Episode 196

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Consumer Reports will not recommend Apple iPhone 4


Consumer Reports said it cannot recommend Apple’s iPhone 4 to buyers after tests confirmed the device’s well-publicized reception glitches.

It added that that AT&T Inc, the exclusive mobile phone carrier for the iPhone 4, was not necessarily the main culprit.

The influential nonprofit organization, which publishes guides on everything from cars to TVs, said in a report released on Monday that it also tested other phones — including the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre — and found none had the signal-loss problems of Apple’s latest iPhone.

The report was the latest blow to the iPhone 4, which sold 1.7 million units in its first three days on the market but has been plagued by complaints of poor reception. Many of the complaints involve a wraparound antenna whose signal strength is said to be affected if touched in a certain way.

Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu said he was surprised by the stance that Consumer Reports took on the new iPhone. Wu noted that the group’s recommendations are used as a guide by many consumers.

“Consumer reports is a respected publication. This could have an impact on iPhone sales,” Wu said.

Apple shares were down 1 percent at $257.06 on Monday afternoon on the Nasdaq.

The company has been sued by iPhone customers in at least three complaints related to antenna problems.

“When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone’s lower left side — an easy thing, especially for lefties — the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal,” contributor Mike Gikas said in a report on the Consumer Reports website.

“Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4’s signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that ‘mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength,'” Gikas said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Gikas recommended covering the gap in the wraparound antenna with duct tape or some other non-conductive material.

Apple has said almost any cellphone will suffer a loss of signal if held in certain ways. It said later it had discovered a software glitch that overstates signal strength, though it did not directly address concerns about the antenna with that admission.

On the flip side, Consumer Reports said the iPhone scored high on other testing grounds such as battery life, sharp display and high-quality video camera.

However, Gikas said the signal problem was the reason the iPhone 4 would not be classified as a “recommended” device in its smartphone ratings.

“Apple needs to come out with a permanent — and free — fix to the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone4,” said Gikas in his blog post on ConsumerReports.org.

(Reporting by Carolina Madrid and Gabriel Madway; Editing by Edwin Chan, Matthew Lewis and Steve Orlofsky)

Facebook fights New Yorker’s claim of 84 percent stake


Facebook has moved to overturn a New York judge’s recent order temporarily blocking any transfer of the company’s assets, as the world’s No.1 social networking responds to a lawsuit by a New Yorker claiming to own 84 percent of the company.

In a civil lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of New York’s Allegany County last month, Paul Ceglia said he signed a contract with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 to develop and design a website.

The terms of the contract entitled Ceglia to a $1,000 fee and a 50 percent stake in the product, which eventually was launched as thefacebook.com, according to the lawsuit.

The contract also stipulated that Ceglia “would acquire an additional 1 percent interest in the business, per day, until the website was completed,” and the suit said that by February 4, 2004, Ceglia’s stake in Facebook totaled 84 percent.

Facebook called the suit completely frivolous. The company said the case has been moved to federal court, where Facebook has asked that Allegany Court Judge Thomas Brown’s recent order restricting the transfer of Facebook assets be struck down.

“The order will not affect our ability to do business but we do not believe it is legally supported and we have moved to have it vacated,” said Facebook’s Barry Schnitt.

Facebook, which has nearly 500 million users, is the world’s No.1 Internet social networking service and ranks among the Web’s most popular sites, alongside Google Inc, Yahoo Inc and Microsoft Corp. The privately held Facebook is also one of the most closely-watched Web companies by investors eager for a blockbuster initial public offering.

Ceglia and his attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

In December 2009, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo obtained a temporary restraining order against a wood-pellet fuel company owned by Ceglia and his wife Iasia, of Wellsville, New York, according to a press release.

Cuomo’s suit alleged that Allegany Pellets took $200,000 from customers and failed to deliver any products or refunds.

News of Ceglia’s suit against Facebook was first reported by the Wellsville Daily website on Monday.

Ceglia’s suit contends the contract with Zuckerberg was dated April 2003. Some of the previous accounts of Facebook’s history have said that Zuckerberg was at work on other projects during that period and did not come up with the idea for Facebook until later. The Internet domain name for “TheFacebook.com” was registered in January 2004, according to Network Solutions online registry of domain names.

The case is Ceglia vs. Zuckerberg & Facebook, 038798/2010 in the Allegany Supreme Court for New York State.

Microsoft CEO touts new Windows tablets vs iPad


Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer touted new tablet-style devices running the Windows 7 operating system from about 20 manufacturers at a conference on Monday, underlining the giant software company’s eagerness to counter the explosion of interest in Apple Inc’s iPad.

New Windows-powered tablet or slate devices — small, hand-held, wireless computers — are in the pipeline from Acer Inc, Dell Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Toshiba Corp, Sony Corp and a dozen other PC makers, Ballmer said at the company’s annual partner conference in Washington, D.C., which was webcast.

“This year, one of the most important things that we will do in the smart device category is really push forward with Windows 7-based slates,” said Ballmer. “This is a terribly important area for us.”

Apple’s iPad, launched in April, has already sold more than 2 million units worldwide, and threatens to take customers away from Microsoft-dominated desktop computing.

Ballmer did not mention Hewlett-Packard Co, the world’s No. 1 PC maker, which has said it plans to build slate devices running the operating system devised by Palm Inc, which HP bought this year. However, HP’s logo did appear on a slide listing PC makers working on slates which was displayed as Ballmer spoke.

At the same conference, Microsoft announced that online auction firm eBay Inc, tech services company Fujitsu Ltd and PC maker Dell are among the companies testing Microsoft’s new Windows Azure platform appliance, which lets customers implement Microsoft’s newest “cloud” server technology in its own data centers.

Microsoft is heavily emphasizing “cloud” services at the conference, essentially helping companies manage their data and computing power — and those of their customers — over the Internet.

Microsoft shares were up almost 2 percent at $24.75 on Nasdaq.

ABC’s iView quality not up to TV inclusion

THE ABC iView platform needs a makeover for the television screen if it is to make the online catch-up TV service as ubiquitous as possible.

In spite of being one of the most popular services it offers through its unmetered freezone, iiNet has decided to hold off including iView on its FetchTV set-top box, citing picture-quality concerns.

Following the soft launch of the FetchTV service, the ISP’s chief technical officer, Greg Bader, said iView was not ready for the move from computer screens to high-definition TVs.

“The current iView doesn’t translate well to a big screen but in the background the ABC, independent of Fetch or iiNet, is working on an iView (service) that can go to a big screen,” Mr Bader said.

“When that’s available we’ll certainly sit down and have a chat to ABC.”

But iView could face other hurdles sharing IPTV platforms with commercial content providers.

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FetchTV chief executive Scott Lorson said the company was trying to avoid duplicating delivery of free-to-air programming on its terrestrial broadband content feeds, with the exception of its Warner Bros TV content.

“Warner Bros is a bit of an exception because of the strength of the relationship we have and the importance to them of having that.

“If you have a 1TB hard disk; if you can record The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; why would we buy it and effectively and directly have customers paying for it?

“So almost all the content you have there is complimentary including the multi-channels with one exception.”

Subscribers to iiNet account for 30 per cent of traffic to the iView service.

YouTube bids for screen dominance

The world’s biggest video site wants to dominate every screen where content can be viewed and created.

YouTube is already a leader online and in mobile and has firmly set its sights on the living room.

The company charted its course during the launch of a new product called Leanback, described by some as web video for couch potatoes.

It also unveiled upgrades for its mobile site which has over 100 million playbacks a day.

“You can start to break down the mental picture of ‘these are the videos I watch on my computer, on my tv or on my phone,'” Hunter Walk, director of product management told BBC News.

“Now you just say ‘these are the videos I watch and I watch them wherever I happen to be, or whoever I happen to be with’. We are going to have a world where people increasingly expect their content to be available to them on anything with a screen, whether that be a computer, a phone or a tv. That is the vision,” said Mr Walk.


With 24 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute, YouTube is already the world’s biggest video website.

And with Leanback, YouTube is now vying for the attention of the user in the living room.

Leanback  screen shot YouTube with pic of an ear

People watch 2 billion videos a day on YouTube

“This really is where the opportunity is biggest for YouTube right now,” said Kuan Yong, senior product manager for Leanback.

“We are looking at five hours of tv that users are watching every day in the US versus 15 minutes of YouTube video, so there is a huge opportunity for us to bring YouTube into the living room and at the same time bring some of the tv experience to YouTube.”

The technology picks out high-definition clips and automatically serves up a constant stream of one video after another. As it learns more about the viewers’ likes and dislikes, this diet of video becomes more personalised.

The aim is to ensure users do not have to think about what they want to see next or click on the website every few minutes.

“We want to remove the ‘What next?’ question for viewers,” said Mr Yong.

‘Channel of you’

Mr Walk said Leanback marked the emergence of a single channel world.

“This is about the ‘Channel of You’. You become the programmer of the content you want to see as opposed to someone sitting in the corner of a room that doesn’t know you. This is about knowing about your interests to pull content to you.

leanback youtube screen shot

Leanback is in beta and expected to launch in the autumn

“And the challenge is all about making it effortless for you to get a stream of constant videos that are going to be interesting and relevant and targeted at you based on what your interests are and what your friends are watching,” said Mr Walk.

Leanback is seen as part of the company’s effort to grow from a website into a “video operating system” that is as ubiquitous and easy to use as television.

It is also regarded as a product that will dovetail seamlessly with Google’s tv ambitions, which aim to change the way consumers watch television. Back in May, the search giant announced its plans for an internet-focused tv in partnership with Sony, Intel, Dish Network and Logitech.

The Sony made sets are due to go on sale in the autumn.

“Whenever you think of video, YouTube wants you to think of them,” Ben Parr, co-editor of news website Mashable.com told the BBC.

“By making video available from the smallest screen to the biggest no matter where you are, they can succeed in that goal. Whether they can win in the living room is the billion dollar question. It is just unclear if people want to watch YouTube video after YouTube video versus professionally made shows on the networks,” he said.

Mobile changes

YouTube also upgraded its mobile website to make watching video on the move more convenient and quality driven at a time when more and more consumers reach the internet over smartphones.

youtube mobile  website

The mobile update comes amid an explosion of smartphone sales

“YouTube consumption on mobile devices has grown considerably,” said Andrey Doronichev, mobile product manager.

“Playbacks were up 160% in 2009 over the previous year. The world is heading mobile and we want to move with it.”

The updated site promises faster speeds along with the ability to create playlists, designate favourite videos and receive search query suggestions.

And with the upgrade, YouTube appeared to be aiming to steer iPhone users away from the application that comes preinstalled on the Apple smartphone.

In a blog post, the company said “As we make improvements to Youtube.com, you’ll see them quickly follow on our mobile site, unlike native apps which are not updated as frequently.”

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