Microsoft has agreed to buy Silicon Valley semantic search engine Powerset, say reports. According to Venture Beat, the deal could happen as early as next month with a price tag in the $100 million range – more than double the estimated value of the company. The Powerset search engine first debuted in May. It strives to be different than say Google and Yahoo by giving you more meaningful and smarter search results than other search engines. Using simple phrases, short questions, and of course keywords, Powerset is supposed to understand what you are looking for and help you quickly find the information you need. We reviewed the beta version of the search engine in May and we were not impressed.
Ever since Microsoft’s failed bid for Yahoo, the company has been searching for another way to compete with Google. Powerset’s natural language or semantic based technology would seem to fit in with Microsoft’s current strategy as we reported last month. Natural language search is one of several new concepts for the next evolution of search engine technology. As we discussed in May, Powerset is designed to “understand what you are looking for and help you quickly find the information you need” using short phrases, questions and keywords instead of the traditional Google method that takes keywords and ranks Internet links based on a website’s popularity.
Source: PC World, Martin
Stuck in a traffic jam and really hoping you could update your Facebook page? You soon may be able to in a Chrysler. The No. 3 of the Big Three U.S. automakers will announce a wireless Internet-access option for all 2009 models on Thursday, according to various media reports. Costs of the option — called UConnect Web — and service subscriptions have not been finalized, according to Wired magazine and the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a notion of always wanting to be connected wherever you are,” Scott Slagle, Chrysler’s senior manager of global marketing strategy, tells the L.A. Times. “There’s a demand for that.”
The cars will receive 3G cellular broadband signals, then route them to any Wi-Fi enabled devices in or around the vehicle. Traffic-safety advocates are less than enthused. “Stop already!” Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety told the Times. “Clearly this is a problem. Our cars are becoming just another place to catch up on calls and now e-mail, and that’s a real safety problem.” It remains to be seen which models will get UConnect and what it will cost. Chrysler says it will be competitive with laptop wireless cards, and customers won’t be tied to long contracts.
Source: ABC, Fox, Martin
According to a preliminary analysis by iSuppli Corp., the new Apple iPhone 3G materials and manufacturing cost is $173. The initial retail price of the phone announced by Steve Jobs will be $199. iSuppli has performed a breakdown of the costs using insights from its analysis staff to develop estimates of iPhone content, suppliers, and costs. “The new iPhone is significantly less expensive to produce than the first-generation product, despite major improvements in the product’s functionality and unique usability, due to the addition of 3G communications,” said Dr. Jagdish Rebello, director and principal analyst for iSuppli.
“The original 8Gbyte iPhone carried a cost of $226 after component price reductions, giving the new product a 23 percent hardware cost reduction due to component price declines.” Tina Teng, wireless communications analyst at iSuppli, added that if the 3G iPhone design is unchanged, the cost should drop down to $126 in 2012. Although the base iPhone 3G will sell for just $199 at retail, Apple will receive far more than that with AT&T footing the bill as it does with most phones. Wireless carriers subsidize much of the cost of devices and make up the difference with revenue from new and existing subscribers.
Source: Betanews, PC World, Martin
ABC is looking to expand the content it makes available on the Web with a deal to make such popular shows as “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and content from ESPN available online at independent site Veoh Networks. This is not the first Web syndication deal for ABC and its parent company Disney. However, media critics note, it’s significant considering ABC-Disney’s lock-tight grip it places on its content. However, despite the fact ABC is slowly cracking the syndication vault open a bit wider for online distribution ABC still plans to keep an iron grip on its content. In order for ABC to keep complete control over its video programming ABC is only allowing Veoh.com to show its programming through a proprietary ABC online video player.
The way it works is Veoh will not host ABC video content, rather when you choose to view ABC content the site advertises Veoh will launch the ABC video player and playback the desired video. Veoh users will be only slightly inconvenienced by this arrangement. To view ABC content you will have to download the ABC browser. When I did this, it was no big deal and consider only a mild annoyance. This means that Veoh is merely a conduit to drive users to ABC’s own website. This relationship is identical to an arrangement ABC struck with AOL last year. Unlike Veoh’s main competitors, such as Hulu and AOL video, Veoh is a mix of both professional video such as programming from CBS, USA and MTV and user-generated content.
Source: PC World, Martin
Beatles music may soon be strumming a new tune via air guitar video games, according to a report in the Financial Times. Apple Corps and EMI, which respectively represent The Beatles’ business interests and ownership of its master recordings, have reportedly been in discussions with video game publishers Activision and MTV Games.Under a possible deal that could be worth several million dollars, users could put their air guitar to use while listening to The Beatles and playing Activision’s Guitar Hero or MTV’s Rock Band games, according to the report.
The move to push The Beatles’ music onto a new stage via video games could occur within the coming weeks, the Financial Times reported. Such a move would mark a change in embracing technology for The Beatles’ music, given that digital-use licenses for Beatles recordings are not yet available. The Beatles representatives, as well as the game publishers, declined to confirm whether a deal is on the horizon.
Source: Cnet, Martin
Security researchers reported last week that they’ve spotted a Mac Trojan horse in the wild that could compromise machines running Apple Inc.’s Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5. SecureMac, a Mac-specific anti-virus vendor, posted an alert last Thursday that its researchers had found a Trojan horse, dubbed “AppleScript.THT,” being distributed from a hacker-operated site where discussions of spreading the malware via iChat, Apple’s instant messaging and video chat software, were also taking place. The company classified the threat posed by the Trojan as “critical.” The malware exploits a recently publicized vulnerability in the Apple Remote Desktop Agent (ARDAgent), part of Tiger’s and Leopard’s Remote Management component. Composed as a compiled AppleScript, or in another variant, script bundled into an application, the Trojan leverages the ARDAgent bug to gain full control of the victimized Mac.
“[It] allows a malicious user complete remote access to the system, can transmit system and user passwords, and can avoid detection by opening ports in the firewall and turning off system logging,” claimed SecureMac. “Additionally, the Trojan can log keystrokes, take pictures with the built-in Apple iSight camera, take screenshots, and turn on file sharing.” SecureMac’s warning came one day after an anonymous reader disclosed a few details of the ARDAgent vulnerability on Slashdot.org, and on the same day that rival security vendor Intego provided more information about the bug. Malicious AppleScript, said Intego, can call ARDAgent, which then gives that script full “root” access to the system. Like any Trojan horse, AppleScript.THT does not spread on its own but relies on user interaction, such as downloading and launching, to infect a machine. Trojans can also be silently introduced on a computer if it’s injected after a successful attack using another vulnerability, such as a browser bug.
Source: Computer World, Martin
Apple on Thursday said music sales on its iTunes store have topped 5 billion songs, and visitors are renting and purchasing more than 50,000 movies each day. Apple, which has surpassed Wal-Mart as the leading music retailer in the United States, put out a brief press release on the latest numbers, offering no further details. The company has a catalog of more than 8 million songs, 20,000 TV shows, and 2,000 films, including 350 in high-definition format. In announcing on April 3 that it had surpassed Wal-Mart, Apple said that it had sold more than 4 billion songs through iTunes. Given that announcement was 77 days ago, that would mean the company has sold nearly 13 million songs a day since then. Apple was not immediately available for comment.
Apple has gotten in trouble before for its iTunes math. In late April, the company said it offered 10 million songs on its 5-year-old store, but later ratcheted the number down to 6 million songs. In August 2007, the company said it had 5 million songs. Apple’s movie collection includes titles from 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Sony Pictures Television International, and Lionsgate. ITunes will rent and sell movies on the same day as their DVD release. Customers using Mac or Windows operating systems must have iTunes 7.6.2 or higher to buy or rent the movies.
Source: InfoWeek, Martin
Firefox 3, the recently released open source browser from Mozilla, has claimed that over 8 million copies of the software were downloaded on Download Day. The company stated early that their goal was to surpass the initial release of Firefox 2, at 1.6 million downloads in 24 hours, and hit 5 million downloads. The goal of the marketing campaign is to set a Guinness World Record for most downloaded software in a single day. A few days have passed and, barring the server downtime that plagued users for a few hours, the results look promising for Mozilla’s world record attempt. According to the official Mozilla blog, Firefox 3 easily cruised past 5 million user downloads. “We exceeded 8 million downloads in our 24 hour period,” the blog states. Downloads were tracked from 11:16am PDT on June 17th to 11:16am PDT on the following day.
The next step in the process is for Firefox 3 to be certified by Guinness World Records. To help get their audit logs in order, Mozilla has brought on two external judges: Paul Vixie, of the Internet Systems Consortium, and Corey Shields, of the University of Indiana’s University of Information Technology Services. Once the two judges and Mozilla feel confident that their download logs are in order, they will be handed over to the people at Guinness World Records for verification. If the attempt is verified, Firefox 3 will be the first recipient of the most software downloaded in a single day record. The process of having a record certified by Guinness can take two different paths. If Mozilla chooses not to expedite the service, the results will be released in four to six weeks. On the other hand, if the company opts for Fast Review, the results could be available in three days from the time the logs are submitted.
Source: CRN, Martin
The latest TOP500 list – a collection of the fastest supercomputers in the world – has been released by its creators, and there’s some big wins for certain manufacturers. The list, published this week on the TOP500 site, gives the number one spot to IBM’s Roadrunner (we informed about this supercomputer a while ago), built for the United States Department of Energy and hitting a staggering 1.026 petaflops/s – the first supercomputer to break the petaflop milestone. According to IBM, the key to this remarkable achievement was the use of Cell Broadband Engine processors – the same chips that are used in Sony’s PlayStation 3 console.
In fact, this 31st incarnation of the list has been extremely kind to Big Blue – IBM systems account for almost half the systems listed. Intel has been doing well, too: 75 percent of the systems present in the list use one or another of their processors, and systems based around quad-core processors use Intel almost exclusively. Intel’s growth has come at a cost to its main competitor, however: AMD sees its share of the list drop from 15.8 percent back in November last year to just 11 percent in this latest compilation. With Intel storming the charts, and IBM’s radical Cell Broadband Engine proving its mettle, it’s clear that AMD is going to have to pull something pretty special out of the R&D hat if it doesn’t want to concede the high-performance computing market.
Source: bit-tech, Martin