TI’s Buyout Expands Intel’s Atom Processor Reach

Intel has announced it will expand its Digital Home Group with Texas Instrument’s Cable Modem manufacturing division in a buyout during the fourth quarter of 2010. Intel’s wants to further develop its “system-on-chip” line of products, and the acquisition of TI’s Puma technology gets it closer to that goal.

Earlier this year Intel entered the “living room market” with Google TV, a screen that blends TV and the internet--and was developed around Intel’s Atom processor. The Atom is a low-cost, low-power chip normally found in mobile computers.

After Google TV and the Texas Instruments cable modems, Intel will look to putting its Atom chips into other consumer electronic devices such as set-top boxes, blu-ray players, companion boxes, and residential gateways.

But Intel plans don’t stop in the living room. The Atom processor was designed for smartphones and TVs, but also for future emerging devices, even cars. Basically, to have “microprocessors where there weren’t before.”

Tablets and Television

The way we watch television is on the cusp of evolving as the tablet computer is converging with subscription television to provide users with more TV and movies on the go.

According to the Wallstreet Journal, at least seven of the ten largest subscription-TV providers in the U.S. are building applications for tablet computers that will offer TV shows and movies to people who are subscribed.

What’s that mean? Subscribers to cable providers like Comcast and AT&T will soon be able to get an iPad app allowing them to watch shows like NCIS or Grey’s Anatomy as they are aired.

The forebears of this convergence are Netflix and Hulu, the latter having just released Hulu Plus, which allows subscribers to stream movies over the Internet onto their iDevices or Android phones.

However, there is a difference between the forbears and the current move made by cable providers. Netflix and Hulu only show cached programs; shows and movies that have already been released. The new shift with cable providers will allow—in some cases and with certain shows—real -time streaming that’s simultaneous to the airing of the program. In most instances, however, the providers will work like Netflix, permitting subscribers to search for and watch certain TV shows on the go.

For example, Comcast is developing an app that would allow existing subscribers to search and view certain TV shows that had already been aired, almost like an on-demand feature. 

Also, Time Warner Cable Inc. is developing an app that would allow subscribers to watch TV shows over Wi-Fi.

According to the Wallstreet Journal, the providers are releasing the new apps to make their subscription-based television more competitive with the burgeoning shift to TV over the Internet, which in many cases is free or inexpensive.

Netflix and Hulu are merging the media from the other end—syncing their products with televisions—in an effort to bite back. For example, Hulu Plus is available on Samsung televisions.

And, of course, Google is stepping into the fray, allowing people to rent movies from the search-engine site. At first, the renting feature will be provided only for the 3.2 million Fios TV subscribers, but it would soon be provided for nonsubscribers too.

Report Shows Lackluster Business Travel Spending

A report by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) shows that spending on global business travel fell 8.8 percent in 2009, the greatest decline since 9/11.

Though the past has shown a drop off, the forecast bears for brighter days as the global economy revamps. The same report projected global business travel spending to reach $896 billion dollars this year and to grow to $1.2 trillion by 2014.

Air travel this summer has already been on the rise, which bodes for fares to rise proportionally.

The revitalization, according to the report, will be a bumpy one and analysts from the report say travel managers and suppliers will be kept on their toes.

One of the main reasons for the unsteady rise is that the recovery is not projected to be uniform across the globe. Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East are expected to grow more rapidly than North America and Europe. For example, growth for the United States between now and 2014 is projected at 2.4 percent. In the same timeframe, growth for China is predicted at 12.3 percent.

Another cause for the turbulent travel forecast is the restructuring of the main business travel sectors, which is in order because different industries have been affected by the Great Recession in different ways. For example, traveling for the utilities sector, which is one of the largest business travel contributors, fell by 14 percent last year. However, it is slated for a quick rebound in 2010.

By contrast, real estate, one of the main contributors to the global recession, will continue to drag and continue to put a strain on the business-travel recovery.

The nature in which revenues are being generated is changing as well. The traditional means of revenue generation—airfare—is supplemented by a cavalcade of alternative streams, as airlines now charge for everything from checked baggage to exit seats.

Smartphones Sync Social Biking System

Citizens of New York will have a new mode of transportation this fall that combines commuting, smartphones, social media and—you’ll never guess—bicycling.

The Social Bicycle System, or SoBi, allows users to pinpoint individual bicycles, which will be distributed throughout the city, using the GPS on their Androids or Iphones; then, they can use their member pin, which is assigned after they sign up and pay a membership fee, to unlock the bicycles.

SoBi is the first communal bike system that is tracked, located and unlocked using wireless service, and the creators, amazingly, said they did if for less than half the costs of similar communal bike programs.

The model is based on three parts: the social cyclist, who creates an account; a central server, that stores all bicycler information and tracks all bicycles; and a social bicycle, which is unlocked and used for—well, transportation.

Once a social cycler has created an account they can immediately begin searching for bicycles on their GPS and unlocking bicycles using their codes.

The on-bike keypad even has a hold function that will lock the bike for ten minutes to keep other social bikers from swiping your bike, though it only lasts for 10 minutes. However, social bikers can text SoBi staffers to have them deliver bikes when needed.

Using their SoBi profiles, riders can track their rides, how many calories they have burned, and even view maps of their travel habits, showing which routes they take most frequently.

And, for the SoBi staffers, the central server keeps all inventory stats, status alerts and bike density data, which allows them to see which areas need the most bicycles for relocation.

The SoBi team is using the fall release in New York to test the prototype, but eventually hopes to expand to other cities, college campuses, and even corporate campuses worldwide.

Here’s the confusing part: each SoBi has to be returned to a docking port called a hub by 9 PM every night. After 9 PM the user who last accessed an out-of-hub bicycle will be charged $2. So, if Johnny Biker uses a Bike at 2 in the afternoon and doesn’t return it to port, and it doesn’t get returned by another social biker, then Johnny Biker is charged $2.

Now that bike is shown as delinquent on the map of available bicycles, and it will be marked by a $2 bounty. If another user finds the delinquent bike and returns it, $2 will be credited to their account. A pretty neat addition if you think about it, because, if Johnny Biker finds a delinquent bike and turns it in sometime later, he gets the credit back.

Also, bikers who want get credit toward their membership fees can go around collecting stray SoBis to build it up, possibly even getting gift certificates from program sponsors.

To view the SoBi website click here.


Murdoch and Skype Vie for “Sky”

Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) is in the midst of a legal battle with Skype over ownership of the “Sky” portion that both companies share in their names.

Skype filed for an Initial Public Offering earlier this week, and the legal challenge from BSkyB was discussed in the filing.

BSkyB is disputing Skype’s application for trademark of the brand and bubble logo in the European Union and several other countries including India, Norway and Brazil.

BSkyB is a satellite broadcaster, Internet service and telephony service provider, which means the two companies operate within the same field and could, thus, be seen as competitors with similar names. BSkyB is vying for the trademark with the assertion that the likeness in names could confuse consumers.

Though Skype has contested the challenge successfully in Brazil and Turkey, permission to use the name was denied by the EU trademark registry (OHIM).

Skype said in the filing that they intend to appeal the decision, first, in the OHIM Board of Appeal, and, second, if necessary, to the Court of Justice of the European Community.

If BSkyB’s challenge proves to be successful Skype could be barred from trading in its own name within the EU.

The Skype filing also mentioned, “If these oppositions to our application for trademark registration are ultimately successful, it will be more difficult for us to prevent third parties from using the Skype brand without our permission, which may have a material adverse effect on our business.”

Additionally, a successful challenge in the EU could be a harbinger for more trademark infringement suits in other countries and regions, both from BSkyB and other similarly-named parties.

RIM Negotiations Reflect Global Privacy Concerns

Saudi Arabia permitted BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd. to continue its messaging service, which was due to be shut off Monday at midnight.

This is the second deadline that BlackBerry has wriggled by, but analysts say the negotiations are likely drawing to a close as there is no new deadline set.

The talks between the two have momentarily taken the spotlight of an ongoing dispute between governments and cell phone providers—a dispute that transcends several telecom technologies and the countries quickly adapting them.

For example, the Indian Government, who still feel the reverberations of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, have recently threatened to shut off BlackBerry service too, saying that RIM’s sophisticated encryption makes it too difficult to breach terrorist networks operating via mobile phone. The Mumbai attacks were coordinated almost entirely by cell phone and e-mail.

Similar concerns have been voiced in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates; especially because BlackBerry servers are located in Canada, which leaves them out of the jurisdiction of the countries’ laws.

The tug, essentially, is one between privacy and security, where governments and law enforcement say that access to sensitive data like messaging, call logs and even GPS location is necessary for the adequate protection of their citizens.

And it’s not only felt in the East either.

In late June 2010 the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony about advanced cell phone tracking systems, information gathering techniques used by law enforcement, and an outdated law that has permitted, in several occasions, abuse of the system.

The Electronic Communications Act of 1986 determines the law in matters of cell phone and law enforcement in the U.S., however, it hasn’t been updated since its inception, meaning that the government is relying on precedent that was set when cell phones were the size of a strong man’s bicep.

In the digital world of today, cell phones transmit users’ locations roughly every seven seconds, several companies provide services for cell-phone owners to track their spouses, and billions of pieces of data rocket across networks, become harbored in cloud services or databases and are ready to be snatched by law enforcement at any moment and with little legislative regulation.

One of the main pieces of discussion in the hearings was the disconnect between the EPCA and the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act. Through loop holes in these Acts, law enforcement officers have been able to monitor the cell phones of people whom they suspect of crimes without obtaining a warrant.

Privacy advocacy groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, say the ease with which law enforcement circumvent these warrants is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

“Our failure to bring privacy law into the 21st century opens the door for a whole new realm of abuse, and long experience suggests that governments including our own are seldom able to resist making use of power,” writes Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Congress is yet to pass ruling concerning cell-phone tracking.

For Canadian-based RIM, the negotiations with Saudi Arabia could yield any number of results.

Details are still hidden because RIM officials have been unwilling to comment in the media.

The governments of the Eastern countries, who are battling domestic terrorism, maintain that access to the encrypted messages is vital and also accuse RIM of a double standard, saying the company allows developed democracies access to the same information to which they, themselves, are denied.

It’s somewhat murky just what information BlackBerry does provide governments when asked, but “legal intercepts” are typically permitted and there are doubts that BlackBerry decrypts confidential information.

What is certain is that the world—Eastern and Western countries alike—will be watching the outcome in Saudi Arabia.

Flash for the iPhone, Finally

Here’s a news Flash for you: for those who’ve always wanted to run Adobe Flash on their iPhones, a new program, called Frash, that works on jailbroken phones will do it for you, though maybe not as quickly as you’d like.

Jailbreakme developer, Comex, the same dev who unveiled a jailbreaking app last week, came up with the hack, which finally defies Apple’s long standing aversion to the product.

Users with jailbroken phones can employ Comex’s tools to install the Frash software, which is a port of the Flash runtime environment for Google Android.

Of course, we gave it a shot as soon as we heard. We found the hack successful, but it took a while to load up the Flash content. What’s more is the page got pretty sluggish. It may be wise to wait a little while for the next, updated version to come out from Comex. We’ll just have to see.

Hulu Plus Subscribers Receive Invites Today

Hulu Plus invitations hit the inboxes of those who requested them today, allowing subscribers to watch a wider variety of shows on their iPhones, iPads, TVs and more. And, it’s in HD.

The entirely new feature offers Hulu’s cloud service and is described by the official Hulu blog, as “a treasure chest in the cloud for TV lovers.”

Users who got the invites will be able to use the code to sign up for Hulu Plus, which is the new, ad-supported subscription product that is an addition to the Hulu.com service.

Now, television shows can be watched on iPads, iPhones 4, IPhone 3GS, or third-generation iPod touch via Wi-Fi or 3G with the Hulu Plus app.

It can also be viewed on select Samsung-Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players through a downloadable application, which is found in the Samsung app store.

Hulu plus subscribers pay $9.99 to have access to full seasons and entire archives of popular television shows, which gives more access that Hulu.com had previously offered.

Take this snippet from the official Hulu blog as an example of what it offers:

 “As a Hulu Plus subscriber, you’ll now also have access to back seasons or full runs of some of TV’s greatest shows. All nine seasons of The X-Files. All three seasons of Arrested Development. Ten seasons of Law and Order: SVU. All five seasons of Ally McBeal. Seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and three seasons ofRoswell. Every episode ever of Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. Classic skits from the first five and most recent five seasons of Saturday Night Live. The list goes on.”

Soon Hulu Plus is supposed to be available for other devices and platforms such as the PlayStation 3, according to the blog.



Google and Verizon Unveil Net Neutrality Proposal

Google and Verizon put forth a joint policy proposal on Monday that would give the FCC power to regulate broadband providers to ensure net neutrality for consumers.

The proposal effectively cemented the two firms in their commitment for non-discriminatory access to wireline broadband, meaning that no one company will be granted priority access over another.

The Google-Verizon plan provides a legislative framework suggestion, laying out seven parts that give the FCC power to impose a $2 million fine on bad actors and to enforce transparency provisions on both wireline and broadband.

The proposal, which has already been compared to the Bill of Rights for the Internet, calls for recognition that broadband and wireless service are different and should be defined as such. It also aims to reinstitute the Federal Universal Service Fund in support of a robust broadband network.

The proposal comes on the heels of conflicting reports, some of which said the companies had been meeting to propose tiered Internet rates, the exact opposite of what the proposal represents.

Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg expressed the reason for the quick release of the Verizon-Google plan.

"There’s been so much discussion of this issue, that we feel this debate has been hijacked by issues that [are] not reflective of what the company’s doing,” he said in the conference. “We support the FCC, we built a fiber network, we built a wireless network, we purchased spectrum and agreed to open access.”

The proposal may be viewed as a respite for the embattled F.C.C., which has been stuck in a quagmire of discussions following litigation in a Comcast lawsuit that stripped them of their power to regulate the Internet under a telecommunications provision.

The F.C.C.’s trouble deepened when it tried to put wireless and wireline services under the same umbrella of regulation. Many of the players in that industry cried foul.

The Google-Verizon plan stipulates that the plan “would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement.”

This stipulation is objectionable to some, who see the proposal as a façade disguising the companies’ desires to further their business motives with giant loopholes.

According to Joel Kelsey, political advisor for Free Press who communicated with PC World, “This is much worse than a business arrangement between two companies. It’s a signed-sealed-and-delivered policy framework with giant loopholes that blesses the carving up of the Internet for a few deep-pocketed Internet companies and carriers.”

Skype Files for IPO

Skype, the Internet telephony company, filed for an initial public offering today with which it hopes to raise $100 million for future growth, according to an S-1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the filing, Skype users made calls totaling in 95 billion minutes, both in voice and video during the first half of 2010.

The company, which was founded in 2003, grew average monthly connected users from 397 million to 560 million users from June 2009 to June 2010 worldwide.

Although we have achieved significant global scale and user growth to date, the penetration of our connected and paying users is low relative to our market opportunity,” the filing reads.

The IPO will be managed by Goldman, Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and others.

Analysts have increasingly viewed Skype as a “cash machine,” with the company reporting revenues of $406 million in the first six months of 2010, which ended up netting the company $13.2 million over that time period.

Skype plans to grow its business by increasing penetration rates globally and by targeting small and mid level businesses, according to the filing.