Friday, 9 December 2011

HP donates WebOS system code to open source developers

The code behind the mobile operating system, WebOS, is being released to open source software developers by Hewlett Packard.

The tech company acquired the software when it bought the smartphone maker Palm for $1.2bn (£767m) last year.

HP used the code to power its short-lived range Touchpad tablet computers before it abandoned the product line.

The firm said it would continue investing in the project to help third parties add enhancements.

"By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices," said the firm's president and chief executive, Meg Whitman.

A statement from the company said it would make the underlying code behind WebOS available under an open source licence. It said third-party developers, partners and HP's own engineers could then "deliver ongoing enhancements and new versions into the marketplace".

The firm added that it intended to be "an active participant and investor in the project".

Analysts said the decision secured the platform's future, at least in the short to medium term.

"Given how successful HP was in selling off their tablet computers cheaply when they scrapped the platform we always suspected there would be some sort of u-turn," said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group Europe.

"However we still don't think it will become a major platform to rival Google's Android and Apple's iOS. It will appeal to many generic tablet makers out there - but its long term future will probably be to power HP printers, and other peripheral devices."

Colin Gillis, senior tech analyst at BGC Partners, said HP had ultimately missed an opportunity to disrupt the market with a line of mobile computers powered by its own software.

"The real winner here is Microsoft," he said.

"It no longer has to contend with what would have been another viable operating system as it prepares to launch its Windows 8 tablets."

Motorola gains Apple wireless patent battle in Germany

A German court has ruled in Motorola Mobility's favour in a patents dispute with Apple.

The Android smartphone maker had complained that Apple failed to license one of its wireless intellectual properties.

Apple uses the technology in its iPhones and 3G iPads.

Motorola could now try to force Apple to remove the feature from its devices or halt sales in Germany. However, Apple said it intended to appeal.

Motorola said the ruling validated its "efforts to enforce its patents against Apple's infringement".

Apple responded: "We're going to appeal the court's ruling right away. Holiday shoppers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad or iPhone they want."

If Motorola does decide to pursue an injunction blocking sales of Apple's products the case could result in a clash between the iPad maker and Google - Motorola's shareholders have approved the search giant's takeover of their company and the deal is due to be completed in 2012.
Fighting times

The case relates to Motorola's patent for a "method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system".

Motorola licenses this patent to others on Frand (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms.

The owner of a Frand-type patent is obligated to license out its technology to third-parties because the invention has been declared to be essential to an industry standard.

Apple had offered to pay a Frand-set fee going forward and was willing to pay a similar rate for past infringements. But it lost the case because it tried to retain the right to contest the validity of the patent with a view to past damages.

It tried to do this because Motorola had defended its right to charge an above-Frand rate for Apple's use of its technology over the past four years. This could have been many times higher than the rate Apple was willing to pay and potentially very expensive.

Motorola will have to post a 100m euro (£85m; $133m) bond if it wishes to enforce a sales injunction against Apple. The cash would cover compensation to Apple if the ruling was later overturned.

Motorola welcomed the ruling.

"We will continue to take all necessary steps to protect our intellectual property, as the company's patent portfolio and licensing agreements with companies both in the US and around the world are critical to our business," said Scott Offer, senior vice-president and general counsel of Motorola Mobility.

"We have been negotiating with Apple and offering them reasonable licensing terms and conditions since 2007, and will continue our efforts to resolve our global patent dispute as soon as practicable."
Appeal details

Patent watchers say it could be years before the case is resolved.

"This is really a given between such large players in high stakes disputes," said Florian Mueller, a patent consultant who revealed the court's verdict on his blog.

"In Germany you get a first ruling by a regional court rather quickly - this litigation started in April this year. Usually between companies of this stature the disputes go to the higher regional court and that could take a couple of years," Mr Mueller told the BBC.

Mr Mueller advises Microsoft and others and has campaigned for patent reform in Europe.

He said Apple could try to revise its products, but noted that Frand-type patents were, by their nature, hard to work around. He added that doing so could run the risk of causing communication problems with the mobile networks' equipment.
Samsung tablet ban

Although Apple is on the receiving end of this lawsuit it has also been very active in the courts suing HTC, Samsung and Motorola among others for claimed patent infringements.

It temporarily managed to have Samsung's tablets banned from sale in Australia, although the restriction was overturned earlier today.

The US International Trade Commission is expected to rule on its dispute with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC on 14 December. The judgement could lead to shipments of HTC's products being blocked in the US.

Although the targets of Apple's lawsuits are often firms which use Google's Android software, the two firms have avoided suing each other. That is set to change when Google's takeover of Motorola Mobility is completed early next year.

"Google with its pending acquisition will be watching this case with great interest as any victory is an endorsement of Motorola's patent portfolio that it is seeking to acquire," said Ben Cross, director of research at the telecoms consultancy CCS Insight.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Black Friday and Cyber Monday US online sales soar

Online sales rose faster than expected in the US on Black Friday, according to surveys.

Internet sales totalled $816m (£524m), a 26% gain on last year, said Comscore. IBM Coremetrics put the rise at 24%.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is treated by many retailers as the start of the Christmas shopping season. They offer one-off discounts to mark the occasion.

Analysts said heavy promotional activity helped drive demand.

By comparison, a report by Shoppertrak suggested that in-store Black Friday sales were up by 7% on last year, at $11.4bn.
Beating the rush

Around 50 million Americans visited online retail sites on Friday, according to Comscore.

It said Amazon was the most popular destination, with 50% more visitors than any other retailer.

Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple were next in line, said the analytics company.

"Despite some analysts' predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce," said Comscore's chairman, Gian Fulgoni.
Mobile shopping

IBM Coremetrics also noted a trend towards shopping on smartphones and tablet computers.

It said Black Friday purchases made on mobile devices had accounted for 9.8% of all online sales, compared with 3.2% last year.

IBM described mobile shoppers as having had a "laser focus" since they had been more likely to view a single page on a retailer's site rather than browse what else was for sale.

IBM said Apple's iPhone and iPad had generated the most mobile internet visits to online stores, accounting for more than double the traffic originating from devices running Google's Android system.

The company also noted a jump in Black Friday related chatter on social networks. It recorded a 110% rise in discussion volumes after consumers had shared tips on how to secure products before they sold out and the best places to park.
Cyber Monday

Friday's internet sales are expected to be eclipsed today on what is referred to as Cyber Monday - which many experts believe will be the US's busiest online shopping day of the year.

Close to 123 million Americans plan to make an online purchase according to a survey commissioned by the US National Retail Federation, an industry lobby group. That would be a 15% increase on last year.

NRF said nearly eight in ten online retailers would run special promotions including "flash sales that last an hour" and "free shipping offers".

The federation also highlighted the shift to mobile devices, saying it expected 17.8 million Americans to use them to shop today, nearly five times the number in 2009.

"Retailers have invested heavily in mobile apps and related content as the appetite for Cyber Monday shopping through smartphones and tablets continues to rise," said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of the NRF's website
Cyber confusion

UK internet retailers said it was less clear which day will be the UK's busiest online shopping day this year.

"Over the last couple of years we have seen a fortnight of peak activity over the period corresponding to both this and next week," said Andy Mulcahy, a spokesman for the industry body Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).

"We expect £3.72bn will be spent online over the two week period."

Mr Mulcahy said that although some retailers are trying to generate interest in the idea of a cyber event in the UK, but they are split over which day to mark.

Visa Europe said it believed today will be the UK's busiest internet shopping day, with £303m spent online.

eBay has forecast that it would experience its peak in activity this Sunday with more than 5.5 million people expected to log onto the UK version of its auction website.

Amazon said it expected to experience more demand the following day.

"In recent years, the first Monday in December has been's busiest day with orders for over 2.3 million items being placed on Monday 6th December last year," said Christopher North, the website's managing director.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

United Kingdom cybersecurity project a 'promising step' but with hazards

The UK government has today released its 2011 Cyber Security Strategy.

With an increased focus on cybercrime, and renewed focus on cyberspace as an engine of economic and social prosperity, the strategy continues to hone Whitehall's understanding of this vibrant, complex and increasingly global domain.

Many of the strategy objectives - in particular those related to securing critical infrastructure - will require close engagement with the private sector.

These public-private partnerships are essential, and, as noted in a recent Chatham House report on critical national infrastructure, they require awareness, engagement and trust among senior decision makers on all sides.

This is not an easy process and requires a keen understanding of the incentives that guide actions in the public and private sectors.
Links to business

The government will also have to balance the tension between building a more secure environment - which requires standards and regulation - and encouraging businesses to set up shop in the UK.

However there are signs that Whitehall is aware of these complexities and the need to experiment with potential solutions.

One new initiative is a three-month pilot scheme among five business sectors: defence, finance, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and energy.

It will exchange "actionable information on cyber threats", "analyse new trends" and work to "strengthen and link up our collective cyber security capabilities".

The strategy also supports existing independent initiatives such as Get Safe Online (raising awareness of cyber threats) and Cyber Security Challenge UK (searching for new talent), both of which have taken a good idea and implemented it in a simple and straightforward manner.

Cybercrime is topic that receives significant focus, in particular for the damage it does to the financial and social fabric of the country.

One primary initiative will create a "national cyber crime capability as part of the new National Crime Agency by 2013".

Another will create, by the end of 2011, a "single reporting system for citizens and small businesses to report cyber crime".

These are all encouraging steps that will require patience and persistence but which are essential.

One idea that looks slightly riskier is a "government-sponsored venture capital model to unlock innovation on cyber security in SMEs" (small and medium enterprises).

The appetite for risk varies widely between Silicon Roundabout and Whitehall, and government experimentation with venture capitalism has often produced mixed results. For example the US government's $535m (£345m) loan to Solyndra - the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer.
First steps

The new strategy is more detailed than the 2009 version, and in many ways reads more like a cyber and economic security strategy.

It continues the process set in motion by the recent Foreign Office-led London Conference on Cyberspace, which emphasised the economic and social benefits of a secure cyberspace and called for development of "rules of the road".

The introduction to the strategy notes that the government will report back in 2012 on progress made toward these objectives.

This strategy is a promising step and has ambitiously laid out a task list of dozens of actions.

The real challenge will be to prioritise and deliver in a climate of financial austerity.

David Clemente is a research assistant specialising in international security, at the Chatham House think tank.

He is the co-author off the organisation's recent report "Cyber security and the UK's critical national infrastructure".

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Black Friday iTunes infected credit malware alarm

Criminals are targeting internet users with a new gift certificate scam, according to security experts.

Users receive an email that claims to be from Apple's iTunes store, warns the Eleven security blog.

The ZIP file attached contains malware that may allow hackers to gain access to the recipient's computer.

The blog says the attack appears to have been timed to coincide with Black Friday, one of the US's busiest shopping days.

Black Friday was the name used by Philadelphia's police department in the 1960s to describe the day after Thanksgiving because of all the traffic jams caused by people visiting the city's stores.

It is now viewed by many retailers as the start of the Christmas shopping season. They mark the day with one-off discounts and other special offers.

Eleven says the period has become one of the most popular times for internet scammers to target users.
Infected offer

The security firm says that users are told they have been sent $50 (£32) of iTunes store credit and need to open an attached file to find out their certificate code.

The file contains a program known as Mal/BredoZp-B. says the software opens up a backdoor on the users' computers and may also capture passwords and other information.

It says the code may also slow down the infected computer's performance and make files disappear.

The malware can be removed with the use of anti-spyware tools.
Facebook phishing

Security adviser Sophos warns of a separate threat linked to Facebook.

It says users are receiving emails claiming that they have violated the social network's policy regulations by annoying or insulting other members.

An attached link take users to a web page that presents them with a fake "Facebook Account Disabled" form.

The firm says that members are then asked to fill in a series of forms requesting their login details, country of residence and the first six digits of their credit card number.

If the users refuse they are told their account will be blocked automatically.

"New day, new attempt," writes Sophos's security writer Lisa Vaas on the company's blog.

"All these phishing scams boil down to a naked grab for your account details. Remember, neither Facebook nor other reputable social media sites would ask for this information."

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Apple wants to turn green with solar energy information centre

Apple, ranked the least green of the big tech companies earlier this year, is moving quietly to repair its reputation by switching its vast east coast data centre from coal to solar power.

Local officials in North Carolina say the company is preparing to build a solar farm adjacent to its $1bn data centre in Maiden.

The facility could help Apple recover from a Greenpeace report earlier this year which said its cloud-computing operations – run from centres such as the one in North Carolina – were heavily reliant on dirty energy such as coal.

Tech companies are notoriously secretive about their data centres and the energy that powers them. A spokeswoman for Apple would confirm only that the company was preparing the ground next to its centre.

But the project became public knowledge in the town when work crews began burning the cleared brush from the 121-acre site in mid-October. Neighbours complained about the smoke billowing into their homes. "They decided after that since it was annoying the neighbours to bring in a chipper and shred and mulch all the wood," said Toni Norton, an engineer for Catawba County.

With the expansion of cloud computing, companies such as Apple have invested heavily in large data centres for their web-based services – often in areas promising cheap electricity, such as North Carolina.

Google, American Express and Facebook have also built data centres in North Carolina. Apple's is one of the largest, occupying about 500,000 sq ft, said Maiden's planning director, Sam Schultz.

But environmental groups say the spread of cloud computing has led to a big jump in electricity use by the IT industry – and much of that power comes from heavily polluting coal. Data centres currently consume about 3% of US power supply, according to Greenpeace. North Carolina gets most of its electricity from coal and nuclear.

Duke Energy, which supplies the plant, gets 78% of its power from coal and nuclear, according to its annual sustainability report. Companies are not required to disclose their energy use, or their carbon footprint, and tech companies tend to be secretive about how much electricity they use, the Greenpeace report said.

It's not even clear when Apple intends to break ground on the solar facility. Todd Herms, Maiden's town manager, said the company had yet to approach the town for a building permit. There are few clues towards Apple's plans in its initial permit, which lays out plans for the company to bank the soil to avoid it washing into nearby creeks.

"The plans say solar farm but for all the permits show they could be putting a big mobile home park there," said Norton.

Google kills off 7 more products as well as Wave

Google has announced that it is dropping seven more products in an effort to simplify its range of services.

The out-of-season "spring clean" brings an end to services including Google Wave, Knol and Google Gears.

It is the third time that the US firm has announced a cull of several of its products at the same time after they had failed to take off.

Experts said the strategy might put off users from signing up to new services.

Google announced the move in its official blog.

"We're in the process of shutting a number of products which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for, integrating others as features into our broader product efforts, and ending several which have shown us a different path forward," said Urs Holzle, Google's vice president of operations.

"Overall, our aim is to build a simpler, more intuitive, truly beautiful Google user experience," he added.
Wave goodbye

The seven latest products earmarked for the chop are as follows:

Google Wave - an attempt to combine email and instant messaging for real-time collaboration
Google Bookmarks List - a service which allowed users to share bookmarks with friends
Google Friends Connect - allowed webmasters to add social features to their sites by embedding a snippet of code
Google Gears - much-hyped effort to maintain web browser functionality when working offline
Google Search Timeline - a graph of historical query results
Knol - a Wikipedia-style project, which aimed to improve web content
Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal - a project which aimed to find ways to improve solar power

Google had previously announced its plans to kill off some of the projects on the list.

It has now given details about when the switch-offs will occur. For example Wave will be retired in April, and Knol content will be taken offline in October.

The diverse nature of the list illustrated how Google operated as a company, said Richard Edwards, principal analyst at research firm Ovum.

"Any company with the resources and number of brains that Google has will have ideas, only some of which will fly. Hitting the zeitgeist is tricky to plan or predict," he said.

The steady stream of innovations from the search giant and the open way it announced them had been a welcome change in a tech industry that had traditionally kept its cards close, said Mr Edwards.

But he warned that Google needed to be careful about how it announced new products in future.

"It can hype the bejesus out of new announcements and it can be difficult for people to pick out the substance from the hype," he said.

There were, he said, "lessons to be learned" from firms such as Apple which took a more measured approach, announcing just a handful of new products once or twice a year.

Some experts think that Google is streamlining in order to concentrate on its Facebook rival Google+.

The network gained 10 million users within the first 16 days after its private launch, and 40 million within the first 100 days, making it the fastest-growing social network in the history of the web.

But Mr Edwards was sceptical about how successful the service would be in the long-term.

"There is no likelihood of people flocking away from Facebook at the current time unless it commits some hideous faux pas on privacy," he said.

"Something may displace Facebook but I'm not sure it is likely to be Google+," he added.

FBI downplays claim that hackers damaged USA water pump

US officials have cast doubt over reports that a water pump in Illinois was destroyed by foreign hackers.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security said they had "found no evidence of a cyber intrusion".

The Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center (STIC) previously claimed a hacker with a Russian IP address caused a pump to burn out.

A security expert, who flagged up the story, said he was concerned about the conflicting claims.

Information about the alleged 8 November breach was revealed on Joe Weiss's Control Global blog last week. His article was based on a formal disclosure announcement by the Illinois STIC.

The report said that the public water district's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (Scada) had been hacked as early as September.

It claimed that a pump used to pipe water to thousands of homes was damaged after being repeatedly powered on and off.

It added that the IP address of the attackers had been traced back to Russia.

The news attracted attention because it could have been the first confirmed case of foreign hackers successfully damaging a US utilities.
'No evidence'

The FBI and the DHS said they had carried out "detailed analysis" and could not confirm the intrusion.

"There is no evidence to support claims made in the initial Fusion Center report - which was based on raw, unconfirmed data and subsequently leaked to the media - that any credentials were stolen, or that the vendor was involved in any malicious activity that led to a pump failure at the water plant," an email sent to the US Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group said.

"In addition, DHS and FBI have concluded that there was no malicious or unauthorised traffic from Russia or any foreign entities, as previously reported."

The officials added that their analysis of the incident was still ongoing.

Mr Weiss said he was concerned that the email appeared to contradict the initial report.

"This begs the question why two government agencies disagree over whether a cyber event that damaged equipment had occurred at a water utility," he wrote on his blog.

"If the STIC report is correct, then we have wasted precious time and allowed many others in the infrastructure to remain potentially vulnerable while we wait to find out if we should do anything."
Fewer managers

Mr Weiss also notes that a 2010 report by the security company McAfee highlighted the relative vulnerability of the global water system compared with other industries including energy and financial services.

"The water/sewage sector... had the lowest adoption rate for security measures protecting their Scada/ICS systems," it said.

The report noted that the low adoption rate might have been linked to the fact that the water and sewage sector, and said that only 55% of its Scada systems were connected to the internet - a lower percentage than most other industries.

However, it went on to highlight the lower number of managers taking responsibility for the issue.

"When considering this data, the small number of water sector executives amongst those with Scada/ICS systems responsibilities - only 11 out of 143 - needs to be noted," said the McAfee report.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

World's 'lightest material' revealed by United States engineers

A team of engineers claims to have created the world's lightest material.

The substance is made out of tiny hollow metallic tubes arranged into a micro-lattice - a criss-crossing diagonal pattern with small open spaces between the tubes.

The researchers say the material is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam and has "extraordinarily high energy absorption" properties.

Potential uses include next-generation batteries and shock absorbers.

The research was carried out at the University of California, Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology and is published in the latest edition of Science.

"The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," said lead author Dr Tobias Schaedler.

The resulting material has a density of 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimetre.

By comparison the density of silica aerogels - the world's lightest solid materials - is only as low as 1.0mg per cubic cm.

The metallic micro-lattices have the edge because they consist of 99.99% air and of 0.01% solids.

The engineers say the material's strength derives from the ordered nature of its lattice design.

By contrast, other ultralight substances, including aerogels and metallic foams, have random cellular structures. This means they are less stiff, strong, energy absorptive or conductive than the bulk of the raw materials that they are made out of.

William Carter, manager of architected materials at HRL, compared the new material to larger low-density structures.

"Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architecture," he said.

"We are revolutionising lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the nano and micro scales."

To study the strength of the metallic micro-lattices the team compressed them until they were half as thick.

After removing the load the substance recovered 98% of its original height and resumed its original shape.

The first time the stress test was carried out and repeated the material became less stiff and strong, but the team says that further compressions made very little difference.

"Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale," said team member Lorenzo Valdevit.

"Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material."

The engineers suggest practical uses for the substance include thermal insulation, battery electrodes and products that need to dampen sound, vibration and shock energy.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Google updates search engine for smarter results

Google has overhauled the way it serves up results in response to search queries.

The update is designed to work out whether a person wants up-to-date results or historical data.

The US firm estimated the alterations to its core algorithm would make a difference to about 35% of searches.

The changes try to make results more relevant and beef up features which Google believes set it apart from rivals.

By contrast, Microsoft's Bing search engine emphasises social search.
Fresh spam

"Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer's day, are best when they're fresh," wrote Google fellow Amit Singhal in a blogpost explaining the changes.

The under-the-hood changes sought to understand whether a searcher wants results "from the last week, day or even minute" said Mr Singhal.

The update is supposed to offer a better guess of how "fresh" the results should be.

For instance, said Mr Singhal, anyone searching for information about the "Occupy Oakland protests" would probably want up to the minute news.

These need to be distinguished from searches for regular events such as sports results or company reports.

Other types of searches could call on older results, he said. Those looking for a recipe to make tomato sauce for pasta quickly would be happy with a page that is a few months or years old.

The update to improve the "freshness" of results builds on the big update made to the underlying infrastructure of Google's core indexing system in August 2010 known as Caffeine. That change made it easier for Google to keep its index up to date and to add new sources of information.

Writing on the Search Engine Land news site, analyst Danny Sullivan described the changes as "huge". The last big update to the Google algorithm, known as Panda, affected only 12% of searches.

The update could have potential disadvantages, warned Mr Sullivan.

"Rewarding freshness potentially introduces huge decreases in relevancy, new avenues for spamming or getting "light" content in," said Mr Sullivan.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Apple MacBook Pro MD313LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop

Introducing the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The state-of-the-art dual-core Intel i5 processor delivers up to 2x faster performance (over the previous generation of MacBook Pro). New Thunderbolt technology lets you connect high-performance peripherals and high-resolution displays to a single port, and transfer files at lightning speeds. And with the built-in FaceTime HD camera, you can make astonishingly crisp HD video calls.

With the revolutionary Thunderbolt technology, you'll be able to achieve bi-directional channels with transfer speeds to peripherals like external hard drives and servers up to an amazing 10 Gbps--while also connecting to a DisplayPort-compatible high-resolution display.

As with previous models, the MacBook Pro features a precision unibody enclosure crafted from a single block of aluminum, creating a thin and light mobile computing workhorse (less than 1 inch thin and just 4.5 pounds) that's also highly durable. And it includes a 13.3-inch, LED-backlit glass display as well as a glass trackpad that doesn't include a button (for larger tracking area) that features Apple's Multi-Touch technology. You'll also get up to 7 hours of battery life while on the go.

This version of the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro (model MD313LL/A) features a second-generation 2.4 GHz Core i5 dual-core processor, 500 GB hard drive, and 4 GB of installed RAM. Other features include integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics, ultra-fast Wireless-N Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth connectivity, an SDXC card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, and a FireWire 800 port (see full specifications below).

Every Mac comes with OS X Lion, the latest release of the world's most advanced desktop operating system. With over 250 features including Multi-Touch gestures, Mission Control, full-screen apps, and Launchpad, OS X Lion takes the Mac further than ever.
OS X Lion
Key OS X Lion Features

* Mission Control provides a bird's-eye view of everything running on your Mac.
* Launchpad puts all your apps front and center for easy access.
* View apps full screen and switch between them with a swipe.
* Interact with your Mac using intuitive new Multi-Touch gestures.

Key Features
Revolutionary Thunderbolt Technology

Developed by Intel with collaboration from Apple, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O (input/output) technology delivers an amazing 10 gigabits per second of transfer speeds in both directions. Built into the MacBook Pro, the Thunderbolt port allows you to connect to new Thunderbolt-compatible peripherals as well as existing USB and FireWire peripherals using simple adapters. You'll be able to move data up to 20 times faster than with USB 2.0 and more than 12 times faster than with FireWire 800, and you can daisy-chain multiple high-speed devices without using a hub.

And because Thunderbolt is based on DisplayPort technology, you'll be able to connect to a high-resolution display from the same port. Any Mini DisplayPort display plugs right into the Thunderbolt port, and you can also connect displays that use DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, or VGA connections with an existing adapter. You'll also be able to include your display into a daisy-chained set of peripherals.
Intel Core i5
Next-Generation Dual-Core Intel Processor

This MacBook Pro is powered by a second-generation Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, which provides breakthrough digital media management, content creation, and 3D gaming capabilities. With updated Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, the latest Core i5 increases speed automatically for whatever you're doing, dynamically accelerating performance to match your workload.

Intel's Hyper-Threading Technology enables each core of your processor to work on two tasks at the same time, delivering the performance you need for smart multitasking. And you'll enjoy a rich set of new features for a stunning and seamless visual experience with no additional hardware. The Core i5 processor also provides faster access to the installed RAM, with an integrated memory controller to connect fast 1333 MHz memory directly to the processor.

With new microarchitecture, the graphics processor resides on the same chip as the central processor and has direct access to the 3 MB of shared L3 cache--helping your applications run at peak performance. And an integrated video encoder enables HD video calls with FaceTime, while an efficient decoder gives you long battery life when you're watching DVDs or iTunes movies.
Buttonless Multi-Touch Trackpad

With no button on the glass trackpad, there's more room to track and click--left, right, center, and everywhere in between. Without a separate button, the trackpad gives your hands plenty of room to move on the large, silky glass surface. It also incorporates Multi-Touch gestures--including swipe, pinch, rotate, and four-finger swipe. And it also now supports inertial scrolling, an intuitive way to scroll through large photo libraries, lengthy documents and long web sites.
Apple 13.3-inch MacBook Pro

Key Specifications

* 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with edge-to-edge, uninterrupted glass (1280 x 800-pixel resolution).
* 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor with 3 MB shared L3 cache for excellent multitasking.
* Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 384 MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory.
* 500 GB Serial ATA hard drive (5400 RPM)
* 4 GB installed RAM (1333 MHz DDR3; supports up to 8 GB)
* 8x slot-loading SuperDrive with double-layer DVD support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
* Built-in FaceTime HD camera for video chatting
* Wi-Fi wireless networking (based on 802.11n specification; 802.11a/b/g compatible)
* Gigabit Ethernet wired networking (10/100/1000)
* Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) for connecting with peripherals such as keyboards, mice and cell phones
* Two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port
* SDXC card slot
* Thunderbolt port with native Mini DisplayPort output plus support for DVI, VGA, dual-link DVI, and HDMI (requires adapters, sold separately)
* Multi-Touch trackpad for precise cursor control with support for inertial scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, three-finger swipe, four-finger swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities
* Full-size backlit keyboard
* Stereo speakers with subwoofers
* Dimensions: 12.78 x 8.94 x 0.95 inches (WxDxH)
* Weight: 4.5 pounds
* Up to 7 hours of battery life
* Meets Energy Star 5.0 requirements
* Rated EPEAT Gold

Angry Birds developer Rovio to open stores in China

Angry Birds maker Rovio has announced plans to open stores in China within 12 months.

Unofficial merchandise connected to the videogame has already proved popular in the country.

The company's chief marketing officer, Peter Vesterbacka, made the announcement at the Techcrunch conference in Beijing.

He said he was targeting $100m (£62m) in sales from the shops in their first year of operation.

"On the physical side, we don't have a lot of our officially licensed products out here, so we have ourselves to blame," he told the conference.

Mr Vesterbacka said he had been to China many times "checking out the Angry Birds' presence".

He told delegates he was unhappy with the quality of the unofficial products, but had also gained "a lot of inspiration from the copyists". The comment drew laughter from the audience.

"It is great that the brand is so loved," he added.
Egg hunt

The China rollout is planned to precede stores in the firm's native Finland.

Angry Birds was first released through Apple's App Store in 2009.

The game's surreal premise is that a group of pigs have stolen the Angry Birds' eggs, provoking retaliatory attacks.

Players use a slingshot to launch the birds at the pigs' defences, in order to progress.

The title has been downloaded more than 50 million times in China alone and Rovio hopes to double that figure.

The company indicated earlier this month that it may float its stock in 2012.

It is not surprising that Angry Birds merchandise has proved so popular in China, according to Robert Gregory, global research director at Planet Retail.

Animal-based characters are already an established part of the popular culture there.

But he warned that Rovio would also be taking a risk with the move.

"The danger is that all trends come and go, and a year or two down the line are people going to get bored of Angry Birds and move on to the next game," he said.

European Union plan to spend billions on advancing broadband speeds

The European Commission is set to propose investing almost €9.2bn (£8bn) in a massive rollout of super-fast broadband infrastructure and services across the European Union.

The plan is partly aimed at stimulating further investment in rural broadband.

It is hoped the initiative will also help to create a single market for digital public services.

The Commission has already set targets for improving the speed of home internet connections across the region.

It aims to get all European households on at least 30 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020, with half the population enjoying more than 100Mbps, so as to make the continent more competitive and productive.
Economic need

It's understood that the EU's executive body will propose the funding, which would be invested between 2014 and 2020, on Wednesday.

The plan would have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers if it were to become reality.

"Europe needs these fast broadband networks to allow its economy to become more competitive in the future, and so create more jobs and prosperity," EU sources said.

"This money would stimulate much greater investment of private and other public money. Each euro [invested by the Commission] would give rise to a further six to 15 euros more."

At least €7bn of the investment would go to building high-speed broadband networks, with the funding mostly in the form of debt instruments and equity.

The hope is that giving infrastructure projects credibility in this way would encourage the private sector, as well as local and national governments, to invest at least a further €50bn in the rollout.

The remainder of the Commission's funding would be parcelled out in grants for projects that could help create a single European market for broadband-based services such as e-health, cybersecurity and intelligent energy networks.

The money would come from a new fund called the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). This proposed fund would also be used for new transport and energy projects, with the Commission and the European Investment Bank absorbing risk and boosting the projects' credit ratings.

Part of the plan is for the CEF to pressure established telecommunications companies into investing more in their own networks, as they would not be the only ones able to bid for funding.

New players such as water, sewage and electricity utility companies would also be encouraged to enter the broadband game with CEF backing, as would construction firms, cooperatives and public authorities.
Rural boost

A particular objective is to get more money invested in rural broadband. Left to their own devices, telecoms companies often invest less in such areas because they are not as profitable as more densely-populated towns and cities.

While the Commission's digital agenda is largely about getting citizens on fast connections, it also contains plans to make electronic public services available equally across the continent.

Under the proposals to be unveiled on Wednesday, grants could go to cross-border e-health and electronic procurement services, smart energy networks and coordinated efforts to take down online child pornography.

Other examples of projects that would meet the Commission's criteria include pan-EU electronic identity schemes, systems that would encourage access to European culture, and multilingual public information services.

The Commission also hopes its plan would immediately create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction and telecoms equipment industries, as efforts to install fibre optic cable networks increase with the additional backing.

European funding has already found its way to several fast broadband projects in the UK. Last year the European Regional Development Fund provided £53.5m to aid BT's next-generation broadband scheme in Cornwall, while £18.5m went to the development of Northern Ireland's broadband infrastructure, also in collaboration with BT.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Germany lifts Doom sales ban after 17 years

A German ban on selling Doom to teenagers has been lifted after 17 years.

The classic video game was put on an index of controlled titles in 1994 as it was deemed likely to harm youth.

Like pornography, sales of the violent shoot 'em up were restricted to adult-only stores.

The rules have been relaxed because officials believe that Doom is now only of artistic and scientific interest and will not appeal to youngsters.

However, one version of the game remains on the index because it features Nazi symbols on some levels.
Sadistic violence

The restrictions on Doom and Doom II officially expired on 31 August following a meeting of the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprufstelle) earlier in the month.

The Bundesprufstelle reportedly decided to reconsider the game's status following an appeal by Bethesda Softworks, the current owner of id Software, which created Doom.

Bethesda argued that the game's crude graphics had been surpassed by many modern titles and, as a result, the violence it depicted had far less of an impact.

The Bundesprufstelle said its original decision was not solely based on the graphic quality of the game, although it noted that most mobile phones now supported far more realistic images.

The panel explained that it was originally concerned because the story played out in Doom involved a relentless cycle of gunplay and "bloody sadistic" violence that was not balanced by other scenes.

In an email to BBC News, a spokesman for the Bundesprufstelle said the key question it asks is whether a game contains "drastic portrayals of violence directed against human or human-like beings".

They added: "If the game then does not contain any real alternative scenes which might on the whole 'neutralise' the violent parts, then the game is likely to be found to have a harmful effect on minors."

The Bundesprufstelle said it had relaxed the restrictions because Doom was now "mainly of historical interest" and was far less likely to be played by children. Not least, it added, because much more realistic and challenging games were more widely available.

Some members of the Bundesprufstelle panel wanted to keep the restrictions in place but were outvoted by those deeming it acceptable.

If Doom goes on sale in Germany it will still only be available to those aged 16 or over.

The adults-only rule was beginning to look like an anomaly because other versions of Doom games, such as one for the Game Boy Advance, had previously been approved in Germany.

Restrictions on Doom II - Hell on Earth have also been lifted.

However, the panel decided to maintain controls on the American version of Doom II because it incorporates two levels from Wolfenstein 3D which makes use of Nazi symbols including swastikas.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

William and Kate's World Wide Wedding

The marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton was an event for the internet age.

Great traditions of state were celebrated by the modern institutions of the web.

Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube were all given over to the royal wedding.

And, like the streets around Westminster Abbey, cyberspace was buzzing with talk of the big day.

Leading the online celebrations was the British monarchy's own royal wedding website.

Visitors were directed to the official Clarence House Twitter feed, the royal Flickr photo account, and the wedding "event" page on Facebook.
Royal tweets

Throughout the ceremony, @ClarenceHouse tweeted updates:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury begins the solemnization of the marriage #rw2011"

"The Fanfare plays! Congratulations to The Duke and The Duchess of Cambridge! You can use our hashtag #rw2011 to send a message #royalwedding"
Clarence House official Twitter feed Clarence House gave regular updates on its official Twitter feed

"The view of the couple arriving at Buckingham Palace from where we are based #rw2011"

"The Duke and The Duchess of Cambridge appear on the balcony #rw2011"

"Find out about the food being eaten at the lunchtime wedding reception #rw2011"
Trending topics

Talk of the wedding dominated Twitter, not just in the UK, but around the world.
Royal wedding tweets Twitter users shared their thoughts using a variety of hashtags, including #royalwedding and #rw11

The micro blogging site's top "trending topics" globally were all royal-themed.

* RoyalWedding
* #rw11
* casamentoreal (Spanish for Royal wedding)
* QILF (best not to ask!)
* William and Kate
* Sarah Burton (dress designer)
* Grace Kelly (Princess Grace of Monaco)
* Westminster Abbey
* Rutter (John Rutter - composer of "This is the day which the Lord hath made")
* Anglican

Royal channel

While blogs and social networking sites provided users with a way of sharing their thoughts on the royal wedding, the internet also allowed people to watch the ceremony.
Wedding on iPad with ABC News app ABC News was one of many broadcasters streaming the wedding to mobile devices

YouTube's live feed brought the BBC's pictures to a global online audience through the "Royal Channel".

It was the video sharing site's 23rd most-visited channel of the day, but trailed behind America's Next Top Model and Top Gear.

The BBC website, which also streamed the occasion, at one point experienced technical issues caused by "the sheer weight of traffic".

Many TV broadcasters also live streamed the wedding to mobile devices, including smartphones and tablet PCs.
Facebook figures

The world's largest social networking site, Facebook was quick to extract wedding statistics from its more than 500 million users.

Some of the more choice nuggets of information include:
David and Victoria Beckham with Facebook statistics David Beckham was mentioned in 9,000 Facebook status updates within 20 minutes of his arrival. Victoria Beckham managed just over 5,000

* 684,399 status updates mentioned the royal wedding over a four hour period - roughly 47 per second.
* 2,274 users checked-in at Westminster Abbey using Facebook's "Places" feature.
* A Facebook page dedicated to "Princess Beatrice's Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat" gained over 4,000 fans.

Web traffic

Measuring the scale of a global media event is notoriously difficult.

The number of TV viewers has been estimated at around two billion. In reality, that is little more than an educated guess.
Akamai global web traffic map Global web traffic was 39% above normal during the wedding according to Akamai

Quantifying the popularity of a topic on particular sites, such as Facebook and Twitter is possible.

However, it is difficult to gauge the impact on the internet overall.

At the height of the wedding, global web traffic, as measured by Akamai, was 39% higher than normal.

Although there is no firm evidence that this was due to the wedding, the United Kingdom was listed as a hot spot, with the country accounting for 11% of online activity.
Republican option

Such was the mood of global celebration that not even the notorious "Great firewall of China" was set to filter out information about William and Kate's nuptials.

The story, along with a picture of the bride and groom, topped the news page of the country's most popular search engine, Baidu.
Guardian newspaper website The Guardian newspaper offered two versions of its website - one for royalists, the other for republicans

Brits seeking a wedding-free news source had to look closer to home.

Refuge was to be found on the website of the Guardian Newspaper.

Visitors to the publication's homepage were presented with the option of a "royalist" version, complete with blanket coverage, or a "republican" version, devoid of the merest mention of William, Kate or Tara Palmer Tomkinson's hat.

Friday, 29 April 2011

PlayStation Network credit card details were encrypted

Sony has revealed that credit card details held on its PlayStation Network were stored in securely encrypted files.

The news offers some hope to users worried about their personal data after the online system was hacked.

Sony had previously warned that card numbers and expiry dates may have been among the stolen data.

However, other information, including dates of birth and home addresses, did not have the same level of protection.

The full extent of the security breach was revealed on Monday, following a week-long investigation by Sony.

The company said that up to 77 million PlayStation Network members may have had their personal information taken during an "external intrusion".

The FBI confirmed that it was now involved and had been in contact with Sony in the United States.

One of the main concerns for users has been the issue of card security.

In a question and answer blog, posted on the PlayStation website, the company said: "The entire credit card table was encrypted and we have no evidence that credit card data was taken.

"The personal data table, which is a separate data set, was not encrypted, but was, of course, behind a very sophisticated security system that was breached in a malicious attack."

The company has not revealed the type or strength of protection given to credit card information, and Graham Cluley from security firm Sophos warned that "encryption" could mean almost anything.

"Some are as weak as tissue paper, and others can take millions of years to crack," he said.

"For instance, you could have an encryption that made every 'A' a 'D', every 'B' an 'E' etc, but that would be trivial to crack."
Unusual transactions

Sony suggested that users should keep a close eye on their financial statements and alert their card issuer about any unusual transactions.

That advice was echoed by Visa Europe, the company behind the Visa payment system. It explained that if card data was found to have been stolen and used to make unauthorised payments, users would not have to pick up the bill.

"Cardholders who are innocent victims of fraud will get their money back, subject to the terms and conditions of their bank," it said in a statement.

PlayStation Network members were urged not to cancel their cards at this stage.

A spokesman for Barclaycard said that such action was unnecessary until it was known if card numbers had fallen into the wrong hands.

If that proved to be the case, Sony would need to hand over the information to the UK Payments Administration - the umbrella body that oversees financial transactions including bank transfers and card payments.

The card numbers would then be identified and passed to relevant banks who could block them from use or elevate the level of monitoring for unusual activity.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

PlayStation information theft reaches 77m gamers

Sony has warned users of its PlayStation Network that their personal information, including credit card details, may have been stolen.

The company said that the data might have fallen into the hands of an "unauthorised person" following a hacking attack on its online service.

Access to the network was suspended last Wednesday, but Sony has only now revealed details of what happened.

Users are being warned to look out for attempted telephone and e-mail scams.

In a statement posted on the official PlayStation blog, Nick Caplin, the company's head of communications for Europe, said: "We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network".

The blog posting lists the personal information that Sony believes has been taken.

* Name
* Address (city, state/province, zip or postal code)
* Country
* E-mail address
* Date of birth
* PlayStation Network/Qriocity passwords and login
* Handle/PSN online ID

Mr Caplin added: "It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained.

"For your security, we encourage you to be especially aware of email, telephone, and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information."

Read the full text of Sony's PlayStation hack apology here.
Credit cards

Sony admitted that credit card information, used to purchase games, films and music, may also have been stolen.

"While there is no evidence that credit card data was taken at this time, we cannot rule out the possibility," Mr Caplin said.

"If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, to be on the safe side we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may also have been obtained."

Sony has not given any indication of how many PlayStation Network users may have had their information taken, but the service has around 77 million members worldwide.

The UK's information commissioner, Christopher Graham, said that his organisation had already begun investigating the Sony hack.

He said that it looked like "a very significant breach of data protection law".

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000.

However, Mr Graham stressed that his ability to take action would ultimately depend on whether data from the PlayStation Network was stored in the UK - something he was still trying to establish.

"It if turns out that it is our responsibility here in the UK, we would ask 'were the security measures appropriate'," he added.
'PR Disaster'

The theft of so much detailed customer data would be seen as a "public relations disaster", according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security firm Sophos.

"This is a big one," he said.

"The PlayStation Network is a real consumer product. It is in lots of homes all over the world.

"The impact of this could be much greater than your typical internet hack."

Mr Cluley warned that, even without credit card details, the information taken was enough to help criminals carry out further attacks on other services.

"Some people will use the same passwords on other sites. If I was a hacker right now, I would be taking those e-mail addresses and trying those passwords," he said.

PlayStation users got their first indication that something was wrong with the service when it became unavailable on Wednesday 20 April.

In the following days, Sony issued three brief statements asking users to be patient while it investigated an "external intrusion", or hack.

However, the fact that it took almost seven days for the company to reveal that data had been taken has angered some gamers.

Commenting on the Sony blog, Tacotaskforce wrote: "You waited a week to tell us our personal information was compromised? That should have been said last Thursday."

Another user Sid4peeps wrote: "This update is about 6 days late. I think it is time to move to the other network, no regard for customers here."

But some PlayStation users appeared to be happy with Sony's handling of the matter. Ejsponge61 commented: "Wow, this is alot of info. Thanks, this is very much appreciated by all of us PlayStation fans."

The Sony PlayStation Network remains unavailable to users. The company has not said when service will be restored.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Windows 7 distributes 350m licences - how does that equate to XP and Vista?

Microsoft's happy announcement about the Windows licences sold in the new OS's 18 months need some context. The results may surprise you

Microsoft has announced that it has sold 350m Windows 7 licences in its first 18 months on the market. This of course comes with the moniker of "fastest-selling ever PC OS" because of course the actual numbers sold are far more than previous ones:

Todd Bishop, over at Geekwire, had the bright idea of asking whether that was a little or a lot proportional to the number of PCs sold, since of course the question isn't really how many numbers are being sold in an absolute sense, but how they compare in context.

As he points out, Gartner's and IDC's numbers for that period suggest 523m and 517m PCs shipped (they use slightly different methodologies for counting shipments, hence the difference).

That means that compared to the number of PCs shipped it's easy to calculate:
Windows 7 licences are 67% of PC shipments in its first 18 months based on the average of the two.

Next, to Windows Vista: according to a regulatory filing, Vista had sold 180m licences (page 23) by the 18-month point.

Gartner says 416m, IDC says 398m shipments in that period; from the average,

Windows Vista licences were 44% of PC shipments in its first 18 months.

That's a long way down. But here's where Bishop runs aground: how does that compare to Windows XP? What are the PC numbers and what are the XP figures? He couldn't find them.

But we can, and we're glad to help.

There isn't an 18-month number, but Microsoft announced in July 2003 that there were 130m XP licences sold (of which 70%, incidentally, were XP Professional). It seems like a safe bet to say that it was tied to the end of the shipping quarter at the end of June, so that means that the period covered is Q4 2001 (XP launched in October 2001, though it was being included in some machines before that official launch period) and Q2 2003, the April-June period just before that announcement.

OK, and what are the PC shipment figures for Q401-Q203? Gartner: 244m; IDC 241.5m.

Taking the average, and calculating the ratio, we get that

Windows XP licences were 54% of PC shipments in its first 18 months.

So we can conclude that yes indeed, Windows 7 is indeed the fastest-selling PC OS ever. (In the absence of figures for Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows ME, though the latter two are really unlikely to be in there.) Congratulations, Windows 7.

Just to show those numbers again: for the first 18 (21 months for XP), the ratios are: Windows 7 67%, Vista 44%, XP 54%.

But now here's the nub: why? Why is Windows 7 doing even better than XP, which at the time looked like a rocket?

I suspect there are three things going on here.

• XP's share in its first 18 months will have been held down because businesses buying PCs may well have been sticking with Windows 2000, the "business" OS, rather than getting XP Pro.

• initially I thought that Vista's share in its first 18 months - which covers the period to the middle of 2008 - was being hit by netbooks (which started off with Linux and then Windows XP). But netbooks didn't really start selling until 3Q 08, and even then only about 5m in a quarter where about 78m (average of Gartner and IDC) PCs were shipped. So netbooks aren't the answer to Vista's low number. It looks instead like it really was down to corporations choosing not to have Vista, and opting for XP licences instead.

• Windows 7 runs on netbooks as well as "standard" PCs, so that with the netbook market counting for some tens of millions of machines per quarter, it's getting the benefit of them all. And far fewer businesses are downgrading to XP or Vista.

Yet even with this said, XP remains one of the most-used operating systems out there, nearly 10 years after its introduction. It's really out of date, and though it has had some significant security upgrades, it really isn't a patch (ha) on Windows 7. If you're wondering whether to upgrade from XP, it has to be said that Windows 7 offers a much more secure environment - and that it can still run XP programs in an emulation mode.

Nintendo heralds Wii 2 console

Nintendo has announced it will launch a new version of its Wii console in 2012.

No technical details about the machine have been revealed, but gamers will get an early preview at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles in June.

The original Wii proved a runaway hit for Nintendo when it launched five years ago.

However, sales have been gradually declining in the face of tough competition from PlayStation, XBox 360 and mobile gaming platforms.

Wii was the first console of the current generation to offer motion controlled gameplay.

In the past year, Microsoft has introduced its Kinect system for XBox, while Sony launched PlayStation Move.

Nintendo's chief executive, Satoru Iwata suggested that his company was preparing a fresh innovation.

"It will offer a new way of playing games within the home," he said.

Some observers had speculated that the Wii 2 would simply update the existing machine, adding a handful of features such as high definition graphics.

However Johnny Minkley, an editor at, believes that Nintendo could be planning a broader redesign.

"The talk was about Wii HD, but I do not see Nintendo doing that. It will do something more innovative," he said.

Mr Minkley noted that Nintendo marketed the original Wii around its motion-sensing handset, rather than technical specifications - something he expects to see repeated.

"PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 were part of the graphics arms race.

"Nintendo would never launch a console based on the strength of hardware. Theirs has to have a gameplay point to it," he said.
Sales slump

The Wii took an early lead in the battle of the consoles soon after it launched in late 2006.

A combination of its relatively low price and its appeal to non-traditional gamers - including women and older players - helped the company sell 20m units in the first year.

In the financial year 2009/10, Nintendo shipped 20.1m Wii consoles. However, that fell to 15.1m in 2010/11.

Nintendo's profits for the same period slipped by 66% from 228bn yen (£1.6bn) to 77bn yen (£570m)

Market data suggested that Wii's share of new console sales have now slipped to second place behind Sony's PS3

In the first three months of 2011, PS3 held a 36% share, compared with 32% for the Wii and 31% for XBox 360.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Playstation Network suspended 'for day or two'

Millions of gamers are unable to play online as the Playstation Network remains unavailable.

Users are seeing error messages stating the network is "undergoing maintenance" or is "suspended".

In a blog post, makers Sony thanked users for their patience but warned the downtime - which has so far lasted more than 20 hours - could continue for "a day or two".

In recent weeks, Playstation has been targeted by hackers group Anonymous.

The network has more than 70 million users worldwide, but Sony were unable clarify how many players had been affected.

However, Twitter messages and blog posts have been posted from all over the world.

This outage is the latest in a series of problems for the network which has suffered extended periods of downtime over the past few weeks.

In response, angry gamers have flooded blogs, forums and Twitter with complaints.

"A full day and you guys still have no clue what is causing this," wrote user Slickshoes in response to the company's blog post.
Wikileaks-related attacks

Another user, Max Smith, shares his frustration that Sony is not keeping gamers better informed.

"To be honest I think that Sony need to give more updates towards the gamers via their Twitter account. There has been no update in the past 18 hours which is really making the community go crazy," he said.

Anonymous, the group which gained notoriety over Wikileaks-related attacks, has previously strongly criticised the Japan-based entertainment giant over its treatment of George Hotz, an American hacker who unlocked the games console's closed operating system.

Sony filed a lawsuit against the 21-year-old, arguing that his hack had allowed pirated games to be played on the machine.

The case was dropped earlier this month after Mr Hotz agreed to sign an injunction banning him from similar behaviour in future.

A spokesperson for Sony was unavailable for comment.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

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Non-iPhone owners more probable to possess iPad in Europe, says research

If you own an LG, Motorola, Samsung or Sony Ericsson contract smartphone then you're more likely than an iPhone owner to own an iPad, according to new European data provided by the research company comScore exclusively to the Guardian.

The surprising result emerges from a new comScore mobiLens study that also shows that across the five European countries studied - the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy - Apple has more than twice the share of mobile users contract subscribers - 12.4% - as Android, which has 5.7%.

Apple's iOS devices - its iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches - have a combined installed base of 28.9m users in the five main EU countries, compared to 13.4m Google Android phones and tablets in use, the data show.

Compared to general mobile ownership, smartphone owners are more likely to be male and aged between 18 and 34. Those aged over 45 are less likely to have smartphones.

Ownership of Apple's iPad tablet computer is highest in absolute terms among iPhone owners, but relative to their numbers in the smartphone market, iPad owners tend to be users of Motorola, LG and Samsung phones - which are Android marques - and Sony Ericsson phones, which use Android and Nokia's Symbian operating system.

The research, for mobile users subscribers aged over 13 - which therefore excludes pay-as-you-go phones - refutes the idea that it is only iPhone owners who buy iPads, says comScore. "This data clearly illustrates that the Apple ecosystem extends far beyond the iPhone, but it also shows that there is significant penetration of iPad users amongst owners of other handset manufacturer's devices," said Jeremy Copp, comScore's vice-president of mobile in Europe. "Blackberry users are the only segment of users to buck this trend and are significantly underrepresented among iPad owners - perhaps a signal of brand loyalty as they awaited the launch of the Blackberry Playbook."

The new data "has significant implications for the media and developer communities as they consider how best to reach their audience on all types of connected devices," said Copp.

Apple's financial results, announced last night, showed that it is benefiting strongly from the ecosystem of apps and products around the iPhone and iPad: it reported revenues of $1.63bn from "music-related products and services", which indicates its iTunes App Store and Music Store, which grew by 23% year-on-year, and 14% from the previous quarter. With digital music revenues flat at best, this suggests that sales of apps from the App Store are continuing to drive profits.

But other figures though indicate that Android is rapidly challenging Apple's position. Data from other organisations shows that its share of the mobile phone market has rocketed in the past year, and the number of new phones coming onto the market at a variety of prices - including the pay-as-you-go market - is attracting more and more users. There is little evidence though of strong tablet sales for Android devices so far.

In absolute terms, iPhone owners are the biggest owners of iPads, with Nokia owners being the second-biggest group. But when adjusted for their relative numbers - with Apple having 20.6% of smartphone users, compared to Nokia's 41.7% - it emerges that Nokia and RIM users are least likely, proportionally, to have an iPad.

"This data clearly illustrates that the Apple ecosystem extends far beyond the iPhone, but it also shows that there is significant penetration of iPad users amongst owners of other handset manufacturer's devices," said Copp.

The study contrasts with comScore data released earlier this week in the US looking at the same situation which found that Apple had 16.2% of mobile subscribers, compared to Android with 10.2%. The US study found that compared to their numbers, Samsung and LG owners were more likely than Apple owners to own an iPad, as were Nokia phone users, though in the US they make up a tiny proportion - 2.3% - of smartphone users. In Europe, Nokia smartphone users are 41.7% of subscribers, but they make up only 26.4% of iPad owners, making them only half as likely as iPhone owners to have one of the devices.

Nokia market share decreases but Microsoft deal confirmed

Mobile phone maker Nokia has posted better-than-expected profits for the first three months of 2011, down 1% to 344m euros (£304m).

But its market share fell 4% to 29% as cheaper rivals and the popularity of competitors' smartphones ate into Nokia's dominance.

Nokia also said that it had struck a long-awaited deal to develop smartphone technology with Microsoft.

Investors welcomed the news, sending Nokia shares up almost 3%.

Stephen Elop, chief executive, said: "In the first quarter, we shifted from defining our strategy to executing our strategy. On this front, I am pleased to report that we signed our definitive agreement with Microsoft and already our product design and engineering work is well underway."

The Finnish company's slow response to the smartphone threat from Apple's iPhone and the Blackberry handsets has been one of investors' key concerns.

On Wednesday Apple unveiled a 95% rise in first-quarter profits, and said it had sold a record 18.65 million iPhones during the quarter.

Consultants Strategy Analytics said that Apple had now overtaken Nokia as the world's largest handset seller in revenue terms.

Despite shifting more than 108.5 million handsets in the last quarter - almost six times that sold by Apple - Strategy says that the US's firms revenues from its more expensive phones far outstripped its Finnish rival's.
Continue reading the main story
image of Tim Weber Tim Weber Business editor, BBC News website

Nokia's new-ish chief executive Stephen Elop will be relieved that sales are holding up fairly well.

If customers don't stay loyal to the brand, if network operators start to focus on other handset makers, Nokia's decline could be swift and brutal.

So it is crucial for Nokia to retain a hefty market share until its technical turnaround kicks in. That won't be before the end of the year though, when the first Nokia phones sporting Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system will hit the market.

For mobile phones, that's a delay of half a lifetime, given the current breakneck speed of innovation.

The numbers also demonstrate Nokia's Achilles' heel: In terms of handsets sold, Nokia is still a giant. Last quarter it sold 583% more phones than Apple. But its margins are razor-thin, and it's little wonder that in terms of both revenue and profits Apple is now a larger phone maker.

Nokia will hope it made the right bet opting for Microsoft rather than Google's Android operating system for mobiles.

In a report published on Thursday, Strategy estimated that Apple's wholesale revenues for its iPhone division were $11.9bn (£7bn, 8bn euros) in the first quarter, against $9.4bn for Nokia.
'Under control'

Under the Microsoft deal, Nokia will start using the US company's software on its smartphones instead of its own Symbian platform.

Nokia said the deal will enable it to cut annual costs by around 1bn euros.

Nokia's group sales rose by 9% to 10.40bn euros, while smartphone sales were up 6% at 7bn euros.

The company's key phone unit reported an operating profit margin of 9.8% for the January-March period, well ahead of analysts forecast of 8.6%.

However, Nokia said that for the full year, margins would fall to within a 6%-9% range.

"Finalisation of the agreement with Microsoft means Nokia can now focus on execution, but margin guidance underlines that difficult times lie ahead as it transitions the portfolio," said analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight.

Despite the drop in Nokia's market share - the first time in a decade it has fallen below 30% - Sami Sarkamies, analyst at Nordea, said: "The first quarter was very strong, much better than expected.

"It seems the situation is under control, there were no dramatic changes," he added.

Yahoo profits fall as company runs into technology delays

Yahoo has said that a partnership with Microsoft is facing delays as it awaits improvements in technology.

The internet company, which has also announced a 28% fall in profits, is using Microsoft's search technology in a bid to improve advertising revenue.

But Yahoo said the system was not yet paying off and that a further roll-out was on hold while changes were made.

Meanwhile, Yahoo made profits of $223m (£137m) for the first three months of 2011, down from $310m last year.

The quarterly earnings figure was ahead of analysts' forecasts and sent Yahoo's share price 3.5% higher in after-hours trading on Wall Street.
'On schedule'

The mixed progress report from Yahoo comes two years into chief executive Carol Bartz's attempts to revive growth at the company.

She told reporters that revenue would not rise to levels that Yahoo experienced before it struck the deal with Microsoft until the end of the year.

Her previous forecast was that revenues would pick up mid-2011.

Yahoo said it was continuing to make progress on efforts to expand into the fast-growing mobile internet market, and to increase the amount of video advertising on the site.

Net revenue, which excludes fees paid to partner websites, was $1.06bn in the first quarter, just higher than the $1.05bn average of analyst expectations but down 6% from the $1.13bn recorded a year earlier.

Ms Bartz said: "Our turnaround is proceeding on schedule, and we are very confident Yahoo is heading in the right direction."

Steve Weinstein, analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, said there were clear signs of improvements at Yahoo.

"The growth in their display business, when you peel everything back, continues to look good," he said.

Apple earnings virtually double as iPhone sales surge

Latest profits for the computer giant Apple beat hopes, including a higher-than-expected rise in iPhone sales.

Net income for the three months to March jumped 85% on the same period a year ago, with iPhone sales of 18.65m - a rise of 113%.

The figures are the latest in a string of good results from the US's technology companies.

Intel's figures, released on Wednesday, were also well above hopes and helped share prices to a three-year high.

Apple reported quarterly net profits of $5.99bn (£3.6bn), 95% up on the $3bn it made a year ago. Revenue was $24.67bn, a rise of 83%.

Sales of the company's computers were strongly higher, up by 28% from a year ago driven by its tweaked MacBook Pro.

Apple's figures were not uniformly positive. It sold 4.69m iPad tablet computers in the quarter, below expectations.

Another disappointment was sales of its one-time star, the iPod, down by 17% on the year at 9m units.

Most analysts were enthusiastic about the figures.

Channing Smith, portfolio manager at Capital Advisors growth fund, said: "Dynamite numbers across the board. The only hiccup is lower than expected iPad numbers."

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said in a statement: "With quarterly revenue growth of 83% and profit growth of 95% we're firing on all cylinders."

Mr Jobs, who went on medical leave in January with an undisclosed illness, continued: "We will continue to innovate on all fronts throughout the remainder of the year."

The day-to-day running of Apple is currently being done by chief operating officer Tim Cook.

Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5134 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)

Toshiba Satellite C655D: Affordable Mobile Computing

A nicely affordable, easy-to-use PC for basic productivity at home or in the office, the Toshiba Satellite C655D (model C655D-S5134) gives families, students or small and home-based businesses the essential power and workspace to study, tackle budgets with a handy 10-key pad, keep up on Facebook and Twitter, or simply do more at their desk.
Black Trax Texture
Black Trax Texture.
Toshiba Satellite C655D
The affordable, easy-to-use, all-purpose Satellite C655
The bright 15.6-inch LCD (1366 x 768) offers a true 16:9 aspect ratio and 720p native high-definition resolution. It also features an eco-conscious design with a distinctive textured finish. Plus, you get plenty of ports and storage to give you the freedom to expand, or hold more files and media.
This Satellite comes pre-installed with the Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium operating system (64-bit version).

Key Features

  • 15.6-inch TruBrite display for excellent color depth and clarity (1366 x 768 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio)

    Toshiba Satellite C655D
    Stylish, eco-conscious design with a distinctive textured finish

    Toshiba Satellite C655D
    Great for families, students and small-office workers who want
    a full-size portable PC to tackle life's basics.
  • 1.5 GHz AMD E Series processor E-240 (512 KB L2 Cache) offering good power for computing basics.

    320 GB SATA hard drive (5400 RPM) 
  • 2 GB of installed DDR3 RAM (667 MHz; expandable to 4 GB)

  • AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics card provides exceptional features, performance and power-efficiencies that enrich what you see and do (384 MB - 947 MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory).

  • 8x SuperMulti DVD drive with double layer support

  • Wireless Connectivity
    • With its integrated Wireless-N Wi-Fi networking capabilities, this laptop provides up to five times the performance and twice the wireless range using 802.11n-compatible routers as you would with 802.11g networks. It's also backward compatible with 802.11b/g networks (commonly found at Wi-Fi hotspots and in older home routers.

    Toshiba ReelTime 
  • Included Toshiba Software:
    • Toshiba Media Controller offers simplified media sharing. Using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, it lets you share videos, music and pictures from the media library on your laptop with compatible devices in your home entertainment network, or with other compatible laptops and devices, like an Xbox 360 game console. And you can do it all without moving equipment, burning discs or fumbling with cables.
    • Toshiba Bulletin Board is an easy-to-use organizational and productivity app that lets you build your own personalized space on your desktop. With Toshiba Bulletin Board, you can quickly and easily manage your to-do lists and calendars, plus create your own custom work area by pinning your favorite photos, documents, links and more.
    • Toshiba ReelTime helps you cut down the time it takes to search for files. The easy-to-use app takes traditional text-based file structures one step further to help you find what you're looking for more quickly. Accessible from your taskbar, it shows you a visual timeline of your recently accessed files--using graphical thumbnails--so you can easily identify and get to your files faster. 

Acer Aspire 5742 15.6 inch Notebook ( Intel Core i3-370M, 3GB RAM, 250GB HDD, DVD, Webcam, Wireless, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit) Black

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; Intel Core i3-370M (2.4GHz; 3MB L3); 3 GB; 250 GB HDD; DVD-Super Multi DL drive; 15.6" HD Acer CineCrystal LED LCD; UMA; Acer Nplify 802.11b/g/n; 3 USB; 1.3 megapixel webcam; 6-cell Li-ion

The Aspire 5742 meets your daily computing needs with blazing processor performance and impressive graphics. HD media playback offers richer entertainment at home or on the road; while boundary-free wireless communication keeps you in touch with family and friends all the time. Whats more; Acers special 16:9 Home Touch Design provides simple usability for more relaxed computing.

Blazing performance
The 15.6" HD widescreen display provides ample space for multitasking and entertainment. A mighty Intel® Core"¢ processor combines with integrated Intel® HD Graphics and high-definition technologies to deliver great image quality and visual effects. Store all your files and multimedia on the large-capacity hard disk drive; and conveniently share them with others using the 2-in-1 card reader.

Far-reaching communication
The latest communication technologies keep you in constant contact regardless of space or time. Feel free to engage in live chats from all over the world using the Acer Crystal Eye webcam with 1.3 MP resolution and built-in microphone; while a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED"¢ network connection lets you get online from any hotspot. In addition; Bluetooth® makes file-sharing fast and easy.

Awesome multimedia enjoyment
The cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio presents sharp; colorful visuals on the Acer CineCrystal"¢ display. A built-in DVD-Super Multi drive is the ticket to your portable home cinema for viewing favorite videos and movies; plus an HDMI"¢ interface conveniently connects you to todays hottest high-definition entertainment on a bigger screen.