MediaFile

Microsoft goes social. Sort of.

Microsoft, which owns a small part of Facebook, dipped its own toe in the online social scene this week with a low-key unveiling of its So.cl (pronounced “social”) service.

The site, which is for students to share interesting discoveries online, looks like a curious blend of Facebook and Google +.

Microsoft's so.cl

Right now it’s restricted to certain universities, and is a blend of web browsing, search (Bing, of course) and networking — including what it calls “video party”.

Developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs, it is “an experimental research project focused on exploring the possibilities of social search for the purpose of learning.”

In effect, Microsoft is trying to build on the fact that many students are looking for the same sorts of things online, and it gives them a way to put together and share their findings with other members interested in the same academic area.

Tech wrap: Is RIM circling the drain?

A months-long delay in Research in Motion’s new BlackBerrys and a dreary quarterly report sent RIM shares tumbling again on Friday and pushed some analysts to sound the death knell for the mobile device that once defined the industry.

Zynga shares opened as much as 10 percent above their offer price on Friday but then rolled back below the IPO price, showing that investors were still concerned about its dependence on Facebook and its growth prospects and that demand for hot tech IPOs may be waning.

The news has not deterred the creators of “Angry Birds,” who are said to be considering a stock market flotation in Hong Kong.

AMD slowly replenishes its ranks

Advanced Micro Devices has hired another senior executive to replenish its ranks and get back on track following the appointment of a new CEO.

New Chief Executive Rory Read, who started in August, has lured Lisa Su from Freescale Semiconductor to head up AMD’s client, commercial, graphics and game console markets.

Su will define the requirements for new chips and get them to market. To get that done she’ll work closely with Mark Papermaster, who joined AMD in October to head up R&D and engineering of new chips.

Tech wrap: RIM under fire ahead of results

Research In Motion faced renewed calls for a change in its leadership on Thursday, hours ahead of the quarterly results that could fuel criticism over the BlackBerry maker’s poor performance and sagging share price.

Jaguar Financial, an activist shareholder that has asked the BlackBerry maker to sell itself in whole or parts, once again called on two of RIM’s independent directors to push for a separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive.

Bloomberg reports that Zynga updated its initial public offering filing to expand on the risks of losing its chief executive officer after Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called him a “a fearsome, strong negotiator.”

Howard Stern’s TV judging stint a boost for Sirius XM

Howard Stern is going to be a judge on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” this summer and Wall Street is already betting this is going to benefit the shock  jock’s satellite radio home, SiriusXM Radio.

Stern, who will replace the less potty mouthed Piers Morgan, will raise the profile of his radio show and drive new subscribers, at least one analyst said on Thursday.

“We see this as a positive for Sirius, holding potential for free on air-promotion, positive for awareness and sub growth, depending on how the TV show fares,” said Lazard analyst Barton Crockett in a research note.

SOPA: So much to hate, so little time to stop it

(Updated 12/16/11 4 pm ET)

It may seem that Congress is getting exactly nothing done these days, with the game of chicken over the payroll tax and the possibility for what seems like the 537th time this year that the U.S. government may run out of money.

So you may be excused for not noticing that a full serious assault on the Internet is being considered by the House, and that it might actually see the light of day through the flotsam and jetsom of bigger business.

SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act — is the latest ill-considered attempt by some in Congress to solve a legitimate problem by creating an even bigger, totally unnecessary problem.

Tech wrap: Will switch to QNX save RIM?

Research In Motion has already doled out a big helping of bad news ahead of its financial results on Thursday, but surprises could still await investors hungry for details about what many see as a new, make-or-break BlackBerry.

Investors are desperate to know whether RIM will stand by its current timetable to switch its smartphones to the new QNX operating system by early next year. The transition is considered the Canadian company’s last, best chance to reverse its declining fortunes.

T-Mobile USA plans to market the Lumia 710 phone from Nokia to first-time smartphone buyers as the two companies push to recoup market share losses of recent years.

Samsung takes the Sony media route with ex-AOL, ex-YouTube hire

Samsung Galaxy tablets (Photo: Reuters)

Samsung, the South Korean consumer electronics giant, has spent most of the last two decades eating the lunch of rival Japanese electronics giant, Sony.  While Sony has had struggled with all types of existential debates and attacks at home and abroad including, the global hacker attack of its online network, Samsung has gone from strength to strength in setting the electronics agenda with its cutting edge  TVs, phones and tablets.

A lot of Samsung’s success could be put down to be its focus on the basics: making great mass market products and not getting distracted with creating or distributing content. By contrast, Sony not only owns the world’s second largest music company and a major Hollywood studio but also a video games business.

The problem is that Sony has never been able to figure out how to make all those things work in conjunction with its position as one of the world’s largest device makers. Most recently it has launched new online music and video services that it no doubt hopes will help sell more devices. It’s very early to tell if that will strategy will work.

Steve Jobs’ biographer felt lashing of his sharp tongue

Isaacson's Jobs biography in a store (Photo: Reuters)

Getting off a plane earlier this year, Walter Isaacson got hit with what he called “the thing you least want to see on your iPhone”– six or seven missed calls from his biography subject, Steve Jobs.

Speaking to a crowd at the Computer History Museum Tuesday night in Mountain View, Calif., Isaacson described finally connecting with Jobs, who apparently had just seen the book’s proposed cover and didn’t care for it. Jobs let loose a stream of invectives. “He just started yelling,” Isaacson recalled. “You have no taste. The cover is gimmicky. It’s ugly.”

Jobs, who hadn’t asked for editorial input into any other aspect of the book, said he would withdraw his cooperation unless he could have editorial input into the cover. Isaacson said he agreed in a matter of seconds, and then Jobs spent time choosing the two jacket photos— a recent shot on the front, and a younger Jobs on the back– and making sure the cover looked clean and simple.

Will Google fight Apple’s Siri with Alfred?

Apple has Siri, and now Google has Alfred.

On Tuesday Google said it had acquired the tech company that has developed Alfred, a smartphone app that acts as a “personal assistant” to make recommendations based on your interests and your “context,” such as location, time of day, intent and social information.

According to Clever Sense, the company that created Alfred and that is now part of Google, the app uses artificial intelligence technology to sift through the Web’s vast amount of data and to recommend restaurants, bars and other real-world places that you might like.

That sounds a lot like Siri, the personal assistant technology that comes built-in to Apple latest iPhone. Siri offers a much broader range of capabilities than those that appear to currently be available with Alfred, allowing users to speak into their phone to manage their calendars,  find nearby restaurants and even inquire about the weather.