Even fantasy Apple designs are copied
The spate of iPod Nano knockoffs was bad enough. But now Asian manufacturers are taking inspiration from Apple fans' fantasy iPod designs. Meizu, a Chinese electronics maker, has released its credit-card-sized Miniplayer with a 2.4-inch widescreen color display and the same black-or-white color options that the iPod offers.
While the Meizu won't play iTunes Music Store purchases, it handles MP3 and Windows Media audio files and Xvid video files, and claims up to 20 hours of music playback or 6 hours of video playback. Gizmodo dings Meizu for ripping off a lot of Apple design details but praises the Miniplayer for packing "lots of features in a little package."
The Jiffy Lube of tech support
HiWired, a two-year-old Massachusetts startup that offers tech-support services, has raised $5 million in a first round of venture funding. Perhaps past experience with unhelpful and costly tech-support services prompts Alarm:Clock to report on the funding with more than its usual effusiveness, praising the service's low-priced fees for over-the-Internet computer tune-ups and repairs. Could HiWired become the Jiffy Lube of tech support? Alarm:Clock is optimistic: "If HiWired can continue to maintain good attitudes amongst its technicians as it grows, plus figure out a cost effective way to market their service, we think this could be a keeper."
Banner $3.9 billion quarter for online ads
Internet publishers sold $3.9 billion worth of online ads in the first quarter of 2006, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, a 38 percent increase over the same period last year. PaidContent notes that online advertising even increased 6 percent over the fourth quarter, which is normally the strongest time of the year for other forms of advertising. That's a sign that online advertising is growing so fast that it has overcome the usual seasonal lulls. Canadian journalist Mark Evans observes that despite the fast pace of growth, online still accounts for only 5 percent of the total advertising industry worldwide. In the UK, however, online ads are projected to overtake newspaper ads this year, scoring a 13.3 percent share of the market.
Bay Area real estate agents under siege
SiliconBeat reports today that Redfin, an online real-estate brokerage, has picked up $8 million in funding from investors led by Paul Allen's Vulcan. The Seattle-based company has also expanded its one-year-old service from Seattle to the Bay Area. Redfin aims to compete with human real estate agents by working for a fraction of traditional real estate fees. It's a development that would seem inevitable -- SiliconBeat describes today's news as "one more nail in the coffin of the wealthy Bay area real-estate agent" -- but entrenched agents are not likely to accept it without a fight.
Indeed, writes TechCrunch, Redfin already has "war stories to tell about threats, stalkings and other disturbing behavior towards their employees and some customers from ... angry real-estate professionals." For their part, TechCrunch readers, including one self-described veteran of online real estate, have posted cautious comments about the company's chances for success: "There is an endless list of corpses around this business model," writes Wil Schroter, noting there are nearly one million licensed U.S. real-estate agents. "Technology people love to conveniently overlook installed bases."
Bloggers prevail vs. Apple
Late Friday, California state appeals Judge Conrad Rushing ruled in favor of the blogosphere, overturning a prior decision that would have forced three Apple rumor sites to turn over their emails -- and thus sources -- to the company.
In a legal saga that has come to be known as Apple vs. The Bloggers, the latter had invoked the California shield law, arguing that they deserved the same protection afforded the mainstream press. Friday's decision vindicates the position: "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news," wrote Justice Rushing. "Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment."
Naturally, the blogosphere is pleased. "I may love my Apple computer, but I hated the way Apple the company was behaving," writes Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine, who calls the decision a big victory for citizen journalists and "salutes" the California judge for acknowledging that "anyone can commit an act of journalism."
But the battle is far from over. On Sunday, The Register, which otherwise approved of the decision, slammed Justice Rushing for citing Wikipedia as a source and allowing himself "flights of technological rapture," worrying that this sort of "new age" rationale will provide Apple a legal "gold mine" when the time comes for the inevitable appeal.
Sharp releases "thin, ugly" MP3 player
How hard is it to come up with something to compete with Apple's iPod? Pretty tough, apparently, if you read Engadget's review of Sharp's MP-B300. For the same price as a sleek, color-screen iPod Nano, Sharp offers up a black-and-white screen, nine confusing buttons, and a slapped-together industrial design. But the Moneycontrol Tech Blog praises Sharp for resisting the looks-are-everything impulse in favor of adding features. The MP-B300 lets users expand its music storage with a memory-card slot, and has a built-in FM transmitter to play tunes on a car radio without having to buy an additional accessory.
CNET launches dead-simple photo site
Michael Arrington at TechCrunch says CNET's new AllYouCanUpload photo website is so simple, it's disruptive. What that means is that AllYouCanUpload may be able to unseat the current top photo-hosting websites, Photobucket and Imageshack, which have overtaken traditional photo-sharing websites like Snapfish and Kodak EasyShare Gallery because they focused on making it easy to post images on websites like MySpace and eBay, not ordering photo prints.
How is AYCU different from the current photo-sharing top dogs? It doesn't require a login or password -- you just upload your pictures, get the HTML code for posting them, and go. For online users drowning in passwords, that simplicity should come as a relief.
Startup Jangl offers disposable phone numbers
SiliconBeat reports enthusiastically on the launch of Jangl, a voice-over-Internet-Protocol startup with a service that allows users to create anonymous, "disposable" phone numbers. The phone numbers, which forward to a customer's main phone number, make sense for project-specific uses, such as posting contact information in classified ads or giving one's "digits" to a passing acquaintance. Even better, the service borrows an antispam technique from email, forcing all first-time callers to be approved before their calls can go through. Initially skeptical, SiliconBeat's Michael Bazeley concludes that Jangl may be "onto something." But wait, there's more: Jangl also allows users to send images and music to mobile-phone callers. Press one to hear "Ricky Don't Lose that Number."
Bloggers "discover" Google payment service
The blogosphere is afroth over the discovery that Google has registered the domain name googlecheckout.net, with many predicting that Google will soon launch a rival to eBay's PayPal. One problem with all the rumors: All the bloggers failed to ask whether Google had, in fact, already launched such a service. Back in February, Google quietly added online-payment features to the Google Account through which users log into the site and advertisers make payments. Ironically, some of the same blogs which reported on Google Account back in February breathlessly reported on the "discovery" of a supposedly new Google Checkout service.
Open-source pioneer in trademark fracas
No one's done more to publicize the term "Web 2.0" than tech-book publisher Tim O'Reilly, a noted champion of open-source software who helped launch a conference by that name. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that his company is seeking to register the term as a service mark for conferences. Instead, the blogosphere is exploding with self-righteous, poorly informed anger. Unfortunately, Tim O'Reilly's on vacation, so he didn't get to defend himself firsthand -- so the Browser will attempt to do the job for him.
What the blog mob forgets is that open-source software is based on intellectual-property protection -- Linus Torvalds owns the trademark on the term "Linux." Furthermore, the undergirding principle of open-source software -- that anyone can take the source code and improve it, on the condition that they share the improved code with others -- is made possible because software can be copyrighted and copyright holders can condition its use on the requirement to share improvements. Unfortunately, even some hardcore capitalists who ought to know better missed the point here.
And none of the noise addresses the real problem of explaining what the heck "Web 2.0" is.
Microsoft preps Xbox update
The Kotaku videogame blog got the scoop on a major software update to Microsoft's Xbox 360. It's more than just a bug-fix, by far: The new software focuses not on gameplay but on media, letting Xbox users start up on a Dashboard screen that offers music and video download options. And if you use the Xbox as a DVD player, the machine will now remember where you paused the movie to frag a few pals in Halo 2.
Will the content police kill MySpace hypergrowth?
Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 thinks traffic on overheated youth sites like MySpace.com and Facebook may have peaked. Citing a focus group run by Guy Kawasaki and Alexa traffic charts, he argues that non-conformist teens are both increasingly put off by the overdone "fad" and aware of the sites' safety risks. Certainly, content policing issues continue to trouble the sites. Particularly in Illinois.
It seems two separate Illinois school districts have caused a stir this week in their efforts to crack down on extra-curricular student postings. The Plainfield School District is attempting to expel a 17 year-old student who posted "innapropriate comments and vague threats" on his xanga.com site. The school district's move elicited the wrath not only the student's mother, but also the ACLU: "The district is going to take away the student's education for exercising his freedom of speech," said ACLU attorney Carl Buck.
Inspired perhaps by the Plainfield fracas, a high school Libertyville, Ill announced that it would require students to sign a pledge agreeing that "illegal or inappropriate" online behavior could be grounds for in-school disciplinary action. Not surprisingly, Slashdot readers are taking the ACLU line: "Libertyville? Yeah- right," commented one.
Bangladesh goes broadband, world gets flatter
On Tuesday, Bangladeshi prime minister Khaleda Zia inaugurated a new country-wide, government-sponsored 10-gigabits-per-second fiber-optic network. The Asian Tribune reports that the project connects 97 miles of overland fiber to the SEA-Me-WE-4 submarine cable, a 12,400-mile undersea fiber network financed by a 16-party multinational consortium. The underwater cables will eventually link 14 countries from Singapore to France. The fact that Bangladeshis may soon have higher-speed connections than Americans has set off a gripe-fest among envious Digg readers. "When can I get one?" asks one reader. Another speculates that higher-speed Internet access will be "perfect for the new Dell call centers."
Vonage IPO disconnects users from wallets
If you're going to offer shares in an initial public offering to your customer base, pray for a first-day pop. That's the conclusion Henry Blodget reaches after watching Vonage's shares sink below their offering price of $17. Vonage reserved 14 percent of its shares for customers, but instead of creating customer loyalty, "if the stock continues tanking ... Vonage customers who love the VOIP service will feel nothing but bile toward the company," Blodget writes. (Blodget, one should note, knows a thing or two about tanking stocks from his days as an Internet analyst.)
The spam filter ate your winning bid
It's one thing when the spam filter inconveniently blocks that invitation to dinner, but quite another when it eats a half-million-dollar telecom bid, as happened in Georgia's Cobb County recently. TechDirt this morning ponders the story, originally reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, of Elite Telecom Services, who's would-be winning bid to provide telephone services to the Cobb County school system allegedly never made it to the superintendent's inbox thanks to an overeager spam filter. TechDirt readers are divided on whether to blame the vendor or the school system, though the specifics of this case seem suspicious. The AJ-C reports that ETS boss Mike Russell suggested the spam filter isn't at fault: "Every e-mail sent by me was received except this one," he told the newspaper. Meanwhile, The Inquirer notes that "It would be a good 'dog ate my homework excuse,' but the school is also being investigated by a grand jury at the moment for writing a failed contract with Apple to provide laptops for students and teachers." Moral: It's a poor workman who blames his tools.
Starbucks pulls CD-burning kiosks from some stores
Is Starbucks' decade-long dalliance with the music business fading? Lately, it's had more interest in promoting movies like Akeelah and the Bee, and it has
pulled CD-burning kiosks from most of its coffeeshops in Austin and Seattle, Cox News Service reports. While a Starbucks spokeswoman denies that the company is pulling back on its music strategy, it's clear that the CD-burning kiosks were a bomb. With CD burners in most PCs and people carrying around iPods rather than portable CD players, what's the point of paying to burn CDs at Starbucks? One of the kiosks' few fans gave Cox News an explanation of why the kiosks were a bad match for the Starbucks clientele: "If you can't afford a computer at home, why would you come into Starbucks for a $5 cup of coffee?" asked Mirsa Douglas.
There is no "i" in "Mac"
When Steve Jobs unveiled the cuddly, round Bondi blue iMac in 1998, he revived the company's sales -- and launched a new naming scheme for Apple's computers. The low-end machines got an "i"-for-"Internet" prefix -- iMac desktops and iBook laptops -- while the high-end machines got a "Power" prefix -- Power Macs and PowerBooks. But when Apple switched last year from PowerPC chips to Intel chips, the "Power" moniker seemed outdated. The PowerBook was renamed the MacBook Pro, and the iBook has been replaced by the MacBook. And now, apparently, Jobs has decided there is no "i" in "Mac," either. MacRumors reports that Apple has trademarked the name "Mac Pro" in the U.S., following a similar move in New Zealand. Assuming that Power Macs will become Mac Pros, it stands to reason that the iMac will simply be known as the Mac. Welcome back to Macintosh.
$100 laptop unveiled
Gizmodo has posted early pictures of a bright orange working prototype of Nicholas Negroponte's much-discussed $100 laptop, a sign that his One Laptop Per Child initiaitve may soon get off the ground. The vision, which Negroponte, a former director of the MIT Media Lab, has been pushing for several years, is to bring computing and Internet connectivity to millions of unwired people in the developing world by creating an affordable, durable computer. The positive, if bemused, reaction on Slashdot was best summed up by one poster: "Sure it's groundbreaking and such, but it looks like something one would purchase from Fisher-Price."
VOIP project gets business upgrade
Just plunked down some cash for shares of Vonage? Here's a development that should give you pause: VOIP startup SIPphone just upgraded its Gizmo Project client, which lets users make and receive calls from a PC. The key new feature? Gizmo now supports Asterisk, a popular open-source software program that manages VOIP phone lines for small businesses. Business 2.0 senior writer Om Malik points out that the combination of Gizmo's user-friendly interface and Asterisk's call-handling features make a compelling package. That, in turn, spells trouble for Vonage, for whom small businesses are a key market.
AP debuts blog version of letters to the editor
Steamed at the mainstream media? Now you don't have to go through the formalities of submitting a letter to the editor and hoping your local newspaper runs it. Blog search engine Technorati just inked a deal with the Associated Press to provide lists of blogs that link to a particular AP story, as well as lists of the most-blogged-about AP wire stories.
The 440 newspapers that subscribe to the Web version of AP's wire service will have the option of displaying the links to related blog entries. Duncan Riley calls the deal a win-win for bloggers and the AP, noting that it will give bloggers more traffic. Maybe that mainstream media isn't so bad after all.
Microsoft makes the trains run on time
"Be careful what you wish for," writes Ephraim Schwartz in Infoworld to begin his short thought piece on what the world would be like if Microsoft and its monopoly disappeared. It's a possibility that seems these days at least conceivable given the arrival of rich Web-based applications, and the rhetoric from people like Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff who regularly proclaims the end of Microsoft-style packaged software. (Certainly, the protesters from Free Software Foundation who showed up at Microsoft's developers conference this week in hazmat suits might not shed a tear.)
Schwartz asked a cross-section of tech gurus for their opinion on the subject, and while some were delighted by the prospect, others suggested we don't realize how good we have it. "Panic in the streets" is the most likely outcome, said Tony Meadow of software maker Bear River Associates.
The debate got picked up this morning on Digg, where most readers rejected the premise entirely. "The strawman this article sets up is utter crap," writes Digg user "cazabam," who scoffed at the notion that Microsoft's disappearance would catapault us into the technological Dark Ages.
"The only point that this article successfully proves is that MS has acquired lock-in not only at the software level, but also in mindset." For his part, however, Schwartz concludes (spoiler alert): "If Microsoft didn't exist, we'd have to invent it."
MySpace search results: a place for advertisers
With advertisers reluctant to place ads on the free-for-all profile pages that make up most of its pageviews, MySpace is searching for more places to put advertisements. Now, the Financial Times reports, the News Corp.-owned Internet portal is hoping for a tie-up with Microsoft or Google to both run its search engine and place advertisements alongside the search results. SearchEngineWatch notes that Yahoo has apparently taken itself out of the running because it competes too directly with MySpace in the area of user-generated content. Tech pundit Nick Carr misses the point completely, saying that any deal would place a new value on eyeballs. Neat trick, that, considering that Microsoft and Google's search advertisers pay per click, not per advertisement viewed. And the latest rumor of a search-ad deal doesn't address earlier concerns that MySpace users wouldn't click on the ads in great numbers.
Who owns that batting average?
Question: What could be more All-American than fantasy baseball? Answer: A legal feud over the player stats that fuel the billion dollar industry. Ars Technica traces the surprising controversy from its roots during the golden age of Topps trading cards to the current dispute between Major League Baseball and CBC Distribution and Marketing, owner of fantasy sports site CDMsports.com. The bottom line question is whether players own their stats in the same way that they own their images.
Both MLB and the players' union argue the stats are theirs to sell, but prior case law suggests that the First Amendment protects "publishing statistics, even for business purposes." Should MLB win in the current case, Ars points out that "the ramifications could extend to how or if a real person may be portrayed in a book or movie, or even whether certain questions such as those concerning baseball players could be used in a game like Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy."
Samsung launches laptops for rich klutzes
Finally, an ultraportable PC for wealthy people prone to accidents! That seems to be what Samsung has created in its first-ever notebook and handheld PCs with flash-memory drives. Substituting flash memory for hard disks lets Samsung cut the weight of the devices and the time it takes them to boot up, and as MobileWhack notes, flash memory is more resistant to drops and spills than disks. But Engadget points out that the $2,430 price tag is five times what Microsoft suggested these devices should cost. That's a steep price to pay for a faster boot time and more oops-resistant storage.
Dell to sell through retail stores
Ask anyone how Michael Dell does business, and you'll hear that he sells directly to the consumer. That's his thing. Or it was, reports PC Pro, until Steve Jobs' Apple Stores pulled in more than $1 billion in sales in a single quarter. Dell has now decided to go bricks and mortar, opening stores in Dallas and New York.
"It's a physical extension of the direct model," said Dell executive Jim Skelding to the Austin-American Statesman. What that seemingly paradoxical statement means is that Dell sees the stores as a place where customers can see and touch machines before buying them direct. Still, the Statesman suggests that the stores are "a step toward full-blown retail for a company that has previously said selling in stores is a money-losing strategy." The chatter on Digg is skeptical, as readers wonder how Dell plans to reconcile its build-to-order dogma with the retail requirement of instant gratification. Commented one Digger: "Personally, I think they are better off increasing their TV advertising budget."
Microsoft CEO on his way out?
Rumors are swirling that CEO Steve Ballmer is on the way out the door at Microsoft. Since he took over the CEO job from Bill Gates in 2000, Microsoft has seen its stock price stagnate and competitors such as Google and Yahoo rise to dominate the online-advertising business.
And lately, Ballmer's been noted for his big mouth -- at a recent speaking engagement, he bragged about how Microsoft vanquished Netscape, an action which brought a massive antitrust lawsuit against the company. If Microsoft is planning to give Ballmer the boot, Business 2.0 has some suggestions for his replacement.
Marriages made in Mac heaven
Love was in the air as Apple opened its newest retail store on New York's Fifth Avenue. The eighth person in line proposed to his girlfriend, and she said yes. No word on the response to the enterprising engagement-seeker who presented his proposal to Uschi Lang in front of an Apple-operated time-lapse camera. Some tips for the newlyweds-to-be: Here are helpful instructions on how to plan your wedding on a Mac.
Attack of the zombies
Only a few weeks since 21-year-old hacker Jeanson Ancheta was sentenced to 57 months in prison for hijacking 400,000 computers and renting them out to spammers, another so-called botnet scam has been uncovered. According to Help Net Security, PandaLabs has busted a bot called Clickbot.A that managed to turn 34,000 computers into spamming "zombies."
The real problem here, says PandaLabs Luis Corrons to Help Net, is that hacking now has a financial incentive: "Renting and selling of botnets has become a genuine business model for cyber-crooks," said Corrons. "Threat creators are no longer searching for notoriety, but for financial returns." It remains to be seen whether the prospect of hard time will deter the lure of big money.
Yahoo Finance gives away stock charts
In a move that promises to earn knowing nods of approval from Web cognoscenti while provoking doubletakes from old media CFOs, PaidContent.org reports that Yahoo will syndicate, for free, its stock charts, quotes, and news headlines.
The new Yahoo "widget," unveiled at the Syndicate conference in New York last week, will let "small publishers, bloggers, corporate intranets" and the like add coverage for up to ten companies to their sites, much in the same way that sites can add Google maps or news headlines using RSS feeds.
TechCrunch readers are unanimously excited by the latest development in easy syndication, sometimes known as content "mashups", with one fan already suggesting what should come next: "I think an oil price widget would be very interesting these days."
Send in the clones
Don't bother, they're here -- and getting millions of dollars in venture-capital funding. Does the world really need another social network? Bebo now has 15 million reasons why it does. Bebo claims that while the U.S. is overstuffed, there's plenty of room to grow overseas, and it's spending some of its cash on opening a London office. Meanwhile, StumbleUpon has raised $1 million in angel funding for its browser-based bookmark-sharing tool, and is drawing kudos from pundits, despite being a minor retool of Del.icio.us. Who knew that "Web 2.0" just meant "two of the same"?
Flickr hiring more workrs
Want to be part of the Web 2.0 revolution without the muss and fuss of launching your own startup? Well, dust off that resume, kiddo, because Flickr is hiring. The online photo-sharing site, which pioneered some widely imitated features now found on other so-called "social media" websites before becoming part of Yahoo last year, is adding eight positions. Blogger Niall Kennedy, who now works for Microsoft, notes that the Flickr group will be relocating to Yahoo's soon-to-open San Francisco offices, and suggests that the SF office will prove a lure to talent put off, like him, by the prospect of commuting to Yahoo's Sunnyvale headquarters.
Apple lights up the big Apple tonight
Apple fetishists and compulsive New York City shoppers are lining up for the grand opening of Apple's newest store, a 24-hour retail extravaganza on Fifth Avenue near Saks in midtown. Gothamist reports that 5,000 people applied for only 300 retail positions at the store, which ThinkSecret expects will be "a testing ground for a number of new innovations in Apple retail." With its earlier stores, of course, Apple pioneered the in-store classroom, the 10% price premium, and even the patented internal staircase.
Microsoft woos its own employees
Now that it's competing with Google and Yahoo to attract top programming talent, Microsoft has finally responded to employee complaints. The software giant is revamping its benefits and compensation plan, starting with putting the towels back in company gyms, a move that brought cheers from an audience of Microsoft employees assembled for a "town-hall" meeting in Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. headquarters campus. More substantial changes were made in the review system, which will no longer rely on a forced-ranking mechanism widely disliked by employees and managers. Stock awards will also increase. Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble credited Mini-Microsoft, a blog written by an anonymous Microsoft employee, with spurring the changes.
Google filters when it feels like it
When Google launched Orkut early this year, it could hardly have expected the social network would take off in Brazil, where it now has upwards of eight million users. That's the unpredictable side of viral, word-of-mouth marketing. Even less predictable, and less desirable, was the arrival on the site of Brazilian child pornographers. Now Google is facing an angry Brazilian prosecutor who says "Orkut has become a paradise for pedophiles," and has begun pushing for a criminal investigation of Google's Brazilian division. Google, for its part, claims it has "no responsibility" for the content of user postings. The situation has prompted blogs to reprise the censorship vs. security debate, with at least one Digg reader finding irony in the disconnect between Google's idealistic company slogan and its more narrowly defined legal strategy: "Do No Evil......just allow it and accrue advertising revenue from it."
In another legal headache for Google, PC World reported yesterday that ServersCheck BVBA, a Belgian software firm, has filed a suit against Google, arguing that the "Suggest" feature in the popular Google toolbar, which offers users a more narrow set of search results, pushes users to pirated versions of the ServersCheck software. In response, Google contends that it can't "filter" the results of its algorithm-driven software. But ServersCheck CEO Maarten Van Laere points out that the algorithm in question already does filter out sites related to pornography, and wonders why it can be tweaked for one purpose but not another. Slashdot users are delighted by Google's apparent doublespeak, and support Van Laere's contention: "From a programming point of view, Google doesn't really have a leg to stand on," writes one Slashdotter.
Consumer group seeks FDA-approved nanotech
In what may prove a blow to the emerging nanotech market, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups has asked the the Food and Drug Administration to more closely regulate the use of nanoparticles in sunscreens and other consumer cosmetics. The Washington Post broke the story, which has set off a stir among the libertarian set so prevalent in tech circles.
One Slashdot user pointed out that nanotechnology encompasses a wide range of products: "Hell, why not ask the FCC to regulate nanotechnology. It would make just as much sense..." At Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds suggests the nanotech industry is now paying the price for not having clearly differentiated between harmless "fake" nanotech used in cosmetics, and the more "spooky" stuff that might well have adverse health implications. Overshadowing the debate, of course, is Bill Joy's apocalyptic vision of a self-replicating gray goo made of nanobots that could destroy the world.
Souping up PCs for Vista
Windows Vista is coming -- late, to be sure, but it's coming nonetheless. And if you'd like to use the new operating system and your PC is of a certain age, it may be time to recycle it. Microsoft has spelled out how much computing horsepower Vista requires, starting with a processor that clocks in at 1 Ghz and a gigabyte of RAM if you want to take advantage of Vista's new semi-transparent user interface. For many computers, a graphics card will have to be added -- an opportunity graphics-card makers are already exploiting.
Apple MacBooks too hot to handle
Since their launch in February, Apple's new Intel-based MacBook Pro laptops have been hot. Literally. On Apple forums, users have complained that the machines sometimes get too hot to hold. Apple, which is busy pushing out a consumer version of the laptops -- and still tiptoeing around a pesky battery problem -- had not officially acknowledged the temperature problem. That is, until yesterday, when Information Week reported that Cupertino had quietly released a "firmware" update for its Intel-powered systems that increases the use of the machines' fans. The consensus on Digg.com seems to be that the fix removes the symptom, but may not cure the underlying problem of heat. "Ahhh, the gamble of buying first-generation hardware," writes one reflective user.
Microsoft, in search of originality
Would the real Windows Live Search please stand up, please stand up? That's the question posed by longtime Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley and Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Todd Bishop after Microsoft launched two identically named search services. On the one hand, we have Windows Live Search, a Web-based search engine. And on the other, we have Windows Live Search, a desktop software application which searches your PC, corporate network, and the Internet for documents. As for the plight of Microsoft customers trying to make sense of all the company's search offerings, TG Daily's Onion-esque headline put it best: "Microsoft introduces a search tool for all its search tools."
Welcome to The Browser
For months, CNNMoney.com has been running The Browser, a daily digest of truth and rumors from the world of technology, linking to blogs and anywhere else where we find news. Now The Browser has converted to a blog format, which means readers can link directly to posts and add their own comments.
So share a tip, or tell us what you think. We look forward to hearing from you.
Motorola's BlackBerry-crusher coming next week
Speaking at an industry conference in San Francisco Tuesday, Motorola CEO Ed Zander promised that his company's long-awaited Q smartphone, a rival to Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices, will launch next week. Phone Scoop says that Verizon Wireless will be the first carrier to offer the Q, which has a miniature keyboard like the BlackBerry and works with Microsoft's e-mail software to deliver messages on the go. Gizmodo notes that the Q will face plenty of competition besides the BlackBerry, including the just-released Treo 700p and Nokia's E61.
New Sun CEO starts by giving it away
In his first major public move as Sun Microsystems' CEO, Jonathan Schwartz has announced at the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco that the company will "open source" its popular Java software. At Slashdot, the online hub of the open-source faithful, the long-awaited news touched off a torrent of commentary, with reactions varying from pleased to skeptical and indifferent. While Java represented a small fraction of Sun's overall revenues, VNUNet says that Schwartz is hoping the decision will build market momentum for the beleaguered company by winning support in the developer community. As with other open-source software vendors, Sun is also hoping that revenues from services and support will replace any lost software-licensing revenues. But Wall Street is likely to view that prospect with some skepticism.
eBay places winning bid for TV-ad marketplace
MediaPost reports that eBay has beaten out rivals, including Google, for the right to run a $50 million online trial of auction-based television ad buying. For more than a year, it seems, the Association of National Advertisers, which includes big-name ad buyers like Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, and Toyota, have been mulling the concept, but the green light only came Monday. Ars Technica notes that even still, the go-ahead is somewhat tentative: While the eBay trial will be "supervised" by the ANA, it is not yet officially endorsed by the association's broader membership. Still, thanks to this effort as well as Google's attempts to extend its AdSense services into radio and print, Ars Technica says that online ad auctions for "offline" media now "have enough support from big-name players to be given a number of chances to succeed before anyone declares the concept a failure."
AOL launches YouTube rival
At last, instead of just complaining about how simple it would be to clone YouTube, someone has actually gone and done it. AOL's launch of its new UnCut Video -- which, like YouTube, is a website for posting and sharing video clips -- drew criticism from Mashable's Pete Cashmore for being "too early" and "seriously lacking in functionality." The Internet-hipster blog BlackRimGlasses calls AOL "late to the party" but predicts that YouTube won't be able to compete with AOL's "marketing muscle." Just one question here: What is AOL (owned, like CNNMoney.com, by Time Warner) going to do when illegal copies of Bugs Bunny cartoons start showing up on the service?
Blockbuster ads reveal TiVo deal
Months after TiVo and Netflix admitted that plans for a joint video-on-demand service had stalled, bloggers have now caught TiVo in a deal with Netflix archrival Blockbuster Online. Last month, TiVo's online store offered bundles of TiVo service with a Blockbuster Online DVD-by-mail subscription for $29.99 a month. Now, sharp-eyed observers have found banner ads on TiVo's and Blockbuster's websites advertising the combo package. Blockbuster and TiVo have yet to make a formal announcement of the partnership, however.
LAPD gets a blog
Boing Boing reports this morning that Chief William Bratton and the LAPD have gone Web 2.0, setting up a blog and a Flickr stream with the help of Sean Bonner at metroblogging. Bonner hopes "other law enforcement departments across the state, and country, will soon be following their lead." According to TechNewsWorld, the blog is part of the redesigned http://www.lapdonline.org/ which has seen its traffic more than double recently to 30 million "hits" a month, and which also includes "crime maps and an e-policing feature." While still nascent, this sort of thing puts a whole new, real-world spin on social computing. "What the blog does is allow people to take a look inside the LAPD," said Lt. Ruben De La Torre to TechNewsWorld. Beyond the financial implications for tools providers like Yahoo! (parent of Flickr), it should be interesting to see how the LAPD manages such transparency, not to mention the brave new world of user-contributed content.
Creative sues Apple for patent infringement on iPod
Never a dull moment these days for the Apple legal department. First the company was sued by The Beatles, then by Burst for patent infringement, and now Jobs & Co. may be poised to reprise the painful role of Research in Motion in yet another patent infringement suit. Ars Technica reports that Creative has filed a suit claiming that Apple's iPod infringes its "Zen patent," a patent that covers the interface design for a digital music player. Though Ars fears that Creative "may be turning to the unfortunate market model of trying to litigate its way into profitability," it also concedes that "Creative's patent filing in January 2001 came long before Apple's 2002 submission (which was denied)." So, says Gizmodo, "here we go, folks...the fun is just starting."
New Yahoo home page unveiled
The most-visited web page on the planet is to get a new look: Tech blogs are buzzing this morning that Yahoo has taken the wraps off a new, cleaned-up design for its home page. An effusive Richard MacManus at Read/WriteWeb notes that the new page moves "away from the 90's 'everything under the sun' portal" model. The page certainly does make for an easier read, with news and features placed front and center, while the search bar has been moved up, and much of the former directory clutter reorganized as a conventional left hand navigation column. MacManus, who scored an interview with Yahoo's chief product officer, says there is, as of yet, no firm date for the page, now in "preview," to go live. Reaction from the jaded lot of readers at TechCrunch, ranges from a high of "Looks nice!" to a low of "Yahoo is reacting to Google. They are no longer creative." That last sentiment may be accurate, but the redesign suggests that Yahoo! is growing into its identity as a media company and struggling to better integrate its content and services -- just the sort of mature and boring moves perhaps still ahead for the younger, more prolific, though somewhat disorganized Google.
Stopping MP3 pirates Kremlin style
Michael Arrington at TechCrunch notes this morning that popular "quasi-legal" MP3 download service AllofMP3.com went down over the weekend, and has not yet come back up. The company operates under the dubious aegis of outfits like the "Russian Multimedia and Internet Society" which, reports MP3.com, grant it the right "to sell any song in any format without having to obtain the permission of copyright holders." Operating in a legal gray area, the site has sold music for as little as 11 cents a song, prices which have driven enormous traffic. In the U.K. it is second only to iTunes.
Arrington suspects that the abrupt shutdown may be the work of the Kremlin, responding in its own no-nonsense way to increased Western pressure to reign in Russian intellectual property theft. Apparently no fan of iTunes, Arrington regrets the shutdown, arguing that the service is "disruptive to a broken business model." At least one of his readers, however, questions his logic: "I'm all for disrupting the RIAA's and MPAA's rather antiquated business model but I fail to see how "buying" music through a channel where none of the money goes to the artists themselves will do so."
Brit neighborhood turns surveillance into television
Depending on whom you ask, it's either a smart crime deterrent, or it's the next step towards our collective Orwellian future. Slashdot reports today that Shoreditch, a community in London's East End, has launched a television channel which consists entirely of live feeds from hundreds of surveillance cameras situated around the neighborhood. England has been in the throes of a closed-circuit television boom for some time, but the Shoreditch experiment appears to be the first time a "CCTV" network has effectively been turned into broadcast television.
Not surprisingly, privacy advocates are concerned, while those behind the new channel downplay their concerns. "This is not naming and shaming or spying," says James Morris, CEO of tech-provider Digital Bridge to The Telegraph. Most Slashdot readers are dubious, however, both about system's efficacy in fighting crime, and the notion that it is not an invasion of privacy. Comments one reader, "CCTV cameras are known to have a definite effect on crime: they displace it to camera-free areas." Says another: "The issue is not just whether you're monitored in real-time (that's bad enough) but that you are being recorded for all time! Worse, you're being watched by people with the power to have you arrested if they so choose."
Is that a Mac in your pocket?
Could iPods one day run Mac OS X? That's the speculation on the blogs ever since Apple dropped PortalPlayer as a chip supplier. Apple's move was a devastating blow for the company once known as the Intel of the iPod. So why did Apple drop PortalPlayer? One theory floating around the Web: Apple wants to turn the iPod into a portable computer. PortalPlayer's chips are good enough for just playing music, which is why Apple's keeping them in some iPod models. But for its newer iPods, it's turning to Samsung for a chip that VC advisor Pete Field observes is powerful enough to run Apple's Mac OS X operating system. Former Goldman Sachs analyst Michael Parekh agrees, noting that he made a similar argument for the iPod as a miniature, portable Mac last August.
BBC interviews wrong Guy on Apple court case
Television networks have been known to put just about anyone on the air as an "expert." But the BBC elevated the practice to pure farce last week when, instead of interviewing NewsWireless.net editor Guy Kewney, they accidentally interviewed a man there for a job interview instead. Kewney was supposed to go on air to discuss Apple Computer's victory in a trademark lawsuit filed by The Beatles' Apple Corp. over its use of the Apple logo in iTunes. But a producer grabbed the baffled Guy Goma instead, who was waiting in reception for a job interview. YouTube and other video-sharing websites featured the instant-classic clip, where Goma's look of horror was quickly replaced by a game face as he tried to answer BBC interviewer Karen Bowman's questions.
Sony introduces high-end digital camera
Ever since Sony took over Konica-Minolta's digital-camera business, photo geeks have been waiting to see what would develop. The picture's now becoming clearer: Sony's Alpha SLR camera draws on Konica-Minolta's film-camera traditions and Sony's digital expertise. Most importantly, for hobbyists and professional photographers, Sony will introduce 20 new lenses for the camera, and the camera body will be compatible with 16 million existing lenses already sold for Konica-Minolta SLR cameras. The price has not yet been set, but the camera is expected to hit the market this summer.
Toshiba doubles down on memory
In Tokyo yesterday, Japanese consumer electronics giant Toshiba announced plans to spend more than $18 billion on new high-tech factories and other capital equipment. Yoshiko Hara of EETimes breaks out the spending, noting that roughly half will go towards semiconductors -- of which the lion's share will be flash memory for mobile phones and digital cameras. Toshiba partners with SanDisk for flash-memory production, and the companies are now slated to develop two new chip fabs. That's good news for gadget buyers, since the investment will likely lead to higher capacity chips at cheaper prices.
The enormous investment raised for some the specter of oversupply, writes Hara, but Toshiba CEO Atsutoshi Nishida brushed such concerns aside, saying, "We'll decide the actual execution of the investment based on the market situation." Industry analysts are generally pleased by the news, expecting that it will boost Toshiba's share of the critical flash-memory market relative to market leader Samsung, which is also investing heavily in flash.
Microsoft scores in browser wars
Prompted by the runaway success of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser, Microsoft finally got around to updating Internet Explorer, and its second beta release of Internet Explorer 7 is drawing reactions. Blogger Shel Holtz tried it out and found a lot to like, though he thinks some of the new security features will intimidate non-tech-savvy users. Informationweek, in its review of IE7, asked if Firefox had finally
met its match.
Apparently so, according to the latest usage statistics from OneStat.com. Since January, worldwide usage of IE has held steady at about 85 percent of Internet users, with Firefox at just under 12 percent. At the very least, the IE7 beta appears to have stanched Microsoft's bleeding of browser market share. Of course, Mozilla is prepping Firefox version 2.0, and even blogger Niall Kennedy -- who now works for Microsoft -- had kind things to say about Firefox's upcoming features.
BBC festival mixes real, virtual entertainment
Spring brings outdoor music festivals, and the blogosphere is buzzing about the BBC's new spin on the form. This weekend the Beeb's Radio 1 will host its One Big Weekend event simultaneously in Dundee, Scotland and online within the virtual world of Second Life, a massively multi-player role playing game. Kotaku reports that virtual festivalgoers will be able to listen to the concert through a virtual radio and watch the simulcast of the live event on virtual Jumbotrons. Even better, "...the real-life festival Jumbotrons may well broadcast screenshots of the virtual festival." While this weekend's concert is free, the virtual concert model would seem to have great revenue potential for promoters, as ticket sales are presumably no longer constrained by venue size. One cautionary note to virtual attendees: Holding a lighter in the air while you're sitting at your computer will never be cool.
New social network launches
A new social network for groups has elbowed its way into the market today, reports Michael Arrington at TechCrunch. Like an updated Yahoo Groups, CollectiveX is meant to do for groups what MySpace does for individuals. That is, it allows groups to keep track of their members, exchange files, maintain a collective calendar, and generally communicate online. Arrington suggests the application is what veteran business networking site LinkedIn "should have been." One major difference from existing social networks, however, is that CollectiveX will charge for its services: groups with up to 50 members will pay $36 a month for full functionality, while larger groups may pay up to $149. Some of Arrington's readers are skeptical. "Looks cool, but it is expensive," writes one. While another understandably wonders "More social networking sites. How many do we need?"
Sony, Apple don't make beautiful music together
The headlines all screamed of a musical detente between Apple and Sony. But the headlines got it wrong. Sony is adding support for AAC, a digital-music file format also used by Apple. But Sony isn't adopting FairPlay, the digital rights management system Apple uses in its iTunes Music Store to prevent piracy. That means iTunes purchases won't play on Sony's Network Walkman. Sony's move will, however, make it easier on iTunes users who have ripped CDs onto their hard drives in the unprotected AAC format -- the default setting in iTunes software.
Iowa State upgrades virtual reality room
When a chalkboard just doesn't do the trick anymore, it's time for teachers to bring out the six-sided virtual-reality room. French tech blogger Roland Piquepaille reports that Iowa State University's 10' x 10' x 10' VR room, dubbed "C6" and originally built in 2000, is scheduled to get a $4 million upgrade. Out with the SGI servers, and in with 96 Hewlett-Packard graphics units and 24 Sony digital projectors. When Iowa State re-opens the room in 2007, researchers at the world's most realistic VR room will bathe in 100 million pixels of high-res imagery. One Slashdot reader notes that even in the old C6, the VR world was so vivid that he managed to mistakenly walk into a wall. Contrary to the dreams of other Slashdot readers, however, the room is not meant for playing 3-D World of Warcraft games. Operated by the Virtual Reality Applications Center and funded in part by the Air Force, the room has been used for urban planning applications, data visualization projects in cellular biology, and no doubt a variety of classifeid Air Force applications. Just think of what your PowerPoint presentations would look like in it.
Web activists post Halliburton satire
You've already read about how global warming can be good for business. So it was perhaps inevitable that someone would send up today's latest environmentalist punching bag, Halliburton. A web parody of Halliburton claims to offer "SurvivaBalls" that allow corporate managers to escape the dire effects of global warming. Faked quotes from Halliburton executives include this gem: "It's a gated community for one." CorpWatch was quick to attribute the satire to the Yes Men, an activist group that has previously mocked the World Trade Organization. Indeed, the halliburtoncontracts.com website is registered to one "Alfred Barbalunga," with a gatt.org email address -- another domain name registered by the Yes Men. Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann did not respond to the Browser's request for comment.
Mass spammer faces long jail term
21-year-old Jeanson James Ancheta has been sentenced to five years in prison -- the longest term ever given to a virus writer -- for "building a network of 400,000 slaved PCs and using it to install adware and send spam," reports VNUNet. Ancheta's program took control of the PCs and then formed them into a spam-sending network known as a "botnet." Ancheta, who appears to have made a little more than $100,000 for all his troubles, may have overreached when he tried to enslave computers at the US Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif. Ars Technica admits that the punishment "does seem severe," but also notes that "this is the first time that a hacker has faced criminal penalties for a botnet scheme, so the sentence sets an important precedent."
Buy.com chief launches Internet TV startup
Instant Media, the brainchild of controversial Buy.com founder Scott Blum, launched its HDTV-over-the Internet service yesterday. Tech Living pronounces it "exciting and not-so-exciting all at once." The service, which requires users to download software so they can watch videos on their PCs, differs from the likes of YouTube and Google Video by storing video for faster, higher-quality playback. Users subscribe to channels and the video content is downloaded over the course of the day in the background. That leads to IM's biggest drawback: You can't just pick a video and start watching. In its lack of instant gratification, the effect is more TiVo than YouTube. Nice idea, but "a tough sell," says PaidContent. Instant Media will face big-league competition. Indeed, TiVo itself today announced an alliance with Web-video technology startup Brightcove to deliver programming to Internet-connected TiVo boxes.
Microsoft's hard sell backfires
Competitors are used to Microsoft's strongarm tactics, but it turns out that the Windows maker doesn't exactly apply a soft touch to customers, either. At least one Microsoft employee has used a sleazy scare tactic to attempt to get a customer to buy more Microsoft software.
When Auto Warehousing CIO Dale Frantz got an inquiry from Microsoft employee Janet Lawless about the company's software-licensing status, he politely replied that his Microsoft licenses were fine, thanks for asking. He got back a note from Lawless informing him that Auto Warehousing was at "significant risk." Frantz had to call his lawyer in to get Lawless to back off. Computerworld got wind of the situation and raised a stink, prompting Microsoft PR to claim that Lawless, an "engagement manager," was just helping a customer navigate the supposed complexities of buying software licenses from Microsoft. If that's what the engagement is like, we'd hate to hear about the marriage.
Samsung's copycat syndrome strikes again
It turns out that the graphic icons Samsung was recently caught ripping off from Apple and Microsoft aren't the only example of the Korean electronics giant's lack of design originality. A sharp-eyed Browser reader tipped us off to this clone of the Motorola Razr that Samsung makes for Vodafone's Japanese subsidiary. Perhaps Samsung's $1.25 billion deal to sell flash memory to Apple is the only thing keeping it from copying the iPod's design for its Yepp music players.
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