Archive for January, 2013

BlackBerry unveils new smartphones

RIM Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins introduces the BlackBerry 10 in New York. (AP)

RIM Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins introduces one of the new BlackBerry 10s in New York. The other is a full touch-screen model. (AP)

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BlackBerry on Wednesday unveiled a new line of smartphones that have many of the features consumers have come to expect in the devices, such as touch screens, apps and multimedia. The question is, has BlackBerry already missed the boat?

The once gold standard for mobile phones has fallen on hard times, forcing Research In Motion, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry, to slash jobs and other costs as sales plummeted, while at the same time come up with a device that consumers will buy.

That new device is the BlackBerry 10. RIM is promising more speed, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone.

Initially there will be two variations of the BlackBerry 10: One, the Z10, features a touch screen and the other, the Q10, has a combined …

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Report: YouTube plans paid subscriptions

Videos on Devin Graham's YouTube adventure channel attract millions of viewers. (AP)

Videos on Devin Graham's YouTube adventure channel attract millions of viewers. (AP)

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Have you ever thought about paying to watch some of those hundreds of YouTube channels?

Ad Age reports that YouTube is asking some of its producers to create paid channels, and it’s kicking around charging users for access to live events, certain shows and content libraries.

YouTube has more than 200 music and comedy channels, 750-plus film and entertainment channels, more than 200 gaming channels and nearly 600 cooking and health channels, just to name a few of the categories.

Google, which owns YouTube, isn’t denying the Ad Age report. A spokesman said the company has “long maintained that different content requires different types of payment models.” In other words, “free” has its limits.

“There are a lot of our content creators that think they would benefit from subscriptions, so we’re looking at that,” the spokesman told Ad Age. The first paid channels …

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A.D. Frazier: ‘I … had to clean three sets of restrooms’

Two decades ago, A.D. Frazier became a familiar figure to many Atlantans as chief operating officer for the Olympic Games here. As the No. 2 executive for the mammoth undertaking, Frazier worked closely with Olympics CEO Billy Payne to piece together the thousands of moving parts for the 1996 Games.

A.D. Frazier

A.D. Frazier

Frazier said he knew nothing about the Olympics before getting tapped by Payne. What he did know was how to assemble effective teams. His breadth of experiences, especially being tapped twice by President Jimmy Carter to handle important projects, helped prepare him for the Games’ challenges.

Frazier, who holds a bachelor’s and a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, has been a banking and investment firm executive, as well as head of the Chicago Stock Exchange. At 68 and with no desire to retire, he’s currently president of an Atlanta private equity firm that’s unlike many of its counterparts. Georgia Oak Partners is not looking to turn around troubled local firms. On the …

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Now illegal to unlock new phones without permission

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(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

Starting today, it’s illegal to unlock your new subsidized mobile phone without your carrier’s permission.

The new rules, which don’t affect consumers who acquired phones before Saturday, come from the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Previously, you could unlock your subsidized device under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You could then sell the phone or use another carrier’s SIM card to start new service in another wireless network. The change is an update to the DMCA.

Carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint didn’t particularly like the fact that their subscribers could essentially jump ship after getting deeply discounted devices in exchange for monthly service commitments. According to Wired.com, however, carriers rarely went after individuals who unlocked their phones. Instead, they targeted businesses “that bought throw-away phones by the thousands, unlocked them, and …

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Banks closing more branches than they’re opening

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(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

The practice of pulling up to a bank’s drive-thru or parking and going inside to make a transaction may have seen its better days in many areas.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC and others are closing more branches than they are opening, according to CNN Money, citing research at SNL Financial, which specializes in banking data.

BOA opened 12 branches across the country last year and closed 256, SNL said. Wells Fargo opened 19 but closed 80, and PNC opened 32 but closed 82.

Overall, banks closed 2,267 branches last year and opened 1,149, for a net loss of 1,118 branch locations. SNL said it was the highest level of branch closings since 2005.

More customers are banking online with the growth in mobile devices and tablets. That helps eliminate the need for an oversupply of branches, which have to be staffed and maintained. Banks also aren’t making much money of low interest loans and have to deal with costly regulation, …

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AT&T buying wireless spectrum from Verizon

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AT&T is moving to shore up its wireless spectrum with a deal to acquire capacity from Verizon for $1.9 billion.

The deal comes days after AT&T announced it is buying Alltel’s U.S. retail wireless operations from Atlantic Tele-Network for $780 million. That deal also includes the acquisition of licenses for wireless airwaves. Alltel’s network covers about 4.6 million people in six states, including Georgia.

The spectrum from Verizon will allow AT&T to reach 42 million people in 18 states, the company said. In addition to cash, AT&T will give Verizon unneeded spectrum licenses in five markets, mainly in the West.

As the demand for mobile Internet services grows due to the surge in smartphone, tablet and other wireless device sales, companies are trying to stay ahead of the demand by boosting high-speed wireless capacity.

AT&T and Verizon are in a fierce battle for wireless customers despite Friday’s deal. AT&T reported Thursday that it added …

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AT&T to credit U-verse customers’ accounts for lost service

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AT&T says it will provide credits to customers affected by a U-verse outage that left many without phone, Internet and TV services for several days this week.

“U-verse service has been restored for the vast majority of our customers affected by the outage,” spokesman Lance Skelly said Thursday. He said remaining customers were expected to have service restored before the morning was over.

The company blamed the outage on a server supporting U-verse and said it involved a “complicated fix” but provided no additional information other than that technicians were working around the clock to get the service restored.

One of the recurring questions on social media was whether AT&T would credit customers’ account for lost service.

“We will provide a credit to customers who were affected,” Skelly said in his statement, although the company has not provided information on the exact number of customers affected. It has only said less than 1 …

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate jumps in December

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate jumped to 8.4 percent in December from 8.0 percent in November as more people began searching for work, the state labor department said Thursday.

Atlanta’s labor force — those working as well as those looking for work — increased by 6,174. It rose from 2,749,348 in November to 2,755,522 in December. The new jobseekers are counted as unemployed until they find a job.

The unemployment rate also rose because there was a slight increase in initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits as employers laid off more workers, the state labor department said. The 115 new claims for benefits were in a variety of industries — construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and accommodations and food services.

While initial claims for jobless benefits increased from November to December, they were down by 18.3 percent from December 2011. That decline led to drop in the jobless rate from a year ago, when it was 8.9 …

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AT&T still dealing with U-verse server outage problem

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(Updated 2:35 p.m.) AT&T says it continues to work around the clock to fix a server problem that it says has left less than 1 percent of its U-verse phone, Internet and TV customers without service, but that hasn’t quelled the anger of customers who say they’ve been without service for as many as three days.

U-verse customers continue to take to Twitter and Facebook to vent about the outage, which the company says affects fewer than 6,000, although there are reports of an outage as far away as Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Florida.

“#uverse is STILL out … A little complicated to run my online store without Internet. Why is Internet not working in SC @ATTCustomerCare ,” asked Samantha Elder ‏@YelloHypeInvite

“Two days now and all we get is “problem with a server”? You can rebuild a server in a few hours. Wonder what’s really going on? #uverse,” asked Jason ‏@maynard001 on Twitter

In an update Wednesday afternoon, an AT&T spokesman …

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Customers complain of AT&T U-verse outages

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(Updated 4:28 p.m.) AT&T U-verse customers in Atlanta and other parts of the network blasted the company on social media Tuesday with complaints of outages to their high-speed Internet, digital TV and home phone services.

The company said problem, blamed on a computer server, is believed to have affected fewer than 6,000 of its millions of customers in the Southeast and Southwest.

In addition to complaints in metro Atlanta, problems were reported as far west as Texas and Oklahoma, and south as Florida. Customers vented on Twitter and Facebook about being without U-verse service for hours. They were also angry about long waits on the phone with AT&T customer service.

Tweeted @GSUAmanda: “@Uverse We’ve been patient, we know your “techs/engineers” are working, we know you’re sorry. Give us something we DON’T know. #uverse”

Some customers reported that problems with U-verse began Monday, although AT&T said it was difficult to say exactly when …

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