January 31, 2012

Waste Management Phoenix Open puts phones in play

Marshals at the Waste Management Phoenix Open will still hold up familiar "Quiet Please" signs during this week's tournament in Scottsdale, but the hushed world of golf is about to come to grips with the digital swing of modern life.

Silent cellphones will be allowed at TPC Scottsdale this year, and the tournament is unveiling a free app to help fans enjoy the golf and social networking.

A change in the PGA Tour policy last February, eight days after the Phoenix Open ended, has opened the gates to smartphones.

The caveat is golf fans must turn off their ring tones and are still banned from using their cellphone video cameras and can only take still photography on their phones for the preliminary events through Wednesday, said Alex Clark, Thunderbirds tournament chairman. The actual tournament is Thursday through Sunday.

"We're not here to ruin anybody's day," Clark said of cellphone scofflaws, but fans will be reminded about adhering to the policy.

Furtive cellphone use at the Phoenix Open has hardly been a secret, as tens of thousands of golf fans and the Open party crowd resisted being untethered from their digital lifelines. How else to find friends among the teeming crowds at the sprawling golf course?

At a tournament known for fans' audible enthusiasm and the Tiger roar of 1997, it's no great surprise that the host Thunderbirds have embraced the new PGA policy. The civic group's new smartphone app will serve as a digital program for the Open.

Developed by Scottsdale-based ABN Mobile Inc. and sponsored by Kyocera, the app will help fans navigate the course, catch up with a favorite golfer, check the leaderboard and find one of five Verizon call zones where they can make or receive a phone call.

"You can't be on the rope line talking on your cellphone," said Chip Tolleson, a Thunderbird who consulted with ABN Mobile to develop the app, which works on iPhones and Android-basedsmartphones.

The iPhone app will even help fans find their cars in the tournament's vast parking lots and includes a car-service coupon for anyone who has had "too many Coors Lights at the Birds Nest,"he said.

There also is a 16th-hole caddy-race feature, a nod to informal wagering by fans on which of the three caddies in each group will first set foot on the 16th green. Prizes will be awarded for the most correct guesses Wednesday through Sunday.

PGA Tour spokesman Colin Murray said the new cellphone policy has gone smoothly for the tournaments that adopted it. The PGA tested it at tournaments in late 2010, and the Honda Classic in Florida was the first tournament to adopt the new policy last February.

Murray and tournament officials could not recall when cellphones were banned at the Phoenix Open. It was not until the late 1980s that references to "cellular phones" started to show up in The Arizona Republic coverage of the tournament.

Clark said the PGA Tour recognized that many of the fans, including top executives and corporate sponsors, have to stay connected while they are at the golf tournament.

In recent years, younger fans sneaked their phones into the event, but now with the new policy "my dad can bring his phone in," Clark said.

by Peter Corbett - Jan. 31, 2012 12:06 AM The Republic | azcentral.com

Waste Management Phoenix Open puts phones in play

Facebook IPO could boost value to $100 bil

Associated Press The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Facebook is preparing to file initial paperwork for an offering that could raise as much as $10 billion and value the company at $75 billion to $100 billion.

LOS ANGELES - When Facebook makes its long-expected debut as a public company this spring, the social-networking company will likely vault into the ranks of the largest public companies in the world, alongside McDonald's, Amazon.com and Bank of America.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Facebook is preparing to file initial paperwork for an offering that could raise as much as $10 billion and value the company at $75 billion to $100 billion. The filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission could come as early as Wednesday, with an initial public offering of stock in three or four months.

The targeted amount would slot it among the world's 25 largest IPOs, although as recently as November 2010, General Motors raised $15.8 billion when it shed majority control by the U.S. government.

The IPOs of 14 companies would rank higher than Facebook's, according to investment adviser Renaissance Capital. Among them were Visa Inc.'s $17.9 billion IPO in March 2008, the largest for a U.S. company, and world-topper Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., which raised $19.3 billion in July 2010, not including extra shares issued to meet demand.

Facebook spokesman Larry Wu said the company will not comment on IPO-related speculation. The Journal had cited unnamed people familiar with the matter.

The Journal also said that Facebook was close to picking Morgan Stanley as the lead underwriter, which would be a setback for rival Goldman Sachs. Both declined comment to the Associated Press.

The buzz surrounding an outsized haul for Facebook's founders, employees and early investors remains a hopeful sign for capital markets following a deep recession. At the reported price, Facebook's IPO would be the biggest for a U.S. Internet company ever -- topping the debut of one of its main rivals, Google Inc.

"We are expecting 2012 to be a year of recovery for the IPO market led by the Facebook IPO," said Kathy Smith, Renaissance Capital's principal.

The event will follow a string of tepid debuts by technology startups including social-game maker Zynga and discount advertiser Groupon. The stocks of both companies are just pennies above their offering prices in December and November respectively. Zynga's stock fell 5 percent below the IPO price on its first day of trading.

Facebook's will be the most anticipated tech IPO since Google went public in August 2004. Not including shares sold by early investors, the Internet search giant raised $1.2 billion and grabbed a market value of $23 billion, the biggest so far for a U.S. Internet company. The IPO raised $1.9 billion, including shares sold by early investors and extra stock issued to meet the heavy demand. It's not known whether Facebook's $10 billion target includes shares owned by early investors.

Facebook's reported valuation of $75 billion to $100 billion compares with about $100 billion for McDonald's Corp., $90 billion for Citigroup Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. and $75 billion for Bank of America Corp. It would exceed the market cap of $55 billion for Hewlett-Packard Co., one of the world's largest technology companies by revenue.

Both Facebook and Google earn most of their money from advertising and are now competing to gain as much information as possible about their users to help advertisers target niche audiences.

According to eMarketer, Facebook is expected to grow its share of the U.S. display ad market to about 20 percent this year from 16 percent in 2011, above second-ranked Yahoo's expected share of about 13 percent. For overall online ad revenue, Facebook is seen grabbing just 8 percent of the market this year, compared with 45 percent for Google.

EMarketer estimates that Facebook's ad revenue will grow 52 percent to $5.78 billion this year and will reach $7 billion in 2013.

Despite presumably topping Google's public launch, Facebook spent more time growing behind the veil of private ownership than its rival.

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates in 2004 and is debuting on stock markets in its eighth year. Google's IPO came six years after being founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When Google turned eight in August 2006, its market cap was roughly $116 billion. Today, the company is worth nearly $190 billion -- down from a peak of about $235 billion in November 2007.

Investors may be asked to bet heavily on the belief that Facebook will continue to revolutionize the way people communicate around the globe. Even with Facebook's heady growth rate, Google had ad revenue last year of more than five times what Facebook is expected to get in 2013. Yet it is Google that is mimicking Facebook in building a rival social network called Plus.

"There's the general feeling that Facebook might be the future of the way the Internet works," said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

Zuckerberg, 27, is already worth $17.5 billion, based on the latest estimates from Forbes magazine. Most of that wealth is drawn from the value of Facebook shares that have traded among a small universe of well-heeled investors that buy stakes in companies before they go public.

As the company gauges public demand for its stock, the number of shares offered and the price asked could change significantly.

Federal rules require companies with at least $10 million in assets and more than 500 shareholders to disclose its quarterly financial results and other details. The requirement kicks in 120 days after the fiscal year in which a company exceeds the shareholder threshold for the first time.

Facebook's fiscal year ends Dec. 31, so it has until late April 2012 to comply with this requirement, having hit the 500-shareholder threshold last year. Because it typically takes three or four months after filing paperwork to issue the IPO, a Wednesday filing would allow it to meet the deadline.

Facebook IPO could boost value to $100 bil

January 19, 2012

Want To Shoot Your Real Estate Agent Or Mortgage Broker Out Of A Cannon?

Failed property transactions in the United Kingdom (UK) have buyers frustrated and Channel Four’s property presenter, Phil Spencer, has launched a Web game that lets buyers vent their anger and potentially win much-needed cash. Angry Buyers invites buyers to fire mortgage managers, property lawyers and other real estate “professionals” out of a cannon at buildings for the chance to win paid rent or mortgage costs for six months. Spencer hopes the game will help ease buyers’ frustrations as well as draw attention to the number of failed transactions – 531,000 – that occurred in the UK in the final months of 2011. For more on this continue reading the following article from Property Wire.

An estimated 531,000 home sales in the UK fell through in the final months of 2011 but now an new online game has been launched where buyers can vent their anger on property professionals by firing them at buildings.

The Angry Buyers game, launched by Channel Four property presenter Phil Spencer, means people who are fed up with estate agents, property lawyers and mortgage brokers can have some fun.

But the game, created by online conveyancers In-Deed.net, also gives people the chance to get their rent or mortgage paid for six months.

It also aims to highlight the sheer number of sales that fall through, often due to poor service and lack of available finance.

‘With more than half a million property deals falling through at the end of last year primarily due to a lack of available mortgage finance it is no surprise buyers are angry. Angry Buyers is a new online game where players can let off steam by firing estate agents and property lawyers out of a cannon for the chance to win their rent or mortgage paid for six months,’ said Spencer.

Research from In-Deed shows that from September to November last year there was a dramatic spike in failed property transactions and suggests that more buyers than ever give up trying through sheer frustration. Some 531,000 sales fell through in these three months compared with 394,000 for the three months from December 2010 to February 2011.

The firm pointed out that in the last six months of 2011 it became more likely that a transaction would fail than succeed and half of buyers lose money when the move falls through, costing them an average of £5,500. As a result the number of buyers who give up after the first try more than doubled across the year.

Difficulties securing mortgage finance is also a key factor, seriously aggravated by declining service standards among property professionals, according to the firm’s research.

Almost a quarter of buyers, some 24%, reported that the vendor couldn’t secure a mortgage to move on, while one in ten, 11%, said that they had the same problem themselves.

Legal issues were the culprit in one in eight cases, 12%, with many reports of incompetence, delays and mistakes by solicitors, 13% and 5% reported anger with the legal profession.

Estate agents were also the target of buyers’ anger with nearly a fifth, 18%, saying that they were upset with the buying agent involved.

‘With mortgage finance harder than ever to secure and poor service standards rife in estate agency and conveyancing, it’s no surprise that home buying is such a frustrating process. You can make it a lot less stressful by using a reputable online conveyancing service,’ said In-Deed chairman and founder of Rightmove, Harry Hill.

by Property Wire Jan 18, 2012

Want To Shoot Your Real Estate Agent Or Mortgage Broker Out Of A Cannon?

January 18, 2012

Regulations considered by Congress lead prominent sites to shut down for a day

Users of several popular websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing, are likely to find those sites "blacked out" today in protest against proposed federal legislation intended to thwart online piracy.

Administrators of dozens of websites have vowed to participate in a 24-hour blackout, which was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. Tuesday in Arizona.

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia had a banner posted at the top of its English-language site Tuesday to let users know about the blackout and its reason for participating: "to protest SOPA and PIPA."

The two bills -- the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act -- are aimed at stopping foreign online criminals from selling copies of copyrighted American-made products, technology, music, movies and other entertainment to consumers throughout the world, which is considered a form of theft.

If passed into law, the bills could authorize U.S. authorities to employ a variety of tactics, including forcing an Internet- services provider to block user access to a site posting pirated content; requiring a search engine such as Google to filter out search results from the offending website; and prohibiting any U.S. website from accepting advertising from a site that has been determined to use stolen content.

Currently, Internet anti-piracy laws are aimed specifically at offending sites but do not restrict other websites' ability to link to those sites.

A number of high-profile Internet companies, including Google, Twitter, Facebook and eBay, have voiced opposition to the bills in an open letter to Congress. They say the proposed legislation, if passed as written, would hurt legitimate websites acting in good faith to keep themselves free of copyright-infringing content.

The bills also would hurt the U.S. economy, they say, by stifling innovation and job growth on the Web.

The open letter says SOPA and PIPA threaten the safe harbor established more than a decade ago by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for Internet companies that proceed in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites.

The safe-harbor agreement specifies that websites making a good-faith effort to delete copyrighted materials posted by individual users should not be sued for committing piracy.

"Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCA's safe-harbor provisions for online-service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industry's growth and success," the letter states.

Although Google, Twitter, Facebook and eBay were among the letter's signatories, none of those companies said it was planning to black out its websites or online services today.

Scottsdale-based domain-name registrar and Web-hosting firm Go Daddy was an early supporter of the bills but has since changed its stance after an organized effort by opponents of the bills to boycott the company.

SOPA was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in October by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Similar bill PIPA was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in the Senate.

The two bills have many powerful supporters, including trade groups representing record producers, musicians, film actors and directors.

SOPA is supported by more than 120 businesses, unions and associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the AFL-CIO, the National Songwriters Association, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, Comcast/NBC Universal and the National Center for Victims of Crime.

"The Stop Online Piracy Act cuts off the flow of revenue to these foreign illegal sites and makes it harder for online criminals to market and distribute illegal products to U.S. consumers," its sponsor, Smith, said in a statement last week.

"The bill maintains provisions that 'follow the money' and cut off the main sources of revenue to foreign illegal sites. It also continues to protect consumers from being directed to foreign illegal websites by search engines. And it provides innovators with a way to bring claims against foreign illegal sites that steal and sell their technology, products and intellectual property."

Smith announced Friday that he plans to remove a controversial provision that requires Internet-service providers to block access to certain foreign websites.

That provision, to require what's known as Domain Name System blocking, has enraged many Web-based businesses, which have noted that DNS blocking is a primary means by which foreign governments censor legitimate websites.

Leahy, who introduced the similar PIPA bill, also said last week that he would recommend further study of the impacts of that provision. However, Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, still urged the Senate to move forward with debate on the bill next week.

A vote to allow debate on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

"Saying no to debating (the bill) hurts the economy," Leahy said in a statement Friday. "It says no to the American workers whose livelihoods depend on intellectual property-reliant businesses. And it says yes to the criminals hiding overseas stealing American intellectual property and selling it back to American consumers."

Even if the controversial DNS-blocking provision is removed, the legislation remains deeply flawed, said Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

"This DNS blocking was the tip of the iceberg in terms of the broad range of real problems with the approach of SOPA and PIPA," Black said in a written statement. "The DNS blocking was easy to understand and remove. Those who value the functioning of the Internet and the jobs that depend on it should now focus on the provisions of the legislation that still cause much collateral damage to the Internet."

Ultimately, the legislation would be ineffective at stopping the worst online pirates while potentially undermining U.S. efforts to strengthen cybersecurity, Black said.

Though there is bipartisan support for the bills in Congress, there also is some bipartisan opposition. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently attended a news conference in Las Vegas along with the president of the Consumer Electronics Association to voice their opposition to the legislation.

Wyden has vowed to filibuster the Senate bill, if necessary, while Issa plans to hold hearings on the legislation to present what he called more balanced testimony. The two also have unveiled alternative legislation that is far narrower in scope.

Meanwhile, the White House released a statement Friday that appeared to signal possible opposition to the online piracy bills.

The statement said the White House "will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

With elections approaching, it now appears increasingly unlikely that the controversial bills will become law, at least without major changes.


What are they? The Stop Online Piracy Act (introduced in the House of Representatives) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (Senate) aim to stop the sale of copyrighted U.S. entertainment online.

Why the boycott? Sites such as Google and Twitter say the bills' proposed restrictions would hurt legitimate sites.

by J. Craig Anderson and Erin Kelly The Republic | azcentral.com Jan. 17, 2012 10:43 PM

Regulations considered by Congress lead prominent sites to shut down for a day

January 16, 2012

Saudi prince invests $300m in Twitter - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Prince Al Walid bin Talal, right, owns a seven per cent stake in News Corp, founded by Rupert Murdoch, left [GETTY]

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world's top companies, has bought a stake in the microblogging site Twitter for $300m.

The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm, resulted from "months of negotiations", the firm said on Monday.

Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia's king estimated by Forbes magazine in March to have a fortune of $19.6bn, already owns a seven per cent stake in News Corp and plans to start a cable news channel.

Dick Costolo, Twitter chief executive, valued the company at $8bn in October, according to media reports, which would peg the size of Alwaleed's investment at just under 4 per cent.

Twitter, which allows people to send 140-character messages, or tweets, to groups of followers, is one of the internet's most popular social networking services, along with Facebook and Zynga.

Increasing power of Twitter

Bernhard Warner, co-founder of analysis and advisory firm Social Media Influence, said: "The Arab world, of course, knows full well the value of Twitter. In the past year, it has been a force in politics, in regime change, so there is not a single person in that region in a position of influence who is not following the increasing power of Twitter.

"(Alwaleed) must see Twitter as something that is going to be a really powerful broadcast channel," he said, adding the Saudi had got into the internet boom belatedly, with mixed results, and appeared to be "kind of late" to the game again.

Twitter was and has continued to be a key means of communication for protesters in the so-called Arab Spring uprisings. In Saudi Arabia, protests that rocked the country's eastern part prompted the government to unveil $30bn social spending package.

In the wake of those protests, several Twitter users expressed concern on Monday that Alwaleed's purchase would negatively influence strategy at Twitter.

"So Prince Al Waleed has invested $300 million in Twitter. What happens if there's an Egypt-style "Arab Spring" movement in Saudi Arabia?" Mathew Ingram asked.

Meanwhile, Twitter user Borzou Daragahi asked: "Will he delete users who Tweet about Bahrain?

No influencing strategy

However, not all who tweeted on Monday were worried that the deal between the businessman and Twitter would impact their experience on the social platform.

"Re Alwaleed's <5% stake in Twitter - he owns a bigger stake in News Corp, and I don't see Fox taking a pro-Saudi line," Twitter user Tom Gara said. Ahmed Halawani, Kingdom's executive director, confirmed to the Reuters news agency that "substantial capital gain" was the motivation behind the investment, adding that there were no moves to ask for a board seat or influence strategy at Twitter. Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, an Emirati political scientist, said the investment was unlikely to raise eyebrows in official circles. "He just saw an opportunity, a money-making opportunity, nothing more, nothing less," he said. "(Internally), it's going to be viewed as a shrewd investment and I don't think we should read too much into it." The prince's wife, Princess Ameerah al-Taweel, is a regular Twitter user and has nearly 83,000 followers on the site. by Aljazeera Dec 19, 2011 Saudi prince invests $300m in Twitter - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

January 2, 2012

AT&T drops its $39 bil T-Mobile bid - USATODAY.com

LOS ANGELES — AT&T Inc. is hanging up on its $39billion bid to buy smaller wireless provider T-Mobile USA, nearly four months after the U.S. government raised concerns that the deal would raise prices, reduce innovation and give customers fewer choices.

The long-expected announcement left AT&T grumbling about a shortage of airwaves to meet growing demand, while scrappy competitor T-Mobile remains up for sale by German parent Deutsche Telekom.

The formal end of the deal was heralded by critics. No.3 carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. had feared "an undeniable duopoly" between the proposed new entity and current leader Verizon Wireless. The two companies would have controlled over almost 80 percent of the cellphone market had the deal gone through.

"This result is a victory for the millions of Americans who use mobile wireless telecommunications services," Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole said. "A significant competitor remains in the marketplace and consumers will benefit from a quick resolution."

The Justice Department had sued on Aug.31 to block the deal, and the Federal Communications Commission's chairman came out against it last month. That prompted the companies to withdraw their FCC application while they strategized their next move.

AT&T's purchase of fourth-ranked T-Mobile, announced in March, would have made it the largest cellphone company in the U.S. AT&T is now the second-largest wireless carrier, with more than 100million subscribers, behind Verizon Wireless, with 108million. Sprint has 53million, followed by T-Mobile at 34 million.
T-Mobile endured without much investment from its parent company and without the highest-end devices such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone. It offered value packages to customers who brought phones from other carriers.

Regulators feared the loss of T-Mobile as a competitor would hurt consumers.

AT&T will now have to pay Deutsche Telekom $3billion in cash as a breakup fee and give it about $1billion worth of airwaves, known as spectrum, that AT&T doesn't need for the continued rollout of its high-speed "4G" network.

by Ryan Nakashima USA Today Dec 20, 2011

AT&T drops its $39 bil T-Mobile bid - USATODAY.com


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