Your report for Tuesday, January 3, 2006

FoneGear will be busy at CES
Macomb marks milestone in e-gov
ECD unit, Samsung sign memory pact
Many Michigan firms get defense tech grants

James J. Giordano is president and CEO of CareTech Solutions, a Troy health care IT services provider. He's a recognized leader in the ongoing effort to digitize health care information. More at

Annual gadget show to be biggest ever: At the time most of you are reading this, your humble narrator will, God willing, be winging his way west to the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Like last year, I'll be paying particular attention to the dozen or so Michigan companies at the event, but also looking for overall trends, trying to find the neatest stuff and looking for news of the just plain weird. The show is expected to attract more than 2,500 exhibitors and more than 130,000 industry figures, to a space the size of 28 football fields. Exhibitors range from Internet powerhouses like Yahoo Inc. to little-known gizmo makers, all casting their bets on what they hope will be the next big trends in electronics. Judging from the latest jockeying, video is one of them. Yahoo and rival Google Inc. will make their CES debuts with keynote speeches, muscling their way into the high-stakes battle already begun by computing stalwarts, consumer electronics giants and telecommunications companies to push digital media deeper into homes. Here's the preview of the show from the Associated Press, and here's another one from Reuters. 

Thursday, Jan. 5: Ann Arbor IT Zone Search Engine Optimization event, 5:30 to 7 p.m., Spark Central, 330 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. More at this link.

Sunday, Jan. 8 - Tuesday, Jan. 10: North American International Auto Show Press Preview, Cobo Center, Detroit; followed by Industry Preview Jan. 11 and 12, Charity Preview Jan. 13 and the public show Jan. 14-22. More at

Monday, Jan. 9 through Friday, Jan. 13: Menlo Innovations Agile Week, 212 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor. More at this link.

Tuesday, Jan. 10 and Wednesday, Jan. 11: BCS Networks RFID technology seminars, 8 to 11:30 a.m., Jan. 10 at the Sheraton Detroit Novi, 21111 Haggerty Road in Novi, Jan. 11 in Grand Rapids at the Eberhard Center, 301 W. Fulton St. To register, visit For more information, contact Sondra Gee at (231) 932-7008 or visit

Tuesday, Jan. 10: Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center - Automation Alley Lunch and Learn series Six Sigma program, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Automation Alley, 2675 Bellingham, Troy. More at or (888) 414-6682. 

Wednesday, Jan. 11: Automation Alley Member Orientation, 7:30 a.m., Automation Alley Headquarters, 2675 Bellingham, Troy. More at this link.

Wednesday, Jan. 11: Universal Data Inc. RFID technology event, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Troy Holiday Inn, 2537 Rochester Court. More at

Wednesday, Jan. 11: Michigan Economic Development Corp. automotive technology symposium, 9 a.m. to noon, Cobo Center, Detroit. More at

Thursday, Jan. 12 and Friday, Jan. 13: Oakland University Lean Administration Workshop, Oakland Center, Oakland University, Rochester Hills. More at this link.

Thursday, Jan. 12: Fourth Entrepreneurial Initiative for Southeast Michigan event, 8 a.m., Automation Alley, 2675 Bellingham, Troy. More at this link.

Thursday, Jan. 12: Michigan Council of Women in Technology "café conversation" event, 6 to 9:30 p.m., Champps Americana, 7410 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield Township. Click here to register. More at

Thursday, Jan. 12: Southeastern Michigan Chapter, Society for Technical Communication, 6:30 p.m., AAA Michigan headquarters, Dearborn. More at

Friday, Jan. 13: Ann Arbor IT Zone Creativity Forum, noon to 1:30 p.m., Spark Central, 330 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. More at this link.

Note: Some sponsorships for GLITR's special sections are still available. For information on this or other Great Lakes IT Report marketing matters, contact Dan Keelan at or (248) 455-7252.

One of the busier CES participants from Michigan this year is FoneGear L.L.C., the Troy company that markets a wide variety of wireless phone accessories to stores and retail chains. FoneGear announced before the show that it had been granted a United States patent for its "Check Your Connector" electronics packaging, which provides an opening in the package that consumers may use to ensure that they are making the correct product purchase. Because the accessory does not need to be removed from the package to determine whether it fits the phone, it minimizes frustration for consumers who buy FoneGear accessories and substantially reduces returns for retailers carrying the package. FoneGear also said it had a patent pending on a hang tag packaging design that allows customers to make sure a wireless case or holster fits their phone. FoneGear also plans to debut two new Bluetooth wireless phone headsets at CES. One uses an AAA battery to deliver 15 hours of talk time or 500 hours of standby time; the other uses rechargeable lithium polymer batteries to deliver 10 hours of talk time or 280 hours of standby time.
FoneGear also announced a new line of wireless carrying cases featuring licensed college sports logos, NFL teams and Realtree camouflage patterns. The company also plans a CES launch of TuneGear, a new line of IPod and audio accessories, including headphones, charging systems, cases, FM radio transmitters, dashboard stick pads, signal splitters, compact speakers and a computer dock that allows the player to sync and charge. Chargers will handle the IPod, IPod Mini and IPod Nano. The company also plans to introduce a new line of sparkly covers called FoneBling and PodBling. More at
Customer satisfaction falls at end of holiday e-shopping: Customer satisfaction with retail Web sites dropped during the last week of the pre-holiday shopping season, according to Ann Arbor-based ForeSee Results. resulting in declines in all future behaviors also measured by . For the week ending Dec. 25, the ForeSee Results weekly Holiday Shopping Satisfaction Benchmark fell 0.5 percent to 77.4 on a 100-point scale. "The days leading up to the holiday pose a huge challenge for online retailers, who haven't yet figured out how to maintain high customer satisfaction during this critical juncture," said Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results. "Satisfaction drives loyalty, so retailers who kept holiday shoppers satisfied are more likely to benefit from their future business." ForeSee Results uses the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index to measure user satisfaction with Web sites and e-commerce. The Holiday Shopping Satisfaction Benchmark measures satisfaction with specific Web site elements driving satisfaction. This week, content, site performance and the ordering process saw the largest declines in satisfaction. Last year, in comparison, search suffered the largest declined during the same time period. More at
Macomb marks milestone in e-gov: Macomb County announced last week that more than 5,500 people have signed up to receive e-mail notices when their favorite county Web pages are updated in the first year the free service has been available. Covering more than 200 of the county's Web pages, the GovDelivery system lets users know when something changes on the pages they've selected. More than a quarter of a million e-mail messages have been transmitted to subscribers over the system, with a steady increase in volume throughout the year. To sign up, visit and browse the site until you find a page you want to monitor. Click on the text that says "subscribe to e-mail updates for this page" and follow the directions. Pages include human resources, public affairs, the county board, health department, county clerk, public works, the county treasurer, community mental health, veterans' services and more. County officials said they hope this year to spread the service to Macomb County cities, villages and townships.
ECD unit, Samsung sign memory pact: Rochester Hills-based Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (Nasdaq: ENER) said its 39.5-percent owned joint venture, Ovonyx Inc., had signed a long-term license agreement with Japan's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. The agreement covers Ovonyx intellectual property involving Ovonic Universal Memory thin film semiconductor memory technology, originally invented by S.R. Ovshinsky, chief scientist and co-founder of ECD. The Ovonyx technology has been previously commercialized in rewritable CD and DVD optical memory disks. The technology can be used in applications such as Flash and DRAM memory replacements, as well as in embedded applications in many product areas such as microcontrollers. More at or

Adaptive Materials gets defense grant: Ann Arbor-based fuel cell developers Adaptive Materials Inc. announced last week that it had received $3.5 million in the federal 2006 Defense Department appropriations budget. AMI is working on portable solid oxide fuel cell systems for military applications. The appropriations bill cleared the Senate Dec. 21 and the House Dec. 22. AMI founder and president Aaron Crumm said in a statement that the "funding will enable AMI to dramatically increase its collaborations with the military and efforts to commercialize our cutting edge technology. Without support from the Michigan delegation this funding would not have been possible." AMI's lightweight, portable fuel cells have a wide array of applications -- including replacing the bulky batteries now carried by today's increasingly high-tech connected soldier. AMI's fuel cells require only commercially available propane as fuel. Crumm founded AMI in 1999 after completing his Ph.D. in materials science at the University of Michigan. It now has more than 30 employees. More at
Plenty of other Michigan tech companies got goodies from the bill too, according to Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. Included are the U.S. Army's National Automotive Center in Warren, Dow Corning Corp. in Midland and Engineered Machine Products in Escanaba. The bill funds more than $340 million for Army research on combat vehicle and automotive technologies. The projects include systems to protect Army vehicles against rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices; more efficient engines; fuel cell and hybrid electric vehicles; advanced materials for tank and Humvee armor; robotics; computer simulations for vehicle design and training of Army personnel; and technology partnerships with the automotive industry. This research is performed and managed by the Army Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Command and its National Automotive Center, both in Warren. The bill appropriates more than $75 million for the National Automotive Center's research and technology programs and other programs executed by the NAC. These programs include investigating and testing automotive technologies for the military in close partnership with academia and the automobile industry, allowing the Army to benefit from significant private sector investments. Included are a $5 million proton exchange membrane fuel cell system that includes funding for Kettering University and Macomb Community College; $5 million for military hydraulic hybrid vehicles, an effort that includes Dana Corp. and FEV Engine Technologies in Michigan; $4 million for a TARDEC-Engineered Machine Products partnership on advanced thermal management systems; $3 million for a mobile microgrid fueling system converting waste to fuel, a partnership including the NextEnergy Center in Detroit; and $2.1 million on solid oxide fuel cell research at Delphi Corp. and Kettering.
Also included: $6 million for research into hypersonic cruise missile engines that includes work at Williams International of Walled Lake; $5.6 million for new materials for power electronics, including work at Dow Corning; $4 million for thin film solar arrays for space applications with Energy Conversion Devices Inc. in the lead; $3 million for development of a portable hand-held chemical-biological weapons detection system at HandyLab of Ann Arbor; $3 million for research on embedded sensors in materials from Solidica Inc. of Ann Arbor; $2.8 million to Detroit's Focus: Hope to develop advanced manufacturing technologies; $2.5 million to a Traverse City firm, Century 3+ L.L.C., to develop fuel cell manufacturing technology; another $2.1 million to ECD for solid hydrogen storage systems; $2.1 million for development of control systems for Army robotic ground vehicles to Soar Technologies of Ann Arbor; $2 million for research into transparent ceramic armor from Nanocerox of Ann Arbor; $1.7 million for the NAC's national university research consortium, which includes UM, Wayne State University and Oakland University; $1.6 million to Nephros Therapeutics of Ann Arbor for research and development of an artificial kidney; $1.5 million to Flint's Mott Community College for the development of a product development and technology portal for the Defense Department; $1.4 million to Troy's JADI Inc. for development of portable chemical-biological detection sensors for vehicles and soldiers; $1.4 million to Michigan Technological University in Houghton for research on laser-based sensing and imaging systems; $1 million for the Center for Innovative Materials and Infrastructure Security at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield; $1 million for software for more streamlined designed and engineering processes for vehicles, a project that includes Troy's Altair Engineering; $1 million for a software initiative for vehicle engineering simulation that includes Quantum Signal of Ann Arbor; $1 million to Rockwell Collins in Ann Arbor for a new rifle targeting sensor system; and more.
New Web site for Broadsword: Waterford Township-based Broadsword Solutions Corp. said it had redesigned its Web site at The company said the new site reflects the firm's strong partnership with the Software Engineering Institute and its focus on SEI's Capability Maturity Model - Integrated, CMMI. In addition to describing the software firm's products and services, the new site also allows visitors to subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter, IT Process Innovation, which covers software process improvement.
Speaking of software process improvement, the Great Lakes Software Process Improvement Network will hold its January meeting on Jan. 12 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at the University of Michigan-Dearborn's School of Engineering building. The speaker is Steven Baker, software methodologist at DTE Energy Co., speaking on "Formalizing Agility: An Agile Organization's Journey Toward CMMI Accreditation." More at

Online survey predicts raises for Detroit-area workers: Detroit workers may cash in on a bigger, better deal in the New Year, according to a recent study of Detroit employers by and America Online. Titled "Detroit Hiring in 2006," the survey reveals Detroit companies plan to increase salaries on initial offers, raise compensation levels for existing employees and provide more flexible work arrangements. It also provides insights on the skills Detroit companies say will be most critical to their businesses in the coming year and their plans to shorten hiring cycles, diversify their staffs and postpone retirements in response to an increasingly competitive labor market. The survey showed 41 percent of Detroit hiring managers plan to boost salaries on initial offers. Some 19 percent will raise offers by 3 percent or more, and 9 percent will raise offers by 5 percent or more. And 74 percent of Detroit hiring managers plan to increase pay for existing employees. Forty percent will raise compensation levels by 3 percent or more and 11 percent will raise pay by 5 percent or more. Also, 32 percent of hiring managers expressed concern over a worker shortage, and 37 percent said they plan to recruit retirees to compensate. There's also increased emphasis on work force diversity in hiring, with more employers saying bilingual ability is important. And nearly half of Detroit hiring managers say they're now more willing to provide flexible work arrangements such as job sharing and alternate schedules. My personal favorite, telecommuting, gets the nod from 21 percent. The top three critical skills sought by employers include attention to customer service, critical thinking (defined as problem solving and decisionmaking) and team building. The survey was conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12 among 100 Detroit area hiring managers. More at
Two client wins for Market Arts: Ann Arbor-based Market Arts Inc. rang in the new year with two client wins. Washtenaw Technical Middle College retained Market Arts to develop a new brand identity. Founded in 1997, WTMC is chartered by and housed on the campus of Washtenaw Community College. With assistance from faculty, students design personalized programs that help them develop life skills as they move through a high school curriculum that, when complete, includes either a certificate in a technical field or an associate college degree. Also, Huron Valley Financial, an Ann Arbor mortgage company, selected Market Arts to develop a new Web site. The project includes redesign of the current site to integrate the mortgage company's new brand, "Loans for the Business of Life," also created by Market Arts, as well as content creation and back-end functionality to support online loan applications and business processes. More at

CEO Douglas to move out of day-to-day at Aastrom: Ann Arbor-based biotech treatment developer Aastrom Biosciences Inc. (Nasdaq: ASTM) last week announced that its chairman and CEO, R. Douglas Armstrong, had asked the board to initiate a process to identify potential candidates to succeed him as CEO. The transition, expected to occur sometime this year, will allow Armstrong to move out of day-to-day management. Armstrong said he intends to stay on as a board member, subject to shareholder approval. In a statement, Armstrong said: "Aastrom has reached a new stage with our expanded senior management team, our new directors, our ongoing and significant progress in the clinic, and our enhanced operational capabilities. In the near term, I will continue my responsibilities as CEO and chairman of the board, with particular focus on ensuring an effective transition for the new CEO, and then intend to continue to provide strategic direction and to be an available resource for both the management team and the board." Armstrong has led Aastrom for more than 14 years as CEO, the past six as board chairman. Aastrom is currently testing proprietary adult stem cell technology called Tissue Repair Cells. TRCs are grown from a patient's own stem cells in proprietary Aastrom equipment, and have shown the ability to transform themselves into several different types of cells. They're being studied as treatments for bone diseases and vascular diseases. More at

New engineer at simulation software firm: Royal Oak-based Realtime Technologies Inc. said last week that it had hired Dale A. Holtz as a senior development engineer, supporting real time simulation and vehicle dynamics research and development. Holtz's immediate responsibilities at RTI include developing and implementing track models, developing off-road and on-road tire models and developing multi-body vehicle models using SimCreator, RTI's flagship simulation and modeling software product. Holtz served from 2000 to 2005 as a research scientist at the National Advanced Driving Simulator, a research center operated by the University of Iowa. His resume also includes stops at LMS International and Douglas Aircraft Co., and previously taught at the University of Northern California, North Dakota State University and the University of Iowa. More at
Automation Alley supports more math, science in high school: The Troy-based technology industry promotion group Automation Alley last week announced its support for state public school superintendent Mike Flanagan's proposal to require high school students to take a combined 16 credits in math, science, social studies, English, health, physical education, arts and global languages. "In today's changing economy, it is becoming increasingly necessary for our students to be more educated in math and science," said Ken Rogers, Automation Alley's executive director. "We have recently joined forces with Genesee Intermediate School District, Kettering University, Oakland Community College and Oakland Intermediate School District to discover ways to engage business leaders in the pursuit of increasing student success in mathematics and science. We look forward to finding innovative methods to expand Southeast Michigan's intellectual capital." More at

UM gets NASA grant: NASA's Science Mission Directorate announced last week that the University of Michigan had received a grant of $573,041 to support the space agency's Outer Planets Research Program. The program supports diverse scientific investigations that contribute to the understanding of the outer Solar System, ranging from the asteroid belt to the Kuiper Belt. The program includes both fundamental research and data analysis from NASA missions.
MVHS offers online scholarships for hurricane victims: Lansing-based Michigan Virtual University announced last week that Lansing-based Accident Fund Insurance Co. has provided scholarship support for high school students impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Currently, 28 students from Pass Christian, Miss., are enrolled in an online chemistry course provided by the Michigan Virtual High School, the major operating unit of MVU. Earlier this year, MVHS informally adopted the Pass Christian Public High School to examine strategies to deliver online educational services because their school building was destroyed by the severe flooding and storm damage. "Our high school was completely leveled as a result of the hurricane and unfortunately the educator who teaches our high school chemistry course moved away from the region after the storm," said Cathy Broadway, Pass Christian principal. MVU was founded in 1998 to expand the use of learning technologies, but has closed down many of its higher education activities. MVHS, founded in 2000, has recorded more than 22,000 course enrollments and served more than 125,000 students with online ACT, SAT, PSAT or MEAP test review tools. For more information visit and
GLEQ offers 'Entrepreneurs Roundtable': The Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest will hold an "Entrepreneurs Roundtable on Business Commercialization" Jan. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Michigan Information Technology Center in Ann Arbor as a part of its business commercialization program for entrepreneurs. Michelle Crumm, CFO and co-founder of GLEQ 2003 business plan winner Adaptive Materials, Inc. and Todd Sullivan, CEO and founder of 2005 GLEQ winner  Spirit Shop will conduct this final training event for the Fall Business Plan competition with insights and answers on how to build and drive a business to success. Crumm and Adaptive Materials have built sales and employ more than 35 people without any venture capital investment, while Sullivan has gone on to raise nearly $1 million in angel investments after winning the GLEQ contest. The event will focus on the business commercialization process from prototype through beta testing to market adoption. The speakers will relate their GLEQ experience, describe how to get the most out of state and federal support and their commercialization experiences. The MITC is at 1000 Oak Brook Drive in Ann Arbor. The event is free but pre-registration is required. More at
Bar code company changes name, HQ: Bar Code Solutions Inc. announced last week that it would change its corporate name to Edibar Systems Inc. effective Jan. 1. The company said the name better reflects its evolution from a bar code equipment and software provider to an e-business integrator. The 23-year old company's name change has been timed to coincide with a move to a newly built headquarters in Macomb Township. The company had been based in Troy. Edibar provides electronic data interchange, bar code and advance ship notice systems for the automotive and other manufacturing industries. The new headquarters, at 7,500 square feet, offers more space for the company's growing staff, as well as a new training center for clients. More at a new Web site,
Two new Inside Muskegon podcasts: While the rest of us were taking time off for the holidays, Muskegon's Jason Piasecki was busily adding new interviews to his Inside Muskegon podcasts. Included were an interview with Chris Kelly of Edison Landing SmartZone as Inside Muskegon No. 6 and an interview with Tracy Lorenz, columnist and feature writer for the Muskegon Chronicle, as Inside Muskegon No. 7. Lorenz, a Muskegon-based Web site and marketing designer, started the podcasts to foster community, development and technology discussions in and around the West Michigan lakeside city. More at

Free Wi-Fi to be a gift for many in 2006: If your New Year's resolution is to not pay for wireless Internet access when you're out and about, you've got a good chance of keeping it. Kevin McKenzie, chief executive officer of, says '06 could turn out to be a year of real freedom. "Wi-Fi is going to be ubiquitous," he said. "You're going to see more municipal hot zones going from announcement to reality." And if it's not the City of Brotherly Love, or downtown Long Beach, maybe the benefactor will be the owner of the corner café. "We've seen a huge increase in shops offering free Internet access as a way to get people in their doors," McKenzie said. His is a Web-based directory to 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. Last year there was virtually no free public access in the U.S. This year he's counted 7,000 locations. Among national chains offering the amenity at no cost are Panera Bread (PNRA), and Schlotzsky's Deli. Starbucks (SBUX), Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Fed Ex Kinko's (FDX) sell daily access to broadband Internet connections. The new year also promises to bring more Wi-Fi-enabled devices to access data or make telephone calls, McKenzie added. So-called Voice Over Wi-Fi handsets are already on the market from Motorola (MOT) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
The best 2006 predictions: Jason McCabe Calacanis is anything but reticent. The founder of Weblogs Inc., a network of dozens of advertising-supported blogs, is a successful, serial entrepreneur. In a season when lots of folks peer into the future of technology, Calacanis' experience and background make "My (20) Predictions for 2006" worth noting. Some are fanciful and some are just too geeky to pass along. But, remember these. CNet (CNET) will be bought by Yahoo (YHOO) or Fox Interactive/Newscorp (NWS). The New York Times (NYT) will cut the newsroom staff by 10 to 20 percent.  Google's (GOOG) stock will take its first significant (more than a 15 percent) drop, and Google Adsense for podcasts and/or video will debut by Oct. 1. No podcasting company will have any significant success in 2006, but a number of podcasters will be offered great jobs by Sirius (SIRI) and XM Radio (XMSR). Here's Calacanis' list.
Viacom-CBS split complete: Viacom Inc. said Sunday it has completed the spinoff of its CBS Corp. subsidiary, returning the television, radio and advertising units to the standalone status they had before being merged into the parent company. Last June, Viacom (VIA: News, chart, profile) disclosed plans to divide the assets to allow investors to track its faster-growing movie and advertising-supported cable units from the slower-growth broadcasting and publishing operations. The new Viacom company is the parent of the Paramount Pictures film studio and MTV Networks, which includes cable channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Country Music Television. Tom Freston is its CEO. Led by Leslie Moonves, CBS is comprised of the remaining assets after the spinoff, including the CBS television and radio networks, UPN, Viacom Outdoor, Viacom and Paramount television stations, King World, Simon & Schuster, Showtime and Paramount Parks. (Full disclosure dept.: Your Great Lakes IT Report is a tiny little backwater of this company.) CBS will also include the operations of CSTV: Networks, Inc., a leading sports television network and digital media company devoted exclusively to college athletics, an acquisition expected to close in early January 2006. Sumner Redstone remains as chairman of both companies.
Companies setting up their own online magazines: The site promises "simple solutions for easy living," offering tips on dinners, decorating, cleaning and organizing your home. After planning out your housework, you can download music from a theme playlist - prepare dinner, for example, to such songs as Duran Duran's "Hungry Like The Wolf." For fun, there are amusing family anecdotes from comedian Rajiv Satyal and a continuous scroll of factoids such as "cold water is heavier than hot water" and "chocolate does not cause acne." Eventually, you get to the promotions - discounts, coupons and other come-ons for Procter & Gamble Co. products like Swiffer dusters and Dawn dishwashing liquid. But the site is more magazine than advertising blitz. Many businesses are venturing beyond the early model of company Web sites heavy on product promotion and coupons. "It's a major trend and it's a moving trend," said Gary Stibel, a marketing analyst who heads the New England Consulting Group. "This has been going on for years; the major advertisers are just understanding better how to execute. Most companies are still doing very poorly because they are far too blatant in promotion of their own brands." Since its launch about five years ago, P&G's site has grown from 300,000 subscribers for its free monthly e-mail newsletter to a projected 10 million in 2006. It's among seven sites linked from the Cincinnati-based company's main site that combine information aimed at the target markets for its varied consumer products, such as "Health Expressions," with advice and resources on wellness and treatment, and "Being Girl," with forums and guidance on youth topics and answers to questions about puberty and menstrual cycles. It's a sign of the times that the company that pioneered radio and television "soap operas" is focusing on newer ways to connect with its customers amid sweeping changes in how people get their information, and growing competition for their attention. More.
White House says Web site merely counts visitors: The White House said Friday its Web tracking technology is consistent with federal rules because it only counts the number of visitors anonymously and doesn't record personal information. The White House's site uses what's known as a Web bug - a tiny graphic image that's virtually invisible - to anonymously keep track of the number and time of visits. The bug is sent by a server maintained by an outside contractor, WebTrends Inc., and lets the traffic-analysis company know that another person has visited a specific page on the site. Web bugs themselves are not prohibited. However, under a directive from the White House's Office of Management and Budget, they are largely banned at government sites when linked to cookies, which are data files that let a site track Web visitors. Cookies are not generated simply by visiting the White House site. Rather, WebTrends cookies are sometimes created when visiting other WebTrends clients. An analysis by security researcher Richard M. Smith shows such preexisting cookies have then been read when users visit the White House site. The discovery and subsequent inquiries by The Associated Press prompted the White House to investigate. David Almacy, the White House's Internet director, said tests conducted since Thursday show that data from the cookie and the bug are not mixed - and thus the 2003 guidelines weren't violated. More.

RIM cites another patent office win: BlackBerry e-mail service provider Research In Motion Ltd. said Friday the U.S. patent office has ruled against two more NTP Inc. patents in their fight over the popular service. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued "non-final actions" rejecting claims for two NTP patents involved in the dispute with RIM, which has faced a shutdown of its service in the United States, RIM said. "The Patent Office's latest rulings corroborate RIM's long-standing contention that the NTP patents are invalid and the rulings also demonstrate that the Patent Office is acting with special dispatch to address the court's concern and the public interest, Mark Guibert, RIM's vice president of corporate marketing, said in a statement. Closely held NTP, a patent holding company, successfully sued RIM for patent infringement in 2002. It later won an injunction, stayed pending appeal, to halt sales of RIM's BlackBerry device and service in the United States. With the court appeal process largely exhausted, RIM has moved closer to a possible shutdown in the United States. A U.S. judge in Virginia is considering NTP's request to lift the stay, which would halt RIM's service in the country. More. 

Patent firm sues Google over voice services: Rates Technology Inc., which holds patents for the process by which most Internet phone calls are made, confirmed on Friday that it is suing Google Inc. over its Web-based phone calling system. New York-based RTI said it estimated that damages from the lawsuit could reach $5 billion, assuming the litigation process takes four years as the market for Internet-based phone services booms. "Ordinarily we don't need to sue people to get them covered under our patents," RTI President Jerry Weinberger told Reuters. "Every once in a while we run into utter arrogance." RTI holds two patents in the telecommunications field and generally takes a one-time fee of up to $5 million to cover companies who provide the services or the equipment to support them. It filed the suit against Google in October. Weinberger said companies covered under RTI patents include Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Verizon Communications. More.
Sony BMG tentatively settles piracy suit: Sony BMG Music Entertainment has reached a tentative settlement with consumers who filed a class action lawsuit over the music company's copy-protection software on CDs, court papers show. The lawsuit against Sony BMG, a joint venture of Japan's Sony Corp. and Germany's Bertelsmann AG, stems from its use of controversial technology aimed at thwarting illegal copying of music on CDs. Consumers complained that the technology -- known as XCP -- violated their rights by potentially leaving computers vulnerable to hackers and allowing the company to track listening habits. The CDs with the XCP and MediaMax antipiracy software featured music from 52 popular artists including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Celine Dion. Under the proposed settlement, which still must be approved by a federal judge in New York, consumers would be allowed to exchange the CDs for new ones without the copy-protection technology. Sony BMG would also have to provide software to uninstall the technology and stop making CDs with XCP on them. More.
New AT&T launches new brand campaign: The new AT&T Inc., which includes the former SBC Communications, Michigan's dominant local phone provider, last week announced a new multimedia branding campaign that began Jan. 1. The initiative includes advertising, marketing promotional activities and sponsorships, including the recently announced "official telecommunication services" partnership with the United States Olympic and Paralympic teams, and related advertising that will run in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Advertising will include electronic, online and print media, including more than 30 national and cable TV networks, more than 50 magazines and newspapers, more than 100 local and regional publications, and 1,000 billboards. Also included will be multicultural and international campaigns. The new tagline: "Your World. Delivered." More at
Stocks: U.S. markets were closed Monday in observance of the New Year holiday.

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