War Does Not Determine Who Is Right, The Gryphon Glider Does

Monday, April 28, 2008

The technological advances of World War I made it one of the most gruesome "modern" wars, but the trickling of war-time technologies into civilian life has usually proven beneficial. And if nothing else, defense tech makes for some really neat toys. Hopefully, such is the case with the Gryphon, a stealth glider from SPELCO GbR which has recently been upgraded, now weighing in at only 30 pounds (thanks, in part, to its carbon fiber frame). It steers via hand held rotary controls that Ted Selker would have a field day with, and now features the option of weaponization.The Gryphon is intended for use by paratroopers doing high altitude drops (at speeds of up to 150 mph), making the pilots of the perfectly good planes the troopers hurl themselves out of safer by removing the need for combat zone proximity. While the Gryphon is currently only being developed for military use, SPELCO GbR notes that "It can be adapted fast and easily to special needs and requirements," one such adaptation being the addition of a small jet engine (normally used on unmanned military drones) to increase speed. I don't think I'm alone when I ask that one of these adaptations be a commercial version for all of us budding crimefighters out there.


Video Recorder For iPhone

IPhone Video Recorder, although crippled into uselessness in its free form, at least adds functionality that should have been in the iPhone from the beginning.
The application uses the iPhone's still camera to record video. The CPU overhead means that recording and encoding video at the same time is too much for the little phone's chip and frame rates drop. The solution is to record and then encode afterwards, and this creates admirably small files; around 60MB per for an hour's worth of video (clip below).
Sound is recorded alongside the video, and the results need to be emailed to get them off the phone. The crippled functionality I mentioned? The free version will only record clips of up to 30 seconds. For more, you'll need to spring for a $20 license. Normally this would be fine. We're all for shareware (even if my blog editor Ecto swallowed the first version of this post) but right now iPhone apps run only on hacked hardware. Perhaps the developer, Dreamcatcher, will offer an official version for iPhone 2.0. By then, though, we'd expect Apple to be shipping a built in video camera app.


Yahoo mum as Microsoft merger deadline passes

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yahoo Inc. let a Saturday deadline set by Microsoft Corp. to accept a merger pass in silence, setting the stage for the next chapter in the three-month standoff of technology titans.

Impatient with the speed of negotiations, Microsoft had given Yahoo's board three weeks to agree to its blockbuster acquisition offer, initially valued at $44.6 billion, or face the consequences.

Now that the deadline has expired, the consequences are unclear. Microsoft has vowed to disclose its strategy sometime this week in a move that promises to intensify the drama in this corporate chess match.

To demonstrate its resolve, Microsoft executives have mentioned several options at their disposal - all of which pose hazards to Yahoo. But the threats are also a common negotiating tactic intended to pressure a reluctant company to acquiesce to a takeover bid.

Yahoo's board unanimously rejected Microsoft's overture early in the merger dance, saying that it substantially undervalued the company, given its big brand name, international reach and hundreds of millions of users.

Last week, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang said he's not opposed to a merger, but that he would only agree to one at a higher price. Microsoft has dismissed that idea, leaving the courtship at a tense stalemate.

The stakes are high. Yahoo, the Sunnyvale Internet icon, has a 13-year history as an independent company, but recently has fallen into a financial slump. Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash., software-maker, is convinced that combining forces will bolster its online business, which trails far behind industry juggernaut Google Inc.

Among Microsoft's options is to take its bid for Yahoo hostile by asking the portal's shareholders to replace Yahoo's board with a more merger-friendly slate of directors. Microsoft has said that if it chooses this route, called a proxy contest, it might lower its price for Yahoo to reflect the damage a fight might cause.

Hostile takeover bids often prompt an exodus of workers and make hiring difficult.

Analysts said Microsoft would prefer to complete the transaction on friendly terms, rather than buy damaged goods. But Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein & Co., said that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is likely to start a hostile bid, regardless.

"Ballmer will make good on his ultimatum," Lindsay said. "I don't think he would like to pick up a reputation for not following through."

Yahoo has been busy trying to cobble together an alternative to a Microsoft takeover, including holding discussions with Time Warner Inc. and News Corp. about taking control of their Internet properties. Yahoo also tested an advertising partnership with Google, but the deal has come under scrutiny by federal regulators, who have antitrust concerns.

Lindsay said that coming up with a deal is imperative for Yahoo if its management wants to keep the company independent. If shareholders see no change, he said, they undoubtedly will side with Microsoft at Yahoo's annual meeting, which is as yet unscheduled, but could be held in July or shortly thereafter.

Another option that Microsoft executives increasingly mentioned last week is to drop their offer for Yahoo, originally priced at $31 per share, a 62 percent premium. The threat puts intense pressure on Yahoo's board from shareholders, because the value of the stock would likely plummet.

Microsoft executives said last week that they could focus on reinvigorating their online business without Yahoo. But dropping the bid might also be a ploy; they could come back later, presumably after Yahoo's board and its shareholders sweated it out and finally saw the wisdom of a deal.

"I think that for the time being, Microsoft will step back, let the dust settle and watch the fur fly between shareholders and management," said David Garrity, director of research for Dinosaur Securities. "Microsoft could always come back."

Most analysts believe that, after all the machinations, Microsoft will ultimately acquire Yahoo. Although Yahoo is trying to conjure up alternatives, they say, the reality is that it doesn't have many.

Derek Brown, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald, said, "Yahoo doesn't seem to have a whole lot of options that are as good as or better than what Microsoft seems to have put in front of them right now."


Innovation comes as standard

Friday, April 25, 2008

Accenture CIO Frank Modruson explains how he standardised systems across the company and introduced Web 2.0-based collaboration tools

Frank Modruson has worked at management consulting and technology services company Accenture for many years, moving through a number of different roles before settling into the one he was most comfortable with – one that would overwhelm many other individuals.

As Accenture’s CIO, he oversees all business applications and technology infrastructure, enabling thousands of employees across 49 countries to work anytime, anywhere.

“I have been the CIO at Accenture for six years, which is a pretty long time in this business, and not a lot of my peers have weathered the storm,” he said. “I would say that I grew up here. I have worked in client-facing roles, and various other parts of the business. Now, I am responsible for the IT systems that are used by 178,000 staff – this is an interesting experience.”

Interesting is an understatement, judging by the demands these clued-up users put on Modruson. “There are a lot of very technically savvy people working at Accenture, they all really understand the technology that we work with,” he explained.

Many of the staff at Accenture are passionate about technology and would, given the chance, experiment with anything and everything that took their interest.
This kind of enthusiasm, while in many ways laudable, can cause administrative problems in an IT department that has to serve so many users, so unauthorised downloading is discouraged.

“We try to give people a lot of flexibility,” Modruson said, “but at the same time our IT systems are tightly governed. Overall, our IT is very standardised, even down to the laptops staff use, and we ensure everyone has all the software they need to do their job. We spent a lot of time planning it, and made sure we included all the relevant best practices.”

Standardising IT across such a large international business was no easy task. “It took a lot of effort to transform our IT set-up. We were dealing with a very distributed arrangement where many of the same tasks were done in different ways around the world, using different tools,” he recalled.

In order to achieve IT uniformity across the firm, Modruson promoted a transformation theme labelled “One”.

“We wanted one of everything. Through using standards I knew that we could both drive down costs, and have one version of the company ‘truth’, and we did that right across the application portfolio. By cleaning up our technology we have driven down costs,” he said.

Simplified management

One way this approach has reduced costs is by simplifying management tasks such as rolling out software updates and deploying brand new applications.
“It lets us build in new things easily, because there is only ever one thing that needs modifying. This is not the case at most companies, where there are a lot of legacy systems in place. We have been able to consolidate, and are reaping the benefits,” Modruson said.

One of these benefits has been the relatively painless rollout of Web 2.0 tools. Staff have access to Facebook-like community pages where they can post personal details and publicise their skills, and provide other information such as hobbies and interests.

“We wanted to bring social networking into the organisation because we felt it would help to enhance productivity,” Modruson explained. Accenture’s business involves a lot of remote working, which can put a strain on team cohesion. “It is not unusual for our people to spend much of their time working alone out in the field, but they still need to work as part of a team. [Social networking tools] bring staff closer together. On a simple level, you can go and look at a person you are speaking to on the phone, and you are more likely to work better with them if you know that you share some common interests,” he said.

Video-based knowledge sharing

Another Web 2.0 service was named in homage to a popular online social site. Modruson describes AccentureTube as an attempt to keep business-relevant information internal, while still being able to share it with as many people as possible in a manner that they are accustomed to. “We are trying to minimise the amount of our material that goes on the public internet, so we put all of our content in one place where it can be searched and viewed,” he said.

The Accenturepedia wiki is another example of how Accenture is adapting consumer-oriented tools for business purposes.

The idea, according to Modruson, is to give staff at work the mixture of interactive sites and user collaboration that they enjoy in their spare time.

“With these new technologies we are seeing a blending of work and social life, but at Accenture the purely social stuff is done outside of the office,” he said. “People are really curious about our internal Web 2.0 sites and are keen to share information on them.”

This transition has seen the firm stop using some of the mainstay applications found in most other enterprises. “We used to use things like Lotus Notes, but now we have much more of a web environment,” said Modruson.

Because of all these activities, and the proliferation of self-service tools, Modruson believes that his role, and indeed that of all IT directors, is changing.
“IT has become the life blood of the organisation, but it is not the brain. It is the blood that both communicates and shares things throughout the body,” he said.
Modruson believes IT managers have to move away from being the people that are concerned with the nuts and bolts of company systems and start working with the business, showing departments how they can make things happen.

“It is increasingly the case that to be successful an IT leader has to be less of a technologist and more of a business person. You need to be able to communicate to colleagues where technology is going, and how the business can benefit from it,” he advised. “IT should be invisible if possible, and when it is successful that’s just what it is. One of the things that I get the most enjoyment from in my work is telling people about a new technology that they haven’t even noticed that they were using.”


Yahoo kicks off re-wiring project

Yahoo users will soon have one place where they can manage all the services they use on the popular website.

The company has begun a mammoth re-engineering project that will unify the disparate services Yahoo runs.

It hopes the project will transform the site into a vast social network where Yahoo users can quickly find and communicate with each other.

The project should also aims to make it easier for web developers to use Yahoo data and services for their own ends.

Monkey magic

"We are literally in the process of rewiring Yahoo from the inside out," said Ari Balogh, chief technology officer at Yahoo in a speech at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

By re-engineering its internal workings it hopes to tear down the walls between its web sites and services so each user only has to visit one place to view and manage everything they do at Yahoo.

Yahoo has built up its online presence using both home-grown services and by acquisitions. Recently it has bought photo-sharing site Flickr, bookmarking site Del.icio.us and social calendar site Upcoming.

Mr Balogh said the changes would give users more control over how much information they share and make it much more straightforward to set up ad-hoc social networks with friends and family.

"We are not building another social network," said Mr Balogh. "We are building social into everything we do."

Charlene Li, vice president and senior analyst at Forrester, said: "My hat goes off to Yahoo that they have been able to execute this in a very difficult and stressful time for them on a strategy that I think is potentially very interesting."

One of the first results of the unification project is Search Monkey which opens up Yahoo's search technology to developers and users.

Yahoo is providing information so developers can call on the search engine and users can tune their sites to appear high up in keyword results.

The re-engineering project is part of a larger strategy, dubbed Y!OS (Yahoo Open Strategy) that is due to be unveiled in late 2008.

The announcement came two days before the expiration of a deadline set by Microsoft for Yahoo to agree to a merger. Microsoft has threatened to mount a hostile takeover if Yahoo refuses the offer or does not respond.


Morgan Stanley exec is new Google CIO

Google has found its new chief information officer, CNET News.com has learned: Benjamin Fried, a programmer who rose through the ranks to run much of Morgan Stanley's computing infrastructure.

Fried, a managing director who led Morgan Stanley's Application Infrastructure group, will take the new post in May, Google spokesman Matt Furman confirmed Thursday.

According to an internal Morgan Stanley memo seen by News.com, Fried will leave Morgan Stanley at the end of the month "to pursue opportunities outside the firm."

The memo also indicated that Fried is no stranger to Google. While at Morgan Stanley, one of his projects was working on Google's initial public offering in 2004, the memo said.

Google's last CIO, Douglas Merrill, left earlier in April to become president of EMI's digital unit. Earlier this month, rumors surfaced that Fried would be Google's new CIO.

Running Google's computing infrastructure is a daunting challenge on which the company's success hinges. Google not only has thousands of servers housed in at least 36 data centers scattered around the globe, but also a build-it-yourself culture that means the company is responsible for maintaining much of its own technology.

Fried, who worked for Morgan Stanley computing operations for nearly 14 years, has experience in the area, though. According to the memo, he worked on Morgan Stanley's first Web site, its workstation software, and its intranet.

From the World Wide Web to high-end salami
Fried got in on the ground floor of the Web. According to his biography, while he was at Columbia University, he worked on the original World Wide Web software written by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

In his most recent work at Morgan Stanley, Fried ran a wide swath of essential technology operations that are part of the Application Infrastructure group. His purview included e-mail, grid computing, real-time market data, source code management for software projects, the Web site, instant messaging, and desktop software.

Before joining Morgan Stanley, he did some work for Heuristicrats Research that sounds right up Google's tech-savvy alley: he helped design what he calls the Decision-Theoretic Scheduler, technology to schedule jobs in a system that's got too much to do already. It's abstruse stuff, but it sounds like it would apply squarely to Google's computing challenges. NASA used it to schedule missions, he said.

Outside of his computing work, Fried's an Ultimate Frisbee fan with ailing knees and a partner in Fra' Mani Handcrafted Salumi, a Berkeley, California-based maker of cured meats that was founded by chef Paul Bertolli.

This article was originally a blog post on CNET News.com.


Microsoft Issues Final Threat to Scotch Yahoo Deal

Microsoft stands firm on its offer for Yahoo and reinforces that it may go hostile.

SAN FRANCISCO/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp gave Yahoo Inc no hope of a higher takeover price, saying it was ready to go hostile or even call off its bid if Yahoo maintains "unrealistic expectations" of a better deal.

"Speed is of the essence for the deal to make sense," Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said on a conference call on Thursday. If no deal is reached by this weekend, Microsoft will reconsider its offer and reveal new plans next week, he said.

"Unfortunately, the transaction has been anything but speedy and has been characterized by what would appear to be unrealistic expectations of value," he said of Yahoo's moves to frustrate Microsoft's unsolicited merger proposition.

Microsoft sees Yahoo as a way to compete with arch-rival Google Inc in the Internet search and advertising arena, but company executives have repeatedly said they have limits to what they are willing to pay to get a deal done.

"We have yet to see tangible evidence that our bid substantially undervalues the company," Liddell said, referring to Yahoo. "In fact, we see the opposite."

Liddell reiterated a threat Microsoft made three weeks ago to Yahoo's board of directors that it would consider cutting its bid, now worth about $44 billion, and take its case to Yahoo shareholders if a deal is not reached by this Saturday.

"As outlined in our recent letter to the Yahoo board, unless we made progress with Yahoo towards an agreement by this weekend, we will reconsider our alternatives," Liddell said.

"These alternatives clearly include taking an offer to Yahoo shareholders or to withdraw our proposal and focus on other opportunities," either from internally generated growth or growth through acquisitions, the Microsoft executive said.

He was echoing a public threat made by Chief Executive Steve Ballmer at a conference near Milan on Wednesday that Microsoft would withdraw its cash-and-stock offer, originally for $31 a share, if Yahoo does not start negotiating.

Ballmer also said Yahoo's better-than-expected first-quarter results, reported on Tuesday, had not changed Microsoft's view of its value.

The tough talk appeared to be a final public attempt to bring Yahoo to the negotiating table before the nearly three-week-old deadline expires. Yahoo has said it is open to considering a deal with Microsoft, among other alternatives, but only if Microsoft boosts its offer.

"A proxy battle seems increasingly likely," William Blair analyst Troy Mastin said. "It sounds (like) Yahoo's got a price in mind somewhere north of $35 and Microsoft has a price in mind somewhere south of $35."

Stanford Group financial analyst Clayton Moran said Microsoft appears ready to walk away if Yahoo does not act: "In a sense Yahoo, by playing hardball, is really playing with fire because they have limited alternatives," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Microsoft reported weak Windows sales for its fiscal third quarter ended in March and gave a forecast for the fourth quarter ending in June at the low end of Wall Street expectations, sending its shares down nearly 5 percent.

During the conference call, which principally focused on a discussion of Microsoft's own quarterly results, Liddell noted that two times as many callers were listening and he speculated that this was tied to widespread interest in the Yahoo deal.

In regular session trading on Nasdaq ahead of the results, Microsoft shares closed up 1.1 percent at $31.80 while Yahoo fell 2.8 percent to close at $27.30. After the report, Microsoft stock fell 5.1 percent to $30.18 while Yahoo dipped a further 1 percent to $27.01.

In order to regain the bid's full $31-a-share value, Microsoft's stock would have to rise to $32.60, the closing share price on January 29, a day before Microsoft presented its unsolicited offer to Yahoo's board.

(Additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Michele Gershberg in New York; Editing by Braden Reddall)


Microsoft shares fall on 4Q outlook, weak Windows sales

Microsoft Corp. delivered an upbeat message for fiscal 2009, but its shares fell Friday after the software bellwether offered a lackluster outlook for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Micorosft on Thursday predicted fourth-quarter income of 45 cents to 48 cents per share, compared with the average estimate of 48 cents per share among analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Furthermore, Microsoft reported quarterly sales of Windows software were below the predictions of Microsoft and Wall Street, although the company's results for the quarter ended March 31 were modestly above analyst estimates.

For its fiscal third quarter, Microsoft's profit fell 11 percent to $4.39 billion, or 47 cents per share, from $4.93 billion, or 50 cents per share, in the same period last year. Sales of Windows software fell 24 percent to $4.02 billion.

During the quarter, Microsoft faced disappointing personal computer sales and increased levels of unlicensed software in China.

Lehman Brothers analyst Israel Hernandez said in an investor note that the company's client software section reported sales at the low end of the company's guidance because of inventory problems, weak Windows sales and increased piracy.

He noted that the company's entertainment division easily beat his estimates because of stronger-than-expected Xbox video game console shipments. The company sold 1.3 million units, while Hernandez expected sales of just 800,000 units.

Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek also noted that sales of client software were somewhat weak, but said the entertainment division performed well.

He also said Microsoft's global presence should somewhat insulate it from an economic slowdown in the U.S.

"With two-thirds of the company's business outside the U.S., including 15 percent from high-growth emerging markets, Microsoft appears well positioned to weather a U.S. slowdown," he wrote in a client note.


It’s showtime for Microsoft-Yahoo

The Microsoft-Yahoo standoff could get ugly fast.

Saturday is the deadline that Microsoft set three weeks ago for Yahoo (YHOO) to accept its buyout offer - or face the possibility of a hostile bid or a decision by Microsoft to abandon the deal altogether. The April 26 deadline brings to a head three months of high-profile jockeying during which Yahoo has repeatedly rebuffed Microsoft and demanded a better price.

At stake is Microsoft and Yahoo’s ability to compete with Google as billions of dollars worth of advertising dollars continue to flood the Internet. As Google has risen to become the dominant online ad player, Microsoft and Yahoo have both struggled to gain traction. Most analysts think a merger is the best way for Microsoft and Yahoo to compete with Google.

Microsoft kicked off the battle in late January when it made an unsolicited cash-and-stock bid for Yahoo that was originally valued at $31 a share, or $45 billion. The deal’s value has since dropped to $29.64 as Microsoft’s shares have fallen.

While Microsoft and Yahoo executives have met to discuss the bid, Yahoo has so far spurned Microsoft. Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang has said he’s not opposed to a Microsoft buyout, but argues that the offer “substantially undervalues” Yahoo. To force Microsoft (MSFT) to up the ante, Yahoo has discussed a variety of tieups with Time Warner, News Corp. and Google in recent months.

“Our board and management team continue to be open to any and all alternatives, including a sale to Microsoft,” Yang said on Tuesday, when Yahoo reported first-quarter earnings that beat estimates.

Talks between Microsoft and Yahoo have been anything but friendly. Three weeks ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer issued the ultimatum that expires Saturday. On Thursday, when Microsoft also reported better-than-expected profits, chief financial officer Chris Liddell voiced his frustration with Yahoo’s recalcitrance - and suggested the company’s prepared to go to war or walk away.

“Unless we make progress with Yahoo towards an agreement by this weekend, we will reconsider our alternatives,” said Liddell, suggesting that Microsoft will makes its decision know next week. “The transaction has been anything but speedy as is being characterized by what would appear to be [Yahoo's] unrealistic expectations of value.”

If Yahoo doesn’t accept Microsoft’s offer by the Saturday deadline, one of the following three scenarios is likely:

  • Microsoft walk aways from a deal. In this case, Microsoft will likely continue to spend money acquiring other online ad companies. In the past 11 months, Microsoft has spent more than $6 billion to acquire aQuantive and Rapt.
  • Microsoft turns up the heat and launches a proxy battle. The company has already hired a proxy firm and reportedly nominated 10 candidates and three alternates to its own alternative board. The Wall Street Journal reported that the 10 nominees include former Nextel CEO John Chapple, former Grey Global Group CEO Edward Meyer, former Adelphia Communications chief financial officer Vanessa Wittman, and Jaynie Studenmund, a former executive at Overture Services, the online ad company acquired by Yahoo.
  • Status quo. Microsoft extends the proxy deadline while Yahoo tries to convince its shareholders that an alliance with Time Warner’s AOL or Google is more desirable.

It’s not clear what Microsoft’s next move would be if it abandoned Yahoo. Ballmer sees Yahoo as the ammunition he needs to take on Google as online advertising spend skyrockets. According to eMarketer, advertisers worldwide spent $41 billion online in 2007 — a figure that is expected to double through 2011 as advertisers chase after consumers who are spending more time on the Web and less time watching TV, reading newspapers or listening to the radio. Google controls 40% of the overall market while Yahoo and Microsoft’s MSN have 15% and 5.2%, respectively. Google commands an even greater share in the lucrative search-ad business, with 58.7% of the market compared to 18.1% for Yahoo and 12% for MSN, according to the latest Nielsen data.

Microsoft fears that Google, with its March acquisition of DoubleClick, the world’s biggest online ad server company and big player in the increasingly lucrative market for online display ads,will seize an even bigger portion of the ad market as MSN falls further behind.

Microsoft isn’t the only one worried about Google. A number of media and Internet giants are now circling Yahoo — one of the last independent large-scale online players. “Microsoft’s forcing…everyone to make a move,” says Frank Addante, CEO of Rubicon Project, which helps publishers manage their online ad inventory. “If you look at a year ago, the same thing happened when Google went after DoubleClick. Microsoft bought aQuantive. Yahoo went after RightMedia and AOL bought Tacoda.”

Fortune’s and CNNMoney’s parent company Time Warner (TWX) has pursued a deal that would fold AOL into Yahoo in exchange for a 20% stake. Along with aligning with AOL, Yahoo is also looking into outsourcing search advertising to market leader Google (GOOG). Earlier this week Yahoo finished a two-week test that ran Google ads for searches on Yahoo’s homepage. The Justice Dept. is reportedly investigating the test for possible antitrust violations.

News Corp. has approached the deal from different angles. Yahoo and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWS) held preliminary talks about a possible partnership after Yahoo rejected Microsoft’s bid. When those discussions stalled, News Corp. began talking with Microsoft about a three-way alliance that would combine News Corp.’s social networking site, MySpace, MSN and Yahoo.

Many analysts argue that ultimately a Microsoft-Yahoo combination is the best option for Yahoo shareholders — and for Microsoft in its war with Google. “Clearly, MSFT is committed to this deal,” wrote Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney in a recent note to clients. “And we believe that [a proxy fight] may well force YHOO’s hand and bring closure to the negotiations. We continue to believe that this deal is the most likely outcome for YHOO.”


Google Updates Earth to 4.3

Friday, April 18, 2008

Google Earth has been updated with what Google claims is a smoother and more natural 3D navigation system. Among other features, the new version Google Earth 4.3 boasts improved zooming. For instance, zooming in from a full-Earth view gets the 3D map view zooming in normally. Closer the ground, the zoom feature behaves in a manner similar to a person parachuting to the ground. And once on ground, the user is instantly surrounded by a 3D landscape similar to that in 3D games.
Also, a 'Street View' feature stands added to Google Earth that allows users navigate by way of actual street photographs. Google Earth 4.3 boasts better lighting and landscapes load even faster thanks to better software rendering, according to Google. In addition, version 4.3 introduces an 'image acquisition' feature that lists dates when landscape images were taken as also a new and improved language pack with 12 more translations. First launched in 2005, Google Earth is claimed to have been downloaded over 350 million times.


Safari 3.1 Now Available. Fastest Web Browser Yet

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mac users and Safari fans should be happy to hear that "the world's best browser" is now "the world’s fastest web browser for Mac and Windows PCs" with the introduction of version 3.1. The update to the Apple-developed web browser is said to allow 1.9 and 1.7 times faster loading than Internet Explorer 7 and FireFox 2 respectively.
"Apple today introduced the world’s fastest web browser for Mac and Windows PCs — Safari 3.1. In addition to loading web pages 1.9 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and 1.7 times faster than FireFox 2, Safari 3.1 runs JavaScript up to six times faster than other browsers," says Apple.
Safari 3.1 also supports the latest web standards for delivering a next-gen Web 2.0 experience, according to the Cupertino folks. Some of the performance improvements include improved JavaScript performance with support for CSS 3 web fonts, CSS transforms and transitions, HTML 5 video and audio elements, offline storage for Web applications in SQL databases and SVG images in img elements and CSS images. Safari 3.1 also offers support for SVG advanced text.Recent security news bring Safari on the spotlight, courtesy of PayPal, who has recently put up a list of recommended browsers. Unsurprisingly, Safari is not among them, for it still doesn't fully protect non-savvy users from phishing sites.
"Safari protects your personal information when you surf the web on a shared or public Mac. Go ahead — check your bank account and .Mac email at the library or shop for birthday presents on the family Mac. Safari also uses strong 128-bit encryption when accessing secure sites such as your bank or an online store, so you can transmit account and payment information with confidence," Apple describes its browser.This of course doesn't help one bit when you willingly input your credentials for phishers to use and suck you dry. According to PayPal, a safe browser has the following characteristics: latest version, automatic software patches and upgrades, anti-phishing functionality to notify you when you try to access a suspected fake website and 128-bit encryption that protects data during transmission.While Safari does fit the "safe" profile regarding some features (128-bit encryption, for example), it doesn't exactly offer the highest level of security either (for noobs, that is), but hey, that's exactly why it is currently the fastest out there.


Fake Google Email Attempts to Steal Your Money

We all know that Google, the Mountain View super search giant, communicates with its users by phone or by email every time users have to be informed about important matters. And if the emails’ subject concerns AdWords, Google’s money machine, the message is bound to be important and has to be read as soon as possible. Some Internet users have received recently a "Google" notification asking them to "update their billing information". Hmm, quite weird I would say, Google has never contacted me before in order to request such a thing.
Let’s have a closer look at the email message: it is titled "Please Update Your Billing Information" and seems to be sent by adwords-noreply[at]google[dot]com. The text message reads: "Dear Google AdWords Customer! In order to update your billing information, please sign in to your AdWords account at https://adwords.google.com, and update your billing information." The end of the email, "Sincerely, The Google AdWords Team ," could make you swear that the message came from Google.
OK, and now the juicy info. As you can see in the adjacent pictures, the links are supposed to get you to the Google AdWords page. There’s even the https URI scheme meant to represent a secure HTTP connection. However, moving the mouse over the link (without clicking it!), shows the real link in the status bar of your browser/email client: http://adwords.google.com.*****.cn/select/Login/. That’s right, it’s a fake domain hosted in China. Classic, I would say but let’s see some other details.
Clicking on it gets you to a fake Google AdWords website that looks similar to the genuine one. In case you’re one of those naïve folks out there and you simply avoid looking in the address bar, you may be tempted to enter your AdWords information. As you can see by yourself, the address bar reveals the real URL of the website, other than the genuine Google one.
Getting back to the https syntax, the website doesn’t really reveal any security measure. Moreover, the real link of the fake website actually contains the http syntax so it’s obvious that leaving the page without entering your information would be a smart choice. But let’s see how this page is different of the genuine Google website. Clicking anywhere on the Google AdWords website brings you the https URI scheme, informing you that you’re 100 percent safe while browsing it. Have a look at the adjacent pictures.The email claims it was sent by a Google official. However, analyzing the email’s headers proves that the phisher wasn’t too focused on hiding his identity. Beside other information, we got his IP which reveals the fact that the phisher has sent the fake emails from Amsterdam. However, we can’t know for sure if the sender was an infected computer, part of a botnet, or the actual scammer.I guess it’s obvious that this is just a phishing scheme and a pretty smart one considering the fact that it attempts to trick you by using several genuine-like elements such as the links included in the email address or the message text which may lure you in disclosing your credentials. However, it uses the same classic and old-fashioned phishing techniques like the fake URL and fake website similar to a genuine one.
So, next time you receive a suspicious website asking for your credentials, do not disclose them unless you check twice that revealing the information keeps you on the safe side; don’t forget to check the links in the status bar BEFORE you click on them; install any security software that may help you in identifying phishing websites; look for the https syntax in the address bar of your browser; contact the service provider just after you notice you’ve been tricked.While I was writing this article, the Firefox guys have already added protection for the phishing website so every time a Mozilla user visits the page, he’ll get informed that it’s not a genuine one. We’re still waiting to see similar action from Internet Explorer. Hopefully, the page gets shut down as soon as possible.


IBM Pitches at New 3 Mbps HD Encoding Technology

Less bandwidth, faster download times and increased concurrent connections

US-based conglomerate IBM plans to unveil a revolutionary encoding technology, that would make it possible to stream HD media at up to 3Mbps speeds across the web. The new technology has been developed in collaboration

with the software firm Broadcast International.According to a joint statement prepared by the two partners, the encoding technology will be premiered at the upcoming National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas. The innovative system is based on the software developed by Broadcast International that runs on an IBM BladeCenter server platform equipped with the company's Cell processors.At the moment, the vast majority of HD streams are broadcast as MPEG 2 standard of 19.4 Mbps. The software algorithm would compress the MPEG-2 streams to under 3 Mbps, which would account not only in higher data transfer rates, but also in important bandwidth savings (more than 80 percent for HD quality), as well as in more concurrent connections."The ability to squeeze more video onto less bandwidth is the number one priority in the industry," said Rod Tiede, CEO of Broadcast International. "Even a 20 percent reduction in bandwidth is seen as a breakthrough. Our demonstrations shatter the bandwidth barrier completely, offering unprecedented compression and transcoding in both live and real-time environments. That's the industry's holy grail." The technology will be demonstrated later this week during the NAB expo and show. According to Broadcast International, the demonstration will include the emulation of a production broadcast environment with multiple types of content, such as live sportscasts or archived footage. The two companies will perform real-time encoding and transcoding, then deliver the achieved signal to cellphones, laptops, and large-screen format HDTVs. IBM's Cell chips, currently powering Sony's PlayStation gaming consoles, will play a key role in the encoding and transcoding parts, as the algorithms are extremely resource-intensive. "Right now there are literally billions of dollars in video compression infrastructure that will have to be thrown away when new standards like h.264 are adopted," said Tiede. "You don’t have to throw out your computer every time Microsoft launches a new version of software. Why should you have to throw away a $50,000 piece of equipment like an encoder," he concluded.


New solution for pollution: CDs and DVDs

In the future, all those DVDs you buy could be made from air pollution.
If plans to remove carbon dioxide from smokestacks succeed, the gas could be harnessed and turned into plastic products, new research claims.
Carbon dioxide is emitted into the air by the burning of fossil fuels, primarily by power plants and automobiles. It is the main greenhouse gas contributing to man-made global warming.

Sucking the carbon dioxide from smokestack emissions could enable a process by which the heat-trapping gas would be turned into a raw material for making polycarbonates, a type of plastic, and keep it from raising global temperatures even more, according to two groups of researchers who presented their findings today at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.
"Using CO2 to create polycarbonates might not solve the total carbon dioxide problem, but it could be a significant contribution," said the leader of one team, Thomas Müller of the Institut für Technishe und Makromolekulare Chemie.
Carbon dioxide is also cheaper and less toxic than other starting materials traditionally used to make plastics.
Polycarbonates, which are easily worked and molded, are used to make many transparent materials, including CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses and drinking bottles. Both teams are developing methods to transform carbon dioxide into the starting materials for polycarbonates and expect that people could be watching movies on waste-carbon dioxide DVDs sooner than they think.
"I would say it's a matter of a few years" before these waste


Google-Salesforce alliance aims at Microsoft software market

Google and Salesforce.com on Monday announced an expanded alliance to deliver online programs competing with packaged software at the heart of Microsoft's global empire.
Google "Apps" including email, calendar, and document writing will be included in software services offered by Salesforce, which essentially serves as a for-hire technology department businesses use via the Internet.
"Salesforce.com and Google have changed the game again," said Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone. "This is revolutionizing the way people work."
Salesforce is a leader in "software as a service" (SaaS), which is referred to as "cloud computing" because programs are hosted online instead of installed and maintained on users' machines.

Google vice president Dave Girouard said the alliance is unquestionably a shot across the bow of US software giant Microsoft, which has built its fortune selling packaged software such as Office and Outlook.
"We don't wake up in the morning at Google and say 'How are we going to get Microsoft," but they are going to feel an impact," Girouard told AFP.
"We expect this to be part of a new era of computing. Eventually, the whole market is going to move into the cloud."
Salesforce will offer Google Apps free and market a premium service in which it provides technical support for 10 dollars monthly per employee using the applications.
"Google and Salesforce.com have always had similar models and philosophies about delivering innovations made possible by the Internet," said Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.
"Together, we are making more applications and services available online so customers can focus on building their core business rather than the applications that support it."
The Google-Salesforce alliance is a boon to both companies, according to Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle.
Salesforce gets a tie-up with an Internet powerhouse and Google gains credibility in the business software sector, according to Enderle.
Software and computing platforms as services will underpin the next generation of the Internet, Schmidt said at a San Francisco press conference.
"Last year the debate was 'if,' now the debate is 'when,'" Schmidt said of a shift to software in the cloud. "This is a 20, 30, 40-year vision."
The alliance is proof that Google is concentrating on expanding its domain past online search and advertising while rival Microsoft focuses on an unwanted bid to take over Internet search veteran Yahoo.
Microsoft is pressuring Yahoo to accept a 44.6-billion-dollar cash and stock offer or face a hostile takeover effort.
"This is why Google likes the Microsoft-Yahoo wrestling match, because it can move forward while its rivals are occupied," Enderle said.
Google and Salesforce made their first SaaS alliance last year, triggering speculation the Internet search king might buy the fast-growing firm founded by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff in 1999.
The expanded alliance allows third-party developers to customize applications and creates the world's largest cloud computing platform for building and running applications, according to the companies.


AOL to Sell Internet Ads for Verizon Communications

AOL, the Time Warner Inc. Web unit will start selling and managing Internet ads for Verizon Communications Inc., as it continues to diversify its business and put much focus to advertising.AOL said its Platform A sales network will handle display and video ads for Verizon, which will continue to use AOL's Third Screen Media technology to manage the sales of its ads for mobile devices.Under the agreement, AOL will be the sole company that will guarantee Verizon ads to Web sites.Source:ibtimes.com


Motorola's hunt for a miracle worker

Monday, April 14, 2008

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- HERO WANTED: No. 3 player in hot market needs thick-skinned CEO for a salvage and rescue job.
Okay, so that's not quite the ad that wireless giant Motorola is running these days at it searches for a new chief for its mobile phone business - but it might as well be. Broken, leaderless and bleeding red ink, Motorola's handset unit is about to be spun off so the rest of the company can prosper.
It's been a rough tumble for the Schaumburg, Ill. wireless titan that 10 years ago sat atop the cell phone industry. Each week seems to bring new lows in the stock and a yawning absence of new products to pin hopes on. Just how low the phone maker has fallen was apparent recently when a leading Indian appliance manufacturer signaled its interest in buying the division.
Last month, Motorola (MOT, Fortune 500) set out to find a new CEO for its mobile phone business after Greg Brown was named head of the entire company. While Motorola isn't publicly talking about its search, it begs an obvious question: Who could possibly want this gig? Talk about a seemingly hopeless assignment - one that only a fool would accept.
The challenges facing Motorola's mobile phone business are daunting. The company has been unable to capitalize on its blockbusters, most recently the Razr, the ultra-thin folding phone that was introduced in 2005 and eventually sold more than 100 million units. Last year Motorola lost the No. 2 slot to South Korea electronic giant Samsung - and risks losing its third place ranking to Sony Ericsson.
Brown said in late March he would spin off Motorola's handset unit to shareholders sometime next year after a bruising battle with corporate raider Carl Icahn, who had amassed a 6.5% stake in the company and was agitating for change. But a breakup alone won't solve Motorola's main problem: making popular phones that churn out steady profits, which is a challenge that experts say require a top-to-bottom overhaul of the company. The toxic situation would understandably repel all but the hardest chargers.
But where some see a fool's task, others see a huge opportunity for a fix-up specialist. And a few names have surfaced as potential candidates that could engineer a turnaround - although, as some analysts and industry observers note, engineers need not apply for this job (more on that later).
Here are some contenders, in no particular order:
Anssi Vanjoki, the new markets chief at Nokia (NOK). Vanjoki is widely credited with extending Nokia's brand around the world and developing advanced mobile phones with more applications. While thoroughly Finnish - he is, according to his official bio, a Knight, 1st Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland - Vanjoki has worked stateside while at 3M earlier in his career.
Steve Altman, the president of Qualcomm (QCOM, Fortune 500). Altman is a patent attorney that helped turn Qualcomm technology licensing business into a royalty collection powerhouse.
Dan Akerson is a former top executive with MCI, Nextel, XO, and now at Carlyle Group. Akerson is an experienced telco hand who would conceivably help warm up relations between Motorola and its phone company partners.
Ed Breen ran General Instruments, which was purchased by Motorola in 2000 and is now credited with reviving Tyco after a potentially fatal accounting scandal earlier this decade.
Mike Zafirovski is the one-time No.2 at Motorola who's now trying to turn around Nortel. After more than two years, and almost nothing to point to as a sign of recovery, Zafirovski could be ready to return to the mother ship.
Ron Garriques, the former Motorola handset chief who fled to Dell during Razr's fall from popularity, could attempt a triumphant return. No one knows the workings inside Motorola's phone shop better than Garriques, but his role in creating it might work against him.
Bill Nuti, a turnaround artist who left Cisco to revive Symbol Technologies. Nuti left Symbol to take the top job at NCR. Symbol was acquired soon after by Motorola.
Ben Verwaayen, the former Lucent chief operating officer who's just spent six years modernizing British Telecom, where he added business services and data network management to the telco's core residential phone business. Verwaayen is stepping down from BT in June.
To succeed, the head of Motorola's cell phone business will have to address the inefficiencies that the Razr's rise and fall unmasked. In part that means taking an entirely new approach to phones. Motorola previously prized engineering over all else, thinking it could design its way out of any rut. But Motorola can learn from Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and other companies that consistently develop and market products that appeal to consumers.
Viewed from that angle, here are two possible contenders who might just fit the bill: Irene Rosenfeld, the Kraft CEO who has the packaging and marketing expertise Motorola could use. There's also Indra Nooyi, the chief of beverage giant PepsiCo and a true believer in the need for companies to constantly reinvent themselves - something Motorola desperately needs.


Microsoft and HCL launch world's cheapest laptop

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Software leaders Microsoft Corp India and HCL Infosystems Ltd have announced a set of joint initiatives, including the launch of world's cheapest "Windows" enabled laptop computer and setting up of a centre of excellence (CoE) to create a customised solution framework for India.
Announcing this in Mumbai on Friday, Ajai Chowdhry, chairman and CEO of HCL, said: "The Windows OS (operating system) will be launched under the MiLeap brand of HCL land and will cost Rs 16,990."
Talking about the MiLeap brand, Chowdhry said the series were launched earlier this year and the launch of the cheapest laptop computer will be Microsoft Windows XP powered and that the "MiLeap H series will have a GB HDD with broadband".
Microsoft Corp chief operating officer Kevin Turner said for over 22 years, both Microsoft and HCL have partnered to promote the use of IT in India, "and the establishment of the CoE which will have over 500 software professionals will create and deploy Microsoft technologies in various sectors, like banking, telecom, defence, railways and similar highly organised sectors".
Microsoft India Chairman Ravi Venkatesan said the agreement between the two software groups entails the training and subsequent certifying of 50,000 students on Microsoft technologies in three years time.
"The batches will be trained in 100 training centres - the HCL Career Development Centres – set up by HCL. The curriculum used will be the Microsoft Official Curriculum," he said.


5 CEOs’ best leadership tips

Friday, April 11, 2008

Regardless of what industry or the size of their organization, these individuals were unusually impressive for their ability to see clearly when others around them were unfocused. It’s clear that great leaders can provide the others with strong tips for improving their leadership effectiveness.
Nearly any manager can model the success of others to become “more great.” I have gathered a kind of “best hits” of tips and ideas from many great leaders to explore this concept in detail in my third book on this subject. That book won’t be published until next year. Until then, here are tips from five CEOs:
1. Focus on the real world - Many leaders are far too convinced that they know what’s right. In all situations and every time. They ignore reports and analyses, dismissing them as missing the mark in this particular situation. In many cases, these people have done well trusting their instincts and, while I advocate that as a management tool as well, nothing can offset the value of solid data and hard research.
2. Don’t get emotional - Bosses who shout, cry, whine, or are too focused on feelings will often turn off people who are well situated to help them succeed. No one wants to spend time with a supervisor who can’t be level-headed in difficult times. I saw this firsthand when dealing with the head of one of the largest retail chains. His behavior increased executive resignations whenever things were out of kilter. I’m not advocating a loss of humanity here, just get some balance. Show the team that you can take the bad news as well as the good. Let them see that you are an even keeled person when others become too focused on themselves.
3. Great leaders exhibit great calm - It’s reassuring when, in the face of crises, the head of an organization can show everyone else that they know the world is not about to end. This is not the same as being unable to face the truth or acting like a know-it-all. Truly powerful people have an air about them and I’ve learned that this can be developed with practice. I worked with a company head who was almost Zen-like in her ability to exhibit calmness during a very trying period - it had a great impact on her troops. Try it and see how your ability to make tough decisions in a timely way increases.
4. There is always more time than it seems - While it’s a maxim of management that amateurs can delay making the hard decisions; it’s also clear that many mistakes are made by those bosses who think that decisions need to be made quickly every time. I’ve worked with companies in such tight financial straights they had to stretch out their payables each month just to make payroll; but even during one those traumatic times the best CEO was thoughtfully making decisions based on the premise that, “this too will pass.”
5. Even a weak manager can look good with a great team - I learned this from a man who, in his 80’s, was still making big bets with his holdings. A guy recognized by everyone as being a big thinker and always ahead of the curve, he has amassed a portfolio of companies that have made him a billionaire. When asked how he keeps coming up with great ideas, his answer was simple, “I surround myself with people who know more than me.” I’ll build on his statement by saying that he gave those people full credit for their ideas and paid them well. He had no ego issues and that went a long way to build loyalty.


EchoStar sues News Corp for hacking

Hackers hired by a News Corp unit stole and posted data that allowed free access to Dish Network's satellite television service, the company said, in a corporate spying trial against its rival that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Dubbed the "Black Hat Team," the computer whizzes flooded the market with smart cards that allowed free satellite TV access, a lawyer for Dish said on Wednesday. The suit was brought by EchoStar Communications which later split into two companies, Dish and EchoStar Corp.

A lawyer for News Corps's NDS Group denied that the company engaged in spying, saying during opening statements in the trial that it was instead engaged in reverse engineering by obtaining the codes and were monitoring piracy

"Because this is a competitive business, NDS also monitors competitors," NDS attorney Richard Stone told jurors. "NDS has done nothing to illegally harm or damage EchoStar. All NDS has done is compete hard and fair in the marketplace."

Dish is suing NDS and NDS Americas in a corporate espionage trial that US District Judge David Carter said could bring an award of "hundreds of millions or perhaps billions."

The potential damages are based on claims of lost revenue and the cost of fixing the compromised system."(NDS) came up with a plan - take these hackers off the streets and turn them on the competitors," Dish's lead attorney, Wade Welch, told the jury. "They called it the Black Hat Team."
NDS, which provides encryption technology to a global satellite empire that includes News Corp's DirecTV in the United States, "made the calculated decision to hire the worst and most well-known satellite pirates and hackers in the world in an effort to establish and maintain control ... over its competitors' technology", EchoStar claims in its lawsuit. The spying allegedly began in 1998 when DirecTV was constantly getting hacked and was debating whether to leave NDS and sign on with EchoStar's superior system, Welch said.

The covert operation was shut down in 2001 when federal authorities visited the California home of NDS' primary hacker, Chris Tarnovsky. The primary location where the cards were created was NDS' research facility in Haifa, Israel, according to the suit.Dish is claiming copyright violation, conspiracy, and piracy in a case that is expected to last a month and produce testimony from hackers and top company officials from as far away as Israel, Europe, Switzerland and Canada.

Stone admitted that NDS worked with Tarnovsky but the goal was to shut down major piracy networks and aid law enforcement in prosecutions. NDS has been extremely proactive in working with police and prosecutors, Stone said.But EchoStar claims Tarnovsky's real role was to cause their undoing and posted EchoStar's access codes on piracy web sites, causing uncontrollable damage."We tried to plug up the hole," Welch said. "But it was hopelessly cracked." As a result, EchoStar had to replace each subscriber's smart card that goes inside the black box at a cost of $90 million.Stone said Tarnovsky wasn't the hacker who posted the code on the Internet and they've found the real culprits to be several other individuals.


Flickr adds video sharing feature

Yahoo!'s online photo sharing community Flickr today added video sharing feature on its website. Flickr pro members can now upload personal video clips on the website.

Video on Flickr will be available in eight languages including English, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and traditional Chinese.
"Video on Flickr is an extension of what Flickr is already doing with more than two billion photos worldwide - providing a place where people capture and share life's daily moments," said Kakul Srivastava, general manager of Flickr at Yahoo!.
The new video uploading feature will support up to 90 seconds of personal video footage captured with the video function of any digital video recording device including still cameras, camcorders and camera phones.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Yahoo!, over 40 per cent of respondents aged 18-44 capture personal video clips with their digital cameras, but they are not taking advantage of websites to effectively share their videos. Fifty-five per cent merely play back video clips for their friends on their camera device or PC, and 20 per cent don't share these clips at all.

Flickr has grown from 27 million to 42 million monthly visitors worldwide in the past year.


News Corp joins Microsoft on Yahoo bid

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK - Microsoft and News Corp are in talks about a joint bid for Yahoo that would add MySpace to the Yahoo-Microsoft combination proposed by the world's largest software maker, the New York Times reports.
The talks with News Corp, which previously had discussed working with Yahoo as a counter to Microsoft's unsolicited bid, are at a "sensitive stage," the newspaper quoted people involved in the discussions as saying.
Yahoo faces a three-week deadline from Microsoft to reach a deal or face a hostile effort to take over the board, and it is eagerly searching for alternatives or proof that it is worth more than Microsoft's offer, now valued at US$42 billion ($53 billion).
Yahoo's talks with Time Warner are growing closer over a deal that would unite Yahoo and AOL, according to a person familiar with the talks, as Yahoo prepares to test using Web search advertising from Google.
Microsoft, News Corp, Time Warner and Yahoo all declined to comment on talks.

Terms of the proposed Microsoft-News Corp union are still being worked out, the New York Times said. News Corp would likely contribute its Fox Interactive Media unit, which owns MySpace, and possibly cash to a partnership with Microsoft as part of a Yahoo acquisition, the newspaper said.
A joint News Corp-Microsoft effort could pave the way for a higher offer for Yahoo and put more pressure on the company and its shareholders, the newspaper added.


Yahoo, Google to conduct ad experiment

Yahoo Inc. is surrendering some of its advertising space to Internet search leader Google Inc. in an unusual test that appears designed to frustrate Yahoo’s unsolicited suitor, Microsoft Corp.
The two-week experiment announced Wednesday will allow Google to show ads tied to about 3 percent of the queries made in the United States through Yahoo’s search engine — the Internet’s second largest after Google’s.
Yahoo will still use its own technology — acquired and developed at a cost of more than $2 billion — to place ads next to the other search results on its Web site. The Sunnyvale-based company also will continue to distribute search ads to its own partners.
Together, Google and Yahoo control more than 80 percent of the U.S. search market, making it highly unlikely that antitrust regulators would allow the Silicon Valley rivals to form a long-term advertising alliance, analysts said.
A broader relationship between Yahoo and Google also would face intense political scrutiny, said Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin, who chairs a committee overseeing antitrust issues.
By flirting with Google, Yahoo is trying to signal it has other options besides succumbing to Microsoft, said Standard and Poor’s equity analyst Scott Kessler. But Kessler doubts most investors will take the Google alternative seriously, given the antitrust obstacles.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for Yahoo to make an announcement like this when everyone knows a long-term relationship (with Google) can’t happen,” Kessler said. “It strikes me as somewhat desperate.”
Investors weren’t impressed with Yahoo’s latest maneuver. Yahoo shares dipped three cents in extended trading after gaining seven cents to finish the regular session at $27.77.
Yahoo’s dalliance with Google makes a friendly deal with Microsoft less likely and raises the odds that Microsoft will follow through on a recent threat to lower its bid, Kessler said.
Microsoft has said that if things can’t be worked out amicably, it is prepared to oust Yahoo’s 10-member board in a proxy contest that could prolong the drama into the summer.
If the Google tests were to begin immediately, they would be completed shortly before the April 26 deadline Microsoft has set for accepting its bid.
Yahoo didn’t specify when the trial run would begin, but said the test doesn’t mean it will join the thousands of other Web sites that rely on Google to place text-based advertising links next to search requests or their other content.
Google’s partnerships generated $5.8 billion in ad spending last year, with nearly $5 billion of that going to the Web sites participating in the network.
Drawing upon Google’s moneymaking prowess theoretically would help Yahoo bounce back from a two-year streak of declining profits that opened the door for Microsoft’s takeover bid, which was initially valued at $44.6 billion, or $31 per share.
Google reportedly approached Yahoo about a possible business relationship shortly after Microsoft announced its bid Feb. 1. Since then, Yahoo also has discussed deals with News Corp.’s popular online hangout, MySpace.Com, and with Time Warner Inc.’s fallen Internet star, AOL. Those talks so far haven’t panned out.
Yahoo maintains it is worth more than $45 billion, a point that it reinforced in a letter sent to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer early this week. Before the Microsoft bid, Yahoo’s market value had sunk to roughly $27 billion, or $19.18 per share.
Microsoft has said it might trim its bid unless Yahoo capitulates by April 26. As it stands, the value of Microsoft’s offer has declined to about $42 billion because it wants to pay for half the purchase with its own stock, which has tumbled in the past two months.
In a statement Wednesday, Microsoft reiterated its bid is fair and pointed out the antitrust problems likely to prevent Google and Yahoo from working together.
Google and Yahoo together control about 81 percent of the U.S. search market, according to the most recent data from comScore Media Metrix.
“This would make the market far less competitive, in sharp contrast to our own proposal to acquire Yahoo,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel. “We will assess closely all of our options.”
A combination between Microsoft and Yahoo also would likely face an extensive regulatory review that could last anywhere from six months to a year, predicted Nate Eimer, a Chicago attorney specializing in antitrust law.
If Yahoo were sold to Microsoft, those two companies would have a combined 31 percent market share in the United States— far behind Google’s 59 percent, comScore said.


Google offers to host your application

Monday, April 7, 2008

Google App Engine is intended to allow the creation of scalable web applications by removing the need to worry about provisioning.
The Engine will provide automatic replication and load balancing as the number of users increases, as well as access to Google's APIs for services such as authentication and email.At this stage, Python is the only supported language, though Google officials indicated others will be added at a later date.
The Engine SDK includes an emulator that runs on a local computer so that programs can be tested before uploading to Google's systems.Applications running on the Engine can be made public or restricted to a specific audience such as employees of the company concerned.Several sample applications have already been created, including movie quotes, carpooling and chat.

The Google App Engine preview will be restricted to the first 10,000 developers to join the program, and each will be limited to three applications and 500M of storage plus other resources needed to deliver around 5 million page views per month.
Additional storage and bandwidth will be available for purchase "in the near future", according to Google officials. No indication of likely pricing was given. "Google has spent years developing infrastructure for scalable web applications," said Pete Koomen, a product manager at Google. "We've brought Gmail and Google search to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and we've built out a powerful network of datacenters to support those applications. Today we're taking the first step in making this infrastructure available to all developers."


Dell Launches New Partnership Plan In China

Dell announced plans in China to launch a direct commercial product partnership plan in the hope of further expanding its market coverage in the country. The company expected to develop 1000 partners in China by the end of this year.
Dell has changed its featured direct-selling into a direct pattern. Min Yida, president of Dell Greater China, says that China is the second largest market for Dell in the world and the commercial product partnership plan is an important part of Dell's long-term strategy in China and it is also an extension and complementary to the company's direct-sales pattern. Min says that Dell will be devoted to the establishment of a close partnership network to develop long-term partners.
Dell's partnership plan mainly targets two kinds of partners, namely the industry authorization partners and the commercial product franchise dealers.
Dell is reportedly to have brewed the reform for a long time. Previously, the company set up a special channel department to communicate with partners and appointed Mai Peiran, a general manager from Sun China, to work as the general manager of its channel business. In addition, it also launched a special web page so that partners can register to communicate with Dell online.


Do IT companies recruit techie's for fun?

The recent moves by a few IT firms retrenching their employees have once again triggered the question on the relevance of trade unions for IT/ITeS staff in India.

Though such moves to sack alleged "non-performers" based on internal appraisals are normal practice, there are voices that hint at the need for unity among IT employees.

The unity among IT employees is almost non-existent now. An exception may be a rare procession taken out by techies in Bangalore when tragedy struck one among them, like in the Pratibha Srikanth Murthy murder case.

However, such unity – though in small measures – is short-lived. Following Pratibha's murder, IT professionals staged a protest before the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Bangalore – a favorite and convenient place for protesters of almost all hues. Not much development followed such protests.

Incidentally, in West Bengal, an Information Technology Services Association (WBITSA) was formed in 2006, under the auspices of the Center of India Trade Unions. It lost steam in the initial days itself and is now confined to call centers.

When the WBITSA was formed, the pros and cons of trade unions in IT sector were widely discussed, with most of the firms in the industry taking a firm stand against such unions.

With IBM, TCS and Yahoo booting out employees reportedly terming them as non-performers, the question whether trade unions are necessary in the IT sector is gaining currency.

VGK Nair, the secretary of the Karnataka unit of the Communist Party of India - Marxist, laments that employees from the IT sector are not willing to come forward to create an organization so as to ensure their well-being.

However, he hastened to add that the formation of a union for IT employees is his personal opinion, which needs to be deliberated upon in his party forums.

R Karthik Shekhar of the Union for Information Technology & Enabled Services (UNITES) Professionals, a Bangalore-based apolitical trade union, is more forthcoming, though there are constraints for UNITES to interfere in the recent issue of sacking employees.

Speaking on employees' unity, Shekhar says, "Employees themselves are not united in this issue (firms sacking staff). There is a strong need for the employees to be united and it becomes easy for us to address this issue.

" IT firms sacking employees is not just a concern of an individual or those who were asked to leave. "

No one is bothered about the repercussions it has over an employee, the kind of stress and frustration, his financial commitments and its effect on family," Shekhar says.

He further added: "There is a need for the employees to be treated humanely."

He says that even as employees are asked to leave, job advertisements by the same companies could be seen.

"Why recruit and waste money on new employees, rather than training the old ones. Further, when they recruit they follow their rules and regulations. Do they recruit for fun?

" A leading financial daily on Friday reported that Yahoo, which fired at least 40 of its staff in Bangalore, "insists that it's continuing to hire at least 60-80 people a month. And outside the US, Bangalore is its most significant location.

" As if in an afterthought, Shekher observes: "Companies always fail to understand. It will be like a sabzi mandi out there; companies negotiating the salaries of the employees with pink slip stamp on their resumes. Employees find it hard to find another job. This we have seen happening. It is just like political horse-trading; its just another kind of horse-trading in IT companies."

A 2007 study undertaken by UNITES titled Union Formation in India Call Centers/BPO - The Attitudes and Experiences of UNITES members, has pointed at the fear factor that makes employees stay away from any unions.

"Indian ITeS employees fear termination from work if they join trade unions," the study has said. Interestingly, the study also has mentioned that more than 57 per cent of ITeS companies opposed to UNITES, and a similar number, were ready to offer higher salaries in order to prevent employees from joining a trade union.


TCS' largest center coming up in Pune

TCs annouced today its going to build up its largest center - TCS Sahyadri Park - located in Hinjewadi, Pune.
The project is going to be ended up by 2010. The Park will be developed over 50 acres of land having a seating capacity areound 20,000 seats. Initial phase would be completed by March 2009 with 7000 seats.
"TCS Sahyadri Park will drive the next phase of our growth in this area and help us access the skilled professionals and students from in and around Pune. On completion, the facility will provide direct employment to over 20,000 people as well as indirect employment to many more," said S Ramadorai, CEO and managing director, TCS.


MySpace Music?

It is MySpace's new offering to its online community. It’s a new music service jointly launched by top music companies thru MySpace. Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group have reportedly formed a joint venture with the Beverly Hills, California based social networking giant, MySpace to dish out MySpace Music to the online music enthusiasts.
MySpace last week confirmed that it had deals with Sony/BMG, Universal and Warner music labels to transform its current music offerings into a full-fledged jukebox of streaming and downloadable music. Chris DeWolfe, MySpace co-founder and CEO called the deal to create MySpace Music "a historic step" for the music biz in its long struggle to come to grips with the digital era.
DeWolfe said, "This is the first time the music companies have gotten together. We're going to do something really different. We believe that this is really a historic step in the music industry redefining itself, both with the partnership and the product (to come). There's no other product on the Internet that looks anything like this."
He said, “MySpace Music will evolve into what we think is going to be a transformative music experience for the users. The improved MySpace Music service will be built upon a business model that is going to be fantastic for the music companies and help them replace some of the revenue lost for decreasing music sales."
He told that thru MySpace Music, labels plan to offer artists' entire catalogs for free listening and for-pay downloads. "We are considering a subscription model as well if it makes sense," he said.
According to reports, MySpace Music will be jointly owned by the four partners and have a dedicated management team that will report to DeWolfe and a board comprising reps from Sony BMG, UMG and WMG. Currently, MySpace has 110 million users and 30 million of those use the music features. Many musicians and bands such as the Foo Fighters and Wilco have songs that can be listened to on their MySpace pages


Bill Gates' Take on Industry, Education and Windows 7

Windows fans had some very good news coming their way on Friday, as Bill Gates hinted about the follow-up to Vista, Windows 7. According to News.com, Bill Gates said that the new operating system could be launched as early as next year. But for the moment, as News.com noted, is still unclear if Gates meant a beta or a final version.
However, according to CNN, a Microsoft spokeperson hinted that Gates was speaking a beta version.
"As is standard with the release of a new product, we will be releasing early builds of Windows 7 prior to its General Availability as a means to gain tester feedback," according to Microsoft's statement. "We're not sharing additional information at this time."
Besides mentioning Windows 7, during the speech held at the Inter-American Development Bank in Miami, Bill Gates also talked about a new possible approach to business. According to him, businesses should regard serving the poor as part of their mission and governments must see private businesses as potential partners. The speech also went into another delicate issue, namely ways to improve the access to credit and banking to the poor.
Gates said that things would significantly improve if in every industry, businesses started using some of their energy and resources (6 percent for instance) in order to reach poorer sergments either locally or globally. He consideres that such practices are already being successfully implemented. ”Cell phone companies, banks, energy companies, technology companies, food companies, we have a lot of good examples in each of those industries.”
Education was another key topic of the Microsoft leader's speech. He feels that all children should have access to computers, as their use within school work brings a definite efficiency increase. He added that his daughter uses a Tablet PC instead of textbooks at her school, and all homework can be easily forwarded. ”I can help her out on anything where she's confused.”
Whether or not all these ideas, including Windows 7, will turn into reality, remains to be seen.


Intel to introduce laptop anti-theft technology

Friday, April 4, 2008

Intel is looking to release an anti-theft technology for laptops - although the company is keeping schtum about the precise details.
The new capability, which will be called Intel Anti-Theft Technology, is to be added to Intel's Active Management Technology, part of Centrino vPro and allows IT managers to remotely access and configure computers.
In the event of theft, the technology will "basically lock the system, lock the disk, so people cannot be maliciously using and getting the data," said Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobility Group, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Shanghai.
Earlier this week, Absolute Software made public that its Computrace tracking system was being adopted by Intel, which might explain at least part of the news.
Coincidentally, the same system was used this week to catch alleged laptop thieves at a US airport.
The technology, which appears to render both the processor and storage inaccessible, aims to ease concerns over valuable corporate or personal data falling into the wrong hands when laptops are lost or stolen, according to Perlmutter.
The problem of lost data on stolen and missing laptops is a long-standing problem and a growing concern, particular for its impact on personal data.
In December 2006,Boeing reported the theft of a laptop that contained social security numbers, names and home addresses of 382,000 current and former employees. The laptop was stolen from an employee's car, the company said. The incident was particularly noteworthy because it pushed the number of US data breach victims past the 100 million mark - nearly one-third of the population at that time.
Besides Intel, several other companies are working on the anti-theft technology, including Lenovo Group, McAfee, Fujitsu Siemens Computers and Phoenix Technologies.
More details of the technology will be made available when it is closer to being released, Intel said.


Linux Contributor List Grows Longer; Many Paid

Over the past three years, the number of individual contributors to the Linux kernel has more than doubled to 1,057 for the most recent 2.6.24 kernel release.
According to a report out this week by the Linux Foundation, the pace of changes to the kernel also picked up, averaging 2.83 per hour over the course of 14 kernel updates during the 34-month period.
Meanwhile, the number of companies employing kernel contributors has broadened out as well, reaching 186 on Jan. 24, as the latest kernel came out, compared with 483 developers at 71 companies when the 2.6.11 kernel was released on March 2, 2005, according to a study produced by two kernel contributors, Greg Kroah-Hartman and Jonathan Corbet, as well as the spokeswoman for the Linux Foundation.
"No other open source project has gotten this large or moved this fast. It's a first-of-a-kind developer community," said IBM VP Dan Frye when asked to comment on the escalating kernel development process last November.
By reporting its statistics, the foundation is trying to provide visibility into who builds Linux and illustrate that it is a project that attracts broad support rather than being under the control of a few individuals or large companies. Linus Torvalds, originator of the Linux kernel, remains at the head of the development process and has final authority over additions to the kernel. Torvalds is employed by the foundation, a nonprofit organization to maintain a standard Linux kernel used in a variety of distributions. IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, AMD, Fujitsu, and Oracle all have representatives on the board of directors, which includes Mark Shuttleworth, sponsor of the consumer-oriented Ubuntu distribution as well.
Red Hat remains the top contributor to Linux, with 11.2% of code contributions, but close on its heels is Novell with 8.9% and IBM at 8.7%.
Other companies high on the contributor list include Intel at 4.1%; the Linux Foundation through the developers it employs, 3.5%; SGI, 2%; MIPS Technologies, 1.6%; Oracle, 1.3%; MontaVista, a telecommunications distribution of Linux, 1.2%; Luntronix, 1%; and a group of companies all at 0.9%: HP, NetApp, SWsoft, Renesas Technology, Freescale, and Astaro.
Red Hat is at the top of the list thanks to two contributors who are its employees, Al Viro, with 1,571 changes in the most recent kernel, and David Miller with 1,520.
The third top individual contributor was Adrian Bunk of Movial, a Helsinki firm building software for mobile devices. "Movial found its way onto the list [of most active contributors] for the first time as a result of having hired [Bunk], a very active developer," Corbet noted in a Jan. 9 post to the Linux Weekly News, where he serves as executive editor.
Intel's position as the fourth-biggest corporate source of contributions "happened by virtue of the work done by four of the top-20 developers. ... Intel has a lot of people working on the kernel, many of whom spend little time in the limelight," Corbet wrote in the same posting.
Another point that the foundation is at pains to make in its report is that Linux is not a product of hobbyist activity, working in their basements at night. "Over 70% of all kernel development is demonstrably done by developers who are being paid for their work," concluded the report. In other words, they've been given full-time jobs to work on the kernel by companies with a vested interest in the kernel's ongoing development. For example, Torvalds right-hand lieutenant, Andrew Morton, is employed by Google.
Linux kernels are being released, each containing many changes, at an average rate of every 2.7 months. Red Hat and Novell, the suppliers of enterprise versions of Linux, wait for many kernel changes to mature and get tested by community members before adopting an updated kernel into the systems they sell.


Gates sees next Windows "sometime" in next year

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates said on Friday he expected the new version of Windows operating software, code-named Windows 7, to be released "sometime in the next year or so."
The software giant has been aiming to issue more regular updates of the operating system software that powers the majority of the world's personal computers. Nevertheless, Gates' comments suggested that a successor to the Vista program might be released sooner than was generally expected.
Microsoft has said it expected to release a new version of Windows approximately 3 years after the introduction of Vista in January 2007. A company spokeswoman said Gates' comments are in line with a development cycle that usually releases a test version of the software before its official introduction.
"I'm superenthused about what it will do in lots of ways," Gates said in a seminar on corporate philanthropy held during an annual meeting in Miami of the Inter-American Development Bank.
"That'll be sometime in the next year or so that we'll have a new version," Gates said in response to a question from the audience.
Gates, who is due to leave his day-to-day functions at Microsoft and dedicate himself to the philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation in June, said the company aimed through its $6 billion annual research and development budget to take the products running on its software to "the next level."
He said new versions of Windows would help revolutionize mobile phones and run the desk of the future, which would have a touch surface display allowing users to call up items using their hands.


OOXML gets the nod as an ISO standard

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format standard has finally gained approval as an ISO standard, according to an official announcement from the standards body today.
Jerry Fishenden, Microsoft UK’s national technology officer, said that while Microsoft was pleased with the outcome, it would benefit others more, “it’s a particularly good day for our customers and partners”. He added these organisations were keen for OOXML to gain ISO approval as a way of ensuring that “their data remains under their control”.
Fishenden said Microsoft would now focus on working to ensure its Office applications and translator tools between OOXML and the rival Open Document Format were compatible with the final approved standard documentation.
The outcome follows a week-long meeting in late February, where national standards bodies met to thrash out issues with the technical specification, and a previous negative vote last September.
National standards bodies had until 29 March to resubmit their votes on OOXML in this new round of voting. According to the ISO, three-quarters of participating standards bodies voted to approve the document format, while only 14 percent of votes were negative.
During the previous round of voting, only 53 per cent voted in favour of the standard, while 26 per cent of votes were negative. Denmark, the UK and the Czech Republic were among those countries that changed their votes from negative to positive this time round.
New Zealand was one of the few countries that maintained its negative vote.
Debbie Chin, chief executive at Standards New Zealand, explained, “Our role is to ensure that overall New Zealanders will benefit from publication of a particular standard and in this case it was clear that while some would benefit, there would be others who would be disadvantaged. A major concern is the expected increase in costs for government agencies that would result from the specification being adopted as an ISO/IEC international standard. Cost increases for government agencies ultimately impact all New Zealanders.”


Hands-On With Nokia's All-Recycled Cellphone

This is the Nokia Remade, a concept cellphone made from completely recycled materials. Photographer Issac Brekken likened it to a cigarette case. I kind of think it looks like a miniature corrugated roof. Whatever Rosarch shape you think it takes, the handset is made from 100 percent recycled materials. The case is forged from discarded aluminum cans. The glass on the screen? Once it was a (beer?) bottle. Even the rubber that covers the hinge is made from old tires.
The insides of the phone, though, are actually not recycled. Rather they are refurbished components salvaged from other phones. Nokia, however, is exploring options to make the insides out of the same recycled components that comprise the shell.
Never mind the handset itself, want to get ab idea on just how wasteful the packaging is on a cell phone? Get this: according to Nokia, just by reducing the packaging on handsets sold in developing countries, the Finnish company saved 150 million Euros in 2007.


Fingermouse: UK Researchers Make Any Surface Touch Sensitive

Boffins at the UK's Nottingham University have come up with an extremely simple and frankly ingenious way to turn everything into a touch sensitive device. It works by using a camera to watch your fingernails and picks up on the color change when you press down on an object. Try it now: Put your finger lightly on the table and look at the nail. Now press. See how the tip becomes lighter? That's the blood shifting away.There is also a slight darkening at the base, and the researchers say that the system is accurate enough to determine the amount of pressure the fingers exert. The demonstration video below doesn't exactly make the same case, but it shows the tech in action.It can't be long before somebody takes this and puts it inside a finger-tip mounted widget. Add an accelerometer and you have a pressure sensitive, scrolling mouse. We will call it "Fingermouse"


Microsoft to Install Surface Systems in AT&T Stores

Remember Microsoft's Surface? You know, that big honkin' table with a touch-sensitive computer worked into it? Well, you can finally see it in action on April 17th . . .at your nearest AT&T store. Okay, so maybe not your nearest store. But folks out in New York, Atlanta, San Antonio, and San Francisco will be able to get their grubby mitts on its 30-inch screen.

Aside from attracting pokes and prods, the units are supposed to jazz up the store experience, and serve as Microsoft's proof of concept. Whether the 20 or so demo units will make a big splash with customers is looking dicey though. Reports say that the units' primary function will be displaying additional info about the AT&T phones you set on it. . . and that's about it.

Oh, and for those wiseacres wanting to slap an iPhone down on this hunk of Microsoft bloat -- don't bother. For some cra-azy reason, the Surface doesn't recognize it.



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