platform that integrates social networking, content development and real-time communications. Pre-built communications applications include Cisco Jabber IM and Presence, Web conferencing and Unified Communications Manager.

A Unified Post function is at the heart of the platform's collaboration functions. The company said creating a post in WebEx Social "is as easy as writing an e-mail," and includes the ability to share content or media, attach files, embed links, conduct group discussions or edit collaboratively.

New capabilities for the rebranded platform include integration with Microsoft Office so users can jointly edit and post files from Word, PowerPoint, or Excel to WebEx Social. There's also the ability for users to stay within e-mail clients, such as Microsoft Outlook, while posting updates to WebEx Social.

Browser-based video calling will enable high-definition video conferencing without needing a separate client. The company said that the video capability is compatible with Cisco TelePresence, IP video phones, and mobile clients.

Mobile, Calendar, Deployment

Enhancements to the WebEx Social iPhone and iPad clients will add real-time instant messaging, Web conferencing, and voice calls. A new software development kit will allow outside developers to customize some of WebEx Social's capabilities, such as Activity Streams, Watch Lists or Open Search.


Wed, 20 Jun 12
Q&A: Enterprise Social Software Strategies
For the third year in a row, research firm IDC has ranked IBM number one in worldwide market share for enterprise social software. According to IDC's analysis of 2011 revenue, IBM grew faster than its competitors and nearly two times faster than the overall market, which grew approximately 40 percent.

The enterprise social platforms market is expected to reach $4.5 billion by 2016, representing growth of 43 percent over the next four years, according to IDC. IBM is well positioned, with more than 35 percent of Fortune 100 companies already using its social software offerings, including eight of the top 10 retailers and banks.

We caught up this week with Heidi Ambler, IBM director of social software, to discuss IBM's view of the enterprise social software world, and to ask her advice for organizations interested in becoming strategically more social.

We've seen tremendous adoption of social enterprise software, yet it seems there are still miles to go.

Ambler: That's very true. According to IBM's 2012 CEO Study, only 16 percent of CEOs today are using social business platforms to connect with customers, but that number is poised to spike to 57 percent within the next three to five years.

Although face-to-face contact will remain the most prevalent form of customer interaction, CEOs expect a step-change in the use of social media. Over half expect social channels to be a primary way of engaging customers within five years.

Taking a step back, how do you define a 'Social Business'?

Organizations can quickly see that a social business isn't a company that just has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. A social business means that every department in the organization uses social networking the way it uses any other tool and channel to do its job.

It's an organization that integrates social networking tools into its traditional business processes...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
A Month Later, Fallout from Facebook IPO Persists
When Facebook went public a month ago, the early betting was that it would storm out of the IPO chute and usher in a new wave of tech stock offerings. Some went so far as to compare its impact to that of Google's 2004 IPO.

But Facebook's initial public offering went from an anticipated bump up in price into a dump, and the ripples extended far and wide on the technology landscape. "The IPO was a disaster," says Geoff Cook, chief operating officer of social network MeetMe. "It definitely cooled interest in the sector. It changed the tenor of the conversation."

The chilling effect that Facebook's fortunes could have on other companies eyeing their own IPOs was underscored in a blog post by Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, cryptically called "start-up apocalypse." In it, the head of the company that helps start-ups get a strong financial boost said investors are convinced that Facebook's IPO "will hurt the market for earlier-stage start-ups."

It didn't take long after Facebook's IPO face-plant for many companies to abandon their dreams of going public. This year, 29 companies have pulled their plans to go public. That's level with this point in 2011 but up 53% from this point in 2010, Renaissance Capital says.

"Some people thought the (Facebook) IPO would jump-start the IPO market," says Richard Peterson of S&P Capital IQ. "But it's caused just the reverse."

Many of the companies getting cold feet are in tech: Travel search company Kayak Software and Vkontakte, one of Russia's most popular social networks, quickly delayed their IPOs after Facebook's fizzle.

"It boggles my mind that the IPO of the century turned out so badly," says Greg Tseng, CEO of social network Tagged. "This was supposed to be our (sector's) Google," he says, referring to social media. "If you told me (Facebook) would open...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
Search Results May Deliver Tainted Links
Internet search results have surpassed e-mail as the main way cybercriminals attempt to victimize Internet users. That's the upshot of an analysis of Web traffic from more than 75 million users on home and corporate networks conducted by Blue Coat Security Lab.

Researchers found criminals are poisoning the search results consumers receive when searching on Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search services -- and at a rate four times more frequently than they are sending tainted links through e-mail.

The end game in each case is to get you to fall for scams or to infect and take control of your PC. "Searching is at least as dangerous as going into your e-mail in-box and clicking on things," says Chris Larsen, Blue Coat's chief malware expert.

Crooks know that every minute of every day hundreds of millions of people worldwide use search engines "mentally predisposed to click on things because we're exploring," says Larsen. The bad guys may be turning to tainted search results because e-mail defenses have gotten tighter, and most people are on the lookout for suspicious messages, says Peter Cassidy, secretary general of the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Sometimes the tainted Web links show up when users search for information about major news events or celebrities. But increasingly, they are also surfacing in search results for hundreds of mundane topics, such as recipes and sample letters, Larsen says.

Google and Microsoft, which supplies the search engine for Bing and Yahoo search services, are pouring resources into eradicating poisoned search results. "A combination of automated and manual processes helps us respond quickly to evolving threats and stay a step ahead," says Matt Cutts, who heads up Google's "Webspam" team.

Even so, attacks continue to get through. In 2011, 26 million new samples of malicious software were detected on the Internet. And an estimated 39% of...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
Apple WWDC Highlights and What Was Missing
Now that the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference has folded its tent and sent the Apple faithful home to consider the wonders that lie ahead, it's probably a good time to see just what Apple has offered -- and what, significantly, it did not.

First things first: No iPhone 5 -- not that anyone expected it. Apple is obviously saving the next generation of its smartphone for a show of its own where it will be the star, introduced to the world when Apple is good and ready -- and Apple being Apple, not a minute before.

So what did the WWDC offer this year? Let us tick the boxes.

iOS 6

When Apple giveth, Apple taketh away. In this case, say hello to Facebook and goodbye the Google Maps.

Facebook will be a part of iOS 6, with Apple integrating sharing of photos and Web pages from within its own apps, as well as through Siri. And iOS 6 users will be able to sync contacts and calendars from the social network.

After a long association with Google Maps, Apple has decided it can do location better -- or at least the way it wants to. When iOS debuts in the fall, expect a 3D mapping program Apple says will include its own "crowd-sourced traffic database" -- information it used to get from Google.

The 3D capability is courtesy of Apple's acquisition of Sweden's C3 Technologies last year.

The Siri voice assistant program will get expanded language and nation support, and will run on the new iPad.

Not-so-good iOS news? Users of the original iPad and the third-generation iPod Touch will find that iOS has left them behind, as the new version drops support for those devices.


Apple's Retina display, already impressing eyeballs on the iPhone 4 and the new iPad, is coming to Apple's laptop line -- but only...

Wed, 20 Jun 12
Google+ Local Combines Search with Zagat
If you're traveling and looking for a restaurant, hotel or attraction, then Google has revamped its local-business search results through the prism of guidebook specialist Zagat and Google , its own social network and answer to Facebook.

It's called Google Local, and you can view Google's tweaks to its local-business search results from a new Local tab in Google . You can also peruse these local-business results on your computer doing a standard Google search, in Google Maps, and in the Android apps for Google Maps and Google .

The local-business results in their latest form aren't yet available on iPhones or iPads.

Google Local provides valuable information, including Web site links, summaries, addresses, Zagat ratings and user reviews about local points of interest and businesses. Before Google acquired Zagat last year, some of the Zagat information could only be accessed for a fee. Now, it's free.

However, the quality of the local-business information for a traveler can at times be uninspiring and partisan, because you are being force-fed Google's social network as part of the process.

If you don't join and sign into Google when viewing the local-business results, you cannot view all of the pertinent information.

For example, if you do a Google search for "Italian restaurants Baltimore," you'll view an advertisement on the top of the page and listings for seven restaurants with links to their Web sites, their locations on a Google Map, an overall Zagat score from zero to 30 and links to reviews written by Google users.

Google has been criticized by competitors, such as Expedia and TripAdvisor, for emphasizing its own products to the detriment of natural search results from competitors. This is precisely what it does with Google Local.

The Google Local results on Italian restaurants in Baltimore fill your computer screen and you'd have to scroll below what's initially visible to find...

Tue, 19 Jun 12
Facebook Settles Suit over Use of Mugs in Sponsored Ads
If your face appeared on Facebook as a promotion without your permission, you may want to check with a lawyer.

The social media juggernaut is paying $10 million in penance for placing the mugs of five recent lawsuit plaintiffs in sponsored ads that are highly lucrative for Facebook but earn bupkis for the owner of the face.

The plaintiffs won't see a cent, however. The money will go to an unspecified charity.

Protect Your Likeness

Despite the terms of service agreement all Facebook users accept when they start accounts authorizing CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Co. to use images as it sees fit, the company agreed to settle the case, with Judge Lucy Koh of U.S. District Court in San Jose upholding the merit of the suit, at least under California law.

"California has long recognized a right to protect one's name and likeness against appropriation by others for their advantage," she wrote, according to Reuters.

"This settlement is a major precedent upholding what Americans say they want: The right to control what happens to their material in commercial realms," Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, told us Monday.

Facebook's sponsored stories can appear anywhere on the network, connecting users with a product, group or company; and not even ones they are connected to. Just mentioning a product in a status update could reportedly trigger an ad.

The suit was settled in May but details were kept quiet for a month, emerging this week via Reuters. The $10 million settlement -- loose change to the multibillion-dollar company -- is likely a wise choice since a class action suit involving millions of Facebook users could have exposed the now-publicly held company to far greater losses.

Papers related to the lawsuit quoted Facebook executives saying that ads featuring a user's friends are two or...

Tue, 19 Jun 12
Mozilla Working on New iPad Browser
Mozilla's product design strategy team is working on a new mobile browser that specifically targets the capabilities of Apple's iPad. Called Junior, the coming product is being designed to respond to the different ways in which consumers and business professionals use tablets to browse the Web.

Mozilla team member Alex Limi believes that the iPad's current Safari browser delivers a miserable experience. "It feels like the one app that they took from the Mac and just slapped it into the iPad," Limi said.

Mozilla's tablet focus right now is on "finding ways to innovate where we are the first, the best or the only," Limi said. The goal of Mozilla's Junior browser is "to reinvent the browser for a new form factor," he said.

The Need to Adapt

Junior is designed to deliver an immersive experience by eliminating the clutter of tabs and buttons that users normally find on Web browsers. Having a full-screen browser gives users a magazine like feel by taking away the tab bar clutter at the top of the screen.

"We added two buttons by your left and right thumbs so it is very easy to use the back button and plus button to go somewhere new," Limi said during a presentation Thursday.

The plus button beside the right thumb takes the user to another screen that enables them to perform the three browser tasks they are most likely to want to do. At the top of this page, for example, is a series of recently visited page thumbnails called containers.

If the user has just run through 50 pages at Gizmodo, they are all contained within a single thumbnail. The containers "essentially combine the tabs and history" functions of prior-generation browsers, Limi said.

Right below the containers is a set of 20 icons for the user's most frequently...

Tue, 19 Jun 12
U.S., IBM Regain Supercomputer Crown
For the first time since November 2009, a U.S. supercomputer sits atop the TOP500 list of the world's top supercomputers. And the winner comes out of IBM.

Dubbed Sequoia, the IBM BlueGene/Q system installed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved 16.32 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark using 1,572,864 cores. In all, four of the top 10 supercomputers are IBM BlueGene/Q systems.

Total performance of all the systems on the list has increased considerably since November 2011, reaching 123.4 Pflop/s. The combined performance of the last list was 74.2 Pflop/s. The No. 500 machine on the list notched a performance level of 60.8 teraflop/s, which was enough to reach No. 332 just seven months ago.

An Important IBM Win

We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on what this really means for IBM and the rest of the players on the list. He told us these competitions for super computers are not only between companies but they are between countries.

"There are a lot of bragging rights with this contest and bragging rights lead to multimillion-dollar contracts," Enderle said. "There's defense work and high-end scientific work is done on these machines. So there is quite a bit of money thrown into this market. If the U.S. wants to maintain its lead in electronics it needs to maintain the lead in supercomputers. So this is a very important win for IBM and for the nation."

The U.S. is clearly the leading consumer of high-performance computing systems with 253 of the 500 systems. The European share is still lower than the Asian share. Dominant countries in Asia are China, with 68 systems, and Japan, with 34 systems. In Europe, the U.K., France and Germany are almost equal with 25, 22, and 20, respectively.

The Mira Supercomputer


Tue, 19 Jun 12
Samsung Looks to Make Its Smartphones SAFE for IT
Samsung wants to make smartphones SAFE for IT departments. On Monday, the company announced that it was introducing Samsung Approved For Enterprise, or SAFE, phones in the U.S.

The company said that SAFE-branded smartphones are "secure and manageable," and that they would meet the needs of IT departments that allow employees to bring their own device to work. The first SAFE-branded smartphone is the Android-based Galaxy S III, which will be available through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless this week and US Cellular next month.

Defragmenting Android

The Galaxy S III features a suite of capabilities designed to support AES-256 bit encryption, Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and major virtual private network (VPNs) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions.

To create SAFE, Samsung said it asked solutions providers, including Afaria, MobileIron and AirWatch, to use its software development kit to integrate their solutions into the technology. The company then undertook testing and other quality assurance to verify support for MDM and VPN solutions.

Samsung said that, in addition to regular enterprises, SAFE devices are designed for use in regulated industries, such as healthcare, financial services or government.

The company is also pointing to SAFE as a step in the direction of defragmenting the Android platform, to the extent that IT professionals can now expect "a consistent level of IT compliance."

Features in the Galaxy S III include the ability to securely share PowerPoint presentations and PDFs with others who have the same phone, and S Beam One Touch Sharing, which uses near-field communication and Wi-Fi Direct to exchange contacts, meeting information, or documents by tapping compatible phones together. The company noted that S Beam is controllable via MDM.


Accompanying the SAFE launch, Samsung also announced it was offering a trade-up program called SAFE2SWITCH, which provides what the company described as "very competitive trade-in values in real-time" for existing...

Tue, 19 Jun 12
Google Warns of Rise in Government Web Meddling
Google received more than 1,000 requests from governmental authorities to remove content from its sites during the second half of 2011. And that, Google, said is an alarming trend.

The revelation comes as part of Google's semi-annual Transparency Report. Google first launched the report about two years ago to disclose data about government requests. On Sunday, Google released data showing government requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user information made from July to December 2011.

"Unfortunately, what we've seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different," said Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst at Google. "When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not."

Western Democracies Involved

Sunday's Transparency Report marked the fifth data set Google released. According to Chou, Google was asked to take down political speech just the same as in the first four reports. Chou said this is alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect--Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.

Chou offered specific instances to prove her case. In the second half of 2012, for example, Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, meanwhile, Google received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. Chou said Google didn't comply with either of these requests.

Beyond the Transparency...

Tue, 19 Jun 12
IBM Named Market Leader in Enterprise Social Software
For the third straight year, IBM has been named as the leader in worldwide market share for enterprise social software. The designation was made by industry research firm IDC, and was based on 2011 revenue.

IBM's revenue grew by about 70 percent in 2011, easily outpacing most of its competitors and nearly doubling the rate of the social business market as a whole, which grew at about 40 percent.

IBM's Social Platform

According to IDC, that market is expected to grow about 43 percent over the next five years, hitting about $4.5 billion by 2016. The top two companies in this space were IBM and Jive, which each had more than 70 percent year-over-year growth. The fastest-growing provider was Yammer, with a phenomenal 132.3 percent growth year-over-year. Microsoft reportedly is either near purchasing or has purchased Yammer for $1.2 billion.

Michael Fauscette, group vice president of IDC's Software Business Solutions Group, said in a statement accompanying the IBM designation that companies are "seeing significant gain in productivity and increasing value" from social software solutions that bring together people, data, content, and systems in real time.

IBM's social networking platform is IBM Connections, which the company said is used by one-third of Fortune 100 companies, including eight of the top 10 retailers and banks. The company said that Connections is unique in that it combines social networking functions with analytics, which help to capture information and create insights into dialogs undertaken by employees and customers.

From the user's point of view, the platform offers one-click collaboration, and the ability to create communities either inside or outside a company. Within IBM, more than 400,000 employees collaborate through Connections, resulting in more than 67,000 communities.

'Very Mature Product'

We asked Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, if IBM's continuing dominance of enterprise social software was surprising. He replied that its...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Microsoft $1.2 Billion Acquisition of Yammer May Be Done Deal
Mum is still the word from Yammer and Microsoft. But The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Redmond bought the business social networking company for $1.2 billion despite no formal announcement Friday.

According to the Journal, it is unclear when the Yammer acquisition will be formally completed and announced. Microsoft was not immediately available for comment and a Yammer spokesperson told us the company doesn't comment on rumors and speculation. But online tech media are ablaze with news of the deal as if it was done.

A Pain in Microsoft's Rear?

In a Forbes column, Rob Koplowitz, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said if the rumors were true, David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, is about to have a very happy 40th birthday. Koplowitz said the $1 billion number being bandied about is not an Instagram moment.

"The value and potential of Yammer in the enterprise software market is clear. David and team have been working very hard for a long time to build a viable enterprise business. They were recently named a leader in Forrester's Activity Stream Wave," Koplowitz said.

"They have one million paying enterprise customers and another four million freemium users in the wings. It's a real business and it's been a real pain in the backside to some larger and better established competitors. In the case of Microsoft, a much larger and much better established competitor."

A Cheap Buy?

We caught up with Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his thoughts o the rumors. He reminded us that the conventional wisdom around acquisitions is to measure the cost of buying an established tool with an established audience to complement current products against the cost of building similar technology in-house.

"We are in the midst of a major shift. The concept of collaboration, or what you might call network enhanced...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Judge Seeks 'Reasonable Royalty' To Settle Apple-Motorola Suits
With the Google-Oracle lawsuit fading away, another high-profile, Google-related intellectual property lawsuit may wind its way into court after a judge had second thoughts about tossing Apple's claim of patent infringement against Motorola and Motorola Mobility. But the judge said he was interested in compromise, not keeping products off the shelves.

Motorola Mobility, recently acquired by tech giant Google, is accused in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois of violating six Apple patents for multi-touch display technology in nine of its devices, including the Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, BackFlip and Charm.

We Can Work It Out

Motorola has counter-sued Apple for patent infringement, but Judge Richard Posner initially said neither side could demonstrate that they had been harmed.

Posner on June 8 tentatively dismissed the case, but left himself a window to reverse course, which he did on Wednesday, scheduling an injunction hearing for June 20. He said granting an injunction against sales of the devices would cause harm potentially greater than the harm alleged in the suit.

Looking for a compromise, Posner said the two parties should be prepared to explore avenues other than an injunction, such as "a reasonable royalty."

In his earlier ruling, which he delayed entering into the record, Posner said, "I have tentatively decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because neither party has established a right to relief." He had earlier reduced the number of patent infringement claims from four to two. He added that Apple's claim of damages was unlikely to survive Motorola's motion to dismiss the suit.

"[Judge] Posner has told both companies that they should be prepared to argue the case next week for royalties rather than injunctions," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "[That suggests] that he has concluded that if any infringements exist, they don't rise...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Dropbox Updates iOS App, Drops Public Folders
Dropbox, which has become a useful tool in many businesses, is dropping support for public folders and updating its app for Apple's iOS platform. The company made the moves amid an increasingly competitive space for cloud-based sharing.

The free version 1.5 app update allows Apple mobile device owners to upload photos or video manually or automatically through a Wi-Fi or cell-based connection. Uploaded files can be seen in the Gallery view, and users can gain up to 3GB of free space for camera uploads -- in 500 MB increments -- for automatically uploading files.

'A Huge Pain'

The iOS photo/video upload functionality follows the addition in February of automatic photo uploads for Android devices, and in April for Macs and PCs. As with those updates, users simply need to attach any camera, phone, or SD card to a computer and then, through a few clicks, make the transfer.

In the April announcement, Dropbox noted on its company's blog that "getting pictures off your camera has always been a huge pain." To lessen that pain, Dropbox said it "put our heads down and worked worked worked to ensure that automatic upload would play nicely with anything that might have a photo or video on it."

On Friday, the company also sent an e-mail to registered developers. It noted that, in April, the ability to share any file or folder via a single link in Dropbox was launched. "This new sharing mechanism," the e-mail said, "is a more generalized, scalable way to support many of the same use cases as the Public folder."

As a result, the company said it will "no longer create Public folders in any new Dropbox accounts" after the end of July. If an app depends on Public folders, Dropbox said, it recommends the developer switch to an API call. However, existing accounts with...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Cisco Announces Application-Driven Network Programmability Play
Cisco on Thursday offered its definition of software-defined networks with the Open Network Environment, or Cisco ONE. Cisco ONE aims to help customers drive innovation in the world of cloud, mobility, social networking, and video by enabling an application-driven customization of network infrastructures.

Cisco delivers ONE through a set of platform APIs, agents and controllers, and overlay network technologies. Cisco ONE works to complement current approaches to software-defined networking while encompassing the entire solution stack from transport to management and orchestration.

Cisco ONE lets customers drive programmability across multiple layers with a choice of protocols, industry standards, and usage-based deployment models. Beta trials and phased general availability are scheduled to begin the last quarter of 2012.

Marking Software-Defined Networks

We caught up with Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his take on Cisco's latest innovation. He told us software-defined networks have been all the rage for the last six months or so -- and we are still in the early stages.

He said Cisco had let the competition dictate the terms of engagement in some other spaces, like the application delivery controller market where F5 is dominating the mind share.

"Part of the Cisco message is really defining what software-defined networks are. They actually look at it all the way from the transport layer up to the management orchestration of virtual resources," Kerravala said. "So Cisco is drawing a line in the sand very early on and saying how to define it, setting the bar pretty high and making other vendors follow their lead or have to defend why their definition is not the same."

Cisco's OS Challenge

Cisco also announced One Platform Kit, or onePK, which provides APIs for developers across Cisco operating systems, which include Cisco IOS, IOS-XR, and NX-OS. Cisco also announced proof-of-concept controller software and proof-of-concept OpenFlow agent for Software...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Microsoft Rumored to Release Its Own RT Tablet Monday
A Microsoft-built, Windows 8 RT tablet will be introduced at a special event on Monday, according to Web-based rumors. The Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant has issued press invitations for an event on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, at which a "major announcement" will be made.

The rumors are coming from several Microsoft-watchers, which are citing sources with knowledge of the company.

ARM, x86 Tablets

While Microsoft has had great success manufacturing its Xbox gaming console and its own Zune media player, it has largely left manufacturing computing devices to others. Previous tablets running Microsoft OS have been made by such hardware makers as HP and Samsung. If Microsoft does enter the tablet market with its own device, it will inevitably be seen as directly competing with the category leader, Apple.

Assuming a Microsoft-made tablet running the RT version of Windows 8 is released, it will utilize an ARM processor, since RT is designed to run on ARM hardware. Tablets made by various manufacturers and running regular Windows 8 are expected to be released later this year, based on x86 processors.

A key argument in favor of Microsoft releasing its own tablet is the same one that has helped Apple achieve its huge tablet market share -- by making both hardware and software, the company can deliver better integration between the two. Google's Android, by contrast, has taken the previous Microsoft approach of letting others create the devices, and this has contributed to complaints of platform fragmentation.

By making sure that the tablet's software-hardware integration is solid, Microsoft would also be shoring up a major strategic emphasis behind Windows 8 -- that, with this platform, IT departments can choose tablets, laptops, or desktops without having to support different operating systems.

'Huge Direct Sales Force'

Apple has made great inroads into business markets with its iPad, a situation that...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Justice Department Antitrust Probe May Help Consumers
The Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation to determine whether Comcast and other cable television companies are illegally stifling competition from online video providers, such as Hulu and Netflix, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Justice and Comcast declined to comment. USA TODAY could not confirm the investigation.

The largest U.S. cable companies, including Comcast and Time Warner, limit the amount of data their customers can view from video services and charge extra when customers exceed those caps. Justice is investigating whether those limits put competing video services at a competitive disadvantage, whether cable companies favor their own content, and whether consumers are harmed, said the sources, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

While the investigation is still in its infancy, several industry experts weighed in on how it could change the scope of online video content.

Q: What are data caps?

A: Cable companies such as Comcast use data caps to limit the amount of some providers' video content that users watch online each month. If users exceed the limit, they are charged a fee.

Q: Why did Justice launch an investigation?

A: Cable companies may be using data caps to discourage consumers from using online video services such as Hulu and Netflix in hopes that they will stick to their subscriptions and continue the tradition of buying packages of channels instead of one program or channel offered by a separate provider.

Q: Is there evidence of that?

A: In March, Microsoft unveiled that Comcast, HBO GO and MLB.tv would be accessible on the Xbox system through Comcast-owned Xfinity. Comcast said that videos watched on those channels would not count against the data cap. This "policy gives its own service a privileged free ride on its own broadband network, though it charges bandwidth tolls...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Smartphone Software Glitch Can Drain Batteries
A new type of software glitch in smartphones called "no-sleep energy bugs" can entirely drain batteries while the phones are not in use, U.S. researchers say.

Because conserving battery power is critical for smartphones, the industry has adopted "an aggressive sleep policy," Y. Charlie Hu, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering, says.

Such aggressive strategies can backfire, he said.

Because various background operations need to be performed while the phone is idle or "sleeping" -- such as automatically updating e-mail by checking with the remote server -- smartphone manufacturers make application programming interfaces, or APIs, available to app developers.

The developers include the APIs in their apps to instruct the phone to stay awake long enough to perform necessary operations.

"Unfortunately, programmers are only human," Hu said. "They make mistakes when using these APIs, which leads to software bugs that mishandle power control, preventing the phone from engaging the sleep mode. As a result, the phone stays awake and drains the battery."

The researchers studied 187 Android applications using APIs that control power, and 42 were found to contain errors -- or bugs -- in their coding use of the APIs.

"You don't see any difference," Hu said. "You put it in your pocket and you think everything is fine. You take it out, and your battery is dead."

The researchers say they've developed a software tool that can examine apps to determine where no-sleep bugs might exist and will present it at a mobile technology conference in Britain later this month, a Purdue release said.

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Cameras Fit for a King -- or a Dad on Father's Day
Until recently, digital SLRs have been notoriously tough to focus during shooting -- despite their reputation for great video.

Yet the cameras are beloved by photographers-turned-video-enthusiasts, because the imaging chip in them is some 20 times larger than that found in a traditional video camera. DSLR video looks sharper, more colorful and cinematic than footage shot on a camcorder. And the cameras themselves are more compact, easier to tote and way less expensive than camcorders with comparable features.

However, once you started shooting a scene, there was no way to adjust the focus -- until now. A new crop of DSLRs from Sony and Nikon offer greatly improved auto-focusing. That's good news this Father's Day for shoppers thinking of getting Dad a camera. Or you could give Dad a rain check for the eagerly anticipated Canon Rebel T4i, which will be in stores come Tuesday.

A closer look:

Canon Rebel T4i. The newest and most innovative, Canon's just announced update to its Rebel lineup is both pricey ($849 for body only) and hard to get. Amazon and other e-tailers report limited supply.

The original Canon Rebel helped popularize DSLRs when the first model was released in 2003. It's been the best-selling DSLR since, according to technology research firm IDC. Later models since the T1i2 have featured video, first with 720 high-definition, and then full 1080p HD with 2010's T2i.

To focus those, you put your finger halfway down on the shutter to set it, then start recording by pressing the red record button on the back of the camera. But the recording could go out of focus if you moved your camera, your subject changed position, or another person entered the frame.

With the new Rebel, you no longer have to keep your finger on the focus button. Just move the camera while looking at the subject...

Sat, 16 Jun 12
Dell Outlines More Than $2B in Cuts Over Three Years
Computer maker Dell Inc. is planning to trim its expenses by more than $2 billion during the next three years as it tries to move into the more lucrative areas of technology.

Dell outlined its cost-cutting plans Wednesday, the day after the company committed to paying the first quarterly dividend in its 28-year history. The quarterly dividend of 8 cents per share will cost Dell more than $560 million a year.

The bulk of the projected savings will come from Dell's sales group, where the company plans to wring out about $800 million in expenses. Another $600 million in cuts are envisioned in Dell's factories and other parts of its supply chain. The remainder of the cost-cutting will be concentrated in service delivery ($400 million) and its general and administrative spending ($200 million).

As part of the belt-tightening, Dell expects to make fewer products. The company's management didn't identify which of its current products might be jettisoned.

The company, which is based in Round Rock, Texas, also didn't say whether it will lay off workers or eliminate jobs through attrition to save money. Wednesday's presentation for analysts and investors mentioned "consolidation" of sales support, a winnowing process that often leads to layoffs. Dell currently employs about 109,000 workers.

One of Dell's major rivals, Hewlett-Packard Co., announced plans last month to eliminate 27,000 jobs to help reduce its annual expenses by $3 billion to $3.5 billion by October 2014. HP's job cuts will affect about 8 percent of its workforce.

Like HP, Dell is trying diversify beyond the lower-margin business of making personal computers and plumb the more fertile territory of advising big companies and government agencies on how to manage their technology needs. As part of that process, HP and Dell hope to sell more software and computing equipment.

Dell is the second-largest U.S. PC maker after...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Customers Can Keep Current Plans, Verizon Says
As customers and analysts pore over Verizon Wireless's new rate plans, which take effect June 28, the company is emphasizing that current customers will not have to give up a plan that already works for them.

The current plans allowing allocation of voice minutes, shared between family members, will sunset this month in favor of fixed plans for all lines -- $40 per smartphone, $30 per feature phone, with unlimited calls and texting. The sharing aspect then switches to data, with users able to divvy up one gigabyte for $50, all the way up to $100 for 10 GB.

Doing the Math

An individual user still paying $30 for a grandfathered unlimited plan (which Verizon began phasing out last year) or $30 for 2 GB wouldn't want to switch unless he or she is a low data user and the $40 flat fee for unlimited talk is less than his or her current plan, for example $59.99 for 900 minutes or $69.99 for unlimited.

In the latter case, a $99.99 bill goes down to $89.99 with the lowest data plan added on for 1 GB. (The savings would be lost with any overage, at $15 per gigabyte, however.)

But a family with four smartphones now paying $120 for four data plans with 2 gigs each could see some savings if they collectively use less than 8 GB.

For example, they could pay $80 for 6 GB. Even with two overages, for $30, the data cost would be less than $120.

Verizon is stressing that no one is required to give up old plans, (at least not yet).

"We're not forcing anyone to move to the new plans," the company's top marketing executive, Steve Mesnick, told Computerworld after several analysts publicly criticized the plan as being too much of a sweeping change in a fluid market.

Our e-mails and...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Time To Offer Subscriptions Through iTunes Newsstand
In another historic milestone for electronic publishing, Time Inc. has announced that it will sell iPad subscriptions of all its publications through Apple's online Newsstand, including Time, People, Sports Illustrated, and InStyle. Until this point, Time was one of the most prominent publishers to resist offering such subscriptions.

The magazines have been sold in iPad editions almost since the popular tablet was launched, but only as single editions. Previously, readers could subscribe to specific print versions, and then validate those print subscriptions to get access to the electronic editions.

Apple's Terms

Initially, Time was among the publishers that had objected to Apple's terms, which stipulated that the technology giant would not share subscription information it obtained through the iTunes App Store with the publisher. That appeared to be a deal-breaker, since it broke the essential connection between the publisher and subscribers.

The apparent solution to this issue is that Time will adopt a method used by Conde Nast and Hearst, where subscribers are asked to optionally provide their information right after they purchase subscriptions in the apps. If they don't, they might be prompted again when they try to access certain features, such as bookmarking.

A survey from the Association of Magazine Media has indicated that 66 percent of tablet users would choose to share their personal information, if they were able to receive advertising that is more relevant to them.

There are some reports indicating that Apple may have softened its position, as it faces increasing competition in e-publications from Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble and others. Time told news media that "Apple understands our needs as publishers, and we feel confident we can manage our subscriber base well." The deal is the first major one by Laura Lang, who became CEO of Time in January.

90 Percent Renewal


Fri, 15 Jun 12
AT&T Preps Exclusive U.S. Launch of Sony Xperia ion
AT&T said Thursday that it will be exclusively launching Sony's latest 4G LTE Xperia smartphone June 24 at a price of $100 for customers signing two-year service contracts.

Called the Sony Xperia ion, Sony's Android smartphone features a 4.6-inch HD color screen, together with 12-megapixel front-facing and lower-resolution rear-facing cameras.

Devices such as the Sony Xperia ion, HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III are enabling a sea-change in personal photography that can change the way we picture our lives, said Jeff Howard, executive director of device product management at AT&T Mobility.

"The Xperia ion's 12-megapixel fast capture camera and quick launch feature is great when you need to catch life's unexpected moments," Howard wrote in a blog Thursday.

"It has a dedicated camera button and swiftly goes from standby to first camera shot in just 1.5 seconds, and then from shot-to-shot in less than a second, ensuring you don't miss a moment," Howard said.

Banking on Brand-Name Fame

Sony completed its acquisition of Ericsson's 50 percent share in their joint Sony-Ericsson handset venture in February. The Sony Xperia S -- the first smartphone from the newly created Sony Mobile Communications business to have the Sony brand name -- launched in the United Kingdom, Japan and other countries overseas, but wasn't picked up by any of the top wireless carriers in the U.S.

With the launch of the new Xperia ion, Sony hopes to capitalize on the good standing of the company's sterling brand name in the U.S. A recent consumer survey released by Strategy Analytics found the popularity of the Sony brand (29 percent) second only to Samsung (41 percent).

"In spite of its significant financial losses in its Consumer Electronics segment, Sony still has strong brand equity, which could serve as one of its greatest assets for a potential turnaround," said Jia Wu,...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Microsoft Reported Readying $1 Billion Yammer Acquisition
Google bought YouTube. Facebook bought Instagram. Now, some are saying Microsoft is about to buy Yammer.

Microsoft is in talks to acquire Yammer in what is reported to be a blockbuster deal. According to Bloomberg, Redmond plans to pay more than $1 billion for the enterprise social network.

Yammer promises to bring the power of social networking to the enterprise in a private and secure environment that is as easy to use as Facebook and Twitter, yet designed for business collaboration. Bloomberg is citing two anonymous "people familiar with the matter" in its report.

Could Microsoft Retain Yammer Talent?

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment. Shelley Risk at Yammer told us, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation, sorry." But we caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on the rumors. He told us Microsoft could be trying to compete with Oracle.

"If you really want to build social media into a series of products, then you buy a company that's doing it successfully, because you need that skillset. The challenge for Microsoft in buying a company like this is retaining the people. They've had a poor history with that," Enderle said.

"Microsoft tends to buy a company and get the technology but they haven't been able to keep the people. To make an acquisition like Yammer work, Microsoft would really need to retain the talent."

Targeting Oracle?

If recent market moves are any indicator, the rumor could be true. Microsoft and Yammer got a little cozier in April. That's when Yammer integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which enables updates from the CRM solution to appear as activity stories in the Yammer Ticker.

Dynamics users who have installed the plug-in can follow important records such as accounts, campaigns and opportunities. When changes to these records occur,...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Nokia Shakes Up Management, Will Lay Off 10,000
Nokia on Thursday laid out a turnaround plan that includes a management shakeup and massive layoffs as it focuses on its flagship Lumia device. But is it too little, too late for the once-dominant mobile handset maker?

Nokia plans to cut as many as 10,000 positions globally by the end of 2013, including closing its manufacturing operations in Salo, Finland, and research and development operations in Ulm, Germany, and Burnaby, Canada.

"These planned reductions are a difficult consequence of the intended actions we believe we must take to ensure Nokia's long-term competitive strength," said Stephen Elop, Nokia president and CEO. "We do not make plans that may impact our employees lightly, and as a company we will work tirelessly to ensure that those at risk are offered the support, options and advice necessary to find new opportunities."

Future Focus

Nokia's plan is to invest in products and experiences that make Lumia smartphones stand out and available to more consumers, improve the competitiveness and profitability of its feature phone business, and invest in location-based services as a competitive differentiator for Lumia.

The company recently announced Nokia City Lens, a navigation and visual search application. Additionally, the company plans to extend its mapping technology to multiple industries to strengthen the platform and generate new revenue. Of course, the mapping competition is fierce, with Google and Microsoft also vying for market share.

"We are increasing our focus on the products and services that our consumers value most while continuing to invest in the innovation that has always defined Nokia," he said. "However, we must reshape our operating model and ensure that we create a structure that can support our competitive ambitions."

Windows Phone Ties

Nokia plans to broaden the price range of Lumia and continuing to differentiate the Windows Phone with new materials and new technologies such as City...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Western Digital Launches High-Performance Routers for Home or Business
Western Digital is entering the home networking market with a line of high-performance routers that could appeal to small businesses as well as consumers. The My Net line of networking products utilizes FastTrack technology, which detects video and other media on the network and speeds it on a priority basis to Wi-Fi connected devices.

Executive vice president Jim Walsh said in a statement that the demands on the connected home have "grown exponentially," because members of a family can simultaneously watch movies, play games, and browse the Web on a variety of mobile, wireless devices.

'Unique Value Proposition'

The company cited a recent U.S. Digital Consumer Report from Nielsen that found about a third of consumers stream a movie or TV show through a subscription service such as Netflix or Hulu Plus.

Western Digital said that the My Net line, which it described as the industry's only full line of high-definition dual-band wireless N routers, automatically prioritizes video and other high-bandwidth content by utilizing real-time analysis to maximize the available bandwidth, creating a smooth HD 1080p quality experience.

We asked Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, if the new Western Digital line provided a solution to a bottleneck faced by homes or small businesses.

Greengart said it did, adding that the new product line was "interesting, because it does offer a unique value proposition" of offering Quality of Service prioritization for streaming media. He noted that, as "families use their Wi-Fi networks to stream more and more media, this use case is more frequently coming up."

Market for Small Businesses

Greengart said that a typical scenario involves someone backing up a large file to a wireless storage location, while another family member is trying to watch a HD movie.

"If you asked someone doing the backup if they were OK giving the transmission...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Quantum Computers May Boost Web Searches
Quantum computers could help speed up Internet searches by doing the huge amounts of mathematical computation necessary, researchers say.

Internet search engines use a lot of math to figure out exactly what qualifies as most relevant Web page to present as a result of a search, they say.

Google, for example, uses a page ranking algorithm rumored to be the largest numerical calculation carried out anywhere in the world.

With the Web growing explosively, researchers at the University of Southern California have proposed using quantum computers to speed up that process.

They wanted to see whether quantum computing could be used to run the Google algorithm faster, they said.

In current computers, bits encode data distinctly as either a one or a zero, whereas quantum computers use quantum bits or "qubits," which can encode a one and a zero at the same time.

Called superposition, this property could some day allow quantum computers to perform certain calculations much faster than traditional computers, the researchers said.

While there currently is no quantum computer in the world large enough to run Google's page ranking algorithm for the entire Web, the researchers generated models of the Web that simulated a few thousand Web pages.

Their simulations showed a quantum computer could, in principle, return the ranking of the most important pages in the Web faster than traditional computers, and that this quantum speedup would improve the more pages needed to be ranked, a USC release said Tuesday.

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Fliers' Satisfaction with Airlines Drops, Survey Finds
Passenger satisfaction with North America's airlines has declined slightly from a year ago, a new J.D. Power and Associates survey released today indicates.

After two consecutive years in which passengers said they were increasingly pleased with many aspects of service, their satisfaction with U.S. and Canadian airlines dropped this year to an average of 681 on a 1,000-point scale -- 2 points lower than last year.

"The airline industry is caught between trying to satisfy passengers who demand low prices, providing passengers with high-quality service and comfort, and contending with the economic realities of profitably operating an airline," says Stuart Greif, a J.D. Power and Associates vice president.

More than 13,500 passengers who flew on a major North American airline from May 2011 to April 2012 participated in the J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, which the marketing research firm conducts annually.

Satisfaction is based on performance in seven categories: the cost of tickets and fees; in-flight services; boarding, deplaning and baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservations.

J.D. Power says passenger satisfaction declined despite U.S. Transportation Department statistics that indicate airlines performed better in 2011 than in 2010. Statistics from the Transportation Department, which monitors and reports on airline performance, show that for last year, a higher percentage of planes arrived on time, there were fewer customer complaints, and the percentage of mishandled bags and bumped passengers had dropped.

Improved performance doesn't guarantee increased customer satisfaction, J.D. Power concludes, because passengers expect to board flights that are punctual and expect their bags to be handled properly.

Though overall satisfaction declined in this year's survey, satisfaction reached a six-year high, a 754 average, for low-cost airlines.

All five low-cost carriers in the survey -- JetBlue, Southwest, WestJet, AirTran and Frontier -- were given higher satisfaction scores by passengers than the seven traditional airlines surveyed. The seven were Alaska, Air...

Fri, 15 Jun 12
Review: New MacBook Pro Is 'Powerfully Robust'
You forget sometimes, with all the attention showered on the iPad and iPhone, that Apple's initial infatuation was with traditional computers.

The beautiful new MacBook Pro that the company introduced at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday shows Apple still fancies its first love.

This latest flagship is an object to be desired, a powerfully robust laptop in a 0.71-inch aluminum unibody design that is nearly as thin as the MacBook Air, though considerably wider. There is nothing skinny about the price, though. Add a faster processor, more generous storage and more memory to the Pro, which starts at $2,199, and the cost could swell well north of three grand.

In that sense, the computer has broader appeal to well-heeled creative professionals than to the mainstream for now. But the design suggests the direction Apple's portable Mac lineup is likely migrating and will almost certainly have an effect on rival computer makers, who watch Apple's every move. Ultrabooks, for one, seem to have been inspired by the MacBook Air, just as the Air inspired this more powerful Pro model.

Most users will drool over the new MacBook Pro's gorgeous low-glare 15.4-inch Retina display, the same screen technology found in the newest iPad and the later iPhones. In geeky terms, it has a screen resolution with more than 5 million pixels or picture elements, 3 million more dots than a high-definition television, and a pixel density of 220 pixels per inch. Text pops off the screen, icons are sharp, and color images are vivid and true to life -- even in bright sunshine. Some software, including Apple's own Aperture and Final Cut Pro X programs, have been updated to take advantage of the new display.

The computer, which I only had a day to try out, is zippy. It has the latest Core i7 quad-core processors,...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
With TecTiles, Samsung Hopes to Give NFC Sticker Power
Imagine handing a business contact a coded sticker and tapping it with your phone, allowing the quick transfer of contact information.

Or replacing your alarm clock with a bedside sticker that programs wake-up information to your phone.

Heading home from work but can't text or call while driving? Just touch the phone against the sticker on your dashboard and the phone does it for you.

Stick Around

Welcome to the world of TecTiles, an innovation Samsung hopes will drive its top-selling devices even further by ramping up use of near field communication as users fill their lives and homes with the stickers.

NFC has been around for almost a decade, but has yet to either become a household term or a convenience that a substantial number of mobile users enjoy.

That could change as the South Korean electronics giant prepares a North America roll-out of its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III.

With TecTiles stickers sold separately online -- a package of five sells for $14.99, with free shipping for orders over $49.99 -- or in major carriers' stores, along with the TecTiles app from Google Play, you can touch the phone to a sticker to launch applications, open a Web page, check in to places through Facebook or Foursquare, update your social status, dial pre-set phone numbers or send text messages.

A host or business proprietor can use the tag to allow visitors to connect to a Wi-Fi network, or post messages in different places that are accessible by tapping.

To prevent other TecTile users from changing your tag, you can check the Lock TecTile checkbox, but after that it's locked forever, even from the original user.

Strategy Analytics mobile industry analyst Neil Shah told us TecTiles could be a game-changer given Samsung's recent climb to the top of the global market as the No. 1 phone...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Avaya Launches Government Communications, Networking Services
Avaya has introduced Government Outsourcing Solutions (GovOS) -- hosted and managed services for unified communications, contact centers, and data networking. The services are designed to provide central management, priced on a per-user basis, that complies with the federal government's requirements for security and certification.

GovOS, introduced Tuesday, uses and combines Avaya's Aura unified communications applications, networking and services, which the company said were scalable from small remote offices to large organizations containing tens of thousands of employees. Communications apps include ones for mobile devices and for delivery of video.

Collaborative Cloud Framework

GovOS is built on Avaya's Collaborative Cloud Framework, which delivers collaboration services and apps through a single, scalable architecture provided through the company's cloud service providers.

The company has said that its Cloud Framework is differentiated from other company's cloud offerings because of its emphasis on lowering operational costs, and on improving clients' ability to compete by enabling rapid innovation. To deliver these values, Avaya says, the Framework offers choice and extensibility.

Chris Formant, president of Avaya Government Solutions, said in a statement that GovOS provides "a more affordable and secure way to migrate to new collaborative communications capabilities," by reducing costs and responding to various federal initiatives, such as support for telecommuters or for new outbound emergency notification programs.

The company said that delivering collaborative communications apps with GovOS over a highly secure cloud, or hybrid solutions involving the government's infrastructure, will save the average federal organization about 25 percent of its communications budget over a three-year period.

Avaya noted that custom cloud services it currently provides for a large, although unnamed federal agency for 90,000 users "scored 9.8 on the most recent federal IT dashboard."

Security Certification Standards

In one configuration of the service, private hosted services are available via the company's Government Services' cloud-based platform. In the other, it can be...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Acer Offers Highest Resolution Android Tablet Yet
Acer is taking pre-orders in the U.S. and Canada for a tablet with a 10.1-inch screen that approaches Apple's vaunted Retina Display screen on the iPad. The Iconia Tab A700, priced at $450, has a screen resolution of 1920x1200 pixels, compared with the iPad's 2048x1536 pixels.

According to Acer, the Iconia Tab A700 delivers a pixel density that is 55 percent higher than what other Android tablets equipped with 1280x800p screens currently offer -- including Acer's Iconia A510.

Acer also believes that business professionals will find plenty of things to like about the Iconia Tab A700. "We do not offer a docking station," Acer's spokesperson said. "However, the micro USB port, MicroSD card slot and HDMI allow for ample expansion capabilities for business customers."

Under the Hood

Available in silver or black, the Iconia Tab A700 runs Android 4, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, and is powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 mobile processor. The processor features a unique "4-plus-1" core configuration under which four cores function as the device's CPU, while the fifth core is dedicated to low-power background tasks, conserving power in the device's 9800-mAh battery.

According to Acer, the new tablet's fifth battery saver core enables the tablet to achieve up to 10.5 hours of video playback -- or nearly eight hours of Web surfing -- from a single battery charge.

Acer's new tablet is also equipped with Nvidia's 12-core GeForce graphics processor unit (GPU), 1 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage memory. The tablet also has a 5-megapixel front-facing HD camera as well as a 1-megapixel rear-facing camera for enabling video chat sessions.

On the wireless side, the Iconia Tab A700 integrates GPS capabilities, a Bluetooth 2.1 enhanced data rate chipset for connecting to headsets and printers, and a Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) radio. Sound is enhanced through the...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Just for .you: 1,930 Net Domains Sought
The organization that oversees Internet domain names revealed Wednesday who has applied for which generic top-level domains in what is expected to be the largest expansion in the history of the naming system.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, reports 1,930 top-level domain applications were received during the application period. Sixty-six are geographic name applications and 116 are for Internationalized Domain Names, or IDNs, for strings in scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic.

"We are standing at the cusp of a new era of online innovation," said Rod Beckstrom, president and CEO of ICANN. "That means new businesses, new marketing tools, new jobs, and new ways to link communities and share information."

Amazon vs. Google

Driving it home to the technology industry, Internet giants like Amazon and Google are hoping to get top-level domains like .earth and .you. Amazon and Google also both went after .movie, .game. and .wow.

Amazon is also zeroing in on domains like .book, .author, .read and .buy while Google is focusing on career-oriented domains like .phd, .prof, .cpa and .esq and family domains like .pet, .kids, .mom and baby.

ICANN Senior Vice President Kurt Pritz said the applications would now be subject to a public comment and objection period, and a rigorous, objective and independent evaluation system.

"A 60-day comment period begins today, allowing anyone in the world to submit comments on any application, and the evaluation panels will consider them," Pritz said. "If anyone objects to an application and believes they have the grounds to do so, they can file a formal objection to the application. And they will have seven months to do that."

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his thoughts on the new top-level name possibilities. He told us there are pros and cons.


Thu, 14 Jun 12
Facebook Releases Plug-In for WordPress
Nearly 17 percent of all Web sites use the WordPress open-source publishing platform. Now, Facebook is tapping into that installed base with a new plug-in for WordPress.

The plug-in requires no coding, is suited for mobile devices, and supports international use. Once installed, it allows content to be cross-posted to WordPress and the Facebook timeline and Pages managed by the same user. The plug-in is designed for self-hosted WordPress sites, as well as for WordPress VIP software-as-a-service clients.

WordPress Widgets

There are also a variety of WordPress widgets made possible by the plug-in, including an Activity Feed that shows readers the Likes, Comments, and other activities by friends on the site. WordPress users can get personalized suggestions for pages on Facebook the reader might enjoy, and there's an option for a Recommendations Bar that suggests pages that the reader might enjoy, based on the actions of that reader's friends on the WordPress site.

Of course, any Facebook integration wouldn't be worth its name if it didn't include a Like button, which, like Subscribe and Send buttons, can be customized. A Comments Box allows readers to make comments on WordPress, which can then be posted back to Facebook, and it includes tools for moderating and search engine optimization support.

The Comments Box uses what Facebook calls "social signals" to bring up the highest quality comments for each user. Comments show the most relevant remarks from friends and others who post, as well as the most liked or active discussion threads.

Sites that use WordPress include The New York Times and People Magazine, with more than 600 million unique visitors reading WordPress-based sites each month. In addition, nearly half the top 100 blogs on the Net use the publishing platform.

'Growing Infrastructure'

By releasing this integration with the world's most popular publishing platform, Facebook extends its reach once again. We...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Microsoft IE, Remote Desktop Patches Most Critical in June Security Release
Microsoft's revamped security initiatives are driving down the number of patches. June's Patch Tuesday saw seven bulletins issued to address 22 vulnerabilities. Three are rated critical and four will require a restart.

We caught up with Tyler Reguly, technical manager of security research and development at nCircle, to get his take on what's most important this month. He told us that out of the seven bulletins released on Tuesday, only two are worth discussing: the IE bulletin and a new update for Remote Desktop.

"It's probably a toss-up which one should be updated first. The decision ultimately depends on the your environment. Do your users run IE? Is RDP enabled on every system?" Reguly suggested. "We see the remaining bulletins every month and, honestly, I'm getting tired of them. Win32k.sys and .NET XBAPs are starting to appear as frequently as Internet Explorer and attack types like DLL preloading and elevation of privilege have become more common than remote code execution."

A Close Relative to MS12-020

We also caught up with Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle, who told us that the unexpected RDP patch appears to be a close relative of MS12-020 that was released in March.

Storms reminds that MS12-020 was a network-based vulnerability that could be exploited without authentication. Some security researchers called it "worm food." Tuesday's RDP bug looks like an equally serious bug that was probably uncovered in the process of testing the previous RDP bug fixes, he said.

"Given the serious nature of the first RDP bug, it's not surprising that there was a lot of extra testing going on," Storms said. "Since Tuesday's patch release is conspicuously missing an acknowledgment for the bug finder, it seems safe to assume it was found by Microsoft staff."

Attacks in the Wild

We asked Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, what his...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Digital Entertainment Spending Swell Seen
Even if the economic outlook is dreary, we want to be entertained. Over the next five years, growth in U.S. consumer spending on Internet access, movies, music, books and video games is expected to outpace that of the gross domestic product. That's the finding of a report out today from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Digital delivery of movies, music and other media is driving the spending swell, says PwC partner Stefanie Kane. "Entertainment is a little bit like comfort food it is really attractive even in a down economy," she says, "now that you can get it at the right time, price and place."

Spending on entertainment and media in the U.S. is expected to grow about 5% annually over the next five years, from an estimated $490 billion this year to more than $597 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, the GDP is expected to grow 4.8% over the five-year period. Global spending on entertainment is expected to hit $2.1 trillion.

As consumers glom onto all things digital -- spending for Internet access at home and on the go will hit $81.5 billion in 2016 -- advertisers are following. Digital spending in the U.S. will account for 30% of all entertainment spending in 2016, Kane says, up from 20% in 2011.

Music. We spent less on recorded music last year, but we doled out more for concerts. Total music spending will rise to $19.8 billion in 2016, up from $15.2 billion in 2011.

Movies. Box-office ticket sales and spending on digitally delivered movies will help Hollywood offset declines in sales of DVD and Blu-ray movie discs. Overall spending on movies will rise from $30 billion last year to $30.9 billion in 2016.

Television. Pay-TV subscriptions will continue to increase about 5.4% annually to $92.9 billion in 2016. TV advertising will also rise 6.7% to $98.5 billion.

Books. Increased sales...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Electronic Games Can Guide You to Improved Health
Back in 2009, Jane McGonigal achieved what she calls an "epic win": She spent a whole day out of bed. In January, she had another epic win, but this time it was running a half marathon.

The game developer and author credits SuperBetter, an online game she invented after she was laid low by a concussion. An additional 35,000 people have played the game in attempts to build resilience and reach health and wellness goals of their own -- losing weight, stopping smoking, recovering from surgery or injury, she says.

McGonigal is a keynote speaker at the eighth annual Games for Health conference, taking place in Boston through Thursday. She will introduce a SuperBetter app for iPhones and iPads -- and join hundreds of other developers and researchers looking for the next big thing in electronic games that are good for you.

These include so-called exergames (games such as Wii Fit and Dance, Dance Revolution, which are meant to get you moving), but also video games and apps that might help you eat better, manage chronic illness or recover from a crisis. There are even games to help your doctor learn new surgical techniques.

The quest for better health games is almost as old as video games themselves and filled with "a lot of false starts and a lot of products that are not that efficacious," says Ben Sawyer, organizer of the conference, which is part of a project sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Some games have failed initial scientific tests. In one recent study, researchers who tracked movement in kids given active Wii games were surprised to find those kids got no more daily exercise than those given traditional video games.

One possible explanation: The kids figured out they could play many games just by flicking controllers with their wrists, says Thomas Baranowski,...

Thu, 14 Jun 12
Cybersleuths Find Link Between Flame, Stuxnet Virus
Cybersecurity researchers said Monday that they'd found a link between the infrastructure-wrecking cyberweapon known as Stuxnet and the recently-discovered Flame virus -- possibly offering a new clue about the latter's origins.

Kaspersky Labs expert Alexander Gostev said in a blog post that his company had identified a similarity between a subset of the code used in Flame and another set of code used in an early version of Stuxnet, which is believed to have been aimed at Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Kaspersky had previously said that while Flame and Stuxnet spread in similar ways, the two worked off of different coding platforms.

"It turns out we were wrong," Gostev said. "Wrong, in that we believed Flame and Stuxnet were two unrelated projects."

Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity researcher at the University of Surrey in southern England, backed Kaspersky's analysis, saying that the similarity they identified "does suggest that very early on there was some sharing" between the viruses' authors.

The discovery of Stuxnet revolutionized the cybersecurity field because it appeared aimed at damaging centrifuges used in Iran's nuclear program -- the most high-profile example of malicious software being used to wreak havoc in the physical world.

Speculation as to the virus' authorship quickly settled around Israel or the United States, a theory which was given new credence by an article in The New York Times detailing how President Barack Obama ordered a wave of cyberattacks -- code-named Olympic Games -- which included unleashing Stuxnet against Iran's underground nuclear plant at Natanz.

The article also claimed that Israelis cooperated with the highly classified project.

The Times drew on anonymous sources, but its detailed description of conversations in the Oval Office among Obama, the vice president and the CIA director, was the most direct evidence to date of U.S. responsibility for Stuxnet.

The newspaper cited unnamed officials as denying that Flame was...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Study by comScore and Facebook Shows ROI on Ads
Forget General Motors; Facebook's ads really do bring a significant return on investment, says the world's biggest social media network.

After quieting down during its initial pubic offering on Wall Street and a turbulent few weeks after, which saw the $38 stock take a nosedive, Facebook on Tuesday released a report with the research firm comScore suggesting that 70 percent of campaigns on the Mark Zuckerberg-founded site ring up three times their return on investment.

That's based on a study of more than 60 campaigns of top brands by comScore's researchers. The report, The Power of Like 2, says campaigns achieve a monthly Amplification Ratio of "between 0.5 and 2.0, extending media exposure of Fans to Friends of Fans by between 50 percent and 200 percent."

Amplifying Effects

The report follows a similar study last year and refers to the trademark process of users linking to people, groups and companies through clicking "Like" on Facebook.

"Social media continues to emerge as an important marketing channel and major brand marketers are devoting more time and attention to understanding its impact on consumers," said Andrew Lipsman, comScore VP of Industry Analysis, in the report's press release. "The Power of Like research sheds new light on how brands are able to deliver earned and paid media at scale, amplify its effects from Fans to Friends of Fans, and understand how exposure to these media can drive the desired consumer behaviors, including online and in-store purchase."

The question of how cost-effective Facebook's paid ads are came to the fore just before the IPO in mid-May, when General Motors confirmed to the media that it was suspending its $10 million annual campaign while continuing to utilize free pages.

Rebecca Lieb, a digital marketing, advertising and media analyst with the Altimeter Group, told us the attachment of Facebook users to a product or...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
ITC Disallows Use of Google Patents in HTC vs. Apple Dispute
A judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that HTC will not be able to use five patents that the Taiwan-based smartphone maker obtained from Google as part of its pending complaint that Apple's iPhone violates the company's intellectual property rights.

ITC administrative law Judge Thomas Pender agreed with Apple's motion that HTC lacks the right to sue based on Google's former patents, HTC still has three other patents that it is seeking to use in its dispute before the ITC.

Pender "apparently concluded that HTC failed to acquire all substantial rights in the relevant patents," said FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller on Monday. "As a result, only three of eight patents remain in HTC's second ITC action against Apple."

HTC has the option of appealing Pender's decision before the full ITC, but Mueller said such appeals rarely succeed at this stage of an investigation.

"It's theoretically possible that Google could solve the problem by joining the investigation as an additional complainant," Mueller wrote. "If Google decided to join the investigation, this could result in further escalation between Apple and Google."

Too Little, Too Late

Mueller regards Pender's decision as "an embarrassment for Google" given that the developer of Android waited nearly "a year and a half after Apple's first patent lawsuits against HTC" before providing support that turned out to be a case of "too little, too late."

"If Google had assigned all substantial rights to HTC by truly transferring those patents to the Taiwanese company -- as opposed to imposing limitations and restrictions -- Apple's motion wouldn't have succeeded," Mueller said. "But Google's support for the Android ecosystem has clear limits."

HTC's complaint was filed in the wake of an ITC ruling late last year in favor of Apple under which HTC was prohibited from shipping handsets into the United States containing technology that...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Verizon Shifts to Shared-Data Pricing, with Unlimited Voice, Text
Verizon Wireless on Tuesday rolled out a new twist on data packages: Share Everything Plans. Verizon is suggesting that its model will change the way consumers purchase wireless services.

Share Everything Plans include unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text, video and picture messaging and a single data allowance for up to 10 Verizon Wireless devices. Verizon is also offering a Mobile Hotspot service on all the devices at no additional charge. The plans debut June 28 and are available to anyone.

Tami Erwin, vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, said "customers no longer have to think about their voice and message plans, because both are unlimited." But is there a catch? There may be.

The Plan Specs

Here's how it works: Customers select the devices they want on their Share Everything Plans account. Next, they choose a plan that includes unlimited minutes, unlimited messages and a shared data allowance that begins at 1 GB for $50.

The pricing essentially runs in $10 increments. For example, 2 GB is $60; 4 GB is $70; 6 GB is $80; 8 GB is $90; and 10 GB is $100. Customers can also add a tablet to their Share Everything Plans for an additional $10, with no long-term contract requirement. Customers can add notebooks and netbooks for $20 a month.

"When developing these plans, we first asked customers what they wanted in a wireless service plan. We also looked at the technology and how customers were using it to manage their lives. And last, we took into consideration the evolution of the technology and how customers would use wireless in the future," Erwin added. "Share Everything Plans are the outcome of that research."

Here's the (Potential) Catch

We talked to Weston Henderek, principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the new...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Microsoft Pitches Windows 8 for the Enterprise
Windows 8 will be ready for the enterprise. That's the word from Microsoft as it tries to build enthusiasm for companies to upgrade to the new operating system when it's released this fall.

That outlook was the theme of a keynote address by Microsoft executives at the company's TechEd North America, being held in Orlando.

"Windows 8 is enterprise-ready by design," said corporate Vice President Antoine Leblond, adding that it offers "new possibilities in mobility, productivity, and security."

He also described it as the "third leg" of Microsoft's key software products for businesses, with Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure being the other two.

Mobility, Management, Security

In tag-team fashion, Leblond and Linda Averett, director of program management for Windows, made the case before a large audience of IT professionals. They said that Windows 7 evolved from Windows 95 and from a world where mobile computing devices were not center stage, whereas Windows 8 was designed from the start with mobile in mind.

They also contended that the Metro user interface is easy and intuitive to use, whether with a finger in a touchscreen setting or with a keyboard and mouse. They demonstrated gestural commands and other features of the Metro interface, as well as several business applications designed for Metro.

Several subjects of keen interest to IT departments -- such as security, management and virtualization -- were also discussed. The Microsoft executives pointed out that with Windows 8, IT departments can choose a tablet, a laptop or a desktop.

Microsoft also announced this week updates for its Desktop Optimization Pack management tools, and the availability of a beta of its Advanced Group Policy Management 4.0 Service Pack 1.

Potential Issues

There are several potential issues that Microsoft is trying to overcome. One is that many companies upgraded from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 not that long...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Cisco, NetApp Team on FlexPod Sales Initiative
Cisco and NetApp are partnering on a global channel initiative to accelerate the market momentum of the FlexPod converged infrastructure technology. Bottom line: The FlexPod Premium Partner Framework will reward premium FlexPod channel partners for investing in sales and services.

Cisco and NetApp also announced that more than 1,000 customers have already deployed NetApp since it came to market in Nov. 2010. The FlexPod series combines computing, networking and storage solutions from Cisco and NetApp into a flexible, scalable, shared infrastructure. Nearly 100 percent of FlexPod solutions are now sold through Cisco-NetApp channel partners.

"Cisco and NetApp have heard from many of our joint channel partners that they want us to reduce complexity and streamline multi-vendor interactions, all while continuing to drive profitability," said Brian Allison, director of Data Center Go-To-Market Solutions at Cisco. "Through the FlexPod Premium Partner initiative we're rewarding partners for investing in elite sales, technical and services capabilities necessary to capture the rapidly growing market for converged infrastructure solutions."

The Future of Data Centers

The FlexPod Premium Partner Framework's stated goal is to recognize and Reward partners who have invested in developing FlexPod solution competencies. The partner framework aims to deliver more differentiation, streamline multi-vendor interactions, and drive more profitability.

The framework plans to do this by offering partners specific branding that can be leveraged in marketing and communications, as well as special listings in NetApp and Cisco partner locator tools and differentiated marketing and communications support.

The framework will also offer access to a FlexPod help desk that assists post-sales engineers in the plan, design and implementation of a production FlexPod stack, priority access to lab resources for technical training, demonstrations, and proof-of-concept efforts, and joint learning maps from Cisco and NetApp for sales, pre-sales and post-sales personnel.

"FlexPod continues to play a foundational role in the future of data centers and private...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Microsoft Files Patent for Emotion-Based Ads
You're home, watching a favorite TV program, and feeling kinda blue. You barely even notice that each commercial seems toned down, gentle, even reassuring -- the way a friend might temper their conversation to your state of mind. That vision of emotion-aware advertising could become a reality, if a new Microsoft patent application pans out.

The application, No. 20120143693, describes computer-based media that are "configured to target advertisements based on emotional state." In this projected reality, advertisers specify the "desired emotional states of users they intend to target with advertisements," as well as "emotional tags," which are then used to select ads with similar emotional tags.

'Advertisement Engine'

An "advertisement engine" would select the appropriate commercials to serve, apparently in real-time before a viewer's emotional state changes. Emotional states of users could be determined by obtaining and analyzing online activities, which "identify a tone associated with content that the user interacted with during the time period."

Online activity would include browsing history, Web page content, search queries, emails, IMs, and online games. Emotional states would be characterized as being positive, happy, confused, neutral, negative, angry, or sad, and they would be assigned a duration during which sympathetic ads would be delivered.

The system would also be able to discern the viewer's emotional state through facial expressions or gestures captured by an image capture device, or by speech patterns via an audio capture device. In other words, a device not unlike Microsoft's gestural game controller Kinect would be used to capture emotional indicators.

Since there are many projects under way to port Kinect to all manner of computers and mobile devices, this emotional reading could conceivably take place via virtually any kind of device for any kind of user, not just game players or Web surfers.


Under this system, advertisers could provide multiple versions of...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
New Imported Fake IDs Fool Best Security
Not even fake IDs are made in the USA anymore. Forgers from as far away as China are shipping fake driver's licenses and other IDs to the United States that can bypass even the newest electronic digital security systems, according to document security experts.

The new IDs are "an affront to the very sovereignty and dignity of the states that issue them," said David Huff, a senior special agent in enforcement for Virginia's Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control, which has investigated some of the frauds.

Most troubling to authorities is the sophistication of the forgeries: Digital holograms are replicated, PVC plastic identical to that in credit cards is used, and ink appearing only under ultraviolet light is stamped onto the cards.

Each of those manufacturing methods helps the IDs defeat security measures.

The overseas forgers are bold enough to sell their wares on Web sites. Anyone with an Internet connection and $75 to $200 can order a personalized ID card online from such companies as ID Chief. A buyer supplies a state, address, name and scanned photo and signature.

ID Chief, whose Web site is based in China, responds with a money-order request.

Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, said the ease with which people can get fake documents is alarming. "If the ID buyers are terrorists, the list of protected targets they can now access is a Homeland Security nightmare," he said.

In August 2011, federal prosecutors uncovered a counterfeiting ring of Chinese foreign nationals in Albuquerque forging New Mexico IDs for illegal Chinese immigrants. They ran ads in Chinese-language newspapers in New York offering false identification for $1,500.

The Web site Link-i-d, registered in Panama, sells ID cards it says will pass security scans and have accurate holograms and ultraviolet-sensitive ink. A $100 money order buys two cards.

Beyond underage drinking,...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Secure Your Digital Data Before It's Too Late
Whether vacation photos or important documents, most people consider their data irreplaceable. Yet most don't think creating a backup is a necessity -- until they've somehow lost the data.

Most users are negligent about regular backups, even though the risks of accidental deletion, viruses or hard drive failure are always there. If any of those happen -- and no backup has been created -- then year's worth of data, pictures and documents can disappear.

There are various methods for securing data. A complete backup makes a copy of all data and allows easy access to individual files. But this can be time consuming and take up a lot of space.

Another option is incremental backups. This means users only back up files that have changed or been created since the last backup. This can be done quickly, but has the disadvantage that, in the case of a complete data loss, mini backups are stored chronologically, meaning many have to be searched through if the desired file is a little older.

Differential security is a kind of compromise. Based on a full backup, all data that has changed since the last backup is also stored. To recreate a drive, users just need the last full backup and the last differential security set. But this can also take up a lot of storage space.

But that's all theory. In practice, backup software makes data security easy for users. Most people don't even the convoluted and confusing security routines any more.

Most private users will be safe just backing up documents like text files, images or tables they've made themselves, advises Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

There's usually a repair mechanism for an operating system. If there isn't, users can just install a new one, just like they would do with any lost applications.

Windows 7 has an integrated...

Wed, 13 Jun 12
Grandmas Become Internet Sensations
Online, they're known as the 3 Golden Sisters (3goldensisters.com), Los Angeles grandmas and overnight YouTube sensations.

Their video "Grandmas Watch Kim Kardashian Sex Tape" went viral, with more than 2.5 million views on YouTube and replays on Access Hollywood, Anderson Cooper and many local TV outlets. "Our lives changed overnight," says Mary Bartnicki, 80, eldest of the three sisters. "It's mind-boggling."

The sisters' online adventures began when Teresa Dahlquist, 70, read a book about how to produce a reality TV show and met with LMNO Productions (CBS' I Get That a Lot, Discovery's Unusual Suspects) to pitch a series about her plumber son.

LMNO president Eric Schotz hated the pitch but liked the presenter. Dahlquist mentioned that she had equally funny sisters, and after meeting the trio, he signed them on the spot. Now, he says, he is in discussions with four networks to have the women host a TV talk show. He hopes to have a deal wrapped up soon.

The sisters, formerly from the Bronx, N.Y., get together in this Los Angeles suburb every Wednesday for lunch and chat. Dahlquist's twin, Josie Cavaluzzi, 70, owns a hair salon nearby.

Because TV prefers to spotlight younger folks, Schotz says he decided to try to find an audience for the women online first, before meeting with networks. He started with a Web site and YouTube videos.

His staff taped the women talking about various things at Bartnicki's kitchen table. During one shoot, Cavaluzzi mentioned that salon customers were talking about the Kardashians and her infamous sex tape. The videographer pulled out a computer and asked the trio to watch, to get their reactions.

Two weeks later, the video was posted, and the women were collecting millions of online fans. Since then, Schotz has posted more videos of the women online, talking presidential politics, dating, Italian food and,...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
On-Top Samsung Says It Doesn't Need Rival Nokia
Five months ago, rumor had it that South Korean electronics giant Samsung was considering a takeover of struggling Canadian BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

Samsung quickly shot down that rumor, saying it was "not interested" and denying a published report that the company had met with RIM's then-CEO, Jim Balsillie, to discuss a deal.

Purely Speculative

Now, with Samsung coronated as the leading manufacturer of cell phones in the world based on first-quarter numbers, speculation has been made of a deal to buy Finnish phone giant Nokia, which it recently unseated as master of the mobile domain.

"Such reports are purely speculative and are not true," the company told Reuters.

The origin of the rumor is unclear, but the unconfirmed reports boosted Nokia's share price 6 percent last Friday. On Monday, those shares dropped 2 percent after Samsung shot down the rumor.

One analyst told us that if any merger made sense, it isn't Nokia and Samsung, but Nokia and RIM.

"The Nokia-Microsoft strategic partnership would benefit the most merging with RIM rather than Samsung," said wireless expert Kirk D. Parsons of J.D. Power and Associates.

"It's all speculative right now. Nokia-Microsoft would be the most logical choice, as Samsung is growing quite nicely without any help."

Samsung has soared to the top by riding the popularity wave of Google's Android operating system, now the world's top platform, making phones for all the top wireless carriers. Its Galaxy product line, including the Galaxy Nexus and the innovative "phablet" Galaxy Note -- is increasingly popular. Which makes the rumor that it would consider buying Nokia hard to believe from the start.

While some thriving companies buy competitors just to get them out of their hair -- as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg recently did with his billion-dollar Instagram acquisition -- Samsung has no reason to view Nokia as a threat, even with its...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Apple Unveils Retina Mac, New iOS, Upgraded Siri for iPad
A new version of Apple's iOS mobile platform. The first MacBook with a Retina Display. MacBook Airs with third-generation Intel Core chips. Those are some of the announcements made Monday by CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives at the Worldwide Developers Conference taking place this week in San Francisco.

The newest iOS, version 6, was the headliner, with 200 new features. Scott Forstall, senior vice president for iPhone software, told the gathered crowd of developers that the Siri voice agent in iOS has "been studying up and learning a lot more."

Siri, iOS, MacBook Pro

Siri will now have the ability to grab sports data from Yahoo, and integration with Yelp for restaurant information has been refined to include ratings and prices. There's also a new partnership with Rotten Tomatoes that will make movie trailers and reviews available, with searching by movie theater or by actor, among other options.

Siri can also now run applications, when voice-commanded to do so, and users can generate Tweets by voice. Siri is also going automotive, with availability on some models of BMW, Audi, Honda and other lines. And, in a move that developers and users have waited for, Siri will now be available on the iPad.

iOS will also now include an embedded integration with Facebook, which offers an iTunes tie-in so that users can "like" apps, music, and movies. Events in Facebook's calendar will automatically appear in iPhone's calendar, and a user can post to Facebook from a variety of apps, after a single sign-on.

A new Maps app will offer navigation and crowd-sourced traffic information, and a new Passbook will store all boarding passes, loyalty cards and coupons.

The next-generation MacBook Pro now sports an Air-thin profile and a 15.4-inch Retina Display with a breathtaking 2880x1800 resolution. In addition, the Pro's processor is being upped to...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Android Activations Over 900,000 Per Day
Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android mobile platform division, quashed rumors he plans to leave Google and advised his Twitter followers on Sunday that more than 900,000 Android devices are being activated each day -- up from 850,000 on Feb. 27. However, the pace of growth for Android, which powers smartphones, media tablets, e-reading devices and other gadgets, is clearly slowing.

According to Rubin's Twitter log, more than 700,000 Android devices were being activated every day as of Dec. 20, 2011 -- a hefty hike from the 500,000 that were being powered up in late June of last year. By contrast, Google's daily Android phone activations stood at a mere 300,000 in December 2010.

Based on the mobile platform's slowing growth over the past five months, it would seem that Google won't see 1 million Android devices being activated each day until sometime next year. We asked Al Hilwa, director of Applications Software Development at IDC, for his assessment of the slowdown in Android's activation growth so far this year.

"Android's activation numbers are still pretty big," Hilwa said. "And we are bound to see some flattening of smartphone adoption as we cross the 50 percent mark of smartphone penetration in some geographies," he said.

Android's Tablet Shipment Shortfall

One of the biggest obstacles to Android's device activation growth is Apple's domination of the global tablet market. The iconic device maker shipped 11.8 million devices in the first quarter of this year -- equivalent to a 65 percent share, according to ABI Research.

By contrast, Samsung's 1.1 million Android-based Galaxy tablet shipments were less than 10 percent of Apple's iPad sales. What's more, sales of the Kindle Fire, which has Android buried under Amazon's custom interface, fizzled during the three months after last year's Kindle Fire holiday shopping season spree.

"Apple and Samsung...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Datameer Version 2.0 Aims to Democratize Data Analytics
Datameer on Monday offered a new release of its Big Data analytics solution. Datameer 2.0 works to combine data integration, analytics and visualization of any data type, size or source, into a single user-friendly location.

One of the biggest advances in Datameer 2.0 brings Apache Hadoop right to the desktop. Hadoop is natively embedded in two of three new editions of the application. Datameer Personal runs on a single desktop. Datameer Workgroup runs on a single server. Meanwhile, Datameer Enterprise scales to thousands of nodes and runs on any Hadoop distribution.

"Our goal is to really democratize data analytics by giving our users the tools they need to make data-driven decisions faster," said Stefan Groschupf, CEO of Datameer. "By bypassing the traditional, slow, multi-step process of creating static schemas, we enable users to get right to analyzing and visualizing data without needing to rely on IT."

Increasing Speed and Analysis

If that's true, Datameer could win itself a number of new customers. Beyond the Hadoop on the desktop play, Datameer 2.0 also offers new features like a Business Infographics Designer, an enhanced user interface, support for more data sources, and extended OS and device support.

Datameer 2.0 combines a spreadsheet interface with the unlimited data storage and compute powers of Hadoop. That, the company said, empowers business users to improve company performance, better understand customer behavior, and optimize business processes. And that's not just hype, according to Mark Smith, CEO and chief research officer at Ventana Research.

"The need to analyze more data and increase the speed of analysis are the top two demands of big data technologies, which is what Datameer 2.0 is addressing with its newest release," Smith said. "Organizations have been lacking intuitive visualizations of big data from Hadoop, and Datameer's new Business Infographics provide a major leap forward in revolutionizing analytics...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Lenovo Offers Pay-as-You-Go BroadBand Service for ThinkPads
If you need temporary Net broadband access while traveling and have the right model of ThinkPad, Lenovo has a broadband plan for you. On Monday, the computer maker introduced a no-contract, pay-as-you-go mobile broadband service called Lenovo Mobile Access.

The service, enabled by a cloud-based platform from Macheen Inc., is embedded in select ThinkPad models that have a 3G module. It's available on those models via one-click access, and is up and running now in the U.S. and nine European countries.

'Flexible' Solution

Dilip Bhatia, vice president and general manager of Lenovo's ThinkPad Business Unit, said in a statement that the company wanted "to create a flexible mobile broadband solution that would be unparalleled in its ability to help business users stay connected and working."

Users of the service only need to pay for the service time they use, with a Time Pass that offers connectivity for as little as $1.95 for a half-hour and up to 30 MB of data, or $8.95 for a day and up to 200 MB. The company said this option was targeted at users who need broadband access when traveling.

The company said that it didn't expect the service to necessarily replace most traditional plans or Wi-Fi hot spots, but that it could help business users who need temporary access while traveling.

For regular connectivity, monthly plans are available in increments of 200 MB, 2 GB and 6 GB, with an automatic renewal option. Payment options through a single corporate office are also available.

Streamline Device Management

Lenovo said it has designed the service to streamline device management, increase security and productivity for mobile workers, and reduce operational costs. As one example, the company noted that all ThinkPad laptops with the embedded broadband connectivity have Mobile Access pre-activated in the default configuration.

Using Web-based tools for policy management, IT administrators can customize permissions...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Tablet Use Soaring, Particularly for Video, comScore Finds
Tablets have reached a critical mass in the U.S. -- and have done so quickly. According to comScore, one in every four smartphone owners have used tablets in the past three months.

Tablet users are also nearly three times more likely to watch video on their device compared with smartphone users, with one in every 10 tablet users viewing video content almost daily on their device, comScore says.

"Tablets are one of the most rapidly adopted consumer technologies in history and are poised to fundamentally disrupt the way people engage with the digital world, both on-the-go and perhaps most notably, in the home," said Mark Donovan, comScore's senior vice president of Mobile. "It's not surprising to see that once consumers get their hands on their first tablet, they are using them for any number of media habits, including TV viewing."

Tablets Users Older, More Affluent

Just years after the iPad launched, tablet adoption has exploded. In April 2012, 16.5 percent of mobile phone subscribers used a tablet, representing an increase of 11.8 percentage points in the past year, according to comScore. About 25 percent of smartphone users and 10.4 percent of feature-phone subscribers use tablets.

Demographic analysis of mobile device audiences by comScore indicates that tablet and smartphone audiences closely resemble one another in terms of gender composition, with tablet users just slightly more likely to be female than smartphone users. However, the report also reveals that tablet users skewed noticeably older than smartphone users.

Tablet users also skewed toward upper-income households, which comScore said is likely a function of the high price point of these devices, still considered a luxury good to many consumers. Nearly three in five tablet users resided in households with income of $75,000 or greater, compared with half of smartphone users.

The iPad Factor

According to comScore, not only were tablet users...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Prepaid Wireless Competition Heats Up
Verizon Wireless, AT&T and other major wireless carriers are focusing on a class of customers they once largely ignored: bargain hunters with a fear of commitment.

With the market for two-year-contract phones saturated, large carriers are marketing aggressively to those who seek to prepay for minutes and data without a contract.

Smaller carriers that specialize in no-contract plans are stepping up to the competitive pressures with better devices and faster networks. Cricket and Virgin Mobile USA both announced in the past week that they will start selling no-contract iPhone 4 smartphones later this month.

Major carriers "are focusing on prepaid as a growth engine," says analyst John Weber of IDC. The research firm estimates the prepaid market will grow 7.4% a year on average until 2016.

The marketing shift comes as growth plateaus among customers who lock in long-term contracts in return for phone subsidies. The number of those customers fell in the first three months of this year vs. the fourth quarter, the first quarter-over-quarter decline in industry history, says research firm Recon Analytics.

Recent moves in the prepaid market:

Verizon Wireless launched a prepaid plan in April with unlimited voice and text and 1 gigabyte of data for $80 on its 3G network.

AT&T started selling in April a new plan that offers 1 GB of data for $25 a month, doubling the data amount offered in previous prepaid plans.

T-Mobile added a no-contract plan last year that lets customers use any phone in its lineup.

Sprint said in April that its two prepaid service subsidiaries, Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile, will deliver voice and data on WiMax, its fastest network.

Such moves "will further tip the scales in the (large) carriers' favor," says Deepa Karthikeyan, an analyst at Current Analysis.

But smaller prepaid-plan providers aren't standing pat. Cricket, a prepaid brand owned by Leap Wireless, launched Muve...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Feds Unveil 'Blueprint' To Curb Distracted Driving
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Thursday announced a national distracted-driving initiative that pushes 11 states without laws against the deadly practice to enact them. He also urged Congress to adopt a national ban on texting while driving.

"I don't have a bill to hand to Congress," LaHood said. "I'll leave it up to them. I'd be for a national ban, yeah."

LaHood's "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" also challenges automakers to adopt guidelines for technology to reduce the distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles. It asks driver-education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novices about distraction and its consequences.

The initiative comes one day after a Massachusetts teenager was sentenced to a year in jail for a fatal traffic crash that happened while he was texting. Aaron Deveau of Haverhill was sentenced for the February 2011 crash that took the life of Donald Bowley, 55, and seriously injured Bowley's girlfriend.

It also came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results of an anonymous national survey showing that 58% of high school seniors said they had texted or e-mailed while driving in the past 30 days. Overall, one in three teens had done so, according to the 2011 survey of 15,424 high schoolers.

LaHood's plan expands to two new states a federal pilot program that has succeeded in Syracuse, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn.

California and Delaware will receive $2.4 million to test the effectiveness of police crackdowns and public education campaigns in reducing distracted driving. The efforts last year spurred a 72% drop in texting while driving in Hartford and a 32% decrease in Syracuse, LaHood said.

"Last year, Syracuse and Hartford demonstrated the effectiveness of different techniques for enforcing state handheld cellphone bans," said Barbara Harsha executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Distracted driving has been the highest-profile crusade...

Tue, 12 Jun 12
Google Wins Partial Repeal of Swiss Privacy Ruling
Switzerland's supreme court has ruled that Google doesn't need to be perfect when it comes to privacy. The Internet giant has won a partial repeal of a lower court decision that required the company to guarantee absolute anonymity for people pictured in its popular Street View service.

"It must be accepted that up to a maximum of 1 percent of the images uploaded are insufficiently anonymized," the Swiss Federal Tribunal said in a statement Friday.

The court said Google still has to make it easy for people to have their images manually blurred, and must ensure total anonymity in sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals, women's shelters and courts, where skin color and clothing must also be obscured.

The Lausanne-based tribunal additionally upheld part of the Federal Administrative Court's ruling last year that Google must stop automatically publishing pictures of private gardens and courtyards taken with cameras positioned higher than 2 meters (6 1/2 feet).

Google welcomed the supreme court verdict but left open whether it would now withdraw its previous threat to remove all pictures of Switzerland from Street View.

"We will now look at the ruling closely, discuss it with the federal data protection commissioner and examine what options are available," said Daniel Schoenberger, Google's legal chief for Switzerland.

Switzerland's privacy watchdog had wanted an absolute guarantee of anonymity in Street View, an online service that allows users to take virtual tours of cities and towns in dozens of countries around the world.

During a court hearing last year the data protection commissioner Hanspeter Thuer used a live version of Street View to demonstrate examples where the software failed to obscure faces of adults and children in public -- including outside the court itself -- and even peered into private homes.

While data protection laws in Switzerland are particularly strict, Google has faced privacy concerns...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
IBM Updates Its Security AppScan for Mobile
Securing mobile devices is one of the biggest headaches faced by IT departments. Earlier this week, IBM announced updated software designed to help organizations create more secure mobile applications.

IBM's updated version of its Security AppScan portfolio provides what the company calls "a robust application development security solution," in that it enables clients to conduct security testing throughout an application's development lifecycle. The new release can now conduct static application security testing on native Android apps.

'Next Step'

Marc van Zadelhoff, vice president of Strategy and Product Management for IBM Security Systems, said in a statement that "providing clients with the ability to scan mobile applications for vulnerabilities," including apps developed either in-house or outsourced, "is the next step of our mobile strategy."

Prior to the update, IBM said, companies that use IBM's software would have to send mobile apps to an off-site vendor to test for vulnerabilities.

Other new capabilities in the new release include integration with IBM's QRadar Security Intelligence Platform, such that additional information becomes available about vulnerabilities when an app is moved into production. QRadar compares app vulnerabilities with user and network activity, and thus can automatically lower the priority score as it relates to security.

The new release also includes a Cross Site Scripting (XSS) analyzer, whose learning mode can help to evaluate millions of potential tests from 20 core tests or less. The company said that the new analyzer finds more XSS security issues than any previous release of AppScan. New, predefined but customizable templates can help app development teams to develop a rule set for their security teams.

19 Percent Increase

There are also new static analysis capabilities to help companies adopt best practices for security, through a simplified on-boarding of apps and through enabling non-security specialists to test faster than earlier releases of AppScan allowed.

The updated AppScan also provides integration...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
Facebook Offers 600 Apps in New Store, Free for Now
The mobile market is all about the apps these days, and Facebook, seeking to lengthen the amount of time mobile users spend on the world's biggest social network, is increasing its offerings well beyond Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Beginning today, Facebook will offer mobile apps for Android and iOS as well as a range of social apps and more games.

'Personalized Recommendations'

"The App Center features mobile and web apps, such as Draw Something, Pinterest, and Nike+ GPS, and new apps including Jetpack Joyride, Ghosts of Mistwood, and Ghost Recon Commander," wrote Matt Wyndowe on Facebook's Newsroom page.

"The App Center gives you personalized recommendations, and lets you browse the apps your friends use. It only lists high-quality apps, based on feedback from people who use the app."

While visiting Facebook on a computer, users can send applications they like to their mobile devices. Apps can be sorted by Facebook's recommendations for games and apps, by friends' usage or by newness.

Like everything else on Facebook, the App Center will roll out slowly among U.S. users over the next few weeks, with an initial 600 apps -- all of them gratis. That's nowhere near the ballpark of Apple's nearly half-million offerings in the App Store, Android's more than 400,000 or even the 100,000-plus in the Windows Phone Marketplace. But the idea is to add the ability to get apps without leaving Facebook as well as those that work within the network.

"The goal here is to consistently improve user stickiness to the Facebook platform," said analyst Neil Shah of Strategy Analytics.

"The more time users spend on Facebook, the more the opportunities for the social advertising giant to boost up its in-app ads display."

New Revenue Opportunity

Giving away the initial offerings for free is a classic strategy that paves the way for eventual paid apps, including those that generate...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
Judge Throws Apple-Motorola Patent Claims Out of Court
A judge has dismissed claims and counterclaims by Apple and Motorola Mobility over patent infringement, canceling their jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois just days before it was scheduled to begin.

In a preliminary opinion on the lawsuits, Judge Richard Posner said both sides in the patent dispute over smartphone and tablet technology should have their claims dismissed with prejudice because neither party had established a right to relief. The finding would prevent the two sides from bringing a similar suit in the future.

Posner said, however, that he was delaying entry of final judgment until he had prepared a full opinion.

After disallowing two of Apple's patent claims on May 22, Posner tentatively concluded that Apple's admissible evidence of damages with respect to the remaining patents under dispute did not "create a genuine issue of material fact" that would enable Apple's remaining claims to withstand Motorola Mobility's motion for summary judgment.

"I likewise tentatively conclude that the admissible evidence of damages with respect to the alleged infringement by Apple of Motorola's 898 patent also fails to create a genuine issue of material fact," Posner wrote in the preliminary order issued Thursday.

Google's Long-Term Dilemma

Posner said the imposition of injunctive relief would impose disproportionate costs on the alleged patent infringer as well as distribute disproportionate benefits to the patent holder. Such a decision, he wrote, would also "be contrary to the public interest."

"But all this requires a fuller explanation, which I will endeavor to provide in my opinion," Posner said. "I expect to issue it within a week."

Google cleared all regulatory hurdles for closing its acquisition of Motorola Mobility last month under a $12.5 billion offer tendered last year. With respect to Google's huge investment in Motorola and its ambitions to stop Apple's intellectual-property assertions against...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
CRM Idol Showcases Smaller, Innovative Firms
You're familiar with American Idol, but how about CRM Idol? CRM Idol is an annual contest that offers small businesses in the CRM industry an opportunity to become "tech famous."

CRM Idol contestants have the chance to showcase their products in front of some of the most influential luminaries, power brokers and thought leaders in the CRM and Social CRM spaces. CRM Idol just named Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo and author of Revenue Disruption, as a final-round judge.

"CRM Idol has been a bellwether for innovation and 'next big things' in the CRM and Social CRM spaces since it was founded," Fernandez said. "Startups and small businesses are full of big ideas, and this event gives them an invaluable platform with which to gain visibility."

Favoring Social CRM

Fernandez will serve as an extended judge, joining other industry influencers, media, practitioners and vendors in selecting final-round winners. Extended judges make up half the final vote for CRM Idol. They also serve as mentors to the contestants in preparing for the competition.

Paul Greenberg founded CRM Idol in 2011, which is a Web-based contest. Contestants have already been chosen this year and briefings will be scheduled over the next several weeks. Finalists then must submit videos about their product, and winners are announced Dec. 5.

We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on the value of a contest like CRM Idol. He told us it's an interesting concept, especially given the push toward Social CRM and the innovation among smaller CRM companies.

"By having a service that helps people select new CRM technologies and tying it to a social engine, it begs the opportunity to actually favor CRM products that are socially oriented," Enderle said. "This contest is a way to put a focus on the...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
App Developers Increasingly Choose iOS over Android
The vast majority of mobile applications are being developed for Apple's iOS platform -- and the percentage is rising. That's the takeaway from a new report by Flurry Analytics, which shows that the number of app project starts for Google's Android is less than half those for iOS.

The report found that 69 percent of application development projects in the first quarter of this year were for Apple's OS, and 31 percent for Android. The percentage of apps for iOS has increased by 6 percent from the same period last year.

Apple's Advantages

Android's percentage has also increased slightly, topping 30 percent for the first time in this new report. The previous high-level mark for Android in Flurry's reports was 27 percent last quarter. In the last five quarters, about 63 percent to 75 percent of application project starts have been for iOS.

The findings come as developers for the two platforms head out later this month to their respective annual developer conferences -- the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference and Google I/O.

Flurry Analytics provides several reasons for Apple's huge advantage in app development. First, iOS apps work on both iPhone and iPads.

"Apple offers the most compelling 'build once, run anywhere' value proposition in the market today, delivering maximum consumer reach to developers for minimal cost," Flurry said

And, of course, the iPad remains overwhelmingly dominant in the tablet category. Flurry's analysis shows the iPad with 88 percent of the market. The Samsung Galaxy Tab takes a distant second at 9 percent, with Amazon's Kindle Fire at 3 percent.

There's also the fragmentation in the Android market, which Flurry predicts will increase because of device and firmware differences.

Android Fragmentation

In terms of devices, the company noted that 17 of the top 20 Android handsets have market shares of 6 percent or less, and...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
Bing Adds Britannica Online Results to Search
Google may be incorporating restaurant reviews from its Zagat acquisition into its search results, but Bing is looking to one-up its search engine rival by signing Encyclopedia Britannica to the content mix.

Microsoft just announced a deal with the venerable encyclopedia brand that will add entries from its references to the body of Bing. Britannica Online answers will show up directly on the Bing search results page.

"The answer provides a quick overview of the subject, a thumbnail image, and useful facts and figures making it easier than ever to get trusted content in search," said Franco Salvetti, principal development lead for Bing, on Microsoft's Search Blog. "We also pull in direct links to other trusted sources."

Better Answers

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the Bing-Britannica Online tie up and how it could affect search. He told us that in the quest to provide better "answers" -- and not links -- this is another structured and trusted data provider for Bing.

"There's an analogy to what Google is doing with its 'Knowledge Graph' results in the right column. However, Google's module is compiled from, often, multiple sources and generate additional search results," Sterling said.

"Britannica as a brand may still have some value to certain groups of people. But its brand has been substantially diluted over the past decade as the Internet has grown to almost entirely replace traditional encyclopedias as a source of information. It's unlikely that these new results will have any significant impact on usage of Bing. However, it's a nice addition of a useful data partner."

Bing's Battle

According to comScore's latest numbers, Google still leads the search market charge with 66.2 percent market share. Google is followed by Microsoft Sites, which tally a 15.2 percent market share. Yahoo Sites garnered...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
Gamemakers Flip Focus to Multiple Screens at E3
If the gaming industry agreed on one idea at [the] Electronic Entertainment Expo, it's that playing video games on just one screen is no longer enough.

The top three publishers -- Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony -- each focused on new ways to spread games and other content across several screens at the gaming industry's annual trade show in downtown Los Angeles.

While the publishers' systems rely on the same premise, namely using more screens to access more content, each is achieving multi-screen functionality through different means: Microsoft is tapping into existing phones and tablets; Sony is depending on its PlayStation Vita handheld device; and Nintendo is coupling an iPad-like controller with its new Wii U console.

"I don't know who has the best approach," said Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. "I kind of like Microsoft's at this point, but it's going to be whatever is easiest, and then I think they'll all get it right."

Microsoft Corp. surprised E3 attendees Monday by unveiling software called Xbox SmartGlass that will allow Xbox 360 users to stream content to their smartphones, tablets and PCs. The app was demonstrated through such actions as turning a smartphone into a remote used to browse the Web and transforming a tablet into a map for the new game "Ascend: New Gods."

"I think you're going to see these persistent entertainment experiences show up all the time," said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios. "You're really going to start blurring where I'm playing to what I'm playing."

Sony Corp. continued to build upon the "cross-play" functionality of its PlayStation 3 console and high-definition Vita handheld device. In one example on the E3 show floor with the platform game "LittleBigPlanet 2," one player tapped the Vita screen to drop eggs into the tops of chutes,...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
CaringBridge: 15 Years of Connecting Caregivers
Fifteen years ago, before there was a Facebook, Twitter or even MySpace, Sona Mehring turned to social networking to get the word out about the challenging health condition of a close friend's new baby.

Brighid Swanson was born almost three months early to JoAnn Hardeggar and Darrin Swanson. Mehring, then a Web site designer in Eagan, Minn., decided to create a site to post progress reports about the baby.

During the baby's brief life -- she died after nine days -- "I had this incredible experience of being able to bring these caring social networks together for my friend and the baby," Mehring says.

Today, Brighid's legacy lives on in CaringBridge, the not-for-profit site Mehring launched in 1997 so others can easily create private Web pages during a medical crisis.

Adding a New Service

Since its inception, more than 400,000 personal CaringBridge pages have been created. Every day, 500,000 people visit the site, which today celebrates its birthday and branches out with a new SupportPlanner feature.

The service gives users a place to "coordinate care and organize helpful tasks" -- making and bringing meals, providing child care during appointment times, caring for pets, or doing household chores.

CaringBridge is also unveiling a redesigned Web site, which features a new "Amplifier Hub" to encourage and support volunteer efforts.

The site, which does not accept ads, is supported largely by individual donations, Mehring says.

About 8% of its budget comes from foundations and in-kind gifts.

CarePages, a similar health-focused social network that launched in 2000, does accept advertisements.

Both "provide a good service in that they enable the loved ones or caregiver to update the site once to tell a lot of people who care what's going on," says Lee Aase, director of the Mayo Clinic's Center for Social Media.

"It really does help relieve a burden" of constantly having to call or text,...

Sat, 9 Jun 12
Arlington Cemetery App To Help Pinpoint Grave Sites
Arlington National Cemetery is the first national burial site to go digital 4G. A smartphone app due out in the fall will tap into the power of GPS technology and help visitors navigate through the more than 250,000 graves at Arlington, providing military-grade accuracy.

"All we need is better 3G or 4G coverage in the cemetery, and it's coming," says Army Maj. Nicholas Miller, chief information officer at Arlington in Northern Virginia.

The idea may catch on: The Department of Veterans Affairs, which manages 131 national cemeteries, is considering a similar system, Arlington spokeswoman Jennifer Lynch says.

The system is a first for any federal cemetery. It is a byproduct of Arlington's effort to move on from a mismanagement scandal that broke two years ago. An Army Inspector General investigation reported double-booked grave sites, graves with no headstones, unidentified urns dumped in a mass grave and millions of dollars wasted on information management systems.

Miller demonstrated a beta version of the app, typing in the name of Frank Buckles, the last surviving veteran of World War I, who died at 110 and was buried at Arlington last year. Front and back photos of Buckles' gravestone appear on Miller's iPhone, then a yellow dot shows the exact location on a map.

The system also has an online component allowing anyone with Internet access to view any grave site, for "virtual visits and better planning of their trip" to Washington, says Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who chairs the subcommittee on contracting oversight that investigated the scandal and recommended solutions.

Democrat McCaskill says she urged the Army two years ago to use combat technology to "not only fix some of the heartbreak" at Arlington but to "bring this cemetery, with the geospatial tools that you have, closer to people across America and the world."

"That's exactly what they've done," she...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Microsoft Reportedly Shuts Windows on HTC for Tablets
With such a tiny share of the mobile market, it might seem natural for Microsoft to look for partners everywhere it can.

In the tablet market, the software giant recently unveiled products made by Asus, Acer, Toshiba and Samsung and is likely to work with Dell as well.

But if a published report is correct, HTC won't get a piece of the action because Microsoft is worried the struggling Taiwanese manufacturer won't be able to deliver.

Short on Chips

Bloomberg News cited the company's faltering stock price, plummeting 68 percent over the past year, lowered second-quarter earnings projections and processor chip shortages in its report based on unnamed sources that HTC would not have access to Windows 8 software for a tablet.

"HTC is a tier 2 or tier 3 player in the media tablet market," said Jeff Orr, research group director for mobile devices at ABI Research. "It hasn't offered a highly competitive Android offering and has limited distribution through U.S. mobile network carriers."

Microsoft and HTC, like almost every other tech company, share the goal of trying to knock Apple off its pedestal as the king of smartphones and tablets.

But Apple has made HTC's life particularly miserable, filing a succession of lawsuits claiming patent infringement and trying to block it from selling its Android-based phones in the U.S., most recently targeting the One X when it was released by AT&T.

A June report from comScore showed that HTC's share of the important U.S. mobile market is just 6 percent as of April, down slightly from 6.4 percent in January.

Ahead of HTC were Motorola at 12.5 percent, Apple at 14.4 percent, LG at 19.2 percent and Samsung, now the king of mobile phones, at 25.5 percent. The comScore report said 107 million people now own smartphones in the U.S.

Global numbers are also discouraging. HTC's market share...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Touchscreens with Actual Typing Keys
However responsive they are, virtual keyboards lack one key facet -- the feel of the keys that touch typists use to track their typing. Now, a company has developed a tactile layer that actually has keyboard buttons rising out of a touchscreen when needed.

The company is Fremont, Calif.-based Tactus Technology. On its Web site, the company says its tactile interface enables "real, physical buttons that rise up from the surface on demand, and then recede back into the screen, leaving a perfectly flat, transparent surface when gone."

Microfluidic Technology

The company said that, when the physical buttons are enabled, users can type and even rest their fingers on the buttons, as they would on any physical keyboard.

Unlike other haptic or touch solutions, Tactus said, its solution is not a trick using vibration or simulation, but incorporates microfluidic technology that is triggered when needed.

The tactile layer replaces the top layer of the display stack, known as the lens, the window, or cover glass. It is the same thickness as the layer it replaces, works with existing touch-sensitive technologies, and has what the company described as minimal power consumption. The layer can also fit into the appropriate screen size, from smartphone to TV screen, and button shapes, sizes, and locations can be customized.

The company said its Tactile Layer is the "world's first deformable tactile surface," and that its solution now permits the screen and the keyboard to be combined more completely than previously.

Tactus is working in partnership with a variety of companies, including Redwood City, Calif.-based Touch Revolution, the largest manufacturer of glass projected capacitive multi-touch screens. The technology is envisioned for a range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, gaming devices, personal navigation devices, remote controls, medical devices, automotive displays and industrial test equipment.

Gaming Controls, Navigation

A prototype Android tablet with...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Citrix Buys Bytemobile Ahead of Mobile Traffic Explosion
Citrix on Monday announced plans to acquire Bytemobile, a privately held data and video optimization solutions provider for mobile network operators. The acquisition automatically gives Citrix a foothold in the core infrastructure of more than 130 mobile operators in 60 countries around the world. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Citrix is betting the acquisition will help it make strides in a cloud era where Mobile operators are experiencing explosive growth in network traffic by offering a high-quality mobile subscriber experience and helping operators manage mobile network traffic growth efficiently. The companies had previously formed a strategic partnership.

"The cloud and mobile revolutions are rapidly converging, and mobile operators are at the heart of this convergence," said Klaus Oestermann, group vice president and general manager of cloud networking at Citrix.

Whether or not the Bytemobile acquisition will put Citrix in a "unique position" to lead the global mobile data and video infrastructure market charge into the LTE era, as Oestermann claimed, remains to be seen. But the acquisition does give Citrix more options.

Bytemobile's Value Proposition

Specifically, the Bytemobile acquisition expands Citrix's market reach into the rapidly growing mobile telecommunications space. Bytemobile has strong technology, award-winning products, a solid customer base, and 12 years of customer relationships and deployment experience in mobile telecommunications. Altogether, Bytemobile customers today serve more than 2 billion subscribers and process more than 20 petabytes of data traffic through customer networks daily.

"The integration of Bytemobile will enable us to extend our value proposition to the edge of the network, bringing content closer to the end user," Oestermann said.

He offered a laundry list of promised benefits to network operators and their subscribers, including faster, more efficient, more reliable, and more manageable networks; a better user experience; and scalability to process data traffic at lower cost.

Citrix plans to build on Bytemobile...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Apple's iOS Driving a Big Chunk of Google's Mobile Revenue
Financial analysts at Piper Jaffray believe Apple's iOS is delivering "the biggest or close to the biggest portion" of Google's mobile search revenue. The report is ironic given that IDC expects Google's own Android platform to capture a 61 percent share of the global smartphone market this year.

"Assuming [Apple's] iOS generates around 40 percent of total mobile search revenue" for the search engine giant, "iOS would generate about 2 percent of Google's net revenue in 2012," Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Douglas Clinton said Wednesday.

Though Munster and Clinton say it appears increasingly likely that Apple will replace Google Maps with its own mapping app, they do not expect Apple's rival offering to significantly impact the search engine giant given that Google Maps could still be delivered to mobile devices running iOS.

"We believe it is possible that Maps as its own application in the App Store could be more popular than any of Google's other applications," Munster and Clinton said.

Pushing Chrome to iOS

Replacing Google Maps represents a risk for Apple because the highly popular service is reportedly used by more than 1 billion people each day. Moreover, Apple will find it extremely difficult to launch a mapping application that is immediately competitive with Google Maps, which went live in 2005 and has been accumulating a steady stream of innovative features since.

For example, Google said Wednesday that it was beginning to add 3-D models for entire metropolitan areas to its Google Earth offering for mobile devices. "By the end of the year we aim to have 3-D coverage for metropolitan areas with a combined population of 300 million people," Google Maps Vice President of Engineering Brian McClendon said in a blog post.

Beyond Google Maps, Munster and Clinton also expect the search engine giant to continue to introduce other new...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Virgin Mobile Readies Prepaid, No-Contract iPhone
Virgin Mobile USA is doing something rare in the iPhone world -- offering the iconic smartphone to its prepaid customers. But will consumers be willing to shell out big bucks for a non-subsidized iPhone?

We'll soon find out. Beginning June 29, Virgin Mobile will offer the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, complete with its Beyond Talk unlimited data and messaging plans, for as little as $30 per month on Sprint's CDMA network.

Virgin Mobile is making the iPhone available without a contract and without any activation or roaming fees. The phones will be available through the company's Web site, as well as retailers like RadioShack and Best Buy.

San Diego-based Leap Wireless International said last week that it would sell the iPhone with prepaid service on its Cricket network beginning June 29, but Cricket is available to only about 20 percent of U.S. residents.

A $30 a Month iPhone?

Virgin Mobile's Beyond Talk unlimited data and messaging plans for iPhone start at $35 per month for access to Sprint's Nationwide Network. Customers can get a $5 per month plan discount when they register for automatic monthly payments with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account. That means consumers can now get an iPhone for as low as $30 a month. Customers can also use their iPhone as a mobile hotspot through Virgin Mobile for an additional $15 per month.

Of course, consumers first have to buy the iPhone at the no-contract price of $649 for the iPhone 4S and $549 for the iPhone 4. That's $449 more than the $200 price iPhone 4S consumers get when they sign a contract with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. Consumers can get the iPhone 4 for $100 at the three big carriers.

Virgin Mobile's $30 plan offers 300 minutes of voice and unlimited texting and data. The $40 plan offers...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Report Projects Windows Phone Overtaking iOS
Despite a slow start, Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile's combined market share will overtake Apple's iOS within five years. That's one of the conclusions from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, released Wednesday.

The study indicated that Phone 7's upward climb will be assisted by Nokia's continuing strength in emerging markets. By 2016, the research firm expects the mobile platform to squeak by Apple's market share, with 19.2 percent for Microsoft and 19 percent for Apple. That compares with 2012 market share of 5.2 percent for Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile and 20.5 percent for iOS.

Android, RIM

Both now and in 2016, IDC expects Android to remain the No. 1 smartphone operating system. It currently has 61 percent market share, and IDC projects it to have 52.9 percent in five years.

The only other specified platform that IDC ranks is Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS, which now has 6 percent and is projected to remain about the same, about 5.9 percent, by 2016.

IDC notes that both Windows Phone and BlackBerry are in the process of a major transition. Windows Phone is still working to gain more than a foothold, and could be propelled -- or hindered -- by tie-ins with the coming release of Microsoft's Windows 8 OS. RIM is expected to release its new BlackBerry 10 OS later this year, which will determine if the phone maker has a big or a small future.

Keeping the same market share while the size of the market increases could be seen as a victory of sorts for the beleaguered Canada-based phone maker. As with Windows Phone, IDC sees RIM being bolstered by its position in emerging markets, where, it notes, "users are looking for affordable messaging devices."

One OS that has long populated -- and once dominated -- such lists, but which is...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Nintendo's Wii U a 'Swiss Army Knife' for Games
Nintendo on Tuesday revealed more about its upcoming Wii U video game console, including more than 20 games in development and new uses for its GamePad screen.

But it's keeping some of the suspense surrounding the Wii U, which pairs a more powerful high-definition console system with a new wireless, motion-sensitive tablet controller. Consumers must wait to find out what the system, expected in stores this holiday season, will cost and when they can buy it. "From our perspective, now is not the right time" to reveal that, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said Tuesday at E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Fils-Aime and Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Nintendo's popular Mario games, said Wii U will be a social-media platform for playing and connecting with others as well as a home-entertainment hub. "For 30 years, game machines couldn't take on a more important role than the TV itself," Miyamoto said. But now they want the GamePad to be "the first screen" people go to in the living room.

Nintendo has made Wii U a bit of a "Swiss Army knife," by expanding what a console can do, said P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research. Examples:

In Nintendo Land, which is organized around key franchises, such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda, players controlling some characters in the game can fend off enemies by swinging Wii remotes as swords. Another player can use the GamePad tablet controller as a bow and arrow to provide support. (Wii U will work with current Wii remotes and the Wii balance board.)

Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. In this revamped version of the Warner Bros. Interactive game, the GamePad serves as a Bat computer for upgrading weapons, tracking evidence and hacking devices. "You'll have access to Batman's entire arsenal at the touch of a finger," said Reid Schneider of...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Thunderbolt Drive: Speedy Alternative for Macs
If you bought a new Apple computer in the past few years, you were told about this wonderful new Thunderbolt slot in which to insert the zippiest hard drive ever for storing and retrieving your data -- way faster than a USB or Firewire drive.

The only problem: Thunderbolt drives were scarcely available, and the ones that were in stock were extremely pricey.

Finally Seagate and Western Digital, which dominate the hard-drive industry, have released Thunderbolt drives for the Mac, and they truly are super speedy and affordable.

And Thunderbolt is rolling out on some Windows computers. Chipmaker Intel showed off Windows computers with Thunderbolt slots at the big Computex trade show in Taiwan on Tuesday. Netbook maker Asus says it plans to add a Thunderbolt slot to an upcoming unit later this year. And Drobo, which makes multiple drive backup units aimed at photographers and videographers, will soon have a new Thunderbolt Drobo for both Mac and Windows.

If you edit video, you don't want your footage to bottle up in endless circular wheels of stall, which is what happens often when I use a pocket USB drive. Video editing is one of the most intense uses of computer power. Even when I switch to Firewire, which is faster than USB, those drives often freeze. Not so with the Thunderbolt drives I've been testing.

A closer look:

The Seagate Thunderbolt. It's the most affordable, but it's not really a Thunderbolt drive. What Seagate sells is an adapter that takes your existing Seagate GoFlex hard drive and lets it plug into the Thunderbolt port on the computer. The $99 attachment works with portable USB GoFlex drives, while you'll need to spring for $189 to connect it to a desktop GoFlex. With the attachment, the desk GoFlex drive is as fast as competitors.

Beyond the Thunderbolt attachments, you'll...

Fri, 8 Jun 12
Authorities Probe Alleged Romney Hacking
Authorities are investigating whether Mitt Romney's private email account was hacked, his presidential campaign said Tuesday.

The Web site Gawker reported Tuesday that an anonymous hacker had signed into Romney's personal Hotmail account. Gawker reported that the hacker guessed the answer to a security question about Romney's favorite pet in order to gain access to the account and change the password. The anonymous hacker told the Web site that Romney's account on DropBox, a file sharing service, also was compromised.

Romney's campaign said that "proper authorities are investigating this crime." Campaign spokeswoman Gail Gitcho refused to comment further and would not say who was investigating. She also would not say whether Romney still uses the Hotmail account.

Romney isn't the first politician to face security problems with a private email account. Just weeks before the 2008 presidential election, a Tennessee college student accessed the private emails of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The student, David Kernell, was convicted in April 2010 after Palin and her daughter Bristol testified about harassment and disruption they suffered. Kernell had correctly guessed answers to security questions guarding Palin's account, giving him access.

Romney's private Hotmail account was accepting email as recently as March 2012. As of Tuesday evening, the address was returning emails as undeliverable, citing an "unknown address."

Romney's private email address, mittromney(at)hotmail.com, was included in documents obtained and published earlier this year by The Associated Press. It was also included in documents attached to a Tuesday Wall Street Journal story. The address became public because Romney used it to conduct state business when he served as governor of Massachusetts, and some of his private emails were obtained under the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

Romney has used both a Hotmail account and an email account linked to his mittromney.com presidential campaign Web site. In August 2006, Romney told...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
Google Adds 3-D, Offline Use to Maps
With Apple likely set to drop Google Maps as the default mapping application on its iOS mobile devices, Google rolled out a vastly improved version of its service -- with advanced 3-D imaging for entire cities on Google Earth and the ability to work offline, while retaining interactivity on Android mobile devices.

At an event coinciding with E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but in San Francisco instead of Los Angeles, Google executives showed off the new features, including the ability to select "make available offline" and transfer a file to the device. If data connection is available, the service can pinpoint your location, but turning it off can save roaming charges while traveling abroad.

As a way of differentiating the Android version of this capability, it will allow zooming to StreetView, while the iOS version won't, according to published reports.

Backpack View

Other features, according to reports, include a Map Maker tool to submit corrections in some countries, and a virtual tour guide.

Google is using planes, cars and even people with backpack-mounted 360-degree cameras for StreetView to produce the most detailed maps, an effort that began when the company acquired the startup Keyhole in 2004.

The company posted videos on YouTube Wednesday demonstrating its realistic views of the San Francisco skyline and coast, with engineers noting, "Today, all of us have become explorers," and, "These days, a map is dynamic, it's live, it's personalized to you."

Google said it would "begin adding 3-D models to entire metropolitan areas to Google Earth on mobile devices in the near future."

The 45-degree aerial imagery will allow for 3-D cityscapes with detailed buildings, terrain and landscaping.

"By the end of the year, we aim to have 3-D coverage for metropolitan areas with a combined population of 300 million people," Google said.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, recently said...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
Oracle Launches New Public Cloud
Oracle is getting cloudier. On Wednesday, the technology giant launched its first broad, subscription-based cloud service.

The new Oracle Cloud, presented at the company's headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., provides platform-as-a-service access to the company's key products.

Virtual Machines

The new service will feature subscription access to Fusion CRM, the Oracle Social Network, Fusion human capital management, the Oracle Database Service, and the Oracle Java Cloud Service. The Oracle Social Network is a suite of collaboration tools and services that is intended to compete with the variety of cloud-based social business apps being released by competitors, notably Salesforce.

Oracle had previously launched its Public Cloud in October at the Oracle OpenWorld conference as an integrated set of apps and infrastructure, but this announcement raises the bar and offers subscription-based access to the company's suite of products. Ellison said the new cloud provides everything a client would need for platform, application, custom infrastructure or social business.

As Oracle moves to compete with Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, IBM, Google, Amazon and others, CEO Larry Ellison has said that one of its competitive advantages will be that each enterprise customer will have a virtual machine instead of a multi-tenant architecture, providing more flexibility and security.

He told a technology conference last week that customers of the Oracle Cloud "will be more secure, more in control and have a much more modern version of the cloud."

'Ridiculously Hyped'

Ellison's position represents a turnaround for the high-profile executive, who had previously badmouthed cloud-based computing on more than one occasion.

Now, he says he thought it was "ridiculously hyped," and that his problem with it had been the hype, not the promise. Ellison current position is that cloud-based software offers a "charismatic brand for the next version of computing."

Another attraction is that, according to comments made to news media by Oracle Chief Financial...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
IDC: Android Sales To Peak This Year, Windows Phone To Gain
Market share for Android smartphones will peak this year and begin declining thereafter, while Windows Phone will gain to become the No. 2 mobile operating system globally by 2016, according to a new prediction from market research firm IDC.

IDC said Wednesday it expects unit sales of smartphones running Google's Android mobile platform to hit 61 percent in 2012 and then decline to 52.9 percent by 2016.

By contrast, IDC predicts that Microsoft's Windows Phone platform will surpass Apple's iOS to become the second-largest smartphone platform on a global basis. Smartphone growth "will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7," said IDC Senior Research Analyst Kevin Restivo.

However, Microsoft's latest Windows Phone 7.5 mobile OS, also known as Mango, is not expected to begin making gains until Microsoft begins rolling out its Windows 8 operating system for PCs, which features the same Metro-style interface currently found on WP 7 handsets. IDC forecasts that Windows Phone handset sales will only account for a 5.2 percent share of the global smartphone market in 2012.

Beginning next year, however, the firm's analysts believe that Microsoft's evolving Windows Phone platform will be well positioned to benefit from Nokia's continuing strength in key emerging markets. IDC expects Microsoft to become the world's No. 2 mobile OS in 2016 by gaining a 19 percent market share, though the firm's analysts admitted that much will depend on whether Nokia is able to maintain its current foothold in several important emerging markets around the world.

The Innovation Factor

By contrast, IDC sees Apple's share of the mobile OS market slipping slightly from 20.5 percent in 2012 to just 19 percent in 2016. However, much will depend on how well Apple and other smartphone vendors continue to drive smartphone market innovation.

"What remains to...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
6.5 Million LinkedIn Passwords May Be In Hands of Hackers
LinkedIn on Wednesday morning was still unable to confirm reports that 6.5 million user passwords had been exposed. But Sophos has discovered LinkedIn password information posted on a Russian hacker site.

"Although the data which has been released so far does not include associated e-mail addresses, it is reasonable to assume that such information may be in the hands of the criminals," Graham Cluley, senior security analyst at Sophos, wrote in his blog. "Investigations by Sophos researchers have confirmed that the file does contain, at least in part, LinkedIn passwords."

How Did It Happen?

We caught up with Neil Roiter, research director at Corero Network Security, to get his reaction to the news. He told us the reported LinkedIn password breach is a good reminder to use a different password for each of the Web sites you access.

"The larger question to be answered is how the hackers were able to break in and steal the passwords, and what personally identifiable information, if any, also may have been stolen," Roiter said. "People will want assurances that LinkedIn will discover how they were breached, take appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence and review their overall security practices."

SQL Injection Likely

We turned to Dave Pack, director of LogRhythm Labs, to get additional insights about the reported breach. Without specific details of the attack, he told us it's difficult to determine exactly what could have been done to help protect the sensitive data. However, he added, most database breaches are the result of a vulnerable Web application front-end being exploited using SQL injection.

"According to our research, it is extremely common for successful attackers to utilize automated SQL injection tools such as sqlmap or Havij," Pack said. "Such tools leave behind a log trail on the Web server which at first glance makes the attack...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
Cisco Rolls Out 'Elastic' Mobile Platform
Cisco on Tuesday rolled out what it calls the foundation for a new generation of mobile Internet networks. Dubbed the ASR 5500 platform, the new technology extends Cisco's ASR 5000 Series to meet mobile demands.

Mobile demands is the key word. Cisco predicts worldwide mobile network traffic will increase 18-fold from 2011 to 2016, with nearly 19 billion mobile Internet connections by 2016. Cisco believes the industry needs an "elastic" solution for mobile networks and sees its ASR 5500 as the answer.

"By 2016, more people will access the Internet from mobile devices than from desktops," said Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Mobile Internet Technology Group. Ahuja said the ASR 5500 will help clients keep up with the surging demand for what she calls the "new normal."

Overbuilt for the Future

The ASR 5500 works to address three Cisco-identified challenges: dramatic growth of mobile lifestyle devices, increased usage of next-generation apps and the rise of machine-to-machine, where machines like smart meters and sensors use the mobile network.

We caught up with Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his take on Cisco's latest innovation in the mobile space. He told us the ASR 5500 is a beast of a product that's built for mobile first and is well ahead of the curve.

"The 5500 is overbuilt for where most companies are today. But it does provide a rock solid foundation that service providers can leave in place for quite a while -- and that's become important to service provider buying habits," Kerravala said. "The typical rotation of equipment used to be a three-year time frame. I've talked to a number of service providers that want to stretch that out to five and even seven years in some cases."

Save 47 Percent TCO

The ASR 5500 is an elastic packet core solution...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
The Many-Headed Hydra That Is E3 Demands Your Attention
Like a creature with a thousand heads, each one asking for your attention, E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, is rumbling along. More details are emerging about Microsoft's potentially revolutionary SmartGlass technology, there are a variety of releases pointing to other kinds of augmented reality, and Sony is showing a possible new direction for e-books.

On Tuesday evening, Microsoft demonstrated more of the features available through its new SmartGlass technology. SmartGlass enables interaction between content available through its Xbox 360 game console and related, extended content on Windows 8 computers, tablets and other smartphones.

The Multi-Screen Universe

On one level, a SmartGlass-enabled device can serve as a remote control, but, more important, it turns a variety of devices into second screens. An episode of HBO's Game of Thrones seen via Xbox Live on a TV screen, for instance, gets expanded with a corresponding interactive map of the story's location on a SmartGlass-enabled tablet. With SmartGlass, a game of Halo 4 can be augmented on a mobile device with stats, the ability to launch multiplayer sessions, and other functions.

But one of the most radical innovations, at least from the territorial Microsoft, is the ability of SmartGlass to run on iOS and Android devices as well as on Windows 8 computers and Windows Phone devices. At the moment, though, some of the additional functionality is apparently being reserved for devices running Microsoft's platforms.

The multi-screen universe, with different, simultaneous views onto the same media experience, appears to have arrived in force, after years of teases. The E3 show has generated a lot of discussion about entertainment experiences that create new kinds of ecosystems beyond the living room, or that take another step toward the fabled land of augmented reality.

Nintendo's new Wii U Gamepad, a tablet-like controller, is one example, although it is more...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
How Women Are Changing the Tech World
Reshaping a time-worn narrative isn't easy. Social revolutions rarely are, especially when you're a woman trying to break into the boys' club that is Silicon Valley.

But an emerging class of early-stage tech start-up executives is helping dispel the notion that there isn't a leading role for them in the male-dominated valley. Company founders and leaders are coming out of Google, Salesforce.com and elsewhere for the excitement of shaping a young business.

The emergence of young female tech founders and executives reflects sweeping change in the worlds of start-up companies and angel funding, where wealthy investors give money in return for a stake in a company. It underscores the enormous purchasing prowess of women online that is transforming the Web economy. As more consumers reach for their smartphones and tablets to shop and communicate, there is a pressing need for commerce sites that cater to women, who control 70% of online purchases worldwide, says Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer, a digital media company.

Many of these inroads are being made by female-led start-ups that are fueling innovation and the digital economy. Women will influence the purchase of $15 trillion in goods by 2014, according to Boston Consulting Group.

"Female users are the unsung heroines behind the most engaging, fastest-growing and most valuable consumer Internet and e-commerce companies," says venture capitalist Aileen Lee. She has invested in Brit, a lifestyle branding company, and Plum District, an e-commerce site for moms, among many ventures led by women.

Make no mistake: The executive suite for business in general and the technology industry specifically remains a male stronghold. Just 3% of all tech start-ups are led by women, according to a Kauffman Foundation report. Only a handful of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. Indeed, the glass ceiling remains a reality for many women, and charges of sexual...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
Sony Pumps Life into PS Vita, Move Controller
Sony Corp. has breathed new life into its handheld Vita and announced a tie-up with author J.K. Rowling that could cause Harry Potter fans to fly on broomsticks into the world of games.

The Japanese console maker indicated Monday it could be years before it comes up with new version of its PlayStation. But at the world's biggest video game expo, E3, it announced plenty to keep gamers busy this coming holiday season.

Sony unveiled plans for a second-screen function for the Vita that keeps it in step with Nintendo's new tablet-controller-equipped console, Wii U. It also presented a Harry Potter-inspired book game called "Wonderbook: Book of Spells" that turns the Move motion controller into a magic wand.

Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, suggested it may be a few more years before a new PlayStation console is due. He told a packed Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena that Sony's 6-year-old machine "continues to shatter expectations" and called it "the industry's most powerful palate" for game-makers.

"Back to the original PlayStation we always thought in 10-year product life cycles," he said in an interview with The Associated Press after Sony's E3 news conference. "I think you're seeing those generations be longer and longer because the technology is so great, it's difficult to surpass it."

A few games did appear to defy expectations even on the aging console.

"Beyond," which Sony showcased to kick off its 75-minute presentation, depicts "Juno" star Ellen Page in much more authentic animated acting scenes than were seen in its 2010 predecessor, "Heavy Rain," which was also from game studio Quantic Dream.

Sony also demonstrated a raft of "first-person shooter" games that were shockingly violent but could please hard-core gamers, including "The Last of Us" by studio Naughty Dog.

"Technically, there's some really impressive stuff," said John Davison, vice...

Thu, 7 Jun 12
Usher Brings New Dance Moves to Dance Central 3
Usher thinks gamers will be fallin' in love with his dance moves. The 33-year-old R&B star took to the stage Monday at Microsoft's Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference to unveil his role in "Dance Central 3," the upcoming third installment of the popular choreography game developed by Harmonix for Xbox 360's camera-based Kinect system.

"After looking at the first game, I was like, `Man, they didn't really get the moves right, so I was able to 100 percent give them accuracy through choreography from videos, as well as from my live performance," Usher said backstage after he performed "Scream" at the industry trade show.

Usher's songs "Scream" and "OMG" featuring will.i.am are in the upcoming game. He acknowledged that working on "Dance Central 3" was a new experience since he was only familiar with older titles.

"At some point, I had to put them down because my thumbs were black and blue," Usher said. "I still have the callouses built up. You see this little black mark right here? That's from hours and hours of `Tecmo Bowl' and `Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.'"

Other tunes set to be featured in the third edition of the franchise include 50 Cent's "In Da Club," Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," Van McCoy's "The Hustle" and Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How to Dougie."

Usher joked that "Dance Central 3," which will be available this fall, will give male players with some swagger.

"How many guys don't know how to move?" he said. "One sure way to make yourself completely unattractive is to not know how to move at a party. ...Get `Dance Central 3,' learn a few moves, and throw it into your repertoire."

New features in "Dance Central 3" include a "crew throwdown" mode, which pits two teams of up to four dancers against each other, and the "make your move"...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Google Buys Mobile App Quickoffice
An app that allows mobile device users to get more productivity out of their smartphones and tablets is now a part of Google.

The fast-expanding search giant has gobbled up Quickoffice for an undisclosed sum, announcing on its official blog Tuesday that the smaller company, "a leader in office productivity solutions," will now be part of Google's application offerings.

The Quickoffice announcement comes a day after Google announced it had acquired Meebo, a company founded in 2005 that places a content-sharing bar on many popular Web sites. That price tag was reported as $100 million.

Seamless Interoperability

"Today, consumers, businesses and schools use Google Apps to get stuff done from anywhere, with anyone and on any device," wrote Alan Warren, Google's engineering director, on the Quickoffice deal.

"Quickoffice has an established track record of enabling seamless interoperability with popular file formats, and we'll be working on bringing their powerful technology to our Apps product suite."

Quickoffice allows editing and creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations that are compatible with Microsoft Office documents,

The move is widely seen as a way for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to counter the imminent arrival of Microsoft's Office productivity suite on mobile devices running Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Microsoft Office includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, OneNote and other programs, although it's unclear how many of those will make it into the new iOS and Android versions.

A version of Office is already available for Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Windows Phone devices.

Dan Shey, practice director of Mobile Services for ABI Research ,told us Quickoffice has benefited from good timing.

"When they first came out with their mobile office product in the early 2000s, Nokia wanted an enterprise app for their enterprise-class devices," Shey said.

"Nokia spec'd Quickoffice as a preloaded app on every enterprise Nokia smartphone, and later more operators added Quickoffice as...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Game Industry Shows Off Latest Tech at E3
Game console makers, software publishers and service providers are previewing new offerings this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, including Nintendo's new controller for its next generation Wii U game platform that promises to redefine how users interact with the latest video game titles when the new console begins shipping during this year's holiday shopping season.

Featuring a 6.2-inch touchscreen and dual analog sticks, the Wii U GamePad controller has been designed to add an entirely new dynamic to Wii U gaming by providing multiple players with information, viewpoints, advantages and objectives that differ from what is displayed on the console's main screen. The new device also will integrate traditional buttons for gaming as well as the ability to function as a TV remote control.

The Wii U Gamepad's new asymmetric game play capabilities will be showcased in Nintendo Land. The new Wii U game is set in a virtual theme park with a dozen attractions inspired by fan-favorite Nintendo franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong.

One of the Nintendo's big competitors, Microsoft, meanwhile, on Monday previewed its SmartGlass app for connecting PCs, media tablets and smartphones to the Xbox 360 console. And beginning this fall, Xbox users also will be able to browse the Web directly from their Xbox game consoles.

PlayStation's New Cross-Save Functionality

Given Microsoft's silence concerning the launch of its rumored next-generation Xbox 720 console, Sony is hoping to grow its base of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Visa users through the launch of a swath of exclusive games that leverage the motion-control capabilities of its PlayStation Move motion controller. The new titles unveiled at E3 include LittleBigPlanet, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.

Sly Cooper is the first game from Sony that enables seamless play on...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Flame Virus Leads Microsoft To Update Windows Update
The Flame computer virus, apparently targeted at Iran, is now leading Microsoft to button up its security. This week, the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant said it was increasing security on its Windows Update software, which apparently helped distribute the Flame virus.

Microsoft said that whoever built the Flame virus exploited a vulnerability in Update, so that it looked like a legitimate download to the receiving computer or computers.

'Cryptographic Collision Attack'

A week ago, security experts revealed the existence of the Flame virus, which they described as one of the most complex viruses ever found. It's not clear who created it, or for what purpose, but most experts believe it was targeted specifically at computers in Iran and possibly other Middle Eastern countries.

The virus' creator has been attributed, without confirmation, to either the United States or Israel, or both. According to experts, it probably infected no more than a few thousand computers.

On Microsoft's official corporate security response blog, called the Security Response Center, Senior Director Mike Reavey wrote on Tuesday that the "Flame malware used a cryptographic collision attack," in combination with unauthorized digital certificates, which made it appear "as if it came from Microsoft."

To increase protection for customers, he added, "the next action of our mitigation strategy is to further harden Windows Update as a defense-in-depth precaution."

On Monday, Reavey had written that the company's analysis found "some components of the malware have been signed by certificates" that could exploit an older cryptography algorithm used by Microsoft's Terminal Server Licensing Service. This kind of exploitation is known as a "man-in-the-middle" attack, in that there is an "impersonation" of a download delivered through Microsoft Update.

'Most Sophisticated' Ever

In order to mitigate that risk, Reavey said the company was releasing a Security Advisory outlining ways that customers can block software signed by the unauthorized certificates....

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Netflix Beefs Up Customer Experience with Open Connect
After angering customers last summer, Netflix is working to turn its image around by improving its viewing experience. To that end, the streaming video giant has decided to launch its own content delivery network, or CDN.

The move to launch Open Connect, a single-purpose content delivery network, comes at a time when Netflix reports streaming nearly 1 billion hours of television and movies per month.

Until now, Netflix has been delivering these petabytes of data through commercial content delivery networks, which at times had offered spotty performance. Netflix isn't getting ride of these general purpose commercial CDNs -- at least not yet -- it's just beefing up the network by enabling ISPs to get Netflix video data from Open Connect.

Controlling Its Destiny

"The world's other major Internet video provider, YouTube, has long had its own content delivery network," said Ken Florance, vice president of Content Delivery at Netflix. "Given our size and growth, it now makes economic sense for Netflix to have one as well. We'll continue to work with our commercial CDN partners for the next few years, but eventually most of our data will be served by Open Connect."

Florance went on to explain that, like commercial CDNs, Open Connect will provide the Netflix data at no cost to the locations the ISP desires, or ISPs can choose to get the Netflix data at common Internet exchanges. About 5 percent of Netflix data is already being served by Open Connect.

We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his take on Netflix CDN inspiration. He told us Netflix is moving to control its destiny, and called Open Connect a natural progression for a company that wants to own its future.

"Issues with the network and consumer satisfaction were a problem causing a certain amount of...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Google Buys Meebo and Its Web Site Bar
Google is chomping down the Meebo Bar. On Monday, the technology giant announced that it was buying Meebo, a user engagement company best known for its content-sharing Meebo Bar that appears on many Web sites.

In a statement on its Web site, the Mountain View, Calif.-based Meebo said that they've "had a blast" over the last seven years, helping publishers "find deeper relationships with their users." News reports indicate the price tag was about $100 million, but that has not been confirmed by either company.

The Meebo Bar

In its statement about the purchase, Google praised the "Meebo team's expertise in social publisher tools," adding that it believed the team "will be a great fit with the Google+ team." Meebo reportedly laid off most of its non-technical team prior to the announcement, and several Google observers have indicated that acquisition of the engineering team was a key reason for the purchase.

Meebo started in 2005 with a browser-based instant messaging client, which allowed users to simultaneously log into IM accounts from Yahoo, AIM, MSN Messenger, and ICQ, and consolidate them into one buddy list. It later added multi-user chat rooms, mobile apps, and APIs that allowed third-party developers to extend its platform.

Currently, its main product is the Meebo Bar, an overlay strip that is added on top of such Web sites as TV Guide, Seventeen, TMZ, Entertainment Weekly, and thousands of others. The strip makes it easier for users to share content via social media sites Facebook and Twitter, offers additional content, and displays interactive advertisements.

Those features of the Meebo Bar, in addition to the value of the engineering team, are most likely key to Google's interest in the company. The technology giant wants to increase its profile in social media sharing, develop new social publishing tools for its Google+ social networking site, find...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Salesforce.com To Acquire Buddy Media for $689 Million
Just months after betting on Rypple, Salesforce.com is moving to acquire Buddy Media for about $689 million in cash and equity. Buddy Media is a social media marketing platform that debuted in 2007.

Buddy Media launched as a tool to help chief marketing officers (CMOs) and agencies organize their teams and optimize their social media marketing programs. The Buddy Media platform lets customers publish content, place and optimize social advertising and measure the effectiveness of social media marketing programs.

"Salesforce.com now has the number one players in social listening and marketing -- Radian6 and Buddy Media," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com. Benioff also tipped his motive for acquiring the company when he pointed to Gartner research that shows CMOs will surpass CIOs in spend on technology within the next five years.

The Marketing Cloud Play

With the Buddy Media buy, Salesforce.com is looking to capitalize on what Benioff sees as a "massive opportunity." Buddy Media lets companies connect with more than 1 billion customers across the likes of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

Buddy Media has made a name for itself in the social media industry. Eight of the top 10 advertisers use its social media platform. In all, Buddy Media has nearly 1,000 customers, including Ford, Hewlett-Packard, L'Oreal, Mattel, IPG (Interpublic Group), Omnicom, Publicis and WPP.

The Radian6 and Buddy Media acquisitions beef up the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which is working hard to leverage the opportunities social networks are driving in the marketing industry. EMarketer predicts social advertising will be the largest growth area of online advertising by 2013.

By combining Buddy Media, the world's leading social media marketing platform, with Salesforce Radian6, Salesforce.com aims to deliver a Marketing Cloud that lets customers listen, engage, gain insight, publish, advertise and measure social marketing programs. In other words, Salesforce...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Battle for Internet Control May Be Ahead
The Internet could someday look very different and be less open and free if a proposal for the International Telecommunications Union, an arm of the United Nations, to take over management of the Internet comes to pass, critics of the proposal say.

A growing movement led by China, Russia and some Arab states to hand more control of the Web to the United Nations has U.S. lawmakers and Internet companies warning of censorship, surveillance and taxes.

The ITU and its 93 member states will meet in Dubai in December to reconsider a key 1988 communications treaty, with a number of foreign governments arguing it needs to be updated as the influence of Internet communications increases worldwide.

Advocates of a free and open Internet say that could create an opening for countries where free speech and civil liberties are often harshly suppressed to propose the United Nations establish a new "information security" regime to replace ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit U.S. organization serving as the Internet's de facto governing body since the late 1990s.

Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell has warned that some ITU member countries seek to hobble the open and free nature of the Internet because it causes problems for dictatorships and autocracies.

"[L]et's face it. Strong-arm regimes are threatened by popular outcries for political freedom that are empowered by unfettered Internet connectivity. They have formed impressive coalitions, and their efforts have progressed significantly," he wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

A bipartisan group of U.S. congressional officials said they would resist any change in the way the Internet is regulated and maintained.

Members of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee have issued a resolution urging the U.S. government to maintain "the consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Wii U, Mobile Games Will Be Headliners at 2012 E3 Expo
The video game industry is on the verge of another transition. But what looms could be more like an upheaval than the smooth changeovers of the past.

Ever since the Super Nintendo Entertainment System emerged in 1991 to replace the original Nintendo, console game lovers -- including owners of Sony PlayStations and Microsoft Xboxes, which came later -- have willingly upgraded their gaming systems with each advance of technology.

Along the way, spending on video games has grown from less than $6 billion annually in the early '90s to about $25 billion last year, the Entertainment Software Association estimates.

Nintendo is expected to unveil details and games for its successor to the Nintendo Wii, the Wii U, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game industry's largest U.S. showcase, which begins [Monday] in Los Angeles. Yet regardless of its yet-to-be-announced price and release date, the Wii U will arrive at a time of uncertainty for the industry, which has seen much of its recent growth come from beyond the traditional console video game market.

The "free" price tag is the biggest selling point for tens of millions of players who have gravitated to mobile and online games played on smartphones, tablets and Facebook -- instead of buying a stand-alone game console for about $300 plus $50-$60 a pop for games.

Once players sample games such as Facebook favorite FarmVille and smartphone hit Temple Run, they tend to plunk down a few dollars to get in-game upgrades and perks. That spending added up to nearly $4 billion last year, and could rise 8% this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

And the ease of play has powered the overall growth of the video game-playing audience. The number of people who say they play games at least one hour each month has more than doubled to 135 million from 56...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
DealAngel Compares Past Hotel Prices, Upcoming Rates
How do you know if a hotel deal is really a bargain or just marketing spin? And how do you find a deal if one exists? Along comes DealAngel, a hotel-comparison site. It analyzes a hotel's historic pricing, and measures its upcoming rates against those of its competitors to find legitimate hotel deals.

The start-up often does a better job of pointing you to great hotel deals than does Google Hotel Finder, and can highlight room bargains that may be buried in Kayak's results.

DealAngel currently crunches hotel rates in about 150 cities in the USA, Canada and Mexico from more than 30 hotel Web sites, including better-known ones such as Booking.com and Hotels.com to more-obscure sites such as Olotels.com and Onhotels.com.

Here's how DealAngel works:

You enter your destination city and dates, and DealAngel retrieves what it categorizes as Great Deals, Good Deals, OK Deals and Not A Deal. You can sort the deals by top deals, those for hotels rated four-star and up, or deals for less than $100.

For each property that DealAngel deems worthy to show, it provides an Overall Deal Rank. That's a combination of an estimated savings over the expected rate and DealAngel's confidence that its numbers are accurate.

For example, I searched DealAngel last week for a hotel in Las Vegas on June 8. The site characterized the four-star JW Marriott Las Vegas at $184, including taxes and fees, as a Great Deal. It gave the hotel an Overall Deal Rank of 4.5 (out of a possible 5). And it calculated the estimated savings as $93, given an expected rate, based on DealAngel's statistical analysis, of about $277.

At this point, the site would transfer you to Getaroom to book that $184 rate. Or you could alternately navigate to Onhotels.com or Hotels.com to reserve the room at higher rates. DealAngel...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
Cybercriminals Have New Bait for Phishing Scams
Remember all those phony emails that purport to be from your bank, asking you to click on a link and turn over your account information? Cyber experts say criminals have moved on and are using new methods.

A cybersecurity banking official told a House Financial Services panel Friday that criminals are now sending emails claiming to be from someone other than your bank. Newer scams use The National Automatic Clearing House Association, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, the U.S. Postal Service, private delivery firms, telecommunications companies and social media providers.

One thing hasn't changed. Once an unsuspecting user clicks on a link, he or she is redirected to a server that downloads malicious software onto the victim's computer. The software captures the user's online banking credentials as they are typed

Called "phishing," this tactic involves sending an email that falsely claims to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to trick the user into turning over information.

Michele Cantley, testifying on behalf of the Financial Services Information Sharing & Analysis Center, said that phishing "remains the most popular attack method that criminals use to infect victims' machines."

The center is a nonprofit organization funded by financial services companies, commercial banks, credit unions, brokerage firms, insurance companies, exchanges and clearing houses, and payment processors.

She said criminals are also using malicious advertisements, which appear on search engines and prominent news sites. When a user clicks on the link, malware gets downloaded onto his or her computer.

"A more recent method involves fraudulent messages sent from social media sites," she said. "These may include bogus friend requests, for example, that include links to malicious sites."

Cantley's organization, along with the Microsoft and the Electronic Payments Association, has gone on the offensive against phishing scams. They used a creative legal strategy as part of a civil lawsuit filed earlier...

Wed, 6 Jun 12
AT&T Dreams of Data-Only Plans in Two Years
The CEO of AT&T Inc. said Friday that cellphone plans that count only data usage are likely to come in the next two years. In such a scenario, phone calls and texts would be considered as just another form of data.

Randall Stephenson didn't say AT&T has such a plan in mind, but he suggested that someone in the industry will likely offer one.

"I'll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don't see people in the market place with data-only plans," Stephenson said at a Sanford Bernstein investor conference in New York. "I just think that's inevitable."

Analysts see such plans as a logical extension of trends in wireless technology. Smartphones with data service can already use it for Internet phone calls and texting through services such as Skype.

Phone calls are also taking a back seat to other things people do with their smartphones. AT&T has been recording a decline in the average number of minutes used per month.

However, phone companies still make most of their money from calling plans and texting, which use very little data. That means phone companies would want to compensate for the revenue fall-off somehow, perhaps by raising data prices.

The switch would be complicated by the fact that phone companies charge each other to connect calls to phone numbers. That's one reason calling plans are charged separately from data usage now. But at least in the U.S., connection fees are low, and phone companies could make up for the cost by raising their own fees. Connection fees for international calls are much higher.

AT&T has said that it wants to introduce wireless data plans that allow a subscriber to share a data allowance over several devices, such as a smartphone and a tablet computer. Another AT&T executive, wireless head Ralph De La Vega, has said these...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
Smooth Changeover Expected as Companies Transition to IPv6
With the clock ticking for the transition to IPv6, several major technology firms are making the switch on Wednesday to the new Internet protocol, including Microsoft, Google, YouTube and Yahoo. The Internet Society, a standards and advocacy organization, urged all businesses to make the move sooner rather than later.

In a guest posting on Forbes magazine's Web site late last week, the Internet Society's Chief Technology Officer Leslie Daigle noted that "there is no question that we are running out" of Internet addresses with IPv4. She pointed out that in February of last year, the last block of 4.3 billion addresses from the current IPv4 global supply was issued to regional Internet Registry organizations, which handle the allocation and registration of addresses in their parts of their world.

Addresses Running Out

Daigle said that there are now no remaining iPv4 addresses for the Asia Pacific region, and addresses are expected to run out for Europe this year, for the U.S. next year, and for Latin America and Africa in 2014. IPv6, on the other hand, is expected to be able to supply what some experts have calculated is 4 billion addresses for each person on Earth.

There's a long way to go in transitioning to IPv6, not only in making the actual switch but also in making businesses aware. Daigle said that only 12 percent of businesses had begun planning to make the transition as of the end of last year, and 6 percent had indicated they were not aware of the situation. A recent survey by Arbor Networks, which monitors global traffic, found that about 1,500 Web sites and Internet Service Providers in 22 countries have now enabled IPv6.

Other major companies making the transition on June 6 on their main Web sites include Facebook, Netflix, Cisco and Bing. Network operators, including Comcast and...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
Microsoft Links Xbox to Mobile Devices with SmarlGlass App
As it prepares to better integrate mobile devices and computers with Windows 8, Microsoft has unveiled an app to add its Xbox 360 entertainment console into the mix.

At an event prior to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show in Los Angeles, the software giant demonstrated SmartGlass, which allows games, video and -- soon -- Web content to be shared across the spectrum.

"Xbox is on a mission to make the entertainment that you love even more amazing," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, in a statement. "With Xbox SmartGlass, we are lighting up entertainment across your phone, tablet, PC and TV in a completely new way. If you love to play games, watch TV and movies, surf the Web, or listen to music, there has never been a better time to be on Xbox."

It's a move that can help Microsoft not only keep up interest in the Xbox before the release of its new console next year (while Nintendo is already gearing up to roll out the Wii U next-generation device) but also promote its struggling Windows Phone ecosystem, which has so far failed to gain a foothold in the market.

SmartGlass, however, will also reportedly be available to XBox Live subscribers who use Android and Apple iOS devices.

Virtual Companion

The SmartGlass app will be available later this year, and will allow games or movies to be transferred from one device to another or use your mobile device as a remote control, while displaying information about the selected displayed media in order to be a sort of virtual companion.

"I'm not sure how much this differentiates from Nintendo in terms of gaming, but so long as it supports iOS and Android (in addition to Microsoft platforms) it should have decent market potential," said Michael Inouye, a digital...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
Report: Facebook Looking to Lift Age Restrictions
Facebook is developing technology that would allow pre-teen children to sign up for the social networking site without their parents' supervision. So says a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal is touting the move as a "step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue but also inflame privacy concerns." Of course, many children under 13 are already using Facebook by simply putting in a false birthdate. Facebook's new scheme may give parents a way to tighten the reins.

The Wall Street Journal cites the possibility of tying children's accounts to their parents and allowing mom and dad to decide who their kids could "friend," as well as what apps they could use. Revenue-wise, it could open the door for more game spending by charging the parents for apps kids use.

Kids Losing Interest

We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on this reported move, which could turn out to be a double-edged sword for Facebook. He told us there are several things going on around Facebook's rumored exploration.

"First, Facebook is just accepting the reality that there are millions of sub-13-year-olds on the site, many aided by their parents. But this is also potentially a revenue opportunity for Facebook," Sterling said. "Kids are among the heaviest players of online games and this would open up that audience to gaming on Facebook -- and advertising -- and the related revenues that games and other activities might generate."

Clearly, however, it would be controversial because of privacy and "stalking" of minors that could happen, Sterling said. As he sees it, Facebook is simultaneously trying to ensure the next generation of Facebook users at a time when there's evidence that kids and teens are losing interest in Facebook. Services like Instagram have...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
All Major Carriers To Sell Samsung Galaxy S III Smartphone
Samsung Mobile said Monday that the five top U.S. wireless carriers will launch the company's new flagship Galaxy S III smartphone on June 21. The only difference between carrier handsets will be the customized services to be offered with the phone by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular.

Designed to run on 4G LTE and HSPA+ networks, the Galaxy S III runs Google's Android 4 mobile operating system, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Just 8.6 millimeters thick and weighing 4.8 ounces, Samsung's latest Galaxy handset also provides users with a new content sharing experience.

For example, Galaxy S III users can simultaneously share presentations with groups in real time using its Wi-Fi Direct technology. The device's S-Beam technology also enables large video and document files to be shared in seconds with another Galaxy S III smartphone without needing to establish a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

"Galaxy S III introduces new technological innovation and takes sharing to the next level," said Samsung Telecommunications America President Dale Sohn. "We are delivering the 'next big thing' for U.S. customers and across all major carriers."

A Window of Opportunity

The Galaxy S III integrates Qualcomm's 1.5-gigahertz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and the user's choice of 16 GB or 32 GB of internal memory. Available in metallic blue or ceramic white, the new smartphone also features a microSD memory expansion slot, together with an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, 1080p video capture and facial recognition capabilities and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera.

Samsung overtook longtime market leader Nokia during the first quarter of 2012 to become the world's top handset vendor, with a 25.4 percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics. Samsung also led the smartphone segment with a 30.6 percent share -- well ahead of Apple's 24.1 percent share.

"Samsung and Apple combined...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
Asus Unveils Hybrid Windows 8 PCs
Get ready for the hybrid PCs. With the coming Windows 8 full release, consumers and business users can expect to see more variations on several new, unusual computers shown by Asus on Monday at the Computex show in Taipei.

One is the Asus Taichi, which features two LED-backlit, 1080p displays. This two-headed creation allows the screens to operate independently of each other, with an outer, multi-touch-enabled display that allows the unit to function as a tablet when it's closed. A separate camera is attached to each screen.

AiO, Transformer Book

The Taichi, which will come in 11.6- and 13.3-inch screen sizes, is based on Intel Ivy Bridge processors and comes with a solid-state drive.

Asus also showed its Transformer AiO, which, as befits its name, can boot either Android or Windows 8 and is partly a tablet and partly an all-in-one PC. The removable, 18.4-inch LED-backlit multi-touch screen can be detached from the main unit, turning it into a wireless tablet.

The only catch is that the logic display for the screen remains in the main unit, transmitting wirelessly to the detached screen. This means that users will need to remain close to the mother ship.

And there's the Windows 8-based, Ivy Bridge-powered Asus Transformer Book, available in 11.6-, 13-, or 14-inch sizes. In its original state, the unit looks like a conventional notebook, although one with a touchscreen that allows touch-interaction with the Metro interface in Windows 8.

This 19201080 screen can also be detached from the unit, transforming itself into a tablet. The unit features NVIDIA discrete graphics, 4GB DDR3 dual channel RAM, USB 3.0, SSD and HDD storage, an HD camera on front and a 5-megapixel camera on the back, and a detachable QWERTY keyboard. p subhead 'Very Niche-Use Case' /subhead p The new Asus products are only some of the many form factors one can expect to see...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
First of Many -- Too Many? -- Windows 8 Tablets Get a Look
Both Acer and Asus are showing off Windows 8 tablets this week. But will enterprise users grab hold of the Windows 8 tablet opportunity or stick with the popular iPad? p Acer on Monday presented its two newest Windows 8 tablets at Computex Taipei: the Iconia W510 offers three modes of touchscreen operation while the Iconia W700 offers a cradle. p Acer defines the most unique aspect of the W510 as the tri-mode, which allows users to touch, type and view. The tablet runs in conventional mode or productivity mode and a detachable keyboard dock can be connected to the tablet to make typing easier. Meanwhile, the W700 boasts an 11.6-inch HD screen and has three USB 3.0 ports. p subhead ARM-Based Windows Tablets /subhead p Asus also made some Windows 8 tablet debuts at Computex. But Asus is offering ARM-based processor alternatives. The Asus Tablet 600 offers a 10-inch display and a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU. The tablet also sports an 8-megapixel camera at the rear, complete with LED flash, and a 2-megapixel camera at the front. p We have high hopes for Windows 8 as a major incentive for people to replace their PCs or buy new tablet computers, The Wall Street Journal reported Asustek Chief Financial Officer David Chang as saying. p Al Hilwa, a program director in the Applications Development Software group at IDC, also seems bullish. From the refinements in the RT release of Windows 8, he said, it is pretty clear that the OS will make its deadlines as a solid product. p Integrating Flash into Metro IE is a real surprise and a smart move for Microsoft as it will help them set Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets apart from the iPad. In fact, with Flash and bundled Office apps, Windows RT becomes much more viable in the early days when the app portfolio is...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
Google Helps Chinese Avoid Censorship
Google has fired a new salvo in a censorship battle with Beijing by adding a feature that warns users in China who enter search keywords that might produce blocked results and suggests they try other terms. p Google's announcement Thursday described the change as a technical improvement and made no mention of Beijing's extensive Internet controls. But it comes after filters were tightened so severely in recent weeks that searches fail for some restaurants, universities or tourist information. Authorities were trying to stamp out talk about an embarrassing scandal over the fall of a rising Communist Party star. p Google Inc. closed its China-based search engine in 2010 to avoid cooperating with government censorship. Mainland users can see its Chinese-language site in Hong Kong but the connection breaks if they search for sensitive terms. p The new feature will alert users if they enter a search term that may temporarily break your connection to Google, said a blog post by a Google senior vice president, Alan Eustace. He said it will suggest they try other search terms. p By prompting people to revise their queries, we hope to reduce these disruptions and improve our user experience from mainland China, Eustace wrote. p Google cited as an example the Chinese character jiang, or river, without mentioning it is the name of former President Jiang Zemin, the possible reason results are blocked. It says the site will recommend removing the character. p Google could anger Beijing by pointing out individual terms that might produce blocked results. Chinese regulators do not disclose which terms are banned. They try to hide censorship by returning the same error message as for a technical failure, possibly to avoid drawing attention to unwanted topics. p A Google spokesman declined to comment on whether the company was concerned about Chinese government retaliation. p Google was allowed to keep a network of advertising sales offices...

Tue, 5 Jun 12
Google Accuses Microsoft and Nokia of Patent Trolling
Google lashed out at Microsoft and Nokia in a regulatory complaint, accusing them of illegally feeding mobile patents to a technology troll scavenging for billions of dollars in licensing fees that threaten to drive up the prices of cellphones and other wireless devices. p The claims were spelled out Thursday in a complaint filed with the European Commission, the chief regulator on that continent. Google Inc. also shared the complaint with the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. p Microsoft Corp. brushed off Google's accusations as the desperate tactic of a company facing regulatory questions about its dominance of online search and digital advertising. Efforts to reach Nokia Corp. representatives at the company's headquarters in Finland late Thursday were unsuccessful. p Google's attack on Microsoft and Nokia escalates a legal brawl among technology giants trying to gain the upper hand in the rapidly growing market for mobile computing. Most of the fighting so far has been in the courtroom, where lawsuits and countersuits alleging patent infringements have been filed by Apple Inc., Samsung, Microsoft, Oracle Corp. Nokia, and HTC, among others. p Some of the missives have been aimed at Google and its business partners using its Android software for smartphones and other mobile devices. To protect itself, Google picked up 17,000 mobile patents in a $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings that was completed last week. p Nokia joined forces with Microsoft last year when it agreed to adopt Windows as the operating system on its cellphones. p Google's complaint centers on 2,000 wireless patents that Nokia and Microsoft sold in September to MOSAID Technologies Inc., a company that specializes in collecting royalties on intellectual property. Companies that focus on extracting patent royalties instead of innovating are derisively known in the technology industry as trolls. p MOSAID has made it clear it believes it is sitting on a potential gold...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Google To Charge Merchants To Appear in Google Shopping
Google Product Search is becoming a pay-to-play service called Google Shopping. In addition to potentially reshaping the way online marketing of products works, the move is part of a major policy transition by the technology giant.

Previously, Google's official position had been against requiring manufacturers of products to pay in order to get placement in search results. Now, the company is saying the new policy will help consumers, because it will relay more accurate pricing.

'Purely Commercial Model'

Currently, users can search for products through Google Product Search by entering the product name into the search field at Google.com and clicking "shopping" on the left. The results are derived from data feeds about products at participating stores, via a free tool that Google provides. Searchers can then choose to filter the results, such as by price.

The transition to Google Shopping, which was announced Thursday on the official Google Commerce blog, is expected by the fall. On the blog, Product Management Vice President Sameer Samat wrote that the move to "a purely commercial model" will encourage merchants to keep "their product information fresh and up to date," which will translate into better shopping results for users and higher quality traffic for merchants.

Merchants will also receive incentives to participate, such as a monthly credit of 10 percent of total Product Listing Ad spending through the end of this year, or a $100 AdWords credit toward Product Listing Ads for existing Google Product Search merchants.

Ranking in Google Shopping will be based on a combination of relevance and bid price, which Google said was comparable to Product Listing Ads currently. Eventually, there will also be opportunities to market special offers.

Trusted Stores Program

There will also be an option for merchants to participate in the new Google Trusted Stores program. E-commerce sites in that program will offer background on...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
HP Report Promotes Low-Energy Data Centers
Imagine a data center that requires no net energy from traditional power grids. Hewlett-Packard is pushing beyond the dream in a research paper called "Towards the Design and Operation of Net-Zero Energy Data Centers."

The research paper shows how the architecture, combined with holistic energy-management techniques, paves the way for organizations to cut total power usage by 30 percent, as well as dependence on grid power and costs by more than 80 percent.

HP will be showcasing the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center architecture at HP Discover, the company's premier client event, which takes place beginning Monday and running through the week in Las Vegas.

With the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center research, HP is working to bring the potential to operate data centers using local renewable resources, removing dependencies such as location, energy supply and costs. That, the company said, opens up the possibility of introducing IT services to organizations of all sizes.

Lowering Data Center Costs

"Information technology has the power to be an equalizer across societies globally, but the cost of IT services, and by extension the cost of energy, is prohibitive and inhibits widespread adoption," said Cullen Bash, a distinguished technologist at HP and interim director of the Sustainable Ecosystems Research Group at HP Labs. He went on to say that the HP Net-Zero Energy Data Center aims to reduce both the environmental impact of computing and the associated energy costs.

HP offered an example of the net-zero energy data center in action: Noncritical, delay-tolerant workloads could be scheduled during daylight hours to coincide with solar supply for data centers equipped with photovoltaic energy generation. In this way, HP explained, demand can be shaped according to resource availability to reduce reliance on nonrenewable resources.

As a result, organizations can lower overall data-center costs -- from capital investment in upfront infrastructure technology to...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Internet Explorer 10 To Have Do Not Track by Default
Microsoft said Thursday that its coming Internet Explorer 10 browser will integrate Do Not Track functionality switched on by default. Though consumers will be able to change the setting, the default will be to tell Web sites that users do not want identifying information about them saved.

The software giant's surprise privacy policy change is due in part to a request by the Federal Trade Commission for the technology and advertising industries to create a more uniform and comprehensive consumer choice mechanism for behavioral targeting of online advertising, said Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch.

"We believe that consumers should have more control over how information about their online behavior is tracked, shared and used," Lynch wrote in a blog post Thursday.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., praised Microsoft's move as an important first step toward greater privacy protection for consumers.

"It is my hope that Microsoft and other companies will go further in the future, so that Do Not Track also means Do Not Collect -- giving consumers the ability to say no to both targeted advertising and collection of their personal data," Markey said Friday.

An Aggressive Privacy Move

According to Net Applications, Internet Explorer 8 holds a 26.92 percent share of the global browser market, while IE9 has a 17 percent share. Given that IE8 launched in March of 2009 and IE9 followed in March of 2011, it will take a while for IE 10 to reach comparable market share levels.

Still, the decision to ship IE 10 with Do Not Track as the default setting will begin to have an effect on Web advertisers, content producers and free software app developers when Windows 8 launches later this year, including IE 10.

"From the refinements in this release it is pretty clear that Windows 8 will make its deadlines as a solid product," said Al...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Judge Dismisses Final Oracle Claim Against Google
Thirty-seven application program interface packages for the Java computer language are not protected under U.S. copyright law, the judge in Oracle's uphill lawsuit against Google said in a 41-page ruling issued Thursday.

But Judge William Alsup of U.S. District Court in San Francisco stressed that the ruling "does not hold that the structure, sequence and organization of all computer programs may be stolen. Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the Copyright Act."

Oracle will appeal the ruling.

No Copying Involved

In the final phase of the trial over claims that Google used patents and copyrights from the Java language to make the world's most popular mobile operating system, Android, Alsup said Google, or anyone, was free to access the Java APIs and then write their own code. Since no one claimed the code involved was duplicated, Alsup said, "Google has violated no copyright, it being undisputed that Google's implementations are different."

A jury on May 23 dismissed Oracle's claims that Google stole the company's patents, but in an earlier phase on May 7 had ruled that the company did infringe copyrights on nine lines of code. The damages awarded to Redwood Shores, Calif.,-based Oracle, however, are likely to be minimal. Published reports said that could be as little as $150,000.

The copyrights and patents became Oracle's property when it acquired Sun Microsystems, which created Java, in 2010.

"This one went south on Oracle early on, largely because Java, under Sun wasn't well protected and Sun, and initially Oracle, applauded its use by Google," said technology consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.

"That made this all look vindictive and likely painted Oracle as the villain," Enderle told us. "It also highlights that if you want to protect something you need...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Data on 684,000 Stolen at University of Nebraska
Another week, another security breach. This time it happened at University of Nebraska -- and it's being called the biggest university breach this year.

The University of Nebraska database breach exposed sensitive information of more than 654,000 students, parents and employees. The database in question, the Nebraska Student Information System, contains the Social Security numbers and dates of birth for all employees.

On Thursday, University of Nebraska officials announced that an individual had been identified who they believe was responsible for the breach. Meanwhile, security analysts are wading through the fallout of yet another high-profile hack.

"We have seized computers and related equipment belonging to a UNL undergraduate student who we believe is involved in this incident," said University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Chief Owen Yardley. "They are currently in the hands of law enforcement and undergoing analysis."

Forensics Testing Under Way

According to Yardley, the individual was identified by NU Computing Services personnel through IP addresses used to access the system. The suspect's name will not be released until an arrest is made. A forensics team is analyzing the evidence.

"In order to assist with the criminal investigation, police asked the university not to release information about this security incident during the first 48 hours as work was done to verify the identity of the individual involved and necessary legal steps were taken to seize the property," Yardley said.

University officials recommended concerned parties contact a credit reporting agency to determine whether hackers have tried to establish or extend credit in their name. Although bank account information for most employees was not stored in the database, the university suggests monitoring bank accounts carefully.

Joshua Mauk, University of Nebraska information security officer, said the university and law enforcement officers were continuing to analyze how the breach occurred, and whether any information was downloaded.

Balancing Security with Openness

We caught up...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Windows 8 Release Preview Stays the Course
The Windows 8 Release Preview was made available on Thursday, and the scramble is on to see how much has changed from previous Consumer and Developer Previews. The short answer -- some tweaks and enhancements, but no major changes.

The Release Preview can be expected to be nearly complete in terms of most features, pending final bug-checking, polishing and testing.

'Do Not Track' By Default

One of the new enhancements, a clear contrast to Apple's iOS, is that Adobe Flash will be part of the Internet Explorer 10 browser, in both the traditional desktop and Metro interfaces that characterize Windows 8. IE10 also becomes the first browser to have "Do Not Track" enabled by default.

The new Release Preview has upgraded its multi-monitor support, including the ability for backgrounds to be displayed across two or more screens, and the Start menu can show up on any of the screens. Mail, Calendar, Photos, and People apps have been updated, and new Bing-powered Travel, News, and Sports apps have been released.

The desktop interface is now looking more like its touchscreen Metro sibling, featuring a blockier style, but Microsoft has indicated that the look and feel for the desktop is still a work in progress.

The Start screen features more personalization options, and there are new Family Safety features. The Release Preview also uses memory more efficiently than previous versions, and now has built-in integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage.

Windows 8 Factors

The emphasis on the touchscreen interface, given that most current Windows computers are not touch-sensitive, has led to criticism of Microsoft's approach. But the company is beginning to answer its critics on many fronts.

For instance, last month on the company's Building Windows 8 blog, Director of Program Management Jensen Harris posted a long description of the evolution of Windows and of the choices that...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Angry Birds Spreads Its Wings Beyond Virtual World
At Rovio, the future is Angry. The Finnish gaming company behind Angry Birds -- with more than 1 billion downloads to date -- is now spreading its wings beyond the virtual world.

It has already launched plush toys, lunch boxes, clothing, stationery, food and drink items, a Formula 1 driver sponsorship deal and a jewelry line. Rovio this week announced it would launch an Angry Birds-branded debit card in Russia in partnership with a local bank. Next up: Angry Birds Land, one of the highlights of a theme park opening next month in the Finnish city of Tampere.

"All of our products are doing great" says Ville Heijari, Rovio's VP of Franchise Development. "The moon cakes we sold in China during last year's mid-Autumn Festival have done especially well."

The Rovio office interiors are exactly what you'd expect from a brash online startup: a central lounge area with couches and overstuffed Angry Birds cushions, the open-plan kitchen where employees are encouraged to mingle and exchange ideas, walls covered with larger-than-life Angry Birds characters, TV screens showing download charts, and a flock of Angry Birds toys perched on almost every flat surface.

There's no way employees or visitors -- who must sign a non-disclosure form before being allowed inside -- can forget which birds laid the golden eggs that fund the company.

Rovio had barely a dozen employees during the 2009 launch of Angry Birds, which features a colorful cast of avian characters who are launched by catapult, and smash their way through a series of defenses created by their Pig enemies, who have stolen eggs from the Angry Birds nest.

The latest incarnation of the game -- Angry Birds Space -- was downloaded 50 million times in the first 35 days of release, and currently sits at number two in the iPhone and iPad paid download...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Google Adds Zagat Reviews To Promote Local Business
Google is adding a new entree to its menu: free restaurant ratings from the Zagat review service. Zagat, which Google bought in September, was charging $25 annually or $5 monthly for online access to its survey of diners. Those diners have rated about 35,000 restaurants in more than 100 cities around the world.

The reviews will be available for free on Zagat.com as well as several services on Google's Web site as part of a change announced Wednesday.

"Now, the world's highest-quality reviews are available to more people, whether they are at their desks or on the go," Zagat founders Nina and Tim Zagat wrote Wednesday on their Google Plus social-networking page.

Zagat will still charge $10 a year for using an application designed for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad, although Google indicated it may eventually drop that fee. After a six-month free trial, Zagat charges $25 annually to see reviews on its app for mobile devices running on Google's Android software.

The Internet fees helped protect sales of the burgundy-colored guides that Zagat has been putting out since its 1979 inception. For now, Zagat still intends to publish the guides, which were listed Wednesday on Amazon for $8.75 to $16.

Google Inc. acquired Zagat for $151 million in September to compete against Yelp's popular online rating service. Google and Yelp Inc. are battling to attract more traffic to spur more sales of ads to neighborhood merchants.

Yelp explored a possible sale to Google for a reported $500 million in 2009 before deciding to go its own way. The two companies have since become prickly rivals, driven by Yelp's allegations that Google rigs its search results to favor its own services over its competitors.

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into the complaints lodged against Google by Yelp and other Internet companies as part of a broad...

Sat, 2 Jun 12
Megaupload Seeks To Dump Piracy Case
Attorneys for the file-sharing site Megaupload.com and its founder, Kim Dotcom, are challenging the federal government's piracy case against them even before company officials have been brought to the U.S. to answer charges.

Lawyers for Megaupload on Wednesday filed papers in U.S. District Court to dismiss charges against the company. Prosecutors have charged Megaupload, Dotcom and other company officials with facilitating piracy of copyrighted movies and TV shows on a massive scale. The case is one of the biggest copyright-infringement cases ever alleged, with prosecutors charging that the piracy cost movie studios and other copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue.

The legal motions do not seek dismissal of the case against the individual defendants, but they do seek release of millions of dollars in frozen assets so lawyers can prepare a full defense.

The defense attorneys argue that Megaupload and its officers can't be held criminally responsible for copyright infringement by its users. They also said the company itself cannot be charged criminally in U.S. court because it is a foreign company, based in Hong Kong, that does not even have offices in the U.S. and cannot be legally served notice of the charges.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment on the court filings Wednesday, saying the government will respond in court.

The filing is unusual because Dotcom and his co-defendants have not actually entered appearances in the case. Dotcom, who had his name legally changed, is currently in New Zealand fighting extradition.

Ira Rothken, one of Megaupload and Dotcom's lawyers, said Dotcom is exercising his legal rights by challenging extradition in New Zealand, and shouldn't be punished for doing so by having his assets frozen and making it difficult for his lawyers to fully represent him.

The seizure of more than $67 million in...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Cricket To Sell First Prepaid iPhone, with $55 Plan
For the first time, Apple's top-selling iPhone will soon be available for prepaid service in the U.S., courtesy of Cricket Communications.

The San Diego-based carrier, a subsidiary of Leap Wireless International, will start selling the 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 and 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S starting June 22 for $399 and $499, respectively.

Higher-Priced Phone, Lower Plan

Cricket customers would then pay $55 monthly for unlimited talk, text and data, somewhat lower than plans from Verizon Wireless, AT&T or Sprint Nextel -- and only the latter offers unlimited data for new customers. To keep users from jamming Cricket's data network, a "fair usage policy" kicks in after 2.3 gigabytes. "Once you reach your usage level your speed will be reduced, " reads the small print.

The price of Cricket's iPhone, however, is much higher than the cost of a phone subsidized by the major carriers, which is $99 for the iPhone 4 or $199 for the 4S. The subsidized cost of the 4S may go even lower after Apple releases the next iPhone, which is expected late this summer.

Still, the Cricket iPhone is cheaper than the cost of an unlocked iPhone from Apple, which starts at $549. The unlocked iPhone 4 or 4S only works on GSM networks such as AT&T. Cricket operates on a CDMA network.

Peter Han of Current Analysis told us the iPhone is a breakthrough for the prepaid market.

"Prepaid consumers are usually price sensitive and are not willing to spend too much for a handset," Han said. "However, the iPhone is uniquely desirable. The prepaid iPhone is still subsidized, but not as heavily as the postpaid iPhones from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless."

Cricket's version may be appealing, he said, because the monthly plan is more affordable than postpaid and so the higher upfront cost would be mitigated over time.

"With Apple introducing a prepaid iPhone...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Meet Zurmo, the Game of CRM
There's customer relationship management and there's games, right? Not for an open-source project called Zurmo, which believes the two belong together.

On Wednesday, Zurmo announced Beta release 0.6.6 of its CRM application, which includes the first phase of "gamification" and a new user interface.

'Making CRM Fun'

The intent of the Zurmo CRM application, according to the organization, is both to encourage user adoption and, in its words, to make "a lackluster category of software more appealing to users." Several of the Zurmo developers have backgrounds working with SugarCRM.

Zurmo cofounder and Community Manager Ray Stoeckicht said in a statement that one of the main goals is "making CRM fun," encouraging instead of forcing usage.

"The lack of intrinsic motivation to use CRM systems is a major failure in our industry that we intend to fix," he said.

To do so, gamelike elements are included throughout the app. There are points awarded to CRM users for every action performed, rewarding use of the system and business best practices.

Badges are delivered for accomplishing specific milestones, such as establishing more leads or winning more opportunities, or for system use, such as login frequency.

Points lead to higher levels, which are available both as general levels and as category-specific ones. Categories include New Business Sales, Account Management, Time Management, and Communication. A leaderboard shows top performers.

'High-Quality Sales Force Automation Tool'

There's also the gamelike tension of Challenges. Users and managers can challenge each other to accomplish specific tasks, and bonus points are available for challenge completion or when a higher category has been obtained.

In addition to the game elements, the new release includes a new user interface, designed by Theresa Neil, author of the book Designing Web Interfaces. Zurmo cofounder and Lead Architect Jason Green told news media that the intent was to develop an intuitive interface...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Dell Updates Business PC Lineup with Ivy Bridge Chips
Dell unveiled an updated lineup Thursday of Latitude and OptiPlex laptops and desktop PCs for business professionals featuring Intel's latest Ivy Bridge processors and longer battery life.

Availability and pricing for the new machines has not yet been released.

Dell already provides business clients with security-related data encryption and protection technologies, desktop virtualization, remote management and cloud support services. With the release of Dell's new Latitude and OptiPlex machines, customers will also be able to benefit from the highest level of Federal Information Processing Standards encryption (FIPS 140-2 Level 3).

Through the integration of the latest Intel vPro systems management technology with Dell's homegrown vPro extensions, Dell's next generation machines also will provide IT departments with superior support for remotely managing BIOS as well as the remote wipe of hard disk drives on Latitude E-family laptops and OptiPlex desktops.

Dell's business PC refresh preview follows a rough quarter during which the company did little better than the U.S. average in the professional PC market, said Mika Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner. By contrast, Dell's consumer market decline was steeper than the U.S. average, based on unit shipments.

"Dell's focus is clearly on the professional/enterprise market, but [I am] not sure if their efforts have shown positive results -- [at least] not at this time," Kitagawa said in an e-mail Thursday.

A New Business PC Strategy

It is significant that Dell's revenues from the consumer segment were still around 21 percent of total revenue in the latest quarter of the company's financial year, Kitagawa said.

"I think Dell's ultimate plan is to transform themselves from a hardware vendor into an enterprise service and solution provider," she said. "It is not clear how Dell is going to position the consumer market as [part of] their overall strategy."

All of Dell's new OptiPlex desktop PCs and Latitude notebooks integrate...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Avoid Getting Burned by Flame Malware
Flame has already been responsible for impacting the oil industry and is credited with spying on Mideast computers. But what happens if it spreads -- and who is to blame? Researchers are still looking for clues but fewer are surprised by the outbreak.

Last week, McAfee released its first-quarter 2012 threats report, which shows an increase in malware across all platforms. The report shows that in the first quarter, PC malware reached its highest levels in four years, as well as a steep increase in malware targeting the Android platform. Mac malware was also on the rise, indicating that total malware could reach the 100 million mark within the year.

"In the first quarter of 2012, we have already detected 8 million new malware samples, showing that malware authors are continuing their unrelenting development of new malware," said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs.

A U.S. Threat?

Flame, discovered this week, may have been used for espionage in the Middle East for years. Iran has disclosed that Flame infected computer systems controlling the flow of oil in that country, and it was forced to cut Internet links to its main oil export terminal to try to contain the virus.

The virus is said to appear to be the work of a well-funded organization, possibly a national government. It is reportedly capable of logging keystrokes, taking screen shots, using a computer's audio system to listen into conversations or Skype calls, and even to tap into nearby Bluetooth-enabled cellphones.

We caught up with Neil Roiter, director of research at Corero, about Flame. He told us Flame is remarkably sophisticated and can be used against a variety of targets.

"Learning that Flame has been in use for two years, perhaps longer, underscores concerns that similarly complex malware could be directed against U.S. companies, institutions and government...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Microsoft Launches Office 365 for Government
There's a new Microsoft cloud with Uncle Sam's name on it. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a version of its Office 365 cloud-based suite specifically designed for governmental use.

Office 365 is the online version of the venerable Office productivity suite. Office 365 for Government stores data in a segregated community cloud, and it includes the regular productivity and collaboration services -- Office Professional Plus, Exchange Online, Lync Online, and Sharepoint Online.

Security and Privacy

Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office, noted in a statement that the company knows about government's need for privacy and security, especially when clouds are involved. "Security and privacy play a big role in any decision to move to the cloud," he said.

To help assuage those concerns, Office 365 for Government meets such global and regional standards as ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II, EU Safe Harbor, EU Model Clauses, the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the U.S. Federal Information Security Management Act.

By September, IPv6 will be supported, and, soon, so will Criminal Justice Information Security policies.

In terms of infrastructure, Microsoft is gearing up for federal governmental business. Last fall, the company announced it would spend $150 million to construct a new data center in Boydton, Va., to accompany the $499 million one already under way nearby.

Additionally, the company is spending about three-quarters of a billion dollars on new data centers in Des Moines, Iowa, and Dublin, Ireland.

Feds Move to the Cloud

Industry observers have speculated that the simultaneous construction of so much data center capacity is intended primarily to support Office 365 and the Windows Azure platform cloud for developers, in addition to other services.

In February of last year, then-U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra issued a Federal Cloud Computing Strategy document. In it,...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Brocade, EMC Team on SAN Management Tools
Brocade and EMC are teaming to automate management of storage area networks, or SAN. The companies will work to simplify management of joint EMC-Brocade SAN environments.

The companies promise the integration provides a more holistic view of storage networking resources to improve alert monitoring and correlation. The ultimate goal: to expedite issue resolution in highly virtualized and cloud environments.

In practice, all this means that Brocade Network Advisor SAN management software will be sold through EMC as Connectrix Manager Converged Network Edition (CMCNE). The software is now integrated with the newly released EMC ProSphere 1.6 cloud storage management software.

Combining Storage and SAN Management

With the software in place, storage administrators can navigate from ProSphere to CMCNE to evaluate alerts, analyze performance or make changes to their SAN switch infrastructure from one click on a single screen. The ProSphere/CMCNE integration also allows administrators to combine storage and SAN management functions. When paired with CMCNE, Brocade said ProSphere works in both physical and virtual environments so organizations can manage IT-as-a-Service by monitoring and analyzing service levels from end to end.

Specifically, ProSphere lets IT admins visualize relationships and application dependencies across physical and virtual environments, analyze storage services to improve service levels and optimize the storage infrastructure. CMCNE provides visibility and management of the network infrastructure to monitor, diagnose and improve performance. The promised result: better coordination between storage and data networking for provisioning, troubleshooting and reporting.

"With this new solution, storage administrators will be able to quickly identify SAN issues, triage the issue and, if necessary, launch into CMCNE for deeper analysis or reconfiguration of the Brocade switches," said Johan Marais, storage and virtualization administrator at Discovery, a financial services institution. "The partnership between EMC and Brocade enables us to better leverage these two best-of-breed tools to monitor, analyze and optimize our storage infrastructure...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Facebook's Cold Could Be Catching
Investors in social-media stocks, including Facebook, didn't have to wait long to experience their own dot-com drubbing.

Facebook stock fell below $30 Tuesday, tumbling $3.07 to $28.84, the fourth decline in its seven days of trading. It's now down 24% from its IPO price, making it the 19th worst initial public offering of 125 in the last 12 months.

Seeing Facebook, the granddaddy of social networking, suffer is making investors wonder if the industry is the bonanza they'd hoped it was. Investors are already scrambling out of related stocks, including social game company Zynga; the so-called "Facebook of China" RenRen; and Internet radio company Pandora.

"After Facebook, investors will be gun-shy about dealing with these stocks," says Robert Maltbie of Singular Research. "People will think of the business model, not the buzz."

The doubts about social-media stocks are clear in the:

Collateral damage to peers and competitors. Since Facebook's valuation is the anchor for the industry, if it's falling, stocks in the industry are under pressure, says Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray. Zynga, which makes games often played on Facebook, is seen as one of Facebook's closest peers, says Francis Gaskins of IPOdesktop. And Zynga is down 39% from the December IPO price. RenRen is down 67% from its IPO price from May 2011.

Smackdown of other recent Internet IPOs. Coupon site Groupon and Internet radio Pandora may not be precisely social-media plays, but they're part of the recent class of Internet IPOs. Both are getting served up some old-school dot-com pain: Groupon and Pandora are down 41% and 34% from their IPO prices, respectively.

Questions about the business model. Investors are increasingly sensitive to the fleeting nature of social media, Maltbie says, and they worry Facebook will turn off users if it gets aggressive in its pursuit of revenue.

Investors aren't giving up on social media. Shares...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
FTC Eyes Social-Media Ads with Perks
Do they really, really like you on Facebook? Or did they click the "like" button because they got something?

The Federal Trade Commission holds a workshop [that] will look at how companies should disclose incentives on social-media "platforms that allow only short messages or a simple sign of approval," says FTC advertising practices chief Mary Engle

Incentives for consumers to "like" companies on Facebook fall into a "gray area" that depends on whether the number of likes a company has influences consumers in choosing their products, Engle says. The FTC's advertising endorsement guidelines require compensation to be disclosed, as with Twitter hashtags such as "#paid," she says.

The National Consumers League's Sally Greenberg, who is testifying at the FTC workshop, says consumers on social media need the same protections as with traditional advertising. Consumers need to be protected "from false and deceptive advertising" in "new media," says Greenberg.

Recent plugs with perks:

Target was offering a free "beauty bag" with makeup samples last week in return for a "like." The company has 1.8 million likes on its Facebook page. The company would not comment about how many were received in return for the bags, but spokeswoman Erin Madsen says Target has given away a million beauty bags in this and another Facebook giveaway.

Amazon was offering $3 instant video credits last week to people who sent out a pre-written tweet for it. Amazon doesn't comment on marketing or promotions, says spokeswoman Sally Fouts.

Mattress Discounters in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia entered recent buyers into a drawing for a $100 gift card if they hit their Facebook "like" button, posted pictures of their beds and added comments. The page has 492 likes.

Harinder Mundi of Woodbridge, N.J., clicked "like" on Target's page and tweeted for Amazon to get the freebies, but says social media doesn't affect her shopping...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Mobile Devices Star in Prime Time at Home
His kids might commandeer the TV before bedtime, but online game designer John Comes still gets his prime-time fix. Just on a smaller screen.

Using his iPad, he can watch content from traditional TV and cable channels such as ABC, TBS and HBO, as well as newer options such as Hulu and Netflix. As for the family's 46-inch HDTV at their Seattle area home, "I watch it when (they) are asleep for items I can't watch on my iPad," says Comes, 37.

Internet video is changing the face of prime time. Online junkies are no longer turning to cyberspace just to watch cute clips of kids, pets and movie trailers on YouTube.

New research made available exclusively to USA TODAY shows how consumers are using tablets, smartphones, game consoles -- and, yes, Internet-connected televisions -- to devour live sports, network TV and cable fare. And most of this is happening during the same prime-time hours that were dominated decades ago by the major networks' over-the-air TV broadcasts.

Meet the new prime time. Same as the old prime time. What is changing is that smaller screens on mobile devices are being used at home more than ever expected. And, surprisingly, people are watching longer and longer videos on their mobile devices, even the smallest screens.

This new cyber audience that has grown up with on-demand video and DVR time-shifting scorns appointment TV in favor of a user-generated viewing experience in which they are in control. "People are consuming their content at the time they prefer, on the devices they prefer and increasingly in the context they prefer," says Jay Fulcher, CEO of Ooyala, the video management company for networks, broadcasters and content providers that shared its user consumption data with USA TODAY.

The newfangled prime time extends beyond weeknights. To the digital viewer, Saturday night is increasingly...

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Radiation-Monitoring Cell Phones Hit Japan
Worries over radiation are so rampant in Japan after last year's nuclear meltdowns that the world's first cell phones with built-in radiation monitors are going on sale.

Softbank Corp., the carrier for the hit iPhone and iPad in Japan, says the Pantone 5 mobile device, which shows the microsieverts-per-hour number on a display at a push of a button, will go on sale in July. Pricing was not announced.

The tsunami last March in northeastern Japan set off meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Areas near the plant are a no-go zone. But "hot spots" have popped up in many places, including Tokyo. Many Japanese are worried, especially families with children.

Softbank President Masayoshi Son publicly opposes nuclear power after the disaster, and is an aggressive proponent of solar and other renewable energy.

He said he was responding to concerns sent into the company, including requests on Twitter.

The device by Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp. works like a dosimeter. It measures the radiation in one's surroundings, such as on the ground or in the air, in two minutes. It does not measure radiation in food or water.

People in parts of Fukushima are still being exposed to radiation higher than the 1 millisievert a year set as safe by Japan before the disaster.

Studies have found that cancer risks rise at an annual exposure of 100 millsieverts or above but aren't statistically detectable at lower levels. Below 100, experts can't say for sure whether it's safe, just that a link to cancer can't be proven.

Fri, 1 Jun 12
Facebook HQ Expansion Approved
A Silicon Valley city where Facebook has opened its new headquarters voted Tuesday to support an environmental impact report and development agreement for a project that will allow the social media giant to employ thousands more people at the campus.

Under the deal, Facebook could base about 6,600 workers at the sprawling headquarters in Menlo Park, up from the current limit of 3,600 employees that was placed on the campus' previous occupant, Sun Microsystems. Facebook moved its headquarters to the campus from Palo Alto last year and now has about 2,200 employees at the site.

In exchange, Facebook will pay the city an average of $850,000 a year over 10 years to cover the impact of the additional workers on city infrastructure. Facebook also will make a one-time payment of more than $1 million for capital improvements, establish a $500,000 community improvement fund and set up high school internship and job training programs.

Facebook eventually wants to expand to another campus across the street that would allow it to employ a total of 9,400 people. The company plans to construct five new buildings totaling approximately 440,000 square feet as part of that project, which was included in the environmental impact report approved Tuesday.

All five members of the Menlo Park City Council voted yes at the lengthy meeting Tuesday night.

"Welcome to Menlo Park and we're happy to have you here," Mayor Kirsten Keith told company representatives.

Facebook's plans have raised concerns about traffic among some residents who live in the company's shadow. The neighboring city of Atherton has threatened a lawsuit, saying the environmental impact report doesn't adequately address an expected increase in traffic at one particular intersection.

Menlo Park City Manager Alex McIntyre said the two cities are continuing to discuss the issue. Facebook has said it will encourage employees to carpool, take public transit...


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