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24/7/2012 - Australian Dementia app goes Android

Australian Dementia app goes Android

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THE world's first mobile application aimed at reducing people's dementia risk is now available for Android phone users.

BrainyApp, which was developed by Alzheimer's Australia and Bupa Health Foundation, has been downloaded more than 200,000 times worldwide since it was made available for iPhone and iPad in November last year.

Alzheimer's Australia national president Ita Buttrose said Android phone users had inundated the organisation with requests to access the mobile app since its launch.

"We have had enquiries from people and other Alzheimer's associations from around the world, including The Netherlands, South Africa, Mexico and Iceland, wanting to know when the Android version wil l be available," she said in a statement.

"It is extremely encouraging to see that so many people want to make active lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of developing dementia."

The free mobile app tests your brain-heart health, tells you areas that you should focus on, suggests activities you might do and lets you track how these activities have affected your health.

You can also access information about dementia and play challenging 'brain training games'.

A Facebook Phone Has 0% Chance of Success

By Evan Niu (TMFNewCow), The Motley Fool

Surely, you've heard the rumors by now: Facebook (NAS: FB) is building a smartphone. A New York Times report in May has renewed talk of a Facebook Phone, while speculation dates as far back as 2010. All Things D chimed in last November, saying the social networker was tapping HTC for the hardware, although the recent report says Facebook now wants to do its own hardware.

The problem for Facebook is that it would have exactly a 0% chance of succeeding.

Where do we start?

Assuming Facebook is interested in building a smartphone, how would it even accomplish this? What operating system will it run?

iOS is only available to companies whose names rhyme with "chapel," and Facebook already loathes Google (NAS: GOOG) , as in let's-hire-a-PR-firm-to-launch-a-smear-campaign-against-it loathing, so standard Android seems far-fetched. It has numerous ties with Microsoft, but Windows Phone has an embarrassingly low market share.

Hewlett-Packard's (NYS: HPQ) webOS is about to see an open-source release, but who really wants to be associated with that platform after its tumultuous history? Not even HP, as making webOS open-source is akin to donating it to charity, complete with a tax write-off from all the impairments it ate. I doubt that Facebook wants to go with the equivalent of a "free to a good home" Craigslist post for a major strategic shift.

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The only real possibility is a heavily forked version of Android that's unrecognizable to the average user, much like what Amazon.com did with the Kindle Fire and is likely doing with its own Kindle Phone. But then at that point, you're talking about three very distinct flavors of Android -- a Google Android, an Amazon Android, and a Facebook Android -- each with their own ecosystems. That just sounds like a nightmare for developers and consumers alike.

Why ask why?

The big question is why Facebook would want to get into the cutthroat and incredibly complex smartphone business. The carriers themselves also happen to hate a little thing I like to call "innovation," and Facebook wants to get in bed with them?

Beyond the fact that mobile is a giant Achilles' heel for Facebook as it is, I find it hard to believe that would be motivation enough to jump into smartphones, especially since the report believes that Facebook is looking at getting into its own hardware, poaching Apple (NAS: AAPL) hardware engineers in the process.

No, this is beyond profiting on hardware, which is already incredibly hard to do. This is about becoming a platform company. Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have taken lessons from Apple and Steve Jobs and now don't want to be relegated to being just another social-networking app on a user's home screen. It wants to become its own platform, complete with its own payment system and cut of sales.

Facebook doesn't want to rely entirely on advertising forever, growing its desktop payments platform to 16% of trailing-12-month sales. That growth is thanks in large part to Zynga's (NAS: ZNGA) success in casual social gaming, but Zynga also wants to become a platform company. IHS iSuppli also noted earlier this year that users on Facebook's platform have stagnated lately.

So just as Facebook was beginning to enjoy some platform dollars, its user engagement begins to decline and its biggest contributor wants to go it alone. It makes sense why Facebook would want to move on to greener mobile-platform pastures, but Zuckerberg should also be smart enough to realize how bad of an idea this is.

Burn, baby, burn!

Just as Facebook and Apple are now getting awfully cozy with multiple integration partnerships, a smartphone entry would immediately begin burning bridges to Cupertino.

Consider Google's decision to compete directly with Apple using Android. Big G and the Mac maker were the best of buds until then, and now Apple tries to cut Google out of the loop wherever possible, most recently by developing its own in-house maps app. Steve Jobs had also made a comment or two on the topic.

Even as Android has quickly risen to become the dominant mobile OS in the world, it's hard to see who is actually profiting from that rise. Android OEMs, for the most part, aren't. Google doesn't disclose Android-related revenues explicitly, so it's hard to quantify how much Google itself actually benefits from Android. Google would have dominating mobile advertising anyway, especially if it was still close with Apple, and probably could have scored integration of its services into iOS, so the incremental monetary benefit of Android to Google relative to if it didn't exist is questionable.

Yet the costs of Android are significant. It has direct costs for ongoing development and support, potential patent litigation costs, and not to mention that $12.5 billion it just spent on a bleeding business. The cost/benefit trade-off doesn't add up to me.

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Does Facebook want to spurn the largest tech company in the world for dubious benefits, as Google did before it? Google is already on Facebook's enemy list, and having both Google and Apple gunning against you isn't an enviable position.

What were we saying?

To get into the smartphone business, Facebook will need to deploy extensive engineering efforts that it doesn't have, enter the consumer electronics space where it literally has no experience, find manufacturing partners, forge relationships with wireless carriers that are notoriously difficult and controlling, and burn bridges with one of its most important and powerful partners, all for a minuscule chance that it finds but a modicum of success.

What we were saying about cost/benefit tradeoffs, again?

Competing directly with Apple usually doesn't go well for rivals. The iPhone now has nearly unstoppable momentum that will drive growth for years. Sign up for The Motley Fool's brand-new premium Apple research service to read more. Facebook is under pressure to find new revenue sources beyond advertising, but this social networking company already has one. Grab a free copy of this special report on the tech stock you should be buying instead of Facebook.

For HTC, Beats partnership was missing a beat

By Om Malik

Beats Electronics, which sold half the company to Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp., for $300 million in August 2011, says it is buying back 25 percent of itself for roughly $150 million, and thus taking majority control of the company. Beats is a headphone and accessory company started by hip-hop impresario Jimmy Iovine and rap legend Dr. Dre. HTC is expected to lose about $5 million on this investment. In a press release HTC noted:

Under the terms of the agreement, the founding members of Beats will buy back 25% of its total shares for a total of approximately 75% ownership, with HTC remaining the largest outside shareholder with approximately 25%. Over the last year, HTC and Beats have made great progress in sound innovation, product integration and brand awareness with successes like the HTC One. HTC and Beats will continue to work closely, including a joint global marketing campaign later this year.

Frankly, I am not surprised that this partnership is heading south. Last year when the two companies announced their arrangement, I pointed out that this was indeed a bandaid being applied to a gaping wound. While Beats might bring a coolness factor, it was clear that HTC, was going to get pummeled in the market by the surging Samsung and other Chinese handset makers such as Huawei, I argued.

Earlier this month when Samsung and HTC announced their sales, it was clear that two companies were headed in opposite directions. The economic troubles in Europe haven't helped matters either for HTC. By selling back half its stake in Beats, is actually a good thing as it allows the company to focus sharply on its next generation of handsets and tablets.

Taiwan stocks down; HTC weighs after Beats stake sale

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TAIPEI, July 23 (Reuters) - Taiwan stocks fell 0.82 percent
on Monday, with HTC Corp losing 2.67 percent, after
the smartphone maker sold 25 percent of its holding in audio
technology firm Beats Electronics back to Beats' founders.

The main TAIEX index fell 58.69 points to 7,105.99,
after ending up 0.23 percent in the previous session.
Chip makers were among the biggest drag, with
heavyweight TSMC down 2.22 percent. The company
flagged a cautious outlook last Thursday despite posting a
quarterly profit that was its second highest on record.

Electronics shares shed 1.53 percent, while
financial shares fell 1.15 percent.
The Taiwan dollar was down by T$0.034 to trade at
T$30.029.
Foreign investors were net buyers on Friday, bringing down
their total selling to T$37.86 billion this month.


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Jackson County Sheriff's Office unveils smartphone app

BY TONY RIZZO

A new smartphone app from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office gives instant access information ranging from deadbeat parents to fugitives.

The app for Android smart devices is a free download and can be found by searching MOJacksonSO on Google Play.

"It lets us get important information right to people's fingertips," Sheriff Mike Sharp said in a news release.

The sheriff's office said the app will allow the agency to channel news directly to users' smartphones about things like missing persons, weather alerts, prisoner escapes and bank robberies.

The app is also integrated with VINELink, a national victim notification service that provides information about the custody status of those charged with crimes.

"We know that more and more people are getting the information they need from their smartphones," Sharp said in his statement. "We want to make sure we're using the latest communication technology to keep the public informed, and this app lets us do that."

According to the sheriff's office, the app also offers real-time access to detention center information as well as lists of wanted criminals or non-custodial parents with the app.

"The app greatly improves our ability to serve the public," Sharp said, "and that's what we're here for."

While the app is currently only available for Google Inc.'s Android devices, Sgt. Ronda Montgomery said efforts are under way to also make it available for Apple's iPhone and iPad.

Insert Coin: Radian lets you use your camera, iPhone and Android device for time lapse projects

By Jason Hidalgo

In Insert Coin, we look at an exciting new tech project that requires funding before it can hit production. If you'd like to pitch a project, please send us a tip with "Insert Coin" as the subject line.

We've seen our fair share of time lapse tools at Insert Coin, ranging from last year's Triggertrap to the more recent Timelapse+ and Genie rig. Now we're throwing in another Kickstarter project into the mix, a motion time-lapse gadget called the Radian. Shaped like an oversized hockey puck, the Radian works with any camera that has a trigger-release input and can be used with or without a tripod. The device can be programmed through either an Android or iPhone app and lets you disconnect your smartphone once you've got your settings dialed in. Otherwise, you can use the Radian to take time-lapse photography with your iPhone or Android smartphone as well. A pledge of $150 gets you the standard Radian, while ponying up extra moolah nabs you a charcoal-colored variant as well as other goodies. If successful, delivery is slated for January. For more details, check out the video and source link after the break.

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24/7/2012 - Samsung Galaxy S3 hits 10 million sales mark early

Samsung Galaxy S3 hits 10 million sales mark early

by Steven Musil

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Handset maker's chief had predicted the Android-powered smartphone would sell 10 million units by the end of July.

Samsung's chief executive predicted last month that sales of the Galaxy S3 would hit 10 million by the end of July and it appears to have passed that milestone a little early.

Shin Jong-kyun, the president of Samsung's information technology and mobile communication division, told reporters that the Android-powered smartphone surpassed the 10 million sales mark but did not reveal specific sales figures, according to the Yonhap news agency. That translate to about 190,000 Galaxy S3s sold every day for the past two months.

Samsung's flagship handset, which available through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, is one of the most sought-after smartphones on the market. Last month, Sprint announced that "overwhelming demand" had forced the carrier to delay the handset's June 21 launch.

However, keeping it on retailers' shelves has been a bit of a battle. The phone has been swept up in a patent battle between Apple and Samsung, with the iPhone maker attempting to secure an injunction against U.S. sales of the device. However, that effort was tabled due to court docket overload.

The Galaxy S3, which offers a dual-core processor, a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, has also been the target of an Apple injunction attempt, but that effort was tabled last month when Koh ruled there were already too many issues to consider. CNET awarded the Galaxy S3 an Editors' Choice rating, earning four stars out of five. Reviewer Jessica Dolcourt said that the handset is "an excellent, top-end phone," and includes "high-performing hardware and creative software features."

LG Display Workers Charged Over Samsung Mobile Technology Theft

By Saeromi Shin

Six employees of LG Display Co. (034220), the world's second-largest flat-panel maker, have been charged over theft of technology from Samsung Mobile Display Co.

The six leaked or stole Samsung Mobile's organic light- emitting diode technology and business secrets, according to an indictment filed with Suwon District Court in South Korea. The accused include two former Samsung Mobile employees.

Samsung Mobile requested LG Display formally apologize and take steps needed to prevent reoccurrence, the company, merged with Samsung Display Co. this month, said in an e-mail today in response to questions. LG Display systematically took Samsung's OLED technology and core staff to overcome its own shortcomings, according to the e-mail.

The information obtained is widely known in the industry and isn't considered a trade secret, LG Display said in a separate e-mail. Seoul-based LG Display said it plans to take legal action against Samsung Display, a unit of Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), for defamation.

LG Display rose 1.8 percent to 23,100 won as of 11:46 a.m. in Seoul trading, while Samsung Electronics advanced 1.1 percent to 1,165,000 won. Samsung Display isn't publicly traded.

OLED televisions are as thin as 4 millimeters (0.2 inch) and produce sharper images than liquid-crystal-display models. Shipments of OLED TVs may surge 62-fold to 2.1 million sets in 2015 from 34,000 in 2012, according to an estimate by Englewood, Colorado-based IHS Inc.'s iSuppli.

How to Delete/Clear Browsing History on Chrome for Android and iOS

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Chrome web browser for iOS is released some days back and now it has become one of the most popular app downloaded from the App Store. The popularity of this browser has risen since then. Chrome for mobile is available for two of the most popular platforms – Android and iOS, but for Android, Chrome is only available for devices with Android 4.0 Ice cream Sandwich and above. This means that Chrome can be used only on devices like Samsung Galaxy SIII, HTC One V and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which runs on Android 4.0. Like most browsers, Chrome also lets you view and clear your browsing history, but sometimes things can get a little tricky. Let's learn how to delete/clear history on Chrome for mobile.

Clear Browsing History on Chrome for Android

Chrome for Android doesn't offer any such option from where you can delete the browsing history. That's why, just type "chrome:history" in the omnibox (the address bar). This also works on the desktop version for Chrome. This should open your complete browsing history.

If you want to delete a particular website (URL) then tap it to select that URL and then tap on "Remove selected items". Of course you can select multiple items and then remove them altogether from the history. But if you want to remove/clear your entire history, then tap on "Clear all browsing data".

Clear Browsing History on Chrome for iOS (iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone)

Typing "chrome:history" in the omnibox won't work on Chrome for iOS. It should have worked as it works on all other platforms, but strangely this trick doesn't work on iOS for now. To clear browsing history, open Chrome and tap on menu button next to address bar. You'll now be able to see various options, just tap on "Settings" and then "Clear browsing data."

Changes ring in the smartphone market

By Gao Yuan

Four out of the top five best-selling mobile devices in China were manufactured by Chinese companies, data from Sino Market Research Ltd showed in April. Chinese smartphone makers have managed to dominate the low- and middle-end market over the past several years. Provided to China Daily

Chinese companies look to cheaper end but suffer lower profit margins

Chinese smartphone manufacturers are taking more than half of the market share in China but find it hard to increase their profit margins, while the entry of newcomers will make competition more intense, industry insiders said.

In April, four out of the top five best-selling mobile devices in China were manufactured by indigenous Chinese companies, data from Sino Market Research Ltd showed. The top four local brands took more than 40 percent of the total sales volume in the market.

South Korean electronics maker Samsung Electronic Co's smartphones topped the best-selling list in April in the nation, selling more than 2 million smartphones, data from Sino showed.

"Chinese smartphone makers have managed to dominate the low- and middle-end market over the past several years but large numbers of buyers are price-sensitive and only willing to spend a little money in purchasing mobile phones," said Henry Lin, chairman and co-chief executive officer of NQ Mobile Inc, the world's largest mobile security provider.

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Only a few Chinese smartphone makers are in the high-end market. Lower priced cellphones usually have narrow profit margins.

"Apple Inc took only about 2 percent of the market share in the smartphone market but it took more than 80 percent of the profits," said Lin,

He added that high-end cellphone makers are willing to pay a higher cost in boosting innovation and user experience because their customers are expecting the best product performance.

The profit statement for the smartphone industry shows a more difficult situation for Chinese makers. Samsung and Apple Inc's products hold 99 percent of the profit, while local brands have to compete with other overseas manufacturers for the remaining 1 percent of profit, Southern Metropolis Daily reported, citing research released by Huabao Securities Co.

Battlefield

Moreover, overseas cellphone giants are targeting the Chinese market as the nation's smartphone penetration rate remains at about 10 percent.

In March, Nokia Corp introduced its first phone that runs on Microsoft Inc's Windows Phone operating system to the Chinese market. The move was believed to be a signal that the Finnish cellphone maker was trying to maintain its hold in the country's mobile phone market.

"The only way to change the situation in the Chinese market is to introduce more great products," said Stephen Elop, chief executive officer of Nokia.

Most of the local brands are focusing on producing lower-price devices - costing about 1,000 yuan ($159) each. Sales were boosted by contract phones. High-end cellphone makers are concentrating on lifting user experience because their customers seem to worry less about the price of the product.

"China has great potential for generating about 1 billion smartphone users over the next several years," said Lin, adding that one user will have more than one device at the same time, creating an even larger market for mobile device makers.

High-end brand makers seem to find it easier to sell their devices in China.

In April, China's smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp sold 150,000 phones in just 12 minutes as it launched the seventh round of an online sale.

The company makes high-end performing smartphones at affordable prices.

The company's phones are priced at 2,000 yuan. More than 1.65 million units had been sold by April since its debut in late October 2011, said a Xiaomi spokesman.

A number of Chinese Internet companies started to go mobile this year, their first incursion into the smartphone market.

In May, the Chinese Web search engine Baidu Inc teamed up with Sichuan Changhong Electric Co, China's home appliance maker, to promote low-end smartphones. The model was sold for less than 900 yuan.

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The e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd introduced its first smartphone based on a self-developed operating system this month. The price of the new gadget was priced at 999 yuan, the same as a bluetooth earphone for an iPhone.

On the same day, Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd, an Internet-based IT firm, also released a slightly higher priced smartphone, Bambook. The highest priced for the device is 1,499 yuan, enough to buy two Samsung Galaxy SII phones.

Qihoo 360 Technology Co, an Internet security company, also announced it would enter the mobile phone market this year.

Despite the growing competition, industry insiders believe there is still a lot of room for newcomers as the market remains young and heavily relies on the development of the mobile Internet, an even younger industry.

"The silver bullet for Chinese competitors to survive is to find a segment of the market and make specialized devices for that particular sector," said Lin.

Cellcom Lowest Signals Need for New Markets: Israel Overnight

By Shoshanna Solomon and Sridhar Natarajan

Israel's mobile phone market has grown enough to ensure sufficient competition in the industry and the government is encouraging companies to enter the fixed- line and cloud computing markets to augment revenue.

Cellcom Israel Ltd. (CEL) (CEL), Partner Communications Co. (PTNR) and Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp. (BEZQ), the country's three largest mobile phone operators, lost more than $15 billion in market value this year as government measures boosted competition in the industry and reduced costs for customers. Cellcom fell 5.9 percent to 21.3 shekels, or the equivalent of $5.32, the lowest level on record at the close in Tel Aviv today. Partner declined 6.9 percent to 12.8 shekels, or $3.20, the lowest since February 2003.

"The number of players in the market is the number we wanted," Eden Bar Tal, the director general at Israel's Ministry of Communication, said in a telephone interview on July 19. "Players who want to increase revenues should do this by providing additional services and not by taking advantage of a lack of competition."

The three stocks are the worst performers on the benchmark TA-25 Index this year as the measure lags behind the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Nasdaq Composite Index. (CCMP) The Bloomberg Israel-US Equity Index (ISRA25BN) of the most-traded Israeli companies in New York recorded the largest weekly rise this year as Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (MLNX) (MLNX) surged 35 percent.

The government required service providers cut fees by disbanding inter-network call charges and opening up the sector to new competition.

'Heating Up'

Hot Telecommunication System Ltd. (HOT), along with Golan Telecom Ltd., moved into Israel's mobile-phone space on May 14. Golan, partly owned by French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, began offering unlimited wireless services for less than 100 shekels, or $24.96, per month.

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The products compete with packages of Cellcom, Partner and Bezeq, which controlled 95 percent of the Israeli mobile-phone market, according to data from the Ministry of Communication.

"Pricing wars are heating up," Michael Klahr, an analyst at Citigroup Inc., wrote in a an e-mailed report on July 16. New operators like Golan Telecom and Hot will grab 7.7 percent of mobile phone subscribers from the incumbents within a year, a number that is higher than initial expectations, Klahr said.

Bezeq, the Tel Aviv-based company, which operates in the mobile phone industry through its unit Pelephone, gained 3 percent to 4.17 shekels, trimming this year's loss to 39 percent.

'Dynamic and Developing'

Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile phone provider, fell to the lowest level on record last week in New York as Partner, the nation's second-largest, capped its biggest five-day slump in two months. The company's New York shares have fallen 62 percent to $3.39 this year.

Rami Levi Chain Stores Hashikma Marketing 2006 Ltd. (RMLI), Israel's third-largest supermarket operator, began offering mobile-phone services in December in cooperation with Pelephone. The company said last month that the service now has 56,000 customers and that it's in talks with other operators to provide cheaper wireless packages to consumers.

"The telecom market is dynamic and developing all the time," Bar Tal said. "Players who want to increase revenue should do this by providing additional services and not by taking advantage of a lack of competition." Israel has a mobile phone subscription penetration rate of 130.2 percent compared to 130.5 percent for Europe, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries.

Israel's TA-25 Index (TA-25) has dropped 1.2 percent this year, lagging behind an advance of 8.4 percent for the S&P Index and 12.3 percent on the Nasdaq Composite Index.

Mellanox Surges

Israel, whose population of 7.8 million is similar in size to Switzerland, has about 60 companies trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, the most of any nation outside the U.S. after China. The country is also home to more startup companies per capita than the U.S.

The Bloomberg Israel-U.S. index recorded the biggest weekly advance since December 2011, led by gains for Mellanox, the largest company on the gauge.

Mellanox fell 3.4 percent to 361 shekels, or the equivalent of $90.12, in Tel Aviv today. The New York-traded shares reached $89.24 last week.

The company more than doubled its second-quarter sales over the same period last year and its third-quarter revenue forecast was 50 percent more than analysts' estimates.

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24/7/2012 - Nokia looks to revamp marketing strategy - FT

Nokia looks to revamp marketing strategy - FT

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Nokia is considering ripping up its traditional mass marketing strategy ahead of the unveiling of its new Windows 8 smartphone in the autumn, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The mobile phone maker has entered secret negotiations with European operators about forming an exclusive opportunity to launch a smartphone using the Windows 8 platform from Microsoft.

Operators that have held talks with Nokia include France Telecom, although no deal has yet been struck, according to the FT.

Nokia's usual sales approach, which relies on trying to get as many phones in as many hands as possible across all channels immediately, would be ditched in favor of partnerships that would help create dedicated support for its smartphones, initially through one or two networks in Europe, the FT said.

The newspaper cited one person with knowledge of the talks as saying these relationship will also offer the operator a financial stake in the success of the range.

Nokia Halves Price of Flagship Phone

Finnish Company Says Move on Windows-Based Smartphone Is 'Normal Strategy'

By JOHN D. STOLL

The price of Nokia Corp.'s NOK -7.57% flagship Lumia 900 Windows phone has been cut in half in the critical U.S. market, a little more than three months after the launch of the smartphone at AT&T Inc. T -0.54% stores.

The Lumia 900 hit the market at AT&T stores in April and the device had been priced at $99 with a two-year agreement, but a new price of $49.99 was introduced early Sunday.

The price cut comes as Nokia's smartphone performance is under significant scrutiny given the financial woes the Finnish company has encountered because of market-share losses and pressure on margins.

Nokia reports second-quarter earnings on Thursday following stinging financial losses in recent periods.

Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop last month announced further downsizing moves, including 10,000 job reductions and a streamlining of research and development efforts.

"This move is a normal strategy that is put in place during the life cycle of most phones," Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson said in an email. It "allows a broader consumer base to buy this flagship device at a more accessible price."

Price reductions aren't uncommon in the U.S. market, in which carriers like AT&T subsidize the cost of the phone as long as a customer signs a contract. The actual cost of the phone to AT&T isn't public and it is unclear how both companies—Nokia and AT&T—will pay for the new price cut.

Mr. Dawson noted Samsung Electronics Co.'s 005930.SE -0.33% Galaxy IIS at AT&T, which debuted about six months before the Nokia Lumia 900, was on the market for roughly the same period of time as the Lumia 900 before a $50 price drop was implemented.

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Nokia's Lumia phones took a hit a few weeks ago when it became apparent that current versions of the phone wouldn't be eligible for an upgrade to Microsoft Corp.'s MSFT -1.79% new Windows 8 software later this year. Nokia has said the Lumia phones will, however, get significant upgrades even if Windows 8 upgrades won't be available.

The move comes following a Lumia 900 launch that has been viewed by analysts as being lackluster. That has tarnished the high-profile relationship between Nokia and Microsoft, which teamed up to launch a portfolio of Windows phones to better take on Apple Inc.'s AAPL -1.63% iPhone software and Google Inc.'s GOOG +2.99% Android system.

Nokia has weathered a punishing decline in its share price even with the Lumia 900 on sale: The stock has fallen 64% since the April 8 launch of the smartphone. The drop partially reflects the uncertainty with which investors have viewed the Lumia lineup, which replaced other smartphones that were regarded as outdated.

Nokia's stock touched a 17-year low last week and ended down 2.5% at €1.51 ($1.85) in Helsinki trading Friday. Its market capitalization of about €5.6 billion, or roughly $6.86 billion, represents a more than 95% decline from its peak days during the information-technology boom at the turn of the century.

The struggling handset maker's market capitalization is now lower than the $8.5 billion Microsoft paid for Internet phone company Skype Ltd. last year. Nokia is valued at roughly half of Apple's latest quarterly net profit.

Would you root your Android device to get the newest software?

By Evan Selleck

As companies start rolling out announcements regarding smartphones getting upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it's pretty easy to get lost in the irony that they're getting updated to a version of Google's mobile OS that's already "old." But, there's nothing really wrong with being one version behind, right? I can understand why it would be hard, though, when the next version up is so good.

In all honesty, when these staggered updates start happening, I've never been super eager to get that latest version of Android. Having the phone do what I need in the version I had at the time seemed good enough.

It's different with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, though. All of the changes that Google has introduced into the new mobile operating system, specifically Project Butter and Google Now, I think it makes perfect sense for people to want to have the current version of Android, and not one version behind.

We've seen Google roll out the update to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to Nexus devices already. The Nexus S is even flaunting the new software. The Galaxy Nexus GSM model landed the update right when Google said it would, too, so that's a good thing. It would seem that the devices that should be running Android 4.1 are running it. Except the CDMA-based versions of Nexus handsets out there in the wild.

While the GSM-based models are getting their updates, those who managed to pick up the Galaxy Nexus for Verizon or Sprint, or still have the Nexus S 4G for Sprint's network are still waiting to hear when their update will be coming. These are the only Nexus devices that are tied directly to a carrier here in the States, so it isn't surprising that we haven't heard exactly when they will get updated. If we look at past behavior, especially when it comes to Verizon, we can imagine that the Android 4.1 update will take several months before it finally starts rolling out to owners.

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We won't get into whether or not we're talking about a "real" Nexus device here, because I think that conversation has been run into the ground. The simple fact is that the Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus S 4G, is tied to a carrier if that's how you bought it. Because of this, it has to go through the process of seeing a software update. Just the way it is, unfortunately, and instead of wishing that the Galaxy Nexus or Nexus S 4G wasn't tied to a carrier, the hope should just be that the testing process goes quickly.

So here's my question to you, if you do have a Nexus S 4G or Galaxy Nexus tied to a carrier: are you going to wait for the update?

For me, after I started playing with the Nexus 7, I couldn't wait to start using Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on my daily driver. On my phone. So I got a Galaxy Nexus for Verizon, and then I started doing some digging and common sense reflection. Verizon's update is coming, yes, but there's no telling when. It may take months. It could pop up here in the next few days, but I wouldn't bet on it. But I got the Galaxy Nexus specifically to use Android 4.1, so it would seem that I really only had one choice.

I did something that I used to do a lot, especially with the original Motorola DROID, and even more with the DROID Incredible by HTC. I rooted the Galaxy Nexus, and then I found the best custom ROM built around the AOSP for Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. After that, I loaded it up on the phone, and I haven't looked back since. It's everything I thought it would be, thanks to the Nexus 7, but better because I have a cellular connection everywhere I go and can actually take advantage of Google Now when I want to.

As I've stated in the past, I am an impatient person when it comes to my technology. I'll readily admit that when something new is announced, I want it. If there's a way to get it, I'll get it. I am not personally a huge fan of having to root a device and add custom software to something I think should be running it "stock," but I can't fight the reality anymore. I can't just keep hoping and wishing that the update will come soon, when the past is a clear indicator that "soon" isn't anywhere in the equation.

Are you going to root your Nexus device, if you're tied to a carrier? Are you that interested in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to make that jump? Have you already rooted it? Or are you someone who can sit by and wait for the official update? Let me know in the comments!

SONY XPERIA NEO L – TECH NEWS TODAY

The Android smartphone market is growing by leaps and bounds and not wanting to let Samsung and HTC corner all the expanding growth, Sony is betting big on it. After a patchy ICS update to other smartphones of the Xperia series which drew a lot of ire from its users, Sony is launching three new Android phones – neo L, Go and Ion – this quarter. All three are being launched in the Xperia series. Neo L expands the Xperia series in the mid-range and succeeds neo V, which was launched about a year ago.
Unlike its haloed siblings like Xperia S, Xperia U and Xperia Arc S, the neo L runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system straight out-of-the-box, which gives it a slight edge over others as most phones being sold in market are still based on Gingerbread. However, in an already flooded Android market, the question remains whether Sony Xperia neo L will stand out at a price of Rs 18,499, especially when HTC One V is available at Rs 18,599 and the similarly-priced dual core-powered Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 is scheduled to hit India in a few months.

We played around a bit with the phone and here's what we think of it:

Looks and dimensions

Sony seems to have deviated from the laws of genetics in case of neo L. Hence, its design doesn't bear much resemblance with the sleekness of its recent breed of Xperia S, Xperia U, Xperia P phones. Its shape, however, has glimpses of some older Xperia phones such as the Arc and neo V, but unlike the thin beauty of the Arc, neo L is fatter.

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The phone measures 4.8x2.4x0.5 inches, which may seem to be sleek but once you hold the phone, it isn't really light. It weighs 131.5 grams against the Xperia neo V which weighs 126 grams, and Xperia Arc S which weighs 117 grams. Other contemporaries also weigh less, such as HTC One V, which weighs 115 grams and Samsung Galaxy S Advance, which weighs 120 grams.

Hardware

Though the phone is good to look at, it is like a fingerprint-magnate and any user would be hard-pressed to keep it devoid of smudges for even a few minutes. It has a glossy and rather brittle seeming plastic casing for a back cover that has to be kept clean regularly, sometimes many times a day! The frame is lined with chrome, which certainly gives it a sleek look and makes it appear similar to the neo V, Arc and Arc S. A 3.5-mm audio jack is placed in the top-centre of the phone which gives it an avoidable ugly bulge. On the left is a mini USB port for charging and data transfer, and on the right panel are the buttons for power and volume and a small speaker.

Sony Xperia neo L sports a 4-inch HD TFT touchscreen with 854x480 pixel resolution, slightly larger than HTC One V's, but smaller than that of Motorola Atrix 2 and Samsung Galaxy S Advance. Below the screen are four physical buttons (in the same curved shape as the three buttons in the Arc) namely Back, Home, Menu and Search. These buttons are stiff, small and you may sometimes accidentally tread upon the on-screen controls while pressing the hard hardware buttons. Likewise, the buttons for power and volume are not well placed if the phone is held in one hand. Since, the glossy body of Xperia neo L is rather slippery, even not-so-clumsy users might end up dropping it a few times.

Ice Cream Sandwich integration

The phone runs on Android 4.0 out-of-the-box and that is an important selling point since users would not have to wait for an update, a la Motorola Atrix 2. However, the HTC One V, priced similar to the Xperia neo L, also offers a premium Android 4.0 straight from the box.

Users can choose between seven pre-installed neon-based Ice Cream Sandwich themes in the Sony Xperia neo L, which are seen in the background when the home screen and menu are open. The overall user experience is quite smooth and fluid. Sony's Timescape has made its way to this phone as well, so that users can see the recent updates, tweets, messages etc by all contacts on a single scrollable window from the home screen.

Sony has done well by adding a number of useful widgets in the Xperia neo L that add to its functionality, such as the Gallery View, which allows users to access pics, videos and music from the same widget. The dock/menu bar located at the bottom of the five home screens is also customisable and can hold a total of four applications. Users can create folders if they want to add more applications to this dock.

Connectivity

The phone comes loaded with all modern connectivity options available in a mid-range smartphone, such as Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, 3G, GPRS, EDGE and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and EDR. It has GTalk, Gmail and a combined inbox for all emails. The social networking integration, including Facebook and Twitter, will make it a suitable choice for the youth.

Call clarity is decent, but only in a quite room. When we stepped out on a noisy street, the sound became muffled, which will be a dampener for those who travel a lot.

Music and videos

The stock music player in Sony Xperia neo L will be welcomed by any audiophile, as it features a host of features in addition to the standard music playing options.

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In the music player, tapping on the on-screen button placed in the middle of the bottom row shows a pop-up with options like Find Music Video on YouTube, Get more@PlayNow, Search Artist Info on Wikipedia, Search for Lyrics on Google, Search Karaoke Videos on YouTube, along with the option to find more extensions. This will contribute towards a rich music experience for any user. The standard features of the music player include customisable playlists, folder view for music, including tabs named Artists, Albums, Tracks and Playlists.

TrackID is yet another add-on that will be favoured by audiophiles, as it shows all the details of the song being played based upon the title and artist info. It will track the data over an internet connection and show a host of details, such as artist info, lyrics etc. However, this feature proves to be rather redundant considering that Sony has already included such features in the stock music player.

Sony Xperia neo L’s default video player can play videos at 720p easily, though we expect it to hang after other processes eat up more RAM. The stock video player has only three options, forward, back and start/pause.

Camera

In today’s world, the camera plays an important role in any smartphone. The best part of Xperia neo L’s camera is that this 5MP unit with autofocus is accompanied by an LED flash that clicks far better pictures than many. There’s also a front-facing VGA camera for making video calls.

But then one notices the unexpected negative point on the camera front. The camera does not have any zoom. Considering that even the cheapest Android phones with least megapixel also feature zoom function, it’s a strange miss for the Xperia neo L. Moreover, there is no way to lower or mute the shutter noise when the camera clicks a picture, which can be an irritant for many.

A feature we found to be redundant in the camera was the panel located on the right side of the on-screen interface. On the bottom, Sony has placed icons so that users can choose between video, audio and panorama mode, but tapping on either one expands the window and users need to select the camera mode once again, thus making it a lengthy process.

Its chief competitor, HTC One V, also features simultaneous HD and video recording in the camera, which helps it snake past Xperia neo L.

Games

In an effort to lure gaming enthusiasts, Sony has included EA Games, Get Games and Games & Apps in the Xperia neo L. Both the apps offer a host of games that would prove to be addictive and enjoyable. The screen resolution makes the image clarity at par with the best in the phone, but we expect that the phone’s 512MB RAM would prove to be insufficient for heavy gamers. Moreover, none of the games come pre-installed; users would have to download them over the internet.

The last word

If an Android phone carries a mid-range price tag of Rs 18,499 today, a fair bit is expected from it, such as bundle of applications, a fast processor, a good camera, light-weight, sleek design and more. As of the design, weight and camera, Sony Xperia neo L doesn’t meet the expectations. But where Sony has really lost the bet is when it comes to the processor. The phone is powered by a single-core 1GHz processor coupled with 512MB RAM which is just not enough for those who use apps or are into gaming heavily, and not just make calls and send messages. On connectivity, the phone has standard features like Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), GPS (with A-GPS support), standard Android internet browser and the other connectivity options that come bundled with Android 4.0. The good part is that the phone is powered by a 1500mAh battery that can run up to 8-hours while on an active call.

HTC One V is the main competitor of Xperia neo L in terms of cost as well as features and will in all likelihood replace it. It is slightly better than this phone because of slightly lower price tag, better camera features, more internal memory, better user interface and lower weight. However, it loses out due the lack of a video-calling camera and a slightly smaller screen.

The other phones in the same price range like Intel Xolo X900 (around Rs 20,00 to 21,000), Sony Xperia sola, HTC EVO 3D and Motorola Atrix 2, are powered by dual-core processors. Moreover, the EVO 3D offers the unmatched 3D viewing experience and has 1GB of RAM, whereas the Xolo X900 has a 1.6GHz processor, 1080p video recording; Atrix 2 also has 1GB of RAM, a 4.3-inch screen and 8MP camera with 1080p recording, which put it ahead of the neo L. Only the Xperia sola has similar specifications, which made us wonder why Sony launched these two devices in the market as they would cannibalise each other’s market share.

Overall, Xperia neo L is not a great phone and even though its native OS is ICS, it still doesn’t make the cut. For a price tag of Rs 18,499, it’s advisable that you look for a device that offers better value proposition before making the final pick. For camera minus zoom, single core processor and a not-so-sleek looking body, paying anywhere close to Rs 20,000 for an Android device cannot be justified.

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24/7/2012 - Beats Audio Buys Back Stake In Itself from HTC

Beats Audio Buys Back Stake In Itself from HTC

By David Murphy

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HTC and Beats Audio aren't calling their partnership quits. However, Beats has bought back half of HTC's shares in the company to give itself a 75-percent ownership instead of a 50/50 split with HTC.

The move should allow HTC to keep a bit more change in its coffers; According to Slashgear's Chris Davies, HTC's 50-percent investment initially cost HTC around $300 million when first announced in August of last year. Beats' buyback allegedly cost the company $150 million.

As a result of HTC partially jumping out, Beats has now secured "more flexibility for global expansion," according to a statement made by both companies this weekend. However, HTC will continue to hold a, "major stake and commercial exclusivity in mobile," which means that you shouldn't expect to see Beats Audio technology accompanying any of the smartphones built by HTC's rivals.

HTC's partnership with Beats initially had Beats bundling its special, red-corded earbuds alongside HTC smartphones. However, that practice ended around April of this year, as HTC realized that average smartphone shoppers don't seem to care all that much about the earbuds that ship with their phone.

"An accessory like the headphone doesn't factor in when someone is buying a smartphone," said Martin Fichter, HTC product executive, in an interview with CNET at the time. "If they want a Beats headphone, they'll buy it directly."

The two companies will continue to work together to stuff Beats Audio technology into future HTC phones, and they're even going to be working on a joint marketing campaign later in 2012.

Beats picked up MOG, a music streaming service, for around $14 million earlier this month. It remains to be seen just how the new terms of HTC and Beats' partnership might factor into Beats' – and HTC's – plans for incorporating the service into the company's smartphones.

Jailbreak: iPhone-4/4S/3Gs iOS-5.1.1 Issue Solved - Unlock-iPhone-4/4S/3Gs Untethered Tool Tested !

By John Smith1

ibreak Team reveals that this software can unlock and untethered Jailbreak the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3Gs up to the latest ios 5.1, 5.1.1 also enabling peoples to use any SIM card worldwide. The software guarantees extreme ease of use to Untethered Jailbreak and Unlock iPhone 4/4S/3Gs iOS 5.1, 5.1.1 . Along with the product is an illustrated guide that shows how to unlock an iPhone. The whole process takes approximately 5 minutes.

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Symbian-focussed Nokia Developer Champions dropped early

By Rafe Blandford

Nokia Developer has ended the membership, ahead of schedule, of the Nokia Developer Champion program, for a number of Symbian-focussed developers, as the company continues its transition to Windows Phone. Access to Nokia's standard developer program, which is free to join and is open to everyone, is unaffected by the move.

The Nokia Developer Champion is a program aimed at giving recognition to those whom Nokia considers to be key members of their developer community. The program is primarily about prestige and recognition, although all Nokia Developer Champions receive a device of their choice from Nokia, are given the opportunity to receive early access to developer tools, and are eligible to attend Champion-only networking events (usually co-located with other Nokia events).

As the Nokia developer site explains:

Nokia Developer Champions earn recognition for having outstanding expertise in certain Nokia Developer-related areas, participating in various online and offline activities, and sharing and showcasing their knowledge with other Nokia Developer community members. Nokia Developer Champions are from all regions of the world, have a variety of backgrounds, and are experts in wide-ranging mobile-development areas. But they all have one thing in common: Nokia Developer Champions are loyal Nokia Developer community members whose professionalism enriches the community for all of us.

Nokia Developer Champions have a special energy. They share their thoughts and spark exciting new ideas. Their insight, vision, and active involvement inspire others and reflect the true philosophy of the Nokia Developer community. Nokia Developer Champions have certainly earned the extraordinary range of rewards we have set aside especially for them.

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Last week a number of developers received an email from Nokia Developer explaining that their membership of the Nokia Developer Champion program was not be renewed and, in some cases, was being cut short earlier than scheduled. The common factor among those affected by the move appears to be that their main focus is developing for Symbian OS. Developers with a focus on other technologies (Windows Phone, Series 40, Web, and so on) remain part of the program and new members continue to be appointed as Nokia Developer Champions.

The decision has provoked rumblings of discontent from a number of developers, some of whom have taken to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction.

A high profile example is Jan Ole Suhr, developer of the popular Gravity application, who noted: "for the next platform, this [the decision] will guide me to iOS & Android". Such statements, from previously loyal developers, will not help Nokia in its mission to help make Windows Phone "the third ecosystem". Another developer we spoke to, who did not want to be named, described the decision as, "kicking me while I'm down after the Qt debacle" and "the last straw".

Ultimately the number of developers involved is relatively small, around 15 or so by our estimates, but, as you might expect from such as program, it does include a number of very long term and loyal Symbian developers.

While the numbers involved do pale into insignificance when compared to the enormous developer engagement program currently being undertaken by Microsoft and Nokia, it is hard not to see the decision to cut short membership as both short sighted and rather mean spirited. It will undoubtedly generate negative developer sentiment and critical media coverage; something that could have been largely avoided if Nokia had let the membership of the affected developers expire organically at the end of their annual term. Moreover, it will only add fuel to the fire of those who believe Nokia is seeking to brush Symbian under the rug as hastily as possible.

Nokia's existing developers have not had an easy time in the last two years. First, in 2009/2010, came the news that AVKON would gradually be deprecated in favour of Qt, at which point every developer was turned to move to Qt. Second, in February 2011, came the news of the switch from Symbian/MeeGo to Windows Phone, but with the caveat that Qt would be used to connect the billion, and therefore would remain a viable mobile developer platform. Third, and yet to be officially confirmed, came the news that the Qt strategy was being abandoned.

A strategy that amounts to a double developer platform switch in two years has left developers with a sense of instability and anger that investments in code, training and time have, by necessity, been written off. The strategy change transition to Windows Phone made much of this inevitable, but the messaging and managing of the relationship with existing developers should have been better handled.

Disclosure: I was a Forum Nokia Champion, the forerunner of Nokia Developer Champion program, for two terms, between September 2007 and September 2009.

Stolen mobile phone recovered using technology

AKOLA: Vaibhav (20), son of police department employee Sanjay Charpe, was robbed of his mobile by two youths hailing from Nanded while he was returning home on July 6. During investigation, railway police managed to get clues about the two thieves by tracing the stolen mobile phone. The cops arrested Piraji Menthkan (24) and Lakhan Waghmare (22), residents of Chinkhalwadi, Nanded, Marathwada, on Saturday. Both of them were remanded to police custody for two days. The railway police also recovered the stolen mobile from the thieves.

Interestingly, after the complaint, the cops had refused to take complaint and were disputing the jurisdiction of the police station. However, railway police took the initiative and solved the crime with two arrests.

In-laws booked for murder, cruelty in woman's death

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Offences of murder, cruelty against women and criminal intimidation were registered against the in-laws after they caused grievous injuries to one Shakuntala Tiwale on Saturday. Those booked include her husband Narayan Tiwale, his father Sitaram Tiwale and mother Nanda Tiwale. Shakuntala received 91% burn injuries on July 17 at Ashtul village. Her dying declaration was taken on Saturday. She stated that her in-laws had set her afire. Further investigation is on. No arrest has been made so far.

Apple heads into choppy waters as new iPhone awaited

By Poornima Gupta

Apple Inc faces an unusual phenomenon when reporting earnings this time around: low expectations.

Few are expecting the world's most valuable technology company -- which surpasses Wall Street expectations with near regularity -- to deliver a bumper quarter once more on Tuesday.

The main reason: consumers holding out for the new iPhone.

Apple may still surprise market watchers, but many Wall Street analysts and investors remember how chatter over the launch of a new iPhone last year caused Apple to miss quarterly expectations in the fall, for the first time in years.

The iPhone 5 is only expected to hit store shelves around October -- just in time for the holidays -- with a thinner, larger screen and fine-tuned search features. Couple that pre-launch lull with slowdowns in Europe and China, Apple's biggest markets outside of North America, and sentiment on the Wall Street darling is more muted than many can remember in a while.

"No longer is Apple the company that beats every time," said Tim Lesko, portfolio manager at Granite Investment Advisors, which owns Apple stock. "I expect Apple to beat Apple's guidance, but I don't know whether they will beat Wall Street's guidance."

Tony Sacconaghi, analyst with Bernstein Research, sees a reasonable chance Apple will miss expectations on revenue, citing "macroeconomic weakness in China and Europe, a product cycle lull in the iPhone, a later than expected introduction of the new iPad into China, and the late quarter introduction of new Mac notebooks."

Any hiccup in demand for the best-selling smartphone can have a big impact on both revenue and profits as the five-year old device accounts for nearly 50 percent for Apple's revenues. And it comes at a time Samsung and other manufacturers that use rival Google Inc's Android software are chipping away at its market share.

Apple is expected to report fiscal third-quarter earnings of $10.35 a share on revenue of $37.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Top Wall Street analysts are betting the numbers will undershoot that. Apple may miss the average sales forecast by about 0.2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine's SmartEstimates, which places greater emphasis on timely forecasts by top-rated analysts.

IPAD'S LAUNCH IN CHINA

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But some analysts also think the Street is underestimating the impact of a late iPad launch in China, a focal point of intense expansion for the company and a huge driver of growth.

Apple began selling the tablet there on Friday, but many had expected it to ship last quarter.

Sales in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan jumped threefold to $7.9 billion in the second quarter, accounting for about 20 percent of Apple's $39.2 billion in total revenue.

The company typically introduces a new iPhone every year, but has yet to reveal any details on the next model.

However, people familiar with the situation have told Reuters the new iPhone will have a bigger display and that Apple has begun to place orders for the new displays from suppliers in South Korea and Japan.

Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone 4S is just three quarters old, which is relatively new by any standard. But many fans of the phone now see it as a cyclical product with somewhat predictable launch timeframes, preferring to wait a few months to buy the new model, analysts said.

Wall Street estimates Apple sold about 29 million iPhones, down from 35.1 million sold in the March quarter. Sales of the new iPad, expected to be 14 million to 15 million, is likely to offset part of the anticipated sequential drop in iPhones sales.

Apart from concerns about iPhone purchases, Wall Street is worried about the rising prominence of Google and Amazon.com in the mobile market, particularly with the launch of Google's smaller and cheaper Nexus 7 tablet, which is gaining popularity.

Still, no one is bearish in the longer term on the world's largest technology company by market value and most Apple watchers believe the company will make up any lost iPhone volume during the holiday season.

"Big picture, it doesn't matter," said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu. "They are still the share gainer in the larger scheme of things. This is clearly a timing issue."

BIG HOLIDAY SEASON EYED

Wall Street expects that the outlook for this year's holiday season will be enormous for Apple as it may include the launch of a new iPhone as well as a potential new "mini iPad."

Apple has been working on a smaller tablet, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

It is unclear when Apple will launch such a tablet, but some clues are emerging on the timing of the new iPhone.

When Verizon -- one of the wireless carriers that work with Apple -- was asked on Thursday why customers have been holding back on handset upgrades, CFO Fran Shammo said: "There is always that rumor mill out there with a new phone coming out in the fourth quarter and so people may be waiting."

Investors will pick apart executives' comments for clues to new product introductions. While Apple has a policy of never giving advance details or timings on new products, Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer has often hinted of "product transition" in earnings conference calls preceding a launch.

Wall Street estimates Apple sold about 4 million Macintosh computers as the PC market saw growth sputter in the quarter.

The lackluster expectations do not appear to have affected Apple's stock, which is up nearly 50 percent so far in 2012. The stock has been choppy since a high of $644 in April. It closed Friday at $604.30 on the Nasdaq.

"Of all the quarters, this is the one that seems to have widest range of opinion," said Granite's Lesko.

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2/7/2012 - iPhone 5? Well, not exactly. Apple's iPhone turns 5.

iPhone 5? Well, not exactly. Apple's iPhone turns 5.

By Hayley Tsukayama

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Wish a happy birthday to your iPhone! June 29 marks the fifth anniversary of the day the first iPhone hit store shelves and Apple began its climb in the mobile market.

The first iPhone may have sported a metal and plastic back, but the general look of the smartphone hasn't changed all that much in the past five years -- new materials here, a nip or tuck there -- and has kept to its same general size.

What has changed, dramatically, is what the phone can do. At launch, it sported a 2 MP camera, ran on the EDGE network and touted its visual voicemail. It came in a $499 4GB version or a $699 8GB version. Users couldn't download programs from other developers, but the introduction of a more complete Web browser on a smartphone was enough to impress reviewers.

While it's hard to separate the iPhone and the App Store in our minds now, the iPhone didn't have its app ecosystem until a year after launch, in July 2008. Four years later, there are over 650,000 apps in the App Store, and the marketplace has 400 million accounts.

Looking back at Apple's press release for the original phone's debut, we're reminded that the tech giant mostly promoted the smartphone's connection to the iPod -- Apple even called it a "widescreen iPod" in its January 2007 product announcement.

At the time, there was skepticism about whether the iPhone could really take on market leaders Research in Motion and Nokia -- companies that are now struggling to hold on to their shrinking slices of the market. Both have announced job cuts: Nokia is set to cut 10,000 of its staff by the end of 2013, and Research in Motion said Thursday that it will drop 5,000 jobs.

The iPhone, however, hasn't stopped climbing -- though it has occasionally slowed -- even as Android-based competitors have crowded the field and taken the majority of the smartphone market. Demand for Apple's ubiquitous smartphone is still red-hot: It took the first iPhone 74 days to hit 1 million sales; the latest version of the iPhone hit 1 million pre-orders in its first 24 hours.

To date, Apple has sold over 217 million iPhones and has expanded to more networks and countries. According to the company's last earnings call, the iPhone is now on 230 carriers in 105 countries.

It will be interesting to see how the device evolves over the next five years, particularly with the advent of prepaid iPhones from Virgin and Cricket and the company's push for overseas expansion.

And, of course, it's almost a given that Apple fans will keep watching excitedly for any hint of what Apple plans for the iPhone's next incarnation. Top wishlist items include a bigger screen and support for 4G networks.

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iPhone anniversary marks triumph over crisis

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK, June 29 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Apple (AAPL.O) rolled out its iconic iPhone five years ago, just as Bear Stearns subprime hedge funds sounded the alarm on a systemic trauma. Financial woe often impedes development. But the iPhone is proof that innovation can defy the odds and overcome hard times.

The advance of technology is hard to stop. R&D budgets do get slashed in downturns. The growth rate of patent filings has slowed during the recent crisis. But companies that don't invest, or that do so poorly, can suffer. Research In Motion (RIM.TO) and Nokia (NOK1V.HE) learned the lesson all too well. Their market values have plummeted over 90 percent since mid-2007.

More importantly, desired products, whether new plastics in the 1930s or smartphones now, tend to thrive regardless of the economic climate. About 40 percent of Dupont's revenue in 1937 came from products introduced during the Great Depression. Almost 60 percent of Apple's sales are now generated by the iPhone.

Apple's focus on high-end customers hasn't hurt. Even reduced disposable income at a certain level still leaves plenty left over for a new bauble. But the iPhone offers value for the considerably less affluent, too. It replaces digital cameras, personal organizers, guidebooks, dictionaries, satellite navigation systems and music players. That list isn't inclusive and is bound to grow.

The contrast with the financial crisis is a stark one. Apple's market value has increased by about $430 billion since the iPhone was introduced. The device represents a majority of the company's sales and an even greater proportion of profit, and has contributed greatly to the popularity of the iPad. That makes it safe to ascribe a healthy amount of the gain to the iPhone.

By comparison, Apple's increased capitalization isn't far off the $470 billion that was required from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out Citigroup (C.N), AIG (AIG.N), General Motors (GM.N) and others. Real estate crashes reverse themselves and debt hangovers get worked off. In the meantime, technology relentlessly marches on and provides fresh stepping stones for the eventual recovery. That makes the iPhone a hopeful reminder for a world stewing in another five-year anniversary that isn't much worth celebrating.

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Birthday 5 for iPhone: The Device That Changed Everything

By Adam Dickter

Commenting on the iPhone's 5th birthday and the impact the iPhone has had, analyst Ken Dulaney said, "Marketing consumer electronics has changed, industrial design has reached a new level of importance, and traditional suppliers have been challenged as never before." Regarding the iPhone 5 years ago: "Easy to use reached a whole new level."

It exploded onto the scene with a burst of fanfare, a revolutionary device that, it can objectively be said, changed everything.
Five years ago today the first iPhone went on sale, six months after Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the touchscreen device, essentially a computer in the palm of your hand that displaced voice calls as the primary reason for carrying a mobile device.

"Apple's version of the iPhone is a mobile phone that combines the wizardry of smartphones with the music- and movie-playing features of the iPod," is how NewsFactor reported the story on January 9, 2007. "It features a large, 3.5" touchscreen, a 2-megapixel camera, and integrates fully with Apple's iTunes music store . It's less than half an inch wide, works on a pared-down version of Apple's OS X (which in full form powers Apple notebooks and desktops), sports WiFi, Bluetooth, and EDGE (a type of mobile broadband ), and runs on Cingular's network ."

What, No 3G ?

It took six months, however, for the much-hyped device to get into consumers' hands. Just before the consumer launch, we reported analysts' views that the phone set a new standard, but not without a few shortcomings.

Analysts at the time pointed out that the iPhone "lacked 3G capabilities and could only use the much slower EDGE technology. The compensation for this shortcoming [was] that the iPhone could automatically switch to Wi-Fi networks, when available, for Internet browsing." On Wi-Fi, it was reported, the iPhone "flies."

The original iPhone was followed in turn by the 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S models. Today's 5-year anniversary comes as Apple is soon expected to release the sixth version of the device. While the original device was strictly tied to AT&T , the current incarnation is available via AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and a few regional carriers, with worldwide sales estimated at more than 35 million.

That number makes the iPhone by far the single most popular device. However, over the past year, devices powered by Google's Android operating system -- and offered by different manufacturers -- have seized a larger share of the market as measured by operating system.

The iPhone "has made the consumer king," Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told us on Friday. "No longer is the [mobile] phone considered [just] a business tool. Data usage has exploded and it has revolutionized the distribution of software ."

Dulaney also noted that the iPhone's app-centric touchscreen experience dramatically increased user interface expectations.

"Easy to use has reached a new level," he said.

Among other impact attributed to the iPhone: "Marketing consumer electronics has changed, industrial design has reached a new level of importance, and traditional suppliers such as Intel and Microsoft, RIM and Nokia have been challenged as never before."

Challenges Overcome

In addition to the above-mentioned shortcomings, Apple also had to deal with reception issues early on, as AT&T, its sole initial carrier, struggled to keep up with the demand on its network. Later, the iPhone 4 faced a backlash over signal problems resulting from contact with its external antenna. Although these issues may have caused some to be wary about being early-adopters, they never seriously hurt sales.

"One reason the iPhone was able to push beyond these issues was because, up to that point, nobody had really launched a smartphone with a true immersive Internet experience," said Weston Henderek, principal wireless analyst for research firm Current Analysis.

Although Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices and some Nokia smartphones were out, they were taking users to abridged mobile versions of Web sites that were difficult to navigate. "The biggest reason [the iPhone] was a revolutionary device is that it put the power of a PC -like Internet experience in your hand and it was really the first device to pull that off."

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Google Gives iPhone Users Browser Choice For Phone's Fifth Birthday

Apple‘s iPhone, the iconic device from that revolutionized smart phones, turned five on Friday, June 29.

There has been no other device like iPhone in history. Thousands of developers have written thousands of apps to organize the lives of iPhone users in a manner previously scarcely imaginable.

iPhone left its competitors like Research in Motion (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK) in the dust. The mobile platform for Microsoft (MSFT) was not at all competitive. Google (GOOG) came up from nowhere to mount a serious challenge with its Android operating system.

There continues to be a bitter rivalry between Apple and Google. The late Steve Jobs accused Google of copying iPhone; he called Android a stolen system and pledged to spend his last dollar to rectify the situation.

On the fifth birthday of iPhone Google has given a surprise present. Google has announced that it is launching a new version of its Chrome browser to run on iPhone and iPad. The new Chrome app will allow users to sync all of their credentials, bookmarks, and tabs on all of their devices.

The app may gain traction as Apple users will be able to sync easily with non-Apple devices. Moreover those tired of Safari, the browser from Apple, now have a great alternative.

From an investment perspective, there should be no material impact in the short-term on the stock prices of Google or Apple.

The introduction of Chrome for Apple opens a new battle front in the war between the two companies. Google is sending a clear signal that it will do whatever it takes to keep a major presence on the Apple platform. Recently Apple ditched Google Maps. Clearly Apple does not want to share the success of its platform with Google. Let another battle begin.

About Me: I am an engineer and nuclear physicist by background. I founded two Inc. 500 companies, and have been involved in over 50 entrepreneurial ventures. I am the chief investment officer at The Arora Report, which publishes four newsletters to help investors profit from change. Follow me here and get email notification when I publish a new article.

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Why the iPhone Was Truly a Disruptive Product

Chances are, the smartphone in your pocket bears little resemblance to the cell phone you were carrying 5 years ago. That's largely because of what happened on June 29, 2007, the day the iPhone was released in North America.

As I wrote on the anniversary last year, "every major smartphone that has gone into production since the iPhone's release has, in some way, been a response to the iPhone itself."

Since 2007, I've written hundreds of thousands of words about the iPhone, iOS and the modern smartphone ecosystem. I have chronicled the impact the iPhone has had not just on Apple, but on the telecom industry, the smartphone market and computing as we know it.

Now, on the fifth anniversary, I want to home in on a few specific examples of companies and individuals that the iPhone has profoundly changed.

Rarus Technologies Inc. Receives Approval from Apple for Zngle's Version 1.1 iPhone App and will release version 1.2 with Video and VoIP Calling in July

HENDERSON, Nev., June 29, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Rarus Technologies Inc. (otcqb:RARS) ("Rarus") announced today its newly enhanced version 1.1 of the Zngle iPhone App is now available at the Apple iTunes Store.

Rarus Technologies' Zngle social media network released its first Zngle iPhone App on June 1st 2012 in the iTunes Store and then moved quickly to produce and submit version 1.1 with added features and improvements. Zngle's development team has continued gathering member feedback and this data has now been incorporated into version 1.2 which includes new and improved features like Video and VoIP calling. These two features will be free for Zngle members and users will also be able to buy the additional required storage for Video and VoIP messages through the iTunes Store.

"We're very pleased to have received great suggestions through feedback from our members and have used their suggestions in the development of Zngle version 1.2 which now includes features such as Video and VoIP calling. These features will be free for Zngle members, however due to bandwidth and addition server requirements, there will be an in-App purchase requirement in order for members to acquire additional message storage. If members redeem proximity coupons they will also receive Zngle credits which they can use to acquire additional features. Due to the complexity of these features, which will set us apart from other social media companies, we have also delayed development of the Android App. We are planning to resume development of this parallel product once we receive feedback from beta testers of the Apple version 1.2," stated Mr. Manfred Ruf, CEO of Rarus.

About Rarus Technologies Inc. and Zngle, Inc.

Rarus Technologies Inc. was incorporated in 2010 and is an emerging technology company focused on establishing an innovative business model intended to bridge cutting-edge social media and e-commerce into a marketplace that connects friends, family, consumers, and vendors in new and exciting ways. In May, 2012, Rarus Technologies Inc. incorporated Zngle, Inc. as the primary subsidiary and operations base for licensed internet platform. We are designed to be a centralized Internet portal and next-generation social media website that incorporates voice/text messaging, video email, and mobile technologies to allow consumers to access real-time information about various products and services through augmented proximity reality search features.

Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995

Certain information contained in this press release, including any information as to our strategy, plans or future financial or operating performance and other statements that express management's expectations or estimates of future performance, constitute "forward-looking statements." All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements. The words "believe," "expect," "will," "anticipate," "contemplate," "target," "plan," "continue," "budget," "may," "intend," "estimate," "project" and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, certain delays beyond the company's control with respect to its plans or operations. The Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.

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Apple Loop: A Hardware Update, Friending Google (Sort of) And Other News

Keeping you in the loop on some of the things happening around Apple this past week.

Bob Mansfield, Apple's head of hardware engineering, says so long.

+ Hardware update. Apple announced that the head of hardware engineering, Bob Mansfield, is going to retire and that he'll be replaced by Dan Riccio, vice president of iPad hardware engineering, in several months. The hardware engineering team is going to keep reporting to Mansfield until he leaves. Mansfield joined Apple in 1999, when it acquired Raycer Graphics, where he was VP of engineering, Apple said. He's led Mac hardware engineering since 2005, iPhone and iPod hardware engineering since 2010, and iPad hardware engineering since the tablet was introduced -- which makes him kind of an important person at the company. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a point of noting that his replacement, Riccio, who joined Apple in 1998 as VP of product design, has contributed to most of Apple's hardware during his tenure. "Dan has been one of Bob's key lieutenants for a very long time and is very well respected within Apple and by the industry," added Cook. "Our hardware engineering team is the best engineering team on earth and will not miss a beat during the transition."


Google Brings Chrome Web Browser To Apple iPhones, iPads

Tomio Geron

+ Thermonuclear war on hiatus? Remember how Steve Jobs' told biographer Walter Isaacson that he thought Google was guilty of "grand theft" when it released the Android mobile operating system to challenge Apple's iOS for the iPhone and iPad? And how Apple was ready to launch a "thermonuclear war" to defend its patents against smartphone makers like HTC, Samsung and Google? While Apple CEO Tim Cook has said repeatedly the company will continue to fight to protect its intellectual property, it seems like it can play nice too. That's why iPhone and iPad users will now find Google's Chrome browser -- a rival to Apple's Safari browser -- at Apple's App Store. (And as of this writing, Chrome is the top free app on the App Store.) Google is also offering a version of Google Drive -- its cloud-based service for storing documents, photos, music, videos etc. and a rival to Apple's iCloud -- for iOS users. Frenemies?

+ Podcasts go out on their own. Delivering on some recent rumors, Apple released a standalone Podcasts app that makes it easier to subscribe and listen to podcasts (instead of having to access them out of iTunes). Podcasts are prerecorded audio and video shows you can subscribe to and stream episodes or download and listen to them offline. Here's how Apple describes the new app in iTunes: Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover, subscribe to, and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature. Another new feature: a Sleep Timer to "automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed."

+ iTunes Plays in Asia. You couldn't tell it from the press release, but Apple's news that it was opening a dozen new iTunes stores in Asia was notable because it's the first major push in the region since it opened its iTunes stores in Japan in 2005. The new iTunes stores -- selling music and movies for the most part -- are in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Of course, Apple fans in those countries already have access to the App Store, which offers more than 650,000 apps in 155 countries. How many countries does iTunes operate in? Apple couldn't tell me (why, I don't know). By my count, it's about 50. Still no word on iTunes in China, Apple's largest market. And in case you're wondering, sales of music-related products and services accounted for about 6 percent of Apple's sales in 2011 -- or about $6 billion.

+ Apple to take another gamble on Reno. Apple is looking to build a data center for its iCloud service and set up a purchasing center in Reno, Nevada, as part of a $1 billion investment it is making there over the next decade, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. (Reno, the paper noted, is also home to Apple's Braeburn Capital subsidiary, which does investments and is part of its tax planning strategy, as the New York Times reported in April.) While Apple has plans to build data centers in other states, including Oregon, Steve Hill, the director of the Nevada Office on Economic Development, said Apple "wanted to come to the Silver State to diversify its locations as well as to capitalize on Reno's vicinity to Cupertino, Calif., the home of Apple's headquarters -- about a four-hour drive away." Nevada also lured the company with $89 million in tax breaks, including an 85 percent drop in the personal property tax for 10 to 30 years, which if approved, will make Apple's effective sales tax rate will be less than 1 percent, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

+ Apple retail employees, by the numbers. As part of its iEconomy series, the New York Times took a deep dive into Apple's retail stores. All sorts of interesting numbers to be found -- including that the average tenure of a retail employee is 2.5 years, that they make about $25,00 a year and that store employees each brought in $473,000 in sales for the company last year. Should Apple pay its employees more since Apple is making so much thanks to their efforts? Should retail employees expect that working in retail will give them a career path to corporate jobs at Apple? Should they get an annual bonus (since they don't get commissions) for selling so much stuff? Apple said it's recently given retail employees a raise, though it declined to provide specifics. As for overall working conditions in its retail ops, here's what Apple had to say: "Thousands of incredibly talented professionals work behind the Genius Bar and deliver the best customer service in the world. The annual retention rate for Geniuses is almost 90%, which is unheard-of in the retail industry, and shows how passionate they are about their customers and their careers at Apple." Here's a question for Tim Cook: would you recommend your family or friends work at the retail store? And if yes, for how long?

+ It's not the iPad 3, but still. Apple didn't name the third iteration of the iPad the iPad 3 -- instead calling it simply ‘iPad.' But that hasn't stopped the company from claiming that it should be the owner of the domain, according to Domain Name Wire. Apple has filed a case with the World Intellectual Property Organization asking that the domain name be transferred to it from its current owner, a company called Global Access in Isle of Man which was registered in Jan. 2010.

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2/7/2012 - Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 review

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 review

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The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 isn't out to prove a grand point. This isn't the Galaxy Note, or the dazzling Tab 7.7. However, it is one of the very best tablets you can buy for under £200. With a dual-core 1GHz processor and relatively low-density 1,024 x 600 resolution screen, it's hardly cutting edge but performance is solid and build is good.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 - Design and Connectivity

Watch the video review

The 7-inch tablet is seen as the most obvious alternative to a 10-incher like the new iPad or Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. But if you look around, there aren't that many hot contenders. The Amazon Kindle Fire isn't available here yet, the BlackBerry PlayBook was virtually stillborn and the Acer Iconia A100 had a disappointing screen. Samsung is out to change all that. Its Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 has a PLS screen, expandable memory, a dual-core processor and a sub-£200 price. What's not to like?

Design

With its gaze set on the budget buyer who doesn't want to make do with a cheapo no-name tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 doesn't have a particularly dynamic or interesting design. Its inch-thick screen bezel looks chunky, it has a plastic rear and while hardly rotund at 10mm thick, its form feels designed to be comfortable rather than razor-thin.

It feels much better-made than the vast majority of budget tablets we've tested, though. In making the plastic rear plate non-removable, Samsung has been able to fashion a solid and strong-feeling slab. And while it doesn't have that cool touch of metal, it has been textured to afford it a similar feel on the finger to anodised aluminium.

The front of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is glass. It's not Gorilla Glass as far as we can tell, but feels just the same under the finger and avoids the "oil slick" effect that plagued many Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets last year.

One of the best things about a 7in tablet is that you can hold it in one hand without developing muscles in weird places within your forearm. At just 344g, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 feels right at home in one mitt - and in this situation the generous bezel comes in handy, giving you space to rest your thumb without obstructing the screen. It's almost as if professional designers produced this thing...

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Connectivity

As with the other tablets in the Galaxy range, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 keeps its on-body connections simple. It features what's arguably the most important, though - a plastic flap on its right edge covers a microSD card slot. Its 16GB of internal memory (8GB version also available) is already reasonably generous, but this slot makes upgrading quick, cheap and painless.

The 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the top edge, right next to a teeny pinhole microphone. Its speakers are - sensibly - placed poles apart on the bottom edge - and there are two of them. Getting stereo sound in a tablet is a neat extra, but it's not particularly well-executed here. When held in landscape, while watching a movie for example, all sound comes from the right side, providing zero sense of stereo image.

The level of volume these teeny speakers can produce is reasonable, but sound quality is not a match for the iPad. It has decent body and scale, but little fidelity or richness.

Between the speaker duo sits the proprietary adaptor socket, used to both charge the tablet and transfer data to its brainbox. The positive side of using this dock is that it makes producing the supportive desktop and car docks (available, but not included) easy, but also ensures losing the cable is more of a problem - it proprietary sockets are a bit of an irritation generally. The tablet battery doesn't charge when you plug the cable into a computer, either.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 offers both MTP and PTP transfer modes, which tells your computer that it's either a media player or camera when plugged-in. As long as you're not running an ancient version of Windows (or any version of Mac OS) you can drag and drop files directly onto the memory using Windows Explorer. Testing with a Mac, it seems Samsung sync software Kies is needed to transfer files.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich. This is the upgraded version of Honeycomb, which was the first tablet-focused version of Google's operating system.

Samsung has dropped-in some of its own TouchWiz touches too - this is Samsung's proprietary user interface - and in all honesty it doesn't look all that different to last year's Honeycomb-based tablets.

Whatever way you hold the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 - landscape or portrait - on the home screen there's shortcut and notifications bar at the bottom of the screen, and links to Google search and the apps menu up top.

Although reasonably intuitive, this is a layout that feels more at home on a 10in tablet than a smaller one like this. When held portrait, it feels as though you should be able to access most features with your two thumbs - but you can't thanks to Google's obsession with spreading links across the screen. And having the toolbar constantly sitting at the bottom of the screen can make the display feel a little cramped - a feeling you don't get with 10.1in Android tablets.

It's almost enough to make you miss the days of Android 2.3 Gingerbread tablets running what's essentially a phone OS, like the original 7in Samsung Galaxy Tab. We say almost because the benefits of a proper tablet OS still far outweigh the niggles - key among them having tablet-optimised apps to play with.

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TouchWiz Extras

Samsung UI TouchWiz doesn't dramatically alter the DNA of the Android OS, but it does tack some neat extras on. Among the most front-facing is the screenshot-taking button on the home screen toolbar. Previous versions of Android have made it bafflingly difficult to take a screenshot, and we find it a most welcome addition.

Samsung AllShare also comes pre-installed. This is the manufacturer's own DLNA interface, and it's consistent across many home gadgets including TVs, phones and Blu-ray players. It lets you stream media over Wi-Fi and - as long as each end is AllShare compatible - takes most of the fiddliness out of the pairing process.

TouchWiz offers its own keyboard, too. It's not particularly pretty, but it makes typing quick and accurate on the 7in screen, and if you really don't like it, putting a replacement in its stead isn't difficult.

Apps and Games

Activities that benefit most from the large screen of a tablet, over a smaller smartphone display, are things like web browsing, video-viewing and email-sifting.

Enriching browsing, Adobe Flash support is in, and the 7in form is a good size for reading web pages. With a good web connection pages render fairly quickly, and the responsive capacitive touchscreen makes whizzing around them a joy. A higher-resolution display would make reading more comfortable, but it's like to be a while before we see super high pixel density tablets do the limbo under the £200 barrier.

Games and apps suffer from the lower resolution a little too, but not primarily because of a lack of pure pixel density. It's more an issue of compatibility and optimisation.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 has full access to the Google Play app store and plenty of its hundreds of thousands of apps and games. However, with an unusual 1,024 x 600 pixel resolution, many apps and games are not fully optimised for the tablet, and some are not compatible at all.

For example, in the popular Unreal Engine 3-powered Dungeon Defenders Second Wave, the graphics appear to be upsized from those of a lower resolution device (most likely 800 x 480 pixels or similar). When using most 1,280 x 800 Android tablets, such as a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, they're nice 'n' crisp.

With high pixel density devices flavour of the month, it is unlikely that many more devices of this resolution will be made. And therefore developer support is unlikely to increase much. In fairness, most games look and play just fine.

It's a pity, though, because the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 packs a decent punch for an affordable tablet. In the AnTuTu benchmark it scored 5220 points. As a point of reference, last year's similarly-priced, dual-core Time2touch HC701A scored just 2870 - and that seemed pretty zippy at the time. The Tab's CPU is a TI OMAP 4430 dual-core 1GHz model with 1GB of RAM, roughly comparable with last year's top-end Android tablets.

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Screen

Using Samsung's PLS display technology, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 offers decent viewing angles and image quality. PLS is Samsung's own take on IPS, the core screen tech used in Apple's iPad tablets.

It's not quite on-par with the best of IPS though, with significant contrast shift creeping in when the display is tilted in one particular angle. As it's not an angle you'd normally view the tablet from, though, it's not a big problem.

A deficiency that's much more noticeable is screen resolution. With a 1,024 x 600 pixel screen, the Tab 2 7.0 offers the same pixel count as the original Samsung Galaxy Tab and the comparable Acer Iconia A100. Although it offers slightly higher pixel density than the first and second iPads, with 169dpi, you can easily discern individual pixels if you get reasonably up-close - when reading, for example.

Video Compatibility

It's somewhat-less noticeable with less high-contrast images, such as those of movies. And, in the Samsung tradition, video codec support is pretty good. MKV support is included - handy for video downloads - although unusually it failed to play some of our less challenging test files. It supports Xvid and DivX, but stumbled over one of our SD DivX tests, suggesting some more software optimisation is needed. A patch perhaps, Samsung?

There's not need to wait around, though, as third-party apps can use software rendering to play anything not supported natively by the tablet.

Battery Life

Tasked with playing a looping SD-quality video at 50 per cent screen brightness, with wireless turned off, the 4000mAh battery lasted for six and a half hours - pretty close to the claimed figure of seven hours. While it outlasts most tablets of its size, and most tablets under £200, this is lower performance than premium 10.1in tabs and well below the iPad's 10-plus hours.

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Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 has two cameras. There's a VGA user-facing camera for video chat and a 3.2-megapixel main sensor that captures photos at up to 2,048 x 1,536 pixel resolution.

It's a basic affair. It doesn't have autofocus, lacking any control over the subject of your shots, and there's no flash. The only extras beyond the stripped-back basics of sepia/black and white filters you're treated to are Smile Shot and a panorama mode. Image quality is fairly poor and video capture maxes out at 720p.

Value

Starting at £199.99 for the 8GB version, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is much cheaper than most of Samsung's tablets. It's also much better than the vast majority of tablets we've tested selling at under £200. Lacking a flashy design and top-end specs, its higher-end models, such as the more-expensive 3G editions, don't make a great deal of sense. However, as an alternative to smaller £150-250 tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook, HTC Flyer and Acer Iconia A100, it's the pick of the bunch.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 isn't out to prove a grand point. This isn't the Galaxy Note, or the dazzling Tab 7.7. However, it is one of the very best tablets you can buy for under £200. With a dual-core 1GHz processor and relatively low-density 1,024 x 600 resolution screen, it's hardly cutting edge but performance is solid and build is good. The one lingering concern is that the screen resolution ensures games optimisation and support isn't up there with the best.

'Mad Men' recap, 'Signal 30': Red-faced and white-knuckled

By Mark Maurer/The Star-Ledger

For Pete Campbell, the question isn't "When are things going to get back to normal?"

It's "When is copycatting early '60s Don going to earn me respect?" Or, "When does success become satisfying?" Don in his heyday didn't have nearly this many enemies.

The latest "Mad Men" - which is a bit heavy on the match cuts (that's a film editing term) - looks at business relations, masculine yearning and the scary slo-mo car collision that's come to parallel Pete's middle years.

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Don tries to dodge a dinner party at the Campbell's suburban abode that sounds about as dull as his old plans with Betty. But he appears impervious to Trudy's stamina. The party is no more than a painfully transparent paean to Don, who is practically declared the man of the house on top of receiving the finest cut of steak. Pete flaunts his new stereo by playing classical music too loud. The kitchen sink Pete thought he fixed spits water like a geyser. And he gets one-upped by handyman/everyman Don, whom it only seems fair to compare with Jon Hamm in the category of surprise talents. On the way home, Don drunkenly suggests he and Megan make a baby.

Pete takes a driver's education class, during which he develops a crush on Jenny (Amanda Bauer), a high-school girl bound for Ohio State. They're both nostalgic for simpler times, and talk about taking turns driving to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. If they got into an accident, he'd have a lot of explaining to do. Jenny, if she even saw Pete in a romantic light, falls for an athletic classmate nicknamed "Handsome" instead. The track star (Parker Young) is more her speed.

Ken is still writing depressing short stories, now under the alias of Ben Hargrove. He prefers to keep his literary passions a secret, for fear of paying the price in the cutthroat world of office politics. First, Peggy catches him with a prospective publisher, then Cynthia touts his tales at the party. (Worlds are colliding. And that's not the only construable "Seinfeld" reference. Peggy's line "I thought we had a pact!" brings to mind Jerry and George's botched agreement to mature and settle down.) After Pete spreads the word about his stories, Roger makes Ken feel like his job could be on the line if he doesn't commit to one craft only. Ken chooses to switch alias - this time, Dave Algonquin, named after New York's Algonquin Hotel, or the cocktail.

Rebecca drags Lane to a pub to cheer on the ultimately victorious British team at the televised World Cup. Dining with them is Edwin Baker (David Hunt), a Jaguar Cars public relations executive who's in the market for an advertising campaign and wants to hear from an account man. Later, Lane, the financial chief, tells the partners and wants to handle his first account. Pete bullies him about it, speculating it's a costly endeavor with measly returns. Roger steps in to mentor Lane on the art of schmoozing clients. We never thought we'd hear Roger speak of feigning drinking. He instructs Lane to obtain answers by being smooth and artificially empathetic. When Lane fails, the big boys take Edwin to dinner.

"Lane couldn't close a car door," Pete sneers. Sure, Lane lacks an account man's bravado, but at least he knows how to drive a car.

Pete, Roger and Don take Edwin to a high-end brothel, where each man gets his jollies except Don. On the cab ride home, Don makes him feel shame for cheating on Trudy. Don says he feels Pete has everything right now; only a fool would test it.

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The next day, Lane reveals to the partners they've lost the Jaguar account. Off-camera, Edwin's wife caught her husband with chewing gum on his pubic hair, Lane says. Because Pete spearheaded the tag team initiative, he's the first to be dealt Lane's wrath. He fires back a nasty, and untrue, riposte: "Our need for you disappeared the day after you fired us."

Lane engages Pete in a boxing match in the conference room. Don eagerly closes the curtains. As Joan and Peggy eavesdrop from the adjacent room, Lane gets in two clean blows that drop Pete to the table, then the floor. In Lane's office, Joan says it's good to be different. He misreads the signal and kisses her. The move is an almost startling indication that Lane, too, is one of the boys. Being the good work friend she is, Joan accepts it as one elongated faux pas.

In the elevator, Pete admits to Don "I have nothing" (no Whitney Houston tie-in) and begins to weep. That's a lesson to Don: Don't ever leave the office without Megan at your side.

NOTES

- Whose marriage is faring the best this week? Betty and Henry are out of the running, so that leaves the Drapers, the Cosgroves, the Campbells, the Sterlings and the Pryces. Pete and Roger were both unfaithful; Ken feels most alive when he's writing while his wife's asleep; and Rebecca's likely upset about the bubblegum incident, though Lane is in the clear despite minor bruising. Although Don didn't want to wear the sport jacket, it's fair to say he and Megan are going strong. Neither can seem to resist the other's seductive power. It's tough to gauge the enduring strength of Don's feelings for Megan, because, as viewers, we entered his marriage with Betty on the long way down. His words to Pete are promising, if a bit too rosy to guarantee longevity: "If I'd met (Megan) first, I'd have known not to throw it away."

- I was especially excited for tonight's episode when I saw who co-wrote it with creator Matthew Weiner. Lending the show some added period authenticity, Frank Pierson - an old hand in Hollywood who co-wrote 1967's "Cool Hand Luke" and directed 1976's "A Star is Born" - was consulting producer on the third season and now this season. "Signal 30" is the 86-year-old's first writing credit on the show. Featuring only a handful of the key players, the John Slattery-directed episode was more slow-paced than usual and another thematically strong entry this season. It's also not every day that fisticuffs enter the ad world.

- Are we getting a follow-up soon on Michael's home life?

- What did everyone take away from the beginning of Ken's story "The Man with the Miniature Orchestra"? More like the guy with the tiniest violin.

 

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4/6/2012 - Will Apple's game plan beat the trustbusters?

Will Apple's game plan beat the trustbusters?

By Josh Lowensohn


The challenge for Apple's attorneys is presenting a different picture of the e-book market than the one offered by the Department of Justice, experts say.

A flag outside a European Apple retail store.

Most companies finding themselves staring at the business end of a government cannon might consider it time to talk compromise. Apple is not most companies.

One day after the Department of Justice sued Apple and several book publishers for allegedly colluding to fix e-book prices, Apple publicly dismissed the government's claims as empty and false. Instead, Apple stayed with the script and described the 2010 launch of the iBookstore as a force for "innovation and competition," one that also helped break what it called "Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry."

"Since then customers have benefited from e-books that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore," Apple declared.

Those were fighting words, and the message to the DOJ was plain: Bring it on.

Apple might regret the utterance. IBM in the 1980s and Microsoft in the 1990s got bogged down in long, hard, and inconclusive antitrust struggles with the government that distracted both companies as changes took place in the technology industry. But Apple has clearly reached the conclusion that this battle won't cost it dearly, either in time or resources. So without settling, how does Apple plan to defend itself even if this does wind up turning into a multiyear court battle?

The answer, several experts say, will be to try and present a different picture of the e-book market and play up Amazon's unassailable dominance. Obviously, it's hard to imagine Apple seriously painting itself as the underdog in the world of digital goods given its stellar success in digital music and mobile applications. But legal experts say Apple should remind a judge and jury that when it first tried its hand at e-books in 2010, Amazon had a 90 percent share in the e-books market. That offers Apple's attorneys a chance to make the case that no competitor could undercut that type of dominance.

"Apple trying to compete against Amazon is a good thing," said Gus Hurwitz, a fellow at the Center for Technology Innovation and Competition at The University of Pennsylvania Law School. "It's the sort of thing we want to encourage so long as it's in ways that are complying with the law."

The relationship of competition

Fair competition is at the very heart of the Justice Department's case against Apple and the publishers. The government accused the publishers of illegally holding private meetings to fix e-book prices, and later teaming up with Apple to crack Amazon's dominance of the market. Bundling all the companies together in one complaint has its own problems, though. Indeed, Hurwitz noted that Apple is not a competitor with e-book providers.
Apple&#39;s iBooks app, which serves as both a store and a reader.

Apple's iBooks app, which serves as both a store and a reader.

"If e-book publishers decided to collude and break the law, that's not Apple's problem. They were free to break the law and come to Apple as a cartel," he said. "That's not illegal on Apple's part."

The relationship between Apple and the publishers is crucial as far as antitrust laws are concerned, says Joseph Bauer, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame. Bauer noted that under the very first section of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act -- which Apple and others are alleged to be violating -- there is a marked distinction between business relationships, which are broken into two categories: vertical and horizontal. Where horizontal covers the behavior between or among competitors, vertical is that behavior between suppliers and customers.

"Historically, the antitrust law has been much harsher in dealing with horizontal behavior," Bauer said in a phone interview Friday. "At its core, the allegations by the DOJ are against the five publishers who allegedly conspired to adopt uniform pricing policies. That might be different, and only slightly less problematic from actually having agreed on price."

Adding complexity to the situation is how antitrust law deals with e-books as a business. As the DOJ notes in its complaint, the named publishers compete with one another in a business made up of six major providers of trade books. "They publish the vast majority of their newly released titles as both print books and e-books," the filing reads. According to Hurwitz, that very factor makes e-books a so-called "multisided market," wherein two or more distinct groups of participants are brought together by an intermediate platform.

"E-books are multisided markets, and antitrust law doesn't yet have a good handle on how to deal with pricing situations in multisided markets," Hurwitz said. "It is very possible that increasing prices on one side of a multisided market can benefit the market as a whole. By increasing prices you get a wider range that will ultimately benefit everyone in the marketplace."

What happened instead was the "agency" model, where publishers set e-book prices to retailers, who get 30 percent while the publisher keeps 70 percent. While the DOJ has focused part of its complaint on the deals Apple made with publishers to assure that it would always get the lowest wholesale price given to others, the grander idea of the agency model was for the companies to compete on experience -- be it shopping for e-books, or reading them on devices.

Historical similarities

Sometimes experience isn't enough. Bauer points back to an antitrust case against retailer Toys "R" Us by the Federal Trade Commission from the late 1990s that found the toy retailer to be breaking the law after having made vertical agreements with toy manufacturers to keep them from selling to warehouse club stores, where those same goods it might be selling were being sold at a smaller markup.

"The bottom line was that Toys 'R' Us' competitive position was enhanced. And action was brought against all of them," Bauer said. "But the important part against Toys 'R' Us was for orchestrating that agreement between the toy companies."

"If the evidence shows that analogously what Apple did was help to orchestrate, organize, or implement the agreement among the publishers, then we are transforming what would be the initial, problematic horizontal agreement among the publisher competitors into something where you have another firm which is intimately involved with making that conspiracy a reality," Bauer added.

Not to be dismissed, the evidence against Apple and the named publishers could change, and potentially strengthen if the claim goes to trial.

"There's often a difference between what gets put into a complaint and what you can prove in trial," Bauer said, "The DOJ will be able to compel all of the defendants to produce documents; they will be able to take depositions of folks who were involved in this -- both the representatives of the five defendant publishers and representatives of Apple -- and presumably even third parties who might have information."

That information could then be added, or used to take away claims from the original complaint, Bauer said.

In the meantime, some of the additional publishers named in the DOJ complaint -- and even Apple -- could end up settling, according to Ronald Cass, the president at Cass &amp; Associates, and former vice chairman and commissioner of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

"Obviously when the Department of Justice is collaborating with that many attorneys general, there is some effort on its part to try to hold a pretty big hammer over the head of the people who are accused to get them to settle quickly," Cass said. "When that doesn't happen, sometimes things don't go quite the way the Justice Department would like."

 

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22/3/2012 - Top ten apps that help make classes managable

Top ten apps that help make classes managable

By Ashley G. Terrell.

For the life of a college student there's always a continuous juggle of work, school and social lives that keeps one busy. Anything to lessen the load would be a miracle. But what if that miracle came from just an app?

Through the thousands of choices at your fingertips, many go above and beyond to enhance the educational experience. Here are the 10 best Smartphone/tablet apps to help you become a better student:

1. Evernote: A digital note taking app that can record in text, video, notes and photos, plus sorting the information in order of date. It can also sync from a phone to computer. (For: iPhone, iPad, Windows, Android and Blackberry)

2. myHomework: Tracks homework, classes, projects and tests with ease while syncing information to myHomeworkapp.com for review. Once your class schedule and assignments have been entered, you'll receive notifications of due dates regarding to
your work. (For: iPhone and iPad)

3. Amazon Student: Need affordable textbooks? Don't we all? Amazon Student includes a barcode scanning feature used to compare prices to validate if a campus bookstore overcharges you (most likely yes). This app has helped students tremendously with saving money while being aware of competitive pricing in order to get better deals. (For: iPhone and Android)

4. Mint: The life of a student revolves around money for many reasons: cars, food, clothing, supplies and many more. This personal finance app is a perfect guide to help students create a budget and stretch their money too. With a budget set, inputting a point-of-transactions will track your overall expenses. (For: iPhone and Android)

5. EZ Read: Contains the literature sources of SparkNotes.com providing plot overviews, quizzes, characters analysis, chapter summaries and key facts for popular books. (For: iPhone and Android)

6. iTunes U: Available to various colleges, including Eastern Michigan University, students have access to audio lectures, videos, books and documents for class assignments. (For: iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch)

7. Recordoid: Specifically for Android, this is a great app for recording audio notes or lectures that can be sent via email and is supported with an auto-backup.

8. Wi-Fi Finder: When you're off campus but want to stay on top of emails, assignments or contact fellow group members, free internet is helpful. The GPS- monitor can locate Wi-Fi networks nearby along with the location type, directions and contact information. (For: iPhone and Android)

9. Dictionary.com: A popular app among college students, this dictionary and thesaurus has nearly two million words to search at ease. (For: iPhone, Android and Blackberry)

10. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock: We're all guilty of hitting the snooze button or sleeping in lectures. But would you believe that your smartphone can analyze your sleep cycle? Receiving five stars from 148Apps.com, this accelerometer monitors sleep movement and stages from drowsiness to REM (dream) sleep. It wakes you during the lightest sleep phase, stage 2, resulting in less grogginess throughout the day. (For: iPhone, $0.99)

Gowalla officially closes its doors three months after acquisition by Facebook

Ailing location-based application Gowalla has finally shuttered its doors, three months after Facebook's talent acquisition of Gowalla. This leaves Foursquare to prove that its pivot will keep its location-based services relevant for users.

It's official. Gowalla shuttered its doors only three months after Facebook's acquisition and five years after its founding. Today, Foursquare stands as the lone giant lumbering in location-based check-ins, despite the fact that the majority of its users aren't in fact using Foursquare for checking-in.

Knowing that Gowalla was in its final stretch, Facebook purchased Gowalla in exchange for $3 million of Facebook's shares, prior to what will be an undoubtedly fruitful IPO. While Gowalla had pivoted to become a travel guide destination, which was leading to its slow death, its purchase was entirely a talent acquisition. With plans to expand Facebook's location-based API for statuses and updates detailing user's visits on their Timelines, the majority of Gowalla's team settled in Facebook's Palo Alto, while the remainder stayed in Austin to work in Facebook's Austin office.

Gowalla's landing page simply states:

"Thank you for going out with Gowalla. It was a pleasure to journey with you around the world. Download your check-ins, photos and lists here soon."

While Gowalla has been acquired, all the data that has been logged since 2007 will remain behind, available for downloading.

Its competitor, Foursquare, had begun a series of changes to its services beginning in October 2011 with the Radar recommendation engine, which notifies its mobile users when they're near a venue or restaurant that they may like.

Its latest venue discovery and recommendation feature, Explorer, allows users to search for recommended places based on the, "time of day, places your friends have been or left tips, places on lists you follow, and places we think you'll like based on the 1,500,000,000 check-ins on Foursquare," as its blog post states.

Following its Explorer update, Foursquare, using SinglePlatform's API, added 250,000 restaurant menus. The latest update has included hours of operation for local businesses, including hours for discounts and happy hours.

Its strategy is a dramatic pivot that will see Foursquare taking the form of a mobile recommendation engine coupled with Yelp. "There are a lot of people using Foursquare who aren't checking in. People use the app to consume data. That's a really important and interesting trend," Dennis Crowley, Foursquare's CEO, informed the Wall Street Journal.

With Foursquare's pivot and the old Gowalla team now building out Facebook's location-based API, the friendly competition between Foursquare and Gowalla continues to exist. But while Facebook intends to use its location API to leave memories of experiences shared, Foursquare will try to recommend future experiences.

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22/3/2012 - GM's Buyers Snub 'Obamamobile' Volt as Campaign Gets Hot

GM's Buyers Snub 'Obamamobile' Volt as Campaign Gets Hot

By Tim Higgins.

Pity the Chevy Volt. Ever since it became known that the plug-in hybrid car's batteries had burst into flames after government crash tests, the Volt has become the whipping boy of Republican politicians.

Conservatives have equated General Motors Co. (GM)'s Volt with everything from government bailouts to radical left-wing environmentalism.

"Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features, we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag," GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson said during a Congressional hearing on the Volt in January. "And that, sadly, is what the Volt has become."

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich faulted the Volt for its lack of space for a gun rack. Front-runner Mitt Romney called it "an idea whose time has not come." American Tradition Partnership Inc., a conservative group, referred to Volts as "exploding Obamamobiles."

Akerson said all the trash talk about the Volt has been pinching sales. Obama's challengers, though, see it as an effective way to resonate with their voters. Republicans buy Silverado pickups and other Chevrolets in greater numbers than Democrats do, said Art Spinella, who studies new-vehicle buyers as president of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Oregon.

While Chevy customers tend to lean conservative, less than 14 percent of Volt buyers so far this year identify themselves as Republicans while about 53 percent call themselves Democrats, according to CNW survey of 1,416 people. Buyers of the Chevrolet brand as a whole were 37 percent Republican, 22 percent Democrat and 41 percent independent.

Disappointing Sales

Politics aside, Volt sales have been a source of disappointment for GM. The Environmental Protection Agency gave it a 95 mpg rating for city driving, less than half the 230 mpg rating GM had anticipated in 2009. After the battery fires became public in November, 2011 sales fell short of Akerson's goal and following slow sales in January and February, GM decided to stop making the cars for five weeks.

While the government's investigation found the Volt to be as safe as other vehicles, they are complicated and expensive for a small car at nearly $40,000 before a federal tax credit. Nissan Motor Co. (7201)'s Leaf electric car missed its sales targets last year, too, raising questions about the size of the market for technology-laden fuel-efficient vehicle.

Republican Bashing

It's impossible to know to what degree political rhetoric is hurting Volt sales, but Akerson isn't alone in believing the numbers would look better without the Republican bashing. Chevrolet dealers in the U.S. sold 7,671 Volts last year, missing GM's target of 10,000. About 1,600 Volts were sold in the first two months of the year, a pace that doesn't match Akerson's plans to deliver 45,000 in the U.S. this year. At least part of that gap is a result of attacks on the campaign trail, Spinella said.

Buyers from the political center to the right, "will not buy a car that has anything at all that they perceive being associated with the administration," Spinella said.

While the Volt accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the world's largest automaker's sales last year, it is getting heightened attention because "it's a hallmark car," Akerson told reporters in San Francisco this week.

After the announcement last week that work would stop for five weeks at the Detroit-Hamtramck where the Volt is made, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, posted on Twitter about it with the hashtag "#ObamaonEmpty."

The Volt, introduced a month before Obama said he would run for president, can go more than 30 miles on electricity before its gasoline engine kicks in and powers a generator to recharge the battery. The car has a range of 379 miles with both electric and gasoline power combined.

Lutz Outraged

Bob Lutz, the former vice chairman at General Motors who helped develop the Volt, said he's angered that the car has become politicized.

"I don't mind criticizing Obama, I don't mind criticizing the Democrats and, you know me, I think global warming is a huge hoax perpetrated by the global political left," Lutz said. "But when it comes to starting to tell outright lies to advance your political purposes and damage an American company that is greatly on its way back, hurt American employment in Hamtramck, Michigan, I just think it's totally outrageous."

Lutz, a Republican, said he voted for former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum in the Michigan Republican primary in part because former Massachusetts Governor Romney wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times in 2008 headlined "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" about his opposition to a GM bailout.

Obama's Role

After President George W. Bush extended emergency loans to GM's predecessor, Obama's administration managed its $50 billion bailout. The U.S. still holds 32 percent of the GM shares, which have gained 26 percent this year after falling 45 percent in 2011.

Obama has embraced the Volt's fuel-saving technology and said it's his choice for a new car once he's no longer president.

"It was nice," he told a United Auto Workers audience on Feb. 28 about sitting in one. "I'll bet it drives real good. And five years from now when I'm not president anymore, I'll buy one and drive it myself."

Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who owns a Chevrolet dealership in Butler, said he doesn't sell the Volt at his store because it's too expensive for his customers, who would be better served with a cheaper Cruze. While it may be an engineering marvel, it's too far out for his customers, he said.

"It's still just not a viable alternative to the market that I serve in western Pennsylvania," he said. "I just don't have people coming in to buy that car."

Social Issues

The Volt not only personifies the bailout for Republican candidates, it also plays to other controversial issues such as class and environment. On the campaign trail, for example, Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, has peppered his stump speech with comments about the Volt, including during a stop Feb. 17 caught by C-Span.

"The average family that buys it earns $170,000 a year and this is Obama's idea of populism and in his new budget he wants to increase the amount given to every Volt buyer to $10,000, which is an amount which would allow a lot of people to buy a decent secondhand car but it wouldn't be an Obama car," Gingrich said to cheers in Peachtree City, Georgia. "But here's my point to folks: You can't put a gun rack in a Volt."

"So let's be clear what this election is all about," Gingrich continued. "We believe in the right to bear arms and we like to bear the arms in our trucks."

The Volt "can do a lot of things," including tote a gun rack, responded Selim Bingol, vice president of GM's global communications, on a company blog. "But if you are looking for a vehicle for your next hunting trip, it may not be your first choice."

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22/3/2012 - Soldier's Rampage May Fuel Calls for Obama to Accelerate Afghan Withdrawal

Soldier's Rampage May Fuel Calls for Obama to Accelerate Afghan Withdrawal

By Viola Gienger and Mark Drajem.

The fatal shootings of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by an American soldier, add to a series of incendiary incidents that threaten to drain remaining U.S. and European support for the decade-long mission.

In Afghanistan, the deadly attack also may reinforce Afghan suspicions that foreigners are seeking to conquer their Islamic country. They may conclude the U.S.-led coalition will end up leaving in defeat just as have outsiders from Alexander the Great to the British to the Soviet Union.

"This is a major setback," said Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corp. in Arlington, Virginia, who worked for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Afghanistan last year. Beyond influencing Afghan attitudes, he said yesterday in an interview, "it undermines certainly U.S. trust of the Afghans because I'm sure there are going to be concerns about the local reaction."

Any violent backlash by Afghans to the shootings in the southern province of Kandahar may add to domestic pressure on President Barack Obama to speed troop withdrawals, ahead of the the security handover now set for 2014. Asked yesterday on CBS's "Face the Nation" if it's time to withdraw U.S. forces, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said, "I think it is."

In offering condolences to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed resolve to continue to "work hand in hand with our Afghan partners," according to a statement from his office.

2014 Timetable

Two U.S. officials said the killings may prove to be the fatal hit to the administration's hopes for maintaining a large international military and civilian presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. That plan is intended to improve the performance of the Afghan government, degrade the Taliban and strengthen Afghan security forces.

Whether that's the case will depend on how Afghan civilians, government officials and security forces respond to the killings, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly. This incident follows the burning of Korans in a trash dump at a U.S. base last month and a video in January showing at least four U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.

If Afghan anger, frustration, and resentment of foreigners turns violent as it did after the Koran burning, whatever political and public support remains in America and Europe for the NATO mission in Afghanistan will almost certainly dissipate, both officials said.

Administration Divisions

Already, Vice President Joe Biden and some White House officials have been pressing for a faster exit from Afghanistan, according to the officials. CIA Director David Petraeus, a former NATO commander there, and some U.S. military officials have been arguing that there's been progress and that a hasty exit would open the door to the Taliban's return and perhaps to a new civil war, the officials said.

The U.S. soldier allegedly shot to death 16 Afghan civilians in their homes before returning to his base and being taken into custody, Afghan and NATO officials said. The soldier, whose name was withheld by U.S. authorities, is from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Washington, said one official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment publicly.

Statements of condolences yesterday from Obama and a reassuring message from the acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan posted on YouTube clashed with photos linked on Twitter of the victims, who included women and children.

Whatever trust and credibility remained between the U.S. and the Afghans after last month's burning of Korans at the main American base in Afghanistan probably is gone after this latest attack, said David Cortright, director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

'Fatal Hammer Blow'

"This is a fatal hammer blow on the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan," Cortright, author of "Ending Obama's War: Responsible Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan," said in an e-mailed statement. "This may have been the act of a lone deranged soldier, but the people of Afghanistan will see it for what it was -- a wanton massacre of innocent civilians."

The shooting spree yesterday compounds the difficulty of sticking to the U.S. military's strategy of gradually reducing its troop levels while strengthening the Afghan army, police and government ministries to take over fully at the end of 2014.

White House and Pentagon officials are confronting decisions on how many forces and what types to leave in place after the last of 33,000 personnel that were added in 2010 leave in September. The American public has made clear it has little stomach left for the battle, according to results of a Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows a majority consistently opposing the war for almost two years.

U.S. Public Opinion

The latest survey found 54 percent of Americans want to pull out U.S. forces even if the Afghan army isn't ready to pick up the fight. The poll was conducted March 7 to March 10, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points for the full results.

Obama convened a meeting of his senior White House national security staff yesterday to discuss the incident before calling Karzai with condolences and a pledge to investigate thoroughly.

Right now "you have a policy that is lurching from headline to headline," Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in an interview. "We forgot the lessons learned from Vietnam about how long this takes."

"Our being in the middle in a country like Afghanistan is probably counterproductive," Gingrich said on CBS. "We are risking the lives of men and women for a mission frankly that is not worth doing," he said earlier on "Fox News Sunday."
Koran-Burning Aftermath

Dozens of U.S. military advisers had returned to Afghan ministries with extra security since being withdrawn after two were killed in one of the offices in the violence set off by the Koran-burning incident. Hundreds remain under orders to stay in secure NATO coalition compounds.

"One incident like this can change the equation," Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday when asked about the killing of Afghan civilians. "It's tragic because we have so many brave" soldiers serving in Afghanistan, he said.

Such incidents exacerbate a sense of instability even as U.S. defense officials and military officers say violence is declining.

Intelligence Estimate

A National Intelligence Estimate given to Obama in January concluded that the Taliban remain resilient and determined to re-impose their brand of strict Islamic rule on the country, and that Afghan forces and the civilian government are still plagued by corruption and ineffectiveness. The estimate, the consensus view of the intelligence community, was described by two U.S. officials on condition of anonymity because it isn't public.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said such continuing instability is all the more reason for the U.S. to continue fighting.

"I understand the frustration and I understand the anger and the sorrow," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday. "I also understand, and we should not forget, the attacks on the United States of America in 9/11 originated in Afghanistan. And if Afghanistan dissolved into a situation where the Taliban were able to take over or a chaotic situation, it could easily return to an al-Qaeda base for attacks on the United States."
Military Justice

The U.S. military justice system's handling of the case, in what is likely to be a lengthy process, also may affect the perception among Afghans.

The country's Defense Ministry issued a statement yesterday saying it "strongly condemns this inhuman and devastating incident." The statement said officials asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led coalition to "capture the perpetrators of the merciless action as soon as possible and punish them for their despicable crime."

In the phone call to Karzai, Obama expressed "his administration's commitment to establish the facts as quickly as possible and to hold fully accountable anyone responsible," according to a White House statement.

The shooting "would only be an incident without this larger chronology we've seen in recent weeks," said Cordesman, the military analyst. "It's a much broader problem than people understand," he said.

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