AT&T to argue need for T-Mobile resources, spectrum, in merger deal

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Date: Friday, June 10th, 2011, 06:13
Category: iPhone, News, wireless

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You may not think too highly of wireless carrier AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA, but apparently it’s necessary for the company to move forward.

This was the statement from company officials on Thursday, who said the deal would allow AT&T to significantly improve its mobile network capacity and give better service to its customers.

Critics of the deal, including competitor Sprint Nextel, are incorrect in asserting that AT&T is sitting on mobile spectrum, said Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs in a Macworld article. The proposed US$39 billion deal, announced in March, is a “very clean and quick way to deal with some of the spectrum issues that are facing this country and this company in particular,” he said during a press briefing.

The deal is necessary because AT&T is facing a spectrum shortage as mobile broadband use continues to skyrocket, the company has argued. While critics have suggested AT&T is hoarding spectrum, the company is using its 700MHz spectrum, acquired in 2008 auctions, and its AWS (advanced wireless services) spectrum to roll out 4G LTE (long-term evolution) service, Quinn said.

Sprint has questioned why AT&T, with the largest spectrum holdings of any U.S. carrier, needs T-Mobile. “AT&T has repeatedly reassured investors that it has the spectrum and network capacity it needs to meet the growing demand for data services,” Sprint said in a May 31 filing at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. “If AT&T has capacity constraints, they are the result of its failure to upgrade and invest in its network. AT&T has lagged significantly in network investment.”

Dozens of groups have voiced opposition to the merger between the second-largest mobile carrier in the U.S. and the fourth-largest. The merger would reduce competition in the mobile market and likely drive up prices, said critics including Public Knowledge, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the NoChokePoints Coalition, a coalition of telecom customers, consumer groups and small carriers concerned with mobile backhaul rates.

The merged company would be “contrary to the express policies of Congress and the Commission to rely on competition rather than regulation to protect consumers and spur deployment of new services,” Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition wrote in a May 31 filing to the FCC.

The combined company would be the largest mobile provider in the U.S. and would be able to assert control over mobile handsets, applications, equipment and protocol development, Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition said in their filing.

But AT&T, in a response filing to be sent to the FCC on Friday, will argue the merger will be good for mobile customers. By combining networks, AT&T will be able to increase its mobile capacity by 60% in New York City in the short term, and by more than 80% in the long term, Quinn said.

Los Angeles and San Diego would both see short-term spectrum gains of more than 45%, Quinn said.

The merger would give AT&T more spectrum and cell tower coverage, giving customers better mobile data service, he said. AT&T has tried other ways to improve capacity, including distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi hotspots, Quinn said.

“We are not stupid,” he said. “We’ve been in the wireless business for a long time. We’ve tried all of these as short-term methods … to fix and provide for more capacity. While they give you some short-term benefit, they’re not long-term benefits to address the kind of bandwidth demands that we’re seeing.”

AT&T, in its FCC filing, will also note support for the merger from dozens of groups, including 15 state governors, 10 labor unions, nine venture capital firms and several tech firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle and Yahoo, Quinn said.

Many groups supporting the merger see the potential for AT&T to bring mobile broadband to more corners of the nation, he said. AT&T has said it plans to cover 97% of the U.S. population with 4G service if the merger is approved by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice. Right now, the company plans to cover 80% of the population with 4G service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft looking to ARM processors, HTML5 for Windows 8 mobile strategy

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

There may be something to this whole HTML5 thing…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has provided a look at how it plans to bring Windows to more mobile devices in the future, leveraging ARM processors and using HTML5 as the basis of a new app platform.

As demonstrated at the D9 conference, Windows 8 will deliver a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that runs on top of the existing, conventional Windows platform.

The company showed off a new Start screen patterned after the tiled home page of Windows Phone 7. The company says the new tiled interface “replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.”

Microsoft’s mobile Windows CE core operating system differs dramatically from its desktop Windows operating system, but the two will grow closer together in appearance as Windows 8 adopts a similar, top level interface to Windows Phone 7 and the Zune.

In contrast, Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and mobile iOS share the same core operating system and use optimized versions of the company’s proprietary Cocoa development platform to deliver native apps, but differ in the interface they present, with Mac OS X retaining a mouse-based windowing environment while iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad present a completely rethought, touch-based interface.

Microsoft’s own efforts to build a cohesive development environment for both the Windows CE-based Windows Mobile 6 and its desktop Windows XP/Vista/7 platform initially revolved around the company’s .Net APIs before shifting Windows Phone 7 to use Microsoft’s Adobe Flash-like Silverlight as its mobile app platform.

Now, Microsoft is announcing a new shift that leverages the interest in HTML5 to deliver “web-connected and web-powered” apps (similar to HP’s webOS platform acquired from Palm) that will run alongside legacy Windows apps on the forthcoming Windows 8. Microsoft says this approach “is designed and optimized for touch,” although the company also says “it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.”

Ironically, the new HTML5 layer of Windows 8 works like the Dashboard layer of Mac OS X, although rather than only supplying quick assess to simple widgets, the new “Windows 8 apps” are intended to supply a layer of highly animated, full screen, touch-based apps capable of competing with native apps running on Apple’s iPad.

Like Apple’s iOS, Windows 8 is intended to be deployed on highly mobile devices such as ARM-based tablets in addition to the conventional PCs Windows has powered in the past. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which became instantly popular on the iPhone before expanding to the iPod touch and iPad, Microsoft’s tile-based Zune interface hasn’t yet found a significant, sustainable audience. After the Zune failed, Microsoft KIN and Windows Phone 7 have both found little interest among consumers.

Microsoft’s radical experimentation with Windows Vista in 2007 caused a negative backlash from Windows PC users, which has only settled down with the more conservative release of Windows 7. Sales of PCs have yet to rebound to levels prior to the release of Vista, and new mobile devices, in particular Apple’s iPad, have siphoned off a significant amount of demand among generic PCs.

Microsoft does have considerable clout among its developers and hardware makers however, and describes the new Windows 8 as its biggest risk yet, hoping the new release, due sometime over the next couple years, will bring it back into relevance among new generations of consumers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype posts workaround instructions for connection issues found on Mac OS X, Windows (updated)

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 05:55
Category: News, Software

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Er, if Microsoft paid US$8.5 billion for something, I suppose they’d like it to work on all the platforms it services…

Per Macworld, Skype has published workaround instructions for correcting an issue that prevented many Mac users from successfully logging into the service. The company also published a set on instructions focused on resolving connections on the Windows operating systems.

Early Thursday morning, some Skype users found that they couldn’t log in or stay connected. Not all users were affected, however: Folks using Skype on iOS and Android devices were fine, as were some people using different desktop editions of the client.

The issue prevented some callers on Mac OS X and various incarnations of Windows from connecting. According to Skype, Mac users battling connection issues can repair the problem by following these steps:

- Quit Skype.

- Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/ (~ refers to your Home directory).

- Locate the file shared.xml, and delete it.

- Launch Skype again.

Upon relaunch, Skype will generate a new version of the XML file. There’s no word yet on what caused the issue, or why deleting the XML file will correct it.

If you’ve seen this issue or tried this fix on your end, please let us know.

Microsoft retracts CEO Steve Ballmer’s comments as to Windows 8 arriving in 2012, cites “misstatement”

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 04:42
Category: News, Software

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has always possessed a multitude of skills.

Knowing when to keep his mouth shut has not always been one of them.

Per InfoWorld, a Microsoft spokesperson has clarified Ballmer’s comments as to Windows 8 arriving in 2012 as “a misstatement.”

At a developer forum in Tokyo, Japan on Monday, Ballmer used the name “Windows 8″ in public for the first time.

“We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We’ve added touch, and ink, and speech,” the company’s official transcript reported Ballmer as saying.

“And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors,” he continued.

However, Ballmer may have said too much, as Microsoft has retracted the comments.

“It appears there was a misstatement,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement the company issued. “We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.” Microsoft’s 2011 fiscal year ends on June 30.

According to the report, Microsoft has kept quiet about the names of previous Windows versions. Windows 7 wasn’t officially labeled as such until “just weeks” before developers received an early build.

However, analysts and developers appear to have already settled on calling the next version “Windows 8,” though Microsoft’s backpedaling has left some analysts wondering. “Was it the name, Windows 8?” analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft asked. “Or was it [the release in] 2012? Sometimes this is like being a soothsayer, pulling apart the entrails of animals.”

Developers report that builds of Windows 8 are still in the early stages. For example, the Ribbon UI feature is “only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value,” according to one report.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft’s Ballmer cites Windows 8 release for 2012, begins to drop details

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:59
Category: News, Software

Ok, this isn’t amazing news about an upcoming Apple notebook or a revelation that the next iPhone will be able to paint your living room, but it never hurts to run a Windows partition on your Mac…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed plans for a 2012 launch of the “next generation of Windows systems,” which will include Windows 8 slates and tablets at a developer forum in Tokyo on Monday.

During the keynote, Ballmer publicly used the name “Windows 8″ for the first time. While touting advances made in Windows 7, Ballmer noted, “There’s a whole lot more coming.”

“As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors” he said.

Microsoft announced in January that it plans to port Windows 8 to the ARM system-on-a-chip architecture in order to compete with devices like Apple’s iPad. “Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve. Windows will be everywhere on every device without compromise,” said Ballmer at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Early builds of Windows 8 hint at a scalable cross-platform solution that could make its way into tablets and phones. Microsoft has struggled in the mobile market, partly due to Intel’s unsuccessful efforts to meet low power requirements with its line of Atom chips.

Ballmer admitted on Monday that the company’s “big sort of effort” to transform communication with Windows Phone had arrived late. “We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us. But, we’re moving forward very actively,” said Ballmer. The company is set to launch a major upgrade to Windows Phone on Tuesday.

For its part, Apple will unveil the future of Mac OS at the Worldwide Developers Conference early next month. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion brings several major features from iOS back to the Mac and is due out this summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft purchases Skype for $8.5 billion

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:26
Category: News, Software

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You’ve got to admit, Skype does have its uses.

And companies tend to see this.

According to Fortune, Microsoft has agreed to buy the voice-over-Internet company for US$8.5 billion, including the assumption of debt.

There had been reports last week that Skype was in acquisition or partnership talks with both Microsoft and Facebook.

Skype will become a new business unit within Microsoft, to be run by current Skype CEO Tony Bates, who will report directly to Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.

Luxembourg-based Skype began life as a VC-backed company, before being acquired by eBay (EBAY) for US$2.6 billion in 2005. The combination didn’t pan out as expected, and eBay gave public thought to either selling the unit outright or spinning it off into an independent public company. In November 2009, it agreed to sell a 65% stake in Skype for US$1.9 billion to an investor group that included Silver Lake Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Index Ventures (the 7th-largest leveraged buyout of 2009).

Skype then filed for a US$100 million IPO last August. The company reported a US$6.9 million net loss in 2010, on nearly US$860 million in revenue. It reported just US$686 million in long-term debt, and just over US$1 billion in liabilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple snags Kevin Timmons from Microsoft to run data center efforts

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Date: Friday, April 15th, 2011, 03:57
Category: News

With Apple’s recent forays into data centers, they’re going to need qualified people to run them.

Per Data Center Knowledge, Apple has scooped up Kevin Timmons, general manager of datacenter services at Microsoft. Currently, Timmons’ position and responsibilities are not known, thought the report indicated that Timmons will not fill the position vacated by the passing of Olivier Sanche last year. Sanche, Apple’s global data center director, died suddenly last November. He oversaw Apple’s preparations for its US$1 billion North Carolina data center, which the company has said is on track to open this spring.

Timmons reportedly sought to drastically reduce data center costs by as much as 50% during his tenure with Microsoft. He also played a key role in the Windows maker’s latest data center in Quincy, Wash., which features a lightweight exterior filled with highly customizable containers that are packed with servers, storage, and power and cooling infrastructure.

“Timmons has forged a reputation for building efficient Internet-scale data centers on a budget,” author Rich Miller wrote. “At Microsoft, Timmons oversaw the deployment of massive new data centers in Dublin and Chicago shortly after his arrival in mid-2009, but then moved to streamline the company’s data center design and cost structure.”

Prior to working at Microsoft, Timmons was vice president of operations at Yahoo, where he also oversaw build-out of data centers and infrastructure.

Apple is expected to introduce a major overhaul of its MobileMe Internet application service this year. According to reports, the cloud-based service will add a digital “locker” that would store personal files such as photos, music and videos, and that content could be streamed to Internet-connected devices like iPhones.

In other news, Timmons is reported to be a pretty nice person who frequently tips 15% and above.

And a cuddler who listens.

Microsoft releases 14.1 update for Office 2011, 12.2.9 update for Office 2008

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Date: Wednesday, April 13th, 2011, 04:00
Category: News, Software

On Monday afternoon, Microsoft released version 14.1.0 (or Service Pack 1) of its popular Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac suite. The update, a 246 megabyte download, can also be located, snagged and installed via the Microsoft AutoUpdate program, offers the following fixes and changes:
- Security is improved. This update fixes vulnerabilities in Office 2011 that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code. For more information, see the security bulletin that was listed earlier in this document.

- Stability is improved. This update fixes an issue that causes Office 2011 applications to close unexpectedly when you open or use Office 2011 applications.

- Alt Text authoring is included. This update enables the authoring of Alt Text for objects, such as shapes, pictures, tables, charts, SmartArt, and movies in Office 2011 applications.

Improvements for Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011:
- The Solver add-in is included. This update includes functionality that lets you install the Solver analysis tools in Excel 2011.

Improvements for Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac 2011:
- Password protect functionality is included. This update includes functionality that lets you protect presentations in PowerPoint 2011 by using a password.

Improvements for Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011:
- Synchronization functionality is updated. This update increases support for Sync Services, and adds calendar, notes, and tasks syncing.

- Rules functionality is improved. This update introduces support for Microsoft Exchange-based Server-Side rules.

- Resend functionality is included. This update reintroduces functionality to resend an email message to the same or new recipients.

- Redirect functionality is included. This update reintroduces functionality to redirect an incoming email message to other recipients.

- Meeting invitation functionality is improved. This update improves creating meeting invitations by including a list of recently used locations.

Microsoft Office 2011 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is available for US$149.99 and up depending on the suite purchased.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

In other news, Microsoft also released version 12.2.9 of its Office 2008 suite for Mac. The update, a 333 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

- Improves stability. In addition, it includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer’s memory with malicious code.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.2.9 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run and
Microsoft Office 2008 with Service Pack 1. The update can, of course, be located and installed with the Microsoft AutoUpdate tool.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any comments, let us know in the comments or feedback section.

Office for Mac 2011 Service Pack 1 expected next week

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 7th, 2011, 04:20
Category: News, Software

You’ve had your mitts on Office for Mac 2011 and gotten to know the suite inside and out.

As of next week, it might be going through some changes.

Per Microsoft’s Office for Mac blog, the company is set to release Service Pack 1 for Office for Mac 2011 next week, bringing the usual fixes, as well as new features and enhancements, including the ability to sync calendar, tasks and notes via Apple’s Sync Services.

“This will let you sync your Outlook calendar as well as contacts, notes and tasks with any service or device that supports Sync Services, including your iPhone and iPad,” wrote Pat Fox, senior director of product management for Office for Mac. “This has been one of our top feature requests — hopefully this is good news to many of you.”

However, Apple also plans to discontinue the use of Mac OS X Sync Services with its subscription MobileMe service starting on May 5 for all users. The change is already in place for users who have already moved their account to the new version of MobileMe calendar, which came out of beta last October.

For Outlook for Mac 2011 users who sync their iOS device with Sync Services via iTunes, calendars will remain up to date. But users who sync their iPhone or iPad calendars with MobileMe will not have them synced to Outlook 2011 with SP1.

Fox also revealed that SP1 will bring Outlook support for Exchange based on server-side rules. A new Outlook Redirect button will also allow users to redirect a message to the intended recipient while replies will go to the original sender.

Other new additions include an Outlook Resend button, Outlook edit of existing messages, and Solver integration support in Excel. SP1 will also provide increased stability and security.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any thoughts on Office 2011, let us know in the comments.

Yahoo repairs server-side IMAP settings, clears up e-mail issue for Windows 7, iPhone users

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Date: Friday, March 11th, 2011, 04:20
Category: iPhone, News, Software

A fresh test on Thursday confirmed that Yahoo’s IMAP mail bug had been fixed. Per Electronista, Yahoo quietly upgraded its mail servers so that they now respond with only the data they were asked for, rather than the 25 times higher amount they were producing before. Rafael Rivera at Within Windows noted that it had previously sent the entire message header.

The improvement should cure a problem first discovered on Windows Phone 7 that led to a glut of data every time the devices checked mail. Later discoveries found that it also affected at least iPhone owners, but all of them carried the risk of running over bandwidth caps on carriers like AT&T.

Microsoft knew of the cause in Yahoo’s servers weeks after it was found but declined to name it, leaving customers without an idea as to which services to turn off. It instead gave them blanket instructions to turn off automatic mail checks or to disable cellular data. It wasn’t until Rivera investigated himself and confronted Microsoft that it was forced to acknowledge the source.

If you’ve seen any changes in your Yahoo mail on your iPhone, please let us know.