AT&T first to get Surface computer
SEATTLE — Microsoft Surface, the software maker’s coffee-table shaped touch-screen computer, will make its debut as a marketing tool in a handful of AT&T Inc.’s wireless stores April 17.
The Surfaces — 22 in all — are programmed to recognize eight of AT&T’s wireless phones. When a customer places one or more phones on the table, information about features pops up. Shoppers can also zoom around AT&T’s coverage map and learn about calling plans by moving their hands across the screen.
The machines are intended to help salespeople, not replace them, AT&T said.
Microsoft Corp. unveiled Surface last May, and said the Windows Vista-based machines would first appear in T-Mobile USA stores and properties owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. Those partners planned to have Surface running by November, but later delayed the launch by several months.
Mark Bolger, senior director of marketing for Surface, said those companies are still working on software appropriate for their own brands and locations. He said all three plan on deploying Surface this spring.
But AT&T got there first, with creative help from Avenue A/Razorfish, a design studio Microsoft acquired when it bought aQuantive last year.
"We saw that announcement and immediately began discussions with Microsoft," said Andy Austin, a director of retail customer experience at AT&T. "Obviously I cannot speak to other launch partners, but we are very happy to be their first launch partner."
One of the perks of putting Surface into stores fastest, Austin said, was some influence over design. AT&T’s units have a brushed-metal base rather than the black shiny finish early models had.
Apple Inc.’s iPhone, which also uses touch technology, will not be one of the phones that work with Surface. Austin would not comment on whether AT&T approached Apple about the prospect.
— Jessica Mintz, Associated Press
Dot-com, dot-net user fees going up
NEW YORK — Fees for using two of the most common suffixes for Internet addresses are going up for a second consecutive year.
VeriSign Inc., the company that keeps the master list of domain names ending in ".com" and ".net," said that effective Oct. 1, the annual fee for ".com" names will go up 7 percent to $6.86 and the ".net" fee will increase 10 percent to $4.23.
The fees are what VeriSign charges companies that sell domain names on its behalf, and those charges are generally incorporated into the prices that companies, groups and individuals ultimately pay to register names.
VeriSign could make up to $37 million a year from the increase, with some 75 million ".com" names and 11 million ".net" names in use. The price hike, however, applies only at renewal and to new registrations, and many resellers offer discounts on multiyear deals.
VeriSign recently announced plans to further improve security and increase capacity for the servers that keep track of ".com" and ".net" names. Computers from around the world check them continually to find out how to reach ".com" and ".net" Web sites and pass along e-mail.
The price hike, disclosed in a letter to the Internet’s key oversight agency, does not require any regulatory approval.
— Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press
New service sends speed trap warnings to your cell phone
NEW YORK — In a modern equivalent of flashing your headlights to warn other motorists of police speed traps, you can now warn fellow drivers with a cell phone or personal digital assistant about speed traps, red-light cameras and other threats to ticket-free driving.
And as you approach a known threat, you’ll get an audio alert on your mobile device.
The developer of Trapster, Pete Tenereillo, said the system, which requires punching in a few keys such as "pound-1" to submit information to Trapster’s database, should comply with laws banning talking on cell phones.
Tenereillo insisted he isn’t encouraging motorists to break the law or drive dangerously, saying drivers who speed are bound to do so anyway.
And he said police officials he’s talked to haven’t complained about the service because it inevitably encourages drivers to slow down. (The International Association of Chiefs of Police did not respond to requests for comment.)
The free service can automatically detect location using mobile devices’ GPS capabilities or tap their Wi-Fi and get location from a database run by Skyhook Wireless. (Skyhook sends trucks up and down streets to scan for home wireless routers or commercial hotspots and record the unique identifying code and location of each.)
— Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press
Information about red-light cameras and where police tend to operate speed traps is kept in Trapster’s database indefinitely. Information about active speed traps is kept for an hour, with the idea that officers may move on.
Users can choose the types of cameras or traps for which they want alerts.
To discourage pranksters and law-enforcement officials from flooding the system with bogus locations, users can rate others on the accuracy of their contributions, and those getting better ratings will carry more weight.
Trapster can be used with about 10 different wireless platforms, including Nokia Corp.’s smart phones, devices using Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile and BlackBerry units from Research In Motion Ltd.