Posts Tagged ‘ Facebook ’


Google is on track to spend more money this year attempting to influence lawmakers than any other tech company

Google and Facebook continued to pour millions of dollars into political lobbying in the third quarter in attempts to influence U.S. lawmakers and have legislation written in their favor.

Google spent $3.94 million between July and September while Facebook spent $2.45 million, according to disclosure data published Tuesday.

The only tech-related company to outspend Google was Comcast, which is trying to persuade politicians to look favorably on a merger with Time Warner and spent $4.23 million during the quarter.

But Google stands as the largest spender in the entire tech industry to date this year. It has run up a $13 million bill lobbying Washington politicians and their offices on a range of issues as diverse as online regulation of advertising, cybersecurity, patent abuse, health IT, international tax reform, wind power and drones.

If industry spending continues at its current level, 2014 will mark the fourth year that Google has spent more money on federal lobbying than any other technology company.

Facebook began lobbying Washington in 2009 and has quickly risen to become the fourth-largest spender in the tech industry so far this year, behind Google, Comcast and AT&T.

The company’s lobbying hits an equally diverse range of areas including cyber breaches, online privacy, free trade agreements, immigration reform, Department of Defense spending and intellectual property issues.

Another notable spender in the third quarter was Amazon, which plowed $1.18 million into its lobbying efforts. That represents a quarterly record for the Seattle company and is the second quarter in a row that it has spent more than $1 million on lobbying.

Amazon’s lobbying was aimed at many of the same areas targeted by Google and Facebook, but covered additional subjects close to its business, including postal reform, online wine sales, mobile payments and Internet tax payments.

The money is funneled to D.C. lobbying firms that use it to push their clients’ agendas to politicians and their staffers. The lobbying disclosure reports are published quarterly by the U.S. Senate and detail spending in general areas, but do not go into specifics.

Lobbying has long been an effective tool used by major companies, but it’s only been in the last few years that Internet companies have started spending money in amounts to rival traditional tech giants.

During the third quarter, other major spenders included Verizon ($2.91 million), CTIA ($1.95 million), Microsoft ($1.66 million) and Oracle ($1.2 million).

Apple spent just over $1 million in the quarter lobbying on issues including consumer health legislation, transportation of lithium ion batteries, international taxes, e-books, medical devices and copyright.


 

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Big tech firms back Wi-FAR for remote broadband

Written by admin
August 7th, 2014

802.22 standard, approved in 2011, promises low-cost broadband for remote areas

Google, Microsoft and Facebook are cranking up an emerging wireless technology known as Wi-FAR to help reduce the digital divide in remote and unconnected regions of the world.

Wi-FAR is a recently trademarked name from the nonprofit WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) that refers to the 802.22 wireless standard first approved by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 2011.

The standard shares the underused TV band of spectrum called whitespace to send wireless signals, typically over distances of six to 18 miles in rural and remote areas. It has a theoretical download speed of more than 22 Mbps per TV channel that serves up to 512 devices, according to the WSA. That could result in speeds of about 1.5 Mbps on a downlink to a single device.

While such speeds are far slower than for the gigabit fiber-optic cable services that Google and AT&T are building in some U.S. cities, the speeds could theoretically begin to compete with some 3G cellular speeds, although not 4G LTE speeds. For an impoverished or sparsely populated region where businesses and schoolchildren have little Internet access, Wi-FAR could be a godsend when used to link base stations (typically found at the ground level of cell towers) in a distributed network.
Students in South Africa
Students at the University of Limpopo in South Africa use laptops connected to the Internet using Wi-FAR wireless technology. (Photo: Microsoft)

About 28 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to broadband, while globally, about 5 billion people, nearly three-fourths of the world’s population — don’t have broadband Internet access, said Apurva Mody, chairman of both the WSA and of the 802.22 Working Group.

“This is cheap Internet access and there are dozens of trials underway, with Google in South Africa, Microsoft in Tanzania and other continents, and even Facebook’s interest,” Mody said in an interview. “You have 1.2 billion people in India who need cost-effective Internet access. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Wi-FAR.”

Wi-FAR will be cheaper for access to the Internet than LTE and other wireless services. The lower cost is partly because Wi-FAR works over unlicensed spectrum, similar to Wi-Fi, which allows network providers, and even government entities, to avoid paying licensing fees or needing to build as many expensive cell towers, that can cost $50,000 apiece, Mody said. “The prices for Wi-FAR service will be very small, perhaps less than $10 per month per household.”

The 802.22 technology can be low cost because the whitespace spectrum is shared with conventional users, including TV stations on UHF and VHF bands. Thanks to sophisticated databases that track when a whitespace channel will be in use in a particular region, a cognitive (or smart) radio device can determine when to switch to another channel that’s not in use. Testing in various Wi-FAR pilots projects, many of them in Africa, is designed to prove that Wi-FAR devices won’t interfere with other existing users on the same channel.

“We have yet to have an interference problem,” said James Carlson, CEO of Carlson Wireless Technologies, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is working with Google on two six-month trials of 802.22 in the UK, among other areas. The company completed a successful trial with Google serving students in South Africa in 2013. Carlson, in an email interview, said the company is working with five database providers, noting that the “prime purpose of the database is to protect the incumbent spectrum user.”

Whitespace spectrum sharing, coupled with the use of the databases, is generally called dynamic spectrum allocation technology. In January, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Carlson’s RuralConnect TV whitespace radio system for use with a Spectrum Bridge TV whitespace database, effectively bringing the first dynamic spectrum sharing product to market.

In the U.S., RuralConnect is authorized for use in the UHF TV band, running from 470 MHz to 698 MHz. The FCC opened up the band in 2010.

At the time, Carlson said the FCC’s approval would give a boost to global efforts to use whitespace technology. “Providing connectivity to underserved populations worldwide is more than an interest to us,” he said in a statement. “It’s our corporate mission.”

RuralConnect will get competition from products in other companies, including Redline, Adaptrum and 6Harmonics, Carlson said. In addition to other providers, Google has built a whitespace database that Carlson is testing.

In all, Carlson Wireless has piloted dozens of whitespace projects, and expects to start its largest yet for 30 base stations and 5,000 users near New Delhi in the next six months, Carlson said.

“India is the next big boom for online needs, and the rural areas are not getting [Internet service] with [typical] mobile systems,” Carlson said. “So they are choosing to go with the TV whitespace because the UHF band is almost all vacant in rural areas and 600 MHz propagation is superb.”

While Carlson has been working with Google, Microsoft separately announced in June a whitespace pilot project at the University of Limpopo in South Africa. It is part of a Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative to help ignite economic development in Africa.

In May, Microsoft and Facebook joined with SpectraLink Wireless to announce a whitespace project for students and faculty at universities in Koforidua, Ghana. That project brought the number of nations where Microsoft has whitespace pilots to 10 countries on four continents.

In the Microsoft and SpectraLink partnership, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team will lead efforts to better understand how TV whitespace spectrum can support wireless Internet users, according to a statement.

Microsoft and others believe that TV whitespace technology will best work in combination with Wi-Fi and other low-cost wireless technologies. While much of whitespace technology is focused on building specialized bridge hardware for use in base stations, Mody said some companies are developing fixed wireless 802.22 routers, similar in appearance to Wi-Fi routers, that will be placed inside of homes.

Microsoft also spearheaded the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, which Google and Facebook joined last November. The alliance is exploring many uses for whitespace spectrum, including Internet of Things device connectivity.

Craig Mathias, an analyst and wireless consultant for The Farpoint Group, said 802.22 devices may compete against or complement a number of other technologies, including cellular and Wi-Fi.

“802.22 is not a pipe dream, but so far there’s not a lot of evidence of its success,” Mathias said in an interview. “It does make sense. The rate of innovation in wireless is so high that you hear something exciting every week. But not all wireless standards are successful in terms of having [successful] wireless products.”


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Twitter faces growing pressure to attract new users and dramatically increase engagement on the platform. Can it ever rival the numbers and growth of Facebook?

Twitter’s honeymoon as a publicly traded company could be coming to an end. With growth stalling and timeline views on the decline for the first time ever, Twitter finds itself at a crossroads.

Twitter Suffers from Growing Pains
While its quest for more ad revenue continues unabated, the company faces even greater pressure to attract new users and dramatically increase engagement on the platform.

“Twitter has seen its sequential MAU growth rate decelerate sharply after hitting 50 million, raising concerns that its quirkier nature might cap its potential audience in the U.S. at a ceiling well below that of Facebook.”
— Seth Shafer, SNL Kagan

“We as a company aren’t going to be satisfied — I am not going to be satisfied — until we reach every connected person on the planet, period,” CEO Dick Costolo said at last week’s Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference.

The challenge ahead for Twitter coupled with Costolo’s grandiose goal puts the company in a predicament unlike any it has confronted before. It also fans the unfortunate, yet inevitable comparison to Facebook. While Twitter ended 2013 with an average monthly active user (MAU) base of 241 million, Facebook surpassed 1.23 billion. For every user that engages on Twitter, at least five are actively using Facebook.

“Twitter needs to do something to grow to the size of Facebook but the jury is still out if there’s a clear path for Twitter or any other company to do that, or if Facebook is a once-in-a-lifetime anomaly that was in the right place at the right time,” says Seth Shafer, associate analyst at SNL Kagan.

Costolo hasn’t helped matters by failing to meet previous internal estimates for growth either. Early last year the executive reportedly told employees that he expected to reach 400 million MAUs by the end of 2013. Failing to double its active user base last year, Twitter reported a 30 percent increase in its stead.

“Twitter’s overall MAU growth is still pretty healthy, but it’s all coming internationally where users monetize at a much lower rate. U.S. growth has slowed significantly at about 50 million MAUs,” says Shafer.

Facebook blew past 50 million U.S. MAUs without blinking and moreover, its sequential increases didn’t dip into the single digits until it surpassed about 120 million users in the U.S., according to SNL Kagan data.

“Twitter, however, has seen its own sequential MAU growth rate decelerate sharply after hitting 50 million MAUs, raising concerns that its quirkier nature and niche focus might cap its potential audience in the United States at a ceiling well below that of Facebook,” Shafer adds.

Twitter’s ‘Road Map’ for Growth
Nonetheless, Twitter’s lead executive says he is optimistic about rising user growth. While the company is being careful not to make specific promises or announcements about how it will improve on these points, Costolo has frequently referenced a road map of late that lays out a strategy for achieving better growth over the course of the year.

Pointing to field research and internal data on how users engage with the platform, he hints at a series of new features and design changes that are expected to drive new user growth. Twitter’s vault of data and newfound capability to experiment with multiple beta tests simultaneously has “informed a very specific road map for the kinds of capabilities we want to introduce to the product that we believe will drive user growth,” says Costolo.

He is quick to point out, however, that no single product feature or change to the platform will lead to a “quantum leap change in growth.” Instead it will be an accumulation of numerous tweaks throughout the year that give him confidence. “You’re going to be seeing a significant amount of experimentation of different ideas we have,” he says.

While dispelling concerns about lagging growth in the recently closed quarter, Costolo says there was no specific event or trend during the quarter that meaningfully impacts how the company thinks about user growth. Indeed, improvements made during the finals months of 2013, particularly in messaging and discovery, have already paid off. Favorites and retweets rose 35 percent from the previous quarter and direct messages jumped 25 percent over the same period, according to Twitter.

“I’m starting to see those interactions do what we hoped they would do,” he says. “It’s more about pushing the content forward and pushing back the scaffolding of Twitter.”

The company also hopes to attract new users by simplifying its on-boarding process and dramatically reducing the 11 steps a new account currently requires.

Under the Shadow of Facebook
Twitter has successfully maneuvered through its fair share of challenges before. Be it the fail whale sightings and power struggles of its early days or the feverish hunt for ad revenue of late, the company has found its way.

But now with its first complete quarter as a public company in the rear view, the demands for growth from investors will only get louder with each passing quarter. Twitter will have to deliver some big numbers in 2014 to keep Wall Street happy, but Costolo’s comments also suggest that much of that success will depend on a clear differentiation between Twitter’s role in the world and that of Facebook.

“Twitter is this indispensable companion to life in the moment,” Costolo says. “If you think about it as a product, I think that misses the impact and the reach of what we really believe is a content, communications and data platform.”

By that distinction, the opportunities afforded to Twitter are “enormous,” says Costolo. “We believe we are the only platform where you get an understanding of wide reach in the moment while it’s happening.”

Tapping into big data and personalization could help, but it won’t move the needle far enough for Twitter to reach the scale of Facebook, says Shafer of SNL Kagan.

Emerging from under the shadow of Facebook will be a struggle for Twitter unless it makes dramatic changes to the service or goes on an acquisition binge aimed at cobbling something larger together, he adds. And even that would be a challenge because of course, “we already have a pretty big thing like that called Facebook,” Shafer says.


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Users must be alert about having their real identity from Google+ replace pseudonyms in other Google services

Google’s work to integrate its Google+ social networking site broadly with its other services could raise red flags for users who want to closely guard their privacy.

It’s valid to raise concerns over Google’s decision to integrate Google+, which carries a real-name requirement for users, with other Google services people have been using with pseudonyms for years, said John Verdi, senior counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in a phone interview.

Google’s nightmare scenario would be for a critical mass of users to inadvertently green-light Google+ integrations only to later complain that they didn’t know their pseudonyms in certain services would be replaced by their Google+ real name.

 

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If that were to happen, Google could find itself in a privacy controversy that it can ill afford. The U.S. government has the company on a short leash, having mandated audits of its privacy policies and practices for the next 20 years after a privacy firestorm ignited with the launch of the now-closed Buzz service last year.

Buzz, a microblogging and social networking service, debuted with an integration with the Gmail webmail service that exposed users’ private e-mail contacts publicly and without authorization.

Since launching Google+ this summer, Google officials have been stressing that it makes it simple and intuitive for members to control what they share, with whom and how.

During this initial period, when Google+ has operated mostly as a stand-alone social networking site, consensus has been that, yes, its content sharing and privacy controls work well and as advertised.

However, Google has now started to integrate Google+ with other services, and it remains to be seen whether a critical mass of users will fully understand the interaction, cross-functionality and data sharing between Google+ and other Google services.

Google officials, from the CEO on down, are gung-ho about Google+ and it’s clear that the push to fuse Google+ with other company services will be extensive.

Google has redesigned the interface of the Google Account control panel, whose previous version clearly listed Google services available to users as part of the account, along with links to the services and some of their settings pages. The new control panel lacks that list of services.

Previously found at google.com/accounts, the control panel is now part of the Google+ site domain, another sign that Google+ is becoming the command center for privacy controls and settings across Google services. The new control panel includes a link to the old control panel, but it’s not clear for how long the latter will be available.

The road to propagate Google+ across the Google product line is just starting, and the potential for a misstep at some point seems high, considering that at issue is the online identity of potentially hundreds of millions of people.

In some cases, shielding their real identity is of life-and-death importance for some people, such as spousal abuse victims and political dissidents in totalitarian regimes.

“If Google wants to be the broker in the relationship between pseudonyms and real names, there will be all sorts of ways that that could go wrong across their many services. If you’re a user in Syria depending on your pseudonymity in order to stay alive, that’s not a very comforting situation,” said Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, via e-mail.

In other words, now more than ever, Google must make sure that it fully complies its famous “do not be evil” philosophy.

Microsoft and the future of Skype

Written by nancy@freetrainingkey.com
October 14th, 2011

The announcement Tuesday May 10 that Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for the online voice and video service, Skype, has prompted much speculation as to Microsoft’s motives and the future of the Skype service.

By any estimate, the deal was overpriced for a company that last year made a net loss of $7 million on revenues of $860 million. The projected Initial Public Offering for Skype was estimated at 50 percent less than what Microsoft paid for the service. This is Microsoft’s largest ever acquisition but still represents a small fraction of the software giant’s massive wealth. Microsoft has a net worth of around $220 billion.

Skype was first launched in 2003 by software developers Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. The two had previously developed the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Kazaa. Skype is based on the same underlying technology, which allows the service to utilize the power of user’s computers rather than investing in expensive server technology.

The ability to make international voice calls from computer to computer, and later to landlines, independently of the telecommunication giants proved instantly attractive. Skype had 50,000 registered users by September 2005, doubling that figure to 100,000 by April 2006. Today, an estimated 170 million people worldwide are Skype users. By 2010, Skype was said to be responsible for a quarter of all international telephone calls.

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Skype’s overwhelming success made it an early target of corporations seeking ways to capitalize on the user base. Online auction site eBay bought Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005 with a view to integrating it into its auction services. The integration never happened, and in 2009 eBay sold 70 percent of Skype to an investment group that included founder of Netscape, Marc Andreessen. The 70 percent stake was valued at $2.75 billion.

The purchase by Microsoft poses a real threat to democracy and the free exchange of ideas. What has become an essential utility for millions of people is now controlled by one of the world’s largest corporations, and one that has a record of subverting technological advances in the interests of maintaining its own monopoly. (See, “The Microsoft law suit, software development and the capitalist market”)

It is not yet clear how Microsoft intends to make a profit out of the Skype technology, or if Skype will go the way of so many previous purchases by the company, including Groove, Placeware, Massive, LinkExchange and WebTV, all of which were shut down.

Some commentators speculate that Microsoft could integrate the Skype services into its email client Outlook and the Exchange mail server, in the hope that this would encourage businesses to pay for the service. Other business possibilities include enabling real time video and voice services for the XboxLive network in the hope of encouraging a wider subscription base.

Though Microsoft already has its own video and voice technology in its MSN chat service and the NetMeeting service which is widely used in business, what it lacks is the massive user base of Skype.

It is entirely possible that Microsoft’s interest in Skype is bound up with the threat that it poses to the company’s profits through increased commercial use of the Skype service over NetMeeting. Skype not only offers cheap telephone calls and free computer to computer communications, but now features screen sharing and video conferencing, which make it an attractive free alternative to products such as NetMeeting.

Concerns as to the future of Skype were already raised following the eBay acquisition in 2005. One concern was the closed character of Skype development and the use of proprietary rather than open standards. Though there are free and open alternatives, there is no way for users to convert their Skype contacts over to an alternate system.

In 2007 an increasingly popular alternative to Skype emerged called the Gizmo Project. Though the Gizmo client itself was proprietary, the service used open transportation standards such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). One advantage this project had over Skype was the ability to register a conference phone number and have people call in by standard phone as well as from a computer. Gizmo growth was slow due to the overwhelming dominance of Skype and the inability to access the Skype user base. Just as Gizmo began to stabilize and gain a significant user base, it was purchased by Google in November 2009. Google subsequently killed Gizmo in favor of its own Google Voice platform in April this year.

The development of the technology that made Skype possible is bound up with the technological advances of the last two decades that has led to unprecedented social interaction across borders. Along with social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, Skype was cited as a factor in spreading the mass protests against the Mubarak regime in Egypt earlier this year. Services such as Skype not only risk falling prey to profit seeking capitalist corporations, but also government interference and even outright suppression.

In February of this year the New York Times reported, “The F.B.I. has been quietly laying the groundwork for years for a push to require Internet-based communications services — like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry and Skype— to design their systems with a built-in way to comply with wiretap orders.”

The newspaper quoted the F.B.I.’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni stating, “Due to the revolutionary expansion of communications technology in recent years, the government finds that it is rapidly losing ground in its ability to execute court orders with respect to Internet-based communications.”

Given Microsoft’s record in silently complying with government subpoenas, the FBI will no doubt welcome the acquisition as a means of establishing better control of this inherently subversive alternative to big business telecommunications giants who aided the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spy program and were granted immunity by the Democratic controlled Senate in 2008.

5 Hidden dangers of Facebook

Written by admin
September 30th, 2011

Over the last few years, Facebook’s growth has been phenomenal. The world’s no. 1 social networking site also sometime back beat Google to become the most visited Web site in the US for an entire week at a stretch. However, the site has also lately being receiving lot of flak for its privacy policies.

 

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An expert in online privacy drew attention to the five dangers of sharing information on social networking site Facebook. Joan Goodchild, senior editor of CSO (Chief Security Officer) Online, said that marketing efforts by the company often results in a compromise on account holders’ privacy.

Goodchild noted five risks of using Facebook. They are:

1. According to Facebook policy last updated on April 2010, “When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. … The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” … Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.”

2. In March, private e-mail according to a Gawker report, private email addresses that many Facebook users wanted to keep hidden were revealed publicly on a multitude of Facebook profiles. The glitch was later resolved by Facebook.

3. Recently, a Facebook event invitation was reportedly sent to some over 2,300 friends of Jim Breyer, Accel Partners venture capitalist who sits on Facebook’s board of directors, asking “Would you like a Facebook phone number?” However, the message was actually a scam and the users who entered their passwords in response to the message in turn sent the whole thing to their friends lists too.

“This was a phishing scam and Jim’s account appears to have been compromised,” read a statement from Facebook as provided to venture industry news site PEHub.

4. On May 6th, the popular social network patched a major security bug that allowed users to snoop on their friends’ private chats, and view their pending friend requests. The exploit forced Facebook to temporarily disable chat.

5. Earlier this week, 15 privacy and consumer protection organizations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging that the site manipulates privacy settings to make users’ personal information available for commercial use.

The two examples of printing and storage underline that a Chromebook is not just a laptop with a new OS but a new way of computing. Not only does it differ from traditional laptop OSes, but it also contrasts with the iPad and other tablets. Sure, tablets rely more heavily on cloud services than PCs do, but they provide local apps and storage, as well as direct connectivity. Those apps can overcome some of the limitations of the tablets; for example, there are iOS apps that let iPads print directly to wirelessly connected printers, not just to HP’s models or through a computer you have to leave on. Maybe we’ll see such apps eventually for Chrome OS, but Google has purposely kept Chrome OS limited to retain the purity of its cloud vision.

 

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What this all means is that a Chromebook probably won’t replace a laptop, at least not anytime soon. Odds are it’ll be used like an iPad: as an additional “+1″ device for use on the go, in cafés, at conference halls, in lobbies, and during quick trips. In that sense, it competes with the Apple iPad, Motorola Mobility Xoom, and the Motorola Mobility Atrix Lapdock, which also are designed for on-the-go computing, but the four devices approach such mobility differently. It will be interesting to see if the Chromebook approach of pure reliance on the cloud gains traction compared to the Lapdock approach of augmenting a smartphone when on the go and the tablet approach of the iPad and Xoom of providing a mix of local and cloud services.

As Chrome OS gains polish, its Web apps look clunkier
When I first used the Chromebook, I was concerned about the lack of fit and finish in the demo apps at Google’s Chrome Store. Now that the Chrome OS itself has gained polish and responsiveness, the Chrome OS Web apps feel even clunkier. Using Webmail, for example, is an awkward experience compared to using a “real” mail client, whether on a laptop or tablet.

Web apps don’t handle direct manipulation well, such as dragging mail folders, so they tend to be more labor-intensive in their usage and less sophisticated in their capabilities. Although I appreciate Chrome OS more and more, I really dislike the Web apps — which are what you would use day to day for anything other than basic Web activities.

Google really needs to redefine what a Web app is, perhaps by taking its Google Docs suite and making them work like a “real” app suite. Right now, Google Docs is fine as a waystation for shared data and on-the-go touch-up work, but it’s not a comfortable tool for real editing, calendaring, emailing, spreadsheet work, or presentation work. (Microsoft’s Office Web Apps is no better.)

Google has promised to add local storage to Google Docs, so you can keep working on files when disconnected, but it hasn’t yet delivered, despite an original claim of a March 2011 beta release. It’s harder these days to be disconnected, if you’re willing to pay for data access — even airplanes offer in-flight Wi-Fi service. But there are periods of the day when you are disconnected, such as during your commute or waiting for take-off in a plane — and not everyone can afford all the 3G and Wi-Fi plans to stay nearly always connected.

Currently, a tablet can handle that mix of online and offline situations, whereas a Chromebook cannot. Chromebook users need to make sure their files are synced before they lose their connections. The good news is that if you don’t close the browser window and the battery doesn’t die, the document you were working on stays in the local cache and should sync when you regain connectivity.

I believe the connectivity issue will not be a deal breaker for most users — but the awkwardness of the Web apps compared to using a laptop or an iPad will. After all, an iPad is a lot lighter and easier to carry around than a Chromebook, though a Chromebook has the advantage (like the Lapdock) of providing a full desktop Web experience, unlike the iPad or other tablets. And you can get a light laptop that’s no bigger or heavier than a Chromebook — with full computing capabilities. The Chromebook beats laptops in terms of battery use, but that may not be enough of an advantage to be a substitute.

Still, there’s something compelling about the Chromebook concept. Chrome OS is showing more promise now than in its December 2010 beta debut, but still feels gawky compared to an iPad. Google has a little time before commercial Chromebooks appear. Here’s hoping it has some truly amazing Web apps in development ready to redefine today’s low expectations of what a Web app can do.

Dirty IT jobs: Partners in slime

Written by admin
May 9th, 2011

Dirty Job No. 2: The shadow
You probably don’t want to know where your coworkers are going on the Web. But sometimes you have no choice. Nancy Hand knows this, well, firsthand.

 

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Until three years ago, Hand was a network engineer for a large public utility in the Southwest. When any of that site’s 3,000 employees got a malware infection, Hand received an alert via the utility’s McAfee software. She was then called in to investigate by remotely combing through the employee’s browser cache, looking for the source of the attack.

[ Get a $50 American Express gift cheque if we publish your anonymous experiences from tech’s front lines. Send your story of a lesson learned, of dealing with frustrating coworkers/end-users/managers, or a humorous happening to offtherecord@infoworld.com. ]

Along the way, Hand got to see where these employees had been surfing while they were allegedly working. Most of the time what she found was benign — a lot of sites devoted to cooking, fashion, cars, and day trading. Inevitably, though, she’d encounter the darker side.

Like the employee who swore it was a spam email that caused his browser to visit that members-only bondage site, though how that email also managed to create a member profile for him was less clear. (Hand says the head of  IT security jokingly awarded her the “Golden Garter Belt” for uncovering that one.)

Or the company vice president whom Hand discovered had been spending work time visiting TeenageVirginSluts.com. Naturally, he was the VP of IT.

“He was my boss’s boss’s boss,” she says. “After I found this I contacted my manager and said, ‘We have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of thing, so I am officially notifying you of what I found.’ To my knowledge nothing was ever done. About a year later that VP got fired for another sexually related infraction.”

Some employees ended up being escorted from the facility by armed guards, though Hand never knew whether it was due to something she had found.

“Sometimes it was a little unsettling to be on the machine of someone I’d met in another part of my job who seemed like a very toe-the-line type of person, only to discover it wasn’t true,” she said. “People aren’t as innocent as they seem. And the next time they complained about catching a virus, I’m thinking ‘Well, you sort of did this to yourself.'”

Dirty jobs survival tip: Be prepared to go it alone.

“Management didn’t seem to take any of it very seriously, even after we got hit with a denial-of-service attack that put us out of business for almost an entire day,” she says. “It all becomes political, even though you think it shouldn’t be. The VP is given a pass, but the secretary gets fired.”

Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers

Written by admin
May 8th, 2011

Microsoft Office 2010 takes on all comers: OpenOffice.org 3.3.0
OpenOffice.org has long been a commonly suggested replacement for Microsoft Office. It offers several common office-suite features at a much lower price — free — than Microsoft Office itself, although many of those individual features don’t have the level of polish or advancement found in commercial office-suite products. That said, for people who don’t need the absolute latest and greatest functionality in every category, OpenOffice.org is a solid piece of software. (In the interest of full disclosure, again, I admit I have been frustrated by its limitations, but I can recognize that for many other people it will more than do the job.)

 

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Don’t be thrown off if you come to OpenOffice.org from the Microsoft Office side. The program’s UI is very vintage 2003 — dockable toolbars instead of the newer ribbon/tab metaphors that are now all the rage. That said, future versions of OpenOffice.org may sport a more modern look, although this is still very much under wraps — nothing more than mock-up designs of such a UI have surfaced yet.
Office suites file format compatibility and other features
Office Open XML    Office legacy format    ODF     Spelling and grammar checking    PDF export     HTML export    VBA macro support
Microsoft Office 2010    Native format    Excellent    Good    Excellent     Good     Very good     Native
OpenOffice 3.3.0    Good    Excellent    Native format    Fair     Excellent     Good     Limited
LibreOffice 3.3.1    Good    Excellent    Native format    Fair     Excellent     Good     Limited
IBM Lotus Symphony 3.0    Good    Excellent    Native format    Fair     Excellent     Poor (conversion by plug-in only)     Limited
SoftMaker Office 2010    Excellent    Excellent    Excellent    Good     Very good     Good     VBA-like scripting language
Corel WordPerfect Office X5    Fair (.docx only)    Good    Fair (.dot only)    Good     Very good     Excellent     None
Google Docs    Very good    Excellent    Excellent    Fair     Excellent     Excellent     None

13 features that make each Web browser unique

Written by admin
May 7th, 2011

FireFTP, for instance, is one of the deeper extensions that’s hard to spin up from the classic three languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It takes advantage of the access to the file system and the low-level access to the TCP/IP stack. Some people may feel the thinner APIs from the other browsers act like a better sandbox and thus offer more security — and they’re right. But many of the most sophisticated extensions for Firefox require the flexibility of dipping into native code and interfacing directly with the operating system.

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Internet Explorer 9: Emphasis on energy efficiency
Everyone may be talking about JavaScript compilation engines and hardware integration, but the idea of measuring browser energy consumption is a new one. Here, Microsoft is leading the way, claiming that IE9 is the most energy-efficient browser.

Of course, there’s no easy way to test this assertion, even with an electrical meter because the computer could be burning electricity on some background task. However, the idea is meaningful, in large part because handheld devices need to be very careful with power consumption. While no one really notices if their video card on the game machine requires a separate pipeline from the Middle East to keep it running, everyone squawks when the phone dies halfway through the afternoon.

IE9 does not yet run on phones, but it may affect laptop energy conservation. Furthermore, simply paying attention to browser energy consumption may put Microsoft ahead of what could soon become a very important game.

Chrome: A separate process for each tab
For the past few years, interest in multiprocess architectures has been growing among browser developers. Here, Google has taken the lead, splitting the work of Chrome tabs into different processes. This approach relies on the operating system to isolate crashes, thereby making the browser more stable. In other words, if one plug-in or Web page goes south, the OS isolates the danger, usually ensuring that the other tabs sail on unaware.

Of course, all browser makers are rolling out multiprocess technology in different ways and at different speeds. Open your PC’s process display window and start cracking apart the tabs — you’ll see that the browsers spawn a few processes, but only Google Chrome keeps opening them up. Chrome is the browser most committed to separating the workload and letting the operating system act as a referee.

Some argue that this belts-and-suspenders approach is overkill and not worth the overhead, claiming that the browser makers should not fall back on the operating system for support. Others suggest the browser experience can end up being slower if related windows are split into different processes. To combat this, Chrome sometimes puts pages from the same domain in the same process, but you can expect arguments over the best way to handle multiprocessing to continue for the foreseeable future.

Internet Explorer 9: Jump lists and site pinning
Jump lists began as little menus attached to icons in Windows 7. Right-click an application’s icon and you’ll find shortcuts to app-specific tasks and recently accessed files as determined by the app’s developer. Now these jump lists are part of IE9, and every Web designer can specify a quick list of important pages for users to access quickly with a right-click. IE9 takes the jump-list concept one step further by allowing you to “pin” websites to the bar at the top of each window where they can be easier to reach. The jump list adds a pull-down menu for these pinned websites. It’s a good solution for common destinations, like email or shopping sites.

Chart: Apple’s amazing year of iOS

Written by admin
May 6th, 2011

Mobile devices running iOS generated $43.79 billion for Apple during calendar 2010, or about 57 percent of revenues. But it is the rise in overall revenue and net profit that is most significant, as seen from the chart above. Perhaps more surprising, Apple’s calendar first quarter 2011 net profit was just slightly less than that of the holiday quarter, when iOS device sales were even stronger.

 

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The revenue curve from Q1 to Q4 2010 is simply stunning. Apple revenue nearly doubled, as did its net profit — from $13.5 billion to $26.7 billion and $3.1 billion to $6 billion, respectively. In April 2010, Apple launched iPad, which generated about $10 billion in revenue during 2010. Without iPad, Apple would have generated only $66.28 billion last year — still impressive.

By my reckoning, Apple sold about 81 million iOS devices during 2010 — or about half the number Apple says had shipped by the end of first calendar quarter 2011.

While the gains across the metrics are absolutely impressive for calendar 2010, first quarter 2011 stands out by a different measure. Not surprisingly, Apple revenue fell by about $2 billion going from the holiday quarter, which is to be expected. What’s startling: Net profit dipped slightly, $5.99 billion from $6 billion, during sequential quarters.

The revenue surge is over, and the chart for 2011 will likely be different. Apple is forecasting $23 billion revenue for second calendar quarter. Throughout 2010, Apple exceeded forecasts by at least $1 billion a quarter — $2.67 billion for calendar Q1 2011. So calendar Q2 could still grow sequentially. Wall Street analysts are projecting $24.45 billion for the quarter, but their estimates have been running low, too.

Microsoft on Monday announced that its new cloud PC management solution, Windows Intune, will be launched in its first complete RTM build on March 23 at the Microsoft Management Summit, and will be commercially available in more than 35 countries thereafter.

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Windows Intune is a cloud-based desktop management solution which lets IT techs manage remote systems through their browser. Microsoft is marketing Intune toward two different types of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs.) First, companies that don’t yet have a PC management infrastructure, and want one that won’t incur a big material cost; Second, companies that have lots of “virtual” and remote employees.

First launched in beta just under a year ago, Windows Intune has the ability to: Manage Microsoft Updates, firewall and malware protection, monitor remote PCs and provide assistance, and keep track of hardware inventory and software licenses and compliance.

Windows Intune will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom and United States.

Current beta testers will continue to have access to Windows Intune until April 18, and companies interested in trying out the solution will be able to sign up for a 30-day trial when it launches in the next few weeks.

The Administration Service lets IT departments enforce software configurations, IT policies and connectivity profiles while also managing the kinds of applications users can have on their PlayBooks. RIM is also providing IT departments with a catalog of business-approved applications that can be safely downloaded onto PlayBooks and given access to corporate data.

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When you combine these three security features – Balance, Bridge and the Administration Service – it becomes clear that RIM’s PlayBook gives enterprise users the most security features and options of any other tablet on the market. The tablet’s ultimate success, though, could come down to whether corporate users feel they need these strong precautions or whether they can mostly get by with the more limited security features available on the iPad

Report: Open XML ISO Standard Unlikely

Written by admin
May 3rd, 2011

Microsoft is fairly likely not to have its Open XML document format accepted as a standard by the ISO, research firm Gartner said in a research note last week.

The reasoning behind this is that the standardization body has already approved the OpenDocument Format (ODF), and would likely not accept two standards.

Gartner also had bright news for ODF, saying that it felt fairly confident that by the beginning of the next decade, half of all governments and a fifth of commercial organizations would use the format to exchange documents.

 

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Microsoft’s Open XML was submitted to the European Computer Manufacturers Association (Ecma) for approval in November of last year. Microsoft had hoped to use this as a prelude to ISO submission, but with ODF’s approval the success of doing so is now unclear.

“Until Massachusetts’ decision, Microsoft seemed to ignore growing support for ODF,” Gartner said. “Microsoft plans to submit its XML format to ISO after Ecma approval. But ISO will not approve multiple XML document formats.”

Gartner recommended that those who could be affected by more widespread use of ODF begin looking for applications that support the format now. However, it said migration to other platforms, while cheaper to acquire, might end up being expensive in the end.

“If you need compatibility with Microsoft Office formats or cannot cost justify a migration, lobby Microsoft to support ODF and look for plug-ins that allow you to open and save ODF files from within Microsoft applications,” the firm suggested.

Last week, Betanews reported on the discovery by two university researchers, made at a recent security conference, that security companies often deal with governments that can compel certificate authorities to produce SSL security keys for them. Those keys can then be used to sign certificates as any other Web site, enabling a law enforcement authority — hypothetically speaking, of course — to spoof virtually any other site.

 


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Today, Betanews heard from world-renowned security expert Kurt Seifried, author of numerous books on Linux system administration, network security, and cryptography. In the May 2010 issue of Linux Magazine, Seifried reports on his own discovery, which goes one very critical step further: You don’t need to be a government, he found, to compel a certificate authority (CA) to issue an SSL certificate for a major Web mail service of your choice. You just need a valid credit card.

“Brief summary: One way to get certificates for domains you don’t own: 1) Find a free Web mail provider. 2) Register an account such as ssladmin. 3) Go to RapidSSL.com and buy a certificate. When given the choice of what e-mail address to use, simply select ssladmin. 4) Go through certificate registration process (this takes about 20 minutes). 5) You will now have a secure Web certificate for that Web mail provider,” Seifried told Betanews this afternoon.

In his Linux Magazine article, Seifried lists several other permutations of generic-sounding e-mail account names that may be given to the guy in charge of administration, including the obvious postmaster, administrator, and root. In his own tests, Seifried says, it usually took only a half-hour to acquire a perfectly valid certificate for a major Web mail service.

“The industry-accepted standard for confirming someone is who they say they are and that they control a domain is that ‘the CA takes reasonable measures to verify,’ which is very ambiguous at best and meaningless at worst,” reads Seifried’s article. “One CA proposed that customers could fax a signed letter on company letterhead as proof that they controlled a domain (Have they not heard of word processors and image editing programs? Or online fax services?). CAs want to sell as many certificates for as little money as they can; if this puts users at risk but doesn’t cost the CA anything, then there is no incentive to fix things.”

We asked Seifried, what can the general user do to protect himself against a possible authoritative spoof using a false certificate? We didn’t like the sound of his answer: “Nothing. User education hasn’t worked and won’t work…The only reason I know the difference is I investigated this a while back; I’ve been writing about how broken SSL is off and on for a decade now.”

Seifried credits Mozilla Firefox for at least giving the user good visual clues as to the validity of a signed certificate — for instance, using the color-coded bars next to the HTTPS: address in the upper bar. But ask everyday folks what those colors mean, he said, and they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Are there further steps Mozilla, or any other browser maker, could take to make “Trust” more meaningful to the user, and less likely to be something else for him to ignore? “Well there would be one possibility, but it’ll never happen, and that would be to boot out all the CAs that don’t do a good job verifying domains/etc. and only have root CAs that do a good job,” Seifried responded.

“Basically right now, when a CA checks ‘ownership’ of a domain, it checks one e-mail address, which is trivial to bypass especially with, say, a free Web mail provider,” he continued. “If it were to add more checks — i.e., the CA generates a random string (say an MD5 sum) and requires you to place 8987a978d987e987c978.html or whatever in your webroot at www.yourdomain.com to prove you have control over the Web server as well; and maybe a DNS check, like requiring you to create a DNS record of iugasdcviuoba.yourdomain.com to prove that you have control over the DNS — that would greatly help, because in that case, you either are a legit domain owner, or the attacker has such a degree of control over your domain that any checks won’t matter. The funny thing is, Google used to do this for some of its services like Google Analytics. Also making the e-mail check more stringent — i.e., only e-mail_address@the domain listed in WHOIS, or well-known and typically controlled e-mail address such as postmaster@, would also help greatly.

“But then buying a certificate would take time and the verification process would fail more often (waiting for DNS propagation/etc.), so it’s very unlikely to happen. Once you get a certificate in the root CA store, you basically have a license to print money.”

Mobile phone chipset gets DivX certification

Written by admin
May 2nd, 2011

Continuing its meandering process of certifying as many devices in the “three screens” market (PC, TV, mobile) that it can, DivX has announced a partnership with Korea’s Mtekvision semiconductor company, certifying one of that company’s processors for mobile devices.

 

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The MtekVision MV8722, part of the company’s “Maple” family of processors will allow playback of DivX video at resolutions up to 720×400 pixels.

The MV8722 is a member of Mtekvision’s “Maple” family of mobile chipsets which include processors used in ISDB-T receivers, prominent mobile TV standard for Japan and Brazil, and record-breakingly small Camera Control Processors (CCP).

DivX has already certified three individual handsets, two of which are made by Samsung, a major buyer of Mtekvision “Maple” products like the MV317 camera processor.

Handsets utilizing the new DivX-certified chipset have not been announced yet.

Who want to be a MCITP Certified?

Written by admin
May 2nd, 2011


Administration field is getting advanced each year and now, with the help of administration concepts, it is possible to check as well as solve with all issues that are happening. Some of the important designations included in the MCITP certification are networking operating analyst, system administrating professional, technical support executive, networking technician and network analyst etc.

Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCITP) Help prove your expertise in systems administration on Windows Server 2003 and earlier operating systems by earning a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCITP) certification. For newer technologies, such as Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Windows Server 2008, or Microsoft SQL Server 2008, the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) is the appropriate certification to pursue.

 

Here are some of the key concepts in a MCITP Certification Exam:

1. Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment. This exam will measure your ability to manage technical tasks like Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment that often includes monitoring server hardware and optimizing disk performance. Other technical task involves Managing Users, Computers, and Groups, Managing and Maintaining Access to Resources, Managing and Maintaining a Server Environment, and Managing and Implementing Disaster Recovery. Study guides for this concept are widely available. It is best that you read about them.
2. Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure. The focus of this concept is networking and the internet. For this concept, the examinee should read about managing and maintaining IP addresses, Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining Network Security, and Maintaining a Network Infrastructure. All these are important because a Systems Administrator should be adept in handling problems in relation to networking and internet.
3. Operating systems are also one of the key concepts in the MCITP certification Exam. In order to pass this category the examinee should read and focus one of the following topics: Configuring Windows 7, Configuring Windows Vista Client, and Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows XP Professional. There is no need to study all the operating systems, the examinee only has to pick one OS and focus on that OS.

 

Earning a Microsoft Certification helps validate your proven experience and knowledge in using Microsoft products and solutions. Designed to be relevant in today’s rapidly changing IT marketplace, Microsoft Certifications help you utilize evolving technologies, fine-tune your troubleshooting skills, and improve your job satisfaction.

 

Whether you are new to technology, changing jobs, or a seasoned IT professional, becoming certified demonstrates to customers, peers, and employers that you are committed to advancing your skills and taking on greater challenges. In addition, certification provides you with access to exclusive Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) resources and benefits, including opportunities to connect with a vast, global network of MCPs.

 

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Microsoft shuts down malware-friendly Autorun

Written by admin
April 29th, 2011

Microsoft has finally disabled the feature in older Windows versions that helped spread worms like Conficker

Microsoft has, at long last, put the brakes on the notoriously exploitable Autorun feature found in older versions of Windows. Arguably synonymous with “autoinfect,” the Autorun feature is directly responsible for helping propagate worms by giving bad guys a way to easily spread malware via USB devices.

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Autorun works by automatically executing code embedded in autorun.inf files on USB devices and other portable media. The change to Autorun, pushed out Tuesday among an array of security patches, disables Autorun via Windows Upate. Disabling the feature previously required manually tweaking the registry or applying a roundabout fix.

The update affects Windows Server 2008 and pre-Windows 7 versions of the desktop OS. Windows 7 comes with Autorun pre-disabled.

Importantly, the change does not affect the behavior of autoplay, which automatically executes the code on CDs and DVDs. Microsoft offer website guidance on its on how to disable that feature.

Microsoft shuts down malware-friendly Autorun

Written by admin
April 29th, 2011

Microsoft has finally disabled the feature in older Windows versions that helped spread worms like Conficker

Microsoft has, at long last, put the brakes on the notoriously exploitable Autorun feature found in older versions of Windows. Arguably synonymous with “autoinfect,” the Autorun feature is directly responsible for helping propagate worms by giving bad guys a way to easily spread malware via USB devices.

 

Best Microsoft MCTS Training – Microsoft MCITP Training at Certkingdom.com

 

Autorun works by automatically executing code embedded in autorun.inf files on USB devices and other portable media. The change to Autorun, pushed out Tuesday among an array of security patches, disables Autorun via Windows Upate. Disabling the feature previously required manually tweaking the registry or applying a roundabout fix.

The update affects Windows Server 2008 and pre-Windows 7 versions of the desktop OS. Windows 7 comes with Autorun pre-disabled.

Importantly, the change does not affect the behavior of autoplay, which automatically executes the code on CDs and DVDs. Microsoft offer website guidance on its on how to disable that feature.

Nokia lays out serious risks in Microsoft deal

Written by admin
April 29th, 2011

In a government filing, Nokia describes the many threats it faces as part of its agreement to use Windows Phone
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, Nokia laid out the threats it faces as part of its planned deal with Microsoft.

 

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There are many, according to Nokia. Some have already been identified by critics of the agreement, under which Nokia will phase out use of its Symbian operating system in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone software. Publicly held companies routinely disclose all the possible risks of their businesses to shareholders.

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The immaturity of that software, just released in phones in November, is one serious risk, Nokia said.

“The Windows Phone platform is a very recent, largely unproven addition to the market focused solely on high-end smartphones with currently very low adoption and consumer awareness relative to the Android and Apple platforms, and the proposed Microsoft partnership may not succeed in developing it into a sufficiently broad competitive smartphone platform,” Nokia wrote in the filing.

While the companies have signed a “non-binding term sheet,” they still have to negotiate the final contract, a process that might take longer than expected or might not happen at all, Nokia warned.

By choosing Windows Phone, Nokia may forgo more competitive alternatives that would let its phones reach greater and faster acceptance in the market, it said.

Also, the transition to Windows Phone might take too long to allow Nokia to compete, given the ongoing development of other platforms, Nokia said.

In the same filing, Nokia said it expects to take two years to make the transition to Windows Phone as its primary platform. During that time, it will continue to support Symbian in the hopes of transitioning the installed base of 200 million Symbian owners to Nokia Windows phones, Nokia said. It reiterated its hopes of selling an additional 150 million Symbian phones in future years.

Nokia pointed to other threats as well, such as the danger that the deal could erode its brand identity in areas such as China, where it is quite strong, and fail to enhance the brand in areas such as the U.S., where it is currently weak.

Another challenge will be building a profitable business model around a platform like Windows Phone, for which Nokia must pay royalties, Nokia said. While Symbian is a royalty-free operating system, it didn’t come without significant costs to Nokia, which spent more than $400 million in 2008 to buy the half of the Symbian company that it didn’t already own.

In the filing, Nokia also warned about the challenges it faces internally as it implements the new plan for Windows Mobile. For example, it may not be able to change its mode of working or culture to work effectively with Microsoft, the company said. Because Nokia anticipates laying off a large number of workers, the remaining employees may lose motivation, energy, and focus, thus reducing their productivity, Nokia said.

Because of all of the uncertainty resulting from the proposed deal, the company said it will not provide annual targets for 2011, although it expects its devices business to grow faster than the market.

It did not further elaborate on the precise amount of money that Microsoft will contribute to Nokia. In February, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said that Microsoft would pay Nokia billions of dollars as part of the deal over an unspecified time.