Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flying Car a Step Closer to Reality




Flying Car a Step Closer to Reality

Weird-looking cars are a dime a dozen. Far less common are weird-looking cars that can also fly AND have approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Indeed, as far as we know, there's only one of those babies: The Terrafugia Transition.

The private aircraft/funky-looking car has been in the news before. But the recent announcement that it's going into production sparked mega-searches on the Web. Almost immediately, online lookups for "terrafugia transition" and "terrafugia transition pictures" both, well, took off.

A popular article from the UK's Daily Telegraph explains that the FAA's special exemption allows the vehicle to function as both a "light aircraft" and a car. Normally, for a plane to meet the "light aircraft" designation, it can weigh no more than 1,200 pounds. The Terrafugia Transition weighs 1,320, due primarily to the number of car-related safety features, like airbags and crumple zones. The "light aircraft" designation is key, because licenses for planes with that label require only 20 hours of flying time. Fewer hoops to jump through means more potential sales.

So, how does the plane/car work? Check out the flying car's official video below. So far, 70 people have placed a deposit. The total retail cost: $194,000. Expensive, but really, can you put a price on skipping commercial flights?


Tesla Motors shares surge in 1st day of trading







Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. gained more than 40 percent in their public trading debut on Tuesday after the electric car manufacturer raised more money than expected in its initial stock offering.

Investors snapped up Tesla's shares even as the broader markets took a beating. The stock soared $6.89, or 40.5 percent from its offering price, to close at $23.89 -- marking the second-biggest first-day gain among initial public offerings this year. Tesla's performance was a feat in a sour market that has forced many companies looking to raise funds through IPOs to accept lower prices to get deals done.

The IPO also came on a day when most U.S. stocks tumbled as signs of slowing economies from China to the U.S. spooked traders already uneasy about a global recovery. Broad indexes closed down about 3 percent with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping below 10,000 for the first time since June 10.

The electric car maker, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is the first U.S. automaker to go public since Ford Motor Co. held its initial public offering in 1956. The offering raised $226.1 million after selling 13.3 million shares priced at $17 apiece. Tesla had earlier expected to price just 11.1 million shares at $14 to $16 per share.

Tesla's first-day stock gain was outpaced only by Financial Engines Inc., a portfolio manager that saw shares gain nearly 44 percent in their first day of trading in March.

Scott Sweet, owner of IPO research firm IPO Boutique, said Tesla was "brilliantly marketed" to investors as a next-generation automaker. Shares opened at $19, but drifted down, hitting a low of $17.55. As the day progressed, the shares regained some ground and took off once they hit $19 again, as investors lost reservations over how the stock would fare.

"Once it penetrated the $19 opening, that was almost like a buy signal," Sweet said. But he cautioned that the company has risks, including the fact it has yet to show a profit.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared Tuesday morning at the Nasdaq stock exchange at Times Square to mark the start of trading. At least five Tesla vehicles, including the $109,000 Roadster, were lined up outside, where spectators and tourists gathered to gawk at the cars.

"The response from investors has been tremendous," said Musk. "We increased the size of the offering and the demand was still enormous, so we increased the price to a dollar above the top of the range and we still had massive, overwhelming demand."

Tesla is a bet on the future of the electric car industry, which isn't currently a big draw for U.S. consumers. The IPO also comes at a time when volatile broader markets have dampened investors' taste for risk, particularly for companies with a history of losses or high debt levels.
The company hasn't had a profitable quarter since it was founded in 2003. It has sold only 1,000 of its high-end Roadster sports cars.

Investors are hoping that a planned lower-priced car will have a broader appeal. Tesla expects that a $50,000 four-door electric sedan, the Model S, which isn't slated to go on sale until 2012, will attract more buyers. Its goal is to build 20,000 of them a year.

The company has a prominent backer in Toyota Motor Corp., which last month agreed to sell Tesla a shuttered plant in Fremont, Calif., and invest $50 million in the company. Tesla plans to use the plant to build the Model S. Tesla expects annual net losses until mass production of the Model S.

The company also has a high-profile CEO. Musk was a co-founder of Internet payment service PayPal and currently runs rocket manufacturer Space Exploration Technologies.

But Tesla may face competition in the electric car market by the time the Model S is ready for consumers. Nissan Motor Co. is already taking orders on its electric car, the Leaf, which gets 100 miles per charge and is priced at about $25,000 after tax credits. The Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a gasoline range-extender, goes on sale by the end of this year with a $35,000 price tag.
While Tesla is the first automaker to go public in decades, it likely won't be the last. General Motors Co., which makes the Volt, is widely expected to sell stock to the public again, maybe as early as this year.

Tesla shares are trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol "TSLA."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Feds under pressure to open US skies to drones




Unmanned aircraft have proved their usefulness and reliability in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the pressure's on to allow them in the skies over the United States.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to issue flying rights for a range of pilotless planes to carry out civilian and law-enforcement functions but has been hesitant to act. Officials are worried that they might plow into airliners, cargo planes and corporate jets that zoom around at high altitudes, or helicopters and hot air balloons that fly as low as a few hundred feet off the ground.

On top of that, these pilotless aircraft come in a variety of sizes. Some are as big as a small airliner, others the size of a backpack. The tiniest are small enough to fly through a house window.

The obvious risks have not deterred the civilian demand for pilotless planes. Tornado researchers want to send them into storms to gather data. Energy companies want to use them to monitor pipelines. State police hope to send them up to capture images of speeding cars' license plates. Local police envision using them to track fleeing suspects.

Like many robots, the planes have advantages over humans for jobs that are dirty, dangerous or dull. And the planes often cost less than piloted aircraft and can stay aloft far longer.

"There is a tremendous pressure and need to fly unmanned aircraft in (civilian) airspace," Hank Krakowski, FAA's head of air traffic operations, told European aviation officials recently. "We are having constant conversations and discussions, particularly with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, to figure out how we can do this safely with all these different sizes of vehicles."

There are two types of unmanned planes: Drones, which are automated planes programmed to fly a particular mission, and aircraft that are remotely controlled by someone on the ground, sometimes from thousands of miles away.

Last year, the FAA promised defense officials it would have a plan this year. The agency, which has worked on this issue since 2006, has reams of safety regulations that govern every aspect of civilian aviation but is just beginning to write regulations for unmanned aircraft.

"I think industry and some of the operators are frustrated that we're not moving fast enough, but safety is first," Krakowski said in an interview. "This isn't Afghanistan. This isn't Iraq. This is a part of the world that has a lot of light airplanes flying around, a lot of business jets."

One major concern is the prospect of lost communication between unmanned aircraft and the operators who remotely control them. Another is a lack of firm separation of aircraft at lower altitudes, away from major cities and airports. Planes entering these areas are not required to have collision warning systems or even transponders. Simply being able to see another plane and take action is the chief means of preventing accidents.

The Predator B, already in use for border patrol, can fly for 20 hours without refueling, compared with a helicopter's average flight time of just over two hours. Homeland Security wants to expand their use along the borders of Mexico and Canada, and along coastlines for spotting smugglers of drugs and illegal aliens. The Coast Guard wants to use them for search and rescue.

The National Transportation Safety Board held a forum in 2008 on safety concerns associated with pilotless aircraft after a Predator crashed in Arizona. The board concluded the ground operator remotely controlling the plane had inadvertently cut off the plane's fuel.

Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, have been leaning on the FAA to approve requests to use unmanned aircraft along the Texas-Mexico border. FAA recently approved one request to use the planes along the border near El Paso, but another request to use them along the Texas Gulf Coast and near Brownsville is still pending.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has told lawmakers that safety concerns are behind the delays. Cornyn is blocking a Senate confirmation vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for the No. 2 FAA job, Michael Huerta, to keep the pressure on.

Other lawmakers want an overall plan to speed up use of the planes beyond the border. A bill approved by the Senate gives FAA a year to come up with a plan; a House version extends the deadline until Sept. 30, 2013, but directs the transportation secretary to give unmanned aircraft permission to fly before the plan is complete, if that can be done safely.

Marion Blakey, a former FAA administrator and president of the Aerospace Industries Association, whose members include unmanned aircraft developers, said the agency has been granting approvals on a case by case basis but the pace is picking up. She acknowledged that there are still safety concerns that need to be addressed before the planes can be used more widely.

Some concerns will be alleviated when the FAA moves from a radar-based air traffic control system to one based on GPS technology. Then, every aircraft will be able to advise controllers and other aircraft of their location continually. However, that's a decade off.

Michael Barr, a University of Southern California aviation safety instructor, said the matter should not be rushed.

"All it takes is one catastrophe," Barr said. "They'll investigate, find they didn't do it correctly, there'll be an outcry and it will set them back years."

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan



The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Warren Buffett Lunch Sells for $2.63 Million on eBay



A bidder has agreed to pay $2.63 million for a steak lunch with the billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a charity auction held on eBay Inc's website.
The highest bid in the 11th annual auction topped the previous record $2.11 million paid in 2008 by Zhao Danyang, a Hong Kong investor. Wealth manager Salida Capital Corp of Toronto won with a $1.68 million bid in 2009.
The identity of the winning bidder could not immediately be determined after bidding closed Friday night.
EBay was not immediately available for comment. Berkshire Hathaway Inc, Buffett's insurance and investment company, did not immediately return a request for comment.

The winner and up to seven friends will dine with the world's third-richest person at the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in midtown Manhattan. Smith & Wollensky is also donating $10,000.
As in his increasingly frequent television appearances, Buffett will talk about pretty much anything apart from what he is buying and selling.
Proceeds benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco non-profit organization offering meals, healthcare, child care, housing and job training for the poor and homeless. Glide is also known for lively Sunday morning services that include gospel music.
Buffett began auctioning the lunches in 2000 after his first wife Susan introduced him to Glide and its founder, the Rev. Cecil Williams.
In a Friday interview, Williams said the auction was critical to Glide because the economy has caused donations to fall 20 percent this year, while demand for Glide's services was up 30 percent. Glide's annual budget is about $17 million.
The auction began on Sunday night, and the top bid rose from $1.8 million in the last hour. Nine bidders made a total of 77 bids. Entering Friday, the highest bid had been $900,100, according to eBay.
"I'm jumping for joy. There's no doubt about it," Williams, 80, said after the high bid had topped $1.5 million. "Warren Buffett understands Glide and he supports Glide. I said to him a week-and-a-half ago, 'You're such a good person,' and he laughed and said, "Well you know, I'm trying, I'm trying.'"
The 10 prior auctions had raised more than $5.9 million. The first three were live, with top bids ranging from $25,000 to $32,000, according to Glide.
Buffett, 79, built an estimated $47 billion fortune running Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire, which operates about 80 businesses and has tens of billions of dollars of investments.
In 2006, Buffett pledged most of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities. Bill Gates, a Microsoft Corp co-founder, is a Berkshire director.
Susan Buffett died in 2004. Warren Buffett remarried two years later on his 76th birthday.

The following are winners of the Glide auction since bidding moved online:

2003 -- David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital, $250,100

2004 -- Jason Choo, $202,100

2005 -- Anonymous, $351,100

2006 -- Yongping Duan, $620,100

2007 -- Mohnish Pabrai, Guy Spier, $650,100

2008 -- Zhao Danyang, Pureheart China Growth Investment Fund, $2,110,100

2009 -- Salida Capital Corp, $1,680,300

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Should AT&T-iPad 3G security breach worry you?



If you were an early adopter of the 3G-embedded version of the iPad — as in, you bought it on Day One — there's a chance that your e-mail address and your iPad's ICC-ID number were exposed by a group of hackers who exploited a weakness on AT&T's website. How bad is the breach, and should you be worried? Read on.
First, a little background. Gawker broke the news late Wednesday that a group of hackers going by the name of Goatse Security managed to grab the information of more than 114,000 iPad 3G owners — including, as it turns out, such high-profile early adopters as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and maybe even White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — by exploiting a wonky script on the AT&T website. Basically, by hitting the script with an ICC-ID number (the unique identifier of an iPad 3G's SIM card), the hackers were able to harvest the e-mail address associated with the account, according to Gawker. By methodically firing off one ICC-ID after another, the Goatse Security hackers managed to dredge up the e-mail addresses of one early iPad 3G adopter after another, including the CEOs of the New York Times, Time magazine and Dow Jones, as well as staffers at NASA and the Department of Defense. Not good, right? Lucky for us, the hackers at Goatse Security seem more interested in revealing security holes than in exploiting them, and the group shopped around its findings to a variety of news organizations Sunday, according to Forbes, and Gawker bit. (Gawker, by the way is owned by Gawker Media, the same company that owns Gizmodo and paid for Gizmodo's iPhone leak. Gawker says it didn't pay for the iPad security breach story.)

In a statement to Gawker, AT&T said it learned of the security hole Monday (from a "business customer," not Goatse Security) and had plugged it by Tuesday (a day before Gawker published its post). "We take customer privacy very seriously, and while we have fixed this problem, we apologize to our customers who were impacted," AT&T said, adding that it would be contacting any and all customers whose e-mail and ICC-ID numbers were exposed. Apple has yet to issue a statement.So, how did the e-mail addresses and ICC-ID numbers of iPad 3G owners end up on a publicly accessible website? As Matt Buchanan at Gizmodo explains, the problem was a "tiny convenience feature" on the iPad 3G that fills (or filled, as of Tuesday) in your e-mail address automatically when you're checking your AT&T account from the iPad's Settings menu. Now that AT&T has plugged the security hole, you'll have to tap in your e-mail address every time you want to check the status of your 3G account.So if your iPad 3G info was exposed, how worried should you be? According to Gawker, the only data that were scooped up by the hackers were e-mail addresses at the ICC-ID numbers associated with them — no phone numbers, street addresses, credit card numbers or any other personal information. The New York Times also checked with some security experts, who note that there's only so much someone could do with your e-mail address — hit you with a phishing attack (you know, a fake message from, say, PayPal, asking for your username and password), or flood your inbox with junk mail. That said, "in the right hands," your iPad 3G's ICC-ID number could be used to track your iPad's location, one expert told the Times, although another downplayed the threat, noting that an attacker would need "access to very secure databases that are not generally connected to the public Internet."Still, even if the damage to actual iPad 3G users is relatively limited (we hope), the breach is acutely embarrassing for Apple and especially AT&T, which managed to leave personal information about its customers vulnerable on a public website. The snafu also raises the question: What other AT&T security holes are still out there, waiting to be exposed — or exploited?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Capital Gate Named World's Furthest Leaning Tower




When it comes to leaning, Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa can no longer claim to going the furthest.

That honor goes to the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi, which was recently certified as being the "World's Furthest Leaning Man-made Tower" by Guinness World Records, according to reports. The building leans at 18 degrees, which is nearly five times that of the Tower of Pisa, which leans at 4 degrees.

However, unlike the Tower of Pisa, the 35-story, 525-foot Capital Gate tower was built to lean 18 degrees westward. So, how did they do it? According to Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, who developed the tower, the building's floor plates are stacked vertically until the 12th floor, after which point they are "staggered over each other by between 300mm to 1400mm." ADNEC says Capital Gate also features "the world's first known use of a 'pre-cambered' core, which contains more than 15,000 cubic meters of concrete reinforced with 10,000 tons of steel."

The building, which boasts on its website that it is "designed to provide no symmetry so it amazes inside and outside," is being touted as an iconic tower for the Emirates' capital, symbolizing the city's vision of the future. "Capital Gate is a landmark development for Abu Dhabi and with this recognition the tower takes its place among the world's great buildings. It is a signature building which speaks of the foresight of the emirate," ADNEC's Chairman Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates is no stranger to signature buildings, having unveiled the world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai in January. The Capital Gate tower is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Monday, June 7, 2010

iPhone 4 unveiled with video chat




Calling it the "biggest leap since the original iPhone," Apple chief exec Steve Jobs proudly unveiled the widely expected iPhone 4, which indeed looks pretty much like the lost iPhone prototype that Gizmodo got its hands on a couple of months ago.

"I don't know if you've ever seen this," Jobs joked, provoking a roar of laughter from the audience as he showed off the now-familiar redesign of the new iPhone, complete with a front-facing camera (good for video chat via the new "FaceTime" feature), the new rear camera with LED flash (yes!), and a 9.3mm profile that makes the new iPhone "the thinnest smartphone on the planet," Jobs bragged.

The flat, stainless-steel-rimmed iPhone 4 — and yes, that's the official name — will be available in black or white, and it'll go on sale June 24, Jobs said. Expect to pay $299 for the 32GB version (same price as last year's 32GB iPhone 3GS, provided you sign a two-year AT&T contract), or $199 for the 16GB model. Also: The iPhone 3G is being discontinued, and the old iPhone 3GS will now sell for $99. (Nope, no discussion of an iPhone for Verizon or any other carriers.)


Among the new (and mostly expected) features for iPhone 4: a revamped, higher-resolution (960 by 640) display, now boasting 326 pixels an inch (or 78 percent of the pixels on the iPad) — good for "really, really sharp text" that's virtually indistinguishable from "text in a fine printed book," Jobs claimed. The new 3.5-inch screen (same size as before, by the way) even gets its own new name: a "retina display."

Very catchy, but Jobs ran into a little hiccup during his demo when Web pages on the spiffy new iPhone 4 refused to load. An error pop-up that read "could not activate cellular network" provoked a knowing titter from the audience. Jobs asked audience members to turn off their Wi-Fi and even fished for suggestions, prompting one smart aleck to shout out, "Verizon!" Ouch. (Later during the keynote, Jobs even asked bloggers in the audience to turn off their mobile Wi-Fi hotspots ... a request greeted by a chorus of boos.)

After a few minutes, Jobs' demo was back on track, with the chief exec noting that the iPhone 4 runs on Apple's new custom-made "system-on-a-chip," the A4 processor that powers the iPad.

Jobs also promised more battery life thanks to the iPhone 4's bigger battery and improved power management on the A4 chip — to the tune of seven hours of talk over a 3G network, six hours of 3G Web browsing, 10 hours of video, or 40 hours of music. (That's Jobs' claim, of course; the proof is in the pudding, after we run some field tests.)

Also new on the iPhone 4: a three-axis gyroscope, which combined with the existing digital compass and GPS sensor should make for better tracking of the exact direction in which the iPhone is pointing — handy for games or finding your way in a confusing neighborhood with Google Maps.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4's camera gets an upgrade to 5 megapixels (up from 3MP on the iPhone 3GS), a 5X digital zoom, and (at last) an LED flash. Another cool new feature: HD video recording, or 720p-quality video at 30 frames per second, to be precise, same as on the new HTC Evo 4G for Sprint (which, with its 8MP camera, still has the upper hand in terms of resolution). Even better, you'll be able to edit your videos directly on the iPhone, with a little help from the new iMovie for iPhone app (available now for $4.99).

'FaceTime' video chat
The big reveal in terms of the iPhone 4's camera (the "One more thing ... " at the keynote, incidentally), was FaceTime — two-way video chat, a feature that pretty much everyone in the blogosphere had predicted thanks to the front-facing camera on the lost iPhone prototype.

FaceTime gives you a full-screen view of the person you're chatting with, as well as your own video image in a smaller, inset window. Nifty, but FaceTime will work only over Wi-Fi, "in 2010," Jobs said, and only from one iPhone 4 handset to another. When will FaceTime work over 3G, you ask? No word on that, beyond the fact that it won't happen this year.

More iPhone OS details
We already got the biggest news about the latest version of the iPhone OS — support for multitasking — back in April, but Jobs filled in some of the blanks Monday, announcing support for searching via Bing on mobile Safari (in addition to the existing Google and Yahoo! options), as well as talking up the new OS's enterprise and security features. Oh, and iPhone OS 4.0 now has a new name: iOS 4.0. It'll be available for download in two weeks, on June 21.

Jobs also spent some time on iAds, Apple's new mobile advertising platform, including a demo of an ad from Nissan that lets you spin around the automaker's upcoming electric car with the swipe of a finger. The first iAd advertisement should start popping up on the iPhone starting in July, Jobs said, with Apple hoping to rake in a cool $60 million in ad revenue during the second half of 2010.

Netflix, Guitar Hero, iBooks apps
We've had Netflix for the iPad for more than two months now, but when will the killer app arrive for the iPhone? The answer: this summer.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings showed off the new Netflix for iPhone app (which Netflix reps had hinted at shortly after the release of Netflix for iPad) during Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote Monday, and it looks pretty much like a smaller, iPhone-sized version of the current Netflix for iPad app.

Features include full-length streaming of movies and TV shows directly on the iPhone, as well the ability to pause and pick up videos where you left off, either on the iPhone itself or on your other Netflix-enabled devices, such as PC, a Mac, a game console, or (of course) the iPad.

You'll also be able to rate and search for videos, as well as manage and add titles to your "instant" queue. Nice, but will Netflix for iPhone work over 3G networks, or only via Wi-Fi? Guess we'll find out later this summer.

[Five best gadget gifts for Father’s Day]

Meanwhile, we'll also be getting an official Guitar Hero game for the iPhone, complete with classic songs from Queen and the Rolling Stones. Poised to compete with two other popular iPhone-ized rhythm games — Tap Tap Revenge and Rock Band — the new Guitar Hero app boasts a new "strumming mechanic" developed specifically for the iPhone version of the game, according to an Activision exec at the keynote.

The graphics on the game itself (available today in the App Store) look pretty sweet, at least from what we've seen during the brief demo, and the price tag — $2.99 — is also hard to beat.

Finally, Jobs showed off an app we'd already seen back in April: iBooks for the iPhone, complete with the same features as on the iPad version of Apple's e-reader app (including note-taking, highlighting, in-app book purchasing, and the ability to tweak font sizes and background colors).

So, what do you think? Impressed or disappointed by Apple's announcements? Are you getting the iPhone 4? Did Gizmodo spoil Apple's party? Fire away below.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Steve Jobs on the New iPhone



Less than one week before formally debuting Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL - News) new iPhone at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, Steve Jobs opened up about apps, the future of media and what to expect from the iPad, iPhone and other Apple devices during the 8th Annual All Things Digital Conference.
"I'll tell you a secret," said Jobs during a Q&A session with D8 hosts Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. "It began with the tablet."
So the iPhone, arguably the most significant technological device of the 21st Century, was actually an afterthought that came into being while Apple was drawing up plans for the iPad.
"My God, I said, this would make a great phone," Jobs recalled. "So we shelved the tablet and built the iPhone."
Nice move.
While D8 marks the first of two occasions when Steve Jobs will speak publicly this week, it is not every day when the founder and CEO of the world's most valuable technology company shares his thoughts with a worldwide audience.
What else did Steve have to say?
Why he defends Apple and its pursuit of the "lost iPhone"
"When this whole thing with Gizmodo happened, I got a lot of advice from people who said you've got to just let it slide. You shouldn't go after a journalist because they bought stolen property and tried to extort you. I thought about that, and I decided that Apple can't afford to change its core values and simply let it slide. We have the same core values as when we started, and we come into work wanting to do the same thing today that we wanted to do five years ago."
On the reality of a world with 200,000 apps
"People are using apps way more than they are using search. So if you want to make developers more money, you've got to get the ads into apps. But the mobile ads we've got today rip you out of the app ... . That sucks."
How the iPad represents the "post-PC-era"
"The transformation of PC to new form factors like the tablet is going to make some people uneasy because the PC has taken us a long ways. The PC is brilliant, and we like to talk about the post-PC era, but it's uncomfortable."
Defending AT&T
"They're doing pretty good in some ways and in others they could do better. We meet with them once a quarter. Remember, they deal with way more data traffic than anyone else. And they're having trouble. But they have the fastest 3G network, and they're improving. I wish they were improving faster. I'm convinced that any other network, had you put the iPhone on it, would have had the same problems."
Apple's rivalry with Google and Microsoft
"(Google) (Nasdaq: GOOG - News) decided to compete with us and got more and more serious. Right now, we have the better product."
"We never saw ourselves in a platform war with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT - News). Maybe that's why we lost. But we never thought of ourselves in a platform war, we just wanted to make good products."
A soft spot for traditional media?
"I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers. I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for."
The future of television
The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box, and that pretty much undermines innovation in the sector. The only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it. But right now, there's no way to do that.
Why he still loves Apple's culture
"I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to hang out with some of the most talented, committed people around, and together we get to play in this sandbox and build these cool products. Apple is an incredibly collaborative company. You know how many committees we have at Apple? Zero. We're structured like a start-up. We're the biggest start-up on the planet. And we all meet once a week to discuss our business."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chinese supercomputer is world's second-fastest



A Chinese supercomputer has been ranked as the world's second-fastest machine, surpassing European and Japanese systems and underscoring China's aggressive commitment to science and technology.The Dawning Nebulae, based at the National Supercomputing Center in Shenzhen, China, has achieved a sustained computing speed of 1.27 petaflops -- the equivalent of one thousand trillion mathematical operations a second -- in the latest semiannual ranking of the world's fastest 500 computers.The newest ranking was made public on Monday at the International Supercomputer Conference in Hamburg, Germany. Supercomputers are used for scientific and engineering problems as diverse as climate simulation and automotive design.The Chinese machine is actually now ranked as the world's fastest in terms of theoretical peak performance, but that is considered a less significant measure than the actual computing speed achieved on a standardized computing test.The world's fastest computer remains the Cray Jaguar supercomputer, based at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Last November it was measured at 1.75 petaflops.In the previous year's ranking, the Chinese had the fifth-fastest computer, a system that was based at a National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, China. That machine has now dropped to seventh place.The United States continues to be the dominant maker of supercomputers, and is the nation with the most machines in the top 500. The United States has 282 of the world's fastest 500 computers on the new list, an increase from 277 when the rankings were compiled in November.But China appears intent on challenging American dominance. There had been some expectation that China would make an effort to complete a system based on Chinese-designed components in time for the June ranking. The Nebulae is based on chips from Intel and Nvidia.The new system, which is based on a microprocessor that has been designed and manufactured in China, is now expected later this year. A number of supercomputing industry scientists and engineers said that it was possible that the new machine would claim the title of world's fastest."I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of this year they surpass the scientific computing power of the EU countries combined and have a computer system with an achieved performance to reach the No. 1 position on the top 500," said Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee and one of the researchers who has organized the twice-yearly rankings.Americans designed the first machines that were defined as supercomputers during the 1960s, and the United States has rarely been dislodged from its controlling position as technology leader. In 2002, however, the Japanese government's Earth Simulator set off anxiety in Washington when that system briefly claimed the top position.The United States then began investing heavily in the computing systems, breaking the petaflop barrier in 2008.It is now preparing to begin a sustained push to build systems capable of computing at what is known as exascale performance -- one thousand times faster than today's fastest systems. The goal is to realize that technological achievement between 2018 and 2020.