Wednesday, July 27, 2011

50 Percent Will Abandon Facebook for Google+, Poll Finds

As Google+'s numbers climb to an estimated 18 million users, PCMag asked readers: will you ditch Facebook for Google+?
As of publication time, a total of 6,237 readers have weighed in, overwhelmingly in favor of Google+. Half of the respondents (50 percent or 3,091 people) said they like Google+ and they plan to leave Facebook. The second most popular response came from 21 percent of voters (1,303 people) who said they're undecided, considering how new Google+ is. There's still 12 percent (733 people) of readers who said they haven't been unable to join G+ yet. The idea of social networking as a whole was rejected by 11 percent (682 people) who said they're against the whole concept. Only 7 percent (428 people) said Facebook is irreplaceable and they're sticking with it.
Despite the poll's response, it's highly unlikely there will be such a significant exodus from Facebook. Facebook boasts a membership of 750 million people—375 million people just aren't going to quit the number one social network. But the results of this informal poll point to a bigger issue: people are increasingly annoyed with Facebook.
"There is no reason to stay on horrible Facebook, period," user tlwinslow wrote. "It's the ZuckerBeast, an enemy of everyone's personal privacy, and must go, it really must go. More power to Google for providing a saner alternative."
Commenter Stephanie Daughterty also expressed some Facebook-induced frustration: "Seriously, Facebook was already on my bad side," wrote. "One word: appspam. If the only way there is for me to cut off all the FrontierVille and CityVille and all those other things that are clogging up my wall is to turn off all apps, it's a flawed model—the same flawed formula that made MySpace into the laughing stock of the social networking world."
Others argued that Google+ won't be worthwhile until more people join.
"Personally, I'll actually start using [Google+] once I see an influx of friends using it," reader Travis Brown wrote. "After all, that's why I use a social networking site in the first place. A 'cool' way to organize the people I know does not justify a move at this point."
But still, some readers appear to be loyal to Facebook.
"I see no reason to move to Google+. Facebook works well and all my friends are there," user Don Reba said.
Google+ has only been around for about a month, so how it will perform in the long run remains to be seen. The comparison of Google+ to Facebook is unavoidable, and perhaps Google has launched its social network at just the right time to take a bite out of Facebook's 750 million users; the site has been plagued by low consumer satisfaction and pervasive privacy concerns.
It's possible Google+ fans are in the honeymoon stage with the new platform, too; the fresh social network has its own issues, as Google figures out how to handle businesses and pseudonyms on the site.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

RIM buys Swedish video editor for PlayBook

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion said on Friday it has bought Swedish video editing company JayCut and hinted the operation will work on features for its PlayBook tablet computer.
"By working with JayCut to add video editing capabilities to the BlackBerry platform we can further enrich our customers' multimedia experience with BlackBerry," RIM's chief technology officer, David Yach, wrote on RIM's blog.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The seven-employee Stockholm-based company licenses its online video editor to customers.
JayCut joins Stockholm-based design company The Astonishing Tribe, which was bought by the Canadian smartphone and tablet maker in December to improve user interface.
In the blog post announcing the purchase, Yach pointed out that the PlayBook, which has struggled to wrest attention from Apple's iPad, has dual high-definition cameras, high-quality playback and can send images to a television screen via a common cable.
RIM has bought a number of companies to fill particular needs in recent years. They include QNX Software, which provides the PlayBook's operating system, and Torch Mobile, which enabled the company to upgrade its Web browser, long criticized as slow in comparison to rivals.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Anything for an Apple gadget in China - even kidney

So strong is the appeal of the Apple brand in China, some Chinese are willing to sell a kidney to pay for its gadgets.

Apple Inc's iPads, iPhones and iMacs have been a smash hit in China, especially with the affluent, and upwardly mobile, middle classes and fashion-conscious urban youth who are snapping up the slinky, easy-to-use goods with gusto.

The apparently insatiable appetite for Apple goods in the world's second largest economy is good news for the Cupertino, California-based firm, which reported forecast-smashing results this week, helped by massive growth in Asia, and China in particular.

It's also created a sizable market for knock-offs in the world's prime manufacturer of imitation goods, where pirates set up a fake Apple Store in the southwestern city of Kunming that is so good that even the employees believe it's the real deal.

"Apple is a very well-known brand in China, and that's reason enough for some people to buy," said Xu Ziqing, a 23-year-old Beijing hotel receptionist.

"Chinese people these days care very much about brands. They might not know whether the product is truly good or bad, but if it's a good brand, they will want it."

Desperation to get hold of Apple computers can lead to extreme behaviour.

Last month, state media reported that a teenager from the poor inland province of Hunan had sold one of his kidneys to be able to afford an iPad 2.

The tablet computer is also becoming the must-have accessory on Beijing's notoriously crowded, stifling subway, a transport network used mainly by middle-income white collar workers and eschewed by the wealthy.

Apple executives have said they have just scratched the surface in China, and the company is in the process of opening more stores there.

Apple's two Beijing stores -- in the shopping districts of Xidan and Sanlitun -- heave with people, even on weekdays, and on weekends, queues can stretch around the block. For many customers, Apple products are a tangible sign of belonging to a certain social strata.

"All of my friends use Apples. I thought it was time we found out what the fuss was all about," said Annie Xue, browsing a 13,000 yuan ($2,015) 27-inch iMac with her husband at one of Apple's two bustling official retail stores in Beijing.

"I've only used Windows before, and I am a little worried I won't be able to find my way around an Apple. But it seems so easy and intuitive," she added.

At the company's official Beijing stores, Apple employees claim to have heard nothing of the fake shop in Kunming.

"I can assure you that there are only four official Apple stores in China, and you're standing in one of them right now," said one employee at the crowded Sanlitun branch.

Many Chinese are attracted to Apple goods precisely because they are made by a reputable foreign company, and are not tainted with the suspicion of shoddiness that comes with many local brands.

The fact that Apple computers are all assembled in China doesn't seem to matter to many customers. Some could not believe that their country has anything to do with the gadgets they craved.

"It's made in China? Really? I had no idea," said travel agent Xiao Wang, fiddling with a shop display iPad.

"No Chinese company could make something as cool as this," she added, upon being assured it was actually designed in California. "It's money well spent."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Entire Apple stores being faked in China

China, long known for producing counterfeit consumer gadgets, software and brand name clothing, has reached a new piracy milestone — fake Apple stores.

An American who lives in Kunming in southern Yunnan province said Thursday that she and her husband stumbled on three shops masquerading as bona fide Apple stores in the city a few days ago.

She took photos and posted them on her BirdAbroad blog that show staff in blue T-shirts with the Apple logo chatting to customers in a white-walled shop with minimalist decor and signs advertising the iPad 2.

The three stores are not among the authorized resellers listed on Apple Inc.'s website. The maker of the iPhone and other hit gadgets has four company stores in China — two in Beijing and two in Shanghai — and various official resellers. Apple's Beijing office declined to comment.

The proliferation of the fake stores underlines the slow progress that China's government is making in countering a culture of a rampant piracy and widespread production of bogus goods that is a major irritant in relations with trading partners.

China's Commerce Minister promised American executives earlier this year that the latest in a string of crackdowns on product piracy would deliver lasting results.

The 27-year-old blogger, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the set-up of the stores was so convincing that the employees themselves seemed to believe they worked for Apple.

"It looked like an Apple store. It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue T-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks," she wrote on her blog.

"But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn't been painted properly. Apple never writes 'Apple Store' on its signs — it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit."

A worker at the fake Apple store on Zhengyi Road in Kunming, which most of the photos of the BirdAbroad blog show, told The Associated Press that they are an "Apple store" before hanging up.

The manager of an authorized reseller in Kunming, who gave only his surname, Zhang, said most customers have no idea the stores are fake.

Some of the staff in the stores "can't even operate computers properly or tell you all the functions of the mobile phone," he said.

"There are more and more of these fake stores in Kunming. Although they may sell real Apple products, some of those products were not imported through legal means. And they cost more."

Friday, July 08, 2011

Security holes discovered in iPhones, iPads

A new security hole has opened up in Apple Inc.'s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, raising alarms about the susceptibility of some of the world's hottest tech gadgets to hacker attacks.

Flaws in the software running those devices came to light after a German security agency warned that criminals could use them to steal confidential data off the devices. Apple, the world's largest technology company by market value, said Thursday that it is working on a fix that will be distributed in an upcoming software upgrade.

With the security hole, an attacker can get malicious software onto a device by tricking its owner into clicking an infected PDF file. Germany's Federal Office for Information Security called the flaws "critical weaknesses" in Apple's iOS operating system.

Internet-connected mobile devices are still subject to fewer attacks than personal computer, but they could eventually prove a juicy target for hackers because they are warehouses of confidential banking, e-mail, calendar, contact and other data.

Software vulnerabilities are discovered all the time. What makes the latest discovery alarming is that the weaknesses are already being actively exploited — albeit in a consensual way.

The latest concerns were prompted by the emergence of a new version of a program to allow Apple devices to run any software and circumvent the restrictions that Apple notoriously retains over software distributed through its online store. There are security risks of doing so, but many people find it liberating to install their own software.

Although this program is something people would seek out, the weaknesses that its authors discovered could easily be used for malice, security experts say.

There is an irony in the controversy: The site distributing the program offers a fix for the problem, but to get the fix, a user has to first install the program in question. So a user must defy Apple's restrictions to get the protection until Apple comes up with a fix of its own.

Charlie Miller, a prominent hacker of Apple products, said it likely took months to develop the program to break Apple's restrictions, but a criminal might need only a day or two to modify it for nefarious purposes.

Apple Inc. spokeswoman Bethan Lloyd said Thursday the company is "aware of this reported issue and developing a fix." She would not say when the update will be available.

One reason for gadget owners to take heart: Attacks on smartphones and other Internet gadgets are still relatively rare. One reason is PC-based attacks are still highly lucrative. Still, vulnerabilities such as the ones Apple is confronting show that consumers should take care of securing their mobile devices as they would their home computer.

"These things are computers — they're just small, portable computers that happen to have a phone tacked onto them," said Marc Fossi, manager of research and development for Symantec Security Response. "You've got to treat them more like a computer than a phone. You have to be aware of what's going on with these devices."

Thursday, July 07, 2011

tabloid's hacker targeted dead soldiers AP

A published report says that the telephone numbers of relatives of dead military personnel have been found in files amassed by a detective employed by a Sunday tabloid newspaper.
The Daily Telegraph's report in Thursday's edition could not be independently verified, and the newspaper did not identify the source of its information. There was no indication whether any of those telephones had been hacked.
The BBC reported that relatives of some soldiers say they have not been contacted by police, but that a newspaper had asked them about possible hacking.
The News of the World, the newspaper which is the focus of a criminal investigation, issued a statement saying it would be "absolutely appalled and horrified" if there was any truth in the allegation.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

China's Baidu, Microsoft to cooperate in search

Chinese search giant Baidu Inc. will use Microsoft's Bing for some English-language results as the software giant tries to expand its small share of China's search market.

China has the world's biggest population of Internet users, with more than 450 million people online. Global e-commerce, search and other Internet brands have struggled to gain a foothold against aggressive local competitors in a heavily regulated market.

No financial details of the tie-up between Microsoft Corp. and Baidu were released. The Chinese company has been looking at possible expansion abroad.

Google Inc., which competes against Bing and Baidu, closed its China search engine last year after saying it no longer wanted to cooperate with government censorship. Chinese users can reach Google's site in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory without censorship, but government filters can make access sluggish and its China market share has declined.

Baidu has 75.8 percent of China's search market while Google has 19.2 percent, according to Analysys International, a Beijing research firm. Bing's China market share is so small that Analysys counts it among "others" that have a total of 2.2 percent.

Baidu, long seen as a Google imitator, has launched a series of video and other services in an effort to differentiate itself.

In a statement, Baidu vice president Samuel Shen said the agreement with Bing will improve English search for Baidu users and raise Bing's profile in China. Baidu says its site already handles about 10 million English searches daily.

Industry analysts say a big share of future growth in Chinese search will be in the countryside, where users speak little English.

Beijing encourages Web use for business and education but tries to block access to material considered subversive or pornographic. Search engines in China are required to block results for banned sites abroad.

China's top Internet companies are profitable and growing fast but are only beginning to expand abroad.

A major Chinese portal, Sina Corp., said last month it will launch an English-language version of its popular Weibo microblog for users abroad, entering a market dominated by U.S.-based Twitter.

Other competitors including Chinese state media outlets have jumped into China's search market since Google's departure. The government's Xinhua News Agency and state-owned phone carrier China Mobile Ltd. launched their own search engine,, in February.

Baidu still makes nearly all its revenue in China. Its profit for the first quarter of 2011 more than doubled from a year earlier to 1.07 billion yuan ($163.5 million).

Baidu launched its first site abroad in 2007 in Japan and analysts expect more sites in other countries to follow.

Last month, Baidu announced it was investing $306 million in Qunar, a Chinese travel search engine, to become the company's majority shareholder.

Google has said its advertising revenue in China is growing despite the closure of its mainland search engine.

The company was allowed to keep sales offices in China and says its biggest opportunities are in selling advertising for local websites or to companies that want to reach customers abroad through Google's global sites.