MediaFile

Tech wrap: Apple’s iCloud on the horizon

Apple will pay between $100 million and $150 million to the four major music labels in order to get its music streaming service iCloud started, according to the New York Post.

Besides increasing the consumer appeal of future Apple gadgets because they’ll need less computer memory, the company’s iCloud service will make it more likely that subscribers will stick with Apple products, Robert Cyran writes. If users store data and programs remotely, devices blend together, Cyran argues.

Together with colleagues and analysts, I’ll be covering Steve Jobs’s keynote speech at Apple’s WWDC live on Monday at 10:00 a.m. PT (1:00 p.m. ET). Chime in at: http://live.reuters.com/Event/Apples_2011_WWDC_Keynote_Speech

The U.S. asked Beijing to investigate Google’s latest allegation of a major hacking attack that the Internet giant says originated in China, the State Department said. State Department spokesman Mark Toner declined to provide details on what was conveyed to the Chinese, or whether the U.S. government believes Beijing may have had a hand in the alleged hacking attack.

China must make mastering cyber-warfare a military priority as the Internet becomes the crucial battleground for opinion and intelligence, two military officers said. The essay by strategists from the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Sciences did not mention Google’s statement on the hack attacks alleged to have originated in China.

Tech wrap: Groupon offers itself to the public

Online coupon company Groupon filed for an initial public offering of up to $750 million, the latest in a series of Internet companies to tap the U.S. capital markets. In April, a source told Reuters that Groupon could raise as much as $1 billion in the IPO, which could value the fast-growing daily deals site at $15 billion to $20 billion. The IPO filing did not specify the number of shares to be sold in the IPO, the price range, or the exchange, though it did say the shares would trade under the symbol “GRPN.”

Groupon is losing an astounding amount of money, but generating an equally impressive amount of revenue, writes Silicon Alley Insider’s Jay Yarrow. In the first three months of 2011, it had a net loss of $114 million. For all of 2010, its loss was $414 million. For the first three months this year it generated $645 million in revenue, a 1,366 percent increase from the year prior, when it generated $44 million, adds Yarrow.

The hacker group calling itself Lulz Security said that it broke into servers that run the SonyPictures.com website, and then compromised the personal information of more than 1 million Sony customers. Lulz Security said in a statement posted on its website that it hacked into a database that included unencrypted passwords as well as names, address and birth dates of Sony’s customers.

Tech wrap: Google reveals Gmail hacking

Google revealed that unknown hackers likely originating from central China tried to hack into the Gmail accounts of hundreds of users, including senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists. Google said on its official blog that the hackers, who appeared to originate from Jinan, China, recently tried to crack and monitor email accounts by stealing passwords, but Google detected and “disrupted” the campaign.

More than 80 percent of the companies that advertise on Twitter renew their marketing efforts on the microblogging service, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said. The company counts roughly 600 advertisers, up from 150 advertisers at the end of 2010. And while Twitter has stepped up efforts to build an advertising business, Costolo said Twitter was not under pressure to boost revenue and that the Internet company’s long-term success was not “correlated” to an initial public offering of Twitter’s stock.

Analysts predicted more gloom ahead for Nokia and the struggling phone maker was forced to deny talk it would sell its core business to Microsoft. The company’s stock fell as much as 10 percent but recovered in late trading, sparked by a website report that said its software partner Microsoft would buy out its phones business for $19 billion. Nokia called the report “100 percent baseless.” Microsoft declined to comment.

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: Facebook smear campaign blows up

Facebook admitted to hiring PR firm Burson-Marsteller to plant negative stories about Google, The Daily Beast reported. Burson urged journalists to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy and offered to help privacy advocate Christopher Soghoian write an op-ed on the matter for national newspapers. The plot backfired when Soghoian rejected Burson’s offer and posted online an email exchange between them.

Facebook adopted a warning service to help users avoid clicking on dubious Internet links. The new warning service by Finnish startup Web of Trust calculates the reputation of 31 million Web pages and updates the ratings twice an hour, based on feedback from some 20 million users.

The recent hacker attack at Sony and other corporate data breaches are attracting more class-action lawyers eager to score a payday, though huge monetary settlements may be elusive, writes Dan Levine. At least 25 lawsuits have been filed against Sony in U.S. federal courts over the theft of user data from the PlayStation game network, according to Westlaw, a Thomson Reuters legal database. The challenge for plaintiffs’ lawyers lies in establishing a loss of value or additional costs suffered because of a hack, Levine adds.

Tech wrap: Google unveils Chromebook

Google took the wraps off two Chromebook laptop PCs after nearly two years of delays and touts of its Chrome operating system as an alternative to Microsoft Windows. Samsung and Acer laptops using Chrome OS will go on sale June 15, as the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine tries to entice people to do more on the Web. As with Android, Chrome software will be free, but is expected to spur people to use the Internet more often and search for more things, potentially boosting Google’s Internet ads business.

Despite recent indications that Google is priming Chrome for use in tablets, Google says that it is “fully focused on notebooks” for the foreseeable future, writes Mashable’s Ben Parr.

Facebook users’ personal information could have been accidentally leaked to third parties, in particular advertisers, over the past few years, Symantec said in its official blog. Third-parties would have had access to personal information such as profiles, photographs and chat, and could have had the ability to post messages, the security software maker said.  Facebook had taken steps to resolve the issue, the blog post said.

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Skype deal roasted

Microsoft’s move to buy money-losing Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion was immediately skewered by critics and investors, who questioned the logic of the deal and suggested the software giant is paying far too much. The price is about double the expected value of Skype if it had gone ahead with its planned IPO.

“They really have to do some explaining as to how this company merited that price and how they’ll return the value to shareholders,” said Kim Caughey Forrest, at Fort Pitt Capital Group, which holds Microsoft shares.

The deal was a fresh reminder that Microsoft has no record of making acquisitions pay off. Its 2007 deal to buy online ad firm aQuantive for $6 billion was a flat-out failure, writes Bill Rigby.

Tech wrap: Microsoft earnings fail to excite

Microsoft reported a dip in quarterly sales of its core Windows operating system, mirroring a recent downturn in personal computers. The world’s largest software company met Wall Street profit estimates, as strong sales of its Office suite of applications and game systems took up the slack. “Microsoft to me is no longer a growth stock but it is a very attractive value stock. They continue to generate tremendous free cash flow. Their balance sheet is really unmatched,” Channing Smith of Capital Advisors said.

Sony could face legal action across the globe after it delayed disclosing a security breach of its popular PlayStation Network, infuriating gamers and sending the firm’s shares down nearly 5 percent in Tokyo Thursday.

Mobile privacy safeguards should also extend to third party application developers, two lawmakers said after reviewing the practices of four major U.S. wireless carriers.

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: Sony admits PlayStation Network privacy breach

A visitor plays with a Playstation at an exhibition stand at the Gamescom 2009 fair in Cologne in this August 22, 2009 file photo. Reuters/Ina Fassbender

An unauthorized person stole names, addresses and other personal data belonging to about 77 million people who have accounts on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Sony said. The person gained access to people’s names, addresses, email address, birthdates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more, Sony said on its U.S. PlayStation blog.

Amazon.com’s quarterly sales beat expectations but earnings fell steeply as it spent heavily on everything from online multimedia services to its Kindle e-reader. Net income for the world’s largest online retailer was $201 million, down 32.8 percent from $299 million, a year earlier. Revenue was $9.86 billion. “This is another investment year…It’s probably not going to be until Q4 that we see some leverage from that,” Lazard Capital Markets’ Colin Sebastian said.