Friday, 29 March 2013

DoT working on spectrum allocation policy at auction price


Chandrashekhar, who took over as Telecom Secretary in September 2010, said there is now more clarity on most of the regulatory issues and absolutely clear for new set of investments to be made under National Telecom Policy 2012.
A CBI inquiry into allocation of 122 licences in 2008 was going on when he joined the department.
"Entire period (his tenure as telecom secretary) was extremely challenging and it is now that there is a general feeling that issues have been addressed. The phase where everything has to be done to immediate problem is over now," he said.
The Telecom Secretary said that the spectrum auction has addressed commercial part of the challenges in the sector.
"What was the actual price, auction process addresses that part. One part is done, there is still some part left which will come in the next auction. Next auction will have to be held in the next quarter for which we have already sought time for meeting of EGoM. As of now there is no date which has been fixed," he said.
Chandrashekhar said some issues like individual penalties, action against companies, 3G roaming may keep coming "and will be addressed as we go forward. I am talking about larger environment those issues would be settled for new investors and existing set of investors."
He expressed the hope that the sector will stabilise and take off to grow in next nine to 12 months following adjustment of companies with new regulatory regime that is being put in place under NTP 2012.
"Some of the companies balance sheets are highly leveraged and they may need to infuse some more equity, somebody may need to raise more loan or somebody may need to finalise technology adoption plan,all of these will happen in next few months which I expect in next 9 to 12 months.
Ground has been set for establishment of new equilibrium," he said.
Commenting on the infighting with the telecom sector, Chandrashekhar said, "There were many forces at work and all of these were challenges. I think competition is very essence of telecom sector that is what has brought the revolution necessary to keep the quality of services high and the cost low. It should continue but certainly necessary for competition to be healthy."
He added that it is important for industry to identify areas where the sector as a whole could benefit from certain policy.
"I think currently the area of such convergence is very low and I think it is not a good thing," Chandrashekhar said. buys book lovers website Goodreads

amazon-box-logo-635.jpg on Thursday announced that it is buying book lovers social network Goodreads in a move that could give Kindle tablets an edge over rival electronic readers.
Goodreads is the leading website for sharing book recommendations and would complement reader reviews provided at's online shop for digital titles.
"Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books," said Amazon vice president Russ Grandinetti.
"Together we intend to build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike."
Since launching in early 2007, Goodreads has grown to boast more than 16 million members and 30,000 book clubs.
"It's important to be clear that Goodreads and the awesome team behind it are not going away," co-founder Otis Chandler said in a message posted at the Goodreads website.
"We remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets."
Features at Goodreads include tracking books read, discovering new titles, and connecting directly with authors.
Goodreads will remain in San Francisco, according to, which has its headquarters in Seattle. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Synching a vibrant online community of readers with Kindle tablets and Amazon's content promised to strengthen the company's position against e-book shops run by rivals such as Apple and Google.

Google launches same-day delivery in San Francisco Bay Area


Google Inc launched a same-day delivery service in the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday as the world's largest Internet search company works with retailers such as Target Corp to compete more with e-commerce leader Inc.
Google has been testing the service, called Google Shopping Express, with employees for a few months. The company opened it up to the public on Thursday morning in a limited launch focused on San Francisco residents and others living south of the city from San Mateo to San Jose.
Shoppers who sign up will get six months of free, same-day delivery of online orders placed with select retailers in the area. Google plans to charge for the service in the future, but it has not decided how much yet.
Companies taking part in the test include national retailers such as Target, Office Depot Inc, Staples Inc and Toys 'R' Us Inc and smaller, local firms such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Palo Alto Toy & Sport.
Google is working with local courier companies that pick up products from local stores and deliver them to shoppers' homes.
Google Shopping Express is the latest sign the company is expanding from its online search roots into e-commerce, where it is competing more with Amazon, the world's largest Internet retailer.
By getting into local delivery services, Google is joining an increasingly crowded field.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, is testing a same-day delivery service called Walmart To Go in five metro areas.
eBay Inc launched a same-day delivery service in San Francisco and New York last year.
© Thomson Reuters 2013

Friday, 22 March 2013

BBC Twitter accounts hacked by pro-Assad online group


The Twitter account belonging to the BBC's weather service was hacked on Thursday, the public broadcaster said.
The "Syrian Electronic Army", a group of pro-Assad hackers and online activists that has already disrupted the Facebook page of Barack Obama, claimed responsibility for the breach.
The group has recently targeted the website and Twitter account of watchdog organisation Human Rights Watch and the Twitter account of French news service France 24.
The BBC Weather Twitter feed began posting unusual messages in the early afternoon, ranging from offensive to humorous and often making reference to Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
One tweet declared: "Long Live #Syria Al-Assad #SEA."
Soon after the Syrian Electronic Army said it had hacked the account along with several others.
"@BBCarabicOnline & @BBCWeather & @Bbcradioulster was hacked by Syrian Electronic Army #SEA #Syria," the group said in a tweet.
The hackers' tweets have since been removed from the BBC Weather account and replaced by a tweet apologising to followers.
The account of BBC's Radio Ulster service, which covers parts of Northern Ireland, also posted a tweet apologising for abnormal service.
"We are aware that in the past few hours several BBC Twitter accounts have been hacked. We are actively working on this and expect it to be resolved shortly," a BBC statement said.

© Thomson Reuters 2013

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Students bare souls, and more, on Facebook "confession" pages


"I'm a compulsive laundry room thief," says one Facebook confession. "I'm the reason the 'Public Urination is Illegal' signs were put up at Coyote Village," says another.
"I sold books for the semester to go to South Padre for spring break. Gotta pay for the booze somehow," reveals yet another poster.
By turns rueful and raunchy, these anonymous admissions pop up on 'campus confession' pages unofficially linked to scores of high schools and universities.
Like many social media trends, the confession craze captivates teenagers and 20-somethings - but alarms teachers, law enforcement officers and counselors.
"It's another creative venue where kids are able to say hurtful things, and that's frustrating," said Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center at Florida Atlantic University.
At the same time, the pages can sometimes offer a catharsis of sorts, attracting heartfelt disclosures from students struggling with depression, alcoholism or eating disorders. Classmates often respond with links to counseling sites and offers to talk.
The anonymity of confession pages is at the core of their appeal, and they use a simple workaround to Facebook's general insistence that people use their real identity on the social network.
Students who set up confessional pages must do so under their real names, as per Facebook policy. But they can choose to cloak their identity as page administrators. To keep posts anonymous, they use free online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. Confessors simply click on a link to open up a blank box where they can type their tell-all.
The page administrator doesn't see identifying information - just the latest confession.
The pages then prompt visitors to show admiration for the juiciest confessions by "liking" them and posting comments - often smart-aleck remarks that can draw fan bases of their own.
"The more outrageous comments attract more attention so there's little incentive to exercise restraint," Hinduja said.
Alisen Lafaive found that out quickly when she began reading the Facebook confession page for Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. "At first, I thought, 'Ooh, Clarkson Confessions! This ought to be juicy!'" said Lafaive, a junior. Then she began scrolling through posts filled with crude invective toward women.
"These things are mean," she said. "My feelings are hurt even though none of it's directed toward me." She posted a plea for courtesy but was ignored.
The confessions pages do not violate Facebook rules so long as the content remains within the bounds of civility, said a spokeswoman for the social network. But the pages have drawn complaints from some from principals, college administrators and police.
Dismayed by the content on two high-school confession pages in Kalispell, Montana last month, police asked Facebook to shut them down. Facebook closed one and removed offensive comments from another - but the student instigators simply started a third page, said Jason Parce, a police officer in Kalispell.
Parce threatened to charge participants with defamation and they quickly pulled down their posts. Though some posts were anonymous, many comments came in through Facebook accounts so the writers could easily be identified.
"There was a lot of sexually explicit content directed at specific individuals and a lot of hateful language being used," said Parce. "Absolutely, kids are more willing to be crude when they don't have to face anyone. They hide behind the computer."
High-school pages in Idaho and Arizona have also been shut down after school officials moved to investigate offensive posts.
Administrators of several confession sites told Reuters that they review each submission and refuse to post any that seem inappropriate.
Facebook also routinely reviews pages on its site and responds to any complaints about content. If its reviewers deem a post objectionable, the social network will remove it or shut down the site entirely, the Facebook spokeswoman said.
None of these safeguards can determine whether those posting and commenting on confessions are bona fide students of a particular school.
At the college level, the concern isn't bullying so much as brand protection. Universities including San Francisco State have asked confession sites to stop using school logos and photographs of iconic buildings for fear that outsiders might mistake the many tales of alcohol-fueled sexual conquests for an official depiction of campus life.
Despite, or perhaps because of, official disapproval, the fad continues to gain steam - and may be helping Facebook regain some of its allure among teens and college students. A recent poll by an online survey tool, Survata, found teens and young adults aged 13 to 25 used micro-blogging platform Tumblr more than Facebook.
Scores of Facebook confession pages have popped up in recent months, at small private colleges and huge state universities. Princeton, Harvard and Yale have pages. So does Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon.
Some campuses have Twitter confession accounts as well but Facebook remains the most popular medium. The University of Wisconsin-Madison's confessions page has racked up more than 21,000 Facebook "likes." The University of Hawaii at Manoa has nearly 12,000. College students in India, New Zealand and Great Britain are baring their secrets online, too.
"It just makes me laugh," said Matt Miller, a biology major at the University of Hawaii who checks out his classmates' confessions several times a day. Among the recent posts: a lament about the difficulty of conversing with beautiful brunettes, an admission about a romantic relationship with a teaching assistant, and a cryptic, "Majoring in mathematics. Judge me."
The campus confessionals teem with references to specific dorms, classes, fraternities and traditions, giving them an intimate, gossip-over-coffee feel. Many have also become forums for posting secret crushes: "To the boy in Art History with the long hair and blue shoes. You're so cute!!"
The pages can also offer a lifeline to struggling students.
"I want to pass on hope to people who feel like they don't have any," said Stephanie Suchecki, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who makes a point of responding to the most wrenching posts.
Moments of compassion, however, are often swamped by the lewd and the crude - just how some confession junkies like it.
An administrator of the Arizona State University confessions site recently goaded readers to ramp up their revelations: "What happened to your crazy stories!?!? Hook ups gone bad?! Party gone crazy?! Come on guys! This is ASU!"
© Thomson Reuters 2013

Google Maps adds view from Mt. Everest, other peaks


Google on Monday added views from some of the world's tallest mountains to scenes woven into its popular online map service.
Arm chair explorers were invited to take virtual adventures with members of Google's Street View team to Aconcagua in South America; Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Europe, and Mt. Everest base camp in Nepal.
"Whether you're scoping out the mountain for your next big adventure or exploring it from the comfort and warmth of your home, we hope you enjoy these views from the top of the world," Google adventurer Dan Fredinburg said in a blog post.
"With Google Maps, you can instantly transport yourself to the top of these peaks and enjoy the sights without all the avalanches, rock slides, crevasses, and dangers from altitude and weather that mountaineers face."
The mountains climbed by the Street View team were among peaks referred to as the 'Seven Summits;' the highest peaks on the Earth's continents.
'Googlers' who made the ascents took the pictures with tripod-mounted digital camera equipped with a fisheye lens to capture 360-degree views.
Street View teams have cycled, driven and walked through cities and towns around the globe capturing images to add to online maps, letting people see what it might be like to stand at a spot they are curious about.
Google has added images from a Nunavut community in the Canadian Arctic and a portion of the Amazon in Brazil.

Global PC shipments falling faster than expected: Report


Global PC shipments, already hit by consumers' growing preferences for tablets and smartphones, are falling more than previously predicted due to weakness in China, according to market research firm IDC.
Slower February shipments in China caused by government budget cuts and other factors mean worldwide PC shipments could fall by a "double-digit" percentage in the first quarter, compared with a previous estimated decline of 7.7 percent, IDC said in a report on Monday.
For all of 2013, global PC shipments will probably fall between 1.8 percent and 2 percent, IDC analyst Loren Loverde told Reuters.
"Even getting to positive growth in the second half of 2013 will take some attractive new PC designs and more competitive pricing relative to tablets and other products," he said.
A handful of financial analysts have recently trimmed their forecasts for top PC chipmaker Intel Corp's first-quarter results because of concerns over weak PC sales.
In China, which accounts for more than a fifth of global PC shipments, government spending cuts and anti-corruption measures have added to the timing of Chinese New Year in reducing purchases of new PCs in February, according to IDC.
Earlier this month, IDC said 2013 global PC shipments would probably fall 1.3 percent, extending a 3.7 percent decline in 2012.
Intel, whose processors are used in 80 percent of PCs, has said it expects revenue between $12.2 billion and $13.2 billion in the March quarter, which it is due to report on April 16.
Analysts on average expect Intel's first-quarter revenue to be $12.69 billion, down about 6 percent from the December quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares of Intel were down 0.16 percent at $21.34 on Monday afternoon on the Nasdaq.
© Thomson Reuters 2013

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Croods for iOS app review


Rovio has just launched a new game for iOS and Android called The Croods, inspired from the upcoming DreamWorks movie by the same name. The game is based on the story of the world's first modern caveman family who support each other to survive in the wild and are trying to evolve to move beyond the Stone Age era with their revolutionary new tool called the Idea! We ventured into their wacky world on our iPhone and see what they're up to.

Say Hello to The Croods!
Like every family, The Croods are a close-knit group with Grug Crood, the overprotective dad and the Crood patriarch leading the family, who believes in "fear is good, change is bad" philosophy".Then there's Ugga Crood the mom, who adapts to the surroundings to keep the family secure in times of need. Eep Crood is their teenage rebel daughter, who plants the idea of a life existing beyond the cave.
Thunk Crood is a tall, meaty son who takes inspiration from his dad to be a hunter but can't kill for stones! Four-year old Sandy Crood is the youngest member of the Croods family but her innocence isn't to get you fooled. Living amongst the Croodaceous creatures, Sandy is prepared to bite back if the need be.
Gran the mother-in-law is a firm believer in natural selection and loves to boss around though she's as old as dirt. Guy the new guy is the brainy guy always making discoveries like fires, shoes et al that lets the Croods explore new possibilities. Belt the sloth is Guy's best friend and the world's first pet. Though he doesn't have much of a role to play in the game, his occasional appearances are a delight when you level up. He is most known for his signature sing-song expression, "Da da daaaaaa!"
Trap and Tame time!
Now that you're well acquainted with the characters, let's get you started with the game. Like we've mentioned earlier, The Croods is a strategy-based experience demanding your time and patience. But there's never a dull moment. The first time you open the app, Rovio will prompt you to register/sign in to track your game's progress online.
Once your through with the registration that doesn't take more than a couple of seconds, you jump right into a brief tutorial guiding you with basic gameplay. After some brief instructions, it gets pretty easy. The game offers you a certain set of coins and gems to begin your survival.
Grug does most of the work when it comes to trapping and taming animals in the pen. These creatures yield various resources to help you build your inventions and further level up to help you trap more Croodaceous creatures. Ugga takes care of the creatures' evolvement by offering them soup to give them a super-boost. The ingredients for the soup are berries, leaves and carrots in different quantities.
The Berry Bush constantly gives you berries at a rate of 1 berry per 10 seconds. Initially when the bush is in its nascent stage, it gives you 6 berries, but once you have enough resources to help the bush evolve, you get 12 berries and so on. These fruits are an extremely crucial nutrition to fuel various creatures like the Molarbear and the Bear Owl. The Albatroceros is fed leaves, which is an expensive resource in terms of yielding time and the Giralephant needs carrots.
Trapping initially, is easy. But as you progress, you'll end up goofing up quite a bit. It's not your fault, that's how the game's been programmed. You'll need to use an evolved version of the trap to capture bigger and more stranger creatures. The trapping territory is separate from where the family is nurturing the animals, thereby offering enough space for movement etc.
The Croodaceous creatures
The first creature you begin with is a Molarbear. "Give me berries and I shall give you carrots" is the creature's norm. You'll learn how to trap and tame this hybrid in the tutorial itself. Once all creatures are tamed, you'll be required to build homes for them using the accumulated resources. Just in case, you fall short, you'll need to release the creature, only to trap it another time when you're better prepared.
All creatures give you different resources. The Bear Owl offers coins, the Albatroceros gives feathers, the Bunny Beast gives stones while the Giralephant provides you with leaves. In all there are a total of 10 such creatures, each with it's unique characteristics.
As you learn to tame and provide shelter, you progress with other creatures.
The resources are stored in the Cave. The Cave can also be evolved to offer more storage as you get ahead in the game. The initial one-storey evolves into multiple storeys as it evolves. You can track your progress with the cave chart that is located just beside the cave. It tells you, which animal yields what resource and you can see the carry-forward visuals to see how far you've come.
Apart from Homes and Traps, the build menu also lets you put up decorations to accessorise your surroundings with stone sculptures of various creatures, stone walls and fountains, wooden decorations and many such stone-age inspired stuff.
Gameplay and graphics
You start out with Ugga and Gran in the beginning with Grug only helping out in the chores. His inventions don't come into the picture until you've reached level 6. The first invention that you come across is the Elevator. The building process for this invention takes place in three sets of processes with each set demanding a combination of more resources than the previous one like stones, leaves, feathers, berries, carrots in large volumes. The Elevator is basically a sling shot to encroach upon and explore nearby areas for new creatures.
Gran is always assigning Chores, all performed by Grug, who is the hard worker amongst the family. Completing a set of three chores reveals a new set. You're awarded XP or experience points along with coins. Even creatures give you XP. You can see more Info for a creature by simply tapping on a particular animal and going into the Info section. It offers a short gist about the animal, it's level of evolvement and the rate at which it offers resources.
Other ways of collecting coins are doing self chorus such as clearing the area of trees and rocks. But in order to do that, you'll need to spend coins and even the rare gems. So you're most likely to avoid them and prioritise your resources for other purposes. Eventually, you will have to start removing the unnecessary elements to make more space for your animals. While the family territory remains static with elements being unmovable, you can move around the homes of the creatures and place them as per your convenience.
As you grow in the game, you'll acquaint other members of the Croods family including Eep, Sandy,Thunk and Guy and you can view achievements and challenges from friends with the Leaderboard. There's also a neighbour you can visit though, his role doesn't come until much later in the game and though we're not sure how he offers help. All he says is, "Hello neighbour! Grug's Hunt and Gather idea has caught on. Maybe we can help each other out later. Check back soon!"
The game is a visual treat on the iPhone with crisp and clear details of the game's environs. It's evident that a lot of attention has been paid to detailing each creature, it's movement and even various elements in the natural surroundings. For intense, the cave map that we mentioned earlier, is depicted on a stone structure with cave paintings of some of the creatures on the wall. The game stays true to the Stone-age era and instills the caveman essence beautifully.
The only disappointing thing about the game is that you don't get lot of opportunities to earn coins, which are a basic currency in the game. Sure, you're awarded with some on completing chores, but they don't seem enough and you'll find yourself struggling to earn some more. Some side missions would've helped. Earning gems is equally difficult. If you engage in a cleaning spree, getting rid of big trees and rocks awards you with only 2-3 gems max and again you'll need to shell out a couple 100 coins as well.
Also, finishing the chores uses up other resources, that are hard to refill over a period of time. The progression of the game is slow and requires a lot of patience. But once you master the strategy, you'll get comfortable.
The only creature that awards coins is the Grey Owl, but only at the rate of just 1 coin per minute. Evolving the Grey Owl requires 480 coins and 5 feathers and acquiring them is not an easy affair. Similarly, the Berry Bush requires 100 gems to evolve a third time. Evolution is necessary for all things so that they are able to churn out resources at a faster rate.
A fan of The Croods? We sure hope to be!
From the time we've spent with the game, despite being slow initially, the game is addictive. Farmville may have caught on like wild-fire by being the first strategy-based game to dominate the category, but The Croods offers a polished and refined experience with a refreshing look based on the movie.
Though we couldn't experience the role play of other members in the Croods family, besides Grug, Gran and Ugga, but we're pretty sure it'll be a lot more fun to see what all of them can do together. Overall, The Croods is a new experience from the traditional Angry Birds franchise from Rovio and other new projects like Bad Biggies, which were more physics-oriented and puzzle-based games. For those, who love a good, light-hearted strategy based game, The Croods will be a welcome addition to their iOS app world.

Qualcomm's investment in Sharp faces a delay


Cash-strapped Japanese electronics giant Sharp said Monday that a badly needed capital injection from US chipmaker Qualcomm had been delayed as the two sides hammer out details of the pact.
Sharp in December announced it had struck a $120 million deal with Qualcomm as it moves to repair its tattered balance sheet with the agreement calling for joint development of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels for smartphones.
The US firm has paid about half of the investment, giving it a 2.64 percent stake in Sharp, with the second payment which should be around $60 million scheduled for March 29.
"But it has become impossible to get the payment on March 29 with negotiations continuing on the terms of the second new share issuance," Sharp said in a statement, without elaborating.
Qualcomm's initial investment saw it buy Sharp shares at 164 yen each, about half of the 308 yen they were trading at in Tokyo Monday after falling 2.22 percent in the morning.
A Sharp spokeswoman said the delay was not related to the share price of Sharp which has apparently shelved a bigger capital deal with Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision but rather questions over mass production of the energy-efficient displays.
She added that the delay would not impact Sharp's earnings, and said the two sides had earlier agreed the second payment could be delayed by three months.
Earlier this month, the Osaka-based maker of Aquos brand electronics announced a 10.4 billion-yen capital tie-up deal with South Korean rival Samsung, making it Sharp's biggest foreign investor.
Sharp, which expects to close its fiscal year to March with a net loss of 450 billion yen, is undergoing a major restructuring that includes thousands of job cuts and overhauling its business, like rivals Sony and Panasonic.
Japan's electronics giants have suffered myriad problems including a strong yen, weak demand in key export markets, fierce competition especially in their struggling TV divisions and strategic mistakes that ruined their finances.

Monitoring your kids on Facebook? That's so 2009.


Relieved your kids aren't posting embarrassing messages and goofy self-portraits on Facebook? They're probably doing it on Instagram and Snapchat instead.
The number of popular social media sites available on kids' mobile devices has exploded in recent years. The smartest apps now enable kids to chat informally with select groups of friends without bumping up against texting limits and without being monitored by parents, coaches and college admissions officers, who are frequent Facebook posters themselves.
Many of the new mobile apps don't require a cellphone or a credit card. They're free and can be used on popular portable devices such as the iPod Touch and Kindle Fire, as long as there's a wireless Internet connection.
According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, more than three-fourths of teenagers have a cellphone and use online social networking sites such as Facebook. But educators and kids say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Facebook for teenagers has become a bit like a school-sanctioned prom - a necessary rite of passage with plenty of adult onlookers - while apps such as Snapchat and Kik Messenger are the much cooler after-party.
Educators say they have seen everything from kids using their mobile devices to circulate online videos of school drug searches to male students sharing nude pictures of their girlfriends. Most parents, they say, have no idea.
"What sex education used to be - it's now the 'technology talk' we have to have with our kids," said Rebecca Levey, a mother of 10-year-old twin daughters who runs a tween video review site called and blogs about technology and educations issues.
Eileen Patterson, a stay-at-home mom of eight kids in Burke, Va., said she used to consider herself fairly tech savvy and is frequently on Facebook, but was shocked to learn her kids could message their friends with just an iPod Touch. She counts nine wireless devices in her home and has taken to shutting off her home's Wi-Fi after 9 p.m., but Patterson calls her attempt to keep tabs on her kids' online activity "a war I'm slowly losing every day."
"I find myself throwing up my hands every now and again," Patterson said. "Then I'll see something on TV or read an article in the paper about some horrible thing that happened to some poor child and their family, and then I try to be more vigilant. But the reality is, I'm stupid" when it comes to social media.
Mobile apps refer to the software applications that can be downloaded to a mobile device through an online store such as Apple's iTunes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are some 800,000 apps available through Apple and 700,000 apps on Google Play.
Among the most popular mobile apps among kids is Instagram, free software that digitally enhances photos and posts them to your account online. The photos can be shared on other social media sites such as Facebook, which bought Instagram last year.
Then there's Snapchat, among the top 10 free iPhone apps available. Coined by the media as the "sexting" app, Snapchat lets you send a text, photo or video that self-destructs within 10 seconds of being opened.
Kik Messenger also allows unlimited texting for free and offers anonymity to its users. Able to run on an iPod Touch or Kindle Fire, Kik allows vague user names - for example, a nickname or a string of random digits - that won't reveal a person's real name or phone number.
But as with anything online, each of these apps comes with serious caveats.
Snapchat, for example, acknowledges on its Web page that its messages aren't guaranteed to disappear: Anyone receiving a text or photo can use their 10 seconds to capture a "screenshot," or photo of their device's screen, and save that image to their phone. Video also can be downloaded, although Snapchat says it alerts senders when their data is saved.
Instagram is generally considered pretty tame as long as kids adjust their privacy settings to limit who can see their photos and don't post nudity, which could subject them to child pornography laws. But Levey points out that many parents don't know their kids are on Instagram until there's trouble - usually when kids post photos at parties, and other kids who aren't invited see them.
Dale Harkness, a technology director at Richmond-Burton Community High School in Richmond, Ill., said parents often will hand their kids a mobile device without understanding exactly what it can do. He estimates that even without the latest social media app, the average high school student probably transmits some 150 texts a day.
"It's not anything that every parent and grandparent hasn't already seen," Harkness said. The problem, he adds, is the actions "get documented, replayed and sent around," and kids "forget how fast it moves and how far it goes."
That was the case at Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, N.J., where a male student allegedly took a screenshot of nude pictures sent to him by female classmates via Snapchat, then posted the pictures on Instagram. According to a letter to parents by the school district's superintendent that was later posted online, police were warning students to delete any downloaded pictures by Monday or face criminal charges under child pornography laws.
There are general security concerns too. A recent report by a cyberthreat research company, called F-Secure, found that some of the new social networking sites have become ripe targets for spreading malware and propagating scams.
In January, the FBI arrested a 27-year-old man in Los Angeles who allegedly hacked into hundreds of social media and email accounts, including Facebook and Skype, and found naked photos and personal passwords that women had stored online. He used the naked photos to try to coerce women into disrobing for him via Skype and threatened to post their private photos to their Facebook accounts if they refused to comply, according to the indictment.
Also worth noting is that almost every mobile app available collects some kind of personal data, such as a person's birthdate or the location of their phone, and shares that information with third parties for marketing purposes. While a new regulation by the Federal Trade Commission this year is aimed at keeping advertisers from tracking kids younger than 13, most social media apps require that a person promise to be at least 13 when they sign up, thereby exempting themselves from the tougher privacy restrictions.
Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is co-chairman of a House caucus that examines privacy issues, said he'd like to see legislation that would give kids under 15 the right to delete photos or texts that wind up elsewhere online. The prospect, however, is unlikely in a Congress dominated by debates on federal spending and gun control, and raises practical questions about how such a law could be enforced.
"I believe that our children have a right to develop, to grow up and to make mistakes," Markey said. "Nobody should be penalized for something they posted when they were 9 years old."
Several consumer advocates actually recommend exposing their kids to social media sites earlier than age 12, when they're more receptive to hearing lessons about online etiquette and safety.
For example, Levey links her kids' devices to her iTunes account so she's aware of any program they download. She also requires that her kids "friend" her on every program and follow certain ground rules: protect your passwords, set your privacy controls and never transmit inappropriate pictures or words.
Levey thinks a big hurdle for parents is getting over the idea that they are invading their kids' privacy by monitoring online activity. In fact, she said, it can be the kid's first lesson that nothing online is truly private anyway.
"If they want privacy, they should write in a journal and hide it under their mattress," Levey said.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

BlackBerry Z10 debuts in Indonesia


BlackBerry on Friday launched its new Z10 smartphone in Indonesia, the company's third-largest market as it rapidly loses ground elsewhere to rivals such as Apple and Samsung.
Dozens of buyers queued outside the upmarket Central Park shopping centre in the capital Jakarta from 07:00 am to snap up the new device, launched in Britain and Canada earlier this year and set for a launch in the US next week.
The Z10 (Review I Pictures) is seen as critical to Canada-based BlackBerry as it seeks to revive its sagging fortunes and regain lost market share from Apple and other smartphone makers such as Samsung.
BlackBerry users have dropped in numbers in many of its key markets, but sales are still robust in Indonesia, which was the smartphone maker's biggest market outside the United States and Britain last year.
However Google Android overtook BlackBerry as the most popular operating system in Indonesia in the second quarter of 2012 with more than 50 percent of the market share, the US-based International Data Corporation (IDC) said.
Blackberry still has "many loyalists (in the country) who will still run at the first sight of the (Z10)", Sudev Bangah, the head of IDC's Indonesia operations, told AFP.
"With the launch of the Z10, we feel that this market share is going to pick up a little bit more, however not significantly (enough) to offset the Android," Bangah said.
Hengki Marzuki, 36, who tried to sneak into the Central Park shopping centre before it opened, walked out by mid-morning with a gleaming Z10, his second BlackBerry device for which he shelled out seven million rupiah ($722).
"He's been waiting to buy this phone since January and he sold his Samsung Android phone to buy this," Marzuki's wife, Dega Fitri, told AFP.
The launch comes as Samsung unveiled a slim, feature-rich Galaxy S4 on Thursday. The South Korean consumer electronics giant said the device would roll out in 155 countries in late April.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Apple CEO Tim Cook ordered to testify in ebooks case


Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook must sit for a deposition in the U.S. government's lawsuit against the company over alleged price-fixing in the e-book market, a judge ruled on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan granted the Justice Department's request to compelCook to testify for four hours in the lawsuit, which accuses Apple of conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.
The government had argued that Cook likely had relevant information about Apple's entry into the e-books market. It also said Cook likely had conversations related to e-books with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.
Apple had fought the request, saying Cook's testimony would be "cumulative and duplicative" since the government had already deposed 11 other executives at the iPad maker.
Cote, on a teleconference, cited the death of Jobs as a key reason in ordering the deposition.
"Because of that loss, I think the government is entitled to take testimony from high-level executives within Apple about topics relevant to the government case," as well as to counter Apple's defense arguments, she said.
A spokesman for Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Apple is the only remaining defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in April 2012 in U.S. District Court in New York.
The five publishers - Pearson Plc's Penguin Group, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc, Hachette Book Group Inc and MacMillan - have already settled. The last to settle was Macmillan in February.
A trial is set for June. The government is not requesting damages but is seeking a finding that Apple violated antitrust law. It is also seeking an order blocking Apple from engaging in similar conduct.
Teleconference arguments
During the teleconference, Orin Snyder, a lawyer for Apple at the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, called the government's request to depose Cook a "fishing expedition."
Snyder said the testimony of other executives should be sufficient in the case. Depositions of 11 other Apple executives have already taken place or been scheduled, according to an earlier letter Apple sent the judge.
"This effort to depose Mr. Cook, Apple's CEO, reflects the fact the government cannot meet its burden of proof in this case," Snyder said.
Lawrence Buterman, a Justice Department lawyer, said on the call that Cook had submitted a written declaration in the case in which he said he played no "meaningful role" in the events at issue.
The Justice Department wants to know what Cook "means by his qualifier," Buterman said.
The government believes it is likely, because of Cook's "position and closeness" with Jobs, that they had private conversations about e-books, Buterman said.
"It means Mr. Cook is the only potential source of information," he said.
The case is United States v. Apple Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-02826.
© Thomson Reuters 2013

Netflix goes social with Facebook integration


Netflix on Wednesday took the long awaited step of letting US users share with Facebook friends what they have been watching at the film and television show streaming service.
A change made to the decades-old Video Privacy Protection Act late last year by Congress cleared the way for California-based Netflix to join the slew of music sharing services that have synched with the leading social network.
Netflix has previously integrated its service with Facebook outside the United States.
"There are few better ways to find a movie or TV series you'll love than hearing about it from your friends," said Netflix vice president of product innovation Tom Willerer.
"Facebook already makes it easy for our international members to connect with friends over TV shows and movies and we're thrilled to now bring this experience to our US members."
Synching with Facebook is optional for Netflix users. Those who connect to Facebook will see lists of shows or films viewed by friends at the social network, according to Netflix.
"Over the years, Netflix has deepened its Facebook integration to enable people to discover movies through friends and to share what they're watching," said Facebook's Justin Osofsky.
"With their integration, Netflix has a new opportunity to reach the more than one billion people on Facebook."

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch gets a price cut

kindle-fcc-635.jpg Inc said on Wednesday it cut the price of its largest Kindle Fire tablet, part of an effort by the world's biggest Internet retailer to get the device into the hands of as many consumers as possible.
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch Wi-Fi tablet will now be priced at $269 in the United States, down from $299. The 4G wireless version now starts at $399, compared with $499 before, Amazon said.
Amazon is launching its larger tablet in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. Dave Limp, president of Amazon's Kindle business, said the company has increased production of the devices in conjunction with the overseas launch. The cost of making the tablets has fallen with greater economies of scale, letting Amazon cut prices, he said.
"Whenever we are able to create cost efficiencies like this, we want to pass the savings along to our customers," Limp said in a statement.
Amazon launched its first Kindle Fire tablet in 2011 to compete with Apple Inc's dominant iPad and other tablets from companies such as Samsung that run on Google Inc's Android operating system.
Amazon sells its devices at cost, undercutting Apple prices. Amazon aims to make money when customers use its tablets to buy physical and digital products from the company, such as movies, music, games and apps.
However, Amazon's strategy rests on selling a lot of tablets. This may not be working well yet for its larger 8.9 inch Kindle Fires, according to recent research by Chad Bartley, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.
Amazon does not disclose device sales numbers. But Bartley said in a research report last month that demand for the larger Kindle Fire tablet was weak, citing checks with contacts in the device supply chain.
Amazon's price reductions on Wednesday may be designed to try to maintain sales during the early part of the year, which is typically a slow period for retail sales, said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners.
Amazon may also be cutting prices before it comes out with new versions of its tablets later this year, when sales normally increase during the back-to-school shopping season and the holidays, Gillis added.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the price cuts were not driven by weak demand, but rather the cost benefits of increasing production for overseas sales.
© Thomson Reuters 2013

China Mobile hopes 4G and next iPhone will unlock huge Apple demand


China Mobile Ltd hopes to tap pent-up demand for Apple Inc smartphones by rolling out new 4G technology this year and having an iPhone model that will finally run on it.
The world's largest mobile carrier - with more than twice as many subscribers as there are people in the United States - already has more than 10 million of its customers owning an iPhone even though the gadget doesn't properly work with the Chinese firm's homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G technology, which is not compatible with global technologies.
That inferior technology, and the failure to offer customers an iPhone contract - which its main rivals do - has been a key reason for China Mobile's slowing profit growth.
The company, valued at $220 billion or half an Apple, is expected to say on Thursday that its net income rose just 1.2 percent last year to 127.4 billion yuan, according to a Reuters poll of 13 analysts - the slowest growth since profits actually fell in 1999.
While many of China Mobile's iPhone users have found clever ways around some of the carrier's limitations, the company wants to close the gap with its two smaller rivals - China Unicom and China Telecom which already offer iPhone compatible technology.
Industry experts expect Apple's next iPhone will support China Mobile's TD-LTE 4G technology, even though this will be less widely used than the FDD-LTE standard.
"Apple's iPhones will be like a killer app for China Mobile once its gets its 4G up and running," said Huang Leping, an analyst at Nomura International in Hong Kong. "That will definitely boost user numbers, though it will weigh on the bottomline in the first year or so as China Mobile will most probably have to provide heavy handset subsidies for the iPhone."
China Telecom, which signed up to sell the iPhone last year, increased its spending on handset subsidies by 50 percent in the first half of last year, and has seen its profits fall in the last three quarters on higher marketing and subsidy costs.
Most of China Mobile's 715 million subscribers are no-frills users attracted to its wide network coverage across the vast country. Only a small number are premium, tech-savvy consumers.
Just 13 percent of its users are on 3G, compared with one third at China Unicom and 44 percent at China Telecom, which use other variants of CDMA 3G technologies developed by global players such as Japan's NTT Docomo and Qualcomm Inc.
Using the iPhone on China Mobile's homegrown 3G network can be as sluggish as being hooked up to a 2G network, but many users take advantage of the carrier's many wi-fi hot-spots for heavier data-crunching applications such as playing games and downloading software.
Demand for the iPhone has spawned a cottage industry, with some local phone vendors selling SIM card cutters that act like a hole-punch to trim bigger cards to fit the smaller iPhone slots. Some China Mobile sales outlets offer on-the-spot SIM-trimming services as well as wi-fi cards that iPhone users can use in most hot-spots.
China Mobile is aggressively pushing for 4G to improve the user experience in a market where chatting on Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat and checking microblogs on Sina Corp's Weibo are the norm among smartphone users.
Analysts expect China Mobile to spend $3 billion this year on developing its 4G network, from a total capex budget of around $35 billion. The company's chairman Xi Guohua said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year that the carrier planned to build a TD-LTE 4G network with 200,000 base stations to cover more than 100 Chinese cities, home to 500 million potential users.
While Beijing is likely to grant 4G licenses as early as the second half of this year, it will take at least 18 months for the technology and the handset market to be mature enough for large-scale commercialisation, SWS Research analyst Jim Tang wrote in a recent report.
© Thomson Reuters 2013

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Samsung Galaxy S IV sighted in leaked 'hands-on' video


Samsung Galaxy S IV has made its first 'public appearance' via Chinese website  bbs.52samsung.comwhich has posted what it claims is a video of Samsung's forthcoming smartphone.It is the same forum that had posted a few purported shots of this smartphone and claimed that these pictures are of Samsung Galaxy S IV's dual-SIM variant, which will be available through China Unicom (A mobile operator in China).
There seems to be some similarity between the smartphone in the video and the teaser image posted by Samsung on its Twitter page. Furthermore, from this video it appears that Samsung Galaxy S IV has borrowed its design architecture from Galaxy Note II.
The video also indicates that Samsung Galaxy S IV will indeed come with a plastic body, as pointed out earlier in some of the leaks. More importantly, this video highlights that Samsung Galaxy S IV will come with removable back panel and hot-swappable microSD card slot. It also indicates that there will be 2,600 mAh battery powering the Galaxy S IV.
Just to recap, as per the previous leaks, the Samsung Galaxy S IV is expected to come with an Exynos Octa 5410 processor, which clocks in at 1.8GHz with 2GB RAM along with PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU. There will be options of 16/32/64GB for internal storage.
The Samsung Galaxy S IV is likely to come with 4.99-inch full-HD (1920X1080) display and run Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) out of the box. There will be 13-megapixel rear camera on-board and a 2.1-megapixel in the front. Connectivity options will include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and wireless charging support.
More recent leaks also indicated the presence of Smart features like Smart Scroll and Smart Pause, Black and White colour variants, new green PHOLED display technology, floating touch and a Photosphere-like function called Samsung Orb.
Samsung will be launching this smartphone at unpacked event that is taking place in New York on March 14. The company has been teasing the launch of this event through various tweets and videos.

Adobe launches Creative Cloud; offers Photoshop and all other popular apps for Rs. 2,885 per user per month


Aiming to leverage cloud and mobility trends to expand revenues, IT firm Adobe Systems Tuesday launched the 'Creative Cloud' in India that offers a membership-based service with access to products and services.
Adobe Creative Cloud provides users with unlimited access to download and install all Creative Suite 6 desktop applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, as well as Creative Cloud applications like Lightroom 4, Muse and Edge. Creative Cloud subscription also enables access to Web tools like Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, as well as Audio-Video tools like Premiere Pro, After Effects and other apps part of the CS6 Master Collection.
Adobe Creative Cloud for teams also comes with 100GB of storage shared within the team for collaboration purposes. Adobe said Creative Cloud for individuals is going to launch within weeks, with an offering customised for large enterprises coming later this year.
The Nasdaq-listed company launched the product targeting teams and small and medium businesses (SMB) with a promotional pricing of Rs. 2,885 per user per month. Once the promotional offer ends on April 30 this year, it will be priced at Rs. 4,040 per user per month.
"Creative Cloud is a path-breaking service and globally its paid user base stood at 3.26 lakh by December last year.
That apart, since it was launched in May 2012, the total users crossed 1 million including free subscription users," Adobe Managing Director (South Asia) Umang Bedi told reporters.
It was first launched in the US, Australia and South Asia, he added.
On the pricing, Bedi said local taxes, regulations, foreign exchange conversion percentages among others adds to the cost of the product.
In December last year, while presenting the Q4 and fiscal 2012 results, Adobe said Creative Cloud paid subscriptions grew to 326,000 as of the end of the year, with existing annualised recurring revenue of USD 153 million for the creative business.
For Q4 FY 2012, Adobe revenues stood at USD 1.15 billion and for the full fiscal it was USD 4.4 billion. The company follows December-November as the fiscal year.
Adobe added about 10,000 Creative Cloud subscriptions per week during the quarter against 8,000 subscriptions per week in the third quarter.
Through Creative Cloud, Adobe is moving away from selling-software-in-a-box to a complete subscription model.
With inputs from PTI

Monday, 11 March 2013

Nokia's patent claims against HTC dismissed by German court


Taiwan's top smartphone maker HTC said Saturday a German court had dismissed two patent infringement complaints brought against the company by Finnish phone giant Nokia.
The District Court of Mannheim in southwest Germany dismissed the two complaints on Friday and awarded the HTC its legal costs, the company said in a statement.
HTC said it believed "Nokia has exaggerated the scope of its patent in order to extract unwarranted licensing royalties from Android handset manufacturers", adding "We are gratified that the court apparently shares HTC's view."
One of the complaints from Nokia alleged that HTC infringed a part of its patent on "a method for using services offered by a telecommunications network, a telecommunications system, and a terminal for it", HTC said, in a case reportedly involving distribution of the Google Play app store.
In a separate judgment the court rejected Nokia's complaint that claimed HTC infringed a patent for lightening and dimming the smartphone display.
Technology giants have taken to routinely pounding one another with patent lawsuits. Apple has accused HTC and other smartphone makers using Google's Android mobile operating system of infringing on Apple-held patents.
HTC and Apple were locked in more than 20 cases worldwide until they reached a global settlement late last year to end all outstanding litigation between them.
HTC sells its own smartphones and also makes handsets for a number of leading US companies, including Google's Nexus One.

Douglas Adams' 61st birthday marked by Google doodle


Douglas Adams, celebrated author and humorist, is the subject of Monday's Google doodle. Adams is best known around the world for his cult classic book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Douglas Adams was on born on 11 March 1952 in Cambridge England. He showed a flair for writing from an early age and went to graduate in English literature in 1974. After graduation, he moved to London with an aim of becoming a TV and radio writer. It was here that we met Monty Python's Graham Chapman, and the two went on to form a writing partnership, albeit for a brief time.
Adams was credited with writing one of the sketches in a Monty Python episode, becoming one of only two people outside the original Monty Python members to be given a writing credit. Adams and Chapman also attempted non-Python projects, but got nowhere and Adams was forced to series of non-writing-related jobs.
While Adams continued to do some writing, his career took off after he got an opportunity to work with the BBC as a radio producer. It was here that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was born as a science-fiction comedy series for the radio. The first series - consisting of six episodes - was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March and April 1978, and received an excellent response. A seventh episode was broadcast on 24 December 1978.
The first four episodes of the series were adapted into the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was first published in 1979, initially in paperback, and reached number one on the book charts in only its second week. The book sold over 250,000 copies within three months of its release.
A second series of five episodes was broadcast one per night, during the week of 21-25 January 1980. Four more books followed, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984) and Mostly Harmless (1992). Adams also wrote 3 episodes of popular TV series Doctor Who.
Douglas Adams was an avid technologist, and a Macintosh user from the time the original Mac came out in 1984 until his death in 2001. His very last post to his own forum was in praise of Mac OS X and the possibilities of its Cocoa programming framework.
Adams died of a heart attack on 11 May 2001, aged 49.

China hits back in hacking row, says US responsible for more than half attacks


The United States was the origin of more than half of the hacking attacks on China in the first two months of 2013, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday, amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington over the use of the Internet.
Beijing and Washington have been squaring off for months over the issue of cyber-attacks, each accusing the other of hacking into sensitive government websites.
China has long singled out the United States as the top source of intrusion on its computers.
China's top Internet security agency, the National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center (CNCERT), said the hacking attacks from other countries have become "increasingly serious", Xinhua said.
For the first two months of the year, 2,196 control servers in the United States "controlled" 1.29 million host computers in China, making it "the top-ranking country" that hacked into servers and host computers in China, according to Xinhua.
"A large amount of facts have proven that for many years, China has been one of the primary victims of cyber attacks," an unnamed official from the China National Internet Information Office told Xinhua.
In February, the Defence Ministry said that two major Chinese military websites, including that of the Defence Ministry, were subject to about 144,000 hacking attacks a month last year, almost two-thirds of which came from the United States.
A U.S. computer security company in February said that a secretive Chinese military unit was likely behind a series of hacking attacks mostly targeting the United States, setting off a war of words between Washington and Beijing.
China has denied the allegations and said it was the victim.
The hacking dispute adds to diplomatic tension between China and the United States, already strained by Chinese suspicion about Washington's "pivot" back to Asia and arguments over issues from trade to human rights.
© Thomson Reuters 2013

SSTL the only bidder in second round of spectrum auction for CDMA services


The second round of 2G spectrum auction for CDMA services will start Monday and it may last just an hour as Russian conglomerate Sistema's Indian unit SSTL is the only bidder.
Auction rounds are scheduled to begin between 0900 hrs and 1900 hrs Indian Standard Time on Monday, as per an official document. Government has put on block CDMA spectrum worth Rs. 6,400 crore.
According to provisions, auction can extend beyond 60 minutes only if there are competing bids and Monday's auction could end as the shortest online sale of radiowaves in terms of time consumed.
The auction for 2G spectrum for GSM players held in November last yeat was spread across three days fetching the government Rs. 9,407 crore.
The CDMA sale did not take place in November as there was no participant due to high cost.
Government has since then reduced the spectrum base price by 50 per cent but still no company, except SSTL, has shown any interest.
In 2010, spectrum auction for 3G services ended after 34 days and 183 rounds of bidding. This was followed by 16-day long auction for wireless broadband (BWA) spectrum.
Auction for 3G and BWA spectrum had fetched government over Rs. 1 lakh crore.
Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL) has deposited Rs. 613.75 crore for the auction, according to information disclosed by DoT.
This makes the company eligible to bid for minimum quantum of 2.5 Megahertz spectrum (two blocks of 1.25 NMhz airwaves frequency) in 11 circles.
The company has already announced discontinuation of services in 10 out of 22 telecom circles - Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, North East, Orissa and Punjab.
It is a legal requirement for SSTL to get spectrum through auction if its wants to continue its operations in 21 out of 22 telecom service area where its permits were cancelled by Supreme Court in February 2012. The apex court judgement, however, has no effect on its permit to operate in Rajasthan.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Dell buyout in turmoil as Icahn demands $16 billion dividend to avert fight


A proposed buyout of computer maker Dell Inc. appeared less likely Thursday after activist investor Carl Icahn said Dell should remain a public company and reward shareholders with a big, one-time payout.
The proposal further muddies a deal that already faced uncertain odds. Some of the company's biggest shareholders already had objected to the proposed buyout by founder and CEO Michael Dell. They say Dell's $24.4 billion offer undervalues the company.
In a letter dated March 5, Icahn said the company is worth far more than the $13.65 per share offered by Dell and his partner, investment manager Silver Lake.
Icahn wants shareholders to have a second option when they vote on the buyout. If Dell's offer is rejected, Icahn wants the company to pay shareholders a special dividend of $9 per share, financed with existing cash and new debt. He says the payout will compensate shareholders for the company's weak performance while allowing them to profit from Dell's eventual recovery.
If Dell's board won't agree to make the offer, or to allow voting on new directors who would support it, Icahn said he expects "years of litigation challenging the transaction and the actions of those directors that participated in it."
The core question for shareholders is whether Dell is earning enough cash to shoulder the additional debt and grow. Like other computer makers, Dell is navigating weakening demand for personal computers. Consumers are doing more of their computing on smartphones and tablets.
If Dell endured this challenge and grew, Icahn's proposal would be a boon for shareholders, said Ed Mullane, an editor with dealReporter, an industry publication covering mergers, acquisitions and other corporate events.
Taking on debt to afford a special payout, a process known as "leveraged recapitalization," is a bet on the company's long-term profitability, he explained.
The deal also carries some risk. If trends in the PC business punish Dell, leaving it unable to afford the extra debt and in serious financial trouble, shares could lose even more value.
"As a shareholder, do you take Michael Dell's offer and take the money and run, given the (poor) expectations for the PC business; or do you take some cash now, continue to hold stock and hope the company can pay down that debt and grow in the future?" Mullane said.
Southeastern Asset Management, the investment firm that owns an 8.4 percent stake in Dell Inc., has demanded the names of other shareholders. That information could be used to rally opposition to the deal. Mutual fund manager T. Rowe Price, which owns a nearly 5 percent stake in Dell, also is lobbying against the deal.
Icahn's entry into the debate makes it even less likely that shareholders will accept Dell's current buyout offer, said James Kelleher, analyst with Argus Research, an independent equity research firm.
"This deal was between a rock and a hard place before - but they're really up against it now," Kelleher said. He said Dell may up his bid to satisfy shareholders, but it may not be possible to craft a viable deal that values shares at $15 or $16.
Investors appear to be banking on a higher offer. Dell shares have mostly traded above the buyout offering price since the deal was announced, a sign that investors expect a sweeter offer.
Dell has been trying to reduce its dependence on PCs. Michael Dell says the company can thrive again by expanding into business software, data analytics, storage and other more profitable niches in technology - a transition that he says would be easier without having to worry about the short-term financial interests of Wall Street.
Dell's strengths are overlooked by shareholders focused on short-term profits, Kelleher said. He said the company's difficult transition will take years, and "it would be preferable to do it behind closed doors."
If the current agreement is approved, Dell will end its 25-year history as a publicly traded company.
Icahn wrote that the PC maker's future is bright, and all shareholders should benefit from that, not just Michael Dell. He said Icahn Enterprises holds a substantial stake in Dell. CNBC reported this week that Icahn had acquired about 6 percent of Dell's stock.
Icahn did not return a call seeking comment.
Icahn is known for buying out-of-favor stocks and boosting them by pressuring or replacing boards of directors, installing new management and other hard-knuckle tactics.
Dell appointed a special committee of directors last August after Michael Dell notified the Round Rock, Texas, company that he was exploring a buyout bid in partnership with other investors. Michael Dell has agreed to contribute 273 million of the company stock that he controls and $750 million in cash to help finance the buyout, which relies primarily on loans from PC software maker Microsoft Corp. and an assortment of banks.
Dell's special committee has said it already considered a special dividend during a "rigorous" five-month review that culminated with the buyout plan. It said Thursday in a statement that it is conducting a search for better alternatives to the proposed buyout, and Icahn and others are welcome to participate.
"Our goal is to secure the best result for Dell's public shareholders - whether that is the announced transaction or an alternative," said a statement from the committee.
Shareholder Forum, a group that seeks to protect shareholder interests, has said it wants access to the same information that influenced Dell's special committee to sell at $13.65 per share. The information would be used by experts to perform an independent evaluation of the proposed sale to help shareholders understand if it's the best choice.
The stock fell 10 cents to $14.22 Thursday. It rose a nickel to $14.27 in extended trading after the market closed.