Monthly Archives: July 2010

Every time we visit a website, our personal information is in the hands of web publishers and advertisers. While both Europe and the US push for data tracking protections, there are some benefits of personalised advertisements.

As the FT’s editorial Protecting Privacy argues, “There is nothing wrong in principle with advertisers using data about people based on their browsing habits. Such information enables them to place more relevant adverts – ones that are more likely to be of interest – on the sites that people visit. If executed correctly, that can benefit not only publishers but their customers.” Read more

Joseph Menn

A researcher on Thursday posted software tools that he said would enable widespread eavesdropping on calls made over GSM networks with less than $2,000 worth of equipment.

Speaking at the second day of the Black Hat technology security conference in Las Vegas, researcher Karsten Nohl, who had previously reported that he had cracked GSM encryption, said he was distributing the tools free in order to pressure carriers to make fairly simple changes to fix the vulnerability. Read more

David Gelles

Groupon is already the leader of the pack when it comes to local deals .

By offering deep discounts to restaurants, shops and services in more than 80 markets, the two-year-old company is minting cash (it has been profitable for more than a year). Its success has inspired a raft of imitators, and helped the company draw in a $135m investment from Digital Sky Technologies earlier this year.

When businesses are featured on Groupon, they are slammed with an influx of new customers. It’s a happy problem to have, especially in tough economic times. But demand has overwhelmed Groupon of late, with as many as 700 local businesses a day wanting to offer Groupons. Now, chief executive Andrew Mason thinks he has found the solution — personalised deals. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The number of ways to transfer and enjoy your personal media on any device continues to grow.

Cyberlink this week announced significant improvements to its MediaEspresso transcoding software, which formats PC files for smartphones and portable media players. Or if you prefer streaming media directly from your PC to your portable device, there are new options from PlayOn, ZumoCast and HomePipe. Read more

David Gelles

Amazon has just updated the Kindle, giving the world’s most popular e-reader a much-needed facelift just in time for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

The new device is sleeker, stronger and faster than the previous Kindle. Its body is 21 per cent smaller and 15 per cent lighter at 8.7 ounces. It has double the battery life at one month, plus double the storage capacity — enough for 3,500 books.

At $139 for a wifi only version and $189 for 3G, the new Kindle puts e-readers firmly within reach of mainstream consumers. For those looking for a cheap way in to digital reading, the Kindle is a compelling package. Read more

From the FT’s beyondbrics blog

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, on Thursday raised its bet on the continued rapid growth of the global semiconductor industry to the tune of $1bn. Read more

Robin Kwong

Part of the charm of HTC, the fast-growing Taiwanese smartphone company, is that it strives to maintain an air of eager-to-please humbleness – or as its marketing tagline goes, of being “quietly brilliant” – even as it climbs through the ranks of the world’s biggest smartphone makers.
So it was a bit of a surprise when Cheng Hui-ming, chief financial officer, bawled out an analyst during the quarterly results conference call on Thursday for asking what seemed a rather innocuous question. Read more

David Gelles

How do you say “Farmville” in Japanese?

Zynga, maker of the popular social game, wants to find out.

To do so, the San Francisco company is entering into a joint venture with Softbank to develop and distribute games in Japan. As part of the deal, Softbank is investing $150m in Zynga, and will help launch the new business unit, Zynga Japan, in Tokyo.

Details of the partnership are scarce, but it will be interesting to see how Zynga’s games go over in Japan, a difficult market for foreign companies to crack. The deal also brings social gaming, which originated in Asian markets, full circle.  Read more

Joseph Menn

More than a hundred innocuous-looking wallpaper applications for Android handsets have been harvesting users’ phone numbers and SIM card information and sending them off to a Website based in China, researchers said Wednesday at the Black Hat tech security conference in Las Vegas.

The wallpapers–background pictures of ponies, basketball scenes and the like–have been downloaded more than a million times, the researchers said in highlighting growing concern about potential for malicious applications on Android, Apple’s iPhone and other smartphones that are rapidly gaining popularity. Read more

Now that Steve Jobs has admitted to iPhone 4′s antenna issues, three experts voice their opinions in today’s FT Judgment Call column, “Should Steve Jobs be more apologetic?”

Peter Bregman, chief executive of Bregman Partners writes, “Steve Jobs should have handled the bad press more skilfully. By being defensive, he’s the one who drew the focus to himself rather than to his message.” Read more

Joseph Menn

Most of the organised hacking rings aiming at bank fraud these days are stealing login credentials and then taking advantage of the relatively recent opportunities provided by online account access, wire transfers and other means for mis-shipping electronic funds.

But a newly discovered Russian group was using networks of compromised personal computers and techniques for hacking into databases to write $9m in counterfeit checks, thought until now to be the purview mainly of old-time loners. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Intel is literally exploding our concepts of computers with a new optical connection that could scatter the innards of a PC far and wide.

The chipmaker expects wide usage of light beams rather than electronic signals to link the parts of PCs by 2015 and says their long range means components could be spread throughout a building rather than contained in a box. Read more

Robin Kwong

MediaTek is going decidedly upscale. The Taiwanese company, the biggest supplier of mobile phone chips to China, was until a year ago still best known as the enabler of gray market ‘bandit phones’ that flooded Chinese and other emerging markets.Within the past year, however, MediaTek has increasingly sold its chips to top-tier international phone brands such as Samsung and LG, and expanded its repertoire to include an advanced third-generation chip for smartphones. On Tuesday it announced its next step – licensing fourth-generation LTE technology from Japan’s NTT Docomo.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

Pace has announced a proposed $475m acquisition of Silicon Valley’s 2Wire, in a move that will add telecom companies to the number-one set-top box maker’s existing cable and satellite customers in the US.

Pace going for a triple-play of industries to serve is another sign of the major strategic shifts taking place as different sectors converge on delivering content and services to consumers over the internet. Read more

Richard Waters

Cellphone makers do not want you to think about radiation when you go out to buy a new handset. It might make the retail experience a little less pleasurable.

That looks like the motivation behind a lawsuit filed on Friday in San Francisco to try to prevent disclosure of phone radiation levels on product packaging – something required by that city’s new ordinance.  San Francisco’s move was the first of its kind in the US, so the mobile industry has decided to take a stand.

But what possible legal argument could there be for preventing point-of-sale disclosure of phone radiation levels? Read more

Paul Taylor

It seems you can have it all with laptops these days – thin and light notebooks that are equally light on the wallet and offer long battery life as well.

In this week’s Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section, we look at the new, more affordable Portégé range from Toshiba and how it shapes up against offerings from Apple, Dell and Lenovo. Read more

Joseph Menn

Apple had good news and bad news on the iPhone 4 product front today.

The good: As promised, it started letting previous and current buyers choose from a number of free cases, which insulate and protect the antenna that can drop calls when touched with the human hand.

The bad: Apple said unexplained fabrication issues with the white iPhones would delay their release again, until “later this year”. Those devices have “continued to be more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected” Apple said in a two-sentence news release–and presumably more challenging than it expected just a month ago, when it promised the models in July. Read more

Richard Waters

Facebook notches up new user milestones with such regularity it’s easy to forget how fast its business potential is growing.

A year ago, when board member Marc Andreessen came out and predicted the service would reach 1bn users, it sounded like hype. Not so now, with the half-billion figure reached on Wednesday and 1bn widely seen as all but inevitable.

If Facebook’s revenues really are running at the rumoured $1bn a year (and from what we can tell, that number isn’t far off), that means it’s making $2 a year off the average user.

Consider how that compares to other internet companies – and bear in mind that unlike others, Facebook actually has an account relationship with all 500m. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Microsoft has announced a mixed bag of pricing for its Kinect motion controller and a new version of its Xbox 360.

The low $200 price for a 4-gigabyte version of the Xbox 360 S coming in August may give Microsoft an advantage over Sony and Nintendo in new console sales, but existing Xbox owners may baulk at paying an extra $150 for a Kinect sensor, available from November 4. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Cloud Engines has launched a small-business version of its Pogoplug device that makes remote access to files simpler.

In looks, the Pogoplug Biz is the same as the consumer version but lurid pink has been abandoned for a more sober black-and-white colour scheme. Read more