February 28, 2010
What is Viper SmartStart?
Are you tired of carrying around another clunky remote control on your keyring, or finding yourself out of range when you really need to warm up or cool down your car before getting in? Now you can remote start or lock and unlock your car just by pushing a button on your iPhone or iPod Touch; using the exciting new Viper SmartStart app from Directed Electronics, the leader in vehicle security and remote start.
The simple graphical interface gives you control over the following features of your installed Viper remote start or security/remote start system:
* Remote car starter
* Trunk release
* Panic or car finder
You can also control multiple vehicles – great for families! – and assign more than one user to control a vehicle. It's easy with SmartStart!
New Features Recently Added!
The Viper SmartStart App has just received a major update and the following features have been added:
* 2-Way confirmation of commands received at vehicle
* Error messages if command not received successfully
* Vehicle personalization
* App passcode protection
* Password management utilities
* Button confirmation sounds
(Fortune Magazine) -- A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden, unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife's credit card), my 12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.
While Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French version of Vogue (inexplicably, she is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.
Magazines, books, newspapers -- all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying. Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009 alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance. If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there's a little new growth left in old media.
This tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each month Clem was excited when Vogue arrived. She'd rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear with it hours later -- only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages, stegosaurus-like.
Over time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet. One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear, and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she doing it?
"Don't you get it?" my wife observed. "She's trying to turn the magazine into a computer."
Et voilà! Of course she was.
The more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the evolution of the publishing industry here -- and better news. The good news is that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year Charles Darwin's grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.
Raised to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the information in the world, these digital natives -- tomorrow's magazine subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing -- could well become the generation that saves the publishing industry.
Gallery: 10 sages read the future of print
The better news is that with the arrival of Apple's forthcoming iPad and other tablet computers -- touch sensitive, full color, easy to watch video on, network-connected to virtual newsstands and stores -- the publishing industry might once again have a remunerative way of giving it to them.
In fact, for the past year I've been pushing the theory that the Age of Tablets will give print media one last bite at the apple -- and publishing companies that are able to make the transition could one day thrive again. I'm so convinced that it will happen that I've been working with other folks here at Time Inc. (Fortune's publisher) to create prototypes of digital magazines that will soon be delivered to tablets and smartphones. So consider this my apologia.
This isn't a case of excessive introspection on the part of a media insider: The future of publishing is fast becoming topic A in business circles. Financiers who make trades based on access to reliable information fret about the fate of outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Urban planners worry about what happens to communities if digital books make libraries obsolete. Nonmedia billionaires, from Mexico's Carlos Slim to real estate magnate Sam Zell, have invested their own money in newspapers.
No one can accuse newspapers and magazines of failing to embrace the web. Shortly after going to Time to write full-time about the Internet in 1995, I abandoned print and did a stint on the web. But I soon realized I couldn't do online the kind of long-form journalism I wanted to do. The web is for scanning, not deep reading. People typically spend two minutes or less on a site. Why do you think the killer app is called a browser?
Worse, it was hard to make a buck. While in those early days we were optimistic about online advertising -- the click-through rates were through the roof -- it turned out that users were actually clicking on ads by mistake. Call it poor mouse control.
The standardization of ad sizes and placements only worsened the problem, relegating pitches to the periphery of content, where they are easily ignored. Revenue growth rates quickly began to tank as it became apparent that no one looks at ads online. (Name one you've seen in the past week.)
That's why today online ads bring in junk CPMs -- about 10% of the revenue per 1,000 views compared with print. The only new media life form that has managed to live off those junk-ad rates is the blog, a medium that tends to favor breadth over depth and cheap opinion over expensive, original reporting.
It's no wonder that traditional publishing companies have been looking beyond the "freeconomics" of the web to find new ways to turn a buck. (I'm not even going to touch on broadcast media or movies here, which suffer from the same problems.)
The New York Times has said it will be erecting a "paywall" on its website next year and has been working with Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) to create a new (and, we can safely assume, paid) Times app for the tablet.
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, which he initially wanted to give away online, is now in full-on pay mode. And Murdoch is so pissed at Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) that he's reportedly been trying to get Microsoft's Bing to pay for the exclusive right to search and index his publishing empire. As for the rest of the newspaper business: Good luck, fellas!
Book publishers, having been tortured by Amazon's attempts to cut them out, are now running into Apple's embrace and will soon be hawking their e-books on the iPad, which CEO Jobs unveiled in late January.
The only media company that's in the money these days is Google, whose $23.6 billion in revenue last year dwarfed the entire magazine industry's. While Google is paying lip service to how much it loves and respects professionally produced media, its message is essentially: Adapt or die. Well, we've been trying to, Schmidty.
Now along come tablets. Apple's iPad was exactly what we all imagined it might be -- a giant, honking iPod Touch that does what we e-ink-stained wretches want it to do: It browses the web superfast (thanks to Apple's new, homegrown A4 chip), displays images and video in throbbing color, and runs downloadable apps that we can sell.
Even if consumers fail to stampede to the Apple Store, every major computer manufacturer, from Hewlett- Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) to Dell (DELL, Fortune 500) to Asus and a raft of others you've never heard of, is focusing on the same form factor, which many people believe will replace not only the laptop but the desktop too. (Just add wireless keyboard.) ABI Research predicts that some 58 million tablets a year will be shipping by 2015.
Apple's announcement -- the product will be available in late March -- already seems to be helping the book business: Apple has said it will let publishers set the price of electronic books for the iPad, something Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) has refused to do for Kindle books. Now Amazon appears to be reconsidering its pricing policy.
While old media can find much to cheer about with the arrival of the Tablet Age, which promises to smooth old media's transition from paper to digital, the publishing industry still faces considerable obstacles.
As I zigzagged from the media capital of New York City to the tech wonderland of Silicon Valley in my role as tablet evangelist, I sought answers to some of the larger existential questions my bosses and their brethren will need to address. Here are the fruits of my labor.
Question 1: Will anyone be willing to pay for content delivered to a tablet when they can get information for free on the web?
Here, let me quote my longtime sparring partner, Marc Andreessen, who happens to be the father of the modern web, its greatest advocate, and one of the smartest cookies in the jar. For years he's been (joylessly) predicting old media's demise unless it figures out new business models. The tablet is a false messiah, he argues.
"The problem is that the successful tablet is also going to have a really good web browser on it," he tells Fortune. "So am I going to pay $5 for something I download through the App Store when I could go on the web -- using the exact same device -- to get it for free? Um, the answer to that is no."
It's an old argument. We heard the same thing about the music industry, back in the days when the "music sharing" site Napster allowed people to "swap" MP3s for free. I myself may have even sinned one or two times.
But now? I pay $15 a month for a music subscription that lets me listen to virtually anything, as often as I want. Why do I pay for it when I can still get music for free from a dozen pirate sites? I'm lazy. My time is valuable. And the price seems fair. Steve Jobs proved with that first iPod that people would willingly pay for music when you made it easier to buy than to steal -- especially when the media is linked via a store to a cool, fetishistic device.
A great device is actually the key here: When you've invested in a tablet (or an iPhone or a Droid or a Kindle, etc.) and love it, you want to increase its functionality -- with media. That's why nearly half of the 75 million iPhone and iTouch users download one paid app a month, by the way, when they could get the same kind of stuff for free elsewhere.
Question 2: But aren't tablets just a better way to browse the web?
Almost certainly, in a few years more people will be browsing the web via a tablet than on laptops and desktops. Jobs pitched the iPad as a better way to access the web, in fact. But with the tablet, there ought to be room for great, downloaded apps that are usable offline too. Again, Andreessen takes issue.
In fact, he says, there's a real danger if media companies waste precious time trying to put the genie back in the bottle: "I think that's going to be three to four years that are going to be really critical in terms of making the jump to new models. And in this kind of transition, a three- to four-year delay is really dangerous."
In fact, he advises, apps aside, don't even put your websites behind paywalls because you'll be losing your audience and "gutting your advertising revenue and leaving your market wide open for a competitor." The competitor, in this case, is a blogger who will simply read your stuff and repost it in truncated form à la the Huffington Post and so many others.
It's a persuasive argument. People definitely want to browse. And using your headline, along with a few key bits of content, is fair use and legal. But many also crave deep reading experiences. Man does not live by blog alone! It would be like surviving entirely on cupcakes.
Downloadable textbooks will be among the first paid-content to cross the chasm to the tablet. A whole generation of readers will cut its teeth on that experience, and, it stands to reason, they will grow up both browsing for quick hits and surface understanding while buying the deeper reading experiences.
Question 3: Reading? Reading is dead.
Nearly a decade ago Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired and a great future-of-business thinker, was so sure that reading was dead that he, er, pitched a book on the subject. (He never sold that one.) Still, I think of that these days when I see my daughter Clem communicating with her friends via video messages on Facebook.
So I called Kelly recently and was happy to hear that he has revised his opinion and now thinks reading will prevail -- in a wholly different form. It will, he told me, "become embedded into screens that are full of moving images ... like subtitles in a movie, where you're reading and watching at the same time."
The point is, Kelly says, media are changing. As they get mashed up with other media, newer forms are born. "Right now digital magazines are in the same phase that cinema was when it started out just recording plays. They weren't really movies." Reading will evolve. It's our job to make sure, however, that magazines adapt along with it.
Isn't the idea of a magazine irrelevant in the atomized, buy-the-single-not-the-album world? If that were so, we'd expect to see fewer people reading magazines. But according to the Magazine Publishers Association, 174.5 million people paid to subscribe to magazines in 1970; that number has steadily and consistently risen over the years, to 324.8 million as of 2008. (Paid circulation, another measure of magazines' health, has seen modest declines recently.)
Okay, I know how the sausage gets made in this business -- you can get almost any magazine in America for around 50¢ a copy when you subscribe, vs. a newsstand price that is typically 10 times higher. Publishers, eager to fatten their rate bases -- which ad pricing is based on -- have been known to add other incentives ("a free radio alarm clock!") as well. But even discounting those shenanigans, it's pretty clear that people still derive value from curated, packaged collections of content delivered to them.
Magazines are just vertical collections of content that feed our individual interests. Like blogs. The trick for publishers will be to figure out how to be compensated for individual articles as well.
Question 4: How will tablet-based ads work better than the web?
Three words: full-screen ads. Expect to see them reemerge in digital magazines and other publications -- even blogs. These ads actually have the potential to deliver the best of both the old world and the new: They can have as much impact and be as relevant as the most compelling TV commercials, with the same analytics as the web.
While prototyping digital magazines during the past few months, I've seen new kinds of interactive ads that are cool and arresting -- like highly produced videogames. While I think most publishers will allow you to skip an ad with a swipe of your fingers, a 10-inch full-color touchscreen gives the advertiser a rich enough canvas to grab you by the eyeballs and make its case.
In fact, I suspect ads will work so well on tablets that even if subscription or pay-per-read models don't work, many publishers will be able to thrive on advertising revenue alone.
Question 5: Can traditional publishing companies reorganize and move fast enough to embrace and serve new platforms?
"They've had 15 years to do so since the commercial browser came out," says Jeff Jarvis, a reconstructed old media guy (he worked for years here at Time Inc.) who's now a professor and author of the book What Would Google Do? "They haven't reinvented or reimagined themselves. The talk we're hearing now is not at all about reinvention and reimagination -- it's again about trying to shoehorn old models of content and business into this new reality."
Jarvis is right, of course. Publishing companies haven't reinvented or reimagined themselves so far. That's because the old way of doing business has been blindingly successful.
Can you imagine being the operating chief of a newspaper company in, say, 1995 and having the bright idea to start giving away classified ads? Had you done it, you would have immediately gone from being a fiercely profitable business to a highly unprofitable one. Over the next decade, though, you might have been able to repel Craigslist, which has, in large part, decimated newspapers' revenue stream by giving away classified ads. But what kind of a nut would have made that call in 1995?
No, the people running these companies weren't stupid. It's just that the "reimagination" called for in the switch to the everything-is-free web model was untenable and involved gutting multimillion-dollar operations and giving up millions more of today's revenue on the chance that something would happen tomorrow. It was spreadsheet-defying logic that looked like the right thing to do only in hindsight.
The biggest mistake they made was in ignoring the people who might have been able to solve their problems in the late 1990s when things went bad: their best reporters. Instead they tapped consultants and strategists. Publishers of the greatest newspapers and magazines should have gone to their very best reporters and deployed them!
The best reporters I've met thrive on chaos. When men, women, children, and livestock are fleeing the scene of some unexpected horror, the best reporters are the ones running in the opposite direction. They all suffer from certain personality defects -- pursuing truth over money, status, personal safety -- that would have served their industry well here.
But the consultants didn't do any new reporting. They prescribed old, tired fixes -- cost cutting, outsourcing back-office operations -- but failed to address the core problem: Distribution no longer had value.
I doubt that we'll see publishers dragging their feet as tablets take hold, because the potential revenue model is clearer. Publishing companies, however, will indeed need to do more than simply port their print products to the new tablet-friendly format. And dragging all that baggage from the old world to the new will almost certainly slow us down. The whole enterprise is focused on print because that's still where the money comes from. So in some ways, we continue to face the Craigslist problem.
"The model of the magazine as we know it is just outmoded," says Kelly. "It's doomed if we think of it as the magazine we think of now." Instead, he says, the publishing industry -- books, magazines, newspapers -- ought to be approaching the problem of content creation differently. We should be thinking about selling attention. "Wherever attention flows, money will follow," he explains. "What shape that takes doesn't really matter."
In other words, in the ever-burgeoning universe of media overload, content creators are battling for a user's time. If a book is a 20-hour call on one's attention, a magazine might be better defined as a bid for an hour or so of the consumer's day. "If we think of magazines as an intermediate form -- a read that can last several hours -- it has a tremendous future," Kelly says. "We've just begun to explore what it can do."
I hope the tablet buys us enough time to finally figure all this out, because someday I'd like to visit Clem in her office at French Vogue.
Apple Inc.’s iPad, scheduled to hit shelves this spring, could be a shot in the arm for the Valley’s fledgling application development community.
Mike Gagnon, co-founder of app development firm HyLo Inc. in Phoenix, said the new product creates many opportunities because it gives people new ways to interact with mobile applications.
“Anything that brings a richer Web experience to mobile consumers will result in the development of more creative native and Web-based applications,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll see some positive consumer adoption numbers with the iPad, allowing developers to take full advantage of the new platform.”
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple announced the iPad in late January after much speculation the company would enter tablet personal computer market. The device is designed with the same touch screen used on the iPhone, and it will be able to access many of the iPhone’s 120,000-plus applications.
Several Valley businesses and entrepreneurs already have developed iPhone apps, and having the iPad use the same platform means they can adapt their software for the newer product relatively easily.
Brad O’Hearne, owner and developer at Big Hill Software in Phoenix, said his company already has looked at adapting its iPhone apps for the iPad and creating new ones.
“We immediately saw potential for it, and the potential is huge,” he said.
O’Hearne said the iPad could be used across a broad swath of industries that Apple has yet to engage, from health care to supply-chain operations. Any job that requires a clipboard could use networked iPads instead, he said.
“We’re moving to the corporate untethered environment,” he said.
The iPad represents challenges for businesses looking to unlock the device’s potential, particularly those hoping to use its ability to connect to 3G wireless services as most smart phones do.
Basic iPads will come with the ability to connect to Wi-Fi networks, which are available at sites ranging from homes to coffee shops. Upgraded iPads, which cost about $140 more, will come with the ability to tap into AT&T’s 3G network, which already serves the iPhone. That will cost users about $30 a month.
As more wireless devices enter the market, from Amazon.com’s Kindle to smart phones to the iPad, network traffic could compound quickly, said Carole Downs, co-founder of Smartcomm LLC, a Phoenix-based consulting firm that concentrates on the wireless industry.
“It will depend on how it’s used,” she said.
Qwest Communications International Inc., which provides the fiber-optic cable support that connects the cellular network to the wired network, sees a good deal of growth in providers seeking more bandwidth to handle so many mobile devices, said Cliff Dinwiddie, Qwest’s director of wholesale business development.
Qwest has received numerous requests from wireless providers of all sizes to upgrade their connections to the Internet. Although Dinwiddie wouldn’t say which companies Qwest was doing work for, he said hundreds of sites are being upgraded across the Denver-based company’s 14-state territory.
IPhone users, particularly in New York and San Francisco, have complained about dropped service and problems connecting to the Web. AT&T Wireless, which has an exclusive deal to provide wireless services for Apple products, has continued to expand its network, particularly in the Phoenix area, said AT&T spokeswoman Erika Ulring.
AT&T is looking at more efficient ways to package data and upgrade its network. Representatives would not say how much the company has spent to upgrade its 3G service in the Valley.
Convenience and efficiency are two qualities most people admire in just about anything.
Scottsdale-based startup ZooLoo.com, which launched in July, is looking to provide Internet users with a convenient and efficient way to access everything they use on the Web.
ZooLoo is the brainchild of CEO Jeff Herzog, who took Scottsdale-based iCrossing Inc. from a startup company in 1998 to a global marketing player before leaving the company in 2008.
The site looks to offer users a customizable "start page" with their own domain name in hopes that they never have to leave.
"We have some aggregation features that bring together the best of the Web," said Aaron Baer, director of marketing. "But those features are only a part of our overall goal of being your home on the Web on your own domain."
Herzog not only runs the day-to-day operations but has acted as the lone investor, having already put more than $3 million into the company. He started developing ZooLoo in 2008.
ZooLoo provides users with a heavy social-media aspect. Its newest feature, a "graffiti" blog, allows users to sync their blog posts from ZooLoo to four of the major social networks on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn are all options for users to tag with their latest "graffiti." Users also can access their "walls" from their favorite social-media sites to see what people have been saying back to them.
"The most important thing I see is the aggregation of all the social networks," said Lon Safko, author of "The Social Media Bible." "You have access to everything from one location."
The "share" button on the ZooLoo site is embeddable to the "favorites" bar of a browser and enables users to immediately post simultaneously to their blog, as well as any of the social networks, no matter where they are on the Web.
"We consider it to be a better way to blog, a better way to share thoughts, passions and interests, for both individuals and organizations," Herzog said.
An important feature of the service is users' ability to establish their own URL. In the free model, users receive a domain through the site (username.zooloo.com).
However, users may pay to remove ZooLoo from the URL. This is important because it gives users the ability to be searchable and garner attention through search engines such as Google and Yahoo to establish their own name.
"If you're in it for the long haul, it is definitely the way to go because everything is coming back to you. To me, that is a really important feature," Safko said.
While ZooLoo is accessible without charge, to fully experiment with the site, users must pay a monthly fee. Initially the site offered an "all-or-nothing" type of deal, Baer said. However, user complaints led developers to a storefront model.
Each level gives the user access to different widgets and plug-ins to further their experience. Users can access news, weather, music and features such as Google voice, PayPal and third-party tracking information, all from their own domain.
Charges range from $1.99 to $9.99 a month, with the ability to customize your site at $1.99 per month per feature.
"Under the old model, advertising was big, but we will be relying on the storefront as our main source of income," Baer said. "Subscription is really what a lot of people are pointing to as the future of social (media)."
The 7-month-old venture has gathered more than 50,000 users and more than 150,000 unique views in the past six months. While the company declined to release financial numbers, executives believe the site is ahead of financial projections.
"For a local Arizona company that hasn't gotten a lot of press, we are surprised," Herzog said.
ZooLoo recently released its first iPhone application to allow users to access their site no matter where they are.
Executives are looking toward the future, positioning the site as an "enterprise solution." They want to use their abilities as Web-site builders and get business organizations connected to the social space.
"The bigger aspect is our ability to connect individuals of a business," Baer said. "If you want to rally your troops or your community, you can reach out to them."
February 20, 2010
by Peter Svensson Associated Press Feb. 19, 2010 12:00 AM
BARCELONA, Spain - Silicon Valley is looking like a winner in the tug-of-war with wireless carriers over who will control the new world of Internet-connected phones.
The tension between the largely U.S.-based PC and Internet industry and the world's wireless carriers was palpable this week at the world's largest cellphone trade show, Mobile World Congress. Google Inc. was one of the headliners, and Apple Inc. was the ghost hovering over it all. While many wireless carriers are cooperating or working with Google and Apple, many are also signaling that they don't want to cede power and be reduced to simple utilities.
For consumers, the reduced power of wireless carriers could mean more choices. Traditionally the network operators tried to limit the content people could access on their devices, before the rise of "app stores" and Web-based services dramatically expanded ways to customize phones.
Phones are becoming more sophisticated and wireless intrnet access is spreading across the globe. These trends play to Silicon Valley's strengths in software and the Internet. Voice service, the mainstay of the wireless carriers, is becoming less lucrative and less important.
Advertising keyed to Web searches is a small but growing business, and one Google dominates, along with Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. This worries the CEO of British-based Vodafone Group PLC, part owner of Verizon Wireless and one of the largest carriers in the world. Vittorio Colao said in a speech at the show that regulators such as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission should examine Google's power over this market.
Sales of downloadable programs known as applications for smartphones are also growing - and forcing carriers to struggle to stay relevant. When Apple took skills honed in the computer industry to create the iconic iPhone, it also created an application store where it gets a 30 percent cut of the sales, and the carrier gets nothing. Google has followed the same path with its application store for phones that run the Android software it's created.
Two dozen of the world's largest wireless carriers struck back at the show, announcing that they would create a "Wholesale Applications Community." The idea is that software developers will write their applications once, following a standard set by the community, which can then distribute them to carrier-run applications stores.
U.S. carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA are part of the group, which has 3 billion customers globally. Phone makers LG Electronics Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Ericsson also said they would support the group.
by The Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain February 15, 2010, 12:51 pm ET
Associated Press - Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gestures during the "Windows Phone 7" presentation at the Mobile World congress in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Feb. 15, 2010. The Mobile World Congress will be held from Feb. 15-18.
Apple Inc. rocked the wireless business by combining the functions of a phone and an iPod. Now, more than two years later, Microsoft Corp. has its comeback: phone software that works a lot like its own Zune media player.
The software, which was unveiled Monday at the Mobile World Congress, is a dramatic change from previous generations of the software that used to be called Windows Mobile. But Microsoft is, for now, sticking to its model of making the software and selling it to phone manufacturers, rather than making its own phones.
Microsoft's mobile system powered 13.1 percent of smart phones sold in the U.S. last year, according to research firm In-Stat. That made it No. 3 after Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and the iPhone. But Microsoft has been losing market share while Apple and Google Inc.'s Android gained.
All the while, the market is becoming increasingly important. People are spending more and more time on their phones, and the devices steer people to potentially lucrative Web services and ads.
Phones with the new software will be on the market by the holidays, Microsoft said. All four major U.S. carriers will offer phones, just as they sell current Windows phones.
The new ones won't be called "Zune phones," as had been speculated. The software will be called "Windows Phone 7 series."
Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said the new software looked promising, but that it was also Microsoft's "final chance to get it right." He notes that those who have current Windows phones don't seem excited about the brand — many of them believe their phones are made by Apple or Nokia Corp., according to his firm's research.
Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft's mobile communications business, said Windows Mobile suffered from the company's chaotic approach to the market. The software maker gave phone hardware makers and wireless carriers so much freedom to alter the system and install it on so many different devices that none worked the same way.
As a result, while other phone vendors such as Apple linked their hardware and software tightly to ensure a better experience, Windows Mobile might not have looked like it quite fit on a certain handset.
With the new software, "We really wanted to lead and take much more complete accountability than we had in earlier versions of the Windows phone for the end user experience," CEO Steve Ballmer said at the Barcelona launch event.
Microsoft is imposing a set of required features for Windows phones. Manufacturers must include permanent buttons on the phone for "home," "search" and "back"; a high-resolution screen with the same touch-sensing technology as the iPhone; and a camera with at least 5 megapixels of resolution and a flash. Hardware QWERTY keyboards will be optional.
A test device from Asus, which Microsoft used to demonstrate the new phone software for The Associated Press in Redmond, Wash., also had a front camera and a speaker.
The iPhone's success has spurred lots of look-alike phones with screenfuls of tiny square icons representing each program. Just as it did with the Zune, Microsoft has tried to avoid an icon-intensive copy of that setup. Instead, it relies more on clickable words and images pulled from the content itself. For example, if you put a weather program on the device's home page, it shows a constantly updated snapshot of conditions where you are, rather than a static icon that you have to click in order to see the weather.
The idea of pulling information from different Web sites, like Facebook, and presenting them on the phone's "home" screen isn't unique to Microsoft: Motorola Inc. and HTC Corp. have created such software for their own phones.
Windows Phone 7 Series borrows the clean look of the Zune software, departing from the more "computer screen" look of earlier Microsoft efforts. These were also reliant on the user pulling out a stylus for more precise maneuvering, while the software is designed to be used with the fingers. It's not clear how older third-party applications designed for the stylus will work on the new phones.
Most of the built-in applications complement or connect with existing Microsoft programs or services, such as the Bing search engine. The games "hub" connects to an Xbox Live account and lets players pick up where they left off with multiplayer games. They will even be able to play games against PC users. Microsoft also turns to the Zune programming for the phones' entertainment hub, much in the way the iPhone's music library is called iPod. And when users plug the phone into a PC, the Zune software pops up to manage music, movies and podcasts.
About 18 months ago, Microsoft stopped most improvements to its existing smart-phone operating software and started from scratch on Windows Phone 7 Series.
Microsoft "is resolved at a company level to be successful in mobile," Lees said. He indicated Microsoft is willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing to ensure it's successful.
February 15, 2010
by Jim Walsh The Arizona Republic Feb. 15, 2010 12:00 AM
Graffiti may have met its match: technology.
A Los Angeles company has developed an iPhone application that, with a few taps, sends a worker out to paint over the eyesore.
Here's how it works: A city code-enforcement officer or resident photographs graffiti and sends the image to the company's databases. The image is automatically tagged with the location of the vandalism through the phone's GPS system, creating an electronic work order. In minutes, a technician can be dispatched with the right color of paint to cover the graffiti as if it were never there.
In addition, the images are cataloged, enabling law enforcement to track taggers and build stronger cases against graffiti vandals.
"It's more than just removal. It's beautification and restoration," said Barry Steinhart, general manager of Graffiti Protective Coatings, a cleanup service that has been in business for 20 years.
The company spent nearly a year developing the app and is debuting it in Avondale, which has a $110,000 annual cleanup contract with the company.
City officials plan to host a "download day" at City Hall this spring, though they have yet to decide who exactly will receive the free app. Currently, a city inspector has it, and City Council members will receive it March 1.
Nationwide, the cost of cleaning up graffiti is estimated at $15 billion to $18 billion annually, said Randy Campbell, a retired California Highway Patrol officer and president of the Nograf Network, a national consortium of police agencies dedicated to eradicating the vandalism.
In Mesa, officials also are considering a contract with Graffiti Protective Coatings. The company is sending 10 trucks stocked with 40 different colors of paint to the city's annual "Top to Bottom" cleanup day Feb. 27 to demonstrate its capabilities.
West Mesa neighborhood activist Stephanie Wright said the city can't sign up for the app fast enough.
"I think it's incredible. I'm so sick" of graffiti, she said.
Wright, co-chairwoman of the Mesa Grande Community Alliance, said residents deserve better than a bare-bones response to graffiti.
Mesa normally has two employees a day roaming the city's more than 120 square miles using recycled paint to cover graffiti with gray squares.
"They do the best they can, but the system isn't working. I think (the app) is a good thing to look at," Wright said.
Craig Blum, a Mesa field-operations supervisor, said inspectors respond to 4,000 to 5,000 graffiti complaints a year. The city uses Eagle Scouts and probationers performing community service to help get graffiti painted over within 24 hours of its reporting.
City officials and law-enforcement officers say it is essential to respond quickly to graffiti reports.
By eradicating graffiti quickly, officials can deny the taggers their ultimate goal: attention and bragging rights.
Mesa city prosecutor John Pombier said that he was impressed by Steinhart's service but that it will come down to whether the cash-strapped city can afford it.
Steinhart says the service pays for itself by eliminating the need for employees to enter data on work orders. He also said the database allows technicians responding to graffiti to check whether other graffiti has been reported nearby, rather than having to drive out to the same area the next day.
He said the company's service costs on average about $20 per graffiti call, about the same price as a gallon of paint.
Although only Avondale at this time is beginning to use the iPhone app, the company has cleanup contracts with Tucson and with the Arizona Department of Transportation for the Phoenix metro region, which stretches from Buckeye to Apache Junction and from Anthem to near Casa Grande, said Lupe Mercado, Arizona manager.
It also has contracts with cities in California and with Las Vegas through the Nevada Department of Transportation.
John Zandler, a maintenance supervisor for ADOT, said Graffiti Protective Coatings' ability to match paint has eliminated the blotches left behind when ADOT crews painted over graffiti. He said eliminating graffiti quickly has deterred taggers.
"You'd end up with blotches, and after a while it really starts to look terrible," Zandler said. "A gray square is almost like outlining a canvas for the next guy."
Gina Montes, director of Avondale's Neighborhood and Family Services Department, said the $110,000 annual contract with Graffiti Protective Coatings is money well-spent. Avondale, with an estimated 79,000 residents, is going to expand its relationship with the company by using the data system for other code-enforcement issues, such as overgrown yards and sign violations.
"It impacts how people feel about the way they live," Montes said. "They feel insecure. It makes people feel unsafe, that they've been violated."
At one time, Avondale had a hard time keeping up with graffiti, she said. But now, "we feel like we're winning the war."
by Peter Svensson Associated Press Feb. 12, 2010 12:00 AM
A growing number of operating systems are jostling for the attention of phone buyers and manufacturers. The winners will determine what our phones can do, which Web sites we're steered to and which manufacturers will survive the next few years.The battle will be on display as wireless carriers and phone makers gather next week in Barcelona, Spain, for the Mobile World Congress, the industry's largest trade show. One in six U.S. adults had a smartphone last year, according to Forrester Research. That share is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years, as consumers warm to mobile devices that can run a wide range of applications and surf the Web nearly as well as computers.
Analysts don't expect smartphones to settle on one kind of operating software, like the PC industry largely has with Microsoft's Windows. But analysts do expect the smartphone field to be winnowed down to two to four winners over the next few years.
Here are some starting with the largest worldwide market share:
Nokia Corp.'s use of Symbian software has taken it to the top, but its perch is precarious. It's down from a 56 percent worldwide share in 2008 to 44 percent in 2009, according to research firm In-Stat. Even though it's No. 1 in the world, it's nearly unknown in the U.S. One problem is that Nokia and Symbian have failed to keep up with the latest trends in the U.S. market, particularly touch screens. To power more-capable phones, Nokia is now trying a version of the Linux operating system called Maemo.
But although Apple is likely to be one of the winners in the smartphone fight of the coming years, its reach will be limited because Apple doesn't allow any other manufacturer to use the iPhone operating system. And Apple doesn't make a wide variety of phones to choose from - just two models, with some variations in color and memory capacity.
Research in Motion Ltd. of Canada uses its own software for its BlackBerrys and doesn't license it to others. Though sales are still growing strongly, they could not keep up with Apple's growth last year, and the iPhone's market share at 19.8 percent edged past the BlackBerry's 19.2 percent, according to In-Stat.
"The BlackBerry platform looks old and tired. It needs a significant scrub and redo," ABI Research analyst Stuart Carlaw said.
Once a pioneer in smartphones, Microsoft is struggling to keep up. Manufacturers are shifting away from Windows Mobile toward Google's Android.
Google's software has been on a tear, racking up a lot of support from manufacturers and favorable reviews. There was just one Android phone out in 2008. At the end of 2009, there were more than a dozen. Android is free for manufacturers as part of Google's effort to stimulate use of its Web services on cellphones. It's attracting a lot of attention from application developers, but the offerings still don't match those on the iPhone.
by Amy Lorentzen Associated Press Feb. 8, 2010 12:00 AM
Cynthia Frank is one of a growing number of pet owners using social networking sites to show off their animals and connect with other pet lovers.
Since she and her husband separated, Frank can't be with her dog, Scout, every day, but she can share news about her and get updates on Dogbook, a third-party application of Facebook.
"It left a big hole in my life when she went to live with my husband . . . then we got connected on Dogbook," said Frank, 58, of Silver Spring, Md., who also maintains a profile of her cat, Cinnamon, at Catbook. "The fun part is that I can send little messages to Scout," which are read by friends.
Frank says she can give the pup virtual hugs and scratches behind the ear. She has also been able to hook up with old friends and their pets through the applications, including a woman she went to high school with and her cat.
"It makes me feel like I'm more connected," Frank said.
At Dogbook, canine owners can create Facebook profiles for their animals, find dog parks and products, and tag their dogs in photos. Major advertisers on the app include Purina, Toyota and Coke.
Geoffrey B. Roche, co-founder of Poolhouse Enterprises, which produces Dogbook and other pet pages, said the idea came to him a few years ago at the dinner table, and it took off quickly. Now, there are about 2 million users on Dogbook and about 1 million on Catbook, he said.
The sites work, he thinks, because people see their pets as more than just animals.
"The dog goes way beyond what was just a dog. It becomes a family member," he said.
"This is a great way to keep track of pets' lives."
Users "are as excited to show you pictures of their dog as much as their kid, if not more," he said.
Dogbook's recently launched iPhone application passed 80,000 downloads after just two weeks.
Brandee Barker, a Facebook spokeswoman, said Dogbook has nearly 800,000 active monthly users, followed by about 175,000 on Catbook, 31,000 on Horsebook, 3,900 on Rodentbook and nearly 1,900 on Fishbook.
"From the beginning, our goal has been to provide a platform for people to connect and share about anything that might interest them, and clearly people are very passionate about their pets," Barker said. "So, I think it's a natural extension."
Facebook doesn't allow pet profiles on its main site, where it tries to foster "the real-name culture" and keep up security, Barker said.
Other social-networking sites, including Twitter and MySpace, allow people to post updates and create profiles for pets. One popular cat page at Twitter goes by the handle "Sockington" and boasts more than 1.5 million followers who receive Sockington's (or Sockington's owner's) random thoughts. At MySpace, there are thousands of pet pages and nearly 200 pet-related apps listed in its applications gallery.
Pet-related businesses are using social-networking sites to reach and educate customers. For example, Petco has more than 15,000 fans on Facebook and joins conversations on Twitter in which customers ask each other and the company questions and share advice on products.
Natalie Malaszenko, director of e-commerce for Petco, said establishing a relationship with customers is good for business.
"It helps us to have an insight and a seat at the table in the life cycle of their pets," she said.
Karen Pudelski, a dog and cat owner from Harvest, Ala., who owns a pet- sitting business on the side, said she had been going on Dogbook and Catbook only every few months to update her pets' profiles but now has become a more regular visitor because of the iPhone application.
The sites are a great way to find pet-friendly businesses or dog parks, she said, or just chat with other pet lovers.
Pudelski, 43, who has two daughters, ages 13 and 21, said she has fun posting to her pets' profiles and virtually throwing a bone or sending a dog toy to business clients.
"My kids laugh at me - I have pictures of the dogs in my wallet, but I don't have pictures of them," she said.
Online: apps.facebook.com/dogbook, apps.facebook.com/catbook.
February 12, 2010
In January Amazon offered select customers a free Kindle of sorts – they had to pay for it, but if they didn’t like it they could get a full refund and keep the device. It turns out that was just a test run for a much more ambitious program. A reliable source tells us Amazon wants to give a free Kindle to every Amazon Prime subscriber.
Just as soon as they can work out how to do it without losing money.
Amazon Prime is a subscription product that gives customers free two day shipping on everything they buy from Amazon. The current fee is $79/year.
These are Amazon’s very best customers – the ones who tend to make multiple purchases per month. And they are also likely to buy multiple books per month on their Kindle devices. If those users buy enough books, and Amazon gets the production costs of the Kindle down enough, Amazon can get Kindles into “millions” of people’s hands without losing their shirt. At least when the goal is to break even or better over the course of a couple of years, the expected lifetime of a Kindle.
Introduced in November 2007, Kindle is an e-reader developed by Amazon.com to allow easy access to a vast library of electronic books to be downloaded and read on the device. Over 90,000 books were available for download at launch; that catalog grew…
Location: Seattle, Washington, United States
Amazon.com Inc (AMZN) is a leading global Internet company and one of the most trafficked Internet retail destinations worldwide. Amazon directly sells, or acts as a platform for the sale of, a very broad range of products, including books, music,… Learn More
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This sleek fire red mouse may be a perfect Valentine's gift. Smooth and beautiful. Until you see the whole thing from above.
February 7, 2010
If you play video games, it might not be enough to just shoot the bad guys or save the world. You might want to do it in 3-D.
And though people have been able to play video games in 3-D for a couple of years, gaming developers and hardware producers say the technology and consumer interest have reached a point where it could be in more homes this year.
NVIDIA, a leader in computer-graphic cards, was one of several companies pushing 3-D gaming at the International Consumer Electronics Show that recently wrapped in Las Vegas.
The graphics-hardware developer, based in California, showcased its 3-D Vision products during the show. Company officials touted the ability to provide gamers the same quality from 3-D gaming that they get watching a 3-D movie in theaters.
It's not, they said, the 3-D experience made popular by red and blue glasses.
"Consumers think it's awful because they're using outdated paper technology," said Bryan Del Rizzo, a spokesman for NVIDIA. "That's not what consumers want. They want something that looks like 'Avatar' 3-D in the movie theater."
It's a sentiment that two game developers echoed after the show. Both partnered with NVIDIA to feature 3-D technology in their games. Both did so on the PC.
For a game about flying, sights like this are the rarity.Dark Void is a new intellectual property that was published in January by Capcom, a major publisher of video games across all platforms. The game is set on the brink of World War II and focuses on a commercial pilot who crash-lands in the Bermuda Triangle. What ensues is a game that creates a science-fiction shooter with a hero who uses alien weaponry and a jetpack.
It was demonstrated at CES in 3-D, running on NVIDIA's technology. Morgan Gray, senior producer on the game, said he hopes rendering his game in 3-D will help bring the gamer closer to the game world.
"It does provide a layer of depth to the game world," he said. "Getting that depth of the environment and sense of scale is a huge addition."
Not everybody is convinced, however. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are the industry leaders when it comes to console games. Only Sony, maker of PlayStation 3, has made any significant announcement when it comes to 3-D gaming.
Sony plans to release a firmware upgrade for the console as part of its expected lineup of 3-D televisions and content. Sony also showed a couple of games in 3-D during CES.
Microsoft, in a comment after the show, said it is not focusing on the technology. Nintendo is remaining focused on the motion-control experience of the Wii. Del Rizzo said the PC market is just now starting to catch mainstream momentum because of the evolving display technology of monitors and televisions. NVIDIA offers a range of 3-D-gaming products for the PC.
People with 3-D-compatible computers, including the graphics cards, can simply purchase 3-D glasses. Others can get the entire setup, including a computer.
Gray said game developers have realized that proactively coding their products for 3-D can add to the experience. His game was released last month.
Another game that is being optimized for 3-D technology is Battlefield Bad Company 2, a military shooting game that features both a campaign and online-player mode. That game releases on March 2 in North America and March 4 in Europe.
Patrick Bach, senior producer for the game, said putting the technology to the PC version of his game adds a sense of place when the player is in the middle of the action. The challenge, he said, is to get gamers to realize the benefits of how the game looks and feels.
Bach's game is being published by Electronic Arts, which also puts out the John Madden and Tiger Woods games franchises.
"It's like explaining color to a blind person," Bach said. "You need to see it to believe it."
But just how many people will see it in the near future is up to how well the companies using the technology can market it.
NVIDIA's products, matched with the specially optimized video games, will start to push the technology. But all three people interviewed said it's still a predominantly PC-based experience. Del Rizzo said his company's technology renders just about any game in 3-D out of the box. There are plans to release a new 3-D product later this year. For now, people with a quality monitor and computer can get a 3-D-vision kit for $199. Or get the monitor and glasses kit for $598.
Both Gray's and Bach's games will be available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. But the 3-D experience will only be on the computer. They each said the move to the console is just now starting to gain traction. It could take years to fully mature, they said.
"It takes several years before a new technology becomes a mass-market thing, but it will come to the consoles as well," Bach said.
HouseKeeper won't actually straighten up your house, but it will remind you to do easily forgotten chores.
When was the last time you checked your dryer's vent tube? My guess is this serious fire hazard slipped your mind, as it routinely does mine.
Speaking of fires, isn't it time you replaced the batteries in your smoke detectors? Don't worry: That low-battery beep will remind you--most likely in the middle of the night.
Household chores like these are critical, but are usually difficult to remember. Enter HouseKeeper, a clever--if slightly incomplete--app that reminds you when it's time to replace the furnace filters, clean the chimney flue, and so on.
HouseKeeper lets you set reminders for 10 easily forgotten items, including the baking soda in your fridge, the water filter, the fire extinguishers (they're supposed to be inspected regularly), and even your toothbrush (conventional wisdom: replace it every three months).
For each item you can specify the date of your last action (like if you already replaced your toothbrush a month ago) and the number of interval days between notifications.
HouseKeeper will deliver its notifications via e-mail and/or text message. Unfortunately, standard SMS rates apply for the latter; the app can't deliver its own push notifications.
What's more, you can't add your own reminders. In my house, for example, I routinely need to add salt to the water softener. Where's the option for that?
Also, as with yesterday's App Genie, HouseKeeper lists its items in random, non-alphabetical order. What's up with that, developers?
Frugal iPhone users will point out that you could just as easily (and for free) set your own household-chore reminders in the calendar. But calendar items don't deliver e-mail/SMS reminders.
HouseKeeper ($1.99) definitely isn't perfect, but I love the idea behind it and hope the developers will update and improve the app. Because, truth be told, I always forget to replace the smoke-alarm batteries--and the reminder always comes in the middle of the night.
Matt Hamblen, Computerworld
Vendors shipped a record 54.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, 39% more than the 39.2 million shipped in the same quarter in 2008, IDC reported last week.
Four of the top five smartphone vendors bested their own shipment records for a single quarter,
IDC said. Apple boosted its place in the smartphone pack as sales of its iPhone smartphone increased by 98% over the 2008 fourth quarter. Apple now ships the third most smartphones, behind longtime leaders Nokia and Research in Motion.
Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said vendor moves to cut prices helped to "create a perfect set of conditions to push shipments to a record level." The emergence of Google's Android and the Palm WebOS operating systems had a big impact on 2009 smartphone sales by offering users increased functionality, IDC added.
For all of 2009, vendors shipped 174 million smartphones, up 15% from the 151 million in 2008. All told, smartphones accounted for 15% of all mobile phones shipped in 2009, up from 12.7% in 2008, IDC said.
The analyst firm had issued fourth quartersales figures for all mobile phone shipments last week.
IDC expects that increased demand for smartphones will lead to new shipment records in 2010, especially with Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems upgrades expected.
For all of 2009, Nokia shipped the most smartphones -- 67.7 million -- and held 39% of the market at year's end. RIM's 34.5 million smartphone shipments in 2009 gave it a 20% share of the market last year. Apple held the third highest market share, 14%, with 25 million shipments.
HTC and Samsung, respectively, finished fourth and fifth in the smartphone market share derby. Each shipped less than 8 million smartphones during the year and finished the year with a market share of less than 10%.
Motorola was a top five smartphone vendor in the 2009 fourth quarter, its first appearance after a year-long absence. Motorola had the fourth highest market share in the period, behind Nokia, RIM and Apple.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .
Read more about mobile devices in Computerworld's Mobile Devices Knowledge Center.
For more enterprise computing news, visit Computerworld. Story copyright © 2010 Computerworld Inc. All rights reserved.
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February 6, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc's near-silence and seeming inaction since its bombshell announcement it may exit China reflects the Internet search leader's fear of running afoul of the law and jeopardizing a multi-pronged strategy for the world's top Internet market.
Google sent shockwaves across the business and political worlds when it declared on January 12 it would stop censoring Chinese search results. But in the three weeks since, the Web giant has trod cautiously.
Despite early reports suggesting Google had lifted filters on certain search results, the company insists it has made zero changes to its Chinese search engine and that it remains in dialogue with Beijing. Otherwise, executives have mostly been tight-lipped about the entire affair.
That guarded, restrained approach reflects the thorny legal issues surrounding the situation and the high stakes involved in its standoff with China, the world's No. 3 economy and largest Internet market by users.
Many analysts believe the Chinese government would have no qualms shutting down an uncensored search engine. But experts on Chinese law warn that Google employees in China could also face prosecution for breaking the law.
China's detention of four Rio Tinto employees including Australian Stern Hu in July on accusations of illegally obtaining commercial secrets amid contentious iron ore contract negotiations has underscored the risk when business matters cross into politically sensitive areas.
"If they have a lot of personnel in China and they suddenly decide to change what they're doing in a way that was not permitted by the Chinese government, then that could lead to problems," said Donald Clarke, a professor of Chinese law at George Washington University Law School, noting Google staff could be at risk of everything from arrest to harassment.
And with political momentum building -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Senate have voiced strong support for freedom of expression on the Internet -- Google has room to sit back and let others advance its cause.
"As long as individual actors, even ones as large as Google, are doing this alone as opposed to collectively, then these risks are going to be much more pronounced," said Arvind Ganesan, director of business at Human Rights Watch.
STATE SECRETS: A CATCH-ALL
A sudden move by Google to lift search censorship in China could hurt other business interests in the country, including its fast-growing Android cell phone products, advertising sales and its research and development operations.
"Both parties probably want to reach some sort of a solution, so I think both have been careful in their public statements," UBS analyst Brian Pitz.
Websites in China are prohibited from publishing content that jeopardizes the security of the nation, divulges state secrets and disturbs the social order.
"It would be normal for anybody running a high-profile, politically controversial operation in China to anticipate worst-case scenarios, and to do everything possible to guard against them," said Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Open Society Institute who has written extensively about Internet censorship in China.
Google is therefore more likely to voluntarily shut down its search operation if it is unable to reach a compromise with China, rather than unilaterally lift censorship, she said.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said last month the company was still censoring search results in China, but that it would be making changes in a "reasonably short time." He added that Google was committed to having some presence in China.
The company does not disclose the size of its business in China, where it has several hundred employees and is the No. 2 search engine after Baidu Inc. Analysts estimate it generates $200 million to $600 million a year in revenue.
While many experts believe Beijing is unlikely to let Google operate an uncensored website, some say last summer's "Green Dam" software episode could offer a lesson for the company as it looks for a way forward.
Beijing backed down from a controversial plan that would have required personal computer makers to install special Internet filtering software on PCs in the face of opposition from industry groups, activists and Washington officials such as U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
"What you saw is a pretty much global pushback on what were pretty onerous and odious regulations on the part of the government. And guess what? As of today, there is no requirement" to install filtering software, said Ganesan of Human Rights Watch.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang)
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