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    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Reuter site - AT&T says will complete wireless network upgrade by end 2013

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    AT&T says will complete wireless network upgrade by end 2013

    Thu, Jan 05 15:24 PM EST

    (Reuters) - AT&T Inc is on track to finish its wireless network upgrade with faster mobile Web services by the end of 2013, having exceeded its target for 2011, a top executive said.

    By the end of last year the company had extended its new high-speed service to markets of 74 million people, surpassing its previous target of 70 million, John Stankey, AT&T's head of business solutions, said at a conference on Thursday.

    Cities such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles now have access to the "blazing fast" network, he said.

    The No. 2 U.S. mobile operator has been lagging Verizon Wireless in offering services based on a technology known as Long Term Evolution, which the larger rival has been offering since late 2000.

    AT&T had hoped to bring new services more quickly to customers with its plans to buy Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA for $39 billion but the deal fell apart at the close of 2011 due to fierce regulatory opposition.

    The deal would have allowed AT&T to vault to the top position in the U.S. mobile market, leapfrogging market leader Verizon Wireless - a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc

    "It's unfortunate we didn't get it done," Stankey said.

    "Now we have to go back to run a different set of plays," he said, adding that the company would continue to evaluate spectrum markets.

    (Reporting By Nicola Leske; editing by Mark Porter)

    Reuter site - Kanye West floods Twitter with "train of thoughts"

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    Kanye West floods Twitter with "train of thoughts"

    Thu, Jan 05 18:49 PM EST

    By Piya Sinha-Roy

    LOS ANGELES, JAN 5 - Rapper Kanye West had the Twitterverse buzzing on Thursday after posting a series of more than 80 tweets in a "train of thoughts" that left many fans and critics scratching their heads.

    The "Watch The Throne" rapper spent more than three hours posting numerous tweets discussing his struggles in the fashion industry, his views on politics and infrastructure, and being inspired by his late mother Donda to start a design company in her name.

    "We need to take what Michael Jackson felt and Mcqueen and Steve Jobs and we need make things better," West said on Twitter during the early hours of Thursday morning from London, referring to the late singing legend, fashion designer Alexander McQueen and Apple's founding visionary.

    Media outlets tried to interpret West's posts in various ways, with publications such as Slate focusing on West's announcement of design company DONDA, while others like MTV opted to highlight tweets telling readers what was on the rapper's mind.

    "He's a mad genius," said Ian Drew, music editor of Us Weekly. "His ideas are grandiose, but if you look at the history of Kanye, he would tweet an idea and it would happen. He's trying to be understood and heard."

    This is not the first time West has made headlines for broadcasting his thoughts. In 2005, the rapper deviated from a script on live television at a benefit for Hurricane Katrina to criticize then U.S. president George Bush.

    More recently in 2009, West jumped onto stage during the MTV Video Music Awards and stole the microphone from country singer Taylor Swift, who won an award for best female video, to declare that R&B star Beyonce had "one of the best videos of all time."

    "In general, Kanye is someone who thinks he is incredibly important," said Cooper Lawrence, author of "The Cult of Celebrity."

    She said the Twitter posts "showed insight into who he really is," and speculated on the rapper's mental condition, saying she "wouldn't be surprised if Kanye was suffering from depression."

    "He's someone who lost his mother very early in a surprising way. He's gone through a lot of pain and he might not have someone to talk to," said Lawrence. "His life is lonelier than people realize."

    West, who is currently nominated for seven Grammy awards, also announced plans for a new album from his record label GOOD Music in spring.

    (Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

    Reuter site - New iPhone doubles data consumption: study

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    New iPhone doubles data consumption: study

    Thu, Jan 05 19:15 PM EST

    By Tarmo Virki, European Technology Correspondent

    (Reuters) - Apple's new iPhone 4S consumes on average twice as much data as the previous iPhone model and even more than iPad tablets due to increasing use of online services like the virtual personal assistant Siri, an industry study showed.

    When Apple rolled out the iPhone 4S in October, its small improvements disappointed many analysts and reviewers, but consumer demand for the device has been strong, and buyers have extensively used their devices.

    IPhone 4S users transfer on average three times more data than users of the older iPhone 3G model which was used as the benchmark in a study by telecom network technology firm Arieso.

    Data usage of the previous model, the iPhone 4, was only 1.6 times higher than the iPhone 3G, while iPad2 tablets consumed 2.5 times more data than the iPhone 3G, the study showed.

    Today's generation of smartphones is placing increasing demands on available carrier bandwidth as applications become slicker and average personal usage of videos intensifies.

    That sharp rise in data consumption puts more pressure on wireless operators to speed up capacity investments, as they are struggling already with clogged telecom networks to keep up with growing demand for data services on the go.

    A smartphone's consumption of data depends upon what the user asks it to do.

    The iPhone 4S is perceived by some as a data hog because of Siri, a well-reviewed virtual personal-assistant and search app. It is integrated into the iPhone 4S and responds to voice commands.

    "I use the iPhone 4 myself and when I first heard of the iPhone 4S features I was not compelled to rush out and get one. However, the data usage numbers I am seeing make me wonder what I am missing," said Arieso's chief technology officer, Michael Flanagan.

    He said as tablets use smartphone-like user interfaces and software platforms, their data usage was similar to top-end smartphones.

    "A tablet still looks like a big smartphone," he said.

    Mobile data usage has skyrocketed since the introduction of Apple's original iPhone in 2007, with usage of data networks seen roughly doubling each year. Emerging mobile cloud services such as Siri are expected to further boost growth.

    Wireless operators are keen on raising revenue from Internet browsing and the social networking boom as revenue from traditional voice calls declines, but they are facing increasingly congested networks.

    Fearful of losing customers, only a few operators have publicly admitted to the problem of keeping pace with data traffic, but the majority are experiencing difficulties.

    "There is no silver bullet," Flanagan said, adding that the introduction of new, more efficient LTE networks will help. But he said operators should also identify heavy users of data and distribute small cellsites to them to offload traffic from mobile networks.

    New, so-called small cell technologies enable operators to use tiny, almost personal base stations which cost around $100 to remove mobile data traffic from the big base stations which serve hundreds or thousands of clients around them.

    Telecoms gear makers Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent -- which have had to battle aggressive pricing by Asian rivals -- hope rising data traffic will lead to new orders.

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

    Reuter site - Barnes & Noble may split off Nook, cuts forecast

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    Barnes & Noble may split off Nook, cuts forecast

    Thu, Jan 05 18:33 PM EST

    By Phil Wahba

    (Reuters) - Barnes & Noble Inc cut its Nook sales forecast and shocked investors by saying it may spin off its fast-growing digital business, sending its shares plunging 17 percent.

    The No. 1 U.S. bookstore chain has relied on readers, tablets and electronic books to offset shriveling sales at its brick-and-mortar stores, so news of weaker-than-expected Nook sales stoked fears the company is struggling to keep up with Inc's market-leading Kindle.

    On Thursday, Barnes & Noble also projected a steeper net loss for the fiscal year than Wall Street had been expecting as it keeps shelling out on the Nook.

    The retailer has poured tens of millions of dollars into the e-reader device. The first version hit the market in 2009, two years after the Kindle.

    Barnes & Noble said in a statement it wanted to "unlock" the value of the Nook business and bring it to foreign markets. The company has opened discussions with potential partners such as publishers, retailers and technology companies outside the United States, it added.

    One retail banker who declined to be identified said the Nook business was a faster-growing technology asset trapped within a slower retail stock, and theorized that Barnes & Noble simply wanted to spin off the Nook business to give it a chance to trade at a higher valuation.

    The bookseller said it sold 70 percent more Nook devices this holiday season, while e-book sales doubled. Chief Executive William Lynch told Reuters that investors have not given the company enough credit for that growth.

    "Our (market) share remains very strong," Lynch said. "We certainly think this is not being properly valued.

    The chief executive of Liberty Media Corp, one of Barnes & Noble's largest investors, hinted at a conference earlier in the week that Nook would have an easier time attracting investment as a stand alone business.

    Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, who joined Barnes & Noble's board last year, said on Wednesday that extracting value from Nook and Barnes & Noble could come by finding "partners to help fund that game," referring to Barnes & Noble's digital business.

    But investors were frightened of the prospect of a Barnes & Noble stock that would reflect only its traditional retail business.

    "They would be separating their one growth driver," said Morningstar analyst Peter Wahlstrom. Barnes & Noble without Nook would be too similar to its former rival Borders, which went out of business in 2011.

    But a source familiar with the company's thinking said the retailer would remain intimately involved in developing and promoting the Nook, tapping its links with publishers and fleet of 700 stores, and essentially continue to run the business.

    So even if Barnes & Noble does split off its Nook business, everyday customers will scarcely notice.

    Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale in 2010 but attracted only one firm offer - a bid for $17 per share, or $1 billion, last May from Liberty Media, which was drawn by Nook's growth.

    Liberty ultimately decided to invest $204 million rather than buy the company outright, with much of that money earmarked for the Nook.

    Liberty has preferred shares it can convert into a 16.6 percent stake in Barnes & Noble at a strike price of $17.

    Barnes & Noble shares closed the day down 17 percent at $11.24, after falling as low as 31 percent. The chain now has a market value of about $676 million, or less than 1 percent of Amazon's.


    Barnes & Noble lowered the sales forecast for the fiscal year ending in July 2012 for the Nook business, which accounts for nearly one-quarter of sales, to $1.5 billion from $1.8 billion, in part because of disappointing numbers for its $99 Nook Simple Touch e-reader.

    "Demand for Nook products appears to be decelerating faster than original expectations," Barclays Capital analyst Alan Rifkin said in a research note.

    The war with Amazon is ferocious. Amazon last week said it sold 1 million Kindle devices per week in December, including the Fire tablet and a touchscreen device.

    Other Nook devices fared better than the Simple Touch, including its Nook Tablet. Forrester Research estimates that Amazon sold about 5 million Kindle Fire tablets during the holidays, compared with sales of some 1.5 million Nooks.

    The company is second only to Amazon in the e-books market and claims to have as much as 27 percent of that market.

    But when Barnes & Noble introduced the Nook tablet in November, it also cut the prices on other versions of the device, including the Simple Touch, in response to aggressive pricing by Amazon, which is known for uncutting rivals on price.

    Unlike Amazon, Barnes & Noble's other businesses do not generate enough money to subsidize its e-reader segment. Last month, Barnes & Noble posted an unexpected quarterly loss and last year, it suspended its dividend to finance the Nook.

    Despite the liquidation in September of its one-time archrival, Borders Group, and rising Nook sales, Barnes & Noble now expects sales of $7 billion to $7.2 billion this fiscal year, down from its initial forecast of $7.4 billion, suggesting an accelerating decline in book sales.

    Still, Barnes & Noble expects Borders' disappearance to boost sales $210 million to $250 million.

    Indeed, sales at Barnes & Noble stores open at least 15 months, excluding Nook and e-books, rose 4.5 percent during the holidays, an improvement over recent quarters.

    Barnes & Noble now expects earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of $150 million to $180 million for the fiscal year ending in July, down from its forecast last month of $210 million to $250 million.

    The retailer forecast a loss of $1.40 to $1.10 per share in the fiscal year, much worse than the average Wall Street forecast of a loss of 63 cents.

    In addition to its bookstores, Barnes & Noble operates a chain of textbook stores on college campuses.

    (Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York and Brad Dorfman in Chicago; Additional reporting by Jessica Hall; Editing by John Wallace, Maureen Bavdek and Richard Chang)

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