Microsoft is apparently circulating invitations to a mysterious event in San Francisco next week. Engadget has an image of the invite itself, which came in a tube-like contraption and features the vaguely ominous tagline, "It's Time to Share."

Paul Thurrott, over at Windows Phone Secrets, predicts, "This is the Pink phone announcement. I have not been invited to this specifically, but they are gearing up to launch this new side business, basically a texting/social networking phone platform for teenagers ('Pink'). It is not Courier."

For those of you tuning in midway through the program, Project Pink is the Loch Ness Monster of vaporware: a long-rumored branded-smartphone project, sighted occasionally in leaked documents but never officially confirmed by Microsoft. In September 2009, the rumors focused on the possibility of two smartphones, code-named Turtle and Pure, which were being developed in conjunction with Danger, a company that Microsoft acquired in 2009 and integrated into its PMX (Premium Mobile Experiences) team, a division of its MCB (Mobile Communications Business).

If the April 12 announcement in San Francisco does turn out to be Pink-related, it would follow the groundswell of scuttlebutt from early March, including a Reuters report that stated Verizon and Microsoft would team up to launch a pair of smartphones in either late spring or early summer that were geared toward social networking. At the same time, Gizmodo posted images of what it said was the Pure phone.

In a possible Pink phone's favor is the fact that, in October 2009, a hardware issue on servers being run by Danger resulted in the personal data being wiped from nearly 800,000 Sidekick users' phones. Following that, T-Mobile temporarily pulled the Sidekick, even as Microsoft engineers scrambled to restore user data. I remember at the time that T-Mobile's message boards filled with irate customers threatening to jump ship; if Project Pink rolls out, appealing to the same demographic as the Sidekick, then it could claim a percentage of that market.

In any case, the fact that these phones are being apparently targeted to teenagers makes it a sideshow, in many ways, to the larger Microsoft initiative of Windows Phone 7, due for release on a variety of devices later in 2010. Note that I wrote "Windows Phone 7": Microsoft has decided to drop the "Series" from the upcoming smartphone OS' name and thus make it less clunky. Which may or may not help its fortunes, but it certainly is making my fingers marginally less exhausted.

Source : Microsoft Watch


Microsoft rolled out a demo of Project Natal at this year's D8 conference in California. The device, which sits atop an Xbox 360, allows for game control via the user's own movements: Throw a punch, and the move is mirrored by your onscreen avatar. Microsoft plans on unveiling compatible games for Natal at the upcoming E3 trade show in June, along with a brand-new name for the device that I won't keep misreading as "Navel."

Natal, ready to mock your lack of coordination skills. Image courtesy of Engadget.

Will Natal be a success? It's a little too soon to tell. Nintendo's Wii managed to capture the hearts of casual gamers with its innovative controllers, which respond to users' arm motions. But hardware is only as exciting as the software that comes with it, and it remains to be seen what sorts of games Microsoft and its partners have up their collective sleeve. In any case, Microsoft plans to launch Natal in time for the holiday shopping season, although it's declined so far to name a price point; competition will come not only from the Wii, but also from the Move, a competing hands-free controller from Sony due on store shelves sometime in the latter half of 2010.

What's interesting about Natal, to me at least, is the possibility that its no-hands interface could eventually be integrated outside the game context. Sure, everyone and their mother seem obsessed with touch screens at the moment, whether on the Apple iPad or the new smartphones that enter the market at roughly a rate of two per day. At some point, though, the inevitable next stage in user interfaces needs to be considered.

Along those lines, I bet--and this is purest, airiest conjecture--that the technology behind Natal could eventually find its way into more productivity-centric uses (think of the motion-sensitive interface from the movie "Minority Report," as an example). Such a reality would be years away, of course, but a hands-free controller could have at least one tangible benefit: You wouldn't have to worry anymore about dirtying a screen or keyboard with less-than-clean fingertips.

Source : Microsoft watch

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at AllThingsDigital's D8 conference June 1 that Apple is not interesting in going into the search business and will not drop Google on its iPhone and iPad in favor of Microsoft's Bing. Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter indicated Jobs comments should come as music to the ears of investors fearful that Apple might try to open a new battle front with Google in search. Search expert John Battelle doesn't believe the conversation is so cut and dry as Jobs made it sound.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said a lot of interesting things on stage at AllThingsDigital's D8 conference June 1, but it's what he said about search that has pricked up the ears of some financial analysts.

Jobs swatted aside a couple of search-related rumors. He asserted that Apple is not interesting in going into the search business or dropping Google on its iPhone and iPad in favor of Microsoft's Bing.

Specifically, when asked about Apple's recent purchase of semantic search company Siri, Jobs said Siri was an artificial intelligence company, not a search company and noted:

"We have no plans to go into the search business. We don't care about it -- other people do it well." Asked about whether he would remove Google from the iPhone or iPad, Jobs said no.

Those statements come after rumors that Apple was formulating a deal with Microsoft to replace Google as the default search provider on its iPhone and iPad with Bing, or at least offer Bing as an option on the those devices. Jobs could make such an announcement at the Apple developer conference next week.

Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter indicated Jobs comments should come as music to the ears of investors fearful that Apple might try to open a new battle front with Google in search.

"It is hard to interpret such comments as anything but a positive for Google," Schachter wrote in a research note June 3.

"We had been concerned that Apple might not just remove Google from Apple products, but that Apple could attempt to compete more directly with Google on search either through a proxy such as Microsoft or through the Yahoo strategy of focusing on the user interface of search and partnering with Microsoft for the indexing... If Jobs says that there are no plans to go into search, we take him at his word."

Search expert John Battelle doesn't believe the conversation is as cut and dry as Jobs made it sound.

In a June 2 blog post, Battelle explained how Apple will indeed offer search, just not the classic Web search platform consumers are used to from Google, Yahoo and Bing.

He believes Apple will forge a vertical search platform for the mobile applications his company sells for its iPhone and iPad.

Such an offering would be a boon at a time when users are struggling to find what the right applications in Apple's App Store, which boasts more than 200,000 apps.  

"Apple will do search," Battelle said. "It won't be search as we understand it on the Web, but it'll be search for AppWorld, and if done right, it will be extremely profitable."

Battelle, who argues that we need to rethink how we view search, isn't alone in this sentiment. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a March 30 research note that Apple must build a special search engine to shield its application data from Google and others on the Web.

Apple may not be kicking Google search and other apps off of its iPhone or iPad, but it could construct a walled garden around its app data that could crimp Google's mobile ad plans for those popular devices.

In the meantime, there's already plenty of places for Apple to compete with Google in the mobile sector and that rivalry will heat up next week, where Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 4.0 and iAd platform at its developer conference next week.These products will pose significant challenges to Google's Android, AdMob and AdSense for mobile platforms.

Source : eWEEK.com

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the search engine will cede the data it accidentally collected over WiFi to regulators in Germany, France and Spain. Google will also publish the results of an external audit into its Street View data collection practice and will exact an internal review into all its privacy practices, releasing the results within the next month. Google's Street View cars unwittingly collected 600 gigabytes worth of fragmented e-mail, Web browsing and other data from unsecured WiFi networks in 33 regions.

Responding to the growing outcry over it privacy practices, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the search engine will cede the data it accidentally collected over WiFi to regulators in Germany, France and Spain.

Google May 14 acknowledged that its Street View cars, which take pictures for Google Maps, unwittingly collected 600 gigabytes worth of fragmented e-mail, Web browsing and other data from unsecured WiFi networks.

This happened in 33 regions, including the United States, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain and France from 2007 until Google discovered the faux pas this year and said it ceased collecting WiFi data for good.

While Google deleted data in Ireland, Denmark and Austria it did not do so in Germany and other countries, citing the need to review privacy laws and other legal issues.
Google changed its tune, as Schmidt told the Financial Times June 3 that Google will hand over the collected WiFi data to German, French and Spanish data protection authorities within two days.

"We screwed up. Let's be very clear about that," Schmidt told the Times. "If you are honest about your mistakes it is the best defense for it not happening again."

Google will also publish the results of an external audit into its Street View data collection practice. The company will further review all its privacy practices, releasing the results within the next month.

Schmidt also claimed Google is conducting an internal investigation against the software programmer who created the code that collected the WiFi data, a violation of the company's rules.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the accuracy of the report with eWEEK but declined to provide additional information.

Cries of discontent over this flouting of user privacy are no quieter in the United States, where Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz told Congress that his group would investigate the incident.

Reps. Joe Barton, Henry Waxman and Edward Markey wrote a May 26 letter to Schmidt saying they wanted to know how much personal data the company gathered from what has become known in some quarters as the WiSpy incident.

The so-called WiSpy incident is the second privacy firestorm Google must try to extinguish. The company launched its Google Buzz social conversation service in February, only to shock users by exposing their Gmail contacts to the public on Google profile page

Source : eWEEK.com

Apple expected to unveil an updated iPhone rumored to offer video calling.
Think talking on a cellphone in public is anti-social?

Just wait. Soon, folks might be staring at their phones as well as mumbling into them.

Video chat on mobile phones has arrived.

On Friday, the HTC Evo 4G — the first U.S. phone able to access the speed-enhanced 4G cell network — went on sale, with Sprint Nextel as its exclusive carrier.
Tapping the 4G network enables the Evo to do faster Web browsing and downloads, in addition to higher-quality video streams and the aforementioned video chat. Sprint is the first cell provider in the U.S. to roll out 4G service.

But the honor of having the sole, mainstream video-chat phone could be short-lived. On Monday, Apple Inc. is expected to unveil an updated iPhone that is rumored to also offer video calling (although some rumors about new products from the super-secretive company always turn out to be false).

Just how good can video chat be on a cellphone screen?

Surprisingly terrific, judging from a test of the Evo. That is, after a lot of fussing.

A couple of days before the phone went on sale, I did a video chat with Scott Steinmetz, Sprint's project manager for the product, who was in his Overland Park, Kan., office.

It took much finagling to get the call to work, only partly because the system was not quite fully activated.

To make a call work, both participants have to have a Google Gmail account, which is no surprise because the Evo's operating system is Google's own Android 2.1. Then you have to configure the Qik video app, which took some time to get up and working.

Finally, after numerous attempts, Scott appeared on the screen of the Evo I was testing. His face was slightly elongated due to the lens on the phone's camera. But the image was so clear that I could comment on the Southwest-themed painting on his wall and antique slot machine in the background.

Meanwhile, he could see the less interesting, blank wall behind me in my living room (I'm painting the interior).

Most important, we could easily see each other's expressions, providing a reminder of how nice video chat can be. The small screen was not a major barrier.

But there are three major caveats, two of which might be temporary.

At this point, you can use video chat only with people who also have Evo phones. For a while, that probably won't be a lot of folks — the Evo is not cheap to buy or own. It costs $200 if bought with a two-year Sprint agreement. The data plan, which is unlimited, is $70 a month. And finally, it costs $10 extra a month to use the 4G network (more on that in a bit).

Second caveat: Video chat works only at 4G speeds on cell networks, and Sprint has not rolled that out to all cities yet. One of the spots that does not have 4G is a little place called Los Angeles. It won't be here until later this year — the company would not specify just when.

The Evo can also use Wi-Fi for calls, which is how I did them from home and the office.

Finally, just how badly do we want video chat? It's handy on computers for business meetings, or for talking to loved ones far away. But in general, video calling has never much caught on. After the famed Picturephone was demonstrated at the 1964 World's Fair, futurists — as we now call people who make wild guesses — predicted that it would one day be part of daily life.

It turns out that for most real-world calls, voice is just fine.

Enjoy your status, Evo, as the leader in mobile video chat. The iPhone could be striving to take that away from you soon.

Source :The Los Angeles Times

Major improvements have been made in aviation sector: Patel. Mangalore: The Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr Praful Patel, has said that the country will be in the top-five civil aviation markets in the world in the next five years.

Inaugurating the new integrated terminal building of Mangalore airport here on Saturday, he said that the country’s civil aviation sector was not recognised in the world until a few years ago. Today, India is the ninth largest civil aviation market in the world.

“Within the next five years, India will be in the top-five civil aviation markets all across the world. That, I think, is a great achievement in the remarkably short period of time,” he said. Stating that substantial improvements have been made in the civil aviation sector in the country, he said today flying is no more a luxury for the common man.

Mr Patel said that country’s infrastructure is undergoing a sea change under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

For the first time there is a Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure headed by the Prime Minister. That is why projects were being monitored and implemented on time, he said.

Runway extension

Later in an informal chat with presspersons, Mr Patel said that the runway of Mangalore airport will be extended by another 1,000 ft, from the existing 8,000 ft.

Asked when the airport will get international status, he said that one of the requirements for declaring Mangalore as an international airport is the 9,000 ft runway. That is why it has been decided to extend the runway by another 1,000 ft. The work for this will be awarded soon, he said.

The extension of runway is essential for handling larger aircraft to international destinations in West Asia and beyond that. The extension will help bring larger cargo aircraft for import and export out of Mangalore, he said.The Union Government will take a decision on declaring Mangalore as an international airport at the earliest, he added.

 Source: The Hindu Business Line

The Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Praful Patel, has cleared the proposal for allowing SpiceJet, the Delhi-based low-cost airline, to start international operations.

Official sources told Business Line that the Ministry of Civil Aviation will now write to the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to allow the airline to start operations on specific routes.

The airline meets the Government criteria for starting international operations as it completes five years of operations in May and has a fleet of more than 20 aircraft. The airline is likely to start its international operations with flights to Kathmandu, Dhaka and Colombo some time in June, sources in the DGCA said, pointing out it takes some time to get manuals and other procedures approved for starting the operations.Jet Airways, JetLite, Kingfisher, Air India and Air India Express are the other Indian carriers permitted to operate abroad from India, while about 70 international airlines fly regularly to India.

SpiceJet will connect 19 Indian cities from April 15 when it starts daily flights to Agartala. Since its first flight in May 2005, the airline has attracted considerable investor interest. In 2005, the US-based private equity investor W.L. Ross invested Rs 345 crore in the company. Currently, some investors, including Religare, are said to be interested in picking up a stake in the airline

It reported a net profit of Rs 108.9 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2009 against a loss of Rs 18 crore a year before.

Source : The Hindu Business news

Despite volcanic ash and Bharat bandhs, which threatened to clip the wings of airlines coming out of recession, carriers may be ending the fourth quarter on a good note. A comparison between the three listed players, Kingfisher Airlines, Jet Airways and SpiceJet, shows the trend is definitely on an upswing — the three have a market share of 26 per cent (Jet Airways and JetLite together), 23 and 11.9 per cent respectively, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) figures.

Jet Airways is expected to break even in FY11 in domestic and international operations. The carrier, which gets 56 per cent of its revenues from international operations, has also seen its international operations stabilising, with most international routes breaking even.

Similarly, Kingfisher has also made a foray into the international market and has launched operations on eight international routes recently, while SpiceJet is planning to go global from June onwards. While it looks like the increase in passenger traffic might help airlines in offsetting the effect of high aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices, the large debt on the books of the biggies could be a spoiler. Jet Airways has debt of about Rs 14,000 crore, while Kingfisher owes over Rs 6,000 crore.

HSBC Global Research mentions that Jet Airways is looking to cut its interest cost by lowering high-cost debt through selling a plot of land in Mumbai, a sale and leaseback of its fleet and raising funds by equity dilution. This restructuring is expected to show benefits in FY11.

It has also been reported that both Jet and Kingfisher are looking at raising Rs 2,000 crore through qualified institutional placements and other instruments to bring down debt.

The DGCA figures showing the percentage change over the month, indicate that demand has grown faster than the capacity. “These figures indicate improved yields and capacity utilisation for the aviation industry. If you look at any airline’s biggest expenses, it would be ATF and their interest burden. If the yields of the carriers are better than the effect of ATF, then Q4 will be better than Q3,” says Gokul Chaudhri, partner, BMR Advisors.

According to Centrum Research (January 5, 2010), SpiceJet’s improved operational performance would result in a turnaround, that is, it may report its first full year of profit in FY11E (estimated). Factors that would likely contribute to the turnaround are expected to be the recovery in domestic pax traffic and its rationalised capacity. The report further says that despite a likely dilution of 109 per cent, SpiceJet’s restructured balance sheet will possibly be leaner with near zero debt.

An analyst at Centrum Research had earlier said that despite rising crude oil prices, the impact has been offset to a large extent by the hardening of the rupee vis-a-vis the dollar. However, if airlines raise prices, operators may see a fall in loads as the sector is price-sensitive. Jet had earlier mentioned that it will be raising its airfares by 10-15 per cent. Airlines have been adding capacity since last July to meet the rise in demand.

While Jet and SpiceJet have both recorded a profit in the third quarter of about Rs 106 crore and almost Rs 109 crore, respectively, Kingfisher is still in the red with a loss of about Rs 420 crore. Analysts expect Jet and SpiceJet to turn profitable in FY11, while Kingfisher will take longer to break even.

Chaudhri from BMR Advisors believes there are four factors that will shape the fourth quarter. “Capacity utilisation, yields, hardening of the interest rate and increase in ATF are four factors that will determine Q4 results for the aviation industry,” said Chaudhri. However, he cautioned that the cumulative effect of these may be positive or negative and can be determined only after the results are actually out.

 Source: Business Standard

Mangoes have started coming in the local market but the arrivals have not yet picked up. The prices have been ruling on the higher side from the beginning of the season.

Usually, arrivals gain momentum from the second week of April, but this season due to late flowering the arrivals have been delayed by a few weeks.

Mango is cultivated in 65,000 hectares in Krishna district and it is sent to the upcountry markets from Nuzvidu railway station and also by trucks to different parts of the State. This season, due to low night temperatures and unfavourable climatic conditions, flowering was delayed and there was also an attack of various pests such as thrips, mango hopper and fruit borer. The average yield is 8-10 tonnes per hectare.The overall production may be down 20 per cent or so compared with last year, according to sources in the Agriculture Department. This factor, coupled with delayed arrivals, has pushed up prices from the beginning. The retail and wholesale prices are high.

Banganapalli  variety

Banganapalli is the fancied variety sent to the upcountry markets and exported to other countries on a limited scale. Currently, it is fetching well above Rs 25,000 a tonne in wholesale market and in the retail outlet it is selling at Rs 300-350 a dozen. However, as the arrivals increase in the last week of April and in May, there may be some slump, but not a drastic one, according to sources. Only one rake has been despatched from the Nuzvidu railway station to the upcountry markets this season so far.

The other varieties – Totapuri and Rasalu – are consumed within the State and they are also fetching good prices. The wholesale prices of Totapuri are in the range of Rs 13,000-14,000 a tonne and Rasalu is fetching Rs 15,000 or above a tonne.

Export target

The Horticulture Department has set itself a target of facilitating export of 300 tonnes this year as against only 80 tonnes last year and 120 tonnes the year before.

In spite of the best efforts of the AP Horticulture Department, the direct exports from this region have never really picked up. The upcountry merchants, who purchase from here, export the fruit to other countries from the North.

A heat vapour treatment plant has been established at Nuzvidu to facilitate exports to Japan. However, these steps have not really resulted in the desired spurt in exports. There is a view that instead of exporting raw fruit to other countries, the Government should encourage the private sector to set up processing facilities to maximise returns to farmers.

Source : The Hindu Business Line

The Agriculture Ministry has projected a record wheat crop of 80.98 million tonnes (mt) this crop year ending June, despite indications to the contrary from the market.

The estimated output is against last year’s record production of 80.68 mt.

The wheat trade was, however, unimpressed with the record projection. Going by the arrivals in Punjab markets and the slowdown in procurement, it is convinced that the crop would be a couple of million tonnes lower.

Wheat procurement on Tuesday was 21.04 mt lower than that in the same period a year-ago. With the carryover stocks being huge, there should be no worry for the Centre if the final production were to be lower.

According to the Ministry’s estimates, foodgrain production in this crop year will be lower at 218.19 mt against 234.47 mt, due mainly to the kharif crop being hit by a prolonged dry period. Cereals production has been estimated at 219.90 mt (203.42 mt).

Barring wheat, soyabean and cotton, production of almost all crops has been affected.

With rabi production being better (14.53 mt vs 14.27 mt), rice output this year is seen at 89.31 mt against a record 99.18 mt last year.

Coarse cereals are projected to drop to 23.20 mt against 28.54 mt a year ago with all showing a slippage.

Pulses production has continued to show improvement for the second consecutive year, thanks to a record production of gram (chickpea) at 7.38 mt against 7.06 mt a year ago.

Output of other pulses such as tur (2.56 mt v 2.27 mt) and urad (1.29 mt vs 1.17 mt) also showed an improvement but moong dropped to 0.73 mt (1.04 mt).

Oilseeds production has been projected lower by 2.3 mt at 25.40 mt. Soyabean output is estimated at 10.54 mt, the highest after 10.98 mt produced in 2007-08.

The production of castorseed (1 mt vs 1.13 mt), sesamum (0.61 mt v 0.75 mt) and mustard (6.59 mt v 7.20 mt) all declined.

Cotton production has been projected at 254.07 lakh bales (of 170 kg) against 277.19 lakh bales this year. This is surprising since the Cotton Advisory Board that comprises the Government, farmers, industry and trade representatives has projected a higher crop of nearly 300 lakh bales this year.

Sugarcane production is seen lower at 274.65 million tonnes against 285 million tonnes a year ago.

 Source: The Hindu Business Line