August 26, 2010

Five Ways Gmail Chat Looks Better than Skype - PCWorld Business Center

Your Gmail account sends e-mail, allows video and online chat, and now can call your contacts in the United States and Canada for free.

Google announced on its corporate blog today that its U.S. users will enjoy free calls, with slightly higher rates to other countries, by using the voice and video service embedded in Gmail Chat. The service is expected to bite into Skype's VoIP service, with Google posting rates that it says beat a "leading Internet telephony client."

Here are some reasons why Gmail Chat may be a better choice, at least for now.

1. Rates

International rates for Gmail calls range wildly, from $6.90 a minute to call Inmarsat, a British mobile satellite company, to 2 cents a minute to call Poland or Brazil. Other rates compare fairly closely, with Gmail voice calling rates 2 cents a minute to France versus 2.4 cents a minute for Skype (2.1 cents plus connection fee), but Google is offering free, unlimited phone calls to the United States and Canada.

That could best Skype’s rate by $60 for the rest of the year, since Skype charges $12 each quarter for a phone number and $2.99 each month for unlimited calls to North America on its pay-as-you-go program.

2. Google Voice

This service, offered free by Google, consolidates all your phone numbers into a single number, and is being incorporated into the new Gmail system. Users already with Google Voice numbers will have that number displayed on caller ID and can receive calls to this number. Skype has to use a different number than your phone number (unless, for instance, you use Google Voice). In many ways, Google is cutting out the middle man in this relationship by offering to skip over Skype entirely.

3. Videoconferencing and Other Business Apps

While Skype offers free video chat, it also plans on packaging videoconferencing for business as a way to raise revenue for shareholders. Gmail also offers free video chat. While it hasn't been added yet, a spokesman said Google plans also to add voice chat to Google Apps, which is specifically aimed at companies.

Google has also expanded its Gmail contacts page to include more data like addresses and phone numbers. Along with the additions, Google has taken security seriously by alerting users of suspicious activity on their Gmail account.

4. The Google Cachet

Granted, Skype has 560 million registered users and 8 million paying users. Google's various sites have about 179 million unique users each month, according to ComScore. Google regularly expands its services' interfaces to meet users' needs.Skype, which just made its IPO, is still working on its untested business model. In five years I'm confident that Gmail will still be around, but I'm not so sure about Skype.

5. It's Free to Try

Gmail's free rate in the United States and Canada lasts at least until the end of the year, and Google said it plans to roll out the new system in the next few days. As soon as users see "Call Phones" showing up in their Gmail chat list, they're ready to go.

There are a few concerns about Gmail's phone call system, the biggest being when the free rate will end. So far Google hasn't give any answers, except to say it will be free until the end of the year. Unless the voice calls continue to be cheaper than Skype in January, Google doesn't have a prayer.

However, for now, business owners who have never used Skype will lose nothing if they try the new Google service. Perhaps they may even find that the international call costs are cheaper than their current calling plan, Skype included.

By Barbara E. Hernandez, PC World August 25, 2010

Five Ways Gmail Chat Looks Better than Skype - PCWorld Business Center

August 20, 2010

salesforce Shocks the Skeptics (CRM, GS, MSFT, NUAN, ORCL, SAP)

Shares of on-demand software maker salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) are soaring today, up more than 15% at last count -- and rightly so. When the company reported earnings last night, the numbers were properly boffo:

  • "Record" revenues rose, up 25% to $394 million
  • Total customers contributing those revenues grew as well, up 30% year over year
  • Revenue guidance got "raised" to $1.6 billion for this fiscal year 2011
  • And free cash flow increased 77% to $48.3 million

Sure, there were other aspects to the story: The fact that non-GAAP earnings stagnated, while GAAP earnings per share actuallydecreased 35% to $0.11. The likelihood that even if salesforce succeeds in hitting its earnings guidance this year, its projected per-share earnings range of $0.43 to $0.45 per share will have this stock trading at a simply astonishing P/E ratio of perhaps 250.

Go, go, Goldman!
These quibbles aside, it looks like
Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) was right on the money when it named salesforce an outperformer last month. My needling notwithstanding, it does now appear that ... Goldman isn't wrong about every tech stock it recommends. (Just yours,Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN) shareholders.) Judging from these numbers,Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) patent lawsuit doesn't seem to be slowing down salesforce a whit, and the company's still firing on all cylinders.

But is that enough?
If salesforce's guidance is any guide at all, fiscal 2011 sales will trump fiscal 2010 by a good 23%. And seeing as gross profit margins eked out about a 10 basis point gain over last year's Q2, while the gross for this year-to-date is even stronger, it would appear we can expect at least as good gains in profits (and free cash flow?) going forward.

Still, there's the nagging question of valuation still to be considered. With free cash now flowing through salesforce's doors at the rate of $285 million per year, salesforce shares sell for nearly 50 times annual cash production. Sure, free cash flow grew 77% in Q2 -- but sales appear to be increasing at only a 23% or 25% pace. And while more mature software makersOracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) and SAP (NYSE: SAP) struggle to break the 80-percent barrier, salesforce's gross margins already regularly reach north of 80%, suggesting there's little room for further expansion there.

Long story short, as great a success as salesforce has been for us already, I have to wonderhow much longer this growth story's "legs" might be. Long enough to justify paying the 50 times FCF cost of admission? I doubt it.

by Rich Smith Motley Fool August 20, 2010


salesforce Shocks the Skeptics (CRM, GS, MSFT, NUAN, ORCL, SAP)

August 19, 2010

Intel-McAfee Deal Underscores Importance of Mobile Security - WSJ.com

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)--Intel Corp. (INTC)'s $7.7 billion bid for McAfee Inc. (MFE) highlights the growing importance of mobile security, a field that is expanding rapidly as handheld devices become more important to both consumer and business users.

On Thursday, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant said it will pay $48 for each share of McAfee, a 60% premium to Wednesday's closing price. The deal will help Intel incorporate McAfee security products into its chips.

The deal comes as computing moves away from desktops amid the growth of wireless Internet access, which creates new security threats for users as well as opportunities for security providers. In March, data tracker IDC forecast world-wide mobile-security license and maintenance revenue would more than double to $2.7 billion by 2014 from $1.3 billion in 2009.

The Intel-McAfee deal, as well as the explosion of threats, may rekindle interest U.S. publicly traded security companies, like Symantec Corp. (SYMC) and Websense Inc. (WBSN). It may also pique interest in overseas security companies, such as Japan's Trend Micro Inc. (4704.TO), Finland's F-Secure Oyj (FSC1V.HE), as well as privately held companies like Spain's Panda Security and Russia's Kaspersky Lab.

"This deal opens the eyes of investors to the value of the security market, which over the past year has been out of favor," said Daniel Ives, a senior analyst with FBR Capital Markets & Co. in New York.

Investors quickly reacted to the deal, bidding up shares of McAfee competitors that might now be on the radar screens of potential partners or buyers. In late afternoon trading, Symantec shares were up 6.7% at $13.45, while Websense Inc. was up 5.2% at 19.40.

"Maybe some of Intel's competitors need to have tighter relationship with security companies to emulate what Intel is doing," said Steve Ashley, an analyst at Robert W. Baird.

Like McAfee, Mountain View, Calif.-based Symantec has rushed to be part of the mobile security landscape. In May, Symantec unveiled Norton Everywhere, a family of products targeted primarily mobile devices. It also made an undisclosed investment in Mocana Corp., a venture-backed San Francisco start-up that specializes in mobile security.

Other firms have done the same. Kaspersky Mobile Security 9, from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, protects consumer smartphones from data loss, viruses and spam, while Tokyo-based Trend Micro offers two products for protecting mobile phones, one for consumers and one for companies.

by Jeanette Borzo Wall Street Journal August 19, 2010


Intel-McAfee Deal Underscores Importance of Mobile Security - WSJ.com

Facebook Places: What You Need To Know - PCWorld

As expected, Facebook on Wednesday launched its new location-sharing feature called Places. Similar to other location-based services such as Gowalla and MyTown, it allows you to signal your presence at a bar, restaurant, arena, or other location via Facebook. The social network's focus appears to be on simply sharing your location with your friends as opposed to including gaming elements or promotional check-in incentives that you find with other location services such as Foursquare

Places promises to be an interesting addition to Facebook, and could increase the popularity of location sharing in general. But before you start checking in to every restaurant, movie theater, and bar you visit, here's what you need to know.

Places Basics

At launch, Places will be available to U.S. users only. You can check into a location in two ways: through the Facebook iPhone application or by pointing your mobile browser to touch.facebook.com. The browser-based version of Places will work only if your device supports HTML5 and geolocation.

Just tap the Places icon and you'll see a list of nearby Places. Tap on your location from the list, and you can check in, tag any friends who are with you, and add a status update. When you tag a friend, you will be checking them in if they allow third party check-ins. If your friend doesn't allow third party check-ins, then tagging them will be just like tagging them in a status update. No actual check-in will happen.

You can only check in people who are on your Facebook friends list and only when you first check into a location yourself. You can see who else is at your location under the "People Here Now" section for that place.

Facebook says all Places check-ins are visible only to friends by default unless your master privacy control is set to "Everyone."

For more detailed information about Places, consult PC World's report from Facebook's Places launch event. You can also find more information in this Facebook blog post and the Places information page.

Plays Nice With Others

Facebook has decided not to wipe other location-based services off the face of the Earth. Instead these services can use Places to enhance their own offerings.

It's not entirely clear how this will work, but Gowalla Chief Technical Officer Scott Raymond said in an interview with VentureBeat that Gowalla's plan was to allow users to push their check-ins from Gowalla into Facebook's Places feature. It appears you will also be able to import your check-in badges, pins, and Gowalla passport stamps into Facebook.

Bing Maps

It should come as no surprise that Facebook is using Microsoft's Bing Maps to pinpoint locations in Places.

Microsoft made a considerable investment in Facebook several years ago, and other Microsoft services such as Bing search and Microsoft Docs are already integrated with Facebook.

Not Yet Fully Functional

Some have reported seeing messages that Places is not yet available in their area, while others say they can activate Places but the check-in function is not operational.

If you're experiencing similar problems, hold tight the functionality is coming soon. Facebook is slowly rolling out the service and will make it available across the U.S. over the next few days, according to TechCrunch.

The Onslaught Begins Thursday

Facebook says it plans on turning on the Read API for third-party functionality on Thursday. What that means is that third-party services will be able to read your check-ins when you interact with those apps as well as the check-ins of people on your friends list (if their privacy settings allow it), according to programmableweb.

Any third-party application that wants to use your check-in data must specifically ask you for it when you authorize the app, according to Facebook. However, be aware of some downsides.

It appears there's no way to deny access to your Places data and still use the application. So if you want to use an application that requires your Places data, you either must deny the application completely or accept the fact that the application will be harvesting your location data. You can find out more about Facebook's privacy permissions here.

Privacy Concerns

The first criticisms over Places and privacy appear to be from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The civil rights group doesn't like the fact that there isn't a flat out "No" option to stop friends from checking you in.

If someone checks you in at a location, you receive a mobile notification that a friend has checked you in. Then you must decide to either permanently authorize third-party check-ins or deny them by selecting "not now," according to the ACLUNC. The concern is that by selecting "not now," the request to authorize third-party check-ins may come up again and again until you finally say yes. Also, if you use Places to check yourself in, then third-party check-ins are turned on automatically unless you adjust your privacy settings, according to the ACLUNC.

The ACLUNC also says that the "People Here Now" feature doesn't have enough granular control. The feature only has an option to be turned on (everyone can see your check-in) or turned off (no one can see your check-in). The ACLUNC would prefer to see an option that allows only your friends to see you under the " People Here Now" feature. It also appears that "People Here Now" is turned on by default "if you have previously selected that "Everyone" can see even a single piece of your information," according to the ACLUNC.

Have you tried Places yet? What do you think of the new service?

by Ian Paul PC World August 19, 2010


Facebook Places: What You Need To Know - PCWorld

August 17, 2010

How People Are Signing In Across the Web [STATS]

Identity management provider Janrain has just released its latest usage study detailing what social networks and services people use to sign in and share activities across the web.

As in its last report back in April, Google and Facebookcontinue to dominate websites that offer third-party login options. Across the 250,000 sites that use Janrain Engage,GoogleGoogle represents the preferred sign-in option for 38% of users.

FacebookFacebook is in second place, with 24% of sign-ins and Yahoo is in third place with 14%. TwitterTwitter, which is a popular option in certain segments, only accounts for 5% of generalized sign-in data.

Google is the dominant catch-all login in the aggregate, but other services, particularly Facebook, really take the lead when websites are segmented by type.

For example, for news media sites, Yahoo represents approximately 34% of all logins. For magazine publishers, Facebook is the clear choice amongst website visitors. Fifty-seven percent of logins are from Facebook, nearly triple its nearest competitor, Google, at 20%.

Likewise, with music sites, Facebook leads with 55% of logins and second place Twitter is at 18%. Retailbrand logins are also largely dominated by Facebook.

It makes sense that Facebook has such a strong presence in magazines, retail brands and in music. This can likely be tied with the brand and publishers’ usage of Facebook pages.


Facebook and Twitter Dominate Sharing


More and more publishers are integrating sharing options like Facebook Like buttons or the new Twitter Tweet buttons into their sites. Many publishers are seeing increases in traffic as a direct result of these sharing tools.

According to Janrain’s data, Facebook is the preferred sharing network for 53% of users. Twitter is close behind with 37%. Keep in mind, Janrain’s platform allows users to cross-share to multiple networks at once, which indicates that there may be some overlap.

Still, this is an important distinction from the single sign-in data. To us, this represents that while Google may be used as a frequent sign-in option — perhaps because of how closely the service is tied to an e-mail address — when it comes to engaging and identifying with information online, Facebook and Twitter are where users value their time.

by Christina Warren Mashable August 16, 2010


How People Are Signing In Across the Web [STATS]

August 15, 2010

Retailers use Web tools aimed at younger shoppers

Shoppers and retailers are turning to cellphones, "haul videos," virtual dressing rooms and social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to make the most out of this year's back-to-school shopping season.

With billions of dollars at stake, retailers are going after back-to-school shoppers where they are spending an increasing amount of time - on their cellphones and on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter social-network sites.

They are launching applications, or "apps," for smartphones, running promotions and contests on Facebook, setting up sites where customers can show off their purchases online or superimpose their clothes on a customer sitting before a webcam.

Shoppers are relishing the novel ways to shop and the instant tips they get about special promotions and deals.

"It's the best way to reach teens," Staples Inc. spokeswoman Karen Pevenstein said of the new kit of marketing tools being embraced by retailers.

Young shoppers are expected to spend more than $200 billion of their own and their parents' money this year, making them one of retailers' most sought-after demographic groups.

Much of that will be spent from July to September on back-to-school supplies and clothes.

Katie Suarez of Phoenix consulted Forever 21's Facebook page before recently heading out to the retailer's Scottsdale store for some back-to-school shopping. The savvy consumer also looked at pages for independent stores she likes such as Rowdy Boutique in Phoenix.

"I go where the best deals are," she said.

Forever 21 is currently running a Hot Summer Sale with some "must-have" items as low as 79 cents.

Altogether, consumers are expected to spend $55 billion on back-to-school clothes, supplies and related items. That compares with $47.5 billion last year.

Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bank's annual Backpack Index estimates it could cost up to $474 to outfit a student for elementary school this year, $545 for middle school and $1,000 for high school.

Facebook and 'haul videos'

For most of the year, office-supply retailer Staples caters to small businesses. But in July and August, it turns its attention to parents and students.

"Back-to-school has become a really big event for us," Pevenstein said.

Staples brings in more than 1,000 specialty items for back-to-school and this year is turning to Facebook and Twitter to help market locker lights, Glam Rocks pens, binders and computers.

Customers also can access Staples' fliers, coupons and special promotions via their cellphones. The company just launched an app for iPhones that allows users to locate stores and receive offers through their phones.

Once-staid J.C. Penney Co. also has embraced new media.

J.C. Penney spokeswoman Kate Coultas said the company is focusing much of its back-to-school marketing this year on social-media sites, iPhone apps and other emerging marketing tools.

"We're using more non-traditional components to engage the teen customer, and we see that continuing," Coultas said.

This year, J.C. Penney has tapped into the teen trend of making "haul videos" to show off purchases after forays to the mall. There are more than 150,000 such videos on YouTube, and some are racking up millions of views by consumers.

J.C. Penney and other retailers such as American Eagle and Forever 21 have recruited some of the better-known shoppers to make haul video using their clothes. J.C. Penney recently flew five established "haulers" to its Dallas store, gave them $500 gift cards, and asked them to make videos of what they bought. The videos are posted on the company's Facebook page with links to the various products.

"It's teenage girls speaking to other teenage girls," Coultas said.

J.C. Penney also has partnered with Seventeen magazine to create a virtual dressing room for back-to-school, where teens can superimpose the company's clothes on an image taken by a webcam.

The company also is coming out with an iAd for iPhones. The advertisements appear on iPhone apps that appeal to teens and provide a link to J.C. Penney's haul video virtual dressing rooms and online retail site.

"We're providing tools that let consumers decide how they want to react to the brand," Coultas said.

Consumers' strategy

Phoenix shopper Yvonne Cordiero uses her cellphone to locate stores and find about specials and promotions.

"If I'm at home, I use my laptop," she said. "But if I'm out, I can get most of the information I need with my phone."

A recent study by accounting firm Deloitte found that three in 10 consumers plan to use their cellphones and social-networking sites to help with back-to-school shopping this year. Most will use the tools to access deals, compare prices and get the most for their money.

That offers a business opportunity for stores.

"Retailers' ability to influence purchase decisions beyond in-store interactions is growing significantly," said Alison Paul, head of the U.S. retail sector for Deloitte.

FastMall 3.0, a free iPhone app with floor plans of the seven largest malls in metro Phoenix, provides step-by-step directions to specific stores, restaurants, restrooms and other mall services. A new version coming out in September will notify stores when shoppers arrive at the mall so that they can send them last-minute offers and coupons.

Paul noted that companies that can directly engage consumers through mobile apps, text alerts and video content may "win an increased share of shoppers' back-to-school budgets this year."

Of the $55 billion in back-to-school spending, an estimated $34 billion will be spent by college students and their parents.

To reach that market, retailer Target Corp. has added a "College" tab to its Facebook page with coupons, supplies checklists and shareable cellphone apps to help students determine how to furnish their dorm rooms or apartments and manage shared bills and chores with roommates.

"Students continue to be on the leading edge of social-media usage, and we will reach them in their world," said Target spokeswoman Jenine Anderson.

by Max Jarman The Arizona Republic Aug. 14, 2010 09:51 PM


Retailers use Web tools aimed at younger shoppers

Amazon will open 3rd facility in Valley

Amazon.com Inc. in October plans to open its third metro Phoenix order-fulfillment center, which should create several hundred Valley jobs.

The newest center will be in the West Valley.

The facility, where customers' online orders will be filled and shipped, will be more than 1 million square feet in size and larger than Amazon.com's two other Valley centers, one in Phoenix, the other in Goodyear.

Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Amazon.com said it will hire several hundred full-time hourly positions and hundreds of temporary workers during peak seasons.

The Goodyear center has hired about 700 extra workers over the holidays.

The Arizona Commerce Authority, established in July to eventually replace the Arizona Department of Commerce, and Gov. Jan Brewer met with Amazon.com officials to encourage them to open a third center in Arizona, spokesman David Drennon said.

Amazon inked a 10 1/2-year lease at 4750 W. Mohave St., near 51st Avenue and Buckeye Road, Phoenix officials said.

Talks with Amazon had gone on for more than a year, city officials said, adding that the site will be Amazon's largest fulfillment center in the United States.

by Betty Beard and Lynh Bui The Arizona Republic Aug. 14, 2010 12:00 AM




Amazon will open 3rd facility in Valley

Modular Storage Gains As Demands Grow For Video And Graphics - IBD - Investors.com


Even in technology markets, having a capable and innovative product is not always enough. You have to be able to sell it. And you have to earn a reputation for product reliability backed by responsive service.

These are some of the lessons Seattle-based Isilon Systems (ISLN) has learned well over the last couple of years.

Since its founding in 2001, Isilon had been a leader in building what are called scale-out network attached storage (NAS) systems. These data storage systems are designed for the huge files needed for audio and video and digital images. Until recently, Isilon was winning new business but losing money.

Although it didn't turn a profit until Q4 of last year, it has now reported three straight quarters in the black.

In this year's second quarter, Isilon's revenue grew by 56% vs. the year before, to $45.1 million. It reported non-GAAP earnings of 6 cents. Best of all, Isilon raised its revenue projection for all of 2010. It had previously guided to revenue growth in the mid-30% range. Now it has boosted that outlook to growth in the low- to mid-40% range.

Turnaround Under Way

A lot of things have gone right since Isilon had to deal with product and accounting issues, along with a string of money-losing quarters.

Analysts credit founder Sujal Patel, who took over as CEO in October 2007, with making key turnaround decisions. Isilon has improved product reliability and service and also extended its distribution reach by building strong relations with resellers.

"They had some issues with product maturity. Their products had some issues in how they would perform in certain environments," said Glenn Hanus, a Needham analyst. "They fixed the issue of product maturity and broadened their solutions portfolio. They've rebuilt their North American channel program, while improving service and building a strong senior management team."

"This was a company that had a good product," said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at ThinkEquity. "But you need to have the distribution. Expansion of distribution over the last year has been a key" to Isilon's growth.

To build its strength among value-added resellers (VARs), Isilon dipped into the management ranks of NetApp (NTAP), a major — and more established — rival.

One key hire was Leonard Iventosch, who had built NetApp's strong channel distribution business. How was Isilon able to lure him away from its more established rival? It took more than just an overwhelming offer, says CFO Richter.

By NORM ALSTER, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY August 13, 2010

Modular Storage Gains As Demands Grow For Video And Graphics - IBD - Investors.com

Flash-Sales Trend Providing New Spark For E-Commerce - IBD - Investors.com

Lets face it — the bloom is a bit off the e-commerce rose these days.

Consumers have been shopping online for years. Lots of e-tail sites tout similar items, with standard perks like moderate discounts and free shipping.

So the name of the game increasingly is differentiation. How can a company set its e-commerce offerings apart from rivals?

This is spurring the rise of offbeat e-commerce sites that sell products online with an unusual twist to separate them from the pack — "flash sales," or deals that expire in a few hours or days.

"These sites succeed because they have interesting products for sale for a limited time. That hooks people," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.

"Consumers are voting with their wallets and showing they really like these flash sales concepts," said Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce software and services provider ChannelAdvisor. "It's about the steep discounts."

The trend gained steam on June 30, when e-commerce king Amazon (AMZN) bought tiny flash-sale e-tailer Woot.com. The purchase price wasn't disclosed. Woot has 2.75 million registered users.

Seattle-based Amazon has been buying a lot of unique e-commerce sites. Its biggest buy in the space took place last year, when it paid $900 million for online shoe seller Zappos.com.

Woot was founded in Carrollton, Texas, in 2004 by Matt Rutledge, an Internet entrepreneur known for his offbeat sense of humor. Woot offers a single unique and steeply discounted online deal a day, often in electronics. One recent deal was a set of M-Audio recording studio gear for $59.99 plus $5 shipping. The site has discussion boards, articles and other data about items offered.

The idea is to get consumers so psyched about the product that they buy it.

Can such a limited repertoire succeed? Online news site Business Insider says Woot posted $164 million in sales for 2008, the most recent figure available. Market tracker Compete says Woot drew 2.2 million unique visitors in May. More than 10% of the traffic is said to have been referred by Facebook, underscoring Woot's links with other social media networks.

There are theories about Woot's popularity. One is that online shoppers get overwhelmed when they visit huge online emporiums like Amazon.com, much as some offline shoppers prefer specialty stand-alone stores to big malls.

Focus, Simplicity, Discounts

Woot has focus and simplicity on its side, analysts say, not to mention frequently a deep discount.

Analysts say Amazon did well to keep Woot and Zappos as their own sites, rather than as part of the larger Amazon.com site.

By DOUG TSURUOKA, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY August 13, 2010

Flash-Sales Trend Providing New Spark For E-Commerce - IBD - Investors.com

Assembling Droids For Dollars - Yahoo! News

Peter Chou, chief executive of cell phone maker HTC, says the Taiwan-based company is no risk- taker. But to a casual observer, that might hardly seem the case.

HTC was the first handset maker to introduce a cell phone based on the Google (NMS:GOOG)-backed Android operating system, the G1 by T-Mobile. It was the first to roll out a phone using the advanced broadband 4G platform, the Evo by Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S - News). In fact, its track record of innovation, including touch-screen technology and innovative software, dates all the way back to 1999 when HTC introduced the first color-screen palm-sized device.

"They've done a really good job over the last decade making the transition from a maker of electronics for other firms to building a global brand and becoming a major player in smart phones," said Michael Gartenberg, partner at research firm Altimeter Group. "They're not afraid to innovate and push the envelope forward."

The result is a company that is steamrolling ahead with the fastest growth in the cell-phone market, better than even Apple (NMS:AAPL).

"I don't see us as a big risk-taker, but we are committed to taking up a challenge and doing new things," Chou said.

HTC wants to be careful about betting the farm to protect its employees, partners and investors.

"But we are never afraid to bring to the market something different," Chou said. "If we make mistakes, we admit that and fix it quickly instead of blaming someone for this or that. We are humble and passionate about innovation."

It's a strategy that clearly works. HTC is now the world's fourth- largest maker of smart phones, according to research firm IDC, with a 7.6% market share. Nokia (NYSE:NOK - News) is first with 38%, followed by BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NMS:RIMM) at 17.8% and Apple at 13.3%.

Including all handsets, HTC broke into the top 10 during the second quarter, says researcher Gartner. HTC shipments rose 139% to 5.9 million units, making it the eighth-largest global vendor. Its growth was more than double that of Apple, which had the second-fastest growth and is in seventh place.

In its second quarter ended July 29, revenue of HTC, whose shares trade on the Taiwan exchange, grew 59% from a year earlier to $1.9 billion. Net profit rose 73% to $269 million. Its stock is up 44% since June 30.

In the third quarter, HTC expects revenue of $2.2 billion, up 106% from a year earlier. It also expects device shipments to soar 132%.

Humble Beginnings

There was a time when HTC was a nobody. Chou co-founded HTC in 1997 with Cher Wang, the daughter of one of Taiwan's richest entrepreneurs. A Taiwan native, Chou has a degree in electronic engineering from National Taiwan Ocean University and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

In 1999 when HTC was just getting its feet wet and working with telecom carrier British Telecom (NYSE:BT - News), it needed help, Chou said.

"At the time, we were a small and inexperienced company and the only thing we had was an idea," Chou said. He approached BT executives and said plainly, "You guys need to help and support us and teach us what areas are critical and important," Chou said.

Chou also reached out to cell phone chipmaker Qualcomm (NMS:QCOM) for tips on how to develop the best phones. Both answered HTC's call.

"They taught us a lot," he said.

HTC's first focus was to build phones that telecom carriers sold under their own label. Then, four years ago, it got ready to sell phones bearing the HTC label instead. Two years ago, HTC launched a branding campaign, adopting the slogan "Quietly Brilliant."

"More than 90% of our phones today are HTC-branded," Chou said.

Its carrier partners include all the majors, including AT&T (NYSE:T - News), Verizon (NYSE:VZ - News), Sprint and T-Mobile.

"Their transition from a design manufacturer (for other companies) to a branded manufacturer paid off," said Brian White, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities. "Their products have been a big success. They've clearly entered the big leagues and are gaining share."

HTC's rise is also notable in that its rivals are much larger with roots in design and engineering: Nokia, Samsung, Apple, RIM, LG, Motorola (NYSE:MOT - News) and Sony Ericsson (NYSE:SNE - News) (NMS:ERIC).

Gambling On Droids

"One of the biggest risks they took was committing to Android so early," said Avi Greengart, an analyst with researcher Current Analysis. "They made a big bet on Android before the operating system was fully finished and it paid off extraordinarily well."

HTC was also an early and strong supporter, and still is, of the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform, which has been sputtering in the market the past few years. HTC will also be introducing phones based on Microsoft's (NMS:MSFT) new operating system for mobile, which has been rebranded as Windows Phone.

"If HTC had stuck to its knitting and just stuck with Windows Mobile without diversifying into Android, they'd be in real trouble right now," said Greengart.

HTC has introduced a slew of Android devices. Its Web site currently lists 27 various cell phone models. These include Droid Incredible, Evo 4G, MyTouch 3G Slide and HD2.

Chou credits HTC's success to many things. It started with what has traditionally been a mainstay of Taiwan-based companies: highly competitive manufacturing, excellent engineering and strong customer partnerships.

Other ingredients for long-term success are innovation and marketing, which many Taiwan firms lack, most analysts say. Taiwan players are said to have traditionally relied on clients for help in those areas.

"HTC wanted to create that kind of innovation to achieve greater success," said Chou.

Innovation is something Chou learned early on as an executive with computer pioneer Digital Equipment Corp., later acquired by Compaq, which was then acquired by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ - News).

During his time at DEC, Chou spent lots of time in Silicon Valley, rubbing elbows with engineers at Intel (NMS:INTC), Microsoft and others.

"I've been working on innovation for a long time," he said.

He's worked hard to instill that culture into HTC, hiring top individuals, embracing them and setting them free to innovate.

"A lot of companies say they focus on innovation but they lack the talent and involvement," said Chou. "When they face difficulty, it can be easy to compromise. We encourage people to take risk and encourage and challenge them to create something exciting. You need to have passion and set high standards to achieve that."

"HTC innovated very quickly," said Ken Dulaney, a Gartner analyst. "They innovate very well and understand what customers want."

by Yahoo News, August 13, 2010

Assembling Droids For Dollars - Yahoo! News

FTC to spell out Intel settlement | Nanotech - The Circuits Blog - CNET News

The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it will announce an antitrust settlement with Intel on Wednesday morning.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz will detail the settlement along with Bureau of Competition Director Richard Feinstein Wednesday at 7 a.m. PDT.

The commission's order will settle charges that "Intel Corporation used anticompetitive tactics that stifled innovation and harmed consumers in the market for computer microprocessors, graphics processing units, and chipsets," according to an FTC statement Tuesday. "The FTC's complaint, filed in December 2009, charged Intel with waging a systematic campaign to shut out rivals' competing microchips by cutting off their access to the marketplace, and harming consumers."

A settlement is expected to avert a trial that had been slated for September.

Though Intel settled a longstanding antitrust legal dispute with Advanced Micro Devices last year by paying its chip rival $1.25 billion, the FTC proceeded with a case against the chip giant, filing a complaint in December that alleged Intel used illegal tactics to strong-arm computer makers--including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, and IBM--from buying processors from rival AMD. Intel denied the allegations.

The FTC has also been exploring potential antitrust ground regarding Intel and graphics chip supplier Nvidia. Intel and Nvidia have been wrangling in court over chipsets.

And in a related development, when the Securities and Exchange Commission recently levied a $100 million fine on Dell, the SEC complaint delved into allegations of a long, symbiotic relationship between Dell and Intel, saying that Dell was a recipient of massive, multibillion-dollar, multiyear Intel payments in order to keep Dell from adopting processors from Advanced Micro Devices.

by CNet News August 3, 2010



FTC to spell out Intel settlement | Nanotech - The Circuits Blog - CNET News

Studying the Brain - Neuroimaging

With recent advances in medical technology, scientists have developed new ways of measuring brain activity and brain structure.

Measuring Brain activity


A visualization of the brain via MRI and PET scans. (Courtesy of the International Neuroimaging Consortium, University of Minnesota and the PET Imaging Center, Minneapolis VA Medical Center.)
One such device is called an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG detects tiny electrical currents on the surface of the brain, generated by surface neurons. Such a way of measuring electrical current within the brain allows researchers to pin point where there is increased brain activity when a subject performing certain functions, such as thinking, eating, and motor function. The limitation of the EEG, however, is that it is only able to scan the surface of the brain and is not able to penetrate into the inner part of the brain.

Scientists were able to go beyond the limitations of the EEG with the positron emission tomography (PET) scan. This type of scan allows the scientific phrase of a "three-dimensional localization of brain function" (Gleitman, 1999, p. 20), meaning viewing brain activity was no longer limited to the 2-D surface of the brain but now the whole brain. The PET scan works by injecting the patient with a safe dose of radioactive sugar (similar in structure to the sugar glucose). When cells take in the sugar, it emits particles called positrons which can be detected by a machine. Active neurons take in this radioactive sugar and emit positrons that are detected by the machine. The machine can measure the amount of positrons emitted and assemble an image of the brain showing the varying degrees of activity in the brain.

Determining Brain Structure

While determining brain activity is a useful way of determining what part of the brain does what, it is also useful to determine the definite structure of the brain. With such delicate techniques such as surgery, it is often useful to have a precise map of the human brain.


A model showing a combined 3-D MRI and PET scan. (Source:
NIMH)

One of the techniques used for discerning a brain's structure is the computerized axial tomography (
CAT) scan. This technique uses an instrument that works by exposing a person's brain to x-rays. These x-rays pass through the brain of the patient and are picked up by a detector on the other side. The machine repeats shooting x-rays and circles about an axis, making a roundabout the patient's head. Because the brain's regions are composed of different densities, not all the x-rays pass through the person's head. A computer takes the data from how many x-rays pass through the different densities of the brain and assembles a picture of what the patient brain looks like.

But perhaps the most commonly used neuroimaging technique is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI scan is safer than a CAT scan because it doesn't involve potentially harmful x-rays. This technique works based on the principle of magnetic resonance. All the nuclei contained in atoms have their own resonant frequencies. When the atoms are agitated, their resonant frequencies change and become amplified. An MRI machine disturbs these atoms by passing a frequency alternating magnetic field through the brain. As the magnetic field fluctuates, it is picked up by magnetic sensors that sense how much the atoms in a particular area respond. A computer compiles an image of the brain based on how much these atoms are disturbed.



Studying the Brain - Neuroimaging

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