Friday, October 30, 2009

Microsoft Opens Store in Same Mall As Apple

Microsoft executives have stated that they intend to compete aggressively against Apple in the retail arena, with plans to open some Microsoft outlets in close proximity to those of its hip Cupertino rival. The Shops at Mission Viejo will be the first true test of that theory, as the mall also contains an Apple Store.

(According to the local Orange County Register, the Apple Store in question is "closed for renovations and will not reopen until November." I doubt that. They're probably building a retaliatory iCannon in there.)

The opening itself apparently attracted a suitably massive crowd, lured by first-day discounts and gift bags that reportedly contained a $25 Zune Pass gift card and a sticker. The fact that the store and its local ecosystem will employ around 100 people (that's according to Mission Viejo Mayor Frank Ury, interviewed by the local news) is also probably helping the local mood.

Canadian pop star Justin Bieber will apparently be giving a performance in the parking lot at 5 p.m. PST today. You'd think a big corporation like Microsoft would have the cash to hire someone with a little bit more cachet outside of the tweener audience; I hear Kanye West's schedule is flexible lately.
As I mentioned in the blog post accompanying the Oct. 22 Microsoft store launch in Scottsdale, Ariz., it looks as if Microsoft borrowed some ideas from both Apple and big-box stores like Best Buy in order to craft its retail experience. Its consulting company on the project, Lippincott, evidently felt that the wide-open tables loaded with devices, and a "presentation area" with classes, would be essential in helping Microsoft's stores build audience share.

A lot of comments over the past week have called out Microsoft on the similarities of its stores to Apple's, but, based on the local news stories coming out of Arizona and California, it doesn't seem as if the customers particularly care about Redmond's Cupertino homage. Maybe Microsoft's striking the same vein here as it did with its "Laptop Hunter" ads: Present relatively inexpensive devices with the right sort of functionality, and people will show up with credit cards in hand.

That's what Microsoft surely hopes, at least. Once the hoopla dies down, it'll be interesting to see if the Mission Viejo store can maintain a steady stream of customers--especially with Apple waiting a stone's throw away.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BMC Software Q2 Earnings Rise, Top Estimate; Boosts FY10 Earnings

BMC Software Inc. Thursday after the markets closed that its second quarter profit rose 35% from last year, as tight cost control helped offset a small decline in revenue. The company's quarterly earnings per share, excluding items, came in above analysts' expectations. At the same time, the company once again raised its earnings forecast for the fiscal year 2010.

The Houston, Texas-based business software maker reported GAAP net income for the second quarter of $94.2 million or $0.50 per share, compared to $69.8 million or $0.36 per share for the year-ago quarter.

Excluding items, non-GAAP net income for the second quarter was $123.3 million or $0.66 per share, compared to $107.6 million or $0.56 per share in the prior year quarter.

On average, 12 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn $0.58 per share for the second quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

GAAP operating margin for the quarter improved to 29% from 23% a year ago, while non-GAAP operating margin increased to 38% from 32% last year.

Total revenue for the second quarter decreased 1% to $461.8 million from $466.7 million in the same quarter last year. Eleven analysts had a consensus revenue estimate of $463.43 million for the second quarter.

License revenue declined 0.9% from last year to $174 million in the second quarter, while maintenance revenue grew 7% to 257.4 million and professional services revenue fell 14.8% to $30.4 million.

"Our solid performance in the quarter underscores our continued market leadership, technological innovation and operating discipline," said Bob Beauchamp, BMC's chairman and chief executive officer

Ares I-X - 1, Triboelectrification

Triboelectrification tried to thwart NASA’s first flight demonstration for the next generation manned space flight program, however, it came up empty as the Ares I-X flew beautifully into the Florida sky.
Ares I-X performs flawless rotation shortly into flight

Ares I-X creates sonic shockwaves while breaking the sound barrier.

All initial signs of the flight demonstration are good. Of course, Ares I-X’s real success will come several weeks from now when all of the data is collected, analyzed and utilized to develop a new space flight vehicle. This data is exactly what triboelectrification could have compromised.

What is triboelectrification? Quite simply, it is what kids have been doing to their siblings and friends for years; shuffling their feet and shocking their intended targets with an unsuspecting electrically charged touch. Obviously, in the case of Ares I-X, there were more significant consequences than an angry peer.

Let’s break the word down. Tribo is the Greek root, meaning friction. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, tribology “is the study of friction, wear and lubrication and the design of bearings; the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion.” So, the big concern around launch time of Ares I-X was that building electrostatic charges would be created by the friction created on and around Ares I-X during the flight. If those electrostatic charges discharged onto the rocket, many of the data collecting sensors might be compromised. If the data was compromised, NASA would have an aesthetically pleasing flight to remember but very little data to use to improving the vehicle.

The next obvious question is why tribolelectrification isn’t a concern for other launches (Saturn V launches, Shuttle launches, etc.)? The decals on Ares I-X were a possible culprit. If that is true, then NASA should have used the very popular Triboelectrification NASA EDGE stickers/decals. I can’t vouch for the other vehicles, but my guess is that NASA EDGE will be an intregal part of the soon to be formed anti-triboelectrification task force. The first order of business; all wool sweaters, hush puppies and shag carpet will be banned from NASA Centers. It is a symbolic move, to be sure. But it is a start.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Six net neutrality principles proposed

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. voted last week to start a process to formulate rules that could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to uphold six principles that would preserve net neutrality, or what the FCC terms "open Internet".

FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, said rules on net neutrality are necessary to protect innovations on the Internet and to preserve the kind of openness that has allowed the Internet to flourish. He said there have been situations in which ISPs have degraded data streams or even blocked access to lawful applications, and fair rules are necessary to avoid the potentially damaging consequences of having the openness of the Internet diminished.

Opponents, on the other hand, say the Internet has grown so rapidly because of the lack of rules and regulations, and that rules are not needed. Some opponents have also suggested that introducing rules could set a precedent for other countries to introduce regulations covering Internet use.

The principles suggested are that ISPs should allow users to:

1. send and receive all lawful content
2. use all lawful services and applications
3. use all lawful devices that do not damage the network
4. access all network, service, content and application providers

The principles will also ensure ISPs:

5. do not discriminate against lawful content, services, applications, or devices
6. reveal any practices that could limit the previous five principles

The rules have been sought by many large Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and, many consumer advocacy groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge, many members of the FCC, and Internet pioneers like David Reed and Vint Cerf. Supporters say that without rules ISPs will change their price structures to tiered systems with the highest level services out of the financial reach of many entrepreneurs wishing to start their own Internet businesses. Those in favor of rules are also worried that without them some applications, such as VoIP, could become unaffordable or could even be banned for many people, thus reducing their voice call options.

Opponents to proposed net neutrality rules include Internet providers such as Verizon and AT & T, who say the rules would prevent them charging more for premium services, and the higher charges provide the incentive for the investment in network upgrades to boost performance. The result could be either more expensive rates across the board, or paying for Internet traffic by the byte.

The proposed FCC rules would also have effects on businesses, especially those with a well-developed Internet presence. Higher flat rates would push up Internet access costs for business and customers alike, and could result in a decrease in demand for online services because of their increased expense. This could have especially serious effects on businesses such as websites selling high definition video downloads.

If the FCC's six principles are adopted the effects on home users could be higher monthly charges or higher costs for downloads, but they would still be able to make phone calls using Internet services such as Skype, which would not be blocked. If the rules are not adopted, ISPs are likely to limit bandwidth and VoIP (especially as some large ISPs are also voice carriers, which are threatened by online phone services).

Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz), is opposed to the rules, and has introduced a bill to block them, while President Barack Obama has placed net neutrality rules as among his top priorities. A vote on the proposed rules will take place in 2010.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seven things to know about Windows 7

Windows 7, which went on sale Thursday, promises a smoother user experience, multi-touchscreen capability and more seamless networking with other computers.
Early reviews have been good.

"We think it's a far superior product to the previous Microsoft operating systems," says Vishal Dhar, co-founder of iYogi, a tech services company. "It's got a more intuitive interface."
Great. But it is right for you? Which version of the software best fits your needs? And are there tricks to installing Windows 7 and navigating its new features?

We anticipate seven of the most common questions about Windows 7 and offer some advice:

Will my aging computer run Windows 7?

Maybe. If your PC can run the much-maligned Windows Vista, it can probably run Windows 7. Check your computer's specs: To install Windows 7, you'll need at least a 1 gigahertz or faster 32-bit (x86) processor, plus at least 2 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of available hard disk space.

Yes, that sounds like a foreign language to most people. If you're not sure what all that means, try downloading a free Microsoft tool called a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which will scan your PC, report any potential problems and offer ways to fix them.

Is upgrading to Windows 7 worth it?

That depends on your budget and how you use your computer. The software will cost you from $120 to $220, depending on which version you buy. If you're broke and you're happy with your Vista or Windows XP system, then there's probably no rush.

But keep in mind that Windows XP is eight-year-old software, and that it will eventually stop running new applications. Newer operating systems also offer better security against hackers. You'll need to upgrade someday.

Depending on how old your computer is, you may be better off buying a new laptop or PC, preloaded with Windows 7, instead of trying to refresh your aging machine. Retailers such as Best Buy and are offering Windows 7-loaded laptops for as low as $499.

Which version of Windows 7 should I buy?

Most casual computer users will probably be satisfied with the Home Premium edition ($119.99), which includes most of the basic features you'll need. That includes Home Group, which makes it easier to share music, video and documents -- a common printer, too -- between Windows 7-enabled computers in a home.

Small business owners and people who work from home may opt for the Professional edition ($199.99), which supports all the Home Premium features while automatically backing up all your data to a networked hard drive.

If you guard corporate secrets or work for the CIA, you'll want the Ultimate edition ($219.99). It comes with BitLocker encryption, which prevents thieves from accessing your files if your laptop is stolen.

How tricky is Windows 7 to install?

If you're upgrading from Vista, it's supposed to be a breeze: Insert the disc, and it does the rest. "It's the easiest upgrade I've ever seen," says J. Peter Bruzzese, who writes about tech for InfoWorld.

"All of my settings carried over."

Upgrading from Windows XP is more complicated. Users will need to back up their files, format their hard drive, install Windows 7 and then reinstall browsers, reimport bookmarks and so on. Microsoft has a wizard called Easy Transfer that uses a USB cable to help you transfer files and settings.

It's not officially recommended, but Bruzzese says XP users also can install a borrowed copy of Vista, then upgrade easily from there to Windows 7.

What if I need help?

If you don't have a tech-savvy friend, nephew or neighbor, try Microsoft's online Windows 7 Solution Center, which will walk you through the installation process.

You may also want to consider hiring a tech-support service such as iYogi, whose technicians connect to your computer remotely to diagnose problems, help you install Windows 7 and show you how to migrate your old applications onto your new system. Services start at about $30.

Will Windows 7 run my old XP programs?

Most likely. Heeding complaints about Vista's compatibility problems, Microsoft is introducing something called XP Mode, which creates a virtual, or "shadow" Windows XP operating system running inside Windows 7.

Once XP Mode is running, it fools your older apps into thinking they're on Windows XP. Here you'll find an XP start menu and all your familiar XP features -- all of which should work as they did before. XP Mode is only available in the higher-priced Professional and Ultimate editions, though.

Does Windows 7 have any cool new bells and whistles?

• Well, it's got trippier desktop wallpaper, for one. Microsoft has replaced much of its blandly pretty nature shots with colorful psychedelic images.

• A Library feature allows you to gather files -- documents, photos and video -- from different places on your computer and group them together in new folders by topic, such as "beach house," or "Grandpa Fred."

• A new feature called AeroPeek displays outlines of your open windows behind the window you're working in. A related feature, AeroSnap, allows you to move, shrink and enlarge windows on your screen so that you can see several at once.

• Finally, Windows 7 needs less processing power than previous Windows versions, meaning that in theory, you should be able to work faster and in more windows at the same time. In other words, it's built for today's warp-speed, multi-tasking lifestyle.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rescue efforts shift to small business

The Obama administration is winding down several massive rescue programs that aided large banks and automakers during the heat of the financial crisis, while launching more moderate initiatives to help small businesses and the housing market.

The moves are being billed by senior administration officials as a "new direction" for the government's oft-maligned $700 billion financial rescue program, which has been credited with preventing a collapse of the financial system but angered many politicians and members of the public for bailing out the big banks that may have triggered the crisis in the first place.

The Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, will now focus on the ailing housing market and small businesses, which are seen as vital to the economic recovery because they employ so many workers, officials said.

Using the Landover records-storage company Metropolitan Archives as a backdrop Wednesday, President Obama said, "There is still too little credit flowing to our small businesses.

"There are still too many entrepreneurs who can't get the loan they need to open their doors and start hiring," Obama said. Small businesses "fuel our prosperity," he added. "And that is why they must be at the forefront of our recovery."

Under the administration's plan, small companies will be able to get low-interest loans through local banks with less than $1 billion in assets. Those institutions will be allowed to borrow from TARP at a 3 percent rate, lower than its usual 5 percent. The banks will be required to submit plans on lending to small businesses and present quarterly progress reports to regulators.

Community development financial institutions, which provide credit to low-income urban and rural areas, will be able to borrow from TARP at 2 percent.

The precise terms of those programs have not yet been fully worked out, said administration officials who declined to reveal how much they estimate they will have to allocate to the program. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions have been private.
Some of the officials are concerned about whether community banks will participate, given the stigma that has been attached to the federal bailout, sources said. Moreover, many banks have been reluctant to lend to small firms because they historically have been a bigger credit risk than larger corporations.

Raising lending limits

Obama also will ask Congress to raise the cap on how much a company can borrow from the Small Business Administration's major lending programs to $5 million from $2 million. In addition, the limit on an SBA microloan program will increase from $35,000 to $50,000 to help start-ups and other smaller businesses. Those SBA loans are also administered by banks and are backed by federal guarantees.

"America will not recover until our small businesses recover. In communities across the country, they are the engines of job growth and lead the way to the industries of the future," Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in a statement.

Similar proposals to increase SBA loan limits have already been put forward on Capitol Hill, and lawmakers rushed to take credit for those efforts Wednesday. The staff of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) noted that she had introduced a bill last year that was nearly identical to what Obama proposed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Windows 7 Launch Parties

Are you just waking up and nursing a hangover after hosting one of those wild Windows 7 launch parties? No? Well, you at least attended one, right? Invited to one but had a scheduling conflict??

Let's face it, the Windows 7 launch party concept was a complete and utter failure. The YouTube video Microsoft created to market the launch party concept certainly got attention, but for all the wrong reasons. It was almost universally mocked and parodied. Just look at the endless list of ‘Related Videos' making fun of the launch party promotion.

One reader commented in the PC World forums to lament his attempts at hosting a launch party. After receiving only one response, which wasn't even the official RSVP, the reader examined the RSVP in more detail and found "it looked like the whole TON of apparently life-sucking legalese I had to agree to in order to HOST a party. With even GUESTS having to agree to everything short of giving up their BIRTHRIGHTS to Microsoft and its subsidiaries, heirs, etc., how is ANYBODY supposed to actually get people to do the "official RSVP?!?"

Even PC World's Rick Broida got so little response to his own Windows 7 launch party invites that he simply canceled the event.

My PC World colleague David Coursey believes that Microsoft intentionally played the Windows 7 launch low-key. After the wild spectacle that accompanied the launch of Windows Vista, and the subsequent backlash against that OS, it makes sense that Microsoft would take a more practical approach this time to avoid any proverbial egg on the face.

I agree with Coursey that the official Windows 7 launch events had less hoopla by design. However, the Windows 7 launch party concept and Microsoft's attempts at igniting hoopla at a grassroots level demonstrate an attempt to hedge its bets and have its cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, nobody was having any cake at Windows 7 launch parties.

Remember high school--cool kids went to parties and had fun while nerds hung out at math club and played Dungeons and Dragons? Well, the two don't mix. Hosting a party where you play Dungeons and Dragons or discuss algebraic functions doesn't make you cool just because you put the word ‘party' on it.

Microsoft has had many failed attempts at being hip and cool. Microsoft Bob. The Office paperclip character. The Bill Gates / Jerry Seinfeld ads that seemed to require some sort of psychotropic mind enhancement in order for them to make sense. It just doesn't work.

Apple is cool. I don't agree with the premise of many of the Apple "I'm a Mac" ads, but I almost always find them entertaining and compelling. Apple didn't waste any time coming out with a new series of the "I'm a Mac" ads targeting Windows 7 too.

Microsoft does much better when it accepts its nerd-factor or at least sticks to more practical advertising. The "I'm a PC" campaign, mocking the "I'm a Mac" ads and embracing the fact that Windows is not Mac OS X, or the more poignant Laptop Hunters ad campaign, are both examples of Microsoft making a point without trying to be cool.

Let Apple be hip and cool. Apple has gained some operating system mojo lately, but it is nowhere near posing a threat to Windows dominance. Windows 7 already had word-of-mouth momentum from the unprecedented Beta and RC (release candidate) preview access and the Windows 7 launch party was a bad idea that just gives Microsoft opponents one more thing to ridicule.

Windows 7 is cool, as far as operating systems go, but not worthy of drinks and appetizers while everyone loads it up and shares tips and tricks with each other--not even for uber nerds. The only launch party I know of that was even a remote success was this one hosted by PC World senior editor Robert Strohmeyer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Google, Facebook Plan to Beef Up Music Features

Both Google and Facebook are reportedly planning to beef up their music features by allowing users to find and stream music more easily on their services, the New York Times reports. According to sources who have been invited to a Google event next week at Los Angeles’ Capitol Building, the search engine giant is expected to reveal “a more efficient way” of finding, streaming and learning about music, which will reportedly involve Google linking up with music sites like Lala, iLike and Imeem.

Google has not aligned itself with any of the major labels as of yet, the NYT reports, but will respond to searches for songs by presenting a 30-second stream — or in some cases, a full track — powered by its partners. Essentially, it’s a shortcut for users who may go directly to YouTube or the iTunes music store to be able to search and listen to music without paying for it.

Facebook is developing the option for users to send songs as a gift to friends, the NYT writes. As it stands now, Facebook users can send virtual birthday cakes and dogs and other tiny graphics for a small fee to other Facebookers. However, after a deal with Lala, for 10 cents, users will be able to send a song stream from the music service to other friends on Facebook. For a dollar, the song can be downloaded and imported into iTunes or other music players.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Google 'to launch own Android phone and music service

Search giant Google is rumoured to be on the verge of releasing its own Android-powered handset, as well as a music streaming service that could compete with Spotify.

Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Northeast Securities, claims to have spoken to Google's design partners about the plans. "Google is working with a smartphone manufacturer to have a Google-branded phone available this year through retailers, and not through telcos," he said.

When Google unveiled the Android operating system in 2007, it scotched rumours of a Google "gPhone", saying that the platform would produce "not just one gPhone, but thousands". It is unclear what has prompted the supposed shift in Google's intentions, and the company itself has refused to comment on the speculation.

The new device is rumoured to be a collaboration between Google and Taiwanese phone maker HTC. The gPhone will be powered by Qualcomm chips.

Industry website The Street, which broke the news, says that Google's entrance in to the Android space, and any decision to cut network operators out of the loop could mark a shift in the balance of power between handset makers and telecoms providers.

"The move would fulfil Google's pledge to bring a new generation of open-standard mobile internet devices to consumers," writes Scott Moritz. "By bypassing the carriers, who keep tight controls over the features and applications that are allowed on phones, Google will presumably offer a device that lets users determine the functions.

"If talk of the Google phone plan is true, the entrance of a unlocked, low-cost, Web-friendly touch-screen device will probably undercut other Android phone efforts by players like Motorola, Samsung and Dell."

Google is also rumoured to be on the verge of launching its own music streaming and download service to rival the likes of iTunes and Spotify. According to TechCrunch, Google plans to roll out Google Audio in the US in the coming months. Sources close to the project told TechCrunch that Google would be working on striking deals with the major record labels, and it was unclear whether the service would be launched outside of the United States.

Details of the rumoured service remain sketchy, with TechCrunch admitting that it was unclear whether or it would be a streaming or download service, or a combination of the two. The success of Spotify and Napster, and the recent launch of Sky Songs, highlights music's growing importance in the battle for online dominance.

Google currently has a music service in China, where it allows users to download songs for free. The move was seen as an attempt to win over users from Baidu, China's most popular search engine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Microsoft Sidekick users lose data

Users of the Sidekick – a mobile phone and emailing device popular with celebrities such as Paris Hilton – were told that crucial personal data, such as contacts, calendar entries, appointments and photos, were lost as a result of a server failure at Danger, the company that makes the device, and which was acquired by Microsoft last year.

"Our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information," said T-Mobile and Microsoft in a statement. "However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low."

The one million users of the device have been warned not to reset the phone, or let the battery run out, as it may result in any remaining data being permanently lost.

The data loss has led some experts to question the integrity of so-called "cloud computing" services, where information is stored on a remote server rather than on the device itself. The Sidekick relied heavily on cloud backups, with everything from instant-messaging to emails stored remotely, and the handset itself containing only a cached version of the most recently synchronised data.

Microsoft was handling the storage of this data in its data centres, and traditionally, backups of this data are also made at other sites to ensure that data remains accessible should a server centre experience a power outage or natural disaster.

But a spokesman for Microsoft told Reuters that a "confluence of errors" from the server failure impacted both the main and backup databases.

T-Mobile is offering Sidekick users a $20 (£12) refund to cover the cost of one month of data usage on the phone. It also will give customers who experienced a "significant and permanent" loss of personal data a $100 (£63) "customer appreciation" voucher which can be put towards other T-Mobile products and services, or used against a phone bill.

The data loss is an embarrassing blow for Microsoft, which is looking to put more of its products and services "in the cloud", including its Office suite of products.

Google already offers a similar service through Google Docs, which enables web users to write, edit and collaborate on spreadsheets and Word documents through their browser window.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Microsoft ready to roll out newest operating system

Microsoft will formally launch its new Windows 7 operating system Thursday. But unlike past years, when the company recruited the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jerry Seinfeld, and other cultural icons to help pitch its software, Microsoft is keeping things low key for Windows 7's debut.CEO Steve Ballmer and other executives are expected to attend launch-related events throughout the week in New York City and other locations, while users have been encouraged to hold their own Windows 7 launch parties with like-minded tech enthusiasts.

The company has also teamed up with animator Seth MacFarlane to produce a half-hour Family Guy episode featuring Windows 7.

For the most part, however, Microsoft is keeping Windows 7 hoopla to a minimum—and with good reason. The company expended considerable resources to create buzz and consumer awareness around its previous OS, Windows Vista, only to watch the product get pilloried by reviewers and users after its introduction in early 2007.

Critics complained Vista required too much computing horsepower, failed to maintain compatibility with older applications, and was full of annoying security features. Even without such flaws, it would have been difficult for Vista to have lived up to the hype Microsoft built around the product.

Vista also failed in the enterprise market, where only a handful of large corporations upgraded their computer systems to the OS from the older Windows XP operating system. Partly as a result, Windows sales have slumped badly in recent quarters.

It's thus hardly surprising that Microsoft wishes to keep Windows 7 hype to a minimum, at least until all the early bugs have been worked out.

Early indications are that the strategy could pay off, particularly in the highly conservative enterprise market. 18% of respondents to a straw poll of attendees at InformationWeek's online Windows 7 seminar said their organizations plan to roll out the new OS within six months. 32% planned to move to Windows 7 within a year.

The full version of Windows 7 Professional is $299, with upgrades going for $199. Windows 7 Ultimate is priced at $319, with the upgrade version at $219. The full version of Windows 7 Home Premium is priced at $199, with an upgrade from Vista or XP costing $119.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fotolia Plugs Into Office 2007 Apps

Fotolia is today releasing a new add-in ribbon for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint 2007 that gives users instant access to the company’s vast library of images and vectors from within the popular applications, eliminating the need to leave them.

Once the ribbon is downloaded from the Fotolia website and installed, users can search stock photos for the projects that they’re working on straight from the top menu of their applications, so they don’t need to go away from their documents to obtain appropriate stock imagery.

Before purchasing an item from the company’s library, which it says presently counts over 7-million royalty-free high-resolution files, users can hover over search results within the doc to see a preview of images. Double-click, and the item gets placed in the doc for you to see if it matches what you were trying to visualize. Users can then opt to buy images in any of the available sizes and licenses straight from Fotolia. Once the image is downloaded into the user’s document, users are free to use the Fotolia file with no limit on time, copies or geographical placements.

Fotolia has been supplying imagery to Microsoft Office Online customers for a few years now, but this really ties the knot.

It’s a great idea, and I concur with Microsoft’s Group Manager Rob Ashby, who commented that the addition of Fotolia can be a significant productivity win for customers. I guess it also makes sense for the company to endorse this and similar add-ons because they’re bound to keep users inside its software applications as much as possible, but the benefits for users are clear too. It’s also yet another sign that the line between desktop and web software is blurring.

Again, this product is quite brilliant, and I’m sure other stock photography players will be following suit soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Intel upbeat on future earnings

US chipmaker Intel has announced a better-than-expected profit for the third quarter and set out an upbeat forecast for the next three months. Net income came in at $1.9bn (£1.2bn), down from the $2bn it made a year ago. Revenue also fell 8% to $9.4bn, but was ahead of analyst forecasts of $9.1bn.

Last month, Intel's boss said the PC industry was coming out of recession. The firm expects revenue in the current quarter to reach $10.1bn on recovering demand for personal computers.

"Intel's strong third-quarter results underscore that computing is essential to people's lives, proving the importance of technology innovation in leading an economic recovery," said Paul Otellini, Intel president and chief executive.

"This momentum in the current economic climate, plus our product leadership, gives us confidence about our business prospects going forward."

Intel's results came out after the bell in the US. Shares in the company had closed up 0.44% at $20.49 on the Nasdaq, ahead of the results.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gmail Overtakes YahooMail in India

According to ViziSense, an online audience measurement and analytics provider platform, Gmail, Google's free e-mail service is now India's largest free e-mail service provider with more than 18 million users. Yahoo Mail, which held the top spot until the previous month has now been relegated to the second spot.

Yahoo Mail

boasts of 16.8 million unique users and has seen its usage dip 8 percent since August this year. This, coupled with Gmail's continued growth which averaged 3 percent since August, has ensured that Gmail surpassed the number of Yahoo users in early October. Microsoft's Windows Live Mail too is seeing a surge in its userbase with it managing a very impressive 8 percent growth in India since August. Rediff Mail is at number three with 6.25 million users.

However, on the global scale, it might be a while till Gmail usurps the throne from Yahoo to be the world's largest e-mail provider. Besides, it also has another adversary to counter, Windows Live Mail from Microsoft which is right up there at number 2. As seen in a recent ComScore report, Gmail has been growing pretty fast in U.S. as well-- and unless Yahoo and Windows Mail
don't do something drastic, Gmail, in its current form, will eclipse the "traditional" webmail providers in the years to come.

Incidentally, it was just last week that Yahoo carried a full front page ad across leading national dailies in India. Was this an attempt to woo its once loyal users who have started migrating to Gmail?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Genentech chairman resigns from Google board

Genentech chairman Arthur Levinson has resigned from the board of directors of Google amid a probe by US authorities into his membership of the boards of both the Internet giant and Apple.

Google, in a statement on Monday, did not give any reason for Levinson's decision to step down from the Google board but it comes just two months after Google chief executive Eric Schmidt resigned from the board of Apple.

US law prohibits a person's presence on the boards of two companies that are direct rivals, as it may affect competition between them, and the Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation in May into the overlapping Google and Apple board memberships and whether they posed any potential conflicts of interest.

Schmidt, asked by a reporter less than two weeks ago whether Levinson should step down from the board of Google, said "I would hope not. I don't think it's necessary." Levinson had served on the Google board since April 2004. Schmidt on Monday described Levinson as a good friend and valued colleague.

"Art has been a key part of Google's success these past five years, offering unvarnished advice and vital counsel on every big issue and opportunity Google has faced," Schmidt said. "Though he leaves as a member of our Board, Art will always have a special place at Google."

Levinson said working with Google has been a "remarkable experience." "I greatly admire what they've built and have no doubt that Google has a terrific future," he said.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, in announcing Schmidt's resignation from the Apple board in August, said the Google CEO could no longer function effectively with Google entering more of Apple's core businesses, such as the smartphone and personal computer operating system markets.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Reaction to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize mixed

What a difference a week makes. Last Friday, despite pleas by Oprah and the Obamas, an Olympics that was (in many U.S. citizens' minds) rightfully ours was awarded to the largest city of the largest country in South America, a continent that has never had the glory of hosting an Olympiad. A nation gasped while those in the right-leaning portion of the blogosphere chuckled.

A week later President Obama woke up to his daughters' informing him that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. A nation gasped. Again.

While the reaction from the conservative blogs and the right-wing commentators was mostly predictable, liberal blog Talk Left seemed to agree with the sentiment that the award comes undeserved, and further, should be politely rejected by Obama, "Just because the Nobel Committee wants to make fools of themselves, Obama should not have to play along. He should turn it down."

Other lefty bloggers, though, saw some method in the perceived madness. Glenn Greenwald of Salon said that when he first read today's news he thought those jokers at the Onion had hacked into But then he realized that perhaps Obama has actually created the foundations of change in his first eight months of his presidency:

Obama has changed the tone America uses to speak to the world generally and the Muslim world specifically. His speech in Cairo, his first-week interview on al-Arabiya, and the extraordinarily conciliatory holiday video he sent to Iran are all substantial illustrations of that. His willingness to sit down and negotiate with Iran -- rather than threaten and berate them -- has already produced tangible results.

When the president spoke to the media this morning he too expressed surprise with the honor and explained that he was humbled with the nod.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

IBM 'in anti-competition probe'

IBM is being investigated by the US Department of Justice over allegations of anti-competitive behaviour, a computer industry trade body has said.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said the investigation came after it urged officials to look into the matter.

CCIA accuses IBM of withdrawing software licences from business clients who do not also buy its hardware. IBM denies any wrongdoing and says it will co-operate with any investigation.

The Department of Justice has declined to comment.

'No merit'

The CCIA said the investigation centred on IBM's mainframe operating systems.

The association's spokesman, Ed Black, said the scope of the Justice Department study was "quite broad". The news comes a week after an anti-competition complaint against IBM by software developer T3 Technologies was thrown out by a judge in Manhattan.

"We understand the Department of Justice has asked T3 for documents from the litigation," said IBM in a statement. "IBM intends to co-operate with any inquiries from the Department of Justice.

"We continue to believe there is no merit to T3's claims, and that IBM is fully entitled to enforce our intellectual property rights and protect the investments that we have made in our technologies."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Twins celebrated their 12th inning victory over the Tigers

If not for those pesky Major League Baseball playoffs that start today, the Minnesota Twins might still be circling the old, dumpy Metrodome, high-fiving their fans amid whirling Homer Hankies and awash in down-home Midwestern love. The Twins not only took over their hometown, they charmed the heck out of everyone not a die-hard Tigers fan.

Remember how big Brett Favre was in Minneapolis on Monday? Neither does anyone else. He is so two days ago.

The Twins turned their 163rd game of the season into a splendid finale, writes Gene Wojciechowski on, and even the Tigers were saying it was the greatest game they have been a part of, writes Michael Rosenberg in the Detroit Free Press. The Twins have become an easy team to love, writes Jay Mariotti of, with lunch-pail players and a sardonic manager.

Even with a strong strain of sympathy for economically ravaged Detroit, the Tigers became less Cinderella-y after the drunken escapades of first baseman Miguel Cabrera over the weekend, for which he apologized before the game. But they certainly played their part in turning the game epic. You can relive the top 10 plays of the game on this Yahoo Big League Stew blog post, complete with links to video highlights of each play, or just marvel at a Twins team that now believes it can beat anyone, writes Dan Wetzel on

Sure, there are a few killjoys who quickly stepped in to mention that the Twins have to play the Yankees next, like’s Jayson Stark who believes the title will return to the Bronx after nine long years. Sure, the Twins should be completely exhausted, writes Ben Reiter on, and the Yankees are one of the powerhouse teams packing the playoffs, but Steve Aschburner of writes that the Metrodome just does not want to die.

The Yankees, though, will quickly become a focal point of the playoff drama, with Lisa Olson of writing that they are risking team chemistry by taking Jorge Posada from behind the plate when A.J. Burnett pitches. The key questions in the playoffs outlined by Scott Miller on include the playoff fates of Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Tom Verducci of takes a bigger step back to consider more story lines from the playoff teams. Joe Posnanski writes on that the playoffs always throw surprises at us and Bill Shaikin writes in the Los Angeles Times that there is at least one person rooting for a Freeway Series between the Angels and Dodgers (him) despite its environmentally unfriendly connotations. It would, writes Mark Yost on, give us more time to enjoy Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully before he retires.

The N.F.L. counters all this hype with the news that the Favre-o-rama on Monday Night Football was the highest-rated show in cable history, and throws in a few choice pieces of news for the non-baseball set, including Cleveland shipping the increasingly unpopular receiver Braylon Edwards to the Jets — which Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes is a deal that should have happened before the N.F.L. draft — and first-round draft pick Michael Crabtree reportedly ending his holdout with the 49ers.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Verizon Wireless, Google in Android partnership

Verizon Wireless said Tuesday it will put substantial resources into developing and selling phones that use Google Inc.'s Android software.Verizon Wireless had already said it would sell Android phones, but the announcement suggests that the carrier is positioning these "smart" phones as a main means of competing with Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which is exclusive to AT&T Inc. in the U.S.

Verizon Wireless and Google said they plan to "codevelop" Android-based devices that will be pre-loaded with their applications. They will be made by major manufacturers, they said.

The carrier now expects to sell the first Android phones in a few weeks, it said. It has already said it will be a carrier for a new smart phone from Motorola Inc., which is releasing several new devices based on Android software as a part of its turnaround effort.

The announcement adds to the momentum behind Android, which is seeing significant interest from carriers and manufacturers. Sales of the few existing Android phones have been small compared to the iPhone's, however.

Rival carrier T-Mobile USA came out with the first phone based on Google's operating system last year. It recently announced that it will carry Android phones from Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola. Sprint Nextel Corp. is also set to release an Android phone.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Obama touts health plan to doctors

President Barack Obama gathered doctors from every U.S. state at the White House on Monday to press his case for healthcare reform in a week when the sweeping overhaul could clear a major hurdle in Congress.

The Senate Finance Committee, the last of five panels in Congress to move on healthcare, votes this week on Obama's top domestic policy priority, an effort meant to cut costs, regulate insurers and expand health insurance coverage to the millions of Americans now going without.

"At this point, we've heard all the arguments on both sides of the aisle," Obama told the crowd of white-coated doctors who support the healthcare drive at the White House Rose Garden.

"We have listened to every charge and every counter-charge -- from the crazy claims about death panels to misleading warnings about a government takeover of our health care system," he said. The Senate Finance Committee wrapped up debate on the overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system on Friday and could vote on its plan as soon as Tuesday.

The plan, first put forward by committee chairman Max Baucus, had a price tag of $900 billion.

Passage by the committee will be a major victory, but the overhaul still has a long road ahead. The finance committee's bill must be merged with another committee's even before going to the full Senate in mid-October.

Obama's Democrats are divided on major issues, especially whether to include a government-run insurance plan, the so-called "public option," strongly supported by liberals but opposed by conservatives and heatedly opposed by the insurance industry.

The finance committee plan does not include a public option, and Obama did not mention one at Monday's event. The reform plans have yet to win support from any Republicans as they make their way through Congress.

House Minority Leader Representative John Boehner said the overhaul schemes are too expensive and that "thousands of doctors" have objected to it because it would cripple their ability to care for patients. "Members of the medical community -- who deal with red tape day in and day out -- rightly recognize that the Democrats' government takeover would weaken the doctor-patient relationship that is so critical to making the right health care decisions," he said.

Obama touted the support of doctors and nurses as one of the strongest arguments in favor of reform and called on the doctors to push for a plan.

If they do so, "I'm confident we are going to get health reform passed this year,"

Windows Live Marketplace Goes Live for Windows Mobile 6.5 Phones

While the iPhone certainly has driven the smartphone craze to new heights, currently it arguably retains only one crucial advantage over its rivals. That advantage is its App Store. While rivals such as Palm and Google have launched their own markets, they lack the number of applications and developers that are on the iPhone.

Now Microsoft is looking to become the latest to try to challenge Apple's App Store dominance. Microsoft just rolled out Windows Live Marketplace, a new app store which is available on phones running on its Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. The store appears to have launched a day early on some phones, but few are complaining.

The marketplace reportedly has 40 currently available applications (iTunes App Store currently has around 75,000). You can access the store using your current Windows Live ID and pay for apps via credit card.

Some of the currently available applications include Street Fighter II, Facebook, a Netflix manager, Pac-Man, Mastersoft Money V6, and a WorldTime clock application.

More applications are likely on the way for tomorrow's official launch. EA reportedly has signed a contract with Microsoft to provide some games for the store, including a mobile version of Sim City.

The Windows Live Marketplace was first noted on the new AT&T Pure, which users began picking up this weekend.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 hits RTM

Microsoft today announced that the code for Windows XP Mode has been finalized and the company is now preparing to release it in exactly three weeks. "Thanks to everyone's feedback, we're happy to announce that Windows XP Mode has RTM'd today," according to the Windows 7 Team Blog. "We expect to make the final release of Windows XP Mode available via the Microsoft Download Center on October 22nd. OEMs will be able to offer Windows XP Mode on their PCs based on their manufacturing schedules."

Windows XP Mode is aimed at small and mid-sized businesses that are migrating to Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, or Windows 7 Enterprise and that need the ability to run Windows XP productivity applications which are incompatible with Vista's successor. While Microsoft insists that many Windows XP applications will be compatible Windows 7, or at least every one that is compatible with Vista, the company says Windows XP Mode can be used as a last resort for those that are not.

Microsoft first announced Windows XP Mode and released a beta in April 2007. The company explained that users had to install the old applications directly in Windows XP Mode, which is a virtual Windows XP environment running under Windows Virtual PC. Once that is done, the applications become available on the Windows 7 desktop and can be run directly from Windows 7. In May 2009 it became clear that Microsoft and Intel had contrived to make XP Mode unavailable to many Intel users. In August 2009, a Release Candidate version was released that brought many improvements to the add-on, including USB and jumplist support as well as a new user tutorial

Thursday, October 01, 2009

U.S. swine flu vaccines to arrive from Tuesday

The very first doses of swine flu vaccine will start arriving in states and cities that ordered it on Tuesday, and might be sprayed up the first patients' noses by the end of the week, U.S. health officials said on Thursday. Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the first U.S. H1N1 vaccine to be delivered will be 600,000 doses of a nasal spray made by MedImmune, a division of AstraZeneca.

"This is a bit earlier than we were planning to get started," Schuchat said in a telephone briefing.
She said 25 states, counties or cities which had placed the first orders for H1N1 vaccine on Wednesday, would receive it on Tuesday and decide how to distribute it.

The nasal spray is only approved for people aged 2 to 49 who do not have asthma, but Schuchat said plenty of people could benefit from it anyway. The CDC is ordering flu vaccine from five makers and expects to get between 6 million and 7 million doses to its central U.S. distributor next week.

She said H1N1 pandemic flu was now widespread across the United States. "What we are seeing is quite striking," she said. While H1N1 is not any deadlier than seasonal flu, it is causing more severe disease among younger people than seasonal flu usually does, and could infect more people in the space of a few months.


Schuchat said 100 pregnant women had been hospitalized in intensive care with the virus and 28 had died. Pregnant women are at special risk from all forms of influenza. "As vaccine becomes available in appropriate formulations, we hope that pregnant women and their caregivers will take advantage of it," she said.

Immunization is considered to be the best method of preventing infection. But once someone has the flu, the main treatment is the antiviral drug Tamiflu or oseltamivir, made by Roche AG under license from Gilead Sciences Inc. She said the CDC had ordered 300,000 courses of liquid Tamiflu for children.

Some pharmacies had said they would start compounding liquid formulations for children because of reports of shortages of the pediatric formulation. Schuchat said even though the drug was past its stamped expiry date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved use of Tamiflu past this date.

"So far each state that needs their proportion of that supply will receive this Tamiflu over the next week," Schuchat said