August 30, 2011

Google settles pharmacy-ad probe for $500 million

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Google Inc. has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a U.S. government investigation into the Internet search leader's distribution of online ads from Canadian pharmacies illegally selling prescription drugs to American consumers.

The settlement means Google will not face criminal prosecution for accusations that it improperly profited from ads promoting Canadian pharmacies that illegally exported drugs into the United States, Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said.

It is the first time an Internet search engine is being held responsible for the illegal distribution of drugs.

"It sends a clear message to both Google and to others that contribute to America's pill problem that they will be held to account for endangering the health and safety of the residents of this district and to persons all across the United States," said Neronha, who described the forfeiture as one of the largest in U.S. history.

The settlement delivered a stinging rebuke for Google, whose motto is "Don't be evil." In announcing the settlement, authorities left little doubt that Google had misbehaved. From its vantage point, Google crossed into a shady area of prescription-drug advertising in pursuit of higher profits, which have boosted its stock price and enriched its employees since the company's initial public offering in 2004.

In that sense, the potential damage to Google's reputation may be more troubling to the company than the amount of money it's paying to sweep the problem under the rug. The $500 million is a sum Google can easily afford; it had $39 billion in cash at the end of June.

The figure represents the gross revenue Google collected in ad buys from hundreds of Canadian pharmacies, plus the earnings generated from the illegal drug sales to American consumers from 2003 to 2009, federal investigators said.

Google said in a statement that it should not have allowed Canadian pharmacies to market prescription drugs to American consumers.

"We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago," the statement said.

"However, it's obvious with hindsight that we shouldn't have allowed these ads on Google in the first place."

The company declined to comment further. Google shares were up slightly Wednesday, finishing the day trading at $523.

Federal officials said Google knew as early as 2003 that its ad system was allowing Canadian pharmacies to make illegal sales. The transactions included selling prescription drugs without valid prescriptions from a licensed medical practitioner at a premium, prosecutors said.

Shipping prescription drugs into the U.S. from abroad violates drug and other laws, investigators said.

Prescription drugs shipped into the U.S. from Canada are not subject to oversight by Canadian regulatory authorities, and many companies sell drugs from countries with inadequate pharmacy regulations, prosecutors said.

A separate U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation into drugs that claimed to be manufactured in Canada found that 85 percent of the drugs examined came from 27 countries, including drugs that were found to be counterfeit, said Kathleen Martin-Weis, acting director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations.

Investigators noted that Google did not allow online pharmacies from any other country aside from Canada to advertise to American consumers.

The probe did not touch the overseas online pharmacies, Neronha said, because American officials do not have the authority to bring charges.

He said the case raised some "novel legal theories," given that if it had gone to trial, prosecutors would have to prove an Internet search engine helped pharmacies violate federal law.

Investigators snared Google's ad system by creating seven undercover websites offering prescription drugs to be sold without a prescription or the completion of an online medical questionnaire, Martin-Weis said.

An undercover investigator informed Google employees creating the advertising for the products that they were manufactured overseas and did not require customers to have a valid prescription, she said.

"In each instance, despite this knowledge, Google employees created a full advertising campaign for each of the undercover websites," Martin-Weis said.

Investigators said they quickly spent the money they had set aside for the ad buys and then pored over 4 million pages of e-mails and financial records to make their case. The undercover websites were live for four months, investigators said.

Associated Press Aug. 25, 2011 12:00 AM




Google settles pharmacy-ad probe for $500 million

Steve Jobs resigns as CEO of Apple


SAN FRANCISCO - Steve Jobs, the mind behind the iPhone, iPad and other devices that turned Apple Inc. into one of the world's most powerful companies, resigned as the company's CEO on Wednesday, saying he can no longer handle the job.

The move appears to be the result of an unspecified medical condition for which he took an indefinite leave from his post in January. Apple's chief operating officer, Tim Cook, has been named CEO.

In a letter addressed to Apple's board and the "Apple community," Jobs said he "always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."


Jobs' health has long been a concern for Apple investors who see him as an industry oracle who seems to know what consumers want long before they do. After his announcement, Apple stock quickly fell 5.4 percent in after-hours trading.

The company said Jobs gave the board his resignation Wednesday and suggested Cook be named the company's new leader. Apple said Jobs was elected board chairman and Cook is becoming a member of its board.

Jobs' hits seemed to grow bigger as the years went on: After the colorful iMac computer and the now-ubiquitous iPod, the iPhone redefined smartphones and the iPad all but created the market for tablet computers.

His own aura seemed part of the attraction. On stage at trade shows and company events in his uniform of jeans, sneakers and black mock-turtlenecks, he'd entrance audiences with new devices, new colors, new software features, building up to a grand finale he'd predictably preface by saying, "One more thing."

Jobs, 56, shepherded Apple from a two-man startup to Silicon Valley darling when the Apple II, the first computer for regular people to really catch on, sent IBM Corp. and others scrambling to get their own PCs to market.

After Apple suffered a slump in the mid-1980s, he was forced out of the company. He was CEO at Next, another computer company, and Pixar, the computer-animation company that produced "Toy Story" on his watch, during the 10 years before he returned.

The January leave was Jobs' third medical leave over several years.

He had previously survived pancreatic cancer and received a liver transplant.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

Steve Jobs had no formal schooling in engineering, yet he's listed as the inventor or co-inventor on more than 200 U.S. patents. These are some of the significant products that were created under his direction:

1. Apple I (1976): Apple's first product was a computer for hobbyists and engineers. Steve Wozniak designed it, while Jobs orchestrated the funding and handled the marketing.

2. Apple II (1977): One of the first successful personal computers, the Apple II was designed as a mass-market product rather than something for engineers or enthusiasts. It was still largely Wozniak's design. The product line continued until 1993.

3. Lisa (1983): Jobs' visit to Xerox Corp.'s research center in Palo Alto inspired him to start work on the first commercial computer with a graphical user interface, with icons, windows and a cursor controlled by a mouse. It was the foundation for today's computer interfaces, but the Lisa was too expensive to be a commercial success.

4. Macintosh (1984): Like the Lisa, the Macintosh had a graphical user interface. It was also cheaper and faster and had the backing of a large advertising campaign behind it. People soon realized how useful the graphical interface was for design. That led to "desktop publishing," accomplished with a Mac coupled to a laser printer, to soon become a sales driver.

5. NeXT computer (1989): After being forced out of Apple, Jobs started a company that built a powerful workstation computer. The company was never able to sell large numbers, but the computer was influential: The world's first Web browser was created on one. Its software also lives on as the basis for today's Macintosh and iPhone operating system.

6. iMac (1998): When Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, the company was foundering, with an ever-shrinking share of the PC market. The radical iMac was the first step in reversing the slide. It was strikingly designed as a bubble of blue plastic that enclosed both the monitor and the computer. Easy to set up, it captured the imagination just as people across the world were having their eyes opened to the benefits of the Internet and considering getting their first home computer.

7. iPod (2001): It wasn't the first digital music player with a hard drive, but it was the first successful one. Apple's expansion into portable electronics has had vast ramifications.

8. iTunes store (2003): Before the iTunes store, buying digital music was a hassle, making piracy the more popular option. The store simplified the process and brought together tracks from all the major labels. The store became the largest music retailer in the U.S. in 2008.

9. iPhone (2007): The iPhone did for the phone experience what the Macintosh did for personal computing: It made the power of a smartphone easy to harness. Apple is now the world's most profitable maker of phones, and the influence of the iPhone is evident in all smartphones.

10. iPad (2010): Dozens of companies, including Apple, had created tablet computers before the iPad, but none caught on. The iPad finally cracked the code, creating a whole new category of computer practically by itself.

Associated Press Aug. 25, 2011 12:00 AM



Steve Jobs resigns as CEO of Apple

August 21, 2011

Finding may yield light-speed PC

NEW YORK - A one-atom-thick layer of carbon may one day help IBM and the U.S. military build more-precise radar and computers that operate at near the speed of light.

Physicists Konstantin Novoselov, 36, and Andre Geim, 52, at the University of Manchester in Britain, have found a way to manipulate how graphene, the thinnest and toughest material ever produced, conducts electricity, a breakthrough that opens the door to its use in digital electronics.

Because graphene conducts electricity 30 times as fast as silicon - approaching the speed of light, according to the researchers - the finding may be used by companies such as IBM to speed up computers. The material was first isolated by the two Russian-born scientists in 2004, and they were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics last year. The latest research was published recently in the journal Science.


"They've observed a phenomenon that was unattainable previously," said Yu-Ming Lin, an IBM researcher who developed the first integrated circuit from wafer-size graphene in June. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company, which funded the study along with Samsung Electronics and the U.S. Air Force and Navy, will now consider how to use graphene in semiconductors and computers, he said.

Until recently, use of graphene was limited to development of more-efficient batteries and foldable touch screens, items that didn't require scientists to be able to stop and start the movement of electrons in the material.

Novoselov and Geim were able to control the current by suspending two layers of graphene in a vacuum, reordering the electronic structure.

The finding may lead to "completely new types of transistors," Novoselov said in a telephone interview. "You can probably start using it for computer chips, but we believe we have something different, bigger here."

IBM, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, is researching the material's ability to create more-efficient mobile phones, clearer wireless signals and better radar, Lin said. The material's magnetic traits may also enable IBM to utilize high-frequency waves for medical devices that would spot diseases early on, Lin said.

Novoselov and Geim are part of a $1.4 billion effort put together by nine European organizations, including the University of Cambridge and Finland-based Nokia Oyj, to research graphene.

by Oliver Renick Bloomberg News Aug. 21, 2011 12:00 AM




Finding may yield light-speed PC

HP bows out of consumer market

SAN FRANCISCO - Hewlett-Packard's decision to surrender its smartphones and tablet computers and possibly get rid of its personal-computer business underscores how Apple has transformed consumer electronics in just four years.

HP's new CEO Leo Apotheker is now trying to turn the Silicon Valley stalwart into a twin of East Coast archrival IBM Corp. In doing so, he is acknowledging that his company has failed to balance the demands of both the consumer and corporate markets. As a result, it needs to exit most of its consumer businesses, just as IBM did six years ago.

Apple is the hottest consumer-electronics company on the planet. The iPhone's debut in 2007 brought ease of use and an intuitive design unmatched by predecessors, including smartphone pioneer Palm, which HP bought last year in hopes of getting a foothold in mobile devices. Apple followed in 2010 with the iPad tablet computer and managed to persuade people to buy a product they never knew they needed.


Rather than remain locked in a futile fight with a company that seems to have found the magic touch on making hit consumer products, HP is whittling its competition to the other business-technology specialists - namely, IBM, Oracle Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.

"Apple singlehandedly knocked HP out of the PC, smartphone and tablet business," Gleacher & Co. analyst Brian Marshall said in an interview.

The overhaul of HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., announced Thursday, has three parts:

- HP will stop making tablet computers and smartphones by October.

- It will try to spin off or sell its PC business, the world's largest. By the end of next year, HP computers could be sold under another company's name.

- The company plans to buy business-software maker Autonomy Corp. for about $10 billion in one of the biggest takeovers in HP's 72-year history. That would expand HP's software and services offerings, where IBM is strong.

HP, the largest technology company in the world by revenue, will continue to sell servers and other equipment to business customers, just as IBM now does. Those businesses currently don't generate as much revenue for HP as PCs, but they have higher profit margins.

Apotheker would not say whether any jobs will be cut. HP plans to take a charge of about $1 billion for restructuring and related costs, some of which could go for severance payments. HP employs more than 300,000 people worldwide.

HP's move toward an IBM-style business model, which is focused on selling to corporations and governments, makes sense considering that Apotheker spent most of his career at German business-software maker SAP AG, another company that catered to the technology needs of companies and government agencies.

"This is his bread-and-butter," Marshall said. "Now he has to deliver."

Investors appeared underwhelmed and sent HP's stock down 6 percent Thursday on a day the broader market declined. HP closed Friday at $23.60, down $5.91, or 20 percent from Thursday.

Apotheker is seeking radical changes to help erase the stain of scandal and leave his imprint on a massive company he inherited last year.

His predecessor, Mark Hurd, resigned under pressure a year ago, after an investigation found expense reports that were allegedly falsified to conceal a relationship with an HP marketing contractor.

In trying to ditch most of HP's consumer businesses, Apotheker is reversing a decadelong binge on computer hardware.

The area where HP has been most lacking is mobile devices.

HP has been hopelessly outmatched in smartphones and tablets despite its $1.8 billion acquisition last year of Palm Inc., whose webOS software was the crown jewel of the deal. The software powered the fledgling TouchPad tablet and HP-powered smartphones that are being discontinued.

The software was well-reviewed, but iPhones and iPads and smartphones running Google Inc.'s Android operating system - made possible after Apple paved the way - have dominated the fastest-growing parts of the consumer-technology market. HP was left in the margins.

HP executives likely decided that "they were too late to the tablet market to make a dent," said Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin. "They recognized they did not have a high probability of success."

In PCs, HP is acknowledging that it needs to reverse course on a path begun two CEOs ago under Carly Fiorina. She pushed through the controversial decision to spend $19 billion for Compaq Computer.

That set the stage for HP's ascent to become the world's top PC maker.

PCs are HP's biggest revenue-generator, but the business is also HP's least profitable, a result of falling prices for computers and brutal competition.

HP's effort to jettison its PC business is another concession to Apple's increasing dominance of consumer electronics, said Shaw Wu, an analyst with Sterne Agee. The PC division also had become a drag on HP's stock even though it still accounts for about 15 percent of the company's earnings, Wu said.

by Jordan Robertson Associated Press Aug. 20, 2011 12:00 AM




HP bows out of consumer market

Cars now vulnerable to theft by hacking

SAN FRANCISCO - Texting and driving don't go well together - though not in the way you might think.

Computer hackers can force some cars to unlock their doors and start their engines without a key by sending specially crafted messages to a car's anti-theft system. They can also snoop at where you've been by tapping the car's GPS system.

That is possible because car alarms, GPS systems and other devices are increasingly connected to cellular-telephone networks and thus can receive commands through text messaging. That capability allows owners to change settings on devices remotely, but it also gives hackers a way in.

Researchers from iSEC Partners recently demonstrated such an attack on a Subaru Outback equipped with a vulnerable alarm system, which wasn't identified. With a laptop perched on the hood, they sent commands to the Subaru's alarm system to unlock the doors and start the engine.

Their findings show that text messaging is no longer limited to short notes.

Texts are a powerful means of attack because the devices that receive them generally cannot refuse texts and the commands encoded in them. Users can't block texts; only operators of the phone networks can.

These devices are assigned phone numbers just like fax machines. So if you can find the secret phone number attached to a particular device, you can throw it off by sending your own commands through text messaging.

Although these numbers are supposed to be known only by the devices' operators, they aren't impossible to find. Certain network-administration programs allow technicians to probe networks to see what kinds of devices are on them. Based on the format of the responses, the type and even model of the device can be deduced. Hackers can use that information to craft attacks against devices they know are vulnerable. (In this case, the researchers bypassed these steps and simply took the alarm system out of the car to identify the secret phone number.)

Actually, stealing a car wouldn't be so easy.

You'd have to ensure that the phone number you found is attached to the car you're standing in front of, for instance. There are hacking tools to do that - they listen for cellular traffic around a particular vehicle - but in many cases it's easier to take a car that doesn't have an alarm.

The research from Don Bailey and Mat Solnik is unsettling because it shows that such attacks are possible on a variety of other devices that use wireless-communications chips. Those include ATMs, medical devices and even traffic lights.

Bailey, whose specialty is cellphone-network security, also found that similar techniques can be used to get a certain type of GPS system to cough up its location data. Such information can be used by stalkers or home burglars.

The research isn't just about taking off with someone else's car or finding out where that person has been.

It raises the possibility of other, more sinister dangers, such as those potentially affecting braking and acceleration, said Scott Borg, director of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a group that studies hacking threats. That becomes possible as networked electronics are more tightly coupled with physical machinery.

"Doing one that is harmful is quite hard, but we need to prepare for people doing that," Borg said.

After the pair showed off the techniques at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this month, a trade group for electric utilities, the North American Electric Reliability Corp., warned that the types of wireless chips exploited by the pair are also used at power plants and said that more caution is needed in their use.

by Jordan Robertson USA Today Aug. 20, 2011 12:00 AM




Cars now vulnerable to theft by hacking

Google-Motorola deal highlights patent arms race - Chicago Sun-Times

Story Image

A buyer tests Motorola’s Droid Bionic 4G phone at a Las Vegas show earlier this year. | AP file


When an Internet company plunks down $12.5 billion to buy a struggling cellphone company for its collection of patents, it’s another sign that, for the high-tech industry, patents have become a mallet wielded by corporations to pummel their competitors.

Google Inc. announced the deal to buy Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. on Monday, specifically for its trove of 17,000 patents. Google needs them to shield companies like HTC Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. —who make phones based on Google’s Android software— from lawsuits filed by Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

“Google is not acquiring Motorola for the sake of its technology or its research,” said James Bessen, a lecturer at Boston University and co-author of a book on the patent system. “Patents have become legal weapons — they’re not representing ideas anymore.”

The trend, decades in the making, raises questions that pending patent legislation in Washington only begins to answer.

Google’s multi-billion bid to get its hands on Motorola’s output of legal paperwork is the culmination of a “bubble” in the value of patents relating to smartphones that started last year, as Microsoft and Apple mounted their legal attack. Industry watchers say that bubble may deflate now that Google is set to gain the protection of Motorola’s patents in a deal that’s set to close late this year or early next.

But an underlying problem will keep growing: patent filings and lawsuits that distract companies and sap resources that are better spent on other things.

Engineers spend their time writing patents rather than inventing things, or reworking products just to avoid patent infringement. Customers put off purchases because of pending lawsuits, and independent software developers close up shop because they can’t afford licensing fees.

“If you have to pay $12.5 billion dollars to play, you can sense why maybe an individual who has a great idea would feel discouraged,” said Julie Samuels, a patent lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology-oriented civil liberties group. “It affects the whole economy.”

It wasn’t always this way. The U.S. software industry got its start with nary a patent filed, and on the hardware side, patent suits were rare until the mid-1980s. That was when calculator and chip maker Texas Instruments Inc., on the brink of extinction, decided to see if it could make some money from its patent portfolio. It started filing patent lawsuits and demanding money from companies with infringing products. It saved the company.

IBM Corp. latched on to TI’s lead in patent licensing in the mid-90s, when it was down on its luck. That coincided with courts broadening the types of patents allowed. Patents on software and “business methods,” with vague, broad claims, were now accepted.

Since then, an arms race has slowly escalated in the industry. Companies found that the best defense against a patent suit from a rival was to have a patent portfolio to wield as a deterrent: “Sue me and I’ll sue you back,” is the message Google is sending by buying Motorola.

Motorola is already suing Apple over several patents, including one that purports to cover the act of sending address data between two phones. Another patent at issue covers the idea of concealing a phone’s antenna in its outer case, which Apple arguably does with the iPhone 4.

It’s a situation reminiscent of the nuclear standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. But just as the threat of nuclear weapons didn’t stop third-world guerillas during the Cold War or deter terrorists today, the patent arsenals are useless against “patent trolls” — companies that own patents but don’t do actual research or development. Since they don’t make anything themselves, they can’t be the targets of patent suits, says Colleen Chien, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Mountains of patents have proven useless against the patent system’s ‘stateless actors,’ non-practicing entities who are invulnerable to patent counterclaims,” Chien writes.

In one example, a company with a 1980s patent on a kiosk that made music audiotapes on the spot for customers in stores tried to levy license fees from tens of thousands of technology companies, claiming that the patent covered any downloading of media from the Internet. Microsoft was among the companies that settled.

Bessen puts the cost of dealing with “patent trolls” at half a trillion dollars in the last two decades. Yet patent trolls account for only one in six patent suits, by his estimate, so the patent system’s burden on the economy is much higher.

Just as we worry about old Soviet nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands, Chien says that the patent hoards accumulated by corporations as “defensive” measures are starting to end up with “non-practicing entities” who use them for lawsuits.

For example, memory chip-maker Micron Technology Inc. in 2009 sold 4,500 patents to a patent lawyer in 2009. Chien points out that the patents are worth more to “non-practicing entities,” because they can sue without fear of retaliatory patent suits.

During the Cold War, there were arms limitation talks. Similarly, many of the big technology corporations want the patent bombs taken away, or at least limited. Google’s lawyers are critical of the patent system, and it’s clear the company would rather not have to strike deals like the one to buy Motorola. Cisco Systems Inc., the world’s largest maker of networking gear, wants patent infringement damages to be based on the value of the component in question rather than the entire product.

Tech companies can expect little help from Washington. After a decade of wrangling, Congress is set to approve a patent reform bill when the Senate reunites in December. It will be the largest legislative change to the patent system since 1952. Even so, experts say its effect on the high-tech industry will be marginal. It had sought more sweeping changes, but resistance from the pharmaceutical industry, which is much better served by the current system, has kept out the more radical proposals.

The legislation will make it marginally harder to get and hold onto patents, Chien said, but that’s unlikely to cut down on the number of spurious patents, she believes.

And paradoxically, the bills could expand the glut of patents that’s plaguing the industry, since one of its goals is to reduce the three-year backlog of patents pending at the Patent Office.

“It’s going to take a long time for Congress to tackle patents again, and that’s really a problem because this troll problem is going to continue to fester,” Samuels said. “We all feel the effects.”

by Peter Svensson Chicago Sun Times Aug 17, 2011



Google-Motorola deal highlights patent arms race - Chicago Sun-Times

Online music to your ears

The music industry is in limbo.

As record stores across the country close their doors and song collections migrate off the shelf and onto the laptop, countless online music services are vying to make their own listening models the industry standard.

Spotify, a Swedish import that's built a huge fan base in Europe, was launched in the U.S. on July 14.

American music fans now have one more option for building their collections and discovering new songs.

Russ Crupnick, senior entertainment-industry analyst for the NPD Group, a research firm, says Spotify is drawing a lot of attention for a generous six-month free trial period that's almost as good as the real thing. But he adds that it's entering a field already filled with good options.

"It's sort of the latest evolution of music-streaming services," Crupnick says. "But the reality is, I don't think it's new."

Here's a rundown of the most popular online music services and their various perks.

Spotify

The new service has three major factors going in its favor: it's huge, it's simple and in its most basic form, it's (sort of) free. It's essentially an infinite iTunes: Users download a client application that looks and feels just like a personal music library but which gives them instant access to all of its 15 million songs. There are no long download times and no abridged samples. The only thing reminding users that they're essentially renting the songs they're playing are the audio ads that interrupt the flow of music every few spins. Users can either be invited by friends to Spotify Free, which gives them unlimited ad-supported free access for six months or can register without an invite for Spotify Open, which has a 20-hour-per-month limit but is likewise ad-supported and free. A $4.99-per-month membership turns off the ads, and a $9.99-per-month membership additionally lets users play music from mobile devices. It's worth noting that the service is mobbed with new user requests, so setting up either a free or open account may require a little waiting or networking with friends.

Rdio

This slightly smaller service operates on the same basic ideology as Spotify, with a few key differences. Rdio's pay tiers are almost identical ($4.99 per month for computer access, $9.99 per month to add mobile devices) but they don't include Spotify's extended free trial. Its music library, though still vast, is slightly smaller - about 10 million rather than 15 million songs. Rdio's main structural advantage is that it's a more social service, with a bevy of Twitter-like features that let users follow other users and listen to their playlists. This functionality, which will become even more useful as Rdio's user base grows, makes the service an ideal platform for discovering new music. Both services, Spotify and Rdio, are a perfect fit for those with wide and insatiable musical appetites - Spotify especially for the enthusiastic dilettante, with its generous free subscription, and Rdio for the true obsessive, eager to keep tabs on what friends, favorite artists and record labels are playing.

Napster

In some sense, Napster is the granddaddy of all online music services: Its original incarnation, a file-sharing service founded by Northeastern University undergrad Sean Fanning in the late 1990s, essentially invented the idea of a limitless online music library. That first version was shut down in the midst of numerous lawsuits from music labels, and the rights to its name were snapped up by software company Roxio and eventually taken over by current owner Best Buy. Napster's current iteration offers the same endless-library model as Spotify and Rdio. Monthly and quarterly plans run $5 per month (or $10 per month for mobile-device access) and annual plans run for $4.17 per month (or $8 per month with mobile option). The service offers only a 7-day free trial - nothing on Spotify there. But its price cuts for annual membership make it an appealing option for those unafraid of long-term commitment.

Grooveshark

The thing that separates this Internet application from the pack is that all its content is user-sourced: Songs come not from a record label or distributor but from other users, roughly a la YouTube. However, you wouldn't know that from the professional sleekness of its display or the relative high quality of the music files. Grooveshark looks and feels very similar to its subscription-service peers. Most users take advantage of Grooveshark for free, but a $6-per-month subscription cuts off ads and tosses in some nice features, while $9 per month allows for mobile access. Be aware, though, that Grooveshark is knee-deep in lawsuits from all over the music industry. Depending on their outcomes, the whole thing could go the way of Napster 1.0.

Rhapsody

This service, which started running in 2001, got to the all-the-music-you-could-ever-want party early, although newer services have snatched much of its market share since. Users get unlimited access to 12 million songs with a slightly different pricing scheme: $9.99 per month for unlimited streams and use on one mobile device, and $14.99 monthly to use it on up to three different mobile devices or home audio systems.

Pandora

Pandora has emerged as the leader of another music-service school of thought. It's a much more modest platform, and less a mega-library than a particularly sophisticated radio. Users create their own "stations" based on favorite artists and songs, and Pandora's software selects and plays a succession of musically similar songs. Start a Radiohead channel, for instance, and Pandora will play a random song from "The King of Limbs" or "OK Computer," followed by records from, say, Modest Mouse, or The xx, with similar instrumentation, rhythmic structure and mood. Users can give those selections a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, helping Pandora to refine further choices. Listeners who want to hear a particular song at a particular moment will be out of luck: They're bound to the software's whims. For adventurous listeners who prefer to set their music going and see where it leads, it's ideal - or at least an ideal complement to a traditional music library. It helps that the whole thing is free, with occasional ads, and requires minimal effort to get started.

- Slacker Radio is a similar model that offers a $10-per-month enhanced subscription with on-demand listening. One drawback: Picky listeners may quickly find that radio services like Pandora provide proof that music taste is about much more than measurable factors like time signature and style of harmony. Some users may enter an artist and find themselves listening, five songs later, to music stylistically similar but completely and indefinably wrong.

MOG

This service began as a blog network, but has evolved into an intriguing middle route between the huge on-demand model of Spotify and Rdio and Pandora's radio setup. A monthly $4.99 fee (or $9.99 for mobile-device use) gives subscribers access to 11 million songs. The layout is a little bit more cluttered than those of Spotify and Rdio, but the site boasts a particularly cool piece of functionality: an adjustable dial that lets users make the service more library-like or more radio-like, either playing only songs by a given artist or gradually allowing more and more musically similar songs into the mix. MOG also integrates blog entries and news posts seamlessly into its display - a nice perk for those who like context for their listening.

iTunes Store

Apple's online music store remains the gold standard in old-school pay-by-the-song downloads, with around 18 million songs available for purchase. Prices range from 69 cents to $1.29 per song, with the most popular songs sold at the higher end of the range. So that $9.99 per month that buys you unlimited access at Spotify and Rdio would let you pick up seven to 14 new songs a month on iTunes. In that sense, iTunes seems like a rough deal. But for some, owning the music rather than streaming it from the Internet has an intrinsic value that can't be quantified.

by Cory Finley The Arizona Republic Aug. 16, 2011 12:00 AM




Online music to your ears

Google to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 bln dollars | euronews




Google agreed on Monday to a deal to buy mobile handset maker Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars (8.6 billion euros).

It will the biggest acquisition in the search engine giant’s history if approved by shareholders and regulators.

Analysts say the deal aims to cement Google’s mobile operating system Android as the smartphone industry leader in terms of market share.

Research firm Gartner Inc. said more than 43% of smartphones sold globally in the most recent quarter were Android devices. Its data said Apple’s iPhone accounted for about 18 percent of sales.

“Google clearly is very interested in making sure that they are there when people are trying to get to the Internet through a mobile device,” said Ben Schachter of Macquarie Capital.

“Mobile devices are growing at the fastest rates in the industry. Already today more than ten percent of all Google page views are happening on mobile devices so they need to make sure that if you want to get to the Internet and you have a smart phone they want you going through their device and not just through Apple or Microsoft or others.”

In acquiring Motorola Mobility, Google will now also have access to an estimated 24,000 patents.

by Euronews Aug 16, 2011



Google to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 bln dollars | euronews

August 13, 2011

Tempe, Chandler's bold Wi-Fi project fizzled fast

Gray metal devices the size of small microwave ovens cling to light poles in Tempe and Chandler.

There are about 1,400 of them.

And they don't do anything.

The devices are remnants of outdated technology and a visionary service that began with big promise but fizzled in early 2008. They came before smartphones, iPads and 4g networks and are so 2006.

That was the year several Valley cities were touting plans for seamless municipal Wi-Fi networks where users could pay by the hour, day, week or longer to log on to laptops anywhere.

City councils made deals with wireless companies, at little public expense, to install hundreds of the boxes amid plans to make the southeast Valley the nation's largest contiguous multicity network. Municipalities were supposed to get free use of the system for government functions in exchange for providing locations for the devices and electricity that cost taxpayers $2 per month for each pole.

Now, there's just an abundance of outmoded, deteriorating gizmos in public view, an embarrassing reminder of a new-tech idea that didn't work out.

"Part of the problem is technology just evolves too quickly," said Pat McDermott, Chandler's assistant city manager. "Four or five years ago, taking your computer anywhere was the new thing. Now, phones substitute for that."

Apple's first iPhone went on sale in the United States in the summer of 2007. In less than a year, the two cities' wireless networks were dead.

David Heck, Tempe's finance and technology director, said the systems failed because the operators didn't have a viable business plan.

Chandler and Tempe made deals with MobilePro and NeoReach Wireless, which later merged with Kite Networks Inc., owned by Gobility.

The companies invested millions of dollars and installed more than 900 light-pole receptors throughout Tempe before they signed up subscribers. Then they ran out of money before they were able to develop and distribute equipment necessary to bring reliable wireless signals indoors so people could log on anywhere inside their homes and businesses. That was a key to expanding the subscriber base, Heck said.

The system worked for Tempe subscribers who logged on to laptops outdoors and in some indoor spaces, but it wasn't reliable in all rooms of a house or commercial building.

Chandler's system was still in the testing phase when it was shut off.

Time passed - a dangerous thing in the technology business.

"It was operational for about a year" in Tempe, Heck said, "before it ran into trouble."

'Heartbreaking'

Ryan McCaigue envisioned a service that would make millions of dollars and serve tens of thousands of people.

McCaigue, a Chandler resident and partner in the venture, told the Chandler City Council in January 2006 that he expected the Wi-Fi system to recoup its $3 million investment within five years. It could serve 40,000 subscribers just in Chandler. Councilman Matt Orlando predicted there might be more than 70,000 subscribers and McCaigue's group "could have a huge return."

But after installing 1,400 of the light-pole devices in Tempe and Chandler and signing up more than 2,000 subscribers, MobilePro ran into money troubles, McCaigue said.

"A year into the program," he said, "it became apparent we weren't going to be able to live up to commitments."

Now, the pole-mounted devices, which cost $3,300 each, would be practically worthless if removed from any potential network, he said. The salvage value for parts or scrap is negligible.

The devices could still be activated and used, McCaigue said, but it would take at least several hundred thousand dollars to get them running and replace damaged ones.

The venture's failure "was really heartbreaking for me," said McCaigue, who now works for a Valley telecommunications company. "I poured a lot of effort into it and felt we had a viable product."

Crash and burn

The crash-and-burn scenario of municipal Wi-Fi isn't exclusive to the Tempe and Chandler projects.

Scottsdale was considered ahead of the times in 2005 when the city agreed to have Wildfire Broadband set up public Wi-Fi downtown. It worked longer than any other in the Valley, two years, before that company went out of business. The boxes were removed, and Scottsdale abandoned the service, city spokesman Mike Phillips said.

Gilbert had announced it was preparing to make a deal with Gobility when the company abandoned the Tempe and Chandler systems. Phoenix and Mesa were examining municipal Wi-Fi in 2008 when the others shut down.

Nationally, similar services suffered a similar fate.

Philadelphia set up a citywide wireless system with EarthLink in 2006 but bought the assets for $2 million last year and converted the system to government-only use.

San Francisco launched ambitious plans to establish a citywide Wi-Fi network in 2005 but abandoned them in 2007.

Also in 2007, EarthLink CEO Rolla Huff announced the company would be cutting its spending on unprofitable municipal Wi-Fi systems, and in 2008 the company shut down its operations in New Orleans.

Devices in limbo

Tempe sued in 2009 to gain ownership of the light-pole devices and in May won a $1.8 million judgment against Commonwealth Capital, the company that bought more than half of the devices and then leased them back to the wireless provider. Court records indicate Tempe did not know about the purchase and lease-back until the service was shut off and the city was left with a non-working system.

Gobility and its predecessors operated the wireless system in Tempe for about a year even after it sold half of the devices to Commonwealth Capital and leased the devices back. But by early 2008, the service stopped. A year later, Commonwealth Capital sued Tempe to get the devices it claimed to own and the city countersued to retain them in keeping with a provision in the original contract should the service end.

The drawn-out legal battle stopped Tempe from quickly selling the system or making a deal with another operator as the technology continued to change. Since the Tempe and Chandler systems were linked, the delay also affected the neighboring municipality. The court decision gives Tempe ownership of the devices, but it's uncertain what the city will do with them or whether Commonwealth will appeal the ruling.

Commonwealth, an equipment-leasing company based in Clearwater, Fla., did not respond to interview requests. None of the other companies involved in the network appears to have active websites. The phone number previously listed for Gobility was identified as the cellphone for one of the company's executives, Al Delgado. He did not return phone messages.

Chandler is watching what happens in Tempe and if the court decision is appealed before city officials decide what they are going to do with about 500 of the installed devices, said Margaret Coulter, communications manager. It's unlikely Chandler will ever use them for what they were intended, she said.

"Some are deteriorating . . . and the technology is getting dated," Coulter said. "But until we make a final decision, we will leave them up. Given the way finances are in general, the city does not intend to take it over and operate it as a free service to residents."

What next?

Chandler residents occasionally call and ask about the gray boxes on the light poles or if they can tap into the Wi-Fi. Coulter said she explains how the service never really got started.

Kelly Davis-Felner, spokeswoman for the national non-profit Wi-Fi Alliance, said technological advances have improved speeds and reliability of wireless services, but "equipment from 2006 is by no means obsolete." McCaigue said today's wireless devices are not incompatible with the older technology and the cities' devices could be used by phone providers to enhance their data capabilities.

But Tempe and Chandler don't appear eager to spend taxpayer money to repair and then operate old technology after it was abandoned by private companies.

Margaret Shalley, a Phoenix spokeswoman, said that while other communities were "jumping on the bandwagon," Phoenix officials had concerns about the financing and the technology. Phoenix commissioned a feasibility study that showed the idea wasn't practical because technology was changing too fast and an expansive system was too costly to build and operate.

Instead, Phoenix set out to offer limited public Wi-Fi in buildings such as libraries and community centers, a practice now common across the Valley.

by Edythe Jensen The Arizona Republic Aug. 13, 2011 12:00 AM



Tempe, Chandler's bold Wi-Fi project fizzled fast

Tempe-based company says it broke record on how much light non-traditional cells convert

Tempe-based First Solar Inc. recently said it broke the record for how much light a cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar cell can convert to electricity, and several Wall Street analysts questioned the significance of that news Thursday.

Solar cells are assembled into solar panels, and the panels are less efficient than the individual cells.

First Solar makes panels out of CdTe. They are thinner, lighter and cheaper than traditional solar panels, but they also are much less efficient. Traditional solar cells made of crystalline silicon can reach efficiencies of about 25 percent but are more expensive to make into panels.

First Solar is known as having the lowest "cost per watt," which means that its panels are the cheapest for how much electricity they produce.

But being less efficient per square inch, they are not commonly used on rooftops, where space is limited. And large solar plants need more land for First Solar's panels to get the same amount of electricity as they would with conventional solar panels.

This is likely the reason that First Solar panels aren't used in places where space or land prices are a consideration, like Luke Air Force Base, which chose more efficient SunPower Corp. panels for a big installation.

Improving efficiency is one of the key ways First Solar can keep driving its costs down, which will be essential if solar is going to thrive without substantial government subsidies.

First Solar said it achieved a 17.3 percent efficiency rate on a solar cell, breaking the record of 16.7 percent set in 2001. The panels it actually sells now have an average efficiency of 11.7 percent.

"Why or how are your new high-efficiency cells more credible (than other companies') that they'll turn into panels?" asked analyst Mark Wienkes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

First Solar CEO Rob Gillette said the company should be able to replicate the efficiency in the real world, not just a lab.

"They are more credible because they are actually done on manufacturing tooling," he replied.

Sanjay Shrestha of Lazard Capital Markets asked if the record meant First Solar could produce solar electricity cheaper than previously hoped.

Gillette said it will help the company meet its goals of producing electricity for between 52 cents and 63 cents per watt in 2014.

by Ryan Randazzo The Arizona Republic Aug. 7, 2011 12:00 AM




Tempe-based company says it broke record on how much light non-traditional cells convert

Tablets, laptops, notebooks becoming indispensable for students

iPad

Business Wire - Accessories and apps can make iPads even more useful in classroom settings.



More students will be arriving at class this school year with notebooks and tablet computers as the electronic gadgets swiftly morph from personal tech devices to indispensable learning tools.

Retailers are pushing iPad 2s, Acer tablets and other small, lightweight computers as part of their back-to-school promotions this year.

Laptop vs. tablet | Poll: Your next computer purchase


Manufacturers such as Lenovo also are promoting their products as basic back-to-school essentials and working on educational applications to enhance their value in the classroom.

And really, what more do students need? They can download textbooks onto the devices, record lectures, take notes, do research, write papers, communicate with teachers and other students and perform many other school-related tasks.

Laptop and notebook computers have been necessary school supplies on college campuses for years and are now increasingly showing up at high schools and middle schools.

Now tablet computers, such as iPad 2s, Motorola Xooms and Samsung Galaxy Tabs, are making an appearance on campus, and educators and tech experts say they're here to stay.

Back to school is the second biggest annual shopping event after Christmas, and the National Retail Federation expects computers to claim a bigger piece of back-to-school budgets this year because of the popular iPad and numerous new tablet computers hitting the market.

Chance Keane, shift manager at the Walmart Supercenter at 2501 W. Happy Valley Road in Phoenix, reports brisk sales of laptops, tablets and notebook computers for back to school this year.

IPad 2s are the best sellers, but Keane said demand is picking up for other tablets such as the Acer, $400 at Walmart, and HP TouchPads, $600.

- Office-supply retailer Staples Inc., which has been making a big push into back to school, is featuring eight tablet computers this year, including a Dell Streak 7 for $300 and a Motorola Xoom, $500. Staples also is offering a $100 gift card with the purchase of select laptops and a student ID.

"Technology is everywhere for back to school this year," Staples spokeswoman Karen Pevenstein said. "It's no longer pencil boxes and red notebooks."

- At Target, students can trade in their old electronic gear for a store credit that can be used to upgrade to an iPad 2 for $500 or an Acer Aspire One Notebook, $330.

The National Retail Federation estimated the average American household with K-12 students will spend $600 on back to school, with college students and their families spending more. Of that, $190 will be spent on computers, cellphones and tablet devices. That's a slight increase over 2010 and compares with lower expenditures for clothing and non-electronic school supplies forecast for 2011.

Classroom staples

Educators tend to favor notebooks over the new tablets because they are better at creating content. But they recognize the tablets' potential - and their lower costs -and are finding ways to make the gadgets work. Tablet makers also are working on applications to make their devices handle schoolwork better.

Incoming freshmen at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix were issued Lenovo ThinkPad notebook computers Aug. 1 that they will carry for the next four years at the private Jesuit high school. All of the textbooks and study materials students will need during their terms at Brophy are loaded onto the ThinkPads, which are built by Lenovo according to the school's specifications. The students pay about $2,000 for the computers but save on the cost of text books and study materials.

Jim Bopp, Brophy's assistant principal for technology and instruction, said the school was a forerunner in the integration of notebook computers into its curriculum.

The school issued computers to a group of 30 sophomores in a pilot program six years ago and now requires all 1,300 of its students to have one.

"It's been a learning curve for us, but I can't imagine going back," Bopp said.

At Phoenix Union High School District's Bioscience school at 512 E. Pierce St. in Phoenix, all students are issued notebook computers. Although all of the district's schools have computer labs, curriculum supervisor Sharon Bernero said Bioscience is the only campus where all students have their own computers.

At schools that do not require computers, enterprising students are bringing their own devices and finding ways to use them to help with their schoolwork, she said.

Some schools are integrating tablet computers, such as iPads, into their curriculums.

Arizona Christian University will be offering iPad 2s to incoming freshmen this fall. The northeast Phoenix school, formerly called Southwestern College, is spending $100,000 on the tablet computers for about 200 students, who will make up its largest incoming class in history.

How to choose?

This year, Brophy switched to Lenovo computers from Toshibas and looked at using iPads.

While the iPad worked well for consuming content, Bopp said, it fell short as a tool for creating it because of limited word-processing capabilities.

"We need our teachers and students to do both," Bopp said.

Full-time master of business administration students at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University are required to have laptops and last year, the school became one of the first in the country to test iPads in its classrooms.

"More students were showing up with them, and we wanted to see if they were a comparable substitute for a laptop," said Tami Coronella, the business school's director of MBA student services.

The study concluded the iPad and other tablet computers have potential but that a laptop is preferable as a classroom tool.

Coronella cited rules set by textbook publishers that require downloaded digital textbooks to expire in 180 days. But she said tablet computers are here to stay in classrooms and that the computer makers will find a way to overcome the current shortcomings of the devices.

ASU has identified several products that allow students to access course materials and other school programs on their tablets.

"Students want to interact with iPads and tablet computers, and we can't ignore that," Coronella said.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

Computers get smaller, more versatile

Here are brief descriptions of several computer types, generally made for individual use:

Desktop: Single-user, stationary computer, generally a PC or Mac, which resides on the top of a desk.

Laptop: Portable computer, weighing up to 12 pounds, that has a LCD screen and built-in batteries for mobile use.

Notebook: Small, lightweight laptop, generally with fewer capabilities.

Tablet: General-purpose computer, generally with a touch screen, that is contained in a single panel.

Smartphone: Cellular telephone with advanced capabilities for accessing the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail and performing other computer-like functions.

Source: PC Magazine



by Max Jarman The Arizona Republic Aug. 7, 2011 12:00 AM




Tablets, laptops, notebooks becoming indispensable for students

Go Daddy looks to expand globally

Johannes Loutsch is giving a tour of Go Daddy's new productions studio when he mentions the life-size cardboard cutout of Danica Patrick dressed in a racing suit standing in his office.

Loutsch understands how pretty women can sell products. In New York, he worked mainly in the fashion and beauty industry, including on Victoria's Secret commercials. He came to Go Daddy in 2010, a year the company produced about 15 television and Web spots.

"We'll go international probably in (the) third quarter," said Loutsch, adding the domain-name registrar is set to surpass the number of commercials it made last year with five months still remaining in 2011.

"It's not been determined which markets we're going to go into, but I would imagine Hispanic (ones), Australia. We've done some advertising in the United Kingdom. Obviously, Asia is going to be huge target."

Without prodding, Loutsch, the company's executive producer and senior writer, offers insight on how the saucy Go Daddy girl commercials and the company's in-your-face style will play around the world.

"I don't think we'll advertise the same way," he said. "We're talking about cross-cultural metaphors and that sort of thing. We have to be careful because we're introducing ourselves. I think here, the kind of advertising we do is expected. It works. It's something akin to American beer advertising. You can't argue with the results."

It's clear the Scottsdale-based company, with its ubiquitous advertising and unconventional founder, is thinking more globally then ever.

In July, Go Daddy and three private-equity firms announced a partnership that is expected to pump millions into the business to beef up cloud-computing services and spur growth overseas.

Moreover, the deal is about finding a partner with international offices and enough financial clout to take Go Daddy to the next level. The partnership is expected to close by the end of the year.

"We all view it as sort of Phase 2," said Warren Adelman, Go Daddy president and chief operating officer. "We've gotten to this level, and we've brought in these folks who have seen it all, and we can tap into their knowledge, tap into their contacts, whether its business partners or international expansion. They have access to equity and sources of cash if we're interested in doing something acquisitive at some point. They bring a lot of intelligence and smarts to the table that could be really helpful for us going forward as we look to going from $1 billion (revenue) to $5 billion."

While Go Daddy has not divulged how much of a cash infusion it will receive, founder Bob Parsons has said the investment, plus money he and other members of management have already put in, will bring the total valuation of the company to $2 billion, potentially making it one of Arizona's largest companies.

Experts who follow Go Daddy differ on how its culture may change when equity partners also have a say.

Parsons will stay on as chairman, but it remains to be seen if the investments he's known for, including lavish holiday parties featuring big-name entertainment and employee cash giveaways, will continue to be the norm.

Building a brand

In 2003, Go Daddy had 2 million domain names under management. Today, it says it has nearly 25 times that number: 49 million.

According to webhosting .info, which tracks its numbers differently from the company, Go Daddy has 40.3 million, or 32 percent of the global market share. That puts it well ahead of second-place Kirkland, Wash.-based eNom and its 10.7 million domains.

Wild West Domains Inc., which is part of Go Daddy's stable of companies, adds 3.4 million domains to Go Daddy's total.

Sales at Go Daddy have soared as well, according to company records, from $58.7 million in 2003 to $947 million in 2010. This year the company says it's on track to generate $1.1 billion in revenue.

For many, the rapid rise started with a broken tank-top strap during a 2005 Super Bowl commercial that made censors blush while at the same time introducing the nation to a funny-named technology company few had heard of.

In the year after the racy commercial, Go Daddy added 2.5 million domain names to its business, industry sources reported. The commercial featured a young woman who has a "wardrobe malfunction" during her appearance before a "censorship committee."

The company's success is mainly due to marketing at a time when many tech firms weren't, said Andrew Allemann, editor of the Austin-based Domain Name Wire, a Web source for industry news.

"Nobody had heard of them for the most part until they started doing some great, I guess you could call them, marketing stunts," he said. "I don't know if you call the Super Bowl a stunt or not. But I think it was ingenious, after the dot-com bust, to do Super Bowl advertising."

The company showed some market smarts, too.

Go Daddy's roots are in discount domain registering. When small-business owners and entrepreneurs needed their own spot on the Web, Go Daddy sold them available addresses inexpensively.

After deregulation of the industry a decade ago, the company began supplanting big players by charging roughly $10 annually to register domains, much less than the going rate of $35, Allemann said.

"Then, they were able to capitalize on that by figuring out that domain names are a loss leader or a low-margin item, and the way you really make money in the business is not with the domain names, but it's with everything else that people buy with them," he said.

For example, there's a good chance those registering a domain will need a company to host their site, and they will need to buy other services, such a security certificate, to be able to handle sensitive customer information, Allemann said.

"A lot of us make fun of Go Daddy for their shopping cart (on its website) since they try to cross-sell you everything under the sun, but at the end of the day, it works really well," Allemann said. "A lot of people who come to the site to register a $10 domain name end up spending $100."

Because of the higher-margin items, the company was able to pump even more into marketing. And it was able to use its phone support as a way to sell more products. Of its, 3,250 employees, Adelman said 2,000 are in what the company calls its customer-care centers in Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe and Hiawatha, Iowa.

When he started more than eight years ago as vice president of strategic marketing, Adelman said Go Daddy had about 100 employees in part of a building at Scottsdale Airpark.

International push

Two years ago, about 85 percent of Go Daddy's business was in North America. But the percentage of revenue the company makes domestically is shifting, Adelman said. Foreign business now accounts for about 20 percent of sales.

"What we are seeing is rapid accelerating in Asia and continued growth for us in Europe, as well," he said. "We're growing pretty fast here, too, but you're going to continue to see us shift globally as Internet penetration continues to rise in those countries in Asia particularly, and as we spend more time there."

Go Daddy opened a data center in Singapore more than a year ago and one in Amsterdam a year before that. Early next year, it plans on opening a customer-call center in Asia.

The company just introduced multicurrency payment options, so it's possible to pay for names and products in euros and British pounds. And about a year ago, it offered AliPay, a Chinese payment system similar to PayPal.

Based on what's transpiring on the Internet, there is plenty of room for Go Daddy to continue growing, Adelman said.

"You kind of feel like everybody's got a domain name, everybody has got a website," he said. "The truth is they don't. There are 205 million domain names around the globe. There are 7 billion people. We haven't even scratched the surface."

Go Daddy boasts 9.4 million customers and says a third of the Internet runs through its servers. It does about 7 billion domain-name system queries a day, Adelman said.

Not without critics

The company's rise also brought it controversy. Go Daddy's reputation in the industry is mixed, said Allemann, whose site does take Go Daddy advertising.

Parsons ignited controversy this year when he went to Zimbabwe and videotaped his hunting party shooting and killing an elephant that he agued was destroying sorghum crops relied on by villagers. Animal-rights activists and others wanted an apology and pledged to do business with other companies.

While Parsons never admitted wrongdoing, Go Daddy altered the video, including removing the AC/DC song "Hells Bells" that played while residents carved the kill.

A move in July to acquire a negative website about its business practices also shows the company frets occasionally about its image.

About the time the new investors were announced, Go Daddy reached an agreement with Insecure .com to transfer the domain NoDaddy.com, a site that featured posts of disgruntled former employees and unhappy customers of the company.

A spokesman said on July 8 NoDaddy.com posted a site-closure message. A week later, the site was taken down and the domain was transferred to Go Daddy. The next day, Go Daddy became the registrar for NoDaddy.com.

Allemann said the company has drawn fire from customers for locking down domain names after changes are made to records that contain contact information of the domain owner.

"There have been complaints about it being harder to transfer your domains out of Go Daddy to a different domain registrar in certain circumstances, which are valid complaints," he said. "That's frustrated people a lot over the years. They say it's because they want to prevent domain theft and it's a sign that someone is trying to steal the domain. It's also something that people can get fixed if they need to. It's just they have to complain."

Still, Allemann says most of the complaints surrounding the company revolve around Parsons and what some perceive as sexist advertising.

"Some people will tell you they use pretty aggressive sales tactics," he said. "It's the same thing you're going to hear about from any sort of services company like that, I think."

'Cloud' on horizon

The millions that Go Daddy will receive in equity is expected to create a sweet spot for the company in the rapidly growing field of "cloud computing."

More and more companies are storing data and applications on remote servers, known as clouds, instead of desktop computers. Cloud computing makes digital information more accessible and frees companies from the expense of maintaining data on their own computers and servers.

Melanie Posey, a telecommunications and Web hosting-sector analyst at IDC, said Go Daddy informed her of its plans to use the investment to bulk up its new Instant DataCenter service.

The new product allows customers who want to build hefty e-commerce sites to control the number of servers they need without having to purchase expensive rack space from hosting companies or data centers.

Go Daddy's idea is to let customers easily create and configure their own private network of servers while allowing them to balance the traffic load or shut them off if they're unneeded. By using a control panel, customers would be able to give themselves more or less horsepower depending on how popular their site is.

"They can go in and actually increase the size of the server because it's a virtual server," said Flavio Andrade, product-line manager. "In a dedicated server, growing the size of the server means taking the server down, putting in more memory and replacing the processor with a more powerful processor."

Posey said the product is meant to be an alternative to similar services provided by Amazon.com and a company called Rackspace.

"Rackspace is a little bit easier to use than Amazon . . . but their offerings are a lot more limited," Posey said. "With Amazon, you can get every possible feature . . . but the user interface isn't all that intuitive and you don't really get that much support with the service unless you pay for it. What they're trying to do is come up with a cloud offering that sits right in the middle of those two things."

To be successful will require a lot of up-front investment for infrastructure and software development, Posey said.

"For Go Daddy to go up against Rackspace and Amazon, the big guys in the market, it's going to take bit more investment than just cash from operations," she said.

The company also recently announced a next-generation Web-hosting product called 4GH. It is also set up in a cloud environment that will be supported by several servers.

Under the current shared-hosting model, many customer websites are housed on a single server, meaning if it experiences issues, it affects everyone on the server.

For example, if one server goes down, all customer sites on the server go down with it.

Cost of capital

Allemann figures Go Daddy's new financial partners will be very focused on the bottom line.

"They're in there for one reason, and that's to make money," he said. "Go Daddy has always wanted to make money, but to the extent that it was making significant cash flow or profits, it was kind of up to Bob (Parsons) what he wanted to do with that. Whereas now, there is really only one thing that matters, and that's the long-term value of the company and the money it makes."

He also wonders what will happen to the 36 Go Daddy employees Parsons says will each receive checks for $1 million or more when the deal goes through.

"It will be interesting to see what sort of incentive those people have to hang around," Allemann said, adding some will likely reinvest in the company and others may be interested in moving on to startups.

"It's essentially like going public," he says of the private-equity partnership.

Posey doesn't expect much of a culture change.

"This is how they've kind of made their name in the market," she said. "Say what you want about the Go Daddy girls, the Danica Patrick thing and everything else; it's worked, right? Even if you think it's not professional, whatever that means, you're not going to say no to the money. So who cares?"

by John Yantis The Arizona Republic Aug. 7, 2011 12:00 AM




Go Daddy looks to expand globally

Group says it hacked law-enforcement sites

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The group known as Anonymous said Saturday that it hacked into some 70 mostly rural law-enforcement websites in the United States, a data breach that at least one local police chief said leaked sensitive information about an ongoing investigation.

The loose-knit international hacking collective posted a cache of data to the Internet early Saturday, including e-mails stolen from officers, tips that appeared to come from members of the public, credit-card numbers and other information.

Anonymous said it had stolen 10 gigabytes worth of data in retaliation for arrests of its sympathizers in the U.S. and Britain.

Tim Mayfield, a police chief in Gassville, Ark., told the Associated Press that some of the material posted online - including pictures of teenage girls in their swimsuits - was sent to him as part of an ongoing investigation. He declined to provide more details.

Mayfield's comments were the first indication that the hack might be serious. Since news of some kind of cyberattack first filtered out less than a week ago, various police officials said they were unaware of the hacking or dismissed it as nothing to worry about.

Though many of the leaked e-mails appeared benign, some of the stolen material seen by the AP carried sensitive information, including tips about suspected crimes, profiles of gang members and security training.

The e-mails were mainly from sheriffs' offices in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi. Many of the websites were operated by a Mountain Home, Ark., media-services hosting company, and most, if not all, were either unavailable on Saturday or had been wiped clean of content. The company, Brooks-Jeffrey Marketing, declined to comment.

In a statement, Anonymous said it had leaked "a massive amount of confidential information that is sure to (embarrass), discredit and incriminate police officers across the US." The group said it hoped the disclosures would "demonstrate the inherently corrupt nature of law enforcement using their own words" and "disrupt and sabotage their ability to communicate and terrorize communities."

The group did not say specifically why these sheriffs' departments were targeted, but Anonymous members have increasingly been pursued by law enforcement in the United States and elsewhere following a string of high-profile data thefts and denial of service attacks - operations that block websites by flooding them with traffic.

Last month, the FBI and British and Dutch officials made 21 arrests, many of them related to the group's attacks on Internet payment provider PayPal Inc., which has been targeted over its refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks. The group also claims credit for disrupting the websites of Visa and MasterCard in December when the credit-card companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

by Raphael G. Satter and Nomaan Merchant Associated Press Aug. 7, 2011 12:00 AM




Group says it hacked law-enforcement sites

August 10, 2011

The Best Way to Store Stuff in the Cloud

The Best Way to Store Stuff in the Cloud

Cloud storage services are everywhere these days. The internet has gotten cloudier than my memories of Burning Man '05. Each claims to rule the sky, but there can be only one. Find out who it is.

We tested eleven of the most popular cloud storage services out there, looked at their price-per-gigabyte, and considered their various features and functionality. Read on to meet our gladiators, and to see which was the one cloud to rule them all.

Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon Cloud Drive isn't much more than a hard drive in the sky, but if that's all you need, it's a good option as it's cheaper than most of the others. Its interface is fairly basic and it's pretty much all web, but it's got nice tunes. Amazon distinguishes itself here with its capability of streaming your music to you via the web or a very nice Android app (iOS folks have to use the browser interface). This is a big draw for music-lovers.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 5GB/FREE, 20GB/$20, 50GB/$50, 100GB/$100, 500GB/$500, 1TB/$1,000
• Max file size: 2GB
• Access: Web, Android

Your first 5GB are free, and if you buy any album (which are almost always significantlycheaper than they are in iTunes) you're automatically upgraded to 20GB free (and the MP3s you purchase through Amazon MP3 don't count against your limit). Max file size is a beefy 2GB, but there's no syncing or anything like that.

Box.net

Box.net's main focus is collaboration and it's definitely geared more toward business users. The sharing features are really pretty good, with tools to manage workflow, versions, tasks, and comments (with a similar look to Facebook). It also plays nicely with Google Apps. It has a good reputation for reliability.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 5GB/FREE, 25GB/$120, $100GB/$240,
• Max file size: 25MB for free accounts / 1GB for paid
• Access: Web, iOS, Android, TouchPad

The bad news is that gig for gig, Box.net is our most expensive competitor. In fact, it costs twiceas much as our second most expensive service. Other downers: 25MB max file size if you're on the free 5GB account (which is pathetic), and 50GB total is as high as you can go without upgrading to an even more expensive business account.


Dropbox

Dropbox is everywhere, it seems, because it's so ridiculously simple and convenient. You have a folder, you put stuff in it, and that folder is synced across all of your computers. You make a change to a Word doc in your Dropbox folder, save it, and it's updated across all of your computers' Dropbox folders. It looks like any other folder in your computer. You just drop stuff in there and you know it's going to do its thing. Sharing stuff is easy, and there's no size limit on files.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 2GB/FREE, 50GB/$120, 100GB/$240
• Max file size: Unlimited
• Access: Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Web, iOS, Android,

The downside: You only get 2GB for free (though you can increase that to 16GB free by referrals). Also, the files that are synced have to be in that folder (or sub-folder), not elsewhere on your computer (though you can work around that). It's also one of our most expensive options, and the max size is 100GB unless you want to shell out even more for a Team account which starts at $795/year for 350GB shared between a maximum of five people (say what?).


Google
The Best Way to Store Stuff in the CloudThis will get you the most bang for your buck. Google's cloud solution, creatively called Google User Managed Storage, gets very cosy with Google's other services, such as Docs and Picasa. Docs users get (a measly) 1GB of storage for free, which can be used for any type of file, but you can buy more elbow room at very nice prices. Google Docs has excellent sharing and syncing capabilities and you can sync your Microsoft Office documents with it via Google's Cloud Connect plug-in.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 1GB/FREE, 20GB/$5, 80GB/$20, 200GB/$50, 1TB/$256
• Max file size: 1GB
• Access: Web, Android, Mobile Web

The downsides: puzzlingly, the extra storage you buy doesn't apply to your Gmail account, so you're still limited to the free 7+GB. Why?? Also, the storage you buy can't be pooled or shared with other Google Apps accounts. Kind of lame. 1 free gig isn't particularly generous. (Note: Google also has Google Music Beta which allows you to upload 20,000 of your songs for free into the cloud and stream them. It's still in Beta, it's not currently expandable, and it's separate from their User Managed Storage, but it's worth mentioning.)


iCloud

Apple's iCloud is the new kid on the block. It's designed to integrate seamlessly with your many devices... but only if they have an Apple on them. The good news is that iCloud will sync your iWork documents across your computers and make them web and mobile accessible. It'll sync your email, you get 5GB free, and your music and videos don't count against your storage limit, but only if you purchased them from Apple.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 5GB/FREE, 10GB/$20, 20GB/$40, 50GB/$100,
• Max file size: 25MB for free accounts / 250MB for paid
• Access: Mac, iOS, Web

Now the bad news: if you're on their free storage, iCloud's max file size is 25MB. Say what!? Even if you upgrade to one of the paid plans, that only bumps you up to 250MB. I don't know what they're thinking there (forget storing any HD video). Also, at it's twice as expensive as Amazon's offering, and EIGHT TIMES as expensive as Google's. Currently, 50GB is as much as you can get. Those are some serious iDings against it.


iDrive Sync

iDrive Sync is similar to Dropbox, but more advanced in some ways. Like Dropbox it has a desktop app, but unlike Dropbox you can sync folders that are outside of your main folder. It also keeps backups of all versions of your files for 30 days, just in case. It offers 5GB for free, or for $49.50 you get UNLIMITED storage! On paper, this should be the obvious pick. So why isn't it?

• Storage Options Prices/year: 5GB/FREE, Unlimited/$49.50
• Max file size: Unlimited
• Windows, Mac, Web, iPhone

Calling iDrive "intuitive" would be like calling the global economy "stable". The web interface is an assault on your eyes, and even the desktop app leaves a lot to be desired. Currently iPhone is the only mobile app it has. It's also somewhat buggy. In my testing I found that it's just still not as clean, polished, or reliable as it should be (especially since it's been in the game for almost five years), which is a shame, because I really wanted it to be my cloud savior.


Microsoft SkyDrive

WindowsLive SkyDrive is an interesting one. It gives you a whole ton of space (25GB) for free. It integrates very nicely into the Microsoft Office Web suite, Hotmail (boo!), and other Microsoft Live services. The web interface is straightforward, and it works very well with Windows Phone 7. If you run Windows on your desktop you can sync folders via Windows Live Mesh. [EDIT: Live Mesh is available for OSX as well, which is a big plus.] It's basically a big lump of storage, for free.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 25GB/FREE
• Max file size: 100MB
• Windows, Mac, Web, WP7, Mobile Web

The bad? Well, it's just a big lump of storage, for free. That's not bad, per se, but there's not much else to it. If you're not on Windows, you don't get any bells or whistles. No OSX, Android, or iOS support. If you just want a place to store stuff and you don't want to pay for it, this is a great option. There's a 100MB size-limit on your files, which could be better.


Mozy
The Best Way to Store Stuff in the CloudMozy is a little bruiser. It has cross-platform desktop apps that allow you to choose which folders you want to back up, and then you pretty much don't have to think about it any more. It offers robust encryption and even has bandwidth throttling so you can still stream your porn Netflix movies while it's backing up. It also offers version backups for the last 30 days, and it has one of the cleanest, easiest UIs we've seen.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 2GB/FREE, 50GB/$72, 125GB/$120, 200GB/$216, $500GB/$576, 1TB/$1,176
• Max file size: Unlimited
• Mac, PC, Android, iOS, Web

Downside: After the free 2GB the next level up is $72/year for 50GB, which is about mid-pack, price-wise, but it's kind of a big jump. The biggest negative, though, is that it's not really built for sharing. This is a big drawback if you do a lot of collaborating. If you want super-easy and reliable backup, though, this is a pretty good option.


SugarSync

SugarSync really kinda has everything. Keeps files in sync across multiple computers in (almost) realtime? Check. Apps for all major smartphone operating systems and a nice web interface? Yep. Easy and intuitive sharing and collaboration? Indeed. High level encryption with redundancy across multiple data centers? Nice interface? Streaming music to mobile or desktop? Yes yes yes. It also hangs on to the last five versions of your documents, it will auto-upload the pictures you take on your phone, and it has a very good bonus program that allows you to get extra storage for free. It even has the speed throttling I liked with Mozy, and it has a Dropbox like component called Magic Briefcase.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 5GB/FREE, 30GB/$50, 60GB/$100, 100GB/$150, 250GB/$250, 500GB/$400
• Max file size: 2GB when transferring between computers, unlimited if uploading directly to web
• Windows, Mac, Web, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile

The downside? It's not our cheapest option, but it's right about in the middle. And if you want customer service to answer the phone, you'll have to pay extra for that (but to be fair, most of the others don't even have the option of phone support).


Ubuntu One

Ubuntu desktop users rejoice! Annnd, that's about it. The closest comparison is Dropbox in terms of features. You get 5GB free and from there you can buy however many 20GB chunks for $30/year each. It has an integrated music streaming service that will stream to Firefox, Android, and iOS devices. If you're on Ubuntu you can sync file folders, and the interface is really pretty nice.

• Storage Options Prices/year: 5GB/FREE, 20GB/$30, 60GB/$100, 100GB/$150, 200/$300, 500GB/$750, 1TB/$1,500
• Max file size: 5GB
• Ubuntu, Web, Android, iOS

The downside, aside from the mobile platforms I just mentioned, it only works on the Ubuntu OS. There's a Windows version in Beta, but reports of mucho bugginess are abundant. Mac users are out of luck, although you can access it with your browser. It's also fairly pricey for what it is. Unless you're on Ubuntu, this one doesn't make a ton of sense.


YouSendIt
The Best Way to Store Stuff in the CloudYouSendIt made its name by sending your gigantic files for you. Eventually they figured, "Hey, maybe we should just save these and let users continue to access them." Smart of them. It features enterprise-level security and it's picked up a few tricks over the years, like plug-ins for many popular applications (Microsoft Office, FinalCut, and iPhoto, to name just a few).

• Storage Options Prices/year: 2GB/FREE, 5GB/$120, UNLIMITED/$180
• Max file size: 50MB for free accounts, 2GB for paid accounts
• Mac, Windows, Web, BlackBerry, iPhone (limited to tracking)

Their pricing plans are somewhat puzzling. 2GB free storage (with many limitations on sharing), or an insane $120 for only 5GB storage (with fewer limitations)! I'm guessing that's because YouSendIt is still primarily used for sharing, so their servers will likely be more taxed? Who knows, but here's the humdinger: for only sixty bucks more than that, you get UNLIMITEDstorage! If you don't need sync, $180 bucks to store all of your everything is not bad at all. Fun fact: YouSendIt's storage is via Dropbox. Funner fact: YouSentIt's storage is NOT through Dropbox. They have a "Dropbox" but it is in no way related to Dropbox.com.


That's a lot of info, so we made this chart to break down the price-per-gigabyte for easy reference (click to largeify):
The Best Way to Store Stuff in the Cloud

The Ultimate Victor: SugarSync

How sweet it is. SugarSync is essentially everything we wanted. It combines the best bits of all of the other services and weaves it together into a fast and intuitive package. It worked exactly like we wanted to. Super powerful, super easy, and tons of features. If 5GB (plus the extra you get for referrals) is enough for you, then this is a no-brainer. If you don't mind shelling out for more storage, it's still a no-brainer as the rates are quite reasonable. NOTE: When I signed up for an account, I was informed that all paid accounts are currently 50% off + your first month is free. SugarSync was already the clear winner, and that made it even clearer.

Budget Winner: Google
If you don't need desktop syncing and you just want a ton of cloud storage space, but you don't want to pay much for it, Google User Managed Storage (get a better name for this, Google!) is your best bet. 80GB for twenty bucks? 200GB for fifty? Solid. If you need an insane amount of storage, then go with YouSendIt's $180 for unlimited, or take your chances with iDrive Sync's unlimited plan.

Free Winner: Microsoft SkyDrive
25 gigs of completely free storage? If you just want a hard drive in the sky, for free, then Windows Live's SkyDrive is your answer. Even more so if you do a lot of Microsoft Office-ing online or if you only used Windows PCs.

Your Mom's Winner: Dropbox
If you or someone you love wants cloud storage but is a bit of a luddite and needs the absolute, most-basic interface possible, Dropbox is pretty easy to wrap your head around.

by Brent Rose Gizmodo Aug 9, 2011



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