New model iPod touch, iPod nano loom

Apple plans a major upgrade to its iPod touch range, with its in-development iPhone Software 2.1 software containing a reference to a new model of the device, a report claims.

In recent years, Apple has chosen to revise its iPod range in August or September. At present in the US it is offering free iPod touch players to students buying a Mac at the same time. This has raised some observers to suggest the move to be a way to shift stocks of the device, which now seems expensive when compared to the price of an iPhone.

MacRumors predicts the device may see maximum capacity jump to 64GB, and also suggests the iPod touch may gain GPS features.

These reports follow last week's revelation by 9to5Mac that the company is also putting together a major upgrade to its iPod nano range, offering higher capacity, much improved audio and a new and advanced multi-colour case.

Seems there's more improvements planned - the new nano will have a much larger screen, iLounge reckons.

"To fit the screen and Click Wheel neatly together, the new nano will adopt a form factor that shifts away from the almost square dimensions of the 2007 third-generation nano back towards the general shape of the first- and second-generation models," the report explains.

iPhone Software 2.1 has also been rumoured to implement turn-by-turn directions in Google Maps using the iPhone GPS and a new (much requested) copy-&-paste function.

One iPod model few rumours have revealed much about is the iPod Classic.

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Skype won't say if it decrypts VoIP calls

The encryption of Skype VoIP phone calls might not be as secure as you think.

It's possible the company keeps keys so law enforcement authorities can decrypt encrypted VoIP phone calls, a report says, but Skype won't say for sure one way or the other.

According to an online report, Austrian officials with legal authority to tap VoIP phone communications have no problem listening in on Skype calls, which are encrypted as a standard part of Skype service.

A Skype spokesman wouldn't say whether Skype keeps keys to decrypt calls. "Sorry, Skype does not comment on media speculation," says Skype vice president Chiam Haas.

It's virtually impossible to figure out for sure from independent research whether Skype keeps encryption keys or not, says David Endler, chairman of Voice Over IP Security Alliance and senior director of security research at Tipping Point.

"No one has shown it publicly," he says. "Skype is a closed software package, essentially a black box." The company has on rare occasions allowed outside researchers to examine and verify the security of its encryption, but not whether the keys that can crack the encryption can be retrieved, he says.

To allay fears that the calls might not be secure from law enforcement, Skype should open its platform to evaluation by trusted, credible industry experts, he says.

Endler says it's equally difficult to know whether commercial VoIP vendors leave open the possibility of turning encryption keys over to law enforcement.

In the United States, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) forbids requiring that vendors build in back-door decryption, says Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "CALEA expressly forbids requiring anyone to be able to decrypt anything," he says.

But that doesn't mean they don't build in key-retrieval anyway. Dempsey says there are no active proposals to force vendors to leave encryption back doors in their VoIP gear, but that could change. "Nothing in regulations is permanent," he says.

Endler says that attempts by researchers to learn more about how Skype works have been effectively blocked by measures put in place by Skype. "They've taken extreme measures to prevent reverse engineering of their client software," he says, more so than mainstream VoIP vendors.

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Apple updates MobileMe status

Apple has issued its latest status update on MobileMe, having recently launched a blog detailing the hurdles the company is facing with the service.

The blog, situated here, now reports, "As you know, restoring full email access to the remaining 1% of MobileMe users is our first priority. We turned on web access to their current email yesterday and the feedback has been cautiously positive."

About 1 per cent of MobileMe's subscribers had been affected by an e-mail outage, Apple confirmed on Friday. The problem was caused when one of Apple's mail servers had unexpected - and very serious, technical problems, at least that's what Apple's saying.

"We've restoredfull email history (minus the approximately 10 per cent of mail received between 18-22 July which may have been lost) and the ability to access email from a Mac, PCand iPhone, to over 40 per cent of these users, and expect the remainder to be restored in the next few days," Apple said.

Apple will post another status report early this week, the company promised.

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Google Calendar gains iCal CalDav support

Google has introduced support for iCal within its online Google Calendar service.

In order to achieve the support, Google has implemented some support for CalDAV, an open protocol that allows calendar access via WebDAV. The support means users will be able to view and edit Google Calendar events directly in iCal. While other calendar applications support CalDAV (including Mozilla Sunbird), Google Calendar only supports CalDAV using iCal.

Any changes made in iCal will automatically appear in Google Calendar the next time you sign in (and vice versa). If you use iCal while offline, changes you make will be saved and updated in Google Calendar when you get back online.

CalDAV models calendar events as HTTP resources in iCalendar format, and models calendars containing events as WebDAV collections. This allows you to publish and subscribe to calendars, share them collaboratively, sync between multiple users and sync between multiple devices.

More information.

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MacBook Touch rumours grow online

Rumours of a tablet Mac with touch sensitive controls continue to echo online, and Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer's promise of future product transitions to come last week has done nothing to dampen speculation.

ABC News this weekend said: "The brief, perhaps innocuous comment appeared on several blogs the next day alongside a rumor that analysts say has been floating around for years - that Apple would debut a touchscreen laptop."

The report describes the purported product thusly: "Think MacBook screen, possibly a bit smaller, in glass with iPhone-like, but fuller-featured Multi-Touch. Gesture library. Full Mac OS X."

Rumours of an Apple tablet have been in circulation for years with credible claims at one point suggesting a 2003 release for the product.

The New York Times' John Markoff says the iPhone itself began life as a 'Safari Pad': "Apple’s multitouch technology began life not as a cellphone, but as a notepad-sized skunkworks project internally dubbed Safari Pad, run by Tim Bucher, then Apple’s head of Macintosh hardware. To his credit, Mr. Jobs seized on the technology and morphed it into the iPhone," Markoff revealed.

Speculation online now favours the introduction of the product, dubbed (at least my the Mac-rumour engine) as the 'MacBook Touch' in September, with more information expected to reveal itself this week.

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Solar power solution for modern Apple laptops ships

QuickerTek has introduced a new model Apple Juicz solar charger for the MacBook and MacBook Pro.

Apple Juicz both powers and charges your Apple laptop while the computer is active. The company assures its solar solution is much lighter, more flexible and simply easier to tote about than other similar solutions,

Apple Juicz for MacBook and MacBook Pro folds to only 10.5 inches and comes with a carrying case. It offers 55 Watts of power and unfolds to a sun-grabbing 60 x 42 inches.

QuickerTek also sells a ($100) modified MagSafe power adaptor which is required in order to use the solar solution, which itself costs $1,000.

The Apple Juicz MacBook Solar Charger is backed with a one-year warranty on parts and labour.

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iPhone developers frustrated with App Store

Compared to the iPhone 3G and MobileMe, which had somewhat rocky starts when they were introduced, Apple's App Store had a relatively smooth launch for consumers. For many iPhone developers, however, working with Apple and the App Store has been anything but smooth.

Developers we spoke to have several problems with the App Store -- the only place where you can buy applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. First, it's been taking a long time for updates submitted to Apple to get pushed to the public. Second, Apple isn't communicating with developers about when applications will be pushed live. Finally, Apple is not providing any sales information, so developers have no idea how their apps are doing.

Because of the sensative nature of working with Apple, many developers only talked to Macworld about App Store problems on the condition of anonymity (Apple representatives could not immediately be contacted for comment).

Problems with the App Store

As a consumer, one of the great things about the App Store is that it notifies you when updates become available for an application that you purchased. The notification works for free apps, as well (when it works at all, this is). The problem is that it's taking a week or more in some cases for updates submitted by developers to post on the App Store.

The delay could easily be explained away as Apple being so busy with applications that the company is overwhelmed, but developers aren't so sure that explains what's going on. According to some developers, their updates are being ignored in favor of updates from larger companies.

"We submitted an update a week ago, and it still isn't updated," said one iPhone developer."Some apps seem to get updated quickly, so some type of favoritism is evident. I've seen one day, and then I've seen two weeks -- no one knows why the disparity, either."

Updates from developers, especially in the early stages of a new platform, can be very important. A lot of times, the updates fix major problems like crashes or other issues that cause the app to not work as intended. That frustration is multiplied for developers when the update is done, but can't be distributed because Apple has not approved its release.

"I'm not happy with delays involved, and the seemingly arbitrary favoritism that's evident," said the iPhone developer. "It's either favoritism or just general chaos."

Not all iPhone developers are that upset with the update times. While they still notice a delay in posting updates, they hope once the backlog has been worked through, things will pick up a bit.

"It seems like Apple has its hand full here, as we've submitted a couple of updates for Where To? and Tipulator, but the initial 1.0 versions are still on the App Store," said John Casasanta, co-founder of tap tap tap. "The Tipulator update has been in the queue for about a week now, so hopefully it makes its way to the Store soon." Developers have also noted that from a user perspective, the updates don't seem to hit iPhones at the same time. Updated applications that aren't showing up for some have been available to other users for several days

The lack of communication from Apple is also making things difficult for the developers. Nobody really has any idea how long updates will take to get posted and Apple isn't saying.

Fraser Speirs, owner of Connected Flow (makers of the Exposure Flickr application for the iPhone) said that point updates -- like a 1.0.1 -- take about a week to post, while larger updates, like Exposure 1.1 will take two or three weeks to make their way to the App Store.

"I don't have a problem with updates being reviewed [by Apple prior to posting], but it has to go alot faster," said Speirs. "Given the no-demos rule, an app lives or dies by App Store reviews.It's incredibly frustrating to watch review after review complain about a bug that you fixed and 'shipped' two weeks ago."

While developers are okay with Apple having a review process, some of the things in that process don't make a lot of sense, and the reasons for rejection can be even more mystifying.

"They reject apps for superficial things (icon being the wrong size, confusingly worded messages) while sometimes major bugs slip in under the radar," said another iPhone developer. "It seems pretty haphazard and human-powered rather than automated."

Apple also isn't sharing up-to-date sales information with developers. Apple provides them with a monthly report, but that's not enough for most developers.

"We have no idea [how our app is doing]," said another iPhone developer. "No one has any idea. No realtime stats are provided, all you can do is wait for the end-of-month report. There is no way to make pricing adjustments based on sales, because you don't know what sales are. In this digital age, it's stunning to me that this omission is there."

Fixing the problems

When it comes right down to it, developers are most upset about the time delays and communication (or lack thereof) with Apple.

"My only issue with app review is the time factor," said Connected Flow's Speirs. "If I needed to fix a data-destroying bug, or a privacy/security issue, would it take this long? My 1.0.1 update contained fixes for three serious crashing bugs, yet it took a week to get it on the store. People tell me this time lag is nothing different from other console/phone type arrangements, but Mac developers have been used to pushing out updates as soon as they're ready."

Other developers echoed Speirs sentiments and asked that the process be sped up, especially for critical bug fixes.

Overall, the App Store has been a great success for Apple, but it seems obvious that there is still a lot of work to do on the backend. And while the developers need Apple to distribute their apps, Apple also needs a spirited development community to help the iPhone achieve its success.

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O2 updates iPhone availability notes

UK carrier O2 has published an updated note on iPhone 3G availability in the UK.

"Thank you for your interest in iPhone 3G. We are experiencing unprecedented demand for the device and while we are confident that all customers who want iPhone 3G will get one by the end of this summer, initial supply is limited and will be for some weeks," the website warns.

The company says it is out of stock of the phone through its online stores and customer services but that it does have limited availability in O2 retail stores as at opening time Friday 25 July.

"We are working closely with Apple to get additional iPhone 3Gs. These will be coming in on a weekly basis. We'll keep you posted on specific details by updating this web page daily," the company promises.

"The amount of 8GB stock these stores have is still very limited and will therefore sell out quickly," O2 adds, but promises availability should improve from this day forward.

"iPhone 3G stock is arriving in the UK weekly and as soon as it arrives it is being despatched straight out to retail stores where it is being sold on a first come, first served basis," an O2 representative said last night.

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Nike+ Human Race Aug. 31

The Nike+ Human Race takes place on 31 August.

The event will feature thousands of runners. Led by Paula Radcliffe, 30,000 of them will exit Wembley Stadium on the 10K challenge.

"Run with a million runners in a worldwide 10K. Race in one of 25 cities. Or run where you are with Nike + iPod," the event website says.

In order to run where you are, you'll need either a Nike+ Sportsband or a Nike+ iPod and Sport Kit. Runners must sign-up online on the event website, train for the event at their own leisure, and then must race and sync their run on 31 August.

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Yahoo: Burn your DRMed tracks to CD now

Yahoo has become the latest company to abandon customers who bought tracks from its music store encoded with DRM (digital rights management), drawing fire from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

On September 30, Yahoo will shut down the servers that are needed to reauthorize music purchased from its failed Unlimited Music Store if it is transferred to a new PC, Yahoo said in an email to customers. The rule to designed to slow music piracy. Re-authorization is also needed if someone upgrades their PC's operating system.

The only workaround for customers wanting to listen to their music on a new or upgraded computer after this date is to burn the tracks to a CD and then reload them on a computr.

Those with extensive music collections would incur the cost of buying blank CDs and spending time to transfer the music, wrote EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry in a blog post.

Even though Yahoo suggested that process to customers to preserve their music, it raises legal issues.

"This suggestion could put customers at legal risk, as they may not have documentation of purchase," McSherry wrote. "Furthermore, there is no certainty that all relevant copyright owners would agree that making such backup copies without permission is lawful."

The EFF has warned for years about the consquences for consumers when vendors decide to withdraw their support for DRM-encoded music, McSherry wrote. Over the last year or so, an increasing number of online music vendors, in cooperation with major music labels, are offering tracks minus DRM after failing to dent piracy.

Yahoo said in February it would shut down its Unlimited Music Store after partnering with RealNetwork's Rhapsody service. Last month, Rhapsody said it will sell unrestricted MP3 files, following Apple's move to offer DRM-free tracks in its iTunes Music Store.

The EFF is pushing Yahoo to offer a refund for the affected tracks or provide replacement tracks without DRM along with receipts to prove the music has been legally purchased in the event of a copyright-infringement lawsuit, McSherry wrote.

Last month Microsoft reversed course after intially saying it would stop reauthorizing music bought from its shuttered MSN Music service on 31 August. The company committed to reauthenticating tracks through 2011.

Tracks sold in the Microsoft and Yahoo music stores used the Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM, now vaguely named "Certified for Windows Vista."

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Analysts: Out-of-stock iPhones good news for Apple

With the iPhone 3G available in more than 20 countries, it’s little surprise that Apple has announced that it sold a million phones in the first three days of the product’s release - 71 days faster than it took the original iPhone to reach the same number.

But those rapid sales have come at a cost: Apple’s supply of the device appears to be stretched thin. Anybody who has passed an Apple Store recently has probably seen the lines of anxious customers stretching out the front door (or signs informing customers that yes, there are no iPhones today).

“We’re thrilled with what we see,” said Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook during the company’s third quarter financial results conference call last Monday. “There are a number of stock-outs,” Cook said. “This is a factor of overwhelming demand.”

Kevin O’Marah, chief strategist at AMR Research, which analyzes supply chains, agrees with Cook’s assessment. “I don’t know whether it’s a specific component, but the root cause is tremendous demand.” He adds, “[Apple] has done a really good job of building up the physical supply chain.”

AMR’s 2008 report on the top twenty-five supply chains ranked Apple in the number one position, in large part because of its success in taking advantage of the digital supply chain - which ironically, O'Marah points out, was the part that broke down the most during the iPhone 3G's launch.

Since the device’s launch, iPhones have seemingly been as scarce as four-leaf clovers. At various points in the past two weeks, several states in the US have been completely out of stock, according to statistics compiled from Apple’s own iPhone availability checker, which updates at 9pm every evening with the status of all US Apple Stores. And many stores reported having only one or two of the iPhone’s three models in stock.

AT&T's stores, which are the only other place to buy the iPhone 3G, have likewise been without enough phones. The stores received only a fraction of the stock of Apple Stores at launch, and the wireless provider has been encouraging customers to purchase using a "direct fulfillment" plan: customers pay up front, then return to collect their iPhones when they're in stock.

A public statement on AT&T's website this week said the company is fulfilling those orders as fast as it gets iPhones in stock from Apple, which AT&T estimates to be an average of 13 to 14 days after purchase.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster recently told Computerworld that the shortage would likely last two to four weeks, due to the huge demand that Apple saw for the iPhone 3G at launch.

That’s quite a contrast to last year’s launch of the original iPhone. While the first-generation unit was immensely sought-after, and likewise resulted in long lines of customers, Apple Stores around the country seemed to have little trouble coping with the demand, and there were plenty of iPhones to go around (many people reported walking into Apple Stores the day after the launch and picking up iPhones with no lines and no fuss).

But that may have been the exception to the rule, says AMR Research’s O’Marah. “What I speculate is that they [Apple] were very careful not to stock out with first launch because they wanted to establish critical mass in the market. The next round, you start getting back to Apple’s traditional way, which is slightly scarce.”

At June 2008’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Steve Jobs announced the company’s intention to roll out the iPhone to 70 countries before the end of the year, and Apple executives have repeatedly reaffirmed their confidence that Apple will hit the self-imposed goal of selling 10 million iPhones in calendar year 2008.

According to publically available figures, that number is around 3.42 million for the calendar year so far, with just over five months to go. But with iPhones apparently in such short supply, is such a goal still reachable?

“I’d think they need to ramp up their supply,” says O’Marah. “I think stocking out on this stage is not as big a problem as with initial release.”

In last Monday’s conference call, several analysts brought up the issue of the iPhone’s seemingly limited supply. When questioned about whether there was an issue with Apple’s supply chain, Tim Cook said “I like what I’m seeing in the product ramp” and that Apple was shipping units as fast as it could to meet demand. In fact, the COO went on to say, the company is so confident in its production that it is planning to release the iPhone in 20 additional countries on August 22.

“If they can sell a lot in core markets, then going to Herculean lengths to sell in other countries is more a strategic or marketing move,” says O’Marah. “It’s more a matter of showmanship.”

While the reasons behind Apple’s short supply may remain a mystery, one thing is for sure: the scarcity has led the iPhone to become an extremely hot commodity on the resale market, with some being sold on eBay for more than $1,000. But the shortages have caused their share of frustration among would-be customers, too, leading to message board threads detailing the involved process of trying to figure out whether one will be able to get a phone at a given store or not.

“Excess demand is wonderful,” says AMR Research’s O’Marah, “as long as not it’s too excess.”

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Forrester: Vista rejected like 'new Coke' by enterprises

Fewer than one in eleven of the PCs being used in large or very large enterprises runs Windows Vista, according to survey results released Wednesday by Forrester Research.

Of the 50,000 enterprise users surveyed by the Cambridge, Mass. analyst firm, 87.1 per cent were still running Windows XP at the end of June, compared to 8.8 per cent for Vista. According to author Thomas Mendel, that implies that the majority of PCs upgraded to Vista were those running older versions of Windows, such as Windows 2000 or 98.

"Vista is 'new Coke,'" Mendel wrote, comparing Microsoft's flagship OS to the ill-fated soft drink. Enterprises still on the fence about Vista would be wise, he said, to "consider following the lead of Microsoft's important partner Intel and re-evaluating the case of Vista."

Mendel's comments undercut the momentum for Vista claimed by Microsoft, which says it has sold 180 million license for its 18-month-old operating system to PC makers and end users.

Vista still has double the share of Macs among big businesses, however. The share of Macs grew from to 4.5 per cent in June from 3.7 per cent in January 2008. 80 per cent of those are Intel-based Macs.

Linux's share of desktops, meanwhile, fell significantly, according to Forrester, to 0.5 per cent in June from 1.8 per cent in January.

As a result, enterprise application developers only need to "develop exclusively for Windows XP and Vista. Forget about Macs unless you're aiming at a specific business vertical where Mac use is prevalent."

Forrester's study examined the browser as well as the desktop environments of the 50,000 users, spread out among 2,300 companies. It found that 19.4 per cent of enterprise users are using FireFox, up from 16.8 per cent at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Microsoft Internet Explorer's (IE's) share only slipped slightly, from 79.1 per cent in January to 77.6 per cent at the end of June.

"At least make sure that applications work on Firefox as well as IE - this is a must," Mendel wrote.

Apple's Safari owns only a small slice of the market - 2.4 per cent , according to Forrester.

Both Flash and Java were nearly ubiquitous. Flash Player version 9 was on 97 per cent of desktops, while Java was on 99.9 per cent of them. But application developers shouldn't try too hard to jazz up their apps with Flash elements - "business users don't want to hunt for navigation nor do they crave excitement," Mendel wrote.

Forrester also discovered that despite ever-increasing screens and screen sizes, the largest slice - 34.1 per cent - of business users are using screens between 15 and 17 inches in size with resolutions of 1,024 by 768 pixels; another 25.2 per cent use screens between 17 and 19 inches in size with resolutions of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels.

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UK ISP's reach anti-file-sharing deal

Six of the UK's biggest internet service providers have reached a deal with music industry body the BPI to combat music-piracy.

The agreement commits the companies working together towards reducing the illegal sharing of music and will see hundreds of thousands of letters sent to net users suspected of illegally sharing music.

The deal - which has been agreed to by BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse - also means file-sharers could see their broadband connections slowed, or removed altogether.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, which represents the music industry, said: "All of the major ISPs in the UK now recognise they have a responsibility to deal with illegal file-sharers on their networks."

“Government has played an important role in bringing all parties together to arrive at this point, but the work really begins now. We look forward to creating the procedures necessary to effectively tackle repeated unlawful filesharing with the other signatories and Ofcom," he added.

Music industry bodies have been pushing UK government to force ISPs to become the internet's file-sharing policemen for years. Music labels argue that ISPs have effectively benefited from file-sharing, as it has made their services popular. The plan commits the firms to working towards a "significant reduction" in the illegal sharing of music. However, the move also indicates new music services could soon debut to fill the gap.

It's thought that UK music industry bosses are now negotiating a controlled and licensed peer-to-peer scheme in which users pay c.30 per year as a blanket fee for their music.

"In addition, the music business is constantly innovating to offer new, safe and legal ways to enjoy music online, and to create a future for digital music where creativity and copyright are respected. This (agreement) will help to create an environment in which such new digital services models can flourish," Taylor added.

The deal also commits the net firms to develop legal music services, however the music industry wants people's internet cut off if they ignore repeated warnings. Martin Warner, new media entrepreneur and co-founder of Technology of Tomorrow 08 said: "Today’s deal is a major breakthrough for consumers and the record industry, though many challenges still remain on how this is going to work out in practice and be policed.” He adds- “The rapid advances in technology have a major impact on how music is consumed. This has presented many opportunities and challenges for artists and record companies but the consensus of opinion is that there is no alternative but to embrace new technology.”

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Neil Young slams iTunes, iPod

Veteran rock star, Neil Young, has slammed the iPod as a "Fisher Price toy", in which music sound quality has been dumbed down too far.

Young was speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference, where he said: "Apple has taken a detour down the convenience highway. Quality has taken a complete backseat - if it even gets in the car at all.”

The star bemoaned the focus on convenience at the expense of high-fidelity in artistic expression during his speech. Music has become "like wallpaper", he said. "We have beautiful computers now but high-resolution music is one of the missing elements," he observed.

His complaints echo those made by UK electronic music pioneer, Toby Marks, who has said: "I absolutely hate the fact that it’s possible to release music at the same quality it was created, yet the market has moved backward to something that’s little better than cassettes."

Young is a technologist himself, and plans to introduce a multimedia archive of his entire career on Blu-ray later this year - presumably with uncompressed audio. He hopes other musicians will follow his lead.

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Apple UK offers £15 MobileMe rebate

Apple UK is quietly offering a special promotional price on MobileMe subscriptions.

The company is offering a year's subscription to the online service at a 15 discount on the normal price, the discount is available as a rebate.

Apple says: "With MobileMe, keep your iPhone, Mac, iPod touch, and even your PC in perfect sync. Purchase an Apple computer and MobileMe or .Mac between 22 July and 20 October, 2008, and receive a 15 rebate."

Speculation says the company may either have planned to offer the discount in order to sell the service to new iPhone owners, but it's pretty clear recent problems affecting existing users of the service also predicate a discount in order to stimulate any sales of the product.

While .Mac was seen as over-priced and limited, the ill-starred launch of MobileMe is presently raising insecurity as to the service's reliability.

More information on the Apple rebate is available online.

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Yahoo's profit down in Q2

Yahoo reported a modest revenue increase and a considerable drop in profit for its second quarter, along the way missing Wall Street's expectations in both categories, results that are unlikely to please its nervous shareholders.

Although Yahoo managed to defuse Carl Icahn's proxy fight this week, a rare victory in its months-long, tumultuous sparring match with shareholders and suitor Microsoft, its results for the quarter ended 30 June, 2008, will probably do little to dispel doubts over its ability to survive as an independent company.

"We believe it is more efficient for Yahoo to be acquired. Scale is a competitive advantage. As a result, a combined Yahoo and Microsoft makes a great deal of sense," financial analyst Clayton Moran from Stanford Group Company said in an email interview after the results were released.

Asked whether he sees Yahoo as being on the right track or not, Moran, who has a "Hold" recommendation on the stock and a 12-month target of $24 per share, said: "Yahoo is struggling with no clear solution to reignite growth."

Yahoo had revenue of $1.798 billion, a 6 per cent increase from 2007's second quarter, the company announced Tuesday. Deducting the commissions it pays to its ad network publishers, Yahoo had revenue of $1.346 billion, up 8 per cent but short of the $1.374 billion consensus expectation from financial analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Net income fell to $131 million, or $0.09 per share, from $161 million, or $0.11 per share, in 2007's second quarter.

On a pro forma basis, taking into account one-time items, net income was $139 million, or $0.10 per share, a penny short of analysts' consensus expectation. Yahoo had pro forma net income of $163 million, or $0.12 per share, in 2007's second quarter.

Still, Yahoo's top executives repeatedly said, during a conference call to discuss the results, that they were pleased with Yahoo's performance considering the challenges it has faced, including adverse economic conditions and the distractions of the Microsoft acquisition bid and the strident controversies it has generated.

"We're executing and delivering against the strategy we laid out, even under extraordinary conditions," said CEO Jerry Yang.

CFO Blake Jorgensen said the conversion of joint broadband deals with AT&T and Rogers Communications to a revenue-sharing format, in late 2007 and early 2008, have hurt Yahoo's revenue growth this year.

Yahoo also said it saw economic conditions affect advertising revenue, especially in categories such as finance, travel and retail.

Yahoo, which has been struggling on the financial and technology fronts for the past two years, has been embroiled in a corporate soap opera since Microsoft announced a bid to acquire the company in February.

That bid collapsed in May, leading to accusations from shareholders, including Icahn, that Yahoo's managers and board had purposely sabotaged the negotiations in order to protect their own financial interests, violating their fiduciary duty to shareholders.

Yahoo's management and board have denied the accusations, which have led to shareholder lawsuits, saying they negotiated in good faith and that ultimately it was Microsoft's decision to walk away. In the meantime, Yahoo has seen a steady parade of high-profile executives leave the company in recent months.

Yahoo this week managed to reach an agreement with Icahn, who had proposed an alternate slate of director candidates for the 1 August shareholder meeting in order to unseat the entire board. By expanding the board and granting Icahn three seats, Yahoo convinced the billionaire investor to call off the plan. Icahn had indicated previously that his intention was to unseat Yang as Yahoo CEO and attempt to lure Microsoft back to the negotiating table, a possibility that now seems remote.

The proxy-contest settlement "eliminates the distractions and allows us to move forward," Yang said.

An attempt by Microsoft to acquire Yahoo's search advertising business also fell through, as Yahoo instead opted for an alternate deal to outsource part of that business to rival Google.

The deal with Google raised eyebrows, since Google's dominance in search advertising is a big reason why Yahoo has struggled financially. Search advertising makes up about 40 per cent of all online ad spending, and Google has a stranglehold on that segment of the market.

By comparison to Yahoo, Google last week reported second-quarter revenue of $5.37 billion, up 39 per cent over the same quarter last year. Almost all of Google's revenue comes from search advertising. It earned $4.63 per share.

The Yahoo/Google search ad outsourcing deal is being reviewed by US regulators and hasn't been implemented yet.

Yahoo has said the deal with Google will give it a revenue boost while allowing Yahoo to continue honing its search advertising business, a key component of a broad advertising strategy that also includes the display ad formats, an area where Yahoo traditionally has been strong.

President Sue Decker said Yahoo is focusing on innovating in search technology, as opposed to trying to replicate the current models, because the company believes the search experience can be greatly improved.

For the third quarter, Yahoo expects revenue in the range of $1.78 billion to $1.98 billion, and for the full year between $7.35 billion and $7.85 billion. For the full-year forecast, Yahoo raised its minimum outlook from $7.20 billion and dropped its maximum outlook from $8 billion. That full-year forecast excludes the impact of certain items, such as a round of layoffs in the first quarter and costs associated with the Microsoft acquisition bid.

Yang said during the call that his management team and the board are focused on increasing shareholder value and are open to any alternative that advances that goal.

Judging by Yahoo's stock performance lately, it has its work cut out for it. Yahoo's stock closed at $21.40 on Tuesday, down 1.25 per cent. During the time of Microsoft's bid, Yahoo's stock once closed at nearly $30. Microsoft's last offer for Yahoo was for $33 per share, but Yahoo wanted $37 per share, at which point Microsoft walked away in early May.

Here We Go Again: Microsoft, Yahoo! in New Talks
Google search share climbs

Virgin accounts for a third of iPlayer viewings

The BBC's move to allow Virgin Media customers to access its iPlayer service via their TVs is already paying dividends, with Virgin subscribers watching 10.5 million on-demand BBC shows in June.

Around 350 hours of BBC content was added to Virgin's TV listings on 1 June, and the cable TV service managed to account for half as many iPlayer viewings as the BBC's website over the month.

iPlayer, which launched at the end of last year, achieved 1.5 million users per week during June, and managed 20.4 million requests over the course of the month.

"The initial success on Virgin Media underlines the multiplatform appeal of the BBC iPlayer proposition," said Rahul Chakkara, the BBC controller, TV platforms, in an interview with the Guardian.

The BBC is continuing the develop iPlayer, with a new system in the works that could allow users to pre-book shows they want to watch a week before they're broadcast.

The new queuing system will be set up in such a way as to minimize the load on the network, with shows set to download at an "optimum time for the user, the UK internet and the BBC", according to the BBC.

The pre-booking feature is only in the planning stage. Proposals to put the plan into effect have been put to the BBC Trust, which must give its permission for the feature to be introduced.

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iPod nano upgrade - new colours, features, more storage

Open season for speculation as to the nature of the new products Apple executives promised are on the way from the company has once again truly begun.

Many predict the company may at last introduce us to a sub-$1,000 subnotebook Mac, others expect cheaper Macs to appear as the company attempts even more expansion of its market share.

But there's activity due too on the iPod side of the Apple product triptych, and the latest rumour to emerge says the company's product development teams are engaged in summoning up the next-gen digital music player.

Citing sources in Asia, 9 to 5 Mac is reporting that Apple's plans include a new multi-colour iPod nano, this nano will be encased in a multi-coloured rainbow like chassis. The site (which correctly predicted last year's iPod line-up) also states that storage will double, and new features will be added.

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Pwnage 2.0 iPhone jailbreak software calls

The iPhone Dev team has managed to create unlocking/jailbreaking software for iPhone 3G within a few days of that product's release.

The team has published software - Pwnage 2.0 - which lets any iPhone or iPod touch user unlock the device, a process which enables installation of non-Apple-approved third party applications.

The Pwnage software can also unlock the iPhone for use with other networks, the team said, “Just to clear up some confusion over what this actually does: yes, it jailbreaks and unlocks older iPhones, and jailbreaks iPhone 3Gs and iPod touches. We only support the 2.0 firmwares,” the team explained.

The scale of international demand for the iPhone in countries in which the device isn't available is illustrated by the fact that by February 2008, estimates of the number of unlocked iPhones in circulation around the world ranged from 800,000 to 1.5 million.

Installing unauthorized firmware on an iPhone voids the warranty and can render the device useless.

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Apple plans Leicester retail store

Apple will open a new UK store in Leicester on 4 September.

The 577 square metre store will be located in the Highcross Leicester development. It supplements Apple retail stores in Birmingham, Manchester, Solihull and Sheffield in the approximate same geographical area.

Apple is also recruiting staff for stores in Liverpool, Belfast, Bristol and White City, London. Apple already has 15 active own-brand retail stores open now in the UK.

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Yahoo board gets Legg Mason thumbs-up

Legg Mason, one of the largest holders of Yahoo stock, will back the company's recommendations for its board of directors instead of those offered by dissident investor Carl Icahn.

Legg Mason, an investment firm based in Baltimore, announced Friday it will back Yahoo's slate of candidates in a stockholders meeting 1 August. Legg Mason owns about 60.7 million shares, or about 4.4 per cent, of Yahoo's stock.

Icahn, also a major investor, has been pushing Yahoo to accept offers from Microsoft to buy all or part of the company.

Legg Mason officials have met with Yahoo's current board and management several times, Bill Miller chairman and chief investment officer at Legg Mason said in a statement. "We believe the current board acted with care and diligence when evaluating Microsoft's offers," Miller added. "We believe the board is independent and focused on value creation for long-term shareholders."

In general, it's appropriate for large shareholders to seek representation on corporate boards, Miller said, and Icahn's board slate includes experienced businesspeople. Legg Mason would prefer if Icahn and Yahoo "reach a mutual agreement on the composition of the board and end this disruptive proxy contest," Miller said.

Microsoft has made multiple offers, and it's clear that it and Icahn believe the current Yahoo board won't negotiate with Microsoft, Miller continued. "While boards are there to protect shareholder interests, shareholders own the company," he said. "If Microsoft wants to acquire Yahoo, it can make the terms and conditions of its offer public. If Yahoo shareholders support it, I am confident the board of Yahoo will accept it."

On Thursday, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and chairman Roy Bostock sent a letter to shareholders criticizing the efforts of Microsoft and Icahn.

"Your Board of Directors believes strongly that the Icahn-Microsoft agenda - as presented to us jointly last week - will destroy stockholder value at Yahoo!, serving only their very narrow special interests, clearly not your interests," the letter said.

Yahoo letter to shareholders slams Microsoft, Icahn
Yahoo! May Face a Proxy Battle After All

New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

SoundCast’s iCast wireless dock

SoundCast is a US company that has just started selling its products here in the UK. It specialises in wireless products for the iPod, and its product range revolves around its iCast wireless dock. The basic iCast package costs 163 and consists of the iCast dock and a separate receiver. The dock sends your music via wireless to the receiver, which can be connected to an amplifier anywhere within 350 feet.

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

You can also buy the SpeakerCast package for 299, which consists of the iCast dock along with a compact 50W speaker system that you can easily move from room to room. Finally, there’s the OutCast a tough, all-weather speaker system designed for outdoor use when you’re having a party or BBQ.

The OutCast system includes the iCast dock once more, so you can keep your iPod safe indoors while it transmits music to the OutCast speakers in your garden. The OutCast provides a hefty 100W output, and includes a sub-woofer and four high-frequency speakers arranged in a circle to provide ‘omn-directional’ sound output. Priced at 499, the OutCast is made of water-resistant plastic so you can leave it out in the garden all through the dodgy British summer.

The Outdoor Wireless Speaker from Firebox

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

If 499 for the OutCast is a little bit beyond your budget we’ve found a more affordable option that might do the trick at BBQ time. The Outdoor Wireless Speaker from Firebox costs just 99.95 and consists of a wireless transmitter unit that you can connect to your iPod indoors – or any other music system for that matter – and then beam your music to the speakers outside. They’re speaker unit isn’t as ruggedly designed as the OutCast so you’ll probably need to keep it indoors when it’s not being used, but it’s neatly designed and easy to drag into the garden when the sun finally comes out.

Terratec’s Noxon internet radio

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

The latest version of Terratec’s Noxon internet radio is absolutely packed with features that enable you to use it with both your Mac and your iPod. Like the other models in the Noxon range, the Noxon iRadio For iPod allows you to play hundreds of Internet radio broadcasts. The little LCD display allows you to browse radio stations by genre or even country of origin, and you can create your own presets to save your favourite stations. It’s got an FM tuner built into it as well, for listening to ordinary radio broadcasts.

The ‘universal’ dock unit works with most iPod models, allowing you to charge the iPod and to play your music through the Noxon’s internal speaker. It also has both an Ethernet interface and wireless connectivity so that you can stream music from your Mac’s hard onto the iRadio as well. Tucked around the back there’s a USB port that lets you play music stored on a memory stick or external hard disk, along with a headphone socket and Line Out so that you can connect it to a more powerful speaker system if you want to. The iRadio costs 239.99.

Gear4 Street Party III

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

Gear4 is offering the new Duo system. The Duo is a two-part speaker system that consists of a bass subwoofer and a separate set of flat-panel stereo speakers. When you’re at home, the flat-panel speakers clip onto the front of the subwoofer to provide a powerful 38W of beefy sound. When you’re ready to go traveling you just unclip the slimline front panel and use it on its own as a portable speaker system. The Duo costs 149.99.

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

After the rather pricey Duo speakers that Gear4 released last month, they’ve now come up with a more affordable option in the form of the Street Party III. This latest addition to the popular Street Party range is slim and light, but constructed with a tough metal grill to protect it when you’re travelling. It runs off mains or four AA batteries, and costs just 29.99.

Orbitsound’s T12 Soundbar

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

One problem with the many compact all-in-one speaker systems for the iPod is that you don’t get much separation between the ‘left’ and ‘right’ audio channels. Orbitsound’s T12 Soundbar aims to solve this problem by creating ‘spatial stereo’ that really sounds as though you’ve got two completely separate stereo speakers in the room. Priced at around 375, the T12 includes an iPod dock, and is also accompanied by a powerful subwoofer.

Klipsch iGroove SXT

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

If you’re looking for a portable speaker system that has a little more power behind it, you could check out the iGroove SXT from the HiFi specialists at Klipsch.

The iGroove has special ‘horn-loaded tweeters’, which use a special technology that Klipsch developed for its full-size speaker systems. The company claims that this ‘horn’ technology produces lifelike sound, and higher volume using less power than conventional speakers – which is obviously handy for portable speakers.

The iGroove also includes a remote control and alarm clock features, as well as a separate audio connector for use with other types of MP3 player or CD player. It costs 99.99.

Sony’s Giga-Juke

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

Sonos’ ZonePlayer has had the market for ‘multi-room’ music systems pretty much to itself for the last couple of years, but now Sony is getting in on the act with its new Giga-Juke system. However, the Giga-Juke actually outdoes its Sonos rival, as it also includes a built-in CD and ripping features, along with its own internal hard disk for storing your music collection.

The Giga-Juke NAS-SC55PKE main unit includes a CD player and 80GB hard disk, which allows you to ‘rip’ your CDs and store them as MP3 files straight onto the hard disk without even having to use your Mac. The system also includes a set of 100W stereo speakers, and a wireless ‘client’ receiver that you can use to beam your music to any room in your house. You can also buy additional receivers, allowing you to beam music to five rooms in total, and each receiver has its own built-in speakers so you don’t need to buy any additional speaker systems.

There’s also a more basic ‘one-room’ model called the NAS-E35HD, which just includes the main unit and speakers. Both models also include an iPod dock and radio tuner. Sony has not released pricing yet, so we don’t yet know if they’ll manage to undercut the rather expensive Sonos models.

Genius Tempo 800 speaker system

 New Products: The latest speakers for your Mac and iPod

Genius isn’t that well known in the Mac market, as most of its widgets are primarily aimed at the PC-owning games brigade. However, it’s got some nice iPod accessories, including the new Tempo 800 speaker system. The Tempo 800 is a set of portable speakers with a built-in iPod dock. It’s a medium-power system, with 20W output, but it uses a system called DRD 3D to enhance the bass output and create a kind of virtual surround sound effect. It’s quite reasonably priced, at 59.99 and Genius is also working on a Bluetooth version, although this hasn’t been released yet.

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International markets continue to drive Google growth

International growth and continued overall traffic increases kept Google's earnings in line with analysts' estimates in the search giant's second quarter.

On Thursday, Google reported revenue for the quarter ending 30 June of $5.37 billion, using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), up 39 per cent over the same quarter last year.

Earnings per share were lower than expected: Google reported $4.63, compared to the $4.74 that analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected, on a non-GAAP basis.

Revenue from outside of the US represented 52 per cent of total revenue for Google, compared to 51 per cent in the first quarter. In a recent research report, analysts at Citigroup wrote that international markets represent a notable growth driver for internet companies like Google, and the analysts expected non-US markets to be responsible for half or more of revenue for Google in the quarter.

Google continues to gain search market share despite the best efforts of its rivals. A recent report from Hitwise showed Google garnering nearly 70 per cent of all US searches, while the other leading names in search - Yahoo and Microsoft - have lost share.

The growth Google reported Thursday came despite an economic downturn in the US, and the company doesn't expect the continued economic bad news to affect its growth, according to Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, who spoke during a conference call to discuss the earnings. "It's like the Wal-Mart effect," he said. "As times get tough, people watch their dollars and in many cases do more shopping online."

Even sectors that might be expected to show lower volumes of search, such as real estate, cars and travel, continued to grow in the quarter, he said.

Executives on the call didn't reveal much about the progress of the integration of DoubleClick, the ad services company that Google finished purchasing in the first quarter. Google hopes to integrate DoubleClick's technology with its own so advertisers will be able to use one tool to advertise across many publishers, said Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google. The company should begin to offer that capability in the coming months, he said.

The executives also may have disappointed observers who were hoping for some more hints about Google's Android mobile-phone platform. "We're still expecting phones before the end of the year," said Sergey Brin, cofounder and president of technology, reiterating the vague company line.

Schmidt and Brin also mentioned that they are pleased with the performance of YouTube as well as other services, such as Google Apps. Google continues to experiment with ways to monetize YouTube, but Schmidt admitted the company hasn't hit on the perfect solution just yet. "On the revenue side [of YouTube], we're working on scenarios and products. I don't believe the perfect ad product has been invented yet," Schmidt said.

Brin pointed to growth in Google Apps, the web application hosting service, particularly among enterprise users. A half a million people are using Google Apps for business productivity, he said, although that figure includes 300,000 people at GE using Postini, a security product acquired by Google. Still, he has high hopes for the future of Google Apps, which competes with hosted services from Amazon and others. "Ultimately, we think the cloud is just a great place to deploy apps, because of the simplicity for end-users to update and maintain them," Brin said.

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Yahoo letter to shareholders slams Microsoft, Icahn

Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and chairman Roy Bostock on Thursday sent a letter to shareholders that slams Microsoft and investor Carl Icahn, who want Yahoo to sell part or all of the company to Microsoft.

"Your Board of Directors believes strongly that the Icahn-Microsoft agenda - as presented to us jointly last week - will destroy stockholder value at Yahoo!, serving only their very narrow special interests, clearly not your interests," the statement reads in part.

The letter is the latest salvo in the months-long public drama over Microsoft's attempts to buy Yahoo. Microsoft made its first bid on 1 February. On Saturday night, Yahoo rejected a proposal calling for a restructuring and the sale of Yahoo's search business to Microsoft.

Icahn, who wants Yahoo's shareholders to replace the company's current board with a slate of candidates he prefers, "is well-known as a corporate agitator with a short-term approach to his investments," the executives' letter said. "His short-term approach gives Mr. Icahn a strong incentive to strike any deal with Microsoft that enables him to recover his investment and get back his money quickly, even a deal that does not provide full and fair value to you."

Icahn's preferred board members don't know Yahoo's business well enough to run it or "negotiate a complex restructuring," according to the latest letter.

In addition, the executives question whether Icahn can even trust Microsoft as a partner. The vendor's "flip flops and inconsistencies over the past five months are so stupefying that one can only conclude that Microsoft was never fully committed to acquiring Yahoo." Either Microsoft is unable to determine what would be the right move for its online business, or it only wants to destabilize Yahoo in order to buy it at "a bargain basement price," the letter contended.

In addition, the letter reiterated Yahoo's previous statement that it is willing to sell the entire company to Microsoft for no less than $33 a share. Yahoo is also willing to sell its search business "as long as it provides real value to our stockholders and resolves the substantial execution and operational risks associated with the separation of our search and display businesses."

Here We Go Again: Microsoft, Yahoo! in New Talks
Yahoo tells Icahn its own board knows best
Icahn and I Will: Investor Launches Yahoo! Proxy Battle

Apple opens retail store in China

Apple allowed a sneak peek at its flagship store in Beijing on Thursday, along with a glimpse of its China strategy.

The two-level store store will open July 19 in Beijing's Sanlitun entertainment district at 10am, Apple's first in China and its 219th worldwide.

"This is the first of many stores we will open in China," said Ron Johnson, Apple's senior vice president of retail, in remarks at the store. He later added that Apple will open stores "in Beijing, in Shanghai and beyond," and confirmed that another store will open in Beijing's Qianmen area, a shopping street south of Tiananmen Square that has been renovated ahead of the Olympic Games, which begin next month. Qianmen was thought to be the location for Beijing's Apple Store when it was first reported.

The store will offer Genius Bar services in Chinese and English, said John Ford, the store's manager, with support in some other languages available, including German.

 Apple opens retail store in China

Absent from the store's opening will be sales of the iPhone, either in its early 2G (second-generation telephony) version or the new 3G (third-generation telephony) model. Although negotiations between Apple and China Mobile - the world's and China's largest mobile service provider - have taken place over the last 12 months, no deal has been announced.

Apple representatives confirmed that the iPhone will be available in China but gave no date, and declined to comment on any talks with Chinese mobile operators.

The 3G iPhone, launched 11 July in the US and some Asian markets such as Japan and Hong Kong, faces a particular challenge in China. The country does not have commercial 3G service yet, and when it does, it is expected to use exclusively TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), a domestic standard current incompatible with other 3G formats.

An estimated 400,000 to 1 million of the original iPhones are in use in China, according to research firm In-Stat, despite never being officially launched here.

Located in Beijing's Sanlitun entertainment district, about 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) northeast of Tiananmen Square, the Apple Store is overshadowed by another flagship retail outlet that has given the Village in Sanlitun complex its informal name: the "Adidas mall." Whereas the sporting goods giant's emporium faces Workers Stadium North Road, one of Beijing's busiest streets, the Apple Store dominates the inner courtyard, with the storefront and a facing video screen playing the "dancing iPod" video.

Apple's presence in China has grown considerably since the introduction of the iPod in September 2001. Before then, the company was almost invisible here, except for expatriates who brought their own from home, and designers, artists and Apple fetishists who brought them from the few specialty stores that sold their products.

One major factor was applications, and specifically the lack of pirated Apple software. Computer users running Windows could easily access pirated - and therefore inexpensive --software, which could be loaded into cheap homemade PCs. Apple products were more expensive, both the software, which required the purchase of genuine editions that often had to be imported from overseas, and the hardware.

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Google tweaks Gmail to stop auto-adding contacts

Google is rolling out a change this week to Gmail that gives users more control over their contacts list.

Previously, Gmail automatically added new all new email addresses to a person's main contacts list. The feature allowed email addresses to auto-complete when a person composed a new message, which saved users from either remembering an address or needing to look it up in their contacts list.

But the auto-add feature - which couldn't be turned off - ended up stuffing a person's address book quickly, especially if a person sent a lot of one-off emails.

"We've heard from some of you that Gmail's auto-added contacts can lead to too much address book clutter," wrote Benjamin Grol, a product manager engineer, on the Gmail blog.

Google has now created a new category, "Suggested contacts," that falls under "My Contacts." Anyone who is emailed will end up in Suggested Contacts, but users now have the option of letting Gmail automatically move those addresses to their main contact list or not at all.

If the user lets Gmail decide, those addresses which a person has emailed five or more times will end up in the main contacts list. If that option is not selected, addresses in Suggested Contacts will still auto-complete, Grol wrote.

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New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

Oki’s C3600 colour printer

 New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

Oki's new C3600 colour printer uses LED printing technology to produce colour and offers mono printing that is comparable in quality to a laser printer. The C3600 measures just 29cm high, 37cm wide, and 48cm deep, but its paper tray can handle 250 sheets of A4. It can print on a variety of paper sizes and labels, including banner prints that are up to 1.2m long, making it a good choice for small businesses that need to produce posters or other eye-catching marketing materials. It costs 349.

Epson’s Stylus SX200, SX400, R2880 and S20, Stylus Pro GS6000, Business Inkjet B-500DN and the AcuLaser M4000 laser printer

 New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

Epson's Stylus SX200 and SX400 are multifunction devices designed for the home office, which combine a colour inkjet printer, scanner and copier in a single unit. Both models include a variety of memory card slots so that you can print photos straight from a digital camera without having to transfer them to your Mac first. On the scanning side, they also include Epson’s Easy Fix software for removing dust and other flaws from scanned photos, and OCR software for scanning text documents. The SX200 costs 79.99, while the SX400 adds a 6.3cm LCD display for previewing photos for 119.99.

For professional users there’s the Stylus R2880, an A3 printer priced at 569.99. The R2880 can print on a wide range of media, including CD and DVD disks, fine art paper and even certain types of cardboard. Epson has also developed a new ‘multi-image’ Photoshop plug-in for the R2880 and other large-format printers that enables you to quickly combine multiple images on a single page. The plug- in is available as a free download from

It’s not just cameras and camcorders that can do the face-detection trick. Epson’s S20 Stylus printer has the ability to detect skin tones within a photo and automatically adjust the colour settings to produce the best results. It can also detect other types of shots, such as a landscapes and skylines, and adjust the colour settings for these too. The S20 costs just 39.99, and uses individual cartridges for the various coloured inks – priced at 5.99 each – so that you only need to replace the inks that actually get used up.

Epson is also planning to release the Stylus Pro GS6000 a large format 8-colour printer designed for producing posters and signs up on a variety of materials, and up to 64in in size. The UK price has not been announced yet.

 New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

Most inkjet printers are low-cost models aimed at home users and small businesses that need a cheap colour printer. However, Epson’s new Business Inkjet B-500DN is a more powerful model aimed at business users who need high-speed colour printing.

Epson claims print speeds of up to 33 pages per minute for the B-500DN, rivalling the speed of more expensive laser printers. It also claims that the printer’s running costs are comparable to that of a laser printer too, at less than 0.5p per page for black and white printing and just 1.89 pence per page for colour. The B-500DN costs 382.

The company has also released a high-performance laser printer called the AcuLaser M4000 for larger organisations that need high-speed, high-volume printing options. Priced at around 600, the M4000 can print up to 43 pages per minute, even at its maximum 1200dpi resolution. Its twin paper trays can hold 750 sheets of paper, and it can handle a workload of 20,000 pages per month.

Canon Selphy CP770, CP760, and Pixma iP100

 New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

Canon's Selphy CP770 photo-printer folds up into a kind of bucket shape, complete with handle so that you can carry it around with you. The CP770 costs 139, and you can buy a portable battery pack for 50.

There’s also a more conventional version designed for home use called the CP760, priced at 89. Both models use dye-sublimation technology to produce photo-prints. Canon says that this makes the photos more durable than prints from conventional inkjet printers, as each print has a special coating that protects it from water splashes or fingerprint marks.

 New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

The new Pixma iP100 is a portable photo-printer designed for travelling business users, or home users who simply want a compact printer that doesn’t take up too much space. The iP100 measures 32cm wide, 18.5cm deep and 6cm high and weighs just 2kg. It has a print resolution of 9600x2400dpi resolution and Canon claims that its rechargeable battery can print up to 290 pages when fully charged. The only drawback is that the 199 price tag seems a bit steep to us.

Lexmark Z2320, Z2650 and X4650

Lexmark has turned its attention to home users and students, with three new models that aim to provide high quality printing at a competitive price.

Abandoning the rather bulky design of previous models, the new printers are more compact and have either a black or white finish. The new range starts at just 39.90 for the Z2320, which claims print speeds of up to 22 pages per minute for black and white documents, and a maximum print resolution of 4800dpi for photo-printing.

For just 10 extra you can get the Z2650, a ‘multifunction’ printer that also has a built-in scanner, copying features and OCR software (optical character recognition) for scanning text documents.

 New Products: The latest printers from Oki, Epson, Canon, and Lexmark

Finally, there’s the X4650, another multifunction model that combines printer, scanner and copier in a single unit. This one is more expensive, though, costing 129.99, as it also includes wireless networking features that allow you to share the printer with other users on your home network. This model can print at up to 25ppm, and it includes the latest 802.11n wireless technology, which means that it will work well with Apple’s Airport Extreme base stations.

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Cover Stream 2.2 is available now's Cover Stream 2.2 is available now, offering a range of significant new additions to the iTunes companion software.

Cover Stream 2.2 is an iTunes controller that extends iTunes Cover Flow to the desktop. The new version adds Jukebox mode, mouseover desktop controls, integrated lyrics support, a launcher and options to customize application behaviour and appearance.

Developed exclusively for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Cover Stream extends iTunes Cover Flow to the desktop, giving users a quick and convenient way to control, browse and search their music library - without switching applications or interrupting their work flow.

Key features include playlist filtering, keyword searches, an integrated songs browser, scrobbling, full screen mode with Apple Remote control, a status bar menu, global, fully customizable hotkeys, Apple-flavored bezels and Desktop Artwork.

"We are really thrilled by this update and think our customers will be too", says Fabian Kowalski, product manager and developer at "It adds many new exciting features and improvements, some of them frequently requested by our customers."

More information about the software, which costs €14.95, and a demo version, is available here.

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Information Commissioner slams UK gov't database plans

The Information Commissioner has slammed the UK government for creating too many large scale databases, without "sufficient openness, transparency or public debate."

On a dark day for the government's data handling, Richard Thomas also simultaneously served enforcement notices on HM Revenue & Customs for its loss of two discs containing 25 million records, and on the Ministry of Defence for losing a laptop containing the details of up to 600,000 recruits.

The news comes days after Thomas called for increased powers and better resources.

Thomas criticised government plans to launch a database of all calls and emails made in the UK as "a step too far" that would raise serious data protection concerns. When news emerged in May of the planned database, a number of figures in the IT industry told Computerworld UK they felt the move would be a mistake.

He said he understood the need for tracking the communications of terrorist suspects. But at the launch of the ICO's annual report, he added "there needs to be the fullest public debate about the justification for, and implications of" the database.

Thomas said he "welcomed" the Home Affairs Committee's report that urged the government to stop creating large databases on citizens without first proving they are necessary. "Sadly, there have been too many developments where there has not been sufficient openness, transparency or public debate," he said.

Meanwhile, Thomas served enforcement notices on HM Revenue & Customs and on the Ministry of Defence. The two government departments will have to provide regular progress reports on their compliance, and any failure to comply with the notice is a criminal offense, the ICO said.

In the enforcement notice on HMRC, Richard Thomas said "the personal data processed on the missing compact discs were excessive for the purpose for which they were processed." HMRC had also "failed to take appropriate measures to ensure the security of its data," he said. HMRC now has three years to fully comply with the Poynter Report, he said.

The Ministry of Defence was served an enforcement notice in which Thomas said that, like HMRC, the data stolen was excessive for the medium it was on, and that not enough measures had been taken to ensure security. The MoD has until 2009 to comply with the recommendations of the Burton Report, and must report to the Information Commissioner every three months on progress.

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iSuppli: iPhone 3G is $53 cheaper

iSuppli has published the most complete bill of materials for the iPhone 3G revealed so far.

iSuppli now says the device costs just $174.33 to manufacture - that's $53 less than the original device cost to make, though that the cost doesn't include development, research, marketing or software development costs.

"iSuppli believes Apple aimed for a more cost-effective design for the 3G iPhone compared to the 2G, in order to lower the retail price," says principal analyst Andrew Rassweller, "which will allow the company to seed adoption and to capture maximum market share now - while the company still has buzz and a perceived differentiation relative to its competitors."

The researchers also confirmed the inclusion of a component which should be able to support proper music streaming over Bluetooth, if only Apple were to enable this within the iPhone's software.

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Apple avoids UK iTunes price promise

Apple has elected to abandon a previous promise to lower UK iTunes prices, citing changes in currency exchange rates as its escape clause.

In January, the company had agreed to lower UK iTunes prices to match the already standardised pricing on iTunes across Europe in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain.

In response to an EU investigation, Apple was supposed lower the price it charges UK users to bring it in line with the rest of Europe. This meant that the price of an iTunes track would fall from 79p to approximately 66p, and the price change was due to take effect this month.

“This is an important step towards a pan-European marketplace for music,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, speaking at the time. “We hope every major record label will take a pan-European view of pricing.”

Fluctuations in the currency market now mean both prices come in at around the same, meaning no price cut is necessary, Apple claims.

"The announcement was that we would match the UK price to that of other lower priced European countries," an Apple spokesman said. "This is no longer necessary as exchange rates have effectively done it for us."

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