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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where in the World Are Windows Phones Outselling iPhones

On Wednesday morning, Frank Shaw, the head of public relations at Microsoft, published a blog post tallying Microsoft’s progress across several different product areas, including Windows Phone, its operating system for smartphones.

One of the factoids in Mr. Shaw’s post â€" that Windows Phone is outshipping iPhone in seven countries â€" garnered notice from John Gruber at Daring Fireball, who wondered about the identities of the seven countries.

I wondered, too, so I asked IDC, the research firm behind the stats in Mr. Shaw’s post, to elaborate. Windows Phone has struggled to gain traction in the market against Apple’s iPhone and phones running Google’s Android operating system, so it’s noteworthy for Microsoft that its product is outshining Apple in a few parts of the globe.

According to Kevin Restivo, an analyst at IDC, the countries where Windows Phone shipments exceeded those of iPhone during the fourth quarter were: Argentina, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine. A seventh “country” where Windows Phone shipments beat iPhone is actually a group of smaller countries, including Croatia, that IDC lumps together in a category called “rest of central and eastern Europe.”

Mr. Restivo provided some context, though, that slightly diminishes the scale of Microsoft’s success in those countries. Three of the markets â€" Ukraine, South Africa and “rest of central and eastern Europe” â€" are small enough that there were fewer than 100,000 Windows Phone unit shipments in the fourth quarter in each of them.

IDC’s numbers also reflect only the official number of cellphones imported into the countries. Mr. Restivo said that in some countries, like Argentina, high government taxes mean there is a very significant gray market in cellphones, which IDC doesn’t track. So it is hard to know actual market share in those places.

Mr. Restivo said that Windows Phone tends to thrive in parts of the world that are traditional strongholds for Nokia, Microsoft’s flagship handset partner. In many of those markets, there is less demand for the iPhone because of its high cost and the lack of carrier subsidies.

The War in Syria Through a Child’s Eyes

This week, Britain’s Channel 4 News broadcast a devastating video report by the German photojournalist Marcel Mettelsiefen on the impact of the war in Syria on the children of Aleppo, the country’s ruined commercial capital. The film, which contains some disturbing images, focuses on the life of a 12-year-old boy named Mohamed Asaf, who spends long days and nights working in a medical clinic that treats residents and rebel fighters.

A video report on the life of a child in the Syrian city of Aleppo by the photojournalist Marcel Mettelsiefen.

Google Street View Captures Ghost Towns of Japan

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The eerily empty streets of Namie, a town deep in the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are featured in the latest images captured by Google for its Street View mapping project.

The scene is wrenching: houses flatted by the quake and now abandoned for fear of radiation; rows of empty shutters
on a boulevard that once hosted Namie’s annual autumn festival; ships and debris that still dot a landscape laid bare by the 50-foot waves that destroyed its coastline over two years ago.

Namie’s 21,000 residents are still in government-mandated exile, scattered throughout Fukushima and across Japan. They are allowed brief visits no more than once a month to check on their homes.

Google Street View

Another 90,000 people remain unable to return to their homes in the exclusion zone. Both experts and government officials have said that
some of the most heavily-contaminated areas in the exclusion zone may be uninhabitable for years, or even decades.

Invited by mayor Tamotsu Baba to document the town’s deserted streets, Google began mapping Namie earlier this month. It used a car fitted with a special camera that captures a 360-degree view of its journey.

Google has mapped other parts of Japan’s tsunami zone but the scenes released Wednesday were the first from within the exclusion zone.

“Many of the displaced townspeople have asked to see the current state of their city, and there are surely many people around the world who want a better sense of how the nuclear incident affected communities,” Mr. Baba said in a blog post on Google.

Mr. Baba, as well as Namie’s town hall operations, remain evacuated in Nihonmatsu, a city about 30 kilometers inland.

“Ever since the March disaster, the rest of the world has been moving forward, and many places in Japan have started recovering,” he says. “But in Namie­machi, time stands still.”

Wal-Mart Introduces Lockers as It Battles Amazon in E-Commerce

Following Amazon.com, Walmart will soon allow shoppers to order items online and pick them up from lockers in local stores.

The introduction of lockers is part of Walmart’s effort to become a superstore online and on cellphones. It announced several e-commerce and mobile tools on Tuesday at a news event at the San Bruno, Calif., headquarters of @WalmartLabs, its digital commerce arm.

“We’ve dramatically accelerated customer acquisition online,” Neil Ashe, chief executive of Walmart global e-commerce, said at the event. “We’ve got to be there. We weren’t there before and now we’re realizing the benefit of that.”

The point, Mr. Ashe said, is to offer Walmart products anywhere a consumer wants to shop, whether in stores, online or on a phone. What he didn’t say is that Walmart is also fighting Amazon, the biggest online mall, which has been encroaching on its turf.

At one point, responding to a reporter’s question about Amazon, Mr. Ashe asked, with a smile, “Who”

Though Walmart’s total sales far exceed Amazon’s, its e-commerce sales are a fraction of Amazon’s. Walmart is on track to generate $9 billion in e-commerce revenue this year, Mr. Ashe said. Amazon’s revenue, most of which comes from e-commerce, is expected to exceed $65 billion this year.

Walmart’s major e-commerce advantage, said Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com, is its 4,000 stores. They provide a network of distribution points for things like same-day shipping and in-store pick-up. That is particularly helpful for the quarter of Walmart customers without credit cards or bank accounts who previously were excluded from e-commerce, he said, because they can order online and pay with cash in a Walmart store. To start, the lockers will be available this summer in about a dozen stores in one market, which Walmart declined to name. Customers can avoid shipping fees and pick up their items whenever it is convenient, 24 hours a day at some stores, without interacting with a clerk. Lockers also help consumers who are not home during the day to receive packages and cut down on delivery costs and logistics for retailers.

Amazon, which introduced lockers in 2011, has been expanding the service in chains like RadioShack and 7-Eleven and local stores. Google, which has been experimenting with retail delivery, recently bought a start-up called BufferBox that provides e-commerce lockers.

Walmart is also testing a new home page. It has three tabs â€" one for traditional online shopping, one for browsing items that are popular at the moment on Pinterest and search engines and one with personalized information from a shopper’s local store. Walmart recently built a new search engine for the site, which has increased sales 20 percent, the company said.

To compete online, where price and selection are most important, Walmart uses software to monitor prices at competing retailers in real time and lower its prices accordingly, said Kelly Thompson, senior vice president of merchandising. It is also doubling the inventory sold from third-party retailers in its online marketplace and tracking search data patterns and social media to choose trendy products, she said.

Walmart is testing a new mobile app for shopping in stores. Shoppers can add items to their lists using voice or by scanning bar codes. When they enter the store, the app directs them to the aisles where their items are located. It keeps a running total of the items in shoppers’ carts, offers digital coupons and receipts and lets people check out themselves and order items online if they are not available in the store.

Already, 12 percent of e-commerce sales through Walmart’s mobile app comes from shoppers using the app in Walmart stores, the company said. Over all, a third of Walmart’s e-commerce sales come from mobile.

Jailed Bahraini Activists on Hunger Strike

Two jailed Bahraini human rights activists â€" a father and daughter â€" have gone on a hunger strike and their medical conditions are worsening, according to a family member and a rights group.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and his daughter Zainab started their hunger strike last week after being denied family visitation rights, but they recently began to take water as their conditions worsened.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Maryam al-Khawaja, the other daughter of Mr. Khawaja, and Zainab’s sister, said the last news her family heard was on Tuesday, when they found out that Mr. Khawaja’s health had deteriorated and another jailed relative convinced him to drink some water. She also said that Zainab had begun coughing up blood, and she had taken a small amount of water as well.

Maryam, who criticized the United States and Britain for their support of the Bahraini government, said that the authorities had not given her sister medical treatment, but had instead sent an officer to videotape her in her jail cell.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said in a statement on Sunday that the two are also refusing to wear prison uniforms. Fatima Haji, an internal medicine specialist, said of Zainab:

Her family reported that she sounded fatigued, said she was suffering loss of memory and concentration. Having initiated a dry hunger strike now, including no intake of glucose, will put her at high risk of sudden onset arrhythmias, loss of consciousness and possibly death especially that she is in a detention center where no cardiac monitor or cardiac resuscitation service is available.

Zainab, who has charted the protest movement on her @AngryArabiya Twitter feed, wrote a letter from jail that was posted on the blog of New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof:

When I was placed in a cell with fourteen people â€" including two convicted murderers â€" and I was handed orange prison clothes, I knew I couldn’t put them on without having to swallow a little bit of my dignity. Not wearing the convicts’ clothes, because I have committed no crime, that became my small act of civil disobedience. Not letting me see my family and my three-year-old daughter, that has been their punishment. That is why I am on hunger strike.

Mr. Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike before, along with other dissidents are in prison on charges related to their participation in an uprising against the ruling monarchy that began in February 2011.

A request for comment from the Bahrain government was not immediately available on Wednesday. But the Ministry of Interior had said visitations were denied to prisoners for refusing to wear uniforms.

A “Free Zainab” campaign was started on Twitter in another sign of the attention the uprising and activists in Bahrain have drawn. There has also been renewed criticism of the United States for its support of Bahrain, which is the regional base for an American naval fleet.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.

Video of Petraeus Apologizing for Extramarital Affair

David H. Petraeus apologizes for the extramarital affair that led to his resignation last November as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In his first public appearance since resigning last November as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus apologized for the “circumstances” that led him to step down and cause so much pain for his family and friends.

As my colleague, Michael R. Gordon reported on Monday, Mr. Petraeus intended to use the speech at an event honoring veterans and the R.O.T.C. last night to begin carving out a new role for himself in the private sector, speaking out on economic, energy and veteran issues.

“Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago,” Mr. Petraeus, one of the nation’s most decorated four-star generals, said in remarks delivered at the University of California.

“I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing,” he said. “So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret â€" and apologize for â€" the circumstances that led to my resignation from the C.I.A. that caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.”

Mr. Petraeus stepped down after an F.B.I. investigation uncovered evidence that he had been involved in an extramarital affair with a biographer, Paula Broadwell. His resignation ended a career that included commanding the American-led coalition during the troop “surge” in Iraq and the military effort in Afghanistan.

Ms. Broadwell, the co-author of a biography of Mr. Petraeus, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and spent 15 years in the military.

Wanelo, Social Commerce Site, Picks Up Speed

Wanelo, the social shopping site that resembles a well-designed window display, is quickly gaining fans online,  despite being largely under the mainstream radar.

On Wednesday, the company revealed it had six million registered users through its Web site and application, 70 percent of them visiting the site at least once a month. In November 2012, the site had one million members. The service also said that it had a catalog of five million products, including items like printed tennis shoes and jeweled in-ear headphones, from 200,000 different online retailers and shops. By comparison, The Fancy, a similar site, has more than four million users.

Wanelo users can sign up for free through e-mail or Facebook and are directed to e-commerce sites to make purchases. Users can also save their favorite products to purchase later and assemble them in collections for others to browse. The company said that members had saved its array of items 700 million times, or eight million each day.

Deena Varshavskaya, the chief executive of Wanelo, who founded the site in September 2010, attributed the company’s pickup to word of mouth, not Facebook or any other social media tie-in.

“Only a portion of the users connected their Facebook” account, she said. “Facebook has been an important part of the mix, but it wasn’t the main driver of growth in any way.”

“It’s really word of mouth, not any viral loop that we’ve created,” she added.

The company declined to comment publicly on rumors that is it also in the midst of raising a significant round of venture capital, which TechCrunch reported at north of $100 million, other than to say it is “well-funded for growth.”

The site is quickly becoming a hot property for its foothold among a younger demographic â€" particularly women â€" and its strong grasp of mobile technology. A number of brands, including Urban Outfitters, Quirky and Madewell are flocking to the service to establish a presence. In addition, unlike some of the company’s peers, including Pinterest, the service has a built-in revenue model. The e-commerce sites visited by Wanelo shoppers pay the company a portion of each sale. Wanelo did not comment on how much money it was generating, but Michael Silverman, the chief operating officer of The Fancy, said in an e-mail that the site, which is smaller than Wanelo, could pull in as much as $100,000 in revenue in a single day.

Ms. Varshavskaya said the company’s main focus was to work on ways to better personalize the products that members see when they come to the site’s homepage, which is likely to keep them shopping for items longer and sharing items with friends.

“We going to keep driving engagement,” she said. “Which is why we’re seeing such high numbers.”

Latest Updates on Supreme Court Hearings on Same-Sex Marriage

The Lede is following developments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, where the justices will hear arguments about the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

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Designing Big Data That Works

Whether the move is from mainframes to minicomputers, or from there to personal computers and servers, and now to mobile devices and cloud computing, we are witnessing one grand process of moving machine intelligence closer to the people on the front lines, even as the computing at the center gets more powerful.

Fortunes change with each shift, as purveyors of tech stress technical knowledge when mainframes are the big thing, or talk about their understanding of business processes in the client-server era. What matters in the cloud and mobile era may be the critical importance of design. With all the data being collected, design and the ability to present information well may be the big strategic weapon.

It certainly seems to be the way a lot of people are coming after the incumbents. Recently Infor, a collection of revamped business applications companies, unveiled a good-looking set of charts, graphics and lists that inform much of the output and future options on its mobile applications for manufacturing and sales.

On Wednesday, a start-up called Tidemark, which sells cloud-based business analytics software, introduced a series of planning features, called storylines, that are designed to speed forecasting and decision making. Areas like profitability of regions and products, or the effects on costs of changing headcount, are displayed graphically, in what feels like a consumer Web site on which you can redesign images with your browser.

“The point is to let the business customer configure the product; when you democratize information with technology, you also make it actionable,” says Christian Gheorghe, founder and chief executive of Tidemark. “Older business analytics projects failed 80 percent of the time, because they reflected business activity that was out of date.”

Tidemark, which has some 14 large businesses as clients, each of which has about 100 people using the software, is keen to add its appeal and ease of use. It is also announcing a closer business relationship with Workday, a cloud-based provider of financial software. Tidemark’s storylines center mostly on financial information, so the Workday alliance is a natural fit for both companies.

Win or lose, Tidemark’s move underlines how important it has become for companies that use consumer devices, and working in a cloud-computing environment that gives everyone access to a lot of data and processing power.

From mainframes on, with every generation it got cheaper to own a computer, and thus easier to share work among a greater number of people and departments. For the most part, however, the efforts have been overseen by relatively few information technology professionals, who were trained in, and comfortable with, the use of command lines, columns, and spreadsheets.

The big change now is not that everyone is an I.T. manager - there are still plenty of ways companies will control devices, access to computers, and data - but that everyone is a consumer of a lot of data. Making that easy on them will most likely be a winning strategy.

“There has been a revolution in design theory,” says Phil Libin, chief executive of Evernote, a storage site for consumers and businesses. “We’ve all had to learn how to have taste.” He credits the change toward a design focus, in both consumer electronics and enterprise software, to Apple. Around 2008, with the iPhone beating longtime incumbents in the phone business, he says, “Apple taught us all that design language could win. From then on we all had to build it into the product.”

That is significantly harder than it sounds. It is tough for incumbent companies accustomed to selling products that emphasize complexity, something that until recently was a point of pride and indicated that a lot of engineers had slaved on this product. It is tough for start-ups too, however, as they try to sell to I.T. staffs that are wary of products that look like they came from the App Store.

The trick, for Mr. Gheorghe and others, will be in making something delightful that the financial and I.T. gatekeepers let into the hands of people in other departments. It may also mean a growing market in designers in all sorts of new places.

T-Mobile Introduces Aggressive Phone Pricing With No Contracts

T-Mobile Shakes Up Its Service

T-Mobile USA, long trailing its rivals in the cellphone industry, is trying to catch up by changing the conversation: it is selling the iPhone cheaper than the competition, and most important, customers would not have to sign a contract.

But it may not be enough to persuade smartphone users to abandon the competition.

Analysts said the new marketing strategy, which spreads the cost of a new phone over two years as a separate line item on the monthly bill, will still feel like a commitment to many customers, even if they can choose to pay it off early and walk away. And T-Mobile, which has a slower network than its competitors, is only just beginning to introduce major upgrades.

The company on Tuesday said the Apple iPhone 5 would be available starting April 12 for $100 up front, with customers paying an additional $20 a month for two years. Other new smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and the BlackBerry Z10, will be available with similar payment plans.

Although T-Mobile’s new phone plans require no long-term contract, customers would have to pay off the balance owed in order to end service prematurely.

For several years, T-Mobile, the No. 4 American mobile carrier by market share, has been bleeding subscribers to Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint. In earnings calls, the company has said its main problems were consumers’ negative perception of its network and its inability to offer customers the iPhone.

Now that T-Mobile has landed a deal with Apple and turned on its new fourth-generation network, LTE, in seven cities, the company is hoping to mount a comeback. If T-Mobile does not find a way to bounce back, it risks losing even more market share to Verizon and AT&T and becoming a small niche player like Leap or U.S. Cellular.

The carrier, led by its eccentric new chief executive, John Legere, has been undergoing a rebranding into what it calls an “uncarrier.”

At a news conference in New York on Tuesday, Mr. Legere, wearing a blazer, T-shirt, jeans and sneakers with hot-pink shoelaces, casually dropped curse words while mocking his competitors, saying they were deliberately confusing customers with unclear two-year contracts and punishing them with fees for surpassing data limits or ending contracts early.

“Do you have any idea what you’re paying” Mr. Legere said. “I’m going to explain how stupid we all are because once it becomes flat and transparent, there’s nowhere to hide. You pay so much for your phones, it’s incredible.”

He said that T-Mobile’s contract-free plans would be more straightforward and cheaper over all for consumers, and that by moving to contract-free plans, the company was doing away with overage and early-termination fees.

Mr. Legere said that over two years, an iPhone on T-Mobile would cost $1,000 less than it would on AT&T. That would apply to heavy data users. But when looking at the cheapest plans on both carriers, the difference is much narrower. For example, an iPhone 5 on T-Mobile’s plan with unlimited text messages, unlimited minutes and 500 megabytes of data a month is only $360 cheaper over two years than an AT&T plan with unlimited voice and text and one gigabyte of data a month.

At $580, buying an iPhone from T-Mobile would also be cheaper than buying a $650 unlocked phone directly from Apple.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile formally replaced all its old phone plans with new plans that do not require signing a contract. For $50 a month, customers can get unlimited minutes, text messages and 500 megabytes of data; they can pay an extra $20 for unlimited data.

At AT&T and Verizon, the most popular phone plans cost closer to $100 a month with a two-year contract for limited data. The iPhone 5 costs at least $200 on their networks with a two-year contract.

Despite T-Mobile’s promise to be more straightforward than other carriers, some consumers might still find it confusing that they have to pay an extra device fee after paying $100 up front for an iPhone.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 27, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: T-Mobile Shakes Up Its Service.

Daily Report: Dispute on Spam Stirs Big Assault on the Internet

A squabble between a group fighting spam and a Dutch company that hosts Web sites said to be sending spam has escalated into one of the largest computer attacks on the Internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world, John Markoff and Nicole Perlroth write on Wednesday in The New York Times.

Millions of ordinary Internet users have experienced delays in services like Netflix or could not reach a particular Web site for a short time. However, for the Internet engineers who run the global network, the problem is more worrisome. The attacks are becoming increasingly powerful, and computer security experts worry that if they continue to escalate, people may not be able to reach basic Internet services, like e-mail and online banking.

The dispute started when the spam-fighting group, called Spamhaus, added the Dutch company Cyberbunker to its blacklist, which is used by e-mail providers to weed out spam. Cyberbunker, named for its headquarters, a five-story former NATO bunker, offers hosting services to any Web site “except child porn and anything related to terrorism,” according to its Web site.

A spokesman for Spamhaus, which is based in Europe, said the attacks began on March 19, but had not stopped the group from distributing its blacklist.

Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at Akamai Networks, a digital content provider, said Spamhaus’s role was to generate a list of Internet spammers. Of Cyberbunker, he added: “These guys are just mad. To be frank, they got caught. They think they should be allowed to spam.”

Mr. Gilmore said that the attacks, which are generated by swarms of computers called botnets, concentrate data streams that are larger than the Internet connections of entire countries. He likened the technique, which uses a long-known flaw in the Internet’s basic plumbing, to using a machine gun to spray an entire crowd when the intent is to kill one person. The so-called distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks have reached previously unknown magnitudes, growing to a data stream of 300 billion bits per second.

Questioned about the attacks, Sven Olaf Kamphuis, an Internet activist who said he was a spokesman for the attackers, said in an online message that, “We are aware that this is one of the largest DDoS attacks the world had publicly seen.” Mr. Kamphuis said Cyberbunker was retaliating against Spamhaus for “abusing their influence.”