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    Friday, September 30, 2011

    Reuter site - RIM says remains committed to PlayBook tablet

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    RIM says remains committed to PlayBook tablet

    Thu, Sep 29 14:22 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research In Motion brushed off suggestions on Thursday that it would discontinue production of its PlayBook computer tablet as "pure fiction" after an analyst said the company may be considering an exit from the market.

    "Rumors suggesting that the BlackBerry PlayBook is being discontinued are pure fiction," RIM spokeswoman Marisa Conway said in an emailed statement. "RIM remains highly committed to the tablet market and the future of QNX in its platform."

    QNX is the operating system used in the PlayBook. RIM has said it will launch "superphones" next year using the QNX software to replace its aging existing phone software.

    A Collins Stewart analyst said on Thursday that RIM may have halted PlayBook production and canceled additional tablet projects.

    "We believe RIM has stopped production of its PlayBook and is actively considering exiting the tablet market," Collins Stewart semiconductor analyst John Vihn wrote in a note.

    He cited last week's news that contract manufacturer Quanta Computer had laid off a significant number of workers at a factory focused on producing the PlayBook.

    "Additionally, our due diligence indicates that RIM has canceled development of additional tablet projects," Vihn wrote.

    The PlayBook has failed to make much headway in a tablet market dominated by Apple's iPad. launched a content-rich and cheaper tablet called the Kindle Fire on Wednesday.

    RIM said it shipped 500,000 PlayBooks in the last six weeks of its fiscal first quarter and another 200,000 in its full second quarter.

    A number of retailers selling the PlayBook have cut prices recently in what analysts see as a bid to push out rising inventory.

    Hewlett-Packard abandoned its TouchPad last month after just seven weeks on shelves.

    RIM shares were down 2.6 percent at $21.32 on the Nasdaq early on Thursday afternoon and are down more than 60 percent so far this year.

    (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Peter Galloway)

    Reuter site - Amazon tablet costs $209.63 to make, IHS estimates

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    Amazon tablet costs $209.63 to make, IHS estimates

    Fri, Sep 30 14:02 PM EDT

    By Alistair Barr

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Inc's new tablet computer costs $209.63 to make, IHS iSuppli estimated on Friday, highlighting how the e-commerce giant is taking a financial hit upfront to get the device into as many hands as possible.

    Amazon's billionaire Chief Executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a lower-than-expected $199 price on Wednesday.

    The launch sparked concern about a price war at the lower end of the tablet market, currently dominated by devices running on Google Inc's Android operating system from companies such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc and HTC Corp.

    IHS iSuppli said the components that go into the Kindle Fire cost $191.65. Additional manufacturing expenses bring the total cost to $209.63.

    Based on IHS iSuppli's estimates, the company may lose just under $10 on each Fire it sells. But Amazon is hoping the device encourages users to buy more products and services from the company, making up for the upfront losses.

    "The real benefit of the Kindle Fire to Amazon will not be in selling hardware or digital content. Rather, the Kindle Fire, and the content demand it stimulates, will serve to promote sales of the kinds of physical goods that comprise the majority of Amazon's business," IHS iSuppli said in a statement.

    "When further costs outside of materials and manufacturing are added in -- and the $199 price of the tablet is factored along with the expected sales of digital content per device -- Amazon is likely to generate a marginal profit of $10 on each Kindle Fire sold," the research firm added.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Reuter site - Amazon ignites tablet war with Fire, takes on Apple

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    Amazon ignites tablet war with Fire, takes on Apple

    Wed, Sep 28 19:31 PM EDT

    By Phil Wahba and Liana B. Baker

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Inc took the wraps off its long-awaited "Kindle Fire" on Wednesday, tacking on a mass market-friendly $199 price tag that poses a serious threat to the dominance of Apple Inc's two-year-old iPad.

    The eagerly anticipated gadget, while lacking many of the high-tech bells and whistles common on tablets from cameras to 3G wireless connection, may sound the death knell for a raft of devices based on Google Inc's Android. The software powers tablets made by Samsung, Motorola, Asustek, HTC and LG Electronics.

    Dotcom-entrepreneur and billionaire-CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled to a packed audience the gadget he hopes will wed Amazon's books, movies, music and other content with cloud or Internet-based storage and Web browsing.

    "People have been waiting for a tablet for 200 bucks for a long time and this is the best one I've seen so far," Tim Stevens, editor-in-chief of gadget review website Engadget, told Reuters.

    The Kindle Fire tablet has a 7-inch screen, free data storage over the Internet and a new browser called Amazon Silk. Amazon expects shipments to start on November 15 -- hitting store shelves at Best Buy and other chains just in time for the peak holiday shopping season.

    By pricing the Fire at less than half the iPad -- yet stripping out costlier components and features -- the Internet retailer hopes to get the device into millions of consumers' hands, who in turn will buy Amazon content.

    One key differentiator that might help the Fire stand out during the cut-throat holidays is Amazon's "EC2" cloud computing service, which supports Internet browsing and helps speed loading of websites. That was not available on rival tablets, Stevens noted.


    "Expect a blood bath as pricing will have to get extremely aggressive," said Mark Gerber, an analyst at Detwiler Fenton & Co. He expects Amazon to sell at least 3 million Kindle Fires this holiday season, taking the No. 2 spot in the tablet market.

    The Fire was unveiled alongside several rock-bottom-priced versions of the basic Kindle reader, with the lowest at $79 -- a clear challenge to Barnes & Noble Inc's Nook that will surely force the ailing bookstore chain to try and match.

    Amazon shares closed 2.5 percent higher, while Barnes & Noble dropped 7 percent. Apple shares dipped 0.6 percent.

    "These are premium products at non-premium prices," Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said. "We are going to sell millions of these."

    Analysts had expected Amazon's tablet to be priced around $250, roughly half the price of Apple's dominant iPad, which starts at $499. The Nook Color e-reader costs $249.

    The Web retailer might be angling for a lower-end slice of the market that Apple -- which maintains a careful grip over its higher-end branding and margins -- has traditionally steered clear of.


    Bezos said Amazon is making "millions" of the tablet, without being more specific. However, he urged customers to pre-order the device.

    When the original Kindle e-reader came out in 2007, it quickly sold out.

    Colin Sebastian, an analyst at RW Baird, kept his Amazon tablet sales forecasts the same on Wednesday on concern about potential supply issues. He expects two million to three million units to be sold this year and four to six million next year.

    "While we think the Kindle Fire could easily be the most successful Android-based tablet to date, the November 15 launch date, and the possibility of issues with ramping production -- Apple encountered significant production issues with the iPad 2 -- are the key reasons we are maintaining our current tablet estimates."


    Breaking into a crowded tablet market will be difficult. Companies from Hewlett Packard Co, Motorola, Samsung and Research in Motion Ltd have launched tablets, but none has taken a big bite out of Apple's lead.

    Apple dominates the North American tablet market, with 80 percent of the 7.5 million units shipped during the second quarter of 2011, according to Strategy Analytics.

    Bezos took a jab at its larger rival during the New York press conference on Wednesday, noting that the Fire needs no wires for syncing. An image of a white USB cord appeared on the screen behind him, prompting laughter from the crowd.

    Bezos didn't mention Apple but the picture of the cord resembled those commonly used to connect iPhones and iPads to computers.

    Still, Michael Yoshikami, who oversees $1 billion at YCMNET Advisors, discounted any serious hit to Apple -- for now -- because of Apple's similarly rich library of content.

    But he thought Apple may need to start offering some sort of subscription-based video streaming service -- iTunes is download primarily -- to respond. Rivals without their own content or services to support their devices, such as Samsung, are most exposed, he added.

    "HP's decision to get out of tablets is actually looking fairly bright," he told Reuters.

    Having its own tablet is important for Amazon because the company has amassed a mountain of digital goods and services that could be sold through such a device.

    The tablet might also encourage customers of Amazon, the world's largest Internet retailer, to shop online for physical products more often. (

    Amazon recently redesigned its main shopping website to make it easier to navigate for mobile users.

    "Getting this device into the hands of customers means Amazon can expand their e-commerce footprint -- this is a strategic focus for the company," said Eric Best, an Amazon veteran who now runs online commerce company Mercent.

    "Every Kindle Fire user, by virtue of the better browser and richer operating system, has the potential to become a more frequent Amazon shopper."

    Meanwhile, competition at the high end of the market is heating up. Motorola on Wednesday announced it will offer 4G-LTE upgrades for Motorola Xoom users on Verizon Wireless, improving loading speeds.

    (Additional reporting by Liana Balinsky-Baker and Sinead Carew in New York; Writing by Alistair Barr in San Francisco and Edwin Chan in Los Angeles; Editing by Derek Caney, Gerald E. McCormick and Bernard Orr)

    Reuter site - Analyst says RIM may have halted PlayBook production

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    Analyst says RIM may have halted PlayBook production

    Thu, Sep 29 12:09 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - An analyst said on Thursday that BlackBerry maker Research In Motion may have halted production of its PlayBook tablet computer and canceled additional tablet projects.

    "We believe RIM has stopped production of its PlayBook and is actively considering exiting the tablet market," Collins Stewart semiconductor analyst John Vihn wrote in a note.

    He cited last week's news that contract manufacturer Quanta Computer had laid off a significant number of workers at a factory focused on producing the PlayBook.

    "Additionally, our due diligence indicates that RIM has canceled development of additional tablet projects," he wrote.

    The PlayBook has failed to make much headway in a tablet market dominated by Apple's iPad and in which on Wednesday launched a content-rich and cheaper product called the Kindle Fire.

    RIM said it shipped 500,000 PlayBooks in the last six weeks of its fiscal first quarter and another 200,000 in its full second quarter.

    RIM was not immediately available to comment on the Collins Stewart report.

    If true, RIM won't be the first to walk away from tablets. Hewlett-Packard abandoned its TouchPad last month after just seven weeks on shelves.

    (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Peter Galloway)

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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    Reuter site - Exclusive: Facebook seeks exec to build Hollywood, media ties

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    Exclusive: Facebook seeks exec to build Hollywood, media ties

    Wed, Sep 21 09:23 AM EDT

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook is looking to hire a big-name executive to cultivate relationships and strike deals with the film and music industries to bolster its media offerings.

    In recent months, Facebook had discussions with former MySpace co-President and former MTV executive Jason Hirschhorn about a job spearheading the company's outreach to media companies, according to several people familiar with the situation.

    While the talks do not appear to have gone anywhere, and it wasn't clear whether Facebook had approached others about the position, the efforts signal Facebook's intention to take a more hands-on approach in helping media companies bring their content to the social network.

    "They had held the media industry at arm's length for a while. It was: 'We are a platform, come use us all you want but we don't necessarily need to partner with you.' But now the attitude has changed," said one of the people familiar with the situation.

    "They realize that one of the next phases in its evolution is to work with the media companies," the person added.

    Facebook and Hirschhorn both declined to comment.

    Facebook's media push comes as the company faces fresh competition from Google Inc, which launched a rival social networking service in June.

    Twitter recruited former Creative Artists Agency executive Omid Ashtari to be its "L.A. person" last November, according to a report in, and the company recently appointed Chloe Sladden to a new role overseeing content and programing efforts.

    "The view is they're looking at Twitter and Google and their outreach to the media community and they don't want to fall behind the curve," the source said. "They don't want the media companies to think they're uninterested."

    Facebook has gradually gotten closer to the media world, with Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandberg joining the Walt Disney Co board of directors in December 2009, and Netflix Inc Chief Executive Reed Hastings taking a seat on Facebook's board in June.

    Several movie studios have released movies that can be rented and viewed on Facebook this year, including Warner Brothers' "Dark Knight" and Universal Pictures' "Big Lebowski."

    Facebook was aggressively exploring recruiting a media point-person a few months ago, but has since shifted its attention to other strategic priorities, the sources said. But with the company increasingly interested in making media a key part of the social network, people expect the search to pick up again soon.


    Facebook's media ambitions will be on display on Thursday at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, where the company is expected to unveil new music features.

    The music platform will integrate streaming music services from companies including Spotify, Rhapsody and Rdio, directly into users' home pages, said several other people familiar with the situation. Facebook users who subscribe to the music services will be able to share songs and playlists with each other and see what their friends are listening to, the people said.

    Facebook will also unveil new flavors of its "Like" button at the event, allowing users to flag Web pages or other online content with specific recommendations, such as "Read," "Watched" or "Listened," according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

    For Facebook, building a deeper integration with music, movies and other media into its service makes it more likely that users will spend more time on its site, allowing the company to generate more advertising dollars.

    Media also fits well with Facebook Credits, the payment system that Facebook has introduced for its users to buy digital goods on its site. Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of transactions using Facebook Credits.

    The template for Facebook's media push is social games, which more than 200 million of its users play on the website every month. Companies like Zynga and Electronic Arts Inc's Playfish have built successful businesses developing social games that can be played on Facebook.

    But recreating that magic with the media industry could be trickier.

    While technology-savvy social game companies are adept at quickly creating products that shine on various "platforms," such as social networks or smartphone applications, traditional content providers don't possess the same kinds of expertise, said another person familiar with the situation.

    "You can't just drop platforms in Hollywood," the person said.

    "They make content well," he said. But, he noted, creating media that really shines on a social networking platform requires hand-holding.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Additional reporting by Peter Lauria and Yinka Adegoke in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Reuter site - RIM's market share slipping faster than expected

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    RIM's market share slipping faster than expected

    Fri, Sep 16 08:41 AM EDT

    (Reuters) - Research In Motion is losing market share much faster than expected to rivals Apple and Google, amid mounting concerns over its cash flow and ability to meet its outlook, analysts warned on Friday.

    Shares of RIM tumbled 22 percent in Frankfurt trading. In the United States, the BlackBerry maker's shares were down 20 percent in thin early pre-market trading.

    On Thursday, the company posted a sharp drop in quarterly profit, painted a dismal picture for the current quarter and said it now expects to reach only the lower end of an already reduced full-year outlook.

    "The North American market share losses persist and we believe this trend is starting to spread to international markets... with slow signs already in UK," Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu wrote in a note to clients.

    The weak performance showed how much BlackBerry -- once a byword for corporate communication -- has lost favor as Apple's iPhone and devices running Google's Android software take greater market share, especially in the United States.

    Yet, RIM's management remains in "blatant denial," said Bernstein's Ferragu, who believes the company's outlook for the third quarter and the full year appears "unrealistic."

    "The co-CEOs do not recognize the failure of the Playbook and continue to sell its merits in terms of security," he said, noting that PlayBook tablet computers shipments fell from 500,000 to 200,000 units in one quarter.

    Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis, in a conference call after the results, said he was confident that RIM was on track to return to growth in the third quarter, while co-CEO Jim Balsillie promised a software upgrade he dubbed PlayBook 2.0.

    But National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson called the PlayBook "nothing short of a disaster" and said RIM now needs to spend money to promote the PlayBook in order to move inventory.

    Thompson was also concerned on the one-time smart phone leader's cash flow as it planned to raise its existing credit facility to $500 million from $100 million. RIM is set to burn $300 million this fiscal year, he estimated.

    He downgraded RIM to "underperform" from "sector perform."

    Separately, Citigroup analysts Jim Suva and Kevin Dennean said RIM's margins were under pressure as carriers shift their promotion spending to Android and Apple.

    "Promotion commotion hurts gross margins and we don't see it getting better," they said, and reiterated their "sell" rating on the stock.

    Brokerages Susquehanna, CIBC and Raymond James also cut their price targets on the stock.

    (Reporting by Tenzin Pema in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel and Joyjeet Das)

    Reuter site - Apple settles with Queens stores over knockoffs

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    Apple settles with Queens stores over knockoffs

    Thu, Sep 15 17:05 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - Two stores in Queens, New York, accused of peddling unauthorized Apple Inc accessories have agreed to hand over all products in their inventories bearing the word "Apple" or any of the company's ubiquitous trademarks.

    The proposed settlement, lodged in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday, would resolve a trademark-infringement lawsuit filed last July against Apple Story Inc and Fun Zone Inc, two stores in the Chinatown section of Flushing, Queens, that sell cases, headsets and other accessories for Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod. The two stores maintain they have not violated any Apple trademarks.

    If U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto approves the settlement, the stores will have five days to turn over any counterfeit products in their inventories, as well as any products, labels, packaging, promotional materials and other items that bear any Apple trademarks, including the well-known image of an apple and proprietary phrases such as "iPod" and "iPad."

    According to a court filing from Apple, the design of the unauthorized iPhone and iPod cases sold by the two stores mimics the trademarked iPhone and iPod designs and includes the phrase: "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China."

    As part of the proposed settlement, Apple Story has agreed to change its name, which Apple contends is too similar to its "Apple Store" trademark. It has also agreed to remove an oversize iPhone-shaped window display.

    The defendants -- who include Apple Story owner Janice Po Chiang and Fun Zone manager Jimmy Kwok -- are also prohibited from destroying any records pertaining to the manufacture, distribution, sale or receipt of the cases or headsets identified as fakes by Apple.


    Apple filed the suit under seal on July 25. Under U.S. trademark counterfeiting law, a company may file a trademark infringement action under seal so as not to tip off the accused before seizure orders are executed. The record was unsealed following a request from Reuters.

    Apple said in court filings it sent private investigators to buy hundreds of dollars' worth of the alleged fakes from both stores multiple times over several weeks earlier this year.

    On July 27, Apple seized goods bearing the Apple trademarks from both stores. It has also won a court order requiring the defendants to turn over access to their business email accounts, which could yield clues about their suppliers, distributors or customers.

    The lawsuit comes as the California company tries to stem a tide of counterfeit products and even whole counterfeit Apple stores, in China.

    A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment on the settlement.

    Attorneys for both parties did not immediately return requests for comment.

    The case is Apple Inc. v. Apple Story Inc et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, no. 11-3550.

    For Apple: Mark Mutterperl and Todd Hambidge of Fulbright & Jaworski.

    For the defendants: Samuel Chuang of the Law Offices of Samuel Chuang.

    (Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    CNN - Are jobs obsolete?

    Sent from's mobile device from

    Are jobs obsolete?

    The U.S. Postal Service appears to be the latest casualty in digital technology's slow but steady replacement of working humans. Unless an external source of funding comes in, the post office will have to scale back its operations drastically, or simply shut down altogether. That's 600,000 people who would be out of work, and another 480,000 pensioners facing an adjustment in terms.

    We can blame a right wing attempting to undermine labor, or a left wing trying to preserve unions in the face of government and corporate cutbacks. But the real culprit -- at least in this case -- is e-mail. People are sending 22% fewer pieces of mail than they did four years ago, opting for electronic bill payment and other net-enabled means of communication over envelopes and stamps.

    New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures -- from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.

    We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace.

    And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs -- as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there's something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.

    I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks -- or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?

    We're living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That's because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.

    According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that's even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books.

    Our problem is not that we don't have enough stuff -- it's that we don't have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.

    Jobs, as such, are a relatively new concept. People may have always worked, but until the advent of the corporation in the early Renaissance, most people just worked for themselves. They made shoes, plucked chickens, or created value in some way for other people, who then traded or paid for those goods and services. By the late Middle Ages, most of Europe was thriving under this arrangement.

    The only ones losing wealth were the aristocracy, who depended on their titles to extract money from those who worked. And so they invented the chartered monopoly. By law, small businesses in most major industries were shut down and people had to work for officially sanctioned corporations instead. From then on, for most of us, working came to mean getting a "job."

    The Industrial Age was largely about making those jobs as menial and unskilled as possible. Technologies such as the assembly line were less important for making production faster than for making it cheaper, and laborers more replaceable. Now that we're in the digital age, we're using technology the same way: to increase efficiency, lay off more people, and increase corporate profits.

    While this is certainly bad for workers and unions, I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people. Isn't this what all this technology was for in the first place? The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment? Might the spirit of enterprise we currently associate with "career" be shifted to something entirely more collaborative, purposeful, and even meaningful?

    Instead, we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff.

    The communist answer to this question was just to distribute everything evenly. But that sapped motivation and never quite worked as advertised. The opposite, libertarian answer (and the way we seem to be going right now) would be to let those who can't capitalize on the bounty simply suffer. Cut social services along with their jobs, and hope they fade into the distance.

    But there might still be another possibility -- something we couldn't really imagine for ourselves until the digital era. As a pioneer of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, recently pointed out, we no longer need to make stuff in order to make money. We can instead exchange information-based products.

    We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do -- the value we create -- is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful.

    This sort of work isn't so much employment as it is creative activity. Unlike Industrial Age employment, digital production can be done from the home, independently, and even in a peer-to-peer fashion without going through big corporations. We can make games for each other, write books, solve problems, educate and inspire one another -- all through bits instead of stuff. And we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff.

    For the time being, as we contend with what appears to be a global economic slowdown by destroying food and demolishing homes, we might want to stop thinking about jobs as the main aspect of our lives that we want to save. They may be a means, but they are not the ends.

    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Douglas Rushkoff.

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