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30/7/2012 - Google Earth's 3D imagery now available on iPad, iPhone

Google Earth's 3D imagery now available on iPad, iPhone

By Deborah Netburn

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Google Earth's 3D imagery is now available for the iDevices. Or at least some of them. If you have an iPad 2, an iPhone 4S or the latest iPod touch, then you can enjoy swooping virtually through detailed 3D landscapes, like the one of downtown Los Angeles pictured above.

Android users have been able to use this feature since late June, but the 3D maps were just made available to Apple users on Thursday.

To create the maps, Google uses chartered planes that snap aerial images of every street and structure in major cities from different angles, The Times reported in early June.

So far, about a dozen cities have received the Google Earth 3D map treatment, including Boulder, Colo.; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; the San Francisco Bay Area; and Santa Cruz. Rome is the only city on the list that is not in the United States.

Google plans to keep building and releasing 3D imagery for new cities, and by the end of the year, the company hopes to have covered metropolitan areas with a combined population of 300 million people, it wrote in a blog post about Thursday's release of 3D imagery for Apple devices.

Apple users can also access a "tour guide" feature that suggests interesting places to poke on Google Earth.

To access these tours, just pull up the tab at the bottom of the screen and open tour guide. Choose a place you'd like to visit and Google will "fly" you there. Bits of Wikipedia trivia will provide additional information and context about the place you are virtually visiting.

The tour guide is available for all iOS devices running iOS 4.2 and newer.

One bummer? The 3D maps are not available on desktops. At least, not yet.

Control Xbox with an iPhone - Apple patent reveals universal controller app

Proposed iPhone software could mimic Xbox/PS controllers

By Mike Jackson for CVG UK

Apple looks to be considering turning iPhone into a universal controller that would not only be able to operate Apple devices like Macs and Apple TV, but even your games consoles.

The patent clearly shows an iPhone being used to take control of an Xbox 360, as well as various home entertainment devices, as you would expect from a universal controller.
But more interestingly, it also shows the potential for the theoretical app to be programmable via a direct connection with an existing controller - such as a PS3 controller.

Some internet reports have interpreted the image (pictured right) as a proposal for new video game controller from Apple, but we believe it's actually demonstrating the proposed iPhone app's ability to connect with a game controller such as a DualShock (PS3) controller for calibration purposes, which would then allow it to control a PS3 - or any device related to a particular controller - as though it were the native controller belonging to that device.

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The patent brief clearly describes the software's ability to "[receive] control information associated with a controllable electronic device via near field communication, determining a control scheme for controlling the controllable electronic device based on the control information, and controlling the controllable electronic device using the determined control scheme."

The question is, would you like to operate your Xbox with an iPhone?

Burn Your iPhone With Chinese Olympic Uniforms

By William Pesek

Tonight, as American athletes enter London's Olympic Stadium, all eyes will be on China. More to the point, on the made-in-China uniforms Team USA is sporting.

Reports that Ralph Lauren Corp. (RL) outsourced production of the uniforms to China has U.S. lawmakers in a lather. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the outfits should be put in a pile and burned. A new bill, the "Team USA Made in America Act," ensures athletes' attire is more politically correct for the 2014 Winter Games, which fittingly will be in Russia.

This controversy is so contrived it hurts: It's nothing more than a ready-made excuse to beat up on that economic bogeyman, China, which replaces the Soviet threat of old in a U.S. election year. Uniform-gate is just a preview of how ugly things may get and, frankly, pointless.

President Barack Obama is under pressure to explain why unemployment is still higher than 8 percent ahead of the Nov. 6 election. Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, must offer a vision for creating millions of jobs. Expect China to come up early and often as both men try to whip up emotions and support. Wouldn't it be better if each offered specific ways to revitalize the U.S. job market, perhaps even with China's help?

Shallow Politics

These shallow politics of the moment trivialize the most important relationship in the world and the magnitude of the real strains. The Obama and Romney teams should be brainstorming about ways to correct the global imbalances that thwart America's recovery. Xi Jinping, the man in line to be China's next president, should be telegraphing a new direction for a lopsided economy that so far can only thrive by pursuing zero- sum trade policies.

Instead, the U.S. and China are wasting time assigning blame and hoping globalization's biggest challenges work themselves out. The leadership in both countries that might develop and promote a rebalancing is nowhere in sight.

The uniforms episode reminds us that the U.S. is engaging in fatuous pandering. Consider the lack of outrage over Roots Canada Ltd., the Toronto-based company that made U.S.-team duds for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games (headed by Romney) and for Athens in 2004.

The difference is that Americans don't view Canada as a rival that threatens U.S. primacy. The U.S. doesn't fear Canada when it comes to exchange rates, cheap labor, human-rights records, military buildups, support of repressive regimes, designs on conquering space or massive stockpiles of Treasuries; that distinction is all China's.

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Yet it's hypocrisy to blame China for the U.S.'s woes. Apple Inc. probably could assemble its iPhones and iPads within driving distance of headquarters in Cupertino, California, where it dreams up these gadgets. It makes them in Shenzhen sweatshops for reasons that have more to do with the U.S. economy than China's. U.S. consumers want bargains; shareholders demand that Apple produce its goods as cheaply as possible; Americans insist on high-paying jobs, and U.S. laws prohibit China-level wages.

Consumers would be shocked to learn how many of the American flags they fly are made in China. Ditto for the Louisville Slugger baseball bats they buy for their kids and the fireworks that cities use to celebrate Independence Day. Yet these eight words explain the pros and cons of globalization: "Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China." They show why even high-tech products invented in the U.S. don't increase exports, but rather exacerbate the nation's trade deficit.

America's Capitalism

Sure, China should let its currency appreciate. Yes, it cheats on trade. Intellectual-property rights still mean little to officials in Beijing. An equally big dilemma is the direction American-style capitalism has taken during the past 20 years. The only way to reverse things is for Apple and other icons of U.S. industry to begin producing at home. And for most products, that's not about to happen, given the vast gap between U.S. and Chinese labor costs.

Looked at this way, Ralph Lauren is only doing what U.S. politicians, by way of government policies, encourage it to. Executives who denounce Obama as anti-business while gleefully pumping up profits produced abroad and squirreling away cash in tax havens should look in the mirror as they decry the lack of household demand since the 2008 financial crisis.

The U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on hypocrisy. China is indignant over the Team USA uniform uproar; the official Xinhua News Agency calls it "a blasphemy" on the Olympic spirit. Come on, the commercialization of the games and the corruption scandals that plague the International Olympic Committee should disabuse us of that. The Summer Games is "American Idol" with sneakers. And although it may shock many in China, plenty of the U.S.'s gripes are legitimate.

Devising smart policies will yield better results for the U.S. than bashing China. Striking free-trade agreements around the globe would do more good than waiting for the yuan to strengthen. So will looking for new markets. So will reviving the entrepreneurial passion that made the U.S. economy No. 1.

The key is to find ways to keep more of the jobs that some of the world's most dynamic companies create at home. Bellyaching over who dresses Team USA won't get America onto the medal podium.

Facebook Is Said to Work With HTC on Mobile Phone for Mid-2013

By Tim Culpan

Facebook Inc. (FB) (FB), owner of the largest social network, is working with HTC Corp. to build its own smartphone for release as soon as mid-2013, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The companies had intended to release the device as early as the end of this year, and pushed back the timetable to give HTC more time to work on other products, said some of the people, who requested anonymity because the plans aren't public. Facebook is also developing a modified operating system for the device and has assembled a team of former Apple Inc. (AAPL) (AAPL) programmers to improve its iPhone application, people said.

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More than half of Facebook's 900 million users access the social network via mobile devices, while none of the $3.15 billion in advertising sales last year came from ads on phones. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg could use a Facebook phone, with social-networking features built-in, to woo marketers and assuage concerns dragging on the company's shares.

"Usage is shifting to mobile, and they have not been able to monetize mobile," said Victor Anthony, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets Inc. "To the extent that it's a device you own and carry around with you at all times, and it ties into the Facebook experience, it will be beneficial. They could then put a lot of ads onto the platform."

Sally Julien, a spokeswoman for Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC (2498), declined to comment.

Mobile Growth

Facebook stock has tumbled 23 percent since its initial public offering on May 17. The decline came in part due to concerns that the company isn't making enough money from mobile advertisers. The stock climbed 3.1 percent to $29.34 as of the close yesterday in New York.

"Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social," Menlo Park, California-based Facebook said in a statement. "We're working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world."

Former Apple staff hired by Facebook to work on mobile are: Greg Novick, who helped develop the touch-screen user interface; Tim Omernick and Chris Tremblay, who also worked on the device's software; and Scott Goodson, who helped create the stock-market application, according to people with knowledge of the hires.

Last year, Facebook also bought Push Pop Press, a digital publishing software maker co-founded by Apple alumni Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris, two designers who helped build the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad software. Matas is credited with creating the battery logo that shows on the iPhone screen when it's charging. A longtime BlackBerry user, Mark Zuckerberg converted to an iPhone in the past couple of years.

IPhone App

This team from Apple has been primarily focused on rebuilding Facebook's iPhone application, which has been criticized by users for being slow. An initial release could be announced within a couple of months, with another broader overhaul of the iPhone app coming next near, one person said.

The company also hired several key staffers who worked on the Palm operating system for mobile phones.

Zuckerberg said earlier this month that bringing Facebook's features to handheld gadgets was difficult because the user experience is so different than on desktop computers.

Asked in an interview at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, about his greatest challenge right now, Zuckerberg said it was "the shift to mobile."

The New York Times reported in May that Facebook had hired a team of former Apple engineers with the goal of releasing a phone by next year. AllThingsD reported in November that a Facebook phone would debut between late 2012 and mid-2013.

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Mobile Results

Facebook started offering mobile ads in March and hasn't provided statistics on their impact. Facebook has said ad growth won't keep pace with user gains. The company is scheduled to report second-quarter results after the close of trading today.

While Facebook already has applications that run on Apple's iOS devices as well as Google Inc. (GOOG) (GOOG)'s Android mobile operating system, it is looking to embed its features deeper into mobile devices to grow advertising revenue.

While that would put Facebook into direct competition with Apple and Google, it could also help protect Facebook from their influence, said Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

"The fear is, Apple might extract a toll from your users," Wieser said. "Apple could tell Facebook, We are making Google+ the default. What is it worth to you to make it otherwise?"

Software Development

Facebook could use a modified version of Android for its smartphone. Android, unlike Apple's iOS, can be modified by mobile phone manufacturers or wireless carriers.

Facebook had been working with mobile device makers such as Britain's INQ Mobile Ltd. to create phones that made it easier to use social websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The new work with HTC will allow for deeper integration of Facebook features, the people said.

HTC and Facebook have collaborated closely before. Last year, HTC began selling "ChaCha," an Android-based phone with a dedicated Facebook button to share music, photos and messages.

Struggling against larger competitors in the U.S., HTC had seen its global smartphone market share shrink to 4.8 percent in the first quarter, down from 8.9 percent the year before, according to IDC.

Shares in HTC have dropped 43 percent this year after it reported three consecutive quarters of profit decline.

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30/7/2012 - Apple to argue Samsung was warned products copied iPhone, iPad

Apple to argue Samsung was warned products copied iPhone, iPad

By Salvador Rodriguez

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Documents from a federal patent infringement case involving Apple and Samsung show Apple is ready to argue the South Korean company was warned by several parties that its Galaxy products were too similar to the iPhone and iPad.

The Cupertino company's trial brief shows Apple is ready to argue that internal documents show Samsung had spoken with various parties about the resemblance of its products to Apple's.

"Samsung's documents show the similarity of Samsung's products is no accident or, as Samsung would have it, a 'natural evolution,' " the Apple brief reads, according to All Things D. "Rather, it results from Samsung's deliberate plan to free-ride on the iPhone's and iPad's extraordinary success by copying their iconic designs and intuitive user interface. Apple will rely on Samsung's own documents, which tell an unambiguous story."

Among those is Google, the maker of the Android operating system that powers Samsung's Galaxy devices. The Apple brief says Google told Samsung that two of its products, which would ultimately become the Tab and Tab 10.1, were too similar to the iPad. The search giant demanded Samsung make the products distinguishable from the iPad.

And it wasn't just Google who cast warnings. The South Korean company's own product design group also told the company that it was "regrettable" how similar the Galaxy S smartphone looked like older iPhones.

The warnings continued at a Samsung-sponsored evaluation where famous designers also gave the company a warning about the Galaxy S, saying it looks "like it copied the iPhone too much."

The designers also told Samsung that the Galaxy S so "[c]losely resembles the iPhone shape so as to have no distinguishable elements ... [a]ll you have to do is cover up the Samsung logo and it's difficult to find anything different from the iPhone," according to All Things D.

How to Create IPhone and IPad Apps With No Programming Skills Revealed

PR Web

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) July 27, 2012

How to create iPhone and iPad apps is one of the most popular searches according to Google search metrics in 2012. The consistent growth of smartphone users around the world is also increasing the demand for mobile application developers. For the average person or small business owner, the traditional cost to hire an application developer to program mobile applications required a large financial investment. The company, iPhone Dev Secrets, is exposing the secrets of building iPhone and iPad apps in a new report written exclusively for those with no application programming experience. The information contained in the report is designed to make it effortless for anyone to release an application paid or public domain in 30-days or less.

There are now over 300 million mobile phone users in the U.S. and a large portion of them use the iPhone or iPad created by Apple. As pioneers of the mobile application market, Apple technology developers are in constant demand by corporations to develop useful applications to increase company awareness and profits. The cost of attending a 4-year university to learn mobile application programming or to hire a freelancer with business experience is causing more people to search for alternative options for app creation. "I created this course so others could learn from my errors, mistakes and failures," said Mike Belkin, co-creator and marketer of iPhone Dev Secrets.

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Some companies and entrepreneurs create mobile apps to open a line of communication with customers. Other business owners understand the profit potential that an iPhone or iPad app can have on a monthly or annual basis. Apple's iTunes App Store is now the leading supplier of mobile apps in the world with over four billion apps sold to consumers in 2011. The price range of $.99 for some apps to as much as $100 is helping app creators to cash in on the sale of customized applications to a global audience. Companies that have an app created can bypass the traditional sales and marketing channels that a product must go through offline by selling direct from the iTunes App Store.

Sales of the widely popular Angry Birds app that was released in the fall of 2009 has now surpassed 10 million dollars in revenue for Electronic Arts. The original application creator, Chillingo, was purchased by Electronic Arts in 2010 and the Angry Birds app was globally distributed. As the sale and distribution of apps continue, learning to create custom applications with little to no investment could be a prosperous venture for a business owner or person that wants to learn the app making industry from the ground up. More information about the no experience iPhone and iPad app maker report can be obtained from the company website.

BEIJING, July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- 4Videosoft, an innovative software provider of DVD/video converters, iPad/iPhone/iPod transfer software, PDF software and system utilities for both Windows and Mac users, recently updated iPhone Transfer Platinum. After the upgrade, 4Videosoft iPhone Transfer Platinum fully supports adding, deleting, importing, exporting, restoring and searching contacts.

4Videosoft iPhone Transfer Platinum is a comprehensive and advanced iPhone file transfer software, which can easily transfer all iPhone files to a computer and import local disc files to an iPhone without missing items. The transferring files include music, movies, ringtones, camera rolls, photos, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes Us, ePubs, PDFs, audio books, voice memos, SMS (MMS) and contacts. It has the ability of editing iPhone 3D info such as name, artist, album, track number, lyrics, etc.

After this major update, 4Videosoft iPhone Transfer Platinum newly added the contacts capabilities so that you can freely edit your contacts (add and delete), export and import contacts, restore contacts and search the contacts you need. This program allows you to export and import both .csv contacts and .vcf contacts. You can choose to export one single contact or all contacts listed in your iPhone as well. The updated iPhone Transfer Platinum also supports iMessage and Photo Stream function.

Additionally, 4Videosoft iPhone Transfer Platinum gives a big hand to convert DVD and video files to iPhone supported formats for iPhone users to fully enjoy movies and music on their iPhone. It also has versatile editing tools to customize the output iPhone video like effects, trimming, cropping, merging and adding watermarks, etc. You can choose to store the converted file in "My Cache" after conversion then transfer to the iPhone later.

4Videosoft iPhone Transfer Platinum is the comprehensive iPhone transfer software to fully enrich your iPhone life.

System Requirements

OS Supported: Windows XP (SP2 or later), Windows Vista, Windows 7Hardware Requirements: 800MHz Intel or AMD CPU, or above; 512MB RAM or more

Russell Brand to do community service over iPhone toss

By Kathy Finn

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British comedian and actor Russell Brand was ordered by a judge to do 20 hours of community service and pay a fine of $500 in New Orleans on Thursday over a charge related to throwing a photographer's iPhone through a window.

A lawyer for the brash "Get Him to the Greek" film star entered a plea of not guilty in New Orleans Municipal Court on a misdemeanor charge related to the phone-throwing incident. Brand, 37, did not appear in court.

After the plea was entered, the judge ordered the community service as an alternative to criminal prosecution. If Brand completes the community service, the charges will be dismissed.

Brand's lawyer, Robert Glass, told Reuters his client could complete the community service "at any charity or agency anywhere, whether it be California or England." An August 31 hearing date was set to report on the status of the community service.

New Orleans police arrested Brand on March 15 after a photographer accused the comedian of grabbing his iPhone and tossing it through a window, breaking the glass in a downtown law office.

Brand was charged with one count of misdemeanor criminal damage to property and released shortly after his arrest.

The charge of simple criminal damage to property valued under $500 carries a potential penalty of up to six months in prison and/or a $500 fine.

Brand has had other brushes with the law, including in 2010, when he was arrested for an attack on a paparazzo at a Los Angeles airport. Last year, he was deported from Japan over his criminal history when he tried to visit his then-wife Katy Perry on her concert tour in the country.

iPhone fails botany - is Siri to blame?

Siri was wrong?

You serious?

That bot in the Apple iPhone who goes and gets everything for you? Who can find you a restaurant, bathroom, stock quote - or tell a good joke, as Siri tells John Malkovich in one TV ad?

Lena Struwe, associate professor of botany and director of the Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers University, was flying to a botany conference and idly paging through the July issue of the Economist, when she saw the ad.

We're in the woods, and luckily we have a brand-new iPhone 4S. We have evidently just asked it, "What does poison oak look like?"

Our helpful iPhone says, "This might answer your question," and an image appears, labeled "POISON OAK."

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Except . . . it's not.

Silly Siri. It's poison ivy.

"I saw the ad," says Struwe, "and I said, 'This doesn't look right.' I sent it to the botanist community, which led to a discussion. And it turns out it's poison ivy, not poison oak."

(She has just returned from taking a Brazilian colleague for a tour of the on-campus Helyar Woods, where, she says, "there's lots of poison ivy.")

The image was posted on the photo-sharing site Flickr and passed around, as usual. The photo in the ad evidently was taken from a Wikipedia article. Poison oak doesn't grow west of the Rockies.

To be fair to Siri, maybe it wasn't her/his/its fault. "I can't tell whether it's Apple, or whether it's the ad agency that created the ad," says Struwe. "You'd think they would have run it by a botanist or a naturalist, but they did not."

Apple Inc. works closely with the Media Lab of longtime chief advertiser TBWA/Chiat/Day in creating its advertising campaigns.

Struwe tried asking her iPhone about poison oak, and she reports that "you don't get that answer now . . . it's a different picture." She also speculates that the answer "might be different in different locales, so if you ask here in New Jersey or out in California, maybe you get a different answer."

A couple of blogs have picked up on the error. Kim Kastens, writing in Earth and Mind: The Blog, joins Struwe in being amazed at so many smart people (and one bot?) making such an error: Well-educated young people, Kastens writes, "are not getting much exposure to nature or natural history, either in school or informally. It's their loss, but also the planet's loss."

Struwe says the same thing, and adds: "If you ran an ad set in the 1950s, but put in it a car from the 1960s, someone surely would notice such a thing, because people care. Evidently, people don't care about this. We have lost a connection to our natural surroundings, in this case, information about a plant that could really hurt you."

She learned about poison ivy the hard way. They don't have it in Sweden, "but when I came here," she says, with a laugh, "I found out."

Teleport to London, Paris, Madrid, Rome with the Unique iPhone App

MONTREAL, July 26, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- This summer, teleport to PARIS, LONDON, ROME, MADRID and numerous other cities with the new Unique iPhone App. 5 hours+ of interactive and downloadable video clips allowing you to savor some of the world's most unique places - restaurants, cafes, bars, experiences - and the people behind them. Famous chefs, restaurateurs, and barmen tell you all about their passions while you meet tons of charming locals. Download here:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/

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"The Web and mobile devices have triggered a real mutation in the world of travel," asserts Paul Verdy, president and founder of Unique. "In order to meet the needs of the nomads that we've all become, Unique intends to reinvent the destination guide. Our microguides are a completely multimedia-driven experience, teeming with videos and with interactions that bring to life key addresses in the world's biggest cities. This whole endeavour was expressly conceived with computers, tablets, and smartphones in mind; this is the era of Apple. Our microguides are short and pack a wallop; this is the era of Twitter. Lastly, our microguides are also 'your microguides'. Everyone can easily create and share their own recommendations with their friends and their networks; this is the era of Facebook. It is," Paul Verdy concludes, "this innovative hybrid between content put together by an editorial team, as well as a passionate community, that truly makes us Unique."

iPhone app in Apple's App Store found to contain… Windows malware?

By: Zach Epstein

Apple's (AAPL) stiff rules and extensive testing procedures have done a great job of keeping malware out of the iOS App Store. With just a few notable exceptions, iOS users have been able to download apps without having to worry that their personal data or their device itself might be compromised. As discovered by users and recently noted in Apple's own support forum, however, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad owners who download apps using iTunes on Windows PCs might want to start exercising some caution.

Sophos's Naked Security blog on Wednesday noted that a live app in Apple's iOS App Store has been found to contain malware. Not iOS malware, however… Windows malware.

The app in question, dubbed "Instaquotes-Quotes Cards For Instagram," was found to contain a Windows virus called Worm:Win32/VB.CB or Worm.VB-900. It is not clear if the worm was deliberately planted by the app's developer or if it was an accident caused by an infection on the developer's computer.

"Instaquotes-Quotes Cards For Instagram" was initially made available in the App Store on July 19th, and Apple removed it on July 24th two hours after it was discovered to contain malicious code.

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30/7/2012 - iTrouble for iPhone, Samsung outships Apple by 2-to-1 from April to June, new report shows

iTrouble for iPhone, Samsung outships Apple by 2-to-1 from April to June, new report shows

By Robert Dominguez / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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The South Korean electronics giant, already the global market leader in smartphone sales, shipped an estimated 52.1 million devices in the second quarter, Juniper said -- twice the 26 million iPhones that Apple said it sold.

A visitor tries out the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone at the company's flagship store in Seoul, South Korea.

As far as smartphone sales go, the newest Galaxy helped put the iPhone in a world of hurt.

Samsung outshipped Apple by a two-to-one margin in the April to June period, according to a Juniper Research report released Thursday.

The South Korean electronics giant, already the global market leader in smartphone sales, shipped an estimated 52.1 million devices in the second quarter, Juniper said -- twice the 26 million iPhones that Apple said it sold.

Much of Samsung's strong sales was due to the success of the new Galaxy S III phone, which launched in June and was an immediate hit with users and tech reviewers, the report said.

The so-called iPhone killer -- the S III has a larger screen, higher resolution and other features to rival the iPhone -- moved 10 million units in June.

"At the end of the day, the S III is really strong competition for the iPhone," Jonathan Geller, editor-in-chief of tech site BGR.com (Boy Genius Report), told the Daily News.

"But keep in mind that the iPhone was released nearly a year ago, so for an ‘old' phone it didn't do that badly."

Consumers waiting for the expected release of the iPhone 5 in the fall may have also contributed to Apple's disappointing earnings report, Geller said.

The Juniper report estimated 132.9 million smartphones shipped in the second quarter, up from 105.2 million a year ago.

iPhone 5 Rumors Could Hurt Apple, But Benefit Verizon, ATandT

By: Michelle Maisto

NEWS ANALYSIS: Verizon Wireless and AT&T posted surprisingly strong second-quarter earnings, given that rumors of an upcoming iPhone 5 likely delayed some iPhone sales. While those missed sales hurt Apple, they seem to have benefited the carriers.

Smartphone and tablet usage is up, Americans are burning through more data than ever, and the wireless carriers, which have invested billions of dollars to get to this point, are beginning to enjoy the results.

They're also enjoying what the Apple iPhone has helped to create, even in absentia.

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AT&T this quarter announced its "best-ever wireless margins," a $1 billion wireless data revenue increase from a year ago, and sales of 5.1 million smartphones. Wireless service revenues increased 4.3 percent, to $14.8 billion, and its postpaid ARPU--or, average revenue per user--grew to $64.93.

Verizon Wireless' wireless service revenues increased 7.3 percent year-over-year, to $15.8 billion. It sold 5.9 million smartphones during the quarter, 3.2 million LTE devices, and raised its ARPU to a three-year high of $56.13.

Even the long-struggling Sprint, while posting a net operating loss of $629 million, largely related to its closure of the Nextel iDEN network, grew its net operating revenues to $8.8 billion from $8.3 billion a year ago, and noted that the improvement was "primarily due to higher wireless service revenues." It also increased its ARPU by $4.31--the largest such year-over-year increase on record for the U.S. wireless industry.

Further encouraging data use, in recent weeks Verizon Wireless and AT&T each announced plans in which multiple devices can draw from a single data allotment, making it more likely for users to purchase or activate 3G- and 4G-enabled tablets, instead of relying on WiFi or delaying a tablet purchase.

Also working to the benefit of the carriers during the quarter were rumors of the upcoming iPhone 5. While Apple partly attributed these rumors--which presumably caused consumers to delay new iPhone purchases--to a fiscal performance that broke records but nonetheless came in under Wall Street's expectations--the dip in iPhone sales had the opposite effect on the carriers. With fewer iPhones sold, they paid out fewer subsidies, leaving them with more dollars.

"Mobile operators have really been focusing on developing more diversified device portfolios, and are trying to make sure that they're not too dependent on any single vendor's products, particularly the iPhone," Ken Hyers, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR) told eWEEK.

"I think the results from this past quarter show that they are succeeding, as more consumers look beyond the iPhone to other smartphones," Hyers continued. "Comscore today reported that 62 percent of first-time smartphone buyers chose an Android device. I see this trend holding, as consumers look for easy-to-use smartphones that often come with significant discounts from operators. Android devices are quite appealing to operators because even when they are heavily subsidized, the cost to operators is still less than the cost to an operator of a subsidized iPhone."

Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King, while unconvinced that iPhone 5 expectations explain away the "dent" in Apple's sales, agrees that the carriers have moved past the days when the iPhone could make or break a quarter for the carriers.

"Whereas the tablet market is mostly about the iPad just now, Apple is just one more player in smartphones," King told eWEEK. "Plus, the market for those devices seems to be growing much faster than even the most optimistic expectations for the iPhone 5. Bottom line--the global demand for powerful smartphones is acting like a classic ‘rising tide' that benefits most every wireless vendor and [service provider]."

TBR's Hyers believes the carriers will later this year put significant marketing resources into the Microsoft-running Nokia Lumia line, so great is their desire for a third platform and brands beyond the iPhone.

That said, he added, "I'm sure that all of the operators are looking forward to the iPhone 5 and the huge spike in sales that will inevitably result when it comes out."

New Showyou App is the Best Way to Find Video on Your iPhone

By Brad Spirrison

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Showyou, already our favorite iOS application for video discovery, today debuts a fully revamped iPhone app that separates the service from the pack of worthy competitors.

If you haven't used Showyou before, the app in many (but not all) ways is like a Flipboard for videos. Showyou showcases videos shared by members of your social graph (most prominently Facebook, Twitter and users you follow within the app), as well as from a growing list of professional providers ranging from Charlie Rose to The Onion to The Bleacher Report.

Both the iPad version -- which launched in April and received a significant update earlier this year -- and the iPhone app divide discovery into four channels: Popular, Following, Twitter and Facebook.

But if you think the interface and backend algorithms for both apps would be relatively similar, think again.

iPhone app no longer a "second class citizen"

Up until this year, the team behind Showyou has focused exclusively on its iPad application. While this helped earn the company accolades, including an AppStore Rewind shout out from Apple last year, the iPhone app up until now was never anything special.

"It was clear that we really needed to do a proper version of the app," said Mark Hall, CEO of Showyou's parent company Remixation.

Most notably, the back-end technology that showcases apps in each Showyou channel more heavily weights social signals. So rather than seeing the most recent app shared by a Facebook friend or somebody you follow from Twitter front and center, the new algorithm takes into consideration the number of times it has been shared or cited over a period of time, and surfaces the most popular videos to the top. Further, the app neatly displays the network each video is shared from, along with a stream of associated comments.

"We take social activity from all of those heterogeneous sources to show the best 15 or 20 videos at any point of time," Hall said.

And not all of the changes are on the inside. While the iPad app takes advantage of larger screen size to showcase a sprawling but playful interface, the new iPhone app is more top-down in terms of how it surfaces videos. What the iPhone version loses in serendipity it gains in efficiency. In fact, if you have an iPhone 4 or 4S, the Showyou iPhone app is arguably a better remote control interface for Apple TV display mirroring than its iPad counterpart. Showyou is also our favorite app to watch on Apple TV via AirPlay Mirroring.

Unlike Flipboard, none of the videos on Showyou are editorially curated.

Other new or reconfigured features in the iPhone app include the ability to share videos with connected Showyou users and iPhone contacts with one tap, as well as a "Thanks" gesture to acknowledge the receipt of a cool video without having to write a pithy comment to show appreciation.

One popular feature shared by iPhone and iPad apps are push notifications. The difference and advantage of the iPhone app here is that users are much more likely to have that device with them, letting them see and view clips shared with them right away and in the moment.

Android next?

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Hall said that his team is working on creating a universal Android application, but the focus currently is on the two iOS apps, as well as a desktop version of Showyou that came out earlier this year. While Showyou is available for the Kindle Fire, Hall acknowledged that the company might de-list that version.

"Kindle is a bit of a misfire of a platform for apps like ours," he said.

Remixation, which is based in San Francisco, has raised at least $2 million to date. The company's lead investor is True Ventures. While the small team is not yet focused on monetization, Hall said he plans to explore advertising as well as commercial models around the delivery of paid content later this year.

AT&T Should Renew Its iPhone Vows

The earnings figures speak for themselves

By Evan Niu

Remind me again why AT&T was shifting so much marketing attention away from Apple's iPhone in favor of Nokia's Lumia 900? Oh yes, that's right. It's because wireless carriers generally loathe innovation and push whatever exclusive devices they can get their hands on for the sake of differentiation.

The market has voted

Ma Bell's earnings speak for themselves, though: Consumers still just want the iPhone. The company sold 3.7 million iPhones during the second quarter, nearly three-quarters of the total 5.1 million smartphones sold. AT&T continues to outpace red rival Verizon in iPhone sales, as Big Red put up 2.7 million iPhone activations recently.

That means the remaining 1.4 million smartphones sold on AT&T last quarter are split between Google Android handsets and Microsoft Windows Phone devices. The Lumia 900 is AT&T's current exclusivity play, which also just got its price dropped to $50 on contract amid the lack of upgradeability for the devices to Windows Phone 8.

To an extent, AT&T is interested in shifting consumer focus away from the iPhone, which is now available on all three largest carriers. It would prefer to get subscribers onto an exclusive device for customer lock-in, but clearly the iPhone continues to sell itself.

Back to basics

Total revenue came in at $31.6 billion for the second quarter, resulting in net income of $3.9 billion, or $0.66 per share. Operating cash flow was $9.7 billion, of which $4.5 billion was spent on capital expenditures. That leaves roughly $5.1 billion in free cash flow.

AT&T also repurchased 75.8 million shares for $2.5 billion during the quarter, and still has more than 150 million shares authorized under the repurchase program.

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The company also achieved its highest-ever wireless margins and best churn figures. Postpaid churn fell to 0.97%, a healthy improvement from the 1.15% a year ago. Overall churn also decreased to 1.18%. AT&T saw 1.3 million net wireless additions, of which 320,000 were in the lucrative postpaid segment. The carrier now has 43 million smartphone subscribers.

Wireless service sales rose to $14.8 billion, while data revenue increased by nearly 19% to $6.4 billion. Wireless operating expenses were flat from a year ago, allowing margins operating margins to expand to 30.3%, a meaningful gain relative to the 26.9% a year ago.

Postpaid subscriber average revenue per user, or ARPU, jumped to $64.93, which Ma Bell calls "the highest in the industry." This is the 14th consecutive quarter that the carrier has posted year-over-year increases in its postpaid ARPU segment. Postpaid data ARPU jumped 14.1% to $28.04.

Smartphones continue to steal the show, representing 77% of postpaid device sales. Within AT&T's overall postpaid subscriber base, smartphone penetration has now reached 62%, or 43.1 million users. That's up from roughly 50%, or 34.1 million, a year ago. Smartphone users have doubled the ARPU of nonsmartphone users as well as significantly lowered churn levels.

Keepin' on

The wireline business remained healthy, if not exciting. Total revenue was $14.9 billion, down slightly. Voice revenue continues to fall, but that was somewhat offset by growth in other business service segments. AT&T said it has returned to enterprise revenue growth after more than four years of declines. Business data sales also grew as companies migrated from older data products to more modern offerings.

AT&T U-verse subscribers now stand at 6.8 million, with residential customer revenue of $5.5 billion. Again, we see a trend of ditching older technologies like voice in favor of data service. ARPU for U-verse triple-play subscribers came in at $170.

Check or bet

Smartphones are the strongest aspect of the business right now, helping boost wireless subscriber ARPU and keeping subscribers on board. With the Lumia 900 exclusive card, AT&T is simply playing the hand it's been dealt. Still, users clearly still just want the iPhone.

Apple is one of few phone makers that can override carrier demands and call the shots, which is why its growth story isn't over. Sign up for The Motley Fool's brand new premium Apple research service to read more.

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30/7/2012 - Sprint Continues Turnabout; Sales of iPhone Steady

Sprint Continues Turnabout; Sales of iPhone Steady

By THOMAS GRYTA

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In contrast to its rivals, Sprint Nextel Corp. S +20.18% maintained sales levels for the popular Apple Inc. AAPL -0.02% iPhone in the second quarter, indicating that the company's turnaround is continuing and that the company has reason to be optimistic about sales when a new version of the smartphone, expected later this year, arrives.

Overall, the Overland Park, Kan., wireless carrier's second-quarter loss widened amid customer losses and costs from the shuttering of its older Nextel network, but its crucial network overhaul is on track, something that will be important because the new iPhone will likely utilize next-generation network technology.

Sprint began selling the iPhone in October by cutting a large, multiyear-purchase agreement. The accord was viewed as extreme by some, but the company provided assurances Thursday that it would ultimately benefit from the deal.

"We're ahead of pace for what it would take to retire that $15.5 billion four-year commitment," Chief Executive Dan Hesse said in an interview. "Right now, the iPhone decision is looking like a very good one."

The company's stock jumped 20% to $4.05 a share as Wall Street was caught off guard by the better-than-expected performance. The frequently volatile stock is down 22% over the past 12 months but up 73% for 2012.

After spending years juggling multiple wireless technologies, Sprint is streamlining and upgrading its network to draw new customers and keep pace with larger rivals that have a head start rolling out faster service.

Sprint's next-generation LTE, or Long Term Evolution, network is now running in 15 cities and should cover 100 million potential customers by year-end, but it is still well behind AT&T Inc. T +2.75% and Verizon Wireless in the technology rollout. The network upgrade is expected to be largely completed by mid-2013.

The next iteration of the iPhone--expected in the fall--is widely expected to run on the LTE network. Mr. Hesse played down any concern that Sprint's network will be lacking when compared with those of rivals. In an interview, he said that the phone would still perform well and that some of the company's best selling devices were LTE-compatible before the network rollout.

Sprint has also differentiated itself from other major carriers by being the only major one to still offer unlimited data packages to customers on its network, and Mr. Hesse said there are no plans to change that strategy. AT&T and Verizon Wireless recently unveiled wireless data plans that capitalize on data-consuming phones and devices.

In the quarter, iPhone unit sales at Verizon Wireless and AT&T dropped 16% and 14%, respectively, from last quarter, while Sprint's were unchanged at 1.5 million. Notably, Sprint said 40% of its iPhone sales were to new customers, compared with 25% at Verizon and 22% at AT&T.

Sprint still doesn't expect to make a profit on the iPhone deal before 2015, but Mr. Hesse said the device will help Sprint's business more than other high-end smartphones because of lower product returns and overall support costs. He expects iPhone users will be less likely to cancel their service and other subscribers will be less likely to jump to another carrier just to get an iPhone.

Sprint also opened a new sales channel last month when it began offering a pay-as-you-go iPhone through its Virgin Mobile USA business, allowing users to pay a higher price for the phone in exchange for cheaper service and no two-year contract.

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"We have sold quite a few devices, but it is just too early to make forecasts," Mr. Hesse said of the strategy. Sprint is working with Apple to begin advertising the prepaid iPhone.

Overall, Sprint's second-quarter results were mixed because of the network transition, but the company impressed Wall Street with its ability to draw revenue from current subscribers and its increase in full-year projections.

In the quarter, Sprint's loss widened to $1.37 billion, or 46 cents a share, from $847 million, or 28 cents, a year earlier. The most-recent quarter included charges of 39 cents a share from the Nextel shutdown and the impairment of an investment in network partner Clearwire CLWR +12.22% Corp.. Revenue rose 6.4% to $8.84 billion.

Analysts had projected a loss of 40 cents a share on revenue of $8.73 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. Wireless-service revenue rose to 17.8%, beating expectations and up from 16.3% a year ago.

Sprint raised its 2012 forecast for adjusted operating earnings before depreciation and amortization to a range of $4.5 billion to $4.6 billion, up from a previous view of $3.7 billion to $3.9 billion.

Overall the company lost 246,000 two-year contracts in the quarter, largely because of the loss of 688,000 users at the legacy Nextel unit.

However, Sprint is squeezing more out of the customers it has. Average revenue per postpaid user--an important metric--rose to $60.88 from $56.67 a year ago, the biggest increase in the company's history.

In the quarter, Sprint captured 60% of customers who are leaving its Nextel push-to-talk platform, up from 27% a year ago and 46% last quarter. Sprint said it was unlikely to sustain the latest rate, but it expects it to stay above 40% for the rest of the year.

The rate at which customers leave its networks, a measurement known as churn, dropped to 1.79% from 2% in the prior quarter. It was 1.75% a year ago.

iPhone 5 Speculation Drives Apple Earnings Down

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the All Things D conference in Los Angeles. (Joanna Stern / ABC News)

Apple's third quarter earnings, released this afternoon, were below analysts' predictions.

While the quarter is usually one of the slower ones for the tech giant, Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer admitted that speculation surrounding the next iPhone -- what many are calling the iPhone 5 -- has affected sales of current iPhones.

Apple said it sold 26 million iPhones, down from 35.1 million in the previous quarter. Presumably, people put off purchases of phones, waiting for a newer model.

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"We're reading the same speculation about a new iPhone as you are, and we think this has caused some delay in purchasing," Oppenheimer said.

Of course he was referring to the flood of rumors about the next iPhone, including the ones that say the next version will have a larger and thinner display, a new dock connector, and a faster processor and graphics.

The topic of the rumors came up numerous times on the earnings call with analysts. But no matter how hard analysts pushed, Cook and Oppenheimer would not talk about their product plans for the remainder of the year.

Oppenheimer added later in the call, "The fall transition is driving most of the decline in gross margin, it's not something we are going to talk about in any level of detail."

When Cook was asked about a new feature of iOS 6 called Passbook, which puts all tickets or coupons into one app, he wouldn't elaborate on what Apple might do down the road.

"We try very hard to keep our product roadmap secret and confidential. We go to extreme activities to try and do that," Cook said. "That, however, doesn't stop people from speculating and wondering."

In May, Cook said he was planning to "double down on secrecy" on products, but he conceded it won't stop the speculation.

"I'm glad that people want the next thing, I am super happy about it. I am not going to put energy into getting people to stop speculating, that's not going to amount to anything," Cook said.

Apple is also rumored to be planning a smaller version of its iPad before the year is up, which would compete with Google's recently-announced Nexus 7. Cook wouldn't comment on that and mentioned the $399 version of the iPad 2.

"I think most customers feel that they are not looking for a tablet, they are looking for an iPad," Cook said. "We are going to keep innovating in the space and make new products."

Again, he wouldn't elaborate on those products, which ultimately hit the company's bottom line this past quarter, but he was clear about how Apple intends to keep making those products.

"Our North Star is to maniacally focus on making the world's best products," Cook said. He repeated that word "maniacally" twice during the call.

Top secret iPhone, iPad prototype shots emerge

What might previous versions of the iPad and iPhone have looked like? Newly-unearthed shots of early prototypes give us a peek.

by Josh Lowensohn

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Who said lawyers are the only ones who benefit from massive lawsuits between multi-national companies? As a by-product of the proceedings between Apple and Samsung, Apple-watchers now get a slew of shots of early iPhone and iPad designs that have been unveiled in court documents.

As profiled by The Verge this afternoon, the collection includes an unusual picture frame-esq version of the iPad that sports a kickstand. There also a handful of prototype iPhone designs, including one with angular emerald-like corners, one that's like a metallic slab, and one with two-toned design on the rear, which MacRumors points out looks quite a bit like renderings that have cropped up lately for Apple's sixth-generation iPhone.

The images come on the heels of last week's de-classifying (if you can call it that) of an early prototype of the iPad. That device, which looked quite similar to the topside of a G4 iBook model, ran about an inch thick, and was shown off in a series of shots published by Networkworld and Buzzfeed.

Apple and Samsung go to trial in California beginning next week. Apple sued Samsung last April, claiming the company made "slavish" copies of its smartphones and tablet computers. The case has gotten increasingly complicated, with Samsung countersuing, and both companies piling on with more complaints against one another.

A prototype iPhone design.

Included in this series of filings are shots of a device that might just have been the iPhone 4. Apple went with a modified design, but you can see the beginnings of what would become the form factor that remains today in the iPhone 4S.

Also of interest are iPhone and iPad designs that make use of what appears to be anodized aluminum with rounded corners -- a throwback to the early iPod Mini, a product Apple later replaced with the Nano.

More designs and behind the scenes look at gadgets from both companies could be on parade in the coming weeks and months, however this represents one of the largest collections of Apple product mock-ups seen outside of drawings and renderings depicted in patent filings.

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and covers everything Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about new Web startups, video games, and remote-controlled robots that watch your house. When not attempting experimental pizza recipes, Josh is an avid photographer.

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4/7/2012 - Before IPhone and Android Came Simon, the First Smartphone

Before IPhone and Android Came Simon, the First Smartphone

By Ira Sager

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In the 1995 techno thriller, The Net, Sandra Bullock plays a software programmer who unwittingly uncovers a plot to gain access to the world's most sensitive computers. The bad guy, played by Jeremy Northam, tries to kill Bullock literally and virtually--by stealing her identity. (For a hacker, Bullock's character is remarkably dim; when she finally catches on to what's happening, she whines: "Our whole lives are on the computer.") Apple (AAPL) gets the customary product cameo as the movie imagines a world in which ordering pizza online or accessing a database from a laptop computer in a car is commonplace.

A second product has a more prominent role, only there's no logo or corporate sponsor credited for the cell phone used by Northam's villain. In the final chase scene, he makes a call simply by pressing his phone's touchscreen. When The Net was made, there was only one cell phone with a touchscreen and sufficient smarts for one-touch dialing: the Simon Personal Communicator. By the time the movie hit theaters that summer, the phone was off the market after its brief, six-month run before consumers. At least Simon left a more lasting impression than the movie did.
Early prototype designs. The yellow one (never produced) got all the attention in presentations

Simon was the first smartphone. Twenty years ago, it envisioned our app-happy mobile lives, squeezing the features of a cell phone, pager, fax machine, and computer into an 18-ounce black brick. The touchscreen (monochrome) had icons you tapped, or poked with a stylus, for e-mail, calculator, calendar, clock, and a game called Scramble in which you moved squares around the screen until you formed a picture. It featured predictive typing that would guess the next characters as you pecked. And it had apps, or at least a way to deliver more features--including a camera, maps, and music--by plugging a memory card into the phone.
BellSouth wanted customers to think of the phone as being as easy to use as "Simon Says ..."

It would take an additional 10 years before anyone called a cell phone "smart," and a further five before the iPhone shattered our view of what these digital devices could do for us. Simon retailed for $899 and sold approximately 50,000 units. If you were a heavy data user, you had about 60 minutes before you needed to recharge--as little as 30 minutes in areas with poor cell coverage. The Smithsonian Institution has one. Nearly two decades later, you can still find Simons for sale by collectors at the same retail price.

When a few IBM (IBM) engineers first showed a working prototype at the 1992 Comdex computer show in Las Vegas, the model was code-named "Angler" and drew crowds of people eight-to-10 deep. BellSouth Cellular teamed with IBM to turn it into a commercial product with a Milton-Bradley-meets-Gene-Rodenberry name. The two companies hold 11 Simon-related patents--including how to highlight text on a touchscreen to do things like place a call, update apps in the field, and remotely set up and activate a cell phone--among other unique functions that are now standard on smartphones.

The story of Simon is the timeless lesson of tech innovation: Groundbreaking products require a rich ecosystem before the "big idea" can become truly useful or widespread. In this case, what was needed included fast networks, Web browsers, and a whole lot of apps waiting to be pulled off the Internet. In the early 1990s, none of these were available. Phone networks were designed mostly for voice, not sending data. When Simon was conceived, a Web browser had yet to be released. IBM was hemorrhaging money and people, losing $16 billion and over 100,000 jobs in the years from 1991 to 1993. In the end, technical limitations, product delays, a world-class corporate meltdown, revolving-door management, and bad business decisions conspired against Simon.

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Plastic mockups of memory cards show how additional features (today's apps) could make Simon versatile

IBM and BellSouth chose to drop the phone and abandon a next-generation version of Simon that would have been closer in size to an iPhone. Motorola (MOT), a supplier of the cellular smarts for the prototype, passed when it came time to build the product, concerned that it would be helping IBM become a future competitor. Mitsubishi (6503:JP) replaced Motorola and built the commercial product.

Simon's short lifespan also illustrates how truly original tech products feed so many other creative efforts, if not those of its creators--at least directly. "The innovations of the Simon are reflected in virtually all modern touchscreen phones," writes Bill Buxton in an e-mail. Buxton, a computer scientist at Microsoft (MSFT) Research, has been collecting groundbreaking tech gadgets for 30 years. He has two Simons, including one in its original box.

It's somehow fitting that Simon is nowhere in the credits of The Net. IBM has no record of Simon in its archives. The company passes inquiries on to BellSouth, which merged with AT&T (T) in an $86 billion deal in 2006. The original engineers that worked on Simon still refer to themselves as "Simoneers." In over 20 conversations and e-mail exchanges I had with the BellSouth and IBM team members about the project, some memories had faded over time. But the team discussed its technical accomplishments with pride, despite Simon's belly flop in the market.

Frank J. Canova Jr. is the IBM engineer who came up with the original concept for Simon. With 51 patents logged over the course of his career, he always had a few ideas banging around in his head. In the early '90s, he was thinking chip-and-wireless technology was becoming small enough to put in the palm of your hand. He described his concept to colleagues, including his boss Jerry Merckel, who was on an industry task force working up specifications for a now defunct device (the PCMCIA card) that could plug into a laptop computer for extra memory--the grandfather of today's thumb drives. Merckel realized the cards could be used to launch other apps or services for Canova's phone. He just needed approval to build a prototype.

Paul C. Mugge indirectly put all this in motion after he became director of the Florida Research Lab in late 1988--long after the glory days of the IBM Personal Computer Co.--with a mandate to re-energize development. Mugge put together a small team of engineers including Canova and Merckel to explore ways to use ever-smaller, more powerful electronics to build new products.

One day in Mugge's office, he listened to Merckel's pitch. "This is the phone of the future," Merckel said, reaching into a sleek black aluminum box to pull out plastic cards, all in different colors. (Those cards didn't function and were purely for show; they had been created by Hunter T. Foy, who headed a small group of industrial designers attached to the lab.) Merckel explained to Mugge that you plug the card into the phone to get directions or music. One card, labeled "ZZ Top's Greatest Hits" (with a picture of the group), was Merckel's personal favorite. On reading the label, Mugge asked: "Who's ZZ Top?" He approved the project anyway.

The applications on those cards became the core of IBM's first services, code-named InTouch. "We knew services would make or break Simon," says Mugge, now executive director of the Center for Innovation Management Studies at North Carolina State University. "As you see with Apple, without apps [the iPhone] is just a device. It all came to pass--unfortunately 15 years later," he says.

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To give the concept form, IBM turned to Frog Design, a rare move because the computer giant never went outside for design work. When Foy projected it would cost $80,000 to create the prototype, he says, Merckel and Mugge "threw up on it." When Frog didn't come up with anything radically different from Foy's early sketches, he was soon back on the project. IBM paid Frog $49,760 for its sketches, according to an unsigned copy of the agreement.

There wasn't much leeway for Frog to come up with a different look. The phone could be only so small. The memory cards dictated a certain width. The touchscreen had a set thickness. And you needed a battery with enough juice to power the device. The finished prototype is the Shaq of phones, standing 8 inches high, 2.5 inches wide, and 1.5 in. thick. Pull out your smartphone and you'll see the difference.

Everything about the phone required something unique, from the motherboard housing an Intel (INTC) chip to the operating system and on to the way all its features interrelated. At first there was no rush to produce the prototype, but IBM decided 14 weeks before Comdex that it wanted to display the device at the trade show. The race was on. Canova and other engineers worked 80-hour weeks, including weekends, right up to the last day.

The prototype at Comdex displayed a map of the Las Vegas strip, plus stock quotes. There was no website for Canova to download that information, so he scanned the maps into the prototype's memory from printed sources and punched in sample ticker data. "It was hard for people to believe back then you would carry maps or stock quotes in your phone," he says. "As we know now, it was just the tip of the iceberg."

When the team finished the prototype--it wasn't clear they'd make the deadline until two weeks before the show--IBM sent a manager to Florida to make sure "Angler" worked as advertised. (A substitute was ready if it didn't.) It worked too well: The company made the team encase each of the three prototypes for Comdex in bulky, see-through plastic housing to make clear that these were not finished products. "IBM was afraid people would want to buy it," says Canova.

In truth, IBM wasn't sure it wanted to be in the phone business. Alan Testani recalls showing Jack Keuhler, then IBM's top technologist, a prototype. Keuhler, an internal critic of IBM's already troubled communications effort, called it "a World War II walkie talkie." It wasn't a compliment.
Early prototype designs. The yellow one, which was never produced, got all the attention in presentations

The effort moved forward, anyway. Deep within IBM's DNA was the eternal belief that the multiplication of electronic gadgets--cell phones or PCs--would fuel demand for big, powerful mainframe computers. Jim Cannavino, then a senior vice president responsible for IBM's Personal Systems division, recalls telling the board: "Whether you want to build them or not (cell phones), you really want them to happen. That was the air cover to get Simon out the door."

Canova has a video taken by one of the Simoneers as they're setting up in Las Vegas before Comdex opens. The narrator approaches the mustachioed engineer as he's intently working on the prototype. Then in his early 30s, Canova is wearing a white, short-sleeved shirt. He seems genuinely surprised as he reports that everything is working smoothly. There's a hint of pride when he says colleagues like the device.

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Later, Canova walked out into the cool Las Vegas night to call Gary Wisgo, the project's engineering manager. Wisgo had booked too late to get a hotel room anywhere near the convention center. "Here I was, talking to someone with access to my calendar, e-mail, and much more, with only a phone in my hand. For the first time, no computer was needed," recalls Canova. "That simple moment is when I realized the world was about to change."

When the show opened the next day, Canova and the other engineers demonstrating the product were swamped. The prototype was a hit. Wisgo remembers awakening to a ringing phone at 6 a.m. An excited engineer was calling to tell him the project had made the front page of USA Today's Money section, with a photo of Canova holding the prototype. The positive reaction convinced IBM's senor management to build a real product. It helped that BellSouth wanted in on the action. IBM pumped money into the effort and the team grew from five engineers to 32. This was one of the rare parts of IBM that was hiring.

The timing was perfect for Jim Thorpe, senior vice president of marketing for BellSouth Cellular, whose boss wanted to know what they could do to differentiate the company. Thorpe had set up a research and development lab, run by Dan Norman, to devise innovative products. It was BellSouth that came up with the name Simon, following an internal debate over whether the phone should have a science fiction-sounding name (Merlin and Wizard were suggestions.) Others wanted something easy to remember that would evoke simplicity. One of the marketing managers had seen his kids play with the popular electronic memory game, Simon, which asked you to repeat a series of tones that got progressively more difficult in order to win. He suggested Simon, as in "Simon says simplicity." An ad campaign was born.

The Simon Personal Communicator had its coming-out party on Nov. 2, 1993, at a telecommunications trade show at Disney World (DIS) in Orlando. Before an audience of 150 analysts and journalists, Norman and Rich Guidotti, a product development manager, did their interpretation of Alexander Graham Bell's celebrated moment. On stage, Norman sent Guidotti a fax: "Rich, Simon looks great. Dan." Thorpe has the fax framed in his house, along with the stylus Norman used.

To promote Simon at trade shows and to distributors, BellSouth made a video. Norman says the company was concerned customers would think Simon was too complicated because it could do so much. (This was right after Apple's Newton bombed.) They hired an actress to have a little fun with Simon, playing a character named Christy. She is shown in situations you might not think to use Simon, but could: Send a fax while on a picnic, or check e-mail at the opera. As the video progresses, Christy starts making outrageous claims such as, "It'll wash your car," and "You can talk to aliens." Norman appears in the video as the voice of reason, denying you can do those things. The video even veers into late-night infomercial territory: "What would you expect to pay for a machine that does all this, $5,000, $10,000, or more? How about under $1,000?"

The video drummed up interest, but Simon wasn't ready for its scheduled release in May 1994. Customers couldn't get one until Aug. 16. IBM was still wrestling with the device's short battery life. Its engineers reworked some software, but the ultimate solution was to provide a second battery, as a lot of video cameras did at the time. That was just one issue. Consumers were then enthralled by the popular, less expensive, $500 flip cell phones. They were small and cool. (And they looked much more like those communicators on Star Trek.)

Norman, who has one of the original Simon prototypes from Comdex, conceived what would have been a first for the cellular industry--activating a cell phone "wirelessly over the air." (AT&T now holds the patent.) At the time, cell phones had to be programmed at the store. It was a laborious, manual process that could take two hours. Norman planned to include with every Simon the software that would let BellSouth handle everything. Simon was off the market before the feature was ready. "That was actually a bigger deal than anything else that Simon was capable of doing," he says.

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There was a second generation of Simon, code named Neon--thinner and shorter--that also didn't make it out. The design, sans fax, was to be closer in shape to the eventual iPhone. IBM even made a logo for Neon with the name running both vertically and horizontally around the letter O; it would say Neon, no matter how it was held. "We actually rotated the screen like the iPhone," says Canova.

By now, IBM was closing plants and offices around the world. The company moved PC operations out of Florida, sending the Simon design work to Raleigh, N.C. Many Simon engineers didn't want to move north, so they left. Canova eventually departed after trying to work with the team in Raleigh.

Merckel, now a professor of engineering at the University of North Florida, had more features in the works, too, including a card that would turn the phone into a radio. He also tried to convince Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) to supply the chip for future products. Those efforts went nowhere. "I threw it in the trash," he says of the working prototype for the radio. "IBM was disappearing."

By early 1995, Simon was off the market. IBM decided not to pursue the business. BellSouth put money into improving its own communications network.

Today, BellSouth executives say Simon was worthwhile. Tech companies began to think about how they could use cellular technology in their products. BellSouth received recognition and attracted partners such as Microsoft, which had never before called on their company.

For Mugge, the lesson of Simon is a familiar tale for many pioneers: "Don't invent one of these things before they invent the Internet or fiber optics with tremendous bandwidth."

'CrackBerry,' Jelly Bean, Apple get just desserts

Editor's note: a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"Today Blackberry changed its name to Blackbury" –QthePower

As readers discussed three popular and whimsically named mobile platforms, their commentary turned mouth-watering. Readers were reacting to a story about decline of the BlackBerry mobile device in a world of iPhones, Androids and Windows 8 phones.

"A blackberry was squished by an apple," said RKW29.

"Apples suck. Jelly Beans Rule," said Another_Fine_Mess, referring to the latest dessert-themed Android update.

From 'CrackBerry' to depressing: The BlackBerry's 5-year fall

One reader noted that the BlackBerry is popular in business settings.

jimbo0117: "People need to keep these kinds of headlines in perspective. The VAST majority of BB's users have always been business users. And for the most part, they still use the BB. BB tried, but never really got a large consumer base. Mainly because their products weren't tailored to the average teen/early 20's user – and they were/are expensive. So it isn't like BB has lost as much, but more like it never gained – just basically stagnated. And for most business watchers, they equate that with decline."

On the other hand, plenty of readers say businesses are warming up to other devices and adding support for people to "BYOD," as in "bring your own device."

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skyjmpr: "Except more and more BUSINESS USERS are making the switch to the iPhone or even an Android smartphone rather than continue with the BlackBerry. And yes, I am one of those more recent converts, and find the iPhone to be just as useful and easier to use than my BlackBerry was. Hence the 40% drop off the cliff for sales (probably the first of a continuing trend and death spiral), and RIM's typical knee jerk response of dumping its people rather than focusing everything on its new O/S (though even that is probably too late.)"

numetheus: "A VAST majority of BB users have been business users, this is true. And a VAST majority of those users really don't like Blackberry. I have had a Blackberry for a very long time. I've had several units. I don't like them though. I use them because every job I have ever had has given them to me. No choice. Now however, more and more companies are ditching those contracts and going with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) plan for employees. Given a choice. most people ditch BB devices and use other phones with Exchange access ... like Android or iPhone. I know I did. The moment I was given a choice, I dumped my BB like a bad habit and have never looked back. I know several people working for companies that now have BYOD policies in place. This is ONE of the reasons they are losing ground. People are no longer having BB devices shoved down their throats."

How many devices do you carry?

QthePower: "Incorrect. Most people just want to carry one cell phone. No one wants to have to carry a poor function BB with iPhone/Android Phone/Windows phone."

TerryFrypan: "Who still uses a Blackberry? Do they still carry a pager too?"

Perhaps reports of the death of BlackBerry are greatly exaggerated.

bigtimecynic: "If my company took away my Droid and replaced it with a BlackBerry I'd be fine with it. I am a business enterprise email user and I basically use my Droid as a phone and email device, with limited web browsing and occasionally banking app and MP3 player. And I am so fed up with virtual keyboards that I could scream."

What is your preference?

RommyRomulan: "I've never liked the Blackberry, I had 2 different models that they gave me at work. I constantly had problems with them. And compared to an iPhone, they're just crap. That's the way it goes in any business, if you can't keep up with the cutting edge technology and you make an inferior product, you're not going to make it."

Plenty of people love their BlackBerry.

Poutso: "I still LOVE LOVE LOVE my BlackBerry 'PlayBook' tablet! Cost me only $200, and I use it more than my Apple iPAD2! It has 'flash' and 2 HD cams (front and back), with HD video, and a speedy browser! And the QNX gesture based O.S. is 'to die for' smooth and seamless! RIM really screwed up by not properly marketing this phenomenal tablet PC."

Bart Rybarczyk: "I've been using blackberry for the last few years and I am not looking to buy iphone or android. i like blackberry and i think it is good phone. it does not have all the apps in the world but then i do not need them all. i hope the company pulls through and i will pick up bb10 the day comes out (one with the keyboard). None the less Rim should do some deal and licence bb10 to Samsung etc. to make it more appealing."

For many, it's about email and security.

TechnoV1king: "I still love my blackberry for email communication. typing is so much better on the keyboard than on the touchscreen of my iPhone. but for personal use the iPhone and Droids kill it. Watching videos, web browsing, etc are so much better on the other options. The Blackberry will die a slow death, but make no mistake, the death is coming."

E32forlife: "Microsoft will buy them to get all their security features."

But others prefer a touchscreen.

RommyRomulan: "I much prefer the touchscreen. (I'm 65 years old) I never liked Blackberry's keypad, the keys are too tiny. The touch screen is better, I don't make as many errors, plus it automatically corrects a lot of errors anyway. Turn the iPhone sideways and the individual keys are larger. And you only have to touch them, not press them down until they click like the Blackberry."

If the BlackBerry were a vehicle, what would it be?

RubyNoon2: "The horse and buggy of cell phones..."

Speaking of transportation, what motorcycle do you prefer?

harleyman77: "You have to remember Apple is basically an American company and RIM is a Canadian company. I am using a BB for business, and never had a problem, the cheaper they become the better for me. If you want to play games get an IPhone, otherwise BB does everything a business person needs to do. Just like when the American car companies were in the dumpster the media went after Japanese car manufacturers, even when they had a better product, same with this technology. Tthe US has attacked it. RIM will be around for a long time, maybe more streamlined, maybe more efficient but what business has not gone through that?"

Poutso: "I wish Harley-Davidson would fold. Their overrated bikes are way overpriced, way underperforming, way too loud, and way too heavy. They are ugly as well."

After reading all these comments, what's your take? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

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Permanent Link

4/7/2012 - Sony Google TV Blu-ray player drops OnLive support

Sony Google TV Blu-ray player drops OnLive support

By Mark Raby

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Sony has axed support for OnLive game playback on its newest Google TV-powered Blu-ray player. Here's the kicker – the player hasn't even shipped yet; it isn't due to release until July 9. But after the company announced that it will acquire Gaikai – an OnLive rival – it seems like an infinitely understandable decision. Incidentally, Sony never confirmed any sort of OnLive partnership.

However, it was discovered that in the technical specifications and documentation for the impending Blu-ray device, Sony listed OnLive connectivity as an optional accessory. Now, however, the company has wiped any reference to OnLive in connection to the player. What most likely happened was that Sony was working on the Gaikai deal behind closed doors, but wanted to have the OnLive compatibility there just in case.

Or, it could very well be that the team working on the Google TV Blu-ray player had no clue about Gaikai and so they just put OnLive connectivity there since it is compatible with Google TV products. It will be interesting to see Sony specifically exclude one of the newest Google TV services from a Google TV product, but that's the way the business world works.

Surprise, surprise: Sony drops OnLive support for streaming media player after purchasing Gaikai

Sony has dropped the option for the OnLive cloud gaming service in an upcoming media player in the wake of its $380 million purchase of Gaikai. We're so surprised.

OnLive never announced a deal to get its cloud gaming service into Sony products. But we spotted a very interesting reference to OnLive in a new Sony product: an Internet-streaming media player that comes with Google TV.

As you can see in the specifications section below, OnLive's gaming controller/universal serial bus dongle were listed as an optional accessory for the Sony device. This means that the device was going to come with OnLive preloaded. This was the first sign that Sony and OnLive had a deal in place, and that could be a big boost for cloud gaming. Sony's new media player is available for preorder now and ships on July 9.

But Sony confirmed today that the media player no longer has OnLive as an accessory option.

OnLive streams games from remote servers in a web-connected data center, or "cloud." This means that high-end games can run on low-end machines, since the actual processing and rendering are handled elsewhere. This means that you can play high-end, console-quality games on a TV set (embedded with the OnLive app) without the need for a game console. All you need is a controller, such as the one listed below.

Since Gaikai effectively does the same thing, and Sony has purchased the company, it could probably substitute Gaikai's gaming service for the OnLive capability at some point.

OnLive already has announced deals with Vizio and LG, which both plan to ship TVs with the OnLive player built into them. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June, OnLive showed how you can find the OnLive app via the Google TV user interface on upcoming TVs from LG.

Sony, of course, is a different animal. OnLive can help enhance Sony's TVs and Blu-ray players by making high-end games available on TV sets. OnLive's rival, Gaikai, announced a deal to provide cloud gaming for Samsung TVs.

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ONLIVE MICROCONSOLE REVIEW

Posted by Vaughn.H

Cloud gaming looks set to be the future whether you like it or not, and while streaming service OnLive has been around for a little while now, it's only now that I've been blessed with an internet connection that doesn't cry when download a webpage. For the last two months a little black box has been sitting underneath my television set delivering big name games right to my TV without me having to put a disk in a drive or download a gosh-darn thing.

I couldn't even put a disc into the console if I wanted to. The rather un-inventively named OnLive MicroConsole TV Adaptor doesn't even feature a disc drive for you to stuff, and because of the complete lack of moving parts – it doesn't even need a hard drive – it's absolutely tiny. Feeling about as big and as heavy as two iPhones taped together, although maybe still a little thicker, this tiny baby is a solid piece of aesthetic design. It's black glossy exterior with tapered edges and a pleasingly symmetrical front makes its unobtrusive presence in the living room seem even better when you do notice it.

The MicroConsole comes in a rather stylish, almost carbon fiber, looking box. Its design shows that OnLive have really taken aesthetics into mind with this product, even the controller – which resembles an Xbox 360 pad in build quality and in its general layout – although the d-pad has more in common with Sony's controller. Setting it up is a breeze too, with the only caveat stopping the design from being utterly genius is the need for an ethernet connection to connect the device to the internet. This decision is clearly down to a wired connection being faster and more reliable than a Wi-Fi one, however it means I've had a very long ethernet cable trailing through my house for the last two months – something that really isn't very practical.

Once you delve into the secrets the black box holds, or at least plug it in and get going, OnLive is a rather impressive piece of kit. While it's currently available on tablet devices and computers, having it right in the centre of your living room is very handy, as sitting down to enjoy a game with a hot laptop on your legs or sitting at a desk for hours just really isn't as relaxing as slobbing it on the sofa with a bag of Doritos and a pot of salsa.

Thanks to OnLive being entirely streamed content, the visuals of a game are always the best they can be thanks to the servers running them, and as OnLive are responsible for upgrading that you'll always be running the latest hardware. I sat through some Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dirt 3, Driver: San Francisco and some Batman: Arkham Asylum and every title was pretty damn impressive to look at and play. Comparing them to the console versions I've played, they stack up quite well with image quality only dipping when my connection slowed slightly due to others using it. At no point was there any lag, tearing or dropping of my connection. For a moment I was genuinely sold on cloud gaming and the service OnLive provides, the future was inside that little black box, however these feelings didn't last too long.

Looking through what you get on OnLive, and the prices you'll be paying, it's quite hard to decide if it's really worth making the jump to game streaming. An attractive PlayPack subscription service is certainly tempting as it offers up 200 games for you to play, as well as offering discounts on many titles across the service too – but many eligible games are rather old and for any serious gamer the PlayPack is just not worth the time and money – that is unless you want to widen your collection of games you'll never play. The services ‘latest releases' are games that have already been on the market for a fair while, and any self-professed gamer would have already snapped up. When titles hit the service from day one, then it'll be worth the time of day.

OnLive also brings in a raft of social features such as Friends Lists, Spectators section, and ‘Brag Clips' – user recorded videos of their in game actions. While these all sound like pretty good community features, they just don't quite cut the mustard as many of the spectator sessions are dull play throughs of older games with relatively inept players pissing about. What the service needs here is a dedicated account for showcasing new content and titles, or providing walkthroughs for others who may be stuck. Friends lists also are largely unimportant as it's yet another list you need to fill if you want to enjoy any online modes, but it's unlikely that you'll have any real-life friends who also own an OnLive account or system – and who will be online at the same time.

Ultimately, the OnLive MicroConsole's biggest problem is itself. The free to download and install OnLive Desktop version is actually a much more attractive proposition as it means you can pick up and play some classic things here and there, or demo some games you fancy. The MicroConsole on the other hand means that it actually has to compete for your attention against your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 – something it really can't do. Why would you wait an extra month or so for a title you really want when you could just pick it up for a console you already own? And because you either bought a physical copy of the game or downloaded it to your hard drive, it means you wont have to endure that ghastly wire across your home or have a continually active internet connection just to play your games.

It seems that the MicroConsole is really better suited to those who want to play casually instead of seriously, yet for the price is it really something a casual player would want? OnLive needs bigger games sooner, it needs a deeper community infrastructure, and ultimately it needs to ditch that wire and deliver itself as a more attractive package. The future may be in cloud gaming, but it isn't ready quite yet.

Audio/Visual: 4/5 - Visual quality changes from game to game, and really can't be judged, however it was nearly always a smooth picture and fantastically sharp and responsive during our play test.

Gameplay: 3/5 - Ok, this is actually more how easy it is to use, and it's really pretty painless and simple. The menus however are a bit heavy, and it's not as attractive as just logging on and pressing a button to get to a game, but still it's not bad.

Innovation: 3/5 - This is really where OnLive should really excel. It offers some grand ideas, but doesn't follow through on them like you'd want it to. With more refinement though it could be killer.

Value: 3/5 – If you pick up the MicroConsole it'll set you back £70, which isn't bad for a console, but then you'll be paying on top for a subscription and to purchase games that aren't exactly the newest around. The desktop version however is a much more attractive prospect due to being free. PlayPack also provides you with plenty to play if you're not bothered by the latest titles.

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Big Fish Games bets on the cloud with a cross-platform casual gaming service

The cloud is quickly becoming an integral part to the future of the game industry, a vision that Sony clearly believes in when it recently acquired Gaikai, a cloud-based gaming service, for $380 million. Gaikai's rival competitor, OnLive, hasn't been doing so bad for itself, either.

Amid this ongoing war between services that stream PC and console-quality games over an Internet connection, the casual gaming space has been left untouched. Big Fish Games, the mega publisher of casual games for PC, Mac, and mobile devices, is looking to change that.

Last week, Big Fish gave us a sneak peek of its (unnamed) cloud gaming service - a first in the casual games market – that is set to launch this summer.

"There are others looking at core [games] streaming," said Will O' Brien, the VP and general manager of cloud gaming at Big Fish Games, "and the technology behind that needs to be super-low latency and high bandwidth. They're trying to solve a different problem than we are. We're really excited about what we have here. We know it's something you can play today."

O'Brien brought an assortment of Android tablets, along with an iPad and a laptop, to prove his point. With the help of his 4G hotspot, he showed us two different types of games running on the service: a popular tile-matching puzzle game and a hidden-object title.

"So what's happening is that the game's initiating a session with the server and streaming down to this [tablet]," O'Brien said. "So the device is locally decoding the video. When I tap, it's sending a click signal to the [remote servers]...it's taking this game that was originally built for the PC and now making it work on a tablet without changing the source code."

Like Netflix, Big Fish Games' service can dynamically adjust the quality of the video, depending on how strong or weak your Internet connection becomes. At first, it was somewhat difficult to play the hidden object game due to how pixelated the video looked, but the picture quality cleared up a few moments later as the connection strengthened. O'Brien then showed us the same game running side-by-side on two different devices: Once he exited the game on a tablet, he immediately picked up where he left off on a laptop.

"[Our service] is fulfilling that vision and that promise of cross-platform ubiquity without having to build the games to support every platform," he said. "So I think it's really disruptive and groundbreaking in the industry and Big Fish is in a position [to do that] because of our brand, our millions of customers, our developers, and the content we have."

According to O'Brien, it wasn't until recently that the technology was feasible enough to create a seamless multiplatform gameplay experience. "[We started working on this 18 months ago] because consumer broadband rates have been increasing," he said. "We can meet the mainstream customer's profile today, [where] the average Internet speed in the U.S. is about 3.2Mbps, and we're targeting a 1 to 2Mbps. So we can meet that.... This is bleeding edge, but also viable."

Though Big Fish Games has released over 2,500 titles at its online portal within the last 10 years (releasing one new game every day for six of those years), its cloud gaming service will start out with just a small selection of that catalog. When it launches later this summer with a proper name and branding, around 100 games should be available to play on demand, with new games added every week.

Pricing has yet to be announced, but O'Brien said they're considering the usual all-you-can-eat subscription, along with a possible free-to-play model with limited content and ad-support. And while their cloud gaming service is currently running on PC, iOS, and Android, Big Fish Games will reveal specific platforms that support it later on this year.

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Vizio Co-Star player marries Google TV, OnLive cloud gaming

Addition of on-demand gaming and a low price gives you a reason to care about Google TV.

First teased at CES 2012, Vizio's Google TV plans are now moving forward with the launch of the Co-Star Stream Player.

While we're still waiting for Google TV to fulfill its promise, the Co-Star makes the most of the platform's current capabilities by combining live TV and streaming services. Along with wired and wireless Internet connections for Web surfing using Google Chrome with Adobe Flash Player and HTML 5 support, apps, and streaming video and music services, the player can be connected to a cable or satellite TV box.

As an added bonus for both casual and regular gamers, support for OnLive's cloud gaming service is available, too. Though it was initially only supposed to support viewing games, it now appears that you'll be able to demo, watch, and play OnLive's large game library with the Co-Star.

The Co-Star is priced at $99.99 direct from Vizio, which is extremely competitive especially in light of Sony's recent Google TV entry, the $199.99 NSZ-GS7. An OnLive microconsole is the same price as the Co-Star, however that includes a controller; the Co-Star, though compatible with OnLive's wireless controller and several third-party controllers, will only include its universal Bluetooth remote.

The remote does look nice, though, with a touch pad, full QWERTY keyboard with gaming buttons, and direct launch buttons for Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and M-Go (but oddly no OnLive button).

Connections include two HDMI ports (one in, one out), Ethernet, and a USB port for hard drives, keyboards, or other peripherals. There's 802.11n wireless built-in, too.

Pre-orders start in July 2012 on Vizio's site and include free shipping while supplies last.

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EA President Says EA Gaming is Going 100% Digital

Gamers have known for years now that the transition to all-digital gaming is coming. For PC gaming, that transition has already largely taken place, with services such as Valve's Steam, OnLive, and EA's Origin. However seeing the future coming and hearing an executive at one of the largest video game publishers in the world confirm it are two different things.

This week Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, said in an interview with Games Industry International that EA is "going to be a 100% digital company, period." Gibeau is in charge of EA's product management and marketing for EA Sports, EA Games, Maxis, and Bioware. If anyone in the industry knows the direction gaming is headed it, it's him.

Of course, all-digital gaming will also allow EA to have more control over how gamers play their games. EA was named "worst company in America" by The Consumerist this past year for on-disc or day-one downloadable content (DLC) for its titles and for banning users from accessing their Origin-bought games. An all-digital gaming industry will mean publishers having complete control and oversight of gamers' gaming habits, and will probably mean an end to the second-hand game market.

The real turning point for gaming going completely digital is when consoles do away with their disc drives in favor of digital downloads of games. Gibeau stated that the digital shift is "in the near future," so perhaps he is hinting that the next generation of consoles will not have disc drives. There have already been rumors that the next-generation Xbox console will do away with discs. However, with Sony motivated to keep the Blu-Ray format alive, and Microsoft wanting its Xbox brand to be the center of customers' living room entertainment experience, it seems likely that at least the next generation of consoles will have Blu-Ray disc drives.

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Why Apple Should Start Streaming Games

On Monday, Sony Computer Entertainment acquired cloud-based game streaming company Gaikai for around $380 million in a move that is sure to excite fans of the company's PlayStation devices. If the Japanese company uses its purchase to create a compelling alternative to OnLive, it has the potential to gain a huge advantage over rivals like Microsoft and Nintendo.

The same service could provide an even bigger advantage to Apple. In fact, there are a number of reasons why the Cupertino company should use its ever-increasing cash pile to make Mac and iOS gaming even greater.

Devices

Firstly, it already has the devices: The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod touch, Macs, and even the Apple TV are all devices that are perfect for taking advantage of a cloud-based game streaming service

iOS devices are perfect for taking advantage of a cloud-based game streaming service.

iOS devices have already proven themselves as incredibly popular gaming devices, and they're already stealing chunks of market share from handheld consoles like the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo 3DS. Furthermore, the success of titles like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Temple Run are proof that we love to play games on our smartphones and tablets.

As for the Apple TV, we've been waiting for Apple to introduce apps and games to its set-top box since it opened the doors to the App Store. And of course, Game streaming services are famous for their ability to deliver high-quality games to devices with mediocre specifications, and so the Apple TV's A5 processor means no internal improvements would be necessary. Even its 8GB of storage is plenty, because nothing needs to be saved locally.

The only thing Apple may need to add is a controller, but for a lot of games, we could use our iOS devices for control.

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The Cloud

Apple is already pushing us to live in the cloud. iCloud, with features like iTunes Match and cloud-based backup, is proof of that. And there's a good reason for this: As the Cupertino company strives to make devices cheaper, smaller, and lighter, one of the big hits will be to storage.

As Apple strives to make devices cheaper, smaller, and lighter, one of the big hits will be to storage.

We've already seen this with the MacBook Air - a fully-fledged notebook computer that can be purchased with just 64GB of storage. And the iPhone 4, which is now available with just 8GB of storage.

But titles like FIFA 12 and Infinity Blade II take up more than 1GB of storage on our iOS devices, and that's a problem if you only have 8GB to begin with. What's more, most of us only play these games for short periods of time, and no one really wants them stuck on their device all of the time eating up their space.

By moving our games to the cloud, we'll be saving all that storage. You can remove big games safe in the knowledge that they'll be there for you to stream whenever you want them - just like the rest of your library.

The other advantage to this is that we can wave goodbye to those hefty updates. Every time we update an app, we don't just download a "patch" or "fix" - we have to download the entire package each time. But with game streaming, our games will be updated automatically in the cloud ready to stream to our devices.

Of course, you'll still have the ability to store chosen games locally, for those times when you don't have access to a speedy broadband connection.

Syncing

With game streaming, it wouldn't matter which device you're using; you would simply pick up right where you left off the last time you closed your game.

Right now, one of the biggest problems for iOS gamers is the lack of syncing between devices. That means you must complete the same levels, missions, or achievements on your iPhone after you've completed them on your iPad. There are already ways around this, but not nearly enough developers are taking advantage of them.

With game streaming, it wouldn't matter which device you're using; you would simply pick up right where you left off the last time you closed your game. It couldn't be more seamless.

Pricing

Apple wouldn't need to make any changes to its existing price model whatsoever. We'll pay the same amount we currently do for Mac and iOS games, only we choose whether to store them locally or stream them from the cloud.

The only difference would be a small annual fee - like the $25 we pay for iTunes Match - for our share of cloud-based storage.

Wrap-Up

A service like this is one way of making Apple's impact on the games industry even greater.

So there are a number of reasons why it would be incredibly easy - and incredibly beneficial - for Apple to kickstart a cloud-based game-streaming service of its own. The company has already had a huge impact on the gaming industry with its iOS devices, and a service like this is one way of making that impact even greater.

Would you like to see a game streaming service from Apple?

 

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5/6/2012 - Google's Brin Bashes Hollywood, China, Facebook as Enemies of Internet Freedom

Google's Brin Bashes Hollywood, China, Facebook as Enemies of Internet Freedom

By Damon Poeter

Google co-founder Sergey Brin unloaded on Facebook, Apple, anti-piracy advocates, and government censors in an exclusive interview with the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper published Sunday. Brin referenced "very powerful forces that have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world," telling the paper that he didn't think it would be possible to create the company he founded with Larry Page in today's climate.

Brin, who reportedly took a lead role in confronting China over Internet censorship in 2010, said he had been proven wrong in his belief that it wouldn't be possible for an authoritarian government to restrict the Internet for very long.

"I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle," he told the The Guardian.

Government censorship like China's, which has been emulated by other regimes around the world, combined with efforts by the entertainment industry to control the flow of information over the Internet, and what he criticized as the "restrictive" practices of Facebook and Apple have left Brin troubled, he told the newspaper.

"I am more worried than I have been in the past. It's scary," he said.

Brin said the amount of control Facebook and Apple exercise over their online platforms and user base was "stifling innovation" and "balkanising the Web."

"There's a lot to be lost," he told The Guardian. "For example, all the information in apps - that data is not crawlable by Web crawlers. You can't search it."

The Google co-founder, 38, claimed Facebook's model in particular was a problem.

"You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," Brin told the newspaper. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the Web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."

He also had harsh words for what he described as the entertainment industry's attempts to "control the Internet" through a legislatively driven crackdown on online piracy. Brin said Hollywood was "shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot" by pushing U.S. legislators to pass legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

While those bills stalled in Congress, in part due to objections from Google, Wikipedia, and other Internet industry heavyweights, Brin accused the backers of such laws of trying to enact rules that he claimed would have a similar effect on Internet freedoms as censorship imposed by the governments of China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Such proposed laws were also counterproductive for big content providers as well, he said.

"I haven't tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work - and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy," Brin told The Guardian.

 

Apple Retina iPad advertisements finally cover the United States

By Chris Burns

You might not have noticed it if your Apple sensor is as normalized as your love for great advertising, but billboards, bus stations, and print ads across the United States have finally switched from iPad 2 to the new iPad for 2012. Have a peek back at our report on when the states were still sticking with iPad 2 advertisements to see the oddity the vast majority of the USA didn't find necessary to notice, then take a peek at a few of the new ads up this week. They've been up for a couple weeks, actually, everywhere from Minneapolis all the way down to San Francisco!

Interestingly enough, the new iPad advertisements concentrate more on the power of the new Retina display they pack than the brand dominance the iPad line as a whole has. The iPad 2 signs you see here both show the iPad as a singularly monstrous force of nature – so great that it doesn't need more than an image of itself and its name aside the Apple logo. Now the new iPad features a bit of a tagline along with the display of the product in plain view.

The operating system also seems to have taken a step back in the new iPad signs, where iPad 2 pictures had a home screen in plain view or at a side-glance everywhere you looked. All this said, we're still hearing the average citizen thinking the iPad 2 is the new iPad or that the new iPad advertisements simply show the iPad 2 – one thing everyone seems to agree on is that they want one as soon as possible.

How about you? What say you about Apple's advertising scheme for the iPad as it stands today?

PSN going temporarily offline Monday, April 16

By Laura Parker

Sony has announced that it will be performing a routine scheduled maintenance of the PlayStation Network this Monday, April 16.

The maintenance will begin at 6am PDT/9am EDT on Monday and last 13 hours. During this time, users will not be able to play online via the PSN. Users will also lose access to the PlayStation Store, PlayStation Home, and account management.

Additionally, PSN-enabled websites will also be unavailable to users during the blackout period, including the official PlayStation blog.

All services will resume around 7pm PDT/10 pm EDT Monday night.

Users who want to keep track of when PSN and associated services are back online can follow the PlayStation Twitter feed for updates.

 

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26/3/2012 - Currency Trading at $5 Trillion a Day Surpassed Pre-Lehman High, BIS Says

Currency Trading at $5 Trillion a Day Surpassed Pre-Lehman High, BIS Says

By Anchalee Worrachate and David Goodman.

Currency trading may have risen to a record $5 trillion a day in September, surpassing the peak reached before Lehman Brothers (LEHMQ) Holdings Inc.'s collapse in 2008, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Trading then declined to about $4.7 trillion a day in October and is likely to have fallen considerably in early 2012, the Basel, Switzerland-based bank said in a report. The BIS said it derived its estimates from supplementing the data in its foreign-exchange survey, which is undertaken every three years, with information collected from central banks and electronic- trading platforms.

The surveys found currency trading kept increasing in the first year of the financial crisis, climbing to about $4.5 trillion a day in September 2008, shortly before Lehman's collapse, Morten Bech, a senior economist at the BIS, wrote in the research paper. Average daily trading volume then plunged to $3 trillion in April 2009, he wrote.

"By mid-2009, global foreign-exchange activity had started to pick up again and it rose to $4 trillion a day in April 2010," Bech wrote. "Our measure shows the foreign-exchange activity may have reached $5 trillion a day in September 2011, before dropping off considerably by the end of the year."
Trading Surges

Foreign-exchange trading has surged as central banks including the Federal Reserve flooded markets with cash to combat the global financial crisis. Japan intervened to help its exporters after a record earthquake and tsunami a year ago, while the Swiss central bank imposed a cap to stem franc strength in September. Efforts to boost growth by protecting exports started a "currency war," Brazil Finance Minister Guido Mantega said in September 2010.

The dollar traded at $1.3109 per euro at 8:42 a.m. in London, up 0.1 percent from last week. The greenback slid 0.3 percent to 82.24 yen after rising to 82.65 on March 9, the strongest since April 27.

Bech said the recent data showed London remained the center with the highest volume of foreign-exchange trading, followed by New York.

"The turnover in the United Kingdom dwarfs that of any other market center," he wrote. "At slightly over $2 trillion per day in April 20111, its reported volume was larger than the other surveyed markets put together."
Volatility

Implied volatility of three-month options on Group of Seven currencies as tracked by the JPMorgan G7 Volatility Index (JPMVXYG7) climbed to 26.6 percent on Oct. 24, 2008, the most since Bloomberg began compiling the data in 1992. The gauge reached a 15-month high of 15.8 percent on Sept. 23 before falling to as low as 9.71 on Feb. 24.

A lower figure makes investments in currencies with higher benchmark lending rates more attractive as the risk in such trades is that market moves will erase profits.

The BIS report differs from its triennial currency survey, with the next one scheduled for April 2013. In the previous survey published in September 2010, it said the average daily trading volume increased 20 percent from 2007 to $4 trillion.

The BIS supplemented its survey data with information taken from central-bank sponsored industry groups in the U.K., North America, Canada, Singapore, Japan and Australia. It also took data from electronic-trading systems operated by EBS and Thomson Reuters, Hotspot FX and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The BIS also used data from CLS Bank, the New York-based operator of the largest currency-trading settlement system. CLS handled an average of $4.5 trillion per day in 2011, compared with $2 trillion in early 2005, according to the BIS report.

"While good and timely data are available on prices of foreign-exchange instruments, the same is not true for trading activity," Bech wrote. "In this article, I show how it is possible to leverage alternative sources of FX activity to obtain a timelier grasp of turnover developments."

The BIS was formed in 1930 and acts as a central bank for the world's monetary authorities. It has published the triennial survey since 1989.

UPDATE 1-Nokia to shut Indian mobile money service

March 12 (Reuters) - Nokia will close down Nokia Money, a financial service it runs in India, as it continues to narrow its focus on its phone business and location-based services.

"The mobile financial services business is not core to Nokia so we plan to exit the business," said a spokesman for the company.

After regional launches Nokia opened the India-wide service only late last year and was planning to expand it into several other emerging markets.

Financial services are seen as one of the major business opportunities in the wireless industry but so far have become a big business only in Kenya and the Philippines, as tight regulations and the lack of a business model have restricted take-up elsewhere.

Telecom operators, banks, credit card companies and technology firms like Nokia have been fighting to get a piece of the potentially lucrative business.

"The market is crowded and the role of Nokia in that business was questionable," said John Strand, head of mobile consultancy Strand Consult.

Nokia is in the midst of revamping its operations under Chief Executive Stephen Elop, who was hired in September 2010 to turn the company round.

The company has closed down most of the mobile services launched under previous management and has also cut thousands of jobs as it continues to battle falls in its market share. (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by David Holmes, Greg Mahlich)

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26/3/2012 - China Slowdown May Portend Easing as Asia Considers Options for Stimulus

China Slowdown May Portend Easing as Asia Considers Options for Stimulus

By loomberg News.

China's economic growth slowed in the first two months of the year, with both exports and domestic demand moderating faster than analysts had forecast, building the case for Premier Wen Jiabao to accelerate stimulus measures.

The world's second-largest economy had the biggest trade deficit last month in at least 22 years, the weakest January- February factory-production gain since 2009 and retail sales below the median economist estimate, government data showed March 9 and 10.

Central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said today that the nation has large scope in theory for lowering banks' reserve requirements, and the yuan tumbled after officials weakened the reference rate. Moderating inflation and Europe's faltering export demand may encourage the government to loosen credit and pause on currency gains, with the yuan down 0.5 percent this year against the dollar after climbing 4.5 percent in 2011.

"We are likely to see another cut sometime soon" in the required-reserves ratio, Brian Jackson, a Hong Kong-based economist with Royal Bank of Canada, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. "If you look at the January and February numbers combined, whether it's trade, whether it's industrial production, it all shows a pretty clear picture of things continuing to slow down since the start of the year."

The yuan fell 0.2 percent to 6.3239 as of 12:11 p.m. in Shanghai, the biggest decline since Jan. 20, after the central bank weakened the daily reference rate by the most since August 2010. The MSCI Asia Pacific index of stocks fell 0.6 percent as of 2:20 p.m. in Tokyo.
Vietnam Cuts Rates

In Asia, officials are weighing the need to preserve firepower for any deterioration in Europe with controlling inflation. Vietnam cut benchmark rates today, reducing the refinancing rate to 14 percent from 15 percent. India last week unexpectedly reduced its cash reserve ratio and Australia's central bank said it has scope to lower rates, while South Korea and Indonesia held off from stimulus.

Speaking at a briefing in Beijing as part of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, Zhou said changes in capital flows and foreign-exchange reserves were key factors in decisions on bank reserve ratios, cut in February for the second time in three months. He said that such reductions were not an indication of policy loosening.

In a statement, the central bank reaffirmed a "prudent" monetary policy, to be fine-tuned as needed, and said "new ideas" will be used in managing the world's largest foreign- currency reserves of $3.18 trillion.
European Data

Stocks around the world rallied at the end of last week as Greece's private creditors agreed to a debt swap, the U.S. reported job growth that exceeded forecasts and China's data spurred talk of new stimulus. The U.S. Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.4 percent on March 9.

In Asia, a Malaysian report today may show that industrial production growth slowed in January, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists, while Japan reported better-than-estimated machinery orders for January.

In Europe, Italy may report today that gross domestic product shrank 0.7 percent last quarter from the previous three- month period, confirming a preliminary estimate, according to another survey of analysts. In the U.S., the Treasury Department may say the government's budget deficit widened in February.

China will keep the exchange rate "basically stable at an appropriate and balanced level," Wen, 69, said in the opening speech to the National People's Congress on March 5. He announced an economic-growth target for 2012 of 7.5 percent, down from the 8 percent goal in place since 2005.

Appreciation in the yuan will be "difficult," said Shen Jianguang, a Hong Kong-based economist for Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd., who previously worked for the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
Rate, Ratio Cuts

Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Hong Kong, is forecasting an interest-rate reduction this month and lower reserve requirements starting in April.

Zhou, 64, said inflation-adjusted interest rates may remain negative for some time and that a too-rapid increase in the benchmark one-year deposit interest rate, now at 3.5 percent, would lead to large capital inflows, given that "some developed countries are implementing very loose monetary policy and global liquidity is quite ample."

He didn't discuss how so-called real interest rates turned positive for the first time in more than two years with last week's report of 3.2 percent inflation in February.

In China, the February trade shortfall of $31.5 billion reported March 10 by the customs bureau in Beijing was the first in a year and four times the size of the previous largest deficit. Exports (CNFREXPY) rose 18.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports gained 39.6 percent.
No Conclusions

Zhou cautioned against making any conclusions from the deficit, saying trade has seasonal distortions at the beginning or end of the year. "We may need a relatively long time to observe it," he told reporters.

Data in the first two months are distorted by the timing of a Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in January this year and February in 2011. Analysts forecast a 31.1 percent increase in overseas sales and a 31.8 percent rise in inbound shipments, according to the median estimates in Bloomberg News surveys.

The rise in China's consumer prices in February was the least in 20 months. Industrial production gained 11.4 percent in January and February, less than forecast.

Retail sales rose 14.7 percent in the first two months from a year earlier, below the median economist estimate of 17.6 percent. New local-currency loans in February were 710.7 billion yuan ($113 billion), the People's Bank of China said March 9, lagging behind the median forecast of 750 billion yuan.
'Timely' Adjustments

Wen, in his work report to lawmakers last week, said the government will "carry out timely and appropriate anticipatory adjustments and fine-tuning" of fiscal and monetary policies.

Suntech Power Holdings Co., the largest maker of solar panels, said increased competition and government subsidy cuts will lead to a first-quarter drop in shipments, according to a statement March 8 from the Wuxi, China-based company. Deliveries in the first quarter will decline by about 30 percent from the fourth quarter, it said.

"Clearly, exports are still not strong enough to shore up 8 percent to 9 percent growth for China," said Ken Peng, a Beijing-based economist at BNP Paribas SA. "More policy support is necessary in coming months to ensure sufficient funding for investment."

--Zheng Lifei and Li Yanping in Beijing, with assistance from Shamim Adam in Singapore. Editor: Paul Panckhurst

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26/3/2012 - Stocks Drop for First Time Four Days as Commodities Decline on China Trade

Stocks Drop for First Time Four Days as Commodities Decline on China Trade

By Lynn Thomasson and Jacob Adelman.

Stocks (MXWO) fell for the first time in four days, commodities slid and the yuan weakened after Chinese exports grew at a slower pace than forecast. Indian shares advanced as the central bank unexpectedly cut reserve requirements for banks.

The MSCI All-Country World Index (MXWD) dropped 0.2 percent as of 8:06 a.m. in London. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.2 percent and Standard & Poor's 500 Index futures slipped 0.2 percent. The yuan fell after China's central bank weakened its daily fixing for the currency by the most since August 2010. Yields on German 10-year bonds fell two basis points to 1.78 percent. The S&P GSCI gauge of 24 commodities lost 0.4 percent, led by natural gas and silver.

China reported the biggest trade deficit in at least 22 years on March 10, adding to data last week on factory output and retail sales that signaled slowing economic growth. European finance ministers will meet in Brussels today to sign off on the 130 billion-euro ($170 billion) aid package for Greece and discuss Spain's budget-cutting efforts.

"All the economic data point to a slowing trend" in China, said Wu Kan, a Shanghai-based fund manager at Dazhong Insurance Co., which oversees $285 million. "Investors are expecting the government to loosen monetary policy, though whether the government moves fast enough to satisfy those expectations remains to be seen."
Reserve-Ratio Cut

The BSE India Sensitive Index, or Sensex, gained 0.5 percent after the central bank on March 9 reduced the amount of deposits lenders need to set aside as reserves to ease a cash squeeze in the banking system. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.4 percent and South Korea's Kospi Index (KOSPI) lost 0.8 percent.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific gauge slid 1 percent last week, ending a record run of 11 weekly advances. The valuation for the equity benchmark reached 15 times estimated earnings in February, the highest level in almost two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (HSCEI) declined 0.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will close an annual gathering of the legislature this week. The nation cut its 2012 economic growth target to 7.5 percent on March 5, down from 8 percent over the past seven years.
China Exports

Exports from China rose 18.4 percent last month from a year earlier, while imports gained 39.6 percent. Analysts forecast a 31.1 percent increase in overseas sales and that inbound shipments would rise 31.8 percent, based on estimates from Bloomberg News surveys.

China Railway Group Ltd. (390), the country's biggest builder of train lines, tumbled 5.4 percent in Hong Kong. A 300-meter section of an unopened high-speed railway collapsed in central China's Hubei province following heavy rains, Xinhua News said, citing local authorities.

The yuan lost 0.22 percent to 6.3245 per dollar for the biggest drop since January. The daily reference rate was set 0.33 percent lower at 6.3282 per dollar. The currency can move 0.5 percent either side of the fixing.

Brent oil for April settlement slid 0.5 percent to $125.39 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Hedge funds reduced bullish bets on oil for the first time in five weeks as concern about a conflict with Iran decreased. Large speculators cut wagers on rising prices by 7.3 percent in the week ended March 6, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Oil, Cotton

"The data from China is a downside pressure on the oil market," said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity-derivative sales manager at Newedge Group in Tokyo. "The trade deficit is much bigger than expected."

Cotton futures dropped as much as 0.9 percent to 88.01 cents a pound in New York. India, the world's second-biggest cotton producer, scrapped a one-week-old ban on exports of the fiber after protests from growers, traders and China, the nation's largest customer.

The cost of insuring bonds against non-payment in Asia rose, according to credit-default swap traders. The Markit iTraxx Asia index of 40 investment-grade borrowers outside Japan increased 2 basis points to 159 basis points, Barclays Plc prices show. The measure is headed for its highest close since March 7, according to data provider CMA.

Yields on Australia's 10-year government bonds declined nine basis points to 3.92 percent. Ten-year Treasury yields fell one basis point to 2.01 percent.

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