Sprint ‘One Ups’ Competitors with Upgrade Plan

Better late than never, Sprint is finally getting ready to enter the smartphone upgrade wars that T-Mobile launched this summer. But does Sprint's program differ from what its three main rivals are already offering?

Sprint is calling its early upgrade program, "One Up." Scheduled to launch on Sept. 20, it will work much the same way as competing programs. Of course, Sprint is positioning One Up as less expensive than the rest, claiming its Unlimited, My Way customers will save $220 each versus T-Mobile in the first year, more than $500 versus AT&T and nearly $600 more than wireless customers who opt for Verizon.

We turned to Jeff Kagan, a wireless analyst in Atlanta, to get his take on Sprint's entry into the smartphone upgrade wars. He told us he has been wondering when the United States' third-largest carrier would dive in.

"The wireless industry continues to grow and change. Keeping up with customer demands and competitive offerings is key," he said. "This is good news for Sprint customers who want to upgrade their devices once a year instead of once every two years."

Comparing Plan Details

Sprint's choice of names for its program is interesting, considering this stage of the carrier wars officially started when AT&T one-upped T-Mobile, the company it couldn't buy. T-Mobile debuted Jump in July, which charges consumers $10 a month for the freedom to upgrade their phones as often as twice a year after six months of service.

AT&T responded with Next, which rolled out on July 26. Customers pay monthly installments for the devices they select. After 12 payments, they can trade them in and upgrade to brand new devices or they can keep using the devices they have. After 20 monthly payments, the devices belong to the consumers free and clear. And there's no penalty for paying off the...

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What iOS 7 Has in Store for Enterprise Business Users

The Apple iOS 7 mobile operating system offers a whole new look and feel for iPhone and iPad users, with plenty of new bells and whistles that cater to enterprise business users. Roll out of iOS7 as a free upgrade begins on September 18.

Apple engineered iOS 7 to take full advantage of the advanced 64-bit technologies in the iPhone 5s, including the native 64-bit kernel, libraries and drivers. All the built-in apps have been re-engineered for 64-bit processing and can run both 32-bit and 64-bit apps.

"iOS 7 is completely redesigned with an entirely new user interface and over 200 new features, so it's like getting a brand new device, but one that will still be instantly familiar to our users," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering.

Why Enterprises Will Like iOS 7

We asked Michael Disabato, managing vice president of Network and Telecom at Gartner, how he expects the new mobile operating system to resonate with enterprise users. He told us IT managers, in particular, will appreciate iOS 7 because it offers better control over apps.

"Apple is providing increased security for applications you deploy for enterprise use and putting in better data loss protection around e-mail and attachments," Disabato said. "You can configure the applications to use the VPN [virtual private network] or not use the VPN. The VPN can be set to split tunnel, which means when you start browsing or use your banking app, that traffic doesn't go through the VPN -- and when you use a corporate application it does. Companies actually don't want to know what you are doing with your device."

Enterprises will also appreciate the fact that Apple can configure devices to tie to particular MDM [mobile device management] servers. That means if an employee decides to take the device after he...

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How To Get a Piece of Twitter’s IPO

Investors looking to buy into the much-anticipated IPO of Twitter are going to have some waiting to do before seeing if there will be any shares for them.

Details are still scarce on the initial public offering of Twitter, since the company has only provided its registration privately to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Investors are still waiting for details on how many shares of the social media company will be offered, the timing of the offering and the price of the shares.

Typically, IPOs of much-anticipated IPOs are doled out by the investment bankers running the deal to their favored clients and long-standing customers. Individual investors interested in buying shares usually have to purchase them in the open market once trading begins. But experts are thinking Twitter may likely follow the lead set by Facebook and other recent IPOs in holding back some shares for individual investors.

With most recent IPOs, there will usually be about 20% of the shares outstanding held back for individual investors, says Jay Ritter, professor of finance at the University of Florida. In Facebook's case, the number was actually higher, 25%, because demand for large institutional investors weakened as the deal neared. Many large investors were turned off by Facebook's lofty price range, the large number of shares being offered and its questionable future in mobile, and pulled back their purchases. Facebook raised more than $16 billion in the largest Internet IPO in history, Ritter says.

Investors interested in getting a piece of Twitter will need to check with their brokerages over the coming months to see how many shares, if any, will be available to them. Most large online brokerages, including TD Ameritrade, Fidelity and Charles Schwab, have deals with underwriters that allow them to get allocations to certain IPOs.

More details will be revealed after Twitter officially...

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Robohand Uses 3-D Printing To Replace Lost Fingers

Richard Van As, a South African carpenter, lost four fingers from his right hand to a circular saw two years ago. He was unable to afford the tens of thousands of dollars to get a myoelectric hand, which detects a muscle's electric impulses to activate an artificial limb.

"After my accident, I was in pain, but wouldn't take painkillers. I barely slept, and the more pain I had the more ideas I got," he told The Associated Press. "Sometimes you have to chop fingers off to start thinking."

He decided to build his own hand. After seeing a video posted online of a mechanical hand made for a costume in a theater production, he reached out to its designer, Ivan Owen, in Seattle.

Enter Robohand -- a device that Van As and Owen invented that is made from cables, screws, 3-D printing and thermoplastic. It uses the rotation of a joint to enable five plastic digits to grasp. The device looks like a robot's hand in a science fiction movie, costs about $500 to make and can be reproduced using plans on the Internet and a 3-D printer.

Van As is now on a mission to spread the mechanism to people without fingers or hands all over the world. The two gadget-lovers collaborated on developing a design for the device for a wide range of ages that could be used to grab objects, unlike most existing arm prostheses. Van As has fitted Robohands on about 170 people, from toddlers to adults, thanks to donations.

At first they used a milling machine, making Van As a metal robotic forefinger digit that helps him work in carpentry to this day. That's when they perfected the shape for the robotic fingers.

"Ivan was a gift to me," Van As said.

Then they turned to 3-D printing which creates the device...

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Outlook.com Adds Support for IMAP

At last, Microsoft's Outlook.com has been IMAP'd. On Thursday, Microsoft announced that its e-mail service is now supporting the popular protocol.

In a posting on the Outlook Blog, as well as in a question-and-answer session on Reddit, representatives from Microsoft noted that Outlook.com "already supports the industry's best e-mail conductivity with Exchange ActiveSync (EAS)." EAS is utilized by Windows Phone, iOS, and Android devices, as well the Windows 8 Mail app. IMAP can be used by, among other clients, Mac Mail and Thunderbird on a Mac.

While Microsoft pointed to the EAS protocol as being the "most robust" for e-mail, providing near real-time syncing and "superior battery and network efficiencies," it acknowledged that the older IMAP is widely supported on feature phones and other clients. Outlook is supporting IMAP version 4 rev 1.

App Updates

Apps such as TripIt, Sift, Slice, motley*bunch, Unroll.me, OtherInbox, and Context.IO issued updates Thursday that include the new IMAP support.

TripIt, a travel planner, can now detect e-mail confirmations in an Outlook.com inbox, and then import them into a TripIT itinerary. Sift, a product finder, can now use shopping content in an Outlook.com account to help create a personalized shopping experience.

Slice helps keep track of everything bought online, including e-mails about package tracking, and motley*bunch can now sync with an Outlook account to organize packages and shipments into a personal catalog. Unroll.me provides an easier way to unsubscribe from e-mail subscriptions, OtherInBox offers tools for keeping the Outlook inbox organized, and Context.IO is an e-mail API for building apps that integrate data from e-mail.

IMAP allows an e-mail client to access messages stored on a remote e-mail server, which means that updates to an inbox will appear on devices across platforms. An e-mail that has been read in one device, for example, will also show up as read on...

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Genband Goes Over the Top with Fring Messaging Service

Texas-based Genband, in the business of communications services for carriers, announced Thursday it was picking up Fring's Internet-based mobile Over the Top (OTT) communications service.

Genband, in this deal, fattens its cloud portfolio for the consumer market. Israel-based Fring has enjoyed status as having helped to change the way consumers communicate on the go. Fring got an early start in the business of mobile messaging and video applications for mobile phones. As such, the company was one of the very first to offer OTT services, though outdistanced by big competitors.

According to Fring, it nevertheless grew a community of "tens of millions" of users across 200 countries. Its services can be used with all major smartphones and tablets including iPhones and Android devices, on any mobile operator, and any mobile Internet connection.

In the most fundamental terms, what Genband gets out of the deal is the ability to showcase these types of services. Integrating Fring solutions means Genband can tell service providers and network operators, who need to evolve their communications services rapidly to ensure that they stay relevant and competitive, that they can now compete more effectively.

In saying that Genband snapped up Fring, snap appears to be an appropriate verb.

Quick Action in Large Fonts

Genband CEO David Walsh blogged that as "the heaps of fallen technology giants illustrate, inaction is a recipe for failure."

He said technology and telecommunications industries "are littered with cautionary tales of innovative companies surrendering market dominance due to their inability to react quickly enough" to new competitive forces.

It did not take Nostradamus, he added, "to see that more and more consumers are turning to the Web -- the so-called OTT or Over-the-Top community -- as a viable option for much of their real-time communications and messaging."

Actually, he said, with the "writing...

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Microsoft Shows iPad Users the Money

Redmond is making an offer it hopes iPad users can't refuse. Microsoft is tempting Apple owners to trade in their iPads for $200 (minimum) gift cards.

Here's how it works: You can bring in your "gently used" iPad 2, 3 or 4 and get at least a $200 gift card you can redeem in Microsoft retail stores. The offer is valid until Oct. 27, 2013.

Some of the fine print reads, "To be eligible for trade-in, device should include power cord, if available, and device cannot be password protected. Microsoft Store gift-card value will be equal to trade-in value, and is subject to Microsoft's discretion and manager approval. All trade-ins are final."

A Winning Strategy?

Microsoft is clearly hoping consumers will use the credit to purchase Surface tablets. The company lists the Surface RT for $349 and the Surface Pro for $799.

"The tablet market is still evolving and vendors can rise and fall quickly as a result," said Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker programs. "Apple aside, the remaining vendors are still very much figuring out which platform strategy will be successful over the long run. To date, Android has been far more successful than the Windows 8 platform. However, Microsoft-fueled products are starting to make notable progress into the market."

We turned to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, to get his take on the promotion. He told us wooing people to switch brands by lowering the cost of switching is a tried-and-true tactic in the United States. Still, he's not sure it's a winning one for Microsoft.

"The sales of the Windows tablets have been modest at best. And the customer satisfaction numbers for iPads are very high -- 70 percent-plus," Entner said. "There are very few disappointed iPad users that would be willing to take advantage of the...

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Buyout Completed, Dell Aims at the Enterprise with Its PCs

Whither Dell? That's the question being asked, most likely in other wording, following the news Thursday that the company's shareholders approved a buyout proposal to take the company private.

The $25 billion buyout by company founder Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake Partners will award each shareholder $13.88, of which $13.75 is for the common stock and the balance of 13 cents represents a special dividend. After 25 years as a publicly traded company, the buyout means that management will no longer have to answer to Wall Street as it tries to reshape itself to match the changed computing market.

The buyout plan succeeded over staunch opposition from some shareholders, including activist investor Carl Icahn, who repeatedly said that the price sought by Dell and Silver Lake Partners undervalued the company.

Continuing in PCs

Dell, who will now own 75 percent and will remain as company chairman and CEO, said in a statement that he was "pleased with this outcome and am energized to continue building Dell into the industry's leading provider of scalable, end-to-end technology solutions." He told analysts after the announcement that the company will look to "go back to our roots, focusing on the entrepreneurial spirit that made it one of the fastest-growing and most successful companies in history."

Dell the company made its name in the PC market, but has suffered as the world of personal computing moves away from PCs. Gartner, for instance, has reported that demand for PCs dropped 11 percent in the second quarter, only the latest of a series of declines. But Dell CFO Brian Gladden told news media that his company will continue in the PC market.

Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC), pointed to several strengths that the company can build on. She noted, for instance, that in a survey conducted...

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Is Twitter Really Ready To Go IPO?

Microblogging service Twitter is going IPO. The social networking site, which has more than 200 million members, has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make its debut on the public markets with an initial public offering. Some are calling it the most anticipated IPO since Facebook, but others still wonder if the timing is right.

"We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO," Twitter tweeted. "This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale."

Not surprisingly, the message went viral, getting retweeted more than 13,000 times even as analysts start to dissect what this means for Twitter and other social media networks.

What's Twitter Worth?

We asked Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, for his reaction to Twitter going IPO. For starters, the way Twitter filed is telling.

Under the JOBS Act the microblogging service is permitted to confidentially file its S-1 if gross revenues are less than $1 billion. Twitter's revenues have been estimated to be roughly $600 million in 2013. And, Sterling noted, apparently the company was profitable in the fourth quarter of last year, although it may no longer be because of recent acquisitions.

"Given Facebook's recovery and the story that Twitter can tell the marketplace, I suspect demand for Twitter's offering will be heavy. It will likely seek considerably more than the $1 billion in VC funds that have been invested in the company over the past six years," Sterling said.

"Twitter's shares have been bought and sold on the private market for some time with the current value of the company being somewhere north of $9 or so billion," he said. "The IPO should push Twitter's market cap up well beyond that."

Learning from Facebook

Twitter is now seven years old and has been in the red for most...

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Gogo’s In-Flight Internet To Move at Jet Speed

Business professionals, along with regular fliers, love the ability to access the Internet while on a plane. However, the Wi-Fi data speeds on most planes is horrendous and prevents users from accessing videos and other larger files.

Gogo, which already equips some airlines with in-flight Internet access, has come out with a new technology capable of providing 60 Mbps data speeds. The technology behind this innovation is called Gogo GTO (Ground to Orbit) which can use satellites for downloads and cellular networks for uploads, thereby increasing data speeds.

Hybrid In-Flight Internet Service

To start, Gogo will work with Virgin America to launch the GTO service in 2014. Right now, Gogo's Internet service for airplanes only provides regular data speeds of 3-10 Mbps, about the same speed as 3G wireless. Gogo GTO should be able to reach speeds 20 times faster.

The company already has ground-based receivers that will still be used for uploads, but by providing a hybrid service, downloads will come significantly faster from satellites. Other companies are only able to provide a max of 10 Mbps, so the 60 Mbps is far superior to what any other company is offering for in-flight Internet service.

Gogo said it will use Ku microwave antennae to communicate with the satellites. Ku antennas are smaller than the ones used on airplanes which are partnered with other Internet service providers.

The Price of Internet

Gogo has yet to announce how much it will charge for the upgraded in-flight Internet service, but when the company upgraded its service last year to 10 Mbps the cost rose, and it likely will do the same this time.

Just like on-ground Internet service, it is not cheap to connect on an airplane. Gogo currently charges $45 a month for frequent fliers, which provides unlimited Internet access, and also offers a $14 day pass. Either way,...

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