Tech wrap: Apple changes course on iAd

The reports that Apple is softening its approach to its iAd mobile advertising service due to the tepid response as it loses ground to Google in the fast-growing mobile-ad market.

Marketers say they have been turned off by iAd’s high price tag as well as Apple’s hard-charging sales tactics and its stringent control over the creative process which has forced Apple to make some changes.

Facebook is probably not the first place that comes to mind when contemplating new career opportunities.

But, the career search website, hopes to change that with BeKnown, a professional networking app that allows users to build their professional identities within Facebook.

Staying with Facebook, Bloomberg reports that the social networking site is planning its first push into mobile advertising by the end of March, giving the company a fresh source of revenue ahead of a possible initial public offering, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Verizon vs Apple: A royal battle

By Aaron Pressman
The opinions expressed are his own.

Last week’s tiff over the Google Wallet app at Verizon Wireless may seem like just another minor dust-up among hardcore phone geeks. But the debate is an opening skirmish in a potentially huge battle, particularly if, as expected, a new iPhone model arrives that runs on Verizon’s high-speed “LTE” Internet service.

At stake is whether seemingly pro-consumer “open platform” rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission to promote choice and innovation on Verizon’s LTE network have any meaning at all.

The rules were supposed to let customers, not carriers, decide which devices and applications they could use on the LTE network. That would seemingly mean that customers who wanted to use the Google Wallet payment app on the Verizon network via the upcoming Galaxy Nexus phone would be allowed to do so.

Tech wrap: Intel cuts outlook

Intel Corp warned that hard-disk drive supply shortages would hurt its current quarter revenue, the latest heavyweight in the PC industry to caution over the effects of flooding that has crippled factories in Thailand. said it will release a software update for the Kindle Fire tablet to improve performance, make touch navigation easier and let users choose what items are displayed, according to Bloomberg.

AT&T is considering whether or not it will try to revise its planned purchase of T-Mobile USA, the company’s first signal that it may have to give up on the proposed $39 billion merger.

‘New Year’s Eve’ leads as movie box office fizzles

Romantic comedy “New Year’s Eve” topped the domestic movie box office during the weekend but Hollywood had little to celebrate as North American ticket sales slumped to their lowest level in three years.

“New Year’s Eve” led the charts with a disappointing $13.7 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday. The movie added $12.9 million from international markets, for a combined global debut of $26.6 million, distributor Warner Bros. said. 

New adult comedy “The Sitter,” starring Jonah Hill as a reluctant babysitter, finished second with an estimated $10 million domestically from Friday through Sunday. The newest “Twilight” vampire romance movie, winner of the past three weekends, slipped to third place with $7.9 million.

Movie theaters celebrate ‘New Year’s Eve’ this weekend

It’s still early December, but an ensemble of A-list stars will ring in the new year at movie theaters this weekend.

New romantic comedy “New Year’s Eve,” distributed by Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros. studio, tells a series of intertwining stories centered around the ball drop in New York’s Times Square. The film’s all-star cast includes Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Swank, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Biel, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katherine Heigl and Sarah Jessica Parker. Warner Bros. is forecasting a $17-million to $20-million domestic opening weekend, which should earn first-place honors at a box office ruled the past three weekends by the vampires in Summit Entertainment’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1.”

Meanwhile, Jonah Hill stars in new adult comedy “The Sitter” as a college student convinced to babysit his next-door neighbors. Studio 20th Century Fox, owned by News Corp, projects $11 million to $12 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Sunday. Both movies will try to grab audiences before big holiday releases cram theaters in the coming weeks.

Tech wrap: HP opens webOS software to others

Hewlett-Packard is keeping webOS, the mobile operating system, but will submit it to developers and companies, potentially taking on Google’s free Android platform that is popular with handset makers.

Hitachi and Sony “have teamed up to supply Apple with 4-inch LCD displays for an unspecified iOS device that will hit the market in 2012,” Apple Insider reports.

Bloomberg reports that “ should end its price-checking promotion because it gives consumers an incentive to gather price data from small retailers and leave stores without spending money,” Senator Olympia Snowe said.

Tech wrap: Twitter sings about new site

Twitter revamped its website to make the microblogging service easier to use and to help companies better showcase their brands. The new version of Twitter features a redesigned look that the company hopes will make it easier to find interesting content on the service, as well as technological improvements that it said will speed up the service. It also features a revamped profile page, in which a company can highlight specific feature, such as videos or photos. Previously, the profile pages displayed a chronological list of the company’s most recent Tweets.

Apple’s next iPad will be available in February, Business Insider’s Jay Yarrow writes, citing Citi analyst Richard Gardner. The new iPad will feature a screen with twice the resolution of the current model, Yarrow adds.

Verizon Wireless blamed technical problems for an outage on its recently launched high-speed, 4G network, which prevented some U.S. customers from accessing the Internet for about 24 hours. It is at least the second outage since Verizon launched its 4G data service. Trade publication FierceWireless said the company had a major service disruption in April.

Who wants a college sports TV network? Who doesn’t?

YouTube Preview ImageSure it was obvious, but I applaud the decision by whoever organized the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum to pipe The Cars “Shake It Up” through the loudspeakers of a bland room in New York’s Marriott Marquis as the conference wrapped up.

College sports — and here I’m the one being obvious — are going through a serious transition. Conferences are realigning, TV deals are being struck, and feelings are getting hurt.

“This has been a painful, stinging two years,” said Chris Plonsky, Women’s Athletic Director at University of Texas, which this year launched its own regional sports network, The Longhorn Network.  The battling “belongs on the field”, she said. “When it comes to business, let’s play nicely in the sandbox.”

Edmodo, LinkedIn for schools, raises $15 million for its network

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman wanted to be an academic when he was younger. Now, he’s an entrepreneur helping academics.

Greylock Partners, where Hoffman toils these days as a venture capitalist, is joining Benchmark Capital in leading a $15 million funding round for Edmodo, an education network for teachers that allows them to talk to each other easily, keep track of assignments, conduct quizzes,  and do other basic tasks.

The firms are contributing network-building advice along with their cash. Hoffman is taking a seat on its board along with Benchmark’s Matt Cohler, formerly vice president of product management at Facebook. Last year, Edmodo raised an undisclosed amount from Union Square Ventures and Learn Capital, who also participated in this new round.

With the future Windows 8, a new app store

At a trendy art gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District, Microsoft on Tuesday evening previewed its answer to Apple’s App Store—illustrating once again that trendsetting is not Microsoft’s strong point.

Better late than never, though, and Microsoft did have a few surprises for the developers and journalists on hand for the event. For one, the software store will be built into Windows 8 Beta and debut in late February, meaning the test version of the new operating system will be out then too. Commercial release of Windows 8 is expected for the fall, a bit earlier than previously anticipated.

Microsoft will also take a smaller cut of revenues on third-party apps than the Apple or Android stores, and give developers more flexibility in setting prices and establishing their own payment plans. Windows Web Services VP Antoine Leblond also promised developers far more transparency and feedback during the app submission process than Apple and Google provide.