Episode 247

posted in: Show Notes


Australia may follow as Amazon.com reignites push into new countries

ONLINE shoppers could see Amazon.com set up shop locally if Australia is part of the internet giant’s fresh assault on international markets.

Amazon’s web-services arm is poised to start operating from a local data centre by early next year to meet the needs of enterprise and government clients.

US-based Amazon.com started selling goods online in 1995 and recently reignited its push into foreign terrain, establishing a direct presence in Italy late last year.

Amazon.com now sells directly to customers in Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Austria, Japan and China.

In May pop icon Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album sold briefly for a heavily discounted $US0.99 (92 cents) on Amazon.com while market leader Apple iTunes priced it at around $US9.

Amazon to aim for clouds with Android challenger to iPad

AMAZON plans to introduce a tablet computer before October, said people familiar with the matter, in a move that will heighten the online retailer’s rivalry with Apple.

release two updated versions of its popular Kindle electronic reader in the third quarter of the year, the people said.

One will be a touch-screen device.

The other won’t have a touch screen, but will be an improved and cheaper adaptation of the current Kindle,

Amazon has said the Kindle is its best-selling product of all time, but it hasn’t released sales figures.

Now Amazon will have a device that will compete closely against Apple’s popular iPad, as well as other tablets such as Samsung Electronic’s Galaxy Tab.

Facebook rival Google+ hits 10 million users in two weeks

new social network has gained 10 million new users in only two weeks

Bill Gross, another Silicon Valley investor, predicted that Google+ would go “from zero to 100,000,000 users faster than any service in history.”

Facebook, which announced last week that it had 750 million users worldwide

Telstra to team up with ISPs in battle with Hollywood studios

A Telstra spokeswoman confirmed that the carrier was liaising with the Communications Alliance to develop an industry response to AFACT.

“Telstra remains open to discussing how we might assist copyright holders to enforce their private property rights. Given this is an industrywide issue Telstra has encouraged discussions to be facilitated by the Communications Alliance,” she said.

Communications Alliance continues to work with a number of Australia’s largest internet service providers to explore options for an industry-led solution to online copyright and content issues.

Anti-piracy group, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), last week sent letters to a number of large ISPs, including Telstra, requesting that they enter negotiations to toughen penalties against online pirates or face unspecified action.

Some ISPs including TPG, ClubTelco and Exetel hand on the notices to their customers but others including Telstra, Optus and iiNet have refused to cooperate.

They argue that the Telecommunication Act prevents them from using their customer database information to pass on the notices without a court order.

New Zealand ISPs win $25 copyright charge

Internet service providers in New Zealand will be allowed to charge rights holders NZ$25 ($19.50) to process a copyright infringement notice levelled against an end user.
Minister of Commerce Simon Power said the fee was a cost-effective option available to rights holders, compared to enforcing copyright through the courts.
He also said the fee was at a level that prevented rights holders from inundating ISPs with alleged copyright infringement notices, as has taken place in countries that have introduced similar regimes.
For cases that go to the new Copyright Tribunal after three infringement notices have been issued, the fee has been set to NZ$200 ($156.05) by the Cabinet.
Apart from paying the processing fee, rights holders were required to furnish a great deal of detail about alleged infringements, a process that made it difficult for rights holders to create automated notices, Brislen said.

Malcolm Turnbull uses Twitter to hit back at ‘abusive’ tweets

“I don’t mind abusive emails or tweets but why does Thomas Lynch (mobile phone number omitted) think its ok to send me abusive smses about climate change,” the former Liberal leader tweeted today.

The tweet, which has since been removed, also included a mobile phone number.

One of Mr Turnbull’s more than 60,000 followers had asked if it was legal or ethical to publish the mobile phone number.

“I have asked him to desist in the past, but to no avail. If it encourages more civil communications that would be a good thing,” he tweeted in response.

The tweet was being re-tweeted by users of the social media website.

Dick Smith NZ web glitch offers ‘free’ goods

Twitter users wrote on Monday morning that purchasers using the retailer’s site, dicksmith.co.nz, were told to pay only the cost for the delivery with no charge for the goods ordered.

“As some of you would have seen there was a technical issue with pricing on our website. We are working to have correct pricing restored,” the company wrote on Twitter.

“For orders placed we will be in contact with you to confirm cancellation or whether you would like the items at their correct pricing.”

Apple to fix iPhone security hole

APPLE is working to resolve a security hole in its iPhone and other mobile products that German authorities warned could allow cyber criminals to access confidential information or intercept phone conversations.

still not resolved and we spoke about it last week even

Apple App Store downloads pass 15 billion mark

more than 15 billion applications for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch have been downloaded from its App Store.

The California gadget-maker also said the App Store now carries more than 425,000 free and paid applications for the 200 million iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches in use worldwide.

More than 100,000 applications have been developed for the iPad alone, it said.

Apple said it has paid applications developers more than A$2.34bn to date.


Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales

An online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.

Charles Duncombe says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.
Mr Duncombe says when recruiting staff he has been “shocked at the poor quality of written English”.
He says the big problem for online firms isn’t technology but finding staff who can spell.
The concerns were echoed by the CBI whose head of education and skills warned that too many employers were having to invest in remedial literacy lessons for their staff.
and undetectible wrong word spelt right syndrome

China: 1.3 million websites shut in 2010

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said there were were 41% fewer websites at the end of 2010 than a year earlier.
Chinese officials have tightened regulations on the internet in recent years, and they launched a crackdown on pornography websites in 2009
Liu Ruisheng said that despite the declining number of sites, the number of web pages had risen to 60 billion during 2010 – a 79% increase on the previous year.

A number of websites are routinely blocked, such as the BBC’s Chinese language service, and social media sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

Apple aligns app prices with US

Apple has cut the price of many apps in the Australian App Store, compensating for a stronger exchange rate and long-running consumer complaints over the price discrepancy with the United States.
The changes meant apps previously available for $1.19 in Australia could now be purchased for $0.99.
An Apple spokesman said that price adjustments came as a result of changes in foreign exchange rates and local tax laws.
Price changes appeared to affect other countries, including Mexico, UK, Switzerland, Japan and Norway. Some countries received price rises for applications

1000 days left for Windows XP support

Windows XP nears 50 percent market share

The software giant would stop supplying security patches and hotfixes for all versions of 11-year-old operating system on April 8, 2014, potentially making it vulnerable to issues that may arise after that time.

Windows 8 works on all Windows 7 PCs

Microsoft has pledged that the minimum system requirements for Windows 8 will be the same or even lower than those of Windows 7.

The minimum requirements for the 32-bit version of Windows 7 are a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of available disk space and DirectX 9 graphics. That’s increased to 2GB of RAM and 20GB of hard disk space for 64-bit versions of the OS.


Microsoft Imagine Cup – Aussie students struggling after Qantas loses their invention | Information,
AUSTRALIA’S hope to claim the Microsoft Imagine Cup was literally lost in transit today.
Team UCEEG from Canberra was forced to show judges their headset which turns thoughts into words sans headset after Qantas lost it, along with a wheelchair it was supposed to control.
The missing pieces will not be returned to the team until tonight, meaning the students have had to present through the first round using a video demonstration.
“The demonstration didn’t turn out well”, said Paul Du, team leader. “We did the best we could, we’re hoping for the best.
“Hopefully the judges were happy with our answers.“
The team’s original headset was customised to suit their needs. Using a new one didn’t work out quite as well.

“It stopped working for a while, but after the presentation it started working again,” Quang Du said.
The team still managed to converse with their mentor, Dat Tran, on MSN messenger using the improvised headset and Brain Speller software.
Thankfully the team had recorded a video demonstration to show the Brain Speller in action, and hope this will be enough to get them through to the next round.
‘This is the real world’
The best result the team can hope for is a valuable lesson learned.
The man who heads Microsoft’s team that connects students with potential employers says he is no stranger to technology failure and the humiliation and pressure that comes with not meeting expectations.
“My job in the 90s was to be the ‘demo guy’ for Bill Gates,” Jon Perera, general manager of Microsoft’s Education Strategy and Marketing Group, told news.com.au.
“I’d wander around the world giving big keynotes with him where it was my job to pop open a laptop and show a cool thing and I had demos fail on me.
“What you learn from that is you always have to think three or four steps ahead, think about if that fails, think ‘What’s my plan?’
“That’s the real world these solutions are expected to survive in.”
Mr Perera said that the biggest single mistake he has seen consistently from competitors over the nine years of the Imagine Cup has been technology failure.
“I see it actually every single year, so it doesn’t just happen just once,” he said.
“Luggage gets lost, I’ve seen students check their stuff in and put it in the luggage – that’s crazy!
“If you’re going to the Olympics of technology you carry your laptop in your hand on the airplane with you so it doesn’t get lost.”
“It’s your job to show up at a place with a functioning device that can capture all of this.”
What should students do to avoid potential disasters? Always have a plan B.
“My advice to students is to prepare for disaster,” Mr Perera said.
“The real world has no margin for error, in environment around education, around disaster response, around accessibility – students don’t know that yet – so they end up with hardware and demo failure because they haven’t thought it through all the way enough.
“In the real world, these students have to think about fault tolerance at a high level because things go wrong in the real world. “

UPDATE: Qantas have finally located the team’s missing luggage, and the team have since been reunited with their lost technology, unfortunately not in time for the judging panel. The team were still able to show off the Brain Speller at a public demonstration yesterday.

Deadly superbug Clostridium difficile beaten using poo transplants from healthy people | Space,
YOU can give it, take it or cop it. It can hit the fan and sometimes life forces you to eat a sandwich made from it, but it’s also proving to be a cure for a deadly superbug.
With all the poo jokes out of the way, a dangerous strain of disease which can cause kidney failure and even death is being successfully treated with everyday bacteria found in the stools of healthy people.
Mutated by the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics, Clostridium difficile — a bacteria that can take over the intestines and destroy the bowel — kills up to 300 people a day in US hospitals and is now here in Australia.
Diseases caused by the rogue strain have been detected in NSW hospitals, but patients have been cured by an alternative treatment known as bacteriotherapy, or faecal transplant.
Healthy bacteria from a donor poo is transplanted into the colon of the sick patient with remarkable results.
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“We have a 97 per cent cure rate with a single infusion of flora into the colon,” said Professor Thomas Borody from The Centre for Digestive Diseases, which has so far conducted over 1500 transplants.
Robert Silberstein spent six months fighting clostridium difficile disease and none of the antibiotics thrown at him eliminated the bug. The 38-year-old lawyer had no options left after all treatments failed.
“I had relapse after relapse and it was fair to say there were no options,” the Rose Bay father of three said.
He endured severe pain and constant diarrhoea as his colon was being destroyed by the toxins released by C. difficile.
Mr Silberstein’s doctor, Royal North Shore infectious diseases specialist Dr Bernie Hudson, said his patient was either going to lose his colon or die, so he referred him to the Centre for Digestive Diseases for a faecal transplant.
The bacteria from the healthy donor stool took on the superbugs and overpowered them with almost immediate effect.
“I had the procedure done at midday and I woke that night and I felt completely normal, I was shocked,” said Mr Silberstein.
“I’d been so ill for six months and I felt normal. The transplant was amazing, it worked.”
“It has cured him,” Dr Hudson said, adding he had several patients a month who would qualify.
Dr Hudson believes all NSW hospitals should equip themselves to perform the transplants to save lives.
“It is the ultimate pro-biotic treatment,” said Thomas Riley, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of WA.
Faecal transplants are the butt of many a joke amongst the medical profession, but doctors say that should not distract from the success rate.
“Given the success rate with faecal transplant it probably should be used more often,” said Professor Riley.

Foxtel says it now has Austar – Business – News – ZDNet Australia
Pay TV broadcaster Foxtel says it has secured its $2.5 billion takeover for Austar, in a move to shore up its hold on the sector in the face of competition from free-to-air channels.
Austar said that its listed entity, Austar United Communications, had entered into definitive transaction agreements with parent shareholder, Liberty Global Inc, and Foxtel Management, under which Foxtel would acquire Austar by a series of transactions, including a scheme of arrangement.
Under the terms of the proposed transaction, all Austar shareholders will receive AU$1.52 in cash per share.
The deal values Austar at an enterprise value of $2.5 billion.
The independent directors of Austar unanimously recommended that Austar minority shareholders vote in favour of the scheme and of associated shareholder resolutions.
The recommendations were made in the absence of a superior proposal, and the bid was subject to an independent expert concluding that the scheme was in the best interests of Austar minority shareholders.
At least 75 per cent of the minority Austar shareholders must approve the scheme at a proposed scheme meeting later this year.
Foxtel’s major shareholders, Telstra, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, have already endorsed the bid.

Does the filter breach user agreements? – Communications – News – ZDNet Australia
Does the mandatory implementation of a limited internet filtering scheme by Telstra and Optus constitute a breach of the internet service providers’ existing agreements with their users? So far the situation is unclear, according to Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
Telstra and Optus have pledged to implement a voluntary filtering framework developed by the ISP industry’s peak representative body, the Internet Industry Association. The filter, which is being seen as a more moderate industry approach developed in reaction to the Federal Government’s much more comprehensive filter scheme, will see the ISPs block a “worst of the worst” list of child pornography sites generated by international police agency Interpol.
However, since news of the scheme came to light, a number of broadband customers in Australia have flagged their intention to dump ISPs implementing the filter and shift to alternative providers, mainly due to a belief that the filtering scheme will not meet its aims and may eventually lead to the erosion of freedom of speech rights.
“Once you start on the path of censorship, and the mechanisms are in place, freedom of speech and democracy take a hit,” wrote IT industry veteran and telecommunications commentator, Michael Wyres, in an article on the subject late last month, for example. “Bit by bit, the powers that be will identify more and more content as worthy of ‘protecting’ us from, and one day it will go too far — and it will be much harder to rectify than it was to implement.”
“I cannot and will not be a party to that, and that is why I left Telstra.”
Although Telstra’s implementation of the filter has gone live, the telco does not yet appear to have modified its end user agreement to include a section about filtering, or notified its customers en masse about the scheme.
Asked about the issue, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman said the question of whether the implementation of the scheme would breach existing user agreements and thus allow customers to exit their contracts with Telstra and Optus early was a “hypothetical one”.
The TIO is Australia’s chief dispute resolution organisation for the telco sector, sitting between consumers, small businesses and the service providers they buy services from.
The TIO said it based its decisions on actual cases it examined, with additional regard to the law, industry standards and good industry practice. The organisation attempts to judge based on what is “fair and reasonable” under the circumstances in question, with particular reference to the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, an industry code in the area.
“If a customer came to us and said they weren’t happy because their account was being filtered, we’d make a decision at the time,” they said.
The news comes as a split has emerged in Australia’s telecommunications industry regarding the Interpol filter, with Telstra and Optus in favour of the initiative, but many other companies in the industry having backed away from it. Internode, TPG and Exetel have taken a strong stand against the project, stating they will only implement the scheme if the law requires them to do so.

Google overhauls smartphone Android Market – Software – News – ZDNet Australia
Google has revamped its Android Market for smartphones with a brand new look as well as some more products for purchase.
(Credit: Google)

The Android Developers Blog points out that this new interface could work better for both customers and developers. The new UI is intended to be more engaging, as it showcases top apps and games while providing a quicker path to purchasing products. For developers, this ideally means that there are more opportunities for apps to get picked up and downloaded.
Some of the new features include more lists (ie, Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, etc) that are country-specific, and individual app product pages have been rearranged to streamline the buying process.
Aside from the new user interface, Android users might be more interested to learn that they can now purchase books, which will be linked to their Google accounts like on the iriver Story HD, as well as rent movies, which start at US$1.99.
Otherwise, it’s likely to be business as usual. Even as nice as the new design might be, it might be a while before Google can catch up to the record 15 billion downloads secured by Apple’s App Store.
Available for smartphones running at least Android 2.2 (Froyo) and higher, the new version of Android Market will be rolling out worldwide in the coming weeks.

ISPs should pay copyright costs: AFACT – Communications – News – ZDNet Australia
The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) has said that New Zealand’s decision to impose a NZ$25 charge on rights holders who want internet service providers to process user copyright infringement notices is not the ideal answer to tackling the copyright problems.
In April, New Zealand passed the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill, which allows copyright owners to send evidence of alleged infringements to internet service providers (ISPs), who will then send up to three infringement notices to the account holder.
If the alleged offending continues, the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal, which can fine the account holder up to NZ$15,000.
The Bill gives the district court the power to suspend an internet account for up to six months, in appropriate circumstances. However, this is not intended to be used unless the notice process and the remedies by the Copyright Tribunal are ineffective. The Bill comes into effect 1 September.
A NZ$25 charge has been set, which rights holders will have to pay if they want an ISP to deal with an infringing user. When a claim is taken to the Copyright Tribunal, the fee is NZ$200.
New Zealand Commerce Minister Simon Power pointed out that the fee was more cost effective than going through the courts, allowing rights holders to pursue a “reasonable number” of copyright infringements to “educate internet users” while making sure that ISPs weren’t inundated with breaches to follow up.
However, AFACT, which fights piracy in Australia on behalf of film and television studios, wasn’t in favour of the charge.
It pointed to the recent agreement between ISPs and rights holders in the US as an example of how an agreement should be laid out.
“AFACT notes the New Zealand Government’s approach of a rights holder fee per notice, which is out of step with the more common and preferred practice in other jurisdictions where right holders and ISPs bear their own respective costs,” AFACT said in a statement.
“For example, we note that in last week’s voluntary agreement in the United States between the movie and music industry and the country’s largest ISPs that each party agreed to bear their own costs.”
AFACT has recently been trying to get Australian ISPs to act on their users who are allegedly infringing copyright, recently sending a letter to providers saying that they should act, or expect action. Although it lost its appeal in the Federal Court where it tried to show that iiNet had authorised its users to infringe copyright, lawyers have said that the judgement provides a legal avenue for the federation to have providers aid rights holders in policing copyright infringement.
iiNet and the Internet Industry Association have been asked to comment on the charge, but had not responded at the time of publication.
NZ’s Power said that the NZ copyright charge would be reconsidered when the three strikes law comes into effect.
The Telecommunications User Association of New Zealand chief executive Paul Brislen said in a blog that the number was a good compromise between the NZ$40 charge ISPs wanted and the NZ$2 fee the rights holders were hoping for.
He said that users and corporate firms should be able to make sure that nobody used their account to download copyrighted material, but said that small businesses and those offering free Wi-Fi services would find this a challenge. Brislen expressed concern that the number of free Wi-Fi services could decrease as a result.
He also worried that ISPs would pass on any extra costs to provide the infringement services to customers.
Labour Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran echoed that worry, saying that the government looked to have underestimated the processing costs of the law.
“While the costs of processing alleged copyright infringements have, to some extent, been recognised with the decision to charge rights holders — predominantly US movie studios and record labels — up to NZ$25, ISPs estimate the cost could actually be as high as NZ$56 per notice,” she said in a statement.
“And that doesn’t include indirect costs or the cost to establish a new or upgraded system to process infringement notices.”
She said it was likely that there would be a flood of notices when the law came into force on 1 September.
“Estimating the cost for affected rights holders is not straightforward. The government suggests there will be up to 500 cases of infringement taken to the Copyright Tribunal in a year, yet previous estimates put the figure closer to 5000 per month per ISP.”

Apple drops Aussie app pricing – Business – News – ZDNet Australia
Apple has emerged from a nine-hour global iTunes maintenance period to reveal new pricing for Australian apps, which brings Australian prices in line with those in the US.
Apple users shopping on Australia’s iPhone and iPad App Stores are set to feel the benefits of a better exchange rate against the greenback as Apple revises almost all of its local app prices down.
Prices on Apple’s own apps like the productivity app Pages, presentation app Keynote and video app iMovie have all been slashed, and even the wildly successful game Angry Birds has seen a drop in price.
iMovie is down from $5.99 to $5.49, Pages and Keynote are both down from $12.99 to $10.49 and Angry Birds has dropped from $1.19 to $0.99.
Federal Labor MP and long-time Apple pricing advocate Ed Husic today praised the pricing move after railing against the gadget maker in March for charging a premium on Aussie users.
“Good work Apple — they’ve listened to their loyal customers and begun lowering their prices.
“Hats off to the company, and congrats to the customers. Now look forward to their formal response to my issues, which I’m told I can expect next week,” Husic wrote on his Facebook page.
According to Apple-centric blog site 9to5Mac, App Store prices have also dropped in the UK.
Apple Australia hasn’t yet responded to questions from ZDNet Australia about the possibility of lower prices for other products like laptops, desktops and the iPad.

Stop ignoring us, Aussies tell Google – Software – News – ZDNet Australia
Google is facing a wave of complaints from users around the globe after it launched yet another service that is only available to those who live in the United States.
On one of its in-house blogs this week, Google revealed it had launched a new marketplace for its Android mobile platform, which dramatically expands the platform’s functionality, allowing users to rent movies and purchase books. The Android Market has also been overhauled in general to make it easier for users to find applications.
However, the book and movie purchasing functionality is limited to customers in the US only, a fact that has drawn the ire of customers located in other regions. “In the US”, wrote one user in response to Google’s blog. “Also in the US, along with Google Music and Google Voice, both available in the US. Here’s to the centre of the universe.”
“Pity it’s tied to US market only, AGAIN,” wrote another user. “There are so many Google products that are only available in the US that Google is really starting to seem like a US-oriented company,” added a third. “I think this perception will be bad for Google, and I hope you will soon bring more of your services to other countries.”
“What a load of rubbish,” wrote yet another user. “I should never have dropped my iPhone for an Android. When will these ‘new’ features be available in Australia?”
Google has launched a string of products over the past few years which have not been available outside its home country of the US in general, and not available in Australia in particular. Google Voice, YouTube Movie Rentals, Google Books and Google Music are some of the products on the list that have not seen a local launch.
For some time over the past several years, but no longer, Australian software developers were not able to sell apps through Google’s Android Market platform, due to what appeared to be a problem with Google Checkout, the online payment processing system that allows users to store their credit card information with their Google account.
Google is not the only one to limit a number of products to the US market only.
Fellow technology giant Apple appears to normally attempt to launch products as widely as possible — for example, unlike Google, its own iOS platform does feature the ability to buy books online in Australia. And overnight it harmonised many of its software purchase prices internationally. However, the company also today launched a new bulk app purchasing program for its end user devices, but limited it to US customers only.
In response to the comments, Google Australia said the company always tried to make its products and services available to as many users and as quickly as possible. “The new Android Market will be rolling out in the coming weeks to Android 2.2 and higher phones around the world,” it said.

Facebook rival Google+ hits 10 million users in two weeks | The Australian
GOOGLE’S new social network has gained 10 million new users in only two weeks — the first sign that the company is finally mounting a credible challenge to Facebook.
The popularity of the new system, called Google+, follows a positive reception by analysts and commentators.
It will also come as a relief to Google, which has seen its previous efforts at social networking fail.
Google+ allows users to do many of the same things as Facebook, such as share photos, links and status updates. But it has some interesting features, such as the ability to create “circles”, or groups of friends, and talk to up to 10 people at a time with a video chat.
Google+ is available only to those who have been invited to join by other users; the invitations have become much-prized.
Yesterday, Paul Allen, the entrepreneur and founder of Ancestry.com, said that at the present rate of growth “(it) could reach 20 million users by this coming weekend”.

Bill Gross, another Silicon Valley investor, predicted that Google+ would go “from zero to 100,000,000 users faster than any service in history.”
However, many analysts argue that Google still has a long way to go before it matches the popularity of Facebook, which announced last week that it had 750 million users worldwide.
Facebook is looking to secure its enormous user base by enabling video chats through a partnership with Skype, the internet communications company that was acquired by Microsoft recently for dollars $US8.5 billion ($8bn).
Experts noted that Facebook’s new feature was similar to “Hangouts”, a video-chat system within Google+.
When Mark Zuckerberg was asked about his thoughts on Google+, the Facebook founder said: “I view a lot of this as validation as to how the next five years are going to play out.”
Larry Page, who returned to Google as chief executive in April, is thought to have made the company’s “social strategy” a new priority, with employee bonuses dependent on its success.

EA buys Bejeweled developer PopCap Games for $US750m | The Australian
ELECTRONIC Arts said it is buying PopCap Games, maker of popular titles such as Bejeweled, Plants vs Zombies and Zuma for $US750 million ($707.7m) in cash and stock.
EA said in a statement it will pay $US650m in cash and $US100m in shares of EA common stock to be issued to certain stockholders of PopCap.
“PopCap’s great studio talent and powerful IP add to EA’s momentum and accelerate our drive towards a $US1 billion digital business,” EA chief executive John Riccitiello said in a statement.
“EA’s global studio and publishing network will help PopCap rapidly expand their business to more digital devices, more countries, and more channels,” Mr Riccitiello said.
“PopCap has a proven financial trajectory with sustained revenue growth and double-digit operating margins,” said EA chief financial officer Eric Brown said.

PopCap chief executive David Roberts said “by working with EA, we’ll scale our games and services to deliver more social, mobile, casual fun to an even bigger, global audience.”
PopCap games are played on platforms such as Facebook, RenRen, Google, the iPhone, iPad and Android.
EA said it expects the transaction to close in August 2011.

Dick Smith NZ web glitch offers ‘free’ goods | The Australian
ELECTRONICS retailer Dick Smith has taken its New Zealand homepage offline after apparently being hit by a glitch that allowed customers to shop for free.
Twitter users wrote on Monday morning that purchasers using the retailer’s site, dicksmith.co.nz, were told to pay only the cost for the delivery with no charge for the goods ordered.
The Australian-based company sells electronics, including big plasma TVs, laptop computers and iPhones, worth thousands of dollars.
The company has since taken down the site, citing “maintenance to improve your shopping experience”.
One Twitter user wrote: “Well, my order just went through. 27inch iMac. Total price: $NZ4.95 ($3.87). Come on Dick Smith, be a good sport and honour it. Haha.”
The retailer has already dampened the hopes for the free shopping experience to last.

“As some of you would have seen there was a technical issue with pricing on our website. We are working to have correct pricing restored,” the company wrote on Twitter.
“For orders placed we will be in contact with you to confirm cancellation

Erik’s Notebook

RIM Has Six Months to ‘Prove’ Co-CEOs Need Chairman Title

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) has six months to “prove” that its co-chief executive officers need to retain their co-chairmen titles for business reasons or face the reintroduction of a proposal to split the roles, said the investor that originally called for the change.
Northwest & Ethical Investments LP last month made a proposal to split the roles of chairman and CEO to increase board oversight, and investors were originally slated to vote on the issue at the company’s annual meeting yesterday in Waterloo, Ontario. The shareholder withdrew the proposal after RIM tried to make the case the chairman title helps co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis generate business, particularly overseas. The company also agreed to form a committee to study its leadership and examine the importance of the chairman post.
“We wanted to give them a chance to prove that there is an actual business necessity,” Jennifer Coulson, manager of corporate engagement at Northwest & Ethical, said in an interview at the shareholder meeting.
RIM has come under pressure from investors to shake up its management after losing market share to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and handsets based on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android software. RIM’s share of U.S. smartphone subscribers dropped 4.2 percentage points to 24.7 percent for the three months ending in May as Apple and Android gained, according to ComScore Inc.

Packed Meeting Hall

Inside the former whiskey warehouse where the meeting was held, a meeting hall was packed as over 100 people stood crowded around about 250 seated shareholders. After waiters served hors d’oeuvres and drinks, the two CEOs faced shareholder questions about how the company would compete more effectively.
“We will get better,” Lazaridis told investors. A new touchscreen BlackBerry Bold will be one of seven new phones to come out this year, and RIM will also introduce a faster, 4G version of the PlayBook tablet in September, he said.
RIM’s stock tumbled 49 percent last quarter in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, the worst three-month performance since 2002. The shares dropped 33 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $28.15 at 4 p.m. and have dropped 52 percent this year.
The share decline has triggered speculation about a possible takeover, and the co-CEOs were asked by a shareholder whether the company was prepared if it became the target of a hostile bid. Balsillie said the company has a plan in place and outside advisers ready in case of such an offer.

Seeking More Time

Northwest & Ethical will help draft the new committee’s mandate and insisted that the panel reach a conclusion by Jan. 31 so that the proposal could be reintroduced in time for the 2012 annual meeting if necessary, Coulson said. Originally, RIM had wanted longer to study the issue, she said.
“We wanted to secure the potential for filing again next year,” Coulson said. “So if we’re not satisfied, we have that opportunity.”
The firm’s original proposal won support from Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., proxy firms that advise shareholders how to vote on such issues.
RIM has said the board’s independent lead director, John Richardson, already fulfills the typical role of a chairman at other companies and ensures the directors’ independent oversight. RIM’s shareholders yesterday re-elected Richardson, Balsillie and Lazaridis as directors, along with the company’s five other board members, with more than 90 percent support for each director. Claudia Kotchka, a former Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) executive, was elected as a new director.
RIM said the leadership committee will study the merits of a lead director versus a chairman and the “business necessity” for the company’s co-CEOs to hold “significant” board-level titles. That hasn’t been enough to placate some shareholders who want a move toward an independent chairman sooner.

‘Worst Solution’

“The co-CEO, co-chairman structure is probably the worst solution of all,” said Philip Larrieu, investment officer at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which manages $156 billion, including 450,000 shares of RIM.
About 40 percent of S&P 500 companies have already made the change to an independent chairman, up from 23 percent in 2000, and the split roles will become the standard, he said.
“If they come back with a structure that’s similar to what they have now, even if NEI doesn’t come back and ask for a vote, someone else will,” said Larrieu. “This is just delaying the inevitable.”
Steve Grzenda Jr., a 49-year-old accountant and shareholder who attended the RIM meeting with his father, said it may be time for change at the top of the company.
“There comes a point where there has to be change,” said Grzenda, leaning against the meeting hall’s back wall. “Someone has to be accountable.”
As the meeting ended, the warehouse’s sound system blared Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Hugo Miller in Toronto at hugomiller@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net

Amazon to release 9-inch Android tablet before October

By Emil Protalinski, TechSpot.com
Published: July 13, 2011, 11:40 PM EST Breaking News

Once again we’re hearing that Amazon.com plans to introduce an Android tablet, and this time we have a size: it will feature a roughly 9-inch screen. It will not have a camera but will allow Amazon customers to easily watch videos, read electronic books, and listen to digital music they purchase or rent from the online retailer. The timing is reportedly before October, according to people familiar with the matter cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Furthermore, the Seattle-based company will reportedly release two updated black-and-white versions of its popular Kindle electronic reader in Q3 2011. The first will be a touch-screen device and the second will be an improved and cheaper adaptation of the current Kindle.

Last month, we heard Amazon could launch tablet models in August 2011 or September 2011, with targeted global sales of 4 million units for 2011. Quanta Computer would assemble processors developed by Texas Instruments, Taiwan-based Wintek’s touch panels, and ILI Technology’s LCD driver ICs. Amazon would also reportedly provide streaming movie services for users of its tablets.

Two months ago, a rumor talked about two different tablets before the end of 2011: an entry-level tablet codenamed Coyote (based on the dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 platform) and a second tablet codenamed Hollywood (based on the quad-core Nvidia codename Kal-El platform, which is likely to be called Tegra 3).

The rumor that Amazon is looking to build a tablet has been around for a while but it started to gain steam three months ago, when it was suggested that Samsung would build an Android tablet for the online retailer. Amazon’s president and CEO Jeff Bezos has noted that a potential Amazon tablet would be more likely to supplement than to supplant the Kindle.

The Kindle is the best-selling product on Amazon, and the company likely wants to keep pushing forward with it, but sporting a further reduced price tag. This would attract demand from the education and consumer market, while the more expensive and more powerful tablet would be able to take on the broader market outside of the e-book reader space. In addition to the Kindle ecosystem, the company has the Amazon Android App Store, its Cloud Drive service, and is in the meantime making sure to support its Kindle app on tablets.

Related Stories

Apple Australia slashes app prices by up to 25%

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/smartphone-apps/apple-australia-slashes-app-prices-by-up-to-25-20110714-1heuu.html#ixzz1S4K6zDg2

Asher Moses

July 14, 2011 – 1:02PM
Comments 106

“Congrats to them for starting to be responsive” … Labor MP Ed Husic, who has criticised Apple’s pricing. Photo: Ben Rushton

Prices on Apple’s iTunes App Store in Australia have been slashed to take into account the recent surge in the Australian dollar.
Apple Australia confirmed today that for Australia and some other countries, pricing on apps – but not music, books or movies – had been adjusted “due to changes in foreign exchange rates and local tax laws”.
Federal Labor MP Ed Husic, who has criticised Apple in Parliament for charging Australians more than those in the US, congratulated the company on the price drops in a phone interview with this website today.
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Most of the pricing tiers for apps appear to have been reduced by up to 25 per cent, making them more in line with the US store.
For instance, the lowest pricing tier, which was $1.19, has been slashed by 17 per cent to $0.99, while the tier 3 price is $2.99 after a 25 per cent reduction.
Up until tier 3 prices are now identical to the US, although above this level prices are still about $0.50 more than in the US. But Australian prices, unlike the US, include GST.
It comes after Apple has attracted criticism for selling its products at inflated prices in Australia compared with the US. This became more pronounced as the value of the Australian dollar climbed above parity with the US dollar.
Mr Husic railed against Apple’s pricing in Federal Parliament several months ago and produced a table comparing prices of Apple laptops and iPods in Australia and the US.
He says Apple told him its Australian managing director Tony King would contact him next week to address his concerns.
“I’ve been surprised by the strength of the response from the public,” Mr Husic said in a phone interview today.
He said he would ask Mr King to follow up on the App Store price changes with changes to the prices of its hardware.
“Congrats to them for starting to be responsive on this issue and let’s see what else happens with some of their other prices,” he said.
It is not clear how much of an effect Mr Husic’s speech in Parliament had on today’s price changes as other international store prices were also changed, not just Australia’s.
Mat Peterson, who sells several apps through his Sydney firm, The Little App Factory, said the changes allowed Australians to “receive the price parity they deserve”.
“In actual fact, we have a better deal than the US as the 99c app price includes GST. Without GST, we would be approximately 90c, which is obviously 10 per cent below the US when our exchange rate is only 7 per cent above them,” he said.
His latest app, Tagalicious, which promises to clean up users’ music collections, was hit with an automatic price change overnight, from $12.99 to $9.99.
Mr Peterson pointed out that music and movie prices were still much higher on the Australian store than in the US, although Apple’s hands are somewhat tied here as prices are believed to be set by the industry.
“As an example, Maroon 5s Move like Jagger is $1.29 in the US but $2.19 in Australia, which is stupidly high. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is $9.99 in the US but $12.99 in Australia,” he said.
Anthony Agius, founder of the Australian Apple community site MacTalk, said the app price changes would “make people happy, as many have complained about it for the past few months”.
Matthew Powell, editor of MacTheMag.com, said he did not believe it was fair to single Apple out for the “Australia tax”, saying Sony and Dell charged Australians significantly more than Americans for their products.
Apple is widely rumoured to be refreshing its Mac Mini, MacBook and MacBook Air models tomorrow, alongside the release of its latest operating system, Mac OS X Lion. All eyes will be on the prices to see if they align with the US.
This reporter is on Twitter: @ashermoses

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/smartphone-apps/apple-australia-slashes-app-prices-by-up-to-25-20110714-1heuu.html#ixzz1S4KDPvz9

Telcos slugged for misleading mobile plan ‘confusopoly’

Australian consumers need complex mathematical formulas to work out their mobile phone plans, a new analysis has found, as telcos cop more flack for confusing advertising.
Unlike the US and Britain, where mobile phone cap plans are advertised in terms of how many minutes of calls per month, cost per minute and how much data is included, in Australia telcos use vacuous “total value” figures i.e. $500 a month.
According to an analysis by price comparison site WhistleOut.com.au, to work out the true value of their plans consumers need a “mathematical formula” that divides the dollar value of included calls by flagfall costs, per minute pricing and other charges.
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Comparison of mobile phone plans costing $30-$50 a month.

“Until Australian mobile carriers adopt the minute based pricing systems already used in the USA and the UK it will be forever confusing to Australians,” WhistleOut director Cameron Craig said.
The communications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), released research last year finding 60 per cent of people had exceeded their mobile phone cap in the past 12 months and one in ten people surveyed reported having gone over their cap 7-11 times in the past year.
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) chief executive Teresa Corbin said there was no doubt that the way mobile phone plans were currently structured made it near impossible to compare plans.
Comparison of mobile phone plans costing $50-$80 a month.

“Telcos love to talk about ‘value’ but ask anyone on the street and they will struggle to tell you how much it costs per minute to make a call, whether or not 13 & 1800 numbers are included in their call limits, how many texts they can send,” she said.
“The marketing is so complex that many consumers end up signing up for two-year contracts that may or may not be the right plan for them.”
In releasing the draft report of its Reconnecting the Customer Inquiry into the telco sector, ACMA chairman Chris Chapman railed against the “confusopoly” that passes for marketing in the telco sector.
Comparison of mobile phone plans costing over $80 a month.

One of ACMA’s key recommendations is new supermarket-style “unit pricing” rules so consumers will easily be able to tell from advertisements what is included in their plan and what costs extra. ACMA is also seeking a ban on the misleading use of terms such as “cap” and “unlimited”, which often fool consumers as in most cases the “cap” represents a minimum rather than maximum spend.
In response to the WhitleOut research, ACMA has reiterated its call for the industry to consider “a common unit of pricing for separate components included in a value plan, such as disclosing call costs on a minute basis”.
ACMA is relying on the telco industry to adopt its recommendations in its revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, which is currently being developed. Chapman has said ACMA will force the industry to adopt the recommendations with new regulations if the TCP isn’t satisfactory.
A spokesman for the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association said unit pricing was being considered in the context of the revised TCP.
A Telstra spokeswoman argued that attempting to implement the unit pricing recommendations would be “complex and potentially confusing for customers”.
“To accommodate different customers preferences we offer plans that provide value that can be shared between text, MMS and mobile voice – rather than plans that include a finite number of minutes,” Telstra said.
“The number of voice minutes covered under our plans will depend on call length and call frequency as well as how much text or MMS a customer uses each month.”
But WhistleOut’s Craig said it would actually be “very easy” for Telstra to provide an estimate on available minutes on all their plans. He said US plans all showed three separate buckets: minutes, messages and data.
“For all Australian plans, regardless of the carrier’s marketing, they all have a theoretical maximum of minutes which should be published,” said Craig.
“For the purposes of standardisation there are assumptions of course around average call length (3 minutes is Australian average) but in their unit pricing guidance as part of the Reconnecting the Customer report, ACMA know that the carriers need to make assumptions.
“This is identical to home loans where a comparison rate is published of $150k for 25 years which is an assumption, but necessary to level the playing field.”
ACCAN’s Corbin said she expected telcos such as Telstra would resist the move towards unit pricing.
She said consumers were already familiar with unit pricing from supermarkets, where a product is broken down into a 100g or 100ml price. Mobile phone plans, similarly, should be advertised in terms of the cost per minute and how many minutes worth of calls are included.
“It’s useless to talk about ‘value’, we don’t pay our bills with value, we pay them with dollars and cents and it’s only fair that customers have access to information that can help them decide which product is right for them,” said Corbin.
Telcos being accused of misleading advertising is nothing new. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regularly fines them over their ads, most recently Optus which was slugged with a $5 million fine last week by the Federal Court for misleading people over their broadband plans.
Fairfax Media has a commercial partnership with Whistleout to provide broadband & mobile phone comparisons.
This reporter is on Twitter: @ashermoses

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/telcos-slugged-for-misleading-mobile-plan-confusopoly-20110713-1hcxt.html#ixzz1S4KW6eFO

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