Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3 beats iPhone 5 in display face-off


Apple and Samsung are facing off once again, with IHS iSuppli comparing the iPhone 5 touch-screen display with one of its biggest rivals, the Samsung Galaxy S3.
Despite Apple's efforts to slim down its new touch screen via in-cell technology, the iPhone 5 falls short of Samsung's flagship phone, according to IHS.

The new Apple offering sports a slimmer 1.5mm display (compared to the 2.1mm iPhone 4S) and a 72 per cent colour gamut (higher than the 4S's 50 per cent). The Galaxy S3's 1.1mm thickness and full 100 per cent colour gamut wins the match, but not necessarily the fight.

Having the first product with in-cell tech - or a touch panel combined with the main display - is a major achievement, according to Vinita Jakhanwal, director of IHS small and medium displays. Overall, the iPhone 5 is thinner than the Galaxy S3, and its display colour gamut is more than sufficient for most people, Jakhanwal said in a statement.

"Such improvements on the iPhone 5 are consistent with Apple's philosophy of selecting features designed to yield profitable products that deliver a superior customer experience, rather than providing technology for technology's sake," he said.

While the new technology allows more light to emit from the display and helps provide a more vibrant and crisper image, the iPhone 5 still doesn't meet the high colour gamut mark set by the Galaxy S3. But, it may not matter to most users, according to Jakhanwal. Some users have complained that the Samsung handset actually present oversaturated and unrealistic coloiring, he said.

In a recent DisplayMate smartphone shoot-out, the iPhone 5, iPhone 4, and Galaxy S3 were put to the display-quality test, which the new iDevice easily passed. According to DisplayMate, the iPhone 5 was a marked improvement from its former self in almost every category but brightness decrease and viewing angle.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Russia snubs Google for Android-style tablet

The Russian government has built a tablet computer using an Android-style operating system but deliberately avoids Google. The defence ministry unveiled the encrypted prototype at a Berlin electronics show this week according to a report by AFP.

Russia is wary of Google's operating system, reportedly believing that data collected and stored in Google databases could find its way into the hands of the US government. This could, Russia believes, expose some of their most sensitive communications to the Americans.

The project has been in development for five years and the project's manager has said that it is completely hack proof. He also said that many Russians have little trust in Google's security and are afraid that details could very easily be leaked through using it.

It is largely intended for state officials, although it will be on sale to the public by the end of the year at a cost of 15,000 roubles (£291). The military version will be shock-proof and waterproof and will have all the functional capabilities of an Android operating system.

The project has been run out of a military research facility but is privately funded. It was presented in Berlin to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the military's technological innovation. This is not the first time that Russia has developed technological projects driven out of fears over US systems.

It developed the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), a rival of the Global Positioning System, devised to help generals train their missiles on targets. The concept initially suffered but the system was eventually included in the software of Apple's latest iPhone.

Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012: China assesses Olympic 'journey'

The Games saw China finish with 38 gold, 27 silver and 22 bronze medals, putting it second on the medal table behind the US. Although it bagged 51 golds in the 2008 Beijing Games, sports officials said this was the best-ever result in an Olympics not hosted by China, seemingly not greatly bothered by the fact that China was beaten by the US.

Calling the Olympics a source of inspiration, state-run China Daily newspaper said "the journey is more important than the destination". "For all athletes, as long as they have tried their best, they deserve the respect of spectators," it said.

"I think the general public was very happy with the result, with China finishing second after the US," Dong Jun, a journalist with China Radio International (CRI), told the BBC. "China's 2008 delegation was huge," David Yang, editor of the China Sports Review website, pointed out. "The delegation for London was roughly 60% the size."

"For a major sports nation like China, this was already a streamlined delegation - so their performance was splendid," Mr Yang said.
 
'Unfairness'
But it is clear not all Chinese people see the London Games as a happy experience. Chinese media have complained of unfair treatment meted out to Chinese athletes.

This includes questions over the record-breaking performance of female swimmer Ye Shiwen and the disqualification of two Chinese badminton players for match-throwing. Chinese players also hit out at refereeing in events such as gymnastics and track cycling.

People's Daily newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial on Monday, saying athletes "faced naivety and bias from individual referees as they imposed punishments based on double standards".

And some netizens are very angry - it is not hard to find comments on China's Twitter-like weibo sites calling the London Games "a total failure". "London Olympics were the worst Olympics ever," said a Sina Weibo user in southern Guangdong province. "It has hosted the Games three times, but it was full of blunders."

"Britain, Germany, Japan and South Korea won shameless appeals, but China was always unfairly treated. I am so angry," said a Tencent Weibo user in northern Hebei province.

But there are some micro-blog comments that are positive, and China Sports Review's David Yang thinks perceived slights have been blown out of proportion. "I think it has happened at every Olympic Games in the past," said Mr Yang, who believes harsh comments are merely venting.

"All sports competitions - including the Fifa World Cup and the Uefa European Football Championships - all face the same problems. Refereeing is always a controversial issue in the media."

Friday, August 03, 2012

China Begins Construction on its First Luxury Cruise Liner

Last week marked the beginning of the construction phase of China’s first large luxury cruise liner, a project that is estimated to top $2.63 billion.

As part of a package of projects intended to boost tourism and the shipping industries at coastal cities, the Southeast China International Shipping Center package includes 10 projects led by the construction of the 100,000-ton luxury cruise liner. The package also includes building a cruise terminal and shipping business center in the city of Xiamen.

The cruise liner alone is said to cost approximately $487 million and leading international design firms are participating in the project.

According to Lin Shilin, an industry and investment official with Xiamen’s Haicang district, it could take up to 47 months to build the massive cruise liner. Once it’s complete, it will be able to carry more than 2,000 passengers and will be named, “Xiamen, China”. According to officials, the cruise liner won’t be ready to sail the waters until 2018.

Xiamen, China will be operated by a subsidiary of Beijing-based Shan Hai Shu Group, a conglomerate that already has an established partnership with US-based Royal Caribbean International.

Shan Hai Shu’s chief operational officer, Huang Ju, said, “With our own cruise liner, it will be easier to design cruise routes and develop our own tourism products.” The cruise liner is expected to further promote the city and help with economic growth in the region.

According to Xiamen’s tourism bureau, the city also plans to partner with global cruise tourism operators to build a world-class shopping and entertainment center on the cruise terminal. They hope to include the highest number of luxury stores in the world.

Locals hope that the city’s new industrial port belt, dubbed “Cruise City”, will allow “people arriving in Xiamen on cruises to have as much fun … as they do in Las Vegas.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Deep Dive: Mercedes-Benz S-Class and 2014 Audi A8

All three of the German luxury giants have new flagships coming in the next few years. We’ve already told you about the next-generation BMW 7 Series due in 2015 – and its M770ix variant – but now we have all the details on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and 2014 Audi A8. Georg Kacher details them below. –Ed

Countless S-Classes
Although the new S-Class is less than twelve months away, the outgoing model still tops its segment in China and Germany. The next big Benz will likely be offered in no fewer than seven different variations: a standard-wheelbase sedan (codenamed W222, 200.79 inches long); a long-wheelbase sedan (V222, 7.08-inch stretch); an extra-long-wheelbase sedan (X222, 13.78-inch stretch); a six-door Pullmann (25.59-inch stretch); a full-size CL-class replacement (C217, rumored to return to SLC moniker); a full-size CL convertible (A217); and a full-size four-door coupe (V217). Only Mercedes has the guts to offer a Pullmann luxury liner and a stately drop-top powered by an optional 680-hp, 811-lb-ft V-12 engine. Has it already forgotten Maybach’s failure?

From Pauper to Prince
The new modular rear-wheel drive architecture – dubbed Mercedes Rear Architecture – will stretch from a relatively humble four-cylinder mild hybrid S-Class to a quartet of ultra-luxurious Bentley and Rolls-Royce rivals. Lighter and more rigid than the current platform, MRA introduces a reengineered four-link front suspension, which separates the steering and braking forces from the spring and damper action. Unlike Audi and BMW, Mercedes-Benz keeps a relatively low carbon fiber profile, concentrating on steel, aluminum, and magnesium instead. The one notable exception is the new S63 AMG that sports a roof, trunk, hood, and doors made of carbon fiber.

Inside, the sixth-generation S-Class gets a completely redesigned dashboard with two large-format monitors, programmable instruments, extended voice and gesture control, head-up display, and knee and belt-integrated airbags. The long list of innovative driver aids includes dynamic LED headlights, the so-called Magic Carpet Ride chassis featuring a camera-based damper adjustment system, an ever-more-intelligent brake assist with cross traffic recognition, and a new active cruise control that can even execute lane changes and passing maneuvers.

From 2016 onwards (about a year after the car’s debut), Mercedes will start introducing the new in-line six-cylinder engines codenamed M256 (gas) and OM656 (diesel). The European S-Class launches with the familiar 2.1-, 3.0-, and 3.5-liter V-6 units, but it will switch to the more efficient straight sixes at the model-year changeover for 2017. The initial engine line-up should span from the 224-hp diesel installed in the S250 CDI to the mighty V-12 fitted to the S600 and the S65 AMG. The final metamorphosis of the outgoing V-6 is a 3.0-liter good for 333 hp. On the hybrid front, customers will be able to choose from three options: mild with a 41-hp electric motor, or one of two plug-in models with motors rated at either 68 hp or 109 hp. Even the least economical hybrid drivetrain returns a super-frugal 75mpg – but only because current European regulations ignore the energy used to charge the batteries.

2014 Audi A8: An Extensive Facelift
The facelifted 2014 Audi A8 looks like a new car. Major changes include completely restyled front and rear ends with less aggressive lights, a prettier grille, and more elegant bumpers. While the current A8 (pictured here) is doing really well in China, Ingolstadt’s halo car has been overtaken in Germany by underdogs like the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Porsche Panamera. Enginewise, the high-end Audi will receive a more powerful 3.0-liter V-6 TFSI (310 hp instead of 290 hp), an improved 3.0-liter V-6 TDI (258 hp instead of 250 hp), and a brawnier 4.2-liter V-8 TDI (360 hp instead of 350 hp). Of those revised engines, only the V-6 options are expected to make it to U.S. cars. We fully expect the gasoline V-8 and W-12 engines to remain on offer with no major changes expected. Other upgrades include an MMI update, enhanced smartphone and infotainment connectivity, and additional driver assistance systems.

Read more

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Apple's next iPhone to feature 'slimmer screen'

HONG KONG — Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone later this year with a slimmer screen thanks to updated touch-screen technology, a report said Tuesday.The next generation iPhone, referred to by fans as the "iPhone 5", is being manufactured by Asian component makers, Dow Jones Newswires quoted unnamed sources as saying.

Its panels will use "in-cell technology" integrating touch sensors into the LCD, it said.That makes a separate touch-screen layer unnecessary and reduces the screen thickness by about half a millimetre, Dow Jones quoted DisplaySearch analyst Hiroshi Hayase as saying.

The new technology will also boost displayed image quality, and help Apple cut costs as it would no longer have to buy touch panels and LCDs from separate suppliers, the report added.It said Japanese liquid crystal display makers Sharp and Japan Display Inc as well as South Korea's LG Display Co were currently mass producing panels for the next iPhone.

Apple is widely expected to launch the device in the third quarter of this year, around 12 months after the release of its hugely popular iPhone 4S -- the firm's first new product following the death of co-founder Steve Jobs.An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the report or the next iPhone's release date when contacted by AFP.

The report came amid heated competition from rivals such as Samsung, whose flagship smartphone the Galaxy S III uses a 4.8-inch (12.2 centimetre) screen that is thinner than the current iPhone.Apple posted a $11.6 billion profit in the first three months this year, led by record sales of iPad tablet computers and iPhones -- the latter surging 88 percent year-on-year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Apple fights websites selling access to iOS6 beta code

Apple is cracking down on websites that sell access to pre-release, beta versions of its iOS6 iPhone and iPad software. Beta software is incomplete, and Apple only makes it available to software developers for testing purposes.

The websites charge about $10 (£6.45) to register an individual device so that it can run iOS6 beta software. Apple has sent legal notices to web-hosting companies requesting that they disable the websites.

Apple offers the latest finished versions of its iOS mobile operating system free, but charges registered developers $99 (£65) to access beta versions.

This payment entitles developers to "activate" the Unique Device IDentifier (UDID) numbers of up to one hundred iOS devices with Apple so that they can run iOS 6 beta software. iOS6 is expected to be released later this year.

Activation websites register developer accounts and pay Apple for a hundred device activations, and then sell these off individually at a profit.

"We have paid the fees and done all the work. All you have to do is register your iOS device on our account. Once you register, you'll be able to download the beta firmware and install it on your device," promises one activation site.

Within the last month Apple has issued DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices to Fused, a Seattle-based web-hosting company, in relation to activation websites it hosts, according to Fused chief executive David McKendrick.

A DMCA takedown notice is a formal way for a copyright holder or their agent to demand removal of allegedly infringing content from the Internet.

The sites in question had been active for three months, Mr McKendrick said, and Apple claimed in the notices that they breached its developer agreement or facilitated copyright infringement.

"This is definitely a new move on Apple's part," he said. Apple prohibits developers from providing pre-release software to anyone other than their employees and contractors who have a "demonstrable" need to use it to develop and test applications on their behalf.

But Mr McKendrick added that Apple's action was unlikely to be effective, because many of the sites in question were in the process of moving their sites to hosting firms based outside the US.

"Apple is definitely fighting a losing battle on this one. Unless they go directly after the developer accounts abusing the process, they have little chance scrubbing these sites off the web," he said.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Apple Preps for New Tablet

Apple Inc.'s AAPL +1.15% component suppliers in Asia are preparing for mass production in September of a tablet computer with a smaller screen than the iPad, people familiar with the situation said, suggesting a launch for the device is near.

Two of the people said that the tablet's screen will likely be smaller than eight inches. The iPad's screen measures 9.7 inches, unchanged since the first model was released in 2010.

Officials at the component suppliers, who declined to be named, said this week that Apple has told them to prepare for mass production of the smaller tablet. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Apple was testing such a device but hadn't yet decided whether to proceed with production.

One person said the screen makers Apple is working with include LG Display Co. LPL +4.44% of South Korea and Taiwan-based AU Optronics Co. AUO +1.24%

An Apple spokeswoman in California declined to comment.

Analysts said a smaller tablet could help Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple maintain its dominance in a market that keeps getting more crowded. Competitors include Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE +1.36% and Amazon.com Inc., AMZN +0.09% while Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.65% and Google Inc. GOOG +1.27% recently unveiled tablet devices.

Last year, the iPad held a 62% share of the world-wide tablet market, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli, which expects overall tablet sales this year to surge 85% to 126.6 million units..

As the market continues to expand, consumers' choices—in size, technical specifications and price—are growing more varied. Last week, Google started taking orders for the Nexus 7, a tablet device with a seven-inch screen that will sell for $199. That matches the price of Amazon's Kindle Fire, which came out last year and also has a seven-inch screen.

Microsoft's Surface tablet, expected to debut this fall, has a 10.6-inch display, larger than the iPad. Microsoft's Windows Chief Steve Sinofsky said that it will be "priced like comparable tablets."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Google tablet 'Nexus 7'

Google announced its first tablet computer this week. Significantly undercutting Apple's pounds 499 iPad, the pounds 159 "Nexus 7" aims to popularise these new devices in the same way that Amazon's Kindle made e-readers mass-market. But the company's ambition is wider than that - it sees inexpensive computers running the living room and the lives of millions of users. And it wants to be the company that makes the software used on all of them.

The 7in device, which will launch this summer, is not a direct competitor for the iPad, however. It aims to take a different, cheaper route, leaving the very premium end of the market available for manufacturers such as Samsung, who use Google's Android software, to compete with Apple's all-conquering, innovative device. Google has added TV, magazines and movie purchasing to the Play Store, its rival to iTunes, so that it can challenge Apple effectively. Indeed, Google described its new tablet as "built for Google Play".

Underlying the firm's ambitions to dominate the future of computing is Android. This time last year, there were already 100 million devices running Android. Today there are 400 million, with 1 million new ones added each day. That may be 12 per second, but Google knows that not many of those are tablets.

So Google has identified two ways to tackle Apple - the first is to improve how all Android devices run by offering a software upgrade called Jelly Bean for phones and tablets. The aim is that people who use an Android phone will enjoy the experience so much that they will want to complete the "ecosystem" with an Android tablet. Google has tried, under the codename Project Butter, to make the software smoother and, to borrow a word from Apple, consistently "delightful". It's an apparently subtle change that should make a big difference to how people feel their phone or tablet works. The brain, Google points out, can detect a lag of even 10 milliseconds in how a touchscreen works.

The second strand is more conspicuous: a new product called Q (for America only so far) offers media streaming, while elsewhere there are new features for phones and tablets. These improve the way the voice search or the camera works, predict the next word you want to type, or allow you to dictate to your phone.

Other features automate existing features - for example, phones are able to learn when you commute and will automatically suggest a better route or tell you when your next bus leaves. If you've searched the internet for a flight, you can now be kept updated on its status, and if you're travelling Google can make translation more accessible.

All of this points towards Google putting its set of products together in a cleverer way - but they still need the army of software developers that has so far congregated around Apple.

At the San Francisco conference, Google made it clear they know that: "There's never been a better time to be a developer - now you can take an idea and build businesses."

If that convinces people, then Google will be able to do for the mass market what Apple has already done for the elite of iPad and iPhone users.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet feels like the device that might just usurp the Kindle. It does everything that Amazon's device has done so successfully since it launched in 2007, but with Google you can now also watch videos, browse beautifully rendered magazines and the web, and of course check your email.

A Kindle costs from just pounds 89, but those extra functions are likely to persuade a huge number of people to part with pounds 159.

Indeed, it's the design of the product that makes Google's mass-market ambitions clear. Just as the iPad is not worried by Kindle sales, so it is unlikely to be worried by the Nexus 7. This is a device that feels coolly utilitarian, rather than luxurious.

But Google is not the web search engine for a minority of users; it has always aimed to be ubiquitous. And with Nexus 7, it wants to make the ubiquitous tablet. The 7in screen does everything it needs to with a resolution of 1280px x 700px, and at 340g it weighs enough to feel substantial without being burdensome.

There are nudges toward the future, however: press the button to get to a standard Google search page and, rather than a blank screen you get details about flights or films you've recently searched for. That ties web search in with everyday life, and it makes the web increasingly central to a wider range of functions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GDSX Launches New Technology for Travel Management

Travel technology provider GDSX, Ltd. reports the introduction of TripLink, a first of a kind product to capture travel data and managing real-time customer-service processes for trips purchased outside of a corporation’s standard booking channels.

The GDSX solution enables Travel Management Companies (TMCs) and Corporate Travel Departments to actively support the traveler during a trip with itinerary changes and on-the-road problems. It will ensure the integrity of a corporation's duty-of-care programs to locate travelers in case of emergency, GDSX says.
"We seek to strengthen and expand the current managed-travel model for Corporate Travel Departments, TMCs and Global Distribution Systems (GDSs). By bringing rail, hotel, limo and other data into the managed-travel model, with its efficient workflows and automated Quality Controls, the entire trip process can be managed in support of the traveler and employer," stated GDSX Chief Executive Officer Cindy Allen.

"We want to distance GDSX, and the TripLink solution and our customers from the controversy over travel distribution. It is not about an agenda of any kind on any front, but rather an effort to deliver a solution intended to protect our industry’s key stakeholders -, the managed travel community, - in this time of change, innovation and evolution, " Allen said.

Corporate Travel Manager and GDSX customer, Jennifer Steinke of US Foods said corporate buyers and TMC’s need the flexibility to manage bookings for travelers regardless of where they originate. TripLink can import those bookings and put them into formats that can be managed and reported together with other reservations.

TripLink can also import data that hasn’t been collected, combined, and managed in the past, GDSX says. New data will allow TMC‘s to look not just at travel spending - and compare booked vs. actual spending - but also to analyze spending by trips and by destinations. Armed with that knowledge, TMC’s can project future travel costs more accurately.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Microsoft Tries to Promote Windows 8 Without Hurting Windows 7 Sales

With Windows 8's commercial availability expected before the end of this year, Microsoft finds itself in the tricky position of generating enthusiasm for it without affecting Windows 7 sales.

The difficulty in striking this delicate balance became evident on Tuesday, when Microsoft officials spent the day at TechEd North America promoting Windows 8 in speeches, press conferences and demo sessions, while telling the 10,000 IT pros in attendance that their organizations, if they haven't done so already, should upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.

But at the morning keynote, when Microsoft officials made an aggressive case for enterprise adoption of Windows 8, they portrayed Windows 7 as an aging OS designed before key changes in computing happened in recent years.

"Windows 8 is a bold new bet, and it's a generational change in Windows," said Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Web Services. "Windows 8 first and foremost is a better Windows than Windows 7."

Leblond said Windows 7 is the last in a line of OSes that began with Windows 95, designed primarily for desktop PCs that are always connected to a power source and act as the main repository for users' applications, data and content.

On the other hand, Windows 8 is designed for the world's shift to mobile devices that run on batteries and to applications and content that live dispersed in a variety of web sites and must be constantly available.

Asked to comment about the way Windows 7 was portrayed in the morning keynote, Erwin Visser, senior director of the Windows Commercial Business Group, said at a press conference later in the day that Microsoft in no way wants enterprise customers to interrupt migrations to Windows 7 from Windows XP.

"In our conversations with enterprises, we don't want to discourage their deployments of Windows 7," he said.

Microsoft will end support for Windows XP in 2014, so migrating to Windows 7 now is the right thing to do, he said, adding that Windows 8 will co-exist side-by-side with Windows 7 in an organization.

Windows 8 has a new user interface called Metro, which is designed for touch-screen devices, like tablets, but which can also be used with keyboards and mice. The OS will also have a traditional Windows 7-like interface. The Metro interface, whose design and user experience are markedly different from the traditional Windows interface, has been the source of much criticism among beta testers and industry observers, who say it's inconvenient to use with a mouse, and find its overall navigation functionality confusing.

Windows 8 computers based on x86 chips from Intel and AMD will run Windows 7 applications, and will co-exist with Windows 7 machines on enterprise environments, Visser said.

"The investments [enterprise customers] are making today on Windows 7 from a hardware infrastructure and also in application compatibility carry forward into Windows 8," Visser said.

At the same time, Microsoft is "very proud and bullish" about the value of Windows 8 for enterprises, so it expects to see customers upgrade to it from Windows 7, he said.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sony dips below 1,000 yen for 1st time since 1980

Sony's stock price fell below 1,000 yen Monday for the first time since 1980 as global markets slide but also a symptom of its decline since huge success with the Walkman three decades ago. Battered by competition from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., Sony has lost money for four
straight years — and for eight years in its core television business.A strong yen, which erodes overseas income, and natural disasters at home and in Thailand, a key manufacturing hub, have added to its woes.

Sony's shares dipped to 990 yen before recovering slightly in trading Monday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Nikkei 225 stock average was down 2 percent after U.S. hiring slowed sharply in May.The company said it was first time that its stock price had traded below 1,000 yen since August 1980 — the year after it introduced the iconic Walkman portable cassette player to the world in 1979.

The stock had peaked at 16,950 yen in March 2000.Sony, whose businesses run from digital cameras and personal computers to PlayStation game consoles and movies such as "Bad Teacher," last month reported a record annual loss of 457 billion yen ($5.7 billion) for the year through March 2012.

The company is aiming for a comeback under Kazuo Hirai, appointed president earlier this year, who has headed the gaming division and built his career in the U.S. Sony forecast a return to profit for the fiscal year through March 2013 at 30 billion yen ($375 million), banking on the growing smartphone and tablet businesses.

Sony also plans to cut 10,000 jobs, or about 6 percent of its global work force.Widely admired in the 1980s as an innovative power, Sony fell behind when digital music players and flat TVs became hits. Its gadgets have lost popularity as consumers flock to products from Apple such as the iPhone and iPod.

It's also lost out in the TV market to South Korea's Samsung and other Asian competitors. Despite losses in that division, Hirai remains committed to TVs, and promised to cut costs to turn a profit in the division in the next two years.Sony also plans to seek new growth in emerging markets such as India and Mexico.In 2010, Sony stopped Japanese production of its Walkman, which sold 220 million units worldwide.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Korea Unveils New Bullet Train

The Korea Railroad Research Institute on Thursday unveiled a next-generation bullet train with a maximum speed of 430 km/h, the HEMU 430X. The HEMU on a test run covered a 28.2 km distance at a speed of 150 km/h from a station in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province.

The train was developed by the institute in collaboration with the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, Hyundai Rotem and other companies since 2007 at a cost of W93.1 billion (US$1=W1,164). Last October, a test run reached a speed of 428.9 km/h.HEMU stands for Highspeed Electric Multiple Unit, but the acronym also means "auspicious sea fog" in Korean.

It will be the fourth fastest high-speed train in the world, after France (575 km/h), China (486 km/h) and Japan (443 km/h). It can travel from Seoul to Busan in 90 minutes. The global competition had been sluggish since Germany broke the 400 km/h mark in 1988 and Japan in 1996, but it was reignited when a French train exceeded 500 km/h in 2007. China unveiled a bullet train that manages 486 km/h in December 2010 and developed a prototype reaching a maximum speed of 500 km/h a year later.

"We will keep working on increasing the speed and make it possible for a production model to operate at speeds of up to 430km/h around this fall," said Hong Soon-man of the institute. A researcher there said it will be possible to reach a maximum speed of 500 km/h within three years. "The high-speed train market will increase to over W450 trillion," said Dr. Mok Jin-yong at the institute. "Since speed represents the level of technological advancement, we cannot afford to lag behind in the competition."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A tablet begging to replace your netbook

Product Asus Transformer Pad TF300
Specifications 10.1in LED backlit WXGA 1280x800 touchscreen, Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, Bluetooth, WiFi, 1.2MP front camera, 8MP rear camera, 1x 2-in-1 audio jack (headphone/mic-in), 1x microHDMI port, 1x MicroSD card reader, 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x SD card reader, 10 hours battery life or 15 hours with dock, Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich
Pad only - 263x181x9.9mm, 635g
Dock only - 263x181x10.4mm, 546g
Pad with dock - 263x181x19.4mm, 1,181g
Price £399

IN AN ATTEMPT to offer the combination of a laptop and tablet, thus eliminating the need for both, Asus' Transformer Pad TF300 is a tablet along with a lock-in keyboard dock, begging to replace your aging laptop, notebook or netbook.

However, the combo feature just doesn't work as well as we'd hoped. The dock is not sturdy enough to bear the heavy tablet, resulting in a disappointing and overall fragile feel when put together.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Audi outsells its biggest rival, BMW, in April

(CBS News) The battle between the three biggest luxury car makers has a new champion. Audi, a division of Volkswagen, outsold market leader BMW for the first time in over a year in April. Strong demand from China and the U.S. boosted sales among all automakers, but Audi came out on top, with the strongest performance of the three major German luxury brands.

The company told Reuters that vehicle demand increased 14.4 percent in April to 125,200. Sales of BMW brand models rose 7.4 percent to 121,476.

Munich-based BMW has long been the strongest of the big three luxury brands: BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. A spokeswoman for Audi said that the last time the company out-sold BMW in a month was January 2011. Audi surpassed Mercedes-Benz in sales last year and hopes to take the lead by the end of the decade. Volkswagen, Audi's parent company, has a goal of doubling car deliveries to 2 million by 2020.

"Audi will remain the No. 1 challenger to BMW over the next four to five years," Frank Schwope, an analyst with NordLB in Hanover, told Reuters. "They're firmly rooted in lucrative markets and benefit greatly from VW resources."

Monday, May 07, 2012

Small and perfectly formed: From sail ships to luxury yachts - how to take a mini-cruise

In an age in which every new cruise liner seems bigger than the last, it's reassuring to find there are some ships that still resemble ocean-going vessels rather than floating hotels.

Perhaps the most romantic are masted sailing yachts, which offer the charms of a relaxed, intimate atmosphere and the ability to moor in small harbors or drop anchor in secluded coves.

And what could be more thrilling than standing on deck looking up at billowing white sails... knowing you are never going to have to climb the rigging yourself? If you prefer - and if you have the budget - you can even experience the luxury of a super-yacht worthy of an oligarch in the Mediterranean.

Here is a variety of suggestions for those who want to sail away from the crowds...

Budding sea dogs might want to sail the Med on Star Clippers' five-masted Royal Clipper, where you can volunteer to help hoist the sails or climb a mast. A four-night cruise from Civitavecchia, the port that serves Rome, takes you to Corsica to moor overnight, Sardinia's Costa Smeralda and finally to Elba, where Napoleon was briefly held captive.

Travel is by Eurostar and sleeper train via Paris. The cost for departure on June 5 is from £1,319 per person.

On the three yachts of Windstar Cruises, there's no need for anyone - crew or passengers - to climb the rigging: the sails are fully automated. The sleek part-yacht, part-cruise ships have a casual dress code and the mood is laid-back luxury.

Wind Star - one of the two smaller vessels, with just 74 cabins - has a six-night cruise from Rome to Barcelona departing on July 15, costing from £2,859pp, including flights. You'll call at Elba, Porto Vecchio in Corsica, Alghero in Sardinia and Palma de Mallorca.

Alternatively, you can head to the Baltic Sea on the magnificent, five-masted Wind Surf, one of the two largest sail cruise ships in the world, on a week's cruise from Oslo to Stockholm leaving July 27.





Thursday, May 03, 2012

Boeing 747-400 Freighter joins Etihad's fleet

Etihad Airways has signed a contract with Atlas Air, Inc. to provide the UAE flag carrier with its first Boeing 747-400 Freighter.
The aircraft, with a payload capacity of 124 tons, will be used by Etihad Cargo to transport fresh produce, machinery and garments on routes to and from Africa, Europe, India and China over the Abu Dhabi hub.  Delivery and commencement of operations are scheduled for June 2012.

Atlas is a leading global provider of outsourced aircraft and aviation operating services and the contract with Etihad Airways is for one aircraft under a multi-year Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) agreement.

The delivery will take Etihad Cargo’s fleet to six aircraft.  The airline already operates a Boeing B777F, two Airbus A330-200F, one Airbus A300-600F, and one McDonnell Douglas MD-11F.

Etihad Airways has an additional four freighters scheduled for delivery in 2013 and 2014, two Boeing B777F and two Airbus A330-200F.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, said:  “In Atlas Air, we have found a first-rate partner focused on operational excellence, security and outstanding customer service. We look forward to a rewarding relationship that leverages each of our expertise to grow global trade.”

David Kerr, Etihad Airways Vice President Cargo, added: “We are strongly committed to building our presence in the cargo sector and to serving the growing demand from our customers around the world.  We have the fortune of geography and being able to bridge many of the trade flows from producer to consumer markets.”

“We are delighted to add Etihad Airways to our portfolio of ACMI customers,” said William J. Flynn, President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlas Air Worldwide. “Atlas Air has the largest and most modern fleet in our industry, with a mix of cargo and passenger aircraft, serving customers who are leaders in their markets.

“Etihad Airways takes pride in providing reliable, high-quality service across its expanding international route network. We look forward to welcoming not only a new customer for Atlas Air, but also future opportunities for strategic expansion for both companies.”

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Apple may lose iPad trademark in China

BEIJING: A top Chinese official has sided with a Chinese firm involved in a legal battle with Apple over the iPad trademark, suggesting the US giant could lose the right to use the iconic name in China.

Proview Technology, based in the southern city of Shenzhen, has been locked in a protracted legal battle with Apple over ownership of the Chinese rights to the "iPad" trademark, which both claim as their own.

"Currently, Shenzhen Proview is still the legitimate registered owner of the iPad trademark," Fu Shuangjian, deputy minister of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told reporters, according to an online transcript.

The Taiwanese affiliate of Proview Technology registered "iPad" as a trademark in several countries including China as early as 2000 -- years before Apple began selling its product.

The US titan subsequently bought the rights for global trademark -- including from the Taiwanese affiliate -- but Proview claims the deal did not include the rights for mainland China.

Last year, Apple took Proview to a Chinese court, claiming trademark infringement, but the court ruled the US company lacked "supporting facts and evidence" for its claim.

The US company is now appealing the case but debt-laden Proview, which makes computer monitors, has since filed trademark lawsuits against Apple in China and is also suing the technology giant in the United States.

Fu -- whose administration deals with IP infringement cases -- said that according to Chinese law, a trademark transfer must be approved by the Trademark Office. He implied that in this case, approval had not been given.

"Due to the huge impact of this case, the court's final ruling will directly affect ownership of the iPad trademark and Industrial and Commerce departments will carefully and properly handle the case," he said.

It is rare for a Chinese enterprise to accuse an overseas firm of trademark breaches -- although foreign companies frequently complain of intellectual property rights violations in China.

Apple is hugely popular in the Asian nation, where die-hard fans have been known to line up for days to get their hands on the latest offerings from the US giant.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nokia's elusive recovery rekindles strategy doubts

When Stephen Elop bet Nokia's future on a deal with Microsoft, he was hit with a barrage of criticism. After a year of respite, the chief executive is again being haunted by a decision that is costing the shrinking mobile phone company sales and favour.

Nokia switched from developing its own Symbian operating system for the as-yet untried Windows Phone software in February 2011 and is now stuck in a sales gulf between phasing out its old smartphones and ramping up production of the new ones.

Sales of the Lumia range that runs on Windows have fallen short of forecasts. Nokia issued a profit warning last week ahead of first quarter results due on Thursday and its shares fell below 3 euros this week, their lowest in 15 years.

In the meantime, Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy range, which runs on Google's Android system, continue to steam ahead in the smartphone market, leaving what was once the strongest brand in mobile phones way behind.

"Nokia should have bet on Android. That would have been a powerhouse in terms of mobility, search, etc," said one telecoms industry executive who has done business with Nokia for years.

"Elop had one bet to make and he made the wrong bet."

Elop joined Nokia from Microsoft in 2010. The following year, his previous employer said it would pay Nokia billions of dollars in their partnership and pay $US250 million a quarter to support the platform.

At first, critics said Nokia should have stayed with Symbian or done a deal with Android, which like Apple now has hundreds of thousands of apps available, against Windows Phone's 80,000.

Nokia also dropped its second operating system Meego which it only used in its full version on one Nokia phone.

Nokia says Windows gives it the best chance to stand out in the crowd of similar smartphone models on the market.

"Windows Phone provides Nokia with an attractive and vital point of differentiation," said Jo Harlow, chief of Nokia's smartphone business. "We are building something exciting. People who try a Lumia device are telling us loud and clear that they love the Windows Phone experience."

Analysts mostly came round to the idea that Microsoft could be the best bet and that business could pick up in 2012 but several European telecoms operators told Reuters this week they were unconvinced by the new Windows models.

"Windows is a great operating system, but it seems that customers aren't buying it," said Juhani Risku, a former innovation chief at Nokia, who left in 2009 and is now a designer and analyst. He is one of Nokia's most vocal critics.

"It is dangerous to go only with one system, even more so when it's not your own."

Giving up the upsside
Not having its own system could also cost Nokia the ability to make money from software development and services.

"They gave up the upside. Now they're a hardware producer," said Harry Jarn, CEO of Finnish virtual operator Cubio, who worked at Nokia for more than 13 years. "Nokia is, without a doubt, a much smaller firm in the future."

Nokia is still using Symbian in some smartphones but will only support it until 2016, which will put off buyers who tend to load their phones with apps and content that they want to keep for several years.

Analysts said any real sign of recovery for Nokia is now likely to come in 2013 at the earliest, rather than this year as previously hoped, and will depend on better products and improvements in the Microsoft software.

A new version of Windows Phone is due later this year. Microsoft also plans to use its phone design - with boxes that automatically update even if the app is shut - on computers, which should improve people's familiarity with the system.

"In the fall there will be new family of products which will put Nokia on the same line with rivals. Currently, there are still gaps in the high-end," said Nordea analyst Sami Sarkamies.

One bright spot is that Nokia's fight for recovery is forcing the Finnish company to move more quickly. While it used to take two years to develop a new model, Elop brought the first two Windows phones to market within a year.

"If Nokia could have demonstrated this speed in the last few years, some of its current problems may have been avoided," said Pete Cunningham at research firm Canalys.

He added that partnering with Android might have caused another problem as other phone makers using the system are struggling to compete with Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE, which are selling smartphones for as little as 100 euros, which leaves very little room to make any profit.






Monday, April 16, 2012

AICTE adopts Microsoft’s cloud-based solution to improve technical education

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Microsoft Corporation announced that AICTE will deploy Microsoft Live@edu over the next three months to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes throughout India. The cloud deployment will expand students’ access to high-quality technical education and collaboration.

Live@edu is a hosted communication and collaboration service that offers e-mail, Microsoft Office Web Apps, instant messaging and storage to AICTE’s more than 7 million students and nearly 500,000 faculty members, for a total reach of 7.5 million users — roughly double the size of the Los Angeles population. Live@edu is the leading cloud suite for education, with more than 22 million people using the service worldwide. At 7.5 million users, the AICTE is Microsoft’s largest cloud customer ever. 

“Microsoft’s cloud platform will make for a truly progressive ecosystem and contribute to the country’s technical education by providing a better communication and collaboration platform for institutes and students,” said Dr. S. S. Mantha, Chairman of AICTE.

AICTE is the governing body for technical education in India and is responsible for certifying and managing technical colleges and institutes. The technology industry and higher education are both becoming increasingly vital to the economy. To carry out its charge of evaluating the curriculum and quality of education for all technical institutes across the country, AICTE needed to have consistent and timely communication with these colleges, some of which are located in the remote districts of the country. Live@edu is the first step in AICTE’s deployment of Microsoft cloud computing for education. AICTE also plans to deploy Microsoft Office 365 for education when it becomes available later this year, providing access to Microsoft Exchange Online e-mail and calendar, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Lync Online and Microsoft Office Professional as the technical infrastructure to support member colleges and institutes.

Kapil Sibbal, Union Minister for HRD, said, “India is seeing rapid economic activity and growth.  Developing India’s youth and their skills is going to play an important role in the country’s inclusive growth.  The union budget also laid emphasis on skill development and so does the proposed 12th Five Year Plan with a National Policy on Skill development. The PPP model (public-private partnership) is most essential in running and managing training institutions to address the skill gap most efficiently. Microsoft’s commitment to empower students by deploying Microsoft Live@edu for 7.5 million users across the country with AICTE is commendable and a step towards an informed and developing India. I congratulate both AICTE and Microsoft on this significant milestone.”

The implementation is already underway and is being managed by Microsoft and a set of Live@edu partners. Full deployment is expected to be complete by summer 2012.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

US court wary of Apple request to block Samsung

Washington: A U.S. appeals court on Friday showed few signs that it was prepared to support a request by Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to block immediately the sale of some Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) smartphones and tablets.

In a high-stakes patent dispute, the court heard arguments about whether a federal trial judge acted correctly in December when she ruled that Apple failed to provide enough evidence to support an injunction of Samsung's Galaxy product line.

The court's judges reacted with skepticism to a premise put forward by Apple's lawyer that for the purpose of getting an injunction, Apple does not need to show a causal link between patent infringement and a loss of customers.

Apple's lawyer, Michael Jacobs, said it is enough to show that Samsung likely infringed on Apple patents used in products such as the iPhone, and that Apple is likely to be hurt. The trial judge found those things but not enough evidence of a causal link.

Judge William Bryson on Friday asked about a hypothetical case in which an automaker copied the design of a cupholder from a second automaker. Under Apple's argument, if the second automaker later lost market share, it could ask for an injunction against sales by the first automaker, Bryson said.

"Can that possibly be right?" he asked. Bryson is one of three judges who heard the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.Judge Sharon Prost said some evidence of a link is important. Harm such as lost customers, she said, "could have been for reasons completely different from the infringement."

The Apple-Samsung dispute is scheduled to go to trial in July in federal court in California.Apple, maker of the iPad and the iPhone, wants the immediate injunction because even if it wins at trial, it might not see the benefits of a verdict until late in 2012, Jacobs said.

An order to stop sales by South Korea-based Samsung would have the potential to affect settlement considerations.The two companies are fighting their legal battle worldwide, filing complaints in at least 10 countries as they struggle for market share in the tablet and smartphone markets.

The appellate judges on Friday wrestled with what evidence Apple would need to show that a competitor got ahead through unauthorized use of a patented Apple feature. For example, would it be enough for Apple to survey consumers about which features are important to them? How many consumers would matter?

That kind of requirement would make it all but impossible for a patent holder to win an injunction because it is difficult to get inside a consumer's mind, Jacobs said."We know it is a combination of elements that goes into any purchasing decision," Jacobs said.

One characteristic that the Apple and Samsung products share is the "snap-back," which affects how a user navigates the touch-screen on a tablet or smartphone.

Samsung did not copy the "snap-back" feature or any other patented part of Apple's design, but even if it did, that would not be a primary draw for a consumer, said Samsung lawyer Kathleen Sullivan.



Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Searching for speech technology's holy grail

Telephone your credit-card company, health insurer or just about any big consumer-facing company, then speak into the receiver: for new accounts, say "new"; or billing, say "billing." Forget it. You shout and stumble through the phone maze and often land at the directory's start.

Recognize this experience? Somehow, voice recognition — despite some of technology's most awesome achievements (tablets! the remote control!) — remains an anathema. We still can't talk to computers like Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Turns out building voice recognition to acknowledge a "yes" or "no" — let alone complex conversations — isn't so easy."There are 200 ways to say 'yes: Sure, okay, yeah, uh huh' " to name a few, says Alex Rudnicky, a speech recognition expert and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. "Getting that right is surprisingly difficult."

The foundations of most voice technology used today date back to the '70s. But with the proliferation of smartphones and new voice technology, devices like Apple's iPhone 4S have upped the ante on voice recognition.

Growing, billion-dollar business
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, manufacturers including Samsung Electronics and Nuance Communications unveiled TVs with voice-activated functionality.

In fact, Nuance helps power the Siri "personal assistant" system on the Apple iPhone 4S. Nuance translates spoken words into text. Siri then analyzes the text, figures out what it means and translates the words to intended actions.

Voice recognition is a lucrative, yet decentralized market that spans everything from toys to healthcare. The voice-related enterprise space alone that includes automated customer service is a roughly $10-billion market, says Richard Mack, vice president of communications for Nuance. Clinical documentation is an estimated $15-billion market.

Mobile and consumer voice products including cars and electronics are estimated at $5 billion, adds Mack. That figure doesn't even include TVs or third-party developers, who are just gaining traction in the growing voice-recognition space.Next-generation speech recognition "is really going to be ubiquitous," says Seth Rosenblatt, a senior editor for CNET, which highlights tech trends and consumer-product reviews. But it won't happen overnight.

Great expectations
But soon after the new iPhone hit shelves in October 2011, some consumers experienced less success. Transcripts of dictated texts, for example, sometimes appeared jumbled. Consensus emerged that the voice technology, though ground-breaking, remained a work in progress.

Part of Siri's mixed reception stems from Forstall's demonstration."That great demo set expectations up pretty high," says author McFedries, also a technical writer. "A lot of people don't realize it's a beta product," he says. In a rare Apple move, the tech giant launched Siri as a developing beta product.

So why release Siri before it's ready? Apple needs consumers to road test the technology, and collect their data to fine tune its product. "The way voice recognition works, it needs a lot of data," McFedries says. "That's the only way to get this to be a really good product."



Friday, March 30, 2012

Halloween style show at the ILS March 2012

Although they are advertised in the trades individually, several years ago the International Lingerie Show (ILS) and the Las Vegas Halloween dress trade show effectively merged, doing their shows at the same time and venue.  The Rio Hotel and Casino can handle crowds of that size, and there is a good pact of overlap between the buyers for the two shows, so it just made sense.

Formally there are two fashion shows for each of the trade shows, but they are put on in series on the Monday night of the trade show.  The Halloween part - which is all sexy “adult party” attire, not the kinds of ghosts, witches and monsters costumes you can get at Wal-Mart - is put on first, and this year included 58 different clothes in a show lasting nearly 45 minutes.  The viewers of buyers and exhibitors stays, obviously, for the lingerie show which follows, which means the audience is there for nearly two hours after the shows start.

It would never do to have tired, hungry buyers get grouchy in the middle of the show from low blood sugar, so the producers have a lavish “heavy hors dousers” and an open bar to keep the multitudes pacify.  And to keep enthusiasm high, at everyday intervals throughout the shows models come down the runway with a range of swag to throw to the crowd.  It’s a joyful crowd.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Sony CEO to keep charge of troubled TV operations

Tokyo: Sony Corp CEO Kazuo Hirai signaled his determination to turn around the group's ailing TV business by keeping direct charge of the division, as the Japanese brand fights to regain ground against rivals such as Apple.

Hirai, who formally takes over as chief executive from Howard Stringer next week, inherits a company that - like much of corporate Japan - has been outgunned in recent years by rivals like Apple and Samsung Electronics.

The maker of Bravia televisions and Vaio laptops expects a 220 billion yen ($2.7 billion) net loss for the year to this month, a fourth straight year of losses, and due in large part to a TV business that has not been able to keep up with nimbler and cheaper rivals.

Sony said Hirai would head a new home entertainment division, which includes TVs and replaces the consumer products and services group that he had led.

"The TV business is Sony's main business and (its recovery) is an absolute condition that must be met for the firm to recover its performance," said Keita Wakabayashi, an analyst at Mito Securities. "That's why it will be placed directly under (Hirai's) control, and means he has to take care of the most important issue."

Sony hopes Hirai, credited with reviving the PlayStation game business through aggressive cost-cutting, can work similar magic with a TV business that has lost more than $11 billion over eight financial years.

Sony will also form a new unit to oversee its medical business, which it has described as a growth area.

"The market is big ... but industrial electronics makers like Hitachi and Toshiba are already in this area so it's not like Sony is advancing into a free territory," said Mito's Wakabayashi. "Compared to this, it's much more important to improve the TV business."

Corporate plight
In many ways, Sony's woes illustrate the plight of a once-mighty corporate Japan hobbled by the very system that made it the world's envy back in its 1980s heyday.

Japan's manufacturers have invested hugely in factories and equipment to carry out their traditional strength of in-house production, but are now grappling with plunging product prices and excess capacity in a rapidly shifting digital landscape.

TV makers Sony, Panasonic and Sharp expect to lose a combined $17 billion this year alone, also clobbered by a strong yen, weak demand and tough competition from the likes of Samsung Electronics.

Long Sony's biggest product category by sales, TVs were overtaken by other segments in October-December. TVs accounted for 13 per cent of overall sales in the quarter, down from 19 per cent a year earlier and trailing games (16 per cent) and combined sales from Sony Pictures and Sony Music (15 per cent), according to the company's latest financial statement.

Despite the Walkman creator's image as an electronics icon, its only profitable businesses this financial year have been in entertainment - Sony Pictures and Sony Music - and financial services.Sony has been scrapping production capacity for several months, moving closer to Apple's "asset-light" business model of keeping design and product development in-house and outsourcing manufacturing. 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Japan Atomic Power overlooks data on fault beneath plant for 7 yrs

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan Atomic Power Co. has overlooked for seven years data from its sonic survey of 2005 finding that a fault running under its Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture could trigger an earthquake more serious than anticipated, a government-affiliated researcher suggested Wednesday.

The importance of the data was confirmed through recent reexamination of them by a team of researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

Earlier in March, Yuichi Sugiyama, leader of the team, said the Urazoko fault under the plant is at least 35 kilometers long and could trigger a quake with a magnitude of around 7.4, more than twice as much energy as earlier expected to be contained in a quake.

The research team estimated the length of the Urazoko fault by combining other faults connected to it, and the magnitude in expectation that the fault will cause a total displacement of more than 3 meters if it becomes active.

The government's Earthquake Research Committee and Japan Atomic Power earlier estimated that the Urazoko fault, including other faults connected to it, is 25 km long.

Japan Atomic Energy has failed to provide the data for studies at an expert panel launched in 2008 by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Green and clean car promotions begin to pay dividends


Despite lingering consumer doubts about the technology and practicality of electric vehicles, the Chinese government and automakers are pushing ahead with the development of green cars.

Buyers of hybrid cars, which run on a combination of batteries and conventional engines, are entitled to a direct central government subsidy of 5,000 yuan ($790) per vehicle, while a rebate of up to 60,000 yuan on the purchase price is offered to buyers of battery-driven cars.

Green and clean car promotions begin to pay dividends

New electric cars on display at Jiading Auto City, Shanghai. [Provided to China Daily]

Other than government incentives, auto manufacturers are luring buyers of their alternative cars with free maintenance and a range of personalized services.

Their combined effort to promote greener cars on Chinese roads is beginning to pay off. A survey by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that 8,159 hybrid and electric cars were sold nationwide in 2011. All together, there are more than 10,000 green cars on China's roads.

The energy conversion rate of electric vehicles in general is 46 percent higher than in internal combustion engine cars, and they have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 68 percent, said Raymond Tsang, partner at Bain and Company.

The majority of early converts to green cars are college-educated young professionals in major cities. For instance, Zhao Yu, a 30-year-old office worker at Shanghai International Automobile City, in Jiading, a district of the Shanghai municipality, bought a hybrid car domestically produced by BYD "to show support for my district's reputation as the country's showroom for energy-efficient cars".

Jiading, home to Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (Group), one of China's largest car manufacturers, considers itself a suitable testing ground for popularizing the use of clean cars.

All the promotions were making Zhao feel embarrassed every time she drove her gas-guzzling, pollution-belching, sinister-looking lump of a sedan to work every day. To repent, she spent 160,000 yuan in April last year to buy BYD's new hybrid model, the F3DM, to drive to work and show her eco-friendly credentials.

To her surprise, buying the car has brought benefits that make her feel like a pampered child. For a start, she received close to a 40 percent, or 60,000 yuan, rebate from the central and local governments on the purchase price of her hybrid car. What's more, she was told she could enjoy free battery recharge at stations sprouting in the city, compliments of the Jiading district government.

"I am still getting the hang of owning and driving a hybrid car," she said. But the many incentives have removed any earlier doubts she had about the economic sense of buying one. "I feel like I am one of the chosen few," she said. That feeling, she added, "makes me feel immensely proud of my decision".

Zhao's F3DM can go as far as 150 kilometers in hybrid mode, a range long enough to make the daily round trip from her home to the office and back. "I never need to worry about running out of juice in the middle of nowhere," she said.

In electric power mode, the batteries can sustain up to 90 minutes' driving, or 80 kilometers, before the gas engine takes over. "I only need to recharge the batteries once every day, after I get to work," Zhao said.

The good thing, Zhou added, is that her car is smooth and quiet. What's more, it saves her quite a bit on fuel costs, compared to her other car, which she drives only on weekends.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Apple faces new fight in China IP dispute


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Creditors of Proview Technology (Shenzhen), the insolvent company which registered the iPad trademark in China, have mounted an additional challenge against Apple in its efforts to gain control of the trademark.

This latest episode in the trademark saga comes as Apple is launching the iPad 3, and serves as a reminder of the risks the company is facing in one of its most dynamic markets.

He Jun Vanguard Group, a consultancy that represents Proview Shenzhen’s eight Chinese creditor banks, said on Wednesday that since the banks had taken control of Proview’s assets in March 2009, it would have been illegal for the company to sell the trademark at the time. Apple closed a deal nine months later with a sister company of Proview Shenzhen, under which the US company claims to have acquired the China trademark.

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The argument creates a new hurdle for Apple in a battle which is being fought in several courts in China and in the US. Proview Shenzhen filed the iPad trademark in China as early as 2000 for a PC product it sold back then. Proview Electronics (Taiwan), a sister company of Proview Shenzhen, filed the trademark in several other markets between 2000 and 2004. In December 2009, when Apple was preparing to launch its tablet, it closed a deal through a special-purpose company to acquire the “global” iPad trademark from Proview Taiwan.

The trademarks in other markets have since been transferred to Apple’s name but Proview Shenzhen has refused to transfer the China trademark, arguing it was not included in the deal. Last December, a Shenzhen court rejected Apple’s request to have the China trademark transferred to its name. Apple has appealed the verdict. A final ruling in this case had so far been seen as the most likely end of the dispute.

But the creditors’ intervention throws this into doubt. He Jun Vanguard warned that the banks would try to block Apple’s access to the trademark even if the final verdict reversed the earlier ruling.

“No matter what the [final] result of the lawsuit is, the eight creditor banks have the right to directly apply to the Trademark Office to reiterate the creditors’ rights of control and seizure and stop the loss of Chinese intellectual property,” He Jun Vanguard said in a statement emailed to the FT.

“The essence of the fight over the IPAD trademark is a fight between Apple and Proview’s eight creditor banks,” said Huang Yiding, He Jun’s vice-president.

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sony Tablet™ P Available on AT&T 4G Network


AT&T* today announced Sony Tablet™ P, a dual screen, multi-functional tablet ideal for mobile communication and entertainment, will be available beginning March 4. The 4G Tablet will be sold for $399.99 with a two-year service agreement in more than 1,000 AT&T company-owned retail stores.

The new Sony Tablet P pushes the design of a tablet even further by elevating the user experience to entirely new levels. The unprecedented dual-screen layout of Sony Tablet™ P allows its two 5.5-inch displays to be used for different functions such as playing video on one screen while using the other as a controller, or checking email on one screen while using the other as a keyboard. Customers can also combine the displays into a single large screen and its unique folding design means it can fit easily into a pocket or purse.

At launch, users will be able to download apps optimized for the dual screens of Sony Tablet P via Sony’s “Select App,” including games, entertainment and lifestyle applications. In addition to optimized apps, Sony Tablet P users will have access to the full suite of Android applications via Android Market. Like its predecessor, Sony Tablet P is PlayStation™ Certified and provides access to the full suite of Sony Network Entertainment services. Sony Tablet devices are distinguished by four key features that set them apart from any other tablets on the market. These include: uniquely designed hardware and software, a “swift and smooth” experience (which includes Sony original features, Quick view and Quick touch), network entertainment services and cross-device connectivity.

Running on Android 3.2, Sony Tablet™ P is 4G**capable and Wi-Fi compatible. With a qualifying data plan, users of Sony Tablet™ P also have access to AT&T's mobile broadband network and unlimited access to AT&T’s nearly 30,000 hot spots nationwide. With both 4G&Wi-Fi customers can browse the Internet, access digital content including videos, games, and check e-mail, while on the go, nearly anytime.

Data Plans

Customers who sign a two-year service agreement have two postpaid data plan options to choose from, including:

  • AT&T DataConnect 3GB: $35 for 3GB
  • AT&T DataConnect 5GB: $50 for 5GB

Customers may still choose from the existing monthly billing options, or prepaid options, with no long-term commitment. The Sony Tablet P without a long term contract will cost $549.99.

The prepaid plan options include:

  • AT&T DataConnect 250MB: $14.99 for 250MB
  • AT&T DataConnect 3GB: $30 for 3GB
  • AT&T DataConnect 5GB: $50 for 5GB

Specifications

Display

  • Resolution: 1024 x 480 (each screen)
  • Screen Size: 5.5" (x 2 - dual screens)

Hardware

  • Camera: Front – 0.3 Megapixel Rear – 5 Megapixel

Inputs and Outputs

  • Headphone Output: 1
  • MicroUSB: 1

Memory

  • Internal Memory: 1GB

Power

  • Battery Life (Approx): Up to 7 hours (based on general usage)
  • Battery Type: Li-Ion

Processor

  • Processor Type: NVIDIA® Tegra™2 mobile processor, duel-core 1GHz

Software

  • Operating System: Android 3.2

Storage

  • External storage: microSD card slot (expandable up to 32GB, 2GB microSD card included)
  • Internal Storage Capacity: 4GB

Weights and Measurements

  • Dimensions (Approx.): Open - 6.23l x 7.09w x 0.56h (inches) Closed - 3.12l x 7.09w x 1.03 h (inches)
  • Weight (Approx.): 0.83 lbs

Wireless/Networking

  • Bluetooth® Technology: Bluetooth version 2.1 + EDR
  • Wi-Fi: IEEE802.11b/g/n
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

China Builds the World's Largest Battery, a Building-Sized, 36-Megawatt-Hour Behemoth


The largest battery in the world has arrived, and you likely won’t be surprised where it landed: Hebei Province, China. The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and electric car maker BYD--the company that most recently made big headlines a few years back when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway took a 10 percent stake--have teamed to create a massive battery array capable of storing 36 megawatt-hours of electricity.

That’s enough to power something like 12,000 homes for an hour during a total power failure, and enough for SGCC authorities to declare it the world’s largest energy storage device. The $500 million facility is constructed of arrays of BYD batteries “larger than a football field,” according to an SGCC press release, and they should increase the region’s renewable energy efficiency by up to 10 percent.

The array, located in Zhangbei, isn’t just a stand-alone battery. It is hooked into 140 megawatts of wind and solar power generation projects as well as a smart grid transmission system. Together, these elements represent China’s push toward a smart grid system that can generate renewable energy when conditions are ripe and store excess energy in its new battery array for use when energy generation troughs throughout the day.

The Deputy Director of China’s National Energy Administration is calling it the model for the future of Chinese renewable energy development, which means it will probably be the first such battery facility of many. That’s good for both China and BYD, which has been having a bit of trouble selling its electric cars both at home and abroad.

Diamond Stud

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Friday, January 27, 2012

In the Developing World, Solar Is Cheaper than Fossil Fuels


The falling cost of LED lighting, batteries, and solar panels, together with innovative business plans, are allowing millions of households in Africa and elsewhere to switch from crude kerosene lamps to cleaner and safer electric lighting. For many, this offers a means to charge their mobile phones, which are becoming ubiquitous in Africa, instead of having to rent a charger.

Technology advances are opening up a huge new market for solar power: the approximately 1.3 billion people around the world who don't have access to grid electricity. Even though they are typically very poor, these people have to pay far more for lighting than people in rich countries because they use inefficient kerosene lamps. While in most parts of the world solar power typically costs far more than electricity from conventional power plants—especially when including battery costs—for some people, solar power makes economic sense because it costs half as much as lighting with kerosene.

Hundreds of companies are swooping in to grab a piece of this market.

"This sector has exploded," says Richenda Van Leeuwen, senior director for the Energy and Climate team at the United Nations Foundation. "There's been a sea change in the last five years."

The sudden interest is fueled by the advent of relatively low-cost LEDs, she says. Not long ago, powering lightbulbs required a solar panel that could generate 20 to 30 watts, since only incandescent lightbulbs were affordable. LEDs are far more efficient. Now people can have bright lighting using a panel that only generates a couple of watts of power, Van Leeuwen says.

But such technological improvements aren't quite enough to open up the market. High-quality LED systems, with a pair of lamps and enough battery storage for several hours of lighting, cost less than $50. The systems can pay for themselves in less than two years, but the upfront cost is still too steep for many people.

Diamond Earrings

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