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Archive for November, 2008

Yahoo BOSS gives partners subject-specific search

Posted by comtech3 on November 28, 2008

November 26, 2008 9:00 AM PST

Yahoo has begun offering a new variety of its BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service) called vertical lens technology that lets partners show a subset of search results relating to a particular area.

BOSS lets people repackage, reorder, blend, and otherwise change Yahoo’s search results; academics and smaller sites may do so for free, but larger ones must show Yahoo search ads or sign a deal with Yahoo to share revenue. The vertical lens technology lets partners “create a truly comprehensive vertical search engine that complements their core user experience,” according to Yahoo.

So far, only some partners can use the vertical lens technology. TechCrunch is one, using the vertical version of BOSS to show technology-related search results. “We’re working to share the technology more openly through the BOSS API,” or application programming interface, Yahoo said.

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Apple’s Black Friday deals

Posted by comtech3 on November 26, 2008

November 25, 2008 9:47 AM PST
Posted by Julie Rivera
(Credit: Apple)

Update: The promotion is now live on the U.S. Apple Store site.

Apple will be holding a one-day shopping event on Black Friday, according to a teaser up on Apple’s Web site. Every sale on the Apple Store is an event, as it happens very rarely, and discounts on Apple products are meager throughout the year. That is, if this is an event full of discounts and sales. The interesting part is in the wording:

“Come back to the Apple Online Store this Friday for a special one-day-only Christmas shopping event. You’ll find dozens of great iPod, iPhone and Mac gift ideas – all with free delivery.”

However, anyone who is familiar with how Apple works, one would surmise that Apple is referring to iPhone accessories as the “gift ideas” and not the device itself.

Furthermore, and not to play devil’s advocate here, but this teaser is for an Apple Online Store sale. Not to mention that this promotion is only up on the New Zealand Apple Store currently, as MacRumors notes — but it will undoubtedly be up for other parts of the world as well soon.

Although, Apple isn’t specific as to what products they will offer at this “special one-day event” on Friday, the symbol on the teaser page pretty much contains all Apple products. Most likely, one of the products that Apple will offer hot deals on would be the iMac as it wasn’t updated this fall and new iMacs should be coming early 2009.

In the meantime, Best Buy currently offers $50-$150 discounts on Apple Computers

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Report: 10-inch Acer Aspire One on the way

Posted by comtech3 on November 26, 2008

November 25, 2008 12:49 PM PST

Acer is readying a 10-inch version of its Aspire One Netbook, according to a report in DigiTimes. The publication attributed the news to Scott Lin, president of Acer Taiwan, and said to expect an official launch of the new Netbook in February or March of 2009.

Acer Aspire One

Lin offered no further details about the 10-inch Aspire One, including whether (or when) it will make its way to the United States. We assume it will, and that when it does it’ll have largely the same specs as the current model, adding perhaps some more RAM and (we hope) a larger battery. No matter what, a 10-inch screen will provide a welcome break from all that scrolling.

Of course, this puts a kink in the plans of anyone who’d hoped to buy an Aspire One this holiday season. If you’ve been planning to buy an Acer Netbook, will you now hold out in hopes of a larger model, or proceed with your purchase as planned?

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New iPod Touch faster than iPhone 3G

Posted by comtech3 on November 25, 2008

November 24, 2008 12:16 PM PST
Posted by Tom Krazit

Apple appears to have upped the processing speed of the iPod Touch in order to help it go after the portable-game market.

Touch Arcade reports that the applications processor inside the second-generation iPod Touch unveiled in September is actually running faster than the processor inside the iPhone 3G, which runs at the same speed that the original iPhone and iPod Touch used. The new iPod Touch’s ARM-based processor is running at 532MHz, while the iPhone 3G’s processor runs at 412MHz.

A game developer interviewed by Touch Arcade noticed a huge difference in 3D-rendering speed as a result of the speed bump. As we remember fondly from our “megahertz madness” days of the Intel-AMD competition in the PC, processor speed is not the only measure of performance, but it is an important one.

With the arrival of the App Store, Apple has been marketing the latest iPod Touch as a gaming device in its latest round of commercials, almost completely ignoring the fact that it’s a music and video player as well.

It seems that Apple has room to boost the clock speed of the processor to 620MHz, according to ARM’s specifications, but that requires striking a balance between performance and battery life.

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Netbook’s Biggest Secrets Revealed: HP Mini 1000 does 3G

Posted by comtech3 on November 25, 2008

November 24, 2008 12:24 PM PST

Posted by Matthew Elliott

The HP Mini 1000 Netbook has a 3G modem–who knew? Well, HP presumably and now the rest of us do, thanks to an enterprising Mini 1000 owner and forum poster at Pocketables.net. He or she (impossible to say with a name like dplxy) discovered a SIM card slot hiding out in the Netbook’s battery compartment. After speaking with HP and AT&T, user dplxy was able to find a WWAN driver from HP that did the trick–no hardware required. All that was needed was downloading the driver and then popping a SIM card in the mystery slot, which would seem to indicate that HP is shipping 3G-equipped Netbooks but not telling anyone.

(Credit: Pocketables.net)

Sadly, we just returned our HP Mini 1000 review unit, otherwise we’d be trying this out for ourselves right now (damnable loan agreements!). So, if you are an owner of the HP Mini 1000, take a peak underneath to see if you have this mysterious SIM card slot. Forum poster dplxy outlines the simple process on Pocketables.net and kindly provides a link to the WWAN driver you’ll need.

Now, all we need is someone to discover a secret 6-cell battery to replace the puny 3-cell unit that is currently your only option with the Mini 1000.

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MSI refreshes Wind Netbook

Posted by comtech3 on November 24, 2008

November 21, 2008 1:36 PM PST

Posted by Michelle Thatcher

MSI on Friday announced the next iteration of its popular Wind Netbook, the 3-pound Wind U120. The updated model includes many of the same features as its predecessor, but sports a new look (white with black accents) and adds WiMax or HSDPA connectivity.

MSI Wind U120

Mobile broadband was one of the items we thought was missing from the Wind U100, so we’re glad to see it’s been included with this update, at least in theory. (At the moment, WiMax networks are pretty scarce in the U.S.) Also included is a six-cell battery, which is a necessity when you’re talking about a device as mobile as a Netbook. In fact, our only wish that isn’t granted with the Wind U120 has to do with storage: though the hard drive size has doubled to 160GB, there is still no solid-state drive option.

The Wind U120’s other specs look similar to the previous version, including its 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, three USB ports, and 4-in-1 card reader. In a concession to those who hate the Netbook’s tiny touch pad, it ships with an external mouse.

MSI did not specify pricing or availability for the Wind U120, but the announcement press release trumpeted that the minilaptop will be on display at CES in January 2009.

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Samsung starts mass production of 256GB SSDs

Posted by comtech3 on November 21, 2008

November 20, 2008 4:55 PM PST

Posted by Matt Hickey

The main things keeping solid-state drives out of the mainstream are their high costs and low capacities. Currently 128GB SSDs sell for around $400, far more expensive than comparable traditional mechanical drives while still holding less data.

Samsung’s aiming to fix that with its new 256GB SSD, which it’s just put into mass production. The storage size is close to being on par with current laptop hard drives, and by producing them in mass quantities it should be able to bring the price down dramatically. Currently, Axiom 256GB SSDs can go for as much as $7,500, really not giving enough value to the average user.

No word on Samsung’s target pricing at launch, but when you consider its 128GB SSDs go for about $550 to $800 you can guess these will come in at a more attainable price point, we’d guess around the $1,000 to $1,400 mark. Still not as cheap as traditional laptop drives, but a large step in that direction.

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Economy takes bite out of electronics show

Posted by comtech3 on November 21, 2008

November 20, 2008 5:33 PM PST

The Consumer Electronics Show has become a mammoth event every January in Las Vegas, but the down economy is paring it back as Cisco Systems, Yahoo, and other companies scale back their presence.

CES remains a useful way for technology companies to meet with retailers, press, and the media. But for some in the current economic climate, it’s not useful enough to pay $35 per square foot for a sprawling booth on the Las Vegas Convention Center’s cavernous interior.

“This was to have been Cisco’s first time as a formal exhibitor,” said spokesman Jim Brady. “Given (Cisco’s) focus on reducing costs, the company has decided to scale down its participation in CES in Las Vegas in January 2009.” Instead, the networking giant is sticking with a more modest space rented at the Venetian Hotel supplemented with videoconferencing technology.

Cisco isn’t the only one to scale back. Also on the list are Yahoo, Seagate, Logitech, and Belkin, company representatives confirmed. Philips won’t have a space on the CES show floor, either, though Funai, which has taken over manufacturing and selling TVs under the Philips brand in the United States, will pick up some of the slack.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which runs the show, said the show will be the third largest in terms of floor space, shrinking from its size the peak years of 2007 and 2008.

“The economy is causing some companies that may have had booths to say, ‘Maybe we want to be in a meeting room instead,'” said association spokeswoman Tara Dunion. Despite it, the total number of exhibitors is level from 2008’s show at about 2,700. “We’re also seeing companies on the show floor for first time,” including Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Iomega, and Mattel, she said.


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News.com Poll

Spooked about CES?
The economy is in the tank. Are you planning to go to CES in January? Yes
Yes, but only attending meetings in hotel suites.
No. I have to watch my pennies.
No. My company canceled my trip.
No. I wasn’t planning to in the first place.

View results

And there’s a silver lining, too. “Vegas hotel rates are coming down because tourism travel to Vegas is slower than it’s been in years. That provides an opportunity for business professionals,” she said.

Incentives to show
But the organizers are working hard to keep the show as lively as possible. One promotion is aimed at technology buyers–the middlemen who buy all those TVs, gadgets, cameras, and other devices before selling them to ordinary folks.

“To increase buyer attendance at the show, we have put significant emphasis on promoting to Consumer Electronics Association retailer/integrator members,” according to one association e-mail sent to show exhibitors. “We developed a special package of incentives and discounts to help with their travel costs, making their decision to attend the show even easier.”

The package includes free registration, a $100 airfare discount, two free nights of hotel rooms, hospitality suits for some groups, and discounted meeting room rates.

CES organizers also can take heart they aren’t wedded to the auto industry, which in the United States is trying to ward off bankruptcy. General Motors canceled its media events at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which took place this week.

The Comdex collapse
The tech show cautionary tale is the once-mighty Las Vegas computer show Comdex, which collapsed in 2004.

Few doubt that CES still has critical mass. None of the companies that have canceled their booth plans is avoiding the show altogether.

But hotel suites and trade-show meeting rooms are cheaper than floor space, especially when factoring in the price of electricity, display setup, and extra staffing. That means that the show organizers miss out on the revenue even if the show goes on.

Several companies are moving to the periphery. “Yahoo is taking a lower profile at CES 2009 than we have in the past,” said Yahoo spokeswoman May Petry. “We are not going to have a booth, but we have a ton of speaking engagements, a lot of presence in partner booths, and press conferences.”

In 2008, Yahoo rented a large tent in the CES parking lot, she said.

Belkin, which makes a wide variety of electronic accessories, came to a similar conclusion in the last couple months.

“In the past we have exhibited at CES with a pretty nice booth. This year we will still have a presence at CES, but will be holding private meetings in our suite with our channel partners,” said spokeswoman Melody Chalaban. And the company’s new product announcements won’t come until after the show, she added.

Along with that means fewer employees on the road. “We will be sending less staff to CES. Hotel suites take up less square footage,” Chalaban said.

Hard drive maker Seagate is sending fewer people and forgoing its booth, said spokesman Michael Hall.

“I think it’s the prudent thing to do in this environment,” he said. “We are still sending executives down there, still meeting with press, still announcing products. But the scale is down from last year.”

Westinghouse has rejiggered its CES plans, too, opting for a nearby homey environment to tout its flat-panel TV wares, said spokesman Michael Ingalls, though the change came before the economic troubles became apparent. “Do we really need to be on the show floor with 5,000 other vendors?” he asked.

Still going
Many companies aren’t changing their plans, including the granddady of consumer electronics companies.

“Sony has not cut booth size or staffing. Everything will be the same as the previous CES,” the company said in a statement. And Intel will have a major presence, including a keynote by Chairman Craig Barrett and a party. “Companies make long-term commitments to the show,” said Intel spokeswoman Connie Brown.

It can be tough to respond if arrangements were made before the economy took its nosedive starting in September.

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Asus set to release all-in-one Eee Top Thursday

Posted by comtech3 on November 20, 2008

November 19, 2008 1:15 PM PST
Posted by Matthew Elliott

Asus’ all-in-one Eee PC is coming into focus. Announced back in January with the Eee Monitor moniker, the company’s all-in-one PC is now called the Eee Top and two models have popped up on the Asus Web site. The company is expected to formally introduce the Eee Top Thursday in Taipei, according to IDG.

Details are lacking on Asus’ rather vague product pages for the ET1602 and ET1603, but the systems will reportedly feature a 15.6-inch touch-screen display (down from the roughly 20 inches of screen space mentioned in January) and the 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor found in virtually every Netbook. Other rumored specs include 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a 1.3-megapixel Webcam.

The higher-end ET1603 bumps you up to discrete ATI Mobility Radeon HD3450 graphics. Asus mentions both Vista Business and XP atop the product pages for its Eee Top systems, but I can’t imagine anything more than XP on such a low-end system. Lastly, pricing has yet to be announced, so we are left to wonder if Asus will hit the $499 price it quoted in January.

As for looks, the Eee Top looks like it won’t offend. The shiny white and rounded Eee Top looks like it might have been designed by someone who had earlier worked on the Apple iBook.

While a cheaper yet smaller all-in-one PC alternative might hold some appeal, I’m left to wonder why I would want an Intel Atom processor inside a desktop, especially if it’s the single-core Atom chip and not the dual-core Atom 330 CPU that is a better fit for Nettops. The single-core Atom N270 is a chip that was designed chiefly for energy efficiency. While I would like to consume less electricity in my home like any other responsible citizen of the world, I am more drawn to the extended battery life the Atom affords when placed inside a Netbook

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Microsoft to offer free consumer security suite

Posted by comtech3 on November 20, 2008

November 18, 2008 2:28 PM PST
Posted by Elinor Mills

Updated at 6:15 p.m. PST with Microsoft and McAfee comment, at 5:30 p.m. with Sophos comment, and at 4:40 p.m. with customer comment.

Windows Live OneCare logo

(Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft on Tuesday said it is changing its strategy for offering PC antivirus software, with plans to discontinue its subscription-based consumer security suite and instead offer individuals free software to protect their PCs.

Code-named Morro, the new offering will be available in the second half of 2009 and will protect against viruses, spyware, rootkits, and Trojans, the company said in a statement.

With the arrival of Morro, Microsoft plans to stop selling the Windows Live OneCare service, although the two services are not identical. Morro lacks OneCare’s non-security features, such as printer sharing and automated PC tuneup. Morro will, however, use fewer resources than the subscription-based offering, making it better suited to low-bandwith systems and less powerful PCs.

Microsoft decided to switch to a free product because there are still so many PCs out there that lack any antivirus software.

“Because they’re not concerned about malware, the number of people who don’t have antivirus software or don’t keep it up to date exceeds 50 percent in developed markets, and it’s worse in emerging markets,” Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for the Online Services and Windows Division at Microsoft, said in an interview. “Live OneCare was tailored for developed markets with broadband…and it’s not meeting the needs of a lot of customers.”

Asked why the company wouldn’t just offer both the free and subscription versions, Barzdukas said: “Having core anti-malware at no charge for consumers, we believe, we will protect more consumers that way.” Consumers who want more than the features Morro will offer have “fine alternatives from third parties” to buy, she added.

Despite the fact that McAfee stands to lose paying customers to Microsoft’s new free software, McAfee spokesman Joris Evers said the news signaled a defeat for Microsoft.

“Consumers have voted; OneCare, in its two years on the market, has achieved less than 2 percent market share,” he said in an interview. “Microsoft is giving up and has defaulted to a dressed-down freeware model that does not meet consumer security needs. This is good news for McAfee.”

Barzdukas dismissed the notion that Microsoft was responding to market share or competitive pressures. “If the current approach isn’t working… (as far as protecting consumers broadly) we need to go with a new approach,” she said.

Asked if Microsoft would ever consider bundling the security features into Windows, Barzdukas said: “I can’t foresee such a time.”

Representatives from Symantec could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said the news doesn’t impact his security firm because it focuses on the enterprise market.

“I think this announcement may cause some sleepless nights for the chiefs at McAfee and Symantec–they’ve always done well out of the consumer anti-virus market, and with tougher financial times ahead of them (they) won’t be pleased to see the possibility of that evaporating further,” he wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

Microsoft had been selling Windows Live OneCare for $49.95 per year, which covered up to three PCs and offered centralized backup and optimization features in addition to security capabilities.

Windows Live OneCare will continue to be sold for Windows XP and Vista via retailers through June 30, 2009, and direct sales will be gradually phased out as Morro becomes available. “Microsoft will ensure that all current customers remain protected through the life of their subscriptions,” the statement said.

Morro, which will be available for download over the Internet, will work on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and the upcoming Windows 7.

The news frustrated OneCare customer Cas Purdy who complained on Facebook: “I just paid for OneCare. I’m kind of bitter.”

Purdy, who heads up public relations at security firm Websense, said in a follow-up phone interview that he paid for his OneCare subscription a few weeks ago for his home laptop. Websense does not compete with Microsoft on consumer software.

“I’m all for a free tool but given that I just paid for it…we’ll see,” he added.

Microsoft’s Barzdukas said customers should contact customer support if they have a concern. “We will absolutely do the right thing by our customers, and if the customer wants to call our free phone support line we’ll make sure they are happy,” she said.

A posting on the Windows Live OneCare Team Blog has a detailed FAQ for customers.

Microsoft started selling OneCare in May 2006, three years after signaling its intent to enter the security software market with its purchase of Romania’s GeCad.

Although OneCare received only mixed reviews, it significantly shook up the security software market, resulting in generally lower prices.

The software maker has also started selling its Forefront line of security software for businesses and indicated at its Microsoft Online launch on Monday that it plans to expand its lineup of hosted security services.

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