Tech Insider

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Microsoft Acquires Giant Company Software

Microsoft Corp. has acquired antispyware vendor Giant Company Software Inc. in New York for an undisclosed amount.

Microsoft, which announced the acquisition today, will use Giant's intellectual property and technology assets to provide Windows users with new tools for protecting against spyware.

A beta version of a spyware protection tool based on Giant's technology will be available for users of Windows 2000 and later versions in about a month. The tool will be capable of detecting and removing spyware and other malware from infected systems, Microsoft said.

"Spyware is a serious and growing problem for PC users, and customers have made it clear that they want Microsoft to deliver effective solutions to protect against the threat," said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsoft's security business and technology unit.

Amy Carroll, director of Microsoft's security business and technology unit, said the beta version of the software would be available for free download from the company's Web site in January. The beta version will be based on the Giant AntiSpyware product and will give users an easy-to-use tool for getting rid of spyware, she said.

No decision has yet been made on whether the tool will be integrated into future Windows versions or will be sold as a stand-alone product, Carroll said. "Our immediate job right now is to get the beta out."

Microsoft's move addresses growing concerns over the security threat posed by spyware, said Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass. "Spyware has become the new scourge on PC users," he said.

But there is no clear leader so far when it comes to products aimed at fighting the problem. "Microsoft is jumping into a new market, where they have as good a chance as anyone else to make an impact," Oltsik said.

Microsoft's purchase of Giant comes as a growing number of security vendors are coming to market with enterprise versions of spyware products originally developed for the consumer market.

Among the vendors offering such tools are McAfee Inc.; Computer Associates International Inc., which in August acquired PestPatrol Inc.; Webroot Software Inc.; and antivirus software vendor Trend Micro Inc.

Microsoft's purchase of Giant is its second significant move in the security market and is another indication of the company's growing interest in integrating security functions into its products. In June 2003, Microsoft bought a Romanian antivirus software maker, GeCAD Software, for an undisclosed price.

Microsoft is expected to make antivirus capabilities available in future versions of Windows as a result of that purchase.

Source: ComputerWorld

iTunes Sells 200 Million Songs

Apple Computer Inc. on Thursday said sales of songs bought from its market-leading iTunes online music store had topped 200 million, a figure that was about in line with what some analysts had been expecting.

Since the store's launch in April 2003, the pace at which songs have been selling has accelerated, said Eddie Cue, Apple's vice president of applications for Cupertino, California-based Apple.

It took nearly a year to sell 50 million songs, and then four months to reach 100 million songs, which cost 99 cents each on the online store. It required three months for songs purchased to hit 150 million and then two months to reach 200 million songs, Cue said.

"It's not stronger than I expected," said Phil Leigh, an analyst at Inside Digital Media, said of the 200 million songs sold. "This is about what I expected based on the strength of iPod sales in their most recent quarter."

In Apple's fourth fiscal quarter ended Sept. 25, the company sold more than 2 million of its No. 1 iPod digital music players. Many analysts expect more than 4 million iPods to be sold in the current quarter, which includes holiday sales.

In July of this year, Apple iTunes music store hit the 100 million mark in songs purchased and downloaded.

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

ICANN Goes Domain Crazy

Internet overseeing organisation ICANN has rediscovered its love of top-level domains, announcing this week that it has put another two through to final approval stages, as well as approving the document that will be used to decide the new owner of all .net domains next year.

A special meeting of the Board yesterday resolved that both .jobs and, more controversially, .mobi had passed all the required criteria and it would now enter into in-depth negotiations about how precisely the two companies behind the bids will run the new domains.

ICANN has previously pushed .post and .travel through to its final negotiation stage in October.
In an earlier Board meeting this month at its annual conference in South Africa, the Board also approved the RFP - Request for Proposals - document that would be used to decide which company is best suited to take over the five million or so .net domains from 30 June 2005. The document has just been made publicly available [pdf].

The initial approval of more so-called "sponsored" top-level domains - or sTLDs - is a step forward for ICANN. It has faced heavy criticism for years for not following one of the main reasons for its establishment - namely using its position as naming authority to enhance competition and choice on the Internet.

Of the ten proposed, four have now gone (jobs, mobi, post, travel) through the process; and Kurt Pritz, VP of business operations, said at a recent meeting that the remainder should be through by February - although at least one will be dropped, as there are two pitches for .tel.

The process used to decide the sTLDs has, by most accounts, proved far superior to the previous new TLD process that created .aero, .biz, .info and .name and three others in November 2000. ICANN will publish the full details of the whole process once it is completed, Pritz said, and it will then be used as the framework for the approval of new global TLDs in future.

However, in the meantime, the .mobi domain looks set to become one of the most controversial elements of the internet. Its sponsoring company "Mobi JV" is a consortium of Microsoft, Nokia and Vodafone - three of the most powerful and well-known companies in the world today.
Finally, the much-argued point over whether .com will ever become just a top-level domain rather than "the Internet" will be tested.

ICANN will also be fighting on another level with VeriSign - the current registry for all .net and .com domains. VeriSign is allowed to re-pitch for the .net domain and it wants to keep it. VeriSign is already embroiled in a big legal dispute with ICANN and the company still sees itself as the true owner of the Internet since it was established long before ICANN. This taut relationship has seen VeriSign win more battles with ICANN than it has lost.

VeriSign's ability to get its point of view stuck in was also the cause of some irritation to ICANN CEO Paul Twomey during a press conference at the end of its South Africa meetings. Asked repeatedly what changes had been made most recently to the documents, often in regard to what or what was not now included, he grew frustrated at what were clearly VeriSign-inspired doubts.

All proposals for taking over .net will have to be in by the end of January 2005, and the decision over who will run it will be taken in March 2005.

Meanwhile, while all this is going on, the ICANN community remains very active in its frustration over the lack of new global TLDs. Twomey has been careful not to rock the boat one way or the other but a fascinating exchange between the ICANN Board and its members at a public meeting in South Africa seemed to make it very clear that the only thing that was holding back new gTLDs was the opinion of old Board members themselves - most notably dinosaur Vint Cerf.

How long members can be held back with ICANN's freshly stated believe in bottom-up consensus by the old guard is something that will make interesting viewing, particularly with Paul Twomey determined to brush away the cobwebs of the past.

The main argument argument against new gTLDs - that it would threaten the stability of the Internet - was given a nasty blow during the public discussion when the two Board members most set against it had to admit that the number of gTLDs could double with the slightest problem.

Source: The Register

MPAA Goes After BitTorrent

Hollywood movie studios on Tuesday sued scores of operators of computer servers that help relay digital movie files across online file-sharing networks.

The copyright infringement suits expand on a new U.S. film industry initiative whose first targets were individual file-swappers.

The defendants this time run servers that use BitTorrent, now the program of choice for online sharers of large files.

"Today's actions are aimed at individuals who deliberately set up and operate computer servers and Web sites that, by design, allow people to infringe copyrighted motion pictures," said John Malcolm, head of the Motion Picture Association of America's antipiracy unit.

Malcolm, speaking at Washington news conference, declined to name defendants. He said the suits, filed in the United States and Britain, targeted more than 100 server operators.
"These people are parasites, leeching off the creativity of others," Malcolm added. "Their illegal conduct is brazen and blatant."

The suits target computer servers that index movies for BitTorrent users, but Malcolm said the MPAA is eyeing similar action against other servers as well.

Sites like BitTorrent steadily gained in popularity after the recording industry began cracking down last year on users of Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster and other established file-sharing software.

The suits follow the same logic employed when the recording industry successfully sued the original Napster file-sharing network. The creators of that software used a central computer server to keep and update an index of what music files were being made available by computer users on the network.

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, suggested Tuesday's lawsuits would backfire.

"By bringing these suits, the MPAA runs the risk of pushing the tens of millions of file sharers to more decentralized technologies that will be harder to police," von Lohmann said.

Another potential wrinkle is that many of the computer servers are offshore, outside the scope of U.S. copyright law.

Hollywood movie studios contend that the unauthorized trading of films online has the potential to threaten their industry, particularly as faster Internet access in homes makes the large movie files easier to download.

By comparison, music files are far smaller and swapped at greater volume.

Last month, the studios began suing computer users for swapping digitized films online for copyright infringement. The industry has also been a party to lawsuits against Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster.

The industry has failed to persuade federal courts to shut down the services, and is awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: SFGate.com

Google Online Library

The libraries of some of the biggest academic institutions in the world have joined forces with Google to digitally scan library books and make them searchable online, Google announced Tuesday. The move follows several other recent, similar initiatives from the company.

Google has been branching out to deliver targeted, specialized Web search engines. On the heels of delivering its recent service for searching within the text of books (http://print.google.com), the company has launched a prerelease version of what could eventually become the world's most exhaustive academic library. Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com) is aimed at scientists, academic researchers who want to search across peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts, and more. The company has academic institutions and publishers on board as partners.

On Tuesday, Google announced that the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and The New York Public Library will help Google digitally scan their books and make them searchable online, within Google.

"Even before we started Google, we dreamed of making the incredible breadth of information that librarians so lovingly organize searchable online," said Larry Page, Google co-founder and president of Products, in a statement. "We're pleased to announce this program to digitize the collections of these amazing libraries so that every Google user can search them instantly. Our work with libraries further enhances the existing Google Print program, which enables users to find matches within the full text of books, while publishers and authors monetize that information. Google's mission is to organize the world's information, and we're excited to be working with libraries to help make this mission a reality."

"We believe passionately that such universal access to the world's printed treasures is mission-critical for today's great public university," added Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, in conjunction with Google's announcement.

While it will take years to scan in all these vast libraries, some books have already been scanned and entered into the Google index, and Google results will now include new links (book titles) whenever there are books related to the original query. Clicking on a title will deliver a Google Print page where users can browse the full text of public domain works and excerpts and/or bibliographic data of copyrighted material. Library content will be displayed in keeping with copyright law. More information and examples are online: http://print.google.com/googleprint/library.html.

Source: PC Magazine

Monday, December 13, 2004

MozSource Offers Technical Support for Mozilla

MozSource, the independent company that operates the Mozilla Store and the Netscape Store, has announced the launch of its new high-quality, affordable technical support service for Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and Mozilla 1.7.

Available from http://support.mozsource.com, end-user email support for the Firefox web browser, the Thunderbird email client and the Mozilla 1.7 Internet suite will be provided by an experienced team of support professionals who have years of experience with Mozilla-based products. During this introductory period, the support service is available for only $4.99 per incident.

“We are delighted to launch a professional, reasonably-priced support option for Firefox, Thunderbird and other Mozilla products,” observed Steve Hellings, President of MozSource.

“Firefox 1.0 and Thunderbird 1.0 have received a tremendously positive reception from millions of users," noted Bart Decrem, MozSource's CEO, "We hope that our support offerings will further enhance the user experience for existing users and provide prospective consumer and business users with the assurance that help will be available when they need it.”

Source: LinuxElectrons

AMD and IBM Collaborate On New Strained Silicon

Advanced Micro Devices and IBM have collaborated on new strained silicon technology, which stands to boost transistor speed.

In a statement ahead of the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco, the two companies called the technology a "breakthrough process" that will speed up transistors by 24 percent without increasing power levels. The strained silicon technique will work jointly with IBM's silicon-on-insulator technology, a previous advance that also boosted performance.

AMD said it plans to integrate the strained silicon technology into all of its 90-nanometer platforms by the first half of next year—at about the same time the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company will be readying its first dual-core processors. IBM, Armonk, N.Y., issued a similar statement about using strained silicon in its Power processors.

The strained silicon technology and the AMD-IBM collaboration fuels the companies' race with microprocessor giant Intel to achieve higher performance and lower power consumption.

Next year, Intel also plans to begin shipping dual-core chips, and the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company will use a more efficient 65-nanometer manufacturing process that stands to boost processor performance. Intel also produces its own chipsets and will provide supporting technology designed to enhance audio, graphics and digital applications, as well as add more management functionality.

AMD, Intel's main rival on the desktop, hasn't yet specified when it plans to begin shifting from 90 nanometers to 65 nanometers. However, the AMD-IBM collaboration also calls for the companies to jointly develop 65-nanometer and 45-nanometer chips.

Source: CRN

Microsoft Introduces Desktop Search Tool

Microsoft Monday debuted a preview of its long-anticipated desktop search as part of a toolbar suite that integrates with Windows, Internet Explorer, and the company's Outlook e-mail client.

The new tools put Microsoft into the race for the title of desktop search champ with rivals Google and Yahoo. Google rolled out its Desktop Search application in early October, while last week, Yahoo promised to release its local search utility next month.

Dubbed "MSN Toolbar Suite," the free-of-charge download includes an updated edition of the already-in-place MSN Toolbar for IE, and two new toolbars accessible from the Windows desktop and Outlook. All three of the toolbars allow searches for both Web-based content as well as wide variety of information stored on the local machine, although the results are not combined into one display, as are results collected by Google Desktop Search.

"We're putting search in a very familiar place," said Yusuf Mehdi, the vice president of Microsoft's MSN division, in a teleconference with reporters Monday morning. "Unlike some other solutions that force you to go to a Web page, we let you search within Windows or Outlook and give you the result. For all intents, it looks like you're searching within Outlook with the new toolbar."

Yusuf also touted his desktop search's file type reach. "We're indexing the broadest set of content of anyone in the [desktop search] business," We're indexing all of e-mail, all of your calendars, contacts, and notes, PDF files, which is a first, as well as GIF and bitmaps."
Google's Desktop Search, which combines Web and local search results on a browser page, currently indexes fewer file types, primarily e-mail messages and Microsoft Office-format documents.

Microsoft executives also stressed the new search tools' privacy features, and noted differences between its model and Google's. "We thought we would move more slowly," said Yusuf, explaining why the search tools weren't indexing browser caches, a trait of Google Desktop Search that has come under fire from some privacy advocates, who say that others can then easily see what Web sites a user has viewed.

Instead, Microsoft's desktop search uses Windows' standard account and authentication schemes to separate one user's search history and index from another's when several people share the same PC.

"Microsoft pays more attention to privacy than almost anyone else," agreed Charlene Li, a principal analyst with Forrester, "in part because they are who they are."
Li, who tracks search technologies for the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm, gave Microsoft's new search tools a thumbs up, with a caveat or two.
"It's pretty good, and it's very convenient, built into Outlook and on your desktop," said Li, who has been using the preview for several weeks. "But it makes some things more complicated than, say, Google.

"Google may not search as many file types, but it's interface is so simple," she added.
Who has the lead? Microsoft says it does. "Our toolbar suite goes beyond anything available before today," claimed Yusuf.

Li isn't so quick to tag a winner. "Desktop search is so new, it's impossible to say who is in the lead. Both players with products are still in beta, so it's only going to get better," she said.
"Look at what Microsoft's done...it's built toolbars. How hard is it to create a toolbar? A much harder part of the deal is getting the interface right."

MSN Toolbar Suite runs on Windows XP and Windows 2000 SP4, and requires IE 5.01 or later. The beta is available now in English only, and can be downloaded from here. Microsoft would not commit to a definitive final release date for the search tools, saying only that it was testing to gather feedback, and hoped to have something ready in the first part of 2005.

Source: TechWeb

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Thomson To Also Support HD-DVD

Thomson, one of the core backers of the Blu-ray Disc format for high-definition video discs, plans to offer players supporting the rival HD-DVD format and disc duplication services for both formats, it says

The company is one of Europe's largest electronics brands and a founding member of the consortium that is promoting the Blu-ray Disc format. The format and its competitor offer several times the storage capacity of current DVDs and are being positioned to succeed DVD for the storage of high-definition video.

"We're a founding member [of the Blu-ray Disc Association] so we are involved with that format but we are a little more advanced on the HD-DVD [disc production] front," says Monica Coull, a spokesperson for Thomson in Paris. Thomson offers disc reproduction services through its Technicolor business.

"We'll be ready with the HD-DVD at the end of 2005. For Blu-ray, I don't think the time frame is as advanced," she says.

Thomson's announcement marks the first time that a Blu-ray Disc board member has announced plans to support HD-DVD and adds another layer of complexity to the battle between the two standards.

Blu-ray Disc counts 15 major backers on its board and offers single-layer discs of 25GB capacity and dual-layer discs of double that. HD-DVD has a lesser number of electronics companies behind the format and its discs are lower capacity at around 15GB for a single-layer disc.
HD-DVD players for movies are likely to be on the market before the end of 2005 before comparable Blu-ray Disc movie players, according to current commercialization plans. Disc production costs for HD-DVD are likely to be lower, say disc makers.

To date HD-DVD has picked up support from four major content producers: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Studios, Universal Pictures, and New Line Cinema. Until this week the only major movie studio to announce support for Blu-ray Disc was Sony's Sony Pictures unit. Earlier this week Walt Disney and its Buena Vista Home Entertainment division threw their weight behind the format.

In addition to Thomson, the other Blu-ray Disc board members are Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi Electric, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Sony, TDK, Twentieth Century Fox, and Walt Disney Pictures and Television.

The largest companies behind HD-DVD are Toshiba, NEC, and Sanyo Electric, and it's also backed by the DVD Forum.

Source: PC World

Firefox Reaches 10 million

According to Slashdot Mozilla Firefox has reached the 10 million downloads. This is a major increase since version 1.0 has publicly been released. It also seems that the Spread Firefox website is down because it has been slashdotted (as of posting time).

Halo 2 Sucking Bandwidth

The rapid growth in online game playing will put pressure on broadband networks to evolve, according to research published this week by Sandvine.
The Internet traffic-monitoring company said Tuesday that Microsoft's "Halo 2"--a popular first-person shooter game--has boosted traffic on Xbox Live as players rush to compete over the Net.

Sandvine's latest statistics showed that Xbox Live traffic quadrupled when "Halo 2" was launched on Nov. 9, and it has stayed at that level since. Sandvine claims that this will put added pressure on ISPs to improve the quality of their broadband offerings, as users will demand reliability and low latency.

"The explosion in X-Box Live traffic attributed to 'Halo 2' should be seen as a clarion call," Marc Morin, chief technology officer of Sandvine, said in a statement.
"ISPs need to enhance the broadband experience for these high-end users by prioritizing or reserving bandwidth for games and other kinds of latency-sensitive and feature-rich applications," Morin added.

British telecommunications giant BT, whose network supports most of the United Kingdom's ISPs, argues that there are a lot of reasons why an online-game session might suffer from network disruptions like poor latency.

"It depends where the players are based," said a BT representative. "A session where four gamers are all based in the U.K. is likely to have pretty low latency. If one is based in America, one in Australia and one in Brazil, then there's more chance of latency because of Internet lag."

ISPs see online games as an application that could tempt many people-- both PC and console users--to broadband. At present though, according to BT, online gaming makes up only a small proportion of overall Internet traffic, so the increase caused by "Halo 2" shouldn't have massive implications for telecommunications providers.

In the long term, BT's 21st Century Network--under which it will move from today's legacy equipment to an all-IP infrastructure over the next few years--could make the United Kingdom a leader for online games.

"The 21st Century Network will hopefully mean there will be much less latency for gamers," said the BT representative.


Source: News.com

Long Lines for PSP

Game fans stood in lines through a chilly Tokyo night to be among the first in the world to get their hands on Sony Corp.'s PlayStation Portable, the consumer electronics firm's first handheld game machine.

About 200,000 of the sleek black devices, able to play movies, music and games, went on sale early Sunday morning as part of a drive by Sony to loosen rival Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s iron grip on the market for handheld game machines.

The PlayStation Portable (PSP), at a discounted launch price of 19,800 yen ($189), went on sale 10 days after the successful launch of Nintendo DS, a game machine the size of a paperback book with a wireless connection and two screens, one of which is touch-sensitive and works with a pen-like device.

Analysts say both will sell well this holiday season, bringing the biggest buzz to the sector since Sony launched its PlayStation 2 (PS2) game console in 2000, although Nintendo's much greater production capacity will give it an initial edge in sales.

Excitement over PlayStation Portable, with high-quality graphics normally only seen on a full game console, has been building for months with the Japanese press eagerly comparing it with the rival Nintendo DS, made by the company that brought the world games featuring characters Pokemon, Mario and Donkey Kong.

"With the DS you can only play games, but with the PSP you can also play music and movies. There's added value there," said Asuka Senaga, a 24-year old in the line outside an electronics retailer at 11 p.m. (9 a.m. EST) on Saturday.

INTERNET CONNECTION

Equipped with a wireless LAN feature, the Sony machine allows users to play games with each other over the Internet.

Ahead of Sunday's launch, fans bought 500 PSPs for about 30 million yen ($286,000) in an online auction on Nov. 25 for victims of an earthquake in northern Japan in October -- paying a premium of up to 13 times the proposed retail price to get ahead of the pack.

Nintendo's defense of its strangle-hold on portable game machines has included an advertising blitz featuring pop singer Hikaru Utada. It set up sidewalk booths to capture the attention of passers-by as it also pushes to attract customers beyond its base of young game fans for the new machines, which cost 15,000 yen ($143).

Retailers face likely shortages of both machines but Nintendo is likely to win the bulk of initial sales as it is able to ship more than five times as many units as Sony.

NINTENDO'S HEAD START

Nintendo launched DS in the United States on Nov. 21 and in Japan on Dec. 2, in time for the holiday spending rush, and has raised its forecast of shipments this year by 40 percent to 2.8 million units.

Sony has said it will ship just 500,000 units in Japan by the end of the year and it will miss the holiday season in the United States and Europe, where a launch is expected early next year.

Some American gamers are not willing to wait. Last week a Play Station Portable with one game was bid at $560 on eBay's auction Web site -- the price rising even though it was a Japanese-language version and the seller did not yet have it in hand.

Analysts have said the DS and PSP will capture different markets, with Nintendo keeping its grip on game fans and Sony reaching out to new consumers.

"The PSP is trying to create a completely new market beyond traditional games. I'm rooting for them, but it will be difficult," said Hirokazu Hamamura, president of game magazine publisher Enterbrain.

Nintendo would hang on to its 58.1 million users of its existing Game Boy Advance machines, who can play their old games on the new Nintendo machine, he said.

Sony has said it plans to ship 3 million PSP units worldwide by March 31 while Nintendo expects to ship 5 million units.

Industry watchers generally expect the two companies to hit those targets, but say the availability of attractive software will play a key role in determining who wins the sales war. (US$1=104.98 Yen) (Additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz in Los Angeles)

Source: Reuters