MediaFile

Tech wrap: AT&T, Sprint admit using monitoring software

Phone makers RIM and Nokia denied installing on their mobile devices an app which can monitor what users are doing without their knowledge or consent while carriers AT&T and Sprint admitted to using it. The companies responded after a security researcher demonstrated in online videos how the “Carrier IQ” software worked on Google’s Android operating system and said that phones running RIM’s BlackBerry platform and Nokia’s Symbian OS also had the software installed. AT&T and Sprint said they use “Carrier IQ” to monitor network quality.

Blackstone Group and Bain Capital are preparing a bid for all of Yahoo with Asian partners in a deal that could value the Internet company at about $25 billion, a source familiar with the matter said. The potential bid by the consortium, which would include China’s Alibaba and Japan’s Softbank, has not yet been finalized, the source and two other people familiar with the matter said. E-commerce giant Alibaba, whose primary interest is in buying back a 40 percent stake owned by Yahoo, is keeping its options open and said it has not decided whether to participate in a bid for all of Yahoo.

Apple’s iPhone edged past major news events, celebrities and pop stars as the top searched term on the Web in 2011, according to Yahoo. The media company said the smartphone proved more popular than reality television celebrity Kim Kardashian, pop star Katy Perry and singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, who placed in the top five. Casey Anthony, the woman acquitted of the murder of her young daughter after a highly publicized trial, was No. 2.

Best Buy is recalling about 32,000 Rocketfish battery cases for iPhones because of a fire hazard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada said. The Richfield, Minnesota, company and the CPSC have received about 14 reports of the Rocketfish Model RF-KL12 Mobile Battery Case overheating while charging in the United States, the CPSC said.

The European Commission joined forces with major technology firms including Apple, Facebook and Google to improve the protection of children online. The coalition, which includes 28 companies, will develop an age-based online ratings system and aims to strengthen privacy settings. It also plans by the end of next year to make it easier to report inappropriate content. Other measures include improving parental controls and enhancing cooperation among law enforcement and hotline authorities to remove online material showing sexual abuse.

Tech wrap: Microsoft allowed looks at Yahoo’s books

Microsoft has signed a confidentiality agreement with Yahoo, allowing the software giant to take a closer look at Yahoo’s business, according to a source familiar with the matter. Microsoft joins several private equity firms that are also poring over Yahoo’s books and operations, as they explore various options for striking a deal with the struggling Internet company. Microsoft’s signing of a nondisclosure agreement with Yahoo occurred “recently,” according to the source.

Shares of Groupon fell for a third day , sinking below the company’s initial public offering price of $20 less than three weeks after the daily deal company went public. Groupon raised more than $700 million in an IPO in early November, making it the biggest IPO by a U.S. Internet company since Google raised $1.7 billion in 2004. Analysts have cited concerns about increased competition, a greater availability of the company’s stock for short-selling, and a sharp reversal of market sentiment that is taking down more speculative companies. Groupon shares ended the day down 15.5 percent at $16.96.

Big-Box retailer Best Buy has no regrets about stocking Research In Motion’s PlayBook tablet, despite the product’s poor reception and subsequent sharp discounting. RIM says it has shipped 700,000 PlayBooks since its launch, a figure dwarfed by the millions of iPads Apple sells each quarter. “When a product is less successful, you do what you need to do, and you move to the next thing,” Best Buy’s president for the Americas, Mike Vitelli, told Reuters. “That kind of quick reaction by the suppliers, whether it is BlackBerry or HP with their product, I actually think that is good for consumers too,” Vitelli said.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 hits stores tonight

One of the biggest video game launches ever is going down tonight at stores all over the U.S.  “Modern Warfare 3″, the eighth game in the “Call of Duty” series is going on sale at midnight While the usual suspects like GameStop and Best Buy will be open late to accommodate the crowds, Wal-Mart is going all out by hosting tournaments centered around the game at more than 2,700 stores starting at 8 p.m..

To give you some idea of how big the market for this game is, last year it took a little over two months for ”Call of Duty: Black Ops”  to generate $1 billion in global sales.

In 2010, the last edition of the Activision military game sold more than 5.6 million copies, or $360 million worth units on its first day on sale. That is more than double Harry Potter’s record-breaking opening weekend box office take in June.

Tech wrap: Facebook cashes in on ads

Facebook’s first-half revenue roughly doubled to $1.6 billion, underscoring the world’s largest social network’s appeal to advertisers, a source with knowledge of its financials told Reuters. Net income in the first half of 2011 came to almost $500 million, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous because privately-held Facebook does not disclose its results. Facebook’s stronger results come as investors have pushed its valuation to roughly $80 billion in private markets, with many industry observers expecting the world’s No. 1 Internet social network to go public in 2012.

Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock fired CEO Carol Bartz over the phone on Tuesday, ending a tumultuous tenure marked by stagnation and a rift with Chinese partner Alibaba. CFO Tim Morse will step in as interim CEO, and the company will search for a permanent leader to spearhead a battle in online advertising and content with rivals Google and Facebook. Some analysts said Bartz’s departure signaled the company had run out of options after failing to dominate the advertising and content markets and handing over its search operations to Microsoft.

Best Buy said it will offer products online from other sellers through a new third-party Marketplace as the electronics retailer tries to better compete with Internet rivals Amazon.com and eBay. Best Buy Marketplace will add roughly one-third more products online in time for the holiday shopping rush. Buy.com, Mambate, SF Planet, ANT Online, BeachAudio.com and Wayfair are the third-party sellers that signed up for the launch.

Super Bowl Monday: The view from armchair copywriters

Ahhh, Super Bowl Monday. The hangovers. The salsa stains on the sofa. The dreams of winning your office betting pool crushed. And the ad reviews. Yes, today is the day when everyone — many with little or no connection to advertising, football or tastemaking — puts out a list of the top Super Bowl commercials. Some are better than others. USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter is probably the best known (and this morning had Bud Light’s Dog Sitter ad ranked tops). But two others that are very good gauges of the winners/losers of the Ad Bowl are TiVo and the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review.

They take very different approaches to rankings.  TiVo ranks the most engaging moments “using aggregated, anonymous, second-by-second audience measurement data” while Kellogg goes with the panel approach that asks viewers to grade ads based on “Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity.”

Three ads/brands were ranked highly by both TiVo and Kellogg:

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But there were also some glaring differences in the two polls. For instance, the top spot in Tivo went to Snickers, followed by Best Buy and Pepsi Max. Kellogg gave all three of those middle-of-the-road rankings (Snickers and Best Buy each a received B, while Pepsi Max took a C.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: Duke wins, but there’s another bracket to fill

duke1Check out a different kind of tournament bracket still underway.

The Duke Blue Devils may have won yet another college basketball title Monday night, but consumers can still make their "Sweet 16" picks in Consumerist.com's annual "Worst Company in America"  tournament, which runs through April 26.

In its fifth year, the website, owned by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, lets consumers vote for their least favorite companies in matchups much like the NCAA tournament. Starting with 32 "teams," the tournament pairs companies in votes in which the "winner" (think about it, in a worst company vote you want to lose) advances to face the next competitor.

In the first round this year, Bank of America beat Citibank, GM beat Toyota and in an "upset" Cash4Gold beat defending "champion" AIG. Other companies that advanced included Walmart, Ticketmaster, United Airlines, Best Buy, Apple and Comcast, which has lost in the title game the last two years.

Barnes & Noble plans big (e-reader?) event

Brace yourself for the next salvo in the battle of the ebook readers (or electronic reading devices, or e-reader, or whatever you want to call them).

Barnes & Noble is planning a “major event” next Tuesday in New York to announce a mystery… something.

The bookseller won’t say exactly what it will announce, but we’d be surprised if its NOT a digital book reader, to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader series.

Best Buy CEO: Don’t forget the gift card

Hey Brian Dunn, CEO of gadget lover’s cathedral top electronics retailer Best Buy, what’s on your short list of five great bang-for-your-buck devices for this holiday season?
(Thanks to the CNN Money reporter for asking this question at a press conference today)

DUNN: My short list?

* (First), on my personal short list — a netbook is definitely on my short list – and by the way it’s a companion device. It’s lightweight, it’s small, it’s great to take on a quick trip.
* (Second) I think the HD Instinct is a very interesting smartphone. [Mediafile: That's Samsung's Instinct HD]
* (Third) I love my Flip HD camcorder. That’s a great piece.
* Four, I really love the Ultra Thin OLED TVs are cool. [Mediafile: Um, cool yes. Bang for Buck? At about $2,000 for an 11-inch screen, let's just leave it at cool and move on. mkay?]
* The fifth one, of course, is a gift card , that I can give to the people I love, so they can get whatever it is they want.

Well played, Brian. Well Played.

A PC for less than a buck

Ultraportable, Web-centric netbooks PCs have been on the market for a relatively short amount of time, but prices continue to fall, as new models flood the market and wireless carriers move to subsidize the purchase cost.

And now, in what is likely a sign of things to come, a netbook can be had for mere pocket change.

Best Buy is currently offering an HP netbook — the  Compaq Mini 110c-1040DX — for the low-low price of 99 cents with the purchase of a 2-year data plan from Sprint. AT&T and Verizon already offer similar subsidies for netbooks–just not so steep. The same netbook will cost you $200 with 2-year activation with Verizon or AT&T. And without a contract, the device will run you $390.

from Shop Talk:

Cross-Atlantic connectivity works, just don’t tell mom

Brian Dunn, who is set to become Best Buy's CEO next week, has his own example of what it means to be connected in today's digital age.

bryant-boozerWhen he was visiting London a few weeks ago, Dunn watched the L.A. Lakers take on the Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs on his notebook computer.  His three sons, who are also big basketball fans, were watching the game on TV at home, Dunn said.  They kept in touch using Skype to have a video chat.

As Dunn told Reuters, the boys were whispering to him, worried that their mother would hear that they were up too late.