Wednesday, November 30, 2011

LTE iPad 3 coming in summer 2012, LTE iPhone 5 in fall: report

According to a Nikkei Business story, relayed by the Japanese blog Macotakara, an LTE-supporting iPad AND an LTE-supporting iPhone will hit NTT DoCoMo in 2012, Japan's top wireless carrier.

Here's what it said, translated via Google:

"NTT DoCoMo to launch the iPhone by fall next year's LTE-capable iPad next summer. Nikkei Business is, NTT DoCoMo is next summer LTE -enabled iPad launched, until the fall LTE has reportedly enabled the release of the iPhone."

Yeah, it's pretty hard to understand, but we can make out enough: an LTE iPad will launch next summer, and an LTE iPhone by next fall.  Naturally, a launch in Japan for NTT DoCoMo means a launch elsewhere, too.

The iPhone date makes sense, as it would be about a year after the iPhone 4S launch. An iPad 3 launching in the summer would be a bit late, but not terribly so. It would also give Apple time to gain access to second generation LTE chips, by waiting until the summer.

Interestingly, Apple doesn’t have a prior distribution agreement with NTT DoCoMo. The Cupertino, Calif. company first opted for Softbank in Japan, before ending Softbank’s exclusivity with an agreement with au/KDDI.

Earlier in the week, evidence in the newly released iOS 5.1 beta pointed to two different iDevice IDs, an iPhone 5,1 which represents a major iPhone update, and an iPad 2,4 which implies some sort of carrier variation.

The next-generation iPhone is expected to sport the Apple A6 SoC, which is believed to carry an in-house design with four ARM Cortex A15 processing cores and a unknown graphics core.



Video evidence shows Carrier IQ 'rootkit' logging keystrokes, exists on 142M handsets

If you can't beat a competitor's smartphone platform any other way, make sure there's a rootkit installed on it. Seriously, we know Apple isn't the one responsible for the Carrier IQ, but at least it appears to be free of the "infection" of what one security researcher has called a "rootkit" that seems to be installed on every Android, Nokia, and BlackBerry handset out there.

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Indeed, among the major smartphone platforms, only Windows Phone and iOS appear to not carry the Carrier IQ software.

The software was first brought to the public's attention by 25-year-old Trevor Eckhart of Connecticut analyzed its workings. It tracks a user's activity and experience, including dropped calls and more.

Eckhart labeled the software a "rootkit," and Carrier IQ, a Mountain View, Calif.-based software developered, first threatened him legal action, then later backed off after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) came to Eckhart's assistance.

Here's how the company describes its product in a special note on their website, put up as a result of the adverse publicity:

"This information is used by our customers as a mission critical tool to improve the quality of the network, understand device issues and ultimately improve the user experience. Our software is embedded by device manufacturers along with other diagnostic tools and software prior to shipment.
While we look at many aspects of a device’s performance, we are counting and summarizing performance, not recording keystrokes or providing tracking tools."

However, the video, newly posted by Eckhart, shows the logging of text messages, encrypted Internet searches and more. The video also shows the logging being carried out on a fresh, hard reset phone, as Eckhart takes the time to set up the device. If you're not interested in the confirmation that this is a "fresh device," skip to the eight minute mark in the seventeen minute video.

Eckhart's demo shows virtually everything being logged. You can hear him saying, on the video, "Every button you press in the dialer before you call, it already gets sent off to the IQ application."

The service runs constantly and can't be shut down unless the phone is rooted and either the necessary files are removed from the ROM build or a custom ROM is installed, sans Carrier IQ. Even if the device has its cellular service disabled, and is used only on wi-fi, it still reports its logs to Carrier IQ.

According to the company's own site, Carrier IQ's software is installed on nearly 142 million handsets. On all of those handsets, based on the video, its logging keystrokes.

Now, it's quite possible that Carrier IQ's software was originally designed to do what it says on its site. However, the fact is, based on "the evidence," it seems to be doing far too much.

And based on "the evidence," one might expect Carrier IQ might have to issue fixes. 142 million handsets updated? Con you imagine the complete clusterf* that would be?

The issue comes close to two months after another security hole discovery by Eckhart, that one isolated to HTC Android phones. Then, Eckhart discovered that HTC had introduced logging tools to its latest software releases that insecurely log private data, and still worse, make that data accessible to any app that has Internet access.

Update: iOS hacker chpwn has found references to Carrier IQ in iOS. However, he believes its possible Carrier IQ may only be active if an iPhone is in diagnostic mode. Still more to come on this story.





Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 11/30/2011: Jelly Defense

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Jelly Defense.

Jelly Defense is priced at $1.99 in the Android Market. It is normally priced at $2.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two marketplaces.

Jelly Defense is described as follows:
A World Threatened

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not so far away, lived a proud and peaceful Jelly nation on the world of Diploglobe. Then one day, everything changed. Kiwi Halvas darkened the sky and an unprecedented invasion began! Join the Jelly forces and lead them to glory in a fierce battle against these alien invaders.

Look at these poor little creatures. They trust you, they believe in you, they rely on you. Can you refuse those big faithful eyes (or eye)? You're their only hope.

Tower Power

Use your tactical skills and wisdom to tip the scales of victory and save the Diploglobe and Jelly nation. They'll be marching down the roads in search of your stockpile of green gems. Your job is to keep them from reaching them.

Your main line of defense in the battle is an assortment of defense towers, which you will place along the route. Each type of tower has a different cost and defensive capability, so be careful in your choice and placement of each one in order to maximize their efficiency.

Finally, Something Worth Defending!

Download Jelly Defense now and lose yourself in a unique and beautiful world. Lead your army into battle against fantastic and demanding enemies. A magic, addicting, and surreal adventure awaits you. Jump in and become the ultimate Jelly legend!
Jelly Defense has a 4.5-star rating in the Android Market and a 4.0-star rating in the Amazon Appstore.

Whenever a Free App of the Day (FAOTD) reaches 4.0 in the Amazon Appstore, we have to say a) there's obviously no permissions paranoia, and b), buy it (or since it's free, "buy it").

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Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



Web-based Windows Phone demo works on iOS, Android --- and Chrome

Microsoft has created a Web demo of Windows Phone, usable in mobile --- and SOME desktop --- browsers. To use it, you go to http://m.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/demo/index.html, and "follow the blue ball."

OK, it's not the same as Mitch Miller and "following the bouncing ball," and Microsoft calls it the "blue dot," but if you go to the site, and click on a tile, you can then follow the blue dot to get a demo of Windows Phone.

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It works quite well on Android and iOS, and of course, tapping the blue dot to follow it around is easiest on a touchscreen. However, it's possible to follow the demo on Google's Chrome, too. It doesn't work on Firefox, though. Strangely, it doesn't work on Internet Explorer, either.

It's a decent attempt to get Android and iOS users to switch. It works on tablets, too, but don't bother trying it in landscape mode; the demo will say nay to it.



The 'iPad Factor' drives more sales as Cyber Monday 2011 spending reaches $1.2B

Cyber Monday 2011 set records, and far surpassed Black Friday in terms of online spending, according to reports from comScore and IBM (part of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative).

comScore reported that Cyber Monday sales reached a record $1.2 billion, up 20 percent from 2010. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is only the second time a billion dollars in online commerce has occurred in one day. The first time: Cyber Monday 2011, when $1.03 billion of consumer money entered the bank accounts of online retailers.

Meanwhile, IBM's report, said that Cyber Monday 2011 sales were up 29.3 percent over Black Friday's online activity, and 33 percent over 2010. Those numbers show that folks could hardly wait to get home to shop on Cyber Monday: as of yesterday afternoon, Cyber Monday online sales were "only" up 18 percent.

However, in their afternoon update, IBM expressed confidence that folks trickling home would create a surge of buying --- and they were right.

IBM said that the average amount per order was up 2.6 percent from last year, with $198.26 spent in 2011 vs. $193.24 in 2010. Peak shopping times were at about 11:05 a.m. PST / 2:05 p.m. EST as well as post-commute hours in the evening.

10.8 percent used a mobile device to do their online shopping, up considerably from 2010's 3.9 percent. Sales from mobile devices were up as well, nearly 3x at 6.6 percent on Cyber Monday 2011 vs. 2.3 percent in 2010.

Those numbers were both down from Black Friday, and you'd assume they would be, since folks were working for much of the day. On Black Friday 2011, mobile traffic was 14.3 percent; sales using mobile devices were 9.8 percent that day.

The iPhone and iPad ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for mobile device retail traffic (4.1 percent and 3.3 percent), while Android was No. 3 at 3.2 percent. These were the same respectively placements ther on Black Friday, as well.

Interestingly, the iPad drives more retail sales, rather than just surfing, than any other device, according to IBM. IBM calls this "The iPad Factor." Conversion rates reached 5.2 percent compared to 4.6 percent for the iPhone.

Common sense: a bigger screen and a bigger "Buy" button help ... and yes, it's an iPad vs. the beleaguered Android tablets.



Wi-fi radiation kills, damages sperm: study

All kinds of different electronic radiation has been blamed for nuking sperm. The latest culprit is wi-fi, which will seriously annoy those who hoped they could use wi-fi to avoid the dangers of cell phone radiation on their smartphones and tablets.

In a report published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, Argentinian scientists led by Conrado Avendano of the Nascentis Center for Reproductive Medicine in Cordoba placed samples from 29 healthy men, and placed semen drops next a wi-fi connected laptop. Four hours of Netflix viewing later, and viola: lots of dead --- or maimed --- sperm.

One-quarter of the sperm had stopped moving. Nine percent showed DNA damage. Meanwhile, a control group of semen kept at the same temperature, but away from wi-fi transmissions showed just a 14 percent drop in mobility and only 3 percent suffered DNA damage. Semen placed under the computer, but without any wi-fi connectivity did not experience significant levels of damage, the study showed.

The researchers said, "Our data suggest that the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the internet and positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality.

"At present we do not know whether this effect is induced by all laptop computers connected by si-fi to the internet or what use conditions heighten this effect."

On the other hand, others pushed back against the study, saying that the scenario used by the Argentine scientists was not realistic. Dr. Robert Oates, the president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, said "This is not real-life biology, this is a completely artificial setting. It is scientifically interesting, but to me it doesn't have any human biological relevance.

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"Suddenly all of this angst is created for real-life actual persons that doesn't have to be."

Instead, he said, if a man is worried about fertility, "You should be keeping yourself healthy. I don't know how many people use laptops on their laps anyway."

Actually, it's not that uncommon. Look at all these folks with "toasted skin syndrome."



RIM to embrace Android and iOS with MDM service support for both platforms

Quite a few people thought RIM should go to Android instead of developing a new, "modern" platform of its own for its newer BlackBerry smartphone and tablet devices, but the company invested in QNX and BBX instead. However, even with that, there's now an admission by RIM that it's losing out to Android and iOS, though not an explicit admission.

The company on Tuesday introduced BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, a mobile device management (MDM) service that takes leverages BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) technology to track, monitor, and secure phones and tablets running different platforms.

With Mobile Fusion, RIM can remain relevant even in companies and government agencies that have eschewed its BlackBerry devices. Companies are moving further and further toward BYOD (bring-your-own-device) because it reduces hardware and maintenance costs for them, but it also means that those devices being brought in reflect consumer focus: Android and iOS.

RIM's stock price leapt with the news, up to $17.83 (+$1.35, +8 percent) in noontime (ET) trading. RIM's 52-week high, however, showing the woes of the company, is $70.54.

RIM said it plans general availability of the service in March 2012. Mobile Fusion is currently in early tests with select customers, with the company saying it will have a wider trial in January.

Among the services provided by BlackBerry Mobile Fusion are remotely locking or wiping a device, controlling access to certain device apps, setting password requirements, and more.

Ahead of the announcement, Alan Panezic, RIM's vice-president for enterprise product management, said "What our enterprise customers are looking for, and the opportunity for us, is to become the de facto platform. We will take full advantage of whatever security capabilities are provided by the core operating system. We're not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form."

It's not the same as a full BlackBerry experience on iOS and Android devices, but it's something. And, as Forrester analyst Christian Kane said "This will definitely rattle some cages" among smaller companies that filled a niche by securing and managing non-BlackBerry devices for corporations.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Google Maps for Android adds indoor 'navigation'

Google has updated its Android Maps application to version 6.0, and its added indoor navigation as a feature. No, that doesn't mean Google can help you navigate around your house; instead it means airports, shopping malls, and even some retail stores.

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Imagine it as a replacement for that store directory that you've probably used at a mall. In fact, since Google has partnered with some malls, including Mall of America and Vallco Shopping Mall, you've got your directory in the palm of your hand. They've also mapped several airports, as well, including San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD).

A full list of covered indoor locations is here.

IKEA is even going to be rolling out maps of their stores to Google Maps nationwide. Google will continue to add content.

If you’re a business owner that wants to get a floor plan added to Google Maps, you can visit maps.google.com/floorplans and add them using Google's self-service tool.

Watch a couple of video demos below.





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Siri 'clone' Cluzee promises much, but delivers mostly force closes

You had to expect this was coming: the first Android app that purports to match the functionality of Apple's Siri voice assistant. Calling itself Cluzee, Your Personal Assistant, it promises a lot, and some folks are crediting it with a lot, but it's not delivering much --- except force closes.

Based on the press release and video (below) you might expect that Cluzee could be serious competition to Siri. It's not. It might be, if they fix the bugs. It's unclear if the issues are due to Android fragmentation (AKA many devices with different software builds and different hardware, as well as different Android versions) or just plain bugs.

Right now, however, there 288 ratings on the Android Market. 168 of them are one-star. Overall, it rates a 2.1, which is going to be hard to recover from.

It's also a bit disconcerting to see all the typos in their press release. A professional product should have a professional looking press release. The fact that it does not reflects poorly on Cluzee and its developers, Tronton.

According to the developers, Cluzee uses a natural language interface, and you should be able to say things like "How does my day look like today?" Yes, that sounds like something you would say to Siri.

You should be able to do something like say "Call Taxi," and Cluzee should be able to know your location via GPS and order a cab for you.

It has a lot of promise, but for now, it just doesn't work. Check out Troton's demo video below, then check out ExtremeTech's real-life video below THAT, and see the differences.

Personally, we don't believe anyone can build such an app without it being an integral part of the Android platform, and without cloud aspects that can only be provided by a company as big as Apple --- or Google. Perhaps Troton hopes to improve

We'd be remiss if we missed this opportunity: with so many bugs, Cluzee is really ... Clueless.







Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 11/29/2011: Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack!

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack!.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! is priced at $1.99 in the Android Market. It is normally priced at $1.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two marketplaces.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! is described as follows:
Grab some bombs and step into the boots of Serious Sam's worst nightmare, the Headless Kamikaze. Your muscles are gigantic, you are not wearing a shirt, and your head is gone. Now you're ready for your kamikaze mission: Run faster and faster until you find your arch nemesis Serious Sam. He's wearing a shirt. Tackle him like your life totally depends on it. Heck yes!

Run, Attack, and Repeat

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! is a ridiculously chaotic runner game for your Android device. You'll have to get used to the hectic pace right away. Start dodging hazards and annihilating objects so you can get super pissed off--otherwise you'll never succeed in your quest to find Sam and attack him with the fury of 10,000 grizzly bears.

Unlock Challenges and Features
  • Kick missiles
  • Punt frogs
  • Boot bombs
You need to attack pretty much everything, but if you get too mad you will explode and die. Get awards for no rage deaths, no damage taken, and no complete fails.
  • Explore over 40 levels of kamikaze action
  • Challenge yourself with bonus levels
  • Run, smash objects, and grab Powerups
Awesome, Stylized Illustration

Revel in smooth gameplay in a stylish, hand-sketched world. Unique animation makes every explosion fun to watch, even if it's you exploding. With simple and intuitive controls and tons of extras, this game will have you hooked in no time.
Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! has a 4.4-star rating in the Android Market and a 2.0-star rating in the Amazon Appstore.

Wow, this is the biggest difference between ratings in a long time. The Android Market rating is more than 2x the rating of the Amazon Appstore. There are 92 ratings in the Android Market, and 79 in the Amazon Appstore, which validates both as being consistent (relatively speaking).

The free version of the game in the Android Market has a 3.8 rating, but only 20 reviews (more folks are buying the game than using the free one?). There's no free version in the Appstore.

So the big difference? Permissions paranoia. 54 one-star ratings in the Amazon Appstore. Whether or not the permissions use is valid, that's the problem. Since the developer is well-known in PC gaming, it's hard to understand them being in the spyware biz, so WE would give them a pass, but apparently not others.

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Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



iPhone 4 self-immolates on Australian flight

We've seen it before, and we'll probably see it again: spontaneous combustion of an iDevice. At least it wasn't an example of spontaneous human combustion, although we suppose that if the iPhone 4 had been in someone's pocket, there could have been SOME human combustion.

What's interesting in this case is the report doesn't come from an end user. Instead, it comes from an airline, which we assume more people will tend to believe since the airline itself won't be accused of looking for quick buck from Apple.

According to the report from Regional Express (Rex), which is Australia’s largest independent regional airline, shortly after landing (and thankfully, it was AFTER landing), a passenger's iPhone 4 began "emitting a significant amount of dense smoke" as well as glowing red. A flight attendant extinguished the fire; no passengers or crew were injured.

The iPhone 4 in question is pictured above, via an image in Rex's press release.

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Naturally, thoughts run toward a battery issue, and we know that battery overheating and even explosions are not isolated to iPhones or iDevices. Just last December, a man claimed he was injured by an exploding Droid 2.

And all this time we thought most people thought the iPhone 4 was "cool." Alternatively, the iPhone has been called "hot."  In this case, it was actually a little "too hot."



Kindle Fire the top selling tablet at Target on Black Friday 2011

Amazon.com announced that Black Friday sales of its Kindle family of products showed a 4x increase year over year. Of course, typical for Amazon.com, its press release didn't include any actual numbers, but 4x is 4x.

Sales were fueled not by just the new Kindle Fire, but by lower prices across the product line. In addition to the $199 Kindle Fire Android tablet, Amazon.com also sells a $79 Kindle e-reader, the $99 Kindle Touch, and the $149 Kindle Touch 3G. It also continues to sell the keyboarded versions, the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Keyboard 3G.

The entire family of products can be viewed at their Kindle family webpage.

It's unclear what the breakdown is between the different Kindle models. It's clear that the Fire leads the pack, though. Amazon.com says that, eight weeks after its introduction, the Kindle Fire continues to be the bestselling product across all of Amazon.com.

If there is any question about whether or not the Kindle Fire will be able to dent the iPad 2's market share, it was answered by comments made by Target in Amazon.com's press release. Nik Nayar, vice president merchandising, Target spelled it all out:

"This was a great Black Friday for Target and for Kindle Fire, which was the bestselling tablet in our stores on Black Friday," he said. "We're excited so many guests chose Target as their destination for the new family of Kindle devices and we're sure Kindle Fire will continue to be at the top of wish lists this holiday season."

That's an interesting statement, since Target also sells the iPad 2. The $300 price difference ($199 vs. the lowest-priced iPad 2's $499) is a considerable selling point, despite the minuses of the Kindle Fire (no cameras, less storage, etc., etc.).

Certainly, Amazon.com's ecosystem helps sales of the Kindle Fire. We already know that Amazon.com loses money on the Kindle Fire when just a device sale are taken into account.

But the Fire is meant to goose sales of other products, and not just Android apps or e-books. The fact that Amazon Prime gives owners of Fires ... and even non-owners of Fires access to many Amazon Instant videos for free can only help sales of Amazon.com's cash cow, Amazon Prime, which costs $79 annually.



Apple's Black Friday sales easily exceed 4x forecasts

Apple had a spectacular Black Friday 2011, according to three separate, though unofficial, reports.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster spent Black Friday 2011 the same way he and his team have since 2008, standing in an Apple retail store counting sales. The results are, of course, unscientific and limited to one store, but still represent some sort of measurement, until and unless Apple releases an official statement.

Over an eight hour period, iPad 2s were being sold at the rate of 14.8 per hour (a 68 percent increase from 2010). Although the increase in iPad sales is less than his forecast for the quarter (84 percent annual growth), Munster says he still believes in his original numbers. He said he expects that overseas iPad sales will make up the difference.

Macs were leaving the store at the rate of 10.1 per hour, during that same period. That's a 23 percent increase in Mac sales, year-over-year, and is in line with both the 25 percent rise he already forecast for the quarter. It's also in line with the 19 percent increase NPD reported for the first month of this quarter.

Meanwhile, a source inside Apple Retail shared actual numbers for Apple's Black Friday sales event from the company's Retail inventory system with 9to5 Mac. The source said that Apple had internally forecast at least a 4X sales spike for the day.

Despite its normal "OK" discounts (when compared with the doorbusters someone might see at a Walmart), Apple DID have the best pricing on some big ticket itesms such as the iPad 2, and thus, had already beat the forecasts by 7 p.m.

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The source said, "Apple Retail was forecast and broke Retail sales records all over the country today, this is from [redacted] today, the forecast today is more than 4 times what we normally do. We broke the forecast by 7pm."

Finally, Deutsche Bank's Chris Whitmore reported that the iPhone 4S was selling so quickly on Black Friday that around 75 percent of the Apple Stores he called had sold out of at least one version. Apple replenished stock overnight, and on Nov. 26 only 30 percent of the stores reported supply issues.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Malls to halt tracking of customers via cell phone as senator steps in

Two malls that had previously planned to track the movements of patrons through their cell phones have announced they have halted the program, after receiving a phone call from a U.S. senator expressing privacy concerns.

The malls, the Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va., are both owned by mall management company Forest City Commercial Management. They had planned to run the tracking program from Black Friday through New Year's Day, but a phone call from the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) put an end to it --- for now.

The technology used antennas set up around the malls to track shoppers --- anonymously --- as they moved from store to store. Mall visitors were informed of the program via small signs, but the only way for customers to opt-out was to for them to turn their cell phones off, which is this day and age is not something most folks would want to do, even to protect their own privacy.

Privacy experts weighing in on the issue said that customers should have been given the ability to opt-in, rather than opt-out. Schmumer agreed, and said so at a press conference on Sunday.

In a statement, he added, "A shopper's personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers who are seeking to determine holiday shopping patterns. Personal cell phones are just that -- personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so."

That's not the end of it. Schumer sent letters to Path Intelligence, the U.K-based manufacturer of the FootPath Technology, as well as to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. Schumer said he wanted the the FTC to determine if the technology is legal under U.S. privacy law.

Forest City Commercial Management did manage to track shopper data on Black Friday. Going forward, the company said it plans to institute an easier, though still undetermined, opt-out system for consumers. The company said, "We have temporarily suspended further trial of the technology while we work with the system developer on possible enhancements, and in deference to concerns raised by Senator Schumer. We look forward to meeting with the senator and his staff, together with the system developer, to further explore his concerns."

Still, an opt-out policy is precisely the reverse of what it should be. The best option for consumer privacy is for the policy to be opt-in, instead.

Black Friday marked the first use of FootPath Technology in the United States. However, it has already been used in Europe and Australia, with very little backlash, according to Sharon Biggar, CEO of Path Intelligence. U.S. retailers, including J.C. Penney and Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) have also considered using the technology, she said.

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Early Cyber Monday 2011 sales up 15 percent from 2010

Just as it did on Black Friday 2011, IBM is tracking online sales on Cyber Monday 2011. Results at noon PST show that Cyber Monday 2011 online sales are up 15 percent for the same time period for Cyber Monday 2010.

Earlier, at around 9 a.m., IBM reported that online sales were up 20 percent, so things have tailed off since then. Still, if online sales are up at all, year-over-year, they will set a single day record. In 2010, Cyber Monday was the heaviest day of online spending in history.

Since $816 million was spent on Cyber Monday 2010, a 15 percent rise in sales would put online revenue at around $939 million for the 2011 version.

The IBM Coremetrics team said that they expect shopping during the day to be heaviest from laptops and PCs. Later, as consumers head home, IBM expects mobile device shopping to pick up.

It makes sense: most Cyber Monday shopping until the evening hours will come from employees using work computers. A CareerBuilder survey showed that 50 percent would be shopping while at work on Cyber Monday 2011.

Based on IBM's noontime figures, their forecast seems to be correct.
  • The number of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer's site is 12.43 percent. At the same time on Black Friday, the number was 17.37 percent.
  • The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase is at 7.37 percent.
  • Just as on Black Friday, the iPhone leads all mobile device traffic at 4.88 percent, followed by Android at 3.9 percent and iPad at 3.26 percent. On Black Friday, iPad traffic surpassed Android by the end of the day, possibly as folks began couch surfing.
Update: as of 3:00 p.m. PST, IBM said the number is still holding firm at 15 percent above 2010 figures. However, they believe that a post-commute spike in sales will take place, increasing sales as folks arrive at home.



Amazon Appstore's Free App of the Day, 11/28/2011: Dabble HD

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Dabble HD - The Fast Thinking Word Game, Tablet Edition.

The non-tablet edition is also free today.

Dabble HD is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore, most likely for the next two weeks. It is normally priced at $1.99 in the Amazon Appstore, with the non-tablet version $0.99 (the non-tablet version is $1.00 in the Android Market). As we've noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two marketplaces.




Dabble HD is described as follows:
Dabble, the hottest new word game for Android smartphones -- has come to the tablet! This HD edition is optimized for display on 7" tablets. Now, you can play the fast-thinking game that everyone is talking about on an Android smartphone or tablet device. From the crisp and clear high-definition graphics to the addicting game-play, you won't want to put Dabble HD down.

Think Fast

Dabble HD is the kind of game that is as simple as it is challenging. It rewards players with quick wits, a large vocabulary, and perfect spelling. You have to be on your toes, since the goal of the game is to spell out five separate words with just 20 letters as quickly as possible. The trick is that the five words must be comprised of a two-letter, three-letter, four-letter, five-letter, and six-letter word. You don't have to complete all five words to score, just try your best. But remember, the more words you complete, and the quicker you do it, the higher your score.

Move Letters and Form Words

Game-play is easy! At the beginning, you will see 20 tiles, each with a letter and a point value. The tiles are already configured in rows, and all you have to do is drag and drop the letters to form words. As you do, the tiles turn blue and you gain points. Form all five words within five minutes or less to win. If you get stuck, you can tap the Solve button to see the solution. If you get really stuck, you can tap the restart button for a new game board.

Earn Badges and Awards

When you first launch Dabble HD, you can enter your name to track your best times and scores. If you share your device with family or friends, you can add up to four additional users, and change users during the first 30 seconds of the game. As you play, you'll have the chance to earn badges for win streaks, fast times, and high scores. You can also view your top five high scores overall and for longest win streaks and fastest times. Challenge yourself to unlock all of the badges and beat your top scores!
Dabble HD has a 4.5-star rating in the Amazon Appstore. The non-tablet version has only one rating at the time of this writing, so we'll discount the one-star rating. The non-tablet version, in the Android Market, has a 4.9 star rating.

Even with the Android Market version, there aren't that many reviews. But as it's free, and the reviews seem good, go for it.

Strangely enough, the Amazon Appstore ratings were dropped by a 2-star rating when someone tried to install the HD version on a smartphone.

Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.



Home heating via a data furnace? It could happen

You don't need to own a roomful of servers to realize how much waste heat computers can put out. "Toasted skin syndrome" shows how much heat a single laptop can generate. Imagine all the waste heat put out by server farms. Now imagine using that heat to warm homes, instead of using more energy, about half again as much, to cool the server rooms.

Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Virginia have imagined just that. The concept is called a "data furnace."

Although data furnaces would be most likely to first appear in apartment buildings and offices, the authors of the paper could foresee them appearing in homes, as well.

"As a thought provoking exercise, we push this vision to the extreme in this paper. We investigate the feasibility of Data Furances or DFs, which are micro-datacenters, on the order of 40 to 400 CPUs, that serve as the primary heat source for a single-family home. These microdatacenters use the home broadband network to connect to the cloud, and can be used to host customer virtual machines or dedicated Internet services. They are integrated into the home heating system the same way as a conventional electrical furnace, using the same power system, ductwork, and circulation fan.

"Thus, DFs reduce the cost per server in comparison to conventional data centers by leveraging the home’s existing infrastructure, and precluding the cost of real estate and construction of new brick and mortar structures. Furthermore, they naturally co-locate computational power and storage close to the user population."

What happens during hot weather? The authors say that an auxiliary vent would vent the excess heat outside the house. If the external temperature reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the server would have to be shut down, which would mean the servers would need to be non-mission critical, perhaps used for research purposes, instead.

Even though they would have to pay the cost of the homeowner's electrical outlay for the server, the server "owner" would still come out ahead, the researchers said. It would be interesting to see how the issue of data caps for broadband would be tackled.

Assuming all that was taken care of, would you be willing to permit a mini data center or data furnace in your house if it meant your heating was free? It's an interesting idea.



Droid 4 specs, images leak; picture becomes clearer

Droid-Life, which earlier showed off images --- and a possible date --- for Motorola's upcoming Droid 4 refresh of its flagship Droid device, has more details on the device, which is being delivered very quickly after the launch of the Droid 3, which launched in mid-July.

It's a prime example of Android fragmentation, but the Droid 4 will should provide updates that fill holes in the Droid 3 feature set, including adding Verizon 4G LTE support, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor (vs. the Droid 3's 1GHz dual-core processor), as well as upping the RAM from 512MB to 1GB.

The device is described as Droid RAZR-like, although it loses the Kevlar back, and has a smaller 4-inch screen (the same size as the Droid 3). The Droid 4 will have a 5-row slideout keyboard with side-lit keys. No Ice Cream Sandwich for now, as the device will ship with Gingerbread.

The battery is annoyingly non-user-replaceable, just as the Droid RAZR's is, and is 1785 mAh vs. the RAZR's 1780 mAh and the Droid 3's 1540 mAh. Of course, the Droid 3 can take extended batteries, if necessary, and LTE, at least in first-generation form, is a battery hog.

Is it worth an upgrade from a Droid 3? In our opinion, not if you've just upgraded to a Droid 3, unless you can get sans early upgrade penalty. It's sporting a first generation LTE chipset, and the second generation chipsets, coming next year, will be much more generous on battery life and take up less real estate, too.

It's even expected to grace the iPhone 5, as well, so that would mean a "cure" to the LTE battery blues (or at least better life). Quite a few folks use LTE on an "on demand" basis, because it drains the battery too much.

It also bugs us that the battery is not user-replaceable. However, if you only have a Droid 2 Global or Droid, go for it. This is the device the Droid 3 should have been (with the exception of a non-user replaceable battery, our pet peeve).