Monday, May 31, 2010

Holiday Inn Tests Smarphones as Room Keys

PC World

The Holiday Inn is set to start trialing the use of smartphones as room keys.The chain will test the entry system at two hotels to begin with, and roll out the convenient tech on a wider basis if the trial proves successful.

Bryson Koehler from the InterContinental Hotels group explained to USA Today that "the beauty of the smartphone" is that guests already have one, and using it for access avoids "burdening people with additional items".

Starting next month guests at the Holiday Inn Chicago O'Hare Rosemont and Holiday Inn Express Houston Downtown Convention Center will be able to trial the new entry system. Instead of having to deal with key-cards, which are often easily lost, customers will be able to use a downloadable iPhone, Android or Blackberry app. The software allows guests to access rooms simply by holding their device next to a door sensor.

The trial is slated to last for two to three months, and may also make use of location services such as Gowalla in an effort to remind guests of hotel offers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Slap for Apple

NY Post

Adobe's Flash video software has become a flashpoint in negotiations between Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Big Media.

On a day when Apple execs probably cheered the fact the company had surpassed Microsoft as the world's most valuable tech company, Jobs was grappling with resistance from Tinseltown over Apple's ongoing fight with Adobe.

Sources said several large media companies, including Time Warner and NBC Universal, told Apple they won't retool their extensive video libraries to accommodate the iPad, arguing that such a reformatting would be expensive and not worth it because Flash dominates the Web.

Though the iPad has been a huge hit, media companies are feeling emboldened in their rebuffing of Apple by the launch of rival touch-screen tablet devices, such as the ones coming from Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard, sources said.

In addition, one media executive pointed out that Apple's ability to dictate terms to the media giants will be weakened further by Google TV, a software product that enables viewers to watch online video on their big-screen TVs.

Jobs banned Flash software from running on Apple devices, arguing that the world's most popular video software is unfit for his devices. Instead, he favors video software written in Web software language called HTML5.

Said an Apple spokeswoman, "We believe in open standards like HTML5."

The media companies' refusal to cave in to Jobs marks another setback at a time when Apple has had its share of both good and bad news.

In the plus column, Apple's $221.1 billion market cap yesterday topped Microsoft's $219.2 billion, making it the most valuable tech company. However, Apple is facing scrutiny from the Justice Department over tactics it uses in pricing songs sold on iTunes.

Apple shares closed down $1.17 to $244.05. Microsoft shares fell $1.06 to $25.01.

In the Apple vs. Adobe fight, Big Media's decision not to acquiesce to Apple's demands will be a boon to Adobe, which has gotten beaten up by Jobs' withering criticism of Flash.

Time Warner, in particular, is against the walled-garden, subscription-only model promoted by Apple in part because Time Warner is promoting its "TV Everywhere" initiative, which aims to make content platform agnostic so long as users can prove they are pay-TV customers.

Not surprisingly, Disney, which counts Jobs as its largest shareholder, has created an iPad app that lets users watch ABC shows for free.

CBS, using an iPad-enabled Web browser, is also working with Apple, but to a limited extent, offering only a handful of shows.

Both Fox News (which, like The Post, is owned by News Corp.) and CNN offer free video clips using HTML5 on the iPad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Russians: Facebook is only the First Step

Telegraph UK

The Russian investment vehicle that bought a $200m stake in Facebook last year is preparing to buy stakes in dozens of well-known internet companies as Russia turns to the internet to lead its future prosperity.

Digital Sky Technologies (DST) has already invested $1bn (£693m) buying up stakes in web companies including Zynga, the makers of the popular online social game FarmVille, and acquiring AOL's messenger service, ICQ, for $188m.

Yuri Milner [pictured], chief executive, said: "There are a few dozen companies globally that we are following. When you do late-stage investment focused on the internet your universe shrinks dramatically."

He said there were probably only about 100 full-developed internet companies around the world.

DST, which is 35pc owned by Alisher Usmanov, the Russian billionaire linked to a bid for the football club, Arsenal, has built up a war chest of more than $1bn to fund the next stage of its investment strategy. The company, which also counts Goldman Sachs and fund manager Tiger Global among its investors, was recently valued at $3bn when Tencent, China's biggest internet company, snapped up a 10pc stake for $300m.

So far DST has invested solely in Russia, eastern Europe and America, but Mr Milner said he is actively looking at companies in the Asia, Australia and the UK. He declined to name any investment targets, but pointedly refused to rule out buying a stake in Twitter.

Although Mr Milner is looking solely at internet companies, he said his strategy is to invest in disruption.

"Every single industry will get disrupted by the internet. This is permanent, not cyclical. Music will never be the same again, the newspaper business will never be the same again. No matter what happens macro-economically, the internet will continue to change the world. I am investing in disruptive companies, that just happen to be internet companies."

Facebook remains Mr Milner's most high profile and strategic investment. It is understood that he has been quietly building on the original 2pc stake bought last May in shares held by Facebook employees. Mr Milner refused to comment on DST's current Facebook stake.

Mr Milner dismissed suggestions that at a valuation of $10bn he overpaid for his stake in Facebook, especially given that the social networking site has yet to prove it has turned to profit.

"Many people thought Facebook at a $10bn valuation at the bottom of the market was expensive," he said. "But our thesis is to find the best companies in their categories and invest in them. The better companies that we look at tend to be expensive."

Although DST may have overpaid, Mr Milner's investment valued Facebook at $5bn less than when Microsoft bought a $240m stake in late 2007.

"Anybody can make a mistake," he said. "But this is a vision I am convinced [of]. My vision is that Facebook will change a lot of things about the world, particularly e-commerce payments."

Mr Milner believes that people will shift far more of their purchases online. He also predicts that social gaming, in which people pay money to play characters in a fictional online world, will "explode".

"Billions of dollars are already spent on social gaming." he said. "In China people spend a multiple of what they spend in cinemas on social gaming. That is what it is going to be like everywhere."

He acknowledges that it is a vast amount of money to spend on things that only have a virtual existence, but says people are already spending billions of pounds on other "unnecessary" goods, such as ties and fancy furniture.

"People spend a lot of money on non-practical things. They could save a lot of money if they did that on the internet instead," according to the 48-year-old former theoretical physicist and World Bank strategist.

"Everything you do in real life you can do for cheaper on the internet. We have a dating site in Russia, so instead of taking your girlfriend to a restaurant you can meet her online.

"If you want to meet people you could go to a nightclub, but if you spend a few dollars online you can promote your picture for everyone to see. For the same money you can be seen by more people," he said. "I would argue that it is much more efficient to meet on the internet.

"I met my girlfriend in the gym, that's not the most efficient way either, as gym membership costs $1,000 a month."

Is everything in life about efficiency? "For most people, yes. Economics are important, most people would rather do things cheaper."

Google Blames Developers for Lousy Android Battery Life

The Register

Creating a multitasking mobile isn't so easy after all, Google's top execs are discovering. Co-founder Larry Page was pressed with concerns about Android's iffy power management yesterday, and according to reports, all he could offer was a bigger battery. Eric Schmidt blamed third party software developers for using the phone's radio capabilities too much.

Well, duh. That's why the radio's there.

Google's realisation that there's more to mobile than 60fps graphics transitions does help Symbian and Apple, with their two radically different approaches to power management, come up smelling of roses.

Symbian had the advantage of starting from a sound basis, you might recall from our Psion retrospective. When Symbian OS was being devised, between 1994 and 1996, aggressive power management was a top priority.

"Every microamp was sacred," is how David Tupman described the hardware team's philosophy - Psion was still designing its own chips at the time. But the biggest help the hardware team had was an OS that drew very little power. The first Epoc machines used a quarter of the power draw of Microsoft's mobile OS.

It's an advantage that Symbian and Nokia, despite their missteps in recent years, have never really thrown away. If you want a smartphone with maximum power management, there's the modest (and barely promoted) Nokia E52 - eking out 6 hours of 3G talk time (and a month's standby) in a sub-100g package.

Apple has taken a different approach, basically disallowing all third party multitasking. The first iPhone only permitted multitasking for its own music player and in a very limited way, its email package. After two years, it added server-side push notifications, giving background applications the minimal information needed to respond. Still some way short of full multitasking.

This summer sees iPhone OS 4.0 released, with enhanced multitasking in seven areas, but it's closer to the notifications system of OS 3.0 than the pre-emptive multitasking a computer science course would define. An application developer foolish enough to write an application that polls constantly will get little joy. Version 4 does allow most of the use cases - receiving VoIP calls, for example - most people have asked for. But not at the expense of cell phone battery life.

In the long run, Page and Schmidt are right - you can't really improve power management easily if it isn't great to begin with, except by adding hardware. If and when Nokia and the Symbian licensees sort out the user interface problems (and there's not much sign of that yet), they'll continue to have a pretty unique advantage.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dell Spent $760,000 Lobbying in Quarter 1

Associated Press

Computer maker Dell Inc. spent $760,000 in the first quarter to lobby the federal government on funding for health care information technology and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

That's up from the $725,000 the PC maker spent in the same quarter in 2009.

Dell also lobbied the federal government on legislation involving patent litigation reform; electronic waste export; funding for projects in the Defense Department, NASA, the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies; foreign trade; funding for technology in education and other issues.

Dell acquired Perot Systems, a technology services company, last year for $3.9 billion, making Dell a major provider of both PC and server hardware and technology support to hospitals. As such, it is likely to benefit from legislation that provides money for hospitals and doctors' offices to upgrade to electronic medical records systems, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Dell said in the disclosure report that it lobbied specifically on parts of that act that related to money for health care technology and for education technology.

Dell also said it lobbied on issues related to China's requirement that new PCs sold in the country have Internet filtering software. China backed off the requirement after outcry from computer makers and others.

In the January-through-March period, Dell lobbied Congress, the Commerce Department, the U.S. Trade Representative and other entities, according to the report filed with the House clerk's office.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Google's Open Video Standard Begins New Battle with Apple

San Francisco Chronicle

Google may have just entered a new battlefront with Apple at the "I/O" developers conference when it took the wraps off its plans for the VP8 video codec.

While this battle is not as transparent, or sexy, as Android versus iPhone, it's going to create yet another point of tension for the two companies.

Google's big open video plan is called the WebM project. It will make the VP8 video codec, which it acquired when it bought On2 for $133 million, an open source standard. It will also use the open source Vorbis codec for audio.

When Google announced the new open source project, it said it was partnering with Mozilla, Opera, Google Chrome, Adobe, and others to proliferate the standard across the web.

As John Gruber at Daring Fireball noted, there's a big name missing from the list: Apple. (Microsoft is also missing, but it has thrown some support VP8's way.)

Apple is missing because it put its full support behind another video codec, H.264. H.264 is not an open standard. H.264 is free to use for the next five years, but after that MPEG LA plans on charging a royalty for using it.

It is a proprietary standard, owned by a consortium of tech companies called MPEG LA. Apple and Microsoft have both contributed patents to MPEG LA, so they are part of the consortium.

Those patents are important. Steve Jobs has hinted he will be doing all he can to protect them. In an email to Hugo Roy of the Free Software Foundation, Steve Jobs wrote (our emphasis added):

All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other "open source" codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn't mean or guarantee that it doesn't infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source.

We don't know, but we suspect that Steve Jobs knew Google was planning on open sourcing its video format when he wrote this. While he specifically mentions Ogg Theora, he also mentions "other 'open source' codecs," suggesting that Apple could be mulling plans to sue Google over the VP8 codec format.

This wouldn't be Apple's first patent lawsuit aimed at Google. Let's not forget it's also suing HTC, a big Android customer.

Aside from the possible patent issues, this codec bothers Apple for other reasons, according to web video experts.

We spoke with Peter Csathy, CEO of Sorenson Media and David Dudas, VP of product development about Google's VP8 announcement. Sorenson Media has been involved in video encoding and compression for over a decade.

Peter and David speculated that Apple doesn't like VP8 for the following reasons:

    * Apple is a control freak, and it doesn't like the idea of Google having control over a new video format, even if it is open source. Apple is closed, it likes its own quality control. With H.264, it has some of that.
    * Apple has been getting companies to commit to its H.264 format. That works well for transmitting video on iPads and iPhones. If another format comes along, it could mess that up.
    * Apple is battling with Google. Why would it help proliferate VP8? The new standard is only going to help Google. Peter and David think Google can monetize from this new format in a number of ways -- from advertising to cloud services. It will also help Android, Google TV, and Google's tablet efforts, they say. Conversly, it's unclear what Apple gains from it.

Admittedly, it's still early in whole messy codec-war. And as you probably noticed, it's also very complicated. It's entirely possible Apple will eventually announce support for WebM once it gets a better look at it.

Lately, though, Apple has not been in the mood to play nice with competitors. We've already mentioned its lawsuit against HTC. It's also in a lawsuit war with Nokia. Then there's also the nasty spat is has going with Adobe. Remember also, CNBC reported Steve Jobs hates Google CEO Eric Schmidt now.

If Google plans a new format that will give it more control over web video, possibly hurting Apple in anyway, we don't see any reason for Apple to let this one go. So, get ready for more fireworks between the two tech companies.

This time it could be over video codecs, of all things.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nanocomposite Materials Offer Battery Boost

Industry Week
New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests material could vastly improve performance of lithium-ion batteries for cars and electronics.

A new high-performance anode structure based on silicon-carbon nanocomposite materials could significantly improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries used in a wide range of applications from hybrid vehicle and motorcycle batteries to portable electronics.

Produced with a "bottom-up" self-assembly technique, the new structure takes advantage of nanotechnology to fine-tune its materials' properties, addressing the shortcomings of earlier silicon-based battery anodes. The simple, low-cost fabrication technique was designed to be easily scaled up and compatible with existing battery manufacturing.

Details of the new self-assembly approach were published online in the journal Nature Materials in March.

"Development of a novel approach to producing hierarchical anode or cathode particles with controlled properties opens the door to many new directions for lithium-ion battery technology," says Gleb Yushin, an assistant professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "This is a significant step toward commercial production of silicon-based anode materials for lithium-ion batteries."The popular and lightweight batteries work by transferring lithium ions between two electrodes -- a cathode and an anode -- through a liquid electrolyte. The more efficiently the lithium ions can enter the two electrodes during charge and discharge cycles, the larger the battery's capacity will be.

Existing lithium-ion batteries rely on anodes made from graphite, a form of carbon. Silicon-based anodes theoretically offer as much as a tenfold capacity improvement over graphite, but silicon-based anodes have so far not been stable enough for practical use.

Graphite anodes use particles ranging in size from 15 to 20 microns. If silicon particles of that size are simply substituted for the graphite, expansion and contraction as the lithium ions enter and leave the silicon creates cracks that quickly cause the anode to fail.

The new nanocomposite material solves that degradation problem, potentially allowing battery designers to tap the capacity advantages of silicon. That could facilitate higher power output from a given battery size -- or allow a smaller battery to produce a required amount of power.

"At the nanoscale, we can tune materials' properties with much better precision than we can at traditional size scales," says Yushin. "This is an example of where having nanoscale fabrication techniques leads to better materials."

Electrical measurements of the new composite anodes in small coin cell batteries showed they had a capacity more than five times greater than the theoretical capacity of graphite.

So far, the researchers have tested the new anode through more than 100 charge-discharge cycles. Yushin believes the material would remain stable for thousands of cycles because no degradation mechanisms have become apparent.

"If this technology can offer a lower cost on a capacity basis, or lighter weight compared to current techniques, this will help advance the market for lithium batteries," he says. "If we are able to produce less expensive batteries that last for a long time, this could also facilitate the adoption of many ‘green' technologies, such as electric vehicles or solar cells."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cambridge Scientists Solve Mystery of Flammable Laptop Batteries

Telegraph U.K.

Researchers at Cambridge University believe metal fibres, known as dendrites, are one of the main reasons why lithium batteries in phones, laptops and other devices overheat and catch fire.

There have been several high-profile stories in recent years of iPods, laptop computers and phones spontaneously combusting, sometimes when they're in the owner's pocket or handbag, or when left unattended at home.

Batteries in discount laptops and phones are designed to charge quickly, but this can cause dendrites to form on the battery's carbon anodes, said the team of scientists. These fibres are one of the main causes of short circuits, which can, in turn, cause laptop computer batteries to overheat and even catch fire.

Now, the team is hoping to get a better understanding of how dendrites form, and how their development can be halted, but using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to trace their development. It is hoped that this information will help consumer electronics manufacturers improve the safety of lithium batteries.

"These dead lithium fibres have been a significant impediment to the commercialisation of new generations of higher capacity laptop batteries," Professor Clare Grey, one of the researchers from Cambridge University's chemistry department, told the BBC.

"Fire safety must be solved before we can get to the next generation of lithium-ion batteries and before we can safely use these batteries in a wider range of transport applications. Now that we can monitor dendrite formation inside batteries, we can identify when they are formed and under what conditions.

"Our new method should allow researchers to identify which conditions lead to dendrite formation and to rapidly screen potential fixes to prevent the problem."

GM's New Volt to Use Google's Android Software

The Wall Street Journal

General Motors Co. has paired with Google Inc. to create new features for the soon-to-launch Chevrolet Volt that combine the technology giant's Android smartphone with the auto maker's OnStar technology system.

Further pairings between GM and Google are in the works as the auto maker looks for ways to better leverage OnStar to attract new, younger buyers, according to people familiar with the discussions.

"There can be a technological tour de force beyond just vehicle applications," OnStar President Chris Preuss said. "We're looking to enhance the value proposition on OnStar to make us more competitive."

On Tuesday, the auto maker said Volt owners, using GM's OnStar information system and Google Android operating system, will be able to track the location of their vehicle on their Android phone.

The phone also will allow owners to use voice recognition software ask for Google map directions to be sent to the vehicle and delivered to the driver by OnStar's navigation system, which gives turn-by-turn routes to drivers.

In addition to the Google features, GM already planned several features that would join the Volt and OnStar with smart phones, including the ability to charge the vehicle remotely and monitor battery power from a mobile device.

The moves are the latest indication of how electronics and in-car information systems are becoming a key battleground for car makers used to competing on horsepower and mileage.

In the past few years, Ford Motor Co. has used its in-car data system, Sync, to lure customers to its vehicles. Based on technology developed by Microsoft Corp., Sync allows drivers to control a car's entertainment system with voice command and can link to smartphones and music players such as Apple Inc.'s iPod.

While Sync is primarily positioned as an entertainment system, OnStar is marketed as an in-car information system that offers safety and navigation assistance and can relay calls for emergency help, diagnose mechanical problems and track down stolen vehicles.

"OnStar's biggest problem is that the things it does well it does in unfortunate circumstances," said auto analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics.Hall said.

GM has relied on OnStar to provide features such as hands-free calling and navigation, in which a driver can call an OnStar operator to get directions. Years ago, these perks gave GM an advantage over rivals.

But technologies such as in-car and smart phone global positioning systems and Blue Tooth for mobile phones has eclipsed OnStar's capabilities, making it less of an asset, he said.

GM says OnStar has 5.5 million users. About half of subscribers opt to keep and pay for the service after the first free year, according to a person familiar with the number.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Samsung Plans Record Investments to Widen Lead in Chips, LCDs


Samsung Electronics Co. plans to outspend Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and Sony Corp. combined to widen its lead as the world’s largest maker of memory chips and flat-panel displays.

Capital expenditure will jump to 18 trillion won ($15.6 billion) this year from 8 trillion won in 2009, Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics said in a statement today. Including research and development, spending will increase to 26 trillion won, it said.

The largest spending budget in the technology industry may help Samsung build on its market lead and force smaller competitors to boost investments to keep up. Samsung’s purchases may be a boon for equipment makers including Applied Materials Inc. as the industry recovers from the global recession.

“I believe this massive amount of spending during tough times will cement Samsung’s leadership,” said Kim Young Joon, who oversees $932 million of stocks at NH-CA Asset Management in Seoul as head of equity investment, including Samsung shares. “The investments could pressure competitors to follow suit, which could be a burden for smaller rivals that aren’t as financially strong as Samsung.”

Samsung fell 3.2 percent to close at 784,000 won on the Korea Exchange, compared with the benchmark Kospi index’s 2.6 percent decline.

‘Substantial’ Increase

Samsung, which said last month it would “substantially” increase its 2010 spending budget, plans to invest 9 trillion won in the memory-chip business, compared with an earlier budget of 5.5 trillion won. Spending on liquid-crystal displays will rise to 5 trillion won from 3 trillion won, it said.

Investments for semiconductors will include a new production line for memory chips and adding capacity to an existing manufacturing facility, Samsung said. The company also plans to build a new production line for LCDs on so-called eighth-generation technology to meet rising demand.

Today’s decision “was made to address indications of improving market conditions throughout the global consumer electronics and IT industries, while further strengthening Samsung’s leadership in memory semiconductors and LCD panels,” Samsung said in the statement.

Samsung, which had about 20 trillion won in cash, equivalents and short-term investments at the end of March, is able to spend “aggressively” compared with rivals who are still recovering from the industry’s three-year slump, according to Lee Sun Tae, a Seoul-based analyst at Meritz Securities Co.

Return to Profit

The computer-memory chip industry posted net losses for 10 consecutive quarters before returning to a profit last year, El Segundo, California-based researcher, ISuppli Corp. said this month. Weaker demand amid the economic downturn prompted manufacturers to cut production and investment plans, helping ease the industry glut.

Samsung posted losses at its semiconductor division in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the following three-month period after chip prices declined. That compared with seven consecutive quarterly losses for Hynix between 2007 and 2009 and Micron’s three years of losses.

Samsung said last month it would “substantially” increase spending in 2010 after first-quarter net income jumped almost sevenfold to a record.

Samsung’s investment in chip-making technology has helped the company reduce manufacturing costs and make faster semiconductors. Demand for personal computers, projected to increase 20 percent this year by researcher Gartner Inc., is also driving up computer-memory prices.

“Distributed Unevenly”

“The benefits of the current up-cycle will be distributed unevenly as the gap between first tiers and second tiers has widened, in terms of both capability to add capacity and technology,” Chung Chang Won, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc., wrote in a report last month.

Samsung had a 32.3 percent share of the global dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, market in the first quarter, compared with second-ranked Hynix’s 21.5 percent, according to Dramexchange Technology Inc., operator of Asia’s biggest spot market for semiconductors. Japan’s Elpida Memory Inc. had a 17.4 percent share, while Micron had 14.1 percent.

While investment by computer-memory chipmakers will almost double to $8.4 billion this year, it’s still 32 percent less than 2008, according to Taipei-based Dramexchange.

Don’t Have Potential

Samsung’s spending isn’t a sign that the market “is going to fall apart,” according to Song Myung Sup, an analyst at HI Investment & Securities Co. “If the smaller companies join and increase investment together, then that can be a danger signal. But right now, the others don’t seem to have the potential.”

Global revenue for DRAM, which temporarily holds data and helps computer processors run multiple programs simultaneously, will probably climb 40 percent to $31.9 billion this year, ISuppli Corp. said in February.

Samsung, the world’s largest LCD maker, is also boosting spending for the flat screens to meet rising demand. LG Display Co., the second-largest, last month raised its budget by about 38 percent to 5.5 trillion won for 2010.

Global shipments of LCD TVs may rise 24 percent to more than 180 million units in 2010, Austin, Texas-based DisplaySearch said in March.

Samsung in April forecast profit, which exceeded that of rival, iPhone-maker Apple, in the latest quarter, will probably rise in the current period on sales of chips, flat-screens, TVs and mobile phones.

Analysts predict Samsung’s earnings growth will probably extend until the third quarter, while higher memory-chip and flat-panel prices will help the company post record profit in 2010.

HTC Fires Back, Sues Apple

PC World
Taiwanese phone maker says Apple has violated five patents, asks to ban sales of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod.

This isn't even slightly surprising: HTC is suing Apple. The Taiwanese phone giant says that the iPhone maker has violated five HTC patents, and it's therefore asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to prevent the iPhone, iPad, and iPod from being imported into the U.S. and sold.

Last month, Apple sued HTC, seeking to ban that company from selling phones in the U.S. Apple is also suing Nokia, which is itself suing Apple. Twice.

(Extremely unlikely but perversely satisfying potential scenario: All three companies win all their lawsuits, preventing all of them from selling any products whatsoever and driving them all out of business. At least it might dissuade other businesses from doing battle in the courtroom rather than the marketplace...)

Microsoft, meanwhile, isn't suing HTC-it's collecting royalties whenever HTC sells an Android phone. But the unspoken message of its pact with HTC appears to be "Strike a similar deal with us, makers of Android phones, or we might sue you."

HTC doesn't seem to have disclosed which patents it thinks Apple is violating, but its portfolio includes hundreds of ones relating to mobile gadgets. Just for fun, here's a drawing from one HTC patent that probably isn't involved-the clever one covering the phone that became the AT&T Tilt. (Come to think of it, I'd be interested in buying an iPhone based on this patent-too bad Apple never violated it...)

Google Gives up Trying to Sell Nexus One Online

NZ Herald

SAN FRANCISCO - Google will close an online store that it set up to sell its Nexus One phone and rely on traditional retailers instead.

The shift ends Google's attempt to develop a new sales model for the mobile industry.

Google had hoped to shake things up by establishing its online store as the only place to buy the Nexus One, which the company hailed as a "super" phone when it debuted amid fanfare in January.

But consumers didn't embrace the idea of buying a phone without any hands-on experience.

"As with every innovation, some parts worked better than others," Andy Rubin, a Google executive overseeing the Nexus One, wrote in a blog post.

Rubin said Google will stop selling the Nexus One in its web store as soon as it lines up other US retailers to carry the device.

Google hasn't disclosed how many Nexus One units it has sold so far.

Nexus One is just one of many different smart phones that rely on Google's free Android operating system.

The alternatives also are proving to be an obstacle for the Nexus One.

Two major carriers, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, recently decided not to support the Nexus One because they prefer other Android-powered phones.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Steve Jobs Made Phone Call Seeking Lost iPhone

Associated Press

Brian Hogan's world closed in fast almost as soon as he sold the next-generation iPhone he found in a Silicon Valley bar to a popular technology website for a stack of $100 bills, according to court documents released Friday.

By April 19, Hogan's roommate had tipped off investigators that he was at the center of the drama, Apple's top lawyers were meeting with police to press for criminal charges and Steve Jobs himself was personally demanding the iPhone's return.

The ordeal has set off ethic debates in journalism and law enforcement circles while Hogan and a website editor are now at the center of a criminal investigation that has been rife with speculation but devoid of many facts - until now.

On Friday, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan ordered unsealed a 10-page sworn statement with details written by San Mateo Sheriff's Detective Matthew Broad to obtain a warrant to search the car and home of Jason Chen, a editor. Broad's statement was used to obtain a search warrant for Chen's home and car.

According to the statement, the saga began March 25, when Apple engineer Robert "Gray" Powell left the iPhone prototype in the bar area of Redwood City's Gourmet Haus Staud restaurant.

It said Gizmodo paid Hogan $5,000 for the device, cracked it open and posted images of it on April 20 despite a phone call from Jobs the day before demanding website editors return the gadget. Gizmodo promised Hogan an additional $3,500 bonus if Apple formally unveiled the device by July, according to Broad.

Now, Chen is under investigation for theft, receiving stolen property and damaging property, according to the affidavit. The affidavit also suggests Hogan and a third roommate, Thomas Warner, also may face criminal charges, and alleges the two panicked and attempted to hide evidence when they caught wind of the criminal investigation.

Nobody, including Chen, has been charged with any crime,

"The events have taken on a life of their own," said Jeff Bornstein, Hogan's attorney. "He thought it was dumb luck that he stumbled on to something valuable and he regrets not doing more to return it."

Bornstein said Hogan always intended to return the phone and didn't believe he was breaking the law in dealing with Gizmodo.

Bornstein also denied the affidavit's suggestion that Hogan was trying to get rid of evidence on April 21. That's when, shortly before midnight, Hogan's roommate Katherine Martinson called investigators and told them that Hogan and Warner were removing evidence from their apartment, the document said.

Investigators found Hogan at his father's Redwood City house and he directed them to nearby Sequoia Christian Church, where they recovered Hogan's computer and monitor.

Bornstein said that Hogan was in the process of moving out of the apartment and that Warner ended up with Hogan's computer, panicked and dropped them off at the church.

The investigation has prompted debate over whether he should be shielded from prosecution by California's so-called shield law, which protects journalists from having to turn over to police unpublished notes and the names of anonymous sources. But the shield law doesn't immunize journalists from breaking the law.

The investigators themselves have come under fire as well for apparently launching the investigation at Apple's behest. Detective Broad belongs to a special high technology task force called the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, which is comprised of investigators from several jurisdictions and investigates crimes against technology companies.

According to Broad, task force investigators met with two high-ranking Apple executives and outside lawyer George Riley on April 20, the day Gizmodo published the images. Riley told the task force that Gizmodo's action were "immensely damaging to Apple," because consumers would hold off buying iPhones until the new version was released. Riley didn't estimate a dollar figure, but said losses were "huge," according to the affidavit.

Apple is a member of the technology crime task force's board, but the company said it didn't use its influence to pressure law enforcement to investigate.

"We reported what we believe was a crime, and the D.A. of San Mateo county is taking it from there," said Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton.

San Mateo County prosecutors had argued to keep the affidavit under seal to protect the identities of witnesses and the ongoing investigation. But The Associated Press and several other media companies convinced a San Mateo County superior court judge to make the document public, arguing disclosure was necessary to ensure that the raid of a journalist's home was proper.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Verizon, Google Working on Tablet

PC Mag

Verizon Wireless is working on a tablet with Google, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

"We're looking at all the things Google has in its archives that we could put on a tablet to make it a great experience," Verizon Wireless chief executive Lowell McAdam told the Journal.

A Google spokesman did not address the specific rumor about a Google-Verizon tablet, and said that its Android platform could be used for a variety of things.

"Android is a free, open source mobile platform. This means that anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device without restrictions," he said in a statement. "The Android smartphone platform was designed from the beginning to scale downward to feature phones and upward to MID and netbook-style devices. We look forward to seeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spurs innovation, but we have nothing to announce at this time."

"We're letting Lowell's comments speak for themselves on this one," a Verizon spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Nokia Goes ‘Back to the Future’ in Attempt to Topple iPhone

Bloomberg / Business Week

Nokia Oyj has chosen Anssi Vanjoki, an outspoken executive who produced its last hit smartphone three years ago, to bring back the buzz.

Vanjoki, a 20-year company veteran named yesterday to take over a new smartphone unit, launched the N95 model in March 2007. That was eclipsed three months later by Apple Inc.’s iPhone. Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, the world’s largest handset maker, still hasn’t developed a phone with the same cachet.

The N95, Nokia’s first handset with GPS, sold more than 10 million units and helped boost the operating margin in devices to more than 21 percent. Since then, Apple and Research in Motion Ltd. have eaten away at Nokia’s customers and profits, driving down the margin to 12.1 percent in the first quarter.

“It’s a bit back to the future,” said Carolina Milanesi, a research director at Gartner Inc. in Egham, England. “The biggest challenge is that he doesn’t have much time, as Nokia needs to deliver.”

Shares in Nokia have lost 22 percent in the three weeks since the company reported first-quarter earnings that missed analyst estimates. Nokia slashed prices for smartphones in the period to compete with the iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry.

Vanjoki’s first answer to the iPhone was a line of music phones in August 2007. At the announcement, he said, “If there is something good in the world, we copy with pride.” Apple has since cited that comment in an ongoing U.S. legal battle between the companies over patents used in their smartphones, with each side accusing the other of stealing their technologies.

Latest Salvo

Nokia last week filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple in its latest salvo over the iPhone and iPad. The suit, the fifth patent complaint between the two companies in the past year over smartphone technology, broadens the fight to include Apple’s iPad touch-screen computer tablet.

One of two remaining members of former chief executive officer Jorma Ollila’s so-called “Dream Team” from the 1990s along with current CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, 53-year-old Vanjoki will have to defend Nokia’s position from increasing competition on all fronts, analysts said.

The company has not only lost momentum in touchscreen phones to Apple and in Qwerty-keyboard business phones to RIM, it’s also being challenged by Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp. and LG Electronics Inc., which have revamped their lines with Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Tero Kuittinen, an analyst at Greenwich, Connecticut-based MKM Partners. “The iPhone is a luxury juggernaut that can no longer be defeated, but Nokia still has a shot at snuffing out the challenge of its Asian midrange rivals.”

Marketing Strategy

Nokia hired Vanjoki in 1991 from St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M Co. to develop a mobile-phone marketing strategy and the global brand. He started running the multimedia unit in 2004, and shipped the N95 three years later in March 2007.

Vanjoki shifted back to marketing a few months later, after the phone units were merged into one devices division and Kai Oistamo was put in charge. Vanjoki will now once again head a separate smartphone business, while Mary McDowell will run the low-end phones. Oistamo will take McDowell’s position as head of corporate development.

Vanjoki is known for speaking his mind in a company that tends to take a more low-key approach. In February, he criticized the N97, a combination touchscreen and keyboard phone that was supposed to help Nokia take back high-end smartphones, in a video interview with the All About Symbian blog.

“The N97 has been a tremendous success for us when it comes to how many did we ship and how much money did we collect,” he said. “But it has been a tremendous disappointment in terms of the experience quality for the consumers, something we did not anticipate.”

Speeding Harley

A graduate of Finland’s biggest business school, Vanjoki is also chairman of Amer Sports Oyj, the Finnish sports equipment company that owns the Salomon and Wilson brands. He made the Finnish press in 2002 after police tried to fine him more than $100,000 for speeding through town on his Harley-Davidson.

Vanjoki’s first test in the new job will be later this year when Nokia rolls out the N8, a slim touchscreen with a revamp of its Symbian software system to make it more finger-friendly. The phone will come with free access to television content, maps and navigation.

“Anssi’s going to have the ultimate responsibility to be the poster child for these new products,” said Ben Wood, a London-based analyst at CCS Insight. “It’s a big bet and the first step of a long journey back. If these people don’t succeed, they will be doing something different in three years.”

With assistance from Susan Decker in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Battery Life Will Decide The Tablet Wars

I4U News

Why is a tablet preferable to a laptop? Convenient form-factor? Ease of handling? No. If that were the case, the HP Slate would still run Windows 7. Tablets are wonderful for reading or browsing the Internet, but that alone isn't nearly enough to carry a distinct product line. To be successful, a tablet needs endurance. Staying power.

The iPad routinely exceeds ten hours of in-use laptop battery life. It lasts long enough that you can forget you are using a battery powered device, which makes it ideal for the kind of immersive mind-state that thorough enjoyment of the written word requires. What other gadget can you take out to the hammock and relax with on a summer day?

True; you can find laptops with 12 hour laptop computer batteries. But those are netbooks, underpowered gadgets with an awkward form-factor and some seriously frustrating limitations. Reading a magazine or web page or ebook on a netbook cannot compare to reading it on a tablet. The iPad is a device of liberation. It brings freedom from cords, from the need to stay near an outlet at all times. It is simple and intuitive and, most of all, convenient.

Apple put all of their eggs into the convenience basket. By contrast, her competitors have made the mistake of trying to outdo the iPad with additional features and beefier hardware. This is standard operating procedure for competing with Apple, but it will not work in this product category. Tablets don't need to do much, but they need to be fast and they need to have staying power.

HP realized this belatedly, which is why they are rushing to stick webOS on their Slate and beef up its battery life. The ExoPC and the WePad and the AigoPad spec leaks all studiously avoid any mention of estimated battery life. There is a reason for this; none of these tablets can compete with the iPad in terms of longevity. (Prove me wrong, guys!) That will be their undoing.

Only one tablet on the horizon really has good odds at taking on the iPad in its home court and coming out smelling like a rose. Thanks to a transreflective LCD screen, Notion Ink's Adam is the only competing product willing to brag about battery life. Whether or not the finished product will actually be able to deliver 16 hours of in-use battery life is anyone's guess. If they can, the Adam will emerge as the first true threat to the iPad's dominance.

In the end, company loyalty is only a factor for a minority of consumers. The rest of us just want to be freed from the tedium of constant charging and power gauge worrying. The market will go to whoever does this best.

Welcome to Android

PC World
New to Android? Here’s a quick look at what Google’s mobile operating system can do.

By now, you've probably heard an earful about how great Android phones are, how they will take over the mobile world, and how they do everything the Apple iPhone can't. But if you haven't yet fully explored an Android phone, you may be wondering what the hype is all about.

First, a little history: Google's move into the mobile phone market started way back in 2005, when the Internet giant acquired a small startup company called Android, Inc. Rumors immediately began to surface that Google was developing its own challenge to the iPhone. But it wasn't just one phone--and Google wasn't the only company working on the project. In November 2007, the Open Handset Alliance--a consortium of 47 hardware, software, and telecom companies--unveiled Android, a mobile platform based on the open-source Linux operating system.

Because Android is open-source, the platform has many advantages for consumers and developers. Smartphone and other mobile device manufacturers have more freedom to tweak the software to meet their needs, opening up a wider range of options than most other cell phones can offer. For example, a few HTC- and Motorola-manufactured Android phones come with a custom user interface that runs over the base OS. Meanwhile, third-party software developers are free to create apps that improve on the operating system's standard features.

Another advantage of open-source is that Android isn't tied to a single device--whether it be a phone, a netbook, or a tablet. The HTC T-Mobile G1 was the first Android phone available to U.S. audiences, but a rapidly growing number of Android devices have crept onto the scene from various manufacturers, many of them bearing interesting and unique designs. Whether you want a built-in QWERTY keypad or a large touchscreen (or both), you can probably find an Android phone to match your preferences. There are even a few large tablet devices available to compete with Apple's iPad.

Of course, you also have considerable freedom in selecting a wireless network. Android phones are available for every major U.S. carrier. In addition, unlocked Android phones, such as the Google Nexus One, are available; you can use these devices on any carrier that has a compatible network.

Android benefits from its close ties with Google, too. Google services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google search with voice are tightly integrated with the platform. And Android users get first dibs on Google apps like Google Voice, Google Latitude, Maps Editor, and Google Skymaps.

Besides having access to Google's apps, Android users can choose from thousands of third-party apps in the Android Market. Though the Android Market hasn't quite matched the iPhone App Store in number and quality of apps yet, it is getting there quickly. The Android Market stocks paid and free apps that you can download directly onto your device.

Unlike Apple, Google does not have a stringent app approval process, so developers can get their apps into the Android Market more easily and more quickly. Also, unlike the iPhone App store, the Android Market isn't the only place where Android users can obtain apps for their devices. Alternative sources include Web-based third-party Android app libraries (like and individual developers' Websites.

Tech research firm Gartner predicts that Android phones will become the second-largest smartphone platform by 2012, right behind longtime industry leader Nokia. As Android software grows more refined and as the variety of devices on the market increases, this prediction doesn't sound at all far-fetched. Since its inception, the Android platform has shaken up the mobile world--and that alone is worth paying attention to.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sony's Countertop View of the Web

The Wall Street Journal

Every time a technology product breaks new ground, it has to answer the question on most consumers' minds: Do they really need this product? Most recently, Apple encountered this at the launch of the iPad, which confused some consumers who weren't sure how it would fit in with their cheap laptops and smartphones.

This week, I tested a product that represents Sony's attempt to wade into a new category: the $200 Dash ( This gadget, labeled by the company as a Personal Internet Viewer, is like a digital photo frame on steroids. It's meant to run in the background of your life, cycling through on-screen data, slide-show style, while sitting on a kitchen counter, desk or nightstand.

The Dash's content includes more than 1,000 apps, the majority of which came out of Sony's partnership with Chumby Industries, maker of its own similar devices. These apps connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi and display frequently refreshed data like Facebook photos and statuses, tweets from, quiz-game questions, recipe tips, email snippets and news updates. The Dash can play videos from services like Netflix and Amazon's Video on Demand.

But aside from some faults, Sony's biggest challenge will be convincing people that they actually need a Dash. I used it for a week, both at my office desk and at home, and I'm not convinced I need to spend $200 to watch bursts of data appear onscreen like a slow stock ticker. I already use a smartphone, laptop or iPad to check things like social-network updates, news and email—and using these never requires waiting for the right information to cycle through a screen or an additional hp laptop battery. There were times when I glanced at my Dash in passing and read snippets of mildly entertaining information, but these moments were few and far between.

To me, the most interesting information to pass through the Dash is that which comes from personalized apps—those that the user sets up with credentials to access content aimed specifically at him or her, like messages in email and social networks. But if the Dash is set up in a kitchen, who in the family gets to set up their account on this gadget? And is all of that content acceptable for all family members to see and read in passing? I can't imagine teens wanting parents reading their content or vice versa.

Some people might like the Dash for its fancy alarm-clock capabilities. It shows weather and time information in a handsome display and can play specially chosen videos or podcasts when an alarm goes off. But smartphones like Motorola's Backflip display time and weather information in tabletop or docked mode.

The Dash has a bright, seven-inch touch screen and an accelerometer, so it can be used vertically or flipped around and laid flat, which is better for things like typing with an on-screen keyboard that appears for certain apps. It lacks a Web browser, word-processing program and a full email program. Accessories like keyboards and mouses can't be attached to the Dash.

Most Dash apps can be browsed directly from the Dash and added to the device, though users can load apps and adjust more app settings by going to the website, where the product must be registered, on their refurbished desktop computer. People also can use the website to set up their Amazon and Netflix accounts so videos can play on the Dash. Pandora accounts can be set up here, too, but the Pandora app never worked correctly on my Dash.

The Facebook app lets people read friends' status messages and comments about those status messages. They can touch an on-screen thumbs up icon to like someone's status, and can type their own comments about someone's status. The Twitter app let me write my own tweets, but I couldn't retweet or direct-message other users. A Sony representative said the Dash is intended to be more of a "glanceable" product with less interaction, but that doesn't explain why the Facebook app has interactive capabilities. The representative said they may consider improving the Twitter app in the future. Both Twitter and Facebook were slow to load on the screen, taking about four seconds each for content to appear.

Sony's representative said my office Wi-Fi could be to blame for the Dash's slow performance. The office Wi-Fi, however, isn't behind firewalls and never gives me trouble for other tests. A check of my home's Wi-Fi network showed I had a similar low 42% "link quality" on the Dash there. But my nearby MacBook and iPad showed full signal strength and worked perfectly.

The Dash has several geeky qualities. Setting it up to work with a password-protected Wi-Fi network prompts users to choose the correct key encoding—either HEX or ASCII—neither of which are familiar to most people and the Help button doesn't clarify matters. Apps with email envelope icons in them, like Martha Stewart's Everyday Food app, don't let users email content (in this case, a recipe) to friends. Instead, selecting this icon sends the recipe to the person's own email address—the one with which the device was registered—and the email says it's from "chumby." This name is completely confusing to people who know nothing about Chumby and its connection with Sony.

Sony is planning to fix a few flaws of the Dash and add more functions, including a way to jump directly to an app rather than cycling through the entire list of apps, through an over-the-air software update at the end of May. This fix also will enable the Dash's USB port to play photos and music on the device. It currently isn't functional.

Even if all bugs are fixed on the Sony Dash, I still have trouble seeing how this type of product would be worth $200 for most average users, given the way they already use other devices.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

iPad is iBad for Democracy, Obama tells Graduates

NY Post

BlackBerry buff President Obama declared war on technology yesterday — singling out Apple’s super-popular iPods and iPads for criticism.

Obama — whose election was credited, in part, to his skillful use of modern media, from smart phones to Twitter to Flickr -- yesterday told college graduates that high-tech gizmos and apps are straining American democracy.

"With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said at Hampton University in Virginia.

Lobbing more grenades than the popular "Call of Duty" video game at targets like Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, Obama described the companies' most popular offerings as distractions that are putting unnecessary pressure on the country.

Obama also lamented the spread of social media and blogs through which "some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction."

"All of this is not only putting new pressures on you," Obama said. "It is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy."

"We can't stop these changes," Obama said, "but we can adapt to them. And education is what can allow us to do so. It can fortify you, as it did earlier generations, to meet the tests of your own time."

Obama, who at one time had rapper Ludacris on his iPod and still has a White House-provided profile on Facebook, warned that the world is at a moment of "breathtaking change."

Yet in a speech before members of a generation that never knew life without a computer, Obama came close to declaring technology -- and the information it spawns -- the enemy.

"With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who's telling the truth and who's not," Obama said.

"Let's face it -- even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I've had some experience with that myself. Fortunately, you'll be well positioned to navigate this terrain."

Monday, May 10, 2010

World's Thinnest Laptop May be in the Works from Toshiba


Thin-and-light laptops were a major trend in 2009, but is that still the case in 2010? A recently circulating series of photos from Vietnamese tech Web site vozExpress show what looks like a soon-to-be-announced Toshiba laptop, one that promises to be both the thinnest and lightest 13-incher on the market. Based on the corner we can see, it certainly looks attractive. As to whether it's truly useful remains to be seen.

We've gone down this road before with the Dell Adamo, MacBook Air, MSI X340, and the Dell Adamo XPS. Being extremely thin and light can be attractive qualities in a notebook, but they're usually also expensive ones, and tend to happen at the expense of performance and/or battery life.

That might be where this Toshiba could have an edge: the report claims the computer will run off a standard-voltage Intel Core i3/i5 CPU and have a second, specialized Super Charged Ion laptop computer battery, a new technology that can charge to 90 percent capacity in 10 minutes. SCiB batteries haven't been used yet in laptops; Toshiba's Web site mentions applications ranging from lawnmowers and electric bicycles to forklifts and solar power generators. It's unclear whether a laptop version would offer a long battery life, or just be able to charge-and-rally quickly.

Based on the news of a specialized laptop battery and the bit of design we see peeking out of this photograph, it doesn't sound like it will be cheap. But it does sound intriguing, especially if the battery reports turn out to be true.

FCC Lets Hollywood Turn Off Your Output Jacks


Hollywood will soon have the power to remotely disable the analog outputs on your set-top box, under a decision by federal regulators on Friday intended to prevent home recording of new movie releases.

The move by the Federal Communications Commission grants cable and satellite providers the power to block consumers from viewing just-released movies in an analog format through a process known as Selectable Output Control. Hollywood requested SOC powers as a condition of allowing providers for the first time to release movies to their in-home customers while the film is in theaters.

The Motion Picture Association of America said its member studios would not authorize the early movie releases unless it won the ability to deploy Selectable Output Control. The reason: Analog video signals can easily be recorded, while digital video standards include a copy protection scheme that lets providers set a no-copy flag on the signal.

Digital rights group, Public Knowledge, said millions of older televisions, including 11 million HD sets, would be affected, a number the MPAA disputes. Owners of those devices would not have the luxury of being able to view the latest theater blockbuster at home through video on-demand services.

“The FCC is allowing the MPAA to control your television,” John Bergmayer, Public Knowledge staff attorney, said in a telephone interview.

Howard Gantman, a Motion Picture Association of America vice president, said in a telephone interview that, while some consumers may be left out, “It’s not going to stop you from getting what you get now.”

The FCC said it sided with the MPAA in the name of “public interest,” and granted SOC controls for no longer than 90 days per title.

“We believe that providing consumers with the option to view films in their homes shortly after those films are released in theaters will serve the public interest,” the FCC said in its order. It added that permission to deploy Selectable Output Control “is necessary to provide adequate protection against illegal copying of the proposed service.”

Gantman said it’s now about four months between theater debut to home or DVD release. With Friday’s decision, he said, it was not immediately clear how much shorter that span would become.

Agreements between studios, producers and the cable and satellite providers need to be worked out, he said.

“We’re not breaking anybody’s TVs,” he said.

Global Semiconductor Market Grows by 30 Percent

The Inquirer

The worldwide semiconductor market has grown by 30 per cent according to Isuppli.

The last time this happened Bill Clinton was US President, Gladiator was topping the box office and the dot-com boom was so exciting that everyone thought the buyout of AOL by Time Warner was a good idea.

In 2000 the semiconductor industry expanded by 36.7 per cent. This year the chip market is expected to finally break 30 per cent growth once again. Revenue is set to rise to $300.3 billion, up 30.6 per cent from $229.9 billion in 2009.

Dale Ford, senior vice president of market intelligence services at Isuppli said that unlike in 2000, growth in chip sales this year will be driven by supply factors that slowly have been gaining momentum during the past year.

After the expansion in sales that followed the downturn in late 2008 and early 2009, the semiconductor industry is set to achieve remarkable revenue growth and record size in 2010, he said.

Chip sales growth this year will be fuelled by strong consumer demand for hot electronic products, diligent inventory and capacity management efforts among chip makers and the arrival of innovative technologies at both the component and end-system levels.

This year will mark an all-time annual high for global semiconductor revenue, eclipsing the previous record of $274 billion set in 2007 by about nine per cent.

Ford said that 2010 is bringing a return to normal semiconductor market conditions after the aberrant industry performance in 2009, when chip sales plunged due to external economic conditions.

While semiconductor sales growth in 2010 is impressive, it still needs to be viewed in context of the dismal results that prevailed in 2009, Ford said.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nokia Launches another Patent Complaint against Apple

USA Today

NEW YORK — Finnish cellphone maker Nokia (NOK) said Friday that it has extended its patent-infringement claims against Apple (AAPL) to include the new iPad.

The latest complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisc., follows other lawsuits by Nokia claiming a broad swath of Apple products violate Nokia patents.

Nokia says the disputed technologies help reduce the size and cost of electronic gadgets. Apple had already responded with its own infringement claims against Nokia.

Lawsuits over patent rights are common in the technology industry. They can take years to resolve and often end with some kind of licensing agreement.

Apple has sued Taiwan's HTC Corp., one of the leading producers of cellphones that run on Google 's Android software, a potential challenger to Apple's popular iPhone. Apple says HTC's Android phones violate iPhone patents.

The legal disputes come amid increasing competition in the fast-growing market for smart phones. Tech companies are scrambling to win over the growing number of consumers buying cellphones that come with e-mail, Web surfing and scores of apps for checking weather, updating Facebook and other tasks.

Nokia is the world's biggest cellphone maker, though it is more dominant in Asia and Europe. In the U.S., it faces intense competition from the iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerrys.

Nokia's latest lawsuit targets the iPhone and the iPad 3G, the version of the device that can connect to the Web using cellphone networks. Nokia said the gadgets infringe five patents related to technology that makes voice and data communications more efficient, which allows the devices to be more compact.

"We have taken this step to protect the results of our pioneering development and to put an end to continued unlawful use of Nokia's innovation," Nokia executive Paul Melin said.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling declined to comment on the new case but said the company had already filed a countersuit in December to earlier claims by Nokia. Apple claims Nokia is infringing 13 of its patents, saying the company chose to "copy the iPhone" in order to recapture its share of the high-end phone market.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ford Hits the Road with 'Caravan' App

PC World

Cloud computing will take the place of CB radios this month when Ford Motor leads a subcompact convoy across the U.S. and demonstrates Caravan Track, an application developed by students at the University of Michigan.

Caravan Track was the winning project from a Ford-sponsored Michigan course in which students wrote applications to help travelers. On May 14, a team of Ford engineers and the four students who developed Caravan Track will leave the university and drive two Ford Fiestas, both equipped with the software, to the Maker Faire hobbyist event in San Mateo, California, on May 22. Ford dubbed the trip American Journey 2.0 and will use it to showcase Ford-developed software as well as the students' work.

Caravan Track lets people share route and vehicle information and coordinate stops as they travel in groups of cars, the kind of communication that once was done over short-distance CB (citizen's band) radios. But the Caravan Track development team wasn't trying to emulate that traditional communication tool of U.S. truckers, who broadcast over shared channels and identify themselves with clever handles. The students thought of the application as an alternative to cell phones.

"Calling between cars can be a hassle sometimes, so we figured this might make things a bit easier," said John Ciccone, a member of the development team, who just graduated from Michigan with a bachelor's degree in computer science.

With Caravan Track, users sign up online to join a trip with friends, much like joining a Facebook group. The leader of the trip supplies a four-digit code that allows each participant to log in. Routes to all planned meeting points and the final destination are automatically generated for each car. Once on the road, all the participants can share data from each of their cars, such as speed, location and fuel level. Caravan Track can also provide information on nearby restaurants and gas stations with the click of a button.

Users can send text messages between the cars to coordinate activities. To make things easier, there are prepared messages, such as "We should stop at the next rest area," that can be initiated with one click and played over the speakers in the other cars, as demonstrated in a video about the software. Some features of Caravan Track can be used hands-free with voice commands, while others are accessed through a touch screen with a simple, one-level interface, Ford said. It is designed to be used by drivers and passengers together, and one of the aims of the project is to determine what is the best type of interface to use.

The application was written in C#, and the students used a special Ford development platform called Fiestaware and Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio. Fiestaware gave them access to data from the car's own systems, such as fuel level and speed. For its initial demonstration, the application will run on an Intel-based Windows 7 PC with a custom-designed touch screen. But most of the computing will take place in the cloud, with the client software just sending data to the project's server, which then sends the information on to the other cars in the caravan. The Sprint Nextel 3G network will carry the data.

"The footprint is pretty small for our application. It shouldn't require too much memory or processing power, especially given that in an average caravan, there aren't too many vehicles," Ciccone said.

The application is just a demonstration of what types of software could help drivers in the future, with no date for commercial availability, said Ford spokesman Alan Hall.

Other programs developed in the Michigan class included an audio social-media service with spoken reviews of destinations by other consumers, a crowd-sourcing platform for sharing information about road hazards, and a carpool coordination tool that uses social networking and rates the driver and rider's compatibility on a scale.

The Michigan class and American Journey 2.0 are part of a broader effort by Ford to better link its vehicles to digital technologies. Last month, Ford announced Ford Sync AppLink, coming later this year, which lets smartphone software developers integrate their applications with the Sync hands-free in-car entertainment system. The American Journey project is not directly related to AppLink, Hall said.

Accessories Arriving for the iPad

NY Times

When Apple began selling the first iPods, millions of people were delighted with its ease of use. You’d pay for the songs you downloaded from iTunes and what else would you need?

The iPod owners soon bought millions of cases, speakers and chargers.

When the iPhone arrived, millions of people signed up for the data plan, charged the battery and started buying cases, docks and better-quality earphones (not to mention apps).

No one was too surprised, then, that when the iPad arrived last month the ecosystem of accessories was already rapidly expanding.

Because the iPad was designed with an exposed screen and without a camera, separate keyboard, memory card slots or U.S.B. ports, you could say it was built for accessories. Many owners will have an inclination to modify it in some way, whether for mere decoration or hard-core protection.

Some think it is patently obvious that the iPad is more susceptible to screen damage than a clamshell-case portable notebook. So let’s start there in this sampling of iPad add-ons. OVERCOAT ColcaSac’s iPad Sleeve ($35), made in Utah, looks as if it can take some abuse. It has a canvas outer cover and an inner sleeve lined with soft polyester fleece, so the whole thing looks like a small winter coat. It comes in red, black and floral prints. You will have to slide the iPad out of the sleeve to use it. But an outer pocket holds a charger or a Snickers bar.

If you want something with less of the consignment shop look, the Vers wooden case-stand combo ($80) is a handsome binder for the iPad. Made from cherry, walnut or bamboo, it covers the entire iPad (except for the display).

You’ll find scores of cases and sleeves in neoprene, canvas and leather. Incipio makes one of high-density silicone — in red, blue and yellow — that fits tightly around the iPad. It has thick grips on the corners because it is made for gamers, but serious readers would also benefit from the extra lightweight padding. For $35, it comes with screen-protection film and a cleaning cloth.

SCREEN SAVER If screen protection is your paramount concern, but you still want to show off the device’s naked beauty, Zagg makes clear film that covers the iPad. A sheet for the entire front screen costs $30 and full body coverage costs $10 more. Some users who have written to the company say the “invisibleShield” film also stops fingerprint smudges.

How well does it work? The company produced a 40-second video in which employees drop keys and nails on the iPad screen and attack it with a hobbyist’s electric grinder. It shows the screen surviving.

SNAPSHOTS There is no camera on the iPad, but for people who also have an iPhone, there is a solution.

The Camera for iPad is a $1 app that installs on both devices. The iPhone uses the app to capture the picture on its camera, while the software on the iPad is used to view and manipulate it. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

The images are transferred using the Bluetooth connectivity of both devices, but this limits the range to about 30 feet. If you want better pictures on the iPad, you can import them from a digital camera using the Apple Camera Connection add-on. Since there is no slot in the iPad to channel photos from a flash memory card, this $29 extra is important to have. The kit comes with two dongles, one to connect a U.S.B. cable from a camera and the other to import pictures from an SD memory card.

The iPad lacks a separate keyboard. It has an on-screen keyboard, but it’s hard on the fingers for anything longer than an e-mail message. Apple sells a $69 docking keyboard, but here’s a way to save $69: pair your iPad’s Bluetooth circuitry to the wireless Bluetooth keyboards Apple has been selling for a couple of years. You may very well have one that you’re using now with a Mac desktop computer.

If you have no remote keyboard, consider spurning the stationary $69 dock — because the keyboard can’t be moved without moving the dock— and buy the company’s $29 dock stand and a $49 wireless keyboard. The extra freedom of movement is worth the $9.

RAINBOW CASE Nearly a hundred years ago, Henry Ford said of the Model T that customers could have it in any color as long as it was black. Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, gives customers as much choice with the iPad: gray aluminum, take it or leave it. But a company named Colorware will paint the back plate any of 45 different colors, including several metallic and pearlescent finishes, for $400. The Apple logo can be painted in a contrasting color.

You send them your device and they mail it back within three weeks. (It also paints game machines, computers and phones.) For another $250, the company will paint it any color that is on the Pantone color chart. Colorware will also sell you a new Wi-Fi-enabled iPad in a chosen color, with prices starting at $900 for the 16-gigabyte model.

POWER For using an iPad on road trips, a car charger for your laptop battery is indispensable. Kensington, which made its name selling iPod accessories, sells the PowerBolt Micro Car Charger ($25). The company says it puts out a bit of extra juice, 2.1 amps, to charge devices faster. The tiny plug-in charger comes with a detachable U.S.B. cable that works with iPhones and iPods as well.

AND MORE Why do you need this final item, the $130 Joule “luxury stand,” when you can certainly lean the iPad up against a large box of Cheerios? To show off, of course, although the Joule’s heavy, machined base with rubber pads and adjustable tilting “foot” is certainly more stable than the cereal box. The maker of this accessory, Element Case, called the Joule “the first luxury stand available for iPad.” No argument there.

It certainly looks elegant, in either polished silver or anodized black. The “nesting slot” is lined with velvet to further pamper your iPad — and the company will laser engrave it as well.

With Louis Vuitton designing an iPad sleeve for just under $400, luxury marketers have clearly embraced the iPad. But how well will the case hold up against a power grinder?

Clearwire Reportedly to Unveil 4G Phone

4G Wireless Evolution

Voice is coming to 4G.

According to at least one report, Clearwire is expected to launch a device called the HTC EVO 4G soon.

The report labels the device “America’s first 4G-enabled phone,” and indicates Samsung (News - Alert) will be providing the wireless service provider with a similar device, which will be tagged with the Clearwire brand.

If this is true, it would of course mark the first time voice is provided over a 4G network, as the first iteration of 4G services – whether based on WiMAX orLTE ( News - Alert) technologies – are data only.

However, it’s unclear whether the phone will actually use the 4G network for voice traffic. Clearwire could potentially leverage the existing cellular network of its partner/investorSprint ( News - Alert) for the voice service.

Clearwire didn’t have anything about the phone news on its website this morning, and the company’s public relations person, Susan Johnston, was not available to comment on the matter when TMCnet call her this morning.

Computer Pioneer Cashed Out Early

The Wall Street Journal

Max Palevsky made some of the first mainframe computers, then cashed out with one of the early personal fortunes in the computer industry. He became a flamboyant Democratic money man, movie producer and art collector.

Mr. Palevsky, who died Wednesday at age 85, was co-founder of computer manufacturer Scientific Data Systems, which innovated with small mainframes based on silicon chips. Though never in the top tier of computer makers, SDS was profitable nearly from its inception in 1961.

"Many of us early workers in computers were philosophy majors," Mr. Palevsky told the Chicago Tribune in 1968. "You can imagine our surprise at being able to make rather comfortable livings."

So much so that just a year later, Xerox Corp., seeking to develop a digital complement to its imaging systems, paid $910 million in stock for the company at a time "when $1 billion meant something," as Mr. Palevsky once said. He walked away with about $100 million and became the chairman of Xerox's executive committee.

Mr. Palevsky used his fortune to fund a series of projects, including in 1970 an investment in the fledgling magazine Rolling Stone.

"We were looking for a business counselor or adviser," magazine co-founder Jann Wenner said Thursday. "He was a restlessly curious individual."

Mr. Palevsky served as chairman of Rolling Stone's board for a time, and befriended one of the magazine's writers, Hunter S. Thompson. Published letters to Mr. Palevsky from Mr. Thompson in 1973 record the writer's dismay that Mr. Palevsky had the temerity to ask for repayment of a $10,000 personal loan.

The association with Rolling Stone soon ended, too. "We had the typical Max falling out," Mr. Wenner said. "He could be very rigid."

In 1972, Mr. Palevsky was for a time the largest contributor to George McGovern's presidential campaign. But he abruptly quit the campaign and gave interviews criticizing it as a slapdash organization. A year later, he was back in the arena as campaign manager for Tom Bradley's first successful run for mayor of Los Angeles. He was often associated with a group of wealthy, liberal donors known as the "Malibu Mafia."

Born and raised in Chicago, Mr. Palevsky was the son of Russian immigrants who spoke Yiddish at home. His father was a house painter. Mr. Palevsky often spoke darkly about his childhood.

During World War II, he served as a meteorologist in the Army Air Corps, stationed in New Guinea. He then studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Chicago. He embarked on an academic career but said he dropped out of graduate school after hearing a lecture on computers by John von Neumann, one of the fathers of computer science.

Starting in the 1950s, Mr. Palevsky worked on early computers at Bendix Corp., then helped Packard-Bell Electronics Corp. launch a computer affiliate. In 1961, he and several Packard-Bell colleagues launched SDS to produce small computers for scientists and industrial controls, a market that larger manufacturers such as International Business Machines Corp. had ignored.

Time magazine in 1967 hailed SDS for its innovations, but Xerox wasn't able to keep the company's profits rolling. It shuttered SDS, renamed Xerox Data Systems, in 1975.

Mr. Palevsky served for many years on the board of Intel Corp., but eventually abandoned the computer industry. In a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Palevsky proclaimed himself "a Luddite."

He dabbled in the film business, producing "Fun With Dick and Jane" and "Islands in the Stream." He built up a collection of modern art and furniture from the arts and crafts era, much of which he donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—though he once sued the museum, claiming it had promised to let him take charge of the architecture of a new gallery.

Mr. Palevsky's interest in politics persisted, and in the past decade his main cause was campaign-finance reform. In a statement of support in 2000 for Proposition 25, which would have limited campaign donations, he wrote, "I am making this million-dollar contribution in hopes that I will never again legally be allowed to write huge checks to California political candidates."

But his ability to donate survived as the proposition failed.