Monday, April 28, 2008

Luxury bargain hunting

Bargain hunting can mean walking miles through drab outlet malls filled with row after row with appallingly bland clothes. But new online bargain retailer RueLaLa wants to transform burgain hunting into a luxury experience, complete with background muzak.


Microsoft Dreams of a Live Mesh

By Irina Haltsonen for GigaOm

In this new millennium, our lives are becoming increasingly digital, thanks to proliferation of devices — from MP3 players to digital cameras to cell phones and of course computers. The challenge is to keep a handle on the data on these digital devices and the software programs that go with these devices. Microsoft thinks it has the answer, and it is called Live Mesh.

The much-talked about technology is a service platform that allows users to manage and access different devices, share and synchronize files and stay in touch with others from any computer by using the Web as a hub. Live Mesh users can, for example, access photos on their mobile phone from their computer and make them available to friends by placing them in a shared folder. In order for devices to talk to each other, you need to install Live Mesh software.

Read more

Race is on for $1000 genome

In the late ninties, it took several years and billions of dollars to sequence the DNA in our cells. New technologies can radically lower trha prize, and make the mapping in a fraction of that time. Today, several companies are competeing to be the first to make the "1000 dollar genome" come true. An extra incentive is the ten million dollar XPrize for genetics, put up by the Xprize Foundation.
Two of the entrants are Helicos Biosciences and ZS Genetics, both based in Massachusetts.


With New Machine, Helicos Brings Personal Genome Sequencing A Step Closer

ZS Genetics Enters Race for Genetics X Prize

Friday, April 25, 2008

Advertising tricks through Augmented Reality

Here comes a new way for advertisers to capture attention: software that turns 2D images into 3D simulations when consumers play with them in front of a Webcam.

It's the French company Total Immersion that has come up with a software capable of recognizing, tracking, and rendering images. It works like this: customers view themselves on a screen through a Webcam and hold up a 2D picture. Suddenly the 2D picture pops up and consumers see themselves holding a 3D simulation of the product in the brochure on the kiosk's video feed.

See for yourself and read more here

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Greenwich in Mortgage Crisis

Mortgage Crisis Hits Affluent as Foreclosures Rise, NYT Says
2008-04-24 23:10 (New York)

By Khaleeq Ahmed
April 24 (Bloomberg) -- The wealthy New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, recorded 34 foreclosure notice filings in January, well above the typical number of about six, as the housing industry's woes spread to the affluent, the New YorkTimes reported, citing RealtyTrac data.

According to the Census Bureau, Greenwich was one of the richest cities in the U.S. in 2000, with a median household income more than double the national average, the newspaper said. In addition, Greenwich homeowners have access to resources not available to everyone, the Times said, enabling them to avoid losing their homes.

Still, some residents may face more difficult times going forward, the newspaper said, citing the Independent Budget Office, which forecasts that 20,000 jobs will be cut by Wall Street by the end of next year.

For related news:
Stories on U.S. foreclosures: {TNI US MOR }

--Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Sau Chan

To contact the reporter on this story:
Khaleeq Ahmed in San Francisco at +1-650-745-5599 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wollman at +1-415-617-7138 or


#<109539.500134.>#-0- Apr/25/2008 03:10 GMT

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

US debt outsourcing to India

Outsourcing U.S. Debt Collection to India Growing, NYT Says
2008-04-23 22:05 (New York)

By Khaleeq Ahmed
April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Collection of U.S. debts by Indian firms is a growing business for outsourcing companies as America's economy slows and consumers have difficulty paying for purchases, the New York Times said.

Debt collectors in India cost about a quarter of those in the U.S. and frequently do a better job, the newspaper said, citing debt collection company executives.

Encore Capital Group Inc., a San Diego-based company, said about half of its collection force of more than 300 work in India, the Times said. Encore's chief executive, J. Brandon Black, said the only place it will grow this year is India, according to the newspaper.

Currently a fraction of U.S. debt collection is done outside the country, the Times said. New business is in the pipeline, it said.

Tiger Tyagarajan, executive vice president at Genpact, a spinoff of General Electric with roots in India, said financial services clients are asking the company to analyze their debt and change the way they sell loans, the newspaper said. Genpactemploys debt collectors in India, Romania, Mexico and the Phillippines, the Times said.

For related news:
Stories on Indian companies: {TNI INDIA COS }

--Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Sau Chan

To contact the reporter on this story:
Khaleeq Ahmed in San Francisco at +1-650-745-5599 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wollman at +1-415-617-7138 or

#<109539.500134.>#-0- Apr/24/2008 02:05 GMT

Even Grannies Fight for Net Neutrality

A group of singing and screaming grandmothers known as the Raging Grannies made up the most colorful part of yesterday’s public hearing on broadband network management practices at Stanford University.
"Internet Freedom, under attack. What do we do? Stand up, talk back," the Raging Grannies shouted outside the Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University where the FCC hearing was held.
"For a lot of people the Internet is becoming the most important source of communication. It has to be regulated so that open access can be guaranteed, just like with all other communication," said Gail Sredanovic, one of the grannies.
The grannies had written 13 different songs and cheers in support of network neutrality and protesting cable provider Comcast's alleged practices of slowing down or blocking traffic between users, thereby violating the Internet’s tradition of equal treatment of traffic.
"When the telecoms interfere with traffic in secret, it becomes a threat to freedom of speech and equal rights. If you're pushed to the slow lane you become a second class citizen," said Ruth Robertson, another granny.
The Raging Grannies is a performing activist group and network neutrality is far from the only issue they take on. Through music, song, and inventive costumes the grannies carry out protests on issues like the war in Iraq and veteran's rights.
"We have our own website and we’d hate to see it slowed down. But we don’t just speak for us. We represent all the non-profit websites from left wing to right wing," said Robertson.
While most of the grannies announced they were going home for their naps around noon when the actual hearing started, both Ruth Robertson and Gail Sredanovic stayed around to take on the carriers during the public comment part of the hearing.
However, no carriers showed up for them to fight. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner all declined the FCC's invitation to attend the hearing. This made for quite an uncontroversial day, where the audience cheered most of the panelists on.
With one side of the issue so drastically underrepresented, the auditorium didn't even fill up. At least this way, Comcast avoided new scandals similar to the previous accusations that the company was paying people off the street to take up seats, as they were criticized for doing at the Harvard hearing in February.
This was disappointing to the grannies who had gone to the trouble of writing a cheer for that specific purpose: "What has Comcast got to hide? They had seat-warmers inside! Stacked the deck, told some lies. Grannies say: apologize!"

The Virtual Office Gains Ground

Virtual reality is making its move from gaming and social sites into the business world.
Project Wonderland, developed by Sun Labs, already allows businesses to improve distance collaboration by building online replicas of their offices or classrooms where colleagues may use 3D representations of themselves to attend meetings, give presentations, and interact.
Project Wonderland is an open-source toolkit for building virtual worlds. The toolkit comes with a prebuilt office environment, but developers who want to design their own world can download instructions on how to do so.

An Early Adopter
One user is Green Phosphor, which sells virtual worlds to enterprises. The company, uses the platform for its business data-mapping application, giving 3D illustrations of data graphs inside virtual worlds.
The idea is to help the user visualize the data by creating the feeling of standing in the middle of a spreadsheet. Green Phosphor tried building prototypes of its application on different platforms such as Second Life, Open Croquet, and Open Simulator, but chose to stay with Project Wonderland because of its networking model and Java base.
"Since the platform is Java-based, we've been able to add some elements to Wonderland that would have been more difficult to build using other platforms," says Ben Lindquist, CEO of Green Phosphor.
"Another aspect that differentiates Wonderland from the competition is its audio features," says Lindquist.
At a recent open house-event at Sun Labs' Menlo Park, CA facility, the research team behind the project placed particular emphasis on sound features, showing how people unable to attend a meeting in the virtual world could call in just as they would to a real-life phone conference.
The people in the virtual world were then able to talk to the caller as a group, privately, or even carry the caller, who is represented in the virtual world by a phone icon, from room to room and passing the caller between different people. When someone gave a presentation in the virtual world, the sound was amplified as the person stepped in front of the microphone.
Members of the virtual audience were also able to chat quietly with the person sitting next to them or step outside the room into a "cone of silence" for private conversations.
To relax, users could step into the virtual music room and chose from different albums, or to into the informal chat areas. "We wanted to add the opportunity for people to interact informally before and after meetings so that people working remotely don't miss out on the social aspects," says Nicole Yankelovich, Project Wonderland project leader.

System Requirements
Project Wonderland requires the use of fairly modern PCs with good graphics cards. The application will work with a dial-up modem, but a slow connection will affect the quality of the voice features.
Live applications such as Mozilla's Firefox browser or's productivity suite can run in Project Wonderland. There is also a framework for building multi-user applications.
The program is presently able to accommodate about 25 users at a time. In the next release, scheduled sometime this fall, the goal is to be able to accommodate at least ten times as many.
Lindquist, who has been using the Wonderland platform for a few months hopes for better documentation in the next release.
"The platform needs to be solidified and better documented, but as an open source architecture, I think it has the potential to be really great," he says.

Fisker-Tesla Debacle Continues

Posted by Phyza Jameel
The Fisker camp has broken its silence about the Tesla suit. Last week, Tesla Motors alleged that KARMA, Fisker Automotives' new hybrid electric car, is a copied design of Tesla's own white sedan. Tesla sued Henrik Fisker for stealing trade secrets and design concepts to design his own eco chic automobile- the Karma. Here is what Alan Niedzwiecki, President and CEO of Quantum Technologies had to say:

The Karma, a product of Quantum Technologies and Henrik Fisker is ready to kiss the roads in 4th quarter of 2009, with annual production projected to reach 15,000 units.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Open-source films attack Hollywood

Posted by Carl-Gustav Linden
It's 2018 and the Nazis are about to return from space to an unsuspecting Earth.
Sound weird? It could happen. And it does in Iron Sky, a new movie whose preview will be available for download on the 5th of May.
The story is a follow-up from the guys who made the cult film Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning. That $20,000 sci-fi parody of Star Trek has been downloaded 8 million times since it appeared on the Internet three years ago.
Read more on CNET

LED lightbulbs: Are you ready to make the switch?

Posted by Carl-Gustav Linden
High price and a strange color. No, we're not talking about a hairdo. Those are the two factors that have kept light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, from becoming a mainstream light source.
But that might change soon, said Zach Gibler, chief business development officer of Lighting Science Group, which plans to announce distribution deals with major retailers for its LED bulbs that screw into a regular socket.
Read more on CNET

$10 Bn Oil Deal in UAE

ConocoPhillips Close to $10 Billion U.A.E gas project, FT says.

By Khaleeq Ahmed
April 22 (Bloomberg) -- ConocoPhillips is near a deal to work with Abu Dhabi's National Oil Co. on its $10 billion sour gas project, the Financial Times reported, citing ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulva.

An announcement could be made within two months, according to Mulva, the newspaper said. Royal Dutch Shell Inc. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. had been front-runners for the contract, though Occidental has been advised in recent months it isn't a finalist, the FT reported.

International oil companies like ConocoPhillips are facing difficulties gaining access to new resources amid increasing nationalism in oil-rich countries, the FT said.

If ConocoPhillips secures the project with Adnoc, as the company is called, it would be better placed to win other contracts in the United Arab Emirates, the world's fifth-largest holder of gas reserves, the paper said.

For related news: Stories on Adnoc: {158443Z UH CN}

--Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Colin Keatinge

To contact the reporter on this story:
Khaleeq Ahmed in San Francisco at +1-650-745-5599 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wollman at +1-415-617-7138 or


Wal-Mart Nominates New Board Members as Two Directors Leave

By Khaleeq Ahmed
April 22 (Bloomberg) -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. nominated two new members to its board of directors and said current directors Jack Shewmaker and Roland Hernandez would not seek re-election at the annual meeting in June.

Gregory Penner, a general partner at Madrone Capital Partners, and Arne Sorenson, 49, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Marriott International Inc., have been nominated to join Wal-Mart's board, the company said in a statement on PRNewire.

Penner, 38, is married to chairman Rob Walton's daughter, according to the statement.

Departing board member Shewmaker joined Wal-Mart in 1970 and continued to serve on the board after his retirement from the company in 1988. Hernandez joined Wal-Mart's board in 1998 and is the retired chairman chief executive of Telemundo Group Inc.

The company didn't provide any reason for the director's departure. An after-hours phone call to Wal-Mart spokesman Carol Schumacher seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The Bentonwille, Arkansas-based company will hold its annual shareholders meeting June 6.

For related news:


To contact the reporter on this story:
Khaleeq Ahmed in San Francisco at +1-650-745-5599 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wollman at +1-415-617-7138 or

Boom for travel sites -- Can they make money?

Cecilia Aronsson | April 22nd, 2008 | Add Comment »

Travel sites are in fashion this spring, with new sites adding at a steady pace. Finnish travel site TripSay is just the latest to emerge, for example, with ways to share tips about travel. It’s still in closed testing, but it plans to open to the public in a few months.

With hundreds of travel sites now existing — ranging from the big ones like Expedia to the small, single-author blogs dedicated to travel — how are they all going to make money?

Well, enter Travel Ad Network, TAN, which wants to help place ads at all these sites. It just raised $15 million from Rho Ventures, Village Ventures and individuals. The money will be used to increase advertising across travel websites. The company says it is serving 50 sites already. This could mean that some of these flavor-of-the-times sites may eventually make some money.

But being a traveler online is not always glamorous. While testing the basic features of TripSay, I was met with: “Cecilia has been to 5 places and is thus described as “Random tourist”. Next level at 10 ratings.”

Huh? It’s early days still for TripSay, so let’s cut it some slack. It works as a social community where as a member, you create and personalize your profile. You’re asked to list places you have been and rate them with a five-point smiley system. The ratings appear as icons on a world map. Only placing a few ratings will result in being dubbed the “Random tourist” — not a very admirable introduction for someone who has traveled the world. If you’re patient, and add a couple of hundred places, you’ll eventually earn a nickname like “Columbus.” However, quality of ratings might suffer if new users feel rushed to fill in information to avoid that initial rude description.
Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Web 2.0 - The ultimate party

The most interesting conversations in a conference can kick off in the bars at night. When the Web 2.0 Expo starts Monday, there are plenty of events every night, so you might have a hard time deciding where to go. However, a Finnish web service called XIHA Life might be able to help you out.

XIHA was founded in September 2007 and is based in Helsinki. It targets people who are on the go in different cities and use multiple languages in their everyday lives. It has developed a language filtering technology that allows users to select several languages to communicate and receive information. It calls it the world’s first multilingual social media platform. The users automatically see only the content they understand.

Being Swedish, I don’t understand Finnish, but through XIHA I found an unofficial summary in English of the parties and gatherings expected to draw the coolest crowds of web folks in San Francisco next week. XIHA means “fun” or “happy” in Mandarin, and Hip-Hop in Cantonese, by the way, to set us in the right party mood.

Click here for the full party program.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Housing Info Flows to the iPhone

Irina Haltsonen for GigaOm

Looking for a new house to buy but don’t have enough time to browse the Internet, either at home or in the office? As of today, iPhone users can use a new application from Silicon Valley-based startup Terabitz to look at property listings, photos, local neighborhood information, recent sales and driving directions to properties while on the go.

So far the app only has data from Northern California, though there are plans to include other locations, too. Given how hard-hit the NoCal region has been hit from the subprime mortgage crisis, however, there will undoubtedly be lots of listings in the meantime.

Clean-tech bubble? Just wait for the next president

While some people wonder whether there's too much hot air in the clean-tech sector, the man who has advised California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on environmental matters says the industry is just beginning to reach its potential.

Regardless of who sets up shop in the Oval Office in January, sweeping changes in federal energy and climate policy are expected to give the clean-tech industry a big boost, says Terry Tamminen, former director of the California Environment Protection Agency and now a clean-tech adviser for Pegasus Capital Advisors.

"We need to take California's standards and federalize them," said Tamminen, who until last year served as environmental adviser to Schwarzenegger and is considered a driving force behind the governor's green policies.

Read more on CNET

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Zombies Are After Our iPhones

By Irina Haltsonen for GigaOm

If you’re a security company like Radware, it’s your job to find and create patches for vulnerabilities, but it’s also your job to poke and prod in the hopes of finding some newsworthy exploit to get your firm’s name in the paper.

Radware struck media gold with its findings of a vulnerability in the iPhone browser. According to Radware, the iPhone Safari browser version 1.1.4. is vulnerable to a denial-of-service attack after a user clicks through spam email or spam texts that could crash the browser or the phone.

Unlimited Plans Could Create Unlimited Trouble

By Irina Haltsonen for GigaOm

Will consumer adoption of unlimited mobile plans cause your call quality to suck? ABI Research seems to think so. In a report released today, ABI Research says unlimited plans can lead to more phone calls, more data use and worst of all, more YouTube-related video streaming. And that leads to more of a burden on wireless networks and backhaul. Since Sprint’s unlimited plan includes 3G data as well as voice, it may be the canary in the coal mine for other carriers waiting to see what unlimited means for their networks.

Betting on bone growth drug

Radius Health, a pharmacutical company in New England was founded by researchers from four different universities with the aim of developing new drugs for the bone disease osteoporosis. At the moment, Radius is testing its first drug candidate. While most osteoporosis drugs work by slowing the decay of bone tissue, the new treatment instead stimulates bone growth.
Read more:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nigeria Oil

Nigerian Oil Output Could Decline 30 Percent by 2015, FT Says
2008-04-16 20:13 (New York)

By Khaleeq Ahmed
April 16 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, could lose 30 percent of its oil output by 2015 due to funding problems, the Financial Times reported, citing a government report.

The report, written by President Umaru Yar'Adua's energyadvisers, says the government needs to find ways to finance the oil industry, including through increased investment in ventures with foreign oil firms, the FT said. Late last year, ShellPetroleum Development Co., the Nigerian unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, said in an internal memo that funding problems could put at risk its joint venture with the Nigerian government, the newspaper reported.

The Nigerian government had been unable to pay its share of joint-venture costs to companies like Shell, Chevron Corp., and Exxon Mobil Corp., one of the reasons hindering an increase in output, the newspaper said.

The Nigerian government and Shell declined to comment, the FT said.

For related news: {TNI NIGERIA OILPROD } for stories on
Nigeria's oil output.

--Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Colin Keatinge

To contact the reporter on this story:
Khaleeq Ahmed in San Francisco at +1-650-745-5599 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wollman at +1-415-617-7138 or



<543482.4609358.>#-0- Apr/17/2008 00:13 GMT

Britain’s best and brightest startups hit Silicon Valley next week for funding

Cecilia Aronsson | April 16th, 2008 | Add Comment »

If you’ve never heard of Dragon’s Den, it’s a popular British TV reality series, where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to get funding from business experts — the “Dragons”. One of those Dragons, Doug Richard, a UK-based Californian and founder of investment research firm Library House got a name for himself as a particularly fastidious investor on the show. And now he’s selected 20 of the UK’s most promising web application start-ups to go and try their luck in Silicon Valley.

The initiative is called Web Mission 2008, and it offers subsidized participation in a one-week tour of the Valley, which begins next week. The program includes visits to Oracle, Bebo and the Web 2.0 Expo. For these British web start-ups, many with CEOs in their twenties, it’s a pretty alluring opportunity. The jury, led by Doug Richard, describe the selected companies as highly promising businesses that are well prepared to attract American investors and customers. “Some of these companies are as good as anything coming out of the Valley”, Richard said in a statement.

More than 100 British web companies applied for the 20 available slots, and the winners were announced the first week of March. The program is sponsored by the UK Trade & Investment Organisation, along with some companies from the private sector. The idea is that British web companies in their early stage have a lot to learn — and earn — from entering the US.

The companies span a broad range of web applications (see full list here). Most were founded a year or two ago. Here’s a quick taste of who’s coming:

Read the rest of this entry »

On Sale: The iPhone (well, in Europe, at least)

Written by Irina Haltsonen for GigaOm

Well the iPhone may be hard to come by in the U.S. these days, but they’re practically giving them away overseas. As Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes today, two more mobile phone retailers — Britain’s 02 and Carphone Warehouse — have cut the price of the 8 GB iPhone by 37 percent. This follows another, even more drastic price reduction earlier this month, of 75 percent, by T-Mobile in Germany.

Munster thinks the cuts indicate that the demand for iPhones in Europe is light. However, he also believes iPhone carriers are clearing the way for the new 3G model, expected to be launched in June.

Meanwhile, RIM’s BlackBerry keeps adding addicts overseas: Roughly 33 percent of its subscriber base is now outside of North America, according to Scotia Capital’s Gus Papageorgiou — with most of it in Europe.

FCC to Hold Public Hearing on Net Neutrality

The debate around network neutrality remains a hot topic of discussion among telecom companies and service providers.
Tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission will hold its second public hearing on broadband network management practices at Stanford University.
Federal regulators say they are considering taking steps to prevent cable and telephone companies from delaying the downloads and uploads of heavy Internet users.
"Obviously network operators can take reasonable steps to manage traffic, but they cannot arbitrarily block access", says FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Emotions ran high in February when a similar hearing was held at Harvard Law School. At that hearing the venue filled up early and many people who wished to get in could not. Comcast later admitted to paying people off the street to hold places in line for its employees.
Both of these public hearings were scheduled, in part, because of consumer complaints that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has been slowing down Internet traffic of the file-sharing service BitTorrent.
Comcast argues that the growing popularity of peer-to-peer applications like video-sharing was straining the network, degrading other less-intense uses like Web surfing. Consumer groups and critics say discriminating against some content providers is simply a way for Comcast to get rid of the competition and that assuring network neutrality through regulation is necessary to prevent U.S. broadband providers from blocking or slowing their customers’ connections to Web sites or services that compete with services offered by the providers.
"Today there is a lack of competition in broadband which makes it possible for the party that controls the physical access to the Internet to favor that company’s applications," says Vint Cerf, vice president of Google and co-inventor of the Internet. "Many broadband suppliers suppress what should be an open media. Not only will that suppress open expression, but it will also suppress innovation."
The FCC will hear from expert panelists on broadband network management practices and Internet-related issues. There will also be a two-hour session devoted to public comment.
The hearing is open to the public, but interested citizens should show up early as seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Location: Dinkelspiel Auditorium, 471 Lagunita Drive, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

12:00 p.m. Welcome/Opening Remarks
12:45 p.m. Panel Discussion 1 – Network Management and Consumer Expectations
2:15 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. Panel Discussion 2 – Consumer Access to Emerging Internet Technologies and Applications
4:30 p.m. Public Comment
6:30 p.m. Closing Remarks
7:00 p.m. Adjournment

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Toxic or Chemical?

Canada May Label Widely Used Plastic Component Toxic, NYT Says

2008-04-15 21:45 (New York)

By Khaleeq Ahmed

April 15 (Bloomberg) -- The Canadian government will likely declare as toxic a chemical used for baby bottles and other foodcontainers, the News York Times reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.

The person, who declined to be identified because of a confidentiality agreement, said work to list the compound, called bisphenol A, or B.P.A., as a toxic chemical was finished and was endorsed recently by a panel of outside scientists, the Times reported.

An announcement from Health Canada could come as early as tomorrow and would be the first by a country against the compound, which has been shown to affect the hormonal systems of animals, according to the newspaper.

A spokesman for Health Canada declined to answer questions, the Times said.

For related news:
Health stories from the U.S.: {TNI US HEA BN }
Other stories about B.P.A.: {NSE BISPHENOL }

--Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Sau Chan

To contact the reporter on this story:
Khaleeq Ahmed in San Francisco at +1-650-745-5599 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Elizabeth Wollman at +1-415-617-7138 or

#<889158.4653949.>#-0- Apr/16/2008 01:45 GMT

Third-world lessons for recycling phones

SAN FRANCISCO--Jan Chipchase is a cell phone modification guru. A researcher at Nokia Design in Tokyo, he's seen cell phones modified to hold up to 16 SIM cards and plenty more in his role at the company.

Chipchase is a member of a team at Finnish cell phone giant Nokia that's trying to lower the cost of phones for emerging markets, an effort that's part market development and part recycling. The group of 15 has scanned bazaars and street shops in places as diverse as Ghana, Brazil, Iran, India, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, China, and Mongolia to learn how end users relate to their products--and they discovered surprises that could impact consumer electronics makers within the next 15 years.

Their main finding: there's no limit to how cell phones can be modified and how their life spans can be extended.

And breathing new life into phones usually doesn't take a complex set of tools. In most cases, handsets can be reborn with the help of just a screwdriver and a toothbrush sprayed with alcohol to clean the contact heads.

In Accra, the capital of Ghana, the shining device on display might very likely be an old phone that got a tuneup. Have a defunct phone? In China, you can go to a bazaar and purchase any part for the 20 most popular phones. The shelves are also filled with printouts of repair handbooks.

"The point is that you think the thing is a closed box that can't be tinkered with, but you can actually go into a shop and build your own phone," Chipchase told CNET last week. He stopped here to speak at a meeting arranged by research and development firm Adaptive Path.

One of Chipchase's favorite pastimes while traveling is to buy a mobile phone, smash it, and bring it to a cell phone repair shop to see how technicians deal with the mess. He calls this "the repairing experience."

"The informal repair culture...makes mobile phones something more affordable to price-sensitive customers, increasing the lifetime of products while lowering the environmental-impact risks," he said, adding that with new phones appearing constantly, street mechanics very quickly learn how to work with new models.

"If they want to stay in business, they've got to listen to what the customer wants," Chipchase said.

In Tehran, meanwhile, consumers can just bring a phone to a shop where the shelves are filled with the latest software ready for download--pirated just weeks after a new model has hit the world market.

The same software-on-demand thinking goes for India--on the streets of New Delhi customers can buy a video phone that plays cricket clips and Bollywood films. And if you're in the market for a job there, you can get a diploma from a "Mobile Repairing Institute.

Installing alternative languages, switching frequency bands, unlocking software installations--these are part of everyday life in many of the places Chipcase and his team visited. In Cairo, Egypt, grocery store owners ask if you want to buy ringtones as you shop for food.

Looking for new ways to recycle

Meanwhile, with Earth Day approaching April 22, the recycling of electronics such as cell phones may assume a more prominent spot in people's minds.

In some parts of the world, the notion of not recycling electronics might seem absurd. People save their wages for months to be able to buy a cell phone, a precious little tool for small businesses or keeping in contact with family and friends where the Internet or even a landline just isn't accessible.

But in the U.S., there are more than half a billion retired phones, and less than 1 percent of those get recycled, according to information from the U.S. Geological Survey and nonprofit Earthworks.

Nokia, which dominates the world market for cell phones in almost every part of the planet except for the U.S., thinks there's much to be done on that front.

One example of what might be a new approach is the Nokia prototype cell phone Remade, which the company showed off at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in February. Remade's cover, rather than coming from petroleum-based plastic, is made of recycled aluminum cans and old rubber tires, and the device inside comes from a used cell phone.

"This is a concept, to take waste and turn it into something useful," Chipchase said. Although the thin, silver Remade doesn't yet make phone calls and may never reach the market, it can be seen as a commitment to change--and a step toward a possible eco-trend.

During its travels, the Nokia design team discovered a whole business ecosystem around the mobile phone.

And no wonder, as half of the world's population owns a wireless device, according to a report by Informa Telecoms and Media. By the end of last year there were 3.3 billion subscribers. India's subscriber base will pass the U.S. this month, according to Cellular-News.

"In terms of scale, no electronic object has gone so far," Chipchase said.

Asked how Nokia's management has reacted to his team's findings, Chipchase said the data inspires a sense of potential. "People who don't work in these countries are surprised," he said. But "they see it as a possibility, more than a threat."

Monday, April 14, 2008

New RFID reader software gives information on velocity and position of tags

Not being able to distinguish between two tagged objects has been a big headache for the airline business. On one hand, Radio frequency identification readers save labor because they don't need to be aligned with the tags. On the other hand, a device might read several tags at the same time, without knowing which specific piece of luggage the tags are tied to.

The new software from Alien Technology will be able to discriminate between different bags, and provide such information as where the bag is going and whether a certain piece of luggage is supposed to be searched by Customs.

Read more here

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The iPhone in Europe: A patchy success

Cecilia Aronsson, a Swedish business reporter, is a fellow at the Innovation Journalism Program at Stanford University. Through July, she’ll write columns for about her experiences in Silicon Valley. Here’s her first column.

The European business press is speculating that the next market Apple plans to target with its iPhone is Sweden, a hotbed of mobile innovation and the home of rival mobile phone maker Ericsson. But I was tagging along with 15 leaders of the Swedish telecom and computer industry yesterday as they visited several Bay Area technology companies, and from what I heard, it sounds as if Apple may not understand the Swedish market.

While US customers are used to choosing a carrier and accepting that not all phones will be available through that carrier, Swedish customers are used to having whatever phone they want with any carrier.

Apple’s strategy so far has been to hook up exclusively with one mobile operator per country (AT&T in the US). The iPhone only works with AT&T’s SIM card (the card that contains the user’s data).

In Scandinavia, though, things are different. Read more here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Robotics start-up Willow Garage believes open source OS will soon put robots in our homes

If Menlo Park-based start-up Willow Garage has its way, in just a few years you’ll be able to hire a robot to come and clean your house once a week.

The company is building open-source robots and giving them away to university research groups in an attempt to fuel quick improvements to the operating system and rapid build-out of applications to run on it.

The company plans to deliver 10 robots to US universities by the end of the year, says Willow Garage president and CEO, Steve Cousins. “We might deliver more robots later, maybe up to 50″, he says. The company will release its open source software at the same time.

“You have to have the device to start inventing applications,” Cousins says. “Usually the first step in building a robot is to create the hardware and then the software. Now we give a ready made platform for research groups to start from.”

He compares the development of personal robots to the revolution of the personal computers: When the first ones came out, nobody knew what to do with them. But then the development got started.

Privately-funded research lab Willow Garage was silently founded last year by Scott Hassan, the chairman of the board, who helped Larry Page and Sergey Brin to develop Google’s technology back in the ’90s. Hassan was also founder of eGroups, a group email messaging company bought by Yahoo Groups in 2000 for about 450 million dollars. And presumably those funds are at least partly responsible for powering Willow Garage, although Hassan won’t say where his funding comes from. Read more here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SiBEAM delivers high-definition wireless adapters this year, raises $40M

SiBEAM, a company developing technology to stream high definition video more quickly than any existing technology, has raised $40 million in third round of funding.

The financing was led by New Enterprise Associates. The other firms backing up SiBEAM are Foundation Capital and U.S. Venture Partners.

SiBEAM, of Sunnyvale, Calif., is developing a technology called WirelessHD. The technology helps you move rich, high-definition data like video wirelessly from one gadget to another, such as from your portable digital video camera to you TV. We’ve covered the company earlier.

WirelessHD competes with WirelessUSB and WiFi. Wireless USB transfers data at a speed of 480 megabits a second over three meters, while wirelessHD uses the 60-gigahertz spectrum and works in higher speeds, starting at four gigabits at 10 meters and with the theoretical maximum speeds of up to 25 gigabits a second, as the technology matures. That is more than ten times faster than WiFi solutions. Read more here.

Engage’s new dating service: Fall in love - or be publicly embarrassed?

Would you invite friends to an online dating service, to help you in your escapades?

Engage, a San Mateo-based startup, believes you will. Friends are helpful in connecting you with dates in the offline world, so the idea is they’ll vouch for you online as well. In fact, Engage says 262,000 unique visitors used its service last month.

The company officially launches its online dating service today, after two years of testing (see our coverage). That’s a long time. Its traffic is respectable, but not huge. If the wing-man approach is really effective, wouldn’t there be more buzz by now?

Well, Trish McDermott, the company’s vice president of Love, says it’s early days, and that’s true. Most bigger competitors are several years old. Engage is the first “second generation social dating site” on the net, she points out. It provides a place for “mingling, mixing, matching and flirting,” and is such more social than other online dating services, she notes. Read more here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Twitter enables tracking of Olympic flames

Tibetan protesters quickly reorganized themselves when the Olympic torch route through San Francisco was changed last minute Wednesday. They were using microblogging service Twitter to keep track of the Olympic flames.

I contributed to the story by interviewing and taking pictures.
Read more here

Tibetan Olympic torch relay protesters using Internet as a tool

Wearing T-shirts reading "Free Tibet," hundreds of protesters raised their fists here Tuesday to protest the Beijing Olympic torch relay's arrival to the city. Organizers of the protests, which are expected to continue full force Wednesday, are, not surprisingly, using the Web as a tool at the site

Read more on (CNET)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Venture capital fundraising down in New England

During the first quarter of 2008, U.S. private equty firms raised more than thirty percent more money for their venture capital funds than in 2007. But in New England the trend was just the opposite. The region's venture capoital firms raised less than half of what they did a year ago.

Read the full story:

Lost your luggage? RFID tags could help

Know how many bags get lost at airports? Last year, the number hit a staggering 34 million globally, according to numbers from international transport association IATA.

This cost the aviation industry $3.6 billion. One way to reduce the amount of mishandled luggage could be to switch from today's widespread bar-code tagging system to more sensitive radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The IATA estimates that $200 million could be saved each year by such a swap at the world's top 80 airports.

That is exactly what RFID manufacturers like Alien Technology are dreaming about. With updated chip technology announced Monday, the Morgan Hill, Calif.-based company is targeting the aviation and pharmaceutical industries.

Read more at (CNET):

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Green base stations

Flexenclosure is trying to wean the cell phone business in Africa off of fossil fuels.
The Swedish start-up has designed a base station for mobile networks that would run on sun and wind power.

Read more on (CNET)

Friday, April 4, 2008

US Ambassador promotes Swedish cleantech

Michael Wood, the US ambassador in Stockholm has got One Big Thing on his mind. He wants American investors to put their money into Swedish cleantech, especially in the field of alternative energy.
At a meeting in Boston on Wednesday evening, Wood presented his list of the 48 hottest Swedish cleantech companies to major investors and venture capitalists.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No patent reform -- yet

Patent attorneys have been celebrating the April 1 court decision, that "permanently" blocked the United States Patent Offfice's proposal to change the rule for patent applications. But tghe party may soon be over. The Patent Office can still appeal the decision and may also find other ways to strike back.

Manufacturing shrinks, services grow in high-tech economy

The American high-tech economy is still expanding, according to Cyberstates 2008, an annual report from the American Electronics Association. But the number of jobs in the manufacturing sectors are declining; the growth today comes from software development, computer systems design and similar services. The trends in New England are the same as the national ones.
Read more:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Startup to process silicon in new smart way (CNET News)

Silicon is used both in semiconductors and solar cells. Because of the boom in the solar energy industry, there has become a shortage of processed silicon, and this bottleneck is holding back the solar cell manufacturers from using their full capacity.

Now a startup company has found a new, more efficient way to process the material, so the production cost for silicon used in silicon solar cells -- which needs not to be as pure as the silicon used for hard drives -- could be reduced. They hope this could help to make the price of solar energy comparable to the grid price of electricity.

They have received $ 20 million in a second round funding and will start manufacturing by the end of the year.

Read the story at