Digital Zone 231: Wi-Spy

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In this edition of the Digital Zone, we talked about:

  • AT&T activations
  • Apple offers laser engraving
  • Apple announces white iPhone 4 delay
  • Google cracking down on privacy
  • Android marketplace expanding quickly
  • Walmart selling Facebook credits
  • MySpace sharing personal data
  • Barnes & Noble announce color e-reader
  • Amazon announces digital book sales
  • Sprint announces third quarter results
  • Comcast charging more for services

AT&T said they activated 5.2 million iPhones, setting an all-time record and said they added 2.6 million customers during the quarter. The company now has 92.8 million customers and said they have a churn rate of 1.14 percent. They temporarily became the number one wireless carrier in the nation.

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Apple is now offering a free laser-engraving service for the iPad. The inscription can be two lines of 36 characters each. The service will delay the shipment of an iPad order one – three days.

Apple says the white iPhone 4 won’t be available until spring.

Google said they’re changing their privacy procedures so employees don’t accidentally reveal what kind of information they collect and store about users. Google said it will require all 23,000 of its employees to undergo privacy training and is introducing more checks aimed at making sure workers are obeying the rules. Google acknowledged in May that one of its engineers had created a program that collected potentially sensitive personal information, including e-mails and passwords, from unsecured wireless networks. The information was collected as Google cars went up and down streets around the world. The vehicles were sent out to take photos for Google’s online mapping service, but they also carried equipment to log the location of Wi-Fi networks. Google initially said it had only captured fragments of people’s online activities, but Canada’s investigation determined that entire e-mails, passwords and website addresses had been obtained and stored. In confirming Canada’s findings, Google said it wants to delete all the Wi-Fi data remaining on its computers as quickly as possible, but must hold on to most of the information while authorities in different countries conduct their own investigations. So far, Google has deleted the Wi-Fi data it obtained in Ireland, Austria, Denmark and Hong Kong after gaining clearance from regulators in those countries. It still has the data from more than 20 other countries, including the United States, where a coalition of state attorneys general has been looking into the breach.

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Google has confirmed it had officially passed 100,000 active apps in Android Market. Apple officially hit 250,000 iOS apps in August and is now unofficially over 280,000. Android device sales have overtaken iPhone sales, but apps continue to lag. The reasons have never been officially confirmed by Google, but device and version fragmentation have been a problem.

MySpace has been sharing, with its advertisers, data that can be used to identify user profile pages. The company said it did not consider the data to be information that could identify a person, partly because MySpace doesn’t require members to use their real names. The company said they have acknowledged transmitting information to advertisers that included a user ID and the last page viewed before a user clicked on an ad. The Journal also said some MySpace applications developed by outside parties had been sharing user IDs in violation of MySpace’s terms of use. The report was part of its continuing investigative series on online privacy. This report comes a week after a similar report that said all of the top 10 applications on Facebook, including Zynga Game Network’s Farmville with 59 million users, have been transferring user IDs to outside companies. In both cases, the companies said knowledge of a user ID did not allow outside parties to view data the user had listed as private. But the Journal found that data gathering firm RapLeaf Inc. had linked Facebook data with its own database of Internet users and sold it to other firms. RapLeaf told the newspaper that those transmissions were unintentional.

Walmart will soon be selling Facebook Credits. The credits can be used for in-game purchases – like Farmville. The credit can be purcahsed in $5, $10 and $25 increments. Best Buy will sell them in denominations of $10, $25 and $50.

Barnes & Noble Inc. is introducing a new Nook e-reader with a color touch screen for $249. As the first full-color touch electronic reader, the device can be used to read books, magazines, newspapers. Plus, it will allow people to play games, browse the web, stream music, and will offer its own application store. The new device will run on the Android operating system. Nookcolor’s comes with a full-color display on the new 7-inch screen; weights about a pound, and a battery charge will last roughly 8 hours. Barnes & Noble will begin taking orders for the device online and in stores on Wednesday and begins shipping in mid-November and will cost $249.

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Amazon passed two major milestones in the history of the Kindle for both the hardware and its books. The company said its e-book sales in the past month were larger than for all paper books on its store combined, with the ratio climbing as high as two to one.

Sprint reported its first quarterly revenue increase in three years. Sprint is the country’s third-largest wireless carrier, gained a net 644,000 subscribers in the July-September period, compared with a loss of 545,000 in the same quarter last year. It ended September with 48.8 million users. Its quarterly loss amounted to $911 million, larger than its loss of $478 million last year. Tax effects were the main reason for the larger loss and Sprint sold more phones at a discount. Revenue rose 1 percent to $8.15 billion. Sprint continued to lose subscribers on contract-based plans, which are the most lucrative, because of the decline of Nextel since Nextel’s network is poorly suited to smart phones, and the core Nextel base is eroding.

Comcast continues to generate more revenue by charging customers more for TV, Internet and phone service. Net income dipped 8 percent only because of one-time costs, including legal bills and other expenses related to its pending takeover of NBC Universal. Plus, Comcast’s expenses are rising. The fees that it pays ESPN, MTV and other cable channels continue to increase. Over the past few years broadcast stations that used to allow cable companies to retransmit network television for free have been asking for fees as well. Comcast paid $1.85 billion for programming in the third quarter, up 5 percent from a year ago. That contributed to a 7 percent increase in overall operating expenses to $3.79 billion. Average revenue per customer climbed more than 10 percent to $129.75. Overall, revenue climbed 7 percent to $9.49 billion and the company posted earning of $867 million.

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PODCAST SPONSOR: The Digital Zone is sponsored by iFrogz.

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