Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2D love: Pillow GFs the rage in Japan


Nisan didn’t mean to fall in love with Nemutan. Their first encounter — at a comic-book convention that Nisan’s gaming friends dragged him to in

Tokyo — was serendipitous.

Nisan was wandering aimlessly around the crowded exhibition hall when he suddenly found himself staring into Nemutan’s bright blue eyes. In the beginning, they were just friends. Then, when Nisan got his driver’s license, he invited Nemutan for a ride around town in his beat-up Toyota. They went to a beach, not far from the home he shares with his parents in a suburb of Tokyo. “I’ve experienced so many amazing things because of her,” Nisan told me, rubbing Nemutan’s leg. “She has really changed my life.”

Nemutan doesn’t really have a leg. She’s a stuffed pillowcase — a 2-D depiction of a character, Nemu, from an X-rated version of a videogame called Da Capo, printed on synthetic fabric. In the game, which is less a game than an interactive visual novel about a schoolyard romance. “Of course she’s my girlfriend,” he said. “I have real feelings for her.”

Nisan is part of a thriving subculture of men and women in Japan who indulge in real relationships with imaginary characters. These 2-D lovers, as they are called, are a subset of otaku culture— the obsessive fandom that has surrounded anime, manga and video games in Japan in the last decade.

According to many who study the phenomenon, the rise of 2-D love can be attributed partly to the difficulty many young Japanese have in navigating modern romantic life. More than a quarter of men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins; 50% of Japanese don’t have friends of the opposite sex, a survey found.

Most 2-D lovers prefer a different kind of self-help. The guru of the 2-D love movement, Toru Honda, 40, has written several books advocating it. His site generated enough buzz to earn him a publishing contract, and in 2005 he released a book condemning “romantic capitalism.”

AT&T's 4chan Block Raises Issue of Net Neutrality


an Paul

Jul 27, 2009 9:50 pm

internetIt appears some of AT&T's broadband customers across the United States were intentionally blocked from accessing the infamous forum 4chan over the weekend. The message board's founder Christopher "Moot" Poole posted a notice on the 4chan Status blog yesterday claiming AT&T was "filtering/blocking img.4chan.org (/b/ & /r9k/) for many of [its] customers." Poole encouraged 4chan users to contact AT&T to complain. The 4chan black out lasted for about 12 hours and was reportedly over by 11 p.m. Pacific Time.

Censorship or Network Management?

It's unclear why AT&T would block 4chan, or even if it was a deliberate action, but assuming the Internet service provider was blocking the site, it's not hard to understand why. In addition to being credited with many Internet memes including the RickRoll and LOLcats, other more dubious actions have been associated with the Website including the recent Operation Sh**ter that manipulated Twitter's trending topics; the YouTube porn prank; the Time 100 poll "hack" and the harassment of the Church of Scientology by the group called Anonymous.


AT&T released the following statement regarding blocking of 4chan alleging the blockage was because of a denial-of-service attack:

AT&T Statement Regarding img.4chan.org

Dallas, Texas, July 27, 2009

Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to img.4chan.org. To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact our other customers, AT&T temporarily blocked access to the IP addresses in question for our customers. This action was in no way related to the content at img.4chan.org; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic.

Overnight Sunday, after we determined the denial-of-service threat no longer existed, AT&T removed the block on the IP addresses in question. We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any malicious traffic to protect our customers.

As PC World's David Murphy pointed out, 4chan.org is also the target of as many attacks as its members perpetrate. DDos attacks brought the site down twice this month alone on June 8 and June 15. So it's possible AT&T was blocking the site because of problems associated with it.

Site members, however, were not so ready to be forgiving and some are already calling for a revenge prank against AT&T. One forum called "Project AT&T" was ready to get into action, but has called a temporary truce. "AT&T has lifter their ban," a scrolling message at the top of the forum says. "All rioting/'war'/protests have been suspended for the time being." Other pranks have already popped up and there is now a 4chan Twitter account to get the message board's word out.

Net Neutrality

network neutralityEven if it turns out AT&T's decisions were legitimate, the appearance of censorship raises the contentious issue of network neutrality -- the belief that ISPs should not be allowed to block or slow down traffic to any Website. It's ironic that a major ISP would have the appearance of going against the principles of network neutrality just days after the new FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski was confirmed by the Senate. Genachowski has been a proponent of net neutrality in the past, and is credited with convincing President Obama to support the concept. There have also been recent reports that the Federal Trade Commission may enforce Net neutrality rules on ISPs, and that some federally funded broadband deployment grants require Net neutrality compliance.

The FCC is currently in the process of adopting a national broadband strategy, during which the fate of Net neutrality could be decided. It's far from certain that net neutrality will become government policy either, despite widespread support from the public and Internet notables including Google, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and Jeff Jarvis, author of "What Would Google Do?"

On the one hand you have Net neutrality proponents saying that network capping by ISPs would kill innovation on the Internet since smaller companies may not be able to compete if access to their sites are restricted. On the other side are corporations, primarily ISPs, who say Net neutrality would handicap their ability to effectively manage their networks and kill innovation on the network side. AT&T recently submitted public comment to the FCC, and spent 30 pages of that document criticizing Net neutrality. AT&T reportedly urged the FCC to adopt a case-by-case strategy to network management instead of a blanket neutrality policy.

Corporate Cenorship is Bad, But Fast Internet Isn't

Artwork: Chip Taylor
No matter where you fall in the network neutrality argument, I think we can all agree we don't want corporations deciding which Websites its customers can and can't see. That type of network management would basically amount to censorship and the degradation of freedom of speech. But while an anti-censorship stance is good in principle, ISP network owners say they do have to monitor and manage their network traffic to maintain quality of service.

But previous proposals to deal with network management have not been popular with the public, including bandwidth caps or some other form of stringently managed service. In a sense, ISPs seem to be caught between managing their networks while avoiding the appearance of censoring its customers.

However, some net neutrality proponents, such as Internet pioneer and Google's Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Vinton G. Cerf, question the ISPs' claims about the need to closely manage broadband capacity. In a 2006, prepared statement (PDF) for U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Hearing on "Network Neutrality," Cerf said, "Broadband capacity is not nearly as constrained as the network owners would have us believe."

In the case of AT&T, it's hard to know what went on or why the company may have blocked 4chan. So far the only statement credited to AT&T comes from the blog CentralGadget, which is reporting that AT&T admitted to yesterday's blocking and the company says it was "following the practices of their policy department." We've dropped AT&T a line to try and get a clearer statment about its side of the story. We will update this post if more information becomes available.

AT&T Blocks 4chan, Stirs Internet Hornet's Nest


David Murphy

Jul 27, 2009 6:00 pm

High on the list of Things Not To Do on the World Wide Web is "hack off 4chan," the anonymous Internet message board community that blurs the line between a low-filtered Internet sounding board and launching pad for hijinks, Rickrolls, and full-scale protests. If you surfed one of the site's gateways -- especially the notorious board for random posting, "/b/" -- you might understand why an average person could take offense to the kinds of humor, images, and messages that get posted in upwards of 150,000 to 200,000 times each day.

Well, AT&T took offense, at least. According to numerous reports from users nationwide, the Internet Service Provider began blocking access to parts of 4chan -- specifically, the img.4chan.org subdomain that's used by the /b/ message board -- as early as 10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday. As the 4chan users began assembling online to wage their private war, Centralgadget.com was able to confirm with AT&T corporate that the company was, "currently blocking portions of the internet site 4chan.org."

(See related: AT&T's 4chan Block Raises Issue of Net Neutrality)

The reason? AT&T was, "following the practices of their policy department." According to the unknown AT&T representative, the company allegedly contacted 4chan site owner Christopher "Moot" Poole regarding specific requests that needed to be met to avoid the block. However, Poole maintains that he has received no communication from AT&T.

AT&T allegedly lifted the block around 12 hours after it began, with users confirming full access to 4chan's /b/ board -- before the entirety of 4chan was brought down for an unknown reason -- around 11 p.m. Pacific Time. This hasn't quelled those behind the newly created "Project AT&T" group and associated "4chan4ever" Twitter feed, however. They've since launched a Digg campaign to proclaim the false death of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and promise more Internet warfare today.

Given the level of doublespeak surrounding this entire controversy, it's hard to think that the real reason for the temporary 4chan AT&T block will see the light of day. My money's on some kind of DDoS-related issue -- either the magnitude of attacks flowing into 4chan's site, the Internet attacks of 4chan users, or a forged DDoS attack that gave the appearance of starting from 4chan. Of all the places on the Internet to target, it's just too perfect a storm to think that AT&T, out of the blue, would start a Sunday morning censorship campaign by targeting a site like 4chan.

Update-- ISP Cogent Communications is allegedly blocking the entire 4chan.org domain as well.

Update #2-- Marketing Communications Manager Travis Wachter: "Cogent has not blocked 4chan and are unsure where this originated."

Update #3-- AT&T speaks!

"Beginning Friday, an AT&T customer was impacted by a denial-of-service attack stemming from IP addresses connected to img.4chan.org. To prevent this attack from disrupting service for the impacted AT&T customer, and to prevent the attack from spreading to impact our other customers, AT&T temporarily blocked access to the IP addresses in question for our customers. This action was in no way related to the content at img.4chan.org; our focus was on protecting our customers from malicious traffic.

Overnight Sunday, after we determined the denial-of-service threat no longer existed, AT&T removed the block on the IP addresses in question. We will continue to monitor for denial-of-service activity and any malicious traffic to protect our customers."

Twitter hasn't blocked access to Geek Tech's David Murphy @acererak, so feel free to contact him there.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

A mix of good and bad


Sunday July 19, 2009

A mix of good and bad


Story and art: OGA
Publisher: Gala Ungul Resources; 104 pages
(ISBN: 978-9833882823)
For ages 16+

ILLUSIVE is a locally produced work written and drawn by Ipoh boy OGA. The manga is a collection of 12 horror stories which illustrate the evil of man ... and the unknown. The basic premise reminds me of Kazuo Umezu’s Cat Eyed Boy, one of my favourite manga. Sadly, that is where the similarities end.

The quality of each tale fluctuates. Some, like Madness Whispers – the story of a statue that induces madness – is genuinely intriguing. In contrast, most of the others such as Blood Ties (about a psychically linked murdered twin) are gratuitously grotesque, while a few, like Lake Monster, which revolves around a vengeful lake monster, seem totally pointless with no real substance.

A major flaw of the manga is that it is 104 pages short. With an average of fewer than 10 pages per tale, most of them cannot help but feel incomplete or rushed. This is further underlined by the lack of continuity between the stories. However, I have to commend the few tales that feel whole, even when crammed in a “tight space”.

This manga would definitely have fared better if it dropped all the lacklustre tales and expended on the few good ones.

Although the manga features the same dark, thin-lined and detailed style, the art differs in quality from one panel to another. There are panels where the art is so good that it looks like a screen shot from a high-quality anime while in other panels it looks as if it was drawn by an amateur. It’s almost as if we were witnessing the artist’s mood swings as he drew the manga!

From the language, the manga is unmistakably Malaysian. There are expressions like fuh and “you-know-it-when-you-read-it” Malaysian English.

All in all, Illusive is an average manga with a mix of good, bad and ugly elements – rojak, if you will. Fans of supernatural manga may find the local perspective to be something different. Whether they like it or not is another matter entirely.

Gold Ring: the UAE's first manga


Gold Ring: the UAE's first manga

Oliver Good

  • Last Updated: July 20. 2009 11:59AM UAE / July 20. 2009 7:59AM GMT

A popular Japanese animation style takes an Emirati twist with the publication of Gold Ring. Oliver Good meets the man behind the first Arabic-language manga comic

Translated into English, the Japanese word manga means “whimsical pictures”. But don’t be fooled, it’s a highly evolved art form.

With its complex narratives and bug-eyed, spiky-haired characters, it’s not only one of Japan’s best-loved cultural exports, but also a global industry worth an estimated Dh18 billion. Even Japan’s prime minister, Taro Aso, is a fan of the comics and has argued that manga can help the country build cultural ties with other nations. And with the launch of what is being called the first original Arabic-language manga comic, it seems he might be right.

Qais Sedki, a 33-year-old Emirati who loves manga, is the author of Gold Ring. The father of two gave up his IT job to launch Pageflip, the Dubai-based manga publishing house that is producing the book. Sedki hopes that Gold Ring – based around the adventures of a teenage Emirati falconer who faces a series of challenges as he competes in an epic contest – will not just bring the world of manga to the Middle East, but also help bring the Middle East to the rest of the world. He also wants the comic to have a positive social effect, encouraging literacy among the region’s youth.

The exact origin of manga is a subject of debate. Some trace it to the US occupation of Japan after the Second World War, when comic books introduced by American GIs became influential. This time is seen as the birth of modern manga, which became an important part of the country’s post-war economic and cultural restructuring.

But others trace the style back as far as Japan’s patriotic cartoons of the 1870s, which often focus on war and conquest.

Since the 1960s, manga comics have appealed to multiple levels of Japanese society. Although still best known for their action-packed, sci-fi orientated shonen manga (for boys up to 18 years old), stories of romance, sports, historical drama, comedy and business have emerged as subgenres and targeted different age and interest groups.

In the 1970s and 1980s manga began to travel beyond Japan’s shores. Several television channels in Europe, the Middle East and Asia began showing dubbed versions of manga cartoons known as anime. This led to growing interest among international audiences and a wider availability of translated comics. Titles such as Astro Boy, Sailor Moon and Evangelion became common on bookshelves around the world. In turn, Japan began making its own manga-ized versions of US characters including Spider-Man and stories such as Star Wars.

“I grew up watching a lot of Arabic-dubbed Japanese animation,” Sedki says. “At the time I just assumed they were all Arabic cartoons. I think it was actually a Jordanian company that did a lot of the dubbing and made [the programmes] available to other TV stations.

“When I learnt the truth, it sparked an interest in all things Japanese for me,” he says.

Sedki has visited Japan several times and believes that Japanese and Emirati cultures share certain similarities, including a devotion to etiquette, tradition and a strong emphasis on family.

Sedki says this similarity has helped him work with Japanese artists. Certain practicalities have also helped. “As far as the literature goes,” Sedki says. “We both turn pages in the same direction, right to left.” This has meant that Gold Ring could be presented in the traditional tankobon format.

Western publishers have famously struggled with the Japanese page-turning direction. Many resorted to a technique known as “flipping”, which reversed the cells of every page, creating a mirror image of each book for the Western reader. This caused certain problems, though, such as the reversing of recognised logos, text on T-shirts or billboards and spatial opposites such as accelerator and break pedals on a car.

“The western trend now is to adopt the Japanese format. But they have instructions on the back cover saying: ‘open the book on the other side,’” Sedki laughs.

One of Sedki’s canniest moves has been to recruit the masters of the genre Akira Himekawa to draw Gold Ring. The secretive duo of female artists have worked together since 1991 and have chosen not to reveal their full names. They are best known for drawing the recently retooled Astro Boy – one of manga’s best loved characters – as well as books based on the Nintendo franchise Zelda.

“When it came down to artist selection, I had a line-up of samples that I had to review,” Sedki says. The writer relied on a close friend’s Japanese mother to help track down potential artists in Tokyo.

“A lot of people think manga has a very uniform look but there are a lot of different visual styles. [Akira Himekawa] have arguably the most popular of all the styles and the most easily recognisable. They know each other very well and do not work separately,” he says. “It just struck me that their qualifications were the most impressive.”

Sedki looks to be on a particularly steady footing. He’s got a format that lends itself to Arabic readers, some of the best Japanese artists money can buy and an audience that is already well versed in the tropes of manga. But is Gold Ring the best story to launch Arab manga?

“The protagonist’s name is Sultan. He is a 15-year-old Emirati boy,” says Sedki. “He gets engrossed in this fictional sport of Gold Ring. It revolves around falconry but it’s not violent. There’s the issue of the bond between falcon and falconer. Sultan is going to be challenged in the story. Really challenged.”

The author says Gold Ring’s central theme is the importance of perseverance. “You will see him put in positions where the easy way out is put to him but he must try not to do that,” he says.

Although based on an artistic style that is altogether foreign, the author says he wanted the book to faithfully depict Emirati culture, both new and old.

“There are modern aspects to Sultan, but he has defiantly not abandoned all traditional elements of his culture. Ignoring the modern way of life is probably not the best thing to do, but neither is the opposite,” Sedki says. “That’s another message that I’m trying to say, neither extreme is a good thing.”

With Gold Ring, Sedki wants to do more than Arabise an exciting Japanese art form. Since the story is aimed at children, he hopes the comic will foster a love of reading in its audience that will eventually grow to include more than manga. However, some might contest that manga, with its emphasis on pictures as well as words, is a questionable way of introducing books to the young.

“For someone who is not too keen on reading, if you give them a novel, it might be a put off, but if you took all the dialogue in this manga, it’s not too much,” he says. “At the end of the book, when you flip the last page, you still get that sense of ownership and achievement that you get by reading any other book. You can confidently tell your friends that you’ve read the first edition of Gold Ring.”

Since he is without a deal to sell the book in UAE shops, Sedki hopes that word of mouth will help build the comic’s notoriety in its initial months. He plans to approach schools in the Emirates and encourage them to use the book as a reading aid in the hope that it will eventually reach a wider audience.

He has a lot riding on the project. The family man has no regular source of income and the book’s initial 14,000-copy pressing was entirely self funded. Even if every book is sold, at Dh60 a piece, Pageflip will not turn a profit. The author is relying on a second issue of Gold Ring to eventually cover the loss.

“From a financial perspective, it’s not the smartest thing to do,” he laughs. “There’s a lot of stability and assurance in knowing that at the end of the month you get that pay cheque. It is not something I would recommend in a heartbeat to anyone.”

Despite the difficulties, Sedki has high hopes for Gold Ring and Pageflip. He plans to serialise the book and introduce new titles aimed at different audiences.

“The action plan is to start locally – the UAE only – and then try to generate interest in the region and expand outward,” he says. “The long-term plan is to eventually have a cultural literature export. I’d like it to reach the ends of the world, selling translation rights and having other publishing companies make my titles available.”

Should his foray into publishing be a success, he expects to one day relinquish his role as writer.

“I want to continue working with traditional Japanese artists,” he says. “But I also want to tap into local talent. I would be interested in seeing what local writers could come up with. In the long run, I’d like to ease out of the writing role and become more of a creative director and maybe give some advice to some budding Emirati writers.”

Gold Ring is available at Modhesh World at the Dubai Airport Expo until Aug 14.

"Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple" Anime's Mightiest Hero... Or Not


"Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple" Anime's Mightiest Hero... Or Not
By Chad Bonin
07-16-2009, 10:47 PM

Kenichi is back to his studies at the Ryozanpaku dojo, training under his various masters and trying not to die in the process. He's still chasing after Miu, the "milk cow" girl that everyone at school is envious of. She continues to help Kenichi with his training, all while dealing with the Ragnarok gang trying to rule the school and their city. Additionally, they get a chance to do the requisite beach episode.

The first batch of episodes of Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple were surprisingly good. There was no true insanity, outside of that inherent to a martial arts training show. (Guys throwing statues around is nothing compared to sword fighting against ghosts, or whatever goes on in Bleach.) That semi-realism makes it a little more connectable, which works well when combined with the unrequited love-story of Kenichi, who is naturally interested in the natural blonde. Sure, you've got the masters that do everything from hang from the ceiling in ninja attire to run across the fences in town carrying young ones, but at the end of the day, it's nothing more insane than a Welcome to the NHK.

The episodes are balanced between episodic training or hijinks and the continuing advances of Ragnarok on Kenichi and Miu. One episode is about the Ryozanpaku group going to their own island (in their own boat, powered by Kenichi's own strength) to both help Kenichi train and conquer some of his fears, while another is about Ryozanpaku planning to destroy Miu's big day as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. The episodes themselves are likewise balanced between a few minutes dedicated to the rather-realistic fighting (outside of the insane training that Kenichi goes through) leading to, or interrupted by, someone calling Miu a "milk cow" or one of the masters trying to get a picture of someone in a revealing outfit.

Any complaints I have about the actual show boil down to its not actually knowing what it wants to be, and the balancing act mentioned above is prime evidence of that. It can either be a goofy comedy show with some humorous fighting elements, like a Kung Fu Hustle or Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, or it could be a serious martial arts gang war, such as any number of classic Bruce Lee movies. As it stands, it almost comes off like Michael Jackson's "Beat It." Sure, there's a turf war going on, but given the cast of characters, you honestly can't take it seriously. Kenichi might be seriously worried about his friends, but when you see him being piledrived into the ocean by a friendly old man in a man-thong episodes before, there goes a little bit of the serious drama. When one episode features Miu having to have her mentors fake being her parents like any number of 80s sitcoms, and later puts her in a street fight with the main female of the rival organization, it's almost like if Cheech Marin did a crime drama, or the guy from House was in some British comedies.

... wait, they did?

It's not that the show doesn't function well; when it does drama, it does it well, and when it does comedy, likewise. Yet, you walk away from it feeling as if you watched two different shows with the same cast. A Reno 911 and COPS crossover, as it were.

The two-disc set features 13 episodes, with good audio and video. Nothing to complain about, which makes me wonder about the justification of the three-episode discs that we were used to years ago. The dub cast is as good as it was in the previous set. Extras are non-existent, like with many recent FUNimation two-disc sets. While I appreciate having fewer releases, with each covering more episodes, having the extras boiled down to textless songs and trailers almost offends the concept of "extras".

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is definitely worth a watch. Much like how Miu doesn't know what she wants, the series doesn't know what it wants. But it's entertaining for the ride, much like aimlessly driving.

Episodes included on Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Season 1 Part 2:
Episodes 14–26

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Hitler tree" may face the axe in Polish town


JASLO, Poland (Reuters) - An oak tree planted in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War Two to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday may soon face the axe if the local mayor has her way.

Authorities in Jaslo in rural southeastern Poland discovered the origins of the tree when plans were lodged to fell it to make way for a traffic roundabout.

"We obtained information that this is no ordinary tree but was put here to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday," said Jaslo's mayor, Maria Kurowska. "So should I try to improve our town's communications or should I allow a memorial to that criminal to remain standing? The choice is simple for me."

Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering World War Two and beginning more than five years of occupation. Six million Poles died, including almost all of the country's three million Jewish citizens.

Not everybody in this town of 38,000 shared Kurowska's view that the tree must go.

"It was 1942 when the Germans brought a seedling of an oak here and planted it in the center of the town with all honors, an army orchestra and salutes," said Kazimierz Polak, who was present at the planting ceremony as a child 67 years ago.

"My father told me then that it was Hitler's birthday and we found out later the seedling had come from Braunau am Inn (in Austria) where Hitler was born," Polak said.

"It's a historic curiosity. What is the oak really guilty of? It's not the tree's fault that it was planted here to honor the biggest criminal and enemy of Poland."

(Reporting by Piotr Augustynek, writing by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Gareth Jones and Ralph Boulton)

NASA delays space shuttle launch until Sunday


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA postponed the launch of space shuttle Endeavour on Saturday to assess possible damage from lightning strikes at the launch pad overnight, a space agency official said.

The next launch attempt will be Sunday evening. Endeavour had been scheduled to lift off at 7:39 p.m. EDT Saturday on a 16-day mission to install a Japanese-built porch on the International Space Station.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz, editing by Doina Chiacu)

HP, Acer Developing Google Chrome OS Netbooks, Schmidt Says


HP and Acer netbooks running Google’s new Chrome OS could be available as soon as this year, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt announced at the annual Allen & Company conference. Chrome OS may give Schmidt reason to leave Apple’s board, but he declined to acknowledge Microsoft as a competitor.

Netbooks running Chrome OS, Google’s newly announced operating system, may be available later this year, according to a report from Reuters, which quoted Google chief executive Eric Schmidt at the Allen & Company media and technology conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 9.

“Everybody we’ve talked to under nondisclosure is excited about the plan,” Schmidt told Reuters. “So hopefully later this year we’ll see some announcements.”

According to Reuters, Hewlett-Packard and Acer are working with Google to create devices running Chrome OS, which was designed to better exploit the Chrome browser and modern Web services, such as online applications.

Google introduced Chrome OS on July 7, just nine months after its Chrome browser, which already has nearly 30 million users, according to Google. Initially, the Google team said there would be some overlap between Chrome and Android — Google’s mobile operating system, used predominantly on smartphones — but that the two would still be very distinct.

Speaking on July 9, however, Schmidt told Reuters that the two products are closely related and could eventually “merge even closer.”

Chrome OS is expected to compete with Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, as well as Apple’s OS X platform. Consequently, Schmidt, who is on Apple’s board, told Reuters he is in talks with Apple regarding whether he should excuse himself from that position.

Competition between Google and Microsoft has also grown in recent months, with Microsoft launching its own search engine, Bing — which on July 1 added the capability to search Twitter tweets, a functionality Google does not share.

Schmidt, however, reportedly declined to discuss the rivalry.

“I don’t want to talk about Microsoft,” he told Reuters. “We actually don’t look at market share at all.”

The Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, takes place each July and is hosted by the private investment firm Allen & Company. Its guests are typically high-profile business leaders, political figures and philanthropists. Last year’s roster included Rupert Murdoch.

The Folly of Google's Latest Gambit


The Folly of Google's Latest Gambit


Microsoft to Google: Can't touch this.

GOOGLE IN ITS SHORT LIFE HAS PROVED INCREDIBLY talented at searching the Internet and selling ads. For all the other useful services it offers-e-mail, maps, YouTube, etc. -- it has produced no other financial successes. Nonetheless, it keeps cranking out products, aimed at getting people to spend more time searching the Web-and generating ad impressions.

In perhaps its most daring move, Google (ticker: GOOG) last week unveiled plans to move into the PC operating-system business, taking direct aim at technology's best franchise: Microsoft Windows.

It is a little hard to imagine this quixotic project -- dubbed Google Chrome OS -- will be very successful, for reasons I will discuss in a moment. But it certainly isn't hard to see why they are going to try: The stakes are extremely high. Windows generates $15 billion in annual revenue. It's the heart and soul of Microsoft (MSFT), the centerpiece of Bill Gates' dream to put a PC on every desktop. Other operating systems exist, but none have much traction in PCs. Apple refuses to license OSX for the PC market; Linux is a tiny player in desktops and laptops. Desktop Solaris, anyone? No thanks. Buy a PC, and what you get is a box to run Windows.

Were Google to win a modest share of the PC operating-system market, it would gain a huge edge in the battle for control of the computing universe. But it won't be easy. Google has challenged Microsoft before, to little avail. Gmail is useful but has hardly dented the combination of Outlook and Exchange. Google Apps, an early bet on cloud computing, has barely put a glove on Office.

Google will open-source the Chrome OS software, and give it to PC companies for nothing. That is certainly an alluring price, which is no doubt why Acer (2353.Taiwan), Lenovo (0992.Hong Kong), Asustek Computer (2357.Taiwan), Toshiba (6502.Tokyo) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) have signed up to work with Google on the project. If nothing else, the threat of a free Google OS could pressure Microsoft to cut the prices it charges these companies for Windows.

STILL, THE PROJECT IS A LONG SHOT. The software won't be available for a year or so-a year during which Microsoft will be cranking out Windows 7, a well-reviewed and eagerly awaited version that debuts in October. Buggy, much-maligned Vista would have been an easier target; too bad Google didn't make the effort a few years ago.

OS SOS: Google plans an operating system to compete next year against Microsoft Windows. The Nasdaq index finished Friday at 1756, off 2.3% for the week.

I think Google misunderstands the nature of netbooks, which simply are small, cheap, lightweight PCs. Early versions ran Linux, and didn't sell. Once the netbook companies loaded them with Windows, sales picked up. On its last earnings call, Microsoft noted that the attach rate for Windows on netbooks had reached 90%. The people have spoken. Netbooks are a misnomer; while people do use them to connect with the Web, they use them for a lot of other things. Customers want netbooks to run standard software, including Office. And I doubt there will ever be a version of Office for Chrome OS.

As Vista demonstrated, an operating system can be a tricky beast. Google claims Chrome will be fast-loading, clean and virus-free. Nice, but I also want it to support my printer, work with iTunes and let me play cool games. And I want it to do useful work when I have no Web access. Google already had an OS, Android. First targeted at smartphones, Android is also going to show up in netbooks. Two new operating systems with overlapping markets? Really?

Google's decision to attack Windows comes just weeks after Microsoft's launch of Bing, a well-received search engine that is attacking Google at its core. Data from Hitwise shows Microsoft in June saw usage of its new search engine increase an average 25% a week sequentially through the month. Microsoft's task is more manageable. Search engines aren't that sticky. Operating systems require a commitment.

The boys in Redmond are holding the better hand.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Introducing the Google Chrome OS

from google blog

Introducing the Google Chrome OS

7/07/2009 09:37:00 PM
It's been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we're announcing a new project that's a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.

We hear a lot from our users and their message is clear — computers need to get better. People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up. They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don't want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates. And any time our users have a better computing experience, Google benefits as well by having happier users who are more likely to spend time on the Internet.

We have a lot of work to do, and we're definitely going to need a lot of help from the open source community to accomplish this vision. We're excited for what's to come and we hope you are too. Stay tuned for more updates in the fall and have a great summer.

Links to this post

Google Chrome OS planned for Q2 2010 - New technologies portal