Friday, August 28, 2009

Dell hits rough patch, but is optimistic about future

espite Dell's sharp decline in revenue during the second quarter, the PC maker said things are looking up. The company reported a profit decline of 23% to $472 million ($.24 per share), and 22% less sales during the May-July period. Sales to corporations fell 32% year-over-year to $3.3 billion, meanwhile consumer PC shipments rose 17% - mostly due to price cuts.

Dell's outlook is similar to other big names in the industry, including HP and Intel. They have all reported that consumers are making their way back to the stores, but corporations are still penny-pinching. Dell believes that may not change until 2010. Analysts are looking to next year for renewed company budgets and hope Windows 7 will stimulate sales.

About 80% of Dell's business comes from sales to corporations, government agencies, and other institutions. Company CEO Michael Dell expects things to look a bit brighter in the second half of the year, if the current demand trends continue. However, Dell's profits will continue to be subject to aggressive pricing and rising component costs.

Given Dell's dependency on corporate sales, rivals like HP and Acer who place more emphasis on the consumer market have fared better. HP and Acer have gained market share, while Dell has lost footing. In an effort to reduce spending and regain its ground, the company has trimmed its staff by some 9,300 and has restructured its business units.


TV providers to test online broadcasts

crambling to protect their subscription revenue, TV providers Time Warner Cable and Verizon are planning to offer their paying customers shows on the Web. The old broadcast model could face a serious threat if cable shows became widely available on the Internet. The collective traditional media is already feeling the Web's presence, and it seems they are looking to nip it in the bud.

Dubbed TV Everywhere, Time Warner's trial of the online TV service will include shows from the NBC Universal-owned Syfy channel; Time Warner's TNT, HBO and TBS; Cablevision System's AMC, IFC and Sundance Channel; and BBC's BBC America. CBS and Discovery are also involved in the test. The trial of TV Everywhere is expected to be made available to 5,000 households. Verizon will roll out its flavor of the TV Everywhere trial, making TNT and TBS available online for FiOS customers.

Recognizing the threat at hand, other companies are also moving to safeguard the subscription model of old. DirecTV is reportedly working on a version of TV Everywhere. While their attempts may woo some, I have one question: Will the TV Everywhere online broadcasts be crammed full of ads?


Microsoft: Xbox 360 failures "well behind us"

icrosoft has responded to the recent survey being passed around the Web. Consisting of 5,000 Consumerist readers, the controversial poll suggested that around 54% of the participants experienced at least one Xbox 360 failure - 41.2% said they had at least two go kaput.

According to Xbox Live and Xbox 360 director of product management Aaron Greenberg, while issues inundated the early 360 production lines, things have since improved. "I can tell you the consoles we're making today have lower-heat chips and better cooling, and we're seeing fantastic quality in those consoles today," Greenberg said.

He said that the early problems were acknowledged, and Microsoft responded by introducing an extended three-year warranty for anyone who is faced with the infamous Red Ring of Death or E74 error. Greenberg continued by adding that with the strides taken by Microsoft, he feels like most of the problems are well behind them.

What have your experiences been with the newer Xbox 360 models?


Apple discontinues all iPod SKUs, rumors of refresh surface

he iPod has greatly assisted Apple in maintaining their MP3 player market dominance. As it stands, "MP3 player" is nearly synonymous with iPod - much to Microsoft's chagrin. That doesn't mean Apple has been resting on their laurels, even if it seems that way to resellers. Numerous resellers are apparently concerned over a drop in stock volume, reporting low quantities of iPods available for resale.

That's just the tip of the iceberg though, with Cupertino announcing even more harrowing news. The company has discontinued all existing iPod SKUs, demonstrating that it is preparing to cease manufacture (and hence sales) of every existing iPod model. Is the iPod becoming stale? Perhaps, depending on your point of view - but it is still a blisteringly successful device.

Why would Apple put a stop to all their existing SKUs? Rumor has it that Apple is planning to refresh iPods across the board. This move seems to coincide with the widespread anticipation of a rumored September event. Though it's obvious they are planning something big for the iPod, Apple is tight-lipped as usual.

In the meantime, the halt may indicate a temporary shortage of iPods as existing supplies run dry. We'll post more as we hear official news from Apple.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nokia unveils Linux-based smartphone, N900


n addition to elbowing its way into the netbook scene, Nokia has unveiled a new smartphone, the N900. Keeping its Internet Tablet devices close to heart, the company has given life to a tablet-smartphone-Frankenstein. The company sees its new handset as an evolution from its tablets - which, naturally, lacked cellular functionality.
The N900 will run Maemo 5, and feature a 3G cellular connection (WCDMA and HSPA at 900/1700/2100 MHz), a WVGA touchscreen display and hardware QWERTY keyboard. It will pack an ARM Cortex-A8 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 32GB of storage (expandable up to 48GB via microSD), and OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration. Nokia's new smartphone will be capable of multitasking, it will run a browser made by Mozilla, and will support Adobe Flash 9.4.

Opinions of the N900 are mixed. Most seem to believe it will be a niche product only purchased by early adopters. Research firm CCS Insight considers the device as an experiment, and said, "Its uninspiring design further reflects its experimental nature." They also feel that its appeal will largely lie in its software platform.

Experimental or otherwise, the N900 has quite the feature-set. Nokia's Franken-phone will be available in early October with an asking price of $712 before taxes and subsides. See the Nokia N900 and Maemo 5 in action after the jump.


YouTube to pony up for popular content

ouTube has modified the policy of its partnership program in a way that they hope will make money for both them and content submitters. The site is planning to increase the number of ads that accompany its viral videos. Just yesterday, we reported that the popular video sharing service was looking to turn a profit by baiting new advertisers.

The updated model looks simple on paper. YouTube will contact owners of videos that explode in popularity and ask if they'd like to show ads on the content. YouTube will then split the revenue with the content owner. The exact ratio for the split hasn't been disclosed, but according to YouTube spokesman Aaron Zamost, "very popular videos can make thousands of dollars a month."

Prior to this plan, only the most prolific users were invited to participate in the YouTube Partnership Program. Under that program, select users are raking it in. Back Stage mentions a 16-year-old boy known as "Fred," who earns six figures a year. The change makes it possible for one-hit wonders to profit considerably.


New attack cracks WPA Wi-Fi encryption in just a minute

ncryption systems used by wireless routers have had a long history of security problems. The Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) system was cracked and rendered effectively pointless within a few years of its introduction in 1997. Now, it looks like its WPA successor may soon suffer the same fate, with a pair of Japanese researchers developing a way to break it in just one minute.

The attack builds on the so-called "Becks-Tews method" unveiled last year by researchers Martin Beck and Erik Tews. However, that method worked on a smaller range of WPA devices and took between 12 and 15 minutes to carry out. Both attacks work on WPA systems that use the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) algorithm. They aren't key-recovery attacks -- but give hackers a way to read encrypted traffic sent between computers and certain types of routers that use the outdated encryption system.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has required since 2006 that Wi-Fi-certified products support WPA 2, a much more powerful encryption system that is not vulnerable to these attacks, but users have been slow to upgrade.

The two researchers, Toshihiro Ohigashi of Hiroshima University and Masakatu Morii of Kobe University, are to discuss their findings at a conference in Hiroshima this September 25 but you can read some details now in their paper, "A Practical Message Falsification Attack on WPA" (PDF).


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

reSTART, first US Internet addiction clinic opens

he first US gaming and texting addiction clinic is now open for business. Positioned 13 miles away from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, the reSTART Internet Addiction Recover Program provides a 45-day intensive care program for Internet and game addicts. The package comes complete with psychotherapy, 12-step group counseling, nutritional education, personalized fitness plans, and "high adventure outings."

According to the clinic's mission statement, it is "specifically oriented toward launching tech dependent youth and adults back into the real world." The program is designed to help people break their Internet and/or computer-based cycle of dependency. Participants will engage activities that are often avoided because of excessive computer, video game, and Internet use.

For only $14,500 (or the cost of an 80.6-year WoW subscription as noted by ZDNet) you can hop on the path to recovery, and kick your Web abuse for good. Who's in line?


Microsoft increases Office anti-piracy measures

ear after year, Office turns out to be Microsoft's biggest software cash producer. Beyond Windows and any other single suite, Office is what makes Microsoft scads of dough. Given the relative high cost of the suite, it's no surprise that Office is also one of the most pirated pieces of software in the world. Hoping to curb losses incurred from rampant piracy, Microsoft is introducing some new countermeasures to the newest versions of Office.

The new anti-piracy measures aren't aimed at single users, however. Microsoft isn't losing sleep over the people torrenting Office or pilfering a burned copy from a friend - instead, it is the counterfeiting involved. The software giant is concerned about knockoff copies in cloned packaging. As pirates get more professional, black market copies of Office look more like the real thing - preventing people from determining whether or not a piece of software is genuine.

To accomplish this, Microsoft is expanding "Office Genuine Advantage," a branch of the same anti-piracy arm that most Windows users are familiar with. Primarily, they are increasing how far OGA is available worldwide, and will pass it off as a Windows Update. While at first that may seem like a small act, it's actually a pretty large one - since counterfeiting is a worldwide issue, and Microsoft has largely focused on only certain regions of the world.

Whether or not nagging users with duped software is effective, Microsoft doesn't say. However, their anti-piracy efforts have increased exponentially with time. How much farther will Microsoft (or any software vendor, for that matter) go to prevent their code from being stolen?


Anti-malware feature quietly slipped into Snow Leopard?


ue Friday the 28, Apple's next version of OS X, 10.6 Snow Leopard, may contain an antimalware function of sorts. A report from Mac security firm Intego came yesterday that early testers of the new OS have unearthed some form of bundled-in malware prevention tool.
Neither the firm or users are entirely sure how the function works, but a screenshot shows the feature working with a file downloaded via Safari. The antimalware tool detected a version of the RSPlug Trojan horse in a downloaded disk image.

This is an interesting discovery, considering Apple's long-held stance that PCs are insecure and virus-riddled, whereas Macs "just work." This message is endlessly propagated in Cupertino's "Get a Mac" campaign, where they portray Macs as being trouble-free in the malware department.

While that may be largely true, most would argue that OS X is no more secure than any other operating system, it's just less circulated. With Microsoft Windows installed on 90-plus-percent of computers, it's the obvious target of malware authors.


Opera 10 release candidate available

pera Software has completed its first release candidate of Opera 10, a browser that the company says has better performance, a Turbo mode for slow Internet connections, support for a variety of Web standards such as Web fonts, and improvements to the Opera Mail feature.

"Now, we are very close to releasing the best browser in Opera's long history," Jan Standal, Opera's vice president of desktop products, said in a statement. "We hope everyone who has helped us test our browser thus far will put the release candidate through its paces."

The new Carakan JavaScript engine, which is used to run Web-based applications such as Google Docs, isn't done yet.

"It won't be ready for (Opera) 10 final, but rest assured that it will be impressive when it comes," spokesman Thomas Ford said. He said Opera won't comment on the timing of the new engine's release until it enters alpha testing.

Firefox, Safari, and Chrome also all are working furiously on better JavaScript performance too, in an effort to make the Web a better foundation for applications.

The new Opera release candidate is available for download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Opera has been available for years as an alternative to the dominant Microsoft Internet Explorer, the second-ranked Firefox, and Apple's Safari. It was pushed into fifth place with the arrival of Google Chrome. The Opera browser often charts new territory, though. For example, its Speed Dial feature, which presents an array of Web site thumbnails when a person opens a new browser tab, was first introduced in 2007. A similar feature can now be found in Chrome and Safari, and Firefox may add something comparable.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nokia enters netbook market with Booklet 3G

We’ve been hearing rumors about a Nokia netbook for some months now, but today the Finnish company has actually made it official with the “Booklet 3G” — a stylish Intel/Microsoft-based netbook that promises an ambitious 12-hour battery life, a weight of just 2.75 pounds, and the kind of extras you would expect from a cell phone manufacturer.

The Booklet 3G is a Windows machine powered by an Atom processor and, according to Nokia, will have close ties to the company's Ovi suite of online services and mobile applications currently available to Nokia handset owners. Its thin (0.7 inches) aluminum case holds an HDMI-out port, along with the usual webcam, Bluetooth, SD card reader and 10.1-inch display.

As you might have guessed, the device can connect to the Internet either by a built-in 3G card or Wi-Fi, but Nokia ups the ante with a hot-swappable SIM card slot and Assisted GPS integrated out of the box. Pricing and availability information for the Nokia Booklet 3G is not yet available; the company said it will be releasing more details about the device next week at Nokia World.


Google fixes two critical Chrome flaws

Without much fanfare, Google has pushed out an update for Chrome that will seal up two vulnerabilities which could have posed a serious risk. The flaws, present in the V8 JavaScript engine that Chrome relies upon, could result in data compromise or even worse, total system compromise through code execution.

One flaw pertained to potentially fraudulent HTTPS sessions, and the more dangerous of the two could be triggered simply by visiting a maliciously-crafted page with certain XML content. Google has pushed out version of Chrome already, making it available for download to anyone who uses Chrome. If you haven't updated already, it's a good idea to snag it.

Interestingly, Google is crediting how they discovered the flaws. Mozilla's security team was apparently responsible for alerting Google to one problem, and a security researcher was credited with discovering the other. That may be only a small note, but it is encouraging to see browser developers working together in some fashion.


YouTube to turn lucrative soon?

In 2006, Google paid a handsome $1.65 billion for video sharing site YouTube. Now three years later, the company has yet to turn a profit from its acquisition - but that may change soon. The search giant is looking at YouTube's not-so-distant future and it sees a lucrative business, according to CFO Patrick Pichette.

This year alone, analysts expect Google to lose between $70 million and $500 million on its grossly popular video site. Despite being in the red, YouTube has seen an explosion in popularity and viewership. That wide userbase may eventually turn a nice penny for the search company, as they work to coax new advertisers to the site.

Google has been working more closely with Hollywood, inking deals with Time Warner and Walt Disney. By signing those agreements, they hope the additional professional content will lure more advertisers. Although the company seems optimistic about YouTube's future, analysts offer a polarized outlook about the service's ability to generate profit.

"These are not signs of what I call a smart acquisition, these are signs of a dumb acquisition," said Global Equities Research analyst Chip Chowdhry. Bernstein Research believes that even if the company begins turning a profit, it won't be enough to cover costs associated with bandwidth and data storage.


Yahoo to acquire Maktoob for rumored $75-$80 million

Yahoo is preparing to acquire Arab portal Maktoob for a rumored sum of approximately $75 million to $80 million. Established in 2000, the Jordan-based business was the world's first free Arabic/English web-based email service. Today, it has grown to be the region's leading Arab online community.

Internet use in the Middle East has grown more than tenfold since Maktoob's inception, and there are more than 320 million Arabic speakers worldwide - yet, less than 1% of all online content is in Arabic. The agreement with Yahoo is expected to change that, uniting Yahoo's 20 million Arab users with Maktoob's 16 million. The search player's content will soon be Arabized, starting with mail and messenger services.

Other parts of Maktoob group,,,, Tahadi MMO games are not packaged in the deal, and will instead be a separate company called Jabbar Internet Group. Products resulting from the agreement will be co-branded Yahoo and Maktoob. The companies are looking to close the deal by quarter four.


Wolfenstein Graphics Performance In-Depth

olfenstein is id Software's latest gaming title having just hit shelves last week. Upon its release Wolfenstein has received generally favorable reviews from critics. The game has been praised for its exciting single player campaign, while the multiplayer component has received the most criticism, considered by some to be a letdown when compared to its predecessor Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

Regardless of how you feel about playing solo or multiplayer, there is no denying that Wolfenstein is a great looking game. Based on a highly modified version of the id Tech 4 engine, the game is able to deliver cutting edge graphics that rival more recently developed engines. The modifications to the engine include depth of field effects, post processing effects, Havok physics, soft shadowing, as well as the addition of a supernatural realm called 'The Veil'.

As with any new game release there is always the chance it may not run on your current setup, or at the very least, not run well. That's the reason we like to bring you a complete set of tests based on new games such as Wolfenstein using a range of current graphics cards and some other not so current ones.


Microsoft extends Windows 7 Family Pack to Europe

arlier this year, looking to placate anti-trust concerns in Europe, Microsoft proposed a browser-less version of Windows 7 for the region and then scratched that plan to favor the so-called browser ballot screen option. Its initial plan prevented European users from doing an in-place upgrade from Vista, though, so those who bought a copy of the operating system early were set to receive full licenses at upgrade prices.

Microsoft of course plans to honor those purchases but has now confirmed that, starting September 1, upgrade editions of Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 8 included will be available in the region as well. This leaves a one-week window in which European customers may continue to pre-order full versions of the OS at the upgrade price of €119.99.

Additionally, in a blog posting today at the Windows 7 Team Blog, Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc revealed that since upgrade editions will now be offered in Europe, the software giant will also be selling the three-license Family Pack - which contains upgrade editions - in select European countries. These include the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden.

LeBlanc mentioned that versions without Windows Media Player, marked with a prominent “N” and a big red box, will also be available for all Windows 7 SKUs in both full and upgrade editions, but for no discount off the regular price. This version is the result of a previous European antitrust suit over the inclusion of that software in Windows.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Microsoft releases new Movie Maker, shows HD webcam

icrosoft has released their latest version of Windows Live Movie Maker. The new release has a simplified, more focused feature-set and excludes infrequently used tools. Users can upload videos directly to YouTube and Facebook, burn files straight to DVD, play videos on HDTVs, and save in a wide spectrum of resolutions, including 480i, 720i, 720p and 1080p.

Microsoft has polished the new Movie Maker's storyboard, allowing faster and easier edits than previous versions, and it now supports audio editing. Despite its improved offering, CNET has given the new Windows Live Movie Maker a "so-so" rating. They concluded that although it's decent for its price (free), it doesn't top Apple's iMovie, if you have the cash.

Additionally, Microsoft unveiled a new high-definition webcam named LifeCam Cinema. The LifeCam makes use of ClearFrame Technology and an updated de-noiser, and can record 720p 16:9 video at up to 30 frames per second. It will start shipping next month for about $80.


Lenovo, Samsung put Ion-based netbooks on hold until Windows 7 launch

It’s been months since Lenovo first announced what was supposed to be the first Nvidia Ion powered netbook. Although a version of the IdeaPad S12 with Intel-based graphics was indeed released shortly thereafter to favorable reviews, its 1080p capable sibling still shines by its absence. Now the system is being pushed back until the end of October to coincide with the debut of Windows 7.

A specific reason for the delay was not revealed, but Lenovo did say that the experience of Windows 7 on the Ion-based S12 would make it more compelling than the Vista version it was originally planning to sell. Meanwhile, Samsung will reportedly follow suit and delay the release of their Nvidia Ion N510 netbook until they can ship it with Windows 7. While most Vista notebooks sold between now and October 22 are eligible for a free upgrade, apparently their thinking is that not everyone is comfortable with the process.

Samsung is rumored to have several versions of its upcoming Ion powered laptops in the works, so it’s also worth noting the possibility of them releasing an XP version with DirectX 9 support in September (using the cheaper LE variant of Ion), and a version with full DX10 support after Windows 7 is released in October.


  © Blogger templates ProBlogger Template by 2008

Back to TOP