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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

EU takes swipe at U.S. Internet oversight

The European Commission on Friday took a swipe at U.S. oversight of the Internet but offered no concrete alternatives, in advance of an international summit on how the Internet should be run.

A U.N. report has proposed a multinational approach as a more democratic and clearer way of running the Internet.

The controversy centers around the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based non-profit company set up in 1998.

Yahoo out of talks on AOL stake

Internet media firm Yahoo has said it has pulled out of talks to buy a stake in Time Warner's internet unit AOL.

The move came after Yahoo chief executive Terry Semel met Time Warner executives in October, Yahoo said.

"After we learned what their proposed deal terms were we passed and we've never looked back," a Yahoo spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency.

The withdrawal of Yahoo leaves Google and Microsoft as the two favourites to do a deal with AOL.

The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that Time Warner was expected to pick one exclusive partner with which it will begin talks, possibly as early as next week.

Revamp

The AP news agency cited unnamed sources as saying the reason why Yahoo pulled out was because Time Warner wanted to retain a majority stake in AOL.

Time Warner has seen its share price plunge since 2000 and has come under pressure from investors.

In September, Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons said he was determined to increase AOL's value which, in turn, would boost the US media giant's share price.

The firm is seeking to transform the business by changing it from a subscriber-based service to an advertising-funded one.

In November Time Warner reported a sharp rise in profit and promised investors a $12.5bn share buy-back programme.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Lenovo Reports Triple-Digit Sales Growth


PC maker Lenovo reported second-quarter revenue growth of 404 percent, attributing the hefty gain to organic growth and its acquisition of IBM’s PC business.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, sales totaled $3.7 billion, according to the Purchase, N.Y., company, whose parent is based in China. Pretax earnings came in at $65 million, and profit for shareholders rose 2 percent, the company said.

Lenovo issued its second-quarter report from Hong Kong, where much of its international operations are located. The company’s earnings press conference, also in Hong Kong, wasn’t broadcast to media in the United States.

The financial report was the first that included a full three-month period of contributions from the former IBM PC business. Lenovo closed that acquisition April 30, and the company said industry reports show that it turned in a 13 percent growth in unit PC shipments during that time.

"The new Lenovo is already showing signs of achieving its potential, although we have much yet to do," Lenovo CFO Mary Ma said in a statement.

Lenovo has yet to officially roll out its new terms and conditions for the U.S. solution provider channel. Company executives have begun preliminary discussions with some members of its channel advisory panel and said they expect to begin detailing the new channel program--expected to be less restrictive in many aspects than IBM's--over the next couple of weeks.

Lenovo's mostly upbeat financial report stands in contrast to that of rival Dell, which reported Monday that its profit would be at the lower end of its earlier forecast and sales for the current quarter would be below expectations. Dell cited weakness in its U.S. consumer and U.K. businesses, as well as a charge of $450 million, most of which the Round Rock, Texas-based PC giant said will pay for the cost of fixing "previous-generation Optiplex desktop systems" that didn't perform up to company standards.

For its part, Lenovo said much of its sales growth was fueled by shipments of its ThinkPad notebooks, as well as a refresh of its ThinkCentre desktop PC lineup.

Intel Is Checking Up Digital Health


Intel Corp. has a prescription for enhancing health care in the future: increasing the dose of computer technology.

The chip maker, which established a new Digital Health Group as part of a broad reorganization earlier this year, is preparing to trial a laptop-like device that could aid in the care of people suffering from Parkinson's disease. The device conducts a battery of tests to measure their symptoms and stores the data for doctors to access. Intel researchers plan to begin medical trials of the machine, which they say can be used to tracks the patients' symptoms more closely by repeating the tests weekly at home versus a doctor's office visit every few weeks, with about 60 patients in January.

Intel isn't poised to enter the medical devices business with the tester, however. Instead, the device represents one of numerous opportunities the chipmaker sees in applying its forte—designing chips and the systems that surround them—to health care. To that end, researchers inside the company's labs—many of whom are now affiliated with the Digital Health Group following the reorganization—have been experimenting with numerous ways to use fairly standard computer chips, software and networking technologies, including RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, to assist doctors and their patients as well as aid in the care of aging populations around the globe.

"This is not going to make a laptop replace a nurse. That's not what we're thinking," said Manny Vara, a technology strategist inside Intel's research labs, while demonstrating several of Intel's health care-oriented research projects for Ziff Davis Internet during an event in New York City.

However, "We think some of this is very promising," he said.

Intel researchers envision sensor networks that use RFID tags to help monitor the daily activities of elderly people, for example. By gathering data from RFID-tagged household implements, even including drinking cups, a network could track a person's movements throughout a house and therefore deduce whether he or she was capable of performing day-to-day activities or track whether medications were being taken on time, Vara said.

"You can deduce what [your grandmother] is doing by looking at what' she's touching" around the house, he said.

Numerous Intel researchers were on hand at an event in New York City where they discussed projects, including the Parkinson's tester, digital pill box, sensor networks as well as others such as location-aware wireless networks. But the Digital Health Group also had its coming out party a few months ago at Intel's fall Developer Forum in San Francisco.

There, the group's General Manager, Louis Burns discussed the benefits of IT-enabling patients, doctors and instruments to create more consistent care during a keynote address at the forum.

Burns touted other potential health care benefits. Electronic prescription processing could replace written prescriptions, he said.

Burns also demonstrated connected blood-pressure cuffs, thermometers and pulse readers that could chart information instantly onto a patient's medical record, in another example of networked medical devices.

That interoperability has the most power to improve health care, he said during the speech.

"If you optimize just one component of the [health care] system, you just shift the bottleneck," he said.

Intel plans to reveal more detailed product information next spring, he said in the keynote.

Apple sells a million videos


Apple Computer said its iTunes online service has sold a million videos in under 20 days.

iTunes, the most popular online music store, began selling about 2,000 music videos and episodes of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" for $1.99 October 12.

The debut coincided with the launch of a new generation of Apple's iPod digital music player that can play video on its 2.5-inch color screen.

Technology, media and Wall Street analysts are eyeing Apple's performance for validation that a market for legal downloading of videos exists.

Topping the list of big sellers were music videos by Michael Jackson, Fatboy Slim and Kanye West, as well as episodes of ABC shows.

"Selling one million videos in less than 20 days strongly suggests there is a market for legal downloads," Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, said in a statement. "Our next challenge is to broaden our content offerings."

At the service's launch, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC was the only nonmusic programming provider aside from Jobs' Pixar Animation Studios Inc., which is also providing short films for the service.

Sources have said Apple is in discussions to lure more television networks to provide programming.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ready for a 20-inch laptop?


How big is your laptop? Fifteen inches? Seventeen inches? How about a massive 19- or 20-inch wide-screen LCD model?

With so many DVDs featuring letterboxed or wide-screen versions of films, consumers' fascination with larger screen sizes is changing the size and shape of the laptop industry, an IDC report issued Monday stated.

The wide-screen format, found in only 39.2 percent of laptops expected to ship this year, will become dominant in mid- to late 2006. It will nearly eclipse standard screen dimensions by the end of 2009, the market research firm estimates.

The IDC report doesn't refer only to the larger sizes, however. IDC predicted that 12-inch ultraportables and 14- and 15-inch wide-screen displays will fuel 62.5 million notebook shipments this year. That number, IDC forecasts, will climb to 114.6 million in 2009.

"What we are seeing is the commercial market driving the manufacturers," IDC analyst Richard Shim said. "In addition to watching movies or playing games, customers are appreciating that wide-screen formats let them view documents and spreadsheets side-by-side instead of scrolling up and down."

But are consumers ready to lug around a 20-inch laptop? Shim said that displays measuring 15 inches and 17 inches on the diagonal--once considered too big to carry around--are now among the more popular versions.

In its report, IDC predicted that 73.6 million laptops will ship by the end of 2006. Of that number, 38.5 million, or 52.3 percent, will be wide-screen formats, Shim said. About 35.1 million, 47.7 percent, of laptops shipped will be the current standard square configuration.

In 2009, when IDC has predicted 114.6 million laptops will ship, the analyst firm also estimated 96.7 million wide-screen laptops, making up 84.4 percent of the market. In the same year, standard-size laptops are expected to reach 17.9 million units, or 15.6 percent, of the market.

While IDC is expecting a larger price difference between standard-size and widescreen notebooks in the 14-inch category, prices should even out next year as demand for widescreen notebooks takes off and computer makers transition from 14-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch displays to the larger sizes, Shim said.

Other factors in transitioning laptops into wide-screen format include the rise in high-definition content and operating systems like Microsoft Vista, which are expected to accommodate WSXGA (Wide Super Extended Graphics Array) pixel resolutions of 1680 by 1050 and 1440 by 900.

"The PC makers are also getting aggressive now because there is no standard in place saying that 15.4-inch wide-screen is the standard and a 15.3-inch widescreen is not," Shim said.

Any downsides to larger laptop displays are minimal, Shim said.

"Some corporate buyers might be concerned that their homegrown applications may not look the same in a larger-size wide-screen display," Shim said, noting that consumers are more likely than businesses to purchase a wide-screen machine.

The other downside would be a potential glut of LCD panels in 2006, Shim said. But if there is an oversupply, Shim said the sales will hurt suppliers and manufacturers more than it would hurt consumers.

Google Wants to Dominate Madison Avenue, Too


IN many ways, Larry Page and Sergey Brin seem an unlikely pair to lead an advertising revolution. As Stanford graduate students sketching out the idea that became Google, the two software engineers sniffed in an academic paper that "advertising-funded search engines will inherently be biased toward the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers."

They softened that line a bit by the time they got around to pitching their business to venture capitalists, allowing that selling ads would be a handy safety net if their other, less distasteful ideas for generating revenue didn't pan out.

Google soared in popularity in its first years but had no meaningful revenue until the founders reluctantly fell on that safety net and started selling ads. Even then, they approached advertising with the mind-set of engineers: Ads would look more like fortune cookies than anything Madison Avenue would come up with.

As it turned out, the safety net was a trampoline. Those little ads - 12 word snippets of text, linked to topics that users are actually interested in - have turned Google into one of the biggest advertising vehicles the world has ever seen. This year, Google will sell $6.1 billion in ads, nearly double what it sold last year, according to Anthony Noto, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. That is more advertising than is sold by any newspaper chain, magazine publisher or television network. By next year, Mr. Noto said, he expects Google to have advertising revenue of $9.5 billion. That would place it fourth among American media companies in total ad sales after Viacom, the News Corporation and the Walt Disney Company, but ahead of giants including NBC Universal and Time Warner.

More quietly, Google is also preparing to disrupt the advertising business itself, by replacing creative salesmanship with cold number-crunching. Its premise so far is that advertising is most effective when seen only by people who are interested in what's for sale, based on what they are searching for or reading about on the Web. Because Google's ad-buying clients pay for ads only when users click on them, they can precisely measure their effectiveness - and are willing to pay more for ads that really sell their products.

HIDDEN behind its simple white pages, Google has already created what it says is one of the most sophisticated artificial intelligence systems ever built. In a fraction of a second, it can evaluate millions of variables about its users and advertisers, correlate them with its potential database of billions of ads and deliver the message to which each user is most likely to respond.

Eric E. Schmidt, Google's chief executive, explains the company's astounding success in advertising - and reconciles it with the founders' distrust of hucksterism - by suggesting that advertising should be interesting, relevant and useful to users. "Improving ad quality improves Google's revenue," he said in an interview at the company's headquarters, known as the Googleplex. "If we target the right ad to the right person at the right time and they click it, we win."

This proposition, he continued, is applicable to other media. "If we can figure out a way to improve the quality of ads on television with ads that have real value for end-users, we should do it," he said. While he is watching television, for example, "Why do I see women's clothing ads?" he said. "Why don't I see just men's clothing ads?"

The media and advertising industries certainly see a future in which television ads are aimed at individual viewers. But few outside of the engineering Ph.D.'s at Google think that television ads should simply be utilitarian, rather than entertaining, provocative or annoyingly repetitive - the models that have worked so far. And some media industry executives wonder whether Google, which has already become the most powerful force in Internet advertising, should also become the clearinghouse for ads of all types - a kind of advertising Nasdaq.


Adobe Digital Negative Specification Continues to Win Industry Support



Adobe Systems Incorporated announced that its Digital Negative Specification (DNG) - an industry-wide initiative to create one unified format for archiving raw digital images - is continuing to win support from camera manufacturers and software makers. Ricoh Co. is the latest camera manufacturer to support DNG, with its new GR digital camera. By providing DNG support directly in its products, Ricoh joins respected camera manufacturers Hasselblad and Leica, along with a wide range of software manufacturers such as Apple, Extensis, iView and ULead.

"DNG addresses a critical need in the market to preserve digital images in their purest form while also simplifying the raw workflow for photographers," said Kazuhiro Yuasa, general manager of the Image Capturing Solution Division at Ricoh. "The Ricoh GR Digital represents the latest advancements in high resolution compact cameras, and by incorporating support for DNG we're giving our customers the flexibility and control they require to do their best work."

"Serious photographers have already expressed their eagerness to find cameras that support the common DNG format," said Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president of Digital Imaging and Digital Video at Adobe. "Ricoh's commitment to DNG is great news for the photography community. We look forward to working closely with Ricoh and other manufacturers as DNG evolves and becomes part of everyday photography workflows."

Support for Over 80 Camera Models
In addition, Adobe introduced the Camera Raw 3.2 plug-in that extends long-term archiving capabilities to 14 new camera models from leading manufacturers, bringing total support to over 80 cameras. With the new plug-in, users can preserve more metadata when saving files in the DNG format. Added support for GPS metadata tags gives photographers the ability to associate images more easily. Additional features include an updated, user-friendly interface for Photoshop® Elements 4.0 users and "As Shot" white balance support for Nikon D2X, D2Hs and D50 camera users.

New cameras supported by Adobe Camera Raw 3.2 plug-in and DNG Converter include Konica Minolta ALPHA SWEET DIGITAL (Japan), Konica Minolta ALPHA-5 DIGITAL (China), Konica Minolta MAXXUM 5D (USA), Konica Minolta DYNAX 5D (Europe), Leaf Valeo 17, Leaf Aptus 22, Leica D-Lux 2, Nikon D2Hs, Nikon D70s, Nikon D50, Nikon Coolpix 8400, Nikon Coolpix 8800, Panasonic DMC-LX1, and Panasonic DMC-FZ3.

Availability
The Adobe DNG Converter and Adobe Camera Raw 3.2 plug-in require Mac OS X 10.2.4 or higher, Microsoft® Windows® 2000 with Service Pack 3, or Windows XP.

The updated Adobe DNG Converter is available today as a free download at www.adobe.com/dng . The Adobe Camera Raw 3.2 plug-in also requires Photoshop CS, Photoshop CS2 or Photoshop Elements 4.0 and can be downloaded for free by going to the Adobe Web site at www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated
Adobe is the world's leading provider of software solutions to create, manage and deliver high-impact, reliable digital content. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

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