Archive for the ‘Tech’ category

AMD to Acquire ATI

July 25, 2006

Forbes.com reports AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) will purchase graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies for $5.4 billion.  The deal is expected to close fourth quarter this year.

Even though the takeover looks fairly valued, RBC analyst Steve Arthur said there is limited upside to the offer unless competing bids are made for ATI.

For now, Arthur said AMD’s takeover deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, effectively offers his one-year price target of $21 now.

Will the merger strengthen AMD’s position against rival processor maker Intel?  BetaNews reports the merger will allow the company to bring integrated products to the market:

The merger will allow AMD to offer integrated processor and graphics solutions to its customers. By 2008, AMD plans to introduce new processor configurations that would integrate the CPU and graphics processor into a single unit. The end result will be smaller, more powerful computers.

In a conference call to analysts, AMD’s Chief Executive, Hector Ruiz (as reported by Techtree.com) hopes the acquisition will result in more innovative products:

Hector Ruiz, chairman and chief executive officer, AMD, said, “Bringing the two great companies together will allow us to transcend what we have accomplished as individual businesses, and reinvent our industry as the technology leader and partner of choice. We believe AMD and ATI will drive growth and innovation for the entire industry, enabling our partners to create differentiated solutions, and empowering our customers to choose what is best for them.”

Dave Orton, ATI’s current president and CEO, is also optimistic about the acquisition:

[He] said, “This combination means accelerated growth for ATI, and will benefit all our product lines. Joining with AMD will enable us to innovate aggressively on the PC platform, and continue to invest significantly in our consumer business to stay in front of our markets.”

According to BusinessWeek online, Nvidia’s CEO couldn’t be any happier with the impending merger:

“I thought it was just impossible to get a gift like this,” crowed Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, in an interview with BusinessWeek.com. ATI is “basically throwing in the towel, leaving us as the only stand-alone (graphics chip) company in the world.”

AMD is aware it has its work cut out for itself.  The officers at both companies, however, are prepared to do what it takes to prove that both product lines will benefit from the merger.  From the Press Release at AMD.com:

The combination will create a processing powerhouse by bringing AMD’s technology leadership in microprocessors together with ATI’s strengths in graphics, chipsets and consumer electronics. The result: A new and more formidable company, determined to drive growth, innovation and choice for its customers, particularly in the commercial and mobile computing segments and in the rapidly-growing consumer electronics market. Combining technologies, people, and complementary strengths, AMD plans to deliver in 2007 customer-centric platforms for the benefit of customers who want to collaborate in the development of differentiated solutions.

Good luck, guys.                                

Advertisements

AOL Releases AIM Pro for Free

July 19, 2006

AOL announced today they have concluded their beta testing for AIM Pro and it is available for general download at no charge.  The company partnered with WebEx to develop the product, which is aimed at corporate users.  BetaNews reports the new IM client dropped the advertising found in its consumer client, AIM, and added tools such as a people-search service, Wall Street Journal headlines and podcasts with a business angle. 

In addition to the facelift, AOL and WebEx beefed up the backend of the product, too:

But AIM Pro’s biggest improvements have been made under the hood, Brian Curry, vice president of Business Services at AOL, told BetaNews. Security has been bolstered with SSL encryption when sending messages between two AIM Pro users. AOL is also offering an automatic virus scanning service, which routes file transfers through the company’s network.

AOL is now supporting e-mail addresses as screen names in AIM Pro, a feature requested by business customers. Users can validate their e-mail address and use it in lieu of picking an AOL username.

AIM Pro will also allow users to:

  • Participate in a 10-user voice chat
  • Videoconference with another user
  • Share their desktop with another user for collaboration sessions or presentations
  • Schedule meetings via Outlook integration

The product also offers interoperability with AIM, ICQ and Apple’s iChat.  Click here to download AIM Pro.

Microsoft and Yahoo To Allow Messenger Users To IM One Another

July 14, 2006

InformationWeek is reporting Microsoft and Yahoo are working together to allow their respective users to IM each other:

Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. on Thursday said they have opened their instant-messaging networks to each other in a limited public test.

The two companies will begin by offering up the new open messaging networks to users with the latest version of Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. This test phase is meant to ensure the networks can handle the combined accounts of approximately 350 million worldwide, the companies said in a statement.

This partnership could be viable competition for AOL’s AIM, which dominates the IM market share.   CNet’s News.com reports, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, AOL has about as many unique users as Yahoo and Microsoft (via MSN Messenger and Live Messenger) combined:

AIM dominates the instant-messaging arena in the United States, with 51.5 million users in September, compared with MSN’s 27.3 million and Yahoo’s 21.9 million, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Experts speculate both companies could have partnered in the interest of self-preservation.  Google has entered the IM game with Google Talk.  While they still don’t have the numbers to be a threat, perhaps Microsoft and Yahoo aren’t willing to take any chances:

“In my opinion, the biggest external driver for this announcement must be MSN and Yahoo’s mutual need to defend themselves in the long term against Google,” John Delaney, an analyst at Ovum, wrote in a research alert. “Google is a relatively recent insurgent in these services, but it is clearly determined to grow its presence there aggressively,” Delaney said.

Microsoft and Yahoo’s foray into interoperability will initially be on a trial basis.  If the two are attempting to take on AOL, and get the added benefit of keeping users away from Google Talk, the results could be very interesting.

Microsoft’s Argo to Rival Apple’s iPod

July 11, 2006

More reports are coming in about Microsoft’s so-called iPod-killer, code-named the Argo.  Bloomberg News reports the device may be available for the 2006 holiday season.  J Allard, founding member of the Xbox platform project, and Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices Division, are governing the project.  Their successful launches of the Xbox and Xbox 360 bode well for the iPod rival. 

Microsoft Xbox Vice President J Allard is overseeing the development of the company’s digital player, the people familiar with Microsoft’s plans said. It also is being developed under the supervision of Robbie Bach, who leads the unit that produces the Xbox video-game console. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer last year tapped Bach to take on the added role of overseeing Microsoft’s music strategy. With the Xbox, Bach had overseen the most significant of Microsoft’s few forays into building its own hardware.

Microsoft has traditionally opted to partner with other companies rather than develop hardware.  With the exception of the Xbox and the Xbox 360, most Microsoft hardware offerings haven’t done so well.  They discontinued their broadband routers and NICs (Network Interface Cards) and seem to have no intention to wade back into those markets.

The Argo will allow consumers to download media files via Wi-Fi, a feature iPod devices lack.  The ability to download songs on the go is an extremely attractive difference.  The Wi-fi capability will also allow users to connect to other Argo devices  Microsoft has had plans to develop a new online media service, called URGE, since late lst year.  The company is working hard to garner fresh content for its service:

Microsoft hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson, who is among Microsoft officials who have met with music and Hollywood companies to seek licenses for their content, according to industry officials with knowledge of the plans. J Allard, 37, a Microsoft Xbox vice president, is overseeing the development of the device, the people said.

Microsoft met with music companies including EMI Group Plc and Universal Music Group, and TV broadcasters NBC, Fox and CBS Corp. to gain content for a music and video store to compete with Apple’s iTunes, according to people familiar with the meetings. Sally Julien, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment, as did representatives of the music companies and TV networks.  

Apple has quite a hold on the portable media device market.  The team leading the Argo project, however, has a proven track record for success.  It will be interesting to see how the two giants stack up this holiday season.

Lexar Recalls More Than 60,000 JumpDrives

July 8, 2006

Lexar is recalling two JumpDrive models sold between April 1 and May 31 of this year.  Some of the two models, the JumpDrive FireFly and the JumpDrive Secure II, could overheat, potentially burning consumers.  Lexar says no reports of overheating have been submitted to them; they discovered the issue during testing.

Consumers have two options for this recall.  They can choose to select a comparable Lexar USB drive as a replacement or they can opt to have their existing drive replaced with the same model.  The latter option requires the defective unit be sent in to be replaced in about two weeks.  Lexar will also reimburse the consumer $5 for shipping.  If you would like to replace your unit with Lexar, point your browser to their registration page for this product recall.  Lexar’s Recall Hotline number is 800-248-2798.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises consumers to stop using the drives immediately. The models being recalled are:

JumpDrive® FireFly
Capacity Part Number
256MB (red) JDFF256-431RU
JDFF256-264
JDFF256-445RU
512MB (lime green) JDFF512-431EM
1GB (blue) JDFF1GB-431TO
2GB (black) JDFF2GB-431BK
JumpDrive® Secure II 1GB
Part Number
JDSE1GB-00-500 Rev H and 3052-1GBA-2006
3052-1GBA-2106
3052-1GBA-1906
3052-1GBA-1806

Month of Browser Bugs Project Underway

July 5, 2006

Everyday for the entire month of July, Browser Fun will release a new browser hack.  The blog is The Metasploit Project‘s second blog, their official blog being their first.  According to Metasploit’s H D Moore, the Month of Browser Bugs (MoBB) project does have a purpose:

Over the last few months, I have taken an interest in web browser security flaws. […] The vendors have been notified and the time has come to start publishing the results. I will publish one new vulnerability each day during the month of July as part of the Month of Browser Bugs project. This information is being published to create awareness about the types of bugs that plague modern browsers and to demonstrate the techniques I used to discover them. Enjoy!

So far, posts to the blog have documented vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.  Each post contains a brief description of the bug, a link to its entry in the OSVDb (Open Source Vulnerability Database) and even a demonstration–that’s right, you can run the exploit to crash your browser (fun!).

The Metasploit Project provides tools and information for legal penetration testing (such as software and OS), security vulnerabilities and IDS (Intrusion Detection System) signature development.  They serve as a resource for exploit developers.  Metasploit’s creator, Moore,  was invited by Microsoft to a conference during which he was asked to exploit their product’s vulnerabilities.  Top Tech News, in an article titled Microsoft Begs to Be Hacked, reports:

Both groups walked away from the conference with more of a psychological as well as technical understanding of each other. Despite feeling somewhat shown-up by their invited guests, Microsoft engineers watched in fascination as Moore demonstrated a VNC injection exploit.

The engineers realized that hackers are no longer geeky teenagers with nothing better to do, but educated and seasoned technology professionals just like themselves. Likewise, security researchers gained a better perspective of the processes Microsoft engineers must go through when faced with vulnerabilities divulged by the hacking community.

Remember, many vulnerabilities and bugs can be neutralized by patches.  Regular application of patches and updates is crucial to keeping your software and operating systems secure and performing at their best.  Taking advantage of automatic update settings and educating yourself about what bug(s) a recommended patch will fix are good habits to get into. 

Nintendo Wants to ‘Touch Generations’ with its New Line

June 25, 2006

Nintendo recently introduced Touch Generations, a sub-brand intended to reach an emerging market of older gamers.  Along with its DS Lite, Nintendo and Touch Generations want to snag an oft-ignored segment of consumers; non-gamers 40 and older.  Heavy advertising for one of its more recognized games, Brain Age, has already begun.  The ads feature more mature people, and they're exercising their brain, as opposed to merely playing a video game. 

BusinessWeek Online reports that by launching new titles and rebranding existing, older titles under the Touch Generations umbrella, Nintendo aims to reach former gamers who popularized classic arcade games of the early 80s. 

The idea behind the aggregation of games under the new brand is to lure in older nongamers by offering skill-building–or at least less violent, less fantasy-based–titles, like True Swing Golf, that might appeal to them more than, say, Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft. And Nintendo is also rebranding under the Touch Generations label golden oldies such as Tetris and the arcade game Puzzle Loop, now renamed Magnetica in its portable version. The company hopes the classic games will ring a bell with those who were around in the 1980s.

These consumers may have already been introduced to handheld games because they've probably purchased a Sony PSP or Nintendo DS for their kids.  Nintendo doesn't want them taking Jr.'s DS, however.  The launch of the slimmer, scaled down DS Lite should help Nintendo sell the new hardware to its target demographics.  The unit's all-white color and clean design echo that of Apple's ubiquitous iPod; something many of these would-be consumers already own.

Titles under Touch Generations include Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, and Sudoku GridmasterSudoku, one of the latest crazes sweeping the nation, is a numbers placement game played on a 9 x 9 grid.  It's addictive, and its popularity could help Touch Generations penetrate the hardcore Sudoku fan base that isn't opposed to portable gaming devices.  There are also classic titles available from Touch Generations, such as Tetris DS and Nintendogs.

Touch Generations' strategy for capturing the attention and buying power of this consumer-base includes pricing games at $20.  The DS Lite can be purchased for around $140 USD.  Games that are priced lower than Nintendo's more popular games, around $50, should be more attractive to older game players.  What will set this market apart from gamers will also be how they play the games:

"There's a dormant group of gamers out there, and it behooves us to keep enticing and exciting gamers as they age. We asked, 'How do we bring in people who have careers and families that take up their time?' " says Kaplan. The answer, she says, is games priced at $19.99 (most popular games cost around $50) that are designed to be played in small increments rather than long stretches of time—unlike hardcore or massively multiplayer online role-playing games. "They're more like a small part of life, not a major investment," Kaplan says. She adds that these games could appeal to younger gamers, too, and that the new brand isn't meant to be clubby, despite its demographic focus.

Nintendo, by spinning off Touch Generations, has demonstrated it is serious about developing a new generation of gamers–an older generation.  These gamers may not spend all night blasting virtual enemies and chatting with guild members halfway around the world, but they may find themselves gaming while they commute, take their car in for an oil change or wait for their kids to finish their martial arts lessons.