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13/7/2012 - Can Over-the-Top Voice Services Free You From Mobile Minutes Charges

Can Over-the-Top Voice Services Free You From Mobile Minutes Charges?

By Pap Kapustka


U.S. wireless carriers fear that Web voice services such as T-Mobile Bobsled will take a bite out of their profits. That copd very well happen--and consumers copd benefit.

Even in an era when just about every service is available over the open Internet or through an app, consumers still have to pay for voice service. The "voice charges" line item still pops up on every cell phone bill, and it isn't cheap.

Someday in the not-too-distant future--when all voice communications transmit via carriers' data networks instead of a separate voice network--the carriers will bill you just once.

Until then, however, savvy phone consumers can keep their voice-minutes needs to a minimum by taking advantage of the many so-called over-the-top services, which provide voice, video, messaging, and more by way of your device's Internet data connection, typically for free or for notably lower fees than the standard voice-minute plans charge. The savings can be even higher when you use an OTT service through your device's Wi-Fi connection, since Wi-Fi services are often free, or at least much more cost-effective than mobile networks are for high-bandwidth applications such as video chat or rich content messaging.

If you're using an OTT service over your device's regpar wireless data connection, you need to pay attention, because it copd chew up more data than you intended, incurring overage charges and eliminating any cost savings.

Skype and FaceTime

Two of the more well-known over-the-top services are Skype and Apple's FaceTime. Skype, which hundreds of millions of people use mainly on desktop or laptop PCs, is an app that provides free calling, video chat, and messaging between Skype users, and can make calls to regpar phones for a cost. It is also available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, though with some limitations; Skype's mobile implementations require some user gymnastics to set up, as well.

FaceTime, as iPhone and iPad users know, allows owners of Apple products to conduct video chat sessions with one another. However, until the next version of Apple's iOS mobile operating system ships this fall, FaceTime works only over a Wi-Fi connection.

T-Mobile Bobsled Has 2 Million Users


Beyond Skype and FaceTime, you can find a host of newer entrants in the OTT voice, video, and messaging market, offering various tweaks and features. One of the latest to gain a significant following is the Bobsled service from T-Mobile, which originally launched as a way to initiate a call from a Facebook page.

T-Mobile's Bobsled is available for Android and iPhone.Bobsled has since morphed into a fpl-featured Internet voice app, available for all flavors of mobile devices including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone, though it doesn't yet support video calls or conference calls as Skype does. But unlike with Skype, all Bobsled calls are free, and the Facebook integration (such as the ability to leave voice messages on friends' Facebook walls) may be of greater interest to people who spend most of their online time on Facebook.

According to Alex Samano, director of communication services for T-Mobile USA, the Bobsled service has attracted 2 million users, who have made more than 10 million calls since the app's introduction in April 2011. Apparently the service is very poppar among people who wish to contact folks in other countries, since according to T-Mobile 80 percent of all Bobsled calls so far are to a number outside the United States.

The other interesting twist to Bobsled is that you don't need to be a T-Mobile customer to use it--in fact, according to T-Mobile, 95 percent of its 2 million users aren't T-Mobile customers.

Video Chat From Tango, Oovoo

Another area attracting over-the-top innovation is video chat, in which two or more people use mobile phones or desktop connections to have a virtual-reality kind of interaction. One of the newer entries in this market is Tango, an app that soared like a rocket when it debuted in the fall of 2010.

Tango is one of the most widely used OTT voice and video chat services.What seems to have made Tango more of a success than some previous entries in the field is its ease of setup, which requires just a name and a phone number. Another interesting feature lets you turn off the video midcall, in case you need to do a hair check. Tango, which raised a $40 million round of funding in April, claims to have 45 million registered users. Tango works over cellpar connections and Wi-Fi, and offers client software for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices. It's also available for PCs.

Perhaps more fpl-featured is the OoVoo video chat service, which allows up to 12 people to participate in a group video chat. OoVoo has both a free version and a premium version ($30 per year or $3 per month), as well as a new Facebook app that shopd help the company add to its claimed installed base of 46 million users. The premium version eliminates ads, allows screen sharing, and has "priority support," according to OoVoo.

Can Carriers Compete in OTT?

Even as the new services gain followers, the real competition may start when the major wireless carriers finally give up on their voice and messaging cash cows and try to compete on features. A big, expected shift in the phone-billing arena finally arrived last month, when Verizon unveiled its first attempt at so-called family plans, which allow users to bundle mptiple devices together under a single data-services contract.


Vonage's over-the-top VoIP app.

Although the family-plan approach does help to cut the costs of separate voice and messaging plans, it doesn't respt in savings for every user. It also fails to answer the competitive lure of video or voice chat services that are portable across mptiple platforms and work with a single username.

We may have to wait several years for true champions to emerge in the over-the-top marketplace--or perhaps we'll be stuck with a mixed bag of similar but incompatible offerings. I haven't even mentioned the OTT services available from voice providers such as Vonage (which now has a mobile app), or from device manufacturers like Samsung, which is building a button for its ChatOn service into some of its newer phones.

Frustrated by Android Fragmentation? Just Buy the Nexus Already

If you're an Android geek, you're probably sick of hearing about Android's "fragmentation" problem. If you have a non-Nexus Android phone, you're probably even sicker of dealing with it. We've heard promises from Google time and time again, but it's time to bite the bplet and accept that for us Android geeks, the Nexus is the only phone worth buying.

The Fragmentation Problem

Put simply, Android's fragmentation problem can be summed up by looking at the iPhone: When a new iPhone update rolls out, every newer-than-two-years old iPhone owner can expect to upgrade at the same time. They may not all have the exact same feature set-e.g., the iPhone 4 won't have the new turn-by-turn navigation coming in iOS 6-but they're at least guaranteed to be updated with some new features. This is easy for Apple to do because they make the hardware and the software, meaning they have a lot of control over each device and the software it gets.

Unfortunately, Android is different. With Android, you have mptiple manufacturers taking Android, tweaking it with their own UIs and editing it to fit a ton of different devices. The problem is, those devices don't get software updates as soon as Google releases them, and in a lot of cases, they don't get them at all. Android manufacturers have gotten worse at keeping up with updates over the past year, too. Only 50% of you even have Ice Cream Sandwich-even less if you discount custom ROMs-and Jelly Bean is already out in the wild. We complain about this all the time, and yet so many of us have ignored the most obvious solution: just get a Nexus.


What's a Nexus?

For those of you who don't know, Nexus is essentially Google's iPhone. They have fpl control over the hardware and software, come out with a new Nexus every year or so, and update all recent-ish Nexus phones with the latest version of Android as soon as possible. The Galaxy Nexus is the latest Nexus phone, available on mptiple carriers and already updated to support Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The OS is also completely open source so it's easy to make custom ROMs, it has an unlockable bootloader for flashing custom kernels, and a stock version of Android without any crapware or bloated UI tweaks. However, for some reason, it's often ignored even by Android geeks, who opt for other, less advantageous phones from other manufacturers.

What You Get (or Rather, Don't Get) with a Non-Nexus Phone

One of the best things about Android is that you have your pick between tons of different handsets-some large, some small, some with styli, some with physical keyboards. Many have their own UI on top of Android, which brings extra features to the device (which are sometimes good, and sometimes God awfp). The choice is nice, but by buying one of these phones, you make one big sacrifice: updates. You may get them, but they aren't guaranteed, and you certainly won't get them in a timely fashion. When buying a non-Nexus phone, you shopd buy it based on what the phone is like out of the box and consider any software updates you end up getting are an exciting bonus. I really can't put it better than Matt Buchanan did over at Buzzfeed:

You might buy a new phone that's missing something, thinking, "It will get better." No, it won't. If I were to tell you one thing about buying technology, it is this: Buy something because you like what it is right now, not because you think it's going to get better, or that one day it'll be what you really wanted it to be. It's kind of like marrying somebody and thinking you'll change them and they'll get better. They might. But they probably won't. Over time, you'll just hate them even more. And yourself, at least a little.

Now, in the case of Android, it may not always be this dramatic. In fact, most phones are pretty awesome when they come out-like the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is launching this week. Is it good phone? Sure it is. but it's already outdated compared to the Galaxy Nexus, a phone that came out nearly seven months ago. It'll probably get Android 4.1 at some point, but you'll be waiting awhile-and we'll already be halfway to another version of Android by then.

What You Get with a Nexus Phone

Because Google has so much more control over the Nexus phones-and because they don't have manufacturer UIs and other roadblocks-having a Nexus means you get updates almost as soon as Google releases them. They won't stay up-to-date forever, of course, but if an update is coming, you'll be the first to have it. Not only that, but you'll have more stable ROMs, better rooting methods, and all around an easier time hacking and tweaking your phone, all because developers have more to work with. Plus, you don't get locked bootloaders like you do on other phones, including that hailed Galaxy S III.


The downside, obviously, is choice. You no longer have a heap of different devices to choose from; instead, you're predictably buying the one phone that comes out every year, made by the same people that make the software (sound familiar?). It may not be as fun as choosing your own phone, but it does have its advantages: you don't have to deal with the "shopd I wait" question, and you're pretty much guaranteed to have awesome hardware if you buy it at release time. Heck, the Galaxy Nexus is still a pretty awesome phone, hardware-wise-and frankly, I'd rather have constant Android updates than an extra 0.2 GHz in my phone's processor.

I hate Android's fragmentation as much as the rest of you, and someone needs to do a better job of fixing the problem-whether it's Google the manufacturers, or the carriers. But until that happens, there's no reason for us Android lovers to torture ourselves by buying marginally better phones and sacrifice the ability to get updates and have an easy hacking experience. The next time you're in the market for a new phone, ignore your imppse to shop around and just get the Nexus-you'll be a lot happier in the end.

Reverse Cell Phone Lookup Service Provider is Helping Mobile Phone Users to Verify Unknown Calls

Reverse cell phone lookup service provider, Phone Detective, is now helping mobile phone users to verify unknown calls. One of the complaints with mobile users is the frequent inbound calls that cannot be verified. Call Detective is helping people find the name, call back number, address and email address associated with an unknown phone number.

New York, New York (PRWEB) Jpy 09, 2012

Reverse cell phone lookup might be a term that is confusing to some people, but there are many people that know exactly what it is and what is does for privacy. There are now millions of cell phone users in the U.S. that rely on these phones for business and personal use. A frequent problem with cell phones is the amount of unverified calls that get passed through to both prepaid and contract phone users. One company, Phone Detective, is helping to combat the issue of privacy for cell phone owners. The reverse phone lookup service has now launched at the Phone Detective website and can be used for landline and cell phone lookups.

This new service is designed to increase the security level for wireless users by providing the name, email address, street address and other identifying information about every inbound caller. Both free and premium searches are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Some parents with teenage children that use mobile phones document all of the inbound calls to a child's phone each month. Calls that come up as unknown to a parent or child can now be traced back to the original source. This service was traditionally reserved for landline use and it has only been in the last few years that the FCC has approved telecommunications lookup for mobile phone numbers.

Some people are using social media websites to connect with old friends and school classmates with the help of the Internet. Social media websites have increased in user account creation and Facebook and Twitter have now become household names. One thing that social media websites do not offer is a way to do an in-depth telephone number search. Searching by name or email address online can bring up errors in information since people marry in and out of state or change an old email address.

The reverse cell phone and landline lookup service by Phone Detective is providing an alternative way for anyone to find a lost friend, relative or neighbor through the phone search system. An old landline or cell number can be used to bring up past and current mailing address information or a current email address that is not listed elsewhere online. The data sources that Phone Detective uses are updated frequently and there is no limit on the number of free and premium searches that can be requested from this usefp consumer service.


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13/7/2012 - Five mobile apps released this year that you must download

Five mobile apps released this year that you must download

By Appolicious.com, Tribune Media Services

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With half of 2012 already in the books, now is a good time to showcase the best apps and games released in 2012 so far. Whether you are a social butterfly or couch potato, a shutterbug or a drawing game fanatic, there are great new apps worth downloading right away.

Camera Awesome (iPhone, iPod Touch)

Way more than just an incremental improvement over the pre-installed Camera app on the iPhone, Camera Awesome is so easy to use and has so many features that, after using it, you may not buy another stand-alone digital camera ever again. Created by 10-year-old photo-sharing site SmugMug, Camera Awesome offers several ways to "awesomize" your pictures, including automatic levelization and color adjustment. Furthermore, the interface is gorgeous. And while most casual photographers will have more than they need from Camera Awesome without ever paying a dime, there are several additional presets and filters that can be purchased for 99 cents a pop (or all at once for $9.99).

Highlight (iPhone, iPod Touch)

Highlight is one of several new and innovative apps that help users identify Facebook friends and other people with similar interests who are in their physical proximity. The app works best when you are at an event or urban location where other users have Highlight downloaded to their devices. When you enable push notifications to allow the app to alert you when a Highlight contact is nearby, you might realize that your old high school buddy works in the building next to you, or that there is an attractive person in line at Starbucks who shares your taste in music.

Viggle (iPhone, iPod Touch, Android)

Didn't we all have that childhood fantasy about an invention that could actually reward viewers for watching their favorite television shows? Thanks to Viggle, that dream is now a reality. Viggle lets users check-in and earn loyalty points from the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and the Gap for watching their favorite programs. Beyond earning credit for vegging, Viggle treats users to trivia questions, polls and tweets related to the programs they are watching.

Instagram (iPhone, iPod Touch, Android)

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It didn't take long for Instagram to become a household name after it made its debut on the iPhone in late 2010. It did take awhile, however, for the photo-sharing app to arrive on Android, which it finally did in April. It was worth the wait, both for the company and its community. Within a week, Instagram attracted more than 5 million downloads (enriching the experience for existing users of the service). Shortly thereafter, the 12-person company was acquired by Facebook for what was then a 10-figure valuation. Now that is a positive development you'd like to share with friends!

Draw Something (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android)

Modeled after Pictionary and adapted for touch-screen devices, Draw Something was downloaded more than 50 million times in its first 50 days of availability, making it the fastest growing app of all time. The collaborative game works well when played between Facebook friends or complete strangers. It's accessible enough that young children and tech-illiterate adults can pick it up in a flash. Despite a slowdown in usage after it was acquired by Zynga in March, Draw Something is still a blast to play.

Award To Develop Mobile Phone Apps For Stroke Patients

BROOKLYN, N.Y., July 9, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- SUNY Downstate Medical Center has received an award to develop mobile phone applications for stroke patients and their caregivers. Steven R. Levine, MD, professor of neurology and emergency medicine and vice chair of neurology at SUNY Downstate, is scientific principal investigator on the $500,000 award, which is from the federally funded Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Investigators from Downstate's College of Medicine and School of Public Health are participating in this study, which is being developed in conjunction with the National Stroke Association and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. The grant team will survey stroke survivors and their caregivers to investigate the interest in and preference for smartphone apps that facilitate improved identification and management of risk factors and healthcare needs.

"Despite the saying, 'There's an app for that,' progress has been limited in providing successful mobile technology to help patients manage cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and other illnesses," said Dr. Levine. "Nevertheless, there is enormous potential for patients and their caregivers to improve health outcomes through this technology, including among the elderly, minorities, and those of limited financial means, who are often most in need of better care. We are looking to develop a model program that will address stroke risk and disease management that will be applicable to other conditions as well."

The two-year award is part of PCORI's Pilot Projects Program. The funding for SUNY Downstate has been approved pending completion of a business review and a formal award agreement with PCORI, which is an independent, nonprofit organization whose establishment was authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

Investigators include Dee Burton, PhD, associate professor and chair of community health sciences, School of Public Health; Abhishek Pandey, MD, clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine and sleep researcher with the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC); Clotilde Balucani, MD, research fellow in the Department of Neurology; Ruth Browne, ScD, MPH, CEO of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) and co-director, BHDC; and Marilyn Fraser-White, MD, associate director of research and training, AAIUH, and director of community engagement, BHDC.

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Dr. Levine is also principal investigator on Downstate's NIH-funded clinical trial network involving the four SUNY medical center campuses. Among the aims of the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT) is the recruitment of a diverse patient population for neurology clinical trials and to train underrepresented minority investigators. This grant is also part of SUNY REACH, a collaborative effort involving the four SUNY academic medical centers and the SUNY College of Optometry.

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient's bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.

New Android malware infects 100,000 Chinese smartphones

Summary: A new piece of Android malware called "Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android" has been found on at least nine app stores, and has already infected over 100,000 Chinese smartphones. It works by automatically downloading paid content in the background.

By Emil Protalinski

A new piece of malware has been discovered on more than 100,000 Android smartphones in China. It generates revenue by silently downloading paid apps and multimedia content from Mobile Market, an Android app store hosted by China Mobile, one of the largest wireless providers in the world.
TrustGo, which first discovered the malware, is calling this particular threat "Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android" and has already found it on nine app stores: nDuoa, GFan, AppChina, LIQU, ANFONE, Soft.3g.cn, TalkPhone, 159.com, and AZ4SD. The security firm also disclosed the following eight package names for the malware:


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MMarketPay.A works by placing malicious orders at Mobile Market. Normally, a Mobile Market customer receives a verification code via SMS after purchasing an app or multimedia content, which he or she has to input back into the market to start the download. China Mobile then adds this order to the customer's phone bill.

MMarketPay.A automates this process and downloads as much as it can so that victims rack up huge phone bills. It finds paid content, simulates a click action in the background, intercepts the received SMS messages, and collects the verification code sent by Mobile Market. If a CAPTCHA image is invoked, the malware posts the image to a remote server for analysis.

In short, MMarketPay.A is a complex little bugger. If you're using an Android device on China Mobile, you may want to check your phone bill and make sure there's nothing suspicious on it.

Android lets you download and install apps from anywhere (provided you have the following option enabled: Settings => Applications => Unknown sources). If you want to minimize the chance of downloading malicious apps, please only use the official Google Play store.

Microsoft Inks Android Patent Deal With Aluratek, Coby

By Chloe Albanesius

Microsoft on Monday announced a patent-licensing deal with Aluratek and Coby Electronics, which will allow the firms to sell products running Android or Chrome OS.

Microsoft has now licensed more than 70 percent of all U.S. Android devices, the company said.

"The licensing agreements with Aluratek and Coby Electronics demonstrate yet again that licensing is the path forward to resolving intellectual property disputes within the industry, and can be effective for companies of all sizes," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "Aluratek and Coby Electronics are the latest two companies to recognize the value of Microsoft IP in Android and Chrome, joining the majority of Android vendors in taking a license for this IP."

Microsoft has previously signed patent licensing deals with companies like HTC, Samsung, Suanta, Copal Electronics, Wistron, LG, and Pegatron.

Though Coby and Aluratek are smaller players, the deal is noteworthy because Microsoft has been waging very public patent battles over its Android-based technology, as have its rivals. Microsoft holds patents relating to navigation and how websites display content; technology used on the Android and Chrome platforms.

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One of the more public fights in which Microsoft has been involved is with Motorola, now owned by Google. Last month, Motorola proposed a settlement that would end its patent dispute with Microsoft, but Redmond was not exactly ready to sign on the dotted line.

In May, Google filed a complaint with the European Commission, accusing Nokia and Microsoft of mobile patent abuse. That came a month after the European Commission formally opened a patent abuse investigation into Motorola.

Questions about patent abuse prompted the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) within the UN to announce today that it will hold a roundtable on Oct. 10 with standards organizations, key industry players, and government officials at ITU headquarters in Geneva.

"The ITU Patent Roundtable will address the worldwide surge in patent litigation and the growing lack of adherence to standards bodies' existing patent policies. Topics include potential improvements to existing policy frameworks, entitlement to injunctive reliefs, and definitions of what constitutes a royalty base," the ITU said.

Microsoft will be among the participants in the roundtable. "Microsoft is pleased that the ITU is organizing this global event to explore current issues related to RAND licensing commitments made to standards-setting bodies. We look forward to participating in this timely discussion," said Amy Marasco, general manager of Standards Strategy and Policy at Microsoft.

Privacy risk from ads in apps rising: Security firm

By Tarmo Virki

Some advertising networks have been secretly collecting app users personal details over the past year and now have access to millions of smartphones globally, U.S.-based mobile security firm Lookout said.

These unregulated practices are on the rise, Lookout said on Monday as it unveiled the first industry guidelines on how application developers and advertisers could avoid raising consumer angst.

"Aggressive ad networks are much more prevalent than malicious applications. It is the most prevalent mobile privacy issue that exists," Kevin Mahaffey, Lookout's technology chief and co-founder, told Reuters in an interview.

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Over 80 million apps have been downloaded which carry a form of invasive ads - used by 5% of all free apps on Google's Android platform - which can take data from phones or install software without users' knowledge.

Some more aggressive networks collect users' email addresses or phone numbers without permission, while others install icons to home screens, track users whereabouts or push ads to notification bar.

Mobile devices have so far had limited appeal for writers of viruses and other malicious software, or malware, due to numerous small platforms and limited financial gains. But during the first quarter, the amount of malware on the popular Android platform jumped to 7,000 from 600, according to Intel's security software arm McAfee.

Lookout declined to name the most aggressive ad networks, hoping some of them would align practices to match the new guidelines which include publishing details on their privacy policy and allowing consumers to avoid data collection.

"These guidelines make it clear some practices are out-of-bounds. That's good news for both consumers and responsible businesses," said Jules Polonetsky, co-chair of Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based thinktank focusing on responsible data handling practices.

"Many apps are ad-supported, there is nothing wrong with it, but users should know what is their trade-off. People want to have confidence and trust that they're not being compromised while on devices that have access to their most personal information," he said.

Advertising networks work as intermediaries, linking large numbers of advertisers with media publishers.

They have seen a boost especially from a rise of Google's Android platform, where many of the applications, like Angry Birds, are distributed free and funded through changing advertisements.

Ad companies are closely watching the sector as mobile advertising presents an opportunity for new revenue streams. Advertisers are attracted to the sheer size of the audience.

"If you look at the 6 billion eyeballs - there is a potential for a gold rush," said David Gosen, a director at market research firm Nielsen.

But with consumers increasingly conscious of privacy issues, some said aggressive practices could backfire on the $8 billion industry.

"We are in a very early days of mobile advertising and models are very much derived from the web where practices have not been very respectful," said Anne Bezancon, founder and president of Placecast, which provides location-based marketing services but never shares or sells information of its 10 million clients.

"The mobile experience is much more intimate and personal - a phone is an extension of you, not a distant publishing screen. The equivalent is someone whispering in your ear."

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21/6/2012 - Facebook Credits being phased out

Facebook Credits being phased out


by Benny Evangelista

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Facebook is phasing out Facebook Credits, a virtual payment method that once showed the potential to become a universal currency system, in a move to broaden the social network's share of online commerce.

Instead, the Menlo Park company is allowing its app and game developers to accept local currency and, more importantly, is introducing subscription plans that could be used by media outlets and entertainment companies.

The move is seen as a signal to investors who have been cool to Facebook stock that the newly public company is seeking new ways to drive revenue.

Facebook Credits had mainly been used by social-game players to buy virtual goods. But the changes announced this week give marketers such as Plink, a Denver company that specialized in an online rewards program based on Facebook Credits, more options to reach a wider audience.

"We can all of a sudden target 900 million people instead of those just playing games," Peter Vogel, Plink co-founder and president, said Wednesday. "Our members have been asking for other options."

In a sense, Facebook is backing away from a plan launched in 2009 to make Facebook Credits the virtual currency used throughout the social network. Analysts saw the potential for Facebook Credits to one day become a universal online currency that could be used across geographic borders.

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Facebook had tried selling Facebook Credit gift cards on the shelves of stores like Target and Walmart. And last July, the company began requiring all social-game developers, including San Francisco's Zynga, to use Facebook Credits as a payment platform, a move that caused developers to grumble privately since Facebook took a 30 percent slice of each transaction.

What's changing is that Facebook is phasing out the Facebook Credits brand in recognition that app developers preferred to create their own virtual currencies, such as Farm Cash in Zynga's "FarmVille" game. That reduced the need for a "platform-wide virtual currency," Prashant Fuloria, Facebook product management director, said in a company blog for developers.

The company is converting Facebook Credit balances to their equivalent values within the individual games and apps. And the new virtual currency system is being changed to support real-world currencies, such as the dollar, the yen and the British pound.

"We hope to simplify the purchase experience, give you more flexibility and make it easier to reach a global audience of Facebook users who want a way to pay for your apps and games in their local currency," Fuloria said. "With local pricing, you will be able to set more granular and consistent prices for non-U.S. users and price the same item differently on a market-by-market basis."

The underlying payment-processing system behind Facebook Credits will remain. That generated about 18 percent of Facebook's revenue in the first quarter.

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And app developers will soon be able to charge subscription fees. Last week, Facebook introduced an App Center that featured about 600 free apps, such as Draw Something, Pinterest, Nike+GPS and Jetpack Joyride.

But Vogel expects the App Center will soon be adding apps that will offer subscriptions, which could be useful for subscription-based companies like Netflix or the Washington Post.

"This may be a signal that Facebook is finally ready to put some muscle behind the payments platform," he said.

Plink last week started moving beyond its use of Facebook Credits by announcing a partnership with Tango Card of Seattle to offer digital gift cards that can be redeemed at stores like the Gap, Home Depot and Target.

Vogel said the company heard from customers who said they wanted to join Plink, but "don't care about Facebook Credits."

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Facebook Credits

Facebook Credits is a virtual currency that enables people to purchase items in games and non-gaming applications on the Facebook Platform. One U.S. dollar is the equivalent of 10 Facebook Credits. Facebook Credits are currently available in 15 currencies including U.S. dollars, pound sterling, euros, and Danish kroner. Eventually, it's expected Facebook will expand Credits into a micropayment system open to any Facebook application, whether a game or a media company application.

Facebook Credits went into its alpha stage in May 2009 and progressed into the beta stage in February 2010, which ended in January 2011. At that time, Facebook announced all Facebook game developers would be required to process payments only through Facebook Credits from July 1, 2011.

Facebook retains 30% and developers get 70% of all revenue earned through Credits. Credits is a single currency that can be used in multiple games and applications, and its introduction led former PayPal executives to comment on whether or not Credits could soon replace PayPal as the leader in virtual payments. By the end of 2010, it was expected that Facebook users would purchase Credits to pay for the majority of virtual goods sold on the social network.

In March 2011, Facebook has created an official subsidiary to handle payments: Facebook Payments Inc.

In June 2012 Facebook announced it would no longer use its own money system, Facebook Credits. Users with credits will see them converted into their own currencies.

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Facebook readies app subscriptions

Facebook announced this week that it's begun testing a subscription model for games and other apps. June is shaping up to be a busy month for Facebook: first it launched an App Center, then announced iOS 6 integration - now, plans to roll out app subscriptions.

How does Facebook make money?

Lots of people asked this question when the company announced its IPO earlier in June. According to Facebook, most of its revenue (82 percent) comes from advertising. But now the company, and developers, have a new revenue stream: app subscriptions. Facebook announced Tuesday that developers will be able to offer subscriptions to premium apps starting in July, with Facebook itself taking a 30 percent cut of the revenue.

Plenty of apps now have ways to monetize their content. If you're playing "Draw Something," for example, you might use real-world money to buy coins in the app, then spend those coins on new words or other features. But those are single transactions, and they use the virtual currency of the app in question..

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RELATED: 10 best Facebook apps and games

Now, developers will instead be able to offer a monthly subscription, billed in local currency. (Facebook Credits have been around since 2009, but since most games use their own currencies for in-app purchases anyway, it makes sense to offer pricing in dollars or yen rather than Credits.) Facebook is already testing the subscription model with developers like Kixeye and Zynga. The former's popular "Backyard Monsters" game, for example, will start offering exclusive items and abilities for $9.95 per month.

This is just the latest announcement in a busy month for Facebook: last week Apple announced that its upcoming iOS 6 would have tighter Facebook integration, including the ability to share photos directly from the Camera, post a location right from Maps, and update other information directly from the relevant apps. The social network is integrated elsewhere, too - Facebook events will automatically show up in the iOS Calendar app, and friends' profile information will be used to populate their Contacts field (if someone gets a new phone number, for example, their Contact will automatically update itself). For its part, Facebook is hard at work on an update to its Software Developers Kit that will allow third-party iOS developers to offer similar features in their apps.

Earlier this month, Facebook also began rolling out its App Center for Android, iOS, and the web. The Center is an attempt to ensure app quality by allowing highly-rated apps to rise to the surface while barring shady ones. Only apps that meet a "quality guidelines," Facebook says, will be allowed into the App Center. The Center currently features about 600 apps, although Facebook says that number will rise -- especially once users and developers outside the US gain access to the service.

Readers, what do you think about Facebook's latest developments? Would you pay a monthly fee for a premium app? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Facebook Ads Not Working? Try Facebook Credits

Madison Avenue is questioning the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook. But rather than heading for the doors as did GM, advertisers would be well served to exploit a straightforward solution that enhances the efficacy of Facebook campaigns: the use of Facebook credits as a promotional incentive.

Facebook describes these credits as "a virtual currency you can use to buy virtual goods in any games or apps of the Facebook platform that accept payments." Their most common use is for the purchase of social-gaming assets, like animals or stores on Zynga's FarmVille or CityVille games. But other uses are rapidly proliferating, with the currency being used to buy tickets for events and rent movies.

Millions of people are spending hours playing games on Facebook. To increase their game status, most earn in-game assets through sustained play, rather than buying them with cash. A cow, an energy pack or virtual poker chips might not mean a lot to some people, but social gamers value them deeply, and consistently play long and hard to earn them.

This intersection between gaming, virtual assets and high perceived value creates an opportunity for marketers to reach the Facebook audience in new and powerful ways.

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What distinguishes Facebook Credits as a promotional vehicle?

1. The high perceived value of Facebook Credits: The online retailer Ice ran two comparably valued promotions, one featuring Facebook Credits and the other a cash discount. More than three times as many users responded to the Facebook Credits. In other cases, campaigns to drive certain actions that could never be induced through cash -- such as providing one's e-mail address -- have proven quite effective when the incentive is in the form of digital goods.

2. Ads with Facebook Credits as a call-to-action generate higher click-through rates. After the online retailer Shoebuy added a Facebook-Credits offer as the call-to-action in its display ads on Facebook, the company enjoyed click-through rates two to three times higher than for the ads without the credits offer.

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3. Campaigns with Facebook Credits enjoy viral distribution: Social gaming is inherently viral. People play the games on Facebook with their friends and they want their friends to have more assets, to enhance gaming. This is a big reason why users who have earned Facebook Credits via a promotion will share that fact in posts on Facebook.

4. Facebook Credits enable marketers to give customers what they want: With Facebook Credits, customers can buy what they want, be it virtual goods or entertainment tickets.

5. Perhaps most important, incentives with Facebook Credits help break the discount cycle. Repeated price reductions train consumers to expect discounts whenever they make a purchase. Yet too many marketers rely solely on price promotions to move product. By offering customers Facebook Credits instead of cash discounts, marketers can give users something with perceived value that helps to move product.

When incorporated into the Open Graph, each Facebook-Credits redemption is displayed in the Facebook ticker, as well as in the timeline, with verbs like "redeemed" or "gifted,", which enables users to see all of their recently redeemed rewards. This further amplifies the distribution and visibility of the Facebook Credits offer.

As the applicability of Facebook Credits continues to expand, their perceived value will grow. Marketers should take note, and leverage them accordingly to enhance their advertising on Facebook.

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Facebook Brings 'Like' Button to Third-Party Mobile Apps

Tired of being restricted to the Facebook mobile app in order to "like" something? You're in luck; Facebook today said it is integrating its "like" button into third-party apps, which will push your "like" activity to the Facebook newsfeed.

Partners like Instagram and Foursquare have already implemented the feature (click left), Facebook said in a blog post.

How does it work? If you "like" a photo on your Instagram or Foursquare feed, for example, that activity will show up on your Facebook newsfeed rather than remaining within the Foursquare or Instagram apps. If you're Facebook friends with the person whose photo or status you "liked" on the outside apps, meanwhile, that friend will get a Facebook notification.
While this functionality has been available for websites for some time, mobile apps have not been able to do so until today.

Facebook said developers can build their own "like" buttons, which the social network said will help them build awareness of their app and brand across Facebook. On the privacy front, users will have to authorize the apps to publish their activity to Facebook newsfeeds, and only likes - not ratings - can be published.

Those apps that already currently have a custom-built "like" button, meanwhile, will have to switch to this new option in the next 90 days.

The effort is part of Facebook's OpenGraph, which expands Facebook sharing across the Web. Last year, the social network incorporated various apps from music and video providers into the site, which shared non-Facebook activity on the Facebook newsfeed. Listen to a song on Spotify? Read a story on Yahoo? With permission, it would publish automatically to the Facebook newsfeed, prompting some to suggest that Facebook had ruined sharing. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the option enhances the Facebook experience and is the future of social.

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21/6/2012 - Microsoft clears some fog over its new ecosystem

Microsoft clears some fog over its new ecosystem

by Seth Rosenblatt

Microsoft takes on Siri with new Windows Phone update

Microsoft has shed some serious light on the future of Windows, with Windows Phone 8 and Surface tablet revelations this week burning away much of the uncertainty surrounding Windows and devices.

As expected, Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 will have tight integration with Windows 8. The intent is obvious, and frankly, a good idea: make it as easy as possible for you to move from one Microsoft device to another, no matter if you've got a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop.

For one thing, Internet Explorer 10 will be present on the new Windows Phones as well as Windows 8 and Windows RT. You may scoff at the idea of IE being a decent browser, but there's little doubt among people who pay close attention to browsers that Internet Explorer 10 is the most standards-compliant version of the browser yet, with competitive page-load times and expansive HTML5 support. Microsoft is also attempting to position IE10 on the side of the end-user by setting its Do No Track header to on by default, something no other browser maker has done yet. While it's true that there are defensible reasons for not doing it, it is unusual for Microsoft to take such an aggressive stance.

Microsoft plans to port IE10's strong security features to the phone version of the browser. Today, the company demonstrated that IE's online phishing detector and SmartScreen Filter will block many threats from reaching you, with notifications on the phone that look and feels like their desktop counterparts. As more people browse from a mobile device and expect the Web to behave the same on mobile as on a desktop, Web security on devices will take on much more significance.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 also sport matching wardrobes with their Start screens. They share those quadrilateral live tiles, instead of having traditional icons. Whether you resize them as squares or rectangles, the Start screen on Windows 8 will closely match the Start screen on Windows Phone 8.

There's a lot shared under the hood, too. Native code will be shared between Windows and Windows Phone 8. Networking stack, security model, media management, file system, graphics code, and more will be identical, thus streamlining app development among other benefits.

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Microsoft debuts 'Surface' for tablet crowd

As the operating systems blur and merge, so goes the new hardware that's been designed to showcase Windows and Windows Phone. We haven't seen much for either, but we do know that the Surface line of tablets, especially the heftier Windows 8 one powered by an Intel chip, will be much closer to an Ultrabook than current tablets are. We've seen hinged, ultrathin touch screen laptops at Computex that look like they could do serious business as tablets.

Microsoft is pushing manufacturers with stringent baseline specs and its own aggressive hardware designs in Surface to think differently about hardware, if you'll forgive the reference.

As with all things involving the word Windows and the number eight, these events answered some questions but left others hanging. One big question about Windows RT can now be asked of Windows Phone 8: What does this mean for third-party browsers? Will Android be the only mobile phone operating system that allows for full third-party browser integration?

Asa Dotzler, Director of Firefox for Mozilla, was reluctant to speculate on Windows Phone 8 and browsers. "Microsoft has not yet shared specific details on what Windows Phone 8's 'shared core' will offer for Windows developers," he said.

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Windows 8 almost ready to serve

The issue of apps looms large, too. We know how the operating system itself will look and function. In the case of Windows 8, we've gotten hands-on time with it for months. It's made impressive strides since the February debut of the Consumer Preview. But an ecosystem without software or apps that people want to use might as well not exist. We don't know how Microsoft will entice developers to their new playground, and we obviously don't know if developers will find those enticements attractive enough.

So let's say that Microsoft pulls off this hat trick. In the fall, the company unleashes an ecosystem of devices, from desktop laptop to tablet to phone, that seamlessly communicate with each other, that has some killer must-have apps, and it's all competitively priced.

Let's even speculate that critics will like it. Maybe not all, but there will be enough critical acclaim that the curious and the die-hards will jump. We're still left with the biggest question of all: what will people think? Will they like it? And what happens to Microsoft if it bombs?

The risks associated with the new Windows ecosystem are enormous, and serious. In terms of success and public interest, are we looking at another Kin? Or is this more of an Xbox?

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HP Leans on Linux for Gemini Moonshot Servers

Moonshot is all about engineering a new class of server architecture that delivers scale-out compute power while using less electrical power than traditional server infrastructure. The first Moonshot server debuted as the Redstone Server and was powered by ARM Cortex processors from Calxeda. The new generation is now being called Gemini, and the initial launch partner silicon is a new class of x86 Atom CPUs from Intel, called Centerton.

One of the initial launch partners with the Redstone platform is Canonical, the lead sponsor behind the Ubuntu Linux platform, and with Gemini, Linux once again is leading the way.

"HP has a number of operating system partners - Canonical and Red Hat, for example," Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager, Hyperscale Business Unit, Industry-standard Servers and Software at HP, told InternetNews. "Most of the workloads that are currently targeted are running on Linux or open source, but we are always working with additional partners for broader availability."

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Apple ordered to pay damages to Samsung by Dutch court

Apple has been ordered to pay damages to rival Samsung Electronics by a court in the Netherlands.

The court said that Apple had infringed a patent held by Samsung relating to the way phones and tablet PCs connect to the internet.

The court did not specify any amount, but the damages will be calculated based on sales of Apple's iPhone and iPad in the Netherlands.

The two firms are involved in a legal battle in various countries.

"Samsung welcomes the court's ruling, which reaffirmed Apple's free-riding of our technological innovation," the South Korean manufacturer said in an emailed statement to the BBC.

"In accordance with the ruling, we will seek adequate compensation for the damages Apple and its products have caused."

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Judge grills Apple in Google smartphone case

A U.S. judge on Wednesday strongly questioned Apple Inc's bid for an injunction against Google Inc's Motorola Mobility unit, as the iPhone maker tries to salvage its position on a key front in the smartphone patent wars.

Federal Judge Richard Posner in Chicago did not make any formal rulings from the bench during the hearing, which was a chance for Apple to plead its case for an injunction against Motorola phones that allegedly use its technology. But Posner called the U.S. patent system "chaos" and said an order barring the sale of Motorola phones could have "catastrophic effects."

Posner earlier this month tentatively canceled an impending trial between the two technology companies, but scheduled the Wednesday hearing so Apple could argue for the injunction.

Apple has waged an international patent war since 2010 as part of its attempt to limit the growth of Google's Android system, the world's best-selling mobile operating platform. A decisive injunction in one of the U.S. legal cases could strengthen Apple's hand in negotiating cross-licensing deals, where companies agree to let each other use their patented technologies.

Opponents of Apple, meanwhile, say the iPhone and iPad maker is using patents too aggressively in its bid to stamp out the competition.

Motorola sued Apple in October 2010, a move widely seen as a preemptive strike. Apple filed its own lawsuit against Motorola the same month. Apple is also slated for trial against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd next month in California.

Posner issued a series of pretrial rulings that eliminated nearly all of Motorola's patent claims against Apple, while maintaining more of Apple's claims against Motorola. That meant Apple had more to gain at the trial, which had been set to start last week.

But Posner tentatively ruled that neither side could prove damages and scrapped the trial. An injunction would be "contrary to the public interest," Posner wrote.

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In court on Wednesday, Apple attorney Matthew Powers said it is not seeking an order barring the sale of Motorola phones. Rather, Apple would be satisfied with an injunction requiring Motorola to remove Apple's patented technology from Motorola phones within three months.

That outcome would ensure the Android phones do not share some of the same features as the iPhone, a differentiation that could help Apple in the marketplace. One of the patents at issue, for instance, covers technology to stream real time video without glitches or delays.

"It means we're not competing with them where they are using our technology against us," Powers said.

But Posner said it may be preferable to direct Motorola to pay Apple a compulsory royalty. Forcing Motorola to adopt inferior technology, as opposed to paying a royalty, would not benefit consumers, he said.

In addition, nothing would stop Apple from coming back into court after three months to claim Motorola is still infringing.

"That's all we need is new actions, new suits, because there's not enough litigation worldwide between Apple and Android," Posner said.

Motorola had also asked for an injunction on the one patent it is still asserting in the case against Apple. However, Motorola had pledged to license that patent - which covers an aspect of wireless communication - on fair and reasonable terms to other companies in exchange for having the technology be adopted as an industry standard.

"I don't see how you can have injunction against the use of a standard essential patent," Posner told Motorola's attorneys.

Overall, Posner questioned the worth of many software patents, noting deep systemic problems with the U.S. patent system.

"You can't just assume that because someone has a patent, he has some deep moral right to exclude everyone else" from using the technology, Posner said.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, is Apple Inc and NeXT Software Inc v. Motorola Inc and Motorola Mobility Inc, 11-cv-8540.

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24/5/2012 - Coachella 2012 is a snapshot of pop music in wonderful disarray

Coachella 2012 is a snapshot of pop music in wonderful disarray

By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

Critic's Notebook: Coachella 2012 is a snapshot of pop music in wonderful disarray

Acts such as Azealia Banks, Radiohead, Mazzy Star, Flying Lotus and many others perform on a weekend filled with a multitude of subgenres.

Anyone who's ever been to Coachella or any music festival understands the idea of "the moment," that magical, jewel-encrusted feeling you get when everything clicks - the sound, the lights, the emotion, the music - and you feel at one with the world.

On Friday at this year's Coachella Music and Arts Festival, a chilly night where the clouds hung low after a day of rain, Mazzy Star induced one of those arm-tingling feelings when it performed its languid, drifting love song "Fade Into You" on the Outdoor Stage.

It was one of the band's first performances in 16 years, and it followed a day of nonstop music, including Sacramento band Death Grips' electrifying, hard-core punk numbers, L.A. folk pop group honeyhoney's banjo-led ode to the Los Angeles River, and Texas blues rock guitar playerGary Clark Jr.'s astounding blues riffs.

So already it was a lot to digest before Mazzy Star singer Hope Sandoval and guitarist David Roback embarked on the lonely "Fade Into You" melody. Fans on the periphery, recognizing it, jogged closer.

It's an amazing thing to experience, the blossoming of recognition that comes when you hear something special. And it happened over and over again during Coachella's first weekend.

I watched grown men sprint toward the main stage like kids as Brit-pop band Pulp performed its anthem "Common People" and heard a teenager giddily scream to a fan, "I know this song!" when Madness started its 1983 song "House of Fun." French house producer SebastiAn had offered magnetic beats at the Mojave tent while dancers pushed to get closer to the stage - and the music that was moving them.

On Sunday afternoon as the sun was starting to fade, L.A. bassist Thundercat brought his cosmic blend of funk, '70s fusion and modern-day beat music to the Gobi tent. Wearing a freaky leather gold and red star-man uniform and fronting a nine-piece band, he suggested a modern-day Sun Ra reincarnated with the hip-hop gene.

Coachella 2012: A visual and sonic mess that we can't resist, one with so many spoken and unspoken messages delivered in so many subgenres that you wonder how anyone in attendance can contain it all.

Other than the simple two-word answer "You can't," Coachella's first of two weekends offered a snapshot of pop music in wonderful, remarkable disarray, a Jackson Pollock of frequencies and angles, of off-shoots, reflections, of twentysomething musicians digging back to revive genres once thought extinct.

Who'd have known, for example, that alto saxophone solos and soft rock would find purchase on Coachella's stages? Destroyer did. And when singer Jeff Mangum of the indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel brought out a two-piece brass section for some of his songs, the crowd roared - for the French horn part.

But these days looking back while taking baby steps forward is the way it's done. The new normal is less about progress than about reflection.

Not that the future isn't glorious. The retro vibe was, predictably, only one aspect of the festival's expansive lineup.

Buzzing rapper Azealia Banks, in one of her first public performances, did something absolutely of the moment: An unknown a year ago, she dropped a hot song, "212," on YouTube, and millions of views and a label deal later, there she was, capping her brief set with the song - and the entire Gobi tent rapped along to every word.

It was an emotional moment. YouTube views are an abstraction; all you see is the number increasing as a clip goes viral. When Banks saw the massive crowd jumping, screaming, rapping along to her words, her voice became strained for a second and tears started rolling down her cheeks. Then, though, that voice, still young but filled with potential, grew stronger and more confident, the crowd's enthusiasm transmitting energy that seemed to fill her lungs. It felt like some sort of christening.

One of the best hours of the festival and my musical year was Saturday night at the Gobi tent, where Los Angeles beat-maker Flying Lotus pushed forth a set of deconstructed, heavy-duty bass music - while a big inflatable green alligator bounced around atop the crowd. Lotus' work as a beat producer has pushed the genre in fantastic new directions, and over the last three years he's moved from L.A. warehouse parties into an ever-expanding worldwide fan base.

And with good reason: Live, he was magnetic, bouncing before his computer and tabletop mixer and interface, creating on-the-fly remixes and freakazoid juxtapositions. At one point, he sampled an a capella version of - all things - Christopher Cross' yacht rock classic "Sailing," which he then destroyed with digital feedback. The peak was when he kicked out Jay-Z and Kanye West's already-classic "... in Paris," and remixed it into choppy, screwy confusion.

Many were hoping for a cameo by Radiohead's frontman Thom Yorke, but that didn't happen. Yorke has collaborated with Lotus, but apparently the singer had other things on his mind - like his band's headlining slot on the main stage.

He needn't have worried. Having hired the best sound technicians, an expert stage designer and expert management, Radiohead has amassed a loyal following and understands how to move it. And aside from doing something mind-bafflingly misguided such as collaborating with Scott Stapp orLady Gaga,Radiohead could keep doing this for a long time.

Over the course of two hours, the band's magnificent presentation turned a darkened dozen acres into a five-story glowing altar of images and abstractions. These images strobed and pumped through "The Gloaming," shifting with each bent Jonny Greenwood guitar line, drawing close to singer Yorke as he pushed a falsetto.

On "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi," a screen of vertical light bars created what looked like an illuminated waterfall. The band - including percussionist Phil Selway, guitarist Ed O'Brien and bassist Colin Greenwood - helped build momentum.

Radiohead's show was a blur of a lot of different things - from trippy visuals to people dancing fluidly in the open air to Yorke's moaning something about "just because you feel it, doesn't mean it's there" in the song "There, There."

He may be right, but like the best music during Weekend 1 of Coachella, the stuff we felt the deepest seemed to orbit the polo fields with magnetic, invisible energy.

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14/3/2012 - Apple delays delivery of new iPad to market

Apple delays delivery of new iPad to market

NEW YORK: Smart phone manufacturer Apple announced Sunday it had posponed shipment of new iPads to market by three days, from March 16 to March 19.

No formal explanation was give when the company announced its decision on its website late Sunday.

It had been reported earlier that the new device, iPad's third version since 2010, would be available in stores on Friday, March 16.

Asked about the reasons for the postponement, Apple did not respond immediately.

The new iPad boasts a more powerful processor, eye-grabbing resolution on par with that of an iPhone 4S, and the ability to connect to the latest 4G LTE telecom networks that move data faster than their predecessors.

It is due to be released simultaneously in 10 countries: the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and China.

iPad preorders sell out, demand 'off the charts'

If you are hoping to score a new iPad from Apple, you might have to wait. Apple's website shows March 19 as the earliest ship date for online orders of its popular tablet computer. And there is a limit of two per customer on the number of tablets that can preordered.

The shipping delays affect all models and price levels on preorders, according to the website.

"Customer response to the new iPad has been off the charts and the quantity available for pre-order has been purchased," Apple said in a statement. "Customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date."

Consumers hoping to snag an iPad on its March 16 launch will have to visit one of Apple's retail stores or select Apple resellers.

While the Apple site still says models will be available in stores come Friday, there are unconfirmed reports that shipments worldwide could be delayed from three days to three weeks. And if past is precedent, there could be long waits in line at some Apple Stores when sales begin at brick-and-mortar locations.

The new iPad, the successor to the iPad 2, was unveiled with much fanfare on Wednesday at an Apple event in San Francisco. The device comes with a crisper Retina display, faster processor, voice dictation and the ability to run on the speediest 4G wireless data networks. Prices start at $499 for a Wi-Fi only model with 16 gigabytes of storage; models that can run on 4G data networks start at $629.

Apple is no stranger to sellouts of its devices within hours of their unveiling. Preorders for the iPhone 4S, for example, sold out in less than a day after the 4S debut last fall. Carrier AT&T Wireless said it sold more than 200,000 of the smartphones within the first 12 hours.

The monthly data plans for the new iPad will start at $14.99 at AT&T for 250MB and $20 at Verizon Wireless for a 1 GB plan.

Nike Releases FuelBand API at SXSW Music Hackathon

Nike will unleash the application programming interface (API) for NikeFuel - the company's metric for tracking physical activity - during a music hackathon Sunday at South by Southwest.

NikeFuel is the technology behind Nike's FuelBand, a waterproof wristband introduced in January that measures a user's movement and syncs with an iPod touch or iPhone.

The API will allow third-party music developers to infuse NikeFuel features into their apps or platforms.

"Nike will be joining the Managers Hack to open up a BETA version of the NikeFuel API for the first time to developers interested in combining music with the Nike+ FuelBand," hackathon organizer and rep at startup Backplane told Mashable Friday.

Backplane, which created Lady Gaga's new Little Monsters social network, along with music-streaming service Spotify organized the hackathon to build the future of digital music distribution.

At the event, hackers have eight hours to create and plan a demo that will be judged by a panel of music industry managers, including Lady Gaga's manager Troy Carter (who co-founded Backplane), Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun and Roc Nation President Jay Brown. People from Spotify, Pandora, Nike and SoundHound also will help choose a winner.

Randi Zuckerberg, who left her role as marketing director at Facebook in August to launch RtoZ Media, will provide commentary throughout the event.

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14/3/2012 - Tech Journal India Awaits New iPad

Tech Journal India Awaits New iPad

By Amit Agarwal.

It was almost midnight here in India, and while the entire family was busy preparing for Holika (the lighting of bonfires on the eve of the main Holi festival), I was glued to the laptop screen reading live updates from Apple's event. Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, was on stage and he was expected to present a new iPad to the world.

The curtains were soon lifted, but there were no big surprises this time. The eagle-eyed Apple watchers had more or less accurately predicted the various features that would be included in the new iPad.

I am sure you have gone through the specs, but to quickly recap the main points in simple English, the third-generation iPad sports a better HD camera, a higher-resolution screen (retina display) and a faster processor.

Pictures and videos will look stunning on the new display, while the various apps and games will exhibit better performance and reading on the iPad will get a significant boost as web pages and text will appear crisper. It feels a bit awkward to shoot pictures or videos with the iPad, but if you do, the improved camera should please you as it can now capture 1080p (or full HD) videos. The resolution of the front-facing VGA camera hasn't changed so your Skype video calls will still look the same.

The new iPad also includes support for 4G networks - which translates to faster Internet speed on your mobile device - but that feature is of little use to Indian consumers as none of the telecom companies here have rolled out 4G services yet. And by the time 4G becomes available in India, we could be just months (or weeks) away from the next iPad. At least you can use the 4G iPad on 3G networks as well.

The new iPad is running on iOS 5.1 which is compatible with the previous iPad releases. But one software related feature that is available exclusively on the new iPad is the microphone button on the virtual keyboard, which helps users write emails by voice. While the details are scarce, the voice dictation feature could internally be using the same speech-to-text rendering engine as Siri, and it therefore remains to be seen how well it works with Indian accents.

A gorgeous display, perhaps no other tablet or mobile device comes close, and a lot faster than its predecessor, but are these enhancements worth an upgrade? That depends.

I primarily use the iPad to browse the web, watch online videos and read e-books. Now the retina display of the new iPad will definitely help improve my overall experience but the other hardware enhancements aren't very convincing to me at this time. However if I was into gaming or was still using the older first-generation iPad, this would have made an exciting upgrade.

If you don't have a tablet yet and are planning to get one of those Android tablets not because they are better than the iPad but cheaper, there's some good news for you. Apple India has just dropped the price of iPad 2 models by around 17% and the starting 16GB Wi-Fi model is now available for around 24,500 rupees ($490). That is not a bad deal at all.

The new iPad will be available in some 35 countries by the end of March. India isn't mentioned in that first list but if the previous launch date is any indication, the new iPad should be available "officially" in early May. The waiting period will obviously be much shorter for people who don't mind paying a premium in the grey market.

Amateurs battle malware, hackers in UK cybergames

Amateur cybersleuths have been hunting malware, raising firewalls and fending off mock hack attacks in a series of simulations supported in part by Britain's eavesdropping agency.

The games are intended to pull badly-needed talent into the country's burgeoning cybersecurity sector, according to former security minister Pauline Neville-Jones, who spoke at a closing ceremony held Sunday at the Science Museum in the English port city of Bristol.

"The flow of people we have at the moment is wholly inadequate," she said, warning of a skills gap "which threatens the economic future of this country."

The exercises, dubbed the Cyber Security Challenge, are intended to help bridge that gap, drawing thousands of participants who spent weeks shoring up vulnerable home networks, cracking weak codes and combing through corrupted hard drives in a series of tests designed by companies such as U.K. defense contractor QinetiQ and data security firm Sophos.

The challenge was supported in part by British signals intelligence agency GCHQ and Scotland Yard's e-crimes unit - a sign of the government's concern with supporting a rapidly-developing field.

The government is spending 650 million pounds (about $1 billion) to boost its electronic defense capabilities. Britain's military recently opened a global cyber-operations center in the English market town of Corsham, and last month police announced the creation of three new regional cybercrime units.

Event organizer Judy Baker warned there weren't enough skilled people to work in the newly created jobs, complaining that cybersecurity was barely on the radar of high school guidance counselors and that too few universities offered degrees in the field.

"The front door into cybersecurity is not clear at all," she said.

The competition was closed to cybersecurity professionals, so many of the 4,000-odd participants - such as the 19-year-old winner, Cambridge University student Jonathan Millican - were aspiring computer scientists. Others were engineers or hobbyists.

Senior GCHQ official Jonathan Hoyle made a brief speech Sunday, inviting Millican and other prize-winners to come visit the secretive organization's headquarters in Chelthenham, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) northwest of London.

Millican was excited by the prospect, saying: "It's not somewhere many people just go."

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