Monday, November 30, 2009

eReaders: Great Christmas Gifts

PC Mag

I just read a column by a guy whom I know, respect, and, typically, agree with. However this time, I think Mike Elgan over at Computerworld got it wrong. His post, "7 reasons why e-book readers make lousy gifts this year" sounds reasonable, but here are seven reasons why he's wrong.

1. Form Follows Function
I love when a device is so perfectly modeled after its purpose. Currently, Amazon's Kindle is the apex of the design imperative for e-readers. In fact, I'm not sure Barnes & Noble's Nook will outdo it, even with that nifty energy-sucking LCD color screen (which, of course, has nothing to do with the act of reading). The current crop of e-readers from Amazon, Sony, and others are thin, easy to hold, and, especially in Sony's case, exceptionally easy to use. All e-readers should have a touch screen that recognizes sweeping a finger across the screen as the gesture for "turn the page." Let's also not forget how thin most e-readers are. The Kindle is thinner than a book, much thinner than three books and two magazines, and sits comfortably in your pocketbook, backpack or hand. I don't think we could say the same of a laptop or tablet.

2. There is No better Way to Travel with All of Your Reading Material

Most e-books hold 1,500 books in their flash memory. The typical reader will travel with three or four tomes of varying sizes. You can also, as I have, move magazine subscriptions to the platform. Recently, I started getting my New Yorker on the Kindle. The reading experience is, to be honest, different and a little weird. I no longer have the interstitial experience of seeing cartoons sandwiched inside a massive article on the coup in Honduras. All the cartoons are in a section at the end of the digital magazine. On the other hand, when a magazine of this density arrives every week, it's impossible to keep up. I have been known to travel across the country with no fewer than five issues in my backpack. With my Kindle, those days are over. I could keep a dozen issues on the device and never feel the weight.

3. Access to the Digital e-book Store is Free, No Matter Where You Are and Books are Cheaper, Too

It's true, there are no discounts or subsidies when you by an ereader from Amazon or Sony. But Amazon's 3G Whispernet cellular service is 100-percent free. I can peruse the Amazon bookstore from wherever I am and even do a little web browsing (though the browser is awful) if I want, and I never pay a thing. This also means that when my latest New York Times or New Yorker is available, I don't have to look for an open Wi-Fi network or hook up to my PC. I just turn on the free connection and download. Many of the books are cheaper than their physical counterparts and magazine subscriptions can be cheaper, too.

4. E-books are the Best Way to Read the Old-Fashioned Way
I know a lot of people who stare at a computer screen all day and complain of about eyestrain. E-ink, a technology that's significantly different than LCD display technology, is fixed (no refresh), reflective (like paper), and it doesn't introduce eyestrain unless you need new glasses or are reading without enough light. I can read on my Kindle for hours and never feel anything but delight. Yes, I have tried Kindle for the PC and reading e-books on iPhones. Both experiences were somewhat less satisfying. In fact, the iPhone was, for me at least, a total bust: The screen is just too small for reading a lengthy novel.

5. E-books Are for Sharing
Yes, it's true, DRM constraints make it impossible for me to share my Kindle books with someone who owns a Nook (Oh, wait, no one does yet) or even someone with a Sony eReader. That's not great. On the other hand, if I buy everyone in my family a Kindle and then give Kindles as gifts to my relatives over the next few years, we can share books. The reality is that I almost never share books with anyone. I used to buy them at Barnes & Noble, read them, and then put them on my shelf. Eventually, I might try and sell them at a garage sale for 50 cents each. It's easier to have virtual books that I either keep on my Kindle or eventually discard.

6. Lots of People Still Want e-books

Mr. Elgan says everyone who wants an e-reader already has one. That would make sense if Barnes & Noble hadn't just sold out of a device that it can't even deliver in time for Christmas, and Amazon's Kindle hadn't just broken a sales record. I think the demand is still there and, in fact, growing.

7. E-reader Technology is Still Cutting Edge

2010 may be the year of the tablet, but no one really knows what the age of tablet will mean for consumers. Are tablets the upgrade to e-readers or, because they'll use LCD technology, be heavier and probably a lot more expensive, will they be something completely different? Plus, with the sudden demise of Michael Arrington's CrunchPad, the future probably just got brighter for the e-reader market, didn't it?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Intel Raises Dividend 12.5%

Wall Street Journal

Intel Corp.'s board approved a 12.5% dividend increase, the latest indication that technology companies are growing more hopeful about the economic recovery.

The increase puts the chip giant's quarterly dividend at 15.75 cents a share and marks the first change to the dividend since the second quarter of 2008. Intel, which began issuing dividends in 1992, has boosted its payout 14 times since then.

Technology companies have been among the first to experience a rebound in business, in part because they sell heavily to countries in Asia that have emerged more quickly from the recession. Intel has been reporting stronger-than-expected results lately; its cash and investments stood at $12.9 billion at the end of September, up from $11.3 billion at the end of June.

"The dividend increase is another sign of our confidence in business prospects going forward," said Paul Otellini, Intel's chief executive officer, in prepared remarks.

One cause for uncertainty was removed last week, when Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. announced a settlement of a high-stakes antitrust case set to go to trial in March. Intel agreed to pay AMD $1.25 billion and to adopt limits on some sales practices.

Intel is "encouraged with AMD behind them," said Timothy Luke, an analyst at Barclays Capital. "Their business trends now remain solid, and they are generating cash."

Intel shares rose 41 cents, or 2.1%, to $20.23 in 4 p.m. composite trading Monday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The stock has risen about 50% over the past 52 weeks.

The company is the 11th listed in the Standard & Poors 500-stock index to announce a dividend so far in November, said Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst with S&P. But he added that the recession continues to have lingering effects on payouts, which he estimates are about $53 billion lower in aggregate for S&P 500 companies this year. "It's going to take years to bring that back up," he said.

Despite Intel's short-term optimism, the company and Newsweek magazine Monday released the results of a survey that showed only one-third of Americans see the country retaining technological leadership over the next 30 years. Some 63% of Chinese respondents predicted their country would overtake America in technology innovation during that period.

Justin Rattner, Intel's chief technology officer, said the survey showed that Americans feel technology is important to the economy but the results point to needed changes by industry and government in managing research-and-development investments and boosting educational achievement in the U.S.

"We do understand our own challenges, and we understand the challenge our competitors are facing," Mr. Rattner said. "With that knowledge, we can take the right steps."

Windows 8 In Development

Ars Technica

Although Microsoft gave us some great numbers regarding the Windows 7 beta, the company (unsurprisingly) refused to give us any details about what changes the planning and development team was going to make for Windows 8. Earlier this month we rounded up every minor detail that bloggers had posted on the operating system.

After we hit a roadblock with the Windows 7 engineers though, we went back to what many have found to be a good source for scraps on future Microsoft products before they're announced, confirmed, or even in early development: Microsoft Careers. We did a simple search and found that, since our last post, four job postings related to Windows 8 have been made on the site.

The first job posting (we'll be going in chronological order) is from October 8, 2009 and is looking for a Senior Program Manager. Its mention of Windows 8 isn't hugely exciting, but IIS users should be happy to know that Redmond is still thinking about them, both in terms of the next Windows client and server releases:

The Internet Information Services (IIS) team is redefining how the web technology stack is delivered to the customers. We are simplifying how developers, IT pros, and hosters consume our technology by managing the end-to-end experience from development to deployment. We build both technologies and solutions—whatever it takes to do the right thing for customers and Win The Web. Customer empathy is a deep core value at IIS. We are also an extremely agile team that frequently ships projects out-of-band to adapt to ever changing Internet environment.
IIS team is looking for an experienced PM to join our core platform team. Your role will span across driving key features into Windows 8 as well as owning several out-of-band modules, including web analytics that will bring business intelligence for the customers that host applications and contents on IIS. Your work will help differentiate IIS and Smooth Streaming from Apache and Flash. You should also be ready to work in a fast-paced environment and have a strong desire for quality, security, and performance. Your feature will be used by millions of customers.

The second job posting, for a Principal Lead Program Manager, should be interesting to all the Windows Live fanatics out there. It looks like Microsoft is going to be tying Windows Live Mail much closer to Windows 7 and Windows 8. The posting is from October 9, 2009, and here's the part that matters:

The Windows Live Mail team is looking for a seasoned Lead Program Manager to drive our next generation Mail client, and manage five stellar PMs. Our client has over 40M users world-wide, and serves as a key component of our Windows Live "light up Windows" strategy. Our current release is centered on hot new consumer features & better synergies with Hotmail & Windows 7, and our future releases will likely be tightly designed to work best with new Windows 8 platform technologies. We will also work closely with the Outlook team on ways to bring Windows Live to Outlook. Mail is part of the WL Desktop Communications team, which also includes Messenger. Our team values user-centered design, technical and engineering excellence, and attention to detail. The successful candidate should have several years [of] experience as PM lead. In addition to being deeply technical, you will need to enjoy being part of a fast moving, energetic team.

Microsoft said in January 2009 that there were 500 million Windows Live users on Hotmail and Messenger, but we can't recall a time when they disclosed any numbers for Windows Live beyond that. Forty million Windows Live Mail users is not bad for a new application, and we'd expect that number to grow rapidly over the next few months given that Windows 7 has just arrived, and it doesn't include an e-mail client.

The third and fourth job postings were made on October 18, 2009 and October 19, 2009, respectively. The first is for a Software Engineering: Test and the second is also for a Software Engineering: Test, but they're for different teams. As we've already said, Microsoft won't give any official word on where they are with Windows 8, but it's pretty clear the company is still planning and brainstorming. They're also getting the testing systems ready for Windows 7's successor, according to the third job posting:

The TAG team provides the foundation services and infrastructure to support a unified test and dev workflow. This team's charter includes—developing and running a unified test submission and execution system for Windows 8, Automating Test pass scheduling & execution, results analysis & automated triage, Windows code coverage services, Developing and running the eBVT quality gate, supporting WinSE's Windows 7 sustained engineering test needs.

This is an exciting time to join the Test Automation and Gates team and lead the next wave of foundation services and infrastructure to ensure delivery of a high quality product. With openings across the team, there's sure to be the perfect opportunity suited to your specific passion and enthusiasm.

You'll lead a team of highly talented SDETs and partner closely with members of both the development and program management teams to design and test new features, develop tools & automation, and enhance the overall test infrastructure. Your team will be responsible for writing test plans & test cases, performing ad hoc, manual, and automated testing, filing bug reports, and interacting with internal partners.

This unified test submission and execution system for Windows 8 will of course only be used internally at Microsoft, but don't worry, you'll see the benefit of it in the development builds and the task management software you get your hands on. The fourth job posting talks more specifically about bug hunting:

The Application Experience Bug Investigation Team, AEBit, is looking for passionate SDETs that want to make an impact on Windows 8. On the AEBit team you will get the unique opportunity to challenge and grow your debugging skills on issues that span the entire OS. You will have the opportunity to engage with software vendors, OEMs, as well as internal component teams. You will also be applying and enhancing your knowledge of system internals. As part of the AEBit team you will be responsible for driving and ensuring compatibility in Windows by engaging with component teams, root causing application bugs, and authoring mitigations. If you are a strong SDET looking for a challenge we would like to hear from you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Developers Frustrated With iPhone App Store

Business Week

Software programmers are designing apps for the Google-backed Android operating system, fired by frustration with Apple's rejections and delays

Programmers at Ubermind are diversifying their app store loyalties. Once the company's mobile-phone software developers trained all their attention on making applications for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone. No longer.

The 34-person team at Ubermind, maker of the popular iLightr app that creates a virtual flame on the iPhone screen, recently began building apps for a rival mobile-phone operating system. They're now releasing two apps a month for devices based on Android, the software backed by Google (GOOG), in addition to the five monthly apps they release for the iPhone. "We have no plans to abandon" the iPhone, says Ubermind CEO Shehryar Khan, who says his company's sales have doubled in the past year thanks to iPhone apps. "But we are not going to put all our eggs in one basket."

Of the more than 125,000 programmers registered to create apps for the iPhone, a growing number are branching out to build apps for Android and other operating systems. The Apple App Store is still growing, with an inventory that recently surpassed 100,000 games, e-books, calendars, and other apps. It remains the largest downloadable mobile app store by a wide margin. But the larger the App Store gets, the harder it is for developers to make money from it. That, combined with sometimes long approval times and dismay over Apple's gatekeeping decisions, has led some developers to branch out or switch allegiances altogether.

When the App Store made its debut in July 2008, it was the first. Now developers can choose among plenty of operating systems. Apart from Android, there's BlackBerry App World for Research In Motion (RIMM) devices. Carriers are opening their own stores, too. The App Store's share of mobile app downloads may slip to 20% in 2014, from 70% this year, according to consultant Ovum.

"We Are in This to Make Money"

Android is garnering much developer attention. In October, the number of apps in development for Android jumped 94%, from September, while iPhone app volume rose by a mere 4%, according to mobile analytics firm Flurry. The number of devices running Android is surging, too. By 2012, Android is expected to become the second-most popular smartphone operating system after Symbian, leapfrogging BlackBerry, Microsoft (MSFT) Windows Mobile, and the iPhone, according to Gartner (IT).

With Android Market, developers can publish apps in a matter of minutes, without going through a review. And developers say it's a lot easier for users to find an app among 12,000 on Android Market than by rooting through more than 100,000 on the App Store. "We love the iPhone, but we are in this to make money," says Craig Hockenberry, principal at Iconfactory, creator of the hit iPhone Twitter application Twitterific. "It's hard to make money [in the App Store]." Hockenberry recently began investigating making apps for Android, though he hasn't turned his back on the App Store.

At the outset, developers stuck with Apple in part because it's a hassle learning to write code for a new system. But technologies such as Ideaworks Labs' Airplay software make it easier for developers to create apps for multiple systems at the same time. That kind of software "will definitely change the game," says Will Stofega, program manager at consultant IDC.

Ideaworks recently did away with fees for independent iPhone app developers. "We want to send a message to iPhone developers: There's lots of other hardware worth looking at" besides the iPhone, says Ideaworks CEO Alex Caccia.

As other operating systems gain traction, Apple could lose part of its competitive advantage, says Charlie Wolf, senior analyst at Needham & Co. "Their whole advertising pitch is the apps," Wolf says. "The real issue is: Are developers making enough to stay loyal to the platform?"

Apple App Store: Rejection and Delay

For many, the answer is no. To start with, application prices are falling. Iconfactory's Twitterific app now costs $4.99, compared with $9.99 a year ago. Large game makers such as Electronic Arts (ERTS) can spend more on marketing than can smaller design shops. Moreover, developers are making fewer sales, with products lost among the more than 100,000 apps. Larva Labs makes iPhone apps such as PhotoTwist, which lets people warp and twist photographs, but the company can no longer break even on new apps. "Every other app we wrote after [PhotoTwist] got less interest than the previous one," says Matt Hall, co-owner of Larva. "We've spent more time on unique features for these apps." Larva Labs now focuses on Android, he says.

Frustrations over the App Store's lengthy and often arbitrary approval process are also turning developers off. In March, Ubermind received three app rejections in one week alone. Developer SMobile Systems waited a year to win approval for its iPhone app, designed to make iPhone content more secure. Recently hundreds of consumers signed a petition asking Apple to publish two DJ apps that have been held up in the review process. "We are really starting to rethink our options," says Russell Haglof, whose Pajamahouse Studios created a DJ app that's been in review for more than two months. "If you are starting to make a business with a partner that can take two months with no response, it's not a healthy relationship," he says. Unsure of when their apps would hit the store, developers can't market them in advance of release, or even advertise release dates.

Developers say Apple is trying to improve its review process and make it easier for consumers to discover new apps. The company now maintains an online system that lets developers track the status of software making its way through the review process. (No mobile app store is without problems: Developers on Android Market try to game the system by updating their apps daily, thereby boosting their rankings on the site, for example.)

As the leader, Apple has cause to keep as many developers as possible on board. If the App Store loses its allure, so does the iPhone. "It's Apple's game to lose," Wolf says.

Jailbroken iPhones Vulnerable To 'Duh' Worm

Information Week

For the third time this month, jailbroken iPhones and iPods are at risk of attack.

"Jailbreaking" allows iPhones and iPods to run software that Apple has not sanctioned and is, according to cybersecurity firm Intego, "extremely dangerous...because of the vulnerabilities that this process creates."

Users of jailbroken devices -- an estimated 6% to 8% of iPhone users -- who have the ssh networking software installed, and have failed to change the default password, may be vulnerable to the newly reported worm.

The worm is called iBotNet.A by Intego. It is called the Duh virus by Sophos, another cybersecurity company.

"Duh is a good name for this virus," said Sophos security researcher Paul Ducklin in a blog post. "It will only infect those who escaped Ikee infection (since those phones would no longer have SSH active for the new virus to break in) but still didn't bother to change their root password away from Apple's feeble default root password of 'alpine'."

The Ikee worm, believed to be the first iPhone worm, was reported in early November. It affected jailbroken devices in Australia by replacing the wallpaper image with a picture of Rick Astley. Shortly thereafter, a tool for hacking jailbroken iPhones was spotted.

Duh will search its local network and several IP address ranges linked to ISPs in Europe for vulnerable iPhones and iPods. When it finds them, it will change the root password and then download malicious files from a server in Lithuania.

According to Intego, those files will turn the infected device into a zombie or bot in a larger network of compromised devices, known as a botnet.

The worm also records information gathered from compromised iPhones, for possible future misuse, and alters a host file, if present, for Dutch online bank ING. The alteration sends would-be ING visitors to a look-alike site that will presumably steal login credentials.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Put Droid To Work With Google Services

PC World

The countdown is underway to the Droid invasion. Verizon has unveiled the official specs and contract details, and pre-orders are already underway at Best Buy. By this time next week the Motorola Droid will be unleashed and we will find out if the reality can come close to the hype.

The Droid is the first device built on Android 2.0, the latest version of Google's open-source mobile operating system. Android is a capable mobile platform that offers benefits for any user, but small and medium businesses have even more to gain by embracing Android-based mobile phones like the Verizon Droid.

Building on a Google Foundation

For starters, if you are an owner or IT manager of a small to midsized business and haven't looked into Google Apps, you should. Even large enterprises like Genentech and Delta Hotels have adopted Google Apps in place of more traditional solutions like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange Server.

It is relatively simple to set up Google Apps on your own domain. Google offers two different plans for Google Apps: Standard and Premium. The Standard edition is free and serves up to 50 users with up to 7Gb of storage space per user--more than adequate for many SMB's. For larger companies the Premium Edition costs $50 per year per user (but non-profit and educational institutions can get Premium Edition for free as well).

Google on the Go

Google Apps is not yet fully integrated with the Android operating system, but Google says it is working on it. However, the most critical components--e-mail and calendar--can be leveraged from the Droid right out of the box.

Business professionals on the go need to be able to keep in touch and maintain their schedules. Droid provides access to Gmail and Google Calendar as part of its core feature set, so roaming workers can send and receive e-mails, check their calendar, and schedule meetings while away from the office.

Droid also includes Google's newest free service, Google Nav. The turn-by-turn navigation service is integrated into Android. Comparable to portable GPS devices, or iPhone apps that cost $100 or more, the free tool can help roaming professionals get from point A to point B.

Small and medium businesses can also leverage Google Voice for advanced voice features. Google Voice provides call routing, simultaneous ringing of the desk and mobile phone, custom ring tones based on caller, voicemail transcription, and other features for free.

Enterprise Tools on an SMB Budget

Let's set aside all iPhone comparisons. The bottom line is that the Droid appears to be a more than capable hardware platform, built on an impressive operating system, that is capable of providing small and medium businesses with the communications and productivity tools they need while on the go.

Much of the promise and potential of what Google Apps can do and how all of the Google tools will integrate with Android is yet to be realized. But, the basic business functionality of email, calendaring, and voice can be achieved today, and the foundation is there for the combination of Droid and Android 2.0 with Google Apps to rival RIM Blackberry given time.

Google tools and services are web-based to begin with, so technically speaking any web-enabled mobile phone is capable of leveraging Google to some extent. Google also has a vested interest in having users adopt its tools and services no matter what mobile device they use, so there are tools and connectors available for other platforms as well. But, there is no need to try to fit a square peg in a round hole when the Android OS offers the potential of seamless integration with all that Google has to offer.

By embracing Google Apps and other Google tools, and adopting the Verizon Droid (or other Android-based device), small businesses can create a cost-effective alternative on par with large enterprise Blackberry or Microsoft server implementations.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Implementing A Cloud Storage Strategy

from eWeek

The storage world is changing rapidly, with innovative services playing a major role. Savvy CIOs are turning to cloud-based offerings such as enterprise storage-as-a-service to reduce costs, optimize compliance and ensure security. As Knowledge Center contributor John Clancy explains, trust, security and a history of information protection are critical factors to consider when choosing a provider to help you implement your cloud storage strategy.

The explosion of digital information—from e-mails and files to instant messages and electronic records—has companies of all sizes and industries grappling with not only how to best manage and secure their data, but also how to do it cost-effectively. It's being predicted that digital content will grow five-fold in the next two years, all while IT budgets are expected to grow a mere 2.3 percent in 2010.

Many IT departments are asking, "How can we ensure that we have the right tools in place to guarantee the security of our data and meet today's regulatory demands, all while keeping costs in check?"

Cloud storage provides enticing advantages to companies that need to drive cost, risk and complexity out of the information management equation. Cloud storage is on-demand, flexible storage that can scale up and down as needed. It requires no capital outlay and offers a pay-as-you-go model. But how can you determine which cloud-based solution is best for your business? Do you need a private or public cloud? Primary or secondary storage?

While increased competition in the cloud storage space is pushing costs lower, it is also forcing IT decision makers to evaluate more solutions and providers. Knowing which data to keep, what to delete, and what to retain to meet the necessary compliance and legal mandates for your business will help make your decision to implement cloud storage easier.

Developing a cloud storage strategy may seem complicated at first, but doing so can reduce costs by utilizing a shared infrastructure and shifting capital expenses to operating expenses.  Before considering cloud-based services, organizations need to assess both the associated risks and benefits involved. They also need to work with service providers to understand key areas from compliance and data location to availability, recovery and viability. Businesses should consider the following seven elements before implementing a cloud storage strategy:

1. For starters, rethink your storage strategy

Take time to evaluate your organization's data and policies. Establish metrics and reports, understand your organization's trends and think about what can be purged. Assess moving away from high-priced Tier 1 storage and consider when it would make sense to utilize secondary storage. Ensure that your storage polices are in line with your legal and compliance policies, as many companies often keep too much. Finally, focus on the bottom line. Rethinking your storage strategy can help you reduce both the risks and costs of managing your information, so it's a good time to start asking these questions.

2. Understand your needs

Are you looking for primary storage for applications and file server replacements, secondary storage for data protection or archiving for business continuance and disaster recovery?  Understand the differences in standardization and cost between closed private clouds, community private clouds, enterprise-class public clouds and public commodity clouds. Most likely, you'll choose a combination, which leads to the next consideration: versatility.

3. Choose a versatile solution

Storing data in the cloud is one thing, but data is diverse in its format and the policies that govern it. Implementing a versatile cloud storage solution is vital in assessing between critical and non-critical data. Further, it's important to understand not just how your cloud storage provider can store your data, but what they can enable you to do with your data.

This is where having a provider with an enterprise-class, storage-as-a-service infrastructure is key so that you can meet an array of information management challenges—from archiving and discovery to PC and server backup to e-mail management and escrow services. Having a full house of services can make an immediate impact on the way your company can capture, store and protect corporate information. This, in turn, impacts the way you can enable cost reduction, optimize compliance and ensure security.

4. Understand your options

Not all cloud storage is the same, and there are distinct differences between standard cloud storage and value-added, storage-as-a-service solutions. Storage-as-a-service models are based on enterprise-class infrastructure not found in standard cloud storage. They come with capabilities and services that make stored data actionable, reduce risk, create efficiencies and control costs. All this can help companies further their peace of mind.

5. Focus on security, access and control

Ensure that you understand the provider's method for getting the data from your PCs, servers, and/or applications to their data center. Make sure you understand the chain of custody once the data leaves your office, as well as the provider's recovery process should disaster strike. Select a service provider who understands your business, its size and the types of data uses that may arise and uses an approved secure shell software system. Lastly, consider the type of business the solution provider runs and the type of data that needs to be protected before choosing a solution based on enterprise storage infrastructure (which adds levels of security, scale, control and access not found in standard cloud storage).

6. Take an information management approach

Remember that storage-as-a-service is not just about cheap storage or backing up your data to be able to recover it when you need to. It's about the overall management of your data. Storage-as-a-service should reduce the risks and costs of information storage and protection from rising storage costs, litigation, regulatory compliance and disaster recovery.

7. Don't go on faith alone

Investigate the provider's track record. Seek a trusted partner who offers deep experience and a history of protecting and managing vital information. Look at the number of customers the provider has, the number of years it has been providing the service, and the amount of data it currently stores. Ensure that you select a provider that adheres to necessary compliance protocols such as external audits and security certifications. All will be indicators that you're making a wise investment.

When deciding which cloud storage strategy or solution is right for your business, it's important to assess all your needs and options so that you can choose a solution and provider which can meet each and every requirement.

Cisco, EMC And VMware Coalition Nets Unified Management Software For Virtual, Cloud Environments

from Network World

Cisco and EMC, and subsidiary VMware, this week revealed their plans to advance data center technologies via the Virtual Computing Environment coalition, which could have EMC ultimately providing management software to span heterogeneous virtual and cloud computing environments.

According to EMC, the coalition news also incorporates the company’s recently re-branded, integrated management software portfolio. As part of the news blast, EMC also introduced Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager software, which the company says is “designed to support a wide range of enterprise management consoles.”

EMC says the product will manage Vblock Infrastructure Packages that are, according to press statements from the coalition members, “validated platforms of engineered, integrated IT infrastructure from Cisco, EMC and VMware, that deliver a breakthrough total cost of ownership and pervasive virtualization at a scale to meet today’s most demanding use cases.”

Industry watchers say with several management software acquisitions under its belt, EMC is able to provide significant configuration and change management technologies to its customers. For instance, the company purchased nLayers for application discovery and mapping technology in 2006. The next year the EMC picked up Voyence for its network change and configuration management technology. EMC acquired ITIL software maker Infra in 2008, and in 2009, EMC bought Configuresoft for its server configuration technology. All these buys could help EMC provide the configuration know-how needed to handle next-generation environments, according to Forrester Research.

“EMC has built up a remarkable [configuration and change management] portfolio. The nLayer discovery, coupled with Infra, Voyence and Configuresoft, gives EMC Ionix an edge over the competition in CCM. Data Center Insight is certainly the best solution on the market today,” an October Forrester Research report reads.

Still, EMC is missing some key components required for a complete data center management package. Advanced tools for application performance management would help the vendor, Forrester says, but it does have strength in managing the virtual world. The problem could be displacing existing vendors.

“EMC Ionix may be building for the future, but its competition is present in the data centers today and may be difficult to dislodge tomorrow,” the report states.

But not all industry watchers are convinced the coalition will enable the three vendors to advance their management and other technology efforts via partnerships with third-party vendors, not directly involved with the Virtual Computing Environment coalition.

“It seems like EMC and Cisco are trying to merge without merging -- and dragging VMware along for the ride. Even if they can pull off the coalition, I think it will be challenging for either the coalition or the individual companies to effectively partner with any other vendor,” says Jasmine Noel, principal analyst and co-founder of Ptak, Noel and Associates. “It will be interesting to see whether VMware's leading market share is sustainable as other partner relations cool off. Just look at what happened to Cisco's relationships with IBM/HP/Sun after it announced unified data center.”

One management shipping software maker involved in Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) launch earlier this year says its relationship with Cisco remains unchanged following the news of the coalition.

“BMC BladeLogic is still the only systems management offering integrated and OEM’ed by Cisco for UCS and this [news] in now way changes the business relationship between BMC and Cisco,” a BMC spokesman says.

Interested in freeware and shareware, open source applications and scaled-down versions of commercial software and services? Network World devotes an online forum of free techie stuff. Let me know what you find, what you want to hear more about and what invaluable tools that didn’t cost you a thing at

There's A Map For That

Judge rejects AT&T's effort to pull Verizon ads from the airwaves.
from Business Week

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request by AT&T Inc. to force competitor Verizon Wireless to pull its "There's a Map for That" commercials.

But the judge scheduled a Dec. 16 hearing to give the AT&T attorneys another chance to make their case.

AT&T filed the lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta earlier this month and asked for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop the ads. It contends they are misleading and amount to deceptive trade practices.

Verizon argues that the commercials are valid and truthful.

The ads show maps of the United States with areas highlighted to depict where third generation -- or "3G" -- network coverage is available. A map of the country nearly covered with red dots is shown to depict Verizon's coverage, while a map with some blue areas and a lot of blank space is shown to ostensibly display AT&T's 3G coverage.

AT&T says those maps are misleading because there is still regular coverage in areas where 3G service is not offered. The 3G networks allow users to access data faster.

The Verizon commercials mock Apple Inc.'s popular "There's an App for That" spots touting the thousands of applications that can be used on the iPhone. AT&T provides coverage for the iPhone.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BlackBerry's Tantalizing Fruit

Wall Street Journal
Is smart-phone pioneer BlackBerry in danger of becoming the AOL of the mobile-device market?

Verizon Wireless's launch on Friday of the Droid phone, a Motorola-built handset using Google's Android operating system, signals the opening of a new front in the smart-phone war. Early buzz on the Droid suggests it may be the strongest competitor to Apple's iPhone so far. But it is BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, more than Apple, that is particularly vulnerable.

BlackBerry has failed to build on the popularity of its email service with a robust Internet browser. That wasn't a major issue while the iPhone, available only on AT&T, was the only other game in town. But now the array of competitive smart phones includes the Palm Pre on Sprint Nextel as well as the Droid.

Apple already is closing the market-share gap with RIM, boosting its global smart-phone share to 17% in the third quarter, estimates Strategy Analytics, while RIM rose to 19.5%. For 2008, RIM was at 15.6%, and Apple, at 9.1%. RIM could see some defections in coming months. Consumers now represent the majority of new subscribers. But the percentage claiming to be very satisfied with their BlackBerrys fell five percentage points to 43% between June and September, according to research firm ChangeWave. Its research also showed erosion among corporate IT departments, historically RIM's sweet spot. Apple has made inroads among corporate purchasers, although it lags far behind RIM.

Of course, RIM could still reinvent the BlackBerry and recapture momentum. Even if it does, though, it may find it difficult to maintain profit margins. Consider: RIM's gross margin dropped to 44% in the latest quarter from 56% three years ago, despite little change in the average selling price of its devices. That is partly because the more complex devices coming onto the market are more costly to make.

Devices aren't likely to become simpler. Yet prices are likely to come under pressure as competition intensifies. RIM also could face a squeeze on the fee it charges carriers for each subscriber.

All that suggests RIM's gross margin will continue declining. What's more, as Deutsche Bank analyst Brian Modoff says, RIM will likely have to boost spending on R&D and marketing if it is to maintain its market share. The combined impact would be weak profit growth even if sales boomed. Citigroup analyst Jim Suva estimates RIM's operating margin will drop to 19.2% in fiscal 2011 from 23.1% last quarter, excluding litigation expense. That would slow EPS growth to just 1.7% in fiscal 2011 from this year, assuming 18% sales growth.

In the wake of a recent selloff, RIM is trading at 13.9 times consensus 2010 earnings. That appears cheap relative to stocks like Apple. But given the potential for slow earnings growth, it may be still pricey.

Customers Across U.S. Affected By T-Mobile Outage

Atlanta Business News

T-Mobile said Wednesday it's fixed the technical problems that caused about 5 percent of its customers in the U.S. to lose phone, text-messaging and Internet service Tuesday night.

Now, the mobile carrier is moving on to find the root cause of the problem, the company said in a statement.

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused our customers," the company said in a statement.

T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, is the nation's fourth-largest cell carrier but lags significantly behind the big three of AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel.

A representative of the company reached by phone on Tuesday said there were outages, but technicians are working on a solution. She could not provide more technical detail. Not all customers were affected by the outage.

"We’re making good progress restoring messaging and business voip service to affected customers. At this time (9 p.m. Tuesday), approximately 5 percent of T-Mobile customers are experiencing service disruptions. Issues began at approximately 5:30 p.m. Eastern time. Our rapid response team is working continuously to fully resolve this disruption. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused our customers," a T-Mobile spokesperson said in a press release.

T-Mobile also had trouble in early October when Sidekick phone users were unable to connect to the Internet or use their contact list for about two weeks.

Those still experiencing problems should contact T-Mobile. A forum has been set up for those affected by the outage.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

AMD To Introduce New Chips In Early 2010

Mercury News

Advanced Micro Devices, aiming to leapfrog Intel in computer-processor technology, will release sample versions of new products next year.

The company will provide test versions of its Bulldozer and Bobcat chips to manufacturers of computers early in 2010, Senior Vice President Rick Bergman said Wednesday in a presentation at AMD headquarters in Sunnyvale. That should give customers enough time to prepare for product releases at the end of the year, he said.

AMD is developing so-called Fusion products — a combination of processor and graphics chips — in an effort to create something that Intel can't match. AMD has fallen behind its rival in bringing out new technology, contributing to 12 straight quarterly losses. Intel had an 82 percent share of the market for personal-computer processors at the end of the third quarter, according to Mercury Research in Cave Creek, Ariz. AMD had 18 percent.

"We're going to deliver these solutions out there, and we're going to win," Bergman said.

AMD shares rose 18 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $5.32 Wednesday. The stock has more than doubled this year.

Chief Financial Officer Thomas Seifert said his top priority is to reduce the company's $3.67 billion of bond debt, which comes due for repayment in 2012 and 2015. Seifert, a former Qimonda executive who joined AMD in October, said raising money using stock is not attractive, though other options will develop as the market improves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Logitech Adds Business Services By Acquiring LifeSize

NY Times

In a move to break into the videoconferencing market, Logitech International has agreed to buy LifeSize Communications, a start-up that makes high-definition videoconferencing equipment, for $405 million in cash.

LifeSize, which is based in Austin, Tex., sells videoconferencing tools that cost less than most other products on the market. The high-definition video is so clear that viewers can see scribbles on Post-it notes.

Logitech, a maker of desktops and personal computer equipment that is based in Fremont, Calif., and Switzerland, will be competing against Cisco Systems, Polycom, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and I.B.M, which have all made investments in the industry.

With LifeSize’s technology, Logitech aims to “make lifelike, HD-quality video communication as mainstream and seamless as a telephone,” said Gerald P. Quindlen, Logitech’s chief executive.

For a long time, videoconferencing was limited to big businesses that could afford to build expensive systems for business VoIP and video in their conference rooms. But videoconferencing has become more accessible because Internet connections are commonplace, video has become more efficient and the price has dropped for high-definition cameras and displays. Now, many companies are trying to reach small businesses and individuals that previously used low-quality webcams on PCs.

Cisco, for instance, sells its high-end TelePresence system to big businesses that install it in conference rooms. Last month, Cisco said it planned to buy Tandberg, a Norwegian video communications company, for $3 billion. Tandberg makes smaller and less expensive videoconferencing tools that can sit on desks. Cisco has said it hopes to use Tandberg’s technology to sell equipment to small businesses and individuals.

The LifeSize Passport, a high-definition videoconferencing system for use with televisions or computers, was introduced in October. The device, which weighs less than a pound and is priced under $2,500, works with Skype business VoIP services and is aimed at workers who travel or telecommute.

Andrew W. Davis, senior partner at the consulting firm Wainhouse Research, said the deal surprised many in the industry because Logitech made products for consumers while LifeSize made products for businesses. “But that wall, like the Berlin Wall, will come down,” he said. “Logitech has been aggressive in this space across a variety of fronts, and that’s who you’ll see in your living room, not Cisco.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Google's Purchase Of Gizmo5 Can Benefit The Consumer

from PC World

Has Google found the final piece of its voice-calling puzzle? Rumors have it that the acquisition-happy search giant has acquired Gizmo5, a Skype-like VoIP startup.   TechCrunch is reporting googlethat Google has plunked down $30 million in cash for Gizmo5, which offers a software app that lets you make free phone calls to other Gizmo users, as well as inexpensive calls to landlines and cell phones. It supports SMS and instant messaging, too.

Google has yet to formally announce a Gizmo5 buyout, but many industry watchers think acquisition is a done deal. A Google spokesperson on Monday told PC World that the company doesn't "comment on rumor or speculation."

Andy Abramson, author of the VoIP Watch blog, sees the Gizmo5 acquisition as a key component of Google's overall voice strategy. The VoIP startup's technology provides Google with a PSTN link, or a means of enabling inbound and outbound calls to convention landline and cell phones. By integrating Gizmo5's tech with Google Voice, a clever call-management app that provides one number for all of your phones, and the Google Talk voice/chat client, a powerful phone service is born.

"If you put all of this stuff together, you have something a lot more powerful than Skype," Abramson says. "Google has just gotten to where Skype wants to go a little faster, assuming the deal is done."
Free Phone Service Coming?

So how might Google integrate the various pieces of its business VoIP puzzle? And how might consumers benefit?

Given Google tendancy to stir up trouble in established tech markets -- just ask GPS mapping firms Garmin and TomTom -- a free, ad-support phone service doesn't seem too far-fetched.

"Google has a very deep investment in voice search, features that enable people to say, 'find this, find that,' and then make a phone call," Abramson says.

"Let's face it, with the phone companies monopolizing (voice calling), Google could come in and say, 'Hey, we'll give you phone service that costs nothing, and that's driven by our advertising revenue,'" he adds.

One thing's for certain: Voice will soon get a lot more interesting.

Friday, November 6, 2009

U.S. Television Manufacturer Expects Big Growth In Next Year

Wall Street Journal

Vizio Inc., a supplier of low-cost flat-panel display TVs in the U.S., expects shipments of its LCD televisions to rise more than 70% to more than six million units this year and to remain profitable even as set prices fall at least 30%, the company's chief executive said.

Such steep declines in LCD television selling prices suggest more challenges ahead for major television manufacturers. Sony Corp., Panasonic Corp. and other major Japanese television manufacturers have struggled to reverse losses at their television businesses, unable to slash costs faster than falling prices, even though demand for new sets remains strong.

Vizio, a closely held company based in Irvine, Calif., is the U.S. market leader for LCD televisions with a 21.7% share in the second quarter, edging out Samsung Electronics for the top spot, according to research firm iSuppli. Vizio's shipments would be growing at more than triple the rate of the global market for LCD televisions, based on iSuppli's forecasts for 20.5% global shipments growth in 2009.

Its televisions are available at discount retailers and can sometimes cost several hundred dollars less than competitors.

The shift to flat-panel televisions opened the door to companies like Vizio, which focuses on design and marketing while leaving the production mainly to contract manufacturers. William Wang, Vizio's CEO and founder, said in an interview Monday that Vizio is now expanding to sell Blu-ray video players and speakers, again turning to contract manufacturers in Asia.

"There are plenty of factories these days," said Mr. Wang, who says his company made money last year and will again be profitable this year. He didn't give specific details.

Japanese companies are also increasingly turning to contract manufacturers to reduce costs. Sony agreed to sell a 90% stake in an LCD television assembly factory in Mexico to Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and then outsource production to Hon Hai. Hitachi also started to turn to outside manufacturers for some of its less expensive TVs for the U.S. market.

Mr. Wang was in Tokyo Monday to meet with retailers. Japan is a difficult market for discount brands, due to a loyalty to brand names and the abundance of domestic competitors. Vizio already sells televisions in Japan at stores run by Costco Wholesale Corp. but it has no immediate plans to expand in the Japanese market.

The company doesn't need capital right now, according to Mr. Wang, but it will likely raise capital in the future as it expands into other products and new markets. He also said a listing will happen eventually, saying a public offering will be good for brand building.

Notebooks That Are Easier On The Eye

Wall Street Journal

Like clockwork, retailers were ready for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 7 release last week with new desktops, laptops and netbooks, those inexpensive, smaller laptops that have become popular in the past year. Included in this selection of netbooks are some that improved the poor screen resolutions that have plagued these tiny PCs.

Screen resolution isn't the same as the size of the screen itself. Rather, it is related to the number of pixels—or distinct dots—on a display, and an indication of how much material can be seen on the screen without scrolling. A higher-resolution screen allows you to see more of a Web page, spreadsheet or list of emails than a lower-resolution screen, even if both are the same physical size.

Because higher-resolution screens cost more, most netbooks come with low-resolution screens to keep prices down. But poor resolution combined with a small netbook screen results in frustrating visuals, like Web pages that display just a small portion of their contents, forcing you to scroll down or horizontally to see the rest of the page.

This week, I tested two Windows 7 discount notebooks with unusually high-res screens: Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP Mini 311 with an 11.6-inch screen and a resolution of 1,366-by-768 pixels, and Nokia Corp.'s Booklet 3G with a 10.1-inch screen and a resolution of 1,280-by-720-pixels. Both these small computers display the bulk of most Web pages without any scrolling necessary—a big relief on a netbook.

Though high-resolution screens make these netbooks easier on the eyes than others, I still had trouble adjusting to their shrunken features. I liked typing on the HP Mini's generous keyboard, which H-P says is 92% of full size. But its touchpad buttons felt stiff and uncomfortably located at the edge of the computer. The Nokia Booklet had the opposite problem: Its touchpad and buttons worked fine, but its tiny keys made me feel like I was typing on a kiddie computer.

Nokia is a bit more of a newsmaker here, because when the Booklet 3G ( comes out in mid-November, it will be the first foray by the Finnish mobile-device company into the discount laptops. Best Buy began taking advance orders for them this week. It costs $300 if purchased with AT&T Inc.'s two-year Data Connect plan, which costs $60 a month for five gigabytes of data and allows users to toggle back and forth between two kinds of wireless connections, cellular 3G and Wi-Fi. If purchased without the AT&T plan, the Booklet 3G costs $600—a lot for a netbook—including only Windows 7 Starter, the low-end version of the new OS, and one gigabyte of memory.

The thing most people will notice right away about Nokia's netbook is that it seems to take its design cues directly from Apple Inc. Like the MacBook Pro, the Nokia Booklet 3G is made from a single piece of aluminum, and its keyboard is made of black Chiclet-style keys. Its edges are rounded and smooth. I used one with a glossy black lid, but it will also come in shades of ice white or azure blue.

Nokia boasts that this netbook's battery will last for 12 hours; after running it through a harsh test with its screen cranked up to the brightest setting, Wi-Fi on, music playing on a continuous loop and all power-saving features turned off, it ran for almost eight hours straight. This means that under normal circumstances, the battery might last for a remarkable 10 hours.

The Booklet 3G that I used differs from Nokia's final release version in a few ways: Mine wasn't loaded with AT&T's Connection Manager software, which enables switching between Wi-Fi and 3G; it lacked the Nokia Social Hub software, which the company says allows users to track social-media feeds and text messages; and the GPS wasn't yet connected to the U.S. map data server. My Booklet 3G included Ovi Suite, a Nokia-designed software program to bridge the connection between some Nokia smartphones and the Booklet 3G, like iTunes for the iPhone or BlackBerry's Desktop Manager. But the software I had wasn't the final version.

Unlike Nokia, H-P is no stranger to netbooks, having released nine of its Mini models of discount computers in the past year. The HP Mini 311 ( costs $400 when purchased with Windows XP and costs an additional $50 when loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium. The Mini that I tested costs $474 because it also had two gigabytes of memory rather than one gigabyte.

The H-P model is a little bigger all around compared with the Nokia, with an inch-larger screen; it weighs 3.22 pounds compared with 2.76 pounds for the Nokia. Both felt relatively thin and light, and I carried them home together from my office with ease. The HP Mini 311 had H-P's subtle Black Swirl pattern on its lid—a faint pattern of silver swirls noticeable only at certain angles. It also comes in White Swirl.

I ran the same battery test on the HP as I did with the Nokia, and it lasted four hours and 15 minutes, giving it roughly six hours of juice under normal circumstances. H-P estimates that the Mini 311's battery will last for six hours and 25 minutes.

I didn't run into any problems while installing and using several programs on each of these netbooks or discount workstations, including Windows Live Essentials, Mozilla's Firefox browser, Picasa 3, TweetDeck, Adobe Reader and iTunes. The HP Mini felt more responsive and, in fact, loaded some programs a little faster, but it had twice the memory.

Both netbooks have slots for memory cards, HDMI ports for connecting to HD screens and three USB ports. And they come with built-in Web cams, a common feature on netbooks.

A cold start on both the Mini 311 and Booklet 3G required roughly the same amount of time: one minute and eight seconds for the H-P, and a minute and 12 seconds for the Nokia. But restarting was a different story. While playing a song in iTunes, running three Web pages in Firefox and using TweetDeck, I selected Restart. The HP Mini 311 took a minute and 20 seconds while the Nokia took nearly two minutes.

Even without the AT&T discount, the Nokia Booklet 3G's extra-long battery life and sleek design will be worth the extra money for some people—just beware its tiny keyboard. The HP Mini 311 is a good all-around netbook with a comfortable keyboard for typing. No one will be disappointed by the terrific screen resolutions.

Most products mentioned are available from DFS Direct Sales.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ribbit Mobile Serves Up Competition To Google Voice

Information Week

Ribbit Mobile has launched a cloud-based service that enables users to combine multiple phone numbers, make calls from the Internet, and receive transcribed voicemails.

Like Google Voice, Ribbit lets calls ring multiple phone numbers and can transcribe voicemails as searchable text files. Upon receiving a call, Ribbit Mobile can ring various landline, mobile, and soft phones services such as Skype and Google Talk, and users can answer and initiate calls from a PC. Unlike Google's offerings, Ribbit Mobile users don't have to adopt a new number, as it works with existing mobile phone numbers.

Ribbit described the offering as a form of personal customer-relationship management (CRM). Users will also be able to see a caller's Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn messages when receiving a call. Ribbit said this "caller ID 2.0" gives context to verbal conversations. An online backup service is also offered.

Ribbit's service will be open to third-party developers, which is why the company is not yet positioning its service as an enterprise offering. The company said it is focused on building a solid communications platform that can be used by developers for consumers and businesses alike. iPhone and BlackBerry application are on the way, and Ribbit says it envisions multiple enterprise-focused apps eventually emerging from the developer community.

The company will also be rolling out a developer rewards program which will compensate content creators based on how much their apps are used. This is aimed at making Ribbit's app process more of a meritocracy than other app environments, the company said.

The service is currently in beta. It includes unlimited automated voicemail transcriptions and calls. Ribbit Mobile will have tiered pricing that ranges from free to $30 a month when it comes out of beta. Users can sign up at Ribbit's Web site for an invitation.

NY Attorney General Hits Intel With Antitrust Suit


New York's attorney general hit Intel Corp. with an antitrust lawsuit Wednesday, claiming the company used "illegal threats and collusion" to dominate the market for computer microprocessors.

Following a similar case in Europe, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo claimed that the world's biggest computer chip maker paid billions of dollars in kickbacks to computer manufacturers and retaliated against those that did too much business with Intel's competitors, namely Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Intel used its market prowess to "rule with an iron fist," Cuomo said.

"Rather than compete fairly, Intel used bribery and coercion to maintain a stranglehold on the market," Cuomo said in a written statement. "Intel's actions not only unfairly restricted potential competitors, but also hurt average consumers who were robbed of better products and lower prices."

An Intel spokesman, Chuck Mulloy, denied the charges and said the company's sales practices were legitimate.

"We never threatened anyone," he said.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., is the latest in a string targeting Intel's practice of paying large annual rebates to big customers.

Intel has described the rebates as simple volume discounts, but some regulators have disagreed. The European Union fined the company $1.45 billion in May, a decision Intel is appealing to EU courts.

Intel's closest competitor, AMD, sued Intel in the same court four years ago, accusing it of anticompetitive behavior. Cuomo's lawsuit mirrors many of the allegations in AMD's case, which is scheduled to go to trial in a few months. Cuomo said Intel's rebates were illegally designed to squash competition.

Computer maker Dell Inc. alone was paid almost $2 billion in such rebates in 2006, the state said, in exchange for an agreement not to market products from AMD.

Cuomo said Intel also resorted to "bullying" customers that didn't play along. Among other things, he said, Intel would threaten to end joint development ventures, and instead direct funding to a manufacturer's competitors.

The lawsuit said the fear felt by Intel's customers was revealed in internal e-mails, including one from an IBM Corp. executive who wondered in 2005 whether the company would risk too much by strengthening its business ties to AMD.

"Can we afford to accept the wrath of Intel?" he wrote, according to the lawsuit.

Another Dell executive worried that Intel's chairman and CEO would wage "jihad" against the computer maker if it did more business with AMD.

AMD's lawsuit quotes managers from Toshiba saying Intel's financial incentives amounted to "cocaine," and executives from Gateway complaining that Intel's threats of retaliation for working with AMD beat them "into guacamole."

Intel denies that it improperly pressured Dell or any other manufacturer of refurbished laptops or cheap desktops.

"We disagree with the New York attorney general," Mulloy said. "Neither consumers, who have consistently benefited form lower prices and increased innovation, nor justice, are being served by the decision to file a case now. Intel will defend itself."

Intel, which has its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., owns about 80 percent of the worldwide microprocessor market for cheap laptops and cheap notebooks, while AMD in nearby Sunnyvale essentially has the rest. Technical missteps by AMD and the company's deep financial problems have contributed to some of its challenges, but the company claims Intel's illegal tactics have hindered its progress as well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Autodesk Poised For Recovery

from The Street

Autodesk's AutoCAD is the dominant software brand for architetural CAD drafting and building design, with over 9 million users of its flagship software.

Over the last decade, the San Rafael, Calif., company has virtually vanquished its competitors in this market, and in Autodesk training, including privately held Bentley Systems.

Autodesk was founded in 1982 by John Walker, one of the authors of AutoCAD. Together, with a band of co-founders who helped commercialize the product, Autodesk became the leading PC-based application for architectural drawings. The company came public in 1985, offering 1.6 million shares at $11 per share.

Best known for its AutoCAD software package, Autodesk's applications stretch across building design. Civil engineering accounts for an estimated 55% of sales, mechanical product design as much as 25% of revenue, and video editing and animation for the entertainment and video game markets, the remaining 20% of sales.

We have been concerned for some time about Autodesk's exposure to the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sectors, which have dramatically reined in their spending on automation and IT services in the last year.

However, company revenue appears to have stabilized at an annual clip of about $1.6 billion, down from the $2.3 billion that it recorded in calendar 2008. While we are not predicting a quick snapback to previous revenue levels, the company is poised to participate in a global recovery, should there be a pickup in software spending and Autodesk education in the economically sensitive customer segments that it serves.

Most of Autodesk's revenue stems from PC-based software, and the company should be a beneficiary of the Microsoft Windows 7 upgrade cycle. Microsoft's(MSFT Quote) long-awaited new operating system, Windows 7, addresses many of the shortcomings of Microsoft's Vista, which was its first operating system debacle in many years.

Our view is that pent-up demand exists for Windows 7, because many businesses have delayed purchases of new computers and software, due to Vista's shortcomings, as well as the general economic malaise. The Windows upgrade cycle should drive an upgrade cycle for PC software developers, such as Autodesk, whose products run on Windows 7. Autodesk recently announced that nine of its products, including its mainstream AEC and mechanical desktop products, now support Windows 7.

Finally, a weak dollar will benefit Autodesk because over 60% of its sales come from outside of the U.S.

While it will be several quarters before Autodesk begins to show growth, revenue has stabilized, the company has exposure to the Windows 7 upgrade cycle and derives more than half of its revenue from overseas markets ---all of which bodes well for the future.