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Microsoft To Offer Its Own "Google Apps"

First, Microsoft gnawed into Google's market share in the search engine with the reasonably successful "Bing" search engine last May. Two months later, Google's reprisal came in the form of Chrome OS, a new operating system that's ultimately going to put most of a PC's functionality on cloud computing. Back then I had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before Microsoft counter-attacked with yet another Google-aimed venture.

I was right -- now Microsoft is out to challenge Google Apps by offering a free version of its Microsoft Office Suite on the cloud. That's right -- Microsoft is coming out with its own Google Apps, and it's a very risky move at that.

Everyone knows Microsoft earns billions of dollars each year with its Microsoft Office suite of programs, and there's no doubt that despite its hangups, it's still the office suite with the most bang for the buck. Google Apps is free and offers much of MS Office's functionality, but can't really cope with the kind of work that bigger players do.

Basically, I think Microsoft is walking a fine line between offering more functionality than Google Apps, but less than its standard offline Office suite. It will be interesting to see what happens if Microsoft can pull it off, but equally painful to see if the entire plan fails.

I'm personally not a fan of doing my work on the cloud -- with the Internet speeds I'm getting in Malaysia and Thailand, working with Google Apps is clunky at best. What's worse, broadband lines in this part of the world are prone to going down anytime -- what happens when I lose my connection in the middle of an important project? The mere thought of it is enough to keep most of my work offline.

I prefer working with open-source office suites like OpenOffice -- it's free, it's functional, and it feels like the real thing. Just tweak the default file types and you have every bit of MS Office XP's functionality.

But I'll have to admit that cloud computing really is the future of the way we work today -- gone is the monopoly that Microsoft once held over the industry. People are now looking for cheaper ways to do work, and Google Apps has largely filled that need -- there are about 15 million users of the online App right now.

"Microsoft Apps" is set to be released in 2010, so Google still has time to work on its next reprisal. But with its own Office suite in place and OS on the way, it's pretty much got Microsoft backed up against the wall.

Ryan Reynolds To Play Hal Jordan In Green Lantern Film

Image credit: Found on Variety  (- Link -)

This is a piece of news I've been waiting to hear for a while -- just who was going to get the coveted role of Hal Jordan in the upcoming "Green Lantern" film? The answer came out just a few days ago -- Ryan Reynolds is the lucky guy.

Here's a little refresher on Reynolds. If you've watched the recent "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie (and I know you did), you were probably blown away by Wade Wilson's scene slicing up the bullets fired at him. That's right, Reynolds was the guy who played Deadpool.

He's also known as the guy who stars opposite Sandra Bullock in this year's "The Proposal," and the guy who married Scarlett Johansson last year.

Hal Jordan, on the other hand, is a nondescript fighter pilot who acquires the power ring and battery from a dying alien who chose to bequeath its powers to a worthy individual. The ring, like countless others around the galaxy, lets its user manifest anything and everything that can be mustered by its battery.

It should be interesting to see how the guys behind "Green Lantern" will pull this off. The movie has been stuck in production hell for the past several years, and with the onslaught of Marvel and DC films, it's uncertain just how well a more "traditional" superhero like the Green Lantern will fit in.

Admittedly, many of the more recent superhero films have been pretty good ("The Dark Knight," "Iron Man," and "Wolverine" come to mind), but others have been lukewarm at best ("Superman Returns" and the first "Hulk" movie, for instance). Where will "Green Lantern" fit in?

That's probably the last thing on Reynolds's mind at this point, though -- his performance in "Wolverine" was enough to make Marvel put plans for a "Deadpool" spinoff on the table. Both "Deadpool" and "Green Lantern" are pegged for a 2011 release, which could prove to be an interesting matchup in the box office.

That being said, I am sitting here wondering how this development with the role of Green Lantern affect 20th Century Fox’s strategy for the Deadpool film. What's more, Reynolds is also in talks with DC to do "The Flash."

Yes, the future of comic book heroes in cinema is indeed bright.

Disgruntled Musician Gets Back At Airline On YouTube

I found this on YouTube two days ago and told myself I *had* to write a little about this for Friday's (today) article.

If you're working for an airline company, then here's a tip you might want to share with the guys at the baggage department -- Handle baggage labeled "FRAGILE" with care. Apparently it's a lesson that United Airlines is learning the hard way.

Dave Carroll, a Canadian folk singer, debut his first of three YouTube music videos earlier this week, entitled "United Breaks Guitars." It was a way of getting back at United Airlines for breaking his precious guitar on a flight he took last year and refusing to take responsibility for the damage.

Carroll was took a United Airlines flight between his hometown of Halifax, Canada, to a gig in Omaha, Nebraska in March last year. He was traveling with his band, Sons Of Maxwell, when a passenger sitting behind the group looked out the airplane window at the baggage handling people and exclaimed, "Oh my God, they're throwing guitars out there!"

Surely enough, Carroll's TAYLOR guitar was broken badly. He then spent the next year calling up United Airline representatives in Chicago, New York, Canada, and even India, with the guys at United passing the blame and saying it was someone else's fault.

When United Airlines ultimately refused to pay for the damages (which amounted up to US$1,200), the frustrated Carroll decided to make a music video about his experience and post it on YouTube.

700,000 views later, United Airlines is now trying to make peace with Carroll and his band. They've obviously taken notice of the video (and the announcement that two more music videos were on the way) and want to treat it as a textbook case in handling customer complaints.

I'd like to say this is a good thing for United to do (since I'm pretty sure Carroll's YouTube video will cost United at least a million dollars in business), and if other airlines know what's best for them, they ought to start getting their act straight, as well. They need to stop thinking that disgruntled customers will just have to swallow the bad service -- you'll never know what they can do with the Internet.

Google Going Up Against Real Estate Giants... And Microsoft

Seems like there's never a dull moment at Google these days. Just days after announcing tweaks to its search engine (that very likely sent Bing's creators in a panic), the guys at Google came out with two big announcements that may change the world as we know it. Well, almost.

The first big change came with a Google Maps tweak. Google Maps in Australia and New Zealand now tell give users detailed information about land values, rental rates, and other real estate-related bits of data. This is apparently to help people find homes, buy land, and basically do what most big names in real estate do.

Of course, the announcement put the big names in real estate on edge. Some see it as Google trying to dabble encroaching in their lucrative business, although no one's really sure how this will impact the industry. For now, I'm sure users will love the idea that it's easier to find a cheap place to live in Australia. Now if only they'll unveil the service in Singapore...

The second big thing to come out of the Google grapevine this week is the announcement of an entire operating system. Google's planning to unveil Google Chrome OS next year, and it will power various systems from netbooks to fully-loaded desktop PC's.

Naturally, the first question to pop up was whether Google was cannibalizing Android. The answer, of course, was no -- Android is meant to run on mobile devices and netbooks, while Chrome OS will run on netbooks, laptops, and PC's. The little overlap will prove to be insignificant, Google says.

Chrome OS will be borrowing heavily from Android's architecture, but will be running its own show. Google has been leading the drive to cloud computing for the past several years. The Chrome browser will essentially be the OS, since you'll pretty much be doing all your work there.

There's just one problem. Working on the cloud is all well and good, and it's very optimistic to think that it's going to be the future of computing. But what happens when the world gets overloaded by Chrome OS users? Will the world's digital infrastructure cope with bandwidth-hungry cloud computers?

I'd like to think Google has that covered too, but I guess there are things that even Google can't control. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Independence Day Weekend Big For Movies

America is on the tail-end of a their five-day Independence Day weekend, and it's been a blast so far for the movie industry. The biggest winner was still -- what else -- Michael Bay's "Transformers 2," followed closely by "Ice Age 3."

I also got to watch "Transformers" over the weekend (I wanted to avoid the inevitable crowds on the first week), and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think it really did surpass everything the first Transformers movie was. This is why I find it surprising that so many movie "experts" found it a little on the negative side.

Granted, the movie was a little long (150 minutes) and complex for the uninitiated, and bulk of the movie centered on "too much" action -- but that's what you expect from a Michael Bay movie. But it turns out moviegoing audiences don't seem to read reviews anymore.

For some reason though, every place I look I seem to find the same ten people who dislike the movie in the comments section...

Anyway, on to Ice Age 3. I haven't watched the movie yet (it only opened this week where I am), but if the US box office returns are any indication, I'll bet it's every bit as good as Transformers 2. While Michael Bay's movie keeps rolling into the history books as the highest grossing film of 2009 so far, Ice Age 3 seems to be doing a good job of keeping up.

The third "must-see" movie is Johnny Depp's "Public Enemies (directed by Michael Mann)," although I doubt it's going to make a sizeable draw outside the United States -- which isn't what I would say for the NEXT big movie waiting in the wings, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Pixar, on the other hand, proved both movie "experts" and Wall Street wrong with "Up." It made an expectedly good splash in the worldwide box office over the past several weeks, and is currently second after Transformers 2 as the highest-grossing 2009 film. "Up" is also poised to become Pixar's biggest grosser, a title currently held by "The Incredibles."

All said, I can't wait for Transformers 3, the slew of Marvel and DC movies coming up, and the next big thing to come out of Pixar.

Arcade Game ASTEROIDS Becoming A Feature Film

Recent film history has seen a lot of 80's-and-earlier franchises making big comebacks to the silver screen. It started with the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy, soon making its way to fancy adaptations of comic book superheroes and Japanese animation films. Some were amazingly good -- "The Dark Knight" and "Transformers 2" come to mind -- while others were amazingly bad (such as "DragonBall" and "Speed Racer"). Now I tend to wonder which category "Asteroids" will fit in.

If you were born in the 70's, then you may have had the chance of knowing the arcade game, "Asteroids." There weren't any arcade games back in my day, but we DID have Atari -- that little video game console with a joystick and a single button. "Asteroids" made it there too, and I remember having a swell time maneuvering that little triangular ship and blasting approaching asteroids to pieces. But I swear, back then pixels were the size of postage stamps.

Back to Hollywood -- Universal recently acquired the rights to produce a movie based on the "Asteroids" game. There's just one problem -- the original game had no plotline whatsoever. The object of the game was to reach the highest score before you got crushed by pink pixels.

I'm not worried about the last arcade game Hollywood laid claim to -- news of plans to make "Pac-Man" into a movie also made its rounds. But at least Pac-Man had a few cartoon franchises and video games made out of him. Heck, the dude even had a girlfriend.

"Asteroids" didn't get any of that special treatment. So the guys behind the "Asteroid" movie will have to think up of a plot from scratch. As of yesterday, it's been said that Lorenzo di Buenaventura (who's also behind "GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra") will produce, and Matthew Lopez (who also wrote "Bedtime Stories" and "Race To Witch Mountain") will write the story.

Who will direct? Still no news at this point. Though I did come across some amusing suggestions in the blogosphere.

#1 - If Michael Bay directed "Asteroids," the movie would be a $300-million, three-and-a-half hour extravaganza.

#2 - If M. Night Shyamalan directed "Asteroids," the movie would start in a nondescript grocery store (with a kid playing the arcade game endlessly, and with Shyamalan himself coincidentally as the shopkeeper). The mandatory twisted mystery then develops.

#3 - If Zach Snyder directed "Asteroids," millions of dollars will be spent upgrading theaters all over the world to show vector graphics clearly.

Finally -- A Standard Charger For Mobile Phones

I've written a few times about how Google's products seem to assimilate many technologies into one, even if they may seem perpetually locked in beta stages. Google Voice bundles all your phone numbers into one, and Google Wave will (potentially) bundle everything we do on the Internet into a single application. With yesterday's development in the mobile phone industry, I'm beginning to wonder whether all this "bundling" is becoming a trend.

Two days ago, the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturers struck a deal with the European Commission to come up with a standard charger. It will have a mini-USB port and be usable between different brands of phones. To us consumers, that means no more drawers full of useless mobile phone chargers.

Taken at face value, it's obviously a good move -- not only do manufacturers enjoy lower packaging and manufacturing costs, but the world will also benefit from considerably less electronic waste. The Commission and the companies that made the agreement are confident that the new charger will be available by 2010.

What's surprising about this move is that Apple, which has enjoyed considerable success licensing its Dock Connectors to accessory makers, also signed up for the agreement. We all know how Apple can be pretty touchy with intellectual property. It leaves me wondering whether Apple's going to make a total switch to the mini-USB charger, or offer one in addition to its Dock Connector or maybe a mere adapter.

Is it just me who thinks Apple has something up its sleeve with this? :)

Then again, I have a feeling many of the other mobile phone companies -- which include powerhouses Research In Motion, Nokia, Samsung, LG, and Sony Ericsson -- would have been more reluctant to sign up for the agreement if Apple hadn't.

As usual, most of the reader commentary I saw on this topic turned into flame wars between Apple fans, Internet trolls, and everyone else...

In any case, I'm sure the furor will die down once this "standard charger" idea makes its way to other digital devices, such as laptops, digital cameras, and netbooks. There's just one problem with the idea though -- what if you have to charge two or more devices, each with different wattage specs, at the same time? You can't manage with one, right?

I jest.

Of Apple, Google, And Digital Decency

Apple recently dipped into yet another iPhone controversy this weekend. Apparently one of its $2 Apps, called "Hottest Girls," got the axe after its developers began posting images of topless women in it. It's the second iPhone App to be approved, then taken down, in recent times.

Apple's App Store is a marvel in marketing and technology, and saw over one billion purchases by Apple device users over the past year. It has games and helpful programs, such as those that tell you when the next bus is going to arrive at your bus stop -- but it also has Apps that can run contrary to digital decency.

Many of Apple's Apps feature scantily-clad women, but the "Hottest Girls" App is the first in recorded history to show nudity. Apple immediately asked its developer to remove the offending content before taking the App off the App Store for good.

This is obviously a move on Apple's part to remind users and developers that they still have the final say when it comes to what Apps make it to the App Store. But the move did raise two points of criticism:

#1 - People complained at how Apple banned certain Apps for explicit language, yet briefly allowed the notorious "Baby Shaker" App, which many thought promoted child abuse.

#2 - Some people say iPhone users can access porn websites anytime they want anyway, so taking down the "Hottest Girls" App was a moot point.

When it comes to public decency, I guess it's all Apple can do when they screen their Apps, device features, and everything else that go into their devices carefully before offering them for public consumption. But they can't control the Internet, so digital decency rules are out of their hands.

But is it really possible to enforce digital decency?

I doubt it, but with what Google is doing these days, we just might live to see the day when the Big G controls the entire Internet.


Google is steadily rolling out its Google Voice service -- which bundles all your phone numbers into one -- and is actively working on Google Wave, which just might bundle everything you do on the Internet into one Google service. With the way Google is "defragmenting" people's digital lives these days, I think the idea of an overall Internet authority isn't too far-fetched.

Burger King Goes Tasteless With New Ad

I love weekends, since it's the only window of opportunity I get to relax, re-energize, and take in some guiltless good food. But something I saw today just ruined my weekend before it even started.

Is it just me, but is Burger King's latest ad about their Super Seven-Incher Sandwich just plain tasteless? On it, it shows the profile of a woman about to take in Burger King's new submarine sandwich. The setup would've been okay, except for three things:

#1 - The woman in the poster has fake blond hair, black eyeliner, and a lipsticked mouth wide open. The woman has a wide-eyed, expressionless look -- and her open mouth doesn't show any teeth. You'd expect your ad to be tasteless when you make your model look like an inflatable love doll.

#2 - The submarine sandwich, lined up with her open mouth, completes the sexually suggestive look.

#3 - To top things off, the caption read: "It'll BLOW your mind away."

Granted, BK's new sandwich does look pretty good, and it would've been something I'd be willing to try -- but the ad ruined everything. Seriously. I mean, after people see this ad, will they ever think of a submarine sandwich the same way again?

If the geniuses who came up with this ad thought people would find it funny, sure -- I just doubt it'll be popular with their straight male audience. Or if they thought that most people wouldn't get it anyway, well it just shows most people are smarter than they are.

Seriously, dudes, you're in the wrong industry. Quit your jobs. Change your names. Don't have kids.

To the rest of you -- if you want to see what I'm talking about,  click here.

Update:  June 25, 2009, 11:38 PM +0800 GMT
The Ad is on the website of Bon-Food Pte Ltd.
Want to know who they are? Read on.

Found on the company's website (- Link -):
About Bon-Food
Bon-Food Pte Ltd has been the authorised franchisee of BURGER KING® in Singapore since 1982. Since that time, we have served our flagship sandwich, the flame-grilled WHOPPER®, to millions of customers. Currently, all our BURGER KING® outlets are strategically located around the island. Plans are also in place for a number of new outlets that will continue to make BURGER KING® not only synonymous with great tasting flame-grilled burgers, quality and value, but also accessibility.

Update:  June 27, 2009, 10:21 PM +0800 GMT
I'm adding this image here, just in case the link above is removed. I strongly believe this ad should be made available for all to see and ponder over.

New CEO Is Yahoo's Last Hope

Yahoo has been trailing Google in the search industry for several years now, and the last two CEO's have done little to assuage the situation. Yahoo used to be a leader in the industry (yep, back in the days when Tim Koogle was at the helm), but stock prices and investor confidence had taken dives since Google took charge of the market. That's why the new CEO, Carol Bartz, is probably Yahoo's last hope.

Carol Bartz, 60, is taking over the reins as CEO for Yahoo, and at a critical time as well -- Google is coming out with great new features (albeit perpetually in beta stage) that continually leave the competition in the dust. Investors hope her hard-line approach to handling things will turn things around for the beleaguered company.

Bartz's two predecessors didn't do too well at catching up with Google -- in fact, they didn't seem to be fit for the job at all. Former CEO, Terry Semel, was a great leader at Warner Brothers, but had no savvy in tech and computers. The next one, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang is a software guru, but has some well-known management issues -- sometimes arriving at meetings almost an hour late.

Bartz provides a stark contrast to the two. She definitely knows what she's doing when she's on top -- she's credited with multiplying her former company Autodesk's annual revenue by FIVE during the 14 years she's worked there. Autodesk produces specialist drawing and modeling programs for architects and engineers.

But what Bartz is more well-known for is her tongue, which is as sharp as her focus on making a big company work at its best. She's been known to unload the occasional four-letter word at meetings and conferences, and isn't shy about it. Asked at a recent conference whether company boards should be more offensive or defensive during these economic times, she replied without missing a beat: "I'm an offensive kind of person. Stop laughing."

Bartz has seen what Yahoo has become under Yang's leadership, and while the company has the necessary technical expertise, its management resembles a "Dilbert cartoon." Yahoo employees should expect some sweeping changes in the way they do things now that Bartz is in charge. I don't know if they're excited about the idea, but I sure am.