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.

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.

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.

Tech wrap: Apple changes course on iAd

The WSJ.com 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.

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: 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.

A more controlled stumbling with StumbleUpon channels

It’s been two-and-half years since online social media service StumbleUpon hit the eject button from eBay, its one-time corporate parent.

Since then, the company has grown its users and its staff. The San Francisco-based company now has 100 employees (25 percent of whom are former Googlers, the company says), up from 30 employees at the time of the eBay spin-off.

And the service, which lets users discover interesting Web content that has been flagged by friends and people with similar interests, now counts 20 million registered users, compared to 10 million about one year ago.

Tech wrap: Verizon feeds hunger for cable spectrum

Verizon Wireless plans to pay $3.6 billion for wireless airwaves from a venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Comcast said that the deal represented a 64 percent premium over the $2.2 billion price the cable consortium paid in 2006 for the wireless spectrum being sold to Verizon Wireless.

U.S. Representative Edward Markey asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether software maker Carrier IQ violated millions of mobile phone users’ privacy rights. Carrier IQ makes software that companies including AT&T and Sprint install in mobile devices. It runs in the background, transmitting data that the software maker says its customer companies use to better understand their devices and networks.

Zynga, which plans to go public in two weeks, slashed its value by more than 30 percent to $9 billion, hoping to avoid the fate of other recent Internet IPOs that have disappointed after stock market debuts. Just two weeks ago a filing listed the Facebook game maker’s value, based on a third party assessment, at $14.05 billion. CEO Mark Pincus, a serial entrepreneur before he founded Zynga, will hold a class of shares with 70 times more voting power than the common stock that will be sold in the offering.

YouTube’s new look: Web surfing meets channel surfing

(Corrects earlier version to clarify YouTube has hundreds of thousands, not millions, of channels)

YouTube wants to be more like the boob tube.

The world’s No.1 video website unveiled an overhaul of its site on Thursday that will put the hundreds of thousands of online video “channels” front and center.

For many, YouTube is a place to go looking for a specific video. With the redesign, YouTube hopes users will make a habit of visiting the site just to see what’s playing on their favorite channels.