Thursday, September 29, 2011

Apple to unveil iPhone 5 on October 4

Apple plans to unveil its next generation iPhone next month, technology blog AllThingsD said Wednesday.
AllThingsD cautioned that Apple could "change its plans anytime," but said the present plan calls for Apple's new chief executive Tim Cook to preside over the launch of the iPhone 5 on October 4.

Cook, 50, replaced Apple's ailing co-founder Steve Jobs as chief executive of the Cupertino, California-based gadget-maker last month.
Citing "sources close to the situation," the Dow Jones-owned AllThingsD said the iPhone 5 would go on sale within a few weeks after the announcement.
Jobs, 56, the Silicon Valley visionary behind the Macintosh computer, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, stepped down as Apple's CEO on August 24.

Jobs has presided over Apple's splashy product launches in the past and AllThingsD said "the pressure will be on Cook to turn in a good performance."
"What will be interesting to see, of course, is if Jobs himself will also make an appearance, which is something that is likely to be determined by his health, in a decision that will be made very close to the event," it said.
Jobs underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009.

Apple released the iPhone 4 in June 2010 and sold 20.34 million of the devices last quarter.
Apple shares have been trading at record highs this week and the stock was up 1.37 percent at $419.13 on Wall Street on

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Japan robot to attempt Hawaii triathlon

After scaling the cliff walls of the Grand Canyon and driving the Le Mans racetrack for 24 hours, a tiny Japanese robot is set for a new challenge -- Hawaii's grueling Ironman Triathlon course

Panasonic's "Evolta" run robot, powered by the company's Evolta rechargable batteries, is demonstrated during a news conference in Tokyo September 15, 2011. The company said three types of Evolta robots, developed to swim, bike and run, will challenge to complete an Ironman triathlon course in Hawaii, a total of about 230 km, within one week or 168 hours from October 24, 2011, powered by three AA-size rechargeable Evolta batteries, the company said.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Google adds Visa, Amex, Discover cards to Wallet

Google's Wallet is getting thicker. The company is adding Visa, American Express and Discover to its payment system, which aims to make cellphones the credit cards of tomorrow.
Google Inc. on Monday said it has licensed the right to add virtual "cards" from the three payment networks to its Wallet application.

MasterCard Inc., the other major payment processor, is already part of the project. The Wallet application Google released on Monday, so far, only works on one Sprint smartphone. The Wallet can be loaded with a Citibank MasterCard or a prepaid debit card from Google.

With a card in the Wallet, owners can pay in stores by tapping their phones on wireless-capable payment terminals, instead of swiping credit cards. There are more than 135,000 such terminals in stores and other retail locations, but that's a small fraction of the total number of terminals.

Google's vice president of payments, Osama Bedier, couldn't say when cards from Visa Inc., American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services would work with the wallet. In the case of Visa, not only does Google need to work out the technical details of making its wallet compatible, it also needs to get the banks that issue the cards to sign on to the project, like Citigroup Inc. did for its MasterCard.

Google also needs more phones that work with the wallet. Bedier said Google is working with all major manufacturers of smartphones that run on Google's Android software to incorporate chips that communicate with payment terminals. Samsung Electronics Co. makes the Nexus S phone that works with the wallet today.
Visa plans to bring out its own, competing mobile wallet application. The competition isn't about getting a cut of the money that flows through the credit card accounts — Google isn't directly tapping into that stream — but about who gets to reach people when and where they shop. The applications are conduits for advertising in the form of coupons and loyalty cards. These opportunities are the real reason companies like Google and Visa are pushing to have cellphones replace credit cards.

Sprint Nextel Corp. is collaborating with Google, but the other three national wireless carriers — Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA — have formed a joint venture to create their own digital wallet. They, too, are working with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Satellite pieces to hit Earth in a week

U.S. space officials say they expect a dead satellite to fall to Earth in about a week.
NASA has been watching the 6-ton (5.4-metric ton) satellite closely. On Friday officials moved up their prediction for its arrival to Sept. 23, give or take a day.
NASA scientists have calculated the satellite will break into 26 pieces as it gets closer to Earth. The odds of it hitting someone anywhere on the planet are 1 in 3,200. The heaviest piece to hit the ground will be about 350 pounds (159 kilograms), but no one has ever been hit by falling space junk in the past.
NASA expects to give the public more detailed information early next week. For now, all continents except Antarctica could be hit by satellite debris.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Microsoft CEO sees Windows as key to growth plan

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer assured analysts on Wednesday that Windows remains the software maker's financial foundation, even though slowing personal computer sales are raising worries about the operating system's ability to adapt to the new ways people and business are using technology.
"Windows is at the center of our 'go-forward' strategy," Ballmer said during a presentation held in Anaheim, near Disneyland. "We feel very comfortable that this is a smart thing to do for our customers and the smart thing to do for our shareholders."
The Associated Press monitored Microsoft's analyst meeting via webcast.
Ballmer's upbeat tone reflected a positive buzz surrounding Windows 8, a version due out next year that Microsoft is touting as the most radical makeover of its lucrative operating system since 1995. Windows 8 is being designed to run on devices that boot up faster and work on touch-screen computer tablets, as well as on PCs that depend on keyboards and mice.
The overhaul is Microsoft's most aggressive response to the tablet craze that Apple Inc. set off with its release of the iPad in 2009.
Since then, Apple has sold more than 28 million iPads and analysts expect tens of millions more to be sold by the time Windows 8 is ready to be shipped. Microsoft isn't saying when Windows 8 will go on sale, but analysts expect it to hit the market at some point between July and the 2012 holiday shopping season.
In the meantime, Microsoft is still promoting Windows 7, which has sold nearly 450 million copies since its 2009 release. It just recently surpassed Windows XP — a decade-old operating system — as the most widely used version of Microsoft's operating systems, according to company estimates.
To build the excitement for what's coming next, Microsoft provided its most extensive demonstration of Windows 8 so far Tuesday during a packed meeting with applications developers. It gave away 5,000 Samsung tablets running on a preliminary version of Windows 8 and also is allowing anyone to take the software for a test spin if they want to install it on their own machines. By Wednesday morning, Ballmer said more than 500,000 copies of Windows 8 had been downloaded.
"The initial reaction has been all we have been hoping for," Ballmer told analysts.
That may be so, but Microsoft still appears to have work to do to win back investors who have become increasingly convinced that the company has lost its competitive edge as Google Inc. emerged as the Internet's most powerful player and Apple Inc. shaped mobile computing trends with the iPhone and iPad tablet.
The Internet and mobile devices are now seen as more compelling franchises with greater future potential than the PC business that Microsoft has milked since the 1980s with Windows and its Office suite of software.
Since Google went public in August 2004, its stock has increased by more than six fold while Microsoft's shares have dipped 2 percent. And since Apple released the first iPhone in June 2007, its stock has more than tripled while Microsoft's shares have backtracked 11 percent. That shift enabled Apple to surpass Microsoft as the world's most valuable technology company.
Microsoft shares closed Wednesday at $26.50, up 46 cents.
The lackluster performance of Microsoft's stock has intensified the pressure on Ballmer, an exuberant leader who succeeded company co-founder Bill Gates as CEO in 2000. With Microsoft's revenue growth slowing, Ballmer has curbed spending and even laid off workers to save money. The penny-pinching helped Microsoft boost its revenue to $774,000 per employee in its last fiscal year ending in June compared with $622,000 per worker in fiscal 2006, Microsoft boasted Wednesday.
Ballmer, 55, is betting Windows 8 will help Microsoft catch up in tablets and renew demand for PCs that can be operated with a touch of the finger as well as with the traditional navigation tools.
Microsoft is also scrambling to build a mobile version of Windows that will be more widely embraced in the smartphone market, where it has fallen behind Google's Android operating system as well as Apple's iPhone system. "I don't love where we are now, but I am very optimistic of where we can be," Ballmer said.
The company's proposed $8.5 billion acquisition of Internet phone and video service Skype is expected to become a key part of Microsoft's mobile strategy. Microsoft is hoping to gain regulatory approval to close the Skype deal before January.
After losing billions of dollars investing in Internet search technology during the past five years, Microsoft believes it's in a better position to gain ground on Google — a name synonymous with looking things up online. Microsoft's Bing search engine has been steadily picking up market share since its 2009 introduction but the gains have mostly come at the expense of Yahoo Inc.
Deciding to rather save money than fight Google, Yahoo last year began relying on Microsoft's technology for most of its search results. That alliance has enabled Microsoft to process about 30 percent of the search requests made in the U.S. compared to about 65 percent at Google.
Yahoo has been struggling far more than Microsoft in recent years. The ongoing problems prompted Yahoo's board to fire Carol Bartz, the CEO who negotiated the Internet search partnership with Microsoft.
Since Bartz's unceremonious departure last week, there has been mounting speculation that Yahoo might put itself up for sale rather than hire a permanent CEO. Either way, Ballmer said Microsoft's 10-year contract with Yahoo won't be affected.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Facebook to organize friends in 'smart lists'

It's a modern-day dilemma: You really want your Facebook friends to see that wild party photo of you wearing bunny ears. But you're not so keen on explaining it to your mother-in-law.
Well, Facebook aims to make life easier.
Beginning Wednesday, the social network will make it easier to share photos, posts and links with smaller, isolated groups of people. While the site has allowed users to separate their friends into lists since 2007, this option took quite a bit of work and only a small fraction of Facebook users took advantage of it.
Now, Facebook will automatically group your friends based on whether they live near you, went to your school or work with you. You can read posts or share updates with specific groups instead of dozens, or hundreds, of "friends" at a time. Facebook will use the colleges, workplaces and geographic locations that users share on the site to organize people into groups. Called "smart lists," the feature is optional to use, and the lists are customizable.
"Users don't really want to spend a lot of time creating and maintaining friend lists," said Naomi Gleit, the director of product at Facebook who worked on the feature.
In addition, you can create your own friend groups with as few or as many as you would like, based around hobbies, work projects or relatives, for example.
Listing people as "close friends," meanwhile, will ensure that you will see the posts and photos from the dozen or so friends you care about the most. Updates from these people will feature more prominently in your news feed and you can opt to receive email notifications every time they post something on Facebook, Gleit said.
Conversely, those categorized as "acquaintances" will feature less prominently on your Facebook page, and you will see just big news, such as marriages and new babies.
Facebook's latest move takes a page from Google Plus, the fledgling social network launched this summer by the online search leader. Google's service so far has not threatened to unseat Facebook as the world's biggest online social network. But its sleek design and innovative, privacy-focused features piqued the interest of many Facebook users and critics, helping to foster healthy competition among these Silicon Valley neighbors.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dell, Baidu team up for tablets and mobiles

Dell Inc is partnering China's top search engine Baidu Inc to develop tablet computers and mobile phones, targeting the Chinese market now dominated by Apple Inc and Lenovo devices.
China is one of the fastest growing markets for tablets and is home to more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers. Analysts said the tie-up could be Dell's way to revive its flagging tablet business.
"I suspect this is just Dell, who has a lot of problems on the mobile and tablet front, grasping at straws to get any kind of publicity that it can to make its product more attractive," said Michael Clendenin, managing director of technology consultancy RedTech Advisors.
"Ultimately in China, I still think it is Apple's game, still for the iPad and iPhone."

Baidu is one of China's best known brands and a mobile phone or tablet carrying the Baidu name will be able to leverage on that recognition all over China, analysts said.
Dell declined to give a timeline for the launch of the devices, but local media reported on Tuesday, quoting sources, that it may be as early as November.
"We have a partnership with Baidu and you know we have the Streak 5 tablet, so the partnership will be in that space," a Dell spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that both companies were also cooperating on the mobile handset front.
Dell's Streak 5 tablet is a five-inch Android-based tablet that was discontinued in the United States last month.
The Dell tie-up underscores Baidu's efforts to widen its product offerings and leverage its near 80 percent share of the country's search market, the world's largest.
"All PC brands are trying to differentiate themselves from each other in the mobile space, and Dell's tie-up with Baidu may give it first-mover advantage in the China market," said Hanna Chang, an analyst with SinoPac Securities in Taipei.
Baidu launched a new mobile application platform last week and offered a glimpse of its upcoming mobile operating system which it hopes will serve a growing number of users accessing the Internet from smartphones and tablet computers.
The company said it already had partnerships with Dell and other device makers and declined to comment on the new tie-up. Dell said the partnership with Baidu involved the company's new mobile platform.
Baidu has built on its dominance of China's search market significantly since Google's high-profile exit last year citing hacking and censorship concerns.
Baidu's Nasdaq-listed shares are up nearly 50 percent so far this year, giving it a market value of around $50 billion.
A Dell-Baidu tie-up would be the latest in a series of developments re-shaping the mobile devices market.
Last month, Google said it would acquire Motorola Mobility Holdings for $12.5 billion, in a move that will put Google into a lower-margin manufacturing business and pit it against as many as 38 other handset companies that use Google's Android software.
"Dell has got nothing to lose, they don't have a big mobile presence, so by partnering Baidu, they will probably get some momentum for their mobile products," said Sandy Shen, a research director with Gartner.
Dell has chosen China to launch new products before. In June, Dell said it had chosen to launch its new 10-inch Android tablet in China this summer, passing up on a U.S. and European launch, in a sign of the market's growing importance to the company.
Dell's China sales grew 22 percent in the first quarter while its retail presence in China exceeds 10,000 sales points.
In 2009, Dell announced it will enter the smartphone market starting in China before moving into Brazil.
Dell and Baidu's tie-up is unlikely to have an impact on Apple's quest for the hearts and minds of smartphone customers, analysts said. Technology heavyweights have failed so far to take a significant bite out of the iPad's success.
Hewlett-Packard Co said it would kill its TouchPad after just seven weeks on shelves, joining Dell's Streak 5 in the tablet graveyard. Weak sales for many offerings suggest others are likely to follow.

Monday, September 05, 2011

2 Mexicans deny terrorism, face 30 years for tweet

A former teacher turned radio commentator and a math tutor who lives with his mother sit in a prison in southern Mexico, facing possible 30-year sentences for terrorism and sabotage in what may be the most serious charges ever brought against anyone using a Twitter social network account.
Prosecutors say the defendants helped cause a chaos of car crashes and panic as parents in the Gulf Coast city of Veracruz rushed to save their children because of false reports that gunmen were attacking schools.
Gerardo Buganza, interior secretary for Veracruz state, compared the panic to that caused by Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." But he said the fear roused by that account of a Martian invasion of New Jersey "was small compared to what happened here."
"Here, there were 26 car accidents, or people left their cars in the middle of the streets to run and pick up their children, because they thought these things were occurring at their kids' schools," Buganza told local reporters.
The charges say the messages caused such panic that emergency numbers "totally collapsed because people were terrified," damaging service for real emergencies.
Veracruz, the state's largest city, and the neighboring suburb of Boca del Rio were already on edge after weeks of gunbattles involving drug traffickers. One attack occurred on a major boulevard. In another, gunmen tossed a grenade outside the city aquarium, killing an tourist and seriously wounding his wife and their two young children.
On Aug. 25, nerves were further frayed when residents saw armed convoys of marines circulating on the streets, making some think a confrontation with gangs was imminent.
That is when Gilberto Martinez Vera, who works as a low-paid tutor at several private schools, allegedly opened the floodgates of fear with repeated messages that gunmen were taking children from schools.
"My sister-in-law just called me all upset, they just kidnapped five children from the school," Martinez tweeted.
In fact, no such kidnappings occurred that day. Defense lawyer Claribel Guevara said the rumors already had started and that Martinez Vera was just relaying what others told him. She said he never claimed to have firsthand knowledge of the incident.
But in a subsequent tweet about the kidnap rumor, he said, "I don't know what time it happened, but it's true." He also tweeted that three days earlier, "they mowed down six kids between 13 and 15 in the Hidalgo neighborhood." While a similar attack occurred, it didn't involve children.
Prosecutors say the rumors were also sent by Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola, who has worked as a teacher, a state arts official and a radio commentator. She says she was just relaying such messages to her own Twitter followers.
"How can they possibly do this to me, for re-tweeting a message? I mean, it's 140 characters. It's not logical,'" said Guevara, quoting her client.
Better known on the radio and social networks as "Maruchi," her Facebook site now features the Twitter logo, a little bluebird, blindfolded and standing in front of the scales of justice, with the slogan "I too am a TwitTerrorist."
Online petitions are circulating to demand her release, and the pair's cause has been taken up by human rights groups that call the charges exaggerated. Amnesty International says officials are violating freedom of expression and it blames the panic on the uncertainty many Mexicans feel amid a drug war in which more than 35,000 people have died over the past five years.
"The lack of safety creates an atmosphere of mistrust in which rumors that circulate on social networks are part of people's efforts to protect themselves, since there is very little trustworthy information," Amnesty wrote in a statement on the case.
In violence-wracked cities in the northern state of Tamaulipas, citizens and even authorities have used Twitter and Facebook to warn one another about shootouts.
Anita Vera, Martinez Vera's 71-year-old mother, said her 48-year-old son still lives at her house with his girlfriend. She said he told her that had posted his messages after the panic had already started.
"He told me "Mom, I didn't start any of this, I just transmitted what I was told,'" Vera Martellis said after visiting her son in prison.
"He used the computer, but I swear that my son never wanted to do anybody harm, or start a revolution, like they say he did," said Vera, who ekes out a living selling flowers.
Raul Trejo, an expert on media and violence at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the terrorism charge is unwarranted, but described the case as "a very incautious use of Twitter."
He noted that in Mexico, "Twitter has been used by drug traffickers to create panic with false warnings." In one case, a wave of messages about impending violence shut down schools, bars and restaurants in the central city of Cuernavaca last year.
Trejo said Twitter users must learn "not to believe everything, and simply take the Twitter messages as an indication that some (report) is making the rounds."
But the real problem appears to be that governments cannot prevent drug cartel violence or even accurately inform citizens about it. Local news media are often so battered by kidnappings and killings of reporters that, in many states, they are loath to report about it.
"These Twitter users had accounts with a few hundred followers," Trejo noted. "If these lies grew, it is not so much because they propagated them, but because in Veracruz as in most of the rest of the country, there is such a lack of public safety that the public is inclined to believe unconfirmed acts of violence ... The government doesn't make clear what is happening."
Defense attorneys also say their clients were held incommunicado for almost three days, unable to see a lawyer.
It appears one of the most serious sets of charges ever brought for sending or resending Twitter messages.
Tweeter Paul Chambers was fined 385 pounds and ordered to pay 2,000 pounds ($3,225) in prosecution costs last year for tweeting that if northern England's Robin Hood Airport didn't reopen in time for his flight, "I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
Venezuelan authorities last year charged two people with spreading false information about the country's banking system using Twitter and urging people to pull money out of banks. They could serve nine to 11 years in prison if convicted.
In 2009, a Chinese woman was sentenced to a year in a labor camp for posting a satirical Twitter message about the Japan pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.