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Apple suspends iPhone sales at China stores
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 13, 2012

Prize offered for Star Trek-style device
Las Vegas (UPI) Jan 12, 2012 - A $10 million prize is being offered for the creation of a Star Trek-style medical "tricorder" tool for diagnosing disease.

The X PRIZE Foundation and Qualcomm Foundation said the prize, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will go to the team that "develops a mobile platform that most accurately diagnoses a set of 15 diseases across 30 consumers in three days," a release from the the two foundations said.

The device must be light enough to be portable, weighing no more than 5 pounds.

The prize is intended to spur innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and wireless sensing to create a device like the medical tricorder of Star Trek fame to make medical diagnoses independent of a physician or healthcare provider, backers of the prize said.

"Health care today certainly falls far short of the vision portrayed in Star Trek," Paul Jacobs, chairman of the Qualcomm Foundation, said.

"By sponsoring the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE competition, the Qualcomm Foundation will stimulate the imaginations of entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and doctors to create wireless health services and technologies that improve lives, increase consumer access to healthcare and drive efficiencies in the healthcare system."

Wi-Drive gives Apple-Amazon gadgets bigger trunks
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 12, 2012 - Kingston Technology is helping pack more entertainment into Apple gadgets and Kindle Fire tablets.

A Wi-Drive showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show here by the computer memory specialty company lets data-devouring iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Kindle Fire fans easily tote more movies, music, pictures, or digital documents.

"Kindle Fire only gives you one gigabyte of usable storage," Kingston's Randy Marsh told AFP as he cradled a 16-gigabyte Wi-Drive in the palm of one hand. "If you get one of these bad boys you automatically expand to 17 gigs."

Apple gadgets come with varying memory storage capacities, but more is usually welcomed as people increasingly turn to mobile devices for entertainment or information on the go.

Wi-Drives are the size and shape of Apple's latest iPhone and come in 16 or 32 gigabyte models priced at $60 and $90 respectively. A 64-gigabyte version is to be released by mid-year with price yet to be set.

Kingston is testing a model tailored to smartphones or tablets powered by Google's Android software and it should be released soon, according to Marsh.

Free applications downloaded to gadgets connect them to drives using the same built-in Wi-Fi capabilities that link to Internet hotspots.

As many as three different devices can synch with a Wi-Drive simultaneously, each accessing different movies, music or other data.

Apple said Friday it was suspending sales of the new iPhone at its China stores after fans desperate to get their hands on it fought with security and threw eggs at an official outlet.

Police detained at least two people outside the Beijing shop on Friday when angry crowds who had queued for hours in freezing temperatures for the Chinese launch of the iPhone 4S were left furious after being refused entry.

An AFP reporter outside the store in the upmarket Sanlitun district saw frustrated shoppers attack a security guard after police with megaphones shouted at the 1,000-strong crowd to go home and said the gadget would not go on sale.

"We waited here all night. It's not fair," said 18-year-old Tom Sun. "We're angry because this American company told us it would open its doors at 7:00 am."

Apple said its other mainland China stores -- another in Beijing and three in Shanghai -- had sold out of the new device within hours.

"The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible," said spokeswoman Carolyn Wu.

"Unfortunately we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhones will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being."

Apple said customers could still order iPhones online and at other authorised retailers in China.

A worker at a small, downtown China Unicom shop said 80 iPhone 4S models had sold out in four hours.

Some of the people gathered outside the Sanlitun store from the early hours on Friday told AFP they had been promised 100 yuan (almost $16) each by touts to stand in line and wait for the doors to open.

Shouts of "Open the doors!" and "We want mobile phones!" went up occasionally as the restless would-be customers jostled to get close to the front of the pack. Many took videos of the scene, using older iPhones.

One young Chinese man who refused to give his name said he planned to buy as many of the phones as he could and resell them at a profit of at least 500 yuan ($79) a piece.

"These are not fake iPhones," he said. "People want Steve Jobs' best."

Reselling is a major industry in China, where the new iPhone has been on sale for months at a premium on the black market, after being smuggled in from neighbouring countries and from Hong Kong.

The new model, which features a high-definition video camera and a quick-witted artificial intelligence "personal assistant" named Siri, had its global launch in October.

Die-hard fans in China, which has the world's largest online population with more than 500 million users, have been known to line up for days to get their hands on the latest Apple products.

"I will be really upset if they don't open the doors," said 29-year-old Li Tianye, who had travelled for two days by bus from the eastern province of Shandong to get to Beijing for the launch, staying in a 24-hour McDonald's overnight.

But not everyone was disappointed. Some Beijing shoppers willing to pay a premium bought the iPhone 4S at an electronics retailer one floor below Apple's Beijing Sanlitun store after seeing the trouble upstairs.

"There was a problem at the Apple store. Too many angry people," said a young Chinese man who gave only his surname, Du, and said he had been waiting since Thursday evening to buy the phone.

Du told AFP he had paid 5,388 yuan for the most basic model of the iPhone 4S -- sold online in China by Apple for 4,988 yuan.

This is not the first time a near-riot has broken out at a product launch at Apple's Sanlitun store, China's first when it opened in 2008.

In May, four people were taken to hospital and a glass door smashed as crowds rushed to snap up the popular iPad 2 tablet computer.

Calmer scenes were witnessed in Shanghai Friday, where an AFP reporter said Apple stores selling the phone had opened to large crowds.

Greater China -- which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan -- has become Apple's fastest growing region, with revenue there second only to the United States.

In October, Apple said China accounted for 16 percent of its revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter. Revenue from China in the year ended September 24 was $13 billion, up from $3 billion a year earlier, the company said.

The California-based company has recently expanded aggressively in China, opening its first store in Hong Kong and its third in Shanghai last September, which brings the total to six in Greater China.

But Apple's popularity has also brought problems, with widespread counterfeiting and illegal smuggling of its products.

In July, an American blogger uncovered fake Apple stores in the southwestern city of Kunming, where even staff working there did not appear to know they were not genuine.

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'Smart TVs' offer new windows onto the Internet
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 13, 2012 - Goodbye boob tube. Hello smart TV.

The world's obsession with tapping into the Internet is being played out on the biggest screen in the house, with software startups, TV makers, and technology titans such as Google and Microsoft adding momentum to the trend.

Even the beloved firm behind iPads and iPhones is expected to weigh in soon with a revamped version of an Apple TV system that it has long called a hobby.

The Consumer Electronics Show that ends Friday in Las Vegas is brimming with companies large and small betting that "smart TVs" will quickly take over living rooms.

"The television is rapidly becoming the gateway of content from the Internet," Sony executive deputy president Kazuo Hirai said during a CES presentation.

Samsung, Sony, and LG are among major industry players that unveiled new smart TVs at the show.

South Korea-based LG announced it is making its own chips to beef-up TVs with online capabilities along with gesture and voice controls.

"Since the start of the smart TV revolution we've found that industry chip sets have held us back from offering high performance," said LG Electronics chief technical officer Scott Ahn.

"Starting this year we will apply our own L line chips to a premier TV line."

LG has joined a small cadre of manufacturers building televisions synched to the Internet with Google TV software.

Google TV launched in 2010 but has yet to gain momentum in the market.

"We believed we have some great technologies that would make a Google LG a popular choice," Ahn said.

"Our technology coupled with the Google TV platform will form the basis of a strong long-term relationship with Google."

Internet pioneer Yahoo! kicked off the trend at CES three years ago, with "widgets" embedded in Connected TV models to link them to online services the way "apps" link mobile gadgets to games, video or other Internet content.

More than eight million TVs with Yahoo! widgets have been bought and sales are accelerating as the technology improves and more sets come with wireless Internet connections, according to Connected TV director Russell Schafer.

"The next stage is really about engagement; providing relevant content," Schafer told AFP.

Frequency and Shodogg were among startups at CES out to make names for themselves by helping people navigate, sort or share the dizzying amounts of video available once TVs link to the Internet.

Los Angeles-based Frequency released iPad and Internet browser versions of a service that lets people program channels based on their interests.

"You can create a personal TV Guide, basically," Frequency chief executive Blair Harrison said, as he demonstrated the technology on an iPad.

"I can watch Facebook, TMZ, TED... as if they were video channels, or make channels on any particular topic."

Frequency applications are free, and the software will be embedded in Samsung televisions this year, according to Harrison.

"When I come home I want to turn on the TV and have it say 'Hello Blair, here is what you want to watch'," he said of where smart televisions were heading.

"I don't want it to tell me the channel it was on when I turned it off, which is what it does now."

New York-based Shodogg launched a service that lets people "fetch, toss, and share" online video wirelessly across all kinds of devices, from smart televisions to tablets or smartphones.


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LG TV named best gadget, Microsoft bows out in style
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 12, 2012
A razor-thin television from LG Electronics was crowned best gadget of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Thursday and Microsoft was a big winner in its final appearance at the annual trade event. The 55-inch (140-centimeter) TV set set from the South Korean electronics giant is just 0.16 inches (four millimeters) thick and uses OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, display technology. ... read more

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