Monthly Archives: December 2009

The futurist Ray Kurzweil has come up with a major advance on eReader software that consumers can try out as early as next month.

Blio, available free for the PC and iPhone, offers features such as 3D page turns and a bookshelf where readers can rotate books to see backcover and spine. Read more

Albert Gonzalez, a onetime star informant for the US Secret Service, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy charges in the largest known identity theft case to date. He stands to be sentenced to more than 15 years behind bars at hearing scheduled for March.

Mr Gonzalez formally entered the plea in US District Court in Boston in a case brought over the penetration of multiple retail chains and Heartland Payment Systems, a credit card and debit card processor that prosecutors said coughed up more than 130m records. Read more

Some analysts are getting a little weary of Amazon’s continual tease on Kindle sales figures.

The internet retailer’s shares rose on Monday, based on its press release that the eReader had become the most popular gift in its history.

But Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts complained in a note that they continued to be frustrated with the limited data from Amazon, which has never released any dollar or unit numbers on Kindle sales. Read more

Apple has something big up its sleeve for next month.

The company has rented a stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for several days in late January, according to people familiar with the plans.

Apple is expected to use the venue to make a major product announcement on Tuesday, January 26th. Both YBCA and Apple declined to comment.

The company most recently used the YBCA stage in September, when chief executive Steve Jobs made his first public appearance after a medical leave and showed off new iPods. Read more

Jajah has become the latest internet phone company to be snapped up by a bigger player, with the Silicon Valley company announcing it is being acquired by Europe’s Telefónica for $207m €145m) in an all-cash transaction. 

The deal is much smaller than the $3.9bn eBay paid for Skype in 2005 but larger than the rumoured $50m  Google deal to acquire GrandCentral in 2007, which it renamed Google Voice. Read more

Serial entrepreneur Jack Dorsey is pointing out the origins of his new start-up, Square, as he stands in the middle of its new office space inside the San Francisco Chronicle building.

It is move-in day in a section of the newspaper’s emptying headquarters that now has to be sub-let. The Chronicle, founded in 1865, has seen its staff and circulation shrink by more than a quarter in the past three years as people turn to the internet for their news. Read more

Just in time for the Consumer Electronics Show and the launch of an assault on its mobile strategy, Intel has announced an upgrade to its Atom microprocessor.

Atom has dominated the netbook category but it faces a challenge at CES from smaller, leaner-on-energy smartbooks featuring Arm-based processors. Read more

It seems that a half billion dollars was not enough. That’s the price Yelp, the local reviews site, was set to fetch on Friday as it entered into late stage negotiations with Google. But last night TechCrunch reported that the deal had fallen apart.

Perhaps news of the imminent deal attracted new bidders to the table, but it’s not yet clear what caused the last minute scuttling. Read more

In its 33-year history, Apple has been at the forefront of technological design and innovation. From the Apple I to the iPhone, through the Apple Macintosh, the iMac, the iPod, the Nano and iTunes, the company has won over customers by bringing something new and exciting to the market.

However, among the winners, Apple has produced its fair share of losers: products that were either ahead of their time, not able to do what they promised, or just unloved by the tech-buying public.

Here’s a countdown of a top ten of these products:

10. Apple III
Lifespan: 4 years (1980-1984)
Introductory price: up to $7,800
The Apple III was built as a rival to IBM’s business model, but 14,000 had to be recalled early because of a problem with overheating. Despite a re-design and lowering the price, the Apple III was discontinued after four years. Read more

Ray Davies was not talking about personal technology when he sang: “It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world,” in the Kinks hit. But he might as well have been

Dell is going into smartphones, Google is getting into operating systems and Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, has launched a classy netbook, the Booklet 3G. This is, in fact, a re-entry into the PC market for Nokia. In the 1980s the Finnish company produced a range of desktops called MikroMikko, but left the PC market when it sold the Nokia Data business to Britain’s ICL in 1991. Read more

Carl Icahn , the billionaire activist investor, is upping his stake in another troubled company – revealing on Thursday in a regulatory filing  that he holds more than 9m shares in the video game publisher Take-Two .

Wedbush Morgan analysts speculated today that Mr Icahn taking an 11.3 per cent stake in a company he has long held an interest in could be an attempt to force a sale. Mr Icahn “acquired the shares in the belief that the shares were undervalued,” says the filing, and he may “seek to have conversations” with management. Read more

While many will be queuing at cinemas for a look at Avatar on Friday through RealD’s 3D glasses, the same experience is not that far away on living room TVs.

Los Angeles-based RealD, whose technology is the most widely used for 3D in the cinema, announced a partnership with Sony today that will bring it to Bravia LCD TVs next year. Read more

A year after its launch, Sony has announced its Home virtual world, accessed through the PlayStation 3, has reached the 10m user mark.

The console maker is also introducing its first massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game within Home today, which it describes as a unique social gaming experience.

It certainly represents Sony leveraging the PS3′s superior technology – Microsoft’s Xbox and Xbox Live service and the Nintendo Wii do not have the capabilities to tackle online games and environments of this level of sophistication. Read more

Pandora, the personalised internet radio service for music, goes from forte to fortissimo, announcing on Wednesday it reached 40m registered users this month.

At a media dinner the previous evening attended by Tim Westergren, Pandora founder and hosted by Crosslink Capital, the VC which led a Series C round for Pandora, Peter Rip, general partner at Crosslink elaborated on its success.

Revenues in the latest quarter were up more than double on a year ago, he said, and Pandora is the prime candidate in Crosslink’s portfolio as VC firms look to bring their best companies to market in 2010. Read more

For a company of its size, Ebay has a surprisingly small footprint in the real world. While it enjoys a sprawling campus in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t have brick and mortar stores to staff, or the vast warehouses maintained by rival Amazon.

So in an effort to put a face on the company for the holidays, Ebay has sent a “mobile boutique” touring around the country. The first-time effort was on display in San Francisco today, and will be in Los Angeles later this week.

A souped-up trailer swarming with Ebay employees in leprechaun green shirts, the boutique has hundreds of the most sought-after products on display. Read more

The “Google Phone” is real, judging by the multitude of photos available and tweets by lucky staff recipients, but why is it necessary?

Does Google want to change the cellphone industry? Is it worried that Android adoption will stall? I would say no on both counts. The Google phone is necessary because the company feels an Apple-like need to control the user experience. Read more

Until recently, most of the Taylor family’s digital photo frames (DPFs) were gathering dust because we had unplugged them. We had bought a clutch of these first-generation devices for displaying digital photos but found the screens disappointingly small and low-resolution, and the limited internal storage capacities allowed only a few dozen images to be displayed.

But digital photo frames have become cheaper and evolved quickly to add features that include: slots for extra memory cards, which make it easier to load photos; Wi-Fi networking capabilities, so content can be added via a home network; and the ability to refresh content over the internet, so friends and family can add photos, and images can be downloaded from web-based services. Read more

The Unity game engine, now powering video game development from the iPhone to the Xbox, is yet another emerging platform set to open its own “App Store”.

User numbers have soared since David Helgason, Unity chief executive, announced at its developer conference in October that a $199 version of its software would be free.

“Meticulously, in four and half years, we’ve built up 13,000 users, and then in a month we’ve more than doubled that,” he told me this week. Read more

Since launching our personal technology section on December 1, we have been featuring 2009′s best gadgets over the past two weeks.

Our ten categories covered everything from netbooks to eReaders, from pico projectors and the Loop (pictured) to internet-enabled TVs. Read more

The sweeping changes Facebook has made to its privacy policy are so complicated, and their effects so wide-reaching, that it seems the entire tech world is struggling to make sense of them.

Privacy organisations, no surprise, are none too pleased with the changes.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation concluded that “the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data.” The Electronic Privacy Information Center said that the default settings “may result in greater disclosure than users intend.” Read more