Scribd Aims To Create Netflix for Books

Online document-sharing site Scribd is taking a page from Netflix's success story as it sets out to create the world's largest subscription service for digital books.

The opening chapter in Scribd's quest begins Tuesday with the introduction of an e-book subscription service that will boast thousands of titles published by HarperCollins before July 2012. HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp., becomes the first of the five largest U.S. publishers to join a service vying to create an alternative to buying individual titles.

Scribd will charge $9 per month for a service that offers unlimited access to most of HarperCollins' back catalog, as well as an assortment of other books from smaller publishers. Recent best sellers from Harper Collins aren't included in the subscription service, although customers will be able to buy new titles individually on Scribd's site.

"I feel we are moving into new uncharted waters, but that's what innovating and reading is all about," HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray said in an interview. "I feel like this is the right deal with the right partner at the right time and we are going to learn."

With their personal log-in, subscribers throughout the world will be able to browse through books using Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad, mobile devices running on Google Inc.'s Android software and any personal computer with a Web browser. As long as they are logged in, subscribers will be able to stop reading a book on one device and pick up where they left off on another.

"For power readers, this is going to be like a dream come true," predicted Scribd CEO Trip Adler. "We think this could really change the book publishing's business model and change people's reading behavior."

In the process, Scribd could help publishers cultivate an alternative to the electronic books stores run by Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc....

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Is Nokia Destined To Be Next BlackBerry?

Will the next great wireless brand destined for the landfill be Nokia? The bargain basement buyout of BlackBerry last week is a stark reminder of how fast-paced the velocity of change occurs in the wireless business. It also shines Klieg lights on Microsoft's absorption of Nokia's beleaguered handset business.

It wasn't that long ago -- just a couple of years -- that Nokia could still boast that it was the world's largest seller of smartphones. Granted the deceleration started earlier, but Nokia never managed to parlay that early advantage into a sustainable leadership position in that all-too-important category.

Smartphones are arguably the most important technology device to emerge since the personal computer during the last century. Now Nokia's handset business, which was once a gold standard in mobile wireless telephony, is fighting to stay relevant after recently being rescued by Microsoft, which has agreed to take the handset business off its hands for $7.2 billion.

Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's handset outfit has given some optimists hope that the software maker can emerge as a major competitor in mobile computing. But some critics see the move as more of an act of desperation by both Nokia and Microsoft, rather than a logical step to build a competitive platform in mobile phones.

Personal computer sales, obviously, are in decline at the hands of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. In Nokia, Microsoft is chasing a dying business in an attempt to reinvent itself and to convince stockholders that it can still innovate with new products and compete in wireless.

However, the buyout basically transfers the structural problems Nokia couldn't figure out independently to Microsoft, a company, mind you, that actually has less experience in the hyper-competitive mobile computing landscape than Nokia.

The fundamental problems are still the same. The demand for phones on the Windows operating system simply...

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Icahn Pushing Apple To Spend $150B Buying Stock

Activist investor Carl Icahn is pressuring Apple to spend $150 billion buying back its own stock, a target that would more than double the amount that the company's board authorized in a previous attempt to placate frustrated shareholders.

Icahn took to the Internet and the TV airwaves Tuesday to make it clear that he believes Apple Inc. isn't doing nearly enough to boost its stock price, which has fallen by 30 percent from its peak in September 2012. The slump has turned Apple's stock into a bargain, Icahn said on the financial news channel CNBC, making it a "no-brainer" for the maker of the iPhone and iPad to pour more money into its shares.

The Apple board pledged in April to spend $60 billion buying back its stock through the end of 2015. About $18 billion of that commitment had been exhausted through June.

Icahn went public with his demands after making his case with Apple CEO Tim Cook in a Monday dinner hosted at his New York apartment. The face-to-face conversation came seven weeks after Icahn, a billionaire who has built his fortune by investing in out-of-favor companies, disclosed that he had bought a significant stake in Apple and signaled he would be campaigning for changes.

Monday's three-hour meeting was "cordial," according to the often-confrontational Icahn, although he said the mood got "testy" when Apple's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, expressed misgivings about asking the board to reconsider how much the Cupertino, California, company should be spending on its own stock.

"I said, `So what? The board is not God,'" Icahn said during an interview on the financial news channel CNBC. "The board should be listening to what their shareholders want."

Icahn said Apple agreed to get back in touch with him in three weeks.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling...

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Western Digital Launches ‘My Cloud’ Hard Drives

A cloud of your own. That's what Western Digital (WD) is offering with its new line of My Cloud hard drives that provide terabytes of password-protected local storage in a Net-connected storage that acts, essentially, as one's private cloud.

A My Cloud personal cloud hard drive, connected to the Net, allows owners to have Net-based access to their own storage without concerns about files residing under someone else's control or having to pay monthly fees, as with public cloud storage services.

Jim Welsh, executive vice president and GM of the company's consumer electronics group, said in a statement that "there's no place like home for the cloud." He added that his company's personal cloud is "the easiest, most secure and most affordable way for customers to control" their files, with "anywhere, anytime" access.

Integration with Public Cloud Services

The MyCloud drive runs on Linux, but is compatible with PCs, Macs, and Android- or iOS-based tablets or smartphones via free desktop and mobile apps. And the drives allow users to share files, stream media and access their content through the Net. Setup is achieved through a Web-based interface, aided by WD software that auto-detects the drive's specs. WD SmartWare Pro software is available for setting up auto-backup; Mac users can employ Apple Time Machine software.

The drives feature a Gigabit Ethernet connection and dual-core processor, is available in 2, 3 and 4 terabyte capacities, and utilizes the 128-bit AES encryption algorithm. A compatible USB 3.0 hard drive can also be connected to the My Cloud drive's USB expansion port to add more storage. There's integration with such cloud storage services as Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive, for transferring files.

The 2 TB goes for $149, the 3 TB for $180 and the 4 TB for $250. A WD spokesperson has pointed out to news media that 2...

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Google Tries To End EU Antitrust Case

Finally, an antitrust case against Google in the European Union may be coming to an end. For the past three years, Google has been involved in an investigation, with its competitors claiming that the search giant has been abusing its position as the most popular search engine.

According to its competitors -- including Microsoft -- Google has only been showing its own products in search results, meaning that competitors have been pushed aside. New concessions from Google may cause the search engine to include logos and introductory text for its competitors when a person looks for various online services.

The Center Of Trouble: Google Products

The European Union's crusade against Google can be boiled down to a few basic complaints made by Google's competitors against the company. EU antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia has been at the head of the investigation, and has pushed aside -- on the behalf of the competitors -- the search giant's proposals up to this point.

Almunia's main concerns regarding Google's search results include Google's display of its own products without making it known to a user, and the removal of third-party content from Google search without the owner's permission. Outside of the core search result complaints made against Google, there were also some concerns regarding Google Adsense/Adwords.

As of right now, Google does not allow advertisers to port their campaigns onto rival search ad platforms, nor does the company allow publishers to display advertising from Google competitors on their sites.

The Fix

Now that Google has agreed to change its policies on its search and advertising policies, Almunia is hopeful that a deal may finally go through and the antitrust investigation will end.

Google has already stated in previous plans that it will completely get rid of the advertising regulations that have been a topic of concern. For the most...

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Grand Theft Auto Online Stalls Out Big Time

With $800 million worth of Grand Theft Auto V copies sold in just one day, there are millions of gamers currently trying to get onto Rockstar Games' latest creation, Grand Theft Auto Online. Of course, since the servers can only handle so much, almost no one was able to log into the game after its 7 a.m. Eastern launch.

Even with Rockstar acknowledging that there would be (and are) issues with overloaded servers, online game launches always tend to cause some trouble, as we have seen with titles such as SimCity, which was pretty much unplayable for days.

Millions of Gamers

Every person who bought Grand Theft Auto V was given the ability to access GTA Online for free, meaning that with more than 500 missions present in the new title, there are tons of people that will try to access Rockstar's servers.

According to current statistics, GTA 5 has sold around 15 million copies and it is safe to say that at least 5 million of those buyers will be trying to get onto GTA Online. Knowing this, Rockstar predicted that there would be some hiccups in the GTA Online launch and so far, the prediction has become reality.

There are a slew of tweets from gamers who have been unable to even log into GTA Online because of overloaded servers that couldn't even keep up with the traffic just a few minutes after the game went live. Rockstar has already apologized and has said that it will be coming out with a fix shortly. Reportedly, part of that fix is going to be buying tons of extra GTA Online servers.

"For those trying to get into GTA Online today, please bear w/ us on some day one tech connection issues that we're working to stabilize asap," said Rockstar in a tweet earlier this...

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IBM Buys Another Analytics Firm, Beefing Up MobileFirst

Big Blue has scooped up yet another analytics firm. This time, IBM is betting on The Now Factory, a privately-held analytics software provider that helps communication service providers (CSPs) deliver better customer experiences and drive new revenue opportunities.

IBM says The Now Factory nicely complements its own MobileFirst Analytics portfolio. MobileFirst is designed to enhance how organizations analyze mobile device usage.

With The Now Factory's analytics, CSPs can gain real-time insights into their customers by analyzing massive quantities of network and business data. With this type of insight, IBM said, CSPs can provide better service quality to their customers by better managing negative experiences and network outages.

"Today's announcement is part of IBM's strategy to continually establish leadership in the era of big data and capitalize on the opportunity to analyze data in real time," said Bob Picciano, general manager of Information Management at IBM Software Group. "The Now Factory's software enhances IBM's big data and analytics portfolio by improving the speed, development and implementation of big data solutions, and gives communications service providers the ability to better service their customers."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Explosive Demand

The explosion of growth in the volume of real-time data that is being produced by mobile devices and the strain it is putting on mobile networks to collect and process events instantly, monitor their performances, and understand the impact of customer interaction is driving demand for this type of software.

According to analyst and research firm Informa Telecoms and Media, by 2016 the average mobile phone subscriber will use 6.5 times as much video. That's 10 times as much gaming data, and eight times as much content for social media and music than they currently consume.

IBM said The Now Factory's software helps CSPs better understand how a subscriber interacts with cloud-based services, such as mobile...

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FreedomPop Steps Into Phone Biz with HTC EVO Design

Los Angeles-based wireless Internet provider FreedomPop on Tuesday launched its own phone deal, placing the HTC EVO Design handset as the phone brand for sale along with a free monthly service plan. This is a decisive step for the company and for all consumers taking a harder look at their monthly fees for smartphones.

FreedomPop essentially is stepping into the mobile phone business with its phone plus phone service offering, complete with voice and messaging communications services.

The smartphone launch program is in beta. The company intends to roll it out to more consumers if the beta proves successful, at which point the company will ramp it up. FreedomPop is using a pricing model that gives away 200 "anytime" voice minutes, 500 texts and 500 MB of data every month for free. You pay for anything additional. Heavier users will be allowed unlimited voice and unlimited texting for $10.99 per month with no contract.

The wireless Internet company is starting with a WiMAX-powered, refurbished HTC EVO Design, as its first Android handset, priced at $99. FreedomPop service runs on the Sprint network. The service will appear to the consumer as another regular mobile voice and messaging service; FreedomPop is able to provide a disruptive price system in running voice calls over data networks, keeping costs low.

CEO on a Mission

Obviously, FreedomPop's phone launch will not resonate with smartphone owners who believe their wads of cash are well spent on high-end phones with sophisticated features and conventional service plans. For other light call and light messaging users with no such next-gen prestige dreams, a $99, refurbished smartphone is difficult to ignore.

"FreedomPop's mission is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, convenient and essential communication services," said Stephen Stokols, FreedomPop's CEO and co-founder. "With this launch, we've just taken our...

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Symantec Takes Down Mega Botnet

ZeroAccess, one of the largest-known botnets in existence today with more than 1.9 million computers in its network, is becoming a big problem for security teams. The botnet relies on peer-to-peer (P2P) and command-and-control (C&C) communications architecture to give it a high degree of availability and redundancy.

Symantec just took it down.

Given its construction and behavior, Symantec reports that ZeroAccess appears to be primarily designed to deliver payloads to infected computers. In a ZeroAccess botnet, the productive activity -- from an attacker's point of view -- is performed by the payloads downloaded to compromised computers, which boil down to two basic types, both aimed at revenue generating activities.

"One type of payload we've seen is the click fraud Trojan," Symantec wrote in a blog post. "The Trojan downloads online advertisements onto the computer and then generates artificial clicks on the ads as if they were generated by legitimate users. These false clicks count for pay-outs in pay-per-click (PPC) affiliate schemes."

Proactive and Realistic

Ken Pickering, director of engineering at CORE Security, told us botnets are fairly common and can be largely financially successful for their owners -- and that's part of the reason criminals continue to innovate around their C&C elements and the malware used to grow them.

"The real interesting part of the botnet is how it distributes tasks to the slave machines it controls. The malware itself is usually fairly straightforward, but it's the obfuscation techniques used to conceal the control servers and the actions the botnet owners take to avoid being shutdown that's the real trick," Pickering said.

"I think Symantec's attack was proactive and a realistic response to this fairly large cybercrime industry. There's not a whole lot of other ways to combat these guys. But, realistically, disabling the botnet only puts a temporary financial speed bump for these guys....

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Samsung Launches App Exchange for Businesses

Can a business-focused apps marketplace make a big difference for a mobile device maker? Samsung is trying to find out with its Samsung Solutions Exchange, a mobile app store that is oriented to businesses.

However, it is not just an aggregation of existing business apps, but the result of Samsung's assessment of needs after discussions with business customers. The device maker also worked with developers to provide apps that build on features found in Samsung devices, such as its S Pen or specific gestural interaction. Devices include tablets, smartphones, and the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

In support of this development effort, the technology giant has provided a software development kit and more than 1000 APIs. It is working with large companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and SAP, as well as smaller firms, such as Citrix, AccuCode, Belkin, clickSoftware, and DecisionPoint. In addition to apps, the Solutions Exchange also offers access to developer partners for creating customized software using Samsung devices.

SAFE, Knox

Tim Wagner, VP and general manager of Samsung Mobile's enterprise business, told news media that, instead of creating a desktop app first and then some version of that for mobile later, Samsung was looking for developers to create the apps with "full functionality on mobile devices," with mobile coming first. He added that Samsung has the ambitious goal of becoming the top mobile device provider to businesses within the next 18 months.

The new Exchange is only the latest effort by the company, now the world's largest smartphone marker, to woo business users. In 2011, for instance, Samsung launched its Samsung for Enterprise (SAFE) effort, which labeled devices as being enterprise-ready by providing them with encryption, virtual private networks, and IT-pleasing remote wipe, among other mobile device management functions. Last year, the company released its Knox security platform, which offers the ability...

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