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    Tuesday, December 10, 2013

    Reuter site - Apps capture life's special memories with digital journals

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    Apps capture life's special memories with digital journals

    Mon, Dec 09 16:00 PM EST

    By Natasha Baker

    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - New apps are keeping track of people's special moments and memories by producing digital scrapbooks and journals that help users log where they have been and what they have done.

    While some apps like Snapchat catch a fleeting moment and make it disappear, memory apps can record the details of each day, whether it is a visit to a restaurant or event or a precious moment with family and friends.

    HeyDay, a free iPhone app, creates a daily timeline based on photos found on the device that are added to a timeline. It also logs venues using the phone's GPS system. Personal notes can be added to the timeline manually.

    "It's this idea of being able to know exactly what you did on every single day of your life. We want to be the ultimate artifact that puts the entirety of your life in your hands," said Siqi Chen, chief executive of San Francisco-based HeyDay.

    The appeal is emotional and nostalgic, he added.

    "Everyone likes the idea of having a journal or scrapbook but most people don't want to put all that work in. We give that experience in an effortless way," he said.

    The app will also give notifications when people return to a city they have already visited and prompt them to look at photos from their past trips to revive memories. Users can tag people in their lives to remember who they were with.

    The app runs in the background and uses up the battery faster than usual. But Chen said the company is trying to reduce the battery drain.

    LifeCrumbs, a free app for the iPhone and Android, lets people record their memories on a calendar and to include a note and photos. Memories can be kept private or shared on social networks.

    Another journaling app called Day One, for iOS devices, records events and logs the temperature and weather in the area. The app, which costs $4.99, also tracks a person's motion activity such as walking, running and biking, and can log what music was playing on the device during the entry.

    (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Richard Chang)

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Reuter site - Mexico to identify possible telecom antitrust targets 'very soon'

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    Mexico to identify possible telecom antitrust targets 'very soon'

    Mon, Nov 11 17:06 PM EST

    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's new telecommunications watchdog said on Monday it may identify this month which companies dominate the local market, likely paving the way for tougher regulation against telecom company America Movil and broadcaster Televisa.

    Gabriel Contreras, president of the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), said the watchdog would in the near future inform the companies it had determined to be dominant, adding that it could be as soon as this month.

    "We'll be notifying the players very soon that according to our information ... could be predominant economic agents," Contreras told reporters in Mexico City.

    Billionaire Carlos Slim's telecommunications company, America Movil, controls 70 percent of the mobile phone market, and about 80 percent of the fixed-line business, while Televisa has more than 60 percent of the TV market.

    Nurturing competition in the telecom industry is one of the main priorities of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who earlier this year pushed a reform through Congress that gives the regulator sweeping powers to shake up the market.

    The reform stipulates that players with a market share of more than 50 percent will be declared "predominant."

    Those companies can be subject to a range of measures aimed at leveling the playing field in Mexico, where much corporate power is concentrated in very few hands.

    Lawmakers in Congress say they expect both America Movil and Televisa to be declared dominant in Mexico by IFT.

    Contreras did not say who would be declared dominant, but when asked whether fair conditions in Mexico existed before the IFT took shape in September, he said: "The answer is no."

    The IFT has until March 9 to decide which measures to apply to dominant players, during which time the companies in question can argue their case against tougher regulation.

    America Movil, which in Mexico provides mobile services with the Telcel brand and fixed lines under the name Telmex, has already said it expects to be declared dominant.

    Those companies may be subject to asymmetric regulation, forced to share infrastructure with competitors - and may even be broken up by the IFT, according to the new laws.

    The idea was to order breakups as a last resort, Contreras said, adding that secondary legislation to implement Pena Nieto's reform would set out conditions for using that option.

    Contreras noted that companies did not have to be declared dominant for the IFT to order them to divest assets, nor does the regulator have to wait until March 9 to apply anti-trust measures.

    The secondary laws are due to be passed by early December.

    Slim and Televisa have spent years battling efforts to impose tougher rules on how they operate, using legal injunctions and appeals to thwart regulators. Much of that legal cover has been swept away by the new reform.

    (Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Matthew Lewis)

    Reuter site - Vodafone to ramp up investment as trading suffers

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    Vodafone to ramp up investment as trading suffers

    Tue, Nov 12 11:21 AM EST

    By Kate Holton

    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Vodafone will spend 7 billion pounds - more than expected and earlier than expected - to increase the speed and coverage of its networks and reverse a record fall in revenues resulting from its struggling European business.

    The world's second-largest mobile operator, which is using some of the proceeds from the $130 billion sale of its U.S. arm to upgrade its infrastructure, said it would spend 3 billion pounds in Europe, 1.5 billion in its emerging markets and the rest on fixed-line assets, enterprise and its retail arm.

    It will complete the program by March 2016 - a billion pounds more than expected and a year earlier than forecast - to meet the demand of consumers who want on-the-go internet access via smartphones and tablets.

    "We expect that during the next three to five years, Europe will definitely improve," Chief Executive Vittorio Colao told reporters. "Therefore, we prefer to have a stronger, more performing and more differentiated operation by then so that we can come out at a higher speed than everybody else."

    Shares in Vodafone were up 0.6 percent at 228.75 pence at 1405 GMT, outperforming the European telecoms index, which was down 0.7 percent.

    The group, which is seen as a possible bid candidate for U.S. giant AT&T, set out the details of its "Project Spring" spending program as it reported first-half results showing the pressures across the group.

    Organic service revenue, which strips out items such as handset sales, currency and acquisitions, was down a worse than expected 4.9 percent in the second quarter due to regulator-imposed price cuts and fierce competition in Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey and Britain. Civil unrest in Egypt also hit demand.

    The 4.9 percent second quarter fall was worse than the 3.5 percent drop recorded in the first quarter and well below the last record fall of 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

    In the three months to the end of September, organic service revenue was down 4.9 percent in northern and central Europe, down 15.5 percent in southern Europe and up 5.7 percent in its emerging markets such as India and South Africa.

    Credit rating agency Moody's said on Tuesday it expected a fifth year of revenue decline in 2014, though operating margins would stabilize, helped by cost cutting and the end of regulatory cuts to mobile call termination fees.

    STRONGER POSITION

    "We view the decision to accelerate and expand Project Spring positively, given it brings forward the commercial benefits and increases competitive pressure on Vodafone's indebted and sub-scale rivals," Goldman Sachs said in a note.

    Vodafone said the spending plans would take 0.6 billion pounds off its core earnings in the 2015 financial year. It expects the investment to result in incremental free cash flow of over 1 billion pounds in the 2019 financial year, and it otherwise reiterated its 2014 outlook.

    Vodafone will now invest a total of 19 billion pounds over two years, when the Project Spring spending is added to regular investment of 12 billion pounds over that period. Colao said the expected improvement in the European economy would combine with an expected increase in the usage of data-hungry smartphones, making the improved network a necessity.

    "We are laying strong foundations for the future," Colao said. "The two years ahead will see the largest and fastest period of network investment in our 25-year history."

    Colao said he expected Vodafone's strongest rivals, likely to include Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom and Orange, to follow suit while smaller rivals would likely struggle.

    Moody's agreed: "Not many incumbent operators have the financial flexibility to match this, and the challengers ... have even less financial flexibility because of their high leverage."

    Strong growth in data consumption by smartphones, tablets and other devices means network quality is becoming more important in the fight to win and keep customers.

    With that in mind, Vodafone decided to plough some of the proceeds from the sale of its 45 percent in Verizon Wireless into infrastructure. But the bulk of the windfall from Verizon Communications - $84 billion - will be handed to shareholders, and the rest used to cut debt.

    Vodafone said its decision to invest had also been driven by a belief that it should see softer regulation from Brussels, which has spent years forcing down roaming and other call fees.

    The group also recognized additional deferred tax assets of 17.7 billion pounds in relation to the group's historical tax losses. It said this would not have any impact on the tax it pays, but analysts said it could prove attractive to a possible suitor.

    Bankers have told Reuters that AT&T is scouting for targets in Europe, with Vodafone the leading candidate - a bold bid that would provide instant scale across the region - but Colao declined to comment on whether he expected a deal to take place.

    ($1 = 0.6261 British pounds)

    (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Paul Sandle and Will Waterman)

    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    Reuter site - Fairfax struggles to raise funds for BlackBerry bid: sources

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    Fairfax struggles to raise funds for BlackBerry bid: sources

    Fri, Nov 01 19:22 PM EDT

    By Soyoung Kim, Nadia Damouni and Nicola Leske

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd is struggling to raise financing for its $4.7 billion bid for BlackBerry Ltd, with several large banks declining to participate on concerns that the smartphone maker will not be able to reverse its fortunes, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Fairfax, which is run by Canadian financier Prem Watsa, is working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets to put together a lending syndicate for a deal, but they have been turned down by several large lenders, the sources said.

    Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO both have deep pockets themselves, and it is still possible they will muster the necessary financing for Fairfax to submit a definitive bid.

    Fairfax, the largest shareholder in BlackBerry with a 10 percent stake, reached a tentative $9-per-share deal with BlackBerry in late September, and has until November 4 to negotiate a definitive agreement.

    Several other potential bidders are also mulling participation in BlackBerry's future. The deadline for them to submit bids for the company is also Monday.

    Fairfax and BlackBerry declined to comment.

    The difficulties Fairfax has had in raising financing underscore the fading relevance of BlackBerry, which once pioneered on-the-go email but has bled market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and devices using Google Inc's Android software in recent years.

    Should Fairfax fail to put together a bid for BlackBerry, a deal could still be possible with other technology companies in the sector. BlackBerry founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin have also declared their interest in buying BlackBerry.

    Lazaridis and Fregin are working to submit a joint bid with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday. Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc also may join the bidding group, that person added.

    It was not clear whether Lazaridis and Fregin would overcome the financing hurdles that Fairfax faces. Cerberus and a spokesman for the two founders declined to comment, while Qualcomm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    STRATEGICS MAY BE TEAMED UP

    BlackBerry also remains in discussions with several technology companies about a deal, the people familiar with the matter said this week, asking not to be named because the matter is confidential.

    The company's advisers are looking to pair up the technology companies that are pursuing different parts of BlackBerry, which include hardware, operating systems, patent portfolios and network assets, the people said.

    BlackBerry has held talks with a number of companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Google Inc, SAP AG, Lenovo Group Ltd, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics Inc and Intel Corp about selling part or all of itself, Reuters previously reported.

    Some of these companies, including SAP, have since walked away from the deal, although the situation is fluid and there is possibility that interest may be renewed, two people said. A SAP spokesman said BlackBerry did not fit with the company's strategy.

    WATSA'S BID

    In a September 25 interview with Reuters, Fairfax Chief Executive Watsa - often described as Canada's answer to Warren Buffett - said he was confident his consortium could find the money needed to fund their bid.

    However, the proposal has met with rising skepticism as BlackBerry's prospects continued to darken. The company in September reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion after taking a writedown on unsold Z10 phones.

    Adding to the company's woes, it's likely to burn through almost $2 billion of its cash pile in the next year and a half, Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu wrote last month.

    Canada's top pension funds - widely considered to be among the most likely backers of Watsa's proposal - declined to comment. However, some of their influential heads have already publicly indicated that they are unlikely to play any role in a bid for BlackBerry.

    "No one has really committed themselves to any group because none of the people that have been circling around BlackBerry have come up with a very convincing business plan," Alberta Investment Management Corp's head Leo de Bever said on BNN Television, earlier this week.

    The head of Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - Canada's second-largest pension fund told Bloomberg last month that the Caisse was also unlikely to invest in BlackBerry, as it prefers investing in more predictable businesses such as Coca-Cola Co and Colgate-Palmolive Co.

    (Reporting by Soyoung Kim, Nadia Damouni, Nicola Leske, Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Insight: As Brazil's Batista falters, Rio dream does too

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    Reuter site - Big data heralds return of the Cray supercomputer

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    Big data heralds return of the Cray supercomputer

    Sun, Oct 20 07:33 AM EDT

    By Bill Rigby

    SEATTLE (Reuters) - "Big data" means big computers, and good news for Cray Inc.

    The pioneer of supercomputers in the 1970s stood on the brink of obscurity 20 years ago but is now surging back to prominence. Its shares have almost doubled over the past 12 months.

    The explosion of data - measuring weather, traffic, health and countless other areas - coupled with a desire to tease meaning out of it, demands greater computing power than is accessible via standard machines.

    "The assumption was that supercomputers were cliche five years ago. People thought, 'I can run my simulation on my laptop'," said Barry Bolding, a Cray vice president, at the company's Seattle headquarters last week. "That may have been true, so long as the data associated wasn't growing as well. But raw data is being created in exabytes as we sit here. More data means bigger computer, bigger computer means more data."

    Experts estimate that 2.5 exabytes - or 2.5 billion gigabytes - of data are now generated every day, and the world's capacity to store that data is doubling every 40 months, which all plays to Cray's strengths.

    A basic Cray cabinet costs $500,000 and up and is roughly the size of a refrigerator. Big customers can group 200 or more into massive supercomputers worth hundreds of millions of dollars, such as "Titan" at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    Titan, completed by Cray last year, is the world's third-fastest supercomputer, takes up the size of a basketball court and can perform more than 20,000 trillion calculations a second.

    To be sure, most companies will never need that scale, or can process what they need through multiple machines running in tandem on a high-speed network or in the cloud, which for many projects works out cheaper and more power-efficient.

    What makes supercomputers different is that they can make a huge number of interconnected calculations at the same time, rather than a consecutive list of unconnected calculations, which makes them good for running complex simulations and mining unrelated data.

    For example, weather apps on smartphones are based on vast models run by research agencies on supercomputers. Financial firms can detect online fraud or cybersecurity breaches in seconds rather than days by using supercomputer models, which would take days on standard set-ups.

    "Big data is a new term, but arguably the supercomputer market was the original home of big data, and Cray has been dealing with it forever," said Steve Conway, an analyst at tech research firm IDC.

    MARKET ON FIRE

    The Seattle-based company, with just over 900 employees and a market value of around $940 million, has changed ownership several times but was started in 1972 by Seymour Cray, the "father of supercomputing."

    With a recent resurgence in supercomputers, Cray is garnering Wall Street's attention. This June, it sold one of its new XC30 supercomputers to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts for $65 million, nabbing a contract from a long-time IBM customer.

    That sort of deal is piquing investor interest. Wall Street analysts are expecting revenue of $519 million this year, up 23 percent from 2012, with a gross profit margin around 34 percent. Its shares are up 91 percent over the past 12 months while rival Silicon Graphics International Corp's are up 90 percent. Cray is now richly valued, with a share price 36 times estimated earnings for the next 12 months, compared with 19 times for SGI.

    The global market for computers costing more than $500,000 is on a tear, according to IDC, having more than doubled to $5.6 billion in 2012 from $2.7 billion in 2008.

    The whole market for high-performance computing (HPC) - essentially any machine bigger than a desktop used for intense computation - is forecast to grow 7 percent a year through 2017, well ahead of the stagnant business server market.

    The U.S. government directly or indirectly accounted for two-thirds of Cray's revenue last year. But the company is reaching out to new customers interested in big data. Last year it set up a new unit called YarcData - Yarc is Cray backwards - to focus on analyzing huge amounts of information and teasing out unseen patterns in a process known as graph analytics.

    "Unstructured databases are becoming more prevalent, gathering raw data from everywhere," said Cray's Bolding. "Now you start asking very complex questions, and it starts to create links between sets of data."

    The YarcData unit is helping the U.S. government detect fraud patterns in Medicare and Medicaid payments. Private sector customers include medical research group Mayo Clinic and several financial services, life sciences and telecommunications firms, which Cray cannot name for contractual reasons.

    New efforts are working and should boost revenue over time, said Sid Parakh, an analyst at fund firm McAdams Wright Ragen.

    "This is not a commodity market. It takes years of experience," said Conway at IDC. "It's easy to build a big computer, but it's not easy to build a big computer that works."

    (Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

    Twitter quitters dog IPO

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    Friday, October 11, 2013

    Reuter site - U.S. cable companies should create Netflix rival: Malone

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    U.S. cable companies should create Netflix rival: Malone

    Thu, Oct 10 17:10 PM EDT

    By Liana B. Baker

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cable pioneer John Malone said on Thursday that cable companies should team up to create a rival to Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> that would deliver programming over the Internet on a national basis.

    Cable companies could "solve the problem" of high programming costs by acquiring content for an Internet-based service under one brand that they would sell in a bundle with broadband, Malone said at Liberty Media Corp's <LMCA.O> annual investor conference.

    Malone, who is chairman of Liberty Media, used the example of Comcast Corp's <CMCSA.O> Xfinity video streaming product one day being shared with the rest of the cable industry to become a national brand.

    He added that another alternative would be for Hulu to "be bought and syndicated" by cable companies or for an entrepreneur to create a new product from scratch that the cable industry can get behind. He had said previously that cable companies should make a joint bid for Hulu, the Internet streaming service that was for sale at one point.

    The cable industry has a history of working together, and he pointed the creation and funding of HBO, saying it "made us all rich."

    A national Internet-based TV service could help the cable industry get back market share from satellite and telecommunications competitors, and also give a boost to smaller cable companies that lack infrastructure.

    When asked about whether he still has an appetite for a merger or acquisition, Malone said that, if cable came up with a transformational product to rival Netflix, it would "increase my appetite as an investor to be willing to invest in the business through consolidation."

    Malone, whose media holding company has an investment in cable provider Charter Communications Inc <CHTR.O>, made an offer for Time Warner Cable Inc <TWC.N> over the summer, but it was rejected, Reuters has reported.

    Time Warner Cable shares closed up $6.68, or 6 percent, on Thursday at $116.95 per share.

    During a question and answer session with investors, he praised Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings and launched into an analysis of Netflix's business model, saying it was big enough to buy exclusive national content at good prices, something the cable industry has struggled with.

    "The cable industry has been very slow (which has) created a window of opportunity to the over the top guys," he said, referring to Internet based TV services such as Netflix.

    Wunderlich securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said that Malone's cooperation idea was a good one. But he added it would be difficult to get all the players on the same page because the large companies such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable have more advanced technology than the smaller players.

    "It's kind of like herding cats," Harrigan said about cable companies working together

    Earlier on Thursday, another one of Malone's companies, Liberty Interactive Corp <LINTA.O>, said it would split into two tracking stocks, and also create a new company made up of its stake in TripAdvisor Inc <TRIP.O>.

    (Reporting By Liana Baker; Editing by David Gregorio, Ronald Grover and Andre Grenon)

    'Bionic man' walks, breathes with artificial parts

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    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Reuter site - AT&T seeking buyers for towers, could fetch $5 billion - Bloomberg

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    AT&T seeking buyers for towers, could fetch $5 billion - Bloomberg

    Tue, Sep 17 13:53 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - AT&T Inc is seeking buyers for its wireless telecommunication towers and is working with TAP Advisors LLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co on the sale, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

    The assets could fetch about $5 billion and buyers could include Crown Castle International Corp, SBA Communications Corp and American Tower Corp, the report said, citing one of the people. (http://link.reuters.com/qus23v)

    AT&T declined to comment.

    (Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel)

    Reuter site - Insight: How freewheeling Twitter became a money-spinning juggernaut

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    Insight: How freewheeling Twitter became a money-spinning juggernaut

    Mon, Sep 16 20:30 PM EDT

    By Gerry Shih and Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Around midnight on Christmas Eve of 2009, a handful of employees at Twitter received an unconventional holiday greeting from Dick Costolo, then the chief operating officer.

    "It was an email that said, 'We have to move really, really fast. There's no time to rest because we have a massive opportunity in front of us," recalled Anamitra Banerji, who headed the team that built Twitter's first advertising product. "It was kind of crazy because we were all on break, but that attitude was exactly what we needed at Twitter."

    The company is now on the verge of fulfilling the opportunity Costolo foresaw as it prepares for the most highly anticipated initial public offering since Facebook's debut last May. The offering is expected to value Twitter at up to $15 billion and make its early investors, including Costolo, very wealthy indeed.

    Yet Twitter's quick transformation from an undisciplined, money-losing startup into a digital media powerhouse took every bit of whip-cracking that Costolo could muster, along with a rapid series of product and personnel decisions that proved effective even as they disappointed some of the service's early enthusiasts.

    Costolo was a comparative late-comer at Twitter, joining the company three years after it's 2006 launch, but the company increasingly bears his imprint as it hurtles towards the IPO: deliberate in decision-making but aggressive in execution, savvy in its public relations and yet laser-focused on financial results.

    Costolo has not flinched in pruning and reshaping his management team, while Twitter, the company, has been ruthless in cutting off the smaller companies that were once a part of its orbit. A one-time comic actor who cut his teeth in business at Andersen Consulting before starting several companies, Costolo may never be as closely associated with Twitter as Mark Zuckerberg is with Facebook, yet he is arguably just as important.

    "The founders consider Dick a co-founder, that's how deep the connection is," said Bijan Sabet, an investor at Spark Capital and a Twitter board member from 2008 to 2011. "He's not this hired gun to run the company. He understands building out the business but also the product, strategy, vision."

    Twitter declined to make Costolo available for comment, citing the pre-IPO quiet period.

    BIRTH OF THE PROMOTED TWEET

    When Twitter's then-CEO Evan Williams brought on Costolo, an old friend and colleague from Google Inc, as COO in September of 2009, the three-year old company was already under pressure.

    The microblogging service was gaining hip, young users at an unprecedented pace, and its trio of co-founders - Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey - had been splashed across magazine covers as the embodiment of San Francisco cool. Yet the whispers in Silicon Valley were growing louder: Twitter didn't have the technical chops to make the service reliable at huge scale, and it didn't have any way to make money.

    "Having been on the core original team of engineers, we didn't have the skills among us to build a world class service," said Alex Payne, an early Twitter engineer, noting that many of the team members came from smaller start-ups and non-profit organizations rather than established Web giants like Google.

    Williams viewed fixing the site's notorious technical problems as the top priority but was ambivalent about the business strategy. For months, people familiar with the situation say, Williams weighed options ranging from display advertising to licensing Twitter's data to becoming an e-commerce hub to offering paid "commercial" accounts to businesses.

    Costolo - who had sold Feedburner, an advertising-based blog publishing service he founded, to Google for $100 million - had no such doubts. By his second month on the job, he had helped persuade Williams to green-light engineering positions to build Twitter's first ad unit, which would become the "promoted tweet" - the cornerstone of Twitter's business today.

    "Dick's conversations with Ev were key," said Banerji, now an investor at Foundation Capital. "He had a fundamental belief that this was the future of Twitter monetization and said, 'You have to do it.'"

    Over four months in early 2010, Costolo, working closely with Banerji and Ashish Goel, a Stanford engineering professor who specialized in the science of auction algorithms, to refine the promoted tweet. It resembled an ordinary Twitter message in every way, except that advertisers could pay for it to appear at the top of users' Tweet streams and search results.

    Costolo threw his heft within the company behind the advertising strategy. In early 2010, as the ads team drew up a related product called "promoted trends," Costolo privately told them to make sure he was in the room when they pitched the product to Williams, so it would get pushed through.

    A central mechanism governing the promoted tweet was "resonance," a concept coined by Goel. Because Twitter users can re-circulate or reply to tweets, including paid advertisements, the company had the real-time ability to gauge which ads were most popular, and those ads could then be made more prominent. And because the ads appeared in the same format as other tweets, they were perfectly suited to mobile devices, which could not handily display traditional banner ads.

    Paid ads that are inserted into a stream of status updates have since become something of an industry standard for mobile advertising. Its adopters include Facebook, which has enjoyed a 60 percent rise in its stock price in recent months due to its newfound success in mobile.

    "The closest thing before this was the contextual advertising that Google was selling, but the problem was that it was clearly an ad," said Charlene Li, the founder of Altimeter Group, an online research and consulting firm. "Promoted tweets look just like every other tweet. The form factor, the way it is displayed in stream - that was a breakthrough."

    When Costolo unveiled the promoted tweet in April 2010, Twitter announced it as a trial for only five brands, including Starbucks Corp and Virgin America, and users almost never saw the ads.

    But by the summer of 2010, Costolo felt confident enough in his concept that he began seeking a deputy to ramp up the company's sales effort. For months, he courted Adam Bain, a rising star at News Corp, and at the same time began assiduously courting marketers, from corner suites on Madison Avenue to industry conferences on the French Riviera.

    Under Bain, the Twitter ad team set it sites on the most lucrative advertising market of all: television. Twitter attached itself to TV programmers and major brand marketers by positioning itself as an online peanut gallery where TV viewers could discuss what they were watching.

    "Hashtags," which help people find the conversations they're looking for on Twitter, soon grew ubiquitous on TV, appearing in Super Bowl commercials, at Nascar races and on the Oscars red carpet.

    "It wasn't easy for Twitter to explain to people why they should buy content on Twitter until they sold it as a companion to TV," Ian Schafer, the chief executive of Deep Focus, a digital advertising agency. "Now you're even seeing the networks selling Twitter's inventory for them. That's magic."

    Twitter has steadily refined its targeting capabilities and can now send promoted tweets to people based on geographic location and interests. This month, the company paid more than $300 million to acquire MoPub, which will enable it to target mobile users based on websites they have visited on their desktop computers.

    As the promoted Tweet became a reliable revenue engine -generating a substantial chunk of the estimated $580 million in ad sales the company is expected to earn this year - Twitter began to evolve the service beyond its 140-character text messaging roots. Tweets today can embed pictures, videos, page previews and are expected to eventually have more interactive features, including those for online transactions and deals.

    FOCUSED AND RUTHLESS

    While Costolo has been widely credited with bringing management stability to a company that had struggled to find the right leadership formula among its three founders, he hasn't hesitated in making changes in the executive suite.

    "Jack always said he 'edited' his team, and Dick looked at it the same way," said a former employee. "He wanted to choose the top people around him, but he was ruthless with replacing his top people."

    Bain and Ali Rowghani, Twitter's influential chief operating officer, have emerged as Costolo's key deputies. A string of recent high-profile hires includes former TicketMaster CEO Nathan Hubbard as head of commerce; Geoff Reiss, former Professional Bowlers Association CEO, as head of sports partnerships; and Morgan Stanley executive Cynthia Gaylor as head of corporate development.

    Meanwhile, once-powerful executives including product guru Satya Patel, engineering vice president Mike Abbott and head of growth Othman Laraki have left the company, with each departure stoking chatter about Twitter's unusual rate of employee turnover.

    Rank-and-file employees described a chief executive who will pause from his workday to laugh with them at YouTube clips but who will also nudge them to put in long hours.

    At a conference last fall, Costolo told the audience he had sought out a new office for Twitter in central San Francisco partly because it would allow employees who lived in the city to go home for dinner with their families and still come back to work at night.

    Despite his on-stage charisma, several employees describe a CEO who can seem aloof.

    "He's always very cordial," said one former employee. "But try to get into a deeper conversation with him, and he's thinking about how much time he has to do that, because his schedule is tight and he has a lot to do. He's all business."

    Costolo's single-minded focus on Twitter's business goals has not been welcomed by everyone. It alienated many early Twitter enthusiasts who were interested in the political, social and technical potential of a unique new service that could fairly claim to express the sentiment of the world in real time.

    Twitter has slowly shut off third-party access to its data, preferring to keep the information for its own business purposes. It has cut off many developers that want to build new features that would interact with the Twitter platform.

    Its status as the most aggressive of all the global Internet companies in defending free speech and protecting its users from government spying is also in question. After years of essentially ignoring foreign governments that wanted it to comply with local laws, it announced last year that it had developed the technical capability to block Tweets by country, and it has recently begun to use it in countries including Germany and Brazil.

    Twitter is currently banned in China, where the country's own Twitter-like service, Sina Corp's Weibo, has 500 million registered users.

    "The most obvious effect of the IPO will be that it will push Twitter to go more international," said Jillian York, the director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    "I don't think there's much evidence that their position on free speech has softened in the U.S, but internationally, yes. I think they've absolutely run into the complexities of opening offices in other countries, potentially even made some promises that they couldn't keep."

    Yet Costolo has clearly kept his biggest promise: turning Twitter into a major media business. And in that regard, the IPO may be just the beginning.

    (Editing by Jonathan Weber and Ken Wills)

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Reuter site - Engineers searching for smartphone innovation look within

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@yahoo.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSBRE98B0YN20130912

    Engineers searching for smartphone innovation look within

    Thu, Sep 12 14:13 PM EDT

    By Noel Randewich

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As Apple and other smartphone makers find it harder to wow consumers with new devices, engineers think future breakthroughs may depend more on finding new ways to integrate existing components than on inventing more powerful chips.

    Apple's new iPhone 5S introduced on Tuesday shows how difficult it is to keep coming up with compelling innovations after years of blockbuster hits. The new device boasts a fingerprint reader and a beefed up processor, but it failed to inspire a rally on Wall Street typical of past smartphone launches by the Cupertino, California, company.

    While the first iPhone captivated the world in 2007 with multitouch screens and Apple's intuitive iOS platform, more recent top tier phones have featured less spectacular breakthroughs and consumers are becoming harder to impress. Many on Wall Street are concerned that serious smartphone innovation is drying up.

    The new iPhone's inclusion of a an emerging kind of chip, called the M7, points to where Apple and engineers at other technology companies are delving for future innovation that they hope will keep consumers hyped up about to smartphones.

    The M7, along with similar chips used by rival Samsung Electronics, helps smartphone makers take a small step among many toward what experts call contextual or perceptual computing - an emerging trend of enabling smartphones and other devices to continuously integrate data from cameras, microphones and other sensors so that devices can monitor the environment constantly and in real time, and react to it intelligently.

    With varying degrees of accuracy and energy efficiency, gyroscopes, barometers, microphones and radio chips already found in many phones can track location, position, orientation - a partial glimpse of what the user is physically doing at any given moment.

    The M7 coprocessor is meant to handle data from the iPhone's sensors using less battery power than the phone's main chip would use to manage the same data. That opens the door for developers to create applications that make more or even constant use of sensors in the phone, a small but important step toward improving contextual computing.

    "We're moving from purely computing, where you provide the data, to an intelligent system, where it collects its own data and then computes," said Gartner analyst Sergis Mushell. "But we're still far away. We're at the IQ level of frogs right now compared to humans."

    Samsung uses sensor processing chips made by Atmel in its Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy S4 devices and they are on their way to becoming ubiquitous in high-end phones, said Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis.

    Smartphones already offer hints of contextual computing although the technology has yet to become a big selling factor for consumers. Phones using Google's Android platform make suggestions of maps and navigation to different destinations, like the home or office, depending on a user's location, habits, traffic and time of day.

    Motorola's Moto X smartphone has a microphone that is always listening for commands.

    As well as smartphones, semiconductor companies are also working on ways to deliver more sophisticated experiences using combinations of sensors and other chips in bracelets, watches and other wearables. Consumer products using sensors already include bracelets that track sports and fitness-related activity, including distances run and walked, heart beats and sleep.

    Last week, Samsung Electronics launched the Galaxy Gear watch, and Qualcomm launched the Toq smartwatch, both of which work in conjunction with smartphones.

    On Monday, Intel announced it is working on a new line of ultra-small and ultra-low-power microchips for wearable devices like smartwatches and bracelets, a bid by the company to be at the crest of the next big technology wave after arriving late to the smartphone and tablet revolution.

    Computing companies are also pushing contextual computing into medical devices that can help monitor the health of patients and give doctors early warnings when their conditions change.

    Better integrating movement and directional sensors with always-listening microphones and more personal data could let smartphones accurately monitor their location and activities, and figure out what advice and solutions to offer at any given time, whether shopping for groceries or running to catch a train.

    InvenSense, which makes gyroscopes and other motion sensors and competes against STMicro, plans to sell chips within a couple of years that can detect changes in altitude as small as riding an elevator in an office building and help navigate downtown corridors where skyscrapers block GPS satellites.

    After explosive 46 percent growth last year, global smartphone shipments in 2013 will expand another 33 percent and then increase at smaller double-digit rates over the next few years, according to IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. Asia, where many consumers spend less on smartphones, is expected to be the main source of growth.

    Citi analyst Glen Yeung downgraded his rating on Qualcomm's stock in July due to concerns the smartphone industry is running out of new ideas. He said that what smartphone makers do with chips and other components is becoming more important for innovating in phones than adding new hardware.

    "When you think about the relationship between software and hardware, this is where it's all going. We're getting to a point where we're commoditizing the hardware. All the tools I need exist," Yeung said.

    Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, the mobile industry's top chipmaker, disagrees. He says investors who believe that components are already mostly good enough are wrong.

    "We're building new radio designs specifically for the idea of the digital sixth sense, of having notifications, discovery of stuff that's around you," Jacobs told Reuters recently.

    Chipmaker Nvidia says games on future smartphones and tablets will use cameras and other sensors to add immersive experiences, making the player's environment part of the game.

    "End users have to have better experiences. If you just deliver a new chip but don't have the software to build on that ... then the end user isn't going to see any difference, and hence you get a gold iPhone," said Matt Wuebbling, director of product marketing for mobile.

    Broadcom, which makes chips that handle wifi, Bluetooth and other kinds of connectivity, is also researching ways to improve how its radio chips interact with GPS satellites and sensors.

    "There will be new connectivity technologies, more powerful devices, sensor integration and the integration for wearables," Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor recently told Reuters.

    "It's not time to close the patent office yet."

    (Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Claudia Parsons)

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Reuter site - Internet experts want security revamp after NSA revelations

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@gmail.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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    Internet experts want security revamp after NSA revelations

    Sat, Sep 07 23:55 PM EDT

    By Joseph Menn

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Internet security experts are calling for a campaign to rewrite Web security in the wake of disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency has developed the capability to break encryption protecting millions of sites.

    But they acknowledged the task won't be easy, in part because internet security has relied heavily on brilliant government scientists who now appear suspect to many.

    Leading technologists said they felt betrayed that the NSA, which has contributed to some important security standards, was trying to ensure they stayed weak enough that the agency could break them. Some said they were stunned that the government would value its monitoring ability so much that it was willing to reduce everyone's security.

    "We had the assumption that they could use their capacity to make weak standards, but that would make everyone in the U.S. insecure," said Johns Hopkins cryptography professor Matthew Green. "We thought they would never be crazy enough to shoot out the ground they were standing on, and now we're not so sure."

    The head of the volunteer group in charge of the Internet's fundamental technology rules told Reuters on Saturday that the panel will intensify its work to add encryption to basic Web traffic and to strengthen the so-called secure sockets layer, which guards banking, email and other pages beginning with Https.

    "This is one instance of the dangers that we face in the networked age," said Jari Arkko, an Ericsson scientist who chairs the Internet Engineering Task Force. "We have to respond to the new threats."

    Other experts likewise responded sharply to media reports based on documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showing the NSA has manipulated standards.

    Documents provided to The Guardian, the New York Times and others by Snowden and published on Thursday show that the agency worked to insert vulnerabilities in commercial encryption gear, covertly influence other designs to allow for future entry, and weaken industry-wide standards to the agency's benefit.

    In combination with other techniques, those efforts led the NSA to claim internally that it had the ability to access many forms of internet traffic that had been widely believed to be secure, including at least some virtual private networks, which set up secure tunnels on the Internet, and the broad security level of the secure sockets layer Web, used for online banking and the like.

    The office of the Director of National Intelligence said Friday that the NSA "would not be doing its job" if it did not try to counter the use of encryption by such adversaries as "terrorists, cybercriminals, human traffickers and others."

    Green and others said a great number of security protocols needed to be written "from scratch" without government help.

    Vint Cerf, author of the some of the core internet protocols, said that he didn't know whether the NSA had truly wreaked much damage, underscoring the uncertainty in the new reports about what use the NSA has made of its abilities.

    "There has long been a tension between the mission to conduct surveillance and the mission to protect communication, and that tension resolved some time ago in favor of protection at least for American communications," Cerf said.

    Yet Cerf's employer Google Inc confirmed it is racing to encrypt data flowing between its data centers, a process that was ramped up after Snowden's documents began coming to light in June.

    Author Bruce Schneier, one of the most admired figures in modern cryptography, wrote in a Guardian column that the NSA "has undermined a fundamental social contract" and that engineers elsewhere had a "moral duty" to take back the Internet.

    RELYING ON NSA FOR HELP

    But all those interviewed warned that rewriting Web security would be extremely difficult.

    Mike Belshe, a former Google engineer who has spearheaded the IETF drive to encrypt regular Web traffic, said that his plan had been "watered down" in the committee process during the past few years as some companies looked after their own interests more than users.

    Another problem is the relatively small number of mathematical experts working outside the NSA.

    "A lot of our foundational technologies for securing the Net have come through the government," said researcher Dan Kaminsky, famed for finding a critical flaw in the way users are steered to the website they seek. "They have the best minds in the country, but their advice is now suspect."

    Finally, governments around the world, including democracies, are asserting more authority over the Internet, in some cases forbidding the use of virtual private networks.

    "As much as I want to say this is a technology problem we can address, if the nation states decide security isn't something we're allowed to have, then we're in trouble," Kaminsky said. "If security is outlawed, only outlaws will have security."

    (Editing by Peter Henderson and Eric Walsh)

    Tuesday, September 3, 2013

    Reuter site - Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@gmail.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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    Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    Tue, Sep 03 07:08 AM EDT

    By Jeremy Wagstaff

    SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The smartwatch could be as revolutionary as the smartphone - an intelligent device on our wrist that connects our bodies to data and us to the world - but only a handful of companies have the heft and vision to be able to pull it off.

    It's not through lack of trying. Watchmakers and others have been adding calculators, calendars and wireless data connections to wrist-straps for at least 30 years.

    Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is having another go on Wednesday, when it launches the Galaxy Gear in Berlin, but a source familiar with the matter said that the smartwatch device would be no game changer - more of a fashion accessory than an effort to redefine the genre.

    Sony Corp is also launching a modest update of its Android-compatible SmartWatch, while heavyweights Apple Inc and Google Inc have shown tentative signs of interest in developing such technology.

    The market potential, cheerleaders say, is vast. Leveraging advances in voice technology, biometrics, communications, cloud storage and power consumption, smartwatches and other wearable devices could be a $50 billion market by 2017, according to Credit Suisse.

    "Look at the way we experience mobile communication today - this is not the end point," said Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst at British-based consultancy Generator Research, pointing to the awkwardness with which most of us clasp the handset to our ear, remove it from our pockets to read messages, or tap in appointments and emails.

    "If you look at the phone today, it's important to ask: is this as good as it gets?"

    Wearable devices such as smartwatches or digital eyewear, the argument goes, could take over many of the more cumbersome functions of a smartphone while also adding functions we can so far only dream of.

    By tapping into sensors around the body, on objects and in other devices, they could offer what Plantronics, a headset maker, calls "contextual intelligence", harvesting data to create "a highly personalized experience in real-time", according to Joe Burton, the company's CTO.

    ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY

    Driving this optimism are advances in technology, and a more sophisticated audience already familiar with smartphones, apps, and wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth.

    The prices and size of sensors have fallen rapidly - making them a feature of many smartphones. Samsung's Galaxy S4 has nine, according to a report on wearable technology by Credit Suisse.

    An addition to Bluetooth, for example, uses much less energy and can push and pull data to a watch via the mobile phone, says Paul Williamson of CSR plc, a maker of such so-called Bluetooth Smart chips.

    With the technology now integrated into devices running the latest versions of Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems, "smartwatches can render data from any of the applications that are running on your smartphone", Williamson said.

    Smartwatches like the Magellan Echo, for example, can stream data wirelessly from a range of third party fitness apps on a smartphone, without requiring frequent recharges.

    Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at British-based Cambridge Consultants, which advises companies and develops new technologies, called the adoption of Bluetooth Smart "a real game-changer".

    But so far wearables have remained a niche for early adopters, such as fans of Pebble Technology's crowd-funded smartwatch, which has sold 100,000 units since its launch earlier this year, or health and fitness enthusiasts embracing Nike's Fuelband or Under Armour's FitBit.

    And therein lies the rub, says Generator Research's Sheehy. Most of these players have either thought too small, or lack the heft to be able to break into the mainstream.

    That not only means having capital and resources, but being able to build on existing expertise in hardware, software, cloud and processing data.

    "This is tough technology," he says. "The number of companies who can do this are very few and far between."

    HURDLES REMAIN

    First there are remaining technological hurdles, such as powering the devices. Batteries will need to be 5-10 times smaller than those in smartphones, says Cosmin Laslau, mobile energy analyst at Lux Research, requiring innovation in cell materials such as silicon anodes and packaging - such as Apple's work on flexible batteries.

    Then there is a need for better displays. Both Apple and Samsung have been working on curved glass - Samsung is investing more than $6 billion on displays this year alone, and is planning to launch a curved mobile device later this year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

    There's also the fact that wearing a device is not quite the same as carrying one.

    For one thing it has to be stylish, says Gartner research director Angela McIntyre.

    Jonathan Peachey, CEO of Filip Technologies, spent three years working on a watch to make it acceptable for the kids who would wear it and their parents who would use it to track and communicate with their offspring via a smartphone.

    "Consumers need to develop a more personal relationship with a wearable computing device than they would otherwise with a handheld device," Peachey said.

    Key to this is the interface, says Thad Starner, Professor of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, whose pioneering work with wearable computers led to him be a technical lead for Google Glass.

    Developing a mobile interface for wristwatches and heads-up displays requires lots of experimentation, he says. The best way, he adds, is to build "living laboratories" where more and more people use them in everyday life.

    "The most important thing, right now, is to reduce the time between the user's intention to perform a task and the user's action to complete that task."

    His other projects point to the possibilities: a contraption that lets him answer students' text messages by voice while wandering across campus and a gesture interface that understands sign language.

    DO I NEED IT?

    But even if those hurdles are overcome, just how useful is a wearable device going to be? "Finding a role or a use for wearable electronics is the central question facing the industry today," says Mykola Golovko, an analyst at Euromonitor.

    Right now the most appealing prospects are as a "slave" to the smartphone or tablet, where the wearable devices collects data from the user's body or environment and relays it to the smartphone. The smartphone acts as a gateway to the Internet to process this information and merge it with other data before feeding it back to the device.

    "In this world the role of the smartwatch is not to replace the phone but to keep the data feed going and make it even more accessible," says Rob Milner, technical leader of smart systems at Cambridge Consultants.

    But this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

    "The multi-sensor combo packages and low-power wireless chips are available," says Shane Walker, an analyst at IHS, "now the data created from this pairing needs to be made compelling and useful."

    CRACKING THE NUT

    Which means that whoever cracks the nut of a mass market wearable device is less likely to be a pure hardware maker than a broader-based company.

    "You can call me a smartwatch skeptic," says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester. "I don't see that any vendor, with the possible exception of Apple, can make smartwatches a mainstream success."

    Speculation aside, Apple has kept its cards close to its chest. CEO Tim Cook has called the wrist "interesting" and Apple has registered the trademark iWatch in Japan. Several Apple patents point to wrist-worn devices.

    And Google has staked a claim in wearables with its Google Glass, spectacles that include a small visual display. It bought start-up WIMM Labs, which had launched a smartwatch in 2011, and has demonstrated the power of contextual information with Google Now, which mines users' emails, location and other data to provide a personalized stream of data.

    Other possible players, says Generation Research's Sheehy, include Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc.

    "If Samsung or Google succeeded at this and Apple failed at this level, it would really be a handing over of the baton," he said.

    If the Galaxy Gear is the first salvo, Apple has little to fear. After two earlier wrist-phone flops in 1999 and 2009, Samsung is taking a cautious approach with its latest version of the smartwatch, according to the source familiar with Samsung's thinking.

    "Samsung is trying to say that it is not following but jumping into it ahead of its key rival, ie Apple," he said. "They are simply dipping their toes into the market as they don't want to take big risks with a costly bet on the new unproven category yet."

    (Additional reporting by Miyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Alex Richardson)

    Reuter site - Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    This article was sent to you from bombastic4000@gmail.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSBRE9820G120130903

    Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the "smartwatch"?

    Tue, Sep 03 07:08 AM EDT

    By Jeremy Wagstaff

    SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The smartwatch could be as revolutionary as the smartphone - an intelligent device on our wrist that connects our bodies to data and us to the world - but only a handful of companies have the heft and vision to be able to pull it off.

    It's not through lack of trying. Watchmakers and others have been adding calculators, calendars and wireless data connections to wrist-straps for at least 30 years.

    Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is having another go on Wednesday, when it launches the Galaxy Gear in Berlin, but a source familiar with the matter said that the smartwatch device would be no game changer - more of a fashion accessory than an effort to redefine the genre.

    Sony Corp is also launching a modest update of its Android-compatible SmartWatch, while heavyweights Apple Inc and Google Inc have shown tentative signs of interest in developing such technology.

    The market potential, cheerleaders say, is vast. Leveraging advances in voice technology, biometrics, communications, cloud storage and power consumption, smartwatches and other wearable devices could be a $50 billion market by 2017, according to Credit Suisse.

    "Look at the way we experience mobile communication today - this is not the end point," said Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst at British-based consultancy Generator Research, pointing to the awkwardness with which most of us clasp the handset to our ear, remove it from our pockets to read messages, or tap in appointments and emails.

    "If you look at the phone today, it's important to ask: is this as good as it gets?"

    Wearable devices such as smartwatches or digital eyewear, the argument goes, could take over many of the more cumbersome functions of a smartphone while also adding functions we can so far only dream of.

    By tapping into sensors around the body, on objects and in other devices, they could offer what Plantronics, a headset maker, calls "contextual intelligence", harvesting data to create "a highly personalized experience in real-time", according to Joe Burton, the company's CTO.

    ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY

    Driving this optimism are advances in technology, and a more sophisticated audience already familiar with smartphones, apps, and wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth.

    The prices and size of sensors have fallen rapidly - making them a feature of many smartphones. Samsung's Galaxy S4 has nine, according to a report on wearable technology by Credit Suisse.

    An addition to Bluetooth, for example, uses much less energy and can push and pull data to a watch via the mobile phone, says Paul Williamson of CSR plc, a maker of such so-called Bluetooth Smart chips.

    With the technology now integrated into devices running the latest versions of Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems, "smartwatches can render data from any of the applications that are running on your smartphone", Williamson said.

    Smartwatches like the Magellan Echo, for example, can stream data wirelessly from a range of third party fitness apps on a smartphone, without requiring frequent recharges.

    Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at British-based Cambridge Consultants, which advises companies and develops new technologies, called the adoption of Bluetooth Smart "a real game-changer".

    But so far wearables have remained a niche for early adopters, such as fans of Pebble Technology's crowd-funded smartwatch, which has sold 100,000 units since its launch earlier this year, or health and fitness enthusiasts embracing Nike's Fuelband or Under Armour's FitBit.

    And therein lies the rub, says Generator Research's Sheehy. Most of these players have either thought too small, or lack the heft to be able to break into the mainstream.

    That not only means having capital and resources, but being able to build on existing expertise in hardware, software, cloud and processing data.

    "This is tough technology," he says. "The number of companies who can do this are very few and far between."

    HURDLES REMAIN

    First there are remaining technological hurdles, such as powering the devices. Batteries will need to be 5-10 times smaller than those in smartphones, says Cosmin Laslau, mobile energy analyst at Lux Research, requiring innovation in cell materials such as silicon anodes and packaging - such as Apple's work on flexible batteries.

    Then there is a need for better displays. Both Apple and Samsung have been working on curved glass - Samsung is investing more than $6 billion on displays this year alone, and is planning to launch a curved mobile device later this year, according to a source familiar with the matter.

    There's also the fact that wearing a device is not quite the same as carrying one.

    For one thing it has to be stylish, says Gartner research director Angela McIntyre.

    Jonathan Peachey, CEO of Filip Technologies, spent three years working on a watch to make it acceptable for the kids who would wear it and their parents who would use it to track and communicate with their offspring via a smartphone.

    "Consumers need to develop a more personal relationship with a wearable computing device than they would otherwise with a handheld device," Peachey said.

    Key to this is the interface, says Thad Starner, Professor of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, whose pioneering work with wearable computers led to him be a technical lead for Google Glass.

    Developing a mobile interface for wristwatches and heads-up displays requires lots of experimentation, he says. The best way, he adds, is to build "living laboratories" where more and more people use them in everyday life.

    "The most important thing, right now, is to reduce the time between the user's intention to perform a task and the user's action to complete that task."

    His other projects point to the possibilities: a contraption that lets him answer students' text messages by voice while wandering across campus and a gesture interface that understands sign language.

    DO I NEED IT?

    But even if those hurdles are overcome, just how useful is a wearable device going to be? "Finding a role or a use for wearable electronics is the central question facing the industry today," says Mykola Golovko, an analyst at Euromonitor.

    Right now the most appealing prospects are as a "slave" to the smartphone or tablet, where the wearable devices collects data from the user's body or environment and relays it to the smartphone. The smartphone acts as a gateway to the Internet to process this information and merge it with other data before feeding it back to the device.

    "In this world the role of the smartwatch is not to replace the phone but to keep the data feed going and make it even more accessible," says Rob Milner, technical leader of smart systems at Cambridge Consultants.

    But this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

    "The multi-sensor combo packages and low-power wireless chips are available," says Shane Walker, an analyst at IHS, "now the data created from this pairing needs to be made compelling and useful."

    CRACKING THE NUT

    Which means that whoever cracks the nut of a mass market wearable device is less likely to be a pure hardware maker than a broader-based company.

    "You can call me a smartwatch skeptic," says Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester. "I don't see that any vendor, with the possible exception of Apple, can make smartwatches a mainstream success."

    Speculation aside, Apple has kept its cards close to its chest. CEO Tim Cook has called the wrist "interesting" and Apple has registered the trademark iWatch in Japan. Several Apple patents point to wrist-worn devices.

    And Google has staked a claim in wearables with its Google Glass, spectacles that include a small visual display. It bought start-up WIMM Labs, which had launched a smartwatch in 2011, and has demonstrated the power of contextual information with Google Now, which mines users' emails, location and other data to provide a personalized stream of data.

    Other possible players, says Generation Research's Sheehy, include Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc.

    "If Samsung or Google succeeded at this and Apple failed at this level, it would really be a handing over of the baton," he said.

    If the Galaxy Gear is the first salvo, Apple has little to fear. After two earlier wrist-phone flops in 1999 and 2009, Samsung is taking a cautious approach with its latest version of the smartwatch, according to the source familiar with Samsung's thinking.

    "Samsung is trying to say that it is not following but jumping into it ahead of its key rival, ie Apple," he said. "They are simply dipping their toes into the market as they don't want to take big risks with a costly bet on the new unproven category yet."

    (Additional reporting by Miyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Alex Richardson)

    Insight: It's all in the wrist - Who has vision to crack the smartwatch ? | Reuters.com

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    Factbox: Companies in the smartwatch business | Reuters.com

    http://us.mobile.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSBRE9820G920130903

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    Microsoft swallows Nokia's handset business for $7.2 billion

    http://news.yahoo.com/microsoft-acquire-nokias-handset-business-7-2-billion-031642910--finance.html?.tsrc=yahoo

    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Reuter site - Now Vietnam wants to "manage" chat apps, and media says ban possible

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    Now Vietnam wants to "manage" chat apps, and media says ban possible

    Tue, Aug 20 10:07 AM EDT

    HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam's government is to decide policy in managing free internet-based telecom tools like Viber, Line and Whatsapp, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on Friday, a move bound to increase concerns about Communist Party censorship.

    State media said the government might "ban" free messaging services because of the harm done to network providers.

    Vietnam has repeatedly come under fire for curbs on free speech and harsh treatment for bloggers who dare to criticize the one-party regime.

    The prime minister said the government would "build and promulgate the policies" in managing the free communication services on the internet (Over-The-Top (OTT) services.)"

    Like many other confusing regulations, it didn't explain clearly what the government plans to do. But state media said it might "ban" all OTT services.

    "We will lose 40-50 percent of our revenue if all of our 40 million customers use Viber instead of traditional call and text," a representative of Viettel Telecom, one of the country's biggest phone network providers, told state media.

    Vietnam has 17 million smart phone users, according to a report from Google. The demand for communications is huge with 60 million people under the age of 30.

    Jong Buhm Park, Chief Executive Officer of NHN Vietnam, the developer of Japan's Line app, said a ban would not happen.

    "The government has more options, like cooperation between OTT and network providers," Park told Reuters.

    The prime minister's statement comes two weeks after the government ordered all foreign websites, including Facebook, to have at least one server hosted in Vietnam.

    "This looks like an additional step from the government to censor internet users," said a diplomat who requested anonymity. "Once it can't control them, it will block everything,"

    Saudi Arabia in June banned Viber, which is hard for the state to monitor and deprives licensed telecom companies of revenue from international calls and texts.

    (Compiled by Nguyen Phuong Linh; Writing by Nick Macfie)

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    They're here

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    It's coming...Sony nears deal with Viacom for new Internet TV service: WSJ | Reuters.com

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    Reuter site - Sony nears deal with Viacom for new Internet TV service: WSJ

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    Sony nears deal with Viacom for new Internet TV service: WSJ

    Thu, Aug 15 18:36 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - Sony Corp is close to striking a deal to secure content from media company Viacom for a new Internet-based TV service, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

    Sony is working on a service that can stream live television over the Internet and it aims to roll it out by the end of the year, the newspaper reported, citing an anonymous source.

    The Japanese company is also speaking to Time Warner, CBS and Disney about potential programming deals, the newspaper reported.

    A U.S. spokesman for Sony declined to comment as did representatives from Time Warner, CBS, Disney and Viacom.

    The report said the Web-based service would be available on Sony's new PlayStation's console, Bravia high-definition TVs and could later expand to other Sony products such as tablets and phones.

    (Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Bernard Orr)

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Reuter site - Aereo to enter Dallas, other markets as CBS blackout continues

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    Aereo to enter Dallas, other markets as CBS blackout continues

    Thu, Aug 08 11:15 AM EDT

    (Reuters) - Internet TV startup Aereo will soon be available in Dallas, one of the cities affected by the Time Warner Cable-CBS blackout, which extended into its seventh day on Thursday.

    Aereo said on Thursday it would also launch in Houston and Miami as the controversial venture backed by Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive Corp builds out its customer base across the United States. It will be available in Dallas starting September 23.

    Time Warner Cable Inc has been encouraging its customers to sign up for Aereo so they can watch CBS while the cable company and the network fight over fees for programming.

    Aereo is planning to be in more than 20 cities as part of its first phase of expansion. Residents in New York, Boston and Atlanta can currently use the service.

    The company has never released revenue or subscriber numbers.

    Aereo allows subscribers to stream broadcast TV channels through devices like smartphones, tablets and computers for a monthly fee. It uses TV antennas to capture the signals and beam them back to subscribers.

    The company pays no fees to broadcasters to carry their channels, while operators like Time Warner Cable do.

    The owners of the broadcast networks, including CBS Corp, Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast Corp's NBC have sued to block Aereo from accessing their programming.

    Complicating matters is the gradual shift in the way people watch television. More consumers are ditching their cable subscriptions for independent services like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

    (Reporting by Jennifer Saba and Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013

    Friday, July 12, 2013

    Reuter site - Study raises new concern about earthquakes and fracking fluids

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    Study raises new concern about earthquakes and fracking fluids

    Fri, Jul 12 03:30 AM EDT

    By Sharon Begley

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Powerful earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger swarms of minor quakes near wastewater-injection wells like those used in oil and gas recovery, scientists reported on Thursday, sometimes followed months later by quakes big enough to destroy buildings.

    The discovery, published in the journal Science by one of the world's leading seismology labs, threatens to make hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which involves injecting fluid deep underground, even more controversial.

    It comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts a study of the effects of fracking, particularly the disposal of wastewater, which could form the basis of new regulations on oil and gas drilling.

    Geologists have known for 50 years that injecting fluid underground can increase pressure on seismic faults and make them more likely to slip. The result is an "induced" quake.

    A recent surge in U.S. oil and gas production - much of it using vast amounts of water to crack open rocks and release natural gas, as in fracking, or to bring up oil and gas from standard wells - has been linked to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.

    Now seismologists at Columbia University say they have identified three quakes - in Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas - that were triggered at injection-well sites by major earthquakes a long distance away.

    "The fluids (in wastewater injection wells) are driving the faults to their tipping point," said Nicholas van der Elst of Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, who led the study. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

    Fracking opponents' main concern is that it will release toxic chemicals into water supplies, said John Armstrong, a spokesman for New Yorkers Against Fracking, an advocacy group.

    But "when you tell people the process is linked to earthquakes, the reaction is, 'what? They're doing something that can cause earthquakes?' This really should be a stark warning," he said.

    Fracking proponents reacted cautiously to the study.

    "More fact-based research ... aimed at further reducing the very rare occurrence of seismicity associated with underground injection wells is welcomed, and will certainly help enable more responsible natural gas development," said Kathryn Klaber, chief executive of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

    'DYNAMIC TRIGGERING'

    Quakes with a magnitude of 2 or lower, which can hardly be felt, are routinely produced in fracking, said geologist William Ellsworth of the U.S. Geological Survey, an expert on human-induced earthquakes who was not involved in the study.

    The largest fracking-induced earthquake "was magnitude 3.6, which is too small to pose a serious risk," he wrote in Science.

    But van der Elst and colleagues found evidence that injection wells can set the stage for more dangerous quakes. Because pressure from wastewater wells stresses nearby faults, if seismic waves speeding across Earth's surface hit the fault it can rupture and, months later, produce an earthquake stronger than magnitude 5.

    What seems to happen is that wastewater injection leaves local faults "critically loaded," or on the verge of rupture. Even weak seismic waves from faraway quakes are therefore enough to set off a swarm of small quakes in a process called "dynamic triggering."

    "I have observed remote triggering in Oklahoma," said seismologist Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, who was not involved in the study. "This has occurred in areas where no injections are going on, but it is more likely to occur in injection areas."

    Once these triggered quakes stop, the danger is not necessarily over. The swarm of quakes, said Heather Savage of Lamont-Doherty and a co-author of the study, "could indicate that faults are becoming critically stressed and might soon host a larger earthquake."

    For instance, seismic waves from an 8.8 quake in Maule, Chile, in February 2010 rippled across the planet and triggered a 4.1 quake in Prague, Oklahoma - site of the Wilzetta oil field - some 16 hours later.

    That was followed by months of smaller tremors in Oklahoma, and then the largest quake yet associated with wastewater injection, a 5.7 temblor in Prague on November 6, 2011.

    That quake destroyed 14 homes, buckled a highway and injured two people.

    The Prague quake is "not only one of the largest earthquakes to be associated with wastewater disposal, but also one of the largest linked to a remote triggering event," said van der Elst.

    The Chile quake also caused a swarm of small temblors in Trinidad, Colorado, near wells where wastewater used to extract methane from coal beds had been injected.

    On August 22, 2011, a magnitude 5.3 quake hit Trinidad, damaging dozens of buildings.

    The 9.1 earthquake in Japan in March 2011, which caused a devastating tsunami, triggered a swarm of small quakes in Snyder, Texas - site of the Cogdell oil field. That autumn, Snyder experienced a 4.5 quake.

    The presence of injection wells does not mean an area is doomed to have a swarm of earthquakes as a result of seismic activity half a world away, and a swarm of induced quakes does not necessarily portend a big one.

    Guy, Arkansas; Jones, Oklahoma; and Youngstown, Ohio, have all experienced moderate induced quakes due to fluid injection from oil or gas drilling. But none has had a quake triggered by a distant temblor.

    Long-distance triggering is most likely where wastewater wells have been operating for decades and where there is little history of earthquake activity, the researchers write.

    "The important thing now is to establish how common this is," said Oklahoma's Holland, referring to remotely triggered quakes. "We don't have a good answer to that question yet."

    Before the advent of injection wells, triggered earthquakes were a purely natural phenomenon. A 7.3 quake in California's Mojave Desert in 1992 set off a series of tiny quakes north of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, for instance.

    Now, according to the Science paper, triggered quakes can occur where human activity has weakened faults.

    Current federal and state regulations for wastewater disposal wells focus on protecting drinking water sources from contamination, not on earthquake hazards.

    (Reporting by Sharon Begley; Additional reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Xavier Briand)

    Reuter site - AT&T to buy Leap Wireless for $1.19 billion in cash

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    AT&T to buy Leap Wireless for $1.19 billion in cash

    Fri, Jul 12 18:38 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - AT&T Inc said on Friday it will acquire prepaid wireless provider Leap Wireless International Inc in a deal valued at about $4 billion, including debt as large carriers scramble to accumulate valuable spectrum.

    Under the agreement, AT&T will acquire all of Leap's stock and approximately 5 million subscribers for $15 per share in cash or about $1.2 billion. The offer represents a premium of 88 percent to Leap's Friday closing price of $7.98. As of April 15, Leap had $2.8 billion in debt, the companies said in a statement.

    Leap's shares more than doubled to $16.80 in after hour trade after closing at $7.98 on Friday.

    The deal is the latest in a series of acquisitions in the wireless industry and follows Softbank's acquisition of Sprint.

    As the No. 2 wireless provider in the United States, AT&T has been looking to grow in a mature market and has been urgently seeking access to additional wireless spectrum. It has held talks to buy smaller rival Leap Wireless International last year, Reuters reported.

    The proliferation of bandwidth-hungry smartphones and tablets has U.S. wireless carriers clambering to gain access to more airwaves. Clearwire was recently part of a tug a war over its valuable spectrum between Sprint and Dish Network Corp.

    "Its mostly about the spectrum for AT&T," said Todd Rethemeier, an analyst with Hudson Square Research.

    "It's Leap's only alternative. Continuing as an independent company is not a viable option for Leap at this point."

    Two years ago, AT&T struck a deal to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion, but U.S. regulators blocked the attempt by the No. 2 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers to merge.

    Based in San Diego, Leap's network covers about 96 million people and operates under the Cricket brand.

    AT&T said it will retain the Cricket brand name and expand its presence in the U.S. After the deal closes, AT&T said it plans to use Leap's spectrum in furthering its development of AT&T's 4G LTE network.

    The combined company will have the financial resources, scale and spectrum to better compete with other major national providers for customers interested in low-cost prepaid service, the companies said.

    Almost a third of Leap's shareholders have voted in favor of the transaction.

    At the end the of the first quarter, $19 billion hedge fund Paulson & Co owned 7.8 million shares of Leap Wireless, according to a regulatory filing.

    The deal is expected to close in nine months and is subject to regulatory review.

    Leap said Lazard served as its sole financial adviser.

    (Reporting by Jennifer Saba, Nicola Leske Sinead Carew, and Katya Wachtel in New York and Neha Alawadhi in Bangalore; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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