MediaFile

Tech wrap: Microsoft presses pause on Web TV

Microsoft has put its talks with media companies about an online subscription service for TV shows and movies on hold, according to people familiar with the discussions. The company had been in intense talks with potential programming partners for over a year and was hoping to roll out the service in the next few months. But it pulled back after deciding that the licensing costs were too high for the business model Microsoft envisaged, the sources said.  Microsoft is still working to distribute TV shows over the Web, focusing on delivering programming via its Xbox gaming system to existing cable subscribers.

Dell intends to launch its first consumer tablet computer in late 2012, marking its entry into a hotly contested arena that has already claimed arch-foe HP. The Texas company had dipped its toe in the waters with an enterprise-focused, “Streak” tablet. Chief commercial officer Steve Felice was coy about which operating system Dell might adopt — Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 or Google’s Android — saying both were viable options. But Felice did say he liked the feel of Microsoft’s touch-enabled OS, which would be well-timed when it emerges later this year.

According to an Ipsos/Reuters poll, more than 10 percent of parents around the world say their child has been cyberbullied and nearly one-fourth know a youngster who has been a victim. The online poll of more than 18,000 adults in 24 countries, 6,500 of whom were parents, showed the most widely reported vehicle for cyberbullying was social networking sites likes Facebook, which were cited by 60 percent. Mobile devices and online chat rooms were a distant second and third.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document. A DHS official familiar with the monitoring program said that it was intended purely to enable command center officials to keep in touch with various Internet-era media so that they were aware of major, developing events to which the Department or its agencies might have to respond.

Two Dutch cable companies were ordered by a court to block access to the website The Pirate Bay to prevent the illegal downloading of free music, films and games in case brought on behalf of the entertainment industry.

Tech wrap: Sony suffers as TV picture dims

Sony warned of a fourth straight year of losses, with its television unit alone set to lose $2.2 billion on tumbling demand and a surging yen, sinking its U.S. shares and raising concerns about the viability of its high-profile TV business. Investors had expected Sony to reduce its profit forecast, but not flag a swing to massive losses.

The maker of Bravia TVs, Vaio computers and PlayStation game consoles cut its sales forecast for TVs, cameras and DVD players and said it may report a 90 billion yen ($1.1 billion) net loss for the current financial year, scrapping its earlier net profit estimate of 60 billion yen.Sony’s U.S. listed shares closed down nearly 6 percent.

A small Spanish tablet maker won a patent infringement battle with Apple in a rare victory against the tech giant in its global defense of markets for its iPads, a court document showed. Spain’s Nuevas Tecnologias y Energias Catala (NT-K) successfully appealed a 2010 injunction from a local court to ban the import of its tablet computer — manufactured in China — to Spain. NT-K, from the Valencia region of Spain, is demanding compensation from Apple for losses during the ban of its product and is suing the U.S. giant for alleged anticompetitive behavior.

Apple, Wikileaks and the new debate on civil disobedience

Apple has removed from its iTunes store an app that let people read WikiLeaks’s site and follow its Twitter feed on their iPhones and iPads. The app had been approved only three days earlier, and the move is largely symbolic because anyone with an iPhone or iPad can still access the same content through a Safari or Opera browser.

In doing so, Apple is in some pretty good company in the tech industry. PayPal blocked donations to WikiLeaks and Amazon kicked Wikileaks off of its cloud. And all made their moves for similar reasons: Wikileaks broke the law, and these companies don’t support those who break the law.

There is little question that the release of government documents by Wikileaks was unlawful. The real debate is elsewhere: whether the benefits of leaking the recent State Department documents are larger than the costs; and, more broadly, whether the ideal of free speech is worth breaking laws to uphold. In other words, this is a debate over civil disobedience.

WikiPiques: Let’s all just calm down

John Abell is New York bureau chief for Wired.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

The pariah du jour to the United States and the countries who do business with it is one Julian Assange, a soft-spoken Australian whose motives may be obscure but whose life work is pretty clear. The founder of WikiLeaks, Assange is the whistleblower’s whistleblower, enabling the disclosure of anything in digital form — which, in the age of the Internet, is everything.

The drama to marginalize/silence/demonize Assange is playing out like a (bad) Hollywood script, but the stakes — to commerce, to free speech, to the freedom of the Internet — are quite real. It’s a good time to take a deep breath.

How PayPal fumbled in the Wikileaks controversy

A unique feature of the web is that it was designed by idealists and capitalists alike. A hacker sensibility fights for an open, democratic structure, while profit-minded businesses helped shape it into a thriving industry. The more successful companies, like Google and Facebook, understand both ethics equally.

But idealism and commerce often clash as well, and woe to the company that is caught in the crossfire. This week, PayPal is such a company. The eBay online-payments subsidiary suspended the account that Wikileaks used to handle donations, citing a violation of terms that prohibit “activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

The business logic seemed clear enough: Avoid the wrath of the U.S. State Department and steer the company away from the Wikileaks controversy. But it quickly backfired. Not everyone agreed Wikileaks was engaging in illegal activity, and many hackers and other idealists not only boycotted PayPal, they hit the company with denial of services attacks.