MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple “spaceship” to tackle “weed” problem

Apple plans to build a circular “spaceship” building in hometown Cupertino — and be the best office building in the world, CEO Steve Jobs said. The ailing Jobs, formally on leave from the company, made his second public appearance in two days late on Tuesday to show off plans to the Cupertino city council. Apple has grown “like a weed” Jobs said, and needs a place to put roughly 12,000 people. The massive new structure would be in addition to the main campus at 1 Infinite Loop.

Facebook is providing European regulators with information about its use of facial recognition technology, in response to concerns about the company’s roll-out of the technology’s availability outside of the U.S.. Facebook said there was no “formal investigation” under way. The move comes after comments by Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, who said the group would study Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology for possible rules violations, according to a report in Bloomberg earlier on Wednesday.

EBay is hunting for acquisitions to speed up its development of image recognition and augmented reality features as the online retailer and auctioneer seeks to capitalize on the potential of mobile phones to help consumers make impulse purchases. Steve Yankovich, head of eBay mobile, told Reuters his division had the company’s full support to spend money on innovative technology, as the fastest growing part of eBay which is helping to renew the 15-year-old company’s image.

Research firm Gartner lowered its view on global PC market growth for 2011 to 9.3 percent this year, down from the 10.5 percent it previously forecast, due to economic uncertainties as well as a lack of compelling PC products.

For 24 hours on Wednesday, websites with more than 1 billion combined visits a day joined distribution companies to enable IPv6 — a new Internet protocol with 4 billion times as many addresses as the nearly exhausted pool of Internet addresses used today — on their main services. Google, Facebook, Akamai, Yahoo, Limelight Networks and Verisign were some of those taking part.

Tech wrap: EBay sues Google in mobile payment war

EBay and its online payment unit, PayPal, sued Google and two executives for stealing trade secrets related to mobile payment systems, highlighting the growing battle between companies vying for a major stake in what has been described as a $1 trillion opportunity. The two executives, Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius, were formerly with PayPal and led the launch on Thursday of Google’s own mobile payment system in partnership with MasterCard, Citigroup and Sprint.

The personal information of more than 283,000 customers at Honda Canada was breached, the company confirmed on Friday. The company said the stolen data included names, addresses, vehicle identification numbers and in some cases financing account numbers, but was not the type that would typically be used for identity theft or fraud.

Sony said it will start restoring its PlayStation videogame network in Japan and elsewhere in Asia on Saturday, more than a month after a massive security breach leaked personal details on tens of millions of accounts. Sony also said it plans to testify before U.S. lawmakers at a hearing on data security in Washington on June 2 to address the breech.

Tech wrap: Privacy storm strikes Sony, passes Apple

Apple denied it is tracking the movements of its iPhone customers, but said it will provide a software update that stores less location information on phones in response to public outcry over privacy issues. Apple plans to release a software update that would cut the size of the wireless hotspot location database stored on its iPhones, and stop backing up that information. The software will be released in the next few weeks, it said.

Users of location-based services like those offered on iPhones have a hard time reconciling the security and privacy implications that come with allowing third parties access to their information, writes Mashable’s Christina Warren.

Sony’s delay in announcing that hackers had stolen names, addresses and possibly credit card details from the 77 million user accounts of its video game online network sparked an online furor from users. Some gamers writing in online forums called for a boycott of Sony products, while shoppers at London video-games stores said they might leave the PSN network, which allows them to play games with other members and buy games online. A Sony spokesman said that after learning of the breach it took “several days of forensic investigation” before the company knew consumers’ data had been compromised.

Tech wrap: Apple raises the earnings bar

A shop assistant in Sydney gestures in front of an advertising sign moments before Apple's iPad 2 became available for direct purchase in Australia March 25, 2011.  REUTERS/Tim Wimborne Apple reported quarterly revenue of $24.67 billion on strong iPhone and Mac sales, racing past Wall Street estimates. In the quarter, the company sold 18.65 million iPhones and 3.76 million Macintosh computers. Analysts expected 16.3 million and 3.64 million, respectively. Sales of iPads and iPods fell short. The number of iPads sold was 4.69 million, shy of the 6.3 million expected. Sales of iPods were 9 million, versus expectations of 9.85 million.

Analysts said that the weaker-than-expected iPad sales will not detract from strong long-term demand. “We can attribute some of the weakness to stocking issues at some of the retail outlets and obviously the supply chain issue in Japan,” said Capital Advisors Growth Fund’s Channing Smith.

The next-generation iPhone will have a faster processor, look largely like the iPhone 4 and will begin shipping in September, three people with direct knowledge of the company’s supply chain said.

Tech wrap: Amazon vs eBay…fight!

A photograph of a computer screen showing the website eBay is shown in Encinitas, California April 22, 2009. REUTERS/Mike BlakeEBay said it will buy e-commerce service provider GSI Commerce for $1.96 billion in cash to build up its online marketplaces, as it ramps up its battle with Amazon.com. GSI is attractive to eBay because of its expertise in taking customer orders, managing them and filling them, which also happens to be an area of strength for Amazon. GSI, which owns Web businesses such as Rue La La and ShopRunner, also provides retailers such as Aeropostale and TJX’s Marshalls chains with technology, payment processing and customer care services for their e-commerce sites.

There will be no iPhone 5 announcement at Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference in June, according to The Wall Street Journal’s John Paczkowski. Instead, we should expect a software event, Paczkowski writes, quoting an Apple’s WWDC press release: “If you are an iOS or Mac OS X software developer, this is the event that you do not want to miss.” He goes on to speculate that the delay may be due to Apple timing the release of  a 4G LTE-compatible iPhone 5 with AT&T’s expected roll-out of its 4G LTE networks mid year.

Apple “piled another brick onto the ramparts of its walled garden,” only considering apps that are sold through the Mac App Store for this year’s Apple Design Awards, The Register’s Rik Myslewski writes. “This move makes it clear that Apple is enforcing a two-tiered status for Mac OS X apps: those it allows into the store, and those that remain outside it,” Myslewski adds.

Mobile sales are helping eBay, but is it enough?

EBAY/eBay said Wednesday that the value of goods sold in the U.S. through its mobile applications surged 133% to $100 million during the month before Christmas. Globally, the growth was even stronger: Up 166% to $230 million worth of goods.

That is good news from one angle. eBay is having success using mobile devices to sell goods during the busiest retailing period of the year. But it obscures another fact: Mobile sales may be a growing market, but it’s a tiny portion of eBay’s overall sales. And overall sales don’t appear to be growing nearly as fast.

eBay’s Gross Merchandise Volume (the total value of all goods sold through eBay) was $48.3 billion in 2009, excluding car sales, and that figure is likely to top $50 billion in 2010. The $230 million GMV of mobile sales is equal to only 0.5% of eBay’s total GMV last year.

Is Google overpaying for Groupon?

When a company has a lot of cash and not so many new sources of revenue, it can be tempting to buy its way into new markets. But such a strategy has its risks, which are best illustrated by ill-fated acquisitions like eBay’s $3.1 billion purchase of Skype in 2005. eBay ended up taking a writedown for the deal and sold off two-thirds of the company at a $2.75 billion valuation four years after the purchase.

The eBay-Skype story comes to mind as Google is close to paying as much as $6 billion for Groupon. Like eBay, Google is a company eager to find new revenue in emerging areas of growth. Just as eBay was seeing its online marketplace business mature, Google is needing to find growth outside of its core business of search.

eBay thought Skype could easily be folded into the company, even though it could never explain why online auctions and phone calls over the Internet was a natural fit. Google’s hunger for Groupon seems twofold: Groupon has a strong local component to it, and local is a clear priority for Google. And Groupon will bring Google a steady customer base it hasn’t been able to build on its own for local and social features.

PayPal sees early promise from mobile experiment

jetpack2The “mobile wallet” concept has been bandied around for years as a promise that one day “soon” we’ll be able to leave our purses at home and pay for everything via the cellphone.
Of course we were also meant to to get to work using Jetpacks and have robots cleaning the house by now too.
However, with credit card companies and banks desperately looking at new avenues for growth, they’re starting to talk up mobile with a vengeance as they all battle  for a dominant place in the fledgling mobile payments industry.
And since they’re doing it, online payments provider PayPal has joined the fray because if consumers really want to move their lives to the cellphone, it can’t limit itself to the desktop.
Interestingly PayPal says it is seeing early signs of mobile success in an area where it looks to make an old fashioned bank service  – check cashing – more convenient.
The unit of eBay says it handled $100,000 in checks from its mobile customers in roughly a day and a half after it kicked off its mobile check cashing service, which allows you to add money to your PayPal account by just taking a cellphone photo of a physical check and using the PayPal mobile app.
Roughly a month later, PayPal says it processed over $1 million worth of checks.
This is a pittance in comparison with what banks handle — U.S. banks processed $30.6 billion of checks in 2006, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, implying $2.55 billion worth of checks every month.
Still PayPal is happy enough with the result that it is already looking for ways to improve the service, specifically by reducing the check-clearing window from six days, where it currently stands.
It  is also experimenting with other services aimed at expanding beyond eBay auctions and other online transactions where it is most popular.   One is allowing consumers to pay for goods in a store by using a mobile PayPal app on their phone, which would require the vendor as well as the consumer to open a PayPal account.
For this service PayPal says it has signed up 200 merchants in just a few weeks. In comparison the credit card industry has convinced retailers to install contactless payment terminals in all of 150,000 locations in about five years.
The idea with contactless payments is that you can wave your phone to pay instead of having to fumble in your wallet for a credit card. Paypal is also trying out this method for size via its partnership with a company called Bling Nation, which lets you spend from your PayPal account by slapping a “Bling” sticker to the outside of your phone and waving at the machine.
“We don’t know which will take off so we’re experimenting,” said Laura Chambers, a senior director for PayPa.l But she noted that “merchants aren’t excited about hardware upgrades.”
At a New York event where the company showcased their mobile services, a bunch of which were launched on October 6, Chambers said that this year would be a year of experiments for her company.
And since mobile operators have a direct relationship with their customers, Chambers said PayPal is also in talks with U.S. operators about how they can work together.  She would not disclose any details but said:  “There’s a great opportunity to replace the wallet and for the mobile phone to become the wallet.”

(Photo: Reuters – of American stuntman Eric Scott hovering over London using a Jetpack)

from DealZone:

Facebook is more than just a pretty face

The social networking website of Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) is now worth $23 billion, close to the value of online shopping website Ebay, based on the price of a recent stock purchase by private equity firm Elevation Partners. Elevation purchased $120 million in Facebook stock from private shareholders, valuing the company at $23 billion, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

A valuation of that amount makes Facebook larger than Yahoo, which has a market capitalisation of $20 billion, and edging closer to the size of Ebay, at $27 billion. Still, it is a fraction the size of Google ($150 billion). Facebook's backers include Digital Sky Technologies, Microsoft Corp Corp, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and venture capital firms Accel Partners, Greylock Partners and Meritech Capital Partners.

from Shop Talk:

Window shopping on the iPad, brought to you by eBay

eBay_iPad_1Shopping in front of a computer or small hand-held device got you down? EBay says it has the answer with its new iPad app, completely redesigned for ultimate browsing on Apple's hippest new tablet.

The app has already been downloaded "tens of thousands" of times  since the launch of the iPad on Saturday, said eBay's vice president of mobile, Steven Yankovich. Currently, eBay is No 11 in the list of free iPad apps, he said.

The app allows shoppers to see high-resolution images of their favorite products, even in thumbnails, and an easy-to-navigate two screen system simplifies the buying process.