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China Telecom returns to profit

With 3 billion Yuan in Q4 :

The China Telecom office

China Telecom , China's largest fixed-line operator, said it returned to profit in the fourth quarter of last year, matching expectations as competition continued to intensify in China's overhauled mobile communications sector.

China Telecom made a net profit of 3 billion yuan for the October-December quarter, according to Reuters calculations using company data, versus a 16.4 billion Yuan loss a year earlier that included provisions for its PHS service, which is being discontinued.

The results were in line with market expectations for a 3.1 billion Yuan net profit, according to a survey.

The company, the smallest of China's three mobile carriers, reported a net profit of 14.4 billion Yuan for all of 2009, in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, up from an 884 million Yuan profit for 2008.

Bigger rival China Mobile reported forecast-beating results on Thursday, as years of investment in its 3G network paid off as subscribers began paying more for value-added services.

Palm shares plunge on weak forecast

Palm shares plunged Friday after the struggling US mobile device maker posted more disappointing results and speculation mounted that it could be an acquisition target.

Shares in the Sunnyvale, California-based company were trading 18.94 percent lower at mid-day at 4.58 dollars.

Bank of America analysts painted a gloomy future Friday for the handset maker, which has been unable to make a significant dent in the grip on the smartphone market of Apple and Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry.

"We see no quick fix to the challenges as competitive risks are intensifying and Palm's response appears insufficient," the Bank of America analysts said.

While an acquisition of Palm "is an option, it is too speculative as the rationale to own the stock," they wrote.

"In our view, Palm has at best two to three quarters to turn things around before it may need to consider more extreme options," they added.

Palm Chairman and Chief Executive Jon Rubinstein declined Thursday to comment on speculation the company may be an acquisition target.

"If there's a reasonable proposal the board has to consider it," he said.

"But for the three years I've been here our focus has been to build a great company with a great mobile platform and great products".

Palm reported a third-quarter net loss of US $ 22 million on Thursday and said that although it shipped 960,000 smartphones during the third quarter only 408,000 were actually bought by consumers.

Palm's fourth-quarter revenue forecast of less than 150 million dollars was well below the US $ 350 million expected by Wall Street analysts.

Palm came out with some of the first personal digital assistants in the 1990s, but in recent years it has been lagging behind rivals Nokia, Apple and RIM.


AOL plants Seed for Internet Age news operation

Faded Internet star AOL is reinventing itself as a digital age news operation with an army of freelance writers wielding online tools.

Fresh from being spun off by Time Warner in December, AOL launched Seed.com to groom freelance writing talent to crank out stories for its array of websites on topics ranging from pets and sports to politics and technology.

"AOL is repositioning itself as a news and information company," Seed programming director Saul Hansell said Tuesday as he demonstrated the website at the annual South By South West (SXSW) gathering of technophiles here.

"This is really just taking the freelance writing model that has existed forever and using the Internet to make it vastly more efficient," Hansell said.

"We have a chance with Seed and a lot of our other assets to make a big difference in journalism," he said. Hansell worked for 17 years as a reporter and blogger at The New York Times before joining Seed three months ago.

AOL editors post assignment descriptions on an online Seed bulletin board. Pay for writing jobs ranges from five dollars to 300 dollars per article.

Writers then submit their versions of a story along with headlines and pictures. AOL editors sift through queues of submissions deciding whether to accept, reject or kick stories back for improvement.

"Some of the assignments serve as an audition," Hansell said.

"We get to know you, you get to know us, and you are invited into our extended family of freelancers."

Authors names are displayed on stories at AOL Web properties without "asterisks saying 'look at the cute little citizen journalists,'" Hansell said.

Freelancers that have proven themselves may be given personal assignments and invited to pitch story ideas.

"We can use this methodology to write about vastly more things on a much broader scale than other models," Hansell said.

Seed, for example, assembled a team of 500 freelance writers that collectively interviewed for stories each of the approximately 2,000 bands slated to perform during the renowned music portion of SXSW.

Seed is in a testing phase and is expected to evolve with feedback.

AOL's dial-up Web access business has been supplanted by high-speed broadband services and the company, formerly known as America Online, is currently the number four gateway to the Web after Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! AOL chairman and chief executive Tim Armstrong, a former Google executive who took the reins of AOL in March, has said he plans to refocus the company on "content, ads and communications." In what is considered one of the most disastrous mergers ever, Time Warner combined with America Online in 2001 at the height of the dot-com boom with AOL using its inflated stock as currency for the transaction.

Time Warner was forced in 2002 to massively write down the value of AOL and the AOL name was removed from the group's corporate title in 2003.

AOL became a separate traded company on December 10.

AOL properties include online map service Mapquest, technology blog Engadget, social network Bebo and other sites.


Desktop computer sales soared in February-NPD Group

Sales of desktop computers soared 30 percent in February defying talk that such machines are being made obsolete by laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices.

"Desktops have been the surprise consumer technology growth category of 2010," said NPD vice president of industry analysis Stephen Baker.

Sales of personal computers running on Microsoft Window's operating systems and of Macintosh desktop machines made by Apple both grew in the month, according to NPD.

Microsoft's release of its latest Windows 7 operating system software in October was credited with propelling sales of desktop personal computers. "We are also seeing tremendous growth numbers from the iMac after a few lackluster quarters from Apple," the industry tracker said.

"This new decade is off to a booming start."

While the number of desktop computers sold in February was 30 percent higher than the figure in the same month last year, the dollar value climbed 33 percent due to slightly higher selling prices, according to NPD.


Latest 'God of War' videogame hits US

The 'God of War III' videogame hit the stores Tuesday eagerly awaited by US fans of the franchise based on a Spartan warrior's vendetta against Greek gods.

The ‘God of War III’

Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) said the videogame is the final installment in a trilogy crafted exclusively for the Japanese electronic titan's PlayStation 3 consoles.

The latest title "couples jaw-dropping visuals with a gripping story sure to amaze fans and newcomers alike," said SCEA marketing vice president Scott Steinberg. The action game picks up where the second title in the franchise let off. Fictional warrior Kratos must battle his way through Hades and to the top of Mount Olympus in a quest to alter his fate.

SCEA promises 3-D worlds that allow for "astonishing realism and new heightened levels of brutality and gore." Some US shops opened a minute into Tuesday to begin selling "God of War III," which was priced at 60 dollars per copy.

Sony is counting on blockbuster titles to boost sales of its PlayStation 3 consoles, which compete with Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wll devices.



China says HP violated customer rights rules

China's product-quality watchdog said US computer maker Hewlett-Packard violated Chinese consumer rights rules, after an investigation into complaints about faulty laptops from dozens of customers.

The General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has ordered HP to "strictly abide by" Chinese rules concerning repair, replacement and return of faulty products.

The agency said HP failed to deal with customer complaints in accordance with the rules and it "has to improve after-sales service and address quality problems in some of its laptops responsibly", according to the statement posted on its website Thursday.

The investigation found problems in a number of HP Pavilion DV2000 and Compaq Presario v3000 notebooks, which led to crashes, black screens and overheating.

Another six HP laptop models were found to have defects in display screens, the statement said. The statement came after the quality watchdog said on Sunday it was investigating complaints filed by 60 laptop users that certain HP computers were defective. HP issued an apology and extended the warranty for relevant laptops yesterday.


Alibaba.com enters Brazil

Alibaba.com, China's biggest business-to-business web group, on Thursday officially started operations in Brazil, which it said showed huge potential for growth.

The Hong Kong-based company, which is partnered in the venture with another firm from the same territory, Ludatrade Technologies, presented its activities at a news conference in Sao Paulo.

Alibaba's sales director, Timothy Leung, said Internet penetration and a blossoming emerging-market economy made Brazil ripe for the Chinese group's formula of marketing small- and medium-sized companies on its website.

"We want to see a growth rate of 30 percent to 50 percent," Ludatrade's chief executive, Kenneth Ma, said.

Alibaba is well known in Asia for matching up buyers and sellers on its web platforms, which operate in English, Chinese and Japanese.

Each selling company pays a flat fee to display wares and contact information to potential clients in 240 countries and territories. Worldwide, that fee is 3,000 dollars, Leung said.

But Ma said Brazilian businesses would be asked to pay 50 percent more 4,500 dollars to cover the cost of translating into English product descriptions and catalogues, and for buyer verification.

Leung said 156,000 users in Brazil had already signed up for Alibaba's services.

The company staff of 20 was to be expaned to 1,000 by the end of 2010, he said.

Brazil was currently ranked 23rd among exporting nations and its small companies had trouble finding clients abroad, Leung said.

"We want to bring Brazil from 23 to the top 10. That's our dream," he said.

Alibaba.com, whose parent Alibaba Group is 40 percent owned by US Internet giant Yahoo!, had net revenue of 162 million dollars in the last quarter of 2009, Leung said.

The entire year showed 29 percent growth compared to 2008, according to figures for the publicly traded company.


Google to add maya, Nahuatl language to search engine

Internet giant Google is adding two native Central American languages - Maya and Nahuatl to its universal search service, a company official said Thursday.

"Searches in these two pre-Columbian languages and mobile satellite-linked connections to the Internet are part of Google's growth strategy," Google's Mexico marketing technology director Miguel de Alva told AFP. "The two languages are of interest to online searchers because the first (Maya) is spoken by 1.5 million people and the second (Nahuatl), by more than one million." He noted that people speaking either of the two languages also speak Spanish.

Nahuatl is mostly spoken in southern Mexico and northern Central America, while Maya is spoken across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala and Belize.

De Alva said the Google language project was well underway.

"We're looking to team up with some academic institutions that will validate the languages, because we want to make sure our customers are getting the real, correct language both in vocabulary and meaning, as well as the word's particular usage." The Google Translate service is fast becoming part of the California-based Internet firm's popular main search engine. As of December, searchers can use the automatic translation program to look for Web pages written in any of 51 languages. The tool displays results from as many as five languages at a time.



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