Microsoft working on Bob 2.0? Meet Laura the talking head

I'm not sure how to write this story, so I'll just give you the details. Microsoft is working on a virtual talking head (with only a face and neck) which appears on your PC screen and serves as your personal lady-slave. Named Laura, she handles appointments, books airline flights, and is capable of some sophisticated decision-making abilities such as assessing your personal mood based on clothing choice and interactive nuances, at least according to Ashlee Vance of the New York Times. Let's hope Laura is not another Bob, and is not the beginning of a 1984-like Big Sister.

Research: Apple owns mobile web, Google rules mobile search

We have known iPhone accounts for the leading mobile web users, but now the first mobile web use survey ever has revealed just how much the iPhone leads Windows Mobile when it comes to surfing on the go. The numbers also show that Android should definitely be taken seriously -- especially when it overtakes Symbian's web use stats sometime later this month. And unlike Microsoft (who failed to extend its desktop dominance into the mobile market), Google has taken its lead as the desktop search engine nicely over into the mobile market, which now leads both -- and the latter by an obscenely large margin.

60% of world's population now has cell phone, highest ever

A U.N. report published today states that six in ten people (60%) of the world's population has a cell phone subscription. The driving growth trend is coming from poor, developing countries. This 60% figure is up from just under 15% in 2002.

China pushes Internet past 200 million websites

Netcraft’s most recent web server has discovered a huge jump in the number of websites. February added more than 16% (or 30 million) new websites to the bottom line. China is the main reason. The blogging service Qzone added more than 20 million websites alone and has become the largest blog site provider worldwide, easily surpassing Google’s Blogger and Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces.

Vista market share climbs, Windows XP remains dominant OS

February turned out to be a good month for Microsoft, at least as far as market shares for its browsers and operating systems are concerned. While Internet Explorer was able to slow its declining share considerably, the company was able to grow its operating share – and Apple lost share for the first time in more than a year.

Analysis: Safari 4 lifts Apple above 10% browser market share

Analysis – February turned out to be the month of the beta browsers, in a more significant way than we have seen in any other month before. While overall market shares remained relatively stable for the top 5 of browser developers, there were major shifts in beta browser market share. Microsoft saw strong gains for Internet Explorer 8 and Apple hit a home run with Safari 4. Mozilla does not promote its Firefox 3.1 and trails its rivals in beta browser adoption, but has the strongest adoption rate of its most current stable browser.

The coming ARM vs. Intel PC battle

Analyst Opinion – I am seeing a lot of ARM activity at the moment that appears to be drifting towards the x86 space. ARM is the most common processor used in smartphones like the iPhone.  And I’ve been waiting for a major push by ARM into the netbook space currently dominated by X86.  The first visible broadside happened this week when Marvell announced they were initially going after the home storage space with low cost ARM based storage appliances, but the goal appeared to eventually be PCs. 

Amazon: One Terabyte of public data now available to developers, which has typically been known for its presence in the virtual shopping arena, has now begun offering over 1 Terabyte (1,000 GB) of data which is sure to completely wow the public via its newest project, called Public Data Sets on Amazon’s Web Services. The company announced the availability of four new data sets last night via a blog post. The data can be accessed via Amazon’s cloud computing service.

ChangeWave: MacBook sales up in next 3 months, HP and Dell down

This month's ChangeWave survey of consumer purchases over the past and next 90 days paints a bleak picture for makers of consumer PCs and electronics. Despite strong demand for low-end netbooks that continue to gain importance -- the result of the depressed economy, the survey clearly shows yet another decline in computer spending and weaknesses in consumer electronics spending. In short, only Apple laptop sales will increase in the next 90 days, according to the report, whereas HP and Dell portables will drop as consumers opt for cheaper netbooks. When it comes to desktops, most prefer Dell but sales of desktops continue free-falling across the board as consumers turn to much cheaper netbooks, now representing better than one in six of all notebooks sold.

AMD's motherboard channel market expected above 30% in June

Citing increased demand in AMD products now that 45nm Phenom II CPUs are available, industry sources quoted by DigiTimes are saying AMD's motherboard channel market share should return above 30% by the end of June, 2009.

Kindle vs. iPod and AMD Dragon vs. Intel 32 nm: The power of marketing

Analyst Opinion - There were three big announcements this week. One of the most anticipated announcements was the Kindle 2, a product that has, as of now, failed to achieve the iPod-like potential it has. In addition, we saw AMD launch its marketing-rich Dragon platform followed by Intel, which announced it would have 32 nm processors for both desktop and mobile products in production by year end. I could have titled this column “How to drive Steve Jobs insane”, but I have to think he is sitting back and is thinking that the folks, particularly those at Amazon, just don't get it.

Global telco broadband growth slows considerably

Broadband subscriber growth entered a downturn in 2008, according to market estimates released by iSuppli today. Global subscriber growth was 9.1%, following five years of strong double-digit growth. Additions in the U.S. slowed to a crawl and were down 56%.

Google dips into the smart grid and monitoring of power usage

We are used to the sometimes dozens, often apparently unconnected, announcements coming out of Google every week. But once in a while, there is this one announcement that just reminds us just how big Google has become and how important its drive for innovation may be for our everyday life. Google’s PowerMeter is such a project and if it will grow into what Google envisions it to be, it will allow you to dissect your power bill, identify which appliance consumes how much power and how you can make your home much more power efficient.

Chip drops Boolean logic, runs seven times faster

 Researchers at Rice University developed a new microchip that promises to run seven times faster and consume 30 times less electricity than today’s “best technology”. The project, which is supported by Intel and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could result in new processors for cellphones that would enable users to recharge their phones not every few days, but every few weeks, the scientists said.

A personal touch: Customer recognition by major companies

Yesterday, American Airlines announced that its frequent-flier customers who call in for flight information would be able to get faster service due to a new speech-recognition system. In addition, by using caller ID, the automated attendant will greet them by name during the transaction.

Netscape executive, Michael J Homer, dies at 50

Silicon Valley executive, Michael J. Homer who had a significant impact on the development of three technology venues - the PC, the handheld device, and the Internet - passed away on Sunday in Atherton California at the age of 50.

The problem with 3D: Where it works and where it does not

Analyst Opinion - Like a lot of folks I was looking forward to seeing the Super Bowl ads once again. The game was actually great, but historically, the ads have been more fun to watch than the game itself. The ads I was most looking forward to were the 3D ads heavily sponsored by Intel and DreamWorks. It was a good catch for Intel, because HP, DreamWorks, and AMD used to be the team of record and Intel replaced AMD in what is clearly one of the more high profile partnerships in IT. DreamWorks recently indicated it was going to go 100% 3D. The heavily promoted ads promised to give a first taste.

IBM to build massive 20 Petaflop supercomputer for NNSA

 What happens in the supercomputer world is a seemingly distant topic for most of us, yet it impacts all of us in many ways through new opportunities for scientists and hopefully accelerated research results.  Recent advances in supercomputing are simply breathtaking, and the computing power they'll soon possess is awe-inspiring.

Gartner: Seven years needed for mass cloud computing acceptance

 The research and advisory company Gartner reported yesterday on what it believes is a necessary seven year cycle between now and mainstream cloud computing acceptance - and even eventual commoditization.

Google Maps photographer hits baby deer - recorded on Google Street View

 Making its way around the blog circuit recently are a series of Google Street View photos taken from Five Points Road located in Rush, New York. The photos show that the Google Street View driver and photographer hit a baby deer, and then recorded the entire event for everyone who uses Google Maps to see.