Top 5 Upcoming Sprint Phones: Summer 2011(PHOTO)

We covered AT&T and Verizon a little while ago but now it’s time to cover the next big carrier on our list: Sprint.

So Sprint users– you’ve got an upgrade coming up sometime over the next couple of weeks/months and while you like some of the phones already out there, you really wanna know what Sprint’s got planned during the next few weeks or months so you don’t go out and More

Rival tablets fill electronics show in IPad’s absence

LAS VEGAS (AFP) – The annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas on Thursday but the hottest device around, and the trailblazing company that makes it, won’t be on the sprawling show floor.

Apple, whose iPad touchscreen tablet computer was the hit new gadget of last year, is once again shunning the electronics extravaganza that attracts tens of thousands of buyers and sellers from around the world to the Las Vegas strip.

Apple may be a no-show but the Cupertino, California-based company behind the iPod, iPhone and iPad and its iconic co-founder Steve Jobs will loom large over the four-day event at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“Right now, in the consumer electronics space, Apple is the shining star that everyone and their brother are chasing,” said Silicon Valley technology analyst Rob Enderle.

And what rival firms have in their sights is the iPad, which sold more than eight million units between April, when it landed in US stores, and the end of September, Apple’s last reporting period.

Goldman Sachs predicts iPad sales could top 37.2 million units in 2011 and technology research firm Gartner forecasts total tablet computer sales of 55 million units this year.

“There’s a tremendous buzz about tablets,” said Tara Dunion of CES organizer the Consumer Electronics Association.

“I’ve seen at least 40 new tablets announced and we’re estimating there could be up to 80 new tablets launched at CES,” Dunion said.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to walk 10 feet on the show floor without seeing some kind of a tablet device,” said analyst Stephen Baker of the NPD Group.

South Korea’s Samsung and US computer giants Hewlett-Packard and Dell are among the technology titans which have already come out with tablet devices.

Samsung launched its Galaxy Tab, which is powered by Google’s Android software, in November and has reported sales of over one million units.

Smaller than the iPad, the Galaxy Tab features a seven-inch (18-centimeter) touchscreen compared with the iPad’s 9.7-inch (24.6-cm) display.

The Galaxy Tab has front- and rear-facing cameras for video chat — a feature absent from the first generation of the iPad — and can also play Adobe’s Flash video software, which is banned from the Apple device.

HP unveiled its HP Slate 500, which runs Microsoft’s Windows 7 computer operating system and is aimed more at professionals than consumers, in October and Dell began selling its tablet computer, the Streak, in June.

Canada’s Research In Motion, maker of the Blackberry, is also planning its own touchscreen tablet computer this year, the PlayBook, aiming it at business users like HP.

At last year’s CES, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer showed off Windows-powered tablet prototypes but the US software giant has been slow to get the products to market.

Ballmer is scheduled to give a keynote speech Wednesday on the eve of the CES opening and NPD Group’s Baker said he expects the Microsoft chief to unveil his latest plans for Windows-based tablets.

Toshiba and Motorola are among the other household names which are expected to unveil tablet computers at CES and there will be scores of others — most of which are unlikely to keep Apple’s Jobs up at night.

“We are going to be up to our armpits in crappy tablets, and I do mean crappy,” said Enderle.

Investments place value of Facebook at $50 billion

NEW YORK – An injection of cash that values Facebook at $50 billion will help it delay going public for at least another year, giving the company breathing room to focus on long-term ambition rather than short-term profit.

The infusion — $500 million from elite investment house Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor, according to a report by The New York Times — represents the most emphatic endorsement yet of Facebook’s potential to make money in online social networking.

It places the company at twice the value of Internet giant Yahoo and about equal to what well-established names such as Boeing and Kraft Foods are worth on the open market.

More important, it buys time for Facebook to keep its books private and not have to cater to the demands of the market. And it gives 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg room to grow into his role as the public face of a multinational company.

Zuckerberg is widely believed to be more comfortable operating behind the scenes, thinking about technology and business, than engaging in public discourse, says Standard & Poor’s equity analyst Scott Kessler, who follows large Internet companies.

“There is still some question whether he has the persona to be a public CEO and, if he doesn’t, would he be willing to cede control to someone who does,” says Mark Heeson, president of the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group that represents firms that invest in startups. “That is probably an issue that Facebook’s board has been discussing for some time.”

As it nears the seventh anniversary of its founding in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook is already slightly more mature than Google was when it went public, in 2004. At the time, investors placed Google’s value at about $24 billion.

By the time Google turned 7, in September 2005, its market value had ballooned to about $90 billion, and the company wound up with $6 billion in revenue that year.

Google, like Facebook, wanted to stay private as long as possible to avoid public scrutiny of its finances, investor complaints about its strategy and potential management distractions.

The $50 billion is more than twice as much as the market’s valuation of Yahoo. It’s also worth more than eBay, but still less than Amazon.com — not to mention Google, which now stands at nearly $200 billion.

Facebook has grown quickly as a business, even as it seeks to retain a startup culture, valuing innovation, hiring the smartest engineers from its neighbors and gobbling up small tech companies.

It has swelled to more than 500 million users, about half of whom log in on a given day. Each month they share more than 30 billion links, notes, photos and other types of content. Facebook “Like” buttons are everywhere online.

Facebook is free and makes money from selling highly targeted ads. Investors are increasingly convinced it is destined to become a marketing mecca. It has cemented its place as the king of social media, much as Google did for online search.

The New York Times reported the investment over the weekend, citing unnamed people involved with the deal. Facebook and Goldman Sachs declined to comment Monday.

Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies, which focuses on Internet properties, already has a 10 percent stake in Facebook, but the nod from Goldman Sachs is a sign of just how big the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup has become even outside tech circles.

Wedbush Morgan analyst Lou Kerner, who has been bullish on social media and Facebook in particular, says Facebook is well worth $50 billion.

He says it’s still 15 percent less than the going rate on private stock exchanges such as SecondMarket and SharesPost, where stock is generally sold by former employees or early investors in these companies. Kerner thinks the company could trade at $100 billion if it went public.

Not that Facebook is in any rush. Zuckerberg has been coy about a possible initial public offering, recently telling CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he doesn’t see selling the company or going public as an end goal, as a lot of entrepreneurs seem to.

That approach is “like you win when you go public. And that’s just not how I see it,” he said in the broadcast, which aired Dec. 5.

There are many reasons for Facebook to put off an IPO, a big one being that it doesn’t need the money, as the latest investment shows. Companies go public to get access to capital, and Facebook clearly has access to capital, Kerner says.

Going public is also a big time commitment for senior management — time they could otherwise spend running the company, he says. Zuckerberg has been deeply involved in Facebook since its founding and shows no signs of wanting to give that up to cash out. He’s even pledged to give away at least half of his wealth along with a slew of much older billionaires such as Carl Icahn and Barry Diller.

And Facebook, which already faces government scrutiny for the way it handles the troves of personal information its users share, would be subject to even more poring eyes were it to go public, Kerner notes.

“If I’m Facebook, I don’t think I ever want to go public,” he says.

The company discloses very limited financial information now, but that will change if it amasses at least 500 shareholders. Once a company with at least $10 million in assets crosses that threshold, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires it to disclose its finances and other crucial information. That regulation triggered Google’s IPO in 2004.

Exactly how many shareholders Facebook has is not publicly known. The Times said Goldman hopes to circumvent the rule by counting itself as just one investor while pooling investments from thousands of its own clients.

Separately, Facebook in 2008 created a restricted class of shares for new employees that can’t be sold until the company goes public. The SEC exempted these shares from being counted toward the 500-stockholder cap.

The agency is looking into whether recent trading in private Facebook stock may be enough to require more disclosure.

Facebook hasn’t said whether it is making money under the accounting rules used by public companies, though in 2009 it announced it was bringing in more than it was spending. Research firm eMarketer estimates that Facebook generated $1.29 billion in online ad revenue in 2010 and will rake in $1.76 billion in 2011.

Digital Sky Technologies — together with sister company Mail.ru, which had its IPO in London in November — already owned about 10 percent of Facebook. A person answering the phone at the company’s office in Moscow said no one was available to comment.

Microsoft also owns a small stake in Facebook. It invested $240 million in Facebook in 2007 in exchange for a 1.6 percent stake, at the time implying a valuation of $15 billion.

Goldman Sachs, by cozying up to Facebook now, could be gaining an inside track to handle the eventual IPO, says Reena Aggarwal, a Georgetown University finance professor specializing in investment banking and IPOs.

“This looks like a very smart move by Goldman because it helps them get their foot in the door,” she said.

iPhone alarm glitch leaves users fuming

NEW YORK (AFP) – The bells weren’t ringing for many iPhone users this New Year’s weekend, when thanks to a glitch the alarms on Apple’s iconic mobile phones failed to go off, causing many to oversleep.

It was the second time in just a few months that the alarm function on the phone failed to activate correctly, prompting an avalanche of complaints on the social networking micro-blog Twitter.

“Dear iPhone, why didn’t your alarm go off this morning? I set six of them. I’ve now missed church. Thanks for nothing,” said one user Sunday morning.

“Some sort of digital iPhone pandemic is going on. Alarm clock failure reports are pouring in from all sources around the globe,” said another Twitter user.

Apple said in a message sent to Macworld magazine that the California-based company was aware of the problem. “We’re aware of an issue related to non-repeating alarms set for January 1 or 2,” spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said.

“Customers can set recurring alarms for those dates and all alarms will work properly beginning January 3.”

The problem seemed to be affecting Apple’s most recent versions of iPhones and iPods launched in November, but website Engadget suggested that it may also have hit earlier versions.

The problem first occurred when the clocks went back at the end of October and early November when Australian and British iPhone owners complained of being late for work because their alarms had not switched over to the new time.

Apple did not immediately respond to a query from AFP on Sunday.

Some Hotmail users report missing e-mails

News by AP. NEW YORK – Some users of Microsoft Hotmail are starting off the new year scrambling to get back e-mails of old. A chorus of frantic users has posted complaints on Microsoft’s online forum that all of their messages have disappeared.

“Please help me get them back,” wrote one user under the moniker ‘Zacgore’ in a post dated Saturday. “All my kids’ info and pictures are in there!”

Others complain that the majority of the e-mail in their inboxes was sent to their deleted mail folders instead. It is unclear from the posts how widespread the problem is. The free Web-based e-mail service is the world’s most used with about 360 million users globally, according to comScore Inc.

Windows Live support technicians have said in numerous threads that the Hotmail team is aware of the problem and working on a fix.

“At this point it appears to be a limited issue, and Microsoft is working with individual users who are impacted. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers,” Microsoft spokeswoman Catherine Brooker said in statement Saturday. She declined to disclose what caused the glitch.

Microsoft’s forum contains 476 pages of complaints about lost and deleted e-mails that date back to early November

Skype makes video calling free on iPhone; service gets banned in China

News by Yahoo Skype has finally become a real contender in the mobile video calling market, adding the ability to make video calls to any other Skype user on the iPhone and iPad — without a lot of fanfare, actually.

Skype users have been waiting for the update for quite a while, and it was especially painful because other video calling apps, most notably Apple’s (AAPL) native FaceTime service, have been picking up Skype’s slack. But the change adds a lot of much-needed functionality to the service: Skype users on the iPhone can make video calls even to Microsoft (MSFT) Windows users as well as other smartphones, although phones running Google’s (GOOG) Android phone are left out because many lack the camera functionality.

Another big plus is the ability to make those video calls regardless of what kind of Internet connection you’re using. FaceTime calls are limited to a Wi-Fi connection, which pushes Skype ahead of the game in that sense, because the app will make calls to PCs or other mobile devices over 3G. Wi-Fi is generally better, but at least the option is available.

In another interesting addition, Skype works with some older generation iPhones and iPods. A 3GS can handle video calling on Skype, although, since there’s only the rear-facing camera, you’d have to use it for your end of the conversation. On an iPhone 4, you can switch between cameras.

Trouble in China
It’s not all good news in Skypetown, however. China has banned the service altogether, according to a report from the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.

In fact, China went a step further and banned all Internet phone calls, unless they were made on the China Unicom and China Telecom networks, both of which are state-owned. Its ruling effectively leaves Skype in the cold, joining other banned Western sites and services like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Google has also shut down its servers in the country following government pressure.

Skype issued a statement directing China users to its partner, Tom Online, but there’s speculation that that service won’t last long under the ban, as well. It might not be too much of a concern either way, however — The Telegraph’s story quotes experts who think China will have a really tough time enforcing any kind of ban on Skype. Users can always just download Skype, or any other Internet phone program (of which there are a lot), from websites outside the country.

And, as a Beijing University professor pointed out to The Telegraph, lots of students studying abroad, including the children of Chinese government officials, use the free Skype service to make video calls home over the Internet. This makes it unlikely the government will be shutting Skype down altogether. Instead, it means some kind of compromise, or maybe more government presence in Tom Online, could be in the future

New virus threatens phones using Android

New virus threatens phones using AndroidWASHINGTON (AFP) – A virus infecting mobile phones using Google’s Android operating system has emerged in China that can allow a hacker to gain access to personal data, US security experts said.

A report this week from Lookout Mobile Security said the new Trojan affecting Android devices has been dubbed “Geinimi” and “can compromise a significant amount of personal data on a user?s phone and send it to remote servers.”

The firm called the virus “the most sophisticated Android malware we’ve seen to date.”

“Once the malware is installed on a user’s phone, it has the potential to receive commands from a remote server that allow the owner of that server to control the phone,” Lookout said.

“Geinimi’s author(s) have raised the sophistication bar significantly over and above previously observed Android malware by employing techniques to obfuscate its activities.”

The motive for the virus was not clear, accoring the Lookout, which added that this could be used for anything from “a malicious ad-network to an attempt to create an Android botnet.”

But the company said the only users likely to be affected are those downloading Android apps from China.

The infected apps included repackaged versions sold in China of Monkey Jump 2, Sex Positions, President vs. Aliens, City Defense and Baseball Superstars 2010.

“It is important to remember that even though there are instances of the games repackaged with the Trojan, the original versions available in the official Google Android Market have not been affected,” the security firmsaid.

Aside

Happy holidays from the Gadget Hound

What could be more fun than blogging about the latest and greatest gadgets? Beats me, but even an avowed gadget hound like me needs a break once in a while.

Anyway, I’ll be going offline during the holidays — and consequently, the Gadget Hound blog will be on hiatus until Jan. 3.

I’ll be back in time for the Super Bowl of tech: the Consumer Electronics Show, which kicks off Thursday, Jan. 6.

I plan on being wheels-down in Las Vegas starting Wednesday the 5th, in time for the big preshow news conferences. And once the show itself begins, I’ll be going hands-on with all manner of new smartphones, tablets, TVs, computer accessories, you name it.

Once the CES dust finally settles, believe me — you’ll be glad you had a little Gadget Hound break. (You and me both, come to think of it.)

So … best wishes, Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to all of you. See you next year.

Calender

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