MediaFile

Tech wrap: Myspace sale saga nears end

An investor group involving Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is in final talks to take a controlling stake in News Corp’s social network site Myspace, according to a source familiar with the matter. Kotick’s involvement is personal and nothing to do with Activision at this stage, the source said.

News Corp, which paid $580 million for Myspace in 2005, had hoped to do a deal valuing Myspace at about $100 million, but sources said it was unlikely to achieve that target.

Major U.S. banks came under growing pressure from banking regulators to improve the security of customer account information after Citigroup became the latest high-profile victim of a large-scale cyber attack. While Citigroup insisted the breach had been limited, experts called it the largest direct attack on a major U.S. financial institution, and forecast it could drive momentum for a systemic overhaul of the banking industry’s data security measures.

Citigroup said that computer hackers breached the bank’s network and accessed the data of about 200,000 bank card holders in North America. Citi waited more than a month before making the full extent of the breach public, drawing criticism from lawmakers and lawyers.

Apple backtracked on demands it planned to impose on media sold through its App Store, handing a big victory to content publishers that had resisted its original terms. Apple is now allowing publishers to set their own pricing for subscriptions outside the App Store. It also no longer requires publishers to sell subscriptions within the App Store. IPad and iPhone users can now read magazines and books, or play music and videos bought outside of Apple’s App Store as long as there is no button or external link in it to purchase the content, the company said.

Tech wrap: YouTube changing the channel?

A man looks at a YouTube page in a file photo. REUTERS/Peter JonesYouTube is working on a major site overhaul to organize its content around “channels” as it positions itself for the rise of Internet-connected TVs that allow people to watch online video in their living rooms, writes the WSJ’s Jessica Vascellaro and Amir Efrati. Changes to the homepage will highlight sets of channels around topics such as arts and sports and approximately 20 “premium channels” will feature 5 to 10 hours of professionally-produced original programming a week, according to a Vascellaro/Efrati source.

Dish Network won Blockbuster in a bankruptcy auction for $320 million, further broadening its business beyond satellite TV and setting up a possible showdown with Netflix. The deal covers “substantially all” of the rental chain’s business, and likely gives Dish the rights Blockbuster had to stream movies over the Internet, the Blockbuster brand name and customer lists.

A Deutsche Bank estimate that 100,000 Motorola XOOM units were sold over its first two months means the tablet was a flop, writes Business Insider’s Jay Yarow. For comparison, Apple sold 300,000 iPads on the first week weekend it was available. BetaNews’s Joe Wilcox calls the XOOM a surprising success, noting that the tablet came to market with “huge handicaps, all of which make comparisons to iPad 2 unrealistic”. Wilcox says higher pricing has been the main deterrent to buying a XOOM.

Motorola Atrix: works well on Wi-Fi

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Motorola Atrix is an Android phone that runs on AT&T’s network. The phone itself is a powerful device, the first U.S. smartphone to run on a dual-core processor. It can also be paired with an unusual accessory called a laptop dock – it’s like a laptop in appearance but doesn’t work unless the Atrix is attached.

Once the phone is attached then the dock works like a netbook, a scaled down laptop intended mostly for websurfing.  The dock’s 11.6 inch screen was  designed for easier websurfing than on the Atrix phone’s smaller 4 inch screen and it sports a Qwerty keyboard that is aimed at making tasks like emailing much easier than on the phone’s touchscreen.

So how well does it work?

With barely a day to play with both devices,  our tests were pretty limited but they lasted long enough for us to form a strong first impression: The phone and lapdoc worked very well when  connected to a network but, that was the stumbling block.

Five marketers who better bring it big on Super Bowl Sunday

Call it the Ad Bowl. Or the Buzz Bowl. Or the BS Bowl. Doesn’t matter, it all boils down to this: Sunday’s Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for advertisers, some of which dished out $3 million for the chance to reach an audience of 100 million consumers for 30 seconds. At that price — $100,000 a second — the stakes are high. A good commercial can be a triumph, creating just the kind of water-cooler talk that propels a brand to a new level with consumers. A bad commercial? Well, those behind it better start dusting off the old resume.

Still, like anything else, the risks are greater for some more than others. So here is our list of… Five Marketers Who Better Bring It Big On Sunday.

1). General Motors. Almost the entire auto industrycould be included in this one, since Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen and Audi are among those who will help the category account for roughly a quarter of all the commercial time during the game. It’s a turnout that reflects the improving fortunes of the U.S. auto industry, which snapped a four-year sales decline in 2010. GM, however, stands out because of the sheer number of ads it bought, five in all, after a two year absence. Can it strike the right tone with consumers? Can it differentiate its lineup? Will it play it safe — flags waving, trucks pulling 100 million tons of load, some catchy tune from an All-American rocker? Or will it try to liven things up, like Audi and Volkswagen have sought to do? (see below)

Liveblog: Verizon set to launch the iPhone. Finally.

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Verizon is set to launch the iPhone today — January 11, 2011 at 11am ET. Cheeky.

Will antennagate be fixed? Will Verizon launch a 4G version by summer? Will Steve Jobs make an appearance on stage or by hologram? Can Verizon Wireless’ network survive the crush? Will AT&T customers in San Francisco stop dropping calls?

We’re live blogging and analyzing the event today. Joining us for the liveblog from New York will be NPD analyst Ross Rubin, Gartner’s Michael Gartenberg and Ritsuko Ando, Reuters correspondent. Sinead Carew of Reuters will also be on scene in New York covering the announcement.

CES: Motorola shows off media tablet prototype (video)

Motorola's media tabletHere’s a short clip on Motorola’s prototype tablet video player.  The device was part of a set of demonstrations from Verizon Wireless at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The operator was showing concept applications for its next generation high-speed LTE network, expected to cover up to 30 U.S. markets this year.
Motorola says the tablet could be available for the fourth quarter this year, but that would depend on Verizon Wireless and other factors. The price hasn’t been set but could be around $300 for the device. The prototype runs on an Nvidia chip and uses Google’s Android as its operating system. It could support up to 32 gigabytes of external memory that could be used to download videos to watch later. Movies could also be streamed over the wireless network. Here’s Motorola’s Don Schoch with a quick overview.

Not the Droid you’re looking for?

After a few weeks of mysterious adverts promising a better alternative to iPhone, Motorola’s $200 Droid phone finally hit the shelves in Verizon wireless stores on Friday. Unsurprisingly, the launch failed to attract anything like the frenzy of an iPhone launch, which had people camping out for days at its peak.

Still, all the advertising, and the positive reviews from bloggers and gadget gurus including David Pogue and Walt Mossberg, did help to lure some customers to Verizon stores.

Tech website Cnet’s Marguerite Reardon said that she found about 100 enthusiasts lining up for Verizon’s special midnight opening in New York under what could hardly be described as balmy weather conditions. This morning, in a follow up story, her headline read “Slow start for the Motorola Droid?”.

Motorola faces iPhone with Droid army

Verizon Wireless and Motorola have unveiled what could be their best shot yet in the battle against Apple Inc’s iPhone — the long expected Droid. Motorola says Droid is the most technically advanced smartphone out there. Its promises:

    A speedy Cortex A8 ARM Processor and a Texas Instruments OMAP application chip that it says makes the device run 30 percent to 50 percent faster than other smartphones, including iPhone. First dibs on Android 2.0, the newest version of Google’s mobile software. A new free navigation service to battle dedicated GPS makers like Garmin and TomTom. A higher resolution screen that’s better than iPhone

“Once they see the display I think they’ll be hooked,” Motorola Chief Executive Sanjay Jha told Reuters.

Verizon’s Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton promised to spend more money advertising this device than any phone in its history. He said that it could be seen as a ”big risk” for Verizon,  which started working with Motorola a year ago, to bet on a handset maker that had been steadily losing ground.  But he said his company liked working Motorola so much that it plans to sell more Motorola Android phones in 2010.

iPhone shortages “nice problem to have”

Tongues are still wagging about Apple’s blowout quarter, which saw the company brush past Wall Street forecasts, sending its shares north of $200. But as Wall Street waited breathlessly for the latest iPhone numbers, it was the company’s Mac line that stole the headlines, posting blockbuster 17 percent unit growth.

So what was the deal with the iPhone? Unit shipments rose 7 percent to 7.4 million units, far from chopped liver but just below the consensus estimate. What? Apple missed? Well it wasn’t quite that simple. Seems the company simply couldn’t keep up with all the folks clamoring to get their hands on the latest model, the 3G S.

Apple COO TIm Cook called it “a nice problem to have in the scheme of things,” and called 3G S demand “phenomenal.” He said demand simply outstripped supply in most of the countries where it was selling the device.

from Breakingviews:

Put BlackBerry on hold – but not for long

Blackberry TourBlackBerry-maker Research In Motion is a victim of its own success. Having dominated the market for corporate e-mail devices for years, it is being forced to seek out growth in consumer markets, where, so far, it has had trouble differentiating its products.

Going mainstream has helped vastly expand its consumer base -- which now represents half of all BlackBerry subscribers. Fully 80 percent of its new subscribers now come from outside its traditional corporate base.

But that success is coming at a growing cost to the once lofty average selling price of its phones, the latest quarterly results show. Profits for its second fiscal quarter dipped 3.5 percent, amid weak subscriber growth. Product prices appear under pressure at both ends of its business, both among corporate users and with consumers.