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Monday, 3 June 2013






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Vodafone, China Mobile exit Myanmar mobile auction

Vodafone and China Mobile said Friday they were dropping out of the race to enter Myanmar, one of the world's last unexplored mobile telephone frontiers.

They were one of 12 foreign consortiums short-listed by the former army-ruled country to bid for two licences to build, own and operate a nationwide network for an initial term of 15 years.

The two companies said in a statement that they had decided to pull out because “the opportunity does not meet the strict internal investment criteria to which both Vodafone and China Mobile adhere”.

“Vodafone and China Mobile will continue to watch Myanmar's progress with interest and will give due consideration to any future opportunities that would meet the companies' investment criteria,” they added. British-based Vodafone this month reported a 90-percent plunge in annual net profit after taking a vast impairment charge relating to poor business in debt-laden eurozone nations Italy and Spain. One bidder has estimated the required spending to develop a Myanmar network at about $2 billion.

Applicants also face a list of requirements, including to provide mobile voice services to 75 percent of the country geographically within 60 months. Less than 10 percent of Myanmar's population has access to a telephone -- a figure the government hopes to boost to 80 percent by 2016.


Android behind the internet of things

Ken Oyadomari's work space at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., looks like a triage tent for smartphones. Parts from dozens of disassembled devices are strewn on workbenches. A small team of young engineers picks through the electronic carnage, carefully extracting playing card-size motherboards-the microprocessing heart of most computers-that will be repurposed as the brains of spacecraft no bigger than a softball.

Satellites usually cost millions of dollars to build and launch. The price of Oyadomari's nanosats, as they've become known, is around $15,000 and dropping. He expects them to be affordable for high school science classes, individual hobbyists, or anyone who wants to perform science experiments in space.

Along with Oyadomari's nanosats, three of which recently went into orbit, Android runs espresso makers, video game consoles, refrigerators, rifles that post video to Facebook, and robotic harvesters for farms.

Android is becoming the standard operating system for the "Internet of things"-Silicon Valley's voguish term for the expanding interconnectedness of smart devices, ranging from sensors in your shoe to jet engine monitors.

Android's risen so fast in part because Google gives away the software to device makers and developers. Google is counting on making money from ads and other services on Android phones and tablets. The software is also open-source: Anyone can tinker with the code and use it in any gadget they want.

The NASA engineers fine-tuned the operating system to require less power, letting their tiny satellites run for days on a handful of batteries. "If we can have satellites that are really small and really cheap, it will be interesting to see what some guy in his garage will be able to do with them," says Oyadomari.

Google acquired Android Inc. in 2005. The search giant took the software-a version of Linux, itself an open-source operating system popular with data centers and geeks-and streamlined it. That improved power consumption; all things being equal, the fewer things a computer chip has to do to accomplish a task, the less electricity it uses. Google also gave the software a more accessible interface and added touch functions.

Critics scoffed at the notion of Android getting much traction in the handset market. Yet its status as a free, open alternative to Apple, BlackBerry, and Microsoft eventually attracted enough handset manufacturers-Samsung Electronics (005930) being the largest-for it to become the top mobile OS by 2011.

Google isn't the only tech company to introduce its own minimalist, Linux-based operating system. Years ago, Intel developed a version of Linux for mobile called Moblin, while Nokia built another version called Maemo. Palm's WebOS also had Linux at its core. As usually happens with operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows on PCs in the 1990s, tech companies coalesced around one product. For just about everything that isn't a server or a PC, the winner is Android.

The companies that build components have had to scramble to make sure everything they make functions well with all those gadgets. The result is a huge and growing number of hardware makers and software companies becoming expert in all things Android. "Every screen variant, mobile chip, and sensor known to man has been tuned to work with Android," Zemlin says. "There's this network effect, so that now anyone who wants to make a custom product can take Android and morph it into anything."

Zemlin points to SAIC Motor (600104), a Chinese car company, as a case study. With a team of about six software developers, SAIC developed an Android infotainment system for its cars. "I ran into them at this trade show where they were placed next to all these other carmakers with massive software teams," Zemlin says. "They said, 'We just have six dudes and Android.'

Philip DesAutels, the vice president for technology at Xively, a just-launched cloud computing service that simplifies the work needed to get a device to transmit data, has studied the Internet of things for years. He says there are five times as many downloads of Xively's Android-specific software as there are of its software made for Apple's iOS.

His favorite product: an Android-based agricultural irrigation system where a network of tiny, waterproof computers in the field regulates water valves. "With Android, you get something that is power-efficient, it's easy for developers to do the user interface and touch controls, and it's easy to get data in and out," DesAutels says. "There's just a bigger community behind it than with anything else."

Andy Rubin, Google's longtime Android chief, can claim much of the credit for the software's success. On his own dime, he set up an incubator in Los Altos, Calif., where he let friends work on projects. Rubin told one group that Google had received tons of interest around Android from the car industry but didn't plan on pursuing deals. Soon enough, four guys founded the startup CloudCar, which is building an infotainment system for cars that should go on sale this year. (Bloomberg)

Adamant Apple in court to fight ebook conspiracy

Apple goes on the defensive Monday with the start of a trial in which US officials allege the company was the "ringmaster" of a conspiracy to raise prices of electronic books.

In the trial set to open in US District Court in New York, the technology icon is going solo in its fight against the US Justice Department after five large publishers named in the lawsuit settled the charges.

US antitrust watchdogs allege Apple orchestrated a collusive shakeup of the ebook business in early 2010 that resulted in higher prices.

Apple is expected to argue its actions shook up a sector that had been dominated by Amazon, and that it boosted competition and improved conditions for consumers.

Early signals suggest the three-week, non-jury trial could be a tough ride for Apple, which has been struggling of late amid a dearth of new products and recent allegations that it avoided billions in taxes.

Five publishers originally named as defendants reached settlements in which they agreed to terminate their ebook agreements with Apple.

The largest settlement was with Penguin for $75 million, while a settlement with Hachette, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster created a $69 million fund for refunds to consumers. Macmillan settled for $26 million.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook dismissed the idea of a settlement because it would call for the company to sign an admission of wrongdoing.

"We didn't do anything wrong there," Cook told a recent California conference. "We're going to fight." For Apple, the case is not as much about money but maintaining what had been a stellar reputation and deciding its own business practices. A loss could also leave Apple vulnerable to private lawsuits.



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