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Nov 29, 2008

Can Apple Save the Netbook?

Intel evaluating new netbook concepts, form factors

By Joel Hruska | Published: November 28, 2008 - 02:36PM CT

Netbooks have been one of the major success stories of 2008, but recent comments from Intel indicate that the company isn't satisfied with current device form factors. Speaking at a Raymond James IT Supply Chain conference last week, Stu Pann, an Intel VP of sales and marketing, admitted that Intel initially miscalculated the market segments that netbooks would appeal to...

Can Apple Save the Netbook?
PC World - USA
I'm a big fan of netbooks -- the compact, lightweight, inexpensive laptops pioneered by Asus with its Eee PC line. Small, rugged, and yet full-featured ...

Nov 28, 2008

CNN quakes as Twitter keeps pace with Mumbai news

CNN quakes as Twitter keeps pace with Mumbai news

It’s one thing when a couple dozen or so tech blogs rally around the idea that Twitter is an excellent source for the quick dissemination of news in a time of crisis — many of us have been trumpeting this fact for months if not longer — but it’s another when CNN (and not one of CNN’s blogs, but CNN proper) says the same thing.

One of the top headlines today on CNN.com is titled “Tweeting the terror: How social media reacted to Mumbai.” The opening sentence of the piece is even more to the point: “It was the day social media appeared to come of age and signaled itself as a news gathering force to be reckoned with.”

While CNN and other mainstream publications have been slow to credit online services like Twitter in the past for breaking news during times of crisis, like earthquakes and wildfires, they’re definitely coming around. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that CNN is the one saying this either. One of their anchors, Rick Sanchez, has been very active in the Twitter community, using the micro-messaging service to help with his reporting for several months now.

“Yes, Twitter is a source of journalism,” as blogger Mathew Ingram puts it.

But CNN isn’t quite as rosy about Twitter’s “reporting” capabilities as Ingram — after all, they don’t want it taking their jobs. Noting the widespread rumors and inaccuracies that began to pop up on Twitter about the attacks alongside true reports, CNN warns that “while Twitter remains a useful tool for mobilizing efforts and gaining eyewitness accounts during a disaster, the sourcing of most of the news cannot be trusted.”

That, of course is true, but as Ingram notes, when some wrong information started appearing on Twitter about the attacks, other users were quick to correct the reports — and again, those corrections probably happened quicker than they would have at traditional media outlets.

It’s really a question of speed versus 100 percent accuracy. In many cases, you have to take one over the other. In a time of crisis, I would guess that just about everyone would choose speed. And in that regard, organizations like CNN simply cannot match a service like Twitter, which has millions of potential “reporters.”

The old adage, “don’t believe everything you read,” is still important to keep in mind when getting information from Twitter. But it’s precisely an “old adage” because it’s been around long before Twitter ever existed and will be around after it’s gone. Twitter is just another source, granted a very fast one, but it still requires the ultimate filter: Your brain...

Twitter kills Canadian SMS updates. Can the U.S. be far behind?

As regular readers know, I hate SMS (text messaging). It’s not the idea or technology that I hate, it’s just the ridiculous costs associated with it. Why should I pay AT&T $15 a month for unlimited text messages (tiny amounts of data) when I already pay $30 a month for “unlimited” data?

So in some ways I’m happy that more people’s hatred for the service will grow today with the news that Twitter is ending outbound SMS updates in Canada.

The quiet killing of this feature (made on the Twitter Status blog rather than the main Twitter blog), is due to “unexpected changes in our [Twitter's] billing,” according to the post. The arrangement Twitter had negotiated with Canadian mobile carriers to send Twitter updates via text (which Twitter was subsidizing) has apparently seen costs double multiple times over the past several months.

To be clear, while sending Twitter updates via the Canadian shortcode (21212) will still work, receiving any Twitter updates will no longer be an option. This renders the service almost useless.

Canada is not the first to see Twitter SMS updates get the axe. In fact, it was one of only three where the service actually still worked when the company last announced it had to kill SMS in some countries back in August. Now the U.S. and India remain as the only countries with full SMS support for Twitter.

It seemed like those countries, along with Canada may have been safe because of established relationships with carriers — but that is clearly not the case. So you have to wonder, how long until the service is cut in the U.S. and India?

I don’t blame Twitter here, I blame the operators and their greed when it comes to SMS. It’s almost 2009 and we’re still paying upwards of 20 cents to send 160 characters (or ridiculous monthly rates). It’s nearly a $100 billion industry, with profit margins near 90 percent. It’s a scam.

Apple’s Black Friday sale: No iPhone or MacBook Pro

Apple’s Black Friday sale: No iPhone or MacBook Pro

After a few hours of downtime to prepare for the big Black Friday sale, Apple’s U.S. online store has just come back to life. While you can find savings on iMacs, MacBooks, iPod touches, iPod classics, iPod nanos and the Apple TV, it’s just as noteworthy what isn’t getting discounted: MacBook Pros and iPhones.

Here’s what you will find on sale:

iMac: The three high-range versions have been discounted $101, the low-end has been discounted $51.

MacBook: The two new 13-inch versions are both $101 off, the older 13-inch (white) version is $51 off (making it $948).

iPod touch: All versions are $21 off — this makes the 8 GB version only $208.

iPod classic: Both versions are getting $21 off.

iPod nano: Both versions are now $11 cheaper. (Ho-hum.)

Apple TV: Both versions are now $21 cheaper — this makes the entry level version $208.

As mentioned above, while rumors had been circulating about a possible iPhone discount, those turned out to be false. On many levels that makes sense, the device is selling so well that Apple hardly needs to discount it to sell more. (Though it apparently is being discounted in France for the holidays.)

More interesting is Apple’s decision to discount the MacBook but not the MacBook Pro. Also sitting out this round of sales is the MacBook Air, the Mac mini, the Mac Pro and the iPod shuffle...

My iPhone Is a Mac, My Android Is a PC

I’ve been using an Android G1 phone for more than a month now on a daily basis, but I still haven’t given up my iPhone. The more I use them both, the more that I realize my iPhone is a Mac and my Android is a PC.

That is not necessarily a bad thing—except for when my Android crashes (which is a lot). Okay, it does not actually crash so much as it freezes up, forcing me to wait until it figures things out. Which it usually does. Except that one time when I plugged it into the wrong mini-USB charger and it gave me the screen of death: a white danger triangle with a cell phone flat on its back next to it. (Sorry for the fuzzy picture, I took it with my iPhone).

Whose fault was that crash? I’m sure it was mine. But believe me, I’m equally careless with my iPhone. It’s just a lot more stable. That’s kind of what you’d expect since Apple goes to such lengths to control every aspect of the device, including the kinds of apps that can run on it. Android apps also have to go through a vetting process, but it does not seem to be as strict as Apple’s.

I make this judgment simply by looking at what is available in its app store, which seems to have been flooded recently. Sifting through all the Android apps, the bar for admittance seems to be pretty low. Some of the descriptions of the apps include messages from the developers. One typical plea:

If it does not install, please try uninstalling old version first. I am working on figuring out why this happens. Please let me know if you have a clue.

A lot of apps in there still feel experimental, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The quality of the apps is even more mixed than for the iPhone, which might have apps that are just as useless but you can at least count on them to work. The Android apps have more of a free-for-all attitude.

Android is a much more open development environment than the iPhone (or than a PC, for that matter). There aren’t as many restrictions on what parts of the phone an app can access. Right now, that makes for a messier overall experience. But it also opens the door to a much richer set of apps over time.

It almost harkens back to the hobbyist days of the PC. In fact, at the Android launch event, Google co-founder Sergey Brin talked about how he loved to tinker with the Android phone as a programmer:

The first app I wrote was one where you throw the phone up in the air and it calculates how much time it takes to hit the ground, using the accelerometer.

That one thankfully never made it into the Android app store. We’ve covered some that did and that are worth checking out. Among some of the newer ones that I really like are:

ParkMark—Helps you mark where you parked your car so you can find it later.
Orienteer—taps into the internal compass to give you a virtual needle reading.
Translate—uses Google Translate to turn phrases from one language into another.
Pintail—Let’s you SMS your phone if you lose it, sends back its ocation.
JOYity—a game of GPS tag.
Punch-O-Meter—measures how fast you punch.

So if mobile phones are where computers were 30 years ago, which would you rather be?

Nov 27, 2008

CMO Budgets Shift to eMail, Search, Online - Fast Results

Ed: The headline says CMO's have little interest in social networks. The data says they won't cut word of mouth marketing. The proper conclusion is that CMOs still don't understand the social media trend. Those who do, like President elect Obama and T. Boone Pickens, gained incredible results. Huge opportunity for those who can effectively communicate with baby-boomer CMOs.

More than Half of CMOs Remain Uninterested in Social Networks

Despite the cultural phenomenon that Facebook and MySpace have become in the past few years, 55% of top-brand CMOs said they’re not too interested (22%), or not interested at all (33%), in incorporating these and similar social-networking sites into their marketing strategies, according to a survey by Epsilon.


Overall, strategic use of social-networking platforms also remains low, even among those who say they have interest in them. Only 10% percent of CMO survey respondents said they already are using these social sites in their marketing plans, the survey found.

“These sites narrowly appeal to college and high school students, providing a challenge as far as measuring results and yielding a limited amount of actionable data,” said Steve Cone, CMO of Epsilon.

Marketing executives are much more interested in other elements of the social-media mix, such as internet forums (52%), webcasts and podcasts (47%), email (47%), blogs (37%) and webinars (52%). All of these approaches outscored Facebook and MySpace (35%), in terms of being social media elements that marketing executives said they are very interested or somewhat interested in using.

Paradoxically, 27% of CMOs identified social networking and word-of-mouth - ahead of all other elements of traditional or digital marketing - as the tool they most want to introduce to their marketing mix to compensate for anticipated budget cuts, and 12% of marketers doing it now said it would be the “last to go” in the face of budget cutbacks.

Other key survey results:

  • CMOs bracing for budget reductions identified email as the channel they are least likely to cut back vs. any other tool in the traditional or digital marketing mix.
  • While more than half of the companies already use consumer data mining, 23% more said that they plan to utilize the technology in the next 12 months.
  • 55% of those not already employing web analytics plan to do so in the next 12 months.
  • Customer loyalty and rewards programs remain polarizing, with 33% of companies already using them and 17% planning to use them in the next year, but 50% not using or planning to use.

Kevin Mabley, SVP, Epsilon Strategic Services, said marketers still place value on email. “According to our latest benchmark statistics, retailers see 20 cents in e-commerce revenue for every email delivered, showing the measurability and profitability of the email channel in times when people are seeking those two attributes.”...

Seven Reasons Pogue Hates The BlackBerry Storm (RIMM)

Ed: RIM has the largest installed base of smartphone users. They stumble. Millions of lines of software wasted. Back to square one. That's good news for the Apple iPhone.  

Seven Reasons Pogue Hates The BlackBerry Storm (RIMM)

blackberry-storm-vzw.jpgBad news for RIM's Q4 (RIMM): Unlike the Journal's Walt Mossberg, influential New York Times gadget-reviewer David Pogue hates the BlackBerry Storm.

He writes, "How did this thing ever reach the market? Didn’t anyone at RIM actually try it? Or was everyone involved just too terrified to pull the emergency brake on this train?"

Pogue's complaints in bulletpoints:

  • The touchscreen. "Isn’t the thumb keyboard the defining feature of a BlackBerry? A BlackBerry without a keyboard is like an iPodwithout a scroll wheel."
  • Email. The touchscreen can feel two types of touches, light and not-so-light, but Pogue says that sensitivity is wasted in the email app. "A light touch highlights the key but doesn’t type anything. Only by clicking fully do you produce a typed letter. It’s way, way too much work, like using a manual typewriter."
  • The vertical keyboard. The Storm switches between a horizontal and vertical keyboard depending on how its held. Hold its long side vertically, and you get the "SureType" keyboard, which Pogue hates because inaccurately tries to guess what you're typing. "For example, to type “get,” you press the GH, ER, and TY keys. Unfortunately, that’s also “hey.” You can see the problem. And trying to enter Web addresses is utterly hopeless."
  • Navigation. Pogue calls it "head-bangingly frustrating" because the buttons are too close together and the phone takes too long to interpret how the user touched the screen.
  • It's Slow. Pogue says the Storm takes seconds upon seconds to perform simple takes. "Remember: To convert seconds into BlackBerry time, multiply by seven."
  • No Wi-Fi.
  • Bugs: "Freezes, abrupt reboots, nonresponsive controls, cosmetic glitches. Way too much 'unexpected behavior.”

See Also:
BlackBerry Storm Ship Date Moved Up A Week (RIMM)

RIM's BlackBerry Storm Is No iPhone, But Should Sell Well (RIMM)

IBM Reveals Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives in the Next Five Years

IBM: Talking Web Will be Commonplace in 5 Years

Every year IBM releases a "Next Five in Five" list, a list of innovations that "have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years". This is the third such list, and it mentions a "Talking Web" among the 5 items. You will talk to the Web and the Web will talk back, according to IBM. In the future "you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice - therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads."

In fact this is already starting to happen, as recent iPhone releases from Google and Say Where show...

IBM Reveals Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives in the Next Five Years

ARMONK, NY - 25 Nov 2008: Unveiled today, the third annual "IBM Next Five in Five" is a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years:

  • Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows
  • You will have a crystal ball for your health
  • You will talk to the Web . . . and the Web will talk back
  • You will have your own digital shopping assistants
  • Forgetting will become a distant memory

The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible. 

In the next five years, technology innovations will change our lives in the following ways: ...

Nov 26, 2008

How widely used is Chrome? More than I expected

Ed: Early adopter sites like Techcrunch and ReadWriteWeb reports the highest Chrome share. Cnet reports the second wave. The vast majority of users have never heard of Chrome. Safari use among Window users is almost nil.

How widely used is Chrome? More than I expected

CNET News browser share

Chrome doesn't have much market share among CNET News visitors, but it's climbing.

(Credit: CNET News)

Is Google's Chrome browser mainstream?

Certainly not. But I've been curious how widespread its use is, in particular because I'm curious if I have any company in my choice to set Chrome as my default browser.

So I persuaded CNET's tech guys to give a window on what's going on here at CNET News. The result surprised me: 3.6 percent of those visiting the site in October used Chrome, up from 1 percent in September, when Google launched Chrome.

That's higher than I expected. It lagged Microsoft Internet Explorer, with 40.7 percent, Firefox with 37.4 percent, and Safari with 18.2 percent, but beat out Opera, with 1.2 percent in October. (Other browsers bring the total to 100 percent.)

Of course, CNET News has a more adventurous and techno-savvy audience than the average Web site. For comparison, I looked at data from Net Applications, which releases browser statistics based on the 160 million different people who visit a network of 40,000 sites using its Web analytics service. The company's data skews somewhat toward usage in North America and Europe, but it's still a more mainstream view of browser use than our site's.

Net Applications gives Chrome's share at 0.74 percent, essentially tied with Opera at 0.75 percent for October. Leading the pack is IE with 71.3 percent, followed by Firefox at 20 percent, and Safari at 6.6 percent.

So it doesn't look like Chrome is crushing either of the major powers. But second-tier browser companies should certainly be paying attention, given how rapidly Chrome ascended to striking distance. Google has a strong brand and a lot of programmers, though even most folks still aren't convinced they need to switch.

Chrome is rarer among mainstream users.

Chrome is rarer, with 0.74 percent share, in Net Applications' measurements of millions of browser users.

Google Plans Layoffs of Nearly 1/3 of the Workforce

Google Is Mortal

I reported skeptically on this issue earlier, but let's call a spade a spade. Google used its contractor workforce to quickly scale without having to spend on permanent employees, and now, it's using that same workforce to cut back costs. I've heard from a fair number of "laid off" contractors, in particular in Europe, and the reality is simply that: Google's use of contractors outstripped the company's ability to leverage them to the bottom line, and something had to be done. How much of this has to do with slowing growth? Hard to say, but it's also hard to say that growth was not slowing. The world is in crisis, after all.

It's a smart move by Google (control operating costs without hurting core employee base), but from the point of view of the folks effected, it's layoffs nevertheless. Google most likely will grow past these cuts in its contractor workforce in the coming year(s), but the cutback is just that, a cutback. Cnet has more here.

Google Plans Layoffs of Nearly 1/3 of the Workforce

According to WebGuild, Google has been quietly laying off hundreds of "employees" since August and had not reported it, getting around a legal requirement because most of these individuals were considered temporary contractors, thereby being considered "operational expenses." Those impacted...

Nov 25, 2008

Why the Four C's of Community Require the Commitment of Many

Ed: Microsites for brands.

Why the Four C's of Community Require the Commitment of Many

Let Content, Context, Connectivity and Continuity Guide Your Efforts

Have you ever given serious thought as to why marketers are so infatuated with the idea of "viral"? Think about it. Viral is actually pretty easy to wrap your head around. For starters, it's not difficult to measure. Views in YouTube, the number of times a video was embedded, the number of comments, the number of times a Facebook application has been downloaded or shared and the last time it was used. They are all measurable. And like traditional marketing, they're pretty easy to walk away from.

Pampers Village blends content, tools and social functionality based on the insight that parents want to connect and naturally form communities both online and off.
Pampers Village blends content, tools and social functionality based on the insight that parents want to connect and naturally form communities both online and off.

If you are fortunate enough to hit the "viral video" jackpot, for example, you can sit back and watch as the infectious behavior kicks in. No wonder marketers can't get away from the idea of viral. The problem with it, however, is that the odds are not in your favor. My writing may be influenced by the fact that I'm doing it on a plane on my way to Las Vegas for the WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) summit. But, I'm also pretty sure that the stats back up my claim, as there are relatively few of the "Subservient Chicken" and Dove "Real Beauty" examples compared to the thousands of initiatives launched that hope to be the next one. ...

US TV Watching Rises to All-Time High


US TV Watching Rises to All-Time High

US usage of TV, the internet and mobile - the “three screens” - continues to increase across the board, and in each month during Q3 2008, the average American watched approximately 142 hours of TV, viewed three hours of mobile video, and went online for 27 hours, according to research from The Nielsen Company.

The “A2/M2 Three Screen Report,“which details key findings from the research, also states that the average time a US home used a TV set during the 2007-08 TV season was 8 hours and 18 minutes per day, a record high since Nielsen started measuring television in the 1950s.

With regard to specific age groups, users age 65+ watch the most TV each month, while those age 35-44 use the internet most.


“Americans keep finding more time to spend with the three screens,” said Susan Whiting, vice chairperson for The Nielsen Company, referring to the fact that many of the three-screen-watching activities were found to be taking place at the same time.  “TV use is at an all-time high, yet people are also using the Internet more often - 31% of which is happening simultaneously.”

Additional report findings:

  • Television remains the dominant of the three screens and was watched more than 142 hours/month. This was 5 hours more than last year.
  • Americans spend more than six hours/month watching time-shifted TV, which is more than double the amount of time they watch video online.
  • Men are more likely than women to watch video on mobile phones, while women are more likely to watch video on the internet.
  • Online video use grew steadily through Q3 2008, fueled by coverage of the Olympics, Major-League baseball games, the political conventions and debates, and the financial crisis.

“Our numbers show that TV remains the dominant choice for most Americans, yet timeshifting as well as videos on the internet and on mobile phones [are growing quickly and] continue to be the trends to watch,” Whiting said.


About the research: The TV and internet figures are calculated using Nielsen’s National TV and internet panels which are measured electronically and reported on a regular basis. The mobile phone figures are collected by Nielsen via a quarterly survey, and give a firsthand look at how early adopters report their usage of mobile video.

YouTube Goes Wide

YouTube: More to Love

YouTubeAs the prices of professional quality video equipment continue to drop and the number of people with high-speed internet connections continues to increase, online video sites have been scrambling to keep up with their users' desires to deliver higher quality content to their viewers.

YouTube is no different. Today, they announced the latest enhancement to the YouTube platform - a widescreen video format across the site - which they hope will provide users with "a cleaner, more powerful viewing experience."

The new YouTube format increases the traditional YouTube page layout to 960 pixels to make space for the widescreen player - which now carries a 16:9 aspect ratio. Videos uploaded at the 4:3 aspect ratio are also presented in 16:9, but to prevent additional distortion, those 4:3 videos will be bracketed by vertical black bars.

And while the widescreen feature - although a dramatic change to the YouTube player we're used to seeing - doesn't really give rise to speculation, the combined series of recent upgrades to YouTube certainly do. First there was the high-definition video, then the live streaming, and now the widescreen. You have to wonder what Google has up their sleeve for this property. ...

YouTube Goes Wide

YouTube has apparently changed all videos on its site to play in widescreen format. Because most videos on the site were originally uploaded in a ratio closer to 4:3 (the standard size used on non-HD televisions), most videos are playing with horizontal black bars on the side. Some videos (like this one) are taking advantage of the full space, but are shrunk down to the normal size when they’re embedded elsewhere.

It seems that YouTube is either doing A/B testing or that the changes haven’t propagated to all servers (if that’s even possible) - hard refreshing on videos seems to alternate between the standard video player and the widescreen one. But it’s a widespread change, as hundreds of tweetsare pouring in in about the switch to widescreen.

Widescreen YouTube videos have been spotted before now and could be enabled using a tag in the video’s URL, but this seems to be the first time that the feature is activated by default. The change may be related to YouTube’s recent announcement of full-length films from MGM, which pits it directly against Hulu...

Nov 24, 2008

Kumo, Live, SearchMash, SearchWiki - The Beat of Change

Microsoft To Rebrand Search. Will It Be Kumo?

Microsoft will relaunch Windows Live Search under a new brand sometime early next year, says a source within the company. What we don’t know is what that new brand will be, although a few names have been thrown around. According to our source, a “final” decision has been made, but very few people inside of Microsoft are aware of it, and it could change.

Now LiveSide is saying there’s evidence the new search brand will be Kumo, which means “cloud” or “spider” in Japanese.

Why would Microsoft go through yet another rebranding effort? Live.com has a lot of different services under its umbrella (some server software, some client software) in addition to search. It’s also a burgeoning social network.

Over time, we’ve heard, Live.com will become a pure social network and personal productivity portal. You’ll go there to access email, calendar, photos, activity streams, etc. But search belongs somewhere else, and it definitely needs a fresh start.

Microsoft won’t comment on the name change, or even if there is a name change. But our sources caution us that nothing has been finalized, and the fate of Yahoo could swing this one way or another as well. So Kumo may very well be the name Microsoft is planning to use, but that decision may change.

Why Did Google Discontinue SearchMash?

Whether you like SearchWiki, the new voting and commenting feature for search results Google introduced last week, or not, it was undeniably a bold move for the company to turn on the feature for everyone with a Google account at once instead of gradually releasing it.

Granted, they had been bucket-testing the feature for a while, but for Google to let users mash up the results they are presented with when searching is a big deal. So it’s a bit of a surprise that while everyone was focused on SearchWiki and what it means for the company, Google next to Lively also decided to kill its search sandbox SearchMash (it went “the way of the dinosaur”) instead of using it to test SearchWiki.

SearchMash was an experimental, non-branded search engine that Google used to be able to play around with new search technologies, concepts and interfaces. It was first introduced in October 2006, and unveiled to the public exactly one year after that. Some people actually traded in Google’s search engine for SearchMash, were apparently quite pleased with the experience and are now sad to see it go.

The service wasn’t meant to attract a mass of users, but rather for Google to play around with meta-search features (results for web, images, video and Wikipedia were blended together), third-party integration (it used Snap for previewing landing pages of outside links), user interface experiments (like ‘infinite scroll’ that allowed you to view as many search results on the same page) and technologies (it had an Ajax and Flash / Flex version).

There’s something inherently strange about Google not having used SearchMash as a playground for trying out the SearchWiki features, and even more so that they decided to quietly kill it while at the same launching the latter.

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