26 February 2011

Why social media gives your doctor an ulcer

Some runner out there was a little overeager. A member of question-and-answer site Quora used the service to pose a burning question about a potentially reckless activity: "How do you train for a marathon with a stress fracture in your ankle or foot?" Seriously? Ouch.

Luckily, there happened to be a sports therapist who was reading. "There (are) plenty of marathons left in the world for you to do when the stress fracture has healed," the therapist warned. "The amount of training required for a marathon means that this will severely stress the bone if it's already overloaded, and could even lead to long term problems that stop you running altogether. Get professional assessment, let it heal, and plan the next marathon."

Let's hope the would-be marathoner read that Quora answer. Some of the other advice offered would be sure make your average high school cross-country coach cringe, from "It's all about visualization" to "upper body workouts to burn calories." The Web is full of questionable medical advice for both injury and illness, and while Quora's quality control features tend to filter out a lot of it, no social-media site or publishing platform is immune (so to speak). So why haven't medical professionals taken this as an opportunity to make some worthwhile contributions to the social Web and improve their individual reputations at the same time?

Well, it's complicated.

"I think there's a lot of confusion about what doctors can and can't do, and what is actually a breach of the patient-doctor relationship, and where the privacy boundaries are," explained Unity Stoakes, a co-founder of health search start-up Organized Wisdom, which attempts to provide Quora-like reputation vetting and promote results based on which ones have experts' seals of approval. "Most doctors that I've spoken to who are very active online have said that they believe there's a lot of unjustified fear about the associated risks with participation. Really, it's more about common sense and following best practices than actual risks."

Social media and the medical profession have not fully looked one another in the eye. It was not until last November that the American Medical Association (AMA) released any kind of document about best practices or guidance for physicians' use of social media; the document, "Professionalism in the Use of Social Media," is primarily concerned with privacy, reputation management, and doctors' social-media interactions with their own patients. A clause about combating "unprofessional" content (which would seemingly encompass bad medical advice) is restricted to flagging one's own colleagues' work.

Still, the AMA acknowledged that social media offers plenty of promises for doctors. "Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians' personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication," the document explained.

Doctors wary
Physicians and other health professionals have nevertheless been slow to adopt social media in their professional lives, in a health industry where insurance reform and electronic records tend to dominate debate over the future of the practice. But, as Stoakes argues, the result has been that there's a lot of terrible medical advice online, a problem that can be tied directly to the rise of "content farms" on the Web--which mean that in a search query for a medical issue, online stalwart WebMD (which has its fair share of critics) may be supplemented with some seriously dubious advice. "We call it the online health gap, that scary place between when the consumer searches and when they actually get to the doctor," Stoakes explained. "There's a massive amount of clutter and misinformation that's growing every day as a result of content farms and these sites that are putting out unverified information. Some of it can be quite dangerous."

Getting doctors into the social-media conversation could mitigate this problem.
Oliver Kharraz, a doctor who co-founded medical booking service ZocDoc, said that in countries like Denmark you're far more likely to find doctors engaging with patients online. 

"I think we have to look a little beyond the borders of our own nation," the New York-based Kharraz said. "This is happening in sort of isolated pockets where trust has been established between the doctor and the patient, and where the legal framework actually allows them to do it. I think that's what's holding doctors back in many instances is that you have very little knowledge about the patient holistically."

That's a valid point, as many doctors may be reluctant to provide any kind of advice to someone whom they know only through a Quora post or Facebook Questions query. Another challenge is that doctors may be concerned that participating in social media is a stigma--that if they were quality practitioners, they wouldn't have time to be messing around on social networks, and that there's something suspect about a doctor who advertises his or her services too much. When Jay Parkinson, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based physician, launched a blog in 2007 and began conducting patient consultations via Skype, it was considered extremely unusual. It still is. Parkinson said that he also used to blog about his day-to-day practice; he no longer does.

"I took a lot of heat from it among doctors, old doctors, and I actually stopped doing it because I thought I'd rather blog about the health care industry rather than what I was doing in my practice," Parkinson told TechACE. He also said that a doctor with a social-media presence may be more exposed to scrutiny from state authorities with the power to revoke a medical license. "Doctors are guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the state. It has nothing to do with malpractice or anything like that...It's your life on the line; it's your livelihood."

It's also, Parkinson pointed out, historically frowned-upon for a physician to advertise much or maintain a promotional presence, stemming from the understanding that a quality doctor will not need to advertise. "There's a stigma against them," Parkinson said. "Most doctors think that too much self-promotion is a bad thing, that if you provide a worthwhile service and you're not a quack, your practice should grow on its own.


Gradual emergence
But the medical profession's emergence into the social media world is progressing, however slowly. Some doctors provide medical advice anonymously, like the urgent care physician who goes by the pseudonym "Dr. Cranquis" (rhymes with "cranky") and answers all variety of basic medical questions and occasionally provides medical war stories. A sample: "My P.A. saw a toddler with a dental abscess today. Yep, you guessed it: the kid was drinking Coca-Cola out of his sippy-cup."

On Thursday, a reader asked if the blog's popular feature of posting "Grey's Anatomy"-worthy injuries constituted a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation. "Cranquis" responded, "Social media gives a new wrinkle to the age-old question: What's the difference between walking into a crowded E.R. with a gruesome wound and being seen by random strangers in the waiting room, versus your doctor taking a picture of your gruesome wound (with your permission) and then showing it to all of his buddies (online vs. offline)?"

The anonymous doctor continued: "It would be a very different situation if: I posted this picture under my real name, I told you what clinic I worked at, I identified the date when the picture was taken, and I included the patient's face or other identifying info in the picture." Patients are asked if their non-identifiable photos may be shared online, "Cranquis" assured.

But Organized Wisdom's Stoakes said that doctors may eventually be forced to interact with social media more because even if they aren't online, their reputations are. "The first place people go before a doctor visit is they Google their doctor, they go to Yelp, they go online to search," Stoakes said. "At a minimum, a doctor should be aware of what's being said about them. Is the information even correct? They have to be participating on some level."

Meanwhile, back in the muck and mire of social media, the Quora query "Does whiskey help a sore throat?" is probably in need of some physician attention.
But unfortunately for the likes of "Dr. Cranquis," Quora has a real-names-only policy.

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25 February 2011

Why aren't people buying the Verizon iPhone?

For years, Verizon customers were clamoring for the iPhone, but now that the phone is here, evidence is mounting that it's more of a dud than a hit. 

First, there were those short, almost nonexistent lines on launch day. Then Boy Genius Report got its hands on some "sensitive information" from a source that indicated sales numbers for the new iPhone were lower than expected (according to those numbers, the Verizon iPhone 4 was barely outpacing its AT&T counterpart four days after launch).

Next, Marco Arment, the app developer behind Instapaper, reported that he didn't get the sales spike he expected with the introduction of a new iPhone (this led him to speculate that the Verizon iPhone was being sold to existing iPhone or iPod Touch owners). And just today, the blog ConceivablyTech, claims that UPS was upset after it set up a special shipping program for the Verizon iPhone that turned out to be overkill, with Verizon never matching its "forecasted shipping numbers." 

OK, so the Verizon iPhone isn't a bomb in the Microsoft Kin sense of the word. But the whispers are out there, getting a little louder each day: the thing just hasn't met expectations, no dropped calls and all. The question is why?
Here's a look at the possible culprits:
  • The press: Ah, the irony. Could it be the Apple-loving media is killing this iPhone? Indeed. While the Verizon iPhone 4 received generally very positive reviews, there wasn't anything really new about it (except that it rarely dropped calls), which led plenty of publications to proclaim that you should take a wait-and-see-what-Apple-has-in-June approach--unless you really "need a new phone right now."
  • The next iPhone is coming in June: If Apple is true to its iPhone schedule, it will announce a new iPhone in June that presumably offers improved performance and features, perhaps even 4G support. That's only about three and half months away. If you read CNET or any number of publications, you know that and are willing to wait--unless you need a new phone right now.
  • Bad timing: The Verizon iPhone had the misfortune of arriving after a number of strong second-generation Android models hit the market. A lot of Verizon customers, tired of waiting for the iPhone, upgraded in the last six months to those models.
  • 3GS AT&T owners are still under contract: Like a lot of other people, I bought an iPhone 3GS a few months after it came out. Real iPhone fanatics pawned their 3GS (or 3G) off on a loved one or sold it on eBay and bought an iPhone 4. But plenty of guys and gals like me stuck with the 3GS and must wait a few months more before being eligible for a discounted upgrade (I get mine in May). So even if I was interested in a Verizon iPhone today, I couldn't jump ship without being penalized.
  • AT&T's advertising has been effective: I've been shocked by the number of people who've said to me that one of the problems of the Verizon iPhone is that you can't talk and surf the Web (or access other data services) at the same time. When you ask people how often they actually do this, most say rarely, but they like to know the option is there. (A few people have cited the example of making a restaurant reservation on Open Table while talking on the phone with a friend.) Not coincidentally, AT&T has been pounding people with the no simultaneous voice-and-data message from the day the Verizon iPhone launched. It's been working.
  • The iPhone isn't as hot as it once was: At one point, the iPhone was way ahead of its competitors. Not so today. So while Verizon customers may have been pining for years about not being able to purchase an iPhone on their beloved network, as I said, plenty of good alternatives have come along, making them pine less.
So there you have it. As much as the Verizon iPhone 4 has been hyped, a lot of market forces are actually conspiring against it. And despite Verizon's reports of record preorders, real or not, they don't always translate into monster sales.
On the bright side, it doesn't look like Verizon will have to worry about its network being overwhelmed by data-sucking iPhone users. The ramp-up will be more gradual, with the real spike most probably coming when a truly new Verizon iPhone becomes available. Whether that will come in June--or whether it will have 4G support--is anybody's guess, but that lack of clarity is what's keeping many folks on the fence. 

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23 February 2011

Egyptian names baby 'Facebook'

t's a charming reminder that new life grows even after the hardest times. An Egyptian baby has been named "Facebook" to celebrate the importance of the Web in the struggles of Egypt's people as its citizens cast off long-standing oppression. 


The Internet proved an invaluable tool to ignite protest into revolution in Egypt in January. Social-media services such as Facebook and Twitter were used by brave protesters to organize dissent, while services such as Flickr and YouTube allowed Egyptians to show what was happening at street level even when the government attempted to shut down the Internet. 

Read more of "Egyptian names baby 'Facebook'" at CNET UK.
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21 February 2011

Report: Next iPhone might be cheaper, but not Smaller

Is the next iPhone going to be smaller? Bigger? Or maybe cheaper? 

"Cheaper" is the latest in a series of confusing and seemingly contradictory rumors about the nature of the next iPhone Apple has in store. Today the New York Times chimed in to say that contrary to a previous report in The Wall Street Journal, the next iPhone is not going to be smaller, but Apple is working on ways to make it cheaper and more accessible for buyers. 

Apple is focused on making the iPhone attractive to a larger audience, according to the report. That includes offering a phone more easily controlled by voice commands for those who have no interest in or can't use a virtual keyboard. 

As for how the company is considering bringing down the cost of the phone, it wouldn't be by downsizing the screen. Rather, using cheaper internal components, less memory, or a lower-quality camera are options Apple is considering, according to the Times source who has apparently worked on several iPhone prototypes. 

Another source says it wouldn't make sense to make a smaller iPhone (we agree) because of how it would affect developers who make their apps formatted to a particular screen size. A "senior Apple executive" also tells the Times that Apple isn't interested in having a lineup of multiple models of iPhones. 

It doesn't sound like a cheaper iPhone is a sure thing yet, just something Apple is thinking about. One thing's for sure: the next iPhone isn't expected until this summer. So anticipate many more months of rumors to come.
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19 February 2011

UberTwitter gets banned from Twitter for policy violations

UberTwitter and Twidroyd have been banned from Twitter for policy violations. Twitter has put up an article in their support forums stating so, and have addressed it this time as many users are probably affected by this. As you know it, UberTwitter is one of the most popular Twitter application for BlackBerry, and it has now been suspended. TechAce detailed that UberTwitter was banned for have direct messages more than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing users’ tweets to help monetize.  So for all of you who have been on UberTwitter, here’s some alternatives:

•Twitter for BlackBerry (free)
• Blaq ($4.99)
• Blaq Lite (free)
•SocialScope (apply for invite)
•Seesmic for BlackBerry (free)

As for the official statement from Twitter on the ban, hit the jump. Regardless of how you access Twitter, we are dedicated to making Twitter better, faster and more reliable for you.
As part of this effort, we ask applications that work with Twitter to abide by a simple set of rules that we believe are in the interests of our users, and the health and vitality of the Twitter platform as a whole. We often take actions to enforce these rules. We have suspended UberTwitter and twidroyd for violating our policies. Everyday, we suspend hundreds of applications that are in violation of our policies. Generally, these apps are used by a small number of users. We are taking the unusual step of sharing this with you because today’s suspension may affect a larger number of users. We are committed to helping you continue to use Twitter during the disruption of these applications. You can download Twitter for Blackberry, Twitter for Android and other official Twitter apps here . You can also try our mobile web site or apps from other third-party developers.
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18 February 2011

The Future of BlackBerry

www.cnet.comQuestion: My question is regarding RIM and their BlackBerry line of phones. They seem to be getting a lot of bad press lately. One item that keeps coming up is that they stick to their "stoic" candy bar style design and how it's out of style (they keep mentioning that it doesn't draw in the younger generation). 

I am 23 years old and I find their signature BlackBerry design to be perfect and really somewhat unique. I say unique because everyone is either doing a slider or a touch-only slab. There are many young people who don't like sliders and still want a physical keyboard. The other thing that comes up is their lack of respectable specs (processors etc.) and their OS. I for one have always questioned why their OS is considered "antiquated" especially since it does all of the same things that other OSes do.

My question is: Why is RIM getting so much heat for their BlackBerry line, even when the new versions coming up have touch screens and updated processors? Is there too much hype over Android and iOS? Aren't people aware that Android is fragmented? Isn't the overall user experience more valuable to people? Let me know your thoughts and thanks for reading this. -- Adam, via e-mail
That's one meaty question, Adam. You are right that RIM has been on the receiving end of some bad press, particularly in comparison with the other smartphone operating systems like Android and iOS. While many people like yourself consider themselves hardcore BlackBerry fans, the fact is that BlackBerry has been around for much longer than Android and iOS, and is therefore seen by many as a dinosaur in the mobile space. It also doesn't help that BlackBerrys have long been seen more as corporate gadgets than consumer ones. As other smartphones gained more consumer mindshare, BlackBerry seems to have lagged behind in that space.

However, I actually agree with you that the strength of the BlackBerry lies in its iconic candy bar style. While it's certainly not as flashy or attention-grabbing as larger touch-screen phones, the simplicity of the design and the interface is attractive to those who don't need a lot of pomp and pageantry. It handles e-mail and messaging extremely well, and specs like GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth are pretty standard across the BlackBerry line. I am personally a fan of the BlackBerry Bold and its great keyboard. 

That said, if RIM wants to compete against Android and iOS, it can't stand still. It needs to innovate in order to attract new customers, not just keep the existing ones. That's why it started to introduce the touch-screen phones like the Storm and the Torch. That's why it introduced a new OS with BlackBerry OS 6. However, in the eyes of the press, it's too little, too late. OS 6 seemed more evolutionary than revolutionary, with an interface that appeared to cater more to existing customers than try to attract new ones. While we definitely liked it--universal search is great, for example--we were expecting something a little more groundbreaking. We also liked the recently released BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry Style, but again, the competition just looks so much sexier with phones like the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S

Also, while RIM was trying to come up with a new OS, Android leaped forward several times over with even more features. Android has the advantage of complete integration with Google apps and services like Gmail and Google Voice, which many of today's tech-savvy consumers appreciate. iOS has the advantage of working seamlessly with iTunes and a simple no-nonsense UI that even children can use. And, of course, we can't forget the third-party apps--both iOS and Android have a wealth of apps in their respective app stores that BlackBerry has yet to match. 

This might be the reason a lot of us in the industry are excited about the RIM PlayBook 

Finally, it seemed that somebody in RIM had gotten a clue. The QNX platform looks fantastic, and we were very impressed by the PlayBook when we saw it in person. Yes, there are still problems with it, and of course, we can't really evaluate it until it's actually released, but for now, the PlayBook is probably the most exciting product coming out of RIM. It's just unfortunate that the company's smartphones have not garnered as much buzz
Clearly, this is an issue that is bound to create some controversy, and there will be people who agree and disagree about the future of the BlackBerry. Let us know what you think in the comments, but please, keep it civil.
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Sony Banning PlayStation 3 Hackers for Life

Sony came down hard on PlayStation 3 hackers today, saying they will be permanently banned from the company's online services. 

"Violation of the system software license agreement for the PlayStation 3 System invalidates the consumer guarantee for that system," reads a notice posted to Sony's official PlayStation blog. "In addition, copying or playing pirated software is a violation of international copyright laws. Consumers using circumvention devices or running unauthorized or pirated software will have access to the PlayStation Network and access to Qriocity services through PlayStation 3 system terminated permanently." 

  
To avoid the lifetime shutout, Sony said, consumers must "immediately cease use and remove all circumvention devices and delete all unauthorized or pirated software from their PlayStation 3 systems."
In the post, Social Media Manager Jeff Rubenstein said the policy represents an initial response to questions from PlayStation.Blog readers about how Sony plans to deal with breaches of its policy.
The company did not say when the ban will begin, but the blog PS3 News is reporting that many users of its PS3 forums have already confirmed receiving e-mail notices from Sony followed by their PlayStation 3 consoles being banned.
According to one account, "If you get error 0x8002A227, Sony banned your PS3 from the PSN."
This is just the latest step by Sony to thwart PlayStation 3 jailbreaks. 

In the most well-publicized battle, the company last month requested a restraining order against famed iPhone jailbreaker George Hotz, also known as Geohot, for coming up with a jailbreak that lets people run unauthorized software on the PS3. 

Sony alleged that the jailbreak, created with the assistance of the hacking group fail0verflow, violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and asked a court to stop Hotz from making any material related to his hack available on the Web. Hotz countered Sony's claim, saying his solution was a jailbreak for a closed system, just like any jailbreak for mobile phones, which are explicitly allowed by the DMCA. 
A U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order, and Hotz has since removed all mentions of the jailbreak from his site, but Sony mistakenly retweeted the jailbreak code.
That case is ongoing.
Sony also took legal action last year to halt the sales in some places of PS Jailbreak, a USB dongle that allows PlayStation 3 owners to dump borrowed games onto the system's hard drive.
In addition, Sony has tightened security with each successive firmware update. 

In its statement today, the company said that "by identifying PlayStation 3 systems that breach our guidelines and terminating their ability to connect to PlayStation Network, we are protecting our business and preserving the honest gameplay experiences that you expect and deserve."
A majority of commenters to the blog seem pleased by Sony's latest move. 

"Thanks for acknowledging this officially. Good to know Sony is not just hoping that this goes away," wrote one poster. Wrote another: "Thank You Sony! Ban these punks!"
But a few voices of dissent popped up on the forums as well. 

"If Sony actually took the time to know what us (the consumers) wanted, maybe they would see less piracy," one person wrote. "I mean the whole reason hackers want to hack the PSP Go is to play games that are still only available in UMD only." 

Wrote another: "While I understand the security and legal issues relevant to piracy and hacking, if I felt companies' motivation was pure, I [might] be OK with this stern stance. But, I think it is motivated more by greed and control than anything else. They want to keep all the $$$ for themselves."

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14 February 2011

LG launches Optimus 3D, Optimus Pad

The Optimus 3D smartphone builds on the Optimus 2x and Optimus Black that LG announced last month at CES. You'll find a similar design candy bar design in basic black. The 4.3-inch display takes up the most real estate, but four touch navigation elements sit just below. 

LG was quick to point out the Optimus 3D's "tri-dual' configuration, which includes a 1GHz dual-core processor, dual-channel and dual-memory architecture. And just as important, the company said the handset can record, view and share 3D content. We're still not sure what to think of this concept, but we'll get a better demonstration of the technology later today. 

To record 3D, the Optimus two 5.0-megapixel cameras on its back side; you won't need glasses to watch recorded video, and a 3D "Hot Key" will deliver five 3D-dedicated user interfaces. Video resolution is up to 1080p for 2D clips and up to 720p for 3D. 

Other features include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a personal organizer, USB syncing and mass storage, GPS, a music player, 8GB of internal memory, a 1,500 mAh battery, and support DLNA/HDMI connections. The LG Optimus 3D will start a global roll out in Europe in the second quarter of this year. 

The Optimus Pad marks LG's entry into the tablet space. It also features 3D recording and video capability (and the two 5-megapixel cameras), but LG appeared to more concerned with promoting the convenience of the tablet's 8.9-inch display. Calling it the "optimal size" for a tablet, a company exec drove the point home by ripping on competing devices (without mentioning them by name) that are smaller (like the Galaxy Tab) and larger (the iPad, the Motorola Xoom, and the new Galaxy Tab 10.1).
While the smaller tablets are just "blown up smartphones," the exec said, the larger tablets are too bulky to be portable. He even showed photos of frustrated users either madly pecking at a tiny screen or being overwhelmed by a large device. Yes, they oversimplified things a but, but that's marketing for you.
The display has a 1280x768 WXGA resolution in widescreen while a 1GHz dual core Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor the Optimus Pad from the inside. You also get 1080p HD video decoding and HDMI support will let you share your 3D video with TVs. Unlike the Optimus 3D, though, you do need glasses to watch 3D video on the tablet. And as part of the Optimus Pad announcement, LG has a established a partnership with YouTube, which will let Optimus Pad owners quickly upload 3D videos for sharing.
The Optimus Pad will begin shipping this spring to select markets. In the United States, it will come to T-Mobile as the T-Mobile G Slate.

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Motorola to Bring Droid Pro and Xoom to Europe

BARCELONA--Europeans will soon get a chance to buy two of Motorola Mobility's hottest products this year: the Google Android business smartphone, the Droid Pro, and Motorola's Android tablet, the Xoom.

The Motorola Droid Pro.
(Credit: Motorola)
 
The company announced today at the Mobile World Congress 2011 here that these devices, which are already announced for the U.S. market, will soon grace the shores of Europe.

The Motorol Droid Pro is powered by Google Android 2.2 and has a 1GHz processor with 2GB of internal memory and expandable external memory with SD card up to another 32GB. The phone also turns into a 3G mobile hot spot that supports up to five other Wi-Fi-enabled devices. It comes with a touch screen as well as a QWERTY keyboard designed for users who like the feel of actual keys. This phone is one of the first Android devices made specifically with business users in mind. And it comes with business-friendly apps preinstalled such as QuickOffice, along with security features, such as integrated VPN and remote wipe. 

The Motorola Xoom is one of several tablets that run a new version of Android called Honeycomb that's been designed for tablets. Will it slow down the iPad? Maybe. A little.
(Credit: Motorola)
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Samsung, Motorola Set Stage for iPad 2 Showdown

Samsung's announcement today of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 shows that, like Motorola, it is throwing in its lot with Nvidia, presenting an impressive challenge to Apple's upcoming iPad 2.
Samsung and Nvidia announced in Barcelona today at the Mobile World Congress that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet will run Google's Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") software on top of the dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, the same software and chip being used by Motorola in its Xoom tablet.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 will run Google's Android 3.0 ('Honeycomb') software on top of the dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, the same software and chip being used by Motorola in its Xoom tablet.
(Credit: Bonnie Cha/CNET)

"We've worked closely with Nvidia to raise the stakes again. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, with Honeycomb and Tegra 2, provides the optimal entertainment and multimedia experience without compromising the mobility Samsung is known for," Hyungmoon Noh, VP of Samsung's R&D Strategy Group, said in a statement. 

Samsung's 10-inch tablet taps the Tegra 2 chip to drive "the first GPU-accelerated user interface designed for tablets and other larger-screen devices," Nvidia said in a statement. Nvidia's forte is designing GPUs, or Graphics Processing Units. With the Tegra 2, it couples an Nvidia GeForce GPU with dual-core processor design from ARM, more or less replicating what Motorola is doing internally with the Xoom. 

Nvidia continued: "Tegra 2 enables consumers to engage in multitasking, [to] surf the Web quickly with fast-loading Web pages and Flash-based content, [and] enjoy console-quality gaming." 

Both the Xoom and the Galaxy Tab should draw some attention away from Apple's iPad 2, which is also slated to have a dual-core processor, better graphics silicon, and a couple of cameras, as well as other features like more memory. To date, with the small exception of first-generation products like Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab, Apple has had the tablet market pretty much to itself. Those days are likely over as heavyweights Google, Motorola, and Samsung bring their technological and marketing prowess to bear on the market. 

And another interesting twist is that Samsung Semiconductor makes the A4 processor used in the iPad. The fact that Samsung has opted for Nvidia in its own 10-inch class tablet means there's some unusual chip-sourcing dynamics taking place between Apple and Samsung. (The 7-inch Galaxy Tab uses a Samsung chip.) 

Other features of the 0.43-inch thick Galaxy Tab 10.1 include: a weight of 1.32 pounds, a 1,280x800-pixel resolution touch screen, standard Android user interface, support for 1080p HD video recording (at 24 frames per second) and playback (30fps), a back-facing 8-megapixel camera, front-facing 2-megapixel camera for video calls, and quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) which supports HSPA+. It also sports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 capability. 

Samsung, however, did not indicate U.S. pricing and availability, or plans for a CDMA model.

The companies are also planning to bring out a new Android-based smartphone with a dual-core Nvidia chip.

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Report: Smaller iPhone 'intended' for Summer Release

After Bloomberg last week reported that Apple was working on a smaller, cheaper iPhone, the Wall Street Journal has added some more details to the rumors, suggesting the new, smaller iPhone could be available as soon as this summer. 

According to the report, a person who saw a prototype of the new iPhone said the "device was significantly lighter than the iPhone 4 and had an edge-to-edge screen that could be manipulated by touch, as well as a virtual keyboard and voice-based navigation." The source added that the new line of iPhones along with a revamped MobileMe "are intended for release this summer, though those plans could change." 

As previously reported, the new iPhone would be about half the size of the iPhone 4 and be available to carriers for half the price of the current model, potentially allowing them to subsidize its entire cost, making it a free phone with a two-year contract (that would obviously help Apple compete with new, cheaper Android smartphones). 

The new model--the Journal says one of its codenames is the N97, which ironically is a Nokia model number--would offer the same functionality as the current iPhone and not be a stripped-down model. However, the report offered no hint as to what screen the new phone would have or what chips would power it. That said, Bloomberg reported that the smaller iPhone would likely use components of the current-generation iPhone to lower costs. 

The Journal's source also said that Apple, "also plans to upgrade the iPhone 4," which isn't news. However, the choice of words is interesting because it suggests the next iPhone might be more of an "upgrade," not a substantially redesigned phone. In other words, we could be looking at an iPhone 4GS instead of an iPhone 5. 

Either way, we should officially know in June what Apple's iPhone line looks like. But expect plenty of rumors between now and then.

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12 February 2011

Obama Pushes for National 4G-speed Wireless

President Obama said today he wanted 98 percent of Americans to have 4G-speed wireless Internet connections within five years, calling it necessary for the United States to remain internationally competitive and "win the future."
 
In a speech at Northern Michigan University in snowy Marquette, Mich., Obama offered details on his administration's proposal to promote high-speed wireless Internet connections in rural areas, elaborating on a point he made in his State of the Union speech last month.

"Every American deserves access to the world's information," Obama said today. "Every American deserves access to the global economy. We have promised this for 15 years. It's time we delivered on that promise."

His administration's proposal will almost certainly require new legislation from Congress, however, and may prove vulnerable to criticism from deficit hawks on the right and opposition from companies who find themselves in the middle.

The idea works this way: local TV stations will be encouraged, but not required, to relinquish portions of the broadcast spectrum they're currently assigned by the Federal Communications Commission.

Those spectrum chunks would be auctioned off for bids by wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon, with a portion of the proceeds being returned to the broadcaster. That provides an incentive for broadcasters, who have been lobbying fiercely to ensure any auctions remain voluntary, but key details such as the formula used to calculate their revenue not yet been made public.

The White House estimates that the auctions would raise $27.8 billion over the next decade. Obama has proposed that $10.7 billion of that be spent on wireless networks for police, fire, and other public safety agencies; $5 billion be spent on a "4G buildout in rural areas"; and $3 billion be spent on "basic research" and development of wireless networks.


That leaves around only $9.6 billion for deficit reduction--assuming, of course, that Republican budget-cutters don't take an axe to the increases in government spending on wireless. The federal deficit has swollen to $1.5 trillion, and the national debt is $14.1 trillion, a figure that doesn't include promises to pay for future Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Rep. Dan Benishek, a Republican who represents Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was skeptical of the president's proposal for a new government program at a time when a tidal wave of debt is looming.

"I am as interested as anyone in seeing an increase in broadband access for all citizens of the Northern Michigan," said Benishek, a surgeon who was elected to the House in November. "At the same time, I have serious reservations about adding another federal program when the national debt already equals over $44,000 per person. In fact, the president's stimulus plan has already spent $7 billion on broadband upgrades."

Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who's chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, added: "While I would welcome most any plan that actually raises $27.8 billion, I would caution against turning around and spending the majority of it in the current economic environment. Job creation and deficit reduction should be the priorities for the 112th Congress, not more spending." 

In February 2009, Obama signed into law the so-called stimulus legislation, which includes $7.2 billion for broadband grant and loan programs. The bulk of the funds directed at broadband--$4.7 billion--were handed to the Commerce Department. About $2.5 billion was given to the Agriculture Department with an emphasis on broadband deployment in rural areas.

More details on the new proposal are expected in the administration's 2012 budget proposal, which forecasts a $1.56 trillion deficit and is scheduled to be released on Monday.

For its part, AT&T applauded today's announcement, calling it a "comprehensive and aggressive plan that lays the groundwork for bringing wireless broadband to all Americans."
But a coalition called Connect Public Safety Now, whose members include Sprint, Metro PCS, and T-Mobile, was more skeptical and said the FCC's national broadband plan represented a better alternative. The National Association of Broadcasters also stopped short of an endorsement, saying that TV stations returned a quarter of their spectrum less than two years ago, and much of it "has not yet been deployed."

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Apple Overhauling iPhone Notification System?

To cap off a week chock-full of Apple-related rumors, we now have this: is Apple about to acquire a company in the process of giving its iOS notifications system a major makeover?
Apple blog Cult of Mac says it's hearing exactly that from a source, who is not named. The company Apple is allegedly buying isn't confirmed in the report, but is said to be "small" and currently has an application available for sale in the iOS App Store. 

Now that would describe about a thousand companies. But there aren't that many that do slick notification apps. Cult of Mac has zeroed in on App Remix, the company that makes the app called Boxcar. 

Boxcar pools all of your social media feeds and delivers your notifications from each into one app. (App Remix's CEO apparently had "no comment" on Cult of Mac's query as to whether Apple plans on making the company an offer.) 

Apple's own notification system isn't regarded as the most stellar implementation. The original iPhone actually shipped without any real push notification system for third-party apps. It took Apple three iterations of the iPhone's software before it found a system it liked. But the system employed in Palm's original Pre smartphone featuring WebOS is still roundly praised as the best in the business. Hewlett-Packard, of course, owns WebOS now and recently introduced the software on several new phones and a tablet

The man who invented the WebOS notification system, Rich Dellinger, actually quit Palm just after the HP acquisition last year to return to his former employer, Apple. The rumor mill heated up then that iOS' notifications were in for a big change, but nothing more has come of that--at least not yet. Apple updates its iOS software on a yearly basis, usually in June, and there's a preview event usually around March to see what will be in the next version, in this case iOS 5. It's possible we could see a new push notification process included in the next big software update for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
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Why I Want a Nokia Windows Phone

When closed, the Nokia E7 closely resembles the company's N8.
(Credit: David Meyer/ZDNet UK)
 
Nokia is wonderful at hardware. But like Motorola, another veteran of awesome industrial design, Nokia is not terribly strong on the software front--once upon a time it was, but it proved unable to shake itself loose from the now-outdated software of its glory days.

The Nokia E7 is a prime example. It really is a thing of beauty (I like a proper keyboard, me) but I don't want one because it runs Symbian. As it happens, I retain a lot of respect for Symbian as an operating system, but its user interface sucks. It's a tragedy that Nokia hasn't been able to quickly and effectively redesign that UI for the modern age, but there you go.

Point proven. Stick something else in there, and the E7 would rock.

Now we know what that "something else" is: Windows Phone 7.

Read more of " I want a Nokia Windows Phone, and here's why" at ZDNet UK.

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09 February 2011

Dell Unveils 10-inch Windows 7 Tablet

Steven Lalla, vice president and general manager of Dell's commercial client product group, holds up a nonworking mock-up of the company's new commercial Windows tablet.
                                                     (Credit: James Martin/CNET)
 
Dell expanded its foray into tablets today with a new 10-inch Windows 7-based device designed, the company said, for users "who need greater mobility, as well as IT organizations that demand control, security, manageability, and integration with existing infrastructure investments." 


The Windows 7 Business Tablet, which will run on an Intel processor, could be available by the middle of the year (note that the tablet in the above photo is a nonworking mock-up of the machine).
The tablet was among 39 new products unveiled at the company's Dell Means Business event in San Francisco this morning. They include laptops, desktops, workstations, and a convertible tablet, the Latitude XT3 (a follow-up to the laptop/tablet hybrid XT2).


But the news out of the event likely to grab the most attention is the Win tablet, even though details on specs remain scant and we don't yet have a price or a release date beyond sometime later this year.

Businesses want Windows because it fits into the IT management scheme, Steven Lalla, vice president and general manager of Dell's commercial client product group, said at the event. Not to say Android doesn't, he added, but he maintained that a bigger chunk of the business sector wants to go the Microsoft route.

The new touch-screen tablet, however, will also come in a 10-inch Android version, apparently named the "10-inch Android Tablet," at least for now. That means neither version will fall under the Streak banner.
 
The Latitude-E series of laptops, meanwhile, has gotten a refresh. The new Latitude E5000 laptops, starting at $859, come in 12-, 13-, and 14-inch models that feature Intel second-generation core processors, new graphics and memory, and backlit keyboard options.

As expected from a business laptop, they have hard-drive accelerometers and remote IT features, including remote data deletion. The keyboard is also the same across the entire line, which the company says will make it easier for business workers to switch devices.

But while IDC estimates that one third of the world's workforce will be mobile by 2013, and Dell took great pains to emphasize that segment, the company also focused on its three new OptiPlex desktops, a new small form factor all-in-one design, and an update to its Precision workstation line.

"We have 30 years in which the PC has proven to be able to adapt itself to the environment," said Rick J. Echevarria, vice president of Intel's Architecture Group, adding that "rumors of the death of the PC have been greatly exaggerated." 

The new Optiplex desktops start at $650. They have the new Intel vPro processors, planned compatibility with the desktop virtualization lineup, and tool-free access to system components (meaning the back just pops off). Dell also said that since none of these systems is scheduled to ship in the next 30 to 45 days, they should go out with the updated version of Intel's Cougar Point Sandy Bridge-compatible chipset, which does not contain the recently discovered Cougar Point SATA flaw.

Dell says it interviewed 7,000-plus Gen-Y customers, IT managers, and other business segment customers to figure out what people want out of Dell's business products.

To design its new business laptops, Dell hosted focus groups over 18 months.
                                                               (Credit: James Martin/CNET)

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Report: iPad 2 Already in Production

Apple has the next generation of its iPad in production, according to a Wall Street Journal report that appears to confirm many of the rumors that have been circulating for the past couple of months.

The new tablet will feature a faster processor and a built-in camera for videoconferencing, but it will have the same display resolution as the first model, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter. The new model will reportedly be sold through current partners AT&T and Verizon Wireless--suggesting it might be dual mode for both GSM and CDMA networks. However, the report did not indicate when the new iPad might be hitting store shelves or what the pricing might be.

An Apple representative declined to comment.

Apple has sold 14 million iPads since its release last April, 7.33 million units alone during the holiday quarter, and Piper Jaffray expects Apple to sell 27 million iPads in 2011. All of that fervor has helped fuel rumors of specs, sightings, and even a claimed component acquisition.

Tech site 9to5Mac claimed earlier this month that it had acquired what it believed to be an iPad 2 LCD, "fresh out of China." The news site found the display to be lighter, thinner, and of higher quality than the current iPad's display, but it could see no evidence that it offered higher resolution than the existing model.

Though a number of sites have reported finding higher resolution graphics in recent builds of Apple's iOS, an analyst cited by Apple Insider in January said the iPad 2 would not have a high-resolution Retina display, corroborating an earlier CNET report.

Earlier this month, a Reuters "eyewitness" claimed to have seen an iPad 2 prototype at the press unveiling of News Corp.'s The Daily. However, that alleged sighting did nothing to confirm or dispel rumors that the new device will sport a USB port.

Component makers in Taiwan said in December that Foxconn--a key maker of iPhones and iPads--had been notified that it should be ready to ship 400,000 to 600,000 units of the new device by the end of February. That aligns nicely with another rumor that has pegged February 14 as the release date for Apple's iOS 4.3, the newest update for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. Might an iPad 2 announcement be included in a press event announcing iOS 4.3? Stay tuned.
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07 February 2011

AT&T Hits back at Verizon Over iPhone 4, SavesMarriage

So what is more important to you? Having an iPhone 4 that might drop calls? Or having an iPhone 4 that saves your marriage?

This seems to be the fine and important question posed by AT&T in its instant rebuttal to Verizon's new iPhone 4 ad that suggests you might finally be able to make a phone call.
This ad offers an insight into how an AT&T iPhone 4 might save a marriage that is just about to run aground.
 



You clearly work too hard. You clearly neglect your wife--who, strangely, still talks to you in a jolly, mellow tone.

She calls to remind you that it's your anniversary.

Though you have an AT&T iPhone 4, you can hear her. Moreover, given that you have done nothing to reserve a spot at a restaurant, your iPhone 4 lets you tell her how much you care, while busily trying to find a restaurant on the Web.

Will this simple demonstration of how an AT&T iPhone 4 can keep America's social structure together offset Verizon's criticism of AT&T's network structure?
What did you say? I can't hear you.
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Blogger Releases Android Smartphone App

The Google-owned Blogger network has released a free app designed to enable people who have built their blogs on the Blogger platform to easily update them from their Android smartphones.

Unveiled this week, the program lets people bang out copy, and take photos with their phones, from directly inside the app--and then either publish their words and images straightaway or save a draft for later. Posts and drafts can be viewed directly in the app or, by way of a quickly accessible menu, in a browser.

Users can also select their location and include that information with their post, switch between different accounts and blogs, and select photos from their gallery for uploading.
Blogger said it's working on bringing the app to non-Android gadgets as well, but for now the program is available only for Android devices, through the Android Market, which is newly accessible directly on the Web.

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Nokia E7 Phone Finally Hitting Stores this Week

Nokia E7 Phone Finally Hitting Stores this Week

Following its unveiling last September and a long delay coming to market, the E7 will arrive in some stores over the next few days, with a broader launch to follow soon, Nokia announced today.

Initally scheduled to debut in December, Nokia told CNET at the time that the company decided to delay launch "to ensure the best possible user experience on the Nokia E7." Nokia did not specify what exactly had gone wrong.

The E7 includes the Symbian 3 operating system, a 4-inch AMOLED ClearBack touch screen designed to improve outdoor visibility, a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, an 8-megapixel camera with a dual LED flash and HD video capture, USB and HDMI connections, and 16GB of flash memory.

Geared for the business crowd, the phone offers built-in synchronization with Microsoft Exchange and comes with Office Communicator Mobile, a corporate instant messaging app developed by Microsoft specifically for Nokia smartphones.

The E7 costs 495 euros ($674) before any potential carrier subsidies.

Nokia's announcement today did not specify any carriers for the phone nor did it specify exactly where it's launching this week. Nokia representatives were not immediately available to comment.

Although still the world's leading mobile phone maker, Nokia has watched its dominance slowly slip over the past couple of years. Losing market share and sales to Apple and Android devices, the company reported lower earnings yet again in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In a bid to regain its foothold, CEO Stephen Elop is planning a major shift in Nokia's strategy. Details are scheduled to be revealed in a financial briefing on Friday. However, some reports say that a management shakeup is already in the works.
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04 February 2011

In Browser Fight, Microsoft's Silver Lining Grows

Microsoft's IE continues to lose share of the browser market to Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari, but the losses come from older versions of IE.

IE continues to lose share of the browser market to Chrome and Safari, but the losses come from older versions.
(Credit: Data from Net Applications; chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET)
 
When Microsoft starts pointing to statistics that don't make it look so great, you can expect the company has a strong turnaround plan in place. Today's example: its share of browser usage. 

Microsoft, while still the top browser maker, saw Internet Explorer slide as a fraction of worldwide usage from 57.1 percent in December 2010 to 56 percent in January, according to statistics from analytics firm Net Applications released today. That decline continues a years-long trend for the company, which first lost share to Mozilla's Firefox but now is losing it primarily to Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari

Specifically, from December to January, Mozilla stayed flat at 22.8 percent, Chrome rose from 10 percent to 10.7, Safari rose from 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent, and Opera rose from 2.2 percent to 2.3 percent. 

But there's an important detail hidden in the statistics--namely, the makeup of the different versions of IE. 

Microsoft is actively trying to discourage use of decade-old IE6, which is the bane of Web developers who want to use modern programming features, and to encourage adoption of IE8 and forthcoming IE9. 

With that view, Microsoft has got more to show for itself. Here's how Roger Capriotti, director of Internet Explorer product marketing, put it in a blog post today:
Internet Explorer 6...continued its decline, with a 1.77 [percentage point] drop reaching 12.03 percent in January worldwide. IE6 has dropped 3.9 [percentage points] over the last three months (an average of 1.3 [percentage point] drop per month) and 9.31 percent from a year ago. During that same time, IE8 has grown 9.15 [percentage points] since January 2010. This trend is even more accelerated in the commercial segment. I blogged last year that [among commercial users] IE6 usage share was already at 10.3 percent, and IE8 at 34.1 percent last November.
So Microsoft has some trends in its favor--thus, the earlier point about Microsoft's willingness to spotlight statistics that don't look great at first glance. 

Here's an earlier example. With IE9, which embraces a host of new Web standards and emphasizes hardware-accelerated performance, Microsoft is eager to have a cutting-edge browser. In IE9's infancy, Microsoft was willing to point out how poorly it fared on the Acid3 test of various browser features, but the browser's score has steadily improved with each new version. 

By the way, IE9 accounted for 0.5 percent of browser usage in January, up only a smidgen from December. Expect that to change, though. It's still in beta testing, but expect a release candidate soon--likely February 10, judging by an invitation to a Microsoft IE event. 

Of course, Chrome and Safari are growing, too, but without much of the prior-version cannibalization. Another qualifier: even usage statistics that remain flat in percentage terms represent significant growth in absolute terms, since the overall number of browser users are increasing. 

Modern browsers are critical to a widespread trend on the Net: the development of increasingly sophisticated Web applications. People are spending ever more time on sites such as Google Docs or Facebook, so the higher performance and elaborate user interfaces enabled by modern browsers play a starring role in people's satisfaction with the Web.
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Hey iTunes, Here Comes Google Music, Spotify


Google is getting closer to debuting a music service, according to multiple music industry sources who spoke to CNET on condition of anonymity.

Google Music could launch as soon as next month, wrote Brad Stone of BusinessWeek in a story last week. My music industry sources say, however, that it is highly unlikely for Google Music to debut that soon and predicted that because Google still has to negotiate some very complex licensing agreements, it will take months rather than weeks for the service to get off the ground.
Another holdup is that each record company has a different view of how a cloud music service should work. 

Last year, when word leaked that Google planned on a music service, record industry sources said Google managers were telling the labels they hoped to launch sometime in the fall. Then, that date got pushed back to the end of the year. Google still doesn't have all the licenses it needs and negotiations continue. The search engine appears to have been overly optimistic about how fast it could create a cloud-music service, tie it together with YouTube's music videos as well as Google's mighty search engine, and wrap up licensing deals with the labels. 

The big record companies have never licensed a cloud-music service like the one Google has proposed and agreements had to be created from scratch, according to record industry insiders. Google has spoken to the labels about offering a service that would sell downloads as well as offer streaming subscriptions. 

Nobody is more thrilled about Google's entry into digital-music distribution than the four largest record companies. Google's music service will debut against a backdrop of tumbling of sales, layoffs, CD-plant closures, and declining consumer interest in downloads. 

Google jams
The top labels haven't seen a player of Google's stature ride into the sector on the back of a popular consumer-electronic device (Android-powered phones) since Apple did it with the iPod. Google has the kind of marketing muscle and deep pockets to challenge iTunes' grip on digital music sales. In addition, Google owns YouTube, which has become one of the most popular music venues online. As a genre, music videos are the most popular fare on the Google-owned site. 

The timing looks right to challenge Apple's iTunes. While iTunes is still the music industry's Michael Jordan, the service increasingly looks more like the slower, pudgier Jordan of the Washington Wizards era. 

The iTunes download store still accounts for more than 70 percent of all online song sales worldwide, but as iTunes has matured, the software has become bloated. Some users complain that iTunes slows down their computer's performance and it's been awhile since iTunes, as a music service, generated much excitement. Two of the biggest iTunes announcements regarding music lately have been the sale of Beatles music and the addition of longer song samples--respectable updates to be sure, but hardly enough to lift the service's long-term prospects. 

What's troubling those in the music sector is that digital song sales are flat. Digital sales were supposed to record double-digit growth for years to come if you listened to past predictions by analysts. 

Exactly what is causing the slowdown is unclear. Some, including research firm NPD Group, have speculated that ad-supported services that offer music for free to consumers, such as YouTube's music videos, compete with iTunes, Amazon, and other services that try to sell songs. These services, however, don't have a history of generating profits. The labels have an extensive history now with ad-supported services and as a sector it's been a disaster. 

SpiralFrog, Imeem, Ruckus, and YouTube have all attempted this business model and only YouTube has anything to show for it. While YouTube and Imeem were able to attract significant audiences, Imeem was unable to generate much money. The company closed down as did SpiralFrog and Ruckus. 

Spotify's transatlantic troubles
It is this dismal record that has created havoc for Spotify, the European streaming-music service, said the music-industry sources. The company has failed to acquire U.S. licenses from the major record companies for more than a year despite attracting 10 million users in Europe. One of the biggest obstacles to convincing the labels that Spotify is a winner is the service's troubles to convince users of its ad-supported service to dip into their wallets and pay for the company's subscription offering. 

Nonetheless, Spotify has finally cut its first licensing deal and is closing in on another. According to a report in The New York Post, the company has reached an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment, the second largest of the top four record companies. The music service, founded by Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek, has also made progress with EMI, the smallest of the major labels, according to a report that appeared Friday in The New York Times. 

To get this far, Spotify has had to pay dearly, the music industry sources said. Besides making some major financial concessions that the company refused to give in on last year, Spotify has also agreed during talks with the record companies to limit the amount of free music it will offer, the sources said. At this point, it looks like music fans in this country will get a watered-down version of the much heralded European offering. 

"More speculation," said Jim Butcher, a Spotify spokesman. "We cannot comment on negotiations and will not give any detail on the U.S. service until we're ready to launch." 

Expect big-label critics from the tech sector to howl. They will argue that at a time when all the traditional distribution models appear to be dying, they should be embracing new, experimental business models. But label hardliners say that they've been down that road with sites that give away songs for free and they haven't worked. The labels will undoubtedly try again and will license Spotify, but they will want big upfront money and limits on free music to help hedge their bets. 

Meanwhile, Apple also spoke to the big recording companies about an iTunes streaming service that would enable users to store their songs on Apple's servers and access them from one of Apple's Web-connected devices, say music executives. 

Apple hasn't done a lot of talking to the labels about the cloud-music service in a while, the sources said, but they added that before the top labels give in to Spotify or other new ad-supported services, they first want to play these Apple and Google cards.


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