Senin, 30 Juni 2008

Of the many Taiwanese companies developing mini-laptops for global markets, only Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) was prescient enough to build 3G (third-generation telephony) capabilities right into its offering, the G10IL netbook.

Last week, I had a chance to try one out at ECSs offices in Wugu, Taiwan, just outside of Taipei.

The ability to surf the Internet wirelessly over 3G airwaves via HSDPA and HSUPA (High Speed Downlink/Uplink Packet Access) is one of the things that sets the G-series laptops apart from rival offerings, such as Micro-Star Internationals Wind laptop and Asusteks Eee PC.

The G10IL I tried out was a standard G-series model, around US$500, with a 10.2-inch screen, six-cell battery for around five to six hours of run time, an 80G-byte hard disk drive (HDD), a Web cam, 2G bytes of DRAM, an Intel 1.6GHz Atom microprocessor and Windows XP. Different configurations, including substituting a Linux OS, will cost less. The mini-laptop can also connect to Wi-Fi networks.

The companys J-series, for example, is the low-cost series of ECSs netbook family. It will still come with the 10.2-inch screen and HDD, but will skimp on other features to try to knock $100 or more off the price, ECS representatives said. Both the G-series and J-series come with options for a Linux OS from Linpus Technologies.

The way the software and other operations ran on the G10IL were generally similar to other mini-laptops. Thats largely to be expected since most of them run on the same components, including Intels Atom microprocessor. Like MSIs Wind and the Eee PC, the devices are made for general office-type software and surfing the Internet, such as data input and some multitasking, but not video editing and other heavy programs.

The design of the G10IL looks nice, with a similar feel to MSIs Wind, about half to two-thirds the size of a mainstream laptop PC and weighing about one kilogram.

But boot-up time on the G10IL was slow at around 40 seconds. Once started, the netbook handled multiple programs easily and was generally easy to use.

One issue was the keypad, but its an area all the mini-laptops have trouble with. On the G10IL, I found it difficult to hit the right keys. Companies have made the keypads flat with keys bunched together. Theres not much space between keys for your fingers to feel around and navigate. You need your eyes to do so.

Over the course of trying out mini-notebooks it seems clear that typing on them is a bit different. My habit is to rest the heels of my hands on the laptop as I type, but on mini-notebooks you cant really do that without interfering with the mousepad.

I found that lifting the heels of my hands off the laptop and holding them up a bit helped hit the keys right on. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Having said that, my favorite keypad so far is on the ClassMate PC that ECS let me try out. The keys are raised and are spaced out more, so even though the keypad is smaller than the G10IL, its easier to feel when youre moving from one key to another. The ClassMates keypad by far trumps the other models Ive tried, including the Eee PC 901, MSIs Wind and ECSs G10IL.

ECSs G10IL mini-notebook will be sold by mobile phone service providers in Europe by September or October. The prices they set are unknown because if the mini-notebook is bundled with a 3G contract, it could be cheaper than the hardware price, around US$500.

People interested in the new laptops need not look for the ECS brand, however. The laptops will likely be marketed under the names of the mobile service providers.
LONDON (Reuters) - Shares in Vodafone (VOD.L) rose after the UK mobile operator announced a deal with News Corps (NWSa.N) MySpace under which footage from Vodafone-sponsored music events will be made available to users of the social networking website.

The new service, Vodafone Music Reporter, will be offered in Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and will also feature user-generated content, the telecoms group said in a statement.

"I guess content is what they want now to drive volumes over the 3G network," a trader said.

Vodafone shares were up 2.2 percent at 143.85 pence by 4:45 a.m. EDT.

Vodafone-sponsored music events include Germanys Music Unlimited Cologne festival.

(Reporting by Myles Nelligan; Editing by Quentin Bryar)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - To Celeste Tyler and her teenage friends, text-messaging is as effortless as tying their shoes.

The high school senior can text without looking, sending messages on her red Samsung "slider" while it's behind her back, in her purse or under her desk at school, where cell phones are banned.

So why not do it while driving?

Well, now the law. A state rule that takes effect Tuesday prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds from using any device to talk or text while driving, except in an emergency.

A companion law allows adults to continue chatting away, but says they must use a hands-free device while driving.

And that's just not fair, Tyler said.

"I've seen a lot of adult drivers that are way more irresponsible than my friends with licenses," said the 17-year-old, who is studying for her license. "People over 28 don't know how to use their phones very well."

Most teenagers rarely talk on their cell phones, she said, preferring text and instant messaging instead.

Texting is not specifically prohibited in the law for those 18 and older, but law enforcement officials say it's generally covered under statutes aimed at distracted drivers.

California's crackdown is part of a nationwide movement to get drivers' attention focused on the road rather than their conversations and their gadgets.

Lawmakers in 33 states have introduced 127 bills related to driver distraction this year alone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"Ten years ago, there were very few people with cell phones," said Matt Sundeen, the organization's transportation expert. "That's obviously changed."

New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Utah are among the states with laws requiring hands-free use of cell phones. A Washington state law takes effect at the same time as California's.

Some cities also have passed restrictions, including Chicago and Santa Fe, N.M., as has the District of Columbia.

In California, more than 4,000 people die in traffic accidents each year, according to the California Highway Patrol. After the hands-free law takes effect, the state should expect 300 fewer traffic fatalities every year, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Under the new laws, anyone seen driving with a cell phone to their ear will be subject to fines of $20 for the first ticket and $50 for subsequent tickets, plus additional fees that will more than triple the fine.

Cited drivers will catch a break from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which will not assign a violation point to their driving records.

Garry Weldon can't wait for the law to take effect. He's tired of sharing the road with chatty commuters and absent-minded text messagers.

"Just yesterday, I was at an intersection and a person talking on their cell phone ran the red light," said Weldon, 50, a construction management inspector.

Still, some of the drivers-in-waiting at Sacramento's A-1 Driving School said they think the cell phone and texting ban is unfair and unlikely to change their habits.

Michael Peoples, 18, says when he gets his license in a few weeks, he will only drive using his hands-free Bluetooth device.

"I follow every rule I come across," Peoples said. "But I'm certain a lot of people won't. They'll be texting on the road."
The first certified implementation of mobile WiMAX has gone live in a small deployment in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, through a partnership of Alvarions silicon and DigitalBridge Communications.

DBC currently serves 3,000 homes and businesses in the area, and the company hopes to add the mobile capabilities to its 200,000-home footprint throughout the year, DBC said.

On June 17, the WiMAX Forum certified ten mobile WiMAX products that use the 2.5-GHz band. Mobile WiMAX allows for true nomadic roaming, like a cell phone or 3G-equipped notebook, allowing handsets or PC cards equipped with the proper chipset to receive WiMAX while on the road.

Alvarions BreezeMax 2.5 chipset, which will be used in Jackson Hole, is just one piece of the puzzle, however; DBC will still need to roll out a mobile station module to allow true broadband roaming using the technology. Alvarion, for its part, indicated that products "from the open market" could fill this need.

The products that the WiMAX Forum certified, however, include products from Airspan Networks, Beceem Communications, Intel, Samsung, Sequans Communications and ZyXEL, each of which received cerification for a mobile module. Alvarion, Motorola, Samsung, and Sequans all received certification for their base-station products. Certification ensures that all of the products are interoperable with one another.

More than 100 products are expected to be certified by the end of 2008, with over 1,000 by 2011, the Forum added.

The WiMAX Forum said that it will begin to accept certification applications for 3.5-GHz equipment during 3Q 2008, with testing to begin in the fourth quarter, and certification completed for those products before the end of the year. The 2.5-GHz band, where WiMAX is concerned, is essentially restricted to the United States; the 3.5-GHz band will be used elsewhere around the world. Testing of 2.3-GHz WiMAX procedures will also occur during 2008, the Forum said. The latter technology is used in a few locations throughout the world, most notably South Korea, where it is the spectrum band used by WiBro, a precursor to WiMAX.
After tackling cell phones, iPods, laptops, and desktops, the (RED) organization on Monday announced plans to launch an online music service that will feature original songs from participating artists.

The offering will launch in September for $5 per month. Each week subscribers will receive an exclusive (RED) song from an established musician, a new song from an emerging artist, a "crackerjack surprise" of non-music content, and stories of how (RED) dollars are being spent in Africa.

(RED) is a charity organization started by U2 lead singer Bono and Bobby Shriver that teams up with various companies and donates a portion of the proceeds to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Half of the proceeds will be donated to (RED) efforts. Five subscriptions is enough money to provide antiretroviral treatment to someone living with HIV for an entire year, according to (RED).

Downloads will be available in a DRM-free format and delivered to a users desktop via a downloadable application, according to (RED). The app was designed by IDEO and built by PassAlong Networks.

Artists like U2, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Emmylou Harris, and Death Cab for Cutie have already committed to provide music for the project, (RED) confirmed.

This music offering was the brainchild of Don MacKinnon, founder of HEAR Music, former vice president of music and entertainment of Starbucks, and current president of (RED) content.

"Every week you will receive great music from amazing artists and people living with AIDS in Africa will receive lifesaving antiretroviral medicine," MacKinnon said in a statement.

"I have no doubt that some of the music software we are working on at (RED) will help change the way music is received, as well as changing the lives of Africans who will die without the AIDS drug that (RED) can provide," Bono said in a statement.

This online music store is the first interactive offering from (RED), and the organization is looking to leverage the subscriber base from this project to create a sustainable flow of money to African AIDS programs.

"This new direct link to customers is very important to (RED). Not only because it creates an annuity to buy lifesaving medicine for those living with AIDS in Africa, but also because it gives us a direct relationship with (RED) consumers, creating a new platform to communicate the impact (RED) purchases are having on peoples lives," said Susan Smith Ellis, chief executive of (RED).

Those interested in the project can pre-register at

Earlier this year, Dell and Microsoft teamed up to provide customized versions of Dell products as part of a pledge to help (RED).
Rhapsody on Monday partnered with MTV Networks to launch Music Without Limits. They want to accomplish three goals in the digital-music industry: Speed the migration from proprietary formats such as Digital Rights Management (DRM) music; empower music fans to stream full-length songs and buy MP3s from music sites and social networks on the Web; and integrate digital music directly with mobile phones.

"Until now, legal digital music has suffered from severe limitations on where consumers could buy it and how they could use it," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. "Music Without Limits fixes those problems and will make digital music easier and more valuable for consumers."


The Rhapsody MP3 catalog will include more than five million songs from all four major music labels -- Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and EMI -- plus independent labels. The Rhapsody MP3 Store is offering digital albums, most for $9.99, and tracks for 99 cents.

Rhapsody stocked the store with DRM-free MP3 music from its inventory, as well as its partners, including iLike, Yahoo, MTV Networks, and Verizon Wireless. Rhapsodys MP3 Store lets consumers listen to full-length songs instead of 30-second samples. Purchased tracks and albums can be downloaded into Rhapsody, RealPlayer or iTunes.

Beginning in the weeks ahead, consumers will be able to enjoy full-song playback (up to 25 songs per month per person) whether they are on Yahoo Music or, or, and they will have the ability to go from playing a song on those sites to purchasing a DRM-free version of the music. This is a scalable model to monetize the potential for music consumption across social networks. Artists and labels will be paid royalties each time their music is played.

On the mobile front, Rhapsody will also push much of its inventory through Verizons V CAST Music service. Verizon Wireless customers -- subscribers to the unlimited V CAST Music with Rhapsody service or not -- can purchase music directly from their phones and have the songs delivered over the air to their handsets. Any tracks purchased over the air will be downloaded -- in DRM-free MP3 format -- to the customers device.


"There was a time when Rhapsody was a leader in this digital music, but now it seems to me like they are more of a follower. already offers DRM-free MP3s. and so does Napster. I dont see what makes this much different than a me-too announcement at this point," said Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media.

The biggest challenge for Rhapsody -- and for Amazon and Napster -- is educating the market. Analysts said the majority of consumers are unaware there is any advantage to buying music anywhere besides Apples iTunes Store. Since Apples iPod is the dominant player, consumers have a natural tendency to buy music from iTunes.

"Gradually over time I think consumers will learn of the advantage of DRM-free music, but I think the primary beneficiary will be, not Napster or Rhapsody," Leigh said. "These companies will continue to stick around, but its going to be hard for them to become leaders again."
Rhapsody America, the joint online music service of RealNetworks and MTV Networks, on Monday began selling songs from all major labels in the MP3 format and launched its mobile music service with Verizon Wireless.

Rhapsody America will sell songs from all four main music labels and many independents as MP3 files not protected by DRM (digital rights management) technology, Real said on Monday. Buyers will be able to download the songs into Rhapsody, RealPlayer and Apples iTunes and put them on any MP3 player, including an iPod.

In addition, Rhapsody America set up several new channels for finding and buying music through its service, including Yahoo Music, MTV sites such as and, and iLike, which is accessible through major social-networking sites. From MTVs sites and Yahoo Music, people will be able to try out songs by listening to the full track and seamlessly go on to buy the MP3 file from Rhapsody, the company said. Most songs will cost US$0.99 and most albums will cost $9.99.

Rhapsody, which was started by Real, made its name with a subscription service that gave customers access to a large library of songs on their PCs via a monthly fee. But it has had a hard time competing against Apples iTunes, a store where users purchase individual songs and albums. The songs customers get from Rhapsody via subscription are still protected by DRM.

Real and MTV announced their partnership last August in a bid to better compete against Apple. The exclusive deal with Verizon Wireless was announced at that time but took several months to complete because of the complexity of the task, Rhapsody Americas shift to MP3 that was happening at the same time, and the desire to get the service right from the start, said John Harrobin, senior vice president of digital media and marketing at Verizon.

The service with Verizon Wireless, called VCast Music with Rhapsody, will let subscribers easily move songs and playlists from the Rhapsody subscription library onto select mobile phones, where they can be enjoyed until the user cancels the subscription, said Ed Ruth, director of digital music at Verizon. If the service is cancelled, the phones music player will no longer play them. The songs can be shared on as many as three Rhapsody-compatible phones or players. There will also be options for users of the compatible phones to buy songs or simply use the software to manage songs from their own CDs that they put on their phones.

The first phone fully optimized for VCast Music with Rhapsody will be the Chocolate 3 from LG Electronics, which will go on sale by the end of July, Ruth said. But there will be firmware upgrades for several existing handsets that will give them most of the same capability, he added. Most of the difference is in how quickly users can synchronize large amounts of content between the phone and PC, he said. VCast Music with Rhapsody will cost $14.99 per month. Over-the-air song purchases through the phone, which wont require a subscription, will cost $1.99 and include one copy of the song for the phone and one for the buyers PC.
Google has expanded its licensing agreement with digital map provider Tele Atlas under undisclosed financial terms. The new license covers the entire range of Googles map-related services, from Google Maps and Google Earth services to newer applications that are expected to play lead roles on Googles Android mobile platform.

The five-year agreement also gives Tele Atlas access to edits for its maps from Googles community of users, whose suggested changes can help the company further increase the quality and richness of Tele Atlas maps. Tele Atlas CEO Bill Henry said the deal was important because it would give Tele Atlas "access to input from a significant online community of map users, whose feedback can help us keep our maps fresh and accurate."


From Googles perspective, the new licensing agreement will provide the search-engine giant with guaranteed access to Tele Atlas maps and dynamic content in more than 200 countries around the world. And it will no longer have to rely on getting data from digital mapmaker Navteq, which is in the process of being acquired by rival Nokia.

Nokias recent relaunch of the Symbian mobile operating system as a free open-source rival to Google Android must have given the search-engine giant pause for thought, noted IDC Mobility Research Director Shiv Bakhshi. "It makes perfect sense for Google to sign on with a competing source, because it doesnt want its future to be circumscribed by a competitor," Bakhshi said.

By repositioning Symbian, Nokia will also be able compete for free, Bakhshi noted. "So it is a fight in a marketplace where Android no longer has any price advantage."

Mapping data is without doubt a major part of Googles plans for Android, Bakhshi noted. Following the launch of Googles first Android Developer Challenge last May, Android team member Eric Chu noted that many of the top submissions took advantage of the Geo-location and social-networking capabilities of the Android mobile platform.

"These applications allow friends to share their personal experiences and favorite content such as vacations, photos, shows, music, cooking recipes, restaurants and much more as they relate to certain locales," Chu said.

Location is going to be "absolutely critical" for all mobile services -- not only those based on location, but also for other services that intend to infuse location capabilities, Bakhshi said. "It is a very critical element, otherwise Nokia would not have bid $8.1 billion for Navteq," he added.


Google may also benefit from the future plans of navigation-device maker TomTom, which purchased Tele Atlas for $4.6 billion in a deal announced late last year. TomTom currently holds 99.29 percent of the ordinary shares in Tele Atlas and recently announced that Tele Atlas shares will no longer be traded by late July.

Googles wide range of location capabilities, when combined with TomToms data contribution, is expected to provide Tele Atlas customers with access to a full range of services once the acquisition closes.

"TomTom has developed unique technologies to collect and process map-related data from our user base of over 15 million GPS navigation devices," TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn said earlier this year. "This information will be delivered to Tele Atlas after the proposed merger to allow Tele Atlas to substantially improve its map creation, enrichment and maintenance process."
Imation has acquired "substantially all" of XtremeMac's assets, according to a company announcement. The deal is said to be worth at least $9 million, divided between $7 million in cash and a remaining amount in assumed liabilities; Imation may additionally pay as much as $10 million over the course of three years, depending on how profitable the acquisition becomes. In any case the company does not expect the deal to substantially affect its fiscal 2008 results.

Imation is primarily known for its storage media, such as cartridges, DVDs and solid-state drives. XtremeMac by contrast is known for mostly for iPhone and iPod accessories, such as cases and the Luna X2 clock radio. It has also branched out into Apple TV accessories like HDMI-to-DVI adapters.

The founder of XtremeMac, Gary Bart, will retain a leadership role, guiding the remnants of his company under a new accessories division.
PDO has announced three new products for Apple's upcoming iPhone 3G, the TopSkin for iPhone 3G, the Flipp Leather Case for iPhone 3G and Screen Protector sets for iPhone 3G. All will ship in early July. The TopSkin for iPhone 3G is a play-through design that covers the power, volume, and home buttons, with cut-outs that allow access to the phone�s camera, vibrate switch, speakers, and microphone. It includes a slim-profile belt clip and full frontal screen protector and 3G will sell for $20, available in black, blue, pink, and white.

The Flipp Leather Case for iPhone 3G comes with a protective flip front cover utilizing a magnetic closure. It features cut-out access to all ports and an integrated belt clip. It includes a full frontal screen protector. It will sell for $30.

The Screen Protector sets are precision cut to cover the entire front face of the iPhone 3G except for the home button and speaker. The clear screen protectors are made of high quality material and each pack contains 2 screen protectors and and a dust cloth and will sell for $10.

Apple is pushing its green initiatives with the iPhone 3G's packaging, using potato-starch based products and avoiding plastics altogether. According to Italian webnews site setteB.IT, the Dutch blog Bright is reporting that PaperFoam, a paper-based packaging company that specializes in carbon friendly packaging, will supply packing materials for the iPhone 3G. PaperFoam emphasizes lower carbon dioxide emissions (compared to plastics), 100-percent recyclable materials and low product weight. PaperFoam uses an injection-moulding technology utilizing a mixture of starch and water inside a mould to custom fit the item.

The move may help Apple's green efforts, which recently took a hit in Greepeace's rankings. While Apple was praised for products that met or exceeded the Energy Star 4.0 standard, Greenpeace gave it a fail in all other forms of energy efficiency, as well as in its e-waste policies.

Greenpeace has criticized Apple, saying that Apple's iPhone is not in keeping with CEO Steve Jobs' promise to green the company. PaperFoam's packaging, in combination with Apple's cellphone recycling program may turn the tide in rankings by environment watchdogs.

Hutchison Telecom and T-Mobile on Monday announced pricing and plan information for the 3G iPhone for Hong Kong and The Netherlands, respectively, while Debitel unveiled plans for German distribution of the device. According to iLounge, Hutchison will offer the device at a price dependant on the plan chosen, of which there are four. The 8GB model will range from free to HK$2938 (~$380), while the 16GB will sell for HK$138 (~$20) to HK$3738 (~$480).

Plans themselves start at HK$188 (~$25), offering users 500MB of data and 500 basic minutes, ranging up to HK$498 (~$65) for an unlimited data plan with 2200 basic minutes. Hutchison is taking preorders for the 3G iPhone starting July 1st, with an alleged "iPhone G3 First Day Sales Gala" held for select pre-registrants.

ZDNet writes that T-Mobile is set to introduce the iPhone in the netherlands, offering users a choice of three plans starting from �30 (~$50). All plans will come with unlimited data on a 2Mbit data line, with access to 1500 free WiFi hotspots.

Meanwhile, German wireless provider Debitel will sell the device in its own Dug outlets, as well as Media Markt and Saturn consumer electronics chains on July 11. According to Forbes,Debitel is said to have exclusive distribution rights to distribute in these locations, after coming to an agreement with current iPhone vendor Deutsche Telekom.
NEW YORK - Cell phones are becoming more useful devices for listening to music.

Verizon Wireless is introducing Rhapsody's subscription music service Monday, allowing its customers to download as much music as they want to their phones for $15 per month.

The service will work with seven current handsets and three to be launched soon, including the third version of the popular music-oriented LG Chocolate.

The wireless arm of AT&T Inc. has a similar subscription arrangement with Napster Inc.

In a related announcement, Rhapsody said it is getting rid of copy protection on all tracks bought from its online music store. Beginning Monday, customers can buy music in the MP3 format, which will play on practically any music gadget, including iPods.

Rhapsody is following in the tracks of Napster, Apple Inc.'s iTunes and Inc., all of which have introduced MP3 downloads and moved away from digital rights management, or DRM, which prevents copying and piracy, but also makes it difficult to legally move music between devices.

Rhapsody is a joint venture of RealNetworks Inc. and Viacom Inc. through its MTV subsidiary.

Apart from its music sales and subscription service, Rhapsody provides 30-second music samples that can be played on several Web sites, through "music discovery service" iLike Inc. Those clips will now be expanded to full tracks, and surfers can listen to up to 25 of them per month without a Rhapsody subscription.

The MP3s without copy protection will extend to RealNetworks' existing relationship with Verizon Wireless. Previously, a user who bought and downloaded an individual song on a Verizon VCast handset got another copy of the song for the PC. Now, that copy will be an unprotected MP3. The copy that arrives wirelessly on the phone will still be in a protected format.

"We're taking this one step at a time," said Ed Ruth, Verizon Wireless' director of digital music. There's a concern, he said, that allowing unprotected downloads directly to cell phones could encourage piracy.

Songs downloaded through the new $15 unlimited service on Verizon phones will still come with DRM. The process requires users to connect their phones to a Windows PC running Rhapsody's software. There is no Macintosh version.

Verizon Wireless claims to be the second-largest U.S. distributor of music downloads, after iTunes. That's counting sales of ringtones as well as full tracks.


On the Net:
PDO has announced three new products for Apple's upcoming iPhone 3G, the TopSkin for iPhone 3G, the Flipp Leather Case for iPhone 3G and Screen Protector sets for iPhone 3G. All will ship in early July. The TopSkin for iPhone 3G is a play-through design that covers the power, volume, and home buttons, with cut-outs that allow access to the phone�s camera, vibrate switch, speakers, and microphone. It includes a slim-profile belt clip and full frontal screen protector and 3G will sell for $20, available in black, blue, pink, and white.

The Flipp Leather Case for iPhone 3G comes with a protective flip front cover utilizing a magnetic closure. It features cut-out access to all ports and an integrated belt clip. It includes a full frontal screen protector. It will sell for $30.

The Screen Protector sets are precision cut to cover the entire front face of the iPhone 3G except for the home button and speaker. The clear screen protectors are made of high quality material and each pack contains 2 screen protectors and and a dust cloth and will sell for $10.

Helped by the hype of iPhone 2.0 platform and a buzz over the pending iPhone 3G announcement, the iPhone generated huge traffic for internet search engines in April. ComScore, which provides market research for advertisers, says 1.3 million Americans conducted 6.9 million iPhone-related searches in April. The word �iPhone� was the most popular term, with nearly 1.5 million searches, followed by �iPhone 2.0� and �iPhone 3G.� The vast majority of those seaches -- 88.4 percent -- went to Google, Yahoo got about 7 percent, with MSN getting less than 3 percent.

Those searches generated a lot of traffic for Apple, which attracted 17.5 percent of search click-thrus. Of that number, about 17 percent were the result of �paid� searches, the rest were "organic" searches. Google�s You Tube and various blogger sites garnered about 9 percent of the total click-thrus, followed by NetShelter Technology Media at about 8.5 percent. NetShelter owns several iPhone-specific sites. The data were collected using comScore Marketer software.

"Search is frequently a harbinger of purchase intent,� said Dan Lackner, Senior VP of comScore. �The increase in volume of iPhone searches demonstrates just how heavy that interest has been for the next generation of Apple's popular phone -- even when its existence was still just a rumor."

Minggu, 29 Juni 2008

SEATTLE - Driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on a cell phone is no longer an option for Washington state drivers.

On Tuesday, they join more than 28 million others nationwide who have to hang up their cell phones or use hands-free devices. Violators can face a $124 ticket.

"We'll continue to see more legislation as more devices go in a car," said Matt Sundeen, who has monitored cell phone laws for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "A lot of people agree these types of devices are distracting, but the real question is -- are they so distracting they need some type of restriction?"

California and Washington are just the latest states to enact laws that prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Both state permit hands-free devices.

This past year, 22 state legislatures considered similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A handful of states -- like New York and New Jersey -- already have laws in place. Lawmakers in Louisiana recently sent a bill to the governor's desk.

But traffic-safety advocates say the new laws will have little impact.

"Laws like Washington's probably will have a big effect on making people feel good about passing a law but zero effect on highway safety," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

However, the new laws could have a big effect on businesses that sell headsets and related projects.

In an investors report issued last week, analysts at Morgan Keegan said they expect a revenue increase of at least $12 million in sales from California and Washington from June into August for Plantronics Inc., a California-based headset manufacturer.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to be in an accident. That study suggested that limiting cell phone usage to hands-free devices doesn't have much of an effect.

It's the talking that distracts people, traffic-safety advocates say.

"If you continue to allow hands-free phoning, you haven't addressed the safety problem," Rader said.

In 2007, there were more than 141,000 collisions in Washington state, and reports on 158 of them listed "operating" a hand-held device -- such as a cell phone or an MP3 player -- as a contributing factor, according to the state patrol.

"What we're trying to get across is that when you're driving, you need to be driving," said patrol Sgt. Freddy Williams. "It's going to help keeping both hands on the wheel, but you need to focus on driving, especially at freeway speeds."

New York, the first state to pass a law against hand-held cell phone chatting, issued more than 81,000 tickets in 2002, the first full year the law was in place. By 2007, the number of tickets jumped to more than 312,000, according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

New York State Police Lt. Glenn Minor attributes the increase in tickets to police officers becoming more accustomed to looking for the violation.

In North Carolina, which banned teenagers from using cell phones while driving, cell phone use increased after the law took effect, the insurance institute report said. Teen drivers didn't think the law was being enforced.

Among people on Seattle streets, reaction to the new Washington state law was mixed, although people agreed that using a cell phones is a distraction and may lead to accidents.

"I've been in close calls ... because I was not paying attention," said Tony Championsmith, 55, who bought a headset after his latest close call. "Luckily, the other drivers were paying attention."

But 76-year-old Barry Jackson was disappointed that the new law allows headsets. He said conversation is the distracting factor and that letting people continue talking doesn't help.

"Why have the law then?" Jackson said.


On the Net:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

Washington State Patrol:
PDO has announced three new products for Apple's upcoming iPhone 3G, the TopSkin for iPhone 3G, the Flipp Leather Case for iPhone 3G and Screen Protector sets for iPhone 3G. All will ship in early July. The TopSkin for iPhone 3G is a play-through design that covers the power, volume, and home buttons, with cut-outs that allow access to the phone�s camera, vibrate switch, speakers, and microphone. It includes a slim-profile belt clip and full frontal screen protector and 3G will sell for $20, available in black, blue, pink, and white.

The Flipp Leather Case for iPhone 3G comes with a protective flip front cover utilizing a magnetic closure. It features cut-out access to all ports and an integrated belt clip. It includes a full frontal screen protector. It will sell for $30.

The Screen Protector sets are precision cut to cover the entire front face of the iPhone 3G except for the home button and speaker. The clear screen protectors are made of high quality material and each pack contains 2 screen protectors and and a dust cloth and will sell for $10.

NetCom, the iPhone 3G carrier in Norway has published its iPhone 3G plans, confirming that the 3G version will lack MMS, just as the original version did. The news, first reported by Italian website setteB.IT (English translation here), means that MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), which provides media rich text messaging, including video, audio and rich text, will be unavailable on the new iPhone 3G. MMS is considered the evolutionary step from SMS, which is limited to simple text.MMS has been available on AT&T and Verizon's networks for half a decade or more, and many thought that the iPhone 3G would add the service.

Sabtu, 28 Juni 2008

Virgin Mobile said Friday that it will buy Helio, the struggling high-end wireless carrier, for $39 million. Virgin Mobile will acquire Helios 170,000 customers, but whether Helios brand and unique services will continue is unclear.

The two companies are both "mobile virtual network operators" who resell Sprint wireless service with their own exclusive phones, applications and plans.

Along with the $39 million stock transaction, Virgin is getting a shot in the arm of $50 million in cash from their partial parent, Virgin Group, and Helios former part-owner SK Telecom. SK Telecom will now own 17 percent of Virgin Mobile USA; the Korean company has long wanted a place in the U.S. market, which is why it invested in Helio in the first place.

Acquiring Helio gives Virgin a monthly subscription base to supplement Virgins prepaid plans, the company said. The acquisition will also apparently drive down Virgins costs because of some sort of amendment to Virgins agreement with Sprint, which runs Virgin and Helios physical cell phone network.

Well learn more throughout the day, including whats going to happen to Helios phones and customers, and why Helios part-owner Earthlink seems to have completely vanished.

Helio was announced in 2005 as a high-end, data-centric mobile phone provider that was supposed to bring exclusive Korean phones and a sense of openness to the mobile landscape. But from their very start, they had trouble finding their market and focus. By mid-2006, they had changed into a young-adult focused carrier, and arranged a tie-up with MySpace. Theyve had several innovative ideas, such as their "buddy beacon" GPS friend-tracking application and their excellent Ocean messaging phone, but they never really gained traction in the marketplace.

To give you an idea of the size of Helio, you can value this purchase at $39 or $89 million, depending on whether you count the Virgin cash infusion. Verizon recently bought Alltel for $5.9 billion or $27 billion, depending on whether you count the assumption of debt. Yes, Alltel is worth at least 30 Helios.

In what the company claims is an industry first, Chrysler has announced uconnect web, a system that brings wireless Internet connectivity to any Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep vehicle.

It essentially turns the car into a WiFi hotspot that provides secure, real-time entertainment and information to all vehicle passengers.

According to Chrysler, the hotspot range will extend approximately 50 feet from the vehicle in all directions, and will combine both WiFi and 3G cellular connectivity. This means that passengers can stop the car at a family picnic or other event, and then proceed to make dinner reservations, check directions or weather, make online purchases, log into Facebook, MySpace, Disney or Webkinz, watch YouTube videos, or upload photos to a Flickr account, all using any laptop, Sony PSP, the iPhone, or other Wi-Fi-enabled device.

Since this is ultimately a cellular service, despite its emphasis on WiFi, the pricing will be complex: "The U.S. Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the router module is $449," Chrysler says. "Dealer installation is estimated at approximately $35-50. Autonet Mobile offers wireless Internet account service at $29 a month, available in 12-, 24- and 36-month service plans. There is a one-time $35 service activation fee. Customer support assistance for hardware and service is available."

Uconnect web will be powered by Autonet Mobile, and will be available in August as a dealer-installed Mopar accessory, the company said in the statement.

Virgin Mobile bought Helio Friday for $39 million , but Virgin isnt throwing the small, high-end cell phone carriers technology away. Instead, Virgin Mobile plans to integrate Helios data services into their own offerings, Virgin Mobile USA CEO Dan Schulman said in a conference call Friday.

"Starting to take those advanced data applications that Helio has and moving them into the rest of our base is really the natural evolution of our product market," Schulman said.

Virgin Mobile acquired Helio from South Koreas SK Telecom and Earthlink in a complicated transaction involving $39 million in stock and a $50 million cash infusion by SK Telecom and Virgin Group. SK now owns 17% of Virgin Mobile USA. Earthlink will own 2.7% of the new company and Helios charismatic founder, Sky Dayton, will not be involved in the new firm, Helio spokeswoman Jayne Wallace said.

The merger lets prepaid carrier Virgin expand into the subscription, or "postpaid" market, and gives them advanced technology platforms that would otherwise cost $25 million to build, Schulman said.

"We are substantially increasing our size, scope and growth potential ... getting an inventory of highly sophisticated and desirable handsets ... and we accelerate our time to market by at least one year," he said.

While the Helio name will go away except in a few cases, Shulman said, Helios 170,000 subscribers dont need to worry - theyll be able to keep their phones, plans, and Helio services. The new carrier will combine Virgins scale, financial common sense and low prices with Helios data services and advanced phone options, Schulman said.

Beyond that, technical details were hard to come by, though. Theres no word yet on whether Virgin will adopt Helios attractive Danger-designed user interface, or whether Virgin will toss out the popular Java applications system for Helios unique and incompatible WIPI C.

Virgin and Helio have a lot in common. They both use Sprints network, though Shulman revealed that Virgin gets a much better deal from Sprint than Helio got. Their phones are compatible. And they both targeted young users - though Virgin has historically gone for basic, voice-only users, while Helio aimed at the high-end social-networking crowd.

"Our target market remains the same, the youth market," Schulman said, "The youth market has evolved."

Merging will let Virgin Mobile achieve savings based on its size, Schulman said. For instance, because the one new company makes more calls on Sprint, theyre amending their agreement with Sprint to effectively lower their wholesale rates by 8% in 2009. That will enable Virgin to offer Helio-like services for $40-70/month rather than the $80 or more that most Helio subscribers pay, he said. Virgin and Helio also use the same distributor, Brightpoint, and similar call-center strategies, which will let the company find more savings.

"The key to success, in a word, is scale. It wasnt until we got up to three or four million customers that we knew we were going to have a successful, profitable business going forward ... at the end of the day, if you cant get to scale, youre not going to make it in this business," Schulman said.

Virgin Mobile launched in July 2002 and now has about 5 million customers. They specialize in inexpensive phones, prepaid plans and youth-oriented mobile content. Helio launched in May 2006 with a promise to bring advanced Asian technology to US consumers, but ended up being a mobile-social-networking focused carrier who gave a prominent role to MySpace on their phones.

The Virgin conference call also provided a peek into Helios disastrous finances. With only 170,000 customers, they had 570 employees and 1250 retail locations, Schulman said. Helio had 4-5% churn, the rate of subscribers leaving each quarter. By contrast, Virgin Mobile, which has 5 million customers, only has 450 employees. And Sprint, which analysts criticize for high churn, only had 2.45% churn during the first quarter of 2008.

Virgin will cut Helio down to 200 employees and 250 stores, and aims to increase postpaid subscriptions by 150,000 over the next year, Shulman said.
Inside the documentation for a pre-release version of iTunes 7.7, Apple has reportedly tucked a hint of an upcoming application that would enable the latest iPhone and the iPod Touch to remotely control playback on the music and video software.

The application is mentioned in the Read Me document of the iTunes installer, according to the Apple enthusiast site MacRumors. The application would be available at no charge on the App Store, which Apple is launching along with the 3G iPhone on July 11. The App Store, which will be accessible through iTunes, is for third-party developers to offer iPhone applications.

"Use iTunes 7.7 to sync music, video, and more with iPhone 3G, and download applications from the iTunes Store exclusively designed for iPhone and iPod touch with software version 2.0 or later," the Read Me file said, according to MacRumors. "Also, use the new Remote application for iPhone or iPod Touch to control iTunes playback from anywhere in your home -- a free download from the App Store."

The remote control application would presumably work via a Wi-Fi connection, since the iPhone and iPod Touch support the wireless technology.

An Apple patent application filed in 2005 indicated that the Mac and consumer electronics maker was working on a remote control application for the iPhone or iPod.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the 3G iPhone June 9 at the companys Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Unlike the original iPhone, the new model supports faster 3G, or third generation, data networks offered by wireless service providers. The 3G iPhone will be available in 22 countries, versus six for the original, when it ships. Apple plans to make the smartphone available in 70 countries by the end of the year.

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Canadian wireless customers learned how much it will cost to use the upcoming iPhone 3G as Rogers Wireless unveiled a variety of voice and data pricing plans.

The plans range from $60 to $115, will require a three-year contract, and Rogers did not say how much the handset will cost when it arrives July 11.

The cheapest monthly plan costs $60, and it comes with 150 minutes of voice calling, with unlimited evenings and weekends, 400 MB of data, 75 sent text messages, and unlimited incoming texts and visual voicemail messages.

The $75 plan will net consumers 300 weekday minutes, 750 MB of data, and 100 sent texts. The $100 plan is good for 600 minutes, 1 GB of data, and 200 sent text messages.

The most expensive plan runs $115, and subscribers get 800 minutes of daytime calling, 2 GB of data, and 300 sent text messages.

Rogers calculated that the plan with 400 MB of data represents up to 200,000 text e-mails or 3,100 Web pages. The 2-GB plan is the equivalent of 1,048,000 text e-mails or 16,000 Web pages.

Users of the Apples handset typically use more data than other smartphone users. Because the latest-generation iPhone will have 3G capabilities, Canadian customers may quickly hit their data limit. But each of the service plans comes with unlimited access to all Rogers and Fido Wi-Fi hotspots.

By comparison, AT&T will be the exclusive U.S. carrier of the iPhone 3G. Subscribers have to sign up for a $30 unlimited data plan in addition to a voice plan that starts at $39.99. It is unclear how much text messages will cost at the moment. AT&T requires a two-year contract.

The original iPhone has already sold about 6 million units while only being available in six countries. The iPhone 3G will debut in 22 countries, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it eventually will be sold in 70 countries.

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Jumat, 27 Juni 2008

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson warned Friday that it will just break even in the second quarter as worsening market conditions cut into sales.

Shares of the Stockholm-based company tumbled nearly 10 percent to 60 kronor ($10.02).

Ericsson cited "moderating demand" for mid-to-high end mobile phones, as well as delays in the quarter in the shipping of new products.

The company said it would break even before taxes.

It was Sony Ericsson's second profit warning this year. In March it warned of similar problems, which led the company reporting a 48-percent drop in first-quarter net profits.

Sony Ericsson reports second-quarter results on July 18.

The news comes on the heels of disappointing results from Treo smart phone maker Palm Inc., which Thursday reported a fiscal fourth-quarter loss and lower revenue which missed Wall Street expectations. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said sales of cheaper Centro phones are strong, but higher-margin Treo sales have slowed.

Blackberry maker Research In Motion Ltd. also this week reported quarterly profit which missed analysts expectations.

When the company released first-quarter results, it said it expected the global handset market for this year to grow at a pace of about 10 percent, from more than 1.1 billion units in 2007.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A quarter of European Union households surveyed by the blocs executive body have turned their backs on fixed lines in favor of mobile phones, with a fifth now making calls over the Internet.

The European Commissions survey of 27,000 homes in the 27-nation bloc found that 24 percent were using mobiles only.

The figure in the 10 ex-communist new member states was 39 percent as governments there found it cheaper to make the leap to mobile rather than upgrading old fixed-line networks.

But Finland -- home of handset maker Nokia (NOK1V.HE) -- came in at 61 percent.

Almost half of European households have access to the Internet but only 36 percent can use broadband, a service Brussels is seeking to make more widely available.

A separate study for the Commission found that "bill shock," or the high price of using mobile data services outside a home state -- such as surfing the Web on a laptop or checking emails via a mobile -- was holding back the roaming market.

"Mobile data services are the future and we in Europe were the first to roll them out," EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

Mobile operators are offering aggressive retail prices in consumers home states, triggering growth in the market.

But subscribers have been afraid to use their mobiles while traveling in the EU for fear of being saddled with bills rising to thousands of euros.

"For the one last time, I call on mobile operators to react to my request of February to voluntarily but clearly bring down mobile roaming charges for text messages and other data by July 1," Reding said.

She will decide around July 18 whether to propose caps on the price of roamed texts and data usage, her spokesman told a news briefing on Friday.

Operators and Commission officials say regulation of roamed texts is inevitable but the case for data, a market in its infancy, is more finely balanced and additional time may be needed before possible intervention in the market.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Dale Hudson)
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Europeans are increasingly shunning landlines for mobile phones and online calling, according to a European Union survey released Friday.

The poll, carried out in November and December, found that 24 percent of European households have given up fixed landlines for mobile phones, up from 22 percent in a survey two years earlier.

The Czech Republic, Finland and Lithuania had the lowest number of landlines in use across the 27-nation bloc.

The survey -- which questioned 26,730 people -- found that 22 percent are now using their personal computers for phone calls or video chatting via programs such as Skype. That is a rise of 5 percentage points from the last poll.

The survey said the bloc's newer members, most of them in eastern Europe, were leading the trend in a shift to online calling. In Lithuania, 61 percent of the households were using Internet phone services.
BEIJING (AFP) - China Mobile said Friday the main obstacle keeping iPhone out of the worlds largest mobile phone market had been cleared now that Apple has dropped its revenue-sharing demands.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said this week he would like to see the device introduced in China later this year, and a senior China mobile executive confirmed the two companies were back in talks.

"Weve broken through the biggest obstacle and we are negotiating at the working level," Gao Songge, deputy director of China Mobiles general department, told AFP.

Gao said Apple had given up previous demands, including a requirement to share revenues.

But he would not give a timetable for the iPhone hitting the China market, which had 540 million mobile users at the end of November 2007.

Some market analysts expect it could happen in November.

Apple unveiled earlier this month its latest version, the iPhone 3G, which is designed for faster Internet downloads and longer talk times, and provides GPS mapping built in.

The company will begin rolling out new versions of the sleek smartphone devices July 11 and make it available in 70 countries, starting at a price as low as 199 dollars, half the cost of its predecessor.
NEW YORK - MetroPCS Communications Inc. has become the largest U.S. wireless carrier to say it will let customers bring cell phones from other carriers, which it will then reprogram for use on its own network.

This week's announcement by the Dallas-based regional carrier is one of a series of moves in the industry that amount to a gradual opening of the U.S. wireless market, giving consumers more choice over what phones to use on what networks.

Carriers generally sell phones that are locked to their own service. This protects their business model, which is based on subsidizing the cost of the phone by hundreds of dollars, then making that money back on monthly service fees.

MetroPCS's move threatens these traditional rules. It allows customers with certain models of phones from Sprint Nextel Corp., Verizon Wireless, Alltel Corp. and a few other carriers to bring their phones to MetroPCS stores, where they will be reprogrammed.

Phones from AT&T Inc., T-Mobile USA or other providers that use a technology known as Global System for Mobile, or GSM, won't work on MetroPCS's network. It is already possible to bring an unlocked GSM phone from, say, T-Mobile, and have it activated on AT&T's network, but AT&T won't unlock the phone for you.

A smaller carrier, Pocket Communications, reprograms phones for customers. Its network covers the San Antonio area.

MetroPCS's network covers 14 large cities, including Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. It had 4.4 million subscribers at the end of March.

Its network uses the Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA, technology. CDMA carriers maintain databases of the serial numbers carried by phones that they have sold, and except for Pocket and now MetroPCS, won't activate phones with other numbers. They generally say that they won't let any phones on to their networks without putting that model through rigorous testing. This applies even to phones that are functionally identical to their own, like the many slight variations of the Motorola Razr sold by different carriers.

Consumer groups have been fighting the locking of phones and exclusive agreements between manufacturers and carriers that, for instance, restrict Apple Inc.'s iPhone to AT&T Inc.'s network.

Apart from locking the phones, carriers protect their business model by signing customers to two-year contracts, and charging an early termination fee if they break it. MetroPCS's move does not change that fact, but major carriers have been reducing their early termination fees this year, prorating them depending on how long a contract has been in force.


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Virgin Mobile USA on Friday said it has agreed to acquire Helio, a joint venture between SK Telecom and EarthLink, for $39 million in equity.

Strategically, the Helio acquisition allows Virgin to add a set of data applications to its suite of products and services. Entering into the postpaid market will also give Virgin access to about 140 million prospective new customers.

Dan Schulman, CEO of Virgin Mobile USA, characterized Helio as an asset that adds to the companys scale and allows it to reduce network costs.

"This strategic acquisition integrates Virgin Mobile USAs brand recognition, scale and extensive distribution with Helios accomplishments in advanced handset and content offerings," Schulman said. "It provides us with a firm foundation to create a truly holistic, leading-edge product suite to service all of our existing and prospective customers."


With the acquisition, Virgin will gain an established postpaid billing and customer care platform. Virgin expects acquiring Helios 170,000 customers and expanding its portfolio will increase the companys volume. That, the firm said, will drive down the companys cost per minute under an amendment to its Personal Communications Service agreement with Sprint Nextel.

On the consumer side, Helio has made headway on social networking. The company has developed data services in partnership with YouTube, Google and MySpace. Virgin said it will use this to strengthen its competitive position in the prepaid, hybrid and postpaid markets while moving its handsets upmarket.

"With about 20 percent of our disconnects currently going to postpaid products, we believe this new platform will be a powerful retention tool as we offer a unique and desirable postpaid alternative to our customers," Schulman said.


JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg is somewhat surprised Virgin is buying Helio. The Helio concept was struggling as a high-end Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) targeting consumers with the least amount of money to spend on expensive phones and expensive monthly services.

"Helio seemed to get away from its initial mention. I guess there was only so much money backers were willing to pump into it before they realized it wasnt working. Its another case of MVNO really not being a great business model," Gartenberg said.

With the demise of so many mobile players over the past 18 months, he continued, mobile companies looking to enter the market should think twice about the MVNO model. It may seem like a strong play to push niche vertical services to mobile consumers, but it turns out that carrier services have a broad-enough appeal to satisfy most users.

"Weve seen signs of Helio stores closing down," Gartenberg said. "That model clearly didnt work, so well have to see what Virgin decides to do with the existing brand, the existing subscribers, and where they plan on taking the stores from here."
NEW YORK - Virgin Mobile USA Inc. is buying Helio LLC, a struggling cell phone carrier that was founded to bring the advanced features of South Korean phones to the U.S. market.

Virgin Mobile said Friday it would pay $39 million in stock for Helio, which has 170,000 subscribers, down from nearly 200,000 at the beginning of the year.

At the same time, British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group and SK Telecom, the South Korean carrier that is the majority owner of Helio, will each invest $25 million in Virgin Mobile. That will give SK Telecom a 17 percent stake in Virgin Mobile.

Virgin Mobile indicated that it will keep operating Helio's advanced data services and its contract-based service plans. Virgin Mobile's own plans are prepaid and lack contracts.

But the Helio brand will likely be phased out, said Dan Schulman, Virgin Mobile's chief executive. It might be kept in the Korean-American market, where Helio is popular, he said on a conference call.

Before the acquisition closes in the next few months, Helio will be cutting costs, Schulman said. Helio had five company-owned stores and 50 company-owned kiosks and has already begun shutting them down.

The long-rumored deal is a poor payoff for Helio's founders. The company was launched in May 2006 as a joint venture of Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. and SK Telecom.

Since Helio was not a publicly traded company, data on its financials have been scant, but it has contributed to losses at EarthLink. Just last year SK Telecom invested an additional $270 million in Helio, cutting EarthLink's ownership share to about 22 percent. Friday's release said the company had an unsold inventory of 85,000 handsets, worth about $17 million.

The one bright spot for Helio was that its customers spend $80 per month on average for service, far higher than the industry average around $50. That's because Helio includes broadband data access for Web surfing, and downloads of music and games.

But Helio was unable to latch on to the burgeoning demand for data-capable "smart" phones. Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry have dominated that market in the last year.

Virgin Mobile had 5.1 million customers at the end of March, making it one of the largest U.S. "mobile virtual network operators," or MVNOs. Rather than owning their own network, MVNOs buy wholesale airtime from other carriers. It's a business model that has proved exceedingly difficult to profit from. Amp'd Mobile, ESPN Mobile and Disney Mobile have all shut down.

Five years ago, "We may have made it seem too easy in there, and a lot of people jumped into it," Schulman said. "The key to success to this business, in a word, is scale. Frankly, it really wasn't until we got into the 3- or 4-million range of customers that we were able to know that we would be able to have a successful, profitable business."

Virgin Mobile has been a relative success, but has problems of its own. It said in May that it expects to lose between 130,000 and 160,000 net subscribers in the second quarter.

Virgin Mobile shares fell 22 cents, or 7.4 percent, to $2.77 Friday.

Both Virgin Mobile and Helio use Sprint Nextel Corp.'s network, which makes the integration of the two businesses possible. Virgin Mobile said Friday that it had renegotiated the terms of the Sprint contract to reduce its costs through volume discounts.


On the Net:
Following in the tradition of the Vu and the Voyager, Verizon Wireless customers now have another touchscreen alternative to the iPhone.

The LG Dare is clearly aimed at the casual market, but its design and features may make some mobile professionals look twice.

The 3-inch LCD touchscreen takes up most of the phones real estate, and it has many characteristics that are similar to the iPhones screen. It has a proximity sensor that switches the LCD off when its close to a users face, and it also has an accelerometer that automatically switches the orientation depending on how its being held.

Unlike the iPhone, the Dare has tactile feedback and handwriting recognition. But the Dare lacks the multi-touch input of Apples handset.

Users can surf the Web with the Dares full HTML browser utilizing Verizons EVDO Rev. A network. The phone also has access to Web-based e-mails, and can receive corporate push e-mail with Verizons RemoSync application.

The Dare features a 3.2-megapixel camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach certified lens, LED flash, and face-detecting technology. Users can also record videos, with up to 120 frames per second for slow-motion videos. The photos and videos can be edited with on-board software.

Customers can use the phones Bluetooth capabilities to wirelessly send contact and calendar events, print pictures on a compatible device, and listen to music with a stereo Bluetooth headset.

The handset is also capable of playing music while other applications are running, has a microSD slot, and is capable of using Verizons turn-by-turn directions product. The Dare measures in at 4.1 by 2.2 by 0.5 inches.

The phone can be purchased from Verizons Web site for $199 with a two-year contract and a $50 rebate. Its expected to be in retail stores July 3.

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The Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum on Thursday announced it will roll is activities and members into the Linux Mobile Foundation (LiMo) in an attempt to create a stronger entity for pushing mobile Linux.

The groups hope the move will help bolster the mobile Linux developer community and increase the adoption of mobile devices in the face of increasing completion from open source competitors like Symbian and Android.

"LiPS Forum is proud of our standardization efforts, development activities and other achievements of the last three years," LiPS Forum president Haila Wang said in a statement. "Our membership agrees that LiPSs greatest impact can be realized by adding our members expertise and resources to LiMo Foundation. Together, the member companies can better strive for a unified and ubiquitous Linux-based mobile platform."

The realignment is not completely unexpected because both groups have been working toward a similar goal. LiPS sought to create a formal standard for mobile Linux, while the LiMo Foundation wanted to create a Linux framework that can be quickly designed into a handset. Additionally, many members of LiPS, like Trolltech, MontaVista, and France Telecom, have already joined LiMo.

The move comes as mobile Linux faces increasing competition. On Tuesday, Nokia bought Symbian and said it would convert it into a free, open source operating system under the Symbian Foundation. This foundation features a broad range of partners, including Sony Ericsson, Motorola, AT&T, and Samsung.

There also will be competition from the Linux-based Android operating system, which is being supported by companies like Google, Broadcom, and Sprint. But, the LiMo Foundation should be the first to have handsets on the market, with the first wave expected within a few months.

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Microsoft on Thursday announced plans to buy MobiComp, a Portuguese company that makes software for the mobile world, including mobile posting to Web sites such as Facebook.

Microsoft hopes the acquisition will further its mobile ambitions, particularly in building new mobile data protection and sharing services, the company said in a statement. The company also plans to use MobiComp to further expand its ability to provide compelling software that can be used for work and play with mobile phones, PCs and the Internet.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

MobiComp offers several Web based software services. For example, its MobileKeeper Backup & Restore backs up mobile phone data, while MobileKeeper Sharing & Communities connects mobile phone to social networking sites and gain updates on entertainment and news.

Microsoft paid US$240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook last year.
STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson warned Friday that its second-quarter results would be dented by a difficult commercial environment.

"Difficult market conditions are going to have a (negative) impact on sales and profits in the second quarter," the group said in a statement.

Sony Ericsson said it was likely to have sold 24 million phones in the April-June period, up from 22.3 million in the first quarter, but at an average price of 115 euros (181 dollars) rather than 121 euros.

The group has for the past year has been trying to develop its business on emerging markets in order to reduce dependence on its traditional European outlets.

Sony Ericsson, which is not quoted on the stock market, was formed through the merger of Ericsson of Sweden, world leader in mobile phone networks, and Japanese electronics giant Sony.
HENDERSON, Ky. - It was swift and chaotic, witnesses said, as the plastics plant worker with a determined look opened fire, killing five co-workers then himself in rural western Kentucky.

Police said Wesley N. Higdon, 25, shot his supervisor outside the plant, then went inside and kept shooting. When the gunfire ended, one of Higdon's co-workers was dead, four others were dying and he had committed suicide.

A witness who hid behind a wall when the gunfire started said a bullet struck a water line, spraying water all over the plant.

"When I heard the gunshots, I thought it was something electrical," said plant worker Mark Singery. "When I peeked back out, I saw (him) lying there dead."

The facility closed for most of the day but reopened for limited production Wednesday night, plant manager Dean Jorgensen said Thursday.

The shooting occurred hours after an argument between Higdon and his supervisor over his not wearing safety goggles and using his cell phone while on the assembly line, police said. Higdon, 25, of Henderson, was so riled by the argument that he called his girlfriend and told her that he wanted to kill his boss, according to police.

The girlfriend didn't warn anyone, police said, and just two hours later he argued with another co-worker at a gas station near the plant, then returned and shot and killed his supervisor as they walked outside. He went back inside and shot at co-workers in a break room and on the plant floor.

"He just walked in, looked like he meant business and started shooting at everybody," Henderson Police Sgt. John Nevels said at a news conference.

Authorities said Higdon was known to keep a .45-caliber pistol in his car, which is not illegal in Kentucky.

Higdon's girlfriend, Teresa Solano Ventura, said through an interpreter that she was not aware that Higdon carried a gun in his car, The Gleaner of Henderson reported. She also said Higdon had threatened to kill himself, not his supervisor.

"He said to her that he was going to kill himself," Abby Valasquez told the newspaper, translating for her cousin, who does not speak English well.

Ventura described Higdon, with whom she has a 7-month-old son, as generous and "a good person," the newspaper said.

One worker was injured and was being treated in the critical care unit at St. Mary's Hospital and Medical Center in Evansville, Ind.

The killings stunned the Ohio River town of about 28,000 people, where a local leader said many residents know or are related to a worker at the plant. The plant, operated by Atlanta-based Atlantis Plastics, employs about 160 people and makes parts for refrigerators and plastic siding for homes.

At a prayer service Wednesday night, residents gathered to mourn the victims, some weeping softly and carrying roses.

"Our whole community is in shock," Henderson County Judge-Executive Sandy Watkins said.

Henderson County Coroner Bruce Farmer identified the supervisor as Kevin G. Taylor, 30, of Dixon. The slain co-workers were Trisha Mirelez, 25, Rachael Vasquez, 26, and Joshua Hinojosa, 28, all of Sebree; and Israel Monroy, 29, of Henderson. The hospitalized survivor was identified as Monroy's sister, Noelia Monroy.

Noelia Monroy was listed in good condition on Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Cheryl Dauble said.

Investigators were trying to piece together the timing of the shooting spree. Philbrook said Higdon didn't appear to have any previous disciplinary problems at the plant.

Four of the victims were members of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Sebree, Ky., said the Rev. Jason McClure, who had spent much of the morning with the victims' families.

"They are very upset and hurting deeply and just trying to figure out what to do next," McClure said.


Associated Press writers Harry R. Weber in Atlanta and Bruce Schreiner and Rebecca Yonker in Louisville contributed to this report.
The European Commission unveiled the draft of a plan to force down termination fees for calls to mobile phones on Thursday, opening up the plan to a two-month consultation with the European Unions telecommunications industry.

"Call termination markets in the E.U. need a regulatory plumber. Over the next 3 years, I expect greater consistency and coordination to bring the costs for mobile phone calls down by around 70 per cent from the current level," the E.U.s telecommunications commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

Phone companies charge each other termination fees for the task of accepting calls from one operators network to anothers. The rates vary widely across the E.U.: termination fees for calls to mobiles range from EUR0.02 (US$0.03) per minute in Cyprus up to EUR0.18 per minute in Bulgaria.

The fees are much lower for calls to fixed lines: an average of just over EUR0.0057 per minute local call termination, the Commission said.

"Disparate termination rates across the E.U. and large gaps between fixed and mobile termination rates are serious barriers to achieving a single european telecoms market that benefits competition and consumers. The consumer pays the price for these gaps between national regulatory policies," said Reding.

Mobile phone operators argue that efforts to create a one-size-fits-all model for all termination fees across the E.U. is unworkable, and that regulating the fees should be left to national telecommunications regulators, who have set termination fees in their national markets for many years.

Setting the rates "is a core competence of the national regulators and should remain so," said David Pringle, spokesman for the mobile phone industry trade group, the GSM Association.

Operators costs vary by a factor of four, depending on population density, topography and employment costs, he said. "Its much more expensive to serve a large rural, mountainous area than a densely populated city, for example."

Mobile phone operators also argue that pan-E.U. action by the Commission is unnecessary because national regulators are already cutting termination fees, Pringle said. "The Commission wants a 70 percent reduction in termination fees, but national regulators already have plans to do that," he said.

The consultation with the industry will end on Sept. 3, and the Commission plans to make a formal recommendation for a law in October, it said.
LISBON (Reuters) - Microsoft (MSFT.O) has agreed to buy Portuguese mobile software company MobiComp in the U.S. software giants biggest-ever investment in Portugal, Microsofts chief in Portugal said on Thursday.

Microsofts head in Portugal, Nuno Duarte, said Microsoft intends to turn MobiComp into a research and development unit in Portugal after the acquisition. He gave no financial details of the purchase other than that it was Microsofts biggest investment in Portugal to date.

"This is clearly the biggest investment Microsoft has made in Portugal in recent years," Nuno told journalists. "MobiComp will and R&D centre of Microsofts mobile communications division."

MobiComp produces software that can store content, such as contacts and calendars, held on mobile phones, and has a tool to enhance mobile social networking to Internet sites like Facebook.

Finlands Nokia (NOK1V.HE), the worlds largest mobile phone maker, is among MobiComps clients.

(Reporting by Ruben Bicho; writing by Axel Bugge; editing by Sue Thomas)
Microsoft Taiwan, mobile phone maker High Tech Computer (HTC) and several other companies on Thursday announced a mobile Internet service station in Taiwan called Pl@net.

The mobile Internet service platform puts a host of entertainment and shopping options in users hands via their mobile phone, including news, travel planning and purchase, as well as concert tickets and content from Warner Music.

Several Internet shops well-known in Taiwan also signed on to Pl@net, including an online bookstore run by Eslite and the HappyGoCard, a shopping discount and point card.

Pl@net formally launches on July 1.

HTC also announced the release of HTC My Connect 2.0, a new version of mobile software that puts a button on a handsets touchscreen that users push for quick software downloads, to share pictures, and more. One button on My Connect sends users right in the services and entertainment offered on Pl@net.

HTC is the worlds largest maker of smartphones based on the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS.
SHANGHAI (AFP) - Almost one in two Chinese people now has a mobile phone, while the number of fixed-line subscribers has fallen, state media reported Thursday.

The number of cellphone subscribers in the nation of 1.3 billion stood at 592 million at the end of May, Xinhua news agency reported, quoting Ministry of Information Industry figures.

The figure was up nine percent from 547.3 million at the end of 2007, according to previously released official data.

The Xinhua report said the main factor behind the growth was a trend for operators to cut fees in order to gain market share.

Meanwhile, the fixed-line users fell 6.5 million in the first five months of the year to 358 million, it said.

China has been leapfrogging into the age of mobile telephony because of the huge costs associated with installing fixed lines across a nation the size of the United States.

Under a long-anticipated industry restructuring plan announced last month, China will create three telecom giants to bring balance back to an industry where mobile operators have prospered and fixed-line players lagged behind.