MediaFile

Tech wrap: New effort underway in Internet piracy fight

Can slower Internet speeds convince consumers to stop pirating copyrighted material online? That’s the assumption behind a new anti-piracy effort launched this week by a coalition of Internet service providers and groups representing movie studios and record labels.

Under the new initiative,  AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon have agreed to send customers email or pop-up alerts if it is suspected that their account is being used to download or share copyrighted material illegally. Should suspected illegal activity persist, providers might temporarily slow Internet speeds or redirect their browser to a specific Web page until the customer contacts the company.  Time’s Techland blog calls the effort “fairly reasonable” but points out that “it’s only a matter of time before someone is falsely accused of copyright infringement and throttled accordingly.” Users accused can seek an independent review of whether they acted illegally.

A major hedge fund dumped its stake in Yahoo after an ownership dispute earlier this year cut the value of the Internet giant’s China holdings. Back in May, Yahoo revealed that Alibaba Group, its Chinese unit, had transferred ownership of its valuable online payments business Alipay to a company owned by Jack Ma, Alipay’s CEO. “This isn’t what we signed up for,” Greenlight Capital’s head David Einhorn wrote in a letter to investors. “We exited with a modest loss.”

Seems Google wants to play nice when it comes to social networking. Chairman Eric Schmidt told journalists at the Allen & Co. media retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho that he is leaving the door open to more co-operation with social networking giants Facebook and Twitter as his company rolls out its own alternative, Google+. Trumpeting the new network’s early success, Schmidt said he would “love to have deeper integration with Twitter and Facebook.” In separate news, it’s been confirmed that Schmidt will testify at a September hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee.

Apple promised a fix to a security flaw in its mobile operating software that could open iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users up to attacks by hackers. The security hole was deemed serious enough that it would allow someone to steal data off the device, a German security firm warned this week. Apple said its fix will be rolled out in an upcoming software update.

Tech wrap: FTC seen deepening Google probe

Google will receive the civil equivalent of a subpoena from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as part of a probe into the Web giant’s Internet search business, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The FTC plans to send the civil investigative demand with a request for more information, the civil equivalent of a subpoena, within five days, according to the report. U.S. antitrust regulators have been concerned about Google’s dominance of the Web search industry, and the giant Internet company has been under investigation by the European Commission since last November.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop showed images of his company’s first phone running on the Windows phone OS. Codenamed “Sea Ray”, the phone appeared to be a near copy of Nokia’s N9 smartphone, unveiled earlier in the week.

The chairman of Yahoo voiced support for Chief Executive Carol Bartz, who has become a lightning rod for criticism as the company struggles with stagnant revenue growth and a rift with its Chinese partner. Yahoo’s efforts to mount a turnaround remain a work in progress, said Chairman Roy Bostock at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. But he said he was confident that the company was headed in the right direction and that Bartz had put Yahoo on a “clear path forward to accelerated revenue growth.”

Tech wrap: Government bringing knife to cyber gun fight?

A recent wave of computer network attacks has boosted concerns about U.S. vulnerability to digital warfare. The Obama administration is racing on multiple fronts to plug the holes in the U.S. cyber defense, focusing on an expanded effort to safeguard its contractors from hackers and building a virtual firing range in cyberspace to test new technologies.

However, the overall gap appears to be widening, as adversaries and criminals move faster than the government and corporations can respond, officials and analysts say.

Microsoft has made available a Windows 7-compatible test version of the software behind its hit Kinect motion-sensing game device, in the hope that developers will invent a host of “hands-free” features for standard PCs.

Yahoo’s Ross Levinsohn: We’re still No. 1

As Yahoo’s Executive Vice President of the America’s region, Ross Levinsohn’s task is to transform the image of the lumbering Internet giant to one with a passing resemblance to the darling of the 1990s dotcom era when it called the shots. Though, investors ascribed virtually all of Yahoo’s market value to its prized Asian assets – a major stake in China’s hot Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan – brushing aside Yahoo’s core U.S. business.

A long time Internet player, Levinsohn, who also headed News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media, sat down with me and Kenneth Li during Internet Week in New York and explained how Yahoo needs to fix its image problem, how much of a distraction the tussle in Asia over Alipay was, and how he expects advertising dollars to continue to migrate to Yahoo.

Reuters: What’s working and not working at Yahoo?

Levinsohn: What is clearly working is hundreds of millions of people interact with our properties. Do you know that we have over 700 million people? Do you know that we have the No.1 or No. 2 positions in 19 categories — sports, news, finance, and entertainment news? OMG is our entertainment news gossip site and we are twice the size of TMZ. We’re bigger than ESPN in sports, we’re bigger than the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and Bloomberg combined in finance. The numbers are astounding and, for some odd reason, Yahoo doesn’t get that credit. It’s an easy story for me to tell that you are able to aggregate huge audiences around premium experiences and we should double down on those things.

Tech wrap: Apple “spaceship” to tackle “weed” problem

Apple plans to build a circular “spaceship” building in hometown Cupertino — and be the best office building in the world, CEO Steve Jobs said. The ailing Jobs, formally on leave from the company, made his second public appearance in two days late on Tuesday to show off plans to the Cupertino city council. Apple has grown “like a weed” Jobs said, and needs a place to put roughly 12,000 people. The massive new structure would be in addition to the main campus at 1 Infinite Loop.

Facebook is providing European regulators with information about its use of facial recognition technology, in response to concerns about the company’s roll-out of the technology’s availability outside of the U.S.. Facebook said there was no “formal investigation” under way. The move comes after comments by Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, who said the group would study Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology for possible rules violations, according to a report in Bloomberg earlier on Wednesday.

EBay is hunting for acquisitions to speed up its development of image recognition and augmented reality features as the online retailer and auctioneer seeks to capitalize on the potential of mobile phones to help consumers make impulse purchases. Steve Yankovich, head of eBay mobile, told Reuters his division had the company’s full support to spend money on innovative technology, as the fastest growing part of eBay which is helping to renew the 15-year-old company’s image.

Tech wrap: Twitter swallows TweetDeck

Twitter confirmed that it has bought TweetDeck, a popular third-party software application that organizes tweets, the short messages delivered through the online social network. Terms were not disclosed but a source told Reuters earlier this month that a deal for up to $50 million was imminent.

Twitter will seek to notify its users so they can defend themselves before it hands over user information to the authorities, a senior manager said when asked about a privacy dispute in Britain. Users have posted details on Twitter of celebrity scandals, in contravention of so-called super injunctions and could face an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.

“Platforms should have responsibility not to defend the user, but to protect that user’s right to defend him or herself,” said Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter’s European operations.

Tech wrap: Yahoo battle with Alibaba heats up

Yahoo’s battle with Alibaba intensified as they issued contradictory statements over the Chinese company’s transfer of a major Internet asset to its CEO. Analysts said the handover of Alipay, an online e-commerce payment system, to Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has reduced the value of Yahoo’s 43 percent Alibaba stake.  Yahoo said it had been blindsided by the deal, while Alibaba countered that Yahoo was aware of the transaction by virtue of having a board seat, now held by former Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang, who is also a Yahoo director.

PR agency Burson-Marsteller, in the spotlight after it was revealed that Facebook had hired the firm to run a smear campaign against Google, said it will give the employees in charge of the operation extra training instead of firing them, The Daily Beast’s Dan Lyons writes.

Cisco Systems is expected to cut thousands of jobs in possibly its worst-ever round of layoffs to meet Chief Executive John Chambers’ goal of slashing costs by $1 billion. Four analysts contacted by Reuters estimated the world’s largest maker of network equipment will eliminate up to 4,000 jobs in coming months, with the average forecast at 3,000. That would represent 4 percent of Cisco’s 73,000 permanent workers. It also has an undisclosed number of temporary contractors.

Tech wrap: Q1 earnings beat expectations, RIM’s PlayBook – not so much

A video wall displays Intel's logos at the unveiling of its second generation Intel Core processor family during a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Rick WilkingIntel forecast quarterly revenues well above Wall Street’s estimates despite a hiccup in sales of its Sandy Bridge processors after the discovery of a chipset design flaw and defying fears the world’s top chip maker is struggling to find its footing as personal computer sales growth wanes.

IBM raised its profit forecast as the tech giant released quarterly earnings ahead of Wall Street projections, citing strong sales of its mainframe computers and brisk business in emerging markets.

Yahoo posted quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street targets amid threats to the No. 1 provider of online display ads in the U.S. from Facebook and continuing pressure from search leader Google.

Tech wrap: Yahoo’s CEO-in-waiting?

David Kenny, managing partner of VivaKi, poses for photographers during the Cannes Lions 2009 International Advertising Festival June 24, 2009. REUTERS/Alain Issock New Yahoo board member Akamai President David Kenny is the obvious choice to replace struggling CEO Carol Bartz, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher. Kenny is smooth and well-liked, has deep advertising experience, has a long relationship with Yahoo and its co-founder Jerry Yang and has tech cred as a leader of one of the Internet’s most important infrastructure companies, regularly in contact with media giants, ad networks and video providers that are Akamai’s clients, Swisher argues.

Microsoft explained the delay in updating its new phone software, partly blaming handset manufacturers for the problem. Microsoft’s JoeBelfiore did not name names, but said the company had started the update and ran into problems on some newly manufactured phones that would not function properly afterward. Samsung, HTC and LG Electronics are the main handset makers of Windows phones. A more comprehensive update, code-named Mango, will be available later this year, featuring performance bumps, live updates and applications that can run in the background while users move onto other programs, he said.

Russian hacker attacks on the country’s biggest blog site and a spy agency’s warning to Gmail and Skype have raised fears that authorities are tightening their grip on dissent in a China-like assault on free speech ahead of next year’s election, writes Thomas Grove. “This is a test drive during a very important year to see if it’s possible to close down websites, in particular social networking sites in case of demonstrations,” said Andrei Soldatov, head of the think-tank Agentura.ru.

Tech wrap: OS X daddy waves goodbye

A combination of file photos shows Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of OSX software at Apple Inc, (L) and Craig Federighi, vice president of Mac OS at Apple Inc (R) speaking at the Apple Inc's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/FilesApple said top software engineer Bertrand Serlet will leave the Mac computer maker after more than a decade spent developing its signature operating system, Mac OS X. Craig Federighi, currently the vice president of Mac Software Engineering, will take over from Serlet and report to CEO Steve Jobs, Apple said in a statement.

Yahoo refreshed its Internet search service, showcasing information from movie listings to weather forecasts as queries are entered. The Internet portal said that its Search Direct service will be available in the U.S. today on its main search Web page, and will gradually expand to the other parts of Yahoo, including the home page.

Nokia said it won’t begin talks on deep job cuts until the end of April. Analysts said the relatively long gap before talks kick-off could be because the final deal with Microsoft is yet to be signed, while Nokia might also want to delay any announcement on cuts until after Finland’s general elections on April 17.