FCC Chairman Proposes New Net Neutrality Steps

The head of the Federal Communications Commission has now given some indication of how he proposes that his agency proceed on Net neutrality. In a statement, Chairman Tom Wheeler has outlined three steps forward, while keeping reclassification on the table as a possible option.

The statement made clear that Wheeler does not want to appeal last month's federal court ruling in Verizon v. FCC. Some legal observers have noted that, while the agency's Open Internet policy was overturned, the court decision made clear that the FCC has broad authority under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preserve an open Internet -- a significant victory for the agency.

The FCC's Open Internet Order, adopted in 2010, prevents Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking services or providing varying degrees of network access for different content providers.

No Blocking, Section 706

One of Wheeler's proposed steps calls for the enhancement and enforcement of the transparency rule so that ISPs would be required to make public how they manage their networks.

A second step: developing a way to maintain the "no blocking" policy that allows the FCC to prohibit an ISP from blocking any provider. Wheeler noted that the federal court order "recognized the importance" of its ban on the blocking of Internet traffic, but it ruled the FCC "had not provided sufficient legal rationale for its existence."

In light of that, he said, the agency can take steps that comply with the court's order but ensures that "edge providers are not unfairly blocked, explicitly or implicitly, from reaching consumers, as well as ensuring that consumers can continue to access any lawful content or services they choose." Edge providers are those who provide goods and services over the Net, and the steps to be taken were not specified.

The third proposed step, Wheeler said, is for his...

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Forget Bitcoin, Amazon Wants You To Use Its Coins

While Bitcoin remains a controversial digital currency system, Amazon is forging ahead with coins of its own for Android phones and tablets. The e-commerce giant just announced that customers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany can now buy, spend and early Amazon Coins on the Android platform.

Until now, Android Coins were only available for use with Kindle Fire Tablets. By opening them up to more devices, consumers can use the digital currency to buy the latest apps, like Ridiculous Fishing, purchase extra lives within Candy Crush, or unlock Red's amazing Super Roaster in Angry Birds GO directly from their Android devices.

"Since the launch of Amazon Coins, we've been amazed by the number of customers using Coins, as well as how many Coins they're spending on apps and games," said Mike George, vice president, Amazon Appstore and Games. "Because customers can earn Coins when they buy apps in Amazon's Appstore, and because they can buy Coins themselves at up to a 10 percent discount, customers love the extra value they get when shopping in our Appstore."

Attracting Developers

HereEUs how it works: Customers need to download the latest version of the Amazon Appstore and their existing Coin balances automatically appear. Customers can earn extra Amazon Coins by downloading specific apps or by reaching achievements within certain games.

At the other end of the app world, Amazon Appstore developers still earn their standard 70 percent revenue share when customers make purchases using Amazon Coins. By extending Amazon Coins to Android devices, the company is offering developers a more complete system for building, monetizing and marketing their apps and games.

Indeed, thereEUs a slew of options for developers, from in-app purchases to mobile ads and from A/B testing to analytics. The analytics, for example, provide usage metrics on daily and monthly active devices, sessions,...

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pCell Promises To Reinvent Wireless with Amazing Speed

Mobile reception at fiber optic speeds, with no dead zones or congestion. ThatEUs the promise of a new technology being unveiled today by Artemis Networks and technology visionary Steve Perlman.

Perlman is the tech pioneer behind the cloud gaming service OnLive and WebTV, a thin client online service that uses a TV for display and is now owned by Microsoft. Through his company Artemis Networks, Perlman is now launching a new way of transmitting and receiving wireless broadband, which he calls pCell -- short for personal cell technology. The preliminary technology was originally called DIDO, and was first announced nearly three years ago. In fact, the Artemis website says the technology has been in development, with a small team working on it now for over a decade.

One difference in the newest iteration of the technology is that instead of a large cell being formed from a radio transmitting cell tower and shared by many devices, a small, device-specific cell is created. This means that rather than multiple devices competing for fixed capacity inside a large and conventional cell, pCell combines transmissions from various pCell stations to create full capacity for each device.

Successor to LTE?

Each device, inside its own bubble cell, can utilize full capacity because the smart transmission has defined a unique signal. Perlman said using this method can achieve fiber-optic speeds, and it also solves the growing problem of slowdown because of congestion by other mobile devices, especially in urban areas.

Perlman has told news media that his technology will be the successor to the current LTE high-speed wireless technology. His lab-based demonstrations have shown such feats as the 4K UltraHD version of NetflixEUs House of Cards series running on LTE mobile devices.

He told Businessweek magazine that his technology's ability to work with existing cell phones EUmeans we...

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Samsung Reported Ditching Android for Its Smart Watch

Talk to the hand. That's what Samsung Electronics is telling Google as it gets ready to release its second-generation smart watch, according to a published report.

The South Korean tech giant that made Google's Android operating system the world's top mobile platform has designed the Galaxy Gear 2 to run another open-source system, the Linux-based Tizen, anonymous sources told USA Today. Tizen was developed by the non-profit Linux Foundation in cooperation with Samsung and Intel.

Keeping Options Open

Samsung's ZEQ 9000 is expected to be the first smartphone powered by Tizen, according to reports last month, and the South Korean handset king is expected to showcase more Tizen devices, including the new Gear watch at the Mobile World Congress 2014 that begins next week in Barcelona.

USA Today's sources said the Gear watch will run an HTML5 version of Tizen. While the Gear watch prototype ran Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and Google is working on an Android version designed for wearable tech, some developers and manufacturers fear that OS will be less open to new applications than before, the report said.

Samsung is a major partner for Google, with its devices amounting to 39.5 percent of all Android shipments globally in 2013, according to International Data Corp. Android is the world's leading mobile operating system, with a 79 percent of the smartphone market, IDC said, or 793 million units, up 59 percent from 2012, when the market share was 69 percent.

With Tizen in its infancy and still seeking new partners, rolling it out on the Gear watch could mean its time has come.

"Tizen hasn't been that successful so far, however in a connected wearable device there isn't much advantage to Android, given apps would need to be custom designed for the device anyway," technology analyst Rob Enderle told us.

Samsung declined to comment, saying it...

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Microsoft OneDrive Works To One Up Google Drive

Look out Dropbox and Google Drive, Microsoft seems poised to compete for customers with its made-over SkyDrive personal cloud storage service. Redmond on Wednesday re-launched the service once known as SkyDrive as OneDrive.

OneDrive is a free personal cloud storage service that consumers can use to store photos, videos and documents. Better than its predecessor, OneDrive offers new features, like improved video sharing and newly updated apps for Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Xbox.

EUWhen someone picks up their phone, tablet or any other device, they just want all of their favorite photos and the documents they need at their fingertips -- they donEUt want to have to hunt for them,EU said Chris Jones, corporate vice president of OS Services at Microsoft. EUThatEUs the lens we are taking with OneDrive. "WeEUre building it right into all of the latest Microsoft devices and services -- from Xbox to Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 to Office -- but weEUre also making sure itEUs available on the Web and across all other platforms including iOS and Android, so your photos, videos and files are all available anytime you need them.EU

Giving Away the Cloud

According to a recent Microsoft-commissioned online study, at least 77 percent of cloud-familiar consumers have content stored on a device that is not backed up elsewhere, and 69 percent would rather lose the device itself than the content thatEUs stored on it. With OneDrive, Microsoft said people donEUt have to make that choice. OneDrive offers 7 GB of free storage. ThatEUs the equivalent of more than 7,000 photos.

One of the most interesting new features that OneDrive brings to the market is automatic camera backup for Android. The feature works to make it easier for customers to get their photos from their Android phones to their other devices -- and video transcoding --...

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Computer Whizzes Brainstorm for Cash at Hackathons

It used to be that "hacking" was just a type of crime, a computer break-in. But today, the term is also part of a growing -- and perfectly legal -- mainstay of the tech sector. Computer programming competitions known as "hackathons" have spread like viruses in recent years as ways for geeks, nerds and designers to get together to eat pizza, lose sleep and create something new.

The formal, marathon group brainstorming sessions are focused on everything from developing lucrative apps to using computer code to solve the world's problems. This year a record 1,500 hackathons are planned around the globe, up from just a handful in 2010.

"A hackathon is the fastest way to actually do something about an idea," said Nima Adelkhani, organizer of the weekend-long Hack for Peace in the Middle East competition in San Francisco this month.

Law enforcement hasn't abandoned the term. Dozens of federally convicted "hackers" are serving prison sentences for computer fraud and other cybercrimes. And the Justice Department's cybercrime budget this year is $9 million to target offenses that include "hacking."

But the new uses have popped up with increasing frequency since a pair of tech events in 1999 where developers worked together to write programs. Yahoo gets recognition for the first official hackathon in 2005. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been largely credited with helping broaden the definitions by urging his staff to "hack" by "building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done."

A new Facebook option that went live Thursday allowing users more than 50 ways to identify their gender beyond male and female was conceived during a company hackathon four months ago.

This month, the first global hackathon for Black Male Achievement was held in Oakland, California. Music Hack Day is coming in...

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Computer Whizzes Brainstorm for Cash at Hackathons

It used to be that "hacking" was just a type of crime, a computer break-in. But today, the term is also part of a growing -- and perfectly legal -- mainstay of the tech sector. Computer programming competitions known as "hackathons" have spread like viruses in recent years as ways for geeks, nerds and designers to get together to eat pizza, lose sleep and create something new.

The formal, marathon group brainstorming sessions are focused on everything from developing lucrative apps to using computer code to solve the world's problems. This year a record 1,500 hackathons are planned around the globe, up from just a handful in 2010.

"A hackathon is the fastest way to actually do something about an idea," said Nima Adelkhani, organizer of the weekend-long Hack for Peace in the Middle East competition in San Francisco this month.

Law enforcement hasn't abandoned the term. Dozens of federally convicted "hackers" are serving prison sentences for computer fraud and other cybercrimes. And the Justice Department's cybercrime budget this year is $9 million to target offenses that include "hacking."

But the new uses have popped up with increasing frequency since a pair of tech events in 1999 where developers worked together to write programs. Yahoo gets recognition for the first official hackathon in 2005. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been largely credited with helping broaden the definitions by urging his staff to "hack" by "building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done."

A new Facebook option that went live Thursday allowing users more than 50 ways to identify their gender beyond male and female was conceived during a company hackathon four months ago.

This month, the first global hackathon for Black Male Achievement was held in Oakland, California. Music Hack Day is coming in...

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Microsoft Demos Skype-Lync Videoconferencing

When Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, a key question was when the new acquisition would be integrated with the company's existing Lync enterprise communications tool. This week, the technology giant is taking several more steps toward that goal.

At Microsoft's Lync Conference in Las Vegas, which opened Tuesday, the company demonstrated videoconferencing between the two applications -- Lync, the unified communications platform for business, inside the firewall, and Skype, the unified communications platform for consumers, outside the firewall.

There have also been some efforts by Microsoft to develop Skype for small businesses. The Lync team reports to the Skype team, and both are part of the company's Applications and Services division.

Stage Two

In spring of last year, the first stage of integration between Lync and Skype was completed, allowing users to contact those in the other program, as well as conduct IMs or audio calls. At that point, videoconferencing was not possible between the two.

Tuesday's videoconferencing demonstration, however, is apparently just that, and Microsoft has told news media that the demonstrated capability will not be available until later this year.

The two programs do not appear to be on track to be fully merged. File sharing between Skype and Lync, for example, is apparently not on the drawing board.

In a posting Tuesday on The Official Microsoft Blog, Corporate Vice President Gurdeep Singh Pall, who conducted the on-stage videoconferencing demonstration, noted that Lync is now a $1 billion business, and added that it ships "more unified communications voice lines to enterprises than any other technology company in the world." He added that Skype and Lync experiences will be brought "even closer over time to make it easier for people to communicate, both at work and in life."

Same Tools

Pall made the vision a bit clearer in an interview Monday with CNN. He said that "the...

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Microsoft Goes Social With Dynamics CRM

Redmond is flexing its social customer service muscles. Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a set of Dynamics CRM capabilities, including social listening, aimed at helping organizations match their customers to the right products and services, engage with them in the right way at the right time, and nurture their relationships.

Microsoft trumpeted the new release, which is expected to make its market debut in the second quarter of 2014, as delivering on its rapid innovation promise. Indeed, the new Dynamics CRM release adds new functionality to help marketers be smarter and efficiently drive and manage marketing campaigns.

New tools also promise to help businesses engage with and care for customers in a personalized manner on virtually any device, anywhere and to ultimately sell more effectively. And in one of the most anticipated features yet, Microsoft has added social listening to the mix to serve up deeper customer insights.

Changing the CRM Game?

EUBusinesses want solutions that give them market insights and the ability to deliver amazing customer experiences,EU said Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. EUThe new Microsoft Dynamics CRM update democratizes social listening, adds new marketing capabilities for more impact and enables businesses to deliver outstanding customer service. With this new release, we are essentially changing the CRM game.EU

Microsoft is betting chief marketing officers want a marketing solution that helps them plan and execute strong marketing campaigns, gives them insights into the impacts of their marketing activities, and provides them with the ability to optimize the marketing mix to deliver the most impact to their businesses. Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, formerly MarketingPilot, aims to fill the bill by adding marketing automation functionality to Dynamics CRM that promises to deliver insights that will help marketers be smarter and more effectively engage with their customers.

One of the new capabilities is the Unified...

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HTC Eyes Customer Experience and Mobile World Congress

With the Mobile World Congress just around the corner, running February 24-27 in Barcelona, many smartphone manufacturers are beginning to provide details regarding new devices and services that will be shown off in full at the annual event. Hundreds of telecom-related companies will be at MWC this year but speculation has been building particularly in relation to HTC Corp.

The Taiwan-based smartphone manufacturer on Tuesday announced its new "HTC Advantage" program, which will provide certain guarantees to its customers, including free replacement of a screen broken within six months of purchase, and Android updates for two years. HTC, which has been struggling financially in recent months, hopes that the HTC Advantage program will improve the customer experience and provide new leverage in the fiercely competitive smartphone market.

Targeting Customer Satisfaction

Although some of its products like the flagship HTC One smartphone are popular, HTC only has a small share of the overall smartphone market, especially when compared with Samsung and Apple. HTC recently made it clear that in 2014 and 2015, it will begin to shift its focus back to less expensive devices. At the same time though, the Advantage program will be used to enhance the company's image with existing and potential customers.

Ed Kuhner, HTC's new vice president of customer experience, said the new Advantage program is about providing the things that any premium smartphone company should be offering.

"Keeping customers happy is something we believe a premium product maker should do," Kuhner said in a statement. "So we commit to continually listening to our customers and developing new, innovative solutions based on customer feedback and addressing their pain points over time -- that's the HTC Advantage."

Other executives at HTC Americas, including President Jason Mackenzie, echoed the points made by Kuhner. Mackenzie said that "carrying that commitment beyond the handset purchase"...

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