What's Now: Apple covers up its 'FirePod' problem, backs off its Bluwiki threats

What's Now mid strip 600 px

Apple flambé? Exploding iPod reports hushed up

July 23, 2009 • They got that boom boom OW! -- After years of trouble and seven months of investigation, a report by KIRO-TV reporter Amy Clancy unearthed an 800-page Consumer Product Safety Commission report detailing a disturbing number of iPods that overheated and either burst into flames or started smoking.

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"At first I thought, how in the heck did I get burned? Right there?" she told Clancy, while pointing to a penny-sized, round burn on her chest. "Then I remembered that I had my iPod right there."

Balderas says her brand new iPod Shuffle overheated while she was running days before, leaving her with a small burn right where the iPod was clipped to her shirt, next to her skin. "My skin started burning really bad, like it was a bee sting that wouldn't stop."

Worse, Apple knew and chose to file exemption after exemption with the CPSC, putting its corporate image ahead of consumer safety. Clancy got the runaround from Apple's PR on this story (welcome to my world, darlin') but the information she's uncovered indicates that a recall still isn't out of the question. Public floggings for Apple's legal beagles and PRejects were not mentioned.

Apple backs off legal threats against Bluwiki

July 22, 2009 • In more Apple legal news, its legal team has decided to stop bullying Odioworks, which hosted a Bluewiki conversation about ways of syncing one's iPod or iPhone without using iTunes, for alleged DMCA violations. It took a slap from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to convince Cupertino that the iTunesDB pages, which did not discuss anything illegal or condone illegal circumvention, shouldn't be hectored by lawyers.

In its statement concerning the end of litigation, the EFF's Fred von Lohmann hinted that Apple might not want to get too self-satisfied about doing the right thing slowly and under duress: "Because Apple continues to use technical measures to lock iPod Touch and iPhone owners into -- and Palm Pre owners out of -- using Apple's iTunes software, I wouldn't be surprised if there are more discussions among frustrated customers about reverse engineering Apple products. We hope Apple has learned its lesson here and will give those online discussions a wide berth in the future."

Your reporter agrees and adds an impromptu recommendation of Red Chair Software's Anapod Explorer, a perfectly legal piece of software that's been protecting her iPod from iTunes for years.

Yahoo to acquire photo-sharing Xoopit

Evening of July 22, 2009 • Yahoo, already strong in the online-photos department thanks to Flickr, has agreed to acquire Xoopit, a site that bridges gaps between one's e-mail inbox and one's social-networking presence.

Saying it hopes to move users past the "massive digital shoebox" stage of rampant online photo sharing, Yahoo's Bryan Lamkin said Xoopit, which already works with the larger company on the My Photos app in e-mail, "will bring phenomenal photo organization, improved photo sharing, and the serendipity of discovering forgotten photos to Yahoo Mail."

Qualcomm, eBay earnings have a case of the meh; Sandisk surprises

5:00 pm EDT Tuesday, July 22, 2009 • Earningsapalooza continues with Q3 results from Qualcomm and Q2 numbers from eBay, both reporting losses. The auctioner's earnings fell 29% but managed to land above Wall Street's estimate; the marketplace continues weak, but things are looking good at both PayPal and Skype. The mobile-chipset firm, on the other hand, did not meet its own predictions, even though sales were down just 1.5% year-over-year and up from the previous quarter. They returned an EPS of 44 cents, down a penny from last year's Q3 but up 62 cents from last quarter's 18-cent loss.

Meanwhile, Sandisk surprised analysts with a Q2 profit after four quarters of losses; the firm says they made $53 million (EPS of 23 cents) in the quarter just ended. Chairman and CEO Eli Harari said the company is "cautiously optimistic" about the second half of the year.

Microsoft, Amazon release earnings reports

Thursday afternoon, 5:30 pm EDT and 5:00 pm EDT, respectively > Rain City's two highest-profile high-tech firms both drop their earnings reports on the same day. (Thanks, guys.) Expect decreased year-over-year results from both, chatter about Win7's status from Redmond, and a few notes on Zappo's from Beacon Hill.

Google Wave to begin crashing through this fall

September 30, 2009 > If you're still wondering what a Google Wave is or could be, there's a possibility you might find out later this fall, especially if there's an invasion of the things. During one of Google's first development conferences devoted specifically to the new technology, the company announced that 100,000 members of the general public will be invited to join an expanding "Wave Sandbox."

The Wave concept is more of a platform than an application -- in fact, no one's all that certain what the applications are or will be. But the idea is that both human beings and programs will be able to use this platform to communicate with one another, both using IM-like text and (here is the clincher) remote procedure calls. Those calls will follow an explicit protocol, but the Wave programs themselves can be written using scripting languages like Python, so the big (huge) (colossal) watchword here will be security.

How much will you pay to watch ABC?

Perhaps Q1 2010 > Just two months after ABC Television made a U-turn in its online TV roadmap plans, resuming its original plan to invest in and join TV replay service Hulu, the Disney division's CEO made statements at a Fortune Magazine conference indicating he may turn his company back around and resume his pre-Hulu plans.

"At some point," ABC President and CEO Robert Iger is quoted by the Hollywood Reporter as saying, he wants his network to deploy a subscription service to watch programming. He can't understand, he told the audience, why consumers are so willing to spend $5 per hour to watch a movie in theaters, but can't spend more than a quarter per hour to surf the Internet.

Thursday's tech headlines

Wall Street Journal

• Geoffrey Fowler explains for WSJ types the difference between buying a book and licensing its use on the Kindle. You probably already know, but the quotes he got for this piece are worth your time anyway. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Trachtenberg notes that USA Today is now including Kindle sales on its bestseller lists.

• Got kids? Got angst about whether little iMiley or Rickroll is up to snuff academically? Joseph de Avila reports on a host of Web sites providing supplemental homework excuses to park 'em front of the computer educational opportunities for the young ones.

• What do you do when the head of your company is revealed to be a big phony? After B. Ramalinga Raju, head of Hyderabad's Mahindra Satyam, admitted in January that he'd falsified the books -- a $1 billion fraud -- employees and acolytes were left to pick up the pieces. Eric Bellman reports.

New York Times

• Saul Hansell chats with Time Armstrong, the newish CEO of AOL. He's a former advertising guy, so though Hansell never uses the exact phrase "gunning for Yahoo," it's not a difficult concept to grasp.

• Claire Cain Miller reports that mom-and-pop outfits are making good use of Twitter.

• The digital divide is still real, but African Americans are bridging it in one area at least: mobile Internet use.

The Register

• A piece The Reg is posting from out-law.com asserts that the EU's upcoming tracking and monitoring system for transport is apt to violate the privacy rights of travelers.

• Hands up anyone stunned to hear that legal concerns over the GPL were the impetus for Microsoft to release that Hyper-V code. Anyone? Anyone? Gavin Clarke says that's the only reason it happens. One may disagree with his assertion that "the rest was theater," but he makes a reasonably good case.

Ars Technica

• The sky is blue, eating and sleeping are good habits to have, and end users can be complete idiots about security when they want to do something fun like social networking. Jacqui Cheng fleshes out what you already knew to be true.

• It's not available for the likes of you yet, but FCC staffers now have reboot.fcc.gov, a site to kickstart the process of improving the Federal Communications Commission by gathering good ideas from the employees. Matthew Lasar has details.

• Disney is about to start selling DVDs with copies of the movie on a MicroSD card for portable-gadget usage. (Portable gadgets that are not the Pre, anyway.)

CNET

• David Carnoy has been looking at that Apple earnings reports from Tuesday and worries that the sales numbers spell the end for the iPod Classic.

• Ina Fried hung out at the Fortune Brainstorm: Tech conference on Wednesday and filed an assortment of nifty little reports on what the poohbahs were discussing.

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