Category: News


Verizon’s network has once again been hit with downtime in the U.S., with customers reporting that their phones are unable to get a data connection.
Droid Life, which picked up on the outage, says that customers have been having issues connecting to Verizon’s 3G and 4G LTE networks in various major cities across the U.S. including New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.
“We are investigating reports of some customers experiencing trouble accessing the 4G LTE network,” Verizon said in a statement issued to CNET. “The network itself continues to operate and all customers continue to be able to make calls, send text messages and utilize data services. 3G devices are operating normally.”
Verizon did not offer any additional information on when a fix would arrive.
The outage is the third such one for Verizon this month. The company’s 4G LTE network had an outage on December 6, leaving customers across the U.S. with intermittent access to 4G data. That particular problem was fixed in a day and a half. A second outage occurred last week, with customers having trouble connecting to both Verizon’s 4G and 3G networks.
The issues test Verizon’s claim that it has the most reliable wireless network, something it touts in advertising as a leg up on competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

Google shuts down Google Labs

Google CEO Larry Page is making good on his promise to put more wood behind fewer arrows as the company focuses more of its resources and efforts on its core products.

Google today announced in a blog post that the company will discontinue its Google Labs efforts. Bill Coughran, Google’s senior vice president for Research and Systems Infrastructure, said the company has learned a lot by launching very early prototypes in the Labs. But he added that the company’s “greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead.”

What this means for Google Labs right now is that some projects and experiments will end immediately. And some Labs products and tech will be folded into other Google product areas. Coughran also said many Google Labs products that are available as apps through the Android Market will continue to be offered there.

“We’ll continue to push speed and innovation–the driving forces behind Google Labs–across all our products, as the early launch of the Google+ field trial last month showed,” Coughran said in the blog post.

Last week, after the company’s earnings were released, Google CEO Larry Page tried to reassure analysts and investors that the company is focusing on projects that will offer the biggest returns on investment.

“Overall, we are focused on long-term, absolute profit and growth, as we have always been,” Page said. “It’s easy to focus on things that we do that are speculative, e.g., driverless cars. But we spend the vast majority of our resources on the core products. We may have a few small speculative projects happening at any given time, but we are very careful stewards of shareholder money. We are not betting the farm on this stuff.”

Google recently killed off a couple of other projects that were not gaining traction. Last month it pulled the plug on Google Health, a personal health records service, and turned off the lights on Google PowerMeter, a service for monitoring Web-based home energy use.

Microsoft is offering a deal to students on the edge of summer.

Starting May 22, students who buy a new PC for $699 or more will receive a free Xbox 360 4GB console, the software giant said in a blog post today. The offer is available to online shoppers who buy a PC from Dell.com, HP.com, or Microsoft’s online store. Those who want to head to a retail outlet can find the deal at Best Buy or Microsoft’s stores.

In order for students to get the free Xbox 360, they will need to have .edu e-mail address at the time of purchase. If they don’t have a .edu e-mail address, they can go to a retail store and present their student IDs.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 4GB console currently retails for $200. The hardware features built-in Wi-Fi and comes with a black Xbox 360 wireless controller. Those who want additional storage will need to buy a hard drive separately.

The Xbox 360 has been performing exceptionally well at retail as of late. According to research firm NPD, the software giant sold 297,000 Xbox 360 units in April and bested Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii. Microsoft said that the Xbox 360 has been the best-selling console in 10 of the last 11 months.

Microsoft’s free Xbox 360 offer is valid through September 3, or while supplies last. The offer will be coming to Canada and France “soon,” Microsoft said.

Courtesy : CNET

The deal is done. Microsoft is buying Skype for $8.5 billion in cash in its first sizeable acquisition since August 2008, when the Redmond software giant spent $486 million on Greenfield Online.

In fact, this is Microsoft’s biggest financial bet to date in terms of M&A, trumping its $6 billion+ purchase of aQuantive, which dates back to May 2007, in size.

The purchase price includes the assumption of Skype’s debt.

The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.

Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and its current chief executive Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The deal was first reported by GigaOM‘s Om Malik (he does that sometimes) and later confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, who cited people familiar with the matter.

The $8.5 billion question: did Microsoft overpay for Skype?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Only time will tell. As always with these things, the many tech industry pundits and analysts will look at this deal from all possible angles and then some, and still only a handful will end up being somewhat accurate when we look back in a couple of years.

From a non-financial point of view, the acquisition makes a ton of sense today, though.

Skype digitally connects dozens of millions of people on a daily basis, enabling them to communicate with each other through voice calls, chat messages and video conferencing.

There’s no doubt it’s a big brand on the Web (with both consumer and enterprise appeal, worldwide at that), and is poised to keep mattering in the next decade and beyond.

In August 2010, Skype filed to go public, expecting to raise $1 billion, but not long after appointing a new CEO, former Cisco SVP Tony Bates, the company put its IPO plans in the freezer while it looked for ways to generate more revenue from the popular service.

Skype’s 2010 revenue was $860 million, adjusted EBITDA was $264 million, and – as many are tripping over each others to point out – the company actually lost $7 million last year.

But looking ahead, chances for the business to keep growing, perhaps even acceleratingly so, are fairly big. In that sense, it’s a valuable asset to own (and to keep out of others’ hands).

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Microsoft and Skype said they “hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year”.

Microsoft also pledged that it would “continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms”.

Since its former owner eBay sold the company to a consortium of investors formed by Silver Lake Partners, Joltid (the company founded by Skype’s original founders, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis), the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Andreessen Horowitz in November 2009, the company has been pursuing an aggressive strategy to be available everywhere, anytime, both in enterprises, the living room, even classrooms and, very importantly, on smartphones.

Microsoft, of course, has the exact same ambitions of ubiquity, and Skype and recently acquired Qik fit nicely into many of its current product offerings: think Windows Phone (combined with Nokia), Xbox and Kinect, Bing, Office 365, Windows Live Messenger and other Live products, Lync, Outlook, SharePoint, Internet Explorer, Azure, and so on.

The purchase also provides Microsoft with a wealth of p2p and collaboration technology expertise and intellectual property, an increasingly important asset to have these days.

It also brings reach: Skype’s user base is comparable to that of Facebook in terms of size (more than 600 million registered users, that is) and the social network in fact has tie-ins with Skype already on a product level.

Courtesy : Techcrunch

LONDON: Apple has overtaken Google as the world’s most valuable brand , ending a four-year reign by the Internet search leader, according to a new study by global brands agency Millward Brown.

The iPhone and iPad maker’s brand is now worth $153 billion, almost half Apple’s market capitalization, says the annual BrandZ study of the world’s top 100 brands.

Apple’s portfolio of coveted consumer goods propelled it past Microsoft to become the world’s most valuable technology company last year.

Peter Walshe, global brands director of Millward Brown, says Apple’s meticulous attention to detail, along with an increasing presence of its gadgets in corporate environments, have allowed it to behave differently from other consumer-electronics makers.

“Apple is breaking the rules in terms of its pricing model,” he told Reuters by telephone. “It’s doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire.”

“Obviously, it has to be allied to great products and a great experience, and Apple has nurtured that.”

Of the top 10 brands in Monday’s report, six were technology and telecoms companies: Google at number two, IBM at number three, Microsoft at number five, AT&T at number seven and China Mobile at number nine.

McDonald’s rose two places to number four, as fast food became the fastest-growing category, Coca-Cola slipped one place to number six, Marlboro was also down one to number eight, and General Electric was number 10.

Walshe said demand from China was a major factor in the rise of fast-food brands. “The Chinese have been discovering fast food and it’s such a vast market — Starbucks, McDonald’s… and pizza has hit China,” he said.

“The way McDonald’s has reinvented itself, adapted its menus, added healthy options, expanding the times of day it can be visited, for example oatmeal for breakfast… that allied with growth in developing markets has really helped that brand.”

Nineteen of the top 100 brands came from emerging markets, up from 13 last year.

Facebook entered the top 100 at number 35 with a brand valued at $19.1 billion, while Chinese search engine Baidu rose to number 29 from 46.

Toyota reclaimed its position as the world’s most valuable car brand, as it recovered from a bungled 2010 product recall. The survey was carried out before the March earthquake that caused massive disruption to Japanese supply chains.

The total value of the top 100 brands rose by 17 percent to $2.4 trillion, as the global economy shifted to growth.

Millward Brown takes as a starting point the value that companies put on their own main brands as intangibles in their earnings reports.

It combines that with the perceptions of more than 2 million consumers in relevant markets around the world whom it surveys over the course of the year, and then applies a multiple derived from the company’s short-term future growth prospects.

Courtesy : Techgig

US President Barack Obama has hailed the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden as a “good day for America,” saying the world is now a safer and a better place.

Bin Laden was killed in a raid by US special forces on a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

He is believed to have ordered the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, as well as a number of other deadly bombings.

He topped the US “most wanted” list.

But his details on the list have now been updated with a simple banner indicating his current status: “Deceased”.

DNA tests carried out after the operation indicated with “99.9%” certainty that the man shot dead was Osama Bin Laden, US officials said.

He was buried at sea after a Muslim funeral on board an aircraft carrier in the north Arabian Sea, Pentagon officials said.

The US has put its embassies around the world on alert, warning Americans of the possibility of al-Qaeda reprisal attacks for Bin Laden’s killing.

CIA director Leon Panetta said al-Qaeda would “almost certainly” try to avenge the death of Bin Laden.

The US president’s chief counter-terrorism advisor, John Brennan said that al-Qaeda, though weakened, remained a danger.

“It may be a mortally wounded tiger but it still has some life in it,” he said.

Elusive

As news of Bin Laden’s death was being digested around the world, President Obama said: “Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do”.

Bin Laden, 54, approved the 9/11 attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died.

He evaded the forces of the US and its allies for almost a decade, despite a $25m (£15m) bounty on his head.

On Sunday, US forces said to be from the elite Navy Seal Team Six undertook the operation in Abbottabad, 100km (62 miles) north-east of Islamabad.

US officials said Bin Laden was shot in the head after resisting.

The compound in Abbottabad is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy – the country’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst.

The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Abbottabad says it will undoubtedly be a huge embarrassment to Pakistan that Bin Laden was found not only in the country, but also on the doorstep of the military academy.

Pakistan was only notified of the operation once US forces had left its airspace.

Mr Brennan said it was “inconceivable” that Bin Laden did not have a support system in Pakistan.

“We’re going to pursue all leads to find out exactly what type of support system and benefactors that Bin Laden might have had,” he said.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said co-operation from Pakistan helped lead the Americans to Bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s body was consigned to the sea after a burial service on the USS Carl Vinson.

“The deceased’s body was washed and then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker,” a US defence official said.

“After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body eased into the sea,” the official said.

Photographs of Bin Laden’s body have not been released.

The head of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Sunni Islam’s most important seat of learning, condemned the decision to dispose of the body at sea.

Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said it was an affront which ran “contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs”.

As the news spread, crowds gathered outside the White House in Washington DC and Ground Zero, in New York, chanting “USA, USA”.

In Pakistan, about 100 people took part in a protest in the western city of Quetta, burning a US flag and chanting anti-American slogans.

Mrs Clinton said the operation sent a signal to the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“You cannot wait us out, you cannot defeat us, but you can make the choice to abandon al-Qaeda and participate in a peaceful political process,” she said.

And she said there was “no better rebuke to al-Qaeda and its heinous ideology” than the peaceful uprisings across the Arab world against authoritarian governments.

Giving more details of the raid, one senior US official said a small US team conducted the attack in about 40 minutes.

Three other men – one of Bin Laden’s sons and two couriers – and a woman, were killed in the raid, the official said.

Speaking later, Mr Brennan said that the woman who died was believed to be Bin Laden’s wife.

“She served as a shield,” he said, adding: “It was unclear is she was put there, or if she put herself there.”

He confirmed that US commandos on the raid had been ready to take the al-Qaeda leader alive, if that had been possible

News & Image Courtesy : BBC

It appears that Amazon.com has finally responded to the suit filed against it by Apple over Amazon’s use of the name “Appstore” for its mobile application store, which Apple claims infringes on its “App Store” copyright. In the response, which was filed late Monday night, Amazon asserts that the phrase “app store” is generic and that even Apple’s own CEO, Steve Jobs, uses the term in a generic manner to refer to competing application storefronts on the Android platform.

In an Apple quarterly earnings calls, Jobs was quoted as saying the following:

“So there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid. This is going to be a mess for both users and developers. Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store, which offers users the easiest-to-use largest app store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone.”

Amazon quoted the last sentence of that passage in its countersuit, and also referred to the Oxford English Dictrionary’s definition of the term “app” and the fact that the American Dialect Society voted “app” the “Word of the Year” for 2010 as proof of the generic nature of “app store.”

Courtesy : http://www.mobileburn.com

AT&T and Deutsche Telekom have entered into a definitive agreement for the sale of T-Mobile USA for $39 billion in cash and stocks. The combined customer base of this upcoming behemoth will be 130 million humans, though the agreed deal will have to pass the usual regulatory and closing hurdles before becoming complete. The two companies estimate it’ll take them 12 months to get through all the bureaucracy — if they get through, the proposed network merger will create a de facto GSM monopoly within the United States — but we don’t have to wait that long to start discussing life with only three major US carriers. AT&T envisions it as a rosy garden of “straightforward synergies” thanks to a set of “complementary network technologies, spectrum positions and operations.”

One of the other big benefits AT&T is claiming here is a significantly expanded LTE footprint — 95 percent of Americans, or 294 million pops — which works out to 46.5 million more than AT&T was claiming had it gone LTE alone. Of course, T-Mobile has never put forth a clear strategy for migrating to LTE, suggesting that AT&T plans on using the company’s AWS spectrum to complement its own 700MHz licenses as it moves to 4G. You might be groaning at the thought of yet another LTE band, but it’s not as bad as you might think: MetroPCS already has a live LTE network functioning on AWS, so there’s precedent for it. For further details, hit up the gallery below, the Mobilize Everything site, or the official press release after the break.

In the event of the deal failing to receive regulatory approval, AT&T will be on the hook for $3 billion to T-Mobile — a breakup fee, they call it — along with transferring over some AWS spectrum it doesn’t need for its LTE rollout, and granting T-Mo a roaming agreement at a value agreeable to both parties.

Online news websites are currently rife with talk of search engine giant Google apparently planning to launch a new social networking service imminently, dubbed Google Circles. But what is Google Circles exactly? And what can the service add to the already oversaturated genre of social networking?

The new service is rumoured to be one which allows its users to share status updates, links, videos and other media with friends and acquaintances. Nothing new in that regard then! However, the grape vine suggests that the biggest bonus of Circles is that is offers far more privacy than its competitors allowing the user to share media with people in certain “circles” only (for example, “co-workers”, “school friends” or “family”) instead of sharing with everyone at once. This is the case with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Google Circles might seem familiar for another reason too. The service was once used for a very short period of time by competing search engine Lycos back in 2004, before the rise of the global popularity of Facebook started.

At the time, David Kim (CEO of Lycos) promoted the service as “a one-stop shop for sharing things, discussing and staying in touch with favourite circles of people.” The CEO added that Circles helps one to be “more efficient at socializing.”

The situation just aids to prove that ideas can only be successful if people actually hear about them and it goes without saying that Google have a far larger audience than Lycos ever has.

The employees of Google are remaining very tight lipped regarding the supposedly hijacked service however, only stating that the company would not comment on “rumour or speculation.” Although the number of people with Google accounts is escalating, I would be concerned that Google’s current services – and therefore; probably Circles as well – will be restricted to account holders only, which could potentially affect uptake. Paradoxically, signing up to use Facebook or Twitter can be done with any email address.

Lack of universal usage is the only complaint I have regarding services like GTalk – I wish all my friends had Google accounts so that I could communicate with them all using this facility! It remains to be seen if Circles will be enough of a hit with web surfers to tempt more individuals over to the G side.

(Reuters) – Prices for key technology components extended gains on Tuesday, as damage at Japanese plants and infrastructure caused by Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami threatens to disrupt the global manufacturing chain longer than many had expected.

Dozens of Japanese firms from component makers to electronics firms and automakers are keeping their plants shuttered, while damage to infrastructure including power, roads, rails and ports will take months to repair.

The prospect of prolonged supply disruptions sent global companies scrambling for alternative sources of high-tech components in particular, a sector where Japan is still a dominant player.

Research firm IHS iSuppli said the quake and its aftermath could result in significant shortages of some electronic parts and lead to big price hikes.

“While there are few reports of actual damage at electronic production facilities, impacts on the transportation and power infrastructure will result in disruptions of supply, resulting in the short supply and rising prices,” iSuppli said.

“Components impacted will include NAND flash memory, dynamic random access memory (DRAM), microcontrollers, standard logic, liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels, and LCD parts and materials.”

Spot prices of NAND flash chips extended their gains on Tuesday, rising nearly 3 percent after a 20 percent jump on Monday, while DRAM memory chip prices gained 0.2 percent on top of a 7 percent on Monday, according to price tracker DRAMeXchange.

Japan accounts for one-fifth of the world’s semiconductor production, including about 40 percent of flash memory chips used in everything from smartphones, tablets to computers.

Even if shipments of semiconductor parts affected by the quake were disrupted for only two weeks, shortages and their price impact were likely to linger until the third quarter, iSuppli said.

TOSHIBA, SONY, CANON PLANTS DOWN

Demand for NAND flash memory chips has been surging, led by mobile devices and tablets such as Apple Inc’s iPad 2, which is estimated to have sold almost 1 million units during its weekend debut.

Toshiba Corp, which supplies about one-third of the world’s NAND flash memory chips, said it was still inspecting its System LSI factory in Iwate, the only one halted by the quake and tsunami and could not say when it might re-open.

The factory produces microprocessors and image sensors.

Fellow chipmaker Texas Instruments on Monday warned its two suspended plants would take until July to return to full production, though it had managed to re-direct 60 percent of their output to other sites.

Canon Inc said it may not be able to resume production at three factories making office equipment and lenses used in audio-visual players this week.

Sony Corp also said its eight factories making equipment ranging from optical devices, IC cards, blu ray discs, chip equipment and lithium batteries remained closed, with no guarantees on resuming date.

Taiwan’s Wintek, which makes the touch module for the iPad 2, said it had more than two weeks of inventory left and the short-term impact was limited. However, a source at the company said it was using Japanese components and was looking for secondary suppliers.

“There are alternative sources for Japanese raw materials and Taiwan is also capable of producing many of the components that we are currently importing from Japan,” said Luo Huai-jia, vice president of Taiwan’s electrical and electronic manufacturer’s association.

“We also have other sources such as France that we can tap if inventories tighten.”

Raj Kumar, general manager of Singapore GLOBALFOUNDRIES, said most of the company’s Japanese suppliers had alternative sources outside the country.

“We are not pushing them for updates, we have enough inventories,” he said. “Japanese people have the best record in bouncing back and we expect them to bounce back.”

Hynix Semiconductor Inc, the world’s No.2 memory chipmaker, said it had around two months of wafer inventory but a prolonged disruption in supplies of wafers by major producers such as Shin-Etsu may interrupt its production schedule.

Shin-Etsu said on Tuesday it had restarted one factory near Tokyo, but two plants near the worst-hit areas remained closed and the company was unable to say when production will resume at the sites. It is trying to boost production elsewhere to make up the shortfall caused by the shutdown.

Analysts estimate Shin-Etsu is the biggest supplier for Hynix, offering more than 50 percent of the South Korean firm’s wafer requirement.

“Since we have enough inventory, there’ll be no short-term impact but as the situation gets worse and prolonged, it could have a wide-ranging impact to the overall industry because Japan is a major wafer supplier. We are diversifying supply sources to non-Japanese firms including Korean firms,” said a Hynix spokesman.

Unlisted LG Siltron is a major silicon wafer supplier based in South Korea.

Chinese chipmaker SMIC said it saw minimal short-term impact from the disaster in Japan but was monitoring the supply situation.