Smartphone maker High Tech Computer (HTC) signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday with a group of Asian telecom service providers who will be jointly buying equipment for mobile Internet from the Taiwanese company.
The group, called Conexus Mobile Alliance, consists of 11 mobile carriers who together have 310 million customers.
Joint procurement will help keep smartphone prices down, said Alison Kao, spokeswoman for Far Eastone, a Taiwanese carrier and alliance member. The companies are also looking at the benefits of collaboration in the area of design.
"If someone is doing a customized design, we can consider doing a similar one," Kao said.
A statement from the alliance on Friday did not specify the type or quantity of equipment HTC would sell to them. Conexus and HTC were not available for comment on the arrangement between them.
The deal will bring HTC more business in the area of mobile data, a statement from Conexus said, quoting an HTC deputy general manager for Asia.
HTC makes mobile phones and tablets. It is the first smartphone maker to sign a deal of this kind with the alliance, according to reports.
Conexus members include large operators such as NTT DoCoMo of Japan, Hutchison Telecommunications of Hong Kong, and Indonesia's PT Indosat.
HTC reported a 174.5 percent increase in first quarter revenue compared to the same period last year. It shipped 24.67 million units last year, which earned it a 7.1 percent share of the global smartphone market, according to research firm IDC.
Mobile carriers formed the alliance in 2006 to enhance international voice and data roaming for their customers.
Apple and Verizon Wireless may be planning over-the-air downloads for iOS 5. News reports are heralding an end to the days when users have to plug an iPhone into a computer and connect to iTunes to get the latest version of the mobile operating system.
Over-the-air downloads are nothing new. Google's Android-powered phones do it. Microsoft Windows phones do it. Hewlett-Packard's Palm phones do it. So why shouldn't Apple?
Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner, can think of several reasons why over-the-air downloads of iOS 5 would be a bad idea.
"AT&T's network isn't reliable enough for me to want to download a 200MB file directly into the phone -- the same with Verizon," Disabato said. "Even if they are putting in the operating system, it doesn't mean that the network operators are going to let this happen -- and if they are smart, they won't. The day Apple announces they have the new iOS out, half of the iPhone population would try to download it, and it would crash the network."
Although an over-the-air download is interesting in that it eliminates the need for iTunes as part of the updating process, Disabato doesn't anticipate Apple relinquishing control. Updating apps over the air is one thing, he said, but over-the-air updates of the operating system are another.
A 'Dangerous' Notion
"The iOS is a huge file. It took me 18 minutes last night to download it on a six-megabit-per-second connection. You don't get six megabits per second on over the air," Disabato said. "So you are looking for an hour download to update your phone, and it could abort in the middle and brick your phone. Then you have ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
NEW YORK (AFP) – Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. announced Thursday the acquisition of Hearst Corp.'s UGO Entertainment, expanding its reach over online videogame news.
News Corp.'s videogame media unit IGN Entertainment will operate UGO properties such as UGO.com and 1UP.com, Hearst and News Corp. said in a statement.
The agreement between Hearst and News Corp. calls for Hearst to become a shareholder of IGN and be an "active participant in the development of the business," they said.
Together, IGN, which runs sites such as IGN.com, GameSpy, FilePlanet, Direct2Drive and TeamXbox, and UGO will reach an audience of more than 70 million visitors a month, they said.
"This instantly catapults us to another level and positions us to serve and entertain tens of millions more fans," IGN Entertainment president Roy Bahat said.
Ken Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media, said the combination of IGN and UGO "will create the complete 'go to' online destination for videogame enthusiasts."
The News Corp.-owned technology blog All Things Digital said the acquisition of UGO may be part of a plan by News Corp. to eventually spin off IGN.com into a separate company.
"The goal is to create a standalone Web business that will focus primarily on videogame news, reviews, and culture," All Things Digital said.
News Corp. is currently seeking a buyer for another of its major Web properties -- Myspace, which it bought in 2005 for $580 million.
News Corp. purchased IGN for $650 million a few months after the Myspace deal while Hearst bought UGO for $100 million in 2007, according to All Things Digital.
To the list of possible functions for the future Internet, it's time to add kissing. A Japanese lab has created a machine that can transmit a pseudo-French kiss.
The Kajimoto Laboratory at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo has announced that it has developed a device that uses a straw-like component to convey tongue motion to a lucky recipient with the same device on the other end. Tongue motion can also be recorded, assumedly so the other person can relive the event whenever.
'Communications Within the Mouth'
Turning the straw-like element one way or the other at a given speed, this tactile telecommunication is sent to the other device. Turn-angle information is relayed to both machines to keep the straw element in the same position.
According to the lab, the device is intended for "communications within the mouth -- in other words, to obtain the feeling of kissing."
In a video posted on web sites that demonstrates the paired devices, the demonstrator doesn't actually engage with a live recipient on the other end. The transmission is demonstrated locally in the lab to another machine, which displays the same rotating straw activity. The idea is that another person could be there, and it could be on the other side of the world -- but, to date, there's no demonstrated evidence that a recipient would actually, you know, enjoy the occasion.
Of course, there are those kissers who will doubt that this age-old gesture of pleasure and affection could be replicated by a mere straw rotating on a motor. Additionally, the box containing the motor and controller to which the straw is attached seems like an improbable choice for lovers' bedside tables.
But the researchers suggest this is ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
May 08 2011
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Wall Street Journal launched a WikiLeaks rival called "SafeHouse" on Thursday, calling for online submissions to help uncover fraud and abuse in business and politics.
"If you have newsworthy contracts, correspondence, emails, financial records or databases from companies, government agencies or non-profits, you can send them to us using the SafeHouse service," the Journal said at wsj.safehouse.com.
The newspaper said SafeHouse's security features include file encryption and the possibility for a contributor or whistleblower to remain anonymous.
It said the SafeHouse site was located on secure servers managed directly by Journal editors.
The Journal said SafeHouse's interests include "politics, government, banking, Wall Street, deals and finance, corporations, labor, law, national security and foreign affairs."
"SafeHouse will enable the collection of information and documents that could be used in the generation of trustworthy news stories," Journal managing editor Robert Thomson said in a statement.
"We're open to receiving information in nearly any format, from text files to audio recordings and photos," the newspaper said. "Help The Wall Street Journal uncover fraud, abuse and other wrongdoing."
The Wall Street Journal is the latest news organization to launch a site similar to WikiLeaks, which has released tens of thousands of US military documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and secret diplomatic cables.
Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, told Yahoo! News in January that the newspaper was considering the creation of a site for leakers.
Pan-Arab television network Al Jazeera launched a "Transparency Unit" in January seeking documents, photos, audio and video clips as well as "story tips."
A former WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, has also launched a WikiLeaks competitor, OpenLeaks.
May 08 2011
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Assistant US Senate majority leader Richard Durbin is calling on leading Chinese Internet firm Baidu to protect human rights and stop censoring search results.
Durbin, a Democrat from the state of Illinois, on Wednesday released a copy of a letter he sent to Baidu chief executive Robin Li asking what plans the Nasdaq-listed firm has to protect freedom of expression.
Durbin also asked Li to reveal any plans Baidu might have to collaborate with California-based Facebook to launch an online social network in China, which has the world's largest online population of more than 457 million.
"I appreciate that Baidu has given millions of Chinese citizens the ability to access information," Durbin said in his letter to Li.
"At the same time, your company has a moral obligation to respect fundamental human rights," he wrote.
"This is particularly important in light of the Chinese government's recent crackdown on dissent, including the detention of many Internet activists."
Baidu officials were not immediately available to comment when contacted by AFP on Thursday.
Durbin said that he had tested Baidu censorship for himself by using the search engine during a recent week-long trip to China as part of a congressional delegation.
"I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Baidu heavily censors its search results," the US senator said in his letter.
He noted that Baidu had benefited when Google last year said it was no longer willing to self-censor content to comply with government rules. The US web giant has since consistently lost search engine market share to Baidu.
Baidu's censorship work won it a "China Internet Self Discipline Award" from the Beijing government, according to the senator.
Durbin said he was concerned that a social ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
May 08 2011
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Facebook and Google Inc are separately considering a tie-up with Skype after the Web video conferencing service delayed its initial public offering, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters .
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has taken part in internal discussions about buying Skype, according to one of the sources. Another source said Facebook had reached out to the Luxembourg-based company about forming a joint venture.
Google has also held early talks for a joint venture with Skype, the second source said.
A Skype deal could be valued at $3 billion to $4 billion, the first source said. Skype's IPO is expected to raise about $1 billion, several other sources said.
The discussions are in early stages, and it is not clear which option the companies favor, the first two sources said.
Although an IPO is still in the cards for the second half of 2011, Skype remains in discussions with other companies, two of the sources said. If it goes through, a Skype IPO would be one of the most hotly anticipated debuts by a U.S. technology company this year.
Securing Skype as a partner would expand Facebook's user base, help it grow in international markets where Skype is popular, and give its half-billion users another reason to remain active and connected to its online community.
Analysts say a tie-up between Facebook and Skype would make more sense than one with Google, which already has a similar service -- Google Voice.
Skype and Google declined to comment. Facebook was not immediately available to comment. The information is not public and the sources declined to be named.
With a partnership, Facebook can tack another service onto its ever-expanding menu -- a ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
LastPass, the online multiplatform password manager, has noticed "a network traffic anomaly," possibly a hacker attack, so it is forcing its users to change their master passwords.
LastPass, which hails itself as providing "the last password you'll have to remember," is an extension that works on all browsers, smartphones and operating systems. It fills in saved logins and forms with the click of a button and syncs personal data to any computer you use.
LastPass stated in a company blog that it noticed a network traffic anomaly on a noncritical server. Workers delved into the anomaly but couldn't find the root cause. Then they noticed that traffic was sent in the opposite direction from another unaccountable database. "Because we can't account for this anomaly either, we're going to be paranoid and assume the worst: that the data we stored in the database was somehow accessed."
What LastPass does know about this problem is "roughly" the amount of data transferred and that "it's big enough to have transferred people's e-mail addresses, the server salt and their salted password hashes from the database," but the amount isn't big enough to have pulled "many users encrypted data blobs." (Note the usage of the word many -- that could mean the loss of some encrypted data blobs.)
Not only is the LastPass team forcing its users to change their master passwords, they're also verifying identities by double-checking that an individual's access is coming from IP blocks that have been used before or by authenticating e-mail addresses.
Though the scope of the potential data loss is unknown at the moment, LastPass, which was hailed as one of PCWorld's 100 best products of 2009, is using this incident as an opportunity to unveil a new layer of security it has been ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
If you feel the need to compete in every sector of your life, you're in luck -- because a new iPhone app that melds gameplay with music discovery just hit the scene. AudioVroom [iTunes link] -- born from the energy drink-fueled morass that is Music Hack Day -- is an app powered by music intelligence platform The Echo Nest and packed with jams courtesy of 7digital that lets you interact with your radio stations -- and your friends.
"Our inspiration came from our desire to share music with each other, but due to the copyright issues and limitations of file-sharing, we came up with the idea, almost two years ago, to stream music in subscription format and simply exchange preferences, which is completely legal," says co-founder Marcos Lara.
Upon installing the app, you can choose to let it dig through your iTunes, better tailoring future listening to your preferences. Then, much like Pandora, you can search for artists and create a radio station of similar bands, which you can then rate: "love," "wtf?" and "fail." (You get 6 skips per hour, folks.) Loved songs are added to a list for easy re-listening, and stations are also catalogued for later use.
Every time you rate a song, you get points, which you can use to listen to still more music. Everyone starts out with a cache of 1,000 points upon download (you can also buy points -- $40 per year garners you unlimited listening).
Points are key to AudioVroom if you want to keep listening for free, and a lot of point-garnering is about interacting with others, both online and in the "meatspace."
Digitally, you can add friends by inviting people via your phone's contact list or via email (we yearn for Facebook ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
May 08 2011
There has been a long-lived bit of Apollo moon landing folklore that now appears to be a dead-end affair: microbes on the moon.
The lunar mystery swirls around the Apollo 12 moon landing and the return to Earth by moonwalkers of a camera that was part of an early NASA robotic lander – the Surveyor 3 probe.
On Nov. 19, 1969, Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean made a precision landing on the lunar surface in Oceanus Procellarum, Latin for the Ocean of Storms. Their touchdown point was a mere 535 feet (163 meters) from the Surveyor 3 lander -- and an easy stroll to the hardware that had soft-landed on the lunar terrain years before, on April 20, 1967.
The Surveyor 3 camera was easy pickings and brought back to Earth under sterile conditions by the Apollo 12 crew. When scientists analyzed the parts in a clean room, they found evidence of microorganisms inside the camera.
In short, a small colony of common bacteria -- Streptococcus Mitis -- had stowed away on the device.
The astrobiological upshot as deduced from the unplanned experiment was that 50 to 100 of the microbes appeared to have survived launch, the harsh vacuum of space, three years of exposure to the moon's radiation environment, the lunar deep-freeze at an average temperature of minus 253 degrees Celsius, not to mention no access to nutrients, water or an energy source. [Photos: Our Changing Moon]
Now, fast forward to today.
NASA's dirty little secret?
A diligent team of researchers is now digging back into historical documents -- and even located and reviewed NASA's archived Apollo-era 16 millimeter film -- to come clean on the story.
As it turns out, there's a dirty ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)