Archive for ‘Social Media’

May 2, 2011

DISH And EchoStar Settle Patent Litigation With TiVo, Agree To Pay $500 Million [Social Media]

by Avinash Saxena

SOCIAL MEDIA  DISH Network and EchoStar this morning announced that they’ve agreed to pay TiVo $500 million to settle all of their ongoing patent litigation with the digital video recorder company.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, DISH and EchoStar will initially cough up $300 million, with the remaining $200 million distributed in six equal annual payments between 2012 and 2017.

The companies have agreed to dismiss all pending litigation with prejudice, and to dissolve all injunctions against DISH and EchoStar.

In addition, TiVo granted DISH a license under its Time Warp patent and certain related patents, for their remaining lives. Time Warp is software that allows users to record one TV program while watching another.

TiVo says it will also play a role in helping DISH Network promote the Blockbuster digital video service (DISH just acquired substantially all of the assets of Blockbuster, which went belly upin September 2010, for roughly $228 million in cash).

TiVo also granted EchoStar a life-long license under the same patents, to design and make certain DVR-enabled products solely for DISH Network and two international customers.

EchoStar, in turn, granted TiVo a license under certain DVR-related patents for TiVo-branded products.

TiVo originally sued DISH and EchoStar back in 2004 over its patented DVR technology back when the two were still a single company. They won the suit, but the court decided in May 2010 to reconsider its verdict. Two weeks ago, a federal appeals court then moved touphold the ruling that EchoStar infringed TiVo patents, which ultimately led to today’s announcement.

TiVo will hold a conference call at 9:00 AM ET today to discuss the settlement agreement.

In related news, DISH Network this morning reported its first quarter 2011 financial results and announced that Michael Kelly has been named president of its new subsidiary Blockbuster.

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May 2, 2011

Motorola EX130 feature phone packs in dual screens [Tech]

by Avinash Saxena

TECH  For the most part, geeks overlook the feature phone category altogether in favor of the smartphones which don’t generally cost that much more. A new feature phone from Motorola has turned up today the phone has one interesting feature that will have some taking a closer look at the EX130. This phone hasn’t gone official yet. It runs the Qualcomm Brew MP operating system that has been running on feature phones for a while now.

The EX130 has a main screen that is 2.8-inches and has a screen resolution of 320 x 240. It has 128MB of memory and 64MB of RAM. The thing that has captured the interest of some people perusing the specs of the phone is that it has a thin little OLED screen at the bottom of the device with a resolution of 96 x 16. That little screen would presumably allow the user to have scrolling feeds of important data that they can access while doing other things on the phone.

What I mentioned above are all the features that we know right now. There are key items that are a mystery, such as what network the EX130 will run on. Whether it runs on GSM or CDMA networks is unknown. The price is also unknown, but considering it is a feature phone, it can’t be particularly expensive.

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden killed in shootout with U.S. forces in Pakistan [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

WORLD  U.S. officials  said bin Laden was found in a million-dollar compound in the upscale town of Abbottabad, 60 km (35 miles) north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad. A source familiar with the operation said bin Laden was shot in the head.

“Justice has been done,” President Barack Obama declared in a hastily called, late-night White House speech announcing the death of the elusive head of the militant Islamic group behind a series of deadly bombings across the world.

Leaders worldwide praised the killing as a dramatic success in the war against al Qaeda, although many analysts cautioned it was too soon to say bin Laden’s death would mark a turning point in the battle against a highly fractured network of militants.

Jubilant, flag-waving celebrations erupted in Washington and New York after Obama’s announcement. It was the biggest national security victory for the president since he took office in early 2009 and could give him a political boost as he seeks re-election in 2012.

Obama may now also find it easier to wind down the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan, begun after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.

But the operation could complicate relations with Pakistan, already frayed over U.S. drone strikes in the west of the country and the jailing of a CIA contractor accused of killing two Pakistani men.

A U.S. official said Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid after it had taken place.

The revelation bin Laden was living in style in a mansion will also put Pakistani officials under pressure to explain how he could have been right under their noses. Residents in Abbottabad said a Pakistani military training academy is near the compound.

“For some time there will be a lot of tension between Washington and Islamabad because bin Laden seems to have been living here close to Islamabad,” said Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani security analyst.

U.S. officials said American forces were led to the fortress-like three-story building in Abbottabad after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom U.S. officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden,” a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters in Washington.

Bin Laden was finally found after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building in Pakistan, officials said.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

Bin Laden and three adult men, including a son of bin Laden, were killed along with a woman who was used as a shield by a male combatant, officials said.

The New York Times said bin Laden’s body was taken to Afghanistan and then buried at sea.

RESIDENT WOKEN BY BLASTS, GUNFIRE

The operation took under 40 minutes. A U.S. helicopter was lost due to a mechanical problem and its crew and assault force safely evacuated, officials said. No Americans were harmed in the operation, Obama said.

“After midnight, a large number of commandos encircled the compound. Three helicopters were hovering overhead,” said Nasir Khan, a resident of the town.

“All of a sudden there was firing toward the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash,” said Khan, who had watched the dramatic scene unfold from his rooftop.

Authorities said bin Laden’s hideaway, built in 2005, was about eight times larger than other homes in the area. It had security features including 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire, internal walls for extra privacy, and access controlled through two security gates.

It had no telephone or Internet connection.

“It is not a surprise that bin Laden was captured in an urban heartland,” said Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

“Many of al-Qaeda’s senior leaders have been captured in Pakistani cities. It had become a myth that the al Qaeda leadership were hiding in caves in the tribal areas.”

POSSIBLE REPRISALS

Bin Laden’s death triggered a travel alert for Americans worldwide, the U.S. State Department said, warning of the potential for anti-American violence.

Thousands of people gathered outside the White House, waving American flags, cheering and chanting “USA, USA, USA.” Car drivers blew their horns in celebration and people streamed to Lafayette Park across from the street, as police vehicles with their lights flashing stood vigil.

“I’m down here to witness the history. My boyfriend is commissioning as a Marine next week. So I’m really proud of the troops,” Laura Vogler, a junior at American University in Washington, said outside the White House.

Similar celebrations erupted at New York’s Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center twin towers felled by hijacked airplanes on September 11.

A market perception that the death of bin Laden reduced the security risks facing the United States lifted the dollar from a three-year low and raised stock index futures.

U.S. crude oil prices also fell. “Current oil prices are regarded by most analysts as carrying significant risk premium at current levels and good news on the geopolitical front has the potential to move prices back below $100,” said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

However, some analysts said the market impact would be short lived.

Many Americans had given up hope of finding bin Laden after he vanished in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Intelligence that originated last August provided the clues that eventually led to bin Laden’s trail, the president said. A U.S. official said Obama gave the final order to pursue the operation last Friday morning.

“The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of men, women and children,” Obama said.

CAPTURED DEAD

Former President George W. Bush, who vowed to bring bin Laden to justice “dead or alive” but never did, called the operation a “momentous achievement” after Obama called him with the news.

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, described bin Laden’s death as “a body blow” to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undercut by the popular revolutions in the Arab world.

Other experts were more cautious. “It changes little in terms of on-the-ground realities — by the time of his death bin Laden was not delivering operational or tactical orders to the numerous al Qaeda affiliates across the world,” said Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Statements of appreciation poured in from both sides of Washington’s political divide. Republican Senator John McCain declared, “I am overjoyed that we finally got the world’s top terrorist.”

India said the killing underlined its concern that “terrorists belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in Pakistan,” India’s home ministry said in New Delhi.

A U.S. official said that the retrieval of the body may help convince any doubters that bin Laden is really dead.

The United States is conducting DNA testing on bin Laden and used facial recognition techniques to help identify him, the official said.

The United States is ensuring that bin Laden’s body is being handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition, a U.S. official said.

Bin Laden had been the subject of a search since he eluded U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces in a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 2001.

The trail quickly went cold after he disappeared and many intelligence officials believed he had been hiding in Pakistan.

While in hiding, bin Laden had taunted the West and advocated his militant Islamist views in videotapes spirited from his hideaway.

Besides September 11, Washington has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks — including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen. (Additional reporting by Jeff MasonPatricia ZengerleArshad MohammedAlister BullMissy RyanMark HosenballRichard CowanKristin RobertsAndrew Quinn and Tabassum Zakaria, Joanne Allen in Washington and Chris Allbritton in Islamabad; Writing by Steve Holland; editing by David Storey and Dean Yates)

May 1, 2011

Rugged Android Smartphone Takes a Licking [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena

VIDEOS  Casio‘s made tough “feature phones” before, including the other members of the G’zOne family, the Ravine and Brigade. But this is the G’zOne family’s first smartphone, a relatively slim and compact Android 2.2 handset ($199.99 on Verizon with a new two-year agreement) that offers a variety of features to roughnecks both real and imagined.

As you can see in the video above, this bruiser can take a beating, surviving a half-hour of immersion, even in a whirlpool. Although we didn’t drop it 26 times from a height of 4 feet, Casio says it can handle that too. It can withstand saltwater spray and 95% humidity for 24 hours, as well as 15,000 foot altitude for an hour, unbearably high and low temperatures and even dust storms. See the gallery below for the full list of indignities it can allegedly withstand.

The result? This is a smartphone that you can either take on any adventure, or place in the hands of your slightly uncoordinated daughter (sorry, honey).

Holding this phone in my hands, it reminds me of a little Jeep. Not only did it hang tough in my testing, it looks tough with its four exposed “tough-look” screws on each side and hard plastic encasement.

Even though this is a smartphone that’s obviously looking for adventure, it still packs the niceties of most Android 2.2 smartphones, including a decent 5-megapixel autofocus camera, Bluetooth and GPS. Oh, and its sound quality on cellphone calls is just as good most other cellphones. But if you’re looking for the latest 4G technology, this is not your phone — it only supports 3G/EV-DO data capability. That might not matter to you ifVerizon’s 4G service hasn’t made it into your area yet.

Beyond its Android 2.2 features, the Commando gives you a variety of outdoorsy and athletic features. Go into its G’z Gear menu, and you’ll see eight apps that are tailor-made for fitness buffs and outdoorsy types. Most are useful, and all are interesting. On board is a compass that shows you distances to national parks and landmarks, a pedometer, trip memory, indicators of tides and moon phases, a thermometer and even a star finder to help you point out constellations as you sleep under the stars.

May 1, 2011

South Park takes a poke at Apple data tracking controversy [Tech]

by Avinash Saxena

South Park

TECH  Apple chief Steve Jobs in South Park with his plans for a HumancentiPad

South Park returned to US television on Wednesday night and wasted no time tackling the controversy surrounding Apple and its alleged “big brother” tendencies.

The sharply satirical and topical animated show, now in its 15th season, latched on to the recent revelations that Apple’s iPhone and iPad keep track of everywhere you go, and stores the data in hidden files on the devices.

In the episode, which also parodies the 2010 Dutch horror film The Human Centipede, Apple chief Steve Jobs decides to create a new product – a HumancentiPad, a hybrid of the iPhoneiPad and three human beings. One of the boys from South Park, Kyle Broflovski, is chosen to take part in the experiment after he carelessly clicks on “I agree” without reading the new iTunes terms and conditions. The result can be seen below.

South ParkElsewhere in the episode, South Park’s resident misanthrope Eric Cartman gets rather upset when his mother refuses to buy him an iPad, offering to buy him the cheaper “Toshiba HandiBook” instead.

This is not the first time that technology icons have come under the withering gaze of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In 2007, the show won an Emmy award for the episode Make Love Not Warcraft, which lovingly parodied the online roleplaying game World of Warcraft. That episode was created with the support of World of Warcraft developer Blizzard. And recent series have featured episodes about Facebook, Bill Gates, the internet and the movie Tron.

Critical reaction to the HumancentiPad episode has been largely positive. Writing at the Entertainment Weekly website, Ken Tucker said:

Joining together two wildly disparate elements, one of the best-known entities in the world (Apple and its products such as the iPad) and one of the least-known (the cult film The Human Centipede), the half hour was an unspeakable pleasure.

IGN.com critic Ramsey Isler says the ridiculousness of user agreements and those who don’t read them is a point well made:

We should all be a wee bit more cognizant of exactly what we’re agreeing to (although the enforceability of unreasonable terms in EULAs can always be judged by the courts). But the bigger issue here is one of putting your faith in a corporate giant that may not have your best interests in mind.

Myself, I thought the episode was largely hilarious – particularly the selfish Cartman’s foul-mouthed tirade when his mother refuses to buy him an iPad. And big respect to Stone and Parker for not taking the easy route and making jokes at the expense of Jobs’s ongoing cancer battle – fair play for attacking the company, and not the man. But I do wonder if maybe the Human Centipede references were not a step too far.

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April 30, 2011

Apple juggernaut sends ripples through tech world [Gadgets]

by Avinash Saxena

NEW YORK – Consumer technology companies reporting financial results this week are looking like rowboats bobbing in the wake of Apple Inc.’s supertanker.

Close to oblivion in 1997, Apple is now the world’s second-most valuable company, after Exxon Mobil Corp. On April 20, it reported net income of $5.99 billion for the January-to-March period, nearly double that of a year ago. It shipped a record 18.65 million iPhones during the quarter. Its iPad tablet computers are so popular, the company couldn’t make enough.

Apple’s ascendancy has produced many losers and a few winners, as underscored over the past two weeks:

• Microsoft Corp.: loser.

Apple dethroned Microsoft as the world’s most valuable technology company a year ago. In its mid-fall report, it surpassed Microsoft in quarterly revenue. In the January-March period this year, it surpassed Microsoft in net income, too.

On Thursday, Microsoft reported that revenue from the Windows operating system declined for the second straight quarter because people are buying fewer Windows computers.

Some prospective buyers are going to Macs instead — Apple reported that it sold 28 percent more units. Others are going to iPads. Goldman Sachs now believes that more than 30 percent of iPads sold may be replacing PC sales. In the 90s, the trend was the opposite, as Windows PCs were crowding out Macs.

• Nokia Corp.: loser.

Nokia said this week that it will slash 7,000 jobs through layoffs and outsourcing. It still sells more phones than anyone else, but it’s losing share to Apple, especially when it comes to smartphones.

Research firm Strategy Analytics also said revenue from Apple’s iPhone sales surpassed that of Nokia’s phones in the January-to-March period, as iPhones are much more expensive than the average Nokia phone. That makes Apple the world’s largest phone maker by revenue.

To better compete with the iPhone, Nokia is ditching its old Symbian software and adopting Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. But the transition will take time; the first Windows-powered Nokia phones aren’t expected until late 2011 or early 2012.

• Research In Motion Ltd.: loser.

The maker of the BlackBerry is in a predicament that’s similar to Nokia’s. RIM warned Thursday that net income, revenue and unit sales for the quarter ending in May will come in below its previous forecast.

The company’s high-end phones are looking old compared with the iPhone and ones running Google Inc.’s Android software. They aren’t selling as well as the company expected.

RIM promised investors that new phones with revamped software will bring sales roaring back in the latter half of the year, but investors are skeptical, sending RIM’s stock down Friday.

• HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.: winners, indirectly.

Although all three companies compete with Apple’s iPhone, they are doing well. Unlike Nokia and RIM, the three are betting on Google’s Android system, which comes the closest to mimicking the look, feel and functions of the iPhone.

Motorola Mobility is a shadow of the old Motorola, once the world’s second-largest maker of phones. But its focus on Android-powered smartphones is showing signs of success. It reported on Thursday a near-doubling of smartphone sales in the first quarter.

HTC of Taiwan has been making smartphones for a decade, and sales are really taking off with the help of Android. On Friday, it reported selling 9.7 million in the first quarter.

For South Korea’s Samsung, smartphone sales were a bright spot in the first quarter as overall phone sales declined and other electronics were weak. The company is embroiled in patent litigation with Apple.

• Verizon Wireless: winner.

The No. 1 U.S. cellphone carrier posted a jump in new contract-signing customers — the more profitable kind — after it introduced its version of the iPhone on Feb. 10, which ended AT&T Inc.’s exclusive grip on the device in the U.S.

(Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.)

• AT&T and Sprint Nextel Corp: mixed.

Verizon’s new subscribers came at the expense of AT&T and Sprint Nextel Corp. But neither carrier saw signs of current customers moving to Verizon for the sake of the iPhone. Rather, it seems customers weighing between carriers were more likely to go to Verizon because of the iPhone.

AT&T appeared to be splitting new iPhone customers evenly with Verizon Wireless.

Sprint lost lucrative contract customers in the quarter, but continued its long turnaround by signing up a record number of people on cheaper, contract-free plans.

A customer, right, tries on the Apple Inc.'s iPad 2 tablet computer at a shop in Hong Kong Friday, April 29, 2011. The iPad 2 went on sale in Hong Kon

April 30, 2011

Has Amazon Lost The South In The Internet Tax War? [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

It’s one thing when Illinois’ lame-duck Democratic legislature votes to impose an Internet sales tax modeled on New York’s so-called “Amazon” tax and a Democratic governor signs the bill. Or when Connecticut Democrats agree on a similar bill as part of a raise-every-tax-in-sight package.  Or even when Arkansas’ Democratic governor signs an Amazon tax, as he did earlier this month.  Arkansas is, after all, home to Wal-Mart, which collects sales taxes on its Internet sales and wants Amazon.com to be forced to do the same.

But Amazon suffered defeats this week in two of the most anti-tax, red states in the nation. On Tuesday, Texas House members voted  122-23 to pass H.B. 2403 (legislative analysis here) which bolsters Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ battle to collect $269 million in back sales taxes from Amazon, based on a warehouse the giant Internet retailer has been operating in the state.

And on Wednesday, South Carolina’s House voted 71 to 47 to reject a special sales tax collection exemption for a partially-built Amazon warehouse that would have brought 1,250 jobs to the state.  In a post-vote analysisThe State newspaper in Columbia attributed Amazon’s defeat to “pressure from small merchants, other national retailers and Tea Party activists.”  The Tea Party? Wow.

Make no mistake. As comments on my blog demonstrate, many anti-tax activists oppose the collection of tax on Internet sales. But Tea Party types don’t necessarily cotton to special breaks for big companies, which is how the South Carolina legislation came to be viewed.

Back in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Quill v. North Dakota, that only sellers with a physical presence (“nexus” in taxspeak) in a state are required to collect that state’s sales taxes. Just shipping into a state by say, FedEx or UPS, isn’t enough to establish nexus. Consumers still owe “use” (meaning sales) tax to their states, but few bother to pay. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has brilliantly exploited Quill,  for example basing his business in Seattle, instead of the Silicon Valley, to avoid having to charge California customers sales tax. Currently, Amazon collects sales tax on shipments to residents of only five states.  But as I suggested in February,  the states’ hunger for revenues, ramped up pressure from traditional retailers, and Amazon’s own need for physical distribution facilities could mean that Amazon’s days of tax free selling are numbered.

In the South Carolina case, the administration of former Republican Governor Mark Sanford had promised to push through legislation that would exempt Amazon from having to collect sales taxes from state residents despite the warehouse.  Sanford’s successor, Republican Nikki Haley, said she didn’t favor the exemption, but wouldn’t veto it. After the vote, however, she delivered a rebuke to Amazon, in which she suggested it had demanded too many breaks for its low paying jobs. Said Haley (video here) : “They got free property, they got tax incentives, they got plenty of things. Don’t ask us to give you sales tax relief when we’re not giving it to the book store down the street…It’s just not a level playing field.”

Billy Hamilton, an Austin public finance consultant and former Texas deputy comptroller,  points out that red states politicians, having “drawn a firm line in the sand that says we’re not going to raise taxes, no matter what” are desperate for any revenue they can get by enforcing current laws or  in the name of  fairness.

“I think one of the important shifts here that you’ve seen just in the last six months to a year has been it’s not just one party. It’s a bipartisan governor approach,’’ observed Joe Rinzel,  Vice President of State Government Affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, during a conference call hosted earlier this month by Janney Montgomery Scott retail analyst David Strasser.

Amazon is hardly waiving the white flag in either red states or blue ones.  The new Illinois and Arkansas laws assert that Internet sellers must collect state sales taxes if  they get business from Web marketing affiliates based within the state. So Amazon has terminated its Illinois and Arkansas marketing affiliates, as has Overstock.com. It has also threatened to end deals with affiliates in Connecticut, California or any other state that passes legislation modeled on the 2008 New York Amazon law. (Amazon didn’t cut off New York affiliates. Instead, it is collecting New York sales tax while it challenges the constitutionality of that law in court.)

Even more dramatically, Amazon says it has canceled $52 million in contracts to finish the partly built South Carolina project and is “in the process” of closing its Texas warehouse, throwing 110 employees there out of work. (Amazon is fighting the $269 million Texas back tax bill on the grounds that its warehouse is run by an “affiliate, but not subsidiary, of the Amazon retailing entity” and so doesn’t give it sufficient nexus to have to collect Texas sales taxes. The bill passed by the Texas House is designed to make it clear that such an affiliate gives a retailer nexus. Amazon disclosed this week that the SEC is looking into its tax dispute with Texas.)

Meanwhile, Amazon is beginning to hire for two warehouses it started building in Tennessee after the administration of former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen promised Amazon wouldn’t have to collect sales tax based on the facilities. Current Republican Governor Bill Haslam  has said he will honor his predecessor’s commitment, which was based on an interpretation of the state’s current law and apparently won’t require new legislation.   But Tennessee Republicans are continuing to question —if not directly threaten—the Amazon deal and Haslam is now calling for Congress to pass legislation that would force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes. (Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, is preparing to introduce such a bill, but it has little chance of clearing the Republican controlled House.)

So Amazon will be able to avoid collecting sales tax from most Americans for some time to come. Still,  retail analyst Strasser points out that Amazon has built its competitive edge not only on charging no tax, but also on its efficient distribution. If Amazon locates warehouse/fulfillment centers only in states that agree to give it a pass on sales taxes,  it could end up losing that distribution edge, particularly when it comes to large items, like televisions, Strasser argues.  “Ultimately, they’re going to have to compete with Best Buy, and Target and Wal-Mart and Office Depot andStaples for efficiency,’’ he says.


April 29, 2011

What’s The Matter With Google TV?

by Avinash Saxena

Google and its partners made a major bet on Google TV, an ambitious attempt to bridge the gap between the web and TV worlds. But so far it has failed to pay dividends — quite literally, in the case of Google partner Logitech.

On Thursday, Logitech released its fourth quarter fiscal report, and the results were a mixed bag. Operating income was a mere $3.6 million, a far cry from the $24.5 million it made a year ago. But sales were up 4% compared to last year.

Logitech’s income missed the mark largely due to its investment in Google TV, which was revealed in dramatic fashion at last year’s Google I/O developer conference. Logitech developed the Revue, a $299 Google TV-powered set-top box.

As GigaOm points out, Logitech expected to sell $18 million in Google TV-related products in Q4. But in its earnings report, the company revealed that it only sold $5 million in Google TV devices. Logitech also revealed that its inventory is up 28% in Q4 — thanks to all those unsold Google TV devices.


A Series of Setbacks


When we first saw Google TV, we gave Google credit for its ambition. However, we also had a warning for the search giant: get the user experience right at launch. Otherwise, it risked alienating potential users.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Reviews were lackluster. Users complained about a complicated user experience and an array of bugs. Google delivered an update last month to fix some of these problems.

In December, we heard a rumor that Google would use Android 3.0 to fix Google TV. What we’re hearing now isGoogle TV will merge with Android Honeycomb and Gingerbread to create one multifaceted OS. This should make system updates and Android app development a simpler process. It could also be the start of the development of Android apps for Google TV, a major potential selling point.


Google’s Options


Google and its partners are far from giving up on their TV project. For one thing, there isn’t one major rival dominating the space. Connected TVs were a hot ticket at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the market is young and there isn’t a clear winner yet.

The search giant will have a second chance to breath new life into Google TV at its Google I/O conference in May, the same place it first introduced the product and the company’s best shot at sparking new interest in the platform.

So what might Google be able to do to lift Google TV sales and save it from Google Wave’s fate?

First of all, it can go all-in with Android, rallying developers to create amazing apps for the TV screen. Being able to use your favorite Android apps on the big screen — especially games — could be the selling point the search giant needs to get people interested.

Secondly, it can work with its partners to reduce the price. Apple TV costs $100, the Boxee Box retails for $190 on Amazon, and the Roku costs only $59 at Best Buy. The Logitech Revue, which originally retailed for $299, still costs $230 on Amazon. While Google TV is definitely a different product than Apple TV or the Roku, consumers are bound to shy away when they see the price difference.

To distance itself from the negative sentiments that linger around Google TV, the company may feel the need for some kind of public relaunch, with a fresh look and feel to the device. Call it Google TV 2.0. After all, it took multiple releases of Android before the Google phone OS began to gain traction.

Regardless of the strategy, if Google can’t get its TV engine roaring soon, partners and developers may start abandoning the platform — and there is no recovering from that.

April 29, 2011

YOUNG HOLLYWOOD 2011 – EMMA ROBERTS [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 29, 2011

Is The Gates-Buffett Pledge Really Spurring New Giving? [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

Today 10 new tycoons signed on to the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge, the promise that 69 super wealthy folks have made to give away at least half their wealth to charitable causes. But a recent discussion among some of the Giving Pledge members raised some questions. Are Bill Gates and Warren Buffett mostly signing up folks who’ve already given away huge chunks of their fortune –or made plans to do that?

When Warren Buffett called Business Wire founder Lorry Lokey and asked him to join signed the Giving Pledge, Lokey says he told Buffett, “Warren, you’re late. I already gave it.” Buffett didn’t mind, according to Lokey, whom I met at a conference called the Global Philanthropy Forum. “Buffett said, ‘That’s why we want you aboard,’” Lokey recalled. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Lokey’s Business Wire for an undisclosed price in the hundreds of millions of dollars in 2006.  Lokey told me he’s given away $670 million, primarily to universities and high schools in California, Oregon and Israel. All of that was given or pledged before Buffett called Lokey last year.

John and Tashia Morgridge similarly were big into philanthropy long before the Giving Pledge. John Morgridge, a billionaire, became chief executive of Cisco Systems in 1988, took it public in 1990, and later served as the company’s chairman. He and his wife Tashia have been giving away bits of their wealth for 25 years, as this Cap Times articlepoints out. During a panel discussion about the Giving Pledge at the Global Philanthropy Forum on April 14, Tashia Morgridge explained, “We’d already been giving away a lot of our wealth and intended to give away a lot of it.” Much of the Morgridges’ giving has gone to educational institutions in Wisconsin and to environmental conservation.

Other billionaires on the list who were giving in a big way before they joined the Pledge include AOL founder Steve Case, who created the Case Foundation with his wife Jean in 1997; and CNN founder Ted Turner, who famously pledged in 1997 to give the United Nations $1 billion over 10 years.

Meanwhile, some members of the audience listening to the panel grumbled about the fact that these big givers tend to give to the same sorts of causes, like putting their names on buildings at universities (Lokey contributed $75 million toward a new $200 million stem cell research building at Stanford), which don’t do much for solving issues of poverty or feeding the hungriest.

When asked why Giving Pledge members give more to universities than social service organizations, John Morgridge replied that “You can’t give large sums to those social service organizations … Most of us give small sums to those social service [groups].”

John Morgridge and Lokey both expressed dismay at the number of superrich who don’t see the need to share their fortunes. “This Valley has a lot of wealth. For my case, the disproportionate amount is spent on homes that they live in for two weeks a year,” Morgridge said during the panel.

Added Lokey: “We’ve got all kinds of billionaires sitting on their rear ends doing nothing.”

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