Weekend news roundup

10 Jan 2011

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Telling tweet from lie

The Observer has reported how the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has begun a crackdown on Twitter users and bloggers using their online presence to endorse products and companies without clearly stating their relationship with the brand.

In the first of its kind, the OFT has brought a case against a PR firm that was discovered to be paying bloggers to write effusively about its clients. The watchdog has launched an investigation into Handpicked Media, which operates a commercial blogging network – insisting that it must clearly state when promotional comments have been paid for.

In a statement, the OFT said online advertising and marketing that did not disclose paid-for promotions were “deceptive” under fair trading rules. “This includes comments about services and products on blogs and microblogs, such as Twitter,” it said.

Celebrity twitter endorsements are already big business in the US, where artists such as Snoop Dogg can earn a reported $3,000 (£1,900) for sending a tweet endorsing a product. But the US Federal Trade Commission insists that such endorsements must contain the words “ad” or “spon” to show the reference has been paid for. Such a requirement does not currently exist in the UK.

UK planning ‘invisible’ battle tanks

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the era of stealth metal monsters is upon us. Armoured vehicles will use a new technology known as “e-camouflage”, which deploys a form “electronic ink” to render a vehicle “invisible”.

Highly sophisticated electronic sensors attached to the tank’s hull will project images of the surrounding environment back onto the outside of the vehicle, enabling it to merge into the landscape and evade attack.

The electronic camouflage will enable the vehicle to blend into the surrounding countryside in much the same way that a squid uses ink to help as a disguise.

Unlike conventional forms of camouflage, the images on the hull would change in concert with the changing environment, always insuring that the vehicle remains disguised.

In Helmand, for example, all armoured vehicles have desert sand-coloured camouflage, which is of little use in the “Green Zone”, an area of cultivation where crops are grown and the Taliban often hide.

Get ready for some 4G confusion

USA Today reported that while phone makers and mobile operators talk up 4G, the reality is the networks are very different. The result confused customers.

This year will be the year that 4G networks — the industry term for a next-generation network that provides broadband speeds or faster over a wireless connection — start landing in consumers’ pockets in earnest.

Unfortunately, mobile phone companies have blurred the lines when it comes to 4G. They all now are using the 4G moniker, but the networks are very different.

“All 4G is not created equal,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon president and chief operating officer.

The result: Users, who genuinely want a faster smartphone experience, are left awash in acronyms as they weigh a phone upgrade or carrier switch.

Verizon’s potential windfall for Apple

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple Inc. watchers are already doing rough calculations and think Verizon Wireless could generate sales of millions of iPhones this year. Sales estimates vary, but many analysts agree Apple will likely sell 9m to 12m iPhones on Verizon’s network this year, a huge boost in the iconic phone’s most important market.

To put that into perspective, AT&T Inc. sold 11.1m iPhones in the first nine months of 2010. Piper Jaffray & Co. estimates a full-year total of 14.5m iPhones for AT&T, accounting for 12pc of Apple’s overall revenue and 30pc of its iPhone sales. In its fiscal year, ended September, Apple reported revenue of $20.34bn.

Verizon, the country’s largest wireless carrier, will have the phone available in stores around the end of the month, a person familiar with the matter says.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Wall Street is expecting sales of the new Verizon iPhone to boost Apple’s overall sales by 5pc, though he believes it could have as much as twice that effect if Verizon lures enough new customers to the phone – as opposed to those it steals from AT&T.

“There’s so much pent-up demand,” said Munster, who himself has set a conservative sales estimate of 9m iPhones via Verizon in the current year.

The ice-cold tweet

The Observer reported how the American ambassador to Iceland has been summoned to explain why US officials are trying to access the Twitter account of an Icelandic MP and former WikiLeaks collaborator.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an MP for the Movement in Iceland, revealed last week that the US justice department had asked Twitter to hand over her information. The US authorities are trying to build a criminal case against the website after its huge leaks of classified US information.

“(It is) very serious that a foreign state, the United States, demands such personal information of an Icelandic person, an elected official,” the interior minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, told Icelandic broadcaster RUV. “This is even more serious when put (in) perspective and concerns freedom of speech and people’s freedom in general,” he added.