Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nokia ready to change its fortunes in the U.S. market

Nokia has steadily lost ground in recent years, watching its market share shrivel to single digits.
Nokia hopes to reverse that trend. On Mar. 30, AT&T (T), the largest wireless carrier in the U.S., plans to announce it will soon carry Nokia's e71x, the thinnest smartphone available in the U.S. The phone is similar to traditional BlackBerry devices in looks, but is a sleeker 0.39 inches thick. It has a Qwerty keyboard, allowing for Web browsing and corporate e-mail access via regular wireless networks and Wi-Fi hotspots at caf├ęs and airports. The device also has a built-in Global Positioning System, a music player, a video camera, and a memory card slot. The Nokia e71x is expected to hit the U.S. market in May and should cost $100 after rebate with a two-year contract.

"We believe this is a great opportunity for Nokia," says Hugo Hernandez, Nokia's head of E-series marketing for North America. "We are bringing in a device with the right [features] and the right price point."

Investing more in the U.S. market
To gain back market share and prove it's serious about the U.S. market this time, Nokia needs to follow up the e71x with comparably promising phones. In particular, the company needs to develop more phones with the CDMA wireless technology used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint (S). "It'll be difficult [to increase their market share] due to their [near] lack of CDMA presence," says Hughes De La Vergne, a principal analyst at Gartner (IT).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

T-Mobile felt the time was right to roll out its new webConnect USB Laptop Stick.

WebConnect USB Laptop Stick on T-Mobile ..
Manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co., this small, portable modem lets you connect to the Web on your laptop using T-Mobile's 3G network or Wi-Fi, and comes with built-in T-Mobile Connection Manager software to automatically detect the best available Internet connection.
In addition, the WebConnect laptop stick offers tri-band 3G connectivity (HSDPA/UMTS 1900/AWS/2100), so you'll be able to use it on compatible networks overseas. If you're in an area where there is no 3G coverage, it is compatible with GPRS/EDGE networks, so you're not left to search out a Wi-Fi hot spot as your only option of getting online.
Aside from connectivity, the T-Mobile WebConnect laptop stick can also double as a portable storage device. Similar to the AT&T USBConnect Mercury, it's equipped with a microSD/SDHC expansion slot that can accept up to 8GB cards. The accessory features a swivel USB design and measures 3.5 inches tall by 1.1 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and weighs 1.5 ounces.
The T-Mobile WebConnect USB Laptop Stick will be available in select T-Mobile retail stores and online starting March 25. There are various pricing options available: $49.99 with a two-year contract after rebate; $99.99 with one-year contract; or $249.99 with no contract.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

If you have a Sony Reader, you have a lot of reading to catch up on.

Sony EBook Store to present standard Books Digitized by Google.

How does it work?

Reader doesn’t have to replace your traditional books - it’s just a new way of enjoying reading. With Reader you can carry far more books with you wherever you go, so whatever mood takes you you’ll have a book that fits it.

And using Reader couldn’t be simpler:
When you buy a Reader, install the supplied software on your computer, connect Reader to it with the cable provided and voila!

Create and manage your eBook library on your PC and transfer your eBooks to Reader exactly like you do with your music on your mp3 player.

Need a new book? Choose from thousands of titles available from the online store of Britain's best-loved bookseller. Simply buy the ones you want and import them into your PC’s Reader library.
Store up to 160 books at a time on your Reader. If you’re a real bookworm add to your collection and store thousands more using a Sony Memory Stick Duo™ or SD memory card.

Bookmark pages or magnify text on a page; Reader will also remember where you last left off – even if you don’t.

It’s slim and light so you can take it with you wherever you go and the long battery life means you can enjoy nearly 7000 page turns without recharging – that’s like reading War and Peace five times over.

Sony Electronics has struck a deal with Google to distribute half a million titles through the Sony eBook Store -- for free.
The books, all published before 1923 and now in the public domain, were digitized by Google as part of its Google Book Search program. Sony will offer them alongside the 100,000 or so books still under copyright that it sells through its eBook store.
It's already possible to download public domain books from Google Book Search as PDF files and copy them onto a flash memory card for use in e-readers such as Sony's, but this partnership will simplify the process for users by integrating it into the eBook Library Software for PCs that ships with the Sony Reader.
The service won't give Reader owners free access to the much greater number of books still in copyright, many of which Google Book Search has already digitized, however.
To access the public domain books, owners of Sony's PRS-505 or PRS-700 readers will need to install the PC software and create an account on the eBook Store if they don't already have one. Owners of the older PRS-500 are out of luck, though: the service won't work with that device.
The expanded library won't address one key difference between the Sony Reader and Amazon's Kindle e-readers: the Amazon devices don't need to be tethered to a PC to download and install new books. Instead, the Kindles download books over the air via Sprint Nextel's 3G (third generation) mobile network. However, the wireless technology Amazon has chosen for the Kindle -- and the Kindle 2, released Feb. 9 -- is little used outside the U.S., and is incompatible with mobile networks in Europe and most of Asia.
That leaves an opening for other e-reader manufacturers to provide devices that work with European mobile networks, perhaps linking to other online bookstores. Dutch company Endless Ideas is planning just that with the next version of its BeBook e-reader. It showed a prototype of the device at Cebit, but the new model was absent from its small stand at the Paris Book Fair last week, where Sony had a major presence.
Google's partnership with Sony is not the first time it has simplified access to Google Book Search for mobile devices. On Feb. 6 it opened up the service to the Apple iPhone and to phones based on the Android software platform it backs.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Obama's administration is putting $19 billion toward "Health IT,"

Obama's administration is putting $19 billion toward electronic health record systems to get better treatment and inferior costs.
When Saver begins to examine his patient, however, the 56-year-old physician does something that four out of five doctors in America do not: He pulls out a computer.
The little black Toshiba, its edges worn to the bare metal, gets more use than the stethoscope and has become key to the care Saver gives his patients -- organizing medical histories, test results, prescriptions and other data that were once a jumble of paper records.

Saver's laptop, and the system behind it, put him on the cutting edge of what President Obama and many experts say is a critical step to improving the nation's healthcare system while also reining in cost.It is known as "Health IT," an idea that promises to use information technology to cut medical errors, avoid unnecessary tests and procedures and identify better treatments.

The New York system, which links more than 800 providers, also allows public health officials to quickly tap patient data to track disease outbreaks and send doctors up-to-the-minute advisories.

"There are just huge opportunities here," said Farzad Mostashari, an assistant health commissioner in New York

Friday, March 13, 2009

Apple unveiled the new iPod Shuffle

Apple iPod Shuffle....
Apple unveiled the new iPod Shuffle, which is only half the volume of the previous iPod Shuffle, which itself was about the size of a quarter. The new one looks like a sleek aluminum tie clip, or maybe a slightly elongated stick of Trident gum; a AA battery hides it completely. There's just enough room on the back for a mirror-finish spring clip for fastening to your clothes. (If you order from, you can get a custom message laser-etched onto the clip.)
Apple's third-generation iPod Shuffle MP3 player ($79) is the smallest MP3 player you can buy. Its unique size and uncommon, remote-controlled design won't suit every purpose, but people looking for the next best thing to an invisible iPod will appreciate the player's minimal approach.


At first glance, the iPod Shuffle looks almost like a practical joke--as if someone is trying to convince you that their tie clip plays MP3s. The aluminum-encased hardware measures just a few hairs larger than a paper clip (0.7 inch by 1.8 inches by 0.3 inch) and includes not a hint of button, knob, or screen. The headphone jack sits on the top edge of the Shuffle along with a switch that controls playback mode (shuffle playback/consecutive playback) and power.

Fortunately, Apple doesn't expect you to control the Shuffle's volume and playback using mind control (not yet, at least). The earbud-style headphones bundled with the Shuffle include a remote control on the cable, just below the right ear. The remote offers three buttons: two for volume control (up/down); and a central button with multiple functions. You press the center button once to pause music playback, twice to skip forward, and three times to skip back. Of course, the downside to this headphone-controlled design is if you lose your headphones, you also lose control of your iPod. Apple's own replacement earbuds for the Shuffle run $29, but it's possible to grab third-party headphones and adapters for less.
The headphone cable reaches 3 feet, which should be more than enough length considering that the Shuffle is meant to be clipped to your clothing. A hinged chromed metal clip runs the length of the Shuffle on one side and includes a slot for attaching a lanyard or keychain. An Apple logo is engraved on the clip, and custom engraving is offered on orders placed through Apple's online store.


The Shuffle is purely a digital audio player. There's no FM radio, no voice recording, and--obviously--no photo or video playback. Audio formats supported include MP3, AAC, Audible, WAV, AIF, and Apple Lossless, but no hope for WMA or FLAC.

The third-generation version of the iPod Shuffle offers a few new features over previous models, though. For one, this is the first Shuffle that tells you what you're listening to, which is no small accomplishment considering the player doesn't have a screen. The Shuffle uses a synthesized voice to announce artist and song title information whenever you hold the headphone clicker down. Apple is calling this feature VoiceOver and offers support for 14 languages, with voice quality hinging on what type of computer and operating system you're using.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

First robotics contest Makes Science chill!

Robot No. 219 was designed and built by Warren Hills Regional High School students in six weeks.

High School students participate in FIRST robotics competition.
Blair Robot Project competes at Washington, D.C.
regional.Blair team already preparing for tough future competitions.The Blair Robot Project placed 23rd among 65 participating teams at the 2009 FIRST FRC (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition) Washington, D.C. regional in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Feb.

The FRC challenges students around the country with a game design from which teams have six weeks to assimilate their engineering, programming and constructing skills into a robot to accomplish the game's objectives. This year's game, "Lunacy," required team robots to work in alliances to score balls into baskets attached to opposing robots while driving around on a slick arena track.

With four wins and three losses in the qualification matches at the D.C. regional, Blair was not picked to move on to elimination matches, the next step of the competition. Problems attributed to the camera sensor detecting for the robot's shooter hindered the team from scoring. The shooter ended up calculating the distance and power needed to score too slowly at the competition since all targets were moving, according to senior member William Shepherdson.

The team plans to participate again at the Chesapeake regional on March 19. "We can bring 40 pounds of parts and things we build to modify our robot for Chesapeake," Shepherdson said. "We want to retweak the code a bit and are thinking about redoing our scoring mechanism." Teams from the winning alliance of each regional competition move on to the national championship in Atlanta, Ga. on April 16.

The Blair Robot Project, sponsored by physics teacher Joseph Boettcher and computer science teacher Mary McManus, began the build season on Jan. 3 by dividing and conquering their task through smaller groups - electronics, programming, drive, specialty and public relations. Three thousand dollars in parts, $9,000 in prototyping and hundreds of hours of work later was a 119-pound, five-foot tall robot complete with an automated-camera controlled turret shooter and a smooth drive system. "Some of the most dedicated members put in over 200 hours over build season," junior vice president Eric Van Albert said

Friday, March 6, 2009

Microsoft: Lots to turn off in Windows 7

Microsoft will expand the list of "features" that can be disabled when the Windows 7 Release Candidate becomes available, including the ability to turn off Internet Explorer 8.
The next version of Windows is giving Microsoft Corp. watchers a peek at how the software maker plans to keep European antitrust regulators from marring a crucial software launch.

Windows 7, the successor to the much-maligned Vista, isn't expected to reach consumers until next year, but more than a million people are already testing early versions. A pair of bloggers tinkering with settings stumbled upon one they hadn't seen before: The ability to "turn off" Microsoft's own Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft lost a long-running battle with EU antitrust regulators in 2007 over the way it bundled media player software into the Windows operating system. The dust had barely settled when a similar claim was filed, this time over Internet Explorer's place inside Windows. Opera Software ASA, a Norwegian competitor, claimed the practice gives Microsoft's browser an unfair advantage.

In a preliminary decision in January, the EU agreed. Since then, makers of the open-source browser Firefox and Google Inc., which entered the browser market six months ago, have offered to provide more evidence that Microsoft is stifling competition.

In the media player dispute, the EU heavily fined Microsoft and forced it to sell a version of Windows without the offending program installed. This time, Microsoft appears to be offering the check-box solution as a way to head off a similar ending.

The company declined to comment Friday on the connection between the check boxes and the EU's preliminary decision. But in a recent quarterly filing, it said the European Commission may order PC makers to install multiple browsers on new PCs and force Microsoft to disable parts of its own Internet Explorer if people chose a competing browser.

The check boxes, which were described on Microsoft enthusiast blogs and, also give Windows 7 users a way to disable the media player and hard-drive search programs, among other components, both of which have drawn scrutiny from regulators.

After Windows Vista landed with a thud, Microsoft needs a hit, said Michael Cherry, an analyst for the research group Directions on Microsoft. Beyond appeasing the EU, he said he didn't see much use for the Internet Explorer check box.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Universal Music Group & Google to create a joint music video venture.

Universal, Google in talks about music video partnership..Google Inc. and Universal Music Group are in talks to enter a partnership that would create a new music video hub powered by YouTube, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal .
Under the partnership, Universal would use YouTube technology and ad sales to distribute content around the Web.

when Google-owned YouTube is searching for ways to monetize its vast amounts of video content and Internet traffic. The major record labels have also been exploring a number of online strategies for monetizing their music content as compact disc sales continue their steep decline.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) paid $1.65 billion for YouTube a few years ago.
Google's stock was down 4 percent to US$306.10 per share in mid-day trading on Thursday.
No deal has been officially announced by YouTube or Universal Music Group yet.

YouTube and Universal Music are reportedly trying to hash out a deal to create a premium music video site. Currently, many music videos can be found on YouTube, but a deal with one or more major record companies could create a more easily monetized and managed music video portal. YouTube may be looking at the model followed by Hulu, which pairs professional TV content with video advertisements.
Moving away from the current model of labels receiving licensing fees or a share of ad revenue for their videos, Universal wants a new relationship in which music videos are displayed in "high-quality" and are ad-supported. The site would be separate from YouTube's main site.

Google has also notified Warner Music Group, Sony and EMI about the plans but they are not part of the current negotiations.

The talks are still in their preliminary stages, despite beginning in January.

Universal CEO Doug Morris is said to be at the head of the talks and the move makes sense being that Universal's licensing agreement with YouTube is set to expire on March 31st.

The Universal Music Group channel on YouTube is by far its most popular, generating 3.6 billion views so far.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nokia announced the new Nokia 5800 Xpress Music's availability in the United States

Challenging the iPhone is apparently easier said than done. RIM’s Blackberry Storm has plenty of software and interface issues, SonyEricsson’s Xperia X1 is way too expensive and those who hoped that Nokia’s 5800 phone would provide a contract-free alternative may be disappointed as well. The phone came with faulty earpiece speakers and cannot find AT&T’s 3G network, prompting Nokia to remove the phone from store shelves again.

Technical problems with the U.S. version of the newly launched Nokia 5800 music mobile phone have led flagship stores in New York and Chicago to pull the model, according to PC World. For now, U.S. customers have to settle for a European version instead.
Positioned as a rival to Apple's iPhone, the phone is a music device with a touch-screen interface, priced at $399 before taxes and subsidies in the U.S.
But according to PC World, the U.S. launch has been interrupted by consumer complaints that the earpiece is not properly protected against moisture, which ruins the speaker. Users have also reported difficulties connecting to AT&T's 3G network, and many customers have reportedly already returned their phones.

Following its introduction in October 2008, the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music has seen successful sales in a number of markets, including Hong Kong and Moscow, where the device sold out within hours of the sales kickoff, Nokia said.

Many consumers have returned their 5800s to the Nokia stores in Chicago and New York, which eventually convinced Nokia to stop selling the phone for now. Nokia did not say how many 5800s have been sold in the U.S.

Meanwhile there is also talk about Nokia’s Comes with Music service, a major selling point of the 5800, which was promised to allow users unlimited access to the service’s entire music library one year free of charge.
U.S. launch likelihood: Very Strong.

Internet pioneer Yahoo! is open to selling its Web search business

Internet company's chief financial says any deal needs to be done for the right reasons.

Internet pioneer Yahoo! is open to selling its Web search business or entering into a partnership with another company, but doing a deal would be hard.
Microsoft has expressed interest in Yahoo!’s search business and made a bid for the Sunnyvale, California-based firm last year but Jorgensen did not mention the US sofware giant as a potential partner.
He stressed the difficulties of doing a deal.
“What people don’t quite appreciate is the complexity of the business, and how these businesses are intertwined,” he said. “For example at a data center, we don’t parse between search or non-search.
“It’s extremely difficult to draw a line down the middle of the organisation and split it in two pieces,” Jorgensen said. “It doesn’t say we couldn’t do it, we certainly could, but we want to do it for the right reasons and the right economics.”
Yahoo! rejected a takeover bid by Microsoft last year but Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has said the software giant remains interested in a search partnership with Yahoo!
Speculation of such a deal has been revived with the departure of Yahoo! chief executive Jerry Yang, who opposed the Microsoft bid, and his replacement by new CEO Carol Bartz.
Hilary Schneider, another Yahoo! executive, said that with Bartz’ arrival “it’s really clear there’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s a sheriff with a consumer outlook.”
Google is the overwhelming market leader for Internet search with a market share of more than 63% in January according to research firm comScore, followed by Yahoo! with 21% and Microsoft with 8.5%

The search business is deeply intertwined with Yahoo's other online products and properties, and so any deal, whether a partnership or a sale, would be done for the right reasons and the right economics.

"It's extremely difficult to draw a line down the middle of the organization and split it into two pieces," Jorgensen told the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference.

He did not mention specifically Microsoft Corp. (MSFT, Fortune 500), which has repeatedly said it was interested in doing a search deal with Yahoo to compete against market leader Google Inc. (GOOG, Fortune 500)

The comments come as Yahoo is rumored to be on the brink of undertaking a major corporate reorganization under Chief Executive Carol Bartz, who took the reins in January.

Yahoo rebuffed a $47.5 billion acquisition bid from Microsoft last year, and saw a deal to form a search advertising partnership with Google fall apart amid antitrust concerns.

Bartz has said she did not join the company to sell it, nor did she have a preconceived notion of doing a search deal, but that "everything is on the table."

Yahoo's stock (YHOO, Fortune 500) was up 2% or 27 cents, at $12.75 in after-market trade, after closing down 27 cents in the Nasdaq session.

Scientists have developed safer way to alternative to embryonic stem cells

Scientists have developed what appears to be a safer way to create a promising alternative to embryonic stem cells, boosting hopes that such cells could sidestep the moral and political quagmire that has hindered the development of a new generation of cures.

The researchers produced the cells by using strands of genetic material, instead of potentially dangerous genetically engineered viruses, to coax skin cells into a state that appears biologically identical to embryonic stem cells.

"It's a leap forward in the safe application of these cells," said Andras Nagy of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, who helped lead the international team of researchers that described the work in two papers being published online today by the journal Nature. "We expect this to have a massive impact on this field."

In addition to the scientific implications, the work comes at a politically sensitive moment. Scientists are anxiously waiting for President Obama to follow through on his promise to lift restrictions on federal funding for research on human embryonic stem cells. Critics of such a move immediately pointed to the work as the latest evidence that the alternative cells make such research unnecessary.

"Stem cell research that requires destroying embryos is going the way of the Model T," Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said. "No administration that values science and medical progress over politics will want to divert funds now toward that increasingly obsolete and needlessly divisive approach."

Scientists, however, while praising the work as a potentially important advance, said it remains crucial to work on both types of cells because it is far from clear which will turn out to be more useful.

"The point is, we don't know yet what the end potential of either of these approaches will be," said Mark A. Kay of Stanford University. "No one has cured any disease in people with any of these approaches yet. We don't know enough yet to know which approach will be better."

Because embryonic stem cells are believed capable of becoming any kind of tissue in the body, scientists believe they could eventually lead to treatments or even cures for a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. In 2001, President George W. Bush restricted federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research to prevent taxpayer money from encouraging the destruction of human embryos, which is necessary to obtain the cells.

The alternative cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, appear to have many of the same characteristics as embryonic stem cells but are produced by activating genes in adult cells to "reprogram" them into a more primitive state, bypassing the moral, political and ethical issues surrounding embryonic cells. Until now, however, their use has been limited because the genetic manipulation required the use of viruses, raising concerns the cells could cause cancer if placed in a patient. That has triggered a race to develop alternative approaches.

"These viral insertions are quite dangerous," Nagy said.

In the new work, Nagy and his colleagues in Toronto and at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland instead used a sequence of DNA known as a transposon, which can insert itself into the genetic machinery of a cell. In this case, the researchers used a transposon called "piggyBac" to carry four genes that can transform mouse and human embryonic skin cells into iPS cells. After the conversion took place, the researchers removed the added DNA from the transformed cells using a specific enzyme.

"PiggyBac carries the four genes into the cells and reprograms the cells into stem cells. After they have reprogrammed the cells, they are no longer required, and in fact they are dangerous," Nagy said. "After they do their job they can be removed seamlessly, with no trace left behind. The ability for seamless removal opens up a huge possibility."
A series of tests showed that the transformed cells had many of the properties of embryonic stem cells, Nagy said.

The researchers did their initial work on skin cells from embryos but say the approach should work just as efficiently in adult cells, and they plan to start those experiments.

"We do not expect that adult cells would behave significantly differently than the ones we are using currently," Nagy said.

In addition to producing safer cell lines that would be less likely to cause cancer in patients, the advance will enable many more scientists to begin working on such cells because they require no expertise or special laboratories necessary for working with viruses, he said.

"This opens up the possibility of working in this field for laboratories that don't have viral labs attached to them. A much larger number of laboratories will be able to push this field forward," Nagy said.

Other researchers praised the work.

"It's very significant," said George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston. "I think it's a major step forward in realizing the value of these cells for medical research."

"It's very exciting work," agreed Robert Lanza, a stem cell researcher at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass. "With the new work, we're only a hair's breadth away from the biggest prize in regenerative medicine -- a way to create patient-specific cells that are safe enough to use clinically."

Kay agreed that the work is promising but cautioned that much more research will be needed to prove that cells produced this way are safe. Many scientists are working on other approaches that may turn out to be safer and more efficient, he said.

"This is a step forward. The research is heading in the right direction. But there still may be room for improvement," he said.

New Method For Creating Stem Cells
Mount Sinai Hospital's Dr. Andras Nagy discovered a new method of creating stem cells that could lead to possible cures for devastating diseases including spinal cord injury, macular degeneration, diabetes and Parkinson's disease. The study, published by Nature, accelerates stem cell technology and provides a road map for new clinical approaches to regenerative medicine.