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    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Reuters - Russia occupies Georgia, world pressure mounts

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    Russia occupies Georgia, world pressure mounts

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 9:3PM UTC

    By Matt Robinson

    GORI, Georgia (Reuters) - Russian troops and armor deployed around three Georgian towns on Thursday, as international pressure mounted on Moscow over its continuing occupation of parts of Georgia.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "extremely concerned" about the humanitarian situation in Georgia and called for a halt to lawlessness.

    In the key Georgian town of Gori, west of the capital Tbilisi, correspondents saw signs of looting which locals blamed on militias from the neighboring province of South Ossetia, where the conflict erupted last Thursday.

    Russian armed forces have occupied parts of Georgia since repelling a Georgian attack last week on the tiny pro-Russian separatist territory of South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's control in the 1990s.

    Shops had been smashed up in Gori and there were very few parked cars. "They were stealing cars and breaking into shops," Vasily, 72, said. "They spoke Ossetian."

    The Russians have pledged to stop looting but men wearing an assortment of camouflaged uniforms stole cars from journalists and from the United Nations on Thursday and a hidden sniper shot at a female Georgian television correspondent, grazing her arm.

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the architect of a two-day old ceasefire, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would visit Tbilisi on Friday to secure Georgia's signature to a peace deal which would "consolidate" the halt to fighting.

    "If tomorrow Mr. Saakashvili signs the document that we have negotiated with (Russian President) Mr. Medvedev, then the withdrawal of Russian troops can begin," Sarkozy said.

    But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We can forget about talks on Georgia's territorial integrity because it's impossible to force South Ossetia and Abkhazia to agree that they can be returned into Georgia's fold by force".

    Mentioning Georgia's territorial integrity in any document settling the conflict would be seen by people as "the deepest insult", he added in a radio interview.

    In a sharp warning, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Washington's relationship with Russia could be "adversely affected for years to come" unless the Kremlin rethought its "aggressive posture" in Georgia, a close U.S. ally.

    "This is going to be a defining crisis in the United States-Russian relationship. The danger is that neither side feels it can back down," said Michael Cox, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

    "We may only be at the beginning of this crisis rather than at the end of it."

    Lavrov dismissed talk that Moscow might be blocked in its long-running bid for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a result of the conflict.

    "I have heard some threats that they will not accept us into the WTO but no one has so far even tried to allow us to join it," he said.

    Widening the ramifications of the conflict, Russia's neighbor Ukraine announced it would enforce a presidential decree demanding that warships from Russia's Black Sea fleet based at a Ukrainian port get advance permission before putting to sea or returning.

    That decision drew an angry response from Moscow, with the Russian General Staff dismissing it as "illegitimate" and insisting the Russian fleet would only obey orders from its commander-in-chief in the Kremlin.

    Reuters witnesses on Thursday saw Russian troops in the key central Georgian town of Gori and outside the western town of Zugdidi. Residents in the Black Sea port of Poti saw a Russian incursion.

    The Russian General Staff said it was legitimate for "Russian peacekeepers" to be in Poti and for what it termed reconnaissance parties to be in Gori, two days after Russia signed up to a French-led peace plan to stop the fighting.

    The peace agreement brokered by Sarkozy contains a clause allowing Moscow's forces "to implement additional security measures" while awaiting international monitors.

    The conflict has spooked oil markets, reliant on pipelines through the Caucasus for Caspian oil, and alarmed the West, which fears it could spiral out of control.

    Sharpening the confrontation with the United States over the future of Georgia, Medvedev received in the Kremlin on Thursday the leaders of the two separatist regions at the heart of the week-old conflict and promised them Moscow's backing.

    "You defended your land and justice was on your side," a stern-looking Medvedev said in televised remarks at the meeting. "That is why you won, with the assistance of Russian peacekeepers...I think that is an appropriate outcome."

    In Georgia, a second U.S. military plane arrived, bringing in aid in a show of American support for its embattled ally. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has criticized the United States for failing to act strongly enough to help him.

    But the Russian General Staff's deputy chief, Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, criticized the U.S. airlift to Georgia announced by Bush.

    "We have information that American military-transport aviation say they are delivering a certain humanitarian cargo to Tbilisi airport, though they said we had bombed the airport two days ago," he said.

    "Let's ask them: Will they invite you (the media) to check whether it is humanitarian or not?... What is in it (the cargo) in reality?...It is of major concern to Russians."

    Earlier in the day, Russian commanders said they were handing over control of Gori, 60 km (35 miles) east of the capital Tbilisi and close to Georgia's main east-west highway. But Georgian officials later said it appeared the handover had been delayed.

    POTI

    In the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti, a small oil terminal, witnesses said Russian tanks had rolled in on Thursday morning, accompanying trucks carrying troops to the port area.

    In the western Georgian town of Zugdidi, not far from the second separatist region of Abkhazia, a Reuters photographer saw a column of more than 100 Russian military vehicles, including 40 armored vehicles, massed two km (1.5 miles) from the town centre. Their purpose was unclear.

    Russia says 1,600 civilians died when Georgia attacked South Ossetia. The figure has not been independently verified and Human Rights Watch researchers have cast doubt on it.

    Moscow's General Staff said on Wednesday it had lost 74 soldiers in the fighting, with 171 wounded and 19 missing. At least four warplanes have been shot down. It said on Thursday there had been no new deaths.

    Tbilisi puts deaths on its side at over 175, with hundreds injured. That figure does not include South Ossetia.

    For special cover see:

    http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/georgiaconflict

    For Reuters blogs see:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/global/

    (Additional reporting by Melissa Akin, Dmitry Zhdannikov, Guy Faulconbridge and Simon Shuster in Moscow, James Kilner and Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Sue Pleming and Richard Cowan in Washington, writing by Michael Stott, editing by Ralph Boulton)

    Phelpian

    Ha

    Reuters - Michael Phelps, the billion dollar man?

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    Michael Phelps, the billion dollar man?

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 8:7AM UTC

    By Belinda Goldsmith

    BEIJING (Reuters) - Weighed in gold, Michael Phelps is worth about $3 million. In reality the face of the Beijing Olympics is probably worth 10 times that amount each year.

    Marketing experts said the 23-year-old American, who is now the most successful Olympian with 11 gold medals, will become the richest professional swimmer ever, far surpassing the money earned by the former most decorated U.S. swimmer, Mark Spitz.

    "He's the greatest Olympian in the world and he'll be able to earn money everywhere as he's an international brand," Australia-based celebrity agent Max Markson told Reuters.

    "He's a billion dollar man. He won't have to get a job ever. He can live off this for 50 years."

    Olympic sports have meant big business since the Olympic movement allowed professional athletes to compete 20 years ago.

    But none has banked the sums earned by charismatic megastars like Tiger Woods, David Beckham or Michael Jordan whose names are globally known and set cash registers ringing everywhere.

    Eli Portnoy, chief brand strategist at the Portnoy Group, a U.S. consultancy specialized in branding, doubted Phelps -- or any Olympian -- would match the earning power of Woods who is estimated to become the first billionaire athlete by 2010.

    Phelps reportedly earns about $5 million a year from endorsements although his agency Octagon declined to comment. Portnoy forecast this rising to about $30 million, short term.

    "In the heat and intensity of this event it may seem that his earning power is limitless, but you have to pull back and look at someone like Tiger Woods who has performed at a top level for years and years in front of the world," he said.

    "The Olympics is only held once every four years. After a year to so Americans forget about the Olympics and move to stars they see more. Kids want someone else on their Weetabix box."

    THE PHELPS PHENOMENON

    Phelps is already the epitome of the modern American corporate Olympian with the Phelps Machine in full swing before he topped the record nine gold tally held by Spitz and Carl Lewis, Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina.

    Phelps, who became a professional swimmer at 16 and a millionaire by 18, has sponsors, agents, lawyers, accountants, charities, his own website in English and Chinese, and even his own logo with a wave-like blue M and red P over his name.

    An Octagon spokesman said his sponsors were credit card company Visa Inc., Speedo, watch maker Omega, AT&T Wireless, energy food company PowerBar. Kellogg's, Rosetta Stone, and PureSport. He declined to say what they paid Phelps.

    Within seconds of Phelps's snapping up his 10th gold medal, Visa released a special edition television commercial commemorating his title as the most decorated Olympian.

    "You need to be out there early and establish your affiliation with the property, Michael Phelps," said Michael Lynch, head of global sponsorship management at Visa whose relationship with Phelps dates back to 2002.

    "His performance here will benefit us as it will add to the visibility we will get through this affiliation ... and his earning ability will increase, there's no question of that."

    Portnoy said Phelps's youth and composure under pressure made him a marketer's dream. The only blotch on his record was an arrest for drinking and driving in 2004 for which he apologized.

    "In the short term, he is a gold mine because he represents everything that is pure, young, strong and visionary about America. We haven't had anyone of this significance since Mark Spitz," said Portnoy.

    "Guaranteed there will be marketers wanting a piece of him that make no sense and it will interesting to see how his handlers cope with this and if they get greedy because the Olympics has a narrow avenue of marketability."

    (Editing by Nick Macfie)

    (For more stories visit our multimedia website "2008 Summer Olympics" at http://www.reuters.com/news/sports/2008olympics)

    Phelps

    I want 2 b more famous

    Reuters - Olympic stars struggle to score showbiz gold

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    Olympic stars struggle to score showbiz gold

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 7:53AM UTC

    By Steven Zeitchik and Paul Gough

    NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael Phelps may have racked up more medals than any other Olympian in history, but turning his gold into Madison Avenue or Hollywood cash will be far trickier.

    The advertising world has long had an ambivalent relationship with Olympic athletes; though coverage is saturated during the Games, interest in the quadrennial competition fades once its torch is extinguished.

    And Hollywood, once a natural next stop for successful Olympic athletes, has become a remote detour.

    So despite endless exposure, athletic dominance and a boy-next-door likeability, one of the best athletes the U.S. has ever produced might be a ho-hum story when he climbs out of the pool.

    "If anyone can transcend the limited shelf life of Olympians, it's Phelps," said Bob Dorfman, a vice president at San Francisco-based consultancy Baker Street Partners, which compiles an annual list of sports-star endorsements. "But there are still a lot of problems."

    After the 2004 Athens Olympics, Disney signed Phelps -- then coming off a performance that earned six gold medals -- to a multicity swimming tour. He also became a celebrity spokesman for Hong Kong electronics maker Matsunichi, inking a four-year deal worth about $4 million.

    The dreams are bigger this year for Phelps and Peter Carlisle, his representative at sports agency Octagon, which handles many Olympic athletes. (Phelps has no Hollywood agent, though it's possible that a sports-minded agency will soon be making overtures.) Phelps' habit of breaking world records and the attention on the Games make him an attractive candidate; Visa already has created new spots around his Olympic performance, and he has deals in place with PowerBar and Speedo.

    TOUGH SELL

    But the fact that the Summer Olympics take place every four years has proved a huge obstacle. And, apart from frequency issues, the Games may run into a more fundamental problem with consumers. "It's always been an impediment to these folks going on (to Hollywood stints or marketing deals) because the glory is (supposed to be) enough," marketing consultant Robert Passikoff said. "Isn't that the Olympic tradition?"

    Even for Olympians, gold medals don't always translate directly into marketing dollars. Two of the most marketable U.S. Olympic athletes in modern times, gymnast Mary Lou Retton and decathlete Bruce Jenner, won a comparatively small number of golds -- just two and one, respectively. By contrast, a nine-time gold medalist, swimmer Mark Spitz, and a five-time champion, speedskater Bonnie Blair, have had far fewer endorsements.

    In Beijing, Phelps is proving that he has not only unparalleled swimming chops but broad commercial appeal.

    When he lined up to compete for his fourth gold, in the 200-meter butterfly, just after 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, NBC saw ratings spike 23 percent to 39.1 million viewers for the half-hour. As one observer put it, if every one of those extra 8 million who tuned in went to see a movie he was in, Phelps would have a box-office hit.

    But like Madison Avenue, the Hollywood reality is hardly that simple.

    ATHLETES AS MOVIE STARS

    In a pre-endorsement age, Hollywood would scour the Olympics for athletes and slot them into movies, as they did with Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie and U.S. swimmers Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller.

    "Once upon a time studios would find these beautiful creatures and put them in movies," Hollywood publicity guru Tony Angellotti said. "And if someone isn't that facile with the English language, like Weissmuller, well, you just make him Tarzan."

    In the modern age, the path is far more checkered for athletes who want to cross over. Retton has done a host of walk-on parts as herself in movies and shows such as "The Naked Gun" and "Baywatch," but attempts at larger roles have been tricky -- just ask anyone who saw Jenner in "Can't Stop the Music" or the near-Olympian Kurt Thomas in "Gymkata."

    But Hollywood still could be key if Phelps is to overcome the fragile celebrity of most Olympians. Branding experts say that placing him in reality shows -- either his own, like skateboarder Ryan Sheckler on MTV, or in venues like "Dancing With the Stars" -- is essential. "The key is to create content that keeps him out there," Dorfman said.

    But even that might not be enough to drive ratings or boost endorsements.

    "The challenge for Olympic athletes has always been to be able, after the post-game hype, to translate that into big marketing and endorsement deal dollars," Starcom's Tom Weeks said.

    And Phelps could fade even within the Olympics, which still has another week left after the athlete kicks through his last breaststroke Saturday. "There's no question that Michael is an important driver of interest in the Olympics," NBC research chief Alan Wurtzel said. "But the Olympics turn out to be more than Michael Phelps."

    Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

    Reuters - University of Toronto, IBM to launch supercomputer

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    University of Toronto, IBM to launch supercomputer

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 4:33AM UTC

    By Wojtek Dabrowski

    TORONTO (Reuters) - The University of Toronto and IBM Corp <IBM.N> are building Canada's most powerful supercomputer, a mammoth machine that will need its own building for storage and will be capable of performing 360 trillion calculations per second.

    It's expected the system will be among the top 20 fastest supercomputers in the world and the largest outside the United States. It will be able to store data equivalent to that held by one million regular DVDs.

    The entire budget of the project, which includes construction and operating costs, is just under C$50 million ($47 million) over five years.

    Its power is roughly equivalent to "30,000 to 40,000 home computers linked together," said Chris Pratt, strategic initiatives executive at IBM Canada.

    "The kind of interconnect between parts of the system will allow the equivalent of two full-length feature DVD movies to be moved around in the space of a second," he said.

    It will be a big boost to scientists at the University of Toronto and its associated research hospitals, as it will help tackle projects in an array of areas from aerospace and astrophysics to climate change prediction and medical imaging.

    Among the research, the system will be used to explore the modern scientific mystery of why matter has mass and what constitutes the mass of the universe.

    Funding is being provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, in partnership with the province of Ontario and the university.

    Building the supercomputer will involve the largest implementation of IBM's iDataPlex system, which holds twice as many processors per unit as standard systems and is entirely water-cooled. More than 4,000 servers will be linked together.

    "Every aspect of the system has been put together to be the most powerful and yet the most energy-efficient," Pratt said.

    A data center will be built just north of Toronto. Installation will begin in the autumn and it's expected the supercomputer will be fully operational by next summer.

    (Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Peter Galloway)

    Reuters - Infineon chip causing problems on iPhone: reports

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    Infineon chip causing problems on iPhone: reports

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 5:39PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - An Infineon chip could be at the root of complaints from around the world that Apple Inc's new iPhone drops calls and has unpredictable Internet links, according to a research report from Nomura.

    BusinessWeek also reported on its website on Thursday that the iPhone is suffering from faulty software on an Infineon chip, and that Apple plans to fix the problem with a software update.

    Representatives for Apple and Infineon declined comment.

    One of the key attractions of the latest iPhone, which went on sale in July and sold 1 million in its first weekend, is faster, third-generation (3G) Web connections when compared to the first iPhone that was launched in mid-2007.

    However, users have complained on websites and blogs that Internet speeds have been inconsistent and that the phone often reverts to a slower technology known as Edge even in 3G areas.

    Nomura analyst Richard Windsor wrote in a research note that the problem likely involved a 3G cellular network communications chip made by Germany's Infineon.

    "We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain that Infineon is the 3G supplier," Windsor wrote in the report dated August 12.

    "There are too many instances on iPhone blogs and Apple's own website for it to be coincidence. Furthermore, it is not just the U.S. but other countries as well," he wrote.

    BusinessWeek's online report cited an unidentified source as saying the problem lay with Infineon technology, which it described as "fairly new and untested in high volumes outside a lab setting."

    BusinessWeek reported that Apple had set up the Infineon chip to demand a more powerful 3G signal than it needed, resulting in a switch back to the slower network if there are too many people in the same area trying to use their iPhone at the same time.

    The problem affects 2 percent to 3 percent of iPhone traffic, BusinessWeek said, citing two "well-placed" sources.

    Infineon spokesman Guenter Gaugler declined to comment on the iPhone, but noted that the German chipmaker has been supplying 3G chipsets to phone makers such as Samsung Electronics without any problems.

    Apple tends to restricts its suppliers from talking about their relationships, but several analysts have cited Infineon as the supplier of the main processor for the iPhone 3G.

    Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris declined comment on whether iPhone was having connection problems or if it was preparing a software fix.

    A spokesman for AT&T Inc, the exclusive U.S. carrier for iPhone, said that it was working well on AT&T's network and that the carrier had received very few complaints.

    "This is not something that's high on our radar screen. It's not something we've had a lot of complaints about," said AT&T's Mark Siegel.

    (Reporting by Sinead Carew, Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in London; editing by Phil Berlowitz)

    USA TODAY - Video-editing software gets put to the test

    This story has been sent from the mobile device of Bombastic4000@gmail.com. For real-time mobile news, go to m.usatoday.com.



    By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY

    So you just bought a new, tapeless high-definition video camera and want to start editing your footage to show off on DVDs and the Web.

    But you're stymied. Many cameras record video in a format that has become the new high-def standard, AVCHD, but it's not yet compatible with popular video-editing programs such as Adobe Premiere Elements, Windows Movie Maker or Roxio's Easy Media Creator 10. You probably can't even get the clips to play on your computer because Windows Media Player and QuickTime Player can't handle it, either.

    What to do?

    You must buy software that works with AVCHD. Choices for Windows users include Pinnacle Studio 12 ($99), Sony Vegas Platinum ($99) and Ulead VideoStudio ($69). For Mac owners there's Apple's iMovie '08 (free with new Apple computers), Final Cut Express ($199) or Final Cut Studio ($999).

    Our take: For Windows users, best-selling Studio 12 is the easiest to master. More advanced video users might want to consider Vegas, which has more features but will take longer to learn.

    For Apple users, I recommend steering clear of iMovie, which has been rejiggered into a dumbed-down program that's actually now harder to use. You'll have to step up to the $199 Final Cut Express, which has many of the features that make the $999 Final Cut Studio one of the top choices for industry professionals and film students. Here's a look at both Pinnacle Studio 12 and Final Cut Express.

    Using Studio 12

    To get started with Studio 12, just import your clips, trim them with the razor blade editing tool, maybe put in some background music and titles, and you've got yourself a production.

    The new version of Studio 12, recently out, is a major upgrade, primarily because of one standout feature.

    Are you familiar with the multiple-image "video walls" that open Sunday sports TV shows? Studio 12's "montage" feature gives you the tools to add similar polish to your production.

    Editing AVCHD clips in Studio 12 is no different from editing standard clips, with one exception. While you import the clips, you'll be waiting and waiting for them to load.

    That is because AVCHD editing takes a lot of horsepower. Software companies recommend a dual-core processor (2.4 GHz minimum) and 2 gigabytes of RAM. I have 4 GB of RAM, and even that's not enough. My AVCHD clips stall regularly in many editing programs.

    You also need mucho space on your hard drive. Video clips take lots and lots of room: One hour of AVCHD footage consumes roughly 7 GBs of space. (Most video editors deal with space issues by saving their footage to external hard drives.)

    What I don't like about Studio 12: Other programs give you multiple video and audio tracks. Studio 12 only has two. That's not enough if you wanted to, say, put multiple layers of video or audio on your production.

    Studio also works with fewer file formats than some others. It's not compatible with Apple's QuickTime, for instance, which is heavily used on the Web and comes bundled in many home computers via Apple's iTunes.

    That Studio doesn't work with QuickTime is a pain. If your son in college sends you a QuickTime clip to import into the family album, you're out of luck, because Studio won't open it.

    Using Final Cut Express

    At $199, Final Cut Express has nearly all the best features of Final Cut Pro, and it's a great introduction to the world of Final Cut editing.

    But even this "Express" version, at first glance, doesn't seem as easy to master as a beginner's program like the old iMovie or Studio 12. Because there are so many potential options, it can seem overwhelming.

    But take a deep breath; it's not that hard. As with Studio, you import clips, put them on the timeline, trim with a razor tool, add background music and you've got a little movie.

    If you're stuck and can't figure out how to do something, no problem. It is such a popular program that it's easy to find online user forums. Just type your question into a search engine to find a helpful group.

    Where Apple really confused me was in how to import AVCHD clips into Final Cut. Instead of simply dragging and dropping clips, you must plug the camera into the computer, click a "log and capture" tab and wait for the clips to arrive.

    This can trip you up, for example, if a friend shoots an AVCHD clip on his camera and you want to use it for your project. He can't burn it to a DVD and give it you. It has to come straight from the camera.

    That's my main beef with Final Cut.

    Bottom line: While working with Final Cut can take longer to master, the results are worth it, because you have so many more options available.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/2008-08-13-video-camera-tapeless-avchd_N.htm

    Reuters - Polo Ralph Lauren to launch shopping by cell phone

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    Polo Ralph Lauren to launch shopping by cell phone

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 12:14PM UTC

    By Martinne Geller

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Is the tech-savvy fashionista ready to shop by mobile phone? Polo Ralph Lauren Corp hopes so.

    Polo is the first luxury retailer to launch a mobile commerce site, hoping to stay ahead of a trend that is making its way from Asia to the United States, said David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising and son of designer and Chief Executive Ralph Lauren.

    Using phones to buy items such as train tickets or products in vending machines is commonplace in Japan, but the trend has yet to catch on in the United States.

    "We recognize that in America this is going after somebody who is more comfortable with technology," Lauren told Reuters. "The truth is that in other countries, it's becoming a part of their culture. The trend is coming, and as a fashion company it's very important to identify trends and get ahead of them."

    While early adopters of new technologies are often young, Lauren said the move is not aimed at a specific age group.

    "This is about someone who's interested in our brand and interested in technology, and wherever the two meet, that's what's appropriate," Lauren said.

    Polo, with its higher-end customers, has used cautious inventory management to outperform other apparel makers that have been hurt by a deteriorating U.S. economy.

    The apparel maker will begin placing special codes in print ads, mailings and store windows along with its sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which begins later this month.

    Shoppers can download special software to camera-phones to scan the codes and be directed to a phone-friendly version of a Ralph Lauren website, where they can shop, watch tennis videos and read company content.

    Lauren declined to say how much the company invested in the new technology or its anticipated sales impact.

    Cell phones with preinstalled code-readers should come to market within a year, Lauren said.

    (Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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