Thursday, October 9, 2008

Scrabulous scrapped from Facebook

The long awaited decision on the fight between Facebook and the makers of the game - Scrabble has come to an end finally with the later emerging as the winners.

The legal proceedings against the app had started in January when Mattel (the makers of the game) decided that Scrabulous was infringing on copyright and trademarks.

The makers of the game are Rjat and Jayant Agarwalla based in India and if you are in India you can still play the game as the Indian courts are still deciding on this issue.

We will keep you informed on the Indian court rulings, but for the moment it looks very much like the end of Scrabulous. BDV-234049-BDV

iPod dying? It's already dead

There has been much blogorrhea on Tuesday over Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's offhand comment to the Telegraph that the iPod would go the way of the transistor radio and the Sony Walkman, becoming a cheap and eventually boring commodity product.

iPod? Isn't that the music application for the iPhone?

News flash: it's already there. Sure, Apple will still sell millions of units every quarter, and it might even continue to grow unit sales and revenue for a while. But it's clear from Apple's most recent announcements that the company no longer views the iPod as its main vehicle for innovation--new (old) form factors, colors, and one interesting update are the kind of incremental tweaks you make to a cash cow product line, not the groundbreaking innovations that move markets forward.

Apple passed its mantle of innovation to the first iPhone a year ago, and that's where the action's going to be, from now on--multifunction devices with interesting new interfaces (touch is just the beginning) that act more like tiny computers than single-purpose devices. iPod? That's just another application icon on the iPhone deck.

(And here's something you'll never hear in a presidential debate: I was wrong. Specifically, I was wrong when I suggested that consumers would continue to favor single-function devices and that the iPhone's bet on convergence would sink it. I underestimated the power of the touch screen and Apple's relentless focus on ease of use, which have made the iPhone the first ultraportable computer for mere mortals.)

I appreciate Microsoft's latest Zune innovations, but they needed to be in the product when it launched two years ago. MP3 players are becoming a commodity in which low price overrides new features--especially given how tight consumer spending is likely to be this holiday season. Microsoft isn't into commodities, unless it's got dominant market share, so look for the company to turn its attention to building a more competitive version of Windows Mobile. Zune will live on--as the music playback application for Microsoft's mobile phones.

Source :Cnet News

The tech downturn: How long and how bad?

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway sent a sobering e-mail Tuesday to the 130 start-up companies he's invested in: now is the time to hunker down.

Ron Conway
Credit: Joi Ito
"You better rely
on your own
proactive action."
-Ron Conway

"In 2000 and 2001, the companies that hunkered the fastest were the companies that survived," said Conway in an interview with CNET News. "Get costs under control; make sure you have plenty of runway."

While that admonition from Conway, a noted investor who over the years has put early money into tech giants like Google and up-and-comers like Digg, was timely, it's hard to imagine that any tech executive who's been paying attention to the news needs to be reminded that rough economic conditions are most definitely ahead.

How bad those conditions will be and how long they'll last is anyone's guess. The CNET Technology Index, which tracks 66 publicly traded tech companies, dropped for the third straight day Wednesday to hit its lowest level in more than three years. Even the healthiest of companies are seeing their stocks being sold en masse. Google, for example, finished trading Wednesday down 2.28 percent to $338.11 per share; that's a new 52-week low and less than half the asking price for a Google share in November 2007

Bad news persists in the overall economy as well, despite continued attempts at government intervention. The Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 indexes all continued to slide Wednesday; the Dow has now dropped 35 percent from its high a year ago.

CNET contacted more than 20 tech executives, venture capitalists, and industry gurus Wednesday to ask "How long and how bad this will be for the tech industry, and what should companies do about it?" Not so surprisingly, there was no consensus. While nearly everyone interviewed is concerned about the economy, their reaction to it and their plans to deal with it are across the map. Experienced investors like Conway and venture capitalist Larry Augustin of Azure Capital Partners are cautious, while some executives (at least in their public comments) are downplaying the risks to their businesses.

Tech stocks
Credit: Susan Dove/CNET News

"We think there will be some impact on our business," Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse said during an event to launch the company's new 4G wireless broadband network in Baltimore on Wednesday. "But compared to most other industries, we are relatively well insulated."

Geoffrey Moore
"This is categorically
different from prior
downturns... There
is no place to flee."
-Geoffrey Moore

So who's right? Enterprise software maker SAP, which is particularly vulnerable to end-of-quarter deal cancellations, has already run into trouble, as have other notables such as Sun Microsystems and Netflix.

But it's not yet clear what will happen to consumer sales and online advertising. The monthly CNET-Consumer Electronics Association consumer confidence index showed surprising bullishness in late September. Internet Advertising Bureau statistics for the first half of the year showed surprising strength, but the IAB data did little to shed light on what will happen in the fourth quarter.

This should give people in tech reason to pause: the normally upbeat Geoffrey Moore, author of popular tech industry books such as Crossing the Chasm, worries it could take years to restore some sense of "equilibrium" to the economy. That's bad news for the tech industry.

"This is categorically different from prior downturns because the industry going into the tank supplies a fundamental staple to all other industries. There is no place to flee. It is not about tech at all," Moore said. "Established franchises with strong cash flow have a huge competitive advantage in downturns. But even these folks better plan for a major overhaul before we reach the other side of this chasm."

The money men
Nonetheless, where there's chaos, there's also opportunity. Azure Capital's Augustin expects a faster pace of acquisitions because start-ups right now don't have initial public offerings, or IPOs, as an exit strategy, and smaller companies may not have enough cash on their balance sheets to weather the storm.

Larry Augustin
"I think there
probably are some
bargains to be had
-Larry Augustin

"I think there probably are some bargains to be had here," Augustin said. Having an IPO option can help increase start-ups' valuation, and without that option, acquisition price tags will be lower. "If you have a strong balance sheet, maybe you want to spend some there... I think tech companies will be in a good position to leverage this downturn."

The present climate also means venture capital will be harder to find, Augustin said. "Without an IPO market in the venture capital world, you don't have any exits. And if you don't have any exits and you're not returning any capital to people (who've invested), you don't have new capital flowing in. That means the venture financing climate is going to slow down," Augustin said

But the cautious Augustin declined to forecast how long the downturn will last. "It's already deeper than I thought it would be," he said. "I thought maybe two weeks ago we had seen some of the worst and the rescue plans the government had put together would stabilize financial services, and it hasn't."

Ron Conway said he has spent time on the phone with probably six CEOs in the past 24 hours. "They say, 'I'm not as prepared as I should be; walk me through the steps I should be taking,'" Conway said. Conserving cash and cutting costs are a must, he said, because bigger companies aren't acquiring as aggressively as many would hope.

"It would be great if more companies were acquisitive, but a lot of people are frozen in place, so you can't rely on M&A to bail you out," he said. "You better rely on your own proactive action. You should seek M&A, but not count on it."

There is some reason for confidence. So far, when it comes to employment, American business has yet to fall off the cliff, said Stephen Mader, vice chairman and managing director of recruiting giant Korn/Ferry International in Boston. But the health of jobs across the country depends greatly on the ability of the federal government to restore confidence in the short-term credit market, he said.

"All you're hearing today in boardrooms across the country is we just don't know. And when you just don't know, you act cautiously," Mader said. If the situation doesn't improve, he expects businesses to "aggressively" cut payrolls heading into the new year to adjust to the new credit conditions.

The start-ups
Gina Bianchini and Marc Andreessen, the chief executive and chairman of the social networking company Ning, have reason to say "I told you so." Earlier this year, Andreessen (the Netscape co-founder who knows a thing or two about tech booms and busts) predicted the industry could be headed for a "nuclear winter" and needed to prepare for it. Ning landed an additional $60 million in venture funding to wait out whatever bad news should come down the pipe.

Gina Bianchini
Credit: SXSW
"Do I think a
nuclear winter is
going to happen
in the market?
Yes. Do I think
that has a
negative impact
on us today? No."
-Gina Bianchini

Andreessen was jeered by many as a hyperbolic killjoy at the Web 2.0 party. (It didn't help that he repeated the comments on stage at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.) Few should be jeering now. "We're great. That's why we actually went and raised the money that we raised. We are well positioned, and I would say well stocked for the coming months," said Bianchini. "Do I think that (a nuclear winter) is going to happen generally in the market? Yes. Do I think that has a negative impact on us today? No."

Conway likely would say raising that money was a fine idea. "Any company that doesn't have one year of cash burn in the bank could be in trouble," he said.

Other start-up execs, such as Corey Bridges, the co-founder of virtual worlds platform developer Multiverse Network, says the best thing to do is plan conservatively for 2009 and watch your cash--because anyone who has to go to the venture capitalists for money will find the terms have dramatically swung in favor of the money men. Bridges said he could see conditions worsening for the last few months.

"There have been a number of leading economic indicators, for some months, that things were going to get rough," he said. "We do a lot of work with big media companies, and sotto voce, the big media companies have been saying that the 'Big Three' car companies are cutting back on their advertising on TV, and that's going to affect them."

Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of Pure Digital, which makes the Flip Video Camcorder, said his company is approaching the current economic climate with a "cautious but optimistic" business plan, especially in light of the upcoming holidays. He does say it helps that his most popular product is a less expensive alternative compared to the competition.

But the retail outlook this holiday isn't great. "There's no doubt in my mind this will be bad for everyone. It's a consumer-centric decline, and consumer spending is going to change considerably," said Kaplan. "I think Christmas will be hit very hard, and it will be a difficult one for many retail partners and consumers."

Can big companies steer clear of trouble?
SAP's problems are well known by now. But what about other big tech companies? Microsoft executives have so far tried to alleviate panic about the downturn, while at the same time battening down expenses. And though their stocks have been pummeled, there's no indication (yet) of trouble from many of tech's bellwethers, ranging from Hewlett-Packard to Google.

Marc Benioff
"This is an
unprecedented time
in the economy...
Most of the experts
I see talking about
this are at a loss
to make a
-Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff, CEO of on-demand software company, would say watching your dollars is a wise idea. In an e-mail exchange, he quickly pointed out that Salesforce finished the second quarter with $823 million in cash--enough to weather the worst of downturns. But even the oft-loquacious Benioff is stopping short of predicting how bad conditions will get for tech.

"This is an uncertain and unprecedented time in the economy," wrote Benioff. "I am not an expert, and most of the experts I see talking about this are at a loss to make a meaningful prediction. So we are focusing on what we good at: making customers succeed."

Clean tech's funding challenge
In the clean-tech arena, investors and entrepreneurs expect the most pain to be felt with firms on the cusp of commercialization, where large amounts of money are needed to build a biofuels or solar manufacturing plant, for example. Many of these expansion projects are typically financed in part with debt. But with the credit crisis, those deals are far more likely to be funded through private equity or project finance, investors said.

"The debt market is in the ER (emergency room) in a terrible way," said Jon Bonanno, president of renewable energy developer Principle Power. "Us, as power plant builders, in the next 24 months, we are doing all equity (financing). If there's a will, there's a way, even in the worst market."

Valuations of clean-tech start-ups trying to raise capital will likely shrink as part of the overall economic downturn. But the level of activity in green tech--an area flush with venture capital--appears to be holding steady, for now at least.

"We're still seeing a lot of companies looking for financing. The deal flow still seems to be active," said John Cote, a vice president at General Electric's financial services arm. "But you have to expect that it's going to slow down."

Some investors speculated that there could be a wave of mergers and acquisitions, as start-ups struggle to find sources for funding.

"Our assumption is that we will probably exit (from start-up investments) through sale to strategic investors," said Steve Goldby from early-stage venture capital firm Venrock. "There is no IPO whatsoever."

Asking the futurist for answers
Again, so who's right? We turned to Silicon Valley technology forecaster Paul Saffo for some answers. In the short term, the economic downturn will make it harder for tech companies to attract private equity and venture financing, as well as the lines of credit that are often needed to pay the bills, Saffo said.

It's too early to tell how bad the financial panic will be and how long it will last, but the economic meltdown signals a shift to a new type of economic model in which tech companies are well positioned to thrive, he said. It just may take some time to get there.

Source : Cnet News

Microsoft unveils new Xbox Live 'experience'

In the new Xbox Live experience, much of the interface is designed to cascade horizontally across the screen, allowing users to see a wide selection of choices. On HD TVs, users will be able to see even more information, given the wider screen.

(Credit: Microsoft)

Whether you're one of the legions of hard-core Xbox players or someone who's only played with the game console casually, get ready for an all-new Xbox Live.

Since the first announcement of the new approach to the massively popular service at E3 in July, some longtime fans have fretted that Microsoft is morphing it into a place for purely casual players at the expense of those for whom Xbox Live is nearly as much a home as where they actually live.

Well, based on a demo I got recently of the (not quite finished) new version of Xbox Live, I'd have to say, fret no more.

Dubbed the new "Xbox Live Experience," this re-launched service--which is rumored to be launching in November, but which Microsoft will only say is due "before Christmas"--really does seem to have something for everyone: an easy-to-use graphical interface complete with deeply customizable avatars that casual players will enjoy, and all kinds of new functionality that will actually reward the dedication of the hard-core Xbox player.

With the new Xbox Live interface, users will be able to see all information relevant to their account in a simpler, easier-to-understand format.

(Credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft readily admits that there may be a bit of a transition period for those core players--a time during which a lot of griping might be heard--but the company fully expects a gradual realization on the part of those players that the new service takes the existing Xbox Live and adds all kinds of new community and interactive functions to it.

And, again, I would have to agree.

To date, the Xbox Live interface has been based on what are called blades, essentially pages of information stacked on top of each other in such as way as to maximize the number of choices Xbox Live players have and the directions in which they can go. They can see lists of games to play, choose to watch a movie, go into a section to buy add-ons for games, and so on. The new interface largely does away with the blades era and moves into a more advanced motif of full windows that spread out on the screen and stretch off into the distance, allowing users to shuttle through them, left to right or right to left.

But that's getting a little too far ahead.

All about avatars
Clearly, with this new interface, Microsoft is going for both Sony's and Nintendo's jugulars, hoping to create a community experience that lures gamers of every level of experience, every age group, both genders, and even those for whom watching movies through the Netflix option that Microsoft will make available at some point is as close as they come to playing games.

Any discussion of the new Xbox Live, though, has to start with the service's new avatars function.

The avatar editor in the new Xbox Live lets users choose many different styles, and to modify those styles as often as they like.

(Credit: Microsoft)

To begin with, players can choose an avatar from a large selection that run onto the screen looking like a group of school kids, each dressed differently and sporting diverse hair styles and skin color. Don't like that group? Move on to the next one. And on and on, until you find one you like. Each group is presented randomly, and within the group, individual avatars seem to try to get your attention by jumping up and down and raising their hand. Don't worry, they won't be too disappointed if you choose someone else.

Once you pick your avatar, you go into a low-end character editor where you can outfit your new persona with new clothing, hair, accessories and the like. To those familiar with Nintendo's Mii avatars or those from the countless virtual worlds out there, this will feel like old hat.

But Microsoft doesn't think it is copying Nintendo or anyone else. Rather, it takes the view that it is just adjusting to what the marketplace wants.

And customizable avatars creates an opening for an extension to the traditional Xbox achievements system, in that games can now give out things like clothes, tattoos and other add-ons that will help users distinguish their avatars from the millions of others on the system.

Either way, once you've picked your avatar, you are ready to jump into the new Xbox Live.

When choosing an avatar, the choices come running onto the screen, one group at a time. Some will jump up and down to try to get users' attention.

(Credit: Microsoft)

It's not clear yet, according to Albert Penello, director of marketing for Microsoft's platform and Xbox Live group, whether the avatars will find their way into games. Even if they do, it would likely be something that would happen at the more casual end of the spectrum.

"I doubt Halo would incorporate avatars," Penello said.

Still, one obvious question is whether games like Halo will reward players with things like Master Chief's armor as new avatar accessories, and Penello acknowledged that that is a frequent query from users.

With the existing Xbox Live, a big fan favorite was what are called themes, essentially imagery from games like Halo 3 or Gears of War that are used to customize the Live experience.

Now, these themes will be incorporated in a new way, said Rob Gruhl, a senior strategist with Microsoft's game platform strategy team, who showed me how players can essentially have large game-themed wallpaper that sits in the background of their Xbox Live screen.

Party time
Another big element of the new iteration of Xbox Live is what are called "parties." This, it turns out, is a crucial piece of the whole puzzle, because it's what will allow players to maximize the way they play games together with their friends.

One feature will be that parties will make it easy for players to communicate with a group of friends, using a voice or text messaging system. And even if a group isn't actively playing together, friends can see others' profiles, showing what they're playing and whether it's possible to join games in progress.

"It's an example of a feature that doesn't feel core," said Penello, addressing more concerns from longtime Xbox users that the parties feature is an attempt to turn the service over to casual users, "but I think it's something that core gamers are really going" to like.

That's in part, Gruhl added, because of what is known as party channels, which actually enable the communications between members of a party, regardless of whether they're playing the same game or not.

One benefit of this is that friends can set up a party channel that will allow them to, say, jointly go into a multiplayer game and communicate amongst themselves, even as they play against other players.

The party channel is just one example of a larger channels system that is now an important piece of the larger system, and which makes up what is known as Spotlight. This is basically a view into the very wide range of things that are going on within Xbox Live at any time as viewed through a series of channels.

These channels, then, will show things like events that are coming up in the system, as well as the marketplace, where players can buy all kinds of new things--including a new community games channel that appears in the marketplace. These are games made by the community using Microsoft's XNA Studio development software.

There's also a way, using Spotlight, to search for games, and to sort by genre, so that players can easily see, for example, all the racing games currently in their system or currently available through the marketplace.

And the system is optimized so that all information surrounding a single game will appear on a single game page, where players will be able to see who's playing, what live features are offered, any videos that are available, and any new downloads that have come out.

All told, these game pages will show everything related to the individual games, including material that players don't yet have, allowing them to easily buy those new things--and making it easier for Microsoft to generate revenue through additional transactions.

Yet another new feature is that Xbox Live users will be able to instigate changes to their system through That means that if players see some new accessory or game update they want while they are away from their Xbox console, but are using the Internet on a computer, they can order what they want and it will queue up. When they return to their Xboxes, they don't have to try to remember what it was they wanted.

This will also allow content developers to create a long tail, said Gruhl, because it will allow them to promote their content on Web sites and drive people to, where they can order it.

And lastly, the new Xbox Live features a simple guide mechanism that gives very quick access to almost everything the system has to offer, and which mimics the blade motif of the existing Xbox Live.

This is basically a quick start dashboard that allows players to jump instantly to what they want, obviating the need, if they're in a hurry, to go through the larger Xbox Live experience. Choices are more limited in what they can do, but most of what they need to navigate is available here.

For Microsoft, then, the new Xbox Live is an attempt to bridge the entire gaming audience, from the most casual, fortysomething woman, to the most hard-core, teen male Halo addict.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

YouTube 'theater view'

The new theater view adds curtains to the side of your video and 'lowers the lights' to hide distracting page elements while you watch.

Google Blogoscoped has unearthed a new YouTube feature that's pretty neat. Called "theater view," when clicked it both darkens the screen and increases the size of the player, centering it on the page and adding red curtains. For a leaned back viewing experience it's certainly not as useful as hitting the full-screen button, but I'd consider it a nice alternative--especially if you don't want to watch larger version of a grainy video just to cut out distracting page elements.

Hulu launched with a similar feature called "lower lights," which could be toggled on and off, something that YouTube has provided that simply darkens the rest of the screen.

So far the theater view option appears only on a small percentage on long-form content from specific providers, meaning the three-minute clip you shot of your dog on the trampoline will not have it. Going forward I'm thinking it could only be an option on educational segments, since it temporarily hides advertisements, which could mean a drop in ad clicks.

It could also be the groundwork for a more advanced YouTube viewing experience. The curtains on the player make for a neat decoration, but could also be placeholders for a more advanced 16:9 player that takes advantage of the increasing number of clips uploaded from shiny new HD video cameras.

I couldn't find any theater view-compatible content to try this theory out with, but the extra width on the player is a good sign. As is the huge mass of content that's been uploaded in 16:9 HD, only to be squished into the service's 4:3 player. Last week's 1GB upload limit increase is a good sign, too.

Source : Cnet News

Mozilla's Geode brings geographic Web to Firefox

Mozilla Labs plans to announce a plug-in called Geode on Tuesday that gives the Firefox Web browser a better ability to understand and use geographic information on the Web.

Geode details at this stage remain sketchy, but here's the example used in the alert about the project: "With Geode, a user who is looking for restaurants while they are out of town will be able load up their favorite review site and find suggestions a couple blocks away and plot directions there."

Geotagging most commonly refers to photos with geographic data stored within the file, but there are plenty of other cases, too. Many Wikipedia entries have geographic information encoded, and YouTube users also can geotag their videos.

There also are plenty of cases in which Web sites have geographic information such as a business address that's not formally encoded as geographic data. The gradual arrival of the semantic Web, in which descriptive elements help computers understand the data on a Web site, could expand that significantly.

The quintessential tools that make the geographic Web useful today are online maps. Those applications are getting more useful as mobile phones--especially GPS-enabled mobile phones--incorporate their use.

Surface developer tools coming this month

The long-awaited software developer it for the Surface tabletop computerwill be made available to those attending Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference at the end of the month.

Microsoft made that pledge on its PDC Web site, as part of a listing for a session focused on writing Surface applications.

"Hear about the unique attributes of Microsoft Surface computing, dive into vision-based object recognition and core controls like ScatterView, and learn how the Surface SDK aligns with the multitouch developer roadmap for Windows 7," Microsoft said, in promoting the session. "Attendees will receive access to the Microsoft Surface SDK."

Microsoft has been promising for some time to open up Surface development beyond the select group of companies that have been working with early launch partners such as AT&T and Starwood hotels.

The company has also promised multitouch will be a part of the Windows 7 interface, but has yet to detail how that will work.

Making sense of the tech meltdown on Wall Street

Despite the inscrutable language people often use when talking about the dynamics of the high-tech market, predicting when the industry is about to run into trouble isn't that difficult.

Here's how you do it: Start with companies like Applied Materials that make chip manufacturing equipment; when their orders are down, that means the chipmakers like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Texas Instruments figure they don't need to increase their manufacturing capacity. That, in turn, means the PC and server makers are seeing demand slip. That means demand for consumer electronics and consumer software is also going to slip.

As the big guys run into trouble, the start-ups that haven't turned a profit will disappear, either into the arms of another company or into bankruptcy. Finally, the big corporate software makers like SAP and Oracle--the last refuges of tech investing--will take their hits as buyers put off long-term software projects.

At least, that's how it usually works.

tech stock meltdown(Credit: Susan Dove/CNET Networks)

The formula may have been turned upside down Monday, with the big tech stocks leading the way into the cellar. CNET's Technology Index, which tracks 66 publicly traded tech companies, dropped 4.08 percent to 1,276.67 Monday, its lowest close in more than two years. And it could have been worse: At one point in the day, the CNET Index was at its lowest point since May 2005. A late rally brought some stocks back just before trading ended. The drop in the CNET Index was similar to a 3.08 percent drop in the Dow and 4.34 percent decline in the Nasdaq index.

Don't blame the start-ups for this one, though they may end up suffering the most for it. The tech crash Monday was led by one of the most sober names in tech, German corporate software maker SAP. SAP announced Monday that it would miss third-quarter expectations, sending its stock into a tailspin. SAP shares closed at $39.68 per share, down 13.08 percent for the day and a new 52-week low. (For more on Monday's meltdown, check out CNET TV's Daily Debrief.)

The rest of the enterprise software industry went down with the Germans. Shares at archrival Oracle closed the day down more than 6 percent to $18.30 per share. On-demand software provider saw its shares drop 2.81 percent to $40.40 (a 52-week low) on both the SAP news and an analyst's report that intimated that demand may be slackening.

Among big Internet companies, the news wasn't much better. eBay led declines, with shares down 5.54 percent to $17.89 per share at the end of the day. That's more than $1 below the company's previous 52-week low. eBay said it was laying off 1,000, but, oh yeah, was still flush enough to spend more than $1.3 billion on three acquisitions. Google dropped 4 percent to close at $371.21, also a new 52-week low. And Yahoo ended the day down 4.31 percent to $15.31 per share, yet another 52-week low. (That kaput Microsoft offer must be looking awfully nice to some aggravated investors right about now.)

SAP and other enterprise software companies aren't supposed to be leading indicators for the tech industry--they're usually laggards. During the dot-com boom, big software companies like Oracle and SAP were among the last to fall victim to the downturn. At one point, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison surveyed the tech industry wreckage and enthusiastically speculated whether his company was counter-cyclical. (The idea was, companies would invest in Oracle software to save money through automation.)

Turns out, Oracle wasn't counter-cyclical, nor was anyone not in the business of auctioning abandoned dot-com office supplies.

A case of the jitters
So what happened Monday? Though it's been in the making for some time, the speed at which the financial industry has unraveled has been stunning, and its impact on spending plans at big corporations is likely significant. SAP was particularly vulnerable because of the way enterprise software is typically sold--in a rush at the end of the quarter. The quarter that just ended, unfortunately, happened to coincide with the near-collapse of the American banking system.

So what about all those tanking Internet stocks? So far, the sell-off appears to be based more on fear than reality. eBay said it would come in near the bottom of its earnings expectations, and there's been no word so far out of Yahoo and Google. But investors clearly aren't thrilled with eBay's acquisitive ways in the face of a bad economy, and they're worried about online advertising slowing down. Netflix had bad news, too, casting doubt on online consumer spending heading into the holiday season.

There are other question marks before we can really make sense of what happened Monday. Shares of Apple, for example, were down as much as 7 percent at one point in the afternoon, but ended the day up 1.1 percent at $98.14 per share (that's about $4 above Apple's 52-week low). But Apple was one of only seven companies on the CNET Index to see gains for the day. Other big companies like Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco Systems saw significant losses.

Companies that aren't as reliant on selling multimillion-dollar software at the end of the quarter (and instead rely on lower-priced items sold more evenly through the quarter) aren't likely to see an impact from the souring economy quite as quickly as SAP. But they won't avoid it for long, with consumer confidence slipping and unemployment rising. Translation: the results of the current quarter will unquestionably be the most closely watched numbers since the tech industry crawled back from the dot-com bust.

People say SAP is indicative of the health of corporate software sales. But the rest of tech should hope it's not a canary in the coal mine for the entire industry.

AMD to spin off manufacturing

On Tuesday, Advanced Micro Devices will announce a long-expected restructuring, according to sources familiar with the deal.

As expected, the No. 2 supplier of PC processors will split into two companies: one for designing chips, the other for manufacturing them. The capital-intensive business of manufacturing chips is weighing on AMD as it reels under a $5 billion debt load.

The investment is expected to allow AMD to remain directly involved in chip manufacturing--crucial for competing with Intel, which has used its manufacturing prowess to great advantage.

AMD would not comment Monday.

The company has secured about $5.7 billion of "confirmed, pledged investment," with some of the money earmarked for a future manufacturing facility in Malta, New York, according to sources.

AMD will own part of the new manufacturing entity, called The Foundry Company, while Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC) will own the rest. One of the investors, Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Co., invested approximately $622 million in AMD last November.

Mubadala already holds an 8.1 percent stake in AMD. Upon closing the deal, Mubadala will own 19.3 percent of AMD, according to sources.

ATIC--also based in Abu Dhabi--will have equal voting rights with AMD in The Foundry Company and own 55.6 percent of the new entity. ATIC will invest an initial $2.1 billion, of which $1.4 billion will be invested directly in the new company and $700 million will be paid directly to AMD, according to sources close to the deal.

In addition, ATIC will commit a minimum of $3.6 billion and up to $6 billion in additional funds over the next five years for the upgrade and expansion of fabrication facilities in Dresden, Germany, and construction of a new facility in upstate New York, near the town of Malta.

Mubadala, for its part, will purchase 58 million newly issued AMD shares valued at $314 million and warrants for 30 million additional shares, giving it a total stake in AMD of approximately 19.3 percent on a fully diluted basis, sources said.

Mubadala will also have the right to designate a representative for election as a member of the board of directors of AMD.

All of this is expected to greatly improve AMD's liquidity.

AMD CEO Dirk Meyer and other company executives are expected to make the announcement Tuesday.

The investment is characterized by one source as coming from investors with "a long-term vision, who want to help (AMD) scale the foundry operations to compete globally." A foundry is a manufacturing facility.

AMD has been laboring for months over details of the restructuring, which it has termed "Asset Smart." AMD Chief Financial Officer Bob Rivet said during AMD's second-quarter earnings conference call that Asset Smart would be "a major reformation of the company."

Also, at that time, AMD announced that Meyer would take over as CEO and Hector Ruiz would relinquish that post but remain as chairman to oversee AMD's transition to Asset Smart.

AMD already has a relationship with IBM in which AMD uses IBM's advanced test manufacturing facilities.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Kids keep parents in the dark about cyberbullying

Online bullying could be more pervasive than you think.

Three out of four teens were bullied online over the last year, according to a study released this week by psychologists at the University of California at Los Angeles. And while that number may seem high at the outset, only 1 in 10 of those kids told their parents or another adult about it, the study showed.

The anonymous Web-based study surveyed 1,454 kids between the ages of 12 and 17. Of those, 41 percent reported between one and three cyberbullying incidents during the year; 13 percent reported four to six incidents; and 19 percent reported seven or more. In other words, no longer are victims of bullying relegated to the geeks and nerds of yore when it comes to the Internet.

The psychologists published the results of their research in the September issue of the Journal of School Health.

Many teens neglected to tell their parents about the incidents because they believed they "need to learn to deal with it," according to the research. Others kept it to themselves because they feared that their parents would cut back on their Internet access.

"Many parents do not understand how vital the Internet is to their social lives," said Jaana Juvonen, lead study author and a professor of psychology and chair of UCLA's developmental psychology program. "Parents can take detrimental action with good intentions, such as trying to protect their children by not letting them use the Internet at all. That is not likely to help parent-teen relationships or the social lives of their children."

Juvonen said it's important that parents talk with their kids about bullying well before it happens, as well as look for changes in teens' behavior.

However, it's also equally important to teach children the importance of not becoming bullies themselves, is it not? Surely if bullying is this prevalent online, it's not always a one-sided affair.

'Brief delay' for Yahoo-Google search-ad deal

Yahoo and Google are delaying implementation of their search-ad deal to give Justice Department antitrust investigators more time to look into the deal, according to published reports.

Kara Swisher (of All Things D) and Bloomberg reported the delay Friday afternoon.

A Yahoo representative said the company is preparing a statement; Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under the Yahoo search-ad deal with Google, which had been set to go into effect this month, Yahoo plans to display some Google search ads where its own ad-delivery technology doesn't work as well. Yahoo expects $800 million in new revenue in the first year of the deal.

Update 2:57 p.m. PDT: Yahoo and Google confirmed what they characterized as a "brief delay."

"The companies have agreed to a brief delay in implementing this agreement to continue our ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice. We have had discussions with regulators and look forward to responding to their questions about this agreement," Yahoo said in its statement.

Google added this: "When we announced our advertising agreement with Yahoo in June, we agreed to delay its implementation until October to give regulators time to look at the details. As we are still in conversation with the Department of Justice we have agreed to a brief delay in implementing the agreement while those discussions continue."

Update 4:01 p.m. PDT: Yahoo wouldn't clarify how long the brief delay would last, but the companies likely want it done before a new administration is elected one month from now and major changes could take place within the Justice Department. The Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed source who said the companies still expect to begin in October.

The companies gave themselves three and a half months to implement the deal, saying they wanted to give antitrust regulators time to review it. With the June announcement date, that would have put them in early October.

However, the companies haven't been specific about when they planned to flip the switch. In a September meeting with the press, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt wouldn't be pinned down beyond "roughly the beginning of October."

The partnership has come under antitrust criticism from Microsoft--whose unwelcome attempt to acquire Yahoo helped fuel the Yahoo-Google partnership--and from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and Center for Digital Democracy. The European Union is investigating the partnership, too.

Some Democratic lawmakers from California, though, urged the DOJ not to block the deal. They criticized in particular the possibility of Justice Department legal action before the deal actually takes effect.

Facing the criticism, Google and Yahoo both have begun a publicity offensive. Google published a frequently asked questions site, and Yahoo President Sue Decker weighed in with her own defense last week. Yahoo has also published a site with partnership details to try to make its case.

Update 4:22 p.m. PDT: Several states are reviewing the deal, too, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said there's been a two-week extension of the antitrust review. The deadline for review moved from October 8 to October 22, Blumenthal said.

"We are doing our review in conjunction with the DOJ, so I'd think our timetables are aligned," Blumenthal said.

Although it's notable that Yahoo and Google are giving antitrust regulators more time to review the deal, it's a step that other companies have taken in the past, as well, former DOJ antitrust attorneys said.

Deadlines can be pushed back as needed. One former attorney said companies usually are happy to give regulators more time to evaluate a transaction rather than push the issue for fear it will back the regulators into a corner and cause them to file a lawsuit to block the deal. Another source said delays are part of the natural ebb and flow of negotiations.

The top brass of the Justice Department's antitrust unit met with Google and Yahoo months ago, a departure from the more traditional path in which the DOJ staff issue a recommendation to the department's front office about whether a deal should be rejected. Traditionally, only then do the companies make their case before antitrust chieftains.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dell joins cut-down laptop market

Dell netbook
Dell enters the netbook market with this unnamed machin

Dell is joining the burgeoning ranks of companies offering cut-down laptops, called netbooks, aimed at the developing world and general consumers.

The laptop was shown by Michael Dell to the editor of website Gizmodo at the All Things Digital Conference.

According to the official Dell blog, Michael Dell "positioned it as the perfect device for the next billion internet users".

Dell has not released pricing or specifications for its first netbook.

A number of firms are expected to enter the netbook market this year.

The market is being driven in part by the work of the One Laptop Per Child programme, the success of the Asus Eee PC and the availability of chips, made by companies like Intel and Via, designed for low-cost, low power consumption devices.

Hewlett-Packard has announced a cut-down laptop which will be powered by Via's processors, and Acer is also entering the market.

More than 3.6 million netbooks, which cost less than $500, are expected to be sold this year.

Asus believes it will sell almost two million of its Eee PCs, which cost between $299 and $549, in the first six months of this year.

OLPC has unveiled a new design for the developing world

At the Computex show in Taiwan next week Intel is expected to unveil a number of manufacturer partners that are using its Atom chip.

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said the market was growing fast.

"I've not seen energy like this from our customers in a long, long time," Mr Otellini told The Associated Press.

"Everyone views this as being sort of hyper expansive to the existing market."

Intel is also pushing a range of even smaller machines, called Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs).

Vista has a larger memory footprint, a larger graphics requirement and a higher price point. This is all about low-cost computing
Paul Otellini, Intel

Mr Otellini said he was not concerned that low-power processors could "cannibalise," or steal sales from Intel's high-end products.

"If a higher-priced notebook isn't substantially better and doesn't offer more utility, shame on us," he said.

"If there's cannibalisation, I'd rather be the cannibal than someone else."

Mr Otellini said he expected MIDs to be powered by Linux rather than Microsoft's operating systems.

"Vista has a larger memory footprint, a larger graphics requirement and a higher price point. This is all about low-cost computing," Mr Otellini said.

The success of the Eee PC and the rush by many companies to release similar products has seen a recent about-turn by Microsoft.

The company has said it will extend support of its XP OS on sub-notebooks, in an effort to thwart the growing use of Linux on such machines.

It has also slashed the cost of a licence for XP running on netbook machines to just $32 (£17) and £14 in developing countries.

In an effort to grab a slice of the market Via has announced a new hardware design for low-cost laptop computers, called OpenBook, making it available under an open source license.

The company hopes manufacturers will use the design, which incorporates Via's chipset, to build netbooks.

Last week the One Laptop Per Child program also unveiled a reference design for a future netbook, called the XO2.

Source : BBC News

Bridging Brazil's digital divide

Children from the Ernani School in Sao Paulo
59% of Brazilians have never accessed the internet or used a computer
This week the BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme is in Brazil. Here the show investigates how the country's enthusiasm for technology is now reaching schoolchildren from all backgrounds.

There are an estimated 45m PCs in Brazil, making it the world's fifth biggest market for computers.

The more striking number, however, is the fraction of the population that does not have access to technology.

"Last year's figures showed that 59% of Brazilians have never accessed the internet or used a computer," said Rodrigo Assumpcao, head of a committee that advises President Lula's government on what they call 'digital inclusion'.

But measures are underway to change all that, Mr Assumpcao told the BBC's Gareth Mitchell. He feels that being technologically educated is just as important as the basics of numeracy and literacy.

A digital or social divide?

"When you think of Brazil, you think of country that is extremely divided between rich and poor and areas that are developed and under-developed," said Mr Assumpcao.

He feels that the class divide within Brazilian society is to blame for the technological divide.

"In the 50's there was a brilliant Brazilian educator who said that public schools were meant to provide for poor children - everything that the rich children had in their homes."

Most middle-class children are brought up with computers, so it becomes second nature to them, Mr Assumpcao asserts.

"It's like a Swiss army knife, a tool with multiple uses that serves him, that's the experience of a middle-class child in Brazil."

This difference between who commands this technology and who is commanded by technology determines in our society who rules and who is ruled

Rodrigo Assumpcao

In contrast, a poor child may not gain access to a computer until his teenage years, by which time it is a necessity in the working world.

"Only by the time he is twelve or fourteen, if he is lucky to live beside a neighbourhood association that has a computer, he will only then be taught on some kind of word-processing or web browser.

"He will be taught that he needs to learn these skills in order to have some rights within the job market," added Mr Assumpcao.

"He is taught that he has to comply with technology and this perception, this difference between who commands this technology and who is commanded by technology determines in our society who rules and who is ruled, who has access to money and who hasn't and who has access to rights and who hasn't."

Online for change

Mr Assumpcao said that 56,000 public schools are presently being fitted with broadband internet, with an aim to have all of the urban public schools in the country connected by 2010.

The Brazilian government is also involved with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project , which provides a basic mobile computer for children in developing countries.

Its makers were able to produce a low-cost machine by using a less powerful processor and stripping out expensive parts like the hard disk drive.

A child from the Ernani School in Sao Paulo
56,000 public schools will be connected to broadband by 2010
Roseli Lopes from the University of Sao Paulo has co-ordinated a trial of the OLPC project at the Ernani School, northwest of Sao Paulo, that is now in its second year.

"It's a wonderful experience for the children as they love coming to school and don't want to stay at home," said Prof Lopes.

The laptop project works well in classes with large numbers of children, as computers enable individuals to go at their own pace and level.

"It's active learning, they take part in the search for information and they are not waiting for the teacher," said Prof Lopes.

"They are having more fun using this technology, not only to read and write but to make videos and take pictures," she added.

Children in Brazil only spend between four or five hours at school, so being able to take the laptop home extends the time that they have to learn.

"That is the most important thing about this project: when they go home they can continue learning and include their families in the process," said Prof Lopes.

"Even if the parents can't read and write, they can use the camera to take pictures and make the learning more rich."

Other solutions

The Brazilian government is also trialling a number of other laptop projects in five other cities, employing Intel's Classmate and Encore's Simputer.

Children from the Ernani School in Sao Paulo
Children in Brazil only spend between four or five hours at school every day

The main concern in using different laptops is that they need to be interoperable, so that is one issue that Prof Lopes and her colleagues are constantly evaluating.

However, the idea of children being able to access the technological hardware is only part of the solution in bridging this digital divide.

"We thought it was a good idea but immediately we decided that could not be conducted as the search for the next gadget," said Mr Assumpcao.

"Also, the Brazilian government has a profound conviction that free software is the way to go, so we are demanding that there is a whole suite of free and open-source software installed in these computers.

"The whole idea of having closed software on public computers is something which strikes me as wrong," he added.

With widely available broadband, laptops on the desk of many of Brazil's youth, and a culture of open-source, free software, Brazil's digital divide looks to be narrowing.

Source : BBC News

Silicon Valley Girls

Silicon Valley has a male testosterone driven image. It is a fact pure and simple that the chino brigade outnumbers the fairer sex in the boardroom and on the high tech shop floor.

Studies have shown that about 20% of IT jobs are held by women and an even smaller proportion occupy a C-level office. A report last year by UC Davis showed that despite Silicon Valley's cutting edge image it ranked dead last for female execs. A mere 9% in case you are wondering.

A while back California Congresswoman Jackie Speier said "The growth of women in executive offices and board rooms is as slow as molasses."

When I was here in 2000, there were a small number of very able women getting the job done. From Meg Whitman at eBay to Carol Bartz at Autodesk and Carly Fiorina at HP. Though her role was controversial to say the least and she was eventually driven out of her job.

Despite the dismal results of the UC Davis study, women in senior roles certainly seem to be much more visible than they were back in the dotcom craze. They occupy starring roles at conferences and grace the front pages of magazines and newspapers like never before. But the question still remains as to what kind of dent they have made in that glass ceiling.

The Valley Girls series isn't so much concerned with answering that question as meeting some of the women who are trying to make their mark and shape the culture of the Valley and the industry.

This is not going to be a crusade. The issue of gender is intrinsic to the series but will not dominate. The aim is to try and lift the veil on who some of those female execs are and understand what drives them.

Padma WarriorThis week we meet Padma Warrior, a rare breed in the Valley as a female chief technology officer of a global company with more than 66,000 employees.

This self confessed geek joined Cisco less than a year ago from Motorola and talks to us about her passion for technology, her inspiration and her vision for the future.

Source : BBC News

Internet game for victims of war

Traces of Hope poster
The game hopes to highlight the cause of vulnerable people across the world

A charity has launched an internet game to raise awareness about victims of war, in which the object is to help a displaced Ugandan boy find his mother.

The British Red Cross game is among the first charity Alternative Reality Games (ARG), with clues on various websites.

Traces of Hope aims to engage players in treasure-hunt style game-play as they use detective skills to compete.

The game is set in northern Uganda, where a 20-year rebellion has forced two million people to flee their homes.

Having just arrived in a camp for displaced people called "Hopetown", Joseph, 16, has 24 hours to track down a Red Cross messenger who might have news from his mother.

The Red Cross works to reconnect families separated by conflict.

After signing up for the game, players will have to wait for Joseph to contact them with news of his situation.

The game's designers say they have placed clues and solutions around the internet in order to blur the boundaries between the game and the real world.

Players go to real websites as they try to help Joseph.

The game was scripted by one of the creators of KateModern, the UK's biggest online interactive drama series.

Source: BBC News

Outsourcing aids many data thefts, Verizon says

NEW YORK - The reliance of restaurant chains and retail stores on outside companies to handle credit-card processing and other information-technology functions is partly to blame for a rash of consumer data breaches over the last few years, according to data sleuths at Verizon Communications Inc.

Even a chain with thousands of restaurants might have only 100 employees in information technology, so it uses outside vendors for many IT functions, said Bryan Sartin, director of the investigative response team at Verizon Business.

"What happens is there's a lack of accountability on the third party," Sartin said.

Verizon's unit investigates a quarter to a third of the big, publicly announced data breaches that occur each year, and hundreds of smaller cases.

In recent years, restaurant and retail businesses have accounted for more than half of Verizon's 230 to 250 cases per year, according to a report Verizon issued Thursday. It often finds that insiders at service vendors are part of the heists.

Organized data-stealing gangs "go to the call centers, the Web development companies, the content development companies, the business partners, the people who pick up the backup tapes," Sartin said. "They say ... if you hate your boss and you're in financial straits, we're your solution. Give us access to your customers. Better yet, give us your data."

In a typical case Sartin was involved in, the team was approached by a large oil company in Canada, with thousands of gas stations. Customers were finding spurious charges on their credit cards after using them at the stations.

The team soon figured out that someone at a technology vendor was responsible, but couldn't pin it down. So the investigators set a trap in the system, to see who accessed customer data.

"The trap went off on Saturday morning," Sartin said. "Hackers always think nobody's looking on Saturday mornings."

A police car headed to the vendor's office, and the culprit turned out to be a 21-year-old who supported the software that operated the gas pumps. He had sold lists of customer data to organized crime.

Many breaches don't happen through outsourcing. In one of the largest cases in recent years, the gang that stole 41 million credit and debit card numbers from chains including TJX Cos. obtained access through unsecured wireless networks, not through subcontractors' systems.

Still, Verizon's report advises companies to keep a tighter rein on contractors, including by limiting partners' access to only the data they need.

Source:Yahoo News

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Microsoft Releases Source Code on SourceForge

On Monday, Microsoft released some of its code under an open-source license, and posted it on SourceForge, the open-source code repository.

To date, Microsoft has made its source code available under a variety of licensing mechanisms, all under its "shared source" umbrella. But until today, the company had not released code under what is commonly considered a true open-source license.

Microsoft made available an internally-developed product called the "Windows Installer XML" (WiX) to SourceForge. The code is downloadable here.

WiX is a toolset for building Windows installation packages from XML source code. It runs on Windows NT and Windows 2000.

"We've been learning from open source about the importance of sharing code with developers," said Jason Matusow, manager of Microsoft's shared source initiative. "We know it's important to have a full-spectrum approach" to licensing software under shared source, he added.

"Each product team across Microsoft needs to do what makes sense," said Matusow. Some are holding source code close to the vest. Others are issuing it under modified BSD licenses. In other cases, teams are releasing it under customized licenses, as with Windows CE Premium, he explained.

A number of Microsoft teams from across the company — including the Yukon database, Office 12, Exchange "Kodiak," Update Services and Xbox divisions — have employed WiX in building their products, Matusow noted.

Word that Microsoft might be preparing to release some of its "non-core" code via an open-source licensing mechanism first leaked last week.

The decision to release WiX on SourceForge isn't as far-fetched as it might seem, Matusow claimed.

More than 25 percent of current SourceForge projects are Windows-related, Matusow said. Because WiX isn't a .Net project, per se, Microsoft decided against releasing the WiX code on its own SourceForge alternative, called GotDotNet Workspaces.

Read More About GotDotNet Workspaces Here

And Microsoft plans to label its WiX CPL program as one of its "shared source" options, Matusow reiterated.

See Microsoft's List of Shared Source Licensing Options Here

The Common Public License (CPL) was developed by IBM and is an evolution of the IBM Public License (IPL). The CPL was approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in May 2001. The Eclipse open-source development-tool framework is licensed under CPL.

Matusow said that the CPL licensing terms are ideal for WiX. Any size or type of customer can download the code (even though WiX is most useful for teams of 10 developers or more, according to Matusow). CPL bestows commercial rights for modification and distribution. It insures patentability (on a royalty-free basis). It allows individuals to build on top of the technology and use the resulting products commercially and/or proprietarily. And all changes made to the source must be returned to the community, even though the individual(s) who make the changes retain ownership rights to them.

Microsoft releases new tools for academics

Microsoft releases new tools for academics Free software applications aim to make research easier

Microsoft has issued free software tools designed to streamline academic research.

Microsoft’s research group has announced a set of free software tools designed to improve the interoperability of programs that scholars and academics currently use and better meet their research needs.

These free tools include add-on programs for Microsoft Word that simplify the researching, writing, and publishing of articles for scholarly journals; allow users to plot, graph, and solve functions and equations; and more. They also include a virtual workspace designed to facilitate collaboration among researchers at different institutions.

Tony Hey, corporate vice president of Microsoft External Research, announced the free tools at Microsoft Research’s ninth annual Faculty Summit on July 28. Hey underscored the group’s commitment to providing tools that work with resources already in use by the academic community.

The new applications address all phases of the scholarly communication life cycle, he said—collecting and analyzing data; authoring, publishing, and preserving information—and are designed to help researchers share data and knowledge, ultimately making it easier for them to uncover, publish, disseminate, and preserve their research findings.

Here are the new tools freely available now:

• An add-in that enables authors and editors to open and save Microsoft Word files in the National Library of Medicine’s NLM XML format, a file format that is used in the publishing and archiving of scientific and technical articles. Beyond its core file format capabilities, this add-in allows users to capture additional metadata at the authoring stage and preserve semantic information through the publishing process, which is essential for enabling search and semantic analysis once the articles are archived at information repositories, Microsoft said. The add-in aims to simplify the authoring, submission, and interaction process between authors and journals.

• A Creative Commons add-in for Office 2007 that allows authors to embed Creative Commons licenses directly into an Office document (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint) by linking to the Creative Commons site via a web service.

• A Microsoft Math add-in that enhances Microsoft Word 2007 with computational and graphing capabilities. With the add-in, users can plot a function, equation, or inequality; solve an equation or inequality; calculate a numerical result; and simplify an algebraic expression. Users also can employ a linear format for entering equations into Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Math.

• The Microsoft eJournal Service, a hosted solution that simplifies the self-publishing of online-only journals to facilitate the availability of conference proceedings and small and medium-sized journals.

• The Research Output Repository Platform, which helps capture and leverage semantic relationships among academic objects—such as papers, lectures, presentations, and video—to provide access to these items in exciting new ways.

• The Research Information Centre. In close partnership with the British Library, this collaborative workspace will be hosted via Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, allowing researchers to collaborate throughout the entire research process—from locating funding to searching for and collecting information, as well as managing data, papers, and other research objects.

Microsoft researchers partnered with scholars throughout the development of these tools to better learn the needs of the academic community, the company said.

“Technology that effectively addresses the increasing need to integrate the research life cycle and provide a holistic, end-to-end perspective has the potential to revolutionize the way academics collect data, publish findings, and preserve information,” said Daniel Pollock, vice president and lead analyst at Outsell Inc., a research and advisory firm specializing in the information and education industries.

“Companies that work closely with academia can understand how their products might benefit the scholarly workflow and so inform their product development.”

Also during the summit, leaders from Microsoft Research outlined their vision for how Microsoft and academics can collaborate on projects to develop technological breakthroughs that will define computing and scientific research in the years ahead.

For instance, Hey discussed collaborative initiatives intended to unlock the potential of multicore computing. He said his group will provide $1.5 million to seven academic research projects as part of the Safe and Scalable Multicore Computing Program, with the goal of stimulating successful research in multicore software.


Microsoft releases Silverlight 1.0 video technology

Microsoft is releasing its Silverlight 1.0 plug-in for video on the Web Wednesday and also will participate in Novell’s porting of Silverlight to Linux via the Moonlight project.

Silverlight represents Microsoft’s efforts to present multimedia experiences on the Web, offering enhanced audio and video streaming and playback using Windows Media Technologies. The technology aims squarely at rival Adobe Systems and its ubiquitous Flash Player for multimedia on the Web.

“We’re finally shipping the plug-in,” said Parimal Desphande, group product manager for the User Experience Platform and Tools team at Microsoft

The 1.0 version of Silverlight, which is being released to the Web, is geared to providing video. Accessible at the Silverlight Web page, it has been available in a beta release. A more potent successor, Silverlight 1.1, will provide for more interactive content, including support for .Net development and transactional capabilities. It remains only available in an early alpha release format.

While Silverlight currently works with Windows and Macintosh, Microsoft is endorsing Novell’s plan to make Silverlight run on Linux clients via the Moonlight project.

Moonlight 1.0 is expected to be done within six months, said Miguel de Icaza, vice president for the developer platform at Novell, who has been overseeing Moonlight.

“We will be distributing Moonlight for all the major distributions and provide both packages in RPM and DEB [distribution] forms as well as having a Mozilla-based installer for those not familiar with the packaging system in Linux,” de Icaza said.

Microsoft cites several differentiators between Silverlight and Flash. Silverlight, Deshpande said, offers high-definition video at a lower cost and functions with Microsoft’s developer tools. The company also is offering a SaaS-based component, Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live.

“[For] customers who want to use our service for streaming video content, we have that as well,” Deshpande said.

He touted a list of supporters of Silverlight, including Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment; Entertainment Tonight;, which shows videos; and the Home Shopping Network.

The ability to use Microsoft tools with Silverlight provides an advantage, said Ross Angert, creative director for interactive media at World Wrestling Entertainment.

“It’s the advantages from a development side that Silverlight offers us,” in terms of streaming video costs and displaying multiple video streams, he said.

“Flash certainly is a great tool, and we have some Flash product on our site, but I think overall as a company to partner with, Microsoft is going to be a great partner going forward,” Angert said. WWE plans to use Silverlight for wrestling videos and broadband content. Current systems will be kept in place without much change, Angert said.

“[Silverlight] will give users access to our entire library of videos,” said Angert.

Developers can use Microsoft’s Visual Studio and Expression tools to develop applications for Silverlight. The company is releasing Expression Encoder 1.0, formerly Expression Media Encoder, a tool for encoding and publishing rich media content to Silverlight, on Wednesday.

Microsoft also is announcing its Silverlight Partner Initiative on Wednesday, in which more than 35 companies have agreed to support Silverlight. Among the participants are Akamai Technologies, IdentityMine, Electric Rain, and TwoFour Digital.

Microsoft releases final IE 8 beta

Microsoft has released the second beta version of its next-gen Internet Explorer web browser.
Microsoft has released the second beta version of its next-gen Internet Explorer web browser.
SEATTLE - The next version of Microsoft web browser makes it easier for people to surf the internet without leaving a trace.

Companies that sell advertisements online - including Microsoft - can electronically gather tidbits about web surfers' habits, and then use that information to help decide what kinds of ads to show.

However, in the newest beta test version of Microsoft's forthcoming Internet Explorer 8, which was made available overnight, a mode called InPrivateBrowsing lets users surf without having a list of sites they visit get stored on their computers.

The program also covers other footprints, including temporary internet files and cookies, the small data files that websites put on visitors' computers to track their activities.

Both Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft's current browser, and Mozilla's recently released Firefox 3, already allow users to block cookies. The top two browsers also let users delete private information such as temporary files and browsing history after the fact. But they can't turn off that collection entirely.

The beta also introduces an additional InPrivateBlocking mode, which can block third-party content from appearing on websites. For example, a news site might carry stock quotes from one company and weather information from another. Companies that provide such content may also be collecting and sharing information about what people do online. But users who turn on InPrivateBlocking won't see that content or be exposed to such data collection without their consent.

InPrivateBlocking can also keep some types of ads from appearing - including those served up by Microsoft's own advertising platform, whose success is considered critical to the software maker's future.

JJ Richards, a general manager in Microsoft's advertising division, responded in a statement that consumers understand that they get free content and services in exchange for advertising, but want "transparency, trust and control with respect to the sites they visit."

"If IE8 helps heighten awareness of this value exchange, that's a step in the right direction," he said.

Users surfing with InPrivateBlocking turned on can review a list of which companies are trying to display or collect data. Users also can click a link to read more and decide case by case whether to permit certain ones to go ahead.

"Today as a user, we have no visibility or control over how that information is shared and recorded," said James Pratt, a product manager for IE8. "I wouldn't put Microsoft as being the arbiter of what should and shouldn't be tracked."