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    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Reuters - Google sees YouTube profitable in near future

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    Google sees YouTube profitable in near future

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 5:41PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Web video site YouTube will be profitable for Google Inc in the near future, the Internet search leader said on Thursday.

    Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, but has lost money on the site that lets people post and share videos free.

    Analysts have raised concerns about the huge costs involved in streaming millions of videos with only a tiny swathe of them being supported by advertising.

    "YouTube is now on a trajectory that we're very pleased with," Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said during an earnings call on Thursday.

    He added that Google is helping marketers and advertising agencies create "great ads easily" for YouTube.

    Google executives have recently made bullish remarks on YouTube's revenue growth. Schmidt told reporters at the Sun Valley technology and media conference this month that new advertising formats, such as pre-roll ads that appear before a Web video program, will draw in more revenue.

    On Thursday, Google's head of product management and marketing, Jonathan Rosenberg, said "monetized views" -- people viewing videos that are supported by advertising -- more than tripled in the past year.

    "We're now monetizing billions of views of partner videos every month," he said.

    In response to an analyst question, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said recent efforts to introduce new ad formats and promote videos have helped to establish YouTube's home page among advertisers as relevant and "desirable for customers."

    "We're really pleased both in terms of (YouTube's) revenue growth, which is really material to YouTube, and... in the not long, too-long-distant future, we actually see a very profitable and good business for us," Pichette said.

    Google reported a quarterly profit on Thursday that beat Wall Street expectations, but its revenue growth was not as stellar as some investors had hoped, sending its shares down nearly 3 percent.

    (Reporting by Anupreeta Das; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - Goldman makes peace with blogger in trademark case

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    Goldman makes peace with blogger in trademark case

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 6:33PM UTC

    By Martha Graybow

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc has quietly reached an agreement to end a legal dispute with a blogger who will be allowed to keep running a website critical of the investment bank.

    The agreement required blogger Michael Morgan to post a disclaimer on his website, saying it has no affiliation with the financial firm.

    Morgan, a Florida investment adviser, uses his blog -- whose name combines Goldman's name with numbers used to evoke connotations with the devil -- to criticize the bank and its large profits.

    The bank this week posted a 33 percent increase in quarterly earnings on blowout trading results, putting its employees on pace for big bonuses at a time when many Americans are struggling.

    A Goldman attorney had sent Morgan a cease-and-desist letter in April, contending he was violating the firm's intellectual property rights by using its trademark. Morgan then filed a complaint in federal court in Florida, seeking a ruling that he had not infringed on any trademarks.

    The two sides agreed to have the litigation dismissed in court papers filed last month. The agreement was reported by The Am Law Daily legal publication.

    Goldman spokeswoman Gia Moron said on Friday that "our concern about this site ceased when Mr. Morgan posted a prominent disclaimer making it clear that his site was not associated with Goldman Sachs."

    (Reporting by Martha Graybow; editing by Andre Grenon)

    Reuters - ooVoo takes on Skype, Cisco in video conferencing

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    ooVoo takes on Skype, Cisco in video conferencing

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 10:48PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Start-up ooVoo is hoping to take on everybody from Skype, the Internet telephony arm of eBay, to Cisco Systems with a new video conferencing offer for small businesses.

    While Skype has the higher profile, New York-based ooVoo has quietly built up 7.5 million registered users in the last few years with a service that supports video chats between up to six people and up to six phone participants.

    Now, the fledgling company is adding a desktop sharing option that will let business colleagues view each other's computer screens and enable remote collaboration. It will also block advertising for business users who pay a monthly fee.

    "We took what we had with the consumer and packaged it with a business plan," said ooVoo CEO Philippe Schwartz who said that about 20 percent of the company's current users were business customers even before its business-targeted plan.

    Cisco's development of a telepresence video conferencing system, which uses large screens and shows life-like images, has created renewed interest in video communications in recent years. But such systems cost thousands of dollars to install, at a time small businesses are looking to shave costs.

    A few years ago, Cisco also bought firm WebEx, which lets people share documents and collaborate online.

    Schwartz hopes to double ooVoo's customer base this year and increase business users to as much as 40 percent of total customers as companies look to cut costs in a weak economy.

    "You're seeing people use more video because of the economy and the need to travel less," Schwartz said.

    ooVoo's business service costs $39.95 a month per person or less, depending on the number of users in a company, ad-free. The consumer service starts at no fee to as high as $17.95 a month for six-way chats. Voice calls to phones are extra.

    In comparison, Skype, which had 443 million customers at the end of March, does not charge a fee for video chat between computers, but charges per-minute for calls to telephones.

    Skype recently added the option of screen sharing, which allows users to share all or part of their screen, and says it does not charge for this service.

    But Skype, which provides voice conferencing options for up to 25 people, only provides one-to-one video and does not offer the call recording feature that ooVoo has.

    IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen said that ooVoo's ability to combine video and phone participants in the same call is a big plus for attracting business customers. She also noted that the option of setting up a Web video call with non-ooVoo users could help it attract new customers.

    But she said Skype would likely be a formidable rival.

    "They also are starting to focus heavily on the business market, which leads me to believe more features and functionality are on their way," Swensen said.

    Howard Lichtman, president of consulting firm Human Productivity Lab, said that while large companies would be more likely to opt for a high-end telepresence system, many smaller companies would be content with a cheaper option.

    "There's a kind of a virtuous cycle going on in that more and more companies are deploying video, so more and more people want to use it," he said. "A lot of little companies are saying, we'll just use Skype or WebEx or some of these other services."

    (Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - Verizon says it will limit new handset deals

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    Verizon says it will limit new handset deals

    Friday, Jul 17, 2009 7:55PM UTC

    By Diane Bartz and Sinead Carew

    WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless is dialing back on its exclusivity agreements with handset makers after pressure from U.S. lawmakers and smaller carriers.

    The biggest U.S. mobile service said on Friday it will limit exclusivity periods with cellphone makers to six months and then allow the country's smallest wireless service providers to sell the devices.

    The move comes after reports that the U.S. Department of Justice was taking a preliminary look into whether U.S. operators had violated antitrust laws by obtaining exclusive deals to sell specific phones.

    Exclusivity deals are common among the biggest U.S. carriers but have recently faced strong opposition from small, rural carriers, which say they lack the clout to make deals to carry the most popular advanced phones.

    The iPhone has drawn such deals into the spotlight because AT&T Inc <T.N>, the second biggest U.S. wireless service, has had exclusive U.S. rights with Apple Inc <AAPL.O> since 2007.

    In an apparent effort to preempt any regulatory changes, Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications <VZ.N> and Vodafone Group <VOD.L>, sent a letter to major lawmakers on July 17 offering to limit exclusivity.

    Verizon said the offer would apply to carriers with 500,000 or fewer subscribers. However, Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said it applies to all "small" operators, without giving a specific definition. Cellular South, a vocal activist against phone exclusivity deals would be able to avail of the offer even though it has roughly 800,000 customers, he said.

    However, the offer will not extend to larger companies such as U.S. Cellular Corp <USM.N>, which has about 6 million customers and has been a vocal opponent of the practice, Nelson said. U.S. Cellular did not immediately comment.

    "Effective immediately for small wireless carriers ... any new exclusivity arrangement we enter with handset makers will last no longer than six months -- for all manufacturers and all devices," Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said in the letter.

    He said 24 small wireless carriers had asked Verizon to eliminate its long-term exclusive handset agreements with LG <066570.KS> and Samsung <SAGR.UL> in February. The company was now expanding that idea to all handsets.

    Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast described the letter as a "significant move to diffuse the heightening pressure for regulation to curtail" exclusive deals and said it would put pressure on other big carriers to follow suit.

    "It will likely not be the end of the debate, in our view, as US Cellular, one of the more vigorous advocates for eliminating exclusives, will not benefit," Arbogast said, but she said the move would take pressure off of the U.S. telecom regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, to change laws.

    But Consumers Union, a Washington based consumer advocate, said Verizon's focus on the smallest carriers would mean more phone choices for a very limited number of consumers.

    "For the rest of the hundreds of millions of wireless consumers its not nearly enough," said Consumers Union policy analyst Joel Kelsey. "This is Verizon trying to dodge tough questions about its anti-competitive behavior."

    A spokeswoman for the Justice Department was not immediately available for comment. The DoJ's preliminary examination is believed to be focused on deals like AT&T's with Apple and Sprint's <S.N> with Palm's <PALM.O> Pre cellphone. Another is Verizon's deal with LG for its Voyager phone.

    AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel declined to comment on how it might respond to Verizon's move, but defended exclusive deals.

    "Without question exclusive handset deals have given America's wireless customers big benefits, including more choices, lower prices, and a level of innovation that is the best in the world," he said in an emailed statement.

    Sprint declined immediate comment and a spokesperson for the FCC was not immediately available for comment.

    Arbogast said AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 U.S. mobile service owned by Deutsche Telekom <DTEGn.DE>, would come under pressure to follow suit.

    The letter was sent to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, and committee members John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. The letter also was sent to Representatives Rick Boucher, Henry Waxman, Joe Barton and Cliff Stearns.

    Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, who met with McAdam on Friday, praised Verizon's actions.

    "Verizon has taken an important and forward-looking step. I think it does ensure that smaller carriers get rapid access to the latest devices," Boucher told Reuters.

    Smaller telecommunications companies and consumer advocacy groups also have complained that bigger companies use their size to squeeze out smaller rivals by refusing roaming deals, or block applications like the Skype Web-based phone service.

    (Additional reporting John Poirier; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Tiffany Wu, Richard Chang and Carol Bishopric)

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