Google News - Sci/Tech
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
The move by Apple, which has expanded beyond its Macintosh computer core with iPod media players and the upcoming iPhone, could let the company control how large numbers of people use the Web at a time when services and programs are increasingly Internet-based.
Jobs also said Apple would let outside developers create applications for the iPhone by tapping Safari, softening the company's previous position that the device would not support other software due to security concerns.
Speaking at Apple's annual developers' conference in San Francisco, Jobs put Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser squarely in his sights, saying that test versions of the new Safari 3 were twice as fast at loading Web pages. - by Aryabrata
Posted by Rongen at 11:14 AM
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Top 3 Accessories That Won't Work with Your iPhone
Assuming you've somehow lied, killed or mortgaged yourself into becoming an iPhone owner this coming Friday, you might be in for a nasty surprise: Some of your most prized iPod accessories, such as dockable speakers and high-end headphones, simply won't work with the iPhone. Here are a few of note:
1. The iPhone won't work as a phone when docked into speakers.
If you've ever left your phone next to speakers, you understand why—it triggers a bizarre, clicking sound, as RF signals create interference. The iPhone's solution is to stop broadcasting and receiving RF, letting it operate as an iPod, but not as a phone. Obviously this will not stand, but for the moment it'll have to do. According to Robert Heiblim, a senior VP of sales and marketing for Altec Lansing, the answer is to develop systems with RF shielding, and to include iPhone-specific authenticator chips that will tell the iPhone that the coast is clear, and it's okay to act like a phone again. The chips would also allow for more interactive functions, like throwing the iPhone's full menu onto a larger screen. Since the authenticator specs were only very recently released, with production underway right now, there's no telling when RF-shielded, authenticator chip-embedded speakers will show up. Our guess is the holiday season, or as soon as Apple can possibly crank something out.
2. The iPhone doesn't support stereo Bluetooth.
That's right, the device that does everything can only handle monaural sound when paired with Bluetooth-enabled headphones, speakers or headsets. Most of the Bluetooth speakers available for music phones have astonishingly bad sound quality anyway, so no great loss there. But wireless headphones aren't going to work (not in stereo, at least). And if you've just dropped $150 for a snazzy new hands-free phone headset that doubles as stereo earphones, my condolences. It'll still work as a headset, but not as earphones.
3. Your headphones might not work with the iPhone.
The device's headphone jack supports 3.5-mm connectors, the port itself is recessed, and some connectors simply won't fit. The issue isn't the connector itself, but the overmold—the stubby bit of plastic that the connector protrudes from. I wasn't able to get actual dimensions, but the overmold has to be extremely slim to fit into the recessed port. For example, if the connector is L-shaped, so the overmold runs along the top of your iPod instead of sticking straight out, it won't reach the iPhone's headphone port. So there is now such as thing as iPhone-compatible headphones, and it's very possible yours don't qualify. Adaptors are sure to come, and eventually all headphone overmolds will probably bow to the iPhone's indomitable will. But for everyone dumb enough to have paid $450 for Shure earbuds, now you're even dumber.
What this really means is a reboot for iPod gear-makers. But considering how much functionality will become possible once those authenticator chips are up and running, a reboot was in the cards anyway. And what was already a massive mini-industry will probably grow exponentially. For now, however, the iPhone won't play well with every piece of sycophantic gear riding its coattails. But considering how many of us are drooling over this thing before even setting eyes on it, being a bully will somehow come across as charming, confident and worth $500. — Erik Sofge
Posted by Rongen at 11:59 AM
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Here comes a sleek, stylish, and minimalistic chat screen of Trillian. The New Trillian Astra.
Just a short sneak peak from their website and blog.
The current build is 21. From this point forward, it is our goal to release builds every 2-3 weeks or earlier should the situation demand it.
Some of you have noticed that trillianastra.com is down. This was a side-effect of recent server changes we made and was intentional. It will be back up within a few weeks. We're slowly moving away from an older server cluster and we took the opportunity to bring trillianastra.com down now before it was receiving too much traffic....."
"Put some larger screenshots up today here for your viewing pleasure. These are largely out-of-date already due to the fast-paced nature of an alpha product, but they get the point across.
Our internal testing is moving along smoothly, and current plans are to open the doors to a larger testing base the first week of January. Given the rush around the office during the holiday seasons we felt it best to avoid a larger scale test when we're not 100% staffed. :) We are continuing to build new features and fix existing ones in the meantime."
Over the years, the one point that has been continually driven home to us is performance, whether it means operational speed or memory consumption. We've made some great strides in this realm with Trillian Astra. Time spent with the message window should be enjoyable and functional. We've improved nearly everything about the message window in Trillian Astra, opening the doors to new input methods and stronger integration with the world around you.
Start chatting faster, Redrawing times improved, Network connections are more efficiently managed, Memory usage reduced, Memory leaks plugged, Skin variety with memory in mind, Easy image sharing, Handwriting mode, Always know the local time of your contacts, RSS news delivered directly to your window and many more cool features.....
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 12 — Skype, the Internet calling service owned by eBay, said Tuesday that as of Jan. 1 it would begin charging $30 a year for unlimited calls to landline and mobile phones within the United States and Canada. Those calls had been free since last spring.
The new annual fee for unlimited calling, while still nominal compared with other Internet calling plans, is part of a broader strategy by eBay to expand Skype’s product offerings and revenue.
EBay, the online auction giant, paid $2.5 billion for Skype in October 2005, prompting criticism from some analysts that it had overpaid for a start-up company focused on a different market and technology.
EBay executives assert that Skype can help it by allowing low-cost voice and video communication between its buyers and sellers. In addition, eBay wants to capitalize on Skype’s base of 136 million registered users.
As a promotion, Skype began allowing its users to place free domestic “SkypeOut” calls from their computers to traditional and mobile phones last May. At the time, the company said the promotion would extend only through year’s end. The company is offering a half-price subscription to those who sign up before Jan. 31. Calls from one computer to another have been and will continue to be free.
“We see a willingness by consumers to make SkypeOut calls that are well priced,” said Don Albert, Skype’s general manager for North America. He noted that the cost was still a fraction of the typical $25 monthly fee that other Internet phone providers charge for unlimited calls. Mr. Albert declined to predict the adoption rate for the plan or the revenue it could bring in.
Despite the relatively low cost of the service, industry analysts said Skype was not considered to be serious competition in the telecommunications business. Skype, unlike Vonage, the cable companies and other competitors, generally requires users to download software and to make calls from the device on which it is installed.
“Skype requires a behavioral change. Consumers have grown quite comfortable using their telephones,” said Jeffrey Halpern, a telecommunications services industry analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “I don’t view Skype as a real threat to the telephone companies or even Vonage or the cable companies.”
Over all, the Internet calling business is booming. Mr. Halpern said that by the end of the third quarter, there were around 8 million subscribers to Internet calling plans in the United States, up from 6.5 million in the previous quarter. That figure did not include users of Skype.
Mr. Albert, a former eBay executive who joined Skype this year, said the new prices were part of a broader plan.
“We get put in a bucket of being a cheap way to make phone calls, but our vision is quite a bit more expansive than that,” he said.
The company has been developing and deploying technology that allows Skype to be used on other devices, including wireless phones and pocket computers.
But potentially more significant innovations are planned for next year, when Skype will introduce services with Yahoo and Google that will allow Web surfers to click a button and call a business they have found during a search.
Mr. Albert said the concept, known as “click to call,” was an important example of combining eBay’s expertise in online sales with Skype’s capacity to allow people to make inexpensive calls.
Industry analysts have mixed opinions about how successful such a program can be and whether it can help justify the hefty price eBay paid for Skype.
Tim Boyd, an analyst with Caris & Company who has a buy rating on eBay, said he saw click-to-call as a “tremendous opportunity” for eBay to generate revenue by charging businesses for the calls.
But Mr. Boyd and other analysts were less sanguine about eBay’s hopes that its own auction buyers and sellers would become heavy adopters of Skype.
EBay has projected that those buyers and sellers will use the service to iron out details and provide basic support during the sales process.
“Many of the folks selling do not put a telephone number on their listings,” said Derek Brown, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald & Company, who has a buy rating on eBay stock. “It’s not because telecom costs are too high. It’s because it costs too much to have people answering the phones.”
Mr. Brown said eBay had yet to demonstrate how it could integrate Skype into its business in a way that would justify the acquisition costs.
In the third quarter, Mr. Brown noted, Skype generated $50 million in revenue, a mere 3 percent of eBay’s $1.45 billion in total revenue.
“We get lots of questions of when eBay is going to be able to monetize Skype,” Mr. Albert conceded. But he said the new calling plan underscored the company’s effort to do so.
“If you ask, ‘Was this worth our investment,’ you’d get an enthusiastic triple-thumbs-up from Meg Whitman,” eBay’s chief executive, Mr. Albert said.
By MATT RICHTEL, NewYork Times
Under the program, Google will grant employees a new type of option, called a transferable stock option. The company will work with Morgan Stanley to set up a market that will enable financial institutions and other investors to bid for those options.
Experts briefed on the plan were divided on whether it might provide a useful model for other companies. But the move appears likely to reinforce Google’s reputation for financial innovation. When it went public in 2004, Google priced the initial offering through an auction, allowing any investor to get in on the offering, rather than granting assured allocations to preferred investors.
That led to an offering price of $85, which was below what some had expected. Those who bought have prospered, as the share price has risen to a high above $500. Yesterday it closed at $481.78, down $2.15, before the options plan was announced.
Google said the plan was aimed at showing employees the full value of their stock options. In addition to giving options to most new employees, Google also issues options annually to many employees who have been with the company for more than a year.
Stock options give their owner the right to buy stock for as long as 10 years at a price set when the options are granted. Google officials said they believed that employees typically underestimated their value.
“It is very difficult for employees to understand what their options are worth,” said Dave Rolefson, Google’s equity and executive compensation manager, in an interview. “If they can see what others would pay for them, then option valuation would become simple for employees.”
The new options, which will have lives of 10 years, will have the same vesting schedule as existing options, with some options vesting after 12 months and all vesting within four years. Once the options are vested, employees will be able to hold them, exercise them or sell them. They are likely to reap greater gains from selling than from exercising them.
For example, an employee who holds a vested option permitting him to buy shares at a strike price of $460, assuming the stock is trading at $482, can currently exercise the option and pocket $22. The new transferable stock option could be worth a lot more than that, because of the expectation that the stock could rise further.
Google said any options that are sold when their remaining life is greater than two years would immediately become two-year options. In those two years, the financial institution or investor buying them would not be able to sell the options in a secondary market, but would be able to use various financial instruments to hedge against fluctuations in Google’s stock price.
The financial institution is likely to pay less than it would if the option life was not reduced, but much more than the employee would receive if he or she exercised the option and sold the stock.
In trading yesterday, an option to buy Google for $460 a share in January 2009, a little more than two years from now, sold for $123.50 in trading at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, far more than the value that would have come from exercising it now. A financial institution that bought such an option now from an employee probably would pay a price below that level, but not too far below it.
Even options with strike prices higher than the value of the company’s stock — so-called underwater options — would probably have some value in the market being created, and they could be sold by Google employees. Yesterday, at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, a January 2009 option with a strike price of $520 sold for $99.80. For years, technology companies opposed efforts of accounting rule makers to force them to record as an expense the cost of options granted to employees. Since the rule went into effect last year, some have tried to change the terms of the options, or the assumptions made in valuing them, to reduce the reported expense. But Google’s change, because it will increase the expected life of the options, will raise the reported cost of each option.
In the long run, however, Google’s reported profits could climb if it is able to offer fewer options to attract and retain employees.
“We want to continue to use stock options, but we don’t want to be wasteful either,” Mr. Rolefson said. “We won’t need to use as many options to deliver the same value to employees.”
Google is not the first company to offer employees the possibility of selling options, but it is the first to propose doing so regularly. In 2003, Microsoft arranged for J. P. Morgan to offer to purchase all options with exercise prices over $33 a share. Employees who took that offer have had no cause to regret it, because the share price has never risen to that level. Read More >
By MIGUEL HELFT and FLOYD NORRIS