MediaFile

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.

A security measure that Sony installed made the PlayStation website unavailable in Japan, the company said in a statement. A Bloomberg report had said the site was down because of a hacker attack.

Visa is working with several large U.S. and international banks to develop a digital wallet that people can use to pay for things online or with their phones. Its partners include US Bancorp, PNC Financial Services, Regions Financial, BB&T, Toronto Dominion’s TD Bank and the U.S. arm of Barclays. The digital wallet will store the banks’ customers’ credit and debit card account information, both for Visa cards and other cards. People can use the wallet to pay for things online or in stores, Visa 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: LinkedIn IPO values firm at over $3 billion

LinkedIn, the social site for business professionals which attracts professionals and job seekers with 100 million worldwide members, is hoping to cash in with a public debut valuing the company at more than $3 billion.

Last week’s trading debut of Renren, one of the biggest social networking companies in China, is another indicator of investor interest in social media companies. Renren’s stock surged 28.6 percent in its May 4 debut.

The tantalizing prospect of finding the next Facebook, Groupon or Twitter is driving the biggest rush of venture capital since dot-com mania first boomed and then fizzled more than a decade ago, writes Jenny Harris and Jennifer Rogers. But characteristics of the current boom do set it apart. Online advertising and e-commerce are accepted as reliable revenue sources and there are more profitable young companies today, Harris and Rogers argue.

RenRen and the new tech IPO mania

Last week another social network went looking to raise money. These days, that’s barely news. But the company in question was Renren, China’s “answer” to Facebook, and the investors who threw money at the company weren’t raw-meat-eating venture capitalists; they were your neighbors.

Renren’s Wall Street debut got a lot of attention: A Chinese company doesn’t IPO on the New York Stock Exchange every day, and the social network space is red hot — just today, LinkedIn,  a professional social newtork, set its IPO striking price range to value the company at $3 billion.

Renren means “everyone” and with serious competition sidelined in the world’s most populous country this social network might just live up to its name. Most favored network treatment may in turn deliver profitability, a little metric which eludes Renren, but which didn’t deter the Street’s fascination with the company: It raised $740 million in its first-day.

Tech wrap: Sony CEO says sorry to gamers

Sony CEO Howard Stringer broke his silence on the biggest Internet security break-in ever, apologizing to users of the PlayStation Network and other online services. Stringer did not specify when services would resume.

One analyst said security concerns could weigh on sales of Sony’s gadgets and hurt growth prospects for its network services. “The network business itself still only makes a small direct contribution to earnings, but we see a potential drop in hardware sales as a concern,” analyst Kota Ezawa at Citigroup Global Markets Japan, wrote in a note ahead of the comments from Stringer.

But Peter Walshe at brands research agency Millward Brown said the main Sony brand should bounce back, although PlayStation specifically might suffer. “People may shout: ‘I’m never going to buy Sony again,’ but in our experience that doesn’t tend to happen.”

Tech wrap: Facebook, Google mull Skype tie-ups

Facebook and Google are separately considering a tie-up with Skype after the Web video conferencing service delayed its initial public offering, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters. A Skype deal could be valued at $3 billion to $4 billion, the first source said.  The discussions are in early stages, and it is not clear which option the companies favor, the first two sources said.

The Internet vigilante group Anonymous denied responsibility for a cyber-attack on Sony’s networks that exposed the personal data of more than 100 million video gamers. “Let’s be clear, we are legion, but it wasn’t us. You are incompetent Sony,” the group Anonymous said on its blog on Thursday.

Sony said the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the first PlayStation phone, is not affected by the massive data breach of PlayStation user accounts.

Tech wrap: Sony says Anonymous set stage for breach

Sony said that its video game network was breached at the same time it was defending itself against a major denial of service attack by the well-known Internet vigilante group Anonymous. The group attacked the two credit card companies with “denial of service” attacks in December that overwhelmed their servers for blocking payments to WikiLeaks. The company also said it waited two days after discovering data was stolen from its PlayStation game network before contacting law enforcement and didn’t meet with FBI officials until five days later. The theft prompted the Justice Department to open an investigation, officials said on Wednesday.

Intel took the wraps off next-generation technology that crams more transistors onto microchips, hoping it will help the chipmaker catch up in a red-hot tablet and smartphone market. Intel expects to start production of its first PC and server chips using new technology — code named Ivy Bridge — by the end of 2011 and said that it would also make new processors for mobile devices.

Shares of Renren, China’s largest social networking company, surged more than 50 percent in its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in the latest sign investors are eager to snap up stock in social media companies.

Tech wrap: New Apple iMacs built for speed

Apple refreshed its lineup of iMac computers with new Intel processors that it says are up to 70 percent faster and with USB-like ports that are up to 20 times as fast. Thunderbolt ports support displays and devices. The new iMacs also feature a new HD Web camera. Apple said the iMacs are on sale online and at its retail stores starting at $1,199.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer faced harsh criticism of his leadership after the company revealed hackers may have stolen the data of another 25 million accounts in a second massive security breach. The breach of the Sony Online Entertainment PC games network may also have led to the theft of 10,700 direct debit records from customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers, Sony said. Investors said Sony and Stringer had botched the data security crisis. “The way Sony handled the whole thing goes to show that it lacks the ability to manage crises,” Michael On of Beyond Asset Management in Taipei said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that RIM will use Microsoft’s Bing search engine and maps as default options on its new BlackBerry devices. RIM’s move, coupled with its close partnership with Adobe Systems, sketches out a strategy of cooperation in a mobile market now dominated by Apple and Google. The strategy illustrates that the mobile market is entering a new phase that focuses on feature consolidation and “co-opetition,” writes GigaOM’s Kevin Tofel. The old strategy, which lasted from 2007 until recently, focused on new platforms, user interfaces and the emergence of the mobile app economy, Tofel adds.

Tech wrap: How bold is the new BlackBerry?

RIM showed off a new version of its BlackBerry Bold phone with upgraded software, aiming to regain its stride after last week’s profit warning and other recent stumbles. RIM also said it will manage corporate and government communications sent using Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and devices running Google’s Android software, through its secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

The BlackBerry Bold Touch, the model most geared toward the business market, has a 2.8-inch screen and retains the company’s trademark physical qwerty keyboard with a 1.2 GHz processor. It will ship with a near-field communication (NFC) chip, allowing the phone to be used as a mobile wallet, executives said at the annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando. The Bold Touch running on Blackberry OS 7 will be released sometime this summer. The new OS won’t be supported on older devices, the company said.

Sohaib Athar, a resident of Abbottabad, the Pakistani city where Osama bin Laden was holed up in a fortified mansion, “liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”, setting off a firestorm of activity on Twitter.

Osama bin Laden meme roundup

As the reserved and edited reactions to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden proliferate, so too do the comical and questionably appropriate responses that go viral online.

Here’s a sample of the latter, which should not be considered endorsed by myself or Thomson Reuters:

Warning: the above video contains graphic content

He’s Dead

Why President Obama took so long to produce a birth certificate

When Trump Wins We All Win

Hide and Seek Champion 2001-2011

@GhostOsama on Twitter