Friday, December 31, 2010

Apple, Android top Amazon sales

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The online retailing giant said the best-selling computer on its site in 2010 was Apple's (NMS:AAPL) MacBook Pro 13.3-inch laptop, while the top wireless device was Samsung's Captivate phone running on Google's (NMS:GOOG) Android OS with an AT&T (NYSE:T - News) contract. The best-selling software was Microsoft's (NMS:MSFT) Office 2010 Home & Student. The top electronic product was Amazon's (NMS:AMZN) Kindle, which the company said Mon. was its best-selling item of all time. Amazon dipped 0.3% to 182.75.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The Year Facebook Dethroned Google as King of the Web [STATS]

Facebook was not only the most searched item of the year, but it passed Google as America's most-visited website in 2010, according to a new report from Experian Hitwise.
For the second year in a row, "facebook" was the top search term among U.S. Internet users. The search term accounted for 2.11% of all searches, according to Hitwise. Even more impressive is the fact that three other variations of Facebook made it into the top ten: "facebook login" at #2, "" at #6 and "" at #9. Combined, they accounted for 3.48% of all searches, a 207% increase from Facebook's position last year.

Rounding out the list of top search terms were YouTube, Craigslist, MySpace, eBay, Yahoo and Mapquest. Other companies that made big moves in terms of searches include Hulu, Netflix, Verizon, and ESPN. The search term "games" also made its first appearance in the list of Hitwise's top 50 search terms.
More interesting though is Facebook's ascension to #1 on Hitwise's list of most-visited websites. The social network accounted for 8.93% of all U.S. visits in 2010 (January-November), beating Google (7.19%), Yahoo Mail (3.52%), Yahoo (3.30%) and YouTube (2.65%). However, Facebook didn't beat the traffic garnered by all of Google's properties combined (9.85%).

It's only a matter of time until Facebook topples the entire Google empire, though. We've seen the trend develop for month: Facebook is getting bigger than Google. According to comScore, Facebook's U.S. traffic grew by 55% in the last year and has shown no sign of slowing down.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chrome OS gives a peek at computing future

What if nearly everything you usually keep on your computer — photos, documents, music and software — was stored online? Your machine would be speedier and perhaps less vital because you could simply use another machine to recoup your digital life should you lose your laptop.
This premise — somewhat scary, yet liberating — is behind Google Inc.'s upcoming Chrome OS, which will make notebook computers more like netbooks than most actual netbooks.

The software powering Chrome OS, which is based on the search giant's eponymously named browser, serves mainly as a tool for connecting your computer to the Web. That's where nearly everything you use is housed and linked to your Google username and password. It's a concept known as cloud computing.

A peek at the upcoming operating system and its vision of cloud computing shows a promising idea that could make computing faster and more convenient. But it still needs a lot of work.

Google expects the first computers powered by Chrome OS to be released this summer, and initially they'll be made by Acer Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

For now, though, Google is operating a pilot for some individuals and companies to test an unbranded laptop that runs Chrome OS. The company lent The Associated Press one of these machines, which aren't going to be sold to the public.

The laptop itself, called the Cr-48, doesn't really deserve to be critiqued, because it is a stripped-down machine that is chiefly a frame for Google's OS oeuvre. The shell is entirely matte black plastic, without a hint of branding. It has a webcam, a screen that is about 12 inches diagonally and a full-sized keyboard with a search key in place of the caps lock key.

The machine also has 16 gigabytes of flash memory for storing files, if you feel absolutely compelled to download something. Downloads are obviously discouraged, though; my music collection alone would nearly fill this allotment.
Moving on to the main event, Chrome OS brings a few clear benefits: Starting up the notebook takes just seconds — roughly 13 of them, according to my stopwatch — and waking the closed notebook from "sleep" mode is as quick as opening it up (almost too quick, as the notebook couldn't regain its wireless service quite as fast). By contrast, my Windows machine at work takes more than two minutes to boot up.

After you sign in with your Google account, the same username and password you would use to access Gmail, you can pull up a home page showing all the apps you've installed from the Chrome Web Store. Assuming you're connected to the Web, you can just start using apps and surfing the Web right away.

There were plenty of free and paid Web apps and browser extensions available when I tested the notebook. Some are only for the Chrome OS; others also work with Google's Chrome Web browser for other computers.
I installed a range of the free ones, some of which seemed to be just links to existing Web pages. The apps I snagged included Web-based office suite Google Docs, the chatting service Google Talk, Aviary's Advanced Image Editor and balloon-popping puzzle game Poppit.

As with smart phones and tablets such as Apple Inc.'s iPad, publications are also making Chrome apps. USA Today, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are among them.

On my work computer, it can take ages to open up applications that are stored on my hard drive. With the Cr-48, I could immediately start editing a Google Docs spreadsheet or tweak the colors in a photo using Aviary because the programs are all running online. I only needed a strong Internet connection.

Surfing the Web was a pretty normal experience, with most websites loading speedily, though the Cr-48 was not that good at displaying Flash videos.
But I felt constrained because I had to use the lone browser that comes with the system and the Web-based apps I obtained. Apps loaded slowly when my Internet connection wasn't stellar. This wouldn't be a problem with programs stored on a regular computer's hard drive.

If a Chrome OS-based laptop becomes my primary computer, a data plan would be a must.

I feel anxious just thinking about the possibility that I couldn't access my documents at any time, and I don't even keep anything that important on my own laptop.

I mostly used the notebook with Wi-Fi at home and at the office, though I also tried out its 3G network service, which is provide by Verizon Wireless.

So what happens if you don't have any Internet access? The Cr-48 is pretty useless.

I could still write in an already-open Google Docs document, add notes in Scratchpad and look at photos I'd downloaded. But I couldn't use apps that are not yet opened because they're all connected to the Web.

If you lose your connection while using an app, you may be able to view some information that has been temporarily stored in memory, as I could when browsing The New York Times' app. But you'll need to get online as soon as possible to really use the machine. Faced with this situation, I'd probably just search frantically for an Internet connection or simply put away my laptop.

In its current state, the Chrome OS is far from ready to take over as my main computer, even if I were using it on a more powerful machine than the Cr-48.

Sure, I spend most of my time on the Web already, but I'm not quite ready to rely on having Internet access to do almost anything with my computer.

I can imagine getting comfortable with that in the not-so-distant future, though, and I'm curious to see if Google can make it happen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Apple boots WikiLeaks app from iPhone store

Apple yesterday pulled an iPhone app from the App Store that let users read secret U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks and follow the controversial organization's Twitter feed.
According to Igor Barinov, the general manager of Moscow-based Hint Solutions, Apple yanked his WikiLeaks App from the App Store shortly after noon on Monday. Barinov posted several screenshots of his program's App Store status as proof.

Tuesday, Barinov said that Apple had called to tell him it would provide an official reason for removing his app in a day or two. In a Twitter message, Barinov said Apple had referred him to several clauses in the App Store developer guidelines, including one that read: "Any app that is defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms [sic] way will be rejected."

"They named points of apple dev guideline which bans app forever," Barinov said on Twitter.

Apple's move was the latest in a string made by U.S. companies, including Amazon, Bank of America, MasterCard and PayPal, that have terminated services for WikiLeaks.
In late November, the organization began publishing U.S. State Department messages. Since then, WikiLeaks shifted its site to new hosting providers several times; its founder, Julian Assange, was arrested in the U.K. and then posted bail; and pro-WikiLeaks activists launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the firms that withdrew services.

In a Monday press release, Barinov said that $US1 from the sale of each copy of the $1.99 app would be earmarked to "help fund the legal defense costs in the event that high- profile Internet journalists will be charged in a United States Court" for writing about the WikiLeaks cache of U.S. documents.

WikiLeaks does not charge to access its content.

Tuesday morning, Barinov said that his app had been downloaded 4,434 times, and he would contribute $4434 to WikiLeaks from his profit of $5825.

Apple takes a 30 per cent cut of all revenue on the App Store; if Borinov's numbers are accurate, Apple would have made approximately $2500 on the sale of the app.

Neither Barinov or Apple replied Tuesday to requests for comment or to additional questions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Twitter financing values company at $3.7 billion

Twitter has raised $200 million of financing in a deal that values the microblogging company at $3.7 billion, less than a year after it began its first serious efforts to make money.

The funding, from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and existing Twitter investors, underscores the high hopes that investors have for Internet social networking companies.

"It's a huge multiple. But the idea is that (Twitter's) scale can be monetized," said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis, who estimated that Twitter's annual revenue was currently under $100 million.
The money will help Twitter expand the company, Twitter said in a post on its corporate blog on Wednesday. The blog post did not elaborate and a spokesman declined to offer specifics.

Twitter, which had 175 million users as of September, is among the new crop of quickly growing Internet social networking services. Others include Facebook and Zynga.

Facebook, the world's No. 1 Internet social networking company, is valued at more than $45 billion in recent stock purchase transactions on the secondary market, according to Sharespost, an online exchange for trading shares in private companies.

Investors are watching services like Facebook and Twitter closely, hoping one day to buy public shares of the company.

BGC's Gillis said Twitter's new valuation could push an IPO further down the road, as Twitter would need to "grow into the valuation" and generate more revenue to justify it to public market investors.

But Caris & Co analyst Sandeep Aggarwal said he believed Twitter could be an IPO candidate as soon as 2011, particularly as the company could need more funding to capitalize on new opportunities.

"These companies are hungry for resources," said Aggarwal.

Twitter also announced on Wednesday that it had added two new board members -- FlipBoard Chief Executive Mike McCue and DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt.

The moves come two months after the four-year-old company handed the job of chief executive to Dick Costolo, the architect of its new advertising efforts, a sign that making money is a priority for the service.

Costolo told Reuters in May that Twitter planned to have hundreds of advertisers using its ad system by the end of the year. He said the company's previous valuation of $1 billion meant that it was incumbent on Twitter to develop a business that can generate hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.
Twitter had raised $160 million in four earlier funding rounds, from investors that included Spark Capital, Institutional Venture Partners and mutual fund company T. Rowe Price.

Technology blog AllThingsDigital first reported the $200 million funding round. It said that Kleiner Perkins beat out Russian investment firm DST Global. The Twitter spokesman confirmed that the figures were accurate.

Twitter, which allows users to send 140-character text messages, or Tweets, to followers, has become a popular communications tool for celebrities, politicians and businesses, and has played a role in several geopolitical events, such as the 2009 post-election demonstrations in Iran.

The service, along with Facebook, is increasingly challenging established Web services like Google Inc and Yahoo Inc for the time that consumers spend online.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 -- the year tablet computers came of age

Yearning for a gadget that was bigger than a smartphone but smaller than a laptop made tablet computing a defining trend for 2010.
The iPad, launched in April by Apple, became the must-have device of the year -- and has rivals intent on dethroning the culture-shifting California company before it can lock in the market the way iPods became the ruling MP3 players.

"Apple nailed it and made tablet computers a success," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. "There are going to be a lot of people trying to beat them but it will turn out like iPods; everybody wants one."

Work weeks have grown steadily longer with the proliferation of gadgets keeping people connected to bosses and offices nights and weekends.

Our Internet Age lifestyles set the stage for the debut of a tablet computer done right, according to Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

"Consumers are working all the time, have less leisure time and less money to spend but still want to maximize enjoyment they get out of life," Rotman Epps told AFP.

"Tablets fill that demand for devices that fill those in-between moments and minimize your unconnected time," she said.

Forrester data shows that 26 percent of US consumers who bought iPads use the tablets for work as well as personal purposes.

The top spot for using an iPad is the living room, with the bedroom being the second most common, according to Forrester.
"People are using tablets to read the Wall Street Journal or watch TV in bed," Rotman Epps said. "It is replacing, in some circumstances, laptop computers, television and print media."

Apple benefited by focusing on regular people instead of businesses, adding its hip cache and having real-world stores where people could try iPads before committing to buying devices, according to Rotman Epps.

"Apple cracked the market that others had struggled with for years," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg.

Research shows that owners of the Apple tablets consume more video, news and other content online than other people do.

Some analysts expect iPad sales will blast past the 10 million mark this month, if they haven't already, and competitors are hitting the market with their own tablets or have announced plans to do so.

Samsung said its Galaxy Tab, which is powered by Google's Android software, has sold one million units. Microsoft considers tablets a "priority" and Blackberry maker Research in Motion plans one next year named the PlayBook.

Forrester predicted that by 2015, the number of US consumers using tablet computers would be 75 million: more than netbook users but less than the number of people using smartphones or laptops.

The tablet trend will put downward pressure on laptop computer prices, based on Forrester research indicating consumers think it's not worth paying a lot more to get a laptop instead of a tablet.
"Tablets really changed consumer thinking about mobile computing and the industry's thinking," said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin.

Analysts said the other big consumer electronics stories of the year were the continued growth of smartphones and Microsoft's Kinect, the Xbox 360 videogame console that players control using gestures and spoken commands.

Microsoft said it sold more than 2.5 million Kinects for Xbox 360 devices worldwide in the 25 days after they hit the market.

Google, meanwhile, said more than 300,000 smartphones running its Android software are activated daily as it builds momentum in the hot mobile market.

According to research firm Gartner, Finland's Nokia sold 29.5 million smartphones during the third quarter of the year for a 36.6 percent share of the worldwide market, down from 44.6 percent a year ago.

Sales of Android-powered smartphones soared to 20.5 million units, giving the Android platform a 25.5 percent market share, up from just 3.5 percent a year ago, Gartner said.

Apple's iPhone was next on sales of 13.5 million units followed by Canada's Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, with sales of 11.9 million units and Microsoft's Windows Mobile with sales of 2.2 million units.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Companies beware: The next big leak could be yours

WikiLeaks' release of secret government communications should serve as a warning to the nation's biggest companies: You're next.
Computer experts have warned for years about the threat posed by disgruntled insiders and by poorly crafted security policies, which give too much access to confidential data. And there is nothing about WikiLeaks' release of U.S. diplomatic documents to suggest that the group can't — or won't — use the same methods to reveal the secrets of powerful corporations.

And as WikiLeaks claims it has incriminating documents from a major U.S. bank, possibly Bank of America, there's new urgency to addressing information security inside corporations and a reminder of its limits when confronted with a determined insider.

At risk are companies' innermost secrets — e-mails, documents, databases and internal websites that are thought locked to the outside world. Companies create records of every decision they make, whether it's rolling out new products, pursuing acquisitions, fighting legislation, foiling rivals or allowing executives to sell stock.

Although it's easy technologically to limit who in a company sees specific types of information, many companies leave access far too open. And despite the best of intentions, mistakes happen and settings can become inadvertently broad, especially as networks grow more complex with reorganizations and acquisitions.

And even when security technology is doing its job, it's a poor match if someone with legitimate access decides to go rogue.
With the right access, a cheap thumb drive and a vendetta are the only ingredients an insider needs to obtain and leak secrets. By contrast, outside attackers often have to compromise personal computers at the bottom of the food chain, then use their skills and guile in hopes of working their way up.

Employees go rogue all the time — for ego, to expose hypocrisy, to exact revenge or simply for greed.

A former analyst with mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp., now owned by Bank of America, is awaiting trial on charges he downloaded data on potentially 2 million customers over two years, charging $500 for each batch of 20,000 profiles. Prosecutors say the analyst worked secretly on Sundays, using an unsecured Countrywide computer that allowed downloads to personal thumb drives. Other home loan companies bought the customer profiles, including Social Security numbers, for new sales leads, according to authorities.

Also, an employee with Certegy Check Services Inc., a check authorization service, was accused of stealing information on more than 8 million people and selling it to telemarketers for a haul of $580,000. The worker was sentenced in 2008 to nearly five years in prison.

Despite the repeated warnings, many large companies lack clear policies on who should have access to certain data, said Christopher Glyer, a manager with the Mandiant Corp., an Alexandria, Va.-based security firm that investigates computer intrusions.
WikiLeaks argues that revealing details of companies and governments behaving badly, no matter how the information is obtained, is good for democracy.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' founder, told Forbes magazine that the number of leaks his site gets has been increasing "exponentially" as the site has gotten more publicity. He said it sometimes numbers in the thousands per day.

Assange told Forbes that half the unpublished material his organization has is about the private sector, including a "megaleak" involving a bank. He would not name the bank, but he said last year in an interview with Computerworld that he has several gigabytes of data from a Bank of America executive's hard drive.

Assange also told Forbes that Wikileaks has "lots" of information on BP PLC, the London-based oil company under fire for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Assange said his organization is trying to figure out if its information on BP is unique.

WikiLeaks previously published confidential documents from the Swiss bank Julius Baer and the Kaupthing Bank in Iceland. The site also published an operation manual for the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

WikiLeaks' most recent leaks exposed frank and sometimes embarrassing communications from diplomats and world leaders. They included inflammatory assessments of their counterparts and international hot spots such as Iran and North Korea.

The prime suspect in the diplomatic leaks, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, is being held in a maximum-security military brig at Quantico, Va., charged in connection with an earlier WikiLeaks release: video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver.

Military investigators say Manning is a person of interest in the leak of nearly 77,000 Afghan war records WikiLeaks published online in July. Though Manning has not been charged in the latest release of internal U.S. government documents, WikiLeaks has hailed him as a hero.

Manning boasted to a hacker confidant that security was so flimsy he was able to bring a homemade music CD into work, delete its contents and fill it with secrets, according to a log of the exchange posted by

Experts said a key flaw in the military's security was that Manning may not have even had to look all that hard for the data, as it was apparently available for many people to see. The Defense Department says it has bolstered its computer security since the leaks.

Companies have many options technologically to protect themselves.

Alfred Huger, vice president of engineering for security firm Immunet Corp. in Palo Alto, said companies could simply configure their e-mail servers to restrict who certain people can send documents to.

Other measures include prohibiting certain people from copying and pasting from documents, blocking downloads to thumb drives and CD-ROMs, and deploying technologies that check if executives' e-mail messages are being checked too often — a sign that an automated program is copying the contents.

But the more companies control information, the more difficult it is for employees to access documents they are authorized to view. That lowers productivity and increases costs in the form of the additional help from technicians.

"You run the risk of creating an environment that's so rigid that people can't do their jobs," Huger said. "You have to find that balance. Unfortunately, there's no panacea against it."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Man to challenge Twitter 'threat' conviction

A man who was convicted and fined for tweeting that he planned to blow up an airport will take his case to Britain's High Court in a test of the limits of free speech on the Internet, his lawyers said Monday
Attorneys for Paul Chambers said prominent human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson has been instructed to lead the legal challenge to Chambers' conviction.

Chambers, a 27-year-old trainee accountant, was arrested in January after he posted a message on Twitter saying he would blow Robin Hood Airport in northern England "sky high" if his flight, due to leave a week later, was delayed.

Chambers insisted it was a joke. But a judge found him guilty of sending a menacing message over a public telecommunications network and ordered him to pay a 385 pound ($615) fine plus legal costs.

Earlier this month another judge rejected Chambers' appeal.

The verdict caused a wave of outrage on Twitter, with thousands of supporters retweeting Chambers' message with the tag "I Am Spartacus" — a reference to the 1960 movie epic in which the titular hero's fellow rebels all assume his identity in a gesture of solidarity.

Monday, November 22, 2010

iPad 3G With an Integrated SIM Card Coming Soon

Apple has given up on releasing an iPhone with an integrated SIM card. However, the company might soon launch an iPad 3G with an integrated SIM card, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Currently, both the iPhone and the 3G version of the iPad use a micro SIM card, provided by mobile carriers such as AT&T in the U.S. and Vodafone and O2 in Europe. With an integrated SIM card in an iPhone, Apple could cut the mobile carriers from the sales process, as users could buy the device directly from Apple and choose a carrier later.

However, according to "a senior source at a mobile operator", this did not sit well with the carriers. "Apple has long been trying to build closer and closer relationships and cut out the operators. But this time they have been sent back to the drawing board with their tails between their legs", the source said.

On the other hand, it's far easier for Apple to introduce the integrated SIM with the iPad 3G, since that device is not subsidized by mobile carriers. According to The Sunday Telegraph, Apple plans to launch the integrated-SIM variant of the iPad either before Christmas or in early 2011.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Google denies building Facebook 'rival'

Facebook dominates social networking. No rival comes close. So when rumors started circulating in July that Google may start its own social network, a lot of ears perked up. Since then, the search giant has continually refused to confirm its plans, but its deteriorating relationship with Facebook continues to make headlines.
Today at the Monaco Media Forum, Hugo Barra, Google’s head of mobile product development, reiterated that the company is not creating a Facebook clone, reports Reuters. ”We’re not working on a social network platform that’s just going to be another social network platform,” Barra said in answer to a question. ”We do think that social is an ingredient for success for any app going forward, search and advertising being probably the best two examples that I would mention. So that’s how we’re thinking about the problem.”

In September, CEO Eric Schmidt laid out a similar vision, saying that Google plans to add layers of social networking to its many websites and services. Instead of an all-out Facebook rival, his statements indicated that the search company plans to introduce social networking add-ons that will integrate with its core products, including Gmail and YouTube. For example, YouTube would share information in real-time about what videos are being watched by the people on your friend-list.

So what is Google doing? It’s hard to say, but all of the components for a social networking site are within Google’s services. The problem Schmidt and Co. have always had is when it tries to glue its social services together. Earlier this year, the company launched Buzz, a Twitter-like add-on to Gmail, but has been met with low usage and a lot of complaints. Google is social, but it can’t figure out how to network.

What do you think Google’s social network will look like? Does the company have what it takes to rival Facebook?

Friday, November 05, 2010

PayPal patches hacker hole in iPhone application

PayPal has rushed out a patch for a flaw in its iPhone application that could let hackers access accounts at the online financial transactions service, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
The flaw only affected people that used PayPal applications on iPhones connected to the Internet through unsecured Wi-Fi networks, according to the Journal.

A hacker would have needed to intercept PayPal transaction data by using commonly available gear to get between an iPhone and the Wi-Fi hotspot.

PayPal told the Journal it knew of no accounts compromised by the flaw, which was fixed on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'New MySpace' narrows focus to entertainment

MySpace, the online social hub that's been fighting to stay relevant in the age of Facebook and Twitter, is overhauling its image and its website into an entertainment destination for its mostly younger audience.
The social-networking pioneer, which was among the top Internet sites just a few years ago, now has its sights set decidedly lower. Starting Wednesday and over the next month, MySpace will be relaunching its site to focus on giving users more ways to consume music, videos and celebrity gossip.

Entertainment has long been central to the MySpace experience, but over the years the site was also pulled in different directions as it dabbled in classifieds, job ads and even user reviews in a partnership with Citysearch as it pushed to become a social portal for the Web. It didn't work out, and Facebook is now emerging as that portal.

MySpace CEO Mike Jones said the relaunch "pulls us out of the social networking category" to become a social entertainment destination. So instead of connecting with long-lost friends and sharing baby photos, MySpace wants to be the place where people go to find out about new bands, chat about TV shows and make movie recommendations.

"The vision has definitely gotten a lot smaller in this redesign," said Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at research firm eMarketer. "When News Corp. bought MySpace it certainly didn't envision this. I don't think Rupert (Murdoch, News Corp.'s CEO) thought MySpace would be a small social entertainment website."
News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005. For some perspective, that's the same year YouTube launched. After a promising start, the site's luster began to fade and advertisers, along with users, flocked to Facebook. EMarketer estimates that advertisers worldwide will spend about $347 million on MySpace this year, down from $470 million in 2009. The research firm estimates 2010 ad spending on Facebook to be around $1.3 billion, more than double $665 million a year earlier.

In the most recent quarter, the News Corp. segment responsible for MySpace lost $174 million, mostly due to lower search and advertising revenue. News Corp. reports fiscal first-quarter results on Nov. 1.

If the relaunch is successful, MySpace may still become the cultural powerhouse MTV was in the 1990s, when its decision to play a new music video could turn a band's fortunes overnight. Keeping with the age of the social Web, however, MySpace won't be the only one deciding what's cool. The site will also make its most loyal users the curators in a feature that's coming at a yet-unspecified date.

"The MTV influence is really obvious," Williamson said, adding that MySpace still has "pull with the audience it's trying to reach — young people."
There are big cosmetic changes too. Long criticized for cluttered, clunky home pages, MySpace is streamlining its design. It will show fewer ads, but place them more prominently. It also will have far fewer buttons and page templates. In a presentation, the company called it "cleaning up MySpace e-waste."

"If we are refurbishing a house, it's starting from the ground up," Jones said of the eight-month redesign process.

MySpace has long fallen behind Facebook in user numbers and estimated advertising revenue, in part because it never appealed to older users. Its roughly 130 million users are mostly under 35, while Facebook's fastest-growing user base is those over 35. MySpace now says it's not trying to compete with social networks like Facebook.

"We're working on refocusing the company (and) narrowing down what our product does," Jones said.

Jones is the last of a three-person executive team that joined the company in April 2009. His former co-president Jason Hirschhorn, left in June and former CEO Owen Van Natta, once chief revenue officer of Facebook, left in February.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EBay 3Q profit rises 23 percent

EBay Inc. on Wednesday said its third-quarter profit climbed 23 percent, helped by its growing PayPal business.

The online marketplace operator also predicted results for the current quarter that were better than analysts had been expecting, sending its shares up more than 7 percent in after-hours trading.
EBay earned $432 million, or 33 cents per share, in the July-September period, compared with a profit of $350 million, or 27 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

When excluding one-time items, eBay earned 40 cents per share, beating the average expectation of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters by 3 cents.

Revenue rose 1 percent to $2.25 billion. Analysts were expecting revenue to dip slightly to $2.18 billion, in part because eBay sold its Skype Internet calling business late last year.

Excluding Skype, eBay said its revenue jumped 10 percent.
San Jose-based eBay's second-largest business, online payments, reported $838 million in revenue, up 22 percent from last year. The unit includes PayPal and short-term credit service Bill Me Later.

EBay said total payment volume jumped 26 percent to $22.37 billion.

This business has grown rapidly even as eBay's main business — its online marketplace — has faltered, as more merchants and consumers use PayPal to transfer money on and off eBay. EBay CEO John Donahoe believes that in the next few years that business' revenue will surpass that of eBay's marketplaces segment, which includes the flagship and other e-commerce sites.

Marketplace revenue rose 3 percent to $1.41 billion, as more people used eBay to buy and sell.

Gross merchandise volume, which is a measure of the value of everything sold on eBay, excluding vehicles, rose 3 percent to $12.59 billion. There were 93.2 million active eBay users at the end of the third quarter, up 4 percent from 89.2 million in the third quarter of 2009.
The company has been working to improve by cutting upfront listing fees and tweaking search results to make it to find the right merchandise.

For the current quarter, eBay expects a profit of 37 cents to 40 cents per share, or 45 cents to 48 cents per share when excluding one-time items, on $2.39 billion to $2.49 billion in revenue. This is more optimistic than the 44 cents per share in adjusted earnings and $2.40 billion in revenue analysts were looking for.

In an interview, Donahoe said the company is "cautiously optimistic" about the holiday season. He said he expects shoppers to use eBay's mobile applications more, especially for comparison shopping when at bricks-and-mortar stores.

EBay offers a slew of and PayPal apps for smart phones and Apple's iPad that allow people to shop online and transfer money. The company also owns RedLaser, a barcode-scanning app that it bought earlier this year, that lets you scan an actual product and see its price at online stores and on eBay.
EBay shares rose $1.92, or 7.5 percent, to $27.58 in after-hours trading. The stock had finished regular trading up 13 cents at $25.66.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Verizon to sell Samsung's iPad rival for $600

The first big-name competitor to the iPad in the U.S. won't be undercutting it in price.

Verizon Wireless says it will start selling Samsung Electronics Co.'s tablet computer, which is half the size of the iPad, for $600. That's more than the basic version of Apple Inc.'s tablet.
Verizon on Wednesday said it will start selling the Samsung Galaxy Tab on Nov. 11. It has a 7-inch screen and runs Google Inc.'s Android software. Access to Verizon's cellular data network will cost $20 per month for up to 1 gigabyte of traffic.

Verizon will start selling the iPad on Oct. 28, starting at $499. It can't access Verizon's network directly, but the carrier will sell an add-on gadget for about $130 that bridges the gap.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Intel earns up 59 pct; PC pain less than expected

Intel Corp.'s third-quarter results showed Wall Street something that many anxious investors were itching to see: a sign that economic edginess hasn't ruined consumers' appetite for new PCs as much as originally feared going into the critical holiday shopping season.
Intel said Tuesday that its net income leaped 59 percent and sales rose 18 percent, both topping analysts' expectations.

Those expectations had been tamped down in August when Intel cut its guidance, blaming weak consumer PC demand that has rippled across the computer industry. Thus, the jump that the technology-industry bellwether reported Tuesday would have been higher if the economy hadn't dampened back-to-school spending, one of the electronics world's most important shopping seasons.

Still, investors sent Intel shares up slightly in extended trading.

Intel said after the market closed Tuesday that it earned $2.96 billion, or 52 cents per share, compared with $1.86 billion, or 33 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts expected 50 cents per share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.
Revenue rose 18 percent to $11.10 billion, from $9.39 billion. Analysts expected $10.99 billion.

Job-market jitters have caused shoppers to hang on to more of their money, turning back-to-school into a bust for many PC makers and their suppliers. The focus now is on the industry's other make-or-break moment: the holiday shopping season.

Many analysts are predicting this winter will be healthier than the fall. Intel's fourth-quarter forecast seems to support that. Intel is predicting revenue of $11.0 billion to $11.8 billion in the fourth quarter. Analysts were expecting $11.3 billion.

CEO Paul Otellini said Intel continues to see "healthy worldwide demand for computing products of all types." As the world's biggest maker of microprocessors, the "brains" of PCs, Intel is a proxy for the overall PC market. The company's chief financial officer, Stacy Smith, said in an interview that Intel expects the consumer PC market to continue growing in the fourth quarter, but at a slower pace than in the first half of the year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Google tests cars that can steer without drivers

Google Inc. is road-testing cars that steer, stop and start without a human driver, the company says.
The goal is to "help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions" through ride sharing and "the new 'highway trains of tomorrow,'" project leader Sebastian Thrun wrote Saturday on Google's corporate blog.

The cars are never unmanned, Thrun wrote. He said a backup driver is always behind the wheel to monitor the software.

It's not the first signal that Google wants to change how people get from place to place. In a speech Sept. 29 at the TechCrunch "Disrupt" conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said "your car should drive itself. It just makes sense."

"It's a bug that cars were invented before computers," Schmidt said.

The cars have traveled a total of 140,000 miles on major California roads without much human intervention, according to Google's corporate blog.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based technology giant has sent seven test cars a total of 1,000 miles without a human touching the controls at all, the New York Times reported. The newspaper published a report on the cars earlier Sunday.
The cars know speed limits, traffic patterns and road maps, Thrun's posting says. They use video cameras, radar sensors and lasers to detect other cars.

Driving between Northern California and Southern California, the cars have navigated San Francisco's curvy Lombard Street, Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard and the cliff-hugging Pacific Coast Highway, the blog says.

Engineers consider the cars safer because they react more quickly than humans, the New York Times said. It said Google has not revealed how it hopes to profit from the research.

The company is flush with cash, though, and pushing numerous projects such as the cars that are unrelated to its core business, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif.

"The word 'focus' is a word Google has never learned," Enderle said, pointing to projects involving electricity distribution, vehicle design and artificial intelligence. He said cars that can drive themselves would allow commuters more time to surf the web, something Google would encourage.

Still, Enderle said, industry leaders such as Volkswagen and Intel Corp. are working on similar technology. He said "driverless" vehicles will make computers more like the robots imagined in the 1920s, rather than the tabletop data processors we use today.

The blog says the technology is being developed by scientists who were involved in an earlier set of unmanned car races organized by the government's Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Five questions — and answers — about Facebook Groups

Another week, another Facebook controversy — this time, over the site’s just-relaunched "Groups" feature, which lets you create instant private or public spaces for your friends, co-workers, fellow hobbyists, you name it.
Personally, I think the idea behind the new Groups feature is an excellent one. By designating smaller circles of friends within your overall list of Facebook pals (which, for some online social butterflies, can easily run into the thousands), you can post updates, photos, videos, and URLs to your individual subsets without bothering everyone on Facebook with the minutiae of, say, your breakfast menu, or how quickly you crossed the finish line in your latest half-marathon.

Indeed, I might start actually posting to Facebook again now that I’ve created a tiny group of friends (three, to be exact) who (a) I trust, and (b) won’t be annoyed by any pointless musings that I'll be tacking onto our wall. (Uh, guys — you don’t mind, right?)

But it didn’t take long for a controversy to flare up: namely, the fact that your Facebook friends can add you to any group they so choose — as long as they’re already members of said group — without your permission.

Why did Facebook make Groups go the "opt-out" rather than "opt-in" way? "To make the product simple" is the official line. Another likely reason for the policy, I’m guesssing, is that it encourages the rapid growth of ... well, new groups. Without the necessity of waiting for invitees to accept an invite, Facebook’s groups are free to grow quickly and exponentially. The more — and bigger — groups there are, the more Facebook members will use them — and that’ll make groups more attractive to app developers and advertisers. Hey, that’s business, like it or not.

Of course, the downside is that you might find yourself suddenly signed up into a Facebook group (or groups) you hadn’t bargained for, such as the "Underwater Basket-weavers of America," with your inbox suddenly flooded with email notifications for each and every snapshot, comment, and update posted to the collective group wall.

That’s a side-effect I’d count as more of an annoyance than anything else, although there’s always the more worrisome possibility that one of your frenemies will add you to a group of a more, ah, unsavory nature.
So, here are five questions — and answers — for how to weather the current Facebook Groups storm (or tempest in a teapot, depending on how you look at it).

1. Who can add me to a Facebook group?
Not just anyone can add you to a group — in fact, only someone who’s already one of your Facebook friends can do so. Still, it’s a bit disturbing that any of your Facebook friends can add you to, say, the "Bald Eagle Hunters Club" without getting your permission.

Then again, your friend would already have to be a "BEHC" member before he or she could invite you to the group ... and besides, who is this so-called friend, anyway? Indeed, the story that sparked this whole debate about the Groups feature involves someone with more than 4,000 Facebook friends. I don’t think I’ve even met 4,000 people in my 41 years on Planet Earth, much less know 4,000 people whom I’d be willing to "friend" on Facebook.

Suggestion: If you’re seriously worried about people adding you to groups that you’d rather not be a member of, maybe it’s time to pare down your Facebook friends list, starting with anyone who added you to a group you didn’t want to be a member of. The "Remove from Friends" button can be, in fact, your friend.

2. How do I leave a group — and prevent someone from adding me again?
Wait — so, you didn’t want to be a member of the "Underwater Basket-weavers of America"? Just visit the group page, click on the "Leave Group" link under the list of members, and you’re outta there — simple. After that, no one will be able to re-add you to the group in question without your explicit permission.
3. But even if I remove myself from a group, won’t the fact that I got added in the first place pop up in my Facebook news feed, for all to see?
Yep, you’re right. You can always delete the notification from your wall, but that won’t stop your Facebook friends or other users (depending on your privacy settings) from seeing the update before you were able to delete it.

One proactive (if extreme) measure, is to deny the Groups app permission to publish stories to your wall; just click on Account on the top-right of the Facebook interface, then select Application Settings. Find the Groups app, click Edit Settings, then click the "Additional Permissions" tab (almost there), and, finally, uncheck the box that reads "publish content to my wall."

4. How do I cut down on all these email notifications from my groups?
Getting inundated with a flood of email messages every time someone posts a "Cute photo!" comment onto a group snapshot can quickly grow tiresome. If you’d like to keep your inbox as uncluttered as possible, just tweak your Groups notification settings: Visit the specific group page, click the "Edit Settings button" in the upper-left-hand corner of the page, and select the radio button next to the option you prefer (for example, you can get a notification each and every time a member posts or comments, only when a friend posts, or only when someone comments on one of your posts). You can also visit the email notification page in your privacy settings and turn off all notifications if you wish.

5. Can the other members in my new group see all my Facebook info?
So, the worst has happened: Your now ex-friend just added you to the "Bald Eagle Hunters Club," and all of a sudden you’re unwillingly mingling with a bunch of ... well, people you wouldn’t normally invite over for tea. Since you’re in a group with these guys, do they now have access to all your Facebook info?

Here’s the good news: not if you’ve limited access to your profile in Facebook’s privacy settings. If you’ve restricted your updates, photos, and personal data to "friends only," your fellow "Bald Eagle" members won’t be able to see anything about you except your publicly accessible profile info (which, again, you can customize in your privacy settings).

On the other hand, if your privacy settings allow anyone and everyone to see your Facebook info, other, non-friend members in your new Group will be able see your data too — then again, they already could, even before you (unwittingly or not) joined the group.

Bonus: What can I do to ensure my privacy is completely secure in a group — or on Facebook in general?
You probably already know all this, but it bears repeating in light of the new Groups controversy: Facebook isn’t about keeping your personal info safe. It’s a (for-profit) business that does everything it can to get people to share their personal information. That’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.

If you’re really worried about your privacy on Facebook, please — don’t post your personal details, photos, videos, street addresses, or phone numbers on Facebook. Seriously! It might even be time to delete your account, or just don’t join at all. Trust me, you’ll still be able to make friends in the real world.

But if you still want to be on Facebook, you’ll have to accept the fact that you’re putting your personal information in Facebook’s hands. Don’t trust Facebook — or your friends on Facebook, for that matter? Then maybe Facebook isn’t for you.

Friday, October 08, 2010

With Twitter blocked, Chinese micro-blogging thrives

When a huge mudslide swamped a Chinese town in August, killing at least 1,500 people, word first reached the world thanks to a digital camera-wielding, 19-year-old micro-blogger who idolises Lady Gaga.
Wang Kai's reports on a Chinese Twitter-like service from the northwestern town of Zhouqu made him an online celebrity and underlined the potential impact of the fast-growing new medium in the world's largest online population.

Things looked grim last year when China's censors added Twitter to their list of blocked foreign services amid government accusations that social media were used to fan deadly ethnic unrest in northwestern China in July 2009.

But several Chinese clones soon sprung up, offering users a platform for sending 140-character messages via provider websites or mobile phones -- while exercising heavy self-censorship to keep authorities happy.

China's 420-million web users have seized on micro-blogging as a new avenue for mass expression in a tightly-controlled information landscape.

From almost nothing last year, there are an estimated tens of millions of micro-blogging, or "weibo", accounts in China. Active users will hit 65 million by year's end, the Data Center for the Chinese Internet (DCCI) predicts.

"Weibo's role is huge," Wang Kai, now an English student at university, told AFP when asked to explain its appeal.

"It provides you with your own platform for sending out really meaningful microblogs and opinions. I hope it can be used to help people solve problems."

Users say China's half-dozen providers offer services that are superior to those of Twitter, such as embedding of videos and photos.

They add that more can be expressed in 140 of the Chinese language's pictographic characters than in English.

But the real impact of "weibo" could lie in its ability to knit together -- through the rapid, mass sharing of links -- the countless Chinese blogs, forums and other websites that are the dominant outlet for public expression.

"The density of information they have created, their frequency of dissemination and the degree of connectivity they have enabled for web users far surpass any previous form of Internet use," Hu Yong, an author of several books on the Chinese Internet, wrote in a recent opinion piece.

The DCCI predicts active user accounts will exceed 400 million within three years as China's online population grows. Twitter said in early September it had 145 million users.

A recent poll found that about 90 percent of under-40s use a "weibo" service, engaging in lively discussions on entertainment, lifestyle, the job market or flogging a company's products.
But several cases also have highlighted its potential for rattling the government, which aggressively censors web content it views as a political threat.

In July, an investigative reporter who exposed alleged graft by a listed company in eastern China found himself on a most-wanted list for slander.

Qiu Ziming of the respected Economic Observer financial weekly went on the run, drawing thousands of "followers" with defiant blog posts declaring his innocence and alleging a cover-up.

Police eventually quashed his arrest order after public pressure in an episode that triggered a debate about abuse of official power.

Rumours of a split between President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were a hot recent topic after Wen made comments seen as urging political reform, and chatter on numerous graft cases and other scandals was widely credited with adding to online pressure that resulted in government action.

Micro-blogging services were briefly cut in July in what analysts said was a message from the government to users to toe the line, but authorities are beginning to use micro-blogging for their own ends as well.

A June government white paper on the Internet singled out micro-blogging as a useful communication tool and praised Internet users for "supervising" the government.

Local-level government agencies nationwide, such as Beijing's police, have set up accounts in a bid for openness -- or at least to guide public sentiment.

"The Chinese government learns very quickly and is very much at the forefront or ahead of the curve of what is on the Internet," said Bill Bishop, co-founder of the news site, who now blogs about the Internet in China.

"They are working very hard to effectively channel and manage public opinion. Weibo offer unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the government PR folks to deal with issues in near-real time."

Few experts however see microblogs as posing any imminent threat to the Communist government.

Beijing keeps firm control by restricting weibo services to top Chinese Internet firms well-versed at self-censorship, said Jeremy Goldkorn, editor of the China media website

"(Micro-blogging) adds to the pressure but it's not enough of a revolution to rewrite the rules of the game. The government can just hire more censors," he said.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Samsung 3Q earnings likely to fall from record

Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest seller of computer memory chips, forecast Thursday that third-quarter operating profit likely eased from the previous quarter's record high amid signs that growth in global demand is waning.
The Suwon, South Korea-based company expects consolidated operating profit of between 4.6 trillion won and 5 trillion won ($4.1 billion to $4.5 billion) for the three months ended Sept. 30, it said in a statement.

That would be higher than the 4.22 trillion won recorded in the third quarter last year but less than the 5.01 trillion won racked up in the second quarter of 2010.

Samsung shares fell 2.9 percent to close at 770,000 won amid declines in other Asian technology stocks.

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday cut its forecast for U.S. growth this year and next amid stubbornly high unemployment that is expected to restrain consumer spending. Major economies in Europe are also growing at an anemic pace.

Aside from dominance in chips, Samsung Electronics Co. is the world's biggest seller of liquid crystal displays and flat-screen televisions and ranks No. 2 in mobile phone handsets after Finland's Nokia Corp.

Samsung estimated consolidated sales of between 39 trillion won and 41 trillion won for the third quarter. That compares with sales of 35.9 trillion won a year earlier.

The company gave no reason for the expected quarterly results and plans to release details when it formally announces third-quarter earnings at the end of this month, according to spokesman Nam Ki-yung.
Lee Min-hee, an analyst at Dongbu Securities in Seoul, said that Samsung's earnings outlook is deteriorating amid falling memory chip prices and slowing momentum in the global information technology industry.

"Quarterly earnings peaked out in the second quarter in terms of operating profit," said Lee, who predicted a sharp decrease in the final three months of this year to about 3 trillion won.

Samsung reported record net profit of 4.28 trillion won in the second quarter and Lee estimated that the company will report a similar result during the third as foreign exchange-related gains boost the bottom line. Net profit, however, will decline to 2.6 trillion won in the final three months of the year, he said.

Samsung does not release net profit forecasts. Operating profit is seen as a direct indicator of business performance before taxes, dividends, asset sales and other items that are figured into net profit or loss.

Samsung began issuing earnings estimates, or guidance, last year in hopes increased transparency would help minimize market speculation over its performance. The estimates include the performance of its overseas and domestic subsidiaries.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Dogs can't talk but tag lets them trigger tweets

So your dog follows your every move around the house. Now, when you leave home, you can follow your dog.

Puppy Tweets is an electronic dog tag with a sensor that you attach to your dog's collar. It detects your pet's movements and sounds and sends a variety of tweets to a Twitter page you set up for your dog on a computer or smart phone. You can invite all your friends to be followers, too.
The new Mattel Inc. novelty is aimed at the pet-loving social network crowd, said spokeswoman Rachel Cooper.

There are 500 tweets programmed into the software that comes with the .05-ounce devices, available in blue and pink. The frequency of messages is directly related to the activity level of your dog, she said.

If a dog is very active, he could tweet: "Chasing everything that moves is definitely a full time job!" If he is sleeping, his inactivity might trigger the message: "Your comforter does just what its name says it does."

To guard against repetition, Mattel was adding 200 free tweets this week to the message library, Cooper said.

Bethenny Frankel, the star of "Bethenny Getting Married?" and one of "The Real Housewives of New York," and her dog Cookie hosted the official launch of Puppy Tweets in New York Thursday night.

A limited number of the tags went on sale earlier this year. Some buyers on complained about software problems, which Cooper said the company was working on and had mostly resolved.

The tags won't work on small dogs or cats, she said. And you can retweet messages as they come in, but you can't reply — at least not yet, Cooper said.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The next iPad: thinner, built-in camera, same screen size?

It’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be seeing a new iPad sometime early next year. How big it’ll be and how many we’ll get are open questions.
Rumors in the past few months have hinted at the possibility of a 7-inch iPad to go along with the current 9.7-inch model, and based on my brief hands-on time with the recently announced 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, a smaller, easy-to-hold iPad with a 7-inch screen might be a smart addition to the iPad line (although I personally prefer the 9.7-inch display).

But analysts at Goldman Sachs are pouring cold water on the 7-inch-iPad rumor, claiming in a recent note to investors (via Bloomberg) that the supposed smaller iPad "hasn’t been finalized," and that a new iPad slated for the second quarter of next year will retain the 9.7-inch display of the current model.

In addition, say the Goldman Sachs analysts (who are presumably basing their claims on anonymous sources and the usual industry "supply-line checks"; Apple, as usual, is keeping its lips sealed for now), the iPad 2 will be "thinner and lighter" than the original, with a built-in camera (for FaceTime video chat, one would hope) and a mini USB port — an addition that would address users' annoyance with the current iPad’s single 30-pin (and proprietary) connector.

Of course, these latest iPad rumors are still way preliminary. I’m guessing we’re still months away from the unveiling of a new iPad (or iPads, as the case may be), and I’m sure we’ll be getting a steady drip of iPad predictions in the meantime. Still, the Goldman Sachs report serves as a good jumping-off point for those of us pondering what we’d like to see in the next iPad.

A build-in camera for video chat, of course, would be a good start; one camera or two, though? Both the Samsung Tab and the just-unveiled BlackBerry PlayBook have two cameras, one in the front and one in back. But are dual cameras necessary in a tablet? I’d think that a single lens in front for video chat might be enough, considering that most of us already have cameras in our phones, but hey ... that’s me.
Now, given the choice of a second camera and a tablet that’s thinner and lighter, I’d go for the thin and light option. The current 9.7-inch iPad weighs in at about 1.5 pounds — perfectly fine in terms of toting around in a carry-on bag, but a bit on the heavy side when you’re holding it in your hand, especially if you’re reading a lengthy e-book. If a new 9.7-inch iPad could shave a half pound or more off its overall weight without sacrificing too much of its (extraordinary) battery life, that would make for a major improvement.

I’d also like to see the next iPad screen come with a tighter pixel density, something akin to the Retina display on the current iPhone 4 and the latest iPod Touch. A display that’s easier to read in direct sunlight would also be a nice touch, but short of some breakthrough in e-paper technology (which excels at readability outdoors but is still pretty shaky when it comes to color or full-motion video) in the coming months, I wouldn’t get too excited on that front.

As for a 7-inch iPad ... yes, I think it would be a good idea at some point. I’m a fan of the existing 9.7-inch display for its full-size on-screen QWERTY keypad and for watching HD movies, but a smaller iPad could be the perfect fit for those more interested in using the iPad as an e-reader than a movie viewer. (Then again, as far as e-readers go, it’s hard to beat the gorgeous new Kindle.)

In any case, it’s looking like the iPad will have to step up its game in the coming months given all the competition it’ll be facing from the likes of Samsung, RIM, Dell, Motorola and potentially even HTC. Yes, the tablet wars will be heating up very soon, and I can’t wait.

What would you like to see in the next iPad? Any interest in a 7-inch model?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

BlackBerry maker offers tablet aimed at businesses

The company that gave us the BlackBerry - still the dominant phone in corporate circles - thinks its business customers will have room in their briefcases for at least one more device: the PlayBook.
Research in Motion Ltd. showed off the tablet for the first time Monday and is set to launch it early 2011, with an international rollout later in the year. With it RIM is betting on a smaller, lighter device than Apple Inc.'s iPad, which kicked-started the tablet market when it launched in April.

The PlayBook will have a 7-inch screen, making it half the size of the iPad, and weigh about to the iPad's. And unlike the iPad, it will have two cameras, front and back. RIM didn't say what it would cost, but said it would be in the same range as the iPad, which starts at $499.

The PlayBook will be able to act as a second, larger screen for a BlackBerry phone, through a secure short-range wireless link. When the connection is severed - perhaps because the user walks away with the phone - no sensitive data like company e-mails are left on the tablet. Outside of Wi-Fi range, it will be able to pick up cellular service to access the Web by linking to a BlackBerry.
But the tablet will also work as a standalone device. RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said its goal is to present the full Web experience of a computer, including the ability to display Flash, Adobe Systems Inc.'s format for video and interactive material on the Web. That means the tablet will be less dependent on third-party applications or "apps," Balsillie said.

"I don't need to download a YouTube app if I've got YouTube on the Web," said Balsillie, who leads the company along with co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has resisted allowing Flash on any of the company's mobile gadgets, arguing the software has too many bugs and sucks too much battery life.

"Much of the market has been defined in terms of how you fit the Web to mobility," Balsillie said. "What we're launching is really the first mobile product that is designed to give full Web fidelity."

In part, the PlayBook is a move by RIM to protect its position as the top provider of mobile gadgets for the business set. Balsillie says he has had briefings with company chief information officers and "this is hands-down, slam-dunk what they're looking for."
Analysts agree that RIM's close relationship with its corporate clients could help the company establish a comfortable niche in the tablet market despite Apple's early lead.

"We do think that RIM has a play with enterprise customers because it has established relationships with so many businesses, and its technology is so deeply integrated with their IT departments," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said.

RIM is using a new operating system, built by QNX Software Systems, which it took over earlier this year, to harness the power of the tablet, but Balsillie said it will run existing apps for BlackBerry phones.

IDC predicts that the corporate market for tablet computers will grow as a portion of overall sales over the next few years. The firm forecasts that roughly 11 percent of overall tablet shipments, or 6.5 million units, will be to businesses, government agencies or schools by 2014. That would be up from just 2 percent, or 300,000 units, this year. And that figure doesn't count those who buy tablet computers on their own and use them for work.

RIM, which is based in which is based in Waterloo, Ontario, doesn't want the PlayBook to be just for work - the company invited video game maker Electronic Arts to help introduce the Playbook at an event in San Francisco on Monday - but it's clear that its advantages will lie in the work arena. Inc. announced it would make its Kindle e-book reading software available for the tablet.

The iPad has prompted a wave of competitors, so RIM won't be alone going after the tablet market. Computer maker Dell Inc. came out with its own tablet computer in August called the Streak. Samsung Electronics Co. plans to launch the Galaxy Tab next month and has already lined up all four major U.S. carriers to sell it and provide wireless service for it. Cisco Systems Inc. is also going after business customers with a tablet called the Cius early next year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sony 6X Blu-ray Writer USB Drive May Be Too Fast for PCs

Sony will launch an external Blu-ray Disc rewritable drive this month that can burn BD-R discs that support 6X speed, but users hoping for fast transfers might encounter a bottleneck in the form of their computer.
The 6X speed offered by the BDX-S500U when writing to single-sided discs translates into a write speed of 27MBps, according to the Blu-ray Disc specification. The drive connects to computers via USB 2.0, which has a theoretical maximum speed of 60MBps, but has been measured to run much slower in real-world tests.

Some of that speed is taken away by networking overheads built into the protocol, and more by inefficiences in many USB interface chips. A test earlier this year by Techworld found a USB 3.0 chipset, one of the first to support a new breed of faster USB connections, supported a maximum USB 2.0 write speed of just 11MBps. The speed is also shared among other peripherals on the USB bus, so could fall further.
Sony is bundling a 25GB single-sided 6X BD-R disc and CyberLink Media Suite 8 disc burning software with the drive, but the drive can also write to dual-layer 4X BD-R discs that hold 50GBs of data. It can also record to most of the common DVD and CD rewritable and writable formats.

Sony said the drive will be available this month, but did not announce pricing. However, several online retailers are already listing the drive for between US$214 and $240.