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    Monday, December 31, 2012

    Reuter site - Zynga carries out planned games shutdown, including "Petville"

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    Zynga carries out planned games shutdown, including "Petville"

    Mon, Dec 31 15:09 PM EST

    By Malathi Nayak

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Social games publisher Zynga Inc confirmed on Monday that it has carried out 11 of the planned shutdowns of 13 game titles, with "Petville" being the latest game on which it pulled the plug.

    Zynga in October said it would shut down 13 underperforming titles after warning that its revenues were slowing as gamers fled from its once-popular titles published on the Facebook platform in large numbers and sharply revised its full-year outlook.

    The San Francisco-based company announced the "Petville" shutdown two weeks ago on its Facebook page. All the 11 shutdowns occurred in December.

    The 11 titles shut down or closed to new players include role-playing game "Mafia Wars 2," "Vampire Wars," "ForestVille" and "FishVille."

    "In place of 'PetVille,' we encourage you to play other Zynga games like 'Castleville,' 'Chefville,' 'Farmville 2,' 'Mafia Wars' and 'Yoville,'" the company told players on its 'PetVille' Facebook page. "PetVille" players were offered a one-time, complimentary bonus package for virtual goods in those games.

    "Petville," which lets users adopt virtual pets, has 7.5 million likes on Facebook but only 60,000 daily active users, according to AppData. About 1,260 users commented on the game's Facebook page, some lamenting the game's shutdown.

    Zynga has said it is shifting focus to capture growth in mobile games. It also applied this month for a preliminary application to run real-money gambling games in Nevada.

    Zynga is hoping that a lucrative real-money market could make up for declining revenue from games like "FarmVille" and other fading titles that still generate the bulk of its sales.

    Zynga shares were up 1 percent at $2.36 in afternoon trade on Monday on the Nasdaq.

    (Reporting By Malathi Nayak; Editing by Leslie Adler)

    Suspect in NYC subway death arrested before

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    Sunday, December 30, 2012

    Reuter site - Facebook Instagram use dived after photo fiasco: AppData

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    Facebook Instagram use dived after photo fiasco: AppData

    Fri, Dec 28 17:02 PM EST

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's Instagram lost almost a quarter of its daily users a week after it rolled out and then withdrew policy changes that incensed users who feared the photo-sharing service would use their pictures without compensation.

    Instagram, which Facebook bought for $715 million this year, saw the number of daily active users who accessed the service via Facebook bottom out at 12.4 million as of Friday, versus a peak of 16.4 million last week, according to data compiled by online tracker AppData.

    The popular app, which allows people to add filters and effects to photos and share them over the Internet or smartphones, experienced the drop over the brief, often-volatile holiday period.

    Other popular apps also saw slippage in usage, and some were more pronounced. Yelp, for instance, saw daily active users -- again via Facebook -- slide to a weekly low of half a million on Thursday, from a high of 820,000 one week ago.

    Instagram disputed the AppData survey, which was compiled from users that have linked the photo service to their own Facebook accounts, historically between 20 and 30 percent of Instagram members.

    "This data is inaccurate. We continue to see strong and steady growth in both registered and active users of Instagram," a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Friday.

    Looking out over a broader timeframe, Instagram's monthly active users edged up to 43.6 million as of Friday, an increase of 1.7 million over the past seven days, according to AppData.

    "We'll have to monitor the data over the coming weeks to gain perspective on trends in Instagram's performance," AppData marketing manager Ashley Taylor Anderson said in an email.

    ATTENTION-SEEKING

    The sharp slide in activity highlighted by AppData was bound to draw attention on the heels of the controversial revision to Instagram's terms of service that, among other things, allowed an advertiser to pay Instagram "to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata)" without compensation.

    The subsequent public outrage prompted an apology from Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. Last week, a California Instagram user sued the company for breach of contract and other claims, in what may have been the first civil lawsuit to stem from the controversial change.

    Instagram subsequently reverted to some of its original language.

    The move renewed debate about how much control over personal data users must give up to live and participate in a world steeped in social media.

    Analysts say Facebook, the world's largest social network, was laying the groundwork to begin generating advertising revenue, by giving marketers the right to display profile pictures and other personal information, such as who users follow in advertisements.

    Its shares closed down 13 cents or 0.5 percent at $25.91 on the Nasdaq, in line with the broader market.

    (Reporting By Edwin Chan; Editing by Leslie Adler and Andrew Hay)

    Sunday, December 23, 2012

    Reuter site - RIM shares dive as fee changes catch market off guard

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    RIM shares dive as fee changes catch market off guard

    Fri, Dec 21 16:37 PM EST

    By Allison Martell and Chandni Doulatramani

    (Reuters) - Shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd plunged more than 20 percent on Friday on fears that a new fee structure for its high-margin services segment could put pressure on the business that has set the company apart from its competitors.

    It was the stock's biggest, single-day, percentage price drop since September 2008. But shares were still nearly 80 percent above the year's low, which was reached in September. They started to rally in November as investors began to bet that RIM's long-awaited new BlackBerry 10 phones, which will be unveiled in January, would turn the company around.

    The services segment has long been RIM's most profitable and accounts for about a third of total revenue. Some analysts said there was a risk that the fee changes could endanger its service ecosystem and leave the Canadian company as just another handset maker.

    The fee changes, which RIM announced on Thursday after market close, overshadowed stronger-than-expected quarterly results. The company said the new pricing structure would be introduced with the BlackBerry 10 launch, expected on January 30.

    RIM said some subscribers would continue to pay for enhanced services such as advanced security. But under the new structure, some other services would account for less revenue, or even none at all.

    Chief Executive Thorsten Heins tried to reassure investors in a television interview with CNBC on Friday, saying RIM's "service revenue isn't going away".

    He added: "We're not stopping. We're not halting. We're transitioning."

    Since taking over at RIM in January, Heins has focused on shrinking the company and getting it ready to introduce its new BB10 devices, which RIM says will help it claw back ground it has lost to competitors such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

    But the new services pricing strategy came as a shock to markets, and some analysts cut their price targets on RIM stock.

    RIM will not be able to sustain profitability by relying on its hardware business alone, said National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson, whom Thomson Reuters StarMine has rated the top RIM analyst based on the accuracy of his estimates of the company's earnings.

    Thompson downgraded RIM's stock to "underperform" from "sector perform" and cut his price target to $10 from $15.

    Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said the move was likely about stabilizing market share: "At the moment, they need to stem the bleeding."

    He said the tiered pricing might line up better with RIM's subscriber base as it expands in emerging economies.

    RIM's Nasdaq-listed shares closed down 22.7 percent at $10.91 on Friday. The stock fell 22.2 percent to C$10.86 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

    COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH

    The success of the BB10 will be crucial to the future of RIM, which on Thursday posted its first-ever decline in total subscribers. Heins said on CNBC that the company expected to ship millions of the new devices.

    He cautioned that this will require heavy investment, which will reduce RIM's cash position in its fourth and first quarters from $2.9 billion in its fiscal third quarter. He said, however, it would not go below $2 billion.

    Still, doubts remain about whether RIM can pull off the transformation. Needham analyst Charlie Wolf said the BB10 would have to look meaningfully superior to its competitors for RIM to stage a comeback.

    Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley said it was highly unlikely that the market would support RIM's new mobile computing ecosystem, and he remained skeptical about the company's ability to survive on its own.

    "We believe RIM will eventually need to sell the company," said Walkley, who cut his price target on RIM shares to $9 from $10.

    Baird Equity Research analysts said BB10 faced a daunting uphill battle against products from Apple, as well as those using Google Inc's Android operating system, and, increasingly, phones with Microsoft Corp's Windows 8 operating system.

    Baird maintained its "underperform" rating on the stock, while Paradigm Capital downgraded the shares to "hold" from "buy" on uncertainty around the services revenue model.

    "RIM has gone from having one major aspect of uncertainty - BlackBerry 10 adoption - to two, given an uncertain floor on services revenue," William Blair analyst Anil Doradla said.

    RIM will have to discount BB10 devices significantly to maintain demand, Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu said.

    The BlackBerry, however, still offers the security features that helped it build its reputation with big business and government, a selling point with some key customers.

    Credit Suisse maintained its "neutral" rating on the stock, but not because it expected BB10 to be a big success.

    "Only the potential for an outright sale of the company or a breakup keeps us at a neutral," Credit Suisse analysts said.

    Separately on Friday, ailing Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia said it had settled its patent dispute with RIM in return for payments.

    ($1=$0.98 Canadian)

    (Reporting by Chandni Doulatramani in Bangalore and Allison Martell in Toronto. Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Ted Kerr, Dale Hudson, Janet Guttsman,; Lisa Von Ahn, Peter Galloway and Leslie Gevirtz)

    Reuter site - Analysis: Amazon, Google on collision course in 2013

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    Analysis: Amazon, Google on collision course in 2013

    Sun, Dec 23 12:33 PM EST

    By Alexei Oreskovic and Alistair Barr

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - When Amazon.com Inc CEO Jeff Bezos got word of a project at Google Inc to scan and digitize product catalogs a decade ago, the seeds of a burgeoning rivalry were planted.

    The news was a "wake-up" call to Bezos, an early investor in Google. He saw it as a warning that the Web search engine could encroach upon his online retail empire, according to a former Amazon executive.

    "He realized that scanning catalogs was interesting for Google, but the real win for Google would be to get all the books scanned and digitized" and then sell electronic editions, the former executive said.

    Thus began a rivalry that will escalate in 2013 as the two companies' areas of rivalry grow, spanning online advertising and retail to mobile gadgets and cloud computing.

    It could upend the last remaining areas of cooperation between the two companies. For instance, Amazon's decision to use a stripped down version of Google's Android system in its new Kindle Fire tablet, coupled with Google's ambitious plans for its Motorola mobile devices unit, will only add to tensions.

    The confrontation marks the latest front in a tech industry war in which many combatants are crowding onto each others' turf. Lurking in the shadows for both Google and Amazon is Facebook with its own search and advertising ambitions.

    "Amazon wants to be the one place where you buy everything. Google wants to be the one place where you find everything, of which buying things is a subset," said Chi-Hua Chien, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. "So when you marry those facts I think you're going to see a natural collision."

    Both companies have a lot at stake. Google's market capitalization of $235 billion is about double Amazon's, largely because Google makes massive net earnings, expected by analysts to be $13.2 billion this year, based on a huge 32 percent net profit margin, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. By contrast, Amazon is seen reporting a small loss this year.

    Amazon shareholders have been patient as the company has invested for growth but it will have to start producing strong earnings at some stage - more likely if it grows in higher margin areas such as advertising. Google's share price, on the other hand, is vulnerable to signs of slowing margin growth.

    AD CLASH

    Not long after Bezos learned of Google's catalog plans, Amazon began scanning books and providing searchable digital excerpts. Its Kindle e-reader, launched a few years later, owes much of its inspiration to the catalog news, the executive said.

    Now, Amazon is pushing its online ad efforts, threatening to siphon revenue and users from Google's main search website.

    Amazon's fledgling ad business is still a fraction of Google's, with Robert W. Baird & Co. estimating Amazon is on track to generate about $500 million in annual advertising revenue - tiny, given it recorded $48 billion of overall revenue in 2011. By contrast, 96 percent of Google's $38 billion in 2011 sales came from advertising.

    But Amazon's newly developed "DSP" technology, which taps into the company's vast store of consumer purchase history to help marketers target ads at specific groups of people on Amazon.com and on other websites, could change all that.

    "From a client's perspective, the data that Amazon owns is actually better than what Google has," said Mark Grether, the chief operating officer of Xaxis, an audience buying company that works with major advertisers. "They know what you just bought, and they also know what you are right now trying to buy."

    Amazon is discussing a partnership with Xaxis in which the company would help Amazon sell ads for the service, Grether noted.

    Amazon did not respond to an email seeking a comment.

    STARTING POINT

    Amazon can bring in higher-margin revenue by selling advertising than it can from its retail operations. By showing ads for products that it may not actually sell on its own website, Amazon establishes itself as a starting point for consumers looking to buy something on the Web.

    Research firm Forrester reported that 30 percent of U.S. online shoppers in the third quarter began researching their purchase on Amazon.com, compared with 13 percent who started on a search engine such as Google - a reversal from two years earlier when search engines were more popular starting points.

    Amazon now sells ads that show up to the side of product search results on its website. There were 6.7 billion display ad impressions on Amazon.com in the third quarter, more than triple the number in the same period of 2011, according to comScore.

    That early success is a "huge concern" for Google, whose business relies heavily on product searches and product search ads, said Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter.

    Partly in response, Google recently revamped its product search service, Google Shopping, by charging retailers and other online sellers a fee to be listed in results.

    Founded four years apart in the late 1990s, Bezos has long worried about Amazon's reliance on Google for traffic, according to people close to the company, while also being dubious about Google's high market valuation.

    "He'd say: 'This is the first time in the history of the world where the map maker is worth more than the territory that it's mapping,'" recalled the former Amazon executive of Bezos' comments about Google's popular online mapping service.

    TENSIONS BUILD

    Google's Android system is thriving but still has not cracked the nut of how to make money from mobile search ads and sales of digital goods like games, apps, music and video.

    "If they can figure out mobile ads, that would truly be Google's second act," said Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.

    But Amazon launched a broadside against Google in 2011 with the creation of its own version of Android for its Kindle Fire tablets that replaces key Google money-making services, such as a digital music and application storefront, with its own.

    Not unlike Apple, "Amazon wants to control the experience on their devices," said Oren Etzioni, a University of Washington computer science professor. "That doesn't make Google happy."

    The two are also clashing in cloud computing software.

    Amazon started its cloud business more than six years ago, providing data storage, computing power and other technology services from remote locations. Google only launched its cloud computing business this year, but the market is growing so quickly there is still room to grab share, Etzioni said.

    "I would not write Google off," he added. "Amazon has the early lead but it's very early."

    TRANSACT OR DIE?

    Still, mobile gadgets and cloud computing are currently tiny businesses compared with the multibillion-dollar opportunity presented by advertising and online commerce.

    Google recently acquired BufferBox, a company with a network of lockers that shoppers can use to receive packages. It is also testing same-day delivery in San Francisco, hinting at growing interest in a larger role in online retail.

    It is not talking about its full plans for retail, but some analysts think features such as same-day delivery or "pick-up" lockers, are valuable features it can use to enhance its existing online ad business. An ad for shoes, for example, might also make the shoes available for pick-up in a locker nearby, said Needham & Co analyst Kerry Rice.

    If Google can own the search and the delivery, it will be able to provide the same experience as Amazon, with no inventory - "a higher margin, more efficient model," Chien said.

    Earlier this year, Google launched a new certification service highlighting merchants that ship quickly and reliably and backing it with up to $1,000 in "purchase protection."

    Google could create a database of products and send shoppers to a page that has a way to buy quickly through the company's payments service Google Wallet, Forrester's Mulpuru said.

    Google could then send that transaction to the retailer who would ship the product to the consumer. That ability is critical, according to Schachter, who said if consumers lack the ability to purchase items through Google it will lag Amazon and eBay Inc.

    (Editing by Edwin Chan, Peter Lauria, Martin Howell and Maureen Bavdek)

    Friday, December 21, 2012

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Schwab - News apple top apps

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    Reuter site - NBA: Road-riding LeBron waging "vendetta" against himself

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    NBA: Road-riding LeBron waging "vendetta" against himself

    Wed, Dec 19 10:20 AM EST

    By Simon Evans

    MIAMI (Reuters) - LeBron James says he is engaged in a "vendetta" against himself as he pushes himself to reach his physical peak and win a second straight NBA championship with the Miami Heat.

    On Tuesday, James, last season's Most Valuable Player, who spent his off-season playing in the London Olympics, was on court against the Minnesota Timberwolves for 42 minutes.

    "He wasn't even breathing heavy," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra when asked about the longer than expected regular season minutes for his team's star.

    "He's been biking so much on his own. He biked to the game the other day. He's turning the corner right now in terms of his conditioning. It's world class."

    When Miami hosted the Washington Wizards on Saturday, James chose to cycle to the team's daytime shoot-around and the 45 minutes back home before doing the same in the evening for the game.

    That's three hours of road cycling on a day in which he scored 23 points in a 102-72 win for Miami.

    The focus and the fitness are evident on court. James will no doubt make a step up in intensity for the playoffs but he's hardly going through the motions in the regular season having made at least 20 points in each game.

    "I felt great," he said after Tuesday's game, "I felt like I didn't get tired tonight. One time in the second half I felt like I could have played again if we had too. I have been biking a little more than usual.

    "It is fun but it is also condition and cardio. It is something I like to do," he added.

    James says he is too far "in the zone" to notice any public reaction to one of the world's leading sportsmen cycling around the streets of Miami a few hours before a game.

    Perhaps even more revealing of his psyche was James's behavior after the December 6 home loss to the New York Knicks.

    James left the court and went to the gym, not appearing for his post-game media duties until he had finished an evidently strenuous work-out.

    It sounds an extreme approach, even for a professional athlete, but James appears to need to challenge himself, even, or perhaps especially, when he is still so dominant on court.

    "I don't know. I just have a drive to continue to improve and just continue to fight through it. Yesterday (Monday) I was extremely tired but I got some more work in.

    "As a leader I just want to continue to push through it. I have a personal vendetta against myself right now," he said with a grin.

    Vendetta was an interesting choice of words for a man who became a hate figure for many NBA fans following his free agency move to Miami but who has silenced those voices with his outstanding displays this year.

    But at 27, James is clearly concerned with not standing still in terms of his performance and his physical fitness.

    "I want to get better. I want to maximize everything I can and not waste an opportunity each and every day to compete and get better as a player.

    "I want to be the best, you have to push the button sometimes".

    (Reporting By Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)

    Reuter site - Twitter lets users claim their personal history

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    Twitter lets users claim their personal history

    Wed, Dec 19 18:34 PM EST

    By Gerry Shih

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Twitter's 200 million active users can soon savor or cringe over every single statement they've tweeted when the social media company begins sending users their entire archive of 140-character messages.

    Only English-language users have this service for now, but Twitter will eventually send a download link containing the full personal archives in one file to any user who asks, the company said on Wednesday.

    "Maybe you wanted to recall your reaction to the 2008 election, reminisce on what you said to your partner on your 10th anniversary, or just see your first few Tweets. We know lots of you would like to explore your Twitter past," Mollie Vandor, a Twitter engineer, wrote in an official blog post Wednesday.

    Since Twitter launched the service in 2006, tweets have evolved from a tool for youngsters to chat about frivolous things into a force for social change.

    It has served as an alternative to government-controlled media, for example, in the Middle East. And during Superstorm Sandy this year, news organizations and emergency response officials turned to Twitter as an essential source of real-time information.

    In 2010, the Library of Congress pledged to preserve every public tweet as a matter of record - a significant undertaking, given that some 400 million tweets are dispatched worldwide everyday.

    Bookending that archive will be one noted dispatch by Twitter Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey, who is widely recognized as its inventor. Dorsey, ignoring punctuation, brought the service to life shortly after 1:00 p.m. on March 21, 2006 with a supremely pedestrian update about his experimental social network.

    "inviting coworkers," Dorsey wrote.

    (Reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by Richard Chang)

    Monday, December 17, 2012

    Reuter site - Google, Facebook drive mobile ad market growth: report

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    Google, Facebook drive mobile ad market growth: report

    Mon, Dec 17 14:01 PM EST

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc's mobile ad revenue in the United States will be roughly $4 billion next year, while Facebook Inc's nascent mobile advertising business will more than double, according to a new study by research firm eMarketer.

    Marketers are boosting spending on ads that reach consumers on smartphones and tablet PCs at a much faster than expected pace, eMarketer said on Monday. The firm said it expects that overall U.S. mobile ad spending in 2012 will increase 180 percent year-on-year to more than $4 billion -- a sharp revision from its forecast in September which sized the market at $2.61 billion.

    Internet search engine Google is expected to remain the top player in the market for the foreseeable future, with revenue reaching $6.33 billion in 2014, eMarketer projected. Google's mobile ad revenue, will increase roughly 84 percent in 2013 to reach $3.98 billion.

    Facebook mobile ads in the United States will total $339.3 million in 2012 and rise to $851.4 million in 2013, eMarketer said. The firm's figures are based on an analysis of data from research firms, investment banks and "other sources" on ad revenues, ad impressions and ad prices.

    While Facebook offered no mobile ads on its social network at the beginning of the year - a factor that has pressured its revenue growth and its stock price - the company's mobile ad business grew at an "unexpected" rate in the third quarter, eMarketer said.

    Online music streaming service Pandora Media Inc, microblog Twitter and iPhone-maker Apple Inc round out the top five U.S. mobile ad business by revenue, according to eMarketer.

    Mobile ad revenue at the privately-held Twitter, which does not disclose its financial results, will reach $134.9 million in 2012 and grow to $248.9 million next year, eMarketer said.

    Consumers are increasingly using smartphones instead of, or in addition, to PCs to surf the Web and to use online applications such as video games and music streaming services. More than half of Facebook's 1 billion users accessed the social network on a mobile device in September, the company said in its most recent 10Q filing.

    Mobile advertising remains a small portion of the total U.S. advertising market, accounting for 2.4 percent of all spending in 2012 compared to 38.9 percent for television, eMarketer said. But mobile ad spending will overtake ad spending on radio and newspapers in 2016, the firm estimated.

    (Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Andrew Hay)

    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Reuter site - Exclusive: Google to replace M&A chief

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    Exclusive: Google to replace M&A chief

    Fri, Dec 07 18:59 PM EST

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc is replacing the head of its in-house mergers and acquisitions group, David Lawee, with one of its top lawyers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    Don Harrison, a high-ranking lawyer at Google, will replace Lawee as head of the Internet search company's corporate development group, which oversees mergers and acquisitions, said the source, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

    Google is also planning to create a new late-stage investment group that Lawee will oversee, the source said.

    Google declined to comment. Lawee and Harrison could not immediately be reached for comment.

    One of the Internet industry's most prolific acquirers, Google has struck more than 160 deals to acquire companies and assets since 2010, according to regulatory filings. Many of Google's most popular products, including its online maps and Android mobile software, were created by companies or are based on technology that Google acquired.

    Harrison, Google's deputy general counsel, will head up the M&A group at a time when the company is still in the process of integrating its largest acquisition, the $12.5 billion purchase of smartphone maker Motorola Mobility, which closed in May.

    And he takes over at a time when the Internet search giant faces heightened regulatory scrutiny, with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission conducting antitrust investigations into Google's business practices. Several recent Google acquisitions have undergone months of regulatory review before receiving approval.

    As deputy general counsel, Harrison has been deeply involved in the company's regulatory issues and many of its acquisitions. He joined Google more than five years ago and has completed more than 70 deals at the company, according to biographical information on the Google Ventures website.

    Harrison is an adviser to Google Ventures, the company's nearly four-year old venture division which provides funding for start-up companies.

    While most of Google's acquisitions are small and mid-sized deals that do not meet the threshold for disclosure of financial terms, Google has a massive war chest of $45.7 billion in cash and marketable securities to fund acquisitions.

    Lawee, who took over the M&A group in 2008, has had hits and misses during his tenure. Google shut down social media company Slide one year after acquiring it for $179 million, for example.

    The planned late-stage investment group has not been finalized, the source said. The fund might operate separately from Google Ventures, according to the source.

    "Think of it as a private equity fund inside of Google," the source said.

    The company recently said it would increase the cash it allocates to Google Ventures to $300 million a year, up from $200 million, potentially helping it invest in later-stage financing rounds.

    Google finished Friday's regular trading session down 1 percent, or $6.92, at $684.21.

    (Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Carol Bishopric and Jim Loney)

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Hong Kong

    http://m.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cant-find-a-job-move-overseas/2012/11/23/b7322ef4-3273-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html

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    Reuter site - BlackBerry maker RIM loses patent dispute with Nokia

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    BlackBerry maker RIM loses patent dispute with Nokia

    Wed, Nov 28 13:13 PM EST

    By Tarmo Virki

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) has lost a dispute over the use of Nokia Oyj patents, in a case which could halt the sale of RIM products if it does not reach a new royalties deal with the Finnish company.

    The Swedish arbitrator ruled RIM was not entitled to make or sell mobile devices which can hook up to WiFi networks - using technology known in the trade as WLAN or wireless local access network systems - without first agreeing royalties with Nokia.

    "RIM is liable to pay royalties and damages to Nokia for its ... sales of any subscriber terminals (handsets or tablets) ... compatible with the WLAN standard," the arbitrator said in the ruling, issued on November 6 but not publicized until Wednesday.

    "RIM has not contested that it manufactures and sells products using WLAN in accordance with Nokia's WLAN patents," it added.

    The decision is a boost for Nokia which is trying to increase its royalty income as its phone business slides, and the group said it had filed cases in the United States, Britain and Canada to enforce the arbitrator's ruling.

    "This could have a significant financial impact to RIM, as all BlackBerry devices support WLAN," IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.

    A RIM spokesman declined comment.

    A source close to RIM said the arbitration ruling was unlikely to have any immediate ramifications, as Nokia still has to fight a number of legal battles for the arbitration panel's ruling to be recognized in different countries.

    But analysts said RIM would likely seek a royalty agreement with Nokia to avert any risk of sale bans.

    "The arbitration decision is not appealable and the U.S. Court can be expected to enforce the judgment by issuing an injunction against RIM, which would effectively put RIM out of business," said Alexander Poltorak, chief executive of patent consultancy General Patent Corp.

    "RIM has only one choice now - to license Nokia's patents," Poltorak said. "It should be a quick process. No substantive issue will be re-litigated. The U.S. court merely needs to enforce the verdict of the Swedish arbitration tribunal."

    CONTRACT ROW

    RIM, a smartphone pioneer, hopes new devices using BlackBerry 10 software, due early 2013, will rescue it from a prolonged slump in the face of competition from the likes of Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

    "If a sales ban was imposed it would be a massive blow for RIM as it manages its transition to the new BlackBerry 10 software platform," said analyst Pete Cunningham at Canalys.

    RIM promises its new devices will be faster than previous smartphones and will have a large catalogue of applications, which are crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.

    Shares in RIM were up 1.7 percent at $10.90 by 1146 ET on Nasdaq, while its Toronto-listed shares were up 11 Canadian cents at C$10.81.

    Nokia said it signed a cross-license agreement with RIM covering cellular patents in 2003, a deal that was amended in 2008. RIM sought arbitration in March 2011 with the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, arguing that license should be extended to cover WLAN patents.

    Nokia, along with Ericsson and Qualcomm Inc, is among the leading patent holders in the wireless industry. Patent royalties generate annual revenue of about 500 million euros ($646 million) for Nokia.

    Based on a Nortel patent sale and Google Inc's acquisition of Motorola Mobility, some analysts say Nokia's patent portfolio alone merits its current share price of around 2.50 euros.

    However, the patent market has cooled since those deals were made and some industry experts say the "fair value" of patents in large portfolios is between $100,000 and $200,000, pricing Nokia's portfolio at up to 0.50 euros per share.

    Nokia shares, which are heavily influenced by expectations of new smartphone model sales, were down 1 percent at 2.54 euros. The Wall Street Journal said the new Lumia 920 smartphone was worth considering but was heavy and thick.

    ($1=0.7733 euros)

    (Additional reporting by Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by David Goodman and David Holmes)

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Reuter site - RIM shares play catch-up on the Nasdaq; trim gains in Toronto

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    RIM shares play catch-up on the Nasdaq; trim gains in Toronto

    Fri, Nov 23 15:32 PM EST

    By Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion's U.S.-listed shares played catch-up on Friday, surging more than 13 percent after the Thanksgiving holiday to match some of the gains the stock posted Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

    RIM's Toronto-listed shares surged more than 17 percent on Thursday, after National Bank analyst Kris Thompson boosted his price target on RIM to $15 from $12. Thompson argued that there is money to be made in the stock ahead of the early 2013 launch of a make-or-break line of BlackBerry devices.

    The Waterloo, Ontario-based company's stock was by far the most actively traded stock on the Nasdaq on Friday, with trading volumes topping those of U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft Corp, Intel Corp and Facebook.

    RIM shares rose 13.6 percent, or $1.40, to close at $11.66 in a shortened trading day in U.S. markets. The stock, also one of the most actively traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange on the day, pared some of its gains from Thursday to slip 38 Canadian cents to C$11.62 by 1500 ET.

    The BlackBerry maker, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, hopes its new line of BlackBerry 10 devices will rescue it from a prolonged slump and help it win back market share lost to rivals such as Apple Inc's iPhone and the slew of devices that run on Google Inc's Android operating system.

    Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services, believes that investors betting on RIM right now are speculating that the company can turn itself around, a tough task for any company in the ultra-competitive and fast-paced technology sector.

    "It's very hard for a technology company to turn themselves around. Apple did it years ago, Palm did a face plant. So you are buying the stock on hopes that the phone will do wonders," said Schwartz, who does not have any positions in the stock at this time.

    "You really have to be betting the farm that BlackBerry 10 is going to be the be-all and end-all in smartphones and encourage people to switch from Apple, Samsung or Android to switch back to BlackBerry," he said.

    (Reporting by Euan Rocha;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Reuter site - Software pioneer McAfee says framed for murder in Belize

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    Software pioneer McAfee says framed for murder in Belize

    Tue, Nov 13 12:40 PM EST

    BELIZE CITY (Reuters) - Computer security industry pioneer John McAfee says he has gone into hiding in Belize because he believes authorities there are trying to frame him for the murder of a neighbor, a crime he says he did not commit, according to Wired magazine.

    Belize police are searching for McAfee as "a person of interest" in a murder investigation.

    "You can say I'm paranoid about it, but they will kill me, there is no question. They've been trying to get me for months. They want to silence me," Wired quoted McAfee as saying on its website. "I am not well liked by the prime minister. I am just a thorn in everybody's side."

    The magazine reported that McAfee, 67, contacted one of its reporters by telephone after his neighbor Gregory Faull, was found dead on Sunday in a pool of blood. The 52-year-old American was apparently shot in the head.

    Police say McAfee had a history of conflict with Faull, whose post-mortem was expected to be conducted on Tuesday.

    McAfee, who amassed a fortune by building the anti-virus company that bears his name, has homes and businesses in the Central American country where police say he has lived for at least two years.

    It was not the first time McAfee, who has tattoos, a goatee and moustache, and a penchant for guns, has drawn police attention.

    His premises were raided earlier this year after he was accused of holding firearms, though most were found to be licensed. The final outcome of the case is pending.

    He was also suspected of running a lab to make the synthetic drug crystal meth.

    "He was suspected (of making crystal meth) but he was not convicted nor was he charged. He was only suspected," said Belize police spokesman Raphael Martinez.

    McAfee also owns a security company in Belize as well as several properties and an ecological enterprise.

    Reuters has been unable to reach McAfee, who police want to question.

    "It would be quite nice for him to come in and answer some of the questions that could lead to the closure of this case," Martinez said. "He is not wanted for murder, but he is wanted for questioning as a person of interest."

    The Belize police department has reached out to counterparts in neighboring Mexico and Guatemala, asking them to detain McAfee if he leaves Belize overland.

    McAfee was one of Silicon Valley's first entrepreneurs to amass a fortune by building a business off the Internet.

    The former Lockheed systems consultant started McAfee Associates in 1989, initially distributing anti-virus software as "shareware" on Internet bulletin boards.

    He took the company public in 1992 and left two years later following accusations that he had hyped the arrival of a virus known as Michelangelo, which turned out to be a dud, to scare computer users into buying his company's products.

    McAfee currently has no relationship with the software company, which has since been sold to Intel Corp.

    (Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston, Jose Sanchez in Belize City and Simon Gardner in Mexico City; Editing by Kieran Murray and Doina Chiacu)

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

    Reuter site - Sony PlayStation certificate sparks talk China may lift console ban

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    Sony PlayStation certificate sparks talk China may lift console ban

    Wed, Nov 07 02:02 AM EST

    By Tim Kelly and Melanie Lee

    TOKYO/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 has received a certification of quality from a Chinese safety standards body, sparking speculation that China will end a decade-old ban on home game consoles.

    China has banned video game consoles since 2000, citing a need to protect the well-being of its young people. Some analysts cautioned against reading too much into Sony's new certificate, noting the organization that gave it has no regulatory authority.

    "The Ministry of Culture has the regulatory authority over the console segment and is the sole organization that can revoke the ban," said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of U.S.-based video games consultancy Niko Partners.

    The China Quality Certification Centre website showed two models of the PlayStation 3, labeled "computer entertainment system" received approval this July. All products must pass the safety standard before they can be sold to Chinese consumers.

    Sony confirmed that it had received certification but remained tightlipped about whether this heralded an imminent entry for the PlayStation into the world's second-largest economy or whether the company needed further certificates.

    "This does not mean that we have officially decided to enter Chinese market," Sony spokeswoman Mai Hora said.

    "We recognize that China is a promising market so we will continuously study the possibility."

    Representatives for China's Ministry of Culture could not be reached for comment.

    But there has also been some precedent that China authorities are taking a less hard-line attitude towards game consoles.

    This year Lenovo Group launched Eedoo CT510, a motion sensing device that plays games similar in concept to Microsoft's Kinect extension for the Xbox game console, by touting by Eedoo as an "exercise and entertainment machine".

    Although video game consoles are banned in China, online gaming and games on mobile devices are deeply entrenched -- limiting the potential upside for Sony and rival game machine makers like Microsoft Corp and Nintendo Co Ltd.

    "It obviously has a huge population, but gamers in China have different consumption habits," said Piers Harding-Rolls, senior games analyst at IHS Screen Digest in London.

    "A lot of established gamers will use non-dedicated devices they have used over many years."

    Game machine makers would also have to find ways to ensure that piracy did not cut into their income from games software and other content, Harding-Rolls added.

    (Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

    Reuter site - RIM's BlackBerry 10 platform wins coveted U.S. security clearance

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    RIM's BlackBerry 10 platform wins coveted U.S. security clearance

    Thu, Nov 08 00:24 AM EST

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd said on Thursday it has won a much-coveted U.S. government security clearance for its yet-to-be launched platform for BlackBerry 10 devices that are expected to hit store shelves in the first quarter of 2013.

    The company said its BlackBerry 10 platform has received the FIPS 140-2 certification, which would allow government agencies to deploy the devices, along with the new enterprise management platform to run the devices, as soon as the new smartphones are launched.

    RIM, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, has seen its fortunes fade in recent years as nimbler rivals such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co have taken the game away from RIM with faster and snazzier devices. RIM's fate now depends almost entirely on the long-awaited line of so-called BB 10 devices.

    Last month, RIM said it had begun carrier tests on the new line of devices, which the company hopes will help it regain some of the market share it has ceded to the likes of Apple's iPhone and a slew of other devices that run on Google Inc's Android operating system.

    The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said this is the first time BlackBerry products have been FIPS certified ahead of launch.

    "Achieving FIPS certification for an entirely new platform in a very short period of time, and before launch, is quite remarkable," RIM's head of security certifications, David MacFarlane, said in a statement.

    FIPS certification, which is given by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is one of the minimum criteria that is required for products used by U.S. government agencies and regulated industries that collect, store, transfer, share and disseminate sensitive information.

    The stamp of approval gives confidence to security-conscious organizations - including some of RIM's top clients like U.S. and Canadian government agencies - that the data stored on smartphones running BlackBerry 10 can be properly secured and encrypted.

    RIM promises that BlackBerry 10 will deliver a better user experience, along with the ability to separately manage both one's corporate and personal data on the same device.

    (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

    Sunday, October 21, 2012

    Stream of Oblivion

    From Evernote:

    Stream of Oblivion

    Good morning world. First organic blog entry in forever dot com here. Been like forever. I always come here to write my thoughts during time of duress it seems. I started blogging in the winter of 2006 when I was 25. Eventually my blog became a place for me to feed my own ego so I emailed stories to the words in there to get hits. Now it's for whatever. 

     Writer writes because he must and so I'm writing today. I must speak. No spell check no clarity I care not too much for grammar or punctuation.  This is just for me. 

    Life is short and cruel and rewarding and we are not all equipped to get through it. Live and die every day. Fight. Destroy. Have an attitude. Give a damn. Don't care what other people think. Care what what you think of yourself. 

    Can you go to bed at nigh and wake up in the morning. 

    Are your intentions good and productive. 

    Avoid the illusions of magicians and trickster who use their wiles to deceive. 

    Win. 

    Life is too long to give up and too short to give in. 

    Make people upset and laugh at their umbrage

    It is a compliment when people are upset at you. 

    You matter. 

    Win. 

    Fuck the noise. Make a spectacle of yourself. Smile. 

    I'm going to start making a habit of this. 

    I have a wealth of words and lyrics to share. And I will share it. 

    Go. 

    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    Reuter site - Analysis: Smaller firms grab big slice of mobile advertising

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    Analysis: Smaller firms grab big slice of mobile advertising

    Fri, Oct 12 15:44 PM EDT

    By Sayantani Ghosh

    (Reuters) - When Auntie Anne's, the pretzel chain, wanted to tempt moms in Atlanta shopping malls with free offers, it dished out coupons through smartphones that could be redeemed immediately for a free drink or other specials.

    But while the moms received the coupons on their iPhone or Android device, the power behind the campaign was not Google Inc or Apple Inc -- it was Millennial Media, a nimble six-year old independent that has grabbed the No.2 spot in mobile advertising in the United States.

    Google is No.1, but the flexibility of its smaller rivals is helping them catch up in a U.S. market that is expected to triple in size to more than $20 billion in the next three years, according to market research firm Gartner.

    Smaller firms have the freedom to reach users who use any mobile operating system, unlike Apple, which promotes advertising on its Apple iOS platform, and Google, which handles advertising across all devices but also has its own platform, Android.

    "Advertisers want to be able to reach the broadest population they can and in the mobile world, where the platforms are fragmented, this gives an opening to the providers who are truly platform neutral," Gartner analyst Andrew Frank said.

    Google held 24 percent of the U.S. market last year, while Millennial had 17 percent and Apple 15.5 percent, according to market research firm IDC. Unlisted Jumptap held 9.5 percent, Yahoo Inc 7.5 percent and India's InMobi 2.2. percent.

    Ireland-based Velti Plc, which listed in early 2011, is also chasing market share.

    Investors are taking notice.

    While Facebook Inc has been pilloried for lacking a mobile strategy, shares of Millennial have jumped 76 percent from a low of $9 in early August. Shares of Velti have leaped 59 percent from a life low of $4.99 on July 25.

    Millennial, a roughly $1 billion company, is a great bet for someone looking for investments in mobile advertising, said Steven Dray, a portfolio manager at investment firm AlphaOne Capital Partners LLC.

    "When you get to brand advertising, which is eventually going to be a huge pile of money that's going to move from traditional advertising to mobile, I think that's where Millennial and some of the smaller players could have very good success," Dray said.

    AlphaOne bought into Millennial after its initial public offering in March and holds about 40,000 shares in the company.

    Despite the run-up in their shares, the smaller firms have not run ahead of the sector. Millennial trades at 4.3 times forward 12-month sales and Velti trades at 1.3 times.

    While their businesses are obviously much bigger and more varied, Google trades at a multiple of 4.6 and Facebook at 6.7.

    As consumers increasingly surf the Web on the go, advertisers are looking to ply them with targeted information about nearby restaurants, pubs, theaters, shops and salons.

    But there's no point pitching a shampoo to a skinhead, so the secret sauce for advertisers is user information -- and Millennial's trove of user data is what CEO Paul Palmieri is counting on to give his firm an advantage.

    Millennial gathers "first-party" data -- information that users provide to a publisher, or that is gleaned from surfing habits that website owners share with advertising companies.

    "It is also valuable to users because the more targeted-advertising they get, the more relevant their experience ends up being," Palmieri said, although analysts say the privacy issues this raises are yet to be resolved.

    The smaller companies tout their tight focus on the mobile sector, rather than worrying about how that fits in with online advertising.

    "We only focus on mobile. Google on the other hand has many different things to worry about. Yes mobile is important, but is it the most important? Probably not," said InMobi CEO Naveen Tewari, although he is not complacent about the challenge.

    "The only way to compete with (Google) is by innovating faster," said Tewari, who expects his 850-person company to report billions of dollars in revenue in a couple of years.

    RISING COMPETITION

    But the big guns are not far away. The entry of Facebook and Twitter is expected to change mobile advertising.

    Facebook, which declined to comment for this story, is investing heavily in improving mobile applications and creating new metrics to measure the success of mobile advertising -- a move expected to give a fillip to the wider market.

    "There is a lack of maturity in the metrics that are available for measuring mobile campaigns," Gartner's Frank said.

    "That's where there's an opening for innovation that some of the larger companies are not able to satisfy today."

    Twitter, too, expanded its advertising program for the iPhone and Android devices and now sells promoted tweets and advertises promoted accounts on its mobile applications timeline, rather than only on a search page.

    And Google is determined not to lose its No.1 spot. It bought mobile ad platform AdMob in 2009 and its YouTube video service recently launched a new iPhone app that carries video advertisements.

    The success of iPhones and Android smartphones and the fact that Google owns many popular mobile applications also helps push its mobile advertisements.

    ROAD BLOCKS

    The mobile advertising model has its detractors, and some have groused that the small screen on mobile devices makes viewing advertisements difficult, while a lack of good mobile websites might keep away potential viewers.

    Users tend to spend less time on their mobiles in one go and advertisements have to be designed for short attention spans.

    "I think it's still a struggle. Most of the advertising that you see on mobile devices today is still predominantly not very well targeted or not very granually targeted," Frank said.

    Uncertainty about how best to advertise on mobile platforms is holding back the valuations of mobile advertising firms, Baird and Co analyst Colin Sebastian said.

    While industry-standard measurements are lacking, the companies argue that mobile advertising has five times the click-through rate of online advertising.

    "You can touch the ad, flip the ad, move the ad, you can do things that you cannot do on a PC. Your interactivity levels are very high," Tewari said.

    (This story was corrected to remove paragraph 29 that refers to Google's mobile advertisement revenue run-rate as the data was from 2011)

    (Additional reporting by Aurindom Mukherjee; Editing by Rodney Joyce)

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Reuter site - Nobel for quantum "parlor trick" that could make super computers

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    Nobel for quantum "parlor trick" that could make super computers

    Tue, Oct 09 08:18 AM EDT

    By Niklas Pollard and Anna Ringstrom

    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A French and an American scientist won the Nobel Prize on Tuesday for finding ways to measure quantum particles without destroying them, which could make it possible to build a new kind of computer far more powerful than any seen before.

    Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland, both 68, found ways to manipulate the very smallest particles of matter and light to observe strange behavior that previously could only be imagined in equations and thought experiments.

    Wineland has described his own work as a "parlor trick" that performed the seemingly magical feat of putting an object in two places at once. Other scientists praised the achievements as bringing to life the wildest dreams of science fiction.

    "The Nobel laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them," said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awarded them the 8 million crown ($1.2 million) Nobel Prize in Physics.

    "Perhaps the quantum computer will change our everyday lives in this century in the same radical way as the classical computer did in the last century."

    Haroche said he was walking in the street with his wife when he recognized the Swedish country code on the incoming call to inform him of the award.

    "I saw the area code 46, then I sat down," he told reporters in Sweden by telephone. "First I called my children, then I called my closest colleagues, without whom I would never have won this prize," he said. Asked how he would celebrate, he said: "I will have champagne, of course."

    He told Reuters he hoped the prize would give him a platform "that will allow me to communicate ideas, not just in this field of research but for research in general, fundamental research".

    Physics is the second of this year's crop of awards; scientists from Britain and Japan shared the first prize on Monday, in medicine, for adult stem cell research. The prizes, which reward achievements in science, literature and peace, were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of Swedish dynamite millionaire Alfred Nobel.

    WEIRDER ASPECTS

    "This year's Nobel Prize recognizes some of the most incredible experimental tests of the weirder aspects of quantum mechanics," said Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics at the University of Surrey in Britain.

    "Until the last decade or two, some of these results were nothing more than ideas in science fiction or, at best, the wilder imaginations of quantum physicists. Wineland and Haroche and their teams have shown just how strange the quantum world really is and opened up the potential for new technologies undreamt of not so long ago."

    Quantum physics studies the behavior of the fundamental building blocks of the universe at a scale smaller than atoms, when tiny particles act in strange ways that can only be described with advanced mathematics.

    Researchers have long dreamt of building "quantum computers" that would operate using that mathematics - able to conduct far more complicated calculations and hold vastly more data than classical computers. But they could only be built if the behavior of individual particles could be observed.

    "Single particles are not easily isolated from their surrounding environment, and they lose their mysterious quantum properties as soon as they interact with the outside world," the Nobel committee explained.

    "Through their ingenious laboratory methods Haroche and Wineland, together with their research groups, have managed to measure and control very fragile quantum states, which were previously thought inaccessible for direct observation. The new methods allow them to examine, control and count the particles."

    Both scientists work in the field of quantum optics, studying the fundamental interactions between light and matter. The Nobel committee said they used opposite approaches to the same problem: Wineland uses light particles - or photons - to measure and control particles of matter - electrons - while Haroche uses electrons to control and measure photons.

    In one of the strange properties of quantum mechanics, tiny particles act as if they are simultaneously in two locations, based on the likelihood that they would be found at either, known as a "superposition".

    It was long thought that it would be impossible to demonstrate this in a lab. But Wineland's "parlor trick" was to hit an atom with laser light, which according to quantum theory would have a 50 percent chance of moving it, and observe the atom at two different locations, 80 billionths of a meter apart.

    In a normal computer, a switch must either be on or off. A quantum computer would work with switches that, like the particles in Wineland's experiment, behaved as if they were in more than one position at the same time.

    An example is a computer trying to work out the shortest route around town for a travelling salesman. A traditional computer might try every possible route and then choose the shortest. A quantum computer could do the calculation in one step, as if the salesman travelled each route simultaneously.

    ($1 = 6.6125 Swedish crowns)

    (Additional reporting by Sharon Begley, Patrick Lannin, Alistair Scrutton, Chris Wickham, Ben Hirschler and Nicholas Vinocur; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Will Waterman)

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Reuter site - Facebook's new pitch to brand advertisers: forget about clicks

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    Facebook's new pitch to brand advertisers: forget about clicks

    Mon, Oct 01 12:12 PM EDT

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc, stung by doubts that advertising on the social network delivers enough bang for the buck, is preparing to unveil data to counter its critics and show that "clicks," the current metric of choice, tell only half the story.

    The world's No. 1 social network, embarrassed just days before its IPO when General Motors declared it was pulling the plug on all paid advertising on its network, will argue that big-brand marketers should abandon the industry's obsession with numbers of clicks and focus on more effective advertising techniques.

    Fewer than 1 percent of in-store sales tied to brand advertising campaigns on Facebook come from people who clicked on an ad, according to a new study that Facebook has conducted through a partnership with Datalogix, a data mining firm that tracks real world retail sales.

    "We ended up in this world where the click is king," said Brad Smallwood, Facebook's head of measurement and insights, who will present some of Facebook's findings at one of the advertising industry's biggest conferences in New York on Monday.

    While designing online ads to garner clicks makes sense for certain type of companies - such as e-commerce firms trying to ring-up immediate online sales - clicks are not relevant to brand marketers, Smallwood said.

    Through its partnership with Datalogix, Facebook says it can now give brand marketers data on the actual in-store sales that their ad campaigns on Facebook have generated - a more useful piece of feedback than total clicks. Datalogix tracks the relationship between ads on Facebook and real-world spending by compiling consumer purchasing information from retail stores and matching it with data about Facebook ad impressions.

    Facebook's push to provide marketers with more feedback comes as the company's revenue growth slows and the effectiveness of its ads remains a hotly debated topic. Facebook, whose stock by the end of the third quarter was down 43 percent since its May initial public offering, has unveiled a variety of new advertising capabilities in recent months, including its first ads designed to be viewed on smartpthones.

    "Advertisers have been increasingly vocal about concerns regarding effectiveness of Facebook," said Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser.

    Clicks became a metric of choice in part because they had become directly tied to Google Inc's performance. The world's No. 1 Web search engine offers an effective and easy-to-measure form of advertising because it lets marketers reach consumers at the moment they are searching for a particular product.

    If a consumer clicks on the search ad, the job is done.

    But Facebook argues that for brand advertisers, fine-tuning the number of times a particular consumer sees an ad as well as ensuring that the ad has reached all of its target audience are far more effective techniques.

    According to Smallwood, marketers can increase the return on investment from their ads by 40 percent by focusing on an ad's so-called frequency - instead of one Facebook user seeing an ad 100 times and another user seeing the ad only twice, for example, Facebook says it will soon offer advertisers' insight on the ideal number of ad impressions for a particular campaign.

    "Using the Datalogix tool, we'll able to understand what that sweetspot is," Smallwood said, adding that Facebook will then control how often each user sees the ad.

    Many large brand advertising campaigns are not even hitting half of their target audience, according to Smallwood. But ad campaigns that focus on getting the optimal reach are 88 percent more effective at improving their return on investment, Facebook says its studies have shown.

    Getting online advertisers to break their long-running focus on clicks will not be easy, but Facebook says the techniques it is advocating are standard in the television advertising world.

    As Facebook strives to convince marketers to think differently, the company also has to assuage privacy concerns.

    Facebook's partnership with Datalogix has raised complaints from some privacy advocates, who say the social networking company could be violating the terms of a privacy settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by not obtaining the express consent from users to share their personal information.

    Smallwood said that the only information given to Datalogix is that people were exposed to certain marketing messages, adding that Facebook is not receiving any personal consumer information from Datalogix.

    (Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic)

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    Reuter site - Insight: Italy's slow Internet set for reboot

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    Insight: Italy's slow Internet set for reboot

    Wed, Sep 26 04:55 AM EDT

    By Danilo Masoni and Leila Abboud

    MILAN/PARIS (Reuters) - IMM Hydraulics, a small exporter of hoses for industries such as agriculture and mining, is the kind of firm that should be at the center of Italy's efforts to rekindle its stagnant economy.

    Instead, the company, located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, is wrestling with a basic impediment to profitability: a woefully slow broadband connection. With just 2 megabits (MB) per second, IMM Hydraulics' broadband connection lags behind the 5 MB typical in Italian cities, which in turn is well behind an average of 12 MB in France and 16 MB in Germany.

    "It takes us days to process an order whereas it could take half an hour," said finance director Marcello Di Campli. "Broadband is one of our biggest problems, probably just after our access to credit."

    Europe's fourth-largest economy has long been an Internet laggard, its creaky networks stunting the development of online commerce and banking. Italians pay among the highest prices in Europe for broadband speeds on a par with Estonia or Cyprus. As a result, only half the population uses the Internet at least once a week and Italian firms generate 5.4 percent of sales on-line compared to 13.9 percent elsewhere in Europe.

    Now the reformist government of Prime Minister Mario Monti has identified better broadband as a national priority to spur growth and reduce Italy's 11 percent unemployment and bulging deficits.

    "The statistics on e-commerce are chilling ... The broadband gap constrains growth by reducing the competitiveness of export-oriented companies," said Paolo Gentiloni, former communications minister and member of a group of deputies that has made proposals to support online commerce and government services.

    In the government's sights is one-time monopoly Telecom Italia, which it believes has long thwarted competition and put off investing in its domestic network because of its huge debts.

    Monti's government has enlisted state-backed finance body Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) to work out a plan with Telecom Italia and its rivals to create a nationwide super-fast fiber optic broadband network.

    One of the most radical options under discussion is for Telecom Italia to spin off its existing network of decades-old copper lines - worth between 9 and 15 billion euros - into a separate company that would run Italy's fixed telephone and broadband system and sell capacity to other Internet providers on a wholesale basis. The new "access network company" could be partly state-owned and would have more incentive to invest in broadband, say advocates, because it would have neither debt to pay nor market share to defend.

    Such a move would amount to something of a revolution in Europe and would test whether the state can be more effective than the private sector in building national broadband infrastructure.

    Australia's government provided the blue-print in 2009 when, frustrated with the slow pace of investment, it became the first country to create a national company charged with building a single open access fiber broadband network to 90 percent of homes by 2021. Britain adopted a slightly different approach, requiring BT Group to create a separate subsidiary to sells wholesale access to competitors and build fiber broadband across the country.

    TO SPLIT OR NOT TO SPLIT

    Telecom Italia, like other former telecom monopolies in Europe, owns the last meters of copper lines to homes and businesses, which it then rents out to competitors - mobile operators Vodafone, Wind, and Hutchison's 3 - for a monthly fee set by regulators.

    In Italy and elsewhere, it is these decades-old copper lines that need to be replaced by fiber optic wires to boost broadband speeds to up to 100 megabits per second. Updating those wires will cost 200 billion euros, says the European Commission, a sum telecom operators will struggle to mobilize.

    Italy can't just issue orders to Telecom Italia because the company is no longer owned by the state but by individual shareholders and a consortium of three Italian banks and Telefonica. So government officials are using other ways to persuade it.

    After months of fruitless negotiations between Telecom Italia chairman Franco Bernabe and CDP head Franco Bassanini, the state pledged to invest up to 500 million euro in Metroweb, a competing fiber broadband project in Italy's north, to up the pressure, a source close to the Metroweb group said.

    Bassanini told Reuters that the CDP was "absolutely open to finding an agreement" and that talks with Telecom Italia were ongoing on "a broader hypothesis" than just the Metroweb investment. He acknowledged that the creation of a combined network company that merged all the current Italian network assets would be "highly sensitive" for Telecom Italia.

    According to a person close to Telecom Italia, the CDP has hired Deutsche Bank to analyze the value of its network in preparation for hiving it off.

    The pressure is taking effect: Telecom Italia is debating the spin-off idea internally and Bernabe has promised a decision by the end of this year.

    Telecom Italia has also agreed to share some infrastructure with rival broadband provider Fastweb and to co-ordinate the rollouts of their respective fiber networks in a bid to cut costs - a deal that could make negotiations over a broader nationwide project easier, analysts say.

    But Telecom Italia executives are divided over whether spinning off its fixed network is wise, said two people close to the company. Chief Executive Marco Patuano is backing the move because he believes the infrastructure's value will decline with the advent of super-fast mobile technology known as LTE, as well as competing fiber projects in Italy.

    By contrast Bernabe believes owning the last meters of copper into people's homes represents a competitive advantage since rivals must pay to access it to be able to offer broadband to their customers. He has repeatedly said Telecom Italia will not do anything to lose control over its network.

    UPGRADE STRATEGIES

    Governments around the world are trying different strategies to upgrade their systems.

    The United States is relying solely on competition in the private sector while Japan and Korea have ploughed public money into building nationwide fiber-optic networks, a task made easier by dense urban geography. Sweden and Norway became European leaders in fibre-optic broadband penetration via a mixture of tax breaks, subsidies for rural deployments, and in Sweden's case, requiring state-owned municipal utilities to create local networks.

    Although it is early to judge Australia's nationwide fibre project, Britain's effective separation of BT in 2005 has taken the country from the middle of Europe's rankings on broadband speeds, cost and usage to near the top.

    In the European Union, telecom operators and policymakers have spent the past year fighting. Operators argue they shouldn't have to share the new networks with rivals if they are to bear the cost of building them alone. The wrangling has contributed to upgrade delays in Italy and elsewhere.

    Brussels now says member states will not be required to make the operators share fibre networks and has given operators free rein to choose what technology to deploy, in a regulatory framework that will operate to at least 2020.

    Crucially, regulators will no longer set the prices at which incumbents sell wholesale access to smaller competitors on new fibre networks, so long as incumbents offer "equivalent" prices to everyone.

    Gabrielle Gauthey, a former telecoms regulator in France who now works at Alcatel-Lucent, argues governments have a role to play in enabling adequate broadband coverage.

    "Many telcos just don't have the money to invest the sums that are needed," said Gauthey. "It's a massive effort not unlike electrifying a whole country."

    A network spin-off could help Telecom Italia reach its debt reduction targets and cut its 30.4 billion euro debt pile - and the operator seems to be seriously considering the idea. In a recent presentation to investors at a Sanford Bernstein conference, Telecom Italia said the rewards of a separating out its fixed network now outweighed the risks.

    A banker close to Telecom Italia put the probability of the group going through with the spin-off at 70 percent, and two other banking sources say the company is considering appointing two banks to advise it on the mechanics.

    A decision can't come soon enough for businessmen like Siro Badon, who owns a business in a shoe manufacturing district near Venice where local companies export 92 percent of the 20 million pairs of shoes made every year.

    "Some companies in our district work with brands like Louis Vuitton and Armani with stylists in Paris and all over the world. Imagine the huge damage it causes not being able to communicate swiftly," Badon said.

    "Sometimes I feel we are carrying an old country on our shoulders. I wait and hope."

    (Editing by Sophie Walker)

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Reuter site - Apple snubs emerging mobile payment standard

    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:
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    Apple snubs emerging mobile payment standard

    Thu, Sep 13 20:47 PM EDT

    By Alistair Barr and David Henry

    SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - EBay Inc Chief Executive John Donahoe often quotes a merchant saying NFC stands for "Not For Commerce" - and dismisses the prospects of Near Field Communication technology used to turn cellphones into mobile wallets.

    He got some support this week from Apple Inc, which did not embed NFC chips into the iPhone 5.

    NFC proponents had hoped Apple would endorse the technology, which passes encrypted data between devices at close range without contact. So instead of swiping a credit card, shoppers can simply wave their phones at a checkout terminal to pay for their goods.

    The technology is backed by the largest U.S. carriers and credit card companies, but has failed to take off in America because merchants have been reluctant to spend money to upgrade their checkout terminals until NFC is more widely adopted.

    "Anyone hoping NFC would be a reality soon is disappointed," said Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "Many in the industry were hoping inclusion in the iPhone would be a springboard for more adoption. This takes the impetus away."

    NFC technology, which has uses beyond mobile payments, is backed by Isis, a mobile wallet joint venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc and T-Mobile USA. Isis' financial services partners include American Express, JPMorgan Chase and Capital One Financial.

    Like many new technologies, NFC is hampered by a chicken-and-egg problem. Mobile phone makers like Apple are reluctant to take on the extra cost and engineering effort of embedding NFC chips because many merchants can't accept payments this way yet. Meanwhile, merchants won't install NFC until more consumers have the technology on their phones.

    Isis said on Thursday that it was delaying the launch of its NFC mobile payments service for the second time this year.

    "Isis has placed a massive bet on NFC," said David Evans, founder of Market Platform Dynamics and an adviser to companies in the payments business. Apple's decision "is another reason to believe that Isis doesn't have much promise of getting off the ground."

    Apple did not include NFC because it is not clear the technology solves any current problem, marketing chief Phil Schiller told AllThingsD on Wednesday.

    APPLE: WE'LL PASS

    Instead of embracing NFC, Apple is developing Passbook, a mobile app that pulls together loyalty cards, tickets and coupons on the new iPhone. Many analysts consider this an early version of a digital wallet, except Passbook does not let users link their credit and debit cards yet.

    Other digital wallets have already been developed by companies including eBay's PayPal, Google Inc and Visa Inc. These wallets aim to bring together credit and debit cards, bank accounts, loyalty cards, rewards and coupons in one place, letting shoppers pay for purchases mostly online, but increasingly in physical stores too.

    NFC's advocates argue it eliminates plastic and cash and can be more secure than magnetic strips. But that alone will not persuade consumers to stop using credit cards in stores because plastic is already so convenient, experts say.

    "It is a new technology and one that is unfamiliar to users. So that opens up new possibilities for abuse and naiveté," said Charlie Miller, principal research consultant with Accuvant. But he said NFC allows for interesting security options that traditional credit cards don't, such as account numbers that change dynamically.

    PayPal is betting that other services that make digital wallets more useful will encourage consumers to switch - it is designing a digital wallet that helps consumers do as many things as possible from one place, including buying flight or movie tickets, sending money to other people and tapping coupons, rewards and loyalty cards.

    "Technology is not what's going to win this digital wallet war. It's going to be about the consumer value proposition," said Carey Kolaja, senior director for PayPal's product team.

    Others argue NFC still has potential, partly because merchant incentives from Visa and MasterCard are expected to spark a wave of payment terminal upgrades in coming years. These upgrades will include NFC capability.

    "It is difficult to buy a new terminal that doesn't already have NFC technology, and soon it will be impossible," said Rick Oglesby of consulting firm Aite Group.

    But the software and service providers behind the terminals will also have to be ready to accept and process payments that come with coupons, loyalty cards and rewards programs.

    At the moment, most terminals can handle the amount of the transaction and the card number and not much else, Oglesby said.

    Until this is all sorted out, Apple will likely wait to enter the payments business aggressively, Oglesby and others said. Apple took a similar approach to 4G LTE wireless technology, waiting until coverage was wide enough this year to unveil an iPhone that uses it, Oglesby noted.

    "They won't do something until they know a lot of their customers will use the service," he said.

    (Reporting By Alistair Barr in San Francisco and David Henry in New York; additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Edwin Chan, Tiffany Wu and Phil Berlowitz)

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Reuter site - Apple triumphs over Samsung in landmark patent case

    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:
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    Apple triumphs over Samsung in landmark patent case

    Fri, Aug 24 22:01 PM EDT

    By Gerry Shih and Dan Levine

    SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Apple Inc scored a sweeping legal victory over Samsung on Friday as a U.S. jury found the Korean company had copied critical features of the hugely popular iPhone and iPad and awarded the U.S. company $1.05 billion in damages.

    The verdict -- which came after less than three days of jury deliberations -- could lead to an outright ban on sales of key Samsung products and will likely solidify Apple's dominance of the exploding mobile computing market.

    Apple's victory is a big blow to Google, whose Android software powers the Samsung products that were found to infringe on Apple patents. Google and its hardware partners, including the company's own Motorola unit, could now face further legal hurdles in their effort to compete with the Apple juggernaut.

    Samsung lawyers were grimfaced in the quiet but crowded San Jose courtroom as the verdict was read, and the company later put out a statement calling the outcome "a loss for the American consumer."

    The jury deliberated for less than three days before delivering the verdict on seven Apple patent claims and five Samsung patent claims -- suggesting that the nine-person panel had little difficulty in concluding that Samsung had copied the iPhone and the iPad.

    Because the panel found "willful" infringement, Apple could seek triple damages.

    Apple upended the mobile phone business when it introduced the iPhone in 2007, and shook the industry again in 2010 when it rolled out the iPad.

    It has been able to charge premium prices for the iPhone -- with profit margins of as much as 58 percent per phone -- for a product consumers regarded as a huge advance in design and usability.

    The company's late founder, Steve Jobs, vowed to "go to thermonuclear war" when Google launched Android, according to his biographer, and the company has filed lawsuits around the world in an effort to block what it considers brazen copying of its inventions.

    The legal win on Friday came one year after CEO Tim Cook assumed the helm of the company. Shares in Apple, which just this week became the biggest company by market value in history, climbed almost 2 percent to a record high of $675 in after-hours trade.

    Brian Love, a Santa Clara law school professor, described the verdict as a crushing victory for Apple: "This is the best-case scenario Apple could have hoped for."

    CHALLENGE FOR COMPETITORS

    The verdict comes as competition in the mobile device industry intensifies, with Google jumping into hardware for the first time with its Nexus 7 tablet, and Microsoft's new touchscreen friendly Windows 8 coming in October, led by its "Surface" tablet.

    Apple's victory could present immediate issues for companies that sell Android-based smartphones and tablets, including Google's own Motorola subsidiary, which it acquired last year for $12.5 billion, and HTC of Taiwan.

    Amazon -- which has made major inroads into the tablet market with its cheaper Kindle Fire -- uses a modified version of Android for its Kindle products but has not yet been subject to legal challenge by Apple.

    Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said the entire Android universe may now have to consider "doing something different."

    "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at it and figure it out," he said. "Prior to the iPhone, none of the phones were like that. Android, if you look at it, is very similar."

    Some in the industry say Apple's legal offensive is bad for consumers.

    "Thx Apple it's now mandatory for tech companies to sue each other. Prices go up, competition & innovation suffer," Mark Cuban, an Internet entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, said in a Twitter message.

    But the legal battles are far from over. In a separate but related case, Apple has won a pre-trial injunction against the Google Nexus tablet. Another lawsuit, against Motorola, was thrown out recently by a federal judge in Chicago, but litigation between the two at the International Trade Commission continues.

    Earlier on Friday, a South Korean court found that both companies shared blame for patent infringement, ordering Samsung to stop selling 10 products including its Galaxy S II phone and banning Apple from selling four different products, including its iPhone 4.

    Still, the trial on Apple's home turf -- the world's largest and most influential technology market -- was considered the most important test of whether Apple would be able to gain substantial patent protection for the iPhone and the iPad.

    FAST-PACED, HIGH-STRESS TRIAL

    The legal fight began last year when Apple sued Samsung in multiple countries, and Samsung countersued. The U.S. jury spent most of August in a packed federal courtroom in San Jose -- just miles from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino -- listening to testimony, examining evidence and watching lawyers from both sides joust about patents and damage claims.

    Jurors received over 100 pages of legal instructions from U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on August 21, prior to hearing the closing arguments from attorneys.

    Lawyers from both tech giants used their 25 hours each of trial time to present internal emails, draw testimony from designers and experts, and put on product demonstrations and mockups to convince the jury.

    At times, their questions drew testimony that offered glimpses behind the corporate facade, such as the margins on the iPhone and Samsung's sales figures in the United States.

    From the beginning, Apple's tactic was to present what it thought was chronological evidence of Samsung copying its phone.

    Juxtaposing pictures of phones from both companies and internal Samsung emails that specifically analyzed the features of the iPhone, Apple's attorneys accused Samsung of taking shortcuts after realizing it could not keep up.

    Samsung's attorneys, on the other hand, maintained Apple had no sole right to geometric designs such as rectangles with rounded corners. They called Apple's damage claim "ridiculous" and urged the jury to consider that a verdict in favor of Apple could stifle competition and reduce choices for consumers.

    Samsung's trial team appeared to suffer from strategic difficulties throughout the case. Judge Koh gave each side 25 hours to present evidence, but Samsung had used more time than Apple before Samsung even began calling its own witnesses.

    By the end of the trial, Samsung attorneys had to forgo cross-examination of some Apple witnesses due to time constraints. During closing arguments, Samsung lead attorney Charles Verhoeven played mostly defense, spending relatively little time discussing Samsung's patent claims against Apple.

    The jury had not been expected to return a decision so rapidly. Even on Friday, Samsung's lead lawyer was spotted casually clad in a polo T-shirt and jeans.

    But late Friday afternoon, a court officer announced a verdict had been reached. After the verdict was read, Koh found some inconsistencies in the complex jury form and asked the jury to revisit it, ultimately resulting in a reduction of about $2 million in the damages award.

    The jury decided Samsung infringed six out of seven Apple patents in the case, and that Apple had not infringed any of Samsung's patents. Apple's protected technology includes the ability for a mobile device to distinguish one finger on the screen or two, the design of screen icons, and the front surface of the phone.

    The jury also upheld the validity of Apple's patents, and said Samsung acted willfully when it violated several of Apple's patents. That could form a basis for Koh to triple the damages tab owed by Samsung.

    "This is a vindication of Apple's effort to create significant airspace around their design, and that's relevant not just for Samsung, but for firms coming over the horizon," said Nick Rodelli, a lawyer and adviser to institutional investors for CFRA Research in Maryland.

    Apple's lawyers said they planned to file for an injunction against Samsung products within seven days. Koh set a hearing for September 20.

    The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Apple Inc v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd et al, No. 11-1846.

    (Additional reporting by Poornima Gupta and Edwin Chan; Editing by Gary Hill)

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