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  • Read The Scan, published here each weekday starting Feb. 1, for a survey of the most interesting news and developments in the tech sector, culled from various media and blog coverage. Make sure to subscribe to have my musings delivered to your inbox. • Too shy to post a comment? Looking to hire me for a High-Quality vs Low-Quality YouTube Views freelance article or writing project? E-mail me at cindywebbATgmailDOTcom with your comments, suggestions, warm fuzzies and darts. Mark "not for publication" if you don't want your remarks published. Please include your full name and the city you are writing from. Read archives of my Filter column from washingtonpost.com. Filter ran from Aug. 2002 through Jan. 2005.

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2005.07.06

A Corporate Ring Tone

A Note To Readers: The Scan will officially be on hiatus after today's column. I am relocating overseas and will resume publishing the column again in the coming months. If you would like to receive an e-mail to be alerted when my blog returns, please send me a note. If you have an RSS feed set up already for The Scan, my blog URL will stay the same. Keep www.cynthiawebb.net bookmarked for receiving any updates. I have appreciated all the reader support for my blog and writings and look forward to providing more posts, insight and columns on the tech world in the near future. Thanks again for your readership and interest! -- Cindy Webb

A Corporate Ring Tone

Mobile phone service and other telecommunications advances continue to be potential growth markets that more corporate bigwigs are eyeing to boost profits. New cellular industry deals involving Disney and Microsoft Corp. are just a few examples of the partnerships being struck to capitalize on wireless communications trends.

For Disney, the company is never shy about cash loan latching onto an opportunity to use Mickey and friends to hawk new services and attract people to its brand. The Walt Disney Co. plans to partner with Sprint to use the telecommunications company's network to sell family friendly mobile phone service. Disney's Internet unit and Sprint today announced the deal for Disney to launch the new wireless service. Called Disney Mobile, it will launch next year. The company said it plans to offer cell service and products tied to the offering, which will include family-oriented entertainment content.

"Disney expects the venture to be in investment mode for the next several years, but hopes it will bring solid financial returns in the long run, Steve Wadsworth, president of the company's Internet group, said in a statement. The company is turning to wireless at a time when U.S. operators are taking aim at very specific market segments, such as the very young, the very old and other special-interest groups, as more than 60 percent of the nation's population already has phones," Reuters said of the deal.

The Los Angeles Times didn't have many extra details on the deal, but did note Disney has already launched another themed cell phone offering. "This is Disney's second effort to combine one of its well-known media brands and telecommunications. Late last year, Disney's ESPN unit and Sprint said they would launch a mobile phone service aimed at sports fans. Company officials are counting on Disney's well known roster of characters and brands to distinguish it from rivals and win over parents," the paper said.

Meanwhile, while Microsoft may have Longhorn on the brain (its next-generation operating system), the company is continuing to forge new alliances in the telecom arena. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant and France Telecom are partnering up to develop products and services, including a phone that will work on both cellular networks and with Internet telephone technology. And while Longhorn has been a labor of love for Microsoft developers (and criticized by outsiders for taking way too long to come to market), this France Telecom partnership is supposed to yield fruit soon: Reuters reported that Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the first product from the team could be ready within a year (of course, "could" gives the companies lots of wiggle room).

The wire service also noted that the Microsoft-France Telecom deal is just the latest in a string of telecom and mobile-related deals. "In recent months, several leading software and telecoms companies have announced collaborations in the area of developing new Internet and mobile phone services. In June, Dutch telecoms operator KPN chose Siemens as its network equipment supplier to launch Internet Protocol (IP) television over phone lines. Last month, U.S. software company Intel Corp. said it had teamed up with South Korea's KT Corp to work on long-distance wireless broadband technology."

However, all the potential dollar signs in the cell phone business have left some competitors putting up their invokana kidney failure dukes to make sure they can get all they can from the marketplace. Case in point: Broadband and wireless provider Broadcom Corp. has sued Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego. Broadcom accuses the cell phone chip maker of antitrust violations. Here is Broadcom's beef, from a canned press release: "Our goal is simply to ensure fair competition and a level playing field, not just for Broadcom, but for the entire cellular industry," Scott A. McGregor, Broadcom's president and chief executive said in the statement. "Qualcomm's practices prevent that. Their monopoly in CDMA technology has increased the price of cell phones in the U.S., and we are hoping that the courts will prevent the same thing from happening with the next generation '3G' cell phones. Qualcomm's monopolistic activities limit competition, stifle innovation, and ultimately harm consumers and service providers." The Associated Press covered the tiff.

Qualcomm didn't waste time replying to Broadcom's allegations, posting a response on its Web site today. Qualcomm called the antitrust complaint "meritless."

Download This

Another corporate team is hoping to capitalize on the pay-for-play music downloading business. Dell Inc. and Napster Inc. are partnering to pitch a legal music downloading service to colleges. Reuters explained that Napster's digital music service will use Dell's PowerEdge 1855 servers to increase network bandwidth at college campuses that choose to use the service. "Colleges will be able to use the servers to store music from Napster's library locally, allowing network processing speed to remain fast while hundreds of students simultaneously download music. The University of Washington is the first school to sign up for the package, set to launch this fall, the companies said," Reuters reported.

While ventures continue to be forged in the legal download space, the debate over music piracy continues. Check out a recent piece from San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Langberg, who argues that free music may not be impossible, despite recent legal rulings.
"Now there's a bitter new taste of reality for musicians best term life insurance companies and record labels: Online music piracy may indeed make music free. Piracy might simply be impossible to stop, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling earlier this week against Internet file-swapping sites. Recorded music, as a result, would have to become free to survive," he wrote.

iPod Frenzy

iPods have become so popular, that they have joined the ranks of Air Jordans and other consumer products that have become such a part of pop culture that some people are willing to steal the items or even worse, inflict violence to get their hands on them. In a sad moment for the Apple iPod and most notably for a New York family, a teen was killed over the July 4 weekend during a fight for his valuables, including an iPod. "My cousin today got murdered over some stupid iPod," Koreena Glanville, 21, told The New York Times.

Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs made a personal call to the boy's father, Errol Rose, to express his sympathies, The New York Times reported. "I didn't know who he was," Mr. Rose told the paper. "He called me on my cellphone, at 4 maybe. Or maybe it was 5." More from the article: "Mr. Rose said he had stopped noticing the passage of time since his son was killed. Calling him by his first name, Mr. Jobs asked how Mr. Rose was doing, he said, and conveyed his sympathies. 'He told me that he understood my pain,' Mr. Rose said. 'He told me if there is anything - anything - anything he could do, to not be afraid to call him. It really lightened me a bit.'" Let's hope that a senseless killing like this is not repeated.

Oracle's Acquisition Binge

Larry Ellison continues to show that his company Oracle has a healthy appetite for acquisitions. Oracle yesterday said it bought the small software company ProfitLogic Inc. for an undisclosed sum. ProfitLogic makes software that helps retailers track inventory, pricing and other merchandising decisions. While small, the company has some big-name customers, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and Toys R Us. Recall that Oracle beat out rival SAP in the spring to buy software company Retek for roughly $640 million.

ER: The Real Thing

I thought the show "Emergency!" was cool when I was young, but that was trust deed scotland before we became a reality TV nation. It seems the Discovery Channel chronicles of plastic surgery, baby deliveries and other operating room heroics are not enough. There's also a rising trend in the medical field to advertise new products and services through live Webcasts of surgeries. The idea is to show patients what they may be in store for if they go in for a similar procedure. The Webcasts are geared for doctors too. Both doctors and patients can e-mail questions -- like an online chat -- while the procedure is under way. The New York Times reports on the trend in an article today.

London Calling

The French are certainly crying "Zut Alors!," but Londoners are celebrating with warm beer and other festivities today on the news that the city will host the 2012 Olympics. Buckingham Palace gave its official congratulations on the Summer Games win and plenty of Web sites and blogs are already heralding the coup, which The New York Times today called "one of the most fiercely contested bidding competitions for the Olympics since the advent of the modern Games in 1896." (Blog tracking site Technorati listed "Olympics" and "London 2012" among the top blog searches early today).

2005.06.09

Intel's Big Week

Rebounding from the ongoing technology spending slump, bellwether Intel Corp. this week gave Wall Street and IT watchers something to cheer about.

The company on Thursday slightly upped its forecast for its revenue and profit margin for its second quarter, thanks to healthy sales of its Centrino notebook computer chips. Intel said revenue for the second quarter should be between $9.1 billion and $9.3 billion. Shares of Intel closed up slightly in trading on the news.

But the forecast still plays second fiddle to a bigger coup for the company. Intel's
processors will be used to help power Apple Computer's Macintosh computers starting next year. The deal provides a further boost for Intel, but it isn't great news for former Apple pal IBM. CNET's News.com said IBM is coping with the boot and is powering ahead with its PR to pump the company's Power processors.

The Motley Fool site, however, concludes that the chip deal is a bigger deal for Apple corporate (and doesn't hit hard at IBM). "Apple, after all, represents an exceedingly small portion of IBM's overall business. The headlines since the Intel story broke make it seem as though IBM may have taken a hit here, but I think Steve Jobs, Apple's maverick CEO, is the one in the hot seat. Yes, Intel's chip runs cooler than IBM's processor -- a big deal especially when it comes to the performance of laptops -- and, as my colleague Tim Beyers reports here, Apple had ample reason to have, um, a chip on its shoulder, given the way Big Blue failed to deliver in time for last year's back-to-school computer-buying season. Still, there's all that messy software reengineering that will have to go on in light of the processor change, and while Jobs is a proven innovator, he's never been an especially gifted corporate diplomat."

The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg used his most recent column to focus on what the chip change means for consumers. In a nut shell, at first it's not much different than a car company changing the manufacturer of an engine, Mossberg said. Macworld has a helpful Q-and-A that further spells out what all this means for Mac users. To answer how the new Intel machines with compare with PowerPC Macs, Macworld said: "We simply don’t know yet. As soon as we know, we’ll let you know! Also, keep in mind that since Apple’s not going to ship any Intel-based Macs until 2006, the Intel chips that are available today on PCs are not necessarily the chip models, speeds, or even families that will make their way into Apple’s Intel-based systems."

Intel's Numbers

As for Intel's upbeat forecast, Intel's chief financial officer Andy Grove seemed in much better spirits than with past reports. Reuters noted he "said demand for microprocessors was strong around the world and spending on its mobile computer chips was above even its most optimistic forecast. Last year, an oversupply of chips built up in the hands of customers and threatened to derail the chip industry. This time around, however, Bryant said demand was 'real' and in fact greater than Intel could meet for some products, such as chip sets that work in tandem with its microprocessors."

The Wall Street Journal had this to say on the news: "The company, whose statements are closely studied as an indicator of global technology demand, also slightly raised its estimate for gross profit margin in the current period, an improvement believed to be partly linked to higher profitability of Intel's chips for laptops. Intel's remarks continue a string of positive news for makers of semiconductors, including a 40% profit jump reported yesterday by National Semiconductor Corp. Besides portable computers, the Semiconductor Industry Association said this week that chip makers are exploiting healthy demand for cellphones, digital cameras and digital television sets."

The San Jose Mercury News noted of Intel's rising fortunes that the company has recently "launched a number of new chips" in addition to its microprocessor deal with Apple. "The announcements likely had little or no impact on the current quarter, but they do suggest the company has maneuvered past the uncertainties of 2004, when it suffered a series of product delays, misfires and cancellations," the paper said.

Making Dough

IT salaries still aren't what they were during the dot-com boom. But some execs and higher ups are still making some good cash. CNET's News.com picked up a survey from Janco Associates, which found that average pay for "middle manager" IT positions at enterprises with more than $500 million in revenue was $76,981 and $64,247 for technical staffers. The numbers were based on a survey of 800 outfits in the U.S. and Canada. For more number crunching, check out a synopsis of the survey here.

Wireless Gaming

Microsoft and Sony are surely watching the strategic moves of Nintendo. The gaming company is hoping to turn more people onto its DS portable gaming device by bringing wireless access for the units to the masses. "Nintendo Co. Ltd. said on Tuesday it would establish 1,000 WiFi hotspots in Japan by the end of 2005 where owners of its DS portable game machines can play games with others online for free. The company is planning a similar service for overseas markets, aiming to expand sales of the DS and protect its leading position in the handheld game console industry from Sony Corp., which recently launched its own handheld machine," Reuters said.

In other gaming news, some Tinseltown union members have accepted higher pay for work on video games, instead of nabbing what they really wanted: profit-sharing for work, Reuters reported. The Los Angeles Times has more details on the agreement.

Storm Trackers, Unite

Tropical Storm Arlene, the first to kick off this year's Atlantic hurricane season, threatens to bring rain and heavy winds to parts of the Gulf Coast of the United States by this weekend. Dealing with hurricanes and some hefty tropical storms is not fun at all, but tracking them online – from afar – can be quite addicting. Check out the National Weather Service's Web site for more storm details and check for updated graphics of Arlene's projected path. You know The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore can't wait to do one of his cheesy storm-related reports if heavy weather hits the U.S.

Wondering who will follow Arlene, when storm No. 2 comes? Here's a list of the 2005 hurricane names.

2005.06.06

Citigroup's Data Snafu

A division of Citigroup Inc. is the latest in a conga line of corporations to disclose a major gaffe involving sensitive consumer data.

The case highlights the growing vulnerability of consumer data, which has been increasingly targeted by would-be identity thieves or mishandled or lost by companies entrusted with financial information and other private information.

The company said today its CitiFinancial unit was alerting 3.9 million U.S. customers that computer tapes with Social Security data, account and other details were lost by United Parcel Service Inc. while in transit to a credit bureau. The tapes also contained information from customers with closed accounts from CitiFinancial Retail Services, but the tapes did not have any customer information from CitiFinancial Auto, CitiFinancial Mortgage or any other Citigroup business customers, the company said in a statement.

"There is little risk of the accounts being compromised because customers have already received their loans, and no additional credit may be obtained from CitiFinancial without prior approval of our customers, either by initiating a new application or by providing positive proof of identification. Beginning in July, this data will be sent electronically in encrypted form," Kevin Kessinger, executive vice president of Citigroup's global consumer unit and president of Consumer Finance North America, said in a statement.

While the company's admission of the problem is much better than waiting for customers or others to publicly report the problem first, the company still has work to do to get the word out to the millions who could be impacted by this error. CitiFinancial as of Monday night had not posted a warning about the problem on its Web site's main page. It would be prudent for the company to plaster notifications on the home page of the affected unit, instead of a press release that many consumers might not see right away. Parent company Citigroup does have a link to an announcement about the problem on its home page, though the information isn't highlighted as much as it should be (and is ironically placed next to a more prominently displayed PR piece by Citigroup on the company’s efforts to go after identity thieves). Citigroup has begun sending a letter to those who may be affected (see a PDF of the letter here). The company also points consumers to a tip sheet (also in PDF) with ways to prevent identity theft.

Citigroup's news isn’t good for affected consumers, Citigroup or UPS, which has egg on its face over the misplaced tapes. "Despite an exhaustive search for this package, we've been unable to find it," Norman Black, a UPS spokesman, told The Associated Press. The AP noted other similar cases that have cropped up in recent months, with Time Warner Inc., Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp., all reporting their own mea culpas over missing or mishandled data.

The tapes were lost while being sent to credit agency Experian, Reuters reported. "We were moving this using an enhanced security procedure we specified and developed with (UPS)," Citigroup's Kessinger told the wire service.

The news is slated for the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow. The paper's Jonathan Krim noted that the Citigroup data breach is just one of many problems that companies in recent months have had safeguarding consumer data. The Citigroup case "pushes to more than 6 million the number of U.S. consumers whose personal data have been lost or stolen in just the past six months. The spate of breaches has included federal agencies, universities, banks and other financial institutions, data brokers, and data-storage companies," Krim wrote.

Even though Citigroup has said there are no signs that the data has been misused or been used for fraud, The Wall Street Journal said the "blunder constitutes a major embarrassment for both the big financial-services firm, which has built a large marketing effort around identity-theft protection, and the Atlanta-based shipping giant, which boasts of its ability to track packages closely."

UPS: If Data Is Not Your Forte, Try Fish

Speaking of UPS, there's no sign of the data breach on its Web site, but at least the company is publicizing that it successfully transported the "world's largest fish."

Intel's Slice of Apple

It's official: As expected and reported before the official cat was out of the bag, Apple Computer plans to use Intel's chips to power its Mac PCs, giving the boot to IBM. The Sydney Morning Herald, via a wire story, gave the news a sexy twist with its headline: "Apple Gets Into Bed With Intel." CNET's News.com's story on the development focuses on what developers make of the switch. Read Apple's official announcement online.

The Outsourcing Train Continues

If your favorite company's customer service line now rings to India to take your help calls, rest assured that even more companies will be shipping their business overseas in the near future to save money too. The Journal has picked up a new study on the outsourcing trend. Bottom line: It's here to stay, even if customer service has hit a low point with many of the outsoaring deals. An excerpt from the article: "Companies that purchase technology services expect to increase the amount of work they outsource in the year ahead despite declining satisfaction with offshore providers and a surge in prematurely terminated contracts, according to a broad survey of executives to be released today," the paper said of the survey of 250 execs from consulting firm DiamondCluster International.


2005.06.02

Sun's $4.1 Billion Data Play

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s new $4.1 billion deal to acquire Storage Technology Corp. could shed new light on the data storage industry, which was all the rage during the dot-com boom but lost some favor after the tech bubble burst.

The acquisition is the biggest purchase in Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun's history and will "make the computer maker a major player in tape-based hardware for data storage, Storage Technology's best-known business," The Wall Street Journal said. The Journal explained why the data storage market is a potential sweet spot for Sun and others. "Companies continue to add hardware to contain a growing volume of business records. For frequently used data, they typically use systems containing spinning disks that offer fast access times. For longer-term storage, most companies uses [sic] systems based on tape cartridges, which are much less expensive than disks but slower for retrieving individual files."

Sun announced the deal early today. The transaction is expected to close later this year.
"This acquisition is part of an ongoing strategy to respond to customers seeking to rationalize their datacenter purchases -- to free up time and dollars to focus on compliance, architectural integration, security and, of course, the bottom line," said Sun's chairman and chief executive Scott McNealy in a statement (There's more from McNealy in a Webcast).

CNET's News.com said that Sun is gambling with the StorageTek buy since it is spending the lion share of its cash holdings (more than half of $7.4 billion in cash and marketable securities, the news service said). "Sun is trying to rebuild its primary business, selling powerful networked computers called servers, and is trying to elevate its software products with an open-source revamp. The StorageTek acquisition, however, shows that Sun believes storage is the business where it can get the most bang for its buck."

Sun's move could also put the company in closer competition with companies such as Hewlett-Packard and with data-storage king EMC Corp. "The acquisition is designed to add depth to the data storage options that Sun offers to businesses and institutions that buy its servers. Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has struggled in recent years to take market share from competitors like I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard, which have been more successful in responding to the demand for lower-priced equipment," The New York Times said in its coverage.

One analyst who spoke to The San Jose Mercury News, however, did not give a thumbs-up to Sun's data buy. `We do question the rationale of a transaction which reduces Sun's cash hoard by 40 percent, and does nothing to re-ignite revenue growth or profitability,'' Steven Fortuna, an analyst at Prudential Equity Group, said in a research note. ``We would rather have seen the company buy back a billion shares and fire 10,000 people.''

A Real Humdinger

It's not the same as your neighbor revving a car engine in the wee hours of the morning and waking you from your slumber, but the subtle hum from a computer is enough of a nuisance to some to want to change the way your PC sounds. This sounds like a case of techie engineers having way too much time on their hands, but The Wall Street Journal explained today in a front-page feature why some PC gurus are trying to dampen the hum that comes from computers. "Quiet computing isn't just being practiced on the fringes. More mainstream manufacturers are seeing value in quieter PCs. Some of Lenovo Group Ltd.'s new IBM-brand desktops have a cooling system engineered to reduce noise. Apple Computer Inc. markets its new Mac mini as 'whisper-quiet.' Dell Inc. maintains several acoustics labs with echo-free test chambers, in part to ensure that its machines meet the various noise guidelines employed in Sweden and around Europe. Designers say noise is becoming more of an issue as PCs rev up and push their way into the living room to play digital music, video and games. A computer's mechanical parts -- including cooling fans and spinning disk-drives -- generally work harder as a PC takes on more tasks. And noise barely noticed amid the buzz of the workplace can be less welcome at home."

Speaking of Apple ...

Some iPod owners are going to get some extra TLC from Apple, thanks to a class-action lawsuit that did not end in Apple's favor. The AP has more details.

Don't Bet On 3G Yet

Having a high-speed wireless phone, or one based on 3G technology, might sound cool, but the phones are still not taking off in Europe and other spots even with some prices dropping. Reuters reported on the trend, quoting a Motorola exec who appears to be cautiously optimistic (and a tad pessimistic actually) about the prospect of sales for the high-tech phones. "People continue to say if you could only hit a certain price point things could take off and fly," Ron Garriques, president of Motorola's mobile devices unit, told the wire service. "Low prices alone are not enough to make the market take off in the second half of this year

Microsoft's Hacker Attack

Microsoft Corp. is among a slew of tech companies branching out with new services in Asia to tap a growing tech market (and huge potential customer base). But just as Microsoft's products get hacked at home, the Redmond, Wash.-based company is facing some hacker mischief overseas. The company said today "hackers booby-trapped its popular MSN Web site in South Korea to try to steal passwords from visitors. The company said it was unclear how many Internet users might have been victimized," The Associated Press reported.

Trust Me

Here's a cousin for "truth serum": Scientists may have uncovered a "trust" serum. While it could help people with certain disorders, it could also be misused. This is not from a Ray Bradbury novel, but rather from findings from a Swiss research team. The Australian reported from London more details on the research: "Research in Switzerland has revealed that sniffing a hormone called oxytocin makes people more likely to trust others, raising alarming implications for the manipulation of an emotion critical to social and economic relationships," the paper said.

2005.06.01

EBay Goes Shopping

EBay Inc. is adding to its vast online auction empire with a roughly $620 million cash purchase of online comparison shopping site Shopping.com Ltd.

eBay said today it paid $21 a share for Shopping.com's outstanding shares to provide more services for online shoppers and help eBay merchants increase sales. As part of the arrangement, Shopping.com will operate as a separate unit of eBay and will also include eBay listings on its site. Nearly 2 million consumer reviews from Shopping.com's Epinions will be added to eBay's site to provide customer feedback on products, eBay said. “The acquisition of Shopping.com will allow us to provide even more opportunities for our sellers,” said Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, in a statement.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year if regulators and shareholders approve the transaction.

eBay is hoping the deal will kickstart sluggish growth rate at the company, The Wall Street Journal said in its coverage of the news, noting that Shopping.com was founded in 1998 and survived the dot-com collapse. More from the Journal: "The acquisition is eBay's latest effort to reignite its growth, particularly in mature markets such as the U.S. and Germany. In the past few years, eBay has invested heavily in international expansion into countries such as China and India. The San Jose, Calif., company also has developed, acquired and taken stakes in several Internet classified-ad sites. Shopping.com, which is free to consumers, generates revenue primarily from merchants that pay fees when Internet users click on listings to reach their Web sites," the newspaper said. "The deal also shows how once-distinct Internet businesses have begun to converge and compete. Merchants that once relied exclusively on eBay now also list their wares on Amazon.com Inc., or on their own Web sites, which they promote by buying search-related ads on Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc."

Reuters reported more on how eBay's move pits the company against Google (Google, recall, is bumping up as a competitor for a wide range of companies, including the usual suspects Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo and other smaller players too). "The move by Ebay would strengthen its hand in being able to bring consumers online comparison shopping, something that Internet search engine Google Inc. (has dabbled in with its Froogle service, along with other Internet companies," the wire service said.

Broadband For the Masses

SBC Communications plans to price its broadband Internet service at a cost that is cheaper than a number of slower dial-up services. The Wall Street Journal said the $14.95 a month plan for new customers "may compel competitors to follow suit. Cable companies currently dominate the high-speed business, but typically charge considerably more for the service, often $40 or more a month. The basic broadband plan at cable giant Comcast Corp. for instance, is $42.95." Reuters has more details on SBC's cost-cutting move. While not good for competitors, the price cut is great for customers who may be tired of shelling out $40 or more a month for something that is quickly becoming commoditized.

Forget Phone Calls, Try Playing Games

The cell phone industry is finding more ways to turn cell phone handsets into multi-function devices that play music, games and manage busy lives with calendaring systems and more. Electronic Arts is the latest company to tap the cell phone business, this time partnering up with Qualcomm Inc. to bring games to mobile phones, the Journal reported.

Can't We Just All Share?

Sun MicroSystems is kicking off a new PR/ad campaign to boost its image. Adweek.com explained what's behind Sun's "Sharing" effort, which is supposed to highlight how Sun's products and services help connect business and people. I am guessing the theme song is "Kumbaya."

As the Blog Turns

The mainstream press continues its fascination with blogging. The Wall Street Journal yesterday ran a piece on how some scribes are being paid by corporations to be official in-house bloggers. The New York Times yesterday had its own article on blogs that are designed as online confessional tools. It's an interesting read. An excerpt: "At PostSecret, found at postsecret.blogspot.com, the confessions are consistently engaging, original and well told. How come? The Web site gives people simple instructions. Mail your secret anonymously on one side of a 4-by-6-inch postcard that you make yourself. That one constraint is a great sieve. It strains out lazy, impulsive confessors."

Play Me A Tune

And for classical music and piano buffs wanting to find the latest news on the International Van Cliburn Competition, which is underway in Texas, there is a Webcast and blog to track the event, CNET's News.com reported, calling the event the "Olympics of piano playing." I can play "Chopsticks," but I don't think that will qualify me for the competition.

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