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    eat my Twitter?

    The Black Rider

    authentic since 1981 'welcome to my bomboclot mind'

    Saturday, December 31, 2011

    no retweet no surrender.jpg

    The desk of a rider

    Started this blog new years eve 2006. Five years ago. Best thing I ever did. My voice is the same. I was 25 then. I am 30 now. I am still the black rider. I am still here. Slow burn baby. All the events are coming in place. Nothing before the time. Stay tuned gentle people. Stay tunes. The rider rides again.

    Get your head, in the grid~maaAn

    I want this

    Tell me this porsche blackberry does not look official. Go ahead. Tell me.

    Do the damn thing

    I am the designer of all things rock n roll man!

    Uninsured turn to daily deal sites for health care

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    Living social ist

    The next book on Jobs

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    Get your head in the grid man.

    Resolve to publish a book

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    Do it. Do it now.

    Designer behind Apple's products knighted in UK

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    Yeah yeah yeah

    Reuter site - Celebrities may temper Twitter comments after 2011 blunders

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    Celebrities may temper Twitter comments after 2011 blunders

    Sat, Dec 31 15:03 PM EST

    By Alex Dobuzinskis

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Celebrities may resist the urge to send a stream of consciousness on Twitter in the new year, after famous people tweeted their way into trouble on everything from boxer briefs to breast-feeding in 2011.

    NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne became the latest celebrity to blunder on Twitter, when he recently had to apologize for a tweet critical of public breast-feeding.

    But Kahne has been far from alone in discovering Twitter's pitfalls. The year 2011 saw Congressman Anthony Weiner resign in a scandal that began with an errant tweet, and the musings of Hollywood stars such as the tech savvy Ashton Kutcher and comic Gilbert Gottfried generated public controversy.

    As a result of those and other scandals, 2011 may be seen as a turning point when more celebrities and politicians saw the dangers of Twitter and quit sending unfiltered messages, pop culture experts said.

    The public already knows speeches and even snappy quips from public figures are often scripted, so fans are likely to understand if the handlers of celebrities play a larger role in managing their Twitter accounts.

    "There was a time from 2008 to 2011 where Twitter was like, whatever was on your mind you tweeted about it -- literally mindlessly," said radio host Cooper Lawrence, author of "The Cult of Celebrity."

    "Now you're going to see the other side of the bell curve, where people are more cautious. Politicians are already more cautious," she said.

    In Washington, D.C., no better example of a Twitter train wreck can be found than the career of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a once influential Democrat from New York.

    The spark that led to revelations about Weiner and his resignation in June was a tweet he sent to a female college student, with a lewd photo of his bulging boxer underwear.

    "That guy has become now the patron saint of warning people that communicating from the id, which is exactly what Twitter is designed to do, can end up being a really, really bad idea," said Bob Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University.

    DUCKING OUT

    Comedian Gilbert Gottfried did not have his career ruined by Twitter, but it cost him a lucrative gig.

    Gottfried fired off several joke tweets in March about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In one message, he said: "Japan is really advanced. They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them."

    Gottfried was roundly criticized in the media, and insurance company Aflac Inc fired him as the voice of its iconic duck in television commercials.

    "Being the Aflac voice was a large portion of his income, and not being able to do that for years and years to come is going to cost him millions of dollars," said Jo Piazza, author of the book "Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money."

    More than other celebrities, actor Ashton Kutcher has been a master of Twitter. Kutcher became the first to have a million followers on the site. He also created the online production company Katalyst and embarked on lucrative promotion campaigns for such products as Popchips.

    All of that made it believable when Kutcher in September was given a starring role as a billionaire technology guru on hit television comedy "Two and a Half Men."

    Kutcher took over from actor Charlie Sheen, who clashed with the show's co-creator and raised eyebrows on Twitter with descriptions of himself as "winning."

    In November, Kutcher created a public uproar when he tweeted a defense of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was fired in the fallout from a sexual abuse scandal that centered on assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

    Kutcher apologized in a blog post, and said he did not know about the abuse scandal when he sent the off-the-cuff tweet that read, "How do you fire Jo Pa?" He also pledged to have his staff at Katalyst manage his Twitter account, as opposed to posting on his own as he had done before.

    The 33-year-old actor wrote that Twitter has turned into a "mass publishing platform" in which tweets can quickly "become news that is broadcast around the world and misinformation becomes volatile fodder for critics."

    Experts say Kutcher's Twitter mistake and his decision to alter the way he uses the site could serve as a lesson to others. "Because after all, he is a master of the form," Thompson said.

    The recent controversy surrounding Kasey Kahne shows that not only a celebrity's tweet, but also the response to other online commentators can generate trouble.

    He originally posted a comment about encountering a mother breast-feeding at a supermarket. "Took second look because I was obviously seeing things. I wasn't!" he wrote.

    But Kahne faced just as much heat for a crude comment directed at a woman online who criticized his view on public breast-feeding. The racer later apologized for both messages.

    Other notable Twitter controversies of 2011 include film critic Roger Ebert's tweet, "Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive," which was sent in response to the impaired driving death of "Jackass" star Ryan Dunn.

    In a less inflammatory Twitter misfire, Charlie Sheen in December revealed his phone number, in an apparent attempt to send it privately to teen singer Justin Bieber.

    (Editing by Mary Slosson and Greg McCune)

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Reuter site - App aims to make a social network more personal

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    App aims to make a social network more personal

    Mon, Dec 26 09:16 AM EST

    By Natasha Baker

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Interested in sharing more personal moments of life to a small group of friends rather than a large network? An app called Path could help.

    Originally conceived as a way to post photos and videos for close family and friends to see, the app was re-released this month as a "smart journal" to enable users to share more about their lives.

    "Because Path is a smaller network that's built for the people you love -- the closest friends and family in your life -- people are willing to share more intimate content as a result of that," said Matt Van Horn, a vice president at Path.

    He added that although some of details of life might seem mundane when broadcast to the masses, they can take on a newlight when shared with closer connections.

    "Taking a photo on the porch with your sister if you were to post to a larger network might not be that interesting. But if your mom, who is on the other side of the country, sees it then it's magical," he said.

    The app also learns a user's habits, such as favorite places, and can recognize deviations in patterns and broadcast them to their 'path', the social stream visible to a user's connections.

    Inspired by British anthropologist and Oxford professor Robin Dunbar, Path limits the number of social connections a user can have to 150 people. It is considered the upper limit of the number of trusted relationships a person can have, and is a direct function of our biology.

    The average user on Path has five to ten connections.

    Since its re-launch, Path has experienced a 30-fold increase in the number of daily users, according to its creators.

    Although the app is free, users must pay for some features. But the company said it will not include ads on the site.

    "We believe in creating quality products that our users will want to pay for," Van Horn said.

    Path, available for iOS and Android devices, also integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Tumblr to allow cross-posting to the social networks.

    Similar apps for creating digital journals include Momento and Day One.

    "Facebook changed the world. People were themselves for the first time, putting their real name on the Internet, and then connecting with every person they had ever met," said Horn.

    "But we really believe the next generation of social is going to be personal."

    (Reporting by Natasha Baker; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Reuter site - Hackers hit security think tank Stratfor's website

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    Hackers hit security think tank Stratfor's website

    Sun, Dec 25 17:14 PM EST

    (Reuters) - U.S. security think tank Strategic Forecasting Inc (Stratfor) said its website had been hacked and that some of the names of corporate subscribers had been made public.

    Stratfor said the breach came from an unauthorized party, while activist hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility.

    "As a result of this incident the operation of Stratfor's servers and email have been suspended," the Austin-based company said in an email on Sunday.

    Hackers claiming to be the group Anonymous said they had obtained around 4,000 credit card details, passwords and home addresses on Stratfor's private client list, which was posted on information-sharing website Pastebin.

    Anonymous, reported to be a loose-knit group of hackers, became famous for attacking the companies and institutions that oppose WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

    Anonymous has also been linked to attacks on the websites of the PlayStation store, the Church of Scientology and governments around the globe that it considered oppressive.

    Stratfor, which describes itself as a provider of strategic intelligence for business, economic, security and geopolitical affairs, said it was "working closely with law enforcement in their investigation and will assist them with the identification of the individual(s) who are responsible".

    (Reporting By Jerry Norton, Jim Finkle and Nicola Leske; Editing by Dale Hudson)

    Reuter site - Web gambling gets boost from Obama administration

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    Web gambling gets boost from Obama administration

    Sun, Dec 25 17:36 PM EST

    By Jim Wolf and Nicola Leske

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration cleared the way for states to legalize Internet poker and certain other online betting in a switch that may help them reap billions in tax revenue and spur web-based gambling.

    A Justice Department opinion dated September and made public on Friday reversed decades of previous policy that included civil and criminal charges against operators of some of the most popular online poker sites.

    Until now, the department held that online gambling in all forms was illegal under the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagers via telecommunications that cross state lines or international borders.

    The new interpretation, by the department's Office of Legal Counsel, said the Wire Act applies only to bets on a "sporting event or contest," not to a state's use of the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within its borders or abroad.

    "The United States Department of Justice has given the online gaming community a big, big present," said I. Nelson Rose, a gaming law expert at Whittier Law School who consults for governments and the industry.

    The question at issue was whether proposals by Illinois and New York to use the Internet and out-of-state transaction processors to sell lottery tickets to in-state adults violated the Wire Act.

    But the department's conclusion would eliminate "almost every federal anti-gambling law that could apply to gaming that is legal under state laws," Rose wrote on his blog at www.gamblingandthelaw.com.

    If a state legalized intra-state games such as poker, as Nevada and the District of Columbia have done, "there is simply no federal law that could apply" against their operators, he said.

    The department's opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, said the law's legislative history showed that Congress's overriding goal had been to halt wire communications for sports gambling, notably off-track betting on horse races.

    Congress also had been concerned about rapid transmission of betting information on baseball, basketball, football and boxing among other sports-related events or contests, she summarized the legislative history as showing.

    "The ordinary meaning of the phrase 'sporting event or contest' does not encompass lotteries," Seitz wrote. "Accordingly, we conclude that the proposed lotteries are not within the prohibitions of the Wire Act."

    The department expressed no opinion about a provision in the law that lets prosecutors shut down phone lines where interstate or foreign gambling is taking place.

    Many of the 50 U.S. states may be interested in creating online lotteries to boost tax revenues and help offset the ripple effect of a federal deficit-reduction push.

    The global online gambling industry grew 12 percent last year to as much as $30 billion, according to a survey in March by Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy, based on the Isle of Man, where online gambling is legal.

    Federal prosecutors in April charged three of the biggest Internet poker companies with fraud and money-laundering along with violations of another federal law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 1986.

    The government outlined an alleged scheme by owners of the three largest online poker companies - Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars - to funnel gambling profits to online shell companies that would appear legitimate to banks processing payments.

    (Editing by Derek Caney)

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Reuter site - As Kodak struggles, Eastman Chemical thrives

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    As Kodak struggles, Eastman Chemical thrives

    Sat, Dec 24 12:16 PM EST

    By Ernest Scheyder and Liana B. Baker

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - George Eastman is best known as the inventor of photographic film and founder of Eastman Kodak Co, but his century-old legacy of entrepreneurship now rides on the lesser-known Eastman Chemical Co.

    That was hardly the case in 1994, when Eastman Kodak spun off its chemicals business to help pay down debt. At that time, Kodak was still a colossus in photography whereas Eastman Chemical was a small player very much in its parent's shadow.

    But because of a sea change in digital technology and different approaches to business, Eastman Chemical's stock market value has since increased 71 percent to $5.5 billion today, while Kodak's has plummeted 99 percent to about $185 million.

    Interviews with former executives, retirees and analysts describe two companies that were polar opposites in many ways, despite their shared heritage: where Eastman Chemical was swift to move into new markets, Kodak rested on its laurels for too long; where Chemical had a management team obsessed with the bottom line, Kodak retained cushy employee benefits even when the advent of digital cameras caused film demand to crater.

    Speculation flared in September that Kodak was on the verge of bankruptcy, after the Rochester, New York-based company hired restructuring experts. Last month, Kodak warned that unless it could raise $500 million in new debt or sell some patents in its portfolio, it might not survive 2012.

    "George Eastman's legacy will be Eastman Chemical and not Eastman Kodak," said Willy Shih, a Harvard Business School professor who ran Kodak's digital imaging business from 1997 until 2005. "I am absolutely convinced of that."

    Eastman Chemical shares lagged Kodak's until 2006:

    http://link.reuters.com/myg75s

    Eastman Chemical vs Kodak quarterly profits:

    http://link.reuters.com/nyg75s

    George Eastman, a high-school dropout from rural New York, founded Eastman Kodak Co in the late 1880s and built it into the world's biggest photographic film supplier and camera maker. He patented roll film when he was 30 and quickly became a wealthy man. In 1919, he gifted one-third of his Kodak stock -- worth roughly $10 million at the time -- to employees.

    Eastman established a chemicals subsidiary in 1920 to supply acetic acid and other photographic chemicals to Kodak, a business that grew strongly in the next 50 years, gaining many customers beyond its sibling.

    After Eastman Chemical was spun off, it continued to expand and innovate by staking out new niche chemical markets, such as fibers for cigarette filters and plastic free of bisphenol A, a potential carcinogen.

    Kodak, on the other hand, invented the digital camera in 1975 when one of its engineers developed a prototype that was as big as a toaster and captured black and white images.

    But it failed to capitalize on that innovation, and it was only when Kodak's film business began to decline a decade ago that it tried to catch up with rivals by launching mass-market digital cameras with the Easyshare line.

    "We had something that was so good, but now it's deteriorated to the current state of affairs," said Bob Shanebrook, a former Kodak executive who ran the professional film business and retired in 2003. "We thought $40 per share was a ridiculously low stock price, but now it's below a dollar."

    Kodak's five-year credit default swaps were quoted at distressed levels earlier this month, reflecting a 92 percent chance of default on its debt in the next five years.

    The city of Rochester itself seems resigned to Kodak's fate. At one point, the company employed more than 60,000 people in the area -- now, that number is closer to 7,000.

    A PATERNAL HISTORY

    To be sure, Eastman Chemical has been fortunate to be in an industry that has changed little compared to the technology sector, which has forced other American icons including International Business Machines Corp and Corning Inc to reinvent themselves. The type of chemical products may change, but the science of producing them does not.

    Nonetheless, people familiar with both companies give Eastman Chemical credit for a corporate culture change that has helped it eschew the Kodak legacy.

    In March 2009, for example, Eastman Chemical asked all employees from the CEO down to take a 5 percent pay cut to prevent widespread layoffs. The tactic worked, layoffs were averted, and the prior pay levels were restored later that year.

    "We needed to understand that we were not a family; we were a team," Brian Ferguson, who joined Eastman Chemical in 1977 and was chief executive from 2002 through 2009, said in an email. "We had difficulties dealing with these issues due to the paternal history of Kodak, which implied employment for life, benefits forever unchanging and general conflict avoidance."

    Kodak, in contrast, was much more generous with its employee benefits. Even after the decline in its business forced massive layoffs -- it has 18,800 global workers today, down from 86,000 in 1998 -- the company offered lucrative severance packages.

    "They could have just said, 'Thanks for coming, goodbye,'" said Shanebrook, the former Kodak executive. "Instead, they gave people at all levels separation packages based on how long they worked. They continue to provide medical coverage for retirees."

    Kodak's U.S. pension plans, which cover 65,000 people, were underfunded by nearly $200 million at the end of 2010. The funds slipped into the red after a surplus of more than $2 billion as recently as 2008, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

    When asked for comment, Kodak spokesman Gerard Meuchner said in an-email that the company has cut its post-employment benefits by two-thirds since 2005 and lowered its severance benefits from two weeks per year of service to 1.5 weeks.

    CONTRASTING CEOS

    The differences in Kodak and Eastman Chemical's cultures are reflected in the management styles of their leaders. Eastman Chemical Chief Executive Jim Rogers, a former naval aviator and corporate treasurer, has a reputation for being pragmatic and low-key. Kodak CEO Antonio Perez is known for his charisma, but some of his spending decisions have raised eyebrows.

    Perez's liberal use of corporate jets has become a popular topic among Kodak pensioners on Internet message boards. Perez, who is on the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, flew with his wife in 2006 on a Kodak plane to a Super Bowl football game viewing party at the White House.

    The plane was later destroyed when a hangar near Dulles International Airport collapsed after a snowstorm. Perez decided to lease another one.

    In 2010, he racked up a $309,407 bill using Kodak's jet for personal travel, according to regulatory filings. Starting in 2011, the company said Perez would have to pay out of pocket if his personal travel bill eclipsed $100,000.

    Rogers, by contrast, used Eastman Chemical's jet infrequently in 2010 for personal travel. The cost was so small -- less than $10,000 -- that Eastman Chemical said in filings it would not bother to report it.

    PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

    Among the handful of Wall Street analysts who still follow Kodak, three advise selling the stock. By contrast, at least seven Wall Street analysts say the shares of Eastman Chemical are a good buy. StarMine, a Thomson Reuters data service that aggregates leading analysts' expectations, believes the stock's true value is nearly double current levels.

    Earnest Deavenport, who was chief executive of Eastman Chemical when it first became independent, said the company would not have flourished if it had remained part of Kodak.

    "The cash needs of the chemical group and the rest of Kodak were out of phase with each other," Davenport said. "Kodak did not see the global expansion of the chemical group's manufacturing base as strategic to the parent company."

    As an independent company, Eastman Chemical had to learn to compete with Dow Chemical, BASF and other global chemical giants. It never grew complacent the way Kodak did with its near-monopoly of the photographic sector.

    Kodak has been hamstrung by Asian competitors that have experience making cheaper electronics. In 2010, Kodak held about 7 percent of the digital camera market, in seventh place behind Canon, Sony Corp, Nikon and others, according to research firm IDC. Its position has slipped since 2007, when it was No. 4 in U.S. digital camera sales with a 9.6 percent share.

    Kodak's spending on research and development fell 10 percent last year to $321 million. Eastman Chemical spent $152 million on research in 2010, up 23 percent from the previous year.

    If Perez cannot find a way to revitalize Kodak, Rogers could soon find himself the only CEO of a company with "Eastman" in its name.

    In 1932, sick and frail from a spinal disorder, George Eastman took his own life with a bullet to the heart, feeling that his legacy had been cemented by both the film and chemical businesses. He left a note, unaware that Kodak would one day fall on hard times.

    "To my friends," Eastman wrote. "My work is done. Why wait?"

    (Reporting By Liana B. Baker and Ernest Scheyder; editing by Tiffany Wu and Richard Chang)

    (This story corrects to heart from head in penultimate paragraph)

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Reuter site - RIM now faces legal challenge on "BBM" trademark

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    RIM now faces legal challenge on "BBM" trademark

    Fri, Dec 23 15:28 PM EST

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion, still smarting over having to change the name of its yet-to-come operating system, faces a similar trademark challenge to its popular instant-messaging service BlackBerry Messenger.

    The service, which allows BlackBerry users to send each other text and multimedia files and see when they are delivered and read, is widely known and even promoted by RIM via the shorthand BBM.

    That has proven an encumbrance to BBM Canada, which measures radio and television audience data and expects its day in a Federal Court against RIM by February.

    The company's chief executive, Jim MacLeod, said he wants RIM to stop advertising the BBM moniker but would also consider changing his much smaller company's name, for a price.

    "We have to be practical, they operate worldwide, we don't. But we're not prepared to just walk from our name," MacLeod said.

    RIM seems equally determined to keep using the BBM name and not to pay MacLeod's company anything.

    "We believe that BBM Canada is attempting to obtain trademark protection for the BBM acronym that is well beyond the narrow range of the services it provides and well beyond the scope of rights afforded by Canadian trademark law," it said in an emailed statement.

    RIM has launched its BBM Music song-sharing service in recent months, and heavily promoted third-party apps that tie into its instant messaging product, which boasts some 50 million active users.

    BBM Canada was established in 1944 as the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. It changed its name to BBM in the 1960s and to BBM Canada in the early 1990s, MacLeod said. The company, owned by a collection of broadcasters and advertisers, has annual revenue of around $50 million. RIM's sales were more than $5 billion last quarter.

    "I'm sure to a really big company this looks like relatively small numbers, but to us it's a big deal," said MacLeod. BBM Canada employs around 650 people, compared with RIM's roughly 17,000.

    Earlier this month RIM dumped the "BBX" name for its new operating system after being served with an injunction in a trademark fight with U.S.-based Basis International. RIM has renamed the platform as BlackBerry 10.

    Industry Canada denied RIM's 2009 request to register the BBM trademark, saying the name was already in use, but has granted RIM until January 5 to respond.

    BBM Canada launched its legal action late last year.

    MacLeod said his company contacted RIM in July, soon after RIM launched a large-scale BBM advertising campaign. In response to BBM Canada's cease-and-desist letter RIM said there couldn't possibly be any confusion between the two names - a similar tactic was later used in the BBX spat.

    RIM repeated that line of argument in Friday's statement.

    "The services associated with RIM's BBM offering clearly do not overlap with BBM Canada's services and the two marks are therefore eligible to co-exist under Canadian trademark law. The two companies are in different industries and have never been competitors in any area."

    MacLeod sought a meeting to discuss the issue with RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie several months ago, but said he has received no response.

    McLeod pointed out that RIM had even taken legal action of its own against software startup Kik Interactive over its instant messaging service that includes claims of trademark infringement.

    "It's a trademark they don't even own, it's ours," MacLeod said.

    (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Rob Wilson)

    Reuter site - AT&T wins regulatory approval to buy Qualcomm spectrum

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    AT&T wins regulatory approval to buy Qualcomm spectrum

    Fri, Dec 23 08:14 AM EST

    (Reuters) - AT&T Inc said late on Thursday that it won regulatory approval to buy wireless spectrum from U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc, a move that would boost the company's 4G network.

    AT&T is buying 700 megahertz (MHz) airwaves for about $1.93 billion, with the aim of countering criticism over iPhone service quality and competitive threats from rivals like Verizon Wireless.

    "This spectrum will help AT&T continue to deliver a world-class mobile broadband experience to our customers," Bob Quinn, an AT&T senior vice president, said in a statement.

    The companies expect to close the transaction in the coming days, AT&T said.

    (Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Matt Driskill)

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    We go to Wal-Mart, Wa Wa Wal-Mart

    For me? XXX? Oh no. Oooh no.

    Play with me RIM. Play with me.

    Reuter site - Wal-Mart throws weight behind online entrepreneurs

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    Wal-Mart throws weight behind online entrepreneurs

    Wed, Dec 21 12:02 PM EST

    By Alistair Barr

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc has turned to a small group of technology entrepreneurs to help the world's largest retailer improve its online fortunes.

    They run a new unit of the company called @WalmartLabs near Silicon Valley which is crunching mountains of data from social networks and riding a wave of smartphone adoption in hopes of capturing more sales for Wal-Mart online.

    @WalmartLabs is aggressively hiring software developers and has started what could turn into a string of global e-commerce acquisitions on behalf of the retailer overseen by former Evercore investment banker Brian Roberts.

    "The company is putting a lot of resources behind the e-commerce push and wants it to grow quickly," said Roberts. "To look back 10 or 15 years from now and say you were there when the direction of the whole company changed - that's exciting."

    Wal-Mart generates more than $400 billion in annual revenue. Yet it is the sixth-largest Internet retailer, behind Amazon.com Inc, Staples Inc, Apple Inc, Dell Inc and Office Depot Inc, according to industry publication Internet Retailer.

    That is a problem because e-commerce revenue in the United States is growing at 10 to 15 percent a year, while revenue of traditional retail stores is growing at about half that rate, according to Van Baker, a retail analyst at Gartner.

    Wal-Mart does not disclose online sales, but this part of the company's business likely accounts for less than 1 percent of total sales - or around $4 billion a year, according to Ed Weller, an independent investment and retail analyst. The retailer's online sales are probably growing at a similar rate to e-commerce in general, Weller said.

    Annual sales of industry leader Amazon.com, by contrast, are likely to exceed $40 billion this year, according to analysts.

    Wal-Mart's e-commerce efforts "are not the best, but they are far from the worst," Baker said. "I give them high marks for understanding the changes they need to make and trying to get them done."

    As recently as a year and a half ago, Wal-Mart treated its online operation as a separate business, but the company is now taking a multi-pronged approach, with stores sharing credit for sales when staff encourage in-store customers to order online.

    'A GREAT LEVELER'

    One of the biggest opportunities comes from combining Wal-Mart's data on purchase history with data from social networks like Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter.

    Transaction history tells Wal-Mart what customers have bought in the past. Social data has the potential to tell the retailer what consumers may buy in the future - information that could be even more valuable.

    Through tweets and Facebook updates, marketers have the potential ability to glean details of consumers' interests. Knowing what people like and want can help retailers stock more items that will sell better.

    According to a recent report in Internet Retailer, "More than half of consumers grant online retailers permission to use their Facebook data, according to a new study from social commerce applications supplier Sociable Labs."

    Before the rise of social networking, most of the Internet data that interested retailers was from purchases and other transactions by customers. This was owned by corporations that would not share it.

    Facebook updates and tweets are, by definition, more public, which makes the information more accessible for analysis.

    "It's a race to see who can use all this data the best," said Anand Rajaraman, who runs @WalmartLabs with Venky Harinarayan, Gibu Thomas and Jeremy King. "This will change the retail industry, as well as most other industries."

    For an established, traditional retailer like Wal-Mart, social data is a way to catch up and compete better with Amazon.com and other leading online players.

    "Social data is a great leveler," said Rajaraman.

    KOSMIX

    @WalmartLabs is run on the fifth floor of a building opposite YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, California, about half an hour's drive north from Silicon Valley.

    Rajaraman and Harinarayan used to run Kosmix, which organized massive amounts of information from the Internet into more easily digestible categories.

    Wal-Mart initially approached the company to help make searching for products on its website easier. But the relationship expanded and Wal-Mart bought Kosmix for about $300 million in May.

    Roughly 65 Kosmix employees joined Wal-Mart to form @WalmartLabs. Soon after, the new unit was bolstered by employees of Wal-Mart's mobile business, headed by Thomas, and by workers in Wal-Mart's online platform and services unit, run by King.

    Kosmix technology is now being used to trawl Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other sources of data on the Internet for information on the connections between people and their interests, products, events and locations.

    One of the first creations from this effort was Shopycat, a shopping app that uses Facebook data to recommend gifts.

    Another initiative called the Social Sense Project uses data from Twitter to try to predict hot products. This information can help Wal-Mart buyers pick the best items to order.

    For example, the Social Sense team discovered after analyzing data on Twitter that cake pops - a cross between a cake and a lollipop - were becoming very popular. Wal-Mart stores are now stocking up on cake pop makers, according to Rajaraman.

    Another idea in the works is to have a "social layer" in Wal-Mart stores, through which shoppers would be able to connect with each other, Harinarayan said. A "mini-Twitter feed," showing updates of customer activity in real time, may be displayed on huge screens, he explained.

    'REAL DEAL'

    Before Kosmix, Rajaraman and Harinarayan founded Junglee, which pioneered comparison shopping online. Amazon bought the business in 1998.

    After two years, they left Amazon to start venture capital firm Cambrian Ventures. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was one of their biggest investors. Bezos' personal investment firm, Bezos Expeditions, was also an investor in Kosmix.

    "They're the real deal - very creative, both in research and in the sort of innovation that goes on in the best start-ups," said Jeff Ullman, professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford University, who was a PhD adviser to Rajaraman and Harinarayan.

    MOBILE TECHNOLOGY

    Thomas, head of mobile and digital at @WalmartLabs, helped build one of the first mobile Internet browsers called Blazer, and founded start-up Sharpcast in 2004.

    Mobile technology is important for Wal-Mart because although some of its customers may not have a computer and broadband connection at home, they are increasingly likely to carry a smartphone.

    Mobile technology can also allow shoppers to pay for their goods online, which could mean shorter lines and fewer cash registers. Customers can also find products and specific sections of the store more easily with smartphones, freeing up in-store employees to focus on other tasks, Thomas explained.

    During an interview with Reuters, Thomas launched Wal-Mart's iPhone app and spoke into his phone "Eggs, milk, bread, buttermilk, cheese." A list of those items appeared on the phone, along with the price of various brands and where they could be found in the store.

    In the future, when shoppers click on one of the products, the app will show coupons that can be used at checkout, Thomas said.

    LONG LEASH

    "They could produce something really game-changing," said Theresia Gouw Ranzetta of venture capital firm Accel Partners, which backed Kosmix.

    However, @WalmartLabs may struggle to obtain the resources it needs to work on projects that are strategically important but which may not produce noticeable revenue gains for several years.

    "The risk is that the weight of the organization will not allow it to flourish - it's a start-up within a large company," she said. "Even if they knock it out of the park, it will be hard to move the needle."

    Thomas, Rajaraman and Harinarayan said they have been given a long leash by Wal-Mart's top management and the founding Walton family, who are the company's largest shareholders.

    "(Wal-Mart CEO) Mike Duke says he wants what we're doing on the fifth floor to permeate the rest of the company," Thomas said.

    (Reporting by Alistair Barr, editing by Matthew Lewis)

    Reuter site - Mystery buyer acquires vatican.xxx web address

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    Mystery buyer acquires vatican.xxx web address

    Wed, Dec 21 16:44 PM EST

    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Wednesday an unknown buyer had snapped up the internet address vatican.xxx, a domain combining its name with an extension reserved for pornographic content.

    "This domain is not available because it has been acquired by someone else, but not the Vatican," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on Vatican radio.

    It was not clear from his statement if the Vatican had tried to acquire the domain in order to prevent future misuse and had been beaten to the punch by the unknown buyer.

    Lombardi denied Italian media reports that the Vatican had, like many other organizations including companies, universities and museums, registered the xxx domain to prevent its misuse.

    The xxx domains are being launched this month for pornographic content and many organizations have preemptively acquired them so others cannot.

    (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Barry Moody)

    Reuter site - Angry Birds finally available on RIM's PlayBook

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    Angry Birds finally available on RIM's PlayBook

    Wed, Dec 21 12:47 PM EST

    TORONTO (Reuters) - It took seven months, but Research In Motion has finally delivered on a promise made by co-founder Mike Lazaridis. Angry Birds is available on RIM's PlayBook tablet.

    The widely popular game, where birds destroy the pigs who stole their eggs with the help of a slingshot, has long been available on Apple and Android-based devices.

    But its absence had become symbol of the relative dearth of consumer-friendly applications available for RIM's PlayBook, a business-focused device which is powered by QNX software the company expects to use on make-or-break BlackBerry smartphones from late next year.

    The PlayBook, which RIM launched to scathing reviews in April, has sold less than one million units, while Apple sold more than 11 million iPads in just its most recent quarter.

    The game, which developer Rovio says has been downloaded 600 million times, is not available on RIM's current smartphone lineup, which uses an older operating system.

    Each of the three versions listed on the BlackBerry App World website costs $4.99. A limited version of the game is available for free for Apple and Android devices.

    RIM stock rose more than 11 percent to $13.91 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday after a Reuters report late on Tuesday that the Canadian company had rebuffed offers from Amazon.com and other potential buyers.

    But the stock is still down more than 70 percent this year, and it remains below already-depressed levels seen before the company released its latest earnings report last week and offered a later-than-expected delivery date for the new smartphones.

    ThinkEquity analyst Mark McKechnie upgraded RIM to "buy" from "hold" on Wednesday, saying that the share price slump undervalues the company and that an acquisition could value it at around $25 a share.

    Jefferies analyst Peter Misek moved to "hold" from "underperform", citing a potential partnership or buyout as putting a floor underneath the stock.

    (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Janet Guttsman)

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Reuter site - Layar rolls out consumer app for augmented reality

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    Layar rolls out consumer app for augmented reality

    Tue, Dec 20 15:04 PM EST

    By Tarmo Virki, European Technology Correspondent

    (Reuters) - Layar, one of the pioneers of mobile augmented reality, rolled out on Tuesday Stiktu, an application allowing smartphone users to combine their digital postings with real images and share them with each other.

    Augmented reality (AR), used to deadly effect by the movie character the Terminator, is expected to move into the mainstream over the coming years as chipset vendors incorporate the technology, which enables features like image recognition in smartphones, tablets and PCs.

    AR overlays text, graphics and sound on images viewed on smartphone or tablet screens, on PCs or through dedicated glasses.

    The boom in smartphones led by Apple Inc's iPhone, which has location capabilities, cameras and sufficient processing power, has enabled people to try out the technology for themselves.

    Layar, backed by Intel Capital, has seen its software downloaded to more than 10 million devices but it has not created revenue from providing place-specific data such as upcoming events, directions or other details about a venue.

    However, for most consumers it has been too cumbersome to create content themselves.

    Layar hopes Stiktu will change that. The app was launched in nine European markets including France, Britain and Germany on Tuesday.

    "From the very start we always wanted to give this powerful technology to people so they could use it to their own benefit. With Stiktu we created an app that does exactly that," said Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-FitzGerald. "Now everybody can publish augmented reality content on anything they care about."

    Martin Garner, analyst at CCS Insight, said the application would not be very useful for most people initially, but noted it was an interesting and quirky app that could find an audience.

    "It could catch on the viral way among limited amount of people," said Garner. "For augmented reality to break into the mass market it would need to be integrated into the chipset and the user interface, rather than being a separate app."

    AR is becoming a battleground for mobile chipset firms, with a number of companies - including ARM, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and ST-Ericsson - working on integrating AR features into chipsets.

    Moving AR features to the hardware will make it faster to use and could boost adoption of the technology among consumers as it would be in all devices, without need of additional downloads.

    (Reporting By Tarmo Virki in Helsinki, editing by Matthew Lewis)

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Reuter site - Information black hole as North Korean leader dies

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    Information black hole as North Korean leader dies

    Mon, Dec 19 05:44 AM EST

    By Jonathan Hopfner

    SEOUL (Reuters) - Few national leaders die these days with no one outside their country knowing about it. For more than 48 hours. Not even a mention on Twitter.

    Yet apparently no one, including South Korean intelligence services, was aware that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had died early on Saturday - until his passing was tearfully announced on state television on Monday.

    That medium itself appears antiquated in South Korea, frequently cited as the most wired country on the planet, where news is increasingly delivered and dissected via smartphone and social networking services.

    A night-time image of the Korean peninsula taken by an intelligence satellite in 2002 shows North Korea as a pool of darkness, in stark contrast to the blazing sea of light that is its prosperous southern neighbor on the other side of the world's most heavily militarized border.

    A decade later, little has changed.

    Kim's death appears to have been kept a close secret within a tight coterie at the top of the reclusive North. There was no stream of Facebook or Twitter posts from the Internet-deprived country to spread the news as with the "Arab Spring."

    South Korea's Internet users, accustomed to a near-instantaneous flow of information, were nearly as struck by the delay in the announcement as the news itself.

    "The depth of information that South Korean intelligence sources have (on the North) is shallower than that of Twitter," posted user Links_Arc, referring to the popular microblogging service. "It's very regrettable that the government only found out about Kim's death two days later."

    "The current government's hostile policy toward the North has resulted in a shutdown of communication channels with the North, and China raising its influence over Pyongyang," chimed in user EuiQKIM.

    FEW PHONES, BUT GROWING

    The North Korean regime's chokehold on information is made relatively easy by the country's limited communications infrastructure, making an Arab Spring-type scenario almost impossible, analysts say.

    According to International Telecommunications Union data, North Korea had fewer than two mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants last year. South Korea had 105.

    While 83 percent of South Koreans have regular Internet access, it remains unavailable in the North outside a handful of government ministries, hotels and diplomatic enclaves in Pyongyang.

    North Koreans with mobile phone and Internet access are "pro-government, pro-regime. They have nothing to gain from trying to organize an uprising. So, in that sense, it's hardly a useful anti-regime tool," said Cho Min, an expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

    South Korean bloggers' responses to Kim's death illustrated the ease with which potentially seditious messages can now be broadcast to a mass audience, something North Korean authorities have taken pains to prohibit.

    Many Twitter users posted messages of sympathy and even praise for Kim, despite rhetoric perceived as pro-North possibly running foul South Korea's national security regulations.

    "I pray for the bliss of the deceased Kim Jong-il," wrote user "helliumgas."

    Agencies with contacts in Pyongyang said Kim's death was likely to prompt the authorities to tighten their grip on communications even further.

    "We're expecting some form of lockdown on communications and travel in the immediate period as North Korean authorities move to stabilize the situation and prepare for mourning," said Geoffrey See, managing director at Chosun Exchange, a Singapore-based non-profit group that promotes academic exchanges with North Korea.

    There are some signs, however, that the regime's control on communications may be slipping. Mobiles are now increasingly commonplace among Pyongyang residents, and not just among the regime elite, said Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which operates trips to North Korea.

    In the last couple of years, mobile phone use has "just exploded," he said, with people often using mid-range, China-made handsets to trade SMS messages, play games and browse weather reports.

    North Korea is this year expected to register the 1 millionth user of its new 3G mobile network, built in partnership with Egypt's Orascom.

    The North's mobile communications industry "has crossed the Rubicon, and the government can no longer roll it back without paying a severe political price," the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability said in a report last month.

    (Additional Reporting by Jack Kim, Miyoung Kim and Iktae Park; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

    Reuter site - Prince Alwaleed buys $300 million Twitter stake

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    Prince Alwaleed buys $300 million Twitter stake

    Mon, Dec 19 06:46 AM EST

    By Sitaraman Shankar

    DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world's top companies, has bought a stake in Twitter for $300 million, gaining another foothold in the global media industry.

    Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia's king and estimated by Forbes magazine to be the 26th richest person in the world with a $19.6 billion fortune, already owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp and plans to start a cable news channel.

    The purchase is remarkable because Twitter was a key means of communication for protesters in the Arab Spring revolts this year, violence that threatened Saudi Arabia until the kingdom unveiled a populist $130 billion social spending package.

    Twitter, which allows people to send 140-character messages, or Tweets, to groups of followers, is one of the internet's most popular social networking services, along with Facebook and Zynga.

    The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm, resulted from "months of negotiations," Kingdom said.

    Bernhard Warner, co-founder of analysis and advisory firm Social Media Influence, said: "The Arab world, of course, knows full well the value of Twitter. In the past year, it has been a force in politics, in regime change, so there is not a single person in that region in a position of influence who is not following the increasing power of Twitter.

    "(Alwaleed) must see Twitter as something that is going to be a really powerful broadcast channel," he said, adding the Saudi had got into the internet boom belatedly, with mixed results, and appeared to be "kind of late" to the game again.

    Investors in Saudi Arabia were more bullish, sending shares in Kingdom up 7 percent to 8.40 riyals.

    "One of the few sectors to record significant revenue gains in the last three years has been technology, which is why Kingdom would see Twitter as a good addition to its diversified portfolio," said Hesham Tuffaha, head of asset management at Bakheet Investment Group in Riyadh.

    Saudis are increasingly turning to satellite television, online news providers and social networking to stay abreast of world events. The world's No. 1 oil exporter announced a series of stricter regulations for journalists earlier this year.

    Alwaleed, who has a sizeable stake in Citigroup, has spoken in favour of broader political participation, fair elections and effective job creation across the Arab world.

    IPO HOPES

    Investors are eagerly anticipating an initial public offering from Twitter, which said in September it was in no hurry to go public. It raised $400 million in venture capital financing this summer.

    It now counts more than 100 million active users who log onto the service at least once a month. Facebook, the world's largest social network has more than 750 million active users.

    Internet search giant Google recently launched a social networking service dubbed Google+ which some observers say could lure users away from Twitter.

    Shares in online games developer Zynga ended at a 5 percent discount to their issue price on their trading debut on Friday, and analysts said any valuation for Twitter could be misleading.

    "You could put any number of zeroes behind a valuation of a private company. Before it goes public, it is almost meaningless," said Warner.

    "This is a very small group of investors which has put money into this thing. That will be diluted and diluted and diluted again until it goes public. And that is when we will see what the value is. These are kind of magic numbers at the moment."

    Kingdom owns a near-30 percent stake in Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which runs a range of media titles.

    "Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact," Alwaleed said.

    Alwaleed subscribed $500 million to last year's General Motors IPO. In August, he unveiled plans to build the world's tallest tower in Jeddah.

    (Reporting by Sitaraman Shankar; Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in London and Matt Smith in Dubai; Editing by Erica Billingham and Dan Lalor)

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Reuter site - Exclusive: Google CEO's inner circle: Meet the L Team

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    Exclusive: Google CEO's inner circle: Meet the L Team

    Fri, Dec 16 23:11 PM EST

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The most powerful group at Google Inc used to be known simply as "The OC," short for operating committee. Now, it goes by a more telling name: "L Team," short for Larry's Team.

    The change is more than a mere rebranding after Google co-founder Larry Page became chief executive nine months ago, reclaiming a title he last held in 2001. Page has moved quickly to remake the company in his image, and this influential group is responsible for plotting strategic priorities, such as social networking and mobile computing.

    In the revamping of the group earlier this year, Page swapped out several of the executives who previously had seats at the table and brought in managers spearheading key initiatives.

    Among the new members of Page's cabinet are social networking head Vic Gundotra, Android mobile chief Andy Rubin and YouTube head Salar Kamangar, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Page meets regularly with the team, which also includes Google's top finance and legal executives and is now internally called the L Team, to discuss, evaluate and approve their plans, from acquisitions to new products.

    "All major decisions flow through that group," said one of the people, speaking anonymously because of the confidential nature of the topic.

    The new team was appointed around the time that Page took over as CEO and reorganized the company's management structure. In addition to placing directors of key product groups under his direct supervision, and giving those groups more leeway to operate autonomously, Page transformed the operating committee into the L Team, a move not reported until now.

    A Google representative declined to comment on the changes Page made to the team. The company also declined to make executives available for interviews.

    The revamp is part of Page's efforts to make the world's No. 1 Web search engine more nimble and competitive amid a shifting technology landscape in which Google is increasingly battling heavyweights like Apple Inc and Facebook.

    To make room for his new advisers, Page chose to remove some well-known and powerful executives from the inner circle instead of expanding it, according to the sources.

    They said the executives who have left the group include Marissa Mayer, the head of Google's local, maps and location services business; Rachel Whetstone, its London-based global communications and public affairs chief; and Shona Brown, who previously oversaw business operations and now heads the company's philanthropic arm.

    Mayer's membership within the group was particularly short-lived. The former head of Google's flagship search product and user experience was appointed to the operating committee in October 2010, roughly around the time she was assigned a new job overseeing Google's local business.

    But she and other executives Page moved out of his inner circle were not completely sidelined, the sources said. Mayer still has a "huge job," said another person familiar with the matter. Whetsone was promoted to senior vice president in April.

    The changes to the group reflect the shifting influence within Google's top ranks, said first source, who added that changes were natural with a new CEO in place.

    "I think Larry was thoughtful about how he approached this, and I don't know of too many bruised egos. Some change is expected to happen when the power center shifts," the source said.

    Page did retain some members of the original "OC," including finance chief Patrick Pichette, Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond.

    It was unclear if Eric Schmidt, who ended his 10-year stint as CEO to become Google's executive chairman, and co-founder Sergey Brin have formal roles on the L Team.

    Schmidt is often traveling as part of his new role, while Brin focuses on advanced research projects that are less directly related to the day-to-day business.

    Founded by Page and Brin in 1998, Google has grown into a corporate behemoth, with roughly $29 billion in revenue last year and nearly $43 billion in cash and securities on its balance sheet as of the end of September.

    While Google has dominated Internet searching for a decade, the company has struggled to find its footing in social networking, with Facebook, Twitter and other start-ups stealing Web traffic and engineering talent.

    Under Page's watch, Google has launched its most ambitious challenge to Facebook's social networking dominance with the Google+ social network.

    In August, Google said it would acquire mobile phone company Motorola Mobility Inc for $12.5 billion, a deal that allows Google to add hardware capabilities to its Android smartphone software.

    At the same time, Page has pruned the company's sprawling portfolio of products, eliminating projects involving green energy and health among others, even as headcount has swelled to more than 31,000 employees.

    "More wood behind fewer arrows" is how Page described his approach, when speaking to analysts on a conference call this summer.

    "Focus and prioritization are crucial given our amazing opportunities," he said, noting that Google had substantially increased its "velocity and execution" with its new management structure.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Peter Lauria and Steve Orlofsky)

    Paging L team, paging L team

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    Reuter site - Exclusive: Google CEO's inner circle: Meet the L Team

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@yahoo.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE7BF1T420111217

    Exclusive: Google CEO's inner circle: Meet the L Team

    Fri, Dec 16 23:11 PM EST

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The most powerful group at Google Inc used to be known simply as "The OC," short for operating committee. Now, it goes by a more telling name: "L Team," short for Larry's Team.

    The change is more than a mere rebranding after Google co-founder Larry Page became chief executive nine months ago, reclaiming a title he last held in 2001. Page has moved quickly to remake the company in his image, and this influential group is responsible for plotting strategic priorities, such as social networking and mobile computing.

    In the revamping of the group earlier this year, Page swapped out several of the executives who previously had seats at the table and brought in managers spearheading key initiatives.

    Among the new members of Page's cabinet are social networking head Vic Gundotra, Android mobile chief Andy Rubin and YouTube head Salar Kamangar, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Page meets regularly with the team, which also includes Google's top finance and legal executives and is now internally called the L Team, to discuss, evaluate and approve their plans, from acquisitions to new products.

    "All major decisions flow through that group," said one of the people, speaking anonymously because of the confidential nature of the topic.

    The new team was appointed around the time that Page took over as CEO and reorganized the company's management structure. In addition to placing directors of key product groups under his direct supervision, and giving those groups more leeway to operate autonomously, Page transformed the operating committee into the L Team, a move not reported until now.

    A Google representative declined to comment on the changes Page made to the team. The company also declined to make executives available for interviews.

    The revamp is part of Page's efforts to make the world's No. 1 Web search engine more nimble and competitive amid a shifting technology landscape in which Google is increasingly battling heavyweights like Apple Inc and Facebook.

    To make room for his new advisers, Page chose to remove some well-known and powerful executives from the inner circle instead of expanding it, according to the sources.

    They said the executives who have left the group include Marissa Mayer, the head of Google's local, maps and location services business; Rachel Whetstone, its London-based global communications and public affairs chief; and Shona Brown, who previously oversaw business operations and now heads the company's philanthropic arm.

    Mayer's membership within the group was particularly short-lived. The former head of Google's flagship search product and user experience was appointed to the operating committee in October 2010, roughly around the time she was assigned a new job overseeing Google's local business.

    But she and other executives Page moved out of his inner circle were not completely sidelined, the sources said. Mayer still has a "huge job," said another person familiar with the matter. Whetsone was promoted to senior vice president in April.

    The changes to the group reflect the shifting influence within Google's top ranks, said first source, who added that changes were natural with a new CEO in place.

    "I think Larry was thoughtful about how he approached this, and I don't know of too many bruised egos. Some change is expected to happen when the power center shifts," the source said.

    Page did retain some members of the original "OC," including finance chief Patrick Pichette, Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond.

    It was unclear if Eric Schmidt, who ended his 10-year stint as CEO to become Google's executive chairman, and co-founder Sergey Brin have formal roles on the L Team.

    Schmidt is often traveling as part of his new role, while Brin focuses on advanced research projects that are less directly related to the day-to-day business.

    Founded by Page and Brin in 1998, Google has grown into a corporate behemoth, with roughly $29 billion in revenue last year and nearly $43 billion in cash and securities on its balance sheet as of the end of September.

    While Google has dominated Internet searching for a decade, the company has struggled to find its footing in social networking, with Facebook, Twitter and other start-ups stealing Web traffic and engineering talent.

    Under Page's watch, Google has launched its most ambitious challenge to Facebook's social networking dominance with the Google+ social network.

    In August, Google said it would acquire mobile phone company Motorola Mobility Inc for $12.5 billion, a deal that allows Google to add hardware capabilities to its Android smartphone software.

    At the same time, Page has pruned the company's sprawling portfolio of products, eliminating projects involving green energy and health among others, even as headcount has swelled to more than 31,000 employees.

    "More wood behind fewer arrows" is how Page described his approach, when speaking to analysts on a conference call this summer.

    "Focus and prioritization are crucial given our amazing opportunities," he said, noting that Google had substantially increased its "velocity and execution" with its new management structure.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Peter Lauria and Steve Orlofsky)

    Reuter site - Europeans lukewarm on Nokia Windows phone: survey

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    Europeans lukewarm on Nokia Windows phone: survey

    Fri, Dec 16 04:48 AM EST

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - European consumers show little interest in Nokia's first smartphone using Microsoft's Windows Phone software, a survey by Exane BNP Paribas showed on Friday.

    "With only 2.2 percent of surveyed buyers firmly intending to purchase the Lumia, Nokia's first flagship Windows Phone is ... far behind the current blockbusters, Apple's iPhone 4S and Samsung's Galaxy S II," analyst Alexander Peterc said in a note.

    The brokerage slashed its view on sales of the Lumia to end-users to just 800,000 from its initial "ballpark estimate" of 2 million and said this compared with launch-quarter sales of between 3.5 million and 4 million for Nokia's previous flagship, the N8.

    Exane BNP Paribas cut its price target on Nokia shares to 3.30 euros from 3.70 euros and stuck to its "underperform" rating on the stock, which was down 1.3 percent at 3.736 euros by 0939 GMT.

    The brokerage surveyed 1,300 consumers in the five markets where the Lumia 800 had gone on sale in the week started December 5, but narrowed the sample to 456 who had declared an intention to purchase a smartphone in the next month.

    (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by David Holmes)

    Hello my friend we meet again

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    Reuter site - Analysis: Could RIM's survival mean abandoning the BlackBerry?

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    Analysis: Could RIM's survival mean abandoning the BlackBerry?

    Fri, Dec 16 20:36 PM EST

    By Alastair Sharp and Pav Jordan

    TORONTO (Reuters) - It might seem like corporate heresy but an increasing number of technology investors and experts are asking whether Research in Motion needs to ditch its BlackBerry handset business to survive.

    The idea that is gaining favor, albeit only among a minority of shareholders, would see the Canadian company fully open its secure and highly respected network to rival smartphone providers and concentrate on that business while getting out of the hardware game altogether through a sale.

    Disappointing quarterly results, including a dismal outlook for Blackberry sales and word that RIM would delay the introduction of new devices, sent its shares down more than 11 percent to their lowest levels in almost eight years on Friday.

    Just before those numbers were released, activist shareholder Jaguar Financial called on the company to sell its handset business and monetize its patent portfolio while retaining the high-margin services business. "Jaguar believes that the road map to value restoration lies in a sale of RIM whether as a whole or in separate parts," it said.

    RIM's spidery, data-crunching network reaches behind corporate firewalls and taps into mobile networks globally.

    The network, unique among handset makers, has been a cornerstone of the BlackBerry's growth - with email and instant messages routed through RIM's own enterprise servers and data centers, where it is encrypted and pushed out to subscribers.

    There are no middlemen to intercept corporate or state secrets, or even the flirty chats of teenagers who love the free BlackBerry messaging.

    TERMINAL DECLINE?

    Jaguar, which claims support from shareholders who own about 8 percent of RIM's stock but only owns a tiny fraction itself, also reiterated its call for a change in the company's leadership.

    It has called for a new "transformational" leader to replace RIM's co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis, the company's co-founder, and Jim Balsillie, the mercurial salesman who has marketed the BlackBerry to the world.

    It is not alone in wondering whether a sharp decline in Blackberry sales - the company said it expects the number of devices it ships in the quarter including Christmas will drop as much as 26 percent from a year ago - is a sign of terminal decline for the product.

    The company's network has stronger margins and more secure recurring revenue, though it still needs to be fully exploited.

    "If they want to maintain that asset, if not stabilize or grow it, they need to open it up to the other platforms and look at themselves as an enterprise software company," ThinkEquity analyst Mark McKechnie said.

    RIM is likely already working on just such a change, said a U.S.-based shareholder, who declined to be identified. The fund manager, whose firm owns more than 1 million RIM shares, said delays launching new software and devices may reflect efforts to fully accommodate devices from outside RIM's own stable.

    A year ago, talk of ditching the BlackBerry would have been almost unthinkable, let alone garner any serious attention. That was before a spectacular meltdown that has seen the device, once an essential tool in the top echelons of business and politics, being pushed aside by Apple's iPhone and smartphones powered by Google's Android software.

    The deterioration in the business has been so great that some analysts now estimate that RIM is barely making money on BlackBerry sales.

    MASSIVE DISCOUNTS

    That isn't its only problem. The PlayBook, the company's latecomer in the tablet market dominated by Apple's iPad, has been a deflating disappointment, forcing RIM to offer massive discounts on the unloved device. It took a $485 million pre-tax charge for the Playbook, which runs on QNX software that RIM plans to use in its future devices.

    The severity of RIM's problems shows up in its share price. It crashed to a low of just $13.12 on Friday, after trading as high as $144 in 2008 and about $70 in February this year. A company that was once worth almost $80 billion is now valued at barely $7 billion.

    Meanwhile, the subscriptions that businesses and network operators pay RIM each month brought in more than $1 billion in each of the past two quarters.

    The company declined to comment on talk that it will ever abandon the BlackBerry and did not grant interviews with either Lazaridis or Balsillie for this story.

    Balsillie announced a comprehensive review of RIM's operations on a conference call with analysts on Thursday.

    "We plan to introduce new devices into the smartphone and tablet market, as well as products and services that better leverage our global cloud infrastructure, and unique capabilities within the smartphone market, he said.

    While RIM hasn't given any indication it plans to give up on its BlackBerry handset, it has started to emphasize its services business.

    EXTRA STEP

    In late November, RIM took a first step that could eventually lead to establishing the network as a standalone operation. It introduced a software tool giving corporate customers the option of linking iPhones and Android devices to the BlackBerry network.

    The move stops short of offering outsiders access to its unique technology that encrypts data and pushes it out to the BlackBerry. Going that extra step is exactly what some critics suggest that RIM needs to consider.

    RIM charges a monthly fee to every BlackBerry user, making its network a stable stream of revenue and giving the company an advantage over every other handset maker. For RIM, it has become a more reliable source of profit than shipping its own smartphones.

    The strategic reasoning goes: Why build a staid Volvo or a flashy Ferrari when you can own the toll highway on which they drive?

    "There is a massive under-utilized asset in the services infrastructure which is very profitable. I think they are getting ready to come to market with a way to leverage that," said the U.S. fund manager. "At a minimum, I think they are going to start aggressively doing things that leverage their infrastructure beyond RIM handsets."

    RISK IN WAITING

    Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, raised the prospect of RIM splitting in two back in July. For him, the biggest risk is waiting. He says RIM's still-growing global subscriber base gives it time to make the move, but the network too would suffer if the BlackBerry keeps slipping.

    Alternative networks that provide many of the same features as the BlackBerry enterprise network are already making inroads. Eventually even that jewel could lose its cachet, he says.

    "The risk in waiting is that as more companies switch over to alternatives, it will be difficult to attract them back to BlackBerry even as a network-only business," he said, referring to companies such as Good Technology and SAP's Sybase, which encrypt and manage data for iPhones and other devices.

    Abramsky said offering a managed network for users of all handsets would expand RIM's potential market by six times or more. At the same time, the network business likely boasts an 80 percent gross margin versus a handset business in the high 20 percent range.

    Lazaridis has been betting on reinvigorating the Blackberry by hoping that QNX, the new operating system, will help RIM catch up and perhaps overtake the iPhone and Google's Android and stifle Microsoft's emerging mobile platform.

    The new system is supposed to allow devices to be updated on the fly and should also help third-party developers that struggle to write appealing apps in RIM's aging framework. A dearth of BlackBerry apps compared with Apple and Android has limited RIM's attractiveness to many consumers.

    But RIM has yet to show it can make the transformation successfully. The first of the new generation of QNX-equipped smartphones - the BlackBerry 10 line - was initially promised for early next year, but on Thursday RIM said it did not expect to release a BlackBerry 10 device until the latter part of 2012.

    The delay in the make-or-break QNX line will only accelerate the drive among investors for sweeping change.

    What's clear to many investors and analysts is the status quo will mean an accelerating fade into irrelevance.

    "Investors have been extremely patient and they're being asked to wait another year," said a Canada-based shareholder. "A year from now, will all this be too little, too late?"

    (Editing by Frank McGurty, Janet Guttsman, Martin Howell)

    Reuter site - BlackBerry delay darkens RIM's future

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    BlackBerry delay darkens RIM's future

    Fri, Dec 16 20:50 PM EST

    By Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - A months-long delay in Research in Motion's new BlackBerrys and a dreary quarterly report sent RIM shares tumbling again on Friday and pushed some analysts to sound the death knell for the mobile device that once defined the industry.

    RIM's announcement late Thursday that it expected to launch smartphones powered by its new QNX operating system months after initially expected revived calls for the ouster of RIM's co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

    The delay, combined with a dismal performance outlook issued along with the quarterly results, sparked renewed chatter about the break-up of the Canadian tech giant, which has floundered as nimbler competitors claw away at its market share.

    "RIM confirmed the BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be delayed until the latter part of calendar 2012. This could be game over for the BlackBerry franchise," analysts at Canadian brokerage National Bank Financial wrote in a note to clients. BlackBerry 10 is the name the company has given to the QNX phones, which RIM had initially expected to deliver in the first quarter.

    On Friday, the delay spurred several brokerage firms to cut their price targets and ratings on RIM shares and sent the Waterloo, Ontario-based company's shares tumbling more than 12 percent on Friday.

    "We see a high risk that this is too late to turn around RIM's position and believe the risk of further delays is meaningful," Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey said in a research note. "Even in the best case, however, it seems unlikely RIM will have large volumes of its BB10 devices on sale within 15 months."

    RIM has been counting on the new QNX operating system to make up ground lost to Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad and the slew of devices that use Google Inc's Android software. The delay portends another long year of transition for RIM, allowing rivals to make further in-roads into RIM's market share.

    RIM on Thursday also provided a gloomy outlook for earning as sales of an interim line of legacy BlackBerry 7 smartphones lag during the crucial holiday season. Even if shipments hit the high-end of RIM's expectations during Christmas, the company will still post the first annual decline in its history.

    The constant stream of bad news from RIM over the last year has driven its shares to their lowest since early 2004, and it has led to analyst and investor demands for Balsillie and Lazaridis to step down.

    "RIM reminds me of a beloved grandparent. You love them, but they are very outdated and sooner or later they will be gone," said independent analyst Jeff Kagan in an email.

    "Either the existing CEOs must update their thinking or bring in a new CEO to lead the company out of the darkness and back into the sunshine before it is too late."

    PRICE TARGET CUTS

    Canaccord Genuity cut its price target on RIM's U.S.-listed shares to $15 from $18, citing the delay in the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the company's plans to spend more on sales and marketing to help sustain interim sales.

    Barclays shared similar concerns about the company's projected investments in marketing and loyalty programs to regain "mind" share.

    "Benefits of the investments are not guaranteed but are likely to keep RIM's operating margins at sustainably lower levels through 2012 and 2013," Barclays said.

    Barclay's cut it price target on RIM's U.S.-listed shares to $14 from $16; Citigroup reduced it price target to $12 from $15, and National Bank Financial dropped its price target to $8 from $10.

    Research in Motion shares, which have lost almost half their value in the last three months, fell 11.2 percent to $13.44 Friday afternoon on the Nasdaq. The Toronto-listed shares fell 12.1 percent to C$13.89.

    (Reporting By Euan Rocha in Toronto and Ashutosh Pandey in Bangalore; Editing by Frank McGurty)

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Reuter site - Angry Birds maker eyes 2013 Hong Kong IPO: report

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    Angry Birds maker eyes 2013 Hong Kong IPO: report

    Thu, Dec 15 23:03 PM EST

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish gaming firm Rovio, creator of "Angry Birds," the world's most popular computer game, is planning an initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2013, Finnish weekly Tekniikka&Talous reported on Friday.

    Rovio's marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka told the paper the aim is to build the company into a media firm which would have a market capitalization similar to that of Walt Disney Co, whose shares are valued at $65.3 billion.

    "That is the target. There is no reason why we should not be able to build a company of that size," Vesterbacka was quoted as saying, adding Rovio's 2011 revenues would be around $100 million, compared with $10 million a year before.

    In May Rovio Chief Executive Mikael Hed told Reuters the firm was aiming for a stock market listing in New York in 2-3 years time.

    Unlike most mobile game crazes, Angry Birds, in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds' eggs, has stayed atop the charts since it was launched for Apple's iPhone in 2009.

    It has reached a record 600 million downloads in two years, compared with rival Electronic Arts' hit game Tetris which reached 100 million mobile downloads last year.

    Rovio has unveiled two more Angry Birds games and Vesterbacka told the paper in 2012 the firm would launch 5-6 more games with the same characters.

    Rovio is also expanding the brand across traditional merchandising to items such as toys and playgrounds, and is taking the birds to the big screen.

    Vesterbacka told the weekly the first full-motion animated movie featuring the characters was still 2-3 years away as film-making is a long process.

    Earlier this year, Rovio raised $42 million from venture capital firms including Accel Partners, which previously backed Facebook and Baidu, and Skype founder Niklas Zennstroem's venture capital firm Atomico Ventures.

    Rovio was founded in 2003 after three students including Niklas Hed -- CEO Mikael Hed's cousin and now Rovio's COO -- won a game-development competition sponsored by Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia Oyj and Hewlett-Packard CO.

    (Reporting By Tarmo Virki; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

    Boom!

    Reuter site - RIM delays QNX phones, offers dismal outlook

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    RIM delays QNX phones, offers dismal outlook

    Thu, Dec 15 19:34 PM EST

    By Alastair Sharp and Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion posted a sharp drop in profit on Thursday, offered a dismal outlook for BlackBerry shipments around Christmas and delayed the likely arrival of a make-or-break overhaul of its smartphones, sending its shares tumbling.

    RIM's shares shed more than 7 percent after the company said it did not expect to release a line of BlackBerrys equipped with the new QNX operating system until late next year, long after its initial promise of a first-quarter delivery.

    It was the latest in a long series of setbacks for a company that once dominated the smartphone market but, to the chagrin of investors, is now struggling to keep pace with the innovations of Apple Inc and other rivals.

    To make matters worse, RIM said it would ship just 11 million to 12 million smartphones in the weeks around Christmas, a range that lines RIM up for the first quarter-to-quarter decline in six years during the crucial sales season.

    The likely drop bodes poorly for RIM as it was banking on an improved BlackBerry 7 line, equipped with the legacy operating system, to stem defections until it could release the QNX line.

    "The matter that they turned in a bad quarter shouldn't come as a shock to anybody," said John Jackson, an analyst at CCS Insight in Boston. "I think the more important issue for RIM is that it is highly unclear exactly when they're going to be able turn things around."

    The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has been counting on the new operating system to make up ground lost to Apple's iPhone and iPad and the slew of devices that make use of Google's Android software.

    RIM's market share, particularly in the United States, has steadily eroded and its share price, down about 73 percent this year, has followed suit.

    During a conference call with analysts, RIM explained that the QNX delay was necessary so it could make use of more powerful and energy-efficient chipsets expected to arrive in mid-2012.

    "By then the ecosystem runs the risk of being abandoned," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners in New York.

    "They've already got tepid developer support and then they're going to be rolling out these phones right smack in the (midst) of an iPhone 5 (launch) most likely," he said, referring to the next iteration of Apple's smartphone.

    The dismal holiday outlook for between 11 million and 12 million smartphones compares with 14.1 million in the previous quarter and 14.8 million in the Christmas quarter last year.

    "If consumer demand slows for their product the stuff is going to sit there and we could start seeing the ratcheting-down of units shipped and that's the big concern," Gillis said.

    Even if RIM hits the high end of its Christmas quarter shipment target it will ship fewer BlackBerrys in this fiscal year than the previous one, the first ever such decline.

    RIM's co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, in an apparent bid to cool investor anger at their leadership, said they agreed to take an immediate pay cut to $1. The pair are also RIM's two largest shareholders and share the chairmanship of the board.

    BY THE NUMBERS

    Most of the numbers posted by RIM on Thursday were in line with a warning made by the company on December 2, including a huge writedown on unsold inventory of its unloved PlayBook tablet or a charge for an embarrassing global service outage in October.

    RIM turned in an adjusted profit at $667 million, or $1.27 a share, in its third quarter ended on November 26.

    The Canadian company generated revenue of $5.17 billion, sliding from $5.5 billion a year earlier.

    Analysts on average had expected RIM to earn $1.19 a share on sales of $5.27 billion after the company's warning.

    In the third quarter a year earlier, RIM made $911.1 million, or $1.74 a share.

    The intervening year has been mostly downhill for RIM, which made its name with secure, reliable communications for the world's business and government elites before branching out into a now-crowded consumer market.

    For the current quarter, RIM expects to turn a profit of between 80 and 95 cents a share on revenue of between $4.6 billion and $4.9 billion.

    SUBCRIPTIONS RISE

    Including the $485 million pre-tax writedown on discounted PlayBook inventory and a $54 million charge related to the outage, RIM made a third-quarter profit of $265 million, or 51 cents a share.

    It said it now has almost 75 million subscribers, up from the more than 70 million it reported at the end of its second quarter.

    "They're still adding a lot of subscribers, but they're not selling enough phones," said Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Morgan Keegan. "Are customers just going to upgrade to the iPhone and Android or are they really that loyal where they're going to wait for a better BlackBerry?"

    The stock fell to $14 in after-hours Nasdaq trade, after closing at $15.13. In February, just ahead of the PlayBook's launch, RIM shares changed hands for as much as $70.

    (Additional reporting by Cameron French, Allison Martell, Jon Cook and Claire Sibonney; Editing by Frank McGurty)

    'It gets better...it's about to go down' HOV

    Reuter site - RIM activist renews call for leadership change

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    RIM activist renews call for leadership change

    Thu, Dec 15 09:59 AM EST

    By Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion faced renewed calls for a change in its leadership on Thursday, hours ahead of the quarterly results that could fuel criticism over the BlackBerry maker's poor performance and sagging share price.

    Jaguar Financial, an activist shareholder that has asked the BlackBerry maker to sell itself in whole or parts, once again called on two of RIM's independent directors to push for a separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive.

    For months, Jaguar and other dissident shareholders have pushed for the replacement of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, who share both top roles. The two are RIM's largest shareholders and the most powerful figures in its management.

    "It strains credibility to believe that a CEO requires the title of chairman to sell RIM products but the RIM directors have apparently bought into this unconvincing rationale," said Jaguar, which has claimed support of investors that hold about 8 percent of the stock.

    Shareholder discontent with RIM centers around its poor performance in the face of stiff competition from Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad, and devices powered by Google's Android system. The BlackBerry's market share has been steadily eroding, while the PlayBook, RIM's late entry in the tablet market, has generated anemic sales.

    The latest call for change comes ahead of RIM's third-quarter results announcement, due after the close of regular trading hours.

    RIM has already warned the market that it will take a big hit on its unsold PlayBooks in this quarter and that it will ship fewer smartphones in the current quarter than in the third quarter, which just ended. The warning has pushed RIM's share price to its lowest since 2004.

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    Graph on RIM's 2012 EPS http://link.reuters.com/tyn55s

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    "At this point we believe investors have lost faith in the ability of the RIM management team to carry out a proper game plan to restore value," said Jaguar CEO Vic Alboini in a statement.

    "Jaguar believes that the road map to value restoration lies in a sale of RIM whether as a whole or in separate parts."

    The group called on RIM to sell its handset business and monetize its patent portfolio, while retaining its service business under new leadership.

    Jaguar argues that RIM has lost its ability to compete in the consumer hardware segment. A sale or spin-off of the business would help restore value to shareholders, it says.

    Jaguar, which invests in underperforming and undervalued companies, sees RIM's service business as RIM's most valuable business given its recurring revenue and high margins.

    In its statement, Jaguar called on two of RIM's independent directors, Barbara Stymiest and Roger Martin, to initiate some drastic changes in governance at the beleaguered smartphone maker.

    Stymiest, a former chief operating officer at Royal Bank of Canada, also served as TSX Group's chief executive. Martin is the dean at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

    "They should step up and take the lead in making dramatic governance change or else resign from the board if they are unable or unwilling to initiate appropriate governance changes," Jaguar said in a statement.

    Shares of RIM, which closed at $15.08 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, were down 12 cents at $14.97 in early trading on Thursday. Its Toronto-listed shares were down 21 Canadian cents at C$15.48.

    (Additional reporting by Maneesha Tiwari in Bangalore)

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