Archive for ‘Tech’

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 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 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 27, 2011

Mobile application management without the heavy hand [Infographic]

by Avinash Saxena

Mobile application management without the heavy hand

IT concerns are fast moving from mobile device management (MDM) to mobile application management (MAM) as part of a shift in thinking from whether to allow mobile devices in to how to best take advantage of them. At IT conferences, I hear more and more questions about how to manage those applications. For organizations used to controlling the software on a user’s PC via tools such as IBM’s Tivoli and Microsoft’s SMS, the iPhones, iPads, and Androids now becoming commonplace herald a Wild West environment.

The heterogeneity of those devices is daunting enough — most desktop application management tools can’t even do a decent job of handling Mac OS X applications, so no one expects them to go near the mobile devices. But mobile OSes veer even more dramatically from the desktop, making app management less suitable for IT’s traditional approach. The use of app stores means IT isn’t the central distributor of apps in mobile, while the mix of HTML and native apps raises another level of complexity. Sure, IT can put together its own mobile app “store,” but it’s often a glorified website or intranet site with links to approved or recommended apps, both internal and external.

[ Learn how to manage iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys, and other smartphones in InfoWorld’s 20-page Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

Even as IT has given up the notion of ruling over mobile devices and instead has come to view them as a device jointly “owned” with the user, IT rightfully wants to manage the business-oriented apps on those devices. That way, when an employee leaves the company or a device is lost, the application and its data can be removed from the device. IT also rightfully wants to be able to manage updates and licenses, as well as track usage — especially in the messy context of apps used by employees, contractors, and business partners, in which even a control-oriented organization simply can’t seize the traditional control over all the devices.

The first wave: Managing HTML app containers via policies
What’s evolved in the device management space is a policy-oriented approach. In this scenario, a tool such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), Microsoft Exchange (via Exchange ActiveSync protocol), or a third-party MDM utility, such as those from Good Technology, MobileIron, and Trellia, manages the data it provisions, including mail, contacts, and so on. It can also impose devicewide access policies, such as password requirements, remote lock, and more. Some of these tools can even manage applications they provision, essentially allowing or disallowing access, as well as pushing updates.

The same is beginning to happen in mobile application management. A few weeks back, I profiled the approach used by Antenna Software, whose MAM essentially puts HTML apps in a virtual box on the iPhone or Android device. IT can then control and monitor the apps in that box. The approach is very similar to how many MDM tools work, providing their own clients, managing the email, and so on, apart from the rest of the device; it’s akin to the VDI approach used in Citrix Systems’ Receiver app for mobile devices.

That box approach provides a clear separation between work and personal apps and data, but it’s a bit heavy-handed, forcing users (in the case of Antenna’s Volt) to open a container app to access business-provisioned HTML apps. That’s acceptable for HTML apps, as users typically first launch a browser before running a Web app, and you can think of the Volt client as a browser for enterprise apps. Plus, IT directly controls those apps because they run on IT’s servers just like a desktop Web app.

April 27, 2011

The Real Reason Stocks Keep Rising [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

“It’s earnings, Stupid” a bullish investor is currently shouting from his rooftop. Ever so right he is. But what really is the driving force behind this latest surge in equity prices?

Last I checked, a madman despot is holding oil prices hostage (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians). Those oil prices, along with an ever-higher grocery bill, are now taking up 22% of the average American’s spending budget. For good measure, over one-fourth of Americans’ homes are “underwater” (the mortgage is larger than the home is actually worth). Not surprisingly, roughly 15% of Americans are now on food stamps, and over 15% remain “underemployed” (unemployed, involuntarily working only part-time, or so despondent that they are out of the labor force).

My stock portfolio, on the other hand, is doing just fine, thank you. Who cares about the fiscal debauchery of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain)? Who cares about the out-of-control level of U.S. Debt? Who cares about the rampant level of inflation in emerging markets and the fact that many central banks are raising interest rates and imposing capital controls which will slow down their economic growth rates? Who cares about the social unrest throughout the Middle East and North Africa?

Well, with gold trading at over $1,500 per ounce (and the price of silver and some soft commodities moving up even faster), apparently the traders in the Chicago pits have taken notice. But not the U.S equity market, with the VIX (the Volatility Index, a measure gauging future anticipated stock market volatility) trading at an astonishingly low level. Truly eye-opening.

The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind. It’s earnings. Plain and simple. Albeit early in this latest array of quarterly earnings reports, 81% of the 124 companies so far to report earnings from the S&P 500 Index and 71% of the 188 companies in the MCSI World Index have reported earnings per share figures that have beaten the consensus analysts’ estimates. Indeed, profits of those 188 companies reporting to-date in the MSCI World Index have beaten forecasts by nearly 9%! What gives?

Oddly enough, bad news is actually good news. You see, U.S. productivity, which is a measure of employee output per hour, is now increasing at an unusually high rate of 4%, the fastest pace since leaving the depressed recession of 2002. And what causes this thrust in productivity? Better technology? A more streamlined approach to organizational management? Highly efficient, just-in-time inventories clicking along? Perhaps a bit of each of these elements helps to answer this quandary, but there is one overriding factor to the corporate earnings momentum: the lack of wage pressures on businesses.

That is, what’s really driving productivity growth, and hence earnings growth, and hence stock market appreciation, is the fact that wages as a percentage of revenues keep falling!

That’s right. America’s pain is also the stock market’s gain. Labor costs fell 1.5% in 2010 (they also dropped 1.6% in 2009). No wonder corporate profits have meaningfully beaten consensus analyst estimates for 8 consecutive quarters. Corporations haven’t experienced this much good fortune (at the expense of the average American’s poor fortune) since 1962-1963.

So while the headlines bombard us with depressing news, stocks are “climbing a wall of worry” ever so steadily higher. In this case, climbing on the back of America’s employees who are shouldering the burden to graciously accept a day’s wage, thankful that they aren’t out of work like one of their friends, neighbors or relatives. Go figure.

April 20, 2011

Google Introducing Toolbar 7

by Avinash Saxena

The post is posted on Google’s official blog by Allen Huang, Associate Product Manager, Toolbar ”
Today we’re bringing the speed of Google Instant to the latest version of Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. We’re also introducing a fresh, clean look that personalizes Toolbar with the tools you use most.

Toolbar Instant
If you’ve used Instant on google.com or in Chrome, you’ll be right at home with Toolbar Instant. Just start typing in the search box and search predictions and results will appear instantly as you type, getting you the results you want faster.

You can also type Alt+G to get to the Toolbar search box more quickly.

To enable Toolbar Instant, visit Toolbar Options and click “Enable Instant for faster searching and browsing.” Toolbar Instant works on IE8 and IE9; if you’re on an older browser, you can either upgrade your Internet Explorer version or try Instant in Chrome, which includes many of the same tools you’re familiar with in Toolbar.

Personalized Toolbar 
This new version of Toolbar is simpler, cleaner and emphasizes what’s important to you. The tools that you use most will remain visible on the toolbar, while buttons that you haven’t used recently will be moved to the new “More” button.

As you discover and use particular tools that help your browsing experience, like Share or Translate, they’ll automatically appear on the toolbar, making your most relevant tools easy to access. This personalization is stored only on your computer, so no information is sent to Google unless your usage statistics are enabled. You can learn more about this personalization at our Help Center.

Making Toolbar work for you
Some Google Toolbar features, such as PageRank and spell check, require sharing some information with Google in order to function properly. With Google Toolbar 7, we’ve made it easier for you to control your privacy settings. From a single settings menu, you can decide which of these features you’d like to enable and which ones you’d like to stay off.

We’ve also continued to improve the performance of Toolbar 7 without slowing down your browser, making it one of the fastest add-ons you can use in Internet Explorer.

Google Toolbar 7 is available in English on our download page and will be coming to our other supported languages over the next week. If you’re already using Toolbar, you’ll automatically be updated to the new version over the next few weeks. You can also find out more about Toolbar on our features page. “

April 17, 2011

Fun Science: Light [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 15, 2011

Is Your Girlfriend Cheating? Here’s one way to find out! [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 15, 2011

Is Your Girlfriend Cheating? Here's one way to find out! [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
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