Major tech firms including Google, Facebook and Microsoft have teamed together to fight email phishing scams. Members say the partnership will lead to better email security and protect users and tech brands from fraudulent messages.
The group, which calls itself DMARC – for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance — says it wants to help reduce email abuse by standardizing how email receivers perform authentication. Now, email senders will get consistent authentication results for their messages at Gmail, Hotmail, AOL and any other email receiver using DMARC.
Email phishing scams are messages designed to trick recipients into providing personal information by replying to the messages or clicking on links. The emails look like they come from a legitimate sender, often featuring brand logos and mimicking the format and language of authentic messages.
With the rise of social media and e-commerce sites, spammers and phishers have "a tremendous financial incentive" to compromise user accounts, leading to theft of passwords, bank account information and credit card numbers, DMARC said.
"Email is easy to spoof and criminals have found spoofing to be a proven way to exploit user trust of well-known brands," the group said. "Simply inserting the logo of a well-known brand into an email gives it instant legitimacy with many users."
Other companies involved in DMARC include Bank of America, LinkedIn, PayPal and Yahoo.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Screen shot of the companies involved in DMARC. Credit: DMARC
His exit wasn't a surprise, according to AllThingsD, which said Rubinstein — a former Apple executive who helped develop the iPod — hadn't been seen at HP's offices in months.
After former HP CEO Leo Apotheker announced last year that the company was going to stop making WebOS-based hardware, Rubinstein's role appeared to be reduced and he was assigned to a "product innovation role" that AllThingsD said was a move intended to "lessen its PR impact when he finally left."
The tech blog quoted Rubinstein as saying he was going to take a "well-deserved break after four-and-a-half years of developing WebOS."
An engineer by training, Rubinstein left Apple in 2006 and later joined private equity firm Elevation Partners, a major investor in smartphone maker Palm. In June 2009 he replaced Ed Colligan as Palm's chief executive.
PalmOS was replaced by WebOS, which was used on several Palm devices and on HP's TouchPad tablet. This week, HP released a timeline for making its WebOS platform open source, with the goal of completing the process by September.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Jon Rubinstein at CES in Las Vegas in 2010. Credit: Michelle Maltais / Los Angeles Times
On Thursday, the city devoted much of its annual State of the City address to promoting the tech community, with Mayor Richard Bloom declaring: "Today we are not just Santa Monica, but Silicon Beach and the Tech Coast." (In an unofficial vote later, hundreds in attendance overwhelmingly threw their support to the Silicon Beach name.)
"Our technology-qualified workforce, creative workplaces and leading broadband infrastructure will keep our economy well-positioned for future growth," Bloom said.
After the mayor's address and a short video touting the rise of tech companies in Santa Monica, Jason Nazar, who is chief executive and co-founder of local start-up Docstoc.com and has become one of the main boosters of Silicon Beach, moderated a panel of people connected to the tech scene.
The group — Paige Craig, CEO of start-up BetterWorks; David Travers of venture capital firm Rustic Canyon Partners; Chui Tsang, president of Santa Monica College and Keith Klein of law firm Bryan Cave -– discussed the region's success so far and what needs to happen here in order for the tech community to thrive, such as partnerships with local schools, financial resources and other incentives.
Travers said the "critical issue" was getting a future tech powerhouse to stay put in Santa Monica and “be the tent pole around which many other companies will blossom."
"The next Facebook or Amazon or Google or what have you — the next multibillion-dollar great company needs to not only come out of here but needs to be able to stay here," he said. "Once a company starts getting big it needs a larger campus, you have a lot of MBAs sitting around thinking about how to optimize tax policy…. Santa Monica needs to be ready for when one of these companies takes off."
Tsang said he hoped tech employers would be "a little more active, a little more pushy with us in letting us know what it is they’re looking for" so the college can make sure its curriculum is relevant.
And despite the Silicon Beach name, the region needs to develop its own tech identity, Travers said.
"We compare ourselves a lot to Silicon Valley. I think we have to stop obsessively benchmarking ourselves against that," he said. "We need to stop acting like the little brother who’s always comparing themselves and just be ourselves."
– Andrea Chang
Photo: (Left to right) David Travers, Paige Craig, Chui Tsang, Keith Klein and Jason Nazar discuss Santa Monica's tech start-up scene during a panel discussion. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times
Hewlett-Packard, which announced last month that it would make its WebOS available to the open-source community, said Wednesday that the platform's full source code would be released to the public by September and gave a timeline for when it would release individual elements.
On Wednesday, the Palo Alto tech company released version 2.0 of WebOS's developer tool, Enyo, "giving the open-source community immediate access" to the application framework for WebOS.
Enyo 2.0 enables developers to write a single application that works across mobile devices and desktop Web browsers from the WebOS, iOS and Android platforms to Internet Explorer and Firefox.
"This is a decisive step toward meeting our goal of accelerating the platform's development and ensuring that its benefits will be delivered to the entire ecosystem of Web applications," Bill Veghte, HP's executive vice president and chief strategy officer, said in a statement.
The WebOS code will be made available under the Apache License, Version 2.0, beginning with the source code for Enyo.
Other individual elements of the WebOS source code, such as core applications like mail and calendar as well as its Linux kernel, will be made available until the full code base is contributed to the open-source community in the fall, HP said.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An HP TouchPad tablet running apps on the WebOS operating system. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
The Marina del Rey start-up (which will soon move to Culver City) is the latest newcomer to the rapidly growing flash sale marketplace, which includes One Kings Lane, Fab.com, Gilt and Rue La La. The site offers two new approaches to the usual for-members-only, limited-time sales: concierge buying and group buying.
With concierge buying, LuxeYard members can request items they'd like to purchase at a discounted price. The most popular product will be voted up and LuxeYard will then source either the exact product "or one known to be comparable or even higher quality," the company said.
Group Buy allows members to push prices down on certain items by using social media and networks to encourage others to purchase that product. The price is driven down if the product receives enough buzz. Everyone who purchases the Group Buy item will pay the final lowest price.
Chief Executive Braden Richter said the company was evolving the concept of flash sales by putting the sourcing and pricing of goods in the hands of consumers.
Flash sales were "originally designed to liquidate inventory; it was sort of born out of 2009," he said at a launch party Tuesday night at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. "I think a lot of the current flash sale companies are now trying to figure out what to do. We've come into it at a perfect time to create this next generation."
Like other flash sale sites, LuxeYard features a community of design professionals and stylists, dubbed trendsetters, who offer product recommendations and other advice. Trendsetters include Nicky Hilton; Daniella Clarke, founder of Frankie B Jeans; and designer Faye Resnick.
The site is free to join and launched with $3.5 million in financing from private investors; about 185,000 people had already signed up during the site's pre-launch beta phase. On Tuesday, LuxeYard averaged about five new members a minute, Richter said.
The company has about 30 employees and offers luxury home furnishings — including furniture, textiles, cookware and lamps — at 70% off retail. LuxeYard doesn't hold inventory or operate warehouses; instead, manufacturers ship products directly to consumers.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Screen shot of LuxeYard's home page. Credit: LuxeYard
The Manhattan Beach start-up provides a suite of tools to help users capture the "entire life-cycle of group events," including invites and RSVPs, group texting, instant photo-sharing in real time and archiving.
During a demo for The Times, co-founders Cyrus Farudi, who is chief executive, and Omri Cohen, who is chief technology officer, said they were trying to create a central location for events that would enable participants to better plan and share their experiences together. Before Capsule, they said, the process was much more disjointed — for instance, receiving an invite through Evite, texting friends individually before and tweeting during the event, and checking each participant's individual Facebook accounts afterward to see photos.
"No one has that complete solution over the marketplace, and I think that's one thing that sets us apart," said Farudi, formerly of Flipswap. Capsule "solves the event life-cycle management problem."
Farudi, 31, and Cohen, 29, said they came up with the idea after having to attend 14 weddings and nine bachelor parties in one year. Founded less than a year ago, the start-up is angel-funded and joins a fast-growing group of emerging tech companies in the Los Angeles area, which some people have dubbed Silicon Beach.
On Friday, a day after Capsule was released to the public, Farudi declined to say how many people had joined but said the launch was "going really well." Capsule can be found at www.trycapsule.com.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Screen shot of Capsule's home page. Credit: Capsule
U.S. online advertising spending is expected to grow 23.3% to $39.5 billion this year, pushing it ahead of total advertising spending in print newspapers and magazines, according to an eMarketer report.
Meanwhile, print advertising spending is expected to fall to $33.8 billion in 2012 from $36 billion last year, the market research company said.
"Advertisers' comfort level with integrated marketing is greater than ever, and this is helping more advertisers — and more large brands — put a greater share of dollars online," said David Hallerman, eMarketer's principal analyst.
The 2012 estimates come after a robust year for U.S. advertising in 2011. eMarketer said online ad spending grew 23% to $32.03 billion last year while total ad spending rose 3.4% to $158.9 billion.
The market research company said firms are funneling more advertising money online because of the growing amount of time that consumers spend with digital platforms and advertisers' view of the Internet as a more measurable medium, especially as the soft economy "forces businesses to be more accountable with their ad dollars."
Overall, total media ad spending in the U.S. is expected to grow an estimated 6.7% to $169.48 billion this year, boosted by the elections and summer Olympics in London, eMarketer said.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Print versus online advertising spending. Credit: eMarketer
"We understand that this decision will cause many of the fans disappointment, but please forgive us as there is no other alternative unless to have the blessing from Steve Jobs family," In Icons said in a rambling statement on its website, which features quotes from Jobs and numerous images of the doll prototype. "We will aim to have full refund to the fans who have pre-ordered."
In Icons had been taking pre-orders of the 12-inch doll, which cost $100 and came with "one realistic head sculpt and two pairs of glasses," "one highly articulate body and three pairs of hands," one black turtleneck, one pair of blue jeans and two apples — one with a bite taken out of it.
The company had planned to start shipping the dolls in February and said on its website that it was running out of stock.
In the statement announcing the company's decision to not offer the doll, In Icons said the figurine was adjusted "countless times" to achieve the Apple visionary's likeness. The company said making the doll was a tribute to Jobs.
"Regardless of the pressure, I am still Steve's fan, I fully respect Steve and his family, and it is definitely not my wish or intention that they be upset," said the statement, which was signed "inicons.com." "Though we still believe that we have not overstepped any legal boundaries, we have decided to completely stop the offer, production and sale of the Steve Jobs figurine out of our heartfelt sensitivity to the feelings of the Jobs family."
– Andrea Chang
Image: A screenshot showing In Icons' Steve Jobs doll. Credit: In Icons
Zappos.com, the popular online shoe site, was the victim of a cyber attack by a hacker who gained access to part of the company's internal network through one of its servers, Chief Executive Tony Hsieh said in an email to employees Sunday.
Hsieh said the Henderson, Nev., company was cooperating with law enforcement to undergo "an exhaustive investigation" and that the database that stores customers' credit card and other payment data was not affected or accessed.
"We've spent over 12 years building our reputation, brand, and trust with our customers. It's painful to see us take so many steps back due to a single incident," Hsieh said in a separate email to customers. "Over the next day or so, we will be training everyone on the specifics of how to best help our customers through their password change process now that their passwords have been reset and expired. We need all hands on deck to help get through this."
The company said it would notify the more than 24 million customer accounts in its database about the incident and provide instructions on how to choose a new password; the company has already reset and expired existing passwords.
In the email to shoppers, Zappos said customers' personal information — including their name, email address, billing and shipping addresses, phone number, the last four digits of their credit card number and/or the cryptographically scrambled password on their account — may have been compromised.
"In order to service as many customer inquiries as possible, we will be asking all employees at our headquarters, regardless of department, to help with assisting customers," Hsieh said. "We have made the hard decision to temporarily turn off our phones and direct customers to contact us by email because our phone systems simply aren't capable of handling so much volume."
The company is directing customer concerns and questions to an internal Web page.
Zappos, which sells shoes and has since expanded to other retail categories, was bought by Amazon.com in 2009. The company has become known for its customer service and for its quirky company culture led by Hsieh — including head-shaving events, impromptu parades around the cubicles and employee birthday pranks.
– Andrea Chang
Top photo: Zappos' company headquarters in 2010. Credit: Isaac Brekken / For The Times
Lower photo: Zappos Chief Executive Tony Hsieh. Credit: Isaac Brekken / For The Times
Eliza Dushku served as the official celebrity ambassador for the Entertainment Matters program at the Consumer Electronics Show this week.
We caught up with the actress — known for playing Faith on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and roles in movies including "Bring It On" — at the Wynn in Las Vegas, where she was hosting Spike TV's VIP CES party at Tryst nightclub. Her gig as ambassador was intended to promote the relationship between the tech and entertainment industries.
"You're seeing kids that watch all their programming on iPhones or whatever smartphones they have," Dushku said. "So it's important that we're on top of that."
Dushku said she planned to walk the show floor with her boyfriend, former Laker Rick Fox, and wanted to check out the 4K and 8K televisions. "I remember last year going home [from CES] and looking at my own televisions and feeling like it was completely Stone Age," she said.
Calling herself a bit of a techie, Dushku, who has done voice work for video games in the past, rattled off a long list of her favorite tech products, including her BlackBerry and iPad. But her No. 1 item is her Bug Vac, the kind you buy from those SkyMall airline shopping magazines, she said.
"If a bug's on the wall, you extend the telescope-y thing and you suck the bug and it pulls it in and it fries it on a little metal plate," she said. "I love that thing. I can't live without it."
And it works?
"Oh, full on, you smell the bugs burning on the plate," she said. "Sorry, but better than crawling up my face."
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Photo: Eliza Dushku at Tryst nightclub at the Wynn in Las Vegas during the Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times
When Google TV first launched a little more than a year ago, it had few hardware partners and failed to resonate with a wide consumer market. But the technology was back at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, with major tech companies promoting the software and saying its time had come.
"You've got to reorient customers to look at TVs as an actual smart device, as a device just like a tablet or a PC or a phone," said Matthew McRae, chief technology officer at Vizio, during an interview with The Times. "It takes a little bit of time, but I think that bridge has been crossed."
At CES in Las Vegas this week, Vizio was showcasing its 65-inch, 55-inch and 47-inch V.I.A. Plus HDTVs with Theater 3D; the VBR430 Blu-ray player; and the VAP430 stream player — all of which incorporate Google TV's 2.0 platform. V.I.A. stands for Vizio Internet Apps.
The V.I.A. Plus experience features an app-centric interface on every device, "making it easy for consumers to understand and navigate as they move between devices," the company said in a news release. Users can also access thousands of apps from the Android Market.
McRae said the company was encouraged by the advances in the second generation of Google TV, saying the earlier version of the software "missed on the simplicity front."
"When people sit down at a TV, it's got to be intuitive, it's got to be a few button clicks to whatever you're looking for," McRae said. "If you make it any more complex than that, they'll just give up…. So the user interface I think is actually more challenging to get right on a TV than it is on a tablet or PC."
The prospects for Google TV — which combines traditional television, the Internet, apps and search capabilities — are growing rapidly among developers, who are rolling out thousands of apps built specifically for televisions.
Vizio was especially excited to show off its new VAP430 stream player with Google TV, a media player that turns any HDTV into an enhanced V.I.A. Plus smart TV. Vizio's stream player, a small black box about the size of a wallet, features built-in HDMI ports that let users connect existing components like gaming consoles or set-top boxes for unified access to all media sources through the V.I.A. Plus touchpad remote. It also supports 3-D content and 3-D streaming.
Vizio officials said the stream player was expected to be released in the first half of the year, but declined to say how much the device would cost. Sales of stream players are poised to pass Blu-ray players in unit volume sales by 2013, Vizio said, making the devices the "perfect solution" for media multitaskers.
LG is also showing off sets with Google TV software that will launch in the U.S. in the first half of 2012 and later for the rest of the world. Among LG's Google TV offerings will be a 55-inch model, and each Google TV set from LG will include a "magic remote" with a built-in keyboard.
Google TV will run on LG's TVs alongside its Smart TV platform unveiled last year. Since last year's CES, LG said it had added more than 1,200 apps to its Smart TV offerings.
Sony too heavily hyped its Google TV products at CES and said it was expanding its line of devices that included the software.
The tech giant said it was rolling out two new set-top boxes powered by Google TV — one connected Blu-ray disc player and one Network Media Player. Enhanced features include access to the Android Market as well as a redesigned remote control for improved functionality, new linkage with the Sony Entertainment Network platform and a new mobile device interface that allows consumers to use smartphones and tablets as a content source.
"As a result more consumers will be able to enjoy multiple content sources from broadcast to streaming video and various apps through one easy-to-use seamless interface by connecting to any HDTV," Sony executive Kaz Hirai said during the company's CES news conference.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Upper photo: A Vizio HDTV shows off Google TV software, with live television and a panel of apps sharing space on the screen. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Lower photo: Vizio's VAP430 stream player with Google TV, a media player that turns any HDTV into an enhanced smart TV. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
50 Cent’s branding empire already includes energy shots, cologne and books, but his latest products are all about the music.
The rapper was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week to promote his new line of headphones: the wireless Sync by 50, the wired Street by 50 and the soon-to-be-released Street by 50 wired ear buds.
The audio products, he told The Times during an interview at the Las Vegas Convention Center, are “an extension of my passion for music.”
“I’ll spend 30 or 40 minutes when I’m really inspired and have an idea, and the song will be done. And then we’ll spend a week making sure it sounds right afterwards,” he said. ”Then to have it go out to the general public and them listen to it on things that don’t actually allow them to hear it with the same qualities –- not so cool. So I want to try to be a part of [how] they consume it the right way. And maybe they’ll feel like I’m as good as I think I am, when they hear it that way.”
Both headphones are already available in stores and online after a soft launch during the holiday season.
The $400 Sync by 50, which 50 Cent was wearing around his neck during our interview as “a fashion statement,” promises to give users “crystal-clear wireless sound” up to 50 feet away and the ability to sync as many as four pairs of headphones to a single audio source. The headphones are professionally tuned and feature 40-mm drivers, 16-bit lossless digital sound and on-board controls with bass boost, volume control and mute.
The Street by 50 headphones are priced at $300 and feature professional studio sound, enhanced bass, soft memory foam cushions, passive noise cancellation and a detachable cord.
The ear buds, expected to be launched later this year, have a professionally tuned 11-mm driver and an ergonomically designed Apple control mic with volume control and reinforced cables. The wires on the ear buds are flat, which 50 Cent said prevented tangling. They are expected to cost $130.
The products are made by 50 Cent’s SMS Audio; he created the company and is its chief executive. Down the line, he said, SMS Audio will expand its offerings to include home audio systems, professional audio equipment, speakers, iPod docks and DJ headsets.
“I love music,” he said. “Why would I not want to make the best possible way to hear it?”
The celebrity headphone market has taken off in recent years, led by the Beats by Dr. Dre line. Dr. Dre was in Las Vegas for CES, as were Ludacris and “Jersey Shore” star Snooki — both of them hyping headphones.
50 Cent signed autographs for fans Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at CES and said he was excited to check out the latest technology at the trade show.
“My girlfriend, in my office, she’s a massage chair. She doesn’t talk much, she just works,” he said. “And I’m interested to go see what the new version of that does.”
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Photo: 50 Cent wears a pair of his Sync by 50 headphones at CES in Las Vegas. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times
LL Cool J wanted to make one thing clear at the Consumer Electronics Show this week: He’s got a new product, and it’s not a line of celebrity headphones.
Instead, the rapper-actor wanted to talk about the Boomdizzle Virtual Recording Studio, which he said eliminated the need for an artist and his or her team to be in the same place to record music. LL Cool J co-founded Boomdizzle, an online community for artists, in 2008.
“The problem was: I’m in L.A.; my producer or my engineer’s in New York. I want to go in the studio tonight, but I want to collaborate,” LL Cool J said at a press gathering at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “I don’t want to email you my track and then you email me back your bass line, then I email you back a vocal and then you email me back a drum and then we email back and forth and back and forth.”
The Virtual Recording Studio provides the digital production, mixing and sound tools for artists to create music, LL Cool J said. To demonstrate the technology, he recorded a song Tuesday in front of an audience at CES while his engineer was in New York.
The platform will be completely Web-based and feature a “simple, accessible user interface,” he said. Users will be able to upload tracks and see each other over a video chat feature. He noted that the Virtual Recording Studio was not just for professional musicians, but for casual users as well — such as friends who wanted to get together online and sing karaoke.
“I think that that basically revolutionizes the world of music,” he said. ”If LL Cool J was 16, 17 years old and I was just starting out, I think I would grow vampire teeth to sink my teeth into this product.”
When the software launches, LL Cool J said, part of it will be free, another part will be pay-as-you-go and yet another portion will be subscription based. “I want to make sure that as many people have access to it as possible, and I also want to make sure that it does well as a business.”
The initial launch of the technology will be by invitation only.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Photo: LL Cool J announces Boomdizzle’s Virtual Recording Studio at CES. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times
Like many celebrities, Robert Horry is at the Consumer Electronics Show this week to help promote a tech company. Problem is, when we sat down with him Tuesday to chat about Haier America, basketball's Big Shot Rob conceded he hadn't yet seen the appliance brand's latest products.
In fact, he says he's not much of a techie.
"I try to keep my life as simple as possible," he said. "[If] I get all this high-tech, I'm going to buy more stuff and more stuff."
No matter. The affable former Laker, who won three of his seven championships with the team, was happy to talk generally about the brand, which is a sponsor for the NBA, and his hopes for his partnership with the company: "Haier has a lot of good products, and I'm just trying to get in good with the family so they can remodel my kitchen," he joked.
He was also eager to chat about his basketball days, saying he still keeps in touch with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. Although he's a Lakers fan, he said he sees challenges ahead for the team this year, including "a lot of young cats on their team," tough competition from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, and leftover issues from the trade drama at the start of the season.
"I just think sometimes, with the way the season started out with them and all the turmoil and the guys being traded and them trading guys and trades not going through, you put a wall up as a player," he said. "Even though you go out there and play, it's still not the same because in the back of your mind, you always got that fear of being traded, so you don't play as well."
These days, Horry works as a sports commentator and lives in Houston — though he noted that "everybody thinks I live in L.A."
"L.A. is just too expensive for me," he said. "That's one thing about me: I'm from the South and I'm cheap."
Horry said he goes to a lot of Houston Rockets games now that he's retired and has free time. "I try to keep my face in there just in case one day I want to try to venture into the coaching realm or the GM realm or something of that nature," he said. "I'm waiting for my son to turn 13 and go to high school, and then I want to get back into it."
But back to tech: Horry, who has attended CES a number of times in the past, said he loves coming to the show to see what new products are coming out. "My favorite part is going to booths and coming home with a bag of stuff," he said.
One device he won't be going home with: a 3-D television.
"I can't watch 3-D. It gives me a headache," he said. "I just saw a guy with a 3-D camera and that was cool, but after looking at it for 2, 3 seconds, my head started to hurt."
But Horry said he loves watching television shows — "The Closer" is a top choice — and has three Apple TVs in his home. As expected, he said Haier's TVs "are great." His favorite model?
"The big ones," he said. "The thing about them is they're slim and you can put them anywhere. Right now, I'm working on getting one to put in my bathroom. Sometimes you like to sit back and take a nice bubble bath and watch NBA TV."
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Remember Cher's virtual closet from "Clueless," the one that helped the fashionable teen choose her outfits by digitally placing the clothes on an image of her body? Now you can have a better version of it.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this week, a Calabasas company was giving demonstrations of Swivel, a real-time virtual dressing room that takes a lot of the hassle out of shopping — no more long waits in the fitting room line loaded down with an armful of clothes, or the tedious process of getting dressed and undressed several times during one trip to the mall.
To use the Swivel system, which works by utilizing motion-sensing technology, stand a few feet in front of a webcam or Microsoft Kinect device. A live image of yourself will appear on a connected television or computer screen, along with a selection of categories like clothing, jewelry and handbags.
Select a category — say, dresses — by waving your hand over it. A lineup of gowns will appear on the right-hand panel; another wave of the arm selects the dress you want to try on and digitally overlays it over the live image of yourself.
Turn to the side and the dress will move with you; the product takes into account your unique body type, and items appear to be form-fitting. You can layer accessories onto the look by selecting necklaces and belts, or change the background image to a red carpet or city scene to put the look into context. The Swivel system also gives users outfit recommendations and enables them to send an image of the final look to their friends for approval.
FaceCake Marketing Technologies, which created Swivel using proprietary software, hopes the system will be used by retailers, in malls and at home.
FaceCake recently did a mall tour in Southern California to debut the system to shoppers. The average shopper tried on 66% of the items available, or about 45 products, far more than he or she would typically try on in a physical dressing room, said FaceCake Chief Executive Linda Smith.
"It's a virtual dressing room that makes things easy," she said during a demo for The Times at CES in Las Vegas. "It really puts the whole store in a little six-foot area."
With retailers' merchandise selections changing daily, Smith said the Swivel system would update its merchandise content regularly to give users the most up-to-date products.
Swivel will be available later this year for consumers for in-home use and FaceCake is in discussions with a national mall operator to put Swivel in shopping centers, Smith said. A handful of retailers, including Banana Republic and Nordstrom, signed on for the mall tour, allowing their merchandise to be featured in the system.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
There are many things you can count on at the Consumer Electronics Show every year: a crushing mass of humanity; enough tech swag to open a retail store; and the oft-repeated line, "This will really take technology to the next level." Just as predictable: a slew of scheduled and surprise appearances by Hollywood celebs touting their own products (typically headphones) or partnerships with tech companies.
Unfortunately Lady Gaga — who showed up at CES 2011 sporting a black veil and light pink hair — won't be at the Las Vegas Convention Center this year, but there won't be a shortage of stars. Here's a look at who has shown up so far and who's scheduled to appear in the coming days:
Justin Timberlake made a surprise appearance at the Panasonic news conference on Monday to hype the brand's partnership with MySpace. In announcing a new MySpace app for televisions, the actor and singer said he hoped to make the television experience more social. "This is the evolution of one of our greatest inventions," he said.
Sony had a few surprise guests on Monday as well, bringing out Will Smith during its media event after giving reporters a 3-D sneak peek of Smith's summer blockbuster, "Men in Black 3." Sony Corp. Chairman Howard Stringer closed the event by having Kelly Clarkson sing an acoustic version of "Mr. Know It All" on stage.
50 Cent is promoting his new music company, SMS Audio, and a line of wireless and wired headphones. "It offers something that a lot of the other headset companies that are out right now don't have," he told me during an interview Tuesday. "It's an extension of my passion for music." The rapper will be signing autographs Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.
LL Cool J introduced Boomdizzle, an online community he created that enables people to record, share and remix original music and video content. "If LL Cool J was 16, 17 years old and I was just starting out, I think I would grow vampire teeth to sink my teeth into this product because I think it's absolutely amazing," he said at a media gathering Tuesday.
Actress Eliza Dushku is at CES as a celebrity ambassador for the Entertainment Matters program, which aims to bridge the tech industry and Hollywood's film, television and digital community. As part of her ambassadorship, Dushku hosted Spike TV's VIP CES party on Tuesday at Tryst nightclub at the Wynn. During an interview, Dushku said she was excited to walk the show floor the next day and check out the 4K televisions.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of MTV's "Jersey Shore" signed autographs and promoted a slew of audio products at iHip’s booth on Tuesday. She later hosted an iHip party at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.
Fitness guru Jillian Michaels chatted about the marriage of tech and fitness on Tuesday and discussed the effect of digital innovation and her recent partnership with BodyMedia, an on-body monitor company.
Haier America hosted former Laker Robert Horry at its booth Tuesday and will have former NBA star John Salley on Wednesday to drum up publicity for the appliances brand. Oddly enough, when I asked Horry what his favorite tech product was, he said: "Apple TV."
Actor Greg Grunberg and actor and singer Wayne Brady are scheduled to appear Wednesday at OnStar for "Tweet House" sessions, the official social media track for CES.
Justin Bieber is set to appear with TOSY Robotics; the teen pop star is expected to help TOSY unveil its new entertainment robot on Wednesday afternoon.
Dennis Rodman is scheduled to be at Paltalk's booth on Thursday to promote the service, which allows users to explore the online world of chat sites with community chat rooms and webcam technology.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Upper photo: 50 Cent wears a pair of his new headphones at CES in Las Vegas. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times
Lower photo: Eliza Dushku on the red carpet at Tryst nightclub. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times
It's all fun and games for one company at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
Seattle's Discovery Bay Games wanted to combine the modern iPad with the old-school arcade experience to give gamers the best of both worlds. The end result: Atari Arcade, a $60 console featuring a joystick and four push buttons that connects with an iPad or iPad 2, enabling users to play classic games such as Centipede, Pong and Asteroids using the tablet as a screen but the console as the controls.
"I think what people were missing was that real tactile experience of having the joystick and the buttons, because on the touchscreen you kind of lose the feeling," Discovery Bay Games spokeswoman Natalie Dent said. The tech and gaming company was giving demos of the device Monday at Digital Experience, a consumer electronics media event held in Las Vegas the night before the official opening of CES.
Created through a partnership with Apple and Atari, the Atari Arcade was released at Target, Toys R Us and Apple stores during the holiday season last year and was a bestseller for Discovery Bay Games, Dent said.
Consumers who buy the device have to download the Atari Greatest Hits app to their tablets to play the games; $9.99 gets you 99 classic arcade games.
Discovery Bay Games also released two other iPad-compatible devices, which the company calls "appcessories" on its website, over the holidays: the Duo Pop, a set of remote "poppers" (they look a bit like asthma inhalers) that operate as wireless game buzzers; and Duo Plink, a device geared toward younger children that sits on top of an iPad and acts as a scoring machine.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Sports fans are familiar with the yellow first-down line that appears on the television screen while watching football games, but tech companies now want to bring augmented reality technology to everyday consumers.
Known as AR, augmented reality is a view of a physical, real-world environment that is altered by overlaying the image with digital photos, videos or text.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday, Autonomy — a tech company that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard last year — was showing off its AR platform, Aurasma. Lauren Offers, director of marketing at Autonomy, held her business card in one hand and used her iPhone's camera to point at the card with her other hand. On the screen of the iPhone, a video of the rep appeared in which she introduced herself. Later, Offers pointed her phone at a physical copy of GQ magazine; that issue's articles and photos began appearing on the smartphone's screen over the live image of the magazine's cover.
With AR technology, a consumer simply uses a camera-equipped smartphone or tablet to point at an object to get information — aim at a jar of pasta sauce, and recommendations for what kinds of wine to pair it with will appear over the real-life image of the jar; point to a house for sale, and information about its asking price, number of bedrooms and contact info will pop up on the screen.
Aurasma's technology "allows smart devices to see, recognize and understand real-life images and objects in much the same way as the human brain does," the company said in a news release. "Aurasma then uses this fundamental understanding of the real world to seamlessly augment the scene with virtual content such as videos, animations and 3-D objects called 'auras.' No bar codes, visual tags or special glasses are required for Aurasma to work."
Autonomy has already tagged thousands of buildings in London with AR technology. If you're standing outside Buckingham Palace and point your smart device at it, for instance, dinosaurs will appear to come out of the building. The company has also tagged everyday items such as a $20 bill — point your phone or tablet at the image of the White House on the back and its elements will come to life: the building appears to turn white, the little flag grows in size, the numbers wiggle and appear to float.
"It's changing the way we access information," said Tamara Roukaerts, head of marketing for Aurasma. "You blend off-line and online: this is the beginning of the outernet; it's actually woven into the real world. And that's how you want your information."
In a recent Times article, my colleague Shan Li wrote that about 6 million AR apps were downloaded in 2010, according to ABI Research — still a small fraction of the overall app market. But the number is projected to increase to 19 million downloads in 2011 and balloon to nearly a billion by 2016. The firm forecasts the mobile AR industry will see $3 billion in global revenue by 2016, up from $87 million this year and $21 million in 2010.
More than 2 million users have downloaded Aurasma and Aurasma-enabled apps since its launch six months ago. The Aurasma app is available for free on the iPhone3GS, 4, 4S, iPad2 and Android devices.
Aurasma will be competing in the final of the CES Mobile Apps Showdown at the Wynn on Thursday.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
"It underscores just the magnitude of this marketplace," said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Assn. "When you're talking about a market of 3 1/2 billion people that all want TVs, that all want phones, that's a huge market opportunity…. I don't know when we're going to hit $2 trillion, but with the pace of growth in these emerging economies, it probably won't take long."
As people around the world buy more tech gadgets, the industry is entering the second phase of the digital revolution. Consumers should expect the newest devices to become even more seamless in their lives; tech companies will be keenly focused on rolling out new smartphones and tablets that are multifunctional and can replace old-school products (sorry, camcorders).
Those findings were shared in two back-to-back news conferences Sunday during the media preview day at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the first on the state of the industry and trends to look out for at CES, and the second on global market figures.
Tech experts told an overflow crowd of reporters — nearly all of them clicking away on laptops and tablets and snapping photos on their smartphones — that they expected slower growth in tech spending in developed countries like the U.S. but an explosion of spending in countries such as China and Brazil. One "sweet spot" in emerging markets will be low-cost smartphones; LCD televisions are also expected to do well.
Among the big trends expected to be seen at CES include devices that are geared more toward personalization and customization, said Shawn Dubravac, the Consumer Electronics Assn.'s chief economist and director of research.
He said he expected to see 20,000 new products launched during this year's show, one of the world's largest consumer electronics trade shows. Many of the products will be smartphones, and phone makers will be aiming to make the "pocketable devices more and more like full-fledged computers," Dubravac said.
Also expected at CES: 30 to 50 new ultrabooks, or super-thin and light laptops, as PC makers try to take share away from Apple's popular MacBook Air.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Photo: An ice sculpture at CES Unveiled at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
The research lab is "further growing the company's commitment to make technology affordable for millions," the Dearborn, Mich., automaker said in a statement. Ford said its future "is not just about building cars" but also about creating "uncompromised personal mobility experiences for people around the world."
The lab will be used as a hub to help Ford develop partnerships with established and start-up tech firms and with universities in the area, such as Stanford.
Ford Research and Innovation, the company's advanced engineering arm, plans to open the Silicon Valley lab in the first quarter. Some of the tech areas it will tackle there are seamless connectivity, cloud computing and clean tech. The lab will create an "innovation network," connecting to Ford's Advanced Design Studio in Irvine and to Ford employees working with connectivity-platform partner Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash.
"Silicon Valley represents a deep and dynamic technology neighborhood and is far from Dearborn," said K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for open innovation with Ford Research and Innovation. "With so many opportunities and so much potential, our new lab will allow us to scout new technologies and partners in their own environment and continue our expansion beyond the traditional automaker mindset to drive innovation."
The research lab's employees will include some local recruits and some people rotated in from the global network of Ford workers. Prasad said Ford's Silicon Valley office would not duplicate or replace the work being done at the company's Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn or at its overseas facilities in Germany and China.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally is scheduled to elaborate on the areas of focus for the Silicon Valley lab.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Ford is increasing its West Coast presence with the opening of a research lab in Silicon Valley. Credit: Ford
Samsung, Sharp and five other LCD makers have agreed to a $553-million multi-state settlement over allegations the firms illegally conspired to inflate prices for liquid crystal displays used in televisions and computer monitors. California was one of the states included in the settlement.
Kathleen Foote, California's senior assistant attorney general, said consumers and government entities in the state would receive "a significant portion" of the settlement, with an exact percentage still to be determined.
The companies — Chimei Innolux Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Epson Imaging Devices Corp., HannStar Display Corp., Hitachi Displays Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. and Sharp Corp., and their U.S. affiliates — agreed to pay more than $538 million to settle antitrust claims brought on behalf of consumers, government entities and other public entities by a group of eight attorneys general and private class-action attorneys, according to the New York attorney general's office.
Separately, five of the tech companies agreed to pay more than $14 million to settle other claims brought by the states in their law enforcement capacities. The corporations also agreed to engage in antitrust compliance programs and to cooperate with the states' ongoing prosecution of other industry participants.
According to the complaint, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers of thin film transistor LCD panels, together with their U.S. affiliates, engineered a conspiracy to fix prices of the panels. Tens of millions of products are estimated to have been sold at inflated prices.
Under the agreements, the companies will pay up to $37 million to compensate government and other public entities for damages resulting from the purchase of thin film transistor LCD panels. Up to $501 million will be available for partial refunds to consumers residing in 24 states and the District of Columbia who purchased products containing thin film transistor panels from Jan. 1, 1999, through Dec. 31, 2006. A notice of how to file for partial refunds will be provided to the public at a later date.
"This price-fixing scheme manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics," New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman said in a statement.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: A customer shops for flat-panel televisions at a Best Buy in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Amazon is rolling out another holiday promotion, offering shoppers free one-day shipping on thousands of items starting Saturday.
The latest offer follows the Internet retailer's controversial holiday promotion last week, when it gave shoppers up to $15 for using its price check app in a bricks-and-mortar store and then buying that item from Amazon.
That offer led several retail groups and a senator to lash out at the e-commerce giant, accusing it of using physical stores as showrooms.
The shipping promotion — which includes cameras, diamond earrings, video games and laptops – ends Wednesday. Amazon will apply the shipping discount at checkout after customers add a qualifying product to their shopping carts and select One-Day Shipping.
Also this week, Amazon announced it was extending the order deadline for free "Super Saver Shipping," guaranteeing that orders placed by Dec. 19 will arrive in time for Christmas. After that, shoppers will have to select faster delivery options for orders to arrive by the holiday.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An Amazon fulfillment center in Phoenix during last year's holiday season. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press
The for-members-only shoe club has been spun off from Nordstrom-owned HauteLook as a separate company, company officials said.
Based in Los Angeles, Sole Society was launched in March as a sister brand to HauteLook, a rapidly growing "flash fashion" sale site that sells designer goods at deep discounts for a limited time. Nordstrom acquired HauteLook in March for up to $270 million in stock.
Sole Society members register for free on the e-commerce site and fill out a "style bio" questionnaire to determine their style. They then receive a personalized selection of six "designer-quality, on-trend" shoes to choose from each month and receive the pair of their choice, typically for $49.95. Sole Society has nearly 500,000 members.
"We're an early-stage business and we need 100% focus," said Andy Solomon, chief operating officer of Sole Society. As a standalone business, Sole Society can "really be nurtured and the right decisions can be given to it."
For shoppers worried about committing to a pair of heels without first trying them on or seeing them in person, Sole Society provides a free return shipping label with every shipment. And members are allowed to opt out if they don't feel like receiving a new pair of shoes that month.
"Everyone has very busy lives these days and they don't always have time to get to the mall," Solomon said. "One of the great trends with online shopping is personalization and curated commerce."
Company officials declined to disclose the financial terms of the spin-off or provide sales figures for the 9-month-old brand.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Screen shot of Sole Society's website.
The smartphone — the first device to run Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system — will be sold at Verizon Wireless stores and online for $299.99 with a new two-year customer agreement, a Verizon spokesman said. It will run on Verizon's 4G LTE network.
Verizon, Samsung and Google said the Galaxy Nexus "brings an entirely new look and feel to Android," according to a news release posted on Droid Life. It offers customers a redesigned user experience with improved multitasking, notifications, near-field communications and a Web-browsing experience with "blazing speeds."
"The lock screen, home screen, phone app and everything in between have been rethought and redesigned to make Android simple, beautiful and useful," the companies said.
Here are some of the phone's features:
– Redesigned user interface: Software navigation buttons, a first for Android smartphones, and a dedicated recent apps button to make multitasking easy.
– Face unlock: Use state-of-the-art facial recognition to unlock the Galaxy Nexus.
– Android Beam: Share Web pages, apps, contacts and YouTube videos with friends by tapping two compatible phones together.
– Redesigned camera: Introduces panorama mode, 1080p video capture, zero-shutter lag for instant photo capturing and effects such as silly faces and background replacement.
– People application: Browse friends, family and co-workers, see their photos in high-resolution and check their latest status updates from Google+ and other social networks.
– Cloud services: Keep email, contacts, photos, music, browser bookmarks and other data synced to the cloud, available across multiple devices so customers never lose important data.
– Google Music: Upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud and stream it instantly on Galaxy Nexus and from the Web for free.
Customers who purchase a Galaxy Nexus will need to subscribe to a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Talk plan beginning at $39.99 monthly and a smartphone data package starting at $30 monthly for 2 GB of data.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Models display the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone in Hong Kong in October. Credit: Kin Cheung / Associated Press
The entry-level phone is the first Windows Phone from Nokia in the U.S. and is targeted at the 150 million Americans who have yet to make the transition to smartphones.
The Nokia Lumia 710, capable of running on T-Mobile's 4G network, "delivers high-performance hardware, Nokia's best social and Internet experience, and access to popular smartphone applications and services from Windows Phone Marketplace," the companies said in a statement.
The phone provides one-click access services such as Netflix and also gives users access to signature Nokia experiences, including voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation.
"Windows Phone offers a compelling mobile OS choice for people who want a smartphone built around them, their family and friends," said Cole Brodman, chief marketing officer of T-Mobile USA. "We expect it to play a more prominent role in our lineup and marketing efforts in 2012."
Brodman noted that the company's research showed "nearly everybody in the U.S. wants a smartphone," but many couldn't afford one.
Chris Weber, president of Nokia Americas, said the Nokia Lumia 710 was the ideal "first-time smartphone" that delivered the most compelling Windows Phone experience in its price range.
"This is the perfect first Nokia Lumia experience and the start of our reentry into the U.S. smartphone market," Weber said.
Available in a black or white finish, the Nokia Lumia 710 features a 3.7-inch scratch-resistant display and a Qualcomm 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor. It also has a 5-megapixel camera with Nokia's camera technology, enabling people to take pictures in almost any light and share the shot on social networks in seconds.
The Nokia Lumia 710 is scheduled to be available online and at T-Mobile retail stores, select dealers and retailers nationwide starting Jan. 11. The smartphone is expected to cost $49.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate card, with a two-year service agreement and qualifying Classic voice-and-data plan.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Nokia's Lumia 710 smartphone. Credit: Nokia and T-Mobile
Tech analysts are predicting massive sales for Apple's popular tablet. Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research is estimating fourth-quarter iPad sales of 13.6 million units. That's in line with what Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, estimates: He predicts Apple will sell 13.5 million iPads in the December quarter, an 84% increase over the same quarter a year earlier. That amounts to $8.26 billion in sales for the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant.
In a recent analyst note, Munster said Apple products were popular wish-list items for teens in the firm's biannual survey of young people. The iPad was the second-most-requested Apple product, behind the iPhone.
The analyst also noted that teens of average income seemed to be drawn more toward the iPad, while upper-income teens preferred the Mac.
"In short, it appears that the iPad is appealing to more price-sensitive buyers, while the Mac has retained a premium appeal," Munster said.
Buzz over a new iPad grew last week when a Citi analyst said Apple was preparing for a February release.
As my colleague Nathan Olivarez-Giles reported, rumors say the new device will be similar to the iPad 2. But it will also include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S by doubling the iPad 3's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner, who predicted fourth-quarter iPad sales would total 12 million to 13 million units.
Gardner reportedly said "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the iPad 3 as early as February, which would put its debut ahead of the first two generations of Apple's tablet. The first iPad hit stores in April 2010 after being unveiled the month before, and the iPad 2 was released this March.
The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons the iPad 2 maintained the 1024 x 768 resolution of the first iPad.
Tell us: With rumors of an iPad 3 swirling around, will you wait for the next-generation Apple tablet or cave in this Christmas? Or are you buying a tablet from a competitor instead?
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Shoppers check out iPad 2s at an Apple store in San Francisco on Black Friday. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
The controversy over the reality TV show "All-American Muslim" continues, with Kayak.com apologizing to customers Wednesday for deciding not to advertise on the TLC show next year. But an executive at the travel site said the network "was not upfront with us about the nature of this show" and added that "mostly, I just thought the show sucked."
In a letter posted on its website titled "We handled this poorly," Kayak's Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge apologizes to "anyone who was offended" by how the travel site handled its decision not to continue advertising on the show when it returns in January.
"We decided to advertise on it in the first place because we adamantly support tolerance and diversity," the letter said. "Our 150-person team includes people from all over the world, and from all walks of life.…We get what America is about."
However, Birge noted that the company understood the decision "comes across as bending to bigotry" and said employees at the company were "very unhappy with how I handled this."
In explaining the decision, he said Kayak's approach to advertising is to place ads based on who watches a program, and not its political leaning. Birge said the company deemed the show a worthy topic at first, but looked into the program more carefully after receiving angry emails over its decision to advertise.
"The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it's a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod," he said. "We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn't let us know their intentions. That's not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us… Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy."
At the end of the letter, Birge wrote: "Lastly, I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked. Based on our dealings with TLC and the simple assessment of the show, I decided we should put our money elsewhere. Apologies again."
"All-American Muslim," which premiered last month, follows the day-to-day lives of five Muslim American families in Dearborn, Mich., a suburb of Detroit with a large Muslim population. Cast members talk about how their faith affects their actions and choices.
Other companies, including Lowe's Cos., have also come under heavy criticism from activists, some politicians and customers after pulling its ads from a reality-TV show featuring Muslim Americans.
The North Carolina-based home improvement giant decided to stop advertising on the show after complaints by the Florida Family Assn., a conservative Christian group that lobbies companies to promote "traditional, biblical values."
The association praised the move but the decision sparked an immediate backlash. State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) called the move "bigoted, shameful, and un-American." A petition on SignOn.org that calls on companies to keep advertising on the show has gathered thousands of signatures. Activist and actress Mia Farrow joined the battle in a Twitter post and urged a boycott of Lowe's.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Suehaila Amen is featured in "All-American Muslim." Credit: Adam Rose / TLC
The social networking site said Wednesday that its "Facebook Political Team" looked at some of the top sources for political news and what stories received the most traffic from Facebook through friend shares, pages and social plug-ins such as the "like" button.
The top 40 stories came from newspapers, television news shows and blogs and "represent the type of political news people have been sharing and discussing with their Facebook friends this year," the tech company said.
Coming in at No. 1: "Open letter to that 53% guy," in which an Occupy supporter responds to a former Marine who posted a photo of himself telling Occupy supporters to, among other things, "Suck it up you whiners." The story has been shared 585,000 times, "liked" on Facebook 150,000 times and has nearly 600 comments on the Daily Kos, a political blog.
Facebook's list wasn't all economy and wars, though. It also contained some light-hearted stories, including First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to a middle school in which she danced the dougie and running man (No. 6), the Obamas shopping at a Target (No. 29) and lobbyists succeeding at getting pizza classified as a vegetable in schools (No. 38).
Here's the full list:
1. Daily Kos: Open Letter to that 53% Guy
2. Washington Post: Obama's and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph
3. FOX News: Should U.S. Get Involved in Syria?
4. CNN: Osama bin Laden, the face of terror, killed in Pakistan
5. Salon: "USA! USA!" is the wrong response
6. Huffington Post: Michelle Obama Dances 'The Dougie' & 'The Running Man'
7. Huffington Post: Obama's Birth Certificate Through The Eyes Of A Birther
8. CNN: Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don't get it
9. Huffington Post: Sarah Palin's PAC Puts Gun Sights On Democrats She's Targeting In 2010
10: MSNBC: Anti-gay marriage group fakes support with doctored photos
11. Huffington Post: Conservative Pie: Republicans Introduce Legislation Redefining Pi
12.Huffington Post: Westboro To Picket Funerals Of Arizona Shooting Victims
13. MSNBC: Web's bin Laden 'death photo' (just the photo) is fake
14. LA Times: Michele Bachmann is worried about the Renaissance
15. Huffington Post: Senate Votes To Let Military Detain Americans Indefinitely
16. FOX News: White House Condemns Possible Execution of Iranian Pastor
17. Huffington Post: Everything The Media Told You About Occupy Wall Street Is Wrong
18. FOX News: Usama Bin Laden Killed in Firefight With U.S. Special Ops Team in Pakistan
19. CNN: Arizona enacts funeral protest legislation
20. FOX: 'Occupy Wall Street' — It's Not What They're for, But What They're Against
21. LA Times: Lara Logan breaks her silence on '60 Minutes'
22. The Blaze: Adam Carolla on Occupy Movement: '[Expletive] Self-Entitled Monsters'
23. MSNBC: In the ruins of Gadhafi's lair, rebels find album with photos of Condoleezza Rice
24. CNN: Soldier leaves a legacy much larger than 'he was gay.'
25. Slate: Pentagon's top secret cat warfare exposed
26. CNN: Middle class backlash at Occupy Wall Street protesters
27. Weekly Standard: Obama bans asthma inhalers over environmental concerns
28. Slate: Clarence Thomas writes one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever
29. Good Morning America: Obamas go shopping at Target
30. CNN: Who owns America? Hint: It's not China.
31. Huffington Post: UC Davis protesters arrested, pepper sprayed
32. FOX News: Should the American flag be banned in America?
33. Huffington Post: UC Davis police officer pepper sprays nonviolent protesters
34. LA Times: Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledges paternity of child out of wedlock
35. MSNBC: U.S. Forces kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan
36. MSNBC Video: Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden from White House
37. CNN: Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden
38. Huffington Post: Lobbyists succeed in categorizing pizza as a vegetable in schools
39. MSNBC: Lobbying firm memo spells out plan to undermine Occupy Wall Street
40. Wall Street Journal: How to Tax the Rich
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator in New York in November. Credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters
Most cellphone and tablet users can purchase digital goods and charge them to their monthly bill or prepaid phone account, but buyers may not get the protections they need if something goes wrong with the transaction, a new report says.
According to an analysis by Consumers Union, the protections that consumers receive vary depending on their wireless carrier's policies and what's in their cellphone contract.
"We found that consumer rights can vary widely between wireless carriers, and the protections carriers claim to provide are often nowhere to be found in consumer contracts," said Michelle Jun, senior attorney for Consumers Union, the nonprofit advocacy branch of Consumer Reports. Jun said consumers using mobile payments should get the same "strong protections" that they receive when making purchases with a credit or debit card.
In May, Consumers Union called on the top wireless carriers to strengthen their contracts to protect consumers in the event that their phone is lost or stolen, if a merchant makes a billing mistake or the customer is not satisfied with a purchase.
Since then, Consumers Union said it had been in touch with representatives from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless to find out how they handle disputed mobile payment transactions. All four carriers said that they provided ample protections for consumers, but Consumers Union "found that the protections these carriers provide fall short" of what consumers get when they use credit cards and debit cards or when California consumers report a disputed charge on their phone accounts.
In addition, Consumers Union said, many of the protections that wireless carrier representatives described are not disclosed in customer contracts, making it difficult to know whether consumers can count on these safeguards when problems arise.
"As new mobile payment options become available, consumers are better off sticking to services linked to credit cards or debit cards, which come with strong protections required by law," Jun said. "If wireless carriers want consumers to have confidence in direct carrier billing programs, they should strengthen their contracts with the protections consumers need."
For a Consumers Union tip sheet on mobile payments, click here.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An iPhone user checks out a shopping app in San Francisco in November. Consumers Union says shoppers don't get the same protections when they use mobile payments to buy digital goods. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press
A day after Amazon said it would provide an over-the-air software update to its tablet one month after its release, customers say they're still miffed and note that the update won't fix the device's hardware issues, which include its small screen, lack of external volume controls and a poorly placed on/off button.
And interestingly, some buyers are viewing the need for a software update as an admission from Amazon that its first tablet is far from perfect.
Dan Karagozian of Glendale said he bought five Kindle Fires on Friday as Christmas presents after debating between Amazon's device and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.
Now he's having second thoughts. The 53-year-old said he was enticed by the device's cloud feature, price and content offerings, but was upset that no one from Amazon mentioned to him that a software update was needed when he called customer service before placing his order. He called the update a "red flag."
"Yes? No? Who knows," he said about whether he made the right buy. "I think I made a good choice, but again, when the update stuff starts coming out, it makes you wonder."
Another Kindle Fire buyer wrote an email to me saying she was having a bit of buyer's remorse.
"I bought mine as soon as Amazon offered it, and received it on November 16, which means I have two days remaining to decide whether or not to keep it," the Huntington Beach resident said.
Ralph Kaye, a reader from Torrance, said he and his wife were worried about buying a Kindle Fire because of rumors that Amazon may release a 2.0 version as soon as next spring to make up for the flaws in its first-generation model.
"I would not feel very good about buying a machine which will be an older model in a couple of months," said Kaye, 69.
But despite concerns from shoppers and some analysts, other tech industry watchers are more bullish. In a note to investors Tuesday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini said she expected the Kindle Fire to make Amazon an even more prominent company and predicted Kindle Fire sales would reach 6 million units in its first quarter of release.
"In our view, the company's evolutionary cycle will continue at a frenzied pace, and it is only over the next few years that we will truly be able to see the value that can be derived," she said. "Add to this the introduction of the Kindle Fire (U.S. only) in November of this year, where we expect 50% conversion rates, and that will only further engrain Amazon into its customers' minds."
Despite the Kindle Fire's flaws, Bellini noted that shoppers have rapidly adopted Amazon's first tablet — a feat that "does not surprise us."
"While the Kindle Fire certainly doesn’t have the breadth of functionality of the iPad (no camera or microphone, shorter battery life and less memory), it does a few things very well, which just happen to be the few actions that users utilize the tablet form factor most often for, in our view," she said.
How do you like your Kindle Fire? Are the negative reviews making you reconsider a Nook Tablet or causing you to shell out for Apple's iPad? Check out some Times reviews of various tablets below.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: A Kindle Fire at a Best Buy store in Los Angeles in November. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris announced the creation of a unit within the state Department of Justice that will fight technology crimes and identity theft.
The eCrime Unit will "make sure that vulnerable populations are safe, that consumers are safe and that we allow good behavior to occur," Harris said at a news conference Tuesday in San Jose, chosen because of its location in the tech hub of Silicon Valley.
"Where there are predators and predatory practices, we want to ensure we have the skills and technology to go after them and that there is accountability and consequences," Harris said.
The eCrime Unit, operational since August, will investigate and prosecute identity theft such as email phishing scams; fraudulent Internet auction sites; child exploitation and child pornography; theft of computer services and intellectual property; and other tech-related crimes.
Twenty investigators and attorneys have been assigned to the unit, and Harris said that number is expected to grow; she said she redistributed resources in her office to bolster the unit.
Before the creation of the unit, tech crimes were slow to get prosecuted because the jurisdiction wasn’t clear, leading to ambiguity among counties over how cases should proceed, Harris said.
After the announcement state, law enforcement and tech executives lauded the decision.
"Unfortunately the big challenge we've had in this industry has been not so much tracking the bad guys…it's actually bringing them to justice," said Stuart McClure, worldwide chief technology officer at McAfee.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris in Los Angeles. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
States should implement a full ban on cellphones — even hands-free devices — when driving except in emergency situations, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended on Tuesday. The board said the dangers outweighed any benefits to talking or texting while on the road.
"It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said. "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."
The recommendation was unanimously agreed to by the five-member board and drew attention to an August 2010 traffic collision on Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Mo.
In that incident, a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed because of a construction zone. The pickup truck was then struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. As a result, two people died and 38 others were injured.
The NTSB's investigation of the case revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.
"The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated," the board said. "However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people."
The board doesn't have the power to impose restrictions, but its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers, according to the Associated Press.
In California, a ban on hand-held cellphones while driving has been in effect since 2008.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: A driver talks on her cellphone while driving in Beverly Hills. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
Good news for last-minute shoppers: Amazon.com has extended the order deadline for free "Super Saver Shipping," guaranteeing that orders placed by Dec. 19 will arrive in time for Christmas. After that, shoppers will have to select faster delivery options for orders to arrive by the holiday.
For delivery by Christmas, Amazon said the following ordering deadlines apply:
Dec. 19: Free Super Saver Shipping
Dec. 19: Standard shipping
Dec. 21: Two-Day shipping (order as late as 8 p.m. PST; varies by item; free with Amazon Prime)
Dec. 22: One-Day shipping (order as late as 4:30 p.m. PST; varies by item; $3.99 per item with Amazon Prime)
Dec. 23: Last-minute Christmas delivery (for Amazon Prime members only; while available; select cities; varies by item; $9.99 per item)
Dec. 24: Local express delivery (while available; select cities; varies by item; $3.99 per item with Amazon Prime)
Super Saver Shipping is available for orders of $25 or more. Amazon Prime is a membership program that gives members free two-day shipping if they pay an annual membership fee of $79.
Like all retailers, Amazon has stepped up its game during the most important time of the year for the industry. Last week, the world's biggest e-commerce site announced that it was holding a one-day promotion that would give shoppers 5% off, up to $5 per item, just for using its Price Check app in a bricks-and-mortar store and buying that product on Amazon afterward. Amazon shoppers could save up to $15 by checking the prices and buying three different items.
That offer sparked outrage from retail groups, who accused Amazon of using physical stores as showrooms and further hurting the competition because Amazon is not required to collect sales taxes in most states.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Amazon packages are delivered in Boston. The website extended its free shipping holiday deadline to Dec. 19. Credit: Brian Snyder / Reuters
The Android operating system's share of smartphone sales grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010, and Apple's iOS share rose to 29%, up from 21% last year, research firm NPD Group said Tuesday.
Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, continued to see its share of the smartphone market decline, plummeting to 10% in the first 10 months of this year. In 2010, it held one-fourth of the market.
Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, Symbian OS and Palm/webOS had tiny shares of the market, with each operating system capturing no more than 3%.
"The competitive landscape for smartphones, which has been reshaped by Apple and Google, has ultimately forced every major handset provider through a major transition," said Ross Rubin, executive director of Connected Intelligence at the NPD Group. "For many of them, 2012 will be a critical year in assessing how effective their responses have been."
Motorola is seeking to rebuild its share of the market, which was 36% five years ago but had fallen as low as 1% in the third quarter of 2009. After adopting Android, Motorola rose to 16% of the market in the fourth quarter last year but fell to 12% in the third quarter this year. But Rubin said Motorola is at least back in the game.
Another smartphone maker hoping to rebound next year is RIM. Rubin said few companies "have felt the impact of the shift to touch user interfaces and larger screen sizes as negatively," but noted that the company is beginning anew with a strong technical foundation and has already made incremental improvements this year with the release of its BlackBerry 7 operating system. In the second quarter of 2006, RIM held half of all smartphone sales, but by the third quarter this year, it had fallen to 8%.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: An iPhone 4S. Apple's iOS share of smartphone sales grew to 29% from January through October. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters
The social networking behemoth found that more people share that they are at LAX than any other airport in the world.
Airports in the United States make up the top six spots on the list, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the No. 2 spot followed by Chicago O'Hare International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport and Denver International Airport.
Australia's Sydney International Airport was the first air hub overseas to make Facebook's list, coming in at No. 7. Rounding out the top 10 were Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
To determine the rankings, Facebook tabulated data from people sharing their location at airports on Facebook as well as third-party location services between August 2010 and November of this year.
Further down the list at No. 15 was John F. Kennedy International Airport. San Diego International Airport was No. 17.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Passengers wait at LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times
There was a situation in New Jersey on Monday.
The state that was the scene for Orson Welles' 1938 "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast — you know, the one that triggered mass panic among listeners who believed a martian invasion was occurring — faced a bit of a scare Monday.
Verizon Wireless sent an emergency alert via text to wireless customers in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties warning of a "civil emergency" and telling people to "take shelter now," according to the Associated Press. The message was intended to be a test but wasn't labeled as such, the company later said. The alert reportedly started a chain reaction across a wide swatch of central New Jersey, prompting a high volume of 911 calls.
"Within about 90 minutes, the state homeland security and emergency management offices posted on Twitter that no emergency existed, but by then people had called a variety of local, county and state agencies to express their concerns," the AP report said.
A Verizon spokeswoman told the AP in an email that the company was sorry for any inconvenience caused, but didn't say why the message was sent without being labeled as a test.
Several people in New Jersey took to Twitter after receiving the text.
"I figured it was a hoax when I was still alive," tweeted Kevin Tor.
"Of course I fit the qualifications for this emergency alert text," Kelly Khadam-Hir said.
But it wasn't all bad news.
"Just got out early [because] of an emergency alert," said Twitter user Jen Vincentini, who then thanked the telecommunications company.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Twitter user Mike Wren posted this photo of Verizon's "civil emergency" alert Monday. Credit: Mike Wren
Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) sent a letter to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook requesting that the tech company immediately remove the "License" app from its App Store.
"I believe this application poses a threat to public safety and national security….It can be used in a way that allows criminals to create a new identity, steal someone else's identity, or permit underage youth to purchase alcohol or tobacco illegally," he said in the letter. "National security systems depend on the trustworthiness of driver's licenses."
The app by DriversEd.com for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad enables users to electronically insert a digital photo and personal information into a template for a driver's license for a state of their choosing; the app contains templates for driver's licenses for all 50 states.
The user is then able to send the digital image of the completed template to an email account; from the email attachment, the image can be printed and laminated, creating a high-quality counterfeit driver's license that is difficult to discern from a legitimate one, according to the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Screen shot from DriversEd.com
Charlie Sheen was apparently trying to send Justin Bieber a direct message with his phone number over Twitter, but accidentally sent the message — "310-954-7277 Call me bro. C" — to more than 5.5 million followers.
The actor's phone reportedly began ringing off the hook while he was at dinner in Las Vegas, and he humored some callers by answering with "Ray's Pizza" and "Winning!" according to the New York Post.
By Monday afternoon, callers hoping to reach Sheen received an automated message: "The number you dialed is not a working number. Please check the number and dial again."
Still no word on why the former "Two and a Half Men" star wanted to get in touch with Bieber.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Actor Charlie Sheen during his Comedy Central roast in September. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
A spokeswoman for the Seattle e-commerce giant said the update would be available in less than two weeks and would improve performance and touch navigation. It will also give customers the option to edit what items display on their carousels — a landing page that shows what users have been up to on their tablets. Currently, all recent activity — including books read, games played, television shows watched and websites visited — are shown on a user's carousel.
"Kindle Fire is the most successful product we've ever launched –- we've already sold millions of units and we're building more to meet the strong demand," Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said Monday. "As with all of our products, we continue to make them better for customers with regular software updates."
The Amazon Kindle Fire was released last month amid speculation that it would become an "iPad killer." But early reviews for the 7-inch tablet have been mixed, with users complaining about the small screen size, lack of external volume controls, finicky touch screen and lack of privacy. Some tech analysts have said Amazon's tablet effort was not good enough and expect the company to release a better version within months.
Nonetheless, research firms have estimated that the Kindle Fire will become the No. 2 bestselling tablet globally behind Apple's iPad in the fourth quarter, thanks to its $199 price and Amazon's trusted brand name.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg
Apple's MacBook Air is poised to remain the dominant player in the ultrabook market next year, despite a wave of new ultra-thin notebooks slated to debut in the coming months, one analyst predicts.
Apple's super-thin, super-light laptop has been a hit with consumers, and its momentum "is sustainable and likely has upside potential," JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said in a note to investors Monday.
Previously, "we highlighted the MacBook Air as potentially becoming a $2-[billion to] $3-billion-plus revenue opportunity," he said. "Our latest view is that this ultra-thin notebook PC appears on track to becoming a $7-billion-plus revenue driver at Apple."
Moskowitz said that ultrabooks continue to be highly discretionary devices and that pricing for rival offerings must fall below $800 before posing a real threat to the MacBook Air. And beyond price, he said, other devices simply don't look as good or offer as much.
"In our view, Apple's first mover advantage and optimized feature set and form factor command a higher price that early adopters, productivity users, and Apple enthusiasts are willing to absorb," he said. "In contrast, we think that the first round of ultrabook offerings lacks the right blend of features and attractive price points to grab market share from Apple."
The MacBook Air costs $999 to $1,599.
– Andrea Chang
Image: Apple's MacBook Air. Credit: Apple
Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt — the CEO, co-founder and executive chairman of Google, respectively — have proposed paying the full $33 million cost of revamping the iconic hangar through a company they control, according to the San Jose Mercury News. But there's apparently a catch: They want to use up to two-thirds of the floor space of the hangar to house their fleet of eight private jets.
Moffett Field is in Mountain View, Calif., where Google is based. NASA Ames, which owns the site including Hangar One, is said to be considering the offer made in September by the Google trio's company, H211.
An icon from the infancy of the Space Age that looms large in aviation history, Hangar One spans 361,000 square feet — as big as seven football fields — and is wide enough to fit three Titanics side by side. Built in 1933, the cavernous structure once housed the Macon, a lumbering dirigible that roamed the California coast on U.S. military missions before crashing into the Pacific Ocean in 1935.
But the humpbacked Silicon Valley structure sits on a toxic site and is currently undergoing a major process to strip the hangar of its PCB-laden paneling. The 198-foot-tall building has faced numerous challenges, especially in the last year, when the House of Representatives cut $32 million from NASA's budget that was set aside to replace Hangar One's siding, the Mercury News report said.
A NASA spokesman told the newspaper that the H211 proposal had "not yet been completely vetted" and "we have to weigh that against the reality of constrained resources and use." Under the plan, NASA would remain Hangar One's owner and would be able to lease out floor space not used by H211 as well as the upper levels of the structure.
"We are giving all options thoughtful consideration as we prepare our funding proposal for the fiscal year 2013 budget," NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Hangar One at Moffett Field. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times
Amazon.com on Monday announced its best-selling books of the year, and — no surprise — Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple visionary Steve Jobs landed in the No. 1 spot.
The online retail giant's list combined its sales of print and Kindle editions and took into account only paid copies. Books first published before 2011 were excluded.
Amazon noted that two books — "The Mill River Recluse" by Darcie Chan (#4) and "The Abbey" by Chris Culver (#9) — were published by Kindle Direct Publishing and made the top 10 based solely on Kindle sales.
"Steve Jobs" topped the list even though it was published just two months ago. Sales of the book "have been phenomenal in both formats," said Chris Schluep, senior editor of books at Amazon, said that even though "Steve Jobs" was published just two months ago, sales "have been phenomenal in both formats."
Here's the complete list:
1. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson
2. "Bossypants" by Tina Fey
3. "A Stolen Life" by Jaycee Dugard
4. "The Mill River Recluse" by Darcie Chan
5. "In the Garden of the Beasts" by Erik Larson
6. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
7. "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain
8. "The Litigators" by John Grisham
9. "The Abbey" by Chris Culver
10. "Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)" by Christopher Paolini
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Copies of Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" at a Costco in Mountain View, Calif. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press
Hewlett-Packard said it will make its WebOS software available to the open-source community and Chief Executive Meg Whitman said in two separate interviews that there are plans to create new WebOS hardware — including tablets.
The announcement is the latest reversal for HP after the company indicated over the summer that it was going in a different direction. In August, then-CEO Leo Apotheker said HP would ditch its smartphones and TouchPad tablet computers and was considering spinning off its PC operations. Two months later, HP said it would keep making PCs under new CEO Whitman (Apotheker was fired shortly after his August announcement).
On Friday, the Palo Alto tech giant said that it planned to continue to be active in the development and support of WebOS, and that by combining the platform with the development power of the open-source community, "there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and Web services for the next generation of devices."
The WebOS platform offers several benefits to the ecosystem of Web apps, HP said, including allowing developers to easily build applications using standard Web technologies. For device manufacturers, it provides a single Web-centric platform to run across multiple devices.
"As a result, the end user benefits from a fast, immersive user experience," HP said.
The announcement sparked speculation that HP would get back into the tablet business, and in interviews with the Verge and TechCrunch, Whitman said the company planned to roll out new devices in the future, probably in 2013.
TechCrunch also obtained an internal email Whitman sent out to HP staff announcing the WebOS news. In it, the former California gubernatorial candidate thanked employees for their efforts "under very difficult circumstances during these last couple of months."
Of WebOS, she said in the memo: "Together, we have an opportunity to make it the foundation of a new generation of devices, applications and services to address the rapidly evolving demands of both consumers and enterprises."
So far, HP hasn't seen much success with its TouchPad tablets. The company had high hopes for the device as a rival to Apple Inc.'s iPad and for its smartphones, both based on the WebOS software that the company picked up in acquiring Palm Inc. last year. But neither the tablet nor such phones as the Palm Pri, Pixi and Veer have caught on with consumers, and after Apotheker's departure, HP was forced to slash TouchPad prices to $99, which spurred sales.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was named chief executive of HP in September. Credit: Jose Luis Villegas / Reuters
A day after Amazon announced that it would give shoppers up to $15 for using its Price Check app in a bricks-and-mortar store and buying that item from Amazon afterward, prominent retail groups are lashing out at the e-commerce giant.
The Retail Industry Leaders Assn. said the app unfairly uses bricks-and-mortar stores as "showrooms to then purchase merchandise online from inside the store."
"Central to this tactic is Amazon's continued practice of using a pre-Internet loophole to avoid state sales tax collection, a move that gives them an unfair competitive advantage over Main Street retailers," the group said.
Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, echoed that sentiment, saying "no retailer can compete with the special treatment" Amazon has by not collecting sales taxes.
"This app is simply another ploy by Amazon to exploit the loophole that allows them to evade collecting state sales taxes," he said.
In September, after several weeks of bickering with California lawmakers and traditional retailers, Amazon agreed to begin collecting sales taxes in the state in September 2012. A new law that went into effect July 1 required online retailers to begin collecting the tax immediately, but Amazon refused to follow through, leading to the two sides cutting the September deal.
On Wednesday Katherine Lugar, executive vice president of public affairs for the retail leaders group, said Amazon's Price Check app promotion was worsening an already unfair advantage during the all-important holiday shopping season.
"Amazon's aggressive promotion of its Price Check App shows the lengths they are willing to go to exploit this tax loophole, and is a stark reminder of why Congress needs to act to protect retailers on Main Street," Lugar said.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: A shopper uses his smartphone to check prices at a Toys R Us in New York in November. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press
Price-check apps are already a headache for bricks-and-mortar retailers, who lose out when in-store shoppers use their smartphones to scan the bar code of a product and find that it's cheaper elsewhere.
Now Amazon.com, arguably physical stores' No. 1 rival, is making it even more worthwhile to price check.
The world's biggest online retailer said that on Saturday, it will give customers an additional 5% discount (up to $5) on up to three qualifying products if they simply check the price of those items while shopping in physical retail stores. Eligible categories include electronics, toys, music, sporting goods and DVDs.
"The ability to check prices on your mobile phone when you're in a physical retail store is changing the way people shop," said Sam Hall, director of Amazon Mobile, in a statement. "Price transparency means that you can save money on the products you want and that's a great thing for customers."
The Price Check by Amazon app is available for iPhone and Android and can be downloaded for free from the Amazon Appstore, Android Market and App Store for the iPhone. Users can price check four ways: scanning a bar code, snapping a photo, saying a product name or typing in a search query.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: A shopper uses a smartphone to compare prices at a Toys R Us in New York in November. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press
It's been a mere two weeks since its much-hyped launch, and Amazon's Kindle Fire has already shaken up the competitive tablet market. The 7-inch device is expected to surpass all other iPad rivals to take second place in the global media tablet business in the fourth quarter, according to information and analysis provider IHS.
The e-commerce giant will ship 3.9 million Kindle Fire tablets during the last three months of the year, IHS said, giving Amazon a 13.8% share of global media tablet shipments. That exceeds the 4.8% held by No. 3 Samsung.
Of course, the Kindle Fire still lags well behind the No. 1 tablet, Apple's iPad 2, which holds a 65.6% share of the market.
IHS said the Kindle Fire's "rapid ascent will help fuel the expansion of the entire market," with the additional shipments adding a 7.7% increase to the firm's forecast of total media tablet shipments this year.
"Nearly two years after Apple Inc. rolled out the iPad, a competitor has finally developed an alternative which looks like it might have enough of Apple's secret sauce to succeed," Rhoda Alexander, senior manager of tablet and monitor research for IHS, said in a statement. "The production plans make it clear that Amazon is betting big on the product."
IHS now predicts that global media tablet market shipments will total 64.7 million units in 2011, compared with the previous forecast issued in August of 60 million. The total shipment level represents 273% growth from 17.4 million units last year.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg