Dual-core Samsung Galaxy S III landing on 5 U.S. carriers in June


Coming to five carriers, starting at $200, Samsung is pushing its flagship phone hard.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Samsung means business. The consumer electronics giant has just announced sales of its Samsung Galaxy S III flagship
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone for five U.S. carriers starting in June.

Verizon, ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular will all receive variations of the Galaxy S III this month, but Samsung isn’t sharing the exact pricing and release date for each carrier just yet. What we do know is that $200 is the lowest price of the bunch.

What’s incredibly interesting (and what CNET had predicted) is that the U.S.-based version, like its HTC One X rival, will carry a 1.5 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor as opposed to the 1.4GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor that’s used in the global release.

The “downgrade” is likely due to a current incompatibility between the quad-core chip and LTE data networks, just as with the HTC One X, which forewent the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor that was used in the global version of its hero device.

If you’re tempted to get huffy over your quad-core loss, keep in mind that Qualcomm’s Continue reading

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Wii U, ‘Halo 4′ boost anticipation for E3

Wii U, 'Halo 4' boost anticipation for E3 For a preview of the next big thing in video gaming, look no further than the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the splashy industry showcase that kicks off Monday in Los Angeles.

Will it be the oddly named Wii U, Nintendo’s attempt to update its aging Wii console for a new wave of gamers? Or “Halo 4,” the next chapter in the massively popular sci-fi action series? Or maybe a surprise device or game that comes out of nowhere to captivate attendees?

This year’s E3, as the annual trade show is better known, arrives during a time of upheaval for the multibillion-dollar gaming industry, which is scrambling to adapt to changing consumer habits. While home console gaming remains huge, more and more people are playing casual or social games on touchscreen phones and tablets.

“I think we may be seeing the last generation of dedicated handheld gaming systems with the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS,” said Blair Herter, co-host G4TV’s “X-Play.” “What we’ve seen is the mobile gaming space really take over what used to be considered the handheld gaming market.”

Many analysts, including Herter, think this year’s E3 won’t have as much bang as previous shows. Herter said he thinks this is because of expectations for next-generation consoles being developed by Sony and Microsoft for release in 2013, and game developers’ hesitation to make something that might have a short shelf life.

As an industry-only event, E3 is geared toward gaming media, developers and insiders. But in an effort to reach out to the public, many companies will be streaming events and shows throughout the four days of the conference to give fans early glimpses at new games and let them hear from developers directly.

The E3 show floor doesn’t open until Tuesday, although festivities begin Monday with press announcements by Microsoft, Sony and several game developers. Here’s a roundup of what to look for:

The Wii U, ready for its closeup

Most companies at E3 will be showing off what their existing hardware can do or emphasizing new video game titles.

Nintendo is the only one of the Big Three console makers — a trio that includes Microsoft and Sony — that will be demonstrating a new gaming system this year — the Wii U. While the Wii U was previewed in more primitive form at last year’s E3, there have reportedly been some changes in how the console looks and what it can do.

Official word has been hush hush, which is typical for Nintendo before a big announcement. However, some images and news have leaked out suggesting the touchscreen controller for the Wii U will be different from what was shown last year.

There has been some confusion about whether the Wii U is just a new controller or a more powerful console. Nintendo hopes to clear that up next week by demonstrating a “final” version of the system with games designed specifically for the Wii U. At last year’s E3, Nintendo showed a Wii U video demo featuring gameplay from Xbox 360 and PlayStation games.

Pricing remains a mystery for the Wii U, which is expected to go on sale in fall 2012. In April, Nintendo chief executive Satoru Iwata said a price for the new console would not be announced at E3, but that the company would reveal its initial lineup of games. Some industry analysts think Nintendo needs to announce a price at E3 to generate buzz for the console.

Some observers think the current lineup of consoles — the Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 — will all be replaced by newer systems by late 2013.

“I think it is safe to assume this will be the last E3 where the current generation of consoles are talked about,” said G4TV’s Herter.

At E3, both Sony and Microsoft will be focusing on new software for their current systems.

Sony is expected to make a big push for games for its PS Vita handheld console. The new gaming platform, released in February, has been suffering from a lack of new content after its initial launch. Critics have praised the Vita as technologically impressive but agree the device needs major game franchises to make it more popular.

Help may be on the way in the form of new Vita titles. “Little Big Planet Karting,” a racing game featuring Sackboy, and “PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale,” a fighting game with some of Sony’s top characters, are likely to be announced next week as part of cross-platform gameplay with the PlayStation 3.

There also have been strong rumors of a “Monster Hunter” game for the Vita to increase support for the console in Japan.

Microsoft will concentrate its E3 efforts on development for the popular Kinect motion controller and additional games for the venerable Xbox 360. There also are rumors flying around that Microsoft will unveil a more refined recognition system for Kinect, including the sensor’s ability to read individual finger movements.

Microsoft also may announce new partnerships with TV broadcasters and programs in an effort to further transform the gaming console into a home entertainment center. Currently, HBO, ESPN, Hulu Plus, Netflix and others are part of the television lineup for the Xbox 360.

Big game titles

On the software front for the Xbox 360, “Halo 4″ will be showcased in a four-hour event with its new developer, 343 Industries, and the return of Master Chief as the main character. The game is due out in November. Other exclusive, unannounced titles for the Microsoft console and Kinect are also expected — although some franchises may be holding out for a next-generation console in a year or so.

While “Halo 4″ is one of the biggest titles at E3, it is far from the only hotly anticipated game. We hope to see more from “Assassin’s Creed III” (made by UbiSoft) and its setting in the American colonies, more from “Dishonored” (Bethesda) and its steampunk action, and more about “Resident Evil 6″ (Capcom) and that game’s multiplayer/co-op modes.

“There are a lot of great [big-name] games that are going to be there and be talked about,” Herter said. “But even the software is going to be a little less than what people expect because of the potential for next-gen consoles next year.”

On the other end of the gaming spectrum, there are also plans for several new massive multiplayer online games. One, “Defiance” (Trion Worlds), features a unique tie-in with a new sci-fi TV series, where what happens on the show can affect what happens in the game.

What we won’t see at E3

For all the hype and excitement about E3 announcements, there are some notable titles and companies that are choosing to bypass this year’s event. The makers of “BioShock Infinite,” one of the most highly anticipated games for 2012, were originally scheduled to show off new gameplay and features. But the game’s release was pushed back to February 2013, and creative director Ken Levine said the next time people will see the game is when it’s ready to go in the box for delivery.

“Grand Theft Auto V,” the latest in the blockbuster urban action series, also may skip E3. Rockstar, developer for the game, said it has no plans for the show, although some watchers speculate that could change at the last minute.

Despite persistent rumors, Valve Software has said it doesn’t expect to reveal any new hardware — or popular games such as “Half-Life 3″ or “Portal 3″ — next week. But Valve does plan to attend E3, and misdirection from gaming companies has been known to occur before the show.

By next week at this time, we’ll know much more about the best gaming has to offer for the next 12 months. Gamers, what are you hoping to see at E3? And what are you most looking forward to later this year?

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Live blog: Sony’s E3 2012 press conference

Sony's E3 2012 press conference(Credit:
Corinne Schulze/ CBS Interactive)

More details of God of War: Ascension? A cloud gaming acquisition? A reason to care about
PlayStation Move?

We’ve already outlined what we expect Sony will announce at this year’s E3 press conference. To see the news as it happens, heat up some dinner and check back here on Monday, June 4, at 5:45 p.m. PT/8:45 p.m. ET.

While you’re waiting, feel free to peruse our ongoing coverage of E3 2012.

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If Facebook wants Opera, the price just went up


Opera Mini on iOS today shows Facebook as one of its pre-loaded “speed dial” bookmarks. Opera Mini relies on Opera’s servers to process Web pages, sending a boiled-down and less interactive version to an iPhone or iPad.

screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

If Facebook wants to buy Opera Software, the Norwegian browser maker’s price tag just went up.

After last week’s rumors that Facebook was considering acquiring Opera, Opera’s stock price leapt up 20 percent, or 6.70 Norwegian kroner, to about a price of about 41 kroner ($6.83) in trading today.

That gives the company a market cap of $811 million, or as Internet wags would have it with today’s exchange rate, about 0.8 Instagrams.

That’s a lot of money, even before any premium. And Opera founder Jon S. von Tetzchner, who controls 10.1 percent of its stock through Dvorzak Invest, could be roadblock, telling Reuters today he wants Opera to concentrate on its own business growth. “I want Opera to focus on growth and delivering good results; there are big opportunities for Opera,” he said.

But Facebook does have a market cap of $87 billion, despite last week’s Facebook IPO mess, which gives it some flexibility. And as Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols wrote at CNET sister site ZDNet, “It’s not like Zuckerberg has to answer to either his stockholders or his board.”

Opera declined to comment. We’ve contacted Facebook and will update this story if Facebook has anything to add. Pocket-lint reported last week that Facebook is looking to buy Opera, and The Next Web added that Opera is “talking to potential buyers.”

Why would Facebook want to buy a browser company? To better control its destiny, most likely.

That’s because vertical integration is all the rage these days as everybody tries to catch up to Apple’s tightly linked suite of technologies, and a browser is an increasingly important foundational layer in the software stack.

Web standards such as HTML5 and CSS3 are tremendously important to Facebook because their cross-platform nature lets the company build apps for many mobile phones, not just high-profile models such as the
iPhone. In a speech at Mobile World Congress in February, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor described how Web Facebook would like better Web standards support to make it easier to reach more mobile devices.

Right now, Web apps can’t match native apps on mobile devices, a shortcoming pointed out by Mike Shaver, who leads Facebook’s
Android app development now but who previously led
Firefox engineering. The Facebook app for Android is “mostly a wrapper” around the mobile Web site, he said.

Reports of Facebooks interest in Opera Software pushed its stock price beyond 40 Norwegian kroner.

Reports of Facebook’s interest in Opera Software pushed its stock price beyond 40 Norwegian kroner.

Yahoo Finance)

In stark contrast to a few years ago, when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer ruled the world, browsing competition is as fierce as it’s ever been today. After Firefox opened the door, Google’s Chrome raced through, and Apple’s iOS means that Safari has become the incumbent power for mobile devices. Even Yahoo is getting into the browser business with Axis, although that relies on other browsers for the core job of rendering Web pages.

Having a browser could help Facebook ensure that using a Web-based Facebook app works the way the company wants — in particular for the tens of millions of Opera users who don’t have Android or iOS phones. And a browser could serve as a vehicle to promote the services that Facebook wants — for example, searches wired to Facebook’s partners, Microsoft Bing.

Just getting a browser team isn’t enough to really control your destiny, though. Apple dramatically restricts what third-party browsers can do on iOS, for example, and Microsoft plans similar browser restrictions with Windows RT, its version of the OS for devices using low-power ARM processors typically geared for tablets and other mobile devices.

April 2012 mobile device browser statistics

Much of the new growth on mobile devices is with built-in browsers for Android and iOS and at the expense of Opera’s browser share. In absolute terms, though, Opera said, its browser use is increasing.

Net Applications)

Those restrictions iPhones and iPads allow Opera Mini, which uses an Opera server to load and render a Web page, but bars Opera Mobile, which has its own engine for processing HTML and executing JavaScript. If JavaScript isn’t running on a mobile device, there are some pretty firm limits to the sophistication of a mobile browser and on the interactivity of any Web apps it’s running.

Acquiring Opera also could give Facebook greater clout in creating and solidifying Web standards. Opera has small market share globally compared to its rivals, but it’s still got millions of users and a strong presence in standards groups that are hammering out the future of the Web. Facebook recently has become active in one of those groups, the World Wide Web Consortium.

Then of course there’s that Facebook phone rumor. Given the company’s penchant for Web apps, it’s certainly possible such a device could resemble Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko (B2G) project, which runs Web apps in an embedded browser.

Through B2G, Mozilla is working on some of the interfaces that a browser-based smartphone needs, including some of the interfaces that Shaver called for, including camera control and notifications. Telefonica has signed on as a B2G supporter as a way to sell lower-cost smartphones, so the project is real if not anything that’s going to dethrone Android or iOS any time soon.

So I could see a case for Facebook acquiring Opera, even if spending hundreds of millions of dollars has a tremendous opportunity cost. The acquisition would be a stretch, perhaps, but it looks right now like Facebook is trying more to stretch its wings than take a cautious approach to growth.

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Pinterest users twice as likely to buy stuff than Facebook users

Are you apt to buy an item you see pop up on Pinterest or Facebook?

Most of the Pinterest and Facebook users polled by marketing firm SteelHouse said that the sites play a key role in their online buying. But Pinterest users are twice as likely to buy items they see on the site than are Facebook users.

Drilling further, 59 percent of Pinterest users said they’ve already bought something they saw pinned on Pinterest. In comparison, 33 percent of Facebook folks said they’ve bought a product or service they saw on an ad, a news feed, or a friend’s wall.

Still, Facebook remains the top choice among consumers for generating ideas on what they’d like to buy. It’s also the No 1. social network for product sharing.

More than half (55 percent) of shoppers prefer to share news about their online purchase via Facebook. That compares with 22 percent for Twitter, 14 percent for Pinterest, 5 percent for Instagram, and only 3 percent for LinkedIn.

Moving beyond just Pinterest and Facebook, 98 percent of those polled said that online customer reviews are a major influence on their decision to buy a product or service.

A full 72 percent always read reviews before buying an item, while 26 percent sometimes read such reviews. And 83 percent take into account both the written comments and the star ratings, with half saying the lowest star rating they’d accept is three out of five.

To compile its results, SteelHouse conducted a national survey of 309 online shoppers.

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Inventor crafts $20 ‘electronic viewfinder’ for iPhone

electronic viewfinder for iPhone(Credit:
Paul Anderson)

Paul Anderson, an inventor based in Oregon, has created an
iPhone accessory called the Daylight Viewfinder, which blocks out stray sunlight and improves your ability to see images on the screen when framing your shots.

The device is made up of two components: an eyepiece attachment and a dedicated camera app. Users first need to launch the app, and then affix the eyepiece attachment to a specific part of the iPhone screen via a suction cup.


Daylight Viewfinder(Credit:
Paul Anderson)

The built-in magnifier in the eyepiece enlarges a small 216×162-pixel view of the scene on the iPhone’s Retina Display, giving you the equivalent of an electronic viewfinder (EVF).

Made in the U.S., the Daylight Viewfinder is only compatible with the
iPhone 4 and 4S, fourth-generation
iPod Touch, and new iPad. The dedicated camera app will be available for free on the Apple App Store and the Daylight Viewfinder attachment can be had for a basic $20 pledge on Kickstarter.

(Source: Crave Asia via PetaPixel)

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New computer malware targeting Iran

New computer malware targeting IranThe discovery of a malicious computer program that appears to be collecting sensitive information from Iran and others indicates the global cyberwar has moved to a new level, warn security experts.

Kaspersky Labs, the Russian internet security company that discovered the malware, codenamed Flame, said it was more complex and sophisticated than any of the cyberweapons it has seen to date. “The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war,” said Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder of Kaspersky Lab.

At the end of April, computers at Iran’s oil ministry were reported to have been attacked by hackers, and experts at Symantec, the US IT security company, said on Monday that parts of the Flame program were identical to the malware used in that attack. The incident was played down by the government at the time and it was unclear if any data was lost.

Earlier this year the head of Iran’s Civil Defence Organisation had also said that the country’s energy sector had been subject to an increasing number of cyberattacks over the past two years. Flame is thought to have been in operation since 2010.

The Stuxnet virus raised widespread panic when it was discovered in 2010, because it was believed to have caused physical damage at Iran’s nuclear facilities, the first known computer worm to target industrial controls. While Flame is not thought to have caused this kind of damage, it appears to be able to spy on organisations in a number of ways, including switching on microphones attached to a computer to record conversations and sounds.

Orla Cox, senior security operations manager at Symantec, said the code was likely to have been written by a nation state. “It is very professionally written and does not even look like a piece of malware. We suspect there is some nation state involvement because of the funding you would need to have behind this.”

Apart from anything else, she said, the amount of information being collected by the program was so vast, it would require large resources to sift through it all. “This is a fully-featured spying program that is grabbing anything it can,” Ms Cox said.

Only a few hundred individuals appear to have been affected by the malware, Ms Cox said, and security experts were still trying to see whether there was any link or pattern to those affected.

Stuxnet and Duqu, another malware program, are widely believed to have been created by the US and Israeli governments, although neither country has confirmed their involvement.

Iran’s armed forces have created a special unit to defend the country against computer attacks, which works closely with the defence, telecommunications and intelligence organisations.

© The Financial Times Limited 2012

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Why did Facebook bomb?

Why did Facebook bomb(CNN) — A week into Facebook’s debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange, its initial offering price of $38 per share dropped to $31.91. Retail investors’ fears deepened as they realize they are losing a lot of money.

The Facebook IPO did not follow the usual script. Instead of launching the largest social media company in the world as a legitimate and valuable business, the IPO has laid bare all of the questions and doubts about its potential performance.

So why did the Facebook IPO bomb as badly as it did?

Aswath Damodaran

In a lawsuit filed last week, some investors contend that Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter of the IPO, withheld key information about a negative financial forecast from them while sharing it with their institutional clients.

In this conspiratorial tale, the bad guys are the insiders at Facebook, the investment bankers and the favored institutional clients of these bankers. The bankers set the offering price at $38, knowing that the stock was not worth that much, the insiders in the company unloaded their shares at the offering price and institutional investors stayed on the sidelines. Individual small investors who bought at the offering price suffered as the price collapsed. In other words, the suckers are the rest of the world.

Opinion: Was Facebook IPO a bust?

But I don’t buy this story. First, unlike many others who have seen the crises of the last few years as evidence that bankers are evil, I see them more as inept. Facebook’s IPO is just proof that if you want something valued, you should not ask a bank to do it.

None of the actors in this story can be happy with how Facebook’s IPO has unfolded in its first week. The investment banks look like bad “deal makers,” which strikes at the heart of one of their few remaining revenue-generating skills. Any profits or commissions that Morgan Stanley booked on this IPO are overwhelmed by the reputation hit that it took and the consequences this will have on future deals. The Facebook insiders who remain have not only lost billions in value but have made it more difficult to unload their remaining shares down the road. And most of the shares at the offering price went to the institutional investors, who now face paper or real losses on those shares.

Facebook IPO: Outraged investor cries grow louder

So, what happened?

I think the investment bankers priced the offering based on how shares of Facebook were trading in the private market and their assessments of institutional demand. I don’t think that revenue growth, margins, risk or any other fundamentals played much of a role in the pricing. I don’t fault them for playing the momentum game, but they played it badly.

By pushing up the offering price to its upper limit and by expanding the offering to allow more insiders to cash out, they broke the spell that momentum casts over investors. It would have happened eventually, but they did not anticipate how quickly the shift would occur.

What are the lessons to take from this mess?

First, don’t assume that bankers, experts and analysts know what they are talking about. When they tout an investment, be especially skeptical if they have a stake in it.

Reactions: Facebook IPO underwhelms Web, too

Second, much as it soothes the ego to think that your portfolio setbacks are because of a conspiracy, where large institutional clients make a killing and the individual investors get the crumbs from the table, it is institutional clients who lose the most in bad deals because they have more to lose.

Finally, remember that markets make mistakes, and they can make bigger ones after a meltdown like this one. I would not be surprised if disappointed investors drive the price down to a point where you and I can have the ultimate revenge on Mark Zuckerberg: Buy his company at a bargain basement price and make money off him.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Aswath Damodaran.

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Apple gives Flattr micro-payment the thumbs down

Apple gives Flattr micro-paymentScreenshot of Flattr’s homepage.

Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET)

After a wishy-washy last couple of weeks, Apple has finally told the micro-payment donation app Flattr that there’s no deal. The iPhone maker said that the service violates the App Store’s terms and conditions with third-party payments.

“Apple is notoriously secretive about its motives or what would be the compliant and best way of doing things that are sort of new,” Flattr’s community manager Siim Teller wrote in a blog post. “What does this mean for the future of Flattr inside applications for
iPhone and iPad?”

With the motto, “Support Great Web Content,” the idea behind Flattr is to help people give money to blogs, Web sites, podcast and video-makers in order for the businesses to continue creating products that users appreciate. When users see a “Flattr” button on a Website they can click it to donate money.

Flattr’s payment system does use third-party payments, but until earlier this month it wasn’t a serious issue for Apple. It all began on May 6 when the tech giant rejected an update for the well-known podcast manager Instacast, which used Flattr’s platform.

With the rejection, Apple cited its App Store guideline that reads, “The collection of donations must be done via a web site in
Safarior an SMS.” Then, the company told Flattr, “We understand that directing your user outside of your app may not be the user experience you prefer to offer your users. However it is a common experience in a variety of iOS apps.”

As of last week, Apple made the final decision that even after a few changes to Instacast, Flattr was still in violation of the App Store’s terms and conditions.

Even though Apple has clear grounds not to accept Flattr’s app integration, according to The Next Web, it’s likely that the iPhone maker is being skittish about the platform competing with its own in-app payment system, which gives the company 30 percent of each purchase.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment and we will update this report when we learn more.

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Facebook’s Saverin: ‘No hard feelings’ against Zuckerberg

Eduardo SaverinFacebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.


Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin says he bears no resentment against Mark Zuckerberg for being forced out of the company and even goes so far to call the social network’s CEO a “visionary.”

“I have only good things to say about Mark, there are no hard feelings between us,” Saverin said in an extensive interview with Brazilian publication Veja, according a Forbes translation. “He was a visionary, he always knew that the only way to get Facebook to grow was to maintain its central idea, that of people truly presenting themselves as they are, without nicknames or pseudonyms.”

Saverin expressed similar sentiments earlier this month on his personal Facebook page as the social network put the final touches on its much-anticipated IPO (although he managed to misspell his former partner’s name): “… I especially wanted to congratulate Mark Zukerberg on keeping tremendous stead-fast focus, however hard that was, on making the world a more open and connected place.”

Saverin, who helped Zuckerberg launch Facebook at Harvard in 2004, was edged out by Zuckerberg the next year when the social network began to take off. Saverin should have been focusing on reforming the company as a Delaware corporation so it could accept investments. But wasn’t, and that was the key factor in his ouster.

Despite being forced out and his shares in the company being famously diluted, his holdings in the company is estimated to be worth more than $3 billion.

Saverin, who recently made headlines again by renouncing his U.S. citizenship, took issue with “The Social Network,” the 2010 movie about Facebook’s early days and Zuckerberg’s rocky relationship with Saverin and the Winklevoss twins.

“That’s Hollywood fantasy, not a documentary. Facebook wasn’t built out of a Harvard dorm window. And I would never throw a laptop at someone, like it appears in the movie. Not even at Mark.”

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