February 20, 2008

Tech quiz: How well do you know the latest advances?

1. Microsoft introduced a new version of its Zune music player in 2006. Name a key Zune feature that Microsoft has promoted in its battle against Apple Inc.'s rival iPod.

A. WiMax connectivity
B. Wi-Fi connectivity
C. Wiki connectivity
D. Why should I care about connectivity?

2. Five years ago, almost 90 percent of all digital photo prints were produced on home printers. In 2007, what percentage of digital prints were made at home?

A. 72 percent
B. 50 percent
C. 38 percent
D. 24 percent

3. Amazon.com unveiled a new electronic book reader in November: a $399 digital screen with a keyboard and the ability to buy best-selling books for $10. What is the name of Amazon's new device?

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A. Reader
B. Kindle
C. eInk
D. iRead

4. In 2006, only 20 percent of all digital cameras had a resolution of seven megapixels or above. Last year, about what percentage of all digital cameras sold in the United States boasted resolutions over seven megapixels?

A. 30 percent
B. 40 percent
C. 50 percent
D. 70 percent

5. In 2006, there were about 161 billion gigabytes of digital information stored online, on personal computers and on corporate servers. How much do experts expect to be stored in 2010?

A. 250 billion
B. 362 billion
C. 988 billion
D. 1.212 trillion

6. Which of the following electronics retailers won't be around to battle Wal-Mart and Costco with razor-thin margins this year?

A. Best Buy
B. CompUSA
C. Circuit City
D. Tweeter

7. Where do local merchants think they're most likely to find the consumers they're targeting with their online ads?

A. local newspaper sites
B. local television sites
C. Yellow Pages sites
D. Internet-company sites

8. IRobot added a new line to its robot vacuum cleaners and swimming-pool cleaners last year. What does it clean?

A. toilets
B. cat pans
C. home gutters
D. bath tubs

9. Flash drives that hold up to 32 gigabytes of data in a tiny space and plug into a computer USB port to upload or download files are showing up in all sorts of unlikely devices. Which of these is now being sold as a flash-memory device?

A. Swarovski heart pendant
B. Swiss Army knife
C. plastic sushi
D. ballpoint pen
E. all of the above

10. Which of the following companies agreed with the Justice Department to pay $21 million in fines for promoting illegal gambling in the United States?

A. Microsoft
B. Harrah's
C. PokerStars.com
D. InterCasino.com


1. B. Wi-Fi is the wireless networking technology that is used in homes and at hot spots like coffee shops, and it allows Zune users to download a tune directly from a computer without plugging in a cable. Most iPods can't do that.

The iPod brand still dominates the world of music players. It had about a 60 percent share of the market for most of last year, based on unit sales, compared with around 10 percent for Zune, according to estimates by market-research firm NPD Group Inc.

2. C. Consumers increasingly are relying on retailers to print their photos. Most of the time, that means bringing the camera's memory card to a kiosk or mini-lab at a store, but a growing number of photographers upload their pictures to retailers' Web sites and then pick up the prints when they go to the store. People are increasingly reluctant to print their pictures themselves because of the cost of ink and specialty paper and the sometimes disappointing results of home printing.

3. B. Although the Kindle isn't the first electronic book device, the Amazon sponsorship brings vastly more content than earlier readers — 88,000 books and numerous periodicals available for purchase. And the Kindle offers wireless downloading, unlike Sony Corp.'s $299 electronic Reader, which requires users to download content through a PC.

It's too soon to say, though, whether the Kindle's advantages will help spark a market that has been close to invisible, especially in the glare of the popularity of portable digital music players.

EInk is the technology used by the Kindle and the Reader to display text while avoiding the flicker of LCD screens. IRead is a Facebook application that lets users list and review the books they have read.

4. D, according to NPD Group. And better picture quality isn't costing consumers more, as the price of the most popular cameras remains in a range of about $200 to $300. The steady improvement in resolution allows images to be tightly cropped and still blown up into clear pictures for calendars or photo collections. But this may be a trend that has run its course: Photography experts say further advances in resolution won't make much difference in photo quality.

5. C. Thanks to the proliferation of user-generated content such as YouTube videos and online photos, stored digital information is growing 60 percent a year, according to market-research company IDC.

6. B. CompUSA Inc., currently operating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is being liquidated after its acquisition by Gordon Brothers Group PLC. But 16 of its stores have since been acquired by Systemax Inc. and will continue to use the CompUSA name in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

CompUSA had struggled to find a profitable niche competing with larger firms with greater economies of scale. Best Buy Co. remains the No. 1 specialty electronics retailer, with rising sales of flat-screen TVs and other popular electronics. Circuit City Stores Inc. is No. 2, but it has been losing money as it revamps stores and tries to improve customer service.

7. D. Last year, for the first time, local advertisers spent more on sites like Google.com or Monster.com than on local newspapers' sites. Internet companies got 44 percent of the $8.5 billion local advertisers spent online, newspaper companies got 33 percent, Yellow Pages sites got 10 percent and local-television sites got 9.3 percent, according to media research firm Borrell Associates. This year, local online advertising is expected to rise 48 percent to $12.6 billion, led by growth in car, job and real-estate ads.

8. C. The Looj reduces the number of times a homeowner must climb a ladder to scoop leaves out of gutters. The robot was designed by iRobot Corp. to be small and light enough to be carried up a ladder and propel itself along the gutter.

9. E. Flash drives also have been decorated with Star Wars figures or scented like fruit. Sales of flash drives rose 66 percent last year to 232 million units, according to Web-Feet Research Inc.

10. A. Microsoft recently agreed to pay a total of $21 million without admitting or denying guilt for allegedly receiving money from online gambling companies for advertising on its Web sites. Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. agreed to smaller fines at the same time.

U.S. regulators maintain Internet gambling is illegal, but they can't go after offshore operators. Instead, they have cracked down on mainstream U.S. financial firms to stop them from handling payments and have gone after popular advertising-driven Web sites, such as Microsoft's MSN.com and Google.com, to stop them from promoting gaming sites.

By: William M. Bulkeley
(The Wall Street Journal)

February 5, 2008

OVI - The door to Nokia's internet services

“Today, capturing great photos, videos and audio is easy. But until now, organizing it all has been tedious. And sharing it with the people who matter to you can be a major hassle. Now, Share on Ovi makes organizing and sharing your media as easy as capturing it with an easy-to-use site where you can be comfortable inviting your friends and family”.

That was the so called "USP" of Nokia’s “
Ovi” (twango), a new website in the already overcrowded social networking domain. “Ovi” allows people to share photos and videos and is built on technology acquired with the U.S. firm Twango. So let look at what “Ovi” has in store for us. Here are the reasons mentioned on the website for becoming a member:
  • Organize and manage all of your media in one place—we support more than 100 types of files.
  • Share your media your way: privately with one person or with a group, or publicly with the whole world—you are always in control.
  • Bring every participant's media together to enrich the experience of your team, clubs or other groups.
  • Republish your media anywhere on the Web—with access to fun display features such as slideshows and tickers.
  • Find cool new people and media with easy browsing and searching on Share on Ovi.
  • Capture the moment wherever you are with one-step sharing from your PC or camera phone.
  • Invite people to view your media without forcing them to sign up.
  • Get unlimited media storage, 250 mb of upload bandwidth per month, and a 100 mb maximum file size with your free account.
Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker, has also started to roll-out its online gaming service N-Gage as it expands into mobile Internet services. It has delayed the gaming service twice last year due to delays in software testing and starts to roll out to owners of its N81 multimedia phones around the world.

Nokia is the first handset maker to move strongly into the content space with services like music or filing sharing site Mosh, where millions have downloaded audio or video files, programmes or documents.

Microsoft's reply to Google

In a statement released on Feb 3, Microsoft has responded to the questions raised by Mr. Drummond.

Here is what Brad Smith (General Counsel, Microsoft) has to say in reply to Google’s Comments on the bid, “The combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! will create a more competitive marketplace by establishing a compelling number two competitor for Internet search and online advertising.”

Further in his reply to Question 1, he added, “Microsoft is committed to openness, innovation, and the protection of privacy on the Internet. We believe that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! will advance these goals”

But it seemed that either he wanted to ignore the other two questions asked by David or he had no answers for them. He tried targeting Google for its monopoly in web search and was sounding desperate while quoting the combined market share of Microsoft & Yahoo vis-à-vis Google in web search. And if we go with his logic, how the hell will we get the “compelling number two competitor” player for emails and instant messaging services.

And here is the synopsis of the deal so far from Reuters:

February 4, 2008

Google's view on Yahoo-Microsoft deal

Microsoft’s attempt to buy Yahoo will be one the hot topics in this internet industry in weeks to come. And Yahoo’s statement indicating that its board would indeed evaluate the deal seriously is enough to stimulate millions of thought processes.

But if you were wondering, how Google does feels about this, here is the answer. Mr. David Drummond (Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer) has posted Google's first official response to the proposed deal “Yahoo! and the future of the Internet”, and it has some bite. He has raised several questions that bring forth the darker side of this deal. He thinks the its much more than just “simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.”

And here are the questions if anyone wants to answer:

Question 1) Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

Question 2) Could the acquisition of Yahoo! allow Microsoft -- despite its legacy of serious legal and regulatory offenses -- to extend unfair practices from browsers and operating systems to the Internet? In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet.

Question 3) Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services?

And he summed it up saying that “the interests of Internet users come first -- and should come first -- as the merits of this proposed acquisition are examined and alternatives explored”

Dotcom Pioneers: Where are they now?

Hey, this is a nice compilation of the pioneering tech companies that made the Web what it is today (by Josh Lowensoh, Scott Ard, Elinor Mills, Greg Sandoval, and Jon Skillings of News.com). Some of them continue to innovate and turn a profit, while others have either died off or been consumed by larger companies.

About.com. After being launched in 1997, Web guide service About.com was picked up by The New York Times company in 2005 for nearly $700 million. About's still kicking, and serving up a large variety of content, both written and video.

AltaVista was one of the first big search engines for the Web. After launching in late 1995, the service gained popularity before parent company Digital Equipment Corporation was sold to Compaq in 1998. It then changed hands three more times to fall under Yahoo's control, who still uses its technology in its Web search.

Amazon.com. Founder Jeff Bezos' 1995 e-marketplace baby survived the dot-com bust and quickly began to turn a profit selling a huge array of products. It's snatched up over a dozen otherhigh-profile sites including the Internet Movie Database, Alexa Internet, and on Thursday Audible.com.

AOL started out as a video games-by-telephone modem service before nearly going under in the early 1980s. It turned into an ISP beginning in the 1990s, and continued to grow massively until competition made the company change its focus to content. It later merged with Time Warner in 2001. The company continues to be known for its instant-messaging service, portal news site, and as an Internet service provider.

Ask Jeeves has been around since 1996 and was formerly known for its cartoon mascot of a smarmy concierge-type who would answer search queries. Jeeves was nixed 10 years later when the company re-branded as Ask.com. Ask continues to compete in the search world, but trails behind the popularity of larger search behemoths like Google and Yahoo.

Buy.com was founded in 1997, and like Amazon.com it began with relatively few types of items for sale before expanding to cover nearly every product in every category. The company went public in 2000, but stock values tanked. Company founder Scott Blum bought back control of Buy.com and took it private, and it continues to sell goods online.

CBS MarketWatch, now known simply as MarketWatch, was partially owned by Viacom until News Corp.-owned Dow Jones snatched it up in early 2005. The media company continues to provide written and video content, both on the Web and on TV.

CMGI (College Marketing Group Information) was founded in the mid-1980s, and had an IPO in 1994 as CMG Information Services. The venture capital company continued to grow, and stock prices soared up until the dot-com bubble burst, taking the company with it.

CNET Networks, parent of News.com, started out producing TV shows about technology and later expanded into creating online content, ranging from video games to a technology news service and blog network. The company has expanded into several major global markets both in China and the U.K. Recently, a group of investors led by Jana Partners announced an intention to try to take over a majority of seats on its board of directors.

CompuServe is one of the better known dot-com pioneers, and also one of the oldest. It's best known for its role as an ISP, which brought it popularity in the early 1990s before tanking due to customer dissatisfaction with bad modem hardware and poorly written software. It was quickly snatched up by Worldcom in 1998 before getting flipped to AOL only 24 hours later. CompuServe remains an ISP with a news portal serving up stories from Netscape.com.

E*Trade. This financial services company started from a company called TradePlus before moving its operations onto the Net in 1991 under the E*Trade brand. The company went public five years later and managed to survive the dot-com bubble burst. But it has struggled as of late, along with many companies in the financial industry.

EarthLink is another ISP that managed to survive the dot-com burst. The company started out in 1994 providing dial-up service, and continues to offer it and VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) phone services using DSL, satellite and cable. The company's also managed to branch out into telephone services with its popular MVNO Helio.

eBay. A pioneer in online auctions, eBay is now a more diverse company--and it also faces growing competition from Amazon.com, along with what one analyst calls "buyer fatigue" following years of revenue leaps. In January, longtime CEO Meg Whitman said she'd soon be handing the reins to John Donahoe, head of eBay Marketplaces.

Excite@Home was the result of one of the largest mergers of the dot-com era: the popular portal Excite.com and broadband infrastructure builder AtHome. The plan was to create a company that provided the pipes and the content (similar to AOL), but combining two successful companies turned out to create one dud and Excite@Home sold off the Excite portal in 2001.

Expedia was one of the first Web services to offer travel arrangements for airfare. It was created by Microsoft in 1996 before branching off as its own company three years later. In 2001 came a purchase by InterActiveCorp (then USA Networks), which holds a handful of travel and entertainment sites. The site continues to be one of the best-known online travel services.

Games.com is best known for its various handoffs, including one between Atari and Games Inc. for over a million dollars. The site now serves as a portal to AOL's gaming offerings, many of which are casual, and can be played in a Web browser free of charge.

iVillage was created as a media company providing content aimed mostly at women. Created in 1995 by some former America Online employees, the company continued to grow. Four years later, the company went public. Despite share prices soaring in the beginning, they quickly bottomed out. After merging with Women.com in 2001, iVillage's offerings began to thrive again, and in mid-2006 NBC Universal picked it up for $600 million.

Lycos is best known for its search engine roots. Now a Web portal too, Lycos underwent huge growth after its launch in 1994. It was enough to attract the attention of Spanish company Terra Networks, who snatched it up in 2000. Four years later, Daum Communications became the new (and current) owners. Lycos continues to roll out new services like Mix.

Monster.com shares a similar title with Craigslist in serving up classifieds for jobs. The service launched in 1999 as a merged solution from two former job classifieds competitors, the Online Career Center and the Monster Board, from which Monster.com gets its moniker. It has localized sites for nearly 40 countries.

Netscape offered one of the first Web browsers that completely dominated the browser market in the mid-1990s before getting dominated by Microsoft's in-house browser, Internet Explorer (which came as the default browser in every copy of Windows). It was purchased by AOL in 1998 and now resides as a content portal and social news service that was later spun off from the Netscape brand and into Propeller. The last traces of the famous Netscape Navigator browser now reside in a customized variation of Mozilla Firefox, whose support is slated to be discontinued next month.

Overstock.com has always played second cousin to competitor Amazon.com. The service was founded in 1997 as D2: Discounts Direct, but the brand didn't stick and was later changed to Overstock. It may be best known among investors for its IPO failure and subsequent loss in sales, but consumers are likely to associate it with the company's ads featuring spokesmodel Sabine Ehrenfeld. The company continues to sell a wide range of goods, though it has yet to turn a profit.

Pets.com was a vertical of the Amazon.com model, focusing purely on pet goods and known well for its sock puppet mascot. Despite the killer advertising campaign, the company had bad timing with the burst of the dot-com bubble, and couldn't stay afloat.

Priceline.com offers discount travel services including airfare, hotels, and cars. After launching in 1998, the site expanded into several other areas, including long-distance calling, home loans, and car sales before re-focusing on travel. The company is well known for its mascot, William Shatner, who played James T. Kirk in the Star Trek TV series and movies. Priceline continues to do well, with a recovering stock price and profits from licensing its purchase technology to eBay.

Shockwave.com is a games site that's been offering casual games since 1998. The site merged with the Atom Corporation in 2001, and was later picked up by MTV (by parent company Viacom) for $200 million. Despite the Shockwave moniker, most of the games utilize Adobe Flash.

Webvan. Flush with millions of dollars raised from venture capitalists, Internet-only supermarkets like Webvan spent huge sums to build high-tech warehouses and flashy Web sites, and to hire armies of deliverymen. In the end, the wild spending broke them. The concept lives on, though, with established supermarket chains and online companies like NetGrocer.com.