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Tue, 31 Jul 12
Will Users Dig The New Digg? Reboot Launches This Week
Stories on the new, improved Digg will still be ranked according to popularity, but now Facebook shares and other interactions with social sites will also be taken into account.
That's one of the changes announced by the team that is rebuilding the pioneering Web site, recently acquired by Betaworks, from scratch. The new Digg will relaunch on Wednesday after a six-week tune-up.
"When we launch v1, users will continue to be able to digg stories, but Digg scores will also take into account Facebook shares and tweets," wrote the new development team on their Rethink Digg blog Monday.
"Roll over any Digg score to see the breakdown. We're excited to see how this new data can help us identify the best stories on the Web."
The blog includes photos of a paper mock-up of the new Digg as well as a photo of the developers in their warroom. The New York-based team of editors, engineers and designers wrote that their priority was to create a site that makes it easy to find, read and share the most talked-about stories on the Internet; to offer an experience that is "fast and thin" that users will visit often, rather than try to keep them busy on the site (like Facebook); and build an experience that is "native to each device: smartphone, inbox, Web page."
Digg and new-medium creator Betaworks on July 12 announced a deal to incorporate Digg into Betaworks' News.me service, with the pricetag reported as low as $500,000. At the height of its popularity Digg was once valued as high as $200 million and held talks with Google.
CEO Matt Williams said in announcing the deal that Digg accepted the offer from Betaworks because Betaworks had the best plan to keep Digg alive.
"Over the last few months, we've considered many options of where...
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Google Brings Google+ Video Hangouts to Gmail
Video chat is nothing really new to Gmail. Google's Web-based e-mail service rolled out video chat back in 2008. Apparently, the feedback was so good that Google figured it would add a social media twist to Gmail video chat via Google+ Hangouts.
"Unlike the old video chat, which was based on peer-to-peer technology, Hangouts utilize the power of Google's network to deliver higher reliability and enhanced quality," said Fred Brewin, Gmail product manager.
"You'll be able to chat with all the same people you did before and, in fact, with Hangouts you'll now be able to reach them not only when they are using Gmail but also if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices."
According to Brewin, all Gmail users will benefit from this upgrade. But, he added, if you and the person you're chatting with also use Google+, you'll get even more from the Hangouts experience.
In case you aren't familiar with Google+ Hangouts, it's a feature in Google's social network that lets you catch up with friends and family either on a computer or Android mobile device in living color. Up to 10 people can join a video Hangout. You can also broadcast the Hangout on YouTube.
"You'll be able to video chat with up to nine people at once, watch YouTube videos together, collaborate on Google documents and share your screen," Brewin said. "Plus, Hangouts has a bunch of fun effects that you can try out...because any conversation is better when you're wearing a virtual mustache or pirate hat."
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said this is one more way to promote Google+. But it's also more than that.
"Hangouts has superior functionality so it's an upgrade from the current Gmail chat capabilities across the board," Sterling told us....
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Microsoft Previews Windows 8 Tablet and PC Accessories
Microsoft is showing off new hardware accessories for tablets and PCs that are specifically designed to function in tandem with the tech giant's next-generation Windows 8 operating system when it launches Oct. 26.
Monday's preview of mobile-friendly keyboards and mice underscores Microsoft's statement to the SEC last Thursday that it fully intends to continue investing in new hardware technologies to be marketed under the Microsoft brand beyond the highly anticipated Surface tablet coming down the chute this autumn.
"We are showcasing our first set of hardware products designed and optimized for Windows 8," said Brett Kelleran, general manager of Microsoft Hardware. "It's the reason why our group was formed and, in these products, that's shining through."
For example, Microsoft's coming Wedge Mobile keyboard is specifically designed for use with tablets.
"It seamlessly connected to my tablet via Bluetooth with no trouble at all," noted Microsoft Windows Team blogger Brandon LeBlanc. "Within seconds I had a physical keyboard to use to write this post with."
Microsoft's sleek Wedge Mobile Keyboard will sport a durable rubber cover that clamps on to the sides of the keyboard -- an action that automatically powers down the tablet accessory. Microsoft said the new device will be coming to market soon at an estimated price of $79.95.
The Wedge Mobile Keyboard retains a full-sized keyboard layout yet is lightweight enough to easily carry around, LeBlanc said. The rubber cover bends at the middle, which enables it to double as a tablet stand.
"I have a dock for my Samsung Series 7 tablet but I don't carry it when popping from one meeting to the next here at work," LeBlanc said. "This is perfect because I only need to take the keyboard with cover and my tablet to my meetings which can quickly be...
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Mountain Lion Is Apple's Best-Ever OS Launch
Apple on Monday announced that the latest iteration of its Mac operating system, OS X Mountain Lion, is the company's most successful ever. Apple is reporting more than 3 million downloads from its Mac App Store in the first four days.
News reports are now pegging that total at 4 million as of Monday, though Apple has not released official stats.
The ninth major release of the Mac desktop OS, Mountain Lion offers more than 200 new features. Consumers are downloading it by the millions from the Mac App Store as an upgrade to Lion or Snow Leopard for $19.99.
Mountain Lion features include an all new Messages app, Notification Center, system-wide Sharing, Facebook integration, Dictation, AirPlay Mirroring and Game Center.
Meanwhile, Apple said iCloud integration makes it easy for consumers to set up features like Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, Reminders and Notes, and keep everything, including iWork documents, up to date across the desktop, laptop, iPhone and iPad.
Chitika is reporting that new software accounted for 2 percent of Mac traffic globally in the first two days after Mountain Lion hit the market. The firm said consumers who skipped the upgrade to Lion, which had mixed reviews, may be more inclined to make the jump to Mountain Lion.
Chitika is estimating 2.1 million Mac owners have upgraded to the new operating system. That equals about $38 million in revenue if just 90 percent of those users paid for the operating system.
"It is rather impressive for an operating system to capture 3.2% of market Web usage after just 48 hours on the market," Chitika said. "Such figures are likely supported by a relatively low price point for the operating system as well as an expansive list of desired feature improvements."
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal...
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Oracle Buys Network Virtualization Provider Xsigo
On Monday, Oracle announced that it has entered into an agreement to buy Xsigo Systems, a provider of software-defined network virtualization technology. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
The move is being compared by industry observers to VMware's $1.2 billion purchase earlier this month of Nicira, whose Network Virtualization Platform enables the definition of logical virtual networks based on specific workloads. A few weeks before the Nicira acquisition, VMware bought DynamicOps, which provides multi-hypervisor management.
The acquired companies apply virtualization to the creation of multiple virtual networks, moving forward the software-defined data center so that virtual machines, configured under different brands of software, can be reassigned as needed. For Oracle, Xsigo adds network virtualization to its server virtualization offerings, thus moving the company into a more competitive position against networking competitors VMware, Cisco, and others.
Xsigo's software streamlines cloud infrastructure and operations by enabling customers to dynamically connect any server to any network or storage. The result, the companies said, is a more efficient use of networked assets and an increase in application performance, coupled with a reduction in cost.
John Fowler, Oracle executive vice president of Systems, said in a statement that "the proliferation of virtualized servers in the last few years has made the virtualization of the supporting network connections essential." He added that, with Xsigo, "customers can reduce the complexity and simplify management of their clouds" by delivering resources that can be dynamically reallocated when required.
In the acquisition announcement, Xsigo CEO Lloyd Carney said that, as customers are focused on reducing costs while improving their network utilization, virtualization "allows customers to scale compute and storage for their public and private clouds while matching network capacity" to changing demands.
Xsigo's technology is currently being used by hundreds of enterprise customers, including British Telecom, eBay, Softbank and Verizon....
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Podio Adds Customizable Project Management Apps
Citrix is launching three new project management apps for its Podio cloud-based collaborative work platform, which is designed to enable user-created apps. The apps were created by project management experts Gantthead, ProjectsAtWork, and Brad Egeland.
The apps, a few of the more than 700 that are available through Citrix's Podio App Market, can be customized by non-technical users for how a particular team works, using the Podio App Builder. The apps are also available through the Google Apps Marketplace.
With Podio, teams set up workspaces for management, communication and social collaboration. The platform is available for free for up to five employees.
In its announcement, the company described building Podio apps as "easy as creating a spreadsheet," which, it said, allows small businesses and individuals with little or no tech support to customize Podio project management apps or build their own. Podio apps are commonly used to streamline workflows, manage business processes or improve efficiency or productivity within a project.
ProjectAtWorks' Distributed Agile Teams provides support for teams using that development methodology. ProjectAtWorks, which is a community of users looking to create better managed projects, said that its app utilizes its own research report's recommendations on how best to work with teams using Agile methods.
Gantthead's Project Headway app is designed for PMI-standard project management, and is a step-by-step project management tool that allows users to drop in tasks, with advice from Gantthead subject matter experts along the way. Gantthead is a leading community for those interested in project and IT management, offering news, resources, tools, and personalized advice for its members.
Brad Egeland, a project management veteran and author of PM best practices, provides a Lessons Learned app, which helps project teams share their post-project learning for the benefit of the entire organization.
Citrix uses a term employed by industry research...
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Amazon.com Meets Meager Q2 Profit Expectations
Online retailer Amazon.com Inc. on Thursday reported muted second-quarter earnings and projected an operating loss for the current quarter as it absorbs the costs of a warehouse technology acquisition and plans to spend more on order-fulfillment centers ahead of the holidays.
Amazon said its profit was hurt by a $65 million loss related to its acquisition of Kiva Systems Inc., a warehouse technology company that Amazon agreed to buy in March for $775 million in cash. The deal closed on May 1. Amazon is hoping that Kiva's automated systems help boost productivity and improve profitability in the long run.
The Seattle-based company said it expects third-quarter revenue to grow between 19 percent and 31 percent from a year ago. That amounts to sales of $12.9 billion to $14.3 billion. The midpoint is short of the $14.1 billion expected by analysts, according to FactSet.
It also forecast a third-quarter operating loss of $50 million to $350 million.
Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said the projected loss was due in part to investment in the company's fulfillment centers ahead of the all-important holiday quarter. It plans to open 18 new fulfillment centers this year and has opened six so far, he said.
After initially falling, Amazon's shares rose $2.63, or 1.2 percent, to $222.64 in extended trading following the release of the results.
Amazon reported net income in the three months to June 30 came to just $7 million, or a penny per share, a drop of 96 percent from $191 million, or 41 cents, a year ago.
That matched analysts' meager expectations.
Revenue grew 29 percent to $12.83 billion, which was short of the $12.90 billion expected by analysts.
Amazon said that revenue was weighed by currency movements to the tune of $272 million, which the company had forewarned of in April.
Sales of digital goods like Kindle e-books, music and...
Tue, 31 Jul 12
For Marketers, this Olympics Is a Social Media Event
Olympic sponsors will spend untold millions of dollars in a desperate attempt to shape, mold and control one thing: consumer use of social media.
It won't be easy. Even if these are the Social Games -- as they have been tagged -- for the big-spending sponsors, there could be more losers than winners.
"People use social media to connect with each other," says Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, the tech consultancy. "They don't use it much to connect with brands."
That's hardly stopping the big sponsors from trying. Nor, for that matter, do they have a choice. The 11 biggest corporate sponsors doled out nearly $1 billion for the rights to flaunt the Olympic seal during the London Games and 2010's Winter Games in Vancouver.
Coca-Cola is using social media to nudge Olympic fans to create and share music videos. General Electric is using it to coax folks to improve their health. Visa is using it to nudge fans to post elaborate cheers for the athletes. During the London Games, "we are going to see the use of social media surpass any sporting event in history," says Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers.
The Big Question for sponsors entering the 2012 Summer Games: Is the enormous amount of time and money that Olympic marketers are pouring into social media a brilliant investment -- or a gigantic waste? Answer: Yes -- to both.
Consider: 87% of adults in the U.S. who go online say they've used some form of social media in 2012, reports Forrester. That compares with 63% in 2007. That's why 80% of marketers are using online video, such as YouTube, in 2012, vs. 64% in 2011, says a recent ANA digital survey. And 90% of marketers are using social media as part of their marketing mix,...
Tue, 31 Jul 12
Be On Guard Against Olympics-Related Scams
Spammers are feeling the Olympic spirit, too. Banking on consumer frenzy building for the London Olympics, scammers are firing off a blitz of bogus Olympics-themed e-mails aimed at stealing your money and information. The problem has been so pervasive that organizers of the London Games warn on its Web site that consumers should be on the lookout for scams.
"As Olympic fever grows, people will be looking for ways to get in on the action, find memorabilia and, perhaps, last-minute tickets to the Olympics," Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau president, said in a statement. "But consumers need to be alert and ensure they're dealing with legitimate, authorized partners of the Olympics to avoid being scammed."
Organizers of the Summer Games have recorded 124 different scams so far and say the most common spam includes e-mail to consumers alerting them that they've won an "Olympic lottery," or offering them a chance to sign up for temporary jobs during the Games. Many e-mail ploys use the names of large corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Nokia and Ford Motor, to appear legitimate and trick users. Others have sent spam posing as the London Olympics organizers.
Scammers have also sent companies phony e-mails to extract payment for Olympics-related items.
Karen McDowell, an information security analyst for the University of Virginia, says spammers and hackers may seek other ways to take advantage of the Olympics' popularity. For example, they may plant malicious links and viruses in Olympics-themed photos that appear in search engine results.
Odd requests seeking personal information may also pop up as text messages, she says.
McDowell advises consumers to avoid clicking on links directly and urges people to type a company's name into a search engine in order to get to its official Web site.
Olympics officials say consumers should pay for items only on secure sites that have an...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Surface Tablet May Affect Microsoft's PC Partnerships
Microsoft has told the SEC that its coming Surface tablets will directly compete with products made by the company's own PC partners, "which may affect their commitment to our [Windows] platform."
Approximately 75 percent of the revenue generated by Microsoft's Windows Division comes from Windows OS sales to PC vendors, Microsoft told the Securities Exchange Commission on Thursday. Nevertheless, when Windows 8 begins shipping Oct. 26, "at that time, we will begin selling the Surface -- a series of Microsoft-designed and manufactured hardware devices," Microsoft said in its filing.
The big problem for Microsoft's OEM partners is that PC growth overall remained flat in this year's second quarter. On the other hand, some industry observers believe that a major push by PC vendors to promote Ultrabooks could potentially change the market's dynamics -- and without necessarily taking a big hit from Microsoft's Surface tablets.
"Price is the key," said Mika Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner. "It would be possible that there will be competition between Ultrabooks" and Surface tablets if they are both offered "at the same price point. Otherwise, it would not affect the mainstream consumer market."
Though the Ultrabook form factor was first introduced in late 2011, a major promotional effort didn't really kick off until the latter half of this year's second quarter, Kitagawa said.
"This segment is still in the early adopter stage," she said.
When we asked her to explain Gartner's long-term view of the Ultrabook segment, Kitagawa told us that Ultrabook's adoption by the mainstream consumer market "will only happen if the price point goes down." Moreover, Microsoft faces the same problems given that Surface is expected to be launched at a "high price point."
Though Ultrabooks will doubtlessly be one of the key products for PC vendors going forward, vendors will find it...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Bump To Pay -- Or Bump To Hack? NFC Vulnerability Demonstrated
Near field communication (NFC) is one of the great advances of mobile technology, offering a quick and convenient method of payment -- "bump to pay" -- as well as a means to share photos, documents and media between smartphones.
But can it also be a threat to your privacy or data security?
That's the question posed this week after a security researcher at this year's Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas succeeded in exploiting NFC to break into Samsung's top-shelf Nexus S device, as well as Nokia's N9, using an NFC-enabled chip.
Reports from the conference said the whiz was Charlie Miller, a researcher at Denver-based Accuvant Labs, and he was able to use an NFC chip to beam a code that caused the downloading of malware on the phones.
Miller -- who last year was reportedly kicked out of Apple's developer program after creating an app that bypassed Apple's signing code to show that it could be done -- said it was also possible to take advantage of a new feature for Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) called Android Beam, taking control of the browser through NFC. He could then direct the phone to any Web site he chose.
"What that means is with an NFC tag, if I walk up to your phone and touch it, or I just get near it, your Web browser, without you doing anything, will open up and go to a page that I tell it to," Miller told Ars Technica. "So instead of the attack surface being the NFC stack, the attack surface really is the whole Web browser and everything a Web browser can do. I can reach that through NFC."
Research firm Berg Insight said in March that 30 million NFC-enabled handsets were sold in 2011, and this year,...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Apple Beefs Up Mobile Security with AuthenTec Buy
Apple appears to be looking for ways to beef up security. The firm just snapped up AuthenTec, a security technology provider, for $355 million.
AuthenTec has made a name for itself in the mobile and network security worlds. Its tech helps protect people and organizations through secure networking, content and data protection, access control and fingerprint security on PCs and mobile devices.
Perhaps ironically, Apple rival Samsung just selected AuthenTec's VPN security to beef up enterprise security on new Android smartphone and tablets in mid-July. AuthenTec's QuickSec Mobile VPN Client for Android continues to gain traction and broad acceptance in the market. Apple may shut down the Android side as it integrates the tech into its devices, leaving Samsung looking for a new partner.
The need for VPN security that allows smartphone and tablet users to easily and securely connect to enterprise networks continues to grow. According to Cisco, by the end of 2012 the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on the earth.
If AuthenTec's deal with Samsung offers any clues, Apple iPhones and iPads equipped with AuthenTec's VPN Client will be ready to connect to enterprise networks the moment they are unboxed. That would eliminate the need for IT administrators to install a separate VPN application.
Apple, though, may not rein in the technology all for itself. AuthenTec's products and technologies provide security on hundreds of millions of devices, and the company has shipped more than 100 million fingerprint sensors for integration in a wide range of portable electronics, including more than 15 million mobile phones.
AuthenTec's customers include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Fujitsu, HBO, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Samsung, Sky and Texas Instruments.
Michael Disabato, managing vice president of telecom and networking at Gartner, said he sees pros and cons...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Skype Confronts Monitoring Reports: 'False'
Big Brother is not listening to your Skype communications.
That's the message from the Microsoft-owned video-conferencing application's developers after press reports earlier this week speculated that system changes and a patented new technology for routing messages through a recording system are intended to comply with federal law enforcement monitoring requirements.
"The enhancements we have been making to our software and infrastructure have been to improve user experience and reliability. Period," wrote Chief Development and Operations Officer Mark Gillett on a company blog.
The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported on July 25 that Skype had "expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police...." The paper cited recent changes in the way Skype operates.
It was revealed in May that Skype switched its Voice-over-Internet Protocol network from peer-to-peer client operation, in which each computer acts as either client or server, to Skype's own Linux-based supernode cloud servers.
"Skype, Skype's local partner, or the operator or company facilitating your communication may provide personal data, communications content and/or traffic data to an appropriate judicial, law enforcement or government authority lawfully requesting such information. Skype will provide all reasonable assistance and information to fulfill this request and you hereby consent to such disclosure."
But on Thursday Skype took up the issue head-on, with Gillett blogging that "when a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures, we respond where legally required and technically feasible."
A 1994 federal law, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, requires U.S. technology companies to develop a framework for police or other official investigators to quickly access information for surveillance when deemed appropriate by a judge. Passage of the law was fueled by...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Facebook Shares, Customer Satisfaction Plunge
Facebook's shares are taking a hit after the company reported its second quarter 2012 results. The stock was down 11 percent in afternoon trading, pricing Facebook at just under $24 a share. That's after an 8 percent dip in Thursday trading.
Facebook's revenue rose to $1.18 billion in the quarter. That's up from $895 million. Most of those revenues came from advertising. Still, the company reported a $157 million net loss, which compares with a net income of $240 million in the year-ago period.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, didn't have much to say about the loss.
"Our goal is to help every person stay connected and every product they use be a great social experience. That's why we're so focused on investing in our priorities of mobile, platform and social ads to help people have these experiences with their friends," Zuckerberg said.
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, noted that Facebook said Thursday the company was still in an "investment phase" of development and that it was not going to be managed to a specific operating margin.
"This signaled to investors that in the near term they might have several more lackluster quarters," Sterling told us. "Facebook took great pains to talk about mobile and early promising results from their initial foray into mobile advertising. This has been an area of great concern among financial analysts."
Sterling also pointed to comments from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who spoke about the continuing need to educate marketers about the value and performance of Facebook advertising. Sandberg essentially said there was a wide gap between consumer usage of Facebook and ad spend. But she presented that gap as an indicator of potential future growth, not as a sign of weakness.
"Overall, financial analysts and investors may have come away with the impression that...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Data Center Problems Caused Twitter Outage
Twitter blamed systems failures -- not a crush of traffic around the Olympic games -- for an outage on Thursday that saw people around the world experience problems accessing the micro blogging site for more than an hour.
The San Francisco-based company said the outage was caused by a "noteworthy" double failure in its data centers. When one system fails, a parallel one is meant to take over, but two systems coincidentally stopped working at around the same time, Twitter said.
"I wish I could say that today's outage could be explained by the Olympics or even a cascading bug," Mazen Rawashdeh, VP of engineering, said in a statement apologizing to users. "Instead, it was due to this infrastructural double-whammy."
He apologized for giving its users "zilch" instead of the service, saying the company is "investing aggressively" in its systems to avoid a repeat situation.
Visitors to the site on Thursday were greeted with a half-formed message saying that "Twitter is currently down." The fields where a reason for the outage and a deadline for restoring service were apparently meant to go were filled with computer code.
Sluggishness or outages were reported for more than an hour in countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some users were able to post updates through their phones or third-party applications.
Tweets about the Olympic torch, which is wending its way through central London, still poured in, albeit far more slowly than earlier in the day.
When the Olympics open in London on Friday there is expected be an even bigger spike in use of the micro-blogging site.
While the site was affected Thursday, many self-proclaimed "Twitter refugees" flooded Facebook with complaints about Twitter. As usual following outages, "WhileTwitterWasDown" was one of the most-talked about topics on Twitter in the United States. Users cracked jokes about their regained productivity as...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Symantec Boots CEO, Taps Chairman as Replacement
Symantec has fired its CEO, Enrique Salem, and replaced him with Chairman Steve Bennett. The computer security and data storage company said Wednesday that the move is effective immediately. Bennett, who will stay on as chairman, says it was in Symantec's "best interests" to change CEOs.
Salem had been with the company for 19 years and was CEO for the past three years. Symantec says Salem's departure was not because of a particular event or any impropriety, but that the company has healthy assets yet is "underperforming against the opportunity."
Symantec also said Wednesday that its fiscal first-quarter net income fell 10 percent, hurt by restructuring costs and a stronger dollar. Symantec also spent more investing in technology. A rising dollar means money earned outside the U.S. takes a hit when it's translated back into the dollar.
The company earned $172 million, or 24 cents per share, in the April-June period. That's up from $191 million, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue rose 1 percent to $1.67 billion.
Adjusted earnings were 43 cents per share in the latest quarter.
Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of 38 cents per share on revenue of $1.65 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.
For the current quarter, Symantec is forecasting revenue of $1.64 billion to $1.67 billion. It expects adjusted earnings of 35 cents to 39 cents per share.
Analysts are expecting profit of 40 cents per share and revenue of $1.69 billion.
The Mountain View, California, company's stock rose $1.79, or 13.5 percent, to $14.96.
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Review: New Mac Operating System Worth the Upgrade
I didn't need to spend a lot of time with the new Mac operating system to see that phones and tablet computers have won out over personal computers at Apple.
Mobile devices are already responsible for the bulk of Apple's sales and profits. Now, Apple is making the new Mac system even more like the iOS software that powers its iPhones and iPads. It's also casually dropping the "Mac" name from the Mac OS X operating software, though computers will still be called Macs, not "Super-sized iPads."
The new system, formally OS X 10.8 and dubbed Mountain Lion, went on sale Wednesday as a $19.99 download from Apple's App Store. It builds on the previous system, Lion, which came out last July.
Mountain Lion is made for a world where your computer is just one of your computing devices, along with your iPhone and your iPad. Apple wants to make it easier to switch from one to the other, several times a day.
It's already easy to switch between iPhone and iPad. For instance, songs and apps you buy on an iPad will automatically pop up on your iPhone through Apple's iCloud online-storage service. Lion has some iCloud features, but Mountain Lion really brings the Mac into the iPhone-iPad family.
That's what I like most about Mountain Lion. It borrows a lot from its mobile cousin.
The Mac already had such mobile-like features as the ability to zoom in or out on a MacBook by pinching your fingers on its touchpad. Mountain Lion goes a lot further:
- A notification center slides out from the right of the screen to offer calendar reminders and the latest mail items. It mimics, down to the background color, layout and font, the way you get Facebook updates, news alerts and other notices on your iPhone.
- The Mac's iChat app has...
Sat, 28 Jul 12
Rules of Cyberwar Stumping Pentagon
The Pentagon is still grappling with how to write the rules of cyberwarfare, such as when and how to fire back against a computer-based attack, senior military leaders told Congress Wednesday.
Four months ago the military's top cyberwarrior predicted the rules would be ironed out in a "month or two" and sent to other federal agencies for discussion. But the complex world of cyberspace, which has no real boundaries and operates at the speed of light, has proven to be a difficult battlefield for the military to map out.
House members said that working out the rules of cyberwar is critical so that the military will be able to respond quickly when U.S. networks are attacked or threatened. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told military leaders that there likely won't be time for Congress to pass a declaration of war if or when a computer-based attack happens.
So, consultation with lawmakers beforehand would smooth things over, said Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services emerging threats subcommittee.
"The devil is in the details," acknowledged Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the Navy's Fleet Cyber Command. He said it has been an issue for some time, and that he expects there will be some developments "at some point in the near term."
During hearings in March, members of Congress pressed Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of U.S. Cyber Command, for details on the military rules of engagement for offensive cyberoperations, particularly so that U.S. forces have the proper authority to act quickly when an attack is discovered or a network is breached. Alexander, who also heads the secretive National Security Agency, said at the time that U.S. officials were reaching some agreement on the rules.
The military has longstanding rules of engagement for conventional warfare that lay out the appropriate response to a particular act or attack...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Is the Shift in iPhone's Cycle Handing Samsung an Edge?
Can Apple's shift in schedule for iPhone releases hand an advantage to Samsung in the battle for smartphone domination?
Some analysts think it might. The iPhone continues to be the world's single most popular smartphone, but Apple's South Korean rival has snagged the top spot in global handset sales of its array of devices.
One advantage Apple has enjoyed since 2007 is anticipation: Fans expect an updated iPhone every summer and a complete refresh every other year. But that cycle was thrown off last year when the hardware giant released first a CDMA version of the 2010 iPhone 4, followed by the upgraded iPhone 4S in the fall.
This year, we're still waiting for a new iPhone and recent comments by a Verizon Wireless exec suggest it may not arrive until the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Samsung has shipped more than 10 million of its flagship Galaxy S III smartphone into the sales channel in less than three months. That's far less than Apple's 35.1 million iPhones in its fiscal second quarter, but it shows a growing fan base for Samsung devices since the previous Galaxy S devices took longer to get to 10 million.
And Samsung's overall device sales in the quarter just concluded were estimated by Juniper Research at 52.1 million, more than Apple's 26 million for the same quarter.
Juniper said Apple will need an innovation on the same scale as its well-received Siri voice data assistant to regain momentum, "particularly if the device retains the 3.5-inch display size, which is now dwarfed by the Galaxy S3 (4.8-inch) and other high-end smartphones."
In a July 24 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook attributed the quarter's lower-than-expected $8.8 billion net profit to "a fall transition," since iPhone fans may be holding out for the new device rather than buying a current model.
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Sprint Previews Enterprise-Class Motorola Photon Q Phone
Sprint previewed a new 4G LTE smartphone from Motorola on Thursday, which sports a five-row QWERTY-style keyboard that emulates a standard PC-like typing experience through the addition of a dedicated number row.
The goal is to attract the attention of BlackBerry business users unimpressed with Research In Motion's latest round of handset offerings.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told investors that the carrier will be launching the Android-powered Motorola Photon Q in the near future. "The Motorola Photon Q is a ULE platinum-certified premium QWERTY slider with robust business and consumer features," Hesse said during a conference call.
To enable users to see what they're typing -- even in the dark -- each laser-cut key is outlined in LED lights. The new smartphone also includes a virtual touch-screen keyboard for use in situations where sliding out the physical keyboard is inconvenient.
"When we talk to people who love their QWERTY smartphones, its evident this segment is passionate about their keyboards," said Motorola Mobility Senior Vice President Mark Shockley. "Motorola Photon Q offers a class-leading keyboard and an amazing big screen so you can see and do more with your smartphone."
Among other things, Photon Q has a scratch- and splash-resistant, 4.3-inch touchscreen. And the new device's world roaming and international hotspot capabilities will doubtlessly attract the interest of globetrotting corporate users.
Weighing 6 ounces, the Photon Q integrates 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of onboard memory and an SD card slot offering support for up to 32 GB of user-added memory. The Photon Q uses a 1.5-gigahertz, dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 processor.
Beyond supporting CDMA, GSM and super-fast 4G LTE network access at locations around the world, the Photon Q smartphone integrates Wi-Fi (801.b/g/n) and Bluetooth (4.0 with EDR) radio chips, together with near field communications and GPS navigation capabilities....
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Google Launches Gigabit Internet in Kansas City
Gigabit Internet and Google Fiber TV. Those two new services are being launched by the technology giant in the Kansas City metro area, as it pushes the envelope on Net service and services.
The company said it has been in conversation with potential customers in Kansas City for over a year, and is now unveiling three packages. Service installation will be rolled out throughout the year.
One of the three packages is Gigabit + Google TV, with hundreds of channels, "tens of thousands of shows on demand" in HD, and a DVR with eight tuners and 2 terabytes of storage. The service also throws in a Nexus 7 tablet to be used as the remote control. The cost: $120 monthly, with the $300 construction fee waived.
A second service is Gigabit Internet, which the company described as "100 times faster than what most Americans enjoy today." The package includes the network box, advanced Wi-Fi and a terabyte of cloud storage, for $70 monthly. Again, the $300 construction fee is waived.
As the third service, Google is also offering free Internet at five megabits per second, with the ability to upgrade when the customer is ready. But the $300 construction fee is not waived, although it can be paid in $25 monthly installments. The company said that 5.8 megabits is the average Net speed in the U.S.
To be eligible for any of the services, however, a customer must reside in what Google describes as "fiberhoods," which are small communities with a critical mass of residents who have pre-registered. The fiberhoods with the highest percent of pre-registrants will get service first.
Google announced in March 2011 that it would launch its gigabit service first in Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas City, Mo., was added several months later.
In an announcement on the company's Official Blog, Vice...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Juniper Partners with Riverbed on Application Delivery
Juniper Networks is hooking up with Riverbed Technology in a technology partnership in wide area network optimization, application delivery and mobility. The goal is to deliver market-leading technologies in these areas.
The partnership comes as the application acceleration market moves toward more convergence between the network and application layers. By joining forces, Juniper and Riverbed hope to provide competitive solutions to enterprises that want to drive more efficiency in their IT infrastructures while also delivering better app performance across devices, networks and clouds.
"Riverbed's application acceleration and WAN optimization solutions will complement our strategic focus on delivering high-performance networking infrastructure and further enhance our position in both data center and consumer and business device domains," said Bob Muglia, executive vice president of Juniper's Software Solutions Division. "Our joint efforts with Riverbed will enable us to push the future of application networking."
Under the terms of the agreement, Juniper Networks is licensing Riverbed's application delivery controller technology for about $75 million. Juniper said the technology will increase its capabilities in key network domains across the enterprise, including in the data center, across WANs, and consumer and business devices through new application networking technologies that better manage, scale and optimize any application's use of the network.
Riverbed and Juniper will also launch a joint effort to integrate Riverbed's Steelhead Mobile technology into the Juniper Networks Junos Pulse client in a move to provide a mobile acceleration solution for mobile phones and tablets. Both companies expect to strengthen their respective application acceleration solution and reduce total cost of ownership through the partnership.
"This multi-faceted partnership will allow us to expand our addressable markets by providing customers with integrated solutions that increase the efficiency of their IT infrastructure," said Eric Wolford, executive vice president and general manager for Products Group at Riverbed. "We'll work closely...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Nuance Releases New Version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking
A new version of the popular Dragon voice-recognition software is out. Nuance, its maker, said that Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 for Windows PCs has enhancements for use with Gmail and Hotmail, and now offers an app for use with Android devices. This is the first new version since mid-2010.
Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and general manager at Dragon, said in a statement that the new version is "a remarkable leap forward in voice recognition technology." He added that, with the increased accuracy, speed and over 100 new features and enhancements, "the technology simply disappears and your ideas flow onto the screen in front of you."
One of 12's new capabilities is that the Dragon Remote Microphone App is now available for Android, so that a compatible Android-based phone can become a wireless microphone for Dragon for PC. Version 12 continues support for Dragon Remote Microphone App for iOS, and both allow the phone to be used over a Wi-Fi network.
The company said that there is a 20 percent improvement in accuracy in version 12. A new interactive tutorial is available to provide exercises for dictating, editing, and formatting.
The new release also features Smart Format Rules, a new technology that Nuance said adapts to the way users prefer to format their text. The technology automatically notices word, phrase and format corrections, such as abbreviations or how numbers are written, so that dictated documents reflect a user's preferences.
The enhancement with Web-based Gmail and Hotmail provides Full Text Control and commands for frequently used functions. It requires IE 9, Mozilla Firefox 12+, or Google Chrome 16+.
There's also a faster word correction, and more suggested alternate word choices on the correction list. Additionally, the new Dragon will remind users to update their vocabulary list in the app, based on...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Internet Giants Form Group To Lobby for Their Interests
It's not too often you see the likes of Google, eBay, Facebook and Amazon team up for a common cause. But the technology, social media and e-commerce titans have something to rally around: the future of the Internet.
These and other major Internet companies are joining forces to launch the Internet Association, which describes itself as the unified voice of the Internet economy.
When it launches in September, the group will work to represent the interests of America's leading Internet companies and their global community of users by lobbying for an open, innovative and free Internet.
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his take on the potentially powerful new lobbying group. He told us this is a smart move that makes sense for Google, Amazon and other companies involved.
"An 'association' will give their efforts to 'educate' lawmakers more credibility," Sterling said. "It will also allow them to pool resources so it will be more cost-effective as well."
Issues like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, along with the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), may have ultimately spurred the birth of the Internet Association. In January, Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress and Mozilla shut down at least in part, and Google and Facebook join in the protest against SOPA.
As a result of so many popular Internet sites going dark for 24 hours, four of the co-sponsors of SOPA's Senate version, PIPA, withdrew their support.
The Internet Association isn't wasting any time getting its priorities in order. The group just hired Michael Beckerman as its first president and CEO. From Internet Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., Beckerman will lead the group's efforts to advance public policy solutions that forward its agenda.
"The Internet is the greatest engine for economic growth and prosperity the world has...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
From Canoe to Handball, Olympics Will Be Live Online
Lovers of fencing and trampoline, rejoice! For the first time ever, all Olympic events -- including less-popular sports and competition of other countries -- will be available for live-viewing when the London Games kick off [Wednesday] with women's soccer.
NBCUniversal, which owns the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights for the Games, will use nine TV channels, a Web site and a tablet-smartphone app to broadcast and stream the Games to viewers who can prove that they subscribe to cable service.
In a testament of how far online viewing has advanced in just four years, all 32 sports and more than 3,500 programming hours will be streamed, including the awarding of all 302 medals. Four years ago, NBC streamed only 25 sports and 2,200 hours during the Beijing Games.
Here are some some questions to consider as you wait for the Games to begin:
Q: Can I really view any and all live events online, even Guatemala's badminton team?
A: Yes. That certain sports were unavailable for viewing was a common complaint in the past Olympics. But thanks to the Internet and mobile apps, the Games' organizers have addressed the issue for those lucky enough to have a broadband connection.
For many U.S. viewers, their TV set still will be the go-to platform for watching the Olympics, much of it tape-delayed for prime-time broadcast. But given the limited number of hours on TV, NBCUniversal chose to make all events available on its dedicated Olympics Web site, NBCOlympics.com. Videos will be archived for evening viewing.
Q: Any options for tablet or smartphone users?
A: Mobile viewers can also access live events through the free NBC Olympics Live Extra app, available on iOS and Android devices. The app will show every competition, as well as the Olympics content that airs on NBC TV channels.
Q: Is the streamed content from the Web site...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Hacktivist Attacks Grow, Governments Get in on the Action
Denial-of-service attacks are surging all across the Internet. Individuals and groups have perfected the art of knocking Web sites offline for hours, days or sometimes much longer.
Such attacks surged nearly 70% in the first six months of 2012 vs. the same period in 2011, according to statistics released exclusively to USA TODAY by Prolexic, a Hollywood, Fla.-based Web site defense firm.
And it's not just the usual suspects who are responsible. The attacks increasingly have a geopolitical bent.
Two prominent global hacktivist collectives -- Anonymous and LulzSec -- gained notoriety over the past two years for disrupting the Web presence of scores of corporations and government agencies, then bragging about it on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Their standing motive: Mete out punishment for perceived bad corporate practices and unfair government policies.
The FBI earlier this year coordinated the arrests of LulzSec's alleged ring.
But the new twist on denial-of-service attacks is that they often appear to be carried out by governments bent on squelching online discussions of political corruption and human rights abuses in places such as Burma, North Korea, China, Russia and Africa, say tech-security and Internet experts.
Although the emerging evidence is largely anecdotal, it appears that entrenched governments in political hot spots are rapidly embracing the latest hacktivist techniques. Their endgame: Avoid a repeat of the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in which political reformers rallied supporters primarily over the Internet.
Supporters of established regimes are moving early and often to quash criticism in blogs, online publications and human rights Web sites with denial-of-service attacks before such discourse gets amplified on Facebook, Twitter and other social-media sites.
"We are seeing nation-states use such techniques as a precursor to physical warfare or as a way of silencing dissent," says Harry Sverdlove, chief technology officer at tech security firm Bit9.
This rising tide...
Fri, 27 Jul 12
Report: State Systems for Overseas Voters Vulnerable
States trying to make it easier for troops overseas to vote have set up voting systems that are vulnerable to hacking when they allow voters to return ballots online, via e-mail, or Internet fax, says a state-by-state report released Wednesday.
The report, Counting Votes 2012, by the Verified Voting Foundation and Common Cause Education Fund, says all states should require overseas ballots to be mailed because even faxed ballots can't be independently audited.
"They're trying to do a calculus and make it easy for the voter, and they may not realize the great risk they're putting those votes at," says Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, a group that advocates accuracy and verifiability of election returns.
The report also rates states on their ability to accurately count votes, and it warns that progress away from paperless voting -- which leaves nothing to recount in a dispute -- has been halted by the lagging economy.
That's a concern as the nation heads for what is likely to be a very close presidential election in November. The report, an update of a 2008 study, says the least-prepared states to handle voting system problems are Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Top marks for preparedness go to Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.
A 2009 federal law aimed at improving voting rates among military personnel required states to begin providing election materials such as registration forms and blank ballots electronically to citizens overseas. The law didn't specify how the ballots would be returned once they were marked.
Thirty-one states allow servicemembers and other overseas voters to return their ballots electronically: via fax, e-mail, by voting on a secure Web site, or some combination. Only one state that permits electronic ballot return, New Jersey, also requires voters to mail in a paper version. Overseas military can...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Foursquare Joins Ad Game with Promoted Updates
On the heels of Twitter's Promoted Tweets, Google's Sponsored Results, and YouTube videos and Facebook's experimental sponsored updates, location-tracking service Foursquare is jumping in the ad revenue game with Promoted Updates.
It's the latest in the wave of social media capitalization after years of hooking in Internet users to free networks, and it's the first attempt to generate revenue for a company funded by $70 million in venture capital.
"Promoted Updates are just like the local updates that you see in your friends tab, except that businesses can pay to promote them in our Explore results," Foursquare says on its company blog. "The update can be a money-saving special, an update on a new fashion line, or a photo of their latest dish. It works similar to ads on Google; there, if you search for 'laptops,' you'll see an ad for an electronics Web site next to the results."
Foursquare, which was founded in 2009 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai and now has about 20 million users, promises to "make the world easier to use" by recommending businesses frequented by user's friends. It allows users to check-in to locations recognized by the application via their mobile devices. If they frequent a location more than other users, they get to be "mayor" of that venue.
Ads targeting specific people based on their associations, location, spending habits or browsing history are fueling a surging mobile advertising market that is expected to grow by 85 percent to $11.6 billion as smartphones, tablets and other connected devices make their way into more consumers' hands, according to a report by Strategy Analytics.
"Mobile and location-based marketing has enormous potential,"said digital advertising and media analyst Rebecca Lieb of the Altimeter Group. "We're already seeing national brands like Walgreen's and American Express experiment with Foursquare, but mostly it's at check-in,...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Google, European Union in Settlement Talks
Google and the European Union are in the midst of settlement talks, which could involve worldwide terms. That's the word from the EU Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia.
On Wednesday, Almunia told news media that the technology giant has expressed a "willingness to really solve our objections" relating to antitrust issues that the EU has been investigating. Currently, the investigation and the discussions are limited to Google's search engine.
The EU investigation revolves around four concerns about the search engine. These include whether Google favors its own services in the results, such as e-commerce or travel, and whether it is using content without permission, such as travel or restaurant reviews from sites that may be competitors to its services.
A third concern is about agreements Google has with Web sites that use its search engine on their sites, and whether requirements compelling those sites to use Google ads next to the results shut out competing search advertising. The fourth involves restrictions Google might impose on competitor sites' use of Adwords search advertising campaigns.
If Google does settle with the EU, the terms of the settlement could also affect any settlement that results from an antitrust investigation of the company that is under way at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The effect on a possible FTC settlement could be indirect, in that the EU deal could influence terms with the FTC, or it could be direct. Almunia told news media Wednesday that the concessions the EU is seeking from Google in the settlement talks could be applied worldwide.
Google has a stack of reasons to seek a settlement, not the least of which are ending at least one stream of EU complaints and avoiding the fate that Microsoft has suffered. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant has been fined more than $2 billion...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Android Gaining, But Apple's iOS Leads Among Enterprises
Android smartphone activations by enterprises and other professional organizations nearly doubled during this year's second quarter in comparison with the prior three months, according to a new report from Good Technology. However, Apple's iOS remained the leading mobile platform for professional groups.
"Good's customers are large corporations with employees around the globe, so the data points to global trends," a Good Technology spokesperson said Wednesday. Nevertheless, "it would be fair to say that the data skews more to the U.S., since that is where most of Good's customers are currently headquartered."
Android smartphones accounted for 36.9 percent of the devices activated during the second quarter -- led by Samsung's Galaxy SII. Still, Apple's iOS accounted for 61.9 percent of smartphone activations at U.S. enterprises during the period.
What's more, Apple's iPad sales dominated the professional market with respect to the activation of tablets. According to Good, the iPad accounted for 94.5 percent versus just 5.5 percent for tablets running Android.
Given that the new report is based on Good Technology's customer base, no BlackBerry platform devices were included. "It is worth noting that because RIM devices use the BlackBerry Enterprise Server for corporate e-mail access, Good does not have insight into BlackBerry handset activation trends and they are not reflected in this report," Good Technology's spokesperson said.
Though Microsoft's Windows Phone platform only accounted for 1.2 percent of activations overall, the authors of Good's new report expect this to grow in future quarters. Still, a new joint study released by IDC and Appcelerator indicates that only 6 percent of developers believe that Windows Phone can break through in the mobile enterprise space.
On the other hand, "developers are cautiously optimistic about Windows 8 tablets, and find Microsoft's Metro UI especially compelling," the authors of the joint IDC/Appcelerator report noted....
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Dell Unveils New Precision Mobile Workstations
Dell on Tuesday announced next-generation Dell Precision mobile workstations aimed at engineering and design professionals, like film editors on movie sets, architects at construction sites, geophysicists in the field and other mobile professionals who need to run graphics or compute intensive apps no matter where they are.
Dell is offering two new systems: the Precision M4700 and M6700. The M4700 is a 15-inch mobile. The M6700 offers fixed-workstation capability and higher performing graphics with a 17-inch display. And the Covet Edition is back for the 17-inch version. It features a Phoenix Red color finish and edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass 2 for brighter images and more protection than standard glass.
"I've used Dell Precision mobile workstations for the past six years and the attention to detail Dell put into the look, feel and performance of these new systems elevates them to a new level," said Stephen Taylor, an IT manager at Appalachian State University. "These are truly mobile workstations without compromise and they have changed the way I look at all Dell products going forward."
Specs-wise, the new Dell Precision mobile workstations tap latest Intel Core i5, i7 and Extreme Edition processors with Turbo Boost Technology and a choice of professional graphics including the Nvidia Quadro K-series GPUs and AMD FirePro graphics. Currently, the M6700 is the first and only to offer AMD FirePro M6000 with PCIe x16 Gen 3 for fast data throughput.
Dell also offers DDR3 SDRAM with up to 32GB of system memory and 1600 MHz of memory speed and up to 16 GB of 1866 MHz memory -- the fastest memory available on a mobile workstation -- to access large data sets. They also offer an optional SATA 3 512 GB solid state drive.
Both systems come with expandability in the form of RAID 0/1/5 and three storage devices with up...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Apple Earnings Miss the Mark, with Slowing iPhone Growth
Even as reviews begin pouring in for Mountain Lion, analysts are still discussing Apple's latest earnings report. Apple on Tuesday announced results for its fiscal 2012 third quarter ended June 30. Beyond missing analyst expectations, both analysts and Apple are shining a light on iPad sales.
Apple posted quarterly revenue of $35 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.8 billion, or $9.32 per diluted share. The third-quarter results compare with revenue of $28.6 billion and net profit of $7.3 billion, or $7.79 per diluted share, in the year-ago period.
Meanwhile, gross margin was 42.8 percent, compared with 41.7 percent in the year-ago quarter. And international sales accounted for 62 percent of the quarter's revenue. The iPad made its mark across the board and around the world, but new concerns are rising about the iPhone's slowing growth.
Apple sold 26 million iPhones in the quarter. That's 28 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple also sold 17 million iPads, an 84 percent unit increase over the year-ago period. The storyline: iPhone revenue growth is slowing as consumers opt for cheaper models but the iPad is ramping up. More consumers are also turning to larger Android phones.
"We're thrilled with record sales of 17 million iPads in the June quarter," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "We've also just updated the entire MacBook line, will release Mountain Lion [Wednesday] and will be launching iOS 6 this fall. We are also really looking forward to the amazing new products we've got in the pipeline."
Cook was offering the typical bullish and hyped up Apple lines. But the fact is that the new Mac line up could spur more revenue and Mountain Lion is a highly-anticipated update to the operating system because it allows all Apple devices to work better together. And Apple appears bound...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Apple Releases Mountain Lion OS Update
Mountain Lion is out in the wild. The latest version of Apple's OS X operating system is now on sale at the Mac App Store.
On Tuesday, the technology giant announced Wednesday's availability of Mountain Lion, version 10.8. The $19.99 update offers a variety of new features, including notes and reminder apps, Twitter integration, Apple's Game Center, iMessage services, and a new security feature called Gatekeeper.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, called the new version "an evolutionary release with major new features." He added that, "in the post-PC world," Mountain Lion includes integration with Apple's iCloud storage service, and, "at $20, it's a no-brainer."
The integration with iCloud helps bring the Mac closer to the company's iOS devices. A file created on a Mountain Lion Mac in Apple's Pages application, for instance, is automatically backed up on the cloud service and synced with the same file on, say, the iPad. Currently, such file synchronization is limited to Apple's apps, although it is expected that other app makers will enable their products to operate similarly.
The new OS also contains iMessages, an app available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. iMessages replaces iChat, allows for the sending of unlimited texts to others with Apple devices, and synchronizes conversation histories on all Apple devices.
Twitter is integrated into the new platform, enabling signed-in users to use Notifications Center for tweeting and to use sharing functions through various apps. A similar Facebook integration is being planned. The Notification Center and Game Center are similarly akin to their iOS cousins.
Gartenberg said the new OS "ties the various Apple devices together." He added that, while "things don't work exactly the same in the new Mountain Lion as they do on iOS, they feel the same."
Gatekeeper is intended to increase security by making it more...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
All Eyes on Facebook, Zynga Earnings Reports
It's a week of reckoning for two of Silicon Valley's freshly minted public companies. Social-media giant Facebook on Thursday will release its first quarterly earnings numbers since its initial public offering in May, which raised $16 billion. Online games maker Zynga, which reported a quarterly loss in April, reports second-quarter earnings [Wednesday]. There are concerns about both companies' ability to generate enough revenue to match lofty market valuations.
The results are being closely watched by the investment community as a barometer of tech IPOs and a possible referendum on potential IPO candidates, such as micro-blogging company Twitter and mobile-payments company Square.
Since the IPOs, shares of Facebook and Zynga have withered. Facebook closed at $28.45 on Tuesday, down from its initial price of $38 in May. Zynga, with many social games played on Facebook, is at $4.92, after its debut at $9.50 last December.
Advertising accounts for much of Facebook's estimated $4 billion in annual revenue, yet it lags Google, which hauls in about $40 billion.
However, Facebook boasts more than 900 million users, who volunteer information about themselves and their friends that marketers highly covet. The trick for Facebook has been converting a wealth of data into effective ads on the site and on mobile devices, says Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester Research, who expects positive ad revenue from Facebook, partly because of its status as a cultural phenomenon.
But the faster Facebook's revenue grows, the bigger the problem it faces, Elliott cautions. "We could reach a tipping point, where a lot of big-budget marketers figure out their money could be better and more accountably spent elsewhere."
"Facebook clearly has enough reach, but they need to deliver higher value to brands and customers to charge higher rates for their ads," says Jon Elvekrog, CEO of social-advertising company 140 Proof.
Zynga, which raised $1 billion in...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Ousted Yahoo CEO Now Head of ShopRunner
Recently ousted Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson has landed a new job leading ShopRunner, an online service that provides two-day shipping from a variety of Internet retailers.
Monday's announcement of Thompson's appointment as ShopRunner's new CEO comes two months after his short-lived tenure at Yahoo Inc. came to a mortifying end.
Yahoo shoved aside Thompson, 54, after a dissident shareholder uncovered misinformation in his official biography filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bio listed a bachelor's degree in computer science that he never received, raising doubts about Thompson's integrity that led to his departure after just four months on the job.
Yahoo last week replaced Thompson, hiring longtime Google Inc. executive Marissa Mayer as its fifth CEO in the past five years. Another Yahoo executive, Ross Levinsohn, had been filling in as interim CEO.
ShopRunner evidently had no qualms about Thompson's troubles at Yahoo. Michael Golden, who had been ShopRunner's CEO and is staying on as the service's president, hailed Thompson as "the perfect long-term CEO."
In his new job, Thompson will be running a privately held company with connections to one of his former employers, eBay Inc. Thompson led eBay's online payment service, PayPal, before defecting to Yahoo at the beginning of the year.
ShopRunner began as part of GSI Commerce, which eBay bought for $2.4 billion last year. After that deal closed, eBay spun off ShopRunner into another company but still retains a 30 percent stake in the service.
The new job appears to be major step down for Thompson. As CEO of Yahoo, he was being paid a $1 million salary with an annual bonus of up to $2 million while overseeing a famous Internet company with $5 billion in annual revenue.
ShopRunner, in contrast, is a 2-year-old service still trying to establish itself as part of a small, privately held company called Kynetic...
Thu, 26 Jul 12
Cisco To Lay Off 1,300 Employees in Latest Cutback
Cisco Systems is preparing to lay off about 1,300 workers just a few months after the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment warned that growing economic uncertainty is making it tougher to close sales with its customers.
The cuts announced Monday represent about 2 percent of Cisco System Inc.'s payroll of 65,000 workers.
The upcoming layoffs represent the company's latest austerity measure. Last year, Cisco shed about 10,000 jobs as part of a program aimed at saving about $1 billion annually.
Cisco says it is shedding jobs to simplify its operations and adjust to changing economic conditions around the world. The company, which is based in San Jose, California, didn't specify what parts of its operations will be trimmed.
"We routinely review our business to determine where we need to align investment based on growth opportunities," the company said in a statement. "Additionally, we continue to evaluate our organizational structure as part of our plan to drive simplicity, speed of decisions and agility across Cisco."
The belt-tightening comes after Cisco offered revenue guidance for its current quarter that was well below Wall Street expectations. Cisco cautioned its revenue for the period that ends this month is like to increase by as little as 2 percent from the same time last year. At the time that guidance was issued in early May, analysts had been anticipating a revenue increase of 7 percent.
Cisco CEO John Chambers said the company might have to adjust to rapidly shifting economic conditions beyond its control. In particular, he said the buyers of Cisco's networking gear were becoming more reluctant to make big purchases because of shaky economic conditions in Europe and other parts of the world, including India.
"We will muddle through this with a little bit of bumps on the road," Chambers told...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
A Murky Picture on Skype Monitoring
Not bad enough that Facebook keeps all your photos and data and Google has a record of all your sensitive Internet searches.
Now comes word that the late-night Skype video chat you had with your long-distance significant other might live on in the servers of Microsoft.
The software giant bought the Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol application, founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, last year for $8.5 billion and, as noted by Slate magazine in an article this week, Microsoft around the same time was granted a patent, first requested in January 2009, for "silently recording communications."
The technology's effect, according to the patent summary, is that "data associated with a request to establish a communication is modified to cause the communication to be established via a path that includes a recording agent."
Microsoft didn't definitively answer Slate's request for clarification on whether Skype's new technology would facilitate a request from law enforcement for wiretapping, and a company spokeswoman did not respond to our inquiry in time for publication.
The federal Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, passed by Congress in 1994, requires that U.S. communications companies modify their systems to facilitate monitoring to enable real-time surveillance by authorities when granted permission by courts.
"I think people should assume they are being monitored regardless of their activity," said technology consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "The (2001) Patriot Act gave government broad powers with regard to network and phone monitoring. CALEA preceded the Patriot Act and was expanded last decade to bring it in line with it."
"The war on terror has had two major casualties: due process, and personal privacy," Enderle said. "If anyone thinks anything they do on a network or over a phone line is private, they are living about a decade in the past."
Skype is enormously popular, with...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
YouTube Suggests Members Use Google+ Profiles
In an apparent move to more closely tie together its social media outlets, YouTube is asking its members to start using real names instead of the descriptive monikers many used when they launched a channel by connecting to Google+.
John Fisher, a software engineer at YouTube, suggested that some users may have outgrown user names like cutepuppies99. Or, he said, users may realize that their friends are missing out on their origami skills because they don't know who is the genius behind origamiboy1981.
"Starting today we're giving you the ability to change how you appear on YouTube, with the option to use your Google+ profile on your YouTube channel," Fisher wrote in the YouTube blog. "One Google-wide identity was something that proved popular with new YouTube users when we began offering it in March, so we are now extending it to existing users."
Essentially, this means if your current YouTube user name is joeysam87, you can now appear as Joey Sampson -- the full name from your Google+ profile, complete with the space in between. YouTube will also use any photo you've uploaded.
If you prefer not to associate your real name with some comments you've made in the past on videos for whatever reason, you can review your content to see every video, comment or playlist you've ever posted and decide whether or not to tie it to your true identity before making the switch.
"This will give you more options for how your videos are seen and discovered on YouTube," Fisher wrote. "However, we realize that using your full name isn't for everyone. Maybe people know you by your YouTube user name. Perhaps you don't want your name publicly associated with your channel."
In other words, YouTube will let you continue using your screen name if you don't want...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
Apparently, AT&T Not So Bad Anymore: Churn at Less than 1%
AT&T reported robust 18.8 percent wireless data revenue growth for the second quarter, including the carrier's lowest churn rate ever at less than 1 percent, and added 1.3 million new customers in the period.
"Record low churn and strong sales tell the story of our wireless business," AT&T CFO John Stephens told investors Tuesday. "New customers are choosing AT&T and existing ones continue to stay with us in record numbers. We have 88 percent of our subscribers on FamilyTalk or business plans."
AT&T's smartphone data revenue rose by $1 billion year-over-year to $6.4 billion. "Data revenues are now at a $25 billion annualized revenue stream, growing at almost 19 percent," Stephens said during Tuesday's conference call.
The wireless carrier sold 5.1 million smartphones during the second quarter -- including 3.7 million iPhones, of which about 22 percent represented customers new to AT&T. Moreover, smartphone subscribers overall currently account for 61.9 percent of AT&T's total postpaid base. "These are valuable customers generating revenue twice that of other [wireless] customers," said AT&T Senior Vice President Susan Johnson.
Piper Jaffray views AT&T's June quarter iPhone unit sales of 3.7 million as better than the investment firm's prior thinking on the U.S. markets.
"Between Verizon and AT&T, iPhone sales were down 15 percent sequentially, compared to our thinking of down 24 percent sequentially," noted Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Douglas Clinton.
Some industry observers expected AT&T's iPhone sales to take a major hit in the quarter -- with subscribers postponing their purchasing decisions in anticipation of the arrival of the iPhone 5. However, Piper Jaffray believes that the release of Apple's next-generation handset will come in time to ensure that the third-quarter results at AT&T and other carriers won't be affected.
"The iPhone 5 will likely have been released before Apple [and its...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
Apple Seeks $2.5 Billion from Samsung in Trial Opening Next Week
The patent war between the world's largest sellers of smartphones continues. On Monday, a main battle gets under way with the opening of the trial between the two technology giants in a federal court in San Jose, Calif.
Samsung currently had about 29 percent of the smartphone shipments worldwide in Q1, while Apple had 23 percent, according to industry research firm IDC. The trial will focus on whether each company got to their position on their own merits, or if either copied the intellectual property rights of the other.
Apple contends that Samsung's phones and tablets infringed on no less than nine of Apple's patents, including ones concerning look and feel, while Samsung claims that Apple is infringing on its patents relating to transmission and other functions. Even as this legal war rages on, the two are bound in commerce because Apple is the largest buyer of Samsung's components used for smartphones and tablets.
Apple has indicated it is seeking $2.5 billion in damages from Samsung. Florian Mueller, whose Foss Patents blog covers technology-based legal battles, has written that $2.5 billion may only be Apple's opening bid, if it wins.
"Apple argues that Samsung infringed willfully," he has written, and so "some components of that overall figure could be tripled."
Apple also said that, if Samsung were entitled to payment for its "declared-essential patents," which it must license, the rate should be one half of one cent per unit for each patent.
Judge Lucy H. Koh, a former patent lawyer, issued an injunction in June banning sales in the U.S. of Samsung's tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, pending the outcome of the trial. At the time, Judge Koh wrote that, although Samsung had the right to compete, it "does not have the right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
IBM's Curam is Rx for Minn.'s Health Care Exchange
With federal health care reform moving into implementation, technology plays a large role in streamlining the system. On Monday, IBM announced that its Curam solution will provide the technological platform for Minnesota's health insurance exchange.
Each state has an option to set up their own online exchange, or, if they decline, the federal government will provide one for them. In Minnesota, IBM will work as a subcontractor to Maximus, which is the prime contractor. Connecture is supporting the enrollment and health insurance sales functions, and EngagePoint, formerly Consumer Health Technologies, will provide financial management capabilities.
IBM's Curam platform is based on technologies it acquired when it bought Curam Software in December 2011. The company has launched a Curam Social Program Management effort, which is designed to enable self-service, single-point access to social program delivery.
Within Social Program Management, a specific Curam Solution for Healthcare Reform provides what the company said is an "eligibility and case management solution that helps states address the Affordable Care Act requirements" with a central hub "for the array of systems and processes across the enterprise by delivering a common front-end for all eligibility and enrollment."
The platform provides functions and resources that have been designed specifically for health care reform.
These include a social program management data model which can also be used for other human services programs, a domain-specific eligibility and entitlement engine, expert-based out-of-the-box content that incorporates thousands of best-practice business processes and rules, and configurability features for adaptation to future changes. In addition, the platform provides business analytics and enterprise content management.
We asked Ernie Connon, IBM vice president for health and human services industry solutions, about the evolution of the Curam technology.
He said that Curam "had been around for about 20 years" when IBM acquired them. Curam,...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
VMware Acquires Nicira's Software-Defined Networking for $1 Billion
Not content to watch other software behemoths make billion-dollar moves, VMware has announced a blockbuster acquisition of its own that could potentially forward its leadership in the cloud space.
The virtualization company is paying about $1 billion in cash to buy Nicira, a company in the software-defined networking space and a leader in network virtualization for open-source initiatives.
"VMware has led the server virtualization revolution, and we have the opportunity to do the same in data center and cloud networking," said Paul Maritz, chief executive officer of VMware. "The acquisition of Nicira adds to our portfolio of networking assets and positions VMware to be the industry leader in software-defined networking."
Maritz's words may resonate with VMware customers and partners. Eric Chui, president and founder of HyTrust, said software-defined networking is a natural extension for VMware, and Nicira is a fantastic purchase.
"However, as networking gets virtualized and becomes part of the virtual infrastructure management layer, this expands the already 'god-like' privileges of the virtualization admins and puts all of the eggs in one basket," Chui told us. "This highlights the need for greater access controls and auditing to ensure against breaches, malicious attacks, and downtime from misconfiguration of resources."
It's like anything in the cloud: There are risks and rewards. VMware said customers leveraging the software-defined data center can have their own virtual data center with an isolated collection of all the compute, storage, networking, and security resources that they are used to. What's more, VMware said, the virtual data center can grow and shrink to use physical resources efficiently. But many will note Chui's security concerns, for which VMware has likely already accounted.
Nicira is clearly a frontrunner in software-defined networking, which enables the dynamic creation of virtual network infrastructure and services that are completely decoupled and independent from the physical...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
How Apple's Phantom Taxes Hide Billions of Dollars
On Tuesday, Apple is set to report financial results for the second quarter. Analysts are expecting net income of $9.8 billion. But whatever figure Apple reports won't reflect its true profit, because the company hides some of it with an unusual tax maneuver.
Apple Inc., already the world's most valuable company, understates its profits compared with other multinationals. It's building up an overlooked asset in the form of billions of dollars, tucked away for tax bills it may never pay.
Tax experts say the company could easily eliminate these phantom tax obligations. That would boost Apple's profits for the past three years by as much $10.5 billion, according to calculations by The Associated Press.
While investors might rejoice if Apple suddenly added $10.5 billion to its profits, unilaterally erasing a massive U.S. tax obligation could tarnish its reputation as a relatively responsible payer of U.S. taxes. Instead, the company is lobbying to change U.S. law so that it can erase its liabilities in a less conspicuous fashion. The issue has become part of the presidential campaign.
Like other companies, Apple typically keeps profits on overseas sales in overseas accounts. When someone buys an iPad in Paris or Sydney, for instance, the profit stays outside the United States.
Apple may pay some corporate income taxes on that profit to the country where it sells the iPad, but it minimizes these by using various accounting moves to shift profits to countries with low tax rates. For example the strategy known as "Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich," routes profits through Irish and Dutch subsidiaries and then to the Caribbean.
When it comes to using creative tax techniques, Apple is no different from other multinational corporations, says Robert Willens, an independent accounting expert.
And just like other corporations, Apple leaves cash overseas. If it brought it home to the U.S.,...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
PC Towers Can Be Trend-Setters, Not Just Dust Catchers
It is not written anywhere that a PC tower has to be gray, boxy and loud. Today's PC loyalists have a choice of designs to spice up their tower.
Such modifications could very well help hold on to some members of the ever-shrinking PC community. In many ways, it seems like laptops have thrust PCs well off center-stage. But laptops have their weaknesses too, and some people are just loyal to PCs.
"They have a solid fan base -- mostly people who spend a lot of time in front of computers and have higher expectations for computing power, graphics and displays," says Stephan Scheuer from TUV Rheinland, a German products testing agency.
The new variety in design has helped too. Scheuer says he's seen three basic types of new design: tower, mini and all-in-one PCs. The trick is picking the right one.
"The smaller the computer, the more restrained I am. The bigger the computer, the more power I have for my money," says Kristin Wohlfahrt of Stiftung Warentest, a German consumer products testing organization.
Two questions are key when making the decision, adds Scheuer: "Which PC suits me?" and "How much longer do I want to use this computer?"
Recently released mini and all-in-one computers are failing on this count, since many of them have to be replaced within four years.
"The old graphics cards, the working memory, the processor or the hard drive are no longer compatible with a modern operating system by then," says Scheuer.
Such a fate does not befall tower PCs quite so quickly. "The towers have a little more time."
Mini PCs score highly when it comes to design. Most are not much bigger than a book and can easily fit on top of a desk. Unlike towers, they are sleeker and less energy intensive.
"These devices are really something to show off," says...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
Twitter Olympics: Beware the Distractions
Hello @Twitter world!!! I'm at #Olympics. Shd be training not tweeting ... LOL
Laugh if you like, but there was a bit of a buzz Friday about athletes risking their medal chances with every "tweet" and "like" on Twitter and Facebook.
"I have found quite a close correlation between the number of tweets at competitive times and the level of under-performance," said Sebastian Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500 meters and the head organizer of what is being dubbed the "Social Media Games."
"From a personal perspective, when I was an athlete I just wanted complete and total focus," he said. "I knew it was my time and that they don't come around that often. If I was focusing on trying to defend a title I wouldn't be reading Twitter, I wouldn't be interested in it. Why would I?"
British tennis star Andy Murray echoed those sentiments.
"You don't want to be on it (Twitter) too much," Murray said Friday. "It's a bit like sitting on a computer 20 minutes, 30 minutes before your match. You wouldn't be advised to do that. The same applies with tweeting or mobile phones, I would have thought."
While agreeing that social media is popular and fun, "Can't talk. (hash)training" may be the most apt tweet or status update, especially at the games. And it's far less than 140 characters.
"It's good to keep in contact with your family and friends," Australian shooter Alethea Sedgman said. "But sport-wise, it's better to focus without Facebook."
The Australian cycling team doesn't use social media during competition time. No RTs for them, maybe just some RTTs (remember to train).
"Cycling have taken their own initiative and other sports are looking at ways of doing that," Australian team chef de mission Nick Green said.
There's no doubt that over the next month Twitter and Facebook...
Wed, 25 Jul 12
Nasdaq Ups Ante in Facebook Reimbursement Plan
The Nasdaq stock exchange is chipping in more money to reimburse investment firms that lost money when online social network Facebook went public in May because computer glitches delayed their trading orders.
The revised proposal announced late Friday calls for Nasdaq to pay $62 million to firms ensnared in the breakdown. That's up from the $40 million pool that Nasdaq initially announced seven weeks ago.
The exchange says all the payments will now be in cash instead of trading credits as envisioned under the original program. The trading credit provision had riled the New York Stock Exchange, which attacked the plan as an attempt to entice firms to defect to the rival Nasdaq exchange.
Nasdaq says more firms will be eligible for reimbursement under its new proposal, too.
Facebook went public May 18 amid great fanfare, but computer glitches at the Nasdaq threw the day into chaos. The opening was delayed by half an hour. Technical problems kept many investors from buying shares in the morning, selling them later in the day, or even from knowing whether their orders went through. Some investors complained that they were left holding shares they didn't want.
Facebook's stock originally priced at $38 and closed that first day at $38.23 after going as high as $45, a disappointment to speculators who had hoped for a first-day pop. Nasdaq has said it was embarrassed by the glitches, but that they didn't contribute to the underwhelming returns. The stock closed at $28.76 Friday, down 24 percent from the IPO price.
The new program will still require approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Samsung Ships 10 Million of Galaxy S III
Top smartphone maker Samsung is taking a victory lap with its latest flagship device, boasting that it has shipped off 10 million of them to retailers.
An executive of the Seoul-based electronics giant told South Korea's largest news agency, Yonhap News, that the Android Ice Cream Sandwich-based Galaxy S III has reached the milestone less than two months after its May 29 debut.
Shin Jong-kyun, president of Samsung's information technology and mobile communication division did not give specific numbers of sales, however.
It's no wonder Samsung, which toppled Nokia from the top spot of global handset sales based on first quarter numbers by several research firms, is boasting of the S III's success, especially as archrival Apple readies its next iPhone for release.
ChangeWave Research released a report Monday saying that planned purchases of a Samsung device surged 6 percent since March, to 19 percent.
When asked in June specifically about the Galaxy S III, which was then about to be released on all four major U.S. carriers, 2 percent of 4,042 mostly North American consumers said they were very likely to buy one, while 7 percent said they were somewhat likely.
When asked about the iPhone 5, however, 14 percent of respondents said they were very likely and 17 percent said they were somewhat likely to buy one. The results are more interesting when you consider that respondents were told the actual specifications of the S III -- dual-core processor, 4.8-inch high-resolution display, an 8 megapixel camera and 4G long-term evolution data speed -- as well as the $199 price for the 16-gigabyte model, but only rumored specs of the iPhone. (Apple has not even confirmed that it is releasing a new iPhone.)
Apple executives are not likely to lose any sleep over the Galaxy sales: They sold 35.1 million iPhones in the...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Microsoft Works to Build Trust for Dynamics CRM Online
Microsoft is working to compete in the Customer Relationship Management space on more than its technology. Microsoft is looking to compete on trust.
Redmond on Monday rolled out the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center. With the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center, the software giant is tapping into two critical considerations it sees for enterprises evaluating cloud services: data security and compliance.
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center is a Web site that offers in-depth information about the privacy and security practices for the its online CRM service. The site aims to offer high-level info about the privacy, transparency, independent verification and security features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.
Dennis Michalis, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Microsoft, put it this way: Redmond wants to help "remove some of the anxiety" enterprises have as they consider transitioning into the cloud.
"Customers have to be confident that their business solutions are meeting their high-level security features and privacy needs," Michalis said. "The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center ensures transparency in how we operate Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and handle these critical customer needs."
Also along the privacy and security lines, Microsoft recently registered with the Cloud Security Alliance's Security, Trust & Assurance Registry program. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online joins Microsoft Office 365 and Windows Azure with their Trust Centers and CSA STAR registrations.
Microsoft is taking measured steps with its Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center. Gartner reports more than 50 percent of Global 1000 companies will have stored customer-sensitive data in the public cloud by year-end 2016.
As Gartner sees it, many enterprises are reaping great benefits from cloud computing, primarily in added business agility and cost savings. However, Gartner added, as with any significant new form of technology, many eager new customers rush to take advantage of it before...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Dell Offers Help for Costs of Big Data Retention
Big Data means big analytics -- and, potentially, big costs. On Monday, Dell announced it is introducing a Big Data Retention solution that it says can significantly reduce costs of retaining Big Data and help to improve retrieval and analysis.
Dell's Big Data solution integrates with existing analytics platforms, functioning as a repository for large data sets or as a back-end archive. Alternatively, it can also serve as a standalone repository or a Hadoop-enabled analytics platform.
Dell's solution utilizes its storage offerings, such as the DX Object Storage Platform, with RainStor database technology and access via standard SQL BI/analytics tools. With these resources, the company said, the cost of retaining Big Data can be reduced through data reduction, simplified data management, and enhanced scalability.
The solution also involves assistance by Dell professional services, if help is needed in developing a Big Data infrastructure.
Darren Thomas, vice president and general manager of Dell Enterprise Storage, said in a statement that volumes of data are increasing for many companies, and the value of that data is also increasing. The key to cost-effectively capturing and storing that data to gain insights, he said, "is having the right data management solution to fluidly move data, tier it, de-dupe it, protect it and archive it."
He added that this meant, in Dell's view, that "your data is fluid."
Dell's Big Data solution can also free up disk space by about 97 percent, using a compression ratio of as much as 40 to 1. By reducing the footprint, the company said, the speed of query access for analytics is increased. Dell Fluid Data architecture allows these kinds of extremely compressed data volumes to be accessed as needed.
The combination of the RainStor database with Dell DX Object Storage Platform, the company said, allows for structured, semi-structured, and unstructured...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Can Sprint Keep Up in Spectrum Race?
The Wall Street Journal is stirring up debate among wireless industry watchers with an article that suggests Sprint is struggling to keep up the pace in the spectrum marathon. Miriam Gottfried, author of the article published Sunday, calls Sprint the "odd man out" in the battle for wireless spectrum.
Gottfried makes a quick comparison: Sprint has launched LTE in 15 markets and expects to have nationwide coverage by the end of 2013. By contrast, Verizon has launched LTE in 330 markets and AT&T in 47. She also points to Janco Partners research that said Sprint's initial LTE offering will occupy a much smaller channel than its competitors' -- and that could limit network capacity.
"Sprint's position is that with far fewer subscribers than AT&T and Verizon Wireless, it needs less spectrum," Gottfried writes. "But that's the rub. Sprint's financial position is deteriorating. It lost 192,000 post-paid subscribers in the first quarter and reported a loss of $863 million."
Weston Henderek, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, said Sprint had clear spectrum challenges but the company could overcome them if it was able to execute on its Network Vision strategy. The strategy blends WiMax, Nextel's 2G IDEN technology and CDMA on the pathway to LTE.
"Sprint just now launched LTE. They said it was rolled out in 15 markets, but it was really just five major markets and the rest of the markets were submarkets around those five major markets," Henderek said. "So Sprint's LTE launch sounds more impressive than it is right now. Sprint is a little late to the table with LTE as compared to Verizon Wireless and even AT&T."
Despite the slower rollout, Sprint is billing itself as the only carrier with true unlimited data. But Henderek said Sprint's ability to deliver unlimited data is on a smaller slice of the...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
iPhone 5 Could Bring Dockload of Trouble for Accessories
With the iPhone 5 expected in October, the online rumor mills are now reacting to the latest report. According to several sources, the new iPhone will sport a different dock connector.
This means that the 30-pin connector, standard on Apple mobile devices since the earliest days of the iPod, could be replaced with a smaller 19-pin version. While this could allow the device itself to be manufactured in a smaller form factor, it would also result in a huge ecosystem of accessories for the 19-pin version that will not work without an adapter or a new cable.
Reuters is reporting the alleged change, and said it was intended to "make room for the earphone moving to the bottom." The news service cites two unnamed sources "familiar with the matter." Apple has not yet commented on the report.
Of course, new connectors or new accessories would be a potential boon for the makers of those items. The demise of the wide 30-pin connector has been predicted for some time among Apple-watchers, as connectors of all kinds have become more powerful and smaller.
In addition to possibly moving the earphone jack to the bottom or enabling a smaller device, some have also speculated that such a move could mean a larger battery or other device enhancements.
Aside from Reuters and other sources, there are also reports that China-based vendors have begun selling cases for the coming iPhone -- complete with an earphone socket on the bottom and a guarantee that the cases will work on the new device.
Apple may choose to offer an adapter or provide some other solution, rather than leave upgrading customers to fend for themselves. Although the iPhone remains highly popular, various Android-based phones are providing customer experiences and pricing that could potentially persuade disaffected iPhone users to switch.
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Review: Cloud-Focused Alternative in Chrome PCs
Two new computers running Google's Chrome operating system are looking to lure people to a browser-based environment. Both target light-duty computer users who don't need the full range of capabilities that traditional Windows and Mac computers provide.
The first thing to know about these machines is they lack regular hard drives for storage. There's a small amount of flash memory available, the kind you'd find on a camera memory card, but Chrome OS machines are designed for the cloud. That means documents are stored over the Internet, and programs are run over the Internet through a Web browser.
However securely and discretely the Internet services you use claim to keep your data, your content is one step removed from your tight-fisted control. Cloud computing also limits what you can do during those times you may not have an Internet connection.
In addition, because the machines emphasize not just cloud storage but cloud services as well, you won't be able to install full-blown programs such as Microsoft's Office. You're limited to the selection of apps written for Chrome.
What you get instead is speed. The Chrome OS machines boot up quickly because they don't have to load a lot of software -- all that is run over the Internet. The machines also don't need the most expensive and fastest parts because they aren't doing a whole lot.
If you're OK with that approach to personal computing, the Chromebook laptop and the Chromebox desktop computer hit the mark. Both are made by Samsung Electronics Co. and represent the second-generation of Chrome OS machines, following the models out last summer.
Here's a closer look at the two:
Officially called the Samsung Series 5 550, the $449 Chromebook laptop is an updated version of last year's debut Chromebook model.
As notebooks go, the Chromebook is sleek and simple by appearance. It sports...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Microsoft Reports Rare Loss, First as Public Company
Microsoft said Thursday that an accounting adjustment to reflect a weak online ad business led to its first quarterly loss in its 26 years as a public company.
The software company had warned that it was taking a $6.2 billion charge because its 2007 purchase of online ad service aQuantive hasn't yielded the returns envisioned by management. The non-cash adjustment is something companies do when the value of their assets decline. Microsoft Corp. paid $6.3 billion for aQuantive, only to see rival Google Inc. expand its share of the online ad market.
The charge led to a $492 million loss in the April-June quarter, or 6 cents a share. That compares with earnings of $5.9 billion, or 69 cents, a year ago.
Revenue rose 4 percent to $18.06 billion.
Excluding the adjustment and the deferral of some revenue into the current quarter related to its launch of Windows 8, earnings came to 73 cents per share, beating the 62 cents per share expected by analysts polled by FactSet.
Although the earnings were higher than expected, analysts were looking for higher revenue at $18.15 billion.
Shares were up 65 cents, or 2.1 percent, at $31.32 in after-hours trading following the release of earnings results.
Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., has never previously reported a quarterly loss since the company's initial public offering in March 1986. The aQuantive-driven setback isn't likely to faze investors, who usually focus on what lies ahead for a company instead of dwelling on past mistakes.
Microsoft's fortunes are tied to the October release of Windows 8, the most extreme redesign of the company's flagship operating system since 1995. Windows 8 will feature a new look that will show applications in a mosaic of tiles and boast new technology that will enable the operating system to work on touch-controlled tablet computers, as well as...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
New iPad Goes on Sale in China, Uneventfully
Apple released its newest iPad in China on Friday after settling a lawsuit over ownership of its name and requiring buyers to place orders in advance to control crowds.
Watched by security guards, a few dozen shoppers waited outside stores in Beijing and Shanghai, which opened on time at 8 a.m. That was in contrast to the chaotic scene outside Apple's main Beijing store in January, when some customers who wanted to buy a new iPhone shouted and threw eggs after managers delayed the opening due to safety concerns about the hundreds of people waiting.
Sun Xufei, a 32-year-old computer technician who was the first customer in line in Shanghai, said he had put off buying an iPad so Apple had time to develop "a perfect one." The 30 customers in line when the store opened were outnumbered by the reporters watching them.
"I am very surprised to see there is nobody here waiting," Sun said.
Apple Inc. cleared a potential legal hurdle to the release when it paid $60 million this month to settle a dispute with a local company, Shenzhen Proview Technology Ltd., over ownership of the iPad name. Apple said it bought global rights to the iPad name from Proview in 2009 but Chinese authorities say the rights in China were never transferred.
China is Apple's second-largest market after the United States and the source of much of the Cupertino, California-based company's sales growth.
Qu Hongyu, a 20-year-old university student in Shanghai, expressed frustration that Apple waited four months after the new iPad debuted abroad to release it in China.
Qu said she could have asked a friend abroad to send her one, "but I think it's better to get the product here, because I don't want to owe somebody a favor."
Tue, 24 Jul 12
App Detects Potholes, Alerts Boston City Officials
The next time your car hits a pothole, a new technology could help you immediately tell someone who can do something about it.
Boston officials are testing an app called Street Bump that allows drivers to automatically report the road hazards to the city as soon as they hear that unfortunate "thud," with their smartphones doing all the work.
The app's developers say their work has already sparked interest from other cities in the U.S., Europe, Africa and elsewhere that are imagining other ways to harness the technology.
Before they even start their trip, drivers using Street Bump fire up the app, then set their smartphones either on the dashboard or in a cup holder. The app takes care of the rest, using the phone's accelerometer -- a motion-detector -- to sense when a bump is hit. GPS records the location, and the phone transmits it to a remote servers hosted by Amazon Inc.'s Web services division.
The system filters out things like manhole covers and speed bump using a series of algorithms -- including one that can tell if the initial motion is up over a speed bump, as opposed to down into a pothole. If at least three people hit a bump in the same spot, the system recognizes it as a pothole.
As in many northern cities, potholes are a real problem for Boston, where crews patch about 19,000 of them a year following the annual freeze-thaw cycle, according to Matthew Mayrl, chief of staff in the city's public works department.
"So you can imagine that driving 806 miles of roadway and getting an accurate count of where every pothole is, is a gigantic task," he said.
City officials hope the app might eventually allow them to save money by creating a real-time map of potholes that need to be fixed and eliminating the...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Intrigues Silicon Valley
The Silicon Valley venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfied & Byers has been generating buzz for decades, spotting early investment opportunities and making billions with companies like Google and Amazon. This summer, the attention is no different, but the reason for it is.
The firm, with a roster of senior partners including Al Gore and Colin Powell, is embroiled in a lawsuit that's the talk of the valley, exchanging nasty accusations with a junior partner who accuses Kleiner of gender bias, sexual harassment and overall boorish behavior toward women.
The legal fight offers an inside peek at the firm's jet-setting ways, internecine fights over board of director seats at "portfolio" companies and the cost of social snubs.
The lawsuit was filed by Ellen Pao, a 42-year-old Harvard Law School graduate who joined the firm in 2005.
Pao accuses Kleiner of blocking her and other women from advancement and lucrative positions she claims are reserved for men. The firm has proclaimed its innocence and alleges Pao "twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exists."
Pao still works at the firm, which calls itself one of the most "progressive" companies in Silicon Valley in its hiring practices. Kleiner says that one-quarter of its senior partners are women.
Since Pao filed the lawsuit in May in San Francisco Superior Court, the tech world has been abuzz. Tech web sites have closely covered the case, even live blogging routine hearings.
In larger context, Pao's suit highlights an oft-heard claim that, despite progress, it's difficult for women to break through in Silicon Valley's male-dominated culture. When Google executive Marissa Mayer was named Monday as the new CEO of Yahoo, the story was widely depicted as a testing of the valley's renowned glass ceiling.
"This is a garden variety sex harassment case," said Stanford University law professor...
Tue, 24 Jul 12
TieTry Lets Subscribers Rent Ties by Mail, Like Netflix
Two college buddies are sticking their necks out in the business world, offering a through-the-mail tie-rental service similar to how Netflix markets movies.
Scott Tindle and David Powers, who graduated together from the University of Alabama's law school, were looking for an avocation to go along with their vocation. Enter TieTry, which allows customers to buy subscriptions for one to five ties with the price ranging from $11.99 to $29.00 per month.
Powers practices in Washington, D.C., and Tindle hung his shingle up in Mobile, Ala. It's Tindle's home that serves as headquarters, warehouse and shipping center for the business, which kicked off in January.
"We wanted to come up with an interesting business idea, and since we are both lawyers, ties seemed to be a good fit," Tindle said. "With some ties going for $90, this is a good way to expand your wardrobe without breaking the bank."
The company uses the Netflix approach, where you pay a subscription and get movies each month. TieTry customers pick out their ties on the company's Web site and place them on a list.
They are delivered with an enclosed, prepaid envelope for return. Subscribers can keep the ties they pick for the month, or return them to get new ones delivered. The selection turns over as quickly as the postal service can get the new ties to you, Powers said.
"We have customers from every walk of life," he said. "Lawyers, college professors, people in business. We try to offer a good selection from known designers. We are also working with regional tie companies to give our customers a good selection to choose from."
Renting fashion isn't new. For ladies there's Rent The Runway and Lending Luxury, which rent designer dresses, gowns and accessories. For the guys, there is one other tie-rental outfit out there, Tie Society.
Mon, 23 Jul 12
Nexus 7 Tablet Is a Hit, Flying Off the Shelves
You could use many different terms to describe the Google Nexus 7. But right now, "sold out" is perhaps the most appropriate.
The Nexus 7 went on sale last weekend, finding its way to big-box retailer shelves and into the Google Play Store. Now, some retailers are reporting sellouts. The 16 GB version of the tablet is also sold out on Google Play.
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.
"Nexus 7 was built to bring you the best of Google in the palm of your hand," Rubin wrote in the official Google blog when the device was announced in late June. "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."
We turned to Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis who just wrapped up a new report on the Nexus 7, to get his take on the sellout. He told us he is not at all surprised.
"The Nexus 7 is very well priced and very well spec-ed. It is the best 7-inch tablet on the market at the moment," Greengart said. "We will see what Amazon does with its next-generation Kindle. And if the rumors are true, Apple may come out with something in this size category as well."
Among the Nexus 7 attributes that Greengart counts as special are the operating system. Nexus 7 runs Jelly Bean and is currently the only Android tablet of any size that runs the latest iteration of the mobile operating system.
"I've found that Android Jelly Bean, which is version 4.1, offers relatively minor...
Sat, 21 Jul 12
World's Third-Largest Spam Botnet Taken Down
You know those tons of spam e-mail you've been getting about fake prescription drugs? A security firm has helped to take down the botnet behind it.
Last week, California-based FireEye Malware Intelligence Labs posted on its blog the command and control (CnC) coordinates of the large spam botnet called Grum. "The intention behind this article was not only to share this information for a general awareness," posted the company's Atif Mushtaq, "but also to invite the research community to come forward and take down this spam beast."
And, he reported, that's what happened, except it wasn't the research community but Dutch authorities who did the deed. Mushtaq reported that they have "pulled the plug on two of the CnC servicers pointing to IP addresses 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11."
He added that these two CnC servers were "responsible for pumping spam instructions to their zombies." In this case, zombies refer not to undead humans, but to undead computers that have been commandeered by malware to resend spam, often without their users' knowledge.
With the servers offline, Mushtaq said, the spam template inside Grum would "soon time out and the zombies will try to fetch new instructions" but would not be able to find them.
But, Mushtaq reported earlier this week, Grum's master CnC servers, based in Panama and Russia, were still up -- so Mushtaq published their information as well. He said that the ISPs handling those servers were contacted with abuse notifications, which were ignored. The botnet could update their zombies from these servers, which would reconstitute the spam network.
Then, on Thursday, Mushtaq posted that the server in Panama had been taken down, the result of the ISP eventually succumbing to community pressure. But then, he wrote, "right in front of my eyes, the bot herders started pointing their...
Sat, 21 Jul 12
Marissa Mayer Eager to Hear Ideas at Yahoo
Yahoo's latest CEO, Marissa Mayer, isn't wasting any time getting the turnaround ball rolling. Even as numbers about her pay scale and potential bonuses are hitting the news wires -- the pay package is reportedly as high as $100 million over the next five years if she can turn the company around -- Mayer is rallying the troops.
The former Googler's first internal memo confessed she has long been a Yahoo fan and said she is honored to join the company. Mayer called Yahoo an Internet icon and pointed to enormous opportunity ahead. Then she got "real."
"The company has been through a lot of change in the past few months, leaving many open questions around strategy and how to move forward. I am sensitive to this," Mayer wrote. "While I have some ideas, I need to develop a more informed perspective before making strategy or direction changes. In the meantime, please do not stop. You are doing important work. Please don't stop."
Mayer said companies are all about people, and the companies with the best talent win. Joining was an easy decision, she continued, because of the strength of Yahoo's talent. She committed to a continued investment in talent that will allow the company to produce what she called "the most compelling and exciting user experiences anywhere."
"Looking forward, we need to continue Yahoo's tradition of bold innovation, encourage creativity, and ultimately inspire and delight users and advertisers," Mayer wrote. "Please come by my office in building D on the third floor and say hello. I cannot wait to hear your ideas for Yahoo's future."
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, noted that Mayer was fully critical to the launch of Google, and told us he believes she is more qualified to run Google than is Larry Page.
Sat, 21 Jul 12
Verizon Exec's Comments Suggest Q4 iPhone Release
Looks like the tradition of new iPhones every summer may be a thing of the past.
For the second year, June has come and gone without a new smartphone from Apple, and it appears likely the sixth model won't be a back-to-school accessory this year. After four June releases, Apple last year released the CDMA-capable iPhone 4 for Verizon in January followed by the upgraded 4S in October.
Speculation was intense that the next model would come in the fall, and Apple as usual is playing its cards close to the vest. But comments from Verizon Wireless CFO Fran Shammo in a second-quarter earnings call have now largely dashed hopes for the new iPhone in the near future.
In discussing phone sales in the second quarter, during which Verizon sold 2.9 million branded Droid smartphones and 2.7 million iPhones, Shammo, according to published reports, cited "the rumor mill out there with a new phone coming out there in the fourth quarter, so people may be waiting."
Apple did not respond to our e-mailed request for comment at press time.
Shammo may have simply been referencing the power of rumors to affect sales rather than tipping his hat. And he didn't mention a specific phone. But it's the iPhone that has a proven track record for affecting buying patterns.
"It happened with the iPhone 4S," said wireless analyst Gerry Purdy of MobileTrax. "There was a multimillion-dollar drop in sales before the 4S came out in October. If you are in the store and someone says the iPhone 5 is going to be out in two weeks, you are going to say, 'Why am I spending my money now?' "
Purdy said a later time frame makes sense because Apple needs to wind down production of the 4S, which came later than usual, and wind up...
Sat, 21 Jul 12
Twitter Adds Ability To Target Promoted Tweets
Businesses now have another advertising tool at their disposal. On Thursday, Twitter announced it was introducing targeted tweets.
In a posting on Twitter's advertising blog, Product Manager Kevin Weil unveiled the new option, which allows brands to reach specific, but not necessarily all, followers.
"What if you want to make an offer just to New York Twitter users?" he asked. Weil said that, previously, it's been "impractical to send these kinds of highly tailored Tweets, since there was no way to reach people in New York without also reaching followers in Norway, Nebraska and Nigeria who can't take advantage of your offer."
The new advertising allows advertisers to direct messages to users by location, device, or platform. Twitter said that an example use might be when a global brand had different launch dates in different countries, with messages tailored to each country. Mobile apps providers might also want to reach only smartphone and tablet owners, not those on desktop computers.
The company said that it has previously been testing the new offering for several weeks with British Airways, Coca Cola, The Washington Post and Wendy's. It is now available to all advertisers who use Promoted Tweets.
As with other Promoted Tweets, advertisers only pay when users engage with the ads, and the ads with the most engagement are shown most often. Engagement occurs when someone retweets, replies to, clicks or favorites a Promoted Tweet, while impressions -- without engagement -- have no charge. Promoted Tweets are also designed to reach users when they're searching on Twitter, or they can be targeted to users' timelines.
We asked Andrew Frank, research director for media, marketing and advertising at Gartner, if the new targeted Twitter ads were likely to increase the appeal of businesses advertising in that medium.
He replied that it's...
Sat, 21 Jul 12
Fab.com Puts Creative Spin on Online Shopping
Bradford Shellhammer is scouring designer Kii Arens' collection for great rock concert poster art to sell on his Web site, Fab.com.
Unlike a traditional e-tailer, such as Amazon or Buy.com, Fab handpicks the merchandise.
"It's pretty simple," Shellhammer says. We look for "things that make us smile."
So far, people all over the world seem to be clicking with Shellhammer's design sensibilities. He and business partner Jason Goldberg are grinning all the way to the bank.
The Web site, which sells everything from shoes, chairs and jewelry to luggage and rugs, is on track to move $100 million worth of merchandise this year.
The site, which launched in June 2011, has amassed 5 million registered users and is growing so fast that it has expanded from 25 employees last year to 400 employees today.
Today, Fab is expected to close $105 million in new funding, organized by Atomico, the investment firm founded by Niklas Zennstrom, best known as the co-creator of Skype.
"We have tens of thousands of products for sale now," says Goldberg, Fab's CEO.
With the new infusion of cash, he says, "We want to sell hundreds of thousands of products and launch in more countries."
Goldberg says Fab found an audience so quickly because it has a different style than other e-tailers.
"We're edgy. We're modern. We're colorful," he says. "You walk into most retailers and there are two or three colors they are showing that season. That's not how people live."
Consumers, says Shellhammer, "are sick of buying mass-produced crap. They want to understand where the (products) came from and who made them."
At Arens' studio, Shellhammer admires replicas of colorful pointy hats worn by punk group Devo in the 1970s and puts them on during a photo shoot.
Los Angeles designer Jen Murse shows off her oversized piano keyboard rings at Arens' studio.
Shortly after Murse's Plastique jewelry became...
Sat, 21 Jul 12
China's Online Population Rises to 538 Million
China's population of Internet users, already the world's biggest, has risen to 538 million, driven by rapid growth in wireless Web surfing, an industry group said Thursday.
The latest figure represents an 11 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the report by the China Internet Network Information Center. The government sanctioned group said that raised the share of China's population that uses the Internet to 39.9 percent.
The number of people who go online from mobile phones and other wireless devices rose to 388 million, the group said. That was up 22 percent from a year earlier.
China's communist government encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block access to material considered subversive or obscene. Authorities tightened controls after social networking and other Web sites played a key role in protests that brought down governments in Egypt and Tunisia.
The rise of Internet use and the explosive popularity of wireless access have driven the growth of a series of new Chinese industries from microblogs to online video.
This month, regulators tightened control over online video, telling providers they must prescreen all material before making it available. The government complained that some online video was vulgar, pornographic or too violent.
Sat, 21 Jul 12
Verizon Profits Rise on Mobile Business
Verizon Communications Inc., parent of the country's largest cellphone carrier, on Thursday said that its net income rose 13 percent in the second quarter as its wireless arm continued to pull in customers and higher fees.
Results on the wired side were notably weaker, however. Like other phone companies, Verizon is losing phone lines, but has been compensating to some extent by signing up broadband customers. In the second quarter, it gained a net 2,000 broadband customers -- the worst result in four years.
Overall, the New York-based phone company earned $1.83 billion, or 64 cents per share, in the April to June period, up from $1.61 billion, or 57 cents per share, a year ago.
The latest earnings match the average forecast of analysts polled by FactSet.
Revenue rose 3.7 percent to $28.5 billion, also in line with analysts' expectations.
The results come after Verizon shares hit a 10-year high of $46.41 on Wednesday. In pre-market trading Thursday, the shares retreated 75 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $45.14.
Verizon Wireless gained a net 1.2 million subscribers -- a strong result in an industry where subscriber gains have tapered off now that nearly everyone has a cellphone. Of the new subscribers, 888,000 were on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative.
Verizon Wireless has 94.2 million retail subscribers, making it the biggest wireless carrier in the nation. Arch-rival AT&T Inc. is set to report quarterly results on Tuesday.
Sat, 21 Jul 12
Review: Chillingo's Knights Storm the iPad
When I was a boy, my parents were always spoiling my summer vacation by making me go outside. Kids today have it easier: As long as you can sneak your iPad out of the house, you can stay entertained until the battery runs dry. Who needs the wonders of nature when all you need is a few bucks and a connection to the App Store?
-"Knights of the Round Cable" (Chillingo, 99 cents): The publisher of the original "Angry Birds" -- as well as such colorful concoctions as "Cut the Rope" and "Feed Me Oil" -- is back with another wacky arcade challenge. Your character is a knight who bounces around in the sky while avoiding dragons, witches and other flying threats. You have one tool, a grappling hook that attaches to airborne anchor points, allowing you to switch directions, grab treasures or hurl yourself toward distressed damsels in need of rescue.
There's not much variety among the levels, but the designers have thrown in enough incentives -- like the ability to spend your loot to upgrade your knights -- to keep you coming back. "Round Cable" hits the iPad sweet spot: You can learn it in seconds and then find you've spent hours twirling through its castles.
-"The Act" (Chillingo, 99 cents): Edgar is a shy window washer who nearly falls off his scaffold when he spies a lovely nurse making her rounds. "The Act" follows Edgar's attempts to woo the nurse, both in his own imagination and in his more slapstick reality. Your control is limited: Swiping right on the iPad screen makes Edgar act with more confidence, while swiping left makes him back off.
With its charming, hand-drawn animation and simple left-right choices, "The Act" will remind arcade veterans of the classic "Dragon's Lair" -- although it doesn't ask you to...
Sat, 21 Jul 12
McDonald's: Digital Specs Prompt Privacy Fears
McDonald's workers in Paris who stopped a Canadian professor from wearing computerized eyeglasses feared he could be recording or photographing people in violation of their privacy, the company said Thursday.
Steve Mann, who designed a vision device similar to the enhanced reality glasses recently announced by Google, said he and his family were vacationing in Paris and stopped by the Champs Elysees McDonald's on July 1.
In his blog, Mann wrote that he showed McDonald's staff a note from his physician and accompanying documents about the glasses, but that three staff members knocked the device off his head and grabbed it.
"McDonald's was the only establishment that seemed to have any problem with my eyeglass during our entire 2 week trip," Mann wrote, describing the three employees as Perpetrators 1, 2 and 3. He said when the first staffer grabbed the glasses, he recorded images of the confrontation. But the lens was damaged, said Mann, a professor of computer engineering at the University of Toronto.
On its Facebook page, McDonald's France wrote that as part of its inquiry officials have spoken with Mann and the employees.
The staff said they were concerned about privacy violations when they approached Mann, according to the statement. McDonald's did not say if the staff members admitted knocking the glasses off Mann's head.
"According to the employees, the exchanges with Mr. Mann were respectful and polite," the company said. "Regarding the emotion this affair has generated, McDonald's asks that no one jump to conclusions before all the facts are known."
Mann has said he hopes the glasses will ultimately help the visually impaired. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Nokia's Lumia Sales Double, But Windows Phone 8 Looms
Nokia said it sold 4 million Lumia smartphones in the company's second quarter -- twice the number that the handset maker had previously shipped in the first three months of 2012. Growth was driven by the expanded availability of the Lumia 900 and the Lumia 610 across markets, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said Thursday.
However, industry observers believe that Microsoft's coming transition to the new Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 platforms, which will not debut until late October, will have an impact on Lumia shipments during the third quarter. The current Lumia models run Windows Phone 7.5, and Microsoft has announced no current Windows Phone models will be upgradable.
"Lumia activations have been flat to up in the weeks following the announcement of Windows Phone 8," Elop told investors during a conference call. "Thus, leading up to the introduction of the Windows Phone 8 products, we plan to introduce tactical measures and promotional campaigns."
We asked Francisco Jeronimo, an IDC research manager based in Europe, about what Nokia should do between now and the end of October.
"They will need to slash prices to be able to keep volumes higher and sell out old stock," Jeronimo said.
Nevertheless, Jeronimo believes many wireless carriers will be reluctant to heavily promote Nokia's current Lumia models.
"There's no point for them to push devices to consumers that are not able to be upgraded to the new platform later on," Jeronimo told us. "Nokia will continue to suffer until its Windows Phone 8 [lineup] is launched."
Still, Elop noted that the Lumia handsets that it has already placed in the hands of consumers have been well received.
"Last week, a Nielsen survey confirmed how satisfied Nokia Lumia 900 owners in the U.S. are with their devices," Elop said. "The Lumia 900 earned a net promoter...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Newer, More Expensive iPads Find Greater Business Use
People who spend more for their iPads seem to use them more for business purposes.
That's among the findings of a new report on trends among Apple iPad buyers from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, based on interviews with 1,000 iPad purchasers from December through April.
The report also suggests Apple is making inroads among business users, with 23 percent of purchasers of the newest iPad, released in March, reporting work usage compared with just 13 percent of users for all three models together. The first iPad was introduced at the beginning of 2010. Eight percent of users said they were using iPads for school.
Leisure usage still predominates, though, amounting to 27 percent to 40 percent of iPad use, encompassing entertainment (including listening to music and viewing photos), surfing the Internet and playing games. Only 11 percent of those surveyed use the iPad to access social media and 8 percent use it to read books or magazines (news that should please Amazon.com, maker of the Kindle Fire, and Barnes & Noble, maker of the Nook.)
Those who pay for the higher-end iPad models, those with 36 or 64 gigabytes of storage rather than the basic 16 GB model, tend to use them more for business, CIRP said.
Twenty-nine percent of iPad buyers with 64 GB of storage use the iPad for business, but of those with 16 GB of storage only 11 percent do. In contrast, 12 percent of iPad buyers with 64 GB of storage use the iPad for entertainment, compared with 32 percent of iPad buyers with 16 GB of storage, and 41 percent of those with 32 GB.
Unsurprisingly, owners of iPads with 3G or 4G connectivity, who can go online anywhere with their wireless carrier's coverage, also tend to be slightly more business oriented, 13 percent, compared with 10...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
FCC Report Shows Internet Service Providers Delivering the Goods
If you're wondering whether your Internet service provider is providing the speed it promises for residential broadband service, a new report indicates that they most likely are. The report by the Federal Communications Commission released Thursday found that ISPs deliver 96 percent of their advertised download speeds on average.
The first FCC report in this area, released last year, found that an average of 87 percent of download speeds was delivered. The report, entitled Measuring Broadband America, focused on service provided during the peak hours of 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For upload speeds, the performance is even better. This year, measured ISPs delivered 107 percent of advertised speeds, an increase from last year's 103 percent.
Overall, the FCC report said, "ISP promises of performance are more accurate," and have improved overall. Five ISPs measured by the agency "routinely deliver one hundred percent or greater" of the advertised speeds, even during peak times -- an improvement over the two ISPs that delivered such performance in 2011.
The FCC said improvements were real, in that they were the result of improvements in network performance and not the result of downward adjustments in speed tiers offered.
The report also said differences between ISPs were somewhat less pronounced this year than last. The 2011 report showed significant variances between the ability of top and bottom performers in meeting advertised download speeds. The standard deviation between top and bottom performers is now about 12.2 percent, down from 14.4 percent last year.
The agency said that its discussions with ISPs indicate that its 2011 report was a "significant factor" in speed improvements, in that providers "have told us that last year's study provided valuable insight into the effectiveness of their practices." The results of last year's test appeared in advertisements, news reports and other outlets, thus...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Avaya Releases IP Office 8.1 for Small- and Mid-Size Businesses
Avaya is updating its unified communications offering for small- and mid-size businesses. The company announced this week a new version of its IP Office 8.1, with new mobility, management and security features that are designed for Bring Your Own Device environments.
The company cited a 2012 Forrester Research Study, showing that 56 percent of SMB workers who use a tablet are utilizing their own device, and 66 percent use their own smartphone. Much of the attention by software providers for accommodating the growing BYOD trend has previously been focused on large enterprises.
Avaya Office is designed to help SMBs move from basic telephony to sophisticated unified communications, with the ability to network as many as 32 locations. Companies can use IP, digital, analog or SIP communications, and Office can interoperate with other Avaya systems.
The product has been designed around use cases for the roles of Power User, Mobile Worker, Office Worker, Teleworker, Receptionist, Customer Service Supervisor, and Customer Service Agent.
Using Office, for instance, Power Users can control office communications from IP phones, cell phones or laptops, can receive all their messages -- whether voice, e-mail or fax -- into single inboxes, can set up conference calls when and where needed, and can have calls ring at both mobile and desk phones.
Version 8.1 introduces the Avaya Flare Communicator, a mobility app that previously had only been available to large enterprises. The Communicator can be used on Apple iPad tablets or Windows-based laptops, and it provides access to such collaboration capabilities as business-class calling, presence, company directory search or management of two calls simultaneously from a mobile device.
The Communicator also offers the ability to drag-and-drop contacts into a spotlight position and then launch IMs, voice calls or e-mails by a screen tap.
The updated Office features centralized management that the...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
AT&T Debuts Its Wireless Data Bucket Plans
The U.S. wireless carrier is planning to roll out shared data plans for current and new mobile subscribers, beginning in August. Called AT&T Mobile Share, the new bucket data plans will enable families as well as small businesses to essentially build their own plans to fit their unique device and data usage requirements, the company said.
AT&T expects to offer the new bucket data plans in monthly allotments of 1 GB ($40), 4 GB ($70), 6 GB ($90), 10 GB ($120), 15 GB ($160) and 20 GB ($200).
There will also be an additional monthly charge for each and every 3G, HSPA+ or LTE gadget added to any of the new AT&T Mobile Share plans. Smartphones ($35) and feature phones ($30), for example, will cost more per month to use than laptop connect cards ($20), tablets ($10) and portable gaming machines ($10).
While still offering its previous voice and SMS pooling family plans as an option to all comers, "AT&T can now tout data sharing for consumers -- that for many users will look a lot cheaper than Sprint's Share Everything plans," said Bill Menezes, a principal research analyst at Gartner.
In comparison, Menezes told us, a Sprint "Share Everything" plan for two smartphones with unlimited voice, SMS and 3G data starts at about $210 retail with Sprint, and extra lines are about $90 a pop.
Even on their higher speed networks, the top U.S. wireless carriers estimate the average user consumes less than 2 GB a month. "AT&T estimates its top 5 percent of smartphone data users are consuming 2 to 3 GB, so for most, a 4 GB bucket is as good as unlimited," Menezes explained.
AT&T also wisely let Verizon Wireless hit the trip wire first on how the public would perceive these plans. "With...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Personal Info Tapped With an App
A man walks up to a woman in a bar. Instead of shyly asking about her interests, he already knows them. He doesn't ask where she is from or where she went to school. After a furtive glance at his phone, he knows that, too.
He has an app for that.
This particular app is called "Girls Around Me" and like many other smartphone programs that provide fast and easy information, it uses publicly available data. For instance, Girls Around Me finds out what women recently checked in to a bar on the social-media site Foursquare, alerts the user and provides a look at the woman's Facebook profile.
The app was taken down this year voluntarily by its creator, SMS Systems, after a hailstorm of privacy concerns from bloggers led by the Cult of Mac calling it a "stalker app."
Many others exist to take its place in various forms as the world's smartphones increasingly become repositories for personal data.
Companies that produce the apps say they are harmless.
SMS, based in Russia, said in a statement that all data it provides are already public, and it plans on bringing back another version of its app soon.
"The app just allows the user to browse the venues nearby, as if you passed by and looked in the window," SMS said.
Experts say millions of mobile users unwittingly share personal data every day.
"What we are seeing now is just the top of the mountain," says Lee Tien, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"With apps like these, risks to personal security skyrocket," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Growing Number of Communities Using Smart911
A man who called 911 in Nashville recently was too ill to speak to the dispatcher. That could have been a life-threatening situation, says Duane Phillips, director of Emergency Communications Center in metro Nashville.
But because the man had registered with a new 911 database called Smart911 and detailed his health issues, the dispatcher knew what to do.
"Normally, we handle that as an open line and send police to investigate," Phillips said. "Because he had registered with Smart911, we knew he had heart problems, so we sent an ambulance and the police. It probably saved his life."
Nashville is one of a growing number of cities and communities that have adopted the Smart911 system -- a voluntary database that allows people to enter personal information, such as medical conditions and number of children in a house, that gives dispatchers information that could prove critical when they send first-responders out on emergency calls.
Last week, Washington, D.C., became the most recent city to adopt the system.
This year, Arkansas became the first to adopt Smart911 statewide.
The system is now used in nearly 300 communities in 25 states, according to Todd Piett, chief product officer for Rave Mobile Safety, developers of Smart911.
"The more information available to dispatchers the better," said Jim Sierzchula, Baxter County, Ark., Office of Emergency Services director. "It gives us that critical information we need."
Residents are able to create a Smart911 Safety Profile at the Web site www.smart911.com that is automatically displayed to 911 during emergency calls. They can enter whatever information they like into the database. Photographs can also be included.
There's no direct cost to register, as the program is paid for by the public safety agencies that adopt it.
In Nashville, cellphone customers pay a 911 users fee of one dollar in their monthly bills, and some of that money is now...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Yahoo CEO's Pregnancy Overshadows Flat Revenue
Yahoo hopes it picked a savior when it chose Googler Marissa Mayer as CEO in hopes of resuscitating business and birthing an improbable comeback.
Turns out Mayer, 37, is expecting the real thing, too. She disclosed on her Facebook profile late Monday that she's pregnant. Mayer first disclosed her pregnancy to Yahoo in late June, according to a Fortune report.
Though Yahoo posted flat sales and profit Tuesday, its freshly minted CEO provided all the sizzle.
"Marissa Mayer looks like a supermodel, talks like a politician and innovates like an engineer," says BlogHer CEO Lisa Stone.
Yahoo's new CEO, announced Monday, is the company's latest turnaround hopeful following a succession of misfortunes. She didn't preside over the company's earnings, which were presented by Chief Financial Officer Tim Morse, but nonetheless drew attention.
Fascination with Mayer's pregnancy across Twitter and the media isn't surprising. As a paper multimillionaire and one of Silicon Valley's most famous faces, she has been the focus of interest for years.
Yahoo's struggles were underscored Tuesday by flat second-quarter revenue of $1.08 billion compared with a year ago. The results sent Yahoo's stock up slightly, to $15.66, in after-hours trading.
Yahoo's appointment of Mayer has the company "incredibly energized and looking forward to working with our new CEO," Morse said on a conference call.
While the choice for her to lead Yahoo was surprising, Mayer's departure after 13 years at Google wasn't totally unexpected. As head of location products, she had no clear path to the upper reaches of the executive team.
"For Google, it's just another person leaving," says Karsten Weide, a former Yahoo executive who is now an IDC analyst. "As Google becomes more corporate, there might be people more qualified for what needs to be done."
Complicating matters is Yahoo's tortured history with Google, the company that many asserted cold-cocked Yahoo. Yahoo failed to...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Washington Reveals Voter Registration on Facebook
Facebook users in Washington state will have something else to brag about to their online friends: that they registered to vote on Facebook.
The secretary of state's office said Tuesday it will have an application on its Facebook page that allows residents to register to vote and then "like" the application and recommend it to their friends. It's expected to launch as early as next week.
"In this age of social media and more people going online for services, this is a natural way to introduce people to online registration and leverage the power of friends on Facebook to get more people registered," said Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections.
Washington state has had online registration since 2008, and since then, there have been 475,000 registrations or changes of address processed through the system. Washington is one of more than a dozen states that offer online registration.
Hamlin said Washington state is the first to offer voter registration via Facebook.
"We are excited that citizens in Washington state will be able to register to vote and review useful voting information on Facebook," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes.
The state, Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which developed the application, have been collaborating on the project since last fall, Hamlin said.
Once it's live, Facebook users can click on the application within the secretary of state's Facebook page. They'll need to agree to let Facebook access their information, which will be used to prefill their name and date of birth in the voter registration form. Users will still need to provide a driver's license or state ID card number to continue.
Hamlin said that Facebook doesn't have access to the state's database; its page just overlays the application. Voters will also be able to access the state's "My Vote" site with specific information on candidates and ballot measures.
Hamlin said that beyond...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Marissa Mayer's Top Three Challenges as Yahoo CEO
Like a lot of math geeks, Marissa Mayer enjoys tackling complex problems. She will find plenty of those as the latest CEO at Yahoo. The troubled company has turned into a vexing brain-twister as its financial performance has steadily deteriorated even though it still boasts one of the Internet's biggest audiences and best-known brands.
Yahoo announced Tuesday another lackluster set of financial results in the second quarter. The company earned $227 million, a 4 percent decrease from a year ago. In the last five years, Yahoo's stock has tumbled 41 percent. It closed Tuesday at $15.60.
Mayer, 37, will try to reverse the financial malaise as Yahoo tries to match the growth of rivals Google and Facebook Inc. Both companies have been prospering as advertisers spent more money on Internet advertising.
Consider some of the challenges that greeted Mayer Tuesday as she took over Yahoo's helm after a highly successful 13-year career at Google.
Mayer's to-do list probably will start with deciding the fate of Ross Levinsohn, who had made a positive impression among analysts during his two-month stint as interim CEO. He took over after the mid-May ouster of Yahoo's previous leader, Scott Thompson, who left amid a flap over misinformation on his official biography.
Levinsohn had envisioned Yahoo's Web site becoming the hottest spot on the Internet to get a mixture of exclusive content and material produced by a wide range of other media outlets. He was particularly focused on improving the quality of Yahoo's video offerings, figuring more people would stick around the company's Web site if it was serving up professionally produced news and entertainment clips. That in turn would help Yahoo sell more online advertising and revive revenue growth.
Mayer has previously worked with Levinsohn while she was overseeing Google's Internet search team and he was running the digital...
Fri, 20 Jul 12
Rotten Tomatoes Suspends Dark Knight Comments
The aggregating Web site RottenTomatoes.com suspended user comments on movie reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" after commenters reacted harshly to negative reviews of the film and made profane and threatening remarks about the critics who wrote them.
Matt Atchity, the site's editor-in-chief, said Tuesday it was the first time RottenTomatoes.com has suspended user comments, adding postings about "Dark Knight" reviews would likely be restored by the end of the week. The final film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy opens Friday.
"The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," said Atchity. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."
Atchity said the site is considering a move to a Facebook commenting system, which might cut down on the glut of anonymous posts. Other film review aggregating sites, such as MetaCritic.com and MovieReviewIntelligence.com, either don't allow user comments or don't permit comments to be posted before a film opens.
"There are a lot of options on the table," said Atchity, who is worried about a similar backlash when director Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is released later this year. "We may do away with comments completely or get to a place where comments are only activated after a movie opens."
While "The Dark Knight Rises" is currently experiencing a glowing 84 percent "fresh" rating on RottenTomatoes.com, the film has been deemed "rotten" by a few critics, including Marshall Fine of Hollywood & Fine, Christy Lemire of The Associated Press and Nick Pinkerton of the Village Voice. Fine lambasted "Dark Knight Rises" for being "nonsensical," and Lemire called it a "letdown."
"As a movie writer and critic, Christy gives her opinion and we expect people will agree with some...
Thu, 19 Jul 12
Users Dislike Facebook's Constant Changes
The bad news for Facebook is that lots of users are unhappy with the world's biggest social network. The good news? No one will ask for their money back.
The annual e-business report for the American Consumer Satisfaction Index found that the Mark Zuckerberg-founded site faced the biggest decline of measured companies, with an 8 percent drop from last year. Facebook is now rated at 61 on a 100-point scale. That's a record low for Facebook, placing it as one of the bottom five companies in consumer satisfaction, among 230 measured.
The survey by the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based ACSI was conducted with customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.
The dissatisfaction seems to stem from Facebook's Timeline feature, which is being phased in to all user profiles. Timeline is intended to make pages seem more like a curriculum vitae and spur people to reminisce about older updates and photos. Indeed, the ACSI report concluded that, "the most frequent complaints about Facebook are changes to its user interface, most recently the introduction of the Timeline feature."
Adding insult to Facebook's injury, Google+, the fledgling rival network, scored 78 percent in satisfaction for its rookie year in the survey, which was based on interviews with 70,000 consumers. That result was attributed to an absence of traditional advertising and what is seen as a superior mobile product.
"Facebook and Google+ are competing on two critical fronts: customer experience and market penetration," said Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee. "Google+ handily wins the former [market penetration], and Facebook handily wins the latter [customer experience], for now."
Pinterest (69), LinkedIn (63), and Twitter.com (64) all scored higher than Facebook, and YouTube fared much better, with a 73 rating.
Wikipedia tied Google+ at 78, the third straight year it showed the happiest users.
Griping about changes has become a...
Thu, 19 Jul 12
Citrix Tightens Security on ShareFile for iPad
Mobile devices are considered the top security threat by IT departments, according to recent surveys. To give IT a better handle on iPad management, Citrix recently released major updates to its collaborative software, ShareFile for iPad.
The updates to the file sharing software provide new control capabilities so that IT departments can maintain file security on the tablet.
Jesse Lipson, vice president and general manager of Data Sharing at Citrix, said in a statement that the company's customers, whether small businesses or Fortune 500 enterprises, "live mobile work styles and expect it to be easy to store and share their files and content from anywhere." The new version of ShareFile for iPad, Lipson said, "provides a powerful user experience while meeting IT's mandate for security."
Citrix's ShareFile allows users to store, share and sync data across all their devices, and the ShareFile for iPad app provides what the company calls a "rich follow-me-data experience" for mobile users while offering management and control tools for IT.
In addition to Apple iOS platform, ShareFile supports Windows, Android, and BlackBerry mobile devices. Other Citrix apps for the iPad include GoToMeeting, GoToMyPC, GoToAssist and Receiver.
New features in the updated app include a "poison pill" option so that IT can set data expiration polices, multiple preference settings that can be used to determine if files can be opened in third-party apps or saved offline, and integration with Enterprise Active Directory.
There are also improved auditing and reporting capabilities for tracking and logging user activity, and new advanced options to allow users to save files locally for access and editing offline.
A new integration with Quickoffice allows users to edit Microsoft Office documents and then save them to ShareFile, and a redesigned interface simplifies the process of viewing multiple ShareFile accounts and folders.
We asked Charles...
Thu, 19 Jul 12
A-List Talents Getting Caught Up in Web
We already know about movie blockbusters and even TV blockbusters, but is there such a thing as an online blockbuster? Tom Hanks and Jerry Seinfeld are about to find out.
The animated sci-fi video series Electric City, created and voiced by Hanks, makes its debut [Tuesday} on Yahoo Screen. Seinfeld's online series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, makes its debut Thursday on Crackle.com.
Hanks' 90-minute, 20-episode series, which is airing over three nights, is being touted as a "first-of-its-kind, 360-degree online interaction of digital, social, mobile and gaming media."
"It's the first project in what we call online digital blockbusters," says Erin McPherson, vice president and head of video for Yahoo. "This is new for Yahoo and new for the Internet -- this is maiden territory."
But it is looking like the future. "TV and movies are not going away, but we believe passionately that this is a key part of the future, which is filled with a lot more choices and a lot more mechanisms to watch," she says. "As it becomes more crowded, the unique, exclusive things (like Electric City) will stand out."
In Seinfeld's series, the Emmy-winning expert on extracting comic gold from nothing cruises around in vintage cars with his funny chums -- Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards -- on the way to getting coffee and getting laughs.
Seinfeld says through a spokesman that he wants the content to speak for itself.
According to tweets he sent Friday, he doesn't know how many episodes there will be, nor how long they will be. "Not sure. Shot a bunch but we'll see how everyone likes it," he tweeted. Crackle.com is a free site to view content, owned by Sony Entertainment.
McPherson describes Electric City as Lost for the digital age, aimed at 18-to-30-year-olds.
In the series, the world has ended and the Electric...
Thu, 19 Jul 12
Sprint Fires Up New Wireless Data Network
Sprint Nextel Corp. said Monday that it has turned on its new wireless data network, providing a much-needed boost to the carrier, whose data speeds lag those of its largest competitors.
Sprint fired up the fourth-generation, or 4G, network in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, San Antonio and some smaller surrounding cities on Sunday. It uses LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, technology already in use by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc.
Four smartphones and one mobile-hotspot device are capable of using the network.
PC Magazine got early access to the network a month ago, and found that it's not quite as fast as Verizon's and AT&T's equivalents, but a big step up from Sprint's older 3G, or third-generation, network and the 4G access it rents from Clearwire Corp.
Sprint, the third-largest U.S. cellphone carrier, doesn't have as much available spectrum, or space on the airwaves, as the larger carriers do. That holds back its LTE speeds somewhat.
Verizon and AT&T also have much wider coverage on their LTE networks. Verizon covers 304 markets, or two-thirds of the U.S. population.
Sprint, which is based in Overland Park, Kan., is planning to expand LTE coverage this year and largely complete the network buildout next year. It's planning to supplement its own LTE network with that of Clearwire, which has yet to fire up.
Sprint had said that Baltimore would also be among the first cities to get LTE, but it was missing from the initial lineup.
Thu, 19 Jul 12
Google Fights Human Traffickers, Drug Cartels
Forget videos of cute kittens or good deals on iPads. For the past few months, Google has been quietly turning its search capabilities to something far more challenging: criminals.
Drug cartels, money launderers and human traffickers run their sophisticated operations online -- and Google Ideas, Google Inc.'s think tank, is working with the Council on Foreign Relations and other organizations to look for ways to use technology to disrupt international crime.
Officials from Google and groups that combat illicit networks will meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Westlake Village, Calif., to develop strategies for fighting global crime.
"Google is in a great position to take these on," said Rani Hong, a survivor of child trafficking in India who is now a special adviser to the United Nations. "They're a powerful medium and they have great tools to solve this problem."
Dozens will attend the summit, including Kimmie Weeks, a former abducted child soldier from Liberia; Juan Pablo Escobar, son of slain Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar; assistant U.S. defense secretary Andrew Weber; and Brian Dodd, who directs the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's counter-terrorism and transnational crime efforts.
"It might sound like a different path for Google, but technology companies today have a lot of powerful tools for bringing transparency to these illicit networks, to fight back against corruption and empower those who are trying to combat transnational crime," said Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who helped organize the conference.
"We all know that bad guys use the Internet, but now we're saying the Internet can also help stop these criminals, and help survivors and advocates find each other and work together," said Pardis Mahdavi, an assistant professor of anthropology at Pomona College who is working with Google to put a human face to criminal networks on the Web.
This week's gathering follows...
Thu, 19 Jul 12
LivingSocial To Begin Selling Merchandise
Online deals company LivingSocial is adding merchandise to its offerings that until now have mostly been restaurant meals, weekend getaways and spa manicures.
Beginning Tuesday, subscribers will be able to buy weekly-changing merchandise from LivingSocial's online shop. LivingSocial says the first collection of items will relate to a trip to the beach, with toys, blankets, tent gazebos and towels included. Other themes will include things for a backyard party or back-to-school items.
The items, about 16 to 20 each week, will cost about $40 to $50 on average, but the prices will vary. They will all be discounted.
LivingSocial's larger rival, Groupon Inc., already sells merchandise. It launched Groupon Goods last fall, offering deals for electronics, household goods, jewelry and other items.
Emily King, the director of LivingSocial's shop, said the company has hired three buyers in New York whose job is to scour blogs, trade shows and showrooms for products "that are framed around a social and memorable experience."
LivingSocial is based in Washington, D.C. and is privately held, but online retailer Amazon.com Inc. owns a small stake in the company.
Thu, 19 Jul 12
Can Bing's Social Search Improve Trip Planning?
People like to consult with friends and family when making travel decisions. So Bing, Microsoft's search engine, has integrated Facebook and Twitter to enhance the process.
Bing, No. 2 to Google in the search-engine sweepstakes, acknowledges its target audience is the 18- to 34-year-old crowd that spends a lot of time on social networks. To tap into that, Bing revamped its search results pages for what it calls "search plus social."
It fits a trend of people using the Internet or favorite mobile apps for planning vacations, researching hotel stays or seeking restaurants. It's the socialization of trip planning.
Google, for instance, has introduced local business results spiked with feedback from your friends in Google+. TripAdvisor's Cities I've Visited app for Facebook lets you engage friends who've visited various destinations. And Gogobot, Wanderfly and Trippy are among a growing assortment of "social travel" sites.
For Bing's social search, you sign into Bing using Facebook Connect to link your accounts. Bing's results pages are divided into three columns: From left to right, they are paid ads and organic search results, paid ads and recent searches, and a dark gray, social column with Facebook and Twitter input.
The sections of the social column include Facebook friends who might know about your search topic, and experts and celebrities outside your networks who supposedly have information about your query. There's an activity feed that lets you post questions, links from Bing about your trip, and questions and answers your Facebook tribe members have posted about myriad topics.
My verdict on Bing's social search is mixed.
If you use search engines such as Bing, incorporating advice from your social networks is an improvement. And Bing has partnered with the most popular network, Facebook. It plans to add others.
Google, in contrast, sticks to its own social network, Google+, for imparting local advice. This...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Samsung Buys U.K.-Based CSR's Mobile-Chip Operations
Samsung Electronics, the world's top phone maker, has agreed to buy the mobile chip operations of Cambridge, U.K.-based CSR PLC for $310 million, as well as buy a $34.4 million equity stake in the company in an investment that reportedly amounts to a 4.9 percent interest.
The move will allow Samsung to gain access to intellectual property as well as protect its own back on an increasingly litigious landscape, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"I expect the deal for CSR's technology and patents has two primary goals: to strengthen Samsung's own Exynos SoC technologies and thus allow the company to more clearly differentiate their products, and to offer Samsung protection against potential litigation from competitors."
"Both issues are important," King said.
"The first relates to the company's market positioning, of course. But given the continuing courtroom drama between Samsung and Apple (as well as IP-related suits among other IT vendors), it's clear that litigation has become an increasingly common tool for promoting your own or quashing competitors' products. If CSR's assets can help Samsung avoid or triumph in those situations, the deal will have been well worth the cost."
Apple and Samsung have traded lawsuits over patent infringement, with Apple seeming to have the edge: It succeeded in having Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Nexus temporarily banned in the United States by a California judge. (The Nexus ban has been stayed for a month.)
The deal gives Samsung control of development of chips for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity, while maintaining control of its chip-making for televisions and audio equipment, according to press reports of the deal. If approved by South Korean regulators, it would be completed by the fourth quarter of the year.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the deal hands over 21 U.S. wireless patents.
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Symantec Releases First Enterprise Anti-Virus Software for Android
Mobile security is fast becoming a major headache for IT departments, so on Tuesday Symantec released its first enterprise-grade anti-virus software for Android devices. The product, called Symantec Mobile Security for Android, complements the company's consumer-oriented Norton Mobile Security for Android.
The company said that the new product leverages its proprietary technology for monitoring and analyzing millions of Android apps on more than 70 app stores worldwide. This continual monitoring of Android apps enables Symantec to determine which apps, for instance, are subscribing to services without authorization, and then to maintain an Android app blacklist.
Android apps have been getting bad press recently. For example, last month a company called Lookout Mobile Security said some ad providers in free Android mobile apps were accessing personal information without the user's notification or consent, through the use of "adware."
Lookout found about 5 percent of the apps it analyzed used these kinds of aggressive ad networks. Google has been criticized in some quarters for not providing the kind of pro-active monitoring of Android apps on its Google Play marketplace that Apple does in its App Store.
In addition to Symantec Mobile Security, the company is releasing its Mobile Management for Configuration Manager, which utilizes technology it obtained in its acquisition of Odyssey Software earlier this year.
It has also updated Symantec Mobile Management, so that it provides a secure e-mail solution for Android devices via NitroDesk TouchDown integration, and it also now offers native enterprise-grade management for the Windows 7 Phone platform, in addition to its existing support for Android and iOS devices.
Additionally, Symantec's Nukona App Center has been updated so that it protects data on iOS devices with FIPS 140-2 certified encryption, and Symantec PGP Viewer now provides e-mail encryption for Android devices, from the PGP Universal Server.
Wed, 18 Jul 12
European Commission Probes Microsoft Antitrust Violation
The European Commission is investigating Microsoft for antitrust violations for failing to include a Web browser choice screen, or BCS, for Windows 7 users since it issued Service Pack 1 for the operating system in February 2011.
The screen was required as part of an antitrust agreement reached in December 2009 with the European Union that mandated Microsoft present Windows PC users with a browser choice through 2014.
"We have received indications from third parties that Microsoft has not complied with this commitment from February 2011 until today," EC Vice President Joaquin Almunia said at a news conference held in Brussels Tuesday.
"If, following our investigation, this breach is confirmed -- and Microsoft seems to acknowledge the facts here -- this could have severe consequences," Almunia said.
Microsoft admitted Tuesday that it had failed to include the browser choice screen to Windows 7 users when it delivered the operating system's Service Pack 1 update in February of last year, which the technology giant attributed to a technical error.
"We learned recently that we've missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1," Microsoft said in a statement.
To correct the oversight, earlier this month Microsoft began distributing the BCS software to the PCs running Windows 7 SP1 which the software giant had missed, and expects to complete the process by the end of this week.
"We understand that the Commission will review this matter and determine whether this is an appropriate step for Microsoft to take," Microsoft said. "We understand that the Commission may decide to impose other sanctions."
As compensation, Microsoft has offered to extend the termination date of the BCS compliance period by an additional fifteen months. However, Microsoft finds itself in the hot seat because it had specifically assured the European Commission last December...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Rumor: AT&T Plans to Charge for FaceTime Cellular Use
The rumor mill is churning around AT&T, suggesting that the wireless carrier is planning to charge iPhone users for FaceTime calls over its cellular network.
The rumored change is expected to hit consumers when iOS 6 rolls out later this year. Up until now, FaceTime has only worked between two Wi-Fi-enabled phones. Apple will make it possible to video chat over FaceTime on cellular networks this fall.
The rumor is based on published reports that imply users may see an error message when they try to run FaceTime over AT&T's cellular network. This error message displays in iOS6 beta testing when a user tries to make the FaceTime cellular connection: "To enable FaceTime over cellular on this account, contact AT&T at 611 or visit http://www.att.com/mywireless."
Neither AT&T nor Apple were immediately available for comment. But we caught up with Weston Henderek, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, to discuss the rumors. He told us he doesn't have any official information on the speculation.
"If AT&T started to charge for connecting to FaceTime over the cellular network it would open up a big Pandora's box because there are so many other similar services out there," Henderek said. "If you are going to charge for one, what about the others?"
So-called over-the-top services, which include free text messaging, Skype and FaceTime, have become popular with consumers looking for ways to reduce the number of minutes they use and avoid carrier charges for texting. Carriers, meanwhile, are looking for ways to discourage consumers from going over the top.
Henderek pointed to Verizon Wireless' new unlimited data plans as an example. Consumers are forced to choose tiered levels for data access. If every plan comes with unlimited voice and messaging services, it renders some of the over-the-top providers useless. Consumers don't need a free text...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Are Microsoft's 'Radical' Office Changes Enough to Entice?
Get ready for the new Microsoft Office. On Monday, the technology giant unveiled a customer preview of its Office productivity suite, designed for the coming Windows 8 operating system and offering such new features as a full touch-based interface and integrated social media.
The new Office can be controlled via touchscreen, keyboard and mouse, or by a stylus whose handwriting is converted to text. The product is available as the online Office 365, which CEO Steve Ballmer said has been completely rebuilt for online use, as well as in the more traditional shrink-wrapped version for local installation.
In the new online Office, documents are automatically saved to cloud-based SkyDrive by default, and signed-in users can have their settings saved when moving to another device.
As a cloud-based subscription service, Office includes 60 free Skype voice minutes per month as well as extra storage on SkyDrive. The business-oriented Yammer social network, which Microsoft recently purchased, is integrated into Office, and the People Card provides pictures, status updates, contact info, and Facebook or LinkedIn activity feeds for contacts.
OneNote offers digital note-taking -- via touch controls, pen or keyboard input -- and PowerPoint offers a new Presenter View with current and upcoming slides, presentation time, and speaker notes in one place. In presentation mode, a user can zoom or mark up slides.
The interface is streamlined, with more space, support of pinch-to-zoom and other swiping gestures, and less clutter by the ribbon menu, which is now semi-hidden until needed. Collaboration is emphasized, such as the ability to tap on a sentence in a collaborative document and see who made an edit in that sentence. If a user is currently online, their presence is indicated so that communication can take place if needed.
Although pricing details will not be announced until the fall,...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Cisco Acquires Virtuata for Cloud Security
Cisco quietly acquired a privately held company that has been developing capabilities for securing virtual and cloud environments. Cisco did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.
Virtuata secures machine level information in data centers and cloud environments. Together, Cisco and Virtuata will enable consistent and enhanced security for virtual machines allowing customers to accelerate the deployment of multi-tenant, multi-hypervisor cloud infrastructures, according to Hilton Romanski, a vice president and head of Cisco's Corporate Business Development.
"Cloud and virtualization are significant disrupters in the market. When customers move to these environments, security concerns arise where infrastructure is shared across multiple applications, business units or even organizations," Romanski said.
"As more and more business applications move to virtualized platforms, security and isolation become necessary conditions at the virtual machine level. This acquisition is highly complementary to Cisco's vision of a unified data center that securely connects people and businesses with applications and data through virtual and cloud environments."
Cisco is acquiring both the technology and the talent that makes up Virtuata. The company said the combination offers a unique infrastructure expertise in virtualization, cloud and security domains to Cisco's data center and cloud product portfolio, including its Unified Computing System (UCS) and Nexus-based Unified Fabric portfolio.
Cisco's UCS is a converged data center platform that delivers programmable infrastructure in bare-metal, virtualized and cloud computing environments. The system integrates Cisco servers and network and I/O resources into one system.
"The Virtuata acquisition reinforces Cisco's build, buy, partner innovation framework and supports our strategy of providing best-in-class solutions for our customers," Romanski said. "It is well-aligned to our strategic goals to develop innovative virtualization, cloud and security technologies, while also cultivating top talent."
We caught up with Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his take on the small acquisition. ...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Flipboard's Bet on Untried iPad Is Still Paying Off
Flipboard, which makes an app that turns Web pages into an online magazine, gambled its entire app business on the Apple iPad becoming a splash. Apple had just announced the coming tablet computer, whose success was far from certain in 2010. That's when Flipboard approached venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
"There were definitely people in the room who were, like, 'Guys, this iPad thing isn't going to go anywhere. What about the Web?'" says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, 45, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded the company with Evan Doll, 30, head of iOS engineering at the upstart.
Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures, Insight Venture Partners, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and a Who's Who of other technology investors have since pumped $60 million into Flipboard. The news aggregation category has become a crowded space. Competitors, including Pulse, Zite and Google Currents, are all vying for the same advertising dollars.
Flipboard's small downtown Palo Alto digs buzz with activity. The start-up has grown to 56 employees from 32 a year ago. Workers share desks, and there are no cubicle walls in the space that resembles a converted garage.
Employees serve up media redesigned for the mobile masses to consume on devices. Content from publishers, including USA TODAY, is presented in a magazinelike format for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch as well as on devices using Google's Android. Consumers can select from categories such as news, tech and business, as well as add Facebook and Twitter accounts.
That's been a hit so far. The app company has garnered more than 8 million users since it launched on the iPad in July 2010.
Success came quickly. Apple crowned Flipboard "iPad App of the Year" for 2010.
"They certainly have become the media darling," says Morningstar analyst Rick Summer.
Flipboard is attempting to revolutionize digital advertising. Like...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
America's New Business Model: Sharing
The nation is in a sharing mood -- and start-ups are capitalizing on it. Americans with heaps of stuff, skills and time are connecting online with tech-savvy and early adopters eager to share and rent homes, cars, tools and services in exchange for deep savings.
Dubbed "collaborative consumption" -- or "the sharing economy" -- this movement represents the newly cemented intersection of online social networking, mobile technology, the minimalist movement and heightened penny-pinching brought on by lingering economic uncertainties.
Adam Hertz, a cable company executive in San Francisco, and his wife, Joan, have enthusiastically embraced the movement. Now that their kids are grown, the empty-nesters rent their Monterey Heights-district two-bedroom mother-in-law suite through Airbnb, an online marketplace for couch-surfers and hosts.
To greet renters and hand over the keys, Hertz sometimes hires a stand-in through TaskRabbit, a Web-based company that matches time-deprived people in need of temporary assistants with freelance errand runners who have passed criminal background checks and are looking for extra income.
"It's been a great way to meet people," says Hertz, whose suite goes for $99 a night and is occupied about half the time. "We've hosted some interesting tech entrepreneurs. We've had people from Australia and Singapore. And the money is nice, too."
The notion of individuals selling and donating to others online is hardly new. EBay and Craigslist pioneered peer-to-peer commerce through tools that allow users to be anonymous and that make uploading photos and descriptions quick and easy. But the ventures launched in recent years with gobs of venture-capital funding and targeting niche markets have accelerated the movement with user-friendly designs and a tight knit to social networks Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
"It's basically about moving to a world where access triumphs over ownership, and that unused value -- things sitting in my garage -- equals waste," says Lisa Gansky,...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
Silicon Beach Emerges as a Tech Hotbed
You can excuse Brett O'Brien for feeling giddy. His start-up Viddy, launched in early 2011, created a smartphone app that allows people to capture, enhance and share video and already has 40 million registered users. He's raised more than $38 million in funding. And more would-be investors are circling, wondering if Viddy could be the next Instagram, the photo app that earlier this year sold to Facebook for $1 billion.
But Viddy isn't based in the technology hotbeds of Silicon Valley and San Francisco. "It would have been a lot more challenging to create a business like this up there," O'Brien says. Instead, Silicon Beach, a roughly 3-mile stretch of sand from Venice to Santa Monica, is home to Viddy and a host of other young tech companies with an entertainment, celebrity or mobile edge.
After years of the San Francisco Bay Area dominating the tech start-up scene, with huge smashes such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, entrepreneurs are finding they can go elsewhere to grow and prosper. One of those places is the city of dreams itself, where thousands still flock every year to seek fame and fortune, and where young pioneers such as Charles Chaplin, Walt Disney and the Warner brothers (Jack and Sam) used the technology of visuals and, later, sound to create the motion-picture industry.
Cheaper rents than the Bay Area, better weather and proximity to the beach (most of the start-ups are within two blocks of the ocean) make Silicon Beach an attractive place to be.
More than 500 tech start-ups have sprouted in sprawling Los Angeles and its environs, according to members of the L.A. tech scene who have compiled the list online as RepresentLA.com. But most of the action is at the beach.
"There's a creative energy to Venice," says James Citron, CEO of Venice-based Mogreet, a mobile...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
After Facebook Freeze, IPO Market Starts to Thaw
With new public stock offerings for guitar maker Fender and travel booking Web site Kayak on deck next week, there are signs demand is starting to grow for IPOs after a five-week freeze triggered by a steep decline in financial markets and exacerbated by Facebook's rocky May 18 debut.
Five companies are scheduled to go public next week alone, including Fender, Kayak and Palo Alto Networks, a maker of computer network security products. After Facebook, just four deals made it to market by the end of June, marking the longest stretch without an initial public offering of stock since August-October 2011. Stocks sank then in the wake of the U.S. debt limit showdown and a deepening European financial crisis.
The resurgence now is a welcome indication that dealmakers are regaining confidence about raising money through IPOs.
But the situation is far from rosy.
There are 68 companies expected to raise $14.4 billion through IPOs later this year, according to research firm Dealogic, Last year at this time there were almost double that amount of companies -- 135, looking to raise $23.6 billion.
"If the market stays healthy -- the overall market -- I think we will see a lot of IPO activity in the second half," said Nick Einhorn, an analyst with Renaissance Capital. But another plunge in stock markets could make it difficult for companies to raise money by selling shares.
The types of companies that try to raise money will also affect the IPO market. Mutual funds and the other big investors who tend to buy IPO shares are less likely now to be attracted to technology companies like social networks and games maker Zynga Inc. They've shifted to business technology companies such as Palo Alto Networks, which they consider more stable.
Stocks of several of these kinds of companies have performed well since their...
Wed, 18 Jul 12
BlackBerry Maker RIM Loses Patent Suit over Software
A federal jury in San Francisco has found beleaguered BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. liable for $147.2 million in damages for infringing on patents held by Mformation Technologies Inc.
Amar Thakur, a lawyer for Mformation, said Saturday that the verdict late Friday followed a three-week trial and a week of deliberations by an eight-person jury.
Mformation, of Edison, New Jersey, sued Research In Motion in October 2008, alleging that Canada-based RIM infringed on its 1999 invention for remotely managing wireless devices. Mformation's software allows companies to remotely access employee cell phones to do software upgrades, change passwords or to wipe data from phones that have been stolen.
Officials at RIM, which has been struggling with plummeting sales, a declining stock and other problems, did not provide a comment Saturday.
Thakur said the jury ruled that Research In Motion should pay his client $8 for each of the 18.4 million BlackBerrys that were connected to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, from the day the lawsuit was filed until the time of the trial. That's a total of $147.2 million.
He said the software at issue is the heart of the business of Mformation, a privately held company with several hundred employees.
"We believe it's been fundamental to the success of Research In Motion," Thakur told The Associated Press.
The patent at issue was filed in 2001 and issued in 2005, he said.
RIM, of Waterloo, Ontario, has previously denied it did anything wrong.
RIM has seen its business crumble as it increasingly loses market share. Today's consumers want smartphones that go far beyond handling e-mail and phone calls, with built-in cameras and other cool functions.
Particularly telling is the plunge in the BlackBerry's U.S. market share. It has dropped from 41 percent in 2007, the year the first iPhone came out, to below 4 percent in the first three months of...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Pottermore Offers More Adventures, Insights
Shortly before the Harry Potter saga came to an end on movie screens a year ago, we were teased with more adventures about the young wizard through a Web site called Pottermore.
One million fans who were able to solve riddles and find a Magical Quill have had a chance to try out Pottermore for nearly a year. The rest of us -- the magic-free Muggles -- had to wait until it opened to the general public this spring. Even then, much of the attention was on the fact that Pottermore was making e-book versions of the Harry Potter novels available for the first time.
As the anniversary of the final movie approached -- it opened in theaters a year ago this weekend -- I gave the rest of Pottermore a try.
The free site takes you through the novels chapter by chapter as if you're playing a game. Starting with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," you're given imagery and summaries of key plots and characters. You must look for picture frames and other items along the way to access certain content and move to the next chapter. Miss one, and you might find yourself unable to brew a potion later on.
As Harry is ready to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you even get your own wand, customized to your height, eye color and personality traits such as your biggest fear and source of pride.
Later, the Sorting Hat will place you in one of four houses at Hogwarts based on how you answer questions designed by author J.K. Rowling. You and others in your assigned house compete with others in periodic House Cup tournaments. The Slytherin house won the inaugural round and got early access to new content as its prize.
Along the way, Pottermore offers new tales from Rowling and...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Microsoft Expected To Unveil Update to Office Suite
Microsoft plans Monday to unveil software features crafted to jazz up Office 15, the next big upgrade of its ubiquitous suite of office-productivity programs, industry sources say.
Much is at stake. Microsoft's core engine of profit -- selling licenses for Windows systems packaged with the Office suite that includes Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- is under intense pressure from rivals.
Office 15 is scheduled to be available early next year, bristling with hooks into Windows 8, the upgrade of Microsoft's operating system software, which will be generally available in October, according to several sources familiar with Microsoft's plans. They declined to speak on the record because they were not authorized to discuss details. Microsoft declined to comment.
Some 84% of the world's personal computers run on Microsoft's Windows. But many of Microsoft's corporate customers still use Windows XP. Those using the current version, Windows 7 -- out since 2009 and paired with Office 2010 -- might decide against upgrading.
"Skipping a version or two saves costs," says industry analyst Jack Gold. "It's critical for Microsoft to show real benefits to upgrading."
Google is pushing hard to get Office users to switch to Google Docs, an Office-like applications suite running on Google's servers and accessible on the Internet. Apple is championing how clerical duties can be done on its iPad, which uses a touch-screen interface instead of a keyboard. Neither Office nor Google Docs works on the iPad.
Office on a desktop or laptop Windows PC remains by far the dominant clerical tool. It accounted for $22.2 billion of Microsoft's nearly $70 billion in fiscal 2011 revenue and $14.1 billion of operating income, by far the most of any unit.
"If Office 15 is a bust, those repercussions will impact and potentially injure virtually every part of Microsoft," says analyst Charles King at research firm Pund-IT. It...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Apple, Seeing Backlash, R-EPEATs Itself
Apple is back in EPEAT. On Friday, the technology giant announced that it would once again submit its products to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool program, following a decision last week to depart.
In a letter on the company's Web site from Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, the company acknowledged that it has "recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system." He said that "this was a mistake," and all "eligible" Apple products are immediately back in EPEAT.
A key question is the meaning of the term "eligible." Some of the Apple's products, such as the new MacBook Pro Retina laptop, may no longer be eligible because the battery and screen glass are glued to the casing. EPEAT requires that components with toxic materials, such as batteries, must be able to be disassembled from recyclable components.
Additionally, EPEAT does not currently cover smartphones or tablets.
Mansfield, who is soon retiring, said the company's commitment to protecting the environment "has never changed," adding that "Apple makes the most environmentally responsible products in our industry."
He cited Apple's leadership in removing harmful toxics from its products, its reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for every product it makes, and its exceeding the Energy Star 5.2 efficiency standards for the entire product line.
Mansfield suggested that the IEEE 1680.1 standard, on which EPEAT is based, might be strengthened to include better energy efficiency metrics.
Apple was a participant in the creation of the EPEAT standard in 2006, which was formulated by a group of technology companies, environmental organizations, and federal agencies. EPEAT is managed by an independent, non-profit organization.
The organization said that its rating offers a chance for participating electronics manufacturers to "showcase and validate their...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Citizen Journalism Blooming on YouTube, Study Finds
YouTube is breeding a new kind of visual journalism, one in which citizens are sharing in content creation with news organizations. So says a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Indeed, Pew reports that news is becoming a major attention-driver for YouTube. Over the 15 months studied, roughly a third of the most-searched terms each month on YouTube were news-related.
"News has found a place on this video-sharing platform and in ways that are opening up the flow of information and forging new areas of cooperation and dialogue between citizens and news outlets," said Amy Mitchell, project director for the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Thirty-nine percent of the most-watched news videos on YouTube during that period were produced by citizens who often found themselves witnesses to breaking news. News organizations produced another 51 percent.
Some of those professional news videos, moreover, clearly contained footage captured by citizens, though it was not explicitly attributed as such. Another 5 percent of the most-watched videos came from newsmakers themselves, and 5 percent were not labeled in a way that made it possible to know the producer.
The most popular news videos tended to depict natural disasters or political upheaval -- usually featuring intense visuals. The three most-popular storylines over the 15-month period were non-U.S. events. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was the most popular, accounting for 5 percent of all the 260 most-watched videos. The earthquake was followed by elections in Russia (5 percent) and unrest in the Middle East (4 percent).
According to the survey, the most popular news videos are a mix of edited and raw footage. Fifty-eight percent of the most-viewed videos involved footage that had been edited while 42 percent was raw footage. This mix of raw and edited video, moreover, held true across those coming...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Symantec Anti-Virus Update Delivers Blue Screen to Some XP Machines
Symantec's update to its anti-virus software has caused thousands of Windows PCs to go blue screen. The company acknowledged the problem for what it said was a "subset" of customers, and a revised update was issued.
In a posting on the Symantec corporate blog on Saturday, Symantec Security Response's Orla Cox said that it was determined the issue was "limited to machines running a combination of Windows XP, the latest version of the SONAR technology, the July 11th rev11 SONAR signature set, and certain third party software." The specific third-party software was not indicated.
The root cause, wrote Cox, was an "incompatibility due to a three-way interaction between some third-party software that implements a file system driver using kernel stack based objects," such as those found in encryption drivers, the SONAR signature and the Windows XP Cache manager.
The SONAR signature update, which was sent by Symantec on July 11 and 12, caused "new file operations that create the conflict" and led to the crash, the company said.
Cox said Symantec understands the problems this kind of incompatibility creates for customers, and said that, despite an "extensive" quality assurance process, this particular confluence was missed. She added that a new QA process will be implemented before new SONAR signatures are released. SONAR is Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response, an anti-malware software issued by the company.
Another Symantec posting, written by the Security Team's Michael Marfise and updated Monday, said that, once the cause was discovered, the signature was removed from the SONAR definition set and "an updated definition set was published" in a rollback version on July 12 at 2:51 a.m. PT. He added that, "once the signature was rolled back, no new issues were reported from the field."
The company said it was reaching out to offer technical assistance to customers who have...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
NBCUniversal Buys Microsoft's Stake in MSNBC.com
Microsoft and NBC News have parted company. NBC News is now the sole owner and operator of the MSNBC Digital Network, which includes msnbc.com, Today.com, NightlyNews.com, BreakingNews.com, Newsvine.com and EveryBlock.com.
NBCUniversal acquired Microsoft's 50 percent share in the joint venture, which was formed in 1996. NBC has formed a new division called NBC News Digital to house the joint properties as well as its other online assets, including NBCLatino.com, NBCPolitics.com and EducationNation.com.
That means the current MSNBC.com site is now NBCNews.com. Along with the renaming, NBCNews.com will also provide access to a new, expanded and higher-quality local news experience by partnering with NBC's Owned Television Stations, and MSNBC TV will launch a new digital home in 2013.
"Today, NBC News enters a new phase of its history better positioned to compete and grow in a digital environment, as well as deliver consumers and clients a multi-platform news experience unlike anything else in the industry," said Steve Capus, president of NBC News. He thanked Microsoft for helping NBC build these properties over the past 16 years.
NBC News plans to keep a significant presence in the Seattle area, building what will become the "NBC News Innovation Center." This center will focus on digital innovation and technology, and incubate new ideas for NBC News and NBCUniversal. NBC said MSN will remain an important distribution partner for NBCNews.com, featuring NBC News links to content on the MSN homepage and other properties.
"This deal represents so many opportunities for NBC News, including the ability to better align television with digital, innovate around how we deliver content to consumers, and fully integrate digital into everything that we do," said Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and chief digital officer of NBC News.
"Through this new structure, we'll grow by engaging users with our content directly, and on every platform. This...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Nokia Slashes Price of Non-Upgradable Lumia 900
Nokia's Lumia 900 is a top-notch smartphone that had an impressive launch. But the company's flagship device has been undermined by tough Android competitors and by Microsoft's announcement that existing Windows phones will be unable to upgrade to the coming Windows Phone 8.
That's the reaction from analysts after the struggling Finland-based phone manufacturer announced it was slashing the Lumia's price from an already cheap $99 to a bargain $49.99 via AT&T just three months after its highly anticipated launch.
"Nokia Lumia 900 uptake has been strong for the last three months since its launch in April," said wireless expert Neil Shah of Strategy Analytics. "However, newer, recently launched Android flagships such as Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC's One X, and Sony's Xperia Ion have definitely pushed Nokia Lumia out of the driver's seat."
On the company's Conversations blog Sunday, Jason Harris spun the price cut as a chance to score a top-quality device at a low price. "High-end design used to hit your wallet where it hurts," he wrote. "Not any more. As prestigious fashion designers team up with retail outlets to bring catwalk style at cost-conscious prices, we're happy to announce that you can now pick up the Nokia Lumia 900 for just $49.99 on a two-year contract from AT&T in the U.S."
In a statement carried by the Associated Press, company spokesman Doug Dawson called the move "a normal strategy that is put in place during the life cycle of most phones," saying that sales figures for the Lumia 900 would be part of second-quarter earnings released Thursday.
Once the top mobile phone maker in the world, Nokia has slipped to second place behind Samsung based on first-quarter numbers reported by research firms.
Nokia is betting on Microsoft's Windows mobile operating system, which has only a tiny share of the global...
Tue, 17 Jul 12
Yahoo's CEO Search Ends with a Search Pioneer: Marissa Mayer
Yahoo on Monday announced what some may call a coup, wooing one of Google's most talented execs to its ranks. Yahoo named Marissa Mayer as president and CEO.
Mayer is well known as one of the industry's leading consumer Internet executives. By bringing Mayer on board, Yahoo is sending a clear signal: The company is going to push as hard as it can to innovate new products and drive user experience and ad revenue for its properties. Yahoo properties include Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Mobile, Yahoo Mail, and Yahoo Search.
"I am honored and delighted to lead Yahoo, one of the Internet's premier destinations for more than 700 million users," Mayer said. "I look forward to working with the company's dedicated employees to bring innovative products, content, and personalized experiences to users and advertisers all around the world."
At Google, Mayer was most recently responsible for Local, Maps, and Location Services for Google, which includes Google Maps, Google Earth, Zagat, Street View and local search, for both desktop and mobile.
Mayer joined Google in 1999 as its 20th employee and led efforts for many of Google's most recognizable products, including the development of its flagship search product and iconic homepage for more than 10 years.
Mayer also managed some of Google's most successful innovations, launching more than 100 features and products including image, book and product search, toolbar, iGoogle, Google News and Gmail. Indeed, Mayer created much of the "look and feel" of the Google user experience as users know it today.
"Marissa is a well known, visionary leader in user experience and product design and one of Silicon Valley's most exciting strategists in technology development," said Yahoo co-founder David Filo. "I look forward to working with her to enhance Yahoo's product offerings for our over 700 million unique...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Salesforce, Twitter Partner for Social CRM
Companies have long been using Twitter as part of their CRM strategy. Now, Twitter is getting the nod from an industry behemoth.
Salesforce.com and Twitter on Friday announced a strategic global alliance to provide Twitter's so-called fire hose of public tweets to Salesforce Radian6 customers.
With the partnership, Salesforce Radian6 customers can analyze more than 400 million tweets daily to listen, fuel engagement and gain customer insight. This latest effort builds on an existing three-year relationship between the two social pioneers.
"Twitter has changed the way people around the world communicate and interact with brands," said Marcel LeBrun, senior vice president and general manager for Salesforce Radian6. "The alliance between Twitter and Salesforce.com enables companies to apply the power of social listening and engagement to over 400 million tweets daily, providing opportunities for social enterprises to engage, solve problems, gain followers and build brand identity."
Salesforce acquired Radian6, a social media monitoring platform, in 2011 for $276 million in an all-cash deal. The deal closed about a year ago, allowing Salesforce.com customers to monitor literally hundreds of millions of conversations every day across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and the online community in real-time. The alliance with Twitter takes that product to another level.
"Companies look to Twitter to connect with their customers in real time about the things that matter to them. Salesforce.com understands how to facilitate these interactions," said Jana Messerschmidt, vice president of Business Development at Twitter. "Combining the power of Salesforce Radian6 with Twitter helps companies understand and respond to their customers as these conversations are happening."
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said that although companies are already using various social CRM tools, the tighter integration between Twitter and Salesforce Radian6 is a valuable option.
"Integrating the metrics into the same dashboard enables you to...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Verizon Puts Its GameTamium Face On, Offering 150 On-Demand Titles
If you like gaming on your mobile device and don't want to download dozens of apps, Verizon Wireless will now give you access to 150 selected titles through a single portal.
In a partnership with on-demand gaming provider Exent, Verizon has created GameTanium, a mobile game subscription service for Android smartphones and tablets featuring 100 smartphone games and 50 tablet games for a fee of $5.99 per month per device.
The games are selected by Exent's editorial board, giving users confidence that the games are both fully compatible with their devices and cool.
"I hate to use the word game changer," said ABI Research wireless analyst Mike Morgan. "But this is a way for carriers to reinsert themselves into the conversation with over-the-top [companies] who deliver services over their network."
Morgan sees the arrangement as a big win for everyone involved: Verizon adds features to its devices to keep them interesting and controls the revenue by adding it to phone bills. The carrier could also see greater data revenue if capped-plan customers exceed their allowance.
Game makers win because it helps popularize their titles. And the consumer gains with access to a "curated" shop rather than having to surf through the tens of thousands of offerings in Google Play.
Morgan said that while serious gamers are generally dedicated to consoles and portable gaming devices, phone and tablets are grabbing an increasing share as people use them to kill time in waiting rooms or during their commute.
"Games are proving to be the most profitable category of application revenues and a key driver of the application ecosystem," he said. "Around 60 percent of users have done some kind of gaming on smartphones at some time."
Asked if on-demand gaming might take a chunk out of game-purchase revenue for developers, Morgan pointed to the example...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
2 Out of 3 Buyers Pick Smartphones Over Feature Phones
The percentage of Americans who own smartphones reached an all-time high of 54.9 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers in the second quarter of 2012, according to a Nielsen report released Thursday. What's more, 67 percent of those who acquired a new mobile phone during the past three months elected to buy a smartphone.
Among American smartphone owners overall, 51.8 percent have Android-powered devices, 34.3 percent have iOS handsets and 8.1 percent have BlackBerry models, Nielsen said. However, Nielsen researchers said 54.6 percent of recent mobile device buyers preferred smartphones running Google's Android mobile OS.
Apple's iOS was the second-most popular choice among recent U.S. smartphone buyers at 36.3 percent. The bad news for Research In Motion is that only 4 percent of recent buyers elected to buy a new BlackBerry model.
Despite Android's lead as the prevalent mobile OS in use in the United States, Apple retained its top position as the nation's leading smartphone manufacturer. Nielsen said 34 percent of U.S. smartphone users own an iPhone, whereas the top Android smartphone makers were Samsung (17 percent), HTC (14 percent) and Motorola (11 percent).
Android's share gains among recent U.S. smartphone buyers are important to Google's search business because a growing percentage of all browsing activities on a global basis originate from mobile devices. According to Net Applications, 8.2 percent of all the computing machines connected to the Internet today are mobile devices.
However, Android's recent gains among U.S. smartphone buyers won't be enough to overcome Apple's overwhelming lead in the tablet market. Net Applications reports that Apple's Safari remains the world's top mobile browser with a 65.8 percent share -- and with Apple's iOS similarly commanding the mobile OS market with a 65.3 percent share.
So Google's biggest challenge is to find more effective ways to boost the popularity...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Avaya Launches Unified Communications for Small Businesses
Avaya has launched a cloud-based, integrated suite of unified communications for small businesses. Called AvayaLive Connect and first announced in March, it provides voice, conferencing, messaging, mobility, presence and video through the Internet.
At a cost of $19 per user per month, the service is designed to provide unified communications for small organizations, without capital investment or IT maintenance requirements. The service is ordered and accessed, and the client app downloaded, over the Web.
AvayaLive Connect supports bring-your-own-device environments, mobile employees working remotely, and four computer and mobile platforms -- PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Full-featured desktop phones are optionally also available from Avaya, and customers can test out the service through a free, 30-day trial. There is no contract, and the service can be terminated at any time.
Through the service, each signed-up user gets an external phone and is directly accessible to callers. There is unlimited long-distance calling in the continental U.S. and Canada, and two to six users can participate in multi-party video calls via PC or Mac Softphone.
Voicemail, offered with a visual management interface, comes with a mobile phone app and e-mail notification. Each user gets a personal conference bridge, which is controllable via visual controls on the mobile phone app or the PC/Mac Softphone, and voicemail storage up to 60 minutes per user.
A line designated as a main business phone number has automated answering functions, including dial by name or extension. The company said that additional hunt and queue functionality, such as rolling over a call to another line when the called line is busy, will be introduced in the near future. Each business can have up to 40 users signed up for the monthly service.
We asked Avaya spokeswoman Deborah Kline how this service compared with what's currently available in the market for small businesses.
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Yahoo Breach Having a Ripple Effect
Yahoo on Thursday confirmed that more than 400,000 user names and passwords were stolen in a hack attack by a group calling itself D33D Company.
But the Yahoo breach is having a ripple effect through the industry. That's because the passwords to the 453,492 accounts not only belong to Yahoo users, they also work on Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, MSN, Comcast, SBC Global, Bellsouth, Live.com and Verizon accounts.
In a published statement, Yahoo said it was "fixing the vulnerability that led to the disclosure of this data, changing the passwords of the affected Yahoo users and notifying companies whose user accounts may have been compromised." But security experts are still suggesting users change their passwords to Yahoo and other sites.
We turned to Chris Petersen, chief technology officer and founder of LogRhythm, to get his second-day reaction on the Yahoo breach. He told us Web applications continue to be seen as a soft target by cyber criminals looking to sell passwords on the black market.
"Passwords are of value when associated with an e-mail account, which is purported to be the case in the Yahoo breach," Petersen said. "Because users often use the same password across different accounts, cyber criminals might be able to access other sites, company networks, and banking accounts if they can successfully map the compromised e-mail address to the individual that owns it."
Petersen is charging organizations to start doing a better job of implementing Web application defenses if they want to avoid being the next Yahoo. Perimeter defenses including Web application firewalls are a good start but by themselves not sufficient.
"These technologies operate largely on the premise they can detect what is known," Petersen said. "To have a chance detecting what is not known, additional monitoring and response approaches must...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Microsoft Delays Mobile Dynamics CRM to Q4
Microsoft has quietly announced that it is delaying the release of a mobile client for its Dynamics CRM software to the fourth quarter. Previously, the company had provided details about the availability of a mobile service, which had been scheduled for Q2.
In a posting last week on its Microsoft Dynamics blog, Dynamics Marketing Manager Dennis Michalis wrote that the company was delaying the availability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile, as well as delaying cross-browser support. Both were scheduled for the Q2 2012 Service Update, and both are now re-scheduled for Q4.
He added that a new Q4 Service Update Release Preview Guide, with details about the capabilities and interface of the mobile service, will be made available this summer. Additionally, Microsoft said other releases already planned for Q4 will remain as scheduled.
An explanation for the delay was not given, although Michalis did say that the company had been "listening to the feedback from our customers and partners," and that Microsoft was "focused on delivering a more compelling customer experience in mobile and cross browser."
In February, Microsoft had said that the mobile service would be available in Q2 for the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and devices running Android or Windows Phone. It released a fairly detailed description of the service in a Release Preview Guide that said the new cloud-based, mobile version would offer "a full range of rich, native CRM applications."
The guide also described that each licensed user would be able to access the mobile service from as many as three devices, that an offline version would be available, and that the starting price would be $30 monthly.
Some Microsoft-watchers have speculated that the delay is strategic, so that a mobile version of Dynamics CRM can be properly prepared for the company's coming release of Windows 8 and its Surface tablet....
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Is Digg Dead? Betaworks Grabs Up Site for a Song
People just don't dig Digg as much as they used to, it seems. In an amazing fall from grace for a company that helped pioneer the social-media boom, the Digg tech-news sharing network was gobbled up this week by Betaworks for a price reported by The Wall Street Journal to be $500,000. The company claims the deal was higher but hasn't disclosed the price.
Betaworks will merge Digg with its News.me service.
"Betaworks has acquired the core assets of Digg," said Betaworks in a company blog. "Digg is one of the great Internet brands, and it has meant a great deal to millions of users over the years. It was a pioneer in community-driven news."
The Journal, citing inside sources, said Digg received higher offers from other concerns but accepted the one from Betaworks because it had the best plan for reviving the brand as it was obscured by the rapid rise of Facebook and Twitter, and a large portion of its staff had been poached by the Washington Post for its own social media subsidiary.
"We are turning Digg back into a startup. Low budget, small team, fast cycles," said the Betaworks blog.
It's unclear whether Betaworks will maintain the Digg name when it's merged with News.me.
"Ask 10 consumers what Facebook is and they'll tell you," said Gartner technology analyst Michael Gartenberg. "Ask the same [people] what Digg is and they'll say, 'What's Digg?'
"There's a point where things move beyond the technorati to the mass market and therefore succeed. That's why iPod is still around and Zune a footnote."
Digg derives its name from the ability to drive stories up or down on the site by voting. It was founded in 2004 -- the same year as Facebook -- by Kevin Rose, Owen Byrne, Ron Gorodetzky and Jay Adelson, but Rose was...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
DirecTV and Viacom Take Fight to the Web
TV viewers are caught in the middle of a game of chicken between DirecTV and Viacom. Viacom wants an increase in what the satellite TV service pays to broadcast its channels such as BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1. DirecTV balked at what it says would be a 30% hike and quit transmitting the channels to its 20 million subscribers.
Both companies took their case to the Internet on Wednesday. On directvpromise.com, DirecTV had pointed customers to other online sites with free and paid episodes of Viacom shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Jersey Shore and SpongeBob SquarePants. But Viacom pulled some of the free full episodes it usually offers online because of DirecTV's tactics.
Instead, official Web sites for The Daily Show and others ran a video urging viewers to call DirecTV and ask it to end the standoff.
Disputes between programmers and pay-TV providers are not new. But the playing field is rapidly changing with the growth in popularity of online TV services such as Netflix and Hulu -- both of which offer some Viacom programs.
In the past, programmers knew that pay-TV providers would likely pay increased fees to keep subscribers from jumping ship. But in the post-Netflix world, many subscribers are comfortable supplementing their pay-TV service with online video options.
"There are enough alternatives from a technology standpoint that (no company) is in the safe position," says Steve Ridge of research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.
The two sides are continuing to negotiate. DirecTV typically wraps up programming disputes quickly, says TVPredictions.com editor Phil Swann. "But this might be a test case to show the TV industry that they are really serious about trimming programming costs."
Viacom has charged DirecTV "the same bargain rate" for seven years and wants an increase that amounts to "a...
Sat, 14 Jul 12
Improve Mobile Videos with Some Simple Tools
With more than 365 million Apple mobile devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) and 350 million Android devices in consumers' hands, it's easy to say that more folks have access to a video camera than ever before.
But how to take advantage of the surprisingly robust video features offered by the mobile devices?
It's a question many are grappling with, as they produce shaky videos with poor sound that don't look as polished as some of the best work on YouTube and Facebook.
There are easy solutions.
In a nutshell, steady the image and improve the sound, and you're halfway home. The good news: You don't need a big video camera anymore to get great videos.
The cameras in smartphones have so improved that with a little thought and some tools, you can make great-looking work.
Here's what you need:
Studio Neat Glif ($20) connects your smartphone to a tripod. If you don't have a tripod, you can skip that step and pay $40 for Joby's Gorrillamobile. The phone fits directly onto the portable tripod with bendable legs. You could put the unit on a table, for instance, or bend it onto the back of a chair. A bracket can also help -- try the $10 Heavy Duty L-bracket from photo retailer Adorama. With this, you can add a light as well.
iPad. Musicians have turned to IK Multimedia's $40 iKlip as a way to hold their iPad on microphone stands, to easily turn the pages of their sheet music at gigs when performing. The iKlip also works great for video: Place the iPad into the unit and start recording high-def video without having to worry about shaky images.
Tip: A word of caution for all three devices -- remember to shoot in horizontal mode. When you flip the screens vertically, you only record part of the image --...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
Apple Offers Hint -- Or Tease -- Of Elusive Larger iPhone
People love iPhone rumors almost as much as they love the iPhone, and one of the most persistent topics of speculation is whether Apple will finally move past the familiar, 5-year-old, 3.7-inch touchscreen.
Average screen sizes have grown in the time since Apple CEO Steve Jobs first changed the smartphone world by introducing us to the original iPhone. Samsung's Galaxy devices in particular are known for screens bigger than 4 inches and the South Korean manufacturer's Galaxy Note -- half tablet and half smartphone -- has a whopping 5.3-inch screen. So some might say Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple is due for an upgrade.
The latest rumor comes courtesy of an Apple recruiting video in which, the Los Angeles Times noticed, a small pop-up points out a diagram on the wall inside the tech giant's headquarters for a "New, bigger iPhone!" The diagram, seen from far away, seems to show a longer device than the current iPhone seen in an adjacent diagram.
So this could either be a teaser from Apple or simply an acknowledgment from the company that a bigger prototype is a project new employees may get to work on.
Rumored larger iPhones have failed to appear before. In March 2011, Taiwan-based DigiTimes, which covers the component market, cited "upstream component suppliers" in reporting that the next iPhone would have a 4-inch touchscreen.
"The component suppliers noted that the production lines for Apple's next-generation iPhone have begun testing, and Apple is interested in expanding the screen size to four inches to support the tablet PC market, as the vendor only has a 9.7-inch iPad in the market," DigiTimes said.
Of course, last year's iPhone 4S and this year's new iPad remained the same size.
But this seems to be the first indication from Apple itself that the iPhone will grow. After all, how long...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
Worldwide PC Sales Flatline, Gartner Says
Worldwide PC sales remained virtually flat in the second quarter, according to a new report. The report, from industry research firm Gartner, showed a slight drop of 0.1 percent.
Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in a statement that the PC market in Q2 "suffered through its seventh consecutive quarter of flat to single-digit growth." Kitagawa attributed the key reasons for this sales performance to economic uncertainty in some regions and a dropping interest on the part of consumers for PCs.
The report also noted that Ultrabooks, an ultra-light, high-performance form factor being pushed by Intel, had a "small" shipment volume and "little impact on overall shipment growth."
Consumers are "less interested in spending on PCs" than on other products such as smartphones and media tablets, Kitagawa said. A lot of PC makers' R&D funding has been spent on Ultrabooks, the analyst noted, and, although a major promotion for Ultrabooks occurred in the latter part of Q2, this "segment is still in an early adopter's stage."
First place in worldwide PC shipments is still held by Hewlett-Packard, whose 14.9 percent market share represented a dip from last year's 16.9 percent share. The report attributed some of HP's decline to "internal issues" from the company's top management shakeup.
HP is also facing "aggressive pricing from Lenovo" for sales to the professional market, and from Asus and Samsung among consumers.
Lenovo is in second place with 14.7 percent market share, up from 12.7 percent in Q2 of 2011. The report indicated that Lenovo has been aggressively expanding through acquisitions as well as pricing, and that its growth is coming at the expense of both Dell and HP.
Third-place Acer is also up, to 11 percent, compared with 10.6 percent last year. Gartner said Acer has been clearing out inventory to "prepare for growth,"...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
iPad Mini Could Dampen Android Tablet Sales
Industry analysts expect Apple to take the wind out of the sails of its tablet rivals by launching a new iPad mini in a 7-inch or 8-inch form factor in time for this year's holiday shopping season.
"If Apple launches a sub-$300, 7-inch product into the market later this year as rumored, we expect the company's grip on this market to become even stronger," said Tom Mainelli, a research director at IDC.
Piper Jaffray believes Apple could sell 4 million to 6 million mini-iPad devices during this year's traditionally strong holiday shopping season -- equivalent to 20 percent of total iPad sales in the fourth quarter
"The most successful Android tablets' key points of differentiation are price and size," noted Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Douglas Clinton on Monday.
"Strategically, we believe the launch of a smaller screen, cheaper iPad eliminates the two biggest unique features for Android tablet makers," Munster and Clinton wrote in an investor note.
Though total Android shipments dropped sharply in the first quarter, Google is hoping that the 7-inch Nexus tablet it is building in partnership with Asus will help to reverse the trend. Slated for launch later this month, the Nexus 7 will enable Google to ensure that the new devices stay up to date with each new release of Google's Android platform.
"The search giant's new tablet will run a pure version of Android, whereas the [Kindle] Fire runs Amazon's own forked version of the OS that cuts Google out of the picture," Mainelli said.
Still, other tablets are coming that will directly compete with Apple 10.1-inch iPad offerings. For example, Microsoft's own Windows RT-based tablet is expected to launch as early as October.
The price of Microsoft's first new Surface tablet will be a critical factor when it comes to winning...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
Amazon Hires Windows Phone Exec Amid Smartphone Rumors
With Amazon's new hire, the rumors around a smartphone coming out of Seattle are getting louder. Amazon just brought a Microsoft phone executive into its fold.
Robert Williams, who served as senior director of business development at Microsoft's Windows Phone Division and previously in the same position over the Premium Mobile Experiences group, is now director of Amazon's Appstore for Android.
Williams' Twitter bio reads, "working on a top secret project called...oops, gotta go." Some are speculating that top-secret project is an Amazon smartphone.
But Amazon has also been busy this week with software announcements, like GameCircle for Kindle Fire, opening up APIs for game developers, and launching Game Connect. Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.
Carl Howe, a vice president at Yankee Group, said he was not optimistic about Amazon selling its own phone, because unlike tablets or e-readers, phones are a three-party transaction between the manufacturer, the consumer and a mobile carrier.
"Amazon has shown that it can build attractive devices that it defines, as demonstrated by the Kindle set of e-readers," Howe told us. "What it hasn't shown, though, is that it can build a device that competes in the mobile-phone category where two very powerful leaders, Google and Apple, are already well entrenched."
What's more, Howe said, Amazon's low-price, media-subsidized strategy isn't going to be hugely differentiated when compared with iPhones and Android devices that are subsidized by carriers.
When consumers can already buy an Android phone such as the Droid X2 for $50 from Verizon, he said, Amazon will have to offer more than price and media to persuade consumers to buy its product.
"This isn't about specs, it's about creating a differentiated experience that consumers want. It could literally be a "preferred Amazon shopper" phone and succeed if Amazon made that part of the...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
AT&T Offers Voice-Assist Speech APIs for Developers
AT&T announced this week that it is launching speech recognition and transcription application program interfaces (APIs) that can be used by developers for apps in smartphones, tablets, TVs or other devices. The APIs draw on the company's voice recognition services, collectively called Watson.
Not to be confused with IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson computer, AT&T's Watson focuses on seven different contexts. These include Web search, business search, voicemail to text, SMS, question and answer, TV, and generic capabilities utilizing technologies covered by 600 patents.
The APIs, originally announced in April, are being used in a new AT&T Translator app for Android and iOS platforms, which translates spoken or written language into another language. Other speech APIs are on their way, optimized for gaming and social media apps.
The Web search capability is designed to recognize several million mobile queries, and business search can search tens of millions of local business entries. Voicemail to text was "trained" from a large set of data acquired from call centers, and the question-answer capability was built around 10 million Q&A sets.
TV allows a user to search show titles, movies, or actors, using the AT&T U-verse program guide, and generic can recognize and process either English or Spanish.
AT&T Watson has also been designed to learn different accents, speaker variations, background environments, platform variations, dialects and speech patterns, with continual improvement over time. Speech SDKs for native and HTML5 apps are being released.
We asked Al Hilwa, director of Application Development Software Research at IDC, if the AT&T APIs could fill a need for the developer.
"If the technology is sufficiently compelling, it could," he told us. The key question, Hilwa said, is "how great is this technology?" Additionally, he said, developers would need to understand how they can be "looped in to the Watson ecosystem."
Fri, 13 Jul 12
400,000+ Users' Data Exposed at Yahoo Voices
Yahoo Voices has been hacked. More than 400,000 accounts have been exposed, according to TrustedSec. The firm reports that clear-text passwords were posted online.
"The most alarming part to the entire story was the fact that the passwords were stored completely unencrypted and the full 400,000-plus usernames and passwords are now public," the firm said. "The method for the compromise was apparently an SQL Injection attack to extract the sensitive information from the database."
A hacker group named D33DS Company posted the e-mails and passwords online. Security firm Sophos said in a company blog post that it hoped the parties responsible for managing the security of the subdomain would take it as a wake-up call rather than a threat.
Yahoo confirmed the breach, which occurred on July 11 from what it called an "older file" on the Yahoo Contributor Network, and apologized to its consumers. Yahoo Voices allows users to post their own text, photos and video as stories for others to see.
"Of these, less than 5 percent of the Yahoo! accounts had valid passwords," Yahoo said in a published statement. "We are fixing the vulnerability that led to the disclosure of this data, changing the passwords of the affected Yahoo! users and notifying the companies whose users accounts may have been compromised."
We caught up with Anna Branding, a security analyst for Sophos, to get her take on the Yahoo breach. Sophos has reported several similar breaches over the past few weeks, including at Last.fm, LinkedIn and eHarmony.
"It's really about the bad guys targeting sites and services which are commonly used," Branding told us. "Hackers follow people, so by their very nature social applications are prime targets. There's little point in targeting services with very few users."
What can Yahoo and the rest learn about security in the wake of these breaches...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
Social Site Formspring Hacked, Passwords Leaked
Social networking site Formspring said Tuesday that it was disabling nearly 30 million registered users' passwords after hundreds of thousands of them were leaked to the Web.
Formspring said in a blog post that the breach happened after someone hacked into one of the San Francisco-based company's servers, adding that some 420,000 encrypted passwords later showed up on an unnamed security forum. Encrypted passwords aren't immediately useable, although they can sometimes be decoded by a savvy attacker.
Formspring founder Ade Olonoh said in a blog post that his company had fixed the vulnerability and upgraded its encryption, adding that the company wanted to "play it safe" and had asked all users to reset their passwords.
"We take this matter very seriously and continue to review our internal security policies and practices to help ensure that this never happens again," he said.
Formspring launched in 2009 as a crowd-powered question-and-answer site. Last month, the company announced a major revamp intended to shift the site's focus toward users' interests.
An email seeking additional detail from the company wasn't immediately returned, and a phone number listed for the site's registrant was out of order.
Fri, 13 Jul 12
Walgreens Photo Printing Gets Mobile App Integration
All those photos you've collaged, manipulated and covered in sepia tones with mobile apps -- now you can get them printed at your neighborhood Walgreens.
Third-party app developers can now integrate the drugstore's photo-printing software with their own, Walgreens announced Tuesday, allowing users of photo-editing apps to select and submit photos to print at almost all of Walgreens' more than 7,900 locations. The photos are typically ready for pickup within an hour.
So far, five apps have signed on -- Pinwheel, GroupShot, Kicksend, Pic Stitch and StillShot -- and Walgreens hopes to partner with hundreds more app developers in the near future, says Sona Chawla, president of e-commerce.
"Our goal was to really leverage not just our app but really leverage the creativity of the developers in the broader mobile ecosystem," says Chawla, who adds that there are more than 15,000 photo applications in Apple's App Store.
While other retailers including CVS, Walmart and Target also offer mobile photo-printing capabilities, Walgreens is setting itself apart in "tapping a proven source of cutting-edge creativity" in third-party developers, says Joe Skorupa, editor of retail publication RIS News.
"This is where all the next-generation features and functions in mobile apps will come from," he says of third-party app developers.
"Retailers like Walgreens do not have the capability to create leading-edge mobile apps on their own," Skorupa says.
For Alex Keim, founder of photo collage app Pic Stitch, integrating with Walgreens' photo-printing technology was appealing not only because "they're a big name" but also because it allows Keim to give his users an additional feature without requiring them to fork over credit card or address information.
"The biggest thing for me was the fact that the whole fulfillment process is removed from my application," he says. "With 6 million users, I didn't want the perception to be that I was collecting your...
Fri, 13 Jul 12
Mozilla Lays Out the Future of Thunderbird
Mozilla says while it will maintain and even update its Thunderbird e-mail program, innovations and enhancements will be up to the Thunderbird community.
Thunderbird users can look forward to upgrades down the road, with versions 14, 15, 16, and 17 on the horizon, JB Piacentino, managing director of Thunderbird, wrote in a Mozilla blog.
Piacentino's blog entry was in response to reports that Mozilla was dumping Thunderbird, CNET.com reported Tuesday.
Mozilla plans to support the application at least until the second half of 2013, Piacentino wrote, but beyond that Mozilla will shift the hardcore development of Thunderbird from itself to the community.
"To be more specific, Mozilla will no longer focus on developing innovations for Thunderbird but will keep it safe and stable," Piacentino wrote. "Mozilla will also provide all the infrastructure required for new, community-developed features to be integrated in upcoming Thunderbird releases."
Thunderbird has more than 20 million users, Piacentino said, with the product gaining support from corporations, governments and schools.
However, Mozilla apparently feels the future means the Web and focusing more on the mobile arena.
"Mobile ecosystems are pretty much siloed and closed and we think that bringing the Web technologies and values to mobile can make mobile better, Piacentino wrote. "Thunderbird remains a very good desktop-only e-mail client but it does not really align with this strategy."
Thu, 12 Jul 12
T-Mobile Unveils New myTouch Smarpthones
T-Mobile is beefing up its smartphone lineup this summer. The wireless carrier will roll out the myTouch and myTouch Q on Aug. 8.
Both phones feature an all-new version of the Genius Button, which is a set up wizard complete with how-to tutorials. The phones are targeting consumers who want a straightforward, seamless smartphone experience.
Specs-wise, the myTouch offers a 4-inch WVGA touch display and virtual keyboard with Swype. The myTouch Q features the same display but also has a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Huawei manufactures both smartphones, which are 4G-enabled and run on the dated Android 2.3 platform, also known as Gingerbread. The devices are powered by a 1.4-GHz processor. Both will retail for $50 after a $50 mail-in rebate card with a two-year contract.
The new models are equipped with a dedicated camera button and offer a 5-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash for quality photo capture and sharing. Both devices also have a front-facing camera for video chat. A redesigned camera user interface aims to offer quicker access to key features, like the flash, switching cameras and choosing the camcorder option.
In a move to make the process of learning and using a smartphone's best features quicker and easier, both devices come with the Genius Button 4.0, powered by Dragon from Nuance. The button offers voice-controlled service. Users can access the new Genius Web Search, featuring voice-command capabilities like direct search among multiple sources, direct app launch and the ability to make dinner reservations.
The new myTouch devices allow users to set up what they feel is important without having to deal with extra steps, including a simple login process, a tips widget and tutorials for the most-used features of Android. A redesigned app drawer gives customers access to recently used apps, a separate tab for all downloaded apps,...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Buy a Samsung Galaxy S III, Get a Second Phone Free at T-Mobile
If you're a T-Mobile customer or a potential one, you can get a double dose of premium Android devices in time for the fall and save some cash.
From today through Sept. 4, customers who buy the new Samsung Galaxy S III or other 4G Samsung Android devices can pick from one of three second devices free. The offer also applies to Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, while supplies last (the tablet has been banned by a California judge in an Apple patents suit, but current inventory may be sold).
The three free devices are the Samsung Galaxy S II (regularly $149), Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G (regularly $99) and the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit 4G (regularly just $29.99). New and existing customers will get a mail-in rebate card after signing up for a new two-year contract on the unlimited Classic plan or for a zero-cash down payment after a mail-in Visa rebate gift card when signing up on a new Unlimited Value plan.
If you don't need two phones, the older Galaxy S 4G is available for free on its own with a two-year plan.
The buy-one-get-one deal is part of an early back-to-school promotion that T-Mobile hopes will entice new adopters or plan-switchers to grab up premium devices to stay in touch in the fall.
"As we approach this busy season for families, we know it's important for them to easily and affordably stay connected, which is why we're making it simple to step up to 4G on our most popular Samsung Galaxy devices," said Andrew Sherrard, senior vice president of marketing, T-Mobile USA, in a statement.
Samsung is the leading mobile-phone manufacturer in the world, according to first-quarter data, after having knocked Nokia off its longheld pedestal. According to Strategy Analytics, South-Korea-based Samsung controlled 25.4 percent of the...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Branded Clouds in Microsoft Partners' Future
Microsoft told partners attending its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto Tuesday that the software giant will be providing them with the services and tools they need to build more flexible cloud-based services for their customers -- including branded clouds.
The seamlessly interrelated technologies rolled into the community technology preview, or CTP, unveiled by Microsoft promises to enable hosting service providers to use their own Windows Server data centers to deliver capabilities similar to Microsoft's Windows Azure platform.
"We've taken everything that we've learned from running data centers and services at a global scale to usher in the new era of the Cloud OS," said Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's server and tools business. "Microsoft offers partners modern yet familiar technology to meet customer demand on their path to the cloud."
Microsoft's Windows Azure, Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 platforms collectively deliver the requisite Cloud OS components for scaling a standard unit of hardware abstraction all the way up to the equivalent of an entire data center that can be managed from a single, consistent interface.
"With Windows Azure, System Center and Windows Server 2012, we are delivering the ultimate cloud OS," said Jeff Woolsey, Microsoft's principal program manager for Windows Server and Cloud.
Through its Switch to Hyper-V program, Microsoft clearly intended to steal customers from virtualization technology provider VMware. During his WDC presentation Tuesday, for example, Woolsey showed how CTP can outperform VMware's virtual machines.
"The guys at VMware claim that they can deliver a maximum of 300,000 IOPS from a single virtual machine," Woolsey noted. "We're delivering over 1 million IOPS from a single virtual machine. That's over three times VMware, and folks, I'm just getting warmed up."
What's more, the new offloaded data transfer (ODX) technology built into Windows Server 2012 will enable...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Apple Risks Government, University Sales by Dropping EPEAT
Apple has stopped using an environmental certification program for its products. In response, at least one major American city has decided to stop using Apple products.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said Tuesday that it has decided to drop out of the EPEAT rating system, which is used to monitor computers' environment impact. As a result, the fifty departments of the city of San Francisco are no longer allowed to buy computers or displays from the nearby technology giant, although EPEAT does not currently apply to smartphones or tablets such as iPhones or iPads.
Apple's decision could reverberate among other governmental units in the U.S., as well as universities, many of which use the standards as a factor in deciding which technological products to buy.
The huge University of California, for instance, has said that it is considering whether to continue purchasing Apple products. In addition, the federal government reportedly requires that 95 percent of its purchased computers have EPEAT certification.
Apple was a participant in the creation of the EPEAT standard in 2006, which was formulated by a group of technology companies, environmental organizations and federal agencies. Apple says that it will continue to meet rigorous environmental standards, such as the federal Energy Star energy efficiency program.
Company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told news media that Apple "takes a comprehensive approach to measuring our environmental impact." She added that Apple leads "the industry by reporting each product's greenhouse gas emissions on our Web site, and Apple products are superior in other important environmental areas not measured by EPEAT, such as removal of toxic materials."
EPEAT is managed by an independent, non-profit organization of the same name. On its Web site, the organization said that it regretted that "Apple will no longer be registering its products in EPEAT," and expressed the hope that...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Google Reportedly Facing $22.5 Million Fine for Privacy Violations
Google is looking at a $22.5 million fine for privacy violations, according to news reports. The fine would be based on levels established under last year's 20-year consent decree between the technology giant and the Federal Trade Commission.
The fine would be the largest ever in FTC history, and, according to The Wall Street Journal and others, is due to Google's bypassing the "Do Not Track" setting in Apple users' Safari browsers.
When set, "Do Not Track" is supposed to prevent cookies, or small tracking files, from being deposited on a user's computer by Web sites that have been visited. Tracking via cookies is widely used by advertising networks in order to better accumulate data about the behavioral profiles of site visitors and to better target ads.
In February, the Journal reported that Google was tracking Safari users who had selected "Do Not Track," a fact which had originally been discovered by a Stanford researcher. The technology giant said it discontinued the practice after the Journal story appeared.
A Google Help page, which had said that Safari users could avoid tracking by utilizing "Do Not Track," was taken down about the same time. Google has said that the page was posted in 2009, before Apple modified the way Safari manages cookies.
According to the Journal, Google code had allowed it to avoid Safari's privacy setting by exploiting what the technology company has called "a known Safari functionality," in order to install cookies that aided in the display of ads with a 1 button. The 1 button, a tie-in to the Google social network, was designed to allow viewers to indicate they liked the ad by clicking the button. But clicking the button also allowed additional cookies to be installed, and thus wider tracking to occur.
Google has said that the 1 ads...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Patch Tuesday: XML Core Services, IE Deserve High Priority
Microsoft on Tuesday released nine security bulletins -- including three critical and six important -- to address 16 issues in Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer, Visual Basic for Applications, and Microsoft Office.
Redmond said IT admins should plan to install all the updates as soon as possible, but suggested focusing on three critical updates first: MS12-043, MS12-045 and MS12-044.
MS12-043 addresses Microsoft XML Core Services and affects all supported versions of Windows. MS12-045 targets one critical Windows issue that could result in remote code execution, and MS12-044 deals with two critical flaws and remote code execution issues affecting Internet Explorer.
Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, said the most important patch this month is the XML core services bug. That's because Microsoft issued an advisory for this bug in early June and he's already seen the exploit in a number of exploit toolkits, and attacks have been reported in the wild.
"If you are paying close attention, you'll notice that the XML version 5 patch for the bug isn't shipping. The fix for this version is probably not ready yet, so Microsoft decided to deliver the other patches," Storm told us. "So far, all the attacks in the wild utilize XML version 3, so this release, even though not totally complete, seems like a no-brainer."
Usually, Microsoft sticks to an extensive two-month test cycle for Internet Explorer, Storms noted, so that's why IT admins only see them every other month. He also pointed to Tuesday's MSRC posts that indicated additional resources have been added to IE testing to reduce the test period.
We caught up with Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, to discuss the IE patches. He told us IT admins should apply this patch as quickly as possible if IE9 is running. The exploitability index is...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Windows 8 Computers To Hit Store Shelves in October
Computers running on the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system will go on sale in October. Microsoft Corp. announced the time frame for Windows 8's mass-market release Monday in Toronto. A specific sales date in October wasn't provided.
Most industry analysts expected Windows 8 would go on sale in the fall to ensure that the machines running on the operating system would be available for the holiday shopping season. Consumers and businesses who don't want to buy new computers will be able to buy Windows 8 and upgrade their systems.
New versions of Windows typically come out every three years, but this update is the most widely anticipated overhaul of the software since 1995.
Applications will appear in a mosaic of tiles on Windows 8. Microsoft also designed the operating system so it can run on personal computers or touch-based tablet computers.
Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, plans to make its own tablet running on Windows 8 to compete against Apple Inc.'s hot-selling iPad. The company hasn't yet announced a price for its tablet, which will be called the Surface. It also will be competing against a variety of other tablets, including the Kindle Fire from Amazon.com Inc. and the Nexus 7, which is being released later this month by Google Inc.
As part of its efforts to develop more touch-based software, Microsoft also announced the acquisition of Perceptive Pixel Inc. The deal gives Microsoft access to technology used in large multi-touch displays for TV broadcasters, as well as government, defense, engineering and educational markets, Microsoft said.
Terms of the Perceptive Pixel purchase weren't disclosed.
Windows 8 is being counted on to help revive demand for laptops and other personal computers.
The operating system's versatility is expected to encourage leading PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and...
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Staples Stores Will Sell Google's Nexus 7 Tablet
Staples office supply stores will sell the Nexus 7, a computer tablet that Google designed to compete against the Kindle Fire and iPad.
Monday's announcement makes Staples Inc. the second major retailer to embrace the Nexus 7 since Google unveiled the device last month. Video game retailer GameStop Corp. also plans to stock the Nexus 7 in its U.S. stores.
Other merchants are expected to agree to add the Nexus 7 to their store shelves when the tablet ships later this month.
Adding more stores as sellers exposes the Nexus 7 to more shoppers as Google Inc. tries to make a bigger dent in the increasingly important tablet computer market. Google is also peddling the Nexus 7 through its own online store, Google Play.
The Nexus 7 will sell for $199 in an 8-gigabyte model and $249 in a 16-gigabyte model.
The less expensive model matches the same price as the Kindle Fire made by Amazon.com Inc. Like the Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 has a seven-inch display screen and is tailor-made for video, pictures, books, magazines and newspapers. Both Amazon and Google have set up their devices to funnel sales of books, movies and music to their websites.
The iPad, made by Apple Inc., is larger and more expensive than the tablets from Google and Amazon. It has a 10-inch screen with prices starting at $399 for an older model.
Software maker Microsoft Corp. also is expanding into the tablet market this October when it is planning to release its own iPad alternative, the Surface. Microsoft hasn't announced a price for the Surface yet. So far, Microsoft hasn't identified any other places to buy the Surfaces besides its own website and brick-and-mortar stores.
Thu, 12 Jul 12
Threat of DNSChanger Virus Passes, But Traps Abound
The threat posed by DNSChanger, the headline-grabbing Internet doomsday virus, has fizzled. But tech security analysts warn that there are even more sinister viruses around.
No significant outages were reported on Monday as the FBI removed a safety net erected last November to protect some 577,000 Windows PCs.
Without the FBI's safety net, those PCs would have been cut off from accessing the Web, as authorities moved to dismantle the rogue servers that criminals were using to control DNSChanger-infected machines.
A minute after midnight on Monday, some 277,000 PCs, including 64,000 in the U.S., remained infected and at risk as the FBI took down its safety net. That's a tiny fraction of the billions of Internet-connected computers and mobile devices.
Also, Internet service providers have been hustling to alert victims and help them stay connected, says Dan Brown, senior researcher at tech security firm Bit9. "Most of the major ISPs have been cooperating with the FBI," says Brown. "They have a vested interested in keeping their customers from being disconnected."
In the teeming cyberunderground, DNSChanger isn't as potent as it was a year ago, when it first surfaced. That's partly because most major anti-virus products have been tuned to watch for it and clean it up, says Johannes Ullrich, chief research officer at the SANS Security Institute.
Meanwhile, Google, Facebook and Comcast have been issuing alerts directing potential victims to an FBI-approved Web site: www.dcwg.org. It has links to services that will run a quick PC check, as well as guidelines to remove the infection.
Even after removing the infection, victims may still have to manually repair their "DNS settings." The instructions direct Windows PCs to the servers that convert a Web page's textual name to its numerical IP address. The DNSChanger virus corrupted those settings.
"The DNS settings check isn't that difficult," says security blogger Dennis Fisher,...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Motorola Sends a Tough, Sharp, Svelte Atrix HD To AT&T
The latest smartphone ready for AT&T's 4G, long-term evolution network arrives in the carrier's stores on Sunday for $99.
The Motorola Atrix HD follows up the Atrix 4G and Atrix 2, previously available on AT&T, but will ship with Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, the next-to-newest operating system from Google, which recently finished acquiring Motorola Mobility.
Measuring at an ultra-thin 8.4 millimeters, the Atrix HD is being marketed as supertough, too, with Kevlar coating and water protection as well as a new, pre-loaded app, Smartactions, which automatically switches settings during the day, such as reading text messages aloud while in a Vehicle Dock or extending the battery by disabling unused features such as GPS.
The Vehicle Dock is available free at participating locations for a limited time to raise awareness of safe driving.
The Atrix HD, with a dual-core, 1.5-gigahertz processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM, is the first smartphone to include Motorola's Circle Widget on the home screen, to give you access to AT&T account data as well as the time, notifications, local weather and the battery meter.
But as the name suggests, the star feature of the Atrix HD is its 4.5-inch high-definition ColorBoost 720x1,280 LCD display, which Motorola says is the highest resolution smartphone display on the market. The Atrix packs an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording, zero shutter lag and a front-facing 720p HD camera.
"Our customers look to their smartphones to provide new, compelling experiences and the Motorola Atrix HD does just that," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president for devices at AT&T Mobility. "With features that automatically customize over time to be contextually aware of the user's daily routine and preferences, Atrix HD is a great example of smartphones getting smarter."
The Atrix HD comes as AT&T extends its LTE high-speed data service to...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Apple Delivers OS X Mountain Lion to Developers
Apple has released the Gold Master version of its coming Mountain Lion operating system for developers, and remains on track to begin shipping the new version of OS X in late July.
"With Game Center, Notification Center, Documents in the Cloud, new sharing capabilities, advanced security features, and so much more, you can build the most innovative Mac apps ever," Apple told developers at its Mac Dev Center.
Using Apple's new Gold Master release and Xcode 4.4 GM seed, third-party software creators can begin building and testing their next-generation apps prior to submitting them for review.
We asked Al Hilwa, director of application development software at IDC, for his opinion of the key points concerning Apple's latest Mac OS from the developer perspective.
"This is largely an incremental release for Apple, but incremental is the hallmark of how Apple moves its OS's along between major releases," Hilwa said. "It has been quite impressive how Apple has moved the Mac along a convergence strategy with its mobile devices with relatively minimal disruption."
Among other things, the next-generation iCloud-enabled apps coming to the Mountain Lion platform will have access to a new document library that displays all the documents that users have stored in iCloud. The new Mountain Lion software offerings will be able to automatically push the editing changes any user makes to a document to all that user's Apple devices -- whether a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or an iPod Touch.
According to Hilwa, the most important aspects of Apple new Mountain Lion release are those that bring it into greater alignment with iOS.
"This is important because folding the two developer ecosystems is key to the future of Apple," Hilwa said. "The center of gravity has moved from Mac to iOS in terms of where developer interest and...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Oracle Buys Another Social Media Company: Involver
Oracle is upping its bet on social media. On Tuesday, the technology giant announced it is buying Involver, which will become part of its Oracle Cloud marketing platform.
Terms of the deal were not announced. Involver provides software tools so that companies can interact with users on such sites as Facebook and Twitter, through customized Web pages, responses to user comments, app creation via templates, or custom development.
Formed in 2007, the San Francisco-based Involver said that its clients include Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, MTV Networks, Sony Pictures and Coach.
SML takes care of interfacing with application programming interfaces, or APIs, as well as with databases and assets, so that apps do not need to be re-created if APIs or other interfaces change.
SML includes drag-and-drop tools and pre-built apps. In a posting on its corporate blog, Involver CEO Don Beck wrote Tuesday that the acquisition "is expected to create the most advanced and comprehensive cloud-based social solution, across marketing, sales and service touch points."
He added that Involver's technology will extend "Oracle's social platform to help customers more easily and cost-effectively collaborate and build engaging applications and social experiences across social networks."
On its Web site, Oracle announced Tuesday that it had entered into the purchase agreement. The two companies, it said in a statement similar to Involver's, "are looking to harness the full potential of social media to increase brand loyalty, connect with potential customers and anticipate buyers' needs."
Involver is the latest of Oracle's social media-related acquisitions. In May,...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Intel Seeks To Accelerate R&D with $4.1 Billion Investment in ASML
In a move to accelerate the development of 450-millimeter wafer technology and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, Intel on Tuesday announced a multibillion-dollar investment in ASML Holding. Intel entered into a series of agreements worth $4.1 billion with its supplier.
With the investment, Intel hopes to shorten the schedule for deploying the lithography equipment supporting these technologies by as much as two years. That, Intel says, would result in significant cost savings and productivity improvements. And that's an important development with the explosion of mobile technologies.
"Productivity improvements driven by enhanced wafer manufacturing technologies, especially larger silicon wafers and enhanced lithography technologies with EUV are direct enablers of Moore's Law, which delivers significant economic benefits to consumers," said Brian Krzanich, Intel senior vice president and chief operating officer.
"The transition from one wafer size to the next has historically delivered a 30 to 40 percent reduction in die cost, and we expect the shift from today's standard 300-mm wafers to larger 450-mm wafers to offer similar benefits. The faster we do this, the sooner we can gain the benefit of productivity improvements, which creates tremendous value for customers and shareholders."
The first phase of the program will see Intel commit to R&D funding of about $680 million to help ASML accelerate the development and delivery of 450-mm manufacturing tools, as well as an equity investment of about $2.1 billion for approximately 10 percent of ASML's shares.
If the second phase of the program is approved, Intel will make an additional R&D investment of about $340 million in ASML focused on accelerating EUV, as well as an equity investment of about $1 billion for an additional 5 percent of ASML shares.
That would ultimately give Intel a 15 percent stake in the Netherlands-based company, the world's largest supplier of photolithography systems...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Are Android Ads Spying on You?
Are some mobile ads on Android devices acting as spies? According to one mobile security firm, the answer is yes.
San Francisco-based Lookout Mobile Security, in a posting Monday on its corporate blog, said that "select ad providers" in free mobile applications are accessing personal information without the user's notification or consent, through the use of "adware." The personal information includes e-mail, phone numbers, and names.
Lookout said that, based on the large pool of apps that it has analyzed, about 5 percent use one of the "aggressive" ad networks. This accounts for more than 80 million downloads.
In addition to accessing personal information, Lookout said that "many of these ad providers also use aggressive mobile ad delivery techniques that can confuse users, like changing bookmark settings or delivering ads outside the context of an individual app."
Lookout's research was focused on apps for Android devices. It found that, on the Google Play marketplace, such personalization apps as wallpaper apps had the highest rate of aggressive ad network integrations -- 17 percent.
Among entertainment apps, the figure was 8 percent, with 7 percent for games and 4 percent for music and video. Other categories, such as utilities and tools, social, healthcare and fitness, productivity, and lifestyle had 3 percent or less.
Lookout has issued its own Mobile App Advertising Guidelines, which are designed to define what constitutes an offensive privacy or user experience practice. It said that the document is an evolving one, but the company will use it to determine which ads it will deem to be adware.
The mobile security firm is also offering a free Ad Network Detector via Google Play. The Detector scans a phone and displays the kinds of ads, the ad networks, and the type of information that is being collected, so that a user...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
EMC Unveils NetWorker 8.0 for Backup Transformation
EMC on Monday announced the next version of its NetWorker Unified Backup and Recovery Software. NetWorker 8.0 was designed with backup transformation in mind as enterprises transform their IT infrastructures to move to cloud computing models and deliver IT-as-a-service.
For example, Networker 8.0 has a new architecture that EMC says lowers server processing and delivers three times more scalability. And a "Client Direct" feature lets NetWorker clients backup directly from the application client to disk.
Networker 8.0 also offers DD Boost integration, new data protection capabilities for SQL Server, and multi-tenancy management that delivers logical zoning of data, devices and users in shared backup environments. EMC Global Services announced a new services, including infrastructure assessments.
"EMC has delivered a rich set of new backup to disk enhancements for NetWorker users with its 8.0 release, some of which will have immediate impact in existing user environments and others that will help enable more progressive backup and recovery initiatives," said Jason Buffington, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
"Deeper integration with Data Domain, enhanced Microsoft workload support via its consolidated agent and the new Client Direct feature are high-value additions that will make NetWorker 8.0 a particularly compelling proposition for large enterprises with diverse sets of backup data."
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said that too often, backup-and-recovery is the ugly duckling of the data center -- mostly ignored, a target for complaints and only grudgingly supported. But, he added, discussions around backup and recovery have evolved over the past decade with the improving price and performance of HDD technologies.
"Networker 8.0's new architecture delivers a positive double whammy of reduced server processing requirements and a tripling of scalability. That means enterprises using the new platform should see notable improvements in ROI, a crucial issue in times of tight...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
British Airways Googles Fliers so Crew Recognizes Them
British Airways really wants to get to know its customers. So much so that the airline has dispatched crew members with about 2,000 iPads to look up the Google images of a select group of VIP customers, much as someone would do before a blind date.
"We just want to be able to recognize them," says Simon Talling-Smith, executive vice president of the Americas for British Airways.
Googling its most important frequent fliers is part of a larger program British Airways launched earlier this year called Know Me. The airline has gathered the information it has on all its frequent fliers into a database that sends messages to crew members and ground staff. They then use that information, which can include flight history and preferences, to deliver more personalized service.
So if you've finally scored a seat in business class, a flight attendant will show you how to use the entertainment system even before you start fumbling with the remote. Or if you've reached higher status in the frequent-flier club and get access to the club lounge, the gate agent will show you exactly how to get there.
"We put this program together so we can demonstrate to frequent customers that we do know them and can anticipate their needs and deliver the service they expect," says Talling-Smith.
Many airlines offer personalized services to frequent fliers. But analysts say British Airways is taking an unusual approach for an airline.
"It's really not different than what hotels do," says George Novak, a director at InterVistas, a travel consulting firm.
Some frequent fliers cringe at the thought of being Googled before a flight.
Steve Carlson of Grand Rapids, Mich., who hasn't flown British Airways under the new program, called it "creepy if you don't sign up for and consent to it."
Talling-Smith says the airline uses only information that fliers have...
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Amazon Plans Trio of Kindles To Rival iPad
Amazon is planning three new Kindle Fire tablets to go mano a mano against rivals Google and Apple, according to industry tracker DisplaySearch.
The online retail giant is eyeing production of the new tablets -- all with 7-inch screens -- timed for the holiday shopping season, according to DisplaySearch. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Apple is prepping a mini iPad on the same schedule, says DisplaySearch, though Apple has declined to comment. Recently, Google introduced its 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, available for pre-order, along with more movie, TV, music and e-book options through its Google Play store.
Google, Amazon and Apple are fighting to capture consumers and keep them brand-loyal by providing a mix of devices, media stores and cloud-based storage services. IDC forecasts that 222 million tablets will be shipped worldwide by 2016.
Amazon's move comes amid reports that the company is also forging a rival to Android phones that run on Google's mobile operating system, and Apple iPhones. Amazon is working with Chinese manufacturer Foxconn on the smartphone, according to a Bloomberg News report.
A smartphone from Amazon has been long expected. Competition for Amazon is widening beyond e-readers and tablets, Citi analyst Mark Mahaney wrote in a note to clients last year. Smartphones are a "next logical step for Amazon," he said.
Amazon is "creating a niche around a smaller screen size," DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim says. "The addition of 4G doesn't surprise me, because the 7-inch is inherently more portable. It's going to make impulse purchasing a lot easier."
Wed, 11 Jul 12
Apple's Mini iPad May Arrive by the Holidays
Apple is building a miniature iPad to rival Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's new Nexus 7 tablet, as a battle royal over tablet computers shapes up among technology's biggest names.
Apple, the world's most valuable company, is moving toward mass production of smaller iPads, according to industry tracker DisplaySearch. The move comes as Amazon quietly preps its next Kindle Fire. Both are expected to be released ahead of the holidays.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment.
The race to build book-size tablets is driven by consumer desire for greater portability. But the world is going bonkers for tablets of all shapes and sizes. IDC forecasts that by 2016 there will be 222 million tablets shipped worldwide, and 61% of those will be sold by Apple.
Google just last week launched its 7-inch Nexus 7, available for pre-order, and expanded the number of movie, TV, music and e-books available from its online Google Play store. Meanwhile, Microsoft last month unveiled its Surface tablets sporting a supersize 10.6-inch screen vs. the iPad's 9.7-inch one.
"There's going to be a ton of choices for consumers by the fourth quarter," IDC analyst Tom Mainelli says.
Yet each company -- Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft -- courts tablet buyers for different reasons, besides selling the devices themselves, analysts say. Microsoft wants its profitable Windows operating system, built into the Surface tablets, to live on among the mobile masses.
Google, which depends on ad revenue, wants the Nexus 7 to be a magnet for more ads.
Amazon subsidizes its tablet and uses it mainly as a way to sell books and other products from its online stores. Apple uses its popular iTunes Store as a lure to sell its iPad at a premium.
Apple's smaller iPad, sporting a 7.85-inch screen, is expected to be assembled in time for an October stage debut. "We're starting...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
RIM Pushes Back Against Death Watch
BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion is attempting a counter-offensive against perceptions that it is circling the drain. The pushback includes a wave of interviews recently undertaken by CEO Thorsten Heins to counter the idea that the venerable Canadian company is going down.
Last week, for instance, Heins gave a radio interview, wrote op-eds for two newspapers in Canada, and conducted a Q&A session on a newspaper Web site. "There's nothing wrong with the company as it exists right now," he has said in those appearances.
While Heins has expressed optimism about his company's future, he has also been careful to distinguish between optimism and a realistic assessment of the situation. "I'm not happy with the situation at RIM either," he has said. But, he added, he's satisfied with "a path to the future with BlackBerry 10."
On June 28, Heins announced a first-quarter loss of $518 million, with sales down $4.9 billion from the same quarter a year ago. At the same time, he said the company would be laying off about 5,000 employees. RIM's stock price has dropped more than 70 percent over the last year, with 19 percent of that loss in the period since June 28.
In addition, RIM had been saying for months that its BlackBerry 10 devices would launch later this year, but on June 28 said the release would not happen until January. Heins has said the RIM team was "overwhelmed" with the task of integrating "feature components and building blocks."
But the company is also setting new, higher expectations. Richard Piasentin, the head of RIM in the U.S., has said that his company isn't interested in simply "iterating an existing OS," but instead wants to "build a new mobile computing platform to empower people in a way they didn't think possible."
A report in...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
U.K. Judge Deems iPad Cooler than Galaxy Tab
Too boring to be a knockoff? Really? It probably wasn't the kind of ruling Samsung was looking for, but a British judge has helped the South Korean electronics giant ward off legal attacks from U.S. rival Apple by saying their tablet devices aren't that similar and can't be mistaken for each other.
One reason: Samsung's Galaxy Tab devices "are not as cool" as the Apple's iPad.
In what may be the first time a court attached an objective definition of cool, Judge Colin Birss of the England and Wales Patents County Court wrote that the rivals are easily distinguishable by inquiring eyes.
"The informed user's overall impression of each of the Samsung Galaxy Tablets is the following: From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design," said Birss according to reports. "But the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back. They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design. They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different."
Apple essentially created the tablet market in 2010 with the first iPad model and has since launched two sucessors, all dominating the competition, while Samsung's Android-based rivals are a distant second. In the U.S., Apple succeeded in having sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 model, closest in size to the iPad, banned because a judge -- apparently not taking the coolness factor into consideration -- deemed the devices too similar.
Samsung also makes a 7.7-inch and 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab, and Birss' ruling applies to all of them. Samsung had asked the court for a ruling to protect against claims of infringement.
Unlike the U.S. case, the U.K. decision centered not on whether Samsung infringed on an Apple patent when it designed the...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
FBI Shuts Down DNSChanger Malware Servers
The FBI's shutdown at 12:01 AM Eastern Time Monday of servers supporting DNSChanger malware has not resulted in a huge outcry from Internet users worldwide.
Vikram Thakur, the principle security response manager at Symantec, told us that the impact of switching the replacement DNS servers off was "in line with what we expected."
"People with affected computers are less likely to publicize their network outage," Thakur said. "Instead, they'll be communicating with their local ISPs or computer technicians over the next several days or weeks."
According to the non-profit DNS Changer Working Group (DCWG), the malware works in tandem with DNS servers operated by cyber-criminals around the world. Given that all Web connections begin with DNS, DNSChanger makes it possible for criminals to deliver fake and malicious answers to search queries as well as direct the users of infected machines to fraudulent Web sites promoting bogus or even dangerous products.
"Efforts to spread the word about the effects of shutting down the DNSChanger servers have hopefully made an impact," Thakur said. However, Thakur also noted that DCWG's data indicates "there is still an estimated 260,000 computers that will be affected" by Monday's shutdown.
Last November, the FBI began operations against the cyber criminals running the rogue servers that support the DNSChanger malware. Since then, the bureau's cyber division has been working with the non-profit DCWG organization to operate temporary clean DNS servers.
The DCWG also established a Web site for hosting the detection tools that consumers needed to determine whether their machines are infected with a DNS changing virus such as TDSS, Alureon, TidServ or TDL4. The Web site provides consumers with infected machines with the directions for how to remove any of these viruses.
These preparatory steps helped pave the way for Monday's DNS server shutdown, according to the...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
Researchers Find New Google, iPhone Malware
Less than a week ago, a Microsoft researcher called out a botnet that was hijacking Android phones and sending spam e-mails. Now, a mobile security company has identified a new virus targeting China's largest mobile apps market.
TrustGo Mobile said the virus Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android is targeting China Mobiles' Mobile Market. With more than 600 million users, China Mobile is one of the largest wireless providers in the world. The virus automatically places orders and downloads paid apps and video content, driving up its victims' phone bills.
Since the Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android malware was discovered on July 4, the virus has been found in nine additional China Android markets and has infected more than 100,000 devices, according to TrustGo Mobile.
The majority of mobile malware is found in applications that originate from and attack third-party markets in China and Russia, the firm reports. The main source of Android-specific malware is the cloning, repackaging and modification of popular apps with intentionally malicious code.
"The ease and speed that malicious apps can be developed and distributed to unsuspecting users is one of the fastest growing security concerns," said Xuyang Li, CEO of TrustGo. "Anyone with a smartphone or mobile device is a potential target."
Neil Roiter, research director at Corero Network Security, said malicious mobile applications that covertly charge users for premium services, such as the new applications that are infecting thousands of Android devices in China, were becoming an increasing problem.
"It is essential that people download applications only from authorized Android application stores and do some research online before they download anything," Roiter said. "It's also a good idea to check your phone bill for unusual charges to ensure that that you are not paying for services that you didn't subscribe to."
Meanwhile, Kaspersky Lab said MegaFon, a major mobile carrier in Russia, contacted the...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
Ballmer Says Microsoft in 'Epic Year' with Windows 8, Office
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on Monday by declaring that Microsoft is in "an epic year."
"This will be the biggest product and services launch year in our company's history, creating massive opportunities for our partners to grow their businesses," Ballmer said in his keynote. He pointed to Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Azure, as well as Office 365.
The Worldwide Partner Conference is a four-day event that celebrates the accomplishments of the company's more than 640,000 partners and offers a preview of new product releases for the coming year. About 16,000 were in attendance on the first day.
One bit of news divulged was that Windows 8 will be released to manufacturing early next month and will be on store shelves by late October.
Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, announced that 1 billion people worldwide now use Microsoft Office. Microsoft said Office 2010 was the most popular-ever version of the productivity suite. According to the company, someone buys a copy of Office 2010 every second.
DelBene also announced two new investments in Office 365 partners. First, Office 365 Open is a new way for partners to sell Office 365. It establishes a traditional reseller model that aims to help partners drive more revenue, deliver packaged services with a single invoice, and own the customer relationship.
Meanwhile, the Office 365 Advisors Program updates let the most active partners earn more up front with Office 365. Partners who sell more than 150 seats are eligible to earn more revenue.
"The Office Division has never been stronger, and our amazing partners are critical to this success. Office is now used by more than a billion people, and Office 365 is on track to be one of the fastest-growing offers in...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
Gartner Forecasts Growth in IT Spending at 3% this Year
After a boost last year, the worldwide growth in IT spending will settle down to about 3 percent this year. That's a key takeaway from a new forecast by industry research firm Gartner.
The global IT spending forecast, which Gartner said is used to inform key technology decisions by more than 75 percent of the Global 500 companies, is derived from analyses around the world by more than 200 of the company's business and technology analysts.
Richard Gordon, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement that "the outlook has at least stabilized" for IT spending, given such global economic challenges as the Eurozone crisis, the weakness of the U.S. recovery, and a slowdown in China, among other factors.
"There has been little change in either business confidence or consumer sentiment in the past quarter," he said, "so the short-term outlook is for caution in IT spending."
The forecast does envision at least one "bright spot" that contrasts with overall, lackluster growth -- enterprise spending on public cloud services. That sector is expected to grow from $91 billion last year to about $109 billion this year, reaching about $207 billion by 2016.
The largest growth rate for IT spending is telecom equipment, which will see a 10.8 percent boost in spending this year over 2011. The largest segment in terms of dollars is telecom services, at $1.68 trillion. Gartner pointed to the continuing need for telecom services not only because of more Internet connections, especially in emerging markets, but also because of the boom in connected mobile devices.
Gartner said that most of the cloud services spending is for business process as a service, but there is faster growth in such areas as platform as a service, software as a service, and infrastructure as a service.
Another area with continued growth potential...
Tue, 10 Jul 12
Salesforce Offers Tips on Social CRM Tracking
Even in the heavily regulated financial services industry, the social enterprise is becoming mainstream. So says Julie Meredith, a community engagement specialist at Salesforce Radian 6.
In a recent blog post, Meredith laid out four business activities financial services firms' social CRM should track. In a nutshell, those four business activities are customer service issues, corporate announcements, relationships and leads, and your markets.
Let's glean a few nuggets of wisdom from Meredith, who came to Salesforce.com as part of the $326-million Radian 6 acquisition last year. Radian 6 gave Salesforce.com a social media monitoring platform to expand its offerings.
According to Meredith, an effective social CRM system will help you do three things: (1) keep your ear to the ground, (2) react quickly and effectively, and (3) track customer service issues.
She points to major companies in the financial services sector, including TD Bank, Vanguard and American Express, that use Twitter for customer service. It stands to reason that any company that uses social media tools as part of its customer service agenda would track those conversations.
Meredith then moved on to tracking corporate announcements. As she sees it, outposting messages can be tricky in the financial services sector because there are stringent regulations. She suggests that starting off with a library of pre-approved messages is a good place to begin -- and it should be tracked.
"Morgan Stanley Smith & Barney just recently gave their 17,000 financial advisers the green light for social media -- allowing their FAs to post pre-approved tweets and linked-in messages," she wrote. "This is a significant development for financial services, considering the industry's hefty regulations around communication, and pre-approved tweets will be their first step in creating their online presence and joining the social conversation."
What about relationships and leads? Yes, social CRM system can...
Sun, 8 Jul 12
Stay Connected Monday, Check Your PC for DNSChanger Now
On Monday morning, you may not be able to log on to the Internet. The FBI plans to discontinue a safety net it set up to protect computer users from a hacker group that had been surreptitiously redirecting PCs to Web sites they operated.
The DNSChanger virus affected well more than a half-million computers when the FBI and other authorities took down the international cybercriminal ring last winter. At that point, the FBI was left with a quandary: The virus redirected PCs to DNS Internet servers operated by the ring, and if they were disconnected suddenly, those PCs would no longer be able to use the Internet.
So, the FBI arranged to replace those servers with ones that operated correctly, as a safety net to give computer users time to rid their PCs of the virus.
But now, time is up. Those servers cost the government money, so they're being disconnected Monday, July 9.
At this point, the FBI estimates more than 277,000 computers worldwide remain infected, with about 63,000 of those in the U.S. That's a tiny fractional percentage of the billions of PCs worldwide, but thousands nonetheless.
DNSChanger was a Trojan created by cybercriminals to redirect the Internet traffic of millions of unsuspecting consumers to Web sites where the thieves profited from advertisements.
Domain Name System (DNS) servers convert user-friendly Web site names into the numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that computers use to talk to each other. When users enter Web site names into their browsers, their computers contact DNS servers.
If users' computers have the wrong settings to find those DNS servers, they will not be able to access Web sites, send e-mail or use Internet services.
Gunter Ollmann, VP of research at Damballa, a company that specializes in advanced threat-protection software, told us the...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Apple Platforms Closing on Parity with Windows for the First Time
You might have thought the old Windows vs. Mac argument had long since been relegated to late nights in a bar after all other topics had been exhausted. But now new analysis indicates that we could be approaching a parity between devices based on Apple platforms and those based on Microsoft's.
Industry analyst Horace Dediu, writing this week on his Asymco blog, crunched the ratio of Microsoft-based machines sold versus Apple ones over the years. Following the introduction of the Mac in 1984, he noted, the ratio of MS-DOS machines to Macs was roughly six to one, or about 2 million PCs to 372,000 Macs by 1995.
When Windows 95 was released in 1995, it led to an even greater boom in PC sales. By 2004, the ratio was a crushing 56 to 1, with about 182 million PCs sold versus about 3.25 million Macs.
The ratio between platforms "is not just an exercise in arithmetic," Dediu said. He pointed out that it's also a "measure of leverage," in that "ecosystems become self-perpetuating and there is a tendency toward monopoly."
In other words, he wrote, "the stronger you are, the stronger you get."
Then, by 2004, the MacBook began to chop away at Windows machines' dominance, and the multiple of Windows units to Mac units fell to about 20.
Now, in an age when the center of computing has arguably moved to mobile devices, Apple has a huge advantage in tablets and smartphones. Windows Phone devices are still trying to gain a major foothold among smartphones, and Microsoft has retooled its OS into touch-centric Windows 8, hoping to secure a beachhead among tablets.
As a result, if one considers Apple devices using both Apple platforms -- iOS and OS X -- versus all Windows device platforms, Dediu said the current multiple of difference is...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Windows Server 2012 Streamlined to Four Editions
Streamlining is in at Microsoft. Following its new approach of fewer versions for the coming Windows 8, the technology giant announced Thursday that Windows Server 2012 will come in only four editions.
The editions -- Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacenter -- contrast with the twelve editions for Server 2008 R2. For companies with fewer than 250 computers, pricing ranges from $425 to $4,800, and larger enterprises will be eligible for volume discounts.
Windows 8 has similarly undergone a versioning diet, going from at least five editions for previous Windows operating systems to three retail versions -- Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 8 RT.
We asked Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, if the simplification of Server edition options will matter much for potential buyers.
He said it could, and that, since Windows Server is the "dominant OS in data centers looking for standardized, out-of-the-box usage," this makes the choices fairly clear. King said data centers that wanted a highly customizable server still generally preferred Linux.
Microsoft said all the new editions "deliver excellent economics and ROI," and all four versions provide some level of support for cloud-based computing.
Datacenter is designed primarily for highly virtualized private and hybrid cloud environments, and features full Windows Server functionality with unlimited virtual instances. Standard is targeted at low-density or non-virtualized environments, and also has the full Windows functionality offered in Datacenter but with only two virtual instances.
Microsoft pointed out that the Datacenter edition, with unlimited virtualization rights, provides the "benefits of cloud-level scale with predictable, lower costs." The company also noted that Standard edition has the same enterprise-level functions as the Datacenter except for virtualization.
The choice between the two editions, the company said, should be based "solely on your virtualization strategy." If a customer might need to expand virtualization capacity later, Microsoft said,...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Amazon Smartphone Could Help Sell Products
The king of e-commerce appears ready to shift from selling companies' phones to selling its own, the latest in a widespread trend of tech companies branching out to grab a bigger slice of the consumer pie.
Recent reports say the world's biggest online retailer, which is already in the manufacturing business with its Kindle e-reader and Kindle Fire tablet, is at work on its first smartphone, made by Apple's contractor in China, Foxconn.
Bloomberg News, citing unnamed knowledgeable sources, said the company is patenting its own wireless technology to fend off any lawsuits from Apple, which has battered rival Samsung with accusations of infringement and recently succeeded in having the Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a Galaxy Tab model tablet banned, temporarily at least, in the U.S.
Our call to Amazon's media relations department on Friday requesting comment on the reports was not returned in time for publication.
A Kindle smartphone, most likely powered by Google's Android operating system (the Kindle has a customized Android platform), would follow in the footsteps of Google's attempt to market its own phone, the ill-fated Nexus One, which was a retail failure when the search giant tried to sell it online beginning in January 2010. Facebook is also said to have a smartphone planned.
But Amazon has the power of an existing, massive customer base, an established brand and experience from its Kindle sales working in its favor. A phone could be a huge cash cow for Amazon by deepening an ecosystem in which customers use Amazon devices to buy Amazon products, which now include apps, movies and music.
"For them it's a content play," wireless analyst Gerry Purdy of MobileTrax told us. "It's how much they can make through the device, not from the device. They've had great success with the Kindle Fire by putting value-added services...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Patch Tuesday Continues July Fireworks for IT Admins
Microsoft just announced the bugs it plans to patch on Tuesday. In all, Redmond will fix nine issues. Three of those vulnerabilities are rated "critical," which means they could allow hackers to launch remote code executions. The others vulnerabilities are rated "important."
The July release includes nine bulletins addressing 16 vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and Visual Basic for Applications," said Angela Gunn of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group. "As always, we recommend that customers review the ANS summary page for more information and prepare for the testing and deployment of these bulletins as soon as possible."
Paul Henry, a security and forensic analyst at Lumension, said it looked like IT administrators would have to deal with more fireworks this month.
That, he said, is because nine patches is more than double last year's July patches: 4 total, with only 1 critical. According to his research, this puts Microsoft at 51 bulletins for 2012, about on par with 2011, which saw 56 bulletins at this time last year.
"Looking at the bulletins, one of the first things that jumps out is that these really impact the entire family of products, from XP all the way to 2008," Henry told us. "This is really a weird mix of patches, impacting both legacy and current generation software with critical issues."
Henry noted that it remains unclear if Microsoft will issue a patch this month for the XML Core Services issue that is currently being actively exploited in IE attacks. Microsoft normally includes details in its pre-release information if a zero-day patch is included, he explained.
However, in the July pre-release, Microsoft didn't call this out. Microsoft issued a FixIt tool to address the XML Core Services zero-day vulnerability and that may remain the only solution for IT admins in July.
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Netflix's Monthly Video Streaming Tops 1 Billion Hours
Netflix subscribers watched more than 1 billion hours of online video last month as the advent of high-speed Internet connections and high-powered mobile devices change people's viewing habits.
The milestone announced Tuesday by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings came a day after Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney issued an upbeat report about the company's future. Those factors helped lift Netflix's stock by more than 6 percent in Tuesday's abbreviated trading session.
The stock is still struggling to recover from last fall's sharp increase in U.S. prices, which triggered a backlash among customers and investors alike. Netflix shares gained $4.19 Tuesday to close at $72.04, well off their peak of nearly $305 last July.
The rising usage of Netflix's Internet video service may turn out to be a mixed blessing as the company phases out its DVD-by-mail rental service to focus on its goal of building a lucrative franchise in Internet-streamed video.
Netflix is trying to wean people off DVDs to save on mailing costs and reduce its investment on a format that it expects to become obsolete. Delivering Internet video is quicker and less expensive than discs, but the streaming selection isn't as extensive as what's available on DVDs. To compensate, Netflix has been spending tens of millions of dollars during the past two years to add more compelling titles.
Netflix's increasing popularity indicates that those efforts are resonating with subscribers. That's important because it helps validate a strategy that called for Netflix Inc. to invest heavily in video-licensing fees, even though the spending is expected to saddle the company with an annual loss this year -- the first time that has happened in a decade.
But Netflix's licensing bill could climb even higher, if TV and movie studios interpret the growing streaming viewership as a threat to the revenue they reap from advertising-supported entertainment bundled in cable-television...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
EU Parliament Rejects ACTA Anti-Piracy Treaty
The European Parliament overwhelmingly defeated an international anti-piracy trade agreement Wednesday after concern that it would limit Internet freedom sparked street protests in cities across Europe.
The vote -- 39 in favor, 478 against, with 165 abstentions -- appeared to deal the death blow to the European Union's participation in a treaty it helped negotiate, though other countries may still participate without the EU.
Supporters had maintained that ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, was needed to standardize the different national laws that protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion goods and other products that often fall victim to piracy and intellectual property theft. EU officials said, too, that protecting European ideas was essential to the economic growth the continent so badly needs.
But opponents feared the treaty would lead to censorship and snooping on the Internet activities of ordinary citizens. Alex Wilks, who directed the anti-ACTA campaign for the advocacy group Avaaz, said the agreement would have permitted private companies to spy on the activities of Internet users and would have allowed users to be disconnected without due process.
Wilks said the agreement did not properly balance the rights of private citizens and those of copyright holders, whom he described as companies, though their ranks also include individual authors and musicians of modest means.
Beyond the EU and 22 of its member countries, eight other countries also signed the agreement -- the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea -- though none has yet ratified it. The EU vote will not affect them.
David Martin, a member of the European Parliament from Scotland, pronounced the agreement dead.
"No emergency surgery, no transplant, no long period of recuperation is going to save ACTA," Martin said. "It's time to give it its last rites. It's time to allow its friends to...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Twitter Helps Find Dog that Took Train to Dublin
When Patch hopped aboard the train to Dublin, it took the power of Twitter to reunite the dog with his owner. Irish Rail sent a "Lost dog!" tweet with a photo attachment after the Jack Russell terrier arrived with Wednesday morning commuters on a train from rural Kilcock, County Kildare, an hour's ride away.
After more than 500 retweets in just 32 minutes, the photo found Patch's owner, Deirdre Anglin, who tweeted the state railway: "That's my dog!"
The episode underscored the ubiquitous use of mobile-friendly social media sites in Ireland, a tech-savvy corner of Europe where cell phones were the norm long before they were in the United States.
Soon after Patch went missing Tuesday night in Kilcock, 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Dublin, Anglin said she did "the usual social network thing," posting pictures of the dog on her Facebook account and appealing for followers to spot him.
It wasn't until after Patch waltzed on to the 6:49 a.m. commuter train in Kilcock that the alarm was sounded.
Rail workers on board dubbed the dog Checker, joking he might be trained to inspect people's tickets, as commuters took turns petting the friendly dog. They turned him over to Pearse Street station staff on the train's final stop in the heart of the capital, when it became clear the dog had no owner on board.
Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny described Twitter as offering the ideal platform for launching a nationwide appeal for the lost dog. And he said some staff at Pearse Station wished it hadn't worked so well.
"It was good she showed up so quickly, because the staff in the office were getting quite attached to him," Kenny said.
Anglin said she was particularly pleased that Irish Rail posted Patch's photo on Twitter and noted that the rapid retweets by other users to...
Sat, 7 Jul 12
Military Enlists Invincea To Beef Up Android Security
Android mobile devices, under heavy assault by cybercriminals, may eventually be less vulnerable because of a grant from the military.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has commissioned Web browser security firm Invincea to security-harden ordinary Android tablet PCs and smartphones so soldiers can use them securely in combat and in the barracks.
Invincea has been testing software that locks down data on Android devices used by 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, so information on lost or captured devices can't be accessed.
The $21 million grant supports development of technology that isolates malicious Web apps disguised as Android-based games, text messages and social-networking add-ons. Typically, such bad apps enable the attacker to take control of the device.
"Our technology limits any app running in our bubble from gaining access to data or things like the GPS, microphone or camera," says Anup Ghosh, company founder and chief executive,
The research comes as security firms are tracking an explosion of malicious Android apps spreading across the Web.
Malicious Android apps tracked by security firm Webroot rose 250% to more than 1,400 samples in January, up from 400 in July 2011. That's been followed by a 900% rise in the first six months of 2012 to the roughly 12,000 bad apps that Webroot tracks today.
"Crooks realize there's valuable data they can access once they break into your device," says Grayson Milbourne, Web-root's director of threat research. Android devices are "the golden key to being able to leverage stolen personal data."
What's more, many, if not most, mobile device users are ignorant about the rising threat. Fewer than 50% use data security features that come with the apps they install on their devices; 72% routinely make connections to insecure Wi-Fi networks, according to a Juniper Networks survey of 4,000 mobile device users.
"Education for users is the first step to reducing their threat...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Last Chance To Check for DNS Virus Before Shutdown
Is your computer infected with the DNSChanger virus?
You'll know for sure this Monday, if at 12:01 a.m. you're suddenly unable to connect to Web sites and it's not a broken router or carrier signal disruption to blame.
The FBI plans to discontinue a safety net of servers it set up to facilitate Web access for more than 277,000 computer users after it took down the hacker group that created the virus, which redirects infected computers away from their intended Web destinations.
Computers navigate the Internet through Domain Name System, or DNS, servers, which translate the words in URLs into a numeric address system.
"Criminals have learned that if they can control a user's DNS servers, they can control what sites the user connects to on the Internet," warns the FBI on its Web site. "By controlling DNS, a criminal can get an unsuspecting user to connect to a fraudulent Web site or to interfere with that user's online Web browsing."
DNSChanger has been known to slow your surfing speed or give you pop-ups, including some warnings that you have been infected and trying to sell you phony anti-virus software. But otherwise it can be hard to detect on your own.
The good news is there's an easy way to check, courtesy of a Web site the FBI set up in cooperation with public and private security experts. That site is http://www.dcwg.org, operated by the DNSChanger Working Group, and it has a tool to check your device as well as resources for working with your provider to get rid of it and stay connected.
The creation of DNSChanger is associated with the Zlob Trojan, which was first detected in 2005.
"According to some reports, the same Estonian crime ring that created Zlob developed variants including DNSChanger, which first appeared in 2007," said Charles...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Amazon Reportedly Buying Map Start-Up UpNext
As the map wars heat up, Amazon seemingly refuses to be left out. The e-commerce giant is rumored to be acquiring a 3D-mapping start-up called UpNext.
Four high school friends who wanted to make better maps founded UpNext in 2007. UpNext offers a dynamic map with three modes from which to choose: Immerse, which uses a 3D touch interface; Explore, which allows you to immediately see what's around you and highlight places you want to go; and Navigate, which gives point-to-point directions for driving, public transit or walking.
Amazon has not officially announced the acquisition, but GigaOM reported it last week, and The Wall Street Journal is confirming the deal. Neither Amazon nor UpNext could immediately be reached for comment.
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said Amazon's move into mapping may play out in several ways, including online-to-offline e-commerce. However, he added, that remains to be seen.
"The most likely bet is that this acquisition and any related development efforts are directed at offering proprietary mapping and potentially navigation services on future Kindle devices, which may include a smartphone," Sterling told us.
"It's a very provocative move, regardless, and suggests that Amazon will make additional mapping acquisitions to speed time to market of a more complete mapping capability."
UpNext offers a free app for the iPhone and Android devices. It maps the entire United States. More than 50 cities are rendered in 3D with 23 enhanced 3D cities that offer full textures and roadways.
Zacks Equity Research said the acquisition will open up a new revenue stream for Amazon, which does not have a mapping service of its own. Specifically, Zacks said the deal will help Amazon build its presence in the mapping business and compete against the likes of Apple and Google.
"Gradually, competition is building up in...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Cisco Backtracks After Storm over Connect Cloud
Connect Cloud provides a service that is intended to make it easier for customers to manage their network, routers, and devices on the network. But when Connect was launched the company also updated its new LinkSys Smart WiFi routers -- and then the problems began.
The routers, released several months ago, have already sold more than a half-million units. The update automatically connected the Smart WiFi routers to Connect Cloud, but it also meant that customers could no longer use their existing passwords to log in. Instead, the updated system requested a signup for Connect Cloud.
Concurrently, questions were raised about a privacy clause in the agreement for Connect Cloud. The offending language said that the company "may collect and store detailed information regarding your network configuration and usage for the purpose of providing you technical support."
It also said that the company might share "aggregated and anonymous user experience information" with third parties, such as Internet service providers, and that the data would only be associated with a user when the user provides an ID number to the company.
In a posting last week on the Cisco corporate blog, Brett Wingo, vice president and general manager of the company's Home Networking unit, wrote that "privacy and security are at the core of everything we do." He noted that Connect Cloud "does not actively track, collect or store personal info or usage data" for any purposes other than to "establish an account in order to provide customer support."
Wingo also said Connect Cloud was only delivered to users who opted in for automatic updates.
"We apologize that the opt-out process...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Is Apple Readying an iPad Mini?
Is an iPad Mini on the way? According to various news reports, Apple plans to release a smaller version of its hit tablet later this year -- a move that could reshape the tablet category.
A report in Thursday's Wall Street Journal cites component suppliers in Asia which, it said, are prepping a September launch for a tablet less than 8 inches in size. The publication attributed the information to "people familiar with the situation."
In February, the Journal reported that the technology giant was testing such a device, but said no decision had been made on whether to move to manufacturing.
The Journal said the screen makers include South Korea-based LG Display and Taiwan-based AU Optronics. The iPad currently has a 9.7-inch screen, which Apple has not varied since the product line's release in 2010.
Other sources also point to an iPad mini, including a report from industry research firm IHS iSuppli, which said it expects a 7.85-inch, XGA display-based device by fourth quarter.
Apple has not yet commented on the reports.
The tablet category is growing by leaps and bounds. iSuppli estimates an increase of 85 percent in tablet sales this year. In 2011, the iPad had a dominating 62 percent of the tablet market, but recently unveiled tablets from Microsoft and Google could challenge that dominance. In addition, Amazon's Kindle Fire has caught hold on the lower end, where tablets and e-readers overlap.
We asked Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, if a mini-iPad would change the competitive landscape for Apple.
Greengart replied that "Apple doesn't need to do anything" to thwart its competition, since it is currently "selling as many iPads as they can make." He added that a mini-iPad might be positioned by Apple as a kind of "extended iPod Touch," filling out the current product line...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Some Android Phones Found Spewing Malicious Spam
If you have an Android device, watch out. You may be part of a mobile botnet. A Microsoft researcher is warning that hackers may have hijacked some Android phones to send spam e-mails.
Microsoft researcher Terry Zink pointed to trails of spam being sent by Android devices from Yahoo mail servers. It would not be the first time in recent months that Android was hit with malware issues. But the new revelation marks a new strategy.
"I've written in the past that Android has the most malware compared to other smartphone platforms, but your odds of downloading and installing a malicious Android app is pretty low if you get it from the Android Marketplace," Zink wrote in a blog post. "But if you get it from some guy in a back alley on the Internet, the odds go way up."
Zink has also written that users in the developed world usually have better security practices and fewer malware infections than users in the developing world. Most of the countries to which Zink tracked the Yahoo IP addresses were in the developing world -- Chile, Indonesia, Lebanon, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela.
"I am betting that the users of those phones downloaded some malicious Android app in order to avoid paying for a legitimate version and they got more than they bargained for. Either that or they acquired a rogue Yahoo Mail app," Zink said.
"This ups the ante for spam filters. If people download malicious apps onto their phone that capture keystrokes for their e-mail software, it makes it way easier for spammers to send abusive mail. This is the next evolution in the cat-and-mouse game that is e-mail security."
Neil Roiter, research director at Corero Network Security, said the fact that we are seeing spam from a...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
IIHS: Costly Car Safety Technology Backfires
Lane-departure warning systems seem to increase, not decrease, crashes, according to claims data collected by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
That's the most startling conclusion from an IIHS study, published [Tuesday], evaluating modern crash-avoidance systems. They use sensors, radar, computer controls and other hardware to prevent crashes, or minimize the impact if the wreck is inevitable.
Pioneered in luxury cars, they're commonly available in mainstream cars now. They can add thousands of dollars to the price tag, but also can qualify for insurance discounts.
IIHS delivers a mixed report card.
Adaptive headlights. On luxury cars for years, they swivel in the direction a car is turning. That helps the driver glimpse what's around the bend and avoid obstacles. IIHS says those reduce most types of accident-related claims.
Park assist and blind-spot warnings. Park assist ranges from simple beeps when you get too close to an object, or backup cameras so you can see what might not show in the mirror.
Blind-spot warnings usually trigger small orange lights visible by the driver when another car is in an area hard to spot either in the mirror or with peripheral vision.
Parking and blind-spot aids are the most common of the hardware IIHS surveyed, and common sense might suggest they would be the handiest. But such aids "aren't showing clear effects on crash patterns yet," IIHS says.
Front collision avoidance systems, with and without automatic braking. Still mainly on high-end models, they get the best review from the insurance industry research group, especially versions that not only sense a collision with the car ahead, but also start braking your car to soften the impact.
Forward collision avoidance with automatic braking is the safety feature he'd choose if he could pick just one, says David Zuby, chief research officer at IIHS.
Those systems can reduce damage and injury if a driver falls...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Twitter Told To Give Up Occupy Protester's Tweets
Twitter must turn over about three months' worth of an Occupy Wall Street protester's tweets, a judge said Monday, in a case that has become a closely watched fight over law enforcement agencies' access to material posted on social networks.
The case began as one of hundreds of disorderly conduct prosecutions after an Oct. 1 march in New York that brought the young Occupy protest movement its first burst of worldwide attention.
Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. rebuffed one of Twitter Inc.'s central arguments, which concerned who has the right to fight law enforcement demands for content posted on its site. But the judge agreed with the company on a separate point that could require prosecutors to take further steps if they want to see the final day's worth of Malcolm Harris' tweets and his user information.
Sciarrino said he would review all the material he ordered turned over and would provide "relevant portions" to prosecutors.
The Manhattan district attorney's office said Harris' messages could show whether he was aware of police orders he's charged with disregarding.
Twitter said the case could put it in the unwanted position of having to take on legal fights that users could otherwise conduct on their own.
Twitter called the ruling disappointing and said it was considering its next move. "We continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights," the company said in a statement.
Electronic privacy and civil liberties advocates had cheered Twitter's decision to take up the fight.
"This is a big deal," since authorities increasingly seek to mine social networks for information, American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Aden Fine wrote in May. "It is so important to encourage those companies that we all increasingly rely on to do what they can to protect their customers' free speech and privacy rights."
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Beats Headphone Maker Buys MOG Music Service
Upscale headphone maker Beats Electronics is buying music subscription service MOG in an attempt to improve what goes into playback devices as much as what comes out of them.
Beats, founded by rapper Dr. Dre and recording executive Jimmy Iovine, has devoted its brand to high-quality sound. But headphones and speakers are limited in their ability to improve the sound of songs whose data is compressed to squeeze through narrow pipes like older cellular phone networks.
MOG attracted Beats partly because it encodes song files at 320 kilobits per second, slightly more than Apple Inc.'s iTunes songs, which are encoded at 256 kbps. MOG serves up songs at higher bit rates when more bandwidth is available, and at lower rates when it isn't.
Beats hopes to use MOG to provide an end-to-end music experience that helps it compete against bigger subscription music rivals like Rhapsody and Spotify.
MOG's paying subscribers are estimated to be in the tens of thousands compared to more than a million for Rhapsody in the U.S. and 3 million for Spotify worldwide.
"It's too early I think, based on the scale of any of these services, to declare winners and losers," Beats President Luke Wood said in an interview. "I think the future of the marketplace is going to be defined by the greatest product and the best user experience."
Wood wouldn't limit plans for MOG to a race for higher fidelity. The company is looking at how to improve music discovery, curation, consumption and sharing.
"We're committed to the best possible audio playback, and we'll continue to invest in that area. But additionally, we recognize the importance of the product experience," Wood said. "They both have to be considerably better than what is available today for subscription to ultimately win at scale."
Taiwanese cellphone maker HTC said in August that it was buying...
Fri, 6 Jul 12
Peru's Ambitious Laptop Program Gets Mixed Grades
Peru's equipping of more than 800,000 public schoolchildren in this rugged Andean nation with low-cost laptops ranks among the world's most ambitious efforts to leverage digital technology in the fight against poverty.
Yet five years in, there are serious doubts about whether the largest single deployment in the One Laptop Per Child initiative inspired by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte was worth the more than $200 million that Peru's government spent.
Ill-prepared rural teachers and administrators were too often unable to fathom much less teach with the machines, software bugs didn't get fixed, Internet access was almost universally absent and cultural disconnects kept kids from benefiting from the machines.
"In essence, what we did was deliver the computers without preparing the teachers," said Sandro Marcone, the Peruvian education official who now runs the program.
He believes the missteps may have actually widened the gap between children able to benefit from the computers and those ill-equipped to do so, he says, in a country whose public education system is rated among the world's most deficient.
The volume of "education" computers delivered globally remains modest. Intel Corp. says it has shipped more than 7 million, about a third in Argentina. Venezuela boasts 1.6 million distributed, licensed by a Portuguese company.
Negroponte's nonprofit OLPC foundation, which pioneered the idea of bootstrapping the developing world with information technology, was never able to achieve the $100 laptop price tag it desired but nevertheless won adherents.
More than 2.5 million of its $200 laptops, not just the green-and-white models for the early grades but also blue-and-white machines with bigger keyboards for older kids, have been distributed in 46 countries since 2007.
OLPC laptops, which are rugged and energy efficient and run an open-source variant of the Linux operating system, are in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mongolia and Haiti, and even in the United States and...
Thu, 5 Jul 12
Contract Cycle Suggests Many Will Skip Ice Cream Sandwich
Everyone screamed for Ice Cream when it as released in October, and depending on your device, some are getting it faster than others. But with a successor already unveiled, some may end up skipping it.
New figures show that eight months after 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) the eighth version of Google's Android operating system -- now the most popular mobile OS in the world -- began rolling out via Samsung's Nexus Prime, 10.9 percent of all Android devices are running the newest available version.
Android 4.1 was announced by Google at its I/O developers conference in San Francisco last week, nicknamed Jelly Bean in keeping with the dessert-treat theme of releases.
The vast majority of Android users, 63.6 percent, are still packing 2.3.3 through 2.3.7, part of the Gingerbread release, said Google via its developers' blog, based on "the number of Android devices that have accessed Google Play within a 14-day period ending on the data collection date" of July 2nd.
Gingerbread was released at the end of 2010, which suggests that upgrades of older devices at the end of two-year plans will at year's end have a large chunk of users, if not the majority, skipping over Ice Cream Sandwich straight to Jelly Bean.
The stats showed a tiny number of users still using Android 1.5 (0.2 percent) while the second largest share after Gingerbread is 2.1 (FroYo), with 17.3 percent.
Android 3.1 (Honeycomb), the first Android system optimized for tablet use, is in use by only 2.4 percent of people accessing Play, the stats suggest. Of those using Ice Cream Sandwich, 10.7 percent are using versions 4.0.3 or 4.0.4 while a much smaller number, 0.5 percent are using 4.0 or 4.0.2.
After a device purchase, it is not necessarily up to the user to decide which version he or she uses.
"In most cases...
Thu, 5 Jul 12
Google Offers Remedies To European Antitrust Concerns
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has submitted a proposal to European Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia in an attempt to avoid antitrust violation fines that could amount to 10 percent of the search engine giant's annual revenue.
The contents of Schmidt's letter to Almunia were not made public. But the search engine giant said in a statement that it has proposed remedies to the four potential violations of the European Union's antitrust and consumer protection laws that the European Commission outlined in May.
According to Almunia, European regulators would prefer to resolve its antitrust concerns with Google as soon as possible. The goal is to avoid a lengthy legal process comparable to the one in which Microsoft was ultimately forced to pay a $1.1 billion fine after losing its final appeal of an EC antitrust ruling last month.
Almunia noted that Google has repeatedly expressed its willingness to discuss any concerns that the EC might have without having to engage in adversarial proceedings. "Restoring competition swiftly to the benefit of users at an early stage is always preferable to lengthy proceedings, although these sometimes become indispensable to competition enforcement," Almunia said.
According to Web metric firm StatCounter, Google currently holds a 93.9 percent share of the European search market. Last May, the European Commission outlined four areas in which it believes Google's business practices may be considered as abuses of the search engine giant's market dominance.
With respect to users looking to obtain general search results on the Web, Google displays links to its own vertical search services -- specialized search engines which focus on specific topics.
"Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than it does for links to competitors," Almunia said. "We are concerned that this may result in preferential treatment compared...
Thu, 5 Jul 12
Facebook Vows Fix for E-Mail Bug
Facebook is promising a fix soon for last week's e-mail mess. When the social networking giant released a new setting, it changed all users' default e-mail addresses to that user's firstname.lastname@example.org -- and changed addresses stored on at least some synced mobile devices.
The bug appears to have resulted from a change the site made that was designed to encourage users to employ their Facebook e-mail addresses more often. During the change, all members' @Facebook.com addresses became the only one shown on the user profiles.
Facebook told news media via e-mail that the change was implemented to update addresses and "make them consistent across the site." It said that, in addition to everyone receiving a Facebook.com address, the site was also "rolling out a new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their timelines."
The site said that users have had the ability to control which posts to show or hide on the timeline, and now it was "extending that to other information they post, starting with their Facebook address."
At first, Facebook indicated that making the @facebook.com address the default visible one was intentional so that everyone would have the same status, since it could be changed by the user. The idea was apparently that the @facebook.com address is the same as the information in a user's profile URL, meaning that it's already available to other people. The site decided to hide everyone's personal e-mail address, unless the user decided to make it public.
The update apparently affected at least some smartphones' contacts and address book listings, if the smartphones were set for syncing contacts between those devices and the Facebook accounts. This would mean that e-mails from those devices have been going to those contacts' Facebook addresses, assuming the contacts were on...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
VMware Acquires DynamicOps in Cloud Play
VMware on Tuesday agreed to acquire a cloud automation solutions provider. DynamicOps will become part of the VMware family. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. DynamicOps originated as a spinoff of Credit Suisse's IT unit.
DynamicOps offers technology that enables IT admins to provision and manage IT services across heterogeneous environments, including VMware-based private and public clouds, physical infrastructures, multiple hypervisors and Amazon Web Services. The acquisition is scheduled to close in the third quarter.
"As IT organizations evolve from builders to brokers of services, many seek to provide access to diverse cloud resources in a controlled, managed fashion," said Ramin Sayar, vice president and general manager, Virtualization and Cloud Management, VMware. "DynamicOps' multi-cloud and multi-platform capabilities help to strengthen VMware's position as the infrastructure and management vendor of choice for cloud computing."
With the DynamicOps acquisition, VMware is betting that customers will benefit most by a standardized architecture, but will build solutions that make it easy for customers to choose the model that best works for their needs, including heterogeneous environments/management. Customers that have standardized their private and public clouds on VMware vSphere can continue to work with VMware vCloud Director to aggregate and manage virtual and cloud resources.
For customers whose requirements for managing and provisioning resources extend beyond VMware-only environments, VMware said DynamicOps builds on the capabilities of vCloud Director by letting customers to consume multi-cloud resources, such as physical environments, Hyper-V- and Xen-based hypervisors, and Amazon EC2.
DynamicOps' policy-based service governor capabilities automate and control how applications and users are provisioned across physical and heterogeneous cloud infrastructure resources.
We turned to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his take on the latest in a string of acquisitions this week. He told us he had been wondering when VMware would make this...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
Microsoft Takes $6.2 Billion aQuantive Write-Down
Microsoft on Tuesday announced it was taking a $6.2 billion write-down on the Online Services Division segment in its fourth-quarter earnings report. Most of that is attributed to its aQuantive acquisition.
Microsoft acquired aQuantive for $6.3 billion in cash in May 2007. Microsoft did the deal in response to Google's DoubleClick acquisition. At the time, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the acquisition represented the next step in the evolution of the company's ad network.
"While the aQuantive acquisition continues to provide tools for Microsoft's online advertising efforts, the acquisition did not accelerate growth to the degree anticipated, contributing to the write-down," Microsoft said in a statement.
With the aQuantive deal, Microsoft got Atlas, DRIVEpm, and Avenue A | Razorfish. Atlas competes with DoubleClick. Its claim to fame is the Atlas Media Console, a tool set that offers agencies and advertisers capabilities to maximize ROI, and the Atlas Publisher platform that enables publishers to maximize monetization opportunities for their content.
DRIVEpm, somewhat similar to Yahoo's Right Media, provides services to publishers and advertisers that match advertiser campaigns with publisher inventory. Finally, Avenue A | Razorfish is one of the largest interactive ad agencies in the world. The firm offers advertisers digital marketing consultation, media planning and buying, and creative services that help them use the online channel to build profitable relationships with their customers.
Microsoft did work to insert a positive story line into its Online Services Division business. Redmond said Bing search share in the U.S. has been increasing, revenue per search has been growing, MSN is the No. 1 portal in 29 markets worldwide and the company's partnership with Yahoo! has continued to expand geographically.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said the core of the issue is that Microsoft acquired a company beyond its area...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
Microsoft Offers Lowest-Ever Price for Windows 8 Upgrade
Microsoft is boosting the incentive to move to Windows 8 Pro by lowering the price. On Tuesday, the company announced its lowest-ever OS upgrade price -- $39.99 for current owners of its previous operating systems, Windows XP, Vista or 7.
The upgrade offer was announced on the company's Windows Blog by Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc. The offer is good "starting at availability," he said, which is expected to be in the fall, and it lasts through January 31 of next year.
Additionally, Microsoft will throw in Windows Media Center for free through the "add features" option in Pro, after upgrading. Windows Media Center includes the software necessary to play DVDs, which no longer will be offered as a basic feature of Windows.
When a user employs Windows.com for the upgrade, the Upgrade Assistant provides a step-by-step downloading and installation process, after first conducting a compatibility check to make sure the PC is ready for 8 Pro.
The upgrade process also allows a user to transfer settings, personal files and apps, if one is upgrading from 7. If upgrading from Vista, only Windows settings and personal files can be brought along and, if from XP, only personal files. A user can also choose to start fresh and transfer nothing, or to format a hard drive.
A DVD version of Windows 8 Pro will also be available for $69.99 during this promotion period.
We asked Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, if the promotional offer indicated Microsoft was getting nervous about the adoption rate for the new version of its OS.
Greengart described the upgrade price as "highly aggressive" and added that Microsoft "is doing everything it can to make the transition as easy as possible for users." Windows 8, he noted, is not simply another OS upgrade, but represents "a...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
Priceline Adds Another Discount Option for Hotel Stays
What if you don't want to face the uncertainty of bidding for a hotel room, but you still want a deal? Priceline just introduced a new booking option: Express Deals, for travelers who think bidding is a hassle.
There are now three ways to book hotel rooms on Priceline.com: pay the full retail price for a specific hotel; place a bid using the Name Your Own Price "opaque" service for savings up to 60%, and you'll find out the hotel name after your bid is accepted; and Express Deals, an opaque feature with a twist, where the discount is said to be up to 45% off published rates.
Priceline's Express Deals borrows a page from the playbook of Hotwire, a longtime rival that pioneered this type of semi-opaque booking.
With Priceline's Express Deals, Hotwire's Hot Rates, Travelocity's Top Secret Hotels and Expedia Unpublished Rates Hotels, consumers see a discounted rate and star rating for a hotel in a specific section of a city. They can book the unidentified hotel at that price and they'll learn the name of the property after they've prepaid for the room.
If you search for a hotel on Priceline in Miami for July 11 and then click on the orange Express Deals tab, for instance, you'll see among the options a four-star hotel in the Miami downtown area for $93. When you tack on the taxes and fees, the total rate would be $113.
Before booking the hotel, you still don't know the name of the property. But you can view on a Bing map the section of Miami where it's located, and see that it is rated eight out of 10 by Priceline guests who have stayed there. Express Deals also notes that the hotel has a pool and a business center.
You find out the name of the hotel...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
Apple Wins U.S. Sales Ban on Samsung Galaxy Nexus
An American judge ordered Samsung Electronics Co. to halt U.S. sales of its Galaxy Nexus smartphone while the court considers Apple's claim that the South Korean company infringed its patents.
In Apple's second victory in a week against Android devices, the U.S. District Court of Northern California said Friday that the Galaxy Nexus smartphone "likely" infringes four patents held by Apple Inc., including a patent used in the "Siri" voice-activated assistance available in the iPhone 4S.
"Apple has clearly shown that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief," Judge Lucy Koh wrote in the ruling available online.
She ordered Apple to post a $96 million bond -- an estimated damage sustained by Samsung from the temporary sales ban -- in case the iPhone maker loses to Samsung in a later trial, scheduled for 2014. The sales ban in the United States will be effective immediately when Apple posts the bond.
The Galaxy Nexus lawsuit is one in a series of legal battles between Apple and Samsung. The two world's largest makers of smartphones together claimed more than half of the global smartphone market in the first three months of this year.
Samsung and Apple have been embroiled in multiple lawsuits in Asia, North America and Europe since April 2011 when Apple accused Samsung of copying its iPhone and iPad. Samsung shot back with claims that Apple is using its mobile technology without permission.
The latest order from the Californian court follows Koh's decision Tuesday to temporarily block the sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer in the United States.
But it is "the first serious blow" Apple has dealt to Samsung and Google Inc., said Florian Mueller, a Germany-based patent analyst. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was released more than a year ago and accounts for a small portion of...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
Woman Behind Centipede Mulls Game Icon's Birth
Dona Bailey was working as a computer programmer at General Motors when she heard the Pretenders song "Space Invader" and fell in love with it. The year was 1980. She had no clue about video games.
A friend heard her say that she liked the song, and he got really excited. He told her there was a "Space Invaders" game at a bar nearby. They went to lunch so she could see what that song was about.
"He gave me a quarter and I lost all my lives before I could even figure out what I was supposed to do on the screen," she says. "But I got really intrigued."
That's how she came to join Atari, the company that cemented the video game industry in the 1970s and early 1980s with "Pong," and thanks in part to Bailey, "Centipede." Though she stayed only two years, Bailey left her mark as one of the rare female programmers at Atari.
There wasn't any "Googling" in those days. Finding out more about the world of "Space Invaders" and arcade games meant asking around.
"Within a month or so, I heard about Atari," she says. She found out that the company, founded 40 years ago this week, was using the same Motorola processor to program games that she was using at a GM plant in Santa Barbara, Calif., to program climate-control displays in cars.
She was hired at Atari in 1980 as the only female programmer in its nascent arcade division. When she left a much-larger Atari two years later, she was still the only one in that division, and one of the few in the entire company.
It would be tempting to say women have come far since then, and in some ways that is the case. It's rare today to have just one token female engineer at a...
Wed, 4 Jul 12
Netflix and Instagram Servers Hobbled by Storm
Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest are using Twitter and Facebook to update subscribers after violent storms across the eastern U.S. caused server outages for hours.
Netflix and Pinterest restored service by Saturday afternoon.
Instagram used its Facebook fan page to communicate with users of its photo-sharing service. It posted a message on Saturday morning that blamed the electrical storm for the outage and explained that its engineers were working to restore service.
Still, many Instagram's users were searching for answers. "Instagram" was the top search term on Google on Saturday, according to Google Trends.
Netflix, Pinterest and Instagram are customers of Amazon Inc.'s web services division. The unit provides web services and data storage facilities that are commonly used for "cloud computing".
Amazon spokeswoman Kay Kinton told The Associated Press in an email that the storm cut power to some of company's operations. Service has been restored for most customers, Kinton said.
Netflix, a video streaming service, said on Twitter that subscribers should reconnect if they still experienced problems.
The online scrapbook service Pinterest says employees are working to fix remaining issues that may affect performance.
The Friday evening storms knocked out power for millions of people.
Wed, 4 Jul 12
China Court: Apple Pays $60M To Settle iPad Case
Apple has paid $60 million to settle a dispute in China over ownership of the iPad name, a court announced Monday, removing a potential obstacle to sales of the popular tablet computer in the key Chinese market.
Apple's dispute with Shenzhen Proview Technology highlighted the possible pitfalls for global companies in China's infant trademark system. It also posed a challenge for the communist government, which wants to attract technology investors to develop China's economy.
Apple Inc. says it bought the global rights to the iPad name from Proview in 2009 but Chinese authorities say the rights in China were never transferred. A Chinese court ruled in December that Proview still owned the name in China. Proview, which is struggling financially, asked Chinese authorities to seize iPads in an apparent effort to pressure Apple to settle.
"The iPad dispute resolution is ended," the Guangdong High People's Court said in a statement. "Apple Inc. has transferred $60 million to the account of the Guangdong High Court as requested in the mediation letter."
China is Apple's second-largest market after the United States and the source of much of the Cupertino, California-based company's sales growth.
Proview hoped for more money but felt pressure to settle because it needs to pay debts, said a lawyer for the company, Xie Xianghui. He said Proview sought as much as $400 million and might still be declared bankrupt in a separate legal proceeding despite the infusion of settlement money.
"This is a result that is acceptable to both sides," Xie said.
The dispute centered on whether Apple acquired the iPad name in China when it bought rights in various countries from a Proview affiliate in Taiwan for 35,000 British pounds ($55,000). The December court ruling said Proview, which registered the iPad trademark in China in 2001, was not bound by that sale, even though it...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Sony Buys Cloud-Based Gaming Service Gaikai
Are PlayStation's days as a physical device numbered? On Monday, PlayStation maker Sony said it has agreed to purchase Gaikai, a cloud-gaming company, which immediately raised questions about whether Sony was moving away from manufacturing game consoles.
Founded in 2008, the Alison Viejo, Calif.-based Gaikai's cloud-based platform allows user to play streaming games on a variety of devices. The price was $380 million, and the deal is subject to approval by regulators.
Last month, Gaikai and Samsung announced a partnership to stream games to Samsung LED-LCD high-definition TV sets. The games will include such titles as Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age 2, and the Dead Space series.
Sony's acquisition is raising questions about whether the company's strategy is to replace hardware consoles completely and use the existing universe of devices, or to complement its console with a cloud-based service that requires no downloads and no physical media.
Andrew House, who leads Sony's video-game unit, told news media Monday that the acquisition was "recognition on Sony's part that the cloud and cloud streaming technologies are going to have a profound and possibly a very positive impact" on the game business, as well as "content in general."
One of the best known cloud-game services, OnLive, now becomes the target of rumors about whether a buyer, such as Microsoft or Nintendo, might emerge. Some industry analysts have pegged OnLive as being worth five or six times Gaikai's price tag.
There has also been speculation that, at its relatively low price, Sony bought Gaikai mostly as a defensive measure, to keep it from other TV set manufacturers. In this scenario, Gaikai's value for Sony is to become a service that adds differentiated value to Sony TV sets only.
Such a strategy could allow Sony to offer game programming on its TV sets, and the...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
HTC Hopes New Droid Incredible 'Beats' Competition
Verizon Wireless on Thursday will roll out the third incarnation of HTC's Droid Incredible, the first version to run on the carrier's high-speed, 4G LTE data network.
It's also the first smartphone released by Verizon since the carrier's new pricing plan went into effect last week. The new plan sets a flat rate for voice and text, with shared data plans based on data use ranging from $50 for two gigabytes per month to $100 for 10 GB.
Available for a medium-priced $149.99 (after a mail-in rebate) the Droid Incredible 4G LTE (Verizon is no longer releasing new 3G smartphones) runs Android 4.0. For differentiation, the phone features Beats Audio, an "enhanced auto tuning technology that allows users to hear music the way the artist intended." Beats Audio also enhances sound quality for videos and games.
Like its immediate predecessor released last February, the Incredible S, the Incredible 4G LTE has a 4-inch super LCD HD display. The original Droid Incredible, released in April 2010, had a 3.7-inch screen.
The newcomer Incredible packs an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus, LED flash and a 28-millimeter lens, and a front-facing camera for video chatting. It's the first dual-core Incredible, with a 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, and it also has a mobile hotspot feature to share LTE with as many as 10 Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
Android Beam allows users to share videos and other content by tapping compatible phones together, while Read Later allows users to save online content for when they are offline.
The Incredible 4G LTE joins the stable of Verizon's branded Droid devices, powered by Google's Android operating system, that the carrier says offer a superior user experience compared with other phones. Samsung and Motorola also make Droid phones.
Neil Shah, a wireless industry analyst for Strategy Analytics, told us that "apart from...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Micron to Acquire Elpida Memory for $2.5 Billion
In a move to beef up its manufacturing capabilities, Micron Technology plans to acquire Elpida Memory in a deal worth about $2.5 billion.
Micron is essentially picking up the pieces of the bankrupt Elpida. Micron will pay about $754 million in cash for the company itself, then spend about another $1.75 billion to cover the company's debt.
Micron also announced plans to acquire Powerchip Technology Corp.'s 24 percent share of Rexchip Electronics Corp. Micron will pay about $334 million for those assets. Micron CEO Mark Durcan said Micron is working to create the industry-leading pure-play memory company.
"Today's transactions will help strengthen the combined companies' market position in the memory industry through increased research and development and manufacturing scale; improved access to core memory market segments; and additional wafer capacity to balance among DRAM, NAND and NOR memory solutions for the ultimate benefit of Micron and Elpida customers," Durcan said.
As part of the acquisitions, Micron will pick up Elpida's 300-millimeter DRAM fabrication facility in Hiroshima, Japan; an approximate 65 percent ownership interest in Rexchip, whose assets include a 300mm DRAM fabrication facility in Taiwan; and an assembly and test facility located in Akita, Japan.
The fab assets of Elpida and Rexchip together can produce more than 200,000 300mm wafers per month, which would represent about a 50 percent increase in Micron's current manufacturing capacity.
Elpida has built a strong presence in mobile DRAM, targeting mobile phones and tablets. Meanwhile, Micron is a leader in delivering enterprise DRAM solutions for networking and servers as well as offering a wide product portfolio in NAND and NOR. Micron said combining the two complementary product portfolios will strengthen its position in the memory market and help it provide customers with a more complete set of high-quality solutions.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis,...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Some Carriers To Adopt New Firefox OS Mobile Platform
Mozilla said Monday that the organization's new Firefox mobile OS will be running on smartphones around the world beginning next year -- with partner Telefonica's first Vivo-branded models slated for launch in Brazil during the first quarter of 2013.
"The breadth of support for this initiative across the industry makes it clear that there is an opportunity in the market for a new, open mobile ecosystem," said Telefonica Digital CEO Matthew Key.
Formerly known as Boot To Gecko, Mozilla's coming Firefox OS platform will give handset makers wary of Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility an alternative to Android. According to Gartner, Android controlled 56.1 percent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of this year.
In the United States, the first devices with Firefox OS aboard are likely to come from Mozilla partner Sprint. "Firefox mobile OS can help us drive an HTML 5-based platform for creating lower-cost smartphone options for prepaid, postpaid and wholesale customers," Sprint Product Chief Fared Adib said Monday.
The global smartphone market has become highly commoditized of late -- and with differentiation becoming a challenge for manufacturers, said Anshul Gupta, a principal research analyst at Gartner. "This is particularly true for smartphones based on the Android OS, where a strong commoditization trend is at work and most players are finding it hard to break the mold."
Major smartphone industry players with intellectual property assets are able to launch high-end products with hardware features coupled with applications and services, helping differentiation, Gupta said.
"However, in the mid- to low-end segment, price is increasingly becoming the sole differentiator," Gupta told us. "This will only worsen with the entry of new players and the dominance of Chinese manufacturers, leading to increased competition, low profitability and scattered market share."
Mozilla is aiming to position Firefox OS...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Dell Acquires Quest Software for $2.4 Billion
Dell is acquiring an IT management software provider for $2.4 billion. Quest Software will bring its IT solutions to Dell's recently formed Software Group.
Dell indicated that Quest's family of software solutions and technologies are strongly aligned with its software strategy. The acquisition gives Dell what it considers critical components to expand software capabilities in systems management, security, data protection and workspace management.
"The addition of Quest will enable Dell to deliver more competitive server, storage, networking and end-user computing solutions and services to customers," said John Swainson, president of Dell Software Group. "Quest's suite of industry-leading software products, highly talented team members and unique intellectual property will position us well in the largest and fastest growing areas of the software industry."
Dell also said Quest's software portfolio is complementary to Dell's scalable design approach. The Quest One Identity and Access Management solution family, for example, adds to Dell's set of security assets with SonicWALL and Secureworks.
Meanwhile, Dell said Quest's Performance Monitoring solutions for applications, networks and databases address a rapidly growing need for its customers. Quest's Windows Server Management solutions complement Dell Services' modernization practice with recently acquired Clerity Solutions and Make Technologies. Finally, Dell said Quest's Database Management capabilities complement its enterprise offering.
From a financial standpoint Quest is also attractive. Quest has a diversified software portfolio and generated $857 million in global revenue based on its fiscal year 2011 results at gross margins of 86 percent and operating margins of 11 percent. Quest supports heterogeneous and next-generation virtualized environments across leading platform vendors.
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told us that by nearly any measure, Quest's position appears highly attractive.
Beyond the sheer revenue the company brings in, Quest serves more than 100,000 customers worldwide, including 87 percent of the Fortune 500. Quest has...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
IBM Announces SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure
In this age of Bring Your Own Device to work, employees want mobility, choice of devices, and access to company resources, while IT departments need to provide security, contain costs and manage complexity. To help both sides live together, IBM announced Friday that it was offering a set of workplace solutions.
Called the IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure, the solutions are intended to allow organizations to centrally manage desktops and to provide employees with access to applications from virtually any device.
In a video accompanying the announcement, IBM System x Vice President Roland Hagan said the SmartCloud initiative was designed to "help businesses manage the transition to an 'anywhere, anytime' workplace affordably, while minimizing risk."
Hagan noted that SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure provides a set of IBM-specified reference infrastructures with choices of several virtual desktop solutions, including an IBM solution provided with Verde's Virtual Bridges, as well as ones from Citrix and VMware.
SmartCloud Desktop also offers IBM's Tivoli Endpoint Manager for management of the physical endpoint environment, and IBM Security Access Manager for single sign-on across the enterprise. The overall infrastructure is based on System x servers, and IBM offers consulting to assist organizations with implementation.
Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBM System x business, said in a statement that the ecosystem of partners and a "robust, open-reference approach" provides a wide range of "time-tested virtual desktop solutions for multiple environments."
The IBM-Verde offering, called IBM Virtual Desktop for Small Business, includes virtual desktop infrastructure, integrated offline VDI for disconnected and mobile use, and support for remote branches. Citrix offers an all-in-one VDI-in-a-Box option for organizations with simple IT needs, as well as XenDesktop for enterprises. The VMware View option provides what that company calls a "personalized high fidelity experience" across sessions and devices.
In announcing the SmartCloud Desktop offering, the company...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Delaware Goes All-In with Legalized Online Gambling
Delaware became the first state to enter the realm of legal online casino gambling Thursday with the governor's approval of legislation that allows for full-service betting Web sites offering slots play and games such as roulette, poker and blackjack.
Democratic Gov. Jack Markell signed the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012 into law the morning after the bill passed the state Senate on a close vote that reflected opposition from lawmakers who believe expanding gambling to the digital realm will expand the social ills associated with it.
Proponents hailed the measure as a viable way to help preserve the state's embattled casino industry, which is facing aggressive competition from new venues in the neighboring states of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
"We're talking about a couple thousand jobs," Markell said.
Online slot machine play and casino games such as blackjack and poker will be accessible through each Delaware casino's Web site and controlled centrally by the state Lottery Office. Delaware lottery tickets also will be offered for sale on a state-run Web site.
Federal law limits online gambling to players within the state's borders, which will be verified using geolocation software.
The state hopes to launch online gambling in 2013 and intends to make betting available on a variety of digital devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Other states already offer lottery ticket sales via the Internet, and Nevada is moving toward the implementation of online poker play, but Delaware is the only state to legalize comprehensive online casino gaming.
The state Department of Finance estimates the new gambling offerings will generate $7.75 million in revenue in fiscal 2013.
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Marketers Crank Up the Heat on Summer Stunts
Summer is only in its second week, but marketers already are latching onto it like drowning swimmers to a life preserver. They need summer every bit as much as workers need a break.
Summer is when most folks are in the mood -- and have the time -- to spend money. "People tend to feel released from obligations in the summer," says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow. "People rationalize a lot of spending under the umbrella of 'doing it with family.'"
It's also a time, with family in tow, when people are value-conscious and experience-seeking. Families expect to spend $1,180 per person on summer travel -- same as last year, says American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. But nearly half say that this summer they're seeking "meaningful experiences."
So, it's no surprise that some of the nation's top marketers are concocting creative ways to entice folks to spend more summer with them by:
Hosting crazy stunts. Mattel has spent more than $1 million to create a live stunt on Saturday at ESPN's X Games in Los Angeles that pits two race cars resembling Hot Wheels in a race through a 60-foot loop. A roller-coaster engineer, a NASA scientist and a Navy fighter pilot consulted on the stunt. "We have no blockbuster movie tie-in this summer," says Simon Waldron, VP of Hot Wheels marketing. "But we have a blockbuster event."
Showing flicks for a buck. Some 281 theaters owned by Regal Entertainment Group will show $1 Summer Movie Express G- and PG-rated movies at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays all summer. Most are recent but not first-run films, such as Hugo and Dolphin Tale. Sometimes, entire camps show up unannounced with buses full of kids, says Russ Nunley, VP of marketing. "It's a way to foster the next generation of moviegoers."
Appealing to kids. Pringles will dole...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Small Businesses Ponder Health Ruling
A big worry for small businesses that were against the Obama administration's health care law was that it would increase their costs. But now that the Supreme Court has upheld it, some small companies could opt to go a route that will save them thousands of dollars each year.
Under the law, companies with more than 50 workers must provide health insurance that the law defines as affordable, or pay a penalty. Paying the penalty may be cheaper and some business owners vow to consider doing just that.
"I have to consider not paying" for health insurance, says Nick Balletta, owner of TalkPoint, a New York firm that runs online broadcasts for businesses. Balletta has just under 100 employees, and he says he's paying $8,000 a year for each employee's insurance and $16,000 for family coverage.
"I have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to have that discussion." The penalties are set according to a complicated formula and start at $2,000 per worker, with the first 30 workers excluded from the calculation. "This is a huge savings for us," he says.
In the aftermath of the ruling, the possibilities for small companies may be as varied as the different kinds of business that operate across America. These employers will be forced to decide whether to pay for coverage, accept penalties or find ways to avoid the law. But with key issues like what the plans will cost still undecided, owners still have a long list of questions.
Willan Johnson, who owns VivoPools, a pool cleaning service in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, says the Supreme Court ruling gave him some closure. He had put off buying insurance until the ruling came down. But there is more waiting in his future. Now he's going to wait to see how the law is implemented.
"We would love to do...
Tue, 3 Jul 12
Cybercrime Disclosures by Companies Are Rare
Hackers broke into computers at hotel giant Wyndham Worldwide Corp. three times in two years and stole credit card information belonging to hundreds of thousands of customers. Wyndham didn't report the break-in in corporate filings even though the Securities and Exchange Commission wants companies to inform investors of cybercrimes.
Amid whispers of sensational online break-ins resulting in millions of dollars in losses, it remains remarkably difficult to identify corporate victims of cybercrimes. Companies are afraid that going public would damage their reputations, sink stock prices or spark lawsuits.
The chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is adding a provision to cybersecurity legislation that would strengthen the reporting requirement. The SEC's guidance issued in October is not mandatory. It was intended to update for the digital age a requirement that companies report "material risks" that investors want to know.
Rockefeller's measure would direct the SEC's five commissioners to make clear when companies must disclose cyber breaches and spell out steps they are taking to protect their computer networks from electronic intrusions.
The SEC recently challenged Internet retailer Amazon's decision to omit from its 2011 annual report references to the online theft of customer data held by Zappos, an online shoe company owned by Amazon. Amazon eventually agreed to modify the statement slightly, according to correspondence between the company and the SEC. But the company still argued that the Zappos attack was not covered by the commission's cybersecurity guidance because it had no material impact on Amazon's business.
Cybercrime is rampant and not confined to the United States. The head of Britain's domestic spy agency said this week that cybersecurity ranks alongside terrorism as one of the United Kingdom's most pressing security challenges. In one recent case, an unspecified, London-listed company hit by a cyberattack incurred revenue losses of $1.2...