Dial Zero
A look at what's surprising, silly, scary or stupid in telecommunications and data

Friday, November 30, 2007

Faster iPhone coming next year

Apple and AT&T plan to begin selling a version of the iPhone next year that operates on a wireless network for surfing the Internet at faster speeds. AT&T Chief executive Randall Stephenson said Wednesday that consumers could expect an iPhone that works on "3G" wireless networks sometime in 2008. Such a product would address one of the major shortcomings of the iPhone, for which AT&T is the exclusive wireless distributor in the US.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on Stephenson's statement, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs has previously suggested a 3G iPhone could be available next year as the underlying technologies that enable compatibility with the fast network become more practical. Jobs has said that the current generation of 3G chips drain battery power too quickly but that new ones will eventually overcome that problem.

The iPhone comes with a number of innovative features including a touch-sensitive screen and a more capable Web browser than is typically found on cellphones. But the device currently works on AT&T's slow EDGE network in the U.S., which limits users to browsing the Web at speeds comparable to dial-up Internet connections. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wacky judge loses job
for mass cellphone jailing

A Niagara Falls City Court judge who jailed 46 people who were in his courtroom when a cellphone rang, was removed from the bench Tuesday by a state commission.

Judge Robert Restaino "snapped" and "engaged in what can only be described as two hours of inexplicable madness" during the March 2005 session, Raoul Felder, chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, wrote in the decision to remove Restaino from the $113,900-per-year post.

A phone rang during a case in the courthouse that has a sign warning that cellphones and pagers must be turned off.

"Everyone is going to jail," Restaino said. "Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now. You are all going."

When no one came forward, Restaino ordered the group into custody, and they were taken to jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells. Fourteen people who could not post bail were shackled and taken to another jail. Restaino ordered them released later that afternoon.

Restaino told the state panel he had been under stress in his personal life. His attorney said Restaino would appeal. (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Verizon will offer open access to network

In a major break with industry practice, Verizon Wireless said it will allow consumers to use any compatible cellphone on its network and allow open access to the Web and third-party applications.

It's is a reversal for the No. 2 US carrier, which is known to be particularly protective of its network, and an acknowledgment of the direction of the wireless industry. Google is spearheading a similar move with its Android open-standards software platform and already counts Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA as allies.

Devices would still have to be compatible with Verizon's technology, and for now, that excludes Apple's iPhone. Verizon uses a cellular standard called CDMA, which differs from much of the world and that of the nation's largest carrier, AT&T. Sprint is the other major wireless carrier that uses CDMA.

Verizon, AT&T and other carriers now sell phones and service as a package, limiting the types of devices customers can use. Carriers traditionally have decided what applications most consumers see on their cellphones, setting rules and negotiating fees for software developers to gain access. Along with Google's foray into the wireless industry and Apple's recent decision to allow third parties to develop software for its iPhone, regulators have been pushing for increased openness.

John Stratton, chief marketing officer for Verizon, said he envisions devices beyond the standard cellphone being created for the network. This includes gaming devices or appliances. "It's subject to imagination," he told reporters in a conference call. "It encourages anyone who wants to get in the game to get in the game."

Verizon's announcement comes just two months before the FCC auctions off a large chunk of lucrative radio spectrum, which wireless networks are based on. Whatever company acquires a swath of that airwaves will have to allow any phone and any software to operate on the wireless network it builds. Verizon Wireless had strongly opposed the rules requiring open access, as it had become known. But it had been one of the companies expected to ultimately bid for that spectrum, which would allow it to substantially bolster its national wireless network. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More bribery at scandalous Siemens

Scandal-scarred Siemens AG paid millions of euros in bribes to cabinet ministers and dozens of other officials in Nigeria, Russia and Libya as it sought to win lucrative contracts for telecommunications equipment, according to a court ruling.

The ruling by a Munich court names four former Nigerian telecommunications ministers as well as other officials in Nigeria, Libya and Russia as recipients of 77 bribes totaling about €12 million, or about $17.5 million. Siemens accepted responsibility for the misconduct and agreed to pay a €201 million fine.

The court focused on bribes between 2001 and 2004 connected to Reinhard Siekaczek, a former manager in a telecom unit who spent 38 years at Siemens. Siekaczek has been indicted on embezzlement charges in the Munich court and is expected to face trial in 2008.

Siekaczek has told prosecutors that he knows about bribes beyond the three countries that were made with the knowledge of senior managers. That testimony could serve as a springboard for other criminal investigations and additional fines in other countries, including the US.

Siemens, Europe's largest engineering company with revenue last year of €72 billion, manufactures everything from light bulbs to high-speed trains. When they carried out a dramatic raid on Siemens headquarters a year ago, German police focused on just €20 million in alleged fraud. The investigation quickly mushroomed into one of the continent's biggest bribery cases, triggering high-level arrests including Siekaczek, and the resignations of the chairman and chief executive earlier this year.

Siemens is being investigated on several continents. The company identified €1.3 billion in suspicious transactions worldwide between 2000 and 2006. The Munich court ruling lists bribes from €2,000 to €2.25 million steered by Siekaczek and colleagues to dozens of government officials in the three countries. Most of the money went to Nigerian officials. Siemens disclosed that wmployees are being investigated in China for alleged corruption at several business units, and revealed corruption probes by authorities in Hungary, Indonesia, Norway and Italy. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Monday, November 26, 2007

T-Mobile selling iPhone without contract

T-Mobile in Germany will sell Apple's iPhone without a contract to comply with a court injunction; but people who reject the two-year contract will pay more than twice as much for it. The company sells the iPhone for $1,477 with no contract, or just $590 with a two-year contract.

The iPhone made its German debut on Nov. 9 - available only with the two-year contract from T-Mobile. The German unit of rival Vodafone protested that practice at a state court in Hamburg. The court issued an injunction barring T-Mobile from offering the iPhone exclusively with the minimum 24-month contract, and also from selling it only with a "SIM lock" that prevents users from switching the phone to another network.

T-Mobile said customers can now also have the SIM lock on their phones removed - including those who have already purchased the iPhone. The company said it would abide by the conditions "until the legal situation is resolved" and would appeal the injunction and it also said it reserves the right to consider seeking damages. Vodafone said it wanted the issue settled.

Companies routinely offer phone discounts to customers who sign up for lengthy contracts. T-Mobile's popular Nokia N95 sells for as little as $295.63 with a two-year contract, or $916.60 without one.

Apple's strategy thus far had been to offer its iPhone through an exclusive mobile operator for each region: AT&T in the US, O2 in Britain, T-Mobile in Germany, and Orange in France. It also has issued software updates that have disabled the workarounds hackers developed to get the iPhone to work on other carrier networks. Apple faces two consumer lawsuits in the US that accuse the company of unlawfully restricting consumer choice by preventing users from unlocking their iPhones. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

AT&T offers spy service for businesses

AT&T (formerly known as McCaw Communications) has introduced a nationwide program that gives owners of small- and medium-size businesses some of the same tools big security companies offer for monitoring employees, customers and operations from remote locations.

Under AT&T’s Remote Monitor program, a business owner could install cameras, door sensors and other gadgets at up to five different company locations across the country. Using a Java-enabled mobile device or a PC connected to the Internet, the owner could view any of the images in real time, control room lighting, and track equipment temperatures remotely. All the images are recorded on digital video, which can be viewed for up to 30 days.

The system can detect break-ins, verify insurance claims, alert an owner if a boiler breaks down, and monitor employees.

The program expands an AT&T residential initiative that began in late 2006 that offered limited remote monitoring and captured still pictures from a home. For businesses, digital video monitoring at multiple sites is added. Equipment costs range from $199 for a fixed camera starter kit in a single location to $349 for multiple cameras including ones that will pan or tilt. Monthly monitoring charges range from $9.95 for a single location to $39.95 for five locations.

The AT&T system is not foolproof, however. As a Web-based service, it is vulnerable to the loss of a broadband connection. If the system fails, the monitor would lose the ability to view locations remotely. ADT and Digital Witness’s equipment and services, while more costly than AT&T’s, are able to continue monitoring a business even if a broadband connection fails. (info from The New York Times)

Next new posting will be on Monday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

J.C. Penney to offer Black Friday wake-up calls

On top of their usual blitz of holiday ads in newspapers, on TV and on the Web, retailers are testing a new marketing medium this year: the cellphone.

Shoppers who sign up with Nordstrom or Wal-Mart, for example, will receive text messages with information on discounted merchandise and special sales. Best Buy is offering gift suggestions on its mobile Web site. J.C. Penney is going further, offering to make wake-up calls to early-bird shoppers eager to get a head start on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the frenzied holiday retail season. Many J.C. Penney stores will open at 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving.

Companies have begun using mobile phones to market everything from electronics to cars to apparel and footwear. Some retailers, such as Nordstrom, want to relay information only through text, while others, including J.C. Penney, are using mobile Websites to try to engage consumers.

A major challenge for marketers is deciphering how much cellphone advertising consumers will tolerate. J.C. Penney and others say they target only consumers who sign up to receive the messages, and even then are careful not to bombard them. Typically, the retailers send out text messages from once every few weeks to a few times a week.

Retailers are adding cellphones to their marketing playbooks at a time when the effectiveness of television ads is being questioned, as more viewers change the channel or fast-forward through the commercials. Marketers say they are encouraged by studies showing that about 80% of Americans use cellphones, and about 60% of those people text message.

"Kids may be the early adopters, but they're teaching their parents," said Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer for J.C. Penney. "We knew we needed some experience in this space. We didn't want to get caught flat-footed," he said.

J.C. Penney added mobile marketing to its holiday campaign based on the response it got from a back-to-school mobile-marketing effort this year. Aimed at teenagers and preteens, it included video clips, wallpaper for cellphones, ring tones, style advice and text-message alerts on new products.

For its holiday campaign, J.C. Penney created a mobile Website, along with its text-message system. On the site, consumers will find a gallery that includes images of 64 different gifts. Consumers can email images of gifts they like to themselves or friends. They also can download wallpaper, Christmas-themed ring tones and songs including "All That I Want" by The Weepies, which is featured in the company's TV ad. (info & photo from The Wall Street Journal)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mis-sent txt msg brings cops seeking weapon

In Norway, Leif Ersland wanted to return a nail gun he borrowed, so he sent a text message to the owner saying "the gun is on the cabin steps."

The police quickly arrived at his home, because Ersland had tapped the wrong phone number.

Instead of the message going to the nail gun's owner, it went to a stranger, who called the police because she was suspicious about a possible gun deal.

Ersland was not home when the police arrived. His roommate, Hilde Pedersen, who knew nothing about the text message, faced a confusing 45 minutes of intense interrogation. "I was shocked to see them," Pedersen was quoted as saying. "I became even more shocked when I learned what they wanted. It was very unpleasant."

She said about a half-hour after the police left, they called her to say that the whole thing had been a misunderstanding about a message gone astray. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comcast sued for Web slow-down

A subscriber to Comcast's high-speed Internet service has sued the company for unfair business practices in interfering with file sharing. Jon Hart based his claims on the results of a recent investigation by the Associated Press that showed Comcast actively interferes with attempts of some subscribers to share files online.

Lawyer Mark N. Todzo of San Francisco, said Hart suspected before reading the AP report that Comcast was interfering with Internet traffic. "What the AP report did was just confirm that it wasn't just him who was suffering from the problem," Todzo said. Other users claimed they had seen interference with file-sharing. Subsequent tests by the Electronic Frontier Foundation confirmed the AP's tests, which showed that Comcast is causing software on both ends of a file-sharing link to believe the connection has been dropped.

A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars formally asked the FCC early this month to make Comcast stop interfering with file sharing. Two of the groups asked the FCC to fine Comcast $195,000 for every affected subscriber.

Comcast is the country's largest cable company and second-largest Internet service provider with 12.9 million Internet subscribers. The company denies it blocks file sharing, but it acknowledged that it delays some of the traffic between computers that share files, to improve the Internet experience for subscribers as a whole. A relatively small number of file sharers can slow down a network.

Hart's lawsuit alleges Comcast misleads customers by promising "mind-blowing" speeds and "unfettered access" to the Internet in advertisements, while hindering the use of certain applications. It seeks unspecified money damages. "This class action seeks to end (Comcast's) practice and seeks recovery of fees paid by customers who paid for services they did not receive." (info from The Associated Press)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Order Chinese food from Mount Everest

China's largest cellphone service provider successfully tested a transmission station on Mount Everest on Tuesday, making it possible for climbers and those on next year's Olympic torch relay to make calls. China Mobile had to hire yaks and porters to help transport equipment up to the station site at 21,325 feet. Construction was "incredibly difficult" because the oxygen level was only 38 percent of what it would be on the ground,

The new station, along with two other China Mobile stations at 17,060 feet and 19,095 feet, would provide cellphone service along the entire Mount Everest climbing route. It would also be put into use during next year's Olympic torch relay, which will take the flame to the 29,035-foot summit.

A worker called the cellphone of China Mobile general manager Wang Jianzhou on Tuesday afternoon and had a clear signal. Immediately after the call to Wang, workers began packing away the equipment for the winter, Xinhua said. The station will be reassembled before the Olympic torch relay next summer.

An official with Tibet Mobile, the Tibetan subsidiary of China Mobile, said the station would operate based on the needs of mountaineers and scientists, Xinhua reported. It was not known whether the two other stations operate on a continuous basis.

Organizers of the Beijing Games plan to stage the longest torch relay in Olympic history - a 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents. Taking the torch up Everest is technically challenging. Aside from the physical challenge of climbing the mountain, which straddles the border of Nepal and Chinese-controlled Tibet, the torch had to be designed to burn in bad weather, low pressure and high altitude.

While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups critical of China's often harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to Chinese control. (Info from The Associated Press. Photo from Daily Mail)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Soon u can txt 4 pza

Pizza chain Papa John's is about to start taking orders via text message. Customers first create an account online where they save as many as four favorite orders that include any combination of pizza, sides and drinks, as well as a delivery address or carry-out information and payment type. Once that's done, customers can send a message at any time using shorthand "FAV1," "FAV2," "FAV3" or "FAV4."

The company hopes that text-message ordering will provide a new way for it to hit customers with coupons and updates on new menu items. Another catch: text-messaging is not free.

The chain trails Pizza Hut and Domino's in the pizza-delivery sector, and has a much smaller ad budget than its rivals. As a result, it has long had to rely on stunts and new technology in its marketing. It was the first of the three to introduce online ordering in 2001 -- Pizza Hut and Domino's only rolled out the service nationwide this past summer -- and some 20% of Papa John's orders now come via the Web.

In 2005, Papa John's launched a successful stealth attack on Domino's during an episode of "The Apprentice." Domino's had the rights to be the exclusive pizza advertiser nationally on the broadcast. Papa John's made an end run by buying ad time in local markets during the show that promoted a meatball pizza, a similar product to the one featured on "The Apprentice." It was a public-relations coup for Papa John's, attracting next-day coverage in dozens of newspapers around the country.

"We are smaller. We have to be more nimble," says Jim Ensign, vice president of marketing communications for Papa John's. The marketing battle among national pizza chains has heated up as growth in the category has slowed. Pizza sales in the U.S. grew only 2.9% last year to $28.5 billion. Pizza Hut had 18% of the market last year, while Domino's had 11%; Papa John's had 6.9%. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Regardless of the novelty and convenience of ordering with a text message, in the opinion of your editor-and-pizza-maven, Papa John's pizza SUCKS. If you want good pizza, go to New Haven County, CT, and find a place that spells it apizza (pronounced "ah-beetz").

Monday, November 12, 2007

After US flop, Disney to enter cellphone biz in Japan

Walt Disney Co. is planning to start a cellphone service in Japan next spring with Disney-branded phones and animated content, by teaming with Japan's third-largest mobile operator, Softbank.

Back home in the US, Disney last year began offering a similar service, called Disney Mobile, which used Sprint Nextel's network. Disney is ending the service at the end of this year after having trouble finding outlets to sell its phones and services.

The Japan deal will differ from the effort in the US, which had Disney simply leasing bandwidth from Sprint Nextel, and running the entire operation. Disney will provide Softbank with content and marketing power, and provide input on phone design. Softbank will handle back-end operations, including billing, customer service and sales of the phone through its retail outlets in Japan.

In Japan, the top three mobile operators have been engaged in a price war, but consumers have been paying some of the highest rates in the world. The government has been pushing to aid competition by approving new wireless licenses, and last year made it easier for customers to switch services by letting them keep their phone numbers. Authorities also have been encouraging partnerships such as the one between Disney and Softbank.

In Japan, Disney is likely to target children and families as well as the strong base of Disney fans -- mostly young women. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Plan for nationwide WiMax net is unplugged

Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are scrapping their agreement to jointly build a nationwide high-speed wireless network based on WiMax technology. The two companies signed a letter of intent in July to pursue the partnership, which they hoped to finalize within 60 days. The complexities of the transaction and the departure last month of Gary Forsee as Sprint's chief executive officer made it too difficult to reach a final pact.

The unraveling of the preliminary agreement is a blow to Clearwire. The company, founded by cellphone pioneer Craig McCaw, has staked its future on WiMax, a longer-range cousin of Wi-Fi that can theoretically provide wireless broadband access from laptops and cellphones at speeds comparable to what cable operators provide.

The agreement called for the companies to share costs on a network that would reach 100 million people by the end of next year, with each side providing roaming rights to the other's customers. Sprint said it planned to spend about $5 billion on the network through 2010. The carrier has given no indication that it will halt its WiMax plans altogether. Interim CEO Paul Saleh has said the company remains committed to the technology.

Any slowdown in the rollout of WiMax by either Clearwire or Sprint would negatively affect companies that are backing the technology, including Intel, Motorola and Samsung. Some of those companies may provide financing for Clearwire to help keep its WiMax project on track.

It isn't clear whether Sprint and Clearwire will pursue another arrangement. The companies control complementary swaths of radio spectrum around the country and are the only two US carriers pursuing WiMax.

In recent weeks, Sprint's board considered a variety of options with respect to the Clearwire partnership, including the idea of spinning off Sprint's WiMax unit and merging it with Clearwire or bringing in a consortium of strategic investors to help finance the project. Any significant transaction would likely have to wait for Sprint to hire a new CEO. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

NYC may reward good students with cellphones

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week that he was considering a proposal to give some city students free cellphones and to reward high performance with free airtime, but emphasized that he had no intention of lifting the ban on phones in schools.

“It’s something we’ll take a look at,” the mayor said of the proposal being pushed by Roland G. Fryer, a Harvard economist who joined the Education Department this year as chief equality officer. Dr. Fryer is also the architect of the city’s plan to pay cash to students in several dozen schools who do well on standardized tests, a step connected to the mayor’s broad antipoverty efforts that give families money as a reward for certain behavior. Dr. Fryer spoke of the cellphone plan during a lecture to his undergraduate economics class last month.

Mayor Bloomberg suggested that the plan would not necessarily collide with the ban, which has come under continued attack from parents and politicians in the city because the phones would not be used in schools.

“Right now you can — if you have the money — you can pay for your own cellphone and use it outside of school,” the mayor said yesterday after giving a speech on land use. “We have no jurisdiction nor any interest in prohibiting your using a cellphone outside of school.”

Councilman Lewis A. Fidler, who sponsored a bill to try to loosen the cellphone ban by requiring schools to allow students to carry phones to and from school, said the proposal was “almost funny. The fact that they even would think that this might be a powerful incentive for students is delicious,” Mr. Fidler said. “It’s a clear indication that people at a level below the mayor and the chancellor realize that this is a vital piece of technology.” (info from The New York Times)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bum breaks into church for phone sex

Isn't the 11th Commandment thou shalt not use the church's telephone to call a sex hot line? A homeless man has been charged with breaking into a church in Valley Cottage, NY by picking a lock so he could call for phone sex.

The man, James Macnair, was arraigned Monday night on charges of burglary, possession of a burglar's tools and petty larceny. He admitted he had sinned before, breaking into the Elim Alliance Church days earlier for the same reason.

A church treasurer found Macnair on the phone both times, police said. The first time, when he was in an office, she told him to leave; but the second time, when he was in a basement area used as a nursery for children, she called 911.

Macnair, 35, was being held without bail Tuesday at the Rockland County jail and was due back in court Wednesday. (info from The Associated Press)

COMING SOON: Google at the gas pump

Lost drivers soon will be able to Google for help at gas stations. As part of a partnership to be announced today, Google will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the US beginning early next month.

The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, include an Internet connection and will display Google's mapping service in color on a small screen. Motorists will be able to scroll through several categories to find local landmarks, hotels, restaurants and hospitals selected by the gas station's owner. After the driver selects a destination, the pump will print out directions. Eventually, Gilbarco Veeder-Root hopes to enable motorists to type in a specific address and get directions.

Gilbarco Veeder-Root will initially offer the service in about 3,500 gas pumps and expand based on retailer demand. Unlike most of Google's services, this one won't include ads bringing the company income. But participating retailers will be able to make extra money from other merchants that offer coupons on the service.

Making maps available at gas pumps appealed to Google because the company wants to make its services available whenever and wherever people need them, said Karen Roter Davis, a principal business development manager for Google.

Calling up a map at a gas pump should be particularly popular among motorists who are too stubborn or embarrassed to pull over and ask someone for help, she said. "This will be sort of a Googley, more stealthy way of getting directions." (info from The Associated Press)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's official: GooglePhones are coming

Confirming rumors, Google said Monday it is developing a free cellphone software package so it can more easily peddle ads and services to people who aren't in front of a PC.

While the announcement ended months of speculation, the first phones equipped with Google's "software stack" won't be available until the second half of 2008. Google won't be making the phones, nor does it plan to have its brand on the devices. Instead, it will work with four manufacturers who have agreed to use Google's programs in their phones. Consumers will have to buy new phones to get the Google software.

Even with its market debut months away, Google's software looms as a significant threat to other mobile operating systems made by Microsoft, Research In Motion, Palm and Symbian, which is owned by Nokia, and several other major phone makers. Because Google's software will be free, it could undercut rivals who charge phone makers to install their operating systems. It also promises to make smart phones less expensive since manufacturers won't have to pay for software.

Google's system will also be based on computer code that can be openly distributed among programmers. That, Google hopes, will encourage developers to create new applications and other software improvements that could spawn new uses for smart phones. A development tool kit for working on the new platform will be released next week.

So far, Motorola, Samsung, HTC and LG have agreed to use Google's software in some phones. The list of wireless carriers that have agreed to provide service for the Google-powered phone in the United States include Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile in the US. China Mobile, Telefonica in Spain and Telecom Italia have signed on to provide service outside the US. They are among a Google-led group of 34 companies that have formed the Open Handset Alliance. Other key players include chip makers Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Broadcom and Nvidia. Some key details, like pricing and how many phones will be shipped next year, have yet to be worked out.

Diversifying into cellphone software could open more digital doors for Google to build upon the trove of information that it has collected about its users' personal interests so it can profit by showing more appealing ads.

Google is framing its move into cellphones as a breath of fresh air in a market where innovation has been stifled by the restrictive platforms adopted by the leading wireless carriers and phone manufacturers to maximize profits. With nearly 3 billion cellphones already on market, Google wants to ensure people are able to use its search engine and other services, such as e-mail and maps, on mobile handsets just as easily as they can on PCs.

Wall Street is betting that Google's mobile software will enable the company to make more money from showing ads. Since details about Google's cellular plans began to dribble out in early September, the company's shares have surged by about $200, or nearly 40 percent. Google's stock price hit a new high of $726 in Monday's morning trading before falling back to $722.42, up $11.17 for the session. Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Sandeep Aggarwal predicted Google will harvest as much as $4.8 billion in annual revenue from the mobile market two to three years after its software first appears in cellphones. Aggarwal raised his 12-month target for Google's stock to $850, up from $745. (Info from The Associated Press)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Apple limits iPhone purchases

Apple no longer accepts cash for iPhone purchases and now limits sales of the cellphone to two-per-person in a move to stop people from reselling them. Previously, there was no cash restriction and the purchase limit was five.

"Customer response to the iPhone has been off the charts, and limiting iPhone sales to two per customer helps us ensure that there are enough iPhones for people who are shopping for themselves or buying a gift," Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said. "We're requiring a credit or debit card for payment to discourage unauthorized resellers."

More than 1.4 million iPhones have been sold since it debuted on June 29, according to Apple. It should be a hot gift for the holidays.

Apple thinks some people already have purchased multiple iPhones to resell, including those looking to modify, or "unlock," the phones so they work on networks other than Apple's carrier partner in the US, AT&T (formerly known as McCaw Cellular and South Central Bell).

Apple estimates that buyers of 250,000 of the iPhones sold so far intended to unlock them. Apple's attempts to prevent "unlocking," which included a software update that blocked the workarounds hackers had developed, have frustrated users and led to lawsuits. (info from The Associated Press)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Alcatel-Lucent whacks 4,000 more employees

Telecommunications equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent said Wednesday it is canning another 4,000 employees to cut costs after reporting a loss of about $373 million for the third quarter. The job cuts are in addition to the 12,500 announced in February and will help save an additional $578 million by 2009, the company said. Together, the cuts amount to 20 percent of the 82,500 work force employed by Alcatel and Lucent when they combined. The company has shed 5,000 workers this year.

Alcatel-Lucent's share price has dropped over 39 percent so far this year, as the profit warnings scared off investors. CEO Patricia Russo, under pressure to produce better returns, called the latest results unsatisfactory. She said the French-American manufacturer's chief financial officer will soon step down. Russo denied reports that she had been given an ultimatum by the board, saying it is "fully supportive" of her plans to expand the current three-year, $2.45 billion cost-cutting program.

Three profit warnings this year have put pressure on Russo, who took over after France's Alcatel SA acquired US-based Lucent Technologies, formerly part of AT&T (the real AT&T, not the new AT&T, which is really SBC).

Russo's new "three-point action plan" will streamline the core carrier business, create a more "offensive market strategy" by focusing on higher-margin businesses, and simplify management, she said. A seven-person management committee is being charged with implementing the plans.

The announcement came as Alcatel-Lucent reported a third-quarter net loss of $373 million, compared with a pro forma profit in the same period a year ago. The loss is slightly larger than analyst's expectations. (info from The Associated Press)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pat Robertson urges AT&T boycott over Halloween events, plans exorcism

Right-wing televangelist Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson has called for a month-long nationwide boycott of AT&T because of the company's Halloween promotional activities yesterday.

AT&T provided free pumpkins to customers who came to its stores wearing Halloween costumes, gave out candy and cider, and had "bobbing for apples" contests with Apple iPhones as prizes. AT&T employees wore Halloween costumes, and stores have Halloween decorations.

Robertson is opposed to abortion and gay rights, and tried unsuccessfully to become the Republican party's nominee in the 1988 presidential election. He is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, but no longer has an official church role. His media and financial resources make him an influential force for conservative Christianity in the US.

Robertson -- founder the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Christian Coalition, Operation Blessing and Regent University, and host of The 700 Club TV show -- said "it is disturbing, shocking and insulting that a company like AT&T, that is such an important part of the fabric of American culture, made a deal with the Devil to increase its business. Halloween, despite its apparent playfulness, is a pagan celebration that glorifies Satan and the Underworld, and should not be endorsed, celebrated, or treated lightly by AT&T, or by any person or business. Halloween has no place in American churches, our schools, our offices, our stores, or our homes."

In a press release from his office at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, Robertson continued, "I call on all good people of faith to refuse to make any new purchase from AT&T in November, and to restrict their use of AT&T products and services to emergency use only, for the entire month."

"AT&T thought they could use Diabolical means to build their business," Robertson explained. "We will show AT&T's directors and shareholders that it is time to rely on Jesus, not Satan; and we good God-fearing Christians will use our economic power, and the power of God, to drive the Demons out of AT&T."

Robertson concluded, "I will personally visit AT&T headquarters in San Antonio, Texas to conduct an exorcism, and will use the power of Jesus to cleanse this powerful corporation that has strayed from the true Christian path. It is an offense to all God-fearing, church-going American citizens, that a company located in a city named after a Saint, could be in a partnership with the Devil. The beloved Saint Anthony of Padua has miraculous powers to recover things lost, and we will seek the aid of Saint Anthony, in the City of San Antonio, to recover the Christian soul of AT&T."