January 28 – February 3, 2013

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This week’s headline story: An all New Office arrives!

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 9.41.25 AMMicrosoft has released Office 2013 featuring user interface updates, and support for touch devices like Microsoft’s Surface tablet. Microsoft also released Office 365, a cloud-based extension to Office 2013 that features online versions of Office apps and 20 GB of cloud storage on SkyDrive. Office 365 is a unique subscription service that provides the latest version of Office for up to 5 PCs or Macs for $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month. The student version runs $79.99 per year for two PCs or Macs. Office 365 automatically maintains and upgrades Office apps when updates are available. The new cross platform, cloud-based office makes it possible to work in Office online or offline, utilizing either the installed apps or the cloud apps, storing documents in the cloud for shared access across PCs, Macs, tablets, and smart phones. What’s next for Microsoft Office? A new version of Office is in the works for the iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. Soon Office will be everywhere, giving Microsoft a competitive edge over cloud-based competitors like Google Docs.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • The much-talked-about TV ads that run during the SuperBowl provide CBS with an average of $3 million per 30 second spot. This year CBS put a much greater emphasis on what it calls its “second screen” at CBSSports.com extending its coverage and commercials online. It is estimated that 36 percent of those who watched the game on TV, simultaneously utilized non-TV devices like tablets and smart phones. To cater to those viewers, CBS provided four live camera angles streaming on CBSSports.com, including a full-field view and a “fan choice” camera. To keep viewers from switching to Facebook and Twitter, CBSSports also provided live Twitter and Facebook feeds. And of course CBSSports.com featured plenty of advertisements which it hopes will bring in an additional $10 to $12 million – a small but growing percentage of its total revenue.

    The Super Bowl’s Second Screen [MIT Tech Review]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • The New York Times is reporting that it was attacked by Chinese hackers after publishing an article about the relatives of China’s prime minister accumulating billions of dollars through government business dealings. Security experts hired by The Times tracked the attackers to China and recognized the methods as being associated with the Chinese military. In response to the allegations, China’s Ministry of National Defense said, “Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security.” It added that “to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.” Shortly after the Times reported it’s security breach, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported that their computer networks were also penetrated by Chinese hackers. Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton commented that in recent years there has been “an increase in not only the hacking attempts on government institutions but also nongovernmental ones,” adding that the Chinese “are not the only people who are hacking us.” Clinton is calling for a global effort to establish rules for cyberactivity.

    Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months [NYTimes]

    Wall Street Journal Announces That It, Too, Was Hacked by the Chinese [NYTimes]

    Washington Post Joins List of News Media Hacked by the Chinese [NYTimes]

    Hacked by Chinese, NY Times Says; Are There Others? [NewsFactor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Research in Motion unveiled the first BlackBerry phone designed for the long awaited Blackberry 10 OS. The new OS embraces the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent on today’s smartphones. It promises to handle multitasking better than either the iPhone or Android, and allows users to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone. Research in Motion also announced that it is changing its corporate name to Blackberry, demonstrating its commitment to the handset that many analysts had written off. BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46 percent of the market in 2008 to 2 percent in 2012. Blackberry is releasing two new models in hopes of saving its business – one with the traditional Blackberry keyboard, and the other with a larger display and display-based keyboard.

    Long-Overdue BlackBerry Makeover: Worth the Wait? [NewsFactor]

    Is the Time Ripe for BlackBerry? [Ecommerce Times]
  • Apple closed out 2012 as the top seller of smartphones in the U.S. beating out Samsung in the 4th quarter for the first time in four years. Apple’s sale of iPhones in the fourth quarter was up 38 percent from the same quarter in 2011, to 17.7 million.

    Apple Reigns as Top U.S. Phone Seller in Q4 [NewsFactor]
  • Apple announced a 128-GB version of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display. The new model doubles the capacity of the previous top-end model and provides an alternative to notebooks for storing and viewing HD movies.

    Apple Offers iPad for Conspicuous Consumption [NYTimes]

and finally….

  • It’s true that cameras are everywhere, and facial recognition software is increasingly being used by law enforcers, shops and social media to identify people and track their movements. Now a pair of glasses dubbed the “privacy visor” has been developed to thwart hidden cameras using facial-recognition software. The glasses use near-infrared light to confuse facial recognition software without affecting vision. If you aren’t into geeky light-up glasses, an alternative solution is provided by the hacktivist group Anonymous. Tilting your head at a 15 degree angle fools facial recognition software into thinking you do not have a face.

    ‘Privacy visor blocks facial recognition software’ [BBC]

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Apple’s News Stuff

Apple unveiled new Macbook Pros at its developers’ conference last week. The new Macbook Pros are thinner than current models and feature Retina displays that double the density of pixels for ultra-high resolution. The new Macbook Pros also boast Intel’s new quad-core i7, the new GeForce Kepler graphics card, and solid state drives, producing the best possible performance. Apple also announced that it has developed its own Maps app which will replace Google Maps on future generations of iOS on iPhones and iPads. Launching its own Maps app will reduce Apple’s dependence on Google, and will allow Apple to innovate independently, including providing its own turn-by-turn navigation feature and tightening up its integration with Siri. Apple is expanding Siri’s resources by allowing it to tap into sports data from Yahoo, restaurant info from yelp, and movie trailers and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. Apple hopes that its mobile users will turn to Siri before resorting to a Google search. The new version of iOS will feature embedded integration with Facebook, providing the opportunity for users to post to Facebook from a variety of iPhone and iPad apps. Apple’s new direction includes partnering with other tech companies that excel in areas where Apple is weak.

Jobs Steps Down

They say that bad news comes in 3’s. This week three major headlines rocked the U.S.. Earthquakes rattled the East coast, followed by Hurricane Irene, and Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple.”I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs wrote in his resignation letter. “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.” It is widely beleived that Jobs decade long battle with cancer has taken its toll, and compelled him to step down. Tim Cook, Apple’s COO who has lead the company during Jobs’ medical leave of absense will take over as Apple’s new CEO while Jobs continues as the companies Chairman of the Board.

There has been concern about Apple’s future without the iconic leader who brought the company from the verge of bankrupcy to the most successful tech company in existance. While some are forcasting Apples demise, analysts and the market are showing faith in the company. Apple’s stocks were mostly uneffected by the announcement. The company’s strong forward momentum, plans for future products and services, and strong leadership across its divisions have analysts predicting continued success for Apple in at least the short and mid term.

Tech Trade Show Take-Aways

The Palm Pre
The Palm Pre

There is no shortage of tech news this week thanks to two big Tech Industry shows that drew thousands of tech analysts and enthusiasts to San Francisco and Las Vegas: MacWorld and the Consumer Electronics Show or CES.

It was at Macworld that Steve jobs made headlines with his introduction of the iPhone two years ago, and again with the unveiling of the Macbook Air last year. This year Steve canceled due to health problems, and his replacement Phil Schiller had no major news to announce, according to most journalists. The news that was announced, included new versions of ilife and iwork, a new 17″ Macbook Pro that utilizes Apples new unibody construction technique that includes a long-lived battery, and at long last, the retirement of DRM from iTunes music altogether, and a variable pricing scheme.

MacWorld was overshadowed by new innovations unveiled at CES in Las Vegas. As expected there were all kinds of new television technologies demonstrated including super-thin OLED televisions, and 3-D televisions. There were many, many new netbooks at the show. The one that created the most buzz was the Sony Vaio P, a very stylish netbook that fits in a purse of large jacket pocket. It includes a large keyboard and a display with a wide-screen aspect ratio perfect for movies and media. Thin and sleek was also in style at this show, stealing perhaps from the Macbook Air. Dell’s Adamo and MSI’s X-Slim fall into this category. LG gets the prize for novelty, with its new wrist watch phone that includes a media player, and text messaging capabilities.

Microsoft’s Steve Balmer used his time as Keynote speaker to sing the praises of the soon-to-come Windows 7. The Beta was released to developers this last Friday, and will soon be available to a million users to try out as well. The company that got the most notoriety from CES this year was Palm. Yes, Palm, the company that many analysts had written off, unveiled an impressive new smart phone and new operating system. The Palm Pre includes a multitouch display like the iPhone, plus a slide out QWERTY keyboard (see photo above), the Palm WebOS that runs on it includes all of the iPhone features and then some. Reviewers are very impressed and excited about this handset which will soon be available on Sprint’s network. For photos and reviews of the Palm Pre and many of the other technologies unveiled at CES, check out my news notebook.

Some take-aways from the tech shows:

  • While Apple didn’t blow everyone away this year, it’s past successes are carrying it through the lull. The iPhone and Air are still best in class.
  • Apple could benefit from adding a small low-priced netbook to its line. The new netboooks, especially the Sony Vaio P are tempting enough to make it almost worth tolerating Windows. I wonder how Linux would run on it? Hmmm.
  • Apple needs to get into the cloud, and now! Google, Microsoft, Adobe and others are investing billions in our cloud-based future and Apple seems to be looking the other way. If Mobile Me is Apple’s cloud, I’m worried for the future of the company.
  • Netbooks  are hot, hot, hot, but I predict that this trend will be short short, short. People can’t seriously enjoy typing on tiny keyboards and viewing half pages hunkered over tiny displays. As soon as regular notebooks come further down in price, the netbook craze is bound to end – except as a novelty or a casual accessry.
  • While CES saw some new Windows Home Server  computers, I don’t think the public is ready. It’ll be another year at least before these gain an audience.